Bordeaux, it has to be one of my all-time favourite cities. Located in southwestern France, is a port city on the Garonne and hub of the famed wine-growing region. It is a vibrant city with an even more vibrant history. It is the perfect city for a weekend break as it is less than two hours away by plane. The airport is also only about fifteen minutes away by public bus from the city centre, obviously journey times can vary with traffic though at worst it can take thirty minutes. Although you can get a taxi the bus is just as quick, cheaper and reliable. From our experience of taxis in Bordeaux, they are far more costly than Dublin and can take the scenic route.
Once in the beautiful city, the historic part being on the UNESCO World Heritage list, you can pop to your hotel, for me I have always stayed in Hotel Normandie, a 4star Hotel right next to some of the best bars, restaurants, shops and with the tram outside the door you can’t beat it for pure convenience. It is also a short stroll to the river. The rooms are clean, quiet, comfortable and spacious. When cocktail hour comes calling my favourite place to go is across the road, a narrow road to the wine school to Bar A Vin, a wine bar they have located on the ground floor run by the CIVB, Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux, basically The Bordeaux Wine Council.
Bar A Vin has a great list of beautiful Bordeaux wines by the glass, they also have lovely cheese and meat plates to compliment. There is always a cool vibe in this place with its sleek modern interior which is designed to compliment the old building. There is a hard to miss giant stained glass window of Bacchus, the Roman god of agriculture and wine. When the sun hits it right you get beautiful colours popping off the white interior. Their staff are always polite and helpful, add that a glass of delicious wine starts at €2, you really won’t want to leave.
On your first night definitely make your way to ‘La Tupina’ one of my favourite restaurants, it is very popular so to avoid disappointment make a reservation before you head to Bordeaux but as it is a French restaurant serving up some of the best seasonal dishes of the region they do stay open late. It is a restaurant with great character and energy. As you stroll in, you see a big old fireplace that they use to cook many of the dishes with a case of meat aging up to the right and flavoursome fresh vegetables on a table in front. There is also a large eurocave with housing some of the finest wines from Bordeaux. With a warm greeting you are shown to your rustic table and given menus with a great deal of choice, the wine list is something dreams are made of with it covering every region in Bordeaux and some further afield.
Staff are attentive and knowledgeable yet don’t interrupt the flow of your evening making it ideal for dinner for two or more. Their foie gras is delightfully rich and the côte de boeuf is beautiful, cooked to order over the fire in a cast-iron pan. Whatever you do order, make sure to get some duck fat chips also cooked over the fire. The wine list is quite extensive, though it does only state the chateau, region, vintage and price but help is always on hand and prices are reasonable. To finish your meal try the chocolate fondant even if you are not normally a dessert person, the chocolate fondant is memorable.
Bordeaux is a historical city with much to see and do but it is also a great place to shop. The main area is shaped like a cross with great boutiques which have some great sales where the more you buy the bigger the discount. For quite some time we only shopped in Bordeaux. Shop assistants may seem pushy but they actually care and don’t want you looking bad in their clothes, this I discovered after trying on a cute jacket. If clothes are not you kind of shopping they also have shops solely dedicated to macaroons and canelé. There are also many great markets stocked with all sort of varieties of cheese and meats. A food lovers paradise.
For those who prefer to be a bit more relaxed there are many indulgent spa’s with wine inspired treatments and just outside the city of Bordeaux are many well respected golf courses, there is also the opera house if you fancy a bit of culture. So it is a city that can cater to all and within a short distance.
Though one of best reasons to visit Bordeaux is for the food and wine, with its great transport links you can visit many chateaus by train or bus meaning you don’t need a designated driver. Key piece of advice would be to email the Chateau before rolling up, they are always very welcoming but less so if you haven’t made an appointment. If you love your merlots and soft reds then head to St. Emillion, one of the prettiest villages you will ever see it almost looks fake but its not. You can hop on the train to St.Emillion, wander around the town. There are a few Château’s within walking distance such as Château Ausone, Château Canon and Château La Gaffelière. If like me you are more a left bank fan then Château’s such as Château Haut-Brion can be reached by bus. The Margaux region can also be reached by train. Though you can always rent a car and tour the whole region over the course of the weekend.
When you arrive back in the city I recommend you head to either Brasserie L’Orleans or La Belle Epoque both are popular and atmospheric restaurants with La Belle Epoque having a more french traditional style menu, they do have a very good wine list. Brasserie L’Orleans has more modern relaxed menu.If money is no object get yourself to La Grande Maison Bernard Magrez for the ultimate decadent meal.
Whatever you decide to do, eat or drink Bordeaux has never disappointed and is a charming city to stroll around with a loved one. It is a quick flight over and as the city is so close you won’t be wasting a lot of time travelling a big bonus when you only have a weekend.
For more information check out the tourist office website.