Sep 28

Bordeaux, France – more than famous wine region.

by in Europe

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Cite du Vin

Once you visited Paris and got that ticked off your travel bucket list, it’s well worth worth looking further afield for perhaps a more authentic French experience. The sixth largest city in France, Bordeaux lies in the south-west of the country near the Atlantic Ocean, in the Bay of Biscay. It is a port city with the large tidal Garonne River passing through it. Bordeaux is a mini Paris of sorts, having a large number of preserved historical buildings, second only to the capital in France. Surrounding area around Bordeaux is one of the best wine producing regions of the world. As someone who enjoys relaxing with a full-bodied red in hand, I can think of nothing finer than taking leisurely drives around the vineyards and stopping off at beautiful chateaus to partake in some wine tasting and a spot of lunch. There are many rentals in France, providing luxury accommodation for parties from four up to thirty people.

Getting There and Getting Around

As of early July 2017 Eurostar has a new, faster train trip from London to Bordeaux ( with a quick switch of trains in Paris), getting there in just under 6 hours. Return tickets cost from GBP110.
As well as from many cities throughout France and Europe, you can also fly to Bordeaux directly from the following cities in the U.K.: London, Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton and Edinburgh. There is no need to get a taxi from the airport into town. The public airport bus to central Bordeaux is Alignes 1(line one) and comes every 10 mins. Tickets are €1.60 and are purchased from a vending machine, right beside the where the bus leaves from. Correct change is required or use a credit card. There is a easily legible map of the bus route and stops along the way.

Bordeaux is a city that is very walkable, if you have the time and legs. My parents were there recently and were very impressed with the city’s tram system. There are four tram routes which have quite an extensive radius. They travel overground, are clean and efficient, and run frequently. You can buy your ticket at any stop using coins or a credit card, and you will get change. Tickets are €1.60/hour. There are other options/passes but that is what my parents used. You have to validate your ticket upon entering the tram and they do have inspectors so it doesn’t pay to cheat.

There is an excellent Information Centre close to the large Quincones Tram B and C interchange, on the corner of Cours 30 Juliette St. There is clean and coin operated toilet on the corner there too which is a bonus for us ladies :-)

Things to do in Bordeaux

Wine Tours

You can’t visit Bordeaux without going on a tour of the local wine region. My parents purchased their tour tickets from the Information Centre. They opted for one of the more expensive ones which took a maximum of 8 eight people in a very comfortable “people mover” van. The tour cost £70 for a half day tour from 1400-1900 hours. They visited two very interesting and different chateaus in the famed Saint Emilion region.

Cite du Vin
This modern wine museum, just completed in 2016 and situated on the bank of the Garonne River, is a must-see. It tells the story on wine from ancient to modern times with interactive displays, films, live entertainment etc. The building has an extraordinary design, supposedly replicating the “swirl of wine” in a wine glass. The ground floor has an enormous circular wine bar with approx. 14,000 bottles of wine from prominent wine growing areas in 70 countries of the world. Wine is purchased by the glass which costs € 5-15. On the 8th floor is a large wrap-around bar from where you can see great views of Bordeaux and the Garonne River. It is a great spot from which to see the Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas, an impressive vertical lift bridge completed in 2013, that can allow ocean going liners to travel up the navigable part of the river. The Bridge was completed in 2013. They even give you a complimentary glass of wine to enjoy the views. You can get to the Cite du Vin on Tram B.

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The Water Mirror (Miror d’Eau) at the Place de la Bourse
This amazing and large water feature is a wonderful playground for children and adults alike, as well as a photographer’s dream. Imagine if you will a nearly 3500 square metre slab of black granite, covered in 2 inches of water, creating the largest reflecting pool in the world. To the pleasure of everyone on a hot day, the splash park alternates between still water and a low mist. The Water Mirror and the beautiful old buildings that surround it look especially stunning at night when they are lit up by lanterns.

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Place de la Bourse and Miror d’Eau

Other Places of Interest

Porte Cailhau is an historic city gate, built in 1495, and worth a photo op. Near the Garonne River it is within easy walking distance from the Miror d’Eau, and the Pont du Pierre which is the oldest bridge in Bordeaux. The Garonne River itself is not that attractive as it tidal and therefore a bit muddy, but the bridge does look beautiful lit up at night.

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The Basilique St Michael and Bell Tower is an interesting place to visit, especially on Saturday morning when they have a huge antique market. Place de la Victora is an interesting stop too. It has one market type street (Rue Sainte Catherine) and the rest of the area has a trendy feel and is a great Cafe scene.

The Galerie Des Beaux Arts is a mid sized gallery. It lacks the big names of Rembrandt, Vermeer, or Van Gogh et al, but it is “big” on Rubens, and a great array of French artists including Matisse. My parents have been to many of the world’s big name galleries and were a little underwhelmed by this one.

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