So. Bordeaux. Where do I begin? This romantic city captured our hearts. Completely.
Full of that je ne sais quoi, the city of art and history has old world meets new world feel. It’s smaller, chic-er and will charm the culottes off anyone.
Although it’s the sixth largest city in France, Bordeaux feels more like a quaint town. It’s designed to make you feel welcome with its cobble stone streets and breathtaking facades of 18th-century architecture that now house funky cafes and those oh-so-chic bars at every corner. The Bordelais people are warm and inviting – and if you show them some love, they’ll show you a side to the city you wouldn’t get from a tour guide.
[Quick fact: Just 15 years ago, Bordeaux looked very different. Most of the clean, honey-coloured limestone buildings were covered in ash and smoke, making the entire city a grey mess. Luckily, in 1995 a tax benefit was brought in to entice people to clean their gorgeous facades and the city was reborn].
Needless to say, I’d pick this enchanting, golden city over Paris any day of the week. No offence to Paris (you’re up next!)
No other city I’ve been to puts of a series on free concerts in various locations. Week in, week out you’ll find gigs in the squares, parks avenues and laneways of Bordeaux, playing jazz, funk, soul and good old rock. The Bordelais lap them up, attending Relache in the hundreds.
Not far from the centre of town you’ll find the gorgeous green fields and honey-coloured stone buildings of Jardin Public. The perfect spot for a picnic, some racket ball or a glass of bubbles from L’orangerie.
It’s no surprise that on a sunny day, the suns out guns out rule applies. Especially if there’s a Relache festival occurring in the gardens that day. It has that real old school feel to it, where the bourgeoisie would take their walks on a Sunday afternoon. It’s pretty spesh so yeah, pop it on your list of Bordy must-do’s.
Chez Alrique La Guinguette
As far as live music venues go, La Guinguette takes the cake in Bordeaux. Set along the river Garonne, the outdoor venue is an array of good tunes, good chats and good wine to go with them. The sky is coloured by hundreds of fairy lights which sparkle lightly all night giving the entire place a whimsical feel.
Head there any Wednesday – Sunday night and see some super cool cats perform. I’m taking Balkan guitar bands, French jazz, afrobeats and blue grass. Anything goes at La Guinguette, and it’s always a great night!
Drinks and Dining
Yep, it means Bakery but it’s also the name. Geddit? Located in Place Saint Michel, this is the only place to get your sandwich. And by a sandwich I mean baguette. These guys are always ridiculously busy – with a line sprawling outside most days, so you know their dough is always going to be as fresh as the prince.
As the name suggests, there’s no limit when it comes to wine and cheese. And rightfully so. This delightful little bar made many our evenings oh so delightful with a cheese and charcuterie board. The two gents who run it are half the reason it’s so successful – they’re not short on gags, or character. The mixed planche (fromage and charcuterie) and a bottle of the Lavrette will do you very nicely on a sunny soir, any day of the week.
Plume. The best cafe in Bordeaux. Ok, I may be a little biased here as it’s where we met our amazing French friends, but taking that aside – plume kicks ass.
Plume became our office. Each morning we’d stroll in at 10 am (They open at that time, it’s when everyone starts work here OK), be greeted by a handful of smiling faces and enjoy deux allonge (two long blacks). Their coffee game is solid. As are the staff.
Steak lovers, heads up: L’Entrecôte is the Beyonce of steak restaurants.
There is literally a line for this place every single day. People wait for hours to enjoy the one thing on the menu – steak and fries (endless fries). If you ever doubted whether the French own the steak game, L’Entrecôte will set you straight.
Canelé de Bordeaux
These guys are delightful Bordelaise pastries that go well just about any time of the day. Made with eggs, sugar, vanilla and a touch of rum, their unique consistency (crispy on the outside, soft and almost gooey like on the inside) along with their custardy taste make them moreish AF which is why it’s lucky they sell them in lots of sizes (or not so lucky).
Nouveaux-Aquitaine is very much spoilt for wine. Saint Emilion is probably the most well known. For not only its wine, but its stunning scenery. 365 wineries packed into 13,000 acres, producing some of the best merlot I’ve ever had. And I’m not even a merlot kinda girl.
About an hour out of Bordeaux (by train) are the beaches of Arcachon and the worlds biggest sand dunes – Dune du Pilat. If you dare to climb them (and you should because they’re rife with insatgrammable spots) be prepared for killer a leg and glute workout – you’ll be sore the next day but your derrière will look tres perky.
Once you’re done with the Dunes, head back to Arcachon beach for some delicious Moules-frites and bake away your tender thighs a la plage. This was my favourite of our day trips.
Even further down the coast (two hours south) you’ll find Biarritz. The famous beach town is known for its glitzy past and old-world glamour. Made famous by Napoleon’s wife, Eugenie, who loved it so much had her husband build a palace there (now a hotel – aptly named the Palace Hotel). Its popularity remains today with about a million people crowding along the sands of the six beaches that lie side by side.