So, WOW – Bordeaux – what a beautiful city! We were lucky to get some bargain Ryanair flights at the end of last year and couldn’t resist a mini trip away. We arrived at a pretty underwhelming airport security area (called ‘Billi’), in what seemed to be designed in the style of a barn – just a couple of passport booths, in a wooden slated structure. But, it was fairly quick to get through, and the stop for the No. 1 bus to the city centre (1.50 euros each) was a hundred yards away outside the much more impressive main terminal.
A 30 minute journey took us through the outskirts of Bordeaux, through the commercial park (there is apparently an Ikea somewhere, although we didn’t see it), and into the city centre. The bus goes all the way through to the main train station, Gare St Jean, but we got off at Gambetta place for a ten minute walk to our apartment.
What struck us most on that ten minute walk was the absolutely beautiful architecture – street after street of winding cobble roads and tall 17th – 19th century, primarily limestone buildings – huge, grand structures, with shutters, and wrought iron trimmings.
Where to stay?
We booked an apartment through booking.com , it was the same process as Air BnB, we paid online and then had to arrange a time to meet to pick up the keys, there was a deposit needed to make sure we didn’t ruin the place and a 30 euro fee to clean afterwards. We got really lucky with the studio that we picked, we were drawn to it because the location was close to the centre (and a good price). M had previously reserved us a place, but turns out he hadn’t checked out the location which turned out to be about 10 miles out of the city!
We were in a beautiful ground floor studio flat in the most beautiful building, we even had our own table for two in the courtyard outside. The flat was small but incredible well organised, everything had been thought out, from the fold away table to the stacking chairs, which doubled as a bedside table, and the main bed being a bunk bed to allow for a sofa bed and table underneath. There was plenty of storage and even thought it was small it didn’t feel like we were on top of each other at all. We usually do prefer to stay in hotels but I think this may have changed our mind; having the little kitchen meant M could go out and get morning warm, freshly baked pastries, bread and coffee and we could have a mini breakfast – they even provided a Nespresso machine, it was like a home away from home – and I even got some beautiful flowers one morning!
We stayed on Rue Malleret, which was about a 10 – 15 minute walk from the centre of town. It seemed to be the artisan and trendy area of Bordeaux (or one of, at least) – full of patisseries, delicatessens, art and craft stores, and the ubiquitous Carrefour supermarkets, it was just a ten minute walk to La Garonne river and the Place des Quinconces (one of the largest city squares in Europe) home to the huge and majestic Monument Aux Girondins – a monument erected ‘…in memory of the Girondists who fell victim of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.’ (Thanks Wikipedia)
What to See / do?
Apart from wine, cheese, pastries, pharmacies (Repeat), which in all honesty is almost enough to make me the happiest girl alive, Bordeaux is just a great place to explore, the architecture is stunning, imagine all the best bits of Paris but without the crowds!
I have to confess though, on that first day we saw the Monument Aux Girondins from a distance and opted to walk the opposite way through the Allées de Tourny (with a stop off at the best Champagne shop ever!) and across to the main shopping strip – there’s a big Sephora there, seriously, what would you have me do?!! ( I will do another post about what I bought…Jaclyn Hill Cpop collection!)
We had planned a couple of things we wanted to do, and picked up a travel book from the local library but we were more than happy to plan as we went along!
We were invited by Bordeaux River Cruise for an evening cruise and a 3-course meal on the first night – in our excitement at arriving in the city and looking forward to the cruise, we nearly missed the boat as we didn’t read the booking form properly! So after spending ages getting ready, we had to run nearly a mile along the river bank to the next stop…hello sweaty, red faced Poppy mess! We boarded the Sicambre boat and I was quickly calmed down with a beautiful glass of Bordeaux’s own ‘Champagne’ named Crème de Bordeaux (I think! – the second bottle may have confused me!).
We had a fantastic host, who explained the route along the river we would take – a 2-hour cruise down the Garonne, ensuring you got to appreciate both sides of the river with a turn when we reached the Lift Bridge, a modern bridge that was lit up and really quite stunning, and somewhere after Pont de Pierre – a beautiful bridge older bridge that reminded us of Charles’ Bridge in Prague . The window seat we had was perfect – would definitely recommend if you go to ask for a window seat as much better view and a bit more private.
The top deck had deck chairs and a seating area, and a smaller inside area with a bar that seemed to be for private bookings. It was a bit too cold to stay outside for long but we braced it just enough to get some snaps and take in the view. So the cruise was wonderful, the boat itself was really well designed and trendy, with the staff giving just the right amount of attention – it was a really special night just having dinner on the river and we’ve already decided we will definitely go back to Bordeaux, and hopefully another cruise and dinner on La Sicambre – but this time in spring / summer when it is a little bit warmer and you could take in the beauty of the UNESCO heritage of Bordeuax in the daylight, although it was still special to see all the illuminated bridges and the city lit up at night.
So – the menu – we had no idea in advance what was to come, but that just made it all the more exciting when we arrived and our lovely waiter explained:
Amuse Bouche: Hot pumpkin soup with foie gras on cracker
For starter: Froi gras with poached egg
For main: Rack of pork ribs (from a piglet!) with onion gravy and vegetables
For dessert: An orange, meringue, lemony Eton mess style dessert
It really was a special meal and you could really tell it was put together by a talented team – and I hope the team at River Cruise Bordeaux forgive any slight errors in the menu above – I’m sure the dessert has a proper name! But the whole thing was stunning, and we had never encountered some of the dishes before which added to the excitement of the evening. A particularly funny moment was when we were talking to our waiter we asked if he had been to England – he said he had visited London, and was saying he had a fantastic time there and really enjoyed it – and mid-sentence the cork in the sparkling wine he was about to open for us just shot out of the bottle with no warning at all – it was hilarious, and we joked that he must have really, really enjoyed London if that was the reaction!
We would definitely recommend this trip, and actually it’s on our list of things to check out for whichever city we find ourselves next.
To check out and book a cruise, head to the website here
One of our other favourite things to do in each city we visit are Escape Rooms; you are locked in a room and, by exploring the room and solving puzzles, have to work out how to escape in an hour. We started the trend in Thailand last year, since then we have become true addicts. We have been to ones in Europe and Asia and are finding them pop up more and more everywhere we go – I am planning to write a blog on all of the escape rooms we have done at some point so watch this space.
Before we left, I spoke with one of the team at Escape Hunt in Bordeaux and one of their team, Bruno, kindly gave us a discount code. We did The Mystery of Saint-Emilion room and would definitely recommend it. This was one of the more professional set-ups we have encountered, and certainly the busiest – most places we have been had one maybe two members of staff, but here there were several, along with maybe 20 people sitting in the lobby (I say lobby – it had more of a cafe feel, with little clusters of chairs and tables where people could sit and chat about the room they had just done.)
On arrival we had a 5-10 minute briefing from one of the staff, whose English was great, to explain the general rules (if something is screwed down, don’t unscrew it etc!) and the backstory of the particular room we had chosen The Mystery of Saint-Emilion –
A bottle of the very first Saint-Emilion cuvée/vintage has disappeared from the La Rosière castle, property of the De Lambert family.
Your role as detectives is to help the family find the missing bottle as well as the thief!
To book go here
There are so many escape rooms popping up in nearly every city so worth checking out where there is one close to you!
Where to drink?
There are so many lovely bars and coffee shops that we could have easily spent a day going from one to another. One afternoon we went to the local supermarket and bought a bottle of wine and drank it by the river which was then proceeded by many other bottles of red wine in some of the nearby pubs, an uber home and trying to order a dominos order in french online!
Here are some of the bars we came across that are worth checking out, a lot of them are around Quai Richelieu
Where to shop?
We came across this beautiful chocolate shop called Maison Georges Larnicol in the centre of the city, it was expensive but we picked a small selection of amazing truffles and chocolate coated nuts.
One day as we walked into town we walked past a Champagne shop – http://www.badie.com -it reminded me of an old sweet shop, behind the counter lined to the ceiling, it sold every boxed and beautiful bottles of champagne, starting at €26 and just going up and up!
There are lots of wine shops that are worth checking out as well as the supermarkets.
Sephora is also always a win as well as all the pharmacies, I usually go in a couple to check out pricing as some vary quite a bit for the same items.
We absolutely loved Bordeaux, we didn’t know what to expect but it exceeded all our expectations, we will be keeping our eye our for flights back. We both would love to go back in the summer to do a wine tour and explore further!
I hoped you enjoyed this city guide, would love to know if you have been or places you also recommend!