There is a river in Southern France, which bends like the crescent of the moon. And on this bend is a city and a region with a spirit that, once tasted, lingers in the heart forever. Bordeaux rises proudly from the Aquitaine region of southwest France,300 miles from Paris and a one-hour drive from the Atlantic coast. Since the Romans first crushed grapes along the banks of the Garonne River, wine has been the lifeblood of this place. The city of Bordeaux possesses an elegance and easy charm that makes even Paris look on with envy. Yet despite its deep body of 18th century grandeur, Bordeaux overflows with youthful top notes that breathes life into her streets and shared spaces.
Take in the city from the Pont de Pierre Bridge, where beneath you, waters from the far-off Pyrenees glide to the Bay of Biscay. Once in the city, grand arches and gatehouses from past ages welcome you to a place which became one of the Enlightenment’s brightest stars. Bordeaux is a city whose skyline is graced with the turrets and spires of faith, such as the Bell Tower of Saint Michaels Basilica…and the twin spires of Cathedrale St Andre. Bordeaux’s monuments and civic architecture reach for the heavens too. Cool off by the Girondins Monument, whose soaring column lifts the Spirit of Liberty skyward for all to see. In Victory Place, gaze up at the monument to viniculture, which twists like a vine reaching for the sun.
While from the rooftop of the Bordeaux’s opera house, playful muses inspire all those who pass below. You’ll find plenty of inspiration at the Aquitaine Museum, from the cave paintings of prehistory, to the city’s rise as one of the world’s great trading ports. Pause by the cenotaph of Michel de Montaigne, who advised his fellow citizens,“ the value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the way we use them”. And the people of Bordeaux use their days very well, so to get the most from your visit, simply do as they do. When it’s time to relax, take a stroll beneath the avenues of plane trees…work up a thirst on the riverfront…or in the warmer months, splash in the mists at Place de la Bourse.
When it’s time to shop, follow the local fashionistas down Rue Sainte-Catherine, Europe’s longest shopping street….or join the treasure hunters amid the city’s vintage shops and market stalls. When it’s time to eat, choose from menus filled with centuries of Aquitaine tradition…or fill your basket with the fruits of Bordeaux’s fields, forests and waters, at Capucins Market. The people here love their beer, thanks in no small part to the British who ruled Aquitaine for 300 years. But of course, when it comes to drinking in Bordeaux, wine is everything. Step into the vaults of the Wine and Trade Museum and learn how the French passion for viniculture and Britain’sinsatiable thirst for Claret made Bordeaux a global wine superstar in the 1800s.Head downriver, past the incredible Jacques Chaban Delmas Bridge, to another architectural marvel, Cité du Vin.
More than a museum, Cite du Vin is a multi-sensory temple to the history, culture and science of wine. Take a helicopter tour across 20 of the planet’s most important growing regions. Explore the unique profiles of popular varieties. Then on the top floor, enjoy a complimentary glass, while drinking in the views of a city that has long been hailed as the wine capital of the world. Bordeaux ships over 600 million bottles of wine to the world each year, but some of the most exciting bottles never leave the city. Visit the city’s wine shops, where the flavours of Bordeaux’s wine regions can be explored in a single afternoon. But to truly understand the character of Bordeaux, you must walk among the vines. Just 15 minutes west from the city center is Chateau Pape Clement, one of the oldest vineyards in Bordeaux.
Here, in the gravelly soils of the Graves region, a wine-loving pope tended vines that produced liquid miracles. Head deeper into the Graves appellation, a landscape filled withcastles, chateaus and vineyards which stretch away through space and time. Call into Sauternes, whose sweet wines were so loved by George Washington, he ordered thirty cases at a time. Then, stretch your legs in Bazas, a two-and-a-half thousand-year-old town renowned for its fine beef steaks and Gothic cathedral. To the east of Bordeaux, the soil changes to limestone and clay, and so the flavours change again. Be sure to visit Saint-Emilion, a hilltop town where medieval walls rise from solid rock, and vines grow amid the ruins of a vast Dominican Monastery.
The Merlots and Cabernet Francs produced here have been touched by the divine, so set aside a weekend to immerse your palate in the flavours and crafts of this World Heritage site. Whether you explore her wine regions for a month, or just a day, once you have experienced the vineyards around Bordeaux, the city takes on an even richer glow. There is a river in Southern France, which bends like the crescent of the moon, and on this bend is Bordeaux, whose colours, moods and flavours can take a hundred happy lifetimes to explore. So don’t wait until your next life, Bordeaux is ready to savour, today.