Thursday, June 29, 2023

City Break - Bordeaux

Bordeaux, France. Various dates over Monday 12-June-2023 to Friday 30-June-2023.

This was our second bonus city break after Edinburgh, courtesy of the yoga and wild swimming retreat that we had booked in the Dordogne. The retreat ran from Thursday to Thursday. The flights times and dates from Bari to Bordeaux and Bordeaux to Edinburgh were such that we spent a total of five nights in Bordeaux spread over three visits with plenty of time to explore and get a real feel for the city. We did a bicycle tour, a river cruise, a visit to the wine museum, lots of walking around and ate and drank fine food and wines.

On the first visit we walked round the city centre to orient ourselves including a visit to the impressive Gothic revival Église Saint-Louis des Chartrons.

Classic stained glass rose window.

Our route into town and back took us along the picturesque Rue Notre Dame. Much of the old town was walkable as traffic was limited to residents and service vehicles hence the streets were very quiet.

In the afternoon we went on a river cruise with bi-lingual commentary. We learned more about Bordeaux's long association with the English, the growth of the wine trade and the early 20th century re-invention of Bordeaux (industry moved out of town, gentrification of warehouses, huge investment in transport infrastructure, jet-wash cleaning all the lovely stone buildings). 

The water is murky not because of pollution but because the river Garonne is still tidal at this point and the sediment doesn't get a chance to settle.

The lifting bridge is an impressive piece of elegant engineering to allow taller vessels to pass upstream.

In the evening we discovered an excellent place for wine tasting with food, Le Sobre Chartrons

They had around 20 wines in a temperature controlled dispenser. You bought a pre-loaded card and then chose your wine and quantity. Put your glass under the appropriate spout and you could chose a measure of 30, 60 or 120 ml. We majored on Bordeaux whites, when in Bordeaux...

On our second visit we did a great bicycle tour with Monsieur Bacchus which took us all over the city.

The Jardin Public is an English style garden including the national botanical museum, originally a botanical laboratory. Here the well-travelled Angus from Australia, but currently settled in Bordeaux, is explaining the history of the English connection with Bordeaux.

Roman amphitheatre in the middle of the city.

Old barracks repurposed as the Darwin eco-system: hybrid space committed to the defence of the environment including co-working spaces, a business incubator, restaurants, shops and a café.

Old wine warehouses repurposed as ateliers. We were close to our hotel here and the café at the far end of this alley was our usual breakfast stop.

One of the old gates to the city.

A feature of Bordeaux - spires built separately from the church partly as a demonstration of wealth and partly because of the marshy ground they were built on.

Back on foot we discovered the Basilica of St. Michael a "flamboyant gothic" church with a fancy pulpit.

Modern windows to replace the destruction caused by World War II bombing.

After all that sightseeing we needed lunch. Mary found an excellent bistro nearby Ô Saint Michel; great food, fantastic value for money.

On our last visit following the retreat we managed to fit in a visit to Cité du Vin wine museum which is on the edge of town. You could spend hours there learning so much about wines all around the world. A fun feature was the smell-o-vision gallery where you could test your aroma identification skills.

A great find for lunch was the Les Halles Bacalan food hall just across the road which was full of French office workers on their lunch break.

There were dozens of street food stalls to chose from; we went Japanese.

Our last night in Bordeaux was spent at an excellent hotel Kyriad Merignac Aeroport conveniently a couple of tram stops from the airport. Simple Travelodge-style, clean and with a quiet air-con unit. 

Mary tracked down a small, highly rated restaurant nearby, Le Bistrô, with a friendly proprietor, Jennie, and excellent food. Mary started with an artisanal beer made locally by a friend of the owner and we sampled a good selection of wines by the glass.

The menu was short (always a good sign), classically French and excellent value at €26.50 for three courses.

Next morning it off to the airport, back to Bari and home.

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