A visit to Bordeaux region in France is much awaited for any one who likes his / her wine, and probably more so for anyone who prefers red over white – as this region is known more for the former..! Our recent travel to Bordeaux was one big discovery for us, beginning with – it’s not one large wine making region, but multiple sub regions within this rather big geography and each with its own uniqueness. And, Bordeaux in itself is a big city (and not a small adjoining village to lush green vineyards). We were quite lucky with our choice of staying outside the city in one of the wine growing regions, and it was a rather difficult choice to settle down between Medoc or Saint Emilion. Thankfully, the choice was made easier as we got ourselves a nice home in the village of Castelnau-de-Medoc – approx 30 mins away from Bordeaux city, though still very accessible by public transport / driving. Given a choice, we would rather not compromise on staying in a local home – and all the more so when we get a charming and fully equipped house with a bigger backyard for kids to run around for the last bytes of sunshine before European winter sets in.
It has been a rather warm autumn this year in Europe and language challenges notwithstanding – we were welcomed to the home by very warm hosts. They not only showed us around the house, helped with the local grocery stores, how to use public transport to reach Bordeaux city in most convenient and cost effective manner, walked us thru the choices of the vineyards to visit in the region; but also a bottle of local wine from the neighboring vineyard. We spent the evening settling down in the house, getting the grocery from local store to last few days, and with store manager’s penchant to close the store 5 mins before the scheduled time – got our dinner fixed at a rather cheeky pizza kiosk next door. Talk about cultural integration – even in far away French village in a non mainstream food joint, we got a pizza with Indian curry sauce..! One of the benefits of traveling in European autumn is that the temperatures are mostly pleasant. The next morning started with a bright sunny day, and we decided to make the most of the day by heading to Bordeaux city in a local tram. As soon as we realized that it’s a big place to explore within a day – our decision was made to rent a bike and zip around the town, get the feel of the city like a local, going at our own pace and stopping over at not only the main sights but also those local corners, and experiencing the little things that truly make a city like Bordeaux very unique with its art, architecture, culture, history, people – you take your pick..!
Bordeaux is a city with multiple faces…! There is usual old town charm of nice cathedral, great impressive architecture, art galleries, bars, restaurants each with its own history and character, Opera Theater, Hotel de Ville, city doors and walls of the medieval city. And, guess zipping across in a bike has the benefit of being able to spend more time in experiencing the places itself than in commuting.
However, what really stood out for us is the biking thru the narrow streets with strong local feel, a playful water fountain in front of the main city square where kids and adults can just run around the water smoke, a tactile model of the city next to the main city door, soaking in the sun shine (and green tea with mint) in a local cafe next to a big square in front of Saint Michel cathedral, biking along the river as we hit a modern piece of architecture in Citu de la vino with the shape of a wine decanter (perhaps the best ode to the city and a region which is known for its wine), and wrapping up the day along a very modern riverside promenade full of chic shops and restaurants where travelers and locals come together to spend the evening.
A city as prominent as Bordeaux definitely deserves a fast and better connectivity from Paris, and clearly TGV realizes this. It’s certainly not an accident that a super fast train is being launched that will connect Paris and Bordeaux in two hours, and its being done as the city celebrates the centenary of its main train station – Saint Jean. To celebrate this occasion, an architect came out with an avant-garde idea – placing 16 statues of a naked man placed at different points in the city, to mark out those places where people pass by regularly. The idea being that the statues will make them stop and ponder over the multiplicity of views and perspectives that Bordeaux offers..!
Tomorrow we plan to head to Saint Emilion, which is not only one of the best wine growing region around Bordeaux but is also one of the most beautiful French village with vineyards and chateaus all around. It deserves a separate post in itself and more to come later..!