Bordeaux is the ville definitif of our whirlwind tour through the south of France. The eighth largest city in France, Bordeaux was long known as La Belle Au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty).
And beautiful is Bordeaux, with its wide boulevards and magnificent architecture – half of the city was UNESCO World Heritage listed in 2007. However, ‘sleeping’ is not an adjective I would use to describe Bordeaux!
In contrast to its stately buildings and architecture, Bordeaux is buzzing and cosmopolitan. A perfect example of this is the city’s modern Miroir d’eau (water mirror), which was installed on the banks of the Garonne River as part of the recent gentrification process.
When we arrive at the square, the granite Miroir d’eau lies dormant, with the elegant Place de la Bourse reflected in its inches of water. The Place de la Bourse is also known as the royal square, and was completed in the 18th century as the old Stock Exchange. A quick glance at the architecture will completely validate the city’s UNESCO heritage listing. Suddenly the stately silence is broken as mists of water begin spraying up from the ground, the French kids go crazy, and laughter and shrieks fill the air.
Bordeaux is easily navigable. The city is quite flat, so it’s a pleasure to walk around – in fact, Bordeaux is home to one of Europe’s largest outdoor shopping streets, Rue Sainte-Catherine. You could also hire a bike, or catch the tram if your feet aren’t up to the task. I always advocate walking – you miss out on seeing funky shops, trendy restaurants and chic French people if you’re crammed in a tram.
We have a few hours of rain during our stay in Bordeaux. Thankfully, Bordeaux offers some fantastic museums, and we choose to spend a few hours in the Musee d’Acquitaine. Entry is free, and we pick up audioguides for 2.50 Euros each. The museum is comprehensive – cave paintings from the prehistoric era, Bordeaux’s impressive role in 18th century trade (and the city’s far-from-impressive role in the slave trade), and wine-making techniques throughout history.
We join another tour upon return to Saint Emilion, which guides us through the impressive monolithic church, underground catacombs and Saint Emilion’s cave. Adam is quick to steer me away from the stone that is believed to enhance women’s fertility.
Verging on ‘grumpy-hungry’ when we return to Bordeaux (wine and macaroon tasting can really work up an appetite), we head straight to seafood restaurant Le Petit Commerce. Rickety tables sprawl down Rue Parlement, milimetres apart, in a sea of laughing, smoking, smiling Bordelais out for dinner. We loved Le Petit Commerce – the deliciously fresh, simply marinaded, perfectly cooked seafood was the ideal contrast to all the rich and heavy French food we have consumed throughout our travels. We inhale a plate of squid, a plate of mussels and a serve of grilled John Dory in a lemon and parsley marinade.
Thankfully, our main courses were amazing. I think Adam had been expecting a whole roast chicken and was a little disappointed when he was asked if he wanted the chicken leg or “chest”. I ordered braised lamb shoulder, which was cooked to perfection, with the meat falling away from the bone. Accompanying our main courses were a cannellini bean soup and a serving of amazing French fries, cooked in duck fatty deliciousness.
We avoided food coma by walking back to the hotel, past impressive churches lit up against the night sky, stopping to take a quick photo in front of the Grand Theatre, and wandering the rest of the way along the riverbank.
Thank you, friends, for following me through France! All these posts/photos have been compiled using only my iPhone and I have enjoyed sharing them with you. Improving my photography, learning to make shortcrust pastry and also lose a few French kilograms are all on my list of things to do when I return back to Sydney.
If you have any tips for me on pastry or photography, I would be eternally grateful to you!