By now, I’ve had the joy and pleasure of traveling solo, with family, friends and with my partner. So, what was missing?
Well, I hadn’t yet traveled with my best friend. And we finally managed to change that on this trip. After showing her around Paris, we headed to the wine country of France, Bordeaux for the weekend.
France is all about beautiful cities and towns that reflect the French-ness of the country through the various highlight elements. Based in the Aquitaine region, Bordeaux is a major city in the South of France known primarily for the high-quality wine being produced in the region since as early as the 8th century.
Paris To Bordeaux
Bordeaux happens to be a major city in France with regular transport options from the capital, Paris.
You can travel to Bordeaux from Paris or any major European city by taking a quick flight.
Duration: 1hr (from Paris)
There are also buses that operate from Paris to Bordeaux, but this journey can get long and exhausting with over 8 hours of travel time.
Duration: 8-12 hrs (from Paris/depending on the route)
We opted for the TGV Inoiu trains. High-speed trains depart from the Paris Montparnasse station every hour to Bordeaux. For a 2-hour non-stop journey, these trains are highly comfortable and come with amenities such as comfortable seats, charging points, free WIFI on board, café services, clean washrooms, and luggage storage facilities.
With a valid Rail Europe pass, you can get free reservations on the train of your choice. In case you’re traveling without a pass, the ticket pricing is dynamic with as much as 65 eur one way, per person for a ticket booked a day prior to the actual journey.
Duration: 2hours (from Paris)
Where to stay in Bordeaux?
While there are some great and decently priced accommodation options in the Bordeaux City Centre, we wanted to enjoy our downtime in a more private space. So, we found us a gorgeous Airbnb on the other side of the bank of the river Garrone.
This gorgeous little property hosted by Nicholas and Marie is a lovely 1BHK home, with an open porch and outdoor sitting arrangements.
This cozy home was just the perfect stay to enjoy some downtime whilst bonding over the famous Bordeaux wine and conversations. Apt if you’re coming with your best friend, partner or someone special!
Getting Around Bordeaux
Considering that our Airbnb was on another corner of the city, getting to the Bordeaux city center and around the city requires public transport. We mainly used the buses to get around the city and to a few other spots that we hoped the explore.
The city also has a great tram network to go around the cities.
The only downside of the Bordeaux public transport is the timing. During our stay in the city, the buses and trams were so off the schedule that it was hard to tell whether we had missed the bus or if the bus was running late.
This also ended in a small disaster on our way out of the city.
In case you want to use Uber, it well works in Bordeaux and you sure know how to go about that.
Bordeaux City Card
The cost per journey for the tickets is 1.7 eur when bought on the bus. But we bought the Bordeaux City Card for 24 hours with unlimited public transport and access to museums and tours.
For daily public transport, you can also opt for the daily ticket for 8 eur per person.
Bordeaux wine was the primary reason to opt for this trip. To ensure a good local wine tasting experience, we booked ourselves on a tour at the Chateau Papa Clement. The Chateau and literally all others happened to be on the other side of the city from our Airbnb. But after much struggle, we finally managed to get to Pessac, where the Chateau was situated.
On the tour, we first got a tour of the Chateau Papa Clement. Mara, our guide took us through the process of making wine in the different areas of the property including the vineyards, which at the time looked pretty dull after the recent vendange (grape harvesting season) that concluded only a month ago in October.
It was interesting to know that even the youngest of wines are aged for a period of at least 2 years before being exported for sales.
We also got to see the private collection of the Montagne family with wines dating back to the 1850s. Chateau Papa Clement was founded by Bertrand de Goth in 1300 before he moved to the papacy in 1306.
After a detailed tour of the state, we headed to the bar for a wine tasting session. In today’s session, we were going to taste 3 different red wines, a smoked wine, a sweeter wine with a mix of cherries and a young wine.
This had indeed been an exciting tour with not just an explanation of the winemaking process but a tour through the VAT House, the Cellars and the Vault.
Exploring the City of Bordeaux
Getting out to explore on a rainy day was not the most exciting option, so we enjoyed the comfort of our cozy Airbnb till the rains slowed down. That’s the advantage of good property to stay at, you will never regret or despise staying indoors.
Marché des Quais- Sunday Market
We got out to explore the city of Bordeaux as soon the weather had calmed a little. We barely managed to catch a glimpse of the vibrant Sunday market in the city. The Sunday Market is an absolute must to try the different flavors of the food, wines, fast fashion items, books, a range of spirits, art pieces, collectibles and more. It does not just have a large number of stalls, but also large local crowds.
And that being scene despite the constant rains! At the Sunday market, you could surf and bargain from the range of stalls and goods and enjoy the joys of street shopping in Bordeaux.
Basilica Saint Michel
The Basilica of St. Michel in Bordeaux is a landmark Gothic church in the city. This Basilica was said to have been built from the 14th to 16th century in the heart of the vibrant and buzzing Saint Michel Quarter. The stained-glass windows of this church were destroyed in the 1940 bombings, they were restored later by the church. It is said that several mummified bodies were found below this historic monument and have now been relocated to catacombs and cemeteries.
Bordeaux’s famous Christmas market at Marchés de Noël had only just started earlier that week. Thanks to the weekend, this gorgeous Christmas Market was full of locals enjoying some downtime in the city. Bonding over conversations and the Christmas specialties, Mulled wine, fresh bakes- cakes, macaroons, breads and more, grilled meats, fried fish, sweets and candies, toys, handicrafts from the Aquitaine region and more. The market was buzzing with people and yet the sellers were kind enough to attend and attempt to entice every passerby by offering a tasting sample of their aromatic delicacies.
The vibe was so warm and cheerful that we forgot all about the gloominess brought upon by the rains.
After the Christmas Market, we headed straight to the city center full of interesting installations, crowds of people and inviting a crowd were some buskers who sang and strum the guitar enchanting the crowds and uplifting the mood.
Bordeaux Waterfront & Palais de la Bourse
On our way back to our Airbnb, we decided to walk up to the Bordeaux Waterfront whilst enjoying the sunset by the Garonne river. On our way to the waterfront, we also happened to pass the gorgeous and magnificent Bordeaux Palais de la Bourse, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux. With the sunsetting, this fine piece of architecture looked marvelous in the setting. Right across the road was the Bordeaux River Front. We walked there for some time, clicking pictures, chatting and giggling as we watched more tourists and locals casually pass by.
This indeed was one of the best viewing points of the city!
Our Monday morning blues were real and how! On Monday morning, we were to catch a flight to our next stop- Madrid. This turned out to be a major mess with delayed transportation, and the early Monday morning traffic in the city despite switching to an Uber to make it to the airport in time. Unfortunately, we missed our flight and had to wait at the airport for another 8 hours to get on the next flight.
We only wished that we had pre-empted the traffic or opted for the Uber much earlier. Anyway, like always, travel gone wrong is always the more exciting story to tell than vanilla happy stories. Right?
Notes from Bordeaux
Despite some unexpected drama and bad spin at the end of our trip, we enjoyed Bordeaux and learned some lessons both about travel and about traveling in Bordeaux the hard way! Here are some thoughts about our trip.
- Bordeaux is the perfect destination, especially for a personal holiday, allowing you the right amount of options to immerse in the local discoveries and in personal reconnections and bonding.
- Before you pick on the Bordeaux wines, a wine tasting session will serve you just right.
- Make sure you try the Cité du la Vin tour, which is free before noon and costs 5 eur per person post 12 pm. It’s one of the most highly recommended activities to give you a perspective of the wine region.
- While there is a wide range of hotels and accommodation options in and around the city of Bordeaux, the best way to enjoy your stay in the city would be by booking an Airbnb which has a local touch to it. While there are some great options in the city center, don’t be afraid to pick options on the outskirts.
- With the Bordeaux wine being the most important attraction of the region, don’t fret over staying indoors to enjoy your cozy accommodation, company of your dear ones and the fine Bordeaux wine to go with.
- Bordeaux’s public transport is not the most reliable option of getting around the city. So, if you’re a larger group and have plans to explore the countryside, consider renting a car/cab.
- While the ticket checking in Bordeaux’s public transportation is not very strict, it’s best to keep a ticket handy and tap in and out per journey.
- If you intend to fly out or take an early morning train, plan your trip to the train station/ airport very carefully. Weekday early mornings in the city can be jam-packed with traffic making it hard even for your Uber to pick you up in time.
- Bordeaux is not the destination that makes you rush. It’s the destination where you’d go to enjoy the good life with some fine wine and laying back. You can visit any time of the year to visit Bordeaux.
- If you’re planning a wine-centric trip and would like to stay at one of the many properties with a vineyard, summers would be better in terms of the vine growth, picking and activities.
Bordeaux and its people and most importantly its wine, are delicious, like a memory that’s unlikely to escape your mind for a long long time. Add this gorgeous city to your bucket list, and enjoy the well-deserved downtime. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Disclaimer: This trip was partially supported by the lovely folks at the Bordeaux Tourisme Congress. However, all opinions and experiences are 100% personal and unbiased.