With regular British Airways flights from London Gatwick to Bordeaux, there is no excuse for not considering a visit. As Rob had sent me all the way down there, it seemed a waste not to write an additional fourth article for Head for Points today highlighting a few of the major sites worth seeing.
Bordeaux is a great example for what’s possible when someone sees potential and is willing to invest time and money in transforming a whole city. In 1996 Alain Juppe, the mayor of Bordeaux, launched a programme of renovation to ‘wake up’ the city – hence the nickname La Belle Endormie, Sleeping Beauty.
The black building facades have been cleaned, the waterfront had a make-over and the city got an environmentally friendly tram system with ground power (avoiding overhead wires) that only uses energy when a tram is going over it.
As a result of the city transformation Bordeaux was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 with 347 listed buildings in total.
I only spent 28 hours in Bordeaux but nevertheless got a great impression of the city. One reason was the two hour city tour on my first day with a lovely lady from the Bordeaux tourist office who showed me all the important sights. I also had time to explore the city on my own the next day and did not take a map with me.
Here are my favourite bits of Bordeaux.
As I was staying at the InterContinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel, I found myself right on the corner of the golden triangle – the historical heart of Bordeaux. Outside the hotel is the Place de la Comedie with the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux.
Walking up to the river Garonne you find yourself on one of Europe’s largest squares the Place des Quinconces. Every few months the square becomes home to a fun fair.
The waterfront is very popular with runners and the Mirroir D’eau is one of the new landmarks in Bordeaux creating a stunning mirrored image of the Place de la Bourse. Unfortunately I was in Bordeaux before the water season and couldn’t snap a great picture.
Palais de la Bourse is the historical city center which is mainly used for conferences and corporate functions these days.
As Bordeaux is a wine city, drinking is encouraged. If you want to learn more about wines of the region Le Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vin de Bordeaux website is the best place to start. At the Bar a Vin you can drink fine wines by the glass (with prices between €2 and €8) which gives you the chance of trying as many different wines out of the 30 wines on the menu as you can handle. The staff know everything about Bordeaux’s wine and the menu changes every few weeks.
For a good cocktail head to La Comtesse. Cocktails start from around €6. The bar is also known for its ever changing decorations above the front door.
The centre commercial Les Grands Hommes is Bordeaux’s exclusive shopping centre with various designer shops, cafes, food stores. Baillardran is the best store to buy Bordeaux’s famous and delicious Canelés. It is also home to the most expensive supermarket in the city which mirrors the fact the shopping centre is in Bordeaux’s most exclusive area.
Mollat is the largest independent bookstore in France and definitely worth a visit. Don’t worry, next to books in French you can also find a large selection of English titles.
Anyone for chocolate? Le Comptoir de Mathilde has got everything from specially designed chocolate bars to melted chocolate drinks or bread spreads.
The French love their comics. I remember BD being one of the first topics we learned about in French class. As I was walking through Bordeaux I walked past the Krazy Kat, a lovely comic cafe which is a must for comic lovers.
With 1.2 kilometres of shops the Rue Sainte-Catherine is one of Europe’s largest pedestrians only shopping street starting at the Place de la Comedie and ending at the Place de la Victoire.
The Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux is not only worth visiting for the impressive building structure and art works inside the cathedral. It is also a popular concert location and hosts an international organ festival every summer.
Though most of the city’s facades have been cleaned, you can still find house fronts that have the cleaning still on their to-do lists. That is why you sometimes find half cleaned houses.
I wish I could have had more time is Bordeaux, but I can always go back – and surely will.