This past week I got back from a mini France and Spain adventure with one of my best buds, Claire… our last trip together was to Edinburgh over a year and a half ago so we were long overdue a lot of fun! Our reason to go was to visit our friend Lindsay who is spending her summer season at a watersports resort near to Bordeaux, but both being wine lovers we couldn’t fly into Bordeaux without checking out what the city and surrounding area had to offer before we made our way to the surf coast!
We found a really cheap hotel deal on http://www.bookings.com staying at the Apart City Bordeaux, it was pretty budget and a little walk from the city centre but if you just want a bed for the night in a clean room with no perks it’s perfect! One note I would make is the exterior glass has been lined with colour filters to make it more interesting from the outside; but this tints the natural light entering in the room, so having a blue window in our room our light was tinted a weird blue colour, it was quite surreal but given we were only using the room as a place to sleep it didn’t really bother us too much.
Our hotel was little walk into the centre of Bordeaux, but similarly to London there is a bike rental scheme locals and tourists can use called La CUB, the website is in French only but there are english instructions on the bike station terminals, the cost was €1 for 24 hour access to the bikes, and then time is recorded between every time you undock and dock a bike; like in London the first 1/2 hour is free but time beyond that is charged at €2 per an hour. I made the mistake of not checking my bike before I selected it and hired one with a flat tire, so learn from my lesson and give your bike a once over before selecting to hire it!
Once we sorted out our bike hire we cycled straight to the square outside the town hall to enjoy a bit of lunch and plan our day. We chose to eat at a typical French cafe on the square surprisingly called Le Cafe Francais, we enjoyed a bottle of white wine with our french salads and made friends with out waiter who gave us a lot of advise on what to see and do in the city.
It appeared we had chosen the best weekend to be in Bordeaux, our waiter had told us to head to the river and check out the wine festival, Fete Du Vin which was on just for that weekend… BINGO that was our evening entertainment sorted (well so we thought)… €20 for a free glass and tasting coupons to try lots of different wines!
Back on our bikes we explored more of Bordeaux before “attempting” to check out the wine festival, did you know it is home to Europe’s longest shopping Street, Rue Sainte-Catherine, 1.2km of pedestrianized shop lined street! My impressions of the city were it was a cross between Paris and Bath, Paris because of the very french architecture of the town hall, cathedrals, parks and tree-lined roads and Bath because most of it appears to be built out of limestone like Bath.
From being told about the wine festival at lunch time we held enough restraint to get some sightseeing done before we committed to the wine tasting whole heartedly, so early evening we made our way to the river bank where the festival was being held and bought tickets. No wine festival would be complete with out a never-ending wall of wine barrels and a giant cork mural made out of tiny little wine corks! Tickets in hand we eagerly walk towards the wine tents only to be told sorry the festival has closed early due to strong winds.
We had no plan B so aimlessly wandered whilst complaining to each other that the weather wasn’t that bad and what a ridiculous decision it was to close the wine fair early! Fortunately we stumbled across this great little place called Bar a Vin, this is my top place to visit if you are in Bordeaux, this wine bar sells a huge varied selection of affordable bordeaux wines by the glass, the decor is very bright and light which I assume is deliberately designed to enable you to see the wine you are drinking. The bar is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 10pm, so at 10 we decided to stop the wine drinking and find a bar to enjoy a nightcap.
Tripadvisor suggested the area around La Victoire to go to find the night life, we wandered a found a few bars and enjoyed a couple of G&Ts but nothing seemed to entice to stay out longer so after a few card games we headed back to our hotel to sleep and wake up ready for our road trip to Saint Emilion the next day.
*PS the next morning we managed to sell our wine festival tickets on to a french couple to use that evening so we weren’t too out-of-pocket from the early closure of the wine festival when we were there.