Well known to people in the wine trade, the city of Bordeaux is less well known to travelers who limit their time in France to Paris or the Provence beloved of travel brochures. They are missing something by overlooking this revived riverfront city of stunning 18th century architecture, wide pedestrian streets, parks, restored waterfront, active cultural life, and, of course, good food and wine. During the last few decades most of the old buildings have been cleaned, restoring the soft yellow/gold color of the Girondin stone.
By the early 18th century the city was thriving with one of the busiest ports in France sending wine and other products all over the world. The less salubrious side of this trade was an active slave trade where ships from Bordeaux would take part in the infamous Triangle Trade between Europe, Africa and the Caribbean. With the city’s increasing wealth the city fathers and the royal representative, the Intendant, transformed the crowded, cramped medieval city by tearing down old walls and expanding the city with about 5,000 new buildings, among which are the Hotel de Ville, Place de la Bourse, and the Grand Theater. For those who favor the narrow twisted streets of medieval Europe there is still plenty left in the older sections of Bordeaux to satisfy the most avid devotee of the 15th century.
|The 18th Century Grand Theater|
|Place De La Bourse|
Assuming you have ‘done’ the city you can always travel about 45 minutes to the wide, pristine Atlantic beaches that stretch for miles from Cap Ferret in the south to the mouth of the Gironde River in the north. If you prefer more sedentary pleasures to cycling or swimming there are several good restaurants in the town of Cap Ferret that overlook the Bay of Arcachon, famous for its oyster beds. The area is extremely popular with the Bordelais and it can sometimes be a challenge to get a booking in the middle of summer. However, just a little way out of town are a number of what can best be described as shacks with rickety piers jutting out into the bay where you can dine on a plate of oysters, pate, a little wine and freshly baked bread. All this for about €12.
Venturing just a little further you get to the Ile de Re, about 20 minutes from La Rochelle. Again, pristine beaches and small harbors like St. Martin de Re that have been tastefully transformed from fishing villages to tourist destinations. Proximity to La Rochelle and Paris via the TGV make Ile de Re popular year round. It was difficult enough to get a restaurant booking on a chilly weekend in March, and I hesitate to think what July and August might be like.
|St. Martin On Ile de Re|
After this brief hiatus it is back to Clos Monicord where there is always something that has to be done.