It’s a cold January evening and Laura and I are drinking a glass of wine and chatting about our lives. We think about doing a trip together that summer and we decide to look at what Skyscanner offers. The last trip together dates back to when I visited her in Aix-en-Provence when she lived there, so more or less 6 years ago. Glass of wine in the right hand and cell phone in the left hand, we book a flight to France for the last week of July. The destination chosen while sipping a good glass of red wine? Bordeaux, ҫa va sans dire…
2 friends, a baby bump and Bordeaux restaurants
Bordeaux is a large university city with bars and restaurants at every corner. It is easy to perceive it even if it is a midsummer Monday evenining. Just arrived in town, we decide to have dinner in the Place de la Victoire, at the Café Auguste, just 30 meters far from our accommodation. In front of us the square, crossed by the tram that carries its load of travelers on one side and the tables of the bistros full of young people who enjoy the evening on the other side. Just for your record, it will be right here that I will fall in love with waiter number 1 and, again for the record, by the end of the week I will reach the number of 4 coup de foudre. Ah! Vive l’amour…
I will attend two other restaurants in Bordeaux: the first is a vegan burger. Yes, although we are in the realm of butter and eggs, we have chosen to have lunch at the Wild Note Vegan Burger for two reasons:
1) Laura is allergic to dairy products
2) the fact that she is pregnant of little Zaccaria requires any risk to be avoided and to do so we need some real vegan fundamentalists and not just any fashionable bistro that claims to be such. The guys who run the place are lovely, understanding and helpful (rating 10 also at the burger). Visit them for lunch: this area of the Capucins-Victoire district is very quiet and authentic: you will not miss the northern trendy area closeby.
A more traditional bistro I have tried is the Glouton Le bistrot, an intimate and lovely restaurant, a few steps from the Hotel de Ville. This nice little bistrot was the scene of a lively exchange of opinions between Laura and me on education and religion: the fact that we were a couple of women on vacation, of which a pregnant woman, has surely led to some questions marks in the waiter’s mind.
Last mention goes to the Darwin Eco-Systéme, a café / restaurant / bakery, at the Darwin center in La Bastide, the number one attraction in this trendy neighborhood on the rive droite of Garonne river. Take your time to explore this neighborhood.
The rain in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is about 60km far from the Atlantic Ocean and the everchanging weather will often remind you of it during your stay. My advice? A small umbrella in your bag and a keen eye for the best spot to escape rain: cafes and shops! For shopping I suggest the Saint-Pierre district. You will find shops for all needs. I loved the Emile & Marguerite shop, where you will find a great selection of liquors.
In case of persistent rain I recommend you to visit two real Bordeaux institutions: La Citè du Vin and the Mollat Library. The Citè du Vin could be defined as a 360 ° wine museum: I suggest you choose a specific topic to focus on during your visit … unless you want to spend half a day there. Another gem is the Mollat Library, the largest independent bookshop in France. Please do not check the time and let yourself be fascinated by the comments on the books left by the staff on small paper notes. After the visit, take a look outside: the sun may be shining now.
1 day, 1 car, 2 friends and Aquitaine. From Saint’Emilion to Arcachon via La Brède
We decide to dedicate one of the five days of our stay to visit the surroundings of Bordeaux. Car is rente the day before at Gare Victoire. We take our car and drive to Saint Emilion, a splendid medieval village surrounded by the vineyards. The village is very cute and well cared: the tourist office organizes several daily visits to discover the history of the place and visit its imposing monolithic church. What I strongly recommend you to do in Saint Emilion, however, is to drive / pedal without a destination across the hills surrounding the village: the desert roads and the gentle curves will make you continue to randomly choose which direction to take at each junction. Enjoy the view of the vineyards calmly, the sight is interrupted from time to time by noble houses … a real dream.
We leave Saint’Emilion to move to La Brède, destination chosen by professor Laura being the hometown of Montesquieu. Starting from the external courtyard, the guide takes us to visit all the rooms of the castle, explaining the visitor about the changes occurred during time and illustrating how the needs of different eras have led to update the interiors of the castle. We are the only non-French of the group, but the excellent guide speaks in a slow and clear way in order to let us understand all her explanation. Residence and guide: vote 10. Straw cows just outside the castle: vote 11.
Before leaving the town of La Bréde we stop at the supermarket to buy food and … wine. Yes, because at the supermarket it is well know that you save money. Of course. Except for being almost stunned at the cash at the sight of the total because Laura accidentally bought an expensive bottle. Very expensive. She will certainly wait for Zaccaria to be born before opening it.
Our last destination is Arcachon. I take the highway while Laura takes a nap. I set the radio, enjoy the landscape that changes mile after miles and the smooth street. Arcachon amazes with its nordic and colonial architecture, the luxurious shops and the calm waves of its bay. We enjoy the last hours of the afternoon walking along the beach until the wind becomes too sharp and it is already time for an aperitif. Before leaving the city I stop at a nice patisserie. My exotic Italian accent makes the garҫon give me an extra pastry. And here we come to the number 5 coup de foudre of the week (I know, I said 4 at the beginning!) and an evaluation of pros and cons of my imminent transfer to Arcachon.
• As you land in Bordeaux I recommend buying a weekly pass for the public transport. They are efficient and allow you to move all around the city, including crossing the Garonne by boat.
• Spend at least two days visiting the city center of Bordeaux, you won’t regret it. The city is constantly evolving and will fascinate you.
• Rent a car before departure, you will save a lot of time.
• If you return by plane, opt for at least one piece of baggage to be loaded, you will not resist the temptation of buying some excellent wine.