Bordeaux – More Than Just Fine Wines
Bordeaux is a Metropolitan City as Well.
Think of fine wine and the name Bordeaux probably comes to mind. The city of Bordeaux, from which the famous vintage takes its name, is at the center of one of the world’s largest wine-producing areas, producing around 800 million bottles every year. But Bordeaux has much more to offer, and France’s fifth largest city has wonderful architecture, good shopping and museums, and excellent restaurants. Recent upgrades to France’s high-speed rail system mean that Bordeaux is now only a two-hour train journey from Paris.
But Let’s Start with Wine.
However, most visitors want to sample and perhaps buy some of the world’s best wines, and a good place to start any visit to the city is at the House of Wine in the old town. This is the headquarters of the thriving wine trade, offering maps and guides of the surrounding vineyards, as well as helping to arrange tours. Most of the offices of the wine exporters welcome visitors, and several of the nearby wine chateaus that were once off limits, are now open for lunch and even offer overnight stays.
Of course, there is a museum of wine in Bordeaux – in 2016 the $81 million Cite du Vin opened, aiming to become the world’s premier wine museum. Housed in a spectacular modern building, the museum tells the story of wine through a series of state of the art exhibits. If you still need educating, there is even a school of wine in the city offering courses ranging from a one-hour class on the etiquette of wine tasting to ‘intensive’ courses lasting several days and covering every aspect of the industry.
Thanks in part to the profits from the wine industry, Bordeaux is a stylish and attractive city, especially now that many of its ornate 18th-century buildings have been given a facelift. It has also been described as being very British in its appearance and character, perhaps as it was occupied by the English for over 300 years. One of the best ways to see the city and the surrounding vineyards is to take a scenic boat trip that departs from the port. Of course, the wine theme is continued here, and many boats have a figurehead depicting Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.
The River Garonne.
Fine mansions line the promenade of the River Garonne. The mansions once belonged to the rich wine merchants, and many of these buildings are cleverly decorated with stone sculptures of bunches of grapes. The Pierre Bridge, which spans the river with its 17 arches is considered to be one of the most beautiful stone bridges in France.
The Old Town.
The center of the city is the old town, which lies alongside the river and centers on the 14th-century Cathedrale St Andre. The cathedral has wonderful stone carvings and a spectacular view of the city from the top of its 160-foot tower. There are several other charming churches worth visiting in and around the old town. For example, the the St. Seurin Basilica, with its 5th-century crypt. The area also has many small restaurants specializing in local seafood. There are also many antique and furniture stores in this part of the city. And of course, some well-established and exclusive wine stores.
Apart from its narrow streets, the old town also has several large squares, including the picturesque Esplanade des Quinconces. It covers almost 30 acres. One of the most majestic buildings in this area is the 18th-century Grand Theater. The building is considered so magnificent that its design was used for the Paris Opera House. You can tour the ornate interior with its chandelier, which is made up of 14,000 shimmering crystals.
One of the most popular excursions from the city is to the magnificent Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, about 30 miles to the north of Bordeaux. This former home of Baron Phillipe de Rothschild offers a superb collection of tapestries and sculptures. They also have a museum of art housed in a former wine cellar. Perhaps not surprisingly, the subject matter of many of the works of art depicts the cultivation of the grape.
Bordeaux makes for an easy day trip from Paris. Although it really justifies more of your time, especially if you have an interest in wine.