French wine, wine not! Our sojourn in Marseille has come to an end so it’s bonjour to Bordeaux! The famed wine growing region is our next destination. As vinophiles, this city has been high on our bucket list to tick off for a while. Aside from wine, Bordeaux is also known as the culinary capital of France, so bon appetit!
We opted to fly instead of driving. It was an early flight with Ryanair which departed on schedule and touched down at Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport just before midday. Our travel documentation was checked in Marseille so we just headed straight out of the airport with no time to waste.
We didn’t pre-book our transfer from the airport to the city centre (Bordeaux Saint Jean) instead we just hopped on the next available 30’ Direct Shuttle Bus purchasing our tickets from one of several machines located near the stop. As we will be flying out again in the next few days, we opted for the 16 € return ticket, we later found booking online can get you a 10% discount so it’s worth it if you choose to use this bus in advance. The ride was around 45 minutes with numerous stops making this a bit of pain, it was packed, stuffy and not very comfortable, yes it was cheap and yes it did the job. I think timing and getting on early are the knack to secure a better seat, as with most public transport. We eventually arrived close to the Central Station where it terminated at the interchange for trains, trams and other buses.
Bordeaux Saint Jean est magnifique! The structure of this 19th century building is quite impressive and has a rather large concourse area. Inside wasn’t that busy as we’ve come to expect, there is a small tourist counter handy for all quick queries along with amenities. Outside there are restaurants and cafes but one thing we celebrated with upon our arrival was a bite of canelés, a small pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla with a soft, tender custard centre and a dark, thick caramelised crust. A prominent Cannelés Baillardran branch is located just outside the station, perfect as it was just what we needed!
After our quick snack and the time heading towards 1:30pm it was almost time to check in to our Airbnb. Our 3 night accommodation was located in Bègles, a suburb just outside the centre reached by a few stops aboard Tram C. Trams are clean, safe, quick and reliable in Bordeaux, there are self serve machines at every stop and tickets can be paid by cash or credit card. Depending on your length of stay there are discounted multi-daytickets available. We opted for the All Day Pass (unlimited) for 4.30 €.
After we checked in, came the obligatory shopping for supplies trip, thankfully a Carrefour grocery shop was located just a stone’s throw from our accommodation. It was a tiring day, but we tried to fit in as much as we could for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. We went back to the city centre and had a few drinks, dinner, felt the vibes and took a leisurely stroll along the stunning Garonne River before calling it a day and retiring for the night.
After breakfast we made our plans to all things touristy around Bordeaux. We are always fascinated by the colourful open markets in Europe, we don’t see them much in Australia, so our first stop was the Flea Market located in the square of The Basilica Saint Michel. Brimming with fresh regional products, general bric-a-brac and antiquities worth haggling for. It’s a noisy, fun and vibrant place to visit.
Apart from the market, one of the main attractions is the majestic Basilica of St. Michael (Basilique St. Michel) and its imposing free standing Bell Tower (Flèche de la Basilique Saint-Michel). It is a UNESCO site on the Santiago de Compostella Route.
Rich in art and history Bordeaux Old Town is best discovered by foot otherwise hop on and off the tram. Plenty of restaurants and cafes around so if the feet begin to hurt, have a quick pit stop in one of the many establishments. Historical buildings, narrow old streets and alleyways spread out along the western side of the River Garonne. The Gate of Burgundy (Porte de Bourgogne) built in the 1750s is located at the foot of the Pont de Pierre/Stone Bridges. It’s a busy area but well worth stopping for a photo op and general explore.
Another impressive remnants of the old walls of the city of Bordeaux is the 35m-high Porte Cailhau. It’s has four floors with views of the city and the river from the top floor, admission is 5€. Around this area, it’s dotted with shops, trendy restaurants, pubs and cafes.
Walking around the Centre of Bordeaux is a delightful feeling as you gaze upon architectural wonders, stunning squares, well maintained parks and cobbled streets. Bordeaux Cathedrad is a Roman Catholic Church dating back to the 11th century. Like St. Michael, it is a UNESCO site on the Santiago de Compostella Route as well as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site. The interior is simply breathtaking, the collection of stained window glass is to behold. Next to the Cathedral is the Pey-Berland bell tower at 50 meters high and 231 steps to the top. Another landmark in this square is Hotel De Ville which is also worth checking out.
Self guided tour is recommendable in Bordeaux, you’ll never get lost. Having said that, like any other big cities always keep an eye on your belongings. Our next stopped was one of the most recognisable squares, the Place de la Bourse built from 1730 to 1775 along the Garonne River. It’s a nice place for a quick stop and enjoy the spanning views. Not to be missed here is the mirror pool, it gives a reflection of the wonderful architecture, a very Instagrammable spot. The lighting effects at night are magical.
Another way to see Bordeaux is to ride the TBM (Transports Bordeaux Métropole) ferry which has four stations and covers around 6 kms. We caught this ferry on our way to Cité du Vin (Wine Museum).
Whilst travelling on the TBM ferry, you’ll get close to the Jacques Chaban-Delmas Bridge, a vertical-lift bridge. Inaugurated on 2013 and named in honour to Jacques Chaban-Delmas a former Prime Minister of France and mayor of Bordeaux. If luck is on your side, you might see the bridge in action when larger vessels need to pass beneath.
If you’re a wine enthusiast or just winos like us, a visit to Cité du Vin (Wine Museum) is a must. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and were mesmerised by the huge collection of wines on display along with fascinating exhibitions. The museum has a coffee shop, restaurant and bar plus a gift shop with all things wine inspired from totally tasteful to thorough tat! Tickets for the different exhibitions and workshops are available at the service desk or can be pre-purchased online, some packages include wine tasting and other offers. As with just about all travel at present, please do check out their site for any covid restrictions at this time.
On the way back to city centre, we caught Tram B.