The irony is, on our past trips to France, we've always liked the wine with our meals. Often we would just order a carafe of house wine, and often it would be a Bordeaux. Then, when we'd return home, if I tried to order a French wine at a restaurant, too often it didn't live up to our expectations. So on this trip, we planned a 4-night stay in Bordeaux specifically to become more knowledgeable about the nuances of wine that's produced there.
During our stay, we did 2 wine-oriented day trips. One day we joined a bus tour to the Medoc region, where we visited 2 chateaus and tasted their wine. The first was Chateau D'Arsac and the other was Chateau Dillon. It was an interesting tour, and we liked the wine that we tasted at each chateau. But not so much that we wanted to buy any. The next day we took a train to Saint-Emilion. Saint-Emilion is a charming, quaint ancient city. There are several tasting rooms. But our best experience there was buying a picnic lunch at a boulangerie and then eating in the courtyard of a ruined convent where we bought a couple of glasses of wine.
Finally, I decided that the best way to learn about the wine of a region is to drink it with a meal.
Now, that's not to say that drinking wine was the only reason we came to Bordeaux. We also wanted to do some sightseeing. It's a beautiful city. Our hotel was in the city center which was very convenient. We were near many great restaurants. We were close to the river Garonne where we would stroll most evenings after dinner. All of the major sights of the city are nearby. And it was easy to get transportation when we needed it.
Sightseeing highlights: Musee des beaux-arts was a great little museum. When we were at the Louvre in Paris, we were disappointed that the wing with French landscape artists was closed. So we were delighted to be able to view so many at this museum in Bordeaux. The Palais Gallien is the ruins of a Roman amphitheater. We found it by accident on our way to the nearby Jardin Public (public garden). Both were worth seeing. The Porte Caihau is the ancient gate into the city from the river docks. And of course, the Saint-André Cathedral is an impressive site.
Hotel: We stayed at the Quality Hotel Bordeaux Centre. I loved the location. The facilities were just average. Still, it was clean and reasonably priced. And the location was very convenient.
Restaurants: I felt that the restaurants we visited in Bordeaux were better even than the ones we ate at in Paris.
Les Voutes - We ate here our first night in Bordeaux. We liked it so much we came back on our last night. The food was excellent. On both visits, we ordered the fixed price menu which was less than 30 Euros. The decor was eclectic and a little funky. The service was efficient and accommodating.
|Tuna at Les Voutes|
LouLou was recommended to us by the staff at the hotel. It was a short walk from the hotel, but when we got there (on our first night) they had no tables available. So we made a reservation and came back on our second night. The food was very creative and beautifully presented. The menu was hand-written on a chalkboard. My wife asked for English, but they didn't have one. I felt we could have gotten by. But our server insisted on reading each item to us. To make sure that we would not complain later if we got something unexpected. Fortunately, the menu was short enough, and we loved the meal here.
Chez Jean was a more casual restaurant. It was the only time I had steak frites on our whole trip, and it was very good. There was a chill in the air in the evening. But the restaurant had heaters, so we got a table outside, looking into Place du Parlement, a bustling square with an ornate fountain. I only had one problem. We were outside, and smoking was permitted. There were smokers on both sides of us, and I didn't appreciate the smoke that drifted across our table during dinner.
We started every day with coffee and a croissant at Brasserie des Douanes. We had the same server every time (including the time we stopped in for a glass of wine and an afternoon snack).
This was a great part of our trip. I'd happily return to Bordeaux sometime in the future.
|Palais Gallien - Ruins of a Roman Amphitheater|