“Bordeaux? Wait, I thought you were in London?”
There I was at home two weeks ago in London, still in bed at 9 am (which is late for me), and I had come to the conclusion that I was feeling a bit bored. Sad I know. London is an incredible city but one can only have so many solo days in a busy city before one starts to go in a downward spiral due to the weight of pondering too many existential questions that have no answer. Anyways, I digress…
So I was in bed feeling an itch to see somewhere new and learn something new when I remembered a friend that had told me about a site called HelpX. You sign up, create a profile, and connect with hosts from around the world in need of help of all sorts.
About 5 minutes after having this thought, I had a profile. After 20 minutes of having a profile, I messaged an owner of an organic vineyard in Bordeaux, France inquiring if he needed any help. Four hours later he replied with, “How about next week?”. So I check flights on Ryanair and a round trip ticket from London to Bordeaux was…
Wait for it…
Duh, duh, duh-uhh!
40 U.S. DOLLARS!
People please… this was a no brainer…”Bordeaux?” suddenly became “Borduhhh”. Ryanair, thank you for enabling all the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-panters in Europe for over 37 years now. Bravo!
So now begins the story of the two days Dan and I (he came for the weekend) spent in Borduhh before I went to work on an organic vineyard nearby.
Friday: Nighttime Sight Seeing + Wine
We landed in Bordeaux around 4 pm and took a bus from the airport to the city in 50 minutes and only cost 1.50 euro. Nice!
Then we had a short walk to our AirBnb and upon arrival we mingled a bit with our host. He was really welcoming and offered us some beer. WAIT. HOLD UP. Beer?! Yeah, that was my thought too.
Bordeaux is the WINE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD. Why the beep beep would anyone drink beer in a city like Bordeaux? Anyways, I drank the beer and tried to swallow my confusion.
Then Dan and I left to go explore the city…
It wasn’t hard to find a delightful open-air cafe (one of my favorite things about France) with great wine as there were many dotted along the pedestrian avenue (one of the things I love about European cities). We had nice but sporadic conversation because every now and then someone would puff smoke in my face and I had to hold my breath (one of my least favorite things in life). But I tried to play it and cool like the Europeans do.
From there we strolled more of the city in awe of the sights and in search of our next wine drinking venue.
Well that didn’t take long…
We found a superb restaurant and enjoyed more wine, delicious food, and more smoke in the face… as you do.
Saturday: Taking city bikes wayy out of the city
We woke up early and left for a run, such a great way to see a new city!!
We saw cathedrals from the 11th century, irresistible boulangeries (of course we stopped to get a pastry or two), people sweeping cigarette butts away from the floors of their outdoor cafes, clean pedestrian walk ways, beautiful bridges, and the river lined with more cafes and shops. Simply a delightful, fresh, & welcoming first impression!
After our 6 mile run we returned home feeling happy and after an espresso decided to set out again for a bike ride. (We figured we might as well make the best use of the fresh air before returning to London.. cough, cough).
We rented city bikes and took them WAYYY out of the city (shh don’t tell) and ended up riding 33 miles following the splendid Roger Lapebie Cycle Path. (Named after the 1937 Tour de France winner).
It. Was. Lovely.
We stopped for lunch at a place with an idyllic view and sat in the grass, soaked up the sun, and enjoyed the mid 60 degree weather.
We then arrived at the town of Creon. It was a pretty sleepy, small town with one unassuming church, not many people, but one excellent cafe in which we stopped for an espresso.
Then we rode allll the way back and enjoyed watching the friendly sun soften and lower on the horizon.
Here’s a picture of our smiling faces once we returned to the beautiful city of Bordeaux.
After all that physical activity we were pretty wiped, stopped to get pizza, and got an early night to bed.
Sunday: Getting to Know Bordeaux
We debated about whether or not to take the train 45 minutes to the Arcachon beach (which I’ve heard is spectacular) but decided to spend more time getting to know Bordeaux.
We just started walking through the city with no agenda and stumbled across market #1 that was comprised of several tables full of different types of food: oysters, pastries, coffee, vegetables, ect. Yes, I did actually see people eating oysters at 9 am in the morning.
As you can tell we went for the sweets.
Then we came across beautiful sights like this…
And then ran into market #2. Which was a HUGE antique market that wrapped itself around the bell tower. It was full of people digging through the goods to find their next antique treasure, live music here and there, and was surrounded by outdoor cafes with people smiling, drinking coffee, and of course smoking. And by this time I had gotten used to the smoke and thought to myself, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” so I lit a fag and puffed away. Just kidding… that didn’t happen at all.
We kept seeing & smelling fresh baguettes so we hunted down the source and bought one too.
Then we strolled some more along the riverside and there we found market #3. Which was just 30-40 tables of all sorts of more delicious food: fresh orange juice, escargot, pastries, African food, Turkish food, more oysters, more bread, macaroons, ect ect.
In the afternoon we went to the lovely public garden and laid down to take a rest in the sunshine.
One of the best parts of this weekend trip was neither Dan or I knew what to expect at all. In fact, I researched Bordeaux a few days before leaving to get some ideas of things to do and started to get a little worried that we might get bored there. I was completely wrong. We enjoyed every minute in Bordeaux and could have easily spent more time there, especially with the Arcachon beach (spectacular beach) and St. Emilion (quintessential french village) a 40-50 min train ride away.
We commented gleefully to ourselves that we thought we had found one of Europes best-kept secrets.
However, I’ve done more research since then and found out Bordeaux actually won the European Best Destination in 2015… So we are not the only people who love Bordeaux after all.
At the end of our stay, Dan headed back to London and I completely missed my train to my next location…(Typical Belle)… more to come on mishap/adventure in the post to follow.
Bordeaux History Nuggets
Nugget #1: Bordeaux’s nickname was La Belle au Bois Dormant (‘Sleeping Beauty’) and was considered a boring town that no one wanted to visit. BUT THEN… there was a new mayor who started making huge investments into the city infrastructure. He helped create the pedestrian avenues, bike lanes, a wide path by the river, and so on. A true “Build it and they will come” story.
Nugget #2: Bordeaux won the European Best Destination 2015
Nugget #3: Wine was introduced to the region by Romans in the 1st century and has been in production ever since.
Nugget #3: Bordeaux grosses €14.5 billion each year in wine revenue.
Nugget #4: The french pastry Canelé originates from Bordeaux. I was told that it was made because the wine growers had so many left over egg yolks because they used the egg whites to help refine the wine.