Even before I ever really learnt to drink wine, I had a romanticised dream of one day cruising through the French countryside, exploring beautiful chateaux while sampling glasses of French wine in situ. I was fortunate enough to realise this experience last December in Bordeaux, a place that’s ubiquitous for world class red wine.
We flew into Bordeaux on Friday night, and settled into our apartment conveniently located next to the Basilica of St Michel. We then quickly proceeded to tackle the agenda of the weekend – to eat and drink to our hearts contentment!
The first stop was Le Cafe Du Port, a great place for a boozy indulgent dinner (make sure you’re hungry before you go!). With its breezy riverside location, it has the classic blueprint for a great place to hang on a warm sunny day. The dishes were ginormous and delicious, but what stood out was the foie gras (3 ways!) starter dish. French bread is an amazing thing on its own – but spread with some warm creamy duck liver and washed down with some nice red, and your life is pretty much complete (for that moment at least 😛 ).
After a 3 hour dinner, we had an early night and the next morning, woke to the sight of the bustling flea market outside our apartment. After a morning wander and a croissant, we walked down the road to the Marche des Capucins to start eating and drinking our way through the markets.
There was a lot on offer, but in particular, a visit to Bordeaux must include stuffing your face with the local speciality, canale (made of rum and vanilla), and having a meal of fresh oysters and white wine on one of the little tables in the market. Being 11am, it was fascinating watching our table neighbours downing their morning expresso, immediately followed by white wine. Gosh how i love the French!
After many oysters and perhaps one too many glasses of vin blanc (that early in the day at least), we stocked up on goodies for our day tour to the Medoc wine region with our local driver, Claude, of Aquitania Tours.
A tour with a driver is definitely a nice way to explore the famous wine region, allowing you to comfortably relax and absorb the incredibly picturesque scenery on offer. Claude made sure we were able to stop whenever we wanted to, and was sure to give us an insightful education on French wine appellations and the Medoc wine classification system (which peculiarly, hasn’t been subject to much revision since the chateau gradings were issued in 1855), along with some background on the chateaux that we passed by.
We had a tour of the Chateau Du Tertre, which included sampling a number of wines produced by the vineyard (and some wine straight from the barrel too!). As it was winter and low season, the vineyards themselves were sparse after all the grapes had been picked for the season and we were lucky to have a private tour with the resident’s wine expert without any other groups on site 🙂 We also got some background on the chateau’s current owner – a rich Dutch businessman, whose grandkids sometimes arrive to visit by helicopter … how interesting it was, seeing how the other half live.
After our tasting in the cosy, toasty chateau, we jumped back in the car to visit some other wine shops, order some wine back to London and see a few more chateaux before sundown (which provided an incredible backdrop to the scenery that surrounded us!).
Sleepy and content, we arrived back in Bordeaux later that night to hit up the Christmas markets! The market of Bordeaux was slightly smaller than what I had experienced in Salzburg but still filled with delicious offerings – the piece de resistance being some amazing cheeses we picked up for some imminent late night snacking back at the apartment.
As midnight approached, so did Scott’s birthday – we rung in his big 2-7 in French style, with cheese, chocolate, baguettes and a magnum of red! Late into the night, at about 2.30am, we were privy to some kind of impromptu riot in the square outside our apartment – revellers were running through, jumping on cars and setting off fireworks, and were really quickly chased away by heaps of police. Drama!
On Sunday, a tad hungover, we wandered around Bordeaux, the highlight of which was seeing the Miroir d’eau. As I had an earlier flight out, I had to depart shortly afterwards – noting that it was a Sunday, the Ubers were few, far between and super expensive! Thankfully we found a cab rank (~EUR 15, 1/6 of the price of an uber) and I arrived at the airport just in time for the flight back to London.
Sometimes things that you highly anticipate in life don’t manage to meet expectations – but I’m grateful to report that in this instance, my whirlwind trip to Bordeaux surpassed all my preconceptions of what it would be. Now, the only thing left to do is to buy myself a chateau! 🙂