The Port of the Moon
It is the turn for a weekend in France again, being the most recent before that one to Cannes; and from taking a look at the current flights booked so far in the coming months, it won’t be the last trip to France this year for sure. Stay tuned. The problem I am currently encountering more often is that I am running out of weekends to go anywhere! Just a quick fact on how things are, with 74 flights booked this years alone so far and counting, that’s serious business and time management. Every year the number of flights and trips keep going up exponentially.
Bordeaux is the second city after Paris with the largest amount of listed historical buildings. The entire old town is listed as an UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s impossible to question about such status. Once you see for your own eyes then you will know; although it’s difficult to find any historical city in France without any sort of UNESCO sites, either specific constructions or entire towns; same happening in Spain and Italy, where the three countries top the world’s list for the amount of such status granted.
Who have never heard of Bordeaux before? Surely you have taste one of the most precious drinks this region is world famous for. Wine. France is world’s number one wine producer in the world, and Bordeaux region the largest producer of wine within France. Now, you might believe from those numbers that you would find plenty of wine shops and plenty of choice in the supermarkets, well you are wrong and so I was. Shockingly to say, any medium to large Tesco supermarket in the UK have by far a larger selection of wines with a great number on Bordeaux itself!
A weekend in the city is all you will need to fully explore every corner and every sight. Any longer would be too much; and if shorter, a single day can also be viable if on a summer day when the day light last much longer and temperatures are nicer. Our weekend was very cold and therefore we did not rush anywhere and took everything at slow peace, having plenty of time for coffee, lunch or resting, that’s why we needed the 2 full days for sightseeing, something quite unusual in us as we are used to the opposite, make as much as possible in 1 or 2 days including other nearby cities if possible.
I must confess this has been the very first time on any of my travelling where on the second day I came to the conclusion that the city is quite repetitive. Extremely repetitive. It feels like a copy and paste of the same building on every street. Perhaps this had to do with the pastel colours everywhere. The very same colour of stone was used to build everything from the 18th century onwards. Similar to Haussmann’s urban plan for Paris where everything is white, but at least in Paris you see some mix in architecture and colours overall.
Looking for a “decent in price” place to eat which is not an Italian place can be an impossible task. We never had such a trouble anywhere else in France. At least in Cannes you get many places where to have great mussels with fries among the thousands of pizzerias; not here. This is hundreds of pizzerias and a random expensive French restaurant. We thankfully found a very nice Portuguese restaurant with great prices and great amount and quality of food. Located at the square where the Basilica of Saint Michael is, just at one of the corners. The name is Don Camillo and it’s definitely highly recommended.
For more information about the city check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. France’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Bordeaux
- Place des Quinconces One of the largest squares in Europe, where beautiful trees align the paths and monuments decorate the space like the main column and fountains on each side. It’s the most important transport hub in the city.
- Grand Theatre From the 18th century in Neoclassical style.
- Rue Sainte-Catherine The main pedestrian street linking the Theatre with Place de la Victoire.
- Place Pey-Berland One of the many pedestrian areas in the historic city centre where the cathedral is along with 18th century homes.
-Cathedral of Saint Andre Although some original walls date back to the 11th century, most of the current building is from 14th and 15th centuries. Part of the UNESCO world heritage site of Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.
-Tour Pey-Berland This bell tower was built separated from the cathedral to protect it from vibrations from the bells, although it remained for over 300 year without bells.
-Hotel de Ville Also named Palais Rohan, completed in 1784, is the City Hall.
-Beaux-Arts Museum One of the largest galleries in France and outside Paris.
- Place du Palais One of the many charming squares.
-Porte Cailhau It was the main entrance gate to the city from 1495. Nowadays it is one of the landmarks in the city.
- Rue du Saint James This is where the Way of Saint James passes through the city.
-Grande Bloche This 14th century bell tower gate defended the street.
- Palais Gallien Are the remains of the Roman amphitheatre.
- Place de la Bourse One of the major tourist sites in the city with its symmetrical buildings on the sides and the mirror fountain in the middle. The reflections at night are quite impressive.
- Pont de Pierre Links the west and east sides of the river. Built in 1822 was the sole bridge to cross the river until Pont Saint-Jean opened in 1965.
- Church of the Holy Cross Built between 11th and 12th centuries in Romanesque style.
- Church of Saint Pierre Gothic Style.
- Basilica of Saint Michael Built between the 14th and 16th centuries in Flamboyant Gothic style. Part of the UNESCO world heritage site of Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.
- Basilica of Saint Seurin The oldest in the city with roots to the 6th century although the current main building is primary from the 11th century. Part of the UNESCO world heritage site of Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France.
- Gare Saint-Jean Train station built in 1898 where the roof over the platforms was built by Gustave Eiffel.
- Tribunal d’Instance Designed by Richard Rogers is one of his masterpieces.
The airport is well connected by bus. Either you can take the express bus or the local bus. Honestly, save your money by getting the local bus instead. It will make more stops along the way but the difference in time saving is only 10 minutes longer journey overall. Furthermore, you can stop at many other points where to link with the tram network and continue by tram to your final destination. Much more convenient than having to go to the central train station as the express buses go.
Coming overland is sometimes the fastest option, certainly if you are coming from any other city in France, High-speed trains criss-cross the country, saving you the extra time and hassle without the need to get into airports. Centre to centre could not be closer this days, although it does not come cheap. In the other hand, conventional railway and buses, although taking longer, are a nice, reliable and cheap way to travel in France.
Although the city is medium to big size, the historical city centre is perfectly walking distance from all the sights with most of the principal streets pedestrianised. But it’s great served by three tram lines and many buses across the city costing 1.40 Euros per ticket with unlimited interchange within one hour after validation.
There is a good choice of hotels in the city although be prepared to pay more than what you originally had in mind. Any good hotel 4* and 5* are really expensive, but maybe it had to do that it was Carnival weekend precisely the dates we were in Bordeaux and that could explain why the levels of occupancy where quite high and so the rates. A good point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engines such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We found in the other hand a simpler accommodation but quite nice. A full apartment indeed with its fully fitted kitchen. Appart’City Bordeaux Centre on 36 Boulevard Du General Larminat. Really well located on a quiet area near the city centre. It will take you approximately 20 minutes to reach the Cathedral. The nearest tram stop is Gavinies with direct route to the City Hall Square, Place du Palais and Pont de Pierre crossing the whole city centre.