Since July this year, it now takes just over 2 hours to get to Bordeaux from Paris, so we hopped on a train for a swift two-day trip. Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne river and the urban hub of one of France’s most famous wine regions, with stunning architecture and great gastronomy. Often cited as one of the best cities to visit in France, it seemed like the perfect setting for a last-minute weekend break.
Luckily, Bordeaux boasts a really cheap (4.50€ for a day ticket) and efficient transport system, which consists of trams, buses and even boats. We arrived in the late morning and jumped on a tram to Marché de Capucins to grab some lunch. As is the case with any good French market, it was bustling with locals, congregating around stalls selling fresh oysters, cheeses exquisite patisseries, and also very popular North African cuisine. This is the place to pick up ingredients and organic regional products, as well as food from all over the globe. On the streets outside was an expansive and equally popular international market – this area, Saint Michel, has a great international feel. We sat on a terrasse and watched the bargain hunters whilst eating some incredible cheese. This is the moment I fell in love with my new cheese obsession, bleu du Beaujolais, but I am sadly yet to find it back here in Paris.
Fuelled by fromage, we walked across the Pont de Pierre to the thriving east of Bordeaux, called La Bastide. This area has seen a lot of regeneration and has a very modern and industrial feel compared to the historic grandeur of the central parts of the city back on the right bank of the Garonne. We headed past the former Gare d’Orléans station, which now houses a multiplex cinema, through Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux and onto quiet residential streets towards a set of old military warehouses. In a quiet, off the beaten track location, this 20,000 m2 former military barracks on Quai des Queyriest has been transformed into a skatepark, bike polo court, wellness center, eco-hub, second-hand shop, tattoo parlor, organic shop, restaurants, bars and street art gallery called Hangar Darwin. The whole neighbourhood seems to be getting a face-lift with old warehouses and factories under development and a creative sustainable vibe throughout.
After enjoying a bike polo match and a smoothie, we caught a bus back across the river to the Bacalan area, on the northern bend in the river. This once working-class docklands area is becoming a cultural center. It is home to a submarine base, built during the German occupation, in 1941-1943, and the former naval dry goods warehouse houses an interesting art workshop overseen by sculptor Jean-François Buisson. From here it is cool to hop on a boat from the Wine and Cultural center – you can’t miss it because it is an incredible building, completed in 2016 – and head South into the more central areas. The boat trip was, of course, a lot of fun and a great way to see the city. back on land, we passed by the underwhelming Mirroir D’eau and were frankly more amused by the sight of a guy who was having a post bottle of wine snooze being awoken by the sound of his empty bottle being blown into a group of tourists. Once through the Cailhau defensive gate, from the middle-ages, we enjoyed the picturesque and historic streets of Saint Paul and Saint Pierre, with some ice cream in hand. Our evening ended at a friendly seafood restaurant, where we washed down fresh
The boat trip was, of course, a lot of fun and a great way to see the city. back on land, we passed by the underwhelming Mirroir D’eau and were frankly more amused by the sight of a guy who was having a post bottle of wine snooze being awoken by the sound of his empty bottle being blown into a group of tourists. Once through the Cailhau defensive gate, from the middle-ages, we enjoyed the picturesque and historic streets of Saint Paul and Saint Pierre, with some ice cream in hand. Our evening ended at a friendly seafood restaurant, where we washed down fresh welks, oysters and crab, from the nearby Atlantic coast, with excellent white wine. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
On Sunday we strolled into town and enjoyed haggling at the large flea market back in the cosmopolitan neighbourhood of Saint Michel. The Capucins square was bustling between rainy showers under the Saint Michele Basilica. After picking up some paintings, records and a vintage tray we wandered along the Garonne to the famous Quai de Chartrons food market. Yes, we really do love markets! The brisk walk, with paintings and luggage, was certainly worth it; the market was a culinary feast and we were soon sat on the river bank with a yummy carton of snails, which we purchased off a chatty local snail farmer.
Afterwards, we strolled along Rue Notre-Dame, past the quirky antique shops and vintage boutiques in Chartrons and onto the former marketplace, which is now lined with tables from which you can sip a great glass of Saint Emilion and people watch. I was amused by the number of English tourists. This is how we spent our final hours in Bordeaux before getting the tram, past the Esplanade des Quinconces and back to the station, where we boarded a TGV back to Paris. It was a welcome sit down after a short but full adventure – my step counter informed me that we did 44880 steps in 48 hours and that wasn’t just going back to stuff in the markets.
For us Bordeaux was a foray into fresh seafood, markets and street art so, needless to say, we had a great time.