In January this year I was lucky enough to visit one of my favourite French cities. From historic architecture to delicious local cuisine, Bordeaux is the perfect weekend getaway
You might have guessed from the title of this blog that I’m a fan of France. I would go so far as to say I’m a francophile. On a year abroad teaching english in French schools I was lucky enough to live in Bordeaux where I fully, and unashamedly, embraced the archetypal French cliché of ferrying groceries on my bike, dressed in Breton stripes, and a beret, while humming the words to La Vie en Rose.
So, you can imagine my excitement when my partner James surprised me with two tickets to this charming city in the South West of France. Bordeaux is France’s epicentre for world-class wine and delicious, local cuisine. It’s overflowing with eateries, historic architecture and cobbled streets lined with independent boutiques and galleries . If you’re looking for a weekend getaway, Bordeaux is definitely one destination you should add to your list.
Where we stayed
Having jumped on the more-affordable and authentic-bandwagon attributed to Airbnb early, I felt it was time to push the boat out with Airbnb Plus. Plus, as we found, lists properties that tick all the boxes in terms of comfort, location and amenities.
Our apartment was located opposite the Grand Théâtre in the centre of the city. Despite being a stone’s throw away from the bustling shopping street, Saint Catherine, the apartment was surprisingly quiet save for the sound of our talented neighbour who we learn’t is a skilled pianist. Bordeaux is replete with hotels so be sure to do your research to figure out the best area for you.
Where we ate
Seeking out cafes rated for their coffee and restaurants that offer authentic cuisine is one of my favourite things to do before a trip. Bordeaux is overflowing with incredible eateries where you can really indulge in the laissez-faire attitude and while away the hours in a bustling square watching the world go by, here are some of our favourites.
For punchy coffee and a laid-back atmosphere try Cafe Phia. We popped in for a mid-morning pick me up and ended up going back again the next day. The staff are really friendly and the brunches here also looked amazing!
You’ll find many cafés offering their version of a ‘formule brunch’ which tends to involve a soft drink, tea or coffee and sweet and savory dishes. Though I was sceptical at this new, westernised endeavour, all the cafés that we visited delivered their own authentic take on the concept of brunch with foods aesthetically arranged and tasting really fresh and delicious.
There are plenty of restaurants to sample in the evening but just make sure you book if there’s one you really want to try. We discovered a restaurant just around the corner from our apartment called Le Bouchon Bordelais, most recommendations in our apartment’s guest book mentioned this place. It offers two sittings at lunch and dinner and unfortunately for us, was fully booked a few days in advance.
We wanted something laid back on our first night after travelling and so I told James about a place I used to visit often when I lived here called L’Autre Petit Bois. This small restaurant and bar is located on a busy square called Place du Parlement and features bric-a-brac furniture, jigsaw puzzle picture decorations and sporadic greenery which all add to its charm. It’s popular with tourists and locals alike and offers reasonably-priced meals and wine.
We stumbled across a restaurant called Hush Hush located on Rue Sainte-Colombe and noticing it was full of locals thought it had to be good. This place has a penchant for simple, delicious food and perfectly punchy cocktails! The menu is modest but showcases the best of local cuisine and the service is quick and friendly. This was one of the pricier meals we had but well worth it, we spoke about how amazing the food was for days after.
On our final night we were lucky enough to reserve the last table at a popular, family-run restaurant called Melodie located just off the beaten track on Rue des Faussets. This place is reservation only and offers diners a three-course meal for just 20 euros. Expect cosy, back to back tables and wholesome, authentic french cuisine.
Of course, post-dinner strolls would not be complete without a digestif at a cosy, local bar. Cue, Ambrosia. We were far more at ease walking into this busy place on the second night and feeling au-fait with the protocol of where to sit and what to drink while regulars try and suss out whether you’re a tourist. This place is super chic but by no means pretentious, it has a very cool and calming vibe and a drinks menu that leaves you stuck for choice. I advise you to try the homemade gin.
What we did
There is so much to see just by wondering around the city on foot, or by bike. Definitely take a trip to Marché des Capucins where you can find bakers to florists offering the best local produce. If you love shopping, you can spend an entire day diving in and out of shops on Sainte Catherine, or go off the beaten track for more independent boutiques. Poor James was dragged into a few haberdasheries where I pieced together the best of my sewing-related French to talk fabric with the owners.
If you’re seeking a quiet stroll in nature, Jardin Public located just north of the city boasts beautiful landscapes and a lake, surrounded by some of the city’s finest limestone buildings. Bordeaux’s natural history museum is located here, too.
If you’ve visited Bordeaux before and want to recommended your favourite spots I’d love to hear them.
Thanks for reading, à plus!