The city of Bordeaux: a place of wonder

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From the waterways of Bordeaux to the longest shopping street in Europe, Hannah Bills explores France's fifth largest city

Strolling along the riverbank and watching the mirage of palatial upside down buildings dancing in the water, you could almost be forgiven for thinking you were in St. Petersburg, the ‘Grand Dame,’ of cities in the far western tip of Mother Russia.



An ocean liner gently slides into her berth in the calm of early morning. But the ship does not partake in the weekly jaunt across the icy Scandinavian waters, like the Russian liners, for this is not the famous Neva river.



Instead, it is the Garonne, a historic stretch of water that flows out into the Atlantic at its most westerly point. One difference you ponder whilst admiring the magnificently regal riverside abodes, is that a chap named Grigori Rasputin was never thrown into the river to have his lungs filled with ‘L’eau de Garonne.’



Still the waterway tells the French story of time for all of the grand city’s residents, who, as we stroll into the early years of the 21st Century, comprise Frenchmen, Spaniards, Portuguese, Germans and North Africans. The city bubbles with vivacity; a prime location on the French Atlantic coast, Bordeaux has been a trading port for well over a millennia, and can boast about being the second largest in France after Marseille.



The fifth largest city in France is resplendent in its grandeur; classical 18th century architectural facades, restaurant and bar lined banks, manicured trees and subtle floral accents. Bordeaux women can boast of their city’s incorporation of the longest shopping street in Europe; the ‘Rue St. Catherine’ is no less than 1.2km in length.



Downtown and away from the riverbank, the heady whiffs of lamb kebabs, burgers and fries from the take out joints waft out into the narrow streets to mingle with the fine local cuisines of seafood, sausage and duck, all, of course, washed down with one of the famous local reds. The vines in the Aquitaine region have flourished over the years to bestow the region with a reputation for class and quality winemaking.



There are, in the ‘terroir’ around Bordeaux, nearly 120,000 hectares of grapes grown, and it is the area in France that produces the largest volume of fine red wine- over forty-four million cases per annum, to be precise.



There’s no doubt that Bordeaux’s wealth stems from its historically profitable wine trade, which gave the city and surrounding region a status to uphold. An interesting fact is that many of the first classical facades along the Quai were built in order to conceal the grim medieval slums that lay concealed behind.



The slums have long gone now, but the modern blight on the city, with even the most patient of citizens undoubtedly affected, are its traffic lights, which occur along ‘les rues’ practically every 50 metres. Perhaps the plethora of lights was put in place so that folk would be able to admire the city’s splendour. After all, enforced sight-seeing from one’s vehicle makes the agony of viewing a continuous bombardment of ‘les hommes en rouge’ perhaps a little less acute.



Driving around Bordeaux, you could very feasibly feel like a foreign rabbit lost in a French warren. There are more streets with ‘Chartrons’ somewhere in their title than I’d care to mention, but not to worry, with all the traffic lights, you have plenty of time to read your map. Perhaps you really are wise and decide to leave your car at home; this is by far the best choice, as aside from other road problems, there is hardly anywhere to park in the city centre.



The 2007 UNESCO World Heritage Site, comprising the entire City of Bordeaux, delights with its ‘green’ credentials, most obviously, its modern tram system. In a day and age when it is seen as desirable to have as tiny a carbon footprint as humanly possible, it is possible to have a perfectly sumptuous weekend away without even setting foot on a flying sardine can, such as those services offered by certain airlines I won’t mention.

A trip to the Bordeaux region is, like almost all of France, highly recommended for food and wine devotees, but there are other gems to enjoy here too, so take a long weekend off to let Bordeaux surprise you.



If you book in advance, you can travel in style by Eurostar to Paris or Lille from London, then take the TGV to Bordeaux. Seen through the eyes of a would-be tourist, Bordeaux certainly has a lot to offer.



But if you are searching for a different experience, then you might try a pleasant day’s trip to St. Emilion, less than 50km away, in the middle of Bordeaux red wine country. Much of St. Emilion is medieval, and the village is surrounded by vineyards where you can buy and taste the wine whilst admiring St. Emilions’ ancient rooftops from the vines below. Inside the village itself you can find the omnipresent wine sellers, tapestry galleries, and an array of stunning restaurants.





Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent