Once a sleep­ing beauty, the wine cap­i­tal of France is not to be missed

The Malta Independent on Sunday - - BOOKS -

Lo­cated in the south-west of France on the Garonne River, Bordeaux is very of­ten re­ferred to as the wine cap­i­tal of France, pro­duc­ing an av­er­age of 700 mil­lion bot­tles of wine on a yearly ba­sis.

Once nick­named ‘Sleep­ing Beauty’, be­cause it was of­ten over­looked in spite of its great po­ten­tial as a des­ti­na­tion, Bordeaux awoke from its slum­ber in the last decade, and now wel­comes around 5.5 mil­lion vis­i­tors an­nu­ally. In 2015, Bordeaux se­cured the pres­ti­gious ti­tle: Europe’s Best Des­ti­na­tion

Fea­tured on Malta In­ter­na­tional Air­port’s 2017 sum­mer sched­ule as a new route, Bordeaux can cur­rently be reached from MIA via weekly flights. Bordeaux is the air­port’s 7th French di­rect sched­uled con­nec­tion join­ing Paris Orly, Paris CDG, Mar­seille, Lyon, Nantes and Toulouse. Sched­uled flights to Bordeaux opened on the 13 April 2017 with flights avail­able every Thurs­day, un­til the end of Oc­to­ber. Dur­ing the peak months of July and Au­gust flights were also op­er­ated on Mon­days, of­fer­ing a dou­ble weekly con­nec­tion with. Volotea ex­pected to fur­ther de­velop the Bordeaux route in sum­mer 2018.

A trip to this his­toric jewel in France is not to be missed, with plenty to see and wine to taste.

Strolls along the river­front are en­cour­aged, and one of the best sites to visit along your walk is the Place de la Bourse. The site took 20 years to con­struct back in the 18th cen­tury, and has be­come a sym­bol of the city. It was orig­i­nally sep­a­rated from the river by rail­ings; how­ever those were re­moved dur­ing the French Revo­lu­tion. The eques­trian statue of the king had also been re­placed, briefly, by one of Napoleon, and this was fol­lowed by the Foun­tain of the Three Graces in 1869. Close by, one finds the Miroir d’Eau, pos­si­bly Bordeaux’s most recog­nis­able and pho­tographed at­trac­tion. It is recog­nised as a con­tem­po­rary World Her­itage Site by UNESCO.

But it is not just this wa­ter at­trac­tion that has UNESCO’s mark of ap­proval... 1,810 hectares of the city are listed as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site, with the or­gan­i­sa­tion de­scrib­ing its ur­ban form as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ‘the suc­cess of philoso­phers who wanted to make towns into melt­ing pots of hu­man­ism, uni­ver­sal­ity and cul­ture.’

For those wine con­nois­seurs, Bordeaux has its very own de­can­ter-shaped wine mu­seum La Cité du Vin, which pro­vides visi-

tors with an in­ter­ac­tive winethemed ex­pe­ri­ence split on 10 dif­fer­ent lev­els. A good three hours should be set aside for a proper visit.

A guided tour of one of Bordeaux’s sprawl­ing vine­yards is also a must, es­pe­cially if you’re af­ter a re­lax­ing hol­i­day. Let’s just say that some of the finest grape juices paired with cheeses and en­joyed in the mid­dle of na­ture will more than help you ‘un­wined’.

Day trips to the me­dieval vil­lage of Saint Emil­ion are very pop­u­lar. A visit to the charm­ing heart of the Bordeaux wine re­gion, where beau­ti­ful ar­chi­tec­ture, fine winer­ies, and nar­row streets await, will trans­port you back to the 8th cen- tury when a monk named Emil­ion and his fol­low­ers started wine pro­duc­tion in the area. If you’re in­ter­ested in a jour­ney even fur­ther back in time to pre-his­tory, do make time for a day trip to the Perig­ord Noir re­gion, which is just a short drive away from Bordeaux. The re­gion is a trove of pre-his­toric cave paint­ings, cas­tles and charm­ing vil­lages.

Al­though all of this prob­a­bly puts the city on every wine lover’s bucket list, Bordeaux cer­tainly has much more than wine and viti­cul­ture to of­fer. Trav­ellers who look for des­ti­na­tions with a rich his­tory, will be pleased to find that the num­ber of his­toric mon­u­ments dot­ting the streets of Bordeaux al­most ri­val the num­ber of mon­u­ments found in Paris. In­deed, some of Bordeaux’s streets and build­ings date as far back as the Ro­man era. (But, should you still want to visit the ro­man­tic cap­i­tal, the TGV can get you there for a rea­son­able price.)

An­other must-see site is the Porte Cail­hau, which dates back to 1494, and this mon­u­ment has re­mained largely un­changed. It was con­structed to com­mem­o­rate Charles VIII's vic­tory at Fornovo (Italy). This French. The Port Cail­hau stands thirty-five me­tres tall, and was in­te­grated into the city walls. The site houses an ex­hi­bi­tion dis­play­ing the tools and ma­te­ri­als used in con­struc­tion dur­ing that pe­riod.

Bordeaux is in­deed a very pho­to­genic city, but if you want to cap­ture some shots from above we rec­om­mend a visit to the PeyBer­land Tower (open every day but Monday) which dates back to 1440. Some 229 steps lead to the very top of the tower, so it’s prob­a­bly not the most bril­liant of ideas to visit af­ter a wine-tast­ing ses­sion...

Whether you dis­cover Bordeaux via a boat trip down the Garonne, on foot or by bike (it was voted fourth-friendli­est bi­cy­cle city in the world in 2013), the city is a sure treat from every an­gle!

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