BORDEAUX BREAK

The com­bi­na­tion of wine, cul­ture and cy­cling proves a win­ning one for Lara Dunn as she vis­its La Perle d’aquitaine

France - - Contents -

En­joy the fa­mous wines – and much more – on a stay in this vi­brant city.

Ilove wine. But I don’t re­ally know wine. Hence a trip to Bordeaux for a long week­end of ed­u­ca­tion in the ways of the grape seemed like an ex­cel­lent idea. The plan was to spend a cou­ple of days at the vine­yards and châteaux of Bernard Ma­grez to learn a lit­tle about the more lux­u­ri­ous side of Bordeaux and its wines.

Fol­low­ing that, I would stay in Bordeaux it­self, vis­it­ing the re­cently opened Cité du Vin and ex­plor­ing the city, old and new, by bi­cy­cle. Af­ter all, Bordeaux, a Unesco World Her­itage site that was voted num­ber one in the Top 10 Cities in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2017, is also known as be­ing great for cy­clists.

There is some­thing truly mem­o­rable about be­ing met from the air­port by a chauf­feur-driven Rolls-royce, an ex­pe­ri­ence undi­min­ished by the flight hav­ing been easy­jet rather than pri­vate jet. Pulling into the drive of Château Pape Clé­ment in Pes­sac, an al­most dis­ap­point­ingly short dis­tance from the air­port, did noth­ing to dis­pel my feel­ing that wine has long been soaked into the foun­da­tions of Bordeaux, and the city’s grandeur is built on vines. Si­mul­ta­ne­ously man­ag­ing to be ar­chi­tec­turally im­pres­sive, el­e­gant and yet wel­com­ing, the château gives a glimpse of that clas­sic French château chic and the liq­uid wealth be­hind it. This was to be our base for the 48 hours of vine­yard vis­its, wine tast­ings and a few ex­tras, all part of the menu of ac­tiv­i­ties on of­fer from the Bernard Ma­grez Lux­ury Wine Ex­pe­ri­ence, from as lit­tle as €20, for a wine tast­ing and tour (lux­u­ry­wi­ne­ex­pe­ri­ence.com).

With Ma­grez be­ing the only owner in Bordeaux with four Grands Crus Classés, there is a visit, ex­pe­ri­ence and, of course, wine, to suit all tastes. En­joy­ing lunch at an­other of his do­maines, Château Fom­brauge, was just like din­ing at home, if your home was sump­tu­ously decorated

in clas­sic French style, your fur­ni­ture el­e­gantly turned an­tiques and the glasses from which you sipped your dessert wine im­ported from Mu­rano in Italy.

Af­ter lunch, I was treated to a be­hind-the-scenes tour of the win­ery and cel­lars, and the un­miss­able chance to blend my own bot­tle, a sur­pris­ingly tricky busi­ness af­ter the ex­ten­sive tast­ing that went be­fore! Later, back in Château Pape Clé­ment, a fur­ther treat awaited in the form of a tu­tored ses­sion in pair­ing wines with dif­fer­ent types of Sturia caviar. Nor­mally ac­com­pa­nied by cham­pagne or even vodka, the ex­trav­a­gant piscine del­i­cacy mar­ried sur­pris­ingly well with dif­fer­ent wines, and a white from Ma­grez’s own vine­yards in Ja­pan proved par­tic­u­larly in­trigu­ing.

Ar­riv­ing in Bordeaux it­self, I was struck by a fas­ci­nat­ing blend of 18th-cen­tury grandeur with a mod­ern and vi­brant city go­ing about its daily busi­ness. Far from be­ing a tourist trap, Bordeaux has re­tained its iden­tity while slowly start­ing to ramp up its ap­peal to visi­tors with re­cent ren­o­va­tions and devel­op­ments. The ef­fect is cap­ti­vat­ing for those who love a city break.

Jump­ing on to a Vcub city bike with a guide, I soon dis­cov­ered the el­e­gant build­ings that are the legacy of the wine in­dus­try’s might, but also the medieval city gates, such as the in­stantly pho­to­genic Porte Cail­hau. Cruis­ing along the bike paths on the prom­e­nade be­side the River Garonne gave an in­sight into how much the city has changed un­der the may­oralty of Alain Juppé, as the area used to be largely oc­cu­pied by ware­houses and is now one of its recre­ational hubs. Cross­ing over the Pont de Pierre, the de­vel­op­ment be­came even clearer, with fash­ion­able new ar­eas such as Dar­win mak­ing their mark in a sim­i­lar vein to east Lon­don.

Soon, I was cross­ing back over the spec­tac­u­lar Pont Jac­ques Cha­ban-del­mas, the long­est ver­ti­cal-lift bridge in Europe, go­ing from one marvel of en­gi­neer­ing to yet an­other, the eye-catch­ing Cité du Vin. It was time to aban­don my wheels in favour of an au­dio guide.

If my wine ed­u­ca­tion in Bordeaux had started as very ‘lips on’ in the world of the wine­mak­ers, then the Cité du Vin helped to fill in the gaps, with its in­no­va­tive mul­ti­me­dia dis­plays and in­ter­ac­tive ex­hibits doc­u­ment­ing ev­ery­thing from the nitty-gritty of wine pro­duc­tion through to its ori­gins in the mists of time. Sev­eral hours passed swiftly and yet there was still plenty to see. Lo­cals stress that it is worth reg­u­lar vis­its to ap­pre­ci­ate it piece­meal. Sadly, time was press­ing as I needed to re­turn to the cen­tre of the city for din­ner, trav­el­ling along the now-flood­lit wa­ter­front again, this time by tram.

Tak­ing the TGV back from the Gare Saint-jean (cur­rently un­der­go­ing ma­jor re­fur­bish­ments) the next morn­ing, I re­flected on the in­cred­i­ble food and wine I had en­joyed dur­ing the pre­vi­ous cou­ple of days, as well as the buzz of the city and the wealth of its cul­ture and his­tory. Re­ally, though, I had barely scratched the sur­face of ev­ery­thing that Bordeaux has to of­fer as a short-break des­ti­na­tion. I am now look­ing for­ward to the new faster trains later this year.

In Château Pape Clé­ment, a fur­ther treat awaited in the form of a tu­tored ses­sion in pair­ing wines with dif­fer­ent types of Sturia caviar

GET­TING THERE

By rail: Lara trav­elled to Bordeaux from Gatwick with easy­jet, sin­gle fares from £29.99 (tel: 0330 365 5000). She re­turned to Lon­don via Paris with Voy­ages-sncf, sin­gle fares from £63, re­turn fares from £111 (tel: 0844 848 5848, voy­ages-sncf.com). See page 29 for more travel in­for­ma­tion.

GET­TING AROUND

Bordeaux is a per­fect size to dis­cover by bi­cy­cle, and the city is criss-crossed by seg­re­gated bike paths and quiet back streets. Nearly 1,500 Vcub city bikes are avail­able for a €1 ac­cess fee and a €200 de­posit each, then are free for the first 30 min­utes of each jour­ney. The au­to­mated hire process is not as straight­for­ward as some, but it is worth per­sist­ing with (vcub.fr). The old city and wa­ter­front are eas­ily ex­plored on foot, while the ex­cel­lent net­work of trams cov­ers longer jour­neys for just €1.50 for a sin­gle jour­ney or €4.60 for a one-day travel pass (in­fotbm.com).

WHERE TO STAY

Lara stayed at: Château Pape Clé­ment 216 Av­enue du Doc­teur Nan­cel Pé­nard 33600 Pes­sac Tel: (Fr) 5 57 26 38 38 bernard-ma­grez.com/ en/wines/chateau­pape-cle­ment Just a short drive from the air­port, this stun­ning château of­fers a re­fined and re­laxed at­mos­phere in beau­ti­ful grounds, as well as clas­sic vine­yard views. Dou­bles from €230 in­clud­ing break­fast.

Hô­tel de Tourny

16 Rue Huguerie 33000 Bordeaux Tel: (Fr) 5 56 81 56 73 hotelde­tourny.com A mod­ern, de­sign-led, 12-bed­room ho­tel that is cen­tral, yet quiet, and com­bines stylish decor with all the ameni­ties re­quired for a com­fort­able city stay, at a de­cent price. Dou­bles from £121.

WHERE TO EAT

Lara ate at: Pierre Gag­naire Gas­tro­nomic Restau­rant La Grande Mai­son de Bernard Ma­grez 10 Rue Labot­tière 33000 Bordeaux Tel: (Fr) 5 35 38 16 16 la­grande­maison­bor­deaux.com Part of the ho­tel La Grande Mai­son de Bernard Ma­grez, this stands on its own feet as a su­perb fine-din­ing restau­rant. With renowned chef Pierre Gag­naire and his right-hand-man Jean-de­nis Le­bras at the helm, at least one Miche­lin star is surely loom­ing. À la carte or tast­ing menus avail­able. Three-course lunch menu €65.

Coté Rue

14 Rue Paul Louis Lande 33000 Poitiers Tel: (Fr) 5 56 49 06 49 cote-rue-bordeaux.fr Lo­cated a short way from the main tourist eat­ing ar­eas, this restau­rant is a real find. For exquisitely flavoured dishes, in a re­laxed yet so­phis­ti­cated set­ting, it’s hard to beat. Make sure to book! Seven-course tast­ing menu €56, lunch menus from €25.

WHERE TO VISIT

La Cité du Vin 134-150 Quai de Ba­calan 1 Es­planade de Pon­tac 33300 Bordeaux Tel: (Fr) 5 56 16 20 20 lacit­e­du­vin.com Bordeaux’s pride and joy opened last June and de­liv­ers a fully in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ence that lies some­where be­tween a viti­cul­ture theme park and a mu­seum. An au­dio guide is freely avail­able, mak­ing it per­fect for all na­tion­al­i­ties, and the views from the top floor are un­miss­able. Ad­mis­sion €20 adult (in­clud­ing a 50cl glass of wine on the Belvedere view­ing floor).

In­sti­tut Cul­turel Bernard Ma­grez

16 Rue Tivoli 33000 Bordeaux Tel: (Fr) 5 56 81 72 77 in­sti­tut-bernard­ma­grez.com Sit­u­ated just across the road from La Grande Mai­son de Bernard Ma­grez, this gra­cious build­ing houses the owner’s per­sonal art col­lec­tion and fea­tures per­ma­nent ex­hibits, along with a tem­po­rary space for lo­cal artists. Ad­mis­sion from €8.

FAC­ING PAGE: Cy­clists and jog­gers be­side the River Garonne in Bordeaux; ABOVE: Im­pres­sive wine cel­lars at Château Pape Clé­ment in Pes­sac; RIGHT: Vcub city bikes near the Cité du Vin

ABOVE: La Grande Mai­son de Bernard Ma­grez in Bordeaux seen from his cul­tural in­sti­tute. In the fore­ground is a Jaguar car from the wine­maker’s col­lec­tion, decorated by Amer­i­can graf­fiti artist Jonone; TOP: The Le Clos des Songes room at Château Pape Clé­ment

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