Like a Local, 48 Hours in Bordeaux
Kick-off the weekend by admiring the Garonne River from your hotel balcony; at dawn the water is a vivid impressionist blue, the silhouettes of joggers stand out against an intense pink sky
Over the past three years Bordeaux has constantly ranked in the top
spot as a tourist destination. Wellknown travel guides rhapsodise about the city’s architectural grandiosity and lively gastronomic scene. But Bordeaux is not just a favourite holiday destination, it’s also a star of the relocation market. Parisians voted it their ideal French city to move to the last three years in a row. So why are we flocking here in such numbers? There’s a widespread perception here in France, that the pace of life in the southwest is mellower, and that more time is taken over the appreciation of the finer things in life - food, wine, conversation, time spent with family and the great outdoors. Bordeaux capitalises on this ‘art de vivre’ (talent for living) with its buzzing restaurant scene and world class wines. It helps that the city is laid out on a human scale so you can meander from bar to restaurant to market at a leisurely pace, and take in plenty of sites in just two or three days. They say you can’t bottle sunshine, but perhaps the Bordelais have cracked the formula.
At any given time of day, between dawn and nightfall, you’ll see a steady stream of runners and a trickle of Nordic walkers getting their endorphin-fix on Bordeaux’s quays. One of the best ways to drink in the city’s graceful mix of classical and contemporary architecture is to jog the 6.9 kilometre riverside loop, beginning at the foot of the 1822 Stone Bridge or Pont de Pierre. The route hugs the Garonne River taking you past the sculptural Miroir d’eau, then past the busy restaurants of the Quai des Chartrons and the renovated warehouses of the Quai de Bacalan, before crossing the Pont Chaban-delmas over to the quiet, leafy right bank.
Breakfast at L’orangerie, Jardin Public
On a warm, sunlit morning in Bordeaux, what could be more civilised than breakfast on the broad terrace of L’orangerie? With views over manicured lawns shaded by ancient oaks and cedars, the terrace offers a truly relaxing setting in which to sip café au lait, and nibble flaky croissants. This sun-trap is popular with locals who conduct power breakfasts, while soaking up the rays. The elegant park with semi-tropical shrubbery was opened in 1746. Children can feed ducks and swans in the landscaped ponds, then hit the playgrounds, or attend the Guignol Guérin puppet show, a local fixture since 1853. breakfast from €10; www.lorangeriedebordeaux.com
The Capucins Market
On weekdays this covered market-place in vibrant St. Michel is frequented by restaurateurs shopping for seasonal vegetables, choice cuts of meat and the catch of the day. At weekends, the ‘Belly of Bordeaux’ draws hoards of Bordelais who grab coffee or brunch at one of the many eateries, then forage for high quality produce of all types. Restaurants serve up everything from moules-frites and duck confit to tagines and Andalucian tapas. Don’t be put off by the snaking queue for the herb stall. This fragrant emporium is worth the wait, you’ll only pay a euro or two for great bushels of parsley, sage, rosemary and lemon thyme.
Open 7 days a week 7am-1pm; Tuesdays some stall is closed
Open-air market on the Quays
Every Sunday from 7 am until 3pm, sixty-odd stands appear on the Quai des Chartrons selling fresh produce, flowers and second-hand books. You could grab lunch at one of the foodtrucks or pop-up restaurants offering authentic paella, Senegalese stews, falafel and artisanal pizzas. But most Bordelais, eschew the global street-food frenzy, preferring to sit down and contemplate the river over a dozen fresh Arcachon Bay oysters and a bottle of chilled white wine. If you follow suit you may concede, they know how to live.
France’s biggest independent bookstore is a Bordelaise institution. This book-lover’s bliss is located in the former home of the philosopher Montesquieu. It opened in 1886, and covers over 2500 square metres. Over 50 specialist librarians are on hand to help you track down the book you want whether it’s a children’s story or an obscure scientific publication. The English-language section is well-stocked with classics and the leading lights in literary-fiction. You’ll find English editions of travel guides for the city and the region in the travel section.
Opening hours 9.30am-7.30pm, Sundays 2pm-6pm
15, rue Vital-carles, 05 56 56 40 40
Brunch at the CAPC
Bordeaux’s museum of contemporary art occupies a vast colonial-era warehouse. One of Bordeaux’s best-kept secrets, is a large restaurant with cathedral-like vaulted ceilings and a large, sun-trap terrace. On Sundays the brunch has built up a following thanks to the quality of its sweet and savoury temptations, and the generosity of the spread. Think cheese, charcuterie, breads, seafood, savoury tarts, cakes, crème brûlée, perfect pâtisseries, madeleines and fresh juices. Brunch is priced from €35 to €40 for adults and from €15 to €20 for children.
Le Café du Musée, Entrepôt Lainé, 7, rue Ferrère
05 56 44 71 61
A Stroll through The Chartrons
For centuries Bordeaux wines were matured and stored in this neighbourhood’s cellars. English, Irish and Flemish merchants set up shop here, shipping wine back home. Now a fashionable urban village, The Chartrons is perfect for a post-prandial stroll. Browse the antiques shops and clothing boutiques on the Rue Notre Dame, dipping into cherished local hang-out, Bar Notre Dame for a tipple. Pick up a bottle of locally-produced infused rum in ‘La Petite Martinique’, then follow the peaceful back street to the intersection with the Rue Borie. Here the Museum of Wine and Trade gives a great insight into Bordeaux’s unique commercial heritage. If you’re peckish afterwards, Restaurant Le Boucher is a traditional regional brasserie with a good reputation.
Musée du Vin et du Négoce, 41, rue Borie, 05 56 901 913
Apéritif on the water
If you think the Bordelais pace of life is leisurely, then cross the river to the even more laid-back right bank. Bike or stroll over the Chaban-delmas bridge for an apéro at the Chantiers de La Garonne. This former shipyard is now a riverside beach bar beloved of the locals, who flock here on balmy summer evenings. Pull up a deckchair, plant your bare feet in the sand, then sample the locally-brewed craft beer, Darwin. The menu covers ocean-fresh clams, oysters, prawns or hot tapas, and if you’re feeling game, then sign up for a spot of kayaking or stand-up paddle at the water-sports club onsite. Parc d’activités des Queyries, 21, quai des Queyries, 33100.
Saturday night at the Movies
Why not catch a late-night film at the Utopia? Bordeaux’s arthouse cinema is housed in a gorgeously refurbished church. Arrive in advance of the screening and grab a cocktail at an outdoor table in the cinema’s bar overlooking the buzzing Place Camille Julian. The Utopia’s programme is a carefully curated selection of global cinema and the crème de la crème of French film-making. That said, un-dubbed American block-busters are shown if they are half-way intelligent. Utopia, 5, place Camille Julian
Open-air market on the quay des Chartrons, Sunday morning.
Sunday morning brunch at the CAPC.
Running near the Garonne River with the view of Bourse Maritime in Chartrons district.
Saint-pierre district in Bordeaux.
The lobby of the Utopia Cinema.