Spending the Weekend in Bordeaux was a difficult decision to make. To take a couple of days to exist outside the bounds of my family and their needs before a possible COVID-19 lockdown in the fall (or sooner) felt frivolous. Despite the rising panic of what might happen, I recognized that time to myself was necessary if I wanted to continue to function as a (mostly) good parent/human.
Quick facts about a Weekend in Bordeaux
Bordeaux is a 6-hour drive from Barcelona. It took me 8 hours in my Smart car with a smattering of stops thrown in. It’s bigger and more lived in by real people than say somewhere like Aix en Provence. Infinitely more affordable than Nice or the likes. A little over 2 hours by train from Paris, Bordeaux shares a similar elegance but quite a lot more youth. Bordeaux is ideal to walk in. Every street has some charm as well as something green.
Canelés a Bordeaux Tradition! (Weekend in Bordeaux)
Bordeaux is the city of Canelés. Those bevelled, domed cakes that are baked in copper moulds brushed with beeswax. A good Canelé should be crispy and sticky on the outside and yielding and custardy on the inside. Like a baguette or croissant, it should be eaten on the day it’s baked. Gorge yourself while you can I say. It is said that it was the nuns of the Annonciades convent in the 18th century who were responsible for these heavenly bites. Baillardan seems to have the market on these delights. Priding themselves on serving only what they have baked that day to ensure they have the right texture. There are 7 Baillardan shops, unmissable with its bold red interior and awning. You can sit on a velvety red sofa inside, I didn’t because COVID but I did take one home to eat in my hotel room.
Discover the Chartrons Neighbourhood (Weekend in Bordeaux)
Antique lovers who like an amble on cobblestoned roads will love Chartrons. The P’tite Boulangerie bakery across from the sharp steepled St Louis church sells a chewy baguette you should buy. Pair it with cheese from Fromagerie Beillevaire and wine from RN7 Vins take it all to the Jardin Public for a picnic. On Rue Notre Dame, which you should walk on, is a brilliant store named Coutume. Painted a kind of Yves Klien Blue, it has beautifully designed practical homeware. It was here that I found the striped La Rochere glasses I have been looking for.
Juliet from Coutume recommended Casa Gaïa for lunch. “It’s one of the few places that actually use local producers.” A vegetable-forward restaurant, still novel in France, think tempura carrots with couscous.
Rue Sainte-Colombe on of Prettiest streets in Bordeaux
I liked picturesque Place Fernard Lafargue and Rue Sainte-Colombe that comes off it and leads to Kitchen Garden. A popular veggie option with bowls that celebrate things like lacquered eggplant. There are plenty of cafes to choose from as well as a local produce store and a flower shop whose facade is laden with an abundance of flowers.
Listicle: Sights to Check off in Bordeaux
- Place de la Bourse / Miroir d’Eau – a Unesco world heritage site. This imposing complex was built from 1730-1755. The Mirroir d’Eau was added in 2006 and is the world’s largest reflecting pool.
- Cathedral Saint-André – Another Unesco sight. This cathedral was started in 1096. Though Bordeaux has plenty of cathedrals and churches, this one will take your breath away.
- Place du Parlament – Located in the heart of the old town, an Italian style square with a fountain at its centre.
- Ecole du Vin – Various courses offered for professionals or beginners. Including things like wine and chocolate pairings or deciphering the label.
- CAPC Museum – The space is sometimes more interesting than the exhibition. Most exhibitions are free.
- Jardin Public – The French excel at public gardens and this one is no exception. There are floral islands, a paradise for butterflies and bees and ancient trees to lend their shade.
On my first night, I came across Echo Cave A Manger exactly my type of restaurant. A judgement I made from the clientele eating there. They looked local, with a laid back chic vibe. A look I hoped would be matched by the food. The kitchen is open behind the bar. Echo has a small menu to choose from with an emphasis on natural wines. While deciding what to order, I saw most of the dishes being prepared and sent out.
Often I enjoy the thinking that goes behind putting together a menu more than the food itself. The cleverness of it as satisfying. How with a smear of this, a drizzle of that and a well-placed something or other you have a dish to send out.
It’s only when I drive through France that I see cows grazing. They change from caramel brown herds to spotted black and white ones. Every cheese has its history and season. There are plenty of affineurs. Fromagerie Deruelle has an extraordinary selection. I bought a beautiful Comté here made with summer milk. Another day I sat at one of the tables in front of Chez Delphine and ordered a cheese and charcuterie tasting plate. This being Bordeaux, a glass of red showed up.
Weekend in Bordeaux Addresses
L’Alchimiste Torréfacteur de cafés – 12 Rue de la Vieille Tour
Au Pétrin Moissagais – 72 Cours de la Martinique – Oldest bakery in Bordeaux.
Au Sanglier de Russie – 67 Cours d’Alsace-et-Lorraine
Black List Cafe – 27 Place Pey Berland
CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art of Bordeaux – Rue Ferrere
Casa Gaïa – 16 Bis Rue Latour
Coutume – Homeware boutique in Chartrons. 79 rue Notre Dame.
Dunes Blanches – 7 Rue de la Vieille Tour
Ecole du Vin – 1-3 Cours du 30 Juillet
Fromagerie Beillevaire – 5 Cours Portal
Fromagerie Chez Delphine – 44 Rue des Remparts
Fromagerie Deruelle – 66 Rue du Pas-Saint-Georges
Kitchen Garden – 22 Rue Sainte-Colombe
Kuro Espresso Bar – 5 Rue Mautrec
La Fabrique Givrée – 25 Rue du Pas-Saint-Georges
La P’tite Boulangerie – 62 Rue Notre Dame
Le Comptoir Bordelais – 1 Rue Piliers de Tutelle
Le Local Epicerie –
Maison Cadiot-Badie – 26 Allées de Tourn
Nomad – 43 Rue Sainte-Colombe
RN7 Vins – 102 Rue Notre Dame
Samos – Charming greek restaurant. 2 Place du Séminaire
Soif Bistrot à Vins – 35 Rue du Cancera
Symbiose – 4 Quai des Chartrons
I booked the Hilton Garden Inn. Reasoning that a big chain would have more systems in place and be more accountable than an Airbnb let. The Hilton is on the banks of the Garonne river. A large beige churning body. The hotel was at the furthest possible lip of the city but with a brisk pace, I could be in the heart of the city in 20 minutes. Or there is the tram, which is easy to figure out and use.