The second stop on our trip was Bordeaux, in the south of France. This port city is the known for its wine production and is the largest urban World Heritage site, with half of the city Unesco-listed. This exciting city is bustling with patisseries, restaurants, local and artisan food markets and super-food food trucks, making it a foodie’s mecca.
This was my first time travelling independently outside of Paris, so I was really excited to see something else in this beautiful country. I have a couple of friends, former Parisians, who have been live in Bordeaux for the past couple of years. They hosted our short stay and showed us a few of their favourite places.
By the time we arrived in Bordeaux it was late in the afternoon. So our friends took us into the city centre to explore. Our first stop was Place de la Comédie, which is known to the locals as the Grand Thèâtre. This square features the Grand Thèâtre itself, which was rebuilt after a fire in 1780 by architect Victor Louis. The building’s facade has twelve statues atop twelve Corinthian columns. It operates as the Opera National de Bordeaux and the Ballet National de Bordeaux. Also in this square, you will see the Intercontinental Bordeaux – Le Grand Hotel which houses the restaurant Le Bordeaux Gordon Ramsey. Another notable feature is the large oxidized human head ‘Sanna’ by Jaume Plensa. It is unsettling to look and plays tricks on your as you see it from different angles. The square is also quite gorgeous to visit after dark, which we did later.
Since it was still too early for dinner we were on the hunt for local speciality desserts. So we explored the streets in and around Rue de la Porte Dijeaux and Rue Sainte-Catherine.
We tried some amazing Macarons and Kouignettes from Maison Georges Larnicol. The Kouignettes come in a variety of flavours and are so rich and buttery. The Macarons were delicate and delicious and lack that terrible aftertaste of artificial colours that I have found in Australia. After that, we tried a regional speciality, Canelés from Canelé Baillardran. These were also so delicious, with an amazing chewy texture. Then we came across the amazing dessert shop, Opéra Pâtisserie. I just wish I had more room in my tummy.
Next, we saw one of the biggest squares in Europe, Place des Quinconces. The square is often used for fairs, circuses, sporting events, artistic events and concerts. We actually saw James Blunt performing later that evening. It is also largely used as a public transport hub so visually it is not that impressive. However, the square does house the exquisite Monument aux Girondins. This monument was originally built between 1894 and 1902, but it was dismantled by the Nazi’s for its metal. They were later returned to Bordeaux, but the whole movement wasn’t completely restored until the 1980s.
A short walk away is we found Quai Louis XVII on the Garonne River banks. From here you can get a good view of the Pont de pierre. This was the first bridge built over the river, under orders of Napoleon I. Food markets are often held along the quay and today was the gastronomical food market, Bordeaux fête le fleuve.
As we kept walking along the quay we found the Miroir d’Eau de Bordeaux, which mirrors the Palais de la Bourse. This amazing water feature is the perfect place for kids to play and cool down in the summer heat. Octavia loved kicking her feet up in the water. The Place de la Bourse is a large square between the Miroir and the Palais, which also contains a water feature. This square is symbolic for the city, as it represents the breakaway from medieval Bordeaux, to a modern era without city walls. It was built between 1730 to 1775 under the reign of Louis XV.
For dinner, our friends took us to a restaurant in Place du Parlement. There are many restaurants lining the square. They chose the busy restaurant, L’ombriere Restaurant & Cafe. Since we couldn’t read the menu we asked our friends to chose the dishes that most represents the city and they enjoy. I had the beef with vegetables potato gratin and duck liver. Marco had the steak with bearnaise sauce and fries. Both dishes were cooked perfectly, delicious and very filling. Marco’s meal also included a dessert, so we shared the Moelleux au Chocolat, Crème anglaise, which also included a Canelés. Our friends had a gorgeous Crème Brûlée.
The next morning our friends went out to get morning pastries and bread. Oh my goodness, they were so good. On this entire trip Octavia staple food has been croissants, so she was very happy to wake up to do these. I could only dream to this quality of pastries at home.
We then took a drive to the Grande Dune du Pilat. This massive natural phenomenon is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It’s situated in La Teste-de-Buch, which is about 60 km from Bordeaux. The dune is also the fictional site where the Napoleonic battle took place in Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe’s Siege. The dune is has a mass volume of 60,000,000 m³. Is is about 110 meters above sea level and runes 2.7 km in length and 500m wide. It is wedged between camping sites and Banc d’Arguin.
The walk up to the dune is not easy. However, there is a ladder which makes it easier to walk up some of the way. The view is quite spectacular, so it worth the walk. There are swamps of lady beetles, but they are harmless.
Not far from the dune we went down to the beach for a swim. The beach was quite similar the Australian beaches I am use at the Gold and Sunshine coasts. The sand was quite a dark yellow hue and the waves were very choppy. It was still a little cold for me and Octavia to swim, but the others enjoyed it. After we sat among the trees behind the beach for some homemade baguettes and fresh berries from the market for lunch.
Our last stop was the beachside town of Arcachon. The place is a popular holiday destination for the bourgeois Bordelaise and is known for its oyster harvesting.
Our friend’s parents have retired here, so after a quick visit, we explored the town a little bit. We had delicious gelato from Maxi Gelato, walked down to the beach and took a ride on the merry-go-round.
The next morning we had to leave for our next location. But before we did we had to enjoy French pastries for the last time. We visited Le Fournil de Pichey patisserie. Everything looked so great we had to try a few different things.
Bordeaux is definitely a city that I could visit again. If anything I would go just to eat. I wish we had more time, but we had to fly to our next location, Milano, Italy.