April 28, 2009
insider tips Bordeaux
Beyond the vineyard
Go for the wine but do not miss the city's great art and architecture
By deepika shetty
Bordeaux is synonymous with wine but offers a lot more than that, says Mr Jean-Daniel Terrassin, general manager of the Bordeaux Tourist Office in the city.
Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site for its centuries-old architecture, it has many tourist attractions and is less than three hours away from Paris by high-speed train.
Mr Terrassin, a 61-year-old native of Bordeaux, gives his tips on getting the most out of the city.
A LESSON IN HISTORY
Start at the splendid Place de la Bourse. Also known as Place Royale, this is a perfect example of late 18th-century Bordeaux architecture. There are archways and slate roofs, with an impressive fountain in the centre. The setting is even more magnificent when it is lit up at night. There is a superb view of the Garonne River's right bank from this square.
SQUARES ARE HIP
From Saint-Pierre to Sainte Croix, the squares of Old Bordeaux are also good examples of 18th- and early 19th-century architecture.
In the quarter of Saint-Michel, you get to see the flamboyant gothic-style Basilica, dedicated to the archangel. This, says Mr Terrassin, is the most lively and colourful quarter in the city. It is very cosmopolitan, with a colourful market on Saturday mornings and a flea market on Sundays.
Saint-Pierre, which is also commonly called Old Bordeaux, has numerous narrow, charming streets and has morphed into the city's hippest district.
The Grands Hommes, also called The Triangle, is full of elegant townhouses and luxury boutiques.
Chartrons is the former heart of the Bordeaux wine trade and the city's port activity. The Quais market there livens up the quays on Sunday mornings and the Bordeaux residents come here shortly before noon to enjoy oysters with white wine, followed by a relaxed walk along the Garonne River.
'If you are here during the weekend, make sure you join in this ritual of ours too,' says Mr Terrassin.
HEART FOR ART
From prehistoric to modern art, and from the history of the French resistance movement to the decorative arts, the museums of Bordeaux feature collections of outstanding quality.
At the Fine Arts Museum, you can see the works of masters such as Pablo Picasso, while at CAPC Modern Art Museum, Andy Warhol features. The architecture of these museum buildings adds a distinctive touch to the art on display.
There are several festivals throughout the year. The next few ones this year are the Bordeaux River Festival from June 20 to 21, Bordeaux Wine Festival from June 24 to 27, and Bordeaux Cultural Festival from Oct 9 to 18.
All the chic boutiques are in the Bordeaux Triangle in the famous Rue Sainte Catherine. This street is over a kilometre long.
In Fashion Avenue in the Regent Grand Hotel, you can find all the top luxury brands.
The Quai des Marques, on the other hand, has nearly 50 shops offering discounted quality merchandise.
'Shopping in Bordeaux should also include a visit to the Chartrons, which is the antique dealers' district, and the ethnic boutiques in Saint-Michel,' says Mr Terrassin.
Excellent cuisine can be found among some 1,000 restaurants in the city.
La Tupina (6 rue Porte de la Monnaie, 33000 Bordeaux) is famous for its typical south-western cuisine in a lovely and welcoming atmosphere. Try the duck.
La Boite a Huitres (36 Cours du Chapeau Rouge, 33000 Bordeaux) is the place to go for oysters, which Bordeaux is also famous for.
Le Pressoir d'Argent (2-5 Place de la Comedie, 33000 Bordeaux) is the top gastronomic restaurant in the new Regent Grand Hotel, right in front of the beautiful Opera House.
Bordeaux is the largest and oldest fine vineyard in the world, covering some 115,000ha. Vineyards can be found as soon as one leaves the city.
The Medoc, one of the world's most famous vineyard regions, invites you to follow the Route des Grands Crus to discover numerous prestigious chateaux. Saint-Emilion is an architectural gem with its mediaeval village and vineyard classified by Unesco.
The best of Bordeaux's vineyards can be tasted in the many wine bars and restaurants in town.
The Bar a Vin, in particular, is highly recommended because it is located at the famous Bordeaux Wine School and offers a great selection of local wines by the glass, served with tapas.