A Renaissance in Bordeaux, France

by Richard Nahem
Place de la Bourse in Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux is a breathtaking city where you can enjoy the French art de vivre and the simple pleasures of life. Great food, the best wines, peaceful nature, and a vibrant art scene.

Richard Nahem

The former stock exchange, Place de la Bourse, a UNESCO heritage site, is a stunning mélange of limestone buildings surrounding a square with a spectacular double-tiered fountain in the middle. Commissioned by King Louis XV in 1730 and designed by the greatest architect of its time, Anges-Jacques Gabriel, it’s reminiscent of similar royal squares throughout the major cities of France.

In spring and summer, Parc Publique, a verdant 33-acre park in the center of the city, is one of the great attractions to see. The park encompasses a formal and botanical garden, a Grand Guignol puppet show, a natural history museum, jogging paths, green lawns for picnicking, and ponds with ducks and swans floating on them.

Take a stroll over the historic Pont de Pierre Bridge, to see the majestic Garrone River flow and to visit the quieter side of Bordeaux. The impressive stone bridge with 17 spans, was commissioned by Napoleon and inaugurated in 1822.

Pont de Pierre Bridge in Bordeaux, France

Pont de Pierre Bridge
Photo: Martin

The Chartrons neighborhood, once the antique district of Bordeaux, has shed some of its musty antique shops, and replaced them with fashion boutiques, vintage clothing stores, trendy cafés, restaurants, and food shops, much like the Marais quarter in Paris. Walk down the charming rue Notre Dame to find them and then stop for a drink or espresso on Place de Chartrons, a square filled with outdoor cafés.

If you drank wine on an empty stomach at Cité de Vin, no worries, because sustenance is just across the street. Les Halles de Bacalan, is an indoor food market with 24 selectively, chosen vendors, who sell topnotch, international foods including fresh oysters, Spanish tapas, organic peasant bread, cheeses, fresh grown produce, rotisserie chickens, and takeout food.

A local, sweet treat to enjoy while you are in Bordeaux and to take home is a canelé, a pastry in a cylinder shape, flavored with custard, rum, and vanilla with a caramelized crust on the outside. Canelés Baillardran, a small chain of bakeries, freshly bakes canelés on premise. They sell gift packages, but be warned, their caneles are so scrumptious, they may never make their way to your giftees.

St. Andrew's Cathedral in Bordeaux, France

St. Andrew’s Cathedral in Bordeaux
Photo: S-F

Four friends/two couples who met at cooking school in Paris, pooled their talents and resources to open Miles Restaurant (33 Rue du Cancera, 33000 Tel : +33 (0) 5-56-81- 1824. www.restaurantmiles.com). It was one of the first restaurants in Bordeaux to serve a surprise, multicourse menu, and their imaginative pairing of textures and flavors has catapulted Miles in to the almost impossible to get a reservation zone. Since there’s only counter seating facing the open kitchen, guests get built-in entertainment watching the staff whip up their food. Another plus is the mild price tag of only 43€ for a five-course meal.

For fish lovers, Le Petite Commerce (22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre. Tel. +33 (0)5-56-79-7658. www.facebook.com/LE-PETIT-COMMERCE- 151929008218963) is a fun, foodie experience comprised of a seafood shop and restaurant. You can indulge in fresh oysters on the spot from their takeout store, or enjoy haddock, lobster, turbot, salmon, and sole in the French brasserie style restaurant.

It’s practically impossible to have a bad glass of wine in Bordeaux, however, if you want to taste the top vintages, here are two of the best wine bars in Bordeaux. Offering a range of over 40 wines by the glass, Aux Quatre Coins du Vin (8 Rue de la Devise, 33000 Tel. +33(0)5-57- 34-3729. www.aux4coinsduvin.com), is a favorite of locals and visitors. The wines can be sampled through automated machines that dispense the wine in either half glass, full glass, or tasting pour options.

Pont Rouge (1 Quai de Paludate, 33800 Tel. +33(0)5-56-94-9440. www.pointrouge-bdx.com) is a hidden world of wine in an ancient cave below the city. Besides the impressive list of Bordeaux wines, they also have an extensive selection of fine wines and spirits from around the globe. Cocktails and small plates of food are also served.

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