The TGV just introduced a new route that will whizz you from the centre of Paris to the charming city of Bordeaux in just two hours. My trip however, was planned before I ever caught wind of this high-speed possibility. On a Thursday afternoon in March, a group of women boarded a plane for a three night stay in Bordeaux. I was one of them. There were ten of us in total: ten hard-working women with different nationalities and personalities but one common goal—a weekend of fun in the South of France.
Why would ten women choose Bordeaux as their destination for a girl’s getaway? Well, it’s a beautiful city. What is more, it is a beautiful French city and are those not the most beautiful cities of all? Bordeaux has everything the visitor to France is looking for: charming bistros, tree-lined boulevards, a temperate climate, a gothic cathedral, Hausmanian architecture, a bustling city centre full of shops; there is the cuisine—snails in garlic anyone (they’re really quite delicious)? And then there is the wine. Ah, of course, the wine.
We selected two vineyards for a day out, stopping for lunch in-between. Our driver picked us up at 9.30 (a bit early considering the music had only been turned off 6 hours earlier) to take us to our first stop— Chateau de Sales. This picturesque chateau in the Pomerol region has been in the same family for over five centuries. Our guide enchanted us with her story telling. She told of parties hosted by the family and the wines they drank. She explained how all four generations descend on the house for their summer holidays when the estate is filled with the sounds of children playing and wine corks popping. She spoke expertly about the wines and the wine-making process and gave us a glimpse into life as a wine-maker. We left with bags clinking and heads full of romantic notions about what it would be like to give it all up to live on a vineyard in a 17th century chateau.
After an okay lunch in a crêperie in the medieval town of Saint-Émilion, we boarded the bus to our next destination— the glamorous Chateau Figeac. The largest and most prestigious of the estates in Saint-Émilion, Chateau Figeac carries the rank of Premier Grand Cru Classe in the official classification of Saint-Émilion wine. The production here is much larger and more automated. The tour didn’t have the same personal touch as the one at de Sales, but was excellent nonetheless. Our guide, Gwen, was full of energy and charm and successfully sold us on the esteemed brand. Excitingly, the wines we got to taste were high-end, with a retail price of over €100. While we were assured that price is not always an indicator of quality, it definitely influences how you view the wine. We certainly felt we got value for the €15 per person we paid for the tour. There is no shop where you can buy the wines at Chateau Figeac (probably just as well as it would be easy to get caught up in the moment and spend too much money) but there are plenty of stockists in the towns nearby.
With two winery tours under our belts we headed back into Saint-Émilion for a wander around and, you guessed it, more wine. There are no chateaux within the city walls but there are many cafés, shops and bars that offer tastings. We tasted a trio of Bordeaux whites, which while less famous than their red cousins, were enjoyable all the same.
After all that wine, we needed something to soak it up. A quick shower and a change of clothes and we were on our way into the centre of Bordeaux to eat at Le Bouchon Bordelais. This was one of the highlights of the weekend—a cosy little restaurant dishing up modern bistro fare. At my end of the table we ordered either the baked foie gras or creamy langoustines, followed by fillet steak with ox tail. The food was beautifully plated and delicious. The girls at the other end of the table felt that the scallops could have been more flavoursome but all in all an excellent choice of restaurant with a warm and lively atmosphere.
The two days that followed were less organized with smaller groups choosing to either hang out in the house (check out our amazing house here by the way) or go out strolling. Being part of a large group meant that I probably did things differently than I normally would when out traveling. We didn’t see an awful lot but spent the time just hanging out, chatting and drinking wine. If you read my blog or follow my Instagram you probably suspect, quite rightly, that my visits to Paris involve a lot of the same. But while I do spend a lot of time on café terraces, I pass an equal number of hours out sightseeing and doing things. It does however seem that the entire city of Bordeaux is built up around the wine industry and so it is probably perfectly fitting if wine-drinking fills most of one’s hours there. We didn’t make it to the famous Cité du Vin, tempted instead to stop on a terrace for lunch when the sun came out.
I would love to see more of the region; the sandy beaches, towering dunes and unspoilt scenery that I have heard about. Now, with the convenient TGV link to take me there from my Little Piece of Paris just in two hours, I’m pretty sure I will.