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The Traveller's Magazine
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Famous for wine, of course. Everyone knows that, but have you ever been? You don’t have to be a world-renown sommelier to make wine the centre of your vacation. If you like wine or even if you don’t Bordeaux is a perfect destination for a weekend getaway of wine tasting, cycling through gorgeous vineyards, enjoying the finest French foods al fresco and touring century old cellars…

There are few other places in the world that pack as much wine and charm in such a little space. Bordeaux has good reason to be the most visited wine region in the world. If wine is not reason enough to visit this rural Southern region of France, how about castles, history, gastronomy, and the chance to experience the real douceur de vivre of France, the country’s sweetness of life? There are direct flights from London, Dublin and Manchester to Bordeaux, making it a great spot for a weekend getaway, even with a budget!

Bordeaux in a weekend:

Three days is enough time to get a good feel for the area.

On the first day spend some time in Bordeaux itself, exploring the city. Start in the north at the public gardens where you can check out the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle and the botanical gardens, which might I add are beautiful at this time of the year! If art is more your style, the Musée d’ Art Contemporain is just a few minutes away. It’s okay if you want to stop for a photo at the Monument aux Girondins or in front of the Grand Théâtre, everyone does it! Is it lunchtime yet? If you’re hungry head to Place du Parlement, the city’s main dining district where you’ll find everything from casual French bistros to luxurious Michelin-rated restaurants. If you’re feeling more adventurous head to a deli and pick up a fresh baguette, a bottle of wine and some cheese and head to the riverside to enjoy a picnic. After you’re finished take a walk along the 4 kilometre path, its beautiful and very scenic.

On your second day you should really book a wine tour and spend the day exploring outside of the city. The most popular towns for wine tasting are Médoc and St Emillion. Check out the tourist information office if you need some help deciding where to go and to grab some maps. The office organizes tours and if you want to join one, you should book a day in advance to reserve your place. It’s also very popular to hire cars in Bordeaux, the hardest part though is choosing a designated driver!

On your third day you can either head out to another surrounding area to wine taste or if the city is more your thing, head to the Musée d’Aquitaine for a history lesson on the region and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.

Another idea is to spend a night in St Emillion instead of coming back to Bordeaux. This medieval town is just 35 kilometres outside of Bordeaux and is close to the wineries and a few very interesting sights like a huge underground church that was carved out of a single rock. Impressive, I know.  For accommodations how about sleeping in a castle or a quaint country house hotel?

picnic by the seine
Enjoy a picnic riverside, just don't forget the corkscrew! (img: flickr cc)

How to save:

  • Find a hotel in Bordeaux close to the city centre so that everything is within walking distance
  • Skip the city tour and plan your own by foot or by bike. Grab a free map at the tourist office or from the front desk of your hotel
  • For a little wine education, visit a wine museum which always have cheaper admission in the mornings
  • In St Emillion walk up the hill from the train station and you’ll find the oldest vineyard in Bordeaux, Clos du Madeleine. There is a free demonstration, history lesson and tasting here if you purchase a bottle (some are priced as low as £6)
  • At museums ask about discounts for students, foreigners, etc. Some museums have discount days and times so plan ahead (example, the Musée d’Art Contemporain is cheaper after 15:00)
  • Instead of eating out every meal, plan a picnic in a public park or garden. It is legal and free to eat, drink and relax in the parks, so enjoy it!

Many think that you have to be: a) educated in winery studies or b) a winemaker or c) a seasoned taster to visit a winery. This is complete nonsense. Wineries give tours and tastings for everyone. It is a learning experience and most of all its fun. It is also the easiest way to really find out what you like and what you loathe.

Have you ever been on a wine holiday? What did you most enjoy about tasting and touring the wineries? If a friend was departing on their first wine holiday, what advice would you give them?

Image source: flickr cc

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