Waiting for Bordeaux

Waiting for Bordeaux

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ss-to-bordeauxWe reluctantly left San Sebastian around noon and took the 1:30 PM train from Hendaye to Bordeaux. We got in around 4 PM and made our way to the Airbnb. Our first introduction to Bordeaux was not good. To get to our place we had to take two buses and the first bus didn’t have AC. It was 45 minutes of terrible heat and traffic. On the way to the second bus, which was just around the corner, I got pickpocketed and they stole my phone. I only had my phone out of my hand for about 30 seconds but it was enough for someone to snag it and make off with it. I was shocked because it wasn’t a crowded touristy place where you would think pick-pockets happen, it was toward the suburbs of Bordeaux. I had never had anything stolen from me while traveling before, but the lesson is you always have to stay vigilant with your things. To make matters worse, the Airbnb host didn’t give us the exact address and we didn’t have internet access to contact her. After some wandering around, we asked some guys in an apartment building that we thought our place was in for help. They were really nice and helpful.  They asked their landlord if they knew our host, they invited me into their apartment to get internet, they called the host for us, and they drove us to her apartment. It was so good to have met such helpful people just after losing faith in humanity when my phone was stolen. We were pretty tired and hungry so we went to a Marrakesh restaurant that was nearby. The food was really good and got us excited for our visit there in November.

Beautiful town but we had to go inside to keep from getting wet
Beautiful town but we had to go inside to keep from getting wet

On our first full day, we heard it was going to be a rainy day so we didn’t have much planned today. Bordeaux is of course famous for its great wine and vineyards in the surrounding Bordeaux region. The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble" of the 18th century. Since it was raining, we thought it’d be a good idea to stay inside and drink some Bordeaux wine. We went to Bar a Vin, a wine shop in downtown Bordeaux that has 2€ wines for what we thought would be a couple of drinks until the rain let up. The bar had a beautiful interior with high ceilings, stained glass murals, and an elegant white décor. We tried a couple of different wines and we were getting ready to leave, but then it started raining pretty hard so we just stayed in the bar and drank more and more wine. The wine was really good and after getting phone stolen, I needed a drink or two. We ended up staying about 5 hours and had 13 glasses when it was all said and done which ran us about 30€, not a bad day! We tried going to a restaurant Diem researched, Petit Mignon, but it was closed so we went to a ramen place next door. It made us miss the ramen in Japan but it was still pretty good. After dinner we headed back for the night.

Blame it on the rain! Why we stayed so long and the delicious cheap wine.
Blame it on the rain! Why we stayed so long and the delicious cheap wine.

View of St. Emilion
View of St. Emillion

The next day we took a self-guided tour of Saint Emillion which was about a 45 minute train ride from Bordeaux. We got there around 1 PM and had to wait for the tourist office to open at 1:30 PM. A lot of the vineyards in the area require a reservation to tour the Chateaus but there was one in town that we were able to get tickets (12€ each) at the tourist office. The chateau vineyards of Saint Emillion are famous for their underground caves/cellars. The vineyard we went to was called Chateau Villemaurine and used to be an old limestone quarry. The underground caves were huge and the tour went over the history of the quarry and the process of removing stones from the cave. They also talked about the different grapes grown there and the wine making process. We tasted two wines which were pretty good but we wanted more. The tour was about 1.5 hours and was pretty interesting. I really liked the cave portion and we even got so see some bats chilling upside down although they didn’t come out in the pictures. After the tour we went to two other cellars in town that had free entries and the tourist office said they had free tastings. However, when we asked for some wine they told us we had to pay or buy a bottle to get the free tastings. In town next to the tourist office, there was a wine shop in town that we saw had some free tastings so we tried 2 more wines there then headed back to the train station to go back to Bordeaux. It was a good thing we headed back when we did because it started pouring rain right when we got to the train station. We had reservations at 7 PM at a dinner place that Diem found. We had a 50% off deal if we ordered at least an appetizer and entrée each. I got a melted cheese and bacon appetizer with a salmon entrée and Diem got a foie gras appetizer and a filet mignon dish. I thought all the food was great but Diem wasn’t a huge fan of the mustard sauce on her dish and the meat wasn’t quite what we were thinking of a filet mignon dish. After dinner we headed home.

Cave cellars of St. Emilion
Cave cellars of St. Emilion

On our last full day in Bordeaux we wanted to visit more of the wine region so we booked a half day tour to two vineyards in Medoc outside of Bordeaux. The first vineyard we visited, Chateau Lannessen, took about 1.5 hours to get to. Our guide took us on a tour of the vineyard and the highlight was that we got to taste the different grapes grown there (Merlot, Petit Verdot, Muscat, Cabernet Franc, etc.) and pick them right off the vine. A lot of the wine making process of the tour was repetitive of the other tours we’ve been on but overall the tour was nice. We got to taste two wines which were both just OK then moved on to the next vineyard, Chateau St. Ahon, which was in Haute-Medoc closer to Bordeaux about 45 minute drive. The second tour was shorter and we just talked about the grapes grown there and the wine making process. We tasted two more wines which I felt weren’t as good as the first place. We headed back to our Airbnb after the second vineyard and then went to a Vietnamese place for dinner.

Picking grapes, tasty!
Picking grapes, tasty!

Despite getting my phone stolen, Bordeaux was a lot of fun. The city itself very beautiful and I had some great runs along the river and around downtown. There are countless vineyards you can visit outside the city or you can taste a lot of wines made in surrounding area at the various bars in the city so it really is a wine lover’s dream. We spent three full days in Bordeaux which I think was the perfect amount of time to experience both the city and region.

See the full gallery of our time in Bordeaux here: Bordeaux, France

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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