Last week we went to Bordeaux for a mini vacation to catch up with some friends. This was our second visit to Bordeaux, we first went as part of this epic road-trip around France, and we left having had so much fun we're already planning our return.
Bordeaux city itself is hip, creative, and architecturally beautiful. Then, in the countryside all around the city, you have some of the best wine-makers in the world. It's a fantastic destination for wine lovers, foodies, and anyone who fancies indulging in the simple and delicious pleasures of French life.
On the day we were heading off, our village was celebrating it's annual fête. Our (tiny!) village has only 50 residents, but was hosting 180 guests from nearby villages for a sit down dinner. There was a temporary bar set up outside, along with long tables and chairs for all the dinner guests. During the day locals competed in a Petanque competition (a traditional French game, a bit like Bocce, and after dinner there was a DJ and dancing.
Luckily for us, Bordeaux is only 2 hours drive away, through very picturesque countryside.
We started our trip in Bordeaux city, and stayed at a cute boutique hotel which incorporated lots of French flair in their interior design.
We explored the streets on foot, admired the architecture, and enjoyed a lunch of French-Cantonese fusion Dim Sum. Living in the countryside we eat mostly traditional French food, so it was fun to embrace Bordeaux's cosmopolitan lifestyle and try some fusion dining.
We had to put our sightseeing on pause for a couple of hours while England played Panama in the World Cup Football. Rosie practiced her 'come on England' chant in support of her Dad, and I enjoyed being part of the (extreme!) football spirit.
Then we had a night out to see Shakira live in concert. She was fabulous, and it was such a blast to dance the night away.
Meeting her backstage was pretty cool too :-)
For the next part of our trip we wanted to stay in a hotel in wine country, so we relocated to Saint-Émilion, around 20 miles Northeast of Bordeaux.
We stayed at the Château Hôtel Grand Barrail and were blown away by it's beauty, and excellent restaurant. Last time were in Bordeaux I organized all of our wine tastings myself, but on this occasion the hotel helped us out. It was a real time-saver, and they introduced us to some awesome wineries, but of course I couldn't help adding in a few extra stops that we discovered along the way.
Justin and I have been to dozens of wine tours over the years, but we always seem to learn something new at each one. I'm still surprised by how much innovation there is in an industry that is also so steeped in tradition and history.
Even if you're not a wine lover, it's hard not to be impressed by the scenic landscapes, as well as the vast number of extraordinary historic buildings and architectural heritage in the region.
Staying in Saint Emilion, we were literally located in between vineyards, which meant we could cycle leisurely between meals and wine tastings through the countryside. We had a delicious lunch at La Terrasse Rouge, which also has a pretty spectacular view over the grape vines.
Aside from our love of wine, we're always drawn to these sorts of trips because of the truly unique interactions it's sometimes possible to have with the actual wine-makers themselves. I think this is probably the best aspect of wine tourism for us.
I'm yet to meet a wine-maker who isn't both deeply passionate and deeply opinionated about his/her craft, and I absolutely adore the conversations that inevitably ensue. More than remembering the specific wines, I can think back over the years and remember the conversations I've had with the wine makers - from young scientifically-minded guys, to poetic romantics, to farmers with soil under their nails, to strong pioneering women of vision.
To end our trip we visited Établissements Martin for a brilliant tasting of a cross section of Bordeaux wines from different appellations and vintages.
After focusing our previous tastings on specific chateaus, it was nice to experience this broader tasting with such an experienced and knowledgebale sommelier.
Eventually it was time to head home, and knowing that we are returning with a dozen bottles of Bordeaux wine to enjoy with our friends and family over the summer made leaving a little easier.