[FRANCE] Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

Raise your glass and cheers for being in Bordeaux, the de facto capital of wine in the world. The urban city itself is an essence of elegance, boasting a number of cafes, gardens and museums, with grandiose architectural pieces from 18th & 19th century slotting in between the medieval churches. Having bagged the title of Europe's best destination in a stiff competition amongst the continent's best city, our trip to Bordeaux embossed a deep impression. On top of that, we were lucky to bump into the biennial Bordeaux Wine Festival.

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Water mirror at Place de la Bourse

Arrival at Bordeaux Train Station


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
French - English translator

Bordeaux train station was probably one of the most visitor-friendly station we encountered in France. The direction was clear, and there were French - English translator within the vicinity (personnel carry the flag depicted in above picture) of the train station to help tourists who are not adept in French voluntarily. 

Thanks to them, we managed to maneuver around the tram ticket vending machine and procured a daily ticket for €4.6. By having this tram ticket, you can take unlimited times of the tram ticket within any tram lines in the city. 

Thing to do in Bordeaux


1) Shopping at Rue Sainte-Catherine


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

Our compulsive to shop strikes us indefinitely when our Airbnb is located at Rue Sainte-Catherine, a 1.2km long pedestrian street with numerous shops. Being the main shopping street in Bordeaux, you could see many popular stores here such as Carrefour, Pull & Bear, Sephora, Roxy, Mango and many more in the northern part of the street. Galerie Bordelaise, a 18th century gallery also located at the northern part.

Meanwhile, the southern part features more shops selling affordable apparels that appeal more to the students.

Put on your walking shoes and start your shopping spree here!

2) Wine Tours


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Welcoming wine at Chateau Cote de Baleau

It would be unwise to miss out a wine tour to one of 8000 Chateau available in Saint-Emilion, a commune in Gironde Department where Bordeaux wine region is located.

Googling wine tours in Bordeaux will unveil dozens of packages offered. Ultimately, we settled for Sain-Emilion Wine Tasting and Chateaux Tour from Bordeaux, offered by Viator. It was a satisfying trip.

The half-day trip included 2 visits to chateau in Saint-Emilion, transportation by air-conditioned minivan, wine tasting, entrance fees, a short tour to Saint-Emilion with a guidance of a n English speaking & knowledgeable young chap - Val. 

For the trip to begin, we waited aimlessly outside of Bordeaux tourist centre as instructed by the company, not knowing who will be picking us. Nevertheless, Val was quick to recognise us amongst the crowd outside of Bordeaux tourist centre, probably due to lack of Asians around there.

We embarked on a tour in an air-conditioned minivan, where Val drove us 2 separate chateaux - Chateau Cote de Baleau and Chateau La Croizille. Val was very engaging during the journey, sharing us knowledge on wines, answering our enquiries and kept us well entertained.


a) Chateau Cote de Baleau


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Scent differentiating and identification

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

Chateau Cote de Baleau is a small wine vineyard in Sainte-Emilion and just changed its ownership in 2013.

Upon arrival, we were welcomed with wine before a short tour at the vineyard. We were detailed on how vineyards were grown, the differences of each grapes and how the soil or sun affecting the growth. At least, it gives the wine dummies like us a glimpse on how the wine operates.

Then, the vineyard manager made us involved in a game to differentiate and identify the scent commonly appeared in wines. Lucky for us, we managed to identify some of them, but the vanilla flavour really caught us off guard!

b) Chateau La Crozille


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
View from Chateau Crozille

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

The trip continued to Chateau Crozille with a 5 hectares of vineyards. It is a more sophisticated vineyard with a factory, where we were given a short tour to see how the barrels made of French oaks were kept and how the machine functions. 

For your knowledge, each barrel will need to age minimum for 2 years before it is being claimed as wine.

At the end of the day, we were given a wine pairing session featuring 3 different wines from Chateau La Crozille and a cheese platter. What a wonderful day to end the tour!

c) Tour to Sainte-Emilion 


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
The church featuring both Gothic and Roman design in a single roof

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Church tower that extends till underground

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
The town of Sainte-Emilion

The trip also included a short visit to Sainte-Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (which included the vineyards as well) with 300 populations but influx of 1 million tourist annually!

Flocking of tourists to this rather small town is nothing other than the presence of vineyards and valueble produced here. We strolled across the town and see some wines dated to 1945 and it was sold at exorbitant price - around €15,000! Wish you luck that you will not get a bottle vinegar for that premium pricing. Anyway, the secret to maintain the quality of wine is to always store the bottle horizontally, so the air does not get into the bottle and oxidize it.

Sainte-Emilion is a small town with hills and narrow roads, with ruins stretching along steeps. There is an unique church in the center of the town, featuring both Romanesque and Gothic traits. Rome structure has a thicker and narrow wall while Gothic structure has bigger pillars. Light will shine through the windows, allowing a better connection from the devotees to the God.

Another interesting fact is the presence of empty sarcophagus with nothing but stones inside it within the vicinity of church. It signify the death crusaders whose body never to be found.

We will never know all these if we did not follow this trip.

3) La Cite Du Vin


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

Since you are in the de facto capital of Wine, then a visit to the Wine Museum - La Cite Du Vin can be integrated into your itinerary. There is a permanent exhibition on wines, and the Belvedere on the rooftop allows you to have the panoramic view of Boredeaux while enjoying a glass of wine. It is worth paying the €20 entrance fees for it. 

There will be a series of workshops conducted at the museum. Check out their website for more information. 

4) Place de la Bourse & Miroir d'Eau


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Place de la Bourse & Water Mirror at day time

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Place de la Bourse & Water Mirror in the evening

The iconic Place de la Bourse (Chamber of Commerce is the most recognisable square in Bordeaux. Built in the 18th century, it represents the classic French architectural art and combines Palais de la Bourse (current Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux) in the north and Hotel des Fermes (Interregional Directorate of Customs and Indirect Rights, which houses the National Museum of Customs) in the South. 

When these 2 buildings combined with the Miroir d'Eau, it created a photogenic site where the building images are reflected on it. Rhythm will change in 2cm of the water, making this place enjoyable by kids and even adults especially summer. 

The water mirror works in the following cycle: 3 minutes to fill up, 15 minutes of mirror, 5 minutes to drain and 3 minutes of fog. It was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List as "an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble" of the 18th century.

Kindly take note that the water mirror does not function in the winter. Thus plan your schedule to prevent disappointment! 

5) Take A Stroll Down the Garonne River


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Pont de Pierre
FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
A night view of Garrone River

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas
FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Another view of Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas

On a tight budget? No problem. Take a stroll down the scenic Garonne River and enjoy the picturesque views here. The river itself has more than just water to offer.

Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas is one of the iconic structure in Bordeaux, as it is probably the longest vertical-life bridge in Europe. When the ship passes by, you can see the structure raises up and allow bridge to pass through.

6) Buy Some Wines


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Our Rose Wine for merely €1.87 per bottle!

Being a powerhouse of wine production, Bordeaux wine has a revered status amongst the wine connoisseurs across the globe. Although the experts may go after the topnotch wines such as St. Estephe, St. Emilion, Pauillac with premium price tags, there are many wines that fetch the price tag as low as €3 which you can get on the shelf of Carrefour. 

7) Admire the Architecture

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Cathedral Saint Andre de Bordeaux

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Porte Cailhau - Built in 1495, this monument with a castle-like exterior was once the main gate to the city. It feels like Disneyland castle to us.

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Porte de Bourgogne - Landmark Roman style arch built in 1750 as a symbolic gateway to the city

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Basilica of St. Michael - 14 - 16th Century Gothic style Church with a separate tower, crypt and a 19th century organ

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Porte d'Aquitaine during night view. One of the popular spot for students. 

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Monument aux Girondins, one of the oldest monument in Bordeaux. IT was erected in the early 1900s in the memory of the Girondists who fell victim during he French revolution

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Opera Nationale de Bordeaux - the building gets especially beautiful during the sunset when the light rays shone upon it
FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Intercontinental Bordeaux Le Grande Hotel

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Place du Parliament - Historic Square named after the Bordeaux parliament with a fountain
FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Random fountain at Place Saint Projet

Bordeaux has been classified as a "City of Art and History". A massive of 18th century architectural building has been revitalized, with hundreds of historical monuments for you to see.

Bordeaux Wine Festival


Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival
Delicious Crepe (€4)

Bordeaux Wine Festival

Bordeaux Wine Festival

We were so lucky to bump into the biennial Bordeaux Wine Festival during our trip there. It was so happening, with wines, food and culture everywhere across the riverbank. There are dozens of wine chateau in the region setup booth during the festival, and with some Euro you can sample those you feel acquainted to. There is why people are all waking with a wine glass during the festival!

On top of that, you can see people indulged in the culture. The youngsters will engage in the hipster dance where the romantic ones will submerge themselves into the jazz music with some classic dance. There were dozens of food stalls, allowing you to sample some tidbits along with the wines.

Fireworks will be lit up at night at specific time to celebrate this festive session. If you have the opportunity, you must enjoy this festive session! 

What We Ate at Bordeaux

As there were too much food to enjoy in Bordeaux, we will detail on what we had in Bordeaux as a mere reference only.

1) Canelé


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

One of the must try in Bordeaux is canelé, a small French pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. Though it might be widely available in Franch patisseries, trying at its original place might be a good choice. 

We stumbled across a random stall along Rue Sainte-Catherine and saw a huge crowd in front of the stall, thus decided to join them as well. Canelés ain't expensive, as 3 of it with vary sizes only cost us €1.6. We made a blunder thinking they were different pastry, only to find out only the size vary after purchasing them.

Personally, we enjoyed it much. The sugar caramelized crust provided some body to the pastry with the aromatic wine filling.


2) Edouard

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Duck Confit

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Foie Gras

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Steak

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Chocolate Fondant

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Complimentary olives

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

Out of hunger, we simply choose a restaurant near to Place Du Parliament for our late lunch. Most of them were expensive, except Edouard which offered entree + main or main + dessert for €20. It was a pretty good deal and the food was average. Nevertheless, the English speaking crew was real helpful.

The Duck Confit and Foie Gras were averagely good. When eaten along with the sauces, it gave a nice flavour overall. Nevertheless, the steak was uninspiring. It was cooked to overly done to a very tough and hard texture. We had a hard time finishing it. Luckily, the chocolate fondant did a nice job to cleanse the palate. House wine is available at €4 per glass.

Surprised to see olives were served as appetizers here.

3) La Brasserie Bordelaise

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Complimentary minced meat as appetizer

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Huitre (Fresh Oyster at €2.50 each)

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Margaret de Canard (Seared Duck Breast)

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do
Cod Fish

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

On the next day, our tour guide for the wine tour recommended us to try La Brasserie Bordelaise. It was a real satisfying experience here.

We saw huitre (fresh oysters) was on the list, and were in a conundrum to try it or not, since having fresh oysters were not our forte. Well, we took the risk and it was rewarding! The oysters were fresh and nice, feel like just harvested from the sea!

Margaret de Canard was equally great. It tasted exactly like good but seared to good texture. On the other hand, the Cod Fish was prepared to flaky texture, with delicate texture that will melt in mouth along with a hint of sweetness. The mashed potatoes served along the cod fish was equally awesome.

We were served a can of minced meat as appetizer. It was meant to be eaten along with the baguette, and never thought the minced meat will taste so good! 

Overall, we wish we have more dollars to spend here. Such a rewarding experience to dine in here. Total expenditure here was €51.


4) Our breakfast




For some reasons, we really enjoyed having a simple breakfast here. Partly to save some budget too. The chocolate - Cote D' Or, fresh milk and muesli were brought at Carrefour. Everything you need is available there.

Where We Stay


FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

We had a pleasure stay at an apartment near to Rue Sainte-Catherine. It was spacious, come with a kitchen and has a sizable place to maneuver around. At least we can sleep in our sleeping sofa while enjoying television, and had some space to dry our clothes. 

The host also displayed accommodating gesture by making us comfortable during check-in, and ensured that everything was alright before he left the place. The strategic location, though a distance away from the tram station made here a great stay.

Some pictures of us taken in Bordeaux



Finally, we had a picture together taken by a good samaritan in front of Bordeaux Cathedral. We were taking wefie using our handphone and suddenly a senior gentleman pop by and offered his help to snap a picture for us. We were skeptical to pass the camera to this him but we felt he was trustworthy. 

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

FRANCE Bordeaux - The Biennial Wine Festival and Things to Do

Well, that is about Bordeaux. Next, we moved to an unusual place - Arles! 

Check out the next blog post for more info.


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~End~

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