We finally ticked Bordeaux off the list! And with good company in tow: my best friend, Gabriela, and her husband, Bobby, flew over to enjoy their honeymoon and travel with us. We took two days showing them around Toulouse and I’m so glad we did because Toulouse was lookin’ extra pink and lovely for them. We rode the ferris wheel for aerial views, visited Musée des Augustins, and dined on escargot (pretty much a first for everyone!) at Le Bouchon Lyonnais.
We then took a short train ride to Bordeaux – another first for everyone. We had one day set aside to explore the city center and a second day devoted to wine tasting in the nearby villages of St. Emilion and Pomerol, where some of the region’s best Merlots come from.
After dropping the bags at home, we set out walking. The only main attraction I had on my list was to see the Miroir d’eau, the world’s largest reflecting pool in front of Place de la Bourse. We headed in that general direction and stopped whenever something caught our eye. It was an easy city to cross on foot.
The cafe pictured above, Grand Bar Castan, was a nice stop along the quai. The signage definitely intrigued me and they had croque monsieur/madame on the menu which was on Gabriela’s list. It faced the Garonne and was a nice reprieve from the heat.
After snacking, we reached the Miroir and it was jam-packed! Everyone had their feet in the cool water and we did our best to avoid the naked babies running around. It dawned on me that you probably get the reflecting effect at night, so we decided to come back later.
Next on the amble was Place des Quinconces. It felt like crossing a desert to reach the big statue and fountain at the end, but we succeeded. It was very impressive up close and we were even rewarded with a mist coming off of the fountain.
After sweatin’ it up all over town, we headed back home to freshen up for dinner. Up until this point, we had been really diligent in exclusively eating French cuisine and drinking wine, but sometimes you need pub food. Luckily, we found Frog & Rosbif, a chain that has a location in Toulouse too, but the Bordeaux location was in a really cool, old building. We thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace.
After dinner, we walked back to the Miroir and were given the full effect.
In the morning, we woke up excited to head into wine country. We met our guide in town and he drove us about 30 minutes away to “right bank” Bordeaux, where the main varieties of grapes grown are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. On the drive, our guide did a great job at giving us the basics before we would be hearing from the winery owners. He explained that wines from this region are given classifications based on such important factors as terroir and quality to even menial things such as whether the chateau has a parking area. French bureaucracy at it’s best.
The classifications are Premiers Grands Crus Classés A at the top and “table wine” at the bottom. But you shouldn’t be too snobby when choosing a bottle based on classification. The second chateau we visited on the tour makes a wine deserving of the Premiers Grands Crus Classés A label, but has to settle for a lower classification because they’re the aforementioned one without a parking area. We visited three chateaus over the day, all with a different classification and sometimes a differing philosophy. However, some things were sacrosanct – for instance, to be classified as a Bordeaux wine, the chateau must adhere to zero irrigation. All the vineyards are dry farmed and are very strict about it. If the weather doesn’t cooperate one year, then you hope the next year does.
One of my favorite parts of visiting the chateaus was being taken down into their underground, limestone cellars. The farther back you went, the older the wine got. There were vintage bottles in reserve from the early 1900s. Can you imagine being able to go down and pick something that old for a special event?
The guide let us loose in the medieval village of St. Emilion for lunch and sightseeing. Every inch was charming.
The whole tour was really fun and informative. It was also laid back enough that you didn’t feel too out of place among the wine aficionados. We didn’t leave as connoisseurs, but thoroughly enjoyed the 101 introduction to Bordeaux Merlots.
After such a tiring day, we got into comfy clothes and had a dinner of charcuterie on our roof patio. Tomorrow, we would leave for San Sebastian!