Found in Bordeaux: A City Guide
Bordeaux City Guide:
Bordeaux is pretty much synonymous with wine when brought up in conversation. The fact is true that this region has been a major production region since the 8th century but it charm, beauty and culture runs much deeper. The first day in the city I allowed myself to get lost down narrow streets, in the shadow of an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble. All around the streets lined with cafes, impressive restaurants, flower shops, clothing, grocers and markets. A walk along the river was romantic in the winters hazy rain, and gave an amazing view of fountains, cathedrals and museums. If you travel across the river you’ll find more amazing art galleries, music venues, Darwin and the botanical garden. Each morning I woke in my Airbnb made an espresso and sat by my window journaling while overlooking the kitchen garden below. Perhaps disillusioned I felt as though I was living in a painting. Everything seemed to have charm from the pale blue wallpaper and delicate linen curtains, to the way that people walked with easy through the streets, the clothing they wore, and the time they spent each afternoon laughing and visiting with friends in the cafe. And of course the food was impressive. Finding local, organic and artisanal food was never difficult. Daily markets selling cheese, vegetables, fruits, meats, seafood and wine were a venture I utilized with pleasure. Zero-waste shops that sold everything from laundry soap, to rice, and chocolate.
Finding ecoconcious stores, local products was a breeze, even if my language skills caused suffering in the shop keepers with whom I tried to communicate.
The following guide is comprised of a few of my favorite things in the city that I hope you may enjoy as well:
**note I visited in winter so the gardens, events, and markets will only become more impressive with the warming of the spring
Food and Wine
Right on the edge of the city, along the river is an impressive architectural home to this center dedicated to the universal, living heritage of wine. The building itself is designed to look like a swirling glass of wine. The center offers a spectacular journey through the history of wine throughout the ages, around the world, and the cultural impact of its power. You’ll learn everything from the impact of soil, growing methods, as well as how to understand how to detect the smells, tastes and feels of specific wines. Never a wino myself, I came away with a new found appreciation and awe of this sacrament of fermented grapes. After all the excitement and new found knowledge you’ll take the elevator to the top floor with 360* view to taste some delicious Bordeaux wine and test you skills. The lobby has a great wine shop to pick up some for dinner. Tickets cost about 20 euros including the wine which is well worth it!
How could I go to Bordeaux without visiting a vineyard, the answer it would be a sin. Chatueau Guiraud was one of the first vineyards to be certified organic in the region. The chatueau uses biodynamic practices and includes features such as a beekeeping, using ground cover, developing genetic diversity and using methods of water conservation. They have a few offerings starting at just 20 euros per person for a wine tasting, to a full out artisanal tasting menu at their award winning restaurant for 150 euros. It’s about 40 minutes outside the city so renting a car for the day, or finding a group to go with through couchsurfing, hostel, or expat facebook group is well worth it.
Darwin Ecosysteme: The riverside venue was once an abandoned boat yard and now is home to a seafood food cafe, microbrewery, organic restaurant, co-working space, sailing club, skate park and hub to creatives of every flavor. The bar is made from salvaged and recycled wood, the furniture antique, and upcycled. It is a place to be inspired by just how simple a sustainable revolution can be when we bring community, art, food and workers together. Magasin General is France’s largest organic restaurant and deli housed inside the same Darwin quarters. Check for updates on musical performances, circus, and other special events that aim is to bring together the community to create inspired change.
A smart little restaurant created by a contrast of characters Marion and Francois. Each day they chose the freshest ingredients from local farmers and create a new menu to tailor to their mood as they allow the season and produce to speak to them. I had an incredible carrot soup, with local fish and oysters served along with baguette and goat milk butter. Fantastic
Charle’s: a tiny little nook tucked away in a romantic nook of the center. Charles and his mother are the only two at the shop. When I walked in I was handed a glass of water and asked, “Do you want a bowl, a sandwich, a soup?” Bowl please. “Perfect, do you eat eggs?” Yes. Perfect.
In 15 minutes Charles had crafted me an amazing something full of veggies, delicious sauce, and poached eggs. No name to the dish, no recipe just made with passion and love for what he does, and you can taste it! Everything is either vegan or vegetarian as well.
If you have ever seen the film Chocolat with Johnny Depp then you have a hint of the experience this chocolate holds. All handmade from direct trade cacao you can taste the artistry and the reverence for the sacred bean in each treat. The truffles are to die for, and the bars melt as soon as they touch your tongue sending you into a euphoric state, eyes rolled into the back of your head. If you’re lucky you might even be able to nab a seat at one of the workshops.
MARKETS + ZERO WASTE GROCERS
Anything you might need can be found here in bulk. Rice, nuts, seeds, laundry soap, tooth paste, olive oil, wine, etc. They also carry bamboo toothbrush, period cups/pads, thermos, containers and makeup. If you don’t have your own container the shop has many glass jars donated by patrons of the shop. I’m waiting for someone to open this up back in the states!
My favorite market in Bordeaux take place every Sunday from 8am-1pm. It takes place right along the river featuring organic vegetable stands, artisianal meats, the best pasture-raised goat, sheep and cow cheese, breads, pastries, coffee, jam, fish, clams, bulk spice and teas. Don’t eat before you go as they have the best oysters I’ve eaten yet, along with other great food vendors. Great view of the market, city, river, and even live music.
Open Tuesday through Sunday 6am-1pm this is the largest market in Bordeaux. Its a daily hustle where you will get to see many locals picking up the days fresh essentials, or grabbing lunch at one of the dozens of shops. It can be a bit crazy, and overwhelming for some but I loved the energy. I enjoyed a lovely fish soup and white wine while people watching for a few hours and making conversation with the chef.
Paysanne is a local cooperative comprised of several farmers from the Bordeaux area. All the produce is grown organically and the dairy, eggs and meat are pasture raised. The coop has provides 100% transparency, many of the producers provide tours of their farms and facilities, abide by direct-trade point of sale where all the profit is provided directly to the farmers. Customers can also be in dialogue with farmers and request specific vegetables and other products that they wish to see in the coming season. In addition they offer several classes, tours, dinners and events throughout the year to build the community
Clothing and Boutiques
Sustainable clothing company founded in Spain with a few locations throughout the EU. They practice zero waste design utilizing every piece of material, source and produce their fabrics responsibly, and consider carbon footprint when transporting clothing and even how they power their head quarters/stores through renewable energy sources. The store also provided a place to bring used clothing that will either be upcycled or donated.
By far one of my favorite shops, Aatise is a eco-conscious clothing store that creates limited edition pieces. The designs are full of French charm and the fabrics are non-synthetic, and ethically sourced. You can see what they have in stock or order a piece tailored specific to your size and fabric choice. Simple and beautiful!
Flowers + Nature
Mimosa Artisan Fleuriste: even if you you don’t buy anything this flower shop is literally a little piece of what I imagine heaven to be! The bouquets are all unique and designed by the owner each morning. I may have gifted myself one my second day in the city.
If you’re across the river near Darwin it’s worth a quick trip to the botanical garden, its very small but the park in front is a wonderful place to soak up some sunshine and greenery while reading a book, writing or hanging out with a friend. To go through the building is 2 Euros so why not!
There are a few great little nature walks that you can get to pretty readily from Bordeaux. I personally was only able to check two of them out but the website Hello Ways is was an awesome resource. Aux portes du Médoc was a great day trip, bring along a picnic and spend a few hours exploring. Floirac et le domaine de la Burthe is another nice little loop trail that takes about two hours.
It takes of bit of time to get there by train but if the weather is clear the early morning ride is well worth it. also called Grande Dune du Pilat is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It is located in La Teste-de-Buch in the Arcachon Bay area, France, 60 km from Bordeaux . Its truly a was as if I had landed on an alien planet!
The list could go on for the number of interesting places I stumbled upon. There are so many landmarks such as the Place de la Bourse, Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux Cathedral, the Grand Theatre, but getting a little lost and wandering is the best way to really soak in the essence of the city. Every street was like walking in a museum, and my favorite pass time was sitting with my notebook and espresso people watching over the square.
A little piece of Bordeaux will always be with me.