Monday 21 August 2017

Bordeaux 2.0: Why France's Sleeping Beauty is a brilliant city break

Short breaks in France

Porte Cailhau from Place de Palais, Bordeaux
Porte Cailhau from Place de Palais, Bordeaux
Night view on The Pont de pierre in Bordeaux. Photo: Deposit
Grapes in a vineyard

Jane O'Faherty

When the Green Army hits Bordeaux, they'll find a rebooted city that goes way beyond wine bores, says Jane O'Faherty.

Set the mood

Affectionately known as France's Sleeping Beauty ('La Belle Endormie'), Bordeaux has woken up spectacularly in recent years. Famed for its neoclassical monuments and rich history, new developments are now attracting hipsters, party animals and yes, football fans (Ireland take on Belgium in the city on June 18).

For a first night meal, La Brasserie Bordelaise (brasserie-bordelaise.fr) offers swanky French cuisine without the snobby maître d' - the scallops Saint Jacques are delicious at a restaurant where you can spend hours chatting to diners and staff over a glass of wine.

With or without the Green Army, check out the raucous Café Brun (cafebrun.fr) on Rue Saint-Rémi. Don't be surprised when you suddenly recall your Junior Cert French and join an Edith Piaf sing-along while dancing with the locals!

Guilty Pleasure

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Grapes in a vineyard

Rent a car and create your own wine tour with a visit to the nearby village of Saint-Émilion. A pilgrimage hotspot turned modern-day hideaway, the medieval French town is home to just 200 people, but boasts over 50 wine stores.

After a stroll along its cobbled alleyways, try some of its famous macarons - sugary biscuits derived from a local convent's secret recipe.

The friendly locals are worth getting to know too. Natasha Dubois, owner of Chambres d'Ovaline B&B (chambres-ovaline.com), is like the French 'maman' you never had. An artist and author, she's always ready with advice on what to see and do.

She's also happy to serve you cake for breakfast...

Cheap Kicks

Grab a bike at one of the city's many V3 stations (vcub.fr). Similar to Dublin's bike scheme, users pay as little as €1.50 for 24 hours of cycling around the city.

While you pedal your way around the winding streets, stop by the stunning Place de La Bourse at dusk. Watch the sunset reflected in the 'Miroir d'Eau', a modern water feature-cum-paddling pool just opposite. It's often the site of flashmobs and impromptu salsa parties, if you'd like to flaunt your moves to the crowds.

Insider Intel

For those fond of urban regeneration, the DARWIN 'eco-quarter' (darwin.camp) is the hipster 'hood to end all hipster 'hoods. Built in the shell of an old warehouse, it's made entirely from recycled materials - from offices to an indoor skatepark.

It's also known for its eclectic line-up of concerts, and is hosting the millennial-friendly BLISS yoga festival until June 19 (festival-yoga-bliss.fr).

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Night view on The Pont de pierre in Bordeaux. Photo: Deposit

Top Tip

Euro 2016 is attracting thousands of football fans to Bordeaux, but the party doesn't stop there. Music lovers can look forward to La Fete de la Musique, a night of free concerts, on June 21. Meanwhile, the Bordeaux Wine Festival kicks off on June 23.

Glitches

Make sure you have small change with you if you plan to take the tram in Bordeaux. Many ticket machines won't accept Irish credit or debit cards - an annoyance when you're in a rush to your next destination.

Get me there

Aer Lingus (aerlingus.com) flies from Dublin to Bordeaux daily.

Hotel de la Presse on Rue Porte Dijeaux (hoteldelapresse.com; rooms from €75) offers boutique accommodation in the heart of the city centre, just a few footsteps from bars, restaurants and trendy boutiques.

Prices at the charming Chambres d'Ovaline in Saint-Émilion start from €103 per night. For more information on the city, visit bordeaux-tourism.co.uk and france.fr.

Read more:

Euro 2016: 10 travel tips for Irish football fans in France Love Letters to Paris: What our travel writers love about the City of Lights

Irish Independent

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