We took a three-hour train ride across the country side from Paris to Bordeaux. We had purchased a Eurail pass before leaving Australia, to cover us for travel between France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. It’s a great way to travel because you get to see a lot more of the country and avoid the hassle arriving two hours early to check in your bags at an airport.
Being our first trip, we thought we’d arrive at the train station an hour prior to departure just to be sure. We had to validate our tickets before travelling, get some snacks and find the platform. When we got there we looked up at the departure board and saw that the train to Bordeaux was leaving in five minutes- 6:55am. We instantly thought they had changed the times on us and bolted for the train. We got on and 30 seconds later the train took off. So much for thinking an hour was enough time to check in!
We got our tickets out for an inspector and the inspector started yelling at me in a very sexy French accent telling me I had to “Respect the time on the ticket!”. I told her we looked at the board and that it said 6:55am – she said “There is another one coming, you have to wait!” – We got let off with a warning because it was our first time and it also meant we got to Bordeaux a whole hour early! Bonus!
The first tip for Bordeaux is to get all your public transport organised while at the train station, the airport or online before you arrive. There are ticket machines at all the tram stops, however they don’t take foreign credit cards – this also goes for the bicycles. There are offices at the main train stations and airports that can sell you these tickets and can process a credit card payment.
The Old Town: The old town is the heart of Bordeaux and where all the action takes place. We stayed across from the old town in a suburb called “La Bastide” and it was a short five-minute tram ride to the old town. We spent most of our time here, exploring, eating and drinking. I imagine that because Bordeaux has an abundance of red wine, every menu we saw offered at least a glass with your meal. A menu consisted of an aperitivo (cocktail), a glass/bottle of wine, an entrée, main and dessert – with tea and coffee if you desired. A quick way to ensure a new and tubbier you!
The New Town: It’s not called the new town, but I have no other name for it – so we’ll just go with it for the moment. Along the river banks there are lovely plush gardens, riding paths and the Miroir d’eau. The Miroir d’eau is a pool with about a centimetre of water that would mist up every 30 minutes and gently spray everyone in the water. Refreshing on a hot day, which we seemed to have a lot of!
We initially decided to ride a bike through the old town. But with the steep hills and my inability to avoid terrorising pedestrians, we thought it might be best for all involved to head for the banks of this river. Gus’ advice – “Keep your eyes on the straight road” proved invaluable, as I awkwardly rode my bike like a female version of Robocop. It did the job though and we saw a lot more that what we would have walking. This area was what we referred to as the Docklands. Weird factory outlet shops and the odd tourist floating around, we got out of there pretty quick smart.
Winery Tour: We knew Bordeaux was famous for it’s wine and it was the one thing we wanted to see before we left. We booked in for a tour to take us out to Saint-Emillion – a region famous for it’s red wine and beautiful old town. The tour itself was a bit disappointing. The wine tour consisted of an explanation of the winery itself, the process of fermenting wine and the wine tasting lasted a whole 10 minutes – tasting three different wines. The area is quite unique in that the vines must be grown in specific conditions pertaining to the area they are in. Anything but, is illegal in this region and would not be considered real Saint – Emillion wine.
The tour then took us to the old town of Saint-Emillion where we saw the largest underground cathedral and catacombs. No lovely vibe here, just a lot of dust and bones. The town itself was beautiful and we really wished that we’d hired a car and taken it out there – as there are so many more wineries and shops that we could have seen.
We loved Bordeaux. It was a nice change in pace to the hustle and bustle of Paris and highly recommend that if you are ever travelling between France and Spain – you make this worthwhile stop.