Bordeaux brings to mind the marvelous wines of Latour, Lynch-Bages, Haut Marbuzet, Beychevelle, Leoville and Cos d'Estournel. It is respected as the wine capital of the world and celebrated as France's second city in elegance and style. With 347 historical monuments, it is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearby, the Aquitaine Region's famous grape-growing areas such as the Medoc, St.-Emilion, Graves and Sauternes spread north, east and south.
With only three days and three nights in the city, I wanted to use my time efficiently and still enjoy the very best Bordeaux has to offer. After checking into the luxurious, Old World-style Grand Hotel on Place de la Comedie, the historic center, I strolled around admiring the elegant buildings as they glowed from mammoth cleaning and restoration projects.
Going along the Garonne River on Quai Louis XVIII was ideal for a jog. This once drab waterfront now sparkles with trendy restaurants and upscale night-life spots. Le Miroir d'Eau, a large shallow pond, adds fun and drama to the Place de la Bourse's impressive buildings.
Being outside and active certainly cleared out my jet lag. On returning, I treated myself to a massage in the hotel's spa and dinner at its elegant restaurant, Le Pressoir d'Argent. Chef Pascal Nibaudeau (one Michelin star) proposed a dinner of fish and other seafood that turned out to be superb.
In the morning I took a brisk walk in the public garden, which is a haven in all seasons. Stylistically, it emphasizes the great French classic gardens inspired by Le Notre, landscape designer of Versailles and Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte in the era of Louis XIV, the Sun King.
For a midmorning tea pause, the Baillardran Cafe had been recommended to me for canneles — the little cakes for which Bordeaux is famous — and also for croissants. Once I was fit and fed, it was time to improve my mind, so I visited the Museum of Modern Art. It was easy to get around on foot since everything I wanted to do and see was centrally located within a few historic blocks, but time was flying by.
At Le Noailles, a typical Parisienne brasserie, I enjoyed a light lunch. The Musee des Beaux Arts exhibits and vast collections of art from the 17th to 20th century also were a must-see. In addition, I toured the Museum of Decorative Arts' classic furniture and decorative objects.
Afterward, grateful for the glorious weather, I strolled around the elegant Place de la Comedie, entering from the Grand Hotel and leaving from the Grand Theatre.
Dinner was at Le Chapon Fin, one of the city's best restaurants. One-star Michelin Chef Nicolas Frion is renowned for his gastronomic cuisine with regional influences from the southwest: canard confit a la creme de romarin et gelee de porto, bar aux noix de pecan, alose aux zestes d'agrumes (a sneak peek in my dictionary for agrumes revealed that it means citrus fruits), agneau de Pauillac au beurre de sauge — oh my heaven!
The following morning began with another walk along the Garonne River. Then I went shopping at Quartier Les Grands Hommes and le Triangle Bordelais, where I delved into choice boutiques carrying well-known local and international high fashion and a variety of products that ranged from food and textiles to decorations and gifts.
The shopping complex lies within the historic quarter of Bordeaux.
Of course, for clothes and virtually every sort of item, the great department store Les Galeries Lafayette displays top brands and the greatest variety of styles. At midday it was time for a pause in the hotel. What could be more French than to relax over a glass of local wine? I ordered Chateau Lynch-Bages' red, a Grand Cru Classe. That evening Bordeaux's Opera, a must on my list, fulfilled all of my expectations. The spectacle of the night at the Grand Theatre de Bordeaux in Place de la Comedie was also memorable.
Regretfully, it was time to depart this elegant city, but I looked forward to a wine-touring itinerary as I eased my Renault Clio through the traffic and took the road south to Martillac in the Graves (half an hour away) for one night in Les Sources des Caudalie, known for their outstanding grape and wine treatments in the spa. This exquisite hotel and spa overlooks a lake, and the stylish restaurant has a Michelin-starred chef. Next door, the winery Chateau Lynch-Bages offers informative tours and tasting.
Next on my itinerary lay north of Bordeaux in Pauillac in the Medoc, where I stayed in Chateau Cordeillan Bages. This charming 17th-century mansion offers cozy elegant rooms, and dining here is more than a delight. Chef Jean Luc Rochas, awarded Meilleur Ouvrier de France in 2007, studied under two-star Michelin Chef Thierry Marx, a master of his art whose innovative surprise treats (amuse-bouches) between courses entertained and refreshed diners' palates. This night's dinner included roast fillet of sea bass, root-vegetable millefeuille and aniseed butter emulsion — all washed down with Cordeillan Bages wine.
WHEN YOU GO
I stayed at the Grand Hotel Bordeaux, www.ghbordeaux.com. Other luxury hotels in the area include Chateau De Mirambeau, Hotel Chateau Grand Barrail, Relais De Margaux.
Baillardran and Le Noailles.
For museums and other activities: www.bordeaux.fr
Le Pressoir d'Argent: www.pressoir-argent.com
Chapon Fin: www.chapon-fin.com
For the Opera program: www.opera-bordeaux.com
In Martillac, Les Sources de Caudalie: www.sourcescaudalie.com
Chateau Lynch-Bages winery: www.lynchbages.com
Chateau Cordeillan-Bages in Pauillac: www.cordeillanbages.com. Here, at l'Ecole du Bordeaux, one- to five-day packages offer an immersion in wine and its culture in the Medoc, Graves and St.-Emilion.
Hotel Relais de Margaux, www.relais-margaux.fr
Patricia Woeber is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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