Some wine regions are anchored by a namesake city or town—Barbaresco, Villány, Sonoma, Casablanca, Clare, and Stellenbosch. There are even more named after a natural element—Finger Lakes, Margaret River, Ribera del Duero, Loire, Hawke’s Bay, and Black Sea—or an administrative or historical connection—Burgundy, Chianti, Dalmatia, Pfalz, Priorat, and Ningxia.
For those with a namesake, the wine region often overshadows the city or town itself. Tourists may explore the region, but not stay in or even visit the anchor place.
I can’t speak to all namesakes, but in the case of Bordeaux, this would be a shame.
Initially when planning a trip to the Bordeaux wine region with friends, we were solely focused on staying amidst the vineyards. We didn’t want to drive far—or, frankly, drive at all—to the daily wine tastings we anticipated. I mentioned this to a French friend, and she urged me to visit the city of Bordeaux. It’s one of her favorite French cities.
I’m glad I listened to her.
My friends couldn’t fit the city into their schedule, but I planned two nights in Bordeaux. With a population of almost 250,000, Bordeaux is big enough to offer many interesting sights and activities, but small enough to feel manageable and even intimate in parts. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and yet has some real grit to it. There’s a nice yin-yang feel to the city.
The thing you absolutely must see and do is the Miroir d’Eau at night. The water mirror was built in 2006, but has already become an emblem of the city and provides a striking reflection of the 18th century buildings framing the Place de la Bourse.
You can find more of elegant Bordeaux on the Place de la Comédie, with the Le Grand Théâtre and Le Grand Hôtel.
Throughout the city, you can find all kinds of cultural, historical, and even random, fun sights, such as Port Cailhau, the former royal entrance to the city; Grosse Cloche, the 18th century bell only rung 6 times a year for major celebrations; and a twisted column on the Place de la Victoire that tells of the myths and history of wine from ancient times to today…with a momma and baby turtle “walking” by.
A recent addition is La Cité du Vin. That’s a separate post.
When you hear Bordeaux, you probably think of the wine region or the wine. But don’t overlook the city itself. In fact, give all namesakes a chance. If Bordeaux is any indication, they deserve it.