There really is no wrong choice when planning a trip to France. It's a country that seems to have something for everyone within the confines of the Texas sized hexagon; from the sensual allure of Provence, to the gastronomical joys of Burgundy and the dazzle of Paris - France has it all.
Yet in-spite of its world-wide notoriety as the home to possibly the world's best wines - Bordeaux seems to have fallen off the radar screen of many Gallic itineraries.
The city itself often seems just an afterthought when scouting la carte des vins at a nice restaurant elsewhere in France. And so this world-famous name has oddly become one of France's best kept secrets. But in reality, Bordeaux is a wonder, and a very pleasant surprise for the intrepid traveler.
A City for Walking
One of the most delightful things about visiting Bordeaux is its pedestrian friendly core. Many of the major streets here are for walking only and completely free of cars.
Walking through the left bank neighborhoods, one will find old city areas with buildings many hundreds of years old as well as the more modern area from the 18th century with its magnificent Versailles style architecture. Cathedrals, museums, remnants of Roman occupation - it's all here.
And the cherry on top is without doubt the magnificent quai with the Garonne River on one side and the Place de la Borse on the other. Here you can amble for more than a mile amidst the beautifully landscaped gardens - where you're welcome to sit on the grass - and the magnificent white stone buildings which create an unbroken vista of 18th century splendor. And amazingly - you will see none of the graffiti which scars nearly every wall in Paris these days.
The Water Mirror
The crown jewell of a walk along the quai is a fountain unlike any other you have ever seen. Called the Miroir d'Eau (the water mirror), it was placed in front of the square at the Place de la Bourse with the intent of creating two plazas; and so it seems to the eye. It is one of the most spectacular things you will ever see - and it alone is worth a visit to Bordeaux. No photograph can do it justice.
Add to this an atmosphere of truly warm - and proud - hospitality, and you have a destination that will be one of the highlights of any trip to France.
A City That Makes an Effort
You can arrange a two or three day visit through the Tourism Office which includes hotel, meal discounts, guided walking tours of the city, guided tours of the wine region (both in French and English - and both excellent), free tastings at wine shops around the city, passes to several museums, complimentary tram tickets - and even a gift basket with a bottle of one of Bordeaux's finest.
And the range of prices available for the different tourist packages offered will accommodate any budget. Unlike the Office of Tourism in most cities, the one in Bordeaux is actually a beehive of activity and a key component to getting the most from a trip to the city.
All in all, Bordeaux is just a wonderful place to visit. Sophisticated, beautiful, and inexpensive - it really has it all.
Bon voyage !