The Beauty of Bordeaux

Chestnut leaves in front of a church in Bordeaux, France

We hadn’t planned to go back to Bordeaux on this trip, but sometimes opportunity knocks, and you have to open the door.

Just hours after our plane reservations were made, a note popped up in John’s in-box. He shouted from his office to mine, ” Would you want to go to wine dinner in Bordeaux? I’m forwarding the menu to you…”

Oh, my…

Nine courses. Two prestigious wine makers. A chef who received his first Michelin star this spring – and whose cooking I already knew from experience was great. Plus, another chance to explore a beautiful old city – who in their right mind would refuse?

View from the hotel of a rainy morning

The early hours of last Friday morning found us hurtling past snow-covered fields on a fast train to Bordeaux. (Honestly, I love watching out the window and seeing the changes in the land so much that I almost never open the books I bring…) Three hours or so later, we arrived to a cold, grey drizzly day.

But does the weather really matter with a dinner like this to look forward to?

As expected, it was amazing, from hors d’oeuvre to dessert. The wines were wonderful, and the pairings unexpected and delightful. Bordeaux is most famous for its red wines, but much of its cuisine is seafood-based. Pairing the two runs counter to conventional wisdom (white with fish, red with meat), but never doubt that the locals know what they’re doing – the wine and the food were both born in the region, and go together quite naturally.

Fountain in the Place du Parliament

After a good night’s rest – it was a late one! – it was time to do some exploring. The best way to learn about a new place is usually to start at the local history museum. Even the marginal ones can give you an over-view of the history and culture of a region. The Musee d’Aquitane was far from marginal! We arrived in the early afternoon and asked the young man at the desk approximately how long it would take to tour the museum. He shrugged, and estimated an hour and a half.

Not quite.

The history of Aquitaine and the city of Bordeaux begins in Gallo-Roman times, and the museum covers pre-history up to the present. It’s a huge museum, with detailed exhibits. I wandered quite happily, learning about the people who settled the area, the architecture of the region, the rulers of the Middle Ages… Two hours later, we walked through a doorway that seemed to be the end of the line, only to discover a marble staircase leading to… the other HALF of the museum! I guess there are some people who rush through, but I can’t imagine anyone doing the whole thing in an hour and a half.

We would have to come back to finish.

Fountain Detail

Return we did, the following morning, and finished the tour of the museum.  After, we wandered aimlessly for a while, soaking in the surroundings and enjoying the sights. We had a little time to waste, but we had somewhere to be at 4pm – somewhere that we were both looking forward to…

Long Gallery, Grand Theater of Bordeaux

Ever since our first visit in the spring, I have wanted to attend a concert in the majestic Grand Theater. We had a couple of choices, but settled on a one-hour Klezmer concert. My suspicions were confirmed – it is truly a Grand theater. Four levels of balconies, gilt-trimmed seats, painted cherubs and clouds… and fabulous acoustics. The lively violin and clarinet-based Klezmer tunes warmed our spirits on a damp, chilly evening. Eternal thanks to the hotel concierge who got us the tickets!

Sunrise

The sun finally peeked out the morning we were to leave. There was time for a little shopping, and lunch, before catching the train back to Paris. So much still unexplored…

Can’t wait to go back!

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