After exploring Bayonne, Espelette and the biggest sand dune in Europe, our next little outing was to the beautiful city of Bordeaux! In 2008 I had lived in Bordeaux for about a month or so and I sort of got to know my way around. I just had to go back to this charming French city even though our campsite was about two hours to the south, in Dax.
Getting to Bordeaux
This was on the day that we were in Arcachon and stopped at the Dune du Pilat. We would have had to drive a little north to get to Bordeaux. To avoid parking stress in the city, we parked at a station for free in Gazinet-Cestas and caught a train to Gare Saint-Jean (€3,50 for a one-way ticket).
We found excellent kebaps for lunch right near the Basillica of Saint Michael (map) and ate in a square where we fed sparrows crumbs from our hands. You could also get a bite from PAUL’s or tuck into a local delicacy like cannelé from Baillardran. There are great food options all over the city.
Take a Riverside Stroll
Cities on rivers have such a lovely open and free feeling at the water’s edge that contrasts well with the narrow, tight streets in the centre. Bordeaux’s recreational area on the Garonne is one that I’m sure many cities envy. There are sports fields, roller-balding spaces, a promenade, skate park and fun features such as the Le miroir d’eau opposite La Bourse.
Ruins & Green Spaces
To me, grey stone and white shutters characterise Bordeaux with a sprinkling of ancient ruins; like the second century Roman ruins, Palais Gallien, and the little stone circle in the Jardin Publique. Upmarket shopfronts contrast with the feeling of history. Copper lamps hang over the streets on thin wires and the tramway is green with grass. Bordeaux is indeed a tree-friendly city with parks and gardens that usually include ponds, colourful flower beds and a space for kids; ideal for many a pique-nique. Then again, it seems that France does tend to put gardening and flowers at the top of its to-do list.
See the Sites with a Guided Walk
I put together a walk through the west and center of Bordeaux for you on Google Maps. You can follow it from the station over here. Bordeaux is quite a big city but its has some good landmarks that you can use to orientate yourself without getting too lost like the Cathedral (be careful, there’s more than one!) and the river. Here are the sites I put together for your little 8km city stroll.
- Bordeaux Station, Gare St Jean, is quite a pretty station in it’s own right
- PAUL is a French bakery franchise that was established back in 1889
- Basilica of St. Michael is a gothic style church built in about the 15th century
- Canelés Baillardran is a great place to choose a gourmet canelé cake from the region
- Porte Cailhau used to be the main gate to the city and was built in 1495
- Le Miroir d’eau at Place de la Bourse is really beautiful at sunset
- Place des Quinconces is the biggest square in France
- Palais Gallien is what remains of the massive Roman amphitheatre today
- Le Jardin Public is the perfect spot to relax with tranquil greens
- Bordeaux Cathedral is one of the main attractions and really worth stopping to see