After our bad experience in Paris I was feeling a little bit
of French-fatigue. Never-the-less, one last attempt couldn’t do any harm. So,
we flew to La Rochelle with a cheap and cheerful flight and landed in their
little tin-can like airport and snapped up a rental car. The 2 hour drive south
to Bordeaux was pleasant and comfortable (that said I wasn’t driving). If I
could get the bad stuff out of the way, we were met by a very unstable weather
forecast, quickly moving from rain to blistering heat. I was drenched with rain
and managed to get sunburnt in the same weekend. That complaint was the only
one I had. Bordeaux, completely redeemed France for me in just 2 short days.
We arrived in the city to be met with bright floral baskets
and vibrant architecture. Expensive cruise ships adorned the port along a
plethora of restaurants serving seafood al fresco. We only had one day to
explore the city, so we rambled along taking in the sights of gothic churches
and expensive designer shops. It was cold and raining so we had had to stop a
number of times to take shelter in the pub (Of course). However the city was
quite compact and we managed to cover a lot of ground in one day.
We walked out to Place de la Bourse which was one of the
coolest sights in Bordeaux. Built in the 1700’s it’s symmetry lends perfectly
to the effect of the Miroir d’eau (or water Mirror) that was placed in front of
it in 2006. I was really intrigued by this, the World’s largest reflecting
pool, as the 2cm of water drains every
15 minutes in Summer allowing you to wander in and see your own reflection.
We wandered around taking in the other main sights including
the Column of the Girondins, and a stroll down the shopping street of Rue
We began to wind up our day by stopping for a bite to eat in
one of the many restaurants facing the port and of course had the mandatory icecream.
I went for the lavender ice cream which was sweet smelling and above all, so
We returned to the Place de la Bourse at night, to see the spectacular
reflection of light in the water. I was completely fascinated by the
engineering of the water mirror and the beauty of the buildings and felt it was
a perfect example of how to blend two elements built 300 years apart.
On Sunday we woke early, ready for a completely jam-packed
day. It helped that the sun was splitting the stones so a little summer dress
and sandals were the order of the day. Just the day before I had been covered
up in jeans and a coat, so sunshine was a novelty. We set out to visit the seaside
town of Arcachon an hours’ drive from Bordeaux. As we arrived into the city,
we were immediately met with that French seaside feel as we wandered in along Sunday
markets down towards the beach. It was reasonably quiet and we took a leisurely
stroll out towards the beach.
In the distance you could just about make out
what we had come here for, the small outline of Europe’s biggest sand dune.
Dune du Pyla (or the dune of Pilat) measures 2.7km in length
and sits 110 meters in height above sea level. It is one of the most popular
tourist attractions at la Teste de Buche beach. Visitors can climb to the top
of the sand dune to witness the incredible views from the top. There are two
ways of climbing, one being the conveniently placed steps right up the centre
of the dune, or, if you are really brave, you can climb up the side of the dune
in the sand. I decided that using the steps was cheating, and so made the
decision to battle up through the sand. This is a lot easier said, than done,
since each step forward results in a gentle slide back down the sand. I would
liken the experience to walking up a downward moving escalator…. in a sauna.
However, the satisfaction of eventually making it, combined with the sweet
views from above made it worth all of the effort.
The second stop on our road trip today was the famous wine
producing town of St Émilion. We drove an hour and a half back past Bordeaux
until the views suddenly changed and the atmosphere slowed down. Suddenly we
were there in the picturesque, stereotypical wine country. Bountiful vineyards
and vast chateaux surrounded us. We parked up and walked up the cobbled streets
past rustic stores selling wine and cheese.
The village was romantic and full
of charm. It was well into the afternoon and we arrived just in time to climb
up the king’s tower for a breath taking view of the UNESCO town and surrounding
Following this we rambled up towards the monolithic church
as we were offered wine to taste at every turn. Prices of wine ranged from €6
to €60,000 so there was certainly something for every budget. At the top of the
town we stopped to have dinner and I indulged in a lovely glass of Sauvignon
Blanc. When in St Émilion eh?
This topped off a fantastic weekend and I can honestly say
that I could definitely have stayed for more. The Bordeaux region certainly
redeemed itself and I think I can give France another try again.