Before there was Paris, there was Bordeaux.

Baron Haussmann, a long time prefect of Bordeaux is the very same Haussmann behind the ambitious and successful redesign of Paris most probably because he had lots of practice in Bordeaux.

Posted by Jennie

Arriving in genteel Bordeaux after a week in gritty Lisbon took a bit of getting used to. No more graffiti, no more underdressed tourists, no more raucous behaviour on the streets. Bordeaux is a major French city after all and elegance and refinement come with the territory.

B Easyjet
Our plane from Lisbon to Bordeaux. Book early, pay extra for seats on the first row and Easy Jet won’t feel too much like a budget airline.
Elegance and refinement in the wine city.

With its wide tree lined avenues, sprawling parks and distinctly French Renaissance architecture of lavishly cut stone, Bordeaux is every bit as attractive as Paris, but life  here moves at a slower pace. There’s hardly any traffic and locals certainly take advantage of the beautiful outdoors.

The relaxed atmosphere is felt everywhere

At all times of the day but most especially in the late afternoon, you’ll see people congregating at the Miroir d’eau or Water Mirror. It is the world’s largest reflecting pool, covering a massive 3,450 square metres. During the summer months, you won’t be able to resist taking your shoes off and joining the rest of the festive crowd. As you frolic in the water and mist, you’ll have the elegant Place de la Bourse behind you and the sparkling Garonne River in front of you.

Miroir d’eau or Water Mirror

For more of the outdoors, there are numerous parks. The park the was in front of our Airbnb was the beautiful Jardin Public along Cours de Verdun. It is a 14 hectare oasis of greenery built around a central pond. This is where we would head to in the afternoons with a blanket, picnic basket and a book. This seemed to be a popular activity as the park grounds would fill up with couples, families, dogs, groups of friends leisurely enjoying an  afternoon at the park on a weekday.

Jardin Public. Bring a book, a blanket and a bottle of wine.

On choosing an apartment.

Our Bordeaux apartment is one of my favourite rentals of all time. This wasn’t our first choice though. My first choice was an apartment along the main shopping street, Rue Sainte-Catherine. I chose it specifically for its location. However it was on the small side and I realised it would be a squeeze for our family of 4 that likes space. So despite the service fee, I cancelled it and it’s a good thing I did.

The apartment we ended up booking (see photo below) although not as central turned out to have a better location. Which made me realise that being central is not always an advantage. Rue Sainte-Catherine, the location of our 1st choice, although on the main pedestrian street was a bit too busy during the day and at night, deserted. It was also where the homeless took refuge after hours.

It’s always tricky choosing a location so do your research, such as reading blogs like this.

Our huge apartment. 3 flights up and no elevator but still worth it.

The best streets in Bordeaux.

There are many beautiful streets in Bordeaux, but the one I found most charming was Rue Notre Dame, a narrow street lined with quaint galleries, boutiques and little cafes with ivy clinging on the walls and flowers in bloom everywhere. I would skip Rue Sainte-Catherine with its big chain stores and spend more time here lingering in small, unique stores.

Notre Dame
If I were to return to Bordeaux, I would stay on this street, Rue Notre Dame
“Sanna” by Catalan artist and sculptor Jaume Plensa can be seen at the Place de la Comedie
Bordeaux by night

Bordeaux is 3 hours from Paris by train.

Wine museum
The newly opened La Cite du Vin.