Travel/Food 2018 – French Road Trip, Day 12, Bordeaux

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Wednesday, May 16th – Day 12, Bordeaux

After completing our wine tour, we had time to kill before the departure of the dinner cruise. Our first stop was Baillardran, for an iced coffee each and the inevitable canele. After all that wine tasting, caffeine seemed like a very good idea.

At the same time I was ideally sited to scoot next door to the Tourist Information office and book our free tour for the following morning, using the City Passes (you get a choice of an open-topped bus tour, a walking tour or a tourist train tour). We went for the tourist train this time.

After that we pottered along to the Place de la Bourse, wanting to take a proper look at the fabulous and fun Miroir d’Eau, which is only a decade or so old but is one of the quintessential tourist sites in Bordeaux. It alternates between being utterly still, and thus providing the mirror effect you’d expect given the name:

And every so often jets of mist are propelled up from the pavement, which tempts people to walk through it, snapping selfies or trying to get the perfect shot of the buildings on the Place de la Bourse apparently floating on a sea of mist. It’s a massive draw for adults as much as children.

We strolled back through Quinconces, which got its name because the trees there are planted in groups of five, to the wine bar opposite the Tourist Information office and settled in to have a couple of pre-dinner drinks.

The Bar à Vin is rather spectacular on the inside, and is part of the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux, the headquarters of the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bordeaux (Bordeaux Wine Council). The building is 18th century building, and was formerly the Hôtel Gobineau. It includes a variety of spectacular art including two stained glass windows by Rene Buthaud, which I am told represent Apollo standing triumphant among Bordeaux grape harvesters, and an allegory of the Garonne.

The place offers a large number of wines by the glass so we were able to sample a couple of different styles, and that occupied our time quite happily before it was time to head for the boat.

We met up with E and W at the quay, and swapped stories about our days. There was a bit of a queue to get on the boat, but that was soon done with, and we were shown to our table, and offered a gin fizz aperitif.

We were told the menu for the evening, and got hold of the wine list. Some little savoury cakes were put in front of us and we tucked into those and some decent bread while we studied the wines.

We chose a white for the starters, a Blaye white, a 2017 Chateau Grand Renard Sauvignon, that was crisp and fresh and very quaffable.

By then the boat was starting to move up river, the setting sun providing dramatic vistas of the old town as we turned around.

We were soon alongside the rather melodramatic grain silo (the only one still standing), which looks more as if it has designs to be a monastery or a grand hotel or something than a utilitarian building for storing wheat. They really don’t build them like that anymore.

The food on the cruise was OK, so much so that I didn’t take a photo of the starter, which was a fish terrine. The main was a squid stew, with vegetables, and rice cooked with squid ink. It was perfectly fine, perfectly edible, but it won’t be winning any awards any time soon. Anyway we were far more interested in what we could see outside the boat. It’s fair to say that once you get away from the main port de la lune curve of the river then it’s dockyards, both used and disused, and container yards, so it’s not necessarily pretty, though it is fascinating to anyone who likes industrial and post-industrial landscapes.

We watched all this and more pass by, including the very high road bridge, while we finished off our wine, a 2010 Chateau la Grave Figeac ordered with much more confidence after our Pomerol and Saint Emilion trip. And very good it was too!

By 23:00 we were back on dry land, and so a walk to the tram stop provided our final piece of sightseeing for the day. The curve of the river looked especially lovely all lit up, and there’s a convenient rail with a wooden top piece to use as an impromptu tripod for your camera to make sure you can eliminate camera shake and get a good shot!

Oh, and even though they turn the water off and drain the Miroir at night, the Place de la Bourse still looked fantastic all illuminated. Bordeaux really is a lovely city.

We caught a tram back to the park and ride car park where we’d left the car in the morning, and didn’t have to pay because it was all included in our city passes, which was pleasing. The trams worked very efficiently even at that time of night and we were back at base camp a little after midnight.

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