I arrived home last night from an amazing trip to the south of France and it was a whirlwind nine days. Once I landed in France I hit the ground running since there was a lot I wanted to see.
I toured Bordeaux and the surrounding wine regions of Medoc and St. Émilion for three days. I then took the train to Aix-en-Provence where I spent three days taking small trips to Cassis, Avignon, and the Pont du Gard. My last stop was Nice, with a few more day trips to Eze, Monaco, and St. Paul du Vence. Words cannot describe how amazing this trip was!
I wont bombard you with vacation photos all at once, but I did want to share just a glimpse of what I experienced in Bordeaux, France. As you know I live in the California wine country where we grow and bottle our own wine. I’ve grown up around it but I wanted to experience something different and it was one of the reasons I chose Bordeaux as my first stop.
I learned so very much about how they make wine in this region of France, and they’ve been doing it centuries longer than we have. They label their wines by appellation, not by grape like we do. The growth, blending, and marketing is all very controlled. A very small percentage of their wineries (they call them chateaus) are open to the public for tastings, but since I was part of small tours, I was able to visit a few.
There are several companies that offer small 6-8 person wine country tour groups, I signed up for one on my first day. You hop in a small air conditioned van with other English speaking people from all around the world, it’s great fun. I met the nicest people from Australia, South Africa, England, Ireland, etc. I did this on several days throughout my trip and as a result made many new friends, it greatly enhanced my travel experience! I also did a few DIY excursions while in France where I just hopped on busses and trains on my own.
In Bordeaux in September, the weather was hit and miss during my stay, sometimes cloudy, sometimes sunny, it’s unpredictable! Taking small wine tours allowed me to get out into the countryside and see the flatter Medoc wine region known for their cabernet blends. I went on a day trip with Bordovino, they are located in a central spot in town and have friendly and informative guides.
On another day, I took a train to visit hilltop St. Émilion, known for their merlot and cabernet blends. It drizzled this day but I loved strolling the cobblestone streets, admiring all the architecture and charming shops.
One must indulge in cheese and wine and bread while touring in France, especially after a hike around the town.
There is a beautiful church in St. Émilion that is also worth a tour. It was difficult to photograph on a cloudy day but I loved this courtyard with all its arches.
In St. Emilion, there are a lot of wine shops in a condensed area which do offer tastings, so if you only have one day to explore a wine region outside Bordeaux, I’d highly recommend this hilltop town. It’s so easy to get to by train, simply take the tram in town to the Gare St. Jean and buy a ticket to St. Émilion. Plan on a 45 minute train ride, walk to the town (about half a mile) and spending a few hours walking around, then the train ride back, it’s a charming little day trip!
Bordeaux is famous for little cakes called cannales, they have a caramelized exterior with a custardy center, don’t miss a taste of this regional specialty!
I stayed in a small hotel in the heart of town which made it easy to get around and see everything I wanted to see on foot. Another great way to see the city of Bordeaux is on a bicycle tour, I used Bordeaux Bike Tour and Jean-Christophe was an excellent guide. It was a leisurely ride around town, with our guide pointing out all the landmarks and sharing the history of the city. I recommend a bike tour as a great way to get acclimated and capture a feel for the city so you can explore it on foot later.
After my bike tour I spent the afternoon and evening walking all around town and had dinner at the most charming café surrounded by a mix of locals and tourists. You’ll notice again the weather is unpredictable, rain showers one hour, sunny the next. Bordeaux is a beautiful city, filled with meandering streets and cafes, lovely shops, and a great evening scene with people walking all around, sharing beer or wine and dinner at all the little cafes. I loved my three days here!
In the cities of France, you know many people ride scooters and motorcycles to get around. I ride a white Vespa around my hometown so I was always on the lookout for them while in France. This one parked on the sidewalk caught my eye, such a great color!
I put together a 2 minute video to give you a flavor for the region of Bordeaux on my new YouTube channel. Watch it below!
If you’re a wine lover (or just want to tour a really cool French city) put Bordeaux on your list of places to visit!