This trip was supported by France.fr, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and Charentes-Tourisme. As usual, our opinion remains uninfluenced by this, the article reflects our own experiences.
Bordeaux is a fascinating city: its cultural and culinary diversity, its ancient eventful history and its vibrant life make it unique. It is also a real favorite for wheelchair users. We looked at them for one day and tell you about our highlights!
It takes two and a half hours by plane from Berlin to Bordeaux airport, and even here it becomes clear that wine is the main focus. The giant wine bottles, which decorate even the newly built terminal for discount airlines like EasyJet, make you want to get to know the world-famous art of winemaking. But Bordeaux offers much more. Dive with us into a city that has captivated us from the very first minute!
Hotel Vatel**** is situated in the centre of the “Quartier des Chartrons” – a lively neighbourhood that was once the wine merchants’ quarter, near the Garonne. The quarter is certified according to the French standard “Handicap et tourisme” (similar to Travel for All), and offers us a spacious double room with a huge bathroom and high-quality equipment. A small box with canellés, an unbelievably tasty pastry typical for Bordeaux, is placed on the bed. Although the room faces the street, it is pleasantly quiet thanks to modern insulation. After a long drive from the Ile de Ré, we go to the bistro of the house and have a snack before we start to the first excursion destination.
Experience wine: The Cité du Vin
We march along the banks of the Garonne for a few metres before reaching a ferry pier. From there, the Bat3, a catamaran that has been expanding the local transport network for a number of years, crosses the Garonne one stop further, passing under the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas lift bridge to the Cité du Vin. The building, with its spectacular architecture, towers above the banks of the Garonne and soon became one of Bordeaux’s landmarks.
Inside, it houses a huge adventure museum all about viticulture. In interactive multimedia presentations as well as stations for touching and smelling, visitors learn everything about viticulture, from history, regions and wine varieties to transport routes and incisive events such as the infestation of phylloxera across large parts of the wine growing regions, which had dealt a severe blow to global viticulture.
The stay will be accompanied by two temporary art exhibitions with matching themes, and crowned by a glass of wine of your choice in the wine bar on the top floor – with a magnificent panoramic view over Bordeaux, the world capital of wine.
And if you are wondering what the unusual architecture of the building would like to say to the viewer, the best thing is to sit down calmly on the sofa with a glass of wine and wave it in the glass – that could be the answer… Can you guess?
Tip: Be sure to plan enough time! Visitors can spend many hours without getting bored. And the view over Bordeaux and in particular the former harbour district of Bacalan, which with its disused warehouses and the disused submarine bunker base has now become an entertainment mile, is worth the one or other look. Incidentally, it is thanks to a German NCO named Heinz Stahlschmidt that Bacalan still exists today: in 1944 the Wehrmacht leadership gave the order to sabotage the port facilities with a far-reaching bomb attack. Stahlschmidt went too far: several thousand lives, including countless civilians, were in danger. In August 1944, on behalf of the French Résistance, he blew up the bunker where detonators and explosives for the operation were stored and went into hiding with the Résistance. But although the German deserter saved countless lives and the neighbourhood, his merits were only honoured at a very late stage: the man who is now known in France as Henri Salmide living “Saviour of Bordeaux” was first brought into the public eye by a historian in 1998 and was discovered by the local press around the turn of the millennium, before dying in 2010 as a more or less nameless hero. It is only a few years ago that a small street near the Cité du Vin was christened “Rue Henri Salmide” in his honour.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: The City Centre
As Bordeaux has not suffered any significant war damage for the reasons mentioned above, you will find a splendid mixture of classic and classicism here. And in the meantime, the buildings are shining in new splendour, even though they once looked rather grubby with black facades. We soon find out why: we take the tram back from Bacalan via the Quartier des Chartrons alongside the banks of the Garonne to the Centre-Ville, the old town of Bordeaux. Already since our arrival we noticed the many bike-sharing stations and e-scooters, also car-sharing seems to be very popular here. When we arrive in the city centre, we find ourselves at the exit Grand Opéra on a big street that is completely traffic-calmed (as the whole Centre-Ville). Here, pedestrians share the extensive Cours de l’Intendance, the promenade with boutiques of expensive designers, only with cyclists and trams. Until a few years ago, motorised road traffic still flowed here, and the facades were black from exhaust fumes and soot. After far-reaching measures towards a car-free city centre, the plastered facades have now been preserved in their original colour. Our city guide also explains to us that the cobblestone pavement has been flattened, which is (not only, but especially) a dream for wheelchair users: The historical substance has been preserved, but made much easier to walk on!
Candy: Paradise for sweet tooth
Already on our little road trip through Charente-Maritime we tried to describe how culinary diverse and also sugary-sweet the region is. Bordeaux is no less than that. World-class chocolatiers and patissiers are based here, and the canellés already mentioned above are practically the signature pastry of Bordeaux: small, little cakes in the shape of little gugelhupfs, made of a light and fluffy dough with some rum and baked in a copper mould so that they caramelise. They look inconspicuous, but can degenerate into a real explosion of taste (and bring a felt million calories in your luggage!)
Culinary delights are already available on the street corner at the Grand Theatre: Maison Georges Larnicol MOF Biscuiterie Chocolaterie supplies the Macarons eagerly awaited by Timo’s goddaughter, along with other sweet little treats. In the Rue des Remparts and on the way there, those with a sweet tooth will get their money’s worth: Born in Morocco, Hasnaâ Ferreira only completed her training as a chocolatière in 2012 and was awarded numerous international prizes for her creations, some of which are outlandish, just a few years later. A downer: unfortunately, her shop in the Rue de la Vielle Tour has two steps at the entrance. Who can, but still should not miss it!
A few steps further, visitors reach the Rue des Remparts, a small old town street full of shops with a mixture of art and culinary delights. Besides galleries, there are small boutiques, bars, cafés and a small shop called “Noisettines du medoc” – a confectionery where everything is about nuts. Those who are still not fed up with sweets will simply follow the Rue des Remparts and saunter through the many small shops in order to end up at the Place Pey-Berland. Here is the town hall opposite the cathedral Saint-André.
Cathedrale Saint-André de Bordeaux
The imposing cathedral on Place Pey-Berland presents itself from the Rue des Remparts from its ornate north side with the main gate and the King’s Gate, which has only recently been re-opened. It was not used for over a hundred years and was finally nailed up. In the meantime, the portal with its sculptures of bishops and the resurrection of Christ and the door itself have been restored. Due to its long construction period from the 12th to the 15th century it presents itself in different styles: While older parts of the cathedral, especially the outer walls, were still built in Romanesque style, the portals and towers were built in Gothic.
The cathedral is part of the Pilgrim’s Way to Santiago and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, and even past centuries have left little trace of it. The interior of the cathedral is almost youthful compared to the exterior, as in the course of the French Revolution, the cathedral was gutted to avenge the clergy and then used as a barn.
Palais de Rohan: The town hall
The town hall is right next to the cathedral Saint-André. This is no coincidence, as it was built in the 18th century as a palace for the archbishopric. Today the Palais de Rohan houses both the Bordeaux City Hall, the “Hotel de Ville”, and an art museum.
Kino Utopia: Independent cinema
In the old town of Bordeaux, only a few hundred metres from the Place Pey-Berland, the Utopia cinema is located in a former church. Here it’s getting cosmopolitan (in fact, it reflects the cosmopolitan flair that lies over the whole city): Predominantly selected independent films are shown here in their original language with subtitles, currently for example a whole series of German productions like “Systemsprenger“. A total of five projection rooms are located in the former Saint-Siméon church, which is also a meeting place for directors and artists. A real tip for bad weather days!
Urban gardening: Jardin Vinet
In a small side street around the corner you will find a unique representative of the genre “urban gardens”: Over a length of more than 100 metres, vertical gardens were laid out here, the space in between became a meeting place for families whose children can romp around in the large playground. This square also shows how much Bordeaux is on its way away from the grubby image of the eighties to a cosmopolitan and liveable city.
Rue du Pas Saint-Georges
Here you can feel the vibrant life of the city. The small alley leading to Place de la Bourse on the banks of the Garonne is full of small independent shops, cafés and other establishments, a romping place for the young and the young at heart.
Place du Parlament
This beautiful square on the Rue du Pas Saint-Georges radiates Mediterranean flair, surrounded by cafés and restaurants in Italian ambience. A fountain adorns the middle of the square, which offers a welcome cool-down in high temperatures and the often stagnant air. It virtually forms the heart of the historic old town.
Place de la Bourse
The magnificent square of Bordeaux, the Place de la Bourse, lies directly on the banks of the Garonne. By building the square, Bordeaux demonstrated its wealth, which was originally based on trade in goods and slaves. Today, the glamorous palaces include the Customs Museum and the Chamber of Commerce, and an impressive fountain is also the centre of the square.
Miroir d’Eau – the water mirror
Directly at the Place de la Bourse, on the banks of the Garonne, you will find the water mirror. Together with the Place de la Bourse and the famous Pont de Pierre in the background, it forms a kind of stage for free-minded people, artists and tourists. It also seems to be a meeting spot for fresh couples for a rendezvous. Especially in the evening hours it is a fantastic backdrop and invites you to stroll and linger!
Dinner with Gordon Ramsay: The Brasserie Le Bordeaux
The most upscale hotel in the city is the traditional Hotel Intercontinental opposite the Grand Opéra. It is home to two restaurants under the flag of British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay: the star restaurant “Le pressoir d’Argent“, but also the brasserie “Le Bordeaux“, which comes with somewhat more moderate prices, but not inferior quality. Wheelchair access is around the corner, and service personnel are always ready to help with access using the mobile ramp. Here we end our last evening before returning with oysters, pasta and ile flottante or cheese plate. All of course from regional first-class ingredients and not without the odd glass of Bordeaux!
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