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Bordeaux for 1 summer week! Help with itinerary?

Bordeaux for 1 summer week! Help with itinerary?

Old Apr 11th, 2017, 01:01 PM
  #1  
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Bordeaux for 1 summer week! Help with itinerary?

Hi everyone! My wife and I (early thirties) have spent some time around France but never to the Bordeaux region. We only have roughly 1 week (mid-August) but are hoping to spend it in Bordeaux and would love some advice - particularly on a "home base", places to visit, etc.

Our goal is to enjoy great food and wine, check out scenic vineyards, charming villages, and perhaps explore the city of Bordeaux itself a bit (we've heard it's lively and like a "mini Paris"). I plan on renting a car to give us some freedom to check out nearby villages - maybe even take a day trip to Dordogne area which looks gorgeous.

Is it best to stay in a hotel in the city? Or bounce around in the country side?

Any advice is appreciated!
MowgliUpAbove is offline  
Old Apr 11th, 2017, 01:12 PM
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I live in the Dordogne and visit Bordeaux often. It has become a truly wonderful city in the past few years, was named the Cultural Capital of Europe in 2015. I would stay at least 3 nights there, then spend a day or two in wine country if that appeals to you (does not to me, as the countryside around Bordeaux I find dull, but of course the wine is famous), then head out to Arcachon and Cap Ferret and visit the Dune du Pylat.

It will all be a zoo in mid-August, of course, and very hot.

I wouldn't even attempt the Dordogne on this trip. You don't have anywhere near enough time and it will be heaving with tourists.

Bordeaux is definitely not a "mini-Paris." That is a really superficial description. It is nothing like Paris, at all.

You won't need a car in Bordeaux. It will be a complete liability (traffic is nasty) , and very expensive to park.
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Old Apr 11th, 2017, 02:04 PM
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Hi StCirq - thanks for your tips. I'm surprised to hear you find the countryside dull, as I was hoping that would be the focus of our trip. Is it not beautiful?

We were assuming that exploring Bordeaux would be a bit like the Luberon in Provence, or rural Burgundy - lots of stunning villages, big and small, among scenic vineyards etc. Is it not like that?
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Old Apr 11th, 2017, 02:29 PM
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No, it's not at all like that. It's huge expanses of mostly flat vineyards and wine châteaux. You can google and see it yourself. I guess if you have nothing to compare it to (and it seems you do), it might seem idyllic, but as I said, I find it dull. I vastly prefer the small coastal and inland villages of the Bassin d'Arcachon and, obviously, the Dordogne, which is beautiful. I would also say that the Lubéron and rural Burgundy are gorgeous. You will not find that kind of loveliness outside of Bordeaux.
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Old Apr 12th, 2017, 12:55 AM
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Certainly not a mini paris, it is getting better and has a lot of shopping. St C probably knows it better than me, I'd find 3 days too much, but certainly 2 whole days would make sense.

The wine region is very large and can be expanded into Blaye, Bergerac, Montbasilac etc which are not really in the main Bordeaux wine region.

I've cycled through the area three times now plus wine toured five times of times, the land is pretty flat and can become very hot (NSSherlock ). Without knowing your particular wine interests it is hard to advise. But my thoughts;

1)The more famous chateaux need visits booked before hand, tourist info can help, so if you want that sort of Haut Medoc, go to the Pauillac tourist wine site and see what they can do for you.
2) There are less prestigious wine chateau that let you roll up and have a degustation, if you do, then buy something if you don't buy wine. There are places that charge for a visit (due to free loading tourists) but the smaller places tend to be more positive about free tastings so buying something keeps the culture for the next visitor
3) St Emilion is becoming a rip-off centre, I'd avoid.
4) Many of the other towns are of the "they shot the horse" type, especially after lunch.
5) The line of sweet wine towns following the Canal du.. (become Midi) SE nearly all have central town wine "shops" where you taste and buy, so somewhere like Cadiallac is a good place for that sort of tasting
6) Do not expect to get a tasting between 12 and 2. Lunch is important and not to be spoiled by customers.
7) I would look at Montbassilac (check spelling), still a real find to the south of Bergerac, the Chateau has a lovely view into the valley, the basic tasting they offer is fine, the park is lovely and the whole thing is a coop. Into the town is square with a lovely old house where they offer drinks and food in the garden, very gentle, seems almost like a vicarage tea party, very much the place for lunch rather than the Michelin resturant next to the town hall.
8) Going north of the Haut Medoc the land is a little strange, it used to be called the "end of the world" and sand dunes are fantastic (though smaller than the more famous ones to the south) if you want a day by the sea I'd go here
9) Across the Gironde from the tip of the peninsula is a ferry that takes you to a massive fortress (famous for a British cutting out expedition) and you are in Blaye wine region, the local shop/wine tasting place shows you waht you can do with cheap land and low prices
10) went to the Bassin d'Arcachon and it was raining, the tide was out and all a bit depressing, in high summer it might be fun as St C says.
11) Driving around takes time, the roads are not fantastic so try and stay on the larger roads as much as possible. Note that everyone else knows this as well, so check road blockages on the web.
12) Parking in Bordeau itself looks like a pig (I've never tried) but on a bike it looks messy. Public transport is good.
bilboburgler is offline  
Old Apr 12th, 2017, 01:01 AM
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Alternatively, a few years back we booked into a B&B north of Pauillac (well we booked a whole chateau) but you can book just rooms. This was "St Sipian" and got them to book us some 4th and 5th grand cru tastings, had the chateau to chill out in in the evening, got them to lay on supper, drove around back roads etc etc. So stayed out of Bordeaux completely and had a fine time (if you trail my name back to Sept/Oct 2015 or 2014 I wrote it up).

But Mid August is a busy time, you need to be booking very soon, including car hire.
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Old Apr 12th, 2017, 01:34 AM
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I am afraid we find the countryside around any large city pretty unappealing. You have the urban sprawl, light industry, autoroutes, airports. We have not been to Bordeaux itself, but it now sounds like a great city for a couple of days. We have picked up a car from the airport and headed south to the Gers region. From memory it was not especially interesting for an hour or so until we got away from the airport. Last year we visited St Emilion and the country around there was not especially attractive.
We do not stay in large cities when we are really wanting to visit the surrounding countryside. By all means stay in Bordeaux while you are visiting the city itself. I would then consider a base in a smaller place. There is a whole lot more wine in the region. We were based in the Lot et Garonne near Duras last year and really enjoyed the wines. Great sauvignons and roses for warm weather drinking. You also have the wines of Bergerac. Find out about Pecharmant wines. Monbazillac is nearby. It pairs very nicely with foie gras.
If you want to visit the Dordogne, spend a couple of nights in Bordeaux and then three or four nights in the Dordogne. It is easily reached in a day if you plan to stay. St Cirq will say this is not enough and I would agree. But it is better than a day trip which is really just a wasted day.
I do agree that you need to be booking soon.
Bon voyage.
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Old Apr 12th, 2017, 01:17 PM
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If you opt for Arcachon, as suggested by stcirq, There is indeed a lot there to keep you busy for 3 4 days. Especially mid august as it is time for fêtes de la mer (bring a yellow scarf!). The whole area Is busy with French enjoying their vacations. Just dont bring a car, traffic is awful. Take a train from Bordeaux and then it is super easy to travel around by bus, boat or local train. Bus to pyla and "ocean" coast, boat to cap ferret or to tour the bassin, train to explore the Small oyster villages.
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