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Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes and a Paris bonus

Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes and a Paris bonus

Oct 12th, 2019, 07:44 AM
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Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nantes and a Paris bonus

As a very long-winded poster, I will try to make this a Jack Webb approved trip report--"Just the facts, ma'am, only the facts".

Starting with the Paris Bonus:

Our long postponed return trip to Bordeaux (had not been in many years and only saw a bit of it once) and other locales in Western France set to begin September 4 was starting to look like it might be in jeopardy as Hurricane Dorian began threatening our Ft. Lauderdale take off. We sat anxiously on hurricane watch as the landfall projections spread up and down the Florida coastline and the slow moving storm hovered. Finally we tired of endlessly watching the weather channel and decided to do something about our fate. We contacted our airline to see if we could get out in front of things by leaving on an earlier flight--like 4 days earlier. We phoned the airline apparently just as they were issuing a bulletin to their staff permitting flight alterations and almost seamlessly (and best of all with no change costs whatsoever--perhaps the benefits of being a really frequent and very loyal flyer with them) moved up our departure 4 days.

The original plan was to fly into CDG and immediately hop a train to Bordeaux. So we wound up with 4 extra days which we decided to spend in Paris--and the need to find accommodations with very short notice. Another bit of good fortune landed us at the Hotel Albe which we had often thought to try in the St. Michel area where we really enjoy staying. Happy to report that it was perfectly fine, well-located (good soundproofing windows--essential in that bustling tourist area), and very reasonably priced.

With little time for the endless planning that I am otherwise guilty of, we just sort of treated the time as if we were there for a visit with an old friend and visited our favorite spots at a leisurely pace.

Some of the Peris highlights (many, of course, food-centered) were:
*Seeing the almost finished renovation of the Samaritan--apparently from department store to a multi-purpose hotel, apartment and office building. Beautiful and very classy.
*Lunch at an old favorite--Chez George--with what I have now decided will be my "death row meal"--Herring with potatoes in oil, lentil, onion
and mustard salad (I sort of combined that all and it was spectacular) and sweetbreads with monster morels in mushroom cream sauce. Another bonus: we were seated next to an expat explaining the city to a young visitor and extolling the history and virtues of the restaurant and of Paris dining in general. Agreed with every thing we overheard and couldn't resist joining the conversation to share some of our favorites as well.
*Dinner at an equally old-favorite--Chez Rene, and another at Petit Perigourdine--a fun, neighborhoody place near the Sorbonne where they now serve sides of aligot--my all time favorite potato dish with strings of the tuber mashed and whipped with cantal cheese into elastic strings that the wait staff can produce to lengths of 3 feet or more
*Walking through the grounds and building of the Petit Palace after a stroll across the Alexander the III bridge--free admission and a truly lovely building with no real crowds to have to get through or peer over.
*Going to the classy and colorful President Wilson market
*Checking out the new Russian Orthodox church along the Seine and getting better pictures of it than on a previous visit.

After a wonderful and very unexpected time in Paris, we were ready to return to CDG by a leisurely taxi ride (rather than rushing after getting off our originally planned flight) and easily hop the TGV to Bordeaux and begin our originally planned trip.

Next installment will be shorter and more to the point, I promise.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 08:29 AM
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We had only been in Bordeaux once prior to this trip. The city was at the time installing its new tram system and we stayed across the river and saw little of the city itself so this was our first real taste of it and we were very impressed. The tram system that had made it so hard for us to see much of the place before was a highlight. We stayed near one of the stops, at the Bayonne Etcha Ona that St.Cirq and others recommended, and were delighted with the tran efficiency--and the hotel. It had apparently been recently redecorated, was well located within the city and met all of our needs.

Highlights of the city for us were:
* Bacalan Market Hall, which compares favorably with another of our favorites, the Torvelhallen in Copenhagen--modern, convivial, with lots of dining but still plenty of foodstuffs to buy as well. This was particularly good because the much older Marche Capucins which my reading had suggested would be a fine old place, was a disappointment, looking down at the heel and sparsely attended. We did, however, also really enjoy the outdoor market along the river in Chartrons where we had a delightful lunch at L'Exploit across the street from the market and the bar and shopping area further up the river from the Chartrons market where on another day we had a nice lunch at Rive Gauche.
*Main sights--Bourse and the water mirror, the lovely Basilique St. Michelle and its surrounding area, Cathedrale St. Andre, Grand Theatre--all of which we enjoyed and loved the beauty of the relatively newly cleaned gold colored stone that is so often cited in tourist guides.
*A delightful dinner at Miles on rue du Cancera--recommended by Fodors Poster Maribel. For a very reasonable sum they served a 5+ course meal to the house in a stripped down, modern setting with very earnest servers. We endorse Maribel's recommendation and pass it on to all.
*Day trips to Perigueux and Arcachon--The former was a favorite from a previous trip and delighted us with a lovely market and a festival near their terrific cathedral, while the latter was new to us, recommended by Maribel and others on this board, which delighted us with its oysters and adorable seaside atmosphere. Unfortunately we did not get as much time to explore as we'd hoped and fear we did not do the latter justice.

Next La Rochelle and Nantes after a lunch break.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 08:40 AM
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Thanks for your report.
I’d like to explore more of France, did you daytrip by train?
Adelaidean is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 08:56 AM
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yes, thanks for sharing your trip so far. So nice reading your Paris tips - so lucky you managed to get such a good addition to your trip worked at at such late notice.

and thanks also for the great memories of Bordeaux that you brought back for me. A few years ago Bill and I went there for a few days at the start of a week in the area and we enjoyed it so much.

looking forward to La Rochelle and Nantes.
annhig is online now  
Oct 12th, 2019, 09:22 AM
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Julie: Thanks for sharing your trip so far. We are headed to Bordeaux next September and planning visits to La Rochelle, Brittany and Dordogne. Did you do your day trips by train? We were actually thinking of staying several days in Perigueux and are wondering if it's just as easy to visit from Bordeaux as a day trip. Also, thanks for the hotel recommendation. How was the weather during your visit?

Looking forward to the next segment..
TravelerKaren is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 09:31 AM
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​​​​How wonderful to get an unexpected stay in Paris, lucky you!

I’ve been talking of a week in and around Bordeaux since the past couple of years, looks like it won’t happen till 2021. But in the meantime I’ll wait for your subsequent installments...
geetika is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 09:48 AM
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Love that you got ahead of the hurricane issue. I could not just sit and wait for a 'cane to ruin my long awaited vacation. Well done! We still haven't been to Bordeaux...we need to get on it!
denisea is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 11:57 AM
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TravelerKaren, Julie may disagree, but I live in the Dordogne and don't consider Périgueux an easy day trip from Bordeaux (though we use trains, not car), especially if you want to see Vessuna and the othr Gallo-Roman ruins, which are a highlight, as well as the cathedral, which is astounding, and the old quarter. If I really wanted to venture out to the fringes of the Dordogne for a day from Bordeaux, though, it's not a bad choice at all. Nor is it a problem to get to Bordeaux on the train from Périgueux. There are regular trains going straight to the Gare St-Jean.

But neither would I use Périgueux as a base for several nights. It's a b..tch to get in and out of, except maybe on Sundays, and parking isn't easy or cheap. The outskirts are downright ugly, and it certainly isn't a good base for visiting the Dordogne. You could see just about everything there is to see in Périgueux in one good, well-planned day of sightseeing. It's not a pretty town except for the old quarter.
StCirq is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 12:04 PM
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Forgot to mention that weather is all over the place in this part of the world these days. We had a horrible drought this summer that lasted into September (temps 40C and above), the rain and storms, then heat and humidity, then cool and cloudy, then hot again....and so forth. You will absolutely not be able to count on any kind of weather at all, no matter what time of year you visit.
StCirq is offline  
Oct 12th, 2019, 12:05 PM
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Lovely report, as always! It's great that you were able to skirt the hurricane and enjoy an unexpected Paris stay as a bonus.

Bordeaux has become one of our favorite French cities too since its stunning revitalization. We're now using Bordeaux to begin or to end our summer stays since it's so easy to reach from Paris on the 2-hour TGV.

I'm very happy that you enjoyed your dinner at Miles and your stay at the newly renovated Etcha Ona (which we considered for last year and may consider again). We too loved the Sunday morning Chartrons market at the quai (we've stayed in the Chartrons quarter) and the Bacalan indoor market across from the Cité du Vin. It's interesting that we had the very same reaction as you to the Marché des Capucins.
Also glad that you enjoyed your day in Arcachon. As you mentioned in another thread, it would make for a lovely beach vacation spot with your grandchildren, and those oysters are sublimb!
Looking forward to your next installment as we have La Rochelle as our first stop for next summer.
Maribel is online now  
Oct 12th, 2019, 01:27 PM
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Thanks, JulieVickmanis! Nice to read that La Samaritaine is re-opening.

More please, soon!
TDudette is online now  
Oct 12th, 2019, 03:17 PM
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First to respond to some of your very kind posts:

Yes, our day trips were by train and they were easy--though the one from Bordeaux to Arcachon was so crowded that even in first class DH had to stand about half of the ride. The only exception was an ill-fated day trip by bus from La Rochelle to Ile de Re, where we were incapable of determining which stop to take and unfortunately picked the wrong one.

I concur with St. Cirq that Perigueux makes a nice day trip but would not seem likely to reward a longer stay.

Weather during our stay was perfect--not just in comparison to that we left in Ft. Lauderdale but on any scale. No more than 2 drops or so of rain during the whole time and temps from high 50's to low 70's. Sunshine and happiness throughout.

TravelerKaren, I envy your nice long upcoming trip to include Brittany and Dordogne as well as the cities we visited. Should be wonderful. I have some recommendations for hotels in La Rochelle and Nantes coming up.

So let's get to La Rochelle

It was wonderful. We'd been before but had given it short shrift on our way to Ile de Re. This time we stayed a full 4 days and loved it all.
We particularly loved the Marche, a delightful old building with frills on the outside and great food displays on the inside that spills out into the adjoining courtyard.
We also enjoyed what we could see of the beautiful Hotel de Ville that is being restored after a recent fire.
We intended to ride the giant ferris wheel with views over the city and see the Aquarium that Kerouac pictured so kindly on Any Port in a Storm but we never managed the time. We were too busy dining incredibly happily on the wonderful restaurant street just one street off the port and walking about the newly redone areas in the new port area like Quai Valin where we saw a sunset one evening that was pink and almost magenta. Just stunning.

Among the terrific restaurants one street from the harbor that we really enjoyed were the following:
L'Entracte--a Coutanceau place we liked so much we ate there twice
La Comptoir Italian
Fleur de Sel
All these places had lovely decor with a casual vibe and exceptional food at incredibly reasonably prices for what it was.
I consider this city truly a diner's delight.

I know TravelerKaren has been looking for lodging recommendations in La Rochelle, I can recommend the Mercure in the new harbor area without reservation--no pun intended. Though not big, our room was very comfortable, clean, modern and reasonably priced. We'd book there again.

We ended the trip in.Nantes where we again enjoyed great tram transport and a pleasant stay in the Mercure Centre hotel there. I got to see the wonderful and very fanciful Giant walking elephant at the Les Machines de l'Ille along with a couple of their equally fanciful merry go rounds. What fun.
We dined very well at La Loco, among the best seafood I've had--ever.

All in all, it was a delightful trip with escape from a hurricane (or actually just the torture of waiting to see if our trip woud be cancelled because of one) into the bargain.

I concur with all of the posters who provided me glowing recommendations about Bordeaux and hope like they do to return soon. Happy to answer more questions if I can.

Again, my thanks for the advice I received from so many while we were planning this trip. It helped immeasurably.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 08:02 AM
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We use the BOD Bordeaux airport pretty much exclusively now, arriving from Gatwick. It is so much easier for us than coming down from Paris and the airport is super easy to get in and out of. And the whole coast from Bordeaux to La Rochelle is really lovely-we think some of the nicest sand beaches in France.
jpie is online now  
Oct 13th, 2019, 08:45 AM
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StCirq: Thanks for your feedback on Perigueux. We were originally thinking of stopping there for 2 days on our way to the Dordogne but we may decide to stop for just one night (even though I hate 1-nighters) or make it a day trip from Bordeaux. I'm in the research stage of our trip planning so will definitely be checking back in later for feedback.
Sounds like Julie thought it was fine for a day trip but since we will be driving we may want to stop there just to break up the drive.
TravelerKaren is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 08:53 AM
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Julie: Thanks so much for your feedback to my questions and your hotel recommendation in La Rochelle.
So glad that you had good weather in France and hopefully didn't return home to any storm damage.

I've always enjoyed reading your reports and always get some great ideas from them. I'll definitely be adding your list of restaurants to our itinerary.
Sounds like we need to allow plenty of time in both Bordeaux and La Rochelle.

Where are you headed next?
TravelerKaren is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 09:03 AM
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TK, it would make much more sense to use Bergerac as your stop on the way from Bordeaux to the Dordogne. You could easily visit Périgueux as a daytrip from there or from the Dordogne once you get there. Making it a daytrip from Bordeaux if you're heading into the Dordogne doesn't make sense, as you'll just have to backtrack.
StCirq is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 09:56 AM
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Hi Julie,

Thank you, I really enjoy reading your trip report. Aligot, I must try this dish when we get to Paris later this month.

We are also happy to discover Bordeaux. It is our official rest stop between San Sebastián and Dordogne. There is so much new construction going on in Bordeaux, I hope it doesn’t lose its charm

Please continue to write your trip report, I miss the longer versions.
cafegoddess is offline  
Oct 13th, 2019, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by StCirq View Post
TK, it would make much more sense to use Bergerac as your stop on the way from Bordeaux to the Dordogne. You could easily visit Périgueux as a daytrip from there or from the Dordogne once you get there. Making it a daytrip from Bordeaux if you're heading into the Dordogne doesn't make sense, as you'll just have to backtrack.
StCirq Thanks for this suggestion.* I was just looking at a map of the area and this does seem to make the most sense.*
TravelerKaren is offline  
Oct 14th, 2019, 01:28 AM
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I’m not sure it’s worth a stop in Bergerac.

There’s a huge amount to do Bordeaux and there’s a huge amount to do in The Dordogne. I wouldn’t lose a night in Bergerac when you could spend it in either of the other two.

It’s around 100 miles between the two, the two roads north and south of the river aren’t the fastest routes in the world but it shouldn’t take more than 3 hours without a stop.

In May, I cycled the route in a lot less than a day.
BritishCaicos is online now  
Oct 14th, 2019, 02:54 AM
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I totally agree with you, BC, but the OP seemed determined (why???) to find someplace to perch between the two.

As an aside I'm still mystified why anyone would mention aligot and the Dordogne in the same breath.
StCirq is offline  

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