4th Aug 2012 2:07pm | By Laura Chubb
Bordeaux is the world’s wine capital, producing around 960 million bottles a year and home to the most renowned, top-end chateaus.
10:00 Start the day getting oriented at Esplanade des Quinconces, one of the country’s largest public squares. Dating back to 1820, its most impressive feature is the Girondins monument, a 50m-high column with an elaborate fountain at the base – statues sculpted from 52 tonnes of bronze form the centrepiece.
The monument commemorates the Girondins, a moderate political faction during the French Revolution, a number of whom were sent to the guillotine in 1793.
11:00 Keep the pace at ‘saunter’ and check out Rue Sainte-Catherine. The 1.2km-long pedestrianised street is the main shopping thoroughfare in Bordeaux and is lined with photo-worthy historical buildings from across the centuries. Makes for perfect ‘soak up the scenery’ fodder.
12:00 It’s midday, so we reckon you’re allowed a glass of wine. Aim for Bar a Vin – which, if you can’t hang on until noon, opens at 11am – where you’ll find Bordeaux’s most reasonably priced tipples. A glass of something from the extensive wine list costs as little as £1.60 for 15cl. A great place to sample a selection of vinos.
13:00 Time to sample the other thing the French do exceptionally well – food. Cassolette is a cosy bolthole with stone walls and table football, serving up classic French country house fare (think duck confit and casseroles). Try the ‘express’ daily menu, which offers two courses for £8.50.
14:00 Wine tours in Bordeaux tend to be pricey affairs, but you can find half-day trips for semi-decent prices if you do some digging. Ophorus offers minibus tours with tastings from about £50, starting at 2pm and ending at 6.30pm. Book at least 48 hours in advance.
19:00 Back in the city, you’ll no doubt have worked up an appetite slugging back all that plonk. Locals love L’Entrecôte (4 Cours du 30 Juillet, tel. 05 56 81 76 10), where there’s always a line out the door. The restaurant only has one expertly done dish on the menu: steak and chips, at about £13.
21:00 If you fancy making some mates, kick off a night on the town at The Down Under (104 Cours Aristide Briand, tel. 05 56 94 52 48). This Antipodean bar is a friendly place with a party vibe, sports on TV and themed fancy dress nights. You’ll feel right at home.
22:30 Then, mix with the locals at Cafe Pop (1 R Kleber Place de la Victoire, tel. 05 56 94 39 06), where revellers dance to the latest cool French tunes until 2am.
If you fancy something a bit more rough and ready, head over to Connemara, a raucous Irish bar that stays open late. Also hosts quiz nights, karaoke and wine tastings.
10:00 Battle the hangover with the free continental breakfast (and limitless coffee) offered when you stay at leafy B&B Jardin du Sequoia (87 rue Saint Genès; beds from £27pn).
Now that you can face the thought of vino again, try what is surely Bordeaux’s most decadent experience and bathe (yes, bathe) in red wine at Spa de Vinothérapie Caudalie (from £50).
13:00 Head to Marche Des Capucins (Place Capuchin) to pick up some picnic essentials. This busy market has stalls offering up everything from meats and cheeses to wine, olives and oysters.
Then lug your haul to Jardin Botanique (Cours de Verdun), Bordeaux’s verdant botanical gardens, for a sophisticated afternoon of quaffing and scoffing.
15:00 If you can move, spend the afternoon ticking off some landmarks.There’s the Cathédrale Saint-André (Place Pey Berland; admission about £4), a beautifully carved church built in the 13th and 14th centuries, and CAPC Musée d’Art Contemporain, housing modern art in what was once a warehouse for storing colonial spoils, such as coffee and cocoa.
18:00 It’s your last chance to gorge on gourmet French fare. Baud et Millet (mains from £12.50) stocks more than 100 cheeses that are used in various inventive cheese-centric dishes, and even challenges the most hardened fromage fanatic with an inevitably queasy, cheesy all-you-can-eat buffet.
20:30 Anyone looking to inconvenience their digestive system further should bid farewell to Bordeaux in Cafe Brun, a cosy, low-key bar with a massive selection of Belgian brews and whiskies. Now go home and hit the gym.
Direct flights from London Luton to Bordeaux start at £71 with easyJet
More info at bordeaux-tourisme.com
Photos: Eric Nathan / TNT, Thinkstock, Getty