“Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux” was Victor Hugo’s description of the city, impressed as he was by its 18th century grandeur.
I’d always thought of Bordeaux as grimey, sleazy and unsafe. Perhaps an unfounded reputation, or at least an old one.
The city has been going through a concentrated effort to clean-up; the buildings in the old town were once blackened from pollution, the ochre stonework is now being returned to its original brilliance.
The first glimpse of the old city is as you cross the Ponte de Pierre. Looking to the Port of the Moon, a majestic ensemble of opulent french architecture sweeping along the river front.
Claimed a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007, Bordeaux is enjoying a renaissance. It is a quasi-Paris; there are wide boulevards with magnificent Parisienne style buildings, a towering cathederal and a scattering of churches.
Head deeper into the old town where cobblestone streets narrow and the buildings lean, the city is full of character and life. We loved it so much, we stretched our two night stay to three.
We’ve lucked out with AirBnB accommodation in the old town pedestrian quarter. Penny has also joined us for one night.
After being in the countryside for three weeks, we missed the pace of a city and enjoyed wandering through the old streets discovering out of the way bistros and bars.
However, the main reason for adding Bordeaux to our tour was to dine at Le Gabriel, a Michelin star restaurant. Don received the dinner as a farewell gift from Keystone, his former employer.
Lucky for me, the dinner was for two and I got a gurnsey! I might point out that our vacation may have abruptly ended if I hadn’t!
Le Gabriel is located in a beautiful 18th century building, at the Place de la Bourse. We are dining on the second floor and are shown to the best table in the room, overlooking the square below with views across the river.
The sun is setting as we sip our champagne and toast a thankyou to Keystone!
We are indulging in the 8 course degustation with matching wines. The evening is an exceptional culinary journey, under the direction of chef François Adamski. An experience of elegance and excellence, combining classic with inventive cuisine to create authentic flavors of the highest quality. Please note, some plagiarism from the website may have occurred in this paragraph.
The menu had a summer theme with a heavy seafood accent, which included langoustines, fish, caviar and duck. The only red meat was a superbly cooked rack of lamb. The wine selection was predominately white to match the seafood.
We are not unaccustomed to dining well. However, when you are traveling for a year, it’s a luxury we don’t indulge in too often. We’ve had some amazing meals on our trip, but this was by far the only five star experience. The food was superb, the service faultless and the venue, authentic French.
Bordeaux almost met with a devastating fate in 1944. Under German occupation, but with the realisation that this wouldn’t be for much longer, Hitler ordered for its destruction.
German demolition expert, Heinz Stahlschmidt, could not bring himself to wantonly destroy such a beautiful city, when the war was clearly lost. Instead, he disobeyed his orders; destroying the ammuniation storage sites instead, saving the city and thousands of lives.
A traitor to Germany, the French granted Stahlschmidt asylum and he lived out his life in Bordeaux. Recognised by the French as a hero in 2000, he died at the age of 91 in 2010.
Bordeaux as a city, was a delightful surprise. The best surprise was at the end of our stay when we went to pay the €49.50 for parking, our credit card wasn’t accepted. Just as I was about to pull €50 out, the attendant simply told us he would let us out for free – bonus!!