Secret, lost, hidden, invisible Bordeaux
On our first trip to Bordeaux last summer (Bordeaux in 4 days) we hit most of the highlights that make it to the “must-see” lists for this capital of wine. For our second visit I thought it might be fun to look for some more out-of-the-way places that don’t typically make it to a tourist’s itinerary but would still be interesting for us to see. The title of today’s post includes some of the search terms I used in compiling a lineup of sites, shops, restaurants, views, and other alluring locations for us to stop into or at least pass by. Thanks to a blog post about Invisible Bordeaux (website below) we found several links back across the Atlantic ocean.
Having grown up near Yorktown, Virginia, where the American colonists with ample aid from the French army defeated the British in the last major battle for independence, I’ve long known of the 250 year friendship between the two countries. A few years after that battle of 1781, new president George Washington appointed the country’s first overseas consul, Joseph Fenwick, who eventually took up residence in Bordeaux in what is now known as Hôtel Fenwick. A US Consulate still exists here and the front is adorned with a plaque commemorating Thomas Jefferson as a “symbol of Franco-American friendship”. During his time as an ambassador to France, Jefferson toured this country and spent several days in Bordeaux in 1787 at the former Hôtel Richelieu researching one of his favorite subjects: wine. One final stop on our USA tour: the Statue of Liberty. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, who sculpted the original that still welcomes immigrants to America’s shore, gave the city a replica that was in place from 1888 until 1941 when it disappeared under nazi rule. This new work of art that we can see today was erected in 2000.
Next I put “secret” into the mix and the first article was from a British newspaper where the author was challenged to visit the capital of wine without thinking about the”nectar of the gods”. He visited the Museum of Fine Arts along with the city’s second oldest bakery, À La Recherche du Pain Perdu although we found the city’s oldest bakery, Au Pétrin Moissagais to be even more interesting with its wood-fired oven from 1765. But then the writer lost us when he rented a car to continue his sightseeing further afield. No problem since there were many additional websites offering lots more secrets within the city. Have you seen the vintage Jaguar that looks as if it’s about to fall out of an upper story of the Victor Hugo parking garage or how about a bit of the Middle Ages that still survives as part of the 13th century city walls, called L’impasse de la Fontaine-Bouquière, along Cours Victor Hugo?
Although we had spent plenty of time at the high-tech City of Wine on our previous trip, several sites recommended the Museum of Wine in the Chatron district. Located within the former wine cellars of King Louis XV, we had ample time to view all of the exhibits prior to receiving a personalized history/geography of Bordeaux wine that included 2 tastings for the 10 euros per person entrance fee. We were lucky to find this museum open every day of the year from 10 AM to 6 PM.
Shopping anyone? If you’re looking for “hidden” streets, the recommendation was right in the general neighborhood of the Museum of Wine. This area, also known as “Notre Dame”, has a street with the same name with a variety of boutiques featuring vintage and new decorator items. A walk straight down Cours de Verdun from there leads into Place Gambetta where at number 10 the geographic center of the city was memorialized with a headstone 200 years ago.
Among 15 spots known only to the locals, or so the list’s author says residents wished, we were intrigued by the Cancan Bar (7 rue du Cerf-Volant) with its entrance described as “walking through a phone booth”, Hasnaâ Chocolats Grands Crus (rue de la Vieille Tour) run by a MasterChef finalist, and L’Estacade Restaurant (Quai des Queyries) which isn’t very hidden since it’s on the waterfront but you do get views across the river to the city. Not on that “locals list” but two restaurants we enjoyed were Le Petit Bec (rue de la Cour des Aides) and Brasserie Bordelaise (rue de Saint-Rémi) where we ran into Carcassonne chef Norbert on vacation from his own restaurant a few blocks from our house.
If hidden-in-plain-sight counts as a valid search term, then we would definitely include Le Bar à Vin, opposite the tourism office in busy Place de la Comédie, as a place to return to. They offer about 30 different wines by the glass from 2 euros to 8 euros with sliced meat and cheese platters available too, all served in an elegant, relaxed atmosphere.
Did we miss any place? Undoubtedly since I only searched English-language websites. Imagine what I’ll find for our next trip when we look instead for secret, perdu, caché, et invisible. I’m certain that we won’t be lost (perdu) for things to see and do.
Invisible Bordeaux blog http://invisiblebordeaux.blogspot.com/
Museum of Wine http://www.museeduvinbordeaux.com/