Bordeaux is the only city in Europe I have visited three times; technically not a single time was of my choosing, but each time made me fall in love with it even more. The first visit was a fleeting one, just a couple of hours while we changed trains from Toulouse to San Sebastian and after which we vowed to return. I left a certain someone behind on the second visit, running off to spend the weekend with my girlfriends indulging in too much good wine and great gossip. And finally, the most romantic visit of all was enroute to a beautiful wedding just outside of the city. Three strikes Bordeaux, and you are still very much not out…
Dare I say, Bordeaux is almost the perfect weekend package – it has enough showstopper sights and attractions within the city to keep you interested while also being the perfect base for exploring the wine regions of Saint Emilion and the Médoc. I find the muted tones of the city chic and alluring, I can pass a couple of hours window-shopping both high-end stores and pretty boutiques, and in between all that, I eat and drink. A lot. I may have always ended up in Bordeaux quite by chance but where to spend my precious meal times is something I try not to leave to random selection.
What happens when you combine a Kiwi bloke, a van, and a thirst for wine? A potentially dangerous situation not to be tried at home, or also perhaps the beginning of a very bad joke? In this case, it’s neither. Phew. Instead, pop those three things in France and you get the creation of Rustic Vines, a company running wine tours in Bordeaux. A Kiwi running a tour about French wines in France? Now that sounds a little risky, but clearly the candid Kiwi charm (yes, I’m a little biased) has won people over as it’s the most popular tour in town!
It may have started with a man and a van, but these days Rustic Vines now has a team of five guides who run tours around the surrounding wine regions and bike tours around Bordeaux city itself. On our recent girls getaway, we decided to forgo the bikes and head straight for the wine which pleased me immensely… not only would I not get very far on two wheels, but when given a choice, wine always wins.
Long before I acquired a certain someone as my regular dining and travel buddy, I had some other partners in crime. Throughout my high school and university days, I was mostly a single lady and I did what other footloose and fancy free ladies did… hit the town with my girls! Back then, the travel destinations were not as extensive or exotic but there were still plenty of road trips, beach holidays, shopping days, and always lots of eating and drinking along the way. We laughed, we cried, we did things we would never ever do now… but it was always fun.
I still see many of these ladies regularly (by London standards anyway)… a few I have known since the tender age of 11, some since university, and others I’ve met more recently; but all I’m happy to call my friends. As everyone’s work lives and social schedules get busier and busier, it gets harder and harder to fit in quality girl time so I was super excited when a group of us booked in a weekend away to Bordeaux; no boys allowed, this was a girls only weekend!
We left a chilly London with high hopes of being embraced by the warmth of southern France in Aix-en-Provence, but what we were actually greeted with could not have been further from this fantasy. Our first glimpse of Aix was a wet one; a rare day for the usually perpetually sunny university hub but once the downpour cleared, the town of pretty streets and endless fountains did not disappoint. Widely known as the home of Cezanne, it draws a lot of tourists for this alone, but even if you’re not an art buff, there’s still plenty to keep you occupied during a weekend getaway…