Luxury travel to Bordeaux
The car whizzes down the road, winding in and out as the road follows the gentle curves of the river. You catch glimpses here and there of thickets, the river, picturesque villages and beautiful stone bridges spanning the water with graceful arches.
The road leaves the river to climb a hill. As you pass the crest, you marvel at the breathtaking sight:
miles and miles of precious vines, all leading to the beautiful chateau in the distance.
This is your destination, where one of the best wines in the world is produced.
5 things you don’t know
When you think of Bordeaux, right away you think of wine—really good red wine. Interestingly, though, Bordeaux started producing red wines only in the 1970s. Currently, the 287,000 acres of vineyards produce 960 million bottles of wine—red and white—each year. Yet Bordeaux is far more than wine country. Here are a few facts that you might not know about the region:
The region’s history is quite international. Bordeaux was British for almost 300 years, beginning when Eleanor of Aquitaine’s husband, Henry Plantagenet, became king of England.
Chateaux Lafitte, Latour and Margaux exist today thanks to the Dutch. In the mid 1600s, the Dutch drained marshlands in the Médoc, making the land arable.
If you think they’ve been making wine in the Bordeaux region forever, you’re right—almost. Wine-making here dates back to the 4th century A.D. as mentioned by the Latin poet Ausonius (310 – 393 A.D.)
The largest sub-region in Bordeaux is “Entre Deux Mers”, literally between two seas but actually between the Dordogne and Garonne rivers. Some excellent white wines are produced here.
The rue Saint Catherine is the longest shopping strip in Europe, a full 1.2 kilometers long. It’s home to high-end shops, cafes, and plenty of shopping centers.
Bordeaux travel guide
Where you stay is so important to the enjoyment of your luxury holiday that Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) pays special attention when selecting your hotels, choosing those which are particularly sumptuous.
South of Bordeaux in Martillac, Les Sources de Caudalie is located in a breathtaking setting, amidst the vineyards of a 600-year-old winery. The five star hotel offers a 2-Michelin star restaurant, La Grand’Vigne, along with a wine bar and delicatessen. The spa has unique vinotherapy treatments based on recent scientific discoveries of the benefits of grapes and grape vines. Natural hot spring water, drawn 540 meters below Les Sources de Caudalie, is used in the treatments as well.
In the center of Bordeaux, La Grande Maison de Bernard Magrez offers charm, elegance and refinement in its luxurious rooms, decorated with the works of France’s best master craftsmen: upholstery by Braquenié, trimmings by Houlès, furniture from Moissonnier, and beauty products from Guérlain. The hotel restaurant showcases local culture and culinary traditions. The wine list alone is worth seeing—259 different wines are included.
Also located in Bordeaux’ historic center, the Hôtel le Palais Gallien combines contemporary design with the architectural prestige of former times. The luxury rooms and suites range in size from 25 –
60m2, some with terraces, and some with terraces and jacuzzis. The hotel also offers a gourmet restaurant, cocktail bar, swimming pool, rooftop terrace and fitness center.
Le Grand Hôtel Intercontinental has been the destination for high end travel for over 200 years. The rooftop bar is trendy and offers a panoramic view of Bordeaux. The rooms and suites are luxurious. The Prestige Suites Opera View offer breathtaking views of the Cours de l’Intendance and Place de la Comédie, and benefit from a special service, D-vine, where you can discover Grands-Cru wines by the glass. A very special treat!
The Hostellerie de Plaisance also offers an exceptional experience. Formerly a convent where nuns gave refuge to pilgrims and travellers, the Hostellerie became a post office, then an auberge and then, after WWII, a guinguette, that special mix between a tavern and a riverside dance hall seen only in France. Since 2005, the Hostellerie de Plaisance has been run by the Perse family and offers 14 luxurious rooms and three beautiful suites. The hotel is three kilometers from Saint Emilion, the beautiful medieval village which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Best luxury experiences in Bordeaux
Wine experience in Saint Emilion
Chateau Quintus, a Grand Cru Classé of Saint Emilion, is an up-and-coming wine, a must-see (must-taste?) for connoisseurs. You will have the privilege of visiting the Chateau Quintus, usually closed to the public, with a private tour of the cellar and a wine tasting. Very exclusive. For more on our wine experiences.
Great wines of the Médoc
Enjoy a day of private tours and wine tastings of the region’s most exclusive Grand Cru domains : Chateau Lafite-Rotschild, Chateau Latour, Chateau Margaux, and Chateau Mouton-Rotschild, among others. Your AAV local guide will chauffeur you from one to another in a luxury car, explaining the wines’ history and teaching you what to look for along the way.
Seaside escape in the Bordeaux region
Visit the Bay of Arcachon by private boat and see breathtaking views of the Cap Ferret and the extravagant dune du Pilat, Europe’s tallest sand dune. You will also see the banc d’Arguin, a natural reserve, as well as l’Ile aux Oiseaux and the cabanes tchanqués, the picturesque cabins on stilts that fishermen use to watch over the oyster parks.
Cook with a chef in Bordeaux
Go shopping in Capucins, one of the oldest markets in France and the “belly of Bordeaux,” accompanied by a chef who will help you discover regional specialties. You will return to his kitchen for a private cooking class. At the end of the class, you will enjoy the fruits of your labor… and a glass of great Bordeaux wine! For more on our gourmet experiences.
When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?
This region has it all: a beautiful city, picturesque historic villages, the ocean and rivers. The climate is mild, which makes it hard to know when is the best time to visit Bordeaux.
Bordeaux in winter:
Winter in Bordeaux is relatively mild, although the weather is often rainy and windy. If the wind blows from Russia, however, temperatures can drop and it can snow. This is the perfect time to visit the city’s many museums such as the CACP Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Cité du Vin. The colder weather is also a good excuse to enjoy canelés, a small cake perfumed with vanilla or rum, with a steaming cup of tea.
Bordeaux in spring:
As the weather warms up, the city parks and enchanting countryside come alive with blossom. Spring is the moment to visit the Gardening Festival in the beautiful English park of the Chateau Tauzia, or the Open House at the Maison du Vin in Pauillac. Or tour one of the many vide-greniers, the French version of a garage sale. The ones here are especially good.
Bordeaux in summer:
With the ocean, the Bay of Arcachon, the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, much of the region’s summer activities are related to water: swimming and surfing in the ocean, kayaking or canoeing in the rivers, sunbathing on the beaches, and dancing at the Guinguette chez Alriq on the banks of the Garonne. Of couse, savoring a beautiful Bordeaux wine at a rooftop terrace in the balmy weather is also an option.
Bordeaux in autumn:
Autumn means harvest and, in wine country, this also means dramatic, breathtaking colors. Fields and hillsides are awash with yellows, reds, oranges. Admist this beauty, Saint Emilion throws its yearly autumn festival, featuring painters, sculptors, photographers and urban artists early October. The medieval village also hosts Les Montgolfiades, a festival for hot air balloon aficionados, later in the month.
Travel tips about Bordeaux
Bordeaux is the 6th largest city in France in terms of size, 7th largest in terms of population. The economy is vibrant with top industries including digital companies, research and, of course, wine and tourism. The number 2 city to discover in 2016 for the New York Times, and Lonely Planet’s number 1 choice in 2017, the city and region make a great destination for your luxury vacation. You will find the same magnificence and lavishness as in Paris—with the culinary traditions and peacefulness you won’t find elsewhere. That’s why Bordeaux is called “Sleeping Beauty.”
The Cité du Vin
The Cité du Vin, or wine museum, is an amazing journey through the history of wine-making, in France and around the world. The multi-media exhibits are unusual, with something for every age group. The building itself is breathtaking, evoking wine as it swirls in a glass.
France’s smallest village
Castelmoron d’Albret is the smallest village in France and possibly the most charming, as well. The houses of this tiny medieval village are all unique, with each door and window having its own particularity, and are brimming with roses and other flowers. You’ll feel that you’ve stepped back in time.
A spectacular wave
A mascaret is a natural phenomenon which occurs when the incoming high tide crashes against the current of a river, creating a wave which is as spectacular as it is rare, visible only on 80 rivers in the world. The best place to see the mascaret is in the village of Podensac where it seems the entire village meets up to surf the wave.
Darwin is an old military base which has been turned into an urban space with a café and organic restaurant, a skate park, and a second-hand shop, as well as lots and lots of street art by a myriad of artists with very different styles. A must-see in Bordeaux.
A bad parking job
If you’re visiting the Aquitaine Museum or the Grosse Cloche (big bell) in Bordeaux’s city center, walk a little further to 117 cours Victor Hugo to the parking garage where you’ll see an early 1960s Mark 2 Jaguar dangling halfway in and halfway out. Fun public art.
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