We’ll always have Paris but here’s where I think you should spend time in France…
Bordeaux. Quite frankly, there isn’t a better place I’d park myself for a week or a long weekend than in this lovely city on the banks of the Garonne river. It is a nice 2-hour train ride from Paris or an easy flight from Lisbon, Madrid, Gatwick or Amsterdam. The shops in the city are very nice and there are plenty of cafés and restaurants to enjoy. I stopped in a Sia home store and a very nice Kusmi Tea Shop on the waterfront. Cité de Vin, a newish, unique Guggenheim- esque looking building is the latest hotspot in town. There are eight floors of interactive displays about wine and the region culminating with a gift shop, wine tasting and restaurant on the 8th floor. It's a must do in Bordeaux. The building was designed to look like wine swirling in a wine glass. That is debatable but I guarantee you will find it easily as it stands out from the usual facades of Bordeaux.
For those shy about traveling in Europe, this gem of Bordeaux eases you into French culture. The revitalization that this city has seen not only benefits its residents but tourists as well. The city has several things going for it, for one, it's very walkable and bike-able since it's flat. The tram stops are where most tourists want to visit and at €1.50 for 1 trip or 5 trips for €6.50 it's a reasonable way to get around. The city is well organized and there are cafés and restaurants everywhere. The shopping is rather good, and the museum Aquitaine is worth spending a half a day in. There is so much history to be noted here starting in Roman times. 17th and 18th centuries were very important to this crucial riverfront city in the west of France.
The population of Bordeaux is about 250,000. The Bordulais people are quite friendly and many speak English. Aside from being a tourist town, it's a college town with 80,000 students! I must have something with college towns since I used to work in Palo Alto. There is also a large contingent of start-ups here. In 1995, the city was known as the sleeping beauty. After a mayor whose term lasted 48 years, the Premier of France, Alain Jupeé, a true visionary, became Mayor of Bordeaux. He has truly awakened "la belle endormie" (the sleeping beauty). 17th and 18th century buildings are clean and not carbon filthy any longer, there is a fabulous tram system, tourism abounds, and the city is full of young families and foreigners who love the lifestyle here.
How did I find myself here you ask? I was boarding a river cruise that was sailing in this Southwestern region and I spent my pre-cruise time in Bordeaux. While there aren’t any long distances to sail on Bordeaux itineraries, I truly enjoyed my floating hotel visiting the quaint towns of Cadillac, Bourg, Blaye, Pauillac, Libourne and everyone’s favorite, St Émilion.
The hotels in the area that I can recommend are Le Boutique Hotel, a delightful, small boutique property, Intercontinental Bordeaux Le Grand in the center of the city square, Les Sources de Caudalie, a rustic property in the country which is on a working winery and finally, the Chateau de Mirambeau, a classic, sophisticated chateau about 40 miles out of the city of Bordeaux. There are a few river cruise and barge experiences in the Bordeaux region I would be pleased to recommend to you should you contact me.