Mention the name Bordeaux,and images of fine wines from some of the oldest vineyards inthe world are conjured up. But, today, Bordeaux is much more than its wine legacy. Thanks to a major development project, the city has become a place where a rich heritage blends harmoniously with a sleek, modern city. Bordeaux is now easily accessible from major cities—trains run to Paris in under three hours—and the Spanish gastronomic centre of San Sebastián is just a couple of hours down the coast. In all, almost 2.5 million visitors a year are drawn to share Arcachon Bay oysters and foie gras with locals and to stroll around the narrow, cobbled streets of the city’s protected historical centre which is now a UNE SCO World Heritage Site.
Visitors can soak up la vie Bordelaise by strolling down the rue Notre Dame, with its antique shops, or browsing the boutiques in the Grands Hommes district before lunching on local specialities such as entrecôte steak grilled over vine stubs or suckling Paulliac lamb followed by marzipan petit fours (bouchons de Bordeaux amande).
The quays are the setting for annual wine and river festivals and are where numerous cruise ships dock in the heart of the city. Even Hollywood has recently sat up and taken notice: Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz jetted into Bordeaux for the launch of Knight and Day, their latest blockbuster.
Getting around the city is to enjoy hopping on and off the state-of-the-art tramway. Efficient, non-polluting and non-invasive, it has become symbolic of the forward-thinking and ecologically aware city that Bordeaux has become. A young, growing and increasingly cosmopolitan population can be seen cycling across the city using the designated cycle lanes or meandering along the pedestrian areas. One day a month, cars are excluded from the city centre.
It’s also a city with a vibrant nightlife; from the traditional ballet at the magnificent opera house to numerous bars and nightclubs, a casino, theatres, cabarets, cinemas and entertainment venues where international stars perform. The city has a growing economy and is fast becoming a magnet for international business with already more than 400 foreign-owned companies in residence. A structure of convention, exhibition and conference centres as well as national and international trade fairs has been created into supporting this increasing demand from foreign investors.
Good road links place Bordeaux within easy driving distance of the fashionable Atlantic resorts of Arcachon and Cap Ferret, the Pyrenean ski resorts, the Channel ports and the northern coast of Spain. And with more than 140 national and international flights from 60 cities each day, Bordeaux has become a truly internationaldestination.
In terms of architectural character, Bordeaux offers a wide variety of styles. There are wonderful apartments in the Napoleonic-period buildings overlooking garden squares, traditional grand townhouses— the much-prized hôtels particuliers of the French business classes—or the light terraces of side-by-side properties.
And away from the elegant town houses, tree-lined avenues and modern, riverside loft conversions, the surrounding countryside opens up to smart wine estates with impressive châteaux in internationally recognised wine regions such as St Emilion and Graves.
The gentle slopes in the Entre-Deux-Mers regions are dotted with pretty villages, Romanesque churches and medieval fortified towns. The Blaye and Bourg regions have typical small ports along the river estuary. And throughout the whole region, you will never be short of a health spa or golf course.
Whatever your taste or business and lifestyle needs, Bordeaux is a city that has grown from being a bourgeois port with a faded glory to a revitalised city with a fresh, modern-day class that has something for everyone.