guide to bordeaux


It's been at least six years since the last time I was in Bordeaux. When we go to France, which is usually for a week or two every other winter, we rarely venture past Paris or Versailles (where my grandmother lives). This year, we decided to do things a little differently and visit our friends and family in Bordeaux during our second week in France. Our friends Erwan and Cathy were generous enough to host us for New Year's weekend (as well as many delicious meals). We spent the rest of the week in an adorable AirBnB apartment.

During our stay in France's wine city, we were asked numerous times whether we thought Bordeaux felt small. In truth, I find it to be just the right size - like a miniature Paris. And in terms of architecture, at least, Bordeaux perhaps surpasses the French capital. Sure, Bordeaux doesn't have 130 museums, but it's few cultural institutions are comparable to Paris' in quality.

I thought I'd share some of my favorite spots from our trip. Big shoutout to La Fromentine, where I ate the best effing galette of my life (see below).


V I S I T

Musée des Arts Décoratifs // The design section of this museum was closed when we were there, but the Decorative Arts section is worth seeing. The ground floor is quite stuffy, and I recommend going through it rather swiftly. The upper level, however, has some nice pieces of furniture. It's no Versailles, but hey, not everyone had Marie Antoinette's taste.




CAPC // The CAPC is Bordeaux's contemporary art museum. Even if contemporary art isn't your jam, you'll marvel at the building's architecture. Indeed, the CAPC is located in what was once an old warehouse named l'Entrepôt Lainé. This history gives the museum a great deal of character, and allows for the display of large works.









Cathédrale St-André // Erected between the 14th and 15th centuries, this church is not to be missed. Make sure to spend some time strolling around and inside it, as both the outside and inside are truly beautiful. I could look up and stare at it's ornate high ceilings all day.








S E E

a movie at l'Utopia // A cool independent cafe and movie theater located on Place Camille Julian. We saw Florida Project and loved it. Bonus: the seats are super comfy. Tickets run around 4 euros for matinees and 7 euros for other screenings.

Place de la bourse // Ready for some more French arch porn? Built in the 18th century and once a symbol of the city's prosperity, Place de la bourse will make you wish you had the dough to buy one of its buildings.



La gross cloche de Bordeaux // Dating from the Middle Ages and literally known as "the big bell of Bordeaux", the bell only actually rings on the first Sunday of each month. Luckily, you don't need to hear the bell to enjoy this 40 meter monument - it's a sight to behold in and of itself.




E A T

lunch / dinner

La Fromentine // Holy crêpe. I don't even know what to say here. Maybe I'll start by saying that, as every real French person should be, I'm very particular about my crêpes. First of all, a savory crêpe should absolutely always be a buckwheat crêpe, known as a galette in French. The buckwheat should be noticeable in taste, even with all of the galette's fillings. Next, the cheese must not be bland (as it often is in the US). Even the most basic cheese, such as emmental or gruyère, should stand out in the galette. The galette should be folded on the sides and left open in the middle. Now, onto crêpes - crêpes with sweet fillings. The crêpe should be thin, but not too thin. If it looks thick as a pancake then you're probably lost somewhere in Quebec. The crêpe should have a slight rhum, beer and/or vanilla taste, which should be detectable despite any of the fillings it may have. You get the idea. All this to say that both the galettes and crêpes from La Fromentine met all of my strict criteria. Olympe and I both ordered the creamed spinach and cheese galette, and it was a true delight. When we pressed our forks into the galette, cheese would pop right out of its perfect pores. I'm salivating just picturing that again. The molten chocolate crêpe we shared for dessert was just as perfect. We could taste the rhum in the batter, and the chocolate was nice and dark. I cannot stress the importance of visiting at La Fromentine not just one, but twice, or maybe even three times, when you visit Bordeaux.


Nom d'une crêpe // Ok, so their galettes and crêpes are definitely not up to par with La Fromentine's, but it's definitely still a good crêpe place. I would recommend the mushroom and cheese galette.


Peppone // An excellent Italian pizza and pasta place. I've never tried their pasta, but their pizza is top notch. (Sadly, I was disappointed by the one I ordered this time, so in the future I'll just get the margarita.)

Les Saveurs de l'Atlas // We never leave France without having had some Moroccan food. (Why are there still only two real Moroccan restaurants in NYC? Beats me.) I order the dried fruit tagine, while the rest of the family orders different couscous variations. The couscous grain itself is nice and fluffy, and my tagine is exquisite. Because the dried fruit are so sweet, it's almost like an entrée and dessert combined into one. The ultra-sweet mint tea we are served at the end is always my favorite part of the meal.



Bibibap // Who would have thought you could get a decent bibimbap in Bordeaux? Not sure why they decided to misspell bibimbap in their restaurant name, but their bowls are solid nonetheless. And yes, they have a vegetarian option, which can be made vegan by asking the waiter to omit the egg (or you can just give the egg to your sister, which is precisely what I did).



Matsuri // When in France, it's hard to resist the urge to go eat a meal at Matsuri, a Japanese restaurant where plates parade on a conveyor belt in front of your very eyes. My mom and sister tell me their raw fish were excellent. As for myself, I enjoyed an assortment of vegetarian options, such as vegetable gyoza and a sundried tomato & cream cheese roll.


tea / sweets

L'autre salon de thé // An adorable tea place with a selection of brews from Le Palais des Thés. You simply must try the banoffee pie. Just do it. And don't be scared off if it looks crowded - there's an extra room downstairs. Bring a friend, a lover or a book!

Dunes Blanches // We got our New Year's dessert from this small pastry shop. Les Dunes Blanches sells only one product: little puff pastries filled with a light cream. They're similar to choux. Remember to lick your fingers!

A la Rose de Tunis // Conveniently located in the St-Michel neighborhood, close to Les Saveurs de l'Atlas (mentioned above) this is the perfect place to go for dessert after your couscous. And even if you're stuffed, it's still wonderful to admire the lovely and colorful pastries all around this North-African bakery.




S H O P

home / décor

HAY // I've already blogged about HAY extensively during my trip to Denmark, so I won't say much here other than the fact that you should visit this boutique if you've never been. It's mostly furniture, but you can also find cute notebooks, kitchen towels, as well as the brand's famous geometric trays.



Sostrene Grene // I'd also already been to a Sostrene Grene, when I visited Bergen. With its very affordable prices and delightful color schemes of greys, pale pinks and pretty blues, Sostrene Grene will seduce you within seconds.

La maison poétique // A home décor shop similar to Caravane. Lovely linens.

HEMA // Yes, yes, I know I've already been to the HEMA in Belgium, but I just had to introduce my family to this great store. Similar to Sostrene Greene (perhaps a little less design-y), HEMA is a great place to find cute notebooks, handtowels, bowls, and more importantly, stroopwafels.

Baaam // This new concept store sells an array of fun and bright original goods, from their tongue-in-cheek Bordeaux t-shirts to their house brand candles inspired by 80's hits.

Mint bazar // A surprisingly large concept store selling both clothing and home décor.


clothes

Monsieur T-Shirt // This store sells T-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs with witty messages, such as "Je suis bon perdant (tant que je gagne)", which translates to "I'm not a sore loser (as long as I'm winning)." Or my personal favorite: "J'suis pas raleur, j'suis français" ("I'm not grumpy, I'm just French.")

Kway // The Kway raincoat is making a big comeback. Now owned by a Spanish company, Kway has revamped its retro designs into sleek and functional outerwear.


children

Bonton // Yes, there's now a Bonton in Bordeaux! And yes, those toddler bags are long enough for adult bodies. I bought one.

Perlin Paon Paon // Known as a "family concept store", PPP has more grown up items in the front and a children's section in the back. Needless to say, if you're like me you'll be spending more time in the children's section, wishing you had a little one to buy all of these wonders for.

Le petit Souk // You'll be drooling as you explore this adorable children's store.



books

Mollat // My parents are obsessed with this giant independent bookstore. Mollat has nearly every book you would ever want, but what they are truly known for is their exceptional service. At this bookstore, you can walk up to any employee and they will gladly give you personalized book recommendations based on your tastes or what you are looking for. You can tell the librarians are bookworms themselves, and are genuinely passionate about their designated subject.

La machine à lire // A nice bookstore on Place du Parlement. Smaller than Mollat, but it does the trick.


souvenirs / gifts...

My Little Epicerie // Located on the Place des Grands Hommes, this little shop sells an array of locally made gourmet foods in pretty packaging, such as chocolate, fois gras (ew), and jam.

Canelés Baillardran // Canelés are a Bordeaux specialty. They also happen to be my mom's favorite type of French pastry. You can find canelés in most bakeries and pastry shops in Bordeaux, as well as in specialized franchises like Baillardran. The only two reasons I would recommend Baillardran's canelés are: a) you know they'll always be of excellent quality and b) their packaging is nicer, so it's a good option if you're purchasing the pastries as a gift.

La Toque Cuivrée // Another franchise that sells canelé. While this place is less fancy and much cheaper than Baillardran, its pastries are of no less quality.


Fromagerie Beillevaire // Vegans, stay away: this cheese shop is a dairy product paradise. From its many cheeses to its homemade butters and chocolate pots de crème,  Fromagerie Beillevaire has it all. I especially recommend their 24 month aged comté and any of their blue cheeses (my favorite). I won't tell anyone if you bring some home to the states.



La boutique du thé // An amazing tea shop selling mostly Marriage Frères products. Staff is very friendly and helpful, too. Don't forget to smell the madeleine and canelé flavored teas!

Chris'tea // Another tea shop, this time in the Grands Hommes department store. They also have canelé flavored tea here, which you get to sample if you behave! I bought myself a box to make it through the NY winter.