For Love of Wine & Chateaux: Bordeaux Uncorked (Part 2)

Due to tidal constraints, our cruise itinerary was revised and we ended up having the final couple days in Bordeaux. This gave us plenty of opportunity to roam the city streets at all hours.  We even had time to hang out at a über cool wine bar and prowl for macarons that rival, dare I say, Ladurée or even Pierre Hermé!

Bronze fountains depicting the triumphs of the Republic and the Concorde anchor the Esplanade des Quinconces

The impressive bronze fountains depicting the triumphs of the Republic and the Concorde anchor the Place des Quinconces, one of the largest squares in Europe.

The elaborate basins are part of the monument to the Girondists executed during the French revolution. The fountains, myriad sculptures and a riot of horses make this a popular tourist attraction.

Given Place des Quinconces is also a transit hub for buses and trams, we went by it often.

Close up of the monument's sculptures showing 2 maidens representing the 2 rivers of Bordeaux.

Close up of the monument’s sculptures.

The 2 figures represent the two rivers, with the Dordogne on the right and the Garonne on the left, at the base of the monument. I had a hard time deciding if they were playing peekaboo or having a tête-à-tête!

A carousel and adjacent holiday fair booths waiting to open

Too early for the carousel and adjacent holiday fair to be operating, a festive air still hung in the air.

Though carousels have long disappeared from the landscape of the US, we see them in towns big and small in our travels throughout France.

Reflections of the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux on limestone pavers after some early morning rain.

Reflections of the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux on limestone pavers after the early morning rain.

The neoclassical Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux by Victor Louis was built in 1870 and one of the oldest original wooden frame opera houses in Europe still standing.

Night view and details of the portico of the Grand Théâtre.

Views of the portico of the Grand Théâtre.

The theater showcases an elegant portico of 12 Corinthian style columns, which is topped by an entablature with 12 statues: the 9 Muses with the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva. The underside of the portico was elaborately decorated along Neoclassical themes.

We came across an impromptu concert under the portico one evening. The rainy weather didn’t seem to dampen the enthusiasm of the musicians or the audience!

Entry to Le Pressoir d’Argent in the 18th Century Grand Hotel de Bordeaux.

Something old, something new: renowned chef Gordon Ramsay recently took over the Le Pressoir d’Argent in the 18th Century Grand Hotel de Bordeaux.

The Michelin-starred restaurant’s name and signage are inspired by the dining room’s centerpiece – a rare Christofle solid silver lobster press.

Another masterpiece by Victor Louis, the hotel was updated and transformed by celebrated designer Jacques Garcia into an opulent, refined hotel in 2007.

A quiet side street in Bordeaux.

A quiet side street in Bordeaux.

The abundance of beautifully restored 18th -19th century limestone buildings caused Bordeaux to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s easy to see why Bordeaux is often referred to as ‘Little Paris’.

3 dimensional building embellishments

Taking building embellishment to a new level.

Walking past genteel streets and relatively sedate street art, I was surprised to come across these fanciful decorations applied to buildings at Rue Beyssac & Rue Camille Sauvageau!

Saint Joseph chapel of Basilique Saint-Michel (Basilica of St. Michael).

Saint Joseph chapel of Basilique Saint-Michel (Basilica of St. Michael).

Bordeaux boasts a trove of churches, 2 basilicas and 1 cathedral. We wandered into the Basilica of St. Michael and chanced upon the elaborate alabaster altarpiece in the side chapel.

Pop art in a parking garage

Someone has a wicked sense of humor…

Strolling around town, I had to do a double take on this garage to make sure the car with 2 wheels hanging outside the facade is just a piece of pop art!

An iconic Miffy LED lamp in a home décor store.

An iconic Miffy LED lamp in a home décor store.

Miffy is loosely derived from the Dutch word ‘konijntje’, meaning ‘little bunny’, a character popularized by Dick Bruna’s long running children’s series. The lamp comes in different sizes and I was seriously tempted to take one with me!

Views of the award winning Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas.  The beautiful night scene is by Geoffroy Groult.

Views of the award winning Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas.  The beautiful night scene is by Geoffroy Groult.

Spanning the Garonne, this is the longest vertical-lift bridge in Europe at time of inauguration in 2013. The bridge is a stone’s throw from the rapidly gentrifying bassins à flot (wet docks) north of the city center.

L'Eglise Sainte-Croix (Church of the Holy Cross) at night.

L’Eglise Sainte-Croix (Church of the Holy Cross) at night.

During our late night saunters, we came across this restored Benedictine abbey. The former church is now purportedly home to the École des beaux-arts (fine arts school) of Bordeaux.

The medieval Porte Saint-Éloi, also known as Porte Saint-James, is one of the city’s 2 remaining city gates.

The medieval Porte Saint-Éloi, also known as Porte Saint-James, is one of the city’s 2 remaining city gates.

The Grosse Cloche (Great Bell) belfry which features conical twin towers, a gold-plated leopard weather vane, solar equation clock and 17,000-pound bell is one of Bordeaux’s most recognized landmarks.

École du Vin de Bordeaux, the local wine school, operates a wine bar on-site.

École du Vin de Bordeaux, the local wine school, operates a wine bar on-site.

The chic Le Bar à Vin sports comfy seating clusters and expansive floor to ceiling wine partitions. It is a great place to experience a wide selection of Bordeaux wines at accessible prices.

Canelés de Bordeaux, a pastry unique to the city.  

Canelés de Bordeaux, a pastry unique to the city.

At its best, the tasty morsels are moist and custardy with a thin caramelized crust. Sorry to say I never experienced Nirvana when I tried them in Bordeaux. Apparently they are best eaten within the hour of baking as they turn spongy after 5 or 6 hours (which was what I got).

Here is a recipe from Victor of i food blogger for those who want to enjoy these delectable confections at home. If you prefer imperial measurements, try this alternate recipe by acclaimed cookbook author Paula Wolfert!

Image of the Place de la Bourse and Miroir d’Eau under a red moon eclipse, courtesy of Mariusz Strawinski.

Place de la Bourse and Miroir d’Eau under a red moon eclipse by Mariusz Strawinski.

As the Bordeaux cruise comes to an end, I finish my post with this stunning image of the Place de la Bourse. This jewel of a plaza was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel. The right and left arms of the royal square housed the Bourse (stock exchange) and the Musée National des Douanes (National Customs Museum).

By the waterfront is the Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror). At 37,100 square feet, it’s the world’s largest reflecting pool. The shallow 1” pool, which gets constantly drained, refilled, and fogged, is a source of endless entertainment to the young and young at heart!

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