We dedicated 6 days to France, two in Bordeaux and four in Paris, and we were very happy with our decision. Our visit to France started with a layover in the French town of Hendaya and we started it right – savory crepes and the house red at a small café in the center of town. After proper fortification, we caught the TGV into Bordeaux. Although our two nights in Bordeaux left only one full day of sightseeing, we were immensely happy with our day. Using our rail passes we boarded a local train to the city of Saint-Emillion which is one of the more famous wine towns in the greater Bordeaux region. We started our visit with a private wine tour of the Fonplegade winery, which produces Grand Cru Classe wine (the top 60 of over 300 wineries in the Saint-Emillion “AOC” or wine-making region). It was a great opportunity to tour a winery, learn about the wine-making process and taste some amazing wine. We had a great tour guide and when we asked him about using plastic corks or screw-tops, he looked us straight in the eyes and said, “no one wants to open a nice bottle of wine using a screw top. That would be ghastly.” Hilarious and how French! After our wine tour we walked into the town of Saint-Emillion itself and wandered its old streets, engaging in additional wine tasting, before sitting down for a late afternoon lunch. After a great day we headed back to Bordeaux and wandered through the old town square before heading back to the hotel.
Guidebook – For this leg of our journey we switched out from our Fodor’s Spain travel book to our Fodor’s France travel book. We were just as happy with it and it lead us well trough Bordeaux and Paris. For European travel in general Foder’s are my go-to Travel Books.
Transportation – From the train station we took a tram into the center of town to our hotel. Once at our hotel everything in town was within walking distance, (although we could have used the tram to shorten the walking if we wanted to). We only used the tram to and from the train station and other than that we walked. Transportation was a piece of cake.
Lodging – We stated at what was called the Etap Hotel Bordeaux Centre Merdiadeck for $65 per night; since then the hotel has been renamed the Ibis Budget Bordeaux Centre Meriadeck. I strongly do not recommend it, even with its new name. I do however highly recommend both the Ibis and Novotel that are co-located. We have stayed at many Accor hotels overseas ranging from budget to luxury and highly recommend them; mostly. As an example of their customer service after our horrible experience the hotel manager offered us a free night back at the same hotel; nice gesture but really of no use to us. Ibis is their main budget hotel and they are great, but anything lower on the spectrum than that is just not worth the cost savings. The location was great; close to a tram stop and a nice walk to everything else. To sum up I would recommend either of the sister hotels.
Sites – If you want to visit any of the surrounding towns and their vineyards the easiest way we found to set this up was through the tourism office in Bordeaux. Unfortunately when we get there the night before we hoped to go on our day trip the office was already closed. We were there the next morning upon opening and they actually set up our tour for us. Had we been looking for something even one day in advance and not the day of we would have had more options. Also, this is the first of very few situations we found to be completely unfriendly to family. They didn’t have polices not allowing children on their tours, (we think), they just spent the whole time arguing with us and informing us that everything we asked about would not be good for our child instead of answering our questions. It is this general attitude regardless of topic that has yet to endear me to France after many trips there.