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Bordeaux

    The Secrets of Saint-Louis, France

    I’ve got a secret to tell you. Come close, come closer. Come even closer. Basel (or EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg to give its full name) airport isn’t in Switzerland. In fact it’s in Saint Louis, France, a town in the Alsace region – and a 20-minute bus ride takes visitors over the international border.

    Secrets of Saint-Louis France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Disclaimer: My trip was supported by the Alsace tourism board (thank you!) but all random art theories are very much all my own!

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    Eating & drinking in Bordeaux

    Bordeaux seems to be going through a renaissance. 10 years ago it seemed to be a grimy port town that people knew of mostly for the ruby red elixir that makes the town infamous. With a mayor who realised the tourist cash they were missing out on, he set about rejuvenating the city and promoting Bordeaux as a destination within its own right.

    Where to eat and drink in Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    In my limited experience of the world, I feel it’s safe to say that the French live, breathe, eat and drink. And possibly not in that order of importance. Following that train of thought, it would be a little remiss to blog about the lovely Bordeaux and omit sharing our favourite places that we imbibed. As a tourist armed with the internet, I can’t pretend to be any kind of authority, but after 4+ years of blogging and calling myself a foodie, I do know what I like.

    We enjoyed a variety of places, from funky burger restaurants where the birthday sparklers almost took out a waiters eyebrows, to breakfast in a luxurious chateau.

    Breakfast

    Where to eat and drink in Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Where to eat and drink in Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Breakfast in our first hotel (above) was ok, but I wouldn’t recommend staying there or making a special effort to eat there – we walked into a Faulty Towers-esque situation where electrical wires hung from the ceiling, the hotel bar wasn’t open on a Friday night “just because” and irony of a gastronomy school located across the terrace wasn’t lost on us as the service was lackadasical to say the least. The view over terracotta rooftops and the sparkling Garonne River was rather lovely though.

    Our experience as guests of Chateau Pape Clement the next day was a whole new level of luxury.

    Chateau Pape Clement Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Chateau Pape Clement Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi 

    We were seated in the opulent private dining room, just the two of us.

    Chateau Pape Clement Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Chateau Pape Clement Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Surrounded by silver peacocks (echoing their feathered breatheren in the garden), crystal glassware and priceless artwork (not to mention the harp in the corner) we simple breathed in the scent of our scrumptious breakfast feast.

    Chateau Pape Clement Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    With great leisure we enjoyed our meal as Lord and Lady of the glorious French Chateau.

    Chateau Pape Clement Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi 

    Lunch

    We literally stumbled upon a branch of Funky Burger as we ooooohed and aaaahed our way around the city (at one point I literally said to Mr Kiwi “is this city seriously real?”) and when the Hanger set in, made our way back along the twisting lanes.

    Funky Burger Restaurant Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Having read no reviews beforehand, just going the on basic smell of their delicious morsels and happy looking crowds inside, we wandered in. Not out of place in Shoreditch, the vibe was hipster funk but the burgers were ridiculously good – even if I picked the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious not having a clue what it was for sheer novelty value, which the waiter made me pronounce twice (flawlessly) – it was a delicious vege burger with great fries. Perfect for walking fuel (or so we told ourselves – calories on holiday don’t count, right?)

    Funky Burger Restaurant Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Funky Burger Restaurant Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Drinks

    We aren’t red wine drinkers as a rule, so effectively a trip to the red wine capital of the world seems a little pointless, let alone a luxury wine chateau, but we fell in love. Experiencing a tasting class with one of Clement Pape Clement’s wine experts was irresistible – once we pulled ourselves away from the beautiful grounds.

    Château Pape Clément is one of the oldest Grands Crus of Bordeaux. His vineyard – the first harvests took place in 1252 – was implemented in the XIIth century by Bertrand de Goth, younger of a noble family from Bordeaux region. Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Got became Pope in 1305 under the name of Clement V.

    Taking us on a cellar tour of the Chateau once owned by a Pope, hence the name and ecclesiastical iconography, we learned about the processes, some of the brilliant tricks they have learned over the years and sipped a few glasses of their finest vintages.


    Dinner

    Our favourite dinner was at L’Atelier 115 in Pessac, a small village on the borders of Bordeaux. No question.

    Recommended to us by the Chateau staff, it was a 10 minute walk down the road (in fact they insisted on dropping us down and that we called a taxi back but we strolled through the dusky night air) and utterly scrumptious. In fact I would go so far as to say it is one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed.

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I also have a confession to make. I didn’t make any notes and only hastily snapped a few photos whilst no-one was looking. We simply wanted to enjoy our meal in the pretty little bistro, and luxuriate in the feeling of freedom.

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I do remember vividly the foie gras that I would fly back to Bordeaux for alone – the perfect marriage of flavours, the steak Mr Kiwi couldn’t resist and ate with his eyes closed, the lamb paired with a countryside pesto was served with flakes of a beautiful cheese, and the sweet chef who wandered over to our table to show us some of the glorious mushrooms they had foraged that morning (incidentally hitting all of the cuisine phrases that delight foodies.)

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Dessert was a heavenly arrangement of textures – crisp airy biscuit, teasing mouthfuls of Canele, musky sweet grapes, a scattering of soft rum and quenelles of mousse.

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    A'telier Restaurant Review Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It was with heavy hearts (and suitcases bulging with bottles of Grand Crus) that we boarded the flight back to London, but we knew a return trip to Bordeaux (for longer than a long weekend) was going to be absolutely necessary.


    Have you visited Bordeaux yet?

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    Where to eat and drink in Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Chateau Pape Clement – a dream experience in Bordeaux, France

    We wove our way through the streets of Bordeaux, beginning in the Medieval Quarter all carved in butter stone, glimpsed occasional hard modern buildings which turned to suburban homes before giving way to rolling fields of blooming crops. As we turned the corner onto our destination, I excitedly clutched the boy as fields of vineyards heavy with grapes came into view, cart horses grazed contentedly and the crenelated Chateau Pape Clement appeared – our home for the night.

    A wonderfully surreal chain of events – a Shoreditch evening where I asked a wine-loving francophile friend of mine for Bordeaux recommendations – turned into a invite to explore and stay in a genuine French Chateau complete with acres of vineyards.

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Chateau Pape Clement for the evening, but my (very many) thoughts are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn’t happily revisit – in fact I would quite love to move in there…

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Surrounded by carefully manicured lawns, thousand-year old olive trees, a caretaker group of peacocks and a Gustave Eiffel designed folly, Chateau Clement Pape is rather special. It was also incredibly beautiful (and the soft hues rather Pinterestable…)

    Owned by Bernard Magrez, a French wine magnate (with a love for modern art) who predominantly owns Bordeaux wine estates, including 4 Grands Cru classes, and a large number of wine producing properties in other French wine regions and other countries, including Spain, Portugal, Chile, Argentina, Japan, Morocco and California. (I did tease his staff slightly at a lack of New Zealand wines so far, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time…)

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Château Pape Clément is one of the oldest Grands Crus of Bordeaux. His vineyard – the first harvests took place in 1252 – was implemented in the XIIth century by Bertrand de Goth, younger of a noble family from Bordeaux region. Archbishop of Bordeaux, Bertrand de Got became Pope in 1305 under the name of Clement V. This is where the Château inherited
    its name from and its wine became an icon.
     

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    To say our stay was a Downton Abbey style dream simply wouldn’t give enough credit to the care and attention we were shown. We were greeted by name, taken on a mini-tour of the castle-like Chateau, where Bernard Margrez works each day, and shown to our breathtaking suite of master bedroom, study/second bedroom and marble bathroom.

    Once settled in, and invited to enjoy the bottle of red wine (synonymous with the Estate) named for our suite, as the sun began to set. The staff then reserved a table at a nearby Michelin-starred restaurant.

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    We unpacked and admired our luxurious surroundings, taking a turn through the gardens before running a bath and getting ready for our meal (more details to follow in a later post, don’t worry) 

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Our journey (and woes – it is amazing what a leisurely bath will do for the soul) discarded, we simply enjoyed the moment.

    Chateau Pape Clement - a dream experience in Bordeaux

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Some treasures are kept hidden, while others cannot exist unless they are shared. Bernard Magrez has thus opened wide the doors of his wine châteaux so that guests can fully appreciate the joys of their experience and one day, over a meal, they will tell the story behind the bottle purchased during a totally extraordinary trip to Bordeaux… 

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    We shared a bottle of the Cotes du Roussillion 2011, named especially for our suite the Mon Seul Reve, and admired the beautifully manicured gardens spread out under our windows.

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Every aspect of the opulent Chateau celebrates the ecclesiastical history of the estate – portraits of past owners line the walls, tomes from the Vatican decorate the bookshelves and religious ornamentation lines the antique tables arrayed along the walls.

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Did I mention the prettiest breakfast room we have ever broken our fast in, replete with harp?

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    We never imagined staying in such beauty when we booked our city break to Bordeaux – it’s no wonder we fell head over heels for the city. Found on the outskirts of Bordeaux, near Pessac, we learned that the Chateau is known as one of the best-known examples of urban vineyard, and produces a delicious range of red wines – with the occasionally white wine – using a unique combination of new and traditional wine making techniques.

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

    Hand on heart, Chateau Pape Clement is the prettiest, elegant place we have laid our heads. It still feels rather like a dream…

    Chateau Pape Clement - Bernard Magrez Red Wine

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    Bordeaux, a surprisingly beautiful city break

    Within 24 hours of arrriving in Bordeaux I declared to the world that I wasn’t returning to my beloved London, but staying forever to bask in the southern climes of France. I even announced it via a variety of social media, both personal and blog related – and we all know that’s a seriously serious statement.

    It captured my easy heart in a big way. Winding medieval streets, beautiful sunsets, quirky history, #pawned pavements, bouquet filled stems of wine, friendly locals, terracotta rooftops; all the things. Aaaand then I realised that I would have to learn French, and being somewhat language discombobulated (it’s a real thing – learning English-English vs. Kiwi-English still confounds me some days) I knew it couldn’t ever happen.

    Bordeaux City Break France

    But, I’m getting ahead of myself. We had 72 hours in which to wander, no plans, a few recommendations, a couple of hotels booked and an appetitite for joie de vivre.

    The first morning (after a rather late, delayed flight out of London the evening prior) began with a coffee and a moment of idyllic contemplation on the shore of Le Lac before boarding the Bordeaux city trams. My schedule was super flexible; simply a soupcon of mooching, discovering a few art galleries and museums, pottering into cake shops and a touch of leaf kicking in the park.

    Bordeaux City Break France

     Bordeaux City Break France Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    I’ve heard from a few sources (including my flight seatmate) that Bordeaux is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance, thanks in part to a recent mayor getting the city cleaned up, cleaning off the claggy grey pollution from the beautiful stonework buildings, especially along the river front. Love him or hate him, he seems to be rather effective so far…

    Architecture
    seems to vary curiously from brutalist modern structures all concrete, steel
    and glass corners, to delicate spires adorned with glorious allegorical
    statues carefully carved in warm, golden stone.

     Bordeaux City Break France Adventures of a London Kiwi

      Bordeaux City Break France Adventures of a London Kiwi


    The art I found was was gloriously opulent; ornate golden frames and historical figures posing amongst momento mori telling complex stories, housed in stunning buildings with worn marble mosaic floors worthy of any buff’s time.

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

     

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We scaled (ok, the boy did) local church towers for breathtaking views and we discovered tram stops that were ridiculously photogenic (see immediately above the view from one. Seriously.)

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We wandered here, we wandered there.

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We peeked into courtyards, strolled through autumn leaves and took a billion photographs.

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Sunset came, and we found ourselves hungry (as urban explorers do natch) and re-traced our route to a local burger joint where the service was sweet, slow and decidedly hilarious. I ordered a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious burger (getting a high-five from the waiter after he made me repeat it in proof of ability) only to discover it was a vegetarian lentil burger – see what I mean about not speaking the language – and watch as a birthday girl was delivered her dinner complete with sparklers and singed waiters eyebrows. Hilarious doesn’t come close to a thorough description.

    Sidenote: The roots of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious have been defined as follows: super- “above”, cali- “beauty”, fragilistic- “delicate”,
    expiali- “to atone”, and -docious “educable”, with the sum of these
    parts signifying roughly “Atoning for educability through delicate
    beauty.” According to the Mary Poppins film, it is defined as “something to say when
    you have nothing to say”.

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

    And that was only day one…

    City Break Bordeaux France Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    What to do with a long weekend in Lille, France

    Lille is a perfect city staycation. We usually avoid travelling on bank holidays like the plague. Extra long queues at airports, super busy UK trains and hiked up prices – bleurgh, we’d rather cruise around London on a self-styled staycation. Check out a few weird gems, stake out a brunch table and possibly catch up on a TV box set or two – that’s usually our favourite way to spend 3 days (more often than not with bank holiday rain hosing down).

    What to do to in Lille France

    However, these August bank holidays, wanderlust got the better of me. With the soles of my shoes itching and my fingers dancing across my keyboard, we decided that a quick trip over the Channel wouldn’t be too stressful.

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