I’ve always been a girl to save the best for last and this holiday was no exception. Initially, I had planned to visit Sweden or Norway but, my heart kept drawing me back to France. It would be my fourth time in this wonderful country and I was excited to try somewhere new. With its quaint vineyards and my love for wine, I decided to visit Bordeaux.
I immediately fell in love. Like, completely head over heels in love! You see, everything about the French culture excites me: the exquisite sound of their language, the way they greet each other with a soft kiss on each cheek and, of course, our shared passion for good food and wine. The streets are filled with a vibrant atmosphere; locals dine at tables covered in red and white checked cloths and laughter bounces from the walls of narrow streets as friends catch up over a casual cocktail. This city, with its Parisian-inspired architecture nestled amongst famous wine regions and a stunning beach, is somewhere I could easily see myself living someday.
I arrived in Bordeaux on a weekend so, naturally, I had to visit the local Sunday markets. It was a perfect, sunny morning as I strolled along the river side, excited by the fresh produce and jams. After picking up some macarons and fresh figs, I had one thing left to do. I was a little nervous but, I had been told all the locals do it and I’m a sucker for getting involved in local traditions…
Vivid memories of my last oyster-eating experience flooded back to me. It was probably one of the only foods that I could actually say I hated. At the time, I had decided that I could quite happily live life without ever trying another oyster again. Yet, here I was, about to give the slippery suckers a second chance. There was just something about the idea of fresh, local oysters at a French market that sounded appealing. So, after much self encouragement, I jumped in the (very) long line and bought myself a plate of six oysters. I awkwardly looked around to see how the locals were doing it ; scrape this, squeeze that, tip a little…right! ‘I’ve got this’, I half confidently said to myself. With a silent drum roll in my head, I brought the shell up to my lips….oh. Yum! I actually loved it! Someone get this girl another plate! Well, actually, I couldn’t be bothered getting back in line, but I did settle for more wine. What a perfect Sunday treat.
Day two had me visiting the sea side town of Arcachon. I happily wandered through the local gardens towards the observatory tower. Here, I scaled the shakey, narrow and winding steps to the top. The hairy climb was worth it for the incredible views: a collection of beach houses scattered along the coast and behind me, beautiful green from the forest below. I enjoyed walking along the pier and slowly strolling along the beach. However, the most exciting part of my day was visiting Dune Du Pilat: the tallest sand dune in Europe. Just a 30 minute bus trip from Arcachon, this dune is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and a thick pine forest. Dune du Pilat measures in at 500m wide, 2.7km long and 110m above sea level. Although the hike to the top is a little tiring, the view is definitely worth it. I found a secluded spot along the dune, perched myself in the sand and reflected on my time living abroad. It was a magical place to contemplate life.
Day three had arrived and I was so excited! I had booked in for a winery tour to the famous town of Saint Emilion. This medieval town is surrounded by numerous vineyards and chateaus, two of which we visited on our tour. I learnt basic wine-tasting techniques and about production from the grape to the bottle. It was so lovely to sit in the sun, sipping on wine with the rustic chataeu in the background. Our wonderful guide, Anne, also lead us through the beautiful streets of Saint Emilion, where we were able to admire the limestone houses and churches. We even ventured below the earth as we walked through the limestone tunnels. These tunnels, hundreds of kilometers in length, are privately owned by the local chateaus. This is where they store their vintage bottles, some dating back almost 100 years ago! The tour, run by Bordovino, was incredible and I would highly recommend it to others visiting the area.
I spent the remainder of my time relaxing in the city. I read my book as I lounged in the gardens, devoured mouthwatering three course meals and sipped on wine in hipster bars. As I drank my vino, I reflected on my time in France and wrote in my journal. For me, the beauty of travelling is what we learn along the way. I love to observe other cultures, watch the way they work, eat and live and then apply the things I love to my own life. By doing so, you find yourself learning, adapting and growing a little every single day. So, what is it about the French culture that I would like to mould into my life? Their simplicity and well balanced lifestyles. The French seem to find the perfect balance between socialising with friends and spending time to themselves, working hard and taking time to relax and tasting all of the delicious food, but doing so in moderation. They just seem to get it right!
Bordeaux, you really have me believing that I saved the best for last. You left me with a desire to live life a little slower, a little simpler, yet all with a smile on my face. I promise you, I certainly will come back. Hopefully, with a little more practice in that exquisite language of yours…