The sun is shining, and the wide boulevards are full of people. They walk slowly, smiling, never seeming to be in a hurry. I stroll past beautiful stone buildings, pausing to admire them, stopping here and there to watch the joggers, the skateboarders, the picnickers. The river moves past as slowly as the Bordelais themselves. It flows gently, meandering alongside wine bars and cafes, each one filled with locals enjoying life here. This is Bordeaux.
In the month I’ve spent here in Bordeaux, I have learned one thing above all else. Bordeaux is about living a full life, and la vie Bordelaise, the Bordeaux way of life, is good.
Wine is a big part of life in Bordeaux. With more than 50 regional appellations, it is one of the most important wine cities in France, if not the single most important. And everywhere you look, wine is at the forefront. Wine bars exist on almost every block, offering tapas or charcuterie to the thousands of Bordelais who gather after work to drink a glass of a local vintage and talk. Wine stores with their oversized bottles of Bordeaux outside sell all of the local favorites.
One of many meals of local wine and goat cheese/foie gras.
Nowhere can the extraordinary wine culture of life in Bordeaux better be appreciated than at La Cité du Vin, the world’s largest museum dedicated entirely to wine. With architecture resembling a decanter, the museum offers visitors a truly interactive multimedia experience learning all there is to know about wine, from growing grapes to smell tests of varying bouquets to mentions of wine in historic societies.
La Cité du Vin
The museum is overwhelming in its volume. Videos show interviews with wine makers and critics. There are games to match the wine to its region. Displays teach how each variety of wine is made. Visitors are given headsets that translate into their language of choice, so simply walking past a screen showing a film about wine uses in religion, one will hear it in one’s own native tongue.
In addition, visitors can – for an extra fee – sign up for guided tastings or other events. Plus, included with admission is a single glass of wine at the top of the museum, a wine bar with more varieties than can be easily counted, and stunning views of Bordeaux and the river.
A rainbow of wine
La vie Bordelaise is indeed good.
But certainly there must be more to life in Bordeaux than drinking wine. And there is. La vie Bordelaise extends to work. The city is littered with numerous co-working spaces, from cafes to specifically designed professional co-ops to the ultimate hipster co-working neighborhood of Darwin. I have even found myself spending several sessions on a couch at Anticafe, a co-working space where you pay by the hour (or with a membership) that then includes all of your coffee/tea and a buffet of snacks. And at €5 for an hour, it’s a relative bargain for a quick stop-in when an idea strikes and I need a quiet place to write. Even at €240 for a monthly membership, I could see this easily becoming “my” spot if I lived in Bordeaux.
Darwin is an awesome space!
Looking around the city, it is hard to imagine anyone working to begin with. On a pretty day – which is most days here in Bordeaux – so many people seem to be outside at all hours. It is no wonder that co-working spaces thrive here. All the better to be able to work between strolls!
Bordeaux is a wonderful place, a destination worth a visit. But it is more than just a collection of sights. Bordeaux is a way of life. It is taking the utmost enjoyment out of each day. It is not getting bogged down in the monotony of day-to-day life. It is the realization that there is more to life than an office or errands, and making sure to include joy in among those things. La vie Bordelaise has taught me to make sure to live each day for its own sake, and to make it count. Life in Bordeaux is indeed good!
Note: thank you to Bordeaux Tourism for providing me with a city pass, allowing me to explore places like La Cité du Vin!
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