Bordeaux on a Budget (sort of) with Video + Expenses
(Sneak peak our time in Bordeaux in our France Cliffs Notes video here and then read about it below! Spoiler - we drink a lot of wine.)
Before we WWOOFed at a farm in the Medoc region of France, we spent one night at an Airbnb in Bordeaux that we loved. We figured that would be our time in Bordeaux, and after the farm, we'd check out a different part of France. The two hosts invited us to have a glass of wine with them shortly after we got there, which turned into three bottles and a hastily cooked late-night dinner. We just clicked with them so well and had a blast chatting and laughing late into the night. The next morning they took us to see one of their fave places in Bordeaux, a great street art spot across the river, and then dropped us off at the train station for our farm experience. We bonded so much with these women that they invited us to come stay at their place again after the farm for almost free if they weren't booked! Okay, sure, twist our arms! Plus, we hadn't really seen much of the city that night anyway. But we did get a nice education on Bordeaux wine!
When we decided to ditch the WWOOFing gig a week early, we hit up the ladies. They already had a booking for the next few nights and another one towards the end of our time there, but said we could stay for the nights they had open in the middle of our Bordeaux stint. Done! We wound up in three different Airbnbs during our time in Bordeaux due to availability and wanting to stay with our French BFFs again, but, despite all the moving around, spending two weeks there turned out to be one of the best happy accidents of our trip so far. It allowed us to travel a little slower as well as venture outside the city a bit.
We explored Bordeaux our first couple of days there, staying close to home, and spending an entire day meandering through the city on a “2-hour” self-guided tour. We got a bit sidetracked as we went along... The highlights included stumbling on a dancing flash mob at the Water Mirror, climbing 229 steps to the top of the Pey-Berland Tower, and meeting an Amelie lookalike cafe owner who ran after us when we left the restaurant to give us a list of other places to check out in the area – too sweet.
We also visited the Wine Museum, rented bikes from the city's bike share, went to Chez Alric across the river (a must!) for tapas and music and chatted for hours with a French couple with which we wound up sharing a table, watched Bastille Day fireworks over the Garonne River, hung out at the Jardin Public, and spent a lot of time just wandering the streets and drinking wine.
Then we rented a car for two days to visit St. Emilion one day, where some of the top wine in the world is made, and catch a glimpse of the Tour de France another day, which passed through about 1.5 hours away. We also snuck in a quick few hours south in Cap Ferret for the freshest oysters ever. Literally, the waiter would put the tray down on our table and point out in the distance to where the mollusks came from.
St. Emilion was perfect. It's a bit different from Napa or Sonoma in the US in that you have to make reservations to visit most of the vineyards. A few will allow drop ins, but it's at their discretion and varies by the day. We made one reservation and then lucked out with a drop in at another winery. We also snagged a lunch reservation at Logis de la Cadine, a Michelin-star restaurant. This was our one splurge meal! It started with the most amazing salmon I've ever eaten, the main was a pork dish, and dessert was a layered fruit tart. Next up was an underground tour of St. Emilion to see the Saint's cave as well as the largest monolithic church in Europe, which was super cool. We wound up chatting with a couple from New Jersey while on the tour, so decided to tool around the area together after that, doing some unsanctioned cave exploring and then some very sanctioned sparkling wine tasting and laughing until everything had shut down. This resulted in our first emergency dinner trip to McDonald's, and I'm guessing there's going to be more of those to come in the future.
When we got back to our friends' Airbnb and told them about our day trips, they said we had to check out the Dordogne region as well, about 2.5 hours east of Bordeaux. Unfortunately, we had already blown our budget on the one car rental and didn't want to do that again. They said, no problem, we never use our car, take it! What?! Yup, these women are so amazing and generous that they let us borrow their car for 3 days, to do an all day trip to the beaches of Cap Ferret because we loved it so much we wanted to go back for more than just a few hours and to do an overnight trip to the Dordogne region.
I want to take a moment to talk about the kindness of other people. We have found pretty much everywhere that we've gone so far, that people have been extremely giving to us. We don't know if it's because we're friendly and like to chat and listen, or if it's because we're on such an extended trip, or if it's simply that people are just nice, but we encounter it over and over, and it's reassuring at a time when it seems like there's so much unkindness running rampant.
Anyway, on to Dordogne! We only had a day and a half here, so we made the most of it, seeing as much of the cavernous and rock-filled region as possible. First stop was La Roque-Gagaec, where we canoed on the Dordogne River past several castles, including Castelnaud, which we also toured. Then we explored the streets / pathways behind the central section of buildings, all built into the rock. Last stop of the day was Jardins de Marqueyssac, or The Hanging Gardens. We only had an hour there before it closed, which was not nearly enough time, but we walk-ran our way to the farthest edge of the property for the gorgeous lookout point, admiring the gardens at warp speed along the way. Dinner was spent in Sarlat-la-Caneda, the neighboring town, which becomes almost fake with its adorableness at night. The pedestrian-only roads are filled with restaurant tables as well as non-stop street performers, kids running everywhere on sugar- and up-past-bedtime-highs. The next morning we stopped at La Roque Saint-Christophe, another huge rock formation that has been used as a shelter since Neanderthal times. Nearby in Les Eyzies, there's a great (free!) museum on prehistoric history.
Then it was back to Bordeaux to drop off the car, give lots of hugs and double cheek kisses, and head to the airport!
- The Saint-Michel area – tons of great bars, restaurants, and shops (our fave restaurant - Le Carreau)
- Jardin Public – a beautiful garden for picnics and relaxing
- Chez Alric – get there early and wait in line, as the events seem to sell out most nights
- The Water Mirror – operates from 10am – 10pm every day, alternating between a few centimeters of water and floating mist
- Wine – chat up the servers and find out a lot about the regions and vintages
BORDEAUX DAY TRIPS
- St. Emilion – some of the top wine in the world, make at least one vineyard reservation, which you can do by calling one of the "Chateaux of the Day" listed here, be sure to do underground tour
- Cap Ferret / Archachon – beach towns with amazing oysters; food recommendations – Chez Boulan and Chai Bertrand in Cap Ferret
- Medoc – another wine region with some of the best offerings
- La Roque Gagaec - cavern and rock region with a ton of prehistoric history
I'm going to rate this region's spend a B-. Again, we're still in Europe, and we knew sticking to our $1,000/week budget here would be tough, but we got a super bonus from our Bordeaux chicas helping us out with the car lending and a huge discount on staying with them. We were also supposed to still be WWOOFing the first week of these two, which would have cost us very little, so we meant to be a little better about our budget here, and we didn't succeed. BUT for our time in France overall, including Paris and WWOOFing (where we spent about $290 for the week on transportation and food/drinks), we landed at $3,552 for just over 3 weeks, so overall, slightly more than $1,000 a week - not too bad!