We've driven around it; we've driven through it; we've even stayed in it. But, we have never spent more than one day in Bordeaux itself.
We have now been to Bordeaux three times, but with never enough time to appreciate the city itself. It has always served as a jumping off point to explore surrounding areas.
On the first occasion, we drove from Blois to Bordeaux, typically a four-hour drive down the A10 and A630. As usual, we tried to fit too much into the day, and after a short visit to Amboise, we finally arrived at Bordeaux around dinner time. Scratch one day.
Our hotel for the next two nights was the Holiday Inn Bordeaux Sud Pessac. One of the attractions of this hotel, apart from frequent flyer points, was that it provided gated off-street parking. In addition, it was just off the peripheral ring road, which avoided a drive through the centre of Bordeaux.
Following an early return from Saint-Emilion, we decided to catch one of Bordeaux's famous trams into the city. The fascinating thing about the Bordeaux tram system is the complete lack of overhead cables for significant portions of the network. The power is underground in the city centre.
The tram's interior provides seating along the side of the tram, allowing plenty of room for standing passengers, dogs and bike riders in the middle. In many areas, particularly at the university, it was possible to ride on and off the tram without dismounting.
We wandered around the centre for a while taking in the Place de la Bourse and the Place de la Victoire, but never truly appreciating what we were seeing. Of course, I managed to find the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux and Ruth discovered the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux.
Ruth has a knack of finding five-star hotels for a comfort stop. Fortunately, we only had to spend a penny. More often than not, we have to buy a drink or a cup of coffee. We tried this at the Ritz in Paris once but didn't get through the front door.
Subsequent research at the Office de Tourisme de Bordeaux, arguably one of the best in France, revealed how much we had missed.
On the second occasion, we flew in with Air France from Paris, picked up a car and headed for the Novotel Bordeaux Aeroport Hotel. Although it was late, we drove a little way up the Avenue John Fitzgerald Kennedy and found two restaurants side by side, the Pizza Pai and the Amarine. Pizza won over fish and chips.
The next day we drove up north for a two-day tour of the Medoc. On our return, we bypassed Bordeaux on the way to our eventual destination, the Pyrenees.
The third occasion saw us return from Spain and Portugal to return a car at Bordeaux Airport and stay overnight at the Novotel. Pizza won out again. The next day, we flew to Paris.
So our total time in Bordeaux has come to almost one day. Not enough to discover its hidden treasures. Next time, we will stay longer. I promise!