Bordeaux has gone through a startling transformation since I first began to come here in the mid-1990’s. Back then – it’s reputation as a provincial town that had seen better days and that had little to offer tourists was well deserved.
The city was not in top shape:
• The public spaces were worn and tired
• The buildings were run down and grubby and the streets were rough and dirty
• There were no high end hotels and restaurants
• The wine trade was closed and tourists were not welcome at the Chateaux
• The restaurants seemed stuck in another world that had long since past.
• There were almost no wine bars and if there was – they only served Bordeaux wines.
But things have changed dramatically. This month Wine Spectator’s Robert Camuto wrote a piece entitled “Bordeaux Reborn: The once sleepy wine capital awakens with a new culinary and travel landscape” (Wine Sepctator – March 31st, 2013 – page 52). In it he highlighted what Bordeaux insider’s have known for a few years. . .
Bordeaux is now a world-class wine and food tourism destination.
• The public spaces have been gentrified and cleaned up. The Quais along the riverside have been turned into gardens, pathways, and fountains. The old warehouses have been transformed into restaurants and retail shops. An ultra modern tramway has been installed throughout downtown.
• The facades of all the buildings in the city have undergone an extensive washing program that brought these majestic buildings back to their best from Bordeaux’s glory days.
• The old Grand Hotel de Bordeaux across from the Grand Theatre was renovated and restored and re-opened (it had been vacant for many years) offering the first top end hotel in the city and Le Gabriel, A Michelen starred restaurant, opened in the premiere location in the city – at the centre of the restored Place de la Bourse.
• The Chateaux have begun to open their doors. Led by a few forward thinking owners – Bordeaux Chateaux have now begun to welcome tourists with visit programs, hotels and restaurants at the Chateaux. It is still not as welcoming as North America – but it is light years better than it was.
• A number of new restaurants have opened to enliven the food scene
• And finally, and most importantly, in the last couple of years, a wave of wine bars has started opening across the city. Everytime I walk around it seems that there is a new one I did not know about. For a city built on wine – it is about time.
All of these changes make Bordeaux a world class culinary tourism destination. If you have not been –you should. In the Rooftop Guide to Bordeaux – I will be providing some tips and hints about the special places in Bordeaux that you should see while you are there and most importantly the things you should eat and drink!