–If you could go back to one place you visited, where would you go and why?
I had a really hard time with this question because I saw so many cities in such a short span of time (24 cities in 17 days!) I feel like I could return to any of the places I visited and there would still be more for me to do at each one. In certain cities, I missed out on opportunities because of the time of day that I visited or the day of the week even (a lot of hours for monuments change on Sundays.) I really would go back to each one for different reasons.
However, I think I have the most pull to return to Bordeaux. I spent the longest there of any city besides Paris and it was definitely worth it!
First of all, the entire city of Bordeaux is labeled as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to the UNESCO website, there are more protected buildings in Bordeaux than any other city in France with the exception of Paris. During the Enlightenment, philosophers turned Bordeaux into a cultural center. You can clearly see the coherence in the architecture and plan of the city. When picking up a map at the tourist office or train station, make sure to ask about the UNESCO walk. There are a handful of monuments that are listed as a must-see and the route is highlighted and detailed on the map for you. From the ancient gates of the old limits of the city to a museum that takes you chronologically from the foundation of Aquitaine (the region in which Bordeaux is located) to modern times, you can see traces of Bordeaux in all eras. Also, not included in the UNESCO route (though it makes me wonder why not) is an ancient Roman ruin located not far from the highlighted route which is very easy to get to with a quick ten-minute detour. All in all, the entire walk didn’t take more than a few hours and is so worth your time.
One of my favorite parts of Bordeaux was the old city. Almost completely pedestrianized it’s a great place to wander and get lost amongst shops, cafes, restaurants, and monuments. I think one of the coolest parts about a lot of French cities is that so many of them have “old cities” which are usually largely pedestrianized and are wonderful to see what the city looked like in years gone by. Bordeaux’s old city is actually one of the largest I had seen!
Even with the amount of time I spent there, I still feel like I could have seen more. There were a few monuments I didn’t get to see due to time constraints that I would have loved to visit. I would also love to go back to the Musée d’Aquitaine. The layout is such that it walks you from prehistory, through the Middle Ages and beyond. I rushed through a little bit because I knew time was limited to get to the rest of the monuments. I was stopped in my tracks by the gisant (effigy) of Eleanor of Aquitaine. I find the history of France and England, in relation to each other, enthralling and Eleanor is one of my favorite historical figures. To see her likeness in stone was almost like I was attending her funeral myself. I could easily go back to that museum and spend a few more hours.
The amount of restaurants located around Bordeaux is staggering and I had a hard time choosing where I wanted to eat. You could eat somewhere along the river which curves slowly away giving you a fantastic view of the skyline of the city. You could head into the heart of the old city and choose a restaurant which faces the cathedral (this is where I ate and had my favorite meal from my trip!) Or you could choose to go on one of the multiple river cruise dinners I looked at while I was milling around. I had an amazing crêpe at a place called Sel et Sucre (Salt and Sugar.)
The nightlife in Bordeaux is also vibrant and energetic. It could have been because it was the 13th of July, the day before the French national holiday but there were so many people out in the parks and at the bars lining the river. Had I not had to be up early the next day I would gladly have sat down at any pub I saw to have a drink or two and mingle with the locals!
Overall, there are so many places I want to return to, but if I had to choose just one, I would probably choose Bordeaux. The culture, history, architecture, and food would keep me busy for days!