Bordeaux See And Do
7 Rue Ferrère
Tel: 33 5 56 00 81 50
One of the city's truly essential sightsas much for its collection as for the space itself. Converted from a monumental, dark-stone warehouse built in 1824 to hold imports from France's Caribbean colonies, the museum, which has a massive, dramatically lit main room with three tiers of arcades running along its four sides, competes for your attention with whatever is on display. The other galleries are more conventional: white-walled with wood ceilings and concrete floors. The permanent collection contains a number of installations and murals by Richard Long and an uncharacteristic series of early pastoral triptychs by Gilbert and George. Exhibits change regularly. The building is also home to the Arc en Rêve architecture museum (www.arcenreve.com).
Closed Saturdays and Sundays.
For a great overview, climb the 229 dizzying, twisting steps of the Tour Pey-Berland by the cathedral. You'll survey the entire city, including the extraordinary law courts, designed by Richard Rogers in 1998. The series of seven irregular podlike structures (reminiscent of a row of wine bottles or vats) is surrounded by glass walls and topped by an undulating copper roof.
1/3 Cours du XXX Juillet
Tel: 33 5 56 00 22 88
The city's École du Vin offers thorough but inexpensive beginner and intermediate courses (in English) on appreciating the local wine and identifying your own tastes. Sessions range from a two-hour intro to vineyards, grape varieties, blending, and wine tasting to four intensive days exploring Bordeaux's Médoc, Sauternes, Pessac-Léognan, and Saint-Emilion appellations.
Rent a car and head north of the city into the Médoc, home of Château Latour Martillac (Chemin de La Tour; 33-5-57-97-71-11; www.latour-martillac.com), Margaux (33-5-57-88-83-83; www.chateau-margaux.com), Lafite-Rothschild (20 Rue du Rajol; 33-5-65-59-26-83; www.lafite.com), and Mouton-Rothschild (33-5-56-73-21-29; www.bpdr.com), among other celebrated, if less rarefied, domains. It's possible to visit all four, but generally only through an appointment made at least a week or two in advance and, with occasional exceptions, only on weekdays.
One vine may look much like another (those producing the greatest wines are in sight of the Gironde estuary), but it's a diverting drive nonetheless. And the châteaux you pass on the D2 are magnificent: Margaux with its grand Ionic portico; Pichon Longueville with its candle-snuffer turrets (Pauillac; 33-5-56-73-17-17; www.pichonlongueville.com); Palmer with its fancy ironwork roof, above which flutter the French, Dutch, and United Kingdom flags to reflect the nationalities of its owners (Cantenac; 33-5-57-88-72-72; www.chateau-palmer.com); Cos d'Estournel, a fantastical faux-Indian palace with pagoda-style turrets hanging with bells (Saint-Estèphe; 33-5-56-73-15-50; www.cosestournel.com).
Of course, names like these have no need to flirt with tourists or prostitute themselves by selling from the gate, but there's nothing to stop you gawking from the roadside. And there is a definite pleasure at mentally ticking off the names of the domains you recognize and bottles you have drained. Have lunch at one of the many scruffy riverfront restaurants overlooking Pauillac, the Médoc's principal town, whose whole raison d'être is the wine trade.
39 Rue Bouffard
Tel: 33 5 56 10 14 00
The exhibitsporcelain, pictures, furnitureare moderately diverting, but they pale in comparison to the surrounding building: a perfectly preserved, perfectly proportioned hôtel particulier, built in 1779 around a cobbled courtyard. The delightful interiors are a riot of rich colors and pastel boiserie. A new temporary exhibit is installed about every three months.
Jardin de la Mairie 20
Tel: 33 5 56 10 20 56
Set in two galleries in the gardens of the splendid Baroque Palais Rohan, which now serves as the city's Hôtel de Ville (town hall), the collection, about 200 works, is extremely impressive for a city this size. The south wing contains works by Rubens, Titian, Hals, Chardin, Brueghel, and Tischbein, among others, while the other gallery has paintings by Delacroix, Boudin, Seurat, Bonnard, and Kokoschka, along with four Matisses, a couple of Renoirs, and eight works by native son Odilon Redon.