1. Cite du Vin
Cite du Vin is a stunning modern building devoted to all things wine in the city of Bordeaux. This wine museum opened in 2016 and its unusual shape was inspired by gnarled vine stocks, wine swirling in a glass and the eddies of the Garonne River.
The exhibits within Cite du Vin have been designed to please everyone from those who know little about wine to connoisseurs. I am probably somewhere in the middle and I learned a huge amount during my visit. In particular, I was able to close my knowledge gaps in several areas.
The museum is broken into different ways to learn about wine. Wine can be explored by geography, by colour, by soil, by food pairing and virtually every way you could possibly think about wine.
Many of the exhibits are interactive and the museum uses technology very well to bring wine to life. The multi screen displays of vineyards around the world and hearing their wine makers speak will have you feeling like you’ve done a quick trip to the world’s best wine regions.
And of course no visit to Cite du Vin would be complete without a visit to the tasting room on the 8th floor (all entry tickets include a glass of wine in the tasting room). Whilst you’re sipping a wine of your choice enjoy the modern interior design and magnificent views of the city of Bordeaux.
2. The Maisons of Cognac
I had never drunk Cognac before visiting the town and knew virtually nothing about it. I was delighted to discover that cognac is created rather than made and that its manufacturing process has far more in common with perfume than wine or beer.
The best way to experience Cognac is by visiting several different Cognac houses. Whilst the process of creating Cognac is under a carefully applied appellation, each house has its own unique story and methods.
I would suggest visiting one of the big Cognac houses like Hennessy, a cognac house that manages the entire process from the grapes to the bottling like Maison Frapin and a house that focusses completely on the blending such as Maison Normandin Mercier.
Top Tip: Don’t miss a visit to one of Cognac’s cocktail bar. I recommend La Luciole by the river.
3. La Rochelle Market, on the Atlantic Coast
La Rochelle Market takes place in a 19th-century hall in heart of the old town. It was established as a meat market in 1834. Today it is known for its high-quality seafood.
The market also has a range of fresh produce, local products like wine and cheese and a generally festive atmosphere. The side of the market is lined with cafes that are frequented by locals.
For me the highlight of the market was seeing all the oysters on display. I learnt that the biggest oyster is known as number one and the smallest number five and that size and flavour don’t necessarily correlate when it comes to oysters.
I tried my first every green oyster at La Rochelle market. I didn’t know such a thing existed. The green oyster is quite beautiful – and very tasty!
4. Which Caneles are you?
Caneles are small cakes that are believed to have first been in made in the convents around Bordeaux in the 15th century. A canelé is a small caramelized cake flavoured with rum and vanilla. It is baked in a copper mold and has a soft centre.
Many bakeries in Bordeaux and around France make caneles. However, in Bordeaux there are two chains that battle each other for the title of supreme caneles. Locals tend to have their preferred caneles bakery.
La Toque Cuivree has the look and feel of a traditional French bakery. Caneles Baillardran has a more sophisticated upmarket presentation.
Don’t leave Bordeaux without trying caneles from both bakeries and finding out which is your favourite canelé producer.
5. Enjoy a Spa with lunch by the sea
Chatelaillon-Plage is a beautiful seaside resort with three kilometres of sandy beach and a picturesque sea front. It is also home to La Grand Terrasse boutique hotel and Le Gaya restaurant.
Le Gaya is a Pierre Gagnaire restaurant. The world famous French chef is best known for being at the forefront of fusion cuisine Le Gaya focusses on seafood and the 360 degree view of the ocean. Blue and white wicker chairs and the large open bar create a feeling of space that lets the soft light of the sea sail through the restaurant.
Once you’ve enjoyed a wonderful three course lunch at Le Gaya head to La Grand Terrasse’s spa. It is a Nuxe spa, the iconic French pharmacy brand known in particular for it outstanding body oils.
Lounge by the magnificent modern pool, work off a few calories in the thalassotherapy pool, relax on a sun bed with an ocean view or best of all book in for a post lunch massage.
It was quite difficult to choose just five fantastic gastronomic experiences for this article. I visited several outstanding restaurants during my time in Nouvelle-Aquitaine and sampled many tasty local specialties. If you’re a food and wine lover who likes to enjoy a wide range of gastronomic experiences, Nouvelle-Aquitaine is the perfect destination.