Miroir d'Eau

Bordeaux Without Wine

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Words by Dalene Heck / Photography by Pete Heck

Wine and I don’t get along. I suppose I started it. Not with any intention though – I can either curse it as one of the many pitfalls of aging or blame it on my youth and the way in which I repeatedly drowned my weekday sorrows in liquid-y weekend fun. Either way, my body now rejects alcohol, and wine most vehemently. I can barely finish a glass of red before pain begins to seep into my brain.

And so to visit Bordeaux seemed preposterous, blasphemous even. It’s a “must stop” on a south of France road trip and one thing that Bordeaux is famous worldwide for is their lovely fermented grapes. But on our three day visit, I didn’t even sniff a sample.

Was I a waste of space? Did I fail as a traveler and explorer by forgoing this renowned cultural experience? I can see how some may say that.

Without wine tours to the countryside, tasting cruises on the river Garonne and the like, it might appear to others that there is little other reason to be there. And I did have to wonder myself, but upon arrival both Pete and I were very pleasantly surprised. It is a great city to enjoy our favourite activity – simply wandering about – and we spent almost our entire time doing exactly that.

There are palaces and a grand opera house to be seen, several perfectly manicured parks to linger in. The Miroir d’Eau swallowed up hours of our time, watching kids run through it as a giant puddle, and then dance in its rising fog later. We found fairy tales down alley ways. We eavesdropped on delicious gossip in French tongues while delighting our own with some of the best cuisine we found in our weeks in the country.

There’s a vibrant youthful flair to the city, which was amusing but also a mournful reminder of those days when I could have joined them with a glass in hand. My plan has always been to age as disgracefully as possible…and thus wine and I need to make up. (Maybe more time in Bordeaux will do the trick.)

Bordeaux Reflections
Bordeaux Fog
The Kiss
Bordeaux Merry-Go-Round
Tunnel of Trees
Bordeaux Fountain
Bordeaux Lights
Photographer Silhouette
Place de la Bourse
Bordeaux Night Life

where we stayed

Bordeaux is not a place for people on a strict budget, but as usual, Airbnb came through for us and we found a great room near the train station and walkable into the historic center. Our hosts were lovely and we especially enjoyed the terrace right outside our room. Haven’t tried Airbnb yet? Sign up through this link and you’ll receive a $25 credit (and we’ll get a little something as well, thanks for helping!) 🙂

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  1. Wow – I really only associated Bordeaux with wine and had no idea how beautiful a spot it is! I do enjoy wine (I thank our 3 years of living in the Okanagan for that!) so if I make it there I will enjoy some vin on your behalf 😉

  2. Perhaps my favourite photos from you guys – you haev capture dthe understated beauty of Bordeaux perfectly. I am not a big wine fan myself (I love me some craft beer) but I love visiting wineries because I find them so beautiful. I didn’t drink wine when I was in Bordeaux either but I agree that it is definitely still worth a visit whether you partake or not

  3. Wine & I don’t get along either. The romantic idea is actually a reality of blocked sinuses, sneezes and not much sleep! But I do love wine regions as they are so picturesque and calming. I’ve been more than happy to explore them. In fact, next week we are heading to winery countryside. I can photograph while others drink!

  4. Beautiful pics as always! So sorry to hear that you can’t enjoy that fermented grape juice, perhaps try one that does not have all the nasties in it, I have heard that the preservatives they use in wine can make some people very ill, maybe an organic wine is just what you need?

    1. I’ve tried organic and had problems too. I really think it’s just my body’s aversion to alcohol in general. Damn the gluttonous ways of my youth! 🙂

  5. As the not-so-proud master (well, sometimes) of a body nowadays keen on going the teetotal route (or should I say cliff?), I hear ya. Still, your photos are amazing as usual, and Bordeaux comes out winning. Hope you & wine eventually kiss and make up. Here’s to aging disgracefully!

  6. ok, I really need to see more of France! Bordeaux looks and sounds pretty great and your photos are really stunning!

    Oh, and I really like the new design! 🙂

  7. I’ll rue the day my body ever starts to reject my beloved wine! Though there’s no shame in listening to what your body needs…someone with celiac disease would never indulge in pizza simply because they found themselves in Naples, now would they? Hopefully one day you’ll be able to repair your relationship with wine 😉 Gorgeous photos!

  8. I can see how you actually didn’t need to taste any wine and upset your body and brain afterward – Bordeaux seems to have its own flair beyond the obvious wine-tasting activity which draws people to come to the city. Oh and that photo of the reflection of the cathedral’s spire on Miroir d’Eau is just spectacular! I also love it how you managed to capture the kissing couple. So romantically French! 🙂

  9. What a gorgeous piece — both writing-wise and photography-wise. I’m sorry you can’t enjoy the wine or booze, but just think about all the calories you are saving!

  10. What gorgeous photos of a city I love (and not just for the wine!). Thanks for posting about why the city is beautiful even with the wine removed (I’m a huge fan of stereotype-breakers!).

  11. Wow, I just wrote about this same topic! I was also recently in the Bordeaux wine country, in Medoc, and discovered that yes, even at the historical wine chateaus, in the middle of the vineyards, there actually is a lot more to do than just taste wine all day! You can indeed have quite a hands-on, wine-related adventure there without drinking any wine at all.

  12. Bordeaux is a beautiful city and you do not need to drink wine to enjoy it. Le Miroir d’Eau, le Grand Theatre, shopping in Rue Ste-Catherine or for the rich,in cours de l’Intendance, cruising on the Garonne river, beautiful gardens and churches, an excellent free Musee d’Aquitaine and food to die for. It is my favourite city in Europe.

  13. Well…..! I had pretty much written Bordeaux off as a place to visit. I had heard it was quite mundane. Thanks for opening our eyes to new horizons.

  14. I just discovered this post and wanted to say thank you! I spent part of my gap year before university living in Bordeaux and absolutely fell in love with the place (and I don’t drink wine either!).

    I sometimes seek out photos to reminisce about Bordeaux or show other people how beautiful it is, and I never find many impressive ones. However, your photos are stunning and really capture the magic of the city, especially after dark. So thank you, I’m sure I’ll come back to this post often to swoon over them.

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