Bordeaux Without Wine

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.)

Did I fail as a traveler and explorer by forgoing this renowned cultural experience?

Bordeaux Reflections
Bordeaux Fog
The Kiss

Bordeaux Merry-Go-Round
Bordeaux Cathedral
Bordeaux Streets

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!) πŸ™‚

36 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • October 20 2014

    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 πŸ˜‰
    Emily recently posted..Lessons in Varanasi & India

    • October 21 2014

      Enjoy plenty on my behalf! Make up for my poor showing! πŸ™‚

  • 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
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..Bucket List for a Summer in Sydney

    • October 21 2014

      Even beer causes me problems. It is a sad existence for me now. πŸ˜‰

  • It’s taken me a few years to start liking wine, white wine only though. Don’t put me near red wine. These…photos…are…incredible. I especially love the one of the couple! As always, thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels πŸ™‚
    Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren recently posted..My (FREE) week in Spain: Volunteering with Vaughantown!

    • October 21 2014

      Thanks Lauren! We had no idea how photogenic Bordeaux would be. As you can see, we had a lot of fun.

  • October 21 2014

    Sorry to hear that you and wine aren’t friends!!!
    But glad to see that Bordeaux is such a lovely spot even for non-wine-lovers.
    Amanda Kendle recently posted..How to travel with young children and stay slightly sane

    • October 21 2014

      We were very happy to see that too! Surprised, but happy!

  • October 21 2014

    Oh how beautiful. If this is how good it is without wine, imagine it WITH wine!
    Megan recently posted..Home after travel

    • October 21 2014

      Haha, no kidding! Although those reflections might get trippy with too much. πŸ™‚

  • October 21 2014

    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!
    lucent imagery recently posted..pompeii *italy*

  • Joanie
    October 21 2014

    Whenever I think of Bordeaux I think of Goya. It’s a gorgeous city!

  • Tammy
    October 22 2014

    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?

    • October 25 2014

      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! πŸ™‚

  • Outstanding photography, Dalene! Some of the best I’ve seen in a while!
    Miriam of Adventurous Miriam recently posted..10 things I learned from my yoga retreat

  • October 22 2014

    Pete, your photography keeps getting better and better…you made Bordeaux look stunning.Bravo!

  • October 22 2014

    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!
    Lunaguava recently posted..18 Travel Truisms (or random nonsense)

  • October 22 2014

    Gorgeous photos – I love the one with the carousel. Wine or no wine, the French countryside is always magical. It might have something to do with the languorous rhythm of life… πŸ™‚
    Savi of Bruised Passports recently posted..The SMELL of travel – 10 reasons why you should get off that couch and travel NOW

    • October 25 2014

      That definitely has something to do with it!

  • October 23 2014

    First time here and I love it all: the interface, the visual identity of the website and the stunning pictures! Well done!
    Geeky Explorer recently posted..5 things that most impressed me in Barcelona

    • October 25 2014

      Thank you, and welcome! Hope you stick around! πŸ™‚

  • October 23 2014

    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! πŸ™‚
    kami recently posted..Where I stayed: Vibe Hostel, Paraty

    • October 25 2014

      Thanks so much Kami! And we are in total agreement, we need more time in France too. So much to see.

  • October 24 2014

    Beautiful romantic photos. Being a lover of wine, I think I would love Bordeaux; and being that Cody doesn’t indulge in alcohol at all, I guess I would be drinking for two
    Giselle and Cody recently posted..Our Summer in Saskatchewan

    • October 25 2014

      Pete has the same plight, of drinking for two. It can be a rough job!

  • October 24 2014

    Your text was interesting but your pictures blew us away!!! Stunning! Not a bad place at all to enjoy a little wine. πŸ˜‰
    Mindy and Ligeia recently posted..Hot Beans – Vegan Restaurant in Toronto, Canada

  • October 25 2014

    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 πŸ˜‰ Gorgeous photos!
    Leah recently posted..Friday Snapshots: Panama’s San Blas Archipelago

  • October 26 2014

    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! πŸ™‚

  • Diana Edelman
    October 26 2014

    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!

  • paper boat sailor
    October 28 2014

    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!).

  • November 4 2014

    Love that top photo. Totally, quintessentially Bordeaux.

  • November 5 2014

    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.
    Suchi recently posted..Frolicking through Medoc in Bordeaux wine country

  • Adrian
    January 12 2015

    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.

  • February 24 2015

    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.
    Arnie recently posted..Hotel Reviews: Honfleur – La Cour Sainte Catherine

  • Jo
    April 21 2015

    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.

  • December 15 2015

    Bordeaux is amazing city, this fontain can turn anyone into fontain-addict! Love your photos!

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