As I crossed the recent, crowded concourse of Gare Montparnasse, Paris, I walked previous a jazz band blasting out Candy Goals (Are Made from This). Approaching the ticket barrier, I used to be alarmed to see that the musicians had fallen into step behind me whereas nonetheless enjoying. They weren’t serenading me, nevertheless, however my prepare. This was the day the high-speed service from Paris to Bordeaux became even faster: simply over two hours fairly than three and 1 / 4. When you’re travelling from London, the small journey of the change in Paris is concerned, transferring from a Eurostar to a TGV prepare, so it takes 5 hours and 50 minutes.
The trains to Bordeaux are both the brand new Duplex – or double-decker – ones or older, single-deck. Each would disgrace any British prepare.
On the brand new design, if you happen to journey first-class, you’ll be able to take pleasure in seats that swivel to face the route by which you might be travelling. Whereas I settled into mine, the brass band threw their straw boaters within the air as our prepare departed.
Precisely 100 minutes later the primary sprawling vineyards of Bordeaux got here into view – giving me the sensation that I used to be about to fall right into a vat of wine. Not so unlikely on this space: Bordeaux takes its wine drinking extremely seriously – final 12 months it opened a mega museum La Cité du Vin. Positioned in a glass constructing that appears like a disorted bubble, it presents expert-led tasting classes and interactive shows. The bizarre form of the constructing is supposed to characterize the swirl of wine vapour within the glass, though I couldn’t assist considering of an enormous Ugg boot. Both method it’s the final word expression of Bordeaux’s fashionable and high-tech epicureanism.
Futuristic design and historic heritage (wine has been produced within the area because the eighth century) work properly collectively right here. Even the trams have a space-age look that contrasts successfully with the formal, 18th-century magnificence of the city centre, filled with buildings in golden limestone.
Twenty years in the past, they had been black from air pollution. The occasional darkish one survives like a nasty tooth – a reminder of the dangerous previous days when Bordeaux was a stuffy backwater whose inhabitants fled to the resort of Arcachon on the Gironde estuary each weekend.
That was earlier than town was remodeled by its long-term, biking mayor, Alain Juppé, who launched trams, rent bikes, pedestrianisation schemes, and a wave of younger entrepreneurs. 4 years in the past a survey ranked Bordeaux as France’s second-favourite metropolis after Paris.
Sitting on the terrace of the gorgeous, barely battered-looking Bistrot des Quinconces at 7pm on a beautiful summer time’s night, a glass of wine was not a lot known as for as demanded – particularly as I’d managed to keep away from the bar on the prepare. With my suitcase tucked beneath the desk, I handed a satisfying hour with half a bottle of Graves dry white and a fried duck’s breast with frites.
After espresso, I walked to my lodge, Le Boutique, cleverly inserted six years in the past into an 18th-century city home. Then I explored the previous city. Medieval lanes thread drunkenly via the grid of streets. Typically a turreted gatehouse – a remnant of the unique metropolis wall – seems like a movie set for a fairy story. The focus, and the end result of the Cours de l’Intendance (the neatest buying road) is the Grand Théâtre. In-built 1780 on the positioning of a Roman temple, it appears precisely like one.
Simply off the sq. is the Bar à Vin, on the bottom ground of the Bordeaux Wine Council HQ. It has classical mouldings, Scandi-modern furnishings, and a stained glass window that includes a well-toned Bacchus. Because the solar streamed via the crimson and gold glass, I loved a glass of Château Cantelaudette, Graves de Vayres – wonderful, and solely €2.50.
Later, I walked north to the place the 18th offers option to the 19th century and the gorgeous rue Notre Dame, the place stylish and arty boutiques lurk behind curtains of ivy.
I retreated from the glare of the solar into the Museum of Contemporary Art, positioned in an unlimited, reclaimed warehouse and maintained in a darkish and crypt- like state. A lot of the installations conveyed a chamber-of-horrors frisson (corpse-like mannequins a speciality), as if taking their cue from the constructing’s gloom.
Again within the fairly courtyard of my lodge, I ate tapas: avocado, salmon and a fried egg on a buckwheat blini adopted by cod in a garlicky pil-pil sauce – scrumptious consolation meals. As with all the pieces else on this metropolis, previous and current are harmoniously allied right here and it couldn’t be a extra gratifying mixture.
Solution to go
Andrew Martin’s newest novel is Soot (Corsair, £14.99). Order a replica for £12.74 at bookshop.theguardian.com