Our first stop in Western France was the city of Bordeaux. We traveled by train from Carcassonne, a wise choice given the hectic traffic of Bordeaux. I honestly had done zero research about Bordeaux, we were not spending much time in the city since we were meeting friends and heading to their home in the countryside, so I had no idea what to expect. I am really glad I didn’t because the impact of the city is amazing! The route to our hotel took us along the street between the Garonne river and the massive buildings standing opposite.
The architecture of Bordeaux is more regal and elegant than I imagined then, combined with the Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool, the people leisurely walking around and the gorgeous Pont-de-Pierre bridge you feel transported to another time in history. A time you don’t want to leave.
We only spent a day and a half in Bordeaux but it was enough time to know we would love to go back. We spent our time wandering through the romantic streets, looking at the architecture, the shops (there is great shopping in Bordeaux), and along the river. We walked to the wine museum which is a pretty cool place (unfortunately we arrived to late for wine tastings which I think would be the point of going there, lets be honest…). If I were planning a trip to France again I would definitely spend less time in Paris and more time in Bordeaux. It still feels authentic, not overrun by tourists or military police yet. It was a great day and a half catching up with friends we hadn’t seen in ten years!
Next we were off to Poitiers. This little town, a few hours northeast of Bordeaux, is off the beaten path but definitely offers a non-tourist experience. It is experiencing a resurgence now which is changing some of the architecture and shops, for the better. The main square has a beautiful City Hall which looks out on restaurants and cafe’s, children playing and elderly people chatting away on benches. I think it makes a lovely day trip from Nantes, Angers, La Rochelle or even Bordeaux, or use it as a home base to travel around this area of France. The quaint and quiet streets full of half-timbered or historical buildings, will draw you in while the amazing chocolate shops will tempt you to never leave.
Our last town in Western France was the seaside town of La Rochelle. The town sits in Old Harbor which is formed by way of the Towers of Strength. These majestic Medieval towers welcome boats into the Old Harbor. There is so much to love about this romantic town. The cobblestoned streets are wonderful to walk and shop or to visit one of my favorite churches in France, which is all hand-painted. The ancient buildings are in beautiful contrast to the elegant beaches and delicious cafes. Walking through the streets with our friends for the day was so wonderful we found ourselves daydreaming about buying apartments and getting lost in the Western region of France.
While it can get pretty busy in the summer, especially with English tourists, La Rochelle still maintains its quaint French appeal. I wouldn’t miss this little town and its historic buildings if visiting the western region of France.