After our amazing homemade breakfast in the courtyard of our hotel, we set about exploring Bordeaux proper. We left via the public gardens again, which were looking beautiful in the early morning autumn sun; leaves golden, grass green. I juggled with some of the freshly fallen brown conkers, and Sam photographed the barnacle geese at the edge of the pond.
From the park we strolled down Rue Ferrere, along the centre of a boulevard lined with horse-chestnut trees, leaves crunched beneath our feet. This brought us out onto Quai des Chartrons, which has a market every Sunday morning. From packed stalls there were the local speciality, canelé, fresh seafood — crabs, mussels, fish, large langoustine, squid, cuttlefish and even sea anemones. And of course there were stands dedicated to Arcachon’s famous oysters. Fresh fruit and veg stalls had the European usuals, and the cheese stalls were a wonder; with several varieties of the creamy Comte we loved last night. We even found a stall selling Chinese pu-er tea and Sichuan pepper. Of course the biggest problem we had exploring this market was that we’d just eaten the most enormous breakfast, we were stuffed and couldn’t eat another thing. We hung about until we got hungry.
Approaching midday, and the sun was hot; in late October it was too hot to stay out in the sunshine and we kept to the shade of the stalls. We bought ourselves fresh fruit smoothies, some spiced fried potatoes, a lamb and pepper kebab and some aubergine. Meanwhile French locals walked by in blue and white striped tops and a man played classic tunes on an accordion. By mid-afternoon the stalls were shutting, and we wandered off in search of Bordeaux’s cathedrals.
In Chartrons we stumbled on Eglise St Louis des Chartrons, a church with a beautiful façade on a street that reminded me of Brighton. And from here he continued south, returning to the river to see the water mirror once again, and to make the most of the sunshine. In the old quarter we hopped between the ancient streets, discovering that on a Sunday in France everything is shut. All but a few open-air tourist restaurants were closed, and those expensive eateries outside were where the French liked to smoke; e-cigarettes and smoking bans have yet to catch on. To our misfortune, Cathédrale Saint-André was also closed, a ticket-only concert was about to begin. We walked slowly back to our hotel via Place Gambetta, where buskers were playing jazz, and then a side road from where we stumbled on the Roman ruins of Rue de Colisée. At the end of a residential street stands a great stone arch, the heart of, and all that remains of, the Palais Gallien amphitheatre, destroyed by the Bordeaux authorities in 1793.
In Jardin Public we watched the evening come, with cheap wine and beer from the garden’s Orangerie, and then, as the sun passed low between the trees, we watched from the grass, waiting until the park was about to close before we left.
After a quick rest in the hotel room we headed back out to find dinner. Tonight we hadn’t any Michelin-affairs booked, and we took the recommendations of our hotelier, Daniel. According to Daniel, L’Entrecôte, which opens its doors at 7:30pm, always has a queue — it’s first come first served and there’s one dish: steak and french fries, and two drink options: red wine or rosé wine. Every night the restaurant sits 900 diners. It’s a Bordeaux institution, and its steak is the best in town.
We thought on a Sunday evening we might be lucky. It’s one of the few places open, but with it being a Sunday the queues would be shorter. We were right, and when we arrived we were immediately seated on the second floor; the place was rammed, and the tables are so packed in that to sit down our waitress needed to pull out the table for me to slide in. Our seats not yet warm, we’d ordered two medium steaks (for medium in France is rare, red and bloody) and a bottle of red.
It is the complete opposite of a Michelin meal, and that was just fine. The service is ruthlessly efficient and fast, and we marvelled at its factory-like operation. After our walnut salad entree, the steak arrived amidst a piled heap of french fries. The pink steak in its standard mustard sauce tasted great, and the fries smothered in the steak fat were salty and yum. We left room for their profiteroles too.
Within an hour of arriving we were leaving, we’d downed a bottle of red between us and we were stuffed full of carbs and meat.