And just like that, I’m back for Christmas. I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t been counting down the days to come home. The last month has been a challenge, not least because of the political mess dressed up in yellow HiVis vests that’s been gracing the streets of France recently. So the prospect of spending a few weeks in a safe environment with my family at the most wonderful time of year has been the carrot dangling over my nose to keep me treading on. I’ve been getting in all the cuddles, gorging on all the Christmas food, drinking all the English tea (as well as the slightly stronger stuff), and preparing myself for the second half of my adventure. Just like I did for Pau, I’m currently compiling a list of must-see places in and around Sevilla. It’s a great tactic for keeping busy when I’m missing home, or feeling a bit overwhelmed – like the other week when my friend and I booked a weekend to Bordeaux as a Christmassy treat.
It was one of the major cities near Pau that was on my list but that I hadn’t yet visited. So off we went early one Saturday morning to kick start our journey to the wine capital of the world. Being two fervent foodies, we decided to structure our trip around where we could stop to fill our tummies. Our first stop was at Café du Levant, a cosy brasserie adorned with twinkly lights, for coffee and a croissant. It was just the little pick me up we needed to sustain us through a day of exploring, shopping and festive spirit.
For lunch, we stopped at a restaurant called Le Chien de Pavlov on Rue de la Devise and I ate what I think was one of the best meals i’ve had in France. I had salmon gravlax to start and a cod dish with Jerusalem artichoke and mushrooms to follow (it might not sound that appetising but it was a taste sensation). The staff were lovely, it’s dog friendly, and the chic cave-like decor made it feel like a very luxurious lunch, even though it was quite reasonably priced. 10/10 would recommend.
In the evening we went to the Christmas markets, which was the main reason for our trip. By this point, the rain was in full swing so it was soggy instead of snowy, but that wasn’t going to stop us. We treated ourselves to vin chaud, piperade and churros, and made sure we visited every single stall. There were lights aglow and chestnuts a-roasting – definitely worth a visit if you’re ever that way on one Christmas.
The final foodie place we visited was Café Kokomo on Rue Ravez for brunch. You know a place is popular when it is full to the brim ten minutes into service, and the queue outside is staring into your soul as they wait for you to finish. We ordered Huevos Rancheros and Egg and Bacon Pancakes which were just as impressive as the staff who knew all the words to the Beyoncé tracks blaring from the old school stereos. The café’s retro vibe was super instagrammable, even if we hoovered up all the brunchy goodness before we remembered to do so.
I loved Bordeaux as a city. It just felt very classic. Despite its grandeur, it didn’t feel overwhelming. It had a quirky character that seemed to be built into the brickwork and the Christmas lights that bordered every shop window made it feel very magical. The weather was a bit pants, but we managed by sheltering in shops and keeping our energy up with sweet Kouignettes (sticky sweet Breton pastries). We saw La Grosse Cloche, popped into boutiques on Rue Sainte-Catherine, walked along the Garonne, and gawped at the architecture.
We also visited La Place de la Bourse, but our view was restricted by a sea of fluorescent jackets. The Gilet Jaunes were in full swing, tear gas and all, which wasn’t ideal. But hey, it’s something to tell the grandkids.
It was the perfect trip to give me that final oomf of cultural energy before coming home for Christmas. And it was probably my last major trip before I cross the border and explore some Hispanic territory. Knowing i’ve got another six months to go is both very daunting and very exciting, but i’m trying to harness the positivity from all the great memories i’ve acquired since August. Needless to say, this Christmas break has been very well needed and has reminded me of the amazing support network i’ve got back home.
I hope you’ve all had a wonderful Christmas with friends and family. And if you haven’t already, have a Baileys for me.