The Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux & Spa cuts a swath through the Place de la Comédie in the heart of the city’s historic Golden Triangle. Its eighteenth century neoclassical façade is watched over by statues of Juno, Venus and Minerva, which line the roof of the Grand Théâtre opposite. The two buildings share an architect – Victor Louis, after which the bar at the Grand takes its name, or at least shares it with French author Victor Hugo.
Having been refurbished in 2007 by Parisian designer Jacques Garcia, the Grand is helping to put Bordeaux on the map as a tourist destination in addition to its status as a second home for the UK wine trade. Behind the façade, the Grand has much to offer – Michelin-starred restaurant Le Pressoir d’Argent is one of only five restaurants worldwide to use a lobster press. Not for the faint hearted, Brittany blue lobsters are presented alive to guests then fried in the kitchen and finished in the dining room, where the legs and coral are pressed to make the sauce.
|A delux room at the Grand|
If you need to recover from the trauma of seeing your dinner alive before eating it, the hotel’s Bains de Léa spa offers “gourmet fruit scrubs”, “Kashmir” massages and hydrotherapy, while a rooftop jacuzzi affords delicious views across the city. Rooms are empirical in style, prettified with toile wallpaper in regal purple, pastel coloured period furniture, ornate fabric headboards, sumptuous tassel tied curtains and opulent marble bathrooms.
For wine lovers keen to take advantage of the myriad of châteaux dotted throughout the city, the Grand’s wine consierge service – the first of its kind in Europe, has launched a Wine Journey series, allowing guests enviable access to some of the most prestigious châteaux in the region, from Pichon Baron on the Left Bank to Cheval Blanc on the Right. Three voyages are on offer: the “classic car”, the “Jefferson” and the “Hemingway”.
|Classic cars outside Château Pichon Baron|
On the classic car tour, guests can hop into a vintage car and head out into the vineyards, making pit stops at three of their chosen châteaux across the appellations of Margaux, St-Julien, St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St-Emilion, Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes, with the option of an al fresco lunch among the vines at one of the properties prepared by Michelin-starred chef Pascal Nibaudeau. The experience costs €1,140 and includes one night in a deluxe room.
In honour of wine loving American President Thomas Jefferson, the Jefferson excursion retraces the president’s journey to Bordeaux in May 1787, from which he drafted his classification of Bordeaux 68 years prior to the official 1855 Classification. During the tour, guests can choose from a selection of châteaux Jefferson visited during his trip, including first growths Château Margaux and Haut-Brion and esteemed Sauternes estate Château d’Yquem.
|Ernest Hemingway enjoying a glass of red|
In addition, Jefferson’s original tasting notes will be shared and guests are invited to meet the US consul in Bordeaux. The experience doesn’t come cheap – the tour costs €2,170, but includes limousine transfers, two nights in a deluxe room and a dinner for two at the Le Pressoir d’Argent. And finally, one for the bibliophiles. While it’s well documented that El Papa loved a daiquiri or three, less is written about his love of fine wine. The Hemingway tour centres around the Margaux appellation, after which his granddaughter is named.
Hemingway arrived in Bordeaux in 1818 via a ship called the Chicago. Charmed by the wines being made in the region, he noted that wine offers “a greater range for enjoyment than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing”. €2,200 will bag you a place on the tour, one night in a deluxe room and dinner for two at Le Pressoir d’Argent with a bottle of Château Margaux, though I’m guessing it won’t be the 1982.