5 Day Trips from Bordeaux, France

5 day trips from Bordeaux France
In Fall 2016, I studied in Bordeaux with the Middlebury Schools Abroad. This post is part of a series on life in Southern France.

I was antsy each weekend. 

After a few program-organized trips, I itched to explore the region even more. Bordeaux was beautiful, but what else was out there? 

My wanderlust led me all across France during my year abroad. The southwest, however, remains a personal favorite--from historic ports to renowned vineyards, the diverse landscapes never failed to impress. 

Here are some of the gems surrounding Bordeaux, perfect for a day or weekend trip. 

First, a couple logistics:

Transportation--
I took the train most frequently, so approximate prices I list are for train tickets with SNCF. The lower end of the range is for Carte Jeune holders (those ages 18-27 who've purchased a discount card). The higher end is for any adult without a discount card. 

You may also have some luck with BlaBlaCar, a car rideshare service, or KelBillet, a site to find discounted or secondhand (original purchaser can no longer make the trip) train/car/plane fares. 

Housing--
If you're looking for places to stay, I normally use Airbnb and Couchsurfing. On Airbnb, you can rent a room or entire lodging through locals. I've been able to find well-reviewed places for as low as $20/night. If you haven't joined yet, you can use my invite code to get $40 off of your first trip of $75 or more.

On Couchsurfing, you can stay with locals for free. This might sound sketchy, but I promise that there are many incredible hosts who really just want to share their culture and town with tourists. I've taken 4 trips with Couchsurfing, and had all positive experiences (check out my profile here). Just be sure to reach out to hosts with many good reviews (10+ is best!) and reach out with personalized messages (read hosts' profiles and comment on how you might get along). Couchsurfing is less reliable than Airbnb since potential hosts don't have to respond to your request within 25 hours, and they also have less disincentive to cancel on you since the wouldn't be losing money. So be sure to reach out to many people and also have a backup plan! 

And of course, if you have any questions, shoot away via comment/email/insta!

1. Arcachon
La Dune du Pilat
La Dune du Pilat
Distance by train: 1 hour
Roundtrip cost: 10-25
Known for: tallest sand dune in Europe, beaches, forests, seafood

Arcachon is an unexpected fusion: thick forests, miles of sand, and vast ocean. Perfect for a summer outing, Arcachon boasts plenty of beaches, shopping, and the tallest sand dune in Europe. To reach the Dune du Pilat (Pyla), take bus 1 from the station. Be sure to bring lots of water and be ready for a sand-walking workout. 

2. St-Jean-de-Luz
St-Jean-de-Luz beach
St-Jean-de-Luz
St-Jean-de-Luz
Distance by train: 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: 30-50
Known for: beaches, mountains, artisan shops, food (desserts and seafood)

The Pays Basque, a region near the Spanish border, is famous for beautiful weather and warm people. If you take a bus in nearby city Bayonne, for instance, you'll notice that locals personally thank the driver before getting off at their stop. While riverside Bayonne and beachy Biarritz may be more well-known, I personally prefer St-Jean-de-Luz. You really just can't beat the quaint town, cliffside views, and calm beaches. While you're there, be sure to try a gâteau basque, a mini-cake traditional to the region. 

3. Saint-Emilion
Lussac vignoble
Saint-Emilion
Distance by train: 45 mins
Roundtrip cost: 10-25
Known for: vineyards and wine chateaux, medieval architecture

I ran a half-marathon here in October, but never actually had a chance to walk through the city itself (I'm cheating a bit--the first two photos are acutally from Lussac, a neighboring town where my airbnb was). Saint-Emilion is a must-do as a Bordeaux resident--it's just a hop away by train, and also one of the more cost-efficient daytrips. Here, you'll find sprawling vineyards, a quaint medieval town, and some of the best-reputed red wine in France.

4. Toulouse
chapelle des carmélites
Toulouse
Distance by train: 2 hours
Roundtrip cost: 30-50
Known for: colorful buildings, violette candy

The "ville rose" (pink city) had some of the most insta-worthy buildings. I was awestruck when I stumbled upon La Chapelle des Carmélites, a very unassuming color-coordinated chapel that's covered in stunning paintings, from walls to ceiling. I also loved La Bibliothèque d'Etude et du Patrimoine, a public library with gorgeous art deco architecture. Le Musée des Augustins, an art museum free to students, is also worth a see. Be sure to also try some bonbons de violette, a candy that tastes a bit like lavender ("violette" is a type of purple flower). I especially liked violette dark chocolate.

5. La Rochelle
La Rochelle port
La Rochelle vieux port
Tour Saint-Nicholas La Rochelle
Distance by train: 2.5 hours
Roundtrip cost: 30-60 
Known for: history, port/tower views, seafood

I wrote on La Rochelle back in September, and it remains one of my favorite trips. The town is bustling enough to keep you busy, but also very walkable. The views from the historic towers are also stunning--the ships in port are so colorful, and the seawater is such a pure blue. The food scene is impressive as well--for lunch, I munched on a quick vegan meal, and for dinner, I scarfed up a traditional galette and lychee-rose sorbet. 


Happy travels,

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