What’s not to love about the South of France? When most people think about the South of France, they are immediately taken to St. Tropez, where champagne drenched lunches stretch long into the afternoon and usually end up dancing on tables in between mouthfuls of Club 55’s iconic Strawberry Tart.
Or, chic afternoons are spent lunching, looking at people, and lounging by the pool at Hotel du Cap Eden Roc in Antibes. All of that is good and fine on occasion, but really….how many Russian oligarchs and their 25-year old mistresses can you observe before you are unequivocally over it?
The whole ‘South of France’ vibe really isn’t much of a vibe at all to me. St. Tropez severely dropped off around 2010. You can always tell by the music. The minute they started hoisting those glow-in-the-dark Dom Perignon bottles and blaring Lil’ Jon at Les Caves it was over. But I digress.
So, my story of the real South of France actually begins in Ibiza. Music, as it always does, is what brings people together. Years ago, my honeymoon was a whirlwind summer traipse around Europe with stops in all my favorite destinations. Of course, that included a week on the White Isle.
So there we were, enjoying dinner and the sunset at the legendary Café Mambo which is a modest seaside restaurant with one of the world’s most prolific DJ booths, if not the most. So on a given night, you could expect Carl Cox to pop in for a pre-Space warmup, or Benny Benassi or Giorgio Moroder if you were really, really good in your past life. On this particular night, Swedish House Mafia was set to grace the booth. If you know anything about music you know that….well…this was a unicorn experience that won’t soon happen again. Let me put it this way, it was like having The Beatles walk into a restaurant and start playing. John Lennon included.
One thing that my friends know about me is that I will dance anywhere. Anytime. For any reason. If there is music, I will always be the first one on the floor. Or on the table. Or dancing in my seat. Dancing is one of the highest-vibe activities one can do. It is a literal vibration. So, sure enough, when you start dancing you will send out an electric charge that other high vibe people will immediately pick up on. It’s science.
A few minutes later, a very nice bottle of champagne ends up on our table that we didn’t order. We look around, and two well-dressed English chaps smile and wave. Why in the world would two guys send a bottle of champagne to a couple on their honeymoon? Easy answer: they wanted to be our friends. What did you think?
And the rest, as they say, was history.
Fast forward to Bordeaux. To protect the privacy and identity of our notable U.K. friends, I won’t go into much detail into who they are and the circles they roam in. However, if you ever needed an example of travel bringing the likeminded together…let this be it. I cherish many happy memories of holidays in Paris, summers in Mykonos, and rainy days spent in Chelsea’s pubs with our pals, culminating in the beautiful wedding of one of the chaps in Bordeaux last September.
Naturally, we welcomed his beautiful Mrs. into our intercontinental circle of friends and merged an even bigger interconnected group of Brits and Australians for what was undoubtedly the real royal wedding. A car collector himself, our Groom had spent many a summer racing Porsches from Britain to Bordeaux to post up at his family’s country estate. You could say he was a Bordeaux pro. The real South of France.
Lodging in Bordeaux requires expert research to cultivate the ideal experience. I would be utterly remiss if I didn’t mention the chateau we are fortunate to stay at whenever we visit. 5 Lasserre is the ultimate chic stay in Bordeaux. The chateau is owned by our dear friends Fredéric and Cristina Flageat-Simon, a pair that requires a separate column to describe how utterly fabulous and unequivocally cool they are. As a side note, I am convinced that Fredéric, an international hotelier and C-level bigwig at top 5 global hotel brand is responsible for setting about 90% of the luxury travel trends we enjoy today. So, if you have stayed in a cool hotel anytime in the last decade….know that your experience is very likely influenced by the sensibilities of Fredéric and Cristina in some way. So you can imagine how incredible their own personal property is.
The wedding festivities took place in a few different locations. Bordeaux is rather spread out, but the drives are gorgeous. I highly recommend visiting in early Fall, Harvest Season, when the vines are mature and the leaves are changing in every shade of gold, green, red, purple you could imagine. Spring for a luxury rental car. I used to fight my husband on this as I think rental car prices are a racket so I thought it was absurd to spend 3x as much for a car we’d be spending minutes a day in any way. After we got stuck with what was essentially a Peugeot Smart Car in Paris one time that barely even fit our luggage, this argument was a moot point fo the rest of eternity. In Bordeaux, an elegant vehicle is essential. Trust me.
Plus, if you’re a guy, I’m told the drive from town to town, the vineyards and the countryside is quite exhilarating.
The historic town of Saint-Emilion is utterly gorgeous. This is where the wedding celebration kickoff took place. Champagne and canapes were served in an open-air square. Everything is white-washed stone. It’s gorgeous. The town itself is quite steep and cobblestoned and really doesn’t pair well with Gianvito Rossi heels, but of course, you wear them because it’s all part of the adventure.
Dining is formal or brasserie-style in Bordeaux. I happen to love a good 13-course tasting menu, but it’s not something you can do every night. Well, I could probably do them every night, but my dining companion cannot. Also, you shouldn’t. But definitely do a few.
You’ll probably notice I have spent no time talking about the wineries in Bordeaux because….well, it’s Bordeaux. Every wine is amazing, and quite possibly the best wine you’ve ever had. Until you taste another one. And another one. So enjoy them all.
One question people ask me is if Bordeaux is like Napa, to which I take immediate offense. First of all, I don’t use the N-word and it makes me uncomfortable when people do. But seriously, though….Napa (for the most part) is an oversaturated, totally commercialized, American Disneyland for people who have convinced themselves they are classed-up professional drinkers.
That was a bit harsh.
But seriously, I have words for Napa. And we were married there. It’s changed a lot since then.
Bordeaux is unapologetically French countryside. It’s very humble, it’s very traditional, and it’s very protected. It’s special. It’s unique. And it’s not overrun with tourists….yet.
Perhaps the most telling example of the Bordeaux mystique is the answer you get when you ask a local what their favorite winery is.
(Inaudible French sound of disgust complete with iconic sour face)
“The Bordeaux wine is terrible. You should try Burgundy instead….”
Bon voyage, and cin-cin friends.