With regal emerald vineyards proliferating her landscape, Bordeaux (pop. 235,900) is ubiquitously and rightfully associated with the production of unforgettable wine. However over the span of recent decades, the establishment of Universite de Bordeaux along with its population of passionate young students has gently prodded the city from her gentle lull to awake into a vibrant pulsating locale. If you are looking for a feast of the senses and a city that never pauses to second-guess herself, Bordeaux is the place to be.

Temperate weather is bestowed upon Bordeaux and this means the city is ideal for a visit at anytime of the year. It is with sound reason why many experienced travellers find Spring (with the absence of loud gawking tourists as well as torturous summer sun) possibly the most picturesque time to visit. Getting to Bordeaux should leave no traveller nonplussed with the extensive TGV services as well as the alternatives of planes, cars and buses.

A subject of contentious and heated discussions on both sides, Bordeaux has been known as a little Paris due to its thriving social and cultural scene. This moniker originated from Gambetta Square, north of Bordeaux. Known to be one of the more affluent districts, place Gambetta is surrounded by cafes to spend languorous afternoons and lined with posh shops to cater to hedonistic needs. The overall relaxed atmosphere that surrounds the area is ironic to its fascinating yet appalling history as the site of close to 300 guillotine executions. Don’t weigh in too heavily on the gritty details and remember to pop by the Musée des Beaux-Arts that holds a stellar selection of fine works from masters such as Matisse, Rubens and Marquet. When hunger pangs gnaw at you, choose to head to the public park and have a picnic under the alcove of trees and watch ducks frolic lazily in the lake.

FRANCE AQUITAINE Bordeaux Reflets sur la place de la BourseCursed or blessed with weak subsoil, the city’s neoclassical architectural landscape is weighed down by few skyscrapers and is a definite sight to behold. This isn’t just some flighty tourist commentary but a well-substantiated one by the fact that over 1810 hectares of the city has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. Places to take visit and take long strolls are abound in the city of Bordeaux. Take in the magnificent 18th century architecture of Palais de la Bourse, the magical fairytale-like astronomical clock atop the bell tower of Grosse Cloche, the formidable gothic architecture of Basilique et Fleche Saint Michel and definitely stop by to admire the gorgeous neo-classical Grand Theatre and possibly spend an extravagant evening at a world class opera. Night prowlers can haunt the streets of La Victoire which is situated near the university and offers a smorgasbord of pub and club choices.

A trip to Bordeaux will not be considered well-spent if one were to not visit at least one of the many vineyards. There are many packages available to suit each and every budget and taste. These range from the very basic visits to the more mind-blowing extravagant tours that include a chauffer and gourmet meals to go with your wine-tasting itinerary. It must be mentioned that gastronomy in Bordeaux is taken as seriously as its wine so be prepared for a heightened culinary experience.

If the enigma of Paris is alluded to a graceful older woman, Bordeaux is probably a reflection of her younger self. Awoken only recently from her calm stupor, the city isn’t stumbling to find herself but rather, willfully charming and flaunting her allure. Bordeaux is confident, unabashed and almost somewhat knowingly careless about her beauty, leaving you fascinated, intoxicated and wanting more.

Bordeaux's history can be traced back 30,000 year ago with the discovery of Neanderthal remains in the cave Pair-non-Pair. Needless to say, wine has had a large impact and steered a major part of Bordeaux’s historical trajectory. Around 60BC, the city came under the rule of Romans and became the bustling capital of the Roman Aquitaine. The Romans began the cultivation of the vine and this development was alluded to as early as the 4th century by the poet Ausonius.

A series of invasion by the Vandals, Visgoths and Franks followed and centuries of unrest besieged the city. The marriage between Alienor d’Aquitaine and Henri II Plantagenet in the 12th century finally restored peace to Bordeaux and saw the city of Bordeaux come under the English rule in what is now termed as the ‘English Era’. In an attempt to win the hearts of the Bordeaux citizens, the King established tax-free trade between the city and England. The move was a major boon for Bordeaux who soon saw her wine affectionately termed as ‘claret’ and gaining wide-spread popularity and acclaim across the Channel.

However, the Battle of Castillon in 1453 saw the city go under French rule and a sharp decline in trade. The city was only returned its sovereignty in 1462 by Louis XVI and wine trade began to expand exponentially along with colonial trading of sugar and slaves. A rapid metamorphosis of the city’s medieval landscape was initiated during the 18th century in an attempt to modernize the city’s environment.

The 19th century was however a dark period for Bordeaux’s economy as it was just coming out of the shadows of the French revolution and was also racked with problems such as slave trade being halted, a slump of sugar trading as well as the historical widespread destruction of the vines due to the bug phylloxera. Countless vines had to be burnt to prevent the spread of the virulent disease and the continued survival of the trade was only made possible by grafting European vines onto the stem of the American variety. This inevitably resulted in a change of quality and taste of the wine produced.

In modern history, Bordeaux’s facade was relatively unscathed by the aftermath of combat during the world wars because fighting largely took place in the north-east of the country. However, many Bordelais were part of the casualty toll accounting for those who had taken arms to defend their country. The city briefly served as a wartime national capital during the years of 1870, 1914 and 1940 when France was in conflict with Germany.

Post- war Bordeaux re-emerged as one of the finest producers of wine in the world and in recent decades has been welcoming a burgeoning tourist population that is continually charmed over by the city which Victor Hugo aptly summarizes in the quote: "Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux"