Whoever said Paris was France’s most romantic city? With its divine cuisine, bustling atmosphere, and 18th-century architecture, Bordeaux offers a more intimate setting than the capital with the same drama, beauty and style. And bang in the middle, staring face-on to the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux across the famous La Place de la Comédie square, is the impressive five-star Grand Hôtel de Bordeaux.
Winter brings a special sprinkling of magic to the hotel. Having teamed up with its neighbour to offer a Winter Ballet Package that includes tickets to see Romeo & Juliet, the lobby has been transformed into a festive ballet spectacular, with a Christmas tree made entirety of theatrical costumes and rows of tutus on the wall illuminated in ethereal blue. After dark, step back from the entrance and as if the exterior wasn’t already impressive enough, watch mesmerising silver lights cascade down the front.
First on my itinerary was relaxing in the newly renovated The Bains de Léa. Its perch near the top of the five-story building lets the winter sunbeam in and the rooftop view gives it the feeling of an other-worldly hideaway. Arriving early for my treatment, I slinked about in my robe and slippers, dipping my feet into the pool to discover with delight that it was a bath-like temperature. Even if you don’t have a treatment booked, I suggest coming to sip on a mint tea and take in the plush surroundings of the baroque-style interior. Although I’m certain I enjoyed my 90-minute full body massage, in truth it’s a bit of a blur, as the heated bed teamed with expert fingers sent me sinking into a sleepy state.
Room for romance
Entering my room was like being shape-shifted to lavish 18th century France. The red and gold interior was decadent and ornate, the highlight being the beautiful fabric printed wallpaper that surrounded the ultra-soft bed. For all the traditional features, there are of course modern luxuries, including a well-stocked mini bar, Nespresso machine and Molton Brown treats. Upgrade to an Executive Room and you can people watch over the theatre and square with a bird’s eye view from your terrace (on checking in, I spent a dreamy half-hour watching a Bob Dylan tribute artist and twinkle-eyed tourists marvelling at the hotel).
Although it was tempting to stay in my luxurious sanctuary for the entire weekend, the renowned beauty of Bordeaux was beckoning. You don’t have to walk far to get to the Christmas market, which will lure you in with signs of ‘vin chaud’ and keep you there with its bustling winter wonderland atmosphere. Venturing a little further to place St-Michel, we pottered around the daily antiques market, where browsing the traditional French furniture and curiosities made me lament my luggage being full to capacity.
Wrapped up in our woollies, we decided to explore the backstreets, where the glorious neoclassical architecture has all been meticulously cleaned over the past 15 years to a uniform cream stone. If you have time, take it all in while ice-skating hand in hand, climb the Tower of Pey-Berland for a romantic view like no other and dip into the Museum of Fine Arts to warm up.
Wine and dine
When it comes to eating, there’s no place like the Dordogne to surprise and delight the taste buds. In this hotel you’re spoilt for choice, from the Michelin-starred Le Pressoir d’Argent restaurant to the more relaxed L’Orangerie, a buzzing space where you’ll find glamorous locals sipping fine wine. We ate in Le Bordeaux restaurant, a two-floor Belle Époque-style brasserie that’s brimming with classic French dishes and to-die-for vin rouge. If you’re seeing the ballet, pull up a chair in the cosy Victor bar to sample the whisky-based ‘Romeo’ or Champagne-based ‘Juliet’ cocktail pre-performance.
The Winter Ballet Package is available between 16 December 2013 and 1 January 2014. It includes a Superior Room for two; breakfast at The Bordeaux brasserie; two tickets to a performance of Romeo & Juliet ballet at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux (subject to availability); a behind-the-scenes tour of the Grand Théâtre (available upon request) and a ‘Romeo’ or ‘Juliet’ cocktail at the Victor bar.
The Prokofiev Winter ballet package starts from €457 (around £384) for one night. To book call +33 (0)5 57 30 44 44 or visit ghbordeaux.com