For most, Bordeaux is synonymous with just one thing - red wine, but a six day trip there and to and nearby Toulouse showed me these two cities have a lot more to shout across the channel about.
I flew with my partner to Toulouse and we made our way straight to check in at the modern-boutique-style Hotel Saint Sernin on Rue Saint Bernard.
Soon after I’d flung open the doors to the balcony and was doing my best impression of Gallic chic watching the world go by.
Our hotel was the perfect combination of modernity and traditional French charm.
Little touches that gave it a certain je ne sais quoi, from the iPod dock on the baroque dressing table - brought to life in a futuristic silver - to the Audrey Hepburn pop art.
Standing in the shadows of the inspiring Basilica, it was right up our street.
Like most European cities, Toulouse has a fabulous square in the city centre and warmed up from the unseasonably cold weather with a vin chaud we set off to explore.
Once armed with a map, my other half took charge and in a city neither of us knew, our “Never go back, only go forward” motto meant we covered it in no time.
The stand-out places for us were L’Autre Salon de The on Rue des Tourneurs. We walked in to be greeted by the owner, and his beautiful pug Carlotta, and one of the most impressive cake tables a girl could dream of. But we all know calories don’t count on holiday, so we tucked into a decadent lunch of cake and coffee.
Our foodie heaven continued that night at Quand les Moules Auront des Dents on Boulevard Strasbourg where the set menu left us speechless.
The mountain of mussels that arrived on our table took our breath away cementing this recommendation firmly in my book.
Then the adventure went on, a two-hour train ride later we were in Bordeaux.
For the last three years I’ve heard nothing but superlatives from my partner who lived in the city for two years so Bordeaux had plenty to live up to.
And that it did, several times over.
This classic and historic city has so much to offer. It lies at the heart of the Gironde region and is a shopper’s sanctuary, a foodie’s heaven and a drinker’s dream.
For a girl who loves shopping, good food and good wine, Bordeaux ticked all the boxes.
It is home to the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe, there are amazing restaurants and cosy coffee shops and a great atmosphere.
Our first afternoon was spent walking from place to place, trying a local wine or beer in each.
Being there on a big sporting weekend, we went to the Cock and Bull on Rue Duffour Dubergier for football before heading on to the Houses of Parliament pub on Rue Parlement Ste Catherine for Six Nations rugby.
It surprised me how many themed pubs the city has but despite being sat next to a Welshman, surrounded by Frenchmen cheering on Scotland, in an English themed pub, the beer and the banter were both flowing.
And after a hard day’s fun, we needed somewhere lavish and luxurious to recoup.
The Hotel Burdigala has been recently renovated, and this five star establishment had everything we wanted and more.
Our every need and whim was catered for.
Atmospheric, yes, luxurious, definitely. No expense has been spared turning it into the city’s must-stay venue.
It lived up to its five star reputation and we loved every minute lapping up such luxury.
Sometimes there are not enough adjectives to describe a holiday, even for a journalist.
But Bordeaux and Toulouse stole my heart, and I for one am planning my return.
I think you should do the same.
Ruth and her guest stayed thanks to the Hotel Burdigala, Bordeaux. Rooms start at E230. See www.burdigala.com.
In Toulouse they stayed thanks to the Hotel Saint Sernin, rates start at E80. Details online at www.hotelstsernin.com