“Rogues in Paradise” is a captivating book about Barbadosthat delves deep into the heart and soul of this enchanting island.
The book, written by author yIan R. Clayton, founder of the Barbados Tourism Encyclopedia, provides a unique and intimate perspective of the island’s people, culture, heritage, and history.
Rogues Heroes, Legends, and Everyday Bjans
Rogues introduces readers to unforgettable people like Queen Bee Peggy, who finds herself on a high-tech medical stretcher, and Rex Wooton, embroiled in a comical caper with ‘stolen’ construction lights. It also recounts the uproarious courtroom antics of ‘Fred’ as he tries to save the Race Horse Bathing at Pebbles Beach. The stories of people are warm and vibrant everyday characters who embody the true spirit of Barbados.
However, “Rogues in Paradise”is not just about these characters; it’s about the legendary heroes who are often also rogues. Clayton seamlessly weaves significant historical events and special places into the narrative, shedding light on the island’s rich heritage and remarkable people. He discusses Errol Barrow, a visionary leader who introduced free schooling and meals for all children, making Barbados one of the most literate nations.
Reflection on a Dark Past
The book’s entertaining stories transition seamlessly into a more solemn reflection on the inhuman and brutal slave tradeand its lasting impact on Barbados. Throughout it all, Clayton underscores the unwavering resilience of the Bajan spirit, emphasizing that it has endured and risen above all adversities.
“Rogues in Paradise” offers readers an engaging account of history, with humour, and poignant reflection that deepens understanding and connection to Barbados. For those who have visited the island, the characters in the book will feel like old friends encountered on beaches, in town squares, or even in the local rum shops and restaurants. Clayton’s narrative reinforces the idea that the people define Barbados, and Barbados, in turn, is a reflection of its people.
As an avid traveler who has frequented Barbados, I eagerly anticipate the updated edition of this book. I assure readers that “Rogues in Paradise” is a delightful and enlightening read, offering laughter and profound insights of the history and people of of Barbados.
My dentist regularly has a go at me for my preference for red wine, black coffee and dark Barbados rum. So what links this blog apart from my dentist?
The barbaric slave triangle is the short answer. Bordeaux, the geographically closest port to the Caribbean and Africa, was in all logic, a strategic place for the unfortunate trade. The bookRogues in Paradiserefers to this in the story of folk artist Woolly Hewitt. His DNA heritage dates back to the 1600s, with the French in Dahoney, now called Benin. “In 1851, the French negotiated a treaty with King Gezo to discourage the British move into Benin. It did not succeed, as the British soon imposed a naval blockade on the ports to force an end to the slave trade. The British signed a treaty with King Gezo that, in theory, ended the export of slaves from Port Dahomey. Britain abolished the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, but several African ports continued to supply slaves to other countries for some time after. There were many tussles between the French, English, and other Europeans over the years, but Dahomey remained a French colony until independence on August 1, 1960. The French language and customs persist to this day.
In the dark history of slavery, French ships transported 1,381,000 Africans to the New World during the transatlantic trade from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries. There are memories of this inhuman period in Bordeauxs’ Musée d’Aquitaine
While looking for a short-haul destination to visit, the opportunity of flying Easyjet to Bordeaux direct from Glasgow cropped up.
In the period between booking and travel, the civil unrest in France dominated news headlines throughout the world. The senseless killing of Nahel Merzouk, a French Algerian teenager, by a French police officer on a Parisian housing estate shocked the world and created a powder keg society in France. Undoubtedly various radical factions piggybacked on the outrage being felt across the nation and stoked the fires resulting in nights of violence and civil disobedience. Fellow passengers on our flight were apprehensive about what to expect despite the violence being reported in the newscasts as contained within certain areas of the main cities of Paris, Marseille, Metz, and Bordeaux.
Thankfully we were right not to be too concerned and yes there were signs of some vandalism – numerous smashed shop windows – but no violence!
What red wine lover wouldn’t visit this famed wine-growing region. Bordeaux is a port city on the Garonne River in south west France. It’s known for its gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, 18th and 19th century mansions and impressive art museums such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux. Impressive gardens follow the meandering river and quays. The Place de la Bourse, which hosts the Three Graces fountain, overlooks the Miroir d’Eau which can be described as a mysterious reflecting pool but quite simply, kids and adults love running through it when it’s hot!
If you’re looking for a French city destination, then Bordeaux comes as a highly recommended alternative to Paris, Nice and Marseille. With easy access to terrific foodie experiences and friendly people, it’s also not too challenging to meander the city sites on foot. A short break can open up the very best of Bordeaux and the surrounding area.
Bordeaux–Mérignac Airport is the nearby international airport. Flights from the UK and across Europe are affordable and from the UK take between ninety minutes and just over two hours, dependent on UK departure airport. The region also has impressive rail links connecting commuters to the rest of France and across Europe. Bordeaux St Jean is the main rail station and the TGV, the high-speed train to Paris takes less than two hours. Many travelers also take the 200km train to San Sebastián in Spain. I’ve not done that trip yet but it’s on the list!
Located virtually halfway between Madrid and Paris, Bordeaux makes for the perfect pit stop between the capital cities of Spain and France.
Bordeaux – famous for what?
Bordeaux is probably most famous for its wine, especially red wine. The city is also home to a surprising abundance of Haussmannian architecture, making it a sunny alternative to Paris. The area surrounding Bordeaux consists of endless vineyards and medieval towns, making it easy to explore during the sunnier months.
Bordeaux Wine Museums
There are two museums dedicated entirely to wine in Bordeaux. Travel reviews and tourists talk about the new, trendy and interactive Cité du Vin but there’s also a second wine museum which is far more traditional. The Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux can be found in the historic Chartrons district of the city and costs as little as €10 to enter. Situated within the former wine cellar of the wine merchant for Louis XV, this museum comes complete with a very welcoming and complimentary wine tasting at your visit’s conclusion.
I didn’t make it but for those visiting the Cité du Vin this also comes complete with a complimentary wine tasting. Tickets are available to purchase on the day but in the summer months it’s recommend to buy your ‘billet’ in advance to beat the queues.
A top tip if you’re planning to see various Bordeaux museums and attractions, then it might be worth investing in the Bordeaux City Pass although it really depends on demand and season.
I found Chartrons to be charming and intimate. The district is full of cobbled lanes and beautiful historic homes. I’d recommend you take a look at the Chartrons Temple, Notre Dame Street, and the little eateries of Les Halles des Chartrons.
Can easily be described as one of the most beautiful Cathedrals in France, it is really worth visiting to take in this 11th-century sight. Officially known as the Primatial Cathedral of St Andre of Bordeaux it’s surprisingly free to enter and to walk around.
The largest reflective pool in the world
Located on Place de la Bourse, the Miroir d’Eau is the largest reflective pool in the world. This remarkable water feature is 3450 metres squared and was created in 2006 from granite slabs. Locals told me that the best time to visit the Miroir d’Eau is at sunset when stunning colours dance across the sky or at night when the city lights reflect perfectly. Don’t forget your camera or phone!
There is no shortage of history staring you in the face. Some of the best architecture and historical sites in the city include the turreted Porte Cailhau (highlighted later in the blog) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts.
Open-top Bus City Tour
Join the open-top bus tour (Visi Tour Bordeaux) and get your city bearings while experiencing many amazing sights such as :
Monument Auz Girondins
Place de La Bourse
Palais de Justice
Cite du Vin
A bargain at €16 per person for a seventy-minute tour with full commentary.
All that walking works up an appetite as well as a thirst. Wine aside, there are a million gastronomic reasons to visit Bordeaux and the surrounding area. French cuisine has it all from savory dishes that melt in your mouth to sweets, there are excellent bistros, cafés and restaurants.
Our experience was simply outstanding:
36 Rue des Ayres, Bordeaux
Just off the main shopping street of Rue Sainte Catherine we found Homie’s. The best brunch we’ve had so far on our travels. Good coffee and hard to choose from the great food options on the menu. We all opted for different options (Shakahouka, Eggs Benedict, Eggs Royal and exceptional hash browns) and couldn’t fault any of them. I also ordered a detox smoothie which was delicious. Our host Paul was excellent, he spoke fluent English and helped guide us through the menu.
Homie means – a best friend for life, yes, but it’s more than that, it’s family. We returned here twice before our visit to Bordeaux came to an end.
Le Bouchon Bordelaise
2 Rue Courbin, Bordeaux
We were looking forward to our dinner here but given it was a set menu we were a bit apprehensive as to what might be served by the chefs Frédéric Vigouroux, Etienne, Matthéo, Lino and not forgetting Souleman. Our research proved correct and we were certainly not disappointed. On Le Bouchon Bordelaise set menu there is a choice of 4 courses (5 if you opt for the cheese which we did) or 6 courses. All our courses were absolutely delicious – creative, tasty and very well presented. We also opted to add in the wine pairing. A fairly eclectic mix of mainly white wine to match the food, but red with our main course. Most of the wines came from the nearby Bergerac region. The restaurant is fairly small, most tables were reserved and staff coped really well with a busy night. This superb restaurant is run by Fanny and her front of house team, Manon and Melissa, who took time to explain what we were being served and how the wine paired with it. Fanny makes sure she welcomes and interacts with everyone. A remarkable meal which will not be forgotten and ideally finished off with coffee, Laballe Vieille Reserve Armagnac or Menthe Pastille, a mint digestive.
If you want a local cuisine experience and trust leaving your options with the chef, this cannot be more highly recommended.
Le Petit Commerce
22 Rue de Parlement, Saint Pierre.
We visited this restaurant as it has a reputation for being one of the best seafood restaurants in Bordeaux. Little else on the menu bar fresh, local and seasonal seafood. We visited twice, once with friends for dinner and once on our own for lunch. It was fabulous and a true treat for the tastebuds. Everything we had – crab, smoked salmon, lemon sole, sardines, mussels and hake – was tremendous. I’m told their desserts are also superb but never made it that far. The wine list covers all tastes but try not to mix up the American cocktail when asking for a Cafe Americano.
Well worth the two visits.
Bistrot à huitres “Chez Jean-Mi”
Marché des Capucins, PI. des Gross Capucins.
A great bar/restaurant within the Marche des Capucins, it is very busy at the weekends, note – get there before 1100 otherwise you will have to queue. The oysters are just incredible, take advantage of the packages on offer such as 6 oysters and white wine for €9.50. Eat while you watch the locals buying their market produce or just chill and enjoy the atmosphere. We also ordered 6 large crevettes which again were delicious. It’s also worth a slow wander around the market stalls. The fresh fish, vegetables, herbs and meat on offer is really impressive.
A local institution not to be missed!
La Maison du Glacier
1 Pal e St Pierre.
Another institution is the ice cream parlour, La Maison du Glacier. You will have to queue but that gives you time to choose from the endless list of ice cream and sorbet flavours. Just sublime, especially on a hot summer day. The rum & raisin and peanut ice cream were fabulous while the cassis and melon sorbets a truly wonderful combination.
15 Rue des Bahuiters.
On our last night we wandered the Bordeaux streets, nothing booked and a lot of restaurants are closed on Sunday and Monday. Berthus was open so we had a look, oh no, another set menu. This time called ‘Seasonal’ but to be honest it looked good. A rather uninspiring front door, don’t be fooled by the three bar stools at the entrance. This is the kitchen and there are many tables upstairs in a couple of nice dining areas. From the word go, our host Alex really looked after us. The seasonal menu at an astonishing €25 a head was just wonderful. Despite my earlier reservations the food was excellent, very simple and very tasty.
Value for money this restaurant is up there with the best and no wonder it has a Tripadvisor Traveller’s Choice Award.
Similar to Paris, Bordeaux undoubtedly has its fair share of stunning hotels and luxury accommodations. The best hotels in Bordeaux include the 18th century Villa Reale which offers self-catering apartments and the chic Hotel Burdigala which is named in homage to the Roman name for Bordeaux. The four star Hotel de Seze situated in the heart of the historic old town also offers great accommodation. Although not luxurious, our accommodation was the recently opened Staycity Aparthotel. Compact but modern, well-equipped rooms, ideally located and catered for our every need. Recommend unless you’re looking to spoil yourself.
My travelling companions (Janis & Jim) were mightily impressed with the Disney -esq Porte Cailhau. When Bordeaux was a walled city this was the grand gateway to the city. It’s highly recommended to view this very impressive 14th-century architecture early in the morning when the sunlight shines through the gateway and illuminates all in its path.
Grosse Cloche (Big Bell)
This huge 7800kg iron bell’s home in a giant medieval belfry stands on the St. Eloi passage within an impressive archway. In the Middle Ages it was a gate into the city centre. The bell was interred in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Featuring in the city’s coat of arms the tower was built in the 12th century with the large bell being added in the 15th century.
The bell was regularly used throughout the Middle Ages, its purpose made clear from its inscription which reads,
“I call to arms, I announce the days, I give the hours, I chase the storm, I ring the holidays, and I cry out for fire”.
A very central location and great to use as a landmark to get your bearings. With beautiful historic streets around it containing some fantastic boulangeries, bars and bistros.
Regional day trips and other events
Whether you want to visit stunning beaches, swim in the sea, or sample some fantastic local wine, there are numerous trips on offer from Bordeaux. Some recommended day trips include: Arcachon town, Dune du Pilat – Europe’s largest sand dune, and Saint-Émilion – the medieval city.
Cycling Wine Tour
Rustic Wine Tours 8 Rue André Loiseau, 33330, Saint-Émilion.
Prior to visiting the stunning old town of St Emilion we booked up with Rustic Vine Tours for a full day wine tour using electric assisted bikes, taking in some incredible rolling countryside and vineyards. The electric assistance was simple to use and very welcome on the steep inclines on our tour. Our group of 6 visited Château Bernateau and Chateau St Georges while enjoying St Emilion wine tastings and a picnic lunch. This gave us time to introduce ourselves and chat to our cycling companions, Matt & Jennifer from California. Our day concluded with a walking tour of St Emilion itself which is a UNESCO-listed world heritage site. Our tour guide Nicolas Floret was not just an expert on the theatre and decorum attached to French wine drinking but also very well versed in local history of battlefields and the surrounding villages. At the last moment Nicolas went out of his way to take us to a local family producer of Cremant de Bordeaux. This is a fantastic AOC classified sparkling white made similarly to champagne but in the heart of Bordeaux and recognised since April 1990, this comes from a longstanding tradition in the region of producing top rated sparkling wines, dating back as far as the 19th century.
This is a day not to be missed and one which I will certainly repeat when I return.
We will also seek out Nicolas as our guide!
Arcachon is a beach town fifty minutes and fifty five kilometres by train from Bordeaux St Jean station. This popular seaside resort has a mild climate and the longest and sandiest coast (200 kilometres) on the Atlantic, running all the way to Biarritz.
The coast is known as France’s Côte d’Argent (‘the Silver Coast’). It originated as a popular destination for people from Bordeaux to escape the city heat at weekends but has since been developed into one of the most popular and attractive seaside destinations in France.
There are four main beaches in Arcachon, the Plage Pereire, Plage des Abatilles, Plage d’Arcachon and Plage d’Eyrac. Just a few kilometres away is also the stunning Plage du Moulleau with great restaurants, situated virtually on the sand, and an olde world carousel.
About ten kilometres south of Arcachon sits the second largest lake in France called the Lac de Cazaux but the most popular attraction in the area is found a few kilometres to the south-west.
A fifty minute cycle on a dedicated cycle path from Arcachon station takes you through some really impressive beach side districts of outer Arcachon to the ‘Dune du Pilat’. The largest sand dune in Europe, at more than 110 metres high. It is about 3km long, and very steep. If you can only imagine it, think ten times higher than your thoughts …. it’s huge!!
You can climb directly up the sand to the top or use the 154 stairs to take in the stunning views which are simply ‘magnifique’.
Arcachon, with its town, beaches, lake and sand dune is a fantastic experience and with a one way train ticket from Bordeaux at €10, a relatively inexpensive adventure.
A day out I guarantee you will not forget.
World Heritage Site
Since 2007, 40% of Bordeaux’s surface area, located around the Port de La Lune, is now listed as world heritage sites. Unesco identifies Bordeaux as “an inhabited historic city, an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble, created in the age of the Enlightenment, whose values continued up to the first half of the 20th century, with more protected buildings than any other French city except Paris”.
Paris to Bordeaux
Many comparisons are made between Paris and Bordeaux and due to the outbreak of war the French National Government has relocated several times to Bordeaux. At the start of the France and Prussia war (1870) the Government temporarily relocated from Paris. This happened again during World War 1 and very briefly during the Second World War when Paris fell to Hitler’s Germany.
My main comparison is simply that the people of Bordeaux are friendly, welcoming and accommodating. I found this a complete contrast to my experience of Paris and enhanced my view of the French public.
Tour de France
During our visit Bordeaux hosted the finish of the 7th stage of the Tour de France (Mont-de Marsan to Place des Quinconces, Bordeaux). This was the first time since 2010 the city has hosted the historic race and it wasn’t going to let it go by without a bang!
The leading riders arrived to tens of thousands of fans lining the left bank’s 2 kilometre boulevard. Prior to this the the Tour’s partners put on a show, handing out thousands of promotional gifts to surprise the waiting fans. Several huge tv screens showed the riders approach and commentators whipped the crowd into a frenzy. With helicopters overhead in the hot sun, the atmosphere and tension was incredible! Then the peloton passed by about 55km per hour! Caught on camera to replay again and again. A brilliant experience and an amazing party atmosphere.
What is the best time to visit Bordeaux?
Though Bordeaux is beautiful to visit at any time of the year (indeed it’s the city that Parisians say they’d most like to live in, if they weren’t based in Paris), there are better times of the year to visit than others. For example, the winter is the quiet season while summer sees the most tourists. If you want to enjoy the best of the weather with lower prices, then visit in late spring or early autumn. Visit between May and November and you’ll also be able to enjoy the vines in their full glory.
How many days should I spend in Bordeaux?
The exact number of days you should stay in Bordeaux is entirely dependant on your travel schedule and what you wish to see when in the city. However, a good balance is a long weekend as this allows you to experience the ambiance of the city, as well as many of the major attractions and some hidden gems along the way.
On my return I will have at least three night in Bordeaux, two nights in St Emilion and if spring or summer at least four nights somewhere near the Arcachon beaches.
Well it’s all over, what welcoming people and a great city visit with trips to the countryside and coast thrown in. A highly recommended city break.
Having arrived with media coverage of riots and demonstrations, we saw nothing that caused unease. Certainly, high profile ‘armed’ policing patrols were frequent and highly visible but no issues at all.
Whether it was sampling the local drink Lillet, the elusive but splendid sparkling Cremant du Bordeaux, some wonderful red wines, the locally farmed oysters, candles (small locally baked cakes), shopping in Rue Saint Catherine or just wandering about the beautiful streets and taking in the historic sights, Bordeaux and the surrounding area was ‘parfait’!