we started in Paris, where these are my current recommendations: Hotel des Saints Peres, http://www.paris-hotel-saints-peres.com in the rue des Saints Peres in the 6th. Four star. The rooms may be smallish, but that is typical of Paris hotels. Excellent staff, great location, in a street devoted to fashion, and near some good food. Great area for walking. This is where I got to: one of my favourite views of the Louvre, early one morning.
Try Cyril Lignac’s restaurant in the rue du Dragon http://www.restaurantauxpres.com/en/ Smallish, a very good bar next door, with contemporary good food and a cheerful atmosphere. He is a brilliant patissier, so try any of the patisseries http://www.lapatisseriecyrillignac.com/en/ He does seem to be an empire builder, and I’ve come to be wary of them, but it’s all still good, as far as i can see.
Then to Bordeaux, which is now only two hours from Paris by very fast train. Bookings essential if you want a seat, and if you can book in advance, the fares are considerably lower. I’m very fond of Bordeaux, which in all the years I have visited it has turned from a scruffy rather grubby city into one of charm. It didn’t look as prosperous this time, but it’s one of the great examples of urban renewal, which I think the French do very well. It’s pedestrianised, with an excellent public transport system. And it is the home of the little French fluted cakes called canneles (with an accent over the second e), that use egg yolks and milk and rum and sugar. The batter does a slight fermentation, and is then baked in copper moulds. The results is crisp on the outside, and chewy inside.
First timers (and even second and third): head for the tourism office which will arrange winery visits. As does http://bordeaux.winetourbooking.com/ One catch with that one: bookings cannot be cancelled once made, so be sure to double check dates and times. We in Australia are used to calling in on wineries, looking around, having a taste, maybe buying a bottle. Not in France: unless you have a special introduction, you book a tour and you pay for it.
There are a number of good restaurants in Bordeaux, and there is of course the Cite de Vin, a huge museum devoted to wine and wine culture. 20 Euro admission. http://www.laciteduvin.com/en The current temporary exhibition is devoted to the wines of Georgia, which claims to be the cradle of wine making. The exhibtion left me a bit sceptical, and still not a fan of natural wines made in huge amphoras and buried.