The image in my head of Bordeaux was stuffy, snooty and uptight. I would think of the cost of First Growth Bordeaux and the pretense of collectors I have met over the years. But, when I stepped foot in Bordeaux, it was not at all what I expected.
Bordeaux is a vibrant, exciting city thanks to their long-standing center-right mayor (and former prime minister) Alain Juppé who started a massive regeneration program in 1995. He opened up the riverfront, made the city center pedestrian friendly, cleaned up the old buildings and installed a hi-tech tram system. Today Bordeaux is not only the largest urban world heritage site but has been ranked as France's second favorite city after Paris.
A couple decades ago, when I was just out of college, I moved to Italy to work as an au pair. Unlike most travelers, I did not end up in a city like Florence or Rome but rather a small town in the region of Piedmont where no one spoke English. I knew nothing about wine at the time but everyday day I would meet my new Italian friends at the local bar for aperitivi and they would do the ordering. And, each day a glass would be placed in front of me filled with a red wine that was slightly sweet and slightly sparkling and very delicious. It was Brachetto d’Acqui.
A recent trip took me back to Piedmont, to the heart of where Brachetto is from, Acqui Terme. This ancient Roman town, an 1 ½ hour southeast from Milan,became my home base for three days. We settled in at the Grand Hotel Nuove Termewhich overlooks the town square and began the tour of eating and drinking and eating and drinking some more.
While Acqui Terme is in the heart of Piemont, Italy, surrounded by some of the most famous vineyards, Acqui Terme is also known for its hot sulpher springs. After all, the name "Acqui Terme" means "Thermal Waters." The hot sulpher springs, which bubble up at 167°F, date back to the Roman town Aquae Statiellae. You can head into the center of town where the little pavilion known as La Bollente ("the boiling source"), designed by Giovanni Ceruti in 1870, is a central attraction to locals and visitors alike.
The natural thermal waters rise up from underground in two places in Acqui Terme - The Bollente, which feeds the spa at the Grand Hotel, and on the other side of the Bormida River at the Lago delle Sorgenti (Lake of Hot Springs).