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It’s well known that the French are some of the most stylishly-dressed people in the world. The French just have this je ne sais quoi; this ability to seemingly just throw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt while still managing to look effortlessly put together. It’s what leads to countless questions about packing for a summer trip to Bordeaux when it’s incredibly hot, yet you still want to dress to impress.
The answer? Wear what you’re comfortable in.
With the exception of a few regions of the world, like the Middle East where it’s respectful to fully cover up even on the hottest summer day, my packing is fairly routine. No matter whether I’m exploring right here at home in Bordeaux and the Nouvelle Aquitaine or I’m headed off somewhere around the world, I have my favorite clothing items that I know are appropriate for my active and adventurous travel style, hold up from wrinkles and stains, and mix and match to keep my suitcase down to a carry-on size. Several of those items are clothing from Columbia Sportswear, like my go-to jacket for our winter ski trips and my lightweight shorts perfect for beach days.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with Columbia to put together this guide on how to pack for summer travel in Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is a destination that you should plan to do a ton of walking. And even if you walk at home, walking on cobblestones all day long is just different. Plan for lots of stairs, incredibly small elevators (that is, if there even is an elevator), and no air conditioning just about anywhere. Temperatures in the southwest of France regularly soar to 100°F (38° C) during the long, dry summers. Blissfully, Bordeaux is close to the stunning Atlantic coast with more than 20 kilometers of beaches where you can escape the sweltering city.
In our book a perfect summer trip to Bordeaux includes a mix of unique wine tastings, visits to charming villages, and time savoring both the sea breeze and oysters in the Bassin of Arcachon. This guide to packing for a summer trip Bordeaux includes lightweight outfits that don’t break the bank, won’t make you stand out like a tourist, and will keep you comfortable in the scorching heat. I always only travel with a 21″ carry-on size spinner, so I pack in one color theme and choose pieces that can be mixed and matched. Don’t worry about being an outfit repeater; I always wear most items of clothing I pack more than once – especially with shorts, pants, skirts and dresses.
Packing for a Day out Wine Tasting in Bordeaux
A day out wine tasting in Bordeaux’s castle-like châteaux might sound like a proper affair, but a lot of châteaux are doing really fun things with wine tasting these days. From biking through the vineyards to tasting in treetops, wine tasting is becoming more of an active adventure. Not to mention that even if you’re headed to a more traditional visit and tasting, wine makers love to show you the entire process and that involves traipsing through vineyards. Leave the heels at home and go for a more casual look like a lightweight dress with flat sandals or even a pair of casual sneakers.
What I’m wearing: Columbia Anytime Casual Dress in black, which is unfortunately now sold out but this dress is similar. I love that it has pockets and that the length is adjustable with the side cinches. It’s also water and stain repellent, which is perfect for wine tasting because splashes happen. The dress also has Columbia’s OMNI-SHADE® UV sun protection. It’s lightweight, doesn’t wrinkle and keeps me cool on even the hottest of days. Plus, the black color makes it easy to go from a day out in the vineyards to a more elegant dinner with just a few accessories. I’ve paired the dress with Columbia Goodlife Lace Sneakers for casual and sensible footwear for the vineyard. And contrary to popular belief, French women wear casual sneakers like this often (just leave your bulky gym sneakers at home).
Packing for a Day at the Beach in France
The chi-chi beach clubs are left to the Côte d’Azur. The south west of France’s beaches are wild, more often than not without any amenities like umbrellas and chairs for rent. And to reach the beach along most of the Bassin of Arcachon and Cap Ferret, you’ll be climbing over at least smaller dunes. Don’t be afraid to go casual and comfortable in a pair of shorts you can easily pull on over your bathing suit and a tank top. You’ll feel right at home in the same shorts and tanks if you head to one of the beach towns, like Arcachon, for a seaside lunch or to one of the oyster villages for fresh oysters straight from the oyster farms.
What I’m wearing: Columbia Summer Time Short in nocturnal with a Take It Easy Tank. The shorts are a hemp-cotton blend that are lightweight and dry quickly if you get them wet. The tank is Columbia’s OMNI-WICK®, a high performance wicking fabric that pulls sweat and moisture away from the body so it evaporates quickly. Both the shorts and tank are made for the trail, but don’t look like your typical outdoor hiking gear and transition easily from climbing Europe’s largest sand dune to hanging out at a beach oyster shack or wandering around town.
Packing for a Festival in France
Summer in Bordeaux means an almost endless series of festivals that just might be going on during your trip. From Bordeaux Fête le Vin to food truck festivals, we like to eat, drink and be merry all summer long. Festivals are typically pretty casual and at some point, you usually end up sitting right down in the grass in a circle of friends to enjoy some wine and food.
What I’m wearing: Columbia PFG Tidal Skort with a tank similar to this season’s Edgewater Tank. I’ve always just been more comfortable wearing a pair of shorts under my shirt and I like this skort since it has the built in shorts. That’s perfect for a festival, where you might very well be sitting down on a blanket on the ground since I don’t have to worry about flashing anyone.
Packing for a Nice Dinner Out in France
You can’t go wrong with a little black dress and with just a few accessories, you can take a black dress from daytime casual to nighttime chic. It’s the perfect outfit for heading out to a nice dinner anywhere in France.
What I’m wearing: Columbia Anytime Casual Dress in black, which is now sold out but this dress is similar. I dress it up with some accessories like a necklace and wedge sandals. A chic clutch adds a pop of color, and is easy to pack.
Packing for a vía ferrata in France
If you’re up for a really active adventure, head about 3 hours south of Bordeaux to the Vía Ferrata Siala near Gourette in the Pyrénées. Vía ferratas first originated in Italy during WWI when permanent lines were affixed to the rock faces in the Dolomites to assist troops moving through the mountain routes. These days vía ferratas are like assisted climbing routes with lines and rungs permanently attached to the rock face that climbers clip in to in order to prevent any falls. Not for the faint-of-heart or anyone with a fear of heights, a vía ferrata can be an excellent full body workout and offer a stunning perspective of the mountains. Pack proper hiking clothing for this adventure.
What I’m wearing: Columbia Just Right Straight Leg Pant with a Titan Trail Short Sleeve Shirt. Pants are a good choice to help protect your legs from any scratches while doing a vía ferrata and these are perfect because they’re neither too loose or too tight. You want to be able to move and maneuver yourself around. The pants are both Omni-Shield™ and and Omni-Shade™, and they come in both a short and regular inseam. I like Columbia’s range of tops with Omni-Freeze™ ZERO, which has special technology to activate cooling rings in the fabric to help make you feel cooler, because I get super hot doing adventurous activities like vía ferratas. The Redmond™ Waterproof Hiking Shoe is perfect for this adventure, with its Omni-Grip told tight on any terrain technology.
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Good article. I love Columbia sports wear.
Love Bordeaux and this region and have to agree with your post here, Bordeaux in the summer is one of those places where you want to wear loose clothes especially when visiting the vineyards nearby. How I miss that city. I think another trip is due.
I too am always worried about dressing for Europe. They don’t seem to be as casual as in North America. You did a fair variety of things in Bordeaux and I am glad you found the right balance in your packing. I have not found the dresses when I shopped at Columbia. I will have to watch for them. We have a lot of Columbia clothes for our travels. But glad you found them so good for a France trip.
Fiona Maclean says
That looks like an excellent capsule wardrobe selection. You are brave doing the via ferrata – I’ve never dared get up there!
These are great chic travel items. I especially love the Anytime Casual dress and the straight leg pants. Was recently shopping at Columbia and noticed a marked improvement in their style. Their women\’s designs are much more fashionable while retaining their practicality for outdoor activities.
Kirstie Saldo says
I love your sense of style. They all really look comfortable. I especially love the black dress. It can be easily paired with so many different accessories, too, in case you want to go for a sporty look or a more dressy one.
Vicky and Buddy says
It can be very difficult to pack for casual and dressier events, but I didn’t realize that Columbia had things like dresses or skorts. I always thought it was more for the adventure traveler. I’ve stayed away from the brand in the past because it’s a bit pricier than some others, but it’s good to know they have a rewards program and I could get some money back.
Ami Bhat says
Seems like Columbia wear is perfect for the warm weather. Given we have that here most of the time, I need to check it out. I like your. All day dresses… They look super comfy
What a great guide. I am a fan of Columbia. I had a white winter jacket of Columbia when I fell of my bike badly some years ago. I put my arm in front of my face to protect my head. I could broke my arm but I got a bit of scratch and it was all because of the good quality of the jacket
I agree each place deserves a packing formula of its own. This one is one elaborate guide. I love traveling to warm weather countries which helps me pack less. Great tips.