My heart is in bordeaux... - Anne Q
Getting to know a city is a little like becoming attracted to a man or women. A multitude of small details lets you know that you have fallen in love! And like a loved one, you can rediscover a city every day, and always find something new.
I am not originally from Bordeaux, but it was love at first sight, and my heart is certainly here now…
Like falling in love, the first impression counts enormously. Obviously, physical beauty is the what one notices to begin with! And, in that respect, I found Bordeaux to be marvellously beautiful…
I remember the day I first arrived as a student, 7 years ago. I arrived from Burgundy with a suitcase in one hand and a map of Bordeaux in the other. I imagined the city to be noisy and full of traffic jams, as well as people who talked very loudly in a thick accent. And not necessarily very friendly. Yes, just like we sometimes can be with people, I was full of preconceived notions.
I learned very early on that everyone has an accent of some kind or another, and even if the Bordelais make good-natured fun of mine, I immediately found theirs to be charming. Yes, the Bordelais may speak a little loudly and find that everything is gavé bon, but there's a warmth in their voice that reflects all that is good about the South West – except when they refer to ma as "a Parisian" when I ask for a pain au chocolat at the bakery (instead of chocolatines dans une poche). Contrary to what the Bordelais think, it's only here that those words are used...
My initial true encounter with Bordeaux was the day I went to Place de la Bourse for the first time. Far from the noise I was expecting, I was overtaken with the serenity of the place, with its luminous white façades and statue of the Three Graces. Despite their improbable nudity, the Graces watch over passers-by with dignity and elegance. This was in September. The weather was fine and I walked along the quays looking at the Garonne, and sat down on some steps. Families went by on foot, on in-line skates, or by bike. I saw friends laughing loudly and lovers kissing each other on the back of the neck. I was very taken with this relaxed atmosphere. The Bordelais seemed to enjoy taking each step without thinking about where it was taking them. Sitting there alone, I felt very happy. Bordeaux was beautiful, and I was proud of my new city.
It was love at first sight
When your first impression is good, you naturally want to take things a little further. I therefore wanted to discover the city's inner beauty... After admiring superb buildings from the outside, I had a desire to go inside. And I did so, discovering a surprisingly vibrant cultural and artistic scene: the CAPC modern art museum, the Institut Magrez, numerous temporary exhibitions, etc. Bordeaux innovates, gives plenty of scope to new talent, and makes the city's finest attractions available to everyone. Always beautiful, Bordeaux became intelligent and cultivated over the years.
There then came a time when I wanted to party and have a good time in Bordeaux. So, I'm ashamed to say that me, the Burgundian, started learning about wine in Bordeaux… Aaaaaah, Bordeaux and its wine bars… I eagerly embraced the local tradition of going there after work. There are so many wines to taste!!! The Saint Pierre and Chartrons districts are quite different, but they are both lively and offer plenty of opportunities to enjoy good food and wine at places such as the Petit Bois, with its incredible décor. Every night out on the town is different and, when summer arrives, a simple stroll often turns into a fiesta where everyone talks and laughs. I learned that wine is not just a simple beverage. Each bottle has a story to tell. Just a few kilometres away, the Bordeaux wine country – made green and beautiful by the Gironde Estuary and Dordogne and Garonne rivers – constitutes a veritable treasure. I first discovered the wines, then where they came from, which gave them a new depth of meaning. Bordeaux showed me how worthwhile wine tourism can be.
And the ocean! What an advantage it is for a city this size to be so close! To be able to dip my feet into the water after just a thirty-minute drive is something I had never known! The first year, every weekend seemed like being on holiday... I even went to the seaside when it rained! I soon realized that this proximity to the ocean had a positive effect on the city and the Bordelais' state of mine.
Between Place de la Bourse, the wine bars, architecture warranting the city's designation as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the nearby ocean, a festive approach to life, and a wonderful lifestyle, I was thoroughly won over. And I wanted to have an even closer relationship with the city. That is when I discovered the Bordeaux underground scene and the different personality of each district. I began to attend concerts, go to alternative art exhibitions, shop at small markets, enjoy oysters and white wine at an outdoor brunch on Sunday, browse at the Saint Michel flea market and bric-a-brac shops in the Chartrons, eat a great meal at a small restaurant that doesn't look like much from the outside, but that serves copious quantities of good food, share a picnic on the quays, etc... I enjoyed looking at the Pont de Pierre from underneath, visiting the Caserne Niels (a former barracks), admiring the mascarons – wonderful carved stone faces on buildings that you don't see if you never look up – among other of the city's little secrets… I am lucky enough to be able to go to work on foot, and very much enjoy seeing the various parts of the city wake up in the morning. People don't honk their horns here!!! Bordeaux is beautiful, cultivated, and festive, but in the early morning, you can also see the city as it really is, without make-up, and appreciate its unquestionable beauty.
I don't know about you, but I always figured that I was really in love with someone if that person succeeded in continually surprising me, if I had the impression of rediscovering the details of their body and personality every day. That's sort of what happened with me and Bordeaux. I've been here for 7 years and I know the city pretty well by now, however I'm not tired of it or bored with it in the least.
Don't ask me to say what I like most about Bordeaux because one of its most charming characteristics is a constantly shifting atmosphere, from the serenity of the Miroir d’Eau reflecting pool to the lively Saint Pierre district just 2 minutes away, from an alternative art exhibition to a laid back evening enjoying tapas, from elegance to simplicity, from a stylish part of town with cosy échoppes (one-storey stone bungalows with a garden) to a working-class atmosphere during a celebration by neighbours who have decided to share a meal outside in the street. Architecture in the Chartrons reflects its long history and the important role played by wine. But this district also has a very modern side, and many construction projects are currently under way – as they are in Bacalan, where the Center for Wine and Civilization is being built.
It is said that love has a seven year cycle... I arrived in Bordeaux thinking it would be for just a short while. Since then, I have made many friends and even taken on the local accent. I walk all over the city, poking my nose into just about everywhere. I delight in showing my family from Burgundy around. They have made a habit of coming to visit with the sunny weather arrives, in spring. In fact, my love affair with Bordeaux was not just a fling, and I have never left. Furthermore, Bordeaux continues to surprise me to this day. I am no longer the girl from Burgundy who feels lost, confused and intimidated by the big city. Yes, I sometimes walk around without paying much attention to my surroundings, and sometimes I feel like being alone, like here, on these steps, when I first felt that I had really encountered the spirit of Bordeaux. I have an intimate conversation with myself, remembering that day during an Indian summer when I feel in love with the city and knew I wanted to stay. Bordeaux, if one day I wake up with the certainty that I know everything about you I wish to, please don't be upset with me, but I will go elsewhere. However, rest assured, my beauty... When I hear the life in your streets and see the ambitious projects you have, I think that day is not about to dawn.
Yes, I have become Bordelaise. Bordelaise at heart. And that makes the love story even more beautiful...