No.216-218: Bordeaux: Boardwalks, Markets, and Spécialités
We are just back from our warm and relaxing trip to Bordeaux. I fell in love with la perle d’Aquitaine, as Bordeaux is known, and hope that sometime in my life I get to spend at least 365 days there. At the moment, it is the newest bee in my bonnet.
Bordeaux is France’s ninth largest city (with the sixth largest metropolitan area) and is the first French city Superman could see himself living in for the long-term. Three particular aspects of the city sealed the deal for us: the laid back, sporty, friendly and slow-speaking Bordelais(es), the fresh, multipurpose boardwalk, and the balmy, sunny weather.
We were lucky to stay in a riverside apartment with a terrace in the charming Chartrons district near the historic UNESCO World Heritage part of the city and found that its inviting squares, funky neighborhoods, and lively markets made it the ideal city to meander through both on foot and bike. The city, famous for wine, is like a fine wine itself, offering the perfect balance of ageless grandeur and architecture, fresh, modern tones and more than a hint of fruitiness and fun.
I posted earlier about what I’m calling Bordeaux’s Saint Marc’s Square, but is in fact called the miroir d’eau (water mirror). In my opinion, this central feature of the boardwalk lining the Garonne River is one of the most striking urban sites in France reflecting both the joyful heart of the city and the impressive Palais-de-la-Bourse. The boardwalk is a spot for young adults, extended families, casual wanderers and serious athletes all pulsing in sync. Rollerbladers duck and zoom, runners pant and croon, old couples hold hands and beam, youngsters scoot and skip, furry friends wrestle and romp, and vélos roll by, their cheery chimes announcing their approach.
The city boasts numerous outdoor cafés, lots of spots for picnicking, live music jams, colorfully clad open-air tangoing, first-class museums, gorgeous architecture, fresh seafood (yummy oysters) and haute cuisine, and of course, caves for tasting the region’s wine. There is also an excellent farmers market on Sundays (Marché des Quais) selling all the usual suspects along with some of the unusual and distinctively Bordelaise spécialités. Comme ça:
As you may have noticed, I am totally smitten with Bordeaux and this region of France. The sparkling pearl of Aquitaine has a little something for everyone and is quite effectively enticing this Parisphile south…
Bordelais(es): people from Bordeaux
caves: wine cellars, storage space
Comme ça: Like this:
la perle d’Aquitaine: the pearl of Aquitaine (the Aquitaine pearl)
One of my French teachers came from Bordeaux and would rave about it being the most beautiful city in France. I thought she may have been a bit biased but now I can see why 🙂
Oh, we did love it there. It really is a magical place. I’d definitely put it on your bucket list! Thanks again for reading and following.
I’m glad that you love the city I live in so much.
Here’s my take on a few of the comments that you left, in case you were seriously considering moving here.
I don’t know what kind of job your husband does (I’ve only just found your blog!), but moving down here is difficult if you are a fonctionnaire. I know that Spanish teachers needed 800 points to qualify for a position in the region 2 years ago. Bordeaux is very, very popular place to move to these days.
As a foreigner living here, my employment options are limited. This is not Paris. I don’t find that Bordeaux is very international. Major employers are the university, the French state, the wine industry and the service industry.
Really it rains here a lot. Sometimes it feels like it goes on for months and then August will be so dry that all the grass dies. I don’t mind, though, because I like rainy weather.
You find that there are a lot of places to picnic? Really? Sure, there’s the area along the quay, that’s nice but noisy, but I don’t find that there are many parks here at all (not ones that are open late enough to picnic in the evening).
Maybe it’s because you live in Paris that you find the Bordelais friendly. Actually in France they don’t have a reputation as being particularly friendly and easy to get to know and I often feel that this is true. In fact, I hate to say this, but nowhere is this more true than at the quay market on Sunday. It is a beautiful market, but I dislike going there because I feel that it is so snobby there. The produce is wonderful, but I find the vendors can be sneaky and the atmosphere is just too haughty for me.
As for them being sporty, I guess you thought that because you saw everyone on the quay? Or maybe because you live in Paris? I think Bordeaux is one of the most “unsporty” cities in France. There are no mountains nearby and the city is flat. You can definitely see this in the way the locals dress (compare this to how people dress in Grenoble, which in my opinion is one of France most “sporty” cities). It’s true that there is a lot of cycling, though. I really like cycling around the city.
I find that Bordeaux is really great for raising a family. It’s not a big, overwhelming metropolis. It is a mid-size city with a high qualify of life. I love the relaxed, slow place here. The city is beautiful, there is a lot to discover, the ocean is nearby and the winters are mild (at least for me, coming from Canada). Despite what I said above, I love living here.
I think that the local food is wonderful. Well, I say local, but most of the local food comes from Dordogne, les Landes, or the ocean. Never mind, I love all the duck dishes and eating fresh seafood. And then there is the incredible selection of wine and wine châteaux that you could visit in the region. Be careful: wine is everywhere in Bordeaux and often the same bottle is cheaper at the supermarket than at the château itself!
Sorry for the long message. I would have preferred to have emailed you, but I can’t find an email address on your site.
Thanks for you long reply and your view of real life in Bordeaux. I appreciate the insight from someone who lives there.
Life is always better when you’re on vacation, so obviously I have a very rose colored view of Bordeaux. That said there were many things we enjoyed about our stay, and that struck us as unique and different compared to other parts of France. The people we interacted with through our apartment building, bike rentals, marketing, eating were all very friendly, and friendliness goes a long way after you have been living in Paris. I find the French are difficult to get to know everywhere in France, but once a friendship is formed, it is a strong one.
There are numerous things that drive me crazy in Paris, but for me it is so much better to dwell on the positive. The quai (les berges) and the Champ de Mars in Paris can also be noisy and crazily crowded, but they are still a lovely place to picnic and people watch. That’s the feeling we had on the quai in Bordeaux. Anyway, we will definitely go back again in different seasons, to get a better feel for the whole place, for us it could be a very nice change from Paris.
Thanks again for your comment. I hope your time in France continues to improve. All the best, Nancy