Souvenirs From Across The World is a brilliant project launched and hosted by my adorable fellow Frenchie, the amazing and sweet Marie @ Drizzle & Hurricane Books to help blogger connect and get to know each other better! The deal is simple but so interesting; all you have to do is share facts, pictures, books, anything you want, from your country, town or culture. Isn’t it great? Head to her post for more information and other participants’ links!
Marie created an amazing portrait of France and the different regions you must visit before you can say you’ve been Frenchised. But there is one left.
Today, I am absolutely delighted to introduce you to the one and only city I ever fell in love with.
Let’s start with a little geography. There is no way I am letting you think all we have is drunk people and plenty of bottles!
See that reddish weird shape. This is where I live, along with approximatively 242 945 other people. Yes, Bordeaux itself is quite small. But if you add the towns all around (Mérignac, Pessac, Talence, Bègles, Floirac, Cenon, Le Bouscat, Bruges and Lormont) that form the Bordeaux Metropole, we reach a population of 724 224 inhabitants! Yep, still small compared to some other amazing and gigantic places. But we are okay with that. We have more bottles than you anyway!
So where are we? Get to Paris. Jump on a TVG and wait three hours. Or if you want me to be more specific, Bordeaux is “located close to the European Atlantic coast, in the southwest of France and in the north of the Aquitaine region. It is around 500 km (310 mi) southwest of Paris” according to Wikipedia. That means we are close enough for you to flee Paris quickly but far enough so that you don’t get its rain or very rude people.
Some facts about Bordeaux:
- We are blessed with a sunny weather most of the year. With lots of rain. Don’t worry, it never lasts and everyone acts like it is okay to get a shower in the middle of a scorcher day. The Bordelais are so used to it they don’t even pay attention anymore.
- We have the wine! Wines, castles, tastings, acres of vineyards. I decided not to talk about it in this post because 1) I don’t drink wine (I know, what a waste!) 2) everybody knows Bordeaux is the capital city of the red and white bottles 3) Even though my mother is a specialist, I don’t know a thing about the subject.
The bases are covered! Let’s go!
Le Petit Paris is one of the many nicknames Bordeaux proudly wears. Think of it as Paris, but better (no, this is not propaganda, just the truth!). The nickname comes from the similarities in the architecture, our endless cobbled streets, their restaurants, pubs, bars, terraces on the embankment of the Garonne. It all gives a very capital feel without all the drawbacks. Bordeaux is smaller, and you won’t see a Bordelais rush anywhere. People here take their time. Sometimes a little too much! You can spend hours wandering in the city and get a sense of life à la française.
Bordeaux is the city which has the highest number of preserved historical buildings in France, except for Paris. Let me give you a little tour of places deserving a visit. There are so many monuments and things to see around here that I only included places that had a special meaning to me. Also, I tried to draw a little circle around the center of town, every place leads to the next.
The Place des Quinconces
This is THE PLACE for photographs. Good or bad pics depending on your skills, but you cannot really go wrong here. You are sure to meet many tourists enjoying some fresh air and beautiful settings. Trees everywhere, statues of the philosophers Montesquieu and Montaigne, close to the river and the center, this 12-hectare place is the largest in Europe. Many events are held in this area, such a fairs, concerts, or a Euro fanzone… I attended the free concert of a French radio there, and met my teenage years’ favorite band.
I never get tired of walking along The Garonne. The pictures are not mine because every time I go there, I take in the landscape and the atmosphere with all my senses and I make memories instead of capturing the moment.
The first three pictures are of La Place De La Bourse. It has been Bordeaux’s signature postcard for centuries now. Sitting in front of the river, the monument was built in the XVIIIe century and took 20 years to be completed! They did a pretty good job. When you stand in the middle of the place, no matter where you look, the view takes your breath away.
The water and vapor you can notice in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th pictures are the result of the miroir d’eau. In 2006, the town council that the embankment was the perfect place to build the largest European water mirror (3,450 square metres. Seriously!). If you are in the area, you must stand in the middle and give your feet a little refreshment while watching the boats navigate the water. Personally, I love sitting near it and watch tourists have fun.
The last picture shows what else happens along the river. The Quai Des Marques is known for its shops and terraces. You can’t see it on the pictures but Bordelais love riding on the embankment and stop there for a fresh glass of
wine water of course. A small detail: Bordeaux is bike-friendly to the point pedestrians risk their lives every day!
Place de la Victoire
Every student knows that place. Its strategic position makes it the easiest meeting point. One campus of Bordeaux’s university is right on the place, and the two others campuses are on the B lane of the tramway, whose most popular stop is La Victoire! I can’t count the times I gathered with my friends here after a long day of classes. There are lots of restaurants and pubs around, lots of choices for everyone. My favorite pub is a few meters away. The HMS victory was our sanctuary for 3 years. There, I watched my Japanese teachers get drunk with us, we received free chocolate cake from Irish students , and I once had to walk back all the way to my place by feet the night we failed to catch the last tramway. If you are looking for a good night out, make sure to find this place.
La rue Ste Catherine
Imagine a 3km-long street full of shops. Any shops. You name it, it has it. Sports. Video Games. Furniture. Apple Store (yes, this is important for me and my bad luck with laptops). Clothes. Shoes. MacDonalds (yes, another important non-French element). Les Nouvelles Galeries. Everything you need, or don’t need, is on Ste Catherine street. 1,200 metres long and 10 metres wide completely devoted to shopping. Did I say it has everything? I cannot stress this enough. There is no better place to lose weight and shop at once. You walk so much that if you buy something too tight in one of the early shops, by the time you reach the end of the street, it’ll fit you perfectly.
A little geography in case you use this post to draw a map: the street begins on the Place de La Victoire and ends on my all-time favorite place: La place de la Comédie.
Place de la Comédie
The pictures talk for themselves. Do I really need to explain why it is my favorite place?
If you see those two building facing each other, it usually means you survived Ste Catherine street!
The left of the picture and the bottom left picture (taken by me!!) show the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux. I was lucky to get into the city’s palace once for work and let me tell you, it is as gorgeous on the inside. Everyone knows it, and if you’re meeting someone who was, let’s say Place des Quinconques, this is the place you’ll meet.
On the other side, proudly standing, is the Grand Théâtre. I have never set foot in it but the building itself is impressive and there are always queues of people waiting for shows.
Besides the beauty of it, I chose to stop here because both buildings hide restaurants. Gordon Ramsey bought the Grand Hotel’s restaurant Le Pressoir D’argent last year and opened a little later. They already gained one star on the famous Guide Michelin.
The Grand Théâtre is the home to a very famous chef from our region: Philippe Etchebest, and his brasserie Le 4ème Mur.
My mom and I are big fans of both guys, and cannot wait to try their food. I can’t recommend enough to stop by and check Chef Etchebest’s restaurant for a taste of real French food. Vive la cuisine française!
While we are on the subject, I must add something. French food is very famous, blabla, it is awesome, blabla. Yes. The Southwest is particularly famous for its duck, beef and foie-gras. To avoid shocking anyone, I won’t talk about any of those. Opinion differs, and if you are lucky to get to Bordeaux, you will have a chance to taste all the gorgeous food we have to offer. I find it extremely mean to put pictures of food because I am always hungry, but I will make an exception for a special treat everyone setting foot in Bordeaux MUST try.
I lived in Bordeaux 7 years before I dared trying it. I lost 7 years of eating those sweet sweet rhum and vanilla flavored beauties. Don’t make the same mistake. Take the jump. And grab the recipe before leaving!
I hope you enjoyed our stops! There are many places, museums, castles and garden (loads of gardens) I did not mention, but where is the fun in spoiling it all? I hope you get the chance to visit and discover for yourself! Here are a few more pictures just to get a glimpse of our golden life 🙂
Now that we all have great images of the town, let’s get back to business. After all, before sharing those things about our surroundings, we share about books!
Bordeaux is lucky to have the biggest French independent bookstore int the country!
The Mollat bookstore is located in the center of town. The whole store takes up to 2 700 m2! Everything I come in, I get lost. Seriously. There are books everywhere and the store bears a very vivid resemblance with The Maze.
In numbers, it looks like this:
- 15 specialized areas: politics, contemporary, foreign, school…
- 160 000 titles (wow!)
- 3,5 tonnes of books delivered daily
- 1 940 000 books sold every year
I like wandering around, being surrounded by so many books, but the English editions section is quite small, despite the large number of foreigners living in the area. I often come in just for the sight of endless shelves of books.
In 1991, they opened a publishing branch. They focus on stories about the region and its people, religion, architecture, wine (of course!)…
We also have an association planning and organizing literary events!
Escale du Livre has been promoting literature in Bordeaux for the last 13 years. We owe them festivals, and Le Salon du Livre, created to reunite readers and authors, and recruit young volunteers to become avid readers! They hang huge banners on the embankments every year. No more excuses not to read!
The main town library is in my neighborhood!
Yes, I know. The building is ugly. Still, 26 000 m2 filled with rooms for books is good, right? We can almost forgive the architect. Almost. The library is one of the biggest libraries in France, with up to 1 million titles available.
Last but not least… Let’s have a quick look at two famous authors from Bordeaux! Can you guess who they are?
- Which famous Bordelais said?
An author is a fool who, not content with boring those he lives with, insists on boring future generations.
2. Who is that famous Bordelais?
I know you all wonder who the hell is that guy and who to thank for that great quote. I won’t make you wait any longer!
The quote belongs to my dear Montesquieu. If you are as unlucky as many of us here in France, you probably have studied his work at some point.
Montesquieu was a French lawyer, man of letters, and political philosopher who lived during the Age of Enlightenment. I know him mostly for the headaches his texts gave my in high school and because his name was given to Bordeaux’s Law School.
His work includes: The Spirit of The Laws and Persian Letters.
Now, who is the bald guy? Well, say hello to Francois Mauriac.
François Charles Mauriac was a French novelist, dramatist, critic, poet, and journalist, a member of the Académie française, and laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur in 1958.
He wrote Thérèse Desqueyroux, Vipers’ Tangle and The Desert of Love.
He also has some very good quotes, such as
“No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without leaving some mark on it forever.“
If you read this post entirely, you are my best friend! I’d love to thank Marie for giving me the opportunity to talk about Bordeaux, and everyone who participated for sharing parts of themselves in their posts. I hope to see you in Bordeaux someday. Remember, we have great food AND great wines!