Never Bored in Bordeaux
The TGV takes you to Bordeaux from Paris in just two hours. It’s “du gâteau” (a piece of cake) from Gare Montparnasse to land in the “City of Art and History” – a.k.a. Port de la Lune (Port of the Moon), also a UNESCO World Heritage site. I came here last week to tape our 33rd House Hunters International with Kelly and Steve, two guys from Fort Lauderdale who moved to Bordeaux after having successful careers — one with an airline and other as a lawyer. They traveled around France until they found the city they felt they could call home…and Bordeaux was it.
I’ve spent very little time in Bordeaux myself. Sometimes called “Le Petit Paris,” it’s home to a huge wine industry and boasts of the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe – rue Saint-Catherine (1.2 km). Some residents claim it’s like Paris, “but more French.”
I’m not sure what that means. Is Paris not French? Or is Paris so much more international that Bordeaux is more “French?” Personally, I haven’t found it like Paris at all, but yes, very French. The architecture is stately and elegant. The city is one of France’s most beautiful. I found it disturbing that it is punctuated by a bit of (what I think is) disastrous contemporary architecture from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. We stayed in a generic hotel in the heart of it – the Mériadeck district, which has been called “weird, but graphic, like an ’80s jogging pant.” One article I read about the area boldly called it “ugly,” “a gigantic platform for pedestrians,” and commented “You like it or you hate it.”
I pretty much hated it, mostly because I didn’t want to walk out our hotel door past the deserted lower street level to restaurants — few of which were in the immediate vicinity. Thanks to Uber, we were able to get anywhere in the city inexpensively for great meals, but I’d warn you as a visitor to avoid the district for this reason alone.
No matter – none of the apartments we visited with Steve and Kelly were anywhere near there and all were in beautiful old buildings. Our “meet and greet” scene, which is where I meet with the “contributors” to discuss their search project, was taped at “Mama Shelter,” a five-star boutique hotel in the center of the city on the Place Saint-Christoly with 97 rooms designed by Philippe Starck. Guy Savoy is the master chef who designed their food fare and lunch in the restaurant on the lobby level was a delight. The roof-top terrace, open for drinks and dinner, has a panoramic view of the city from which you can sip your dark, red Bordeaux wine. It was here that we taped the scene and took in the sights of the city.
The three apartments in which we taped their visits were located in different parts of the city, but all very central:
1. Quai Des Marques, on the river near the Cité du Vin
2. Rue Esprit des Lois, Quai du Maréchal Lyautey, steps from Place de la Comédie (Opera House)
3. Jardin Public, the Chartrons district
This was a perfect way for us to get to see and know the city and for me to learn more about Bordeaux and the city’s real estate market. One thing that made a major impression on me was Bordeaux’s extensive tramway system, far more sophisticated and developed than Paris or Nice. It boasts of three lines powered by a ground-level power supply to avoid unsightly overhead wires. Following a long history, Mayor Alain Juppé adopted the tramway plan in 1997. It’s a big plus to everyday life in the city to have such smooth and quiet public transportation.
We had some excellent meals in Bordeaux, accompanied by some of the finest Bordeaux wines…naturally. One meal in particular, was a brand new restaurant touting a fun and contemporary approach to cuisine called Le Cromagnon. Some dishes are cooked on a “Himalayan salt stone.” We had no idea what that was at the time, but watched strips of duck cook at the table on the hot stone and were awed by the beauty and deliciousness of the plates. The salt stone is a product of a 16th-century mineshaft in Pakistan that is used for “sautéing, grilling, chilling, curing, baking, presenting, salting, bathing, building, and contemplating.” The food picks up the delicate flavor of the salt and can hold any temperature you bring it to. (Source and learn more here.)
We wrapped it up on Sunday afternoon between light showers and partly-cloudy skies. While the crew was doing a bit of final taping without me, I wandered through the CAPC (Musée d’art Contemporain de Bordeaux), around the Place de la Comédie and down rue Sainte-Catherine before heading back to the hotel and preparing for an early train back to Paris.
I was home in Paris at the same time I’d normally be sitting down at my desk with a cup of coffee — it was that fast and easy to be in Le Petit Paris and the real Paris in what seemed like the blink of an eye.
One thing for sure, we were never bored in Bordeaux…a Very French City worth a visit or a lifetime.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(at Mama Shelter)
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