Bordeaux is one of my all-time favourite cities and I couldn’t help but fall in love with it!…Although this is slightly biased as it was my hometown for around 4 months during my year abroad. I’ve always loved France and the French culture and have been lucky enough to visit quite a few towns and cities but there is something about Bordeaux which is so amazing!
So my first hour in Bordeaux was spent on the side of the street in the middle of a massive square surrounded with all my bags! And I was so excited! After my hosts for the next few months, Stuart & Jonathan, came to meet me, we literally went straight to a pub (they had warned before I came that they were big drinkers)! So after a few lovely drinks getting to know each other in an old style English Pub (!) and after a lot of trekking through the cobbled streets with all my bags and their boxer dog, we made it back to the flat, where we spent the rest of the evening outside on the terrace with a bottle of wine and some takeaway pizzas. A great start to my time in Bordeaux!
La Vie Professionelle
I had to leave the flat by 7.40am, take a walk through many side streets (the houses pictured above) and catch the bus into a suburb called Pessac where the office was, about an hour’s journey. I usually spent these journeys trying not to fall asleep, but once I was at the office I helped myself to a couple of espressos from the coffee machine and I was good to go for the rest of the day! I was working within the Marketing department so my main tasks were editing the website, managing the social media pages (Facebook & Twitter) and doing some market research on other travel competitors. I did sometimes feel like a burden as people had to spend a lot of time actually finding jobs for me to do and then taking a while to explain it to me – but I guess this is all part of doing an internship. Some days were really quiet, and there really wasn’t that much work for me. But most days were great and I really, really enjoyed the work – marketing really appealed to me and when I was sat at my desk editing the website or doing translations, I was in my element! One of my most exciting tasks was doing the amendments, editing and small translations for the 2012 brochure – quite a big responsibility and was such a good experience. And one of my most memorable days at work is when we had a Conference/training day at this gorgeous Chateau in the country! At lunch we had this amazing 3-course typical French meal, then we spent most of the afternoon outside on the grass in the sun “working” with the most amazing view of the vineyards.
Bordeaux: Ma Ville Preferée
When I wasn’t working, my time was spent getting lost in the gorgeous little back streets of the city centre, sitting at street-side cafes and visiting all that Bordeaux has to offer. Its main attractions include Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux’s most beautiful square, where you’ll find the Miroir des Quais, a massive square of shallow water you can walk on which gives the effect of a mirror – the biggest water mirror in the world! One of my favourite places in Bordeaux.
The city’s main shopping street – Rue St Catherine – runs right through the centre with high street chains and boutique French shops, with cute side streets running off it in all directions. On either side of the shopping street are two main squares – Place de la Victoire with its giant column in the centre which is surrounded by cafes and bars. This is the main student area and comes alive at night! Definitely head here if you’re wanting a good night out or even just a few drinks in a great atmosphere! Even when the weather’s freezing, everyone will still be drinking and standing around outside and it’s this which gives the square such a good atmosphere! So at the other end of the main shopping street is the beautiful Place de la Comédie, where you’ll find Bordeaux’s famous opera house Le Grand Theatre (definitely get tickets to an opera here if you get the chance – it’s one of the best things I did) and facing it probably the most beautiful and grandest hotel you’ve ever seen!
And right next to it when I lived there was the gorgeous posh coffee shop Fauchon (but I think this one’s now closed as it wasn’t there when I went back to visit a year later)! Literally just off this square is the gorgeous Quinconces – the main hub of the trams and a nice little area to walk around in the shade lined with trees and fountains nearby.
The river Garonne which runs through the city is definitely a must see too – well you can’t really miss it! Take a walk along its banks and you can even take the tram or walk over to the other side for a coffee or lunchtime meal with amazing views back over to the other side.
Another great thing about the city is their bike hire system! It’s so cheap (around €2 for the whole day I think) and you pick one up and drop one off in another location wherever you like. We did this on a couple of occasions and it’s a really great way to see the city! The roads are wide and flat, there are massive parks and great open spaces – it’s definitely one of the best memories I have of Bordeaux!
For lunch or dinner, definitely make time to head to the famous French steakhouse L’Entrecote. There’s only 6 in the whole of France – in all the main cities – and the one in Bordeaux is just off the Place de la Comedie. You don’t have to make a booking but be prepared to queue up outside for around half an hour to an hour! There wasn’t a single time I walked past it when there wasn’t a massive queue! But it is so worth it – the food is incredible. They don’t have a menu – you just tell them how you like your steak cooked and then there’s unlimited frites to accompany it, but I think it’s their famous sauce which makes it!
Now for things to do outside of the city: as Bordeaux is one of the most famous wine regions in the world, I’d definitely recommend booking on to a wine tasting tour while you’re here! We booked ours from the Tourist Information Centre also on Place de la Comedie and they’ll pick you up right from the square and take you out for the day! We visited around 5-6 different wineries during the afternoon – most of the wine is red and it was so much fun, and the vineyards were beautiful, especially in the sun!
Another day trip out from the city is to the cute little beachside town of Arcachon – only about an hour on the train. Spend the morning wandering around the town at your own pace, pick up a pastry from one of the gorgeous little bakeries and have a browse in the shop windows. It’s definitely got that lovely feeling of a beachside town – even though the day we chose to go it was cloudy and grey! Climb up the viewing tower (a steep spiral staircase with a LOT of stairs!) for amazing panoramic views of the red and orange rooftops.
In the afternoon, head to the famous Dune du Pyla – giant sand dune which you can climb right up to the top. By the time we reached the top, the sun had come out and made it all worth it! You can see right down to the sea!
My 4 months I spent living and working in Bordeaux were some of the best of my life so far – the independence and the excitement of starting up a whole new mini life, as well as a working routine, in a foreign country was just such a great experience. I made new friends, old friends came to visit me, and I gained my first working experience in the travel industry in which I wanted to work! And I can’t help but agree with Stendhal when he said ‘Bordeaux est, sans contradit, la plus belle ville de France’.