Thursday, September 3, 2015

Meals on wheels: Bordeaux, part I

Bordeaux, the new Black, the French Hamburg, or, why not be frank and honest: the better Paris!

I know that this is quite something to live up to, but, having been to Paris last year and being able to make the direct comparison, this is exactly what Bordeaux feels like. Plus, it’s less than an hour away from the ocean – take that Paris!! 

Many years ago, I spent a couple of months in Bordeaux during an internship and ever since then, I had the plan to go back to visit the city. But then life happens and we all know that life is what happens while you're busy making other plans and so I kept postponing my return to Bordeaux until this year when all of a sudden, a quite unexpected week off popped up and I took the chance and booked tickets to Bordeaux (and Biarritz, but more on that later).

With so much time since my last visit to Bordeaux, my memory had faded quite a bit. I remembered that the city was beautiful, but it's breathtaking beauty just about shook me off my feet this summer! Did you know that during the 18th century, the French king was afraid that a big fire (like the one that had destroyed medieval London a cenutry before) would destroy Bordeaux, which by then had developped into the economic center of France due to the port? He therefore gave an order that all medieval wooden houses had to be destroyed and replaced by stone houses. The money for this came of course from trade in whine, cotton, sugar, and yes, sadly enough also slaves.

Knock knock, who's there?

Up until today, Bordeaux therefore has  one of the most architecturally consisent city centers. I can count the houses not older than 15 years on one hand! The beauty of the streets is truly breathtaking and speaks very much of the Golden Age that the 18th century was for Bordeaux (therefore also the saying that Bordeaux is the French Hamburg).

Most people probably immediately think of red whine when they hear Bordeaux, but since I hardly ever drink alcohol, I was more intrigued by these beautiful water fountains in les Chartrons, the old wine traders' district.
When I lived in Bordeaux many years ago I passed this fountain every day on my way to work.

Les Chartrons is one of the districts not to be missed. There is a great hall with antiquities that is worth a visit, and some lovely restaurants that are not as crowded as the ones in the city center.

But the city center with the house of the whine, the opera, the grand hotel etc. is also not to be missed. I wonder what the message on this bench means? My invented story goes like this: two old French men used to meet each other there every day during the week pour un peu de papotage and when one of them died, the other one had the bench inscribed to commemorate his friend and remind everyone passing by how important it is to take a seat and chitchat every now and then. 

When night falls, Bordeaux does not become less beautiful. The brasseries are full of people, taking an aperitif that can be anything from a martini to a strikingly sweet diabolo (sirup mixed with sprite). The culture or even the insitution of going to a bar to just drink something doesn't exist in Germany at all, where, unless you drink coffee, you usually always order food with your drinks. I LOVED sitting in the Brasserie, watching the French world pass by, and observing the art of serving the way it is only done in French Brasseries: the way the waiter puts everything in order on his tray, how he puts your drink on your table, looks for the little plastic plate with your bill, sorts through his stack, places it next to your drink, takes the full ashtray, puts it on the bottom of his ashtray pile, takes a fresh one from the top and puts in on your table. All these movements he has internalized and works so smoothly, that you don't know if you can ever go back to Berlin where waiters are bad-tempered students who have no clue about serving!

At the place de la bourse, the water mirror (it's a huge surface with about 2 cm of water) which during the day is the place to be for kids 2-10 in underwear, lies all quiet and serves its mirror-purpose, doubeling the beauty of the city.

With one million photos from Bordeaux, I am splitting my photos into several posts, and leave you for now with a shot looking at Place Camille Jullian, one of Bordeaux's loveliest squares. It is so worth a visit for its awesome cinema Utopia that is inside an old church! Unfortunately, all the restaurants on the square are tourist traps, except the brasserie that belongs to the cinema utopia, so if you feel like eating or drinking something, choose that one!

copyright of all photos j.

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