Destination: Bordeaux, France!

Bonjour! It's Bordeaux calling! I've gone all French recently. I decided to desperately seek an adventure in the South-west of France, boarding a flight to Bordeaux’s Mérignac Airport to be a part of the French life. I have been to the nearby Poitou-Charentes region in the South-west of France before on family visits but I hadn’t seen the city of Bordeaux until this visit. B, allons-y! 

I took the train to Gare de Bordeaux St. Jean to be at the centre of the art and sophistication of this southern French city. Bordeaux's St. Jean Station is managed by SNCF which is the equivalent of Britain’s Network Rail. Boasting high speed rail connections to Paris, Toulouse and other stations along vast train network. Travelling by train in France didn't break my student budget, ticket prices are relatively the same compared to prices in England. Enough of that rail commentary it's time to discover the delights of Bordeaux for it's been frustrating to fly into the city's Mérignac Airport and not be able to see the city! I'm a city boy at heart, I hadn't got the chance to see Bordeaux on my previous two visits to the region so I wasn't taking no for an answer! There's just something to love about French cities, my first impressions of the Gare de Bordeaux St. Jean were great! It was time for a break! Bien sûr, c'est les vacances BX!

Bordeaux has many means of connecting people from the outer regions of the wider Poitou-Charentes area by train. Staying within the rolling fields and vineyards of the French countryside the train posed to be the easiest solution to get to Bordeaux’s centre ville from the hamlet station of Montendre. It’s for sure a learning experience seeing the unknown train stations pass by as my train made its way closer to Bordeaux, coupled with the busy chattering of the local French people who were on the train early that morning. It was great to be a foreigner in a typically French setting because variety is the spice of life! My school boy French was challenged but I noticed that the use of French sounded like another foreign form of the language compared with the voices that I heard in Montreal, Canada! I would have conducted the day by myself if there was public transport running from Chevanceaux to Montendre station, I couldn't have it all! Les villes sont le moteur d'une nation! Allez!

When in France being able to speak the local language is a good idea because like most places in France people don’t speak English. I can thankfully understand a lot of French, so if things turned out for the worse I was to communicate accordingly. To the left stood the ‘L'eglise du Sacré-Cœur' which translates to ‘The Church of the Sacred Heart’. Something told me that this church has been modified in the middle because the brickwork looked a lot lighter than the rest of the building appeared to be. I will be honest that the sites I saw in Bordeaux were very different from what I have been used to in Birmingham. No Bullring here, I know that Bordeaux should keep doing what it continues to do! I was loving the feel of Bordeaux's city feeling, things didn't seem rushed, people just went about their business. Stopping at a coffee allowed me to see some realness, Bordeaux realness! Continuer à servir de Bordeaux!

Bordeaux itself has been given UNESCO World Heritage status, proclaiming that this city has architecture that’s worth preserving. Bordeaux's ‘Quartier Nansouty’ had a number of very old buildings consisting of houses, schools and general buildings, all dating back to the 1700’s! Along with the protected status of this city it begs the question whether additional work is continually carried out in-order to maintain these buildings? Because some buildings did look like they were in a state of disarray. Who honestly has the answer to this question? Inspired by the city feeling where the old blending with the new, I knew in that moment that I needed to get myself to Paris right away! Hearing French spoken in the streets gave me my own challenge, I felt as if I was back in my secondary school French class. I didn't get the chance to fully check the church out, the outside looked good though! Bordeaux's 'Quartier Nansouty' impressed me! Comme une prière, Bordeaux m'a emmené là-bas!

Bordeaux served some serious culture and history because there wasn't any shortage of historical and palatial points of interest. Starting with one of the city’s most formidable sites has to be the ‘Place de la Bourse’ standing strong with an air of realness. Within this quarter of Bordeaux the architecture has a sense of royalty about it. I did wonder whether these buildings of the past once housed people who could have been called dignitaries. I could definitely imagine myself living in a kitsch and quintessentially royal setting for we all need to embrace our lives in a more fabulous fashion! I know the 'La Place de la Bourse' is fit for a queen! How about you? Finding 'La Place de la Bourse' was such a relief because I had researched Bordeaux's main sights before flying to France in May 2013! Talking about the metro, it trailed around the city and even followed me on my path through the day. Oui, j'avais fait mes devoirs B!

Taking one day to discover the delights of this French city was fine for me. Describing this city’s status took a lot of thought for me as Bordeaux had a feeling of a large town. Getting around Bordeaux can be executed in two ways, ditching public transport I discovered the city by foot. I definitely saw more sights that were off the beaten track without the tramway being needed. Better still this city has an extensive Metro system, that passes through the streets of the quite regularly. Word on the street is that the Bordeaux metro network will eventually be developed to reach the city’s airport. I didn't take the Metro, I believe that I saw some quirky sides of the city that incorporated an African vibe. I suppose influences of the Francophone are visible in Bordeaux? I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way, noticing the feel of the spice I loved the variety and flavour of the l'afrique savoir faire! Attention aux fruits et légumes sur le marché de la ville! Bien sûr! All those bright colours!

Moving through to the final chapter of my day in the city of Bordeaux, things concluded with a visit to see ‘La Garonne’ riverside. This part of town was very picturesque, I for one fell in love this city when I saw the river capture the vista of the city. This city did have that ‘Je Ne Sais Quoi’ feeling because it’s difficult to limit this city within a phrase or comparison against other European cities I have previously visited. I loved my walk along the banks of ‘La Garonne’, the rolling waters gave me the perfect chance to marvel at the typically French buildings, it was crazy to think that the Garonne River made its way into the Atlantic Ocean! Bordeaux served small town realness by the river within a city of its own! Whatever the cost fell to me that day I pushed that unnecessary business aside, it was my day and I wasn't going to let any negativity reach my path. Je vous l'avais dit! Allez de l'avant BOD! Roulant sur la rivière! Vite!

Fulfilled by the days sightseeing, it was time to find the train back to Montendre. Being in the back of beyond, it was a mad dash for the next train that had a limited service towards the hamlet station that I needed. Packed with Bordeaux commuters, the train suddenly stopped and with the help of a friendly passenger the issue was translated. Having to get off the train for some reason left me on the platform for a little while. After waiting for a little bit, another train came to the rescue that was thankfully bound for Montendre. When all was said and done, Bordeaux was well worth the complicated train ride. The river and the overall French feel gave me life, the day was successfully in the end! Returning to my paternal grandparents house felt good, the train had been thrown some complications into the mix. Honestly, I don't know when my next visit will be to France, I do know that Paris will be the next big city visited! Next time I'll leave that negative energy far behind! Affaire classée! 

 J'adore Bordeaux!

Joseph Harrison


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