All fur coat …

Saturday 21 June 2019

As I walked Bordeaux yesterday, the expression “fur coat and no knickers” kept popping up in my mind. Not feeling it was right to be so judgemental after spending just one grey day in the city, I took to my bike in the sunshine to get a wider perspective. It only reinforced my original impression.

If you imagine the west bank of the Garonne, everything Bordeaux promotes, its greatest hits, lie there.

Anyone arriving on a cruise will see the grand frontage,

ornamental fountains,

aspirational columns,

and gates to nowhere,

and think they’ve arrived in a classic city. This strip, all very pleasant, lies between two bridges, Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas downriver, close to the Cité du Vin,

(the centre section raises to let ships through) and Pont De Pierre.

The Cité du Vin acts as a full stop. Beyond it, as behind the grand facade of the river front and after the stone bridge, Bordeaux is scruffy and unkempt. The weeds growing between the trip-hazard pavements and the neglected old buildings may help offset global warming, but if I was a resident of the city I’d be unhappy about seeing so much money going into the shop window display, as it were, and not into the infrastructure for those living in the town.

If you’re into wine, unsurprisingly there’s plenty of interest in the city and surrounding vineyards, but it doesn’t pass the romantic weekend test. There are many nicer places in France. Only my opinion, and what do I know. Plenty will disagree.

There is a huge amount of development going into some areas and, reading the recent history of the city, it has come a long way from where it was a few years ago. To be absolutely clear, we have many worse places in the UK, but compared to elsewhere in France, Bordeaux needs to get its knicker draw in order.

I’ll return to the riverside festival this evening and see if the light show and fireworks do anything to change my mind.

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