My favourite thing about Bordeaux is that 15 years ago, this was just another aging river port city. The 18th century buildings were graying and grimy from pollution. The roadways were busy and congested. The river banks were decrepit with old warehouses, inhabited by prostitutes and drug dealers. The heyday of the wine merchants had passed and the city had lost its charm. But sometime around 15 years ago, the municipality started implementing changes. The buildings were cleaned up, and now they shine with a warm, buttery glow. Major streets were shut down, and tram lines were installed. The major downtown area became pedestrian streets. And the tired riverbank warehouses were torn down and a gorgeous boardwalk was created, with ample space for runners, bikers, roller-bladers, skateboaders. They also created massive gardens and the spectacular Mirror of Water that reflects one of the most gorgeous Plazas of the city, especially at night when it’s all lit up.
On my last day of my French class, we had to go out into the streets of Bordeaux and find residents who were willing to talk to us about Bordeaux before and after the revitilization. I was petrified. We’d been told on Monday that we’d be doing this exercise sometime that week, and each morning, I walked to class totally terrified that today would be the day that I’d have to leave the safe confines of the classroom and talk to “real people.” The problem between me and the French language is that I can understand it fabulously, but the moment I have to speak it, every French word I ever learned magically vanishes from my brain. I had visions of staring dumbfounded at people on the street, and then blabbering on in English, whilst throwing in any French word I could think of like “croissant” or “déja vu” or “je ne sais quoi.” Basically, I was convinced I would make an ass of myself.
Not exactly the best attitude to take with me, but nevertheless, this Friday I bravely set out with my German-speaking partner, Matthias (who, incidently, was almost as spectacular at speaking French as I was) to find one or two Bordeaux residents who would speak to us, without laughing at us. And, I loathe to admit it, but it did not suck. And I did not splutter away in Franglish. In fact, I didn’t even use the word “croissant.” And the people we spoke to were the loveliest people I could ever have hoped to encounter for this assignment. We spoke to a woman who worked in a flower shop, who perhaps thought we were a bit nuts, but still humoured us by answering our disjointed French questions. We spoke to a dude who gives pedicab tours of the city, and he babbled on and on quite happily about how the city is a great place for students like him. And, my personal fave, we spoke to a scary looking old guy on a smoke break, who turned out to be the loveliest French man I have ever met, as he spoke glowingly about this city that he has lived in for 42 years.
I haven’t blogged lately because I’ve been feeling like it’s quite impossible to really explain my connection to this amazing city. I still feel like I’m in awe every day when I look around and really see where I am. There’s something special about France -- and about the city of Bordeaux in particular -- that just really grabs me. There is so much love for this city from its inhabitants. They are proud to be here, and they take care of their hometown and eachother. They maintain their history, but they roll with the changes that life and technology brings. It’s an honour to be living here for this short time.
If you’re curious to see more of Bordeaux and see some of its before/after, watch the Youtube video I’ve posted below.
And bonus! Sometime in the next few days, I’m hoping to do another photo blog post. I’ve been taking a crap pile of pictures and I’m just trying to figure out which ones I love the most so I can post them here.
And lastly, for those of you that have been curious, I finally saw the pregnant lady again (I mentioned her in this post). As of thi past Friday, she was still pregnant. I’ll keep you posted