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Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Travel: Un tour de la France en Cinq Jours: Part One - Bordeaux

About a month and a half ago, I had a really, really rubbish day at work. I came in to find the place completely turned upside down by a mistake that someone else had made and found myself having to deal with that, and everything else that I had to do to make sure I was doing my OWN job. Amongst this fury, I decided that booking flights to France was the only thing that would calm me down. So I took a break, whacked my phone out and booked myself a one-way flight to Bergerac, in the west of France. I also arranged to meet up with a couple of the guys I met whilst I was living out in Strasbourg. Two birds, one stone. Or so I thought.

If you’re familiar with France and more specifically with Bergerac, you’ll realise that this wasn’t a particularly smart move from my point of view. Bergerac is, for lack of better description, in the absolute middle of nowhere. There’s also not much to do there, either. It took around ten minutes after starting research to realise that I needed a better plan in place. A quick google left me with a few different options: either take the (incredibly long) train directly to Avignon, where my pal Joe lives, or else lengthen my trip and cross off a few of the cities on my bucket list. I decided on the latter, purchased a Interrail France pass and began planning my trip.

So, finally came the day: with my luggage, camera and sleep-deprived self in tow, I got on the plane from Liverpool to Bergerac. I’d already clocked that there were no buses from the airport to the city centre and that I’d have to get a taxi into the city. A few google searches had informed me that this wouldn’t cost more than twenty euros, nor would it take longer than 15 minutes, so I had high hopes for easy access to the train station, where I would take a train to the first city on my trip: Bordeaux.


I only knew a few things about Bordeaux before I booked to visit here: red wine and big city. I arrived in Bergerac 15 minutes before the scheduled flight arrival time- excellent start to the trip, as far as I was concerned. It was here when the difficulties began: I discovered, after disembarking the plane, getting through passport control issue free and leaving the (ridiculously tiny) airport building, that there were no taxi ranks in site. None. At all. Now, I’m not a great phone person: the thought of ordering a taxi over the phone in English makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I know I can do it, I know there’s absolutely no reason to not do so, but something always stops me. I attempted to Uber (who was I kidding? Why would a city that didn’t even have a taxi rank at its airport have Uber taxis?). Eventually, I took a deep breath and called a local taxi firm to come and collect me. No one looked at me like I had three heads, the woman on the line understood me perfectly and my taxi arrived 10 minutes later. Achievement unlocked. I chatted away to the lovely driver, paid my fare and made the train to Bordeaux with plenty of time to spare.


The adventure started here. I decided to explore the city a little before taking my stuff back to the hotel: I only had a large handbag and my camera on my person so didn’t have too many issues in lugging them around. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so overwhelmed in arriving in a city before- for all the right reasons. Bordeaux is absolutely beautiful. Getting off the train at St Jean station was a treat in itself. After living in Strasbourg for a year, I’ve become quite the master of tram systems so I found navigating around Bordeaux pretty easy to do. My first stop was a solo one: I wasn’t meeting my friend Remy, another Strasbourg pal, until mid-afternoon, so I had a few hours to myself. I found myself on the banks of the river Garonne with the entire city mine for the day to explore.


Bordeaux, France

My first thought was genuinely, “Holy Jesus Christ, that is a LONG river.” And then I turned around, to witness La Bourse, a gorgeous square which dates back to the 1700s,  and all my thoughts came out at once- granted, most of them started with "wow" and ended with an expletive. I did a little shopping and stopped at a restaurant for an aperitif before Remy met me in Place de la Republique. We wandered around the city centre a little bit more, discovering the Esplanade des Quinconces, which was probably one of my favourite parts of the city: the Quinconces is one of the largest squares in Europe and hosts the most beautiful fountain, the Monument aux Girondins. Apparently a few of the horses in the fountain were removed by the Nazis during the occupation of France, which seems pretty bizarre to me but it’s nice to know that they’ve since been re-erected and restored to their full glory. Rem and I grabbed dinner (a very French dinner of Chicken and chips…) before exploring the city by night. Needless to say, I wasn’t disappointed there either. We finished off our evening with a viewing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, dubbed ever so beautifully in French, before I tucked myself into my little hotel room, ready for my 7.30am train the next morning!

La Bourse, Bordeaux


Monument Aux Girondins, Bordeaux


I have visited a number of cities in France over the course of my 23 years and I’m actually quite surprised to say that this is one of my favourites. I didn’t really expect to like Bordeaux all that much, having heard tales from other friends. I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much there was to do in Bordeaux and how much I’d love to go back there at some point. Definitely one to explore in more depth at a later date.


Have you ever visited Bordeaux? Do you fancy it? Isn't it DIVINE? Gimme some feedback!! 

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