Bordeaux Blog: Chapter 1

Bordeaux Blog: Chapter 1 Bordeaux Jardin Public by valmente

This article was written by Ines Sordo, published on 17th September 2010 and has been read 5761 times.

Getting acquainted with the French real estate sector, walking around pointing at things like a Japanese tourist in London and don’t mention the war (they’re a bit bitter about it here too)Why lie, Bordeaux was not my first choice. No, like many of us wide-eyed French students (that is of course, wide-eyed BEFORE starting uni, afterwards we’re more eyes-open-thanks-to-caffeine) I had always hoped to end up in Paris.  But here I am happily starting my year abroad in France’s 7th largest city working in, what else? The wine industry.
When I found out I’d be living here I thought: great! I love wine (and drinking it)! But soon after, reality struck: where the hell am I going to live? If you’re out here on Erasmus you have the option of student halls through the “CROUS” website, but word on the street is that the English and the French don’t quite have the same concept of ‘halls’ and these are not advisable for those who love, well, light. Apart from that the Bordeaux University International Students Advisor can send you a list of private search websites to look through.  

For those of us sticking it out in the real world for a year however, little help is offered. First step: have a mild panic attack; get the unnecessary stuff out of the way quick. There’s plenty of ways to do this, be it through the Internet, through a real-estate agency or through newspaper ads. If you decide to attack accommodation through the Internet, there are loads of sites out there, the best of which I would say is www.leboncoin.fr, which allows you to tailor your search so you don’t waste most of your time sifting through ads for kittens in Avignon or other useless endeavours (tip: if you’re on a tight budget and will be needing to buy extras for the house, le bon coin also acts as a second hand store for just about anything under the sun, including kittens in Avignon if that strikes your fancy). And, just a reminder, when using the Internet exercise caution, too good to be true is just so for a reason. Alternatively there is an agency that dedicates itself to connecting people in the private sector called “Directe Location” where you can find some great flats at good prices, catch here being that you have to pay an upfront amount of 190 euros until you can get the landlords’ contact details, but if you’re willing to take a small risk this is an often time and, in the long run, money-saving solution. Searching through a real estate agency is the same kind of dull business it is in the UK, just make sure you know what a T1 and a T2 are (studio apartment and one bedroom flat respectively) and check how much money the agency wants on top of the deposit. If all goes well you will soon be on your way to French home bliss! Berets optional.

Since I thankfully managed to find a flat a couple weeks before I was due to start work I occupied myself with kitting it out in the trendiest of Ikea styles (I realise what a contradiction in terms this is) and doing some good old tourism, because no-one wants to walk around with a map in their hands for a whole year.

Did you know that the historic centre of Bordeaux is the single biggest urban area declared a world heritage site by UNESCO? Well, if you didn’t, now you know. And thanks to your year abroad you can get to know every last bar - I mean bit - of it. From the overall riverfront, known as “les quais”, with its background of gorgeous 18th century buildings and the Place de la Bourse to the Place Pey Berland home to the Cathédrale Saint-André, the streets of Bordeaux itself are an art piece. It’s a beautiful contradiction to see an amazing Porsche Boxter parked right by a historic building and the city seems not to mind the modernity, in fact the two coexist in calm here.

Speaking of coexistence: the French. People here are for the most part lovely and won’t mind you asking for directions on the street or anything of the sort. If anything, you might run into a few of the chatty types who might well lead you to some great places. A good place to start finding these good places on your own however would be the Quartier St Pierre, full of little restaurants and bars at affordable prices (and one of my favourite ice cream places is round here).

Check back here next month for tales of (potential) survival in the French work place, more specific adventures in the city and how to avoid getting lost on the tram system. For now I’m going to have a picnic in the Bordeaux public gardens, which are basically my back yard. Word to the wise: if you’re looking to relax, you should really visit them.

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