The Mole Diaries: Bordeaux (Volume 2)

Bordeaux: Grand Théâtre by cerfon

This article was written by Isabella Miller, published on 2nd February 2011 and has been read 11600 times.

Isabella Miller studies Single Honours French at Leeds University. She was offered the choice of Lille, Lyon, or Bordeaux for her year abroad; she chose Bordeaux quite by chance, and feels very lucky she did. Isabella is studying at the Université Michel Montaigne Bordeaux 3 and here she gives us her insider scoop about accommodation, university life, what to pack, where to go, and her top tips for living in the city...
Welcome to my Mole Diaries!

Accommodation
This is the tricky part. Once you have this sorted, the rest is all downhill. I arrived in Bordeaux on September 12th hoping to find somewhere to live within the next week or so. I am afraid this was rather idealistic of me. The thing is, most French students return to Bordeaux after receiving their results in the summer to search for accommodation. As a result, by September the majority of apartments in the centre are already leased, and it can be very difficult finding accommodation. There are several ways around this problem: if you like to be super organized, I would advise a trip to Bordeaux in July/August and looking for a flat at this time. If you want to live in a studio flat this should be simple, if you want to share, you could team up with your fellow incoming students. However if, like me, you desperately want the real deal, living with a French student, you should look at appartager.com ahead of your trip and organize viewings for when you are in Bordeaux (on appartager you will also find the option to lodge with a family). Alternatively, you can wait until your arrival in Bordeaux in September. This route is a little more risky. At this time, your options are to search for a whole apartment with friends (but as I have mentioned, most of the nice, central flats are leased), or search for a studio flat for yourself. Generally speaking, smaller flats are more available at this time of year. The third option is to search appartager.com for a flatshare. Success in the latter is possible, but rare. In terms of looking for apartments, going though estate agents can be costly, so your best bet is to rent directly from a landlord. You will find many advertisements in regional papers, such as Sudouest and Paruvendu (the advertisements are refreshed twice weekly). You can also search on their websites. Other useful websites include De particulier a particulier (a website operating directly between buyer/tenant and owner) and Le Bon Coin (choose the ‘particulier’ tab whilst searching as this will lead you to the advertisements posted by the owners themselves). I hope I have not bored you with all the boring administrative information. You just need to hold out a little longer before I get onto the good stuff.

What to bring
Bordeaux Bridge by Rodney FarrantSo whilst accommodation is fresh in your minds, it is important that on coming to Bordeaux, you bring certain documents which you may need for finding accommodation. These include:
1) A photocopy of your guarantor’s passport (i.e. whoever will be paying your rent)
2) A photocopy of your guarantor’s bank statement
3) A photocopy of your guarantor’s tax payment
4) A photocopy of your guarantor’s wage slip Phew. Administrative bit DONE.

Les Facs
A few days in Bordeaux and you will notice that it is a town teeming with students, for there are a huge number of facs in Bordeaux. I study at Bordeaux 3 (the letters or literature fac). The credit system is a little different in France: for UK universities you are expected to study 120 credits per year, here in France that number is halved (but consequently credits hold more value in France). You are therefore expected to take around 30 French credits (ECTS) per semester, which you choose on arrival.

A little info on the centre
St Pierre is the student quartier right at the centre of Bordeaux (extending roughly from Quinconces to Cours Victor-Hugo). St Pierre is brimming with bars, cafés, and little restaurants, particularly clustered around the three successive squares: Place du Parlement, Place Camille Julian, and Place Fernand Lafargue. A few places spring to mind: Karl (an excellent brunch spot), Le Petit Commerce (delicious fresh sea food), Café la Comtesse (atmospheric little bar with excellent cocktails), and Le Michel’s (order your steak-frites here). Victoire is also an area very popular with the students, but a little further a field and occasionally dodgy. I tend to stick to St Pierre where, rest assured parents, I feel 100% safe. In terms of nightlife, due to the lack of clubs, most soirées take place in apartments, pubs, or bars (Thursday night is the biggest student night).

What to do, Top 5
Fountain in Bordeaux by La_Caille1) Taste the wine! The best place to do this is Bar à Vin, an excellent wine school where you can choose from hundreds of wines to taste for around 3/4 euros a glass.
2) Wine tour: head out to the countryside on a wine tour (you can arrange this in the tourist office)
3) Go to the Grand-Théâtre; an absolute must.
4) Utopia cinema: a gorgeous cinema in an old Abbey, showing excellent international films.
5) The markets: Marché du Chartrons (Sunday morning along the quai), Marché du Capucins (fresh fruit, veg, cheese, meat, fish, flowers etc), and Marché de St Michel (bric-a-brac market on Sunday morning)

Some useful words/phrases
1) On se la colle?! Lets get drunk!
2) Poche - Bag
3) C’est chiant - That sucks
4) Mec - Guy
5) Meuf - Girl
6) Pote - Mate
7) Ca te derange si……? Do you mind if….?

Top shopping 
1) Mollat is a stylish and elegant bookshop where you could spend hours flicking through cookery books, travel books, history books - the lot.
2) Sephora. For you girls, take a look in the Rue Sainte-Catherine store. Shoe shops. Seriously, the shoes in Bordeaux are as good as the wine.
3) Take a peep in Minelli, André, Heyraud, Franco Arno and try on the chic French bottines or some boyish suede desert boots.
4) Finally, I absolutely insist that you visit this next shop. It is the Chocolaterie and Biscuiterie Larnicol (right opposite the Grand Théâtre. You can’t miss it, or the molten chocolate aroma it exudes). This brings me onto my next list.

Food: Top treats you must try 
Place de la Bourse by cerfon1) Macarons
2) Canelés
3) Fresh Oysters (try these with a glass of white wine and a chunk of baguette in either food market)
4) Any patisserie you can get your hands on: pain au raisin, chocolatine, brioche.

Top Tips
1) Grab every opportunity: I am afraid the language won’t come by itself, you need to make and effort and be bold; when you meet French students take their number and meet for up for a coffee; when you are at parties, go and speak to the French people and not the Anglophones; accept as many invitations as you can as this will lead to more opportunities to speak with and meet French people!
2) Don’t expect wonders from your university! I am afraid trying to organise your university life can be tricky. Not being able to find teachers, not being able to find the right classrooms... these are things you get used to, but do not be disheartened.
3) Make sure you fit your food shop in on Saturday as everything is closed on Sunday.

Read another insider's guide to Bordeaux 

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