Today the pedestrian-only streets in the prosperous city of Bordeaux were mobbed, people were wall to wall because it’s one of the only two times per year that stores in France are allowed to have sales. For the first two weeks of July and again in March, stores can lower their prices and legally put on the ‘solde!’ signs. As a result, everyone wants a chance to spend their money. Lines at the cashiers were long, and the sea of people coming in and out was impressive.
We had lunch at a fancy outdoor cafe called Gabriele right near a big open cement area that is flooded with two cm of water starting at 10 am every day. Before then workers patrol and vacuum up broken glass and debris but after that it’s either a mist or just water and it covers a broad area about the size of a football field. This is right in front of an ornate restored limestone building that’s reflected into the big pool. People dance and splash in the water, and children take delight in the experience.
Bordeaux is really resurgent, gleaming green trams ferry people around the city and a fourth tram line will be added in a few years. The other big news here is the addition of a special track for the TGV, the speedy train that comes down from Paris. The current track is speedy until about an hour north of the city, where it has to slow down. The new dedicated track will make a two-hour trip from Paris to Bordeaux a reality…and this is something that people are very excited about.
We met a young woman who works for the tourism office who told us she’d spent years in Rome and in Paris. But now she’s moved back to Bordeaux and is very happy to be paying half the rent for an apartment twice as large as in Italy. She described the Bordelaise as people who are in love with their city and perhaps not as open minded as others in France. It’s a rich city with many rich wine families controlling a lot of the business for generations. People here, she said, would rather go to Arcachon, 40 minutes away, than jet off someplace faraway. They probably work a bit less than people in Paris too, she thinks.
The cathedral is just about all cleaned off, and the pale yellow limestone that makes the Opera House look so nice is equally as stunning contrasted with the old sooty appearance of the church. All over the city buildings shine, and it makes the people here very proud indeed.
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