Unlike Paris, Bordeaux lacks the buzz of modern, metropolitan life. It feels petite, accessible. The people I meet love their city precisely for its lack of pretentiousness and the resulting easy-going atmosphere.
Alain Juppé, the incumbent mayor of Bordeaux, came into office in 1995, and immediately engaged in a revitalization journey. Bordeaux, once burdened with grime, now has a clean, tranquil feeling that permeates through every pore of the city. Delicate limestone buildings in soft cream coloring line the streets of the city center. It is not entirely car free but bollards and retractable posts keep most vehicles out of pedestrian spaces. In 2007, the city became a Unesco World Heritage Site. After Paris, it now has more protected buildings than any other French city and boasts an array of well-preserved Roman and Gothic churches as well as excellent, informative museums.
Part of the Garonne riverfront that perfectly encapsulates Bordeaux’s transition is the area around the statue-rich Place de la Bourse. This urban ensemble embracing the Three Graces Fountain was built for King Louis XV in the 18th century. Landscape architect Michel Corajoud connected the square to Bordeaux’s quayside in 2006 with some visual help. He gave the buildings a twin in the water at their feet by designing the Miroir d’eau, a ton of granite slabs covered in water that spouts out mist occasionally.
The Bordelaises come here to rest their feet in the shallow water, to enjoy the chill of thick fog tickling their ankles. The Miroir cheers people up and cools them down.
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