Le belle Bordeaux and board Biarritz

Ah Bordeaux, she had my heart from the outset. She’s so inviting with her easy to navigate roads and clearly signed parking. The large 18th century limestone buildings that dominate the architecture of the city have a confidence that makes you feel you’re in safe hands.

The Saturday shoppers ambling her pedestrianised streets also embued a kind of shoulder shrugging ‘yup, this is Bordeaux, take us as you find us’Ā attitude that made me feel at home. The women are enviably charismatic, whether shepherding unruly children or window shopping they all looked so comfortably at one with the world – and imacculately dressed to boot.

The French’s love of an interactive water feature was in full swing at the Miroir d’eau, where children played unrestrained and unaffected by the cloudy weather. The formal gardens by the riverside are inhabited by large, bold flowers that make no apology for flopping or lolling around, a bit like the young Bordeaux-nese (?) who lay between the bedding plants chatting, smoking, having a disco nap.

The city is home to some amazing sculptures, including the breathtaking, giant bronze head that appears two dimentional from some angles, and three dimensional from others. And to stumble across one of Antony Gormley’s bronze men so far from home was a delight, even more so to see the pleasure he gives to the city (I watched an excitable women jump off a scooter to get a selfy with him).

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I didn’t stay for the evening but I suspect from the number of beards and tattoos it’s a pretty hip place to be at night, sadly I’ve not yet cracked the knack of camping in a city yet.

Next Biarritz. I had high hopes for this place. The 19th century playground to pretty much all of Europe’s royalty. I expected a decadence, an air of panache, like Jay Gatsby or Princess Caroline of Monaco might be just round the corner. But instead it felt a bit tired, like it could do with a duvet day and a Berocca.

The days of royalty coming for it’s salt baths and casinos are long gone, now it’s all surfers waiting to catch the next wave. Even away from the shoreline inbetween every boutique and boulangerie is a Superdry or an O’Neils, surfing is big business here, only it doesn’t feel like a boomtown.

Bare-chested young men criss-cross the streets carrying a surfboard under one arm like it were a baguette, making it feel shabby without the chic. Its not by any means unpleasant, there were some nice bars, lovely beaches and the geography of the place is fascinating, with huge rocks marrying into the architecture with ease. It’s not that I didn’t like Biarritz, I just felt a bit sorry for it.

Imagine Bordeaux and Biarritz were people (I’m a writer who’s been on my own a lot recently, I’m even starting to turn places into characters).

Bordeaux reminds me of a woman in her 50s, who quietly grew her chocolate making business while the kids were at school. Now, in the prime of her life, she’s doing very nicely and has a satisfying sense of self worth, as well as a wardrobe that suits her figure.

Biarritz is a middle aged man who has once again woken up in the flat he moved to after his second wife left him, to find two young stoners crashed out in his lounge. A bit of a hottie back in the day the booze is starting to show in his face, but he still goes after the 20 something girls with no shame or irony. He’s a fun guy, great for a night out, to share a beer with, but you wouldn’t want to BE him.

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