translating data into human stories

Postcard from Bordeaux: “La Perle d’Aquitaine”

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Since early September, I’ve been living and working in Bordeaux, France, in the framework of an international joint PhD program. Embracing the culture and lifestyle of new places is an important component of international collaborations, beyond the scientific exchanges facilitated by programs like the cotutelle. This is the first of a collection of “postcards”, where I’ll share snapshots of my experience being a newcomer in France, and highlight some of my non-work related adventures.

It’s hard to believe my first research trip to Bordeaux is already drawing to a close! In two weeks I will be heading back to Canada for two months to spend the holidays with family, and check in with my supervisor and lab mates at Western University. This trip has been wonderful, and I’ve very much enjoyed getting to known my colleagues at the university, meeting new people – both local Bordelais and other newcomers to the city – and seeing as much of the region as I can manage.

Exploring on my first evening in Bordeaux

Exploring on my first evening in Bordeaux

Bordeaux is best known for its 18th century architecture, and the world-renowned blended wines produced in the surrounding vineyards. The capital of the Aquitaine region, the main city center is located on the left bank of the Garonne river, south of where the Gironde estuary branches into the east-flowing Dordogne, and the Garonne that continues a southern trajectory. The proximity of the Atlantic coast and Arcachon basin is evidenced by the popularity and availability of fresh seafood (especially oysters and mussels from the basin), and the temperate climate… green grass and leaves on many trees is quite a contrast to the snowy pictures of home in Canada that fill my Facebook page! Recognized as a UNESCO heritage site, the downtown center is contained within medieval walls of the city – though not all of the wall remains standing today. Characterized by narrow streets with many pedestrian-only areas, the center is filled with quaint squares and plazas, featuring cafe terraces, bakeries, and beautiful monuments. Since the early 2000’s, a city-wide project has been underway to restore the vitality of the city, cleaning blackened buildings to reveal the limestone facades, upgrading the tram system, and promoting pedestrian activities in town such as the first Sunday of every month, when car access is prohibited.

Miroir d'Eau, Bordeaux FR

Miroir d’Eau, Bordeaux FR

One of the most recognizable landmarks of Bordeaux is the “Miroir d’Eau”, or water mirror, along the riverbank. The shallow water feature reflects the beautiful Place de la Bourse, and is a popular place for kids to splash in the hot summer months. The adjoining boardwalk is a lovely place to walk, jog or cycle, and when the weather is nice, is the perfect spot for an impromptu picnic. Food is an important part of everyday life here, with quintessential French favourites such as various cheeses, fresh bread, pastries, and of course, wine all receiving special attention throughout the day. One of my favourite rituals is “Gouter”, which is the snack break observed around 4 or 5pm where friends or colleagues gather to indulge in a sweet treat, and coffee or aperitif. I think a future post will have to be dedicated especially to food…

I hope you’ll enjoy these little snapshots from a Canadian in France! Feel free to request a topic or leave a response in the comments.

A bientôt!



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