Brilliant Bordeaux. Photo: Flickr
The city of Bordeaux and south-west France seems to come top of every ranking so The Local tries to find out just what's so special about the city and the region around it.
It seems like you can't open a French newspaper these days without seeing the south-west of France leading some kind of ranking.
Direct Matin, for example, trumpeted that 54 percent of the French public would choose to head to the region first if they were to move somewhere else in the country.
In August 2014 the region was voted as the "best place to work
" by the French, with 39 percent choosing Bordeaux first and 37 percent saying they could imagine themselves working in the city.
The cities of Toulouse and Montpellier, also both in the region, finished second and third in the survey.
Patrick Dumoulin, Director of the Great Place to Work institute in Paris, told The Local at the time that there's no comparison between Bordeaux and Paris.
"There’s a real attraction to the quality of life in this region. And the weather is attractive to many people as well. There's a certain 'south west way of life, if I dare to say that, with Bordeaux and Toulouse very well-developed from a cultural and sporting perspective," he said.
(Bordeaux has been listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco since 2007. Photo: AFP)
Tourists, meanwhile, are surely set to continue lapping up the area after Bordeaux was rated as the best tourist destination in Europe
for 2015, according to votes from almost 250,000 people around the continent.
The pollsters praised the "legendary wine-growing region" and lauded its elegance, culture, and proximity to Basque country, Spain, and the ski slopes of the Pyrenees.
And even the city's mayor Alain Juppé got in on the act when he was judged the best in France in a ranking last year by French magazine L'Express.
Stephan Delaux, deputy mayor of Bordeaux and president of the Bordeaux Tourism Board told The Local that Juppé deserves credit for changing the view of the city.
"After Alain Juppé was elected mayor of Bordeaux in 2006, he implemented an urban project that has brought about profound changes.
"There was the tram with underground cables which allowed us to modify all the open spaces in the city, pushing out cars, and giving more room for bicycles and pedestrians to walk, and cafes with terraces,” he said.
"Before people would say Bordeaux is a ‘sleeping beauty’, a sad or dark city, it’s a city where you get bored but now they say "it’s a city that’s alive, where you can walk peacefully and there are beautiful things.”
Is Bordeaux really the paradise that portrays it as? Who better to ask than those in the know.
But first - a bit of background.
Bordeaux is the sixth biggest city in France, with an inner city population of around 250,000.
The locals are known as Bordelais and Bordelaises
The part of the city known as "Le Port de La Lune" is a Unesco World Heritage site.
The region is the wine capital of the world, bringing in around €14.5 billion each year.
Bordeaux's economy is in fairly good health compared to the rest of the country. It was ranked as the fourth most "dynamic" city in France for jobs in a 2013 table that saw Nantes finish on top and Toulouse in second place.
Figures for 2010 also showed the average household income in Bordeaux was greater than the national average, and when it comes to property, well no wonder so many Parisians fancy moving to Bordeaux where the average price per square-metre was just over €3,000 compared to just under €8,000 in the French capital.
As for the locals, it's no wonder they couldn't find a negative thing to say.
(The Château Doisy Daëne vineyard in Barsac, near Bordeaux. Photo: AFP)
The manager of the British-owned restaurant English Country Kitchen
, Arthur Chamboredon, says it's all about the authenticity.
"I think the main reason people love Bordeaux is because of the comfort of living," he told The Local.
"There's a very quiet atmosphere as if it's the countryside, you can walk everywhere, but then you also have a very busy city centre packed with restaurants and bars."
Indeed, Chamboredon's restaurant is among those options, serving customers traditional English grub in a family atmosphere.
"It's a real taste of England, although we don't sell draught beer like many of the English pubs in the area."
Meanwhile, Boston native Shari Zigelbaum-Cau says Bordeaux reminds her of her hometown. She says many visitors find themselves pleasantly surprised with the smaller option instead of nearby and more well known options of New York or Paris.
(The "Water mirror" is one of Bordeaux's most popular sites. Photo: Bérenger Zyla/Flickr)
"Sometimes people want something smaller and more manageable, and that's exactly what Bordeaux is. It's got a bit of everything, skiing, surfing, a lot of history, and an absolutely huge expat community," she tells The Local.
For a visitor, she'd recommend a walk through the town, ending with a stroll along the riverside among the skateboarders and rollerbladers, and then a drink.
"Do the tour on foot and see what you stumble upon. It's set up that way," she said.
But chances are she'd recommend a beer over the more traditional wine, as the American has been at the helm of the Bordeaux Beer Shop
since it opened in September.
"When I came here I realized there weren't any craft beer stores - and beer is my passion - so I made one," she says, adding that hers is similar to the numerous wine tasting "caves a vins" in the city, but with an obvious difference - beer instead of wine.
She also praised the city's location and the "winning combination" of a bustling city life mixed with the historical villages just outside of town.
Lastly, Juline Druillole, who has worked as a bookseller for ten years at Bradley's Bookshop in Bordeaux says the weather in southern France is a major drawcard.
"The climate is a big factor, which is not surprising. In Bordeaux you're never far from the sea or the mountains. And you can't forget the wine. Customers often tell us that they're off to visit the wine cellars," she tells The Local.
So is Bordeaux brilliant? The answer, it seems, is a resounding yes. And if a visit doesn't seem likely any time soon, you can always console yourself with a locally produced glass of red wine.
(Bordeaux is just kilometres from the Cap Ferret beach. Photo: SuperCarRoadTrip/Flickr)