The last time I was in Bordeaux was in late 2003 and the city was so tangled and consumed with construction work as part of the urban renewal project that it was difficult (if not impossible) to appreciate its beauty. Roads and footpaths were ripped up, construction safety fences were everywhere, traffic was regularly gridlocked, the noise of jackhammers filled the air, the Notre-Dame Cathedral was covered in scaffolding, facades of buildings were caked in dust and grime, and the city looked, well, just plain messy. Residents and tourists alike lamented the project, and when enquiring about a completion date, locals would give that wonderful very French gesture which involves simultaneously raising the eyebrows, a downturning of the mouth, shrugging the shoulders to ear height and emitting a small "pppppffffffffft" sound-which translates (in this circumstance) to "I don't know, it will take as long as it will take"!
Thankfully, the makeover of Bordeaux is now complete and the results are stunning. It is hard to describe so I will post photographs when I have a chance, but the designers/town planners/architects have managed to redevelop the city centre and quays so that the new high- tech tram line, boulevards, bikeways and pedestrian footpaths are in complete harmony with the classical and neoclassical architecture- a successful marriage between the old and the new perhaps. So successful has the redevelopment been that Bordeaux was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.
If anyone is thinking of heading to Bordeaux this year, I would highly recommend at least a couple of nights in the city centre, or if you are doing a wine tour, perhaps basing yourself here. The charming Hotel Majestic is centrally located and is a superb, relatively inexpensive (although the fall of the pound against the euro makes travelling on a budget difficult) place to lay your head after a long day spent photographing or wine tasting (depending on your particular-but both very expensive-vice!)
Apart from the extremely efficient tram system (1.40 euros a trip) walking is easy as most of the city is flat and the pedestrian walkways are extremely wide. Hiring a bike would also be a great way to spend an afternoon and see more of the city and my understanding is that the Vélib bike hire scheme (similar to that in Paris) will be launched shortly in Bordeaux.
I will continue posting about my adventures in Bordeaux over the next couple of weeks.
p.s Two rather unfortuante things happened to me on return to ye olde London town. 1. my new mobile phone (which replaced my dodgy old mobile phone) dropped in the toilet (don't ask!!!) and drowned on Saturday night :( I have spent the last day feverishly scouring Internet sites on how to revive a soggy mobile. Tips include taking out the battery and sim card and laying the phone on a bed of dry rice, blowdrying it with the hairdryer set on "cool", putting it on top of the TV for a few days, putting it in a sock and resting it on top of the radiator (actually this one was suggested by the ever helpful Mr Messy;-)). All suggestions are clear on one thing- DO NOT get all shouty-cracker-impatient and try to reinsert the battery/SIM card prematurely before it has had a chance to dry out- patience is a must (which is terribly inconvenient for an Aries like moi!)
2. I went to the SWPP&BPPA Convention yesterday at Hammersmith to check out album and framing options for clients. Unfortunately I happened upon the Nikon stand. Unfortunately I spied a D3. Unfortunately I asked to try it out. Unfortunately the sales rep let me.
That camera ROCKS!
In continuous high speed mode it is like a machine gun, pounding out 9 frames per second. The low noise at high ISO's (would have been great in the Notre-dame cathedral in Bordeaux), the full frame, the 51 point auto-focus, the round optical viewfinder- I could go on and on about this camera. The only downside that I can see is the weight (dang, it is heavy with a 12-24mm wide angle lense on it) and the sensor cleaning (full frame cameras are a lot more expensive and difficult to clean apparently), oh, ummm and yeah the price- currently around £2800.
I should never have tried it as now I want one more than ever. Hmmmm Le Plan B- how to get my hands on a Nikon D3....