Friday, December 25, 2009

Bordeaux, the great transformation

When I first came to Bordeaux as a student in the beginning of the nineties, my first impressions were mixed. Beautiful architecture, but the buildings looked grey, there was a grey feeling over the city. But now the great transformation has revealed a completely different city. The duck, that was never that ugly, has transformed into a beautiful swan, revealing the full beauty of its culture and history. The front of the buildings have been renovated, a modern tramway installed and the area next to the river has completely changed, all thanks to a mayor determined to make Bordeaux a top tourist destination. fountain statue trois graces in Bordeaux

In June 2007 most of the city of Bordeaux was marked as a world cultural heritage area by UNESCO. It is the first time such a wast urban area got that distinction.

Thank the mayor Alain Juppé for the transformation. He pushed all the big changes. One of his first measures was to introduce a modern tramway in the centre of the city. The traditional French did not approve at first. And then the road works closed parts of the centre, creating huge traffic jams, increasing the public outcry. But now you can ask almost any inhabitant in Bordeaux - nobody can imagine the city without the sleek modern tramway, facilitating transport for both inhabitants and tourists. The theater in Bordeaux

Next step was to renovate the exteriors. Many of the most beautiful buildings are made with pierre de Gironde, a beautiful lightly yellow stone. Unfortunately, this stone is very sensitive to attacks of a mushroom that darkens the surface very quickly. The greyish, dark exteriors looked worn out and abandoned. But after the cleaning, what a difference! Now you clearly see all the beautiful details.

Shore of river Garonne in Bordeaux
But Juppé was not finished yet. He also decided to clean up the dock area along the river, where many deteriated and ugly storage buildings were hiding the view over the river. Some were torn down, others renovated. Now the area contains a beautiful wast pedestrial area. People stroll along the water, enjoy the view and the beautiful buildings. The water mirror in front of Place de la Bourse has became famous as a symbol for the new Bordeaux. 

Bordeaux city silhuette by night
Facts about the area marked by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage: Within this area you find 347 historical buildings and three churches that since before belonged to the cultural heritage as part of the pilgrim road to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in Spain. When applying to UNESCO, the city of Bordeaux underlined the harmony in the last 200 years of development of the city. That explains why both buildings from the beginning of the 18th century and a modern shopping center from the early seventies are included.

More information on the UNESCO site
More information on the Bordeaux tourist office site
Grand Theater photo taken by C. Sotomayor.

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