Sometime in early Spring, when the air still feels like a long winter and snow persists in a perpetual weekly dusting, we selected flights and an apartment for a one-month stay in Bordeaux, France. “I’m going for a month!,” I’d say as summer plans came into purview. An abstract concept for a place I’m rather new in, and yet, one month is still short in the scheme of truly knowing and living in a place. Still, it is a good taste — the appetizer course of localdom, rather than an amuse-bouche.
And so, we’ve arrived. My French which I’ve seldom used in eight years seems to flow back. Our apartment is a top-floor loft in the area of Chartrons — steps from the long quai which runs along the Garonne river and which makes for quite a nice running path. One flight up from inside our apartment leads to a private terrace overlooking the roofs of the city and staring straight into the bell towers of Bordeaux’sChurch of Saint-Louis-des-Chartrons .
Adventures in a new city usually begin à pied (by foot) to gather a lay of the land. And then, it’s a deeper dive into new streets and squares scouting those places that simply enchant; a city’s cultural attractions; and fortunately for us: recommendations from locals.
A lover of art, and frequent arts writer, I’m drawn to contemporary art museums — not because I always understand the work, but I’m appreciative of the adventurous mind of the artist and what that must entail in 2018. I took a solo trip to the CAPC musée d’art contemporain de Bordeaux to view the exhibits.
If you’re in town, I recommend checking out the Wang Shu & Lu Wenyu exhibit on architecture and creating buildings as communities in places that have been totally destructed or have never before been cities around China — it asks how to create a shared space and honor what may have been there for thousands of years before.
And at the end, a rooftop café awaited me.
Across the city, La Grosse Cloche or the Big Bell of Bordeaux towers over a small passage in the central area of Capucins-Victoire. Despite its fame and attraction, the walk southward on Rue Saint James is full of charming cafés, vintage shops, and bookstores. Not far, on the vibrant street of Rue Sainte-Colombe proved the perfect destination for a refreshing iced tea from the Kitchen Garden.
Spending a month abroad may sound glamorous and fortunate, and it is indeed very special and a true privilege, I don’t forget that for a second — but it’s also a practical, even I dare say, more economical mode of travel, presuming you’re part of the ever-growing remote working population. Sure, you must buy flights: but you can choose them off-peak. And you’ll need to rent a place. You may dine out slightly more, but in theory — you’ve got a kitchen, so you can resume many of the normal ways you save and spend your money. With all that, the cost of living may be lower than where you normally live, i.e. New York. Compare that with seven nights of hotels and three meals out per day.
In so doing, a co-working space can be the perfect way to channel productivity and your curious senses at the same time. Bordeaux has experienced a boom in investment in start-ups, and beautiful, affordable co-working spaces are ubiquitous. Essentially, they’re akin to a café experience where you have access to great WiFi (pronounced “wee-fee” in France), power plugs, and all the fixings of a café without the stress of overstaying your welcome.
The first such place I’ve tried is Les Buro Des Possibles, a lovely colorful and cheery establishment, somewhat intimate in size and with a menu of numerous teas and Buddha bowls with market-picked vegetables. Plus, unlimited access to cookies (a bit of a danger, yum!).
And so, the adventure continues.