For a couple of years, as a student then finding my first job in the wine trade, I suffered London leaping into life, the mornings that hit the ground running and left me exhausted before I’d done anything. Paris, where I lived for the fourteen years after that was calm and civilised in comparison. Looking back, from my present home in Bordeaux, Paris looks pretty frantic.
Bordeaux wakes, gets to work grumbling if it’s going to, then settles back into a leisurely promenade through the morning.
Monday mornings in perticular are like that. And Wednesdays when the children don’t have school. The serious workers get the painful process over with by nineish. After that the traffic is light and slow even on the main thoroughfares, and joggers are about the fastest moving objects on the streets. Inevitably things move quicker at going home time, especially on Friday evenings when populations migrate—students going home, the fortunate off for the weekend or to the beach. But the mornings are calm and peaceful.
Garçons de café set up the first tables on their terraces then settle down at one of them for a well-earned pause and coffee. There is an air of the holidays, nobody seems to be in a hurry, for a chic city centre the dress code is flip-flops and bermudas.
This monday morning I think how different is this Bordeaux from the grim, industrious city of François Mauriac. His Bordeaux was a dark place of secret fortunes, and a local wine aristocracy hiding their unsavoury secrets behind the dour faces of their city mansions. It had a reputation for snobbery, unwelcoming and austere.
How different it seems today! Bordeaux glistens. The dark stone has been cleaned until it shines a pale gold. With the waterfront cleared of warehouses and docks, the beautiful Garonne cuts a slow, glittering half moon curve as it curls past the gracious riverfront before turning towards the ocean.
The wide riverside parks full of flowers catch the morning sun. Even the trams throw back the blazing sunlight as they glide past, silent except for the clanging of their bells.
Bordeaux ambles now, almost like the stereotype of an easy-going southern city, and I slip easily into its stride.