The Metamorphosis Mayor of Bordeaux

Bordeaux is the third stop in the Try Somewhere New podcast series with Ryanair, presented by us!

Listen to it below or find it in your usual podcast app.

The buildings of Bordeaux used to be black. 

Despite its architectural importance and global reputation for wine, the southewestern city was in a bad state.

Sin, shadow, soot, and city life had made the streets and buildings dirty. The old centre was strangled by traffic and suffocated by fumes. Large parts of lifeline riverbank were stuck in a post-industrial malaise.

Despite its layers of cultural and historical important, the city no longer held in high regard in comparison to the other grandes villes of France and Europe; black Bordeaux needed to brighten up and let the light in.

Surprisingly, it was a unifying politician (remember those?) called Alain who made it happen.

On our city break to create the podcast, Alain Juppé’s name was mentioned on several occasions by the locals showing us around the city, teaching us about wine, and explaining the revival witnessed in Bordeaux over the last two decades. 

Unusually for a modern politician, he was referred to exclusively in glowing terms and his name was attached to the many positive, impactful projects which had underpinned that revival. 

The tramway, based on an innovative system of ground-level power supply meaning no ugly overhead wires and cables line the old city centre streets and traffic levels are now next to nothing. A regenerative makeover of the left bank ‘quai’ to reconnect citizens to the Garonne river, with the hypnotic Miroir d'eau (Water Mirror) installation forming an iconic centrepiece. A letter-writing initiative to encourage homeowners clean up the black walls and restore them to the beautiful creamy limestone facades of old. And in 2016 La Cité du Vin opened its doors - an imposing multi-level cultural space by a beleaguered port which is the most visible representation of Juppe’s mayoral approach to metamorphosing Bordeaux for the better over the last 23 years. 

This consistent and ambitious approach to urban planning was undoubtedly a success. Tourism numbers have increased, half of the city is listed by UNESCO (making it the largest urban world heritage site), and the place was an absolute joy to explore in the sunshine over a few days.

Unfortunately, the enduring love affair between Mayor Juppé ended earlier this year with his surprising (scandal-free) resignation. He stated that his relationship with the city resembled that of “an old couple” and that he still had “so many projects in mind for Bordeaux”.


It is a shame that those will now not come to fruition, but the old mayor’s legacy is however set in bright, clean stone.

Perhaps most important aspect of this legacy, our guide Bruno explained, is that there is now a real pride in coming from Bordeaux; a pride which Bruno could never have in his youth when talking to his Parisian friends.

Indeed, with a cheeky grin on his face, he told us that many polls now show that many Parisians dream of moving to Bordeaux for a better life.

Who could ask for a better stamp of approval than that?

To get some inspiration for your own city break, listen to our Bordeaux episode for the Ryanair Try Somewhere New podcast series!

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