When you’re talking about visible minorities in Bordeaux, it’s REALLY visible. Back in Toronto, I rarely felt like I was part of a visible minority. Perhaps it was because I lived in a neighbourhood saturated with Asians, and attending Waterloo further weakened the feeling of being a “minority” in Canada. In a multi-cultural centre like Toronto, sometimes it seems as if Caucasians, and not Asians, are the minority of the city.
In Bordeaux, I often look around to see if there are any funny stares – luckily there haven’t been any yet – because I can literally FEEL different in the midst of the crowd. It’s the first time that I’m feeling so out of place, even if it’s just superficially.
I believe I will get used to this feeling in time. For now, my greatest fear is having a French come up to me to say something with their authentic pronunciation and frequent slangs. I don’t want to invite any dirty looks by saying “Parlez-vous anglais?” or “Pouvez-vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plaît?” but I guess it’s something I will have to endure before being able to understand local French perfectly.
As yesterday was my first Saturday in town, excluding the day that I arrived, I took the leisure of exploring downtown Bordeaux, because I’m sure many would agree that it beats reading papers. Also I figured I’d take some pictures before the weather gets cold or I’m either too busy or lazy to blog once work starts.
First stop – Grand Théâtre. This would be something like a combination of Roy Thompson Hall and the Hummingbird Center (I have no idea when it became the Sony Center, screw that) in Toronto, where you’d go see concerts, ballets, and operas.
Here we are at Rue Sainte-Catherine of Bordeaux, which according to a few sources (including a colleague) is the longest pedestrian street in Europe at 1.2 km (it doesn’t seem all that long, to be honest). This is where you’d be doing your major shopping, if that’s what you choose to do when you visit Bordeaux. I started walking from the end and ended at the start, in other words, from the Grand Théâtre in the north to the Place de la Victoire in the south. I don’t get what’s with all these Saint-Catherine streets. There’s one in Montreal and I swear there’s another one elsewhere, and they’re all known as the shopping districts of their respective cities.
Anyway, taking a walk down this street was rather an interesting experience. If you walk straight down the middle of the street, you get the feeling that you’re the centre of the world, and all revolves around you. It is somewhat peculiar, but amusing in a sense. I like this place. There will be many more visits once I move closer to it.
Yes, Florence, there is a Sephora conveniently located here. Being able to afford it, however, is another story.
At the southern extreme of Rue Sainte-Catherine is the Place de la Victoire, or Victory Square. This obelisk is the landmark of the square, but strangely…I haven’t been able to find its name, as it’s only been referred to as “l’obélisque” in various sources. Marking the centre of Victory Square, the obelisk was introduced in June 2005, which was surprisingly a lot more recent than I had expected. The obelisk is made by stacking six gigantic red marble blocks, weighing a total of over 50 tonnes!
In front of the obelisk stood two bronze turtles sculpted by the same Czech artist that created the obelisk, Ivan Theimer. Grapes, as well as their places of origin, were carved on the turtle shells, representing the importance of wine culture in Bordeaux. I gotta grab myself a bottle of these magical wines that everyone talks about one day.
Finally, I conclude my introduction of Victory Square with the Porte d’Aquitaine, or the Arch of Aquitaine. (Aquitaine is the region of France where Bordeaux is situated, sort of analogous to province, I believe.) Reminds me of l’Arc de Triomphe except…maybe about half the size.
As I was heading for the tram to go back to the residence, I snapped this random photo of an intersection near Victory Square.
Work officially starts tomorrow – if registration is successfully completed, that is – although it was supposed to start officially last Friday. Having been to the lab, I sort of know what to expect, though the learning curve at the beginning will likely be rather steep. I am also running out of food, so groceries are in order for tomorrow. I can’t wait to have a proper kitchen. Then I can buy sugar and salt and actually cook real stuff to eat.