Good, bad or ugly, everyone has something to say about France and the French: chic, smart, sexy, rude, racist, bureaucratic, bitch like hell, pavements with dog poop key, baguettes that dry by the time eating and a tendency to burn cars is part of the talk on the street. Spice up the boiler with the odd urban riot, political scandal and a 35-hour working week – not to mention a huge box office success of The Da Vinci Code taking over Paris or superstar Angelina Jolie allegedly deciding on a castle Normandy to raise their children, and the international media is all ears as well.
This is, after all, this legendary land of good food and wine, of royal castles and perfectly restored farmhouses, of landmarks known around the world and hidden landscapes few really know. Savour art and romance in the shining capital on the River Seine. View past glorious glow in Versailles. Travel south for Roman civilization and the bright blue Mediterranean; fulfill their fantasies of the jet-set in Nice and Saint-Tropez balsamic. Ski the Alps. Being subtle infusion of language, music and mythology in Brittany brought by fifth century Celtic invaders. Smell ignominy on the beaches of Normandy and the battlefields of Verdun and the Somme. And we know that this is but the tip of the iceberg of the so-called giant French culture.
Yes, that is timeless land that the people have a natural joy of life and know-how – and have done for centuries. But change is underway. France and the French have had enough – and inspired. It is the tip of the tongue of all.
The city long known as La Belle Au Bois Dormant (Sleeping Beauty) is well and truly awake after years of dormancy. The millennium was a major turning point for Bordeaux, when the former mayor, controversial former prime minister Alain Juppé, roused this graceful city, pedestrianization of the boulevards, the restoration of its neoclassical architecture, and implementation of a system high-tech public transport. These days, enhanced by its high-spirited college student population, La Belle de Bordeaux never seems to sleep at all.