Monday, January 17, 2011

How to write about Bordeaux

...or old wine in a new bottle.

The past few years have seen a slew of articles in the travel sections of newspapers describing the "renaissance" of the city of Bordeaux. Since their offerings all seem to come out sounding more than a little formulaic in any case, I'd like to save future visiting journalists the trouble of actually leaving their hotel rooms before dusk, by providing this short guide to writing an article about Bordeaux.

1. Think of as many wine puns as possible and attempt to include them all — there should be at least one in your title. Here are a few that have already been used : "Bordeaux uncorks itself", "a richer Bordeaux", "Tasting Notes", "Bordeaux is smooth and elegant", "an intoxicating mix".

2. Get in at least one mention of Bordeaux's moniker la belle endormie. Then suggest that the city has now been awoken.

3. Exaggerate the rags to riches angle out of all proportion. Persuade some "anonymous residents" to describe a nightmarish past with phrases such as "I remember [when] ... nobody would go out after dark. We all stayed among ourselves. But now ...." or "Not long ago, such public joie de vivre would have been unthinkable here." Don't raise the possibility that this might be utter bollocks.

4. You don't have to go looking for any hidden signs of urban renewal - just use the tram system as a symbol of the new Bordeaux. Say it's clean, sleek, and modern. If you like you can even add some spurious comment about it being a great social leveller.

5. Suggested adjectives for the Bordeaux of old: seedy, dowdy, staid, grimy, lifeless, bland. Suggested adjectives for new improved Bordeaux: stellar, futuristic, upscale, sparkling, elegant, transformed.

6. Refer liberally to "les Bordelais" but only really mean the richest 2% who come from old wine money.

7. Portray the mayor of Bordeaux as a man with a driving vision. Do not under any circumstances mention his political purgatory or the fact that he was rewarded for his visionary town-planning by not being elected as the Bordeaux constituency MP.

8. Illustration: use a subtly symbolic image of young people frolicking in the miroir d'eau with the tram whizzing towards a promising future in the background.

9. Spend all of your travelling expenses on food and wine in Bordeaux's excellent restaurants and pad the rest of the article out with your tasting notes.

10. For variations on the theme see: The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Independent, The Guardian, le Courrier International (translated from the Sunday Times).


deborah said...

This really made me laugh and am going to read or reread the articles.

Journalists never seem to get down to the nitty gritty but maybe there are a few comments to point out the negatives. I'm still trying to find a good reply to people who say Oh, it's thanks to Juppé that Bordeaux is all clean and shiny with the oh so wonderful tram. Yawn.

meredic said...

Heh heh!
Very good.

Lesley said...

I can't remember much about the comments on those articles Deborah. Must go back and have a look. They're not nearly as bad as I've made out, of course. But the one that says the tram is so smooth that nobody's café au lait will be spilled made me laugh out loud - as if anyone in Bx would take café au lait onto the tram. Perish the thought.

Perry Taylor said...

Hi Lesley,

I saw your blog in "A taste of Garlic" and wondered if you would be interested in contributing to our new online magazine TIENS ! Le Sud-Ouest de la France.

Here's the address to the home page:

For more information, please contact me.
Kind regards,
Perry Taylor

DAKOTA said...

Love your blog! I'm a New Zealander, now living in Bordeaux! I have a blog too! Nice to meet you :)

Eva said...


I have to go back to my own articles about Bordeaux... might have done some bad things myself....

deborah said...

I'll have to reread your Parks essay again ... ! I love it ... meanwhile à propos Bordeaux and wine, have a look at Claire M's blog which is on Lucie's blog roll (that sounds like bog roll)
the post before last about Bordeaux.

And someone has left a comment saying podcast the programme.

Blaiser said...

This posting was jammy, with hints of licorice and tobacco.

The finish was especially pungent, but in a subtle fashion.

(well done ;-) )

Lesley said...

@deborah: Claire's description is very poetic. And not a wine simile in sight.

@blaiser: I'm glad you didn't find any hints of undergrowth or musk.