Au Bord de l'Eau à Bordeaux!

Our publisher Marcel Vissers reports on his visit to the French city of Bordeaux.
21st Nov, 2023

A city located on the banks of a river always has something more than others. Bordeaux can be proud of the fact that it has two rivers flowing together, the Gironde and the Garonne, which meet in the city. What richness does this bring to this prominent city in the heart of south-west France? The capital of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is a popular destination for its conventions, events and cultural activities and, as you'll read in this report, so much more!

Author: Marcel Vissers

Famous bordelais who have left their mark

Two of Bordeaux's most prominent citizens were the French philosopher, writer and politician Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-1592) and the former Prime Minister Alain Juppé (1945). Although both men were mayors of the city, Montaigne may not have commissioned as much infrastructure and restoration work as Juppé, who was mayor for 23 years. While Juppé gave Bordeaux a dignified and elegant face, Montaigne contributed a spirit to the city. Living a day according to Montaigne's philosophy of life means being kind, free and happy. And that is precisely the spirit that Bordeaux has always cherished.

A city, a wine, a colour

I've tried explaining the meaning of the name Bordeaux to myself. Originally known as Burdigala by the city's first Celtic settlers, the name evolved into 'Bordiaus', meaning along the water – Bordeaux ou bord de l'eau In addition to this name, the city is also known as Port de la lune, the port of the moon, referring to the shape of the Garonne river that runs through the heart of the city. Today, Bordeaux is the name of a city, the name of a type of wine and the name of a warm colour, burgundy red. The psychological meaning of the shade of red means intensity, power, confidence and ambition.

Dear reader, by now you should have gathered that I personally think Bordeaux is a beautiful city, with many qualities and potential for growth. Speaking of transport, I am always happy to cycle around a city when I am attending a conference and to visit all the beautiful places at my own pace. Bordeaux is a real cycling town, with many separate cycle lanes throughout the city centre. The V3 or VCubs are Bordeaux's self-service rental bikes. If you'd rather take a boat trip on the rivers, the Gironde is a great spot to discover the Unesco-listed carrelets.

In general, delegates attending a conference are also very interested in local art, culture and architecture. In Bordeaux, I was struck by the incredible amount of Unesco World Heritage sites. You can even take a Unesco walking tour, which I highly recommend. As a University town, Bordeaux is also home to many students. One evening, I had the chance to meet some of them and drink some good Bordeaux wine with a group of Erasmus graduates and students. One thing was obvious: they were happy to be in the city. So why hold a conference or event in Bordeaux? Well, the answer is BEAM!

BEAM is Boosting Bordeaux

Making a city famous is no easy task. Getting a city to capitalise on that fame by attracting new business is an even greater challenge. Bordeaux has done it well and can even serve as a model for other cities. In English, one of the definitions of the word 'beam' is to radiate, and here BEAM stands for "Bordeaux Events And More". When I last visited, I had the chance to go out with some of the people from BEAM for a couple of days, not just walking around, but also taking a ride on the city's trams. This really gives you a sense of how well organised public transport is in this city. 

But it's not just a feeling, it's a reality that you can see for yourself when you take a look at the major redevelopment of the historic centre. I was staying in a hotel in the port area, in a new urban development on the banks of the Garonne. Here, a new city is emerging with unprecedented growth potential. When BEAM was created, the idea was to bring together all the city's precious strengths, to revitalise it and make it radiate into the world.

Stéphane Kintzig, BEAM's general director, explained their strategy concisely over a delicious breakfast in a hotel where traditional windmills once turned: “One point of contact, he said. The customer should not waste time wandering around the city looking for the right locations and services. In our city, we form a well-oiled machine with all the parties involved, which can perfectly plan all kinds of events and create various benefits. That's our goal!"

In environmental psychology, this mentality is expressed in three words: welcoming, comfortable and unburdening. In this sense, I think BEAM's mentality can help many other cities create a framework in which customers feel comfortable and, above all, well served.

BEAM operates five iconic venues in Bordeaux, and has taken significant steps to deliver more sustainable events. In addition, BEAM has optimised their energy management, reducing the environmental impact of their operations and achieving ISO 20121 certification. BEAM's five venues have the great advantage of being close to each other and very well connected by public transport. After visiting all five, I spent some time in the open-air club at the Exhibition Centre. What a relief after a busy day of visits. You even get the feeling that you are on holiday here, because it is like sitting by a small lake. You can find out more about the five venues on the BEAM website.

Bordeaux in literature

As I mentioned in the introduction of this supplement that I intended to look for writers who had written about Bordeaux, I have to refer you to Bordeaux/Eux a bord, a booklet in which 7 authors describe their view of the city. If you want to read something unique, you should order it. The best books on Bordeaux are undoubtedly those devoted to wine.

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