The 20-something Bordeaux-based urban explorers are Vincent Bart (also known as Vinjo, brought up in Gradignan in the city’s suburbs) and Pierre-Marie Villette (or Pim, hailing originally from Lille). They launched the website in June 2013 and have so far visited just over 20 of the city’s streets; if they were to continue visiting one street every week, it would take them 39 years to complete their task.
|Pierre-Marie and Vincent, the men behind www.bordeaux2066.com.|
Of course, to see what happens next, what better than to follow the pair on their adventures? We had been in touch a few times online, met up for an informal drink and arranged to meet again on the day they would be visiting their 22nd street. On the day itself, Vincent called me with news of where we were headed: Rue Fénelon, bang in the heart of the affluent “Triangle d’Or” district. And so it was that a little later, my younger son and I met Vincent and Pierre-Marie on Place des Grands-Hommes, in front of a jewellers selling watches that were so expensive that my son didn’t think the four-digit figures beside each item could possibly be their price.
We walked towards Rue Fénelon where there was an initial sense of muted disappointment: the street was barely 40 metres long, the left-hand side comprised of nothing other the rear exits of the CGR cinema and, all in all, there didn’t appear to be much going on. Furthermore the “Bateau Ivre” bar which Vincent had identified on Google Streetview as the potential venue for a drink (please note: just as Asterix adventures always finish with a banquet, Bordeaux 2066 expeditions always end up over a beer) was now a Japanese restaurant – although this at least avoided the problematic task of taking my nine-year-old son into what had been labelled online as the city’s ultimate gay bar. The omens weren’t good.
|Rue Fénelon in all its glory.|
The investigation began in a shop selling gifts, gadgets and executive toys, where the attendant explained how much the street has changed over the past five years, becoming infinitely more pleasant and accessible for all-comers. This has mainly been due to the neighbouring buildings getting facelifts, the overhaul of the multiplex cinema (whose patrons spill out onto the street after each screening) and the departure of the aforementioned bar which was particularly notorious in its previous nightlife incarnation as the, a-hem, hostess bar “Cap Horn”. This sentiment was echoed by the manager of the clothes shop, who also runs the children’s shoe shop next door. She also praised the arrival of the Japanese restaurant, run by a Chinese team who relocated from Paris three months ago.
Vincent and Pierre-Marie strike up conversations with ease and listen carefully without taking notes, but jot the names of people they speak to into their telephones. Everyone is willing to share information and allows them to take photos in their shops, but several claim to be unphotogenic and turn down the request to have their photo taken. I later ask Vincent whether this is a recurring problem but he says that it’s variable, and that many are happy to comply: “A lot of our older correspondents are more wary and think that by accepting to a photo they’ll end up on the front page of the newspaper the next day!” Pierre-Marie adds that “one of our regrets was not being able to photograph the amazing 92-year-old we met on Rue Brulatour. Whatever, we don’t take photos of people without their permission.” The photos of those who do play the game are delightful; a good starting point on the website is to scroll through the gallery of portraits on the right-hand side of the home page!
In the children’s shoe shop, the bloggers admire the outlet's collection of outsized stuffed animals and pose for a photograph themselves in between the humps of a giant furry camel. They are informed that the animals have become a popular draw for tourists who also come in for similar photo calls! As elsewhere, they leave calling cards with information about their website. After finishing off at the Japanese restaurant, which was not officially open and could not serve the much-wanted beer, Vincent and Pierre-Marie left the street happy with what they had uncovered: “This was the shortest street we’ve visited so far but proved to be one of the best in terms of yield.”
Once the celebratory beer had been consumed in an adjoining street, we went our separate ways and the Bordeaux 2066 pair had work to do. They explain that “generally one of us is lead on drafting the article, while the other chips in, filling in with additional information and ideas. So far the breakdown between us has been more-or-less 50-50.” And then it will be on to their next conquest, as their Excel spreadsheet continues to plot their course around the city.
|My son Dorian was one of the first |
recipients of a freshly-printed
Bordeaux 2066 sticker!
Meanwhile, the website is continuing to gain momentum, gaining rave reviews in Sud Ouest, Aqui and Rue89, featuring on Campus Radio Bordeaux, and proving to be a popular presence on Facebook and Twitter. So Invisible Bordeaux is only too pleased to be jumping on the Bordeaux 2066 media bandwagon… and will continue monitoring future developments. Twenty-two streets down, just 2,044 to go!
- Bordeaux 2066 website: www.bordeaux2066.com
- And you can read about their time on Rue Fénelon here!