Every year during my family’s summer holidays, a different board game rules the early-evening apéritif slot. This year, that game was the...

The Invisible Bordeaux Monopoly challenge: part 1/3

Every year during my family’s summer holidays, a different board game rules the early-evening apéritif slot. This year, that game was the Bordeaux edition of the classic board game Monopoly and it occurred to me, possibly after a couple of glasses of Corsican wine (and probably inspired by this book), that the board could serve as an interesting and unusual roadmap for a cycle ride around the city. The Invisible Bordeaux Monopoly challenge was born!

The current Bordeaux Monopoly set, one of a host of regional variants that are now available (Bassin d’Arcachon and Gironde versions also exist), was released by games specialists Winning Moves under licence from Hasbro in 2011, a decade on from the city’s first edition. The streets and districts on the board cover a wide variety of property market values, as identified with the aid of local real estate specialists. The Monopoly board therefore serves as an instant snapshot of where in the city property is the most desirable, and where it is the most affordable!

It soon emerged that I wouldn’t be able to cycle around Bordeaux with, literally, the board itself as my guide. Furthermore, the project could not be a case of me actually playing Monopoly and throwing the dice from square to square and location to location. I therefore plotted the different streets and districts on a map and worked out what I thought would be the optimum itinerary for me – particularly given my residence out in the suburbs and the fact that I wanted to be home for lunch! So, on a Sunday morning in early October, I got on my bike and departed from my personal “Go” square in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc, with the aim of taking in sunrise over Le Lac, a convenient six squares along the first straight of the Monopoly board.

I just missed sunrise itself but things there were pleasantly peaceful and I had the artificial lake’s sandy beach all to myself! For the time being at least, Le Lac is one of the cheapest squares on the board (yours for just 100 Monopoly dollars, or “M's”). This status is liable to change in the coming years though with further residential and office buildings continuing to be built. The district is set to gain extra momentum when the new football stadium and the extension of the accompanying tram line are complete in 2015.

Much the same can be said of my second stop, the Bassins à Flots (M60). After years of neglect, the docklands area is undergoing a radical transformation and, as well as swish new residential buildings, will welcome the Cité des Civilisations du Vin and an ultra-modern multiplex cinema. Again, other than the cranes on the skyline, indications of the district’s high-growth potential were difficult to pick up early on a Sunday morning: cycling along the cobblestones, the only signs of life were a handful of anglers waiting for fish to bite and a crowd of needy people congregating in readiness for the time when the “Restos du Coeur” would open their doors.

From here it was down to the riverside where the landscape changes radically as the first quayside residences (Les Quais, M350) come into view. Beyond the maritime trade-era hangars, which have been converted into shops, restaurants and an exhibition centre, the Sunday-morning food market was already in progress. Slipping down one of the side streets and past the magnificent Saint-Louis church, the Monopoly trail took me into the heart of the Les Chartrons district (M220), where restaurant waiters were setting up their terraces for the day.

From there I edged further away from the Garonne to Rue d’Aviau, a new addition to the 2011 edition of the game and, if the asking price (M300) is anything to go by, one of the most desirable addresses in the city! It must be said that the street backs onto the fine Jardin Public and the façades are pleasingly harmonious. While I was there taking photos, the silence was broken by the sound of someone playing cello. The soundtrack was a perfect match for the scenery: elegant and mellow.

My next stop was the inevitable Place des Quinconces (M280), where the autumn funfair was under construction. What I didn’t realise is that Sunday 9AM at the Quinconces is wedding photo time! Two happy couples were posing for their respective photographers although I did note that the preferred backdrop was the Monument aux Girondins rather than the doughnut stand or haunted house attraction.

And that is where we will leave the Bordeaux Monopoly trail for now, with the second part of the challenge available to read by clicking here!

You can also enjoy a video version of the adventure here: 


  1. Great idea! Can't wait part 2. Hope to avoid prison box ! ^^

    1. Part 2 coming soon, but my brush with jail will be in part 3. Watch this space!