Over recent months I’ve become a loyal reader of one of the city’s most likeable blogs: www.bordeaux2066.com . The concept is simple: the...

Every street tells a story: my afternoon with Bordeaux 2066

Over recent months I’ve become a loyal reader of one of the city’s most likeable blogs: www.bordeaux2066.com. The concept is simple: the two authors have taken it upon themselves to visit and document every street, road, cul-de-sac and square in Bordeaux, using an Excel spreadsheet to choose at random which of the 2,066 addresses is next on their list.

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.

Getting to the end of the list is not their objective though. Their aim is rather to get beneath the skin of the different moods and atmospheres of the city and to see what stories their chance encounters throw at them! And that is perhaps where the website’s greatest appeal lies: the authors do of course uncover interesting tales about history, architecture and the story behind the street name du jour, but above all they meet locals and take home human-angle slices of life that are as charming as they are fascinating… and documented in a style which is eloquent, accessible and underpinned with a sharp sense of humour. As you will have gathered, I’m a fan.

Pierre-Marie and Vincent, the men behind www.bordeaux2066.com.
The Bordeaux 2066 process is as follows. An hour-or-so before the designated time of the outing, Vincent and Pierre-Marie boot up their master Excel file and, through the wonders of IT wizardry, a line is picked out by chance. The street is then located on Googlemaps and a preliminary online Streetview tour takes place. The spot is also cross-referenced with information available in Robert Coustet's authoritative “Nouveau Viographe de Bordeaux”.

22nd street

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.

But the bloggers began hunting for details: the no entry sign had been given a street-art makeover, a diamond-shaped symbol featured on one corner, the street name featured both on a metallic plate and carved into the stone, names of companies whose offices are on the street were noted (“we’ll drop them a line, some may get back to us though most won’t”, Vincent commented). Pierre-Marie kept snapping away while Vincent generally took in the atmosphere of the street. 
Rue Fénelon in all its glory.

As the buildings appeared to be nothing but offices (“C’est une rue à dix résidents” quipped Pierre-Marie, estimating maybe a dozen people lived on the street), the pair established that their best chance of garnering information about Rue Fénelon would be to speak to people inside the shops.

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!
Vincent points out that “so far Excel has been kind to us, taking us to all corners of Bordeaux, as can be seen on the map which shows where we’ve been. We have yet to visit the Right Bank but there are less streets there so mathematically it makes sense, and with each outing the probability of going there gets a little higher!”

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!


  1. Thanks for alerting me to this blog. We're coming to Bordeaux in June for our fourth visit in as many years, lucky enough to be renting a house for two weeks as we have the previous two springs. Living on the west coast of Canada, I've been reading your blog since discovering it last year, finding it a great resource for deepening my appreciation of Bordeaux. I don't think I've ever commented before, but it seems a good time to say thanks for the work you do here.

    1. Well thank you for that kind feedback. I hope you have a great time when you come back in June - hopefully the weather will be on your side!

  2. Great idea and nicely executed. They have a smart sense of branding and marketing too!

    Someone recently told me about an artist who is currently on a project to walk every single street in New York - I guess this is quite similar, but with more photos and beer!

    1. Presumbaly there are far more than 2,066 streets in New York... or perhaps not given the grid system of much of the city - there can't be many streets in NY that are as short as rue Fénelon!