10 January 2014

New Year in Bordeaux...

I'm struggling to remember what I did last New Year's Eve so I decided to avoid that situation again I would go abroad and hopefully get a bit of sunshine. I had first heard of the Mama Shelter chain last year and stayed in the Paris hotel in August, and was suitable impressed. Mama Shelter Bordeaux is just as cool, but has the advantage of being more central than its Paris sister and I prefer the bar area here. Anywhere that has an array of coloured rubber rings above the bar, a vest selection of musical instruments in the DJ booth, egg motifs all over the walls, ping pong tables in the basement,Darth Vader masks and an Apple TV in the room is worth a look in my book. Even the lift walls are covered in blown up dictionary entries of interesting words.


The hotel itself is down a typical French side street and conveniently right next to a Monoprix. It's difficult to tell what it is - Mama written in Gothic style font to the left of the door is the sole indication of its presence. The staff wear cool demin waistcoats with patches and their pizzeria is amazing. There is also a selection of fashionable goodies to buy in Reception, from Karl Lagerfeld Todokiki to their own toiletry range (the showergel/shampoo by Absolution is lovely).

I preferred the room in the Paris hotel (this one was smaller and very minimalist) but any complaints are allayed by the amazingly comfortable bed. The shower is powerful and just the ticket, and facilities are on hand whenever needed. When I couldn't work the keyboard for the Mac a member of staff came up and fixed it for me straight away.

You can't fault the bar area, with it's extensive cocktail list offering twists on modern classics. Black Mango and Mama Tai are particularly good. On New Year's Eve they minimised the selection, which was a bit annoying but understandable as the place got so busy. There was the option to eat there on NYE - menu, and also have brunch the day after to recover. The helpful staff write the weather and what's going on on the mirrors in the lift to keep you up to date with events.


We arrived late on the afternoon and spent the evening mainly in the hotel, and had a bit of a lie in before exploring the town. First on the list was a visit to the CAPC Museum of Contemporary Art (housed in a Colonial produce warehouse which dates back to the 19th century). It was a bit difficult to find, because it wasn't obvious that it was a museum and the signs led you a merry dance. The exhibition, Museum Inc by Ida Soulard, was a retrospective of performance art since the 1970s - with headphones, videos and images. Other exhibitions were a bit vague - a mandolin in the corner of a white room and a baby chair attached to the wall. The building itself is beautiful, with high beams and gothic style arches. The gift shop is up to the minute, with a vast selection of books, and I was loving the fact that they had Basquiat plates and candles. (I'm into New York street art and Basquiat at the moment).


Walking around the centre, you realise that this place attracts the well-heeled - high end labels have outlets here - Maje, Sandro, Cos, Louis Vuitton mixed with adorable, well decorated independent boutiques (lots have coloured spiral staircases). I discovered more of Eleven Paris's collection which is highly wearable and very street. The Galeries Lafayette Department Store boasts of all these stores as concessions, and a great cosmetics department. I discovered a new French brand called Lollipop which has beautiful packaging. I found some great free shopping guides which gave really helpful tips on more unique places - 50/50 sells second hand vintage and designer - the Chanel and YSL is amazing. Unfortunately they don't sell on line yet.

After having a look round we stocked up on the champers at the supermarket, agonised over what to wear and then got ourselves down to the hotel New Year's Eve party quite late. The DJs needed to be told how to get people to dance, as they were intent on playing obscure R & B that wasn't exactly getting the party started. We succeeded in getting a few up to dance who were quite clearly just used to fine dining!

Somehow after literally three hours sleep we managed to haul ourselves up and hire bikes to get to see more of this pedestrianised city. Cycling by the Garonne river is highly recommended, even with a little rain it's still a great way to see the beautiful architecture.


We just had enough time to visit the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux, well worth a look for its tasteful restaurant and cafe. The creme de la creme (and tourists) go for a nice bottle of red. There are tutus from the ballet in Reception and designer shoes/handbags in glass cases. I tried the Cafe Gourmand, and thought that the petits fours which arrived first was the CG. Oh no. Thankfully for 12 euros you got a mini mousse, canelle (speciality of Bordeaux), macaroon and a chocolate fondant, with strawberry blancmange like cream, with your strong cafe creme. Delicious.

I will definitely be back to see the coast and try more wine.


www.mamashelter.com - trendy boutique hotel in Bordeaux, Paris, Marseille, Istanbul, Lyon and soon to be in LA!

http://www.ghbordeaux.com/uk/index.php - Grand hotel de Bordeaux great for afternoon tea

http://www.elevenparis.com/en/  - streetwear at affordable prices

http://www.galerieslafayette.com/ - major French department store

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