Bordeaux Ghost Tours - A Theatrical Journey into Bordeaux's dark side‏

Bordeaux Expats recently caught up with George Hruby of Bordeaux Ghost Tours for an exclusive interview.
It turns out that as well as wine, the city is also full of lethal spirits!

Bordeaux became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007 and over the last 8 years the number of tourists visiting the city (both leisure and business-related) has literally skyrocketed. Voted 'European Best Destination 2015'  the city expects to see upward of 6 million visitors this year bringing in 100's of millions of €uros in revenue. Attracted primarily by the plonk, wine-related visits including vineyard tours etc. have risen by around 80% since 2007 - this trend can only continue with the opening of the Cité des civilisations du vin next year and the LGV link with Paris in 2017.

Aside from the allure of getting drunk in SW France, huge numbers of tourists are drawn to Bordeaux by the cultural wealth of the historical buildings on display. As the largest UNESCO Heritage site in the world, the city has 350 buildings officially classed as historical monuments not to mention the Grand Theatre, Auditorium, National Orchestra and profusion of museums which see more than 400 000 visitors annually. Add to this the game-changing and far-reaching visionary work of Alain Juppé over the last 20 years to revolutionise the city's urban landscape, the abundance of events hosted each year and the ever increasing number of quality restaurants and bars, the future is looking profitable for the Port de la Lune..!
Juppé's certainly filling Bordeaux's coffers...

Despite the mass tourist explosion of recent years, the tourist industry has been remarkably slow on the uptake (even for the French). When comparing Bordeaux's wine tours with Napa valley it quickly becomes clear that France is still in the stone age when it comes to tourism (and particularly Oenotourism). Although this classical and traditional exclusivity may be appealing to the snobbier of Bordeaux's wine visitors, it certainly doesn't cut the mustard with the rest of us and particularly visitors from the Far East.
On a recent visit to the tourist office I was standing behind two Korean tourists who were desperate to do a wine visit and tasting somewhere. Sadly but predictably, the best the tourist office woman could do was to aggressively hand them several maps and tell them in monosyllabic English that they had to phone the vineyards themselves and try to speak in French. Compare this to Napa valley where they have a 'wine train', 'wine trolley' (tram for the uninitiated), balloon tours, horse-drawn carriage tours, bike tours, wine & dine tours and countless limousine companies available in all major languages operating 24/7, Bordeaux's efforts are laughable for somewhere that is supposed to be the world wine capital and has a 10% unemployment rate.
Napa Valley - where the wine economy is booming!

          The same can be said for the majority of the city's guided tours. Coming from London where there is every kind of tour imaginable on offer - from graffiti street art walking/bike tours to the Duck bus (a duck shaped tour bus which converts into an amphibian vehicle for the 2nd part of the tour cruising the Thames), Bordeaux tours are utterly mundane and sober in comparison. 

          To add insult to injury, the official guide association Agica along with France's tourist authority are determined to block out independent operators and have created an insurmountable bog of tedious legislation to prevent anyone hustling in on their racket. If you ever manage to contact them which is almost impossible you will be fobbed off to various websites before eventually discovering that the only way to obtain an official Bordeaux 'guide conférencier' carte is to take a one year, full time Master course which costs at least €12 000 (tuition fees) and is only available in Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, Angers, Clermont-Ferrand, Perpignan, Corsica, Strasbourg, and Nice. There used to be one in Périgueux but it got shelved...
Bienvenue en France..!!!

However us expats are not so easily defeated and over the last few years there have been a range of small tour-guide companies springing up to provide tourists with what they really want - a fun, informative and user-friendly experience in their own language and where they won't be ripped off or made to feel inferior by an incomprehensible French smarty pants..!

          Bordeaux Expats recently caught up with George Hruby, the founder and director of Bordeaux Ghost Tours - part of a new wave of innovative companies that are changing the face of Bordeaux tourism.

The basic concept of BGT is to experience the dark macabre locations of Bordeaux and see where ghastly deaths occurred, and hauntings still take place.
The Roman amphitheatre - rue Palais Gallien
          Tour groups have the unique privilege of standing where gladiators were killed and others executed while crowds cheered. They can see where 292 people were guillotined during the French Revolution and learn all about the grizzly details as well as where real witches held their rituals before being caught, tried, and executed. Then there's a visit to Bordeaux’s most haunted pub with several ghosts and much poltergeist activity and they can discover a genuinely haunted hotel and its resident ghost (including the window where the ghost of a little girl is often heard crying..!). There are also mummies to be found in Bordeaux as well as far more in over 2000 years of sinister history.

6th-8th Century Cemetery - Bordeaux, France Underneath a public park lies this City of the Dead.  Paths and buildings (mausoleums) existed in this 6th-8th century cemetery, some still with brightly painted fresco's.  In this picture, while in the background can be seen a sarcophagus, in the foreground are amphora's in which children were buried. 

          Check in starts 15 minutes before, the tour is 2 hours long and covers 1.78 miles (2.88 km) - there is a loo break half way through the tour. They run Every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday Night at 9pm and are €25 cash only per person, payable to the Bordeaux Ghost Tour Operator (no credit cards or cheques accepted) at the start of the tour. Check-in starts 15 minutes before tour (Bordeaux Ghosts Tours are closed in January and February).
Berenika leading a tour up rue St Catherine - site of an ancient Roman road...

          Tours are met by one of the ghostly guides from the past, directly in front of the Grand Opera House and Grand Hotel just one block south of the Bordeaux Tourist Office. A costumed guide will be waiting in front of the Opera House in the center of the square between both visible clocks.

          To book a tour, simply go to BOOK TOUR and submit the request. Same day tours must be submitted no later than 6pm (18h00) of the day of the tour.

          The guides are specially created personas who bring a highly original edge to the tours – each of the characters has their own personal life story to draw the tour group into the historical atmosphere…

Monsieur Oscar Wheatly 
Monsieur Oscar Wheatly, born in 1776 in Salem, Massachusetts in America. He arrived in England in 1815 but soon arrived in Bordeaux, one of the richest trading ports in the world. Quick to make a quaint business for himself here, he has learned to marry the business opportunities of both France and America. He has resided here in Bordeaux since 1820 and is now at your disposal.

Mademoiselle Berenika Pilsner 
Mademoiselle Berenika Pilsner was born in Bohemia in 1798. She arrived on board ship to Bordeaux in 1819 where she has resided ever since. Born the daughter of a well-read and influential writer of the enlightenment, she came to Bordeaux to learn French. Working as a Governess for a local shipping magnate, his wife and their children, she is now at your disposal.

The Bordeaux Expats Interview

Across his hugely varied and mindbogglingly impressive career, George's credits include military dog handler, film director and archaeologist. Over the last couple of years he's been managing an archaeological dig at Chateau Leymonie near Perigueux.

1.       Where are you originally from?
San Diego California

2.       How long have you lived in the region? 
I moved to Paris in 2010 and Bordeaux in 2012

3.       Why did you move to France and why did you choose Bordeaux?
In both cases, because of a woman!  Ha ha...

4.       What do you wish you knew before moving here?
Nothing!  I have enjoyed learning it all as I go along. 

5.       Did you find it easy finding accommodation when you first moved here?
I found it easy to find accommodation in Paris but Bordeaux has been much more difficult. 

6.       What do you do for a living?
I am an Independent Film Director and Producer.  I am also the CEO of Dig France which is an archaeological company here in France. I also own the new and upcoming Bordeaux Ghosts Tours.

7.       Was it easy finding work?
As I own my own companies, my problem is finding people who share the American work ethic.   The working difference between cultures can affect a company’s functioning, productivity and its eventual success.   

8.       Has it been easy meeting people?
If one has money, it is easy because as long as you are spending money in restaurants and pubs, or funneling money to organizations to join, then it is easy to meet people.  But if one does not have a lot of money, it can be difficult.  This can be further complicated if you do not speak the language. 

9.   Did you already know French?

10.   How do you find the cost of living/lifestyle in Bordeaux?
I love it!  Very cost-effective to live in Bordeaux and it's a very relaxed and comfortable lifestyle here.

11.   What's the best thing to do in Bordeaux on a summers day?
Jogging, cycling, or rollerblading along the river and enjoying watching life going on all around. 

12.   What's the best thing to do in Bordeaux on a rainy day?
To hangout in the museums and exhibitions going on throughout the city.

13.   What are the positives of living here?
Living in France has been for me as an artist a tremendous asset both in Paris and in Bordeaux, as well as throughout France.  It is a country so rich in history and art, as well as cuisine and wine.  It is rich with philosophy and wisdom from over 2000 years of history.  For me, I can never stop getting enough of this beautiful country, its people, and its culture.
I feel that Bordeaux is an excellent place to live due to the cost-effectiveness of the location and the laid back lifestyle. But Bordeaux is also an excellent location that serves as a doorway to the rest of the world no matter where you choose to go. 

14.   What are the negatives of living here?
For an American, the single biggest negative here in France is the snail’s pace that anything gets done.  As an American running a company in France, I now have to schedule that what would normally take one day in America to get done, takes at least one week to get done in France.  Something that would take 72 hours to get done in America, here in France will take 3+ weeks.  This hurts business, slows down a company and minimizes productivity.  Countries such as Germany and America are very business orientated and strive for streamlining systems and efficiency. This includes their governments who help serve the needs of private businesses (and thus their economy).

15.   Are you involved with any groups / associations / teams, etc?
Due to the nature of doing business here, I have had the pleasure of working with many organizations, communities, and individual businesses.  However, it is only recently that I have actually begun to join several organizations here as I have begun to work on networking.  With my company, Bordeaux Ghosts Tours, I have started a new trend by helping to promote other individual businesses here in Bordeaux by advertising them on the company webpage in the hope that our customers will have a better selection to choose from for fun and exciting things to do in Bordeaux, while also helping out other businesses in the local area.  In this sense .. wanting to inspire a team effort here in Bordeaux between businesses.  This is especially so with Expat related businesses.   

16.   Do you have a business / website / blog?
I am very proud to offer the very first Ghost Tours here in Bordeaux.  Bordeaux Ghosts Tours take place at night and conducted by our professionally costumed and trained guides.  It is a fun and exciting way to learn about some of Bordeaux’s history while also learning about its dark past and a few of its resident ghosts.
One of the Medieval Gates to the City - Bordeaux, France
In the early morning hours.. you wonder if you can still see pilgrims from the 12th century enter this gate as they continue on their pilgrimage along the Way of St. James which passed through this ancient gate south towards Spain.

          Look out for George wandering around in costume with his advertising board… BGT also has a stand at Place St Projet once a month.

          They currently get over 1000 hits a month on their facebook page, have 134 000 hits on Google+ and the tours are going from strength to strength. 

          Berenika looks after the French tours and George hosts the English ones and they regularly get turnouts of 15 or more people. While the English speaking tourists are interested in the buildings and atmosphere of Bordeaux, the French groups are apparently keen to get below the surface and discover all the hidden people stories. They have posted their flyers all over town in all the relevant pubs, restaurants and are in the tourist office. George also keeps a handful of business cards handy in the event of the (frequent) photo requests when they are walking around town in costume.
This is the front original entrance of a huge 70-window hotel built in 1855.  The red doors were where it's restaurant once operated.  Residents still reside here in this old building as well as some ghostly ones including that of a little girl that is seen playing, and running up and down the grand staircase. 

          The ultimate aim, says George, is to hold a giant monster bash Halloween party in a spectacular Bordeaux venue complete with DJ and the rest. Watch the Bordeaux Expats site for a future heads up!

          Looks like the monster mash is set to become a permanent feature on the Bordeaux landscape.


For further information, please visit the BGT online at -


Tel (English): +(33) 0783770625
Tel (Français): 0783627055

Post a Comment

Popular Posts