He decamped to Los Angeles in 2014 to make a go of a music career (after studying at Berklee) – but upstart French singer Jean Castel was actually born and raised in the storied French city of Bordeaux.
An obviously burgeoning songwriting talent, he’s cultivated such towering influences as Michael Jackson and The Beatles into a melody-driven nu-soul sound, perfectly encapsulated in his debut single “What Happened to Us.” With his expressive vocal delivery and clever way with a lyrical couplet – “You only laugh when he calls you / You’re only nice when he comes through” – the song is a paradigm of contemporary pop, with obvious nods to the chart fare of the ’70s and ’80s.
His debut EP, Orange & Yellow, will be released sometime this winter.
Back to his illustrious hometown…though the name has long been associated more with the region and its exalted wines, the city itself is a glory of 18th Century architectural grandiosity (as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site). And after decades of neglect, it has seen a dramatic renewal over the last ten years or so.
“There are many things that I love about Bordeaux,” he enthuses, “from the architecture to the food, the air, the scent and the memories. This is where I fell in love with music, where pretty much my whole family lives. The diversity of landscapes and how close the mountains and the beach are to the city. It’s a place that still and will probably always feel like home, and I can still find inspiration when I’m there.”
We asked him to talk us around to some of his fave places there.
Jean Castel’s Bordeaux Favorites
This is the best canelé maker in the world. Canelé is a small pastry flavored with rum and vanilla, with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust – and originally from Bordeaux. They get pretty expensive, but I could eat tons of them. Baillardran has been holding the torch since I discovered them.
Love going on a walk with friends or by myself down this street. There’s always tons of people, it is the second biggest pedestrian street in Europe, I believe (1.2 km) – so it definitely gets really busy, and my thoughts always get lost when I’m there. I just love watching people be people, laughing, being in a hurry, being happy, drunk or focused. It’s filled with shops, bars, restaurants, so you definitely can spend a whole afternoon there and not realize it’s already 8pm.
The best wine comes from Bordeaux. We all know that. But getting to see the vineyards and the castles in 3D has no price. They’re pretty much all located at the same area, which makes it easy for you to take a day, go see them, and maybe even find a lovely spot to picnic. I always love going on bike rides with my dad or by myself around them, you get to witness so much history and so much life at the same time. (N.B. these are the top Food + Wine vineyard recommends.)
In this predominantly wine-focused city, come here to drink amazing beer (local, but also from Belgium, Sweden, Denmark), eat incredible gourmet food and have great conversations. It’s a very chill, warm and friendly bar. I’d recommend it also to people who would want to meet up for business purposes.
One of the best and warmest restaurants in Bordeaux. My favorite on the menu is the magret de canard (seared duck breast). They cook the it exactly how you want it to be, and also bring you homemade french fries and salad. Also, it’s only 12 Euro. Oh man.