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One Way to do Bordeaux

Welcome to Bordeaux , hub of the famed wine-growing region of the same name and  port city sitting on the Garonne River in south western France.   It’s known for its fine Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, its 18th- to 19th-century mansions and the iconic  Grand Place de la Bourse,  fronting the river…

It is also a popular port of call for river cruise ships…

and a number of smaller ocean cruise ships can also navigate the Garonne and berth here…

While river cruises generally offer included excursions these can often be rushed affairs with some places of interest covered in a coach.

The purpose of this review is to illustrate what can be achieved either post excursion, when more free time affords the opportunity to explore in greater depth,or with  simply a tour of Bordeaux from scratch.

Navigating around  Bordeaux is not difficult…

…once the visitor has established their starting point.

There is a pedestrianised walkway,  Quai de la Souys,  the length of the Garonne River from the river boat berthing area…

…all the way to the Ponte de Pierre and the area surrounding the Basilica St. Michael ...

(The above photograph was taken from the Basilica’s belfry)

Central on the Quai de la Souys is the Place de la Bourse…

A UNESCO World Heritage site, it has symbolised the city of Bordeaux around the world for centuries.

Centrally on the circular building ‘curtain’ is the former Stock Exchange Hall,  now Bordeaux’s Chamber of Commerce

 

The  ‘Royal Square’ is also adorned centrally by the “Three Graces” fountain…

 

…dating back to  1869.

It is suggested that the visitor remains on the ‘Bourse’ side of the ‘Quai de la Souys’ to take in the next building of note which is  slightly set back from the terraced shops and cafes,  the Port Cailhau…

Built in 1495, this monument with a castle-like exterior was once the main gate to the city…

Returning to the riverside walk, a short distance along the Quai is the Pont de Pierre…

Commissioned by Napoleon and inaugurated in 1822, the “pont de pierre” was the first stone bridge ever built in Bordeaux. Indeed, for those readers interested in factoids, the bridge has 17 spans: which is also the number of letters in the name Napoleon Bonaparte.

Continuing along the ‘Quai’, the bridge from the opposite side looking across to the ‘Bastide’ district of the city…

Leaving the Ponte de Pierre and the Bastide district behind and entering the Cours Victor Hugo, is Bordeaux’s answer to the Arc de Triumph, the  Porte de Bourgogne…

…built exclusively as a monument that replaced the old city ramparts, it became known as the ‘Doorway to Burgundy’.

A 5 minute walk along the Cours Victor Hugo and a left turn onto the ‘Rue des Foures’ will bring the visitor to the Basilica St. Michael…

…with its distinctive separate Bell Tower…

The Bell Tower is open to the public and is well worth the climb to see first ‘Le Carillon’….

…and the amazing views back over the Basilica and the Garonne…

…and, in the opposite direction,  out over the city towards another Bell Tower, that of Pey-Berland and the Grosse Cloche tower…

Indeed, a short distance along the Cours Victor Hugo, the Grosse Cloche  was to be our next stop…

The Grosse Cloche is one of the oldest belfries in France. The gateway where the bell is hung was also part of Bordeaux’s defensive system as well as  in latter years serving as a prison.

This gateway is open for  guided visits which include the dungeons.

 

Continuing along the Cours Victor Hugo for approximately five blocks and taking a sharp right at ‘Cours Pasteur’, a short walk will bring the visitor to the Place Pey-Berland…

This large open square contains some excellent cafes and restaurants, The Hôtel de Ville and Palais Rohan…

…the Tour Pey-Berland…

 

…and the  Cathédrale Saint-André…

 

The Cathedral is well worth a visit even though its  interior holds no great interest, apart from the choir. The reason behind the austere nave is due to the influence of Geoffroi du Loroux (1135-1158), bishop of Bordeaux, who instituted the strict Augustinian rule.

However, the impressive north façade does boast an impressive portal with the tympanum  adorned with three bas-reliefs  depicting the Last Supper, the Ascension and the Triumph of the Redeemer…

Inside, the organ dominates the nave, the description of which, given by an English chronicler in 1535, is as the most beautiful and the greatest in all Christendom.

 

The Saint-André Cathedral was listed by UNESCO as of World Heritage standard, along with the other great church already visited, Basilica Saint-Michel.

As previously mentioned the Cathedral’s Belfry, the Tower Pey-Berland, stands separately on the square…

…and it is open to the public. The 233 steps are a steep climb…

…passing through the Bell Chamber…

and into the Spire space…

 

…before exiting onto the ‘Terrace’ …

 

for what is actually billed  the best view over Bordeaux…

Next up was a 15 minute walk along Bordeaux’s main shopping street, the Rue Sainte Catherine…

*****

 

conveniently leading onto the  Place de la Comédie

*****

It is at the ‘Place de la Comédie‘ where the main streets of Bordeaux converge and, as the name suggests,  it is a bustling hub of artistic activity, cafes and restaurants, all  backdropped by the The Grand Theatre (Opera House)…

…with its 12 majestic columns. The theatre is home to the Opera National de Bordeaux and the Ballet National de Bordeaux.

Opposite the Theatre is the iconic 5 Star  Grand Hotel…

 

A little more about the monumental sculpture that appeared in the first photograph of the Place de la Comédie…

Its name is ‘Sanna’ and it is the work the Catalan artist Jaume Plensa.  It is however an optical illusion. The large 7 metre high soothing face is not a full bodied head as it appears to be when viewed from certain angles – check out the first photograph – but is actually very narrow and elongated.

Or, with a little cropping…

Visible from the Place de la Comédie is Le Monument aux Girondins…

 

*****

The Monument stands at the head of the Place des Quinconces,  is  emblematic of the French Revolution in Bordeaux and one of the most photographed monuments in the city.

At around 31 acres the Place des Quinconces fronts onto the Garonne River…

…and is the largest ‘square’ in Europe. For interest the word ‘quinconces refers to the way the trees are planted, in staggered rows.

At the entrance and facing the Garonne stand  two 21 metre high rostral columns. One symbolises Commerce and the other stands for Navigation…

 

The Place des Quinconces is an all year long venue for fairs, circus, sporting and artistic events: at the time of our visit a travelling French Circus…

…and in another area a Classic Car Rally...

The final building of note prior to returning to the cruise ship berth is on the left as one exits the Place des Quinconces. It is the Bordeaux Maritime Exchange or ‘Bourse Maritime’...

Opened from 1925 it is almost identical to the central pavilion of the Place de la Bourse.

While that basically completes this review there are a number of places that may be of interest to the visitor should time allow. Once again my interest in all things military gave me the incentive to seek out two such places while the other two just happen to be very close to the river cruise boats berth.

In reverse order the first recommendation is the Bordeaux Wine Museum: or to give it it’s official title, La Cité du Vin...

…a rather unusual design for this  unique cultural centre dedicated to the universal, living heritage of wine. Not just concentrating on the wines of Bordeaux, it offers a spectacular journey around the world, throughout the ages, across countless cultures and civilisations and is within easy walking distance of the river cruise berths…

Indeed, the walk to the museum will take the visitor along the second of my recommendations, a walkway past what is known as the Quai Des Marques…

….historically an old waterfront warehouse complex now regenerated into a vibrant restaurant and shopping complex…

The first venue in my military history search was also to be found between two of the refurbished warehouse: A memorial plaque set into the ground commemorating the World War II  ‘Operation Frankton,  better known of course as the deeds and heroics of the Cockleshell Heroes...

Adjacent the entrance to the La Cité du Vin, lock gates lead to  a set of ‘floating basins’ that, during World War 2,  saw the construction of a system of German U-Boat Pens…

Bordeaux proved an interesting city to visit and, as I have hopefully shown, very easy to navigate.

If there is one place I haven’t mentioned it has to be a hostelry that my wife and I came across, the ‘Frog & Rosbif’ Pub...

 

…a stones throw from the  ‘Port Cailhau’ at 23 Rue Ausone.

If you have enjoyed this review of Bordeaux and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews including  a forthcoming cruise review of  Star Clipper and a Mississippi  river cruise onboard the American Queen, plus  updated port reviews of  New York and Hong Kong,   why not join over 580  followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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