28 & 29th March 2015
Bordeaux is a fairly big city on the bank of river Garonne. We have booked Novotel hotel in Bordeaux for two nights. The hotel is not in the city, but has a tram station which takes you to the city . We arrived at the hotel very late and had dinner in the hotel. It was raining when we arrived in Bordeaux. The temperature during day time was less than 10 degrees.
Bordeaux is the world's major wine industry capital. It is home to the world's main wine fair, Vinexpo while the wine economy in the metro area takes in 14.5 billion euros each year. Bordeaux wine has been produced in the region since the 8th century. The historic part of the city is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Bordeaux has a long history going back to 300 BC. However, the 18th century was the golden age of Bordeaux. Many downtown buildings, including those on the quays, are from this period.
Victor Hugo found the town so beautiful he once said: "Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux".
The main mode of transport in Bordeaux is the Tram. There are three lines to cover the entire city. We could buy tickets for a single journey or for a whole day. A day ticket is valid for 24 hours. You can use it on any tram line and for any number of journeys. The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel and then took the tram to the city centre. There is a mobile tourist office in the city center close to the Quinconces tram station. We were planning to do a wine tour, but the wine tour organized by the tourist office was already fully booked. There were other wine tours organized by private parties, but would involve spending the whole day. Added to that, it was raining making any outdoor activities difficult.
The tourist office has a city tour in an open vehicle which looked like a toy train with several compartments. We joined this trip which was the best option to see the tourist attractions in the city. The vehicle or the open bus took us through all the narrow roads in the old city . There were many old residential buildings which have been built several hundred years ago. The bus stopped briefly at all the interesting places and gave us the opportunity to take photos while sitting inside the bus. After this trip, we walked to some of the important landmarks in the city.
One important landmark is the Place De La Bourse. This impressive collection of architecture along the river was designed to welcome and impress visitors. The square was built between 1730 and 1755 by members of the Gabriel family of architects. In the center of the square is the Fountain of the Three Graces, surrounded by two beautiful pavilion-like buildings: the Bourse (Stock Exchange) and the Musée des Douanes (Customs Museum). These graceful quayside buildings stand just above the banks of the Garonne River.
Cathedral Saint Andre or the Cathedral of Saint Andrew is another important building in the city. This Cathedral dates back to the 12th century. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this cathedral was part of the Route of Saint James pilgrimage trail. Pilgrims traveled through Bordeaux from the Médoc, Tours, and the British Isles on their way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The Cathedral of Saint Andrew compares to the Notre-Dame in Paris in its grandeur and features an impressive facade with sculptures of the Last Supper, the Ascension, and Christ in Majesty. Interestingly, the western front side of the cathedral is completely unadorned, since it was originally too close to the old town walls.
Another important landmark in the city is the Esplanade des Quinconces. An expansive public space in central Bordeaux, the Esplanade des Quinconces is considered to be the largest square in Europe. This tranquil retreat in the heart of the city is just a few blocks away from Le Grand Théâtre. The esplanade offers peaceful waterfront views. Built from 1818 to 1828, the square's monumental fountain honors the Girondins, the group of republican politicians from the département of the Gironde who were deputies in the Legislative Assembly during the French Revolution. (Many Girondins were sent to the guillotine during the Terror). The original fountain was destroyed during World War II and later restored. There are also statues of Montesquieu and Montaigne. Another noteworthy site nearby is the Jardin Public, where you can visit the botanical gardens and the natural history museum.
We had lunch in a small restaurant and then got on to one of the trams and just rode it from one end to the other. That way, we were passing most of the city buildings. Once you pass the old city, you come across newly built apartments where most of the ordinary people live. We also walked along the Garonne river banks. We were leaving Bordeaux on Sunday. We decided to spend a few hours visiting the Sunday Food market in Bordeaux before leaving. This market is held only on Sundays. There are many food stalls erected along the river banks.
There was an amazing collection of cooked and uncooked food items in the market. We bought containers of Paella, Mussels cooked in whiter source, various cheeses, sausages and bread. We sat at a table near a stall which served coffee and ate our food that was bought at the market.
After eating as much as we could, we still had extra food. We kept this food to be eaten as lunch on our way to Lourdes.
Finally when we left the hotel it was nearly 12:30PM.