Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bordeaux 2 - Exploring the City - A Water Mirror, Great Bell and Roman Amphitheatre, Plus Some Wine Magic!

We had a lie in today, I was looking forward to a freshly baked baguette for breakfast from the baker just a couple of doors up from us, but it was Sunday and it was closed! Today was our traditional lazy day, when we just drift from place to place sampling the wine and food. We walked the short distance to the Place de la Comedie and found a table at a cafe (sorry didn't note it's name) on Cours du Chapeau Rouge. We had brunch of the hugest and truly delicious croque monsieur whilst watching life go by.

Aperol Prosecco
Afterwards we walked the short distance to the Tourist Office to buy tickets for the city sightseeing tour. We did that and had a bit of time to spare before the tour left so we walked back to the Place de la Comedie and found a seat under the impressive colonnade of the Grand Theatre cafe. We had an Aperol Prosecco which is a lovely refreshing mix of Aperol orange liquor, Prosecco and soda water, new to us both and much enjoyed!

We went to catch the bus tour and the bus drove through the Esplanade des Quinconces, the largest public square in Europe, dominated by a column with a golden statue of Liberty breaking her chains. Below this was a bronze fountain with horses rearing out of the water. During the war these were hidden by the Resistance in order to protect them.

The bus continued on towards the banks of the mighty Garonne River. At  Bordeaux the river is very wide and brown in colour, the river has a tidal surge and the brownness is silt brought in on these tides. We passed the Place de la Bourse built in the 18th century as the medieval city broke through the old city walls and expanded. The fountain of the Three Graces was erected in 1869 and one of the figures is said to have been modelled on Queen Victoria though I'm sure she wouldn't have approved of their nakedness!

We passed the Mirror d'Eau, the water mirror, a large area of granite and with water fountains that create alternately mirror-like and then mist-like illusions.

Next we see an impressive part of medieval Bordeaux the Porte Cailhau built in 1494 and remains almost unaltered since then. We continued on and then crossed the Garonne via the Pont de Pierre.

Grosse Cloche
Place de la Bourse

This was the first bridge to be built over the river, the very wideness of which made it difficult to span the river. But Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned the building after having to ferry soldiers across the river in boats on a march down to Spain. The bridge was opened in 1822 a year after Napoleon's death. It has 17 spans which is rumoured to be one span for each letter in Napoleon's name.

On the way back over the bridge we had a wonderful view of the the buildings on Bordeaux's river front. We passed through the Porte de Bourgogne and soon passed the Grosse Cloche, the Big Bell. the bell housed in a beautiful double turreted gateway. There is an inscription in the bell that reads: "I ring the hours and my voice is a call to arms, (…) I sing for happy events and weep for the dead".

On we went and passed the Cathédrale Saint-André, consecrated in 1096. Then we passed the Porte Dijeaux, one of the gates to the old city, and on to the Place Gambetta. The next place of interest was Palais Gallien the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre. It was surprising to find this in the centre of Bordeaux! It is thought to have been built in the second century AD when the city was occupied by the Romans and called Burdigala. there was a lovely little garden in front of it where people were relaxing. After that we continued past the Jardin Public that looked like a beautiful oasis in the middle of the city. 
Palais Gallien

We were dropped off and then told to go across the road to Bordeaux Magnum, a wine shop, for a tasting. We had the chance to taste one wine free and I didn't like it, it was full of tannins and smokey, just what I don't like in French wine. The man must have seen my face as I tasted as he asked if I would like the tannins taken out of the wine and of course I said yes, having no idea how that would be achieved. He got out a small item that was a wine aerator, which apparently mixes oxygen with air at precisely the right rate. Well if I had not seen him pour my wine through the aerator and hand it back to me I would have thought he'd given me a different wine! Debbi said my face was a picture. It was so much smoother and more to my taste, you learn something every day!
Me outside Maison Magnum!

We both really enjoyed the tour, Bordeaux has some amazing architecture and fully deserves its UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

We headed back to the apartment and freshened up. We set out for our evening meal quite early as we had a very early start the next day. We went to a restaurant called L'Allyson very close by as it had a good menu at reasonable prices. And it turned out to be a fabulous meal and our rib-eye steaks were the hugest I've ever seen, tender too. I will do a full, separate review of the restaurant on this blog soon.

Once home we relaxed over a glass of wine on our balcony overlooking Rue Sainte-Catherine and chatted as we watched the people passing by below. I could get used to this life!

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