The capital of the Aquitaine region, a UNESCO heritage site, is located in the southwest of the country, in a meander of the Garonne, very close to the mouth of this river in the Atlantic. The river port of the city, called the port of the moon for its curved shape, has been key to the development of the city since ancient times. And today, the magnificent walk along the river, created a few years ago by the landscape architect Michel CorajoudIt is an area that invites you to stroll and, at the same time, a landscape that surprises and dazzles the first-time visitor when he arrives by car. Especially at night, as happened to us.
We arrived last night after six hours of driving from Barcelona. The trip did not get heavy because it was a very sunny spring day and the fields dotted with red and yellow encouraged to move on. In addition, the service areas on the French motorways are very numerous and well maintained. Although we had been in the area of Perigord Noir, we didn't know Bordeaux completely, so the welcome that the Place de la Bourse, elegantly lit, made it clear that we were going to have a great time.
Bordeaux Historic Center
We stayed at the hotel Of the Presse, located in the center, in the pedestrian street Porte Dijeaux. We found a very comfortable, modern and practical accommodation. After sleeping and breakfast, we went out to meet Veronique, our guide that day.
Veronique was a very talkative lady who spoke very well in Spanish, no matter how much she warned us that it was very difficult for her to differentiate verbs be and to be. Thanks to her, for four hours we learned some basic notions of the history of the city, she taught us the specialties of the region and recommended good restaurants and lovely places to walk around.
The modern and central hotel where we stayed
And is that Bordeaux is a perfect city for walking and walking. We enter the cobbled streets of the old town and begin to hallucinate with the typical French houses of the s. XVIII, of limestone, with its narrow balconies and wrought iron railings, and its gray slate roofs. The vast majority of these streets are pedestrian and the entire neighborhood was restored between the seventies and eighties. According to Veronique, at the end of the nineties there were hardly any stores in that neighborhood, only restaurants, offices and garages. But as of 2005 more people began to come to the city and decoration shops, antiques and bars began to open. Today it is a very modern neighborhood full of shops and interesting places, where you can breathe a very cozy atmosphere.
Apparently, Bordeaux has improved greatly in recent years. Before, the houses in the old quarter were black because of the soot from the chimneys and the traffic smoke. Nowadays, with the streets exclusively for pedestrians and the restoration of the facades, Bordeaux really looks. In addition, the capital of Aquitaine is a city that has not stopped growing since the medieval walls were demolished. First it was the wine trade, which flourished when Leonor of Aquitaine married Henry II of England. With the control of the English, wine barrels began to be exported, especially the "French Claret" or french claret and the surrounding vineyards began to spread to respond to the demand. It was thanks to this wine that Bordeaux's fame was established as a wine growing region. Later, in the s. XVIII the commerce of Bordeaux with the Antilles, added to the commerce with the wine and the already famous claret supposed a new impulse for the city, that demolished the cochambrous medieval houses to build the elegant houses so typically French that can be seen at present.
Bars with a lot of charm where to sit and have a quiet coffee
In fact, since 2007 Bordeaux is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, specifically the protected area of 150 hectares of the old town and 1810 hectares comprising both old buildings and modern architecture. This was probably helped by the rehabilitation initiated by Mayor Alain Juppé in 1996, which ended a few years ago with the new river walk, the total restoration of the facades and the installation of non-polluting public transport such as gas buses or the modern tram .
La porte de Cailhau, old wall entrance
The city continues to grow, as new neighborhoods are being created as the freight port moves further towards the mouth and moves away from the city. For example, in a few years a new neighborhood will have been created in the area of Bassins à Flot. And in two years the Cité du Vin, a new wine museum that promises to be "a new Guggenheim." On the other hand, the area of La Bastide, on the opposite bank of the river, is being renovated with modern architecture. In fact, there is already a guided tour focused on contemporary architecture that runs through the most prominent and avant-garde buildings.
A very cool fish market on Rue Notre Dame
All this was told to us by Veronique while we took pictures and looked dumbfounded in all directions. To start, our guide also showed us the best food specialties, such as the canelé, a flan-shaped biscuit covered with crunchy caramel. Or the most typical Bordeaux snack: the Lillet.
The Lillet is the typical Bordeaux appetizer
On the walk through the old town, we cross the very long rue Sainte Catherine street, the old Decumanus of the Roman city, and pass by the Place du Parlement, a very pretty square with a very homogeneous architecture. Over there he recommended the La Comtesse bar, which marks its modern style with a very original entrance decorated with showers and dolls. This has become a trend among the bars in the area, such as the Michel's bar, with a basically native clientele, who now changes the decoration every six months. A good restaurant to eat fresh seafood is the Le Petit Commerce, which includes a kind of fish market.
And the cannelloni the typical sweet
After passing through the place of Saint Pierre and his church, we arrive at another place, the Camille Julian place, full of terraces, and where the Utopia, the only cinema I know built inside an old church. In the bar of this cinema, Mascaret beer is served, which is named for the great waves that occur in the equinox. Then we go down the Pas-Saint-Georges street and Veronique took us to see a friend's bakery. Already before entering La FabriqueAlthough there is no sign indicating this name, the smell of good bread and croissants floods your nostrils. This is a bakery of those that no longer remain, where real bread is made, bread that lasts up to four days without hardening. The owner told the guide that he intends to wrap the sandwiches with maps of the area that include interesting details to visit in the city and we thought it was a very good idea. Leaving the bakery, Veronique met another acquaintance in the customer queue: the owner of the Le Rubon restaurant, which is somewhat further away. Following the same street, and almost in front of the bakery, there is a French cheese shop that is a real temptation, the Fromagerie Deruelle.
Utopia, a cinema and restaurant in an old church
When we arrived at Lafargue Square, Veronique told us that the medieval tower we saw at the end of the street was the Grosse Gloche, the great bell, a public bell tower built in the s. XV. Then we turned and went back up rue des Bahutiers, to see a house that stands out from the rest for its gable roof and because it is one of the few that are preserved before s. XVIII, specifically it is from the end of the XVI, although logically it is restored. Then we turn right and enter the place du Palais. In this square the sun was already shining and I loved the place by the solemn medieval door that overlooks the river, the Porte Cailhau. Like the Grosse Gloche and the walls of Carcassonne, this door has the typical towers finished in pointed roofs and sits on the remains of the wall of s. XIV As this gate defended the city in front of the river, before it stood the fortress that gives its name to the square, the Palais de l'Ombrière, where the famous Leonor of Aquitaine was born.
Place du marché des Chartrons a good place to eat
We pass through the medieval gate and we face the Garonne river. We went up the sunny river promenade and our guide recommended a very stately bar there, the Grand Bar Castan, which has a very original and rocky interior decoration.
Finally, following the river we reach the Place de la Bourse, a monumental square that centuries ago was the royal square. With its construction, Bordeaux was opened to the river, since until then the city had lived with its back to it, to protect itself from possible attacks. Today the buildings that make up the square house the offices of the Chamber of Commerce, customs, a restaurant with three environments and a very interesting free museum: the CIAP or Interpretation Center of Architecture and Heritage. This is a small exhibition where you can learn in a pleasant and visual way the history of the evolution of Bordeaux (includes texts in Spanish).
Attacking the profiteroles 🙂
This magnificent square facing the river is complemented very well with some fountains that are on the promenade, the Miroir d'Eau (Water mirror) in front of the square. These sources emit water vapor that attracts tourists and then the water forms a mirrored surface in which the buildings of the square are reflected and to the bell tower of the church that is seen below, which gives rise to the experts in photography they can take full advantage of the place.