M1623 – Bordeaux walkabout 1

In my last post, M1623 – Bordeaux wine, I described how we were docked in Bordeaux for two days, and how on the first day how I took a short coach tour of the city centre before touring a local vineyard. On the second day in port, the only ship’s tours on offer were to other different vineyards, so instead I had planned to just go walkabout around the city with my camera.

The short tour around the city in the coach on the way to the vineyard the day before had shown me that there was lots to see and explore, so I was expecting it to be quite a long walkabout. This, the fact that the local guide had told us how good the buildings along the riverbank looked in early morning sunshine, and the weather forecast for unbroken sun and temperatures around 30 degrees all encouraged me to make an early start straight after breakfast. A map of the city given out on the first day’s tour also helped me identify where I wanted to go and to plan out a route.

Leaving the ship and heading roughly south-west along the riverbank towards the Pont de Pierre bridge it was soon clear what the guide had meant about the early morning light:

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Dodging the plentiful early morning joggers, skateboarders and cyclists I made my way to half way across the Pont de Pierre bridge, so that I could get views back to the riverbank I had just walked along, and of our ship:

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The Pont de Pierre was completed in 1822, and until 1965 it was the only way to cross the River Garonne. It was commissioned by the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, and is decorated with medallions celebrating his rule. Retracing my steps on the bridge brought me back to the Porte de Bourgogne, one of the four surviving gateways from the original city walls:

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Walking past this elegant row of buildings I then cut through side roads to the St Michel district, to view and photograph the gothic Basilique St Michel and it’s separate bell tower, Flèche St Michel. The basilica was built between the 14th and 17th centuries, and the bell tower is 114 metres high:

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Returning through the side roads my next target was the Porte Saint-Éloi and the Grosse Cloche. The 13th-century Porte Saint-Éloi was one of the gates to the heart of the city, also known as Porte Saint-James as it welcomed a steady stream of St. James’ Way pilgrims. The Grosse Cloche (Great Bell) belfry was added in the 15th century. The current bell was cast in 1775. It weighs 7,800 kilograms and is two metres tall and wide:

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Next I wanted to photograph something quirky that had caught my eye from the coach the day before – this car park:

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Another quirky item that caught my eye was in a shop window:

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I then continued my walk, soon reaching the Cathédrale Saint-André and it’s nearby bell tower, the Tour Pey-Berland. The cathedral was built between the 12th and 16th centuries, and it’s impressive nave is over 124 metres long and 23 metres high. Completed in 1440, the bell tower is 66 metres high, and built separate from the cathedral so that vibration from it’s large bells did not damage the cathedral structure. While I was able to take plenty of photographs of the outside of both buildings, the downside of my early start to my walk was that I was too early to enter either of them:

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I therefore decided to carry on walking to my next planned stop, Porte Dijeaux, a decorative gate into the heart of the city that was erected in 1748 where one of the Roman-period gates once stood. The city’s coat of arms features on one side of the arch, just above the sculpted face of Neptune, looking down towards the river Garonne:

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After a look around the nearby small park, Place Gambetta, site of the city’s guillotine which was used for some 250 public executions between October 1793 and July 1794, I judged that enough time had elapsed so that when I returned to the cathedral and tower they would now be open.

My appreciation of the inside of the cathedral was only enhanced by the fact that a string quartet were rehearsing inside, filling the huge spaces with delightful music. Once again there were many lovely stained glass windows to admire, they really were a continuing feature of this cruise:

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Leaving the cathedral I walked around to the bell tower, and braced myself for the climb to the top where great views across the city were promised. The climb was made using 233 narrow stone spiral steps, made more interesting when you met someone descending using the same staircase and each had to squeeze past the other! There were two levels very near the top of the tower from which the views could be observed, the higher one having a very low and narrow entranceway to negotiate:

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The views from both levels across the city were fabulous:

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Looking directly upwards I could see the golden statue that tops the tower gleaming in the bright sunlight against the lovely clear blue sky:

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Once I had successfully negotiated my way back down the staircase and back onto the street, I needed to sit on a bench for a few minutes to catch my breath and have a much needed drink of water.

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With much of my walkabout around the city still to recount, I am going to take a rest now too, and resume the account in my next post – watch this space!

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