M1623 – Bordeaux walkabout 2

In my last post, M1623 – Bordeaux walkabout 1, I described the first part of my extended walkabout around the lovely city of Bordeaux in the morning of our second day in the port. At the end of that post I had just sat down for a brief rest, having climbed up and down the 233 narrow stone spiral steps of the Pey-Berland Tower, the bell tower for Cathédrale Saint-André.

Although starting to tire after my exertions, I was keen to press on as there were still several places I wanted to see and photograph, and I was getting increasingly aware of the day getting hotter and hotter, and the streets getting ever more crowded as time wore on.

My next target was the Place de la Comédie, and on my way there I passed Le Carrousel de Tourny, a beautiful carousel which reminded me of the ones I had already seen on this cruise in Honfleur and in Nantes. Sadly this one too was not in operation when I saw it:


The Place de la Comédie is a square flanked by two very impressive buildings – the attractive Grand Hôtel with it’s numerous window boxes on one side, and opposite it the stunning Grand Théâtre. The latter was the work of the architect Victor Louis and was erected between 1773 and 1780. Near the top of the facade are a line of twelve statues, representing the nine muses and the goddesses Juno, Venus and Minerva. Unfortunately I could not view the inside of the building as I was not on a guided tour organised by the Office de Tourisme, but it has grand stone staircases leading to the five tiers of seating in the main performance hall, with a painted ceiling and an elaborate chandelier.


Leaving the square I headed to one of the most conspicuous landmarks in the city, the Monument aux Girondins, which pays homage to the Girondins political group who were overpowered and executed by their rivals the Jacobins in the French Revolution. Surrounding the tall column, which is topped by a representation of the spirit of liberty, are numerous statues and fountains. I had to very carefully stand for a moment on the tram tracks to get the photograph I wanted of the column back-lit by the sun:


The Monument aux Girondins stands at one end of the huge Esplanade des Quinconces, one of the largest city squares in Europe at 126,000 m². At the far end (near the River Garonne) stand two more columns, representing commerce and navigation. The huge space in-between is used for funfairs, circuses, specialist markets and concerts – and while we were there must of the space was taken up by a circus (this photograph was taken as I first walked along the riverbank on leaving the ship):


Leaving the Esplanade I headed back the way I had come, as I had noticed an interesting looking building down a side road that I wanted to investigate closer. This proved to be Note Dame church, the most baroque and Romanesque-style church in Bordeaux. The church and nearby Cour Mably courtyard are the only remnants of a Dominican monastery going back to the 13th century:


On leaving the church I headed back towards the river down some side roads, spotting this quirky sign above a toyshop on the way:


After a while I reached yet another church with striking stained glass windows, this one was St Pierre:


To reach the river I passed through the forth and final former city gate, Porte Cailhau, which was erected in 1495. It’s sculptures pay tribute to King Charles VIII, who had at the time recently conquered the kingdom of Naples in the company of Cardinal d’Epernay, the Archbishop of Bordeaux:


I then walked back along the riverbank in the direction of the ship, pausing for a while at the Miroir d’Eau. This computerised water mirror, switched on for the first time in October 2006, was designed by the landscape architect Michel Corajoud and the water technician Jean-Max Llorca. The concept was inspired by visions of a waterlogged Piazza San Marco in Venice. The feature is 130 metres long and 42 metres wide, and 3,450 granite slabs are covered with water that at times is a 2-centimetre deep paddling pool, and at other times is a sea of spray and mist. The 900 water injectors are fed by an 800 cubic metre underground tank.

The spray and mist is cool and refreshing without making you wet, which was ideal as the temperatures by now were up to around 30 degrees. I used the still water phases to capture reflections of the ship, and of the Place de la Bourse. The latter square was constructed between 1730 and 1755, and has the Fountain of the Three Graces as it’s focal point. The building on the northern side of the square first housed the commodities exchange and is now home to the Bordeaux chamber of trade and industry. The building on the southern side still houses the customs and excise bureau:


I then continued along the riverbank until I wearily reached the waiting ship:


It had been a long, hot but most enjoyable exploration of a lovely city – I was out walking and taking photographs for around five and a half hours in temperatures rising to around thirty degrees. I was glad to return to the air-conditioned ship for first a much needed shower, and then a late lunch.

Postscript: At 11pm that night we set sail back down the River Garonne towards the sea and our next port of call. The huge Pont Jacques-Chaban-Delmas, Europe’s longest vertical lift bridge, lifted to allow us to pass. The bridge was inaugurated in March 2013 after four years’ construction work costing some 160 million Euros. It is 425 metres long and it’s four pillars are 76 metres high. The 117-metre central lift span, which weighs around 2,600 tons, rises vertically to a height of 55 metres to let tall ships pass underneath:



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