As soon as I unpacked my bag, I ventured out into the streets of Bordeaux. I was staying near the Cathedral so I headed over to explore the sacred contents. There was an outdoor market in the square in front of the church on the day that I visited.
The magnificent St. Andre Cathedral is a 17th-century church that took 400 years to build. It has hosted many dignitaries including Francois I, and Emperor Charles V. Louis XIII and Anne of Austria were married here. In 1137, the 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen.
I loved the stained glass windows and the paintings by Jose Ribera, a Spanish artist. There are also some interesting Italian primitives from the 14th and 15th centuries. I love the 16th century alabaster statue of Our Lady of the Nave.
The Bordeaux Cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop. It was consecrated in 1096 by Pope Urban II.
Bordeaux has over 2500 years of history. Urban development in the city of Burdigala witnessed the Golden Age of Pax Romana. Visit the Roman Gallien Palace, formerly a 15000 seat amphitheater built in the 2nd century to witness the remains of Burdigala; “Little Rome.”
Aquitane‘s regional capital enjoyed a strategic location along the banks of the Garonne River between southwestern France and Catalonia in Spain. In Bordeaux, the river meets the Gironde estuary that flows into the Atlantic Ocean at the Bay of Biscay. Bordeaux’s maritime prosperity from commerce and trade is readily apparent in the town’s magnificent architectural heritage.
Historically, the wine industry has been a tremendous source of wealth for Bordeaux. The city is surrounded by vineyards.
Every other year, Bordeaux celebrates their wine heritage with a wine tourism fair called Bordeaux Fete le Vin There are four days of festivities on the quays (River Banks). The local wine school offers an introduction to wine tasting class and there are plenty of wine tours to the magnificent chateaux. There are concerts, fireworks and special deals in the restaurants.
For more information visit:
When I was in Bordeaux, I had an opportunity to attend L’Union des grands crus de Bordeaux Wine Weekend in Bordeaux.
There was a grand tasting session on Saturday with many of the estate owners from over 120 estates pouring their wine overlooking the river.
For details and dates for next year, visit www.ugcb.net
Bordeaux exports wine around the world to wine enthusiasts. end wines, check out Max Bordeaux, a wine store by the Grand Theater.
At Max Bordeaux, load your card with some euros and start tasting. See you if you the Grand Crus from Latour and Lafite better that the other brands. The store has up to 50 of the best wines that are dispensed through the Enomatic vending machines.
Some of the most famous Bordeaux wines are from the Medoc sub-region including:
Haut-Brion is not in Medoc
Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone in Saint-Émilion; and Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin in Pomerol are also very famous. Some of the world’s most famous sweet wines originate in the Sauternes appellation, such as Château d’Yquem.
After the merger of the dynasties of the Duchy of Aquitane and the Crown of England, wealth continued to soar. In 1137, Eleanor, the young Duchess of Aquitane married the future King Louis VII of France. Fifteen years later, they divorced and she married Henry II of England. This turned Aquitane into an English territory with plenty of business opportunities between the two countries. The English were wine enthusiasts and the Chartron neighborhood of Bordeaux is packed with former wine warehouses that have been refurbished and converted into hip venues on Quai de Chartrons.
Bordeaux is the world’s premier wine capital! The Bordeaux region of France produces some of the world’s most famous expensive wines including: Margaux and Pauillac on the left bank of the Garonne River and St. Emilion on the right bank.
The Bordeaux region is naturally divided by the Gironde Estuary into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. The Left Bank area includes the Médoc and Graves. The Right Bank area includes Libournais with St. Emilion, and Pomerol, Bourg and Blaye.
“The Médoc is divided into Haut-Médoc (the upstream or southern portion) and Bas-Médoc (the downstream or northern portion, often referred to simply as “Médoc”).”
There are various sub-regions within the Haut-Médoc, including St-Estèphe, Pauillac, St.-Julien and Margaux. Graves includes the sub-regions of Pessac-Léognan and Sauternes. Sauternes includes the sub-region of Barsac.
In addition to the Libournais sub-regions of Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, there is also the wine region of Entre-Deux-Mers. This region is lies between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers, which combine to form the Gironde.
All of these regions (except the Libournais) have their own appellation. They are “governed by Appellation d’origine contrôlée laws which dictate the permissible grape varieties, alcohol level, methods of pruning and picking, density of planting and appropriate yields as well as various winemaking techniques.”
Bordeaux wine labels will usually include the region on the front of the label. The permissible grape varieties in red Bordeaux blends are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. A general rule of thumb is that the Left Bank is predominately Cabernet Sauvignon based with the Right Bank including St. Emilion, being more Merlot based.
Château Cheval Blanc (“White Horse Castle”) is in St. Emilion. It is one of only four Chateaux to receive the highest rank of Premier Grand Cru Classé (A) status. The others are: Château Angélus, Château Ausone, and Château Pavie. Cheval Blanc’s second wine is Le Petit Cheval.
Here’s a Bordeaux picture gallery from UNESCO; http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1256/gallery/
Most of the downtown area of Bordeaux is easy to explore by foot because it is pedestrian only. Rue Sainte-Catherine is the busiest street in town; over and half a mile long. It is loaded with shops and restaurants.
Here are some of the interesting sites in Le Vieux Bordeaux to visit:
1. The magnificent Opera National de Bordeaux (the Grand Theater) is considered the cultural heart of the city. Opened on April 7, 1780, it has 12 Corinthian columns in front that support the entablature on the peristyle. It has 12 statues by Berruer and Van Den Drix on top that represent the nine muses and Juno, Venus and Minerva.
2. Parlement Square (Place du Parlement) was built around 1754. It has plenty of outdoor cafes surrounding the central fountain.
masks or mascaron that decorate the buildings.
3. St. Andre Cathedral, a 17th-century church took 400 years to build and has hosted many dignitaries including Francois I, and Emperor Charles V. Lousi XIII and Anne of Austria were married here. In 1137, the 13-year-old Eleanor of Aquitaine married the future Louis VII, a few months before she became Queen. You can even visit the market and pick some interesting leather items.
There are paintings by Jose Ribera, and Italian primitives from the 14th and 15th centuries. I love the 16th century alabaster statue of Our Lady of the Nave. The Pey-Berland bell tower is free-standing next to the Cathedral. It is named after the archbishop who commissioned it in 1440. It is crowned with a gilded copper statue of Our Lady of Aquitaine. Climb to the top of the tower for a breathtaking 360 degree panaorama of Bordeaux.
4. Place de la Bourse (Place Royale) was designed by the Gabriels, junior and senior, between 1730 and 1755. Originally, it provided a spectacular backdrop for a monumental statue of King Louis XV. The statue was melted down in 1792 and replaced in 1869 by the fountain of the Three Graces. This naked royal nymphs on top of the fountain represent Empress Eugenia, Queen Victoria and Queen Isabella of Spain.
Everyone love the Water Mirror (Mirror d’eau) in Bordeaux.
You can visit the Musee National Des Douanes in this square.
Make dinner reservations at Le Gabriel for an outstanding Michelin-starred gastronomic extravaganza.
Bordeaux also has some interesting sites with architectural significance including:
1. One of Europe’s largest squares, the Quinconces Square (Esplanade de Quinconces) is located on the banks of the Garone River. Take some photos with the massive statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu. The statues were sculpted by Maggesi in 1858.
I love the monument and fountain dedicated to the Girondins. The base has beautiful bronze horses and warriors. The column is crowned with Liberty.
The Girondins’ Column is a magnificent 140 foot column that was erected in 1902. At the base, the sea-horses are spouting water. During WWII, the Germans removed the horses with plans of dismantling the monumentand using the bronze for military purposes. In 1945, the horses were found and eventually remounted on the fountain.
2. The elaborate Cailhau Gate was built in 1495 to commemorate the conquest of Naples and the victory at Fornova.
3. The Great Bell (la Grosse Clock) was the Town Hall belfry as far back as the 15th century. The bell was cast in 1775. Above the lantern Tower is a leopard weathervane.
Take time to visit St. Eloi Church, next to the clock tower.
Another interesting church to visit is the Gothic Basilique Saint-Michel, built between the 14th and 16th centuries. Take a photo of the gorgeous altarpiece depicting the triumph of Michael over the dragon. This is a stop on the Santiago de Compostello pilgrimage. Climb to the top of the bell tower from June through September for a fabulous Vino con Vista opportunity.
Go to the Church of Saint Bruno, a former 17th century Carthusian monastery. On each side of the altar, you will see Bernini statues. The high altar as a beautiful “Assumption” painting by Phillippe de Champaigne from 1673.
The 17th century Jesuit Notre Dame Church is also worth visiting. It has a single barrel-vaulted nave.
The basilica church of St. Seurin, the patron saint of Bordeaux, is the cradle if Christianity in Bordeaux. It was built next to a former 3rd century church used by Bordeaux’s first Christians. There is an archaeology museum in the church with relics and stone coffins that have been exhumed from the vast cemetery where pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela come to pray.
Here are some of the other interesting churches to visit in Bordeaux:
Get tickets for the Neo-Classical Grand Theater. It has a resident ballet and opera company.
Go to the Aquitane Museum for Roman and Greek artifacts. You can learn about the complete history of Bordeaux here.
The Cimetiere de la Chartruese (cemetery) in the center of Bordeaux has lovely 19th century monuments to photograph. Goya’s memorial is here but his body is in Spain.
Outstanding Universal Value
Bordeaux, Port of the Moon, is an outstanding example of the exchange of human values over more than two thousand years, due to its role as capital city of a world-famous wine production region and the importance of its port in commerce at regional and international levels. The urban form and architecture of the city are the result of continuous extensions and renovations since Roman times up to the 20th century. Urban plans and architectural ensembles stemming from the early 18th century onwards place the city as an outstanding example of classical and neo-classical trends and give it an exceptional urban and architectural unity and coherence.
Criterion (ii): Bordeaux, Port of the Moon, constitutes an exceptional testimony to the exchange of human values over more than two thousand years. These exchanges have provided this cosmopolitan town, in the age of Enlightenment, an unparalleled prosperity that provided for an exceptional urban and architectural transformation that continued through 19th century up to present time. The different stages of construction and development of the harbour town are legible in its urban plan, especially the big transformations carried out from the early 18th century onwards.
Criterion (iv): Bordeaux, Port of the Moon, represents an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble, created in the Age of Enlightenment, whose values have continued up to the first half of the 20th century. Bordeaux is exceptional in the unity of its urban and architectural classical and neo-classical expression, which has not undergone any stylistic rupture over more than two centuries. Its urban form represents the success of philosophers who wanted to make towns into melting pots of humanism, universality and culture.
Due to its port, the city of Bordeaux has retained its original functions since its creation, as a city of exchange and commerce. Its history is easily legible in its urban plans from the Roman castrum to the 20th century. The city has retained its authenticity in the historic buildings and spaces created in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
“The City of Bordeaux has 347 listed buildings, referred to the law of 31 December 1913. The historic town is protected by the “Plan de sauvegarde et de mise en valeur” (PSMV), approved in 1988 and revised in 1998 and 2002. A buffer zone has been established. Management structures for the protection and conservation of the nominated property include the shared responsibilities of national, regional and local governments. Interventions on buildings declared Monuments historiques (classés) must have the support of the Ministry for Culture. Several plans ensure the management and conservation of the property and take into account the following aspects: preserving the historic and heritage character, allowing the controlled evolution of the historic centre, unifying the various planning rules and contributing to the international significance of metropolitan Bordeaux.” UNESCO
Here’s a video from UNESCO; http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/932/video
Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides @ www.vino-con-vista.com