The weather decided not to cooperate with my plans to go to Futuroscope, so I found myself on a road trip in roughly the same direction as yesterday.  I would have found a cheap overnight lodging if I’d been thinking about it!  Instead, I got up early, stopped in a local bakery for a morning treat and off I went!

It’s funny to me to think back on my horror at the idea of driving internationally now – I actually don’t mind roundabouts and not having to stop at a 4-way intersection if nobody is around.  I also *REALLY* enjoy the whole “drive on the right until you’re nearly tail-gating someone, signal over, pass them and nearly cut them off getting out of the left lane” bit.  You can literally put your car on cruise control for a 2 hour drive and get stuck behind possibly one or two people the whole trip when a slower person goes to pass a truck at the same time as you.  It’s all so orderly and civilized – I’ve yet to see a single accident here despite people driving 110 KPH (roughly 68 MPH) to 130 KPH (81 MPH) on hundreds of miles of Expressway.  

After 2 hours of this lovely driving, I arrived in Bordeaux with my self-guided tour from “Invisible Bordeaux” in hand.  I picked the tour that included all the top-rated historical sites and planned to check out the museum when I made it to that stop.  When I got into the main part of Bordeaux, my GPS tried to guide me onto a street that was barricaded off for some unknown reason.  This appeared to be the case on many of the roads, so being 6 minutes from the start of the tour, I thought I’d just walk.

As I looked for the start of the tour, I happened upon this old gate (note the date of 1748!) because, well, this stuff is everywhere in France.  Shortly after that, I did manage to find the start of the tour, which was the Grand Theatre.

Despite the tram stop, the Grand Theater could fortunately still be photographed decently.  The building was constructed between 1773 and 1780 – sadly, you can only view the inside on a guided tour through the tourism office or if you’re attending a show.  Directly across from it was the Grand Hotel and, I must say, the stormy skies made a nice backdrop!

I then followed my tour down the Rue Sainte-Catherine.  While I’d generally rather do ANYTHING other than tour a shopping street, it was a quick way between sites.  I also learned about the interesting history of these little markers, which mark the path for St. James’ Way pilgrims.  A quick pic too of the “longest shopping street in Europe.”


I somehow ended up on the wrong street and missed the Place du Parlement, which I decided not to return for as it wasn’t a top spot on my list.  My only critique of the guide is that the street you’re supposed to take is often not shown by name on the maps, so it is rather easy to end up on the wrong street.  I did manage to find myself at the river though, which made locating the Place de la Bourse rather easy!  The square was designed between 1730 and 1755 by a guy who also designed part of Versailles and Ecole Militaire in Paris.  I particularly liked the Fountain of Three Graces, which are the goddesses of Grace, Beauty and Mirth.  Sadly, the area where you see people sitting is the Miroir d’Eau, which forms a lovely reflection of the Place de la Bourse . . . except when it’s shut off for the winter!  I should also mention that I really, really wish I’d brought my 17-40mm extra wide angle lens!  There are just way too many scenic places packed into tight quarters or places like this, where I was literally bent over a railing at the waist with a river behind me and STILL couldn’t get the whole thing in!
While lost, I’d already passed the Porte Cailhau, but was happy to learn what it was!  The port has been in existence since 1495!!!  On the edges, you can see where the city walls used to attach and this was an entryway from the river in medieval times.
Also. a quick picture of a bridge!  The river Garonne and the Pont de Pierre bridge that was first built in 1822.
I wandered toward the next site on the tour, the Porte Saint Eloi and Grosse Clouche.  There’s apparently a church attached to the port (ok, there IS a church attached), but everything is so tightly packed that photographs were a serious challenge.  Also, the only way people making post card photos have no people in the pictures was either due to the area being closed temporarily or they photoshopped them out – even when it started to rain, the city is packed with people wandering about.  The porte has been in existence since the 13th century; however, the bell tower was added in the 15th century.  The church, from 1245, was only recently restored and put back into use.
It isn’t an optical illusion – the buildings to the side ARE attached to the wall – it is not uncommon in Europe to find that newer construction used an ancient city wall as one wall in the new building.

It was perfect timing that I arrived at the Musée d’Aquitaine just as it started to really rain.  It was also fortunate that, with it being the first Sunday, it was free!  I actually enjoyed my whole tour of Bordeaux for just the price of parking!  I will say that the museum is well worth the normal 4 Euro fee as Bordeaux consolidated several smaller museums into one large showcase of human history in the area.  The building itself was built in 1886, then used as part of the Bordeaux University before becoming a museum.
If you wish to see Bordeaux without a two hour walk, the city has conviently built a tram with stops by nearly all of the major historical buildings; however, the shelters are so unfortunately placed that, rather than Marseille and the modern art, this city’s photos could be subtitled, “Bordeaux, why must you place tram shelters directly in front of historical buildings?”

Because architecture, history and ethnography are all things I enjoy in a museum and, well, it was raining, I strolled around inside for a bit.  They had a fascinating sampling of items on display from ancient human artifacts to this Roman-era marker for a child’s grave 😦
It then moved into items from the French monarchy with the Fleur-de-lis from 1500-1529 and the ornate tomb of a knight.
Onto more modern history, there was a display about France’s exploration of the seas and a very honest portrayal of the significant slave trade out of Bordeaux.  Then, an area that was set up like you’d just stepped into an early ~1900s store.  There were some religious displays throughout, but some lovely preserved stained glass was on display as well.

The signs are only in French in the museum, so you can easily wander through and just look at what is there in about an hour or so.  It had stopped raining at that point, so I headed back out and towards the belfry built between 1440-1500, which is the Tour Pey-Berland.  You can climb up to the top, but there was a bit of a line at the time, a charge and I just decided to take a pass.  
Instead, I moved on to the Cathédrale Saint-André.  Despite leaning flat up against the, again, unfortunately placed metro shelter, I was unable to get a proper shot of the Cathédrale.  The interior was stunning and a picture can’t truly convey how IMMENSE the interior is.  Quite a lovely example of Gothic design, although there is some controversy about the cleaning that has taken place.  In the first example, you see the uncleaned “old” church.  In the second, the dividing line between.  Then, an interior shot and, last, a photo of the ornate entrance with carvings similar to those of Notre Dame, but looking a bit less “Gothic” since it is so clean it looks like it could have just been built!  The church hosted the wedding of Aliénor d’Aquitaine in 1137 and another royal wedding in 1615.
The next stop was nearby and was Bordeaux’s very own Hôtel de Ville!  I love the story I found online about an Australian woman who mistakenly thought she’d found a hotel, entered while an official meeting was going on, used a toilet and found herself locked in overnight when the meeting ended before she found the “hotel staff.”  NOTE: These are not hotels.  Please do not repeat this error, my friends!

Bordeaux’s Hôtel de Ville is more commonly called the Palais de Rohan, after the Archbishop who had it built, because it served to house the Archbishop from the 18th Century until the French Revolution.  It became a City Hall in 1835.  Photo of the outer wall and gate, then the interior courtyard:
The tour then returned me to the Place Gambetta, near where I’d parked my car.  While the tour continues around the area, there was nothing else of particular photographic interest.  If the theme of my photographs hasn’t given it away, I especially like ancient architecture and sculpture, so they tend to be the primary focus of my site seeing.

I continue to be surprised by who stumbles upon my blog!  With the topics centered around France, I suppose having French people as the 2nd largest group isn’t too surprising nor is Germany since I have friends there (or even Belgium since I started there).  I am very curious what has brought people from Russia, Austria and even further afield to the blog though!
Up next: A few pictures of the scenic areas in my town, then a Chateau weekend in the Loire Valley!