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Claret for another day

Phil and Sue Newdick continue their travels in France in 2018, leaving Tours in the Loire River valley, and travelling by bus to Bordeaux, centre of the famed wine-growing area.

Roadworks coming into Bordeaux were extensive and slowed the bus down a bit. However, even the road conditions, which were not good, between the bus stop and our new home did not prevent us meeting our next host on time.

On first impressions the apartment we had found was pretty scruffy. Those impressions remained, and we should have booked somewhere else.

But never mind, intrepid travellers that we are, we decided to make the most of what looked like a bad decision. All we really needed was somewhere to rest our weary bones for the few nights we were in Bordeaux.

It is the hub of the famed wine-growing region, a port city on the Garonne River in southwestern France.

The larger metropolitan area has a population of 1.2 million (2017 census) making it the sixth largest city in France. It is known for its Gothic cathedral, ornate Basilica and churches of mixed denominations. Three of the 71 religious sites of importance mentioned in UNESCO’s 1998 Routes of Santiago are in Bordeaux — the Basilica of St Severinus, the Basilica of St Michael and the Cathedral of St Andrew. Eighteenth and 19th century mansions and notable art museums with public gardens line the curve of The Garonne River quays.

The grand Place de la Bourse, centred on the Three Graces fountain, overlooks the Miroir d’Eau (Water Mirror) which is the world’s largest reflecting pool and the most photographed site on the Port of the Moon (the name given to the river harbour).

Covering 3450 square metres, it was built in 2006. The bottom of the pool is made of granite slabs covered by 2cm of water. The mirror effect is achieved because there is no actual fountain — instead, an automated water atomiser creates a mist every 15 minutes.

We did not see the full effect of the mirror — hot days, school holidays and the number of people cooling off by paddling round in the water put paid to the image, but it was still an awesome sight.

Temperatures had crept up as we moved further south and the daily highs were now getting to 29-30C

We were shopping for groceries and were approached by a friendly local who, when he had established who we were and the fact we certainly needed some local advice, informed us that the best buy we could make was a large bottle of local claret.

He recommended a 1.5 litre bottle which cost the equivalent of about NZ$2.70. But we didn’t have enough room in our luggage for it, our stay in Bordeaux was not long enough to drink it and get over the hangover, so we thanked him and sadly put it back on the shelf.

Although we had visited the city in 2009, It was only an overnight stop and we saw very little of it. This second visit was a real eye opener. Even the humble accommodation we had could not take away the history and the interesting sights that seemed to await us around every corner.

The streets of Bordeaux are generally flat, clean and well-kept. They are walkable and although we explored a lot of the city, there was quite a bit we did not see. There was just too much to choose from for the four days we had allowed ourselves.

Moving on was not hard though, as so far on this trip the choices we had made just seemed to take us from one superb location to another and we were sure the next leg would be no exception.

Hopefully we will be able to travel again after Covid and if so, Bordeaux would be on a future wish list.

Pont de Pierre: The first bridge between the left bank and the right bank at Bordeaux. Pont de Pierre translates to stone bridge but this one is built mainly of brick. Since 2016, because of its condition the bridge has been permanently closed to traffic except for pedestrians, cyclists, trams and emergency vehicles. All pictures by Phil and Sue Newdick
HOT DAYS: The Miroir d’eau (Water Mirror) in Bordeaux
ANCIENT STRUCTURE: The Basilica of St Michael is a flamboyant Gothic Catholic church built between the 14th and 16th centuries. It has a separate tower.
CITY ENTRANCE: The Porte de Bourgogne is located on the site of the old medieval gate. It marks the official entrance to the city on the old road leading to Paris.