Our Blog - Bordeaux June 2017 Blog - Sunday (Day 3)

For Sunday, I created my own "walking tour" from a set of walking tours that I could download from the Tourist Office and somewhat put them all together.

We started at Place Tourny, which celebrates the man behind many of the splendid squares, elegant boulevards, and decorative gates of Bordeaux: Louis-Urbain-Aubert de Tourny, or simply Marquis de Tourny. He was the king's representative in Bordeaux from 1973 to 1776 and he had a plan to make Bordeaux the most beautiful city in the kingdom: opening up wide, tree-lined avenues, creating pleasant promenades, harmonizing architectural throughout the city, and commissioning a formal garden on what used to be marshland.

His statue sits in the middle of this busy junction 3 grand boulevards meet, at one section of what they call the Triangle d’Or or Golden Triangle. Unfortunately, there was a bit of construction going on around it.

Place des Grands Hommes is at the heart of the Triangle d’Or, which is a wealthy area that is a showcase for luxury shops and elegant architecture. Until the 18th century, the area was dotted not with shops but with convents. As you can guess, the church property was repossessed during the French Revolution. In 1790, this large circular structure was designed. The roads that lead to each each has the name of one of the thinkers whose writings inspired the Revolution: Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire ... all great men or 'grands hommes' where it takes its' name. The glass-and-metal arcade exterior came about in 1991, replacing the original traditional covered food market.

Cour Mably has gone through a variety of uses throughout its' life. This elegant courtyard was originally one of the two cloisters (the other is long gone) of a convent originally set up around 1230 by the Dominicans (later known as the Jacobins). The current courtyard was designed by the military engineer Pierre-Michel Duplessy with Friar Jean Maupeou and built between 1684 and 1707. After the French Revolution, the property became the head office of a Jacobin political party before being used by the military for accommodation and archive purposes. In 1883, the State passed the property to the city of Bordeaux.

Also built between 1684 and 1707, the Notre-Dame church sits right next to the Cour Mably. The church was built by the Dominican convent to replace their convent and church that had been built in the 13th century but was torn down in 1678 to make room for the Trompette castle. Cour Mably, that you just saw, was one of the two cloisters of this new, larger convent. The facade is Baroque and has a really nice carved square piece over the door. On either side of that are 4 large statues and then up a bit further are medallions of 4 Popes of the Dominican order. You can also see the exterior of a great stained glass window.

You can somewhat see the baptismal font behind the gold doors. It was added to the church and the end of the 18th century when the church became a parish church and, therefore, there was a new need to do baptisms. The forged iron gates were added between 1810 and 1820 and was designed by a Bordeaux architect named Faget. The medallions on the door have wheat and grapes.

Inside, it has a large nave with barrel vaults and stained-glass windows. The interior of the church itself seems very plain compared to some other churches that we've entered, mainly because of the lack of painting and decoration on the vaults. But it does have 2 things that most do not have: the extensive stained glass windows and the elaborate high altar with the paintings (that you'll see close-up shortly). The stained glass is interesting in that they are really only up on the "2nd floor" and wider than normal .. most have very tall but narrow stained glass windows.

A couple really nice stained-glass windows that I attempted to get a close-up of.

This is the chapel of the sacred heart of Jesus, which was approved by Pop Clement XIII in 1765. The painting dates to 1876 and was done by the Roman painter Vincenzo Pasqualoni. It shows Christ, arms open, inviting all men to the communion for their redemption.

The high altar is made of marble and adorned with two angels and dates back to 1751. The frescos in the apse behind the altar depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary (hence the name "Notre Dame").

It also has a really nice carved wood pulpit.

Next door to the church is this small shopping arcade that dates back to 1878. It connects Place du Chapelet with Cours de l’Intendance and was paid for by the local dignitary Baron Sarget, whose mansion house was located nearby. In 1917, the arcade was purchased by the wine trader Nicolas Désiré-Cordier. Just two years later he sold it on to the city of Bordeaux for 1 million francs. The city was keen to acquire the passageway because pedestrians preferred walking through the arcade to the road which runs parallel, Rue Martignac, which was considered unsafe at the time. During later renovations, archaeological digs took place and uncovered the traces of ancient baths and mosaics. Some objects which were retrieved dated back to the 1st century. Unfortunately, it was closed on Sunday and we were unable to walk through to see the glass roof and metal framework.

We then headed back towards to Garonne River, to Place de la Bourse, which dates back to between 1730 and 1755 when it was known as Place Royal and initially had a statue of Louis XV on horseback in the center of the square. Then came the French Revolution and, as you can imagine, statues of former Kings were not that welcome, and it was destroyed in 1792. It was replace with a Corinthian column fountain, which was then replaced in 1869 by this fountain of the Three Graces. It represents the three daughters of the god Zeus and Euronyme: the goddesses of Grace, Beauty and Mirth (Aglaia, Euphrosyne and Thaleia). The buildings around the square previously had housed the Palais de la Bourse commodities exchange (hence the name) and the Hôtel des Fermes customs and excise bureau. Customs and duties offices are still located there, as well as the national Customs museum and the Bordeaux chamber of trade and industry. I've mentioned the mascaron's around the city, and they are particularly interesting around Place de la Bourse. There are carnival figures, angels and the faces of African women, in reference to the city’s triangular slave trade links. This fact is one that I didn't know before going there ... between 1672 and 1837, 508 triangular voyages departed from Bordeaux resulting in 150,000 Africans being deported to the Americas.

This is an odd picture ... but focus on the steam coming up in the background behind the bus. This is the Miroir d'Eau (Water Mirror), a complex computerized set of water circuits under almost 3500 square meters of granite slabs. It has been here, on the bank of the Garonne across from the Place de la Bourse, since October 2006. The concept was inspired by visions of a waterlogged Piazza San Marco in Venice. There is a pre-defined sequence which goes from a 2-centimeter deep paddling pool (the later pictures), to a sea of spray and mist (the first picture).

Place Georges de Porto-Riche is named after a playwright and novelist who was born in Bordeaux in 1849 and spent much of his life in Paris. De Porto-Riche was elected to become one of the forty so-called "immortal" members of the Académie Française (the prestigious body that serves as the ultimate authority on the French language). Unfortunately, in the speech he gave upon his election, he disrespectfully skimmed over the career of the person whose place he’d inherited, which didn't go over well with the Académie, who never officially welcomed him into the institution. He died seven years later in 1930. In the middle of the square is a Wallace fountain, one of the six of these cast-iron public drinking fountains to be found in Bordeaux (if you've followed my blogs for awhile, you'll remember seeing these also in Paris). They are named after Sir Richard Wallace, the philanthropist who funded their creation in Paris in the late 19th century. There was also a door with a really cool covering (so we had to take a picture) and an interesting mascaron of a goat.

This place has changed names a couple times. Originally the Place du Marché Royal, it was remodeled in the 1760s and renamed Place du Parlement, then Place du Marché de la Liberté after the French Revolution, then going back to Place du Parlement in the 19th century. Originally, names were carved into the building stones and you can actually see both of the older names carved there. The fountain in the middle of the square, designed by Louis Garros, was installed in 1865 and has the water flowing out of a number of mascarons (perfect for Bordeaux).

These weren't specifically on my walking tour but we thought they were interesting as we walked by ... First, a kids toy store with unicorns over the door, then a bistrot with all of these family pictures above it, and lastly, a building with a great bit of information on it ... the carved date of 1899 (I assume that was when the building was built), a sign that indicates that this used to be a company with wood (bois) and charcoal (chardons). It looks like the store (magasin) was on rue Mably and the warehouse (entrepôt) was on another road.

Going way back to the 4th century, this square is where you would have found the forum, or main general meeting place. There was a parish church and cemetery here around the 8th or 9th century which were dedicated to Praiectus, a bishop from Auvergne who died in 674. The church survived until 1173, when it became a marketplace with a well being dug where the cemetery used to be. In 1738, the well was replaced by a fountain, designed by Van Der Woort. Two reclining figures can be seen on the pediment at the top which represent the two rivers that came together where the original Roman town was founded. In the center are the 3 interlocking crescents, which is the emblem of Bordeaux. Below the red marble cartouche is a sea trophy with ships' prows, a rudder, a trident, harpoons, and a horn of plenty.

Across the square from the fountain, there is a pillar that contains a cross at the top and sculptured figures on the sides, which dates back to 1392. It stood in the square from 1392 until the time of the French Revolution, when it was removed. It was retrieved and restored in 1803.

I thought this was interesting ... you can see the old boot here which would indicate that this store made boots back in medieval times. It is now ... a shoe store (Minelli is a current shoe store).

The Utopia Cinema is quite unique, and I really like the idea. It is actually a church building which dates back to the 15th century, named Saint-Siméon because of its proximity to a sanctuary that housed relics of the Syrian Saint Simeon Stylites. They have kept a lot of the "church" architecture and art, and even has some of the interior items on display in the lobby. It, like almost all churches, was taken over during the French Revolution and has gone through a variety of uses, like being a storage house for saltpeter (the food) and a boarding school for future sailors. From the outside, while the windows are covered, you can still see the gothic arches. Trivia: anybody remember the little key-like device on the top of sardine cans? They were invited HERE, by Charles Teyssonneau, who set up a factory that produced tinned food. He invented the opener, patented it, and it is now used throughout the world.

This square, which only took its present shape after buildings were demolished in 1935, is named after Camille Jullian (1859-1933), a historian and researcher from Marseille who taught at the University of Bordeaux and did a lot of work to uncover the history of his adopted city of Bordeaux. The monument in his memory, erected in 1938, is comprised of Gallo-Roman ruins.

Up until the 10th century, the city's earliest port was located in the spot where today, the Saint-Pierre church stands. The port was fed on one side by the Devèze, a stream which takes its source in the suburb of Mérignac and the Peugue (remember the 2 rivers I mentioned above at the fountain?). Both actually still flow today, but they actually flow underground with the city basically built on top of them. There is an interesting blog from "Invisible Bordeaux" that actually attempted to follow the course of the Deveze River (http://invisiblebordeaux.blogspot.fr/2013/05/underground-overground-tracking-river.html). In 1832, there was an interesting discovery in a sewer channel nearby: a bronze statue of Hercules which was one of the centerpieces of the ancient port. The statue is now on display at the Musée d’Aquitaine.

The Saint-Pierre church is designed in the flamboyant gothic-style in the 14th and 15th centuries. The St Pierre parish dates back to the 12th century, and it is thought that as early as the 6th century, there was a sanctuary dedicated to St Peter (in French, Pierre, hence the church name), the patron saint of fishermen, in this area.

The church has undergone many restorations, most notably in the 19th century, with new additions including some modern stained glass windows. This is a more typical gothic church, with high, vaulted ceilings in the nave and side sections. The columns that are supporting the roof have the very typical ribs that then flow up into the vaults.

The altar is quite modern and, well, "empty" compared to other churches.

It has quite nice stained glass windows around the altar.

There is also an interesting wooden depiction of the Virgin Mary mourning over the dead body of Jesus (or "pietà") from the 18th century.

When we walked by here the night before, the restaurants that are around it actually use the space next to the church walls for tables for dinner. So imagine.... You are eating at a table in the shadow of this magnificent church....

This is one of the original fortified gates from the middles ages that allowed people into Bordeaux. It was built in 1495 and the sculptures pay tribute to King Charles VIII. When the gate was built, the river bank stretched all the way up to the fortifications of the city. Only the gate survives, not the old walls. However, you can see where the walls used to be easily on each side (the rough part that I'm touching)

In Medieval Bordeaux, there were lots of craftsmen who would live and open shops together on the same street by a given trade, and many of the streets in this area of town still include the type of craft in the name. For example, the road with these buildings is called Rue des Bahutiers, and was home to 'bahutiers', who made 'bahuts', which are wooden chests or trunks. This one dates from the 15th century, with an arched doorway on the ground floor for the bahutier’s shop and workshop, and then the living quarters above. On the first floor were the living quarters of the family. The mullion and transom bars split the window into quarters, enabling plenty of daylight to enter without the whole building collapsing. Going up another floor is a smaller window that would be the communal sleeping quarters, and then the tiny window at the top floor which is where the apprentice or maid would sleep. You can also somewhat see that the roofline is very steep ... 45% which was known as "à la guise de France" (in the style of France).

This wall and the windows with Gothic-style twin arches, are the only remaining part of the city’s oldest house, built in the 14th or 15th century. In the second picture, you can see the darker section in the lower-right corner, which somewhat looks like part of an arch (next to the square, barred door that is cut off). That is where the carriage entrance was, which was closed to make just a single door.

Next to that house is a gate and on the other side is a courtyard with a 16th-century mansion house. This house first belonged to Jean de Carle, president of the Parlement de Bordeaux court of justice although it has changed hands several times since then. On the ground floor, you can still see the arches, which would have been the entrance for horses and carriages. The living quarters are on the top two floors. The top floor is fronted by an ornate wooden balcony but the real beauty here are the sculptures of two muscular male and female figures in Roman-style attire on the first floor balcony.

Another gate into the city that still remains is the 13th-century Porte Saint-Éloi (also known as Porte Saint-James). The village of Saint-Eloi existed before the gate was built, and was home to artisans and merchants who profited from the alliance with England. The name comes from Saint Eligius (Éloi in French) who is the patron saint of goldsmiths, other metalworkers, and coin collectors. The name Saint-James comes from the Saint James trail or route to Santiago de Compostela, which is the pilgrimage route that legend says was used to carry the remains of St. James from Jerusalem to Northern Spain to be buried in Santiago de Compostela. Bordeaux is on one of the pilgrimage routes and you'll see various artifacts to this around the city. The clock on this side has a sphere above the face that displays the different phases of the moon during the lunar month. Below the face is the coat of arms.

The other side is the Grosse Cloche belfry, which is one of the best-known landmarks in Bordeaux and features on the city’s coat of arms. The original clock dated back to 1567 but was replaced by this one, that dates to the 1750s. The interesting part is the semi-circular dial above the clock face. It indicates the difference in minutes between the apparent solar time (as indicated by the shadow of a sun-dial) and the mean solar time (as displayed by our watches). Solar time is based on the idea that when the sun reaches its highest point, it is noon. The following day, when the sun crosses the meridian, it is noon once again. But what has elapsed can be more or less than our 24-hour units. Positive values on the solar equation dial indicate that the apparent solar time is ahead of the mean solar time. This can be by as much as 16 minutes and 33 seconds around November 3rd. Negative values indicate that the apparent solar time is behind the mean solar time, "peaking" at 14 minutes 6 seconds around February 12th. The dial indicates zero around April 16th, June 15th, September 1st and December 25th.

Hôtel Saint-François. completed in 1855 by the entrepreneur Antoine-Théodore Audubert (1819-1893). It was first called Hôtel de la Perle. The five-story, 70-window building featured many architectural and technical innovations: train rails were used as support beams, a restaurant-bar was located on the ground floor, there was running water on all floors, gas lighting in the staircase, electric doorbells (an 1831 invention), a phonic communication system to be able to liaise with the concierge at all times, and a rooftop terrace with its own communal washhouse. Although the outside of the building is really, well, ugly (very dirty and not really kept in the best shape, you can clearly see a headless sculpture of a builder, positioned in such a way that he is propping up a second-floor balcony.

The Musee d’Aquitaine contains around 70,000 items related to the history of Bordeaux and its surrounding area, from prehistoric times to the present day, focusing on archaeology, history and ethnography. The building, a masterpiece of 19th-century architecture, was designed by the architect Pierre-Charles Durand and completed in 1886. The main façade boasts an impressive haut-relief by the local sculptor Louis de Coëffard de Mazerolles that features figures including Homer, Moses, Plato, Aristotle and Dante.

Here, we get to the Pey-Berland tower and the Cathedral of Bordeaux. Unfortunately, we weren't able to go into the Cathedral (it was closed and wouldn't open until the time our train was leaving to go back to Toulouse) nor go up to the top of the tower as it was closed for the weekend. What terrible timing!

The tower is named for the 15th-century Archbishop of Bordeaux, Pey Berland. The belfry (built between 1440 and 1500), is the lasting landmark which is most naturally associated with him, but he is also responsible for the founding of the original University of Bordeaux (in 1441), Saint-André hospital and a number of secondary schools. It is actually next door and not connected to the cathedral itself (by design) as there was a fear that the vibrations from the bell, through the tower, would cause issues with the cathedral if they were attached. The tower has four levels served by a single spiral staircase with 231 steps. At the top you can see the copper statue of Our Lady of Aquitaine. It is 6 meters high and weighs 1.3 tons. The Madonna carries the Infant Jesus stroking a dove on one side, and holds a fleur-de-lis in the other hand. She faces Médoc and watches over the hamlet of Saint-Raphaël, at Avensan, where Pey Berland was born.

The Cathedral is next door. Originally, the cathedral was built in the south-west corner of the Gallo-Roman walls, which explains why (unlike typical Gothic cathedrals), there is no large Western gate. The main entrance is on the North and the cathedral (other than the lack of a Western gate) is typical for Gothic cathedrals. The Saint-André Cathedral and its twin spires were built between the 12th and 16th centuries and formed the backdrop to two royal weddings: that of Aliénor d’Aquitaine and the future king Louis VII in 1137, and that of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria in 1615. We first went all around the outside. You can definitely see where they have done the cleaning on some sections and not on others. As we go around the back of the building, you can clearly see the flying buttress's that allowed these massive churches to have such amazing, open naves. The flying buttresses were not part of the original cathedral, but were added in the 16th century when the cathedral was showing signs of weakness due to being built on marshy land. You can also clearly see the Flamboyant Gothic style, with the pointed arches and buttresses.

The main door, we took a lot of pictures on this one, as it had been recently cleaned (yeah!) and just it had a LOT of things happening. The "Door of the Arrows" is the most elaborate and prestigious part of the cathedral. It is lined with two gothic arrows with abundant decoration (hence the name). The Tympanum represents the table of the Last Supper, then an Ascension in which the apostles appear, and on the third the Last Judgment. Above the door is a massive rose window, dating from 1510.

Another door, this one called the "Portail Royal" or Royal Entry/Door. This dates to the 13th century and has a depiction of the Last Judgement on the tympanum, divided into 3 sections. The bottom contains the Resurrection of the dead, above you see Jesus Christ, seated, with the Virgin Mary (kneeling facing him) and Saint John (first on the left), along with 6 angels carrying the instruments of the passion. At the top is a narrow gallery containing 8 statues of bishops and kings. Then up above the tympanum is a row that contains large statues of the apostles.

This is (again) the Bordeaux city hall, which was previously the Palais Rohan. It was the Archbishops’ residence until the French Revolution, then the law court of Revolutionaries (1791), then an imperial palace under Napoleon I (1808), then a royal castle under Louis XVIII (1815) and finally becoming the city hall in 1835. Since 1820, it has been flanked by the Musée des Beaux-Arts, a fine art museum which boasts an extensive collection of works by European and American artists ranging from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

Porte Dijeaux is a decorative gate, erected in 1748, and is at the spot where one of the Roman-period gates once stood. The stone used is from a quarry in Frontenac, to the south-east of Bordeaux. 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. Royal emblems are depicted on the other side.

On the other side of the gate is a lovely little park.

This neo-classical structure, built in 1800, is the former Théatre Français. The main challenge here was to fit a working theatre into a triangular space, which he did by designing it with a narrow, convex main entrance. It has changed named a few times and has gone from light opera and comedy shows to feature films as it is today.

This is a bank building, Banque Courtois to be exact, but the reason I took the picture was the ornate carving with the name. You can see the 3 interlocking moons that is the emblem of the city.

And there you go ... as you can probably figure, we didn't do anything outside of the main part of the city, including no vineyards. We wanted to focus our first trip on the main "historical" sights of the city and we'll go back (most likely next year) for a visit through the vineyards as well as trying to catch the Cathedral and Tower that we were unable to go into this time. It was interesting to really compare Bordeaux to Toulouse and Paris ... it is more the size of Toulouse but looks more like Paris (due to Paris being modeled after Bordeaux when it was "rebuilt" by Haussmann between 1853 and 1870 under Emperor Napoleon III.

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