Podensac: the city with 3 castles!

Podensac
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Podensac: the city wi ...

Podensac is a town located at the gates of Bordeaux, it is located in the Land of Cadillac and Podensac and it is not a very touristic place… Be curious and come for a walk to discover its 3 castles: the first is a testimony of History (Le Château Cailhau), the second is located in one of the most beautiful nature parks in Aquitaine (Le Château de Chavat) and the third is the first reinforced concrete construction in France, made by Le Corbusier (The Water Tower!). Have we aroused your curiosity? On the way to Podensac for a guided tour with 2 tour guides.


Photos of the article © Guide Bordeaux Gironde


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Podensac, on the banks of the Garonne, has been inhabited for so long!

In Podensac, excavations have brought to light tools used by our ancestors the homos erectus, bifaces and perforated axes, which attest to an occupation dating at least from -8000 years BC. This is not surprising, because the city is on the banks of the Garonne, a mighty river, which offers arable land on its banks and the natural geography of the region consists of high points to see the attackers coming. This is all there is to it best for humanity to settle there!

Podensac and its castle on the banks of the Garonne
Podensac from the park of its Château Chavat, on the banks of the Garonne

We start the visit of the town of Podensac in the parking lot of the church. Today, I am accompanied by two tour guides : Léonor Reuzé and David Souny (links in French). They will tell me the history of the city and take me to places that are too little known, which make Podensac a little treasure for the curious.


Podensac Church  Leonor Reuze
Visit in good company with Léonor Reuzé and David Souny
David Souny

Let us return to history: The occupation of Podensac does not stop with prehistoric times, since in the heart of the village (on the old Place des Halles), the remains of a Gallo-Roman villa have been found, by through a superb Medallion Mosaic. It was discovered in 1898 and certified as part of the Field of Potentius, belonging to a rich weaver established on the banks of the Garonne in the 4th century. Do you want to know more about this mosaic and see it? Click to read a document detailing it (in French).

It was in 1240 that the first mention of the Lord of Podensac was made. Bertrand de Podensac was favored by the King of England and Duke of Guyenne (Aquitaine was English at that time), Henri III Plantagenet. He authorized him to build a stronghold in Podensac but also to organize a weekly market in 1242. It is an astonishing castle in its round shape, and its towers were in themselves real little dungeons. Access from the ground floor to the basement was through a trapdoor, to enter a tower, you had to go through the 1st floor and if they communicated with each other, it was the occasion of many traps and detours, to delay a possible invasion from outside. We will see that it did not go well… Today, only two towers remain of this castle, one gutted and the other leveled, as well as a section of the facade. Why? Because the loyalty conflicts (as often) placed him at the heart of quarrels that did not spare him. In 1295, the English and the Gascons are surrounded by the French, they resist this siege for eight days (which will not be the last attack) and when they are defeated, the city and its fortified walls are razed, except the castle! In 1303, Miramonde de Cailhau, the Lady of Podensac, took over the castle from her grandfather.


Facede of the Château de Podensac
The Facade of the Château, Garonne side

In the 17th century, the Duke of Epernon is Lord of Podensac, but it conflicts with the Bordeaux parliamentarians... The atmosphere heats up and when the Fronde (generalized revolt in France at that time in economic crisis) the duke had the town armed (in 1649) and the parliamentarians, led by the Marquis de Théobon, hit the Podensac brigade head-on, which took refuge in the church and the castle. The artillery destroys all the entrances to the castle in 30 minutes. The Saint-Vincent church will be renovated in a late Gothic style, but the castle is left in ruins.


Remains of the tower leveled with the edge of the sword
Remains of the leveled tower "over the sword"
chateau de podensac tower  Miramonde de Cailhau Castle
A medieval tower is hidden in the first picture, do you see it?

Our walk quickly leads us to the edge of the Garonne, we pass the wash house which extends a green space with games for children. We pass in front of pretty bucolic alleys, the city is in bloom. We arrive at the port of Podensac, formerly frequented by barges who descended the Garonne to trade from or to Bordeaux. Today, it is a perfect spot to observe the Tidal Bore. We then go up towards a secret gem of the city...


Podensac castle

Park near the wash house

Port of Podensac

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The sumptuous Domaine Chavat in Podensac

Did you know that one of the most beautiful parks in Aquitaine is located in Podensac? With humility, it is hidden behind gates, which hide within it a beautiful castle, a park with varied and ancient vegetation (labeled Remarkable Garden), a water course that highlights a sumptuous collection: a statuary with remarkable works to discover during a walk in this park… free!!


Giant magnolia trees from Domaine Chavat

Domaine Chavat

The Chavat estate, which gave its name to the castle, is located on a bank overlooking the Garonne. The field as we see today dates from the 20th century (1917-1920) and covers more than 5 hectares, but its location is much older. It dates from the 17th century and named for the family that had owned.


The Château on the domain side
The Château on the domain side
Château Garonne side
The Château on the Garonne side

It is thanks to Francois Thevenot, a public works contractor in Bordeaux, which is surrounded by great artists and engineers, the park acquires its value and beauty since its acquisition at the beginning of the 20th century (it was then a wine estate which is in the throes of ruin, it is bankrupt). Sculptors, landscapers and architects answered the call of this man of good taste, who even gave a young architect a chance to build a reinforced concrete water tower (quite innovative as a material at the time) , in order to supply drinking water to the gardens and the castle. This architect being none other than Le Corbusier… Interesting isn't it? We recognize its sober and elegant style, it is fitted with a gloriette with 8 French windows. To find out more about the park, its statutes, its creator and the restoration project of Le Corbusier's water tower, read this very interesting document from the association Le Groupe des 5 (in french).


Le Corbusier water tower
Le Corbusier Water Tower (right)
The Mystery of Life by Ernesto Gazzieri  The Mystery of Life by Ernesto Gazzieri
"The Mystery of Life" by Ernesto Gazzieri
Furietti's Centaur
Furietti's Centaur

To learn more about the history of Domaine Chavat, visit the site of its centenary (in French).


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Our walk in Podensac ends with a very pleasant tasting of a regional and yet internationally famous aperitif: Le Lillet. Yes, it is the Lillet struck by James Bond in Casino Royal, here is a perfect opportunity to slip into the skin of 007 (article available soon on the Lillet!). We wish you a pleasant visit of Podensac, do not hesitate to contact Léonor, who organizes visits of Podensac, it is so much richer through the words of a guide who will answer your questions and bring the story to life! You can download the city and park plan from the City of Podensac website (in French).


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