Visit of La Réole: Medieval city on the side of the Garonne!

La Réole
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Come and discover La Réole, a medieval city flanked by a castle with imposing round towers and a grandiose priory. La Réole is a City of Art and History, which will charm you with its narrow streets that look like a film, its loaded past and whose traces and details are visible at every street corner... Its old quarters, its shops atypical and original, its suspended Rouergue bridge and the beautiful view from the opposite banks… We go on a visit with a tour guide, Alice Elbaz, to make the most of the city's heritage and all its riches.


Photos of the article: © Guide Bordeaux Gironde


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La Réole, a hidden treasure to polish

La Réole was founded in 977, it is an old lady (one of the oldest urban centers in the region) who has seen many historical adventures pass within it... Fortified city, it was built on a rocky promontory opposite of the Garonne and to protect it, 3 enclosures were established, respectively in the 13th 14th and 15th centuries. This geography of the city partly explains its division into several small districts and one can still distinguish vestiges of these enclosures while walking there (they are also classified).

The history of La Réole revolves around its Benedictine priory: the city that we have before our eyes, began with a monastic village! Archaeological discoveries also attest that before this " official birth ", La Réole was occupied by man from Antiquity and even during prehistoric times, which is not surprising when one analyzes its strategic positioning on the rock and above the river (perfect for fording!). La Réole, like many towns in the region, suffered from the Wars of Religion, temporarily stopping its expansion. It was then in the 17th century, with the boom in shipping and the development of river trade that La Réole gained years of prestige, the witnesses of which are the mansions that you will discover while walking there. Subsequently, La Réole suffered from the development of other waterways, such as the Canal Latéral à la Garonne, which dealt a fatal blow to the port. The rural exodus has made La Réole lose its attractiveness and it is now agriculture and tourism which are the two spearheads of the economy.


La Réole Monastery
The old monastery is now La Mairie
La Réole limestone
We understand here, in the old Pinpin valley, that La Réole is on a limestone rock!


The Medieval City is a stage on the Voie du Vézelay of the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle paths, pilgrims will find stages there for the night.


Today, La Réole is not the city we think of first, when visiting Entre-Deux-Mers and that's a shame! It offers many riches and beautiful discoveries to those who stop there. It is driven by a drive to promote its heritage capital, which began with the City of Art and History label (a project to extend the label to its outskirts is underway) and which translates into a real and beneficial desire to revitalize the old center: redefine, renovate, requalify, develop, rehabilitate, these are the key words and to encourage the city in this process, come and visit it!

La Réole organizes guided tours with speaker guides, I recommend that you participate. If you come out of season or if you do not have the possibility to follow a guide, there is a quality walking tour, which begins at the bottom of the town, on the port side, passing through Porte du Sault, the only one that remains of the 15 that had the outer walled enclosure, to access the city in the Middle Ages. Click here to study the stages of the walking tour and prepare for your visit. (in french)


La Réole from afar
La Réole, a charming old port town on the banks of the Garonne

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Walk in La Réole

A large car park is located on the banks of the Garonne, at the bottom of the city and I recommend that you park there. La Réole, it climbs and that's what makes its charm, put on well and go for a minimum of 2 hours (a day, if you do shopping and a meal!) Of stroll in La Réole.

During the walk, we cross the different neighborhoods, it's a time machine. We started with the Jardin Public. A little further in front of the priory and the monastery, there is a fantastic viewpoint over the Garonne (it was bad weather on the day of my visit...). You will notice the railway line, which goes from Bordeaux to Tonneins (Lot-et-Garonne), not very pretty, but very practical for the locals! Built in the middle of the 19th century, the station enabled the city to increase its trade routes to the outside. Turn around, you are in line with the monastery and its double- spiral staircase from the 18th century, surmounted by the great pride of the Réolais: the gate which closes the entrance to the monastery (which is now the Town Hall, take advantage of it. to roam freely), produced by the artistic ironworker Blaise Charlut. Outside or inside the priory, do not look for the original elements, it has been reworked many times and today offers a rather imposing appearance, 18th century architecture! The cloister is soothing with its covered arcades, crossing it you will quickly reach the Saint-Pierre church which is that of the Priory.


La Réole Gateway
The Sault gate, the only one that is intact from the time of the ramparts
La Réole staircase   Grid La Réole
The staircase that precedes the gate
Cloitre La Réole   Cloitre La Réole
The cloister of the monastery

We then return to the area of the primary enclosure, to find ourselves facing the plump towers of the Château de Quat'Sos. Funny name ? Sos = sisters = 4 towers, 4 sisters. It is the small stream of Charros , now buried, which served as a moat for the castle built in the 13th century. It was the scene of quarrels between the French and the English during the wars of religion, until Richelieu decided to have it dismantled to put an end to the bickering. It becomes a bourgeois dwelling now private, but which can be visited on Heritage Days or through guided tours (see the town's tourist office or the association of guides of Nouvelle Aquitaine to find out more).


Facede of the Castle

The Château de Quat'Sos on the rue et Garonne side

Quat'Sos Castle
The Château on the Garden side, here at the foot of the Château flowed (and still flows, but underground), the Charros

We then head towards the small neighborhoods, on the way we come across the remains of the second enclosure, colonized by small balconies hanging from the ramparts, it's very cute! We arrive in the Marmory district, where there is a wash house which was used by hatters to make the felt for their headgear. We can imagine a very lively place in the past, when the washerwomen gathered there to gossip...


Marmory district

The houses, with their balconies which are attached to the old rampart

Marmory district La Réole   Marmory district

The Marmory district where time has stood still...


We go up the city, direction the old center, where there are small narrow streets with picturesque wooden half-timberings. The old Town Hall dates from the beginning of the 13th century and its construction was supported by Richard the Lionheart in person: he placed a provost in La Réole (a state agent exercising financial, judicial, administrative and military powers) and the bourgeoisie. of the city having met in Jurade, had a Town Hall built (which at the time was quite daring because they brought together religious power and the municipal magistracy very directly). It was then a prison, before the opening of the walls on the ground floor transformed it into a covered market. Continuing the walk, you can admire superb half-timbered houses. The floors are corbelled, that is to say they are wider than the ground floor, to save space (without paying the property taxes calculated on the spaces on the ground, ahaha!) And for protect the lower facades from rain. At ground level, street gable stalls, with a large arched opening. In the Middle Ages, traders unpacked goods in front of the stall which served as a back shop and workshop.


The old town hall
The old Town Hall and the half-timbered houses
Stalls La Réole
The old stalls, here it dates from the 14th century

The Pinpin district, which we cross a little further on, takes its funny name from the second channeled and buried stream that supplied La Réole with water, the Pinpin. More than a small stream, the Pinpin was a real river, even a kind of torrent! It crashed down the rocky promontory before plunging into the Garonne. We notice in this district that the houses on the Pinpin side have their balconies, while on the street side, the entrance doors are fitted out. It is a promising district, currently under rehabilitation. Going back down to the river, you will see the Grande Ecole, an old 13th century bourgeois house.


Peysseguin Street   Old Center La Réole
The charming old center of La Réole
Pinpin district
The balconies of the Pinpin district
Grande ecole La Réole
The "Grande Ecole"

The visit of La Réole is very pleasant, it allows you to project yourself in a typical medieval city, with its well-preserved alleys. The city has magnificent potential, coupled with a desire to develop it. Do not hesitate to make a stop or spend a few days of vacation there because it is ideally located to radiate in the region, towards other points of tourist interest.


The Rouergue Bridge
The Rouergue Bridge

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