Bordeaux and Gironde are intimately linked by land and water, with an estuary of 70 km, from the Cordouan light house to Bordeaux, with its small islands, a basin full of oyster ports, bordered by beaches and huge lakes. 123 kilometres of Atlantic Coast, runs from the Pointe de Graves to the Cap Ferret where the tumultuous Ocean reveals its clear waters and beautiful stretches of golden sands.
Bordeaux flirts with the Garonne River, which you can admire from the riverbanks or from the cruise boats docking at the Port de la Lune and calling for adventure. Bordeaux like any regional capital, has it all. Beautiful by day or by night, the town of art and history, is a listed Unesco World Heritage (like Saint-Emilion and Blaye).
Bordeaux and Gironde ARE also a story of vineyards, the largest AOC vineyard in the world and, dispensing with false modesty, the most famous, with prestigious castles and 60 appellations !
With 388,000 hectares of pine trees, this department holds the record for largest forest in Europe. Another record, the Dune du Pyla, at 110 metres – according to the latest survey carried out in October 2015 – is the highest sand dune in Europe. Climbing it requires stamina; it is also a good work out. At the top, it offers one of the most beautifulpanoramas over the Bench of Arguin, the île aux oiseaux (Bird Island), the “tchanquées” cabins (wooden houses on pilotis) and the tip of Cap Ferret. According to the British Newspaper “The Guardian”, it may be the second most beautiful beach in the world.
The departement, the second largest in France, with nearly 1,5 million inhabitants, including 242,945 for the capital Bordeaux itself. Its sub-prefectures (Administrative towns): Blaye, Langon, Lesparre-Medoc, Libourne and Arcachon, are full of history. Between the Atlantic Ocean and the Arcachon Bay, pine trees, the city and authentic countryside, Bordeaux and Gironde is an invitation to a change of scenery and good living. Romantic escapes, a family trip, or a trip with friends, share a glass of Bordeaux to enjoy with moderation.
There are also many key industries in the region: aeronautic, automotive, technology and the pharmaceutical sector. Tourism, vineyard, silviculture, farming and the port traffic also provide the local economy many opportunities of development.
With its long Atlantic coastline; the Gascony Gulf, Bordeaux and Gironde have a tempered climate with relatively mild winters and dry, hot summers which are cooled by a much appreciated gentle maritime breeze. The Arcachon Bay and the littoral have a lot of sunshine. Perfect weather to guarantee great holidays or weekends away.
The department, which took its name from the Gironde estuary, did not always called Gironde. Born during the French Revolution, it was first called Bec-d’Ambès. It is composed of three entities, each with their own history: Bordeaux and its agglomeration;part of the Landes of Gascony; and the Guyenne Girondine. The history of the department is the history of its province, the Aquitaine. The area has been populated since the Palaeolithic era, the cave of Pair-Non Pair is part of this legacy.
The tribes of Gaul settle during the 2nd and 3rd Century in Gironde, then Roman region of Burdigala.
During the Middle Ages, the monks created Saint-Emilion, Saint-Macaire, La Sauve-Majeur. In 1137, Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII. They both went on the Second Crusade but they became estranged and the marriage was annulled, as she had not produced a male heir. She divorced Louis and very quickly married the Duke of Normandy who became Henry II of England. Henry was a Plantagenêt. Henry II and Eleanor were the parents of Richard the Lionheart and King John. After the Castillon Battle (close to Saint-Emilion) in 1453, the province returned French.
The construction of bastides took place in Libourne, Créon, Sainte Foy la Grande, and Sauveterre de Guyenne. The One Hundred Years War, then the religious wars brought much conflict between the Huguenots and Catholics and led to great devastation.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, military citadels were erected in Blaye, Fort Médoc, Fort-Paté. These are true walled citadels to protect Bordeaux from sea invasion, designed by the famous military architect Vauban on the estuary, a few Renaissance Castles were also built in Vayres and Cadillac.
During the 18th century, Bordeaux became prosperous with the slave industry. It is also during this period that Bordeaux saw the constructions of the Grand-Théâtre, the Palais Rohan (actual town hall) the townhouses of the quarters of the Triangle and the Chartrons, the first vineyards castles as well as the Place Royale of Bordeaux-actually Place de la Bourse, and the Tourny alleys. During the French Revolution, the Gironde paid a heavy toll.
During the 19th century, a huge development took place in the departement: castles and vineyard properties emerged; the arrival of the railway brought the development of seaside resorts such as Arcachon and Soulac-sur-Mer. The “Pont de Pierre”, connecting the left and right banks of the Garonne, commissioned by Napoleon and inaugurated in 1822, was the first stone bridge ever built in Bordeaux and several art pieces designed by the French civil engineer and architect Gustave Eiffel. During the second half of the 20th century, maritime pine trees forests are planted.
The Gironde of the 20th century is the one from the writer François Mauriac (1885-1970, French novelist, dramatist, critic, poet, and journalist), the actor Max Linder (French actor, director, screenwriter, producer and comedian of the silent film era) and the politician Jacques Chaban-Delmas (French Gaullist politician. He served as Prime Minister under Georges Pompidou from 1969 to 1972. He was the Mayor of Bordeaux from 1947 to 1995 and a deputy for the Gironde department). In 2006, under the mayor Alain Juppé (French Politician and a member of The Republicans political party. Prime Minister of France from 1995 to 1997 under President Jacques Chirac), the town turned back towards its river, the riverbanks became once again very busy walking paths and the tramway gave back to the city all its appeal.
The Chaban Delmas Bridge, linking the quarters Bacalan and Bastide, was inaugurated in 2013. The “Cité des Civilisations des Vins” (Civilisations of Wine Centre) opened in June 2016 (exhibitions, varied cultural exchanges, interactive and multisensory exploration of wine civilizations)…the LGV line (high-speed railway line) is expected for 2018. Bordeaux, its metropolis and the Gironde form a dynamic territory with an increasing population. There are 80,000 students. Bordeaux cultivates the art of living and one must not forget that Stendhal (1783 –1842, 19th-century French writer. Best known for the novels, The Red and The Black, 1830) and the Charterhouse of Parma, 1839) once wrote « Bordeaux is without a doubt the most beautiful town in France ».
In the section "Visit Bordeaux and Gironde", find all the heritage, the must see towns and villages, tourist sites and natural resources of this southwest land, part of the Aquitaine Limousin Poitou-Charentes region.
Photos credit ©Fotolia - ©Philippe Giralt