The Blayais, rich in natural and cultural heritage, is this wine-growing territory (Blaye - Côtes de Bordeaux) in the north of the Gironde, limited by the Charente-Maritime, the Libournais, and the right bank of the Gironde estuary. These are vines as far as the eye can see, small valleys where pretty castles or freestone houses have been erected, of this Bourgeais stone, iridescent with a blond color their facades, contrasting with the green of the countryside and the vines.
On the edge of the estuary, especially on the cornice road, galleries have been transformed into troglodyte dwellings. At certain times of the year, guided tours are organized to discover them. The villages of Blayais are home to small Romanesque churches which are pure architectural gems. Many hiking trails allow you to discover them.
The Vauban citadel, a city within a city, built on the side of a cliff and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, attracts many visitors. Access is free, as is the car park facing it, at the bottom of the ramparts. You can stroll there according to your desires, walking through its narrow streets, stopping in small shops, or walking through its green spaces that children are happy to climb.
Information panels tell its story. In order to defend Bordeaux and the kingdom of France from the English threat, Vauban built in 1685, on the orders of King Louis XIV, a citadel encircling the city. Long a military building, it is now a major tourist site in Aquitaine. This thirty-hectare monument, which is accessed by the Royal Gate or the Dauphine Gate, has several vestiges: the towers of the old fortified castle of the Rudel family dating from the 12th century, the Eguillette tower, the square of weapons. The powder keg and the convent of the Minimes – magnificently restored – host temporary exhibitions.
Its underground passages leading to the port can also be visited, as is the history and archeology museum at its heart (paying visits). The citadel is part with Fort Pâté and Fort Médoc, located opposite Blaye, of the "Vauban lock", this defensive triptych unique in France. In July and August, a small tourist train, at the foot of the citadel, takes travelers on a guided tour of Blayais, its vineyards and the estuary, the longest in Europe, with its 70 kilometres, and which recalls memories of barges loaded with wood, stones, and wine. You can discover the citadel by horse-drawn carriage with the Château Marquis de Vauban, which offers a visit to its cellars and a tasting of its wines.
Other emblematic remains of the city, the Saint-Romain basilica, now destroyed. Necropolis of the Merovingian kings of Aquitaine, including the most famous Roland, lord of Blaye and nephew of Charlemagne, who was attacked by a troop of Vascon looters as he crossed the parade of Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees.
We also embark from Blaye for river cruises along the estuary, from island to island (read the section devoted to the Médoc). The commune of Braud and Saint-Louis, on the edge of the estuary, is home to the Blayais nuclear power plant.
South of Blaye, Plassac has preserved the remains of Gallo-Roman villas which attest to human presence from the 1st century. Its small port is quite charming. Also to be discovered in Saint-Geniès de Blaye, a channel – seawater channel – the small port of Bernu, the carrelets – typical fishermen's houses on stilts – and the wild landscapes of the estuary.
One can also observe an exceptional fauna and flora in the marshes of Blayais.
To the east of Blaye, in the town of Berson, a stele recalls the battle of Cau, during the Second World War between the maquisards and the Germans, which left forty dead. The village is also home to the fortified house of Reisset built in the 13th century as well as mills and fountains to discover on the hiking trails.
To get to Bourg-de-Gironde, you can take the Corniche road, along the Gironde estuary for about ten kilometres. You can also see troglodyte dwellings in the limestone cliff. Bourg-de-Gironde, which contrary to its name, is located on the Dordogne, is a quiet little village, with its small port on the edge of the estuary, a magnificent covered washhouse dating from the 19th century, and its upper town leading to the ruins of the castle of the citadel where a horse- drawn museum has taken place. From its promontory, there is a view of the village, the estuary and the Bec d'Ambès.
In the vicinity of Bourg-de-Gironde, the decorated cave of Pair-Non-Pair has parietal engravings of bison, mammoths, ibexes, dating back 30,000 years. In Lansac, the mill of Grand Puy has been completely restored by a volunteer site, a festival is dedicated to it in mid-June.
Located on the Dordogne, the town has a small marina, the port of Plagne that anyone who has traveled the seas and oceans with his boat La Calypso would not have denied.
This is where the man in the red cap, Major Jacques-Yves Cousteau, was born and it is also where he is buried. A pretty Romanesque church was built by the Benedictines of La Sauve Majeur in the 12th century. The hillside of Montalon, with its 73 meters, is the highest point of the Haute-Gironde, a few mills still bear witness to the milling past.
At the foot of the Moulin de Montalon, a stele indicates the passage of the 45th degree North latitude, equidistant between the North Pole and the Equator. The town is home to the magnificent Château du Bouilh in neo-classical style, designed by the architect of the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, from the old 16th century castle.
In the surroundings, one can admire, in Cubzac-les-Ponts, a road bridge built by Eiffel and rebuilt identically by his grandson after being destroyed by the Germans during the Second World War.