The Other French Capital

Bordeaux, our home for the rest of the month of July, is the capital of the Gironde department of the region of Aquitaine in southwestern France. The importance of Bordeaux to the French is evidenced by the fact that the national government of France has been transferred from Paris to Bordeaux every time the country has been threatened by foreign invasion since the time of the French Revolution in the 1790s: during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870; during WWI in 1914; and, in 1940 during WWII.

Bordeaux has been a flourishing city and port since the mid-1750s and, to these American eyes, it bears a great resemblance to Paris.

Monday, our first full day here, we set aside the guidebooks and simply walked the streets for several hours to get the feel of the place. Coincidentally, as it turned out, we followed almost the exact route that Nico had suggested for us, down the Rue de Marsaille to the Rue de la Croix Blanche (which became the Rue Capdeville), past the Basilique Saint-Seurin to where the Rue Judaïque ends at the beginning of the pedestrian mall, the Cours de l’Intendance. That’s where we stopped for lunch and it’s also where I’m sitting now, having a café au lait, while waiting for Dale to finish up at the hair salon.

After lunch, we continued down the mall to the Place de la Comédie, the plaza in front of the the Grand Théâtre, the opera house – that’s it with the columns.

And here’s the plaza (note the column in the distance on the far right-hand side with the statute on top, that’s the Monument des Girondins – more on that later):

Unfortunately, the Grand Théâtre was not open on Monday, so we couldn’t go inside, nor could we book a performance, but the lunch-break crowd couldn’t have posed for a better picture for me, seated along the base of the supporting columns (again, that’s the Monument des Girondins in the background).

From the Grand Théâtre, we walked down the Rue Sainte-Catherine, the main shopping street, in the opposite direction from the Monument des Girondins. It was starting to get crowded.

We walked the shopping district all the way to the end at the Cours Victor Hugo, then turned left toward the Gironde River. I had to do a double-take as we passed a parking garage to make sure that this sight was staged:

A little further down Cours Victor Hugo, we passed one of the two remaining gates to the once-fortified city of Bordeaux, La Grosse Cloche, built in the 15th century.

We followed Cours Victor Hugo down to the Pont de Pierre, the bridge over the Gironde River, just on the other side of this mini Arc de Triomphe.

The Bordeaux waterfront is really scenic.

These buildings line the Quai Richelieu, facing the river:

Tired of walking, we decided to get on the tram to see where it would take us.

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