La Giraudière Volunteers in Bordeaux
La Giraudière volunteers are blessed with the opportunity to visit Bordeaux, only an hour away by train from Chalais.
The sixth largest city in France, Bordeaux dates back to before Christ when it was inhabited by a Celtic tribe. However, archeological digs show evidence of Neanderthal Man in the region. All this can be learned at the marvelous Musée d’Acquitaine in the heart of the city. But I get ahead of myself.
On Saturday July 19th, six La Guardière volunteers set off in the wee hours of the morning for Chalais station , or gare, to catch the train to Bordeaux. Beautiful fields of sunflowers, surrounded by sweeping green hills dotted the landscape as the train sped to its destination.
A quick breakfast in the train station put us in the right mood to take on the city. But not before Salwan had a chance to show his impressive piano skills on the upright in the train station. Accompanied by Marlene on vocals, he played American standards, Irish folk songs and religious hymns. So caught up in his music, a nearby shop girl, with pen and paper in hand, left her station to inquire of the name of his last song.
For the record, it was Danny Boy. Leon, Bridget and Sal headed off on their own while I joined Marlene and Colin for a quick trip on the tram to the city center.
The tram itself deserves some recognition. Opened in 2003, it is rightly so, the pride of the city. Looping through the most dense part of the city, it fans out to the more modern areas.
For four Euros you can buy a day pass that allows you to ride the tram all day, getting on and off wherever you please. Marlene was immediately captivated by the markets that seemed to stretch on endlessly along the river quay. Colin and I headed for the Basilica of San Michel with the goal of climbing its 114 meter tower.
The church, built in the 14th century, was heavily damaged during World War II. All of the precious stained glass windows were shattered.
Restoration has been imaginative with contemporary styling of the restored glass; it gives the basilica a timeless appeal. Priceless art fills the church but nothing is more impressive than the Pieta dating back to the fifteenth century.
A Roman catacomb and cemetery was found under the church in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Mummified remains were then displayed for a hundred years until the bodies were finally laid to rest in the 1990s. Dignitaries such as Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert visited them. Evidence of this can be found in their writings.
The Tower of San Michel yields some of the most breathtaking views of the city. The Bridge of Thirteen Arches along with the modern bridges are sharply in view. The vantage point from the top of the tower gives a stunning glimpse of the splendidly dense red clay rooftops of Bordeaux.
Bordeaux is a food lovers dream with streets of outdoor cafes specializing in local produce and seafood. We chose a salad buffet bar which served up ample portions of fresh greens and vegetables. The meal was topped off by a delicious creme fraiche parfait.
The afternoon was spent wandering around the City Center taking in the sights. The Hotel Bordeaux with the facing reflecting pool gives up one of the most spectacular views in the city. Children adore frolicking
in the pool and we older folks found the water refreshing on the feet. Every so often the pool would send up a cooling spray which also afforded the possibility of haunting photos as a ghostly effect spreads across the pool.
People watching is also a grand sport in Bordeaux. The tram lines, tourist center and markets all come together in the Grand Place. The Opera House, or The Grand Theatre de Bordeaux anchors The Place and is a worthy destination in its own right. Imposing in the day, it is beautiful when it is lit up at night. Cafes ring The Place providing great views of the Opera House and the passing people. We wound up the day having a marvelous meal along the quay watching the sunset and the lights of Bordeaux twinkling in the distance.
Sunday morning rose cool and gloomy making it an ideal day for a museum visit. Despite the rather
mundane name of Musee d’Acquitaine and the academic archeological focus of the museum, it proved to be a warm and inviting display of the history of the region. Dating back to pre-historic times with artifacts of the Neanderthal, Bronze and Iron Ages, the viewer gets a sense of the rich history of the area. The collection of Roman era statuary and mosaics is very impressive and fills you with a sense of awe and wonder knowing you are standing on the very ground that the ancient Romans once walked upon. The rest of the exhibition follows the growth of Bordeaux until modern times.
The sun poking through the clouds, was the signal that it was time to return to Gare St. Jean to catch the train back to Chalais. A holiday so memorable that two of our small crew booked accommodations to return for their Easter holiday next year.volunteering in France or A working holiday in France Don’t forget to join us on Twitter and Facebook!