Monday, May 7, 2012

More about Bordeaux, France - Le Petit Train

Our city of Bordeaux
views from Le Petit Train

I'm having a lot of fun exploring and learning about our new city.  Traveling has always been a high interest of mine, so this area is so much fun to get to know.  Sometimes we take for granted the area we live,  my goal for living here is to not only learn about the city for myself (and our family) but to also know what to show people who are visiting.  It's one of those cities that depending on how much time you have, there are different things to see and do.

One of my favorite things to do when I first explore a city is to take some kind of tour - bus, van, etc..This I find gives a great overview of any city and also allows me a bigger sense of what the city feels is important to them to show off.  Now, Bordeaux offers bus tours and they also offer a unique smaller city tour on what they call "Le Petit Train".  This small "train" rolls around the city streets and goes in and out of smaller areas that some bigger buses are unable to maneuver.  It is for this reason that I picked this tour - hoping to get in the nooks and crannies of the city.  The tour didn't disappoint.

Le Petit Train is a narrated tour that you listen to via headphones as you are riding.  It is multi-lingual so the narration can be listened to in many different languages.  This tour started up by the Grand Theatre and across from the tourist office.  Tickets for this tour are purchased at the office of tourism. It says the tour lasts for about an hour - I found our tour to last closer to 1.5 hours.  The driver does stop several times for people to take photos.  Several times, she also got out and further explained certain monuments.  It is a very relaxing way to see many parts of the city.  I'm going to highlight a few parts of the tour below - I also had some fun learning about the history of each of these areas.
The Quinconces is the main square downtown. This area was created at the beginning of 19th century on the site of the Chateau Trompette , it is planted half full of trees, whose arrangement in quincunx gives it its name.  The plaza consists of an esplanade, sloping towards the Garonne river bordered to the north and south of the tree plantations. The large monument on one end is dedicated to the Girondins and two matching columns decorate the other end close to the river. Its area (12 hectares), makes it one of the largest open plazas site of France and one of the largest in Europe.  This allows it to host events such as concerts and fairsSince the establishment of network of tram , the square has become the largest transfer station network transport of Bordeaux.

Place de la Bourse
This place is one of the most representative works of architectural art of classic French 17th  century. To the north stands the Palais de la Bourse (now the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Bordeaux ) and to the south the former Farm Hotel (now Directorate of Inter- Customs and Excise which houses within it the National Museum of Customs ) . 
The facades of the buildings have masks which are carved by Jacques Verbeckt , Vernet and Prome. The pediments are: the greatness of the princes, Neptune opening trade, the junction Garonne - Dordogne , Time discovering Truth.

Palais Gallien - Ruins of Burdigala

These are ruins of a Roman amphitheater, elliptical in shape, measuring 130 meters by 110 meters, a historical monument since 1840.   The Palais Gallien is in the center of Bordeaux, the only remnant still visible in ancient Gallo-Roman Burdigala. This amphitheater is situated on the edge of the city of Burdigala.  It is the monumental gateway to the north and primers elliptical walls that supported the wooden steps of the cavea on the Eastern side.

Burdigala (currently Bordeaux) was the port city dating back to the 6th century BC. Around 50 BC., during the Roman conquest, Rome established its domination over the Aquitaine area.  Burdigala becomes the most important administrative center of the Southwest. and becomes one of the wealthiest cities of Gaul. Many buildings are constructed (aqueducts, baths, forum, temple ...), whose only vestiges are still visible today are the ruins of the amphitheater of the Palais Gallien, located within the city limits.  

La Porte Cailhau

This gate is located on the waterfront almost equidistant from the door of Burgundy and the Place de la Bourse. City side it faces the Place du Palais. It can also be accessed from the Quai and the Rue Bourgeois of Chai Flour.  From the tour, we were able to see both sides of this gate.

Built in the late fifteenth century (1493-1496), it commemorates the victory of Charles VIII at the Battle of Italian Fornovo. Porte Cailhau due to its age has had a couple of major restorations, one in 1882 and also in the 1960's.

Porte Dijeaux

This more ornate gate is directly off the Place Gambetta.  It also is the start of a lovely shopping street in downtown Bordeaux and runs perpendicular to Rue St. Catherine.

This gate was built as a monumental entrances of the city of Bordeaux in the 18th century, built between 1748-1753 by architect Andrew Porter.
The name is connected with the temple of Jupiter that stood at this location in the Gallo-Roman period. 

The final photo is one taken in center downtown looking toward Rue St. Catherine on the left and the Regent Hotel on the right.  It's all closed to general traffic with the exception of the tram that runs through.  It's often fun just to sit at one of the outdoor cafes and take in the city life!
I am definitely finding Bordeaux to be a fun city to get to know.  Many different historical periods and interesting architectural wonders.  

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