27 September 2018 San Sebastian (Spain) – Pau (France)- Lourdes
After leaving San Sebastian we drove across the border and returned to France. We are slowly working our way through France to catch the Chunnel on 9 October. Our first stop of the day was Pau, a city in southwestern France, set along the Pyrenees mountains’ northern edge approximately 85 kilometres from the Spanish border.
We walked over the Gave de Pau River and up the steep narrow streets to the main part of the city. The Old Town area has a number of pedestrian streets, so it is pleasant to wander and explore around.
We noticed pink umbrellas hanging from wires in the square and found out that they are a promotion for breast cancer.
We then walked along Boulevard des Pyrenees down passed the funicular which connects Avenue Napoleon Bonaparte where the train station is to the Boulevard to Le Tour Des Geants open air museum.
The open-air museum has 104 yellow coloured bronze totems which tell the story of the Tour de France. It has ever winner’s adventure through anecdotes, writings and photographs from 1903 – 2017. Every year a new yellow coloured totem is added to celebrate the winner of the Tour de France. At the moment there is an empty totem for this year’s winner, Geraint Thomas of Wales.
We decide to return to the Boulevard des Pyrenees via the funicular which began taking passengers up the hill on 15 February 1908. It is free to ride this quaint tram which takes about three minutes to complete the journey.
Pau is lovely and charming, even though it does not have big name attractions.
We continued on our journey to Lourdes, a small market town lying in the foothills of the Pyrenees where we spent the night with 7 other motorhomes close to the city centre. In 1858 Lourdes rose to prominence in France and the world due to the apparent supernatural appearance of the Virgin Mary, claimed to have been seen by the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous. Shortly thereafter the city became one of the world’s most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism. Today Lourdes hosts around six million visitors every year from all corners of the world.
28 September 2018 Lourdes – Blanquefort (Bordeaux)
First visit this morning was to the Pic du Jer Funicular where the best views of the Pyrenees from Lourdes can be seen. We took a hundred and eighteen -year-old funicular to the summit, which is at an altitude of 1000 metres.
At the midpoint the two funiculars cross.
Three males took their bikes up to the summit on the funicular railway and rode down the downhill mountain bike trail.
At the top of Pic du Jer there is a beautiful view of the town and the peaks of the Pyrenees.
We returned to the bottom and headed to Blanquefort, 20 minutes from Bordeaux where we camped in Chateau Saint Ahon vineyards with three other motorhomes. As we were a French Passion member it was free and included in this was a tasting of their three wines which they produce. The wines were really very nice, so we bought one of each.
29 September 2018 Bordeaux
This morning we walked about 300 metres to the bus stop where we caught the bus into Bordeaux city for our free guided walking tour. It was a little windy this morning, so we wore a jumper for the first time in a long time. The guided tour began at the Tour Pey -Berland, a 15th century Gothic bell tower of the cathedral constructed from 1440 to 1500 and remains isolated from the Cathedral to protect the Cathedral from the vibrations of the bell. The Cathedral is the largest religious building of Bordeaux and has been listed by UNESCO as a World heritage site since 1998.
From here we walked to a section of rue Sainte-Catherine, a 1.2 km long pedestrian street which is the main shopping street and is billed as the longest pedestrian street in Europe.
Then to Utopia St Simone which was once a church now converted into a cinema with part of the altar still intact.
Our next stop was the Puerta de Cailhau, once the main gate to the city built in 1495. This monument has a castle like exterior with multiple conical towers and ornate sculptures.
Next part of the tour was to St Peter’s Church built during the 15th century on the premises of the former port in the Middle Ages.
Outside the church is one of the Santiago de Compostela Pilgrim walk symbols which denotes the trail St James walked on his pilgrimage.
Just around the corner is Parliament Square an historic square named after the Bordeaux Parliament which features an ornate fountain and cafes and buildings with stone faces called mascarons, of which there are 3,000 in the city and each one is unique. The mascarons reflect the city history and represent in particular the slave trade period as well as Freemasonry symbols.
The next stop was Place de la Bourse which is square built from 1730 to 1775 on the edge of the Garonne River and was originally separated from the river by railings which disappeared during the French Revolution. In the middle of the square is the Fountain of the Three Graces which refer to the three daughters of Zeus. It is quite a spectacular monument and apparently more so at night when it is lit up.
Opposite the Place de la Bourse is Miroir d’eau, the largest water mirror in the world (covering 3,450 square metres) which alternates extraordinary effects of mirror and fog. It is made pf granite slabs covered by 2cm of water. The water mirror apparently works every day from 10am to 10pm on a cycle of 3 minutes of filling, 15 minutes of mirror effect, 5 minutes of emptying and 3 minutes of fog, but for some unknown reason it was not working today.
Connecting the left and right banks of the Garonne River is the Pont de Pierre which was the first stone bridge ever built in Bordeaux, commissioned by Napoleon and inaugurated in 1822. The bridge has 17 spans which is also the number of letters in the name Napoleon Bonaparte.
From here we walked to Grand Theatre de Bordeaux which was the site of a former Gallo-Roman forum
and then to Place des Quinconces one of the largest squares in Europe with a towering column rising 50 metres into the sky, topped with a bronze statue of Liberty breaking her chains.
It has a large base surrounded by fountains and masses of bronze horses. It was erected in memory of the Girondist, an active political faction who fell victim to the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution. At the moment the remainder of the square is where a circus and fair are being erected.
At the end of the tour we decided to head to Saint Michel Square which is known for its Moroccan restaurants. Our guide recommended we try the duck crepe at La Mere Michel which we did, and it was delicious. There is also a busy market which sells fresh vegetables and fruit as well as clothes.
We also stopped on the way at La Toque Cuivree to buy caneles which are a Bordeaux speciality. They are a sweet with a crunchy outside and a light moist rum flavoured soft custard cake texture inside and are absolutely scrumptious.
After a very long walk along the promenade we visited Cite du Vin, a high-tech wine museum with interactive displays and tastings in a curved aluminium and glass building. It showcases wine regions from all over the world, including Australian regions, and is really well done.
We then caught the tram and bus back to our campsite at Chateau Saint Ahon.
30 September 2018 Blanquefort – Fouras
Today we drove to the tram station, Gare Blanquefort to catch the tram into Bordeaux to watch the NRL Grand final between Melbourne Storm and Sydney Roosters at a bar near Place de la Victoire. It was a great place, we had breakfast and the staff were only too willing to oblige. Unfortunately, Storm lost but it was a good game.
We then walked to catch the tram back to our motorhome through the square passed the old city gate, The Aquitaine Gate which dates from the 18th century and was originally flanked by side windows that marked the symbol and tax entry into the city. Further along towards the river we passed through Porte de Bourgogne another gate which marks the official entry of the city on the old road leading to Paris. It is an 18th century Roman style arch. As our walk took us past the shop with caneles we decided to buy four for our journey to Fouras.
When we returned to our motorhome we drove to an Aires in Fouras, our stop over for the night. There were three other motorhomes here and the beach was within walking distance.
1 October 2018 Fouras – Bouchemaine
Today we drove from our stopover in Fouras to Angers.
As it was Monday most of the museums were closed so we decided to head to an Aires campsite in Bouchemaine. We parked looking out over the river in a secure designated motorhome site where there were many other motorhomes. It was a really quiet, peaceful spot.
2 October 2018 Bouchemaine -Tours
We went for a walk along the river and into the small town of Bouchemaine. There were several boats out on the river fishing and the weather was quite cool. We stopped at a restaurant overlooking the water and had lunch before heading to Tours.
We arrived at our campsite in Tours to an Aires where we have free wifi, water and disposal areas. By nightfall there were 5 motorhomes which was the capacity of the site.