The Citadel of Blaye
Easily one of the most historically interesting places we visited the entire trip! A UNESCO historic site, it was designed by the famous military architect, Vauban, and built to his specifications under the guidance of King Louis XIV in 1685. The idea was to seal off the Gironde river, thus indirectly protecting the city of Bordeaux from (primarily English) invasion. This was accomplished as the stronghold was so fortified, and so intimidating in the completeness of its design that it was never approached by the enemy during that time.
As you can see it is a sprawling endeavor, occupying over 95 acres. And the defensive goals were not only for the river, but also to protect invasion by land. Inside its walls was a complete, self sustaining village capable of housing up to 900 soldiers.
The site has been strategically important as far back as the Romans. To expedite construction time, Vauban´s design incorporated, rather then demolished, the presence of an existing 12th century castle.
There were even secret tunnels built into the design that would allow troops to reach fallback positions very quickly. Part of our tour included exploration of some of these tunnels.
Believe me, I could go on and on about this place and even break the internet by posting a flood of pictures. If you are ever in this region of the world, be sure to get a guided tour of this incredible military masterpiece.
Bicycle ride from Blaye to Bourg
This was a pretty intense ride. While only 18km (11mi), it was through some of the more hilly areas of the coast. And it also required a commitment; once we left on the bikes, the boat also departed! So there was no turning back. It was interesting because as we reached the top of one of the biggest hills, we were just able to see the boat cruising along the river below us. I hate that I wasn’t able to get a pic of that, but we didn’t really make any stops for the duration of the trip.
We got back to the boat just in time for lunch, and boy were we hungry after a ride like that! Jana was, apparently more hungry than me; you won’t find any frog legs on my plate! And the look on her face, well, she just doesn’t look that enthused about them. She does claim, however, that they were delicious; we’ll just have to take your word for that one!
After that, we went in town for a wine festival. It was in a facility overlooking the river. If you look through my glass, you can make out our boat down there docked on the river.
And fortunately, I will not be running for any political office, so I don’t have to worry about this picture coming back to haunt me! But seriously, it was a great time. They had the cutest little French band you ever saw. There was wine, music, and dancing!
PHEW, hard to believe that was all just one day! That’s another great thing about riverboat cruising; after a long day of adventuring, you know the familiar, comfortable ship will be waiting for you at the dock ready to refresh and recharge you. Once back on board, we had another nice dinner, and some relaxing time on deck. What a great day.