Bourg has a fairy tale looking village, a chateau and fabulous good looks that entice visitors to want to return again and again…
Blaye and Bourg in the Gironde Department, Aquitaine (Nouvelle Aquitaine as it was renamed in 2016), are synonymous in history and heritage but each embraces a special legacy, where they walked hand-in-hand through the middle ages.
Blaye is a petite but mighty hamlet whose Citadel played an extraordinary role in history, protecting the Gironde Estuary and the port of Bordeaux during the 18th and 19th centuries. All the while, her storybook sister, Bourg, held a prominent position at the confluences of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, inside her own fortified community
Bourg, is a hidden gem on the right bank of the Dordogne River, in the heart of the wine appellation of Côtes de Bourg, in the Gironde department. It is an ancient commune perched atop a quiet secret, and seems largely to have been forgotten by the crowds.
Here Bourg held a prominent position at the confluences of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, inside its own fortified citadel, up until late 16th century. Where nowadays it sits discretely among three prominent UNESCO Heritage sites: Blaye, Saint Emilion and Bordeaux. This tiny village once named Bourg-sur-Gironde, built in Roman times, has a tumultuous 2000-year-old history. Bourg was invaded by the Visigoths, ravaged by the Normans, fortified by the English, visited by four kings and hosted more royalty than anyone could have ever expected.
Moreover, in times of conflict, war, struggle and upheavals for control, Bourg continually protected the region for more than three centuries. There is scant history recorded about demure Bourg, but in recent history, it is highly praised for a leading role in World War II. Using the strategic location along the waterways to protect one of the most precious wartime resources – guarding a fuel storage depot in south-western France.
You’ll find the fairytale-esque upper village of Bourg atop the King’s Stairway – 500 steps winding upward from Port de Mer. Bourg sits majestically above the Dordogne River. Now within the chateau walls of what was once the Citadel of Bourg. There is a history museum, pretty gardens and breath taking views.
Inside the Chateau de Citadelle of Bourg, today named Musée des Caléches, you’ll discover a large exhibition of horse-drawn carriages from royal times. Classical concerts and cultural events are hosted by the Bourg Arts et Vins Association. In autumn, a medieval fair is celebrated in the Chateaux gardens and grounds. The museum is open for guided tours, including the 16th century underground passageways that lead from the riverbanks up-to the fortress, originally built to transfer goods up from the lower harbor, using horse drawn sleds.
Photogenic Bourg reveals a Romanesque beauty in 18th century houses, golden Bourg stone facades, and decorative iron balconies. It really is an enchanting fairy tale looking village with medieval streets and curlicue alleyways that tumbles straight down to the water’s edge. At sunset the limestone facades reflect rich pink hues. The port plays host to regattas, festivals and the annual salt fair, Foire Troque Sel, commemorating Bourg’s valuable commodity from the middle ages.
The Lower town by the harbor once was a flurry of activity, where barges transported goods along the river and out to the Atlantic Ocean. They were loaded with regional goods: barrels of wine, salt, and honey-colored stones, quarried from nearby caves, once used to build the historic buildings of Bordeaux.
Today the port of Bourg has expanded for increased tourism and the wine renaissance – taking place in the Bordeaux region, adding deep-water moorings and new docking platforms. To welcome larger cruise ships and river ships – all with easy access to Bordeaux. Most river cruises offer-scheduled port stops in sweet hamlets and villages for wine tours, tasting and visits to world-renowned wineries, along the Garonne, Dordogne and the Gironde rivers in southwest France.
Even though, Blaye and Bourg may seem off the beaten-path in the Aquitaine region, both are worth a visit to fully enjoy the rich and stunning countryside, abundant vineyards, historical chateaux, and picture-postcard villages, along with the wines of Côtes de Bourg appellation.
J.Christina is the blogger behind www.scribblesandsmiles.net. Blogging from the Midwest, J. Christina, and her husband, Mr. Christie, share their European trips so others can travel vicariously through their scribbles and images.