Day 6 |
May 12, 2012

Bordeaux, France 

By Gordon Corrigan, Military Historian

Co-ordinates: At 12.45 pm N 44.50.40, W 0.34.10
Weather: Cloudy, dry
Air Temperature: 17.5ºC
Pressure: 1026 hPa
Wind: 18 kmph

Overnight, the Silver Explorer sailed through occasionally choppy seas until turning into the mouth of the River Gironde at 7.30 am. As we had breakfast we could see the tree- and reed-covered banks on either side of the river.

At 10.00 am I gave a lecture on the Royal Marine commando canoe-born raid on the German-occupied port of Bordeaux that took place in December 1942. We docked in the port slightly earlier than forecast, at 12.30 pm, and after lunch we disembarked for a walking tour of the beautiful city of Bordeaux, which, thanks to the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry II, had the good fortune to be English for 300 years.

For our walking tour we divided into four groups. My walk took us along the riverfront of Chartrons, where the trade in claret began, past a modern paddling pool and the monument to the Girondins, heroes of the French revolution. (Bordeaux was a city of largely royalist sympathies, and in 1814 was one of the first French cities to surrender to Wellington and declare for the Bourbons). We saw the magnificent Grand Theatre built in 1773 and doubling as an opera house, and old Bordeaux with its Parlement (not a parliament but a court, and now a row of restaurants) and original bourse (stock exchange). We then moved to rejoin the bus, negotiating a 'March for Jesus' on the way, and drove through the Asian quarter before visiting the cathedral of St Andrew and then finishing at the Museum of Decorative arts, a seventeenth century building exhibiting Bordeaux porcelain and furniture.

At around 5.00 pm we all returned to the Silver Explorer when guests had the option of relaxing on board before dinner, or exploring Bordeaux individually.