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DAY 12: from Mirambeau to Bordeaux 95 km

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

Today's journey takes us along the Via Turonensis to Blaye and then on to Bordeaux. In Blaye, we deviate slightly from the usual pilgrim route to introduce Floris to some other places. Blaye is located at the Gironde, where the Garonne and Dordogne rivers merge to form a wide estuary leading to Royan and the sea.

Quiet routes in the Landes, Floky searches the way on Google, a former station

We ride along very quiet roads, thanks to Floky's knowledge of Google Maps, passing through St Caprais sur Blaye, which is well-known to my brother Alain, who spent many vacations there in a cozy hotel with an excellent chef. The last 20 km of this first trip can be done on a "voie verte" (greenway), which is a fantastic bike route with plenty of shade and few cyclists. Most of these bike routes are created on old railway tracks, and I took a photo of a former station with its name still visible. Many of these stations have been converted into regular houses or vacation homes, beautifully located along green bike paths.

This "voie verte" leads us straight to the Citadel of Blaye, a military complex spanning 25 hectares built between 1685 and 1689 by military engineer François Ferry, under the supervision of Vauban, the military architect of Louis XIV.

The citadel of Blaye and the ferry boat across the Gironde

The basilica of St Romain de Blaye was largely destroyed during the construction of the citadel in the 17th century to make way for it. Some ruins were rediscovered in the 1960s, belonging to an ancient 4th-century church that was once a necropolis of the Merovingian kings of Aquitaine. It is the burial place of Roland, Charlemagne's nephew and Count of Blaye, along with his companion Olivier and Archbishop Turpin, who were killed in the Battle of Roncesvalles on the Camino Francès.

We miss the 12 o'clock ferry to cross the Gironde, so we decide to wait and have a drink, which Floky always enjoys. The ferry departs on time, and by a little after 2 pm, we find ourselves on the other side in the heart of the Medoc wine region. Now, we have 40 km left to ride to Bordeaux. We attempt to follow the old GR 35 through the vineyards, but the sandy ground causes our heavily-loaded e-bikes to get stuck. Floky finds paved roads that lead us through various large Medoc estates, especially around the village of Margaux, where the most renowned wine chateaux are found.

Floky on the ferry and several of the famous wine chateaux

We make a stop at the St Romain church of Margaux and admire two restored artworks: a pieta sculpture and a fresco of the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. These artworks were restored thanks to the auction of Margaux wine bottles donated by several winegrowers to the church.

Along the way, we come across a small village with a St. Joseph church featuring a tympanum depicting the Flight to Egypt led by Joseph. It's personally the first time I've seen this theme on a tympanum. Usually, a miraculously bending date palm is depicted on the Flight to Egypt, allowing Mary and Joseph to pick dates for baby Jesus and themselves.

St Romain de Margaux; the church and some of its artworks

Further on, we reach a "voie verte" that leads us 30 km to Bordeaux center. Initially, there's still plenty of greenery, but the last 10 kilometers take us along major highways, separated by a canal and concrete blocks as a barrier between us and the cars.

Riding along vineyards , St Joseph's church and the tympanum with the flight to Egypt

To reach the city center, we also have to cross the Garonne River. The fastest option is to take the bike path attached to the side of a super high bridge. Although there are metal fences on both sides, I don't feel entirely safe and don't dare to stop to take a photo. Meanwhile, Floky calmly cycles ahead and films the entire bike journey on that giant bridge with his GOPRO camera. He later creates a 40-second video that he posts on Instagram every day.

Having Rientje with us as a guardian angel makes me feel relieved as flying so high seems to be something he enjoys. Thankfully, we reach Rue Benauge in Bordeaux city center without any harm and not too tired. We're staying with a friend of mine, whom I used to work with for the Commission that is now the Erasmus plus program for schools and teacher training, previously known as Comenius.

Safe arrival at the house of Christian and Christiane with a lot of artworks

Since they are not home yet, we sit on the terrace of a bakery and have something to drink until they come to welcome us. Their old house, about a kilometer from the center, is absolutely stunning. Both of them are art lovers and have collected a considerable amount of art pieces. There's a spacious garage under the house where our bikes fit perfectly. Everything is just perfect. We each have a room and can take a shower immediately. All the dirty laundry from the past twelve days is gathered and ready to be washed tomorrow morning.

Later, we enjoy a delightful aperitif together before sitting down at the table. Christiane, Christian's wife, didn't have much time to cook, so she bought a large prepared package of Cassoulet de Castelnaudary, the authentic Cassoulet from the area near Toulouse, with plenty of white beans, vegetables, and a variety of meats such as sausages and chicken pieces in a tomato sauce. I love Cassoulet, and Floris also enjoys it a lot. After dinner, we have salad in the French style, and then a platter with six delicious French cheeses: goat cheese, sheep's cheese (from brebis milk), and cow's milk cheese. A French meal is incomplete without cheese, bread, and red wine. We talk a lot and (perhaps too much) as it has been 20 years since I last saw Christian and his lovely lady.

We go to bed at 11 PM, which is a rare exception since tomorrow is our rest day in Bordeaux. Well, rest day is an overstatement, as I plan to thoroughly visit at least two or three churches. Floris has begged me not to wake him up before 1 PM, and I solemnly promise to honor that request.

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