Bordeaux has been voted Europe’s Best Destination 2015 and I’ll raise a fine wine glass to that.
Swan Hellenic’s cruise ship Minerva sailed in on Bastille Day, making a graceful entry along the Garonne River, passing under the new Chaban-Delmas vertical lift bridge to dock near the pont de Pierre, a bridge built by order of Napoleon Bonaparte (complete with 17 arches - the number of letters in his name).
On the sunniest afternoon the Bordelais and Bordelaises were out in number to celebrate their national day - and bagging a prime riverside position for the night-time fireworks display.
Children and their parents splashed about in the Miroir d’eau between the waterfront and majestic 18th century Place de la Bourse. A huge area of granite paving is covered with 2cm of water which about every quarter of an hour creates a complete fog to the delight of little ones who roll, chase, ‘swim’ and squeal in the world’s largest paddling pool.
The quayside is just one area of the city that has been transformed by Mayor Alain Juppe, a former Prime Minister of France.
A sleek tram snakes its way ever so quietly past Place de la Bourse and around the city with tickets sold on a time basis, rather than distance, so several cruise passengers treated themselves to an hour’s ride on the new tramway to take in the sights of this UNESCO World Heritage city.
Minerva, with its distinctive white swan logo on the navy blue funnel, looked quite a picture against a background of fine architecture including the twin spires of Gothic St Andrew’s Cathedral. She also turned heads as skateboarders, cyclists and joggers streamed by as well as the multi-generational families who were making the most of their day off, walking together along the wide riverside walkway.
It was a privilege to be in the city on such an important day, wandering with the crowds and stopping to the look at the funky ‘strip’ planting in the gardens created near the Miroir d’eau.
Rivers of tall grasses and swathes of rusty-maroon Helenium set against the dark pink double Echinacea worked really well with strips of grass in between for easy viewing. The two-tone yellow Rudbeckia Prairie Sun set against pale primrose-coloured heads of antirrhinum was a striking, unusual contrast which also caught the eye of Minerva gardens’ lecturer Christopher Bailes, a former RHS Rosemoor and Chelsea Physic Garden curator.*
Back to the fireworks, as the evening began to draw in many more thousands gathered on the riverside so what a perfect end to a perfect day with the best seat in town on Minerva’s Sun Deck and a glass of red Bordeaux in hand to watch the fireworks light up this fabulous city.
*Read all about my visit to Monet’s garden in Giverny and more about RHS-linked cruises with the All Leisure Group in next month’s www.worldofcruising.com