Blaye & Bourg: Perched Atop A Quiet Secret in Dordogne

Let me tell you about the strong and brave neighbor Bourg. A quaint medieval village perched atop a quiet secret: hence it seems to be forgotten by the crowds.

Bourg held a prominent position at the confluences of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, inside her own fortified community.  Where this tiny hamlet was invaded by Visigoths, ravaged by the Normans, fortified  by the English, visited by four kings and hosted more royalty than anyone ever expected.

Scribbles and Smiles by J Christina
Chateau de Citadelle of Bourg
 photo: T. Sonnnontine
Blaye and Bourg are synonymous in history and heritage but each embraces a special legacy, where they walked hand-in-hand through the middle ages.  Bourg, France, 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. 

Scribbles and Smiles by J Christina
atop Bourg, France----Nouvelle Aquitaine as it was renamed in 2016
Here Bourg held a prominent position at the confluences of the Dordogne and Garonne Rivers, inside her own fortified citadel, up until late 16th century.   Where nowadays Bourg sits discretely among three prominent UNESCO Heritage sites:  Blaye, Saint Émilion and Bordeaux. This tiny village once named Bourg-sur-Gironde, built in Roman times, tells a tumultuous 2000-year-old history. 

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, Bourg is highly praised for the strategic and vital waterways -  offering shelter and protection in times of conflict. 

Scribbles and Smiles by J Christina
 photo: T. Sonnnontine

We find this fairytale-esque Upper village of Bourg crowning atop the King’s Stairway - 500 steps winding upward from Port de Mer.  Bourg sits majestically above the Dordogne River standing straight and tall within the now chateau walls at the once Citadel of Bourg, where today we receive a warm welcome and breath taking views for visitors from around the world.

Inside the Chateau de Citadelle of Bourg, today named Musée des Caléches, housing a large exhibit of horse-drawn carriages from royal times and where classical concerts and cultural events are hosted by the Bourg Arts et Vins Association.  Every autumn, a medieval fair is celebrated in the Chateaux French garden 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  pure Romanesque beauty in 18th century houses, golden Bourg stone facades, and decorative iron balconies for all to admire.  Bourg is an enchanting fairytale village with medieval streets and curlicue alleyways that tumbles straight down to the water’s edge – where at sunset the limestone facades reflect rich pink hues.  Currently, the port plays host to regattas, festivals and the annual salt fair, Foire Troque Sel, commemorating Bourg’s valuable commodity from the middle ages.
Overlook at Bourg
 photo: T. Sonnnontine
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.  Once loaded with regional goods for trade or sale:  barrels of wine, salt, and honey-colored stones, quarried from nearby caves, once used to build the historic buildings of Bordeaux.

Today the harbor side of Bourg has expanded for the 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.

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J. Christina