Blaye, France: Le Citadelle de Blaye

After spending time in Bordeaux, I traveled upstream to explore Cadillac, to explore the colorful life of Toulouse-Lautrec at Chàteau de Malromè. Now, meandering just north of Bordeaux, is Blaye (blaj) a commune, fortified since antiquity. Join me in discovering this ancient citadel once again.

Scribbles and Smiles by J Christina

The Aquitaine region straddles a prominent position in southwest France. It stretches long and lean against the French Atlantic coastline, reaching up to the Pyrénées mountain range and transcending to the Spanish border.  It is here, in the Gironde department, where intrepid travelers can scamper to the summit of storybook castles, bike through vineyard-laced countryside, walk through ancient villages, and sip world-renowned wines.  Tourist and travelers alike can discover the douceur de vivre in this tiny one-kilometer-long settlement, once named Blaye-et-Sainte-Luce.

Let me introduce you to Blaye, France, a petite but mighty hamlet, sitting at the southern tip of the Gironde estuary, formed by the confluences of the nearby Dordogne and Garonne rivers.  Blaye is a historical and powerful commune from medieval times, where the Citadel of Blaye and its military fortifications sit majestically over the waters of Western Europe’s largest estuary.

Le Citadelle de Blaye, a medieval fortress, along with Fort Médoc and Fort Paté, formed a military defense system during the 18th and 19th centuries to protect the downstream port of Bordeaux from sea invasions, revolts, and wars.  It is a legendary example of engineering genius and Romanesque architecture designed and built by the famous engineer Vauban and named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008. A picture-postcard town, with scarred ramparts that bear witness to battles and conflict through this gallant maritime route.   

Nowadays, the citadel is a living monument, where inside the bastion, a warren of cobblestone streets, stone houses, artisan shops, cafes, and wine shops, still thrive. From atop the medieval walls of this photogenic Blaye Citadel there are stunning panoramic views of the estuary and across to the famed Médoc. It’s a place where photographers return time, and time again to catch a postcard perfect image of the golden light that reflects off the estuary waters.

It is free to enter the citadel and its ramparts, but within its walled city visitors pay for guided tours of Abbey Saint Romain or Musée d’Archéologie et Histoire de Blaye, through the Office of Tourism.

While walking the main street of Blaye, there is a feel of authentic living, transcending through en plein air markets, held every Wednesday and Saturday in front of the Citadel. Where the street is vibrant, rich, and strewn with colorful tented stalls, where both locals and travelers buy local produce and seafood from the region. The soil in Blaye is rich and varied, boasting 240 days of sunshine that produces prized asparagus, figs, and celebrated Côtes de Blaye red wines from family-owned wineries in the Gironde. A must visit is the Maison du Vin on the Cours Vauban to taste the famous wines from this enchanting region.

A visit to Blaye is a step-back in time where the locals are warm and welcoming, making your time in the Gironde a captivating experience.

About J. Christina:
J. Christina is the author and amateur photographer behind Scribbles and Smiles, writing a personal travel blog from the U.S.A. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina. Christie is traveling solo, 2023.

You can read other dispatches from aboard an elegant European river ship, sharing the allure of Europe’s great rivers and their capital cities. Or follow them through serendipitous discoveries in the Cote d’Azur, where J. Christina captures the essence of a perched medieval village.

J. Christina’s work has been featured on France Today, Bonjour Paris, The Good Life France, and Perfectly Provence.

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