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SPotligHt on BLAYE spotlight on blaye Aquitaine J Christina visits the historic town of Blaye, it might be small but it packs a mighty historic punch 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. Here in the Gironde department, intrepid travellers can scamper to the summit of storybook castles, cycle through vineyardlaced countryside, walk through ancient villages and sip world-renowned wines. And it’s here that curious visitors will discover the douceur de vivre in a tiny onekilometer long settlement, once named Blaye-et-Sainte-Luce… Let me introduce you to Blaye, 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 an ancient and powerful settlement from medieval times, where the Citadel of Blaye and its military fortifications sit majestically over the waters of western Europe’s largest estuary. La Citadelle De Blaye, a medieval fortress, along with Fort Médoc and Fort Paté, formed a military defence system during the 18th and 19th centuries to protect the downstream port of Bordeaux from sea invasions and wars. It is a legendary example of engineering genius and Romanesque architecture designed and built by Vauban, the engineer of Louis XIV who left his mark throughout France. It’s a picture postcard town, with scarred ramparts that bear witness to battles and conflict through this historic maritime route. Nowadays, we find the citadel is a living monument, where inside the bastion, a maze of cobblestone streets, stone houses, artisan shops, cafes and wine shops, still thrive.
From atop the medieval walls of photogenic Blaye Citadel there are stunning panoramic views of the estuary and across to the famed Médoc. It is free to enter the UNESCO listed citadel and its ramparts, but within its walled city visitors pay for guided tours of Abbey Saint Romain or Musee d’Archéologie et Histoire de Blaye, via the Tourist Office. Walking the main street of Blaye, there is a feeling of authenticity. Vibrant street markets are held every Wednesday and Saturday in front of the Citadel, rich and colourful with tented stalls, filled with local produce and seafood. The soil in Blaye is rich and varied, and the area boasts 240 days of sunshine. This results in prized asparagus, figs, and celebrated Côtes de Blaye red wines from vineyards in the Gironde. A must visit is the Maison du Vin on the Cours Vauban to taste the famous wine of this enchanting region. A visit to Blaye is a like a step-back in time. a place where the locals are warm and welcoming making your time in the Gironde a captivating experience.
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