Bordeaux and its region are about to be equipped with one of the largest lasers in the worlds, the Megajoule Laser, an exceptional research tool with only one equivalent in the world, in California. Installed in the Centre for Scientific and Technical Studies of Aquitaine (CESTA), the laser has strategic purposes and will be placed under the jurisdiction of France’s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). But it will be open to the scientific community for a significant part of its utilisation. The laser will help break new ground in the fields of astronomy and the resistance of materials in an extreme environment. The laser will be a chance a to develop optical and science technology industries in the area.
The building in which the laser will take place was finished in 2008 in Le Barp, 25 km from Bordeaux, and the site should be completed by 2011. Public investment in the project is estimated at three billion euros over 15 years.
He might not be as well known as the two other great minds in the history of Bordeaux – Montaigne and Montesquieu – yet Etienne de la Boetie was one the first advocates of individual freedom in a book he wrote at the age of 18: the Discourse of Voluntary Servitude. The text, written in reaction to the ruthless repression of a revolt in Bordeaux against abusive taxes in 1548, pleased Montaigne so much that he became a life-long friend of the young bourgeois raised in an educated family of Sarlat. The ideas exposed in the Discourse are strikingly modern. La Boetie studies the relationships leading to power and wonders how a people can accept the domination of the powerful. A few excerpts from the text speak for themselves: “Be determined not to serve anymore and you will be free” or “Tyrants are great only because we are on our knees.” The youngest member of Bordeaux Parliament, La Boetie was also an inspired poet and a bon viveur: “I love what feeds me, drinks, food and books,” he used to say. In 1560, he turned to diplomacy and led talks to settle the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants. In 1563, dysentery struck and he died suddenly at the age of 33, an early death which later earned him the nickname of “Rimbaud of thought”.
Bordeaux is, after Paris, the town most visited by the Tour and thanks to the cycling track on which were set several world records, can be considered as the other capital of cycling in France. Among the many riders hailing from Bordeaux and its region, the Lapebie brothers – Guy, the youngest, left us recently – hold a special place. Roger became immensely popular when he won the first Tour of the post-Desgrange era in 1937. Roger Lapebie was not great friends with the Tour founder, it must be said. 1937’s was an eventful Tour, which was finally decided in Bordeaux when defending champion Sylvere Maes of Belgium called it quits, claiming he had been harassed by French fans. As a result, Lapebie found himself wearing the yellow jersey on his local roads and took it all the way to Paris. Another Bordeaux-Paris ride was not so triumphant for Lapebie. In 1939, in the classic between the two cities, he suffered a knee injury which put an end to his career.
Ten years later, his brother Guy also won a stage in Bordeaux in a mass sprint, the traditional conclusion to most Bordeaux stages. Van Looy, Darrigade, Godefroot, Maertens, Van Poppel or Zabel – most sprint aces won on the Lescure track or on the Garonne banks. The record stage winner here is of course Eddy Merckx, winner of four stages in Bodeaux, including three time trials, another local tradition.
|70||Burdigala, founded in the 5th century BC by the Biturige Vivisque tribe, becomes the capital of the Roman province of Aquitaine. The first vines are planted.|
|4th century||The town is evangelised by St Hilaire and St Martin.|
|735||The town is plundered by emir Abd al-Rahman and taken by Charles Martel.|
|1154||Bordeaux becomes English thanks to the wedding between Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II Plantagenet. The Guyenne – the English name for Aquitaine – thrives thanks to the wine trade.|
|1453||France claims Bordeaux back after the Battle of Castillon.|
|1585||Montaigne is elected mayor.|
|1714||Montesquieu becomes president of the Bordeaux Parliament.|
|1793||The Girondins are the leading group in the National Convention.|
|1800||Bordeaux becomes the first slave port in France.|
|1940||Paul Reynaud’s French government settles in Bordeaux, which is dubbed “the tragic capital”.|
|1947||Jacques Chaban-Delmas is elected mayor.|
Prefecture : Bordeaux
Population : 1,410,000
Web site : www.cg33.fr/
The landscape of the department was shaped by the sea and the mouth of two rivers, Dordogne and Garonne. The plateau between them is called Entre Deux-Mers (between two seas) and is known worldwide for its wines. The eastern part of Gironde is made of fertile valleys with steep hillsides, Libourne and Blaye, also ideal for vineyards. The western third of the department, between the Atlantic Ocean and Garonne, is a long stretch of sand dunes and moors planted with pine trees, with the Arcachon bay at its southern end. The department’s 1.2 million population depends largely on Bordeaux’s economy which has for a long time been based on wine while tourism has developed along the Atlantic coast.
It is a peninsula on the left bank of the Gironde, the largest estuary in Europe. This situation between a huge river mouth on the one hand and the ocean on the other brought Medoc a mild and pleasant weather. An insalubrious marsh at first, it was completely dried up by the Dutch in the 17th century. Since then, Medoc has thrived on its wines, some of the most famous in the world, tourism with popular seaside resorts like Soulac, Hourtin, Carcans or Lacanau and the exploitation of pine trees.
Medoc produces some of the best-known wines in the world. Even though wine was produced in the Middle Ages, the Medoc vineyards thrived from the 18th century when Bordeaux wine merchants started to plant vines almost everywhere. The English were the fist to discover and appreciate Medoc wines.
Eight prestigious appellations belong to the Medoc, two regional ones (Medoc and Haut-Medoc) and six communal ones (St Estpehe, Pauillac, St Julien, Moulis, Listrac and Margaux). They are spread over nearly 40,000 acres. 71 chateaux are on the stage course, among them the four grands crus classés, the most prestigious of all. They are Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Chateau Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Lafite Rothschild.
Blanquefort is located North of the Bordeaux agglomeration between the seaside and the Medoc vineyards. It probably owes its name to an 11th century dungeon dubbed “the white fort”. With its parks and the Majolan caves, Blanquefort is a popular destination for Bordeaux people at weekends.
Macau’s name could be a contraction of the Latin malum cavum, meaning bad place. It might also be derived from macallus, which means a ditch. In 1190, a canal between the island of Machanina and the land was called Maqueline. In the Middle Ages, the boat taking passengers up and down the Garonne was also called a macau. The village, destroyed by the Normans in the 9th century, probably existed in Roman times as traces of a Roman road were discovered in 1780.
The village of Margaux, first called Marojallia, is very old. Wine has been produced here since Roman times. In the 4th century, Roman poet Ausonius was said to own lands in Marojallia. The St Michel church dates from the 19th century and a church has existed since the 14th century and probably much earlier.
THE WIZARD OF MARGAUX The Knight of Rauzan made his domain such a successful vineyard that jealous winemakers accused him of witchcraft. The rumour spread but reached its peak when a hailstorm ravaged the region but spared Rauzan’s vines. Frightened workers went on strike and Rauzan was forced to make a speech: “You believe I’m a wizard and that huge crows have spread their wings to protect my vines against hail but it is nothing but lies. When I bought this vineyard, the owner of Chateau Margaux was kind enough as to give me some advice and I achieved results close to those of my lord. Now you know my secret. Take advantage of it and all the Margaux vines will produce the finest wines in the world.”
Since then, to remind the spell which protected the vines, the chateau’s label represents two magic wings. Rauzan sailed to England to sell his wine but at first failed to obtain the prices he was hoping for. He announced he would throw a barrel a day in the Thames to preserve the dignity of his wine. Londoners were then curious to try such a precious wine and they were not disappointed. This is how the Medoc trend started and never stopped.
In town, the Tower of Bessan is what is left of a medieval castle conceded by the King of England to the Duke of Gloucester to watch the river. The castle, built from 1252, was apparently an important building. Another remnant from the English period, the Tour de Mons castle is a fortified manor house built by Jean Colomb a Bordeaux bourgeois. It was involved in the conflict against the English and its chapel holds the grave of the White Lady, the lord’s daughter.
the fort was built in 1689 on a decision by Louis XIV. Vauban was in charge of the works, which started in 1690. A year later, they were advanced enough to allow a garrison in. The fort is a classic Vauban structure with its wall covered with lawn, its ditches and large open spaces. The front gate is topped by a sun, the King’s emblem. It became the property of the municipality of Cussac in 1930 and is used today for concerts.
75-kms long and 12-kms wide in parts, Gironde is the largest estuary in Europe. It has always been used by man to make way to Bordeaux from the Ocean. Many isles are scattered in the estuary. The oldest was the Patiras isle, which has patches of vine and maize and a lighthouse. Ile Nouvelle is a natural reserve, while Pate isle holds a fort built by Vauban in 1690. L’ile Verte (Green isle), l’ile du Nord (isle of the North) and Cazeau isle are a group of isles which are now a natural reserve. Wine is grown on the Margaux isle.
The oil industry was Pauillac’s other resource until 1985, when the last refinery closed down, leaving the town in a difficult position socially and economically. But Pauillac took advantage of its worldwide reputation to develop wine tourism in a region where the word often meant just lying on a beach. In less than 30 years, a whole industry emerged. Chateaux opened to the public, a House of wine and tourism was created as well as a campsite, hotels, a gastronomic restaurant while the port replaced oil barges by yachts. Pauillac has now turned into a real wine resort and a great scheme to restore the city is being launched this year. Pauillac also makes the best of its ideal situation on the Gironde estuary. A new form of green tourism is growing fast while cruises on the estuary are developing. New businesses based on sustainable development are also gradually settling back in town.
Wine has made Paillac famous worldwide but in the United States, the port on the Gironde estuary is also known as the place from which Marquis de la Fayette sailed to the New World. Spurred by his hatred for England, his support to a noble cause and his taste for adventure, La Fayette struck a deal in 1777 with Silas Deane, an American commissioner in France, according to which he pledged to serve the United States as a major general of the US Army. He secretly equipped a 250-tons brick bought with his own money and called it La Victoire (Victory). He embarked from Pauillac on March 22, 1777, and stopped in Spain, in Los Pasajes, a month later. On April 20, ignoring a royal ban, he set for America and reached South-Inlet, South Carolina, on June 13. He met George Washington in Philadelphia on August 1. A bronze monument representing La Victoire can be seen on the port of Pauillac on the La Fayette Esplanade. Another monument to La Fayette was erected at the Pointe de Grave. It reminds the existence of a much bigger monument called the La Fayette Memorial, built in 1919 and destroyed by the Germans in 1942.
To finish the Tour in style, there was hardly a better choice than Pauillac, one of the most prestigious appellations in Medoc. The 2010 Tour continues a tradition of holding final individual time trials on the penultimate day in a famous wine area. Santenay, in 1988, St Emilion, in 1996, or Macon, in 2002, are among the famous wine towns to have hosted such a stage. Pauillac is the 12th Gironde city to host a Tour finish and the second in Medoc after Lacanau in 1976. Among riders born in the area features Yann Huguet.
|Roman era||presence of a Roman villa belonging to Paullius.|
|1777||La Fayette leaves Pauillac for America.|
|1855||18 Pauillac wines are listed as « grand crus »|
|1919||Construction of the La Fayette Memorial on the Pointe du Grave. Its is destroyed by the Germans in 1942.|
|1985||The last oil refinery closes down.|