Friday, December 27, 2013

An afternoon in Blaye - Exploring the Citadelle

Wandering through history...

It's the day after Christmas and all of us were feeling full from a Christmas eve dinner and another nice meal on Christmas day.  As usual our holiday meals were full of delicious oysters, smoked salmon, fois gras, along a delicious buche de Noel and of course plenty of wine.  So the next day, we needed to find a place walk around and burn off some of those calories.  For the girls, it was time to get outside and enjoy some fresh air.  We decided to head up to Blaye - a town on the East side of the Garonne about 45 minutes from our house.  There is a citadel there that was built in the 17th century and it's a great way to be outside, and enjoy some history at the same time.
The citadel of Blaye is a UNESCO heritage site and was designed by Vauban, an engineer who was commissioned by King Louis XIV to strengthened the existing fortifications to protect the city of Bordeaux.  Blaye is  located upstream on the estuary of the Garonne River and its location and geography of the land had historically made it the perfect place from which to protect the city of Bordeaux.  In the 17th century, the cannons at that time did not have sufficient range to cover the width of the river.  Vauban built two more forts - one on the island in the middle of the Garonne and the other on the Medoc side.  This design allowed the 3 forts to cross-fire and prevent enemies from sailing to Bordeaux.  

The citadelle was designed between 1685 and 1689 and became a walled city built around a parade ground, a monastery and several barracks.  Included inside this citadel are ruins of a 12th century castle, a 12th century gate and the Eguilette tower built in the 15th century.

Walking around today, these ruins and buildings are still evident and many have been converted into hotels, restaurants, boutiques and cafes.  It's a wonderful place to wander around and take in both the history of this fortress and the beautiful views of the Garonne River and the city of Blaye itself. 

Looking toward the walls at the Citadelle

Entering in at one of the gates

My middle daughter taking some photos

The ruins of the Castle

Great place to explore and run around!

The girls loved exploring and climbing around

View of the Garonne from the Citadelle

Looking up toward the mouth of the Garonne - toward the Atlantic Ocean

More of the Citadelle with the city of Blaye in the distance

Checking out her photos

Clouds & rain rolling through the river

The Citadelle sits up on a hill overlooking the river

Restaurant inside the fortress

Fun Boutique sign

Sun setting behind the convent building

End of the day - clouds and sun
Even though many of the shops were closed for the vacation, it was still a beautiful place to walk around and enjoy an afternoon.  The citadelle is Free and open to the public each day.  For a family activity, anytime during the year, this is a great place to go.  Hope everyone is enjoying their time off for the holidays and special with family.  


  1. Bonjour Jennifer. Thank you for sharing your photos of this visit to la Citadelle de Blaye. I have never seen it, but like many French people, am familiar with the works of the great Monsieur de Vauban. They can be found all over the country. The Sun King's most remarkable skill was to surround himself with incredible talent.

    I have enjoyed following your blog this year, and will be visiting often in 2014. As an expat married to a Frenchman, you might enjoy the writings of my friend Victoria Ferauge, an American living in Versailles. Her blog is named the Franco-American Flophouse. She wrote a great piece this week about American expats in France and the Lost Generation.

    For now, I would like to wish you and yours "une excellent année 2014 !" A l'année prochaine !

    Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments - I will definitely check out your friend's blogs - always love reading new perspectives and finding new writers! Happy New Year to you too!!

  2. I love these shots! The atmosphere - lonely, but beautiful - is incredible. Wow! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

    1. Mandy - thank you for commenting - so nice to hear from readers. I have to say we were extremely lucky that day for photos. I have visited the Citadelle before - but the lighting on that day was just stunning. Always great to have a little luck here and there. Happy New Year to you too!

  3. One of these days, I am going to get my husband to take me to France. So many wonderful places to explore. We have been to Paris, but there is so much more too see. Looks like you are having a wonderul holiday break and it looks like the cold isn't stopping you!

    1. We have been lucky down here - the weather has not been too cold (65 degrees the day after Christmas!). Other days a bit cooler - a few passing showers - but we are definitely enjoying being able to be out and about during the holiday break. Can't wait to read more about the new addition to your family. Good luck to you with your trip - hope all goes smoothly. Happy New Year to you and your family!!


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