Bordeaux is a port city with a population of about 250,000 on the Garonne River in southwestern France. The name comes from that of the Celtic settlement in the area, Burdigala, circa 300 B.C. The city became the capital of Roman Aquitaine, which it remained until 276 A.D. when it was sacked by Vandals. In the 5th century it was again attacked by Vandals, then by Visigoths and Franks; later there was trouble with the Andalusian Muslims, the Basques and even the Vikings. In the 12th century the city’s fortunes improved when the duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine married Count Henri Plantagenet, who soon became King Henry II of England. Bordeaux flourished, largely due to its wine trade, and was eventually incorporated into the Kingdom of France.
The 18th century was considered a golden age for Bordeaux; many of the buildings in the downtown area date back to this era. Parts of Paris are said to be modeled after Bordeaux, and Victor Hugo is quoted as saying, “Take Versailles, add Antwerp and you have Bordeaux.” During World War II the French government relocated to Bordeaux briefly before moving to Vichy.
Today Bordeaux, known as the “City of Art and History,” is a gracious place for river cruisers to sojourn. There are beautiful boulevards, graceful bridges, historic monuments, Gothic and baroque churches, museums of art and history and lovely parks and gardens to enjoy, plus many wide squares like Esplanade des Quinconces and the Place de la Bourse with its spectacular reflecting pool. There are also the world-famous local wines—enjoy both the drier reds and whites and the sweet Sauternes dessert wines.