So what is history?  It can be the history of a home, such as ours, or the history of the oyster shells making up a cliff close to us, shown as the backdrop to this page.  Our home is almost 300 years old, the cliff made of oyster shells is 22 million years old.  History can be boring or fascinating.  Even if you are not a history lover, please see the page on Castle Visits where the beautiful castles can be viewed either as things of beauty or as a fascinating insight into medieval times, or both.  Many towns and villages are there because of past events, be they religious or wars.  Bordeaux can be visited for shopping, walking, cycling, eating or to see historical sights, or indeed all of these, likewise Saint Emilion, but in Saint Emilion there is also the added attraction of wine tasting! History also can be viewed in the villages their houses and churches.  This page can best be used in conjunction with the other pages.   When we first visited our house it had, in french, an âme, a soul.  The house was a mess, inside and outside, but was clearly genuine and welcoming.  We felt at home straight away.  However, there was no history available.  No photos and no real information.  We had to piece together information, to make our own history.  To read a little more on the history of our home, click here.  Part of it may be amusing.  To close the window, click here  
Sometimes we would visit the market at Cadillac on a Saturday, buy some cheese from our favourite cheese merchant, buy some bread and some sausage and go to Saint Croix de Mont for a picnic.  Saint Croix de Mont is quite high up and has a good view over the Garonne and the Sauternes wine area and further onwards towards the sea.  They make sweet wine there and sometimes the Maison de Vin is open and one can buy some delicious wine.  A nice spot for a picnic but the last one was with water, the Maison de Vin was closed for lunch. It was after we had picnicked there several times, that we discovered, that there was a fossil walk there.  On re-visiting we found that the fossil walk was mercifully short but that we had been picnicking on a cliff made from oyster shells.  These shells have been shown to be 22 million years old.   Just moving down from the picnic spot by the church and the chateau you can see millions and millions of oyster shells and look to the west towards the sea, probably an hours drive away, and wonder. So having started in about 1714, we think the date of the orginal part of our home, we have moved back to 22 million years ago and we are now at a mere 40,000 years B.C.  The picture on the left is the simple entrance to the grotte Pair-Non-Pair.  The entrance is modern, the underground caves having been discovered in 1881 by a cow, apparently.  The cow had a leg trapped in a hole and as such the underground caves were found.  Whether that history is 100% accurate who knows, but what is clear is that a local enthusiast, Mr. François Daileau spent 30 years excavating the cave.  We do not have a photo of the cow, in fact all photos are scarce, but click here to read more.  To close the window, click here. Many years ago it was possible to visit Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England without passing though a visitor centre with razor wire etc. and touch the stones.  We have a photo of Maureen leaning against the stones in a rather too short a dress.  Nowadays, it is only accredited wierdos who can touch the stones.  In France it is different.  The standing stone at Saint Sulpice de Faleyrens is just 10 minutes drive from our home, on one of the routes to Saint Emilion, and it is so easy to drive past it without registering its presence.  No notices, razor wire or druids prancing about, just a 5.2 metre high standing stone from about 2,500 years B.C.  To the left is a more modest and recent photo of Maureen, leaning against this standing stone.  Click hard enough and you may see the older photo.  Our time steps are now smaller, just a few thousand years, skipping the birth of Christ for the moment, to the Roman Empire.  The Romans had a major effect and left behind much to amaze us.  There is evidence of them making wine in the area, notably in Saint Emilion. The photo to the left is part of the Roman Gallien Palace in Bordeaux.  More details on this are included on the Bordeaux page.  It is interesting, no incredible, to see such a major piece of Roman architecture surving in a modern city; despite attempts to destroy it, by the barbarians in the 3rd century and later during the French Revolution.  Many Roman visits are concerned with details, beautiful mosaics etc., but here is part of a major piece of architecture that has survived.  For more details visit the Bordeaux page or click here for other Roman sites to visit.  To close the window, click here. The region of Aquitaine, which includes the department of the Gironde, what we think of as Bordeaux wine country, is steeped in history from the middle ages.  This is principally because Aquitaine was English for three hundred years from 1154, which caused massive problems as the French were trying to get it back.  Much of the architecture that one sees when travelling around has its origins in this period.  Be it the history of religion seen in wonderful  churches or abbeys, in castles as shown left or in the bastide towns, many of which still show signs of their fortifications, where many people still live in houses of medvn.  The pages on Abbeys and Churches, on Bordeaux, on Castle Visits and on Saint Emilion give some ideas of visits.  If you would like to find out a little more on medieval history and visits close to us click here.  To close the window, click here. The links of war between France and England continued after the middle ages and the town of Blaye, North of Bordeaux, is a prime example.  We used to visit Blaye on a Saturday, when on holiday in Saint Emilion, to enjoy the market.  We would meander in the citadelle, a walled town within Blaye, and admire the ruins and the view across the estuary of the Gironde without thinking a lot about its history.  To the left is a photo of the citadelle from the estuary, where one can cross the Gironde in a pleasure boat, combined with an above ground and an underground visit to the fortifications.  With a little prior knowledge one can get far more out of a visit.  To find out a little about the history of Blaye click here.  To close the window, click here. Moving forward in time one comes to the period of trade and commerce, where in the countryside farms developed, with associated beautiful houses and chateaux and where Bordeaux maintained its importance as is reflected in its wonderful 18th century buildings. Bordeaux is a city full of history, please see the Bordeaux page.  To see Bordeaux and learn about it, one can take a conducted tour from the Office of Tourism, buy a map of walks, or hire bikes, or even take the tourist train.  The most obvious historical link is its wonderful architecture, much of it dating from the 18th century. The Gironde is a department happily missing mass war graves since the French had surrendered before the Germans needed to advance this far south.  It is more an area of individual heroism and conflict since the Gironde was divided between occupied France for the coastal area and Bordeaux and Vichy France for the rest.  We have come across individual graves and monuments to local heroes and met people with stories to tell.  One friend, in her mid 80’s tells us how she, as a girl,  had to cross a bridge to buy the family’s bread, showing her identity papers to Vichy troops on one side of the bridge and German soldiers on the other.  The same on the way back, after buying the bread. Shown on the left is a monument at the mouth of the Gironde to the Cockleshell Heroes, ten Royal Marines who were landed by the submarine HMS Tuna in December 1942 and paddled the 100km, at night, to Bordeaux in order to plant limpit mines on boats in Bordeaux harbour. One of the first French homes we visited had been the local Gestapo headquarters.  The house was large but otherwise quite normal.  It did not have any bad feelings, although the man who had purchased the house after the war was not popular with his neighbours.  He was called the fool. Conversely the German U boat station in Bordeaux has a horrible atmosphere.  To read more on the Cockleshell Heroes of the base sous- marine click here.  To close the window, click here.  
Click on a photo above to enlarge
Click on photo above to enlarge
Bordeaux Wine Country - Historical Visits
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