follow me aboard of the ferry boat and cross the Gironde estuary
When you live here, you have to understand that this magnificent estuary, which, by the way, is the largest estuary in Western Europe, is above all a 3 km wide water barrier..... And when you want to go to the other side, it's not that easy!
You can take the ferry boat. There are 2 of them, one in one north of Bordeaux that connects Blaye, on the right bank, to Lamarque, on the left bank, within about 20 minutes.
There is another, larger one at the mouth of the estuary that connects Royan, on the right bank, to Le Verdon, on the left bank of the Gironde.
But watch out... if you miss it.... It will cost you to drive along the national road then to the highway A10 and then to reach the Bordeaux ring road, which is called here "Rocade". And I can tell you if we're talking about a Saturday summer time crossover of August, we're on a timing that will make you wish you had been the first in line to climb aboard....
Cross the estuary with the ferryboat... An immersive experience
In summer, you will most often meet tourists eager to try the experience and exchanging on their recent discoveries of Bordeaux or Pineaux and also some nonsense that they will have heard during their last visit in the area (not one of mine... that goes without saying... I try not to say nonsense!)
But the rest of the year, you will share your crossing cruise with vine workers, whose teams often work on both sides of the river.... Maybe also meet the locals who prefer to live on the right bank where real estate is more affordable but who work on the left bank... Sometimes you can park aboard next to a huge harvester or a tractor... Sometimes you will even meet some pilgrims walking (or cycling) to Santiago de Compostela...
What you will see from the upper deck of the ferry when you leave the right bank of the Gironde
The size/width of our estuary...... Well yes here it is not far from 3 km wide and we are not yet at the level of Mortagne where it flirts with the 10km width!
You will admire its "café au lait" colour, which we particularly like. And if you want to better understand why the water in the estuary is brown or turbid and not oh never.... "dirty", I invite you to read another article I wrote on the topic.
The shores of the Ile Nouvelle
Starting from Blaye facing Lamarque (and in normal circuit, excluding large coefficient requiring cruise deviation), it will be on your right. You can see in the distance some buildings of an former wine workers village dating back to the 19th century. And yes, people have lived on these islands! They have cultivated vines there until recently. The dikes of this island were damaged by the 1999 storm. The owner, the Conservatoire du Littoral, has entrusted its management to the Conseil général de la Gironde. Today, the dikes have not been restored in order to restore the environment, i.e. nature and the tides reclaim their territories.
Pâté Island, Vauban's secret weapon to seal off the Gironde estuary
The island is smaller and will be on your left. If you are at low tide, you will be able to see the wooden spikes system designed to limit shoreline erosion. On this island, which was probably only a sandbank at the time, Vauban built an oval-shaped fort (hence the curious name Pâté because of the former oval shaped Terrine-dishes) to complete the bolt of the estuary, which also included the Blaye citadel on the right bank and the Cussac fort on the left bank.
Cussac Fort Medoc
This fort, less imposing than the citadel of Blaye, was protected by a floaded moat that could be supplied from the Gironde via a set of locks. Since the estuary here is almost 3 km long, it was technically impossible to cover the width of the Gironde with the range of a canon gun. Vauban therefore had the idea of building a bolt on the river consisting of 3 fortifications: one on each side and one on the islands to cross the gunfire.
When you arrive on the other side, you can quickly see Lamarque's dome. The old 19th century dome had to be dismantled in the 1960's because it was in danger of collapsing. Its roof, which was nearly a hundred years old, had reached its maximum stage of ageing and the budget at the time did not allow it to be restored. The new dome was restored in 2005, and the staircase leading to it was restored in 2004. Inside, you can admire the richness of its frame and its roof itself. Equipped with four orientation tables, the dome offers a panoramic viewpoint, unique in its originality over the Gironde estuary, its islands and the Médoc vineyards.
Have a good experience crossing
and for any visit to the Blayais or the Gironde estuary, well, it's here!