Perfect start to a fun-fuelled activity
At the small port of Rives d'Arcins, located some 14 kilometres to the south of Bordeaux, Boris, founder of Bordeaux Canoë, welcomes you with the smile of someone who earns his living from his passion. This experienced canoeist will be your guide for a fabulous trip on the Garonne. Compulsory safety instructions are given before setting off on the fourth longest river in France. Accessible to anyone who can swim, from May to October, this river excursion is as easy as can be. Put on your wetsuit and life jacket, stick your belongings safely in a water-tight can and, paddle in hand, launch your boat in the water.
Wild island and fishermen's huts
Let the current carry you along to the Île d'Arcins. This protected natural setting stretches out in the middle of the Gironde estuary. Do not miss to see herons and black kites gliding over the treetops.
A few paddle strokes later and you drift along the banks with their rows of famous carrelets. These charming huts on stilts take their name from the nets used for fishing, which are very much in evidence. A sense of fulfilment comes over you in this wild section of the river. Boris takes this time to explain that the dark colour of the waters is caused by the mix of fresh water and sea water. Contrary to what you might think, the Garonne is one of the cleanest waterways in Europe.
Floating past historic bridges and facades
Your river trip then takes you to the François Mitterrand Bridge, which marks the entrance to Bordeaux. Further on, you witness a magical moment as you pass the Pont de pierre or Stone Bridge. Impressed by its grandeur, take a minute to admire this architectural gem, commissioned by Emperor Napoleon 1, connecting the city centre to La Bastide neighbourhood.
Still far from the hustle and bustle of Bordeaux, paddle along the city's left bank. Notice the light-coloured stone of the opulent buildings which catch the light superbly. On either side of the regenerated docks, you can see that life is in full swing there. In Place de la Bourse, admire the largest reflecting pool in the world which mirrors the facades of the surrounding classical 18th-century buildings. Bordeaux is happy to reveal its UNESCO World Heritage status as “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” – you cannot help but be impressed.
Tasty break and historic interlude
Your guide choses the iconic Place de la Bourse as your landing stage. Make the most of it to rest your muscles and recharge your batteries. Boris has a tasty snack in store for you – cannelés, these famous little cakes flavoured with rum and vanilla are the pride of Bordeaux.
Fully revived, you are back to the Garonne for the last stage of your river expedition. One last surprise awaits you in the crescent-moon section of the river. In this sandy area, which only paddle boats can reach, lies the wreckage from Operation Frankton carried out in the Second World War. This is where your trip along the River Garonne comes to an end. In the distance, you can see the futuristic silhouette of the Cité du Vin, ablaze with light at sunset, while Sleeping Beauty, as the city is called, slips into her night attire.
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