Rooftops and balconies : La Reole

Rooftops and façades.
Rooftops and façades.

Her faded beauty belies a majestic past that stretches back over a thousand years to her birth in 977. Her early years were dominated by a grand Benedictine Monastery whom she served. She was courted by the Duke of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart, who fell under her charms in 1190, and wooed her with a gift of a town hall, recognised today as the oldest in France

A strategic situation on a high bank alongside the wide, fast flowing Garonne meant that she could control the river crossing, as well as utilise it for trade transport. With tax exemptions granted by Richard, she accumulated wealth and prestige. She was second only to Bordeaux, and her golden age lasted a millenium, despite regular conflict between the monks, bourgeois, citizens, and Kings of England and France.

The industrial revolution brought important changes, opening up the interior of France by railway, and connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean by the canals, Garonne and du Midi. Cargo boats stopped at her port to load goods such as wine, dried prunes, and wheatflour for export from Bordeaux, and on their return bringing spices, sugar and rum. She kept up with the times bringing much work at the port, railway, and in a large tabacco factory producing cigarettes to sell nationally, and overseas.

Modern times arrived, and roads displaced the railways and canals. Trade markets changed. Her wealth went elsewhere. She took a back seat in the scheme of things, became an aged, forgotten, and forlorn town. Dust settled, and cracks appeared as she slept.

But as a sleeping beauty, a kiss rejuvenates. Recognising her heritage to France, urban restoration is commencing with government funding. Over the next few years she will awaken fully, revitalise, and she will be beautiful again.

Rue de Caduc, main shopping street.
Balconies and flowers of Rue Armand Caduc; main shopping street.

 

 

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