The place where I stayed in Bordeaux was right next to this city landmark. This turned out to be very useful when I got lost on my arrival, as the two locals I asked could tell me the directions to the street from their window on the second floor- so luckily everything went to plan. The bell tower is one of the oldest in France, and is the only remaining part of the ramparts that once surrounded the city. The bells of this tower have rung out across Bordeaux since the 13th C. Today it is rung 6 times a year to mark important celebrations, including New Years day, la fête du travail (Labour day), 14 juillet (Bastille day) and Remembrance day (11 November).
The bell itself weighs at least 7.75kg and has been baptised with the name Armande-Louise. On the surface of its inside curve is written: « Mes coups marquent le temps, ma voix appelle aux armes, (…) j’ai des chants pour tous les bonheurs, pour tous les morts j’ai des larmes ». The best translation I can create that still does justice to the meaning and the rhythm of the French version is: “My calls sound the time, my voice calls troops to face their fears… I have songs for all our happiness, for all deaths, I have tears”. Quite beautiful, really.
This gateway also once served as a prison. Misbehaving youths were locked up behind doors 10cm thick, complete with heavy bolts- not an easy getaway. Today you can visit the bell tower and have a guided tour (which I didn’t do, mainly due to bad planning. Look up times online before you go!). I walked beneath this tower very often during in my stay in Bordeaux, and it still remained a place of intrigue that stood out from the houses surrounding it and really made me feel as though I was living in a place of history.