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Bordeaux's Place Pey Berland

Updated: Jul 19, 2020


Place Pey Berland and Le Café Francais
Place Pey Berland and Le Café Francais

Even in a city full of lovely public spaces, Place Pey Berland stands out. Here you find the 19th-century Hotel de Ville, tracks of the modern tramway, the Justice building, a pair of museums, cafes, and, in an attached, shaded sub-place, a musuem dedicated to Resistance leader Jean Moulin.

The spires of Cathédrale Saint-André
The spires of Cathédrale Saint-André, with the Hotel de Ville in the background

Amongst all that competition, though, multi-spired Cathédrale Saint-André dominates the plaza. The eye is also captured by the cathedral's bell tower, called Tour Pey Berland. This is not the only church in Bordeaux with a bell tower sitting separately beside it. Something to do, we heard with protecting the church structure from the vibrations of the bells.  Although this didn't really apply in the case of Pey Berland (named for the bishop who had the tower built) since at its completion in 1500 or thereabouts nothing was left in the construction budget for the purchase of bells... for the bell tower. 

Tour Pey Berland
Tour Pey Berland

There were decades, centuries, when the tower was used for housing; then, after the Revolution, when things sacred were put to profane use, it became a lead factory. It wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that pennies were pinched and bells were procured. 

Place Pey Berland as seen from the bell tower
Place Pey Berland as seen from the bell tower

Today, one can, and we did, climb the 233 narrow, circular steps to the top for a view of the place and the surrounding quartiers. Afterwards, we stumbled on towered legs to Le Café Francais, which has been on the place since 1899, making it as old as our legs felt.

Lunch at  Le Café Francais
Lunch at Le Café Francais

–Diane & Mark


photographs copyright Mark Craft

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