Saturday, 15 November 2014

Le Bois du Bouscat: a cultural walk in the woods

The suburb of Le Bouscat has long been renowned for its racecourse, its residential quarters, its high street shops and, a-hem, its countless car dealers. But this sign greets visitors to one of the latest additions to the town’s portfolio of potential outings: le Bois du Bouscat.

The Bois du Bouscat provides a landscaped walk in the woods which was two years in the making and was officially opened in June 2013 by local mayor Patrick Bobet. The project was the result of the acquisition of woodland which stretches along one flank of the racecourse (indeed, it was previously best-known as Bois de l’Hippodrome) and next to the high-rise blocks of the Lyautey estate.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Saint-André-de-Cubzac’s Montalon windmills and 45th parallel marker

We are in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, some 23 kilometres to the north of Bordeaux, on the right bank of the Dordogne… and coincidentally on the 45th parallel north, mid-way between the Equator and the North Pole. This part of town is known as Montalon, a large mound which rises 73 metres above sea level and identified in the 18th century as the ideal location to build a number of windmills.

Today, five of these distinctive circular constructions can still be seen, although maps produced in the 19th century record the presence of as many as ten such mills. Three of the surviving structures have been incorporated within private properties – a couple even appear to be the natural extensions of some lucky homeowners’ living quarters. The other two have been partly restored although both were closed when I was there: one provides a unique rooftop vantage point for a panoramic overview of the site, while the other has become an astronomical observatory which is run by the local council in conjunction with an association.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The mysterious rig with no name on the river Garonne

When shooting the footage that formed the basis of the Invisible Bordeaux “View from Pont d’Aquitaine” video clip, I was reminded of a story which was recently covered by local newspaper Sud Ouest: the mystery of the disused iron rig on the Garonne.

The rig in question can be seen near to the left-bank Bacalan district of Bordeaux, more or less mid-way between the Chaban-Delmas lift bridge and Pont d’Aquitaine suspension bridge. When the subject was initially raised by Sud Ouest, journalist Jean-Paul Vigneaud asked more questions than he provided answers about what he called the “phantom of the Garonne”, a structure “where nobody goes and which nobody is interested in” and which now resembles a “mid-river heap of scrap iron” (un tas de ferraille au beau milieu de l’eau).

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Video: the view from Pont d'Aquitaine

Every day, thousands of vehicles cross Pont d'Aquitaine, the impressive suspension bridge over the Garonne river that connects Bordeaux and Lormont. 

However, only cyclists enjoy the luxury of being able to take in the stunning view over the city, the river and the surrounding area. So, with public interest at heart, I have gone along to the bridge on my bike, camera in hand, and this brand Youtube clip shows what can be seen!

Click here if video does not display properly on your device.

Of course, loyal readers will remember that Pont d'Aquitaine was the subject of a standalone article some time ago.

Finally, if you would like a longer, closer look at the two panoramic shots which featured in the video, here they are:

The view looking south towards Bordeaux.
The view looking north towards Bassens and the Médoc.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

In honour of Lesparre-Médoc's Tour d'Honneur

What is 30 metres high, 12 metres wide, made of stone and dates way back to the 14th century? The answer, if you happen to be 65 kilometres to the north of Bordeaux in Lesparre-Médoc, is the magnificent “Tour de l’Honneur”.

The 6-level tower (other than the ground floor, there are four levels each comprising a vaulted room, plus a rooftop terrace), is the sole surviving section of the even grander “Château de l'Honneur de Lesparre”, parts of which even predated the 14th century. The original fortified castle comprised three further towers and was a pivotal means of defence for the Médoc and Gironde Estuary, the area being of strategic importance during medieval times. 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

From Blanquefort to Gare Saint-Jean: the view from a suburban train

Over the years, my views of Bordeaux have been gained either riding a bike, as a pedestrian, behind the wheel of a car, or from the seat of a bus or tram. It struck me that one vantage point I hadn’t really explored was that of the suburban train.

The time had therefore come to report to Blanquefort railway station and buy a €4.30 ticket for the 35-minute journey into Bordeaux’s Gare Saint-Jean. The big question before the train arrived was would I spot anything new from this rear-window vantage point? The answer was not exactly a resounding “yes” or a definite “no” but somewhere in-between: it would simply provide a sample of the city’s suburban living quarters and landscapes, some of which we’ve almost stopped noticing.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Signs through the times: spotting the traders of the past

Faded hand-painted adverts and signs, so-called ghost signs, have often featured on the blog. And among the interesting subsets which regularly appear on the Invisible Bordeaux Instagram account are the faded painted signs above old stores and workshops.

Here are a few examples of the Instagrammed signs that have therefore made it through the times. All are located in central Bordeaux and, other than a couple of exceptions, I think that none of these companies continue to operate - certainly not out of these outlets. But if you know otherwise or can provide information about any of the featured names, then please get in touch!
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