Sunday, 22 May 2016

History evolves: how the Beaudésert internment camp memorial plaque has changed

It is impossible to rewrite history but we can perpetually revise our understanding and interpretation of what happened in the past. A notable example of this can be found on a plaque in Mérignac that marks the area where Beaudésert internment camp was once located.

Invisible Bordeaux published a full investigation into the WW2 camp back in 2013. Initially set up as a detention centre for “undesirable foreigners” in 1940, it evolved into a camp for political prisoners. It went on to hold other communities such as Jews, Spanish Republicans, members of the Résistance, black market traffickers and prostitutes, along with individuals who refused to comply with the Nazis’ forced labour policy (STO: Service du travail obligatoire). For many who were held there, it was a penultimate stop before being sent to concentration camps or ahead of execution at the nearby Camp de Souge.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Could this be the coolest house in Bordeaux?

Reader Nathan Turner, a former Bordeaux resident, recently got in touch with me about a building that he used to ride past on his bicycle when he lived in the city. By linking through to Google Streetview evidence, it was easy to see that Nathan had a point; the house definitely deserved a visit!

I headed over to the unusual “hôtel particulier”, which is located on a corner at the junction between Rues Cotrel and Jean Soula, in the neighbourhood that lies between Saint-Seurin basilica and the boulevards. Technically it is number 1, Rue Cotrel, the street named after Raphaël Cotrel, the gentleman who owned the surrounding land until it was split into individual plots and sold on.

Monday, 2 May 2016

May 1968, the barricades and the night Bordeaux became a battlefield

The eventful month of May 1968 will forever be regarded as a turning point in the recent history of France. The focal point throughout the troubled period was Paris but the unrest quickly spread throughout France. In Bordeaux the agitation culminated on the night of Saturday May 25th with a series of street battles that formed the city’s own “nuit des barricades”.

With the generous help of Sud Ouest journalist Marjorie Michel, who enabled me to view the newspaper’s coverage of that momentous night, I sought to reconstruct events as they unfolded and returned to the city’s hotspots and riot scenes… only to find them much quieter these days!

Monday, 4 April 2016

The playable city initiative that enables conversations with the lamp posts of Bordeaux

When, back in the 1960s, Simon & Garfunkel sang the line “Hello lamp post, what'cha knowing?”, little did they realise that come 2016 they might even get a response from the lamp post itself. For that is precisely the system that has been rolled out in Bordeaux for this year’s “Semaine Digitale” festivities, and which will be extended throughout April and into early May.

The system is called, appropriately enough, “Hello Lamp Post” and provides a means of interacting with all kinds of street furniture around the city including trams, monuments and bollards. Getting started is simple: pick an item of street furniture with a serial code on it, send a message in this format “Hello object #code” to 0644606055 (or “Salut” if you prefer communicating in French), and then see where the conversation with the inanimate object takes you. 

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The life, times and statue(s) of the painter Carle Vernet

This unusual bronze statue can be found on the raised terrace that runs along the southern flank of the Jardin Public in central Bordeaux. It depicts the artist Carle Vernet, but who was Vernet and what was his connection with the city?

Carle Vernet was born Antoine Charles Horace Vernet on August 14th 1758 in Bordeaux. He was the son of the renowned painter Joseph Vernet (1714-1789) who had been commissioned by King Louis XV to deliver a series of pictures of France's seaports (*see footnote). This resulted in a number of extended stays in coastal cities around the country. And so it was that the Vernet clan momentarily set up shop in Bordeaux, residing for two years at what is now number 22, Cours du Chapeau-Rouge.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Bordeaux postcard overlays, round 2!

A few months ago I published an item featuring photographs of old postcards manually overlaid on the same environments today. I had a lot of fun producing those shots, and one of the pictures even came top in a competition to celebrate the Jetée Thiers pier in Arcachon.

After picking up another batch of postcards at a collectors' fair, I headed out once again with my camera in one hand and a new set of old pictures in the other. Here are the end-products!

Monday, 29 February 2016

All change in 2016 for the Observatory of Bordeaux on the Floirac hilltops

Perched high above the city, in the hilly right-bank suburb of Floirac, is the Observatory of Bordeaux, one of the most significant scientific sites in the area, and one for which a new chapter will open later in 2016.

The observatory was founded in 1878 by the Bordeaux-born astronomer Georges Rayet (whose name was to be given to his joint discovery, so-called Wolf-Rayet stars) and has, over the years, become a renowned establishment initially excelling in the fields of celestial mechanics (calculation of the motion and trajectory of celestial objects) and astrometry (measurement of the positions and movements of celestial objects). From the 1970s onwards, the observatory’s focus extended to include studies in radio waves and research into the Earth’s atmosphere.
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