There will soon be two new chances to enjoy Bordeaux performances of the Invisible Bordeaux live spin-off, the Shuman Show ! Please ther...


There will soon be two new chances to enjoy Bordeaux performances of the Invisible Bordeaux live spin-off, the Shuman Show! Please therefore proceed in an orderly fashion to Le Comptoir de l'Ubiquiste on the Garonne waterfront on Friday June 14th, and/or to Paul's Place in the Chartrons quarter on Friday July 5th!

Loyal readers are already familiar with the Shuman Show, a words-and-music extravaganza that has been developed around a subject covered on the blog: Mort Shuman. The 75-minute show provides samples of the music Shuman wrote throughout his career, interspersed with a number of anecdotes that not only connect to tell the full story, but add extra layers of understanding to the songs themselves. Above all, the Shuman Show is great fun.

Both Le Comptoir de l'Ubiquiste and Paul's Place are ideal environments for the Shuman Show. And both serve quality food and drink that will provide the perfect complement to the performance. So... see you there!


Full information:
> Friday June 14th, 8:30pm, Le Comptoir de l'Ubiquiste
39 quai Bacalan (Tram B - Les Hangars).

Free admission, local organic specialities, appetising tapas and a fine selection of wines and beer.
[Facebook event page here]
> Friday July 5th, 8:30pm, Paul's Place
76 rue Notre-Dame (Tram B - Chartrons or Tram C - Paul-Doumer).
Free admission, advance bookings for delicious hand-crafted home-cooked dinner on paulsplacebordeaux@gmail.com [Facebook event page here]

The fifth monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and I hope you're sitting especially comf...


The fifth monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and I hope you're sitting especially comfortably... because this happens to be the first of the occasional episodes in English! Hurrah! This way then for some quality conversation with arguably the most famous Australian in Bordeaux, the one and only Mike Foster, founder of the Bordeaux Expats blog and social media community. 

Together we touch upon the thinking behind Bordeaux Expats, about the story of his relocation from Sydney to Bordeaux via London, and his current take not just on Bordeaux but also on Saint-André-de-Cubzac, the small town just to the north of Bordeaux which is possibly best known as the birthplace of the renowned ocean explorer and film-maker Jacques Cousteau, but is also the place that Mike now calls home.

Here is the podcast, which you'll also find on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podbean, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the platform of your choice! And scroll on down for more Bordeaux Expats resources!


This is where you'll find Bordeaux Expats:
> Bordeaux Expats blog: bordeauxexpats.com
> Bordeaux Expats Youtube channel 

During the podcast, Mike mentions the videos he has produced with film-maker Derek Rose. Here is one of those clips: 


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

Finally, pictured below is the magnificent Jacques Cousteau-themed roundabout in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, which also makes an appearance in the podcast. For the full story, check out the Invisible Bordeaux piece available here.   

Rue de la Rouselle, which connects cours d’Alsace-et-Lorraine and cours Victor-Hugo, is one of the prettiest little side-streets of old...

Rue de la Rouselle, which connects cours d’Alsace-et-Lorraine and cours Victor-Hugo, is one of the prettiest little side-streets of old Bordeaux. In fact, it is so picturesque that it has provided the setting for a number of films made in the city, including recent offerings such as 2 Automnes 3 Hivers (released in 2013), Compte tes blessures (2016) and Le vice caché des Navajos (also 2016).

Rue de la Rousselle also happens to boast one of the highest concentrations of ghost signs, those faded hand-painted signs and advertisements that have been a favourite recurring subject on the Invisible Bordeaux blog. But how many of the signs are the real thing, and how many are leftovers from period film sets?

The starting point behind this enigma was after spotting the painted sign for “Steenvoorde” above what appears to be a garage. With a little help from correspondents on social media, it was quickly established that Steenvoorde was a real-world firm (as well as being a town in northern France), more precisely a dairy company founded in 1911, which changed its name to Stenval in the 1960s ahead of being taken over by the Gervais/Danone conglomerate. Although most of the company’s activities gradually merged into Danone’s output, the original facility has gone on to produce baby milk under the Blédina brand. 


Thanks to a chance encounter on site, it was confirmed to me by the owner of the building himself that the sign was very much the real thing, and that when he acquired the building a number of years ago, the ground floor area was in fact a milk and cheese storage depot. He also mentioned that visitors from northern France were usually delighted to spot the Steenvoorde name above the door, as it reminded them “of home and of a bygone era”. 

My new friend was confident that one of Bordeaux’s most famous ghost signs, announcing “Dépôt des biscuits Léon” was also genuine, while believing the sign had been restored in recent years. (Cross-referencing with a previous appearance on the blog confirms this.) Running “Biscuits Léon” through Google failed to throw up any results whatsoever, but once again social media correspondents were on hand to clear things up. Biscuits Léon was indeed a real-world company, proclaiming to be from Paris but in fact operating out of Maisons-Alfort, a suburb to the south-east of France's capital city, and was apparently renowned for its "petits-beurres" and its "gaufrettes vanille". And this would therefore have been the company's Bordeaux storage depot. 

Punctuation pedants may have noticed that inverted commas have been positioned before the word Léon, but are missing after it.
Upon closer inspection, the paint job does appear to be relatively recent.
A Biscuits Leon advertisement, source: delcampe.net (thank you Rosine)

A little further up the street, there is every chance that this next ghost sign is very much the real thing, given how worn and lived-in it all looks. The faded letters above the windows read “Entrepôts J-E Bonnel & Cie” while two vertical signs refer to “Transit” and “Camionnage”, suggesting Bonnel & Co. provided transport and haulage services.


The following two traders definitely appear to be fictional film set material. The first is a shoemaker who also advertises as a “specialist in laces”, operating under the delightful name of “Aux Galoches Réunies”, which I would love to loosely translate as “Shoes United”, although the word galoche does have a double meaning: it is a type of shoe or clog, but also a French kiss! The second is the hairdresser Antonio Martinez, where the adhesive paper sign has seen better days. Although it has made it through to 2019 more or less in one piece, it does look as if the sign will soon be a thing of the past. 


Then comes the most photogenic of all, an establishment labelled as “Café Cardinal” which also sold firewood and coal, and was owned by one E. Vaton. My Steenvoorde correspondent believes that this really was a café in a past life but that the painted sign is a recent addition. Again this is all very difficult to verify. Whatever, there are two certainties: today the “café” is very much a private residence and, as a plaque on the wall recalls, it is located on the very spot where Michel Montaigne, the renowned and influential 16th-century thinker and mayor of Bordeaux, lived with his family. 


Finally, to the side of a small square where rue de la Rousselle meets rue du Puits-Descazeaux, it would be great to think this faux marble sign advertising “Service départemental, Architecture” did in fact date back to Gallo-Roman times. It is of course a much more recent addition, but was a bona fide banner above the door of what was an architects’ bureau. The architects have reportedly moved on though, and now that part of the building is a company crèche! 


So there you have it. A few open questions and unsolved mysteries, and some genuine signs of the past. But this might just be one of those articles that evolves over time on the basis of feedback and information that comes in from readers. Do let me know if you know something about those various sights that has been missed here, whether you’ve spotted any of them in films, whether you used to enjoy your morning cup of coffee at Café Cardinal, and if you can help to categorically tell which signs are real, and which have been left over from the movies! To be continued?

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: rue de la Rousselle, Bordeaux
> Big thanks to writer Sophie Poirier who alerted me to rue de la Rousselle’s film set credentials and the existence of “fake” ghost signs, to Tobye over on Instagram who provided the essential initial information about Steenvoorde, to Rosine Duet for information about Biscuits Léon, and to Jérôme Mabon of the États Critiques website (heavily recommended for Bordeaux-based cinema buffs!) who identified and viewed the films shot on the street, even though the mysteries remain!

Just a little heads-up here because in June 2020, 3,500 competitors from 45 countries and 40,000 spectators will be descending on Bor...


Just a little heads-up here because in June 2020, 3,500 competitors from 45 countries and 40,000 spectators will be descending on Bordeaux for RoboCup, the annual robot football world cup, which is being held at the Parc des Expositions in the Lac district to the north of the city. It could be a lot of fun. 

So, what’s it all about? Basically, in the mid-1990s, the Japanese scientist Hiroaki Kitano came up with a 21st-century challenge to pick up where the 1996 and 1997 Deep Blue versus Garry Kasparov chess matches left off. Kitano’s suggestion was that, come 2050, a team of robots would be able to take on and defeat the human world champions in a game of football (soccer). The RoboCup tournament was born and next year’s event in Bordeaux will be the 24th of its kind, and each year the robots are getting more versatile, fast, precise and powerful. 

Of course, what can first come across as an unusual day out to watch robots aiming to kick a ball all the way into a goal has far deeper implications: RoboCup is in fact a high-level competition that puts robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to the test, and using football as the medium is incredibly demanding for all the skillsets at play, incorporating limitless events, combinations and variables that make it a much tougher proposition than the two-dimensional chess moves perfected by IBM’s Deep Blue! What is more, the AI and robotic capabilities being trialled in these events have countless potential real-world applications in areas ranging from health to rescue operations.


Accordingly, over the seven days of the June 2020 event in Bordeaux, beyond the football tournaments which run across various categories (humanoid, standard, mid- and small-sized, and simulated), there are a host of contests being held in the fields of home, rescue and industrial robotics. In most of these disciplines, parallel junior tournaments will also be held. Throughout the event, visitors will also be able to take in an extensive exhibition area and wide-ranging conference programme. 

Officially hosted by the University of Bordeaux in close partnership with the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region and Bordeaux Métropole, the organizers are secretly hoping for a home team victory: Bordeaux University lecturer Olivier Ly, who is one of the leading lights of the organization steering committee, has so far led his “Rhoban” team to RoboCup wins across various categories in 2016, 2017 and 2018. He is aiming to repeat that at this year’s event in Sydney… which would then set France up for a fifth title in 2020! 

So, it’s fun and technically fascinating, but is robot soccer as exciting as real, live entertainment sport? Judging by the promotional videos showcased by the RoboCup team at an event I attended to introduce the event to press and partners, the matches between humanoid robots are a little like watching life in slow motion, although there is a definite sense of adrenalin that builds up when a team is on the verge of scoring, and the ball is either parried by a tumbling robot goalkeeper or makes it over the line for a goal. However, the clips that were shown of the small-size automatic vacuum cleaner-like robots darting around the pitch like there was no tomorrow suggested they and their shots were almost impossible to counteract, and could almost certainly give bona fide footballers a good run for their money… so a 2050 robotic victory against the humans may not be as far-fetched as it sounds! 

> Official RoboCup France website, including information about the 2020 event: www.robocup.fr
> Here are video highlights from a 2018 RoboCup match between France's Rhoban team and Iran's MRL:

The fourth episode of the monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and features quality Fre...


The fourth episode of the monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and features quality French-language conversation with Deux Degrés, the good people behind Bordeaux Safari, the interactive roleplay guidebook which was the star of an adventure on the blog some time ago, and which has just been given a full makeover with the release of a brand new edition. 

But, as we are about to find out, the Safari concept has been rolled out across other cities in France (Nantes Safari being the most recent addition), and Deux Degrés are much more than a publishing house, describing themselves as an "agence de médiation" providing a platform and channels to connect local authorities with citizens. The full story can be heard below, as delivered by urban planner Gabriel Bord and designer Julianne Huon, both project leaders at Deux Degrés (pictured fifth and third left on the group photo above).

Here then is the podcast, which you'll also find on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podbean, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the platform of your choice! And scroll on down for all the links you need to find out more about Deux Degrés.


Further information about Deux Degrés:
> Website: www.deuxdegres.net
> Social media feeds: Facebook / Twitter / Instagram
> Deux Degrés' publications: http://boutique.deuxdegres.net/index.php 

A few months ago, Invisible Bordeaux published two compilations of clocks that can be seen in the streets of the city (you'll find...


A few months ago, Invisible Bordeaux published two compilations of clocks that can be seen in the streets of the city (you'll find the pieces here and here). Inevitably, there were other clocks that also deserved their 15 minutes of fame on the blog, so here, ticking away nicely for your delight, is chapter 3!  
The city's former slaughter house and meat market on Quai de Paludate was first built in 1938. In its brand new incarnation as the Boca food court, the clock has been refurbished and can be spotted just above the old market price displays! 
 
This colourful offering (note also the subtle stars alongside each number) can be seen on three of the four sides of the bell tower of Saint-Bruno church, located between the Mériadeck quarter and Chartreuse cemetery.
This delightful clock can be found in the 19th-century Passage Sarget shopping arcade just off Cours de l'Intendance. It proudly announces itself as being "électrique" and was the work of the company founded by watchmaker and mechanic Paul Garnier (actually Jean-Paul Garnier), best known for railway station clocks that can be seen in France and, for some reason, Romania.
This clock can be seen on the side of an otherwise nondescript building in the Bassins à Flot docklands district. The naval nature of the area may have been particularly appealing to the associated clockmaker Henry Lepaute, who also traded as a mechanical engineer specializing in lighthouses. This clock is not currently in working order.
This suspended, double-sided street corner clock on Place Puy-Paulin was manufactured by Pilon. It appears to have loosely inspired the logo of the Puy Paulin bistro that can be found at ground level (judging by their website).
Amusingly, Saint-Michel basilica may be one of Bordeaux's grandest places of worship, but it comprises a disproportionately small clock. We encountered Bordeaux clockmakers Guignan during the first rounds of Invisible Bordeaux clocks: Gaston Guignan founded his business in 1850 and the company operated for 100 years. 
Another Guignan clock, a near-identical model, can be spotted from a distance within the grounds of wine traders Lucien Bernard in the Belcier (now also known as Euratlantique?) district near Saint-Jean railway station. Currently out of order.
Students hanging around outside Lycée Montesquieu near Jardin Public do not need to refer to their mobile phones to keep track of time, as this clock does the job just fine. Interestingly, it is self-branded, with the school's name written on the clockface.
This four-quartered clock, which is currently out of order, can be seen on the exterior of Saint-Martial church in the Chartrons district. Like others documented in previous Invisible Bordeaux compilations, this was the work of Levallois-Perret clockmakers Brillié.
This double-faced clock can be found in Galerie Tatry in the Chartrons district. It is also out of order. Despite being under cover, it appears to be a popular haunt for birds, hence its current state of dirtiness.
OK, so this clock is not in working order for obvious reasons (it's stuck on 3 o'clock!). It can be seen on Rue de Grassi, next to the Fémina theatre. According to Robert Coustet's Nouveau Viographe de Bordeaux, the bas-relief feature was conceived by the architect Jean-Jacques Valleton to enhance the exterior of this 1877 building, which was originally a public auction house. The carvings therefore represent the kinds of objects customers might have expected to be bidding on.
We'll finish off with this 1990 handpainted sundial on the south-eastern flank of a building on Rue du Puits-Descazeaux (the small square has even unofficially been given the name Place Raymond-Colom). As you can see, given the direction in which it is facing, the clock is only operational until early afternoon. When I was there on a sunny day in February, it was more like 11:30, not 10:30 as displayed, so whoever conceived the sundial permanently set it to summertime hours!  
> Click here for part 1 and part 2 of the Invisible Bordeaux clock compilation!
> Big thanks to readers Philippe Billé and Conchi for suggesting some of the clocks that feature on this page!
> Cet article est également disponible en français ! 

> All these lovely clocks have also been stuck back-to-back in this short motion picture. Sit back and enjoy!

 

After ten years of extensive refurbishment work, the Muséum de Bordeaux - Sciences et Nature , the city’s natural history museum, reope...


After ten years of extensive refurbishment work, the Muséum de Bordeaux - Sciences et Nature, the city’s natural history museum, reopened to the general public in March 2019. Invisible Bordeaux was lucky enough be given a private tour of the museum, so this way please for an exclusive heads-up! 

The rebirth of the Muséum is the latest chapter in its long history, which stretches back to the end of the 18th century when two eminent local dignitaries - the academic Professeur Latapie and the ship-owner Bernard Journu-Auber - donated their private collections to the city on the premise that they be put on public display. Bordeaux upheld that promise, initially in the Hôtel de l’Académie on Place Bardineau, before transferring the pieces to a former private mansion house, Hôtel de Lisleferme, within the grounds of the nearby Jardin Public. This move occurred in 1862 and the ever-expanding inventory of the Muséum has remained there ever since.


Fast-forward then to the early years of the 21st century, by which time the ageing premises were no longer fit for purpose. The decision was therefore made to renovate and extend the museum, with a view to meeting new and stringent safety norms for visitors and exhibits alike whilst enhancing the building’s green credentials, to make the visitor experience as enjoyable and accessible as possible, and to totally revise and modernize the circuit to appeal to new audiences and expectations. All of the above was to be achieved by combining the respective talents of architect Sébastien Loiseau and his agency Basalt Architecture, the Franco-German interior designers Die Werft, the local graphic design agency Studio Kubik, multimedia specialists Drôle de Trame and digital interaction agency Opixido.

The 16-million-euro overhaul eventually took the best part of a decade. That may seem like a long time, but many factors came into play, as was explained to me by Julien Diez, head of multimedia infrastructure and lighting, as we toured the Muséum: “As well as the refurbishment and redesign of the main building, a whole new 1,000-square-metre conservation unit was built from scratch on a plot of land in northern Bordeaux, near Pont d’Aquitaine suspension bridge. And the transfer alone of the million specimens that form the museum’s collection of exhibits was a long, painstaking and laborious process.”

Part of a colour-coded permanent exhibit in the reception area.
Furthermore, interior work on the main building was also delayed by a major hailstorm in May 2018 which resulted in substantial flooding and damage. This was an unexpected event which, Julien says, “had a massive impact on team morale, but everybody quickly pulled together to overcome this massive setback”. 

What can visitors expect? At any given time, the museum showcases around 4,000 exhibits, and given the aforementioned extent of the full collection, a number of temporary (lasting four to ten months) and semi-permanent (duration of three to five years) exhibitions are planned on various themes, meaning that no two visits will ever be exactly the same. The first, long-term semi-permanent display is focused on the Aquitaine coast, utilizing modern staging techniques to highlight local species of wildlife. 

Part of the "Littoral Aquitain" exhibit.
On the top floor of the building, the impressive “Galerie Souverbie” delivers the Muséum’s permanent fixtures, featuring timeless cabinet displays that hark back to museums of old, but that are combined here with intricate lighting, modern video and cutting-edge multimedia resources that bring the exhibits in line with 21st-century technological capabilities. Julien mentions that, in all, the Muséum now boasts no less than “22 interactive terminals, 18 video displays and 10 listening stations comprising content that will be evolving over time for various audiences and events”.

Some of the permanent exhibits in the magnificent "Galerie Souverbie".
During my visit the team was trying out various lighting configurations, making for atmospheric shots such as this one!
There are many other innovations to be witnessed, and which digital communications trainee Marthe Spielmann also proudly details during our visit. One is the “Early Years Museum” area on the ground floor, “where everything in terms of messaging and format has been adapted to children aged six and under, working around the theme of gestation, birth, growth and development”. 

Inside the Early Years Museum.
Another in-house creation is what Marthe calls a “chariot de médiateur”, a tailor-made compact trolley system which museum staff can use for their talks, workshops and demonstrations, enabling
An ultra-mobile, space-saving
"chariot de médiateur"!
them to be far more mobile than previously, and freeing up more space for the exhibition proper. An additional change which has also freed up space is that all the museum’s administrative offices have been transferred to the neighbouring pavilion, meaning that in the main building almost every square inch is dedicated to the visitor experience, maximizing exhibition space and accessibility.

In fact, the Muséum has actually grown in surface area by opening up a whole new 500-square-metre exhibition area located underground, beneath the terrace area that lies in front of the building. Julien explains that this new set of rooms “will be used to host temporary exhibitions, starting out with a show entitled “Très Toucher” focused on the sense of touch, along with a look back on the renovation of the Muséum. Forthcoming exhibitions include one about laughter, and one about African wildlife”.

Down in the new basement exhibition area.
Further innovations lie behind the scenes, such as the installation of a drain water heat recovery system which is fed by pipes that cross the Jardin Public. The heat and energy extracted and harnessed from domestic waste water is regulated by heat pumps on site, and enables the Muséum to be heated during winter months and cooled during summer months, making this 18th-century building one of the most eco-friendly places around!      

Behind-the-scenes drain water heat recovery pumps!
Finally, one aspect which I have found particularly striking over recent months is the way the Muséum has embraced social media, regularly feeding their Youtube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter channels with fun and informative updates about work in progress, whether showing exactly what it takes to displace a giraffe (AKA "Kailou") or an elephant ("Miss Fanny", previously a fairground attraction, acquired by the city upon her premature death aged 33 in 1892), to one-on-one interviews with members of the 20-strong “équipe fantastique” who have brought the Muséum back to life. Do check them out, although the content available there is, like this article, just a trailer for the real thing! 

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Muséum de Bordeaux - sciences et nature / Natural History Museum, Jardin Public, Bordeaux.
> The Muséum is open every day except Mondays, 10:30-17:30 (October > March), 10:30-18:00 (April > September).
> Admission: 7 euros when temporary exhibitions are on (concessions 4 euros), 5 euros when there is no temporary exhibition (concessions 3 euros). Admission for children: 3 euros at all times.
> Big thanks to Julien Diez and Marthe Spielmann for warm welcome and the fantastic personal visit! 

> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !
> To sign off, there has been much media coverage of the Muséum in the weeks leading up to its reopening, but this Bordeaux Mag video report stands out as being a particularly good introduction: 

The third episode of the monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and features quality French-l...


The third episode of the monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and features quality French-language conversation with Mickaël Baubonne, the man behind the Métro de Bordeaux association, which aims to develop a metro/regional railway network in and around Bordeaux between now and 2030.

The project is seeking to resolve mobility and public transport congestion issues currently being encountered in the area, and has been built around thorough research into the subject that is detailed in a full report available online. During our conversation we touch on the feasibility, scope and scheduling of the project, as well as what makes this different to the previous VAL concept which emerged in the 1980s.

Here then is the podcast, which you'll also find on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker, PocketCasts, Podbean, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the platform of your choice! And scroll on down for all the links you need to find out more about the Métro de Bordeaux initiative.


Further information about the Métro de Bordeaux project:
> Métro de Bordeaux official website: www.metrobordeaux.fr
> On social media: Twitter / Facebook

After spotting a tweet published by one Matt Guenoux , featuring an aerial timelapse of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport taking shape b...


After spotting a tweet published by one Matt Guenoux, featuring an aerial timelapse of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport taking shape based on pictures available on the fantastic IGN Remonter le Temps website, I thought it might be interesting to attempt something similar for Bordeaux, and quickly came up with the idea that the Mériadeck quarter would be the perfect subject matter!

So, here's the end-product, a 1-minute compilation of aerial photos stretching over a 95-year period that shows just how much the area has changed beyond recognition, from a grid of narrow streets and low-rise homes to the esplanades, walkways and office blocks of the urban jungle with which we are now familiar, and which Invisible Bordeaux documented in an article you'll find here. Enjoy the video, and if you scroll down a little further you can read about some of the things to look out for! (Although you might have to hit pause!) 


1924: The tight grid of narrow roads that made up the old, residential Mériadeck quarter, crossed from top to bottom by rue Dauphine, which later became rue Docteur-Charles-Nancel-Pénard (one of the streets that lead onto Place Gambetta). Among the sights clearly visible and that will remain so throughout the 95-year sequence: Chartreuse cemetery and Saint-Bruno church to the left, the Palais Rohan city hall and gardens to the right of the centre, Saint-André cathedral to the right, and the Palais de Justice law courts, bottom right.

1950: The focal point of the picture is still the square-shaped Place Mériadeck, a meeting point and hive of activity for locals.

1956: To the immediate north of Place Mériadeck, a square plot has been cleared to make way for the area's first high-rise building.

1961: The Résidence du Château d'Eau tower block has gone up. It turns out to be the only building to be completed from the original plans for the district.

1965-66: Further demolition work has cleared other plots close to Résidence du Château d'Eau. To the south, new modern extensions to the Ornano fire station are built (inaugurated December 1966).

1967-70: Far more space is cleared and the rectangular Post Office building has now appeared.

1973: Place Mériadeck is wiped off the map for good. 

1976: The whole southern flank has become a building site, the first cross-shaped apartment and office blocks have appeared in the north-western corner, the circular, Guggenheim Museum-like Caisse d'Epargne building is beginning to take shape, and a huge chunk has been cut out of rue Docteur-Charles-Nancel-Pénard.

1979: New arrivals include the Mériadeck shopping centre (which opened the following year), the Gironde préfecture building and, less visible from above, the Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux block (now Bordeaux Métropole). 

1980: Raised walkways between the different sections appear, further cross-shaped apartment blocks appear on the southern flank.

1984-85: The star- or flower-shaped Patinoire skating rink (and arena-circuit concert venue) emerges bottom left. The trees and water features of the central esplanade are clearly visible. A little further to the east, just to the north of Place Pey-Berland, the Saint-Christoly shopping centre and apartment block is being built.

1989: The Lego-brick-like Aquitaine regional offices can be spotted over by Chartreuse cemetery, while the south-eastern corner of the area now boasts Novotel and Ibis hotels. A little further to the west, the municipal library has gone up. 

1991-96: Opposite the library, the Conseil Départemental de la Gironde has installed its new premises. From this point onwards, most of the available space is occupied and new developments are few and far between.

1998-2000: The most notable addition to the area is the Richard Rogers-designed law courts over on Cours d'Albret. 

2004: Nearby, Place Pey-Berland has been closed to road traffic to accommodate the new tram network and becomes fully pedestrianized.

2010-12: The Mériadeck effect extends to the north-east, as modern apartment blocks go up across the road from the La Poste building. Judged to have aged badly, the La Croix du Mail building is demolished and makes its way for the Cité Municipale, that can be seen in the 2019 GoogleEarth shot.

Of course, there is plenty more to spot. Do get in touch if Invisible Bordeaux has missed out on something, whether vital or trivial!

> Cet article est également disponible en français !

It is 10:18pm on Thursday 24 September 1959. At Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, a Douglas DC-7C propeller-driven aircraft (the very one pi...


It is 10:18pm on Thursday 24 September 1959. At Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, a Douglas DC-7C propeller-driven aircraft (the very one pictured above, registered F-BIAP) readies for takeoff on the second leg of TAI Flight 307, the regular connection operated by the French airline Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux (TAI) between Paris and Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, via Bordeaux and Bamako in Mali. 

The Mérignac stopover has lasted two hours and everybody on board – nine crewmembers and 56 passengers – is in good spirits as the plane levels up on runway 23, the airport’s main takeoff and landing strip. There is moderate wind and a light drizzle, but visibility is fair. Chief pilot Maurice Verges and copilot Jean Bouchot are given the all-clear by air traffic control and at 22:23 the DC-7 sets off on its eight-hour flight to Bamako.

After routinely leaving the ground the aircraft ascends to an altitude of 30 metres but fails to climb any further and even starts to drop. At a spot situated just over 1,000 metres from the tip of the runway, some 2,950 metres on from its initial departure point, the plane clips some of the tall trees (22.5 metres high) that form the dense “Landes de Boulac” pine forest on the territory of the village of Saint-Jean-d’Illac. Knocked off course, the right wing becomes damaged and the plane falls to the ground, the fuselage breaks up into pieces and wreckage is instantly strewn over a distance of several hundred metres. Multiple explosions occur resulting in a number of fires which quickly spread to the trees, although the damp ground prevents the fire from extending beyond the crash site.

Top right: the tip of Mérignac airport runway 23 (or 05 if approaching in the other direction), and bottom left, the approximate crash site, much of which now comprises small industrial units. Wreckage was spread over several hundred metres, mainly to the area that lay to the right of the aircraft's trajectory (orange line). Map/satellite data: Google.
In the immediate aftermath, rescue efforts are hampered by darkness and the sheer inaccessibility of the area; the rudimentary road structure means emergency vehicles are unable to approach any closer than 800 metres to the impact site. Miraculously, twelve passengers are found to have survived, having been thrown from the aircraft. They are rushed to hospital in Bordeaux, where one will later die. The crash of TAI Flight 307 therefore ultimately results in the death of 54 people, including all crewmembers.

A picture of the crash site, with wreckage visible in the distance. Picture credited to International Magazine Service for Paris-Match/Marie-Claire, source: Amazon.
So, what happened? In the report into the investigation released by France’s Bureau Enquêtes-Accidents de l’Inspection générale de l’aviation civile, sécurité et navigation aériennes (nowadays simply referred to as the BEA, Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses), three key factors were earmarked. Firstly, the two-year-old aircraft’s lights were not in operation. This may not immediately strike you as being an issue, but it is when combined with the second factor, namely that there were also no lights on the ground in that area to enable the pilots to have a sense of how low they were. Which takes us on to the third and most critical factor of all: the pilots were not paying attention to the altimeter and therefore had absolutely no knowledge of how low they were flying.

When replicating the same conditions during a reconstruction flight in Brétigny, near Paris, the Bureau established that an increase in speed during a very short critical phase (lasting around 10 seconds beginning 40 seconds after full throttle) can considerably reduce the aircraft’s rate of climb or even cause a loss of altitude, and that with a lack of visual references the pilot “may follow a line of flight that will bring the aircraft back near the ground if, during this period, optimum climbing speed is not maintained and the altimeter is not carefully watched”.

Returning to the scene of the crash today, much of the area is occupied by small-scale industrial units, although immediately beyond that a wide expanse of farming land can be found, along with clusters of dense pine forests, much like the area where TAI Flight 307 crashed. Even now, it is easy to imagine how isolated and out-of-reach the crash site must have been in 1959, despite being so near to what was already a major airport for its time. One section of the woods where I go wandering appears to have been transformed into a makeshift rubbish dump, which doesn’t seem to be the most dignified of destinies for this historic site.

The scene in the area today, with a dense pine forest still thriving to the right.
A closer look at part of the forest of apparently young pines.
Not the most dignified of memorials...
As I’d expected, unless I missed something there is no information panel or memorial of any kind to the tragic events of September 1959 on site, but to the southern flank of Chartreuse cemetery in central Bordeaux a lasting tribute remains. For that is where you will find the final resting place of copilot Jean Bouchot (aged 32), mechanic Yves Gosse (32), trainee mechanic Raymond Savina (38), steward André Paupy (28) and air hostess Chantal Perrault de Jotemps (35), along with the remains of 14 passengers bearing the names Barge, Bordelanne, Darlan, Delaunay, Duchamp, Duhart, Dussaut, Mensah, Morris and Tanon. 


Sixty years on, this air disaster – the most deadly to have ever occurred in the area – seems to have faded into the mists of history, so hopefully this article will help keep the memory of the event alive, and possibly even raise awareness of that sad night in 1959 when a Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux DC-7C sadly failed to reach its destination. 

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: TAI Flight 307 crash site, Boulac district, Saint-Jean d’Illac & TAI Flight 307 grave and memorial, Chartreuse cemetery, Bordeaux.
> The disaster has its own Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAI_Flight_307
> Information for this article was also culled from aviation-safety.net and the official BEA report of the investigation into the accident.

> Picture of the F-BIAP Douglas DC-7C from http://aerobernie.bplaced.net/TAI.html
 which features many other picture postcards issued by former airlines.  
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français.