Once again, all the subjects covered by the website over the past twelve months have been a delight to compile and research. But here ar...

2013 in review: five personal favourites


Once again, all the subjects covered by the website over the past twelve months have been a delight to compile and research. But here are five subjects which proved particularly interesting when peeling the layers away. Click on the titles or associated pictures to read the items!

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  The end of 2013 will soon be upon us and the time is therefore right to finish off the calendar year with a couple of items that look b...

2013 in review: the year’s most-read Invisible Bordeaux items

 
The end of 2013 will soon be upon us and the time is therefore right to finish off the calendar year with a couple of items that look back on some of the features that ran on Invisible Bordeaux over the past twelve months. This first set compiles the five most-read articles. Feel free to click on the titles or associated pictures to read the items!

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It was Adam over at Invisible Paris who first spotted this 1895 advertisement for a unique range of dental hygiene products: “ Dentifri...

The strange saga of the Benedictine monks, the sand, the cuttlefish and the toothpaste


It was Adam over at Invisible Paris who first spotted this 1895 advertisement for a unique range of dental hygiene products: “Dentifrices des RR. PP. Bénédictins de l’Abbaye de Soulac (Gironde)”. As the distributors, Seguin, were based in Bordeaux, it seemed like a potential subject for this website, but piecing the full story together proved to be a difficult case of working out where the facts end and the work of 19th-century marketing types begins!

The undisputed facts are that these tooth care products, which included mouth wash (or, to put it more eloquently, “elixir”), powders and paste, were produced and marketed from the late 19th-century onwards by Seguin, a company founded in 1807 and which specialised in products that were sold in chemists and parfumeries. Seguin was initially based at number 3 Rue Huguerie, near Place Tourny, and later relocated to number 47 Rue Ulysse Gayon, near Barrière Saint-Médard.

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In spite of the fact that there are still no Starbucks coffee shops in Bordeaux ( although this will change in early 2014 ), in recent...

The shop fronts of Bordeaux

In spite of the fact that there are still no Starbucks coffee shops in Bordeaux (although this will change in early 2014), in recent years much of the city has inevitably become a standardised succession of the brand names that are ever-present on high streets throughout France and around the world.  

But in amongst the Apples and Oranges, Fnacs, Etams, Body Shops and Subways, a number of timelessly independent outlets continue to hold out against the onslaught! Scroll on down as we view a handful of examples of the kinds of elegant and charming shop fronts that can still be seen throughout the city. Let’s enjoy them while we can!

Our first stop is stamp collectors' haunt Art et Philatélie, on the corner of Rue de la Porte-Dijeaux and Place Puy-Paulin.

 
The shop has been here for more than 150 years and, as well as dealing in stamps, boasts a fine stock of coins, old written correspondence, postcards, phone cards and champagne "muselets", the little metal caps that are clamped onto the top of champagne corks. Further information on the shop's website: www.art-philatelie.fr [Find it]

**


The vintage shop front of the Laffargue haberdashery can be seen on Rue des Remparts. According to informed opinion on various online forums, the shop is a popular draw for sewing and knitting enthusiasts of all generations. From what I can make out Laffargue stock rolls of material and reels of cotton and wool of just about every colour, shape, thickness and design, a wide range of zips and buttons, and enough patterns, thimbles and needles to make you want to take up knitting the minute you step inside the shop. Enter therefore at your peril!... [Find it]

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The Verdeun toy and scale model shop recently featured in the Invisible Bordeaux item about the Galerie Bordelaise. It is arguably the most timeless of the thirteen trade units in the arcade and features both an arcade-side entrance and this quaint roadside shop front with its host of miniature trains, planes and automobiles. The shop was founded in 1948 by Maurice Verdeun, a successful track cyclist who won a world championship title in 1950! His sons Bruno and Frédéric now run the shop. [Find it]

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OK, OK, as authentic and old-school as this one looks, Le Comptoir Bordelais is in fact a fairly recent addition to the shopping landscape in Bordeaux and is therefore very much the odd one out in this selection. The Rue des Piliers de Tutelle shop was founded by one Pierre Baudry less than five years ago and is Baudry's second such venture (his first shop was the similarly-themed Le Comptoir Arcachonnais in Arcachon). Both épiceries sell quality foodstuffs from the area and beyond. Products include wine, apéritifs, charcuterie and miscellaneous sweet and savoury delicacies. [Find it]

**


À l'Art Nouveau is a small independent printers on Rue Bouffard. They specialise in signage, name plates, rubber stamps, letterheads, engraving (such as on medals and trophies) and "faire-part" cards (wedding invites, birth and indeed death announcements, etc.). I think I'll go there the next time I need to get some keys cut, if only to see what it looks (and smells) like on the inside! Website: www.imprimerie-gravure-bordeaux.fr [Find it]
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Unbelievably, Au Carnaval has been supplying festive outfits and accessories to the good people of Bordeaux since the 1930s! Behind its colourful mosaic façade items for sale include all sorts of novelty wigs, masks, face paint and enough streamers, sparklers and fireworks to make any party go off with a bang. Pranksters can also purchase essential equipment for their practical jokes. The store also organises face-painting and balloon art and sculpting workshops. It all feels a million miles away from the genteel and cultured environment of the Musée d'Aquitaine, which just happens to be next door... [Find it]

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For obvious reasons, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a traditional French charcuterie, supplying miscellaneous deli meats to the masses on Rue Camille Sauvageau. But all that remains of the 1930s-built charcuterie is the name and the intricate mosaic façade. The place is in fact a record shop that stocks thousands of vinyl singles and albums (and displays some fine vintage record players in its window). Regarded by some as the "caverne d'Ali Baba du disque", La Charcuterie was converted into a record shop by owner Luc Magnan in 2006. The full story can be found on the Saint Mich' blog here: www.saintmich.fr/?p=1542 [Find it]

**


This is number 5, Boulevard Antoine Gautier, not far from Chartreuse Cemetery. It goes by the name of "Verseau Couture" and is in fact the workshop of Marie-Christine ("Cris") Dartigalongue, an "artisan d'art" who excels in knitting, sewing and sculpture. The colourful wood panels partly obscure some of her creations which do indeed seem very woolly. There also appears to be a cardboard cut-out of a power drill in amongst the clothes and pictures. Art, eh? [Find it]

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Four-and-a-half kilometres of murky Gironde waters separate the towns of Lamarque and Blaye. Bridging this gap between the Médoc and Blay...

Ferry 'cross the Gironde: the Lamarque-Blaye boat connection (and ghost railway station)

Four-and-a-half kilometres of murky Gironde waters separate the towns of Lamarque and Blaye. Bridging this gap between the Médoc and Blayais territories is a regular ferry connection; we give you the “bac Lamarque-Blaye”!

Every year around 50,000 vehicles and 150,000 passengers utilise the service, operated by the Gironde conseil général’s TransGironde network which mainly comprises bus routes and school bus lines.

Although I seem to recollect spotting several identical ferries in the past, the line’s official website refers only to a single one, the Côtes de Blaye. The 530-ton ship, built in 1970 by the Nantes shipbuilder Chantiers Dubigeon (founded in 1760 and which folded in 1987), is 51.5 metres long, 12.3 metres wide, and manned by a six-strong crew. It can carry up to 40 vehicles and 350 passengers, reaching speeds of up to 11 knots (around 20 km/h) over the course of the 20-minute crossing.

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One of the most illustrious of Bordeaux’s daughters is Rosa Bonheur who, throughout her life which spanned much of the 19th century, became...

Rosa Bonheur: the world-famous Bordeaux-born animalière

One of the most illustrious of Bordeaux’s daughters is Rosa Bonheur who, throughout her life which spanned much of the 19th century, became a world-renowned "animalière" and is regarded by many as the most famous female painter of her time.

Rosa Bonheur was born Marie Rosalie Bonheur on March 16th 1822 at 29, Rue Saint-Jean-Saint-Seurin (now  55, Rue Duranteau) in Bordeaux. Her father, Oscar-Raymond Bonheur, was a landscape and portrait painter and frequented Spanish artist Francisco Goya during the four years the latter spent in Bordeaux up until his death.

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After creating an “Essential Bordeaux” page a few months ago, I have now produced an “Essential Gironde” page, which provides a thumbnail...

Now available: the Invisible Bordeaux guide to the essential sights in Gironde

After creating an “Essential Bordeaux” page a few months ago, I have now produced an “Essential Gironde” page, which provides a thumbnail guide to the top daytrip-friendly sights to take in during a stay in or around Bordeaux.

These include Arcachon, the Dune de Pilat, Saint-Émilion, Blaye citadel, the Médoc wine route and a handful of other “essential” visits. The page may be further edited in time when I think of things I may have initially forgotten about or if I receive too many messages from readers complaining that I’ve left a specific sight off the list!

The Essential Gironde page will remain permanently accessible in the top horizontal menu and all the sights which have been singled out can be easily located thanks to the dedicated Googlemap - which also comprises the essential sights to enjoy in Bordeaux itself.

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Photos by fellow Bonjour Bordeaux contributors Yves Maguin, Amandine Maurand and myself are currently on display at the Tapa’l’Oeil bar ...

Tapa’l’œil photo exhibition until December 14th!

Photos by fellow Bonjour Bordeaux contributors Yves Maguin, Amandine Maurand and myself are currently on display at the Tapa’l’Oeil bar in the Sainte-Croix district of Bordeaux.

The pictures were taken over the course of a single late-summer morning in the Saint-Genès, Nansouty and Saint-Michel districts of Bordeaux, and were initially exhibited as part of the district Mairie’s Arty Garden Party back in September. The photos take in architecture, infrastructure, little-noticed details on buildings and scenes of everyday life (a previous blog item has already compiled the Invisible Bordeaux contributions to the full exhibition).

The photos will be on display until Saturday December 14th 2013. Naturally, admission is entirely free of charge, while the good people of Tapa’l’Oeil will gladly provide quality food and drink at affordable prices!
  • Tapa’l’Oeil, 14 Place Pierre Renaudel, Bordeaux (opposite Sainte-Croix church), open weekday lunchtimes, and Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings. Website: www.tapaloeil.fr, tel.: 05 56 92 63 21

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This bust, which can be seen on the main esplanade in the Mériadeck quarter, depicts Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portugal’s Consul-General...

Aristides de Sousa Mendes: the insubordinate Portuguese Consul who saved thousands of lives

This bust, which can be seen on the main esplanade in the Mériadeck quarter, depicts Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portugal’s Consul-General in Bordeaux in 1940 and the man whose signature enabled the escape to freedom of several thousand refugees.

Sousa Mendes was 55 years old when he arrived in Bordeaux in 1939, nearing the end of a respectable career as a diplomat for his country, having held positions in Zanzibar, Brazil and the United States. Respectable but not unblemished: he had been involved in a number of incidents of financial irregularities, using public money for private purposes. It was at the end of a ten-year stint in Belgium, a point at which Sousa Mendes returned to Portugal seeking permission to leave his post, that Portuguese prime minister António de Oliveira Salazar assigned him to this new position in south-western France.

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The town of Blanquefort, in the second belt of Bordeaux’s northern suburbs, owes its name to this “white fort” ( Blanque fortis ) which k...

The white fortress of Blanquefort

The town of Blanquefort, in the second belt of Bordeaux’s northern suburbs, owes its name to this “white fort” (Blanque fortis) which kept watch over the marshy Garonne-side lowlands from the 11th century onwards. Today, the privately-owned site occasionally opens its doors to the general public, and visiting the ruins provides a unique means of instantly rewinding through 1,000 years of history. 

Archaeological digs in the area have established that there was human presence here as early as 1200BC. More recent Gallo-Roman period tiles were also uncovered suggesting that there may have been a rudimentary structure designed to monitor movement along the road pictured below, which at the time was the only route into Burdigala (Bordeaux) from the north.
This was once the main road into Bordeaux from the Médoc!
Come the 11th century, a stone keep was erected and became the residence of the Lords of Blanquefort (as referred to in documents dated 1080), who owned land that stretched from the Garonne to the Atlantic. Despite being built on a low mound surrounded by a plain, the site’s location continued to prove strategic as the structure was used to collect “tonlieu” taxes from those passing through. Around 1214, a lack of male descendants resulted in the direct branch of the Blanquefort seigneury family dying out.

By now, the region had passed under English control and the castle and its land were acquired in two lots, first in 1257 by Henry III, King of England, then by his son Prince Edward in 1270 (two years before he himself became crowned King Edward – he was to reign until 1307). The central residential section of what was now a royal fortress was now strengthened by six towers. A stone wall and turrets had also been erected where a wooden palisade had probably previously stood. The overall structure was now a bona fide fortress and became the cornerstone of the area’s system of defence, as a means of regulating overland access from the north and controlling boat traffic on the Garonne. At the time, between 20 and 30 soldiers were permanently stationed here.


As well as the royal throne, Edward I’s successor, Edward II, also inherited a number of debts and so, in 1308, gifted the fortress to one of his creditors, Bertrand de Got, the nephew of Pope Clement V. It was then passed on to Aymeri de Durfort, Lord of Duras, in 1325, before being attributed by the French King Charles VII to Antoine de Chabannes, Count of Dammartin, as a reward for his contribution to the Hundred Years’ War against the English. Under de Chabannes’ authority, the structure was further embellished with a new grand entrance to the central residential section and the addition of two artillery towers.

The grand entrance as added in the 15th century.
Inside, traces of a spiral staircase on the walls.
The musical chairs continued around 1466 when de Chabannes swapped Blanquefort for six seigneuries near Paris. Ten years later, the Blanquefort seigneury was returned to the Durforts, who remained at its helm until the 1789 French Revolution, despite having abandoned the fortress as a residential concern in the 17th century after it had come under regular siege during the 16th-century wars of religion. 

The way it was: 1632 picture of the fortress as drawn by the Dutch artist Hermann Van der Hem (source: GAHBLE information panel).
The 18th century proved fatal for the fortress: the surrounding marshland was drained, robbing the structure of its natural system of defence, and further downstream, Marquis de Vauban implemented brand new means of fortification to protect the Gironde Estuary. The fortress was abandoned and soon fell into ruins, as much of its stone was used to build other homes in the vicinity.

In 1862, there was a moderate change in fortunes when the fortress became one of the first medieval castles to be listed as one of France's Historic Monuments. In the ensuing years, local “paysans” took up residence in the gatehouse towers and even built a modern house within the fortress walls. As such the structure was inhabited until the 1920s when it was abandoned for good. Ivy soon covered the walls while the ground became a thick carpet of wild vegetation.


In 1962, volunteers set up an archaeological association to study, preserve and "reclaim" the fortress, and extensive digs took place to better understand the structure and its design. Today the fortress and the surrounding land are private property, but upkeep is overseen by a local association, GAHBLE (Groupe d'Archéologie et d'Histoire de Blanquefort). GAHBLE members organise guided tours of the fortress more or less once a month, as well as holding open day events as part of the wider annual European Heritage weekends.

These visits are obviously a great means of getting the bigger picture of what life may have been like within the fortress, but also of uncovering some of its less-expected aspects. In amongst the ruins it is easy to pick out what used to be the kitchen area, the fireplace and the latrines. Countless round shot cannonballs, used to attack the fortress during the wars of religion, must have been gathered together at the time and have not moved in hundreds of years. In some parts the stone flooring is intact and has its own tale to tell as the stone can be traced across Europe to the banks of the Thames and Rhine: the stone would have arrived in the area as ballast to provide stability on cargo ships, and was replaced by wine or other goods for the return trip!

Wartime round shot remnants!
Blanquefort’s white fort may no longer serve a practical purpose or dominate the surrounding plains, but it remains a fascinating symbol of how times have changed.
> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Forteresse de Blanquefort, rue de la Forteresse, Blanquefort. 
> GAHBLE website: www.gahble.org

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In the previous Invisible Bordeaux posts (click here for part 1 and part 2 ), you will have read about the first stages in my attempt to...

The Invisible Bordeaux Monopoly challenge: part 3/3

In the previous Invisible Bordeaux posts (click here for part 1 and part 2), you will have read about the first stages in my attempt to use the Bordeaux edition of the board game Monopoly as a roadmap to cycle around the city. The second chapter ended with me outside Sainte-Croix church.

From here it was just a short ride to Gare Saint-Jean railway station, one of the four public transport squares to collect on the Bordeaux Monopoly board (solely railway stations in the original editions). On the other side of the railway lines lies the Belcier quarter which is, along with Bassins à Flots, currently the cheapest square on the board (60 Monopoly dollars, or M's). There are run-down, semi-demolished houses, rows of no-frills low-rise échoppes, but also a number of modern office and residential buildings taking shape and heralding the area’s on-going re-birth, which is likely to move up a gear when the very high-speed rail network is complete in 2017. Property here will then be just two hours from central Paris, i.e. almost as accessible as some of the capital city’s distant suburbs!

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In the previous Invisible Bordeaux post , you will have read about the first stages in my attempt to use the Bordeaux edition of Monopoly...

The Invisible Bordeaux Monopoly challenge: part 2/3

In the previous Invisible Bordeaux post, you will have read about the first stages in my attempt to use the Bordeaux edition of Monopoly as a roadmap to cycle around the city. The first chapter ended with me on Esplanade des Quinconces admiring wedding photographers at work.

From here on the Monopoly stops were coming thick and fast: the affluent Triangle d’Or (the most expensive blue-set property on the board, at 400 Monopoly dollars, or M's), the public transport hub and square that is Place Gambetta (M240), the wide walkway of Cours du Chapeau-Rouge (M260) where a few artists were displaying and selling their pictures, and Place de la Bourse (M320) which, at the time I was there, was still virtually deserted.

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Every year during my family’s summer holidays, a different board game rules the early-evening apéritif slot. This year, that game was the...

The Invisible Bordeaux Monopoly challenge: part 1/3

Every year during my family’s summer holidays, a different board game rules the early-evening apéritif slot. This year, that game was the Bordeaux edition of the classic board game Monopoly and it occurred to me, possibly after a couple of glasses of Corsican wine (and probably inspired by this book), that the board could serve as an interesting and unusual roadmap for a cycle ride around the city. The Invisible Bordeaux Monopoly challenge was born!

The current Bordeaux Monopoly set, one of a host of regional variants that are now available (Bassin d’Arcachon and Gironde versions also exist), was released by games specialists Winning Moves under licence from Hasbro in 2011, a decade on from the city’s first edition. The streets and districts on the board cover a wide variety of property market values, as identified with the aid of local real estate specialists. The Monopoly board therefore serves as an instant snapshot of where in the city property is the most desirable, and where it is the most affordable!

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Welcome to the Le Chapon Fin , one of Bordeaux’s oldest restaurants and firmly established as an essential high-society meeting point in th...

Le Chapon Fin: the Bordeaux dining experience by royal appointment

Welcome to the Le Chapon Fin, one of Bordeaux’s oldest restaurants and firmly established as an essential high-society meeting point in the heart of the affluent Triangle d’Or, the three sides of which are formed by Cours de l’Intendance, Cours Clémenceau and Allées de Tourny.

The restaurant was founded in 1825 in the slipstream of the French Revolution. Convent land and buildings had been confiscated and within the space of a few years of hasty urban planning, housing, shops, theatres, a covered market and restaurants all mushroomed to serve the needs of the quarter’s wealthy trader residents.

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An exhibition held last weekend as part of the Saint-Michel/Nansouty/Saint-Michel quarter's Arty Garden Party featured a number o...

Arty Garden Party photo exhibition


An exhibition held last weekend as part of the Saint-Michel/Nansouty/Saint-Michel quarter's Arty Garden Party featured a number of my photos. Fellow snapper Amandine Maurand and I had been commissioned by Bonjour Bordeaux supremo Yves Maguin to team up with him to take photographs in the surrounding neighbourhood. 

Some 60 of our shots were on display at the event, which was held in the rather lovely Jardin des Dames de la Foi. As an integral part of the programme - which also featured concerts, drama productions, guided walking tours, children's workshops, yoga sessions and martial arts demos - the exhibition proved to be popular and district mayor Fabien Robert even stated that the photos uncovered a number of sights with which he was unfamiliar.

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To the side of a roundabout in Mérignac, not far from junction 10 of the Rocade ringroad, a flame-shaped marble plaque is the sole reminder...

Beaudésert internment camp: the inconvenient truths of a wartime prison

To the side of a roundabout in Mérignac, not far from junction 10 of the Rocade ringroad, a flame-shaped marble plaque is the sole reminder of what was once located there or thereabouts: Mérignac-Beaudésert internment camp.

The Beaudésert district, after playing a leading role in the birth of aviation in the area, had formed the backdrop to a 20,000-bed hospital set up by the US Army during the First World War. Then, throughout the 1920s, the surrounding area had been earmarked by the local authorities for an “Olympic”-style village with sports fields, tennis courts, swimming pool and skating rink. The ambitious plans were soon shelved though and the area instead became occupied by the traveller community... whose immediate environment was about to change radically.

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It is September 3rd 1910, and the silhouette which can be seen over to the top right of the picture above, flying over the Garonne in cen...

Beaudésert airfield and the development of Bordeaux-Mérignac airport


It is September 3rd 1910, and the silhouette which can be seen over to the top right of the picture above, flying over the Garonne in central Bordeaux, is that of a Voisin-Gnome biplane, with the Peruvian aviator Juan Bielovucic on board (inset). His arrival in the city came ahead of a week-long “Grande semaine d’aviation”, which laid the foundations of the longstanding and healthy relationship between the Bordeaux area and aeronautics… and was in many ways the birth of Mérignac airport.

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The annual European heritage days take place on September 14th and 15th. As ever the event will provide a unique opportunity to get behin...

Journées du Patrimoine 2013: the Invisible Bordeaux selection!

The annual European heritage days take place on September 14th and 15th. As ever the event will provide a unique opportunity to get behind the scenes of many fascinating places, or else stay out in the open and enjoy some fine guided walking tours. 

Here is a small selection of some of the more unusual visits which have caught the eye of Invisible Bordeaux, while the full list of venues and visits - in Bordeaux and beyond - can be found on the official event website.

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On the right bank of the Garonne river, mid-way between Pont Chaban-Delmas and Pont d’Aquitaine, the 70-strong workforce of an industrial...

Jock: the Bordeaux family business whose “crème” is a Bordeaux family favourite

On the right bank of the Garonne river, mid-way between Pont Chaban-Delmas and Pont d’Aquitaine, the 70-strong workforce of an industrial plant is hard at work around the clock manufacturing products under the brand name Jock. The name is familiar to the citizens of Bordeaux and beyond, and the company is responsible for what is, for many, one of the most evocative foodstuffs of their childhood: “la crème Jock”.

The delicacy was created by biscuit-maker Raymond Boulesque in 1938 on Rue Bergeret in the central Bordeaux Capucins district. His aim had been to invent an inexpensive cereal-based foodstuff for children at a time when sugar was both hard to come by and costly. The end-product proved just as popular with adults, who enjoyed the crème as a dessert in its own right.
Rue Bergeret and Raymond Boulesque. And his dog. (Right-hand picture from display in Jock factory shop.)
After the Second World War, Boulesque made a first attempt at diversifying into other products, developing a hot chocolate breakfast treat which was given the name Mars. He had been unaware of the identically-named chocolate bar which had been developed and produced in the UK since 1932. The Bordeaux version of Mars was soon dropped although the no doubt closely-related “Crème tradition au chocolat” is still available today and referred to on the company’s website as the “younger sister” of Boulesque’s original invention.

The venture went from strength to strength though and in 1955, under the leadership of the founder’s son Marius Boulesque, the Jock workforce moved to new premises on Rue de Bethmann, to the south-west of the city. That period, and the following phase, with a third-generation member of the family at the helm, Jean-Pierre Ballanger, was the start of the golden age of la crème Jock, which is still nostalgically associated by countless people with their childhood.

Jock staff at the Rue de Bethmann premises (picture from display in Jock factory shop),
and the scene at n°130 Rue de Bethmann today.
In 1999, Jock moved to the new purpose-built facility on Quai de Brazza where they can still be found today, and the current managers are Jean-Pierre and Jean-Philippe Ballanger, the great-grandsons of Raymond Boulesque. The diversification strategy which began all those years ago is paying dividends; the original crème now accounts for less than 5% of the company’s sales while its most bankable products include instant cake batter (their brownie recipe is a hit in the US) and other readymade dessert mixtures (some of which are marketed under the PrePat'33/PréPât brand). The company also manufactures countless products incognito. These are then sold under the brand names of chain stores such as Leclerc, Super U and Carrefour (output extends to icing sugar and yeast). Jock now aim to launch at least three new products every year and continue boosting revenues, which recently recorded a five-fold jump over an eleven-year period, hitting the €30m mark in 2012.


Since 2012, the full range of Jock products has been available for purchase in a quaint factory shop located on the ground floor of the facility and open during factory hours. The shop also stocks vintage branded souvenirs and cooking utensils, as well as prominent reminders of the company’s partnership deal with local Top 14 rugby team, Union Bordeaux-Bègles (their logo features on the outfits the players wear when warming up and the club's official rugby balls).

Recently visiting the shop, there was obviously no way I was going to leave empty-handed, and I ended up buying two packs of the original crème Jock, and readymade mixtures to home-bake  my very own lemon cake, cannelés and gâteau basque, all in the name of Invisible Bordeaux research, of course. So you will be pleased to know that so far I have carried out a number of kitchen-based experiments with the various Jock products (all apart from the gâteau basque mixture), the results of which were as follows:

First up was the crème Jock itself, and it soon transpired that it had been a good move to purchase two packs as I misread the slightly ambiguous instructions and ended up emptying the first pack, thus putting ten times too much powder into my pan of milk. The result proved inedible although I was able to use it to plaster over some unsightly holes in the bedroom of one of my children.

The second time round I paid far more attention to the recipe (confusingly, the recommended quantities are detailed in a separate box on the pack to the cooking instructions themselves) and opted for “crème anglaise” texture. Indeed, one of the beauties of crème Jock is that differing thicknesses genuinely do result in totally different desserts (such as crème dessert and crème pâtissière).

This take on crème anglaise, which was slightly less sweet than other products on the market, did prove successful and was used for a dessert made up of Rice Krispies hardened with, ironically, melted down Mars bars. It was rather delicious. What is more, after a further 24 hours in the fridge, the crème had hardened and was enjoyed the following day as a standalone dessert.

My second failed experiment involved the Jock cannelés. Cooking cannelés is a fine art and on that day I ran out of time. The recommended baking time was between 40 and 45 minutes and well beyond that deadline the cannelés were still not cooked on the inside, or golden brown on the outside. Perhaps this was down to the silicon baking moulds I was using (which should not have been issue). Whatever, I grew impatient and we ended up consuming the half-baked cannelés, all photographic evidence of which has been destroyed.

To end on a positive note though, my attempt at cooking the readymade lemon cake mixture was a resounding success. With the benefit of hindsight, the most difficult part of the whole process was opening the packet… then resisting the temptation to eat the raw mixture inside. Other than greasing the tin, no additional ingredients are required and once in the oven the cake bakes and rises within 30 minutes. The resulting cake was an absolute delight and, it might be noted, remarkably easy to slice.

If I’m to further develop my nascent love affair with Jock produce, I still have quite a bit of catching up to do though. A quick web search will result in a whole host of more creative recipe ideas posted by enthusiasts, the best source being the blog run by Jock themselves!
> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: factory and shop, Quai de Brazza; previous locations on Rue Bergeret and Rue de Bethmann. 
> Official Jock website: www.jock.fr 
> Online shop including recipe blog: www.boutique-jock.fr
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !
Finally, this great 1984 TV advert features Girondins football legend Alain Giresse:


Click here if video doesn't display properly on your device.

Although today's ads look more like this:


Click here if video doesn't display properly on your device.
 
Big thanks to Guillaume and Erik who suggested this subject!

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Centre National Jean Moulin is a compact museum devoted to the Second World War that, despite its central location on Place Jean-Moulin, ...

Centre National Jean Moulin: remembering the Second World War

Centre National Jean Moulin is a compact museum devoted to the Second World War that, despite its central location on Place Jean-Moulin, just off Place Pey-Berland, doesn’t always make it on to the list of to-see places for locals, let alone tourists.

The centre was created in 1967 under the aegis of the then mayor of Bordeaux, Jacques Chaban-Delmas. Since 1981, it has been housed in what used to be the premises of the Caisse d’Épargne bank, whose teams have since moved on to the Mériadeck quarter… and are soon set to move again to new quarters on the Garonne waterfront.

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Cité Frugès , also known as Les Quartiers Modernes Frugès , is a 1920s housing estate of particular architectural and historical signific...

Le Corbusier's Cité Frugès: timelessly modern and back in fashion

Cité Frugès, also known as Les Quartiers Modernes Frugès, is a 1920s housing estate of particular architectural and historical significance, and its 50 properties have slowly become a source of pride for the surrounding town of Pessac.

This unique venture was initially commissioned in 1924 by the local industrialist Henry Frugès (1879-1974), whose wealth had been built on the success of his sugar refinery business (later taken over by Béghin-Say, which ceased operations in Bordeaux in 1984). Frugès, who had already nurtured a reputation as a rich eccentric, as showcased by his spectacular residence on Place des Martyrs de la Résistance in central Bordeaux (still known as Hôtel Frugès), developed an ambitious plan to house his factory workers.

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Tucked away in amongst the busy thoroughfares of Bordeaux are a couple of covered arcades which offer a time capsule-like glimpse in...

Passage Sarget and Galerie Bordelaise: arcade games and the birth of Mollat


Tucked away in amongst the busy thoroughfares of Bordeaux are a couple of covered arcades which offer a time capsule-like glimpse into the shopping malls of yesteryear.
 
Our first stop is the elegant Passage Sarget, which connects Place du Chapelet with Cours de l’Intendance. Opened in 1878, the arcade is named after Baron Sarget, a local dignitary (his mansion house was located nearby) who funded its construction.

In 1917, Passage Sarget was purchased by the wine trader Nicolas Désiré-Cordier. Just two years later he sold it on to the city of Bordeaux for 1 million francs. The city was keen to acquire the passageway because pedestrians far preferred walking through the arcade to the road that runs parallel, Rue Martignac, which was considered unsafe at the time.

Top left is Rue Martignac, which is possibly not as rough as it once was.
During later renovations, archaeological digs took place and uncovered the traces of ancient baths and mosaics. Some objects which were retrieved dated back to the 1st century… Don’t expect to be able to enjoy a hot bath there now though; the arcade is solely comprised of luxury shops and tearooms! However, the atmosphere is unique, thanks in part to the arcade’s glass roof and metal framework, which for many years was obscured by a suspended ceiling.

Elegant features, classy shops and all within easy reach of the tram!
The second, slightly older exhibit is Galerie Bordelaise, which forms an unusual diagonal channel through the middle of its surrounding buildings, between Rue des Piliers de Tutelle and Rue Sainte-Catherine. This arcade was the work of the architect Gabriel-Joseph Durand and opened for the first time in April 1834. It had initially been funded by four rich South-American traders who had fled war in Mexico.


Possibly the most timeless of the thirteen trade units in the arcade is the Verdeun scale model and toy shop. As well as its arcade-side entrance, the roadside shopfront of this store is particularly charming (which also features in a blog item dedicated to Bordeaux shop fronts). The shop was founded in 1948 by Maurice Verdeun, a successful track cyclist who won a world championship title in 1950! His sons Bruno and Frédéric now run the shop.

Despite undergoing renovations, funded by the outlets themselves (which also include a bicycle shop, a shoe shop, a café, a chemists and a theatre and concert booking office), the arcade is looking the worse for wear: cracked windowpanes, peeling paintwork and moulded or sculpted features that need attention. Furthermore, a number of the units are currently unoccupied and have been for some time. Will Galerie Bordelaise ever make a full recovery and enjoy the kind of golden period it experienced a century ago?


For it was here that, in 1896, a young man called Albert Mollat took over a small bookshop that had previously belonged to his cousin (I have yet to work out which Galerie Bordelaise unit it was located in). Mollat adopted an ambitious pricing strategy, branched out into publishing itself and by 1928 the shop had outgrown its premises. It moved to a new location, taking over property on the spot of the final Bordeaux living quarters of the writer and thinker Montesquieu. The shop, which is still called Mollat, is part of the genetic makeup of anyone who lives in Bordeaux. It has continued to flourish and expand, and today ranks as the biggest independent bookshop in France.

> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Passage Sarget, Galerie Bordelaise, Mollat bookshop, Bordeaux.

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As reported in the previous Invisible Bordeaux item , in the early years of the 20th century, the small community of Croix d’Hins became ...

Croix d’Hins (2/2): the Lafayette super high-power radio station

As reported in the previous Invisible Bordeaux item, in the early years of the 20th century, the small community of Croix d’Hins became synonymous with its airfield. But as the airfield faded into obscurity, Croix d’Hins provided the setting for the construction of the world’s most powerful radio transmitter station.

The eight-pylon station, which covered an area of 400 metres by 1,200 metres (the equivalent of 96 football pitches!), was a by-product of the First World War. During the conflict, ocean-bed telephone cables were severed and alternative means of long-range communication had to be explored. At the time, radiotelegraphy (or TSF in French, télégraphie sans fil) was developing rapidly and when the US joined Allied operations in 1917, they needed a reliable and permanent communications channel between Europe and the States.

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The quiet village of Croix d’Hins, a district of Marcheprime that lies mid-way between Bordeaux and Arcachon, is a succession of resident...

Croix d’Hins (1/2): Léon Delagrange and a short chapter in the history of aviation

The quiet village of Croix d’Hins, a district of Marcheprime that lies mid-way between Bordeaux and Arcachon, is a succession of residential streets broken up solely by the occasional small industrial plant. This image is far-removed from its status as one of the birthplaces of aviation (and later large-scale radio transmission). For the full story, let’s travel back in time to 1903!

For it was around this time that the flat expanses of land in Croix d’Hins were deemed to be an ideal setting for an airfield by the pioneering pilots and aircraft builders Louis Blériot and Gabriel Voisin. Space was cleared on a stretch alongside the railway line and these early aviators found themselves with 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares) to play with, making Croix d’Hins one of the biggest airfields in the world at the time! Blériot made good use of the installations, trialling a number of his creations there.

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