All the subjects covered by the website over the past twelve months have once again been a delight to compile and research. But here are ...

2015 in review: five personal favourites


All the subjects covered by the website over the past twelve months have once again 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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Again, the time has come to finish off the calendar year with a couple of items that look back on some of the features that ran on Invisi...

2015 in review: the year’s most-read Invisible Bordeaux items


Again, the time has come 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. Click on the titles or associated pictures to read the full items!


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In this, the latest of an occasional series of guest posts, fellow Brit and Bordeaux Expats midfield lynchpin Chris Tighe gets under th...

In search of the Saint-Michel district of Bordeaux


In this, the latest of an occasional series of guest posts, fellow Brit and Bordeaux Expats midfield lynchpin Chris Tighe gets under the skin of the Saint-Michel district and some of its street names.

The Saint-Michel neighbourhood is on the verge of a triumphant rebirth, the next in the long list of rejuvenation programs in Bordeaux's city centre. The Saint-Michel renovation project was initiated in 2007 and the ambitious programme is finally starting to see the light of day. What does it all involve?


According to the Préfet de la région d'Aquitaine's direction régionale de l'environnement de l'aménagement et du logement (DREAL), the plan aims to:

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During the conference I gave a few months ago at the Musée d’Aquitaine , I touched upon the story of Toussaint-Yves Catros, the “ cultiv...

Domaine Catros and the arboretum which refuses to lie down


During the conference I gave a few months ago at the Musée d’Aquitaine, I touched upon the story of Toussaint-Yves Catros, the “cultivateur de pépinières” (tree nursery agriculturist) whose legacy is still very much present today. Catros has already been given a full feature on the blog but, in short, he played a pivotal role in planting the pine trees that secure the Atlantic coast sand dunes, initiated the culture of artichokes in Macau and founded the seed production and distribution company Catros-Gérand which still today operates out of a facility in Carbon-Blanc.

In the audience that day was the most excellent Yves Baillot d’Estivaux (local authority on all things automobile-related), who put me in touch with Mesdames Elisabeth Desplats and Edith Moreau, two sisters who also happen to be descendants of Catros (their family tree can be traced back to Anne-Jeanne, the sister of Toussaint-Yves, the latter remained a life-long bachelor). They welcomed me to their homes in Carbon-Blanc and allowed me to peruse files and files of archive documents, with a view to reconstructing the history of the arboretum created by Catros in Le Haillan, on land which is now split between the aerospace giants Thales Avionics and Herakles.

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Coming soon to a cinema near you (in my dreams) is this, the official Invisible Bordeaux Youtube trailer! Featuring short snippets ...

'It's Bordeaux, but not as you know it': the Invisible Bordeaux Youtube trailer


Coming soon to a cinema near you (in my dreams) is this, the official Invisible Bordeaux Youtube trailer!

Featuring short snippets of videos which have already been viewed literally dozens of times, this clip gives unsuspecting viewers of what to expect when they enter the Invisible Bordeaux universe. Kapla, hairdressers, a capella singing in a cemetery and pretending to be in a Formula 1 racing car whizzing through the city centre, they're all in there. Enjoy!


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Rue Notre-Dame is one of the oldest and longest roads in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. In amongst the elegant 18th-century buildin...

The exotic Grands Bains des Chartrons: now Bordeaux’s prettiest car park


Rue Notre-Dame is one of the oldest and longest roads in the Chartrons district of Bordeaux. In amongst the elegant 18th-century buildings, timeless antique dealers and fashionable art galleries is a peculiar façade, the front of what used to be a renowned hammam (Turkish baths), “Les Grands Bains des Chartrons”.

The steam rooms, which were originally the property of the wine negociant Mr Jaubert, opened in 1895 on the site where a convent once stood (known as “couvent des Carmes déchaussés” or “couvent des Petits-Carmes”). The baths were built to the designs of Bordeaux architect Eugène Gervais, who also conceived the Théâtre des Arts building on Rue Saint-Sernin and some impressive villas further north in Royan.

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An unusual guide to wine appeared on the scene earlier this year: " La Carte des vins s’il vous plaît ". The single-page guide...

Mapping the story behind 'La Carte des vins s’il vous plaît'


An unusual guide to wine appeared on the scene earlier this year: "La Carte des vins s’il vous plaît". The single-page guide, which combines graphics, tips and tales, is the work of Jules Gaubert-Turpin and Adrien Grant Smith Bianchi. I caught up with Jules, over a glass of wine, to find out more about the innovative product.

How would you define la Carte des Vins s’il vous plaît?

It's a foldaway map which compiles easy-to-understand graphics that illustrate how a wine-growing region functions: the varieties of grapes (cépages) that are used, proportions of the different types of wine produced, etc. The challenge we faced was to talk about wine, which can be a touch elitist, in a manner which is as straightforward as possible. And we believe that the best way of getting things across is through the use of diagrams, charts and timelines.

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I recently discovered one of the most unusual and fascinating outings to be experienced in Bordeaux… or at least it is if you’re drawn t...

Quai de Brazza by night: inside Sud Ouest’s print centre


I recently discovered one of the most unusual and fascinating outings to be experienced in Bordeaux… or at least it is if you’re drawn to industrial tourism and not afraid to stay up late: a night-time tour of the print centre of the regional daily newspaper Sud Ouest on the right-bank Quai de Brazza.

The tours, which are entirely free of charge, take place several times a week between the months of October and June and are led by a friendly team of young guides. Although most visitors come as part of group bookings (organised by works committees, local councils, etc.), the tours are very much open to the general public. And so it was that my elder son and I joined a small crowd assembled outside the facility at 10:30pm on a chilly Friday night.

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When I was recently invited to board a Cessna 172 to enjoy a flight over the Atlantic coast, the Gironde estuary and the Médoc , I made...

Video: Pilot's eye view of take-off and landing at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport


When I was recently invited to board a Cessna 172 to enjoy a flight over the Atlantic coast, the Gironde estuary and the Médoc, I made sure I had my GoPro camera on hand to capture footage as the plane took off and landed. 

So here then is the view that pilots enjoy when departing from and arriving at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport. We took off from and landed on the main runway, codenamed 05/23 (find out what those mysterious numbers mean here), although we had the semi-unusual delight of facing north-east when doing so (the winds are such that aircraft tend more often to take off and land in a south-westerly direction).


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A colleague and aviation enthusiast recently suggested I take flight with him in a light aircraft, with the primary objective of taking ...

The Atlantic coast, the Gironde estuary and the Médoc... as viewed from above!


A colleague and aviation enthusiast recently suggested I take flight with him in a light aircraft, with the primary objective of taking aerial photographs of the new facility being built by our company, Thales, in Mérignac. This was obviously an offer I couldn't refuse!

I met up with him early one sunny Saturday morning at the premises of the CAPAM flying club by the runway at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, and together we boarded a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, finding a slot to take off in between the departures and arrivals of various airliners. Once we'd taken a few pictures of the Thales site, we headed on over to the Atlantic coast, flying from Le Porge to Le Verdon, and then down the Gironde Estuary past Pauillac, Blaye and Margaux. My camera remained at the ready and here are some of the photos that I took!

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Regular readers may remember the recent account of the morning spent exploring the Portuguese Jewish cemetery on Cours de la Marne , one...

Inside Bordeaux's Jewish Avignonnais cemetery


Regular readers may remember the recent account of the morning spent exploring the Portuguese Jewish cemetery on Cours de la Marne, one of three final resting places for Jews in central Bordeaux. Of the others, the cemetery on Cours de l’Yser is still in use, whereas burials at the tiny “Cimetière des Avignonnais” on Rue Sauteyron, a mere 50 metres from Place de la Victoire, ceased more than 200 years ago.

The Avignonnais cemetery is rarely open to the general public, and can only usually be visited during specially-organised guided tours, so when I spotted it would be accessible as part of the city’s European Heritage Days programme, I decided to head over to the site to take in a low-key tour of my own.

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Cap Ferret’s oldest place of worship is the curious Sainte Marie du Cap, also known as Chapelle de l’Herbe, but most often referred to a...

Chapelle de la Villa Algérienne: Cap Ferret’s oldest and most unusual place of worship


Cap Ferret’s oldest place of worship is the curious Sainte Marie du Cap, also known as Chapelle de l’Herbe, but most often referred to as Chapelle de la Villa Algérienne.

The "Algerian Villa" in question once stood barely 100 metres away from the spot where the chapel can be found, on the Bassin d’Arcachon-side waterfront of the affluent presqu’île, near to the picturesque fishing village L’Herbe.

The full story goes back to 1863, when the successful civil engineering entrepreneur Léon Lesca partnered with his brother to purchase 27 hectares of remote, untouched land (L’Herbe had yet to be founded at this time). Lesca had recently returned from North Africa to his homeland (he was born in La Teste-de-Buch in 1824) as a rich man, having overseen projects such as the construction of the port of Algiers and of the railway line that connected Constantine and Philippeville. 

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The annual European heritage days take place on September 19th and 20th. Hurrah! As always, there are hundreds of options available, mak...

Journées du Patrimoine 2015: the Invisible Bordeaux selection!


The annual European heritage days take place on September 19th and 20th. Hurrah! As always, there are hundreds of options available, making it difficult to know where to start. 

So, to make things easier for you, Invisible Bordeaux has been looking closely at what’s on offer in the city and here is a small selection of some of the more unusual and eye-catching visits... while the full list of venues and visits - in Bordeaux and beyond - can be found on the official event website

Chapelle et cloître du CROUS

CROUS is the structure set up to support and guide students in their quest for accommodation, grants and work. Surprisingly, the organisation is housed in premises which also feature a “neogothic” cloister and chapel that formed part of a convent and later a seminary. The visit is a new and welcome addition to this year’s Journées du Patrimoine programme!

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When working on the recent article about the wooden construction toy Kapla , I briefly met Martine Lohiague, who for more than a year no...

In conversation with Martine Lohiague, Eysines hairdresser and Kapla enthusiast


When working on the recent article about the wooden construction toy Kapla, I briefly met Martine Lohiague, who for more than a year now has built and exhibited her Kapla productions in the window of her hairdressing salon in Eysines. I later arranged for a short-back-and-sides and while Martine was cutting my hair she told me a bit more about her unusual pastime.

How did it all start?

When I took over this hairdressing salon in Eysines, I decided to revamp the interior design. I wondered what activities I could provide for children. First I considered buying some toy cars, and then I thought of Kapla which ticked all the right boxes: it’s made of wood and is fun and interesting.

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It was Vincent Bart, my blogging counterpart over at the rather fabulous Bordeaux2066 , who suggested we team up once again. His idea wa...

Following the Eau Bourde from its source to the Garonne (via Cestas, Canéjan, Gradignan, Villenave d’Ornon and Bègles!)


It was Vincent Bart, my blogging counterpart over at the rather fabulous Bordeaux2066, who suggested we team up once again. His idea was for us to get on our bikes and follow a stream from end to end, the stream being the Eau Bourde, which flows some 23 kilometres from its source in Cestas until it reaches the Garonne in Bègles. The challenge was an interesting one and I was more than willing to be his travelling companion.

We met up on Saturday August 1st in Vincent’s childhood hometown Gradignan and cycled southwards towards the point that we had identified as the Eau Bourde’s discreet starting point, near a roundabout on the Nationale 10 road in the Labirade district of Cestas. But after weeks and weeks of warm weather, the source was dry and instead we had to make do with exploring some enormous pipes that ran under the busy thoroughfare. 

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Châteaux in the legendary Médoc wine-growing area are not renowned for their accessibility, but one establishment which is seeking to re...

Visiting Château d’Agassac: wining, dining, plenty of history and lots of pigeonholes


Châteaux in the legendary Médoc wine-growing area are not renowned for their accessibility, but one establishment which is seeking to reverse that trend is Château d’Agassac in Ludon-Médoc. As well as being arguably one of the prettiest châteaux on the Médoc circuit, it is also capitalising on its rich history to draw in visitors… and has recently opened a restaurant which provides a good excuse to stay that little bit longer.

Historically, the château’s roots date back to the 13th century. At the time a wooden fortress stood here, erected by local dignitary Gaillard de Gassac to protect the city of Bordeaux from the enemy (i.e. the French, as the area was under British rule at the time). It is said that the fortress was destroyed and rebuilt as a stone castle, and that the land was given to Gaillard de Gassac as a reward for his efforts, his title becoming Seigneur d’Agassac (agasse being the Gascon word for magpie; Médoc lords were frequently given the names of birds).

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When recently preparing a weekend away in one of Europe’s more exotic capital cities, my wife and I found it useful to check out Youtube...

Video: Top 10 essential sights and landmarks in Bordeaux


When recently preparing a weekend away in one of Europe’s more exotic capital cities, my wife and I found it useful to check out Youtube clips to get an idea of what to expect. It then occurred to me that Bordeaux deserved similar treatment, so here is my back-to-basics video guide to the ten essential sights and landmarks to take in during a stay in the city.

Of course, purists will regard this as going against everything the blog stands for, given that the website’s aim is to uncover the little-known sights and stories to be enjoyed in and around Bordeaux, but please forgive me as Invisible Bordeaux strays into Visible Bordeaux for all of four minutes!

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Pictured above is a familiar sight in garden centres and DIY stores throughout France: rows of packs of powder used to produce the bes...

Bouillie Bordelaise: the Médocain fungicide which is kind of blue


Pictured above is a familiar sight in garden centres and DIY stores throughout France: rows of packs of powder used to produce the best-selling fungicide Bouillie Bordelaise, or “Bordeaux Mixture”. As my knowledge of Bouillie Bordelaise was very slim (I knew that it was blue, but that was about all), I decided to investigate!

First things first, what is Bouillie Bordelaise? As so often, Wikipedia was my first port of call: the introductory paragraph states that the fungicide is “a mixture of copper (II) sulfate (CuSO4) and slaked lime (Ca(OH)2) used in vineyards, fruit-farms and gardens to prevent infestations of downy mildew, powdery mildew and other fungi”. The “preventative” aspect is important as the Wikipedia entry adds that “its mode of action is ineffective after a fungus has become established”. In other words, you have to treat the plants before they fall sick.

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The play room in our family home has often been the scene of large and sometimes elaborate temporary installations made out of small pie...

Kapla: the Dutch “gnome planks” from Saint-Louis-de-Montferrand


The play room in our family home has often been the scene of large and sometimes elaborate temporary installations made out of small pieces of wood. Football stadiums, railway bridges, Formula 1 circuits, high-rise buildings… you name it, scale-model replicas have all been produced (and then ceremoniously demolished).

And the raw material used by my children is the wooden building block game, Kapla, manufactured and distributed out of a facility in Saint-Louis-de-Montferrand, 17 kilometres to the north of Bordeaux.

What, then, is Kapla? Kapla is a wooden block construction toy made up of identically-sized and shaped pieces of pinewood, with dimensions in the ratio of 1:3:15 (1 unit high, 3 units wide and 15 units long). The vital statistics of the blocks are in fact 117mm in length, 23.4mm wide and 7.8mm thick. The end-product is sold in boxes of 40, 100, 200, 280 and 1,000 and is available in natural pine colour, as well as a small variety of other colours.

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Housing, retail and industry seem to be gradually taking over every available square metre in the north-western suburb of Le Haillan. It...

Parc du Ruisseau: Le Haillan’s very own central park


Housing, retail and industry seem to be gradually taking over every available square metre in the north-western suburb of Le Haillan. It was therefore good to hear about a project recently deployed by the municipality to reclaim some land alongside a stream and convert it into a pleasant so-called “linear park”: le Parc du Ruisseau.

The park was officially opened in late 2013 and forms a unique evergreen 2.7-kilometre-long “corridor” that splits through the town, following the course of the stream, Ruisseau du Haillan, which in bygone years was the lifeblood of those who lived nearby, providing the water needed for everything from the production of vegetables to washing clothes. (Indeed, one section of the stream was once known as “Ruisseau des Blanchisseuses”.)

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During the recent media coverage to mark the second anniversary of the BatCub ferry service on the Garonne in central Bordeaux, I realis...

Riding the Garonne waves on board a BatCub ferry


During the recent media coverage to mark the second anniversary of the BatCub ferry service on the Garonne in central Bordeaux, I realised it was about time that I myself hopped on one of the boats to see what it was all about.

Hirondelle and La Gondole are the names of the two BatCub boats (Bat for “bateau”, and “CUB” for Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux, which has since been renamed Bordeaux Métropole rendering the “Cub” reference somewhat obsolete). The ferries were designed and manufactured by local companies, and were first launched on May 2nd 2013. The service is run by boating company Gens d’Estuaire for the public transport network operator Keolis.

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We are in Bègles, not far from the Rives d’Arcins shopping emporium and next to the tiny Port Garonne marina. Unusually, ultra-modern ...

Ateliers Louis Blériot: a little piece of aviation history in the middle of Rives d'Arcins retail park


We are in Bègles, not far from the Rives d’Arcins shopping emporium and next to the tiny Port Garonne marina. Unusually, ultra-modern office space has been created inside a metallic cage-like structure. And, tellingly, the new office complex has been given the name “Ateliers Louis Blériot”, a reference to the history of the metal framework, which previously housed workshops founded by aviation pioneer Louis Blériot. What’s the story?

Frenchman Louis Blériot (1872-1936) was an engineer and inventor whose first commercial breakthrough was a patented headlamp for trucks. He ploughed much of his earnings into developing and building aircraft and, in 1909, achieved worldwide fame as the first aviator to fly across the English Channel in a heavier than air aircraft. In 1910 he was registered as France’s first licenced pilot (the official paperwork does indeed feature “N°1”), and continued to achieve success at the head of his company Blériot Aéronautique, later also branching out into the production of motorcycles.

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Last year the blog ran a number of pictures that merged old photos with pictures taken from the same spot today, using the expert Photos...

Overlaying old postcards from Bordeaux and Arcachon on the same views today


Last year the blog ran a number of pictures that merged old photos with pictures taken from the same spot today, using the expert Photoshop know-how of friend Anthony Poulachon. This time though I have taken a literally hands-on approach to combining old and new, by manually overlaying old postcards onto the modern-day view, i.e. simply holding them in front of the camera lens.

This technique has been used masterfully by photographers such as Julien Knez whose pictures incorporating wartime Paris are particularly effective. The following selection is nowhere near as spectacular, but I hope you'll enjoy the views!

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You’ve got to feel sorry for Pont Saint-Jean. In the unwritten hierarchy of Bordeaux’s road bridges, it comes very much at the bottom of...

Pont Saint-Jean: Bordeaux's great unloved bridge


You’ve got to feel sorry for Pont Saint-Jean. In the unwritten hierarchy of Bordeaux’s road bridges, it comes very much at the bottom of the table, far behind the elegant Pont de Pierre, the slick Chaban-Delmas lift bridge, the wondrous Pont d’Aquitaine suspension bridge and the minimalist Pont Mitterrand. In the otherwise flawless “Dictionnaire de Bordeaux” it doesn’t even get an entry. Let’s face it, if Pont Saint-Jean were one of the Beatles, it would be Pete Best.

The unloved edifice was the result of a relatively short process which began in 1962 with an initial call for tenders to deliver a bridge to connect Quai de Paludate (near Saint-Jean railway station on the left bank) with Quai Deshcamps in the right-bank Bastide quarter. Campenon Bernard, a company which is now part of the Vinci group, were selected and they teamed up with the architect Jean-Louis Fayeton (1908-1968). Construction work began in April 1963.

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As part of the series of conferences held by the prestigious Mémoire de Bordeaux association, I will be giving a talk in the auditorium o...

Invisible Bordeaux conference at Musée d’Aquitaine on Thursday June 25th!

As part of the series of conferences held by the prestigious Mémoire de Bordeaux association, I will be giving a talk in the auditorium of the legendary Musée d’Aquitaine on Thursday June 25th at 6pm.

During the hour-long conference I will be looking back over some of the sights, sounds, stories and people that I have researched and documented since launching the Invisible Bordeaux website in 2011.

There’ll be exclusive anecdotes, exciting photos, spectacular videos and possibly even indoor fireworks if I obtain the relevant paperwork from the local authorities. Bordeaux will never be the same again.

I hope to see you there!

The vital statistics:
  • Invisible Bordeaux conference, Thursday June 25th 2015 at 6pm
  • Musée d’Aquitaine auditorium, 20 cours Pasteur, Bordeaux
  • Admission entirely free of charge
  • Facebook event page

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It was my Invisible Paris counterpart Adam who spotted this 1973 Paris Match cover in a museum display case. Headline news alongside Jacqu...

Winegate: the scandal which shook Bordeaux in 1973

It was my Invisible Paris counterpart Adam who spotted this 1973 Paris Match cover in a museum display case. Headline news alongside Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the blue jean phenomenon and racism in France was the enigmatic announcement of a “Scandale à Bordeaux”. What scandal could this possibly be referring to? The answer is “Winegate”!

The story began at 124 Quai des Chartrons which, at the time, was the waterfront home of the prestigious wine trading and export company Cruse. On Thursday June 28th 1973, inspectors from the State tax department’s Brigade de Surveillance des Services Fiscaux descended on Cruse, possibly as the result of a tip-off, with the intention of carrying out a full audit and inventory.

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In 2012 and again in 2014 I reported on the Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique construction project. The subject started out as an suitably “inv...

Inside Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique, the next big sporting arena

In 2012 and again in 2014 I reported on the Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique construction project. The subject started out as an suitably “invisible” topic, but has developed into something which will be on full view for the general public from May 23rd onwards.

During an enjoyable case of work commitments and personal interests converging, I was recently given a sneak preview of the nearly-completed stadium, and visited the venue in the company of two delightful members of the “SBA” staff. I thought the outing deserved a blog entry, so here it is!

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As so often, this article began with an old postcard, specifically this 1960s “ vue des grands blocs ” of Cité Pinçon in the Bastide quarte...

Cité de la Benauge: radical changes ahead for the model 1950s estate

As so often, this article began with an old postcard, specifically this 1960s “vue des grands blocs” of Cité Pinçon in the Bastide quarter of Bordeaux, the kind of high-rise view which is far removed from the customary sight of the city’s 18th-century façades.

 
Cité Pinçon and its sister estate Cité Blanche together form Cité de la Benauge (sometimes even referred to as “Cité-Jardin de la Benauge”), which at the time of writing comprises just under 1,200 homes. Until the 1950s, the area was vast marshland that belonged to one Jules Pinçon, hence the name given to the first development which included these two massive 10-storey blocks and six smaller-scale five-storey buildings.  

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Invisible Bordeaux first encountered the sculptor François Didier in 2014 when researching the three bronze plans-reliefs which have bee...

Revisiting Neanysa, François Didier’s imaginary ancient city

Invisible Bordeaux first encountered the sculptor François Didier in 2014 when researching the three bronze plans-reliefs which have been positioned in central Bordeaux. At the time, the investigation took the blog to the village of Bages to see further 3-D maps, and down to Lugos, at the northern tip of les Landes, to visit the artist’s workshop and gardens.

This time, the François Didier trail led me to the renowned Musée Georges de Sonneville in Gradignan, to visit an elaborate exhibition that is currently showcasing his work (it runs until April 12th), entitled “Neanysa, ville antique”. The concept is simple but the execution is both surprising and impressive in its scale: François Didier has created his own imaginary ancient city, Neanysa, and the exhibition enables visitors to discover the city-that-never-was by viewing a whole host of items and documents that pay testimony to how things were, or might have been!

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During my recent early-morning trip to Soulac-sur-Mer , I made a point of staying put until sunrise to be able to visit a number of sight...

Selected sights and stories from Soulac-sur-Mer

During my recent early-morning trip to Soulac-sur-Mer, I made a point of staying put until sunrise to be able to visit a number of sights which I thought deserved coverage on the blog, and which show that there is much more to this Médocain seaside resort than its characteristic red-brick houses, and its doomed ocean-front residence Le Signal

Some of the sights have direct ties with past blog subjects, such as this first landmark, one of the world’s many replicas of the Statue of Liberty. An explanatory text at the base of the statue explains that it was commissioned by the town in 1980 and manufactured by the Paris ateliers of Arthus-Bertrand, using the original mould designed by sculptor Auguste Bartholdi. However, an urban legend also suggests that the statue is the very one which was located on Place Picard in Bordeaux from 1888 until its disappearance at the hands of the Germans in 1941. Which version is true?

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It was a very early start on Saturday March 21st 2015. I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head and drove 85 kilometres ...

The day Soulac-sur-Mer's Le Signal residence became a work of art

It was a very early start on Saturday March 21st 2015. I woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head and drove 85 kilometres from my home near Bordeaux to Soulac-sur-Mer, with the sole aim of being on the ocean-front at 5:15AM to view a one-off son et lumière performance that made use of the façade of a doomed apartment block, Le Signal.

Le Signal has long been an angular eyesore for some, but was a much-loved home and holiday residence for others and was initially set to be just the first of a number of such buildings in Soulac. Importantly, when it was built, between 1965 and 1970, the ocean was a good 200 metres away. But over the ensuing years, the Atlantic has literally gained ground on this lone apartment block, at a rate of between four and eight metres per year.

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Old postcards have often proved to be the starting point for Invisible Bordeaux investigations. But recent acquisitions have also added a...

Old postcards shining new light on past Invisible Bordeaux subjects

Old postcards have often proved to be the starting point for Invisible Bordeaux investigations. But recent acquisitions have also added an extra dimension to subjects which have already been covered in the past. Here are some examples!

We start our journey on Allées de Tourny, on April 25th 1905, at the official unveiling of a grand monument celebrating the achievements of 19th-century statesman Léon Gambetta. Leading the tributes that day was French president Émile Loubet, although this picture shows the undoubtedly stirring rendition of La Marseillaise by renowned baritone Francisque Delmas.

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“Lapébie” is a name which is familiar to cyclists who use the velodrome in Bordeaux or travel along the 54-kilometre cycle path which run...

The Lapébie cycling dynasty, the velodrome of Bordeaux and the Entre-Deux-Mers bike path

“Lapébie” is a name which is familiar to cyclists who use the velodrome in Bordeaux or travel along the 54-kilometre cycle path which runs between the city and Sauveterre-de-Guyenne. But who were the Lapébies?

They were two brothers. Roger was born in Bayonne in 1911, Guy following suit in the Landes town of Saint-Geours-de-Maremne in 1916. Over the subsequent years, the family base shifted to Pessac, where their father managed the Médoquine freight station, although their mother reportedly soon moved to Neuilly-sur-Seine, in the suburbs of Paris.

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You may remember that the blog recently ran an article about Stade des Chartrons, the Girondins' "lost" football stadium. ...

Sud Ouest item: 'Le stade des Chartrons, patrimoine oublié'


You may remember that the blog recently ran an article about Stade des Chartrons, the Girondins' "lost" football stadium. After generating a healthy amount of interest, local newspaper Sud Ouest got in touch to get the full story on the stadium and the findings of the research carried out with fellow blogger Antoine Puentès (also known as MystickTroy). 

The interview resulted in a nice spread in the February 28th 2015 edition of Sud Ouest, which was also available online. 

Do note there is a factual error in the piece which is entirely of my own making: I got my "B" suburbs muddled up and stated that the topsoil for the football pitch had been brought in from Bègles when it was in fact Bruges (as correctly specified in the original blog articles). Apologies to readers! 

Big thanks to writer Tristan Baudenaille-Pessotto for getting in touch and for bringing this little-known story to the masses! 

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One of the most illustrious permanent residents of Cimetière des Pins Francs , in the Caudéran district of Bordeaux, is none other than t...

New York - London - Paris - Caudéran: the life of the legendary songwriter and singer Mort Shuman

One of the most illustrious permanent residents of Cimetière des Pins Francs, in the Caudéran district of Bordeaux, is none other than the legendary songwriter, pianist, singer and sometime actor Mort Shuman, the man who penned the melodies of some of the most famous songs of the 20th century.

Mortimer Shuman was born in Brooklyn in 1938, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. The young Mort began studying philosophy at the New York City College but was expelled after a year because he spent too much time playing rhythm and blues piano in local bars, putting to productive use the piano tuition previously dispensed to him by the Julliard School of Music. He switched academic paths and went on to study music at the New York Conservatory, and began writing songs at the age of 18.

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Long-time readers may remember my attempt to visit Bordeaux using the local edition of the board game Monopoly as my roadmap. I tho...

Video: Cycling through the Monopoly streets of Bordeaux


Long-time readers may remember my attempt to visit Bordeaux using the local edition of the board game Monopoly as my roadmap.

I thought the adventure deserved to be turned into a video, and so here is a GoPro view of an early-morning non-stop bike ride through the city. Starting out in the Le Lac district to the north of the city and finishing up at Bordeaux Airport in the western suburb of Mérignac, the adventure takes in a wide variety of the city's streets, squares, neighbourhoods and landmarks.

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The Salinières fountain, also known as Fontaine de la Grave , is one of the landmarks in the city of Bordeaux which people see but rarely...

Fontaine des Salinières: supplying fresh drinking water on the waterfront since 1788

The Salinières fountain, also known as Fontaine de la Grave, is one of the landmarks in the city of Bordeaux which people see but rarely stop to look at. That was certainly my case until I recently made a point of inspecting this unusual sight, on the left-bank waterfront more or less in line with the spire of Saint-Michel church.

The fountain was the work of the then chief city architect Richard-François Bonfin and was first installed here around 1787-1788. It was initially fed by the “Font de l’Or”, a spring captured on nearby Rue Carpenteyre and which had previously been channelled to a more rudimentary fountain a little further down the quayside near Porte de la Monnaie.

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We are at the grave of Henri Salmide in the Cimetière Protestant of Bordeaux. According to the inscription, he “singlehandedly and on hi...

Henri Salmide: the local (German) hero who saved the port of Bordeaux

We are at the grave of Henri Salmide in the Cimetière Protestant of Bordeaux. According to the inscription, he “singlehandedly and on his own initiative saved the port of Bordeaux on August 22nd 1944”. So who was this local hero?

The local hero was in fact a German, born Heinz Stahlschmidt in Dortmund on November 13th 1919. His father, a plumber, died in 1937. His elder brother had taken up studies but the family couldn’t afford to bankroll a second student, so with the outbreak of war in 1939 Heinz volunteered for the German navy. His military career got off to a bad start though: in April 1940, he was on board the battleship Blücher when it sank off Oslo in Norway. In June 1940, a fishing boat he was on which had been converted into a coastal patrol vessel also sank. And in September 1940, he was on a frigate carrying troops which was torpedoed between Denmark and Norway. Stahlschmidt managed to swim back to the coast but 560 men died.

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After writing an article about the Wallace fountains of Bordeaux sometime ago for the blog, I thought it might be interesting to film ...

Video: The Wallace fountains of Bordeaux


After writing an article about the Wallace fountains of Bordeaux sometime ago for the blog, I thought it might be interesting to film the evidence. 

So here is the ultimate 3'46" video guide to these elegant cast-iron drinking fountains, their history and their locations throughout the city. Enjoy!

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Local top-flight football (soccer) team Girondins de Bordeaux will soon be leaving Stade Chaban-Delmas and moving to their new purpose...

Stade des Chartrons: the Girondins stadium which has disappeared from view

Local top-flight football (soccer) team Girondins de Bordeaux will soon be leaving Stade Chaban-Delmas and moving to their new purpose-built stadium in the Lac district of the city. But did you know that in the early years of the club, les Girondins in fact alternated between two stadiums: Parc Lescure (now Chaban-Delmas) and Stade des Chartrons, aptly enough in the Chartrons quarter.

To get the full story, Invisible Bordeaux teamed up with fellow blogger Antoine Puentès, also known as MyStickTroy, who had suggested the subject as a potentially interesting one to pursue together. To add an extra layer, a request had also come through from David Ledru, the webmaster behind the marvellous Scapulaire.com site (the definitive online database and guide to the history of the Girondins de Bordeaux), who wanted to track down information about the buildings which had taken the stadium’s place, on behalf of the descendants of Olivier Lhoste-Clos, a former chairman of the club.

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Yes, this is a wooden dolphin, and in its beak (sorry, its rostrum) the dolphin is holding a red hat reminiscent of the knit cap famously...

Saint-André-de-Cubzac, where the Jacques Cousteau story started… and finished

Yes, this is a wooden dolphin, and in its beak (sorry, its rostrum) the dolphin is holding a red hat reminiscent of the knit cap famously worn by the underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques(-Yves) Cousteau. And the wooden dolphin is to be found in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, the town to the north of Bordeaux where Commandant Cousteau was born in 1910 and buried in 1997.

His birthplace, celebrated by a plaque, was a room above the pharmacie ran by his maternal grandfather Ronan Duranthon, from a long line of illustrious local land-owners and wine-growers. Cousteau’s father, Daniel, was from a similarly wealthy background and was heir to the legacy of a merchant-shipping dynasty. He had become a reputable lawyer who had followed in the footsteps of his own father, a notaire. After graduating from Law School in Paris, Daniel returned to Saint-André where he practiced for three years.

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A few months ago I published a couple of items about some of the sights in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc , and the story of the Diamant A roundab...

Video: A stroll in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc


A few months ago I published a couple of items about some of the sights in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc, and the story of the Diamant A roundabout that can be found there. 

I recently went back and this time filmed the evidence, which you can view in this brand new Youtube clip. Hold on to your hats, it's pretty spectacular. 

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In every city there are secret and often surprising places hidden behind closed doors. Bordeaux is no exception and a few weeks ago Invis...

Exploring the Portuguese Jewish cemetery on Cours de la Marne

In every city there are secret and often surprising places hidden behind closed doors. Bordeaux is no exception and a few weeks ago Invisible Bordeaux again joined forces with the guys behind the Bordeaux 2066 blog (the French-language version of this article can be found on their website here). Together we enjoyed a private tour of one such gem, to be found at the end of a tiny alleyway just off Cours de la Marne, the busy street that connects Place de la Victoire and Saint-Jean Railway Station. For it is here that lies, behind a door that is usually locked, the 18th-century Portuguese Jewish cemetery of Bordeaux.

The person providing the tour (and the key to the door) was none other than writer, journalist and broadcaster Michel Cardoze, known to many as a former TF1 weatherman but best-known to myself and my Bordeaux 2066 friends as the man who delivers “l’histoire du jour” every morning at 7:55am on Radio France Bleu Gironde. In his short monologues, Cardoze glides effortlessly through some of the most amazing tales from Bordeaux and beyond.

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