Invisible Bordeaux recently picked up a series of postcards showing different stages of a funeral procession through the streets of the city...

Invisible Bordeaux recently picked up a series of postcards showing different stages of a funeral procession through the streets of the city centre in the early years of the 20th century. The event was clearly a big deal, as the pictures showed enormous crowds lining the route, with many people also peering out from windows and balconies to pay their final respects. This was in fact the city’s final goodbye to Cardinal Victor Lecot. So who was Cardinal Lecot and why was his funeral such a momentous event?

Victor Lucien Sulpice Lecot (or Lécot) was born in January 1831 in north-eastern France. Aged 24 he became a priest in Compiègne, to the north of Paris, ahead of being ordained bishop of Dijon (in 1886). Then, in June 1890, he was appointed to be archbishop of Bordeaux, at a time when the Catholic church was stronger than ever in the city, with new congregations coming together in all quarters (he consecrated Saint-Louis-des-Chartrons in 1895) and the church’s influence even seeping into the press through the publication of Le Nouvelliste de Bordeaux et du Sud-Ouest… renowned for its royalist, anti-Republican tendencies!

Lecot remained archbishop of Bordeaux until his death but was also elevated to cardinal in 1893 by Pope Leo XIII, and appointed cardinal-priest to Santa Pudenziana basilica in Rome the following year. He was one of the members of the conclave that elected Pius X, and was himself Papal Legate at celebrations held in Lourdes in 1908 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the supposed appearances of the Virgin Mary to Bernadette Soubirous.

In France, the start of the twentieth century was a tumultuous period, with the official split between Church and State (and the start of the French Republic’s notable secular status, or “laïcité”) occurring in 1905 after 25 years of embattled debate opposing different views of the role of the Church. As you might imagine, Lecot was very much on the side of those wanting to retain close ties between Church and State, whilst also striving to do everything in his powers to avoid any form of conflict even if he was unable to prevent mass protests from being held.

And tensions were still high when Lecot died on December 19th 1908 in Chambéry, in eastern France. His funeral was held eleven days later, on December 28th, in Bordeaux. The authorities were aware that the funeral procession would draw mourners in their thousands, but also that the event could easily spark trouble.

Top - The funeral procession on Place de la Bourse. Bottom - The horse-drawn hearse carrying the coffin.

The most complete account of the event has been written by one Annie Ribette and can be read on the Cahiers d’Archives website. Ribette notes that the following day’s edition of Le Nouvelliste reported that nearly 2,000 men (soldiers and gendarmes) were in position from 7am onwards to keep the crowds under control along the route of the funeral cortege and to prevent intruders from infiltrating the procession (a special laissez-passer was required in order to join the ranks of the procession).

Ribette’s report features many archive documents, including the official laissez-passer, which records that Lecot’s corpse was scheduled to be removed from Notre-Dame church at 9am. Photographic evidence suggests that the procession then worked its way towards Place de la Comédie, along Cours de l’Intendance, down rue Vital-Carles (where the Archbishop of Bordeaux’s former official residence was located, although it had become home to Gironde’s prefect... in itself a massive source of tension), and then on to place Pey-Berland, no doubt finishing up at Saint-André cathedral, although it is unclear whether Lecot’s remains were immediately assigned to the tomb which is now his.  

Top - The funeral procession moves along Cours de l'Intendance, with many onlookers peering down from windows and balconies. Bottom - The Pontifical Swiss Guard was on hand.

It is thought that 50,000 people were present along the route to pay their final respects to Lecot, although the heavy-handed security came in for a great deal of criticism. Annie Ribette refers to the socialist union and revolutionary political newspaper La Bataille reporting on the “state of siege” in Bordeaux, adding that those people “who had travelled from all parts of the city and region were prevented from saluting the remains of the Cardinal of Bordeaux. The troops who had barricaded the city’s streets had been ordered to turn their backs to the cortege. Those honours could have been dispensed without preventing the public from attending the funeral”. That same newspaper underlined the fact that Lecot’s passing was in no way acknowledged by the French Republic, as since the “law of separation”, ecclesiastical dignitaries like Cardinal Lecot no longer enjoyed any form of official status in the eyes of the Republic.

The procession reaches Place Pey-Berland. 

Even without this Republican recognition, there was a definite sense locally of how historic the occasion was. Several requests for authorisation were submitted with a view to capturing the event on film, this being the early days of cinematography. Looking at the wide angle photographs of the procession on Place de la Comédie, it is striking how many photographers and filmmakers are present. But beyond the stills such as those featured here, how much of that movie coverage has survived, if any?

A closer look at the group of photographers and cinematographers gathered on Place de la Comédie.

And what traces remain of Cardinal Lecot himself in the city? Of course, the most symbolic and prominent memorial is none other than the cardinal’s monumental tomb inside Saint-André cathedral. His first name was also given to Saint-Victor church on rue Mouneyra in Bordeaux, founded in 1905 while Lecot was still Archbishop of Bordeaux, although the current edifice was built during the Second World War period and finally consecrated in 1947. Oh, and there is also a street named after him in Bordeaux and a "Cardinal Lecot" bus stop in Blanquefort, which is no doubt exactly what the great man would have wanted.

Above - Cardinal Lecot's final resting place inside Bordeaux cathedral.

Above - Saint-Victor church on rue Mouneyra. Below - The ultimate accolade: Lecot has his own posthumous bus stop in Blanquefort.

And, of course, what also remains are those incredible pictures of the city, showing scenes that Bordeaux is unlikely to see again anytime soon, and scenes that alone do not tell the full story!

> Locate Saint-Victor church on the Invisible Bordeaux map: rue Mouneyra, Bordeaux.
> Cardinal Lecot picture source: Wikipedia
> As stated throughout, the most complete account of this event can be found on the Cahiers d'Archives website
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français ! 

Invisible Bordeaux was one of a number of local structures and players who contributed to an innovative project focused on heritage in the a...

Invisible Bordeaux was one of a number of local structures and players who contributed to an innovative project focused on heritage in the area conducted this year by Bordeaux Métropole in conjunction with Deux Degrés, the publishing house and “agence de médiation” who have already occasionally featured on the blog (and, by the way, I’m a big fan of everything they do). The deliverables were recently unveiled and they consist of two highly desirable sets of cards, one being a “Happy Families” game and the other a classic deck of playing cards.

The twin objective of the project, codenamed “Vous avez une carte à jouer”, was to be able to identify and showcase some familiar and some lesser-known places of interest throughout the metropole, as well as providing a platform for local heritage associations and players to work together and get to know each other. The initiative was launched within the framework of the wider European Atlas World Heritage network aimed at boosting the sustainability of urban heritage (the other participating cities are Edinburgh, Florence, Porto and Santiago de Compostela), and the target was to complete it all in time for Bordeaux’s 2020 World Heritage week events in mid-September.

Above - Panels on display on Place de la Bourse explaining all about the Atlas World Heritage initiative during the city's 2020 World Heritage week.

Initially, the plan drawn up early in 2020 by Bordeaux Métropole and Deux Degrés was to hold meetings and collaborative workshops but - as you may have guessed - the pandemic-induced lockdown forced them to substantially revise their plans. Instead, the whole project shifted online and they conceived interactive maps so that those who wished to take part could locate points of interest and provide the reasoning behind their inclusion.

No less than 60 structures took part, identifying 400 points of interest, a shortlist of which was put to a vote in which 110 participants chose the subjects they thought to be the most significant. Then, by combining those results with other balanced choices to ensure every Bordeaux Métropole town was fairly represented, Deux Degrés got to work on producing the two card games.

Above - Even my hometown of Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc gets its own cards. These two sights are within walking distance of the Invisible Bordeaux household.

The resulting “Happy Families” game is aimed at a younger audience and has gathered points of interest into seven categories… or, indeed, families: nature, industry, water, habitat, monuments, contemporary architecture and châteaux. Each family comprises six members, the corresponding 42 cards featuring illustrations produced by the immensely talented Julianne Huon - whose style has become so synonymous with the distinctive Deux Degrés graphic look and feel over the years - and a brief overview of associated facts and figures. Interestingly, if the cards are laid out face down, they can also be positioned puzzle-like to form a far larger illustration reminiscent of the Bordeaux Métropole landscape.

The standard 52-card game (or rather 54 including the two jokers) provides a highly varied guide to some of the area’s well- and less well-known sights, along with a leaflet so that players can read thumbnail information about each one. The illustrations are the work of the also fabulously talented Jean Mallard. He is a young Paris-based artist with family in the area, but was not necessarily familiar with many of the sights. During a brief post-lockdown window, he was able to spend two days exploring the metropole and taking in the subjects shortlisted for the project. The resulting pictures capture much of that bright-eyed sense of discovery associated with seeing places for the first time. Mallard employed a variety of techniques, although the use of watercolour proves dominant. He also voluntarily kept to a relatively limited palette of colours in order to strike a degree of consistency across the cards. And to inject some life into the pictures, he always ensured there was some kind of human presence represented.

During an event held in September at the Maison Cantonale in the Bastide quarter (which itself features in the deck of cards) to present the finalized project to the network of contributors, both Julianne Huon and Jean Mallard were present to provide a first-hand account of their work, alongside Deux Degrés’ Pierre-Marie Villette and Bordeaux Métropole’s Anne-Laure Moniot. Jean Mallard even brought along the original artwork, i.e. all fifty-plus postcard-sized pieces which showed just how intricate and detailed the individual creations were.

Above - Illustrator Jean Mallard with the original pictures. On the right is his depiction of Stade Chaban-Delmas, included in the card deck under its former name, Parc Lescure.

The two sets have initially been produced as limited runs of just 500 units and were distributed throughout the World Heritage week from a special pop-up installation/mini-exhibition on Place de la Bourse. Beyond that, sets will be provided to libraries throughout the Métropole. Further down the line, a commercially-produced run may take shape… I for one certainly hope so.

Above - The pop-up exhibition on Place de la Bourse.

In the meantime, here at Invisible Bordeaux I am very proud to have been able to contribute to the project, and delighted to have seen some of my submissions (such as Bordeaux’s twin city gardens, Le Haillan’s Parc du Ruisseau, and the lone locomotive left positioned at the former railway station in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles) make it into the final sets of cards, all of which are really rather magnificent.

It all goes to show there’s very much an audience for local heritage, or petit patrimoine as they say in French… and it’s great to see Bordeaux Métropole is taking this very seriously as well as looking to bring local heritage players together on projects of the like. Congratulations to everyone involved!

> Deux Degrés website:

> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !

An interesting post recently published on social media included a 1970s clip of a hovercraft criss-crossing the Gironde estuary between Lam...

An interesting post recently published on social media included a 1970s clip of a hovercraft criss-crossing the Gironde estuary between Lamarque and Blaye, on the route that is more naturally associated with its small-scale car ferries. This was news to me, and investigating further also enabled me to uncover the significant link between hovercraft and the town of Pauillac. How was this all connected, and where shall we begin?

The natural starting point is the story of one of France’s most emblematic innovators, Jean Bertin (1917-75). Among other breakthroughs, Bertin invented the technique of thrust reversal used by many jet aircraft to slow down upon landing. He was also the man behind the famous failed experimental “Aérotrain” hovertrain concept developed between 1965 and 1977 (which at the time lost out to the TGV high-speed train concept, but is not dissimilar to the hyperloop projects that are currently taking shape).

 Jean Bertin (photo source: Aéroclub Jean Bertin) and his famous failed Aerotrain project. And a combine harvester.

As early as 1955, Bertin founded his own company, Bertin et Cie, and in time created dedicated subsidiaries for his various ventures. He set up one for the Aérotrain project and, in 1965, he formed SEDAM (Société d'Etude et de Développement des Aéroglisseurs Marins), operating out of Marignane, near Marseille, with a manufacturing facility close to Bayonne. SEDAM was similarly driven by air cushion technology, and was specifically focused on the development and production of what would become its “Naviplane” range of amphibious hovercraft.

SEDAM’s first key deliverable was the N300 30-ton hovercraft. Two units were produced, the Baie des Anges, configured to transport cargo, in 1967, with the Croisette coming the following year and designed to carry up to 90 passengers. Both entered into service on the Mediterranean coast, shuttling between Nice airport, Cannes, Saint-Tropez, Monaco and San-Remo in Italy. SEDAM also produced a much smaller model, the N102, designed to carry two crew and 12 passengers. It never achieved any significant success, despite extensive commercial trials in different situations such as in the Mediterranean resort of La Grande Motte, as a means of reaching isolated beaches.

An N300 in Nice (photo source: Reddit) and an N102 somewhere near La Grande Motte (photo source: Le Maxi-Mottain).

And the story goes that in 1971, the Baie des Anges N300 was acquired by the Gironde département and converted in order to be used in conjunction with the existing ferry for the regular Gironde estuary crossing between Blaye and Lamarque, as well as heading to Pauillac and sometimes Bordeaux (to a hoverport reportedly located just by Pont d’Aquitaine). It could carry four vehicles and 38 passengers and it took the hovercraft just five minutes to get from one bank to the other on its primary route. As such it functioned between July 1971 and December 1975, totting up 20,000 crossings and 4,000 operating hours.

Why did the council revert back to a more orthodox 100% ferry service? This is unclear, although three factors could easily be pinpointed. Firstly, the high levels of noise whenever the Naviplane arrived and departed, particularly in the densely-populated town of Blaye, was undoubtedly unpopular with residents. Secondly, the ferry alternative boasted a far greater capacity, able to carry 40 vehicles and 350 passengers. And thirdly, the Baie des Anges became synonymous with a couple of unfortunate incidents. In one, the Naviplane’s front door had not been securely closed and, upon discovering this, the fast-moving craft was brought to a sudden halt by the pilot. The door opened, water flowed in and a luxury Citroën ended up in the estuary. Happily, nobody was hurt. The other, during a night-time crossing, saw the hovercraft colliding with a stationary radar mast approaching Lamarque, causing structural damage to the craft.

Souvenir postcard (source: Aeromed).

This is where the hovercraft landing platform was in Lamarque. It is now home to "La Paillote de Steph".
According to some reports, this would appear to be the approximate location towards the base of Pont d'Aquitaine suspension bridge where hovercraft would land in Bordeaux.

Meanwhile, come 1973, SEDAM was struggling to make ends meet but began working on a far more substantial, 260-ton model, the N500, the largest passenger hovercraft of its time, and which was designed to carry up to 400 people, 55 cars and five coaches at speeds of up to 70 knots (around 130 kilometres per hour). Two firm orders were secured for this more ambitious project, from the Gironde département (with a view to the craft operating the Royan-Le Verdon crossing at the mouth of the Gironde estuary), and the SNCF (to be deployed on its English Channel route). There were further commercial leads from elsewhere, such as Canada, and for the route between Nice and Corsica.

Possibly drawn to the invigorating air of the Gironde estuary, in December 1975, SEDAM relocated to Pauillac, operating from a large estuary-side warehouse just to the north of the town. And Pauillac was therefore where work on the N500 commenced, conducted by one Paul Guienne, who had also directed studies on the Aérotrain project. SEDAM began building the two inaugural Naviplanes: N500-1, for the Gironde order, became known as Côte d’Argent, while the SNCF’s N500-2 was originally to be called Côte d’Opale but was subsequently given the name Ingénieur Jean Bertin as a homage to Bertin, who passed away during that period. But it would not be plain sailing for the two N500s…  

The Côte d’Argent’s successful maiden flight took place on the estuary in April 1977, but during minor repair work (ahead of a ministerial visit) being carried out by SEDAM subcontractors the following month, a technician stepped onto a bare lightbulb, which exploded and set alight a spilt bucket of adhesive solvents. The whole craft caught fire and was totally destroyed in under an hour, all this occurring just a few days before it was set to be inaugurated by Prince Charles at a lavish ceremony. This tragic end is detailed, complete with archive photos, here.

Picture showing the aftermath as released by the investigation unit, one of many photos featured on the dedicated Naviplane website.

After an epic voyage from Pauillac to Boulogne-sur-Mer that took 25 hours with countless refueling stops along the Atlantic and Channel coasts, the Ingénieur Jean Bertin entered into service in 1978 with Seaspeed, the SNCF/British Rail joint venture, operating alongside two British SR.N4 “Mountbatten class” hovercraft, and enabling the Channel to be crossed in under 30 minutes (including a record-breaking 22’15” Dover-Calais crossing which was never officially registered because no adjudicators were present!).

In 1981 the Ingénieur Jean Bertin was transferred to Hoverspeed (the result of a merger between Seaspeed and Hoverlloyd) and was widely refurbished in response to demands issued by SNCF, re-entering service for a short period in 1983 before being decommissioned then generally left to rot and be broken up in Boulogne-sur-Mer in October 1985. (More generally, Channel hovercraft services were soon to enter a downward spiral with the opening of the Channel tunnel in 1994. The last cross-Channel hovercraft was withdrawn from service in 2000.) 

The Ingénieur Jean Bertin N500 arriving in Dover. Photo source: Wikipedia

Back in Pauillac, SEDAM was not doing well. The Gironde département had withdrawn its sole order, choosing instead to redirect finances to more urgent requirements (road infrastructure and schools). In addition, the SNCF would also not be providing any further custom, as they had come to regard the British SR.N4 as a superior craft. Towards the end of the 1970s, the company was taken over by the Dubigeon-Normandie shipbuilders, but folded completely in 1983, its final project no doubt being the refurbishment of an N102 which had been purchased many years previously by an Egyptian entrepreneur based in the United Arab Emirates.

Despite the company’s collapse, the Pauillac warehouse still contained the two retired N300 hovercraft and four N102s. An auction was held in May 1983 and a Bordeaux scrap metal merchant purchased the N102s. A restaurant owner acquired the Baie des Anges with the plan of converting it into a restaurant in Pauillac but was not authorized to do so. Plans to sell it on came to nothing so the craft stayed put in the warehouse. The Croisette was bought by a Pauillac scrap metal merchant but it too remained on site. Towards the end of 1983, both were scrapped completely and the SEDAM story came to a quiet end.

So, what remains today of the hovercraft adventures of Pauillac and SEDAM? Well, in Pauillac, the SEDAM warehouse is now used by the Baron Philippe de Rothschild wine company for storage ahead of distributing their produce worldwide. Across the road from the massive hangar and the wide space that is now a car park (where that fateful 1977 fire destroyed N500-1), a large concrete platform serves as a reminder of where the hovercraft were launched on to the estuary. The picture below was taken from that platform, looking back towards the SEDAM hangar.

 Thanks to the ever brilliant IGN Remonter le Temps website, it is possible to see how things used to be. First, here is the scene in 1976, with what appears to be two N102s stationed outside.

And here is the same view in 1977... with a single N500, in all likelihood Ingénieur Jean Bertin.

Of the N102s which ended up in the hands of a Bordeaux scrap metal merchant, in recent years two were recovered from their resting place in Villenave d’Ornon by a group of enthusiasts with a view to renovating and restoring them. That adventure is lovingly detailed here and, to cut a long story short, the two wrecks have been turned into a rejuvenated N102 Naviplane which now sits proudly on permanent display outside the Château de Savigny-lès-Beaune in the Burgundy region of France, as this Google satellite view of the area below right clearly shows!

Left picture source:

Finally, while the use of hovercraft to transport large numbers of passengers has faded over the years (although services do still operate on routes such as that connecting Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight), the technology continues to prove its worth in complex military situations or to deal with rough terrain where no other type of craft is capable of operating. And, who knows, it may one day make a comeback, including in Gironde where the subject often comes up as a potentially effective solution to connect central Bordeaux with Blaye and the tip of the estuary!


In the meantime, interest in hovercraft has anything but waned. There are many archive clips available on Youtube, there is a fantastic website dedicated to Naviplanes alone, and in this social media age you can even find a Facebook page that talks about nothing other than the Jean Bertin N500 Naviplane!

So get googling, check out and investigate for yourself the weird and wonderful world of hovercraft, the then-futuristic whirr of which was, for a few years in the 1970s, a common sound on the banks of the Gironde estuary! 


> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Former SEDAM hovercraft factory, Pauillac; Bac Lamarque-Blaye ferry port, Lamarque; Bac Blaye-Lamarque ferry port, Blaye.
> Much of the information in this piece was found on the incredible website, which is heavily recommended reading!
> Top photo source: Aeromed
> Cet article est également disponible en français !

Arguably the biggest news on the Bordeaux cultural scene in this other-worldly year has been the rebirth of the city’s submarine base exhibi...

Arguably the biggest news on the Bordeaux cultural scene in this other-worldly year has been the rebirth of the city’s submarine base exhibition venue as a permanent digital son-et-lumière installation that embraces cutting-edge video projection mapping techniques. The news of how the eerie wartime edifice has been converted into a world-class multi-sensory experience – known as Bassins de Lumières – has travelled fast and wide, and after seeing countless Instagram posts on the subject, I really had no alternative other than to witness first-hand this latest incarnation of the place that also just happens to be the subject of the all-time most-read item on the Invisible Bordeaux blog.

Overall, four of the base’s eleven former submarine pens have been given over to the Bassins de Lumières exhibition area, which has been conceived and is managed by the Culturespaces nationwide network of museums and attractions. Work on converting the venue lasted more than two years, and while the Bassins de Lumières' official opening was delayed by the health crisis, it eventually welcomed the general public for the first time in June 2020.

There are four inaugural exhibits that run until early January 2021. The highly-anticipated headline attraction showcases the work of the legendary Austrian symbolist painter Gustav Klimt (1862-1918), as part of a lengthy audiovisual sequence conceived by immersive digital artists Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi, in collaboration with musician Luca Longobardi. The second main piece is an animated compilation of the art of the German-Swiss painter Paul Klee (1879-1940) set to music. Two other modern multimedia works are presented in a self-contained area known as The Cube: “Ocean Data” by Ouchhh studios, and “Anitya” by the Organ’Phantom collective.

The visitor experience involves wandering in near darkness from pen to pen, taking in the various video mapping sequences (which are played on loop throughout) from different vantage points, the colourful animations being enhanced by the reflections in the pools of water, and sometimes extending over the floor beneath one’s feet. The hundreds of projectors that are used mean that at all times visitors are either faced or surrounded by a seamless mass of images, all to the permanent soundtrack of music. And although there is a steady flow of visitors, there is never a sense that other people are getting in the way or intruding on the artwork – if anything the silhouettes of fellow punters add to the mystique of the place.

Two enclosed areas, the aforementioned Cube and the cylinder-shaped “La Citerne”, provide an unusual setting where visitors can even lie down and take in the audiovisual delights while elegantly sprawled out on cushions. Finally, a set of information panels provide the historical background behind the venue, so that visitors do not lose sight of the significance of the building and its cumbersome legacy.

Chilling out inside the Cube.

The history zone.

So, is it actually any good? Well, predictably enough Invisible Bordeaux was mightily impressed by the technology, the aesthetics, and the sheer high-grade wow factor of the world-class exhibits and their execution, although the constant darkness and the unrelenting flow of in-your-face imagery does make for a strangely impersonal experience. The quality of the sound does leave a lot to be desired in some areas of the venue, although the acoustics of the place surely do not make that sort of thing easy. As for the launch exhibits, the Klimt and Klee sequences were suitably stimulating... in a high-brow, knowingly stroke-chin-and-nod-head kind of way; while being in The Cube felt a little bit like being trapped inside a scary three-dimensional Windows 98 screensaver.

Whatever, following in the footsteps of the Cité du Vin and the Arkéa Arena concert venue both opening in recent years, this latest addition to the Bordeaux landscape is a sure sign that the city is looking to secure a durable and undisputed spot in the big league of renowned European cultural hotspots. Certainly, on the hot summer’s day I was there, the makeup of visitors was distinctly international, which is no mean feat given how so few overseas tourists have made it to Bordeaux this year.

But there is a part of me that thinks that the best is yet to come for the Bassins de Lumières, and that if some innovative, forward-looking creatives really get to grips with the venue and the possibilities that it offers, and conceive a mainstream pan-generation-friendly show that is not only technically impressive but also incorporates a touch of accessible fun, then it could truly make for something quite astonishing. And it would also give me a great excuse to go back!

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Bassins de Lumières, Base Sous-marine, impasse Brown de Colstoun, Bordeaux
> Full practical information on the official website:
> Cet article est également disponible en français.

As you may have noticed if you're a regular reader, the Invisible Bordeaux blog has been a fairly dormant beast lately. But there&...

As you may have noticed if you're a regular reader, the Invisible Bordeaux blog has been a fairly dormant beast lately. But there's a good reason for the relative silence: during the recent lockdown period I worked on an exciting musical project which has resulted in a band being formed and an E.P. being released. Please meet Slowrush!

Slowrush has been formed with my good friend Olivier Rols on bass, and my son Dorian Pike on drums, while I do my best to sing and strum guitars. Both Olivier and Dorian were regular contributors to the Invisible Bordeaux words-and-music extravaganza The Shuman Show, so putting together an actual band seemed to be a natural development. Throw in the lockdown period and a number of long weekends, and we soon set ourselves the target of recording four songs (with Olivier recording his parts remotely). And, a few weeks on, those songs are now in the public domain and available to listen to on all streaming platforms. 

What, then, do Slowrush sound like? Well, I've always been heavily influenced by melodic pop artists such as Joe Jackson, XTC and Blur. Dorian brings in millennial percussion ideas inspired by bands such as Everything Everything, Foals and Tame Impala. Olivier, meanwhile, has eclectic tastes ranging from rock and jazz to punk. It all makes for a nice musical combination although there is a definite Britpop edge to what we do. 

This is the cover of the E.P.. And that might just be a building that can be spotted in the Mériadeck district of Bordeaux.
There also happens to be a little bit of Bordeaux in what we do. While two of the tracks (Parallel World and Mr Morality) were old songs that have been dusted down and given a new lease of life, the two others (Bordeaux Watergate and Four Walls) were written during the lockdown period, and are very much inspired by blog-related topics. Bordeaux Watergate recalls the 1970s "Winegate" scandal in the wine milieu triggered by the discovery of thousands of bottles of Bordeaux that in fact contained wine from the Languedoc region. And Four Walls is a celebration of places where things happened in the past but may today be little more than an ordinary street, an empty room or a whole district where things have changed beyond recognition (such as the Mériadeck quarter, the buildings of which feature on the cover of the E.P.!). 

But hey, enough of my yakking! You can listen to all the tracks on the streaming platform of your choice (Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, etc.) via the page you'll find by clicking here:

You can also follow and interact with Slowrush on Instagram (@slowrushband), Twitter (@slowrushband), and Facebook (@slowrushbdx). Hopefully we'll be able to announce some live dates before tooooo long!

And, at no additional cost, you can listen to the four tracks of The Parallel World E.P. right here! Enjoy! (If the tracks don't display, click here).

Back soon with some more conventional Invisible Bordeaux reports, I promise! Watch this space!

Hidden away in the woods not far from the banks of the river Leyre, in the hamlet of Lamothe just to the east of Le Teich, is the sm...

Hidden away in the woods not far from the banks of the river Leyre, in the hamlet of Lamothe just to the east of Le Teich, is the small and somewhat mysterious Fontaine Saint-Jean, housing a spring which has now run dry but which was believed to have miraculous properties back in the day.

The tiny edifice, which was restored in recent years, dates from the 17th century and, although I was unable to spot them, the dates 1645 and 1650 are apparently etched into the structure, in the concave niche which until 1772 contained a statue of Lamothe’s patron saint, Saint John (the statue was the unwitting victim of a dispute between the good people of Le Teich and Mios).

Although little information about the fountain is readily available, some of the more detailed descriptions available online (see links at the bottom of this article) refer to its past mystical and religious significance. This can mainly be attributed to its location on one of the oldest of the many Saint James’ Way pilgrimage paths through the area; it therefore served as a natural halt for walkers en route to or from Santiago de Compostela down the centuries. But some scholars have even claimed the story goes much further back and that the spring was hailed for its spiritual virtues prior even to the Roman conquest of Gaul.

To say the immediate environment is peaceful would be an understatement. 
Whatever, there are legends about the healing properties of the spring water that the fountain used to deliver. It was believed that the water cured skin ailments, although throughout the 20th century this belief faded when the spring ran dry (possibly due to the substantial work carried out nearby to build railway lines). Still, even in modern times it is reportedly possible to see cloths or rags deposited on the fountain, part of a traditional Landais ritual performed in the hope of a miracle. According to loyal reader Harvey Morgan, "You dip the cloth in the water, rub it over the affected part, usually repeating a prayer or ritual of some sort, and hang it to dry by the fountain. The ailment disappears as the cloth dries. There are several fountains in the Landes where the practice still continues."

A recently-deposited candle alongside the empty niche?
The day I was there along with my occasional travelling companion, my father-in-law Michel, there were no cloths or rags to be seen, although the area was so humid that we would have happily deposited however many cloths it would have taken to rid our skin of the unrelenting onslaught of hungry mosquitos! There were signs of recent visits: a candle had been deposited along with a Virgin Mary statuette. As a reminder of the fountain’s status as a stop for pilgrims, rudimentary benches have been positioned in a semi-circle around the fountain, although it would have taken a brave insect-resistant soul to stop there for too long. It was very peaceful, the silence only disturbed by two horse riders who arguably had the best form of transport to be able to contend with the marshy environment.

Horse-riding, bicycles and a miraculous spring. Quite a combination.
Upon departing, I noted that somehow I appeared to be unscathed by the countless mosquito attacks. Maybe the place does have miraculous qualities after all! But, above all, I was simply happy to have seen this unusual place, not least because it was far from my first attempt to find it! Indeed, the fountain is not easy to locate or reach. The secret is to aim for the car park of the Kayak Club du Teich, just off the D804 départementale, and then work your way south staying close to the river Leyre (or l’Eyre). You then pass under a railway bridge, before crossing a small wooden footbridge over the Craste Beneyre stream. By taking an immediate right, in effect following the stream, the woodland footpath will lead you to Fontaine Saint-Jean.

One final footnote: running parallel to that path, some distance to the north, is the aptly-named Allée de la Fontaine Saint-Jean, with a row of unusual timber-framed houses that seem to be facing away from the street and instead look out towards the railway line. The residences appear to be particularly desirable, although their appeal may dip momentarily whenever a TGV high-speed train whizzes past the front window!

Homes on Allées de la Fontaine Saint-Jean facing away from the street.
> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Fontaine Saint-Jean, Le Teich.
> Further recommended reading with more detailed information here: Marinelle Balades Photos, Info Bassin, Société Historique et Archéologique d'Arcachon et du pays de Buch.  

The lockdown period in France has come to a timid end, so the series of archive photos Invisible Bordeaux was publishing daily on Insta...

The lockdown period in France has come to a timid end, so the series of archive photos Invisible Bordeaux was publishing daily on Instagram and Twitter is now also in the past. Here are the final seven pictures which were published, following on from the four previous sets available here, here, here, and, oh, here. As you will have realised, some had already featured on the blog, others had just been sitting on my hard drive, starting with this magnificent bow window and accompanying ceramic tile features.

They belong to a bizarre micro-villa known as "Villa Quand-Même et Mépris", built in 1930 by local butcher A. Naturel (hence the A.N.), which even got its very own blog post some time ago! Even more spectacular is the remarkable Réservoir de Lavardens in Talence, a surprising 1927 reinforced concrete structure that is unlike anything else in the area. It was recently mentioned on the blog in the run-down of water towers in the area

Sticking with serious urban exploration, here we are in Soulac-sur-Mer, naughtily trespassing inside one of the derelict ground-floor apartments of the famously abandoned Signal residence on the seafront. What a fine view of the Atlantic ocean the residents once enjoyed! You can read about the apartment block's troubled recent history here

To stay in a high-rise mood, here is part of Cité Pinçon in the Bastide district of Bordeaux, which combines with the neighbouring buildings of Cité Blanche to form la Cité-Jardin de la Benauge. This and its twin building are also known as “les paquebots” (ocean liners). The complex was a case study in 1950s urban planning, as detailed here.

Next, we're off to Le Bouscat for this panoramic view of the 7,000-capacity Stade Sainte-Germaine. First built in the 1890s, it has always been the permanent home of Stade Bordelais sports club, and today also hosts matches played by FC Girondins reserves and women’s teams. 

Here's a multi-layered ghostsign in Carbon-Blanc that over the years promoted Meubles Bayle, a furniture outlet founded in Bordeaux in 1854. The “ET, Bx.” probably referred to Cours d’Albret in Bordeaux where their flagship store was located for many years. The Bayle concept has changed now and the group owns 13 outlets operating under various brands that make up the “Village du Meuble” in the Mérignac retail park.

And this meandering, random, 47-picture adventure ends up at a location where many journeys also end or, indeed, begin: Saint-Jean railway station in Bordeaux. This is a detail from the exterior of Café du Levant, the 1896-founded brasserie opposite the station whose distinctly oriental façade adds a bit of exotic colour to the landscape! 

If you're still following closely, you'll be aware of the fact that throughout the lockdown period, over on Instagram a...

If you're still following closely, you'll be aware of the fact that throughout the lockdown period, over on Instagram and Twitter, Invisible Bordeaux has been publishing random photos taken over the years in and around the city, and sometimes beyond. Some have already featured on the blog, others have just been sitting on my hard drive. There's no major underlying theme, they're just photos that possibly deserved to be dusted down and put out there! The first three sets can still be viewed by clicking here, here and here, and on this page you can views numbers 31 to 40, starting above with the view from behind the posts at Stade André-Moga in Bègles. 

Part of the Delphin Roche sports complex, the 6,000-capacity stadium was first built in 1920 and was originally known as Stade du Musard. It was the home ground of rugby club Union Bordeaux-Bègles until 2015, when the team switched to Stade Chaban-Delmas. It is still UBB's primary training ground.

Sticking with sport, this second picture was taken somewhere on the Bordeaux-Lacanau cycle path, possibly towards Salaunes or Sainte-Hélène. The 60-kilometre route was a railway line from 1885 until the 1970s and you can intermittently spot former stations along the way. Most have now been converted into private homes.

My daredevil blogging investigations are mostly solitary adventures but sometimes, believe it or not, I do actually get chatting to other people. This young guy approached me when I was taking pictures of the monument on Place Calixte-Camelle in the Bastide quarter of Bordeaux. He was quite a dude. If you recognise him, let me know (photo taken in 2015). Over on Twitter, the most excellent Sud Ouest journalist Jean-Christophe Wasner noted the Calixte Camelle monument looked a bit like a washing machine. He's right, isn't he?

Off to Le Bouscat to view this 1930s art deco building designed by Albert Dumons. It was originally Le Bouscat’s public baths and shower facility, which operated until 1980. It then went on to become the municipal library, until it was replaced by a modern, purpose-built establishment in 2015 (known as “La Source”). Today the building is home to l’Association des Familles du Bouscat, which runs an épicerie solidaire known as La Bous-Sol.

"Law, Peace, Justice" reads the inscription above the doors of the Maison Cantonale, the city hall annex in the Bastide district of Bordeaux. The unusual art nouveau building was dreamt up by Cyprien Alfred Duprat and completed in the mid-1920s.

Moulin de Lansac is a lovingly restored windmill located just to the north of Bourg on the right bank of the Gironde Estuary, and which featured in its very own Invisible Bordeaux report some time ago. In *Normal Times* the mill is open to the general public and it makes for an interesting visit… Check their website for opening hours; demonstrations of the mill in operation usually take place on Sunday afternoons.

Back in Bordeaux, this big neon “Papiers-Crayons” lettering - to be seen near to Barrière de Pessac - partly obscures the mention of the building’s previous incarnation as the “Halle des Girondins”. There’s a nice ceramic tile thing going on too, with (football fans take note) a bit of an Aston Villa/West Ham/Burnley colour scheme!

Next, we have this set of old petrol pumps (and a heartfelt request from Uncle Sam) behind what used to be the railway station in La Brède.

Just as heartfelt is this minimalist graffiti on rue de la Franchise in Bordeaux!

And we finish off this fourth random series with another picture taken during a memorable flight along the Atlantic coast and down the Gironde estuary (full set available here). This is a bona fide Unesco world heritage site, the rather splendid Citadelle de Blaye. Part of Vauban's fortified "Verrou de l'Estuaire" defences built in the 17th century (also comprising Île Pâté and Fort Médoc). Note the lovely brown waters of the Gironde Estuary!

> First selection of random archive photos available here
> Second selection of random archive photos available here!
> Third selection of random archive photos available, yes, you've guessed it, here! 
> Ce dossier également disponible en français !