Architect and friend of the blog Mathias Cisnal has penned a book, published by Éditions Le Festin, about his specialist subject: the distri...

Architect and friend of the blog Mathias Cisnal has penned a book, published by Éditions Le Festin, about his specialist subject: the district of Bordeaux which is like no other, Mériadeck! And, guess what, the book is rather brilliant!

 

Anyway, did you know that the central esplanade of the Mériadeck quarter is, in essence, built on a mass formed by the compacted rubble of the houses that used to stand there? Did you also know that 35 years passed between plans being drawn up for a building to fill the space between the Ibis and Novotel hotels, and that building actually being completed (now known as Immeuble Laure-Gatet)? And did you know that somewhere in the depths of Meriadeck, a room houses a slot car racing club with several circuits, including a wooden one dating from the 1960s?

 

Well, those are just some of the more unusual facts shared by Mathias in the 96-page, heavily-illustrated and full-colour book, Mériadeck, parcours en ville, which has also been designed to provide the bigger picture of what the district is all about. An opening essay details how the area developed from marshlands into one of Bordeaux’s rootsier – and sometimes seedier – neighbourhoods, before sharing the story behind the large-scale urban experiment conducted from the 1960s onwards by mayor Jacques Chaban-Delmas, resulting in the misunderstood high-rise administrative and residential district we know today.
 


Three suggested itineraries provide a means of getting under the skin of Mériadeck, the first focused on the central area, the others taking in zones along the eastern and southern edges. Each building to be spotted en route is described in detail, using terms that are architecturally precise and yet written in a style that is very accessible and easy to read.
 

The book also includes biographical information about the architects involved, and does not stop at the modern-day constructions, taking in sights including Villa Rohan on Cours d’Albret and the World War I Memorial. The sculptures and statues dotted here and there are also included. Of course, the Mériadeck shopping centre gets its own chapter, and entries are also given over to some of the more unusual features to be taken in, including a couple of voluminous air vents, and some of the more substantial staircases! Finally, the book lists the times Mériadeck was used as the setting for films, TV series, ads, and music videos.

In short, this is the authoritative guidebook that the Mériadeck district deserved and will prove to be a fascinating, revealing, and rewarding read, whatever your feelings about this area, which has always been a thorny and decisive subject in Bordeaux!  
 

Mériadeck, parcours en ville (Le Festin) is available in all good bookshops in and around Bordeaux and online!
 

P.S. Don’t forget that a couple of years ago, I sat down with Mathias to talk about the Mériadeck quarter. It resulted in this French-language podcast, which is still available to listen to here!



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You can also find it on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Player FM, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podbean, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the app of your choice!

It is 11:30 on Saturday July 2nd 1988, deep in the farmlands of Eysines, and the relative silence is broken by the sound of a Transall C-160...

It is 11:30 on Saturday July 2nd 1988, deep in the farmlands of Eysines, and the relative silence is broken by the sound of a Transall C-160D military transport aircraft crashing to the ground. Miraculously, the six people on board all survived. What happened? 


The aircraft belonged to the West German air force. It had departed earlier that morning from Landsberg, near Munich, and was one of a fleet flying into Mérignac with a view to picking up German paratroopers who had recently completed exercises alongside French counterparts at the Camp de Souge military base in Martignas-sur-Jalle. 

A modern-day German Air Force Transall C-160, like the one involved in the crash. The aircraft type is currently being phased out in France and Germany, and being replaced by the Airbus A400M Atlas. Picture source: Wikipedia.

Reaching la Gironde, the Transall had entered its approach phase when the pilot realised the left engine had cut out. With the plane virtually gliding and rapidly losing altitude he steered it away from the flight path, and in the hope of avoiding built-up areas pointed westwards towards the fruit- and vegetable-growing plains of Eysines, with a view to conducting an emergency landing. 


However, with landing gear now in position and flying just a few metres above the ground, an unexpected and unwanted obstacle appeared: high-voltage power lines. There would be no way of rising above the cables, so the pilot attempted instead to guide the plane underneath. That is when the wheels of the aircraft hit the banks of the “jalle”, the stream that runs through the heart of the Eysines vegetable-growing patches, and the plane twisted and turned over a short distance before breaking up and coming to a sudden halt… at a spot not far from where the Cantinolle terminus of tram line D can now be found. 

 

Aerial picture credited to Caroline Marmolat (from an Airlec helicopter) which featured in the Monday July 4 1989 issue of Sud Ouest, incorporating a dotted line showing the trajectory of the aircraft, and Eysines-Cantinolle roundabout in the background. Source: Sud Ouest archives.
 
The same area at ground level today, note the jalle over to the left, and power cables towards the right of the picture.

Four of the six crew members were immediately able to escape from the wreckage, the two others had to be cut free by rescue services. All were transported to Bordeaux’s Pellegrin hospital, where it was soon established that three had come out of the ordeal totally unscathed, while the three others – though initially considered “seriously injured” – ultimately suffered little more than a few broken bones. As early as the next day, they were able to assist investigators with their enquiries. Meanwhile, the 48 paratroopers who were set to return home were no doubt shaken when they heard the news, wondering what might have been had the aircraft being fully loaded when the faulty engine cut out. 


A couple of days later, local newspaper Sud Ouest ran an interview with one Pierre-Élie Baron, who was among the first on the scene of the crash: “I saw the plane go by at a very low altitude, just above the treetops. An engine had cut out because the left propeller was no longer turning. There was a loud thud and I knew it had crashed. I jumped on my bike and got to the crash at the same time as the gendarmes who were patrolling the Majolan caves." So it certainly made for a busier afternoon than expected for the gendarmes who had been assigned to the notoriously peaceful Majolan park in Blanquefort…

 

Sud Ouest coverage of the accident, including the interview with Pierre-Élie Baron. Photos credited to Caroline Marmolat and Guy Martineriq (?). Source: Sud Ouest archives.

Monsieur Baron added: “One of the pilots had been ejected. I asked him how many were in the plane and he answered in German. He was totally shaken, poor man! There were guys trapped but none of them were moaning or screaming. It was impressive!"


Vegetable farmer Francis Barrière was also interviewed, he actually owned the plot of land where the plane crashed: “That very morning, I was ploughing just 50 metres away. It's a miracle that there was no one in the fields at that time.”


If things turned out the way they did, much can be attributed to the exemplary work of the emergency services, who were quick on the scene, providing an efficient and effective response. This was saluted a little later, on March 7 1990, at the Ornano fire station in central Bordeaux, when 16 members of the emergency services were awarded distinctions of merit by the German military, in the presence of the mayor of Bordeaux, the German consul, and various Bundeswehr dignitaries. The formal ceremony was followed by a festive reception, technically hosted by German authorities, who provided (reportedly substantial quantitites of) beer on tap for the 300 guests, including the six crew-members of the Transall. 


It was certainly an upbeat epilogue for this plane crash with its own happy ending… the outcome of which was all the more poignant so given that it occurred just six months after the AF1919 flight from Brussels to Bordeaux came down barely two kilometres away in Eysines, resulting in the death of all 16 people on board. The late 1980s were clearly quite a period in the skies above Eysines. 

 

> Locate on the Invisible Bordeaux Googlemap: Site of 1989 Transall C-160D plane crash, Eysines

> This article was almost entirely based on articles from back issues of Sud Ouest available on the 'Archives' section of the newspaper's website.

> Ce dossier est également disponible en français.

In order to know everything there is to know about the 'Talitres In Waves' event being held on Saturday September 17 in Bordeaux, an...

In order to know everything there is to know about the 'Talitres In Waves' event being held on Saturday September 17 in Bordeaux, and more widely about the independent record label Talitres, Invisible Bordeaux talked to Sean Bouchard, founder and director of this highly international Bordeaux-based label. French-language podcast below!


"I have always wanted to create bridges with other artistic fields, to decompartmentalize things, to create concerts in singular places, to propose a different experience." - Sean Bouchard


The (sorry, THE!) most unmissable event in September will be taking place on Saturday 17th, during the European Heritage Days weekend, in the delightful courtyard of Bordeaux’s Museum of Decorative Arts and Design. We give you 'Talitres In Waves', an exceptional evening organized by the Bordeaux label Talitres in partnership with the Museum and Musiques de Nuit (part of the Rocher de Palmer structure), showcasing Talitres artists along with various other cultural happenings.


Two of the label's standout artists will be performing live. At 8:30 p.m., the Anglo-Lebanese musician Nadine Khouri and her musicians will be unveiling tracks from the album Another Life (produced by the legendary John Parish), to be released on November 18, and which Talitres announces as "a work of stunning beauty in which the arrangements offer majestic breath to these impressionistic songs and to Nadine Khouri's voice, that suspends, stretches and prodigiously becomes part of us".


Then, at 9:30 pm, the stage will host the lush orchestral pop of the most surprising of musical bedfellows, Maxwell Farrington & the SuperHomard (performing as a five-piece band). The coming-together of Farrington's smooth crooner vocals with the imaginative, seductive arrangements penned by Christophe Vaillant (AKA the SuperHomard) has already resulted in the album Once and the EP I Had It All. Ranking somewhere between The Divine Comedy, Scott Walker and Burt Bacharach, it is fair to say that Invisible Bordeaux is very much a fan...  


To find out more about Talitres as well as the background and the objectives of the 'Talitres In Waves' museum courtyard concerts, proceed with confidence to this podcast discussion (in French) with Sean Bouchard. He reveals all about the creation of the label, the Talitres philosophy, his collaborations with artists such as The Apartments and Laish, gives inside information about the work done recently with Maxwell Farrington & the SuperHomard and Nadine Khouri, the advantages of being a label based in Bordeaux, the current context for record companies, and what the future holds for Talitres! It makes for a fascinating and rewarding listen, enjoy! 


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You can also listen to the podcast on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Player FM, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podbean, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the app of your choice!


Vital stats about the event

> Talitres In Waves - Soirée Musicale & Rencontres Culturelles
> Saturday September 17 2022 – doors open at 7:30 p.m.
> Musée des Arts Décoratifs et du Design, rue Bouffard, Bordeaux
> Beverages and nibbles supplied by Café Madd by SIP
> €15 advance / €17 on the door
> talitres.com / +33 5 56 91 71 45

Sneak previews of Maxwell Farrington & Le SuperHomard and Nadine Khouri:


(Very) long-time readers of the blog will no doubt fondly remember the time, back in 2014,  when I hooked up with fellow blogger Vincent and...


(Very) long-time readers of the blog will no doubt fondly remember the time, back in 2014, when I hooked up with fellow blogger Vincent and my son Dorian to explore the ultimate “invisible” subject, namely the virtual point where two virtual lines intersect virtually: we give you the confluence point between the Greenwich meridian and the 45th parallel north! Hurrah! 


As you will have gathered by quickly cross-referencing with the terrestrial globe you invariably have on hand, the place is of particular interest to anyone with the slightest interest in geographical oddities: this is the very spot that lies not only exactly mid-way between the equator and the North Pole, but also where east also becomes west (or west becomes east). And yes, it’s in Gironde, by the side of a road that runs between Saint-Seurin-sur-l’Isle and Puynormand (it is technically located on the territory of the latter), around 60 kilometres to the east of Bordeaux. 


Back in 2014, Vincent, Dorian and I braved the pouring rain to hammer in a homemade wooden sign that would provide a marker showing where the meridian and the 45th parallel met. At the time, there was nothing there to indicate the exact spot, and our rudimentary sign survived a number of years (and was even ceremonially photographed by a number of latitude/longitude confluence enthusiasts, who post their discoveries online).  

The very basic sign we hammered into the ground, in the pouring rain, in 2014.

But, perhaps even more memorably, thanks to a chance encounter, our time in Puynormand included an unplanned audience with one André Stanghellini. He was the founder of “Greenwich / 45°”, a small association which seeks to raise awareness of this oddball place and which had developed ambitious plans to create a fully-fledged visitors’ area, complete with car park, a sizeable monument and a series of information panels. It made for a fascinating conversation. 


Back in the present (August 2022), some eight years on, Puynormand and its unique confluence happened to be conveniently located close to the itinerary of a four-day cycle trek planned with my wife and father-in-law. I could not let up this opportunity to catch up with Mr Stanghellini once again, and hear what progress had been achieved in the intervening period. He was only too pleased to oblige!

Part of the new sign visible on site.

Once again, we met at his home in the village of Puynormand, which no longer serves as a maison d’hôtes, but was nevertheless full of life the day I was there, as André and his wife Marie-José were in the company of their son Pierre and family, who were all over from their home in Hong Kong. I asked him what had changed since 2014. 


“We have tried in vain to make things happen and many promises have been made, but nothing has really happened, largely due a lack of finances. However, one major step forward is that the land itself was bought by the local mairie and is now ‘terrain communal’. As we have the full support of the mayor, we were at least able, a year or so ago, to install a large permanent marker.” 


Indeed, I was actually already aware of this sturdier marker, having recently read a blog article written by retired schoolteacher François Remodeau who has set himself the challenge of walking the length of the Greenwich meridian from northern England to southern Spain (François was in touch with me and we had discussed André Stanghellini’s plans!). 

André Stanghellini and Greenwich meridian adventurer François Remodeau (photo courtesy François Remodeau).

André added that “we used durable equipment that had also been employed for the sign outside our maison d’hôtes, it should withstand all the elements! Nevertheless, we would still like to take things further. Ultimately, our twin objective is of course to materialize the confluence, but also to provide the back-story, and give a pedagogical guide to what it all represents in terms of the history of structuring and calculating time and space, enabling navigation, and so on. There is a definite chance we may at least be able to install some information panels with the help of a teacher.”


Marie-José also mentioned that, in the meantime, “the confluence has undoubtedly become a bit of a local landmark, we even incorporated it into a Heritage Days visit of the area – that is where the walk ended up!”


The new roadsign, a general view of how little there is to actually see on site, and a close-up of the marker in all its glory.

And although plans for the full-on visitor centre seem to have been dropped, the dream of a more substantial and more emblematic work of art is also still on the cards. André explained that “we are hoping to approach a renowned Bordeaux-based metalwork artist whom we think may be keen to install a piece in such a unique location.” So, just perhaps, a few years from now, people whizzing through the countryside on the A89 motorway or the Départementale 123 will be able to spot a tall sculpture showing where the two imaginary lines meet! 


Leaving André and his delightful family behind (André signed off with a warm and sincere “Vive l’amitié franco-britannique”), I cycled down to see the new sign for myself, and was also happy to see there was now an arrow indicating the way from the main road. On site, I realized there were two other more makeshift additions to the landscape, in the shape of separate wooden signs representing latitude and longitude. After taking a few photos, I headed off eastwards to nearby Ménesplet where my travelling party was spending the night. 


One of the other wooden, slightly crucifix-like signs.

Once again, eight years on, it had been strangely enjoyable to visit something that doesn’t actually exist, due in no small part to having a second chance to witness the drive, enthusiasm, and good humour of André Stanghellini. Invisible Bordeaux (along with the meridian adventurer François Remodeau) certainly hopes his plans do come to fruition! Vive Puynormand!

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Convergence between Greenwich meridian and 45th parallel North

> Click here to read the account of François Remodeau's trek along the Greenwich meridian (as far as northern Spain for now!)

> Click here to read about the 2014 Puynormand adventure

> Ce dossier est également disponible en français !

Invisible Bordeaux has provided words and pictures for a five-page spread about the city of Bordeaux for UK magazine The Simple Things, curr...


Invisible Bordeaux has provided words and pictures for a five-page spread about the city of Bordeaux for UK magazine The Simple Things, currently available from news outlets in the UK and to purchase online. 


In the piece I provide an inside view on what makes the city tick and what makes it different, places to see, food to try, how best to get around Bordeaux, and much, much more, including a personal tour with some useful recommendations. Hopefully it serves as an interesting and accurate introduction to the “Port de la Lune”! And yes, it may even feature a canelé!



> Click here for further information about the “Drift”-themed issue and to order a copy

> The Simple Things website: www.thesimplethings.com

  As loyal readers will know, in recent months my musical project Slowrush has once more taken precedence over Invisible Bordeaux in terms ...

 

As loyal readers will know, in recent months my musical project Slowrush has once more taken precedence over Invisible Bordeaux in terms of time and energy levels. But that doesn’t mean the two ventures don’t feed off each other. In fact, two songs on the third E.P. to have been released by Slowrush are directly inspired by subjects covered on the blog in the past! We give you 'This Used To Be The Future'! 

 

For starters, the title track harks back to the bygone golden age of large passenger hovercraft, at one time built in Pauillac on the banks of the Gironde estuary, and also operated to connect the towns of Lamarque and Blaye. You can enjoy this power pop tribute to the noisy, then-futuristic beasts in the Youtube video below! 

 


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

Meanwhile, E.P. closer ‘The Spaceport’ tells the highly unusual story of the creation of a landing pad for UFOs in Arès on Arcachon Bay. At the time of writing, the “ovniport” has yet to be used by its target audience! The chorus calls out to one Bob Cotten, the man behind the oddball project, reminding him that almost 50 years on, we're still patiently waiting - or, as is inscribed on site in Gascon, "Que vos atendem totjorn"!

 

Of the remaining two tracks, the upbeat opener, 'Living The Dream', is an electric piano-driven track that develops into an aural wall of sound. It is the result of enviously viewing urbanites who have set up shop in the country. Finally, live favourite 'Seeing Is Believing' is a summery, strummy, folky number, even though its subject matter concerns the ability the media have to spin the stories they choose to cover. 

You'll find the EP on the streaming platform of your choice below. If you prefer, carry on scrolling until you find the individual tracks as beamed in by magic from Bandcamp!

 

We hope you enjoy the listen! 





Group shot: Florent Van Liefde

In Pessac’s Bersol industrial estate, in the space of land flanked by the Rocade ring-road to the east, and the A63 motorway to the south, n...


In Pessac’s Bersol industrial estate, in the space of land flanked by the Rocade ring-road to the east, and the A63 motorway to the south, new, modern office developments are currently taking shape… although a lone air control tower-like structure remains from the previous incarnation of the area. What is the tower, why is it still standing, and what is it set to become? 

The tower is in fact a remnant of the time when the plot was home to the radar capabilities of Thomson-CSF, now known as Thales. The electronics systems group had opened the Pessac facility in 1974, around the same time as an aircraft electronics branch was also founded in Le Haillan. Teams from the two plants eventually relocated to a new facility in Mérignac in 2016, a modern campus-like setting which now provides a state-of-the-art working environment to some 2,800 people (myself included). 


The area which had therefore been vacated in Pessac became a core part of Bordeaux Métropole’s ‘Bordeaux Innocampus’ priority area for development (along with the zone neighbouring the airport and the area now known as Euratlantique near Saint-Jean railway station). As such, the former Thales site was demolished, the plot was acquired by a “Société d’économie mixte locale” known as Route des Lasers, and this resulted in the ‘Amperis’ project which is currently taking shape, aimed at providing offices and laboratories for innovative start-ups in the fields of cybersecurity, materials chemistry and biotechnologies. 


Construction work on the tower circa 1974 (photo courtesy Thales).

Initially, the tower too should have been demolished, but instead the Pessac town council and Bordeaux Métropole decided to retain it. In 2018, a call for projects was issued and the winning bid was that submitted by Legendre Immobilier to convert the tower into a panoramic restaurant, currently to be known as La Canopée, developed in association with one Jean-François Tastet, the owner of the popular Canopée Café in nearby Mérignac. Theoretically, the new office spaces and restaurant should have opened in 2021 but, as with so many other projects right now, everything has been pushed back. The most recent reports in Sud Ouest now earmark the first semester of 2023 for delivery.  


The way it was in 1973 (source: IGN Remonter Le Temps).

1976: the tower can be seen sandwiched by Thomson-CSF's two long, brand new buildings. 

The picture in 1989.

Less greenery still in 2012.
How the area currently looks on GoogleEarth; the buildings have gone but the tower remains.

Meanwhile, in 2019, the Bordeaux Innocampus zone was an integral part of the annual heritage days weekend, and a video presentation showcased on site provided an interesting, concise history of the reinforced concrete tower, explaining that it really came into its own in the early 1980s when series production began on the airborne radar for the Mirage 2000 fighter aircraft. The dedicated structure was more generally designed for the open-field testing procedures carried out on antennas and radars. 


Ten flights of twelve stairs (and an elevator) led up to the structure’s two hexagonal 300-square-metre platforms. A dozen or so people were permanently stationed on the lower storey, situated 21 metres above ground level. It was made up of six partitioned units, designed as anechoic chambers with walls that absorbed electromagnetic waves, making it possible to reproduce free-field conditions without causing echoes which could disturb measurements. Measurement beacons could also be positioned around the platform to receive signals emitted by pylons towards the tower. 


The top floor, 25 metres up, was used to test radars, and would only be used by groups of two people at a time. Unlike the first, this level was not split into individual units but was a fully open-plan space. Tests were conducted by liaising with ground-level transponder beacons placed around the tower. 


Heading there recently to check out the work in progress, it was relatively easy to approach the tower (I certainly wasn’t the first and probably not the last to creep through a gaping hole in the fence). The tarmac surrounding the structure has been broken up, no doubt to prevent the travelling community from setting up shop on the resulting wasteland. I did harbour vague hopes of accessing the tower itself, but the ground level entrance has been totally bricked up to thwart trespassing bloggers. 


While on the other side of a tall fence, the Amperis office developments are clearly taking shape, at this point in time nothing very much appears to be happening to the tower, which still sports its original mustard and beige stripes, along with a little bit of low-lying graffiti – but actually not that much. It clearly hasn’t become a massive spot for urbex enthusiasts or graffiti artists. The architects’ impressions of how it will look in the future suggest the tower is set to be painted white. 


So, how desirable a destination will the panoramic restaurant be? Well, given that you tend to dine in a panoramic restaurant to enjoy the view, the hopes can’t be that high. Other than looking out over office blocks and treetops, there can’t be much to see from up there (although it could be a good vantage point to check out the traffic situation on the A63). But as the surrounding area fills up with suitably upwardly-mobile engineers and executives, there will undoubtedly be a receptive audience for lunchtime dates – I’m just not so sure it’s the kind of place you’d head to for a romantic evening meal. 


Whatever, it will in time be fascinating to see what becomes of this vestige of the past. Perhaps the next time I return, in 2023, instead of being greeted by a brick wall, a maître d’ will be there to welcome me!


> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Radar test tower, avenue Gustave-Eiffel, Pessac

> Cet article est également disponible en français ! 


  The Invisible Bordeaux podcast is back! In this latest French-language episode we meet up with Bordeaux-based author Sophie Poirier to tal...

 
The Invisible Bordeaux podcast is back! In this latest French-language episode we meet up with Bordeaux-based author Sophie Poirier to talk about her latest book, 'Le Signal'

 

The book talks about the intense bond which developed between Sophie and this now-iconic residential block, Le Signal, which is somehow still standing on the waterfront in Soulac-sur-Mer, although its residents were evicted in 2014 subsequent to a violent storm and has remained empty ever since. From then on, it became a poignant symbol of climate change and coastal erosion, as well as being synonymous with a lengthy legal battle to see owners being justly compensated for their loss.

 

The story of the building has regularly featured on the Invisible Blog, such as when a little bit of naughty urbex crept into my cycling tour of the Gironde Estuary, but most notably when I got up at an unearthly hour to view a large-scale artistic installation involving video footage by Olivier Crouzel, and a spoken-word recording written and recorded by none other than Sophie Poirier. The subject inevitably came up in our talk! 

 

So this way please to hear all about Sophie's career to date, her upcoming projects, and above all some fascinating insights into 'Le Signal'. Enjoy the listen!



Click here if player does not display properly!

You can also listen to the podcast on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Player FM, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podbean, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the app of your choice!

 

> Check out Sophie Poirier's output on her website: lexperiencedudesordre.com

 

> 'Le Signal', published by Editions Inculte, is available in all reputable real-world and online bookshops including Mollat

 

> On Olivier Crouzel's website, check out the page given over to his Le Signal-related productions, along with the separate page that covers his '18 rideaux' installation.


> Here is footage of the March 2015 early-morning event in Soulac-sur-Mer that was dreamt up by Olivier Crouzel and Sophie Poirier:


Le Signal / Marée du siècle / 5h41 du matin from Olivier Crouzel on Vimeo.


 Sophie Poirier portrait photo: © Claire Lafargue

To the north of Bordeaux, close to where the Aubiers high-rise estate was built in the 1970s, three features on the landscape show how much ...


To the north of Bordeaux, close to where the Aubiers high-rise estate was built in the 1970s, three features on the landscape show how much the city has evolved and continues to evolve, as well as demonstrating how some temporary solutions prove to be far more durable than initially expected. This is the tale of a bridge, some wasteland, and a flyover, i.e. the three areas highlighted above as they appeared at the time when the aerial photo was taken: 1984.
 

The bridge


The bridge in question is Pont de Cracovie (Krakow). This bridge was completed in 1967 to cater for a sudden influx of traffic entering Bordeaux from the north, as a result of the brand new Pont d’Aquitaine making it possible to cross the Garonne from Lormont, carrying road traffic arriving from the A10 motorway onto the first sections of the Rocade ring-road. 


While it made sense to open up a new way of accessing Bordeaux, there was an obstacle to overcome: a freight railway line which provided a means of connecting the docklands area of the city with Saint-Jean railway station to the south. A no-frills road bridge was therefore delivered to get from one side to the other: a big hand please for Pont de Cracovie.

Cracovie tram stop can now be found where the bridge once stood.
Anyway, a bridge is all very well, but while it was synonymous with access for some, it became regarded as a physical barrier for others. For the first residents of the Aubiers estate, the bridge added to the sense of isolation ahead of further developments taking shape. They were physically cut off from the rest of the city, with just a single bus line providing any form of connection. Miss that last bus home, and there was no alternative other than to walk, head under the bridge, clamber across the railway line, and venture through a dangerous and inhospitable environment. 


The bridge was eventually demolished in 2006 to make way for the new tram network, which was installed at ground level, with the use of the freight railway line having ceased in the interim period. Aptly, the resulting tram stop has also been given the name ‘Cracovie’. The bridge coming down was a revelation to some. In a video which looks over the history of the Aubiers estate, one witness compared the bridge to “a frontier. As soon as it came down, as if by chance, we noticed Bruges was just next door, along with the Grand Parc estate… It’s strange, the bridge caused problems… it left its mark on us.”

The bridge being demolished in 2006. Source of this picture and the one of the bridge further up the page: Bordeaux Ma Ville on Dailymotion.

These aerial shots (to be found on the IGN Remonter Le Temps website) date from 1961, 1965, 1976 and 2012. Cracovie bridge can be seen in the 1965 picture, but was not yet in service. The Aubiers estate is visible in the 1970s shot. By the 2012 picture, the bridge had made way for the tram network. See also the video compilation of these and further photos at the end of the article!

The wasteland


What was also keeping the Aubiers residents trapped were the extensive railway sidings that stretched alongside their buildings. The aerial photos above suggest that the rails were removed for good sometime around 2010, but nothing immediately took their place on this land which officially comprises two plots; one of which belongs to Bordeaux Métropole, the other being under the ownership of Bordeaux Port Authority. 


In recent years, the land gradually became a migrant shantytown made up of makeshift accommodation hand-crafted by Romanian and Bulgarian Roms. By early 2021, it is though that up to 400 people were living on site, and over time tension mounted between the shantytown’s inhabitants and their Aubiers neighbours. Reports suggest that this was mainly due to music and noise at all hours, but also the smoke and odours caused by the plastic coating being burnt off wiring to recover copper.


Late in 2021, the shantytown was cleared for good although subsequent to a series of fires resulting from conflicts between migrants and locals. At the time of writing, the amount of debris that remains is incredible: cars and vans that have been gutted, caravans, shopping trolleys, random items of furniture, etc. But there are also official signs of what is coming next (pictured above), which is said to be two office blocks and a car park. The new premises will reportedly be home to the Gironde Social Security offices and a circus arts school. 


The flyover


Towards the eastern tip of the soon-to-be-former wasteland is a sight that has never, ever featured on a list of things to see in Bordeaux, and yet its resilience certainly deserves to be rewarded with a few paragraphs on the Invisible Bordeaux blog. We give you l’Autopont de Latule or, if you prefer, the Latule flyover. 


This too was a by-product of Bordeaux’s development to the north, and the early-1970s need to facilitate the movement of automobile traffic between central Bordeaux, its “boulevards”, and the Rocade, or indeed the nascent Bordeaux-Lac business, exhibition and hotel complexes. At this strategic point where a number of thoroughfares meet, this then-futuristic flyover was installed in 1973 (it opened on Saturday November 10th 1973 according to Frederick Llorens's excellent 'L'automobile à Bordeaux')… which means it is now coming up to 50 years of age!


The single-lane metallic structure is 254 metres long, 3.5 metres wide, and is made up of 13 sections which vary in length between 12 and 30 metres. As it was initially designed to be used for a short period, by putting in so much overtime it also has to undergo regular maintenance work – which keeps the flyover in the news given that closures result in substantial tailbacks (and affect the travel plans of the passengers of the 13,000 cars who use the flyover each day). It was also fully overhauled in 1984 and 1996.

But possibly the most remarkable thing is simply that the flyover is still in position and doing its job. There has been talk of the junction being turned into a massive roundabout, or else of automobile traffic being entirely diverted to free up the space, which would then be handed over to pedestrians and cyclists. But it’s still there, looking slightly out of place, like it should be in some vast American metropolis, a remnant of a bygone but not-so-distant era when urban infrastructure choices were fully focused on cars. Given the current climate and the essential shift to alternative means of urban transport, will we still be talking about the Latule flyover 50 years from now?  

And now, enjoy a timelapse video showing how much the area has evolved between 1924 and the present day! 

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

 

> Find them on the Invisible Bordeaux map: site of former Pont de Cracovie, Cracovie wasteland, Latule flyover.

> Ce dossier est également disponible en français ! 

  Among the glossy books published lately, one managed to tick many boxes that are dear to Invisible Bordeaux. Sport: check! History: chec...

 

Among the glossy books published lately, one managed to tick many boxes that are dear to Invisible Bordeaux. Sport: check! History: check! Heritage: check! Oddball stories: check too! For we give you "Lescure Insolite" written by the journalist, author and sports historian Laurent Brun, which offers a real journey through time to discover some of the most surprising episodes in the rich history of Bordeaux’s mythical municipal stadium, Parc Lescure for some, these days known as Stade Chaban-Delmas!

 

In order to know everything there is to know about "Lescure Insolite", I recently spoke with Laurent. Our French-language discussion can be heard in its entirety in the brand new episode of the Invisible Bordeaux podcast (see further down the page) but, as a bit of a teaser, here is a little of what he revealed about the book!

The background to the book

This book is the fourth in a series started in 2015 with my colleague Julien Bée, who had proposed, to tie in with the move of the Girondins de Bordeaux football club from Parc Lescure to Matmut Atlantique, to find a way of highlighting the stadium. We had initially targeted the legendary players of the Girondins de Bordeaux, initially in the form of audio reports intended for the radio, but this was never used. That's where the idea of the book was born, and it evolved into a multi-tome project. 

 

We self-published the first volume, La Fabuleuse aventure des supporters des Girondins de Bordeaux. This work convinced Editions Sud Ouest, with whom we already had an agreement, to publish the following books, "Le rendez-vous des légendes" with a historical, heritage and sports angle; then "Lescure 80 ans", where we go beyond football to talk about other sports, culture, etc. Then my idea was to focus on more unusual and little-known chapters in the history of the stadium, hence "Lescure Insolite".

 


What are the most surprising subjects you uncovered?

With the help of the Préservons Lescure association, one investigation started with a photo from the early 1960s showing three men playing basketball who were in fact Dutch judokas - Anton Geesink, Hein Essink and Jan van Ierland - who at the time were taking classes at the Lescure dojo under the guidance of master Haku Michigami, who had become a technical advisor to the Dutch judo federation. He had detected enormous potential in these Dutchmen of rather modest origins and thought he could train them and make them good competitors. They then beat the Japanese on their own soil in the 1964 Olympic Games, the first time the Japanese were defeated in their king sport. The Dutch judokas went on to become world stars! 

 

Let's not forget the Harlem Globetrotters exhibition match in 1951 – the book includes a beautiful photo of them in action on the annex sports field. These basketball players were of the calibre of Michael Jordan, they are stars that got me dreaming while consulting the archives... bearing in mind that they were also managed at the time by Jesse Owens, the four-time medalist sprinter at the 1938 Olympic Games!

 

An event recounted in the book that you would have loved to have attended

The game between Girondins de Bordeaux and the France national team ahead of the 1966 World Cup! The coach of the French team had targeted the Girondins, then the best team of the country with FC Nantes, and whose style of play was reminiscent of that of the Italians, that is to say tough, solid, strong defensively... in order to be best equipped to compete with Italy or England. This was not a gala match but very much a warm-up preparation match, the Girondins put the French team very much to the test (although France ended up winning 3-2). There were exceptional players in both teams. 

 

Any upcoming projects?

I have written a couple of other books about things that happened at Lescure, but from a different perspective. I am waiting for new documents to complete them. But at the moment I am finalizing a surfing book, more precisely on the history of the Lacanau Pro competition. So I’m setting aside football and picking up a surfboard! I will also be shifting to rugby in the future, and I will keep you posted!


Over the course of the discussion, Laurent also shared his experience of the stadium, his feelings on its transition from a multi-purpose complex and football ground to a rugby stadium, whereabouts on the pitch he would pitch a tent if he could spend a night there... and we also talked at length about the Girondins de Bordeaux Football Club, focusing in particular on the achievements, at the end of the 1980s, of the first Englishman to have sported the Bordeaux chevron on his chest! Enjoy the listen!



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