The annual European heritage days take place on September 20th and 21st. As ever the event will provide a unique opportunity to get behin...

Journées du Patrimoine 2014: the Invisible Bordeaux selection!

The annual European heritage days take place on September 20th and 21st. As ever the event will provide a unique opportunity to get behind the scenes of many fascinating places, or else stay out in the open and enjoy some fine guided walking tours.

Once again there are hundreds of options available, making it difficult to know where to start. So to make things easier, Invisible Bordeaux has been through everything on offer 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

Bordeaux Art Deco walking tour
Renowned art historian Dominique Dussol will be the guide on this tour which will take in some of the city's many Art Deco wonders. The walk also ties in with the release of a new issue of coffee table magazine Le Festin, entirely given over to Art Deco in the Aquitaine region and the conception of which was overseen by Dominique Dussol.

Maison du jardinier et de la nature en ville
The guide Isciane Labatut and landscape gardener Nolwenn Le Mevel will be among those leading visits through the Maison du jardinier and its grounds. The establishment puts on a wide-ranging programme of events for gardeners of all levels, as well as boasting a well-stocked resource and training centre, not to mention a greenhouse and well-tended garden.

Musée National de l’Assurance Maladie
This curious museum, which recently featured on the blog, is the only one of its kind in France: it provides an extensive historical overview of the country’s national healthcare system. Guided tours will take in highlights including a mock-up of a social security centre as it looked in the 1950s and 1960s, and a room displaying archaic calculators, some monstrously large rudimentary computers and contemporary “Carte Vitale” electronic chip card readers.
  • Guided tours on Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st at 15:00, 10, route de Carbon-Blanc, Lormont
  • Registration (before September 18th): 05 56 11 55 17
  • Further information

Piscine Les Bains

These spectacular Art Deco swimming baths were first opened in 1932 and operated until the then badly-deteriorated establishment closed in 1996. Entirely revamped to the plans of architect Patrick Bouchain, the baths re-opened in 2006 and are a case study in how best to combine the old and the new. In the humble opinion of Invisible Bordeaux (as previously detailed on the blog), it is one of the most fascinating places in the area.
  • Guided tours on Saturday 20th at 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 15:00; Sunday 21st at 10:30 and 11:30, Rue Carnot, Bègles
  • Further information
Bunker-Hôpital de Robert Picqué
For one day only, on September 21st, this unique wartime hospital installed inside a bunker will be brought back to life by a team of enthusiasts led by the most excellent Erwan Langeo, founder of the Bordeaux 1940-1944 forum. Inside the bunker, things are reportedly almost precisely as they were during the Occupation, right down to much of the medical equipment on site. The only way to verify this will be to join one of the groups!
  • Guided tours, Sunday 21st, 9:30 to 16:30 (break between 12:00 and 14:00), 351 Route de Toulouse, Villenave-d'Ornon
  • Further information: Erwan Langeo (06 66 30 71 72) or Bordeaux 1940-1944 forum

Écomusée du Maraîchage
This small museum in Eysines showcases a number of tools and implements used in bygone eras by horticulturists and vegetable farmers in the nearby wetlands, where the rich soil was put to such good use that the area became known as “le potager de Bordeaux” (the vegetable garden of Bordeaux). Part of the museum's collection is housed in an unusual old stone pigeonnier which merits a visit in its own right.
  • Guided tours, Saturday 20th and Sunday 21st, 14:00-18:00, 198 Avenue du Taillan, Eysines
  • Further information

Medieval fortress of Blanquefort

Blanquefort's “white fort” (Blanque fortis, hence the town's name) kept watch over the marshy Garonne-side lowlands from the 11th century onwards. Today, the privately-owned property only occasionally opens its doors to the general public, and visiting the ruins provides a unique means of instantly rewinding through 1,000 years of history. Invisible Bordeaux was there this time last year, as recounted on the blog.

Pessac's Quartier du Casino 
A guided tour will take in this neighbourhood's houses, many of which were designed by Hector Loubatié (an architect who has already been featured on the blog). The properties were inspired by the villas such as those conceived by Paul Régnauld that were already commonplace in Arcachon, where Loubatié owned a holiday residence. While the set is harmonious in terms of design, each house boasts idiosyncratic features such as spectacular bow windows and upper floors perched high up on towers! Sadly, the casino which gave the district its name is long gone, destroyed by fire in 1905 - a modern house has taken its place. 
Following the Peugue
Bordeaux is naturally associated with the Garonne, but historically the city developed along the banks of two smaller rivers which ran into the Garonne: the Devèze and the Peugue. Both streams continue to flow but, in central Bordeaux, have been driven underground. This walk will take in a stretch of the Peugue as it flows through Pessac, starting out at Noès watermill.
  • Guided walk, Sunday 21st, 15:00, from footbridge on Rue Descartes, Pessac
  • Further information

Parc du Bourran and its château
Guides will be on hand to reveal all about the Parc de Bourran and the elegant mansion at its heart. It featured on the blog when I opted to plot the course of the river Devèze, which was used here to create a large pond and feed a spectacular artificial waterfall, before flowing under a “Medieval” bridge, although it is uncertain whether the bridge came from elsewhere or whether it was built specifically for Parc de Bourran.
  • Guided tours, Sunday 21st, 14:00-18:00, departing from Château, Avenue de la Marne, Mérignac
  • Further information
BA106 military air base
The prospect of seeing inside an operational military air base would no doubt be enough to get many people excited, but BA106 comes with the added bonus of the many aircraft it has on display in its museum-like Conservatoire de l'Air et de l'Espace Aquitain. With advance e-mail registration necessary and ID documents necessary on the day itself, this won't be the most straightforward outing to organise, but it may just be one of the most rewarding.

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