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

2015 in review: five personal favourites


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

0 commentaires:

Again, the time has come to finish off the calendar year with a couple of items that look back on some of the features that ran on Invisi...

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


Again, the time has come to finish off the calendar year with a couple of items that look back on some of the features that ran on Invisible Bordeaux over the past twelve months. This first set compiles the five most-read articles. Click on the titles or associated pictures to read the full items!


0 commentaires:

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

In search of the Saint-Michel district of Bordeaux


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

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


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

0 commentaires:

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

Domaine Catros and the arboretum which refuses to lie down


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

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

Let’s travel back to 1797. In the slipstream of the French Revolution, this former director of the royal tree nurseries has to explore new career opportunities! He founds his own establishment near Place Saint-Martial in Bordeaux and purchases 262 acres (106 hectares) of marshland in Le Haillan, known as Domaine de Nouville, in order to create his own arboretum. He dreams up a whole network of ditches for irrigation purposes and sets to work on cultivating 40 to 50 acres of the land. Drawing on ties with numerous learned societies, he obtains various rare species which he successfully acclimatizes.
The location of the arboretum towards the south of Le Haillan. Through extensive research, Xavier Daurel (who we will meet further down the page) managed to reconstruct the lay-out as it was at the time of Catros. I have attempted to approximately reproduce his work above, layering it onto Google Earth data. Bamboo can still be found today in the section labelled "bamboo"!
Within a few years the land has changed beyond recognition. The heathland and nettles have been replaced by tree varieties from Virginia, Canada and Carolina, countless types of magnolia, hortensia, rhododendrons, pine trees, you name it… The place is regarded as a veritable Garden of Eden by observers including the Natural History professor J.-F. Laterrade when reporting on a 1818 tour of the site, as published in the “Bulletin polymathique du Museum d’instruction publique de Bordeaux”.

He refers to “the Pistacia lentiscus and Clematis flammula whose perfume combines with those of so many other exotic species, while the flowers and buds of magnificent species such as magnolia blossom overhead; it’s like being in an enchanted forest or, at the very least, feels like being in another hemisphere, if the enjoyable concert performed by our indigenous birds didn’t shatter that illusion whilst simultaneously embellishing it”. And the sense of exoticism doesn’t stop there: “Crossing a small Chinese bridge, we entered part of the land given over to beekeeping. It was impossible to tire of admiring so much beauty, so many different landscapes and so many species in a single place, and such beautiful culture on land which was once so ungrateful.” 

The arboretum today (colour scheme: Autumn), including a magnificent Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir, Oregon pine or Douglas spruce).
Bamboo, which was first introduced into Europe in the early years of the 19th century, continues to develop in the section were it grew some 200 years ago!
Catros dies in 1836 and the property is handed down to his nephew Charles, who in turn passes away in 1844 in Chile where he has developed a successful trade selling trees cultivated in Le Haillan. His widow goes on to sell the domain to one Dr Levieux but, in 1865, the latter’s heirs cut down all the more valuable trees to sell the timber, leaving only those which had little commercial interest. Now in tatters, the domain is acquired in 1872 by a Monsieur Jaille, a tree-lover and member of the Société Dendrologique de France. He seeks not only to restore and preserve the little that remained of Catros’s work, but to add to it by introducing new species. Greenhouses are built to cultivate the more fragile species and to shelter plants in need of protection.

By 1910 things have come full circle, as described by H. Bacon de Lavergne and R. Hicket in a piece published by the Bulletin de la Société de Dendrologie, detailing the species they’d viewed on site and highlighting the renewed botanical value of the place. It isn’t to last. The land repeatedly changes hands and the Second World War proves to be another watershed moment for the arboretum: trees are culled and the area is bombed by the Allies in June 1944 (their target being the Germans who occupied the neigbouring airport). This time recovery will prove especially difficult.

Part of the Herakles perimeter fence.
In 1963, the property becomes industrial land when taken over by Sud Aviation (subsequently transferred to Thomson-CSF, later trading under the names Sextant then Thales Avionics) and by Société d'Etudes de la Propulsion par Réaction (SEPR, now trading under the ArianeGroup banner). The upkeep of greenery is handed over to a well-informed forester called Mr Dubrana, who later recounts that he stood on a tree stump and had an unobstructed 360° view as vegetation reached no higher than his chest. But over the ensuing years, the land comes back to life. Working in close conjunction with teams from the botanic gardens of Bordeaux, a full inventory is conducted to identify surviving rare species and measures are implemented to safeguard the area (signage and labelling, new ditches were dug, pathways were cleared). Above all, no industrial buildings go up within the perimeter of the old arboretum.

Elisabeth Desplats and Edith Moreau.
Further initiatives to preserve the arboretum take shape in the 1980s, under the leadership of the late Xavier Daurel, one of Catros’s descendants (and the father of Elisabeth and Edith), director of Catros-Gérand and president of the Gironde Société d’Horticulture. He develops links with the Le Haillan town council and representatives of the industry players, to revive awareness of the need to preserve the area. A three-year renewable agreement is signed by SEP, the horticultural society and the Le Haillan mairie, aimed at providing a framework to manage, maintain and access the arboretum. The agreement is not signed by Thomson-CSF but the message is very much received by all parties: the arboretum would be untouched.

And that remains the situation today. The variety of species on site is nothing like as spectacular as might be hoped, given the setbacks over the years: only the most robust and vigorous species have survived, and even then only when they have been able to reseed and regrow without human intervention. However, inventories in recent years have identified 40-or-so notable species on Herakles territory and around 30 Thales-side (where the arboretum went on to form the backdrop for a sports course used by employees).

In the heart of the Thales-side arboretum:
above, a stop on the fitness course and, below, a disused, overgrown football pitch.

It is unclear what the future holds. End 2016 Thales relocated from their Le Haillan facility (where they were latterly tenants) to a new site a few hundred metres away in Mérignac. The destiny of that part of le Domaine Catros is therefore dependent on what becomes of the adjacent site. Come 2019 work was in progress on demolishing the Thales buildings with a new business park set to take its place. Reports suggested not only that the arboretum would remain untouched, but also that the local intended to make it accessible to the general public. To be continued/updated!
> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Toussaint-Yves Catros's Le Haillan arboretum, rue Toussaint-Catros, Le Haillan. 
> Big thanks to Elisabeth Desplats and Edith Moreau for letting me dig through their family archives, and to Yves Baillot d’Estivaux for putting us in touch! 

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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


0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

2 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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


0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Inside Bordeaux's Jewish Avignonnais cemetery


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Journées du Patrimoine 2015: the Invisible Bordeaux selection!


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

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

Chapelle et cloître du CROUS

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

0 commentaires:

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

In conversation with Martine Lohiague, Eysines hairdresser and Kapla enthusiast


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

How did it all start?

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Video: Top 10 essential sights and landmarks in Bordeaux


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Bouillie Bordelaise: the Médocain fungicide which is kind of blue


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

First things first, what is Bouillie Bordelaise? As so often, Wikipedia was my first port of call: the introductory paragraph states that the fungicide is “a mixture of copper (II) sulfate (CuSO4) and slaked lime (Ca(OH)2) used in vineyards, fruit-farms and gardens to prevent infestations of downy mildew, powdery mildew and other fungi”. The “preventative” aspect is important as the Wikipedia entry adds that “its mode of action is ineffective after a fungus has become established”. In other words, you have to treat the plants before they fall sick.
Alexis Millardet
(source: baladesnaturalistes).
That is all very well and interesting, but what is the connection with Bordeaux? To find out we need to rewind to the late 19th century and the many outbreaks of vine diseases throughout France caused by pests carried on vines brought to Europe as botanical specimens of American origin: vineyards had to fight back against pests such as Phylloxera vastatrix, but also mildew and other diseases caused by fungi.

Scientists began looking seriously into the matter. One of the most prominent was the ampelographer (vine expert) and botanist Alexis Millardet (1838-1902), a Bordeaux university professor who, in 1882, was out and about in the Médoc wine-growing area when he noticed some distinctly healthy-looking vines in Saint-Julien-Beychevelle, on the grounds of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou. Stopping to enquire, the person who oversaw the land, one Ernest David, explained that Médoc vine-owners had developed the practice of spraying a mixture of copper sulfate and slaked lime on roadside vines to dissuade passers-by from helping themselves to grapes. It got Millardet thinking about the potentially protective properties of the solution.

The vines and grounds of Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, where the Bouillie Bordelaise story began.
With the help of a fellow researcher, the Chemistry professor Ulysse Gayon, Millardet conducted experiments on a number of home-grown vines. Initial results were encouraging and the scientists were given the go-ahead to roll out large-scale trials on the vines back at Ducru-Beaucaillou and further south at Château Dauzac in Labarde, which belonged to the same landlord, Nathaniel Johnston, and was also run by Ernest David. The trials, which ran from 1883 to 1885, led to the local eradication of mildew by 1886 (similar breakthroughs were also achieved by other people in Bourgogne region of France at the time), and enabled the men to gradually perfect the mixture which would come to be known as Bouillie Bordelaise, the formula of which has evolved little over the ensuing 130 years.

That recipe remains in the public domain and is as follows (based on the information found here), if you’d like to produce 10 litres of the stuff from scratch rather than purchasing an off-the-shelf pack of readymade powder. First, be sure to stock up on the following equipment and ingredients: a pair of sturdy gloves, one 10-litre bucket, one 15-litre plastic bucket, 300g of slaked lime, 200g of copper sulphate and 10 litres of water.
> Step 1: put on those sturdy workgloves.

> Step 2: using the 10-litre bucket, dissolve 300g of slaked lime in 6 litres of water and stir the mixture with a stick to produce lime slurry.

> Step 3: in a 15-litre plastic bucket, dissolve 200g of copper sulfate in 4 litres of water.

> Step 4: slowly add the lime slurry to the copper sulfate solution.

> Step 5: stir like there’s no tomorrow.

> Step 6: let the solution rest for 24 hours.

> Step 7: pulverize on the desired plants.

Of course, given the chemistry at work here, handling Bouillie Bordelaise is not without risk. It can cause general skin complaints (hence the gloves) or conjunctivitis if it enters into contact with the user’s eyes. The issues don’t stop there as even mild ingestion of the product can lead to nasal irritation and respiratory problems. The fungicide has also been identified as having triggered a deadly occupational disease among Portuguese vineyard workers: "Vineyard sprayer's lung". According to www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, “the radiographic picture resembles that of silicosis with micronodular disease in the early stages and progressive massive fibrosis in later stages, eventually resulting in endstage lung disease. The patients have a downhill course due to respiratory failure.” Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

A Ducru-Beaucaillou vine leaf.
In the meantime, Bouillie Bordelaise continues to be a staple product stored in the sheds of amateur and professional gardeners alike. Back in the Médoc wine-growing area, when inspecting the vines at Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, where the Bordeaux Mixture story really took shape all those years ago, I spotted traces of a white-coloured fungicide on some leaves – whether this was the “colourless” variant of Bouillie Bordelaise was unclear, but whatever the product used, the vines still appeared to be in rude health. 

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Château Ducru-Beaucaillou, Saint-Julien-Beychevelle
> Cet article est également disponible en français !

4 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Riding the Garonne waves on board a BatCub ferry


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

Hirondelle and La Gondole are the names of the two BatCub boats (Bat for “bateau”, and “CUB” for Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux, which has since been renamed Bordeaux Métropole rendering the “Cub” reference somewhat obsolete). The ferries were designed and manufactured by local companies, and were first launched on May 2nd 2013. The service is run by boating company Gens d’Estuaire for the public transport network operator Keolis.
During weekday rush-hour periods, the boats, which can carry up to 65 passengers and six bicycles, shuttle between stops on either side of the Garonne, with departures every fifteen minutes. At other times and over the weekend, the boats each connect three of the four stops (Lormont Bas, Les Hangars, Quinconces, Stalingrad) and, by linking up at one of the overlap stops in the middle, the full circuit lasts 40 minutes.

The official map showing the two routes, which overlap in the middle (source: infotbc.com)
It is estimated that work commutes account for 60% of journeys while the remainder are simple boat trips, with people more than willing to pay €1.50 for the pleasure of being out on the water. And passenger figures are up: after 110,000 trips being registered during the first twelve months, the second year that figure soared to 210,000, a little over the 200,000 that was initially targeted.

Success was anything but instant though. Soon after the service was launched, faulty engines on one of the boats resulted in both being taken out of service until the problem was fixed. Substitute boats were used in the interim. Then, in July 2013, the engine of one of the BatCubs broke down and the drifting boat hit the Pont de Pierre before becoming stranded under one of the arches of the bridge. Happily, the 38 passengers were quickly evacuated to safety.

Pictured on the left is a BatCub in all its splendour, not to confused with the Batmobile or Batboat (pictured right, sources Hammacher Schlemmer and Daily Mail/Getty)
From then on, things could only get better, and generally they did… at least until April 2015, when human error caused one of the boats to hit the Burdigala river cruise barge. And prior to that, the BatCubs had courted controversy, with other Garonne boats-people filing a petition against the relative high speed of the BatCubs that causes unwanted waves on the surface of the water.

This all made me rather curious and impatient to board one of the boats for myself, which I finally managed on a hot, sunny Sunday morning, departing from Lormont with a handful of other passengers at 10am. There was a pleasant atmosphere about the boat and people roamed freely around the deck taking in the sights.

The scene on board.
This included an impressive full-on panoramic view of Pont d’Aquitaine, which seemed strangely tranquil, possibly because it was closed to traffic on that Sunday morning. We then sailed close to the mysterious rig-with-no-name which was the subject of a recent feature on the blog. Nearing the left bank, we were able to inspect the work in progress on the spectacular Cité des Civilisations du Vin which is taking shape in the Bacalan district.


Then, surprisingly, the skipper switched off the BatCub’s engines. A large cruise ship was due to depart from central Bordeaux and to accommodate this, the central section of the Pont Chaban-Delmas lift bridge was to be raised. The procedure takes around 15 minutes, so there was little we could do other than float on the spot and observe. But it wasn’t all bad news as it meant we then had the enviable pleasure of travelling under the bridge when it was in its spectacular raised position, making for some unusual mid-Garonne photo opportunities.


As the Batcub was now running late, the skipper announced that its first stop, “Les Hangars”, would also be its last, and that passengers would have to switch to the next boat in order to travel further. The wait wouldn’t be too long though as the boat, “La Mouette”, could already be seen some way further upstream. 

La Mouette? Not Hirondelle or La Gondole ? In fact, as I was about to find out, the sister BatCub boat was undergoing emergency repair work on its electronics system and a substitute boat was being used. But, just as I was about to embark with my yellow bicycle, I was informed that bikes were not allowed on La Mouette. My BatCub experience was therefore coming to a premature end and I hadn’t even reached Les Quinconces, let alone the southernmost terminus, Stalingrad. Reluctantly, I made an about turn and headed home, with a definite feeling of unfinished business.

The stunning silhouette of La Mouette, the substitute BatCub (no bikes allowed).
So what was the verdict? Well, a BatCub ride is possibly the most pleasant way possible of spending €1.50 on the public transport network in Bordeaux, and out on the water it really does feel like you’re taking in a whole new view of the city. However, as my experience showed, the boats do seem to be prone to technical issues and unforeseen changes. The plans I had made on the basis of the timetables available online had to be totally dropped. Additionally, it would have been good to know that the substitute boat didn’t accept bikes before preparing to board. So, in short, enjoy your BatCub voyage with its laid-back ambience and marvellous views, but also be prepared to be flexible as it’s clearly not always plain sailing!

1 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

1 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

4 commentaires:

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

Pont Saint-Jean: Bordeaux's great unloved bridge


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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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

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

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

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

I hope to see you there!

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

0 commentaires:

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

Winegate: the scandal which shook Bordeaux in 1973

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Inside Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique, the next big sporting arena

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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

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

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

2 commentaires:

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

Revisiting Neanysa, François Didier’s imaginary ancient city

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

Selected sights and stories from Soulac-sur-Mer

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

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

2 commentaires:

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

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

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

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

2 commentaires:

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

Old postcards shining new light on past Invisible Bordeaux subjects

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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

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

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

0 commentaires:

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

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


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

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

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

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

0 commentaires: