After spotting a tweet published by one Matt Guenoux , featuring an aerial timelapse of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport taking shape b...

Video: 1924-2019 aerial timelapse of the Mériadeck quarter


After spotting a tweet published by one Matt Guenoux, featuring an aerial timelapse of Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle airport taking shape based on pictures available on the fantastic IGN Remonter le Temps website, I thought it might be interesting to attempt something similar for Bordeaux, and quickly came up with the idea that the Mériadeck quarter would be the perfect subject matter!

So, here's the end-product, a 1-minute compilation of aerial photos stretching over a 95-year period that shows just how much the area has changed beyond recognition, from a grid of narrow streets and low-rise homes to the esplanades, walkways and office blocks of the urban jungle with which we are now familiar, and which Invisible Bordeaux documented in an article you'll find here. Enjoy the video, and if you scroll down a little further you can read about some of the things to look out for! (Although you might have to hit pause!) 


1924: The tight grid of narrow roads that made up the old, residential Mériadeck quarter, crossed from top to bottom by rue Dauphine, which later became rue Docteur-Charles-Nancel-Pénard (one of the streets that lead onto Place Gambetta). Among the sights clearly visible and that will remain so throughout the 95-year sequence: Chartreuse cemetery and Saint-Bruno church to the left, the Palais Rohan city hall and gardens to the right of the centre, Saint-André cathedral to the right, and the Palais de Justice law courts, bottom right.

1950: The focal point of the picture is still the square-shaped Place Mériadeck, a meeting point and hive of activity for locals.

1956: To the immediate north of Place Mériadeck, a square plot has been cleared to make way for the area's first high-rise building.

1961: The Résidence du Château d'Eau tower block has gone up. It turns out to be the only building to be completed from the original plans for the district.

1965-66: Further demolition work has cleared other plots close to Résidence du Château d'Eau. To the south, new modern extensions to the Ornano fire station are built (inaugurated December 1966).

1967-70: Far more space is cleared and the rectangular Post Office building has now appeared.

1973: Place Mériadeck is wiped off the map for good. 

1976: The whole southern flank has become a building site, the first cross-shaped apartment and office blocks have appeared in the north-western corner, the circular, Guggenheim Museum-like Caisse d'Epargne building is beginning to take shape, and a huge chunk has been cut out of rue Docteur-Charles-Nancel-Pénard.

1979: New arrivals include the Mériadeck shopping centre (which opened the following year), the Gironde préfecture building and, less visible from above, the Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux block (now Bordeaux Métropole). 

1980: Raised walkways between the different sections appear, further cross-shaped apartment blocks appear on the southern flank.

1984-85: The star- or flower-shaped Patinoire skating rink (and arena-circuit concert venue) emerges bottom left. The trees and water features of the central esplanade are clearly visible. A little further to the east, just to the north of Place Pey-Berland, the Saint-Christoly shopping centre and apartment block is being built.

1989: The Lego-brick-like Aquitaine regional offices can be spotted over by Chartreuse cemetery, while the south-eastern corner of the area now boasts Novotel and Ibis hotels. A little further to the west, the municipal library has gone up. 

1991-96: Opposite the library, the Conseil Départemental de la Gironde has installed its new premises. From this point onwards, most of the available space is occupied and new developments are few and far between.

1998-2000: The most notable addition to the area is the Richard Rogers-designed law courts over on Cours d'Albret. 

2004: Nearby, Place Pey-Berland has been closed to road traffic to accommodate the new tram network and becomes fully pedestrianized.

2010-12: The Mériadeck effect extends to the north-east, as modern apartment blocks go up across the road from the La Poste building. Judged to have aged badly, the La Croix du Mail building is demolished and makes its way for the Cité Municipale, that can be seen in the 2019 GoogleEarth shot.

Of course, there is plenty more to spot. Do get in touch if Invisible Bordeaux has missed out on something, whether vital or trivial!

> Cet article est également disponible en français !

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It is 10:18pm (11:18pm local time) on Thursday 24 September 1959. At Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, a Douglas DC-7C propeller-driven airc...

The 1959 Bordeaux-Mérignac air disaster: the night TAI Flight 307 crashed into the pine forests of Saint-Jean-d’Illac


It is 10:18pm (11:18pm local time) on Thursday 24 September 1959. At Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, a Douglas DC-7C propeller-driven aircraft (the very one pictured above, registered F-BIAP) readies for takeoff on the second leg of TAI Flight 307, the regular connection operated by the French airline Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux (TAI) between Paris and Abidjan, the capital of Ivory Coast, via Bordeaux and Bamako in Mali. 

The Mérignac stopover has lasted two hours and everybody on board – nine crewmembers and 56 passengers – is in good spirits as the plane levels up on runway 23, the airport’s main takeoff and landing strip. There is moderate wind and a light drizzle, but visibility is fair. Chief pilot Maurice Verges and copilot Jean Bouchot are given the all-clear by air traffic control and at 22:23 the DC-7 sets off on its eight-hour flight to Bamako.

After routinely leaving the ground the aircraft ascends to an altitude of 30 metres but fails to climb any further and even starts to drop. At a spot situated just over 1,000 metres from the tip of the runway, some 2,950 metres on from its initial departure point, the plane clips some of the tall trees (22.5 metres high) that form the dense “Landes de Boulac” pine forest on the territory of the village of Saint-Jean-d’Illac. Knocked off course, the right wing becomes damaged and the plane falls to the ground, the fuselage breaks up into pieces and wreckage is instantly strewn over a distance of several hundred metres. Multiple explosions occur resulting in a number of fires which quickly spread to the trees, although the damp ground prevents the fire from extending beyond the crash site.

This photo from the following week's issue of Paris Match shows the flattened trees of the crash area, not far from the south-western tip of Mérignac airport runway 23 (or 05 if approaching in the other direction). Photo provided by Chris Davey.
By cross-referencing that Paris Match photo with an aerial shot of the area taken in 1957 that is available on IGN's Remonter le Temps website, it is possible to precisely locate the crash site (yellow triangle). The contemporary photo on the right shows that over the years the runway has been extended, the small diagonal road has been wiped off the map... and the crash area now lies inside the perimeter fences of the airport. 

In the immediate aftermath, rescue efforts are hampered by darkness and the sheer inaccessibility of the area; the rudimentary road structure means emergency vehicles are unable to approach any closer than 800 metres to the impact site. Miraculously, twelve passengers are found to have survived, having been thrown from the aircraft. They are rushed to hospital in Bordeaux, where one will later die. The crash of TAI Flight 307 therefore ultimately results in the death of 54 people, including all crewmembers.

A picture of the crash site, with wreckage visible in the distance. Picture credited to International Magazine Service for Paris-Match/Marie-Claire, source: Amazon.
So, what happened? In the report into the investigation released by France’s Bureau Enquêtes-Accidents de l’Inspection générale de l’aviation civile, sécurité et navigation aériennes (nowadays simply referred to as the BEA, Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses), three key factors were earmarked. Firstly, the two-year-old aircraft’s lights were not in operation. This may not immediately strike you as being an issue, but it is when combined with the second factor, namely that there were also no lights on the ground in that area to enable the pilots to have a sense of how low they were. Which takes us on to the third and most critical factor of all: the pilots were not paying attention to the altimeter and therefore had absolutely no knowledge of how low they were flying.

When replicating the same conditions during a reconstruction flight in Brétigny, near Paris, the Bureau established that an increase in speed during a very short critical phase (lasting around 10 seconds beginning 40 seconds after full throttle) can considerably reduce the aircraft’s rate of climb or even cause a loss of altitude, and that with a lack of visual references the pilot “may follow a line of flight that will bring the aircraft back near the ground if, during this period, optimum climbing speed is not maintained and the altimeter is not carefully watched”.

Returning to what I initially thought to be the scene of the crash today, I noted how much of the area was occupied by small-scale industrial units, although immediately beyond that a wide expanse of farming land can be found, along with clusters of dense pine forests, much like the area where TAI Flight 307 crashed. Even now, it is easy to imagine how isolated and out-of-reach the crash site must have been in 1959, despite being so near to what was already a major airport for its time. One section of the woods where I went wandering appeared to have been transformed into a makeshift rubbish dump, which doesn’t seem to be the most dignified of destinies for this historic site.

A closer look at part of the forest of apparently young pines.
Not the most dignified of memorials...
As I’d expected, unless I missed something there is no information panel or memorial of any kind to the tragic events of September 1959 on site, but to the southern flank of Chartreuse cemetery in central Bordeaux a lasting tribute remains. For that is where you will find the final resting place of copilot Jean Bouchot (aged 32), mechanic Yves Gosse (32), trainee mechanic Raymond Savina (38), steward André Paupy (28) and air hostess Chantal Perrault de Jotemps (35), along with the remains of 14 passengers bearing the names Barge, Bordelanne, Darlan, Delaunay, Duchamp, Duhart, Dussaut, Mensah, Morris (see footnote below) and Tanon. 


Sixty years on, this air disaster – the most deadly to have ever occurred in the area – seems to have faded into the mists of history, so hopefully this article will help keep the memory of the event alive, and possibly even raise awareness of that sad night in 1959 when a Transports Aériens Intercontinentaux DC-7C sadly failed to reach its destination. 

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: TAI Flight 307 crash site, Boulac district, Saint-Jean d’Illac & TAI Flight 307 grave and memorial, Chartreuse cemetery, Bordeaux.
> The disaster has its own Wikipedia entry https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TAI_Flight_307
> Information for this article was also culled from aviation-safety.net and the official BEA report of the investigation into the accident.

> Picture of the F-BIAP Douglas DC-7C from http://aerobernie.bplaced.net/TAI.html
 which features many other picture postcards issued by former airlines.  
> Victims of the disaster included eight people working for the International African Migratory Locust Organization, focused on preventing the escape of swarms of the migratory locust from the recognized outbreak area in the flood plains of the Niger, south-west of Timbuktu. The obituary of 'Jimmy' Davey and Hilary Morris, both of whom were associated with the organisation, can be found here.  
> You can listen to the podcast I recorded about the air disaster, including an interview with Chris Davey, the son of Jimmy Davey, by clicking here
> Ce dossier est également disponible en français.

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The second episode of the monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and features quality French-lan...

Invisible Bordeaux podcast episode #2 - Nirina Ralantoaritsimba (artist, writer, film-maker)

The second episode of the monthly Invisible Bordeaux podcast is now available for your listening pleasure and features quality French-language conversation with the multi-talented, multi-dimensional artist Nirina Ralantoaritsimba. 

Nirina first got in touch with me around the time she released her novel Nous sommes les ancêtres de ceux qui ne sont pas encore nés. This alone would have been a good enough reason to touch base, but I then realised she was also a film-maker (her latest offering is the short-form film Bumper) as well as operating in a number of other fields, from painting and calligraphy to tuition! 

Here then is the podcast, which you'll also find on miscellaneous platforms including Anchor, Apple Podcasts/iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Breaker, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Overcast, Podcast Addict and Stitcher. Feel free to hit the subscribe button on the platform of your choice! And scroll on down for all the links you need to delve into the wonderful world of Nirina Ralantoaritsimba! 


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

> Nirina's official website with a full overview of her output is here: http://nirinaralanto.fr/

> You can find the ebook version of her novel, Nous sommes les ancêtres de ceux qui ne sont pas encore nés, over on Librinova or via other outlets including FNAC. Paper copies can be ordered directly from Nirina by email (nirinaralanto[a]gmail.com)

> For up-to-date information about Bumper (Le Créneau in French) check out the film's Facebook page or else Nirina's website.

> Nirina's web series Mon week-end chez Mémé, Scribo and many other videos are available on her Youtube channel

> Information about Nirina's writing workshops and lessons is available here: http://nirinaralanto.fr/ateliers-decriture-etc/

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