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

[Musical interlude] A little bit of Invisible Bordeaux in the latest E.P. released by Slowrush


As loyal readers will know, in recent months my musical project Slowrush has possibly 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 latest E.P. to have been released by Slowrush are directly inspired by subjects covered on the blog in the past! 


For yes, Slowrush, the band formed by myself with my bassist friend Olivier and drummer son Dorian, have recently unveiled ‘The Neighbourhood E.P.’ and its four new tunes, available now on a streaming platform near you. The two songs which may be of particular significance to Invisible Bordeaux readers are Secret Garden and See The Neighbourhood. And this is why!


The lyrics of Secret Garden are inspired by the story of the silent movie star Max Linder, who was born in Saint-Loubès and educated in Bordeaux. His career and tragic demise (he killed his young wife before taking his own life) was covered in a twin set of articles published simultaneously on Invisible Bordeaux and partner website Invisible Paris. Much of the information shared then was made possible by the tireless research of his daughter Maud Linder, who was still a baby when her parents died. 


Given that the unsavoury end had resulted in Max Linder being airbrushed out of much of the history of cinematography, she had to rebuild the story piece by piece. The quest even involved digging up canisters of film that had been buried in the grounds of the family residence, the “secret garden” of the song’s title. Her findings, how she went about it all, and her own story are brilliantly detailed in Maud Linder’s book “Max Linder était mon père”, and the song also draws heavily on those writings. Maud Linder died in 2017 aged 93. At the time of the Invisible Bordeaux/Paris feature we enjoyed a brief email exchange in which she thanked us for the articles, I like to think she’d approve of the song too!


As for See The Neighbourhood, the song takes the shape of a message from a visually-impaired person to the artist who conceived the bronze 3D maps that can be found at four locations around Bordeaux. These popular pieces of public art have often appeared on Invisible Bordeaux, and the artist responsible for them, François Didier, has become a bit of a friend of the blog over the years.  


The message conveyed by the song is rooted in reality. In early 2020, I was invited to attend the official unveiling of the fourth sculpture, positioned near the Cité du Vin in the Bassins à Flots quarter. Listening to the various testimonies, and talking with people who were familiar with François Didier’s work, there really was a sense that the pieces were very much appreciated by the visually-impaired, as they really did offer them a means to “see the neighbourhood” which surrounds them. We naturally wanted to translate that appreciation and gratitude into song! Oh, and François Didier has been made aware of the piece and was delighted to know his handiwork had also been immortalised in the form of music. 


The Neighbourhood E.P. doesn’t end there, as there are two other songs to enjoy, although they possibly have a little less of a Bordeaux flavour about them… You can work out for yourself what they might be about! And if you’d like to hear the songs in a live setting, we will be performing at Le Steady in Saint-Loubès on July 24, Le Mira in La Teste-de-Buch on August 21, and in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc town centre on September 18!  


> You’ll find ‘The Neighbourhood E.P.’ on the streaming platform of your choice here:

> You can also listen to the songs on Slowrush’s Bandcamp page here:

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Lockdowns, eh? One of the defining responses to the constraints imposed on citizens to curb the spread of Covid-19 has been to at least make...

The 10k Radius Cycling Challenge

Lockdowns, eh? One of the defining responses to the constraints imposed on citizens to curb the spread of Covid-19 has been to at least make the most of what we’re allowed to do, whilst strictly complying with the measures in place. And during this latest, ongoing lockdown, unless there is some reasonable justification, movements are restricted to within ten kilometres of one’s residence. But that still leaves plenty of space to enjoy, and that is how my wife Muriel and I decided to launch into a one-day local roadtrip, codenamed the 10k Radius Challenge.

Working on the basis of the data provided by France's benchmark website, we mapped out a circular itinerary that would take us on a day-long cycling trip but that would never take us any further than ten kilometres from our home in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc. And so it was that we set off at 8am on a mid-April Sunday morning, heading off in a north-westerly direction through Le Pian-Médoc towards our first port of call, Parempuyre. We drifted past the famously international Emmaüs community and bric-a-brac warehouse, a scenic lake and the railway station towards the town centre, turning right by a cultural/entertainment venue that has been given the bizarre name of L’Art Y Show, no doubt a reference to the nearby Médocain speciality, the Macau artichoke.

A fine roadside cycle path took us from there to Blanquefort via some fairly depressing industrial estates that are no doubt a staple of metropolitan suburbs the world over. After hitting the residential town centre we had vague hopes of popping into the notoriously photogenic Parc de Majolan but must have taken a wrong turn. Instead we found ourselves by one of the entrances to the Réserve naturelle des Marais de Bruges. As the reserve is currently closed (you can possibly guess why…), we had to make do with taking a photo of the nearby railway and tram lines that run parallel to each other.

Then it was over the Rocade ring-road into Bruges proper, and a much-needed pain aux raisins break alongside the pretty église Saint-Pierre, parts of which date back to the 15th or 16th century. It certainly felt like it was a pleasant trip back in time, and completing the time-travelling illusion was a 1960s ABG-VAP moped parked by a bench. I would like to think it’s always there. This was all ably complemented by the circular Tour de Lassalle. We made a note to return to get the full story.

Cycling through Bruges, we spotted a surprisingly tall church spire in amongst the low-rise housing. Making a short detour to investigate, we discovered that we were in front of Bordeaux’s Russian Orthodox church. It certainly stands out from its surroundings and also appears to be a subject that deserves further research!

Proceeding south, we passed Le Bouscat’s Sainte-Germaine sports stadium (home to Stade Bordelais) and previous blog subjects the Bois du Bouscat and the hippodrome race track. Near a roundabout in Eysines, we spotted a fine ghostsign advertising “M. Chopinet - Lubrification Silicoil aux Silicones” complete with information, address and a six-digit phone number. Due to the bright sunlight and shadows it was difficult to get a decent photo, but I will return on a cloudy day to get a better shot of what I think is one of the best ghostsigns in the area!

From there we advanced through central Mérignac, past the dormant Pin Galant theatre and the Dewar & Gicquel “pantalon de jogging” sculpture, and back towards the Rocade, stopping to take a photo of the surprising “Marché de l’Avenir” building which, today, looks anything but futuristic.

Beyond the Rocade we found ourselves in another industrial estate, culminating in the cycle path being sandwiched by Dassault Aviation on one side and my weekday employers Thales on the other. It all felt suitably aerospace-y (aptly so given our proximity to the airport), at least until the sight of the somewhat neglected sport grounds of the Domaine de Rocquevieille brought us back down to earth. And to think this was where the great Girondins squads of the 1980s used to train.

From there it was on to Martignas-sur-Jalle, which we reckoned was more or less the halfway point along the circumference of our 10k radius circle. Arriving in the town we were welcomed by a slightly menacing Wild West-style sign stating that Martignas was home to the “last petrol station before Arcachon Bay”. For cars driving to the Bassin, this was therefore make-or-break time. Either fill up here or end up stranded in Saint-Jean-d’Illac! This thought sent terrifying shivers down my spine.

We made our way to the Camp de Souge military facility, where in the past I have been able to view the harrowing memorial to the 300 people who lost their lives throughout the Second World War. Sadly, this time the person manning the security desk was not in an especially cooperative mood, saying that it was out-of-bounds for private individuals and that there was work in progress or something. Hey-ho. We made our excuses and began looping up towards the north, at least until we came up against another impenetrable military facility which stopped us in our tracks. Rather than turn back we elected to follow a path mapped out by Google, which soon became extremely sandy but at least took us into a pleasant forest and an ideal picnic spot just by a stream.

By now we were just sticking to whichever paths were best-suited to cycling, rejoining the urban world somewhere in the vicinity of the Hastignan district of Saint-Médard-en-Jalles. From here, the best option to reach our next destination, Salaunes, was simply to follow the flat, linear Bordeaux-Lacanau cycle path. Hitting downtown Salaunes, there was little to do other than take in the church clock chiming (it was now 2 o’clock), peruse the books available in the “nichoir à livres” bookcase, and admire the giant wooden sculpture of a pine cone, which presumably represents all the local pines. And cones.    

Then it was back onto a main road, and this one was as straight, flat and uneventful as any you’ll find in the region. It took us to the hamlet of Saint-Raphaël and the chapel which was built on the spot where the 15th-century Archbishop of Bordeaux Pey Berland was born, as detailed in one of the first items to run on the blog way back in the day.

From that commemoration of the very distant past we were instantly shunted back into the present and arguably even the future, as we cycled around the massive solar panel farm in Arsac. The public domain figures are mind-boggling: 220 hectares, 85 megawatts of power (whatever that means…). The site itself is majorly impressive from ground level, but click here to check out an aerial shot to get an idea of the sheer scale of it all. By now we were more or less on the final stretch of our adventure, finishing up with a couple of photo stops outside the modern-art-heavy grounds of Château d’Arsac and looking out over the vines of Château Sénéjac in Le Pian-Médoc, just days on from those restless nights spent attempting to safeguard the vines from unseasonally freezing temperatures.

We were homeward bound, hitting Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc around 4:30pm with just over 94 kilometres clocked up by our little bike computers, over a little more than five hours of actual cycle time.

What then were the key takeaways of our low-key 10k radius challenge? Well, there’s definitely something quite unusual about being out for so long and realizing we’re still eerily close to home despite having cycled maybe 50, 60 or 70 kilometres! Secondly, as experienced in the past, it sometimes takes the randomness of a roadtrip such as this to discover unexpected delights. Bruges town centre, the Russian Orthodox church and Eysines ghostsign, I’m talking about you! Thirdly, it was a good excuse to spend time in some places that are so close to home that you don't ever "visit" them properly. And, finally, something we all know but it's great to experience it first-hand: there's such a variety of landscapes to take in. From industrial estates and retail parks to residential districts, sandy paths, shady woodland, solar parks and vineyards… we're talking majorly diverse environments here! So, in case you were wondering, yes, there really is plenty to see within a 10-kilometre radius!

Homeward bound... and our actual itinerary mapped out through the magic of satellite tracking.

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It has taken Invisible Bordeaux a long time to check out Lormont’s Parc de l’Ermitage Sainte-Catherine, but that day finally a few weeks ag...

Parc de l’Ermitage Sainte-Catherine: the quarry that became a hilly park with a view

It has taken Invisible Bordeaux a long time to check out Lormont’s Parc de l’Ermitage Sainte-Catherine, but that day finally a few weeks ago. I’d often seen it listed among the recommended sights to take in if in search of greenery within easy reach of Bordeaux, as well as being a spot that boasted one of the best views of the city. Expectations were running high, to say the least.

What’s the story behind the park though? The area, tucked away in amongst the sharp ascent that connects the Garonne waterfront with the higher quarters of Lormont and Cenon, was first home to a troglodyte hermitage. It then formed the grounds of the 17th-century Château de l'Hermitage and Château Raoult. Both were demolished in the 20th century, by which time the area had become a quarry, first operated by the building materials company Poliet-et-Chausson, and later by Ciments Français. Those activities ceased in 1983, ahead of the local council acquiring the property for a token franc in 1997. The creation of the landscaped park began, and the site opened to the general public in 2005.

Spot Pont d'Aquitaine in the background!

I more or less knew where the park was located, and had in the past visited the neighbouring Parc des Iris, but read somewhere that the simplest way of accessing Parc de l’Ermitage was from a lane leading up from the Garonne waterfront. Reaching that area on my bike, surprisingly, the signposts to the park I'd been following from central Lormont had dried up and there was no indication of which way to go. So, as there was apparently no river-level access after all, I had no alternative other than to find my way up to the high-lying plateau. To reach this involved heading into the residential backstreets of Lormont and up a very steep road – rue Sourbes – that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Pyrenean valley. By looping back in the general direction of where I thought the park began, I eventually found an actual entrance, at the end of what GoogleMaps suggests may have been rue Saint-Cricq. OK, I was in, but it wasn’t exactly a great start in terms of sheer accessibility and elementary signposting.

But starting at the top at least meant that I didn’t have to wait too long to take in the much-hyped view over Bordeaux, and it must be said that the hype is very much justified. The viewing platform looks out in a south-easterly direction and you can take in more or less all of the city’s  main landmarks, with Chaban-Delmas bridge and the Cité du Vin in the foreground, and further back the spire of Saint-Michel basilica, Saint-André cathedral, the office blocks of the Mériadeck quarter, the Cité Administrative, and the high-rise buildings of the Grand Parc district. Yep, it really is quite a vantage point.

Looking towards Bordeaux from the viewing platform.

A closer look at Tour Pey Berland and Saint-André Cathedral, poking out from above the rooftops of Bordeaux.
Turning back towards the heart of the park, winding paths headed off in various directions, but what they all seemed to have in common is that they headed downhill. So I too headed off downhill, making the mistake of keeping my bicycle with me instead of hooking it up somewhere up towards the entrance. The path I took was at times steep, and occasionally broken up by steps, all of which was distinctly non bike-friendly. Battling to stay on my feet and keep control of my bike by my side, I had neither the time nor inclination to stop off and take in the information panels singing the praises of the wealth of interesting flora to take in, although I didn’t fail to enjoy the clear views of the nearby Pont d’Aquitaine. I eventually made it to a metal staircase that took me down to the large expanse of water that is arguably the highlight of the park. Is it big enough to be referred to as a lake? For the purposes of this article, let’s say it is. Welcome, therefore to the lake.

Just one of the many information panels that I didn't stop to read.
Steps leading down to the lake.

As it was a dull, grey day, the lake wasn’t as blue as it appears to be in some photos available online here and there. I think I even saw an article somewhere referring to it as a blue lagoon which might be overselling it just a touch. Whatever, I made my way along the bank of the lake, and had a naughty peek inside the “Nuage”, one of the Métropole’s dozen-or-so “refuges périurbains”, rudimentary huts of various oddball shapes and sizes that are (in Normal Times) available to the general public to spend a night in unusual environments. It’s a bit mad but is a great concept.

"Le Nuage".

My stroll took me to the southern tip of the lake. Looking back at the open space by the water’s edge, I tried to picture what it must be like during the warm summer months, with people swarming here in search of fresh air – although bathing is prohibited in the lake. I crossed a metal footbridge although a gate which was locked prevented me from going any further (although this didn’t stop a young photographer from walking past, clambering over the gate and pacing upwards, no doubt in search of another viewpoint looking over the rooftops of Bordeaux).             

I spotted a lane heading downhill, possibly even down to the Garonne waterfront and the entrance I had originally been aiming for. As I had nothing to lose and was not too keen on heading back up to the top of the park, I set off in that direction and, bingo, it did indeed take me down to what should have been my departure point. I can confirm there is nothing there to suggest it is a convenient way of accessing the park, but in hindsight the path is easy to locate, just behind the arches of the railway bridge that runs parallel to the Garonne. It turns out I had been right all along to keep my bike with me.  

The Garonne-side way into the park is via the lane that leads up from behind these railway arches!

Thinking back, Parc de l’Ermitage Sainte-Catherine is quite a surprising place. It was far more compact than I expected, and also much hillier than your typical Bordeaux Métropole scenery… but never forget that the right bank of the Garonne offers a succession of challenging ascents. On the winter’s day I was there, the park was almost empty and strangely soulless, but it is possibly the kind of place that needs people there for it to come to life. But hey, there’s a lake, plenty of greenery… and THAT view over Bordeaux. It’s almost enough to forgive the authorities for the poor signposting!

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Parc de l'Ermitage Sainte-Catherine, Lormont

> Cet article est également disponible en français !

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Parc Ausone, to be found in the suburb of Bruges, is a recent addition to the local landscape and provides an unusual combination of woodlan...

Parc Ausone, delivering fresh air, greenery and art to Bruges (except on Mondays)

Parc Ausone, to be found in the suburb of Bruges, is a recent addition to the local landscape and provides an unusual combination of woodland paths, play areas, and public artwork… not to mention a tall viewing tower, some snazzy metallic walkways and, best of all, a suspension footbridge. The park certainly deserved an exploratory visit. 

The innovative park first opened in September 2019, two years on from the purchase of twelve hectares of land by the local town council. The €2.3m landscaping assignment was conducted by the Floirac-based Graziella Barsacq and the Moonwalklocal architecture agency, and the project was an integral part of the extensive urban development of the surrounding area. 

Indeed, a whole new residential neighbourhood has, in effect, sprung out of nowhere over the past five years and, along with places to live and shop, the new arrivals deserved – and possibly needed – a bit of space to relax and unwind. Hence the creation of Parc Ausone, which the official literature inevitably refers to as a “poumon vert”, a “bulle de verdure” and, yes, “un parc écologique, durable et poétique”. My expectations were therefore running high when making my way to one of the no less than seven entrances to the park – which in itself is a symbolic demonstration of the intention to make the park as accessible as possible to local residents on all sides.

This map shows how the park is surrounded by residential districts on all sides, and also how the park itself loops all the way round a residential complex.

As there are seven entrances, what you get to see first depends on where your starting point is! In my case, I headed for the gate located close to the Ausone tram line C stop, and immediately found myself at the foot of the observatory tower which, along with the map at its base, was bound to be a useful introduction to the park. I climbed to the top to take in the panoramic view, but as I had unwittingly interrupted a couple of young lovebirds who were enjoying some quality high-rise downtime, as soon as I had taken my picture I made my excuses and left!   

The observation tower.

The view from the top!
From there a footpath leads down to what may be regarded as the heart of the park, and a narrow linear water feature runs alongside the path. It was almost dry when I was there, but its levels no doubt rise and fall according to the weather. The natural inclination is then to head right into the “chênaie centenaire” the 100-year-old oak forest, with its network of lanes meandering off in various directions. Two of the park’s most striking sights are to be found there in amongst the trees.

The first is the aforementioned suspension bridge, which stretches over a stream and connects ground level with another, higher entrance to the park. Although the bridge gently rocks and rolls, the non-slip surface of the platform makes it relatively accessible to all-comers, and above all it’s a very kid-friendly shade of bright red. (Let's get our priorities right!)


The second is “Le Livre de Sable”, a permanent art installation conceived by Moonwalklocal with the Paysagistes Sans Frontières collective. The piece was inspired by the 1975 book of the same name by Jorge Luis Borges and was originally designed for an international garden festival held in Chaumont-sur-Loire in 2018. Here the colour scheme shifts from red to a vivid blue, and the elements of the work connect and intertwine with the trees and bushes. If you want to take your understanding of the piece to higher levels, an information panel provides full details. For now, let’s just take away the fact that it makes for a surprising contrast with all the greenery.

Moving away from the woodland towards another entrance to the park, a spectacular and ever-so-slightly futuristic corten steel tunnel encases a footbridge over the ponds and wetlands that form a natural moat-like frontier to much the park. The design of the tunnel is reportedly reminiscent of the metal frames of the greenhouses built in the area by vegetable farmers. Whatever, its photogenic aesthetics will surely prove popular on Instagram… although I can’t say I’ve seen it crop up very often so far in my timeline.

The view from the footbridge.

Edging away from that entrance, benches and deck chairs are dotted around the park, alongside young pines. From here on the permanent backdrop is the succession of new-build apartment blocks that look straight out of an estate agent’s brochure. The buildings also poke out from above the trees by the children’s play area that brings a sudden rush of life and noise to proceedings. Rather than turn back, the journey ends with a walk through another corten steel arched passageway, which leads naturally into a residential complex and back out into the real world, i.e. Bruges proper!

So yeah, Parc Ausone certainly ticks a lot of the right boxes, bringing a much-needed expanse of vegetation in amongst the multiple constructions that have mushroomed throughout the area. I like to think that the first short visit took in most of the essential sights, but also sense that there are others remaining to be spotted and enjoyed, and that as the neigbourhood still seems to be work-in-progress, there may be further developments to come. 

Before signing off and, more importantly before you, dear reader, stop whatever it was you were doing to satisfy your sudden urge to go and visit Parc Ausone, be sure you don’t head there on a Monday because, bizarrely, the park is closed on Mondays – possibly some kind of veiled act of solidarity with the banks and hairdressers of France who are also for the most part closed on Mondays. Happily, other parks are available. 

> Find it on the Invisible Bordeaux map: Parc Ausone, Bruges.

> Cet article est également disponible en français !

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This concise post was inspired by a Twitter publication showing an aerial view of London that also displayed the actual path of the Undergro...

The Bordeaux tram network viewed from a plane

This concise post was inspired by a Twitter publication showing an aerial view of London that also displayed the actual path of the Underground network. I trust that you will agree... a Bordeaux version of the picture needed to be designed!

The original aerial photo of Bordeaux was taken in January 2012, is credited to M.M. Minderhoud, and has been reused and adapted here under the Creative Commons license. The four tram lines have been cunningly overlaid on the picture through the not-very-expert use of elementary picture editing tools! Of course, one great regret is that a substantial part of the Metropole is not visible; therefore tram line A cuts off here before it reaches Cenon and Lormont, line B doesn’t quite reach Pont d’Aquitaine, and one branch of line C stops short of Bordeaux-Lac!

However, the picture does show just about the whole of Bordeaux proper, and pans out very nicely to the north, west, and south of the city. If you know of a more representative picture that could be used, get in touch and I’ll happily start again! In the meantime, I hope you like this first version!

> Download the high-resolution version of the picture here.

Note: The original London picture which inspired this post (available here) was notably shared by the historian, geographer and TV presenter Tim Dunn, and by Suede bassist Mat Osman. The photo was credited to DJ Santero while the Underground map was plotted by the urban developer and designer Martin Bangratz.

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If you’re familiar with guidebooks to the cities of France, you’ll know all about Le Petit Futé , which produces a benchmark series of annua...

Spot the blog in the 2021 Petit Futé Bordeaux 'citybook'!

If you’re familiar with guidebooks to the cities of France, you’ll know all about Le Petit Futé, which produces a benchmark series of annual publications compiling top tips of things to see, places to go, and activities to enjoy.

Beyond being a straightforward guidebook, the Petit Futé “citybook” concept almost has a glossy magazine feel comprising articles and interviews with local players… and the 2021 Bordeaux citybook just happens to feature Invisible Bordeaux!

So pick up a copy and scroll through to page 8 to read about the story behind the Invisible Bordeaux blog, hear what makes the city so interesting in my eyes, and to see in print a couple of photos produced as part of my recent attempt to reproduce pictures taken by US students Steve and Patti Owen during their stay in Bordeaux in the early 1970s. And then stick around to take in everything else the guide has to offer; it really is an incredibly complete overview of everything you need to know about making the most out of the city.

Big thanks and appreciation to Petit Futé writer Laurène Delion for reaching out and producing the interview!

> You’ll find the 2021 Petit Futé Bordeaux citybook in bookshops in and around the city and beyond, as well as through online channels. The 256-page publication costs €5.95.
> Official website:

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