The town of Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, to the north-west of Bordeaux, is a typical suburban succession of housing estates, shops, and offices. ...

Ten unusual sights in... Saint-Médard-en-Jalles!

The town of Saint-Médard-en-Jalles, to the north-west of Bordeaux, is a typical suburban succession of housing estates, shops, and offices. It could be argued it is best-known for its Carré des Jalles multi-purpose events venue, and its massive Leclerc shopping mall. However, as somebody who cycles through the town ten times each week on my way to and from work, it’s safe to say that over the years I’ve also come across some of the more unusual sights to take in, of which here are ten!

An 80-metre-long street art wall

Alongside the Bordeaux to Lacanau cycle path that runs through the centre of Saint-Médard, a long wall was handed over to street artists to produce a mural which I reckon stretches over at least 80 metres. It’s very cool. The wall was painted in August 2016 by artists operating as part of the Transfert #6 collective within the framework of the “Hors Les Murs” campaign to take street art out of the inner city and into the suburbs, and for the Saint-Médard project the designs are all on the theme of transport. The featured artists are (checks notes) 4Letters, Charles Foussard, Disket, Jone, Landroid, Mioter, Obad, Odeg, Rooble, Scan-R, Skinjackin, Tack, Tati Prout, and Trackt.

An old steam train

In a past life, the aforementioned cycle path was a railway line, which began operations in 1885, passenger traffic ceasing in 1954 and the line being decommissioned for good in 1979. In Saint-Médard, the former railway station is now a restaurant, and a 1913 Couillet 030T steam locomotive remains on permanent static display, although in fact it has only been in the area since 1985 when it was purchased by the municipality from a Belgian railway operator. Another former station can be spotted further down the line in the Issac district, as pictured in a previous Invisible Bordeaux report.

Town centre buildings that are still hanging on

This photo was taken right in the town centre of Saint-Médard, where everything has gradually become very modern and uniform over recent years. So how much longer will this building – which has now been bricked up but still displays its “Atelier de Menuiseries” sign of bygone years – remain in place? And to the left, behind those tall gates, is Domaine du Bourdieu, an 18th-century private mansion (I seem to recollect reading that the owners have always been British) which boasts substantial grounds that many property developers are keeping a very close eye on!

Multiple water towers

If you’re a key aerospace player dealing with highly explosive and flammable materials on a daily basis, it’s probably best to have not just one water tower, but two, or possibly even three or more. Indeed, two water towers are located just inside the tall perimeter fences of massive grounds belonging to ArianeGroup, although many locals still refer to the area as “la Poudrerie” given its centuries-old history of producing gunpowder and explosives (and some maps still label the area as "Société Nationale des Poudres et Explosifs"). But there is at least one more just a little further back from the main road... let’s just say that the area is all very heavy on water towers! These days the facility, which is synonymous with an enormous no-go area, produces the fuel and gases used to launch space rockets and missiles.

An old entrance to the gunpowder factory

And what was once the main entrance to “la Poudrerie” still comprises its majestic old gate proudly displaying the silhouettes of cannons, flanked by pillars topped off with, well, what look like flaming bombs. The courtyard behind the gate is surrounded by buildings that are now used by local associations. Just across the road, the grounds around a building that used to be part of that complex, la maison de l’Ingénieur, were converted into a pleasant park that has been open to the general public since 2016: le Parc de l’Ingénieur.  

A massive sculpture on a roundabout

In the Cérillan district of Saint-Médard, one of the things you possibly least expect to come up against is an 8.50-metre-tall sculpture positioned in the middle of a roundabout. The steel and bronze artwork is made up of two figures, one of which is topped off by the head of a stag, while the other appears to depict a human hand and head. Installed in 1999, the piece, entitled ‘Le Grand Sérillan’ was produced by artist Bernard Vié and represents, in his words, “the light and elegant expression of two walkers” (l’expression légère et élégante de deux promeneurs). It might be noted that it took quite a bit of online detective work to gather those sketchy details, as there is absolutely no information available by the roundabout itself… 

A château and a wartime bunker 

If you’re ever at the Brico Leclerc DIY store stocking up on paint and the like, be sure to gaze beyond the car park where, behind a tall fence, the fortified Château de la Mothe-Gajac sits, minding its own business, surrounded by its very own moat and no doubt reflecting on its 600 years of history, which have at least been lovingly detailed in a standalone Wikipedia page. Once you’ve got over the sight of the château – which apparently now hosts corporate events – then look around towards the bunker that serves as a reminder that Saint-Médard’s expertise in explosives, and its location on the Bordeaux-Lacanau railway line, meant it was of strategic importance for the Germans in the Second World War.

A retro sports complex

The massive Robert Monseau sports complex in the town centre comprises separate football and rugby stadiums, tennis courts, a rollerskating rink, and much more besides. What I like is the old-school design of the grand main entrance (currently serving as an overspill car park for the nearby Covid vaccination centre), and other nice touches such as the football stadium’s aquarium-like ticket office. It all feels like we’ve never quite left the 1970s.   

An old village square

What we now know as Saint-Médard-en-Jalles is in fact made up of a number of villages, each of which is now regarded as a neighbourhood. As well as Issac and Cérillan, these include the old villages of Hastignan, Magudas, Caupian, and this one, Corbiac. This small square, complete with its metal cross and stone benches, was presumably a meeting point for locals way back when. If you look closely at the wall of the neighbouring building, which is now a private home, you can just make out the words “café” and “épicerie”, suggesting it too was far more active in past times. 

David Selor artwork


The part-human, part-fox “Mimil” character created by street artist David Selor is a familiar sight in central Bordeaux, mainly on disused buildings and doorways that are destined to be transformed or pulled down. Occasionally he also produces more durable made-to-measure artwork, such as the 2019 piece to be spotted in Saint-Médard in a short tunnel on rue Paul-Dethomas that leads to the car park of an apartment block. 


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