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Some more from Bordeaux

On my last couple of days I took some long walks around, including a visit to the Gallien ‘Palace’.

I saw this company sign above an old building. No, it isn’t anything to do with the guillotine I found out!

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Guillot & Cie facade

The Gallien ‘Palace’ is so named because it was once thought to be a palace built for the wife of Charlemagne. Not so, it is definitely the remains of the arena of the Roman city of Burdaglia as it was then called. It is perhaps named for the Emperor Gallienus, who reigned in the middle of the 3rd century AD. Seems that having a stadium named after you for personal vanity is not a new thing!

The stadium is a little way from the city, so I imagined the fans complaining as they do now about the difficulty in getting to the ground, the traffic, the parking and I will be they had trouble getting into the bar for a swift vino or cerevisia

Very little remains of what was once a 15 – 17,000 seater stadium (about the size of Centre Court at Wimbledon) that fell into disuse after the city was sacked by the usual suspects, Goths, Vandals, Visigoths etc. Substantial remains stood until the time after the French Revolution when they were built over with new housing. That was in 1793! The ones you see today are the same.

This drawing shows the remains around that time, with most of the outer walls still intact.

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Gallien remains late 18th century

Take a close look at the Google satellite view below. It’s possible to trace the curved stadium shape, particularly on the right hand side, where the older houses were built up against the then-standing wall. The newer houses lie along the cross streets that fill what was the stadium floor.

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Gallien map

The main part to see is one of the entrances.

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Gallien entrance

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Gallien

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Gallien – the two people there give you an idea of the size of it

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Gallien

Some of the inside – some decent brickwork and a slot drain, all attention to detail that wouldn’t be seen again for several hundred years.

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Brickwork at Gallien

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slot drain at Gallien

This next picture was taken from the Rue du Colisée, more or less on what would have been the middle of the ground.

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Gallien from ‘inside’

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As I walked back along the Rue du Colisée, I spotted a bit of Roman brickwork up among the roofs of the 18th centtury buildings. A puzzle to me as to how it is still there or if it serves a purpose to this day.

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Brick arch Gallien

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Brick arch Gallien

Moving away from ancient times, some of Bordeaux’s history can be seen in the street signs. Here’s just a couple from near the Gallien site.

Often you can see the original street names carved into the stone, above it the post revolutionary names and on the blue plaques the present day name, which although the same here is often different. Many street names commemorate World War 2 heroes and battles. I dare say there aren’t many Avenues Louis XIV or Allées du Dauphin in France, but everywhere has a Rue 11 Novembre or 8 Mai etc. Avenues General de Gaulle abound. I searched Google maps in vain for a Field Marshal Montgomery Street but Winston Churchill does have an Avenue in Southsea.

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Street sign Bordeaux

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Street sign Bordeaux

The late afternoon sunshine caught this gilded statue nicely. It’s on the Cathedrale Saint Andre, Place Pey Berland.
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That’s all from this visit to Bordeaux. If I can find those from Royan, I will post them in a day or two.

Some more from Bordeaux

Tagged: , on August 15, 2017 by cubsur51

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Soulac sur Mer 1945 and 2017 comparison; trip home from Bordeaux via Lisbon

I finally solved a mystery that had been bugging me for years! Turned out to be quite simple in the end.

During the closing weeks of World War Two, mid-April 1945, Soulac sur mer and the surrounding area was the scene of several days close combat between French forces and the occupying Germans, who were in no mood to surrender without a fight.

Many books have been published about these battles. One I bought a while back contained a couple of pictures of close quarter action. I was pretty sure I knew the place, but somehow couldn’t figure it. So this year I scanned the pictures and went looking. It didn’t take long as it turned out. Here is the result.

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Soulac sur mer in 1945 and 2017

The location is just to the south of the railway station, the line crosses the road to the right where the two tall masts can be seen. the new tree obscures the view of the electrical substation, the equipment of which can be seen to the left of the psot above the soldier. Google view, the red mark shows where I stood. Not quite the same place as the chap in 1945 as the road was a little busier when I was there!

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Location for comparison photos, Soulac sur mer

The German forces was pushed back from Soulac on the 17th and 18th April 1945. Their last stand was at the fortfications of Le Verdon a few km to the north. Surrender came on 20th April 1945. The two sides lost 1050 men during the week’s combats.

I have a few more photos from a bike ride around Royan, Vaux Sur Mer and La Palmyre. These I shall add in a day or two.

My train ride home from Bordeaux was very agreeable. Here is what I posted on Trip Advisor :

I travelled on the Sud Express from Írun to Lisbon Tuesday night / this morning.

Some observations – the train was full. I was expecting the farce of heavy handed security and lines for baggage checks at Írun as per my previous trip a few years ago. No such thing, people in seated cars simply walked on board and those of us in sleeper cars showed our tickets to the hostess who made sure we went in the right one – some obviously didn’t! No one demanded to see my passport or made me take my shoes off. All very civilised.

Train left 2 minutes late. The first hour or so of the trip is through the Basque country with its station signs and almost everything else in that incomprehensible language. Nice wooded and hilly scenery, some rain and mist on the tallest peaks.

There are no announcements on board, so if getting off before Lisbon best set a good alarm. One thing will cause despondency among the internet junkies – there is no wifi, no electrical sockets other than a shaver socket in the sleeper compartments, no USB sockets, no nothing like that on board. Your 3G roaming will work for a good while, but once out into the remote country areas, forget it.

I know this may mean actually having to engage in conversation, the hardship is noted.

The train does rumble and clank, although I did sleep reasonably well most of the way. The exception was around 2am (Spanish time) or 1am (Portuguese time), when it sounded like we were running over corrugated iron sheets for quite a time.

The air con /heating system worked well, neither too hot nor too cold, but then the outside weather wasn’t exactly summer. There is no longer a full meal service, just an on board café / bar car. Almost everyone, myself included, was well supplied with their own stuff.

Arrival in Lisbon Oriente was 1 minute ahead of schedule. I then waited for my train down to Albufeira.

I arrived exactly on time in Albufeira this morning after a trip of a 21hrs 57 minutes involving four different trains and crossing two national borders. All tickets bought on line except for the 3 minute ride from Hendaye to Írun on Euskotren’s nice new train, which cost me €1,70 from the machine.

Yes it costs more than flying and is slower, but a much less stressful way to travel IMHO. A nice winding down it was for me after a six week trip around various places.

I started my journey on the TGV from Bordeaux. This was one of the new Duplex (double deck) trains introduced upon the opening of the new high speed line between Tours and Bordeaux. It was absolutely full on leaving. There were no ticket checks at all, my upper deck window seat was occupied by someone with a vaid ticket but in the wrong coach. He had to move!

Passengers alighted in numbers at every stop, by the time we reached the end of the line at Hendaye few were left. Arrival was on time but the schedule has been padded to allow for a few miles of painfull slow running between Bayonne and St Jean de Luz.  Subsidence has caused some minor track damage which has yet to be repaired. Trains must therefore run slowly, for that reason (but excuse actually) SNCF no longer extends most of its trains the extra distance across the border and to Írun.

So, at Hendaye it’s a short walk out of the main station to the Euskotren station. A couple of staff were on hand to assist the many foreigners with the ticket machines (there is no ticket office) and my €1,70 ticket across the border was easily obtained. The trip to the Euskotren station at Írun Colon takes 4 minutes, from there is it 3 minutes easy walk to the main station.

 

Soulac sur Mer 1945 and 2017 comparison; trip home from Bordeaux via Lisbon

Tagged: , , on August 12, 2017 by cubsur51

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Bordeaux Sunday 6th August

In Bordeaux, France on August 7, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: , ,

I had never seen the Pont Chaban Delmas being raised before. The presence in the city of the cruise ship Sirena and its planned departure on Sunday evening gave me the chance. Sirena is just over 30,000 tons and a pretty big vessel to be in that river.

Before that I had a chance for a general wander about the city, on what was a very sunny summer day.

A popular attraction is the Water Mirror at Place de la Bourse. As I passed, a misty spray was being made, children and dogs liked it.

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Water Mirror spray Bordeaux

As I have mentioned before the tram stop at Place de la Bourse is completely bare of anything remotely tram station like, so as not to spoil the view.

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Tram stopped at Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux.

The Sirena is a big vessel, taller than most of the buildings around it.

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Sirena

Just behind the busy tourist-filled streets is the heart of Bordeaux. Buildings well over 200 years old in narrow streets are typical. This is Rue Ducau.

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Rue Ducau, Bordeaux

The nearby Jardin Publique has been a feature of city life since 1746. There is very little green space in the old city. As it expanded, well meaning city elders thought it a good idea. Some of the cast iron fences around the park are the originals.

I don’t know the name of the statue or what it represents.

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Statue in Jardin Publique, Bordeaux.

Elsewhere, a most elegant boot scraper. Very necessary in times past to scrape mud and worse off your footwear before entering the homes of the great and good. There are still many to be seen. I wonder if anyone makes a study of them or collects them.

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Boot scraper, Bordeaux

And so to the main event. The Pont Chaban Delmas was due to raised at 1734hrs (note how precise) to allow the Sirena to leave the port. Quite a few people gathered to watch the raising of the bridge, which starts about an hour before any big ship passes through.

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Pont Chaban Delmas lowered.

At the appointed hour, loud announcements in French and English warn that the bridge is about to operate. A squad of functionaries heads out to the the barriers at each end. At a signal, the barriers are lowered, by hand, to close the bridge to traffic and pedestrians. A few minutes pass then slowly the bridge starts to move upwards. There is a control tower on the side opposite the city. The towers house the cables that do the lifting.

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Pont Chaban Delmas going up.

The operation is almost silent, at least from where I was about 150 metres away. The river, by the way, really is that colour. Of mud.

After about 20 minutes, the centre section reaches the top.

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Pont Chaban Delmas at the top.

Meanwhile, Sirena was moving ever so slowly away from its berth to pass between the towers and under the raised bridge.

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Sirena passing through Pont Chaban Delmas

Once clear, the ship goes on its way at not much more than walking speed, down the Garonne and towards the sea, 90km away.

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Sirena on its way out to sea.

Some more pictures from Bordeaux tomorrow.

I leave Bordeaux tomorrow after lunch to return to Lisbon by train, only the second time I will have gone that way. Since my previous trip, the trains used have become Spanish ‘hotel trains’ which, according to everything I have read, tells me that it is trip to be enjoyed. Expensive, but will it be a better experience than flying cattle class? I shall report!

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Last day by the coast – updated with more pictures

In France, Médoc on August 4, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: , ,

Once again the sun stayed behind cloud until late afternoon, but the beaches were packed nevertheless. It was rather windy, plenty of surf for the afficionados. The picture below was taken at Soulac-sur-mer about an hour after high tide.

Update

I began the day with a short bike ride to the north of Soulac to an area known as ‘Les Cantines’, a long wide beach stretching to the Pointe de Grave, the very northern tip of the Médoc peninsular. It was around 12noon, a very grey and windy day and almost no-one to be seen. The area has sea defences dating from the 1930’s. These were, understandably, neglected during the Second World War and only partly repaired in the 1950’s. Some token efforts have been made since, but wind and tide are slowly prevailing.

Pictures here – will open a new window.

The poor weather lasted a couple of hours, drove me to lunch! But, by 1700hrs (5pm) the sun was out, the temperature a respectable 25ºC and the beaches very busy as the final few pictures show.

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Forests and beaches – updated

In France, Médoc on August 3, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: , ,

Picture taken on Tuesday. Wifi where I am staying is still not very good, so I don’t know quite how the update will show. This first picture was taken on Tuesday a few km south of Soulac-sur-Mer. It shows the typical pine forest with a firebreak.

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PINE FOREST SOUTH OF SOULAC-SUR-MER

The remainder of the pictures show more of the forest, then some of the beach area between Soulac and Montalivet. It was a fairly nice day on Tuesday, temperature 25ºC. The wind was  fairly strong, plenty of surfers, bodyboarders etc were taking advantage.

All along that section of coast, among the sand dunes, is a layer of charcoal several cm thick. Some thousands of years ago there was, I have read, a huge fire that devoured the forest and reduced it to carbon. The charcoal is gradually being exposed by the movement of the sand. To me, it looks good enough to put on the barbecue grill.

The charcoal forms a fairly impervious layer within the sand. Water percolates down and then comes out as little waterfalls where the dunes are being eroded. The water has a fairly oily sheen to it, so perhaps in a few million years this will be oil. There are also fairly large desposits of a thick, sticky, blue green clay to be seen. I didn’t spot so much as I have in previous visits.

Click on the embed icon below. I have had problems sorting and captioning these pictures because of the poor wifi and internet here in darkest France, so apologies if anything doesn’t look quite right.

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Le Verdon

In France, Médoc on July 30, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged:

A cloudy day today, a good day for a short ride. Ended up at the little estuarine beach called La Chambrette, between the ferry dock at Le Verdon and the former commercial port.

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Plage de la Chambrette (1)

Plage de la Chambrette

Plage de la Chambrette (2)

In the background are the remains of the ‘mole’, blown up in 1944. It has been opened in 1933 as a mooring for transatlantic liners too big to go down to Bordeaux. Passengers were brought up by train from the city. It had a working life of only a few years. It was partially rebuilt  as a dock for petrol tankers but has been out of use and derelict for many years.

Here is a picture taken in 1933.

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My pictures taken Sunday 30th July. There are plenty more on line, search ‘Mole D’Escale Le Verdon’ and see them.

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Mole Le Verdon

Mole Le Verdon new section

Mole Le Verdon new section

Nearby are the remains of a fuel depot used by U-boats in World War Two. I am trying to discover the original purpose of the tall tower. It now serves as a location for communications aerials (cellphones) but may have begun life as an anti-aircraft gun platform. These structures are fenced off and the tower is within the secure zone of the port.

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Nearby, the village of Le Verdon was once a centre for oyster production. The oyster beds where in the estuary, boats brought them into the ‘canals’ where they were unloaded. This picture from those days.

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Nowadays that’s all gone and now looks like this.

Le Verdon 'canals' and church.

Le Verdon ‘canals’ and church.

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Plenty of large fish in the canals but only visible by the wakes they make in the muddy waters. I did spot some crabs scuttling in and out of holes in the banks.

Crabs Le Verdon

Crabs Le Verdon

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Visit to Pointe de Grave lighthouse 25-07-17

In France, Médoc on July 26, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged:

Visit to Pointe de Grave lighthouse 25-07-17 – updated 31st July.

Another dull day Tuesday, so I cycled the few km to the lighthouse museum at Le Verdon. It’s 28 metres (nearly 100 feet) tall so there are good views even on a bad day. It’s quite a climb up a spiral staircase almost to the top, then by two metal ladders. The building dates from 1860 and is still operational, although automatic now.

The ground floor has a small collection of old equipment, models of other lighthouses and ships plus charts, ancient documents and quite a bit of interest. Information is available in English and German although it does help to be able to understand some French.

Sample view

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Port Bloc and the old mole at Le Verdon

I found this picture dated 1939 also taken from the lighthouse, compare with the present day views.

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Other pictures from the top of the lighthouse and also of the dilapidated railway station nearby via the link below.  A very grey day it was!

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Also, this is the location of various monuments to the US forces who came to this area in 1917, to Operation Frankton and to various others of historic fame.