Archive for the ‘Bordeaux’ Category


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!


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.


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.


Gallien map

The main part to see is one of the entrances.


Gallien entrance




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



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.


Brickwork at Gallien


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.


Gallien from ‘inside’


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.


Brick arch Gallien


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.


Street sign Bordeaux


Street sign Bordeaux

The late afternoon sunshine caught this gilded statue nicely. It’s on the Cathedrale Saint Andre, Place Pey Berland.
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.


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!


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.


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.


Tram stopped at Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux.

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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


Bordeaux, 14 July 2017. Part 2, a bit later than planned.

The important national holiday in France was commemorated in Bordeaux by a formal military parade on the Quai des Chartons, while the city was out in its tens of thousands. These are a few of the pictures I took. I wasn’t early enough to be at the front of the main event. Many citations were read, medals awarded and not just to the military but to members of the fire service and police.

I wasn’t sure that a picnic was a good idea on the rather threadbare grass possibly coated with who knows what.

A couple of them did succumb to the heat, which was 30ºC during the two hours or so they were standing there. Or, as in the case of those below, sitting in full ceremonial uniform.

After the presentations, there was a kind of drive by and march past.

After the event, local bikers and those in uniform were seen exchanging words on the merits of their various mounts – these were customs men with BMW’s – and they nicely let children sit on them and have their pictures taken by mum and dad.

Bordeaux, 14 July 2017 – Part 2.

Tagged: on July 19, 2017 by cubsur51

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Visit to Lormont, 14th July 2017

In Bordeaux,France on July 17, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: ,

Lormont-Bas is the northern destination of the Batbus, Bordeaux’s scheduled ferry service along the river. Lormont is a suburb of the city, on the right bank. Population is around 20,000 these days, it has declined slightly in recent times. It is a nice wooded area with some parts of some antiquity, with the Chateau of Lormont dating from 1060, the church from 1451 and many of the buildings in the older part of town from the 17th century.

Wikipedia article in English –

Beyond Lormont are areas of docks and industry.

I took a random walk around for a couple of hours. These are some of the pictures I took. First is the plaque on the side of the viaduct that carries the Paris – Bordeaux railway through the town alongside the river. The line still carries trains on the main route between Paris and Bordeaux, the recently opened high speed stretch joins this much older line a few km north of Lormont.

No I do not know why this house has an orange spotted cow on the roof!

One of of the several old public wash-houses around the town, now all locked up and out of use.

Hard to believe this is only about 8km from the centre of Bordeaux.

The former Gendarmerie dates from 1900, still in use for some local council offices.

The Chateau de Lormont, now an upmarket restaurant and offices. The main Bordeaux ring road, or beltway, runs in a deep trench immediately to the right of this picture.

A local resident outside the gates, perhaps looking for a way in.

Another of the old wash-houses, the Lavoir Banchereau, was in use from the late 18th century until, apparently, 1975. Once again locked up and inaccessible to visitors.
Article and pictures in French from the local historical society

These houses opposite date from the 17th century.

Some nice flowerbeds outside the church.

A church has stood here since 1294. This edition was consecrated in 1451. The bell tower was built slightly earlier. Observe the rather crude join between the two parts, the buttress cuts across a former doorway and even a window!

The rear of the church has several stained glass windows.

How to get to Lormont? The ferry runs at off peak times on weekdays, at weekends and on public holidays it runs every 45 minutes. All Bordeaux daily, weekly and multi-ride passes are valid, a single trip paid cash on board is €2. More information and current timetable at scroll down to the very last item on the list. Lormont-Bas (down by the river) is also served by city bus routes 7, 40, 91 and 92. The more ‘modern’ part has a stop on Tram line A (the branch to La Gardette) and bus 40 wends its way up there. Also, bus 32 goes over the Pont D’Aquitaine and into that area. All the timetables can be downloaded from that same page. Make sure you are looking at the current edition as a different timetable applies on many city routes during July and August. Also be aware that the entire city tram and bus system (and the ferry!) does not operate on the Labour Day holiday of May 1st.


Visit to the Dune de Pilat, 13th July 2017

In Bordeaux,France on July 15, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: ,

Having read and watched a lot about the Dune de Pilat, I decided to make a visit. The Dune de Pilat (sometimes spelled Pyla) is Europe’s largest sand dune. It is assessed as being 110 metres high, 500 metres wide at the base and 2.7km long. In fact, a headline in the local newspaper that day claimed it has grown in height 1.3 metres this year.

There are steps laid into the dune, but the proper way is walk up the soft sand to the top. The view, if you get there, is worth it.


The sand is very soft and the walk is across the slope rather than direct, so it quite hard work. Safe to day I did make it but knew about the effort on arrival!


The view is good, this picture shows the bay, Arcachon town is off to the right out of shot. Across the bay is the Lege Cap Ferret holiday spot.


Down below the dune is a sandbank, the Banc D’Arguin, obviously a popular place for people with boats to visit.


Immediately below the dune is a rocky beach, covered at low tide, where children can look for creatures.


The height of the dunes makes the area an ideal base for hang gilders. These are 1km or so south of the main dune itself.

Further along, a boat takes people across to the sandbank.


As with much of the coast, the erosion over the last 75 years has resulted in World War  Two German defences now being underwater even at low tide, showing how far the sea has come in.


And, finally, the rather splendid war memorial at Arcachon, bedecked with flags.



Arcachon is about 1 hour by local train south-west of Bordeaux. Trains run about once each hour, every day. Cheap day return fare of €15 was available when I made the trip. From the Railway station, bus number 1 runs about every 40 minutes in summer to the Dune, the fare is only 1 Euro. Helpfully, one of the bus company staff was selling tickets at the stop. The bus I took was absolutely full. The journey takes about 30 minutes and is a bit of a tour around the town at first. There is a also a less frequent service from the railway station at La Teste de Buch – bus website – only available in French.

It usually takes also about an hour to drive between Bordeaux and Arcachon, probably longer on peak summer days.

The bus stops about 10 minutes walk from the steps. There are several large car parks  there also plus expensive cafés and souvenir type shops. The queue for toilets was huge, there are none on the dune and beach so many people were observed sneaking off into the nearby woods. The walk is along a path which gradually turns into a sandy track. it is totally unsuitable for any kind of wheelchair, buggy, baby carriage etc. Even if you could get them up the side of the Dune!


Bordeaux 14 July 2017

In Bordeaux,France on July 15, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged: ,

14th July is a very important national holiday in France. It was a very pleasant afternoon and evening here, the city was out in force for various celebrations.


A formal military parade was among the evenrts, with solemn speeches and medals presented. Afterwards there was a short march-past of the various units.


More later. I had been walking around earlier. On Thursday I visited the landmark Dune de Pilat, near Arcachon. Some pictures from that visit later today I hope.