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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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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.

Plage de la Chambrette

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.

Mole Le Verdon

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!

https://1drv.ms/f/s!Am0w7qp9HCpqgtYLSJcExmGBZbz3-w

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.

 

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Grey days continue in Médoc

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

Raining until early afternoon today. It cleared up a little, but there were not many people sur la plage here in Soulac-sur-mer.

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But a few lunatics braved the grey, icy, waters!

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Look both ways!

In France,Médoc,Trains on July 24, 2017 by cubsur51 Tagged:

Update 31st July – for those of you who like to see the old railway pictures, this website has a very good collection of postcard views from maybe 100 years ago. Many of the locations are recognisable to this day. http://voiesferreesdegironde.e-monsite.com/pages/compagnie-du-midi-et-du-medoc/bordeaux-pointe-de-grave.html descriptive text is in French. One of the pictures shows a very early double-decker train!

Spotted this delightfully retro sign at a foot crossing near Lesparre station in the Médoc region of France. It’s a new-ish sign, not an old one still there. It’s a single track at that location.

Ne Traverser pas

Look both ways

Wikipedia article, in French, https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_de_Lesparre

One of the new trains now operating on that line near Lesparre.

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Train on Médoc line near Lesparre