Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Video: Top 10 essential sights and landmarks in Bordeaux

When recently preparing a weekend away in one of Europe’s more exotic capital cities, my wife and I found it useful to check out Youtube clips to get an idea of what to expect. It then occurred to me that Bordeaux deserved similar treatment, so here is my back-to-basics video guide to the ten essential sights and landmarks to take in during a stay in the city.

Of course, purists will regard this as going against everything the blog stands for, given that the website’s aim is to uncover the little-known sights and stories to be enjoyed in and around Bordeaux, but please forgive me as Invisible Bordeaux strays into Visible Bordeaux for all of four minutes!

Monday, 20 July 2015

Bouillie Bordelaise: the Médocain fungicide which is kind of blue

Pictured left is a familiar sight in garden centres and DIY stores throughout France: rows of packs of powder used to produce the best-selling fungicide Bouillie Bordelaise, or “Bordeaux Mixture”. As my knowledge of Bouillie Bordelaise was very slim (I knew that it was blue, but that was about all), I decided to investigate!

First things first, what is Bouillie Bordelaise? As so often, Wikipedia was my first port of call: the introductory paragraph states that the fungicide is “a mixture of copper (II) sulfate (CuSO4) and slaked lime (Ca(OH)2) used in vineyards, fruit-farms and gardens to prevent infestations of downy mildew, powdery mildew and other fungi”. The “preventative” aspect is important as the Wikipedia entry adds that “its mode of action is ineffective after a fungus has become established”. In other words, you have to treat the plants before they fall sick.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Kapla: the Dutch “gnome planks” from Saint-Louis-de-Montferrand

The play room in our family home has often been the scene of large and sometimes elaborate temporary installations made out of small pieces of wood. Football stadiums, railway bridges, Formula 1 circuits, high-rise buildings… you name it, scale-model replicas have all been produced (and then ceremoniously demolished).

And the raw material used by my children is the wooden building block game, Kapla, manufactured and distributed out of a facility in Saint-Louis-de-Montferrand, 17 kilometres to the north of Bordeaux.

What, then, is Kapla? Kapla is a wooden block construction toy made up of identically-sized and shaped pieces of pinewood, with dimensions in the ratio of 1:3:15 (1 unit high, 3 units wide and 15 units long). The vital statistics of the blocks are in fact 117mm in length, 23.4mm wide and 7.8mm thick. The end-product is sold in boxes of 40, 100, 200, 280 and 1,000 and is available in natural pine colour, as well as a small variety of other colours.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Parc du Ruisseau: Le Haillan’s very own central park

Housing, retail and industry seem to be gradually taking over every available square metre in the north-western suburb of Le Haillan. It was therefore good to hear about a project recently deployed by the municipality to reclaim some land alongside a stream and convert it into a pleasant so-called “linear park”: le Parc du Ruisseau.

The park was officially opened in late 2013 and forms a unique evergreen 2.7-kilometre-long “corridor” that splits through the town, following the course of the stream, Ruisseau du Haillan, which in bygone years was the lifeblood of those who lived nearby, providing the water needed for everything from the production of vegetables to washing clothes. (Indeed, one section of the stream was once known as “Ruisseau des Blanchisseuses”.)

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Riding the Garonne waves on board a BatCub ferry

During the recent media coverage to mark the second anniversary of the BatCub ferry service on the Garonne in central Bordeaux, I realised it was about time that I myself hopped on one of the boats to see what it was all about.

Hirondelle and La Gondole are the names of the two BatCub boats (Bat for “bateau”, and “CUB” for Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux, which has since been renamed Bordeaux Métropole rendering the “Cub” reference somewhat obsolete). The ferries were designed and manufactured by local companies, and were first launched on May 2nd 2013. The service is run by boating company Gens d’Estuaire for the public transport network operator Keolis.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Ateliers Louis Blériot: a little piece of aviation history in the middle of Rives d'Arcins retail park

We are in Bègles, not far from the Rives d’Arcins shopping emporium and next to the tiny Port Garonne marina. Unusually, ultra-modern office space has been created inside a metallic cage-like structure. And, tellingly, the new office complex has been given the name “Ateliers Louis Blériot”, a reference to the history of the metal framework, which previously housed workshops founded by aviation pioneer Louis Blériot. What’s the story?

Frenchman Louis Blériot (1872-1936) was an engineer and inventor whose first commercial breakthrough was a patented headlamp for trucks. He ploughed much of his earnings into developing and building aircraft and, in 1909, achieved worldwide fame as the first aviator to fly across the English Channel in a heavier than air aircraft. In 1910 he was registered as France’s first licenced pilot (the official paperwork does indeed feature “N°1”), and continued to achieve success at the head of his company Blériot Aéronautique, later also branching out into the production of motorcycles.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Overlaying old postcards from Bordeaux and Arcachon on the same views today

Last year the blog ran a number of pictures that merged old photos with pictures taken from the same spot today, using the expert Photoshop know-how of friend Anthony Poulachon. This time though I have taken a literally hands-on approach to combining old and new, by manually overlaying old postcards onto the modern-day view, i.e. simply holding them in front of the camera lens.

This technique has been used masterfully by photographers such as Julien Knez whose pictures incorporating wartime Paris are particularly effective. The following selection is nowhere near as spectacular, but I hope you'll enjoy the views!
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