Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The botanic gardens of Bordeaux 1/2: Jardin Public

Today, the city of Bordeaux boasts not one, but two botanic gardens, and the joint endeavours share a history that stretches way back to the 17th century. Today, we are braving the rain to witness the older of the two structures, which lies in the grounds of the Jardin Public.

It is said that the city’s first gardens, initially known as “Jardin des Plantes” were founded in 1629 as a formal collection of indigenous plants cultivated for medicinal, aromatic or culinary purposes. The Jardin enjoyed a number of different locations throughout the city until 1856 when it moved into the Jardin Public, the extensive parc à l’anglaise in central Bordeaux. 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

When Bordeaux city centre became a Formula 1 racing track

Unbelievable as it may seem today, in the early 1950s the city centre of Bordeaux hosted four Formula 1 Grand Prix races, attracting driving aces including Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, Jean Behra and Maurice Trintignant.

Motor racing had grown in popularity throughout the first half of the 20th century, with a number of urban circuits holding Grand Prix events. In Gironde, the earliest races to be organised by Automobile Club du Sud Ouest (ACSO) were held in the Parc Bordelais throughout the 1920s, followed by a one-off Grand Prix in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles in 1932. 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

All about the city of Bordeaux's coat of arms (and logo!)

This mosaic interpretation of the city of Bordeaux’s shield of arms can be seen in the Parc Floral and is one of many designs to be spotted throughout the city. But what do its various components represent? Let’s work our way down from the top.

The blazon is topped off by an azure segment comprising the distinctive silhouette of the fleur de lys, the stylised lily which was the symbol of French royalty. As we shall see further down the page, this part of the coat of arms has not always featured!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Merging past and present views of Bordeaux

Loyal readers of the blog will know that before-and-after photos are a recurring feature. Meanwhile, there is currently a growing trend for old and new views to be merged so, with the precious technical help of colleague and friend Anthony Poulachon, Invisible Bordeaux brings you this selection of pictures that mix and match old postcards with modern-day shots.

We start on Cours de l’Intendance and this attempt to bring first- and second-generation trams together! Look out for the charming selection of adverts on the wall over to the right. The moustachioed tram driver seems very focused on his job. Note the horse-drawn carts parked over to the right-hand side.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Saint-Savin's road to Argentina 1978 and the attempted kidnap of Michel Hidalgo

The small town of Saint-Savin, 50 kilometres to the north of Bordeaux, formed the backdrop to one of the shortest and strangest chapters in the history of the FIFA football World Cup: the attempted kidnap of France’s team coach Michel Hidalgo.

The year is 1978 and, for the first time since 1966, France’s national squad have qualified for the World Cup finals. The tournament is to be held in Argentina which two years previously suffered a military coup, when Isabel Perón’s government was toppled. Argentine army senior commander Jorge Rafael Videla has since installed a merciless dictatorial regime.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Exshaw’s mansions: little Britain in Bordeaux and Cussac-Fort-Médoc

In the Saint-Genès district of Bordeaux stands a mansion house with Victorian traits which wouldn’t look out of place in the UK. Today it is the regional head office of a trade union but the building is still known to many as Hôtel Exshaw, in reference to the man who commissioned its construction: the original owner Frédérick Exshaw. And the mansion has a virtual twin in the Médoc!

The Exshaw family were wealthy traders in cognacs and “eaux de vie” spirits who had permanently relocated from their native Ireland to Bordeaux in 1805. Frédérick was born in 1826 and, around the early 1880s, he commissioned architect Louis Michel Garros (best-known in Bordeaux as the man behind the 1865 fountain on Place du Parlement) to design a mansion inspired by the houses that were all the rage in Britain during this Victorian era.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Invisible Bordeaux guided walking tours now available as free PDF downloads

People who go googling for “free walking tours of Bordeaux” can rejoice: the four walking tours conceived by Invisible Bordeaux are now available as free PDF downloads.

The tours, which were previously available as applications for iPhones and iPads, aim to provide visitors (and locals!) with interesting itineraries through the city that take in a host of sights of architectural, historical and cultural significance.

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