Monday, 2 March 2015

New York - London - Paris - Caudéran: the life of the legendary songwriter and singer Mort Shuman

One of the most illustrious permanent residents of Cimetière des Pins Francs, in the Caudéran district of Bordeaux, is none other than the legendary songwriter, pianist, singer and sometime actor Mort Shuman, the man who penned the melodies of some of the most famous songs of the 20th century.

Mortimer Shuman was born in Brooklyn in 1938, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. The young Mort began studying philosophy at the New York City College but was expelled after a year because he spent too much time playing rhythm and blues piano in local bars, putting to productive use the piano tuition previously dispensed to him by the Julliard School of Music. He switched academic paths and went on to study music at the New York Conservatory, and began writing songs at the age of 18.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Video: Cycling through the Monopoly streets of Bordeaux

Long-time readers may remember my attempt to visit Bordeaux using the local edition of the board game Monopoly as my roadmap.

I thought the adventure deserved to be turned into a video, and so here is a GoPro view of an early-morning non-stop bike ride through the city. Starting out in the Le Lac district to the north of the city and finishing up at Bordeaux Airport in the western suburb of Mérignac, the adventure takes in a wide variety of the city's streets, squares, neighbourhoods and landmarks.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Fontaine des Salinières: supplying fresh drinking water on the waterfront since 1788

The Salinières fountain, also known as Fontaine de la Grave, is one of the landmarks in the city of Bordeaux which people see but rarely stop to look at. That was certainly my case until I recently made a point of inspecting this unusual sight, on the left-bank waterfront more or less in line with the spire of Saint-Michel church.

The fountain was the work of the then chief city architect Richard-François Bonfin and was first installed here around 1787-1788. It was initially fed by the “Font de l’Or”, a spring captured on nearby Rue Carpenteyre and which had previously been channelled to a more rudimentary fountain a little further down the quayside near Porte de la Monnaie.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Henri Salmide: the local (German) hero who saved the port of Bordeaux

We are at the grave of Henri Salmide in the Cimetière Protestant of Bordeaux. According to the inscription, he “singlehandedly and on his own initiative saved the port of Bordeaux on August 22nd 1944”. So who was this local hero?

The local hero was in fact a German, born Heinz Stahlschmidt in Dortmund on November 13th 1919. His father, a plumber, died in 1937. His elder brother had taken up studies but the family couldn’t afford to bankroll a second student, so with the outbreak of war in 1939 Heinz volunteered for the German navy. His military career got off to a bad start though: in April 1940, he was on board the battleship Blücher when it sank off Oslo in Norway. In June 1940, a fishing boat he was on which had been converted into a coastal patrol vessel also sank. And in September 1940, he was on a frigate carrying troops which was torpedoed between Denmark and Norway. Stahlschmidt managed to swim back to the coast but 560 men died.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Video: The Wallace fountains of Bordeaux

After writing an article about the Wallace fountains of Bordeaux sometime ago for the blog, I thought it might be interesting to film the evidence. 

So here is the ultimate 3'46" video guide to these elegant cast-iron drinking fountains, their history and their locations throughout the city. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Stade des Chartrons: the Girondins stadium which has disappeared from view

Local top-flight football (soccer) team Girondins de Bordeaux will soon be leaving Stade Chaban-Delmas and moving to their new purpose-built stadium in the Lac district of the city. But did you know that in the early years of the club, les Girondins in fact alternated between two stadiums: Parc Lescure (now Chaban-Delmas) and Stade des Chartrons, aptly enough in the Chartrons quarter.

To get the full story, Invisible Bordeaux teamed up with fellow blogger Antoine Puentès, also known as MyStickTroy, who had suggested the subject as a potentially interesting one to pursue together. To add an extra layer, a request had also come through from David Ledru, the webmaster behind the marvellous Scapulaire.com site (the definitive online database and guide to the history of the Girondins de Bordeaux), who wanted to track down information about the buildings which had taken the stadium’s place, on behalf of the descendants of Olivier Lhoste-Clos, a former chairman of the club.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Saint-André-de-Cubzac, where the Jacques Cousteau story started… and finished

Yes, this is a wooden dolphin, and in its beak (sorry, its rostrum) the dolphin is holding a red hat reminiscent of the knit cap famously worn by the underwater explorer and filmmaker Jacques(-Yves) Cousteau. And the wooden dolphin is to be found in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, the town to the north of Bordeaux where Commandant Cousteau was born in 1910 and buried in 1997.

His birthplace, celebrated by a plaque, was a room above the pharmacie ran by his maternal grandfather Ronan Duranthon, from a long line of illustrious local land-owners and wine-growers. Cousteau’s father, Daniel, was from a similarly wealthy background and was heir to the legacy of a merchant-shipping dynasty. He had become a reputable lawyer who had followed in the footsteps of his own father, a notaire. After graduating from Law School in Paris, Daniel returned to Saint-André where he practiced for three years.
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