The French remain very fond of their “ lavoirs ”, the communal washhouses that appeared throughout the country from the 18th century o...

Avensan lavoir: still going with the flow


The French remain very fond of their “lavoirs”, the communal washhouses that appeared throughout the country from the 18th century onwards as a modern alternative to heading down to the nearest river.

By the end of the 19th century, there was one in virtually every rural community in France, their rise having been given a helping hand by a law passed in 1851 aimed at promoting the use of washhouses. The law had resulted in State subsidies that funded a third of all construction costs.

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On a quiet side-street in the right-bank quarter of La Bastide, an art deco façade stands out from the crowd: a 1930s “ Bains Douches ”,...

Bastide Bains Douches: catering to all your hygiene, literary and theatrical needs


On a quiet side-street in the right-bank quarter of La Bastide, an art deco façade stands out from the crowd: a 1930s “Bains Douches”, an establishment that provided public showering facilities.


The building can be attributed to Jacques D’Welles (1883-1970), chief city architect during the time when Adrien Marquet was the mayor of Bordeaux (1925-1944). Marquet launched an ambitious programme, aptly known as “Plan Marquet”, to develop new buildings that shared similar architectural styles. The projects, many of which were on a far larger scale than this one, also aimed to give the local economy a boost to cushion the impact of the 1929 recession. Other "Plan Marquet" art deco endeavours led by D’Welles include the Stade Lescure (now Stade Chaban-Delmas) football stadium and the Bourse du Travail near Place de la Victoire.

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The most imposing feature of the tidal basins (“ bassins à flot ”) in the Bordeaux dockland area is the submarine base built by the Germa...

La base sous-marine: the ghostly WW2 u-boat pen

The most imposing feature of the tidal basins (“bassins à flot”) in the Bordeaux dockland area is the submarine base built by the Germans during the Second World War, one of six constructed in France.

Early in the conflict, Bordeaux had been chosen by the Italians to station their “Betasom” fleet of submarines (the Greek prefix “Beta” in reference to the “B” of Bordeaux, “som” being short for sommergibili, or submarine in Italian). From the base, Italian submarines participated in the 1940-1943 Battle of the Atlantic as part of the anti-shipping campaign against the Allies. The Germans soon noted the strategic interest of the city’s location, far from the inland front lines and ideally positioned for operations in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Less than six kilometres from the centre of Bordeaux, the otherwise residential suburb of Le Bouscat forms the backdrop to the surprisi...

Hippodrome Bordeaux-Le Bouscat: Days at the races

Less than six kilometres from the centre of Bordeaux, the otherwise residential suburb of Le Bouscat forms the backdrop to the surprisingly green and wide open spaces of the Bordeaux–Le Bouscat racecourse, which hosts 32 horse racing meetings each year… That's the equivalent of some 230 individual races!

Don’t let the modern grandstand fool you into thinking this 140-acre arena is a recent addition to the sporting landscape of greater Bordeaux. The track was in fact opened in July 1836, taking over the organisation of horse-racing events that had been held, since 1828, at the hastily-conceived and reportedly poorly-designed Hippodrome de Gradignan (the only remnant of which in
modern-day Gradignan is a road named Avenue de l’Hippodrome).

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Gazing upwards from the Sala Thai restaurant on a quiet side-street that runs parallel to the western flank of Place Gambetta, a few clu...

L’Apollo-Théâtre: name changes, opera, music hall, movies and Senate sessions!

Gazing upwards from the Sala Thai restaurant on a quiet side-street that runs parallel to the western flank of Place Gambetta, a few clues dotted around the façade offer a silent reminder of what the building once represented.

The spot was originally the location of the private gardens of one Baron Pierre de Castelnau d’Auros, and the place where a popular sedentary circus structure was stationed for thirty years from 1836 onwards. In 1867, Émile Louit, heir to a successful family foodstuff business, founder of the Louit chocolate company and the man who created Le Journal de Bordeaux, funded the construction of a brand new theatre, initially known as Théâtre Louit. The 2,800-seater venue, the main entrance of which was on the corner of Rues Judaïque and Castelnau d’Auros, was mainly used for opera.

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Deep in the heart of the forest that forms the natural boundary between the Médoc villages of Moulis-en-Médoc and Avensan, a watermil...

Moulin de Tiquetorte: nothing run-of-the-mill!

Deep in the heart of the forest that forms the natural boundary between the Médoc villages of Moulis-en-Médoc and Avensan, a watermill known as “le Moulin de Tiquetorte” sits astride the Jalle* de Castelnau. 

The mill itself hasn’t operated since the Second World War, when the force of the water channelled through the arched opening was used for the last time to grind grain unbeknownst to the German occupiers. 

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Cour Mably is not somewhere you might end up by accident. This compact, elegant courtyard is reached either through its somewhat daunt...

Cour Mably: a peaceful haven with a rich history


Cour Mably is not somewhere you might end up by accident. This compact, elegant courtyard is reached either through its somewhat daunting main entrance on Place du Chapelet or via an unassuming Narnia-like door on Place des Grandes Hommes. And, as well as boasting both stunning architecture and fine sculptures, Cour Mably can also lay claim to a rich history…

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One of Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé’s proudest achievements is the city’s tram network, a project which he championed when entering off...

Bordeaux trams: underground power feeding the overground trains

One of Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé’s proudest achievements is the city’s tram network, a project which he championed when entering office in 1995, going against thewishes of his predecessor Jacques Chaban-Delmas (who had dug up the last of the first-generation tram rails back in 1958). 

The greater Bordeaux local authority - the Communauté Urbaine de Bordeaux - rubber-stamped Juppé’s plans two years later, construction work began in 2000 and by 2005 the initial phase was complete, with three lines crisscrossing the city centre. 

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Where better to start our adventures in Bordeaux than the milestone which originally marked the geographical centre of the city and ...

Borne du kilomètre zéro: where the story begins

Where better to start our adventures in Bordeaux than the milestone which originally marked the geographical centre of the city and designated the spot from which distances to and from other places were measured? 

Today, as is now customary in all French towns and cities, the Bordeaux “kilometre zero” is the city hall, the Hôtel de Ville. But this milestone, still known locally as “la borne du kilomètre zéro” (kilometre zero marker), was positioned on Place Gambetta sometime in the mid-19th century. It is a staple feature in every guide you’ll find to the more unusual sights to see in Bordeaux, and yet still sits there unnoticed and virtually ignored by passers-by, camouflaged as it is by the 1859 building that encases it.

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