Between 1942 and 1944, the Germans built an extensive system of coastal fortifications along the western coast of Europe, fro...

Atlantic Wall bunkers: slip sliding away?

Between 1942 and 1944, the Germans built an extensive system of coastal fortifications along the western coast of Europe, from the Spanish border to northern Norway, as a means of preventing - or at least delaying - the anticipated Allied invasion of mainland Europe from Great Britain. The system was known as the Atlantikwall and, by June 1944, it comprised of almost 15,000 bunkers with over 3,000 guns.

While, for obvious geographical reasons, the strongest fortifications were built in northern France, the Gironde coast was dotted with a number of command posts, pillboxes and bunkers. Some can no longer be seen at all: in 2002, the town of Lacanau Océan destroyed (with some difficulty) the seven bunkers which remained on its territory, a sure sign that the seaside resort wanted to rid its 21st-century landscape of these sinister remnants of the Second World War.

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  Whatever type of person you are or mood you are in, Place Fernand-Lafargue, just south of Cours d’Alsace Lorraine, can arguabl...

Place Fernand-Lafargue: the revitalised Medieval marketplace


Whatever type of person you are or mood you are in, Place Fernand-Lafargue, just south of Cours d’Alsace Lorraine, can arguably cater to your needs, provided you’re there when the atmosphere is in line with what you’re looking for: it’s calm and peaceful in the morning, mellow and laid-back in the afternoon, and positively alive and kicking every evening and night. 

The name of the square is a 20th-century homage to Jean Fernand-Lafargue, who was born in 1856 in Bordeaux and retained roots in the city (as well as a chalet in nearby Soulac-sur-Mer) throughout his Paris-based career as a successful novelist, poet and playwright. He died suddenly and prematurely in Talence aged 47. Following his death, friends from Bordeaux and Paris funded a statue of the writer which can still be seen in the Jardin Public (pictured below).

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Many naturally associate the suburban town of Mérignac with its airport and its massive retail park. But it is also a bona fide community ...

Médiathèque de Mérignac: where the 20th and 21st centuries merge

Many naturally associate the suburban town of Mérignac with its airport and its massive retail park. But it is also a bona fide community with a dynamic town centre, a vibrant cultural scene and a population of almost 70,000, second only to Bordeaux itself in terms of headcounts in Gironde!

One of the most visible symbols of 21st-century Mérignac is its recently-completed Médiathèque (multimedia library that lends out books, music and videos), just next to the town’s main church. Its façades offer a telling reminder of how much Mérignac has developed since the start of the 20th century, when the population numbered 7,000!

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If you like your non French-speaking films to be subtitled, a soundtrack that doesn’t feature the crackling of sweet wrappers and popcor...

Utopia Saint-Siméon: tortured saints, sardine cans and art house movies

If you like your non French-speaking films to be subtitled, a soundtrack that doesn’t feature the crackling of sweet wrappers and popcorn, resolutely 2-dimensional pictures and audiences that remain diligently seated until the end of the credits, the Utopia Saint-Siméon cinema, on Place Camille Jullian, is possibly your kind of cinema. And it happens to be in a converted church, as well as being the place where the sardine can opener was invented. Time to rewind a few years perhaps?

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The seaside resort of Arcachon is divided into four districts, each named after a season. The Ville d’Automne has developed around the po...

Ascenseur du Parc Mauresque: time-travelling in Arcachon

The seaside resort of Arcachon is divided into four districts, each named after a season. The Ville d’Automne has developed around the port. The Ville de Printemps is a leafy residential area to the west of the town. That leaves the Ville d’Été, the commercial heart of the town, and the bourgeois Ville d’Hiver, perched on the dominant heights of a central mound. And one of the best ways to facilitate the 25-metre ascent from one to the other is this public elevator! 

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The Grosse Cloche belfry is arguably one of the best-known landmarks in Bordeaux and is prominently displayed on the city’s coat of arms...

The Grosse Cloche clock and its solar equation dial

The Grosse Cloche belfry is arguably one of the best-known landmarks in Bordeaux and is prominently displayed on the city’s coat of arms. Distinguishing features today include its two surviving towers, its gold-plated copper weather vane in the shape of a large feline (harking back to the period when Bordeaux was under English rule), the Great Bell itself… and its clock, the south face of which boasts an unusual semi-circular dial.

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On the corner of Rue du Mirail and Rue Saint-François, a stone’s throw from the busy thoroughfare that is Cours Victor Hugo, sits one ...

Hôtel Saint-François: interior innovations and façade follies


On the corner of Rue du Mirail and Rue Saint-François, a stone’s throw from the busy thoroughfare that is Cours Victor Hugo, sits one of the city’s most curious buildings: Hôtel Saint-François*.

Originally known as Hôtel de la Perle, this “immeuble de rapport” (residential rental property) was completed during the reign of Emperor Napoleon III in 1855 by the entrepreneur Antoine-Théodore Audubert (1819-1893).

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If you have any French euro coins in your pocket, purse or in a jar on the shelf where you keep loose change (invariably along with spare...

Établissement Monétaire de Pessac: making money for a living

If you have any French euro coins in your pocket, purse or in a jar on the shelf where you keep loose change (invariably along with spare drawing pins and paperclips), those coins were minted at a low-rise building in the industrial estate of Pessac, in the first belt of the suburbs of Bordeaux.

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