After recently visiting the 45th parallel north marker in Saint-André-de-Cubzac , it suddenly dawned on me that a remarkably unique latit...

Puynormand’s point 45°N 0°: where the Greenwich meridian and the 45th parallel north intersect

After recently visiting the 45th parallel north marker in Saint-André-de-Cubzac, it suddenly dawned on me that a remarkably unique latitude/longitude confluence point lay just 60 kilometres to the east of Bordeaux: the intersection between the 45th parallel and the Greenwich meridian.

By doing a little bit of research, I realized that visiting confluences of the like had become a pastime for enthusiasts around the world who then posted their stories and photos on the website. I was therefore able to read about other visits to the 45°N 0° confluence and saw that, well, there wasn’t much to be seen there at all.

The subject nevertheless deserved time and effort, and given the distance involved I felt it would be good to form a road-trip gang: I therefore enlisted my ten-year-old son Dorian, who has recently been learning about latitude and longitude at school, and Vincent Bart from the excellent Bordeaux2066 blog, who immediately jumped at the chance of checking out something which doesn’t actually exist.

A date was set…  and was maintained in spite of horrific weather conditions on the day itself; we hoped that the heavy rain would be interspersed with clear spells enabling us to thoroughly explore the subject, but it turned out we were wrong! Anyhow, Dorian and I departed early morning from our base camp in Saint-Aubin-de-Médoc, meeting up with Vincent shortly afterwards in central Bordeaux. From there, we keyed the “45°N 0°” coordinates into the GPS satnav and set off for the confluence, which lies on the eastern edge of the Gironde département. It is in fact located mid-way between Saint-Seurin-sur-l’Isle and Puynormand, but is technically on the territory of the latter. 

Puynormand is easy to locate on a globe!
The rain was still pouring down when we arrived at the infamous spot and, as expected, the landscape was conspicuously bare. Vincent did however immediately go and check out a strange metallic arch-like structure which he had established, via preliminary Google Streetview research, was there to mark the confluence.

The abstract structure looked more like some kind of farming implement, but we eventually established it did indeed represent a cross section of the Earth, or at least of the northern hemisphere, with the 45° parallel apparently meeting the meridian half-way up. But there was no information panel, and no confirmation that we were admiring public artwork rather than some sort of device used to water the vegetation. We wanted to know more.

The confluence marker (left) and Vincent (right).
No way is it some sort of farming equipment. Think of it as a cross-section of one half of the Earth! The piece is properly "interpreted" here although a part is now missing making the structure more difficult to understand...
If only to get out of the rain, the three of us elected to drive up to Puynormand itself, a hamlet with around 300 permanent residents (its name a reference to its location on a hill, or “puy”, and its foundation by Norman Vikings in 843). A village shop was open and we went in requesting information about the confluence. The shop attendant asked her colleague, who immediately rang an acquaintance. She came back into the store and triumphantly informed us that “André Stanghellini will receive you now” and giving us directions to his house. We weren’t expecting to be summoned like this. Who was this mystery man?

We had no trouble finding the house. Arriving at the gate, the person we rightly presumed to be Mr Stanghellini was waving at us and inviting us to come in. We soon understood that such a warm, spontaneous welcome must come naturally to André as he and his wife run a maison d’hôtes (and one which has gained unanimously fantastic reviews from their guests). Welcome to Chez Papi et Mamie!

We took a seat in the living room and the retired military doctor informed us that he had moved back to the area around 2000, and had been keen for the village to capitalize on its unique geographical credentials. So, in 2002 he joined forces with a handful of likeminded people and formed an association, known as “Greenwich 45” and which aims to create a fully-fledged visitors’ area focused on the convergence point. The dual objective is to “materialize the spot and provide pedagogical information for visitors”. His dream is therefore to install rows of stones which will mark the intersection between the two imaginary lines, and combine that with explanatory panels introducing the origins of the measurement of time and the development of cartography.

This video will give you a feel of what our visit to the confluence was like and, unlike us, you won't have to get wet:

The dream has yet to become reality though and at this point in time the metallic structure, installed around four years ago a few metres from the confluence on a plot of land which belongs to a friend, is the sole outward symbol of this being a spot of unique geographical significance. But André refers to it as a metallic “machin” (thingmee) and clearly will only be fully satisfied when a more substantial installation is in place.

There are two main obstacles though. The first is, of course, funding. Puynormand’s current mayor, Joël Bayle, is apparently more supportive of potential initiatives than his predecessor, but beyond the municipality the project would no doubt need additional backing from local industry partners. The other is the issue of the land itself. André’s vision would be to have access to a section of land which was acquired by ASF (Autoroutes du Sud de la France) for the construction of the A89 motorway. That land, which is now in the hands of civil engineering firm Vinci, serves no purpose and could easily be converted into a small car park for visitors. If Vinci were to relinquish the land, it would first be offered back to its previous owner, then to the local council before being made available to private buyers. But there is no sign of that happening yet, and until the land is freed up, we will have to make do with the metal “machin”!

We asked André about the levels of awareness of the invisible intersection and he told us that, while locals were familiar with the place, it was relatively unusual to welcome visitors from further afield who, like us, had travelled to Puynormand especially to see it. However, he recently spoke to a couple of cyclists for whom the stop was a key milestone on their quest to cycle the length of the 45th parallel. André also mentioned that the intersection has been immortalized by a fellow member of the association, Stefaan Massart, a Belgium-born winemaker who has incorporated it into the design of the labels affixed to the bottles produced by his property, Château Vilatte.

Home and dry and a few days after the event, enjoying a glass of Château Vilatte.
That seemed like a good cue for us to make our move and return to the village shop where we thanked the assistants for their valuable advice and promptly purchased bottles of the confluence-label wine. We then headed back to the confluence area hoping the rain might stop long enough for us to fully take in the experience of being on the spot itself, mid-way between the Equator and the North Pole where west becomes east.

The sight of a rainbow had us thinking we might enjoy a brighter spell. It wasn't to be.
The rain wouldn’t let up though. After sheltering for a few minutes Vincent and I opted to get wet (Dorian was given special dispensation) and, iPhone compass in hand, hunted down the (more-or-less) exact spot where the two virtual lines meet. Hoping we wouldn’t go down with pneumonia, hypothermia or any other form of “ia”, we set about hammering into the ground a home-made signpost showing north and south (the meridian), and east and west (the 45th parallel). Though this was no doubt highly illegal, it made us feel good and felt like a further step on the path to a permanent exhibit taking shape there.

All totally home-made (in case you hadn't noticed).
After approximately two minutes we jumped back into the car, having almost stepped on a dead toad and in some relatively fresh human vomit (was the person who was sick aware of the significance of the place where they’d thrown up?). We compared notes as to how soaked we were: I could no longer see through my glasses, which needed the mother of all wipe-downs, while Vincent’s feet were so wet he had to remove his shoes. We keyed “Bordeaux” into the satnav, which took us back onto the motorway operated by Vinci, the very company who could indirectly help the Greenwich 45 project come to fruition. Vinci, if you’re reading, do get in touch!

Our 45°N 0° adventure was coming to a close, although we have every intention to pay a return visit in the future, but only if it’s sunny next time round... We want to be able to report back on whether our wooden signpost survives, whether the metallic “machin” is still in position, and whether André Stanghellini’s more elaborate Greenwich 45 site takes shape. Puynormand, we will be back.

The panoramic view at the 45°N 0° confluence.


  1. Fantastic story. The rain only adds to the spirit of adventure!

  2. Come back in the sunshine