Sunday, April 28, 2013

Le Moulin du Grand Puy (or the Windmill on the Big Hill)

The restored mill and miller's house.

The best thing  (and I do mean the VERY best thing) about France is that on any drive in the country you will stumble upon a charming village, an historic building, or a spectacular landscape that you were completely unprepared for. It happens every time we leave Bordeaux. Before we know it, we’ve turned off the main route and are following a sign that says something like “medieval bridge” or “11th century church”. Or, as in the case of the Moulin de Puy, a small, nondescript sign that simply said “windmill”.

We followed the easily missed arrow up a narrow winding road, never sure that we were headed in the right direction, until we reached the top of a low hill. And there, sure enough, was a beautiful little windmill glowing orange in the late afternoon sun.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Art Deco Bordeaux

Any discussion of Art Deco architecture makes me think of iconic American buildings like Radio City Music Hall, the Chrysler Building or the hotels of Miami’s South Beach. The style, with its streamlined forms, edgy geometries and flashy chrome details, perfectly epitomizes the modern spirit of 1920s America.

But the truth is that the Art Deco style is French. It was introduced to the world in 1925 at the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industrials Modernes, a state-sponsored exhibition held in Paris. Designed to reassert France’s role as the world leader in the sale of luxury goods, the exposition, originally scheduled for 1915, was postponed because of the war. So by the time the doors opened this innovative new style had been maturing for ten years.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Gustave Eiffel in Bordeaux

In my last two blogs I talked about Bordeaux's first bridge, le Pont de Pierre, and the city's recently inaugurated Pont Chaban-Delmas. Today's post finishes that topic.

Until the construction of Bordeaux's second bridge there was no direct rail service from Paris to the region south of the Garonne. All of the railcars coming from the north had to be ferried across the river to Bordeaux's St. Jean Station before continuing on to Bayonne and the fashionable resorts that were springing up along the Atlantic coast. Each ferry had to wait for low tide before squeezing carefully through the arches of the Pont de Pierre, adding hours to every voyage and inconveniencing travelers in much the same way that the lack of a bridge had delayed Napoleon half a century earlier.

But in 1860 the two banks of the Garonne were permanently connected by a cast iron bridge, finally enabling rail passengers to travel easily from Paris to Bordeaux and further south.  The construction of this bridge was the first project of Gustav Eiffel, the 26-year old railroad employee who oversaw its completion.