Visits to the Musée de la Machine à Coudre and the Maison Contonale: Bordeaux-Bastide

* Musée de la Machine à Coudre


On a beautiful sunny morning a group of BBC members assembled at La Maison Brasserie in Place de la Stalingrad, Bordeaux where we enjoyed coffee and croissant before our visit to the Musee Machine a Coudre.

The Musee is a private collection of vintage sewing machines assembled by the patron M. Nonet who enthralled us with his enthusiasm and passion for these beautiful old machines. Smiles were brought to our faces as he regaled us with his anecdotes on the history and how he sought out the machines from all over Europe.

The collection contains some truly beautiful machines not only ingenious pieces of engineering but beautiful works of art. All the machines have been lovingly restored to their former glory by M. Nonet. The first model of sewing machine to have a light most certainly would not conform to modern standards of health and safety, this ornately decorated machine was embellished with a candlestick!

Other machines were decorated with colourful birds, flowers and some inlaid with mother of pearl and semi precious stones. We were even shown very tiny functioning machines to go in dolls houses and machines that can sit on your hand. On being shown into a storage area we were amazed to see shelves stacked ceiling to floor with some very old machines awaiting renovation.

Lunch was back at La Brasserie Maison, where we enjoyed a delicious lunch all the food freshly prepared on the premises. The young team running this restaurant made us feel very welcome with their warm and friendly service and definitely worth a try.

* Maison Cantonale


Following lunch, suitably fed and watered, it was a short walk to the Maison Cantonale, Bastide. This beautiful old building is a listed historic monument, designed by Cyprien Alfred-Duprat, construction started in 1913 and unfortunately interrupted due to the first world war, it’s inauguration did not take place until 1927.

The building is quite unique and is a blend of art deco and art nouveau in style and is constructed out of stone, brick, wood, ceramic and wrought iron.  It was designed to house a purpose built court of justice of peace and its dependencies, a police commissioner with housing, a library, a conference hall and a municipal sub-office. The building underwent extensive renovations in 2005.

We were allowed to wander at our leisure through several public rooms and admire the architecture.

Thank you very much to Colette for organising the day and the sunshine. (Report by Norma B)

ceiling   front_DOORS

Lunch and 'The Gauls in Aquitaine' Exhibition

We shall be visiting this fascinating exhibition in the Musée d’Aquitaine. It is a special exhibition which closes on 17th March, it includes replicas of houses, rooms and workshops from the pre Roman era (800 BC +). There is good bi-lingual labelling of the exhibits. The majority of objects presented have never been publicly exhibited before, since they have come from recent excavations which are revealing new ideas regarding life of the Gauls.

We shall first meet for lunch at 12.00 at ….. Offering excellent rumpsteak, Magret de Canard or Salmon, Salad and the best frites we have experienced ! We have a group menu price of 22€, including an interesting range of desserts, wine and coffee. The full menu will be available soon. Hopefully we shall be able to manage the short walk to the Museum afterwards ! The exhibition has a group admission charge of 2.50 € per person.

Please book with Norma by 5th March

Visit to Phare de Cordouan

Should anyone, anywhere, have any doubt about it, the lighthouse at Le Cordouan is more than a bit special. And, one might be allowed to surmise, had Le Cordouan not existed, a Frenchman would have invented it, and made a work of art out of doing the job.

Phare de Cordouan at half-tideMany centuries ago, further to unsuccessful attempts by the Celts and Gauls to build a lighthouse here, the Moors and the Greeks were no more successful in their attempts in the 9th and 10th centuries.

And so it came about that, in 1584, Monsieur Louis de Foix, a French engineer and architect, was appointed and commissioned to build Le Cordouan, as it had already been known on the charts for some time. However, after limestone had been hacked out of the cliffs at Saint Palais just across the water, due to lack of funds and ill health, Monsieur de Foix died before completing his work, and it was another Frenchman, François Beuscher, who completed the construction 27 years later, in 1611.

But, in 1719, the lighthouse was demolished before being rebuilt with an additional height of 30 metres, up to the 67 metres high which exist to this day. So, we were all able to see and explore this magnificent monument to centuries of human endeavour, dramatic shipwrecks, loss of lives and valuable shipping in the treacherous waters, rip tides and sand banks at the mouth of the Gironde estuary. Waters which claimed the lives of at least two Royal Marine commandos in December 1942.

Tidal Doors Leaving the boat at low tide onto the causeway and into the entry doors which are submerged at high tide[/caption]On reaching the 67.5 m high lantern, and the magnificent viewpoint it provides, every one of the 311 steps cut in stone was worth it. And, after a well-earned breather, back down to the main building, the chapel and its stained-glass windows, the living quarters, the workshops and the king’s lieutenant’s double bedroom. And, finally, exit via the double tidal doors to the quayside and causeway and access to a sand bank, a quick swim and a picnic lunch in a one-off setting. And, if you were lucky, and happened to be near to the action, a dip into the mound of sandwiches which Pamela Prior had so thoughtfully prepared, and had kept dry, before so generously handing them around.

Not to be outdone by Pamela, the weather was exceptional and at its glorious British Olympics best. And, not least, there is a high quality video on Internet, and another work of art, and highly recommended to those of us who may possibly have been a little discouraged by the distance to Le Verdon, and the cost of the trip on the boat.

Our thanks to Anthony Dingle for organising this event, and also providing the report.
Photographs by Ian Couper