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Posts tagged ‘Bordeaux’

No 206: Bordeaux’s Saint Mark’s Square

Inspired by the winter flooding on Venice’s St. Mark’s Square, the 3,000 square meters water feature on Bordeaux’s well-designed boardwalk, floods with a thin layer of water followed by an apocalyptic mist effect when the water mysteriously disappears on the hour. 
 (Architects: P. Gagnet and Atelier R. Landscape Architects: Michel and Claire Corajoud)



No. 162: France, London-style

I’m traveling to London and environs again to lend support to Button as she auditions for more Musical Theatre programs and to spend time with the much missed Kitcat in Epsom.

I feel like I haven’t been in Paris forever and I have really been missing my life in France. Lucky for me, London seems to (secretly) love the French, as much as I do, as every time I turn around, I seem to run into a little bit of France—London-style, i.e. a bit on the larger (and sometimes slightly cheekier) side of the scale.

As I’ve mentioned before, London is the sixth largest French city in the world with more than 400,000 Frenchies making their home here—in fact, there are more French in London than in Bordeaux.

Here’s a glimpse of why I’m feeling right at home this weekend.

These pastries are all at least twice the size of their compatriots in France…but, bigger is not necessarily better…

Maison Ladurée looks just about the same, although with a much smaller selection at this one…

And of course, Pret à Manger, one of my favorite "French" quick food alternatives...

And of course, Pret à Manger, one of my favorite “French” quick food alternatives…

No. 86: Marché de Noël

Christmas markets can be found in all the major cities of France, and also in the small villages and hamlets. Most of them are characterized by charming wooden chalets, vin chaud, local food specialties, gingerbread, and lots and lots of saucisson.


They have strayed from their original purpose of supplying rural French femmes au foyer with all the hard to find ingredients for preparing the traditional holiday feast. And while the marché de Noël originated in the northern Alsace region, (belonging to Germany at assorted moments in history) and tend to draws on German Christmas market traditions, these days, at least in Paris most of the “handcrafted” toys and gifts are junky stuff mass produced in China.

That said, I still love them. They do add a terrifically festive feel to France in December. Here are the ones I’ve managed to see this year.

Marché de Noël Suédois, Swedish Church in Paris

I’d never been to a Swedish Christmas market so I really enjoyed this one. It was small and intimate, and the Swedish community was so very friendly. All things Swedish and holiday-ish available, including reindeer sausage, amazing ginger crisps, and of course Swedish meatballs and Glögg. (Held right before Lucia, so you’ve already missed it, but do look for it next year.)


Marché de Noël, La Défense

More than 350 stands, very jolly despite the chalets nestled in the surreal setting of glass high-rise buildings and the ominous Grande Arche. (November 27-December 28.)


Marché de Noël, Avenue des Champs-Elysées

The largest Christmas market within the Paris city limits. Incredibly crowded and best at nighttime—if you are going to brave the throngs of people, you might as well see the lights. (November 15-January 5.)

Marché de Noël, Trocadero

About 100 stands, a “snow” village, and an ice-skating rink with the best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Lots of tourist, kiddos, African Eiffel Tower sellers, and pickpockets.

Marché de Noël, Notre Dame Cathedral



Charming and cheery Christmassy views. Good photo opportunities. Beware of the gypsies and their tricks.

Marché de Noël on my bucket list:

Marché de Noël, Strasbourg

The mother of all Christmas markets and the largest and oldest one in France. A pilgrimage for those obsessed with Noël. Set in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral. I’ve seen pictures and the views are spectacular.

Marché de Noël, Bordeaux

Supposedly one of the more “magical” of the French Christmas markets, and of course, a great opportunity to stock up on wine from Bordeaux.

Marché de Noël, Nancy

Even though Nancy, France is my namesake, I have never made it there. I need to. Know for its range of traditional and regional foods and less junk from China.



femmes au foyer: housewives

marché de Noël: Christmas markets

saucisson: sausage

vin chaud: mulled wine


No. 65: Gustave Eiffel: Magician of Iron


“The first principle of architectural beauty is that the essential lines of a construction be determined by a perfect appropriateness to its use.”

— Gustave Eiffel

Anyone who knows me well knows that j’adore la tour Eiffel.

I’ve written a lot about it in the past, and I’ve read many books and articles on its construction. Every time I read something new, I am stuck (again) by Gustav Eiffel and his vision. Because I am a woman obsessed, I just spent the last couple of days, reading even more about this fascinating man and his iconic structures. Every time I tried to stop myself and get on with some paid work, I got sidetracked by another enticing story or structure.

Yes, structures, plural. While most of the world knows him and loves him for his “tragic street lamp”, la tour Eiffel, I am equally enamored with his less known, but certainly not less beautiful, creations.

Born in Dijon in 1832, to a family of weavers, Eiffel graduated from the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in 1855 as a civil engineer and began to specialize in constructing with metal. Initially he made his name designing bridges for the French railway network, but as we all know, he didn’t limit himself to bridges only.

Here are some Eiffel’s structures I find most interesting—some already visited, but most on my Gustave Eiffel bucket list:


Passerelle Eiffel Iron Bridge in Bordeaux, France, 1858passerelle1861

At only 26-years-old, Eiffel was the construction designer of an iron bridge in Bordeaux designed to link the Orleans rail station to the Midi rail station. Imagine the spectacle before the bridge was completed, when carriages were transferred between the two stations on a ferry across the Garonne River.

Suspension Bridge, Parc de Buttes Chaumont, Paris, 1867

The suspension bridge designed by Eiffel was one of two bridges used to access the park’s “Temple of Sybille” in one of Paris’ most beloved parks. It is 64 meters in length and 8 meters above ground. Unfortunately it is currently closed to foot traffic.


Church of San Marco, Arica, Chile, 1871-1875

© - Barbara Boensch

© – Barbara Boensch

In 1871, the Peruvian President José Balta commissioned the workshop of Gustave Eiffel to build this church. The all-metal prefabricated building was manufactured in France and shipped to South America in pieces to be assembled on site.


Bon Marché, Department Store, Paris, 1872-74

Eiffel collaborated with the architect. L.A. Boileau on the first glass and cast iron department store in Paris. This popular and fashionable store still stands, albeit with its masonry skin added in the 1920s.


Les Halles (Dijon Covered Market), Dijon, France, 1875

Beautiful, light and airy, this historic covered market in Eiffel’s hometown features his iconic iron columns and glass and is a wondrous market to visit.


Statue of Liberty, Internal Frame, 1876

When the Statue of Liberty’s initial internal engineer unexpectedly died, Eiffel was hired as the new engineer. Eiffel created a skeletal system for the statue that relied on the internal metal structure to support Bartholdi’s copper plates and sculpture. EIffel and his company built the statue from the ground up and then dismantled it for its journey to New York.


Nyugati Railway Station, Budapest, Hungary, 1877

Budapest railway station (

Budapest railway station (

One of the earliest examples of the combined use of metal and masonry, this train station is definitely high on my list to visit. Where you might have seen it: The 2011 film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol took place in and around this station.


Ruhnu Lighthouse, Estonia, 1877

wikimedia commons

wikimedia commons

A lighthouse with a red metal cylindrical tower made in the Le Havre plant in France and shipped and reconstructed on the highest spot on Ruhnu Island, in 1877. It is the only lighthouse of its type left in the Baltic Sea region.


Ponte Maria Pia, Oporto, Portugal, 1877

One of Eiffel’s most famous bridges which spans the Douro River in Portugal. No longer in use, two Portuguese architects want to transform the bridge into a monument by moving the disused structure from its present location to the city center (as seen above).


The Eiffel Bridge, Viana do Castelo, Peru, 1878

The Eiffel Bridge crosses the River Lima near the mouth and connects the city of Viana do Castelo. Its two stories are more than 560 meters in length and a spectacular feat of engineering.


Observatory Dome, Nice, France, 1879

Moving away from bridgework, Eiffel created the dome for the astronomical observatory in Nice, France. It is most notable for a revolving cupola that opens to the sky. The building itself was designed by Charles Garnier (architect of the Opera Garnier and one of the most prominent critics of the Eiffel Tower).

Where you might have seen it: The 1999 film Simon Sez.


Garabit Viaduct, Ruynes-en-Margeride (Cantal), France, 1884

Maybe Eiffel’s most famous bridge, this engineering marvel spans the River Truyère (near Ruynes). It significantly shortened the rail route between Paris and Marseilles.

Where you might have seen it: Henri-Georges Clouzot 1964 film The Inferno (L’Enfer)


The Eiffel Tower, Paris 1887-1889

A subject of another detailed post soon. Meanwhile see: The Sparkling Tower.


Konak Pier, Izmir, Turkey, 1890

Originally built as a warehouse and French customs office and restored in 2003, it is now an upmarket shopping center, featuring seaside restaurants and cafés.


Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Main Post Office, Vietnam, 1886-1891

saigon central post office, 1886-1891 (wikimedia commons)

saigon central post office, 1886-1891 (wikimedia commons)

Designed and constructed by Eiffel when Vietnam was part of French Indochina.

Do you have other favorite Eiffel creations? If so, let me know, I’d love to add them to my bucket list.