Thursday, March 21, 2013

We built them good in Bordeaux, eh Heinie

     This week I decided it was about time to get back to Bordeaux. After all, I started writing this blog as an account  for family and friends of our move to France. If anyone else tripped over it, fine, but from the beginning I've known that blogs about expats living here are approximately equal to the number of  annual worldwide airplays of "Hotel California." Hence the name of this thing and the departures into music and bitching. Still, we are in France.

     A few weeks ago, in one of her opening posts, Cynthia gave you the story and all the architectural details of what's known here as the base sous-marine - the U-boat garage the Germans built during World War II. They left a lot of this kind of shit laying around France after they bugged out in 1944. In fact, there's four more leftover U-boat bunkers up the coast in La Rochelle, St. Nazaire, Lorient and Brest. Das Boot was based in La Rochelle.

     You'll find concrete monuments to the occupation any place in France that had military significance. Some on the coast are gradually being claimed by the Atlantic but most of them are likely to be here longer than the Third Reich was supposed to have lasted. The U-boat bunker here was built after the first submarine presence was established by the Italians. (Now, there's a humiliation for you - being occupied by Italy. It's bad enough to get your ass kicked by the neighborhood bully - then he holds you down for his little toady.)

     These bunkers are built out of so much concrete that a couple of air raids on this one succeeded only in killing some poor civilians without even putting a dent in the roof. Before they split the Germans tried to blow it up but didn't have enough TNT so the French navy moved in for a while after the war. When the navy finished using it they graciously gave it to the locals, who wanted to tear it down but didn't have the money. Somebody eventually came up with the idea of using it as a cultural venue and now it hosts everything from art exhibits to concerts.

     We've been to an art exhibit there and in October, right after we got here, went to hear Melody Gardot. She's a great, young singer with a huge following here and her band, which I tend to focus on, was really tight, as you'd expect. But the whole evening my attention kept drifting away. There are 11 bays in this place and you walk through two of them before getting to the "concert hall" in the third one. About a thousand seats (I'm guessing) are banked against the wall and face the still water filled sub bay. The stage is at the end of the bay so the whole time you're watching the show you half expect U96 to come drifting in. All through the evening, despite the remarkable musicians we were hearing, I'd look around and think, "This is a U-boat bunker,  a freakin' U-boat hangar. Das Fucking Boot!"

     There don't seem to be any videos online with concert footage that would give you any idea of what the base sous-marine looks like during a show. Here is one short video of a light and sound show inside and, for contrast, a scene from  Das Boot, which isn't hard to imagine when you're inside.


  1. You make me wonder what the acoustics are like in that place - echo-ie? What does the surface of water do to sound?

    And in the second one really makes it come to life but it's a little difficult to understand the dialogue. : )

    1. Thanks, Susan, that's probably something I should have mentioned but I've been trying not to be so verbose. It is a bit loud in there and but I didn't find it harsh. I don't know what effect the water has on it. I tried to find info on this but couldn't.

      In the scene from Das Boot, it's just the Captain addressing the crew and telling them that a war correspondent is going out with them and will make them all famous (I think) This is more or less what I imagined while inside this place.

  2. Yes , it's only in french , but here's a good link about WWII in the Bordeaux Area