Postcard from Toulouse, France: Ambling along the river and canals

I know not who might have contributed this perky long-eared fellow to this arch in the Pont Neuf in Toulouse, but his perch offers a prime view of the waters of the Garonne flowing from the Spanish Pyrenees toward Bordeaux and of those wandering along its banks. Finished in 1659 yet never losing the word “new” in its name, the handsome red brick and light-colored stone bridge took more than a century to complete.

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Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Blending touches of modernity in with the old

Above: The view from our bedroom window in our rental in Bordeaux

Mysterious mushrooms appeared popping up from the traditional tile rooftops surrounding our temporary headquarters in the midst of the historic center of Bordeaux. And tucked behind the residential building next door was a contemporary adaptation of space for brightening up offices – most likely for attorneys, as shingles on first floors all around us seemed to have as primary occupants.

As we explored, we found the mushrooms sprout up from a major ultra-modern addition behind the 1846 Palais de Justice fronting Place de Republique. Architect Joseph Adolphe Thiac (1800-1865) drew his inspiration for the impressive fa├žade of the original structure from the Parthenon. Not visible from the square, the new construction does not intrude upon the classical majesty of Thiac’s design.

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Postcard from Bordeaux, France: Museum-Hopping

Above, a mirror in a stairwell of the Museum of Design reflects contrasts between traditional and contemporary decorative arts found in the museum.

Hotel de Lalande, an elegant townhome built in the late 1770s, is home to the Museum of Design and Decorative Arts, or MADD. The son of the original owner inherited it but held the unfortunate honor of serving as an attorney in the Parliament of Bordeaux during the Revolution and was sentenced to the guillotine in 1794. The property passed through the hands of several owners before the city of Bordeaux acquired it in 1880 and converted it into the headquarters of police and vice control. In the middle of its sprawling garden, an inartistic jail for “sailors found in violation of discipline and girls who infringe the laws of morality and decency” was constructed.

The Decorative Arts Museum opened in the former home in 1955, with a collection illustrating applied arts in crafts from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. Extensive remodeling in 1984 returned the museum’s rooms to their former aristocratic appearance. Contemporary decorative arts collections were added in 2013, providing the opportunity to observe the development and relationship of old and new forms of French art side by side.

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