The Archives Départementales de la Gironde was less intimidating that I first thought it would be for my first time to a foreign archive. The registration process was fairly painless, a bit awkward as my spoken french is very choppy, and the people at the desk spoke little English. I was a little afraid they would snatch the application back and tell me to come back when I could speak their language better. However, that did not come to pass. I shyly emphasized that I could read french far better than I could speak it. The woman at the desk politely smiled in return. After storing my bag, I took the bare essentials, my camera, my computer, a notebook and a pencil, into the reading room. Far smaller than I expected, but then my only experience with archives are either the one’s in the Founder’s Library or the Newberry Library. I received my seat assignment and then figured out where to order documents. I had a list already developed from prior searches on the website. However, my documents took a while to retrieve and because they do not deliver documents between noon and one, I sat for two and half hours waiting. Good thing I brought a book.
As it sounds, the Musée des Beaux-Arts is full of plates, cups, silverware, and other super fancy serving items, as well as furniture, paintings, and tapestries all dating to the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth century. Most of what survives, like much of history is the special items, not the everyday use items. Everything has flourishes and vines with flowers. It all seems very fussy and impractical to a medieval historian. In the time periods I study, forks were looked down upon at first. They were thought to make the user weak and susceptible to sin. All the fancy dinnerware and furniture was pretty, but quickly everything began to look like everything else.
I am not a modern historian and some how, in high school, I got out of taking modern American history. So my knowledge of history pre-1970/80s is limited, and most of that has been learned trying to place a historical context around Mad Men episodes ( I do love that show). Although my modern history knowledge is slim for a history major it is probably better than your average American. Bordeaux has an entire museum dedicated to World War II and in particular highlighting the French Resistance, however, “museum” may be a bit generous.
The coast town of Arcachon sits on a protected bay on the southwest Atlantic coast of France. In the 19th century the small town became a seaside destination for the French elite. In 1823, Capitaine François Legallais opened the first hotel catering to the beach-going visitors. Huge waterside hotels, a promenade along the beach, and train access sprung up to offer their services to the vacationing elite.
The Esplanade des Quinconces in Bordeaux is one of the largest open squares in Europe. Surrounded by two promenades of trees, the square is the former site of Chateau Trompette, a late medieval chateau built by the French monarchy, after the defeat and expulsion of the English in 1453 after their humiliating loss at the Battle of Castillion. In 1816 King Louis XVIII gave control of the chateau back to the city. Begin in 1818, the city began a ten year demolition project. The result of which in the Esplanade.