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Bordeaux U-Boat Base Access

Bordeaux U-Boat Base Access

Old Jan 18, 14, 12:12 pm
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Bordeaux U-Boat Base Access

I will be on a cruise ship that stops at Bordeaux - likely docked at Bassens - for a day. While there I would like to look around, outside and inside, the U-Boat pens in Bordeaux as well the Bordeaux area. As the wife does not walk well these days, I am looking for a tour company that can provide a car to move us from stop to stop.

Does anyone know if how I can get inside the building to look around?

Any recommendations on guides?
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Old Jan 18, 14, 2:21 pm
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Looks like you can only get in when there's an event:

http://www.bordeaux.fr/portail/porta...nt=lieu&id=223

Was just at the Lorient pens (huge) but unfortunately it was closed for the month.
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Old Jan 18, 14, 2:56 pm
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Thanks for the link. That is not encouraging.

My research suggests it is currently used for boat storage and repair. If that is correct, then the people who store there and work there must come and go. I need to find a local contact or tour guide to be sure.
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Old Jan 21, 14, 1:50 pm
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For reference, the Brest pens are still used by the French military and hence are off limits (part of the base is open to citizens of E.U. and NATO member countries in summer).

La Rochelle (small) is part of the port zone and off limits.

Will report on St Nazaire next week.

This site provides some information

http://www.uboat-bases.com/fr/
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Old Jan 21, 14, 3:16 pm
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Excellent link. Thanks for the help on this.

I sent an email message to a local tour company, but no answer so far. I will try the tourism bureau next.

Now if you can just find me a friendly resident of the area, who speaks English, stores a boat there, and doesn't mind spending part of Easter Sunday letting me in, I will be all set.

In rereading that sentence this idea is seeming less and less likely. It looks like the cruise ship shore excursion where the bus ride has some sort of a view of it as we drive by is going to be the only option. Bummer. I need to get back to studying French I see.
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Old Jan 21, 14, 8:19 pm
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If your ship is stopping in L'Orient, there are some U-Boat pens there. The reason I mention that is we were on a cruise in August that docked in Bordeaux and the stop before that was L'Orient.
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Old Jan 24, 14, 8:58 am
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Looks like I won't be getting into the bowels of the St Nazaire pens unfortunately. By guided tour in July and August (guess they don't want anyone falling off the wharves).

http://www.saint-nazaire-tourisme.co...us-marine.html

They do, in or on the same building (for want of a better word) a permanent ocean liner exhibition.

http://www.saint-nazaire-tourisme.co...latlantic.html

Here's the info for Lorient:

http://www.lorient.fr/decouvrir-lori...e-sous-marins/

Annual closures are not accurate as it's closed for about a month around January. You still can walk around the pens though. The museum houses a Davis tower that the German navy built and was used by the French. It's a simulator to help crew escape a (sunken) submarine and apparently the only one open to the public.

As for La Rochelle, a secret U-boat command bunker was built right under an old hotel in the old city. Fortunately its existence was never detected by the Allies so the old city was untouched. It's been opened as a museum since the middle of last year.

The slogan for these bases should be, "The Third Reich may not have lasted a thousand years but these things probably will".
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Old Jan 25, 14, 8:08 am
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Thanks again. You have been a great help with this. I appreciate the time you spent on it.

However, I do not think this visit is going to happen. I don't really think the folks in Bordeaux want anyone to come visit them. I sent an email message to one of the tour companies there, as well as the tourism bureau for the city. After a week, neither one has bothered to respond. I wonder why you would be in the tourism business if you do not like tourists?

Last edited by Paint Horse; Feb 2, 14 at 6:08 pm
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Old Jan 25, 14, 3:59 pm
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Glad to be or help. I'm currently on the west coast of France (or rather, have been for nearly 3 months) and have long wanted to visit the bases (first time I tried in 1999, the one day it was open scheduled to be open for the month, it was closed for some inane and nonsensical america's cup exhibit).

I'll be in Bordeaux in just over a week and intend to visit the base as there is an exhibit then. Keep trying, you never know what will pop up. I'll see if there are any tour companies otherwise.

p.s. did you send the message in French? I did to the St. Nazaire tourism office but didn't get a very helpful or accurate reply.


Here's the Brest pens from Pointe d'Espagnol on the Crozon peninsula (where the top-secret French nuclear submarine base is located )




Slipway at Keroman 1 in Lorient


Keroman 3 at Lorient - the wet dock pens


French sub Le Flore on the original U-boat conveyor between Keroman 1 and 2

Last edited by YVR Cockroach; Jan 25, 14 at 4:21 pm
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Old Jan 25, 14, 4:15 pm
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No I sent it in English from the English language website for both organizations. I assumed if they maintained a website in a language, they could communicate in that language. We are talking about tourist sites after all.

Despite working away on French for a bit, I find my mind is one of those that does not absorb additional languages easily. Being from Texas I even have trouble with standard English. There are two reasons I decided to learn French. I needed a new intellectual exercise. I figured French would be the logical language to learn as they seem to be a bit particular about such things.

Last edited by Paint Horse; Jan 25, 14 at 6:00 pm
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Old Feb 25, 15, 12:42 pm
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Follw up for future reference

I was on the Atlantic coast of France for winter 2013-2014 and wanted to see if not visit all five pens. So here is the summary of status (valid as of late winter 2014):

Brest - as mentioned above, still in use by submarines of the French navy and off limits. It can be viewed at a distance from the northern tip of the Crozon peninsula.
Location

French navy submarine nuclear deterrent is based in the north end of the Crozon peninsula across from Brest.
Location

Lorient - probably the largest and most interesting of all complexes. Relatively easy to get to (almost right in the city) but you have to be there when it is open for tours. You can still walk around outside, and peer inside some of the pens and slipways even if it is not open for tours. Viewable from across the water to appreciate the size of the complex.
Location

St Nazaire - most open one and right at the south end of town. Totally open and you can get up to the roof to admire the flak towers and bomb-proofing armour. Free to wander most of the inside too (and even dine inside, there's a bar-restaurant inside that's frequented by the locals at lunch. There is an armored lock across the basin that vehicular traffic still goes through, and houses a decommissioned French submarine. Can be viewed from pretty much all around.
Location

La Rochelle - actually in the port district of La Pallice a little N/NW of town which is why La Rochelle was very fortunately spared from bombing. It is the one that was used as a set for Wolfgang Petersen's Das Boot. Unfortunately fenced off as the (privatised?) port authority has deemed it derelict and unsafe, and the port is also access-restricted so it is difficult to view the pens. In La Rochelle, one can visit the U-boot command headquarters burrowed under a medieval hotel in the city. Fortunately the allies never knew of its existence.
Location

Bordeaux - pens are only available to visit inside when there's an exhibit under way. I wanted to visit in February 2014 but unfortunately it was closed due to weather: As there are no doors to the sub entrances to the pens, high winds and other inclement weather may result in the pens being closed to admission. Can be viewed from the size and from across the basin.
Location

Last edited by YVR Cockroach; Feb 25, 15 at 2:40 pm
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Old Feb 25, 15, 3:59 pm
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Excellent report. Thanks for posting it.
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Old Apr 13, 16, 11:28 am
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Link below has a nice aerial photo of the Lorient pens

http://www.meretmarine.com/fr/conten...-salon-navexpo
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Old Apr 13, 16, 8:50 pm
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Thanks for the link. I got to see the pens from the landside from a moving bus when we were in Bordeaux. From that view they looked pretty rough.
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Old Apr 13, 16, 11:27 pm
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A few more photos

Saint-Nazaire pens by yvrcockroach, on Flickr

Inside the Saint-Nazaire pens by yvrcockroach, on Flickr

Saint-Nazaire armored lock by yvrcockroach, on Flickr
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