Archive for January, 2011

January 31, 2011

The arrondissements de Paris

One of my favorites subject while coming and living here now, is the increase in size of Paris and the transformation from an ordinary city to the grand city of lights we know today. Paris was not always like you see today in fact, it was pretty sad and dirty not too long ago.

When Napoleon III came to power, he found a city in waste ,dirty ,and not sufficient to be considered a grand capital of Europe. He took it upon himself to enlarge it, modernise it, and beautify it. This been try before in 1840 to make Paris well defended and increase the fluid of traffic started by Thiers  under the 3rd Republic was adopted to give a circular road but also defensive around the city. Napoleon III continue by in around 1860 ordering Baron Haussmann, the big work ahead. This is the story of the arrondissements or districts of Paris and what you see today.

What many people do not know is that it was Napoleon I  who had the idea of a Grand Paris reaching as far as St Cloud in Hauts de Seine dept 92 today. After a risk of France and Paris being invaded again around 1840 that the prefet Rambuteau (the same street now around centre pompidou) desired to begin this expansion.  A wall was done in 1844 to defend Paris if attacked; several communities became IN Paris if not officially yet such as Grenelle,Vaugirard, Bercy, Charonne,, Belleville, La Villette, La Chapelle, Montmartre, les Batignolles, Passy and Auteuil. On orders of Napoleon III a public order is done in February 2, 1859 to debate on annexing propertly these communities to give a physical rounder to Paris. After this public consultation it was voted to annexed the communities and enlarge Paris on June 16 1859, becoming effective law of the nation on January 1, 1860.  Paris immediately went from 3438 hectares to 7802 hectares,with the administrative repartition passing from 12 to 20 arrondissements or districts. Each arrondissement has it mayors office or city hall giving localise govt support to the community. It has been 150 years and the concept of Grand Paris is still in the air for public debate today. Webpage http://www.legrandparis.net/  and ,also, a concept in future transportation for the region ,webpage http://www.metrograndparis.com/ bringing Parisiens closer to each other each day, and making our visitors more at ease in their travel needs in the area. Both sites in French.

The mairies or city hall govt building in each arrondissement are done in touch with the local architecture of each. The Paris 1 has it after the church Saint Germain l’Auxerrois next to the end of the Louvre. Paris 2, is done in 1847 after opening the rue de la Banque, inside a mariage hall done in 1879 decorated with the 3rd Republic emblems. Paris 3 was the first done with an initial space virgin, looking more like a renaissance castle with doric columns and clock evoking Chambord. Paris 4 done with column first realized for the Chateau des Tuileries (today gone extension of the Louvre), Paris 5  was done to accompany the silhouette of the Pantheon in the center of a big plaza ,rue Soufflot with two monumental columns holding a massive fronton one is entering an university the other the mairie or mayor’s office. Paris 6 facing the facade of the church Saint Sulpice practically shown behind the church and as a second stage to it. Paris 7 is in a mansion of the 17C built between 1645-1647, acquired in 1710 then Robert de Cotte,then Laroux,finally in 1862 the city of Paris buys it and put the mairie or city hall there. Paris 8 at rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and integrated in 1926 to the hotel Cail or mansion cail;built during the Second Empire between 1865-1867. Paris 9 design and built between 1846-1848 with an entry of an old cour de service or domestic entrance. The city acquired it in 1848 keeping the municipal services of the 2nd arrondissement de Paris, lateral wings are added in 1860 it is kept and became the mairie for the 9th district. Paris 10  began built in 1892 making it look like a renaissance castle with facades similar to those of Chambord with the uniqueness of having its main structure of metal attached to the facade just like the Grand Palais years later. Paris 11 supporting the boulevard Voltaire and rue Parmentier it was built between 1862-1865. Paris 12 built in 1876 in a classical composition following other similar buildings with a woman statue on top meaning the city of Paris. Paris 13  facade design and built between 1864-1867 similar to those typical buildings of mairies or city halls. Paris 14 built between 1852-1858 for the town of Montrouge, after annexation it is at the centre of the 14 district so name its mairie. Paris 15 built  between 1876-1876 with extensions designed  in 1913 but finally done between 1925-1928. Paris 16 the towns of Passy and Auteuil could have done it by rue Francklin and pl Jean Lorain but not in agreement the mairie was finally done behind rue Henri Martin built between 1875-1877. Paris 17 an exception as it is built in 1971! replacing the old mairie of Batignolles, indeed very modern looking. Paris 18 it was for a while at place des Abbesses but the admin imposed its will in 1882  to have a new one done at the same spot, done in a renaissance style. Paris 19 facing the park parc des Buttes Chaumont  with five arcades similar to renaissance castles built between 1876-1878. Paris 20 place gambetta and built between 1887-1897.  I will list the sites webpages for each Mairie numerically,now

Paris 1 http://www.mairie1.paris.fr/mairie01/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the forum les Halles,Arc du Carrousel,church of Saint Eustache,Jeu de Paume,Louvre,Orangerie, Conciergerie, Sainte Chapelle, Palais Royal, Jardin des Tuileries, and the Place Vendôme.

Paris 2 http://www.mairie2.paris.fr/mairie02/jsp/site/Portal.jsp ; this is Bibliothéque Nationale, Bourse,tour Jean Sans Peur.

Paris 3 http://www.mairie3.paris.fr/mairie03/jsp/site/Portal.jsp ; this is the Archives Nationales, Arts et Métiers,Carnavalet museum,Picasso museum,amongst others.

Paris 4 http://www.mairie4.paris.fr/mairie04/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Arsenal,Centre Pompidou, Crypte de Notre Dame,church saint louis saint paul,hotel de ville,memorial de la shoah, Cathedral of Notre Dame, and tour Saint Jacques.

Paris 5 http://mairie05.paris.fr/mairie05/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is Arénes de Lutéce,church Saint Etienne du MOnt, Church Saint Julien le Pauvre,Mosquée de Paris, Panthéon, Sorbonne, Cluny, and church Val de Grâce

Paris 6 http://www.mairie6.paris.fr/mairie06/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the church of Saint Germain des Prés,church of Saint Sulpice,Delacroix museum, palais and museum of Luxembourg,gardens of Luxembourg amongst others.

Paris 7 http://www.mairie7.paris.fr/mairie07/jsp/site/Portal.jsp  This is  the Army museum,Assamblée Nationale, Ecole Militaire,Egouts or sewers of Paris,Invalides, Legion of Honor museum, Orsay museum,Rodin museum, UNESCO,and the Tour Eiffel.

Paris 8 http://www.mairie8.paris.fr/mairie08/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Arc de Triomphe,Chapelle Expiatoire,pl de la Concorde,church of the Madeleine,Palais d’Elysées, Grand and Petit Palais,Jacquemart museum,NIssim de Camondo museum, and palais de la Decouverte.

Paris 9 http://www.mairie9.paris.fr/mairie09/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Grévin wax museum,Opéra Garnier,and Vie Romantique museum ,and Gare Saint Lazare, amongst others.

Paris 10 http://www.mairie10.paris.fr/mairie10/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Pinacothéque de Paris. Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est.

Paris 11 http://www.mairie11.paris.fr/mairie11/jsp/site/Portal.jsp  this is the Bastille  bordering also Republique and Nation.

Paris 12 http://www.mairie12.paris.fr/mairie12/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Cinémathéque Française,Palais de la porte Dorée,Opéra Bastille, and Palais omnisport de Paris Bercy Gare de Lyon, Gare de Bercy as well as Bercy VIllage.

Paris 13 http://www.mairie13.paris.fr/mairie13/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Bibliothéque Nationale Fraçois Mitterrand, Manufacture des Gobelins ,with its Place d’Italie.

Paris 14 http://www.mairie14.paris.fr/mairie14/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Catacombs de Paris,and the Observatoire de Paris, and the Cimetiére de Montparnasse.

Paris 15 http://www.mairie15.paris.fr/mairie15/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Bourdelle museum,Institut Pasteur,Jean Moulin memorial, Tour Montparnasse , Gare de Montparnasse, and the post office museum

Paris 16 http://www.mairie16.paris.fr/mairie16/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is Arc de Triomphe,Palais de Tokyo,Baccarat museum,Palais de Chaillot, Guimet museum,museum of man,navy museum or marine, marmottan-Monet museum,Parc des Princes, wine or vin museum , Bismarck Foundation,amongst others.

Paris 17 http://www.mairie17.paris.fr/mairie17/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is part of Arc de Triomphe, porte Maillot,and lingering with Place de Clichy.

Paris 18 http://www.mairie18.paris.fr/mairie18/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the Espace Montmartre,Halle Saint Pierre, church of Sacre Coeur,Church of Saint Pierre, Place du Tertre, cimétiere de Montmartre, vinyards of montmartre by rue Saint Vincent, and the cabaret Lapin Agile.

Paris 19 http://www.mairie19.paris.fr/mairie19/jsp/site/Portal.jsp this is the cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Parc de la Villette, La Géode,La Grande Halle, Zénith cabaret, Cité et musée de la musique, and Rotonde de la Villette.

Paris 20 http://www.mairie20.paris.fr/mairie20/jsp/site/Portal.jsp This is the cimétiere Pére Lachaise,  and the Eurolines Gallieni bus terminal just outside it, Chinatown by Belleville area.

Its good to know these tipbits, the 12éme is the rendez-vous point for all Parisiens around place de la Bastille and place de la Nation. The fame Marché d’Aligre, and the cours de Vincennes the old entry point for the king Louis XIV and Maria Teresa. Faubourg Saint Antoine the art of the wood/furniture is still present today from times of long ago. Not long ago the cementary of Picpus is located past avenue de Saint-Mandé, you go there by 35 rue de la rue éponyme, it is here the bodies of 1306 persons guillotine are located and it is today private, the only one in Paris, but you can visit in the afternoons.

In the 13éme the mansion or hôtel queen Blanche its at 17 rue des Gobelins, here Marguerite the wife of king Louis IX (Saint Louis) came to guard silence, as well as in the 14C Blanche of Bourgogne wife of king Charles IV lived. At 73 rue des Gobelins you will have a building with a loggia around columns and pillastres, in it there are two statues(1869)  work of a young sculptor name Auguste Rodin.

In the 14éme, you have the Observatoire de Paris ,the oldest in the world.1667. the astronomic cupola dates from 1845. Coming out of the observatoire you turn left and see the Maison du Fontainer, distribution of water from Rungis, and store in the aqueduct of Medicis, from here it provided water to the Palais de Luxemburg and Parisiens with 14 fountains!

In the 15éme done around the village of Vaugirard and old agricultural land area.rich in sand and construction materials. Near the metro Javel old Citroen car factory today no longer and nice walks alone the Seine.

In the 16éme, the villages of Passy and Auteuil were annexed to neighborhood of Chaillot to create the 16 arrondissement! on June 16 1859! becoming the biggest district in Paris ! OF course, 52% of it is the Bois de Boulogne!  Here was the hunting area of the locals at the time. Napoleon I wanted to have a triumphant arch build in this area to link a great avenue Bastille to the Louvre, he never saw it done, but the successor king Louis-Philippe completed. The body of Napoleon I was finally able to pass it under in 1840. Here you have the Maison de Balzac with the writers memoirs, it still has vinyards around it.Now it is a museum Balzac. Here the musée du vin or wine museum is located at rue des Eaux (street of water ::)) on the old fortification from the middle ages that serves as cellars to the brothers of the order of Minimes (Passy) producing a wine very much like by king Louis XIII. It became the cellars of the wines serve in the Tour Eiffel until becoming today the museum.

In the 17éme  is the union of Ternes (lordship from 1318) to those of Monceau (lordship from 1549) under the village of Batignolles. You can see an area rich in theaters because inside Paris at the time only 8 theaters were allow! you go to 78 boulevard des Batignolles the theater of Batignolles was built in 1838 in an Italian salon with 630 seats, then it takes the name of theatre des Arts in 1906 and finally the name of  Théatre Jacques Hébertot that leds it until 1840 as director. At the place Villiers (now name place Prospére-Parfait Goubaux, but locals still call it place villiers) at the center of the plaza you have a bust of actor Henri Becque, the bust has no signature of its makers but it is no doubt Auguste Rodin the maker !

In the 18éme  officially born on january 1 ,1860, this is the commonly call Montmartre a union of the neighborhoods of La Chapelle and Montmartre plus a small section of Batignolles. It is history since the passing of Saint Denis giving an equal footing with the city below, something that symbolically still carries today as Montmartre has a mayor as the Free City of Montmartre. At rue Lepic you will find one of the remaining windmills in Paris today power by electricity. Many painters from Renoir to Van Gogh describe them in their paintings.

In the 19éme, the village of La Villette and portions of Pantin,Belleville,and Aubervilliers were added to create this arrondissement. The famous parc Des Buttes Chaumont is here. The water to supply Paris started from here and the Parisiens finally could taste clean pure water in 1822! here you have the Rotonde de la Villette, a barrier to pay your taxes to come into Paris built in 1785 When the are joined Paris this was abolished,and it became a depot for salt then the seat of the commission for old Paris from 1959.

In the 20éme ,was the union of the villages of Belleville,Menilmontant, and Charonne.  Even in 1871 they fought for Paris during the uprising of the commune that gave them the name of the red hill or colline rouge. Here the Cementary Pére Lachaise (name François d’Aix de la Chaise, confessor to king Louis XIV) is omnipresent.  It is 58 hectares big ( 143.2 acres).

What of the boulevard péripherique ,that big circular road that goes around Paris? Yours truly takes it regularly and again just this morning.  It came from the idea of protecting Paris from invaders! The decision was taken in 1840 and the idea of Adolphe Thiers was chosen. A new defensive wall attached to fortresses towers was built in four years, it was composed of 94 towers with a lenght of 34 kms. the fortifications took about a strip of 140 meters with a zone of about 250 meters where no construction was allowed all around it!  Taken into account villages that eventually were annexed to Paris in 1860 such as La Villette, Vaugirard, Auteuil, Passy, Bercy and Montmartre amongst others.

After the construction it was decided under Baron Haussmann that the wall was obsolete as the artillery of the times had improved!!! It was a difficult task on what to use of 1400 hectares ! About 3458 acres. The first towers were destroyed in 1919 ,the final concept presented to the municipal govt of Paris calls for the destruction of the towers only but what about the land in between? It was decided to build low income housing or HBM (the equivalent of today’s HLM); the other was given to private investors such as those who built the Cité universitaire de Paris from 1923.  After WWII, the ministry of reconstruction tries to improve the highway system in France, it is under this idea that the land became the boulevard péripherique or BP that we see today. Remember speed limit is 80 km per hour Lol!!!!and they have speed radars all over !!!

Have a great week on the roads of France. Some misc photos.

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January 31, 2011

Some news about France XII

Well again very cold around Paris/Versailles axis, temps in the freezing range, today it was -5°C  and tomorrow too morning temps going up to 2°C in the afternoons. For wednesday on the temps will go up again to about 0°C then all the way up to 7°C daytime.  The days to follow temps from 3°C to 12°C with chances of rain starting on Friday February 4 per Meteo France.

The roads are clear easy driving this morning, and now back at home for lunch and else…..I am giving training for end users ERP  SAP at company near La Defense. Then look for more wood for the chimney just in case…. prices have gone up from 38 € when I came to Versailles to now 62€ in just 8 years!!!

France won its fourth Handball world title beating Denmark after extra time 37_35 yesterday in Sweden. Spain won the bronze medal beating Sweden.

There is a great democratic movement going on in the world if you are not in tune. Keeping politics away, I am glad its happening and wish them the best of luck.

Hôtel de la Marine facing the place de la Concorde is in the process of finding a buyer or keep it under some kind of State/Heritage consortium and keep it open. It is a national heritage of great history and houses today the HQ of the French Navy.

February 2nd is the day of the Chandeleur in France, an old Christian celebration today known as the Day of the Crêpes, the famous Breton mouthfuls. Try it in my favorites in Paris at L’Avant-Comptoir, 3, carrefour de l’Odéon, 75006 Tél.+33 01 44 27 07 97. Open every day and crêpes from 3,50€. webpage with flash see “sauvorez les restaurants” section, http://www.hotel-paris-relais-saint-germain.com/flash/fr/

And, also, my jewel at Josselin ,near Montparnasse , 67 Rue du Montparnasse, 75014 by metro Edgar Quinet or Vavin, lines 6 and 4 respectively. no web Tel +33 01 43 20 93 50. A real slice of Bretagne in Paris.

Then, some have ask me for guides to show you Paris. My time is limited and I am not a qualify guide, so I have done some research in the Heritage Foundation or Fondation du Patrimoine, and these are reliable, experts, professionals who can guide you and give all the information you need before engaging them. These are in no particular order;

Fabienne Germé at fgerme@gmail.com  with webpage at http://www.parisparmontsetparvaux.com/

Pierre-Yves Jaslet, at pierre-yves.jaslet@wanadoo.fr, webpage at http://conferences.jaslet.free.fr/

Béatrice Hignard at bhignard@paristoria.com , webpage at http://www.paristoria.com/

Claude Marti,  at martivisites@wanadoo.fr , webpage at http://www.visite-guidee-paris.fr/

Christine Merle, at chris.merle@wanadoo.fr, webpage http://merle.visites.free.fr/joomla/index.php

Murielle Rudeau at mrudeau@gmail.com, webpage at http://www.balades2l.com/

Hope it helps those seeking this type of arrangements. Thats all for news from France. Have a great week everyone ::)

January 30, 2011

London ,cosmopolitan and friendly

Its one of the World’s glamour cities,home of the British so British, expensive said some, but all damn worth it. I have been coming to London for 8 years straight on business trips, and finally made it with the family last July.

We made the trip by car from Versailles, drove up the A16  exit/sortie 42 to terminal de Calais, get on the big Eurostar train car loader under the bay and reach London Earl’s Court in 7 hrs total time door to door. The return was just as easy coming from London and getting on the Eurostar in Folkestone, M20 road exit 11A. The usual michelin webpage can guide you in your route planning from any location ,webpage http://www.viamichelin.co.uk/   It is best to pay the crossing ahead of time online, this secures best placing on the trains,easy out,and no delays. The official webpage is http://www.eurotunnel.com/ukcP3Main/ukcPassengers/ukcTravel/ukpExperience

Once in London Earl’s Court area the site of our apartment the entry on the A4 road is very easy and well marked. You are just outside the congestion zone so no need to pay this outrageous fee (giving right to use your car in central London). Anyway you only needed to get to London,as once there the Tube or underground or metro or subway is the best way to travel plus on foot ::) You are smart to secure parking online ahead of arrival as onsite it can be as much as 36£ while if done reserve online is only 16£ ! This are sites for the following information

congestion zone http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging/

underground/metro as well as other types of transportation is the official city site here  http://www.tfl.gov.uk/gettingaround/default.aspx  If staying for a few days, more than a week, or intend to visit the city in the near future a few times, you can opt for the Oyster cards, they are good reusable, rechargeable, and very convenient,info here https://oyster.tfl.gov.uk/oyster/entry.do

for auto parking garages, there are several but with the family using the car I stay at the Earl’s Court Exhibition Center parking http://www.eco.co.uk/p/organiser-parking/81  Once here its very easy to get on the metro/tube/subway at Earl’s Court as they have the District Line and the Piccadilly line into all areas of London easily done.

For accommodations you can look into the city of London tourist office for guidance here http://www.visitlondon.com/accommodation the choices are endless. For families I suggest the by owner apartment flats as the one in Earls Court Studios was excellent, the owner and family lives just above us, and was there for help and chat all the time, a great way to inmerse yourselves into the British lifestime. Webpage http://www.earlscourtstudios.com/index.php

The choices for food and sightseeing are endless, and as I said, the people are very friendly all over. AFter trying some English grout at London Courtfield Pub, we head to our tex mex par excellence Chiquitos, then some good old fashion burgers at Gourmet Burger Kitchen plus our own shopping at Tesco supermarket store for in house eating and the time was well spent by all. Some addresses

Courtfield Pub, 187 Earls Court Road, London, SW5 9AN. no web. try the fish and chips with a pint ::)

Chiquitos, Leicester Square, webpage http://www.chiquito.co.uk/restaurant/london-leicester-square ; the combo platter is a great value and plenty to eat done right

Gourmet Burger Kitchen , by St Paul’s Cathedral, webpage http://www.gbk.co.uk/restaurant/st-pauls/ . Here all is good, big juicy burgers pile high, try the Barbecue !

and the wonderful TESCO grocery supermarkets at Kensignton West Cromwell location, webpage here  http://www.tesco.com/storeLocator/ Do you shopping for eat at home and save with a large family is the best way to go.

The city of London tourist office has plenty more of additional information to help you plan your trip. http://www.visitlondon.com/

AS for things to see, well again its a city to walk and be marvel in history. I have been to so many but with the family we visited the ST Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, London Bridge, Victoria & Albert museum, Imperial War Museum, Kensington Palace (P Diana memorial), Hyde Park,  Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square (theater district), Piccadilly, Big Ben and saw Buckingham Palace as it was closed for a private event, Ripley’s Believe or Not, and Harrod’s store. These are some detail information

St Paul’s Cathedral, http://www.stpauls.co.uk/. The area is very bohemian, and just sit on the steps while zipping a drink. Church is well the site explains better than I.

Westminster Abbey, http://www.westminster-abbey.org/ . Where the British monarchy can be official, great history and good reading.

Tower of London, and Kensington Palace, http://www.hrp.org.uk/toweroflondon/ . wonderful places of history old and new. Visit the White Tower, and the Crown jewels section for sure. The Palace was the sentimental place of Princess Diana .

London Bridge , http://www.towerbridge.org.uk/TBE/EN/. GReat exhibits and wonderful views over the river Thames.

Victoria & Albert museum, http://www.vam.ac.uk/. For all its avant garde collection

Imperial War Museum, http://www.iwm.org.uk/. For the war history of the western world really.

Big Ben clock in the palace of Westminster, House of Parliament, http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/building/palace/big-ben/  A must site to say you have been to London ::)

Hyde Park, and other parks, http://www.royalparks.gov.uk/Hyde-Park.aspx . A wonderful park with a nice serpentine lake area. My favorite even on business trips to just walk here.

Buckingham Palace,and others, http://www.royal.gov.uk/theroyalresidences/buckinghampalace/buckinghampalace.aspx  This is grand magnificent, just need to plan ahead so you can go inside.

Ripley’s Believe or Not, Piccadilly Circus, http://www.ripleyattractions.com/international-locations/london-england/ . Interesting things in a wonderdul square bringing back old memories of Orlando Florida USA.

Harrod’s store, http://www.harrods.com/ . The ultimate shopping experience in London, expensive yes, but all worth it, try the food section and grab a salmon sandwich.

Other stores my teenage kids enjoy were the Forbidden Planet for mangas and video games etc, 179 Shaftesbury Avenue just off leicester square, webpage http://forbiddenplanet.com/stores/

All in all it is always comforting to come here, now the kids like it too so more plans are in order for 2011. If you need directions, especially with young adults let me know. Have a jolly good time in so British London.

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January 27, 2011

Some news from France XI

Well it seems cold and snow is the name of the day. Hearing big storms with heavy snow in New Jersey, and temps a bit cool for Florida. Here in the Paris region, weather is turning colder already. Calling for weather cloudy, low -4°C to high of 2°C, some rain and windy which will bring temps lower. I am ready chimney is clean, wood is plenty ,and cozy nights with raclettes are wonderful.

The great cartoon event once again in Angouleme is playing out now, today, my son participated last year with his school, and some of his work are in my house ::) If you love BD, cartoon series this is the event to be every year, practical information in English in pdf file here  http://www.bdangouleme.com/data/texts/files/ENGLISH-PRACTICAL_INFO.pdf  .The main webpage in French is here http://www.bdangouleme.com/

Saint Valentin is approaching Feb 14 and we are ready, are you ? Cuba Compagnie Bastille menu Valentin at 59€, more info here http://www.cubacompagnie.com/specific/formats/format_11e_2colonnes.jsp?folder=3&id=6

theaters and restos will have plenty more in the coming days, but for sure the Lido will have a St Valentin evening at 175-250€ .http://www.lido.fr/saint-valentin/

The city of Paris will have all the month of February balades=walks in areas of Paris “Paris Romantique” , I know for sure on the 1éme arrondissement. inquire at tourist office webpage in French http://www.parisinfo.com/informations-presse-operateurs/l-office-porte-parole-du-tourisme-parisien/dossier/communiques-et-dossiers-de-presse_en-fevrier-la-capitale-fera-les-yeux-doux-aux-touristes-avec-paris-romantique-

Le Cap Rouge, 23 rue Mouffetard will have a party showing your colors!!! Red if already in couple, Green ,single for the moment, Blue open I am available for whatever ::) http://www.caprouge.fr/

Beginning February 8 the SNCF, train consortium in France will increase 2,85% the price of travel on TGV,Teoz, and Lunea trains in France.

Some restos with the look of the IV Republique Française still in them. Retro look to the 1950’s. First,my favorite one is Chez Germaine,30, rue Pierre-Leroux, 75007. Tél. +33 01 42 73 28 34. open every day except Sundays. Open in 1953 ,and a pot-au-fou magnifique! no Web. Also, L’Auberge Bressane, 16, avenue de la Motte-Picquet, 75007, Tel +33 01 47 05 98 37; webpage http://www.auberge-bressane.fr/. Astier, 44, rue Jean Pierre Timbaud, 75011;tel +33 01 43 57 16 35; webpage http://www.restaurant-astier.com/. Enjoy them !!!

The 11éme arrondissement or district of Paris was my introduction to the city by my girlfriend (today wife) back in 1990, see photo. This is twice as large of the more common districts of Paris central, with a lifestyle of its own or the “bobos”  of Paris with great plazas such as Republique, Nation, and Bastille. Great streets to walk with plenty of wonderful stores,and restos such as in rue Paul Bert, Parmentier, Rue de la Fontaine-au-roi, Trousseau, and Oberkampf. Here you will be wonderful at Bistrot Paul-Bert,  18, rue Paul-Bert . Tél.+33  01 43 72 24 01. try the agneau de lait roti au four (young lamb roast in oven..) no web.And for the best American bagels in Paris go to Chez Morri’s 1, rue de Charonne. Tél. +33 01 48 07 03 03.no web.

Gare de l'Est, Paris

Gare de l'Est Paris

Well I now getting the last details with the fam to go to Luxembourg this weekend. Its a regular trip for us for many years for a weekend out and out. Hopefully I am back in time to write more on my blog, lots of things to catch up. Happy weekend to all.

January 26, 2011

Wonderful Brazil, memories that lives on

I had the opportunity to do several trips to Brazil over the years covering the 1998 to 2008 period ,both from the USA and France. I have learned Portuguese over these years, and its a country that almost came to live too.

I like to share some of those experiences with my readers. My first encounter with Brazil was in 1998 when I flew from Miami, Florida USA to Sao Paulo, SP,Brazil. This was to be the first of many business trips there. I have,also, visited Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre,and Curitiba.

The people are amazingly friendly, party and open. Regardless of what one read, taking common sense precautions the trips have been very safe with no accidents to report. I have been to many poor areas and very top notch areas as well. For transportation the best is the airlines as the country is huge. My favorites airlines have been TAM and GOL and they are all reliable.  http://www.tam.com.br/b2c/vgn/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=97981ed526b72210VgnVCM1000003752070aRCRD

http://www.voegol.com.br/Paginas/home.aspx  

The time to take the bus was from Curitiba in 2008 to Iguazu Falls,and this long ride is bearable and very nice. bus company Pluma, took about 9 hrs, and 45R Br.webpage ,http://www.pluma.com.br/  . The main bus terminal webpage is here, for itineraries go left column and click “consulta destinos” , http://www.rodoviariaonline.com.br/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=41:curitiba-pr&Itemid=67&layout=default

In Sao Paulo I stay at Maksoud Plaza,at Alameda Campinas, a very good location, done by an architect tired of renting hotels,and it is wonderful.  http://www.maksoud.com/ . It has wonderful places to eat inside like the Atrium lobby cafe and the Arlanza Grill. Ibirapuera park is nearby for a nice jogging and conferences are held every year for the business traveler in me. The closeby Ave Paulista is the grand avenue for stores ,shopping in the area.  For eating out do not misse the Famiglia Mancini, a tradition restaurant not to far from the hotel, and of great renown amongst locals who took me there for dinner ,try the all you can eat choice, awesome, webpage http://www.waltermancini.com.br/. And for a nice bar go to Original ,there since 1996 near the big park  a taxi ride from hotel. Located at Rua Card Arcoverde, 1265 – Ibirapuera, http://www.baroriginal.com.br/. For all your Sao Paulo information see their official tourism webpage at http://www.cidadedesaopaulo.com/sp/

Up to Rio de Janeiro, the you know what Copacabana beach was fabulous; the stays friends always took me to Niteroi for a nice view of the bay and hang gliding….My choice of hotels there is always the Othon Palace, at Avenida Atlantica, just marvelous again , the views,the service the food all is sublime,and the Skylab bar fantastic,  in addition to a great location. webpage http://www.hoteis-othon.com.br/us/hotel/rio-othon-palace/o_hotel.aspx .  Outside try the bar Boteco da Garrafa, great pints of beers ,Belgians, Germans you name it ;located at Rua Bolívar, 27, Copacabana.  Restaurante Quinta da Boa Vista in Sao Cristovao, inside park same name, open from 1822 when it serves the royal Portuguese family. webpage http://www.restaurantequintaboavista.com.br/. One of the things to see in this city is the museum Carmen Miranda, the great Brazilian actress of Hollywood fame.http://carmen.miranda.nom.br/gal_museu.htm.

The fame jewerlers H Stern store in Ipanema is another great place to shop, webpage http://www.hstern.net/hsterninrio/. Of course, as well as the Christ statue, Pao de Açucar, botanical gardens, Sugar Loaf, Maracana stadium, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and wait for the Carnaval time. Official tourist office for Rio webpage http://www.rioguiaoficial.com.br/en/  and the official Carnaval webpage  http://www.rio-carnival.net/

I will go to Porto Alegre, the Rio Grande do Sur city vibrant and welcoming. Here my HQ have been the Ceasar Hotel, now the name has been change to Blue Tree Towers Hotels, located at Coronel Lucas de Oliveira, 995 – Bela Vista. they had a japanese resto there very good, now is Becco, Brazilian for the churrasquerias, and still good. http://www.bluetree.com.br/bt_eng/hoteis_e_resorts/conceito.asp?secao=hoteis_e_resorts&pagina=conceito&numhotel=245

The area is known for the gaucho tradition, very horse oriented with great shows for eating and entertainement not to be missed. The Mercado Publico is great now housing many shops of local flavor and tradition centered around the gaucho heritage. Many restos and pubs around Bela Vista and Centro typical of European cities. Galpao Crioulo is an excellent place to see the gauchos in action and eat well very well,its located at Avenida Loureiro da Silva s/n – Centro (city center). For the traditional dish Feijoada, try Panapanà Bistro,Rua Demétrio Ribeiro, 174 – Centro, webpage  
http://www.panapanabistro.com.br/  . Another is the great football/soccer team Internacional de Porto Alegre at river banks of  river/Rio Guaíba,in Avenida Padre Cacique, 891, at shopping  Gigante da Beira-Rio.webpage http://www.internacional.com.br/pagina.php?modulo=1&setor=35 . The official tourist site in portuguese at the city govn site is here http://www2.portoalegre.rs.gov.br/turismo/default.php?p_secao=278

Moving on to Curitiba, the gateway to wild Brazil and the Iguazu Falls, plus Pantanal,Ile da Mielhe, and Morrete, Ruta  Gracioza  marvelous terrain and inland historical Lapa ,in Parana state. I spent over the years the most time here, its an enchanting city, known for its progressive bus system, and full of European immigrants. My hq hotel is the Mercure Curitiba Batel webpage here http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-2127-mercure-curitiba-batel/index.shtml

Batel is a noble neighborhood where you will be in good safe areas, full of everything around you. That is where the Mercure hotel is on, you come in from the airport on avenida vicomte de guarapauva and leave on ave sete de septembro. The corner of this later on you have a grocery store, mercadorama. Walking distace from here you can see the tower font de jerusalem,mercado central, rodoferraria bus and train, praça Japao (Japan Plaza), and the main downtown city center shopping mall like Batel novo shops webpage http://www.shoppingnovobatel.com.br/, and Shopping Crystal at webpage http://www.shoppingcrystal.com.br/, as well as shopping Curitiba, http://www.shoppingcuritiba.com.br/, and Shopping Estaçao Central with a railroad museum inside!  http://www.espacoestacao.com.br/site/. You have your typical Wal-Mart store at http://www2.walmart.com.br/Site/StoreLocatorResultadoLoja.aspx?IdLoja=64. You have the Carrefour store too, at Pinhais just outside the city was my store, http://www.carrefour.com.br/stores/PR/Pinhais.  And Extra Hipermercado in Av. Mal Humberto A C Branco, 230 – Jardim Social, webpage http://www.extra.com.br/Atendimento/LocalizadorLojas.aspx

Other shopping pleasures are shopping Mueller, by jardim public at http://www.shoppingmueller.com.br/. The biggest just outside by the park Barigui is at http://www.parkshoppingbarigui.com.br/home/ , and yet in city center you have shopping Italia at http://www.shoppingcenteritalia.com.br/principal.php. There are various restaurants/bars  in town in addition to those found in the shopping centers above that I like such as Emporio San Francisco with great beers and live music at http://emporiosaofrancisco.com.br/programacao.php?id_dias=5 ; jokers pub cafe in centro, great ambiance at nights webpage http://www.jokerspubcafe.com.br/.  Restaurant Familia Fadanelli in neighborhood of Santa Felicidade, great Italian tradition and the farewell restaurant for me last time in the city with many friends, http://www.famigliafadanelli.com.br/?s=intro.  Churrasqueria Batel Grill, the great Brazilian steak houses, cant beat it ,webpage http://batelgrill.com.br/inicio/ . Mustang Sally for the real Mexican in you ,right in Batel, webpage http://www.mustangsally.com.br/ . For an American in Brazil, and great burgers deluxe head for Peggy Sue ,webpage http://www.peggysue.com.br/. For the Cuban mojito and some salsa then head for Guantanamera, no web ,but Rua Colonel Dulcidio, 540 in front of shopping Novo Batel. For the real Brazilian taste and home cooking head for Tropilha Grill, webpage here , http://www.chimarraochurrascaria.com.br/home.php?where=curt. For the Spanish in me go to Pata Negra, Rua Fernando Simas,23, in the area of Batel, Praça de Espanha, flamenco music live on Fridays. Spanish and great cooking, like I was at home. no web.

If you want to bring home some Brazilian wines with an Italian twist then head for Durigans winery, a real wine store, winery in one; webpage here http://www.vinhosdurigan.com.br/index.php#inicio

For tourist attractions are many and wonderful, my favorites were/are Bosque Alemao (German black forest), Cathedral (Basílica Menor de Nossa Senhora da Luz de Curitiba) , Centro historico or city historical center walks, Jardim Botanico or botanical gardens,Memorial Ucraniano(Ukranian memorial) at Parque Tingui, Opéra de Arame (metal build opera) at the Parque da Pedreiras, Parque Barigui( with an antique automobile museum) my best park , Parque Tangua (impressive!), Passeio Publico (first park n Curitiba 1886) , Praça do Japao (Japan plaza),Praça Tiradentes (center and birthplace of the city),Torre Panoramica (panoramic tower of 109.5 meters), Santa Felicidade neighborhood (Little North Italy),Castelo do Batel or castle inspired by the French castles owners saw in France, now a cultural center, webpage http://www.castelodobatel.com.br/. The museum contemporary of Oscar Niemeyer, webpage http://www.museuoscarniemeyer.org.br/. A great historical center of learning the Universidade Federal do Parana, oldest in Brazil.

There is a linha Turismo bus service that take you to the 22  principal spots in the city coming out from Centro praça tiradentes from 9h to 17h30 every 30 minutes for 20R reales. Line 208 take you from the airport Alfonso Pena to the city center, schedules at the city govt webpage http://www.urbs.curitiba.pr.gov.br/PORTAL/tabelahorario/tabela.php. The main bus terminal is at avenida Presidente Afonso Camargo,340 Centro right across from mercado central, praça rua Barosa, the central market of the city.http://www.rodoviariaonline.com.br/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=41:curitiba-pr&Itemid=67&layout=default

The airport for all arrivals and departures is the Afonso Pena international airport, just outside the cit at sao jose des pinhas,  as above bus 208 takes you into the city or hire a taxi, services webpage http://www.infraero.gov.br/index.php/br/aeroportos/parana/aeroporto-afonso-pena/facilidades.html. One of the best ways to see the coastal areas from Curitiba is to take the Serra Verde train, a wonderful ride into time with magnificent views ,webpage http://www.serraverdeexpress.com.br/

Another nice areas to visit from Curitiba other than Foz de Iguaçu are Morretes ( the summer get away of folks in Curitiba), and Lapa (epic battle for the federal union of Brazil), they were weekends escapes for me while there by car. This is the tourist office for Curitiba webpage http://www.turismo.curitiba.pr.gov.br/

My photo portfolio:

January 24, 2011

Some news from France X

Another first day of a week, skies a bit cloudy cool light rain falling in the area. I am in Nanterre “working” and eating in house.

The temps are now 4°C light rain falling, high this afternoon of 6°C, the coldest will be next Saturday at -4°C with a high of 1°C, mix days of cloudy,sunny,and rainy until February 1 according to Meteo France.

Finally Karim Benzema,the fame French footballer/soccer player at Real Madrid score a goal given his team a victory 1×0 over Mallorca in the Spanish league. Needs to do more to show for his high 35M€ salary.

The start of Fashion Week in Paris is today. Great haute couture will be exposing their newest all over the city in various venues including some palace hotels. The new news is the new designer of Alexandre Vauthier already wear by American singer Rihana. webpage, http://www.modeaparis.com/?lang=en

The French César awards ,the equivalent of the American Oscar,have announced their nominees as for example best actor will be  Gérard Depardieu,Roman Duris, Eric Elmosnino, Lambert Wilson and Jacques Gamblin. Best actreeses will be Isabelle Carré, Catherine Deneuve,Sara Forrestier, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Kristin Scott Thomas. Best movie  L’Arnacoeur, Des Hommes et des dieux, Gainsbourg vie heroïque, Le nom des gens ,and The Ghost writer (French but with English name movie !). Best foreign films nominated are Inception (of American Christopher Nolan) The Social network (David Fincher, American), Invictus (latest of  Clint Eastwood, American), Bright star (New
Zealand ‘s Jane Campion) Les Amours imaginaires (Québec, Canada Xavier Dolan) Dans ses yeux (Argentina ,Juan José Campanella) Illegal (Belgium of Olivier Masset-Depasse). webpage , http://www.lescesarducinema.com/#

In 2010 the airline wars between Airbus and Boeing is continuing as Airbus began to pull ahead of its rival. 2010 orders were Airbus 574 and Boeing 530 while deliveries of aircraft in 2010 was Airbus 510 and Boeing 462.

Aemet ,the meteo agency in Spain is reporting very cold days ahead there. Especially in the North and North-East of the country with Teruel getting -12°C!, Zaragoza, Avila, -9°C, Barcelona -10°C etc. Strong rain and winds up to 70 Km/hr in the Canary Islands. http://www.aemet.es/en/eltiempo/prediccion/temperaturas

FITUR, the tourist fair is been held in Madrid as I write, the annual events draws thousands of the general public but also the professionals with new innovations and plans of travel, see webpage http://www.ifema.es/ferias/fitur/default_i.html

As it has been done lately in Fontainebleau,and Versailles; it is now Chambord to do the same. It will open a deluxe hotel that will be ready by the end of 2011. It will have about 40 rooms in two buildings . You can keep track when officially announce at the castle webpage here http://www.chambord.org/Chambord-en-idm-208-n-Practical_guide.html

The winner according to Le Figaro magazine of the best financier cake in Paris is the bakery Hugo & Victor,40, bd Raspail, 75007. Tél. :+33  01 44 39 97 73. As well as branch at  7, rue Gomboust, 75001. webpage http://www.hugovictor.com/ Ohh by the way the Financiers are not financial people, its a small cake usually eaten with coffee for breakfast, its like a coffee cake but done from the 19C in Paris.Try it, its great in the morning Lol!!!!

And did you know that France gastronomy is now part of UNESCO World Heritage sites as in Inmaterial section,given credit to the best culinary experience in the world !!! webpage http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/index.php?lg=en&pg=00011&RL=00437

Have a nice week everyone ::)

January 23, 2011

Wines of France,simply the best,my wines

It is a passionate subject for me as I am a wine collector/amateur/drinker/you name it. It is ,also, a very diverse and subjective issue as wine is today the center piece of many individuals and countries tastes and habits. I would like to concentrate on my personal experiences and share them with my readers on this mine,yours blog.

My first recollection of drinking wine was when I was 8 years old and my maternal grandmother had me taste a couple of fingers of Spanish wine. I recall it taste it very bad, but she insist it was Spanish wine!!! I took it again on and off for several years until already a young adult in Florida and wanting to be once again part of the beach bums in Daytona Beach moved to the area to get whatever job I could lay my hands on.

The first job was as a store clerk at the ABC wine and liquor store in South  Yonge St almost to the corner of Granada Blvd in Ormond Beach, Florida under the watchful eye of store manager JD Brandy!  This was about January 1985. Once in a while I had to serve as bartender in the adjoining bar which didnt like too much. In the store, most were gear to heavy drinkers and wines were put at a disadvantage; so much that I end up in charge of orders and inventory keeping of the wine section in the store. This allows me to mingled with other wine lovers, and go to wine pool parties as server, gaining valuable knowledge in the world of wines.

It was the beginning of something magical that has continue to my now life in France. I was instrumental in working with SOPEXA ,Food and Wines from France organisation in helping French wine sellers introduce themselves to the south Florida market. At the same time passing a rigorous test on French wines from the organisation. I worked with the Commercial Office of Spain in NYC under director Julio Becquer to bring about Spanish wines bodegas and restaurant under the beautiful Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for an evening of wines and tapas as an introduction to Spanish wines. I participated tireless into many wine tastings events done by the stores like ABC, Crown,and Gourmet Spain  in South Miami under Alberto Mueller writer for the newspaper El Diario de las Americas.

Many French , Spanish, Italian,American, Chilean, Argentinian wine growers would come to showcase their wines there in Miami. I was able to meet many of them, the most popular and biggest players in their respective countries. This contacts later materialise into visits to their wine operations in their respective countries. One memorable was meeting Pierre-Henry Gagey of Maison Jadot , Beaune, Burgundy in Miami on a Crown wine tasting evening. This was followed same year with a visit to his company in Beaune, France, and even thus he was not in house, I was treated like royalty and taken by able Commercial Manager-Europe Marc Dupin on a family personal tour of the installations and tasting 5 reds and 5 whites of great international renown. A pleasant encounter that has lasted still today.  I was able to visit Concha y Toro in Santiago ,Chile and realised the original owners were French immigrants, the tour was personal only me and my Chilean wine salesman friend, I still have souvenirs wine glass and t-shirt from this trip in 2002.

By now 2011, I am subscribe to the leading magazines of wine in the world,keep a healthy wine cellars in my house, travel and visit the very best wineries in France and Spain, and realised that after tasting wines from the world including even brand Viñales from Cuba !!! the very best are indeed the French ::) My concentration in the last 10 years or so have been exclusively French with some bottles tasted of Spanish, Chilean, Argentinian , and Italian wines.

Basically, wines in France are divided into four quality categories, from top to bottom AOC=appelation d’origine  contrôlée, with strict production characteristics all down the whole process, this is the best of France accounting for about 35% of production. Then, VDQS=vins délimité de qualité supérieure, almost as same quality of AOC and waiting to be approved, these account for about 2% of total wine production in France. Then, Vins de Pays, or country wines, more lenient in the grapes varieties used, a recent denomination to accommodate EU regulations, account for 15% of production. Finally ,there are vins de table de France or French table wines, accounting for 38% of wine production, these are the simple country entry wines in France and usually branded under a commercial brand name.

Tasting wines is an art form with over 900 identifiable smells and nuances available,you need years of top level tasting to arrive at this level of proficiency, is an ongoing learning experience even for me. Usual lenght of guarding these wines depends on the year and the producer as well as the grape varieties. Usually champagne,Alsace, Beaujolais, Loire Touraine are between 1-5 yrs, up to 10 years are the village appelation of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone valley, Loire Chinon etc, then,  up to 20 years you can cellared Burgundy premiers and grand crus, Rhone valley cornas, CdP, Côte Rotié, etc Bordeaux  crus bourgeois ,and Medoc etc, Loire sweet wines like Bonnezeaux, and finally those over 20 yrs are  the Jura wines, L-R Banyouls, south west sweets like Monbazillac, Jurançon, and the Bordeaux grands as well as Sauternes sweets. The grape varieties are many indeed from the well known Cab Sauvignon/Franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Gamay, Pinot Noir, to the the less known Tannat,Malbec,Sauvignon blanc,Semillon,and the rare Duras (consider the oldest grape variety southwest France), Carignan, Cinsaut,Grenache, Grolleau,Mourvérdre, the list is endless it seems ::)

I will give you the wine official sites for the regions I like best, lots of official information can be found there. If you have any question on a particular wine dont hesitate to contact me ok. In English when available,but  in French it has more information.

wines from the Loire region, http://www.vinsdeloire.fr/SiteGP/FR/

wines from Burgundy region, http://www.burgundy-wines.fr/

wines from the South West (Sud Ouest) region, http://www.france-sudouest.com/

wines of Champagne region, (hit Entree) http://www.champagne.fr/

wines from Bordeaux region, http://www.bordeaux.com/default.aspx?culture=en-US&country=FR

For sentimental reasons my first and still drink from there, the Spanish site also a link on my blog of Spanish bodegas , in Spanish ; http://www.apoloybaco.com/Bodegas.htm

And my favorite Chilean ,Argentinian, and Italian wineries, such as Concha y Toro, Chile, http://www.conchaytoro.com/ ; Bodega Norton, Argentina http://www.norton.com.ar/inicio.php?video=1&id_idioma=2, and Michele Chiarlo, Italy  http://www.chiarlo.it/index_eng.htm

The best magazine in France is La Revue du Vins de France as here in my blog links too, http://www.larvf.com/ . My favorite online shop is Vinatis also in my blog links http://www.vinatis.com/ , and I am direct with the wines of Chateau Mouton-Rothchild, online here under la Baronnie , http://www.labaronnie.fr/

For wine stores there are many around, my favorite in Versailles is the Nicolas store  at link  http://www.nicolas.com/       or Aux Caves au Chateau as links here http://www.caviste-vin-versailles.com/ doing it here since 1840. In Paris there are the Nicolas stores again, and the Lavinia spanish chain at http://www.lavinia.fr/LaviniaFR/  or the Paris 16éme La Cave de Passy, 1 rue de Passy, tel +33 01 46 47 77 12;no web, metro Passy line 6. Over 2600 bottles to choose from.

Hope you have enjoy my entry into the world of Wines, French wines continue to be a reference point for all others to follow, with French advisors, grapes, methods, and investments all over the World. China is the next frontier and already the French are there even the magazine La Revue du Vins de France has an office. The potential for wine is great and if carefully chosen a good enjoyable investment ::)

January 22, 2011

San Cristobal de la Habana, Havana,Cuba

It was the ultimate Caribbean destination, the “Paris of the Americas” (hemingway ), the “key to the gulf (of mexico) the bulkward of the Caribbean” (King Philip II of Spain), to the whole of Cuba. It brings back memories of childhood, and still vibrates the world from no matter what place on the fence you might be. It is a beautiful city, if only can be kept in one piece.

You first arrive most likely by the Jose Marti International Airport in Rancho Boyeros, just outside the city of Havana,and on the province (State/department) of Havana. The real name from its founding in 1519 AD was San Cristobal de la Habana (St Christopher of the Havana), the saint is the name for the genovese navigator Cristobal Colon (Christopher Colombus), Habana is an old indian word meaning a savanah between two rivers the Almendares and the Cojimar. The old center is all of a UNESCO heritage site.

If you go by El Templete you will see an old Oak tree where the first religious Mass was held on the island on 1519 AD. There lies a bust to Christopher Colombus and 3 paintings by French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay.  It gain notoriety when the Spanish crown decided that the city will hold all shipment coming from the rest of the Americas to be sent in convoy to Spain this in 1561 AD. Finally in 1592 king Philip II declares it a city!

It fell to British rule in 1762 after a succesful attack by British ships and naval man, it was then exchange for Florida in 1763, and Havana came back to be Spanish for good. In 1774 the first census of the city is done with 170 000 inhabitants, and on 1796 the remains of Christopher Colombus arrives to be put in the Cathedral, later to be transfered to Spain as my leyend goes. In 1837 the first railroad is born from Havana to the town of Gûines, a first in the Spanish speaking world.  In 1863 the old city walls were destroyed so the city can enlarge into the suburbs being the first one, the Vedado. It became a free Republic on May 20 ,1902 under Republica de Cuba. After some not so good dictators, it fell into the worse in 1959 where still is under a communist dictatorship.

The longest river is Almendares for 50 kms (31 mi), and the name for an old baseball team, my familys favorite. The highest point is at tetas de Managua at 210 meters (693 ft). The bay of Havana is one of the biggest and best in the world but ,also,highly contaminated. The average temperature is 25°C or about 77°F. But near the airport it has been recorded as low as 4°C about 36°F in 2010. Today it has about 2,5 million inhabitants or about 20% of the island population.

Some of the places of interest to see are the followings : Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña or simply La Cabaña in the west side of the harbor; Capitolio Nacional, built in 1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA; Castillo del Morro, El Templete, Cemeterio Colon or Colombus Cementary ,the largest in the Americas; Plaza de la Revolucion ,old Plaza Jose Marti; University of Havana, founded in 1728 and one of the oldest in the Americas; Catedral de la Habana or Cathedral, Convento de San Francisco, Convento de Santa Clara, Palacio de Aldama, Estacion Central de Ferrocarril Or the railroad station, Castillo de Atares, Castillo del Principe, El Torron de Cojimar, Acuario or national aquarium of Havana at avenida 3ra; Museo de la Revolucion in the old Presidential palace ; Fabrica Partagàs, cigars of Cuba; go outside towards Cojimar at Vigia to the house /Museum of Ernest Hemingway, his old property; Walk on bulevard Prado, Manzana de Gomez, a whole city block building of stores, Cinema Yara the old radio city hall, Castillo de la Real Fuerza; Castillo San Salvador de la Punta; Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the home of the 2nd in line governor of old Cuba under Spanish rule; Gran Teatro; Teatro Amadeo Roldan; old Captain’s General building where the only throne room in the Americas is located, the site of the governor of Cuba in colonial times and today a museum, Chinatown, as the Chinese quarters.

The way for transport is complicated, and very saturated but its the travelers choice to mingle with the locals and feel ,see the way of life as it is. There are metrobuses lines such as this one with 17 lines, http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/51/Plano_rutas.jpg

For the real travelers to join the locals in inter city travel use the Astro buses from the plaza de la revolucion, where if pay in foreign currency you can get a preferential seat. You can also take the more tourist oriented via Azul line such as http://www.viazul.cu/asp/reserva/Default.aspx

Taxis are regulated  under Cubataxi, but if you want to go places, hire a local “colectivo” in private time to take you around. For hotels or eating places with the locals try the “Casas Particulares” private folks with official approval.

The places to eat best are again at the Casas Particulares that also offered restaurant service;then you have the old reliable like La Bodeguita del Medio, and Floridita Bar (the best bar in the world in 1957 by Esquire magazine); El Aljibe in Miramar, La Ferminia also in Miramar section,El Conejito in Vedado ,the old family hangout of rabbit dishes; Los Doce Aposteles in the Morro castle; La Divina Pastora overlooking the harbor, La Zaragozana ; El Potin, near prado and Linea, and Coppelia for ice creams are some of my family favorites.

Its a very friendly city that will have no problem finding help and very safe. Driving is not recommended for visitors unaware of the laws and bad road signs but if willing to the best is Havanautos company at the airport, the gas station pay in foreign currency are run under Cupet.

Some links for Havana and Cuba in general are  http://www.havanautos.com/HomeCars2.aspx    for car rental info

Cuban airlines Cubana de Aviacion is http://www.cubana.cu/home/ ; there are others such as AeroCaribbean and Gaviota here http://www.cubajet.com/flights_cuba.asp

places to book and info on Cuba are http://www.cubahotelbookings.com/default.asp?lID=1 , and the old reliable junky at http://www.cuba-junky.com/ , and netssa at http://www.netssa.com/

The Cuban tourist organisation is at http://www.cubatravel.cu/otros/index.php in Spanish. The official page in Canada n English and French, http://www.gocuba.ca/client/home/index.php?locale=en ; and the tourist board of Cuba in France ; http://www.cubatourisme.fr/

some pictorials of photos on Havana.

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January 21, 2011

Musée du Louvre, Museum of Louvre, Paris

One of the greatest and by many THE greatest museum in the world. Its a huge fortress that grew up from about 1190 AD by king Philippe Auguste occupying the south west side of the current Cour Carré. The treasures of France were kept here since 1317 AD  put together from the wealth of the orders of temples and hospital by king Charles V. The museum was given idea on about 1793 under the revolutionary government under the name of “Museum Centrale des Arts de la Republique”. it was later change to Museum Napoleon under the Empire before coming back to its current name.

It has about 160 000 square meters of space of which only about 60 000 sq mts is used for works open to the public. The idea has long been to expand the space and provide easier and more numerous access to the public. The annex of Lens, north of France as here http://www.louvrelens.fr/en/ and the ongoing project in Abu Dhabi as here http://www.agencefrancemuseums.fr/en/home/  is to go in that direction. The louvre is to the world !!!

One must know the museum is closed on Tuesdays, open every other day. Admission is 10€ general admission, 11€ for the Hall Napoleon and 14€ combined admission, there is 6€ for audioguides.  Open from 9h to 18h and on wednesdays and fridays open to 21h45 . Admission is free on the first Sunday of the month and on Bastille Day July 14. The best entrances are on the quai François Mitterrand, passage Richelieu, and the 99 rue de Rivoli to avoid as much as possible the crowds. The best days to visit are Mondays and Thursdays are these are full days of work in France. Weekends everybody is here, plus wednesdays afternoons and Fridays are rest period for many workers in France. Be early on opening time. The metro line 1 palais royale/musée du Louvre and Buses 21,48 ,and 72 are easy to take you here.  Plan ,plan ahead, read ,read ahead, its a huge place, on average visit of 3h15 but it really needs two days to see all well. Get an audioguide, get a map of the place, buy your ticket ahead of time, and settled on the areas you want to see first, narrow it down if your time is limited. The Sphinx, mona lisa(joconte), Napoleon III apartments, Venus, some of these need to be seen on your first trip. One of every two visitors are first timers. You can advance purchase tickets at many stores in Paris before arriving at the museum such as FNAC, Galeries Lafayette, Au Printemps,BHV, Virgin Megastore, Carrefour, Auchan ,Leclerc supermarkets, and online for US visitors at ticketweb, site here http://www.ticketweb.com/snl/Search.action?query=louvre

Before I go on, this is the official site of the museum in English version http://www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en

and this is the city of Paris tourist office take on the museum ,http://en.parisinfo.com/museum-monuments/99/musee-du-louvre

You have sections such as my favorite Egyptian antiquities, then Etruscan/Roman antiquities,Greek antiquities, Oriental antiquities, Oriental relating to the art of Islam, interior and exterior architectures marvels (especially the apartments to Napoleon III), Graphic Arts, First arts from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas, Object d’Arts from all over the world, Paintings of the masters as English, Spanish, Flemish, French, Italians, other Europeans, European sculpture,French sculpture,and Italian sculptures. All marvels too many to mention here.

You have guided tours as well as workshops to participate on, the official site will tell you.  A wonderful auditorium for concerts, expositions, exhibits, and movies showcasing the arts in all its form as well as temporary exhibits covering many subjects.  Next door you have the wonderful jardin des Tuileries with history attached to it as it was the palace of Tuileries (made for Catherine de Medicis) right by the carrousel that was damaged by the communards in 1871, put to fire, and finally razed by the city in 1882. Now private group is trying to rebuild it again.

An splendid boutique store for your shopping even online here http://www.boutiquesdemusees.fr/en/boutique/museum/musee-du-louvre.  You have a luggage bags and coats valet service at  underneath the Pyramide (Hall Napoleon) and the porte des Lions from 9h to 18h45 and to 21h45 on late night openings. Porte des Lions are to be gotten back by 17h45.  You have several choices for snacking and eating ,drinking inside the complex such as Paul,Comptoir du Louvre, Richelieu, and Grand Louvre, all detail in English here http://eliancemusees.com/uk.html 

In addition to the fame Cafe Renard  in the jardin des tuileries and Cafe Marly  http://www.caferenard.fr/ 

You will have a wonderful time at a wonderful place of Paris and the world. Even if your directions are not into arts, this place will catch up with you. Come on in, be part of Paris,and the world. Cheers

January 20, 2011

Some news from France IX

Well the day is over for me of work that is. Its beginning to feel cold again, temps are now at 5°C but expected to be 1°C tomorrow , however, the alert for snow is off, so now its sunny, go figure with this Meteo France weather forecast. The best way is to come prepare and enjoy the stay no matter what. One sure site to keep track of weather is www.wunderground.com

If you want to keep track of France while still at home or away try the webcams nowdays there are numerous showing from cities to beaches, mountains etc. My favorites are from my area of course, Paris/Versailles. You can see them from the Paris tourist office click on the frames in the big map to pinpoint a specific monument,  http://www.parisinfo.com/musees-monuments-paris/webcam-paris-vu-du-ciel/

SNCF the French rail company conglomerate has reported a 22,4% increase in revenue in 2010 even with the strikes (and they still keep raising the prices Lol!! including a 2-3% raise on TGV lines).

My twins boys competed first in a beyblade tournament at the Grand Recre store 14 rue d’Alésia, near Montparnasse station with competitors from all the region of Paris Ile de France. Gathering honorable mention awards. The French site for Beybladers is here http://www.beybladefrance.com/

Last week they participated with their school in a basketball tournament in Val d’oise region 95 where one took gold  medal and the other silver medal in the tournament of various teams from the area.  This is their private school from the 18-19C ad that once house the doctor of Napoleon III.

chateau du haut bel air

Chateau du Haut Bel Air, now my twins school .

library building now where France and USA friendship treaty

Here in 1783 France recognise the new nation of the USA

 

marble plaque commemorating France to USA 1783
marble plaque commemorating France to USA 1783
We can walk this old section of Versailles and enjoy many things not in the Chateau itself, as I have often told friends.
February 23-24 at the perfum museum or Osmothéque, there will be sensing classes for children under 13 to show them how to distinguish perfums Lol! You are in that kind of land ::)  36 Rue Parc de Clagny, site in French http://www.osmotheque.fr/application?sv=osmotheque&rq=sao_home
Some of the things going on in my town favorite of Versailles are:
In the salle et serment of the jeu de paume in Versailles running until April 30th, you have a conference visit for 8€ at 1 rue du jeu de paume. Historical building. Tel +33 01 39 24 88 88 the Versailles tourist office.
Chateau de Versailles salles/rooms  d’Afrique et de Crimée showcasing the works instruments and works of art of the old royal collections. Running now to February 11 2011. It is the first time these collections are put together to the general public. Admission is 15€ .contact tel +33 01 30 83 78 00 
William Vance the BD designer of cartoons will be at the Hotel de Ville or mayors office 4 ave de Paris from Jan 29 to Feb 23. Free admission,contact +33 01 30 97 85 17. Exposition of his work.
For the first time in four cities in France (Paris, Toulouse,Lyon, and Versailles) the Chinese movie festival. Cinema Cyrano ,7, Rue Rameau. From January 29th.  http://www.cinesoco.com/cyrano/ 
my local in town cinema ! 
Conference by Georges Poissons, (has the distinction of conservator General of French Heritage) on the epic Saint Simon,Louis de Rouvroy, Duke of Saint Simon (1675-1755), he was in the court of king Louis XIV and told of many stories of the court behaviors and relationships that allow one today to have some idea of how life was then. Interesting! At Hotel de Ville, salle Montgolfier,  4 ave de Paris, January 25 18h and admission 8€
Many events at the now refurbished and beautiful again Opéra Royale at Chateau de Versailles, many activities to come, here in French so when in town. http://www.chateauversaillesspectacles.fr/meta_spectacle.php?metaspe=2   where you can buy tickets.Or  before arriving at any FNAC store here  http://www.fnactickets.com/recherche/rechercheAjax.do?codsal=OPRO3&sortBy=meilleursvisites_down#a1295541936640
Treasures of book covers from the times of the court at Versailles, an exposition at the library, Bibliothéque Centrale, 5 rue de l’Indépendance Américaine, until Jan 29 ,f ree admission, Contact tel +33 01 39 07 13 20. Site in FRench of Versailles libraries,  http://www.bibliotheques.versailles.fr/Statique/pages/presentation-reseau/sites/centrale.htm  . Here  in 1783 ,France recognise the existance of the new U.S.A. in the presence of Benjamin Franklin and reps of the king Louis XVI. 
Moving along to Paris, the Centre Pompidou is showcasing for the first time an exposition on feminist fashion all work done by women until February 21, info in English below link
Salon du Livre/Book fair of Paris at the porte de Versailles expo center, from March 18 -21 2011.  An univere of books, reading, and new ways of enjoying the literature. A major event in Paris. See info in English
The Spring of Poetry/ Le printemps des Poétes will be coming again to all of France, in Paris will be at 7 rue de Tagé, 75013 the main office and it will be from March 7-21 2011. the national webpage is in French here http://www.printempsdespoetes.com/ and the pdf file on contact info is here http://www.printempsdespoetes.com/file_base/pjs/PJ764_Communique-PdP2011-logo.pdf
Have a great time can can land ::)
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