Archive for February 21st, 2011

February 21, 2011

Some news from France XX

Well the week started well, as usual rain and rain grey and grey humid and humid blah blah blah. We should continue like this until the end of February; with mostly damp rainy days and some clouds coming out, temps from 0°C  the 23 Feb to 12°C the 25 Feb. So be prepared or be squared ::)

Some statistical curiosities that were brought to my attention are about the French; we are the most pessimistic for 2011 with 61% on the economic front; we eat pizzas the most with about 10 kgs per person more than double the Italian and just behind the Americans with 13kg in the world; the most mobile students in Europe with 30 000 Erasmus student in 2009; we have the most dirty restrooms/toilettes  in Europe; the most savers in Europe with 16,2% ratio and the least to use credit; 43% are not happy with a capitalist system, preferring a more equitable model; we spent the most time on the table to eat with 130 minutes tops in the world, and sleep the longest 8H; we are the best build for love with an average penis of 16 cm in the world; we work less but are more productive with generation of 25,10 USD GDP while the Americans come at 24,60 USD!; and 38 days of vacation we are tops in the world baby! now dont worry this is just came out in MSN ::)

The ICAA or International Civil Aviation Authority has critized the US government idea to include in their budget a tax of 5,50 USD for every Canadian visitor! In the meantime the waves of freedom and democracy continues in Northern Africa and the Middle East, bravo for the people; democracy is good for everybody.

Opéra Garnier ,Paris ,had one of its best year ever with a 94% occupancy rate for its events in 2010 according to Le Figaro newspaper. Looking forward to 2014 , the French President is working to open a Maison de l’histoire de France, sort like a museum with loans from about other 14 institutions, such as  Les Eyzies, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Pau, Cluny, Écouen, la Malmaison, Compiègne, Fontainebleau , and  Musée des plans et reliefs.Originally it will be house in the current Archieve Nationale that I eluded in one of my post will be shortly transfer out of the city of Paris. Others like the Memorial Caen will join later on too. Stay tune….

The French are preparing to build a sort of the pentagon in the USA in Paris, to regroup the 15 sites now housing about 9300 federal defense employees in France. it will be the biggest construction project of the decade with 8,5 hectares ( 21 acres). This will be done in the Balard site in the 15 arrondissement de Paris,south of the city;metro line 8 and tramway T3 will get you there if you dare.

the Chateau de Versailles will have an hommage to Venice this summer 2011 under the title «Venise Vivaldi Versailles».and it will be with gondolas and all, keep an eye on the castle webpage for updates.

The top 30 French actors better paid in 2010 are as follow according to Le Figaro, in Euros

1Marion Cotillard, 2,35 M,2Jean Dujardin 2,3 M, 3Kad Merad 2,25M, 4 Romain Duris  2, 04M,5Gérard Depardieu 2 M 6Franck Dubosc 1,74 M,7Michael Youn 1,7 M,8Benoit Poelvoorde 1,6M,9Clovis Cornillac 1,4 M,10Vanessa Paradis 1,3 M,11 Gilles Lellouche 1,25M,12Roshdy Zem 1,2M,13Audrey Tautou 1,125 M,14 Jean Reno 1,1 M, 15Mathilde Seigner 1 M, 16Lambert Wilson 999.000 ,17José Garcia 995.000,18Fabrice Lucchini 990.000,19Nathalie Baye 900.000,20Benoit Magimel 890.000,21François Cluzet  780.000, 22 Sophie Marceau 765.000, 23 Catherine Frot  700.000, 24 Albert Dupontel 650.000 ,25Diane Kruger  572.000 ,26Isabelle Huppert 550 000, 27 – Kristin Scott Thomas and Catherine Deneuve 500.000 ,28Sylvie Testud 490.000, 29Karin Viard 425.000 ,30Cécile de France 378.000.

Now obviously I do not rent apartments/hotels etc in the Paris region because I live here for the last 8 years, and before that stay with family for many years going back to 1990,so my experiences have been on location, word of mouth of the expat community in Paris, and feedback from other relatives too large to house or friends too numerous that have come over. These are the reliable ones in my opinion over the years: updated 2011.  , , , , ,  , , , , (this one I know is great because use to rent in the south and Spain) . There are many others including an English language magazine distributed all over Paris that has listings too,  It should give you a good start, and keep you good.

In addition for those on the hotel trail, there are very good French chains that I use for many years such as ACCOR, and Louvre. I will give out those webpages here, ; ; ; ; ;  ; never gone wrong with any of these properties.

Enjoy France, its a movable feast in its entirety ::)

February 21, 2011

Madrid, Puerta del Sol y Cibeles

Let finish our walk thru the plazas of Madrid , the wonderful exhuberant feeling of been with history, old but nice ,and modern at the same time. The places that tick and tickle your fancy when visiting any place. Madrid is a mouthful in itself.

I like to talk about the center of it all, the historical center at Puerta del Sol. Every new years celebration its marked here like a god,and goddess , when Christmas comes it is sublime, and any other time is wonderfully refreshing. Puerta del Sol, just the name it means Madrid, the “gateway to the sun”. The square or plaza marks the eastern entrance to the city, and in the 19C was turn into what it is today. The square is shape like a half moon,along you see the big brick building that was the city’s post office built in the 1760’s (Casa de Correos), and in 1847 became the HQ of the Ministry of the Interior or security police. In 1866 a clocktower was added, that still mark the time for the traditional 12 grapes at New Years’ time! It is today part of the regional government buildings. You have the marker for kilometer zero where all distances in Spain are measure. You should look for the Madroño, the symbol of Madrid, the big strawberry tree with the bear leaning on it. Outside you have the equestrian statue of king Carlos III done in 1994!  In june 2009 a new transport hub was finished underground making it the biggest in the world with 28 meters deep, 207 meters long and 20 meters wide. Its lobby area has 7500 m². The entrance is like an igloo given it a very modern outlook.   You reach here on metro lines 1,2,3 and cercanias or suburbian trains C3 and C4 .

We go over along Gran Via and Calle de Alcala towards the Plaza de Cibeles, where the fountain of Cibeles is located. Walking this arteries is like living well in Madrid, the road street of Gran Via done in 1910 has the heart and soul of Madrid. Take a look at the Edificio Metropolis,and the Telefonica building done in 1929 and the first skyscraper in the city. All this before you reach Cibeles. One of the most beautiful and for me of greater meaning as it is here that the famous Real Madrid FC celebrates its victories with the fans, and celebrate it has done more than any other team in Europe or the World pershaps.  The nights coming over to enjoy in the celebration still is a great feeling to me. Cibeles or Cybil is the greco-roman goddess of nature, she is shown seating in ther chariot drawn by a pair of lions built in 1777-1782.  Here at its western side begins calle Alcala, my street where I lived four years.

Enjoy the walks there are sublime,and will bring you closer to the city and its people, the Madrileños are very social, friendly and party hardy ::)


February 21, 2011

Madrid, other plazas and fountains

In my time in Madrid and many visits afterward, one of my best time was walking, eating ,and having a great time around its many plazas and fountains. It is best to walk, and Madrid is heaven with a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday of your life. I will try to bring some of this magic back in telling you about some of my favorites.

The first that comes to mind is Plaza Canovas del Castillo and its Fuente de Neptuno (fountain of neptune). It is in the centro Cortes district very close to the Prado museum, best to get there is the metro Banco de España line 2.  The fountain was done under king Carlos III that try to modernise the area, and was built looking towards Cibeles.  The fountain of Neptune is done on a carriage in the form of a conch thrown by seahorses;you can see some dolphins around it. It was begun in 1777  and finish in 1786.

My other favorite is a bit off the tourist trail but wonderful area of Madrid I spent many time around here. The Plaza de Castilla and its KIO towers are modern and chic. It is along the Castellana in the district of Chamartin, neighborhood of Castilla, north side of Madrid.  The KIO towers are incline 15% degrees and with 114 meters high each (376 ft) . Around the plaza you will see the obelisk of Calatrava itself 92 meters high (304 ft) ,and 6 meters in diameter (19.8 ft).  the monument of Calvo Sotelo, a huge sculpture of the Spanish jurist and politician, built in 1959 in memory of the assassination that spark the Spanish civil war. The area is one of the main bus terminals in Madrid, above ground many local buses have a stop here, and underground you have buses to nearby cities and inter province service. You reach it on metro Plaza de Castilla ,lines 1,9,10.

The emblematic Plaza de Colon or Columbus plaza, is by paseo de la Castellana, best reach on metro Colon, line 4. It is dedicated to Christopher Colombus (Cristobal Colon) with a spire tower in neo-gothic style built in 1885 with Colombus on top. The highlights of his discoveries are shown at the base. Near the tower you have  a more modern monument of four concrete shape squares showing quotations about Colombus’s journeys. It is my favorite spot for my banking needs when in Madrid at nearby Barclays branch. Around the plaza you have on the south side a palace housing the National Library and the Archeological museum. It has lots of traffic around it but underground there is a cultural center or Centro Cultural de la Villa de Madrid with art’s center, exhibition halls,lectue rooms,theater,and a café.  You have underground too the terminal for the bus that runs to the airport Barajas.

Next for me is the Plaza de España or Spain,it is another busy intersection and a popular meeting place. The plaza slopes down to the Palacio Real or royal palace, and the Sabatini gardens. It was once the site of military barracks in the 19C, and an execution spot during the war of independance made famous by paintings by Goya. On the northern side you have the Edificio de España built in 1948 and the Torre de Madrid built in 1957 which for a while were the tallest buildings in the world. However, the most attractive part is the center occupied by a massive obelisk built in 1928 ,in front there is a statue of Cervantes and below his creation Don Quijote riding his horse Rocinante with Sancho Panza riding alongside in his donkey,on the left you see Dulcinea, the sweetheart of Don Quijote. The story in stone before your eyes ! You get here on metro Plaza de España lines 2,3,10.

The Plaza de Oriente, in the historic center of Madrid, trace it in 1842. You have around you the Palacio Real or royal palace, the Teatro Real, or royal theater (also known as teatro de la opera built in 1850) ,and the statue of king Felipe IV(b. 1634-1640) , and design with the help of Galileo so the horse feet remain off the ground! ,surrounded by a garden. Its northern face is adjacent to the Real Monasterio de Encarnation (royal monastery of the incarnation). Surrounding the plaza you have about 20 sculpture bust of Spanish kings from medieval times built from 1750-1753. Near the street Calle San Quintin, you have the gardens of Cabo Noval, corporal Noval gardens done in 1912. Near Calle de Bailen or street Bailen  and Calle de Vergara you go down a lowering hill to the Calle de Lepanto that gives name to the Jardines de Lepanto or Lepanto gardens with a statue to Captain Angel Melgar built in 1911 and with opening ceremonies under king Alfonso XIII. You can even park your car in the parking at the plaza or walk in to see an archeological find,the wall from the time of the reconquest of Madrid by the king of Castile Alfonso VI!  You reach the plaza on metro Opera line 2,5, and train line R from Principe Pio.

Keeping the old in mind I introduce the Plaza Mayor, it was finished in 1619 AD. It is a splendid rentangular square all with balconies, and pinnacles, deco windows, and steep slate roofs; indeed very Castilian! Many things happenned in the Plaza, the first major one was the beatification of the patron saint of the city, St Isidore (San Isidro) in 1621. Same year execution of Rodrigo Calderon, secretary to king Felipe II. The big feast celebration was the arrival from Italy of king Carlos III in 1760. It has an equetrian statue of king Felipe III in the middle done in 1616.  You have live Madrid, la movida from here as the plaza is line up with the best night action in Madrid. You go into Calle Toledo and reach the flea market, El Rastro. And under the Arcos de Cuchilleros you reach Calle de Cuchilleros with very nice restos there favorites of mine for years and years . You reach here on metro Sol lines 1,2,3.

Last on my tour but not least is the Plaza de la Villa, one of the most happening plazas in Madrid. The oldest building surrounding it is the Torre de Lujanes or tower of Lujanes from early 15C, king François I of France was held prisioner here after the defeat of the battle of Pavia in 1525. then ,you have the Casa de los Cisneros built in 1537 for the nephew of Cardinal Cisneros founder of the University of Alcala de Henares. The ayuntamiento or city hall built from the 1640’s. In the middle there is a statue of the Marquis of Santa Cruz from 1888. You reach here on metro Sol lines 1,2,3 or Opera lines 2,5,train R.

Hope it brings you out into the streets of Madrid, the best way to enjoy the friendly city,and to see these historical marvels of today.


%d bloggers like this: