Archive for March, 2011

March 30, 2011

Remembering Villanua, Spain

I have travelled very extensively in Europe, from the times where there was no internet and certainly not a desire to take pictures. Actually , I started collecting post cards (have  still from 76 countries and about 3525!) as the pictures look better than mine lol!

Over the years I realised photography was great,and came back to it with the advent of the internet, and the travel forums. I have pull two pictures from those sleepy but beautiful towns along my routes. This post is about one of such towns as it bring back nice memories.

The town of Villanua, is in the province of Huesca, autonomous region of Aragon, northern Spain; at the foof of the peak Collarada with 2886 meters ( 9524 ft). It is not far from Jaca, and the ski stations of Candanchu and Astun with only 12 kms from the frontier with France by the new tunnel of Somport. I say new tunnel because before in the old days I used to cross by here with a VW golf car climbing on second gear all these magnificent mountains in the Pyréenes.

The road taken was the N134 from France at Oloron St Marie, once crossing into Spain either by Puerto de Somport (old road) or Tunnel de Somport you reach the road N330 that takes you into Villanua. A good road route planner for all of Spain is the Repsol gas stations , similar to Michelin, webpage here http://www.repsol.com/es_en/motor/default.aspx . The bus company in the area is Alosa with webpage here http://www.alosa.es/ and the train for Spain is www.Renfe.es

The tourist webpage for the valley of Aragon is here http://www.valledelaragon.com/ , and the city mayor’s office has a page on tourism with hotels and restos webpage on that here in Spanish http://www.villanua.net/index/turismo/guia

Some of the webpage to help the more in time visitor are the Somport, with many skiing amenities here http://www.lesomport.com/index-es.htm . The ski station at Candanchu webpage http://www.candanchu.com/ , and one at Astun webpage here http://www.astun.com/

In addition to skiing, the area offers great caves and walk trails in the mountains. Some of the better known caves are Gûixas, Fuente del Candado, Way of Canfranc, new cave or Esjamundo, and Venero. You can hook up with these people, Sargantana, have the webpage in contact page here http://www.sargantana.info/contacto.htm

It is ,also, a way to the Camino de Santiago or the way to Santiago de Compostela, many routes pass by here all into the Camino Aragonés, the webpage with info is here http://jacobeo.aragon.es/flash/principal_flash.html

I have stopped at the mountain hotel Faus Hutte, Carretera de Francia, Villanua, Huelva now call hotel LaCasa but a very charming place; webpage http://www.hotellacasa-faus-hutte.com/hotel-overview.html We ate right there even waking up the cook, so it became I home as we try to stop there always on our road trips into Spain that have been solo shot from Paris to Madrid on several times over the years.

If you love the outdoors and think mountain, this is the right spot for you and prices are better than in France. Hoping that it brings you nice memories too. Cheers.

March 30, 2011

Monfort l’Amaury an old county of France

This is a beautiful town in my department of Yvelines no 78,west of Paris. There is so much to see just in my area, it will take years to see it all,not to mention France. The count of Monfort, the fist one was name Amaury so the name of Montfort l’Amaury.

This is an old town even if most in France are old , this is old ! It was king Robert II who had built the castle here in 996AD on the hill of Montfort. It was the domain of the counts of Monfort since the 11C.  It was part of Brittany from 1292AD, and came back to the kingdom of France in 1547 when Brittany came in to France.  So there is my history bit, just a bit.

Many roads take you here all departamental ,this is deep France country!   The N12 direction Thoiry, and the D13 direction Maurepas  as well as the N10 direction Chevreuse are the ones I take. From Paris the best way is to get out at porte de Chatillon in the boulevard peripherique and take the A86 direction Versailles that will link with the N12 direction Dreux; get off at the D76 dir Mére continue until Montfort l’Amaury. You can try michelin but will give you a expressway route of more time.  I am tired of writing to them for the corrections…

The train station serve both Mére and Montfort l’Amaury from Paris Montparnasse ,Transilien is the webpage for the local train schedules here  http://www.transilien.com/web/site/lang/en . By bus from nearby communities you can take the Hourtoule line 5 at webpage http://www.cars-hourtoule.fr/zf/horaires/ligne/num/5 ,and Company Veolia Transport Rambouillet on lines 1,9,15,and 19 at webpage http://www.idf.veolia-transport.fr/reseau-bus-veolia_transport_rambouillet/ , and company Veolia Transport Houdan on lines  2, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 13 at webpage http://www.idf.veolia-transport.fr/reseau-bus-veolia_transport_houdan/

Things to see here are the Castle ,Château-fort de Montfort ,built in the 11C by Simon 1er de Montfort on a hill 185 meters high ( 611 ft) with a view over Chartres to Beauvais at the entrance of the forest, and destroyed during the 100 years war and only the ruins  of the donjon/tower exist today call the tower or Tour Anne de Bretagne.  Church or Eglise St Pierre,old church  built in 1050AD  of  huge size for a small town ,ordered built a new by Anne de Bretagne by 1491AD it has wonderful stained glass that you can at its official webpage http://www.st-pierre-montfort-l-amaury.fr/   .A cementary of the  15C and 16C surrounded by galeries looking like a cloister; some of the personalities resting here are Duchesse de Chârost, Comte de la Boïssière-Chambors, Comte de Dion, Céleste Albaret (governess house maid of Marcel Proust), Germaine Beaumont, Danny Robin, and Georges Marchal .  The house now museum of Maurice Ravel (music composer creator of Bolero )  call the  Belvédère, a mansion from the 20C at the foot of the ruins of the donjon/tower looking down on the town. Maurice Ravel lived here from 1921 to his death in 1937. Admission is 7.30€ adults see the special webpage here http://www.lesjourneesravel.com/  . And the Chateau de Groussay at rue de Versailles just outside of town,built in 1820 but made as sumptuous as today from 1938. It is typically Chinese inspired portraits and fabrications with sculptures by the architect of Cuban origin Emilio Terry and painting inside by Alexandre Serebriakoff. It has about 30 vases all over a nice garden, with stables, and it is still a private property but open to the public, admission is 15€ castle and gardens ;webpage http://www.chateaudegroussay.com/. In the town there is an old house where Cuban/French teacher Jose Maria de Heredia lived for a while ,it is at Rue de la Môitiére just off Place Robert Brault.

After seeing the above, the best way is to walk its quaint medieval streets, it has the feel of being in another era,and it is just wonderful. The walk up towards the Castle and the tower has wonderful views over the city, and it is just superb.  The walk along the ramparts of the 11C its great all along a garden and looking up at the city above it. Again lodging are plentyful in small properties that you can look at the tourist office, I have no experience here as it is my backyard! However , passing by and seeing the history with it, the hotel Saint Laurent looks wonderful the webpage is here http://www.hotelsaint-laurent.com/  For eating the marvelous street Rue Saint Laurent just in front of the church St Pierre at place de la Liberation ; great at Bistrot des Tours,great bruschettas at 3 place de la Liberation, webpage http://www.bistrotdestours.com/ , and La Place,7 place de la Liberation for great grills ,no web, Tél. +33 01 34 86 01 30 .

Try to take home or eat on site along the donjon park the chocolates of Chocolatiers Le Show Colha , 48 rue de Paris, a chocolate box completely cover in chocolate with small pieces of chocolate inside, life a gift box! webpage http://www.le-show-colha-78.com/ 

The tourist office is on the city of Montfort l’Amaury webpage in French, http://www.ville-montfort-l-amaury.fr/Maison-du-Tourisme-et-du-Patrimoine ,you can contact the tourist office for the Yvelines dept at http://www.tourisme.yvelines.fr/en.html or the Ile de France region tourist webpage at http://www.nouveau-paris-ile-de-france.fr/

Have a great deep Yvelines trip and still not far from Versailles!

March 30, 2011

Some news from France XXXII

Well the rain came back last night and today is back to sunny and cloudy periods, temps are seasonal spring so nice, the perfect time to visit France !

The Woody Allen New Orleans Jazz band is coming with the cineaste in tow. It will be April 2ne at the Grand Rex 75002, webpage http://www.legrandrex.com/

The new hotel Shangri-la is making its sounds around Paris already with a grand restaurant inside, L’Abeille or the Bees.It will be specialise in French cuisine with seafood at its main best. I did not eat but was there yesterday and the service and staff are very pros and friendly, something to keep in mind. Webpage http://www.shangri-la.com/fr/property/paris/shangrila/dining/restaurant/restaurantlabeille

And plenty of culinary action to help support the people of Japan in their disasters, many around Paris but per Le Figaro these are tops, Bistrot Paul-Bert , 18, rue Paul-Bert (75011) special dinner on April 4 all proceeds to Japanese Red Cross.  The Bar Lindbergh at the Hotel Radisson Blu ,16, bd Haussmann, (75009) will have a drink cocktail name Hope or (yuzu,jasmin and rose)  with 60% of sale price going to the Japan Red Cross, the drink cost 10€ all during the month of April. Until April 9 the Cafe de la Paix , Place de l’Opéra, (75009) will give for each breakfast buffet ordered 5€  to the Embassy of Japan who is charge of giving aid. Finally many restaurants  like the Pére Fouettard (75001), Chez Eux (75007), Flottes (75001),L’Evasion (75008…)  are mobilising on the side of Chef Hisayuki Takeuchi of the Maison Kaiseki, 7 rue André-Lefebvre (75015)  to collect funds for the victims. 

For relaxation in Paris ,La Voie du tai-chi   will have it Vice Champion of Europe give courses at al levels in the Jardin du Luxembourg, webpage http://www.lavoiedutaichi.fr/ . By the blvd de la Villette the Centre Génération Tao  offers courses see webpage http://www.centre-tao-paris.com/ , by rue St Jacques on the 5th the Rasa Yoga Rive Gauche  offers courses as well with webpage http://www.rasa-yogarivegauche.com/

If you are stress in Paris what? well some do, Be Relax offers relaxation exercises and massages with English speaking personnel ,webpage http://www.berelax.com/En/ , and for help carrying those small children no need to break your back ,try Familib with webpage http://www.location-de-poussette.fr/

If you want a day to relax with a great view of Paris come to the parc des Buttes-Chaumont (75019) was around there last week and it is superb. The view with a pause at Rosa Bonheur2, allée de la Cascade, webpage at http://www.rosabonheur.fr/ , the climb to the Temple de la Sibylle . The view over Paris is romantically gorgeous at the top of the île du Belvédère, however be prepare in summer heat to have a large crowd there.

A place for arts, see the  Monet-Rodin duo while walking the marvelous gardens of the Musée Rodin ,the go inside to see the manuscripts, documents, and portraits/busts that associate these two great men, the painter and the sculptor friends.Musée Rodin, 79, rue de Varenne (75007). Until May 1 2011.  http://www.musee-rodin.fr/

Something dear to me the price of real estate is going up and up in France, and especially on the Paris region. The average rental is 17,8€ per sq meter in ile de France Paris region. while only 10,30€ in Aquitaine, and 12,30€ in the cote d’azur. The price of buying property is over the roof in Paris with the 6éme at 11120€ per sq meter, 4éme 10500€, 5éme 9530€, 1éme 9410€ ,8éme 9030€, and my beloved 16éme only at 8430€ per sq meter. A rise of 21% from 2009-2010. These couple with a slight rise in the fees of Notaires or notary public that here handle the real estate transaction of from 0 to 6500€ 4%, 6500-17000€ 1,65%, 17000-60000€ 1,10%, and over 60000€ 0,825%. 

France tied Croatia in a friendly soccer/football match yesterday, and Spain beat Lithuania for the European Championshiop qualifier 1X3 in Kaunas. Real Madrid beat Valencia in the European basketball championship quarter finals, so its ahead 2 games to 1.

Ok last for sure, I will be in Fontainebleau this coming thursday ,work details but wife is not working so we will be having our day there in her native soil neighborhood. Cheers

March 29, 2011

Maintenon, its Madame de Maintenon

Travelling along the French roads you never stop amazing yourself of the beauty of the country and its exhaustive treasures. Passing by Maintenon is no exception with its fabulous Chateau de Maintenon, where a certain madame de Maintenon made her marks in French history.

The city of Maintenon is located in the department of Eure et Loir, dept No 28, region of Centre. However its just about an hour from me by car along  either roads D983 and D906, parking is very easy either in front of castle with parking meter or free just on the side of the castle past the river on rue Thiers for free!!! . Along road D906 I did stop by at the town of Epernon to see its wonderful pressoirs.  You are best to leave Paris on the A13 autoroute de Normandie to exit 11 at Mantes La Jolie, and continue on direction Nogent le roi /Maintenon. Best way to come here is by car of course.  It has a train station on the line Paris Montparnasse -Chartres-Le Mans with about two trains per day,and the station is about a km on foot from city center, webpage here http://www.ter-sncf.com/regions/centre/fr/default.aspx  .  The buses can be taken from Rambouillet on lines 89 ,and from Chartres on lines 12 and 152. All on the bus company Transbeauce with webpage here http://www.transbeauce.fr/

The city of Maintenon was first mention in about 1123AD  and was added to the dukedom of Epernon, and after the French revolution to the canton of Chartres where it is still today attached as its administrative center.  The things to see are the magnificent castle and aqueduct ruins.  Epernon was heard since 1024AD and was part of the king Henri III in 1581 and eventually it passes to the Marshal Noailles. The things to see here are the Cellier, known as Les Pressoirs from the 12C. You can use the same train line as Maintenon and the same bus company above.

The Chateau de Maintenon, is a jewel that everyone should try to see as you will be able to tell by the pictures I took of it.  Its construction dates from the 12C to the 17C, belonging to the Lords of Maintenon until the 16C when they had to sell it. It was purchase by the intendant of king Louis XII who enriched it and expanded it. In 1674 Françoise d’Aubigné widow of Scarron, the future Madame de Maintenon, purchased the castle. Thanks to the financial support of king Louis XIV with the hope of retiring one day here she makes it her jewel; these renovations were linked to the aqueduct just behind it and the visits by the King Louis XIV. In 1669 she was name the guardian of all illegimates children of the king under the service of Madame de Montespan, the favorite of king Louis XIV, when the children were legally recognised by the king in 1673 she entered the court at Versailles, she raise and educate the children and becomes very close to the king.  In 1683 after the death of the queen Maria Theresa, she secretly marries king Louis XIV. She never returned to the castle after 1688.  In 1715 when the king dies she retires to the Maison Royale or royal house at Saint Cyr a pension for young girls of nobility and poor that she had started in 1685 ,there she died in 1719 at the age of 84! Then,  it goes by heritage to the descendants niece in 1698, and by marriage to the family Noailles, the current owner is Mr and Mrs Raindre(descendant of the Noailles) who in 1983 bequest the castle to the Maintenon Foundation for upkeep. In 2005 in turn it passes to the regional governement council who maintains the castle as of today.

The visit nowdays is done in the reverse order as there is construction in the front of the castle. In no way missing anything for the visit. Normally you will enter by the escalier d’Honneur after crossing a small moat, continue on the bedrooms of Madame de Maintenon, follow by the appartements of the Marshal Noailles, there is a nice piéce de Saxe, and salon Chinois or Chinese room, to the Kings room , and the passages des boiseries or passages with wood decorations; to the Grand Salon or big hall room, the billiard or pool table room, the bibliothéque or library, and the beautiful galerie or gallery and descend the Cénotaphe or small room before heading out again. The gardens are out and in by the passage des boiseries section or by going into the main courtyard behind the main entrance. From the gardens there is a beautiful view of the Aqueduct folly of king Louis XIV.

The gardens were done by fame gardener of the king Le Notre as he got his degree at the Tuileries in 1637 and from his father also a gardener the right to be in charge of the gardens of the king from 1643. The king Louis XIV sends him in 1676 to do Maintenon. There using the backdrop of the Aqueduct and the river Eure while creating several canals and about 30 small bridges , he creates a masterpiece that was not gone unnoticed by the king who made him a noble in 1681.

The Aqueduct de Maintenon is directly link to the parc and gardens of the Chateau de Versailles. The Versailles needed water,and Maintenon had plenty. The king did not want it the water to stop at Versailles, so he makes built the machine de Marly but it was not enough. The geometres of the king led by La Hire, discover the waters of the river Eure can be redirect by gravitation to Versailles, and the king wanted a work that will surpass those of the Romans! So in 1685 work begins with Vauban and La Hire. The aqueduct should go from Pontgouin to Versailles or about 80 kms (50 miles). The design was inspired by the pont du Gard and led by architect Blondel. AFter the war of the league of Ausbourg that empty the funds of the king by 1695,and work stopped. It remain 29 kms to complete (18 miles). The king Louis XIV gives as a gift to Madame de Maintenon. And the aqueduct is still there see the pictures.

While stopping by nearby Epernon, we see the Pressoirs (see photo) were an old cellar from the 12C  when the vinyards were numerous here, it was the storage for the Prieure de Saint Thomas that the religious order kept their wines.  It is now use for cultural activities of the city, when it can be seen ,otherwise by pushing a button at the door the lights comes on and you can see inside from a glass window the place is vaulted and huge, magnificent sight.

The webpage for the Chateau de Maintenon, http://www.chateaudemaintenon.fr/  . Tourism webpage for the dept 28 Eure et Loir at http://www.tourisme28.com/index.php  . The city of Epernon tourist page , http://www.ville-epernon.fr/-Tourisme-.html , and the city of Maintenon tourist page http://www.mairie-maintenon.fr/idx3int.htm see bottom of page in French.

There is plenty of lodging typical of the area in quaint homes of old, however, it is so close to me have had no need to book any. The tourist office can help here. For eating we have try with good friendly local service, generous portions and nice price the Brasserie Saint Denis across from the Chateau de Maintenon.5 Place Aristides Briand, no web tel +33 02 37 23 00 76, and in Epernon, Crêperie du Roi Henry 6, rue Drouet, no web, Tél +33 02 37 83 51 18. Again the choices are nice in both towns with plenty of real genuine country French cooking. Enjoy it !!

March 28, 2011

La Villette ,Paris 19éme , coming back in style

In my rumblings thru Paris something I never will get tire of doing, I came back to the 19th, this area was the passing of many by me as it was my getaway to see my girlfriend now wife outside Paris on the old N3 now D603 road direction Meaux.

The passing by the Rotonda de la Villette was always inspirings, even thus the area for many years was left a bit behind shal we say… Well I was told it has come back and I went back out there to walks its Crimée and Jaurés etc streets and feel it again, and I am happy to tell you it has come back indeed.

This is the mayor’s office webpage for the 19 arrondissement de Paris , http://www.mairie19.paris.fr/mairie19/jsp/site/Portal.jsp

It covers the northeast quadrant of Paris bordering the boulevard periphérique, the first mention of La Villette goes back to 1198AD, and the area was like many annexed to Paris proper in 1860.  It is divided into four quartiers or neighborhood such as La Villette, Pont de Flanders, Amérique, and Combat.

Things to see here well the main one for me is the Cite de la Science et de l’Industrie with plenty of activities from the cultural to scientific to music events ,webpage http://www.cite-sciences.fr/en/cite-des-sciences . The Parc de la Villette is the biggest park in Paris done in 1867  covering 55 hectares ( 135.85 acres), it has a webpage in French at http://www.villette.com/ ; however, will tell you what you find here, its very nice complex ,there are the Grande Halle de la Villette, metal structures built in 1865-1867, it was the site of one of the biggest slaugherhouses in Paris and today it serve for cultural events and concerts; the aforemention Cité de la Musique et de l’Industrie, the Géode, a large ball shape building of 36 meters( 119 ft)  in diameter housing a cinema IMAX,  the Cité de la Musique, all about musique from shops, history, presentation and museum; Conservatoire national supérieur de musique et de danse de Paris (CNSMDP),  Zénith de Paris,  a concert hall and popular venue with 6300 seats, great concerts here !!!with the best of yesterday and today in music, webpage http://www.zenith-paris.com/index2.php; Philharmonie de Paris (to be open in 2013); Cinaxe , this is a cinema made like a flight simulator ,very good! you play the movie with the same movements lol! , Argonaute ,submarine of the French nave on display, Le Trabendo , another hall of shows spectacular concerts with capacity for 700 persons, webpagehttp://www.trabendo.fr/  ; Cabaret Sauvage, a concert hall, nightclub, very popular great events love it ::)  webpage http://www.cabaretsauvage.com/home.php ;  théâtre Paris-Villette, a theater and plenty around there too even on peniches boats ,this one,the webpage is here http://www.theatre-paris-villette.com/ ; It has an equetrian center, sculptures, and music kiosques all around, great place to spend a day in a different Paris.

It has gorgeous walks along the Canal de la Villette, Canal Saint Denis,and Canal de l’Ourcq all meeting here going into a great esplanade to the Rotonda de la Villette ,the old tax authority now been converted into a Brasserie restaurant for possible opening by August 2011. The luminous cinema MK2 right overlooking the canal is romantic ,beautiful this is the webpage look at the photo wow, in person at night its even sublime, love it !!! http://www.mk2.com/datamk2/sitescinemas/quaideloire/quaisl.swf

All around these canals you have the bassin de la Villette, the biggest body of water in Paris with 700 meters long( 2310 ft) and celebrated is bicentennial in 2009! The aforementioned Rotonde de la Villette  is one of 54 buildings done in 1784 to received the taxes on products entering Paris; it faces the Bassin de la Villette, it is now under renovation to have a cultural center and brasserie/restaurant there.

For difference there is a nice church St Jacques et St Chritophe de la Villette at place Bitche a nice small park in front will do good for a rest and some snack/drink to recharge your walk, I know I did :::) this is the Church webpage http://www.paris.catholique.fr/-Saint-Jacques-Saint-Christophe-de

Here you can get to many peniche boat and cruise boat on the canals and bassin the most famous is the Canauxrama firm right on quai de la Loire, the webpage is http://www.canauxrama.com/ ,but, also, the newer Paris Canal same side of the quais with webpage http://www.pariscanal.com/

There are numerous peniche boats anchored here providing theater and opera performances right on the water, amongst them Péniche Opéra, webpage of theaters in Paris in French, http://www.penicheopera.com/  as well as design furniture etc event such as the Puces du design , webpage http://www.pucesdudesign.com/fr/presentation.php , and dance music with color at the Peniche Demoiselle with les ailes d’Oraguon, webpage http://www.peniche-demoiselle.com/plan.html

To have a zip drink spend a lovely time here other than inside the Parc de la Villette, you have a wonderful cafe LM at the MK2 cinema overlooking the bassin de la Villette, Belushi’s at rue Crimée is wonderful and youthful with good prices, and great views, webpage http://www.belushis.com/venues/paris-bars.  For a heartier meal I suggest the Au Boeuf Couronné, for great beef and the signature of Gerard Joulie restaurants in Paris, located at 188 ave Jean Jaurés, metro porte de Pantin ,line 5 ;webpage http://www.gerard-joulie.com/boeufcouronne-1.html

There is a hostal St Christopher’s next to it with lively ambiance, great prices, and very easy located on metro Crimée line 7; webpage http://www.st-christophers.co.uk/paris-hostels .

The Paris tourist office webpage http://en.parisinfo.com/ ; and some of fruitful walk in photos

March 28, 2011

Some news from France XXXI

Well the Spring season is strongly underway with todays high of 17°C and sunny. Nice ride on the roads around Paris . The temps will go as high as 23°C by Saturday and early week in April some rains is announced according to Meteo France.

Recent regional elections in France have left the Left ahead with  35.75%, UMP the ruling party now got  20.24% ,and the right FN got 11,73% … with a whopping 55% abtention !!! Versailles area stay right with the UMP way ahead.

What started as a reporting way to show its quartier of Pigalle by Philippe Cochinard has now turn into a 21 district Paris Web TV  where you can see the news happening in those districts or neighborhoods, mostly tourist areas, such as Pigalle, Montmartre,  Saint-Germain, Bastille, Champs-Elysées, Mouffetard, Opéra, Belleville, Bastille, Tolbiac, Invalides, etc . You can see the news here http://www.pariswebtvquartier.fr/index1.php

Next April 8 is last day of school for kids in the Ile de France region, vacation for Easter until April 25th, so kids on the roads be careful. However, my kids go on school trips from April 4-8th ,one to the Alps and the other to Normandy ,then Easter vacation, what a nice life Lol!!

If you want to know what classification is your hotel ,B&B or vacation rental in France go to this page Atout en France in French ,official govt webpage, and key in the name on the right bracket that says “Rechercher un hébergement classé”, the webpage ishttps://www.classement.atout-france.fr/

If you want to see web TV in Madrid then come for MadridiariocriticoTV, that will be known under the letter code MDCTV: all you need to know about Madrid, Spain, and it will be in Spanish of course first,webpage http://mdctv.adnstream.com/

In Madrid, the Palace of Cibeles has re open after 100 yrs !! remodeled open this Sunday and will be free until July 27th 2011. It has 44.600 square meters in 8 floors! The palace once the seat of Spain national post office will have in floor  -1,an auditorium of 2 150 sq meters with capacity for 296 spectators ideal for camara music as well in the floor 1 a Salon or room of expositions of 1 400 Sq meters ; floors 2,3,4 will be available for expositions . Also,  a beautiful Galería de Cristal,or gallery of mirrors with a patio garden linking the streets of Alcala and Montalban. Source newspaper MadridDiario with these beautiful photo collection one inside the Palace at http://www.madridiario.es/galeria/palacio-cibeles-inauguracion-abre-puertas-reforma-centrocentro-exposicion-correos-1/46669.html ,and the other looking out from the palace at http://www.madridiario.es/galeria/palacio-cibeles-inauguracion-vistas-reforma-centrocentro-exposicion-correos-1/46676.html

More improvement in the metro of Madrid with the extention of Line 9 to Mirasierra. one of the longest line for 38 kms linking 28 stations; this will be the first phase of the extras here,  the second phase will continue with a second station at street Calle Costa Brava that will link by a tunnel the 1,4 kms from the new station at Mirasierra to the Cercanias or suburbian lines C7, C8 ,and C10. Source in Spanish MadridPress.

The European football qualifications continue on March 29 with Spain playing at Lithuania, the game is in doubt as the field is in very bad condition and the Spanish federation has asked UEFA to inspect it for proper conditions before the game is played. France plays the same day but a friendly match against Croacia at the Stade de France in St Denis,north of Paris.

The always interesting NCAA basketball tournament in the USA is coming to its Final Four with lots of surprise, only Kentucky can claim of pedigree the others could be in for a surprise Connecticut, Butler, and VCU( Virginia Commonwealth University). It will be from April 4 at Atlanta GA . I have to go for the underdogs VCU!!!

And the main city in my last county in the USA ,Broward County Florida, the city of Fort Lauderdale is 100 years old this year, celebrations abound, see the local newspaper Sun-Sentinel  here http://www.sun-sentinel.com/features/centennial/fl-lauderdale-riverfest-20110328,0,4358903.story Happy Birthday FLL !!! from your old neighbor of Miramar ::)

And lastly ,was walking around the area of Paris 19 last week around Villette, Jaurés, and Crimée so took some pictures because its one area of Paris on the up and up, hightly renovated and great interest for locals and visitors alike. See next post. Cheers and have a great week.

March 27, 2011

Trier, oldest city in Germany

Well lets get into Trier with a funny story. This is Trier,Germany just passing Luxembourg. I came here as an extension of a trip to Luxembourg and my boys wanted to see Germany, they have not been there,and I have been on business trips to Frankfurt area, and Berlin only. So we took the extra kms and went as far as Trier.

Trier sits on the banks of the Moselle river, a very good area for wines too::) It is considered by many to be the oldest city in Germany as it claims to be founded before Rome in about the 16 BC year…old…. However, it is a lively town with a huge University population.

I came to see the Porta Nigra, a nicely done Roman gate in great preservation. The Basilica of Constantine, the Cathedral , and the river cruises.

You can reach here by train using the German rail system webpage which can be seen in several languages,http://www.bahn.de/i/view/GBR/en/index.shtml . I drove my car the best way to travel in Europe in my opinion on the A4 from Paris direction Luxembourg then the A1 E44 past the Luxembourg airport signs you see the ones for Trier, exit 3 on the A1 E44 takes you into the city. You can do the scenic ride along the river Moselle by getting off from the A1 at Wasserbilig and take the local road 49 direction Trier. Parking underground with payment is best at Europahalle near constantine basilica or parkhaus Galeria Kaufhof dept store . The route planner viamichelin will help you webpage www.viamichelin.co.uk

 The Porta Nigra, 180 AD is impressive to see this beauty and this old right in the middle of town. Some of the stone blocks weights 6 tons , and admission to the top is 3€

The Basilica of Constantine, and the impressive throne room, is the largest surviving single-room structure from Roman times. This is worth seeing it is gorgeous too bad time and camera did not help on this day…The sizes of it are  27 meters (90 ft) wide, 33 meters (108 ft) high, and 67 meters (220 ft) long – with an adjoining hall outside even 75 meters (250 ft). Admission is free!

The Cathedral sits in city center  as most do, the present Cathedral stands on top of a former Constantinian Palace, after Constantine’s last visit to Trier in  328/9 AD, the palace was leveled in 330 AD and replaced by the largest Christian church in Antiquity. official webpage of the Cathedral is in English here http://www.dominformation.de/internet-en/nav/add/add70623-d64a-36f5-4abd-11d8bc1d2b31.htm admissionis Free.

You should walk in the Cathedral City, this is the area around and behind the Cathedral is lovely medieval look and very quaint, love it.  Another great area is the Haupt Markt or central market plaza, surrounded by six streets and access to the Cathedral. After the Viking destruction of 882 AD, the market was move to the present location and a Market Cross still commemorates this event from 958 AD. The original of the cross is in the Municipal Museum; the column shaft is a recycled granite column from the Roman Cathedral!

You can indulge in German wine starting from the Roman Amphitheater as Trier is in one of the largest wine-growing communities in the area Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, the classic Riesling wine area, and considered the cradle of German wine culture. There is a huge wine cellar underneath the amphitheater that in its heydays was used to keep prisioners and exotic animals like lions ready to combat gladiators in the arena!

I did not had the time to stay in a hotel as was based in Luxembourg city, but the choices are plenty and for walking best in city center.  My favorite chain is here at Mercure Trier Porta Nigra. As far as eating, this is what is funny, my boys decided to behave like Americans so we ate at get this Burger King, Subway, and I had my wine and people watching at Zum Domstein.

so Burger King at Fabrikstrabe ,alleencenter, near train station and not to far on foot from the Haupt Markt central plaza.  Subway at HauptMarkt 13, right on the main Plaza. The Zum Domstein is a popular place right in the main plaza too ,Hauptmarkt, if you are into wines like me this is heaven, webpage http://www.domstein.de/start_gb.html

The souvenirs /shopping I would say walk the main shopping streets such as  Simeonstrasse, Brotstrasse, Fleischstrasse and Nagelstrasse . We found great prices for casio watches and clothing at the wonderful department store Galeria Kaufhof ,two stores in Trier, at Simeonstrasse and Fleischastrasse streets, and webpage in German here
http://www.galeria-kaufhof.de/sales/aktionen/catdetail.asp?FLEXID=0&Sub=1&Sub1=36523

This is a shopping portal in Trier where you can see all the stores,events for shopping ,and order online in Europe. http://www.einkaufserlebnis-trier.de/index.php . The city tourist webpage is http://redaktion.trier.de/praefectus/trier?tourist_en , and the region of Moselle tourist webpage is at http://www.mosellandtouristik.de/en/

I will be back…and so can you visit this nice city in Germany. Hope the photos are ok,just ok .

March 27, 2011

Verdun, memories of WWI

On a nice spring Sunday in the Paris area lets talk about a monumental city in symbolism if small in size, Verdun.  It is a city department of the Meuse, no 55 in the region of Lorraine in eastern France. The autoroute A4 will take you there from Paris, and parking along the river Meuse is easy, nice, and free at 8 Mai 1945.. The route planner can help you further or you can ask me, www.viamichelin.co.uk

The city is very easy to walk on and best, however, if need to move by public transport the local bus system TIV can help webpage at  http://www.bus-tiv.com/ . you can connect by bus from Metz,Nancy and Chalons sur Champagne on the line 30. The TER Lorraine site will tell  you about trains; you can make trips from Paris Gare de l’Est towards Nancy change to regular trains to Verdun. Can be done according to the site in about 1h35 as I always go by car ::) TER webpage http://www.ter-sncf.com/regions/lorraine/fr/default.aspx

Verdun is a city that can trace back for 2000 years, the Treaty of Verdun of 843AD for most historians mark the starting point of what we know of Europe today , this is where if I can interject a bit of history here , the sons of king Louis le Pieux (himself son of Charlemagne) the Charles le Chauve or bold became king of western Francia with limits to the east of the Rhone river, Saone, Meuse rivers.  Louis le Germanique or German, became the king of eastern Francia beyond the Rhine river, and Lothar was given the two capitals of Rome and Aix a long line of territory  brought together by the river Frise in the Jura region including the Burgundy and Italy. However, after that the ones that really made Verdun on the map was after been given the name of Universal City, is the WWI Battle of Verdun in 1916. The war really began here in 1914,  the Battle of Verdun was not only the it but also the Battle of France, for 300 days and nights close to 2,5 millions French soldiers fought here, that is two thirds of the entire armed forces of France .

Here on February 21 1916 one of the biggest if not the biggest battles in history took place. Bombing began by 8h15.  In this carnage, 163 000 French and 143 000 Germans lost their life, with 216 000 French and 196 000 Germans wounded!!!  For reinforcements from the town of  Baudonvillers and  Bar-le-Duc, a line of trucks were put in service to continue on to Verdun ,this route was later baptised the   « Voie Sacrée » or sacred road.  Nearly  1 500 trucks took this route daily so Verdun was not left alone, 2 500 000  French soldiers took the tour at this route during this conflict alone. 

On September 12(my b-day!)  ,1918 The First Army of the USA enters the conflict in this area led by General Pershing (He who upon touching French soil hail the famous words “Lafayette ,We are Here” ) ,and they take position at the salt mines of Saint-Mihiel with the help of the 2nd French Colonial Corp. On September 22nd, Pershing has its HQ at Souilly. By September 26 in the area of Argonne that Americans and French fight shoulder to shoulder as well as reaching Verdun  ;by October 10 the Argonne is completely liberated, on the river Meuse right bank  17th French Army Corp and two American divisions march on towards Damvillers. The Americans cross the river Meuse first by Stenay, the enemy retreats and they will never entered Verdun!!! You have the picture?

To see you can visit the Cathedral Notre Dame (B. 10C-18C)  , however, for me there was to stop by the Memorial Centre Mondiale de la Paix (World Center of Peace) right in the palais episcopal  design in 1723 by  Robert de Cotte, architect of the king, it is by the Cathedral and only 5€ admission, and the Monument à la Victoire (Monument to the Victory) with 73 steps right from the esplanade bordering the river Meuse, there you will see the book of gold showing those who have won medals of honor for their valor in the battle, moving niche between a rocky hill.

I pass by here so once in a while take the time to stop by even for lunch and see this memorable place.Thank you to all. There is so much to see need more time, like the Ossuarie de Douaumont (keeping the remains of millions) and in front a French cementary of 15000 soldiers. Memorial de Verdun, in the train station of the village of  Fleury-devant-Douaumont,one of the towns destroyed in the conflict sitting right in the battlefield and built by the Veterans group themselves.  Tranchés des Baionnettes tells the story on June 12 1916 of the 137th  Infantery Regiment isolated with an intensive bombardment in a trench . The only witness were bayonnetes coming out of the ground!  Fort de Vaux, showcase the heroisme of the French soldiers in resisting attacks by superior forces. See the Citadelle Souterraine or underground citadel, the HQ of the French army was kept here, a virtual city of support to the front. Here on September 13, 1916 ,Verdun received the decoration of the Légion d’Honneur, the Croix de Guerre ,and  six other decorations from allied powers and Verdun  becomes the most condecorated city in all of France. Here too on November 10, 1920 after the peace at Rethondes the chosen wounded soldier  Auguste Thin of the  132th Infantery Regiment was the given the task to choose amongst eight coffins dress with the French flag the body of a French soldier found in the eight battlefields around WWI.  Armed with a simple bouquet of  flowers he was to choose one, to be  buried at the Paris Arc de Triomphe in memory of all those fallen in combat. Slowly  Auguste Thin  chooses one after adding the digits number of his regiment and choose the Sixth coffin , the Unknown Soldier tradition was born here!

Passing by hotels were not never use, although been a very visited town there are choices for all budgets. The Hostellerie du Coq Hardi in city center looks very nice . For eating I did so at La Péniche, quai de la Republique near the river, traditional Lorraine cuisine ,very nice formule and the st jacques in whisky is yummy! plus a very nice lounge with wonderful views of the town ,webpage http://www.la-peniche.com/portal/web/lapeniche/accueil/index.html

At nearby Stenay there is a nice beer museum type small but very nice if you are into beers of the Meuse Musée de la biére, webpage here http://www.musee-de-la-biere.com/ , and right in Verdun do try the Dragées de Verdun (sweet made of almond and chocolates now of many things traditional all over France but the ones here are at the top of the ladder ) at établissement Braquier, recipe from 1220AD, and the firm done from 1921, webpage http://www.dragees-braquier.com/

Hope you stop by its a wonderful place, I myself will definitively be back. I need more photos Lol!!!Cheers

March 26, 2011

Jouarre, old ,abbey, and medieval 77!

On a nice Saturday afternoon lets continue our journey of France shall we!!! We come now along the A4 autoroute or the old N3 now D603 from Meaux coming into medieval Jouarre a town in Seine et Marne dept 77 east of Paris. This is as old as you can get while visiting the region or France for that matter. It is near our family town of Meaux. The viamichelin folks will put you here at www.viamichelin.co.uk

You have train transport here on rue de la Gare at La Ferte sous Joaurre the bit bigger town next to Jouarre, on the line Paris Gare de l’Est; the service is the Transilien of ile de France at  http://www.transilien.com/web/site/lang/en . However, will need a taxi to see the old buildings, or bus 34,35,40, and 41 . The buses 40 and 41 are from Darche bus company webpage http://darche-gros.groupe-espaces.com/coulommiers/ and bus 34 and 35 from the bigger network Marne et Morin at http://marne-et-morin.groupe-espaces.com/pays-fertois/plan-reseau.htm . Of course the car is always better in my opinion.

Just popping into the tourist office in town set you back to 1440AD as it is in the old Charreterie ( covered roof on four piliers open air as a gathering place or covered terrace)  de abbey Notre Dame de Jouarre.  You then can pass to see the Merovingians crypts, tour d’abbaye, and musée Briard.

The crypts Saint Paul and Sainte Ebrégesile are in perfect condition of preservation and dates from the Merovingian era in France dating back to 600AD!  They are visit with a guide from the tourist office ,visit last about 45 minutes and cost 5€ adults.  The Musée Briard showcasing artifacts from the period including the tools ancient for the making of the cheese Brie of which this is the area !!!  last about 20 minutes and cost 2,50 € adults. The religious order in the Abbey will let you tour a guided visit of the Tour Romane for a duration of 45 minutes for 4,50€ adults.

You can,also, see the church Saint Pierre et Saint Paul, built from 1440AD to the 16C; it is in central town. It has five bells  Jeanne, Anna, Albertine, Louise, and other brought from another church now gone the Sept-Sort. See the Croix Monolithe in place St Paul, when the local authorities decided to move the cross in 1864 they realised that this was a single element cross done in the 13C  while at the same excavations in the site reveal that on the same spot in 660AD there was a Basilica there; recent excavation has been able to find the foundation of this Basilica !!!.

For lodging well this is Brie country, my family neighborhood so no experience here renting although by recomm the Chateau des Bondons is excellent at nearby La Ferte sous Jouarre, the webpage is here http://www.chateaudesbondons.com/fr/index.php . There are also many small gites and chambre d’hotes in this area which you can see in the tourist office.

for eating out is the same situation although we did come with the family to eat at the above Chateau des Bondons see webpage above.  For shopping the biscuiteries Rousseau has great sablés briard cookies ,made with apples and cider ,original from the area that can be purchase at the tourist office too.  There is a market day on Fridays in front of Hotel de Ville of Joaurre , Place August Trinchard with local produce as well.

The webpage for the City of Jouarre indicating the webpage for the tourist office is here in French http://www.jouarre.fr/tourisme.html

March 26, 2011

Auto en Seine, Les Mureaux

I like cars probably because grew up around Daytona Beach, Florida USA and now live in France. So when a car event goes up there I go usually. This time there is no exception besides spring is in the air ::)

This event is call Autos en Seine in the town of Les Mureaux, dept Yvelines no 78 west of Paris on your way to Normandy on the A13 autoroute de Normandie exit/sortie 8. Its a town about 39 kms (24 miles) from Paris. You can easily get here by train from Paris gare Saint Lazare direction Mantes la Jolie. The local train site for all of the Paris regional area is http://www.transilien.com/web/site/lang/en

The town of Les Mureaux is the site of Aviation historically in France, and it houses today the EADS European Agency for Defense and Space, the equivalent of NASA in Europe. The rockets are only assembled here and they are taken to Guyana in South America for send off to destination.

OF further interest is the Château de Bécheville from the 17C who was visited by the writer Stendhal in 1811, the castle was renovated in the 19C and today it houses the Center of arts and music conservatory of the town.  There is a center for sailing boats Cercle de la Voile de Paris here since 1893 with webpage at http://www.regates-cvp.fr/ . And the church St Pierre St Paul built in 1896. Amongst the best parks is the  parc de l’Oseraie with a nice house from 1876-1879 , and the Val de Loisirs du Val de Seine with plenty of games ,activities ,and a lake with boating out to the river Seine, webpage at http://www.vds78.com/

For those seeking lodging right off the A13 on your way to Normandy or back to Paris you can have this logis de France property ,La Chaumiere  with webpage here http://www.hotel-lesmureaux.com/ . For eating I have try the Le Bonheur de Les Mureaux, Chinese,Thai, Viet cuisine near the train station at 25, Rue Jean-Jaurès 78130 Les Mureaux
Tél. +33 01 34 74 23 50,no web. And Les Voiles restaurant part of the sailing club area,adjacent to it overlooking the river Seine as it passes thru town, webpage  http://www.restaurantlesvoiles.com/ . For a coffee, snack and overlooking the place de la Liberation people watching spot in town try the Cafe de la Mairie, 2 place de la Libération, tel +33  01 34 74 03 45. And for hanging out with the astronauts folks and a drink try the Le Week End,64 route de Verneuil ,Tél. +33 01 34 74 05 41. And one for the river views and quaint area Le Bellevue, 4 ave Félix Faure, tel +33 01 34 74 02 93 all for typical  French home cooking.

The city mayor’s office is at http://www.lesmureaux.fr/ and it falls under the Ile de France region of Paris for tourism information at http://www.nouveau-paris-ile-de-france.fr/ ,and now some photos.

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