Archive for April, 2011

April 30, 2011

Some news from Spain IIII

Well a few days after the great football/soccer game to keep my head cool. The Kings’ s Cup win over Barcelona 1X0 at Valencia was glorious. IT was time to come back and win the competition now won 18 times in our history ,that is Real Madrid’s history. Goal by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Then came the Champions league game at Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Barcelona won 0X2 over Real Madrid putting themselve pretty much in the final. However, as coach Mourinho has repeately stated over the last few months!!! Barcelona somehow is always help in these big matches, first Chelsea ,then Arsenal ,and now Real Madrid.  Its difficult to play against a good team like Barcelona with 11 players, but when somehow you find yourselves always a man down because of a bad referee decision with 10 men its impossible. Lionel Messi scored the two goals after Real Madrid was down to 10 men do to a bad call on Pepe that was red carded and sent off. All videos on all angles in the world show it was not enough for a red card except referee Stark.

Referee Stark of Germany was coming from been name in the German Bundesliga the worse referee in the first half of the season there. Players voted in Kicker magazine. So how UEFA allows a referée that was voted the worse in its league to handle the most important game in Europe??? How UEFA allows a referée that after the last World Cup (won by Spain) had said the best player is Messi ??? The referees are supposed to remained neutral, and after voicing his pleasures UEFA should not had named him to refereed the match base on conflict of interests!!!

The return game at the Camp Nou in Barcelona is for May 3rd. The other semifinal as expected Manchester United beat Schalke 04 0X2 and will play the return at home on May 4th.

In the meantime, Real Madrid plays Zaragoza in the Liga May 2nd as well as  Real Sociedad vs Barcelona. Cristiano Ronaldo will start on the bench as penalty for his outspokeness after the Champions league match.  Coach Mourinho is expected to be sanction with four games suspension, the charges vs Barcelona are still pending.

Now there is a holiday in Spain on Monday May 2nd.  Its Spain independance day from Napoleonic France , a lot more in Spanish here  ,and some in English from wikipedia here

For the activities around the festivities of the Dos de Mayo holiday , see the city of Madrid webpage with the agenda

The Feria de Abril in Sevilla is undergoing just wonderfully , need to know more check this site of Tourism in Spain,

The feast of San Isidro the patron saint of Madrid, will begin on May 11,2011.

The brewery of Mahou in Madrid an institution since 1890 is gone, demolished for the plan Madrid Rio of urban renewal of today. My favorite Spanish beer presence in Madrid is gone, Mahou Cinco Estrellas a fixture since 1969 and my first beer taste is gone.  The brewery still there tied in with San Miguel now,  Need to know more see wikipedia

One resto a da for you La Gloria, Castilian cooking at its best exactly Segovian (Segovia) . Located at Paseo de la Infanta Isabel, 5: metro Atocha line 1, about 50 meters!  Its an Asador so the meats are sublime, you will feel in heaven. Great service, reservation email at  webpage

April 29, 2011

Some news from France XL

Well there you go weather dudes, going telling all the weather has been great and today go out into Paris and it was raining on and off sometimes hard.  There goes Meteo France for you. Thats why I said when you want to come, do so , and forget what the weather man says.

I was by Rivoli, and Louvre, Hôtel de Ville, Chatelet, Opéra Garnier areas walking today, and driving all over the Arc de Triomphe or better yet going in circles, its fun ::) Amazing I had my Dad with me and he was perfect not tired at all lol!! Usually I drive him drag the poor old man. He was a Champ today. We use the parking at sags on St Germain l’Auxerrois church area right by his clinic clinique du Louvre.

As usual Paris is sublime cant tell in enough words the feeling of been in the city, its always magical. Shopping was great too, we found all we needed and with good prices. He wanted some short vest for his sister in Florida USA, so we went to Zara and got it all. Then some tshirts at C&A, and souvenirs along rue de Rivoli. Before we took money at BNP Opéra of course ::)

We had our early shot at Le Nemours Cafe right before going in to the Palais Royal shops and garden (now under renovation), right past the Comedie Française.  Then we had lunch at Indiana Cafe , the usual American fare with a French touch, bacon cheese burger, club sandwich, mozzarella sticks and onion rings, beer of course, and coffee for 20€ each.

Le Nemours, 2 pl Colette, tel +33  01 42 61 34 14 metro palais royal/Louvre line 1 . Indiana Cafe is  a recent opening for this chain, we literally open the second floor today !!! brand new ,and a bit dusty… it is on the old Chez Clovis at 33 rue Berger (now the whole area under renovation but open , Forum Les Halles area), the service was fantastic and the food great. Its not even on their webpage yet ,

As usual my hesitation going into Paris I did not have my camera with me , tant pis, c’est la vie, Paris c’est trop!

Then, my condolences to those families who have the tragic loss of a love one in the wave of tornados in the southeast of the United States especially the crimson tide State of Alabama. The public services there have indicated at least 305 death and of those 204 in the State of Alabama alone.

Congratulations to Prince William and now Princess Kate at their wedding today in London. Hope the young princess will have a better treatment from the elders than my beloved Princess Diana did.

And ,I just finished filing my US and French tax return for 2010. The dreaded period of paperwork and filing is over, the hit will be ok, I am prepare. Its just not fair that the USA is the only industrialised country in the world who makes its citizens continue to file income taxes even while living and citizen of another country ie France! When the French go live in the US they dont need to do so , but when Americans comes to live here, we do lol!!! Get to work, we are in the 21C Americans…

I have travelled lately a lot to Britanny or Bretagne, on my business as a Finance Consultant to corporations. The area was not too well traveled by me before, even if friends have suggested it. Now I am there, and no camera again, need to get with the program here ::) The area is call the Morbihan , takes its name from the Gulf of Morbihan which means in Breton small sea or  « petite mer », from mor= mer, and  bihan= petit. Its an UNESCO world heritage site !!!The area of the gulf. The prefecture of main administrative city in this area is Vannes. Department no is 56.  Now the Breton language is coming along in the schools so here are some words to practice first in Breton, then French, then English.

Demat, bonjour, good morning

Degemer mat, bienvenue, welcome

Kenavo, au revoir, good bye

Yec’hed mat, à la tienne, Cheers

Noz vat, Bonne nuit, good night

Mat an traoù, ça va bien? how are you

Diwall, Attention, watch out!

Trugarez, merci, thank you.

Happy labor day May 1, the international date. However, since it falls on a Sunday, in France there wont be holiday so Monday we work…. The same for May 8 end of WWII, its a Sunday so no Holiday. We do get Mother’s day on May 29 ,also a Sunday.

And as my business takes me more and more away from the Paris/Versailles axis my writing in the blog will be less , I am assuming. So preventive measures is not to worry  I will be back with better and more useful information to all my readers and private contacts. Cheers and have a great weekend.

April 27, 2011

Some news from France XXXVIIII

Its been like summer weather already ,sunny warm and nice. The roads seems better too, we will have nice rides in the Paris area before heading again for Bretagne and the Morbihan next week.  My sons came back from trips to the Val Cenis in the Alps and Pont l”Eveque area on school trips.  The weather here is from 9°C to 21°C in the next few days sunny with some rain early in May.

Some new books coming out that might be good,first in French, need to verify if they have them in English or else. “Le petit livre de bons plans avec les enfants à Paris 2ed” All you need to know about seeing Paris with children 0-6 yrs old  by Sophie Millot. “Le Monde à Paris ,un Grand voyage au coin de la rue” seeing Paris by its melting pot folks of all places with things to do ,eat, etc. by Dominque Lesbros. “Spécial étudiants à Paris ,le guide avec la sourire en plus” places to see, eat, have fun for the younger crowd and not expensive, by several authors edition Hachette.  “My little Paris secret, le Paris secret des Parisiennes” all those little corners you want to explore unknown to many, this is it. writtten by many , edition Chene.  “Aux bons produits de Paris” all those ingredients and fabulous items needed to do the right meal no matter from where in the world, this book help you find it in Paris,by Brigitte Namour editor Parigramme. And you can find them all in my favorite book store all over Gibert & Joseph webpage here

Dogon, at the musée de Branly, will expo  330 statues, masks and objects of daily life retracing 10 centuries of dogon art of Mali from the first contact with the Tellem until the coming of the European style in the 20C. It is there until July 24 2011  on tuesdays, wednesdays and Sundays from 11h to 19h, night time thursdays, fridays and saturdays until 21h. webpage

Something for everyone in Paris ! lol!  From the 1980 this American Jim Haynes is supposed to do get together at his shop in the Alesia neighborhood ,the Sunday dinner is at 83, rue de la Tombe-Issoire, 75014, and bring together all sorts of folks willing to exchange and mingle with a contribution of food and wines for about 25€; more info at his webpage

Another heaven and try by me is the  Café A de la Maison de l’Architecture, just around the Gare de l’Est, and old hanging around place of yours truly , the cafe is on a terrace, hidden in the center of an old convent of Recollets that now houses the Maison de l’Architecture. Its peaceful around tiles and a big shaded tree planted by the franciscans monks . Couvent des Récollets, 148, rue du Faubourg-Saint-Martin,75010  tel +33 01 40 35 22 67.

Another is La Divette de Montmartre, this is the most rock n roll bar in Paris. On its walls you will see posters and vinyl records in 45 and 78 rpm of old ;it is said this is the most important European collection of vinyl records; its wonderful just for the look but the food is not bad ::) 136, rue Marcadet, 75018. Tél. + 34  01 46 06 19 64. no web closest metro is Marcadet-Poissonniers at  Boulevard de Barbes, line 12.

If you are concerned with air quality especially in cities, this site AirQuality Now will tell you the quality of air and noise and pollution in all major European cities, , and the European project Aphekom org that tells you of very polluted cities such as Barcelona, the full report is here 

The air quality in Paris is constantly measure by AirParif at the webpage which tells you for today a rating of 5 or average.

Statistics on the debt of individuals in France by the Banque de France tell us that most are single household about 65% and that most are renters or 80%.  Most about 95% are those that took out a loan with a bank!  This is a phenomenon more and more visible here as the credit financing companies have a total campaign to make take out second cards, and store cards and small loans even for vacations that just get a very high interest rate as much as 25%! 

Until September 25 2011 the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporaine has an expo on Voodoo the belief of the western Africa still practice today in many parts of the world.  bld Raspail at metro Raspail or Denfert-Rochereau lines 1 and 6. webpage

Have a great mid week everyone !!!

April 24, 2011

Some news from Spain III

Well rains are on and off, more of it tomorrow, all at Easter week or Semana Santa. Temps from 8°C to 23°C next few days, with the sun coming back. Then rain is announce by the end of April. So be prepared for rain especially as May is coming.

The Tamborrada de la Resurrección or drum beat of the ressurection closed today the Holy Week at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. Many were there to witness despide the thread of rain, this is a tradition re started in 1996 that dates back to the 16C. The traject took the group from the  plaza del Conde Miranda, calle del Sacramento, Calle de Cordón, plaza de la Villa, calle Mayor ,and  Ciudad Rodrigo until coming back to the Plaza Mayor. The traffic around the main roads of Madrid was beginning to feel the end of the festivities and folks returning back with long delays and backup of 20 kms. The festivities will continue tomorrow in some provinces where it is festive day too as Easter Monday such at Catalunya, La Rioja, Pais Vasco ,and Comunidad Valenciana.

Real Madrid has done it again, beating Barcelona in the King’s Cup final at Valencia 1×0 with a goal in extra time by Cristiano Ronaldo. They won with a great tactical game by coach Mourinho ,and a great overall effort by the players. Then yesterday in Liga play, at the same stadium vs Valencia they won again 3×6 with basically their B team on the field if we can call them B team ::) Next game is at home in the Champions League vs Barcelona on april 27the and on to the 30Th league game vs Zaragoza. The team is on the roll.

Not to leave without saying their Basketball team just came back from 17 points down to beat Caja laboral 76×71. To consolidate their second place in the league while waiting for the Euroliga semifinal vs Maccabbi Tel Aviv in May.

great exposition at  the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza entitled ” Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904)”  This is a  project of the museum in Madrid with  the  J. Paul Getty Museum, and the  Musée d’Orsay , this is the first expo dedicated to the French painter/sculptor since one 30 yrs ago in the United States . running until May 22nd, webpage

Another work at Teatros del  Canal is “Le Poème Harmonique “, under the direction of  Vincent Dumestre, offering the play comedy ballet ” Le bourgeois gentilhomme “,it was the 11th of Moliére and Lully, and is recognised as the best success amongst the many works in the comedy ballet section for the theater and the dance. It will be shown on May 6, 7 , 8 with admission of from 20 €. webpage of who the direction of la poéme harmonique are is here ,and as to the place shown in Madrid webpage here

Bélen Lopez y Marcos Morales will be playing flamenco at El Corral de la Moreria, calle Moreria 17. Until April 29 double session 22h and 24h. Bélen Lopez is a prize winner of the National prize in Flamenco dance in Spain. El Corral de la Moreria for years years back is the place for flamenco in Madrid even with new comers. webpage

New Spanish movie just recently out is “Aguila Roja” Director: José Ramón Ayerra ,and with actors such as  David Janer, Javier Gutiérrez, Francis Lorenzo, Inma Cuesta, Myriam Gallego, and Santiago Molero. Something about an invasion from the lusitans neighbors against the Spanish crown a bit of history and movie making that folks there tells me its pretty good action movie.

For another entertainement option in Madrid away from the usual movida places, try a night of bowling with friends. My favorite is the chamartin location by the train station. entrance on Calle  Agustín de Foxá 26 open from 10H to 24H, and on weekends even into late in the mornings the webpage is

For a nice spa right in the center same area of chamartin, great place to be away from the centro and nice see the  AUDITÓRIUM SPA at Calle  Suero de Quiñones, 22 . metro line 9 Cruz del Rayo or Prosperidad line 4, open Mondays to Saturdays from 10h to 22h, and Sundays from 11h to 15h.
Webpage at

An icon in Madrid the sign of  Tio Pepe at Puerta del Sol will be removed while the Hotel Paris is renovated. The after will be a commercial center that is rumored will be the new Apple store in Madrid.  The sign of  Tio Pepe is here since 1937.

The wave of democracy is expanding the latest is Morocco where over 10 000 persons demonstrated in the streets of Casablanca for a better governement. Long live Democracy for all.

The Royal Emirates Group, an investment group of Dubai has confirmed by its Gen Mgr Kaiser Rafiq  that they have 100% purchase the Liga club Getafe, just south of Madrid  ;this is a football team.
To have a great rice dish as those typical of Valencia , popular city nowdays ::) you need to head for Arrocerias Mediterraneo , a family treasure for years and still highly recommended by them living in Madrid. You have casserole dishes of rice in many varieties and ingredients as well as the popular Paella with all its varieties too.  The service is promise in 18 minutes ,and you can take home the paella or its deliver to you within the zone. In addition the weekends fridays and saturdays at night you have a 50%  discount when ordering take out. They have several branches but for obvious reason I go to the one by Concha Espina ; the webpage is at

some events that were on this date April 24 in Madrid, 1862 the Cuartel de la Montaña in principe Pio was finished; 1918 the Institute Cervantes was created; 1945 Cinema Rex opened; 1962 monument to Jacinto Benavente  is open at Retiro park; 1978 cinema Fundadores closed.

April 23, 2011

Some news from France XXXVIII

Well the nice weather continuos with highs into the 29°C sunny and great all over, summer I can say has arrive early. This weekend is a bit crowded on the roads and too short so we have stay home except my boys out and about in La Defense and Paris.

The destination for the French to go out on vacation have some as the comments from the last World Tourist event at Paris, webpage ; now some of the findings, for relaxation the French will like to go to Baleares islands,Spain, then to party they like to go to Florida ,especially Key West, USA; for the taste of the sea, the region of Bretagne or Brittany (I was just there so I agree 100%) ; those into forest outdoors, etc they like to head for Canada,especially the area of Québec; to do exercise while traveling like biking, walking, etc the place is Switzerland,all the area around Lac Léman; for culture head for Austria ,especially Salzbourg and Vienna ; to do stops on a long journey and see places,best is the  Sea Cruises of Costa, especially those of the Scandinavian countries; If your thing is volcanoes then head for the Eolien islands off Sicily,Italy; for the unusual trip ,head for the exotic Azores Islands, Portugal right in the Atlantic ocean; for simplicity head for the isle of Patmos in Greece.

Some new low cost flying is coming up, such as going to the Baleares islands of Spain in the Mediterranean on Easyjet from Roissy CDG 69€!  RT ,and Ibiza on Transavia 97€ RT from Orly.  how about Reykjavik ,Iceland, from Orly airport on Transavia for 45€ one way. Brindisi,Italy from Orly for 87€ RT. Lamezia,Calabre, Italy for 6€ RT on Ryanair from Beauvais!  To Thessanolique Greece from Orly for 72€ RT on Easyjet.  the summer is here I said !!!

The maison d’hote or chambre d’hote are becoming more and more look at from visitors and locals alike in France . The services are personalise, with many additional opportunities to mix in with the local, and the owner always on site or around to advise and give that extra local flavor, something we always look for it ourselves.  A site for those looking luxury and best services all over the world to rent your property is at Splendia, webpage  For an across the board prices at all levels in maison d’hote or host house system the webpage is at you can go to the map or the department to narrow your search.  this is another version that looks for it in France and Europe; webpage  ,and the chambre d’hotes more detail in France  with webpage is at ;another site that I have used in the past is Clévacances, where you can rent apartments, as well as chambre or maison d’hotes, the webpage is at ,and another that I have used and long standing here is the gîtes de France site at 

The airports of Paris has begun a new service for all passengers passing or coming or staying at its airports, call the  la Conciergerie.  All the services typically done by a concierge at a hotel will be available at the airport of Roissy CDG and Orly, in various languages such as  French, English, Espanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Chinese-mandarin , and Japanese.  There will be five counters to provide this service ,the two already working are at  Terminal 1 at CDG and at Orly Ouest terminal. By the end of the first trimester 2011 3 others will be operational at terminals 2E and 2C at Roissy CDG and at Orly Sud terminal. The webpage for more info is at

Brittany Ferries has open Bilbao departing from the UK.  It will be from  Portsmouth to Bilbao with a stop at Roscoff (Finistère) . More at their webpage

the AFCC or Association Française des compagnies des croisieres mention that in 2010 Cruising increase by  12% fro the French over 2009. The French market was the best increase behind Germany at +19%; however, it is in 5th place in Europe behind the UK  that only increase by  6% . So another way to visit France is to take a cruise ::)  here you will see all the member companies of the association ,webpage

Cityrama and Paris Vision are now one, as well as another modality call  Paris l’Open Bus,and Privatours. They had a 12% increase in passengers in 2010 over 2009. All under the new name CityVision, webpage here

The stand for cotton candy, hot dogs, churros,  etc at the Jardin d’Acclimatation by the Porte Maillot in Paris is been discontinue by the new owners of the concession the firm of LVMH. The business belong to two sisters that carry the family tradition there for 42 years,and born next door.  The new concession is more upscale with a branch of Angelina and Joies de Sofi  an upscale restaurant.  The new owners said the 13 employees will be absorbed by the new business that won in a bidding game. Of course ,another Paris tradition is gone, one that my kids grew up with;so sad. The sister have 3 months to leave the place.  the webpage of this wonderful park in Paris is at

France advice that it might pull out of Schengen zone due to the increase problem of uncontrolled immigration.  It leaves little protection for its borders from folks not belonging to the zone. They use Italy as a jumping point . The rule is  according to Schengen is that first country of entry needs to regulate the inflow of immigrants and have proofs of enough financial resources, this is not the case with the Italian authorities letting folks from Northern Africa easy . In the absent of financial resources the folks are been return back to Italy. This is now with the European Commission to study and for France to decide if cancel the agreement. Stay tune…

And to finish in a good note, A recipe for Easter à la Française, with a hint of American, Muffins chocolat-citron (chocolate and lemon). Now undergoing at home ::) not by me ok ::) For 6 persons we are! 100 grams of raw sugar, 180 grams of flour , 3 whole eggs ,1 yogurt natural or white, 1 bag of  yeast bakers ,60 grams of black chocolate, 10 grams of semi salted butter, 2 coffee spoons of extrat of lemon juice , 1 drop of fine salt ,40 grams of lemon skin cooked , bakers sugar splinkle.  the preparation cooking is about 30minutes I am told… 1)  pre heat the oven to 180 ° C or thermostat 6; wet with the butter and flour the molding for the muffins , cut thinly the lemon skins , cut the chocolate in small pieces, let it melt in boil water with the semi salted butter and mix in all of this , put in a pan and mixed in with a mixer machine the whole eggs with the raw sugar and the drop of salt,  add the yogourt, the mix flour with the yeast,and the lemon skins , cut the mixing in two , in one part add the extrait of lemon juice,and on the other part add the melted chocolate, spread the two parts into the muffins mold until about  2/3 filled;  slide them into the oven at middle temp or average temp for about 15-20 minutes about. Wait a short while once out to get the muffins out of the mold, and put them quickly in a bakers grill to let it cool . Sprinkle the bakers sugar over it.  You make it accompany with the family a  hot chocolate drink, lemon tea, cappuccino or coffee. Voilà ,best of luck and Happy Easter.

April 22, 2011

Habana Hilton or Libre, and Yara or RadioCentro


It must be hotel day, but this is another of my favorites and a historical fixture in Havana. It is at the chic area across from excellent places, I am talking about the Habana Libre Hotel (previously the Hilton) and across the street you have Yara (previously Radio Centro) and Coppelia ,the ice cream heavens.

Let me tell you a bit about the Habana Hilton,  it was own by the Cuban Catering Workers’ Union, and was operated by the American Hilton Hotels Group . It was designed by the Los Angeles firm Welton Becket & Associates  (also designers of the Beverly Hilton, and Capitol Records in Hollywood, California USA.

Opened on March 22, 1958, with Conrad Hilton in attendance, the Habana Hilton was Latin America’s tallest and largest hotel. It boasted  Trader Vic’s , as well as a casino, supper club, pool and rooftop bar.  Following Fidel Castro revolution in Jan of 1959 the hotel became his headquarters for about 3 months on suite 2324 .  THe Hotel was run until October 1960, when all American hotels in Cuba were nationalized and the casinos permanently closed. The hotel was then renamed the Hotel Habana Libre (Hotel Free Havana).

In 1996 the Spanish Sol Meliá Hotel Group assumed management of the hotel in association with the Cuban government. It was placed in their Tryp division of urban hotels and renamed Hotel Tryp Habana Libre.

I partook in many meals with my family here, and purchase tourist post cards for the first time as a boy, a hobby that continuos to this day.  Lots of memory and a grand hotel to match any in the Americas.

The official webpage is on the Sol Melia site at

The Yara  building its an institution in Cuba. It was previously called the RadioCentro music hall. In front it was the old radiostation CMQ of  La Habana.  A bit of history, CMQ to compete with the other radio station in Cuba, decided to expand into a new building. The idea was extended and the building also housed a cinema, space for meetings and activities of the RV and Radio business, and a large shopping center. On March 3, 1946 the first stone was laid of what was to be Radiocentro a twin of the famous “Radio City” of Nueva York.  It was finished and open on December 23, 1947.

It was the best  in Latin America for technological advances in music recording from the American firm of RCA Víctor, which allow for the first time instant recording and multiple recordings from any point in the building as well as the building with the biggest area of air conditioned in Havana up to that time. It had a capacity for four radio stations such as CMQ Radio, CMBF Radio, Radio Reloj, and one open in reserve.

It was my hangout in Havana as a boy, and many movies seen there over the years, memories that will linger forever. It has no webpage but the address is Calle L 363, Vedado

Across the street was the famous Coppelia ice cream parlor. My memories with my Mom having a Pico Turquino, Ensalada, or Banana Split or Piña(pineapple) Split is nice .Now its still there but long lines and it helps if you pay in CUC the new apartheid convertible money that local Cubans dont have unless send by a relative from abroad or a friend. The memories of a great area that one day might be back to see again. no web.

You are best to contact your country of passport for information on how to travel there,and in some countries such as Canada or France there is a Cuba tourist office. The one for France is at

April 22, 2011

Some news from Spain II

Ok some rain and summery weather and it looks like summer is coming early all over. I have relatives visiting Madrid to relatives so its been a recap week for all of us.

The news is my beloved Mahou beer of Madrid brewery is finally demolished to make way for improvements in the project Madrid Rio. So many years of loyalty to its Cinco Estrellas with a glass or caña in hand, memories that will linger forever.  THis is the one next to Stadium Vicente Calderon where the other Madrid team Atletico de Madrid plays its football matches, well not for long either, they will be demolished too.

A neat local statistic is that every 3 out of 4 visitors to Madrid repeats!! he/she is around 37 yrs old ,comes with company ,and spent about 100€ per day for a total of four nights in the capital. This is about the national or local tourist only.

Holy week or Semana Santa in Spain and in Madrid they had to suspend the procession for risk of rain, that it did, and this is not good to the statues that all have a high value in any way you put it. These were especially the ones for Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder ,and the  María Santísima de la Esperanza Macarena.

23 provinces in Spain will have rain risk tomorrow Holy Friday or Viernes Santo. The streets in the centro or city center of Madrid will be full of Cofradias taking their venerated saints out for a walk weather permitting.  Today Barajas airport is expected to handle 1239 flights for Holy Thursday!!

And the biggest news out of Spain is …..Real Madrid 1 barcelona 0 CAMPEONES EN LA COPA DEL REY. We are the Champions of the Kings’ Cup 2011 in Spain with a wonderful headed goal by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 102nd minute. Vastly superior was the Real Madrid with barcelona only doing some movement in the second half. The game went into overtime. So now the barcelona has already clinch the Liga or regular championship and Real Madrid has won the Copa. The deciding for the bragging rights of the year will be the Champions league game next wednesday at Bernabeu stadium in Madrid and a week later at camp nou in barcelona. This is the semi final with the other set been Schalke 04 the surprising German team of former Madrid player Raul; and Manchester United of England.

And according to the most conflicting points for traffic in Madrid are Moratalaz by Camino de Vinateros intersection with Arroyo de la Media Legua. Barajas by avenida de Logroño with Bahía de Cádiz. Fuencarral, between Ventisquero de la Condesa and Collado Tirobarra , as well as between avenida  de Betanzos and avenida  de la Ilustración. Villaverde, by avenida de Andalucía with avenida  Rocafort. Moncloa-Aravaca, between  Arroyo Pozuelo and Húmera.Also access to the bus  bus- VAO  interchange. Chamberí, between avenida Filipinas and  Jesús Maestro. Chamartín , at the intersection of  paseo de la Castellana with  Rafael Salgado. Latina , by the avenida de los Poblados with the parking of  Aluche. Retiro-Salamanca , by Doctor Esquerdo with O’Donnell.

For peatons the most difficult is the Puerta de Alcala, according to RACE the Royal Automobile Club of Spain. Very little time and space to cross the street there, of course is a round about archway in the middle of the street.

And as for motocycles, these are the worse offender with little respect for the traffic signal or pedestrians;  Bravo Murillo-Ríos Rosas (Chamberí) , Plaza de Cibeles,intersection with paseo de  Recoletos and calle Alcalá (Centro). Pº de la Castellana-Profesor Waksman (Chamartín). Plaza de Lima, intersection with paseo de la Castellana with General Perón (Chamartín). Plaza de la Independencia, coming towards Calle  Serrano with Calle Alcalá (Centro).

Next April 27 all over Madrid with free admission to all Madrid will have its 6th annual  Noche de los Libros or Night of the Books, stands of book sellers and exchanges all over from 21h to 01h.

And if want something typical, genuine, good, and witha beautiful decoration for a romantic night or else outside Madrid go to San Lorenzo de El Escorial and visit the restaurant Charolés, Calle de Floridablanca,24 . Tel +34 918 90 59 75,practically in front of wont be disappointed if a bit pricey but good.


April 21, 2011

Some news from France XXXVII

Well great weather popping up  sunny and it actually look like summer already. I was driving by in Bretagne today and just arrive, wonderful climate and great views into the Morbihan region.

football/soccer wise I have to say cuddos for PSG who will be playing the  final Cup in France  vs Lille at stade de France, St Denis ,just north of Paris. Saturday May 14 at 21H.

The Foire de Paris or Paris fair is been held from April 28 to May 8 and there will be a gastronomic and wine display at stand J 14, pavillon 7 niveau 3 (building 7 level 3).

Then again one of my favorite wine events will be done at the Brongniart or Bourse in Paris from May 14-15 all day admission is 19€ or 25€ for the two days. you can reserve at the site of La Revue du Vin de France magazine. The wines of Spain will be at the top of the list with many representations such as Campo de Borja, Enate, and Pago de los Capellanes.

The 2010 wines of the Medoc (Bordeaux) are looking great on the first outings from the chateaux. Lookout for them soon in your area.

Watch this site the Comptoir des Vignes it will open a new store soon in Paris 17, and they are good as I saw the store in dept 77 La Ferté-Gaucher. Wines at its best expression for sale retail .

According to Hotel.Info the summer choices of Europeans is France bien sûr!! France 58% , Spain 7%, Italy 5%,, Caribbean 4%, Greece 3%,Portugal 2%, Thailand 1,82%, Turkey 1,79%,Germany 1,30% , and the United States 1,22%.

holidaycheck already well known in central Europe has arrive in France to compete directly with TripAdvisor, their webpage  with a system for rating hotels/restos etc by vacationers like us,  the green will be publish, the orange will need verification by the poster, and the red will not be publish. This in order to create more credibility on posting advice.  On area that needs improvement in these sites.

how about coming near me to the wonderful town of St Germain en Laye, Yvelines, 78 (see my entry here on it), rich places to have the best of French gastronomy, some good ones and some are my habitual ones over the years are this gourmet grocery store, Le Rameau d’Olivier, 12, rue de Pologne ; webpage . A wonderful chocolate lover, Pascal Legac, 61, rue de Pologne webpage .Everything for the kitchen as utensils machines, etc is Remue-Ménage, 14, rue de Pologne webpage . The fromages or cheese delights and well advise always by Sébastien Dubois, 16, rue de Poissy  webpage ;

And for the real British ambiance in St Germain en Laye (78) come to an authentic place with English spoken, Pub The Bitter End, 20, rue Saint-Pierre at the end of rue de Pologne and turn right ,webpage , and for a real French in town head for the wonderful Brasserie du Théatre, 19, rue Salle at the place Gen de Gaulle almost right across from castle. no web tel +33 01 30 61 28 00 .

And going back to Paris if you want chocolates and sweets or combination you will be in heaven at the 6éme, where all is concentrated for ease of shopping,and you wont get lost. Many here some of my favorites are Larnicol, 132, boulevard Saint-Germain webpage  La Maison du Chocolat, 19, rue de Sèvres, webpage  .Un Dimanche à Paris, 4-6-8, cour du Commerce-Saint-André,webpage  Patrick Roger, 108, boulevard Saint-Germain ,webpage ,And the Belgians are here too such as Pierre Marcolini, 89, rue de Seine, webpage  AND this one you should go to now, Weiss, 62, rue de Seine , this is one of the last chocolates torrefactor in France along the lines of Valhona and Cluizel.webpage

Something new coming in the tourist frequentation figures for France in 2010. The use-visits to hotels in France came back well in 2010, while the camping does not slow down especially in the high range (we do this always with the family camping is great! ),this according to a survey by INSEE (the statistics survey arm of the French government). The increase in 2010 over 2009 of hotels nights was of 2,2% still not erasing the low in the crisis of  2009 but much better and still lower than on the record 2007  ,this following the study by INSEE and the DGCIS = general directory of the competitivity, industry and services.  The business class visitors have increase by 4,6% over 2009 . The foreign tourists have increase 2,8% , and the French visitors to other regions then their own has increase 2%. The biggest winners are the high price deluxe hotels with  12%  for those in the 4 and 5 stars rating ,  3,7%  for those in the 3 stars rating and a decrease in the 2 stars rating to -0,7%.  The Chinese are on top with 45% of arrivals , then the South Americans with 28%, and Middle and Near East with 23%. The European are less than in 2009 by -0,2%, the UK, traditionally the most important market has decrease largely in 2010 vs 2009 by -6,7%. The other side is that the countries of Eastern and Central Europe  have increase +13,2%, and for the Russians +28,3%. For the  2010 season ,the camping has increase by 0.9% to  103,8 millions nights/visitor.

Cheers and keep that line ……………………………

April 17, 2011

Some news from Spain I

Well my post on France where I live have been well received so why not Spain where I have lived for four years, and visit often.

The biggest news of course is the tie 1×1 between Real Madrid and Barcelona in the Spanish Liga BBVA or first division. The game was control by Barcelona as was expected with a team well groom of many years playing together ,and some from youth division in the Macias or farm team there. The star player Messi (Argentina)  score first on a penalty kick, and was tied in the second half by Real Madrid’s star player Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) on ,also, a penalty kick. Real Madrid had one of its defender Albiol sent off with a red card so it played shorthanded 10 men for 45 minutes!! The Liga stays the same with Barcelona ahead by 8 points which at this point it will surely gives them the title.

The Copa del Rey or Kings’ Cup is now on Mestalla stadium, Valencia, and the final will be amongst the same team on Wednesday April 20th for what will surely be a different game ,and for a title Real Madrid is very much looking forward to it. Game can be seen by and you need to be online about 15 minutes before game time, at 21h30 Spanish time.

The new Madrid Rio project is off and running opening the park areas from Friday by 11H Madrid local time. It has  952.000 square meters of park area including a promenade of pine trees call  Salón de Pinos ,which will run from the forest of El Pardo to the Nudo Sur or south knuckle on the beltway road M30. Therefore a total of 53 kms  (32 miles) of walkers paradise right in the city. Also, 18,5 kms (11.4 miles) of bicycle lanes available! The whole complex park will have  35,963 trees from  47  species, and  470,844 bushes of  38 species coming from forests in the mediterranena, atlantic and coasts. Amongst the water section of the park  it has four lakes under the Puente de Segovia (segovia bridge), two of which have aquariums and four fountains in the gardens or jardines de Virgen del Puerto, that will remaind old residents of the days when the ladies would go down the river to wash clothing. And this is not all, in addition,  at the parque de la Arganzuela it was created an urban beach, with three oval places with low depth where one can refresh oneself  with water canons; it will have kiosk for drinks and umbrella rentals. The parque de la Arganzuela will have 8 fountains as well with lights. The lighting will be at the many bridges that cross the park, such as puente monumental del Perrault (monumental bridge of Perrault) ,and 32 passarelles and bridges built or renovated to connect the 7 districts that cross the Madrid Rio complex.  The bridges are  Puente del ReyPuente de SegoviaPuente de Toledo , and passarelles are Aniceto Marinas , and  Parque de la Arganzuela are updated so allowing pedestrians use and cyclists.  Again the upgrades go on on the Puente OblícuoPuente de San Isidropuente de Praga, puente de  la Princesa , and the one north of Puente de Toledo; the pedestrians and cyclist lanes at calle Almuñécar, forming an ‘Y’, to the north and south of  Puente de Toledo , and those at  Puente de Praga, next to Puente de la  Princesa , and the Salón de Pinos Sur.  7 historic reserves of water were renovated to allow us of pedestrian crossing .  It has 33  sport installations to practice skating, football/soccer, Cycling , extreme cycling ,handball, paddles, volleyball, tennis ,and rock climbing; also it is pending to finish a row boat canal , the children will enjoy 17  areas for games with 65  different elements distributed from the Salón de Pinos ,and the  parque de la Arganzuela. For the adults, there are 3 areas of health activities with exercise trails, and installed 12 tables for games and 7 fields for petanca (fr petanque). Eventually they will have about 40 kiosks to seel refreshement all over the park. Finally the river or rio Manzanares has undergone a cleaning process to bring it back ecological sane and sound; the cultural center Matadero (the old slaughterhouse of Madrid) is just been finished in the same area, webpage , and the city of Madrid webpage with the Madrid Rio info in Spanish,

For the next 7 days the weather will be 9°C to 21°C with some rains in the afternoon in Madrid. This webpage will give the weather just click on the map the area you will be in, it is the official meteological service in Spain  .Traffic will be bad as it is holy week beginning the first day was reported ok, but expect 14,4 millions road warriors in the next few days. In Seville, already heavy traffic around Bellavista , and the Puente del Centenario. The bulk of the traffic will be from holy wednesday on towards monday April 25th.  You can obtain free road traffic condition by calling these numbers from the DGT on cellphones or mobiles  505 for Movistar, 141 for Vodafone , and 2221 for Orange users), or calling the fix tel number of the DGT at +34  900 12 35 05, and of course its webpage use the dropdown window for the regions you will be in.

And yes Holy Week or Semana Santa is  from today ! in Spain its a tradition that still holds true to its origins. If you want to be here, its crowded, maybe loud, but its darn worth it all. The Sevilla info in Spanish is here for Malaga,Cadiz,Granada,Cordoba, and Sevilla here is another version . In Madrid at the colegiata de San Isidro calle Toledo 37 there will be a procession, April 21 at 20h starting from calle Toledo and passing many streets including Calle Cuchilleros near Plaza Mayor. Honoring  Nuestro Padre Jesús del Gran Poder (our father Jesus figure sculpture by Jose R Fernandez Andes) and María Santísima de la Esperanza ( holy Mary of the hope sculpture by Antonio Eslava Rubio).

The Marathon de Madrid was today and its 34th version ,and the winner is the Kenyan Moses Arusei, the one with the best mark in the of the 10,500 runners that took part today. He is ,also, the first one to lower the mark under 2 hours and 11 minutes . on the women side the winner was the Ethiopean Girma Tadesse with  2h35:28. webpage

The first official smokers’ club has openned in Madrid,  at the calle del Nardo, 6  district Tetuán, with the name of Royal Smoking Club. its hours are from 16h to 03h every day, and the music is chill-out. metro, cercanias train at Plaza de Castilla,and webpage

And not to be outdone my old district of Ciudad Lineal now has a new parking!!! for residents!!! with new lighting , all the parking is underground at calle de la Virgen del Sagrario, and underneath the plaza de la Virgen del Romero with capacity for 404 vehicles in 3 levels.

In Alcala de Henares, you will see a great work of art with drawing from July 8 to 28 2011 at the Antiguo Hospital Santa Maria la Rica, Calle Santa Maria la Rica, under the title “Los desastres de la guerra de Francisco de Goya” done by Francisco Goya ,and on about 80 portraits done by him between 1810 and 1815, show the disasters of the war of Independance in Spain (from Napoleon I of France who had his brother Joseph in charge there). And while in Alcala de Henares, try naturalcala a center of good environmental activities for the whole family, webpage here

And for the real Madrid feel see a Zarzuela and a great one like Luisa Fernanda, one of  the best in the first third of the 20C at the famous Teatro de la Zarzuela. This zarzuela was first shown in 1932, with a history of love and a happy ending. until april 22nd hurry up at

To end, the recall of a magnificent place, first brough in here as a boy,and just early this  year revisited on one of my business trips ,the Bar Palace at the Westin Hotel, being given first fame by the many visits by Ernest Hemingway, while writing  later  “The Sun Also Rises”. located inside the hotel at Plaza de las Cortes,7, webpage

Enjoy Madrid , Spain everything under the sun. Cheers!

April 16, 2011

Sud Ouest or southwest magic of France

Ok  I am going to talk about a large area covering many villages and town of old, known to my family as they are from there on the father’s side . These are all in cathar country in the Sud Ouest or south west region of France, in the Tarn department no 81 region of midi pyrénées. The towns are Gaillac, Montans,Giroussens, Graulhet, St Lieux les Lavaur, St Paul Cap de Joux, and Castelnau de Montmirail.

It is a beautiful region best done by car, you get the feel of the local people, the sceneries, the smell of the good wine of Gaillac made mostly with ingenious grapes of the regions. I will try to hit the highlights of each to help in your future travels but of course one blog cannot cover them all in detail.

Let me start with Gaillac, this is a wonderful laidback country town but the center of one of the best wines in France. One of the red grapes Duras is one of the oldest in the world, and the Mauzac for whites is typical of the area. The official webpage is at .  The best way to reach it and the other towns is by car of course, the D988 or old N88 link Toulouse with it which links with the N20/A20 from Paris or the autoroute A68 from Toulouse. The best way is to seek a route planner for all these towns the best available is viamichelin, however, if one more details on driving in the area than a route planner will give you dont hesitate to ask me specific questions. . The D112 from Toulouse thru Lavaur and the D631 to Graulhet, the D12 /D87 to Giroussens etc etc. Parking is always very easy to find as these are smaller town with nice plazas.

The train stations are easily found on the TER midi pyrénées site, but I have not use the train nor bus in the area yet, car is king for me… ,again if difficulties with the site in French, let me know and will help you.  The above site covers for all the towns mentioned here.  bus transportation is available but less frequent in my opinion, the bus site for all the Tarn towns is TarnBus at

What is there to see in Gaillac, other than the wineries, and the wine center at the historical Abbaye Saint Michel , by place St Michel and behind it the river Tarn flowing freely ;it is also the tourist office. Built in 972AD and rebuilt in 1221AD,it is very nice to visit for the architecture alone. Here is the Maison des Vins de Gaillac  on the above Gaillac vins webpage. Many battles between the royal forces and the cathars were held in the town, one of the principal reminder is the rue de l’Anquillé very quaint old medieval and site of hand to hand combats, headquarters of the order of Chevaliers of St Jean de Jerusalem.  The place d’Hautpoul where the hotel de ville is located is big and wonderful plaza. As well as the picturesque and nice plaza the place du Griffoul with a nice fountain typical of the area. To follow is a webpage that covers the bastides or fortified towns of the area in which Gaillac was one, but ,also, some of the other towns that will be mentioned here such as Giroussens, Graulhet ,etc.

Montans is a very small village, this is where the family has uncles and my wife grew up going to the local wine cooperative nearby. The only and biggest and wonderful place here is the Archiosite de Montans, an excavation that found many objects as it was one of the most important centers of Roman pottery ,and you will be able to see it as it was back then with ceramics making shops. The webpage is here

Giroussens, has the magnificent Jardin des Martels, founding plant and flora of all types in a huge park, considered one of the most beautiful in France, the webpage is here  . The place of making pottery for the kings of France and as far as Louisiana in the USA and Quebec in Canada. You have the Church of Saint Salvy from the 14C, with a chapel dedicated to Sainte Rufine the patron sainte of potters. The castle of  Chateau de Bélbeze, built in 1640 by the master water and forest of Toulouse, and sold as national property at the French revolution.  The Maison de la Ceramique Contemporain at Place Lucie-Bouniol  is wonderful to see the different shades and shapes of ceramics, no web admission is 2,50e email them for info at . You have a nice tourist article in pdf file for the city here

Graulhet, has a wonderful market days in the lower city of ville basse which you descend by steps of stone from the high city or ville hausse, location is Place du Jourdain.  The grandparents of my wife used to come here for shopping, and its a major center of tanners for leather goods in France.  Discoveries in the area dates the city from about 500BC.  It did not suffer much in the war of religions in the area as it remain neutral!!! You can see the Pont Vieux or old bridge built in 1244AD and the walk rue Panessac, but the main action is in the market as beforemention. You have an pdf file for the city here

Saint Lieux lés Lavaur, has an interesting real train ride from the old days, and still kept alive by enthusiasts, the ride is wonderful for the entire family. Its call  the chemin de fer touristique du Tarn . It is listed as an association of Acova ,and has five locomotives of vapor, 3 locomotives electric, and 25  locotracteurs or road switchers. The webpage is . The tourist office in the pays de la cocagne as well as the nice town of St Sulpice is at

Saint Paul Cap de Joux, it has a beautifully built church, and the historical fact that in 1585, Henri of Navarra the future king Henri IV signed the Manifest of Saint Paul with the governor of the Languedoc, Henri Ier, Duke of Montmorency, adding the territory which later came to the kingdom of France. It is here, also, that in 1145AD  St Bernard de Clairvaux came to preach what would later be the Cathar heresy. It is also from here that the Cathar community was installed in the north of  Italy,  the chapel from the 14C of  Sainte-Cécile de Plane Sylve, where there is now a cross tell us that it was here the center Cathar of Saint Paul . Tourist page for the city in the pays de l’Agout river is at

Castelnau de Montmirail, this is a fortified town or bastide ,one of the famous one in the southwest of France. It was here that the Catholics of Gaillac took refuge after been expelled by the Cathars. Here is a ramparts and hilly streets many with beautiful views over the river Tarn and tributaries . It has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France! La Croix reliquaire des Comtes d’Armagnac is a cross relics that has been displayed in Paris at the Grand Palais, and you can see here at home inside the Church Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. official tourist webpage for the town is at

You have the help of the tourist office of the department of the Tarn, as , and the region Midi Pyrénées, .

The shopping here is the wonders of French gastronomy, its wonderful cassoulet,foie gras, sausages, pigeons,  are all sublimes. The best for these are the marchés and all towns have it. For good on Saturday mornings then sometimes on wednesdays and others on fridays. You can buy ceramics at Giroussens, and leather good at Graulhet at the only stores selling them.

For lodgings the choices are endless from hotels to gîtes to rural houses, the organisation gites de France is wonderful here at the Tarn dept and you can narrowed it down further I stayed with family or rent the Accor hotels if not too many of us, many good ones Ibis, Mercure, and Novotel hotels, the webpage . I never go wrong with them anywhere.

For eating again mostly with the family here, but we have venture out to some over time. Creperie Saint Michel , 46, Place griffoul – 81600 Gaillac
Tél: +33 05 63 81 46 93 , love those crêpes anytime! for traditional southwest cuisine try the Le Saint Pierre, 50 Place Libération 81600 Gaillac -+33  05 63 57 03 03.  For a real country cooking like you have not seen even in France, and great prices  try at Saint Lieux les Lavaur ,Le Colvert just outside of the town, webpage with directions here . For a night out with the family and splurge try the Opera Prestige at Graulhet, 5, rue Docteur Rouzet 81300 Graulhet , very modern and inventive gastronomy here and local. And follow that at Castelnau de Montmirail for the La  Tables des Consuls, in season, fresh and many bio with a family touch and again very local, the webpage . For light days try the boulangeries they can be wonderful in the region, the one at Jose Azzolin in Gaillac is very good, 14 Rue Joseph Rigal, 81600 Gaillac.

Hope you will come and drive to enjoy this region is full of history, genuine people, and great food in addition to some interesting places to see. Cheers!!!


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