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 28, 2011

Hameau of queen Marie Antoinette

My walks about and around my beautiful city takes me to many gorgeous places indeed ::) However, one queen was seduced by the tranquility and country quiet of a place, and I am very attach to it too as my walks always evolved around it for many years now.

I am talking about the Hameau de la Reine or queen hamlet better known as the hamlet of Marie Antoinette or Hameau de Marie Antoinette.  You can see as part of the overall visit to the castle or coming by Porte Saint Antoine walking in is free and the park is free to see it at this area. To get to Porte Saint Antoine from central Versailles go to the Gare d’Europe at the corner of ave Saint Cloud and ave de l’Europe bus station and on the Saint Cloud side there is a bus stop for no 19, take it pay the driver ask for the stop at Arboretum/Parly II get off ,and walk back about 200 meters you will see a huge arch door this is the Porte Saint Antoine, go in and the hameau is immediately to your right couple minutes walking. Cheers !!

The Hameau de la Reine as it is often said in French is an annex buildings of the Petit Trianon in the Domaine of Versailles (includes the castle). The hamlet was ordered built in the winter of 1782-1783 by the queen Marie Antoinette. She wanted a place where she can get away from the court hassle of the castle ,and the nostalgia of a life more simpler . The Hamlet was inspired by the one at the Chateau de Chantilly , and was done by architect Richard Mique and the designs by painter Hubert Robert.

This was done around a garden style English and Chinese that began in 1774 and finished by 1783. Here you have the Bélvedere  in a octagonal shape with a dome on top of a hill surrounded by a lake  built from 1778 to 1781.  The Temple de l’Amour  finished in 1778 was built in a classical style on a hill with an artificial stream to the east of the garden.  The roof place on elevated platform with 7 steps and surrounded by 12 corintheans columns. The original temple  is now in the museum of the Louvre in Paris.

The queen came to the hamlet dress as a farmer work here and fed the goats and sheeps as well as cows. The maids would clean the animals and the service was using porcelain vases from the royal manufacture.  The produce here in terms of vegetables ,fruits and milk was use at the royal table !  Her close friends were only allowed here, and they play games in the farm and billiards; some of these close friends were the Comte de Vaudreuil, Baron de Besenval, Countess de Polignac and her daughter Aglaê de Guiche, and her in-law Diane,and the Comte d’Esterhazy. She ,also, appreciated the presence of her sister in law Madame Elizabeth (sister of the king Louis XVI)  , and Pricesse de Chimay. Also, Madame Campan , first lady of the queen, and the Countess of Ossun.

Buildings to see is the Maison de la Reine et billards , outside look rustic but inside is very luxurious; the  Boudoir was the little house of the queen with a size of   4,60 meters(15 ft) by  5,20 meters (17 ft), and was the smallest building in the hamlet ,the queen came here often alone, the mirrors on it are from Bohemia region in Europe.  The tour de Marlborough, built like a lighthouse serve as stockpile of fishing items and small boats; it gives a view at the top to the castle.  The moulin or windmill serve as a nice decor but it has never function as such.  The réchauffoir  are behind the maison de la Reine and includes all the necessary to give service to the hamlet such as a huge kitchen, oven, butcher, stock, but also of  washing of clothing. It was last used in 1810-11 for the parties of the Emperatrice Marie-Louise. The Laiteries or dairy shop  were two, one call the “laiterie de préparation” ,where the creams and cheeses were made near the tower as well as extract the milk and make the butter. The queen came to taste them in the second laiterie named ” laiterie de propreté” on tables of white marbre put around the table and held by 14  sculpture stands.  The first laiterie was completely destroyed during the French revolution, and it is now a replica.  The farm area or Ferme  was built a bit away from the hamlet to make a real producing farm (it is closer to the road that I now drive everyday !) . It has many component buildings built from  1784 to 1789.  They were destroyed during the first empire (Napoleon I) and were not restored to it identical 1789 look only in 2006. The Colombier,was near the lake and house a pigeon home in its attic, and chicken on the rear. The queen ask to be populated with hens and rooster from all over the west of France in 1785.  The  maison du garde, or maison du gardien is located at the edge of the water lake, here the first one was a Swiss in charge of keeping the hamlet or the guardian of the hamlet. A Grange or barn was built between the laiterie de préparation and the colombier  between 1786 and 1789,it was changed to a rustic ballroom dance as per the queen to have more intimate dances away from the glorified ones at the gardens nearer the castle.

The place serves as a first try on the wine making process in the Paris region, using the same technique than in the 18C with low planting as well as cereal field for the cows, goats and sheep in house.  The grapes here are cabernet franc and merlot. It is then carry away to Suresnes 92 to create a nice bottle of wine!

The hamlet was left in abandoned after the French revolution , and little care was taken of it. After many efforts to maintain it ,and renovated, passing by many it was finally given maintenance to an agriculture association and finally open to the public in 2006.

Its a peaceful area and if go in the morning not crowded, lots of folks come here for picnic in the grassy areas around it, ride a bike, walks, and just family weekend outing just like me. You can partake as well as after a long walk in the castle or just before for an inspiring recharge then castle. Cheers

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 26, 2011

Jardins de Versailles or gardens

I need to talk about the gardens or jardins de Versailles. The castle is marvelous, a wonder art building, a dream. However, the gardens are heavens, peace, beauty au naturel , health, good food, and hours and hours of tranquility amongst the paces of many personalities of our history.

The gardens are for me a refuge, I come here often very often much more than inside the castle. This is my kingdom, and for certains events in the near garden  and for most of the park is free.  Wanted have some peace away from the city not just Versailles but Paris, and other nearby, come here you will find it. Also, find many interesting folks from all over the world ::)

The gardens developped as did the castle in the Domaine of Versailles , it includes all the buildings and land, that started been 815 hectares or 2003 acres. It is now only 37 hectares or 91 acres, yet its huge.  The king Louis XIII was of course, the first mover in the development of the gardens, the first traces were laid in the west side of the castle in 1630. In 1662 after the disgrace of Nicolas Fouquet and the appropiation of the Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, king Louis XIV put his efforts in beautifying the castle at Versailles with the same team of  Louis Le Vau, Charles Le Brun , and André Le Nôtre.

It is by 1661 that the Orangerie and Grotte de Thétys are done, and king Louis XIV made sumptous parties. Between 1665 and 1668 the enrichement of the gardens continue with the improvement the Grotte de Thétys ,and the addition of the Parterre de Latone and bassin d’Apollon. The grotte or cave of Thétys had another marvelous use  with the hydraulic system that provided water to the gardens, the roof of the cave held a reserve that kept the water pump from the etang or lake of Clagny fed by gravity the fountains of the gardens.

We come to the Grand Canal, 1500 meters long and 62 meters wide built between 1668-1671 gives you a visual into farther away behind the castle (towards me ::))  to the axe east west until the petit parc. In 1674, king Louis  XIV  ordered the construction of the  “Petite Venise“; located by the septentrinal arm of the Grand Canal where it houses the boats and yachts received from the Low Countries ,and housing the gondolas received as gift from the Doge de Venice. The Grand Canal receives the water that filter from the fountains and into the garden;this water was pump by a network of pump made work by windmills and horsemills and later send to the reserves on the top of the grotte de Thétys to again feed the fountains ,so the hydraulic system works in a close circuit.

Below the fountain of Latone you will see the terrace of the castle also known as the Parterre d’Eau . It forms an axe east west between the castle and the gardens and has a straight view from the Grands Appartements!. In 1674 king Louis XIV ordered several statues as a decorating element for the fountains on the parterre d’Eau, this is known as the Grande Commande or big order, and consisted of  24 statues of classical design created by Charles Le Brun and done by the best sculptures of the times.

Some of the forest gardens done under king Louis XIV were numerous I just mentioned them here with dates Bosquet du Marais(1670); Bosquet du Théatre d’Eau(1671); Île du Roi & Miroir d’Eau, Salle des Festins or salle du Conseil;Bosquet des Trois-Fontaines. In 1672, Labyrinthe and Bosquet de l’Arc de Triomphe; in 1675  Bosquet de Renommée (also call bosquet des Dômes), Bosquet de l’Encélade, in 1678  Bosquet des Sources.

Other wonders such as the bassin des sapins where the fountain of Neptune is located done in 1678. Also the Piéce d’eau des Suisses, name after the Swiss guards of the king who built it for their enjoyment with an area of 15 hectares (37 acres) is the biggest after the Grand Canal. The gardens were constantly improve and enlarge and three more forest or bosquets came to light, Galerie des Antiques in 1680 La Salle de Bal, with a cascade only one in Versailles that gave rise to many celebrations here by the king,done in 1681-1683. La Colonnade by Jules Hardouin Mansart done on the old placement of the Bosquet des Sources  of André Le Nôtre. This is a circular shape with 32 arches and 28 fountains echoing the architectural expression of Hardouin-Mansart at Versailles,done in 1684-85.

king Louis XV spent more on the castle and trianon than on the gardens so his efforts bear very little here. king Louis XVI try to change the gardens a la anglaise or english but did not work to a la française came back. However, little as his biggest contribution was that of  the  Grotte des Bains d’Apollon.

The French revolution came in and the gardens suffered too. Trees and grass was removed, and people will come to do their laundry in the fountains…  Napoleon I came but ignored the gardens as well. And it took another Louis to do something about it. In 1817 king Louis XVIII ordered two forests built, these are the bosquet de l’Île du Roi ,and the  Miroir d’Eau , both were transformed into English garden to form the  Jardin du Roi.

The castle and it gardens were finally protected by king Louis Philippe in 1837 by transforming it into a museum! All the castle and gardens is a museum. Many of the gardens bosquets have a short life and no longer exist than those mentioned above.

The official Chateau de Versailles weppage has information on the gardens opening in French with an Oeuvre colossale or a huge work of art. and now some of my pictures

April 26, 2011

The temple of Debod in Madrid

One of the unusual places to see in Madrid is the temple of Debod, and it seems a must every time I am in the city alone or with family. As a child I used to hang around the parque de la Montaña,which just an extension of the Parque del Oeste where the temple is.

The area is very much with trees and lawn, and hilly park trails. Great for kids, and a nice walk for adults. Its what Madrid amazes the visitor and even the resident, many things all different all under Madrid to heavens and a hole in the sky to look down on it every day!!!

The parque de la Montaña used to house a police headquarter or cuartel where bloody events during the Spanish Civil War was held. Maybe it was to soften the glow…that authorities back then decided to place the temple here.

The temple of Debod is an Egyptian gift to Madrid,Spain given to Madrid in 1968 in compensation for the Spanish help after a call by UNESCO to save the temples of Nubia, especially that of Abu Simbel that was in danger of being destroyed due to the building of the dam of Asuan.

It is as old as 2 200 years, its oldest part was built under Pharoah Ptolome IV Filopator and was decorated later on under Nubian king Adijalamani of Meroe around  200-180 BC; dedicated to Amon of Debod and Isis. It has parts added to it from the ptolemic and imperial Roman periods of   1C AD to 2C AD.

In the chapel of Adijalamani or reliefs showing offerings and sacrifices to the gods, especially god  Amón of  Debod, that is received by other divinities such as Isis, Hathor, Osiris, Horus, Apset, Mut, Satis, Anukis,Horajty, and others . Room of Mammisi, the word is of Coptian origin and means “place of birth”.  This room was used under the Roman Egyptian period done by Augusto and Tiberian in the years 42 AD to 37AD.

Other rooms are  Vestibule or Pronaos Hipostilo decorated by Augusto and Tiberian , Anti room of Naosroom of Naoi ,has the only naos preserved ; Hallway with a wall showing a solar clock ;  Osiriaric Chapel  relic of  Osiris by the terrace next to access stair; the Terrace, for ceremonies of the sun and new year ; chapel of the headboards , the Uabet, a place of purification that open to the vestibule ; Crypts as Debod is one of the few temples that had crypts opening towards the chapel of the headboards.

If you like architecture and ancient history this is it for you, plus a nice walk in a nice area of Madrid. While there take the teleferico or cable car over to Casa de Campo many attractions.

The city of Madrid mayor’s office has good info on it in Spanish here

You can ,also, check Spain tourist site in English here

and for the teleferico or cable car ride, have it all here with info on many other parks.

enjoy it the temple its wonderful.

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April 25, 2011

The gardens at Fontainebleau

It was the first castle that I visited in France way way back. Its still the nostalgic favorite ,visited several times a year. The luxury and architecture of it is inmense, but a lot of folks missed the wonderful gardens. They are magnificent. So here I am to tell you a bit about it.

The jardins or gardens of the Chateau or castle of Fontainebleau, are in the department of Seine et Marne or no 77 east of Paris in the region of Ile de France. You get here by train from Gare de Lyon in Paris to the Fontainebleau-Avon train station and a navette bus will take you to the front of the castle. You can come by road from Paris on the A6. Parking is available by across right from the castle or at pl d’Armes.

To the south of the castle lies the  grand parterre (11 ha or 27 acres) or big garden designed by none other than  Le Nôtre, and it is the most extensive that he had done, a garden French style or jardin à la française. It was created from 1660 to 1664. By the time of  Napoléon Ier,the terraces were encircled with lime trees.  The English style garden or jardin à la Anglaise took formed from 1812 with an artificial stream, and long alleys, butches of trees,and isolated trees of various species ,and sculptures . Some of the current trees dates back from the middle of the 19C and are from the time of those planted under Napoleon. The jardin de Diane are from work done under Napoleon as well as Louis Philippe that were done in a picturesque style . They have as principal sculpture that of the Fountain of Diane that, also, gave name to the garden. The gardens are free admission and are open from  May to September  9h-19h.  March April and October from  9h-18h, and from November to February from  9h-17h.
Other interesting things to see is the Grotte des Pins or cave of pins encrusted in a wall by the wing of the galerie d’Ulysse looking out and done under king  Louis XV. The Pavillon de l’Etangsbuilt in 1662 by Le Vau looking out to the Grand Parterre done by Le Nôtre. It was restored in 1807  when the jardin  Anglais was done. Then you have the huge Parc or park that goes beyond the castle far back, it has 130 hectares or 321 acres of land all the way to the bassin des Cascades ,and the east the royal castle.  From the village of Avon it crosses a principal road for access to the castle. It current configuration is due to the organisation of the alleys, cascades , and the creation of the Canal of 1,2 kms (0.75 mile)  under king  Henri IV by 1606-1609. You, also, will see the Fountain Bliaud, in the middle of the garden in a small forest , the fountain also call Belle-Eau  from the 16C and the one that gives the name to the castle in old French as in Fontaine -bleau or bliaud.
You have the possibility of riding in a horse carriage the extend of the gardens, from Easter to All Saints day every day from 10h30 – 13h and 14h30 – 17h without interruption the weekends on depart from the Porte Dorée of the castle, cost is 4 € per person. You can ask for a ride into the forest for 23€ per hour and per person . Information at the  « Les Attelages de Forêt de Fontainebleau » 66, rue Gambetta – 77210 AVON.
Tél +33 or .webpage
Every year in November you can participate in the blessing of the hunt or the Feast of Saint Hubert, patron saint of the hunters. It is wonderful indeed. You start with a Mass by 9h30 or so, at the cour Ovale ,and then by 11h or so the Vin d’Honneur or drink by the Porte Dorée, and then by 12h or so the depart for the hunting in the forest  near the Obelisk towards the look of Maintenon .
The official site of the Chateau de Fontainebleau is at  For more local tourist info see the webpage of the city of Fountainebleau , and the department 77 tourist webpage at
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April 25, 2011

The sierras around Madrid

One thing that escapes many is the sierras or mountain passes and outdoors available just outside the city of Madrid.  In my youth I used to come by Navacerrada, Cercecilla,Villalba, Guadarrama, and San Lorenzo a lot with my family and friends.

These were nice moment spent outside the grinder of the city, and especially in summer it was great. In Winter too, but my first encounter with the snow trails at Navacerrada turn into a twisting roll down the mountain that almost cost my life, luckily came out ok, but took me away from the slopes forever.

Now my boys are into it, and they have been with our family there, and I have gone back to drive thru and see the beautiful scenary.  The idea of this post is to let you know a bit more of glorious Madrid, and its Comunidad de Madrid and its sierras.  

First the Navacerrada mountain pass and ski resort is fantastic, and the only medal winner in the Olympics games of Sapporo 1972 came from here.  The Navacerrada is a complete resort nowdays with all modern facilities.  You have 9 slopes in the zona alta or high hill and 7 slopes in the zona baja or low hill; the zona baja is for beginners and such and the zona alta is for pros. It has 9 lifts to carry you all over the mountain. At this moment the station is close for maintenance but its the end of the season, really, be ready for next winter. However for summer splurges and walks into the valleys or a ride by car it is still wonderful. Most folks visiting arrive here by train, leaving from Estación de Chamartín in Madrid you take the cercanias or suburbian train C-8b to Cercedilla ,and the the C-9 or train of Cotos to Puerto de Navacerrada. Info tel +34  902 240 202, and train webpage RENFE ,  . There is a bus service as alternative but never taken it,it is every day from the  intercambiador de Moncloa in  Madrid on line  691 of the firm LARREA (Tel Autobuses LARREA +34 91 851 55 92 – Tel Intercambiador de Moncloa bus station +34  91 520 48 00). webpage bus company

Then you have it by car, my way. You have two ways recommended, from Madrid on the A-6 to Collado Villalba and here take the road M-601 direccion Segovia until you reach Puerto de Navacerrada.  A better way off expressways is to take the road  M-607 (the ones from the north of Madrid direction  Colmenar Viejo, and follow the signs for Puerto de Navacerrada. The Madrid route planner is good on Repsol for all of Spain here

I have not stayed here as make my trip from Madrid where I do have family or friends, but I hear good things for the Hotel La Barranca, wonderful area in tune with nature. webpage and another one recommended by a local mountaineer is the Hotel Sierra Real with webpage

For eating there is loads of places of the good Castilian cuisine high in the mountains, one is the Restaurante La Fonda Real right in the hotel La Barranca, delicious cochinillos or little piglets roasted, the place is house in an old postal carriage stop. ,and for gastronomy at its best and the lechazo in the area try Restaurante Felix el Segoviano, at

This is the official site for the Puerto de Navacerrada in Spanish,

The other towns are smaller but plenty of outdoor activities around the embalse or water reservoirs especially around Cercedilla as well as mirador or lookout points to see farther into the Sierra. In addition walk trails such as the Siete Picos, in the village of Adesgam for 5 kms and low density for all. And for the more experience and with good weather the 17 kms of Puerto de Navacerrada to Manzanares El Real.  Here is good to be base at Cercedilla at the nice Venta del Puerto de Navacerrada ( a venta is a hotel with food service or pension sort of) very nice in real country; 80 rooms with prices from 9-12 euros per day no web tel + 34 91 852 14 32 . For a bit more comfortable try the Casona de NavalMedio, webpage here For eating we have tried the Casa Ochoa right by the train station in Cercedilla, typical mountain resto ,webpage as well as the beforemention Venta del Puerto de Navacerrada.

These webpage with some sections translated into English will help seek out all the information you need on this vast area, that will need several visits to know it all. Even I ,admit have not seen it all here,its a huge Sierra. For the Guadarrama Sierra in general this site is great , And this one in Spanish , Por la Sierra (by the sierra) its like the news of the Sierra various towns, but has plenty of videos and moutain food recipes too, enjoy it,

If you go to the section San Lorenzo or EL Escorial in the above Por la Sierra link you will see wonderful videos of the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a UNESCO world heritage site.

And if you like to go further north in the Sierra Norte and reach Buitrago del Lozoya then you will be thrown back to medieval times in an authentic Castilian town , just perfect wonderful , the webpage for the area is here ,and do stay at the Hotel Los Canchos, webpage , and other than at the hotel ,go out and try Asador Las Murallas, another dandy of the Castilian mountain cuisine, webpage just hit the name, . As it is a wonderful tourist enclave, it has its own page Butraigo del Lozoya ,here

You will have a wonderful open country forest, mountain, lakes, rivers, and plenty more here just as little as 25 minutes outside Madrid. Some photos of the many that is needed ::) Cheers

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 24, 2011

Capitol, Havana, a symbol of a Nation

Lets bring along a emblematic building that represent a linkage of the past and present, a symbol of what and where you are in Cuba and especially Havana.  In my youth I spent many afternoon going by and on tours to see the meaning that it was to the Cubans. Inside is a plethora of historical facts to better understand the country.

I am talking about the Capitol building in old Havana. El Capitolio as it is known in Spanish, built in 1929  to house the two chambers of the Cuban congress. Its was inspired by the Roman capitol and that which is in Washington DC USA. The building has a front neo classic style with a dome of 91,73 meters tall ( 302.7 ft).  It is located between the streets or  calle Pardo, Dragones, Industria, and San Jose. Inside it marks the kilomerter zero of all distances in Cuba with a diamond on the floor. AFter the Cuban revolution it house the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment and the Academy of Sciences of Cuba.

It is in the space where the old city of Havana walls were crossing built in colonial period by the Spanish.  The walls here were destroyed in 1863. Here there was a statue to queen Isabel II, and it was the start of the now Parque Central de La Habana or Central Park.  Part of the public work efforts by then President Gerardo Machado (later dictator too), the team of architect Raul Otero and the participation of the French team led by urban planner Jean-Claude-Nicolas Forestier, and Architect Eugenio Raynieri Piedra as director of developement,and arquitec Jose M Bens Arrate. The actual construction was given to the American firm of  Pudri & Henderson Company. However, it was the French Forestier who put together the urban plan of the Capitol and surrounding areas as in Paris.

The details of the work made the building  207,44 meters long in its facade  which included a large stair monumental of almost 36 meters wide( 118.8 ft) , 28 meters long (92.4 ft) , and 55 steps with three rest squares . At the two sides of the end of the stair you have two sculptures made in bronze by the Italian Angelo Zanelli, call La Virtud Tutelar del Pueblo ” (the virtue of the people) , and ” El Trabajo” (the work) ,both of 6,50 meters high (21.4 ft) .

To continue the description of this wonderful building, we come to the main central door with a lenght of 36 meters (118.8 ft)  and 16 meters high 52.8 ft)  all held by 12 ionic columns of granite.  It is here that the main doors of access to the building are place with 7,70 meters high (25.4 ft) and 2,35  meters wide (7.8 ft) as well as the sculpture in relief of marbre ,also done by the Italian Angelo Zanelli.  The dome with a high of 92 meters (303.6 ft)  was at the moment the fifth highest in the world with a diameter of 32 meters (105.6 ft).  It has 16 panels of which the most impressive are those covered with gold leaves of 22karats .  The dome has a lantern with 10 ionic columns of which interior were 5 light reflectors until 1959 when taken down by the revolutionary government.  In this space you see the symbolism architectural of the sculpture of the ” La República” or the lady marianne under the dome done also by Zanelli in bronze of  15 meters high  (49.5 ft) and 30 tons in weight that at the moment was the second biggest in the world under a roof.

You come to the great room call the “Salón de los Pasos Perdidos” ( the hall of the lost steps) , the most monumental of the spaces with almost  50 meters long (165 ft) and 14,5 meters wide( 47.9 ft)  and almost 20 meters high66 ft)  that serve the interconnection to the two bodies of government the  Cámara de Representantes (located to the north) and the  Senado (located to the south). These two blocks are organised in a rectangular fashion around two gardens with dimentions of  45 by 15 meters each (148.5 x 49.5 ft).

58 types of marbre, wood of the most exquisite in the country, decoration and ambiance done by the English firm of  Waring & Gilow Ltd. of  London.   The wrough iron in bronze by  The Yale & Towne Mfg. Co. of Stanford, CT USA, Societe Anonime Bague  and  Saunier Frisquet of Paris,France for the lamps, and the house of Fratelli Remuzzi from Italy and  Grasyma of Germany for the work in marbre, onyx, etc .  The diamond that mark the distances in Cuba is of brilliance of 25 karats the last owner was the tzar of Russia Nicolas II, and arrive in Cuba by Turkish jewerler that purchase it in Paris. Now you see a replica, the original is the the vaults of the Bank of Cuba.  Looking at the volume of its construction it is estimated that the Capitolio of La Habana is the third in importance for its monolithic construction in the world ,a nd the only one with its characteristics built in the 20C. Most of the detail information here came from wikipedia.

It is inmense ,the pride of Havana, and one of the most visited buildings in the city as of today. It was always like that, a must to see while in Havana. Just now looking at the pictures I am in awe of  its beauty and I have seem some beauties now living in France. Some photos of old.

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