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 http://www.1808-1814.org/efem/mayo.html  ,and some in English from wikipedia here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dos_de_Mayo_Uprising

For the activities around the festivities of the Dos de Mayo holiday , see the city of Madrid webpage with the agenda http://www.madrid.org/fiestasdel2demayo/2011/calendario.html#a02mayo

The Feria de Abril in Sevilla is undergoing just wonderfully , need to know more check this site of Tourism in Spain, http://www.spain.info/en/reportajes/la_feria_de_abril_por_el_dia.html

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, http://www.mahou-sanmiguel.com/  Need to know more see wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grupo_Mahou-San_Miguel

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 info@lagloriarestaurante.com.  webpage http://www.lagloriarestaurante.com/

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 , http://www.cafeindiana.com/

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 http://www.gibertjoseph.com/

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 http://www.quaibranly.fr/

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  http://www.jim-haynes.com/

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, http://www.airqualitynow.eu/ , and the European project Aphekom org that tells you of very polluted cities such as Barcelona, the full report is here http://www.aphekom.org/c/document_library/get_file?uuid=5532fafa-921f-4ab1-9ed9-c0148f7da36a&groupId=10347 

The air quality in Paris is constantly measure by AirParif at the webpage http://www.airparif.asso.fr/ 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 http://fondation.cartier.com/

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 http://www.museothyssen.org/microsites/exposiciones/2011/gerome/index_en

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 http://www.lepoemeharmonique.fr/ ,and as to the place shown in Madrid webpage here http://www.teatroscanal.com/1000200000201/burgues-gentilhombre__1.html

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 http://www.corraldelamoreria.com/

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 http://www.bowlingchamartin.com/

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 http://www.auditoriumspa.com/

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  http://www.arroceriasmediterraneo.com/Bernabeu/
Email: info@auditoriumspa.com

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

Cathedral of Havana or La Habana

 

This is a mythical building in the old section of Havana or La Habana. The Cathedral is link directly with the history of the city and Cuba. I have spent my days there, and my family took me there in several occasions,now its time to talk a bit about it.

The Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana  is in the old casco historico or historic center of the city name to UNESCO world heritage sites as a whole. First it was a prayer by old huts and bird dropping use as a house of prayer since 1528AD ,then,  it was a prayer site for the disciples of  Saint Ignacio of the order of the Jesuistes in 1727, then construction began by 1748 and by 1767 the collegiale was built but the church not yet completed.  By 1767 the Jesuistes were expelled from the Americas Spanish . According to Cuban history, the nave was occupied since independance of the island in 1898 by a funeral monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon) as his ashes were kept there for about 100 years, later they were transfered to Santo Domingo ,and eventually to Sevilla.  It was declared a Cathedral on June 22,  1790. The Cathedral was not finished until 1832.

The Cathedral  has two belltowers and its center floor form a temple of  34x36meters ( 112×119 ft) in a rectangular shape, with three naves and 8 chapels divided by huge columns. The floor is of  black and white marbre. The sculptures and detail work in the chapels was done by the Italian Bianchini in Rome in 1820. The paintings is done by the Italian Giusseppi Perovani and the French  Jean-Baptiste Vermay.  There is  a  fine sculpture of Saint Christopher, patron saint of Havana, dates from 1632 and was made by Martín Andújar in Sevilla.

The square in front of the Cathedral that has the name Plaza de la Catedral is surrounded by noble houses such as the  Palacio del Marqués de ArcosCasa de los condes de Casa Bayona, or count of Bayona since 1720, and now houses the Museum of colonial arts or  Museo de Arte Colonial, the mansion of the marquis or Marqués de Aguas Claras ,and Palacio del Conde Lombillo or palace of conde de Lombillo.

The Pope John Paul II visited the Cathedral in 1998 to try to bring peace and respect of human life to the island rule by a dictatorship for 52 years already.

Webpage of the archiodiocese of Havana in Spanish with all related info http://www.arquidiocesisdelahabana.org/ , and the webpage of the Church of Cuba in Spanish too, http://www.iglesiacubana.org/

Happy Easter!

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 http://www.lemondeaparis.com/ ; 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 http://www.splendia.com/en/  For an across the board prices at all levels in maison d’hote or host house system the webpage is at http://www.maisondhotes.net/ 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 http://www.maison-hote.fr/page/index.php  ,and the chambre d’hotes more detail in France  with webpage is at http://www.chambres-hotes-france.org/ ;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 http://www.clevacances.com/FR/ ,and another that I have used and long standing here is the gîtes de France site at http://www.gites-de-france.com/ 

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 http://www.conciergerie-paris-airport.com/?lang=us

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 http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/

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 http://www.afcc-croisieres.fr/-Les-membres-.html

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 http://en.parisvision.com/

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 http://www.jardindacclimatation.fr/

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 http://www.solmelia.com/hotels/cuba/havana/tryp-habana-libre/home.htm

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 http://www.cubatourisme.fr/

April 22, 2011

Hotel Nacional at Havana

 

It is magical ,still there gleaming at you, hearing the waves bang against the rocky hill below, and the Strait of Florida in front of it. It has been thru all the episodes in Cuban history since its construction in 1927. Knowing it is to know Havana (San Cristobal de la Habana) a bit more, and Cuba too. I will talk a bit about this wonderful building call the Hotel Nacional.

The Hotel Nacional officially open from 1930, it was designed by an American architectual firm of McKim, Mead & White (they also build the National Museum of American History in Washington DC as others). A bit of history  says that in the 19th century, the hill on which the hotel stands held the famous battery of Santa Clara. The “Ordoñez” cannon, one of the largest of its time, still lies in the hotel’s gardens. On the headland of Punta Brava, Corregidor Don Luis Aguilar chastised the British during the seige and assault of Havana. The hotel’s most famous and luxurious restaurant is named after him.

Some of the memorable people who have stayed here over the years are such as Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Weissmuller, Buster Keaton, Jorge Negrete,Agustin Lara, Rocky Marciano, Tyrone Power, Romulo Gallegos, Errol Flynn, John Wayne , Marlene Dietrich, Gary Cooper, Marlon Brando, and Ernest Hemingway, as well as Winston Churchill, Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Alexander Flemming, and  innumerable Ibero-American Heads of State and European monarchs.

It was the site of a bloody battle in September 4, 1933 pitting the Cuban Army officers who participated in the coup d’état to overthrow President/dictator Gerardo Machado and the non commissioned officers and rank who supported the new strong man Fulgencio Batista. The US ambassador Sumner Welles lived here while the transition in the Cuban government took place.  In December 1946, it was the meeting of a mafia figures such as Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Santo Trafficante, jr, Frank Costello, Albert Anastacia, Vito Genovese and many others that was later characterized by Francis Ford Coppola in the movie, ” The Godfather ,part II”.

By 1955 the hotel was in full swing, and under new management, created  a new wing consisting of Clark’s famous Casino Internacional, the adjoining Starlight Terrace Bar and the Casino Parisién night club in january of 1956 with the first presenter been Eartha Kitt. The casino was closed by new President/dictator Fidel Castro in October 1960, as well as the hotel nationalised. It is now under management by the government supported Gran Caribe group.

For me it meant many afternoon visiting the patio with grandparents or parents, and sipping a delicious cold Coca Cola with lemon and plenty of ice. When visited the island there was no doubt to come here again, just to be quiet and listen to the winds and the waves cracking below in the ocean. Memories that still linger with me since childhood. You will be embracing Cuban history and perhaps a quiet moment listening to those same waves. Cheers

The official webpage is here http://www.hotelnacionaldecuba.com/en/home.asp

Enjoy it!!

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 20minutes.es 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 Monasterio.you wont be disappointed if a bit pricey but good.

Saludos.

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). www.foiredeparis.fr

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 www.larf.com 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 . http://www.comptoirdesvignes.fr/

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 http://www.holidaycheck.fr/  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 http://www.rameau-olivier.com/boutique/liste_rayons.cfm . A wonderful chocolate lover, Pascal Legac, 61, rue de Pologne webpage http://www.legac-chocolatier.fr/ .Everything for the kitchen as utensils machines, etc is Remue-Ménage, 14, rue de Pologne webpage http://www.remue-menage-culinaire.com/ . The fromages or cheese delights and well advise always by Sébastien Dubois, 16, rue de Poissy  webpage http://www.fromagerie-dubois.com/ ;

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 http://www.bitter-end.fr/ , 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 http://www.chocolaterielarnicol.fr/  La Maison du Chocolat, 19, rue de Sèvres, webpage http://www.lamaisonduchocolat.fr/fr/fr/  .Un Dimanche à Paris, 4-6-8, cour du Commerce-Saint-André,webpage http://www.un-dimanche-a-paris.com/  Patrick Roger, 108, boulevard Saint-Germain ,webpage http://www.patrickroger.com/fr/index.php ,And the Belgians are here too such as Pierre Marcolini, 89, rue de Seine, webpage http://www.marcolini.be/  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 http://www.chocolat-weiss.fr/

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 ……………………………

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