Archive for August, 2014

August 30, 2014

Pont Aven an artist hangout and a second look.

This is less than an hour from me, but with so much to see I just stopped by again and realise the last time wrote about it was in January 2013 here!!! The town of the school of painters of Pont Aven more commonly call the Americans.  As it was a Mr Bacon and Mr Wylie who first came here by 1864 and fell in love with the place painting their way attracting others thorought the years including the great Gauguin, and the word stuck even if many were not Americans.

The tourist office is here http://www.pontaven.com/L-Office-du-Tourisme  ; you have the department 29 or Finistére tourist board here, in English, http://www.finisterebrittany.com/discover/pont-aven , and you have the region tourist office of Brittany here, in English, http://www.brittanytourism.com/discover-brittany/hidden-gems/pont-aven

We came by car of course easy on the N165 exit or sortie 48 on the D4 or you can go along the expressway as we did coming back to avoid the weekend tourist hordes going home by the D783 to Quimperlé and take the D16 out into the N165. The weather was cool warm some sun, very nice for walks.

When we arrive we parked by the harbor parking le port  right along the river Aven. For free. We set out into city center along the Aven looking at the nice stores and restaurants and taking a beat as to what to do later on.

I went first to the museum of Pont Aven, as I knew it was Under construction and so sad it is still in scaffolds and the tourist office confirm to  me will take about another year before it opens again.. This is the one showing the great painters of the School of Pont Aven. The webpage for future use, http://www.museepontaven.fr/

We set out to do some shopping very typical nice and good prices for this hidden gem of the Finistére Breton. Well that is what the tourist office says but from the crowds there, it is not hidden anymore ::)

The biscuiteries or cookie making companies are a boundful here,and we did grab a box or bag here and there on our favorites already from our last visit. The Traou Mad galettes,http://www.traoumad.fr/

The biscuiterie de Pont Aven, http://www.biscuiteriedepontaven.fr/

The Biscuiterie de la Maison de Fanch ,1 quai Botrel  (this one was a new one), the Real Chocolat,  26 rue du port (another new one for us) all wonderful to explore and shop.

We check on the vedettes de l’Aven Maritime a cruise up the river Aven, and into the ocean,  starting from September 2nd, 1h15 rides for 13,50€ adults.  http://vedettes-aven-belon.com/content/54/29/les-circuits

We went for some spicy seafood to bring home in jars at the Moulin de Rosmadec épicerie or grocery store, this is an excellent restaurant but more suitable for evenings , my take. The grocery store is right before getting to the resto and they have a small hotel as well; very chic. The items here are a mouthful;;;;  see and the rest here, http://www.moulinderosmadec.com/gb/epicerie.html

These are very local goodies you can eat on the spot or take home to wherever you are lodged. The Niniches are the stors of the La Maison d’Armorine, and they have several stores as per their site we go to Carnac most often but been to all of them, superb. The niniches were created in Quiberon and they have won honors for their confection in France as the best candies, they come in many flavors; something unique to buy here. http://www.maison-armorine.com/public/catalogue/produits/fr/nos-confiseries/les-niniches.php

Somewhere in the above we stopped by our favorite gift store in the area rivals the other one we like,  ,,,, this is Lever Micheline, cadeaux Bretonnes in Pont Aven. Here we got kitchen deco and t shirts with merlin the magician logos and dragons, snakes you name it. They carry the whole range of Breton goodies from food, liquors, to gifts of all sorts and with genuine made in Brittany or France logos. You should be here if in the area. It is at the main street diagonally to the museum, 2 place Paul Gauguin and across from tourist office.

And of course, we ate lol!! forgot the entry but posted the photos. The wonderful Le Moulin du Grand Poulguin by the harbor back , free parking, and great prompt service with delicious food. We had Breton beers Duchesse Anne Triple 7,5% and kids had Morgane, bio blonde beer. Just to try them. We ate from pizzas savoyarde and Forte to tagliatelle albacore tuna pasta and the Tagliatelle 3 fromages, all with expresso coffee, bread,butter,and water, limonade, menthe syrop drinks, and only 17€ per person tops! http://www.moulin-pontaven.com/

We had some time and one our son was shopping in Vannes, so we continue to the coast into the ocean at Nevez, Port Manec’h, and Moelan sur Mer wonderful town with beaches and the ocean breeze with all the tourists out, this is heavens !!!! There we saw two wonderful sights, Church  Sainte Thumette and Chapel of Sainte Barbe in Nevez. We went to the sea at Manec’h before moving on by the riviere of Bélon, yes the famous wonderful Breton oysters having its capital at Riec-sur-Bélon. We continue coming back up to Moelan sur Mer to see the wonderful Church of Saint Mélaine.

We headed back thru Quimperlé back to Vannes to get our son and head home for the day. Vacation as official French time is over, Monday is back to work or the Rentrée the re-entry and it is always busy period trying to catch up on everything. At least my boys are now at working age so no more school hassles. Enjoy your weekend, and until next time at Paris1972-Versailles2003.  Cheers

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August 27, 2014

Fougéres in 35 as in Brittany, a castle and more!

Well vacations à la French are coming to an end rather quickly and today has been a cloudy light rainy day ,just time for a ride into Vannes. However, last Monday we were in Fougéres, a wonderful town that speaks of the Bounty of opportunities to visit here if only one has the time. We go by it always on our way to Paris and really never experience other than for an occassional pit stop for a quick bite. This time after spending most of the vacation in the basque country we decided this last week to give a try up close and personal;and it was a dandy.

First,their tourist office is in English here  with a good map of the town and points of attractions; http://www.ot-fougeres.fr/accueil/decouverte_de_fougeres_et_son_pays/carte_de_fougeres

Then we arrive by car of course, on the A84 road that connect Rennes to Caen exit 29 we got to Fougéres and came upon the castle and the free parking at parking du château on your left , there is another one the parking de la Poterne just behind the castle and to your right as you come into the city. The Castle is the first thing you see, and even thus we left it for last working ourselves backward from the high town to it.

You past the wonderful Church of Saint Sulpice, at the street, Enclos Etienne de Fougères, founded in the 11C at the foot of the castle. Taking a quotes from the tourist office who always explained it better, this is the take, rebuilt in the 15C and 16C in a flamboyant Gothic style, completed for the choir in the 18C, St Sulpice church is one of the richest in Brittany. Inside, you will discover the nave preening hull overturned boat, the choir in style rocaille of 18C woodwork Louis XV, the medieval altarpieces in granite, the stained glass of the 16C, works by the master glassmaker fougerais Pierre Symon. On the left of the nave, the altarpiece dedicated to Notre Dame des Marais is one of the rare medieval altarpieces in granite kept in Brittany, with one of the tanners lying in the mortuary chapel.  Outside, the sculptures strike by the imagination of their inspiration. You will find the so-called Gargoyle “the satyr” and the sculpture of the fairy Melusine above the South door of the Church.

We follow that up with the Church of Saint Léonard, Founded in the 12C, rebuilt in the 15C  and 16C, the Church was disoriented and enlarged in the 19C and with a portal and a rosette of six meters in diameter from flamboyant Gothic style. Outside, admire the North facade with balusters and strange gargoyles. The South chapel contains the oldest stained glass (12C) of Brittany and which comes from the Abbey of Saint-Denis near Paris and the assumption an array of Achille Dévéria in 1835. The North Chapel holds an array of Eugène Dévéria (19C). Deveria brothers were friends of Victor Hugo.During the high season, visitors have access to the Bell Tower of the Church where they discover an incredible panorama on ferns, its monuments and the surrounding countryside. The mortuary chapel of the Church houses the oldest stained-glass window preserved in Brittany: the medallion of St. Benedict. Donated by a parishioner after the Revolution, he comes from the Abbey of Saint-Denis (Seine-Saint-Denis) and illustrates the history of Saint-Benoît. Left of stained glass, he returned to the monastery where the Abbot hands him his coat of monk; right, a priest visits him. Above, a Jerusalem cross fragment, incomplete, recalls that a jacket was placed under the feet of the donkey. Wonderful indeed.

You come to see the Beffroi or Belfry of the city, off rue Nationale; Symbol of the wealth of trade with distant regions, the first belfry of Britain was erected by the Burghers of the city in 1397. Its architecture is inspired by the Flemish models the Drapers of ferns were discovered during their travels in Flanders. Engraved on the Bell is the inscription: ‘in 1397 the bourges of ferns made me and call me Roland Chapelle ‘. You past by the nice homes of the Place du Marchix where the maison de Savigny is the oldest in the city, 14c/15C. You can see the muséums such as  the Emmanuel dela Villéon, housed in the last wooden house of the 17C in town with about 30 portraits of the artist, born in Fougéres in 1858 and one of the last impressionist painters. He painted Brittany but also love to travel and painted his destinations. Also, the small but educational Museum of the Watch or musée de l’Horlogerie at 37 rue Nationale as well, here it is http://www.ot-fougeres.fr/welcome/things_to_discover_in_fougeres_and_its_surroundings/fougeres_town_map/clock_and_making_workshop_museum

We moved on to walk its wandering street , see the petit train work,and the wonderful Théatre Victor Hugo. We very much enjoy the market or marché, lots of folks full, and goodies like those cheeses we got from maison hautbois stand their home base in the Manche (50) here http://www.specialiste-fromage.fr/plan

We went up the jardin public or public garden, this is probably not mentioned much but for us it was great, climbing to the top of the hill to see the city ,valleys and wonderful statues and streams passing by it, you go up to the haute ville to connect with Church of Saint Leonard here too passing by the Hôtel de Ville. Here is more of it, http://www.ot-fougeres.fr/welcome/things_to_discover_in_fougeres_and_its_surroundings/fougeres_town_map/the_public_garden

Other than the market we stop for sandwiches at one our favorite store in any town La Mie Caline bakery, we got our burger sandwich, caramel chocolate cake, and Orangina soda for 6,20€ , along with the cheese and more bread we had our lunch. We ate at a bench behind the place des fusillés, the shop is here, http://fougeres.lamiecaline.com/fr/

We were now ready to visit the Castle of Fougéres. This is a huge fortified castle, the largest in Europe!! it is impressive. We walked all around it, and then got in by the rue de la Pinterie, This is the official site in English, http://www.chateau-fougeres.com/en.html

Dates are May;June, September 10-19h except Mondays ,july and august 10-19h all days, October to April 10-12h and 14-17h30, except Mondays.Closed Jan 1, May 1, as well as the annual closing in month of January. Admission is 8€ adults there is a family rate of 20€, children Under 6 are free.  There is a bookstore that also serves as the ticket counter . audioguides are available as well as a children trail with Mélusin and Mélusa characters and puzzle books.

You go by this boutique store for the tickets then continue into the St Hilaire tower, into the enceinte or central square of the castle where you can look up all the towers such as Guédameuc, Coigny, Guilbé, Gobelins,Poterne,Mélusine, Surienne, Raoul,Cadran to come back out again.  Between the Poterne and Gobelins towers you can see the old ruins of the keep with traces of the original wooden castle from 1166AD.  Inside the most interesting towers are Mélusine, showing how the castle was built, Surienne, life in the castle, and Raoul, the power of Brittany  with coronation of the Duke Francis II.

As we left the city, we encountered two characters one in a huge statue by rue Rallier (can be seen from rue Nationale) of Général de La Riboisière,  Jean-Ambroise Baston the Riboisiere  was born on 18 August 1759, in Fougères. He was classmate of Napoléon Bonaparte at the artillery School of la Fère, general and baron d’Empire, inspectorgeneral of artillery, and played a decisive role with his guns at Austerlitz, Wagram, Eylau, Danzig, Lena, Smolensk and Borodino, where one of his sons was killed. Shortly after died in Königsberg, Prussia, the General was buried at les Invalides. But his heart rests at the Monthorin Castle in Louvigné du désert. The statue of the General found back in 1999 the place he had left in 1942.

Another one, very interesting for me was of Marquis de la Rouërie, Armand Tuffin. Born at Fougères, in 1751, Armand Tuffin de la Roûerie  is covered with glory in America under the name of Colonel Armand, during the war of independence. He remains a friend of  Gen. Washington. Back in Paris, he was the ardent defender of Breton privileges.  At Saint-Ouen-la-Rouërie, shortly before 1789, he founded the Breton Association who in 1791-1792 prepares an insurrection against the French revolutionary movement. Betrayed by one of his friends, hunted, he died of exhaustion in the castle of Guyomar (côte d’Armor dept 22) on January 30, 1793. He will be beheaded post-mortem. RIP.

It was a nice stop and one that will bring me back with the family again;hope you enjoy it and the photos. Cheers.

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August 26, 2014

Monasterio San Juan de la Peña, Aragon.

As it goes driving around Jaca got a pamphlet from the tourist office about this monastery. So decided to give it a go. What a pleasant surprise and great road warrior ride up the mountains to it. The Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña.

This is their official webpage, http://www.monasteriosanjuan.com/monasterio-san-juan-de-la-pena.php?L=en

We drove from Jaca after coming back from Sabiñanigo, on the N330a. We took going the mountaneous ride (about 1280 meters high)  along the A1205 road that change into A1603 that goes to the monastery head on. We arrive about 10H30 in time to go the new monastery and take the mini bus by 11h30 to the old monastery. We left the place by 18h going the way towards Santa Cruz de los Seros on the A1603 that connects with the N240 that brought us back to Jaca.

This is a monumental place that must be seen advertise spread the word more, can’t believe it is not more known. I take office of the tourist guide who gave an excellent recount of the events here, she was good. Here in the mount of Oroel you find San Juan de la Peña, the monastery is covered by a huge mountain rock and its done since 920AD and known for maintenance of the Christian faith in the Pyrénées at the time of the Muslim occupation, this monastery was chosen as pantheon by the Kings and nobles of Aragón-Navarra. The land was before occupy by hermits who had withdrawn in this hidden corner of the Pyrénées, following the Muslim invasion, around the year 720.  In the 11C, the monastery adopted the Cluniac reform.

The low church or early church who subsequently made office crypt, is one of few Mozarabic buildings remaining in the region. The courts and Pantheon of the Aragonese nobles of the 11C to 14C. Aligned along the left wall décor billets and pearls, burial niches are minted badge, a chrismon or cross in four Escutcheons, emblem of lñigo Arista, one of the founders of the Kingdom of Navarre. On a niche you can see an Angel carrying the soul of the deceased. Opposite a door gives access to the Museum, products of excavations in the monastery. The high Church of the end of the 11C. Part of its single nave in the rock for vault and three apse chapels decorated with arches are engaged in the wall.

The royal Pantheon opens in the left wall. For five centuries the Kings of Aragon and Navarre there were buried. Its current appearance dates from the 18C a la renaissance style. The cloister from the 12C and  it is reached by a Mozarabic door. Inside you can see the paintings of San Cosme and San Dàmian from the 12C, the Superior Church done in 1094AD, and gothic chapel of San Victoriàn.

After fires and hesitudes a construction of the new monastery was begun in the year 1676. Throughout its works that extended until the first years of the 19C the monks counted on the advice of numerous professionals,you can see several Windows on the floor covered with glass floors that shows the work been done in the lower floor off from visitors only can be seen thru the glass. The trace of the building constitutes one of the most perfect and evolved examples of the monastic architecture in the Modern Age, because of its symmetry, because of the multiplication of its cloisters and because of the rational organization that possessed the original project, the one that, regrettably, was never totally carried out.

The facade of the new monastery building is impressive of a barroque style. It was abandoned in 1835 and after much needed renovation it houses Inside the center for interpretation of the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, and a hospederia four stars (lodging hotel), a rest area, cafeteria’restaurant, Spa, salons and free parking. You can contact at gestora.sanjuandelapena@aragon.es or tel +34 974 355 119 fax +34 974 355 089.

Enjoy the pictures and sure its Worth the detour. A magical place indeed.Cheers San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña  San Juan de la Peña

 

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August 26, 2014

Deep pyrénées at Saint Jean Pied-de-Port

We continue our journey South and we enter the domain of the basques as well as their reputed excellent cuisine. As much as driven this is a new area for me. I usually driven by pass this mountaineous area to go by Oloron Sainte Marie or go further into Saint Jean de Luz/Bayonne/Biarritz areas.  We took the plunge into Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port again in the Pyrénées Atlantiques dept 64. We drove from Pau and took the most scenic route ,meaning mountains !!

We set out on the N134 direction Oloron Sainte Marie, and here took the road D919 direction Aramits (yes please the famous member of the 3 muskeeteers is from here ,the film Aramis personage real name  Henri d’Aramitz) so I can say been to see Richelieu, D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos ,and now Aramis. My motto all for one and one for all !! Here we took the road D918 directon Tardets, and then we hit the mountains on the D26 to reach Larrau and then Iraty and its col de Bergagi!!!1327 meters high through the clouds wow!!! on third gear on the D19 now, then again thru huge mountains we hit the road D18 direction Saint-Jean-le-Vieux (here they had a fairs all goodies from the region and it was packed traffic directed to connect with the road D933 that took us in to Saint Jean Pied de Port at last!!! Great ride !!!

We got in thru the citadel ramparts of the old castle of citadelle de Mendiguren that you can meandered through. tourist office is http://www.saintjeanpieddeport-paysbasque-tourisme.com/  and in English at the town site here, http://www.st-jean-pied-de-port.fr/mpi2/en/8/29/58/presentation-du-patrimoine-de-la-ville/presentation

You need to see the Church of the Assomption de la Vierge (that locals still insist is the old name that counts such as Notre-Dame-du-Bout-du-Pont) . The various gates or portes surrounding the old town along rue de la Citadelle such as Porte St Jacques, Notre Dame, Navarre, Spanish , and France.  This street is full of shops and restos very quaint and picturesques. The Bishop’s prison or Maison prison des évêques is nice small museum .

The most impressive for us however, was the food, we are very gourmand and wine lovers so we had our lunch with local products at a butcher, traiteur shop, this is the real thing forget the restaurants. We had our Bayonne ham, Roncal brebis(ewe) (goat) cheese, basque sangria with piment espelettes,and delicious cherry and apple gateau basque or basque cakes  at Charcuterie Basquaise Maison Gastellou on 9 rue d’Espagne. Go for it. We took it and ate at the parc with an overview of the city by Place Floquet. We then came back to buy more to take home ::) http://www.charcuterie-basquaise.com/page/nos-boutiques

We went for the basque macarons at the La Fabrique de Macarons on rue de la Citadelle, yummy for desserts. here they had almonds, chocolate, lemon, noix de coco, almonds with piment d’espelette, flavors that we clean the house. http://www.lafabriquedemacarons.fr/

At the La Caves aux Fromages we clean up on brebis(ewe)  cheeses in different shapes and textures from Ossau-Iraty region simply awesome we eat them at home like bread lol!!! They are at the place des remparts back on the left of the covered market, this is what you would get there the real thing, http://www.fromage-brebis.com/fr/ , and this is from the tourist office http://www.saintjeanpieddeport-paysbasque-tourisme.com/fr/producteurs-degustation/la-cave-aux-fromages-cooperative-laitiere-du-pays-basque#.U_xkK8IcTmI

And to end it all, we stop by the store of Etienne Brana, one of the original irouléguy wine and do not forget the apéritf wine Txapa ::) The the tourist office is here on them http://www.saintjeanpieddeport-paysbasque-tourisme.com/fr/producteurs-degustation/sarl-etienne-brana#.U_xkzsIcTmI  ,and the page for them, which you can also tour their winery, we decided to go for the wine at the store instead on rue de l’église.  http://www.brana.fr/PBSCCatalog.asp?CatID=1399191

Now we were all set to go back on a full day swinging since early hours, we decided to take it easy and go thru more flat terrain now; so we head out of the D933 road direction St Jean le Vieux. Then took the D918 direction Mauléon-Licharre, where there was a nice Church of Saint John the Baptist and a Castle of Andurain.  Continue on fast empty departémental roads we took the D2 direction Navarrenx (which had already visited) , took the D947 direction Orthez and then the rocade road D817 to Pau. And rest !!! but ready for more . Enjoy the photos and Cheers.

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August 25, 2014

Jaca in Aragon Spain, we I come again!!!!

Here I come again but this time up close and personal. This is another town in my life that passed by so many times on my route to Madrid of my youth, and really never explored it. Well, its never too late in life ,and to have the opportunity to be closed tented me for the ride with the family to see it up close and personal. It will once again deepens my appreciation for my Spain and closer to a new region of Aragon. This is Jaca, or Jacetania and the road to St James,  and the tourist office ishttp://www.aspejacetania.com/oficina_turismo.php?idio=fr&Id=5  and the tourist section on the city page is   http://www.jaca.es/oficina.html

Most of the best information is in Spanish of course, but rather give you the most coverage on the place, you can later translated online or other places, but the one I give you are the official Spanish sites. Good info.

We got into town by the road N330 coming from France by car, you hit immediately the boulevard facing the Ciudadela or citadel or castle of San Pedro on your right hand side, impressive fortified castle and what a way to enter a city! wow!!! I parked by car by the parking Turismo on Plaza Ripa across is the bus station and to the right is the Cathedral right in city center secured underground parking all day for 6€.

We moved on first by the Citadel like I said its a must to visit, there is a minituare museum of military pièces Inside very nice admission is 7€ adults. Here is the city page on it in Spanish, http://www.jaca.es/turismo/monumentosymuseos/la-ciudadela-de-jaca.html  and a video presentation in English of the museum and ciudadela here http://ciudadelajaca.s3.amazonaws.com/scb/CiudadelaJacaEN.html  (just drag the computer mouse and go in virtually !)

Next you should see the Cathedral of San Pedro or St Peter’s huge richly decorated a marvel and UNESCO heritage site, an absolute must to see, i can’t describe not good for that, but its a must tant pis. 11C jewel of a Cathedral ,construction from 1077AD , as the site says its an open book of architecture from romanesque to renaissance. See my pictures it tells it all.

We had our lunch right across it while seeing the world go by at Plaza de la Catedral,3 at Casa Fau, very nice folks , fast service, good food, veal pork chops, fries, roast beef, sodas, coffees, and a bottle of Enate Crianza red 2008 Somontano local wine delicious. All for 16€ per person ::) nice Spain. no web but the commerce assn of Jaca has their listing ,http://www.acomseja.com/asociado_ficha.php?id_asoc=293

We continue wandering to the side Streets having cheese breads from the local bakeries and did went shopping for sweets to take home at Confiteria/Pasteleria Etcheto , right next to the restaurant above, site, http://www.confiteriaecheto.com/lapasteleria.shtml

We had some goodies for later and wines from Somontano like the Enate again at Bodegas Langa, lots of canned gourmet goodies like ham Teruel, cheeses of Roncal, and wines of Lalanne as well. Great, happy ::) Also, in the same area behind back door of the Cathedral, http://www.bodegaslanga.es/venta-de-vinos-a-granel-jaca-74/

We were ready and charge for more sightseeing, we walked past the episcopal palace or Palacio Episcopal , a site for those seeking the way of Santiago, http://www.jaca.es/turismo/monumentosymuseos/palacio-episcopal.html  We enjoyed the old ruins of the ermita de Sarsa or chapel right at a corner with great views over the mountains , it is the abandon Church of a nearby town moved to Jaca in 1970, http://www.jaca.es/turismo/romanico/ermita-de-sarsa.html

Monasterio de Santa Cruz, where the daughter of a king of Aragon Ramiro I, Sancha was brough over from Santa Cruz de los Seros in 1622, (the best preserve romanesque tomb in Spain) the monastery itself was built from 1555.  The order of Benitas of sisters were in charge of the place. http://www.jaca.es/turismo/romanico/monasterio-de-santa-cruz-monjas-benedictinas.html

The Seminario Diocesano built in 1926 follow a great tradition in the city of diocese life for teaching the gospel since 1610. A great architecture building on the old walls of the citadel, that passes behind it.http://www.jaca.es/turismo/monumentosymuseos/seminario-diocesano.html

There is a street of the old jewish quarters such as Calle de Ferrenal and Calle de Cambras panels show you the history as you walked. The old coins and money of Aragon is shown on the pavement of Calle Mayor with a plaque to explained it in Spanish. There is a beautiful Paseo de la Constitucion with nice children playground, and music kiosk , many libraries or book stores are here and an open air book market with stands as well, http://www.jaca.es/turismo/naturaleza/el-paseo-de-la-constitucion.html . This is the area that takes you to the Puente (bridge) de San Miguel in the back , http://www.jaca.com/puentesanmiguel.htm#.U_sIncIcTmI

In the Paseo you have the Seminario Diocesano on the side and behind it the Ciudadela. You ,also, can see the quaint Torre del Reloj or clock tower built in 1445, it was once used as a prison. Now its a work office of the region of Aragon, but it can be seen Inside too by Calle(street)  Sancho Ramirez, http://www.jaca.com/torredelreloj.htm#.U_sJLsIcTmI

With all there is to see you will have a full day or more, we rather like the wandering of the old Streets and the foods lol! its a state of mind, and so much to be back in Spain.  From here we went to the side at Sabiñanigo on the new A23 and back on the N330a to Jaca, just for the ride on this side, and take a look at city center and breath a bit more of Aragon, Spain. We remain in Spain see next post ::)

Enjoy the pictures. Cheers.

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August 24, 2014

The trip continues Monein, Navarrenx, and Oloron-Sainte-Marie.

Moving right along, on our wonderful escapade to the Pyrénées Atlantiques departément 64 of the Région of Aquitaine, France.  This is the department official tourist site in English http://www.bearn-basquecountry.com/12-8944-Home.php

French is more so here it is, http://www.tourisme64.com/ . We passed the towns of Monein, Navarrenx, and Oloron-Sainte-Marie. Criss crossing the region by the road warrior pedmar10 ::) yours truly.

We set out from our home base in Pau to reach Monein, this is in the heart of Jurançon wine country and their English tourist site is http://www.mysecretholidays.com/  again more in French at http://www.coeurdebearn.com/  We took the rocade de Pau D817 towards Orthez and then cut off at road D2 at Pardies direction Monein right on a traffic circle.  It was a very prosperous city since the times of Viscount Gaston Fébus and only when industralisation came that the city slow down. Today other than the many caves of jurançon wines that we left for other location like Gan , you have the wonderful Church of Saint Girons, built from 1470 taking 70 years to complete! entering the Church is free if you wish to go up to the attic 72 steps,  and see the concave ceilings you pay 5€ adults, it is open for this from April 15 to June 30 and September 15 to October 16 Tuesday, Thursdays, and Fridays at 16h, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 15h and 17h. July 1 to September 15 every day at 11h , 15h and 17h; Sundays and Holidays at 15h and 17h. October 16 to April 14 Wednesdays and Saturdays 16h. You must see it.

We continue to Oloron Sainte Marie along the road D9, and this is a town we passed so many times its unbelievable that we never had stop to really see it. Well better now than later, it is very nice place to visit, again.  This is their tourist office in French but it can be change to English, http://www.tourisme-oloron.com/

At Oloron you have two wonderful Church buildings, first Sainte Marie , a Cathedral from the 12C a UNESCO heritage site and on the way to St James de Compostela. Treasures of metal and wood from the 12C and 13C unique and richly deserving of the status and a must see ; there is even a baby crib from the 13C! you have a room done in the 17C with priest and bishop clothings of the period done in gold and silver! a really place to be. I won’t tell you more , you must come to see it.http://www.tourisme-oloron.com/fr/sites-monuments/cathedrale-sainte-marie-d-oloron-et-tresor-oloron-sainte-marie.html?idProduit=PCUAQU064FS00061&p=2

We moved on to the Church of Notre Dame ,where it has a crypt from the 19C where mass is still held today.  The crypt has now a collection of sacred art. IN its four rooms you have a sacristy, and the crypt of the dead that welcome the families of the decease before their burials. A very serene quiet place and nice to see. http://www.tourisme-oloron.com/fr/sites-monuments/eglise-notre-dame-oloron-sainte-marie.html?idProduit=PCUAQU064FS00062&p=2

The city has a huge public garden or jardin public with many memories of the Fallen in wars all over; a nice covered market or marché couvert for veggies fruits cold cuts goodies, and a wonderful river or gave d’aspe passing thru it . By the Church of Sainte Marie you have a statue and plaque of the storey of the Saint Grat, where it said, the bishop of Oloron died in Jaca (Aragon,Spain) in the 6C and both the Aragonese and Béarnaise argued over keeping the body. To settle this issue they chose a mule at the col de Somport (the mountain passage we took and divide the countries) to see which direction the mule will take as it was blind. The blind mule carry the body all the way to the steps of the Cathedral of Sainte Marie in Oloron Sainte Marie, end of dispute.

One place you should not missed if chocolate lovers is the store of Lindt, the Swiss chocolate house has a factory and store here selling to the public as outlet. WE went for it and got a bag full of great chocolate some not even yet in the stores like the infusion of orange truffé sublime ::) http://www.lindt.fr/swf/fra/en-savoir/factory-shop/  and the tourist office take on it , http://www.tourisme-oloron.com/fr/sites-monuments/maison-des-maitres-chocolatiers-lindt-et-sprungli-oloron-sainte-marie.html?idProduit=PCUAQU064FS0006J&p=2

We hesitate whether to head back to Pau or stop by Navarrenx , a town we read was nice and fortified. As passing thru the area and missing so much before, now here, we did not passed up anything, and decided to stop by. A wonderful decision. Navarrenx is quaint, nice ,old and a very nice intact ramparts system. Meaning we had to take the road D936 and get away from Pau, no problem the road warrior to the rescue.

Navarrenx has the ruins of a citadel and the ramparts still intact. Awesome to climb and great views; http://www.tourisme-bearn-gaves.com/content/navarrenx-bastide-bastionn%C3%A9e-sur-les-chemins-de-compostelle#.U_nLrcIcTmI  ; you see the porte Saint  Antoine from the 16C still there, rigtht over you see the river or Gave d’Oloron a wonderful river with a nice bridge. Historic town since 1180 it got its fortified castle in 1316  by initiative of the viscountess Marguerite Mathilde. The ramparts are 10 meters high and were designed by an italian architect call for the job. The city is on the way of  Puy en Velay, the most frequented to arrive at Santiago de Compostela or St James in Galicia, Spain.  The wonderful Church of Saint Germain, built from 1551 and finished in 1562 is nice. It has a late gothic style and it was use as a protestant cult at first. king Louis XIII  stablished the Catholic cult in 1620 when the whole region was annexed to France.  The bell was added in the 19C. You can see the heads of pilgrims on the pylon columns and a portrait offered by emperor Napoléon III.

One of the curiosities of this city is that it house the Maison du Cigare or the house of tabacco, where they are handrolled and sold along the old tradition of Cuba. However, its the only cigar done with French Tobacco so uniquely French and not bad from what I remember of my grandfather ::) http://www.cigare-navarre.com/index%202.htm  the tourist office has more on it, and a nice video, http://www.tourisme-bearn-gaves.com/bearn-des-gaves/visitez-la-maison-du-cigare-navarrenx#.U_nPScIcTmI

Very nice indeed! and oh yes we ate but we carry our picnic home made and stop along the rivers banks for eating, family style and better products purchase in the local markets with wines. Of course, we had those chocolates of Lindt for dessert lol!!! The country way to travel. Enjoy the trip as we did and the photos. Cheers and happy Sunday.

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August 23, 2014

More of the Pyrénées Atlantiques in Aquitaine!

Here we go continuing our whirlwind tour of Aquitaine and especially the Basque/Béarn  region we got out this time from Orthez in direction Saint Palais, and later Sauveterre de Béarn. Wonderful country ride on départementales roads mostly the D933.

The tourist office here are more in French, http://www.tourisme-bearn-gaves.com/content/sauveterre-de-b%C3%A9arn-village-fortifi%C3%A9-face-aux-pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es#.U_imEMIcTmI

http://www.saintpalais-tourisme.com/ , and the city hall or government building as mairie or hotel de ville are http://www.bearn-gaves.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=228&Itemid=87  ,and http://www.saint-palais.fr/tourisme-patrimoine-environnement/

The smaller but lively town of Saint Palais was a surprise for us, we saw it as a end of the line town and back, but instead we spent more time there walking all over, and seeing the wonderful Fronton of pelote basque , the regional sport. The wonderful covered market now ,also, use for events and concerts, the nice river Bidouze.

Out main goal was to visit Sauveterre de Béarn, a town on the St James route, full of colorful history of Béarn and Gaston Fébus. It was a hit.  There is a wonderful feodal castle (14C) of Gaston here with the great pont vieux or légende,  and the gave d’Oloron or river of Oloron, with beautiful natural views and great panels mentioning the wonderful old history of Gaston Fébus. The story goes that the pont de la Légende (there were two Pont de la Légende and Pont de la Réclusy) link the right back of the gave d’Oloron. However in 1732 a huge flooding took away part of this bridge. It now remains but half of it, both Gaston VII Moncade (1229-1290) , and Gaston Fébus (1349-1391)  fortified this bridge and added a tower with an adjoining stairs (still there) , rooms and levy bridge and the entry to this the old Hôpital Saint-Jacques des pèlerins de Compostelle (St James hospital of the pilgrims of Compostela).

You, also, must see the église Saint André or Church St Andrews,  a wonderful stop indeed. The Church from the 12C to 13C is fortified in the romanesque gothic style. On its tympan or front porch you see represented Saint Mathieu (as a  Young men), Saint Marc (as a lion), Saint Luke (as a bull), and Saint Jean (John) (as an eagle). On the South side of the Church you will see a door reserve to the cagots, a category in the population deem of the lowest levels in the social scale but admitted to the Christian community.  Some tourist historical information on it , It has a length of 35 meters, a width of 20 meters  and at the top of its spire, it reaches the 27 meters. It has 3 naves (the central nave has a height of 13 meters), an apse and two apsidal chapels, a transept with 2 beautiful roses. Its Bell Tower, its cover with roof of 4 sides, and on each of its 4 sides, you can see 3 bays encrusted, the Central column surmounted by a pierced tympanum of an oculi. The porch and sacristy are more recent and dates from the end of the 19C In the mandorla, there is a Christ in Majesty. The entrance portal has only a single arching, but notice the side framing (7 columns from each side surmounted by capitals decorated with vegetative motifs in general, some of them presenting figures. A really nice Church with great views of the valley and gave d’Oloron river below it.  Not much is written on it on the tourist sites but it should be and it is the main thing to see in Sauveterre de Béarn, here is a bit more on it in French, http://pratique.tourisme64.com/activite/?engine=act&acttype=culture&ville=26252&lat=43.3995&lon=-0.939722&zoom=13&scale=0.028237512026542788&submit=

We were way into the country and to go back will be too long without eating so we decided to have lunch here at the Auberge du Cheval Blanc in the place Royale (tel +33 (0) 5 59 67  36 52 of Sauveterre de Béarn. It was a pleasant choice, friendly service, fast ,and funny exchanges with the servers. The food was done on site nothing special just home made,  entrée of salad of chévre chaud (hot goat cheese), beef and cheddar cheese lasagna in a terrecotta hollow dish very original and delicious, créme brulée for dessert, with water , bread , all for 12,80€ per person and a glass of rosé wine from the Jurançon area for 2,80€. good deal. from tourist site, http://pratique.tourisme64.com/restaurant/sauveterre-de-bearn/auberge-du-cheval-blanc/RESAQU064FS001RA.html

I hope you are enjoying reading and seeing photos of these family trips, that will become so rich and dear for us. Thanks for reading and enjoy the weekend.

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August 22, 2014

The Caves de Jurançon at Gan

Well I am into wines big time for many years too many since working in liquor stores in the USA as a Young men….. Now in France, this is heavens,and passing thru the magical region of Aquitaine and its great Pyrénées Atlantique dept 64 its the mother of all wine régions.

We knew there was an open house on August 14th at Gan with the Caves des Jurançon a wine we had drank before many times but never at the spot so took a ride here and spend the day great folks,great location, and great wines. The Caves de Jurançon is at the town of Gan just South of Pau on the N134 and follow direction Gan Centre, you will hit the caves.http://www.cavedejurancon.com/

We arrive early but enough to have them all set up and ready to go. Ample free parking as the Caves occupies spaces on both sides of  Avenue Henri IV in Gan. We went to the main tent right in front of the receiving of grapes store. There was music groups playing French and Basque/Béarnaise music, a beret throwing contest (beret is the hat of the basque) , the store was fully open and staff ready to go.

We went Inside with a guide Julien , who was fantastic, we exchange lots of questions and he was right on right away no hesitation real pro.  The building is where they have the process of receiving grapes from the coopératives that are members of the cave, 660 hectares are own by them and about 40 is own direct by the Cave.  The grapes are separated along the two main grapes gros manseng and petit manseng for the whites dry and moelloux or sweet sort of they go from dry to late vendage very sweet, they also do rosé and red wines from coopératives in other regions of Aquitaine. They are blend it base on the master winemaker decision base on quality.

We then, took the ride on a petit train or little train into the back of the building where huge aluminum tanks stored the juice for fermetation and treatment. And we ran across with the little train to see the building across the street where they do the filling, labeling ,and packaging of the wines with special computised machines including a robot that does 6000 bottles per hour. The place hold about 80 full time employees and the automation has not decrease the number. They ship 10% international and 30% to individuals another 30% to small stores mom and pop places and 30% to big distribution.

The process is very computerized and very clean, all the personnel spoked with us very nicely, and very willing to explain their processes. Once the trip was done we headed back to the main Platform where grapes are received for a free tastings of all their lineup of wines!! Of course, we tasted them all!!! It was great the lady was very nice and we were serve sausages,and cheese to eat along the way.  You were given a list with prices and another pamphlet with the wines and matching suggestions.

After all this process and wandering about the place we headed for the boutique store for purchases. We already had our price list completed with the wines we wanted, handed it over and they do all the packaging for you. We purchase two cases of different wines for my cellar ::) and we did said goodbye to all, a wonderful day the best so far and very friendly folks: makes you come back for more….

For lunch we stay there, one of the bottles we purchase we ask to be open and they did for us, went across to a bakery pastry store Boulangerie Chuchi, wonderful regional products like ham and chorizos yummy with great tarte of fruits, etc there is a bench outside by the road and had our picnic sort of right on the spot with a bottle of Oh Biarnesa rosé cold from their store at the cave!

We left back to Pau our base very satisfy and highly recommending this place for a visit. Of course , the wines I drink them all year lol! Cheers !

 Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan  Gan

August 21, 2014

Pyrénées-Atlantiques still in Aquitaine, the trip continues.

In continuing my travels through this wonderful region I am now in deep pyrénées atlantiques or dept 64 not far from Pau whre we were based. The way to handle it all. the tourist offices of Lescar, Morlaàs and Orthez are to follow. covering the region of Pau as http://www.pau-pyrenees.com/index.php?lan=UK  with Morlaàs its own in French, http://www.paysdemorlaas-tourisme.fr/ ,and more specific for the Orthez area, http://www.tourisme-bearn-gaves.com/

we set out from Pau and hit first Morlaàs, Montaner, then LescarOrthez, and finally Thézé  before coming back to Pau late night.

At Lescar you come into the Cathedral of the Kings of Navarre, and its wonderful.  Many of these places have no English translation and when do is very limited so the French is better. Nowsdays it can be translated on Google or bing etc. So will poste the French to give more information, http://www.mairie-lescar.fr/index.php/decouvrir-lescar1/visiter-la-ville/la-cathedrale-des-rois-de-navarre

We went up to see the hotel de ville or mayor’s office or mairie always an intriguing building in France. This one at Lescar was uniquely modern but set on a hill of winding Streets thru residential neighborhood the trip to the top was the highlight of the trip for us. Located at street Allée du Bois d’Ariste; webpage of city here http://www.lescar.fr/index.php/decouvrir-lescar1/plan-de-ville12

Here by the Cathedral there is a small but interesting museum of antiquities from the findings in the area dating to Romanesques times, located at the old cellars of the episcopal palace, more here http://www.lescar.fr/index.php/culture-et-loisirs/action-culturelle/espace-art-et-culture

You, also , have interesting ruins of castle and citadel up at pont saint louis very nice rustique natural setting, you can climb from the bottom parking lot thru the river and up the ruins into the high city and the Cathedral. Nice.  Here was the old bishophery from the 6C and from the 10C a  baptistry dedicated to Saint-John-the Baptist.  Later a repenting soldier built a chapel , “Loup-Fort”,where it was dedicated to Saint Mary.

In direction Morlaàs we passed by an old castle where winding roads needed to be taken up the road D7 and then D62. this is in ruins but the tower is in excellent shape rides up 3,50€ and chivarly or knights contests for kids was very colorful. This is the Château de Montaner. http://www.tourisme-vic-montaner.com/fr/4-bonnes-raisons-venir/patrimoine/chateau-montaner/

And we arrive in Morlaàs, here there is the beautiful awesome Church Sainte Foy built from 1080AD. You have in it three beautiful sculpture chapitres in the choir with the showing of Sainte Foy, and the piton de Jaca, an architectural motifs you find in the ways to Santiago de Compostela. Other than mine you see more pictures here text in French, http://www.paysdemorlaas-tourisme.fr/decouvrir/patrimoine-culturel/voir/Eglise-Sainte-Foy/?lang=fr

And we continue on towards Orthez, this is a nice town, first you have the house museum of Jeanne d’Albret, that shows the Protestant Béarn, the museum at 37 rue Bourg-Vieux, here you have four centuries of history from the reform to the 20C, the story of the Huguenots ,love the history here. http://www.museejeannedalbret.com/

You must see the Church of Saint Pierre in a vast square or pl St Pierre. The town was the site of the viscount of Béarn and this led to start the construction of the Church in the 13C.  On August 15, 1569 the forces of led by the count of Montgomery takes the town and massacre the inhabitants as well as confiscated the Church. Here is the town take on it in French, http://www.mairie-orthez.fr/?menu=patrimoinehistoire&menupatrimoinehistoire=02

On our way out we passed and got to see the parvis of the château Moncade right in the town of Orthez! It is built on a hill of 100 meters high protected by moats with a well unique in Europe, from the top of the tower donjon (33 meters) you can see a wonderful view of the roofstops of Orthez.  the castle was built in 1242 and finally finished in the 14C by Gaston VII de Moncade.  You pay only 3€ adults to get in. It is with a tower remaining the rest is an animation model maquette to tell of what it was but still nice if you are into history like me. http://www.tourisme-bearn-gaves.com/tourinsoft/details/patrimoine/PCUAQU064FS0004R#.U_ZATcIcTmI

We finally made the round for the day by coming all out to Thézé on the road D834 and coming back in into Pau. Here you have a nice looking Church, where it is ,also, Church of Saint Pierre. The unique thing about it is that ithas a square bell tower with huge contraweight in a double retreat and with a cylindrical tower. It is considered as one of the most original in the region of Béarn.http://www.theze64.fr/?page_id=488

Good to stop by a local Sparr supermarket there load up and come back to home base at Pau. Until the next run stay tune for more. cheers.

 Lescar  Lescar  Lescar  Lescar  Lescar  Lescar  Lescar Montaner Montaner Montaner Morlaas Morlaas Morlaas Morlaas Morlaas Morlaas Morlaas Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Orthez Théze  Théze

 

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August 20, 2014

Pau, Aquitaine, wonderful region

This was my headquarters destination for the first traject of our vacations, Pau is an interesting town. We had passed by it many times, even stay in quick night hôtels on the town, but never really wandered about it, and we decided that after so many choices we have here to pick one that we have not seen fully; so therefore, this is it PAU. We came avoiding tolls on the N165 to Nantes then the N149, and then the D824,D834,D932, etc to the N10,A63 free ride to the D834 again entering Pau on the rocade at the D817.

The tourist office is here, http://www.pau-pyrenees.com/index.php?lan=UK  , and the city page is here http://www.pau.fr/51-decouvrir-pau.htm

We came by car as always, and we rented inexpensive hôtels in the outskirts so enjoy the sights and smells of the basque without paying for excessive hôtels and tolls, which with a family can leave quite a bit of centimes for better things. Our favorite chain is ACCOR and for this trip we chose the Ibis Budget Pau Est ,wonderful service by manager Véronique and great stay easy on and off from the highways and straight down the city center of Pau. http://www.ibis.com/gb/hotel-3498-ibis-budget-pau-est/index.shtml

We had to tell you about the castle museum of Pau; here is their homepage  http://chateau-pau.fr/  This is a wonderful property still Under renovation but the public is still invited in with guided tours, as well as individuals. The gardens are great wonderful views over the Pyrénées mountains and well maintained.

We visited the museum of Bernadotte, the birthplace of this   Jean-Baptiste Jules Bernadotte chosen by Napoleon I to secure the continuation of the royal house of Sweden in 1818 he finally became the king of Sweden, today the current king Gustav is a descendant Bernadotte.

We visited the boulevard des pyrénées famous look over the mountains and took the funiculaire or cable car up and down;and it is free!!! http://www.pau-pyrenees.com/fr/decouv_hist_pat_funiculaire.php

We went to several wonderful churches such as Saint Martin, Saint Jacques, and the religious Library now of the Church of Reparatrice. We took a walk by the museum of deportation and liberation that was closed but in the beautiful park of Villa Lawrence. Many more about them and ideas here too numerours to mention, http://www.pau-pyrenees.com/uk/idees_visites_nature_parcs_jardins_pau_pyrenees.php?menufil= In Pau-Pyrénées&id_parent=237&idMenuEncours=238

We did our shopping in the Auchan cc near us, wonderful place with all you need including micromania hehehe and Flunch restos,nice refreshing site to relax after a long day of sightseeing. http://pau.centrecommercial-auchan.fr/

Of course we ate out, and the best there was pizzeria l’Etna at rue Sully, very nice folks and great food at reasonable prices. Even thus some of the rating is average 3 out of 5 we found it above average for the price, quality, excellent service, and quick; leave you with my site in French where I write too :http://www.cityvox.fr/restaurants_pau/l-etna_200106090/Profil-Lieu

We did lots of eating in house, buying at the Auchan cc or the covered market Halles in Pau is excellent fresh produce great quality and good prices for take home from veggies to wines; every day except sundays and at place de la République, http://www.pau-pyrenees.com/fr/idees_visites_gastro_vins_decouv_gourmande.php

We did our shopping of goodies here mostly the kids bought stuff like foot locker,fnac, micromania, lacoste and hugo boss, we settle for the food, chocolates !!! the L’Atelier du Chocolat at Maréchal Joffre is excellent, we got the touron basque or the basque nougat, http://www.atelierduchocolat.fr/

Also, at the palais des pyrénées shopping center where FNAC ,Micromania are located off place Clemenceau you find the Chocolaterie de la Couronne, here we went for the suedoise or swedish and the pallet des pyrénées, delicious, try it; http://www.chocolat-pau.com/

We did took a peek at the Galeries Lafayette store at place Clemenceau, and had our cold beers at the Café de l’Europe just there too at rue Maréchal Foch  with nice fast friendly service. We , also, stop first one at La Brasserie Royale at place Royale for cold beers and drinks.

The above was done in and out as we got our wheels and travel all over the region and even into Spain on one day trips from our base in Pau. Great family trip, and good driving all the way with little or no traffic. Over 2450 kms of travels by the road warrior once again. Cheers and stay tune for more.

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