Archive for January, 2018

January 31, 2018

The Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur or PACA

MarseilleLong name for a vast region ,again not much in trips, mostly business trips to Nice,Cannes ,Marseille, and near Monaco. Rental cars, TGV train to Marseille, and air to Nice, and Marseille. Here is why.

Now let’s go to visit a huge area, not so much change in name but so vast. My times here have been mostly on business in the last few years; been an area of sun and beaches so used to that ,my needs are intended elsewhere. However, as anything in France, this is a wonderful region and very much visited. I am talking of the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur or ,also called PACA, for short.. The main and capital city of the region is Marseille.

It includes six departments such as Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes,Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, and the Vaucluse. It has agglomerations of vast territory into two main groupings ,these are the Nice Côte d’Azur, and Aix-Marseille-Provence. The area covers old provinces of Provence and Dauphiné. Part of the Vaucluse from the old county of Venaissin and the left bank of the Var in the Alpes Maritimes once the county of Nice, the cities of Menton and Roquebrune-Cap Martin were once part of the Principality of Monaco until annexed to France in 1861.

Languages other then French shows a unique region where only the Occitane is spoken, with usually called teh Provençal . Also, other languages heard around due to immigration and or old history of the region are the Corsican, Kabyle, Maghrebin Arabic, Comorian, and Italian.

The Unesco heritage sites are Arles, roman monuments, Avignon, historical center and the Palais des Papes, episcopal area and the pont d’Avignon, Orange, antique theater and river banks as well as Arc de Triomphe, Briançon, and Mont-Dauphin fortifications of Vauban. And 7 towns of Art and History of France, these are Arles, Briançon, Fréjus, Grasse, Hyères-les-Palmiers, Martigues, and Menton.

The main airports are the Nice-Côte d’Azur and Marseille Provence both I have used. There are some minor ones such as those in Toulon-Hyéres, Avignon-Provence, and Cannes-Mandelieu. The main airports are here:

There are lines of trains but heavily crowded and a TGV from Paris to Marseille Saint-Charles that I have ,also taken. Also reaching to Avignon and Aix-en-Provence. The TER Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur serves local lines. Marseille is the only city that has metro/subway with also a tramway network as does Aubagne and Nice. The TER webpage here:

The principal expressways or autoroutes are the ‘A7 (Lyon to Marseille via Avignon), the A8 (A7 towards Nice and Italy also taken), the A50 (Marseille to Toulon), the A51 (Marseille to Gap), the A52 (Aubagne to Aix), the A54 (Salon de Provence towards Saint-Martin-de-Crau, Arles, and Nîmes), the A55 (Marseille to Martigues), and the A57 (Toulon to the A8).

The region is an important maritime destination such as the Port of Marseille the first port in France. There is also a naval base at Toulon, the largest in France.

The region page in French is here :

The tourist page in French is here:

Some of the posts done in my blog on the region are:

Enjoy PACA and a picture above of the gare Saint Charles in Marseille starting my trek on foot down to the Vieux Port. Have a great week, Cheers!

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January 31, 2018

The region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes!

Let’s talk about the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

Granted , my visits here have been on business trips or visiting the in laws family second home near Clermont-Ferrand in Auvergne, and of course crossing the region to others.  So tourist pictures are none, sorry. However , for the nature trail lover, and Lyon or to ski it has very good installations where my sons have been.

This region is taken from the old Auvergne and Rhône-Alpes regions that again under the new territorial administration of France were grouped into one, after much debate from what to do with Lyon and the auvergnants! The region is divided into 12 departments and a special metropolitan area calls a territorial collectivity of sort which is Lyon; of course. Lyon is the principal city . The departments are Ain, Allier, Ardèche, Cantal, Drôme, Isère, Loire, Haute-Loire, Puy-de-Dôme, Rhône,Métropole de Lyon,Savoie, and Haute-Savoie.

The area speaks many dialects and languages such as the Bourbonnais, Auvergnat, Franco Provençal or arpitan; all are broken down as estimated of the population that still speaks it as Bourbonnais (5 %), Auvergnat (15 %), and the rest into the langue d’oc (12 %) or occitan variations.

Going back into history, the region is very complex right now. In Auvergne three department were created such as Cantal, Puy-de-Dôme, and a mixing of areas to create the Haute-Loire. The Bourbonnais gave rise to the Allier ,Bresse, Bugey, Dombes, pays de Gex, and part of lyon area to create the Ain. The Dauphiné was divided into three departments such as the Drôme, Hautes-Alpes, and the Isère. While in the Lyon area old Generality of Lyon became the department of Rhône-et-Loire; in 1793 this department is divided into Loire and Forez et Rhône later additioning the Beaujolais, Lyonnais, and city of Lyon. Meanwhile the Vivarais becomes the department of the Ardéche. IN 1860, the duchy of Savoie is annexed to France and cut to make two departments, the Savoie and the Haute-Savoie. In 2015, Lyon and 58 other villages were separated from the department to create the Métropole de Lyon, the only in France with the status of territorial collectivity of France! You have to give it to the Lyonnais, and hope you follow me lol!

Transport is well done with the LGV going thru several cities mostly in the Rhône area and very little in the Auvergne, the network LGC Méditerranée is good too as well as the TER is as well more dense in the Rhône than in Auvergne ,always been more rural. Info on the trains in the new region is here:

The roads are excellent, and for me the best way to travel anywhere. The expressways or autoroutes such as the A6 starts and ends in Lyon ; with the road continues to the south into the Mediterranean taking the name of the A7,following the valley of the Rhône. The autoroute A46 is an alternative road to the sunshine expressway or autoroute du Soleil by the beltway of Lyon. At Lyon, we have the connections with the autoroute A40 that brings it to Geneva , and the A43 that takes you in the direction of Torino Italy passing by Chambéry, and the tunnel of Fréjus. Clermont-Ferrand is link primarily with Paris and Orléans by the autoroute A71, and you can go to Montpellier ,and Béziers by the A75. The autoroute A89 links Clermont-Ferrand with Bordeaux and also around into the Rhone Alpes area ending at Lyon via Thiers. Other towns are connected with expressways or autoroutes such as Grenoble with the A41, A48 , and A51, Saint-Étienne with the A47 and A72 or from Clermont-Ferrand with the A711, A712, A75 , and A71. Bear in mind I gave you the fastest routes or autoroutes also toll roads in many cases, there are alternatives National or N roads or Departementales or D roads that can do a more scenic ride with longer period and free of tolls.

There is a good airport at just outside Lyon call the Lyon Saint-Exupéry as well as close by the airport at Geneva can serve the region well too. The smaller airports such as at Clermont-Ferrand Auvergne, Saint-Étienne-Loire, and Aurillac welcome some traffic and the airports of Grenoble and Chambéry are primarily used for the winter season and low price airlines as well as chapter flights. I will have the main airport here:

The new region main page with tourism info is here:

And for easier reference the old version of the Auvergne tourist page here :

Rhône-Alpes a better site than the official page is this one here:

The Unesco world heritage sites on this region are:
The historical center site of Lyon, the sites prehistoric piles dwelings around the alpine lakes which we have about 9 here, the caves of Pont d’Arc, cave of Chauvet; the road to St James (Santiago) such as the Notre Dame du Port Church at Clermont-Ferrand, Notre Dame Cathedral and Hotel Dieu Saint Jacques at Le Puy-en-Velay, the architectural work of Le Corbusier with the sites of Maison de la Culture de Firminy and the convent of de la Tourette in Eveux.

One post on Lyon :::)

And cheating ho ho ho got me a picture from my son ski trip to Val Cenis in Lanslebourg in the Savoie ::)


Enjoy the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes new region of France. Cheers!

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January 30, 2018

The region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté!

I like to tell you about a region that was my footprint when younger and visiting France. The trips are less now but nevertheless does not disminish the love of this region. Of course, now there is a new one that came back to be the old one,Bourgogne et Franche-Comté or the duchy and the county goes way back. I am talking of the region of Burgundy Franche Comté.

Let’s talk about a wonderful new region of old reliables. The region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté (nowdays some have call simply the  BFC) ; it is comprise of the two previous regions of Bourgogne and Franche-Comté and counts with 8 departments such as Côte d’Or , Doubs, Haute-Sâone, Jura, Niévre, Saône-et-Loire ,Yonne, and territory of Belfort. The biggest town is capital is Dijon but to even things up the regional council is at the second city Besançon.

The new region is a highway between Germany, Switzerland , Italy, the east of the ïle de France region, French Atlantic Coast on the west and also, the Benelux countries to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It is criss cross by the TER Bourgogne-Franche-Comté as well as the fast speed lines of the LGV Rhin-Rhône and TGV Sud-Est. Several roads passes by here making an excellent road trip region with autoroutes such as A6, A31, A36, A38, A39, A77, and A406. The major airport of the region is the airport of Dole-Jura located between Dijon and Besançon; there are also many canals here such as Canal du Rhône au Rhin, Canal de Bourgogne, Canal du Centre, Canal du Nivernais, and Canal Latéral de Roanne à Digoin.

all in one transport

For the history buffs like me, the current territory was in the 5C part of the kingdom of the Burgondes (Burgundians) following the kingdom of the Merovian Burgundians. Under the Caroligians the treaty of Verdun of 843AD arrived at differentiating the Franc Burgundy from the Lower Burgundy; the origin of the duchy of Burgundy and another under the County of Burgundy that is Franche-Comté.Finally reunited in the 14C under the first House of Burgundy by the Valois Dukes in the Burgundians estates. Again the two provinces were separated in the 15C when the Duchy was annexed by Royal France while the County was annexed by the Habsburgs; the county finally was integrated in the Royal France in 1678 after the conquest by king Louis XIV with the surrender of Dole old capital of Franche-Comté whilte Besançon became the new capital. Therefore, the two Duchy of Burgundy and Franche-Comté were two very distinct provinces with their own capital ,Dijon,and Besançon. Now finally into one region but with the two strong cities exercising their prominent roles of old.

Unesco world heritage site in the new region are:

Abbey of Fontenay, Basilica of Vézelay, Chapelle Notre Dame du Haut de Ronchamp (created by Le Corbusier), the climate areas of the wine region of Burgundy, Citadelle de Besançon, the ducal palace of Burgundy, the royal salts of Arc-et-Senans as well as the salts of Salins-les-Bains; the prehistoric sites of the lake of Chalain and the Grand Lac de Clairvaux; on the road to St James (Santiago) the prieury of Notre Dame de La Charité-sur-Loire , and the Saint Jacques le Majeur Church of Asquins; the historical center of Dijon.

For tourist information on the new region we have the sites below.,1094,10091

As wines are very important, the most for me, especially in Burgundy, the main site for them in English is here :

To complement, my previous post on the new region in my blog below :

And a prominent photo of this region, that of Beaune and the Hospice de Beaune. Enjoy your week, mine is cruising ,from today full of meetings lol!! The modern blah blah : Cheers!


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January 29, 2018

The region of Normandie ,now back to its origins!

And as I am on a roll on this Monday with lots of work the rest of the week me think why not get all these new regions a new life afterall many still used the old names ::) Right now let’s talk about Normandie or Normandy , land of the Normans or north men .

Normandie is old and really into the history of France especially at the world stage. The Normandy we know was founded in Neustrie by Rollon, dukedom of Normandy occupies from 911AD the valley of the Seine later Bessin, pays d’Auge, and Hiémois in 924AD, the Contentin, Avranchin, islands of the Manche in 933AD. By 1066, duke William the Conqueror even took on England and conquered it to become king. A century and a half later in 1204, king of France Philippe Auguste invades the dukedom and conquered it into the Royal domain of France with the exception of the islands of Jersey and Guernesey still British.  The rest becomes provinces of France until 1790. By 1956, Normandy is divided in two sharing the new of high or Haute Normandie and low or Basse Normandie.  Now they are back to the origins as one whole Normandie in the new territorial administration of France.

The local language is Norman still spoken in the pays de Caux and the Cotentinn peninsula . The region is now divided into the departments of Calvados, Eure,  Manche,  Orne,  and Seine-Maritime. The region capital and main city is Rouen.

Normandie tourisme site in French for the new region is here:

and the region webpage in French is here:

The train transport is in one webpage here TER Sncf of Normandie

train and bus info is also on the region page in French  as well as the tourist webpage below:

Unesco world heritage sites are at  Le Havre, Mont Saint Michel and Bay;   and working big  on making the Normandy landing beaches  1944 on the list as well.  This is what really should be in Unesco. One of the highlights of western world fight for freedom.

Main tourist cities are: Le Havre, Rouen,Caen,Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, Évreux,Dieppe,Alençon, Vernon, Lisieux, Saint-Lô,Fécamp ,Flers,Argentan,Bayeux,Granville, Honfleur, Giverny,Deauville, and Etretat.

I have a sentimental attachment to this region. Not only because of the Normandy invasion for freedom , or the beauty and sights of the region; but for my mother. My late mom love this area and she was always ready to come here and did several times with me since early days ,she was especially fond of Honfleur, a city of artists and gorgeous streets of yesteryear, but mostly because there is a tradition on the Festival of the fisherman or Fête des Marins, where the Virgin is taken out from St Catherine Church and walk on the streets , put in a small boat and out to sea; a bishop blessed the boats with her in honor of all those fallen here or privately families decided to bury at sea. It is a spot way out into the sea from the harbor which we have taken on pleasure boats that follow the parade. My mother is buried at sea here taken out on the Notre Dame lifeboat of the SNSM volunteer organization that saves folks at sea and take care of the lifeguards on the beaches; special place for me and now my father we walked into the Notre Dame Church on the hill of grace or côte de Grace with a big Cross of Christ overlooking the harbor and hold Mass on this day of the festival as well. It is done since 1861 here and the next one is from Saturday May 19 to Monday May 21 2018. More on it here in French:

And the story on the Notre Dame Church on the hill of grace in English here:

Some of the posts I have done on this wonderful region of us all are here:

And a picture to showcase my father at the hill of grace on Normandy and Honfleur. Enjoy Normandy it is for all of us. Cheers!



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January 29, 2018

The new region of France: Hauts de France!

Now this one is moving up north , where we do have family and comes not just for sightseeing but as citizen here, and probably why the few photos of sights. It is different and wonderful at the same time. Looking forward to have it more publicize as it deserves more from the millions who visit France every year (about 85M).  Of course, I am talking about the Hauts de France.

Another controversy in the name as most folks determine that hauts just means highs and nothing to do with the region per se. However ,once again in the rush to change the landscape of France the council of States voted for the name.

The region is the fusion of the old régions of Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardie. The region is comprise of five deparments such as the Aisne, Nord, Oise, Pas-de-Calais, and the Somme. It is with the île de France  on the south, the Normandie on the west, the Grand Est on the east. They have a long frontier with Belgium on the northeast and the Mer du Nord on the northwest.

A map of the region is on their official regional site here:

The biggest city here is Lille and other than the official French, the region speaks local dialects/languages  such as the ch’ti, picard, and flemish. The region until the 18C was named into several provinces such in Picardie around Amiens, Saint-Quentin, Boulogne-sur-mer, and Calais, Flandres around Lille and Dunkerque and the Artois with Arras, Lens, and Béthune. While the Île de France region was really into Beauvais and Laon.

Unesco world heritage sites here are:

Notre Dame Cathedral of Amiens; part of the route of St James or Santiago were the Saint Jacques le Majeur Church and the Saint Jean Baptiste Church ofFolleville; St Jacques Church of Compiegne ; The belltowers of the Nord, Pas-de-Calais, and the Somme; the citadelle of Arras,part of the circuit of Vauban fortifications; the mining basin of the Nord Pas de Calais on 109 sites including Churches and monuments; and the Notre Dame of the immaculate conception basilica of Boulogne-sur-Mer.

The designation of cities of Art and History in France is taken serious by these cities; and the Hauts de France has plenty such as  Arras (Pas-de-Calais) Beauvais (Oise) Boulogne-sur-Mer (Pas-de-Calais) Cambrai (Nord) Chantilly (Oise) Laon (Aisne) Lille (Nord) Noyon (Oise) Roubaix (Nord) Saint-Quentin (Aisne) Valenciennes (Nord) , and Soissons (Aisne).

As well as the Champagne area of the Aisne such as in Chateau Thierry!

On the transport site, it is a region awaiting consolidation as well but some of the majors are:

TER trains in the region

transport somme 80

transport nord 59

oise 60

aisne 02

pas de calais Oscar network 62

tourist info from the regional page in French.

And some of my previous posts from this region to share individually here:

Enjoy the posts and the region of Hauts de France.  A photo to showcase the post is the entrance to the Castle of Chantilly. Cheers!



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January 29, 2018

The region of the Grand Est!

This is another new region of France, we call it Grand Est . it took some time to get it as the folks were not too happy to change the name especially the Alsace. Finally, the gov’t won and the name was voted by the council of States .

The official regional webpage is here in French:

And the site tourist information in French is here:

Grand Est  is the old regions of Alsace, Lorraine, and Champagne-Ardennes . In turn this new region comprises the departments of Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, Vosges, Ardennes, Marne, Haute-Marne, Aube ,and the Meuse.

Great network of transportation  that will soon merge  into one for the whole region. Still working on merging all into one but the main ones are:

All transports

the transfrontaliers, nearby countries

the train TER grand est

link grand est sncf

the Lorraine


several on bus

The biggest city is Strasbourg, here the city host the European Parliament as well as the mediator European who controls the UE. Also, it’s the seat of the Council of Europe of which is attach the European Court of Human Rights as well as the pharma European organism. Here , also ,you have the IT system network of Schengen.

The region frontiers are with four countries Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and Switzerland. In the region ,other than the official French language, you can also hear German, Alsacien, Francine Lorrain, Lorrain Romanesque(Welche), and Champenois

Some of the wonderful Unesco world heritage sites here are:

At Nancy, the areas around the Place Stanislas, Place de la Carriére, Place de’Alliance. The Grande île or big island in Strasbourg ; at Reims the Notre Dame Cathedral, Basilica of Saint Remi, and the Episcopal palace of  Tau. On the road to St James (Santiago) you have the Basilica of Notre Dame at L’Epine and the Notre Dame en Vaux Church in Châlons-en-Champagne; fortifications of Vauban such as the Citadelle of Longwy and Citadelle of Neuf-Brisach;  the mountain sides of the houses and cellars of Champagne; the architectural work of Le Corbusier, the manufacture Claude et Duval at Saint-Dié-des-Vosges.

And to close some of my previous post on a region where the Champagne reign supreme and we love more than anything else.

Enjoy the Grand Est, far East of France where history of nations intertwined with the modern Europe in France.

Happy Monday, me on a roll lol!!! Cheers!!!

Epernay Epernay



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January 28, 2018

Some news from Spain LX

Well on a cool Sunday  night and already thinking of another work week, my thoughts goes to Spain. My beloved Spain is kicking high on tourism this year ,record breaking year in 2017 and this one starts ok.  In Madrid tonite is 54F or about 12C very cloudy feeling colder with the rest of the week better with more sunshine and no rain.

Some news on my Spain:

A nice town and region known as the city of the three lies because no saint no valley and no sea on the name but is Santillana del Mar (ok Spanish joke maybe lost in translation) , it is very photogenics and ydillic population located only about 30 km from Santander.  The town was called Santa Juliana and became Santillana.  The king Alfonso VIII gave it city status in 1209. The main streets for walks and sightseeing are the Calle de Carrera, Calle Cantón or Calle del Río (they are all the same road but on each section are name different !). The main square is Plaza Pelayo at the center of town  with a triangular shape. Nearby at only 2 km are the famous caves or  Cuevas de Altamira, and inside there is the museum and center of investigations of or Museo Nacional y Centro de Investigación de Altamira. At this moment you can only go in five persons groups per week during 37 minutes for protection. However, you can visit the nearby it’s replica the  Neocueva , and the sixtine chapel of rural art in the museum or Museo de Altamira,a few meters from the original cave. More here:;jsessionid=BD794FF3EF2116D36D86F675AD646181

The whole area town can be check in English here:

Moving right alone, the Aller Mountains is a gorgeous spot in the Cantabrian mountain range; here you have wonderful ski resorts such as the one at Fuentes de Invierno in Valgrande-Pajares in Asturias.  The snow allowed the third oldest ski station in Spain to open 40 days before than last year with 30,9 km with four new trails The one in  Valgrande has a trail  skimo,  while  Fuentes de Invierno  is known for its trails.  Here it has  8,7 km of trails maybe small station but well supplied and the challenge of skiing on the sides and hills around it. You can reach this heaven in a bit over an hour from Oviedo o go with the train AVE from Leon,  those coming from Madrid can be here by car in about 3,5 hours.  More on my skinfo source site here:

and the Valgrande station in Spanish here:

The Fuente de Invierno in Spanish here:

Ski stores in Madrid abound , over the years and I tried my at Navacerrada when I was 10 and boy did I tumble down like a yo yo; oh well; my sons have done better ::)

The one that over two decades have supply Madrid with more than 700 m2 of space divided in three floors with all you need is Ski Market . It does not rentals but has a repair shop. The owner is a former Champion of Spain  Luis Ruiz Muradas,  Calle  Mónaco, 47. (P.I. Európolis, Las Rozas).tel +34 91 626 61 51.  Best by car as public transport takes over an hours on metro line 3 and then bus 661 dir San Lorenzo de El Escorial; More here:

Others pretty good ones, and recommended by folks who does skiing in Spain a lot including my cousins are Tornal Moya est 1985 offering all lines of ski and all types including snowboard. Located at Ronda de Valencia , 8 , Metro: Embajadores line 3 and cercanias C5. Tel +34 91 527 54 40. More here:

And one with other sports in it as well is Deportes Alaska with over 25 years offering all the lines for ski you need in all disciplines. You have brands here like ATomic, Polaroid, Descente, Fischer, and Mammot etc. They offered rental service for a complete set,and a small shop for repairs etc all in one shop. Corner of the very popular neighborhood Prosperidad at Calle Cartagena 174, metro Cruz del Rayo line 9/Prosperidad line 4, and tel +34 91 561 16 33. More here:

Something to fill that empty stomach on a winter day in Madrid, the wonderful dish cocido Madrileño. Where to have it best! My opinion of course.

La Cruzada at Calle Amnistía, 8. In what was the oldest tavern in Madrid founded in 1827 and with the same name you now have this restaurant with the same old good cooking philosophy. Offering a real cocido Madrileño  in three dishes for a price of about 30 €. More here:

 La Bola  at Calle Bola, 5 my all time place in Madrid for a real  cocido Madrileño  and of course reservations are a must.  A family tradition and doing it with individual vases of terracotta and slow fire on wood with three dishes for about 30€. More here:

And why not paired with a wonderful Castilian wine from Marqués de Griñón Graciano  ,Dominio de Valdepusa, Castilla La Mancha of 2012 Tinto/red,  with the grape Graciano , to drink now to 2021 . A very dense black wine with a toasted oaky and vegetal flavors later it comes out with the blueberries and prunes to have in your mouth with warmst maturity all delicious. This is a prefered property for my wines from Spain.  Just out at the property they still show the 2010! More here:

However, at my favorite El Corte Inglés you can find the 2012  at 24,50€  in Spanish:

Estampa has reached agreement to showcase contemporary arts in Spain for 2018. At the Feria de Madrid, on October 18 and 21 . This is again a primer, the webpage only show the 2017 event at Matadero de Madrid. The Estampa webpage is to follow for this artful event here:

And the Feria de Madrid or IFEMA ,how to get there;

A historical fact now to be told. the memory of the basque Blas de Lezo who at Cartagena de Indias, Colombia defended the Spanish main against the biggest naval fleet ever assembled from England in 1741, and kept the whole continent for Spain. He was ordered to return to Spain by King Felipe V but he refused staying at Cartagena until his death in September 7, 1741. The Fundacion Blas de Lezo has prepared an exposition to tell of this marine in various parts of Spain. call the “Blas de Lezo y la Guerra del Asiento” showing with 400 miniatures the English assault on the castle or Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas. Shown at Casa de las America, plaz de Cibeles Madrid; more in Spanish here:

Something I have always known: “La Nación más fuerte del mundo es sin duda España. Siempre ha intentado autodestruirse, y nunca lo ha conseguido.” El día que dejen de intentarlo, Volverán a ser la vanguardia del mundo. ….cosa que a muchos no interesa. by Otto Von Bismark (simply translated it means the strongest nation on earth is without doubt Spain; always tried to auto destruct herself and never have been able to do it. The day that it stop trying will return to be the vanguard of the world something that many show no interest. Otto Von Bismark chancellor of Germany) .

And another historical fact I like. In the spring of 1877 at the Plaza de la Barceloneta, Barcelona was surprise to assist for the first time a bullfight from Madrid and observed that no music was played unless the matador pin pole flags on the bull banderillas or a cape movement something close that was done by Lagartijo el Grande.  It was here in Barcelona on May 13 1877 where for the first time music was played on a show by Lagartijo. He left the plazas on May 21 1893 with six bulls of Duke of Veragua. All written on the book ” Toros en Barcelona” by Rafael Lopez Chacon. And the story on the Spanish newspaper ABC here:

And with that I leave my Spain for this Sunday. Wishing you a happy week ahead and happy travels. I will be back soon. Cheers!




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January 28, 2018

The Nouvelle Aquitaine, region of France

Ok this is Sunday quiet , sunny not so cold,and homey waiting for my big meal of the day Raclette Savoyarde homemade!!! Therefore, why not tell you about another fine region of France that have been a bit overlook by readers, very vast region.

I am talking of the new region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. The new region comprises the old regions of Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes, which was initially called until Sept 2016, the region of Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes. Finally, the regional council adopted the new name of Nouvelle Aquitaine or New Aquitania thereafter. The region is the biggest in France in territory, with the biggest metro area that of Bordeaux. It comprises 12 departments such as Charente, Charente-Maritime, Corrèze, Creuse, Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Deux-Sèvres, Vienne, and Haute-Vienne.

Been an old territory, other than French the language of the Republic, there are many dialect and vernacular languages spoken such as auvergnat (from my father in law side::)); gascon ; béarnais; languedocien ; limousin ; marchois ;basque; poitevin;and saintongeais. Very diverse, huge in heritage and gastronomy, and my favorite region to retire in ::)

The official regional site is here in French:

As of 2015 latest figures I can quickly find, from most to least, the principal visited places in this region are Futuroscope, Poitiers , old town of Sarlat, Dune du Pilat near Arcachon, cite historic of Saint Emilion, Aquarium of La Rochelle, Zoo de la Palmyre, (biggest private zoo in Europe) near Royan, medieval village of Collonges-la-Rouge, attraction park of Walibi Sud Ouest at Roquefort near Agen, petit train de la Rhune near Bayonne, memory center and village of martyrs of Oradour-sur-Glane near Limoges, the caves of Lascaux 2 and Lascaux 3, national park of the Pyrénées, writing city of Montmorillon, the international center of the Seas in Rochefort, the lighthouse of Chassiron on the île d’Oléron, and des Baleines on the île de Re ; and the animal park of Monts de Guéret in the Creuse.

The south of the region especially around the Gironde , Landes and part of the Pyrénées Atlantique have a tradition of bullfights either on the form of corridas either Spanish or Portuguese style or even local Landaises. The arenas of Bayonne, Mont-de-Marsan, Orthez, Mimizan, Morlanne, or Dax are the main ones but they total around 160 and if includes the smaller villages can go to 180

The cultural, heritage,natural places in this region are inmense and probably won’t be seen at least in my lifetime. The gastronomy is huge and clearly shows the France most come to know. They are divided into four great cuisines such as the gasconne/guyennaise, basque, limousine/périgourdine, and charentaise/poitevine. These together with the Provençal Mediterranean cuisine is what we call here the French Paradox on the benefit of eating and drinking simply the best.

In French but to know all about the region, food visits and purchases here you can see the Passion Aquitaine blog here:

Too many to go into them but to showcase my previous posts on the new region, listed not in any particular order. Check them out, they are a library of information for your visits, and everyday living à la Française !!!

Enjoy the Aquitaine, A photo to showcase the tranquil beauty of this region. At Sauveterre de Béarn, the river bank from pont de la légende going to the feudal castle of Gaston VII Sauveterre de Bearn

Enjoy your Sunday , I am going for that raclette savoyarde::) Cheers!

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January 28, 2018

The old city of Marseille!

Going back again on my vault of my belle France, I came across Marseille. The old city by the harbor bringing in the civilizations of all Europe and beyond, a melting pot of old nations and new ones. This is Marseille.  On a clear cool sunny day at last, why not talk about the city of the Mediterranean and especially it’s old harbor or vieux port.

The city lies in the department 13 Bouches-du-Rhône in the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. Oldest city in France founded in 600BC as Massalia by Greek fisherman. It has 57 km of coast including 24 km of rocky inlets or calanques, that are just magnificent. It is from Rouget de Lisle, in 1792,creates at Strasbourg an hymn calle the song of war of the army of the Rhine. This hymn was edited and comes to Marseille that had welcome the French revolution with enthusiast. This ,then becomes the La Marseillaise the French National Anthem.

It is the second biggest city in France and it has everything Paris has for leisure cinemas, theaters, operas, parks entertainment ,all. The city tourist office in English is here:

But let me update on the old harbor or vieux port where I spent all my time as my office was nearby.


There are two fortress at the entrance to the old harbor or thereafter Vieux-Port built by king Louis XIV to protect the city in the 17C, the fort Saint Nicolas remains now occupied by the French army. The fort Saint-Jean built in the 15C is now host of the museum of civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean or musée des civilisations de l’Europe et de la Méditerranée. From the old arsenal galleries today only remains the harbormaster house.


The Ferry Boat which was so dear to Marcel Pagnol sets off from the City Hall several times a day across the Old Port. It launched in June 1880 and thus began the famous Mairie-Place aux Huiles journey. In 2010, a more eco-friendly Ferry Boat with an electric solar propeller took to the water. Now two ferry boats share the Vieux-Port.

The Knights Templar commander stood on the site of the church Saint Ferréol in the 12C. After the suppression of the Order and the disappearance of its members, Augustinian monks bought the buildings in 1369. They began building the gothic church which was consecrated in 1542 but only completed in 1588. The Italian-style bell tower dates back to the 18C. It was built as a parish in 1803 in the name of Saint Ferréol in memory of the collegiate of the same name which was destroyed in 1794. The building originally had 5 bays and 12 lateral chapels but urban planning destroyed two of the bays in 1804. After the opening of Rue Impériale (now Rue de la République),the new Neo-Baroque façade was done. The religious site is here:,302

The entry to the harbor was protected by a long chain across it and closed at night. It was taken by the Spanish during an attack and pillage of the city in 1423. The chain is now in the Cathedral of Valencia Spain. And something the Spanish used later on the new world cities such as Havana harbor.

The quays or quais were built in the 15C to 17C and by the end of the 16C the two oldest buildings in town were built, the hôtel de Cabre and the Maison diamantée. In 1666 king Louis XVI ordered the extention of the city with ramparts destroyed and the city extended to the borders of the harbor.

A final extension happened in 1844 with a new basin or bassin de la Juliette and two link the two a new road is built called rue Impériale, today call the rue de la République. In 1849, the waters of the Durance river arrived and to honor it the palais Longchamp is built in 1869; a whole industrial heaven in Marseille. In 1845, the train station or Gare Saint Charles is built on a hill; in 1848,the promenade de la Corniche was created. To move about in the old harbor what do you have…well plenty other than walking which is great I used to walk from Saint Charles to the vieux port! you have by vélo stations at the quai du Port are to from Hôtel de Ville, Beauveau / Suffren , and Place aux Huiles. The metro is at Vieux-Port to Hôtel de ville on line 1. And if go by car done once too, you take the tunnel Prado Carénage exit:sortie Vieux-Port. Several underground parkings available such as mine Parking Vieux-Port la Criee entrance at 129 quai de Rive-Neuve.

Right around the above parking I used you have the museum or musée de savon de Marseille (or marseille soap museum) ;more here;

For a grand gastronomic meal à la Française try the restaurant La Nautique in a floating peniche boat, really nice indeed more here:

A bit more on land on the same quai as the above parking ,museum, and restaurant you have a more inexpensive but good resto in the Au Vieux Port; more here:

If we take the other side of the harbor on quai du port going into the place Vivaux, you have the museum or Musée de Docks Romains or the museum of the history of Marseille (a must); more here:

and right on the quai du port, you get the start of the little train or petit train (take circuit 2) always a family favorite. More here:

Back to the other side , there is another Church worth going to see this is the Church of Saint Laurent at 16 Esplanade de la Tourette near the Forst Saint Jean spoken above. Very nice old Churh with foundations going back to 840AD more on the religious site :

Hope you entjoy the tour, small one but believe enough to tell you Marseille should be in your travel plans; it’s a vibrant city, and if stayed around the Vieux Port is a magical experience.

marseille steps lead to st charles train station

Have a great day and do come to enjoy Marseille. Cheers!!!

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January 28, 2018

Chateau d’Amboise, and Touraine!


And here I am again, pulling some wonderful castles from my vault in my blog circa 2011 and 2015. I need to say, the Loire has many castles but for ambiance décor, and just wines, this is my favorite, period. I have come so often that can write a book about it, but third entry is enough for most lol!

The Chateau d’Amboise and Amboise,has been showcase twice in my old blog, these are the post for your enjoyment and my souvenir.

Again ,for clarity the tourist page for the castle is here:

The city of Amboise with their sights in French is here:

Again by car you take the A10 direction Bordeaux from Paris and go out in exit 18 Amboise. By train you can come from Paris Montparnasse or Austerlitz train station to Amboise. Amboise is in dept 37 Indre et Loire in the region of Centre Val de Loire.

You have many things to see here like the castle, and the wonderful clock tower or tour de l’Horloge started in 1495 and finished in 1500. the Château du Clos Lucé of the great Leonard da Vinci, the Maison des Pages of king Charles VII, the eccentric Pagode de Chanteloup ;the nice Church of Saint-Florentin, built upon request of king Louis XI , and the Church Saint Denis, and if time go to see the Chateau Gaillard recently reopen to the public under conditions as it is still a private property; however, it is royal castle once belonging to kings Charles VIII and Louis XII, and one of the first castles of the Renaissance in France as well be the place where the first orangers and peaches trees were planted in France!! (info from the region tourist office.) These would be my favorites to visit.

Another of my highlights here is the market or marché right off the walls of the castle going down to the crossing the clock tower and near the Loire river. It is on Fridays and on Sundays it is huge! with wine tastings as well!!

And then of course, you have the wines! very good quality /price ratio here;our house wine are from here and as I am certified wine expert on French wines by Sopexa (food and wine from France govt org) and worked in the wine business in two countries USA and France,can tell you these are good quality/price values.

The Touraine-Amboise appellation has red (cabernet(franc and sauvignon), cot,and gamay), white(from grapes chenin here call pineau de la loire) ,rose(done from the red wine grapes) and cremant(same as white wines) varieties. 800 km of wine trails, more here:

And the Touraine-Amboise area here:

seek out these properties and you won’t be wrong. Domaine de la Tonnellerie at nearby Limeray across the Loire river. Also, Domaine Mesliand , and my best find,Domaine Dutertre; direct with them and know the entire family here and follow them elsewhere in France on the fairs, many times medal winners independent growers, and Lyon International supporters. See their cuvee François I, and my wife’s favorite the sweet cuvee Gabriel. All of their wines are good and excellent quality/price ratio. Who says French wines has to be expensive to be good…!! oh they have a museum of old wine objects and bottles right underneath the house the cave extends under it ,quite big area. See them here:

Enjoy the Amboise, it is sublime royal and very French. Cheers!

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