Archive for February 18th, 2018

February 18, 2018

The big one, Germany! and now closer….

I am on the move this Sunday, and rather stay home most of the day. Taking you back to older posts and given them new life. I already passed you by the North so why not the East, Germany it is.

I rather bring about my previous posts on and about cities in the country. Why closer, well it started with my college roommate  from Wiesbaden and then continue with business colleagues of many years from several cities, follow by my alma mater graduation class of 1982  buddy who was married to a lady of the country and moved to near Stuttgart where he is at for many many years already… and a family. Finally, it hit closer to home as my cousin-sister married a German from Hamburg  so now the cycle is complete. Welcome to a very international family!!

This is the Federal Republic of Germany with 16 states. and the most populous country in the European Union.  It’s major cities are Berlin, its capital as well as Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, Bremen, Dresden, Hanover, and Nuremberg.

In 1871, Germany became a nation state when the German state was unified into a Prussian dominated German empire. After WWI, the Empire was replaced by the Weimar Republic. The worse period was from 1933 to 1945 and WWII.  After the end of WWII in Europe, passing by a period of allied occupation into four zones, two German states were formed, West Germany with American, British,and French zones and East Germany with Soviet occupation zone.  Following the free revolution of 1989 that ended communist rule in Central and Eastern Europe, the country was united as of now in October 3rd 1990.

The Federal Republic of Germany (rather West Germany) was a founding member of the European Economic Community in 1957 and the whole Germany of the European Union in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area and became a co-founder of the Eurozone in 1999. Germany is a member of the United Nations, NATO, G7, G20, and OECD organizations.

Tourism wise, it has created several routes such as the Romantic Road, the Wine Route, the Castle Road, and the Avenue Road.  Also, a quaint road call the German Timber-Frame Road. According to various sources online, the most visited places there are Neuschwanstein Castle, Cologne Cathedral, Berlin Bundestag, Hofräuhaus Munich, Heidelberg Castle, Dresden Zwinger, Fernsehturm Berlin, and Anchen Cathedral; with Europa Park near Freiburg been the second most visited theme park in Europe.

The official German tourist office in English is here: http://www.germany.travel/en/index.html

According to official sources such as the German tourist office , EU, and  Statistisches Bundesamt, Wiesbaden 2016, the most visitors to Germany in order are the Netherlands, Switzerland, USA, Great Britain, Italy, Austria, France, Denmark, Belgium, and Spain. the same study shows that the prefer destination of Germans are in order, Spain ,Italy, Austria, Turkey, Croatia, Scandinavia, Greece, and France. It is mentioned ,Germany is the 7th country in the world as far as visitors with about 35,6M in 2016. Other than the tourist office, I think this is a good site for public transport in Germany. Of course, I only been there once by airplane to Düsseldorf, and then hire a taxi lol!! the rest has been by car from France. The site here: https://www.german-way.com/travel-and-tourism/public-transport-in-germany/

Enjoy the ride, and your Sunday. Cheers!!

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February 18, 2018

Bruges or Brugge in Belgium Flemish country!

I bring you north of me and France. The small country of Belgium hit me since first visiting in 1991, and with family close to the border France-Belgium it was an easy trip to the country. It’s a lot more than fries ,mussels and beers althought I can go there just for that ::)

I like to tell you a bit more on the town of Brugge,  places to see etc. I love history so will like to remind you a bit more on the city this time.

Well you know always your first stop or contact should be with the tourist office, here is Bruges in English:  https://www.visitbruges.be/discover

brugge

Bruges or Brugge is in the Flemish region of Belgium, principal city of the province of West Flandre. It has been call by many the Venice of the north, but you know how that goes… Bruges/Brugge is mentioned from the 9C as a stronghold of the Count of Flandre and by 1134 a huge wave open up breach to the sea call the Zwin, giving access to the sea and the developement of several canals, now making the city famous as before mention Venice of the north. This quasi natural breach of sea eventually by the 20C allows for the huge port of Bruges-Zeebruges. Now link with Bruges since 1907 by the Canal Baudouin,of 12 km long.

It is honor by Unesco World Heritage sites for 3 such as the historical center, the Beguine part of the Flemish Beguine and for its belltower as one of the Belgium and France. It has ,also an Unesco designation as a immaterial cultural heritage for its possession of the Holy Blood.

I have come here by car only, and the roads are good , easy on the park and relays parkings or in the hotels. The main roads here are the A10/E40,linking Gand to Brussels; A10 links with Ostende, the A18/E40, links Furnes with the French border; A17/E403, links Courtrai to Tournai;the national roads such as the N31/E403,links to the port of Zeebruges; and the N49/E34, links to Anvers/Antwerpen. We went from Versailles and took eventually the A1 autoroute into Roubaix then got on the A17 once crossing to Belgium; at exit 8 get on the road N31 to arrive by the train station area and link up with the beltway Buten Begijnenvest ,follow this to exit 4 Katelijnepoort, and it goes right into city center/Downtown, we parked at our hotel Novotel for free! Other than that you can use the parking relays such as Centrum-Station (railway station) and Centrum-’t Zand. Both are situated within walking distance of the Market square, but you can also use the bus transfer with ‘De Lijn’ between the parking Centrum-Station and the city centre (included in your parking fee for 4 passengers).

By train, not done, but it is link from France by the InterCity trains as well as other towns in Belgium and Lille. Of course there are connections with Brussels and other towns in Belgium. the train station also receive the Thalys Paris – Brussels – Ostende. More of that here: http://www.belgianrail.be/en/stations-and-train/search-a-station/13/brugge.aspx

The port of Bruges east-Zeebruges; its one of the most important in Europe. For the airport the closest one is at Ostend-Bruges at Ostend,about 25 km from city center Bruges. Many folks use the Brussels airport and then connect here by train. The Brugge airport here:   Airport of Brugge Ostend
The area local transport in Flamande ,the delijn can be schedule here:   Delijn local transports site in English

A bit of history I like: On May 18 1302, during the festival of the Bruggian mornings the population revolts against the king of France Philippe le Bel and killed the supporters of the king, then take side with the Count of Flandre Gui de Dampierre and oldest son Robert prisonner of the king of France since 1300. Two months later the town takes part in the Flemish victory in the battle of des éperons d’or, against the king of France.

In the 15C the town is under the control of the dukes of Burgundy, by 1436 the militia of locals and Gantons returning from the sieges of Picardie in France, demand the independance of Bruges in the maritime port of L’Écluse. By May 1437 the locals revolt again against Duke Philippe III of Burgundy in a bloody revolt. The town of Bruges passed under Spanish domination and by the succession of the lower countries in 1584 the town reach its lowest point ; by 1600, Bruges is only a small provincial town.

By WWI ,Bruges was occupied by the Germans,but the city suffered virtually no damage and was liberated on 19 October 1918 by the allies. From 1940 in World War II the city again was occupied by the Nazis Germans and again spared destruction. On 12 September 1944 it was liberated by Canadian troops.

Some things to see I like are Grand Place; Place du Bourg; the palace of the dukes of Burgundy, and the Maison-Dieu from the 14C. The town has numerous museums and have been to a few; some of the ones I like are the Belfort or bell tower at a height of 83 meters and a structure of 47 bells. the gate of Gentpoort one of the four gates of the medieval town; the city hall (stadhuis) from 1376. The windmill of Koelewei from 1765 now near the gate of Damme since 1996; museum of arts and popular traditions housed in 8 maison dieu of the 17C; , Museum Groeninge; Flemish paintings from the 15C to our days; Palace of the franks de Bruges (Paleis van het Brugse Vrije) there were a council managing the region around the town and now houses the archives and in the renaissance room there is a monumental chimney of the 16C. And the Gruuthusemuseum is a museum of applied arts in Bruges, located in the medieval Gruuthuse, the house of Louis de Gruuthuse. The collection ranges from the 15-19C.

brugge

brugge

brugge

brugge

The town has huge number of religious buildings too numerous to mention but my favorites are the old abbey of Dunes , the monks of this abbey in the 17C came here and today there is a seminary on the quay de poteries with an undone façade. Basilica of the Holy Blood (Basiliek van het Heilig Bloed), a pilgrimage place from a long time, explain the procession of the Holy Blood. Monastery of the vineyard (béguinage de Bruges) founded by Marguerite of Constantinople, also countess of Flandre in 1245. The Benedictines were here since 1927. There is possible to visit a house of beguine, but we didn’t have time to do the house. Cathedral of Saint Salvador (Sint-Salvatorskathedraal); hospital of Saint-John of Bruges (Sint-Jans-Hospitaal) , an old hospital of the 12C located in the street Mariastraat, it is now of museums dedicated to the works of Hans Memling, including the famous shrine of Sainte Ursula, and the mythical marriage of Sainte Catherine. In the sick room there is showing the sick in a reconstitution and objects of arts and medicine showing the hospital life of the times. Notre-Dame de la Poterie Church (Onze-Lieve-Vrouw ter Potterie) it was a hospital since the 13C and now a museum on its history. And the Jerusalem Church built in early 15C by descendants of Opice Adornes, a genovese shopper and one of the rare Churches in Belgium still in private hands run by the ASBL Adornes. And not to missed the procession of the HOly Blood dating from the middle ages that is held every year on Ascension day.

 

brugge

brugge

There now the city of Bruges/Brugge is complete. Enjoy the north, the Venice of the North. Have a great day wherever you are.  And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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February 18, 2018

Salon des Vins et de la Gastronomie , Vannes 2018

Here we have another year and another wonderful food and wine fair at Vannes. This is touted here as the Salon Vins et Gastronomie, and this year proves to be an even bigger success, this is the 26th edition.

Vannes

For this edition it was once again the opportunity to meet some of the providers we shop while in our adventurous ways thru the French countryside and some new ones met here. You have the real France here nothing industrial, supermarket type but the real deal straight from the farms and the artisans who produces the marvelous things we all came to know France for and still is. You have them here from different regions all defending their land and product. The Salon is open February 17-18-19 from 10h to 19h except Monday to 18h. Admission is 5€ or 4€ if purchase on the internet; once you receive and invitation from a producer is free as it is for us. All is held at the exposition center Chorus in the parc du golfe of Vannes; webpage for the event here:  http://www.lechorus.com/salon-des-vins-et-de-la-gastronomie

We were there Saturday morning at about 11h15, and right away got into a sweets /sugar pastries shop by renown pâtissier or pastry maker Alain Chartier who has store in city center Vannes as wall as pastrychef school and teams up worldwide with many organisations as well as French chocolate maker Valrhona (as in valley of the Rhône). Their webpage is here:  https://fr.valrhona.com/
That of Alain Chartier is here:  https://www.alainchartier.fr/

 

There are others sommeliers, local chefs , pastry makers, and cuisine bloggers who will come here too and show their skills and new specialties as well as pots and pans makers! All is to be tasted and tried. Other than Alain Chartier, the group Caravin of wine stores also will present their wine tasting techniques. All of this is included in the admission price.

France Ouest newspaper of western France ,publish several different forms of cooking, drinking experimenting with the Breton cuisine in mind, and this is the magazine Bretons en Cuisine, that is also given away during the presentations to the lucky winners by answering questions from the chefs. And you can follow the magazine newspaper in Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BretonsEnCuisine/

We got in right away with free producer’s passes, and got our tasting glasses which you can rent for one euro return the glasses gets your money back, however, we always keep them as souvenirs, they are real wine tasting glasses. We , also, take a hand trolley  you give an id they keep it you return the lift you get your id back, simple. And you are ON!

The salon is set up in aisles mixing food stands, sweets, and wine tastings presenters, on the right side wall you have the food court where you can eat and or bring what you buy to eat on tables. At the end back , you have the presentations , and the pans and pots stand.  All will make you buy the whole darn expo center !!!

 

We went to our regular of many years and even have visited in their locale, this is the Maison Gastellou originally from Saint Jean Pied de Port in French Basque country. Wonderful Bayonne hams, sausages, and ready made sandwiches of Bayonne ham and ewe milk cheese. Also , the famous basque cake and jellies. WE got them all, spending here alone 235€. For more on this wonderful generational family farm/store here: http://www.maison-gastellou-jambon-de-bayonne.com/

We came back to see Christel and now his wife Claudine of  the Domaine Cousseau Boireau wonderful rose and red wines of Saint Nicolas de Bourgueil in the Loire valley : This are very good wines at affordable prices (who said French wine is expensive?) the wines here are from 5-8 euros per bottle all made from Cabernet Franc for the red and rosés.  Here is some info on these farm workers and the photo is that of Christel ; http://www.stnicolasdebourgueil.fr/en/61/winemakers/winemaker/domaine-cousseau-boireau.html

We stop by an old reliable Domaine de Lamothe, Gaillac red , whites, roses, moelleux etc . The story here is that on my wife’s father side they are cathars from this region, Lavaur, Toulouse, Gralheut, Montans, Gaillac, and the family used to sent us this wine to us back while living in the Florida. We came to live permanently in France in 2003, and got this wine in the property with the owners directly that knew the family; now here at Vannes their daughter is send to showcase the wines of the property. Of course, we got a caseload of dry whites and old vines red.  They are direct no webpage this is the essence of France and Gaillac wines from Independent growers: https://www.tourisme-vignoble-bastides.com/degustation/domaine-de-lamothe-sainte-cecile-du-cayrou

We try a new find, closer to us get to know the neighborhood.  A while back we stopped by Saumur and tasted their wines on site (always better than away on a bottle ::)) They turn out to be pretty good and good prices. Here at the salon we stopped by Domaine Sanzay, and were pleasantly surprise by their Domaine 2016 and Vielles Vignes reds of the appellation Saumur-Champigny. Thy were there with the owners Didier and Céline, and the property can be visited and tastings done on site as well. The webpage here in English:  http://www.domaine-sanzay.com/vins.php?categorie=1

We try some saucissons of the Saveurs Catalanes on their stand for the good price and had them before here in Brittany ,in fact they have a depot by Rennes even if the family of he recipe is from Girona Cataluña Spain.  More on them here in French: http://www.saveurscatalanes-keesbo.com/vente-jambon-saucisson-chorizo-salaison-bretagne.aspx

We, also got some nice sticks of chocolates from the Le Comptoir du chocolat who are nearby at Quimper and were in the salon as well; great varieties on the tablets just delicious; more here in French : http://www.comptoir-du-chocolat.com/

We got our dry fruits at the by now usual place who also have a store in Rocheport-en-Terre in the Morbihan 56 (our dept). L’Art Gourmand, and of course here we got a bushful and tastings galore ::) We had them there and we got to meet them up close and personal here at the salon. Here they are on the town tourist office long…. https://www.rochefortenterre-tourisme.bzh/ln/en/know_more/shops_and_services/?tif_r=3facc9a4-f69a-4994-9d28-b7a6ec16df30&L-Art-Gourmand

We got out and went to do some household items at the Carrefour hypermarket in Vannes and then to Morbihan Motos as one of my sons got a scooter Mash City and needed a anti theft lock for the insurance.  Our Saturday was booked and very efficiently done. Now relax , tomorrow is Sunday and plenty of goodies to eat and drink! The temps are ok only 11C and even sunny no rain, just perfect for a weekend, oh enjoy yours ,happy travels and well bon appétit,,,,,,,cheers!

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