Archive for February, 2018

February 21, 2018

This is VERSAILLES!!!

I will tell you again about Versailles. IF you have read my previous posts on it, or the region of île de France or department 78 Yvelines, you will notice I once lived there, 10 years of glorious times. Not everyday you can say live in a royal town, surrounded by history and beauty and do your jogging in the gardens of the palace of Versailles. But enough of me; let me tell you about VERSAILLES!!!

Before ,I start (and it will be long…) I will create a second post showing all the previous posts in my blog on the city, it is long too.

Versailles, capital of Yvelines département 78, Île-de-France région, 14 miles (22 km) southwest of Paris. The town developed around the 17C Palace of Versailles, built on ordered of king Louis XIV, the principal residence of the kings of France and the seat of the government for more than 100 years. The first scenes of the French Revolution were enacted at the palace, whose gardens, the masterpiece of André Le Nôtre, have become part of the national heritage of France and one of the most-visited historical sites in Europe.  At the height, about 20,000 persons attached to the court, some 1,000 courtiers with 4,000 attendants lived in the palace itself. About 14,000 soldiers and servants were quartered in annexes like communs building to the left of the palace and in the town, which was founded in 1671 and had 30,000 inhabitants when Louis XIV died in 1715.

The first mention of Versailles was written in a charter dated from 1038, in the Abbey of Saint-Père de Chartres  where it was cited the name of a lord named Hugues de Versailles ; he will be the first known lord of Versailles In 1623, king  Louis XIII  had built a hunting meeting house in the land of about 350 hectares purchased from different owners. By April 1632, king Louis XIII purchased the totality of the lordship of Versailles to his last owner Jean-François de Gondi, bishop of  Paris. The General Estates were held here on May 5 1789 at the Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs and by June 17 1789 upon the suggestion of abbot Sieyés took the current name of National Assembly or « Assemblée nationale ».  The king had closed the  Hôtel des Menus Plaisirs, and the  members of the third estate took to the salle de Jeu de Paume on June 20 1789  where the famous sermon was said ; not to leave until the constitution was agreed.  Immediately after the taking of the Bastille the first noblemen immigrated such as the Count of Artois, future Charles X and younger brother of king Louis XVI . The National Assembly abolished feudalism in August 4 1789. Finally, by October 5-6 1789 the crowds coming from Paris invade the palace and forced the royal family to come to Paris.  A while later, the constituted assembly followed the king and this was the end of its role of Capital of Versailles. It must be mentioned that today the French constitution calls that any changes, amendments or alteration to it needs to be decided and voted on by the entire French government at Versailles; last done in 2009 under President Sarkozy.

Some of the wonderful things done during the monarchy was the Grand and Petit Trianon as well as the Hameau of the queen Marie Antoinette. Outside the palace grounds you have the Grand Commons, where the servants and lower officers lived right off ave de l’indepedance Americaine left side facing the palace. This building was the work of Jules Hardouin-Mansart, built in 1684 in the form of a square ring in front of the midi wing of the palace and occupied until  1995 by the Military hospital Dominique-Larrey,it now houses the administrative services of the palace. Also, the Grande Ecurie housing the carriage museum and the Petite Ecurie both in front of the palace and separated by the Avenue de Paris, also built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart ; You have the stables of the Queen  or écuries de la reine, first of the King and later of the Queen built by  François d’Orbay in 1672, that houses today the appeals court  of Versailles at 5 rue Carnot. See more and  a photo of it here: http://www.ca-versailles.justice.fr/index.php?rubrique=10865

See the old police mansion of Versailles, these were the old stables of Madame du Barry up 19-21 avenue de Paris; and the current chamber of Commerce also the mansion of Madame du Barry nearby. On the other side you have the vegetable garden or potager du roi, next to the parc de Versailles  from which it communicated by the royal grille , the garden was of 9 hectares and was created in 1683 by Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinie.; houses today the school of gardeners that takes care of it today. It is in the process of a renovation project  with various institutions including a funding group from the USA More on the funding here: https://www.wmf.org/project/potager-du-roi

More on the garden in French here: http://www.potager-du-roi.fr/site/potager/index.htm

One of my family’s favorite is the parc Balbi , English style gardens of 2,5 hectares, created at the end of the 18C  for  Anne de Caumont -La Force, Countess of Balbi and lover of the Count of Provence (future king Louis XVIII and next brother of Louis XVI) . More here: http://en.versailles-tourisme.com/cultural-heritage/balbi-park-943149

You come to 73 ave de Paris and see the Domaine de Madame Élisabeth :a wonderful park of  7,2 hectares and one of my family’s favorites ; Madame Elizabeth was the sister of king Louis XVI beheaded for defending her brother in 1794. more here: http://en.versailles-tourisme.com/cultural-heritage/le-domaine-de-madame-elisabeth-943152

Versailles

The palace you should know is also known as a Château/Museum of of the history ofFrance (château de Versailles) created and saved in 1837 by the king of the French  Louis-Philippe, dedicated to all the glories of France , where the room emblem is the gallery of battles or galerie des batailles. Official site here: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/

The Orangerie of course: http://en.chateauversailles.fr/discover/estate/gardens/orangery#the-building

The boutique to order even from abroad is here: http://www.boutique-chateauversailles.fr/en/

You can see the palace in 3D here: http://www.versailles3d.com/en/

You, also have the Salle du jeu de paume,(Royal Tennis Court) now a museum of the French revolution since 1883; more here: http://en.versailles-tourisme.com/cultural-heritage/the-royal-tennis-court-943178

Other museums are Musée Lambinet, at 54  boulevard de la Reine (wonderful must see) the municipal museum of Versailles since 1932  in the mansion hôtel Lambinet  that showcase the collection retracing the history of Versailles and specially the work of local sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon ; More here: http://en.versailles-tourisme.com/cultural-heritage/lambinet-museum-943172

Versailles

Centre la marechalerie art contemporaire 5, avenue de Sceaux , wonderful modern art and close to palace and nice parking http://lamarechalerie.versailles.archi.fr/index.php?page=expositions

You, also ,have the sublime Osmothèque, a private museum since 1990 in the building of the international superior institute of perfumes, cosmetics and aromatics foods or ISIPCA, where they have a collection of perfumes going back to Marie Antoinette ; but only visited by appointment at 36 rue du Parc de Clagny and more here: https://www.osmotheque.fr/en/

King Louis XV continues to enhance and renovate the palace to the point of extravaganza; by 1837 Louis Philippe restored the palace and turned into a museum as it is today. The Prussians besiege Paris in 1870 and used Versailles as its headquarters, and in 1871 the Prussian emperor was crowned there. For eight years after the peace with Prussia/Germany, the palace was the seat of the French Parliament, and the constitution of the Third Republic was proclaimed there in 1875. The presidents of the Third and Fourth republics were elected in Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles (1919) between the Allies and Germany was signed in the palace, which was again restored and modernized under Pres. Charles de Gaulle.

The town of Versailles is now a local administrative center and residential suburb of Paris. The palace serves as a tourist attraction and as a residence for visiting heads of state. The district of  Satory ( right coming out of the palace), contains the newer cathedral of Saint-Louis,(1843)  more info here: http://www.cathedrale-versailles.org/

Versailles

While the Notre Dame quarter, is the site of the oldest church of Notre-Dame (1686); where all births, baptisms and marriages of the princes of Versailles are recorded and still revered by all French noblemen. More here and you can see the emblem of French kings on the upper left: http://notredameversailles.org/

Site on the Churches of Versailles (my most commented post ever!) https://www.catholique78.fr/eglise-en-yvelines/trouver-une-paroisse/

Versailles is an important garrison town, with a military hospital and a school of military engineering and artillery. However, the adjoining Satory plateau is the location of armament and high-tech (electronics) industries. A school of horticulture (1874) is attached to a fine garden .More in French here on the school: http://www.ecole-paysage.fr/site/ecole_fr/historique.htm

Versailles lost its position as the administrative capital permanently in 1789 with the forced departure of Louis XVI for Paris.  The privileged among these were granted rooms within the chateau itself (which contained 220 apartments and 450 surprisingly small rooms); the less fortunate lived in the town of Versailles or were forced to travel back and forth to Paris each day. To secure the allegiance of his nobility and to prevent anyone else from gaining too much influence and power, Louis XIV distributed all royal patronage personally—no chief minister had control over the treasury, the distribution of estates, or the assignment of lucrative church posts or military commands. The intricate rules and rituals that governed the members of Louis XIV’s court facilitated the creation of the modern centralized state. The ordered society of Versailles became the European ideal of the well-run state. The hotel de ville or city hall.

Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is one of the most popular attractions in Europe, the Gardens of Versailles cover 800 hectares of land with sculptures, rare flowers and vivid greenery. Designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the Royal Opera of Versailles is located in the North wing of the Palace of Versailles;  some sights to see the Galerie des Glaces inside the Palace of Versailles, served daily as a meeting area and passageway connecting the apartments of the King and Queen. More than 350 mirrors are used in the decoration of this breathtaking hall, with 17 mirror-decorated arches reflecting 17 gilded and arcaded windows; The Royal Chapel, also inside the palace was constructed in 1689. It became the inspiration for many other European churches, thanks to its colorful marble flooring, large sculptures and illustrious paintings; ; Versailles also plays host to an array of bustling markets and street stalls. Beginning back in the 17C, Versailles’ ancient market stalls became a lively part of daily life until they were replaced in 1841 by the covered market, a business still in operation today. Top picks for markets in Versailles include the Market of Notre Dame (very near my old home!!!) , offering a range of fresh French food from brioche to frogs legs., and more galore, simply the best!!!

VersaillesVersailles

The towns surrounding Versailles are Vaucresson, Marnes-la-Coquette and Ville-d’Avray to the north east (towns of Hauts-de-Seine dept 92), Viroflay to the east, Vélizy-Villacoublay and Jouy-en-Josas to the southeast, Buc to the south, Guyancourt to the southwest, Saint-Cyr-l’École  to the west, Bailly and Rocquencourt to the northwest, and Le Chesnay to the north (my kids high school was here !!!) . The city is in a curve valley located at between 100 and 150 mètres  altitude, and high hills surrounding those at most 180 meters on the south plateau of  Satory, and to the east the forest of Meudon , and the plateau of  Vélizy, north the forest of the Fausses-Reposes. Then on the plateau of Versailles on the west you have the hill of Montbauron, at 157 meters high right in the center of the city !

Versailles is some 10 miles (16 kilometers) from Paris and easily accessible by car (parking available), taxi, bus, or train. The RER C line links several stations in central Paris with the Versailles Rive Gauche station—five minutes from the palace on foot. Trains also run from Paris Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers and from Paris Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive-Droite (closest to me),each a ten-minute walk from the palace. The RATP bus 171 runs from Pont de Sèvres metro station to Versailles  There are two other stations such as Montreuil and Porchefontaine a bit further away from the palace.

Versailles

It  pays to arrive at off-peak hours—such as soon after the 9h (9a.m.) opening time or earlier. Some days are also busier than others, including Sundays and Tuesdays, when many Paris museums, including the Louvre (another former royal palace), are closed. Best Wednesdays but nowdays is so pack, hard to tell. Better to purchase in advance at any FNAC stores or the office across from the rive gauche RER C station before heading to the palace.

The roads here are excellent, and you passed right next to the palace on the N10 from Viroflay to Trappes , and in Versailles proper this road goes around the place d’Armes in front of the palace under the name of Avenue de Paris, and continues west towards the south of the parc of Versailles passing between the palace and the lake of the Swiss or the pièce d’eau des Suisses. The town is reach by wonderful roads such as the on the north the A13 (autoroute de Normandie) on the exits or sorties  5 and 6 takes to city center /Downtown Versailles. It can be continue on the A12 that goes around the town on the west side; to the south is the N12 where I come to visit now with exit or sorties 1 to 4 given access to the city. Starting at the bridge or pont Colbert, it goes along the district of  Satory, direction  Saint-Cyr-l’École towards  Brest via Dreux, Alençon, Rennes ,Vannes , and Saint-Brieuc ; to the east you have the western side of the A86 forming under a tunnel with tolls linking Versailles  (Pont Colbert) to  Rueil-Malmaison. You can come on the N186 by the boulevard de la Reine or blvd du Roi, as well as by the big avenues such as Avenue de Paris, Avenue de Saint-Cloud ,and avenue des États-Unis. Versailles  has about 65 km of bike trails and a green belt of about 20 km around it good for cycling as well as in the surrounding forest. The N10 is known here as the kings route as this is the traject king Louis XIV did to go from the palace of Versailles to the Fortress of the Louvre in Paris, today still can done starting at the palace up avenue de paris is the N10 by Boulogne-Billancourt it is the D910 same road along avenue de Versailles into Paris and the Louvre at rue de Rivoli. A nice site on the history of it in French: http://nationale10.e-monsite.com/pages/la-rn-10-dans-les-hauts-de-seine/paris-versailles.html

Versailles

Going home !

The bus line express 19 by Transdev Ecquevilly comes into the town by Avenue Saint Cloud before Avenue de l’Europe. This road you can take from ave Saint Cloud and stop at Parly II shopping center, next to it is the Arboreteum or natural tree park some dating back to the Kings, and walking about 300 meters down you can entered free on the Porte Saint Antoine and see right there the Hameau of Marie Antoinette then the Trianons, and garden to palace: it was our route to avoid the crowds and go joggying :J  More here: https://www.transdev-idf.com/ligne-Express%2019/les-mureaux-versailles/011-02MOBI

Versailles

As well as the night bus Noctilien 145 comes from Paris gare de l’est and al to the Chantiers and rive gauche train stations in Versailles after midnight. The pdf file of the traject here:  https://www.transilien.com/sites/default/files/atoms/files/depliant_n145_0517.pdf

And all the other lines of the Noctilien night bus are here: https://www.transilien.com/fr/page-editoriale/les-lignes-de-noctilien

In the city there are 8 districts such as Notre-Dame (mine !!!) on the north axe of the palace and avenue de Paris with the emblematic Notre Dame Church ; the parish Church of the Palace ; the first district to be built under king Louis XIV ; location also for the théâtre Montansier opened in 1777, right by rue des reservoirs the old aqueduct folly of Louis XIV; more on this theater that Marie-Antoinette love so much is here in French: http://www.theatremontansier.com/

The musée Lambinet, hôtel du bailliage or bailif today antique shops galore  and the best shopping streets of Versailles  such as the rue de la Paroisse,  rue Hoche (old rue Dauphine) and the  rue du Maréchal-Foch, in addition to market heaven place du Marché-Notre-Dame, surrounded by its four halles or covered markets.  To the north of the district you have the boulevard du Roi ,and the boulevard de la Reine, and the tranquil rue de l’Ermitage, along the sides of the palace.  You have the district of  Montbauron  from the place d’Armes to the hill or Mont Bauron  including the between the avenue de Paris and avenue de Saint-Cloud ; here you have the oldest flower market ,more on the markets here: http://en.versailles-tourisme.com/the-best-shopping-districts-in-versailles/the-markets-of-versailles-962895

On the other side you have the district of Saint-Louis, symmetrically opposed to the  Notre-Dame by in line to the axe of the palace and avenue de Paris,on the south flank of avenue de Paris and where you find the Saint-Louis Cathedral that gives the name to the district, here you have the Salle du jeu de paume, potager du roi ,and the pièce d’eau des Suisses. It is on the old site of the village of Versailles, before the construction of the palace; move on to the district of Chantiers, around the train station of same name, and given this name due to been the work sites for the construction of the palace in the 17C. There is also, Montreuil, to the east with the shopping street of same name , domaine de Madame Elizabeth is here as the old house of the count of Provence (Louis XVIII)  and the house of the Italian musicians called in by Louis XIV and today the museum of compagnons, and Porchefontaine, to the south east a more residential village ambiance; then Clagny-Glatigny, to the north of the same makeup; Bernard de Jussieu, to the north east of town and north of Montreuil  basically a residential district as well; Satory, to the southwest and the district essentially with a military fields, and buildings for housing defense personnel except the rue Satory, a very lively resto shopping area off avenue de Sceaux to the right of the palace and a great parking at the end

The city of Versailles page is here: http://www.versailles.fr/

The tourist office of Versailles is here: http://www.versailles-tourisme.com/

To help the keeping of the palace and me too, you have it in France, the USA, and rest of Europe/International here: https://www.amisdeversailles.com/?lang=en

https://www.americanfriendsofversailles.org/

https://www.amisdeversailles.com/societe.php?article_id=162

The dept 78 Yvelines on tourism in Versailles here: https://www.versaillesgrandparc.fr/arts-culture/patrimoine-naturel-et-historique/

The historical baroque music center of Versailles, menus plaisir here: : http://www.cmbv.fr/lhotel-des-menus-plaisirs/

An anecdote, this is the freezing room of the King or freezer to keep meats with huge chunks of ice, now a very popular fitness center of the chain Forest Hill: https://www.forest-hill.fr/club/forest-hill-versailles

Go out in Versailles  even night time : http://www.sortir-yvelines.fr/Art-et-culture/Art-et-culture-dans-les-Yvelines/visite-decouverte-yvelines/visiter-versailles-ville-royale

And of course we do have a little train too even in palace property: petit train chateau: http://www.train-versailles.com/en/

And you have it all. This is a town where according to the city of Versailles 98% of visitors only come for the palace, pity, they are missing a whole royal town of France, unique. See it for more than that. Versailles is France. Enjoy the trip, have a great week. Cheers!

February 21, 2018

Some news from Spain LXI

Ok so this is time to talk about Spain, and this time on rather serious subjects in our history. The weather in Madrid is nice at 49F or about 9C no rain and it predicted the same for the rest of the week.

Therefore, let me tell you a bit about the history of Spain still lingering.

One of the few women who, at that time, had the honor of entering as an academic of merit for the painting of History at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in San Fernando. A unique artistic career that the National Library recovers through the exhibition ‘ Drawings of Rosario Weiss (1814-1843) ‘, open to the public until next April 22nd. Rosario Weiss was born in 1814, being the third daughter of Leocadia Zorrilla and Isodoro Weiss, a German Jewish jeweler based in Madrid. But it was not until 1817 when his mother decided to settle down as housekeeper of the Quinta del Sordo or farm of the deaf.” The farm owned by Francisco de Goya at that time on the outskirts of Madrid. Goya loved her as a daughter: in a letter to Leocadia refers to her as “My Rosario”, in another  wrote to his friend Ferrer asks him to treat her as his daughter . ” In the autumn of 1824, following in the footsteps of Goya, Leocadia Zorrilla and his two sons arrived in Bordeaux. Months after settling down with him, Rosario entered the public school of drawing that led by the master Pierre Lacour . The death of Goya in 1828 left Leocadia, who at that time was considered his sentimental partner in a difficult position. Although she recounted in letters after the death that, in her last moments, the Aragonese painter wanted to make a testament in her favor, the hatred that professed to each other with the only surviving son of Goya condemned her to spent some difficult years.  According to friends they were able to sustain themselves thanks to a pension that Leocadia obtained from the French government as  political exiled  and to the support of his circle of friends from exiled Spaniards and of Pierre LaCour, the professor of Weiss in Bordeaux.” The hardships ended in 1833, when amnesty for the exiled liberals allowed Leocadia and his children to returned to Madrid. At that time, Rosario, at the age of 19, began working as a copyist at the Prado museum and  then at the Academy of San Fernando ;after 1840 Rosario Weiss got to be admitted as an professor in San Fernando, an appointment that, provided personal and professional prestige and she used it as collateral in her request to occupy the position of Master drawer of the daughters of  king Fernando VII as he had died seven years earlier. The arrival to the power of the Liberals in March 1841 led to the renovation of the personnel responsible for the education of the heir to the throne and his sister, who sought to keep away from the interference of his mother, exiled in France. Rosario Weiss was selected thanks to “her good training, her liberal profile and also  for the fact of being a woman”.  She did drawings for Queen  Isabel II and Luisa Fernanda of Bourbon  as shown in the exposition in the Biblioteca Nacional or National Library. Delicate health did not allow Weiss to have time to teach the Queen much more, and just a year after she had started practicing  as the “royal teacher”  she died of cholera. However ,as told by many her  legacy has been preserved intact to show, in an exhibition like the National Library, that one day not too long ago an artist as few knew in Spain  was a pupil of one of the greatest masters and teacher of a Queen.  More here:  https://www.esmadrid.com/en/whats-on/rosario-weiss-1814-1843-drawings-biblioteca-nacional?utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.esmadrid.com%2Ffr%2Fagenda%2Frosario-weiss-1814-1843-dessins-bibliotheque-nationale

Malva (Editions Rey Naranjo), the first novel by the Dutch poet Hagar Peeters. It has been 84 years and Peeters shakes the mantle of mystery that for eight decades covered the life of this girl with hydrocephalus, Malva Marina, hidden and repudiated by his own father, one of the greatest poets in history. Malvita, as they treated her in the family, came to the world in Madrid in 1934 and died at the age of eight in Gouda, the Dutch city that gives name to the famous cheese.  She was the daughter of Pablo Neruda, unique and legitimate, the result of his marriage to Maria Hagenaar Vogelzang-ling-, with whom he had married in Java four years earlier. We are on August 18, 1934, two years before the Spanish Civil war erupts. Malva was just born in a hospital in Madrid. And in principle nothing makes you suppose that that big-head creature, to which they have baptized as Malva Marina Trinidad Reyes Basoalto, rather than to unite their parents, will be the beginning of a tragedy. Malva, was born with a disproportionate head, the result of a hydrocephalus that heralded a premature, irremediable death.  But in Neruda, pseudonym under which was hidden the Chilean Ricardo Eliécer Naphtali Reyes Basoalto, the birth of a sick daughter was out of all its calculations. First he hid it is a perfectly ridiculous being, “he said,” a kind of semicolon “-and then he erased the” three kilo vamp “of his life, abandon forever. Not only was she the first wife of the prize-winning writer, she was also the mother of Malva Marina, her only and failed descendant. After meeting in a tennis match held in one of the most refined clubs in Java, Neruda and Ling were married. Probably by then he would maintain some relationship with the Argentinean Delia of the Lane, the ant, for which he would then abandon his wife and daughter. In 1936 the poet definitively leaves his wife and child to go to live with the ant. It leaves them almost without money in Montecarlo, city to which they arrive fleeing the Civil war. Ling crosses all France with her sick girl until arriving in Holland, where it settles in the city of Gouda. Mother and daughter go hungry and hardship. Ling lives in pensions and works on what she finds while her child leaves her in the care of a Christian family. He pleads with Neruda to send him money to feed his daughter: “My last penny will be spent on sending this letter.” Said Neruda. The daughter forgotten by the Nobel Prize of Literature died on March 2, 1943 in Gouda, where it is buried, away from the sea where the flower of the marine mallow grows. She was eight years old. Her mother, through the consulate of Chile in The Hague warns Neruda of the death of the little girl and asks him to meet him. The silence was his response “Malva” (edited by Rey Naranjo), the first novel by the Dutch writer Hagar Peeters, is now on sale. So sad story and so bad for Neruda, change my opinion of him. The editor is here: http://www.reynaranjo.net/index.html#

More on the book in Spanish here: http://www.librosyletras.com/2017/06/malva-hagar-peeters-rey-naranjo.html

Consuelo Ordóñez, president of the Collective of victims of terrorism and sister of Gregorio Ordóñez (murdered in 1995). The “What happened” of his words refers to the history of violence and social exclusion that has been experienced in the Basque Country for the last 50 years. And Patria is obviously the novel by which Fernando Aramburu picked up last Monday the Fundacion Umbral Award for Best book published in Spain in 2017, and promoted by the newspaper El MUNDO, the newspaper that the writer chose for his Years of fulfillment. “For me, the value of the novel is the way we calls each of us, the way we asks us where we were and what we did, whether we look to the other side or not, “explains Gorka Maneiro, former parliamentarian of Union Progreso and democracy in Basque Parliament and victim of an attack of the Kale Borroka in the year 2000. You have to read Patria; really, you have to read it because there are things you will not understand until you read the novel, because it is not the same to be a victim of ETA in Seville than in the Basque Country ‘. And here comes a description of vexations that will sound to any reader of Aramburu: The human pack, the graffiti on the walls, friends who cease to be friends, victims become guilty… and movies? Not much, actually. Only Fuego (fire), of Luis Marias, appears in the memory. The cinema still awaits its Patria (motherland) More here:  https://www.politico.eu/article/basque-novel-evokes-unresolved-history-of-violence-fernando-aramburu-patria-spain/

What better way to celebrate your 10th anniversary as the first ballerina of the Royal Ballet. And it is that on Monday, Laura Morera (Madrid, 1977) starred in the stage of Covent Garden Giselle, the great romantic title par excellence and a challenging interpretative challenge that took well. But, in addition, on Tuesday, it was Paulina in winter story, a total immersion in the world of Shakespeare, with acclaimed choreography of Christopher Wheeldon, when it had scarcely detached from the previous tutu. With Giselle-“It was only the third time she danced it,” and discovers-she was hailed as soon as she came out to greet at the end and, after a winter story, the applause of the audience was excited. She says “If I could make such a long career, and still continue, it is because of the artistic richness that we live in the Royal Ballet. The dancers do not have the popularity of the actors, but the dance is a very respected art in the United Kingdom and the public is very understood. ” I feel very supported by the public. I have sacrificed a lot to adapt to this style and I am always rewarded with applause. I’m so happy. ” Morera is one of the most solid dancers of the Royal Ballet, company in which she joined as a body of dance in 1995, after having studied in this school since 11 yrs old, and in which she continues, therefore, more than half life will be with the next emission in cinemas of  summer on February 28th, when you can see her play this key character for the outcome of this story of love, jealousy and reconciliation  Winter story is a ballet with a special expressiveness by which her intense history is perfectly understood and, With William Shakespeare’s permission, you don’t miss the words. Lauren Cuthbertson plays Hermione, Ryochi Hirano, is Lionesses, Sarah Lamb, her daughter Perdita and Vadim Muntagirov, the beloved of, Florizel. Awarded in 2016 with the National Dance Award, the most prestigious award given by British critics. More here: http://www.roh.org.uk/productions/the-winters-tale-by-christopher-wheeldon

The rumors of a definitive closing were only that, rumors, because the Casa del Libro Gran Via has already communicated to its partners that will make “a temporary closure (six months) to undertake a reform work” starting last Friday. Taking advantage of the works that will be carried out in the building so that Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) can raise his first hotel in Madrid, the bookshop will be reformed to «offer a new model and a new concept the Casa del Libro will be fired up with two days of frantic activity ;Literary starting tomorrow Wednesday afternoon with the visit of the mouse Geronimo Stilton (17h30 ), character protagonist of the series of books homonymous written by Elisabetta Dami. An hour later, the presentation and signature of copies of the book “Make Up” will be held with her author Silvia Quirós, who also teaches a special effects workshop open to the public the turn for poetry will arrive on Thursday from 18h30 pm. , when the bookstore will receive Luis García Piedehierro, Victoria Ash and Carlos Salem to share an evening of recitals. Also on Thursday, from 19h30  on the ground floor will be held one of the activities star of this farewell with the signature of samples  by a large troop of fashion writers such as Lorenzo Silva, Blue Jeans, nurse saturated, Angela Quintas , Sara Herranz or Margarita García. To finish the day, from 21h30, will offer a icing only reserved for the members, a very special surprise literary event before closing the doors of the Casa del Libro until after the summer. The bookshop, the oldest in Madrid occupies the first three floors of the building located at number 29 of Gran Vía. With this reform the third floor will be eliminated to obtain a much more spacious second level. That third floor will be left by the future Cristiano Ronaldo Hotel. In return will yield more space in the second floor. The webpage of Casa del Libro : https://www.casadellibro.com/nosotros/tienda/gran-via-29/1?idprovincia=28&idciudad=6&idlibreria=1

There are 101.397 bars in Spain or one for each 458 inhabitants! , according to the  Federación Española de Hostelería y Restauración  (Spanish federation of hotellery and restaurants) . The most expensive city to have a beer is Madrid, at 2,93 euros, while Cádiz  is the cheapest at 1,25 euros. These are the results of a survey by  Cuponation. Taking into account  103 bars in the 51 provincial capitals and two autonomous cities  where it was also found the average price for a glass of beer in Spain is 1,87 euros .  By community, Madrid  once again is leading with the most expensive beer  (even thus I paid 70c for a caña in Alcalà de Henares::)) followed by  País Vasco, 2,29 euros, and Baleares, 2,25 euros. At the other extreme , it was found the cheapest region to be Extremadura with  an average price of 1,38 euros; follow by Murcia 1,60  and  Castilla-La Mancha at 1,75 euros.  And you are thinking of having a free tapa with the glass of beer , well that custom is coming down too as only 58,5% of the 103 bars in the survey claims to offer it Here is the full report in 20Minutos newspaper : https://www.20minutos.es/noticia/3074430/0/cuanto-cuesta-cerveza-espana/

There you go, my beloved dear Spain, or Spain everything under the Sun. Enjoy your week everyone, Cheers!!

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February 20, 2018

Portugal, that other land of Discoverers!

So, therefore, in my continuing saga of bringing back my old posts on some beautiful countries/cities, today I bring you Portugal. Especially ,Lisbon and Porto.

Another link to the family starting when young used to play football/soccer for a team of Portuguese immigrants and got to know many of them. Later in life, a couple became good friends and they are the godparents of my oldest boy, they are from Faro in the south of Portugal. Eventually, I got  to visit the country, several times even crossing from France and Spain. It is a wonderful country to visit, still I think unknown to many. Let me tell you my story and a bit of history from other sources other than mine.

And the work begins now:
Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic is located in the southeast of Europe ,in the territory of the Iberian Peninsula and islands of the Atlantic North. It has borders to the North and East with Spain, and South and West with the Atlantic ocean on the continental side and the autonomous regions of Açores and Madeira in the Atlantic ocean. The first time the name of Portugal is known was around the years 930-950 and not used frequently than by the end of the 10C. Part of the Roman empire and later Germanic tribes and eventually in the 8C by the moors of Northern Africa. The Reconquest of the country began and it was created into a Portuguese county established in the 11C by Vímara Peres,a subject under the King of Asturias (present day Spain); later the county came to passed under the kingdom of Leon (Spain) in 1097 and finally after the Treaty of São Mamede. The establishement of the kingdom of Portugal was done in 1139 and recognized in 1143. By 1297 the frontiers were defined in the Treaty of Alcanizes . Later, the Portugal of the conquests took their influence to far away places like África, Ásia, Oceânia, and South America. Been the most expansive, powerful and lasting over 600 years of the European empires from the conquest of Ceuta in 1415 to the transfer of Macau to China in 1999.

By maintaining an alliance with England , Portugal was invaded by the armies of Napoleon I three times first in 1807. The royal family needed to take exile in Brazil and putting the capital in Rio de Janeiro until 1821. When king João VI,since 1816 king of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves return to Lisbon to swear in the first constitution, the following year his son Pedro IV known in Brazil as Pedro I is proclaimed emperor of Brazil. With the revolution of 1910, the monarchy ended during which 34 monarchs ruled from 1139 to 1910. The first Portuguese republic was very shaky with too much politics, and this gave way to the military dictatorship of May 26 1926, by 1933 there was a dictator under a new state led by Gen Salazar that ruled until April 1974. The representative democracy was established as per the Cravos revolution on that year 1974; that ,also ended the Portuguese colonial wars given independence to Angola and Mozambique in Africa. Now , Portugal is a member of the United Nations, European Union, space Schengen, NATO, OCDE, and the community of countries of the Portuguese language or CPLP.

The principal administrative regions of the country which numbered 18 districts and the two autonomous regions of Azores and Madeira making Portugal in the top 20 most visited countries in the world with an average of 13M visitors per year. The last figures tells in general the most visitors comes from Great Britain, Spain, Germany, France, and Brazil. The main tourist areas are Lisbon, Algarve and Madeira with big promotions to bring more to Valley of the Douro river, island of Porto Santo, and Alentejo regions.

The country tourist webpage is here in English.  https://www.visitportugal.com/en

As I take you to the two most important cities that I have been as well now.

Lisbon the origins of the name are unknown as well as the natives of the city are locally known as alfacinhas, also, of unknown origin. By 1385 Lisbon replaces Coimbra as the capital of the country. Lisbon was almost completely destroyed due to the earthquake of November 1st 1755 ; it was later rebuilt from the ground up following the plans of the Marquês de Pombal (Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo),War and Foreign Affairs Minister.

Here, I have been by air and car to Lisbon. The public transports are good lead by Comboios de Portugal (CP),for the trains and the airport of Lisboa (Portela) Humberto Delgado , hub of the national airline TAP Portugal and about 7 kms from the city ; a wonderful metro system with direct access to the airport and tramways, inner city trains to the outlying areas. There are two bridges which I have taken by car as did rode to Porto and around Lisbon once there. Two bridges link Lisbon to the Tejo river the bridge or Ponte 25 de Abril that links LIsbon to Almada, opened in 1966 with the name of Ponte Salazar and later change due to the Cravos revolution mentioned above, the wonderful bridge or Ponte Vasco da Gama, with 17.2 km long ;the longest in Europe and fifth longest in the world links the western zone with Sacavém and Montijo. This bridge opened in 1998 during Expo 98, commemorating 500 years of the arrival of Vasco da Gama to India. There is also a great port of Lisbon with good cruising activity.

The train network is very good with 9 lines of metro and 5 suburban trains lines for 117 stations total managed by the Metropolitano de Lisboa, and the train network by Caminhos-de-Ferro Portugueses with principal stations of Oriente, Rossio, Cais do Sodré, Entrecampos , and Santa Apolónia. There are wonderful quaint tramways in the city center managed by Carris, and the must to try the various elevators or lifts to bring you up to the upper and lower city such as elevador da Bica, elevador da Glória, elevador do Lavra, and elevador de Santa Justa. These elevators or lifts are also managed by Carris. The main bus terminal is the Terminal Rodoviário de Lisboa.

Tramways here:  http://www.carris.pt/en/home/

Metro/Subway/tube here:  http://www.metrolisboa.pt/eng/

Trains:  https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/pt

Buses :  https://www.rodoviariadelisboa.pt/#tab0

As far as roads, well this is my domain, the area is criss cross with several highways going north south especillay and beltway roads such as CRIL, Circular Regional Interior de Lisboa and CREL,Circular Regional Exterior de Lisboa, or A9. The main north south are A1 taken all the time going north to Porto by Vila Franca de Xira, A8 going north by Loures), A5 going west until Cascais, A2 going south by Almada, and the A12 going east by Montijo. Only drawback for most but not for me as speaks Portuguese is the webpage for the expressways is only in Portuguese here:  http://www.estradas.pt/index

However, on the tolls on them, that they have it in English : http://www.portugaltolls.com/en/web/portal-de-portagens/home

What is there to see in Lisbon, well plenty indeed. The museums are many and interestings , of course ,not been to all of them but the main ones such as Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, ancient arts and the most important collection in the country; Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, 6K objects of arts from various periods ; Museu do Chiado, a must to visit the Chiado museum with Portuguese arts from the 19C ; Museu Nacional dos Coches (national carriage museum), a must to visit, biggest collection in the world ; Oceanário de Lisboa, or aquarium nice for the family, impressive collection of living species ;and the military museum or Museu Militar de Lisboa, permanent collection of weapons from different periods. Then there are others just mentioned by Portuguese name here: Museu Arpad Szenes – Vieira da Silva; Museu Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro; Museu do Design e da Moda; Museu de Artes Decorativas; Museu Nacional de Arqueologia; Museu Nacional do Traje; Museu do Oriente; Museu Nacional do Azulejo; Museu da Farmácia; Museu de Marinha; Museu da Água; Museu da Companhia Carris de Ferro de Lisboa; Casa-Museu de Fernando Pessoa; Fundação José Saramago.

You stroll thru the wonderful quaint old cobblestones districts for Lisbon such as the Baixa Pombalina and Chiado ,the heart of the city. Built on the ruins of the 1755 earthquake ; walk by the lovely square (my favorite áreas come to eat here always) Praça dos Restauradores and the elevator or lift of Santa Justa,built end of 19C ; at the end of the walk from the previous square you come to the Praça do Comércio, aka as Rossio, or Praça Dom Pedro V, Chiado, or convent or Convento do Carmo at Praça dos Restauradores.

Alfama ,another of the typical districts of LIsbon. It has architecture from the medieval and Arabic times with very narrow streets that maybe allow it to survive the 1755 earthquake. You will find here many houses of the popular music Fado with live entertainment. Also, see the wonderful castle or Castelo de São Jorge, on the highest hill in the city; the Catedral of Sé de Lisboa, or the national pantheon Panteão Nacional and the fairs or Feira da Ladra and Miradouro de Santa Luzia. In the Bairro Alto district another typical área in the city center above the Baixa Pombalina you have one of the most nightly entertainment areas of Lisbon.

In the quays along the Tejo river you will find the area of Belém, there is since the discoveries of the conquerors of Portugal. Here you have two Unesco heritage sites such as the monastery or Mosteiro dos Jerónimos,ordered built by King Manuel I in 1501 and the best example of the Manuelino architectural style ; also, the stone monument of the discoverers or Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The Belem palace or Palácio de Belém,is the official residence of the President of the Republic; you have the national carriages museum or Museu Nacional dos Coches,also the electricity museum or Museu da Electricidade, the Church or Igreja da Memória and the cultural center of Belem or Centro Cultural de Belém.

There is ,also to see the aqueduct of live waters (sp) or Aqueduto das Águas Livres (18C) in Alcântara. In the zone of Estrela you have two wonderful parks and the oldest in the city such as the Jardim da Estrela, already more than 100 years old inspired by Hyde Park, London. The Basílica da Estrela, in the barroque neo classic style and the huge Nations park or Parque das Nações the most modern área of Lisbon, where you find the towers or Torre São Rafael,and Torre São Gabriel, both 110 meters high, the highest in all the country. The best attractions here, however are the aquarium or Oceanário de Lisboa, Atlantic pavillion or Pavilhão Atlântico, the Pavilhão de Portugal, tower or Torre Vasco da Gama, bridge or Ponte Vasco da Gama , and the train station or Gare do Oriente. By the end of the 19C the city planners extended the city beyond Baixa or lower city to the current liberation avenue or Avenida da Liberdade; near where I always stayed. In 1934, was built the square or Praça do Marquês de Pombal at the extreme north of the avenue in memory of the planner of the city after the big earthquake of 1755. By the 20C more new urbanization was done such as the university or Universidade de Lisboa (Cidade Universitária), in the area of Olivais.

The tourist office of Lisbon is here:  http://www.cm-lisboa.pt/en/visit/the-city

Let’s go quickly to another grand city, that of Porto. This is the city that gave the name to the country of Portugal since around 200 AD, when it was called Portus Cale, later forming the capital of the county or Condado Portucalense, where Portugal was created.

Some of the things to see here are in my opinión, the tower or Torre dos Clérigos, Fundação de Serralves, an contemporary arts museum . In the very touristic district of Foz by many the prettiest in the city where you can see the Atlantic ocean along a gorgeous marine view. I have been to the wonderful market or Mercado do Bolhão,an architecture symbol of traditional commerce ; the Couvento do Bom Pastor,located in Paranhos, where the fame arrived by sister or Irmã Maria do Divino Coração, countess of Droste zu Vischering, that became famous for convincing Pope Leon XIII to consecrate the human of the Sacred Heart of Jesus; later she was declared venerable and beautified in November 1,1975 by Pope Paul VI. This convent has two chapels for prayers and a museum of relics of the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Bom Pastor.

Here, I have come by airplane and car. The wonderful international airport of Francisco Sá Carneiro (OPO),one of the best in Portugal. The local transport is handle by the firm Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto (STCP) of the metro/Subway/tuve of Porto, that today has 68 stations with 8 kms of underground network, considered the best network of public transport in Portugal. There is ,also, the quaint cable car or Funicular dos Guindais, managed by the Metro do Porto, covering the área of Batalha to Avenida Gustavo Eiffel, via Ribeira. The city has a railroad network managed by the firm CP=lines of Aveiro, Braga, Guimarães ,and Penafiel or Caíde.

Transports site: http://www.stcp.pt/en/travel/

metro of Porto: https://www.metrodoporto.pt/

trains in Porto: https://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en

The road here is very good with the expressway A20 with various exits to the city with a beltway to go to northern cities and to the Atlantic coast. Porto is link to Valencia Spain by the expressway A28, to Estarreja by the A29, and Lisbon by the A1, Bragança by the A4 , Braga by the A3. There is an internal beltway road that links all the towns around Porto ,and to other roads such as the A7, A11, A42, A43, and A44. There is a relatively new road the A32, linking the metro área to São João da Madeira, and Oliveira de Azeméis. Along the Douro river, there is the bridge or Ponte das Barcas built in 1806 that later was replaced by a permanent bridge the Ponte Maria II in 1843; and again replaced by the Ponte Luis I in 1886, the oldest bridge in the city of Porto. There is the bridge or Ponte Maria Pia built between January 1876 and November 1877 done by the company of Gustave Eiffel, the first railroad bridge to link the two banks of the Douro river. This was replaced by the Ponte de Sao Joao in 1991. The bridge or Ponte da Arràbida has the biggest arch in the world in mortar cement and is done on a section of the A1 that reaches Lisbon to Porto ;Yes!!! Even after building the Ponte do Freixo, this bridge of Arràbida continues to be the main connection between Porto and the south of the Douro river. There are two bridges linking the city of Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia,these are the Ponte do Freixo and Ponte de Infante. This later bridge has replaced the superior road of the Ponte Dom Luís, to be used as the yellow(amarelo) line going from Hospital de São João/Santo Ovídio of the metro of Porto, reaching from the neighborhood of das Fontainhas in Porto to Serra do Pilar in Vila Nova de Gaia.

The tourist office of Porto:  http://www.portoenorte.pt/en/what-to-do/

There you have it, wonderful Portugal. Hope it helps plan your trip there. A destination to be reckoned with and a possible retirement home for me ::) Enjoy your week; Cheers!!

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February 20, 2018

Brussels is Europe or Belgium is Europe!

Ok in continuing my saga of old posts that comes to life, I will talk today about Brussels in specific and Belgium in general. Well Brussels or Bruxelles is to me the essence of the Belges! I have good friends here,and family living close to the border, and over the years my family have enjoyed our vacations there from Brugge to Geel, Olen ,Anvers, and Brussels. I like to write about Brussels in specific today.

Brussels or Bruxelles (FR) or Brussel (NL) is the capital of the  Brussels-Capital Region comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium, as well as Anderlecht, Auderghem, Berchem-Sainte Agathe, Etterbeek, Evere, Forest, Ganshoren, Ixelles,Jette,Koekelberg, Molenbeek-Saint Jean, Saint Gilles, Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Schaerbeek, Uccle, Watermael-Boitsford,Woluwe-Saint Lambert, and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre (French names version) . The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the region of Flanders (in which it forms an enclave) or Wallonia (French speaking side). As you can see a bit complicated indeed. Historically a Dutch-speaking city, Brussels has seen a language shift to French from the late 19C onwards. Today, the Brussels Capital Region  is officially bilingual in Flemish/Dutch and French, but French is now the de facto main language with over 90% of the population speaking it.

Brussels is the home of numerous international organizations. Brussels is the de facto capital of the European Union, the secretariat of the Benelux and the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are also located in Brussels. Today, it is classified as an Alpha global city. The Royal Palace, where the King of Belgium acts as the  head of state. The Palace of the Nation is located on the opposite side, and is the seat of the Belgian Federal Parliament. The office of the Prime Minister of Belgium, colloquially called Law Street 16 , is located adjacent to this building. This is also the place where the Council of Ministers holds its meetings. The Court of Cassation, Belgium’s main court, has its seat in the Palace of Justice. Other important institutions in the City of Brussels are the Constitutional Court, the Council of State, the Court of Audit, the Royal Belgian Mint and the National Bank of Belgium.  The City of Brussels is also the capital of both the French Community of Belgium  and the Flemish Community. The Flemish Parliament and Flemish Government have their seats in Brussels, as do the Parliament of the French Community and the Government of the French Community. Ok ok…

A bit of history I like tells us that the official founding of Brussels is usually situated around 979, when Duke Charles of Lower Lotharingia transferred the relics of Saint Gudula from Moorsel to the Saint Gaugericus chapel. Charles would construct the first permanent fortification in the city, doing so on that same island. By the middle ages Lambert I of Leuven, Count of Leuven, gained the County of Brussels around 1000, by marrying Charles’ daughter.

In the 15C, by means of the wedding of heiress Margaret III of Flanders with Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, a new Duke of Brabant emerged from the House of Valois (namely Antoine, their son). In 1477, the Burgundian duke Charles the Bold perished in the Battle of Nancy. Through the marriage of his daughter Mary of Burgundy (who was born in Brussels) to Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, the Low Countries fell under Habsburg sovereignty. Brabant had lost its independence, but Brussels became the Princely Capital of the prosperous Burgundian Netherlands, also known as the Seventeen Provinces, and flourished. After the death of Mary in 1482, her son Philip the Handsome succeeded as the Duke of Brabant. In 1506, he became King of Castile, and hence the period of the Spanish Netherlands began. In 1516, Charles V, who had been heir of the Low Countries since 1506, was declared King of Spain (Charles I) in the Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula of Brussels. Upon the death of his grandfather Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, Charles became the new ruler of the Habsburg Empire and was subsequently elected Holy Roman Emperor. It was in the Palace complex at Coudenberg that Charles V abdicated in 1555. Following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Spanish sovereignty over the Southern Netherlands was transferred to the Austrian branch of the House of Habsburg. This event started the era of the Austrian Netherlands. The city was captured by France in 1746, during the War of the Austrian Succession, but was handed back to Austria three years later. Brussels remained with Austria until 1795, when the Southern Netherlands were captured and annexed by France. Brussels became the capital of the department of the Dyle. The French rule ended in 1815, with the defeat of Napoleon on the battlefield of Waterloo, which is located south of today’s Brussels-Capital Region. With the Congress of Vienna, the Southern Netherlands joined the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, under William I of Orange. The former Dyle department became the province of South Brabant, with Brussels as its capital.

In 1830, the Belgian revolution took place in Brussels, after a performance of Auber’s opera La Muette de Portici at La Monnaie theatre. Brussels became the capital and seat of government of the new nation. South Brabant was renamed simply Brabant, with Brussels as its capital. On 21 July 1831, Leopold I, the first King of the Belgians, ascended the throne, undertaking the destruction of the city walls and the construction of many buildings. During World War I, Brussels was an occupied city, but German troops did not cause much damage. During World War II, the city was again occupied, and was spared major damage during its occupation by German forces, before it was liberated by the British Guards Armored Division, on 3 September 1944. The Brussels-Capital Region was formed on 18 June 1989, after a constitutional reform in 1988. It has bilingual status and it is one of the three federal regions of Belgium, along with Flanders and Wallonia.

Some of the things to see , walk is great , I have there by train, plane and mostly car but once in, walking is better than public transports unless very far off like to the Atomic attraction. The medieval architecture is still around  in the historic center or  Îlot Sacré, such as the neighborhoods of  Saint Géry/Sint-Goriks and Sainte-Catherine/Sint Katelijne.  The wonderful Brabantine Gothic Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula is still a prominent feature in the skyline of downtown Brussels. The second walls is the Halle Gate can still be seen. The Grand Place is the main attraction in the city center; the square is dominated by the 15C Flamboyant City Hall, the Neo-Gothic Breadhouse , and the Baroque guildhalls of the Guilds of Brussels. The Manneken Pis, a fountain containing a small bronze sculpture of a urinating youth, is a tourist attraction and symbol of the city.

Brussels

Grand Place parents 1993

The neoclassical style of the 18-19C can be seen in the Royal Quarter/Coudenberg area, around the Brussels Park and Royal Square. You can see such buildings as the Royal Palace, the Church of Saint Jacques-sur-Coudenberg, the Palace of the Nation (Parliament building), the Academy Palace, the Palace of Charles of Lorraine, the Egmont Palace, etc. Other uniform neoclassical ensembles can be found around Martyrs’ Square and Barricades’ Square. Some other landmarks, in the centre, are the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert (1847), one of the oldest covered shopping arcades in Europe; the Congress Column (1859); the Brussels Stock Exchange building (1873); and the Palace of Justice (1883), reputed to be the largest building constructed in the 19C.  Located outside the city center/Downtown, you come to the wonderful  Cinquantenaire park with its triumphal arch and nearby museums,  Royal Castle of Laeken and the Royal Domain with its large greenhouses, as well as the Museums of the Far East.

The Art Nouveau style is well represented too with work by the Belgian architects Victor Horta, Paul Hankar and Henry Van de Velde. Good examples can be found in the neighborhoods of Schaerbeek, Etterbeek, Ixelles, and Saint-Gilles. The Major Town Houses of the Architect Victor Horta – Hôtel Tassel (1893), Hôtel Solvay (1894), Hôtel van Eetvelde (1895) and the Horta Museum (1901) – have been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .  Another example of Brussels Art Nouveau is the Stoclet Palace (1911), by the Viennese architect Josef Hoffmann, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Art Deco is also, represented here including the Résidence Palace (1927), the Centre for Fine Arts (1928), the Villa Empain (1934), the Town Hall of Forest (1938), and the former House of the Radio building on Flagey Square (1935–1938) in Ixelles. Some religious buildings from the interwar era were also constructed in that style, such as the Church of St John the Baptist (1932) in Molenbeek and the Church of Saint Augustine (1935) in Forest. Completed only in 1969, and combining Art Deco with Neo-Byzantine elements, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Koekelberg is one of the largest Roman Catholic basilicas by area in the world, and its cupola provides a panoramic view of Brussels and its outskirts. Another example are the exhibition halls of the Centenary Palace (Brussels Expo), built for the 1935 World Fair on the Heysel Plateau in northern Brussels.

The Atomium is a symbolic 103 meters (338 ft) tall modernist structure, located on the Heysel Plateau, which was originally built for the 1958 World’s Fair (Expo ’58). It consists of nine steel spheres connected by tubes, and forms a model of an iron crystal , magnified 165 billion times. A great experience indeed, and a great one-two combination visit to the  Mini-Europe park, with 1:25 scale models of famous buildings from across Europe.

Brussels contains over 80 museums lol!! The wonderful Royal Museums of Fine Arts (beaux-arts) is great as well as the Royal Museums of Art and History, and the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History. The Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), housed in the splendid Old England building, is part of the Royal Museums of Art and History and is internationally renowned for its collection of over 8,000 instruments. The Belgian Comic Strip Center combines two artistic leitmotifs of Brussels, being a museum devoted to Belgian comic strips, housed in the former Waucquez department store, designed by Victor Horta in the Art Nouveau style. The King Baudouin Stadium is a concert and competition facility with a 50,000 seat capacity, the largest in Belgium. The site was formerly occupied by the Heysel Stadium. Furthermore, the Center for Fine Arts (often referred to as Bozar), a multi-purpose center for theatre, cinema, music, literature and art exhibitions, is home to the National Orchestra of Belgium and to the annual Queen Elisabeth Competition for classical singers and instrumentalists, one of the most challenging and prestigious competitions of the kind.

Nice parks in my opinion are the Botanical Garden of Brussels 6 ha (14.8 acres) lovely; Leopold Park 10 ha (25 acres) Brussels Park 11 ha (27 acres) and my favorite the Parc du Cinquantenaire / Jubelpark 30 ha (74 acres).

Brussels is known for its local waffle, its chocolate, its French fries and its numerous types of beers, and reasons enough to come visit the city or country. Belgian cuisine is characterised by the combination of French cuisine with the more hearty Flemish fare. Notable specialties include Brussels waffles (gaufres) and mussels (usually as moules-frites, served with fries). The city is a stronghold of chocolate and pralines manufacturers with renowned companies like Neuhaus, Leonidas and Godiva. Pralines were first introduced in 1912, by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier of Swiss origin, in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert, in central Brussels. Numerous friteries are spread throughout the city, and in tourist areas, fresh hot waffles are also sold on the street. In addition to the regular selection of Belgian beer, the famous Lambic style of beer is predominately brewed in and around Brussels, and the yeasts have their origin in the Senne valley. Kriek, a cherry Lambic, enjoys outstanding popularity, as it does in the rest of Belgium. Kriek is available in almost every bar or restaurant.

Brussels

corne port royal galerie Royales Saint Hubert Brussels wife

Brussels

my gang museum of beers off grand place Brussels

Shopping is done best by amous shopping areas include the pedestrian-only Rue Neuve (Dutch: Nieuwstraat), the second busiest shopping street in Belgium (after the Meir, in Antwerp)  Avenue Louise lined with high-end fashion stores and boutiques; the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert; as well as the neighbourhood around Antoine Dansaert Street. The Old Market  on the Place du Jeu de Balle/Vossenplein, in the Marollen neighbourhood, is particularly renowned. The nearby Sablon area is home to many of Brussels’ antique dealers.  The Midi Market around Brussels-South train station and Boulevard du Midi is reputed to be one of the largest markets in Europe.

How to move about, reach Brussels and al. There are two main airport located outside the region of Brussels, Brussels-National Airport, located in Zaventem, 12 km (10 mi) east of the capital; and Brussels South Charleroi Airport, located near Charleroi , some 50 km (30 mi) south-west of Brussels.

Water traffic is important even for a land city like Brussels, the port of Brussels. Located near the Sainte-Catherine/Sint-Katelijne square, it lies on the Brussels-Scheldt Maritime Canal (commonly called Willebroek Canal), which connects Brussels to Antwerp via the Scheldt. The connection of the Willebroek Canal with the Brussels-Charleroi Canal, in the very heart of the capital, creates a north-south link, by means of waterways, between the Netherlands, Flanders and the industrial zone of Hainaut (Wallonia). There, navigation can access the network of French canals, thanks to the important inclined plane of Ronquières and the lifts of Strépy-Bracquegnies.

The train; the Brussels Capital-Region has three main train stations: Brussels-South (Sud), Central (Midi) and North (Nord). Brussels-South/Sud is also served by direct high-speed rail links: to London by Eurostar trains via the Channel Tunnel ; to Amsterdam by Thalys and InterCity connections; to Amsterdam, Paris and , and Cologne by Thalys; and to Cologne , and Frankfurt by the German ICE. The City has minor railway stations at Bockstael, Brussels-Chapel, Brussels-Congres, Brussels-Luxembourg, Brussels-Schuman, Brussels-West, Haren, Haren-South, Simonis. In the Brussels Region, there are also railways stations at Berchem-Sainte-Agathe, Boitsfort, Boondael, Bordet (Evere), Etterbeek, Evere, Forest-East, Forest-South, Jette, Meiser (Schaarbeek), Moensberg (Uccle), Saint-Job (Uccle), Schaarbeek, Uccle-Calevoet, Uccle-Stalle, Vivier d’Oie-Diesdelle (Uccle), Merode and Watermael.

The Brussels Metro with underground lines known as premetro has a network consisting  of four conventional metro lines and three premetro lines. The metro network within the region has a total of 69 metro and premetro stations. The metro connects  with six railway stations of the National Railway Company of Belgium, and many tram and bus stops operated by STIB/MIVB, and with Flemish De Lijn and Walloon TEC bus stops.  A comprehensive bus and tram network covers the city with the Brussels tram system consisting of  17 tram lines making  it one of the largest tram networks in Europe. The Brussels bus network is complementary to the rail network and consists of 50 bus routes and 11 night routes, STIB/MIVB has been operating a night bus network called Noctis. On Fridays and Saturdays, 11 bus routes operate from midnight until 03h.  They run from the centre of Brussels to the outer reaches of the Brussels-Capital Region.

Now we go to automobile and you will read Brussels is the most congested city in Europe and so on. Well , I have been driving to it since 1992, and never had a problem on traffic or parking’s underground; the street level can be had if you can walk long. Brussels is the hub of a range of old national roads, the main ones being clockwise: the N1 (N to Breda), N2 (E to Maastricht), N3 (E to Aachen), N4 (SE to Luxembourg) N5 (S to Reims), N6 (S to Maubeuge), N7 (SW to Lille), N8 (W to Koksijde) and N9 (NW to Ostend). The town is skirted by the European route E19 (N-S) and the E40 (E-W), while the E411 leads away to the SE. Brussels has an orbital motorway, numbered R0 (R-zero) and commonly referred to as the Ring. It is pear-shaped, as the southern side was never built as originally conceived, owing to residents’ objections. And yes this RO or ring is the best way to get to city center just pinpoint your central location and the exit from them and you are off; once at final destination parked and walk, lovely.

Tourist office here in English : https://visit.brussels/en

Region tourist office in English: http://be.brussels/culture-tourism-leisure

Belgium tourist board in English : https://www.belgium.be/en/about_belgium/tourism/cities_of_art

Enjoy Belgium and especially the Brussels region as we do. Do take a look at my previous posts for plenty of info and photos. Enjoy your week, happy travels. Cheers!!!

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February 19, 2018

Some news from France CLXXXV

Here we go again with news of my belle France. Now days around my neck of the woods have been cold ,grey and rainy , temps down to 1C and then quickly now is up to 12C , on a cloudy Sunday in the beautiful Morbihan.

I start you off with the glorious chocolates of the Maison Bonnat. The great Madagascar 75% cacao sweet fruity and balance, the suttle and delicate Ecuador with flower aromas and honey; or the delicious Hacienda El Rosario, from Venezuela; delicate, powerful and simple; all just for the chocolate experts and lovers. you can, also try the tablets milk chocolate 55%. See taste buy at the new Paris boutique of Maison Bonnat Chocolatier; 189, rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré (8éme). Open Mondays to Saturdays from 10h30-19h30. You can have hot chocolates for two glasses from 6,50€ or four glasses from 11,40€. More here: https://bonnat-chocolatier.com/en/contact

Bad news for those wishing to have Sundays open for shopping in Paris. The administrative tribunal of Paris has cancelled the attempts to open on Sundays in tourist zones like Olympiades. From their birth in 2015 the ZTI=zones touristiques international applying the law Macron could benefit from this Sunday opening in 12 areas of Paris as well as by Disneyland Seine et Marne and shopping Val d’Europe. This law allows shops to open evenings until midnight every Sunday of the year. Some of these areas are the Champs-Elysées, les Halles, Haussmann, Le Marais, Montmartre, and Olympiades. Only those that were not opening on Sundays but were thinking of doing so will have no right to open now. Those that were already doing it can continue to do so; exceptions and new areas the ones around Haussmann (for the great deparment stores etc) and Beaugrenelle (the new wonderful shopping center IN Paris).

The good news sort of, is that the Hôtel Lambert has been totally renovated on its façade , the rotunda and the gardens. This mansion is located at 2 rue Saint-Louis-en-l’île right in the corner of the Île Saint Louis, Paris. It was built in 1640 by architect Louis Le Vau with paintings by Charles Le Brun (the guys from Vaux le Vicomte, Versailles etc!!!)Now as many in Paris fallen to foreigners belongs to the Prince Hamad Al Thani,(also owner of football/soccer club PSG) brother of the emir of Qatar.

And as I wrote extensively on the flooding of Paris well now its time for the cleaning, and a few more days of dirty wharfs of Paris. At the foot of the Hôtel de Ville, the pedestrian quays are not yet open ; but the road or voie Mazas has already open in the 12éme. The important road voie Georges-Pompidou, from Garigliano to Grenelle (16éme) are already clean. There still work to do in the section from Grenelle to Bir-Hakeim to have it open for circulation. The quays or quai Valhubert in the 13éme has already been cleaned and open. The quai des Bateaux-Mouche boats is also accessable and the first boat has departed ok and full this past Friday morning. On the famous Quai des Grands-Augustins (6éme) the sun is out and a huge vaccum is at work with a pump to clean the roads; yesterday Saturday the boat or péniche ,Belgrand was to arrived in Paris for push the water from the Seine river and jet spray the pedestrian quays where the truck and wash machines cannot enters. Some of the work going on in Paris, and the job is still far away from finish; plan ahead if need to pass by this areas or Paris in general. The city can inform you. pictures with info on the work in French: https://www.paris.fr/crue

One of most emblematic and romantic buildings in Paris, its a tower! Speaking of the tour Jean Sans Peur or john without fears tower. It was in the middle ages the highest inhabited buildng in Paris. It has remined entirely intact, this building tower of the 15C houses today a museum of daily life in the medieval period located at 20 de la rue Etienne-Marcel (2éme)). It has a donjon tower of 27 meters high square on top ,the equivalent of 8 floors. Today it remains the last witness to medieval civil and fortified architecture in Paris. You can from the top of the tower see the beautiful city of Paris. The building was first built in 1420 by Jean Sans Peur, aka Jean Ier de Bourgogne (duke John I of Burgundy). The tower was put in the middle of a beautiful mansion of the dukes of Burgundy that was here since the 13C. The huge palace that had the space taken from Montorgueil to the rue Saint-Denis, falls in disrepair from end 13C where only the donjon tower remains Intact. Here while the king Charles VI, falls very sick and incapable of ruling that his cousin takes the power, son of prince Louis d’Orléans, that takes the continuation of the kingdom. Jean Sans Peur goes as far as ordered assassinated the uncle and rival in 1407, in order to take over the royal finances for enlarged his principality , the Burgundian State. However, the wind change on the diplomatic games and the master of the donjon was finally killed in September 10 1419.

You can visit the tower floor by floor, the biggest is the grande Salle , the bedroom of the squire that of Jean Sans Peur, and common rooms with furniture from his last 20 years there as identical as they were done by artisan artists of today. The museum has a trail of figures in costumes of the 15C as well redone by modern masters. You see a huge mantle cover richly decorated, military decorations pants, jackets, ladies robes, or hats. At the street level or rdc here and on the vaulted cellars you see an exposition of the wine and its role in the middle ages with illustrations, objects of the period, instruments for vineyard work. A real passionate exposition; worth seeing it. The tower museum again is at 20, rue Étienne-Marcel, Open Wednesdays to Sundays from 13h30 to 18h, admission is 6€,guided visits on Saturdays and Sundays at 15h. You can reach it by metro line 4 stop/arrêt Étienne Marcel; RER A,B,D arrêt/stop at les Halles or bus 29 arrêt/stop Turbigo/Étienne Marcel. More on the region ile de France tourist page here: http://pro.visitparisregion.com/en/Destination-guide/Paris-Region-guide/Tours/Castles-and-monuments/Tour-Jean-Sans-Peur

The hops are coming back to Paris, yes beer. Leave branches that go up to 10 meters high enrolling around a support such as a pole, cable wall, are back. They already are in the island of Cité in the rue Saint-Sauveur or rue Buffon 5éme; in the walls of schools such as the Château des Rentiers 13éme or sports center such as Déjerine in the 20éme or the Fillettes in the 18éme will be vegetative as well. A total of 86 000 liters of beers could be brewed due to this initiative this year. The city hall of Paris already contributes with about 1 600 liters of beer of Paris where the barley is cultivated in the land by the bois de Vincennes with the Association Brasseurs de France. You know that in the 19C ,Paris was the European capital of the beer?  Done here by the Alsacians, well back to the source. More on this site in French: http://maltsethoublons.com/2017/11/13/la-ville-de-paris-et-brasseurs-de-france-brassent-a-bercy/

There is a project up for vote to allow the swimming in the lake of Daumesnil. The city of Paris under the project swim in Paris or « Nager à Paris » wanted by the mayor Hidalgo is coming along. After the bassin de la Villette (19éme), this project by the shades of the  Bois de Vincennes, on the lawn of Reuilly, and the Zoo will be presented as a family seasonal swimming offer with 8 490 m², of open air space, free and with lifeguards open from June 15 to September 15 and from 10h to 20h. It will allow a maximum capacity of swimmers of 2 023 per day with a total visitors of about 75K swimmers per season. There is a beach projected for the south bank of the island or île de Bercy given access to three pools with different depths fed by the water filter with biological filtration techniques and apart from the lake by a geomembrane and a inflatable structure. City estimated cost of all this for the happy taxpayers is 9,5M€ TTC. The file is under consultation in the mairie or mayors office of the 12éme arrondissement , 130, avenue Daumesnil.  The review commission will be available for public questioning on Feb 22 ,Marc 8, from 16h30 to 19h,then on Feb 28 9h to 12h, and Saturday March 3rd from 9h to 12h.  More here in city of Paris webpage: https://www.paris.fr/nager

Hey talking about food, what about France abundance of goodies such as the chicken of the Gâtinaise now trying to come back in vogue spearheaded by the harvesting house or Maison de l’élevage du Mée-sur-Seine (Seine-et-Marne)  http://www.elevageidf.fr/   and the natural park regional or Parc naturel régional du Gâtinais since 2003. The park here: http://www.parc-gatinais-francais.fr/annuaire-des-produits-du-terroir/   The chicken was here since early the 20C but had slowly disappear giving way to more productive hens. This year there are already about 550 chickens that provides  2 000 chicks per year . About 300- 400 of them arrive by Vincent Morisseau, at one day old.  This farmer established the farm of ferme de Filbois d’Aufferville (Seine-et-Marne), been one of three harvesters of the chicken of gâtinaises that has the territory of the natural regional park. The best way to cook this wonderful hen that I have tried many times is just roasted with a bit of garlic, butter, salt and pepper,and herbes of Provence ; it will please everybody. http://www.ferme-de-filbois.fr/

The Château de Pierrefonds is ongoing renovations. The new campaign by the Centre des monuments nationaux is on to restore the four bridges of the castle. The work will begin today with the covering of the structures in scaffolds and will be done by the end of November 2018. These bridges dates from 1870 and were in bad conditions . The three bridges gave access to the main courtyard of the castle and a new visitor circuits will be done by March 12. The work will be done by firm from Brest (Finistère/Brittany) that will restored them in their shops same way they did for the statue of the archangel in the top of Mont-Saint-Michel (Manche). These structures are composed of metal and wood and were first done by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in person !!. The work will allow to increase the capacity of the bridges for the passage of vehicles especially those of emergency personnel.  The mechanism of the raising bridge will also be renovated so that it can be open in an exceptional manner. The sleeping bridge that gives access to the lices will be  restored on site, and a temporary passearelle will allow pedestrians and vehicles to enter the main court or Cour d’honneur, during all the period of the work. Unfortunately for reasons of security , the castle will be closed to the public from March 12-25 2018 and from October 1-19 2018 . The Centre des monuments nationaux is also counting on doing other works in the castle such as souvenir boutique to come back to its original location  and the floor of the Salle des Preuses , the biggest in the castle will be reinforce. More here: http://www.chateau-pierrefonds.fr/en/

The gare Versailles Rive Gauche will have a space Véligo. This will allow to rent bikes online ahead of your arrival in station, more here:  http://veligo.transilien.com/fr/articles.php

According to a survey by Les Echos, the finance journal , the best companies to work for in the eyes of the French are : Decathlon , Cultura , Picard , FNAC, Amazon, Sephora, Grand Frais, Yves Rocher, Leroy Merlin, and ikea

And come to see the orchids with the expo Orchidées Mania in the jardin des Plantes. On the famous greenhouses of the garden hosting the 7th edition of the thousand and one orchid or « Mille et une orchidées ».  This is done every February to the orchid lovers to discover the extraordinary collection in the museum of natural history or Muséum d’histoire naturelle.  Joined by specialize gardeners that will allow you to come away with a pot;all this until March 5 2018 more info here:  http://www.mnhn.fr/fr/visitez/agenda/exposition/mille-orchidees-2018

And he is back to the avenue des Champs-Elysées, talking of Pierre Hermé the great pastry/chocolat maker and now teaming with the great house of cosmetics of L’Occitane ; store and dessert bar with sales counter. A concept store to share friendship of the pastry king to  Olivier Baussan, founder of  L’Occitane (already in Paris with the maison Hermé). 21 years later Pierre Hermé is back on the Champs-Élysées, after clashing and leaving the maison Ladurée. The goodies are a bit pricey but you know where they are coming from ; 9,50 € cappucino, 20 €  ice cream cup etc etc. You can take it home too almost everything in the boutique. L’Occitane-Hermé, 86, av. des Champs-Elysées, 8éme. Tél. +33 (0) 1-70-38-77-38. Open every day from 7h30,except Saturdays and Sundays at 8h30, and closing late at 23h30, even 0H30 Fridays and Saturdays. More here: https://fr.loccitane.com/bienvenue-au-86-champs-pierre-herme-loccitane,74,1,91244,1184739.htm

Go to the sweetness of France with framboises sirup of the maison Lou Fenérêts coming from the Haute-Savoie. La Torchette a crusty biscuit of almonds and hazelnuts raisins ,algie and a bit of rum done in Melgven,the Finistère Breton by the  maison Georges Larnicol. How about  vinegar from  Rouillac, Charente, done with grapes of pineau blanc. Over  2 500 products like a tour of France ; this is at Le Printemps du goût recently open in two floors of groceries and cellars with fresh produce all made in France France. Done by such famous as  Akrame Benallal (star michelin chef), Gontran Cherrier (baker), Laurent Dubois (cheesemaker) ,and Christophe Michalak (pastry maker) all showcasing the best of France.  You are invited to go up to the 8th floor to taste their recipes on site with a grand view like a postcard over the tour Eiffel. All sold in the culinary space of 1 500 m2 in the great deparment store of the Grands Boulevards.  Yes you know Au Printemps. http://departmentstoreparis.printemps.com/news/w/printempsdugout-47093

Back to the foodie, once a month in winter the restaurant Auteuil Brasserie is transformed into a terrace on the roof in a chalet style ;Sunday last there was a return to ski or « Retour du Ski » night with DJ and cocktails shops . Good place for the nights of Paris and good favorite area of the city for me. More here:  http://www.auteuil-brasserie.com/

Jacky Ribault awaited long for this and now its there, his second gastronomic restaurant named L’Ours (the bear). The chef has one star Michelin since 2014 and already head of the Parisian restaurant Qui Plume la Lune, located at Vincennes,in the middle of the island or îlot Fontenay, i twill have tables for about 20 folks. Once entering the resto you will the head of a Canadian bear on a space of 300 M2 all under a cover of Baltard metal and wood and silvery glass and walls.  The menus are at  45, 75 and 105 €, with a match food dish and wine averaging 50€ additionally. There is no carte so no need to look for one. Try it at L’Ours, 10, rue de l’Eglise. Tél. +34 (0) 1.46.81.50.34.email :  contact@loursrestaurant.com

The first resto site is here : http://www.quiplumelalune.fr/

A bit of tour of France coming up.

Imagine been in the Roman arena of Nîme end of April 2018 to host the 9e édition des Grands Jeux romains (the great roman games) ; that will be held for three days the legendary episodes of the times. You can see at simple eye view the amphitheater dating from the 1C of our times, one of the best preserve in the Roman world, spectacular!!!This is an oval of 133 meters long by 60 arcades on top of each other, a symmetrical building to perfection by Roman engineers. See the wonderful square house or Maison carrée, right in city center , the only antique temple in the world totally preserve with precise proportions and impressive columns. Continue your journey into the gardens or jardins de la Fontaine, built around the water source of the Nemausus. DO your rides in poneys and pedal cars on the ruins of the mysterious temple of Diana for the kids, then climb the tower or tour Magne,high on Mont Cavalier, the highest and most prestigious of the Augustinian tower walls. If you come early June 2018 you can see the new and very much awaited museum of romans traditions  or Musée de la romanité, that will show a futuristic building with all the collections of archeology of the city presented by Elizabeth de Portzamparc.  Museum here: http://www.elizabethdeportzamparc.com/en/project/musee-de-la-romanite/

More  on Nîmes here: http://www.arenes-nimes.com/en/node/1969

And this always amazes me since coming here since 1990 near my wife’s native town and on her department 77 Seine-et-Marne. The Royal edifice that hosted more monarchs than any other, total of 34 ! from Louis VI le Gros to Napoléon III, spanning almost 8 centuries. Spend a day at the Château de Fontainebleau, less than 45 minutes from Paris is to push the genealogical tree of the French royals. In the cour d’honneur, take a  selfie  in front of the horseshoe stairs where on April 20 1814 Napoléon  said his farewell to his imperial guard.  In the interior of the castle ,see the gorgeous apartments, the two small boudoirs of Marie-Antoinette, very refined. However, do what others failed to do, go out into the park and its four gardens and od a tour in horse wagon or a barque boat in the lake of carpes or étang aux carpes. Spend a bit more time and attends a grand vals like the one coming up on February 24th , a carnival with swords duels , renaissance dances ,masks shops and princesss dresses . Adultes accepted lol!

More here: http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/spip.php?page=sommaire&lang=en

Enjoy France 85 millions cannot be wrong, again No 1 in the world on visitors. Great start on my week! Cheers!

 

 

 

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!

February 16, 2018

How about Reims, bubbly with the Kings!

Well enjoy the ride back to France. This time will bring back another wonderful city of my belle France: Reims. It is abroad probably best known for the Champagne, while here is a mix of bubbly and traditions of yesteryear still strong ;this is where most of the kings of France were crowned!

Do not know where to start but had written before a few posts on Reims, the region of Champagne and the bubbly, best in the world. Ok so now back to talking on this post a bit more on the city itself rather than the bubbly as done many times above. This is Reims of the French.

Reims, first of all is a wonderful city, and one my favorites and earliest visit in France. My family on wife’s side used to come here with her to picked grapes in harvest time so they can get some job experience while studying so they know how to press the grapes lol!

We can say that Reims should be the regional capital but never asked ; instead the capital is Châlons-en-Champagne. Therefore, Reims is the biggest sub capital  of France and the biggest town not been capital of a region in France. It rather likes to be known as the city of sacred or city of kings , as it was here at Notre Dame Cathedral where Clovis king of the Franks was baptized by Saint Remi and most of the kings of France from 816 to 1825 were crowned. The city is name to the Art and History list of cities in France and has three places in the Unesco world heritage list. The main shops area in city center/downtown are Place Drouet-d’Erlon with the shopping center Espace d’Erlon ,rue de Vesle, main shopping street ,  place Royale. place Myron T. Herrick where there is the Opéra de Reims  and nearby the Comédie. Other important arteries for shopping/eating etc are the rue de l’Étape, rue du Cadran-Saint-Pierre,rue des Élus, rue Condorcet, rue de Talleyrand,avenue Jean-Jaurès ,and avenue de Laon.

It is easy to come here from Paris at only 130 km or about 81 miles, and very close to the second city of Champagne, Epernay at only 25 km. The TGV from Gare de l’Est as well as local TER trains are in constancy contact with Paris as well in just 1h30 . The city is link with a canal  since 1866 call the canal de l’Aisne à la Marne  allowing Reims to have direct access to the Marne river with three levies in Reims and a nautical link at boulevard Paul-Doumer. You have several roads passing by here such as the A26, also known as the motorway of the  English  as many go around Paris using this road ; the famous A4 or motorway of the East linking Paris to  Strasbourg passing by Metz ; the A34,or motorway Ardennaise, that can go into Belgium along the old nationale or N51; the A344 also known as the expressway  Jean Taittinger that replace the old  A4  and link with the  A4, A26, and A34 passing by city center/Downtown. Here going into city center/Downtown you can lookup the panels in the A344 for Reims-Centre, Reims Cathédrale, Reims-Saint-Rémi and on the A4 exit/sortie 22 Reims Centre  or sortie/exit 23 Reims Sud; on the A26 you can take the sortie/exit 16.1 to Reims centre. For bus/tramway of Reims the site is Citura here: http://www.citura.fr/fr/itineraires/4/JourneyPlanner

There are four train stations here: gare de Reims, gare de Reims-Maison-Blanche, Gare de Reims-Franchet d’Esperey , and gare de Champagne-Ardenne TGV. The visitor usually only takes the TGV station or the in city Reims train station. Local regional TER trains the site is here: https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est

For the TGV, it is on the line LGV Paris à Strasbourg also known as the LGV  East European, and there are links to the gare de Reims by bus tramway and regular train. More here: https://www.gares-sncf.com/fr/gare/freah/champagne-ardenne-tgv/transports-horaires

There is no airport but the TGV from the station Champagne-Ardenne TGV,can put you here in 30 minutes from Paris CDG airport.

As always a bit of history I like, the territory of Reims stayed allied to the Romans and was part of their empire. They had many invaders since such as in 357 and 366, by Germanic tribes, in 406 by the Vandals, and in 451 by the Huns.  Saint Remi was the main follower of Christ in the area and help spread Christianity here; as bishop of Reims he made king Clovis of the Franks submit to the new religion at the current site of the Church of  Saint-Nicaise, avenue de la Marne , this was around the year 496, where he was baptized in the Cathedral. The other legend is that as Clovis was married to Clothilde a Visigoth queen already Christianized, and he had a big battle against another king of the  Alemannic (Germans) to do over the Rhine river he promise his wife that if he prays to her God and wins he will convert to the religion and declare the religion of his kingdom. The actions were done and he won the battle, the rest is more history…During the French revolution the religious buildings were put up for sale and the Cathedral made into a stockade depot; the Holy Ampulla was destroyed and the relics of Saint Remi burned in the public square. There were massacres in 1792 by the Republican volunteers that came back to joined the army that was in campaign against the Prussians; the guillotine worked four times during this period! From the end of the 19C the city host several military installations and housing for them such as the caserne Colbert (boulevard de la Paix), caserne Jeanne-d’Arc (boulevard Pommery),  and caserne Neufchâtel  and caserne Maistre (rue de Neufchâtel). Only the caserne Colbert has been preserved today and change to commercial and lodging quarters.

During WWI the city was destroyed for the most part including the Notre Dame Cathedral that was bombed ; the Germans entered the city and occupied it for several days. At the end of the war, the city was destroyed for about 60% , and as the Notre Dame Cathedral of Reims the city became a martyr city and a symbol for France.  Again on WWII June 11 1940 the Nazis entered Reims and later began the thefts of property, acquisitions, rationing , arresting folks ,deportations and executions. On August 30 1944, the allies entered Reims and General Eisenhower  takes his HQ after the liberation of the city ; the rendition of the Nazi regime is done in the technical school ,currently the high school or lycée Roosevelt) on May 7 1945 ending the war in Europe. Next day May 8 1945 upon the request of the Soviets a second signature is done at Berlin , and it is this date that is taken as the capitulation without conditions of the Nazi regime and the end of the war in Europe.

There are several religious places in Reims due to its importance in history ,in fact too numerous to mention here. The principal ones in my opinion are the Notre Dame Cathedral (b. 1211) at place du Parvis; and the Basilica of Saint Remi at place du Chanoine-Ladame. The second oldest Church in Reims after the Basilica is the Church of Saint James or Saint Jacques at rue Marx-Dormoy. One special is the Church of Sainte Clothilde at Place Sainte Clothilde, built in 1896 to commemorate the 1400 anniversary of the baptism of Clovis ,done in a neo byzantine style in the form of a Greek Cross to honor the wife of Clovis, that helped in his conversion to Christianity. The basilica Church was to have a relic of all the saints of France that have marked its history. These relics were placed in the crypt and they are more than 120 reliquaries and 2000 relics. The basilica Church can be visited in July and August every Sunday from 15-17h and on national heritage days on Sundays from 14-18h. Here is info in French: https://www.reims-tourisme.com/basilique-sainte-clotilde/reims/pcu0000000001189

Reims

Other things to see in Reims of note in my opinion are the Hôtel de Ville, Hôtel de Brimont,at 34 du boulevard Lundy ; Hôtel Werlé, aka Roederer, style Louis XVI built in 1867 at 23 du boulevard Lundy. Hôtel Mignot at 17 boulevard Lundy built in 1911 there is a plaque on the facade written « Dwight D. Eisenhower généralissime des armées alliées a résidé dans cette maison du 20 février 1945 au 25 mai 1945. La Ville de Reims a son illustre citoyen d’honneur. 8 mai 1955 ».simply in honor of Gen Eisenhower who lived here in 1945. Hôtel Lüling at 14 boulevard Lundy built in 1863 associated to the Champagne Maison Heidsieck & Cie.  There are other nice mansions along the boulevard de la Paix, rue Piper ,and the rue des Moissons.

There are several museums which I have not been to all, but the main ones visited are the Palais du Tau, former episcopal palace built under king Louis XIV and rebuilt after the fire of 1914; it is next to the Cathedral and retraces the history of the monument and its district, you will see the most important funeral stone collection in France, the royal treasury of the Cathedral and several objects used during the coronation of king Charles X, the last king of France. The museum of fine arts or musée des beaux-arts at the rue Chanzy; founded in 1794 from works taken(stolen) in the French revolution and put in the old abbey of Saint Denis in 1908; it has the works of the principal artistic movement from the 14C to the 20C.

 

Other museums are the musée-hôtel Le Vergeur where you have the old Reims museum or musée du Vieux-Reims located at place du Forum, showing work dating from antiquity to the 20C including about 50 engravings from Albert Dürer, furniture,and Asian works from the 19C. the museum or musée Saint-Remi, locate in rue Simon in the old Benedictine abbey showing the history and archeology of Reims. And one would like to visit myself is the musée automobile Reims Champagne considered the 5th most imporant automobile museum in France with a collection that goes back to 1908 to our days. For the nature or walker lovers you have nice parks in Reims, our favorites are the Jardin des buttes Saint-Nicaise at  boulevard Diancourt), the parc de Champagne (previous parc  Pommery) at avenue du Général-Giraud, and the prettiest one the parc de la Patte d’oie at boulevard du Général Leclerc between the Vesle river and the train station of Reims city; with a congress palace  and the Circus; French/English garden ; park renovated last in 1994.

Some of the delicacies you can buy here other than Champagne ok ok, are the biscuit rose or rose cookies created in 1691 when a baker had the idea of cook the paste two times and add aroma of Vanilla with the carmin that gives the rose color to hide the vanilla sticks ; the tradition is to dip in a cup of what else Champagne. The spicy bread or pain d’épices that here goes back to the 16C. Also, the mustard produce at Reims from vinegar and spices  since the 19C it had great reputation already ;today only the maison Charbonneaux-Brabant produces it under the name Clovis as well as the vinegar done from the marc thrown out from the Champagne after a second fermentation  so from wine of Champagne. The ham of Reims is werel sought after too one of the best in France , taken a shoulder of pork without bones cook in hot water than marbled and mix with breadcrumb; the pieces are then, put in a parsley jelly. Yummy!!!

some webpages to help further your planning:

The city of Reims tourist info page in French : http://www.reims.fr/384/le-patrimoine.htm

The tourist office of Reims in English: http://www.reims-tourism.com/

The region of Champagne-Ardennes tourist office in English: https://www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk/

Enjoy Reims, it is more than Champagne . I told you so here ::) Cheers!!!

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February 15, 2018

Casa de Campo de Madrid!

And as I am with the parks of Madrid, and already told you my other favorites ,and Retiro, why not the biggest in Madrid, Casa de Campo or Country House Park ::) Located in the district of Moncloa-Aravaca is the largest in Madrid with 1772 hectares or 80K m2 ; it is ,also the biggest in Europe with 6,5 times bigger than Hyde Park in London and 2X bigger than Bois de Boulogne in Paris. It is 2,5 x bigger then Phoenix park in Dublin,  and 5x bigger than Central Park in New York. My many souvenirs of living and visiting my beloved Madrid. It is ,also, next to the forest of Pardo where the Zarzuela castle and residence of the king of Spain

All started briefly with King Felipe II who in 1560 thereabouts purchase the land after he decides to put his court in Madrid. Later king Fernando VI the area is declared a royal forest and served as hunting grounds. It is now managed by the city of Madrid and serves well all residents and visitors alike since 1931.

There are many wonderful things to do and see here. These are ; a Parque de Atracciones or amusement park , easiest to get there is by metro Batán on line 10,in this park you will enjoy three different areas including Nickelodeon Land, Lanzadera (free fall attraction) Tornado and Abismo that are rollercoasters, and the Walking Dead Experience. You ,also, have a ZOO de Madrid , here you will see incredible animals such as giant panda, monocled cobra, Asian elephant, Siberian tigers and even dolphins. In total, you will see more than 6000 animals of 500 different species. There is the famous (my favorite ride lol) cable car or Téléferico linking you to Paseo del Pintor Rosales. During the trip you will hear an explanation (in Spanish) about the history of Madrid and the monuments you will see during this time. Don’t forget your camera because there will be a lot of chances to take amazing pictures of the city and bridges of Madrid. And of course, you have the Aquarium one of the biggest in Spain.

Zoo and Aquarium here: https://www.zoomadrid.com/en

Attractions park here: https://www.parquedeatracciones.es/

Cable car Rosales here: https://www.esmadrid.com/informacion-turistica/teleferico-de-madrid

A map of the park by the city of Madrid here:

Casa de Campo Madrid

madrid

There is,also, a youth hostal, exposition park, and the Venta de Batàn (storage for the bullring corridas). There is of course clean air!, soft ground and silence; the perfect combination for jogging and running, and you can choose flat paths or those with different slopes etc. You can ride a bike or rent one for 5€ per day in stores located along the Manzanares river. It’s a perfect spot for mountain bikes but there are also areas suitable for regular bikes. There are great areas for picnic under a tree or in one of the tables and benches all around the park. When you need to eat some snacks there is also a cafeteria right in the middle of the park. There ,also, a complex for cultural activities  IFEMA , all along the year with concerts, exhibitions, fairs, sport events all year long. In the park you can find a small lake with many aquatic activities such as Kayaking and boat paddles. During the weekends, many families come to the park for a picnic.

Other things to see here are the primitive palace of the Vargas was property of king Felipe II; you see the gallery of grottos or the Galería de las Grutas  in the gardens or  jardines de El Reservado, next to the palace. These are grottos artificially done from the 16C that were decorated with fountains, sculptures and motifs inspired by nature; from the five trails that was created now only two and part of a third one are open. You see the bridge or  Puente de la Culebra  built in 1782 on orders of king Carlos III by  Francesco Sabatini, the artistic work most representative still there and an example of Italian baroque style work. Sabatini also did other four bridges of which only exist today the Puente de la Agachadiza and Puente del Álamo Negro with its three original blinded eyes and the brick structure covered with cement. The Puente de la Culebra is in an area known as the El Zarzon next to the pathway of Prado Rodajes and the road to Zarzon where there is a small dam with waters of the Meaques creek on the place it is known as the small lake or  “Estanque Chico“, surrounded by thick vegetation. Most of the Casa de Campo is surrounded by a stone wall with 70 cm thick and done with brick and cement and chalk. The upper section is covered with granite stone with some parts rebuilt or reduced; and you can still see the ones given access to the Club de Campo that were the old gates of Aravaca, and Castilla. They had small gates to allow pedestrians to go thru such as the ones of  Agachadiza, Casa Quemada, Los Pinos , and Zarzón, all rebuilt.

Another element were the wrough iron grills that gave access to the creeks to allow water in with a set of three grills and available to open them in case of flooding. You can see these wall grilles in the creeks of  Meaques, Prado del Rey,  Zorra  and two at  Antequina. The railroad bridge or puente del ferrocarril, was built in 1860; all bricks and granite with a half point arch on the road to Robles, and have several fountains such as  the  triangle or Triángulo  by the southewest of the lake and the Neveros  nearby crossing the square or Glorieta de Patines; and some older such as the Zarzón, from 1898, even if a bit change; see also the fountain or Fuente de Rodajos even older , and the  potager or Huerta de la Partida dating from the 16C to give service to the palace de los Vargas, for which a canal for irrigation was done named the La Partida, coming from the creek of Meaques, as time went on the potager lost its function from the 20C onwards and by 1928  it was done on the land an experimental potager of medicinal plants.

The harbor for the Lago/lake of Casa de Campo where you will find boats and paddle boats etc up to four persons per boat where they can be rented for a period of times usually 45 minutes but check for the latest on site. It is located at Paseo del Embarcadero, 8, Tel. +34 91 464 46 10 , hours are Mondays to Sundays from 8h30 to sunset , prices are according to the day Mondays to Fridays 6€ and Saturdays and Sundays 8€ again check for latest on site ticket counter or call ahead . The best locations to reach the Casa de Campo are by the metro station Lago, you have the lake, pools and tennis courts, the expo center, and expo fair. Near the metro station Casa de Campo you have the Zoo and Aquarium, and near the station Batàn you have the amusement park.

More on the lake here in Spanish is more info: https://www.esmadrid.com/informacion-turistica/lago-de-la-casa-de-campo

You can walk or bike to reach the Casa de Campo by eleven entrances such as  Río or  Rey and Moreras , Batán,  Venta,  Dante, Grande and Ángel; also,  Aravaca, Somosaguas,Rodajos ,and Zarzón , and by here entrance to another half dozen small pedestrian gates .  You can do this by bus on lines 25, 31, 33, 36, 39, 55 y 65 on the south ,and 41 and 75 on east;  and 160 and 161 by the north.By metro you can do so on line 5  Casa de Campo, and line 10  Lago, Batán , and Casa de Campo). By auto is only allowed by the Avenida de Portugal, to reach the parkings located next to the amusement park, Zoo, and cable car terminus, lake area and some sports installations; these access are open from 06h to 00H30 or 01h0 at the end of the food kiosks time or the activities at the amusement park.

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Further information can be had by contacting the park itself here: Parque Casa de Campo ,Avenida de Portugal, s/n; Tel +34 91 479 60 02 Fax: +34 915267708; Guided Tours: +34 91 526 77 03 and email: infocasacampo@madrid.es
The city of Madrid has a webpage in Spanish with more info here:  http://www.madrid.es/portales/munimadrid/es/Inicio/El-Ayuntamiento/Medio-ambiente/Parques-y-jardines/Patrimonio-Verde/Parques-en-Madrid/Parque-de-la-Casa-de-Campo?vgnextfmt=default&vgnextoid=482a315919a9e210VgnVCM1000000b205a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=38bb1914e7d4e210VgnVCM1000000b205a0aRCRD

The tourist office of Madrid has more info here: https://www.esmadrid.com/barrios-de-madrid/casa-campo

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Hope you enjoy the ride and history,and see the beauty found here. It is a sublime place, love by all Madridistas and the lucky visitor who comes here. You will love it too I am sure! Enjoy the Casa de Campo in Madrid, where else! Cheers!!!

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