Archive for March 1st, 2018

March 1, 2018

Let me tell you about Montfort l’Amaury!!!

So here we go on the other beloved department of mine,78, Yvelines; west of Paris. Well, it is not just Versailles folks… Read my blog.

There is a small quaint little known town call Montfort l’Amaury, that has a saying in French history and my roots. Only 45 km from Paris,what are you waiting for?

First, a bit on the city of Montfort l’Amaury heritage:

Ok so you don’t have a car ,no problems here. There is a train station at Montfort l’Amaury-Méré just 4 km from town on an easy taxi ride. It goes to Montparnasse Paris. Here it is on the SNCF Transilien official site:

Several roads here of course, my treat. The best ones are the D76 to the train station, and the N12 direction Thoiry and else, I come to Versailles/Paris on it from Brittany free tolls!, and the N10 from to nd onwards to the A10 and Bordeaux, Spain. By bus from nearby towns you can take the Hourtoule, Veolia Transport Rambouillet  and  Veolia Transport Houdan bus companies, check them ouit for schedules.

A bit of history I like

Montfort-l’Amaury took the name of Amaury Ist, the first count of Montfort. King Robert II (972-1031) ordered the castle built in 996 on the hill of Montfort. The town was the seat of the Montfort family from the 11C with Guillaume de Hainaut. His son Amaury Ist (1028-1053), had the ramparts built which you can still see some of it. The lordship of Montfort-l’Amaury was created in favor of the sons of Simon IV (1165-1218). During the war of 100 years the castle was destroyed by the English. Quite old isn’t it.

Well it gets better. The count of Montfort was linked to the Duchy of Brittany ! following the marriage of Yolande de Montfort with duke Arthur II of Brittany in 1292. During the war of succession in Brittany (1341-1364), the Monfort allied themselves with the English and won at the famous battle near me now at Auray (1364). From then on and during two centuries the town was in Brittany; the Montfort became dukes of Brittany. The county was included in the crown of France in 1547 once the treaty making Brittany part of France in 1532 took effect. Anne de Bretagne, duchess of Brittany and Countess of Montfort was a benefactrice here. king Henri II, son of François Ier and Claude de France,(daughter of Anne de Bretagne,and queen of France by marriage with king Charles VIII and later too king Louis XII).

So what can you see here; well, the old Castle ruins are now only visible with a donjon tower built in the 12C call the tour d’Anne-de-Bretagne that was ordered built by herself. The wonderful impressive by its size and the size of the town is St Peter’s Church from the 15C and 16C ordered rebuilt by Anne de Bretagne in 1491, at the place of the old medieval church of the 11C ordered built by Count Amaury Ier de Montfort. If you are into these sort of things ,there is a cemetary from the 15C and 16C surrounded by galleries looking like a cloister serving as charniers for the inhumanisation of corps taken from the old cemetary by the Church; nice looking cloister entrance. The house or maison de Maurice Ravel(composer), call the Belvédère,from the 20C at the foot of the ruins of the castle and its donjon. Maurice Ravel lived here from 1921 until his death in 1937. The house was preserved by his younger brother. Finally it is bequested to the museums of France , and open to the public in 1973. The ramparts from the 11C and 12C that still have some intact and the gate or porte Bardoul, a prison in the 13C , as well as many wooden houses all around the narrow streets of the town. You can see especially the house where Victor Hugo stayed several times and compose the famous “Ode aux ruines” as a memory of the town. This was the house of poet Adolphe de Saint-Valry in rue de la Treille, where since 1825 Victor Hugo visited in the company of his wife.

Montfort l'Aumary

You can, visit the gardens of the Chateau de Groussay near town, as explain in the region of Ile de France tourist page, but not been here. Here is the site in English:

The department Yvelines tourist page in French:

And I can expand now on the history. José-Maria de Heredia, was born in 1842 and died in 1905; he was a writer, poet, teacher and born in Cuba under Spanish colonial rule , as his mother was French, he became French in 1893. His work made him one of the master of the Parnassian movement and the author of Les Trophées, (the trophies) published in 1893 that included 118 sonnets retracing the history of the world like the Conquerors or the coral recifs; as well as four long poems.

He was born at La Fortuna, not far from Santiago de Cuba the plantation coffee farm ,and send to France at age 9 to further his studies in the Lycée Saint-Vincent of Senlis (Oise 60)where he studied until his diploma in 1859, been a brilliant student and very much appreciated. He returns to Cuba and spent a year in Havana in order to try for this law degree and it is at this time that writes his first poems in French.

He return to France in 1861 with his mother already widow. He enrolled the same year at the Law school of Paris. From 1862-1865 he takes courses in the école National des Chartes, where he excelled for his serious work and good manners. He began to be more motivated for the literature than Law and continue to compose poems in particular with sonnets; the family fortune managed by his mother, allows him live well.He was part of a group of literary intellectuals like the La Bruyére conference and become influential member of the Parnassienne school. In 1863, he met Leconte de Lisle and help at contemporary Parnasse while making friends such as Sully Prudhomme, Catulle Mendés and Anatole France.

In 1884, Guy de Maupassant dedicates the new novel Garçon a Bok! The Les Trophées, making call to designer and animated experts dedicated to Leconte de Lisle, is given accolades and crown winner by the French Academy or Académie Française. He was already distinguished by the Académie for his translation of the true history of the conquest of the new Spain or L’Histoire véridique de la conquête de la Nouvelle Espagne du capitaine Bernal Díaz del Castillo! . He translate as well the story of the sister marine Catalina de Erauso and collaborated in the magazine of two worlds, time newspaper and debates or Revue des Deux Mondes, au Temps et au Journal des débats. He is elected to the French Academy or l’Académie française on February 22 1894 on the seat of Charles de Mazade, or No 79. While the tsars traveled to Paris in 1896 he compose the poem Salut à l’Empereur. Member of the dictionary commission or Commission du dictionnaire, he becomes in 1901, conservator of the Arsenal library or conservateur de la bibliothèque de l’Arsenal. As Edgar Degas, Auguste Renoir, Pierre Louÿs and others, he belongs to the league of the French motherland or Ligue de la patrie française, and the Ligue anti dreyfusard moderates.

In 1902, he founded with Sully Prudhomme and Léon Dierx, the society of French poets. Heredia and his wife that in 1901 and 1902, had passed their summer vacations in Montfort-l’Amaury, decided in 1903 to change town and chose to lived with friends at  the Château de Bourdonné, near Houdan (today own by the sister of Charles Aznavour the French singer and open on heritage days but you can walk in the gardens other times) . More on the Houdan country tourist page see Bourdonné:

Montfort l'Aumary

lived here house of jose maria de heredia 1 rue de la moutiére, Montfort l’Aumary there is a plaque

By September of 1903 he is victim of a digestive hemorrhage ,that the local doctor has difficulties in stop it. He goes into a diet but even with that a second hemorrhage comes in August of 1904. He died in his Château de Bourdonné on the night of October 2 1905 followed by a third hemorrhage. As he had visited the basilica of bonsecours near Rouen with his friend Flaubert he decided to buy a plot as was moved by the statue of Jeanne d’Arc and the Basilica; and later buried his mother here, naturally he is buried here too at the cemetery of Bonsecours , just outside Rouen in dept 76 ,Seine-iMaritime. More on French here:

From his marriage in 1867 to Louise Despaigne, he had three daughters:
Hélène (1871-1953), married Maurice Maindron, then René Doumic.
Marie (1875-1963), married Henri de Régnier. She was the mistress of Pierre Louÿs and wrote under the pseudonym of Gérard d’Houville. She had a son ,Pierre de Régnier, dit Tigre (tiger), natural son of Pierre Louÿs,who was also his godfather.
Louise (1878-1930), married Pierre Louÿs, too fast and divorce, then married Auguste Gilbert de Voisins.

There is a monument to José-Maria de Heredia done by Victor Ségoffin (1867-1925) at the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris.

More on this Cuban-French at the French Academy here:
His unofficial biography is here:

And all his poems are here under José-Maria de Heredia:

Hope you have enjoy this wonderful ride into the French soul, and the countryside of the Yvelines dept 78, there is a lot more in France. Happy travels! Cheers!!!

March 1, 2018

And how about quaint little Honfleur!

Ok so on a miserable cloudy very cold snow flakes there and ice on the trails leading to my office and cafeteria, and light rain I will brighten up my mind writing about quaint little beautiful ,etc etc Honfleur.

As usual ,I have written before on it, and very sentimental to me. My late Mom love the town, and so much she is buried at sea off Honfleur by the volunteer lifesavers of the SNSM boat Notre Dame base in Honfleur. We have come many times, and love it.


I have given some insights on the tourist spots and places to eat even hotels, now let me tell you a bit about the history I like.

Honfleur is a marvelous little town by the sea and the Seine river. The town is in the département 14 of Calvados in the region of Normandy, and located on the south bank of the estatuary of the Seine river facing Le Havre and on the ending of the bridge of Normandy. Often call an artists/painters town and with its own school. Many times represented in the work of Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet ,and Johan Barthold Jongkind, forming the school of Honfleur, that contributes to the emergence of the impressionist movement. The artists Alphonse Allais ,and Erik Satie were born here on the same street !

The first mention of the town in writing dates back to Richard III duke of Normandy in 1027. It is known that by the middle of the 12C the town was an important trade point with England coming from Rouen via Seine river. Charles V ordered fortified the town to stop the English to come up the Seine river with the help of the port of Honfleur located just on the statuary of the river. However, nevertheless Honfleur was taken by the English and occupied in 1357 and again in 1419 and 1450.

The town participated in the movement for great discoveries with a Jehan Denis visiting Labrador and Newfoundland that he took in the name of the king of France in 1506.These expeditions made the port of Honfleur one of the most important in France and served as launching pad for adventures in the French colonies of America such as the repeated sailings of Samuel de Champlain that ended by the founding of Québec in 1608. From this point on, commerce developed to Canada, Louisiana, the Caribbean and the African coasts as well as Azores islands, making Honfleur one of the five main towns in the slave trade.

Honfleur was liberated in WWII on August 25 1944 by the Belgian army Brigade Piron and the town suffered no damage, one of the rare Normand towns to be spare. More so that what you see is genuine original in the architecture and buildings of the town.

A bit on what the town has to offer to follow. The town has a whopping 57 historical monuments in its territory, including the wonderful Sainte Catherine Church, Saint Etienne Church, Saint Leonard Church, the Salt depots, the Lieutenance house and most of the houses in the Quai Sainte Catherine, as well as the Vieux Bassin, and my family’s favorite the Notre Dame of Grace Chapel or Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grâce up the côte de Grâce hill and the big Cross of Christ overlooking the harbor and towards Le Havre.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, built in 1910 in the limits of Equemauville, and here after the fall out of the cliffs houses ex voto , boat models and an organ from 1990; on the exterior you can see the pilgrims bells.  We had held Mass here so a bit more : This Chapelle Notre-Dame de Grâce was built between  1600-1615 by the rich merchant and marines/fisherman of  Honfleur at the place of an older Chapel that was destroyed due to a slide in the cliffs; this older one was built before the year 1023 by Richard II, Duke of Normandy  to pay a wish of which on the course of a storm he could had perished ; thereafter, the cult is perpetuated.

Honfleur Honfleur

The museum or Musée Eugène-Boudin and its annex dedicated to religious art in the bell tower of the Sainte Catherine Church which a building apart from the Church! ; the house or Maison Satie and the museums of old Honfleur such as marine museum or Musée de la Marine (inside the old Saint Etienne Church and a must to see), and the museum or Musée d’Ethnographie et d’Art populaire; (in the old prison of the Viscount of Roncheville).

The water basin or ponds were built by Abraham Duquesne on orders of Colbert in 1681. The old basin or vieux bassin rounds the quai Sainte-Catherine and the houses are numbered from 2 to 68, the houses dates from the 17C and 18C. They are very narrow and have from 3 to 7 floors (FR) except the No 2 that has one floor. Many of the facades are covered in tiles and other are done in corbel.  Today, most in the street level of the quai Sainte-Catherine are restaurants or brasseries. The side along the quai Sainte-Catherine by the narrow rue Montpensier have an underground trail with a creek of the Claire feeding the basin. The other side of the basin is with other buildings on the quai Saint-Étienne; which include, the city hall or hôtel de ville, and the Saint Etienne Church (St Stephen) now the marine museum. There are three small narrow streets that gives access to the quai Saint-Étienne. On the side of the ocean you have the quai de la Quarantaine,and one building ,the lieutenance that was next to the housing for the king’s lieutenant. The only fortified part of the town today. The movable bridge on the basin and over the channel to the front port is by the Morelle that makes end on the tour of the basin.

The Church dedicated to Sainte Catherine of Alexandria as there is a statue in wood on top of the entrance porch of the bell tower, representing a wheel and a sword. The first nave on the left is the oldest dating from the second half of the 15C and built like a market where the naval construction were done , giving a look as if it were an upside down boat. The bell tower is apart from the Church,
unique, this was done to avoid fires that would hurt the parishioners. The Saint Etienne Church is of gothic style part from the 14C and 15C, the oldest Church in town, built in chalk stone with silex and Caen stone as Honfleur is on the limits of these stone formations, the bell tower is in chesnut wood and now houses the marine museum which is very nice with its model boats of old.

The city of Honfleur  tourism:

And the tourist office of Honfleur here:

The department of Calvados (14) tourist office:

The region of Normandy tourism on Honfleur

There are many films done here and some of my favorites (even if this is not by all means a full list).
Les Trois Mousquetaires (1953), by André Hunebelle, with Georges Marchal and Bourvil (great French comedian).
L’Homme à la Buick (1967), of Gilles Grangier, with Fernandel (another great French comedian) ,and Danielle Darrieux
La Chambre verte (1977), of François Truffaut, with François Truffaut and Nathalie Baye
Tendre Poulet (1978), of Philippe de Broca, with Annie Girardot and Philippe Noiret
Le Quatrième Pouvoir (1985), of Serge Leroy, with Philippe Noiret and Nicole Garcia

There ,is, also since 1995, each year at end November when the town host the festival of Russian films or Festival du cinéma russe. A very important movie festival on Russian cinema with producers, directors and actors in competition are invited. Keep an eye on the webpage below for the 2018 festivities.webpage:
Charles Dumont (one of the composers/writers of Édith Piaf),did a song here sang by Sophie Makhno called the white night of Honfleur or the Nuit blanche à Honfleur. It was written in the 1970’s at the Hôtel du Cheval Blanc in Honfleur.

You now have good shopping at the outlet mall Honfleur Outlet, more here:

and the wonderful garden event Passionnément Jardin with plants and showings and purchases yes we had and good deals.  See it coming April 28-29 2018. More of that here:

And the good one Naturospace with wild butterflies and tropical lush in Honfleur! Just up the alley from the public park where the garden event is held follow the road and at the end is the Naturospace. More here:

And cruises up the Seine river even to Paris, here in French:

And those out of Honfleur into the ocean and around and under the bridge of Normandy. We have done the Calypso and Jolie France nice. More here:

Well, you get the idea , Honfleur is one whole packful of goodies ,and in such a small space is even more cozy, quaint, nice, beautiful Honfleur. Enjoy the trip. Cheers!

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