Archive for April, 2018

April 30, 2018

In memoriam my sweet Frenchie!

As my blog is part of my life history and all the wonderful travels done with my family and along throughout the years, I have a very sad news to tell all ,and make part of my blog.

I have no words as this is just been communicated to me by the doctors . My wife of 27,5 wonderful super years have passed away at Chubert Hospital in Vannes. It is a very sad moment for me but writing here is a soothing relief of the great pain I am going thru. We had 3 wonderful young men who are very close to her and me and we are hanging in there and we will survive together. My father still alive at 82 is with us.

The French family has call they are coming  ,and received condolances even from some not heard lately but in these times is when the real friends show up and I am very glad have a bunch.

In just 27,5 years of marriage date was December 26 1990 and her coming birthday was to be September 26 where she would have been 60 yrs old; she died of the lousy sickness of our times pancreatic cancer with intestinal occlusion complications due to the cancer.

In memoriam born in Meaux, dept 77 Seine et Marne, September 26 1958. I had the extreme priviledge of meeting by August 1989 and marrying on December 26 1990 in Daytona Beach Florida USA/ 3 young boys twins of 24 each and older of 26 years old are with me and very supportive. She died  at 19h (7pm) on April 30 2018 in Chubert Hospital (Bretagne Atlantique) in Vannes.

Farewell my Martine ,we will not forget your staunch positive aptitude and so much caring for us . As we had said many times, we take our motto from Alexandre Dumas Three Muskeeteers , ONE FOR ALL AND ALL FOR ONE. We are together thanks to your example and strenght. God bless you my mamie blue, and may the angels keep you great company as you look after us from your resting place.

We spoked and decided she will be cremated at Plescop, near Vannes and later on the ashes will be deposit in the Atlantic Ocean from Honfleur Normandy. Where my mother was done and where we are all coming.

Thank you all my readers to make it so comfortable to enjoy myself telling you all the good things about travel. I will be back , promise.

April 30, 2018

Travels in Rabelaisie; François Rabelais!

So on this long weekend, let me tell you about something personal. I love wines and drinking them, and also ,the French literature like one of my favorites François Rabelais. And now he is so close to me, past by it and stop of course several times, drinking on the road such evangelists tell you is not good, but with a prudent men it is always a tradition worth keeping. In Vino Veritas!!!

A bit on Rabelais I like

It all began near Chinon in the Loire Touraine area in the middle of vineyards and where the waters of the Vienne river meet the Loire river.  It was here in the end of the 15C in a farmhouse called “La Devinière”,(now a museum to his memory) attached to the parish of Seuilly and close by the abbey of Sully that came to our world  a literary genious call François Rabelais.  He offered the world the picturesque and funny stories of Pantagruel that his father Gargantua brought from the women Badebec, daughter of the king of the Amaurotes in Utopia. His books gave a tremendous popular following which was not to please the theologians of the Sorbonne in Paris. François Rabelais was accused of heresy and his book prohibited.  We have to say that François Rabelais was a humanist and his stories accompany the movement of the thinkers born in Italy and that marked the Renaissance. A humanism that the Church denounce as pagan.

Who is this guy? François Rabelais (aka Alcofribas Nasier, an anagram of François Rabelais, or that of  Séraphin Calobarsy) was a French writer of the humanism of the Renaissance period , born in 1483 or 1494 according to the theories and died in Paris on April 9 1553. His infant years was spent in a bourgeois level benefitting of a medieval schooling such as the Trivium (grammar, rhetoric, dialective etc) and Quadrivium (math, geometry, music and astronomy etc) . According to the accounts of history, Rabelais starts as a Franciscan in the convent of the Baumette before joining that of Puy Saint-Martin in Fontenay-le-Comte.  While writing articles not to much to the liking of the Church he gets a waver by Pope Clement VII to have permission to entered the Benedictine order of monks.  At the Abbey of Saint-Pierre-de-Maillezais, he meets the bishop  Geoffroy d’Estissac prelate name by king François I. The bishop d’Estissac takes Rabelais as his secretary and under his protection.  Rabelais takes a trip to Paris in 1528 or 1530 to study medicine as well as his first love relationship with a widower that makes him father of two children in 1540.

By September 1530 he entered the Medical faculty of Montpellier where he received a bachelor degree in six weeks in the spring of 1532. He then goes to Lyon a great cultural center where the library business is booming. By November 1st he is name doctor of the hospital of Hôtel Dieu de Notre Dame de la Pitié du Pont du Rhône where he works in intervals.

The book of Pantagruel come out in 1533 was an immediate success as well as an almanac Pantagrueline Prognostication that makes fun of the superstitions. The bishop of Paris ordered Rabelais in 1534 as his secretary and doctor while he was on a trip to Rome for serious business of convincing Pope Clement VII not excommunicate king Henri VIII.  The re edition of Pantagruel in 1534 is accompany by various orthographical ,syntax and typographical corrections and very innovating at the times , and shows the fight against the Sorbonne.

By January 1536, on a brief of Pope Paul III authorized Rabelais to reach the Benedictine monastery of his choice and the exercise of medicine so he joined the Abbey of Saint Maur de Saint Maur des Fossées. By 1540, Rabelais departs for Torino Italy while on the same year the Pope Paul III declares legitimes his sons François and Junie born out of wedlock.  By September 1545 , Rabelais is given a privilege for the printing of Tiers Livre (third book) edited in 1546 by Chrestien Wechel that he signed with his own name; the theologies of the Sorbonne condemned him for heresy. By March 1546, Rabelais escapes from France  until 1547 or early 1548 in Metz at the time an imperial free town. He entered at the service of the city as doctor and adviser living by Estienne Lorens in the district of the Old town, the building still has his name. The Quart Livre  (fourth book)  still has souvenirs of this stay in Metz by introducing the language of the town, his costumes, and city stories like the Graoully. By 1551, Cardinal du Bellay bequest on Rabelais the priesthood of Saint Martin de Meudon and of Saint Christophe du Jambet. Rabelais does not lived in Meudon but maybe in Paris or in the castle of Saint Maur.

In 1548, eleven chapters of the Quart Livre are published and by 1550 Rabelais is given by the King the right to print all his works without been copy or reproduce without his approval (sort of the first copyrights ruling ).  At the same time, the printing controls becomes stricter and the law of Chateaubriand gives the rise on one of its clauses that every book printed a copy needs to go to the library of prohibited books by the Sorbonne. And of course, the three novels of Rabelias are on the list.  This prohibition does not stop the circulation of works benefiting of a Royal privilege. The integral version of the Quart Livre out in 1552 has a dedication letter by Odet de Châtillon thanking for his support.

On January 7 1553 , Rabelais  stop his treatment, he died in Paris in a house on the street or rue des Jardins-Saint-Paul (reach on metro line 1 Saint Paul or Line 7 Pont Marie or even line 7 Sully-Morland), there is a commemoration plaque on the street.  His death gives way to several stories and rumors  such as saying like « Je n’ai rien, je dois beaucoup, je donne le reste aux pauvres » something like I have nothing I give a lot, and the rest I give to the poor’s or this other one  « Tirez le rideau, la farce est jouée » something like bring down the curtains the farce is played.  He is buried at the old cemetery of the Church of Saint Paul des Champs in Paris. The Church is now call St Paul St Louis ,however, some parts of the old Church still can be seen, like part of the bell tower you can still see in the house of no 32 rue Neuve Saint Pierre at the corner of rue Saint Paul. The cemetery was closed in 1791 with many bodies in the wells some executed during the French revolution. The body of Rabelais is there below the houses that were built later, and never care to find his and others remains.

You can come and see his museum (farmhouse birth)  in plain Touraine vineyards here:

To recap his most famous works and I love them all!

Pantagruel published in 1532, the publishing under the name of Alcofribas Nasier and some estimates it was published in 1533-34 or even 1535.  The déuxiéme livre or Gargantua is a follow up on the first one. Published in 1546 under his real name with the benefits of king François I and Henri II for the 1552 edition of Tiers Livre. The first edition of Quart Livre came out in 1548 with eleven chapters and many typos, the book printed by Michel Fezandat tells of the trip of Pantagruel and his friends to questioned the sayings of the Dive Bouteille.  By 1562 after his death it came out in the L’Isle Sonnante a partial edition of Cinquiéme livre (fifth book) that had 16 chapters. There was another version of 47 chapters coming out two years later. There is a manusciprt well preserve in the National Library or Bibliothéque Nationale ; since the 17C the authencity of these documents has always been questioned.

The information on the books , publications and history of François Rabelais in French is at the National Library site here:

And, of course, been in wine country Touraine, Loire, Rabelais finally comes to mind the title of my post. The information in French is here:  Chinon has the travels of Rabelais:

First, the area I am talking about is one I passed several times and get my wines from, at least most of them. One of the oldest AOC in France that of Chinon from 1937 covering 26 towns, 2400 hectares of vineyards, 2300 of those planted with Cabernet Franc, 74 ha with Chenin Blanc, a total of 173 winemakers producing 13 million bottles of wine each year with about 1,3 million exported of which 50% to the United States (my figures from 2015).

The vineyards are about 8 towns of the Rabelais spirit on the left bank of the Vienne river including his birthplace area of Seuilly that are all in the Chinon AOC wine denomination area.  One of the most ardent defender of this Rabelaisiens and Chinon is the Domaine or Château Joguet (my favorite buy a must to buy) own by Anne-Charlotte Genet ,that has the bottles since 1957 decorated with the Rabelais. The humanism in a bottle with 550 hectares of vineyards. Here the Vienne river cuts the appellation in two while the Loire river helps with the climate escaping the clouds…

Here the black grapes do battle even if minorities providing 17% of the red wine in other areas, while at Chinon itself they do 85% of the production, later Rosé and only 3% of whites.  Fruity , gourmand wines simple and well digest and limited keeps. The underground cellars of the Chateau de Chinon are huge and at 12C constant they can be visited. The dominant grape here is the Cabernet Franc fleuron after WWI in the area producing from it wines of fine tannins, ripe as well.  The tradition continues thanks to the amazing fraternity of wine lovers of Rabelais or the Entonneurs Rabelaisiens webpage here:

Some biased choices, sorry, but they are good seek them out and tell me what you think.

Domaine Charles Joguet Clos de la Dioterie 2015 32€  here rated 18.5 /20!! absolute a must trust me.Only 2 hectares here but sublime bio cultivation; and les Charmes 2014 is awesome; anecdote Charles Joguet is a painter but seldom does interviews;in the property you can see his paintings which are well known .

Another one Beatrice and Pascal Lambert ,La Croix Boissée 2014 , 20€ 18.5/20 bio in chalk lands black grape with minty and sweet spices it can be keep as the one above. For all budgets, Jourdan et Pichard , Les 3 Quartiers 2014,from parcels over 50 years old in bio too, mint coffee, muscadet nuts very nice at 15€ 16,5/20. Domaine Eric Hérault, La Poiteviniére 2016 10€ 16/20, high in the quaint town of Panzoult near the castle of Chinon, strawberries, black olives, and liquorice. All good!!

A webpage with properties information in the region, in English, have it on Chinon:

Enjoy the Touraine, a lot more than castles I am telling you ::) Happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all. Life goes on.

April 21, 2018

Some news from France CXC

And lets get back to France, it is hot, very hot, today we got to 29C or about 84F, and the locals went to the beach. Not me, need to work but will check it out a bit tomorrow. Full sunshine and no rain of course; lovely France. And gorgeous Morbihan in Brittany on the west coast beaches!

Let me tell you a bit on what is going on of interest to many, not to mention the strikes on SNCF continues and AF is calling for days too, the University students are holding out and been kick out by the police special riots from the Universities, and so on ,that is France ,champions strikers; one way to break from the cold into the hot  spring days!

I have mentioned before of things to do in Versailles, and told you it is more than a castle well here is one update of one place we like when lived there and visit when by the city. You have on the left the Centre Commercial Parly II shopping center par excellence and we like too, on the right you have the Château de Versailles and between these mega places you have a heaven of peace with the sweetness of big trees covering about 250 fields of football/soccer and still not as well visited. The Arboretum de Chévreloup sits between the cities of Rocquencourt (Van Gogh painted on the town) and Versailles in the Yvelines dept 78 and after some renovation is open again! Normally, they had opened about 50 hectares to the public but after this major work, you can walk on 200 hectares or 494 acres! On a land that was the hunting ground of king Louis XIV and part of the Domaine de Versailles until the French revolution. It has over 2500 species of trees in geographical lineup,one of the richest collections in Europe!  The blue cedar trees are one of the biggest in the world with 800 meters on a straight line bringing you back to what the botanists were thinking when they created in the 1920’s. See it! Arboretum de Chévreloup, 30 route de Versailles, (N186) open every day from  April 1 to November 15 (except labor day May 1st) from 10h to 18h admission is 7€ adults more info at  Arboretum de Chévreloup

Major work to renovated the Grand Palais, as it is in a critical state of repairs. The main building in the Universal Exposition of 1900 ,the works planned for it will be the first since opening in a historical work site with a budget of 466 million euros , it will start in December 2020 and finish by Spring 2023 and by the summer of 2024 will be an Olympic site. The public debate on the progress will be held and decision done by May 14 . You can follow the vote and construction updates here.  building debate on the Grand Palais

And the men of the Big wheel or Grande Roue  in the place de la Concorde by the Jardin des Tuileries is at it again with the city of Paris. This time going to the Council of State the highest body to rendered a decision. Marcel Campion wants the wheel to stay here , however if the decision is negative, he will take the wheel to Red Square in Moscow. The decision by the Council of State should be by May 19 next. Marcel Campion is offering two free days to the resident of Paris with proof of domicile, on May 17 and 18. All others still need to pay admission of 12€.  Description of the Big Wheel is here in city of Paris tourist office! Big Wheel Paris tourist office

And the very busy and popular RER C station of Saint Michel is due to open to the public again by April 30. It has been closed for repairs and now there is a tentative opening day according to  SNCF  Réseau .

And as the weather is nice ,and will be for the next few days ,here is my suggestion for a nice weekend brunch in Paris. Claus Saint-Germain. 2, rue Clément (6éme). Tél. +33 (0) 1 55 26 95 10. Brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 9h to 17H formule 4 brunchs from 31-34€. More here: Claus Saint Germain

And how about those wonderful Paris terraces, well they are all over and plenty of choices for all. My favorites the last couple years have been.

Marcello. 8, rue Mabillon (6éme). Tél. +33 01 43 26 52 26. open every day carte menu 30-60€ Marcello Paris

Le Drugstore. 133, avenue des Champs-Élysées (8éme). Tél. +33 01 44 43 77 64. Open every day carte menu 40-60€. Le Drugstore Paris

And with the look alone of the Basilica Sainte Clotilde you have the quaint Le Basilic. 2, rue Casimir-Perier (7éme). Tél. +33  01 44 18 94 64. Open every day carte menu 50-70€.  Le Basilic Paris

Maison Maison. Voie Georges-Pompidou, facing  16, quai du Louvre (1éme). Open every day except Mondays and Tuesdays for lunch. carte menu 15-30€

At La Démesure (9éme)  you have your views on the Seine river on the righ bank or rive droite on a boat barge of 120 persons capacity with tables on the quays. La Démesure sur Seine. 69, port de la Rapée (12éme). Open every day except Sundays and Mondays. Carte menu 20-40€.  La Démesures sur Seine Paris

And only steps from the wonderful nice pretty a must parc Monceau,you have a huge terrase for 70 persons capacity hiding behind the gate of the Camondo museum ,see the wonderful gardens . Le Camondo. 61 bis, rue de Monceau (8éme). Tél. +33  01 45 63 40 40. Open every day except Sundays. Carte menu 45-55€. Le Camondo Paris

And of course on these brunch and terrace combination, cannot go away without telling you again my all time favorite in my favorite spots in Paris, the 16éme and quartier Muette. What was an old train station for several years a wonderful place to eat, drink and enjoy the terraces in the back overlooking the Parc Ranelegh. Restaurant Le Gare, 19 chaussée de la Muette, metro La Muette line 9 leaves you facing the restaurant to your left out of station. Open every day menu carte from 24-39€ Enjoy it. Those from my previous life in the travel forums will remember taking you there each time in Paris. Webpage: Restaurant Le Gare

And Mexico is feeling strong in Paris! La Casa Corona , a house of artists and part of Corona France (the Mexican beer people) has open a new ephemeral bar in the 11éme on what was a huge loft with a glass ceiling now has several bars, lots of vegetation, water fresheners sprays, hammocks, swingers and small corners to speak softly between friends. The invited artists will be amongst you and could expose their works in the bar where a display has been installed;nothing told in advance you just show up and see who is showing or playing there. The La Casa Corona, 71 rue de la Fontaine au Roi, 11éme, Will have the space open from April 19 to May 13, Tuesdays to Thursdays from 17h to midnight and from Fridays to Sundays until 02h . You pay only 5€ for a corona beer and 10€ for cocktails. Really!!! See more in their Facebook page here: La Casa Corona Paris

Well Bio is on, and even I got some stuff bio here ::) Some of the best in my opinion and they are many and more and more coming.

Wild & The Moon has six addresses in Paris (last one at the fondation Lafayette Anticipations), the green cantina of  bio, local,  ethical, in season, vegan, rich in super foods, without lactose or additives or glutens.  Loaded with sweets as well and spices see it at  Wild & The Moon. 55, rue Charlot (3éme). Tél. +33 09 51 80 22 33. Open every day carte menu 15-30€. Wild & Le Moon Paris

A few steps from the Folies Bergére there is a counter, café-restaurant, and cantina.  The first is for take out food with retreats of purchase at the Le Campanier, the second is simple dishes with lots of vegetables and the cantina for fast lunch a la carte like soup of the day, veggie burger, and  cheesecake etc etc.  See at Supernature. 8 (counters), 12 (cantinas) , and 15 (restaurant), rue de Trévise (9éme). Tél. +33 01 42 46 58 04. Open every day except Saturdays and Sundays evening. Carte menu  16-30€. Brunch  on Sundays from 11h30 to 16h, 25€.  Supernature Paris

And for the fresh bio go and done since 1989,when a group got together here to offered all bio and one of the originals of Paris with a large choice of fruits, vegetables , and groceries and take out food.  Heavy on Sundays morning, the Marché bio Raspail. Boulevard Raspail, between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes (6éme). Sundays from 9h to 15h. Marché Bio Raspail Paris

From bio to Cognac, well it is natural too ::)

The owner of cognac Remy Martin and liqueur Cointreau and rum Mount Gay just published the financials with cognac sales of 265M euros an increase of 2,6% if exchange rates taken into account ,otherwise it would be 12,8%. The sales of cognac Remy Martin are about 75% of that are 18;3% of the growth alone. The performance is very solid in the United States its first market as well as Russia, and the travelers sales on planes airports etc. The mark is positioning on the luxury segment and expect to have 60% of their sales on products costing more than 50 USDollars per bottle to the 2019-2020 period. The group overall sales are 1,13 billion euros and growth of 7,3% for 2017-2018. The story of Remy Martin here: cognac Rémy Martin

And I close out this edition of Some news from France with something from my earlier youthful days on light airplanes. ….

This weekend today at Cannes there will be the first Red Bull Air Race in France!!! with the participation of five French pilots. More here: Red Bull Air Race Cannes 2018

However, if you like to do this in while visiting France, let me give you some leads !!! The nice aerodrome of my nice Saint-Cyr-l’Ecole  and Dreux , have friendly voltage air rides for about 30-40 minutes and 240€ on a CAP 10 airplane, the most popular plane of  its class in the world. Also, in my old hangouts areas of the L’Isle-Adam, aerodrome Persan-Beaumont  are given rides of 30 minutes on an EXTRA 200 for about 526€, video souvenir included . For the same price in Coulommiers, dept 77 Seine-et-Marne, it is possible to fly for about 25 minutes on a wonderful Pitts Spécial, the mythical plane of voltage from the 1960’s and 265 Horse powers. And on the same club you can do a ride on a Robin R 2160 for 339€. Nearer me now in Ploemeur, near Lorient a ride sensation on a CAP 10 is doable for 120€.  At the Rennes airport they can give you a baptismal flight of about an hour over the Mont-Saint-Michel  for 749€.  You will do this and all along the coast in a Boeing Stearman of WWII vintage.   all of these  aerodromes can be found here. Just put the name of the town in France section. Aerodromes of France

Enjoy my belle France as I do. Have a great weekend you all. Happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all.




April 17, 2018

The Royal Palace of Madrid, Palacio Real de Madrid!

Let me take you back to my Spain, always memories and wonderful times of old and new. When I lived in the city going to the Royal Palace was a treat, coming from Quintana working class neighborhood. We had no money to go in back then in the old regime.  It took me to leave Madrid and Spain , spent some years in America; and finally come back to it in 1990 to see it inside. It was a treat I will always cherished for me and for the fact that I was there with my girlfriend , today wife of 27 years!!! and 3 wonderful young men.!!!

Oh yes this is the Palacio Real or Palacio de Oriente as some locals might call it.  I have written bits of it in other posts on Madrid (too many to mention, just search in my blog) ,but decided to do one for it alone. After all, it is all worth it me think. Therefore ,here is my story on it.

It is the official resident of the king of Spain even if only uses it for protocole functions and the rest is open to the public as a museum. Located in the Plaza de Oriente, right along Calle Bailén with metro Opera station lines 2 and 5 , as well as Bus lines 3, 25, 39 and 148.  The walk from Puerta del Sol takes approximately 15 minutes. The current king Felipe VI and queen Letizia and children live in the Palacio de Zarzuela. The Zarzuela palace was built in the 17C by king Felipe IV about a dozen km from city center Madrid to served as a residence for hunting and pleasure. You can find out more of the Palacio de la Zarzuela at El Pardo webpage in Spanish here:

The current Royal Palace was built between 1738 and 1755 on orders of king Felipe V and lived by the king Charles III in 1764. The Royal Palace was built on the site of the former Royal Alcazar fortress destroyed by fire in 1734, and the king wanted to rebuilt it at the same spot to mark the continuity of the Spanish monarchy.


left side of court parvis back of Royal Palace


on Calle de Bailén Royal Palace


gates back court parvis from Cathedral Almudena

In 1735, he call upon Filippo Juvarra, considered at the time the best architect in Europe to Madrid. Juvarra suggest a huge castle  with four courts to allow housing the Royal family, aristocracy, ministers, and necessary services of the palace sort of like the work done in the Chateau de Versailles. However, Juvarra died in 1736 before the palace work was to begin so the king call upon a disciple of Juvarra, that was working since 1736 in the La Granja Royal Palace near Segovia, another Italian name  Giovanni Battista Sacchetti with instructions to minimize the cost of construction. Sacchetti suggest a palace with one court that is approved in 1737 and he is name architect of the palace in 1738. He worked there with the help of Ventura Rodriguez( amongst his work is the Royal palace of Aranjuez) , and Francesco Sabatini (that designed the wing that gives out to the street Calle de Bailén ,stables, and imperial stair) , and the garden by his name as well as Fray Martin Sarmiento with the Marquis de Balbueno as treasury administrator of the construction.

Entrance to Jardines de Sabatini

The building was to be square around a huge court and done with granite, white stone of Colmenar and marble for the details. The building is higher on the façade on the street with three floors, it has an interior floor and two with windows link by a colossal ionic stone; a large cornice with a baluster on top the superior area. The façade to the garden has a lowering position with lots of windows. The Royal palace is one of the biggest in all of western Europe after that of the Louvre, taking about 135K square meters and having 2800 rooms with 50 open to the public!! On its three floors and three mezzanines under the ceiling of each floor. The facades measure about 130 meters on the side for 33 meters high; and has 870 windows and 240 balconies that open ups over the facades or to the patio. It ,also, has 44 stairs and more than 30 main salons or big rooms.

Worth mentioning me think, the statues of the Visigoths kings that decorate the Plaza de Oriente were to be put up in the Palace above roof but been too heavy with the risk of falling, they were put in the square now. The main elements you should look for when visiting are the Throne room or Salon del Trono, also called Salon del Besamanos or kissed hands room as it is here where the reverence to the king are done. The patio and gate of the prince or Puerta del Principe, the area living of king Charles III (Carlos III); the hall of mirrors or Salon de los Espejos; The columns room or Salon de las Columnas; the room of Halbardiers or alabarderos; the Porcelains room or Saleta de Porcelana; Royal Chapel or  Capilla Real; and the Royal armory or Real Armeria.

The Royal Palace is richly decorated with portraits done by painters such as Goya, Velazquez, El Greco, Pierre Paul Rubens, Tiepolo, Mengs, and le Caravage. Several Royal collections of great historical significance are also in the Royal Palace including the Royal Armory with weapons and armor dating from the 13C, and the world’s biggest collection of Stradivarius, as well as collections on tapestries, porcelain, furniture, and other works of arts of great importance. Starting in 1636, the Flemish painter Frans Snijders painted several potraits of hunting scenes for king Felipe IV to be put in the hunting pavilion of the tower of Parada and the Royal Palace.

The change of the Royal guard in the Royal Palace is done every Wednesday from October to July and at 11h; need to check before going as this can be change without notice due for official acts or weather conditions.

You have two gardens around the Royal Palace, these are the  Campo del Moro (moors) on the west and Manzanares river, and the Jardines of Sabatini on the north of the Royal Palace next to it. The Royal Palace is bordered on the east by the Plaza de Oriente separated by the Calle de Bailén; on the south or Armories you have the wings of the Palace; on the south of this square you have the Cathedral of the Almudena,one of Madrid’s patron Saint.

To help you plan your visit here is the official site of the Royal Palace by the National Heritage Monument organization.

And from Madrid tourist office;

And for a closer look at the Spanish Royal Family here is the official link:

The current king of Spain, Felipe VI:  name as his Majesty the King, Don Felipe de Borbón y Grecia,(Bourbon and Greece) is the third child of the former kings Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía. Born in Madrid January 30 1968 in the clinic of our Lady of Loreto. He was baptized with the names of Felipe, Juan, Pablo ,and Alfonso of All Saints in memory of respectively, the first Bourbon that reigned over Spain (grandson of Louis XIV of France and born in Versailles, Felipe V); of his paternal grandfather chief of the Royal House of Spain, of his maternal grandfather king of Greece,and of his great grandfather Don Alfonso XIII, king of Spain. His godparents were his grandfather Royal Highness Don Juan de Borbón, Count of Barcelona, and his great grandmother king  Victoria Eugenia. Curiosities of life, the current pretender to the throne of France as legimirate king Louis XX is named Alfonso also a Bourbon and born in Madrid. The current king’s Father Juan Carlos is a cousin of queen Elizabeth II of UK, and great (or is it another great ) Grandson of queen Victoria of UK, nephew of Emperor Frederick II of Germany and 5th in line to the throne of France ! blue blood….

Hope you enjoy the bits of history here, and a fine tradition I like. Have a great week with plenty of happy travels, good health ,and many cheers!!!

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April 16, 2018

Some news from France CLXXXVIIII

And we have Mondays, well if we didn’t then we we will have Tuesdays so let life goes on as plan and do not think so much about it, it is what it is,another day on Earth. Enjoy it. We have sunshine today and temps up to 13C  or about 58F no rain and it seems Spring is starting to show up this week.

Let me bring you up today on some goodies in my belle France and especially on the most beautiful city in the world, Paris.

Let’s off with the bike network of Paris , Vélib has a new management firm starting this year and apparently is causing some misfortunes already. We do not want a traffic jam on bikes lol!!  Paris already has 661 stations out of a planned 1400 already but many of them find themselves empty, bikes that cannot be removed, and very bad customer service. The new management company Smovengo had promise to make an additional 200 operational by January… is under pressure. Well I imagine from whom!  More info and map here: Velib stations map in Paris

And bike or not, you will be able to to to a library in Paris on a Sunday. The first one was the library or médiathèque Edmond Rostand (17éme), and there are other  7 libraries that will open normally from 13h to 18h . The objective is to have an additional 10 open by 2020. The current list of open libraries on Sundays are  Médiathèque Marguerite Duras – 115, rue de Bagnolet (20éme) Bibliothèque du cinéma François Truffaut – Forum des Halles – 4, rue du cinéma (Iéme).this one from 12h to 19h. Médiathèque Marguerite Yourcenar – 41, rue Alleray (15éme) ;Médiathèque Françoise Sagan – 8, rue Léon Schwartzenberg (10éme ); Médiathèque de la canopée La Fontaine – 10, passage de la Canopée (Iéme). from 12h to 18h. Médiathèque Hélène Berr – 70, rue Picpus (12éme)  ;Médiathèque Edmond Rostand – 11, rue Nicolas Chuquet (17éme). Happy readings!

Did I said , Paris has it all; well here it is in next two paragraphs.

They open a naturist space in the bois de Vincennes (12éme) since last Saturday in more than  7 300 m2, between the allée Royale ,and the route Dauphine.  The area is not close, but just a panel indicating « entrée » or entrance and other panels in wood indicating «You are entering into a space for natural nudity is authorise».  The city of Paris is allowing a period of 6 months from April 14 to October 24 2018. There is even an event to visit the Palais de Tokyo on May 5 2018 totally nude and already for 160 spaces the city has received 30 000 requests!!! according to the nudist association of Paris or the Association des naturistes de Paris.

And if the above do not crack you up then hold on for this one.  Hundreds of prostitutes came out on the street protesting the fines incur by the clients!!! Coming together at the wonderful explicit place Pigalle , historical neighborhood of the prostitution in Paris on a call from their syndicate = union , the  Syndicat du travail sexuel (Strass).  The law came into effect April 13 2016 where a client asking for favors to a prostitute can be fined if caught 1500 euros ,and if repeat offender  3750 euros. So I guess not enough clients because of the law ::)

In a more mundane news you have the Carrefour starting something unique.  Walk in drive in for pedestrians to their stores one of them I know at Bio Fondary, 3, rue Fondary ,15éme and plan about 9 others all over Paris. No need for car drive in, now you can walk in yourselves….! This is already happening in other cities such as Lyon and Saint Etienne. At Lyon, you have them at avenue de Saxe and a Carrefour City Renan Jean-macé.

A historical hotel is back, built in 1925, the Hotel Madison is only steps from the statue Diderot by a corner in the boulevard Saint-Germain. An Art Déco architecture in one of the most bohemians neighborhoods of Paris. Jean Cocteau  like very much this place where he came often for a last glass while Albert Camus  lock himself always at room 65  to finalize the writing of his novel the Foreigner or L’étranger. This room is open up to the Church Saint-Germain-des-Prés, on the side of nave, with light cloths small size with a bed of 160 cm rectangular pillow with golden cords and a light luminosity. The renovation done recently allows to create 14 communicating rooms and 12 triple rooms.  The hotel puts at the reach of their young clientele small boats like those seeing in the jardin du Luxembourg that you can use there too or a pedal automobile in house.Located at  143, bd Saint-Germain, tél. +33(0) ;More info here: Hotel Madison Paris


Something new and nice from A Canadian in Paris. The roaste chicken with cauliflower is very good indeed, done by the Canadian chef Noam Gedalof (had experience with Thomas Keller in California, Pascal Barbot in Paris) and his wife Etheliya Hananova a sommelier and daughter of Russian restaurant immigrants to Canada.  Also, Joris Garcia, the sommelier from Canada as well. Etheliya was a lyrics singer before becoming a sommelier of wines! See them try them at  Comice, 31, avenue de Versailles, 16éme Tel +33 (0) My kind of neighborhood! Open for lunch Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and dinners Tuesdays to Saturdays. Menu: 46€, and 80€ (Lunch), 120€ (dinner).  A la Carte about 84€ for three dishes. More here: Comice Paris

Another find is this new place in the new “Brooklyn area of Paris”, the Pantin. My first entry point to Paris back in 1990.  On an old flour factory from 1923, and a beautiful architectural surrounding purchased by a branch of BNP Paribas bank, today housing offices,but, however, you can eat here wonderfully good. A bistrot next to the Canal! Bistrot Des Grands Moulins 1 5, 3, rue du Général Compans – Pantin. Near REC C Gare de Pantin on the other side of the Canal de l’Ourcq.nice More here: Bistrot des Grands Moulins

Now something do not write enough, but you know if read my blog from where I grew up and diplomas on wine. A passion with a cellar to look over…

Each year more than 8 billion bottles of wine is produce in my belle France, with as many choices on the market!!! literally ! Therefore, how to choose to put in your cellar?  This is the 8B question, and very personal I must said from experiences ,even tutoring with the Rothschild!  The keeping of the wine must be done to improve its attributes, the texture, taste and aromas ; more than be keep the wine improves. You can keep to have souvenirs of a moment done in a span of life always trying to improve the quality of the wines are many reasons to have a cellar for keeps. Now, even here we differ, I know m any friends who had kept their wines for 30 years (even my father in law here lol!) ; however, this is too much to dwell on in my opinion. I usually buys my wines knowing that at maximum will be kept for five years in my cellars. Unless, it is a purchase for a special occassion. For instance, it is a French tradition to buy a wine from the year your child is born, and wait until 18 to open the bottle so we did with our sons with Mouton-Rothschild first wine.

After all, we notice that about only 1% of the wines are worth conserving , more reason to have a well chosen cellar or cave in your house (and be sure it is a cellar not a basement).  We all know that the tannins are known to preserve the alive wines such as the Reds like the high labels of Bordeaux because they have the tendancy to keep their tannins longer and more of it.  The same can be said of the wines with high sugar content such as the sweet white wines that helps in avoid the deterioration; therefore , the more the white wine is sweet the more it will aged; that is why the liquorous wines lilke the Sauternes are known to aged well. In a general sense, the red wines aged better than the whites, however some types of white wines like those with Chardonnay or Rieslings of high labels can last as long.

The millésime of the wine is the date in which the grapes are harvest and not the year of which the wine is sold.  It is important to look at the best millésimes years to put in your cellar, and even more so on the name of the producer not the label but who makes the wine. Generally, if the year of harvest is bad the wine will not aged as much, but this can extended if handle by a good producer. The hot days together with cool nights all contribute to developed the aromatic potential, the maturity, and the acidic vivacity of the grape aiding the wine aged better.

What wine to drink with strawberries. I say this because this is the season here and the fraises or strawberries look delicious as well as one of my favorite fruits. In a sorbet, salad, tartelette or even a salted recipe the red fruits are perfumy, and acidic sweet;the ideal to accompany this is a Muscat grape dry or sweet depending on the preparation of the fruit.  In a general sense, the white wines perfumy, light, pure, and young are the perfection for the aromatic intensity of the fruit.  If you do a tartelette of Strawberries then a sparkling white or sweet white will do; a strawberry salad with mint than a muscat rosé, and on a strawberry sorbet especially if a bit of sugar on top then the best is the Champagne rosé. Enjoy it all!!!

On another angle or different thing, we have the former Royal Manufacture of coins and medals open to the public and welcoming families. This is the manufacture royale des monnaies et médailles. You can discover the history of the treasury and the French institution the oldest founded in 864AD by king Charles the Bald.  This is the last factory of Paris and today houses the manufacture and a museum. You come to the entrance and go up a stair to the first floor (US 2fl) and see the exposition room, the shops of cutting, the Grand Monnayage or foundary where the workers did their job behind glass windows. A bit further, you stop at the manufacturing room before lots of machines that tell you the route of the fabrication of the coins and medals.  There are even tours for families to show the children. Manufacture Royale des Monnaies et Médailles de Paris, 11, quai de Conti (6éme). Tuesdays to Fridays 14h to 16h check schedule and hours please. More info here in English/French: Monnaie de Paris

Another nice conversion building in Paris. The BETC agency in charge to erase the frontiers between the artists and the amateurs has created a space where all can be borrowed such as works of art for a few weeks, and show them elsewhere  following the rules of the original artists.  To this it was chosen a nice piece of history of Paris, the Magasins Généraux, once the favorite of graffitti people until 2016 the BETC renovated the building; today it offered a lot of free events and organised by the CNEAI and MediaLab93.  You can visit here the Le Poste Général, that is accessable for all. See it enjoy it by the Pantin, the new Brooklyn of Paris ::) Le Centre National Edition Art et Image – Les Magasins Généraux 1, rue de l’Ancien Canal – Pantin. More in French here: Magasins Généraux Paris

Something beefy to close out this post, is the story of Hippopotamus chain of Restaurants. Early on in my French rounds, I ate a lot in them with the family but always the same sentiments these are not good steakhouses. Then, in 2017 ,they were purchase by the groupe Bertrand (owner of many resto chains and franchiser for Burger King France). The chain Hippopotamus has a new menu and decoration with cow leather seat buckets and all you can eat french fries as well as the sauces.  The interior is already more pleasant to be in with a good ambiance with a ranch hipster look. The food the burgers are ok, and the steaks are the biggest seen here. More on the restos here and you can find your closest by going to Nos Restaurants center upper page. Hippopotamus Restaurants

The groupe Bertrand is here on restauration you can see the chains of restos and on Hotellerie ,the chains of hotels. In French: Groupe Bertrand


April 14, 2018

A town with a lot more than France,Angers!

Going or coming along my ways in my belle France, need to tell you about a town that was a pleasant visit, and even close by , so much to see ! The title is of more than France because here the Plantagenêt dynasty that a lot to do with England was started really!  So, let me tell you a bit on Angers ,on a cloudy warm day in my gorgeous Morbihan. I have put this post in my black and white series, no pictures. See my many posts on it in my blog.

Angers is a city on the banks of the Maine river in department 49 ,Maine-et-Loire in the region of Pays de la Loire. The city is at the confluence of the Loir, Mayenne and  Sarthe river been the latter two which form the Maine river by the island of Saint Aubin and the course continues into the Loire river. It is located about 80 km from Nantes and 81 from Le Mans, 110 km from Rennes, and 265 km from Paris. Only at 123 km from the Atlantic ocean at Pornic and 143 km from the Manche in Normandy. Historical capital of the Anjou , birthplace of the Plantagenêt dynasty , and one of the intellectual centers of Europe in the 15C under the reign of the good king René.

Angers is located on three road axis ; the A11 between Paris and Nantes, the A87 towards La Roche-sur-Yon via Cholet and the A85 towards Tours. Rennes can be reach by the expressway D775; and the D761 connects Angers to Poitiers, and Niort. All roads well-traveled by yours truly.  Angers by its location on a major river such as the Maine has 8 bridges including a railroad bridge. You can count them north to south as the pont de Segré, railroad bridge; Viaduc de la Maine go around town via the A11; pont Jean-Moulin connects the area of Capucins  to the neighborhood of  Saint-Serge; pont Confluences connects the hospital district and the Gaumont multicinema ,and now reserved for the tramway, bikes, pedestrians and emergency vehicules;  pont de la Haute-Chaîne connects the old historical boulevards to the right bank; pont de Verdun, oldest bridge over the river connects city center to the La Doutre, since the 11C;  pont de la Basse-Chaîne, near the castle; and the pont de l’Atlantique, continuation of the roads along the river linking the city center to the districts of Lac de Maine, Belle-Beille, and west of the city since  1973.

The transport here is good, easy no major traffic jams ever encounter. The train station is Gare Saint Laud, the junction with Tours at Saint Nazaire and Le Mans; this is the principal station getting the TGV fast train to Paris-Montparnasse, and Roissy CDG airport. Also, to Nantes. The river transportation is nice due to a pleasure marina at Cale de la Savatte  welcomes cruiser and boaters and in summer even cruises up the Mayenne and Sarthe, and Loire rivers. There is free bike service for those living or working in the city with the VéloCité program network. It is,also, in the network EuroVelo6 or the Eurovéloroute des Fleuves  crossing over Angers and connecting  Saint-Brevin-les-Pins to Constanza Romania, going across Europe from the Atlantic Ocean tothe Black Sea passing ten countries and on the Loire, Rhine,and Danube rivers. In the dept 49 of the Maine-et-Loire, this route is part of the local Loire à Vélo. In town the bus network is done by Keolis and intercities by Anjoubus.

The city architecture can be told in the materials used for construction such as the schist and tuffeau chalk that makes Angers a city of black and white. The inner old town you have the concentration of historic buildings such as the Cité ,the oldest neighborhood with small narrow streets and houses from the Middle Ages. The neighborhood of La Doutre on the right bank is the richest in these types of medieval and renaissance architecture; the city center has buildings to the end of the middle ages to the 19C, sometimes in the Haussmannian style.

A bit of history  I like

The name of Angers was mentioned for the first time around the year 150 by Ptolémée in his work of Geography as Juliomagus. On the stone table of Peutlinger we find the name Iuliomago. Angers is again mentioned in the Middle ages under the name of Andecava civitas  and in the 5C as  Andecavis, Andegavis between  861 and 882,  Angieus in 1127, Angeus  in 1205 ,and  Angiers from the 12C. It was or is known as the city of flowers , the city white or the city black as well as the Athens of the west. The Bretons and the Vikings made incursions here and ransacked the town by 845 and again in 852. After the battle of  Jengland, Charles  the Bold king of the Francs and Erispoë, Breton chief get together in 851 to signed the treaty of Angers that gives to the Bretons the country around Rennes, Nantes, and Retz fixing the limits of Brittany. The last Caroligians, king of the Francs and counts of Anjou gives the management to viscounts from the end of the 9C. One of these, Foulques le Roux, becomes Foulques Ier d’Anjou in 929  and creates the frist dynasty of counts fo Anjou :from 1060, the Plantagenêt dynasty takes the title of Count with Geoffroy III the bearded, grandson of Foulques Nerra. Leading an empire that goes from the Pyrénées to Ireland.  Queen Blanche de Castille ordered built a fortress with a rampart of 3800 meters long on the two sides of the river ; the circle of ramparts in the lower empire starts by the 13C making the cité a military bastion that is closed to the laiques persons.

By 1360, the county is raised to Duchy and Louis I becomes the first Duke of Anjou. By 1434 starts the reign of the good king René duke of Anjou ,Lorraine, Bar, Count of Provence , king of Naples and Jerusalem.  It had built three mansions near Angers such as  Haute-Folie, Reculée ,and Chanzé,near Baumette, where he found in 1451 the convent of the Cordeliers,and he bequested at his death the tapestry of the Apocalypse to the Cathedral. In 1474, king Louis XI does a movement against the Good King René by coming to Angers as a friendly march with his army and camps outside ; the the king René too old to fight decides to give his kingdom without a fight and Anjou finally entered into the Royal domain. In 1619 ,king Louis XIII authorized Marie de Médicis to stayed at her court in Angers, and she comes to lived at the Logis Barrault; by 1620 there was the battle of Ponts-de-Cé  between the allies of the king and those of the mother ; rapidly the treaty of Angers is done and the king accepts the return of his mother to the court of France.

The war of the Vendée creates great damange and losses here with fighting between the revolutionary Republicans and the Vendéens royalists non stop to 1793; the terror come over with many deaths by firing squad at the champ des Martyrs near Avrillé; a guillotine is installed 1793-94 at the current square or Place du Ralliement. Eventually in 1807, Napoléon Ier ordered the medieval fortifications destroyed. During the WWI the city does not suffers much, while during the WWII , she gets involved allowing the Polish government in exile to be seated here at the Château de Pignerolle, becoming the de facto capital of Poland..From 1941, the Nazis make Angers the seat of their HQ of the west of France and later at Pignerolle the communication center for submarines. In 1942,Angers becomes the seat for the regional center of the Gestapo. On August 10 1944, the city is liberated by the US 3rd Army of General Patton.

Things to see in Angers.

The episcopal palace of Angers and the Palais du Tau, since the 9C at the top of the Cathedral is witness to the roman architecture. There is a ramparts wall gallo roman from the 3C of which a tower is preserved and the Synodal room roman, the gothic chimney , a library, a stairs from the renaissance period and an apartment from the 19C. You have the Hospital Saint-Jean d’Angers of hospital architecture located in the La Doutre neighborhood built back in 1180! With sick rooms of the gothic angevin style, built by the narrowest point in the river on a hill of schist, the Castle of Angers began in 1232 under Blanche de Castille as well as a circle wall today the boulevards of the city center . One enclosure has 800 meters long and 17 towers of several meters in diameter and about 30 plus meters high. The house or  maison d’Adam is very nice medieval house in wood and has two facades of 10 meters each on six floors located near the Cathedral taken its name from the historical Adam and Eve sculptured on the house with decoration of persons and animals.  The maison de Simon Poisson in the Doutre built end of 15C, Hôtel des Pénitentes  from flamboyant gothic end 15C to first and second renaissance periods. The before mentioned  logis Barrault  early renaissance style and one of the first mansions done between court and garden and wonderful facades.  There is also, the logis Pincé, from the first renaissance style, with two bodies  around a tower stairs. Built in 1871 the Grand Théatre in the Place du Ralliement, is of the Haussmanian style ,and transformation of the Second Empire. The abbey Church of the former Abbey of Ronceray is a major work of Roman art with a nave of the 11C well preserved and chapters with decoration of vegetable,animals and figurative scenes. In the old center or Cité you have the wonderful Cathedral of Saint-Maurice built early 11C with an architecture between the roman and the angevin gothic. It has important collection of tapestries shown in the building of Saint-Jean to the Saint-Maurice. The abbey Church of the former abbey of Saint-Serge is also representative of the angevin gothic syle especially its choir. The tower or tour Saint-Aubin is an old clock tower by the former abbey of Saint-Aubin.  Finally, the Church Notre-Dame-des-Victoires is a modern realisation built in 1899 in romano byzantine style with great luminosity and esthetiques interiors.

The main green areas in the city are the Jardin des Plantes an English style garden around a stream bordered by shrubs and statues; the jardin du Mail,wide promenade with a model of a fountain shown at the Universal Exposition of 1855 and a French style garden  and the parc de l’arboretum  enclosing five gardens with different varieties of trees, flowers etc around 1500 species and 4300 trees.

There are museums, my favorites are the fine arts museum or musée des beaux-arts d’Angers, it is at the famous logis Barrault,with museum graphics and the history of the city, and upstairs the fine arts. Located in the former abbey Church of Toussaint,you have the Galerie David d’Angers  showing an important part of the work of Pierre-Jean David, aka David d’Angers. The collection includes the quasi totals of the shop models in plaster of the sculptur of the 23 statues shown, and the model of the fronton of the Panthéon, etc etc. Located in the Castle, you have the Galerie de l’Apocalypse  showing the trapesty of the apocalypse ordered by Louis 1 Duke of Anjou at the end of the 14C; retracing the apocalypse according to Saint John but showing as well the sociopolitical context of France during the war of Hundred years. It has 106 meters now from 140 meters at the original and still gives a rare look at medieval art.  The museum or musée Jean-Lurçat  as well as the contemporary tapestry Done in 1957, the tapestry of the cry of the world or Chant du Monde  is a series of ten tapestries on human destiny and as honoring the tapestry of the apocalypse.

And last but not least,  the library Toussaint has over 250K volumes of local heritage including psalms Caroligians from the middle of the 9C as well as 117 incunables where it has still ten in the world !, and the first printed book after the Bible of Gutenberg,in  1457. Printed in three colors blue, red and black. Just outside town in Marcé ,you have an aerodrome housing the regional museum of the airplane with several models of old light airplanes, it is at Angers-Marcé. Very nice place indeed but need a car.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this intriguing nice city by the Maine are here:

City of Angers in French info on right about museums and castle :

Tourist office of Angers in English:

Tourist info from the region department Anjou in English:

Region Pays de la Loire tourism on Angers in English :

There you go, now you are all set to come and visit Angers, this is worth the detour and you will be glad you did. And ,remembrer, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all !!!

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April 8, 2018

The story of an American in Paris, Baker!

On a rainy cloudy and cool humid what have you Sunday evening, and my game already , something in my blog. From a story by fame French presenter on the history secrets that I like, Stéphane Bern. Let me tell you a story about a lady not so much mentioned now but worth it in gold.

The story goes from Cabaret to Resistant fighter, as she was, let me tell you a bit about Josephine Baker. She was born very poor in Saint Louis ,Missouri on June 3rd 1906, her mother a laundry lady and her father never knew him, some says he was white. Her mother Carrie put her to work in rich families who mistreated her and exploited her. However, by 13 yrs old she gets into the spectacle virus and gets her first job in a small theatre., where she makes a sensational impression.

She even accepts to follow the troop of performers in exchange for menu services ,and dresser of the group Shuffle Along, a group of black performers on a musical comedy. One day a dancer is hurt ,and she replaces her, the rest is history as it is said.

By 1921, she marries here first husband Billy Baker and therefore keeps the last name, even if she divorced him to continue her dancing career. In New York she is hired by a cabaret at Broadway, the Plantation Club. It is there that Caroline Dudley finds her and brings her to Paris. There is great curiosity in Paris for black performers and there is even an exposition on Black Culture at the Museum of Decoratif Arts . In October 2 1925, it is shown the first of the Revue Négre (black review) and she plays on doors closed with some famous entrepreneurs in the place. It is also played at the Théatre des Champs-Elysées ; these shows are a complete success for her;

The queen of the wild dance becomes a star. By 1926 she plays at the Aux Folies Bergére in the review of Folie du jour or crazy day, and brief change to Vent de folie or wild wind she stays there from 1927 to 1931. She was an eternal lover and marries several times , at least five times with several lovers in addition. She married Jean Lion that allows her to become French citizen even if the union did not lasted too long,she kept in good relation with the inlaws as well as protected them during WWII. She marries orchesta leader Jean-Claude Bouillon, from which together they adopted 12 children, and also married briefly an American artist Robert Brady. By 1933 she hands out food in Montmartre in charitable organisations.

During the review La Folie du jour she encountered Giuseppe di Abatino aka Pepito, and becomes her manager,who advised her to open a nightclub and negotiates publicity contracts making the figure of Bakerfix, a lotion that does the hair as hers, and women love it. She opens at the Casino de Paris in leopart outfit with the theme Chiquita with a song calle J’ai deux amours ( I have two loves) and a cigar the show lasted 421 days! She does some cinema such as Zou Zou next to Jean Gabin in 1934 and later Princess Tam Tam in 1935 with Albert Préjean, as well as the operetta de Offenbach, La Créole receiving advise for the role from Sasha Guitry ,and becomes another success.

By 1935, Pepito obtained a contract for the Ziegfeld Follies on the great cabaret of New York. They are both disappointed with the stay of discrimination there, and the relationship with Pepito weakens.   Joséphine decided finally to open her own cabaret, Chez Joséphine that opens full while separating from Pepito. He fell sick and eventually died in 1936, so Joséphine decided to come back to Paris.

She finds a new contract at the Folies Bergére in the show En Super Folies, that became another success! ; and this is where she meets Jean Lion in 1937. With him she discovered the Dordogne region and the dream of her life,Château des Milandes; she has found her house. She retires from showbiz to concentrate on family life and sadly could not have babies, causing the divorce in 1940.

As WWII starts she find herself French from her marriage to Jean Lion, and chose to be at the service of her adopted country joining the French resistance. She was on a world tour and returning to Paris was preparing her review at the Casino de Paris. In agreement with the management she makes a visit to the front lines at the Maginot line with Maurice Chevalier to give support to the troops. A French information agent contacts her and ask for help, which she enthusiastically accepts. She refused the title of spy for the honorary correspondant and with her fame and contacts becomes an useful tool for the French resistance.

She was informed of the resistance directed from London by a Gen de Gaulle and with a spy Abtey aka Jacques François Hébert, with the title of Choreographer she makes the illusion of a tour of South America and return via London , but first Vichy where she gathered information on the nazis positions and hides on the theatre scenes sections where they find the ink to write their finds. Finally, London decide another way and she goes into Algeria, Portugal, Morocco and Spain . To disguise all this she takes the job at the Opéra de Marseille playing La Créole of Offenbach. By January 1941, and with fears of the South of France fallen to the Nazis she departs for Algeria. There she participate on a gala for support of the troops and later to Portugal with full luggage of information to the resistance and then onwards to Morocco and quickly to Spain,with fears of the invasion of Morocco, she gathered full information again.

Even sick she stays on the resistance trail of support for her adopted country. Peritone, intestinal occlusion, comas, fever, embolias, and others spending 19 months in the hospital near death. Even with this she goes into the scene in Morocco then Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and the middle east to support the troops and benefits the Red Cross. In Algers, Algeria she finally meets Gen Charles de Gaulle that pins on her a small Cross of Lorraine in gold to thank her for the services rendered to her adopted country. She put in auction this and other belongings to raise funds for the troops and do so for 300K FF at Beirut which goes to the Resistance movement. In 1943 at the Oran hospital she sings the national anthem in front of the American troops!

In 1944 ,she received the title of Sub Lieutenant of the women auxiliary corps. Upon returning to Paris she is received in great aura and she again swear to be at the service of the French army giving concerts in liberated zones, this is the period where Jo Bouillon accompany her and later becomes her husband. As such, she helps motivate the French air force out of London given a big check to the commander of this troops out of London, Alla Dumesnil-Gillet to help the resistance. Her actions are publicly thanks by De Gaulle and Churchill; thereafter receiving condecorations such as the Knight of the Legion of Honor, Cross of War. She visited the wounded of the war prisioners that were rescue and received treatment at Shenley hospital in London.

After the war, she continues to work and raise funds and also for her dream of buying the Château des Milandes in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, Dordogne 24. As a renter, she creates there a world village as the world capital of fraternity. She is sorraunded by several children she helped raised . She is ,also involved in the civil rights movement in the USA and lents support to Dr Martin Luther King, she is the only women to speak on the March to Washington on August 28 1963, the same scene where Martin Luther King proclaims his famous I have a dream…

Château des Milandes , the current owners have setup a museum on part of the castle to perpetuate the memory of Joséphine Baker, with photos, documents and the life of the artist with period furniture of JB, And I knew it finally found me an old pic from a paper pic to show here very timely. Quality may not be good but worth it for the souvenir of our brief stop by many many years ago.  The official webpage:  Château des Milandes and JB

Milandes Chateau des Milandes front JBaker

Joséphine Baker spent all her fortune on the Milandes project and does all kinds of work, without accepting financial help even at the insistance of Jo Bouillon, her husband. He left the project but stays taken care of the Children. By June 1964 she calls upon the newspaper men to show the situation of the castle and ask for help finally. The first ones to come forward are the French actress Brigitte Bardot given a donation to the mama of the world (as she call joséphine). Joséphine wanted to make a college of the world to educate the children but the lawmen are knockning on the door for lack of payments and finally expulse her of the property in 1968. After this event she is force to leave the castle and comes to the Yvelines at my well known place of Roquebrune where for raising funds for the Red Cross ,the Princess Kelly of Monaco offered her a house there by 1969, but Joséphine refuse. By 1975, she goes into a retrospective of her work entitled Joséphine à Bobino in Paris, and all of Paris is there! She did owned another property that she lived partially too at Le Vésinet at town on the limits of Saint-Germain-en-Laye in the Yvelines dept 78 well known to me. The house was the Villa Beau-Chêne and she used it from 1929 to 1947.

The story of her Vésinet property in French and a nice picture of the house here: Le Vésinet home Villa Beau-Chêne

A park on her name near the Chateau des Milandes: Parc Josephine Baker

After the 14th show she entered sleepy in ther house and the next day April 10th she is transferred in coma to the Pitié-Salêtriére hospital in Paris where she dies on April 12 1975. After receiving military honors and thousands of Parisiens present in ther tour to the burial. The last farewell to the well known artist but especially to the resistance fighter.  The first American woman to receive full French military honors at her funeral, Josephine Baker locked up the streets of Paris one last time before being laid to rest in Monaco.

One of her adopted children, Jean-Claude Bouillon who is the author of a book on her story call Un Château sur La Lune ( a castle on the moon) edition Hors collection. He describes his mother as a woman of eternal energy that lived   without retreating and extraordinaty generous putting all equals, humans and animals, she was carried by a mythical aura on the savage state, a human being of the sunshine. Her mother wanted to give to France what the country has given her and always sorry of the state of her native country civil rights. She adopted 12 children coming from the four corners of the world and teached them to be together as one family without differences and as well showing them their cultural roots. He said, they are still very much together as a family.

A very special lady and an inspiration by the thousands of Americans coming and living in France even today. Thank you Mrs Baker, RIP.

I have to remind you all that at this moment Josephine Baker is entering the Panthéon of Paris France! For her artistic and even more her resistance efforts for a free France in WWII. Honor where credit is due. Welcome Baker we are all proud of you!  More news! The metro station Gaîté, in the 14éme arrondissement and on the line 13 has a new name: Gaîté-Joséphine Baker!

Her official site in English: Official Josephine Baker

Enjoy your week wherever you are, and remember, happy travels, good health and many many cheers to all !!!

April 8, 2018

Our home and work in the Morbihan!

On a leisurely lazy Sunday afternoon glue to the TV to watch my Madrid derby Real Madrid (my team for life) vs Atlético de Madrid the sidekids , (ended 1X1 ),I sat to think for my blog. Well, so much travels , vacations, and historical bits of me and my life. One thing was missing where did I work? It’s a sensitive issue as better not to give too many details in case my boss is reading lol!

When I first came to France in August 2003, (because my French wife asked me move to France lol!!) ,I needed to have a job before the move. So ,already a French citizen (since 2000) , and many trips to France/Europe; decided to go on the job hunt with the help of the internet and some colleagues from my profession in French high posts.

The search began by making my resumé as the French would like it , their curriculum vitae or CV. And of course , a letter of candidate or introduction. A photo is essential in French CV. And started posting in the normal well known sites of the times like Monster, Cadremploi, profession webpages, and the APEC a site link to the unemployment office for management positions. The search took 9 months and found my job.

The CAC 40 big French company, had me go thru 3 telephone interviews before inviting me to the Val d’Oise dept 95 site for meeting the CFO and the director of Human Resources worldwide. It was a typical formal French interview , where after about 10 minutes they gave me an offer I could not resist. Now you need to know the standard of living and cost of living to make sure the package was at least same or better than what you had at home. It was much better ,thank youuu!!!

We prepare for the move ,and we had it as well easier than most as my French wife was already working in the freight forwarders industry with a French company part of the Groupe Bolloré entities by Miami international airport. The French manager in Florida, gave us an unbelievable price for a 22 foot container to move all our belongings over , it was 1853 USDollars door to door move!!!

Shortly ,after our arrival, I told her to contact another French contact who was a VP of the company in the USA, and he recommended a friend at Roissy CDG in the same field as hers. In about a month and a half ,she found her job with a major worldwide freight forwarder at the cargo section of Roissy CDG airport!!!

Roissy CDG

happy camper pickup by yours truly at Roissy CDG cargo

Our boys were in school at the nice Collége John Zay in Vernueil sur Seine in the Yvelines dept 78, near our apartment that I had rented in August 2003, shorly we purchase a house there in July 2004. And on we move to our wonderful French life, a decision that ranks as the best ever for us.

My boys went on to high school at Lycée Bel Air in Le Chesnay near Versailles and we purchase at Versailles by the Notre Dame neighborhood! Life move righ along fine, la vie est belle !!! My wife continue to work in Roissy CDG with same outfit, and I moved on to better and more exciting places with a major luxury Hotel chain with properties in Paris and Cannes (I was working  very near the Jardin des Tuileries…shhh). And I, in charge of the accounting department reporting to a CFO group.

Life move along quite nicely, and my friends and family back home were amazed of how happy we were. And of course, we kept it low key not to make them too jealous ::)  The moment we started telling them all our perks and benefits here and our five week vacation they just drop in amazement. We had visitors from our other life in Florida USA here and they were just stunned of the things we had here;even visiting and staying in our house.

Life went along fine, and the boys went on to preparatory private schools right in Le Chesnay and one in La Verriére just south of Versailles. They were experts in public transport , lol!! Better than me, they knew all the routes of trains, buses, tramways in the Paris western part, Yvelines, and Hauts de Seine as well as Paris of course. My wife continue with the same outfit of which she worked a total of 9 years before moving to Brittany.

Me ,the globetrotter always looking for opportunities, as my old university professor in Florida always told me ,keep your antenna up, for opportunities, never stayed put. Therefore, after several colleagues advice , I would do better in consulting on my own, did just that with an outfit in rue de Départs Montparnasse and working all over  France on missions as well as Switzerland, Nigeria and Brazil!!! Life was great moving along and always improvement that standard of living.

My wife had a car accident in Florida that lost her left eye,and continue working under the American system and initially in France. However, she was told here you can get an incapacity recognition and still continue with your salary. So , short of it ,she got it under Category II and was discharge from the Roissy CDG outfit with full salary, 50% by the French social security or Cramif services and 50% from her disability insurance carrier at work, Mercer. So sitting at home making the same salary as working!! Vive la France!

Then, something happened that will make our lives better nicer and happier. I was told to contact someone who was looking for a top ,lets just say accounting professional for a multinational company in the international market. I, of course, with my antenna ,contacted the person and the job was indeed good looking but in Brittany , the Bretagne west of France. Well, I have been on a business trip to Rennes , a factory, and with the family visiting Nantes for the castle of the dukes of Brittany that was not actually now in Brittany ;; tell it to the French psych!

The job turn out great, I was in charge of 18 countries and 28 branches all over the world; travel was a big part of the package. All the trimming, better salary and perks and la vie en rose of France continues. Of course, I took it after a family discussion. I moved to an apartment in Brec’h near Auray in the Morbihan Breton dept 56 by June 2011. We had our twin boys followed for their schooling in Lycée Kerplouz between nice Auray and Le Bono, and later our house was sold in the Yvelines, and the rest move in to the apartment. A four bedroom 2 bath apartment about 30 minutes from my job by car.

Afte settling in with my father who after my Mom passed away in the Yvelines continue to stay with us. He is Retire with American pension so very much independent and still do all his things except the French paperwork as a carte de séjour visiteur ,that as he does not speak French (very hard to do at 83) needs to renew every year on a routine basis, we know all the staff and takes 15 minutes with an appointment here. My oldest boy came in on an alternate work study basis and doing all kinds of jobs as in the French system of stages and interim, CDD etc as well as my twin boys. All in different fields, one sales, other in wood craftmenship, and the last in gardening/paysagiste type ready for back to Versailles! My wife continues with her wonderful French pay system at home, and good deal as her health is a lot more sensitive than mine.

I continue in my multinational international French/Breton company here ,near Vannes ,already 7 years in it, time flies when having fun, the saying goes. It is true. I have an excellent group of people where I am the only non French born in our services and very human and nice bosses, CFO and Director as well as the President who always talks to me and emails me for direct advice sometimes. I participate or rather invited to all the Directors meetings and Finance get together which I choose to come or not if pertinent. I am on the list for trips to Asia, Americas, and Africa thru June 2018, end of our fiscal year. Actually,  it’s a castle property in ruins from 1504, all modernised, the only remaining parts are the the foundations and the outer west walls with a guard house and the old bakers oven outdoor.

In the meantime, from the apartment, we purchase a home in the nice country town of Pluvigner. 1000 square meters (about 11K sq feet) of land on a 255 square meters (about 2800 sq feet) of inhabitable home. 3 car garage, five bedroom or four as we used one for the game entertainment room, 2,5 baths, a open air terrace and an enclosed glass veranda. We had made the back on lawn or green grass and the front in Breton stone, pebbles with decorative real plants. OF course, now we have our puppy Rex almost 5 months a Borador!!! (cross pure border collier mom,and pure black Labrador dad). He is a charmer, and already well behaved in his manner: oh yes he is a boy!!! Poor wife ,she is spoiled as the only women in the family now. Update: My dear wife Martine passed away from pancreatic cancer on April 30 2018 19H.

Pluvigner is a small town of about 7K folks on a vast area of single homes stuck between Auray and Pontivy along the road D768 that connects to the beaches with the N165 and up to the N24 national roads to Rennes. About 1h30 to Nantes Atlantique airport and 15 minutes to the TGV line at Auray train station or sometimes for scheduling use the bigger station at Vannes which is about 35 minutes away. We have a regional TIM bus line 5 that can connect to Auray, Vannes, Baud, and onwards to Pontivy or Lorient. The town has about 8 bars and 5 bakeries, several restaurants and all the living services you need; the nurses come home to do all,and the doctor, pharmancy, etc are walking distances from home. In all ,we love it. Glad to be in the Morbiha, Brittany.

Now ,all is left is to get good health for some and continue for others and already thinking of retirement which will know officially to do it by 2020 at the latest. Right now planning the retirement place, either we stay here, or go to Bordeaux area, or Toulouse area or south of Madrid, Spain in Castilla la Mancha. Only time and good continuous good  fortune will tell. (update my retirement was august 2021 and we are staying put in Pluvigner:!)

I have given a general view without been too positive,hope my friends do not get too jealous; it has been a wonderful experience, our best so far. Wherever the future brings, we can say we had our way and glad of all we have done as a family together, or as one famous Muskeeteers once said, One for all and all for one!!!

Enjoy some of the pictures of our new town .  Have a great week ,happy travels, good health and many many cheers to all. Kenavo!!

April 7, 2018

And I bring you, Nantes!! Is it Breton? Yes!!!

This is a city I have come to know very well. Little did it occur to me that when I visited it  for the first time back in 2004 to see the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany was I going to be so close and visit so often after 2011. it is my gateway to the world now, and my shopping and eating and sightseeing city second only to Vannes. But hey this is Brittany just a twist in history took it away, of course, I am talking about Nantes ,now in Pays de la Loire region.

Nantes is in department 44 Loire Atlantique over the banks of the Loire river in the region of Pays de la Loire  From the Gallo Roman city of Namnétes site of a bishophic in the 5C, part of the Frankish kingdom facing the imposing Bretons, finally conquered by king Nominoé in 851 to be part of Brittany  For the next 3 centuries the role of Nantes grows in importance towards the international markets been a great part of it the slave trade that sees its peak in the 18C. During the French revolution, an important site in the war of the Vendée against the revolutionary power.

Nantes is at 342 km from Paris, 340 km from Bordeaux, and 100 kms from Rennes . It has several isles and canals such as île Beaulieu, île Sainte Anne, île Feydeau, and île Gloriette ; for a while it was name the Venice of the west ! Many of its streets are blockage of river flows done to redirect the Loire river such as the Bourse that now gives to the current cours Franklin Roosevelt street or the Hospital arm that now is part of the cours  John Kennedy and cours Commandant d’Etienne d’Orves, and the tributary of the Erdre river ,today it is over the cours de 50 Otages and the course is change by an underground canal that is navigable until the arm of the Hospital and call the Canal Saint Félix The Loire river crosses the city in two sections, one encircle the île de Nantes isle call the La Madeleine on the north and the  Pirmil on the south. The city is also, traverse by two importants rivers the Erdre and Sévre Nantaise and three small creeks ,the  Chézine, Cens, and Gesvres all in the north side.  The île de Nantes or Nantes island has an area of 337 hectares and is link to the mainland by 10 bridges on the north and south banks. It has ,also, a pedestrian passarelle in the north and two train lines.

Nantes has an extensive road network that in many times is congested with heavy traffic jams at rush hours ,so I do it all the time, but avoid these hours and is ok. It is on the junction of the autoroute des Estuaries or the A83 , and the Loire river force you to  pass by the boulevard périphérique via the bridge or Pont de Cheviré ; with its 43 km is the second longest in France after Bordeaux as in Bordeaux is always with heavy traffic. It has 23 exits or sorties call here Portes or gates and has two names, one on the north that is the A844 and for the rest is the N844 roads ,which is the one I normally take to come to the airport. On this blvd périphérique you have connection to other roads such as the  autoroute A11 on the exit 42 porte d’Anjou that goes on to Paris, the fast paying way. Others are the same A11 to Angers , the A83 towards Niort, Bordeaux, Poitiers,and Limoges, the N165 towards Quimper, Brest and my towns of Vannes and Pluvigner, the N137 to be call the A84 extension here to Rennes and Caen and also Paris. There is a good tramway network of 3 lines that with its 43,5 km is the most used in France ; there is  a boat service that transports in the river banks avec two lines call Navibus ,and the boats Loire and Passeur. The wonderful train station, that I used frequently or Gare de Nantes is service by TER intercités and TGV service to Montparnasse Paris on the TGV Atlantique as well as other cities. The station has two terminal access, the oldest is the nord or north , and the sud or south done for the TGV service also has the navette bus connection to the airport. The two terminals north and south are connected by an underground passage that you reach 15 train platforms. The city has an excellent bike network connected to the regional La Loire à Vélo part of the EuroVélo6 network also known as the Eurovélopiste des Fleuves or the bikeroute by the rivers linking Nantes to Bucharest and also Saint Nazaire to Contanta and one of the most famous European bike routes long of 3653 km crossing Europe from west to east and from the Atlantic ocean to the North sea passing by ten countries as well as the major rivers of Europe such as the Loire, Rhine, and Danube. You,also, have my favorite airport and in and out for the last several years at Nantes Atlantique airport just south of Nantes on the town limits of Bouguenais.

A bit on the laid out of the city best parts to visits. The fortified medieval city was in essence the neighborhood of Bouffay of which still can be seen the gate or Porte Saint Pierre, and the castle of the Dukes of Brittany or Château des ducs de Bretagne, as well as some wooden houses dating from the 15C. The streets of rue de la Juiverie, rue Sainte Croix, rue de la Bâclerie are still some examples of this type of architecture as well as some in the rue de Verdun, rue Bossuet,and place du Change. At the Place Royale , Place Graslin, and cours Cambronne you have the neighborhood of the Theater and Bourse. The current city center goes around the roads of a central way on the western axis starting from the Cathedral to the rue de Verdun, rue de la Marne, rue d’Orléans, rue Crébillon and finishing at the place Gambetta. All in a neo classic style, especially by rue de Strasbourg, done in the Haussmanian way as in Paris. By the 20C the center was extended to the botanical garden or jardin des plantes and the fine arts museums on the east making this neighborhood very appreciated, and the adjoining neightborhood onwards with the Dobrée museum, and the Church Notre Dame de  Bon Port. You have the Nantes island or île de Nantes the great area of the machines or Les Machines de l’île (great area!) occupying the former naval yards and on the west point of the island the Hangar à bananes along the anneaux de Buren with plenty of restaurants, bars night clubs discos including La Fabrique a space dedicated to contemporary music.

A bit of history I like.  At the Gaul’s time this area was known as the Namnétes , defeated by Julius Ceasar in the year 56 BC. The Roman latinised the name to Condevincum and make the main town of the ; at the end of the Roman period, the city was called Portus Namnetum or the port of the namnétes. Once the Roman empire ended in 476AD the area passes under control of the kingdom of the Franks by king Clovis even after facing tough resistance from the Armoricans (Bretons) and some already living in the Roman controlled areas since 280AD.  In 850AD the region is run over by king Nominoé a Breton king , on the next year in the battle of jengland the Breton market of which Nantes was its capital passes to Brittany under the treaty of Angers. From 919AD, the city of Nantes is invaded and control by the Vikings. The next period, the Dukes of Brittany will fight against the counts of Nantes for the succession rights, and for a while the area passes under the Maison of Anjou. The second war of succession of Brittany puts in opposite sides the half brother of the decease duke John III, that is Jean de Montfort helped by the Breton State calls for in Nantes ,and those of Charles de Blois helped by the king of France Philippe VI and recognized duke of Brittany by the nobles of the kingdom; The Montfort won, and their dynasty in the 14C to 16C continues and made of Nantes the capital.

Nantes becomes the main treasure to play between the king of France and the Duke of Brittany, Duke François II. Nantes is conquered in 1488 and Brittany  is administered by the kings of France. The Breton next in line and daughter of François II, is Anne de Bretagne who marries the king of France by alliance Charles VIII in 1491 and later king Louis XII in 1498 becoming as well queen of France twice! Her oldest daughter Claude de France under stress many had said, donates the duchy to her husband king François I of France, even if the Breton States asking for the union also asked for the traditions and privileges to be maintained .  In 1532 the Duchy of Brittany is finally officially annexed to the crown of France by the act  in a perpetual and indisputable will proclaimed at Nantes August 13 1532.

During the wars of Religion ,Nantes sides with the League in the fight against the Protestants, and one of the big cities to recognized king Henri IV. By 1685, th edit of Fontainebleau signed by king Louis XIV and the edit of Nantes are suspended while the black code is ordained by the king. This law ,allows the port of Nantes to become an important place for the trade of sugar, tabacco, and slavery with the colonies, and make Nantes rich especially with the slave trade by Europe, Africa ,and the Americas. Even if Nantes was not the only one doing this, she was a pioneer.

During the French revolution, the city was held by Republican forces (revolutionaries) on the first line of the Vendéene revolt and its resistance was one of the keys of the Republican victory by given them a rear base and negating the Vendéene of a harbor to received help from England. From October 1793 to February 1794 the convention or revolutionary council established a terror politics in the area without mercy. Between 12K to 13K persons, men ,women and children were put in the prisons of Nantes of which between 8K to 11K died, either by the guillotine, firing squads, epidemics or drowning’s in the Loire. Since 1960, there is a renewal spirit to bring out the Breton traditions and by 1994 the Breton Cultural Agency  created by the mayor’s office to keep track, and by 2001, the municipal council recognized the historical and cultural attachment of Nantes to Brittany without going as far as changing the current administration laws. This disunion comes forward since 1941 by the regime of Vichy in their regional programs of 1955 and later in administrative regions separating each time the Loire Atlantique (dept 44) from the other Breton departments. Nantes  is now in the region of the Pays de la Loire even if the debate persists. How can laws by a traitor (Pétain of Vichy) are still held makes no sense to me anyway, my five cents worth.

During the WWII Nantes was occupied by the Nazis from 1940 and finally they leave the city in August 12 1944 before the arrival of an unit of the US 3rd Army under General Patton, that was led by General John Shirley Wood (the same who liberated Vannes).

 The castle of the dukes of Brittany, located on the right bank of the Loire river in city center of Nantes.  It was the principal residence of the Dukes of  Brittany from the 13C to the 15C. It is a fortress with seven towers links by smaller corridors , at the courtyard is surrounded by different buildings dating from the 15C 16C and 18C as well as the Ducal residence built in chalk . The Cathedral of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul, gothic style on the Place Saint Pierre. It was built under the request of Duke John V duke of Brittany and the bishop Jean de Malestroit in 1434 and it was eventually finished by 1891!!!. The Basilica of Saint Nicolas of neo gothic style and one of the first one in France dates from the 19C; it was raised to Basilica in 1882. The Church Notre Dame de Bon Port, built in 1852 has a dome that it was copied from that of the Invalides in Paris.

You will find many squares like the Place Graslin with its theater, the Place Royale with a fountain representing the Loire and its tributaries, the Place du Commerce , the most lively in town ,and the Place Maréchal Foch with its column on a pedestal a rare statue of king Louis XVI existing in France today.  All these square are connected by wide avenues such as the cours Cambronne from the Place Graslin, cours Saint Pierre and cours Saint André from the place Maréchal Foch with a nice perspectives.  These neighborhood grouped the former justice palace, located at place Aristide Briand, the regional government building or préfecture of the Loire-Atlantique (now the seat of the chamber of accounts of Brittany!) , the Palais de la Bourse, and the island or île Feydeau (by rue Kervégan, temple du Goût, and cour Ovale) all on a single grouping comparable with the île Saint Louis in Paris. By the quai de la Fosse you will find traces of the old harbor of Nantes.

For the chic shopper the Passage Pommeraye is heavens right in city center built between 1841-1843 on three levels with a central stairs and decorated with medallions and statues , just chic ; then you have the brewery or Brasserie La Cigale opened in 1895 and just doing well. The cookie /biscuit LU an institution here and now Le Lieu Unique now a cultural center on the national scene; you can see it from the top rampart of the castle of the Dukes of Brittany. The former Manufacture des Tabacs or cigars done in 1861  similar to one in Strasbourg with five buildings  and two interior courtyards that by the 1980’s was renovated and turned into municipal services offices and lodgings. The nice Jardin des Plantes that I past my leisure times each time traveling by the train station was created in 1807, and opened to the public in 1895 along the styles of the 19C with a mosaic or ceramic tradition and floral decorations with several cascades and water fountains; officially it is known as the botanical garden but still call by its old name. The park or parc de Procé was a domain surrounded by a mansion done in 1789 , the park has been provided with huge trees rhododendrons, magnolias, fuchsias, dahlias and bushes and has the oldest tulipan of Virginia in France.  The floral park or Parc Floral de la Beaujoire created upon the celebration of the Floralies in 1971 has one of the biggest monumental fountain of Europe! the northern part is dedicated to  the horticulture such as the rose axis with 35 sites and allowing the exposition of 25K rose trees of 1500 species!! . Some curiosity is the Miséricorde cemetery or cimetiére Miséricorde  called here the Pére Lachaise(Paris) of Nantes  as you have on a long tree-lined promenade of cypress and linden trees about 60 mausoleums of the neo gothic style  that house the dead of the grand families of Nantes with the oldest part has a cemetery for the Jews and Protestants until the 1870’s , with the Jewish square place on the part reserve for Protestants.

As far as museums ,this town can match any. First, the museum of history (Musée de l’Histoire) in the interior of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany showing the story of Nantes over the centuries.  The museum of fine arts or beaux-arts of Nantes has paintings showing a complete panorama of the western painting styles from the 13C to our days. You have the very nice and rich Dobrée museum with works from the middle ages to the 20C showing a large selection of archeological objects going from the 1C just to the Carolingian period as well as housing the box of where it was place the heart of Anne de Bretagne (duchess of Brittany, and queen of France). The beautiful Graslin theater is an opera house done in 1788 on the place Graslin ,across the great restaurant La Cigale. The Jules Verne museum is dedicated to his work of the writer born in Nantes in 1828. The museum of natural history of Nantes has a collection of natural sciences from the zoology the fauna, mineralogy and a vivarium  showing reptiles and amphibians of all origins.  The Planetarium of Nantes has an 8 meter dome with projections showing the solar system and different constellations; it has , also a numerical planetarium. Also, the first memorial dedicated to slavery is here known as the Mémorial de l’Abolition de l’Esclavage d’Europe. Opened in 2012 along the quai de la Fosse between the pont Anne de Bretagne and the Passarelle Victor Schoelcher

Some webpages to help you plan your visit to this wonderful, airy ,and cosmopolitan city of the west of France, Nantes. It is worth a visit indeed.

city of Nantes on the history  in French :

Tourist office of Nantes:

Dept 44 Loire Atlantique tourism in French:

Region pays de la Loire tourism in English:

Nantes Metropole on tourism of Nantes !

There you have it folks, you can go wrong by reading above before you visit. Hope it helps, have a great weekend, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!

April 7, 2018

And we have Bordeaux, a lot more than wines!!!

Today, I like to tell you about a very famous city for something it does not produce; you know… this is a glorious city and one very popular with the French today as can tell by the rising real estate prices; on the banks of a great river of the Gironde. The wines are world famous ,if not the best, me think they are for many years. Now, they are not produce in the city and I have always written on them, this time I would like to tell you a bit more on the city of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is in the department 33 of the Gironde in the new region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. Capital of the former Guyenne and an integral part of the Gascogne, culturally and linguistic; it is on the banks of the Landes de Gascogne  The city is about  172 km from Pau, 202 km from San Sebastian/Donostia Spain, and 220 km from Toulouse as well as 498 km from Paris. The city is crossed by the Garonne river with a port accessible to big cruise ships and the port de la Lune for touristic activities; other boating activities have been move upwards of the Garonne or Gironde rivers that goes over the Garonne with the Port d’Aquitaine. The rest is accessible by ferry boats along the statuary of the Gironde.

The city has an extensive highway system with many signs not so hard to get by and attention is needed not to pass the exits. It is link to Paris, Poitiers, Tours, and Orléans by the autoroute A10, to Périgueux, Limoges, Brive, Clermont Ferrand and Lyon by the A89, to Toulouse on the A62, Mont de Marsan and Pau by the A65, and Bayonne and Spain by the A63. It has a huge intricate beltway or rocade with heavy traffic always on its 45 km the longest beltway in France. It is composed of the autoroute A630 on the left bank of the Garonne river or the N230 on the righ bank, the continuation of the autoroute A10 and the intersection of autoroute A89 Is the A631, A62, and A63 . The first bridge was done in 1821 as the stone bridge or the pont de Pierre then the passarelle Eiffel done in 1860. It took some time but in 1967 the Pont d’Aquitaine was done between Bordeaux and Lormont. By 1965 the bridge or pont Saint Jean was finished and on 2013 the bridge or Pont Jacques-Chaban-Delmas (former mayor of Bordeaux) was done linking the districts of Bacalan on the left bank and La Bastide on the right bank . The bridge or Pont Simone Veil allows to cross the Garonne river on the south side. There is excellent TGV train coming from many cities especially for me from Paris Montparnasse to the Gare Saint Jean or St John train station in Bordeaux, built in 1855 first under the name of gare du midi. There is a nice airport in the nearby town of Mérignac about 12 km from city center Bordeaux. The network locally for public transport bus and tramway is Transports Bordeaux Métropole or TBM. From the quai Louis XVIII facing the Quinconces esplanade boats takes you on river rides along the nice facades of the the 18C mansions. The navette boat BatClub allows you to connect left and righ banks of the Garonne river between Bas-Lormont and Claveau on one side and Stalingrad to Quinconces on the other.

The old town of Bordeaux is part of the interior of the former ramparts of the city that corresponds to todays’ cours Verdun, cours Clemenceau, Place Gambetta, cours d’Albret, cours Aristide Briand, Place de la Victoire, and cours de la Marne, and to the east bordered by the Garonne river. In the Middle Ages two gates allowed to entered the city those of Porte Cailhau and Porte Saint Eloi aka de la Grosse Cloche . In the 15C the intendant Tourny decided to make wide avenues with lines of trees and several gates such as the Porte Dijeaux (1753) Porte d’Aquitaine (1754) and Porte de Bourgogne (1755), and Porte de la Monnaie (1759)..This gave ideas to Georges Eugéne Haussmann (Baron Haussmann) who was at the time the sub prevot of the Gironde to be inspired by Tourny and do the transformation of Paris by 1860. By the former Place Royale ,today the Place de la Bourse was opened in 1755 the facades of the quays that form for 1,2 km a collection of mansions and finally, created the Place Dauphine, Place Saint Julien and public promenades such as Allées de Tourny and the public garden to open the city to the inhabitants. You find two big axis crossing the city such as the rue Sainte Catherine that cuts the town north to south and the cours Victor Hugo continuing over the pont de Pierre that cuts the town in west to east. This rue Sainte Catherine is pedestrian for about 1300 meters (1,3 km) connecting the place de la Comédie to the Place de la Victoire; there are plenty of shopping around here!!!

North west of the old town center the neighborhood of Quinconces and Hôtel de Ville are plenty of restaurants cafes very nice and banks, financial services and luxury shops ; this is where the golden triangle is found around the cours Clemenceau , cours de l’Interdance, and the Allées de Tourny (our favorite spot) as it is the luxury window shopping of Bordeaux.. In the north of the city along the Garonne river you have the districts of Grand Parc and the Chartrons where many wine merchants are located. The neighborhood of Chartrons is name as such because the convent of Chartreux founded in 1381 while the 100 years war by the Chartreux of Perigord coming to take refuge in the marshes of this area , the place was connected to the city by the current cours Xavier Arnozan and a huge alley such as the cours de Verdun has many huge mansions style Louis XV and Louis XVI, the neighborhood of Saint Seurin is name after the Saint Seurin Basilica built around the Gallien palace, a very high price neighborhood with many consulates. The neighborhood of the Mériadec after the Prince of Rohan (Ferdinand Maximilien Mériadec, archbishop of Bordeaux who built the Rohan palace in 1771 and which by 1835 becomes the city hall or Hôtel de Ville.

A bit of history I like. The name of the city comes from the Burdigala in the 1C AD and while the French revolution ,convention 1792-1795 it was name the town of Franklin or “Commune-Franklin “.Bordeaux  becomes one important city in the Duchy of Aquitaine starting in 600AD and is the capital city of the county attached to the Duchy of VAsconia from 852 to 1032, and later the Duchy of Aquitaine under the successive authorities of the Counts of Poitiers, Capetians, until 1152. In 1453, following the Battle of Castillon (Chatillon-la-Bataille) the city becomes French possession and the war of the 100 years is over.  Following the execution of the parliamentarian Girondins on June 2 1793, the city rises up against the French revolution and the terror of it comes to Bordeaux with 304 executions of men and women

During WWI as Paris is threatens by the arrival of the Germans, the French government takes refuge in Bordeaux  and is located at 17 rue Vital Carles. During WWII, the French government again seek refuge in Bordeaux this times at the city hall and the same  Rue Vital Carles by Weygand, De Gaulle at the Hotel Majestic near the quai Louis XVIII   A few days later as the French government is ready to signed the armistice the Consul of Portugal Aristides de Souza Mendez delivered in nine days visas  that allowed over 30K refugees to escape the advance of the Nazis troops. The Nazis leave Bordeaux  in August 28 1944 after sinking several boats in the river to stop the coming of the allies over the Garonne river; the cleaning of it takes several years and even today you see at low sea some of the debris.

The fine arts museum or Beaux-Arts one of the oldest museums in France with a great diversity and amplitude of its collections especially from the 19C, 20C . The Aquitaine museum inheriting the collections from the Lapidaire museum created in 1783 by the Academy of Bordeaux to house all the Romans artifacts and urban works of the 16C and mostly from the 18C, since 1962 moving up to a museum of history ,archaeology, and regional Ethnography. The decorative arts and design museum located in the mansion Hôtel de Lalande housing rich collections of French decorative arts and mainly Bordelais from the 18C, and 19C as well as collection of paintings, engravings, miniatures, sculptures, furniture, ceramic, glasses, jewelry etc etc. The Jean Moulin Center (name after a national hero of the French resistance) for documentation of WWII showing documents of the times that perpetuates the memory of this period of history and to appreciate the work of the resistance for the liberation of France. The quaint nice Wine and trade museum of Bordeaux opened since 2008 in the neighborhood of Chartrons. Here in three cellars semi underground the museum shows a collection of unique historical objects with many witnesses to the past and present and several documents and posters to explain the trade of wine business in Bordeaux.

You have the Institut Cervantes formely known as the Casa de Goya , is an apartment located in the cours de l’Intendance in city center that was the last home of Spanish painter Francisco Goya that came to lived in Bordeaux in 1824 to escape the absolutism of king Fernando VII of Spain,and where he died in 1828; expositions by the artist from the Spanish cultural center of Bordeaux. The wonderful Cité du Vin or city of wine opened in 2016, and already a hit showing the way to the wine regions of Bordeaux.

You have the magnificent Saint Andre Cathedral in the gothic style. The Saint Michel Basilica, of flamboyant gothic style, another must see. The Saint Seurin Basilica, the abbey of Sainte Croix, a Roman style Church and one former abbey of the Benedictine monastery. The Church of Saint Paul baroque style from the 17C . You have the greens in the Bois de Bordeaux with 86 hectares and in addition 50 hectares of prairies and lakes ; the Parc Floraide with 33 hectares and the botanical garden with 4,7 hectares located across the Garonne river at La Bastide, created in 2003. Not to forget another must see the Grand Théatre dedicated to the opera and the dance. These are just some of my favorites there is so much to see here.

 Here are some additional webpages that will help you plan your trip to the Bordeaux, the one and only, and another possible retirement home for me, already looking forward to vacationing in summer here again, wine and beach ,great.

City of Bordeaux on tourism in French :

Tourist office of Bordeaux:

Gironde dept 33 tourism

Region of Aquitaine tourism on Bordeaux :

There you go  , hop on to Bordeaux, and in vino veritas. Hope you enjoy the post and do show some cheers! Happy travels , good health and a great weekend, I am off tomorrow ::)

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