Archive for June 8th, 2018

June 8, 2018

A little jewel we go Oloron Sainte Marie!

We have passed by several times always on our way to Spain, and each time we say next time we will stop here, well, road warrior goes along the merry roads of France…So one time we finally stop, and actually walk around lol! This is a pleasant town and lovely chocolates. I am talking about Oloron Sainte Marie.

I have a previous post in my blog that I talked about some nice smaller towns and Oloron Sainte Marie ,here: My bit on Oloron Sainte Marie

Oloron-Sainte-Marie is in the department 64 of Pyrénées-Atlantique in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. It only 50 km from Spain by the N134 that have taken zillion times at the confluence of the Aspe and Ossau that in turn creates the Oloron river, it is a the confluence of three valleys ,the Ossau , Barétous, and Soule.

Other than the N134 road that connects with Pau, there is train service TER Nouvelle Aquitaine in the line Pau-Canfranc. The name comes from   the Oloron as the Lluro that in local lingo means town and ur water so the city of water ; the Sainte Marie was first mentioned in the 11C.

A bit of history I like

It is a Roman creation from the 1C on the road to the Col du Somport peak. By 1080, the Viscount Centulie V the Young had a new city built Oloron on the former Roman town .  By 1214, Gaston VI Moncade was forced to give these lands to the Bishops as he was sided with the Albigeois (Cathars) considered heretics by the Church. It follows the the town was divided in two with Oloron the Viscount town and  Sainte-Marie,the Episcopal town ,and both were rivals for about eight centuries.

The wars of Religion and the French revolution stop twice the growth of the town, and only the rivalties between the two ends in 1858 by the Second Empire of Napoléon III . There was a town called Sainte-Marie-Legugnon that existed between 1841 and 1858 when it was annexed to Oloron !Sainte Marie. Today it is mix into the city .

he city is on the Art and History towns of France , and the local language Béarnais is spoken as well. Some of the things to see here are

The tour de Gréde from the Middle Ages, the former City/town hall and prison, the ramparts, the Castle of Legugnon from the 16C, the buildings of the rue Pomone dating from the 17C, the parc Pomme, the Cathedral of Sainte Marie, the Holy Cross Church,   Notre Dame Church, from the 10C; St Pierre Church from the 19C, the old monastery of Sainte Marie from the 17C.

The city is on the way or via Tolosane  (Toulosain) one of the four French ways to reach Santiago de Compostela , and the legend of the Grail as the story goes the bishop of Oloron died at Jaca (Spain) in the 6C; thereafter the Béarnais and Aragonese argued over who has the remains. To settle the matter they are told to confess from the peak of Somport the final destination of the remains of the Bishop in   blind donkey over the mountain. The donkey brings the Grail on its back to Oloron Sainte Marie, dispute over.

We walk the nice Jardin Public or public garden, very nice and quaint with very nice mansions all around it. Our souvenir photo

Oloron Sainte Marie

The district of Sainte Croix you can have a nice walk along the Promenade Bellevue on the ramparts with nice views over the Cathedral, the Valley of Aspe and the mountains. The Sainte Croix or Holy Cross Church is a roman style with a arabesque dome; You can walk nearby to see wonderful old mansions at no 52 rue Dalmais you see the Heritage House or maison de patrimoine in a 17C house in two levels, next to it is the Tour de la Gréde.

The district Notre Dame is wonderful around the Place de la Résistance with nice mansions of the 18C   and a old wonderful market at Place Clemenceau each Friday morning. Of course, the Notre Dame Church in a roman Byzantine style from the 19C ,and the parc Pomme on 3 hectares with a nice walk in centenary trees.

Oloron Sainte Marie

The district of Sainte Marie, the old town of Illuro the foundation of the city. The wonderful Cathedral of Saint Mary or Cathédrale Sainte Marie from the 12C A wonder for your eyes and part of the way of Santiago Unesco world heritage site.

Oloron Sainte Marie

And especially do not miss going to the chocolate factory and boutique of Lindt ;the official webpage here:

However in Oloron, they make them for France,and it is a factory outlet and museum just lovely. A must when passing by here!!! More info.


Some webpages to help you plan  your trip here are

The  city page of Oloron Sainte Marie on tourism City Oloron Sainte Marie tourism

Tourist office of Oloron   Sainte Marie:

Tourist office of Pyrénées Atlantique 64

Its a pleasant town and great base for the mountains of the Pyrénées on the French or Spanish side. Its a natural for us to stop by here for many years since 1990.

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers!!!

Tags: ,
June 8, 2018

The Basques are lucky having Donostia! San Sebastian!!!

We hit a wonderful town in Basque country Spain. We always went around Somport or Portalet and come more central, but one trip we did it down the ocean from Lacanau in the Médoc of Bordeaux and we went to San Sebastian/Donostia, what a pleasant surprise and plenty of memories for the whole family , even my father as my mom Gladys already had passed away sadly.

Another wonderful place in my world map and lucky to have been able to visit with the family, my dear late wife Martine love it; my father came looking for chorizo, and we got a mouthful of Basque cuisine, with the beach this is it, la vida es chula en San Sebastian.

My entry in my blog on the city is here:

San Sebastian, also Donostia in basque, the capital of the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Autonomous community of Spain. Bathed by the waters of the Cantabrian Sea, at the mouth of the Urumea River, it owes much of its fame to its harbour, the Bay of La Concha, framed by two rocky isles, the Igeldo and Urgull mountains, true natural balconies from which one can marvel at a large part of the city, the ocean and the hilly landscapes of the surrounding area. .

How to get around San Sebastian

City buses are the main means of municipal public transport in San Sebastian. This service is in place, since 1886, the Compañía du Tranvía de San Sebastian,it has 21 lines that include the whole city. Very well connected town with wonderful autovias or highways such as the A-1 Autovia from the North: Madrid-San Sebastian de los Reyes-Burgos-//-Miranda de Ebro-Armiñón-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian; A-8 Autovia of Cantabria: Irun-San Sebastian – Bilbao; N-I Carretera del Norte taken too Madrid-Aranda de Duero-Burgos-Miranda de Ebro-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian-Irun-French border; N-634 Carretera del Noroeste Santiago de Compostela-Oviedo-Torrelavega-Bilbao-San Sebastian. The San Sebastian Airport is located in the border town of Hondarribia.

A bit of history I like

The origins of San Sebastian are unknown. The oldest document mentions it in the year 1014. On the other hand, it is more certain that in the 12C, Sancho VI of Navarre, aka the Wise, would have put the monastery of San Sebastian in the hands of the abbot of Leyre and the bishop of Pamplona. This document will be confirmed, in 1201, by King Peter I. The first written news of San Sebastian refers to a monastery, located in the neighborhood that still today is called San Sebastian the Antiguo. This place was primitively known, according to some historians, as Izurum. San Sebastian appears etymologically of the evolution of the word Donebastian (Done (Santo), and Sebastian). This king granted the rights of San Sebastian (a set of laws peculiar to the province), which will mark the chronological beginning of the history of the city.

After two centuries of heroically completing his war mission, king Philip IV of Spain, in 1662, granted the title of City. Until its foundation there were only small residential areas in the district of the Antiguo (old Quarter), in the old part and in the valley of the Urumea, by undertaking until the 15C a slow process of growth.  In 1719, the city was taken by a strong French army and marshal of Berwick. The citadel is taken on the August. The city was occupied by a garrison of two thousand French soldiers, until 25 August 1721, when it was evacuated following the Hague peace.

During the War of Independence, San Sebastian was occupied in 1808 by the Napoleonic troops. Joseph Bonaparte, ruler of Spain, entered San Sebastian on 9 June, running through Calle Narrica, in which all the windows had remained closed. In June 1813 the Allies, the Anglo-Portuguese troops, under the direct command of Sir Thomas Graham and the General Duke of Wellington, besieged the city. After several days of intense bombardment provoking a widening of the rift (French troops were entered by the latter in 1719), the assault operation formed by a column of volunteers, called the Desperados (outlaws), was started. A fortuitous fire and the explosion of a stockpile of ammunition caused a panic among the French, this event was to take advantage by the assailants obligating the French troops to withdraw to the castle, where they will capitulate on 8 September.

On the death of King Alfonso XII of Spain, in 1885, his widow the Regent Queen Maria-Christina took the court to San Sebastian every summer, residing in the Miramar Palace. The remarkable buildings of the city are all of that time — apart from those of the old town , such as the Cathedral of Buen Pastor or Artzain Ona of San Sebastian, the Escuela de Artes and Oficios (current post Office) and the Instituto Peñaflorida ( then occupied by the Escuela Ingenieros Industriales and nowadays by the Cultural Centre Koldo Mitxelena), the Miramar Palace, the Victoria Eugenia Theater, the María Cristina Hotel, the villas of Paseo de Francia or Frantziako Pasealekua or the North station, as well as the rest of the buildings of the romantic area , all with a French style marked, which gave charm to San Sebastian and its nickname “Little Paris” or “Paris of the South”.

WWI made San Sebastian one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. In his Casino there are all the personalities of the European highlife: Mata Hari, Léon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones, Pastora Imperio, renowned bullfighters, bankers, etc. In the Belle Epoque, San Sebastian received the French operetta company, the Ballets Russes, opera singers and many other famous artists.

In 1930, the city hosted a meeting of Republicans, which was called the San Sebastian Agreement, which will have a significant impact in the later advent of the 2nd Republic in 1931. In fact, the first Republican government will be formed, to a great extent, by the core of politicians participating in the “Agreement”. The election of the capital Donostiarra was due on the one hand to the proximity of the city with the French Republic and to the fact that San Sebastian was the summer capital of the court.  Shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War, on September 13, 1936, San Sebastian fell, without serious combat, into the hands of the Nationalists. The resort city was residence of Gen Franco in the month of August from 1940 to 1975 in the Palace of Aiete, bought by the town Hall and offered to the head of state. During this period the councils of Ministers are held in this building. In the same building, the full Declaration on peace in the Basque Country will be pronounced on 17 October 2011 at the International Peace Conference in Aiete.

Things to see and do in pretty San Sebastian

The beaches , oh yes indeed, glorious right in town , these are the Ondarreta, La Concha ,and Zurriola, the first two located in the Bay of La Concha and the third on the other side of the Urumea River , which we usually park our car.

 La Concha , It is one of the most famous urban beaches of Spain. It has a length of 1 350 meters  and an average width of 40 meters. ,its sand is fine white. It has 38 showers, shelters and beach chairs as well as showers and changing rooms. Close to this beach there is a parking lot (parking Kontxa). On the shores of the beach you will find the spa of La Perla, the former royal house of the Thermal baths (Casa Real de Baños) and the Royal Nautical Club (Real club Náutico), buildings which, with the famous grid along the beach, the elegant streetlights, two large Clocks of the beginning of the century and the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar), which closes by the West, form an elegant and Singular beach.  Ondarreta , Situated between the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar) and Mount Igeldo, it is the smallest of the three beaches. More informal than the Concha, in the promenade that touches it there are gardens in which one can find a statue in honour of Queen María Cristina. It has a length of 600 meters.  Zuriola , With a length of 800 meters , it is the beach most open to the sea and with higher surge, so that it is transformed by the attendance of  the young and the surfers. In 1994, a restructuring of the beach  was carried out with the construction of a dike which reduced the danger of water and with the general improvement of the quality of sand and water. The practice of naturism has been authorised since 2004.  There is a small beach that forms in the island of Santa Clara, to which can be access by boat in the Summer months or swimming, because it is 500 meters from Ondarreta beach at low tide.

San Sebastian San Sebastian

Some great activities at the proper time in the city are

San Sebastian International Film Festival every year in mid-September, one of the world’s most important film festivals. Created in 1953, this festival has been taking place for a few years at the Kursaal, The Festival of Jazz of San Sebastian called also Jazzaldia, this festival created in 1965 is today one of the most important jazz festivals in Europe. This event usually takes place in mid-July. The Tamborrada is one of the city’s major traditional events. From January 19 (+ or-2 days) to midnight, and for 24 hours, marching bands parade through the city streets, in all quarters. The opening and closing of the festivities takes place in the Plaza de la Constitucion, which is, especially for the opening, crowded to such an extent that it is not possible to move there. It’s really something to live for. The characters in these bands are either cooks or soldiers. In parallel with these fanfares, the population participates in the din with the help of small drums.

And of course, the food is glorious, one of the best cuisine of Spain and I will say Europe. We love our eating out at Juanito Kojua with Martine and me wearing proudly my alma mater. This is the webpage , hightly recommended.

San Sebastian

Some things to see

The City/town hall of San Sebastian dependencies are located in the old casino of the city, with the Bay of La Concha. The building was built in 1887 in the gardens of Alderdi-Eder of San Sebastian. Teatro Victoria Eugenia inaugurated in 1912. Here have played some of the most important interpreters of classical or theater music. It was reopened in March 2007. Teatro Principal ,it is the oldest of the theaters of Donostia/San Sebastian. Inaugurated in 1843, it adopted its present appearance at the end of the 19C. In addition to the usual theater works and some of those presented in the Teatro Feria, there are screenings of the Semana de cine Fantástico y de Terror (week of horror and unusual films) ,and Derechos Humanos Festival (Human Rights Festival) and some films from the film Festival.

San Sebastian

Aquarium-Museum of the Sea ,Located on the Paseo Nuevo/Paseo Berria near the harbor, it has a significant historical maritime collection, as well as a modern extension with giant aquariums and an underwater passage that exposes a large amount of species of fish and other marine animals; Whaling Museum , not far from the Aquarium-Museum of the Sea, this small museum reminds of this traditional and dangerous activity of the Basques, now extinct, but which, before the era of coal and hydrocarbons, has supplied oil to cities and made the fortunes of ship owners;  Museum of Science, on the heights of the city, adapted to children and young people of school age, a complete, interactive, experimental and playful panorama of the main physical, chemical and biological phenomena; A statue of Albert Einstein sitting on a bench welcomes visitors, while the park presents models of the main monuments of the Guipuscoa region;  San Telmo Museum, a municipal property and located in a former convent of the 16C.

A Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Catedral del Buen Pastor) was formerly a parish church, built from 1889 to 1897. The former Arena of Atocha  (bullfight arena). They dated from 1876 in demolishing this arena, its materials were used in the construction of the first houses of the district of Egia, the Castle of La Mota (Castillo de la Mota) and the fortifications are a defensive complex located on Mount Urgull.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip in addition to my blog post above are

Tourist office San Sebastian :

Tourist office Basque Country Spain:

City of San Sebastian on tourism:

Unofficial travel guide to the Basque Country on San Sebastian:

There you have it another jewel in my beloved Spain, you should come too. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


Tags: ,
%d bloggers like this: