Archive for June 25th, 2018

June 25, 2018

Deep Pyrénées at Saint Palais!

On a hot week with temps up to 28C or about 82F and very bright sunny day, let me tell you again about my wanderings road warrior travels of the deep south of France. There is a south and there is a deep south, this one is inner France amongst mountains, in the again deep south, get it!

I will talk about Saint Palais a small town for the essence of travel by car.  I have written something on it in combination with another town will speak in next post. The previous blog post is here: Saint Palais in Béarn

Saint-Palais or Donapaleu in Basque is a town in the département 64 of  Pyrénées-Atlantiques in the region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.  The town is at the heart of the old kingdom of Navarra of which it was the capital since 1521.  It is bordered by the Bidouze and Joyeuse rivers. Saint Palais is about 60 km from Bayonne, 85 km from Pau ,and 40 km from Spain.  It is on the via Podiensis of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela (St James); the first town to cross Navarra and many times considered as the beginning of the Camino Navarro, or even the Camino Francés.

The automobile is king here coming on the autoroute A64 exit or sortie 4 ; and connecting to the roads  D8, D11, D302, D511 D933 , and D2933.  The closest airports are the Biarritz-Parme  and Pau-Uzein . From Pamplona or Navarra Spain by the peak or col de Roncevaux  at about 108 km. The bus line 809 from Orthez/Salies-de-Béarn/Sauveterre-de-Béarn/St Palais reaches here.  Check as schedule will change in July ’18: Bus 809 schedule Saint Palais

A bit of history I like:

In 1521 after the defeat against the Spanish in the battle of Noain, king Henri II made it the capital of Navarra.  He created the Estates General of Navarra in 1523 here, as well as the chancellery and the prime ministers that later king Louis XIII transfered to Pau.  The town grow thanks to the pimgrimage to Santiago de Compostela but in 1784 king Louis XVI ends the activities of the hospice of Utziat at Arros, Harambelts at Ostabat, and Saint-Palais, to create the hospital of Saint-Palais, been the capital of the kingdom of Navarra. The French revolution ends all that in 1790.

Some things to see here are

The mansion of D’Erdoy-Oyhenart  facing the Church of  Saint-Paul  is the Salle d’Erdoy,an old mansion where the pretender to the throne of Navarra Jeanne d’Albret married the historian   Oyhénart in 1627. Locally better known as the house of heads or maison des Têtes, for the five  bas-reliefs that decorates the facade; from left to right  the busts of Henri II, his daughter Jeanne d’Albret ,and Henri III of Navarra (future king Henri IV).

The Hôtel de La Monnaie , here while king Charles II of Navarra authorized Saint Palais to coin money, he installed the shop in the house of Angelu in 1351. Saint Palais had many people doing this trade of coinage , the shop was dismantled in 1672.

The house of the king or Maison du Roi  was a former palace and prison of the senators of Navarra from 1639 to 1790.  The house of the judges where the nobles were convened at its bells ringing to determine the sentences of the town.

Church of Saint-Paul built in the Middle Ages house the first Estates General of Navarra in 1523 ; later the reforme temple of religioni under Jeanne d’Albret and Henri IV. In 1524 it house the chancellery of Navarra that gives justice in the kingdom until 1624. The justice courthouse came here in 1790.

Church of Marie-Madeleine , a neo gothic Church built in 1866. It has artifacts of the old Church of Saint-Paul  such as a portrait of the apostle, a golden Virgin and a coffin. In 1888, it got an organ of Cavaillé-Coll.

Saint Palais

Saint Palais

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

City of Saint Palais on tourism

Tourist office Saint Palais in French:

Hope it encourage you to visit this deep south of France, lovely territory but you need a car.

Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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June 25, 2018

Welcome back to Maisons-Laffitte!

And why not a castle very close to Paris and seldom visited but is a must for the architecture and the history of it as well as the horse races. Well, it was not far from me while in the area so used to go there a lot ,even to shop in the wonderful gourmet store of Longueil.

I am talking about Maisons-Laffitte of course. Maisons-Laffitte is a town in the département 78 Yvelines in the region of Île-de-France, about 10 km from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and 18 km from Paris. It is at the banks of the Seine river on the left bank and on the west it has the forest of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The metro area also includes a part of the isles of the Seine and de la Commune.

The road D308 runs from Paris to Poissy passing by Maisons-Laffitte as principal road. The train station connects to Gare Saint Lazare in Paris and also has the regional express train RER A line L from many points in Paris. The night bus N152 Gare de Cergy-le-Haut Paris St-Lazare, passes by Maisons-Laffitte as well.

The first mention of the village dates from about 820, in the writing of Bishop Minot, the name was Mansionis Villa.  The first squire was certainly Nivard of Septeuil. His son Geoffroy I granted the Abbey of Saint-Wandrille de Fontelle the free passage in front of the port of Maisons  towards 1060-1066. He also gave towards 1087 the Church of Maisons at the Abbey of Our Lady of Coulombs (near Nogent-le-Roi), with land, vines, tithes and a share of the toll. The family of Avesne  kept its land, which quickly passed to the family of Marseille. The family ceded their property from 1460 to Jean IV de Longueil, judge in the Parliament of Paris. The Lordship’s town will be found in 1602, when John VIII of Longueil buys the share of Marseille.

The castle is built at his request by François Mansart, uncle of Jules Hardouin-Mansart who will build Versailles a few years later… This new building takes the place of the previous buildings built by the two lineages of house Lords. The castle will be great, to receive the king during the hunts in the forest of Saint-Germain. It is for this reason that the entrance to the monument is back to the Seine, preceded by a wide avenue coming from the forest. Construction starts around 1642, ending at 1650. king Louis XIV lodged there in 1671 on the day of the death of Philippe François de France, duke d’Anjou.

Maisons Laffitte

The first alleys of the park, the Avenues Albine and Aegle, are contemporary of the castle. The other aisles will be created during the 18C. A map of 1740 shows it as we know it today. A majority of families live in the vineyard, which occupies 40% of the cultivated land. Among the descendants of René de Longueil, figure Jean-René (1700-1731) who received scholars and writers at the château, among which Voltaire. The latter tells in his correspondence the fire which damaged the building in 1724, when he left after being treated with smallpox.

Starting with the king, to please Madame de Pompadour in 1747, then to Madame du Barry in 1770 to sell the castle. But king Louis XV did not let himself be engaged in these operations and Soyécourt ended up selling Maisons in 1777 to the count of Artois, brother of king Louis XVI and future king Charles X, who complemented the embellishments. The French Revolution has finally put an end to this procrastination. The count of Artois fled to England, and the estate was put under receivership in 1792.  Put on sale in 1797 as national property, the ensemble is awarded to Jean Lanchère (1727-1805), supplier to armies interested in the profits he can make of the buildings, Lanchère destroys some pavilions, sells sculptures… to finally resell the Castle in  1804 to Marshal Lannes after his death in 1809 at the Battle of Essling, his wife, the Duchess of Montebello, sometimes received the emperor in visits. The latter, in 1810, ordered the construction of the first bridge between Sartrouville and Maisons.

Maisons laffitte

In 1813, the Duchess received the Empress Marie-Louise, of whom she had been a lady of honour for three years. In 1818, she sells the estate of Maisons in favour of Jacques Laffitte. Opponent of king Charles X (the former owner of the castle, between 1777 and 1789, while he was Count of Artois), Jacques Laffitte welcomed many members of the political opposition to Maisons. It is therefore logical that he exerts decisive influence during the revolution of 1830.

Maisons laffitte

Jacques Laffitte is appointed President of the Council and Minister of Finance of the king. Overwhelmed by political agitation, he left the post in 1831, and came out pretty much ruined from the adventure. As a result of these events, he decided to divide the estate of Maisons to carry out a fruitful real estate operation. In 1833, the stables and other dependencies were destroyed in order to provide building materials for the purchasers of the park lots.  In 1834 is deposited before notary the specifications of this subdivision, a copy of which is, even today, given to each purchaser in the park. The idea of this specification is to lay the principles of construction of this “city in the countryside”. To ensure the service of the properties, Jacques Laffitte is led to open new avenues in the park. Starting from the already existing backbone (avenues Aegle, Albine…), he traces geometric figures. He also draws a cross of the Legion of Honour around the place Napoleon and the Circle of fame, from which avenues will bear the names of the battles of the emperor.

Jacques Laffitte died on May 26, 1844, carried by a pulmonary disease. The estate passes to the hands of his daughter Albine, who proceeds from 1846 to an auction of the remaining lots and who will eventually sell the estate in 1850, including the 33 hectares including the Castle. Charles Laffitte, a large horse-sport enthusiast, is a founding member of the Jockey Club in Paris, where the Encouragement society will be established. He owned the “Le Val-Fleuri” property in the park where the Malesherbes room is currently located, although the property was much larger.

The remains of the water machine of Maisons-Laffitte on the small arm of the Seine. It was probably built by François Mansart at the request of René de Longueil to fuel his future Castle of Maisons in 1634. Destroyed in 1885, it remains today that the three masonry abutments on which the machine rested. The wonderful  Château de Maisons-Laffitte (b. 1643). is considered a masterpiece of 17C civil architecture. Constituting a reference in the history of French architecture, it marks the transition between the end of late Renaissance architecture and that of classicism. I let you see my other post on it , very nice castle worth a visit while in the Paris area.

Inaugurated in 1878, the Hippodrome de Maisons-Laffitte (horse racecourse)  is part of the series of racing fields built during the second half of the 19C  in the region of ïle de France in addition to the Grands racecourses of Paris (Auteuil, Longchamp, Saint-Cloud and Vincennes) and alongside those of the Marche in Marnes-La-Coquette (1851), Enghien (1879), Saint-Ouen (1881) and Colombes (1883). A runway of 4 680 meters in grass, located on the edge of the Seine. The straight line of more than 2 000 meters is the longest in Europe with the Rowley Mile Course in Newmarket (Suffolk, England). The Hippodrome de Maisons-Laffitte has the peculiarity of being the only course of flat runs  in Île-de-France where horses can run rope left and rope right in the same meeting of races. Different track configurations are possible, with a total of 35 different departures: A right-hand rope track (1 600 meters to 3 200 meters), a left-hand rope track (1 400 meters to 2 400 meters), and a straight line (2 000 meters). More here:

Contemporaries of the château, several pavilions also of François Mansart: Two at the entrance of the Parc de Maisons-Laffitte, framing the two gates of Maisons-Laffitte, once closed by a grid. Two others a little further, very revamped, in the extension of Avenue Albine. A fifth in the northern cellars, Eglé Avenue, at another end of the park.  An old church of the 11C and 16C, disaffected in 1896, today Exhibition Center. The Fountain of Maisons-Laffitte, in the village, next door, dating from the 18C.  A Benedictine priory that the tradition brought back to the 15C, which survives the exterior structure with two pepper towers at the end of the street of the same name, very reshuffle before and after long served as a school of the village.

You have the nice Church of Saint Nicolas, at 13 rue de la muette. The Church is built between 1867-1872 in a neo Roman style on the land of an old cemetery given by the city.

Several mansions such as the one at 30 avenue Pascal. The Doulton Pavilion made by the British pottery company Royal Doulton for the Universal Exhibition of 1878. After the exhibition, the façade was reassembled in the Parc de Maisons-Laffitte and a house was built in the back.  At 35 Avenue Belleforière, Villa sur jardin of 1923 , it is now divided into apartments and the garden Loti is occupied by several buildings.  At 2 Avenue du General-Leclerc, call the  Florentine Villa built in 1905 . Also, several other building of great architecture interest such as the Juillard Property, Guard Pavilion, 72 rue de Paris , mansion at 2 rue de la mute, mansion at  24 Avenue Eglé,  mansion at  21bis Avenue Eglé , mansion at  39 Avenue Albine,  the Hotel Royal of Maisons-Laffitte, a building at 36bis rue de la mute.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it is a must are

Maisons Laffitte on history and heritage :

Official page of the Chateau de Maisons:

Tourist office of Maisons Laffitte:

The Friends of Chateau de Maisons assoc in French :

There you go ,you are all set for a wonderful experience believe me. Hope it helps.

Remember , happy travels, good health ,and many cheers to all!!!

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