Archive for July 27th, 2018

July 27, 2018

Small quaint towns of the Pyrénées Atlantiques in Nouvelle Aquitaine!

And on a nice sunny Friday from my end of France, it is time to showcase the small quaint towns of lovely Pyrénées Atlantiques. Another region of my belle France that I have enjoyed over the years with my dear late wife Martine.

This part of France have gone thru many name changes over the years into the unified kingdom of France, the empire and then the Republic. Before 1969, the region was called Basses Pyrénées.  And before the French revolution ,this was the province of Béarn ,including lower Navarre, lands of Labourd and Soule (from the province of Gascogne) as well as some parishes of Soubestre .  The Labourd, Lower Navarre and Soule were the three provinces of the French pays basque. The department 64 has two faces today, that of the Béarn with Pau as principal city and the Pays Basque with Bayonne as principal city.  The government site of the department already mention 3 stages of the Tour de France bike race will pass by it on July 26, 27, and 28.  See in French here: Pyrenees Atlantiques on tour de France

I have written pieces of it before in my blog, here is the post: The trip continues in the Pyrenees Atlantiques

Monein  is in the department 64 of the Pyrénées Atlantiques in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine as all the towns in this post. The best way for me to get there is on the A64 highway (Toulouse-Bayonne); Exit 9 Artix at 11 km.  Monein counted a secular abbey from the 12C, a vassal of the viscounty of Béarn. King Henry IV dubbed Monein ,the Paris of Béarn!!!  The Church of Saint-Girons dates from the 15C and 16C. It is the largest Gothic church in the  Béarn. It houses a frame built in the heart of Oak, 50 meters long and 18 meters in height, in the form of a double hull of an overturned vessel. More info on the city of Monein webpage in French here: city of Monein on heritage

Monein

Thèze, is 20 km north of Pau and is part of the Vic-Bilh. The N134 and the D44 /D944 as well as the connection with the A65 connects the city very nicely.  The Church of St. Peter dates from the 12C. It is remarkable for the volume of its porch tower and its Renaissance portal. It contains objects, paintings and furniture from the times.  More from the city of Théze in French here:  City of Theze on heritage

Theze

Morlaàs, is connected with the D39 and D943 roads in the area The municipality is served by the departmental roads 39 and RD 943 from Pau traversing the A64 highway.
From the 10C to the 12C, Morlaàs was the residence of the Viscounts of Béarn and capital of the Béarn in place of Lescar destroyed in the 9C. Orthez will follow in the 12C. The Morlaàs charter dates from 1101.  The town had a commandery of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem from Carvalho and Morlaàs. There were convents of Jacobins and Cordeliers. The town was part of the archdeaconry of Vic-Bilh, which depended on the bishopric of Lescar and of which Lembeye was the chief place. Morlaàs  printed money at the Château de la Hourquie (or the Fourquie, whose exact location is unknown to us today) since the 9C. The Morlan money was used throughout the south of France throughout the Middle Ages. In 1690, the monetary workshop was transferred to Pau. The weights and mesures of Morlaàs served as standards throughout the Béarn and up to Soule and lower Navarre.

In the Bourg-Mayou,  you see remains of  fortifications of the 11C, 12C and 14C, called Pousterles, testifying  to the ancient past of the town.  The fountain known as Baratnau, place Sainte-Foy, dates from 1635 and the house of Jeanne Albret from 1451. This square also welcomed, from the 17C until 1845, a market. This market was replaced in 1850 by a new building. Always at place Sainte-Foy, we find the old City/Town hall transformed into a police station of the Gendarmerie, then in school, built in 1832.  In the same place Sainte-Foy, the Musée de Morlaàs can boast a rich collection of medieval or newer objects, paintings, weapons, keys, furniture, sculptures, a funerary slab and various architectural elements.

Morlaàs presents a set of houses and farms from the 15C to the 19C. The Château de Baratnau (at Place-dit Grange de Baratnau) was built around 1540.  The Château de Sarrabat, at the square of the same name, was built at the end of the 19C. There are eleven windmills in Morlaàs, some of which have preceded 1385.  St. Andre’s Church, rue Bourg-Neuf, partially dates from the late 11C. There are furnishings, paintings, statues and objects. The Romanesque Church of Sainte-Foy dates from the 11C. Its construction was begun during the reign of Centule V. The portal is the most interesting part, and proves the past importance of the city. The Ministry of Culture has recorded a monstrance of the 19C, paintings an altar and a commemorative plaque dated 1301. The church is a stopover on the via Tolosane (or Toulouse Road), the Latin name of one of the four paths of France of the Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela, the southernmost.
The Cloister of the Benedictine priory of St. Faith dates in part from the 11C. The priory contains furniture, paintings, statues, canopies of objects and architectural elements.  A Church belonging to the Saint John Hospital Commandery of Jerusalem is reported in 1318 at the place Berlanne. Several times demolished and rebuilt (destruction by the Protestants in 1569, re-erection in 1610, demolition in the 19C, new inauguration in 1902), it is still the subject of a pilgrimage.

A first Convent of Jacobins was built in 1268, north of Bourg-Mayou, then destroyed in a fire in 1569. The monks then occupied a new building, dating from the 16C. You can see five capitals of marble columns Rue Molaàs-Vielle, the Convent of Cordeliers was founded before 1290 by Gaston VII of Béarn. It has been noted several architectural elements (e.g. Keystone and capitals). The city of Morlaas has more in French: City of Morlaas on heritage

Morlaas

In our rides here we set out from/to Pau as our base on the D933 road direction St Jean le Vieux coming back from the further south. Then took the D918 direction Mauléon-Licharre.  Not expecting to see anything here but just passing and voilà to our surprise it has many interesting things if hidden to the general public, of course you need a car but I will always say , the best way to travel.

Mauléon-Licharre is located in the heart of the historical province of Soule, at the foot of the Pyrenees. Mauléon, an old feudal town, is built on the right bank of the Saison river or gave of Mauléon, at the foot of a hill where the ruins of the castle rise. In 1261, Prince Edward I of England made a demonstration of force on the site, which prompted the Viscounts of Soule to submit. He then decided, in order to establish his power, the fortification of certain cities, in Soule, Villeneuve-lès-Tardets (now Tardets-Sorholus) and Mauléon which became a Bastide.  The current town was created in 1841 by the union of the towns of Mauléon and Licharre.

The old castle of Mauléon is an 11C castle, the castle of Maytie called Andurain was built at the end of the 16C by Pierre de Maytie. The rectangular House of Pavilion is adorned with windows with mullions and ornate dormers in Renaissance style;  the city/town hall, located on the Place des Allées, was built for Count Philibert de Grama by François Mansart whose style is recognized with the alternation of skylights arched and triangular pediment and large spaced windows.  The states of Soule bought this mansion in 1777. It became the sub-prefecture of Mauléon from 1789 to 1926. Since 1980, it is the new City/Town hall of Mauléon. The writer Pierre Benoit has used this location for the action of his novel for Don Carlos ,la Maison de La Fee (fairy ), at 8 Rue du Fort, known as the oldest in Mauléon. It bears the date of 1485 but probably dates more like 1785. It reflects the traditional peasant habitat, with a large door on the ground floor for the cattle and the apartment on the floor.   The Maison de Bela which dominates the upper town with its Rounded tower. It is particularly well known because in 1587 its owner, Gérard de Béla, decided to introduce taxes, an innovation that displeased particularly  the inhabitants of the city.

Mauleon Licharre

Other beauties in this amazing small town are the market or halles dated 1765, was claimed by the inhabitants since the terrible fire of 1641 which had destroyed about 20 houses, leaving only eleven that could still properly shelter the market under their awnings.  The Chapel of Saint-Jean-de-Berraute is attested from 1220. It was part of the Commandery run by the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem or Knights of Malta. This commandment housed the pilgrims of Santiago coming from Oloron by the Hôpital Saint-Blaise and headed by Ordiarp towards Ostaba it was saved from the total destruction in 1983 by the municipality: repair of the roof, consolidation of the vault and walls !! great!  The Notre-Dame Church in the Upper Town; it has a parchment of 1373 which gave permission of the Bishop of Oloron to build a new chapel. The Chapel even though it was small, this Chapel became Church and even Cathedral, having sheltered, with its houses contiguous, the bishop of Oloron and his chapter of canons on two occasions, from 1378 to 1412, during the Great Schism of the West which saw the Catholics divide between supporters of the Pope of Rome and those of that of Avignon . And again, from 1570 to 1599 during the Wars of religion. The Bishop of Oloron Claude Régis, expelled from his cathedral by the Protestants, took refuge in this Church of the upper town to which he bequeathed his heart at his death in 1592. Inside, it has a Baroque altarpiece devoted to the life of the Virgin.  The paving of the entrance is original, one heart, two squares and their diagonals, a half-erased Monstrance . To the left is not a blessing but an old grain measure that was used for the market that stood at this place on Tuesdays.

And I told you was a surprise, many things to see here. We continue…. the Calvary (or white Cross) from the  17C made in  white marble located in the Rue de Navarre is a marble column erected at the site of the Walnut tree where the judges of the ancient Court of Licharre, (today a crossroads in the traffic roundabout), were gathered.  The Church of St. John the Baptist was built in the late 19C. The decision to built dates from 1877, the first stone was laid in 1879 and it was consecrated in 1885. It was partly built with the stones of the Church of Licharre which had been demolished . In the next five years, it has been endowed with glass windows with character from the master glass maker Ferdinand Hutcher. Then the choir and the nave are adorned with paintings by abbé Xavier Montaut, completed by Auguste Montaut and the Atelier Decrept.

Mauleon Licharre

More on this wonderful little town from the city town hall: City of Mauleon Licharre on Heritage

And last but not least the wonderful Lescar very near Pau , our home base always in the area for years, and you can tell we like it very much.  Lescar is located at 6.5 km  west of Pau;  it is also 52 km north of Urdos, which allows the passage to Spain (via the Col du Somport), heck yeah for many years our route even before the tunnel was built !!!,  and 87 km east of Capbreton on the Atlantic coast. It sits on the east-west axis by the A64 highway ( aka  La Pyrénéenne). A highway exchanger to reach the new highway A65 ; (aka Autoroute de Gascogne), crossing the A64 on the territory of the town and allowing to reach Langon in the north.  The town is also served by the old national Roads RN117, Route de Bayonne, and RN417 (forming part of the Beltway of Pau) which are grouped under the RD817 (super road connecting to many areas of Pau and out to other towns, great).

Lescar

The town maintains more than 600 000 m2 of gardens, 12 000 m2 of compound massif shrubs, and has 2 674 trees on its territory. The best on are the Parc de Beneharnum, at the foot of the ramparts, then the  garden of the place Royale or the park of the city hall.

 

An oppidum of the second Iron age was also identified in the district of Bilaà, on which is built the castle of the family of Ariste. The lower town of Lescar represents the heart of the ancient Beneharnum. Archaeologists have exhumed in the district of Bialé  178 traffic lanes, sewers, foundations of houses, as well as ditches. The first complete plan of an ancient villa in the south of Aquitaine could be drawn up.  During excavations conducted in 2008,  traces of public baths are discovered on the area. A caldarium of 53 m2, as well as another room of 69 m2 (tepidarium or frigidarium) are notably identified in the Quartier Saint-Michel.  The remains of a large suburban villa are finally discovered during excavations carried out between 1885 And 1887 , the villa is implanted on an overhang of the gave valley, located 1.5 km east of the lower Town . A first building was built in the middle of the 1C, during the Haut-Empire it seems that the villa remains occupied throughout the 4C, before being abandoned in the second half of the 5C. Still on the Domaine Saint Michel, the remains of the funeral enclosure La Tourette are discovered dating from  the lower empire period of Rome. Several elements discovered on the site are exposed to the museum of Lescar, including furniture and a mosaic of 6.5 meters long on 3.3 meters wide.  More from the city of Lescar in French: City of Lescar on heritage

 

In addition to the above some webpages to help you plan your trip here and it is recommended are

Tourism of the Pyrenees Atlantiques

Area of Monein on tourism

Area of Morlaas on tourism

Area of Mauleon Licharre on tourism

Area of Theze on tourism

Tourist office of Pau on Lescar tourism

Area of Lescar on tourism

There you go now you are loaded and ready to visit this region, no excuses. A wonderful experience always and immense memories of our family by here, always in our hearts and maybe it will be in yours if dare to come.

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

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July 27, 2018

Some news from Spain LXIIII

So its time for my beloved Spain and the latest finds and news. There is always a happening there ,especially in Summer time when all of Europe goes south (well most of it).  Spain is everything under the Sun!

We are cloudy cool fresh air in my neck of the woods at 25C but in Paris it is 36C lol! My beloved Madrid is sunny at 90F or about 32C.

How to travel the cities without a car?  Very big indeed and Spain is great for it. The getaways are part of the essence of the summer, but what about the car? If this year you go from picking it up the best thing is that you choose an easy to walk in many destination. In Spain many cities have invested in the last few years in improving their pedestrian connections, something that benefits their neighbors but what can also take advantage of tourists.  In addition to having the opportunity to immerse yourselves  in the heart of cities without unnecessary hassles or noise, walking through urban centers on foot helps reduce pollution in cities by reducing the emission of greenhouse gases and improving Air quality.

According to a study conducted by Holidu in which we analyze the kilometers of pedestrian roads that have each Spanish city, the best city in Spain to visit on foot is Granada, which has 91 kilometers, but in the ranking also enter Vitoria-Gasteiz, or Valencia.  Besides the Alhambra and all its treasures Granada also keeps the largest pedestrian area in the country in proportion to its size. This Andalusian city has 21% of its pedestrian-only use streets. In fact, in the center of the city is restricted the road traffic, so you visit on foot the area where the cathedral is located, the royal chapel or the monastery of San Jerónimo is very comfortable.

With 70 km  of pedestrian streets, the capital of Alava, Vitoria-Gasteiz, has 19% of its urban fabric pedestrianized. Thus, the city represents a favorable environment for the pedestrian . In the old town, where you will find most of the converted into pedestrian area, you can walk around enjoying the abundant samples of architecture of the 15th century, squares such as the Virgen Blanca or visit the Renaissance palaces of Bendaña and Escoriaza-Esquivel.

The count goes on to  Valencia, where there are 136 pedestrian km  19 % of the total urban fabric. There have increased considerably the pedestrian streets in recent years, as the city opted for reducing pollution by applying measures such as the restriction of road traffic in some areas. In Valencia you can enjoy strolling in the neighborhoods like El Carmen, one of the largest medieval neighborhoods in Europe as well as historic buildings of the city such as the silk market, the colorful Central markets of Valencia, or the squares of the Reina (Queen) and the Virgin(Virgen).

The Bizkaia capital is in it too,  Bilbao has 44 km pedestrian  that translate into 18% of its urban fabric. There you can visit on foot the old town, where to enjoy the mixture of the most traditional places of the city with the most innovative and make a stop at the Teatro Arriaga, the Plaza Nueva or the Church of San Antón.

Salamanca is surprising there too . The most University City in Spain has 17% of its urban fabric pedestrianized. There visitors can not miss the square of the town hall, considered one of the most beautiful in the country, the cathedral and the university, which this year celebrates its 800 anniversary and where it is obliged to look for the frog.

Cuenca (indeed we did a lot of walking), the city of the hanging houses has 23 km. This means that 15% of its streets only allow pedestrians. There, in addition to the famous houses you can also visit the main square, the cathedral or the ruins of your castle. There, in addition to the famous houses you can also visit the main square, the cathedral or the ruins of your castle. Cuenca (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain), the famous houses hung, UNESCO World Heritage Site Cuenca (Castilla-La Mancha, Spain), the famous houses hung, UNESCO World Heritage Site

Sevilla the Andalusian capital has 102 pedestrian km, 15% of the total urban fabric. There you can find pedestrian areas in the well-known neighborhoods of Triana, Los Remedios and in the center of the city. Besides the Giralda and the Plaza de España, in Seville it is also essential to visit  Calle Sierpes, full of traditional shops or Calle Feria, where a large number of artisans are concentrated.

Without leaving Andalusia we encountered Huelva. There the pedestrian area is 13% of the urban area where you can enjoy a visit to the Plaza de las Monjas, in the center of the city, a walk through the Gran via or the Herrera style architecture of its city/town hall or the Cathedral of the Mercy.

The city  with 13% of its pedestrian urban fabric. With 110 km of pedestrian roads, including those on Calle de Petritxol, in the Gothic quarter, the first pedestrian street in Barcelona, where traffic was banned in 1959 or the well-known streets of Enric Granados, full of shops and bars or workshops , where the medieval charm goes from the command of the most original shops. Can’t wait to be back in October on foot!

In Toledo there are 37 km. This implies that the Castilian-manchego capital has 13% of its network of Pedestrian  streets. Most of it is in the old town, where visitors can feel like medieval times. In Toledo it is essential to visit the Cathedral of the city, the Alcazar, the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes or the Church of Santa Maria La Blanca.

The main entrances to the national park are by Cantabria through Potes  and Fuente Dé; In Asturias by Cangas de Onís and Arenas de Cabrales, and in the case of León, by Valdeón. The Picos de Europa National Park celebrates its one hundred years as the first natural protected area of Spain. You will want to go up to one of the most spectacular landscapes in Spain. The road  from  June 1st  and until the September  30, the route closes to the private vehicles. For environmental reasons you can only hop on the regular bus.

It was encouraged to do this park by Pedro Begl, Marquis of Villaviciosa, an advance  men of the time that, worried by the disappearance of the favorite sites  of hunting that lived there, but also in love to the head of its landscapes, undertook  a crusade that culminated in 1918 with the declaration of the National Park of the mountain of Covadonga, later, of the Picos de Europa.  A century ago, the peaks were very different. Apart from the locals, I only knew these mountains a handful of madmen. Tourists and pilgrims who today crowd on the stairs that access the Holy Grotto are oblivious to that.

The route of the Reconquista recalls the flight of the Saracens defeated by Rodrigo (El Cid) . Three  days of walking along the northern facade of Picos to Sotres. There begins another of the most famous paths, which goes up to the Naranjo de Bulnes. On the outskirts of Potes, the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana has concluded a couple of months ago its particular Holy Year. Thousands of people have passed through the Lignum Crucis, the largest preserved piece of the Cross where Christ died. Liébana is another access to Picos. Thanks to Fuente de Dé cable car, you go  in the heart of this mineral world on a flight of just a few minutes .  More info here : Parque Nacional Picos de Europa

Life in Santander walks the opening of the Centro Botin  has placed it  better on the map. Because it has always been there, bragging about Bahia, although many times  has lived with his back to sea, and wanting to show the  best face. The private art Center  is located on the Albareda pier in the gardens of Pereda. Imposing and light on par, it is articulated in two volumes connected to each other by a structure of squares and footbridges. The building does not touch Earth, is suspended on pillars and columns at the height of the treetops. The light fills every instance and offers unbeatable views of the bay. Until September 2, you can visit the exhibition Joan Miró: Sculptures 1928-1982. Do not stop browsing  while shopping,  and if you fancy a coffee, sit in the cafeteria, it is very nice.

There is a boat service that makes panoramic visits of one hour in the bay. Heading to the beach of El Sardinero, next to the maritime Club, is the monument to the Raqueros, some statues by the sea reminiscent of children with few resources that, in the late 19C  and early  20C, were looking for life by the port. With small thefts and recovering from the water the coins that were thrown by the crew and the people, they survived in the area. The Magdalena Peninsula, which you can walk on foot or in a Trenecillo (carriage train). From its beach you can see the islands of the tower (Islas de la Torre), where there is a sailing school, and the Horadada, a rocky arch that emerges from the waters. The summer residence of  king Alfonso XIII has even a free public minizoo in which seals, sea lions and penguins inhabit. Once upstairs, take two minutes to sit on the bench that looks out over the island of Mouro.  We reached the beach of the Biquinis (bikinis) , they count by the loudspeaker of the boat, which owes its name to the foreign students who wore this garment in the 60’s. They were the first bikinis that were seen in Spain! The most beloved of the beaches of the city may be that of the Sardinero-in fact it is two beaches-, of fine sand and with a promenade that is enjoyed at any time of the year. Your casino will remind you at the time of Biarritz. If the water is too cold, enjoy contemplating the skill of the surfers who come here.

Also animated area to find table and resto service  are the streets Of Hernán Cortés, Peña Grassy or the taverns of Paseo de Pereda. The bar of the restaurant El Puerto is a bustle at the time of the appetizer. The tour can be accompanied by an artisan gelato; Regma-There are locals all over the city-and Capri is an institution. Wondering will discover Pombo’s Square, where the café of the same name invites you to enter and take a break, and the Plaza arcaded (Porticada) . If you have see if around in the great bookstore Gil, maybe it’s time to start a good novel.  The Renfe Alvia connects Santander with Madrid from 30 euros. In the tourism web of Cantabria find more info: Tourism Santander

In this small town of Empordà you can play everything to blackjack. Or dine in a Michelin-starred restaurant. Or wield the golf clubs. The visitor also comes for a four-handed massage with grape pips. You can even walk among vineyards, take refuge in the tranquility of a medieval cloister or contemplate one of the oldest editions of Don Quixote.  Peralada, 15 minutes from Figueras ‘ AVE station, is a place with many  edges. And with a long history at the Castell, installed in a Carmelite convent from the 14C. A castle that from 1923 belongs to the family Suqué-Mateu and in whose gardens is celebrated for more than three decades the music festival with the most glamour of the Costa Brava. For this scenario have paraded many of the great voices of  music : From Plácido Domingo to Ermonela Jaho and Javier Camarena to Jonas Kaufmann.

The guided tour begins in the cloister and church of the 14C. We see cannons of the 15C of the defense of the castle of Púbol and rare ossuaries; Rubens tapestries and Romanesque capitals of the master of Cabestany. Among the 2,500 pieces of glass-one of the best private collections in the world-we find an Egyptian piece from the time of Tutankhamun.   A whole cabinet of wonders. During the Civil War, the museum housed hundreds of works of the Prado that were here before continuing on its way to Geneva. At  this point, under the library, thework of Goya’s Mamalukes was restored. He had to mend a scratch and used a piece of a butler’s grandmother’s nightwear.   The family wanted to recover the wine tradition of the castle from the moment Miguel Mateu acquired it in 1923. Today it has 150 hectares of vineyards. And is already underway the construction of the new winery in charge of the architecture studio RCR, which last year won  the prize Pritzker. It will be a sustainable winery (with 40 percent of geothermal energy) and fully integrated into the environment . The fast train  AVE (www. renfe . com) connects Madrid and Barcelona to Figueras, 15 minutes by car from Peralada.  More info here: Tourism Empordà

The trip or the Xacobea route of the Arousa  Sea is the way by sea. From the Ría de Arousa to the Plaza del Obradoio, passing through Rianxo and the Church of Santiago de Padrón  .Already in the 1960’s, the foundation route Xacobea of the Sea of Arousa-Río Ulla rescued the tradition of this fluvial sea crossing , has only been in recent years when it has become popular, to the enormous interest that produces the way and the desire of many pilgrims to do so again in a different way.

The sources of this tradition are found in the Codex Calixtinus, this unusual travel book written in the 12C that has inspired countless generations of pilgrims to follow the Milky Way of Finis Terrae.  We are told that the body of the Apostle Santiago was moved by sea from the Palestinian coast to Galicia in a stone boat, to finally be buried in Mount Libredón, in the current Compostela. To this end, the maritime itinerary followed by its disciples, Teodoro and Athanasius, brings us closer to the sepulcher through the Ría de Arousa, taking land in the Roman river port of Iria Flavia the ideal would be to find a friend, even a friend of a friend , with a boat in the area that is willing to join the adventure. or to hire the services of a specialized company like Bluscus that adapts to any requirement. The starting point, if you want to be rigorous, should be located either in San Vicente de o Grove, or in the port of Aguiño in Ribeira. From there and following the coast to the north is mandatory to make a series of stops in places as charismatic as a Pobra do Caramiñal, one of the best preserved villas with a rich historical-artistic heritage. Not forgetting Boiro, or the port shellfish of Cabo de Cruz and then approaching Rianxo.  You can also take advantage of visiting Sálvora, one of the two islands of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands with which  will meet on this route.

Another of the highlights of the sea route is Cambados, without doubt one of the most beautiful towns of the Rias Baixas where you can take advantage to try a good Alvariño  (white wine) after touring its old town. Following the route through the heart of the Rias Baixas is reached the Illa de Arousa that for centuries belonged to the Episcopate Compostela before ending together with the mainland, at the height of Vilanova, where ends the second stage of the spiritual variant of the  Camino Portugués or Portuguese way.   On the way you can Cortegada the island, another of the jewels of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands, is passed in front of the romantic towers of West, remains of the old fortress of Catoira, before entering, already at the mouth of the river Ulla , in the Brañas of Laiño, a protected humid area, the boats now cannot get there, ending their voyage in Puentecesures. After visiting  Rosalía’s house museum but also the Camilo José Cela Foundation, it is time to gain  momentum  when approaching the Church of Santiago de Padrón where the Pedrón is located, under its main altar where, it is said, docked the stone boat that brought  Santiago (St James).

For those who follow the spiritual variant and want to reach  Compostela, there is still a stage to Santiago that allows you to know Faramello, one of the most moving  pazos in Galicia. It is open to the public and if you are lucky, you can agree with one of the guided tours that makes the magnificent property and its surroundings, from there, in just two and a half hours you can walk to the Plaza del Obradoiro and enjoy the restored  gate of The glory (Puerta de la Gloria). Bluscus is specialized in personalized itineraries.   Alvarnnaútica and the Pilgrim’s Boat have regular services. More information: Tourism Galicia way of Santiago

Some ideas for the Summer in my beloved Spain, so many really. It can take a lifetime, I know lived there since a young child and continuesly visit throughout my life ,still lots to see and do in my beloved Spain. And all thanks to wonderful grandparents from Tenerife!

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

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July 27, 2018

Small quaint towns of the Tarn in Occitanie!

As I go around my belle France it never ceased to amaze me the plethora of small towns, villages really that abound in beauty. This is all over on each department or region  on every road; its amazing, glad to be here.

I love to drive a car , for me is freedom, independence, the lure to go into the nooks and crannies of places and no time to come back no hurry just leisure at my best time. It helps visiting these jewels of France. The Occitanie region is dear to us, its the family on father’s side of my dear late wife Martine; she introduce me to it way back in 1990 and it has never stop nor it will ever. First, let me tell you about my previous blog posts on the region, here they are in a general sense for all.

South West Magic of France

And those Cathars region Occitanie of France

Here we go with some of my jewels of the Tarn and Occitanie.

Giroussens as all is in the Department 81 of the Tarn 81 in the region of Occitanie ;this one sits above the Agout valley between Lavaur, Graulhet and Saint-Sulpice –la-Pointe at about 40 km from Toulouse. The village was originally located 1 km from its current location. A bit of history I like to follow.

A Gallo-Roman villa is located on the edge of the Agout river. It was occupied in the 5C by the Visigoths who left a necropolis (currently the Martels). The Lord Amalric de Lautrec erects Giroussens in Bastide, and from then on a city grows and thrives in the shelter of its ramparts. The Church of Saint-Salvi was rebuilt at the end of the 14C. In 1381, the Count of Foix-Béarn, Gaston Fébus, will defeat looters in the plain of Albi. Upon the death of the Count, Giroussens returned to the domain of king Charles VI. Then the city passed to Mathieu de Foix-Graillis by order of king Charles VII in 1425. Under Charles VIII, the estate returns to the Royal crown. But king Louis XIV ceded the lordship to François de Gélas, Viscount of Lautrec and Marquis of Ambers, in 1695. The village will remain in his descendants until the French revolution. The village is known for its production of painted terracotta and glazed lead from 1538. The museum of the neighboring Rabastens maintains a collection of more than a hundred dishes, plates, benitiers and stoves in glazed pottery originating from Giroussens.

Things to see in Giroussens, in addition, are the Jardin des Martels, the original castle, Pech Mascou, built in the 13C. In 1437, the castle was a royal prison but it was set ablaze by the Protestants in 1562. A second castle, the Château de Belbèze, was built in 1640 . It is of square plan with four towers covered with pyramid roofs. It was ceded and sold eventually in the French revolution. The Church of Saint-Salvi dates from the 14C. It consists of a four-span nave with arched warheads and a polygonal five-part choir. Three chapels are present in the spans. The façade is surmounted by a steeple-wall. The Church has furniture of altarpieces and paintings from the 17C and 18C. The chapel in the north is dedicated to Sainte Rufine, patron saint of potters and has a altarpiece of 1637. The walls of the nave are covered with wall painting by Fernand Augé (1896) and Paul Prouho (1900).

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are the general Tarn department 81 tourist office, which is valid for all the towns in this post here: Tourist office of the Tarn dept 81

The ceramic center for pottery traditions and sales to the public here: Ceramics center of Giroussens

The gardens of Martels just lovely. Jardins des Martels Giroussens

A nice little train that goes from Giroussens to Saint-Lieux de Lavaur very nice for the family and helping preserve a beautiful tradition. Little train ride Giroussens

Some heritage info on nice Girousssens in French : Heritage cultural info on Giroussens

Giroussens

There is a tiny town nearby we like because we took the little train above with the boys, it is magical, kept by old railroad workers and trying to preserve a tradition that merits a visit by all.  Saint-Lieux lés Lavaur is located at 2 km east of Saint-Sulpice-la-Pointe.  A bit of history I like says that in 1240, Raymond VII was Count of Toulouse, son of Raymond VI, count of  Toulouse, Saint-Gilles, Marquis of Gothie and Provence, Duke of Narbonne and  Jeanne of England. He is then Lord of Saint-Lieux-lès-Lavar.  By 1655, the town is given to the bishop of Lavaur. At the end of the 17C, Saint-Lieux was part of the township of Lavaur circa 1802-1803. The village of Saint-Lieux is located on the edge of the Agout river.  And the little train is the major and only attraction here More of it in French here: City of Saint Lieux lés Lavaur on monuments

Another wonderful small town is Saint Paul Cap de Joux , which before 1891, was commonly known as Saint-Paul-de-Damiatte. By 1585: Passage to Saint-Paul of Henri of Navarre. The future King Henry IV will sign the manifesto of St. Paul with the Vice Languedoc, Henri I, duke of Montmorency. In 1622, St. Paul served as the rear base for the Protestant leader of the region, Henri de Bourbon, marquis de Malauze, during the siege of Briatexte during the rebellion of the Huguenots. The wonderful thing to visit here is the Parish Church, from the 19C, of Neo-Romanesque style, it contains murals (1878) by Bernard Benezet, a renowned Toulouse painter. The altar could be the work of Viollet le Duc.  More on the Church here: https://www.saintpaulcapdejoux.com/notre-glise

St Paul Cap du Joux

We move on to Rabastens as well in the Tarn ,located between  Lisle sur Tarn and Saint Sulpice la Pointe.   I have written a previous blog post on Rabastens here ,just lovely: Rabastens Cathar wine country

A little bit on the history I like:  The vestiges of a Gallo-Roman city in Las Peiras about 1 km outside town proved of the ancient times here. In the early 12C, the city was run by a co-lordship. The family of Rabastens is close to the Counts of Toulouse: Raymond de Rabastens is Bishop of Toulouse from 1200 to 1205 and Pierre Raymond is part of the Council of Raymond VI. In 1210 the co-lords gave up their rights of justice to the Earl of Toulouse, who protected the inhabitants. They attributes them freedoms and privileges. Rabastens’s loyalty to the counts of Toulouse, especially Pandian de Rabastens, is going to cost him a lot. Under the Treaty of Paris (1229), the city was forced to destroy its fortifications. The city becomes a consulate during this period. Peace returned, Rabastens knows at the end of the 13C prosperous thanks to its vineyard, then the most extensive of the Gaillac. The quality of Rabastens wine is recognized. The gabares, flat-bottomed boats, descend the Tarn with barrels of Rabastens to Bordeaux. The Notre-Dame de Bourg ‘Church was built between 1230 and 1260 on the initiative of the Benedictine monks of Moissac, present at the priory in the 12C. It has a large, rectangular nave, with four arched spans of warheads and entirely in bricks, according to the model of the Saint-Étienne cathedral in Toulouse. In the 14C, prior Bernard Latour decided to add a polygonal chorus to the nave.  Being located on the pilgrimage route of Puy-en-Velay to Santiago de Compostela, the Church will be embellished with frescoes illustrating different episodes of the real or legendary life of St James the Mayor or Santiago el Mayor de Compostela.The town of Rabastens was a stopover town for pilgrims as evidenced by the Saint-Jacques Hospital and the Jacquaire heritage of the city.

In 1561, during the first religious war, the Protestants took over Rabastens and killed several Franciscans. The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew (24 August 1572 in Paris) was repeated in Rabastens well after 24 August as Protestants were massacred on October 5th. Early in the 19C ; Rabastens took its present appearance: the ditches were gradually filled to form the promenade of Lices, a suspension bridge is built on the Tarn in 1835 and the façade of Notre-Dame du Bourg is completed with the addition of a second tower. The artisan tradition remains with the weavers and shoemakers of the Middle Ages. They give way to cabinetmakers and furniture manufacturers. The cooperative cellar created in 1953 energizes the economy of Rabastens. Other things to see are the City/ own hall, Old Priory. 16C turret. Museum of the country Rabastinois: Installed in the 17C mansion of the family La Fite de Pelleporc de Gourdas. The dovecote, located at the exit of the city, along the road to Saurs, surrounded by a park, the place is usually called the Pigo. The Hotel de la Castagnate (current Puységur free school) a former mansion of the Count Louis Pierre de Chastenet de Puységur.

The tourist office of the Tarn dept 81 on Rabastens: Tourist office of the Tarn on Rabastens

We go on with this magical ride into Lisle sur Tarn, a 13C Bastide, situated on the banks of the Tarn river , in the heart of the Gaillac vineyard, Lisle-sur-Tarn enjoys a privileged position halfway between Toulouse and Albi. On the site de Montaguet was a fortified village on the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela. His lord is a vassal of the counts of Toulouse. During the Albigeois Crusade, the northern Tarn, faithful to the Earl of Toulouse Raymond VI, and then Raymond VII, was the seat of destructive rides on the part of the Crusaders of Simon de Montfort. During the Treaty of Meaux-Paris which ended the fighting in 1229, order is given to dismantle the ramparts. According to the archives of Lisle, the inhabitants came to settle near a hermitage and a castle known as Castel de Belbézé. With the consent of the Count of Toulouse, a bastide was created to house the former inhabitants of the “Castel” of Montaguet and to respond to an increase in the population. The Bastide is surrounded by walls and ditches. The inhabitants called La Bastide la Yla, the island, because of its location along the river and the presence of streams around it. Upon the death of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Bastide and its dependencies enter the realm of the crown of France.

The true heritage of this city lies in its layout of streets arranged perpendicularly on a regular basis, constituting four districts delimited by four fortified gates. With its 4 425 m², its central square is one of the largest squares in Arcades of Bastide in the southwest of France. The facades are in red or half-timbered bricks. Just amazing indeed!

The Notre-Dame de la Jonquière Church, built in the 13C and 14C, is wonderful. The Castle of Gines. The Tumulus of Saint Salvi of Coutens : mount of land about 10 meters high, made by hand, whose tradition reports that it could be the burial of an English general… It is on the path of the GR walkers trail. The legend that an English general would be buried under a given megalith gives to the story in other places in France. Do not forget to try the chocolate tour and tasting in the Central square or Place Paul Saissac and see there the wonderful Fountain of Griffoul.

The city has tourist info and on the wonderful wines call of Gaillac. This is from where our family gets the wine after generations, see wines of Clements and Saurs: http://www.ville-lisle-sur-tarn.fr/tourisme/patrimoine_25.html

I ,also, did a single blog post on this wonderful town, here it is: Lisle sur Tarn, dyers, wines and chocolates

Lisle sur Tarn

Lisle sur Tarn

Castelnau de Montmiral one of the most beautiful villages of France as some of the others here. A town between Albi and Montauban. This Bastide Albigensian was founded in 1222 by Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, who gave the Bastide the same franchises as Cordes and Gaillac.  Its primitive name is Castellum Novum montis Mirabilis which means something like the new castle of mount admirable. The diminutive of Montmiral was commonly used in official acts, including in the 19C in the civil status of the village. This diminutive is still used today by its inhabitants.

At the end of the 14C, the Bastide was part of the domains of Count Bernard VII of Armagnac in 1470, king Louis XI took the estates of the Count of Armagnac. Georges II de la Trémoille, sire of Craon, Governor of Tours, councillor and first Chamberlain of Louis XI, obtained from the King the lordship of Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Villeneuve and Milhavet. After 1479, Louis I of Amboise, Bishop of Albi, obtained permission from the king to acquire the lordship. Charles I of Armagnac was reinstated in his lordship in 1484. He settled in Castelnau, where he died in 1497. The lordship then enters the realm of the Royal crown

king Louis XIII, returning from the siege of Saint-Antonin, passed in Castelnau-de-Montmiral on June 24, 1622, housed in Tonnac. It is also the place of residence of the famous Privat family. Some other things to see here are the Place des Arcades with his pillory. The Assumption Church (the bell dates from 1554). Fortified  gates such as those of  Garrics,and  Toulze. The numerous stone and half-timbered houses. Ramparts. The Castle of  Guet destroyed in 1819 which is found on the coat of arms of the village. Cross Reliquary called Montmiral, executed in 1341 by a goldsmith of Albi and completed by a goldsmith of Toulouse after various efforts.  Several small castles are located in the village such as those of Corduriès, Fézembat, Mazières, and Meyragues. Several underground refuge. And the   Forest of Grésigne. More on Castelnau de Montmirail  in French here: Castelnau de Montmirail sights

Last but not least is Graulhet ,where we still have family like cousins of my wife living there.  The town needs to be reach by car as there is no train station, and even this it is a bit off the A68 road connecting Toulouse to Albi and really link to Gaillac by the D964 road . Naturally, we come here by car.

There have been archaeological discoveries, dated from about 500 to 100 B.C.  The Roman presence is manifested among other things by the presence of a Gallo-Roman oppidum.   The castrum of Graulhet, first mentioned in 961, in a testament of Raymond I, Count of Rouergue. In 1166, Graulhet, then a lordship, passed under the control of the Counts of Toulouse. In the 16C, faithful to the Catholic Church of Rome, although in Cathar country, the city suffered relatively little damage during the crusade against the Albigeois and during the wars of religion, partly thanks to the policy of Louis Amboise of Aubijoux , Lord and Earl of Graulhet, who is also lieutenant-general. In the 17C, the grandson of Louis Amboise of Aubijoux, François-Jacques amboise was the friend and protector of Molière from 1647 to his death, as the artist began his career and just fled his Parisian creditors. Its Chateau de Crins hosts at the same time troubadours like Chapelle and Cachaumont, on the edge of the Dadou river.

Some of the things to see here are the Château de Lezignac (17C), the old bridge, built in 1244 allowing communication between the old village and the new Saint-Jean neighborhood where tanneries were gradually settled on the right bank of the Dadou river.  The Medieval district of Panessac with rue Panessac  a typical medieval style alley, narrow, lined with wooden-framed buildings and corbelled from the 16C and 17C . The Hostellerie du Lyon d’Or, a superb medieval building; Henri de Navarre, future king Henri IV, made a gourmet stopover here. Note the crosses of St. Andrew, typical of the 15C, on its beautiful facade and the marks of assembly in Roman numerals on the wooden sections. The Notre-Dame-du-Val-d’Amour Church, at the foot of which is the funerary slab of Louis Amboise of Aubijoux. Home of the leather trades: visit of an ancient Mégisserie, the different stages of the transformation of leather, from skin to objects made of leather. More from the town city hall of Graulhet in French here: City of Graulhet on heritage

Graulhet

There you go another wonderful tour me think of my amazing France. Enjoy it.

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

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