Archive for July 29th, 2018

July 29, 2018

Guérande at Loire Atlantique!!!

It was that time again to go visit one of my favs places in my well west coast of France. The place is not far from me about 1h30 in a free toll road to heaven. It was yesterday Saturday, and we had to do many things.

I am was in need to take my sons to their Easycash , Vannes, place to exchange their games dvd cd etc for cash. Then, purchase my gallon of paint at Castorama Vannes, and on way back do my groceries at E Leclerc Vannes. Finally home by 13H we sat to have our goodie lunch. And finally done by 14h we set out on our way.

I had contacted a local friend to meet us there ,and set out to see Guérande again, in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 (old Brittany) now part of the region of Pays de la Loire. There was the 2nd edition of Village Vignerons festivities for local Loire muscadet wine tastings.


The city of Guérande is in our back yard so we have been several times there and even collect my Loire wines there at the parent’s home of the winemaker.  This time we set out for another quick look at the town and take part in the festival. Easy on the road N165 to exit 15 and onwards on the D774 to the Porte or gate Vannetaise just by the ramparts walls of Guérande. Here , we always get a nice metered parking and this time was no exception parking right in front of the gate! The rest is on foot!

So a bit on the transports:

The transport here is mainly roads and car is king. The D213 road , nicknamed the Route Bleue (Blue Road) , is a tourist road, which, from the start of the route, leads to Moutier-en-Retz; It connects to Nantes-Saint-Nazaire are to the city center, several departmentals roads cross the Blue Road; D 233 leads to Saint-Molf, north of the road; D 51 heads towards Saint-Lyphard. The D 247 joins Saint-André-des-Eaux to the east; D 774a reached the peninsula of the Saillé after crossing the salt marshes to the south; Finally the D 99 leads to the Turballe, after being passed through Clis to the north-west. The D 774, via Herbignac, joins the dept 56 of Morbihan by connecting on the National road N165 which leads from Nantes to Vannes. (my road usually) . The bus network is Lila, never used it. There are many bicycle paths and one created for the region connecting to the European network here call Vélocéan, which follows the Atlantic coastline in the Loire-Atlantique department. And is served by 4 routes of the network, me never used it.

The city urban part occupies the top of a hillside that dominates a territory almost entirely surrounded by water, salty or sweet, called the Guérande Peninsula. The history of the town itself is strongly marked by the presence of salt marshes that have made its richness.  It is located in the west of the Loire-Atlantique department, at 17 km west of Saint-Nazaire, It is also at 44 km (about 27 mi) southeast of Vannes and 67 km west of Nantes.

A bit of history I like (done more in previous blog posts)

The first known signs of the existence of the present locality date from the second half of the 4C. The High Middle Ages is a period disturbed by the differences between francs and Bretons. it is then Breton  under Merovingian domination, then by the Norman invasions. The first known written reference of the town is from  1206. In the 14C, the city was drawn into the war of the Succession of Brittany, which pitted Jean de Montfort with Charles de Blois. It ends with the signature of a treaty  in 1365. At the end of the 15C, the city was the refuge for almost a month of  Anne of Brittany and her court fleeing the plague which then raged in Nantes. The Duchess will maintain privileged ties with Guérande throughout her reign.

An ancient construction having been reused as the first place of worship during the evangelization of the region , and was not discovered during the archaeological explorations of the site. But his presence is possible. A first building is located on the present site along the centuries, according to tradition, under the aegis of the king of Vannes, Waroc’h II. This religious building, probably modest, would be at the origin of the current urban settlement. After the transferred of the relics of Saint-Aubin of Angers, a second larger building was built in the late 9C or 10C ,and it was the Church of Saint Aubin. This building will be very quickly surrounded by a cemetery between the 10C and 12C. One of the sarcophagus found under the present choir, at the bedside level, in the 19C was deposited in the lower chapel or crypt of the Collegiate Church. The incursions of the Normans, with significant consequences in the region, needed the reconstruction of the buildings, in Late Roman style or the demography of the city and the assertion of its commercial power can also be at the origin of this reconstruction as a prestige event. This phase began after the middle of the 12C and ended with the construction of the main façade in the 13C. After the sack of Guérande by the troops of Louis de La Cerda in 1342 in the context of the War of Succession of Brittany, the ruined collegiate Church is rebuilt from 1380 in Gothic style; with the south transept and the Crypt done in the 14C , the north transept is then resumed and the choir and bedside are rebuilt in the 15C. A new Gothic façade finishes the building, the frame on the transepts is laid in 1541. The cemetery extends from this time to the north of the Collegiate Church, until its displacement to place Sainte-Anne in the 19C, at the site of the present place John XXIII, thus creating the present place Saint-Aubin in 1705, a hurricane destroyed the campanile of Renaissance style at the top of the façade. A new arrow is built, it will be destroyed by a storm in 1785. In 1789-1790,during the French revolution, the Church is dilapidated, the pipes of the organ are melted, the bells also. The Church will temporarily serve the worship of the temporay supreme being. The Church was returned to Catholic worship in 1802 under the Concordat. An always beautiful Church to visit.

Some beautiful stained glass do not believe had photographed them before.

Guerande Guerande

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

City of Guérande tourism :

The area la Baule – Guérande tourist info :

Loire Atlantique dept 44 tourism in French:

Right around the Church of Saint Aubin and the wonderful Halles (covered market)  you have a wonderful market and especially fish and seafood , and other local products on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday morning . The building is a nice covered market and the morning markets overflow into the place Saint Aubin, Place de la Psalette areas. More here: City of Guérande on markets

Now the main reason to come this day was the 2nd Edition of the Village Vignerons; or the independent winemakers of the Nantes region. We come here and get our house wines all the way from here to Amboise in Touraine. These are wonderful wines not yet too known ,very affordable and good winemaking with lots of history behind.  For France, this is still small ,regional fanfare but its gaining nicely thanks to folks like me an

The official name of the organizers are the Association de Vignerons Indépendants Nantais. If want to know more about them and the wines here see their webpage in French:

The event took place Saturday July 28 2018 from 9h to 20h at the Place du Vieux Marché. You buy a glass with the icon of the independent vignerons for 3€ and this allows you to taste up to 3 different wines per winery. Therefore, there were 10 wineries and we tasted 33 wines!!! Not all drank mind you, there is a proper way of spitting most of it. It was done with plenty of children games that my friend’s son really enjoyed and got us into it! there were troubadours singing trios parading the place and goodies from oysters, to foie gras, pate  ,and jellies/honeys from the area.  More on the event poster here: City of Guérande on the Village Vignerons

However, the main thing was the wine and mostly Muscadet Sévre et Marne sur lie, but also, chardonnays, malvoises, gamay, glolleau, melon de Bourgogne,  old berligou red (Breton Ducal wine), 4754 a extinct grape from the 1800’s still kept a parcel here, and of course cabernet franc and apple juice and crémant bubbly wines, sauvignon gris, grape juice,  you name all done on site by families of many generations; my real France. All was set up in a circular motion around the square of the old market (Place du Vieux Marché).  The welcome or Accueil center where you purchase your glass and get a map of the presenters and a coupon to play on the nose senses challenge to win bottles of wines.  Some of the other producers on site were Servanne Bigot of the Conserverie Les Bocaux Locos with lots of canned, jar goodies, Les Chévres du Cougou with good goat cheese from the best area, Nicolas Josso with its oysters, and mussels etc all yummy!

We started of course with No 1 on the list Château de Fromenteau, and owners Anne and Christian Braud.  We continue with Domaine du Champ Chapron, of Carmen Suteau, Domaine Ménard Gaborit of Philippe Ménard, Château du Coing of Véronique Gunther Chéreau. Vignobles Jaumouillé of Gaêtan Jaumouillé, Domaine Le Jardin d’Edouard , with  Edouard Massart, Domaine le Moulin de la Touche of Vincent Hérissé. Vignoble Marchais of Philippe Marchais. Domaine Poiron Dabin of Jean-Michel Poiron. Domaine de la Coche with Laurent Guitteny, and Domaine Pierre-Luc Bouchaud with Pierre-Luc Bouchaud.

Guerande Guerande Guerande Guerande

And of course we load up as usual, the idea of coming to these things is not just to taste but to encounter the owners, learn more on wine (always time for that even for old pross like me) , and buy some of the better ones on a foursome panel (me and my 3 boys, sadly my dear late wife Martine was here and would have love it).

We purchased our favorites from domaine poiron dabin, domaine de la coche, vignobles marchais , and domaine le moulin de la touché. And we pickup some ideas to come back!

First, the Vignobles Marchais have a lodging in barrels made into a cabin you can stay and rent it, the tariffs are 95€ for two persons and 120€ for four person ,one night, aperitif drink to start, a basket of breakfast, and a tour tasting of the property. You take a look only in French of course, you see the pictures and they can speak English: A night in a wine barrel at Marchais

The other we are thinking of going is by Domaine Poiron Dabin , they have a bigger selection of wines including the ones we purchase too, the Berligou Red 2015. This is a grape  ordered planted here by the Dukes of Brittany from 1460 after a gift made by the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Reckless (téméraire)  cousin of Duke François II of Brittany! here you have a walk escape in the vineyards in early morning to find bottles hidden in their grape plot, middle of the enigma you will have a picnic meal, encounters with members of the wine making team that will take you to the cellar for tastings. Reservation from 2 persons and up, with prior reservation, cost is 30€ per adult. More info here: Picnic on Poiron Dabin

Another possibility with Poiron Dabin, and Philippe is very talkative guy!!! just my type lol!! jointly with the La Toue de Nantes will give you a boat ride call Régal vigneron, on the boat Libellule a replica of the traditional boats of the region navigating by the Sévre and later the Maine rivers with beautiful natural views and fairy tell lights, you will meet a winemaker  like him very passionate about his trade and will taste several bottles.  This is done leaving from Chaussée des Moines de Vertou and cost 50€ per person. A minimum of 8 persons needs to be wait to take off; more information at domaine Poiron Dabin, tel +33 (0) 2 40 06 56 42 or the La Toue de Nantes +33 (0) 6 81 87 64 49 cell/mob number. More at boat tour here:  boat ride Libellule by Poiron Dabin

Also, for these boats you can go on their tours apart by contacting them La Toue de Nantes in French here.  La Toue de Nantes boat rides

There you go a wonderful one day trip as many able to do here in my belle France, wonderful west of France off the coast and rivers of my beloved Brittany (and some parts that were::)). Enjoy the rides.

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

July 29, 2018

The Puertas or Gates of Toledo!

Moving right along in my wonderful Spain, I come back to a memorable town of my beloved Spain, Toledo. Never enough of it, as have been coming here since youthful days and still family/friends nearby on the road to Madrid. 

Toledo should need no introduction to anyone, one of the jewels of the Western world and an example for todays’ societies. I rather concentrate on one particular aspect of their architecture, that is the Gates or Puertas of Toledo. This is my story from family books of old.

Puerta de Bisagra (Hinge gate) . Of Muslim origin it is formed by two bodies between which sandwiched a square of arms of Charles V . Its function was more monumental than defensive since the tower is beautifully decorated with embossed ashlars and the billiard are flush with the ground. It is known as “new” because there is another gate in the vicinity ,smaller size, called the old Gate of Bisagra or gate of Alfonso VI. Its Muslim name was Bab Al Shaqa   The external side is formed by a half point arch with cushioned ashlars, on which stands a great shield of the “Imperial City”, with its unmistakable doubleheaded Eagle. In addition to a pediment with a sculpture of a guardian angel,  flanking this entrance two large circular towers. The body that gives towards the city has another half-point arch gate, flanked by two square towers topped by pyramidal roofs. Currently is one of the emblems of the city, both for its beauty and for its access from the north of the city to The Old town.


Puerta de Alfonso VI  or Puerta Antigua de Bisagra ( old hinge gate) one of the curiosities of this gate is that in the exterior facade has a curious horseshoe arch surrounded by alfiz and crossed by a lintel. It was built in the 9C and was the main access to the city. Its original name was Bib-Sacra , according to texts from the 12C, who’s meaning is “Puerta de la Sagra”. In addition to serving as access to the city, it was also a defensive resource and was an extension of the walled enclosure.  Architecturally speaking is a rectangular plant. On the exterior facade we see a large central arch of horseshoe framed in an alfiz and traversed by a lintel that makes it a very unique arch. For the construction of this gate  were used Visigoths remains. If you look at the top we can see Mudejar elements that were added after their original construction. We can see a defence gallery with windows to the outside and an adarve with battlements.

Puerta de Alarcones (falcons gate) One of the gates that defended access to the city in the Moorish era. This gate, unlike the previous one, is not decorated because its function was only defensive. This gate of Visigoth origin in the Islamic era was of great importance for the city. One of the best-defended accesses in Toledo was considered by the Puerta del Sol. It was considered as the gate through which the most illustrious personages visited the city. The first references we have of it are dated in 1216, calling it the Mohaguía gate. This mention is made in a Mozarabic document. Later it is known as the high gate of the blacksmith, to situate in that area the workshops of the blacksmiths.  From the 14C it loses its importance and becomes a secondary gate of access to Toledo. In this century it suffers a series of modifications. Losing its importance by rebuilding the Puerta del Sol gate. The original horseshoe arch became a half-point arch so that the carriages could be accessed. In the 17C  the upper body was reformed due to the enlargement of the Convent of Our Lady of the Assumption, owned by the nuns Bernardas Recoletas.


Puerta de Alcántara.  Located in the area of the eastern wall is one of the most important of the military precinct. Formerly between the space between this gate and the bridge was a closed arms square that had two other side gates. It is in front of the Alcantara Bridge, which crosses the Tajo River, which in turn is protected by two fortified gates at its ends. Of Moorish origin, dating back approximately to the 10C, although important modifications were made during the Christian era. The gate constitutes an entrance in bend, typical of the Moorish military engineering, and its main span consists of a horseshoe arch located between two square towers and battlements with arches on its sides.


Puerta de Valmardón o Bab-al-Mardum.  For quite some time this gate was walled because the Puerta del Sol was used that was much more accessible and less slope. This defensive tower was losing value over the years losing part of its structure as its two towers or the upper room. One of the gates of access to the Medina Toledo, this gate is that of Bab-Al-Mardum that it comes to mean  walled gate or condemned . It is also known as Valmardón, but we can also hear it with other names. Christ Gate of the Light(Cristo de la Luz), Balmardón, of Aquilina, Agilana, Mayordomo (Butler), of the Cross, these are some names as this door is known. This gate was built between the 9C and 10C, it is one of the oldest gates in the city. This Valmardón gate has had several uses over time. In its beginnings was the gateway to the medina of the city. The medina is, in the Muslim cities, the area of the city where the main buildings of the city were. Within this medina were the major mosque, the souk, the Alcazaba, etc… After the reconquest of the city it was to be court prison and also was execution of moors. Likewise was the residence of the Corregidor of the city, it is at that time when it was known like Gate of the Butler (Puerta del Mayordomo). Over time the height of the gate was lowered, losing the upper body, because it was no longer a defensive element of the city. The Catholic monarchs ceded the gate to Pedro Lasso de Castilla of the Mendoza family. It belonged to this family until the 18C. One of his last civil uses was as a Hospital of San Lázaro.



Puerta de los Doce Cantos. It is the most modest; its function was to give way to the district of  Alficén to the bridge of Alcántara. Have pointed to that is derived from   “Twelve pipes ” in reference to the possibility that there was a source in this place with that number of mouths.  It is located in the eastern part of the walled enclosure, in a defensive complex that would correspond to the crouches of the Alficén that protected the primitive citadel Alcazar around the Moorish period. To its small dimensions, it caused that the adjacent wall was demolished in the 18C to open the current ascent to the Calle Cervantes, leaving the gate of twelve chants (Doce Cantos)  relegated to ostracism, walled loads of rubble. It ran from this point of the Gate of Doce Cantos the new way round, that surrounded the city from there to the convent of Gilitos (then prison), which constituted a landmark for the communications of the city and that was the antecedent of the current round corneas, executed towards 1983. An Islamic gate built in the 10C that, has come to our days very deteriorated.

Puerta de Cambrón. Its curious name comes from the Cambroneras, thorny shrubs that grew in that place. It is a gate of Moorish origin that has undergone many changes over the years. A Gate of the Cambron, also known as Gate of the Jews and the gate of Santa Leocadia. The gate is of square floor with a central courtyard, its current aspect is due to the reconstruction carried out between the years 1572 and 1577. In a Renaissance style, it has two facades. The exterior façade faces the Vega del Tajo. On this façade we can see in the central body the balconies of the House of the warden of the gate. It is topped by two towers covered with spires of slate. We can also see the municipal shield of Toledo from the time of king Felipe II  and two seated Goths kings. In the interior facade we can see the Royal Shield of King Felipe II and below an image of Santa Leocadia, patron of the city.  We can also see two towers as well as on the exterior façade. A rectangular-shaped central patio is where people, carriages and others who wanted to access the city from this gate passed. This is where the “Portazgo” of access was charged, tax exempt to the residents of Toledo and its mountains and its jurisdiction, as a plaque in this courtyard reads. It is the only historic gate of Toledo by which you can pass by vehicle inside it.

Puerta del Sol. Its name is due to a relief with the emblem of the Cathedral under a moon and the sun. It is of Moorish origin but has undergone several modifications over the years. It is a gate of Islamic origin in which we can find Roman remains, although the general aspect of Mudejar style is due to a reform ordered in the 14C by Cardinal Pedro Tenorio. This reform was the result of a civil conflict that occurred in Toledo because of the struggle that was caused by the succession of John I of Castile. The name of Puerta del Sol was not his original name. Calling it Gate of the blacksmith or the low gate of the blacksmith, in 1575. The city Corregidor, tried to change the name to Puerta de San Ildefonso. This attempt to change the name is due to the replacement of an old crucifix by the medallion, which we can now contemplate, which depicts the miracle of the imposition of the chasuble of St. Ildelfonso by the Virgin Mary. But this attempt at change did not went well with the residents for what it followed with its name.

It was not until 1752 where it appears in the cadastre of Ensenada as Torre del Sol (sun tower). This name is given by a representation of some stars that appears in the medallion that we mentioned before. From that moment the name is popularised and it stays as the Puerta del Sol or Sun’s gate. The gate went from being an indispensable access to the city, but after the time and with the extension of the street parallel to this entrance, building a wall in 1785 and demarcating the ascent to the square of Zocodover. At this moment it becomes an ornamental door rather than passing through or access. It’s Mudejar style. It’s built on a stone base of ashlars and masonry. The entrance arch is a horseshoe that is embraced by a pointed horseshoe top arch. Both the battlements and the frieze are built in brick. In the frieze we can see interwoven blind arches, like lobed arches, typical of the Mudejar style of Toledo. These bows are decorative. We will also see in the battlements these types of decorative arcs. In the middle of the first row of blind arches we find the remains of a Roman sarcophagus. We also found in the center of the horseshoe arch pointed a medallion. We also see the representation of the Moon and the sun, giving this the name to the gate. The sarcophagus would tell us about the “Legend of beautiful children”, is a representation of the Roman period . The other legend or miracle is the representation that we have already commented that there is in the medallion. That miracle or legend will tell you when we talk about the Chapel of the Ascension of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Toledo.


There you go hope it helps you understand a bit more the wonders of Toledo, the city of the world. Castilla La Mancha region of the kingdom of Spain.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are!

Tourist office of Spain on Toledo: Spain on Toledo

Tourist office of Toledo; Tourist office of Toledo

UNESCO on Toledo: Toledo by UNESCO

Tourist info in Spanish from city of Toledo: City of Toledo on tourism

Region of Castilla La Mancha on Toledo: Tourist office of Castilla La Mancha

Wines of Toledo : Wines of Toledo and Castilla La Mancha


There you go, you are all set to go, just lets your fingers do the walking and pack. Toledo awaits you, the world is welcome.

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


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