Archive for August, 2018

August 31, 2018

A beautiful island, Noirmoustier!

And yes we do have plenty of islands in metropolitan France. they are some of prettiest islands you can imagine and still most little visited. I am lucky to have several nice ones around the Gulf of Morbihan, but even down the coast south you have a wonderful universe!

I am from nature a lover of these islands, reminds me of my roots in double islands of our world. Coming to them is always pleasant and full of expectations. The one I will tell you today is no difference. The Noirmoutier island is heavens on earth, so much you need to book in advance for the best season, and can be a bit pricey for that.

And let me give you a more historical/geographical view on the ïle de Noirmoutier! Don’t forget to see my several posts on the island.

The island of Noirmoutier is in the Bay of Biscay located in the Department of the Vendée (85). It is connected to the mainland by a submersible roadway called the Passage du Gois and, since 1971, by a bridge. It is made up of four communes in a community of communes of Île-de-Noirmoutier. Its length is approximately 18 km, its width varies from 500 meters to 12 km and its area is 49 km2. It lies south of the Loire estuary, northeast of the island of Yeu and southeast of Belle-Ile-en-Mer (Morbihan Breton!) . Separated from the mainland by the Strait of Fromentine, located at its southern end, it closes the Bay of Bourgneuf or Bay of Brittany, in its western and southern part. The island is often dubbed the “island of the Mimosas” for its climatic sweetness allowing the mimosas to grow and bloom in winter. Its dominant landscapes are salt marshes, dunes and holm oak forests.

Until the beginning of the 19C, the island of Noirmoutier had only one town with a seat at the village of Noirmoutier. Barbâtre became independent in 1858 before the constitution of two other communes some sixty years later in 1919 these are Guérinière and L’Epine.  The main towns are today:

The city of Noirmoutier located in the northeast of the island and its historic capital. Its center is marked by old monuments such as the Castle (see post), the Church of Saint-Philbert, (see post) the hotel Jacobsen, etc. includes, salt marshes, an agricultural plain, the seaside resort of the Bois de la Chaize, the fishing port and the pleasure port , the old Abbey of La Blanche as well as the two villages of the Vieil and Herbaudière. The rocky nature of the coasts makes the beaches rather smaller than those that border the Bois de la Chaize (ex: Plage des Dames , Souzeaux beach, and  L’Anse Rouge.

The village of L’Epine is located to the west of the island comprises a part of the salt marshes, the port of Morin (north of the village), a part of the Bois des Eloux (south of the village) and the Moulin de la Bosse. The beaches of L’Epine form a continuous sandy cord bearing different denominations according to the zones (plage Saint-Jean,plage de la Martinière.,beaches, punctuated by breakwaters which contribute to the defense of the island against the sea.

The village of La Guérinière is located in the centre of the island. With the seaside village of Sable d’Or and Sable de la Tresson, located to the south of the town. The sandy beach of the Guérinière offers a view of the bouchots (mussel culture) and the Huïtres parks installed at sea and visible at low tide. At the beach la Cantine,see old WWII bunkers.

noirmoutier noirmoutier

The village of Barbâtre, of rangy form by the extension of the suburban subdivisions , is the southernmost municipality of the island, it comprises the two routes connecting the island of Noirmoutier to the mainland: the Gois (passage du Gois submersible Road) and the new bridge. The urbanization of the 20C has extended the village to the old hamlets of Midi, Frandière and the Fosse. The beach of Midi is the beach of Barbâtre, it is the longest of the island, sandy cordon of more than 5 km long.

The village of  Vieil is located to the north of Noirmoutier and is part of its communal territory. It is a peaceful village of quiet streets stretching between the Bois de la Chaize and the Bois de la Blanche. The beaches are pretty rocky.

The village of Herbaudière is located in the north-west of the island, also integrated into the commune of Noirmoutier. It is the fishing port and the main marina of the island. The beach of Luzeronde, south of the Herbaudière, is sandy and quite steeply inclined, it offers a view on the island of the Pilier (north-west of the island).

For reference as not gone to any of these are in the south of the island the state Forest of Barbâtre in the northeast is the forest of the Bois de la Chaize on the west and south side, the small national Bois des Éloux. Natural setting for the nature lover in you.

A bit on the transports in and out

Until 1971, the island of Noirmoutier was an island accessible at low tide through the famous Passage du Gois ,a roadway about 4.5 km across the south of Bourgneuf Bay. Since then, a bridge supporting the D38 road also connects it to the mainland. I did the going to the island by the modern bridge coming from Nantes and then the return passed the Gois passage, super a must to do! This road the D38 travels the island from south to north to the port of the L’Epine, and the port of the Morin. From the Guérinière, the D948 road (very good road and scenic) crosses the salt marshes to reach Noirmoutier. Again , not use for information only: During the whole year, the bus station of Noirmoutier is served by a bus service connecting Nantes (Nantes train station) and La Roche-sur-Yon (Departmental network Cap Vendée). Also, the departmental Council of the Vendée set up an island service called the Bus d’ïle (Bus of the island) serving nearly thirty stops, while during the same time, the city of Noirmoutier organizes a free shuttle service “Gratibus” Ensuring daily connections between the Vieil , the Herbaudière and the village of Noirmoutier.

A bit of history I like

The story goes much older even with megalith stones found but I will keep it brief and later history. It was on the old island of Her or Hero that the monk Saint Philibert settled in 674. There he founded a monastery which was later at the origin of that of Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu. He organized the salt harvest and the construction of many dikes. To fight against the Viking invasions, the Lords of the Garnache, the owners of the places, as well as the monks, built successive fortifications from 830.


The island of Noirmoutier, like the ancient island of Bouin (now attached to the mainland), depended before the French revolution of the lordship of the Garnache, fief sometimes Poitevin (Duchy of Aquitaine and County of Poitou) in the Middle Ages, sometimes linked to Brittany with Breton expansion in the 9C broken by Viking incursions, then legal links with the Brittany marches region from the 16C to the 17C.

In the course of its history, the island suffered several attempts at invasions: English (1342, 1360, 1386); Spanish (1524, 1588). However, could not resist the Dutch invasion of 1674 by Admiral Cornelis Tromp.

In the 15C, the island of Noirmoutier is attached to the Thouars, which belongs to the family of Amboise. In March 1479, by his patent letters, King Louis XI confirmed the privileges granted by king Charles VII. In 1562, the Huguenots Corsairs from La Rochelle took over the island, which they made a sanctuary until 1569. During the French revolution, the island was the scene of two battles of the War of Vendée (for the maintain of the monarchy and Catholic faith): the first in 1793 resulted in a Vendée victory, While the second the following year saw the defeat of the latter.

Things to see in my opinion here are

The climate of the island also promoted very early the production of sea salt. Thus, as early as the 5C, the Benedictine monks began to transform the wetlands into salt marshes in order to harvest the white gold. These cover a large part of the island territory today. The salt and the flower of salt are still harvested in artisanal fashion and the production reaches, the best years, 1 500 tons of salt.


The Castle of Noirmoutier dating from the 9C; the Church of Saint-Philbert, a former Benedictine abbey with Romanesque and Gothic style. It contains a beautiful crypt of the 11C, as well as the first tomb of the monk Saint Philibert, its founder in the 7C. Here you have a nice butterfly garden museum to see live.

The former Hotel Lebreton de Grapillières, a beautiful 18C mansion, now a tourist hotel under the name of Hôtel D’Elbée; Mansions dating back to the 18C.

The Estacade, emblematic building of the island of Noirmoutier. The first wood boom of the Bois de la Chaize was built in 1889. This boat pier played a major role in the development of seaside tourism in the early 20C. The work was completely restored in the years 2013-2014.

The passage of the Gois, submersible roadway, main tourist attraction of the island.  The Bois de la Chaize is known for its woods of holm oaks and mimosas, as well as beautiful shady beaches. A hundred seaside villas ,a majority of which date from the late 19C and early 20C were built in this forest. La promenade des Souzeaux along the ocean with several creeks. The lighthouse or Maison phare de la Pointe des Dames in the Bois de la Chaize; in Le Vieil, one of the village of the island facing the coast has several vacation centers for families. The National Natural Reserve of the marshes of Müllembourg, and the Regional Natural Reserve of Polder de Sébastopol. And of course, the many beaches mentioned above early in the post with the towns descriptions.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Tourist office of the ïle de Noirmoutier:

Department Vendée 85 tourist office on Noirmoutier island:

Local private guide on all about the island of Noirmoutier in French:

Region Pays de la Loire on Noirmoutier:

There you go plenty of info and photos of a beautiful island ok away from Brittany not bad at all ::) Enjoy it

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

August 30, 2018

Trevi Fountain in Rome!

Upon my business trips to Rome for some time, the time was tight, but did manage to get to some monuments; one of the famous ones always saw it on films was the Trevi Fountain. Once got to know Rome a bit; came with the family on a flight from CDG to Fiumicino airport, got to our apartment in Nomentano , got a bus 62 (best deal and see more above ground) and went to see it first thing!


It is very very touristic spot, sometimes overwhelming but you need to be there either early in the morning or at lunch time when everyone else does it. And still there will be folks there. However, at least for the first time,is a must to see in Rome. We came back several times by it in our two weeks in Rome. My boys finally convince me to take them ,and they all like it; my dear late wife Martine loves the sweets especially there!

I have written pieces of it in my other posts on Rome, however, it deserves a post on its own, therefore, here it is. Enjoy it la Dolce Vita.

The Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) is the largest and one of the most famous fountains in Rome. Built between 1732 and 1762, it is located in the Trevi Rione, in Piazza di Trevi, and is attach to the Poli Palace. The Trevi Fountain is an example of the perpetuation of the Baroque style in the 18C Rome, by its mixture of  monumental effects.

A bit of history I like

This monument was conceived at the request of Pope Clement XII who organizes in 1730 a contest to celebrate, with a fountain, the aqueduct of the Aqua Virgo built in 19BC.   Carried out on Piazza di Trevi, at the time three ways converge towards this square, hence the name of Trevi. The fountain is done in 1762, and inaugurated on 22 May 1762 . The Trevi Fountain wa the subject of a restoration in 1998 in order to modernize its hydraulic system. In 2014,came another restauration without the need to completely mask the monument to the public. However, the fountain was empty and visitors cannot easily see or approach the fountain. It is reopened to the public on November 3, 2015.

Architectural description

The composition of this monumental ensemble is dominated in the lower part by a rocky travertine cliff carved also from animals and plants, in the midst of various streams of water. In the center, a large niche framed with columns, with a coffered ceiling, houses the god of the ocean, Neptune, who drives a tank shaped like a shell drawn by two winged sea horses one of the horses is peaceful while the other seems agitated, in order to symbolize the two aspects that can be offered to us by the sea, themselves preceded by Tritons. The large central niche is framed by two smaller side niches occupied by two marble sculptures; on the right, the statue of safety and left that of prosperity, alluding to the effects of pure water. These two round-tops are themselves surmounted by two panels in bas-relief representing on the left, the general and politician Roman Agrippa commanding the construction of the aqueduct of the Aqua Virgo that feeds the fountain and right, the girl who discovered the source feeding the fountain.


The four large Corinthian columns support enrichment and an attic adorned with a panel on which is engraved the great inaugural inscription and which is adorned four small allegorical statues; from left to right, the abundance of fruits, the fertility of the fields, Autumn richness   and landscaping. The ensemble is crowned by a balustrade and by the arms of Pope Clement XII held by two cherubs. The Trevi fountain is water-powered by the Aqua Virgo Aqueduct, built in 19BC. This 20-km long canal fed water throughout the Middle Ages, the area of the champ de Mars field; A part is visible in the underground archaeological area.


It was customary to throw a coin by the right arm by turning its back to the fountain before leaving “the Eternal City”, a superstition associated with the fountain being that whoever makes this gesture is guaranteed to return to the Italian capital in order to retrieve the coin. After some less good folks this practice is forbidden, and the coins of the fountain is now collected by the authorities and donated to the Catholic Caritas charitable association. Every morning, before the arrival of tourists, the circulation of water is cut. The fountain is cleaned with a brush and the coins are assembled in a long snake line, using long poles, and removed by suction, under police supervision.


The Cinema in the Trevi fountain, and one reason I came looking for it. My favorite films are: In The Fountain of Love (1954) by Jean Negulesco, three young Americans make the vow to find Prince charming by throwing each coin in the fountain. The La Dolce Vita (1960), Federico Fellini shows Anita Ekberg taking her bath in the fountain in evening dress, under the eyes of Marcello Mastroianni (superb). In 1995, on the death of Marcello Mastroianni, the city of Rome veiled the statues in black. Other famous by Federico Fellini is Roman Holiday.

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

Site dedicated wholly to the Trevi Fountain

Tourist office of Rome on the Trevi Fountain

Region of Lazio tourism on the Trevi Fountain

There you go, all set, go. It is a must in Rome and a wonder always to look at it, love is in the air, and it is good for the soul. Enjoy it

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

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August 25, 2018

The time will be cherished forever, the pain will remain, and the memories will linger my dear Martine!

And here I am alone, not really, my sons are all around me and still my old Dad with me.  It is a cloudy day and some rain was felled. I have come back from a trip, a special trip to a special place in our family’s heart. This entry will try to make it brief and share a bit more personal with my readers, friends and family who reads.

I have just came back from Honfleur , dept of Calvados 14 in region of Normandy. Why Honfleur, well people asked me. When we came to France we lived in Versailles and on our many runs in France and neighboring countries we came for a visit to Honfleur. Mine all mine, everybody felled in love with the quaintness of the town, architecture ,and the fact that the sea plays a major part past and present here and we are islanders on all sides !

Over the years we came back visiting the town and participating in its many activities and felled more for it. When it was the unfortunate time to say farewell to my dear mother Gladys, she asked to be deposit her ashes here, why tombstones for a traveling islanders , the sea is life. I took my mother on the Notre Dame du Port boat from the SNSM société nationale de sauvetage en mer or the National Marine Rescue Society. This is a volunteer life savers at sea ,former marines ,fisherman , and sea lovers who come to help the distress at sea in France.

The people were very nice and humble to us. We continue to visit the town ,and I became a donor for the association,back in 2008. My father always told me if his time comes, he too will out here at sea. I told him , I will follow suit and made it known to my sons. As the unfortunate lousy cancer came and took my my dear wife Martine, I had asked her where, and she too told me to put her ashes at sea here. And so I did on Friday ,August 24 2018 at 10h between Honfleur and Le Havre out at sea with the braves of Normandy. I was told by the boat Captain and President of the SNSM Honfleur station the ashes were spread at coordinates 49°2’6′ 08 N and 000° 10′ 850 E.

A phase is turning and now the duty is done, the paperwork is mostly done minor details left but easy.   Life they tell me is to be continue and so I will, there is no sensible  alternative. However, the memories, the souvenirs, the happy face, the energy and love will remain forever. I am very lucky to have met her at that 36 rue de Noefort, Meaux , Seine-et-Marne dept 77 and before on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in beautiful romantic Paris.

Yes, they tell me too ,time will ease the pain. Heck, I am human, time will not heal any pain. The pain will be there, I will just have the will and need to continue with my  young men sons. We are very much together, always as a family remembering those words in the 3 Muskeeteers of Alexandre Dumas, One for all ,and All for one! We stand together.

I will put the previous post in hommage I did in my blog for my dear loving wife Martine, and some of the photos of this special sad trip here. The rest is up to you. And me.

The ordeal of a good bye

Hommage to my dear late wife Martine

In memoriam my sweet wife Martine

An hommage to Paris and Martine



out to sea between Honfleur and Le Havre


coming back to Honfleur and the garden promenade on right


ecluse levy to open boats out and in at sea


Notre Dame du Port waiting for our day at sea


Notre Dame du Port of the SNSM of Honfleur


Notre Dame du Port waiting for the volunteer crew


going in to the Notre Dame du Port at Honfleur


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

ps. if you think the SNSM job is a worthy one, and would like to help  with Euros here is their official webpage in French of course. No obligation at all just for information. SNSM org

August 21, 2018

Cathedral St Stephen, Toulouse!

Back to the blog to tell you about one of our favorite cities in France.  I have written several posts on one of our favorite cities of France, Toulouse. If anything my dear late wife Martine father’s side family comes from here. The post that best describes the city in general is here.

Toulouse the pink city

This time I do justice to the Cathedral of St Stephen or Cathédrale Saint Etienne de Toulouse. A city of many Churches, Basilicas, and Chapels, the Cathedral for us is it.


The Cathedral of St Stephen or Cathédrale Saint Etienne of Toulouse and located near the Grand Rond (a garden).The Church of Toulouse was founded in the 3C by St Saturnin, it’s first bishop, who suffered martyrdom around the year 250 AD. As for St Stephen’s Cathedral, we do not really know the exact origins. According to some historians, it was built on the foundations of a Chapel built by St Saturnin and rebuilt by St Exuperius, 150 years later. However, the first mention that we know of is provided by a charter of Charles the Bald given, in the year 844 AD, for the benefit of the Churches of the city. At the time of the Gregorian reform, in 1078 AD, Bishop Isarn decided to rebuild the then-ruined Church, a new Church located on the site of the present nave known as Raimond VI.


Now divided into 3 bays, it is covered by a vault with the powerful cross-section of square warheads. High and wide by more than 19 meters. The counting of the brick walls, the beauty and the power of the lines, evoke the constructions of the Cistercian order, then represented on the episcopal seat of Toulouse by Bishop Foulques. The rare sculptures are the keystone of the arches, one adorned with the cross of Toulouse, and the Capitals of the armature on the back of the façade. The great rosary would be added later by 1229.  The 13C begat 2 cathedrals, the one evoked above and another joining towards 1270, when the count of Toulouse was attached to the crown of France ,if this project had been fully realized, we would have in Toulouse a Cathedral equivalent to those of Reims or Amiens.

Thereafter, various works executed according to a different plan, bring the fantasy of somewhat enigmatic achievements. These are, in other things, the portal of the Archbishop Denis du Moulin (1447), the big pillar and the steeple of Cardinal Jean d’Orléans (16C). The 20C saw an unnecessary transept arm realized at the expense of a chapel of the 15C. Its architecture is peculiar because it is composed of architectural elements of various eras. The Cathedral adjoins the former Episcopal palace, now occupied by the prefecture government building.

On the Western Wall, you will recognize a rosary, directly inspired by that of Notre Dame de Paris. The main originality of the building is to present two very distinct parts, a Romanesque part at the back of the nave, the nave Raymondine, and a gothic part, the Choir. These two churches were connected  in the 16C by Jean d’Orléans. The Choir is twice as wide as the Romanesque nave, so the central aisle is broken in line. The southern Roman wall was extended by the Gothic church. This gigantic project began in  1272, under the aegis of Bishop Bertrand de l’Isle .

In 1609 a vault in the Choir calls for an initial project provided for a ceiling height of 40 meters, the vault is now only 28 meters, and is nonetheless impressive. In 1794, the majestic bell of 12 or 13 tons, the Cardailhac, was thrown from the top of the steeple, plunged deep into the earth and broke, despite several layers of straw arranged on the forecourt. The fortified Romanesque steeple houses a carillon of 17 keypad bells and 5 on the fly! The Cathedral is the only Church in Toulouse to have preserved its original stained glass windows dating from the 14C for the older ones. It also has an organ with woodworks of Béhorri and Morisot and a altarpiece of Pierre Mercier and Drouet  from 1670.  The history of this Church is so enamelled with modifications, renovations and reconstructions that it could be called “the unfinished Cathedral.”

The furniture of the Cathedral presents a series of works of great interest. In the canopy, incomplete, of the 14C, adorn the Chapels St Pierre, St François, St Augustin, and St Vincent de Paul. The Royal canopy ,15C offers the portraits of Charles VII and his eldest son, the future Louis XI. Remarkable vaulting keys present, among others, the image of St Louis, seated on his throne, Raised in Heaven by two Angels, Around 1300, the Chapel St Joseph, Chapel of Ste Catherine and of a bishop, these sculptures from 1340 by the maker of the Chapel of Rieux ,On the southern collateral, see the woodwork of the choir and the great organ, executed from1610 by L. Béhorri and A. Morisot, constitute a rare ensemble of sculptures, which complement the great altarpiece of the master altar by Gervais Drouet and Pierre Mercier , from 1660-1668, it is surrounded by grates in wrought iron from 1766 , a curtain in 33 pieces, from the 16C and 17C, dedicated to the history of St Etienne and all Saints Bishops of Toulouse. In the collateral are the tombs of the president of Lestangpar A. Legoust from 1623, the Bishop H. De Sponde, 17C, and the president of Puyvert ,1784. Finally, two paintings of the 17C ;the triumph of Joseph by H. Pader, under the organ, and the Adoration of the shepherds by Nicolas Bollery, School of Fontainebleau.

The tour of Chapels

The baptismal font chapel. On the left side itself it contains the fonts composed of a circular tank resting on a polygonal base. Several entries are engraved on the tank as well as the date of 1305.  The transept wall shows the organs The choir is made up of wooden stalls once fenced by a rood, with a choir organ and a platform for practices, and ends with an Episcopal necropolis, located under the altar accessible after several steps bounded by a balustrade. The gothic nave is surrounded by 15 pentagonal chapels, vaulted in the last years of the 13C.

The Chapels on the right, behind the pillar of Orléans the Chapel of the secondary altar of the Cathedral. The altar and Tabernacle in marble, Louis XV style, the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels(Notre Dame des Anges) . erected under the episcopate of Jean d’Orléans at the beginning of the 16C, the chapel has since been dedicated to the Virgin as evidenced by the keystone that represents it the former chapel of St. Lawrence it serves as a passage to the Cour Sainte-Anne.

The Chapel of St. Vincent de Paul was completed in the first half of the 14C. The vault key bears effigy of Saint Dominique the chapel was originally dedicated to him. After the concordat it was dedicated to Saint Vincent de Paul in memory of his stay in Toulouse: He studied theology from 1597 to 1604 at the University of Toulouse.

The Chapel of St. Augustine originally dedicated to St. Catherine whose image is on the keystone of the chapel. It is found below the Annunciation on the stained glass window with the palm of martyrdom and the image of the wheel of its torment.

The Chapel of St. Germaine, originally dedicated to Saint Nicholas, which is on the keystone of the chapel, was dedicated in the 18C to Saint Francis of Paul, whose stained glass traces his life. Finally it was dedicated in 1876 to Saint Germaine de Pibrac.

The Chapel of the Holy Cross, the Chapel was restored in 1879. The reliquary dates from this time it is in painted metal.

The Absidials Chapels are: The Chapel of the Relics disposed of the closed niches of bronze grates, which contain the relics of different Saints. The oak confessional of 17C and other the Chapel of St. Joseph, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart , the Chapel of Saint-François-de-Sales, and the Passage Chapel towards the Sacristy, this Chapel finished around 1279, was originally dedicated to the body of Christ.

The Chapels on the left (from the Sacristy) are the Chapel of Saint Joanne of Arc; This chapel dates from 1279. The current decorations date from 1922 after its canonization in 1920. It became a memorial for the parish soldiers who fell in WWI. On the right is a statue of St. Clotilde and left of Sainte-Geneviève. The Chapelle Saint François-Xavier, completed in 1279, was originally dedicated to Saint Martin, which is always present on the keystone. Reworked and restored from 1843 to 1846 the Chapel is then consecrated to St. Francis Xavier. The Chapelle Saint-Roch, this Chapel contains the cenotaph of Joseph and Jean François Sylvestre Roux de Puyvert. Work in polychrome marble of the sculptor François Lucas 3rd quarter of the 18C. The Chapel of Saint Peter, completed in 1286, is the seat of 24 canons whose group was created in 1259. The Chapel of Saint James (St Jacques).


The ambulatory it enshrines the Choir and serves the Chapels. The two organs are located in the Gothic part. The Tribune organ of the Cathedral weighs about thirteen tons. It is 12 meters high and 10 meters wide. It is not placed on a stand, but hung on a vertical wall. The original organ dates from 1612. Restore the last several times in 1977. The Choir organ by Aristide Cavaillon-Coll (organ factor) dates from 1868.

Some webpages to help you plan your visit here in addition to my blog post of course, are

Official site Cathedral St Stephen Toulouse

Tourist office of Toulouse on the Cathedral

There you go, a nice Cathedral, great city of pink and just a wonderful time always. One of my fav spots for retirement in my belle France!

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

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August 19, 2018

17th Edition Saint Christophe old vehicles show at Bignan

Ok so busy day today lol!! This is the third of a series today on the town of Bignan.  Sunday is usually calm and family time here. However, I am on vacation finding places to go and things to do without too much preparation as I am in no mood to do that. Therefore, I saw the 17th edition of Saint Christophe old Vehicles show at the Domaine de Kerguéhennec in Bignan and off we went.

This event is done every year and this time organize by the Avrbignan association. Its Sunday so what the heck get out of the house we did and glad we did it. The association site of old antique vehicles is here in French:


We love cars so been to several of them here and elsewhere. Even in my town there are every year. The freedom of the road is unequal and never replace. Put your pedal to the metal and rock!!! Of course, always with moderation, we are even going down to 80 KPH rules in France on one way lane department roads like the one today on the D767 ! OF course ,even if the death on the road increase again…of course is not speed but they get plenty of money from it last read the government racks in more than 700M € in fines!!!


So let’s get to the old slow cars (even if new they went faster than today).

The 17 edition of the Saint Christophe was one of the zillions of events held at the domaine nowadays. It was an all day affairs even if we only stay for the antique old cars display show at 14h. The cars left from Baud to Bignan, there a Mass in the tent at Kerguehennec by 11h then lunch at 12h30 for 11€ including ham, cold cuts, fries ,cheese, fruit tarts and coffee. By 14h the exhibition of the vehicles were shown all parked behind the stables out to the left of the Castle. By 16h30 there were prizes given to the best show and at 19h another dinner 10€ without drinks but kir Breton offered for free, live music by Kelt ha Breizh, celtic Breton songs of course.


Again, the webpage for the Domaine (and Castle) of Kerguéhennec is here:

The site is in French , so I put the above webpage on the page of agenda and cultural events coming up on it. Hope it helps.

There you go a nice old fashion old car show nearby on a beautiful surroundings, perfect Sunday. Hope you enjoy it too

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

August 19, 2018

Chateau Museum of Pau!

And I bring to a place our family gathered for many years, first on my dear late wife Martine’s side for the Tour de France, and later us just even staying there as a base to see more of the region. This is Pau, in dept 64 Pyrénées-Atlantique in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine.  Wonderful Pau is only  about 200 km from Bordeaux and Toulouse and 250 km from Zaragoza in Aragon,Spain. We have come by car always so know they have a train station quite nice and an airport nearby; the roads are super and we have taken them all such as the A64 La Pyrénéenne, A65 autoroute de Gascogne, N117 and N134 and as well the great beltway of Pau the D817 with lots of speed radars so check the sites to avoid them ::)

I have written several post on it, I leave you with my favorite post …on Pau. Wonderful Pau

In the city center of Pau, in old Béarn, there is the old Castle of Pau (and museum too), famous for having seen the birth of the king of France and Navarre, Henri IV. It is accessed by the Pont de Nemours. Its position allows to control the passage on the Gave de Pau (river canyon) located further south below.  The Castle estate is made up of a park, stretching westward along the gave, and by the buildings themselves, located on the east side, whose interior houses a museum. The east entrance of the Castle overlooks the Boulevard des Pyrénées which connects the castle to Beaumont Park!

Begun by the Viscounts of Béarn in the 11C, and in particular by Centulle le Vieux, the castle was gradually built throughout the Middle Ages. It is above all a military work of a typical castle, built at the top of the small hill that dominates the Gave delimited by the ravine of Hédas. In the 12C and 13C, successive dynasties of the Viscounts of Béarn built three towers at this fortress, which were named Mazères, Billère and Montaüser.

Gaston III de Foix-Béarn, better known as Gaston Fébus. This warlord, in a delicate situation since, by his possessions, under the rule of the enemy kingdoms of France and England, makes the Béarn, a united and autonomous region. He developed a network of strongholds in order to defend this territory. The Château de Pau was thus strongly transformed in order to become a imprenable citadel. Fébus built the Brick dungeon, which was thirty-three meters high, and engraved the inscription: “Febus Me Fe” (“Febus Me Fit”, in Béarn language). It also makes the Tour de la Monnaie and the south wing of the castle.

In the Renaissance, the installation of the Court of Navarre in 1512 significantly altered the appearance of the castle. Of fortress It was initially, it becomes a residence of pleasure. Henri Albret resides there accompanied by his wife Marguerite of Angoulême, sister of king François I, and better known as Marguerite of Navarre, author of the Heptahedron. The two sovereigns are at the origin of the development of a terrace in the south as well as the courtyard of honor, the construction of the staircase of honor in place of the old kitchens, the installation of the new kitchens in the north wing and the development of the gardens. The future king Henri IV was born at the château on December 13, 1553. The fame of this king, cradled as a child in a preciously preserved turtle shell, gives the castle, which saw it neither grow nor die and where it made no embellishment, a particular taste.

After the illustrious passage of the future King Henry IV and the death of his grandparents, no ruler will reside in Pau until the 19C. The castle was entrusted to the care of the Gramont family, and was thus maintained, but its ceremonial furniture was gradually removed and a large part of its estate was amputated under the constant pressure of the sprawling city. As to preserved it from demolition under the French Revolution, the castle arrives in a pitiful state when Louis-Philippe decides to fully restore it (same idea for Versailles). He therefore had the idea of restoring from 1838 the castle of the one who reconciled Catholics and Protestants to make it a royal residence, but it will not reside there however. The exterior of the castle is also strongly remodelled with the addition of a mock tower to the West (Louis-Philippe tower) by symmetry to the Mazères tower, the transformation of the fore-guard into a chapel and the destruction of the old fortified corridor. Louis-Philippe, renovator of the Castle as he was of Versailles, exiled in 1848 in England where he died two years later, could never stay in this place.

The restorations of the château stopped in 1848 are taken over in 1852. In 1859, we start the demolition of the East building, then we build the portico. The two medallions representing Henri of Albret and Marguerite de Valois placed above at the same time the construction of the buildings connecting the portico to the Montaüser tower. They restored the chapel, reinforces the staircase of honor, takes over the facade of the wing of the middle (aile du midi), establishes a library in the living room Bernadotte to install the six thousand books bought in 1867 by Napoleon III to the former mayor of Pau. The castle received the visit of Napoleon III but also those, more numerous, of the Empress Eugénie during her multiple cures in the southwest. In 1868, it was the Queen of Spain, on the run, Isabel II and her suite, who lodged at the castle. The Third Republic made the castle a presidential residence before becoming, in 1926, the National museum that it remained and which houses the works preserved since the time of Henri IV and especially during the restoration operated by Louis-Philippe. Indeed as in Versailles, a wonderful castle museum to be seen a must..

Let me tell you about the architecture, which is very rich, will be brief.

The main entrance takes place on the side of the city, by a bridge of bricks and stones built during the reign of king Louis XV, to replace the medieval drawbridge. A three-arch portico was built between 1859 and 1864 in the Renaissance style. Cour d’honneur , the courtyard of the castle has an original form, punctuated with sculptures and medallions at the doors and windows.



Towers of the Castle:

The Gaston-Fébus tower in the southeast, also called the dungeon. The latter was completed by Fébus in the 14C, it was built almost entirely in brick on a height of 33 meters. It had like the other towers, a slate blanket that was removed after a storm in 1820. In the part currently facing the Parliament of Navarre, the President of the States of Béarn proclaimed the name of each newly elected sovereign. The tower served as a prison until 1822.

The Mazères and Louis-Philippe Towers at the West End,start with the Mazères Tower is the oldest of the castle since it dates from the 11C while that of Louis-Philippe Tower was built in the middle of the 19C to echo in its twin tower. The two Towers measure each 22.5 meters. The Mazères tower refers to the village of Mazères-Lezons, on the other side of the Gave de Pau.

The  Montaüser tower to the north, the tower was devoid of stairs to its origin in the 12C. The garrison was, thus, tasked to mount the tower with ladders which were withdrawn after climbing. This tower was once a well to forget in which the criminals were locked up.

The Billère Tower in the north-west of the castle refers to the village of Billère in which the good king Henri IV was fed in the Lassensàa house. This tower measures 30 meters high, counting the attic, it was built in the 12C

The Napoleon III Tower, this one was carried out at the end of the 19C under the orders of the emperor in front of the Gaston-Fébus tower. It ends the castle at its northeast end.

Pau Pau

Pau Pau Pau

Blessed in 1843 by the Bishop of Bayonne, the present Chapel was set up in 1840 in the old drawbridge door built in the early 16C. It was located in a small room on the first floor of the south wing of the castle


Three walls surrounded the castle in order to protect it from the external aggressions constitutes an advanced defense for the castle. It was built by Fébus below the castle in the south, and was used to watch over the Gave de Pau, the Pyrenees and Spain in the distance.

In the 16C, the family of Albret created an exceptional set of gardens and parks around the castle the kings of Navarre thus develop a warren, an orchard, a chesnut grove, a vine, a small and a large park (named lower-level and high-level) the Haute-Plante (high level) is transformed into a public place (present Place de Verdun) as well as a cemetery. The lower level is, in part, preserved and the gardens become accessible to the public in the mid-19C. The lower level now occupies 23 hectares in the heart of the city with parks and gardens, as well as a forest. The present place Gramont occupies the other part of the original lower level.

Pau Pau PAu Pau

Let go inside shall we, again briefly.

The Salle des cent couverts (room of the hundred utensils) has vast proportions allowing to accommodate a rich tapestry décor and a huge table of oak and fir in the large living room The Grand Salon or large reception room of the castle created with the present waiting lounge a large room in the castle where the court (assembly of nobles and clergy) of the Béarn was gathered in the Middle Ages. From the end of the 15C it became the throne room of the kings of Navarre. The coffered ceiling sees the golden figures of the fine gold of Henri IV’s grandparents

Chambre du roi or King’s bedroom,that actually was to be born King Henry IV was probably in the present family lounge on the lower floor. The Turtle shell, the first cradle of the future sovereign, is a central element of the legend of the good King Henri IV. Since the 18C, the latter has been the object of a cult in Béarn, it is solemnly worn during processions in the streets of the city. During the French revolution, a local collector, Mr de Beauregard, decided to substitute the turtle shell with a similar turtle shell that he possessed. He was helped in his company by the concierge Lamaignère on the night of April 30, 1793. The very next day the false shell was burned in the public place. Fortunately the real shell was finally made it in 1814 to king Louis XVIII, many testimonies confirmed the identity of the legendary Cradle.

Apartments of the Empress originally built for the wife of Louis-Philippe, Queen Marie-Amélie, these apartments were finally occupied by the Empress Eugénie. These apartments include a boudoir, a bedroom, a bathroom, a wardrobe, a maid’s room and a dressing room. The empress came many times in the castle of Pau during her travels between Biarritz and the spa resorts of the Pyrenees .

 Family Lounge, this piece was conceived in the 19C in order to be a meeting place for the relatives of the sovereign, family and friends in particular.

The staircase of honor, or grand staircase, serves all the great apartments of the castle. It was made at the beginning of the 16C by the grandparents of Henri IV. It is a Renaissance-style realization, close to the staircases of the castles of Bury ,and Azay-le-Rideau. Marguerite of Angoulême and Henri Albret signed the staircase of their initials H and M throughout the building. Two large vases of red porphyry adorn the bearings, these are gifts made by the King of Sweden Charles XIV Jean, born in Pau, to Louis-Philippe.

The Château de Pau concentrates one of the most important collections of tapestries outside of Paris. It gathers 96 pieces, coming from 17 different draperies, but mainly woven by the Gobelins in Paris. Several main themes are covered by this collection: The hunting scenes, the works of the fields, the noble leisure’s of the 16C, the Royal  parties and, of course, the life of Henri IV. It was only from 1860 that two paintings by Charles-Gustave Housez  and Eugène Giraud on Henri IV were installed in the family lounge, judged too austere.


Some of the webpages to help you plan your visit to this wonderful castle are

Official Castle webpage :

Tourist office of dept 64 on the castle :

Tourist office of Pau Pyrenees:

Nice info in English on the Chateau de Pau:

There you go another gem of my belle France so many right, yes! And as a base, Pau is great even going into Spain! Remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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August 15, 2018

The Mercados , Markets of Madrid!

So now we got a reprive some quick showers to cool off the heat wave coming thru Europe these last few days. We are still lucky to be mild, spots in my beloved Spain had gone to 45C! 113F! yikes! Oh well , it is Spain, everything under the Sun! Here we got the breezes of the Atlantic ocean!

Talking about markets (mercados or mercadillos) here, arise out of a conversation with an old friend from travel forums VT and we are still very much in contact, even been visited in my house! Now, the person is traveling in Spain and took some pictures of markets. Well it gave me an idea not written much on them, just bits and pieces in previous blog posts. I do it in my black and white series, no pictures. See my post on the main markets with pictures elsewhere in my blog.

I needed to say, my dear late wife Martine got me to come to all of them, well most of them, she loves them. Hopefully, this will stay with me for the memories. I like to tell you about some of my favorites and yours too, and my family there too. And of course, Madrid because once lived, and many times visited, my(ours) main piece of Spain always will be.

Let me tell you about some of the less known markets of Madrid, especially from the tourist point of view.

However, there are others, and some of better value and with history too. The decade of the 1870’s when the city Council began to build covered markets, of which at the end of the century there were already four, all with iron structure. These were the markets of the Mostenses (built in 1875), Cebada (1875), Chamberí (1876) and La Paz (1882). Despite the construction of these new markets, there was still not enough to meet the demand for a growing city, so there continued to be open-air markets in public squares. Madrid has a total of 46 municipal markets and others of private ownership.  Of course, I am not in my wildest dream going to tell you all, too many and long….but will tell you briefly the ones my family and my relatives now living there do go often over the years.

The Mercado Municipal de Chamberí is located in the district of Chamberí. The market dates from 1876, but after a deep reform was inaugurated in 1943. It has a rectangular plant in a single dimension, in which fifty food stands are distributed. During the celebrations of the Virgin of Carmen celebrated in the neighborhood, the market carries out days of open doors with tasting of typical products of the region.  Smaller but quaint and part of the history of the neighborhood. More here: Mercado de Chamberi

The Mercado de Maravillas.  It is a market located in Calle Bravo Murillo,122. In 1942 the market is inaugurated. It was intended to be in the 1950s one of the largest in the city. It was built on the site that left the school of Nuestra Senora de las Maravillas (Our Lady of the Wonders) after the fire that suffered in 1931 in the neighborhood of Cuatro Caminos. The market finished  in the post civil-war period has an area of 8700 square meters and more than 250 stands. It is done in the  Rationalist architectural style. At the beginning of the 21C it is one of Tetuan’s district largest markets. It is a building built on two floors; the ground floor dedicated to the collection and service inside the market, while the second is dedicated to the commercial area. The commercial plant is located at 2 meters of elevation on the main entrance in the Calle Bravo Murillo. The main facade in the Calle Bravo Murillo is of brick seen placed with barebone no cement, with an important canopy in cantilever of reinforced concrete, and the ground floor arcaded with pillars veneered with crystal grey granite. It stands out the large built area of the building of approximately 20,000 m2, of which almost half, 8.800 m2, are dedicated to commercial use and on a single floor.  On the first floor the pillars are steel.  The Sierra tooth-shaped roof, with glazed windows facing north, is highlighted, so that the zenith light gives a unique atmosphere to the interior of the big commercial building. More here: Mercado de Maravillas

The Mercado de San Ildefonso . It is a favorite among residents and frequenters of Malasaña and Chueca district, due to its location on Calle de Fuencarral, right between the two neighborhoods. The market is situated just a few meters from the site of the first covered wholesale food market in Madrid, which was demolished in 1970. The stalls mainly offer ready-made dishes, although they also sell raw ingredients which you can take home or ask to be cooked for you there and then. The food can be eaten at the stalls themselves or, if you fancy a stroll in the sun, you can take it with you.  A strategic stop for neighbors, tourists and regulars between Malasaña, Chueca and Tribunal. The Mercado de San Ildefonso distributes its spaces in three differentiated levels where we find different provisions and possibilities. Complementing the gastronomic stands with three bars, one for each floor, the market also has two terraces, both half covered and perfect to enjoy the outdoor facilities. More here: Mercado de San Ildefonso

The Mercado de Las Ventas (we lived not far but it was not built yet!, we came as visitors!) . It was built in 1995 to replace the old Canillas (quill) Market, founded in the 1940s. Located in front of the bullring of Monumental de Las Ventas. The market has a renowned reputation for the excellent value for money offered to the buyer. A special highlight is the wide range of fresh products of high demand, mainly fruits, vegetables, fish and meats. Among the novelties that it presents with respect to other markets is a gastronomic project through which one will be able to taste the most recognized dishes of all the kitchens of the world thanks to several stands specialized in international cuisine, healthy food and a wine bar with numerous wines with denomination of origin.  Currently has 100 commercial stands spread over two floors of more than 2,000 m2, and the market is equipped with underground parking, banks ATMs and total accessibility (impaired mobility folks) to its facilities. All this, completely refurbished and adapted to its two major projects. One of them, a gymnasium  DreamFit of 4,500 m2 facilities, and a supermarket Ahorramas, opened in December 2016. More here: Mercado de Las Ventas

There you go, wonderful places, should see as much as you can. It will give you not only the thrill of Spanish foods and drinks but the real feel of the local people and their colorful ways of mingling with the crowds even if there is a language barrier.  Hope you enjoy the other markets of Madrid!

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

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August 11, 2018

La Vuelta de España 2018! bike race

And another bike spectacle I like and seeing it and would to see it again. As I do locally now, when on vacation by Cuenca last year we saw it coming into the town on the 7th stage. The whole family was with me and it was great. My dear late wife Martine, father’s side family are very much into cycling and do follow the tour de France for years, I actually began following it with them and then it spilled over the Vuelta.

The 2018 edition is coming up and would like to tell you about it briefly.

The La Vuelta de España (Spain) or simply La Vuelta (the Lap) is a professional race of road cycling contested throughout the Spanish geography. It is held between the end of August and the beginning of September and belongs to the UCI WorldTour calendar, the highest category of professional racers.

The Vuelta was first disputed in 1935. Since its creation, the race has been suspended four times: from 1937 to 1940 due to the Spanish Civil War, from 1943 to 1944 due to WWII and the bad economic situation of Spain, in 1949 and from 1951 to 1954. It is the last and youngest of the well-known “great laps” of cycling, next to the Tour de France and the Giro d’italia. With four wins (2000, 2003, 2004 and 2005), Roberto Heras is the most prized runner in the race. The Vuelta in the 1970’s begain in 1970 with the triumph of Luis Ocaña, who was already consolidated in the International platoon as one of the great figures of cycling. José Manuel Fuente, with his triumphs in 1972 and 1974, became the third cyclist who managed to win two laps to Spain. A few years later, Bernard Hinault repeated the feat. In 1973 Eddy Merckx managed to win the Vuelta and did so in a sweeping way winning six stages and all the individual ratings except for the mountain, in which he finished second. In the 1980’s the main dominator of the Vuelta was Pedro Delgado with two victories (1985 and 1989), a second place and two thirds. In 2008, the winner was the Spaniard Alberto Contador, winner that same year of the Giro d’italia, and thus became the first Spaniard to win the three great laps. He won again in 2012. and again in 2014.  The first Vuelta was in 1935 with 14 stages and 3431 km ; by country the most wins have been by Spain 32, France 9, Belgium 7, Italy 6, and Switzerland 5.

The 2018 Vuelta will have 21 stages to complete a total of 3,254 km . Beginning in Malaga, on August 25th, and final in Madrid, on September 16th.   There will be six plain and two level stages with a high end, six mountain stages, five half-mountain stages and two individual time-trial stages. 46 Mountain ports and two days rest. The official departure of the Vuelta 2018 will be the 30th visit of the Spanish Vuelta to Malaga city. The first was in 1936, second edition of the Vuelta, with a departure and a goal towards Granada and Sevilla, respectively.

The stages and pictorials photos to follow individually, happy race

Stage 1: Málaga-Málaga, 8 km. CRI level (August 25), just a warm up!

Stage 2: Marbella-Caminito del Rey, 163.5 km. Plain (26 August)

Stage 3: Mijas-Alahurín de la Torre, 178 km. Half-Mountain (27 August)

Stage 4: Vélez-Málaga-Alfácar (Sierra de la Alfaguara), 161 km. Half-Mountain (28 August)

Stage 5: Granada-Roquetas del Mar, 188 km. Half-Mountain (August 29)

Stage 6: Huércal-Overa-San Javier. Mar Meno, 155 km. Plain (30 August)

Stage 7: Port-Lumbreras-Pozo Alcón. 185 km. Level (31st August)

Stage 8: Linares-Almadén, 195 km. Trowel (1 September)

Stage 9: Talavera de la Reina-la Covatilla, 200 km. Mountain (September 2)

Etage 10: Salamanca – Fermoselle-Bermillo de Sayago, 177 km. plain (4 September)

Etage 11: Mombuey – Ribeira Sacra. Luintra, 207 km. Half Mountain (5 September)

Stage 12: Mondoñedo. Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañó, 181 kilometers. Half-Mountain (September 6)

Stage 13: Candás-Carreño-Valle de Knowo. La Campero, 174 km. Mountain. (September 7th)

Stage 14: Cistierna-Les Praeres. Nava, 171 km. Mountain (September 8)

Stage 15: Ribera de Arriba-Lagos de Covadonga. 178 km. Mountain (9 September)

Stage 16: Santillana del Mar-Torrelavega, 32 km. Individual time trial (11 September)

Stage 17: Getxo-Balcon de Bizkaia, 157 km. Half-Mountain (September 12)

Stage 18: Ejea de los Caballeros-Lleida, 186 km. Plain (September 13)

Stage 19: Lleida-Andorra. Naturlandia, 154 km. Level with end in high (September 14)

Stage 20: Andorra. Escaldes-Engordany-Coll de la Gallina. Sanctuary of Canolich. Mountain (15 September)

Stage 21: Alcorcón-Madrid, 100 km. Plain (September 16) Final

There you , enjoy as much as we do and if you are there let me see some pictures please.

The above pictorials was taken from my fav sports magazine in Spain AS, more here: AS on the Vuelta 2018

The official webpage for the Vuelta in English/French/Spanish is here: La Vuelta 2018

I had to tell you an anecdote on Ejea de los Caballeros in Aragon, back in 1990 I was traveling there with my girlfriend (later wife) and we were on her VW Golf driving, the gas/petrol tank was almost empty and this is in the middle of barren lands almost like a desert nothing in sight, I though well there is always a first to walk the road to find gasoline!!! She told me her VW was very economical on gas/petrol and so it was, we made it alright to get the road back to France. Never again with a not full tank of gasoline to take a trip! Enjoy it , and remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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August 10, 2018

Independence, Peninsular War or simply War of 1808?

If you have read my posts, really…. you have noticed that of all the travel the section I like the most is the one dealing with history. I am an amateur history lover!!! It is a heavy subject and complicated and the reason not written a whole post on it ,until now. This is best in my black and white series, no pictures.

The Independence war of Spain, or the Peninsular War of all, or simply call the War of 1808. I like the latest. After all, it was fought in the Iberian Peninsula most of it, but it included parts of Southern France and with the heavy casting of the British. Therefore, War of 1808 is best me think.

Not many have given lots of thought or at least not written about huh! But it is a very important war, that determine the liberalism in Europe from the absolutism, clear the way for imposing invaders/dictators, and gave the light of freedom to many Nations, the Americas included. A bloody war indeed, but don’t they are all? Who is counting bodies! any count is a sad count. As with wars, dictators, etc there is no gold silver and bronze, is either good or bad, and to me they are all bad.

It is a touchy feeling for me because I am Spanish-French as well (citizen that is) and very much close to the Portuguese community from which I learned their language and my oldest son godfather is from there. And of course, the British know it well too one of my girlfriends for years in the University was from Leicester lol!! and a few pints buddies. So will try to be neutral ok ::)

The Spanish War of Independence was a conflict developed between 1808 and 1814 in the context of the Napoleonic Wars, which confronted the Allied powers of Spain, the United Kingdom and Portugal against the first French Empire, whose pretension was that of install in the Spanish throne the brother of Napoleon, Joseph Bonaparte, after the abdications of Bayonne.

It confuses with what the Anglo-Saxon historiography calls Peninsular War, begun in 1807 when declaring France and Spain the war with Portugal, traditional allied of the United Kingdom. It also had an important component of civil war at the national level between francized and patriots. Since the bicentennial of the War of independence, some historians have questioned the name of “War of independence ” because it is not a conflict of independence character, depending on the character that has been given to these Conflagrations In particular gains strength the denomination War of 1808 or the more complete Peninsula War (Iberian peninsula).

Initial invasion of Portugal with France and Spain: The Spanish division of Solano, leaving Badajoz, took meantime Elvas and Campo Maior, going to establish its headquarters in Setúbal, occupying also Alcácer do Sal, in the Algarve, Tavira and Lagos. The Division of General Francisco Taranco y Llano, with about 6000 men, entered by Valencia and was to ensure the taking of the city of Porto, where was already the general Juan Carrafa with 4000 men, coming from Tomar and Coimbra. On 9 May 1808, the Prince Regent of Portugal, in Brazil, declared null all the Treaties of Portugal with France, declaring war on the French and friendship with his former ally, Great Britain. In Porto, on 6 June, there will be a period of popular revolts against the French occupation, as a result of which the populations of Chaves, Miranda Do Corvo , Torre de Moncorvo, Ruivães , Vila Real, amongst others responded immediately to the call. The news of the Spanish people’s uprising prompted General Solano to withdraw with his troops to Spain. General Quesnel, a Frenchman who replaced General Taranco   upon his death, is arrested by the Spanish troops of Gen Balestra who, meanwhile, was also ordered to return to Spain. The economic and institutional crisis in mainland Portugal worsened with the permanence of the Portuguese court in Brazil, which strengthened the liberal ideas in the country, leading to the Porto Revolution of 1820 and forcing the return of the king to Europe in 1821.

The British Army, under then Lt. Gen. Sir Arthur Wellesley, later the 1st Duke of Wellington, guarded Portugal and campaigned against the French in Spain alongside the reformed Portuguese army. The demoralized Portuguese army was reorganized and refitted under the command of Gen. William Beresford, who had been appointed commander-in-chief of the Portuguese forces by the exiled Portuguese Royal family, and fought as part of the combined Anglo-Portuguese Army under Wellesley.

According to the Treaty of Fontainebleau of October 27, 1807, Prime Minister Manuel Godoy foresaw, in the face of a new Spanish-French invasion of Portugal, the logistical support necessary to the transit of the imperial troops, which stipulates the joint military invasion, the cession to the Crown of the new kingdoms of Lusitania and Algarves, as well as the distribution of the colonies, all in favor of Spain in exchange for this transit. Under the command of General Junot, the French troops entered Spain on October 18, 1807 , crossing its territory at full march in winter, and reached the border with Portugal on November 20. However, Napoleon’s plans went beyond, and his troops were taking positions in important cities and strongholds in order to overthrow the dynasty of the Bourbons in Spain ,and supplant it by its own dynasty, convinced of having the popular support. This reach the point that they already control several Spanish towns, such as Burgos, Salamanca, Pamplona, San Sebastián, Barcelona and Figueras. The total number of French soldiers stationed in Spain amounted to about 65 000, which controlled not only the communications with Portugal, but also with Madrid and the French border. In March 1808, fearing the worst, the Royal family withdrew to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez to, if necessary, continue on the way to the south, to Sevilla and embark for America, as had already done Joao VI of Portugal (Brazil).

The dissemination of the news of the brutal repression,and the abdications of Bayonne on 5 and 9 May, 1808. One of the reasons why the Peninsular Wars attained so much infamy is that the depravities committed by all sides were graphically portrayed by one of the greatest artistic geniuses ever, Francisco Goya, who in 1808 had already held the position of official Spanish court-painter for three decades. His numerous etchings (the series known as “The Disasters of War”), drawings, and paintings not only depicted the horrors of this holocaust, but also constituted an unforgettable indictment of all warfare. Among the many scenes pictorially documented by Goya were skeletal children and women desperately begging for food, firing-squad shootings, bare-breasted and terrified women encountering impending rape, impalement of a man on a tree, and disembowelment by sword.   Napoleon forced the transfer of the Spanish crown to his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, as Joseph I  (José) in the abdications of Bayonne. Which extended throughout the Spanish geography the call, initiated in Móstoles (near Madrid), for action, the uprising against the French , coming for the most part from the popular classes and of the notable locals to confront the imperial troops, they decided the war by the way of the popular pressure in spite of the opposite attitude of the Board of government designated by king Fernando VII. Already in April there were riots in cities like León and Burgos, although, after the Madrid uprising, on May 2, 1808, the actions against the French was propagated throughout Spain. The war developed in several phases in which both sides took the initiative successively, and was highlighted by the emergence of the guerrilla phenomenon that, along with the regular Allied armies directed by the Duke of Wellington, caused the progressive wear to the Bonapartist forces.

The first successes of the Spanish forces in the spring and the summer of 1808, with the Battle of el Bruc, the resistance of Zaragoza and Valencia and, in particular, the victory of Bailen, meanwhile the situation in the Basque Country was tensing. Bilbao, the only provincial capital that had not been occupied by the invaders was relieved on the night of August 5 to 6 and proclaimed as King of Spain, Fernando VII. They provoked the evacuation of Portugal and the French withdrawal to the north of the Ebro, followed in the autumn of 1808 by the entrance of the Grande Armée, headed by Napoleon himself, in command of an army of 250 000 men culminated the maximum French deployment until mid-1812. After the entrance of the emperor in Madrid, after the Battle of Espinosa de los Monteros and the Battle of Somosierra (November 30, 1808) and the tremendous defeats of Uclés (January 13, 1809), the second of the sieges of Zaragoza (21 December 1808 to February 21, 1809) and Ocaña (November 1809), the Central Junta in charge of the government of the unoccupied Spain leaves the plateau for refuge, first in Sevilla, and then in Cadiz, which resists a long and brutal siege.

From there, the Central Junta assists defenselessly the capitulation of Andalusia. Napoleon was preparing to start in pursuit of the British expeditionary force of Moore, when it had to leave to France with urgency because the Austrian Empire had declared  war (January 6, 1809). He left the mission to finish the war in the northwest in the hands of Marshal Soult, who occupied Galicia after the Battle of Elviña and then turned south to attack Portugal from the north, leaving the group of Marshal Ney in his rear with the mission to collaborate in the occupation of Asturias. However, the popular resistance, supported by the weapons supplies by the British fleet, made it impossible to pacify Galicia, which had to be evacuated after the defeat of Ney in the Battle of Puentesampayo (June 1809). The popular uprising, directed by Captain Cachamuíña in Vigo, assumed that this was the first town reconquered to the French in Europe (March 28, 1809). Galicia and Valencia remained free of French troops, although Valencia ended up capitulated In January 1812. To this should be added the formal annexation, by decree of January 26, 1812, of Catalonia to the French Empire, with its division in four departments (Ter, Segre, Montserrat and Bocas del Ebro) and the incorporation of the Aragonese municipalities of Fraga and Mequinenza, while the Aran Valley was assigned to the Department of the Haute-Garonne in France.

By the end of 1812, the Grande Armée of Napoléon that had invaded the Russian Empire had ceased to exist. Unable to resist the oncoming Russians, the French had to evacuate East Prussia and the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. With both the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Prussia joining his opponents, Napoleon withdrew more troops from Spain, including some foreign units and three battalions of sailors sent to assist with the Siege of Cadiz. The withdrawal of troops bound for the Russian campaign was exploited by the Allies to resume the initiative from their victory in the Arapiles (22 July 1812) forcing Joseph Bonaparte to flee temporarily from Madrid. And, counteracting the French offensive, advancing along 1813 to the Pyrenees, defeating the French in the Battles of Vitoria (June 21) and San Marcial (August 31). Meanwhile, Russia’s campaign absorbed the bulk of French resources. Therefore, during 1813 the French Army was withdrawing and losing territory. The French abandoned almost all their towns, and after the Battle of Vitoria on June 21, 1813, they were expelled from Spain. The Treaty of Valençay of December 11 ,1813 restored to king Fernando VII and left Spain free of the foreign presence, but did not prevent the invasion of the French territory. In October of 1813 the Allies crossed the Pyrenees. The war continued in the south of France. There were fighting in the Nivelle River, Bayonne, Orthez, Toulouse and again in Bayonne between the Allied army formed by English, Portuguese and Spanish against French. Being the Battle of Toulouse (April 10, 1814) the last confrontation of the war. Finally, Napoleon asked for peace. So paradoxically, the war ended in the same locality where it originated: Bayonne.

Allied troops had entered until Bordeaux, and possibly, if they had not been stopped, they had entered in Paris before the Austrians, Prussians and Russians. King Fernando VII was finally able to return to Spain on March 22nd, 1814. It must be pointed out that Catalonia formally continued to belong to the French Empire until 28 May 1814, with the orderly withdrawal of all its troops under the command of General Pierre Joseph Habert. At that time, even Napoleon had already abdicated (Treaty of Fontainebleau, April 14, 1814). The signing of the Treaty of Valençay, by which king Fernando VII was reconstituted on the throne,as the absolute monarch, was the beginning of a time of disappointment for all those who, like the deputies gathered in the courts of Cadiz, had believed that the fight against the   French was the beginning of the Spanish Revolution and also the beginning of the Latin American War of independence. It was a long and destructive war, most estimations of wartime dead in Spain place the number at over one million, which constituted more than 10% of the total population. In Portugal, the losses were recorded at 5-10%. The episode remains as the bloodiest event in Spain’s modern history, doubling in relative terms the Spanish Civil War.

In all, Spain deprived of its naval power and excluded from the great subjects dealt with in the Congress of Vienna, where it drew the subsequent geopolitical panorama of Europe. On the other side of the Atlantic, the American colonies would gain independence after the Spanish-American Wars of Independence , Spanish colonies (most except Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines) as well as Portuguese Brazil had achieved independence by 1822. At the internal political level, the conflict hatched the Spanish national identity and opened the doors to constitutionalism, concretized in the first Constitutions of the country, the Statute of Bayonne and the creation of Cadiz. However, it also initiated an era of civil wars between the supporters of absolutism and those of liberalism, called Carlist Wars, which would extend to the entire 19C and that would mark the becoming of the Nation. War and revolution against Napoleon’s occupation led to the Spanish Constitution of 1812, later a cornerstone of European liberalism. What made the Peninsular Wars so extraordinary and influential, however, is that never before had a guerrilla insurgency fought on such a large scale with such devastating effectiveness while contributing in major ways to the defeat of the most proficient armies the world had ever seen that were commanded nominally by the greatest military genius in history. Yet in less than six years after the Iberian insurrections of May, 1808 he was traveling toward exile on the tiny island of Elba. The Iberian “ulcer” had contributed mightily toward bleeding his empire of all life. Another adverse outcome of the wars for both Spain and Portugal was the deepening rift, chasm, or division in their societies between those favoring the regressive forces of absolute monarchy, aristocracy, and clergy and those favoring the progressive forces of constitutionalism, bourgeoisie, and secularism. Sound familiar!

A huge event indeed in my opinion, that allows for independence movements all over the participating countries in this war and for my beloved Spain, lucky to have Russia and Austria and Prussia battling Napoleon on the Central European front otherwise history will be another story. And this is not the last time it will play out as WWI and WWII would tell us. Hope you enjoy the historical reading compiles from British, French ,Portuguese,and Spanish sources.

Some webpages I like to complement the above are

Ministerio de Educacion, Cultura y Deportes:

Britannica in English:

Further reading in English, Peninsula War (another name for the Independence war of Spain into into consideration Portugal) :

La Guerre d’Espagne as known in Napoléon’s France:

Hope you enjoy the reading, and it may I am sure help understand these countries today a bit more. I am sure you will know Spain independant drive of today from it.

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

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August 10, 2018

Some news from Spain LXV

And back to my beloved Spain, with the latest news and tidbits from glorious Madrid. The weather is nice and cool in my neck of the woods now with Madrid of course hotter ::)

A survery of travel tastes of Spaniards. Pointing out, 55.1% of Spanish travel from two,  although they also bet on escaping with another couple (13.6%) and even in groups of three (12.6%). Solo adventurers are reduced to 10%. Finally, the ranking would close the practice of travelling in groups of five (3.5%) and six people (2.4%). These are some of the data that emerge from the study carried out by Civitatis, the leading online distribution company of guided tours, excursions and activities in Spanish in the main destinations of the world. To this end, they interviewed 200,000 people who had booked their holidays with the Civitatis group during the month of July 2018. I would think in modern Spain the practices have change and now couples try more to get away than in the past.

Rome tops the list of the most desirable sites with 8.8% of bookings. The second position is occupied by the city that never sleeps, ie New York, with 7.1%, while the third occupies a place that can come to surprise: Krakow, with 6.4%. They tie Paris and London in the fourth position. Other European capitals follow: Berlin, Amsterdam and Budapest.

They are guided city tours to excursions in the most emblematic places of the country, passing by culinary routes directed to all the gastrolovers. And what is the Spanish favorite reservation? The New York contrasts tour. A four-hour excursion in the city of the Big Apple that runs through the neighborhoods with the greatest cultural diversity in the world. From Harlem to Brooklyn, through Bronx and Queens. In second place is the guided tour of the Colosseum of Rome, follows by the Vatican tours

Only 6.8% reserve with more than 60 days before departure. According to the report’s data, 20.1% does it between 10 and 19 days earlier. In the same way, there are many who prepare the escape from four to nine days before (19.9%). On the other hand, 19.5% do it one to three days before. On the other side of the scale, only 2% look for options on the same day of departure. I am not endorsing them , never used them but their webpage is here Civitatis:

Patria (fatherland), a great eye opener literatura work that I hope will be brought to the cinema eventually. Patria the “What happened” , words that refers to the history of violence and social exclusion that has been experienced in the Basque Country for the last 50 years. And Patria is obviously the novel by which Fernando Aramburu picked up last Monday the Francisco  Umbral Award for Best book published in Spain in 2017, awarded by the foundation Umbral and promoted by the newspaper El MUNDO. The value of the novel by Aramburu has not consisted in portraying the accomplice society, rather than in reporting the criminal acts themselves, which were already sufficiently documented. The main idea of  Patria is that the use of violence ruins people. Also the people who exercise it . It has won a battle, that of the defeat of ETA, is now the triumph of truth. and Patria contributes to that so nobel goal indeed. Get the book here:

Something from the neighbor to the north that had repercussions in Spain as well. As told from the Spanish point of view. The French Revolution was made in summer: on August 25, 1788, Necker, the minister of the People, replaced Brienne in Finances. It was the first cession of the King before the call of the States General, the last meeting of the Estates society. A week earlier, France had declared bankruptcy. The following year the events precipitated: in just three days Necker was stopped, Lafayette created the national militia and the Parisians took the Bastille on July 14, 1789.  On the 27th, King Louis XVI accepted the tricolor. August 4 was the height of the great fear or the reign of terror, the peasant revolt that was resolved with the abolition of feudalism. Within a few weeks, the National Assembly approved the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. After a first failed assault on the Palais de Tuileries, in July  some sources say that 5 and others 11-of 1792, the National Assembly declared the Fatherland in danger. Paris was brewing and bulling. The revolutionaries discovered the King’s treachery. He conspired to have foreign powers intervene in the country on his behalf. On August 3, all sections of the city ask for the cessation of Louis XVI. The commune disputed power to the assembly. Robespierre yielded to its pressure: it dissolved the assembly, suspended the king of its functions and summoned a convention by universal suffrage, subsequent pretext to concentrate the power, curtail the liberties recognized by the Constitution of the previous year and to unleash the Panic.

On August 10, the events that took place occurred the assault on the Palais de Tuileries opened the period of Terror in France. On 9 August, 30 sections concentrated in Paris sent commissioners to the commune to declare themselves insurrectional and to be endowed with full powers. Some community members are called to testify for their reactionary positions. They are judged right there. They’re sent to prison, but they don’t come to her. On leaving, the crowd lynched and decapitated them. Some of the militia members ran the same fate. Therefore, at the dawn of day 10 they preferred to retract and not contain the crowd. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette took refuge in the assembly. The Swiss Guard of the king tried to resist the assault. The king suggests his men by letter to lay down their weapons. They don’t.  The insurrectionists  made it to the castle and looted. The figures of dead vary according to the authors between 1,000 and 6,000, the revolution of 1789 becomes the terror of 1792. In such a way that finally absolute fear ended with absolute terror: In July 1794, Robespierre, who had already liquidated Danton, climbed to the podium of speakers of the Convention. He was already making a new list of delegates, many delegates feared to be included. They were stirred, imprisoned and executed. It was the coup de Thermidor that ended the revolutionary terror. In August of the following year, 1795, France approved a new constitution that distributed power between two chambers and a collegiate executive in a board of directors. And this was not the end, terror continue until the concordat of 1802 and even some like in Brittany and especially the Vendée continue until 1815 to fight the French revolution. Source El Mundo newspaper.Translation by yours truly.

Something from afar that is becoming popular late in Spain. The Cuban Sandwich. Typical snack of the Caribbean island, very popular also in Florida,USA  which is made with roast pork (the marinade of the meat is key), ham, gherkins, cheese and mustard, toasted on a double plate. Enjoy it very good! Some of the best places to try it in Madrid are

Midtown. Paseo de la Habana, 11. With Iberian pork (also bacon), provolone, gherkin, arugula, tomato and mustard with a touch of honey. It is served with potatoes (11.50 euros). More here:

La Negra Tomasa.Calle  Cadiz, 9. Piglet, ham, cheese, mustard and gherkins (8.50 euros). More here:

Havana Blues. Paseo de Santa Maria de la Cabeza, 56. With roasted pork in casserole cut in pieces with a knife, cooked ham, Edam cheese, mustard and gherkin (6.50 euros). No web but reviews here:

No more than nine years for the Casa Alberto in the Barrio de las Letras of Madrid arrive at 200 years old, very impressive age for a tavern or restaurant: Only one, Sobrino de Botin (1725), is oldest in Madrid and even some say the World. As I am  interested in the kitchen, the most relevant are not the 200 years of Casa Alberto, but the last 25. It was in 1993 when Alfonso Delgado acquired the tavern and set out to give it a culinary dignity which, in reality, had never reached.  The kitchen of Casa Alberto has settled as one of the most dignified representatives of the popular tradition of Madrid its greatest culinary claim, and with justice, are a Callos a la Madrilena(tripes) ,for the quality of the ingredients, the sweetness and flavor of it. However, there is more such as the correct ham croquettes, and perhaps better and more original squid in their ink with aioli; Perfect egg broken with squid Andalucian style;juicy cod coated with ratatouille; tender and tasty stews such as lamb shank confit with honey and shiitake mushrooms or veal cheeks with mashed potatoes. And finish with a unavoidable Torrijas (French toast) . Really, satisfaction guaranteed. Casa Alberto, wait until September. It will be closed for vacation the last three weeks of August . It is at Calle de las Huertas, 18; more here:

You can enjoy the work of the Manchego genius Pedro Almodovar  in the Marlborough Gallery. Until September 8th, the exhibition of Life in detention, a series of still lives, between pop and realism, photographed by the author and framed within the last edition of PhotoEspaña. The one thing that motivated him to take his camera was a painting by Isabel Quintanilla in which he saw simply a glass with a flower. Something so simple shot his imagination. In his still lives, the director uses several times this motive, although in his case, the presence of color, as in his feature films, gives him a special force, brings him closer to pop, the style that has marked him. Galeria de Arte Marlborough , Calle Orfila, 5. More here:

There you just the latest in the middle of Summer,and me just five more days to go on 3 weeks vacation here and there but not Spain in this Summer,sorry my beloved Spain, see you soon in Barcelona in October.

Enjoy, Spain everything under the Sun. And ,remember ,happy travels ,good health,and many cheers to all!!!

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