Archive for August 9th, 2018

August 9, 2018

The wine in Summer, wait the harvest!

And we are getting nice weather, cool breezy and sometimes rainy,  a whole difference from most of the rest of France. After a heat wave, now comes the flooding’s especially in the Gard, Drôme, Bouches-de-Rhône areas down south. We are cruising with 21C or about 70F.

And talking about weather, well it wine time as well. The season period is critical and some signs are ok for the big harvest in September, generally. Some of the latest news from France are

With the heat, the vintage 2018 of the French grape harvest is expected to increase compared to 2017, and quality too,  although some terroirs have suffered much from frost, hail in spring, and mildew mold.  In Bordeaux, two problems arise this year: 10,000 hectares of vine have been damaged by hail since late May and mildew molds have developed, following the rains of May and June.  Mildew has affected other French regions. The most exposed are the organic winegrowers.(BIO) It is Impossible for them to use chemical fungicides to get rid of the fungus that rots leaves and twigs.  Apart from the east, in Champagne and in Alsace, where the harvest is planned  “early “, the heat does not seem to have too advanced the date of start of operations, between mid-August and early September, depending on the regions and colors.  In Fitou, in the Aude (south of France), they start even two weeks later than the previous season. In this small village, was the first in France to launch the crops, which are traditionally in advance thanks to a micro-climate. The favorite wine of my dear late wife Martine, late maternal grandmother who always share it with me.  The  Interprofessional Council of Languedoc AOC Wines, the sales of the Aude whites have “doubled in four years”. With wines exported to the Japanese and American market.  In Alsace (east), Crémant will begin its harvest around 20 August.

Two properties known to me that are going the way of lodging rental and wines as many are developing into these arrangements. I will be in the Loire later this month on similar deals.

Eight Centuries of history , the Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey in the Sauternes opens 10 rooms and three suites. The decoration is signed by the Maison Lalique with its crystal and light games. From 250 euros. Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey. Hotel & Restaurant, 33210 Bommes-Sauternes . More here : Chateau Lafaurie Peyraguey

After a boutique, inaugurated in the building of the 18C, the trader, Champagne Leclerc Briant opens 5 rooms and a restaurant. From 300 euros per night. At 25 bis, avenue de Champagne, 51200 Épernay. More here: Le 25 Bis Laurent BriantLe 25 Bis Leclerc Briant

And here is one at you, we try for new things always here ,innovation my dear, elementary . A summer drinks: The Crémant d’Alsace Ice Petite Folie, signed Wolfberger, is savored on ice cubes in a pool glass! Try with: 5 thin slices of cucumber to arrange on the walls of the glass, 1 leaf of mint to rub, 12 cl of ice Petite Folie cold and and ice cubes.

In Spring and Summer to spawn and lay, sardines spend the Winter in very cold waters, between 500 and 600 meters deep. And then protects themselves by a thick layer of fat. But of “good” fat, rich in Omega 3 excellent for the heart and his vessels of us! The sardine is mainly intended to be grilled whole on a barbecue , but strong odors particularly unpleasant for the neighborhood. However, there is a way-too poorly understood-to reduce this disadvantage. it is enough to rub first the fish with laurel leaves, then to pour on the embers a few drops of vinegar flavored with thyme and rosemary !! voilà okay

And to wash it down once done, here are two suggestion from one of my fav magazine , Le Revue du vin de France.  A bottle or two to go along with them, well Sardines is one of my favorites fishes and grill on the barbecue is awesome.

White wine, I will take one in Roussillon, in Baixas, at Domaine Brial. Its cuvée Château Les Pins, a Côtes-du-Roussillon, made of white Grenache, Malvasia and Roussanne, is a pure delight. In the nose, notes of grass, thyme, pineapple, chamomile… In the mouth, a good power in alcohol with a final a little minty . More here: Domaine Brial

For a Rosé, I go to Cases-de-Pène, at the Château de Jau (which houses a splendid space of contemporary art, to be visited absolutely). The wines produced here by the Dauré family in the three colors are superb, and I have a weakness for this rosé of Syrah and black Grenache. In the nose, it is an explosion of red and black fruits (strawberry, blackcurrant, and even Violet), in the mouth, there is power, enough roundness to counter the salty side of the sardines and a final of a beautiful length. More here: Chateau de Jau

They are vines that extend to the western limits of the Médoc Vineyard, where the sands of the Landes and the forest eventually prevail. The AOP Listrac-Médoc is with its cousin AOP Moulis-Médoc  the most “continental” of the communal appellations of the Médoc. The area of Listrac and Mouldis is one of the most belated of the vineyard Bordeaux. And this is real wine country, what is commonly refers to as Bordeaux (which is a huge area) the fame comes from the Médoc peninsula.

The soils of the Médoc depend largely on the six old terraces of the Garonne. The floors from Terrace 4 (Terrace 1 being the oldest) are common to all the appellations of the Médoc except those of Moulis and Listrac. In Listrac, it is essentially the deposits of terrace 1 that are found and, to a lesser extent , those of terrace 3. The vineyard rests on a clay-limestone plateau and on the rumps of Graves  and the sandy-gravelly grounds that cover it, coming from these famous terraces of the Garonne. The vineyard soils are generally more clayey than in the other Médoc communal appellations. Hence a higher proportion of merlot (63%).

More on the wines of Listrac: Wines of Listrac Médoc

And more of the wines of Moulis: Wines of Moulis

And to finish two webpages to help you understand the wines of France. First a site on how to present the French wines in the world or Vins de France: Wines of France

And another, from which I got my first Wine knowledge diploma on French wines course many many years ago; they are the main venue for exports of France in what we do better than anyone, Food and Wines. This is Sopexa: Sopexa: Food and Wines from France

Enjoy, we are reaching weekend soon. Enjoy  yours. And remember ,happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!



August 9, 2018

Church Santiago del Arrabal, Toledo!

I like to bring you back to a Church. This one was found by chance. We were walking, and walking all over this wonderful city of Toledo. I wanted to show my family the ramparts and gates of Toledo and going to one we stumbled upon this Church; it has been a long time by here so practically it was to know it as well as my family.

The Church of Santiago del Arrabal , Santiago el Mayor or St James of the suburbs as the old word Arrabal means. Because it was located on the outside of the old inner city of Toledo.

Let me tell you a bit more on it as I have mentioned it in my other general posts on Toledo before.

The Church of Santiago El Mayor or Santiago del Arrabal is a Catholic Church in Toledo, next to the Puerta Nueva de Bisagra or gate , in the northern part of the historic city center. Built in the second half of the 13C ( 1245–48) under the patronage of Sancho II, King of Portugal is one of the best examples of Mudejar Toledo architecture.


Its location, close to the Puerta Vieja de Bisagra and in an old Muslim quarter, suggests that the Church must have been built in the place of an original temple, perhaps a mosque of its location also comes from the name, finding itself in the past to then outskirts of the old city, in the suburbs .


It has masonry and brick walls with doors framed in polylobular horseshoe arches. It has three semicircular apses whose exteriors are arched floors of different types (half-point, pointed and polylobular). Inside there are Arabic symbols like the ‘ Hand of Fatima ‘ or inscriptions on the wooden roof. The arches of the nerf are Gothic, like the vault of the transept. The altarpiece is Renaissance with Plateresque decoration, with images of the lives of Christ and the Apostle James the Elder (Santiago el Mayor). The bell tower is the oldest in the region dating from the 12C , square floor and double arc windows in horseshoe covered with  a moulding which encloses the outward side of an arch.


Saint Vincent Ferrer preached in this temple, leading his faithful to forcibly Christianize the synagogue in 1405, later turned into a Church with the name of Santa Maria la Blanca. He later came to preach in Vannes and my new area and he is buried in the Cathedral of St Peter in Vannes.


Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Parish site in Spanish:

Castilla la mancha tourism :

Province of Toledo;

Hope it helps enjoy this less seem gem of Toledo , worth a detour indeed as Toledo is for all is treasure, the icon of all of Spain.

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


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August 9, 2018

The Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris!

On the nice month of August ,when all of France is in the midst of its vacation time and me getting ready for middle August to go, let me tell you about something historical, sad, and true located in Paris. I have passed by many times on foot,and once went in, was very moved to see history that can be cruel; then , I have come with the family to talk about it and history behind it.  For those interested in knowing the true France.

I like to tell you a bit about the Chapelle Expiatoire. or Expiatory Chapel or Atoning Chapel in English me think ::)

In the heart of the 8éme arrondissement, halfway between the Gare Saint-Lazare and the Church of the Madeleine, on the Place Louis XVI, (29 rue Pasquier), there is an unknown monument: the Expiatory Chapel or Chapelle Expiatoire.


Sosthène de La Rochefoucauld  duke de Doudeauville , aide-de-camp of the Count of Artois, future king Charles X(younger brother of Louis XVI), proposed first,the building of it  at the end of the year 1815, the creation of a monument atoning in memory of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie-Antoinette. King  Louis XVIII (middle brother of Louis XVI)  had then decided to raise at his expense a commemorative Chapel. He commanded it to Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine . The monument was built from 1815 to 1826.


The traditional manifestation of legitimate Royals of France is the annual commemorative Mass given on January 21th  for the peace  of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette at the Expiatory Chapel, whose legitimists had obtained the reopening.(The legitimists are those who claim rightful blood rights to the true king of France ,Bourbons now in line Louis XX).

A very interesting monument to discover both for its architecture, but especially for its historical interest. Built on an ancient cemetery that received hundreds of bodies during the French Revolution, witnessed said about 1343 corps, the Chapel was indeed built in the same place where King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were buried after their execution in 1793.


In 1814, the monarchy was restored to France. King Louis XVIII, freshly mounted on the throne, wishes to revive the memory of the Royal family. He decided to transfer the remains of his brother Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette to the Basilica of St. Denis, and to have a atoning Chapel built on the ancient revolutionary cemetery of La Madeleine. A monument that will have a dual vocation: prayer, and Remembrance.

This monument, is indeed a true immersion in the darkest hours of the French revolution, when the terror and executions of masses triumphed over individual freedoms. Receiving every day dozens of bodies, the Madeleine was more a mass grave than a cemetery. In this place were buried the hundreds of Swiss guards massacred during the arrest of the king and his family at the Palais des Tuileries on August 10, 1792 (now there is only the Jardin des Tuileries).

The tombstones that you will see aligned on the sides of the inner garden are also symbolic tombs built in remembrance of these Swiss guards. The guillotine, installed in Place de la Concorde (then called Place de la Revolution), will later operate without interruption from May 1793 to June 1794. From the Royal family to politicians and anyone suspected of royalist conviction, all of them would face  the same fate:   Became unsanitary and harmful, it will be closed in 1794, then the bones transferred to the Catacombs of Paris in 1859.

The composition of the Expiatory Chapel is somewhat inspired by the Queen’s Convent at Versailles. From the outside, the building presents itself as a closed enclosure with a gate giving access to an elevated esplanade framed by two cloistered galleries, Petit Campo Santo, an area of isolation and recollection. In the background, a tetrastyla portico with a Doric-style pediment giving access to the Chapel. Thus the plans are in a Greek Cross, and one sees the balanced harmony born of the dome and the half-domes surrounding the cubic massif softened by the peristyle. Three vaults, in the butt of a coffered furnace and illuminated by an oculus in their upper part, contribute in  the central dome also with caissons and lace, resting on pendants. The lighting is natural, only shown by the Oculus of the vaults.

In neo-classical style, the Chapel made numerous borrowings from Roman antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance for its realization. Although being a place of worship, you will also notice the discretion of Christian elements, reminding us of the main mission of this Chapel: memory. Inside, you will discover the statues representing Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. On the pedestal of Louis XVI is engraved the testament of the King written before his execution, on that of Marie-Antoinette with the last letter written to the King’s sister, Madame Elisabeth(later ,also guillotine 1794). The building houses two sculpted groups of white marble showing the sovereigns in ecstatic attitude: Louis XVI, to which an angel shows the sky, and Marie-Antoinette supported by religion. Other sculptures, are a bas-relief showing the exhumation of the King and Queen of the Madeleine Cemetery. Finally, the black and white marble altar, visible in the crypt, marks the exact location from which the King and Queen bobies were exhumed.  An unsung monument of great historical richness!


François-René de Chateaubriand said that the Expiatory Chapel  was “perhaps the most remarkable monument in Paris.” I could not argue really.

You can get there on several ways even walking from afar, I go often by car or train and walk from Saint Lazare station. You have the parking Saint Lazare off rue Saint Lazaire with entrance on 20, Rue de Rome. At the Gare Saint Lazare for many public transport choices such as  metro Saint Lazare lines 3, 12 , 13, and  14 metro Saint-Augustin, lines 3 and 9, metro Havre-Caumartin, lines  8, 12, and 14,and Bus lines 32, 43,49, 84 ,and 94.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Chapelle Expiatoire official site

Tourist office of Paris on the Chapel

National Heritage site of France on the Chapel

The Museum Pass includes the Chapel

Enjoy, the real history of France, a time to seek facts and not fake news! For the lovers and seekers of history , this is a must in Paris.  Hope you enjoy it.

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

August 9, 2018

Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales, Madrid!

Another jewel of my beloved Madrid , that escape in my youthful years living in the City. I came back as a visitor, maybe more curious of what I had around me, found out, there was a lot and of course with more money to enjoy these things. I came here and was completely amazed of the beauty, the history, and the care peaceful ways of this place.

I have come back with the family and each time is memorable; a must to visit in Madrid. If you like museums and go the golden triangle of Madrid, well ,do come here,point. I am talking about the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales in the Plaza de las Descalzas Reales, with parking underground right across and a nice El Corté Inglés dept store my boys love too ….Monastery of the Descalzas Reales; a must to see while your time in Madrid.


Let me tell you briefly the long history of this wonderful spot in Madrid.

The Monastery of Our Lady of the Visitation, located in Madrid and better known as the Royal Barefoot, is a monastery of cloistered nuns, Clarisas Coletinas, founded in 1559 by Juana of Austria, daughter of Charles V and Isabella of Portugal , widow of Prince Juan Manuel of Portugal, sister of the King of Spain Felipe II and mother of the future Portuguese King Don Sebastián. It is located in the heart of Madrid, in the Plaza de las Descalzas Reales, near the Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Celenque and Calle de Preciados. It is a 16C classicist building that houses in its interior important works of art. Part of the monastery is currently dedicated to museum that you can visit.


Here and in front of the building of the monastery was proclaimed on several occasions the Kings and hailed to the princess  of Asturias, raising for the occasion a plank and a canopy. In the 19C was placed in the middle of the square the source of the Mariblanca that was previously in the Puerta del Sol and that today is in the interior of the Casa de la Villa, (at the Puerta del Sol there is a replica at present). Today you can see two statues, one in bronze dedicated to Francisco Piquer in homage to his work of creation of the Monte de Piedad. Another dedicated to the Marquis of Pontejos (Joaquín Vizcaino).. .


The chronicles mention that in 1339 the first courts in Madrid were held in this palace. (in the Plateresque courtyard of the cloister of the monastery, the shields of an unknown nobleman are preserved as testimony.) In the 16C, the former palace that had been mentioned belonged to the Imperial Treasurer Alonso Gutiérrez of Madrid, who on more than one occasion gave shelter to the emperor Charles I. In this House several children were born among them the smallest, Juana, who later founded in the same site this monastery of the Descalzas Reales (Royal barefoot).

Juana  of Austria was the founder of the monastery of the Royal barefoot. In 1559, the day of the assumption took place the grand opening party of the monastery, even though the church was still not built. There was a solemn procession in which king Felipe II and the whole Royal family participated. In 1564 the Church was completed and the Holy Sacrament was placed on the main altar on the day of Conception.


In 1580 the monastery accomodated Mary of Austria, widow of the Emperor Maximilian II of Habsburg, who arrived with her thirteen-year-old daughter, Margaret. The Empress adopted the Community regime and her daughter professed as a nun Mary of Austria died on February 21, 1603, asking in her will to be buried at the foot of the altar of the garden prayer, in the low cloister, with a plain stone and smooth as a headstone. Thirteen years later Felipe III moved the corpse to a luxurious sepulcher made of marble and bronze, placed in the choir of the church.

The Archduchess Marguerite of Austria, who became sister Marguerite of the Cross, died there in 1633. She is buried in the monastery, as her mother the Empress Mary of Habsburg (1528-1603) — daughter of Emperor Charles V and wife of Emperor Maximilian II — as well as Princes Alphonse (1936-1989), François (1972-1984) and Gonzalve (1937-2000) of Bourbon, elders of the descendants of the kings of France.

In 1559, the day of the assumption the community of Coletinas entered at last in the monastery, in solemn procession. Throughout history were several nuns of Royal Blood, besides Juana of Austria and Mary of Austria.

Infanta Margarita, daughter of Mary of Austria.

Infanta Ana Dorotea of Austria, daughter of the Emperor Rudolph II, who took the habit at the age of twelve and died in 1694 with eighty two years.

Infanta Maria de la Cruz and Austria, who died in 1715, with seventy four years.

Infanta Catalina Maria de Este, daughter of the princes of Modena, granddaughter of the Infanta Catherine and the Duke of Savoy, who took the habit at eight years of age in 1622 and died in 1628 without age of profess.

Margaret of the Cross, daughter of John Joseph of Austria, granddaughter by paternal line of Felipe IV and by maternal line of the painter José de Ribera. He entered the convent at the age of five and left his habits on September 17, 1681 coinciding with the second anniversary of his father’s death.

On September 3, 1715 King Felipe V dictated a royal decree that granted the perpetual title of Grande de España to all the abbess of the Barefoot.:(Descalzas)

During the Spanish Civil war the monastery was deprived of its community. However, he was cared for and protected, putting his works of art safely. They fell on it some bombs which produced malfunctions mostly in the vault of the staircase and in the choir which was destroyed. The restoration was carried out during the same years of the war when, among other things, the deteriorated roof tile was changed by a new slate. After the war, the nuns came back.

In the central years of the twentieth century was built in the square of the barefoot an underground parking (I park here too) whose works affected the building slightly. On this occasion it was restored and consolidated, conditioning some of its dependencies to be visited on a tour

The Cloister of this monastery (or closing yard) is famous for the processions that take place in it during the Holy Week, especially the one of Good Friday, in which the holy burial leaves, with old music of the time of the foundation of the monastery. In this event procession a Christ recumbent of Gaspar Becerra that is carried to rods (without urn). They are used for the occasion (as in the procession of the Corpus Christi) rich liturgical clothes and sometimes hang in the walls of the four pandas of the cloister the tapestries with the theme of the Eucharistic Apotheosis, produced in the Flemish looms of Raes and Geubels. The courtyard has a total of sixty six pieces of marble. The shafts of the columns are cylindrical and slender and show an influence of the Sevillian palaces

The ornamentation of the great staircase, with mural paintings and on canvas, was carried out in different eras. The second section depicts the royal balcony, with the Kings Felipe IV and his wife Mariana of Austria, with the Infanta Maria and the Prince Felipe prosper, indicating that there was to be carried out before 1661, date of the death of the latter

Capilla del Milagro , this Chapel of the Miracle, and decoration was done on the wishes of  Juan José de Austria, step brother of king Carlos II (you can see the inscription on site) that had a daughter born outside marriage in the Monastery, Margarita de la Cruz , sister profess in 1666(Marguerite of the Cross).

The majestic classic building houses a museum of major works of art . Among the many relics on display are putatively pieces from Christ’s Cross and the bones of Saint Sebastian. Among the priceless art masterpieces are Titian’s Caesar’s Money, tapestries woven to designs by Rubens, and works by Hans de Beken and Brueghel the Elder.  The museum collection also includes such rarities as portraits of Royal children of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth from the late 16C referring to Polish–Spanish relations that inspired Calderón’s La Vida es Sueño (Life is a dream). Portraits of the son and daughter of King Sigismund of Poland were painted by Martin Kober in 1596 and were sent as a gift to King Philip III of Spain.

Again, a must see in Madrid. Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

National Heritage of Spain on the Monastery:

Tourist office of Madrid on the Monastery:

Again, see it and come back to tell me otherwise. Hope you enjoy the post.

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

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