Archive for August 31st, 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.

Let me tell you the touristic part, I did on it splitting it into five different posts here. These are

And let me give you a more historical/geographical view on the ïle de Noirmoutier!

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, the Church of Saint-Philbert, 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.

Noirmoustier Noirmoutier noirmoutier noirmoutier noirmoutier

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 31, 2018

Cathedral Santa Maria of Valencia!

On of my old favorite cities of my Spain. Many years ago came here often starting while living in Madrid as had my mother’s aunt living there just south in El Saler. She took us to the city for tours and of course, the main things to see. I was just a teenager and really not pay much attention to the details. Rolled over a few years after, my mom’s aunt no longer living, came over to visit the city again from Madrid in 1982. The story continues as again rolling a few years came in with my dear wife Martine for a family trip which we all enjoyed. Do not know when returning here as my dear wife Martine passed away in April 30th 2018; but the memories will lingered for a lifetime.

I like to tell you that I have several blog posts on Valencia here, and more photos, but this is one only on the Cathedral, a must to see in the city of Valencia, Comunidad Valenciana in the kingdom of Spain. And the story on the Cathedral goes…as briefly as I can make it.

The Cathedral of Valencia (the Metropolitan Cathedral Church-Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady of Valencia, dedicated to Saint Mary) is a Cathedral that bring out several architectural styles  with a Valencian gothic predominance. In addition, we see elements of Romanesque, French Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical.  It was built over an old mosque and  it was consecrated in the year 1238 by the first Bishop of Valencia after the Reconquista. From 1262 to the 18C it has gone thru several modifications. Inside it contains some of the first and best paintings of the Quattrocento of the Iberian Peninsula, which came from Rome through artists hired by Alejandro VI. This last Valencian Pope, when he was still Cardinal Rodrigo de Borja, made the request to elevate the Valencia to the rank of Metropolitan, category that was given to him by Pope Innocent VIII in 1492.


Some of the things to note here are

The Gate of the Apostles (Puerta de los Apostoles) of the 14C is particularly remarkable as well as that of the Palau, the oldest of the Cathedral, Romanesque style and some mudejar elements. The iconic Micalet tower is nearby.

Since 1437, the Holy Chalice is preserved in the Cathedral of Valencia. According to historical documents, it was St. Laurent, Deacon of Pope Sixtus II, who would have had him handed over to his parents, who lived in Huesca, to avoid been taken by the Roman Emperor Valérien, who persecuted the Christians.   Among the singular elements must be highlighted, as far as the exterior of the Cathedral is concerned: the Eastern gate, called L’Almoina and Romanesque style 13C. The small northern Chapel, called Sant Jordi, where the first mass was held in the 13C. The Northwest Arcade, called Nova in Italian Renaissance style 16C. ; The western gate, called by the Gate of the Apostles with the influence of the French Gothic style 14C. ; The belfry, called the Micalet and of Valencian Gothic style 14C. ; The southern gate, called the Puerta de los Hierros in Baroque style 18C.

As far as the interior of the Cathedral is concerned, it is worth highlighting: The dome, masterpiece of Gothic Art 14C , exceptional both inside and outside. The old chapter house or Chapel of the Holy Chalice, in late Gothic style from the second half of the 14C. The Girola (ambulatory) , in Valencian Gothic style 13C, mostly covered in neoclassical decoration of the 18C. The main altar or presbytery, decorated with Renaissance paintings 15C and later Baroque additions 17C. The main nave and the sides, in Valencian Gothic style 13C-14C.


The Puerta de l’Almoina gate , named for being neighbor to the already disappeared House of L’Almoina , where the needy was given relief, is the oldest of the Cathedral. It is also known as the Palau Gate by its proximity with the Palau or Archiepiscopal Palace ;in Romanesque style, it is a clearly differentiated element of the rest of the Cathedral, which is mainly Gothic. If you walk from L’Almoina leaving the Cathedral on your left you will find just in front of the archaeological center of the Almoina a small Chapel of Sant Jordi or Saint George. According to the Chronicles, in 1238, conquered the city of Valencia, Jaime I went directly to the major mosque, and made the first Mass on the site where today is the Chapel of Sant Jordi, attached to the outside of the apse. Inside the Chapel, on an altar, there is a Gothic altarpiece, with a painting by Sant Jordi and a sign that says: Sant Jordi at the Battle of Puig de Santa María. Year 1237. This painting is very similar-on a small scale-to the painting that is kept at the Victoria and Albert Museum of London entitled  Saint George in the Battle of Puig.

You will see a passageway dating from 1660 that links the Cathedral with the Basilica of the Virgin of the Homeless (next post). Just passing it begins the Obra Nova, a gallery or tribune of Renaissance style that is open to the current Plaza de la Virgen square, which historically received the name of Plaza de la Seu or Seo.  Just passing the Obra Nova on your left is the gate of the Apostles (Puerta), named after the statues of the Twelve Apostles it houses. In French Gothic style, it contrasts notably with the Romanesque gate of L’Almoina with which it confronts the other part of the nave. Begin in 1303 and finished in 1354.

From the Puerta de los Apóstoles, If you leave the Plaza de la Virgen to your right and you go down the Calle del Micalet, we will arrive at the belfry of the Micalet or Miguelete. Intimate sentimental emblem for Valencia, and probably the most characteristic monument of the city. It was started on 1381 and finished in 1453. Since 1476, it was definitively joined to the Cathedral. Throughout its history, the Micalet fulfilled several functions such as a Lighthouse, watchtower, and even platform for fireworks. The city was in charge of the illuminations that were made for the extraordinary festivities. Right next to the Micalet is the main gate, called the Puerta de los Hierros by the iron gate that surrounds the entrance atrium. It is the most modern, replaces a previous 15C, started in 1703 and finished in 1713.


Coming inside there are many jewels such as

 The Dome or cimborrio is of French Gothic style 14C and 15C, it is formed by an octagonal prism of two overlapping bodies, with eight stained glass windows of fine tracery in each body. The first body or lower part is of unknown author, of the 14C, whereas the second body or upper part of is towards 1430. The dome endows the nave with natural light that is always white, thanks to the translucent alabaster windows and the fact that its stone frame is reduced to a minimum.

The present Chapel of the Holy Chalice was destined initially to the celebration of meetings of the chapter of the Cathedral, that is to say, the capitulate room. It was originally an exempt chapel, but in 1496 Pere Comte finished the corridor, in a florid Gothic style, which linked it with the rest of the Cathedral. To access, you have to enter through the Puerta de los Hierros and turn right until we find an entrance to the hallway or access room, at the end of which there is a Gothic door in stone that allows the entrance into the Chapel. In this corridor of access we find five Gothic stone sepulchres, the Chapel of the Holy Chalice, of square design, measures 13 meters wide and 16 meters high, with smooth walls of carved dark stone and three windows with polychrome glass. Highlights the beautiful and complicated Gothic vault with eight ribs and twenty-four torsions arches that form an eight-pointed star, resting on polychrome corbels. About the keys to the vault, also polychrome, appear the twelve Apostles . The most important treasure that houses this room, of which it receives the name, is the Holy Chalice, donated by the King Alfonso the magnanimous one in 1437 and preserved in the room of relics until in 1916 it moved to this Chapel. In the central ceiling, there is the coronation of the Virgin in heaven after the assumption.

The legend of this relic it is said that, at the death of the Virgin Mary, the Disciples of Jesus distributed everything she kept and that St. Peter took the Chalice to Rome. Because of the frequent persecutions suffered by the Christians, Pope Sixtus II gave the precious relic to St. Lawrence the Martyr, his deacon, who had moved the Chalice to Huesca, his homeland. There was the Holy Chalice until the year 712, when the Christians, fleeing the Moors, took refuge in the Pyrenees and finally in the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, near Jaca. From there, according to the historians, it went to Zaragoza, to the royal Palace of the Aljafería , the Holy Chalice was in the possession of the monarchs of the Crown of Aragon until in 1437 Alfonso the Magnanimous, who had taken to Valencia the relic for the Chapel of his Royal palace , having absent himself from the kingdom of Valencia, gave them to the Cathedral, which since then houses the Holy Chalice.

In the wall, at a higher height, there are two large chunks-of 59 meters and 70 meters respectively-of large chains. They are those that once closed the port of Marseille, which was famous impregnable, and that in 1423 broke the ship of Romeu de Corbera, which commanded the attack of king Alfonso the magnanimous to the capital of the House of Anjou, rival of the king. The chains of the port were taken as trophy, taken to Valencia and donated by the king himself to the Cathedral. At first, the chains were deposited in the presbytery but with the reforms of 1779 passed to the present Chapel of the Holy Chalice.

In front of the wall where the pulpit is located there is a Gothic door that leads to the interesting Museum of the Cathedral, where there are works of primitive Valencian painters, like Jacomart and Rodrigo de Osona, and others such as Juan de Juanes, Castellanu, Correggio, Orrente, Espinosa, Vicente López Portaña, Camaron, and Francisco de Goya.

It is one of the oldest parts of the cathedral, because here began its construction on 1262. The Girola(ambulatory), a space destined for the faithful to wander through the Chapels without interrupting the cult of the main Altar, is not a very common element of the Churches of Valencia, since it only appears in the Cathedral and in the Church of Santa Catalina. The Girola has eight Chapels originally Gothic, but following the Neoclassical reform projected in 1771 they were covered with stuccoes and other elements. With the restoration works initiated in 1972 some of the Chapels have partially recovered the original look.

Capilla de la Resurreccion (Chapel of the Resurrection). It is popularly called the coveta. It is a beautiful Renaissance high relief of the resurrection, of 1510, made of polished and glossy alabaster powder stone. The sacristy is one of the oldest parts of the Gothic Cathedral, 13C. It is located in the right corner at the beginning of the Girola, at its intersection with the nave.

The main Altar of polygonal design is covered by a six-nerve vault. It has five windows and communicates with the Girola through two side doors. The main Altarpiece in the presbytery is actually a large cupboard bounded by two doors, which kept a renaissance altarpiece of silver from about 1492-1507 that was melted in Mallorca in 1812 for coins in the war against Napoleon I.

The main structure of the Cathedral, formed by the naves, the transept and the Girola, was built between the 13C and 15C, which is why it is of Gothic style and, in particular, Valencian or Mediterranean Gothic, which is characterized by being more primitive, horizontal and heavy than the vertical and sumptuous French Gothic .Between 1300 and 1350 were built the first three sections of the three naves-a larger central and two smaller sides-, starting at the nave and finishing at the end, reaching the current Chapel of San Francisco de Borja. It is one of the side Chapels on the right side of the central nave, dedicated to San Francisco de Borja, which contains two magnificent pictures of Goya of 1788.The left represents San Francisco de Borja saying goodbye to his relatives in the Ducal palace of Gandía to enter the company of Jesus. On the right we find San Francisco de Borja, already a Jesuit priest, who assists an unrepentant dying man. Last, the Chapel of St. Joseph we find the buried bishops and archbishops Simón Lopez García, Agustín Cardenal García-Gasco and José Gea Escolano.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Official Cathedral of Valencia:

Tourist office of Valencia:

Museum of the Cathedral of Valencia:

Hope you enjoy the trip and do come over to Valencia. And remember, happy travels , good health, and many cheers to all!!!




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