Archive for July 23rd, 2019

July 23, 2019

Passage du Nord, Brussels!

I told you that we have come to Belgium and especially Brussels lots of time over the years and it is one of our favorite cities here. One can only think of beers, mussels/fries, and the many monuments of great historical and architectural value. However, we ;also,  come here for the chocolates.

Looking for them we end up finding beauties that we have remember for years and many times go back to them. One particular place is the Passage du Nord or the North passage, a shopping center of old world charm and the recipient of a Neuhaus chocolate store!


Let me tell you a bit on it ok.

The Passage du Nord was built in 1881-1882 following the vaulting of the Senne river and the creation of the Boulevards du Centre. The Passage du Nord (North Passage) is a shopping mall that connects Bd Adolphe Max to Rue Neuve. It was born at the beginning of Bd Adolphe Max between the Place de Brouckère and the Maison des Chats (House of Cats).

In 1865, King Leopold II vowed that Brussels would succeed in getting rid of this cloaca called the Senne before the end of his reign. In October 1865, the municipal council of the city of Brussels adopted a project to remove the secondary arms of the river, to rectify the winding course of its main arm and to vault it between the train station du Midi and the north of the city. This is how the boulevards of the center ,originally named Boulevard du Hainaut, Central, Nord and La Senne and later renamed Boulevard Lemonnier, Anspach, Max and Jacqmain.

It was in this context that in 1881-1882 a shopping mall called Passage du Nord was designed to connect the Bd du Nord(later Bd Adolphe Max) and Rue Neuve. The Passage du Nord continues the tradition of covered shopping streets established in Brussels in the 19C.

Official webpage of the Passage du Nord shopping center

As said , we mainly came looking for it as we saw in a brochure the chocolatier Neuhaus , who is one of the best in the world and in Belgium for more than 160 years. We were not disappointed lol! We love chocolates to die for them! And we agree the best are the Belgians.

The Neuhaus chocolate store here is at: Official Neuhaus chocolates at passage du nord

Even thus,can only find it in French will give you the site of the Heritage Brussels on the information of the Passage du Nord, a memorable building that I was lucky enouth to find it and come back with the family as well. Hope you enjoy it as we did/do.

Heritage Brussels on the Passage du Nord

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


July 23, 2019

Hypermarket: Auchan!

So weird but just came up with the nostalgia of many trips in Europe especially France, Spain, and Luxembourg where we shop of a favorite hypermarket not found in my current neck of the woods of Brittany, but always on the lookout for it anywhere.  I like to bring back souvenirs of our trips and tell you and remind me of the Auchan hypermarkets or Alcampo as known in Spain.

While we started out with them in the Yvelines dept 78 of the Ïle de France region near Paris we really enjoyed them very much and became our supermarket for sundry items (the meats, cheeses, fruits etc we purchase in local markets). It became a routine affair of ours to do and plan the shopping so we have time to sightseeing as well. Auchan was our hypermarket, and now let me share some properties I have written before on my previous trip posts but would like to make one post to them here.

First a bit of history on Auchan:

Auchan is a supermarket chain belonging to the Mulliez Family Association. The brand  was founded and managed by Gérard Mulliez in 1961 until 2006. In 2018, it is the twelfth largest distributor in the world, and the sixth largest French distributor.  Gérard Mulliez opens the first Auchan store in a disused factory of the Phildar company, founded by his father, also named Gerard. Covering an area of ​​600 m2, this store was located in the district of Hauts-Champs, Roubaix (Nord 59). This store had to be abandoned in the 1980s because it wasnot  competitive with the one that had been built in Leers (Nord 59). The building was shaved to make way for a more modern store in 2003.

In 1981, Auchan created the Alcampo brand in Spain. In 1983, Auchan created Banque Accord, the group’s banking subsidiary. In 1989, Auchan opened its first hypermarket in Italy, and  in 1996,  opened hypermarkets in Luxembourg and Poland. In 1998 Auchan opened its first hypermarket in Hungary and Thailand. In 2004, the first Auchan hypermarket is opened in China. In 2006, the first Auchan hypermarket opened in Romania. In 2016, Auchan’s first hypermarket was inaugurated in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, and Auchan moved to Senegal. In 2019 withdraw from Italy with the sale of almost all of its subsidiary. Auchan announces to withdraw also from Vietnam. Its 2018 turnover is 50.3 billion euros, including more than 50% realized abroad. The Auchan group’s main shareholder is the Mulliez family association (AFM), founded and run by the Mulliez family, a family from the north of France. The participation in the Auchan group is the largest in the association which also has shares in other brands such as Banque Accord, Décathlon, Leroy Merlin, Kiabi, Norauto, Boulanger, Saint Maclou, Flunch, Alinéa, GrosBill, and Pimkie.

Official Auchan stores

Official Auchan holding group

And to share some of the properties dear to me over the years and hope you can stop by and enjoy them too. Many nice memories with my family that still hold strong today even stronger without my dear late wife Martine.

We always love to shop at Auchan, and we have good souvenirs of our shopping on the road warrior trips such as in Pau. The CC Auchan in a wonderful place with all you need including Micromania ,and Flunch cafeteria, nice refreshing site to relax after a long day of sightseeing and very close to our hotel and in out of the city into our sightseeing mode! The store is here:


Another spot we love and had come even recently again to Saint Nazaire. We came first here and on our way back , we just did our groceries at Auchan, area of Trignac, heck its only 110 kms from us so on a cool day it was no problems, love it! More on it here:

You will love the centre commercial  Quatre Temps (shopping center) at La Défense,  its one of the best in the area. You have 219 stores, 46 restaurants, and 28 cinema showing rooms! Last count and all surrounded by a great public transportation hub and the Arche de la Défense tower . You have shopping galore at the Auchan hypermarket!  For detail info Auchan is here:

The Centre Commercial Quatre Temps is here:

The Centro Comercial “Parque Corredor” has an hypermarket Alcampo (from the French chain Auchan), and more than 180 stores.  By car as we do mostly is on the road M-108 Carretera or highway of Ajalvir-Torrejon between Km 2 and km 5 well posted on the road. You can go here by bus from Madrid Estacion America on bus 224 and then change in Torrejon de Ardoz for bus 254.For info on  Auchan here:

The webpage for the Parque Corredor how to get there is here :

The shopping center or centre commercial Les 3 Fontaines  in Cergy ( 95)  were a favorite for the grocery shopping at Auchan right off the A15 autoroute , and other stores as well as the best Hertz rental in the area while we lived not far.  More on Auchan here:

The CC Les 3 Fontaines easy from Paris on the train from St Lazare or the RER A, info is here:

And in our beloved Cuenca ,Castilla La Mancha, Spain, we love it as base on a house in the mountains outside the town, we came regularly to shop here and very nice selection and nice bakeries too in the shopping center around Auchan. Oops it is call here AlCampo ,and have discounts for gas/petrol with the shopping ticket!!!. More info on Alcampo here:

The Centro Comercial (shopping center)  Alcampo info is here:



You have a huge supermarket AlCampo at the wonderful in Madrid shopping center la Vaguada by metro line 9 Barrio del Pinar. This is a wonderful shopping center that I encourage you to take a look. In a nice residential area of my beloved Madrid. The Alcampo info is here:

The Vaguada shopping center info is here:

This is a memorable trip we used to make even for lunch same day when we lived in Versailles! And we came back for vacation from Brittany and of course stop here again. This is the Kirchberg district,outside city center Luxembourg surrounded by  many European Union institutions. However, for the shopping center ,the Auchan hypermarket and the cinema next door is tops. Easy out by bus no 16 from city center and we have gone several times by car with a nice underground parking. The wonderful  Auchan hypermarket is here:

The centre commercial Kirchberg with directions is here:

And last but not least; we have found the closest we think to us is in Saint Sébastian sur Loire just over the side of Nantes in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 of Pays de la Loire. We went in the Auchan hypermarket of Saint Sebastian sur Loire as it was on our way home on the N844 ,and did our groceries!!! Now we are planning doing shopping there too. Auchan is getting closer to us. Enjoy the Auchan info here: Auchan Saint Sebastian sur Loire store

The shopping center at Saint Sébastian sur Loire info here: Shopping center Auchan of Saint Sébastian sur Loire

saint sebastian sur loire

There you go, because even visiting many times you need to buy groceries and sundry items and these are the best places to get them quickly. The Auchan experience is tops. Enjoy it

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

July 23, 2019

Restaurant: Villaines la Gonais, A11!

So here I am telling you now to eat at a expressway restaurant lol! Well in my belle France we have everything and some amazing places ! In my road warrior trips I have come to know many but this one somehow comes up memorable. Let me tell you a bit on it ok.

We like to drive and it shows , all over, the best way to reach two points in my opinion. And we do it the old fashion way avoiding tolls (or taxes!) but sometimes we can’t avoid the pesky charges for reason of rapidity or simple less tiring and or both. So we have taken the A11 highway/motorway/expressway to reach Paris and beyond from my Brittany.  While doing this we could not wait to reach destination and eat so we stop at a rest stop or Aire!  And yes, we have found a gem as well!

A bit on the town by the rest area I am mentioning here.

Villaines-la-Gonais  is located in the department of Sarthe no 72 in the Pays de la Loire region The rural town forms between the Huisne and the Queune Creek a triangle of 1,000 ha once crossed by a Roman road, then a Royal road, then the N 23 and today the A11 highway/ motorway  bordering the town. Villaines la Gonais has less than 600 inhabitants. The two significant monuments here are   St. Hilary’s Church which houses a 15C baptismal fonts and the Château de Beauchamps. (private) Le Brame du Cerf walks with the deers of 4 km is a local event.


City of Villaines la Gonais in its history in FRench

Tourist office of the dept 72 Sarthe on useful info

The rest area or Aire of Villaines-la-Gonais on the A11 direction Le Mans- Paris. In a single building, very bright, hosts the Italian restaurant Stratto, the shop, the relaxation areas and children’s games, the toilets… etc It is equipped with a playground, gas/fuel, showers, baby space, parking PL, inflating station, buffet, shop/boutique and also an ENI Café.

Villaines la Gonais

It was a dire stop as my gang was claiming my head if I did not stop, been a long distance driver but anyway they always won ! ! ! I stopped and was surprise and we had a great family meal rest time, good for the souvenirs of always.

Villaines la Gonais

I know especially Stratto Restaurant in Paris at 49 bd Saint Michel but was surprise to find a franchise version on the highway A11. There are many choices, everything is appetizing if you like Italian specialties. The welcome was nice. I was served quickly. In Stratto, it’s an Italian concept with paninis, pizza and pasta. People will also be able to come and eat a steak if they wish.

Official Stratto Restaurant of Villaines La Gonais

Villaines la Gonais

And a bit more on the A11 expressway with tolls but you know the N12 goes along for free too ::)

The A11 highway/motorway or expressway as you wish is from Paris to Nantes via Le Mans and Angers, the road takes you from the most beautiful forests of the Sarthe (dept 72) to the unforgettable beaches of the Loire Atlantique (dept 44).Also known as the Océane or ocean road, the A11 offers a connection with many highways at Le Mans, a real tourist hub. The A11, which belongs to the European routes E50, E60 and E501, directly serves the cities of Chartres, Le Mans, Angers and Nantes, and, via A81, Laval, Rennes, and all other Breton cities. It is 343 km long between greenery and must-see cultural sites to discover. Enjoy it.

And now you have a nice ride on the roads of France, and the A11 even with tolls is very good indeed. And if passing by it by all means stop on this rest stop at Villaines la Gonais on your way to Paris ok.

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

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