Archive for January 1st, 2020

January 1, 2020

The Volcan at Le Havre!

Let me bring you back to my belle France and a city very much underrated due to its sad times during WWII. I have been here at least a couple times and my impressions are different than most travelers. We have enjoyed Le Havre!

Let me refresh your memory on how to get here.  Le Havre  is in the department de Seine-Maritime 76 of the region of Normandie right in the mouth of the Seine river. The city center of Le Havre is an Unesco World Heritage Site!!

The autoroute A131 link Le Havre to the A13  (autoroute de Normandie) by the other great bridge or Pont de Tancarville.  The autoroute A29 (autoroute des estuaires) link the metro area to the north of France and ends at the Pont de Normandie.  The trains are from the TER and Corail network   but no direct TGV service to Paris yet (working on it for 2020 if all goes well).  The regular trains put the city in touch with Gare Saint Lazare-Paris.

I have my posts on Le Havre but not on this unique building. The Grand Volcan is located exactly at 8 place Oscar Niemeyer, while the Library is at 2 place Oscar Niemeyer both not far from the Bassin du Commerce in Le Havre.

le havre

There is a wonderful Maison de la Culture du Havre built by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer ,known as the Volcan for it shape. Le Volcan, first Maison de la Culture created in 1961, then national stage in 1991. Le Volcan is today one of the most important national stages in France. It is a place of artistic production and dissemination of national reference in the field of theater, music, dance, circus, new aesthetics, new images and digital arts. The complex has two performance halls, one with 800 seats and the other with 125 seats. The establishment was created and inaugurated on November 18, 1982.

le havre

A large opening opposite Place Perret is articulated between a large majestic step which descends gently towards the lower square, facing the restored fountain and the main entrances to the building, a sequence of ramps accessible to people with reduced mobility, and a high promenade maintained in a balcony above the lower square.

The helical staircase of the southern access is preserved by being vented, and will descend gently to the east to catch up with the bottom of the large step and turn over the entire width of the space up to the building entry. The two west accesses, on the very lively side of the market, are modified. The helix ramp is turned over to correspond in the upper part with the covered passage which leads to the market and at the lower square level, with the equipment entrances. The elevators will see their functionality improved so that they are real urban elevators between upper square, lower square and parking.

It is divided into two distinct areas such as

Le Grand Volcan is a real reinforced concrete shell pierced with small portholes, the Grand Volcan suffers from a lack of natural light, the rehabilitation of the whole thus emphasizes the play of light and the choice of materials. Wood is in the spotlight with fabric and wood seats, parquet floors, curved wooden walls for the room, new wooden reception desks. The warm atmosphere thus provided is complemented by colorful notes of colorful drapes and partitions, and lighting highlighting the concrete plank walls.

The Oscar Niemeyer library offers a general documentary offer, self-study and quiet work spaces. Architecturally the glass facade overlooking the lower square has been improved. For more natural light, a central atrium is created by installing a glass roof. Inside, a real scenographic route is set up. Original and innovative, it counterbalances the scale of the building, a priori unsuitable for individual spaces, with atmospheres differentiated by lighting, furniture, textures and the choice of materials. The warm atmosphere of the Grand Volcan will be found at the entrance to the media library, which offers a café and press lounge area, directly visible from the outside thanks to the glass facade. Intuitive and readable by a light treatment on the ceiling, the route is then ascending and punctuated by balconies, boxes and alcoves like little reading rooms.

The entrance to the two major cultural facilities is through a common covered square on which there is also a bar-brasserie. A permanent place of conviviality, open to all locals and visitors alike. The covered space will be treated as a continuity with the outdoor spaces, the aim being to encourage people to enter and meet.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Official Le Volcan webpage

City of Le Havre on le Volcan

Tourist office of Le Havre on Le Volcan

And to give a bit on the destruction sufffered by this courageous city of Le Havre that practically came back from the ashes to be a vibrant metropolis that is today full of Arts around the sea here are some excerpts

The human toll was big in WWI to the city of Le Havre ,and it served as the rear base especially for the British navy where 1,9 million British soldiers passed by the port of Le Havre.

During WWII, the Nazis occupied Le Havre since the spring of 1940; and prepare the city for the invasion of the United Kingdom (Operation Seelôwe), making arrangement along the coast with casemates, blockhaus and batteries integrated into the Atlantic Wall. Le Havre received 132 bombardments by the Allies during the war with the most damaging coming on September 5-6 1944 with English Royal Air Force bombed the city center and the port to weakening the Nazis during operation Astonia; the  Royal Air Force did more than 2000 waves dropping about 10K tons of bombs. Le Havre was liberated by allied armies on September 12 1944. (My birthday!! but not the year ok lol!!)

There you go a nice place to be in the north and wonderful arts by the ocean to give it a sublime combination we love. Hope you too enjoy Le Havre

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





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January 1, 2020

Let’s say Mont Saint Michel!

So let’s say Mont Saint Michel. Oh yes for many years I used to passed by it on my road warrior trips between the Paris region and the west of Normandy. Then, one year my twin sons got a school trip there and came back with some pictures and saying it was nice. Finally, I took the whole family and went there to see it and indeed it was nice. And this is my first post of 2020!!!! Happy New Year to all!!!

Well more like one of the wonders of our world really, a must to see in France. I have written some posts on the sights there and the food, this time will just remind you of how to get there and enjoy the walks along its marvelous old streets. Again, no other words are needed when we speak of this marvel of our world, the Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, (but Bretons claim it too!).

I waited to be living already in the Morbihan breton to make the family run there. Going we took the D768 to the N24 direction Rennes, all the way to the beltway  coming around the rocade nord or north beltway as if going to Paris but once on the A84 got off on the exit 33 for the Durcey Mont Saint Michel exit on the N175. Coming back we took off by Pontorson on the D43 and went to the D766 , N176, N164, and by Josselin the return back on the N24 home. We came into the parking area P10 , which is very expensive for a monument unless you spend the whole day and night there, 12,50€ for 6 hours it is expensive even for France ::)

mont saint michel

The compensation is that you have a long navette bus that makes the run to the foot of the front entrance to the mount for free. they go instantly almost like every 4 -5 minutes intervals. The second link above has great info on this. There is another service that you pay almost like a bus type but drawn by horses, the Maringote. We took the bus navette faster and easier and free.

mont saint michel

mont saint michel

Once inside there is a laberinth of narrow street,like the Grande rue,  rue Principal, and blvd de l’Avancée ,step stairs, and hilly terrain which you must be in shape to do. It is semicircular and if you go to the ramparts you have great views over the sea. By the way, the area had the big waves or grand marée recently but we were there it was all sandy and plenty of walkers even a tour group in the sand on foot coming over. The walking on the sand to the mount is handle by expert guides as they can be very dangerous. Waves come back at 15 meters within minutes to surround the mound like an island.

The mount of St Michael or Mont Saint Michel has many towers around it starting from the entrance Tour du roi or king’s tower. To the right is Tour de la Liberté or liberty tower, then Tour Basse or lower tower, Bastion de la tour Boucle or tower bastion of the Loop, tour Demi Lune or half moon tower, tour du nord or north tower, tour Gabriel or Gabriel’s tower.

On the left side back you see the Chapelle of St Aubert just after the tour Gabriel. There is a very nice swampy lawn in between best seen from the tour du nord

mont saint michel

The Grande rue street goes in layers upwards to the next loop of streets or the chemin du ronde abbatial and another layer known as the Grand Degré de l’Abbaye to the abbaye or abbey church. On the side to the left there is a gorgeous terrace or Grande Terrasse de l’Ouest with great views to the streem of Le Quesnon the great debate between Normandy and Brittany for ownership settle by the French revolution and France on the side of Normandy.

Upon entering to your left go to the échauguette de la pillette or pillbox watchtower up Montée aux Poulains street near the tour Gabriel for great views of the sea . Grande-Rue, a narrow street that takes on the assault on Mont-Saint-Michel, is lined with 15C and 16C mansions. with evocative names from medieval times. Mythical addresses such as the La Mère Poulard whose omelette makes the world run,  and numerous souvenir stalls dot this street, invaded by a dense and multilingual crowd which, for some, evokes the assemblies of pilgrims of long ago.

mont saint michel

A bit of history and info for enjoying this wonderful spot on our belle France

The origin of the city merges with that of the monastery at Mont Saint Michel. Upon the arrival of the first monks, the first huts of traders, artisans, fishermen, etc. are built at the foot of the rock to enjoy and participate in the development of this new place of worship.

If today most of the houses in the village are made of stone, at that time wood was widely used, which would largely contribute to multiple destruction, then reconstruction of the village by fires over the centuries. The houses are built on the south and east sides of the rock, where its escarpment allowed the houses to sit securely.

In the 15C, the construction of the defensive system of the abbey being completed, the protection of the city was considered. Three gates defend the entrance to the city. The first, attached to the bourgeois guardhouse (where the Tourist Office is today), is known as the Porte de l’Avancée. Its defenses are summary. The second gate, defended by a redoubt and a half-moon, is called the Porte du Boulevard. The most defensive gate is undoubtedly that of the King, protected by the towers of the Arcade and of the King, it could hardly be crossed because a drawbridge and a portcullis blocked its passage.

Passed the threshold of the Porte du Roi, the visitor finds himself under an arched passage which served as a guardhouse. The rooms located above this passage now house the city/town hall of Mont Saint-Michel. You now have the Grande Rue in front of you. Unique street of Mont Saint Michel, it turns around the rock to lead the visitor to the foot of the large outdoor step. In summer, the ascent of the street is made, between the shops of souvenir merchants, in the middle of a compact and cosmopolitan crowd. Under these conditions, it becomes very difficult to appreciate the constructions bordering this street and it is better to leave it without regret. So, taking the alleys and other passages deserted by tourists eager for trinkets makes it possible to plunge back into an era when the beauty of things makes us forget the vicissitudes of current life.

Couple of webpages to help you plan your trip here are

City of Mont Saint MIchel in English

Tourist office of Mont Saint Michel in English

There you a must to visit in France I said, and repeat. One of the wonders of our world and even if overly run by tourists today, it is for a good reason after all is famous and all should come here. Oh yes prices are for a top tourist spot in a crowded space so you were told. In all, enjoy the Mont Saint Michel!

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

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