Archive for February 22nd, 2020

February 22, 2020

Arboretum at Versailles!

And here I am back in old familiar territory of my belle France. I look but did not find any post on this wonderful spot in my beloved Versailles and was surprise. This is a nature’s heaven that should be visited at least once and is easy to get there from the palace.

So , therefore, let me tell you a bit on the Arboretum de Versailles-Chevreloup, Yvelines 78, Ïle de France region. Please note before the French revolution this area was included in the Domaine de Versailles better known as the Palace/museum but with a lot more dependancies.


The city limits has the extension of the Chateau de Versailles in its northern borders way beyond what you normally see at the Grand Canal, here the old domaine now greatly reduce gives way to a forest of trees, it is call the Arboretum de Chévreloup! Created in 1924 it gives you a tour of the world in trees covering an area of 50 hectares ( 123.5 acres). You will follow trails showing trees from far away regions as the Himalaya,Europe,China,Japon,Caucausian range, USA, Canada, etc. You will find a trail of cedar trees from the Atlas mountains, Ecus ,Sequoias, maple syrup erables trees, sycomores,also fruit trees like prunes, apples,and flower trees like paulownias.

The total area now open to the public is 200 hectares (494 acres) , preserving about 2 500 species of trees. An oasis in Versailles. The best way to go there is from Versailles gare d’Europe by ave Saint Cloud, take bus no 19 to stop Parly II/Arboretum, then just walk across the street.  If you are coming straight from Paris at gare rive gauche RER C station, walk to your right cross ave de Paris and continue to avenue de l’Europe to next blvd which is the Avenue de Saint Cloud turn left and the bus 19 stop is right there.

With more than 2,500 species and varieties of trees which coexist and form the richest collection of trees in Europe, the Arboretum of Versailles-Chèvreloup is nevertheless a unique place, managed by the National Museum of Natural History and labeled “Garden remarkable “. From April for the cherry blossoms and magnolias, in the spring for the magnificent rhododendrons or the red chestnut trees or in the fall to discover all the trees in shimmering colors ranging from yellow to red.

Among the spots not to be missed, there are of course, the meadow of Japanese cherry trees, the planting of dwarf conifers, or the Lawsons maze a wandering among conifers with colorful foliage. Take a stroll around the remains of the hydraulic system that supplied the fountains of Versailles, such as the Chèvreloup Reservoir. The Arboretum offers for example a new 10 km route for traveling on 3 continents. A second route, called Ile-de-France, presents the main species of trees and shrubs native to Ile-de-France region.

A couple of webpages to help you plan your trip here are

Official Arboretum de Versailles Chevreloup in English

National Monuments of France on the Arboretum in English

A nice detour indeed other than the obvious in the city of Versailles. Hope you enjoy it as we do

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

February 22, 2020

The Albigeois, Tarn, dept 81 of France!

Hi, if you have been reading my blog, you know I am an amateur of history and architecture in principal. And of course, I have written on these areas before in my blog, but they are unique , sentimental, and just awesome for my belle France. So here I am again trying to tell you a bit more on the Department 81, Tarn (which is the river) of the region of Occitanie in my belle France. And of course, some of its most picturesques small towns of many family visits over the years. No pictures(see posts)  just visual flashes for me,thanks for reading.

Let me tell you briefly on the history of the Tarn! The Tarn is a department 81 of the Occitanie region, crossed by the Tarn river which gave it its name.  From very old!!! the territory is in turn integrated into the Roman Empire, the Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse and the Frankish Kingdom. Having become vassal of the county of Toulouse, the territory of Tarn, named Albigeois in reference to Albi its capital, is ravaged by the battles of the Albigeoises crusade. It was integrated into the Royal domain in 1270 and belong to the province of Languedoc. The fight against Catharism was entrusted to the Inquisition. The country is recovering from its ruins thanks to the work of management and creation of country towns or Bastides. From the Renaissance, we can really speak of Albigeoise renaissance, as the town planning was deeply marked. Shortly after, the Protestant Reformation deeply marked the department. Albi remains anchored in Catholicism while Castres is sensitive to Protestantism. Fighting and massacres took place before peace returns with the signing of the Edict of Nantes. The south of the Tarn comes out transformed, the Protestants having systematically destroyed the previous religious buildings: churches, cloisters, monasteries, crucifixes, etc.

During the French revolution, the department of Albigeois created in 1790 is quickly renamed Tarn in reference to the main river which crosses it. The department provides four battalions of national volunteers to defend the borders of the new Republic. The revolutionary and Napoleonic wars allow rapid rises in rank. At WWI was a tragic event. The number of soldiers dead at the front marks the time. During WWII, the Tarn was subjected to the Vichy regime. In 1942, the southern zone was invaded by the Nazis occupiers. This event and the requisition of young people for the service of compulsory labor feeds the Tarn resistance in recruits. The Maquis of Vabre, the Montagne Noire or the Grésigne greatly complicated the task of the occupants. In 1944, it was part of the departments liberated by the French interior forces. On January 1, 2016, the Midi-Pyrénées region, to which the department belonged, merged with the Languedoc-Roussillon region to become the new Occitanie administrative region.

Dept 81 government site of the Tarn in French

Tourist office of the Tarn dept 81 in English

And ok see was a brief introduction to a very old area of my belle France, well we are very old! Now into the towns please. Are you following me?

I have mentioned cousins of my dear late wife Martine are here now. Nestled in the heart of a thousand-year-old vineyard, 4 km from Gaillac, the village of Montans is known for its production of Gallic and then Roman pottery, attested by numerous archaeological remains unearthed since the 19C. The Archéosite, an exhibition space depending on the community of Tarn and Dadou, offers a journey back in time to discover the daily life of Gallo-Roman potters with archaeological objects and life-size reconstructions.  The official webpage of the Archéosite is here: Official Archeosite of Montans

The tourist office of the area vineyards and bastides has more in English: Tourist office vineyards and bastides on the Archeosite

We move on to Rabastens, already written long on it but briefly now on the museum.  This superb 17C mansion,Hôtel de la Fité, converted into a municipal museum, musée du Pays Rabastinois showing important collections of archeology, art and local history, as well as temporary exhibitions of ancient and contemporary art. The ground floor is devoted to Giroussens pottery. The second room gathers carpentry masterpieces from the Compagnon Roger Bellegarde. A third room has just been fitted out and houses the works of Jane Atché, poster designer from the end of the 19C and native of Rabastens. A collection of paintings by local artists decorates the stairwell, which leads to the landing with its 17C tapestry and its collection of models of medals. The first floor offers archeology, with its splendid mosaic and its sacred art. On the second floor are exposed Parisian haute couture embroidery signed René Bégué, dit Rébé, the works of the landscape painter Boissière, as well as paintings and terracotta sculptures by Giovanni Léonardi, friend of Picasso, Max Jacob and Jean Moulin. A must to come here! Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the Museum in English

Another important thing to see here is the Church Notre Dame du Bourg written on it just brief as listed since 1998 as a World Heritage Site by Unesco as remarkable monuments on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the Church of Notre Dame du Bourg is a jewel of medieval Occitan architecture. The Notre Dame du Bourg Church celebrates in June 2018 the 700 years of the completion of its Choir!. The tourist office webpage in English here: tourist office of vineyards and bastides on the Church Notre Dame du Bourg

And the other nice town is Saint Paul Cap de Joux, seat of the Cathars’s bishop! and a nice historical Church of Saint Paul Cap de Joux .The wonderful thing to visit here is the parish church, from the 19C, of Neo-Romanesque style, it contains murals of 1878 by Bernard Benezet, a renowned Toulouse painter. The altar could be the work of Viollet le Duc.  The tourist info of the city on the Church in French here:

There is also,the Sainte-Cécile de Plane Sylve Chapel, where there is now a Cross tell us that it was here the center Cathar of Saint Paul.  The city page on views of the town ,nice aerial view here: Cityof St Paul Cap de Joux on the town views

And I go on on beautiful Tarn to reach  Giroussens ,where you can see the ceramic and the magnificent Jardins des Martels, founding plant and flora of all types in a huge park, considered one of the most beautiful in France, the webpage is here : Official jardins des Martels in English

The tourist office on the Jardins des Martels: Tourist office of vineyards and bastides on the jardins des martels

The place of making pottery for the kings of France and as far as Louisiana in the USA and Quebec in Canada. The Maison de la Ceramique Contemporain at Place Lucie-Bouniol  is wonderful to see the different shades and shapes of ceramics, the pottery traditions and sales to the public. More info in English here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the maison de la ceramique of Giroussens

Other things to see in wonderful Giroussens ,in addition, the original castle, Pech Mascou, built in the 13C. In 1437, the castle was a royal prison but it was set ablaze by the Protestants in 1562. A second castle, the Château de Belbèze, was built in 1640 . It is of square plan with four towers covered with pyramid roofs. It was ceded and sold eventually in the French revolution. The Church of Saint-Salvi dates from the 14C. It consists of a four-span nave with arched warheads and a polygonal five-part choir. Three chapels are present in the spans. The façade is surmounted by a steeple-wall. The Church has furniture of altarpieces and paintings from the 17C and 18C. The chapel in the north is dedicated to Sainte Rufine, patron saint of potters and has a altarpiece of 1637. The walls of the nave are covered with wall painting by Fernand Augé (1896) and Paul Prouho (1900).

Nearby you can have a nice train ride in  Saint Lieux lés Lavaur with terminus in Giroussens. Saint Lieux lés Lavaur, has an interesting real train ride from the old days, and still kept alive by enthusiasts, the ride is wonderful for the entire family. Its call  the chemin de fer touristique du Tarn . It is listed as an association of Acova ,and has five locomotives of vapor, 3 locomotives electric, and 25  locotracteurs or road switchers.  this is the official page in English here: Official association of the train ride of Saint Lieux les Lavaur

A bit more on the town from the tourist office of the Tarn in French (only info): Tourist office of the Tarn 81 on Saint Lieux les Lavaur

And I continue my rides in gorgeous Tarn dept 81 of Occitanie! The town of  Lisle sur Tarn and the chocolates ,another wonderful town in this region of beauty in my belle France. The chocolate museum or Le Musée Art de Chocolat is right in the place aux couverts closest to rue Saint Louis upon entering into the town’s center.  The tour is given showing all the major production areas of  cacao, the making of it, the shipping, and of course very good portions of tastings of the end result chocolate from Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, etc etc etc, just a mouthful, do come over, these are the creation of  maître chocolatier Michel Thomaso-Defos  that makes recreation of figures and places with chocolate done by painter and sculptor Casimir Ferrer ,and sculptors Marie-Madeleine Gautier and  Marta Solsona. More info in French here: Official Chocolates museum in LIsle sur Tarn in French

A bit more in the tourist office in English: Tourist office of the Tarn on the Chocolate museum

Other nice things to see and do here is the Musée Raymond Lafage, 10 rue Victor Maziés, it recount the engravings, and drawing of this local artist born here in 1656 and died in 1684 at Lyon , very well known for his work is found in many buildings and museums in France but also in Europe, United States even with individual collectionists. More info in French in their Facebook page here: Facebook page of Museum Raymond Lafage

The tourist office has a bit more in English here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the museum Raymond Lafage

The Place Paul Saussac square in Lisle sur Tarn is one of the biggest arcaded medieval squares in the Occitania region. It is a great promenade and many interesting things to see as above are just around it.  One unique thing to see there is the Griffoul fountain from the 13C with its own eventful history. More on this square from the tourist office of the Vineyards and Bastides of the Tarn in English here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the square Paul Saussac

Another wonderful picturesque town and cousins here as well is Graulhet, it  has a wonderful market days in the lower city or ville basse which you descend by steps of stone from the high city or ville hausse, location is Place du Jourdain.  The grandparents of my wife used to come here for shopping, and its a major center of tanners for leather goods in France. You can see the Pont Vieux or old bridge built in 1244 and the pedestrian rue Panessac, but the main action is in the market. My dear late wife Martine loved to shop here, and we will continue the tradition. Another interesting thing to see here and worth the detour is the Maison des Métiers du Cuir or the leather tanners’ house, a tradition of old around here. More info in English from the tourist office here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the leather tanners house

And last but not least, a bastide town!  Castelnau de Montmiral,one of the famous bastides in the southwest of France. It was here that the Catholics of Gaillac took refuge after been expelled by the Cathars. Here is a ramparts and hilly streets many with beautiful views over the river Tarn and tributaries . It has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France! La Croix reliquaire des Comtes d’Armagnac is a cross relics that has been displayed in Paris at the Grand Palais, and you can see here at home inside the Church Notre-Dame de l’Assomption.  A bit more on the Church at the tourist office in English: TOurist office vineyards and bastides on the Church Notre Dame de l’Assomption

The most beautiful villages of France on Castelnau de Montmiral in French here: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France on Castelnau de Montmiral

The intimate and beautiful central square place des Arcades is a must to be in and walk it and eat there and well just lovely!!! More on the tourist office in English: Tourist office vineyards and bastide on the square Place des Arcades in Castelnau de Montmiral

And there you go a quick road warrior tour of my sentimental Tarn, so many memories and trips, so good to have a blog to tell all and keep for the future. Hope you have enjoy it too and do come, its one of the most beautiful areas of my belle France.

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

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February 22, 2020

A river for a great city, the Seine!

And on another rainy gray day in my lovely Morbihan Breton let me tell you about another wonderful river of our world and the river of Paris. As often the case for me, I have written before in my blog on it but never in detail. I decided it is time to give it its due credit to the Seine river of Paris.

This is the best most glamorous river of France, and not just because it passes by Paris. In Paris is it just romantic, wonderful, great, gorgeous well you get it right! It has 37 bridges passing over it, and I have written a piece on the bridges of Paris and the Seine in general . Today Paris has 34 bridges over the Seine and 4 pedestrian walkways. The Charles-de-Gaulle bridge (1996) and the Léopold-Sedar-Senghor (1999) and Simone-de-Beauvoir (2006) footbridges are the last works built. In 2017, more than 10.5 million passengers were transported on sightseeing boats in France, 60% of which were in Ile-de-France (the region of Paris) , i.e. almost 7.5 million passengers. One in two customers is a foreigner.

More into Paris proper, the Seine cuts Paris in its midst even if the right bank(rive droite)  occupies a space more important than the left bank( rive gauche). In Paris, its length occupies nearly 13 km, with a depth varying between 3.40 and 5.70 meters. Its width varies from 30 to 200 meters. The normal holding of the reach of Paris, i.e. the altitude of the surface in relation to the sea level, is about 27 meters.


In Paris, the floods are measured since 1876 by a hydrometric scale installed at the Pont d’Austerlitz  (Austerlitz Bridge) , nevertheless it is the statue of the Zouave of the Pont d’Alma (Alma bridge) which remains the most popular. This indicator during the flood of January 1910, water reached on this scale the record height of 8.68 meters ( I guess an ecological disaster but we never heard anything much of it ::)) . Since 1870, the height is taken at the train station Austerlitz. Although there have been no larger floods in the last sixty years, five large floods occurred in the 20C: in 1910, 1920, 1924, 1945 and 1955. The oldest known floods of the Seine were narrated by Julien (358AD) and Grégoire de Tours (582AD ). The next  modern one in May to June 2016, the Seine experienced an important flood. The water level peaks at 6.10 meters on the night of June 3 to 4. It’s the biggest flood in Paris for over 30 years. However, it does not exceed the 6.18 meters of the 1982 flood.  The last one of 2018 recorded 5,86 m on January 28 at 22h30.  And certain transport infrastructures, in particular the RER C are submersible in the event of a major flood.


A bit of history I like

The Seine river would have captured the old course of the Bièvre river from the Pont d’Austerlitz to the Pont de l’Alma. The two rivers would have swept the silts that separated them between the current train stations of Lyon and Austerlitz and the arm of the Seine east of the current Marais district was gradually filled. The current confluence of the Bièvre and the Seine was thus formed east of the Sainte-Geneviève hill in a delta marsh between two arms of the Bièvre leading to the location of the current bridges of the l’Archevêché and Austerlitz . After having wandered, the confluence would have established itself upstream from the Pont d’Austerlitz.


The pillar of the Nautes, kept at the Musée national du Moyen Âge des Thermes de Cluny in Paris, reminds us that navigation on the Seine was already intensive in the first years of the Roman conquest. In 1170 the corporation of water merchants received from King Louis VII the monopoly of commerce on the Seine. On their seal is the boat which is still in the coat of arms of the city of Paris.   In August 9, 1803, experimentation of Robert Fulton’s steamboat was done on the Seine. The first bateaux-lavoirs or laundrymat boats were anchored in the Seine in 1851, and quickly reached the hundred. The arrival of running water in Parisian buildings led to their gradual disappearance until 1937. The Line 4 of the metro was the first to cross the Seine underground, in 1908.

The Seine river in Paris today has only two real islands: the Ile de la Cité and the Ile Saint-Louis. The Ile de la Cité did not take on its present appearance until the beginning of the 17C, during the construction of the Pont Neuf, on the occasion of which the Islets of the Gourdaine, aux Juifs, and des Vaches. Île Saint-Louis was originally called Notre-Dame when it was cut in half by a canal in the middle of the 14C. As a result, the upstream islet took the name of Ile aux Vaches and the downstream islet kept the name of Notre-Dame. The two islands only regained their unity in the first years of the 17C, and then became a new residential area. The name of Saint-Louis was given to it in 1725, replaced by that of Fraternity during the French revolution.


Today, the Seine river no longer provides drinking water to Parisians, since the surface water used comes from Evry and Orly, far upstream. About 240  bouquinistes ( booksellers)  have settled on the banks of the Seine, right bank as left bank, since the 17C with varying fortunes depending on the period. Fixed barges or péniches are also the place of residence of certain Parisians. On the banks of the Seine, there are many walks, as well as, on certain portions of both the right bank and the left bank, a expressway for motor vehicles. In the fall of 2012, the right bank lane was redeveloped to make the waterfront accessible to pedestrians. Since the spring of 2013, the lower track on the left bank from the Musée d’Orsay to the Pont de l’Alma has been redeveloped into a pedestrian zone equipped with various facilities such as benches, game tables, restaurants, floating gardens, pools, etc.   Since the summer of 2002, for a little over a month each year, the Paris Plages operation has hosted various events in the middle of sandy beaches and potted trees.

Some webpages to help you understand and plan your trip to the Seine river of Paris, of course!

Calculation of fluvial itinerary in France including the Seine. Par exemple Paris 7éme to Rouen Normandy the traject will be 239,29 km done in 16 hours 13 minutes passing by 6 écluses or levies. More info here in French:

The Seine in the city of Paris:

Several boat companies running trips in Paris:

The Seine river is a Parisian and many visitors passion. Just coming over to see the water flows from the bridges and banks is sublime me think. Angling is a great pleasure, watching those who fish is still a Parisian satisfaction. And one big hint, do you know the Seine helps you drive in Paris even without a GPS?

One big reason Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, a movable feast indeed. Hope you enjoy the post as I did.

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

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