Archive for April 9th, 2020

April 9, 2020

Avenida da Libertade, Lisbon of course!

And why not stay in Lisbon, a lovely city with plenty to see and do. One of my favorite cities of Europe and looking forward to come back again after 3 visits I need more! However, several posts on monuments etc, I like to tell you about a chic avenue I always stay just off of it. The time has come to tell you a bit more of the Avenida da Libertade or Liberty avenue!

The Avenida da Liberdade is one of the main avenues of Lisbon. It links Praça dos Restauradores to Praça Marquês de Pombal. With nearly 90 meters wide and 1,500 meters long, it includes several traffic lanes and wide walks with Portuguese gardens and sidewalks. Lined with plane trees, palm trees and other trees, adorned with statues and dotted with clumps, it is also considered the Champs Elysées of Lisbon. It is the 6th most expensive street in Europe. Yes indeed.  It is served by the Marquês de Pombal, Avenida and Restauradores metro stations.

Lisbon

The Avenida da Libertade notably includes major brands stores and also houses the few hotels and palaces in Lisbon. The avenue is the seat of some major Portuguese brands such as the newspaper Diario de Noticias.  There is also the famous Cinema São Jorge, as well as restaurants, etc. The place to be seen chic and nice in Lisbon.

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I will try to give you a rundown of it north to south and many of the monuments and streets have been feature in previous posts.

The Upper part of the Avenida da Libertade, at the foot of the Statue of the Marquis de Pombal, offers a global view of the artery, with its plane trees, its gardens, its traffic lanes. By starting the descent, the luxury boutiques are linked, and bring us to the middle of the Avenue.

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In the middle of the Avenue, a stone’s throw from the Avenida metro station, is the Tivoli Theater. Built in 1924 after almost four years of work, its main role was devoted to the seventh art which was beginning to develop. The neoclassical building is a unique element of its kind that blends nicely into the landscape of the Avenue. Today the theater offers a fairly varied program with successful plays and sometimes even concerts. There is also a bar and a restaurant.

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Slightly offset from the Avenue but so close that it would be a shame not to have made a detour,  the Lisbon Botanical Garden is very easily accessible. Covering an area of ​​forty hectares, the garden was inaugurated in 1878. From 1876, the French botanist Jules Daveau finished the lower part. Recognized for its subtropical flora, it depends on the Faculty of Science of the University of Lisbon.

Located in the middle of the Avenue, the War Memorial of the Great War (WWI) was inaugurated in November 1931. At Santa Ana, you will approach the upper part of the district which begins north of the Baixa. Quite popular area with many bars and grocery stores and other small shops. Quite typical with narrow, cobbled streets, it leads to Jardim do Torel or Campo dos Mártires da Pátria.

Heading into the lower part of the Avenida da Libertade leads you to the Praça dos Restauradores and the Baixa district. Always as green, it rubs shoulders with two of the city’s emblematic funiculars.

At the Praça da Alegria,  you see the jardim Alfredo Keil .This small garden was created in 1882, on the site of an old flea market less and less frequented. There is also a fountain and a few benches. It is named after the painter and composer Alfredo Keil, author of the national anthem in 1891. A statue of his bust stands in the garden.

You cross the garden and continue straight on towards Avenida da Liberdade which you will take on your right. This leads you to the Funiculare do Lavra . This is the oldest of Lisbon’s famous historic funiculars c. 1882. It was electrified and modernized in 1915, powered by the Santos power plant created for the electric network of of electric trams. It goes up and down the Calçada do Lavra for 188 meters with an average slope of almost 23%.

South of the Avenida de Libertade from the exit of the funicular and down to Praça dos Restauradores, the district is on the border of Rossio or Sant’Ana.

The Funiculare de Glória at  the base of the Avenue has its lower station. It allows you to quickly reach the nearby Bairro Alto and admire the panorama from the Sao Pedro de Alcantara lookout.  Commissioned in 1885, the Glória funicular is the most popular of the famous  Lisbon’s historic elevators.

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The Praça dos Restauradores is dedicated to the restoration of Portuguese independence in 1640, after 60 years under Spanish rule. In between, Avenida da Libertade offers its shaded sidewalks and colorful facades, all interspersed with gardens and other fountains. There are also terraces where you can have a drink when the sun is shining above the trees. A wonderful walk anytime, hope you enjoy it as I did!

The tourist office of Lisbon on Avenida da Libertade in English: Tourist office of Lisbon on the Avenida

Guia da cidade or city guides Lisbon in Portuguese on the Avenida da Libertade: Guia da Cidade on Avenida da Libertade

There you go a wonderful walk i said, looking forward to do it again, never tired of it Avenida da Libertade is pretty indeed not the Champs-Elysées but right up there indeed. hope you enjoy the walk!

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

 

 

 

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April 9, 2020

My hotels of my Madrid!

So, we have stayed at hotels of course; we know that if we travel. However, not written a page on them for Madrid,why? Well because with family we do not need to rent hotels! However, we did stayed in some , because we were many and wanted some indépendance… or a business trip that company paid so no need to bothered the family. Here are those we do have stayed in my Madrid!

Let me start with the business layovers in my Madrid and tell you a bit on the Ayre Gran Colon Hotel and the Westin palace.

The Ayre Gran Colon Hotel is at calle Pez Volador corner with calle Doctor Esquerdo very close to metro line 9 of Sanz de Baranda coming from the airport

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Very nice hotel, well located (bus – metro) nearby, competent and very pleasant staff, very well insulated despite the nearby road, recommended for visiting Madrid, either with family or as a couple. Warm welcome, spacious, comfortable, air-conditioned, clean room and quiet establishment.

This modern hotel includes a café, meeting rooms and express check-in and check-out. It also offers babysitting services, a currency exchange service and a 24-hour reception. The hotel offers rooms with a minibar and a hairdryer. Each bedroom has closets, in-room safes and desks. It has a restaurant and a bar for relaxing at the end of the day. Room service is also available during certain hours.  In the Retiro district Retiro Park – 9 min walk Paseo del Prado – 27 min walk Madrid-Atocha Cercanías Station metro line 9 and circular line 6  Sainz de Baranda Station – 3 minutes on foot.

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Official webpage of Ayre Gran Colon Hotel: Official Gran Hotel Colon

The Westin Palace,the hotel of my business conference and all was a treat, a glamorous entry into my historical Madrid. One of the memories. A classic amongst the classics of Spain.

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The Westin Palace, better known as Hotel Palace, is a luxury hotel with façades overlooking the Plaza de Canovas del Castillo. The hotel was built by a Belgian hotel company at the suggestion of king Alfonso XIII.  The hotel has 400 rooms and used an innovative material called wire cement. It was built in 15 months opening on  12 September (my bday!) 1912. At the time of its construction this was the largest hotel in Europe.  Today it is part of the Marriott group , before passing by the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.

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The Hotel Palace was done from a trapezoidal lot of 6K square meters previously occupied by the Palace of the Dukes of Medinaceli.  The main entrance to the hotel is located in the corner of the building overlooking the Plaza de las Cortes. It is covered by a marquee. The access, already planned by the foreground of the hotel, is original because it is not as usual in an axis of symmetry of the facade. Access is by climbing two successive staircases, the first leading to the interior reception hall and the other to reach the overall level of the ground floor. In this last place are: the lounges, the shop and the winter garden. This first floor or Main floor is where the common spaces have a representative character. After entering the reception and the concierge, the lobby on the first floor provides access to the rooms, interior shops or other rooms. The interior design of this space obliges the visitor to cross a succession of rooms before reaching his destination.  The main entry is on the corner facing the plaza de las Cortes.

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The Hotel Palace had another innovation to have telephone service on each room; the four main halls were the salones Medinaceli, Neptuno, Cortes and Francés. The winter garden was originally designed in 1910. This space has natural light during the day. Around this area are located on the outskirts of lounges and restaurants.

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It began to offered brasserie or cerveceria service (beer hall) called “La Brasserie”. The brewery is in the basement and was very popular at the time as it offered German beers such as Löwenbräu (München) and Genossenbräu (pilsen beer from Bohemia).  These brewery brought to Spain an innovative transport method in refrigerated wagons from their origins. The La Brasserie, from 1923, will be converted into the black American orquesta Jackson Rector’s Club and made popular the first sessions of  jazz in Madrid.

The arrival of the Spanish Civil War made a reduction in clientele and the hotel was converted from July 1936 in the embassy of the Soviet Union for several weeks. The rest of the hotel was occupied by workers committee until November 1936, after the War Ministry saw the pull back of its troops in the south axis decided to change it into a blood hospital called “Hospital de Base número 1 ;it had installed almost 800 beds in all six floors.  On October 1 1939 it was revert back to its hotel functions.  During the coup d’état attend of February 23 1981 the Palace Hotel served as refuge by the means of communication, the subsecretaries of the government, and the military elite as the hotel is very near the parliament or Congreso de los Diputados, taken by the rebels.

So , lots of history indeed, I was there in the 5th floor, with superb luxury service, great food, and awesome drinks, a moment never to be forgotten and of course I was the city guide from visitors from all over the world lol! The official webpage is at Official Marriots hotels on the Westin Palace

And now the hotels we stayed with the family, the Fénix, now part of the Mélia group , Intercontinental Castellana ,and the B&B Lapepa.

We, also, stayed in a nice hotel when I first took my girlfriend (1990)  later wife and now late dear wife Martine. It was a moment to impress the new girl and book the Fénix Tryp hotel at Calle Hermosilla just after the Plaza de Colon with windows looking over it.  Now it is a Melia Hotels property. The hotel is an icon for us as well. We even have visited couple times afterward! Deco are the same.

Madrid

My first encounter as above was to spent three nights at the Fenix hotel in calle Hermosilla,2 very near the Castellana and Serrano as well as overlooking Plaza Colon. This was a gorgeous hotel  then part of Tryp and now part of the Mélia group, and The Leading Hotels of the World service status. The breakfast were faboulous, and the views from the top magnificent, the lobby is just the same just beautiful.

The anecdote here is trying to impress my girlfriend booking here after all other hotels were booked and I driving from Madrid to Toledo and back , the Savoy hotel staff told us there were rooms available at the Fénix. So I booked without looking at the price! (very young in love) at the check out the bill came to over 1000 dollars in 1990!!! My girlfriend Martine needed to pay half lol!! So much for the showing off!!! but love was in the air and nothing stopped us then. I missed her now after passing away in 2018 from the lousy cancer. RIP. The hotel is an icon for me each time in Madrid need to stop by it and keep showing it to our boys.

Madrid

The official webpage of the Melia gropu Hotel Fénix Gran Mélia: Official Hotel Fenix Gran Melia

I came back to Madrid after all the sad news with my boys. We needed to see Madrid again, so much in this city since my teens years and it never stop to love it. My dear Martine love it too, and my boys. So we decided to come back alone, renting on our own just to be us and see the memorable spots that I have so much written in my blog on my Madrid. The boys and I alone, we rented a B&B  LaPepa.

Madrid

I can tell you raves about our lodging, I took from a friend and directly from their webpage dealing with nice Europeans folks of Italy and Romania as hosts. The B&B is Lapepa at Plaza de las Cortes 4, 7th floor right next to the Congreso de Diputados or the Spanish congress! and attach to the Thyssen museum! near Prado and the works; great location.

Madrid

The place was clean well stocked, friendly folks, and a great value for the money with the lodging and breakfast included we pay 90 euros per night! A bargain considering the chic business location and straight line on carrera de San jeronimo to Puerta del Sol as well!!! The Lapepa B&B  webpage in English : Official Lapepa B&B Madrid

Oh yes many years ago we did stayed at the Intercontinental Castellana with a friendly special discount of the junior suite from 280 euros we paid 50! The boys love it with the kimonos and views of the Paseo de la Castellana. This is a blast from the past but love the chain I worked for it in management in France ::) Enjoy the IHG at Castellana is sublime especially their weekend brunch! More of this marvel in English here: Intercontinental hotel Castellana Madrid

Madrid

Madrid

Madrid

Another memorable trip and since visit family and now waiting for the opportunity to be back; Madrid is more than a tourist destination for us, it is home! Hope you enjoy it and do visit.

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

 

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April 9, 2020

Unique gift shop in Toledo!

So here I am again in historical splendid Toledo of Castilla La Mancha of Spain. I have many posts on the city and just tell you been coming here since early teens with family nearby. So Toledo was sort of a backyard for me and then visited with my family on several ocassions.

One of the hightlights of my visits was to encounter the many nice shops abound and especially the memorable chats with the merchants. This one was unique as looking for some gifts deco for the house came into this shop next to the synagogue de Transito and voilà conversation was long pleasant and a must stop when in Toledo. Let me tell you a bit more on the Damasquinos Artesanales de Toledo at Calle Samuel Levi 3.

Toledo

First, let me tell you a bit about the street and who was Samuel Levi. 

An interesting history on the street name. Samuel Leví lived in Toledo, in a palace located in the Jewish quarter that is currently preserved under the name of Museum and House of El Greco (see post). He made himself appointed as a hearer of the Audience, with which the judicial power was assured , he could have a presumed private oratory erected in Toledo, the Samuel ha Levi Synagogue, better known in the city as the Transit Synagogue, between 1355 and 1357, even when the construction of these was prohibited . The synagogue is covered with Hebrew inscriptions in praise of the king and his minister. In his enormous wealth, Samuel ha Leví had an extraordinary palace house in the Jewish quarter of Sevilla, which is currently known as the Santa Cruz neighborhood, in addition to other numerous real estate properties. Since the 14C and continuously until today, in Sevilla the street where his palace used to be called is Calle de los Levíes. Tradition holds that he lived in the house on Calle de los Levíes 4, where the friars of La Merced Descalzas founded the convent of San José in 1611. But these vanities, his privileged position and his enormous fortune aroused envy and suspicions even the king himself, who ordered to imprison and torture him until it was clear if he had stolen any sum from the royal treasury, so that he died imprisoned in the Atarazanas of Sevilla in 1360 before achieving forgiveness.

And now for the gift shop of Vivienne! We came in and started a nice conversation with the lady and my dear late wife Martine. We notice even an accent and voilà the owner Vivienne is English, and been living there for almost 50 years!!! Her husband the Spaniard had passed away , and she was still in the business. A very nice pleasant exchange about life in Toledo follows and friendship was struck immediately.

Toledo

The warm nice English woman name Vivienne who owned the store with her Spanish husband Simon, already on the spot for about 50 years! spent quite a bit of time with us while we bought the most beautiful gifts in Toledo . The choices are endless and the prices were exceptional. After seeing the difference between other stores, this one was the best .This store only sells handmade damascene and the jewelry is much prettier to see in person than the photos. The work is beautiful and is an endangered art. This store offered a wide variety of Damascene items, such as bracelets, plaques, swords , figurines etc. My best advice is to find it before buying Damascene items elsewhere in Toledo.

Toledo

A loving souvenir….

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And voilà no webpage just an old fashion damasquine shop full of deco gifts to bring home and a wonderful conversation about historical and architecturally stunning Toledo. Memories not to be forgotten and we look forward to pass by there again and more pleasant conversation even if will be without my wife of 28 glorious years! Hope you like the story and do stop by when in Toledo. Recommended.

I have not tried the email or telephone lately but it should work for contact: email nsimon@damasquinosdetoledo.com  and telephone: +34 696 20 33 25.

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

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