Archive for April 22nd, 2020

April 22, 2020

Domaine de Villarceaux!

Now if I put a title like that many will think a castle, well it is, however, the purpose of our visits was not at all connected with the castle at the Domaine de Villarceaux. We came here for shopping and a bit of architecture/history to boot in my belle France.

Here is another one, I have written briefly on this one too …oh well. This is the Domaine de Villarceaux in the Vexin park of Val d’Oise dept 95 west going to Normandy from Paris.  The Domaine de Villarceaux, is located in the middle of the park or parc naturel régional du Vexin français along the A15 road direction Rouen from Paris, my favorite way to get here while living in Versailles. We saw an event on local produce/gardens and of course my wife needed to go, and somehow I found how to get there by car not easy there is nothing else really, this is deep country land.

A bit of history I like. Well, the main structure here is a castle from the 12-13C.  It was part of the defensive line to Paris from Normandy and on the 16C it becames an agriculture area. By the 17C it houses memorabilia of the love affaires of Louis de Mornay, marquis de Villarceaux, and Ninon de Lenclos. In the 18C Charles-Jean-Baptiste du Tillet, marquis de la Bussière, nephew of the Marquis de Villarceaux, inherits the property. He dismantled it from a feudal look and built the castle we see today.  In 1989, the regional council government of the region of Île-de-France agrees to it’s renovation and maintenance as well as open it to the public.  They signed a leasing bail for 99 years with the Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer. Eventually, it opened to the public in 1990.

A bit on the buildings you will find in this wonderful property Domaine de Villarceaux are the tour des condamnés  or tour Saint-Nicolas , and the Pavillon de Ninon. These common areas form an enclosure with two other smaller towers or tours still visible. One of the them houses the artisans working there, and the best for the visit me think. They were completely renovated in the 16C.

The pavillon de Ninon is a building with nice decorations from the 16C and 17C and it’s open in rare occasions and for small groups, you can ask to see it. The Tour Saint Nicolas and the medieval terraces with medicinal plants is open to visitors. The Parterre sur l’Eau are a rare example of the jardin sur l’eau or garden over water.   The miroir de Ninon 17C a water space in mirror because the castle from high up reflects on the water with a nice cascade.


And the Castle high up or château dit du haut. Done in the 17C , this is the new castle done by the Marquis de la Bussiére. The windows are big with nice views towards the French gardens on the hills of the castle all the way afar. You can see the country side of the Vexin from here too. The Vertugadin from the 18C name from the skirt weared by the women of the times. It gives you a perspective of view from the high terraces to the lake 530 meters or about 1749 feet further down! Statues of the 17C and 18C coming from Rome (palace Altieri) and of Côme (Villa d’Este) are all along the promenade.


The  cour d’Honneur from the 18C; encircled by the common buildings and the coat of arms of the owner as well as a Chapel dedicated to Saint Antoine and Saint Michel. it allows the carriages to arrive on the hills high ground of the castle. There is great view from here too. There are moats on the borders to stop the access without hiding the view like a wall would. The Orangerie 19C with two greenhouses one warm and the other cool to cultivate oranges and exotic fruits . They were conserved in a fridge underground still in the park; and ice was taken from here to mix with the grass and keep for the summer.


There is a nice market there like in the old days which we visited on several occasions .  These are call the European Days of Trades of Art, with artisans in the common building showcasing all kinds of old and new trades. As well as a gourmand market later on in the year. More on the Bergerie in English here: Official Bergerie de Villarceaux artisans

Further for biking, walking, and car driving pleasures you can see the brochure and go onto the Parc Naturel Régional du Vexin Français , a wonderful regional park we used to all over and got our provisions from the countryside here.   Just contact the Maison du Parc for activities when you are here and guidance. Otherwise ask me . More info in French here: Official park national du Vexin dept 95 Val d’Oise

Official Domaine de Villarceaux  in French: Domaine de Villarceaux

Tourist office of the department 95 Val d’Oise in French: Tourist office of Val d’Oise on the Domaine

A lovely way to spend your day not far from Paris. How to get there as said the way is by car this is countryside the best in France are found like this. The artisans local produce place is next to the castle as  La bergerie de Villarceaux also at the town of  Chaussy zip/postal code 95710; this is in Val d’Oise dept 95 in ïle de France region.  There are options by train but you need to walk over 5 kms or take taxis and buses will do the same so a car is a must on your rental way to Normandy this should be a nice off the beaten path stop. By car:

From Paris by the A15 up by Gennevilliers and direction Cergy-Pontoise this same road becomes the N14 and you passed the many town this is also direction Rouen, but exits for Magny-en-Vexin, take the D86 exit towards Hodent / Vernon. From there, follow the signs “Domaine de Villarceaux”. Go through Hodent, then turn left on the D171, then 2 km further, slight turn on the left. Go past the entrance to the castle car park (see the castle here ), or continue to the Bergerie at 250 meters further on the right.

From Paris by the A14 / A13 this is the Autoroute de Normandie direction Mantes la Jolie/Rouen. Once on the A13, take Exit 11 towards Mantes-la-Jolie-Centre / Mantes-la-Ville-Centre / Limay / Guerville. Follow direction Beauvais on the D983. At Drocourt, turn left towards Chaussy / Villers-en-Arthies on the D142. After passing Villers, follow the signs “Domaine de Villarceaux” and/or “Ferme de la Bergerie“. Hope it helps

And you are in off the beaten path of the region of Paris, yes we have countryside just near! The bounties of my belle France and my old region of ïle de France. Enjoy the time spent at Domaine de Villaceaux

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

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April 22, 2020

Church San Manuel y San Benito, Madrid!

Ok so here I am again and another missed in my blog. I will skip my history in Madrid as have many many posts on it. However, only briefly mentioned this church and it was my mom’s favorite and near our home. Oh well as the saying goes , better late than never.

I like to tell you a bit more on the Church San Benito and San Manuel of Madrid.

Near my old home ,apartment or piso in the Calle de Alcalà but further where the church is just across from the Retiro park before arriving at the Puerta de Alcalà lies the Church of San Manuel y San Benito where my mom used to take me as a boy. It is still nostalgic to see it and remind  me of my mother again, always in my mind even if already 13 years passing in France.

The Church of San Manuel and San Benito,is located on Calle de Alcalá, 83, in front of the Retiro Park and was built between 1902 and 1911. The work was intended as a residence and church for the Augustinians Fathers. The patrons of this initiative were the Catalan businessman Manuel Caviggioli and his wife Benita Maurici,(both of Italian descend) who donated the land for this purpose and from whom the church takes its dedication.


It is one of the best examples of Madrid’s Neo-Byzantine architecture, and always a sight from the Retiro park, a must for me to stop ok. The Church of San Manuel and San Benito has a centralized layout of a Greek cross, with a large cupola on pedantries where the four evangelists are symbolically represented. Inside, there is a side chapel de la Epístola, with a white marble altar in the center and the two tombs of the Catalan couple on the sides. Of its facade, the tower stands out, erected in the manner of the Italian bell towers.


The restoration in the last third of the 20C of the Church of San Manuel and San Benito,left it spanking beautiful. The exterior was built in stone and white marble, and the splendid red copper dome. At the corner between the Calle de Alcalá and Calle Lagasca, where the entrances to the church are located, a bell tower with a square floor layout, more than 43 meters high,can be seen.   Again, the white Macael marble in the semicircular apse that houses the High Altar, with ornaments of various colors. Another of the most unique and beautiful details of this temple are the mosaics that adorn the walls and ceilings. And the sculptures that continue to amaze us. In the center of the Altar is the figure of El Salvador (the Saviour) that measures two and a half meters, on the sides of Saints San Agustín and San José, all of them made of Carrara marble.The images of the two lateral chapels, the one on the left, dedicated to Santa Rita, and the one on the right that houses the tombs of the founders. On the central body, the magnificent cupola with mosaics representing the evangelists. At the foot, in the high choir,one of the best organs in Madrid!


The complex as a whole includes the schools of the Caviggioli Foundation, with an entrance on Calle de Columela .This small street istrategically located next to Puerta de Alcalá and the Retiro park, was built on the space it had occupied the bullring of Puerta de Alcalá, demolished in 1874 (for the one in Ventas see post). On its short route on the continuation of Calle de Recoletos that links it with the Paseo de Recoletos, there are side facades of great architecture such as the old palace of the Duke of Abrantes ,and after José de Palafox, on the corner of Calle Serrano, and the Caviggioli Foundation schools, next to the Church of San Manuel and San Benito.

A bit of the story on the protagonists, Manuel Caviggioli and his wife Benita Maurici, of humble Italian origin, were born in Barcelona, he in 1825, she in 1819. It is not well known how they forged a great fortune. They settled in Madrid from youth, they managed to enter the most aristocratic circles. Don Manuel planned to build a pantheon temple that, once deceased, would keep his remains, as well as a residence for a religious community that would be in charge of directing a foundation whose purpose would be the free instruction of the working class. He died in 1901, and it was his widow, Doña Benita, who finally launched the project. Don Manuel and Doña Benita used part of their money to build the church and the school, entrusted to the Augustinian Fathers. In return, in the future, they should remember them in their prayers by celebrating masses and funerals monthly and on special dates. Along with the couple’s undoubtedly good intentions and religious beliefs, there was a desire to perpetuate their memory and record their power. They did all this. The first stone of the so-called Church of El Salvador -after San Manuel and San Benito, in honor of their promoters-, and of the free schools, was laid and blessed in 1903. Doña Benita died the following year, so she could not see the work finished either. Fulfilling her wishes, on December 30, 1910, the transfer of the coffins from the Almudena cemetery to the new temple took place. On January 1, 1911, the official inauguration took place in the Church of San Manuel y San Benito.

The School functioned until the beginning of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. The church, convent and classrooms became a dance hall, warehouse, commissary, public library, and headquarters of the Communist Party, among other things. Today it houses the sacristy, parish offices, classrooms for cultural activity and other rooms. The complex is surrounded by gardens and a beautiful wrought iron fence, which from the Retiro offers a spectacular view. Indeed I come up by here to see the fence gate always.

One of the nice off the beaten path monument of my Madrid and located in one of the most visible areas by the Puerta de Alcalà and Retiro park! It is always memorable for me to visit again, and hope you get the chance to do so, it is a very nice church inside.

The official Church of San Manuel y San Benito in Spanish: Official Church San Manuel y San Benito

The tourist office of Madrid on the Church of San Manuel y San Benito in English: Tourist office Madrid on Church San Manuel y San Benito

Hope you get to see it and let me know about, one nice off the beaten path monument in my Madrid. As we said, From Madrid to heavens and a hole in the sky to look down on it everyday!

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


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April 22, 2020

Church of Calatrava, Madrid!

Well here is another monument of my beloved Madrid that had passed in front many times but never got in. This is an omnipresent tourist area near Puerta del Sol , however, it stays off the beaten path to many. A worthy architectural and historial monument of Madrid and Spain.

Let me tell you a bit more on the Church of Calatrava of Madrid.

The Iglesia de la Concepcion Real de Calatrava or simply Iglesia de las Calatravas or the Church of  Calatrava is the only surviving part of the old Concepción Real convent, of the commander nuns of the Order of Calatrava, located at the beginning of one of the most important streets in Madrid, Calle de Alcalá, a short distance from Puerta del Sol.


The history of the convent is inseparably linked to that of the Calatrava Military Order, founded in the 12C to defend the Christian possessions in the south of the peninsula from Muslim attacks, within the framework of the Reconquest. They soon had female equivalents, of a monastic character, in order to welcome the wives and daughters of those who went to war in the monasteries, and the vocation to help the mission of the Christian knights through prayer and penance. In this way the religious commendators of Calatrava arose, as a feminine branch of the Order of the same name. The nuns of Calatrava in Madrid had first occupied a convent in Almonacid de Zorita province of Guadalajara, a town closely linked to the history of the Order, but in 1623, seeking proximity to the Court, they moved the house to Madrid by order of king Felipe IV . The convent and church buildings were built at that time, soon becoming one of the most popular and crowded religious centers in Madrid. All that splendor lasted just two centuries.

Finally, although the convent building was destroyed, Queen Isabel II had it rebuilt in 1872. Already converted the convent church into a parish, luck wanted it not to suffer too much from the vicissitudes of the Spanish Civil War, keeping its interior almost intact. However, the lack of maintenance and institutional neglect led the monument to a state of serious deterioration during the last decades of the 20C. Finally, at the beginning of the 21C, an ambitious program was undertaken that included intervention both on the external part of the Church of Calatrava such as remodeling of roofs, cleaning of facades and recovery of the original plaster, and on the inside, which was completely restored. Currently, the church is open to visitors outside the hours of liturgical celebrations.

The Church of Calatrava responds to the convent typology of the Spanish Baroque, characterized by volumetric and decorative simplicity. On the ground floor, the church presents an intermediate solution between the basilica and the central layout. The preference of military orders for centralized spaces is striking, perhaps as a demand or need for certain rites or ceremonies that are known, such as the investiture of new knights. The influence of the Escorial models on the general sobriety of the building is evident; the original severity of the exterior, only broken by simple moldings and plaque decoration, was radically transformed in the 19C, when the king consort Francisco de Asís ordered the entire exterior of the church to be decorated in a romantic fashion, In this way, the façade main one, recalling Calle de Alcalá, presents today an ornate appearance, with grouped pilaster strips, scallops, cushioning, graffito, and a curious cornice with stiff taps, all in a Neo- Plateresque style that contrasts strikingly with the architecture. Omnipresent both outside and inside the church is the Cruz de Calatrava, very visible in the rose window that crowns the entrance, formed by a semicircular arch flanked by very flat pilasters with grottoes, the ensemble ending with a niche with a statue of the Virgin.


As passed several times by it each time there was service so not seen the inside yet. However, the interior of the Church of Calatrava is characterized by its luminosity and decorative exuberance The space of the main chapel is perhaps the most outstanding part of the church. The front of the same occupies a spectacular altarpiece made of gilded and polychrome wood, which makes a pendant with two smaller ones located on the transom studs. There is a wonderful retable master altar as well.

This one is one major one to see completely and now more than ever eager to go and see it. The architecture is nice and the history is huge so noted down. Hope you enjoy the brief introduction and do come to see  the Church of Calatrava in Madrid.

The official webpage for the Church of Calatrava is here in Spanish: Official Church of Calatrava

The tourist office of Madrid on the Calatrava Church in English: Tourist office Madrid on Church of Calatrava

Again, Madrid has a world to offer and see architecture and history of Spain, Europe, the Americas, do come and see it. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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