Archive for April 25th, 2020

April 25, 2020

The streets of Maisons Laffitte!

So as I have done several posts on the streets of towns and cities and we love to walk once in town/city let me tell you about another dear and near for many years. No need to repeat me think but just to show you Maisons-Laffitte is in the Yvelines department 78 in the Île-de-France region of my belle France, located approximately 10 km from Saint-Germain-en-Laye , 21 km from Versailles, and approximately 18 km from Paris. The town borders the towns of Saint-Germain-en-Laye as well as around 800 meters from the border of Achères , and Le Mesnil-le-Roi. To the east, it is separated by the Seine river from Sartrouville and Cormeilles-en-Parisis.

I will briefly touch on the history here I like as written several posts on it already in more details. The main thing to see here is the Castle of course !

The Poissys remained lords of Maisons until the 15C. Two sisters shared the lordship. It   was rebuilt in 1602 by the successive purchases of a family of Parisian parliamentarians, the Longueil, whose arms became those of the town. The great man of the family was René de Longueil, superintendent of finance in 1650. The fortune of his wife, heir to several great Parisian financiers, enabled him to address the famous François Mansart to give himself a castle commensurate with his ambitions. From 1634 to 1646, Mansart built one of the masterpieces of 17C French architecture: the Château de Maisons. René de Longueil endowed it with a park of about 400 hectares, which king Louis XIV authorized the closure in 1658. The layout of the alleys continued little by little until 1740. It was even later that it was completed forestation of plots. In 1777, the Marquis de Soyécourt, heir to the Longueil family, sold Maisons to a brother of king Louis XVI, the Comte d’Artois (later king Charles X). The latter installed there, but only from November to March, for food and training, his English stable, about thirty animals, which he dispersed in 1784. The French revolution confiscated Maisons. This national asset was bought first by Lanchère, supplier of the armies, then by Marshal Lannes and finally, in 1818, by the banker Jacques Laffitte. He was the real initiator of the equestrian vocation of Maisons. He dreamed of making it a training center comparable to Newmarket. He organized the first races on the meadows on the banks of the Seine river which became today’s racetrack.   In 1833, Laffitte decided to sell the Grand Parc du Château. He subdivided it to make it a colony, a city made up of country houses. The main buyers were wealthy Parisians, from business or entertainment. There were, of course, more modest buyers. The operation made such an impression that, in less than ten years, people got into the habit of saying Maisons-Laffitte instead of Maisons-sur-Seine, a custom formalized in 1882. The inauguration of the racetrack in 1878 stimulated horse racing activities, many trainers settled in town and in the park from the end of the 19C.   In the 20C, urbanization continued west and south, gradually covering the old agricultural land of which nothing remains. Then the population grew thanks to the fragmentation of private estates and the construction of numerous collective buildings from 1950 to 1970.   Both the Great Park entrance pavilions, each with their monumental gate, are the work of Mansart . Between these doors, a gap protected the entrance of the park without limit in sight. This group formed a side entrance of the castle park.

And now let’s walk a bit on this wonderful town of Maisons Laffitte; Some of the more interesting streets of are

The main shopping street here is the  Avenue De Longueil, a long avenue taking you from the RER A train station to the castle and loads of stores, restos, bars etc. We used to shop at the Epicerie de longueil , and had lunch at L’Avenue resto here many times even without going to the castle.

maisons laffitte

maisons laffitte

Avenue Lavoisier: no. 18 at the corner with Avenue La Bruyère is the birthplace of Jacques Fath, French fashion designer considered one of the dominant influences in high fashion postwar, with Balenciaga, Christian Dior and Pierre Balmain.

maisons laffitte

Place Marine . This beautiful square in the Great Park was named after the wife of Jacques Laffitte. It is crossed by Avenue Albine; and north seven avenues fan out.  At no 5 picturesque house built in 1835 with an octagonal gazebo, to Etiennette Moussy, Parisian rented by architect Théodore Charpentier. Going towards the no 8 made a small passage by the No. 26 of the Avenue Albine where is the holiday home of Roger Martin du Gard . His parents rented it each year, in summer, To escape the heat of Paris. By no. 8: Charmettes former hotel restaurant where the writer Jacques de Lacretelle stayed in 1921. He has written several letters to his friend Marcel Proust. It was built in 1846, the first period of the “Colony Laffitte.” At no. 6 back on the parcel a Villa bought in 1901 by Leonie Rosalie Balmain and sisters who owned a couture house in Paris. To the left on the avenue Desaix extended the former estate of the Aga Khan. In 1940, the villa was confiscated by the Nazi army and later housed the headquarters of Rommel. The area is now subdivided.

At no 6 Avenue Duguesclin; Maison les Turrets-facade combining three architectural styles: renaissance pillars of the porch, Baroque pediment, balusters and putti 18C.

At Avenue de Wagram No. 8 Maison Juillard, 1837. Its architect Charles Duval, pierced windows behind some sculptures for more light in the stairwell. These windows are hidden for the sake of symmetry of the facade. They are called “Suffering of Days.”

Place Sully  at no. 4 birthplace of Jean Cocteau. The artist retained happy memories of his childhood in this house that belonged to his grandfather. He called it the park of “green paradise”. The grandfather, Eugene Lecomte, has also offered a nice amount of money to the city in 1881 to develop fountains.

Avenue Corneille no 1 The Polish Literary Institute and the Kultura publishing house settled in 1951, in the villa the Belvedere. Organizers lived there as a community, a phalanx. The authors banned in Poland were honored.

Avenue Gretry No. 8 This house dating from 1837 housed since 1926 the famous restaurant La Vieille Fontaine. Jean Cocteau often had lunch there. All Paris had dinner there, and the presidential entourage.

Place Wagram no 5: Major Cotton House 19C, former senior officer of the guards of the Tower of London, which sold it to Emilienne d’Alencon. She had been the mistress of the Duke of Uzes, Leopold II of Belgium and wife of Percy Woodland. She lived here with her second husband, the jockey Alec Carter. At No. 2: Villa Victory or the Nursery: Its construction in 1838, this house was considered “American” because of its covered gallery. In 1930, the villa became a nursery for children of German communists persecuted or in special assignment. The writer Arthur Koestler of Hungarian origin is called to write promotional text for funds. Instead of staying two days he was held for 2 months with children from two to sixteen in 1934.

Place du Château. At the Malesherbes room location was the home of Charles Laffitte, Le Val Fleuri. Nephew of banker Jacques he was one of the founding members of the Jockey Club. Later, Max Lebaudy said the Little Sugar, lived there: he was the son of a wealthy family of sugar barons, known as  spendthrift and very eccentric.

maisons laffitte

Avenue du General Leclerc No. 2a:  the Cave, The last vestige of the castle stables. Pierre Giffard, editor at Le Figaro, had built his house around this cave. It is the origin of the first Paris-Brest bicycle race in 1891 which gave its name to a famous cake in the shape of a bicycle wheel, created by pastry Durand ; installed at Avenue Longueil . In 1926 Mr. and Mrs. lived here. Darmel, singing at the Paris Opera who created the Maisons-Laffitte Conservatory. At No. 2: the Florentine, Beautiful Italian villa dating from 1905. Look at the frieze of graffito.

And, Rue du Mesnil / Rue du Prieuré at No. 11 rue du Mesnil:  the maison or house known as The prayer. René de Longueil gave the land and did move the priory in 1644 next to the old church. The current building is a mix of styles and periods. At no. 1 Rue du Prieuré  the school / college “The Priory”, opened in 1905.

The city of Maison Laffitte on heritage in French: City of Maisons Laffitte on heritage

The tourist office of Maisons Laffitte in French: Tourist office of Maisons Laffitte

And there you go a pleasant walking tour of a very nice town of the Yvelines, nice castle known racecourse, and beautiful architecture and history in many more houses. Hope you enjoy the walks at Maisons Laffitte.

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

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April 25, 2020

The city of Versailles!

Ok ok, we have so much, and my beloved dear Versailles has plenty , as said a lot more than a palace/museum. However, according to a study by the tourist office of Versailles back in 2016 98% of visitors only come to see the palace,a pity. They miss the wonderful architecture, and history of France and the world just outside. Oh well , I just happened to lived there for over 9 years ,and so therefore let me tell you a bit about my old home, Versailles in the Yvelines dept 78 of the ïle de France region of my belle France.

Les Mureaux

Versailles is the capital city of the Yvelines department 78 , known worldwide for its castle as well as for its gardens, sites classified under the aegis of UNESCO in the World Heritage List of humanity. The new town created by the will of King Louis XIV, it was the seat of French political power for a century, from 1682 to 1789, and became one of the cradles of the French revolution, with the town of Vizille (Isére 38) which started the revolution on the 21st July 1788. After losing its status as a royal city, it became the capital city of the department of Seine-et-Oise in 1790, then that of the Yvelines in 1968, and of a bishopric. Versailles is also historically known to have been the place of signature of two treaties: the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolutionary War, and the Treaty of Versailles signed at the end of WWI or the Great War.

les Mureaux

The name of the city is attested in the forms Versalliis in 1038, Versalias in 1075, Versliæ in 1095, Versaliae in 1308, and finally Versailles in 1370; the current one. At the time of its creation in the 17C, the new city, which corresponds to the current Notre-Dame district, was sometimes called La Villeneuve Saint-Louis (the new city of St Louis) in tribute to its creator, but it was ultimately the name of the palace, Versailles, which prevailed. Many attempts have been made to attribute the name Versailles another origin, but they are poorly supported, so it stays evasive.  The city is the seat of the Versailles Grand Parc urban community. In 2019, the intermunicipal association brings together 18 towns, including 17 in the Yvelines and 1 in the Essonne. The webpage is here:

Located in the western suburbs of Paris and only 17 km from the center of Paris, Versailles is in the 21C an affluent residential city with a mainly tertiary economy and constitutes a leading international tourist destination. It is always at Versailles that congresses at the castle meet, deputies and senators, to ratify any modification of the French constitution. Last done in 2009.

The neighboring towns are Vaucresson, Marnes-la-Coquette and Ville-d’Avray to the north-east (all three in Hauts-de-Seine dept 92), Viroflay to the east, Vélizy-Villacoublay and Jouy-en-Josas to the south -est, Buc to the south, Guyancourt to the southwest, Saint-Cyr-l’École to the west, Bailly, to the northwest and north Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt (my boys went to school high school here) to the north.

Versailles is a hollow bowl itself located between 100 and 150 meters above sea level. It is surrounded by wooded heights reaching almost 180 meters: in the south the Satory plateau, covered with silts of the plateaus, in the east the Meudon forest and the Vélizy plateau, in the north the Fausses-Reposes forest. The town is extended to the west by the plain of Versailles. The relief was leveled when the Palace of Versailles was built. The Montbauron hill, rising to 157 meters, is an isolated relief forming an eminence in the center of the city.

This city does not have any important watercourse, a characteristic that is quite rare for a city of this importance. It is drained by two streams, the ru de Marivel, which flows east and joins the Seine directly at Sèvres, and the ru de Gally which joins west the Mauldre at Beynes. These watercourses have been modified by urbanization: the course of the ru de Gally was cut during the construction of the palace and the digging of the Grand Canal of which it is the natural emissary while the ru de Marivel is today now a fully covered sewer.

Les Mureaux

The city of Versailles layout revolves around the Place d’Armes, located in front of the palace of Versailles, and from which radiate three wide avenues bordered by plane trees and arranged in a fan shape: the avenue de Paris in the center, in the axis of the chateau, avenue de Saint-Cloud to the north and avenue de Sceaux symmetrically to the south (the latter being interrupted by the old Francine ponds and Gobert ponds which fed the castle fountains). Between these avenues are the buildings of the Royal Stables. On both sides of this central axis are the two districts created under Louis XIV, the Notre-Dame district (mine) and the Saint-Louis district, organized in a checkerboard pattern around a central square respectively Place du Marché-Notre -Dame and the Place Saint-Louis. Several posts on the streets of Versailles in my blog.

The city of Versailles comprises 8 districts that I have a post on it here briefly are Notre Dame (again mine!) from the name of oldest church and royal depository of Notre Dame Church as was the parish of the palace of Versailles.This is of course the oldest district from the new city of king Louis Saint Louis district where the newer Cathedral of St Louis is located. The Chantiers district from the same name of the train station name so because here the work and parts for the construction of the palace were kept chantier=work area. Montreuil , Porchefontaine, Clagny-Glatigny, Bernard de Jussieu, and Satory.

Les Mureaux

et voilà just before leaving for Brittany it snow!

For the aficionados of these places (not me) The city of Versailles has five cemeteries; these are the Notre Dame cemetery, of course. Saint-Louis cemetery,the Gonards cemetery,the cemetery of Montreuil and the Israelite cemetery. There are many churches and chapels some I have written in previous posts as well. Also, gardens ,parks, and museums. Many films were filmed at the palace over the years ,some of my favorites are Versailles was told to me … by Sacha Guitry, 1953; Danton by Andréï Wajda, 1983, Camille Claudel by Bruno Nuytten, 1987,Dangerous Liaisons by Stephen Frears, 1988, Chouans! by Philippe de Broca, 1988,Marie-Antoinette by Caroline Huppert, 1989, The Austrian by Pierre Granier-Deferre, 1989, Versailles rive gauche by Bruno Podalydès, 2009, Jefferson in Paris by James Ivory, 1994, Beaumarchais by Édouard Molinaro, 1995, Marie-Antoinette de Sofia Coppola, 2006; Coco de Gad Elmaleh, 2009 and Farewell to the Queen by Benoît Jacquot, 2012.

Versailles is also an important garrison city since the monarchical period. The Domaine de Versailles brings together the monuments managed by the public establishment of the Palace of Versailles and mainly includes the Palace of Versailles, In the park are the Grand and Petit Trianon, as well as the Queen’s Hamlet or Hameau and in town: the Grand Commun,inaugurated in 1684; it houses the administrative services of the castle. the large Stable (Grande ecurie), which houses the Galerie des Carrosses, and the small Stable (petite ecuries), which houses the National School of Architecture of Versailles. Ecuries de la Reine or the stables of the queen, first stables of the king then of the queen, built in 1672, which currently host the Court of Appeal of Versailles. The current Versailles police station, former stables of Madame du Barry. And, the current chamber of commerce, former hotel of Madame du Barry. (See other posts).

Road access is dense, but super, provided from the outset by the road from Paris to Chartres, which has become the N 10, downgraded to D 10 from Viroflay to Trappes. In Versailles, this road ends at the Place d’Armes in front of the castle, under the name of avenue de Paris, and continues west at the southern edge of the Versailles park passing between the castle and the pond of Swiss (Piéce d’eau des Suisses). The accesses to the city are assured today by a series of road; these are: the A13 (Autoroute de Normandie) whose interchanges 5 and 6 give access to Versailles. It is extended by the A12 which bypasses the city from the west; to the south, the N 12 whose interchanges 1 to 4 give access to the city (my latest visit to the city!). Starting at the Pont Colbert bridge, it runs along the Satory district in the direction of Saint-Cyr-l’École towards Brest via Dreux, Alençon, Rennes and Saint-Brieuc;  to the east, the western section of the A86 in the form of a toll tunnel comprising two superimposed traffic lanes connecting Versailles (Pont Colbert) to Rueil-Malmaison.

I have written before on the several train stations in Versailles. Briefly, these are the Versailles-Chantiers serves Paris Montparnasse , La Défense and to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Rambouillet, Chartres, Plaisir, Mantes -la-Jolie and Dreux, and allows direct service by TGV to Lyon, Marseille and Rouen, and by TER to Granville; Versailles-Château-Rive-Gauche(closest to palace) the terminals of the RER C; and Versailles-Rive-Droite (my station!), serving notably La Défense and Paris Saint-Lazare; and two stops at Montreuil and Porchefontaine.

Several cycle paths have been opened in recent years, such as on boulevard de la Reine or du Roi, as well as on the main avenues, including avenue de Paris, Saint-Cloud and Etats Unis. Versailles today has 65 km of cycle paths. To this must be added the arrangement of the green belt. A 20-kilometer cycle path that surrounds Versailles, passing through its forest estate. Finally, Versailles now has several tens of km of zone 30 lanes and therefore one-way streets with cyclists in the opposite direction.

The city of Versailles has an extensive bus network in and out. There is the excellent Phebus network we used and my boys took to school . Also, some bus lines from the SAVAC;Hourtoule; The RATP lines 171 that reaches the palace from Paris pont de Sévres and 471. The STAVO network , Sqybus; the Express 19 line that took boys to school and the boys too of the Transdev Ecquevilly; Transdev Montesson; Transdev CSO; and the night buses of line N145 of the Noctilien network.


The official city of VersaillesCity of Versailles

For those who can read French, this is the Ministry of Culture on publications about Versailles : Ministry of Culture of France on Versailles

There I feel better now, hope it helps you understand a bit more of the wonderful city of Versailles, many souvenirs , our first foot (permanently)  in France and what an entry it was!! Memories never to forget, we are ok in the Morbihan breton but Versailles will always be in our hearts. Enjoy Versailles!

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


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