Archive for May 13th, 2020

May 13, 2020

A quick visit to Perpignan!

Well pull this one out of the hat. Getting to my vault found couple photos of my business trip to Perpignan a while ago and why put together a post on it ,for the memories and hopefully another longer trip back. Perpignan is in the Pyrénées-Orientales dept 66 in the region of Occitanie now. Old Languedoc-Roussillon of which it is more in common. It is the former continental capital of the Kingdom of Majorca, the city was annexed by the Kingdom of France in 1659.

The how to get there story, briefly.

The city of Perpignan is 13 km from the Mediterranean Sea at Canet-en-Roussillon by expressway, 25 km from the Spanish border at Le Perthus and 850 km from Paris, 205 km from Toulouse, (admin capital) 450 km from Bordeaux and Lyon, 320 km from Marseille, 470 km from Nice, and 160 km from Andorra la Vella, the capital of Andorra. Perpignan is especially marked by the impressive Canigou peak or Pic del Canigó at 2,784 meters located not far from the Franco-Spanish border and visible from the city center. The Albères range, which culminates at 1,256 meters at the Pic du Néoulous, forms a barrier to the south and marks the limit with Spain, a country with which it communicates easily at the Col du Perthus pass, whose altitude does not exceed 300 meters, about 30 km from the city.

Perpignan has a train station serve by TGVs, night Intercity trains and TERs from the Occitanie region. The TGVs connect Perpignan daily to Paris Gare de Lyon, Toulouse and Barcelona; The Spanish AVEs complete this service by high-speed trains, connecting the city every day to Lyon, Marseille, Barcelona and Madrid. I have to say I came here briefly by TGV train from Gare de Lyon in Paris for a two day conference.


The bus network of Perpignan Méditerranée Métropole is called Sankéo: the new network is organized around three structuring lines A ,B and C. The intermodal bus station of Perpignan constitutes the point of convergence of most of the lines of the departmental bus network such as the bus at 1 euro program in Occitanie. There is an airport Perpignan-Rivesaltes airport operates national and international flights, some of which are insured only during certain periods of the year mostly Summers.  The city is connected to Narbonne to the north and Barcelona to the south by the A9 highway/motorway which continues to Spain as the AP-7, which constitutes the backbone of the road network of the Mediterranean coast.

A bit of history I like brief because its long.

An Iberian people, the Sordes, would have occupied the Roussillon plain, around 500 BC but the Ruscino oppidum (current Château-Roussillon), located east of the city, was the seat of the Roman administration of the region. After the invasion by the Arabs, Pépin le Bref, then, later, Charlemagne, definitively reconquered the region around 811. It was then that the Carolingian era began and the construction of several villages on the Roussillon plain, notably Perpignan a few kms from Ruscino. The first mention of Perpignan appears in an act dated May 20, 927 by which a certain Aton sells, the alleux d’Anglars and Saleilles, with their Churches Saint-Jean and Saint-Etienne. Wadalde, bishop of Elne and brother of Count Gausbert d’Empúries and Roussillon: these alleux confronted on one side with Cabestany (villa of Cabestagnio) and, on the other, with Perpignan (villa Perpiniano).

It was in the Middle Ages, from the end of the 10C, that Perpignan experienced its development. This success was due to the choice of the then counts of Roussillon (Guislabert I or his son Gausfred II) to make Perpignan their capital, which would later gain in importance, until it attracted the bishop, normally living in Elne. The castle was built there, a church consecrated in 1025, and a hospital, all placed under the patronage of Saint John. Nowadays, the church is called Saint-Jean-le-Vieux, it is next to the cathedral. The hospital has changed location: it is currently north of the city or Haut-Vernet, but regains its original name of Saint John Hospital. As for the castle, there are only a few buried rooms currently located under Cours Maintenon; at that time, the city did not have ramparts. In 1172, Count Girard II of Roussillon bequeathed his county to the Count of Barcelona – King Alfonso II of Aragon so that he did not fall into the hands of his half-brothers whom the popes Adrien IV and Alexander III had dismissed of the succession by declaring them adulterous. King Jacques Ier of Aragon, known as the Conqueror, made conquests towards the East of the kingdom of Aragon, thus propelling Perpignan at its peak during 68 years or about from 1276 to 1344.

In 1344, Perpignan lost its status as capital by the reintegration of the kingdom of Majorca in the crown of Aragon. Later, in 1493, king Charles VIII restored Roussillon and Cerdanya to the Catholic Kings of Spain, who had just founded the unity of Spain, by the marriage between Castile and Aragon. Perpignan was taken by the armies of king Louis XIII in 1642, it is annexed with the rest of Roussillon such as the historic provinces or villages of Roussillon, Conflent, Vallespir, Capcir, Cerdagne ,Haute-Cerdagne, (the other part , Basse-Cerdagne being in Catalonia, Spain) and that, Fenouillèdes from Occitanie into the kingdom of France by the treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659 (Spain and France even today current limits of the two countries). On April 10, 1660, Louis XIV entered Perpignan.

The gigantic works of Vauban were to make Perpignan a city now impregnable and, however, there is almost nothing left of its work because the town at the time decided to demolish them at the beginning of the 20C in order to ventilate the central district and to be able to extend the city on the plain of Roussillon. (another ecological disaster). Today, only the Castillet, the palace of the kings of Majorca, barracks, undergrounds and part of the spared walls remain, which bear witness to the era of the greatness of Perpignan and its military installations.

Some of the things to see here me think are:

The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Mediterranean Gothic style, its construction was started in 1324 by the second king of Majorca, Sanche, and it was consecrated only in 1509. The Saint-Jacques Church, dating from the 13C is the seat of the brotherhood of Sanch.. The Saint-Matthieu Church, this church preserves with fervor and devotion, the Holy Thorns of the Crown of Christ acquired by king Louis IX, the good King Saint Louis. A chapel is specially dedicated to the protection and veneration of the Holy Thorns, handed over by King Philip III the Bold to his death in 1285, at the palace of the kings of Majorca, near the Church of Saint Matthew the Old. Conservation and veneration are ensured by the brotherhood of Saintes Épines.(Holy thorns). The Haras military academy, on the initiative of the future Marshal de Mailly, acting for the king, was created to train young nobles in the service of the king in 1751. The tower of Château-Roussillon, built around the 13C. The Palace of the Kings of Majorca, a 14C fortress-palace, surrounded by gardens which overlook the city and the Roussillon plain.

And the tourist spot I was able to see was the Le Castillet, and Porte Notre-Dame gate, the old entrance to the ramparts ,now destroyed, was an old prison, and today there is a small Catalan museum of popular arts and traditions or Casa Pairal. It offers a permanent exhibition on major events and personalities that have marked the history of the city. Its collections are made up of objects linked to the popular arts and traditions of the Pyrénées-Orientales department. The fortification is considered an archaeological monument of the greatest importance for the history of the city, and constitutes a unique type of military architecture in its kind. It is more decorative with its crowning of battlements, consoles and turrets in Moorish style. Le Grand Castillet was built around 1368. The Grand Castillet is 31 meters long and the Petit Castillet eight meters. The height of the parapets of the aliening is 20 meters above the ground and that of the top of the turret is 29 meters. The thickness of the walls is 3.50 meters at the base, about 3 meters on the second floor and 2 meters on the third. A spiral staircase with a diameter of about 3 meters serves the Grand Castillet. A second spiral staircase was made in the thickness of the wall between the Grand and the Petit Castillet. They both allow access to the terrace. A nice place and full of history I like.


Further things to see if time allows it are :The 14C and 17C City/ Town Hall. The Loge de Mer, former commercial and maritime jurisdiction 15C both forrm a remarkable ensemble of medieval times. The Arcades Aqueduct 12C- to 14C. The old fortifications of Perpignan. The Palais des Corts, built at the beginning of the 16C, now houses the headquarters of the Red Cross in the Pyrenées-Orientales. There is a market every day at Place Cassanyes , the biggest market in the city offers a wide choice of market garden produce, clothes and flea market. Also,Les Halles Vauban; covered market and food court offering a wide choice of food to eat in or take away. Perpignan is a flower town, and the city counts 29 garden/parks all over.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and me too are

The city of Perpignan on Casa Pairal museum and Castillet in French: City of Perpignan on Casa Pairal museum and Castillet

The tourist office of Perpignan in English: Tourist office of Perpignan

The tourist office of the region of Occitanie on Perpignan in English: Tourist office of Occitanie region on Perpignan

There you go another dandy trip in my belle France! And now posted for my history and hoping you can make use of it as well.  Perpignan is pending a wider visit and in the meantime I will have my Castillet!

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

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May 13, 2020

Aventura, Florida!

Well this one is for the memories, long gone probably never encountered again, but always in our hearts. Our world in the USA combine living 31 years with 13 in NJ and 18 in FL our last home. I have written several posts on this period of my life in my blog.

I am coming back because looking in my old vault found these pictures of a nice place we went with the family a lot. Weekends off beach time was made for the shopping malls and Aventura Mall is tops. Let me tell you a bit about it ok.

Aventura is conveniently located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, just east of I-95 in Florida USA. The northern boundary of the City is the Miami-Dade/Broward County line, the western boundary is the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), the eastern boundary is the intracoastal waterway and the southern boundary is NE 176th Street. To visit the city, take I-95 to Ives Dairy Road and head East on Ives Dairy to Biscayne Boulevard. As one of my favorites we came from west Broward county on Pembroke road SR 824 into the US 1 Biscayne Blvd south toward Miami but at NE 199 street turn left to NE 29th court turn right to Abigail Rd left and then you see the signs for Aventura Mall as one direction. I never really needed to go into the town center.

Aventura takes its name from the Spanish word for “adventure”, and was named “Aventura” after the developers of the original group of condominiums in the area, remarked “What an adventure this is going to be”. Being initially referred to as Turnberry, Aventura began to be developed during the early 1970s and became an incorporated city in 1995. Aventura is also home to the Aventura Mall.

And this is the reason we came here , so a bit more on Aventura Mall

The most famous shopping attraction is Aventura Mall, a 2,400,000 sq ft (222,967 m2) indoor shopping center . The Aventura Mall is located at 19501 Biscayne Boulevard (US 1), Aventura, FL 33180. in the northern suburbs of Miami. It was opened in 1983 and is the sixth largest shopping center in the United States and the second in Florida. The mall has 4 floors; and its owned by Simon Property Group.


The Aventura Mall as said was opened in 1983 and became the largest shopping center in Florida. The first four department stores were JC Penney, Macy’s (actually Burdines our favorite FL store,   absorbed by Macy’s), Sears, and Lord & Taylor. The major construction phase of the center was completed in 1998 and new department stores such as Bloomingdales , as well as several cinemas (AMC Theaters), restaurants and a Rainforest Cafe. The Lord & Taylor store closed for financial reasons and Burdines was renamed Macy’s in March 2005 (after we left FL and USA). In 2008, a new Nordstrom store opened, and the Aventura Mall l became the largest shopping center in Florida and the fifth largest in the United States.


Anchored by Macy’s, JCPenney, Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, the center is highlighted by a mix of over 300 stores including Apple, Adidas, Anthropologie, Burberry, Cartier, Disney, Givenchy, Gucci, H&M, Louis Vuitton, MCM, Microsoft, Sephora, Topshop Topman and Zara. Aventura Mall also features more than 50 eateries and restaurants, including Treats Food Hall, and the experiential Arts Aventura Mall program showcasing 20 museum-quality pieces in a range of mediums. In 2015, Sears Holdings spun of 235 of its properties, including the Sears at Aventura Mall, into Seritage Growth Properties; the store closed in 2017 and plan on opening the Esplanade at Aventura.


In November 2017, Aventura Mall opened a three-level, 241,000-square-foot (22,400 m2) expansion wing that features two-story Zara and Topshop Topman stores, new restaurants, such as Serafina, Pubbelly Sushi, and Le Pain Quotidien, Treats Food Hall, including Shake Shack and Chipotle, and interactive art pieces, including the 93-foot-tall Aventura Slide Tower by Carsten Holler and Gorillas in the Mist by The Haas Brothers. I see the Cheesecake Factory still there and it was our favorite restaurant here. It was a family pastime to visit ,shop,eat and just plain weekend fun.

Some webpages to help you plan your visit here and for shopping is a must are

Official Aventura Mall: Aventura Mall

The city of Aventura on key facts on the town.  City of Aventura

The tourist office of Miami and the beaches on Aventura : Tourist office Miami and the beaches on Aventura

The tourist office of Florida on AventuraTourist office of Florida on Aventura

And there you I figure need to have this in my blog, always a nice souvenirs of my time in Florida where my 3 boys were born. Hope you enjoy the shopping and Aventura Mall.

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

May 13, 2020

My new home of Pluvigner in the Morbihan Breton XXXII!

So getting back to my regular routine as we are now more flexible out and enjoying it!!! I have several posts on my new dirt on the world, and on events, monuments in my little town; however, never written on our house in Pluvigner, Morbihan dept 56, of Bretagne, in my belle France. We should all start traveling in our town!!!

Well briefly not to repeat, my town name in French is Pluvigner, but in the local Breton language still spoken by many once you get to know them, is Pleuwigner; coming from the fact that the Pleu or plu or plo is Parish and wigner is guigner or Saint Guigner who came from present day Ireland.  My department 56 Morbihan is the only one in France that is not in French as if it was would be Petite Mer or small sea! actually Mor=sea and bihan=small or Morbihan.

Ok getting away from the details and telling you bienvenue is degemer mat and bonjour is demat and goodbye is kenavo; oh well I am learning too! Now lets turn to story telling…..

I have not told you about the house we live, and so much love keeping the work of my dear late wife Martine. Most folks including my overseas family think that we all have small houses, like cubicles lol! well if you live in a big city like Paris you find a lot of 50 sq meter homes and even less, but we live in the countryside Breton and houses are big here and lots of land.

My land is 1000 square meters or about 10 760 square feet. The house living space is 255 square meters or about 2 743 square feet. It has five bedrooms, and two full bathrooms and half toilet seat extra apart. There is a garage not counted in living space but can fit three cars easily, and a cellar of 33 m2 or about 355 sq ft. fully loaded!  A separate laundry room 28 m2 and so on and on. There is a front gate to enter the property and a long driveway for the back and the garage entrance. We have not counted in the living space an open air terrace of  11 m2 (118 sq ft) and a veranda glass enclosed terrace of 22m2 (237 sq ft). The house is about 400 meters or 1320 feet from downtown/city center or centre ville which we go on foot for all our needs.






There is bus service very limited every 2-3 hours on line 5, and no train station; therefore transportation is basically all done by car which we like ! and if I go the opposite way from the house I am in dairy and horse farms galore on a winding hilly road into the forest. However, we have taken the bus and my boys do it into Lorient and Vannes as well as Auray.  The bus network is manage by Keolis Atlantique, the line 5 is here: Keolis Atlantique line 5 Pluvigner

The town is sandwhich between two main road for easy access to everything. In the north on the D768 you reach the N24 and connects with Rennes, Lorient, Brest etc. Going to the south or the beaches on the same D768 you connect with the expressway or voie express N165 doing the run from Nantes to Brest. From the N165 you can connect on the N166 to Rennes and onwards to Paris and beyond. I can take the D767 and D779 very easily connecting with all the above and north south Bretagne. There are other roads we take that connects quite nicely with all the needs such as the D102, D103 ,and D16.

There is an airport at Lorient Bretagne Sud but with limited flights choices located at 32 km or about 20 miles. My main airport is in Nantes Atlantique at about 147 km (91 mi) and 1h30 time, taken many times by yours truly.

The closest train station is at Auray at about 15 km which I have taken, however, for choices I take the Vannes at 35 km. Both handle the TGV as well. The bus line is the regional line 5 that goes to all the major towns from Baud to the north of me to Vannes passing by Auray and connects with those towns bus network like the Kiceo in Vannes or CTRL in Lorient. You can do correspondances in Vannes for an additional 50 cents.

The town of Pluvigner has about 7K inhabitants and a smallist city center but fully loaded with all the services we need except no cinema, no hypermarket, and no electronic/video games etc stores. This is the countryside! However, we do have 10 bars 8 restaurants, 1 supermarket, and 1 mini proxi grocery store, 5 bakeries, and haircut ,dog toilettage too, 2 pharmacies, eyeglasses, dentist, doctor, nurses (that come every day for my Dad) clothing/shoes store, gifts/pmu tabac stores, 3 banks, two car dealers and garages, oh well pretty much covered. The only service we go to Auray is the eye doctor and the Pratel hospital. A major hospital Bretagne Atlantique but known locally by its name  Chubert is in Vannes.


Another great service of a small town, here with the mairie (Ti Ker in Breton)  we communicate by email and even before the virus and they respond rapidly very good service.  The webpage is here for reference: City of Pluvigner


Believe it or not, we have a tourist office in town, we do get a lot of Breton history here with sacre monuments and lots of walks into the woods with chapels etc. For tourism we rely on the Bay of Quiberon webpage here in English: Tourist office of Bay de Quiberon for Pluvigner

We belong to the Agglo communities of the Auray Quiberon Terres Atlantique webpage here on the towns in French: Auray Quiberon Terres Atlantique on Pluvigner

Oh yes one big advantage is that we are just very close to the beaches; you can tell by looking at the list on the webpage above and a map::)  Straight down on the road D768 you are in Unesco territory of Carnac, and also, St Philibert, Plouharnel, La Trinité sur Mer, Quiberon peninsula (our favorite) with a bit divertion to Locmariaquer, and on the other side Erdeven , and Etel ;all wonderful coastal beach towns at about 22 km (14 mi) ,28 km (17 mi) , 33 km (20 mi) and the farthest at 40 km (25 mi) going over to the Gulf of Morbihan name one of the most beautiful bays in the world! Not bad at all we said ::)

Oh yeah we are 129 km (80 mi) from Rennes and 145 km (90 miles) from Nantes city center. Also, 161 km (100 mi) from Brest at the point, and 58 km (36 mi) from Sarzeau in the Rhuys peninsula as well as 161 km (100 mi) from Saint Malo in the north. All centrally located for our enjoyment. Just to get my family to come here lol!!!

And our Keolis Atlantique bus line 5 connects with Vannes bus terminal next to the train station and then bus intercity even to Paris! For example Flixbus for less than 19€ Ahh at Vannes there is also a gare maritime or sea passenger terminal for trips to the outlying islands in the Morbihan like Belle-île sur Mer, Houat, and Hoédic in the Atlantic , and in Gulf such as Aux Moines, Arz , and still a bit further by Lorient Groix in the Atlantic ocean. Here you choose from where you want to leave, départ: Gulf of Morbihan cruises

We are lucky to have found the house, as we are near the best park in town Goh Lanno, and the city maintenance dept where we get our yellow tri garbage bags on foot! The folks are friendly and we talk to many neighbors already, as my boys take our dog Rex out for walks in the town and the park. He behaves very well indeed! We love him much!!!


So I think I cover it all, it has been a long time wanted to do a post like this, on our Pluvigner; heck monuments we have them here next to us perfect for the 100 km limit lol!! well a bit more is needed hehehe! We will win, and time will tell we did. And do read the series of my home of  for all about the town! Hope you like this personal post and the friends and family who see it will let me know ok. Welcome to Pluvigner and my home!

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

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May 13, 2020

The Maison du Parc ,Théméricourt!

So in my road warrior travels in my belle France, we have been to some real off the beaten path sites and we love it. There is so much to see we are afraid not seen it all after our time is up. In the meantime, we are having a ball in my belle France. Another gem out of the vault and pictures to show is the park house or Maison du Parc in the village of Théméricourt. Let me tell you a bit more on it.

I have written on the national regional park of the French Vexin in general before but this is unique spot deserves a post on its own. The Maison du Parc is the head office of the Vexin French Regional Natural Park or Le parc naturel régional du Vexin français covering 98 towns in the departments of Val d’Oise (95) and Yvelines (78).

The Maison du Parc is installed in the castle of Théméricourt, fortified house and residential residence of the 15C, typical of French Vexin. In the heart of a 6-hectare park with a pond fed by Aubette de Meulan, The castle outbuildings house the French Vexin museum which offers visitors a journey through history and nature.


The Château de Théméricourt, probably built by Philippe de Théméricourt in the second half of the 15C, has retained its initial plan with two main buildings arranged at right angles and flanked by four turrets topped with pepper shaker roofs. The north and west facades of the castle have retained their original severity. They contrast widely with those open to the park, which, apart from the central turret, remain marked by classicism. The castle grounds have evolved a lot since the 18C. The French garden was succeeded, it seems in the middle of the 19C, by a park with a pond fed by the Aubette de Meulan.  In 1984, when Jean-Claude Duvalier, ex-dictator of Haiti bought the castle, he modified all of the volumes by knocking down all the partitions. It was therefore in an empty hull state that the castle was purchased in 1992 by the Val d’Oise departmental council to install the Maison du Parc Naturel Régional du Vexin Français.


Visitors looking for information on tourism and leisure are welcomed at the Musée du Vexin Français. All the documentation on the surroundings is available there as well as many regional works offered in the museum shop. Installed in the outbuildings of the castle, it presents over 400 m² the geographic, historical and heritage components of the territory through a fun and educational approach. The museum devotes different spaces to natural environments, flora and fauna, geology and landscapes of French Vexin, which it highlights by showing the film “Si le Vexin m’’é conté”. This living territory is also told through its men and traditions, like the Vasseur-Loiseaux collection, which reveals remarkable objects of folk art. The museum also has a shop with a wide choice of books, local products or pieces of local crafts. Contact for hours email :


The park information on the Maison du Parc in French is here: French Vexin regional national park on the maison du parc

General information: Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 9h to 12h30 and 14h to 18h. Saturday from 14h to 18h. Sunday from 10h to 19h. from May to September, from 14h to 18h. from October to April. Closed every Monday and all of December.

This is from the park in French pdf file you can print and has maps to guide you: French Vexin regional national park maps pdf

There are various tips on coming by bus or train but never done it and do not see arriving at Théméricourt. For info only these are the bus lines they claim:  line 95-04 : Pontoise > Bray-et-Lû,  line 95-07 : Cergy > Parmain, line 95-08 : Cergy > Chars ; and  line 95-11 : Mantes-la-Jolie > Aincourt > Vétheuil. And this is the dept 95 Val d’Oise bus schedules in French with all the above, nice memories for me as my dear late wife Martine used to take the 95-20 to CDG for work. Val d Oise dept bus lines schedules

Choices by train, but for tourist nice route me think the best would be the Vallée de l’Oise  Line SNCF Paris Nord > Pontoise > Persan-Beaumont (Transilien line H). Stops/ Arrêts at Chaponval, Auvers-sur-Oise, Valmondois, L’Isle-Adam-Parmain, Champagne-sur-Oise. The transilien line H webpage in French here: transilien line H schedule and map

Now I came always by car;;; the park give you these choices: From Paris taking the A15 direction Rouen which becomes same road the  D14,leave exit/ sortie 16. From Rouen on the D14, exit/sortie 16. From  Mantes-la-Jolie, direction Magny-en-Vexin by the D983 road then follow signs for  “Maison du Parc”. Now from me::: take the A15 direction Rouen which becomes D14 same road: get off at exit/sortie 16 direction D51 road Seraincourt but very quickly turn right on panel maison du parc to Théméricourt castle. If you put maison du parc or théméricourt on today’s GPS you should have no problems. always time for a break in beautiful country Dad and wife at Avernes D43 past Seraincourt our local route.


And do enjoy the museum here and the wonderful looking castle for a day in the country always memorable and we love it wherever we are, the real France away from the glimmer marketing tourist gurus! Enjoy my belle France and Théméricourt , Maison du Parc and museum.

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

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