Archive for October 4th, 2020

October 4, 2020

For me it all began here a looong time ago, Punta Brava!!!

Ok so September was a nostalgic month as both I and my dear late wife Martine had our birthdays. Let me tell you a bit more on a personal note as to where I was born. Intrigue.? It has been a long trip of four nationalities now and 81 countries visited, and 5 countries live/work and 4 languages. Ok here is where started it all;  my birthplace of Punta Brava!!

Punta Brava is a small town located just to the southwest of  Havana or La Habana, with roughly 1500 inhabitants, and now part of the municipal district of La Lisa (which was and still is a town of my days). Me and my Dad Elio in the front of the house; the one on the right is my paternal grandparents house!!!

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Initially, this area is made up of four large farms owned by Valencians, (Valencia, Spain)  which were called: Armonía, Señorita Tarafa, Tejar Grande or Punta Diamante and Divina Pastora. A certain ,Judge Francisco Castro Palomino remained in charge of them, once the owners left for Spain. Towards 1870 without news of the original owners, it was decided that these farms were subdivided into plots of land, the owners of these paid a small practical monthly payment that was maintained until January 1959. Photo showing my deeper roots!

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In Cuba, we are known for being the site of a great battle for independence from Spain. At the San Pedro farm, near the town of Punta Brava,  on December 7, 1896, General Antonio Maceo y Grajales,the Bronze Titan, fell in combat. Ironically, the Spanish company who took part in the battle included Angel Castro, the father of Fidel Castro!!! Ironie of life of things to come. Photos me in the central park! and my house!!

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In continuing my saga of remembrance of my life’s corners and meandering places I now take you back to where it all began for me a looong time ago, Punta Brava.  I was born there ! Now with the new revolution, all that history is gone and hardly ever mentioned. Cuba has change a lot, it’s not the same , and for me,  it will never be the same….

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Now, only memories lingered, and some places of share family values and love. Far far away, it seems difficult to even write that upon my latest visit in 2012, the area where I grew up seems different….well unrecognizable…. well poorer. It seems to me like I was not from there. It required some days of adjustment for things to come back again.

This post is to all and especially to me as  a reminder of what it was, a lingering space in time of a once upon a time place call Punta Brava, city of Havana metropolitan area, Republic of Cuba.

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Enjoy the stories, I read them myself once in a while just to keep my feet on the ground. Glance my personal old photos, all meaningful as a source of my DNA. Enjoy the pictures, as my dear late mom Gladys took me to El Arte photo studio, and feel the people when visiting , they are the main things, the regular guy on the street. In 1998 I took my dear late wife Martine to visit with our boys very little and it was a hit with the family!

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No tourist webpage for this, just real story real memories to lingered forever and seeking new lands, always look back, it is you. Punta Brava is me, forever!

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

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October 4, 2020

Some news from France, CCCXVI

And here I am on a nice sunny Sunday with the rain gone for now, and the latest on my series some news from France, now in its 316th edition.  The temperature in my neck of the woods is at 10C or about 50F but it feels like 8C, we are expecting light rain in the afternoon evening. Elsewhere in my dear Paris area the temp is also 50F or 10C and cloudy however no rain is predicted. And we survive the storm Alex!

We had couple of trees down in my town and the firefighters were there early to cut them off; one electrical post was down but the electrical company Enedis was there early and did not notice short of electricity. The rest of the dept 56 Morbihan was harder hit with some trees blocking streets especially around Auray. The upper Bretagne ,Morlaix is still this morning in watch over possible flooding and on the coastal areas some boats were overturned.  However, in the south and especially Alpes-Maritimes dept 06 the situation is catastrophic in hilly towns especially Saint Martin Vésubie , Saint Laurent du Var and Roquebilliere.

The results of the passage of the storm Alex in the Alpes-Maritimes could amount to now 18 persons missing, according to the provisional accounts of this Sunday morning. In France, the army, regularly called in as reinforcements in bad weather, was mobilized to help. All the train stations in the department 06 were closed and no train will run before midday yesterday. Flights were suspended from Nice airport. Many roads remain cut. The rebuilding is going on but it will take time as even bridges were cut off.  In all about twelve towns were hit hard especially in the valleys of the Vésubie, la Roya ,and la Tinée, located in the mountains.

And continuing with the Paris degradation in my opinion, we have the upper quays of the Seine in Paris central 1-4 arrondissement are the next attack of the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. After the pedestrianization of the tracks on the bank in 2016, the City of Paris is considering the ban on the upper quays of the right bank for combustion vehicles from individuals. I told you Paris is gone, now go there and walk or use the petit train lol!!!

And it has its detractors as a collective of environmental defense associations calls for demonstrations at 5, quai d’Ivry 13éme  arrondissement to prevent the disappearance of around twenty plane trees. The works that will be launched are road works linked to the creation of a two-way bicycle path and the passage of the future TZen5 tramway, a new line which will link the 13éme arrondissement or district to Choisy-le-Roi in the Val-de-Marne dept 94   and the preparation of the extension of line 10 of the metro. The France nature environment Paris association urgently filed a summary to try to obtain a reprieve for the threatened trees. So now no trains either lol!!! Paris wake up when you have time.

The stencil attributed to the British artist Banksy,at rue Maître-Albert in the Maubert neighborhood of the 5eme arrondissement, was repainted at the request of the mayor of Paris. So now no paint on the building Paris is not the same anymore.

For lighter news we have:

The 19th edition of the white night or nuit blanche free contemporary art event could well take place this past Saturday evening. But, due to the Covid epidemic, this vintage will obviously be particular with compulsory wearing of the mask, imposed physical distancing and reduced gauges. And the night will be shortened since the animations will end at 2h (2 am), instead of 7h (7am) as usual.

This is unique in France, where each show is usually dedicated to a single family of animals. This Sunday (today), 10,000 animals from six different families will be gathered under one roof, in the Parc Floral, in the Bois de Vincennes 12éme arrondissement. Sunday from 10h to 19h at the Parc floral de Paris,. Metro Vincennes or Château de Vincennes. Full price entry 14€.

Régine Tagliana recounts in a book “Du Café de la Mairie à la Maison Van Gogh” how her parents Micheline and Roger participated in the rebirth of the inn where the painter Van Gogh had stayed. The Auberge Ravoux, where Vincent Van Gogh lived, in Auvers-sur-Oise, that has become a must-see for tourists eager to learn more about the painter.

The Ministry of Culture has just validated the candidacy of the “Domaine de Fontainebleau”, where the wooded massif forest joins the castle already classified since 1981. The verdict, it will not be delivered before 2024. This candidacy received a strong support with a shock godmother, who is none other than Brigitte Macron, the First Lady of France, last summer! It is the most visited natural site in France with 11 million walkers per year over 22,000 ha, 1,500 km of trails, but also 15,000 animal and plant species and 100% of the surfaces included in the Natura 2,000 network … this massif has 2,440 ha classified as biological reserves. Great!!!

The pressure is mounting a few days before the final. Two thirty-year-olds from Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Julien Lepage and Matthieu Potin, respectively employee and manager of the La Vignery store, will compete on October 19 for the title of best wine merchant (caviste) in France. This is the first time in the history of this event, created in the 19C and brought up to date in 2014, that two professionals working in the same establishment have climbed to the final. In addition, among the last eight candidates in the running, six are from the Ile-de-France region. While waiting for the fateful date and the appointment at the Le Marois hotel in Paris 8éme arrondissement, a public prize already allows Internet users to vote until Sunday for their favorite candidate. Voted! You can too at https://www.terredevins.com/actualites/concours-du-meilleur-caviste-de-france-votez-pour-le-prix-du-public

At Parc Asterix, Halloween will be celebrated despite everything. In a health context made complicated by Covid-19, the attractions site is going all out for Halloween. The Parc Saint-Paul and the Mer de Sable are also doing the same.

We are talking about the Grande Allée in the Jardin des Tuileries, which requires extensive renovation with 92 majestic elms to replant. You take it without knowing it, but the Grande Allée, designed by André Le Nôtre in 1665, was once bordered by a row of trees which outlined the perspective of the Tuileries Palace as far as the future avenue des Champs-Élysées. Their slaughter during the French revolution transformed the promenade into a large space where the ride is still much less pleasant. In short, the idea is to lend a hand and for that nothing could be simpler, you can make a donation for the Louvre donations at http://www.tousmecenes.fr/fr/parrainer-un-arbre-ou-un-banc /

Soon, two other women will lend their names to our Parisian metro stations. In particular, line 4, which will host two stations named after singer Barbara and resistant Lucie Aubrac. The vote by Parisians was voted online to choose the name of the future metro stations 4, which will extend to the south of the line, towards the towns of Montrouge and Bagneux. One was easy and will be call “Bagneux – Lucie -ubrac”. The other was a tighter vote from “Fort de Montrouge”, “Coluche” or “Barbara”. Barbara took it away, probably because she rests in the cemetery of Montrouge, accessible by the south exit of the station.

Albert Khan at the City of Architecture   quipped with a cinematograph and an autochrome ; the first industrial color photography process by Albert Kahn will travel the world and will thus leave behind no less than 72,000 autochromes, 4,000 stereoscopies and 180,000 meters of cinema film. . These images, which you can discover at the City of Architecture and Heritage, reveal a double face of Paris: a timeless capital with its emblematic monuments and, on the other hand, a modern city undergoing rapid change. See it at Paris 1910-1937   Promenades dans les collections Albert Kahn. Done with cooperation of the Département des Hauts-de-Seine, Musée départemental Albert-Kahn. Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine. 1 place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre , 16éme arrondissement until January 11 2020 More at https://www.citedelarchitecture.fr/fr

Until next January, the Musée des Impressionnismes Giverny will offer us a wide panorama of landscape art as practiced by American artists during the period of French Impressionism. With more than 90 paintings, lithographs and watercolors from the Terra Foundation for American Art, the exhibition offers several insights into the evolution of this art. L’Atelier de la Nature 1860-1910. Collection Terra , Musée de Giverny, 99 rue Claude Monet, Giverny ,until January 3 2021. More here : https://www.mdig.fr/expositions-et-activites/expositions/l-atelier-de-la-nature-1860-1910/

The three originally from the North of France and from a modest background, working as miners, plumbers or cafetiers, nothing predestined Augustin Lesage, Victor Simon and Fleury-Joseph Crépin to painting, until voices urged them to to do. Strange works of exceptional thoroughness and high plastic quality are born. The spiritist current, which first appeared in the United States in the middle of the 19C, was emulated in Europe, survived and ended up shining beyond painting. Bewitching!!! Esprit ,es-tu là? Musée Maillol , 59-61 rue de Grenelle , 7eme arrondissement , until November 1 2020. More here : https://www.museemaillol.com/fr/esprit-es-tu-peintres-et-voix-lau-dela

The Musée de l’Homme takes us on a journey through time to discover food remains from the ancient sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Last Meal in Pompeii offers a thematic stroll around the different Roman food practices. Four spaces – bakery, kitchen, dining room and “laboratory” allow us to discover Roman food practices and understand how the food remains presented were studied by archaeobotanists. Dernier repas à Pompéi, Musée de l’Homme, 17 place du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 16eme arrondissement. Until January 4 2021.More here : http://www.museedelhomme.fr/fr/programme/expositions-galerie-lhomme/dernier-repas-pompei-4102

If you are in love with art or simply curious, know that it is possible to discover or to deepen its history thanks to the “à la carte” courses of the Grand Palais. Histoires d’art offers a unique approach to art led by lecturers from the Rmn-Grand Palais, passionate and experienced art historians, through 9 formulas of 130 different courses Cours d’histoire à la Rmn; Grand Palais, from September 11 2020. More info here: https://www.grandpalais.fr/fr/cours-histoires-dart

And there you go in times of changing to Fall, the weather is unpredictable and now there is plenty of help from the Red Cross and others to help the communities hit harder by Alex, the storm. I am lucky my area is close but away from the coast so life continues as normal here. Be safe and be careful of mother nature, it can be bad! Oh just another personal news, my oldest son purchase his first car of course a Ford! Fiesta with help from Dad and Grandpa so all very happy, he already went to work with it! In a sadder news my father is beginning his lost of memory but he has nurses coming home and the grandsons and me to help out at home.

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

October 4, 2020

Vietnam, and more of HCMC!!

So, therefore, we shall meet again in HCMC or Ho Chi Minh City ,Vietnam. For the historically incline ,old Saigon. Some places and even a district still is name as such. As said been here a few times over the last 9 years and always a pleasant visit. So, let me tell you a bit more of the goodies in HCMC.

Of course, the main dish is the food ,but it has some nice areas to see too. Some of them already mentioned in previous posts in my blog. Let me expand your horizons on Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City is another wonderful experience of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city on the move, plenty of moves always busy and exciting day or night. I  ,of course, arrive by plane on Vietnam Airlines, as in my previous visits. From the airport had shuttle to the hotel which stayed in two part to coincide with my trips to the other cities. The first period of four days and then at the end the last period of 3 days. I did a lot of walking all over the District 1 from the river front back to the city , and it was easy and nice , carrying my phone camera and wallet in back pocket , all safe nothing to it; just always aware of surrounding folks.  I walk past LE Thanh square ,there is a Saigon Tourist Information Center where I got me a printout paper map of the city for walks is good enough.

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Above domestic terminal to change to other cities visited.

There is a building not visited but great to see is the City Hall, another French inspired building sitting across from Town Square or Le Thanh.  It is now better call the People’s Committee. More here from Vietnam Online which I find very helpful. https://www.vietnamonline.com/attraction/peoples-committee-building—ho-chi-minh-city.html

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There is an ongoing metro transport network of 3 lines but repeated mismanagement to say the least has push it back, too bad, the city really needs it. Here is the official organism that is managing the metro of HCMC in English: http://maur.hochiminhcity.gov.vn/web/en/home

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Luckily, where I was lodging was right in center and walking distance to the best of HCMC. This was in the Grand Hotel Saigon in district 1; overlooking the Saigon river, and with stylish architecture from the 1930’s. It had spacious first class rooms ;first part on the 11th floor and second stayed on the 9th floor. Wonderful amenities with in house pool, gym,sauna, spa ,restaurants and bars as well as the Grand Café on the roofstop 22nd floor where I had some of my dinners too. I try them all except the Bar des Amis by the pool . All wonderful and great friendly service. The best part was to go to the top roofstop at the Grand Café and listen to live music in English and French! More on the hotel here: https://www.hotelgrandsaigon.com/

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I passed by the Cathedral of Notre Dame , it was built between 1863 and 1880  with French bricks & featuring 58 meters tall Romanesque bell towers. I was moving on and no time to go inside, but anyway it was under renovation so I am sure most if not all was not available.  This Vietnam Online site has info on the Cathedral: https://www.vietnamonline.com/attraction/saigon-notre-dame-cathedral.html

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I had my hands on the Ben Thanh market , the best of them all, was here before ,this time came during the day and it was wonderful.  I would say all coming here should check it out at least half a day. Only mention because went in on this trip but have a separate post on it. https://www.vietnamonline.com/attraction/ben-thanh-market.html

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And now let me tell you bits about my culinary Vietnamese delights in HCMC!

For lunch, on another day locals took me to 94 Quan Thuy crab seafood restaurant and it was a full meal with fried rice and shredded crab that was delicious and true local food. More on Foody VN here: https://www.foody.vn/ho-chi-minh/mien-cua-94

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At night went to the Barbecue Garden, a wonderful terrace garden where each table has an oven to cook your meals, nice fish and shrimp dishes with local saigon special beers.  More on their site here: http://barbecuegarden.vn/address

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I came back for lunch to Rosa Palace, this is rented out for wedding and events but it is a restaurant too, very nice. Once again seafood is great here and fried rice with some good Saigon Special beers.  Very special places I have come like 3 times! More on Foody VN: https://www.foody.vn/binh-duong/trung-tam-hoi-nghi-tiec-cuoi-rosa-palace-tinh-lo-743

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For dinner we went to Vietnam House resto, again great seafood and nice service.  This is a gourmet place and very refine, a great for an evening with company too. More info on their site here: http://vietnamhousesaigon.com/

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Several evenings and came back in another opportunity to HCMC , went to the Gartenstadt Downstairs German style pub for a nice Krombacher pils German beer (same I have in France!). The Gartenstadts was great , full length bar with plenty of imported beers and of course Germans.  At the bar I stayed on the street level which I was told is better than the Noisy smokey lower level floor. Great spot recommended not far from the hotel but photos were in a personal mode ….More on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/GartenstadtRestaurant/

Almost every day here came to the The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf  for a nice cup of coffee as it was near the place I was doing work, yes did work too ::)  They have other branches but this one in District 1 was great. See them all at official webpage here: https://coffeebean.com.vn/en

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Before leaving on way to the airport ,I had lunch at a wonderful place taken by a local.  Com Nieu Sai Gon, at 59 Ho Xuan Huong Street, where the dishes are done with playing servers on the rice paddies thrown at a distance plate to plate, and the shrimp dish with fish in sauce and saigon special beers were the delight in a nice ambiance and great decoration. More in Foody VN: https://www.foody.vn/ho-chi-minh/nha-hang-com-nieu-sai-gon-ho-xuan-huong

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Some general webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The Vietnam Travel tourist office on Ho Chi Minh City: https://vietnam.travel/places-to-go/southern-vietnam/ho-chi-minh-city

The Vietnam Online travel information web on Ho Chi Minh Cityhttps://www.vietnamonline.com/attraction/category/ho-chi-minh-city.html

A fitting end to the visit to Ho Chi Minh ,Vietnam! Already looking forward to a next time. As work times are changing and me getting ready for retirement in 2021 maybe not; but anyway the memories and good friends will linger forever. Hope you enjoy the post and do come to visit. And do read my other posts on Vietnam.

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

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