Archive for November 1st, 2020

November 1, 2020

Verdun, memories of the Great War or WWI!!

Ok so by now you may notice doing lots of changes in my blog. Especially, old posts that needed refresh and update not necessarily photos as have them on more specific posts. This is one example of it. Hope you enjoy it Remember All Saint’s Day. Toussaint!!

Lets talk about a monumental city in symbolism if small in size, Verdun.  It is a city in department  Meuse, no 55 in the region of Grand Est in eastern France. The autoroute A4 will take you there from Paris, and parking along the river Meuse is easy, nice, and free at Pl 8 Mai 1945.

The city is very easy to walk on and best, however, if need to move by public transport the local bus system REZO Grand Verdun can help, but I never use it.  There is a train station TER Grand Est but again never use it. Webpages here

REZO bus network Grand Verdun: https://www.rezo-grandverdun.fr/

TER Grand Est on Verdun: https://www.ter.sncf.com/grand-est/gares/87175778/Verdun/pratique

Verdun is a city that can trace back for 2000 years, the Treaty of Verdun of 843 for most historians mark the starting point of what we know of Europe today , this is where if I can interject a bit of history here , the sons of king Louis le Pieux (himself son of Charlemagne)  Charles le Chauve or bold became king of western Francia with limits to the east of the Rhône river, Saône,  and Meuse rivers.  Louis le Germanique or German, became the king of eastern Francia beyond the Rhine river, and Lothar was given the two capitals of Rome and Aix a long line of territory  brought together by the river Frise in the Jura region including the Burgundy and Italy.

However, after that the ones that really made Verdun on the map was after been given the name of Universal City, is the WWI Battle of Verdun in 1916. The war really began here in 1914,  the Battle of Verdun was not only the war, but also the Battle of France, for 300 days and nights close to 2,5 millions French soldiers fought here, that is two thirds of the entire armed forces of France!!!

Here on February 21 1916 ,one of the biggest if not the biggest battles in history took place. Bombing began by 8h15.  In this carnage, 163 000 French and 143 000 Germans lost their life, with 216 000 French and 196 000 Germans wounded!!!  For reinforcements from the town of  Baudonvillers and  Bar-le-Duc, a line of trucks were put in service to continue on to Verdun ,this route was later baptised the   « Voie Sacrée » or sacred road.  Nearly  1 500 trucks took this route daily so Verdun so it was not isolated, 2 500 000  French soldiers took the tour at this route during this conflict alone.

On September 12( my b-day!)  ,1918 the First Army of the USA enters the conflict in this area led by General Pershing (He who upon touching French soil hail the famous words “Lafayette ,We are Here” ) ,and they took position at the salt mines of Saint-Mihiel with the help of the 2nd French Colonial Corp. On September 22nd, Pershing has its HQ at Souilly. By September 26 in the area of Argonne that Americans and French fought shoulder to shoulder as well as reaching Verdun by October 10 the Argonne is completely liberated, on the river Meuse right bank  17th French Army Corp and two American divisions march on towards Damvillers. The Americans cross the river Meuse first by Stenay, the enemy retreats and they will never entered Verdun!!!

You should make your solemn visit to the Memorial Centre Mondiale de la Paix (World Center of Peace) right in the palais episcopal designed in 1723 by  Robert de Cotte, architect of the king,  it is by the Cathedral, and the Monument à la Victoire (Monument to the Victory) with 73 steps right from the esplanade bordering the river Meuse, there you will see the book of gold showing those who have won medals of honor for their valor in the battle, a moving niche between a rocky hill.

There is so much to see need more time, like the Ossuarie de Douaumont (keeping the remains of millions) and in front a French cementary of 15000 soldiers. Memorial de Verdun, in the train station of the village of  Fleury-devant-Douaumont, one of the towns destroyed in the conflict sitting right in the battlefield and built by the Veterans group themselves.  Tranchés des Baionnettes tells the story on June 12 1916 of the 137th  Infantry Regiment isolated with an intensive bombardment in a trench . The only witness were bayonets coming out of the ground!  Fort de Vaux, showcase the heroisme of the French soldiers in resisting attacks by superior forces. See the Citadelle Souterraine or underground citadel, the HQ of the French army was kept here, a virtual city of support to the front. Here on September 13, 1916 ,Verdun received the decoration of the Légion d’Honneur, the Croix de Guerre ,and  six other decorations from allied powers and Verdun  becomes the most condecorated city in all of France!!!

Here too on November 10, 1920 after the peace at Rethondes the chosen wounded soldier  Auguste Thin of the  132th Infantry Regiment was given the task to choose amongst eight coffins dress with the French flag the body of a French soldier found in the eight battlefields around WWI.  Armed with a simple bouquet of  flowers he was to choose one, to be  buried at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, in memory of all those fallen in combat. Slowly  Auguste Thin  chose one after adding the digits number of his regiment and choose the Sixth coffin , the Unknown Soldier tradition was born here!

While we were there we were hungry so we try the local places. I did so at La Péniche, quai de la Republique near the river, traditional Lorraine cuisine ,very nice formule and the St Jacques in whisky is yummy! plus a very nice lounge with wonderful views of the town . This resto closed and has reopened as La Barge own now by sisters who also own other sites in town.

And as a wonderful souvenir , in Verdun do try the Dragées de Verdun (sweet made of almond and chocolates now of many things traditional all over France but the ones here are at the top of the ladder ) at établissement Braquier, recipe from 1220, and the firm doing it since 1921. I give you their webpage here: https://dragees-braquier.fr/fr/

So now you have a brief overview of a great small town, worth the visit and glad we were there. Verdun is one of those places that one can become attach to very much. Credit when credit is due, they held high the flag! Hope you too can visit this wonderful town of Verdun.

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

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November 1, 2020

Brussels, lot more than mussels and fries!!!

In my ongoing mood to revise, update, my very old posts dating from the time I started blogging, and I bet you didn’t notice I bring you once again to Brussels. Of course, I have newer posts and plenty on the city but this is for the memories and hope it helps you too.

A lovely city that is about time update the post and just for the memories of coming back in the future. This is Bruxelles, it is in French and Brussel in Dutch, capital of Belgium and the European Union. It is a very old city divided into 19 districts, and which French and Flemish/Dutch can interwined freely with English widely spoken.

I have come here by car along the A1 then E19 into Belgium or by Thalys train ,my trips have been on business when by train or plane, however, did come once with the train and then rented a car at train station Midi. It has an excellent airport as well.

I have written on the sights of Brussels, so just will name them here:

The ultimate Grand Place, where everything converges in the city, a must just fabulous!  Manneken Pis from 1388 the symbol of Brussels, located at the junction of Rue de l’Étuve/Stoofstraat and Rue du Chêne/Eikstraat.

The Bourse area with great walks and the building built in 1868-1873 , Cathédrale St Michael , just gorgeous, the Royal Palace , the Atomium ,a science park with the atom in mind, very educational for all. The Cinquantenaire park  to go here with metro Mérode and Schuman, great walk park surrounded by many good museums. Mini Europe, a miniature park with many scale sizes monuments of Europe!

As I have taken my boys here on our personal trips and for them it is the best museum ,the Comic Strip Museum.  The gastronomy as to waffles, lambic beers, and the famous moules and frites or mussels and fries are in itself worth a trip lol! Good Belgian chocolate well we like the Darcis by Midi train station,and Corné Royale by Galerie de la reine in the Galeries Royales St Hubert. For general chocolate stores we preferred the Leonidas at rue au Beurre near Grand’Place, and rue Neuve.

For historical upscale shopping and typical Belgian, you must at least visit this place Galeries Royale St Hubert, if anything try the ice cream Häagen Dazs and the Corné Royale chocolates! The areas just around the Grand’Place is a shopper’s paradise of stores, as well as rue Neuve, the big pedestrian street there. For the wonderful Belgian laces try the Anais Lace Palace.

My eateries over the years have been at Le Pavillon, Rue Defacqz 63, for your light cafe type setting in a nice decor and on your way to the Grand’Place walking, Le Grand Cafe, blvd Anspach 78, we had the house grand cafe menu. The Cave du roy, Grand’place itself with great people view, and brussel pork sausage or mussels in alsacien wine. The ever popular but nice Le Brasseurs de la Grand’Place, for great beers and people watching at the Grand Place. For all kinds of seafood my all time favorite place in town is Chez Patrick, and A la Mort Subite, the best nightime bar/pub in the city in my opinion, it means Sudden Death but you will survive ::)

When in town, I stay with the ACCOR French chain as it gives me points, and it is one of my favorite chain all over Europe. The Mercure at the airport has been used on business trips before, it is convenient to city center.  One that would be more convenient for visitors and I have used with the family is the Novotel Grand’Place, very convenient and nice.

And there you go folks short and sassy this time for a nice visit to Brussels/Bruxelles for us. Hope you enjoy visiting this city one of my favorites in Europe with lots of family memories! And do see my numerours other posts with picture on it.

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

November 1, 2020

Moving about in Vannes!

Well for lack of a better name , I look over and believe have no entry in my blog on public transports in Vannes, wow! I need to remedy that as briefly as possible. Vannes is our capital city , near where I work, and where we spent even equal time than where we live !!!

Vannes is the prefecture or main govt city in the Morbihan, sort of like the capital of the deparment or province or state. It has a large port area coming right into the city center,and a maritime station with regular boat service to outlying islands in the Gulf of Morbihan.

You can reach it by road ,from Paris take the A13 or A11 and follow directions Caen ,Rennes ,Lorient,Vannes or Chartres,Le Mans, Laval, Rennes, Lorient, Vannes. The city parkings are those handle by the city of Vannes : Parking des Arts (one level is free!) and Parking de Bilaire (free and only 7 mn on foot from the train station or gare). Then ,you have the parking handle by Indigo at Place de la République ,one of my favorites and parkings handle by QPARk such as Centre, Le Port ,another of my favorites and Place de la Loi parking. There is also, a free parking by the canals by the Le Port along rue Jean Jàures and into rue de la Fontaine Budo known as parking des Capucins and another one further along the canal on Rue du Commerce and on Quai Bernard Moitessier which we used often too.

vannes-parking-de-la-republique-jul20

Each year, from November 15 to March 15, the city of Vannes implements a winter viability plan to ensure the safety of people during periods of extreme cold, snow and ice. Labor and material needs are defined for the initiation of this plan for the 170 km of urban roads and 9 ha of public places concerned. Note that the city of Vannes is collaborating on this type of operation with the DDE for interventions on the RN165 expressway or voie express, and its interchanges as well as the General Council for departmental roads. The clearance of sidewalks and their salting are the responsibility of the residents. Residents (with their container) can collect the de-icing salt at the Rohan depot located on rue des Grandes Murailles every day of the week, from 9h to 11h30 and from 14h to 16h30. This information is here to tell you are well taken care when driving in Vannes!

Motorhomes benefit from a specific parking area perfectly equipped with service terminals: emptying waste water, recharging drinking water and charging electric batteries, located near the municipal campsite of Conleau peninsula. A stage area open all year round and accessible 24 hours a day, located at the entrance to the Flower campsite at avenue du Maréchal Juin.

You can make by train direct from Paris Montparnasse or even Roissy CDG with less frequency. For ticketing and information see SNCF Voyageurs 7 place de la Gare also boutiques Galerie commerciale Carrefour   and Boutique SNCF Centre at 5 place du Poids Public in old town. The Vannes train station I take often before virus once a month at least and it is tops, full facilities and services .Also, parking plenty and behind the station by Rue de Strasbourg which I used nicely The gare or train station started from 1862 and now handle TGV, TER Bretagne and TER Pays de la Loire trains.

vannes-gare-arriv-for-trip-to-paris-apr17

SNCF trains : https://www.garesetconnexions.sncf/fr/gare/frvne/vannes

TER Bretagne trains: https://www.ter.sncf.com/bretagne/gares/87476606/Vannes/pratique

There is a small airport or aérodrome Vannes-Meucon for leisure activities and private planes here: https://www.vannes.aeroport.fr/aviation-de-loisir However, I for commercial use you need to go to Lorient, Rennes or Nantes. I have used once Rennes, never Lorient, and numerous times Nantes, simply the best. Nantes Atlantique see https://www.nantes.aeroport.fr/fr

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For local transport by bus, the Vannes bus system is pretty good for a country service, sometimes to outlaying cities the service is minimum but inside the city the service is very good. It has 27 bus lines with 17 city buses and 10 intercity lines I have used lines 5 and 8..The carnet of 10 tickets 11€ single ticket is 1.50 with one hour duration. The network Kicéo here: https://www.kiceo.fr/

The main park and relay which is rather nice and I passed by it weekly now before daily is located in Keranguen, in the town of Ploeren (across the street is Vannes), it is accessible directly by the RN 165 and by the Vannes Ouest interchange. This P + R offers 140 car parking spaces, including 3 spaces for people with reduced mobility and 2 spaces for electric vehicles (charging stations), as well as a parking area for two-wheelers. Secure pedestrian routes are also provided to the Kicéo stops (bus shelters). Line 2 serves the city center, the Tohannic campus (departures every 10 minutes) and line 6 (departures every 20 minutes) serves République, the SNCF train station, the Tohannic campus, the PIBS and the IUT.(universities).

vannes-kiceo-bus-network-ln-6-by-rue-thiers-jan19

To move about in buses in the department areas of the Morbihan like us, there is now the Keolis network. With mobibreizh we have taken line 5 Baud-Vannes and my boys have taken lines 1 to the beaches, and 17 from Baud to Lorient. Single ticket is 2€ under 26 yrs old or 2,50€ for more than 26 .You can transfer with same ticket to another line mobibreizh within 2 hours for the same price.. There are a total of 18 bus lines within the Morbihan and our usage has been on Line 1 : Auray – Carnac – Quiberon , Line 5 Baud – Pluvigner – Auray – Sainte-Anne d’Auray – Vannes , and Line 17 : Pontivy – Baud – Lorient.

The info and other transports are in Mobibreizh here: https://www.mobibreizh.bzh/fr/

The move in Bretagne and the lines can be seen here in Breizhgo: https://www.breizhgo.bzh/se-deplacer-en-bretagne/se-deplacer-en-car/morbihan

Now never done it but for general information for bike rentals and usage there is Velocéo , webpage in English: https://veloceo.kiceo.fr/en

I do not do bikes in Vannes but there are rules as for all wheels and they are here in French from the city of Vannes if you want more info you can ask me and would translate. https://www.mairie-vannes.fr/vannespratique/deplacements/circulation/circuler-a-velo/

The City of Vannes on public transports : https://www.mairie-vannes.fr/vannespratique/deplacements/circulation/transports-collectifs/

Last, but not least there is a port of Vannes an afloat basin, maintained at a minimum depth of 2.10 meters by a lock gate, the opening hours of which follow the tide times. In addition, access to the port is also constrained by crossing the Kérino bridge built on the channel, downstream from the lock gate. The lock gate is open 10 minutes before the first maneuver of the bridge and closed 10 minutes after the last maneuver, this within the same opening range. There is also a marine terminal for passenger service to the outlying islands in the Gulf of Morbihan and beyond to the Atlantic Ocean. This gare maritime is in the parc du Golfe just before going into the Conleau peninsula. Several cruising companies anchor there and our favorite is Navix or Compagnie du Golfe. More on the terminal here in French: http://www.transportbretagne.com/prestation-gare-maritime-vannes.php

And there you go folks. I know is still a very general overview but you get the idea and if need details let me know in comments. The city of Vannes is very much walkable for the main sights but some needs a good bus ride. Hope it helps.

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

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