Archive for November 2nd, 2020

November 2, 2020

Frontier France and Spain: Pyrénées mountains!

Let me go into something majestic. Now as a road warrior enthusiast I have been around some nice roads both in Europe and the Americas. However, to me nothing compares like the Pyrénées. The wonderful mountain chain that separates my beloved Spain and my adopted home France!

Let me tell you a bit more and update this old post in my blog. Bringing it out from the ashes sort of. Hope you enjoy it as I do.

They form a magnificent natural barrier of two wonderful countries which I love very much. I am from both, and have and live in one. They run for about 430 kms or 267 miles along the border. The highest peak is the Aneto at  3 404 meters or 11 233 feet.  On the northern slope, the Pyrenees stretches across the French regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie. On the southern slope by the Spanish autonomous communities of the Basque Country, Navarra, Aragon and Catalonia. The small country of Andorra is nestled in the mountain range. These mountains are home to peaks of more than 3000 meters of altitude, such as Aneto (3404 m), Posets (3375 m), Monte Perdido (3355 m), Pico Maldito (3350 m), Pico Espadas (3332 m) , Vignemale (3298 m), Balaitus (3144m) and Pica d’Estats (3143 m), small glaciers, lakes and cirques of glacial origin, and numerous valleys and canyons.  The climate of the Pyrenees is mountainous, with higher rainfall and lower temperatures than the surrounding territories. It also acts as a climatic border between the predominant oceanic climate in the northwest and the Mediterranean climate in the southeast (with continental nuances to the south).

The Pyrénées have over 4500 species of flora including 160 that are natives and hundred of thousands of fauna including over 300 species of butterflies.  You have many parks in the geography of the chain with the most famous to be the Parc National des Pyrénées , the parc National d’Aigûestortes, and Lake Saint Maurice at Encantats in France as well as the Parque Nacional de Ordessa, and Parque Nacional del Monte Perdido in Spain. To these you have the adjacent parks such as the Parc Naturel Régional des Pyrénées Catalanes and the Parc Naturel Régional Pyrénées Ariégeoises.


Some of the historical dates that created, contained ,and enhance this wonderful area are noted below, history buffs go at it! I love it!

1213 Battle of Muret, victory of Simon de Montfort over a coalitions of Occitans lords, and death of king Peter II of Aragon who had a project to unite in a big State the occitano-Aragonais people.

1258 signature of Treaty of de Corbeil, established the frontiers between France and Aragon by Corbiéres and Capcir.

1276 creation of the kingdom of Majorca based at Perpignan.

1288 Signature by the Bishop of Urgell and the Count of Foix for the co -Principality of Andorra. Protected by France and Spain.

1344 king Peter IV of Aragon annexed the Roussillon and Cerdagne with the frontier limit at Pas de Salses.

1375 establishment of the Junta of Roncal, creating laws for the passages in the valleys of Roncal (Aragon) and Barétous (Béarn).

1419 bishop of Urgell authorised the creation of the Autonomous council of Andorra.

1462 Treaty of Bayonne, king John 11 of Aragon  (the Faithless) gives the counties of Cerdagne and Roussillon to king Louis XI of France, these counties were gain back by Spain in 1493.

1512 kings of Aragon take over the high Navarra region and the Catalan possessions of the family of Foix-Béarn, the low Navarra remains French.

1607 annexation of Béarn and Navarra to the crown of France thanks to king Henry III of Navarra, which became king Henri IV of France in 1589.

1641 Treaty of Peronne, the king of France ,Louis XIII becames the new count of Barcelona, Roussillon ,and Cerdagne.

1642 Perpignan  surrenders to French troops of king Louis XIII. 1649 French troops occupies the Valley of Aran.

1652 The French leave Barcelona and renounce possession of Catalunya.

1659 Treaty of the Pyrénées on the ile of Faisans in Basque country is signed between France and Spain. With the marriage of Louis XIV and the regent Maria Teresa of Spain. The marriage took place in Saint Jean de Luz.

1660 the French and Spanish redraw the map to arrange for the frontiers of the two countries,and by 1663-66 the restitution of lands taken on both sides is given to owners .

1674 conspiration at Villefranche-de-Conflent and Perpignan in favor of the Spanish, and the Spanish forces entered the Roussillon.

1678 The French army goes into Cerdagne and destroy Puigcerdà, peace is signed between France and Spain again.

1784 creation of the International Commission   Caro-d’Ornano to cartographies the region and fix limits of boundary, interrupted for the war in 1792.

1790 creation of the French departments of Basses-Pyrénées(Pyrénées Atlantiques after 1969), Hautes Pyrénées, Haute Garonne,Ariége,Aude,and Pyrénées Orientales.

1793-1795 Spain entered in war against the French revolution.

1808-1813 passage of Napoleonic troops by the mountains in the Pyrénées towards conquering Spain (later repulse by the Spaniards in what they call Day of Independance May 2,and immortalised in paintings by Goya)

1856 first line of treaties to fix the boundaries again signed at Bayonne, the frontier is fix from the ocean to the Table des Trois Rois.

1862 second treaty of limits fixing the frontier from table de Trois Rois to port de Boet.

1866 third treaty of limits fixing frontier from Portella Blanca to the Mediterranean.

1868 Final act of  the frontier with 600 bornes place along the mountains along the edge of the La Bidasoa to Cap Cerbére, and 45 bornes around the village of Llivia in French Cerdagne.

1875 Creation of the International commission on limits or Commission of the Pyrénées that is in charge to enforce the boundary limits.

1912 opening of the train tunnel at Somport in the Valley of the Aspé (Béarn).

1928 opening of train station at Canfranc (Aragon) linking Toulouse with Barcelona.

1939 opening of French borders to thousands upon thousands of Spaniards fleeing the dictatorship of Franco in Spain. Mostly settling it around or in Toulouse.

1944 Franco builts the Linea P a line of bunkers over 450 kms (279 miles) to protect Spain from a French invasion.

1946-1948 closing of the Spanish borders.

1949 the commission of the Pyrénées meeting in Madrid ordered the counting of the bornes and lining of the frontiers as per the 19C drawing that had disappeared.

1970 closing of the railroad line between Bedous and Canfranc, and reduced over the portion Pau-Oloron-Sainte-Marie from 1980.

1973 France and Spain signed treaty to fix the frontiers, name delegates to enforce the limits, and the maintenance of  it.

1976 Opening of the first automobile tunnel between the two countries ,the tunnel of Bielsa-Aragnouet between the Valleys of Aure (Haute Pyrénées) and Cinca (Aragon).

1985 signing of the first Schengen agreement ratify by France and Spain in 1990.

1986 Spain entered the European Union.

1993 Customs postes are eliminated in the frontier. They were at Urdos on the French side! Remember passing and been inspected!

1998 Hendaye,Irun and Hondarribia form the first agglomeration of the region in the UE, name the consorcio bidasoa-Txingudi.

2003 opening of the Tunnel of Somport; and I tried it first yes!!! After going over the old route on first gear with an VW Golf! In 1990!!

2007-2009 piercing of the TGV tunnel of 8.3 km for the line Perpignan Barcelona that was operational by 2013! It is mix with train changing . Still changing at Figueres on the Spanish side and Perpignan on the French side.

Some webpages to help you enjoy and understand this wonderful mountain chain: the Pyrénées or Pirineos!

The Pyrénées ski tourism at

Ski info in the Pyrénées my fav site over the years in Spain and France:

Ski info for the Spanish side:

And Ski info for the French side:

The parks of Ordesa and Monte Perdido:

The parc naturel des Pyrénées:

The lakes on both sides in Spanish, French :

Guide of the Spanish Pirineos:pyrénées in English:

The official Commission of the Pyrenees in French/Spanish and others:

And my favorites regions of France and Spain on the Pyrénées:

The region of Occitanie France on the Pyrénées:

The region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine France on the Pyrénées:

The Autonomous region of Aragon on the Pirineos of Spain:

The Autonomous region of Navarra on the Pirineos of Spain:

And there you go folks you have a bookful of information to enjoy this wonderful part of Europe. My favorite mountain range, and i leave the road warrior sights in other posts with more pictures. Hope you enjoy the post as I do.

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

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November 2, 2020

The Tarn in the southwest of France!!!

And here I am back with my travel stories in black and white or no photos. These are with individual posts in my blog. Hope you enjoy it as I do.

Ok  I am going to talk about a large area covering many villages and towns of old, known to my family as they are from there on the father’s side . These are all in Cathar country in the Sud Ouest or south west area of France, in the Tarn department no 81 region of now Occitanie. The towns are Gaillac, Montans,Giroussens, Graulhet, St Lieux les Lavaur, St Paul Cap de Joux, and Castelnau de Montmirail.

It is a beautiful region best done by car, you get the feel of the local people, the sceneries, the smell of the good wine of Gaillac made mostly with ingenious grapes of the regions. I will try to hit the highlights of each to help in your future travels but of course you can search in my blog for their individual entry for more information.

Let me start with Gaillac, this is a wonderful laidback country town but the center of one of the best wines in France. One of the red grapes Duras is one of the oldest in the world, and the Mauzac for whites is typical of the area. The best way to reach it and the other towns is by car of course, the D988 or old N88 link Toulouse with it which links with the N20/A20 from Paris or the autoroute A68 from Toulouse. The D112 from Toulouse thru Lavaur and the D631 to Graulhet, the D12 /D87 to Giroussens etc etc. Parking is always very easy to find as these are smaller town with nice squares. The train stations are easily found on the TER Occitanie web, but I have not use the train nor bus in the area yet, car is king for me. Bus transportation is available but less frequent in my opinion, the bus site for all the Tarn towns is  LIO.

What is there to see in Gaillac, other than the wineries, and the wine center at the historical Abbaye Saint Michel , by place St Michel and behind it the river Tarn flowing freely ;it is also the tourist office. Built in 972 and rebuilt in 1221,it is very nice to visit for the architecture alone. Here is the Maison des Vins de Gaillac  on the above Gaillac vins webpage. Many battles between the royal forces and the cathars were held in the town, one of the principal reminder is the rue de l’Anquillé very quaint old medieval and site of hand to hand combats, headquarters of the order of Chevaliers of St Jean de Jerusalem.  The place d’Hautpoul where the hotel de ville is located is big and wonderful plaza. As well as the picturesque and nice plaza the place du Griffoul with a nice fountain typical of the area.

Montans is a very small village, this is where the family has uncles and my wife grew up going to the local wine cooperative nearby. The only and biggest and wonderful place here is the Archiosite de Montans, an excavation that found many objects as it was one of the most important centers of Roman pottery ,and you will be able to see it as it was back then with ceramics making shops.

Giroussens, has the magnificent Jardin des Martels, founding plant and flora of all types in a huge park, considered one of the most beautiful in France. The place of making pottery for the kings of France and as far as Louisiana in the USA and Quebec in Canada. You have the Church of Saint Salvy from the 14C, with a chapel dedicated to Sainte Rufine the patron sainte of potters. The castle of  Chateau de Bélbeze, built in 1640 by the master water and forest of Toulouse, and sold as national property at the French revolution.  The Maison de la Ceramique Contemporain at Place Lucie-Bouniol  is wonderful to see the different shades and shapes of ceramics.

Graulhet, has a wonderful market days in the lower city of ville basse which you descend by steps of stone from the high city or ville hausse, location is Place du Jourdain.  The grandparents of my wife used to come here for shopping, and its a major center of tanners for leather goods in France.  Discoveries in the area dates the city from about 500BC.  It did not suffer much in the war of religions in the area as it remain neutral!!! You can see the Pont Vieux or old bridge built in 1244 and the walk rue Panessac, but the main action is in the market as beforemention.

Saint Lieux lés Lavaur, has an interesting real train ride from the old days, and still kept alive by enthusiasts, the ride is wonderful for the entire family. Its call  the chemin de fer touristique du Tarn . It is listed as an association of Acova ,and has five locomotives of vapor, 3 locomotives electric, and 25  locotracteurs or road switchers.

Saint Paul Cap de Joux, it has a beautifully built church, and the historical fact that in 1585, Henri of Navarra the future king Henri IV signed the Manifest of Saint Paul with the governor of the Languedoc, Henri Ier, Duke of Montmorency, adding the territory which later came to the kingdom of France. It is here, also, that in 1145 St Bernard de Clairvaux came to preach what would later be the Cathar heresy. It is also from here that the Cathar community was installed in the north of  Italy,  the chapel from the 14C of  Sainte-Cécile de Plane Sylve, where there is now a cross tell us that it was here the center Cathar of Saint Paul.

Castelnau de Montmirail, this is a fortified town or bastide ,one of the famous one in the southwest of France. It was here that the Catholics of Gaillac took refuge after been expelled by the Cathars. Here is a ramparts and hilly streets many with beautiful views over the river Tarn and tributaries . It has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France! La Croix reliquaire des Comtes d’Armagnac is a cross relics that has been displayed in Paris at the Grand Palais, and you can see here at home inside the Church Notre-Dame de l’Assomption.

The shopping here is the wonders of French gastronomy, its wonderful cassoulet,foie gras, sausages, pigeons, are all sublimes. You will love the cuisine Tarnaise! The best for these are the marchés and all towns have it. For good on Saturday mornings then sometimes on Wednesdays and others on Fridays. You can buy ceramics at Giroussens, and leather good at Graulhet at the only stores selling them. For lodgings the choices are endless from hotels to gîtes to rural houses, the organisation Gîtes de France is wonderful here at the Tarn dept and you can narrowed it down further.

Hope you have taken note of the above off the beaten paths towns of beautiful Tarn dept 81 of old Midi Pyrénées today Occitanie region. Needless to tell you that I have done my road warrior trips around here several times and if you need to know more let me know here. Enjoy the ride!!

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

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November 2, 2020

Autrement Vannes!

Well this one is no surprise in my blog, many posts on our capital city of the Morbihan dept 56 of my lovely Bretagne, this is Vannes or otherwise told you is Vannes!

I like to update some of the earlier posts from when i started my blog, places still open for the most part but some gone and just for the memories in my blog. Photos are in the individual posts. Hope you enjoy the nostalgic tour and do come and see it for yourselves. Autrement Vannes or otherwise Vannes for you and me!

One of the secrets of the city, is the parc Kérino (see post). This is a walkers park, sitting on a butte or hill overlooking the last stretch before the canal opens up to the gulf passenger boat terminal. There is a bridge and tunnel to be built here to alliviate traffic of boats and people crossing the canal. Here you have great views over the bay,gulf and city, as well as a wonderful cross calvary of Kérino; you can go crossing the canal into the area of the naval builder Le Pennec or from the city at rue Kerviler.  On the cross, there is a Christ surrounded by Saint Vincent and Sain Patern, attached by a log where you see the arms of the city of Vannes (hermite stout,symbol of Brittany done with a crown of 3 towers, symbol of the fortified city of Vannes). Behind the cross, you see the Virgen with the Enfant Jesus. This monument was done by cisseling the stones by sculptor  Yves Hernot de Lannion , and was erected in 1913  in memory of the renewing missions of the eucharism of 1906, and  1910 to which that of 2004 was added.

Office workers have told me about an American couple who own a cafe in a small village not far from me, so we set out to check it out. We arrive by 14h30 and on slow season food was scarse but we managed a cold Lancelot breton beer chatting with owner Ellen (from Chicago IL) at theGorvello Cafe, a cafe, with arts and music events in season, and a B&B as well. It was refreshing to see a fellow American in this part of the woods, rare but not the only ones lol!!! unfortunately they have re -retired and no longer there, in its place the new owners have pretty much continue the same trend and are name le Petit Café dans la Prairie. At le Gorvello village part of the town of  Theix-Noyalo (just next to Vannes). Here just for the memories and the English!

Many of our eateries here as is our second home, Vannes that is. We had nice mussels on cream or moules à la créme and chorizo andalouse pizzas, with banana splits, coconuts ices,coffees,and grimbergen red and blonde beers at our favorite hangout by the Le Port area theCat Way Pub at pl Gambetta, overlooking the pleasure boat marina and canal. all for 20€ per person. This has been change to the Gambetta which I have in the blog already been to the new one several times. Here just for the memories of the Cat Way, one of my first night out in Vannes!

The area of Atlanville is very nice family spot; there are about 6 restaurants,bars to choose from, some local some national brands, so we chose the Tavern de Maitre Kanter, its an Alsacien seafood/beef national chain, that we always like to be sure of good stuff,and nice prices. The service was fantastic, very nice, fast, courteous, and greeters all over. The ambiance was well seafood,and mariners designs, and many families there. We had 3 Grimbergen 50cl beers, a choucroute kanter, moules creme,burger kanter, extra fries, banana splits, and coffees all for 27 euros per person.  They too unfortunanely are closed and as far as I know no replacement found yet.

The area where we were Atlanville is developed as a center of entertainment away from the center of the city, and it has a webpage:

Right around the above we have been many times for football/soccer games to the Irish pub Le Skellig. For lunch they are light but for nights is packed. The service was good , we had burgers,grimbergen beers red and blonde, plus coffees with small cakes and a share platter of goat cheese lardon bacons,and eggs, all for 25 euros per person; nice.

Always walking around the le Port marina area  while I drop off the boys at the Cinéville cinema for them to watch Chronicle movie. I am hard to go to the movies but do go andn with the boys even more.

At another day in the same month we went to see the Sherlock Holmes 2 movie at Cinéville Vannes , and before the movie we have lunch at  Brooklyn Cafe a cybercafe with free wifi and internet, large screen tv and wii games, cafe style brand new concept and nice at Atlanville ,see above.

One movie that I enjoyed at Cinéville cinema which by the way has great, huge spaces, great big screen, great sound, good friendly service, and the movie was good :;) Millenium, or the man who does not like woman, something like that. Daniel Craig was great, and damn the woman was fantastic, both on screen and very sexy off screen. A nice movie about a serial killer in Sweden who held an empire but use the power to rape his own family members;;;all living in an island, the main character a newspaperman who had come up with an earlier story that did not turn out too credible, was hire by the old man of the family to solve the riddle; the main character then hire as assistance the same woman who search out his false stories in his previous article.The two work out well, and I was hoping for them to stay together at the end, but I am a dreamer and today, the character stay with his old girlfriend bland bland….I take Lisbeth (Rooney Mara) anytime ::) Recommend to see it in any language!

Not far from there ,actually across the street but in another parc Lann section we had dinner at La Boucherie steakhouse , located at rue du Gay Lussac and is a chain of steakhouse (not bad for French steakhouse) and its right in the same area but outside the Atlanville area, walking distance of about 5 minutes: here we ate steaks of course with fries, red wine from Bordeaux, Chateau d’Agassac 2008, creme brulée,dame blanche desserts, and coffees, all for 28 euros per person.

Right by the Le Port marina area we love to walked a lot as it is the canal entrance to the old town , we have eaten several times afterward as well on the Capitanerie (harbormaster) building , on top there is a cafe resto, à l’Aise Breizh Café, lovely place, great enthusiastic service, nice to see the harbor and city from above,gorgeous terrace, the prices are good, and the food terrific, we had Breizh burgers ,huge ones, with fries, banana splits, and plougastel ice cream and strawberry sauce, a bottle of Provençal rosé wine, and table water for 21 euros per person.

And not to do just resto fooding we do enjoy bowling; there is a nice one in the Parc du Golfe at the entrance to the Conleau peninsula. The Le Master bowling. Very friendly place,and very beautiful girls lol!!  The welcome was very friendly jokingly,and the prices nice. We play and I won the overall title beating my twin boys, of course, they did beat me in one game, my excuse was I need more practice as they do play in school….excuses excuses but hey, life is tough ,you do what you must do ::) There is also pool table, games, sports cafe bar with large screen TV,and just a nice secure ambiance good to be back ,I am sure; and we have. The webpage :

Just rounds and rounds around lovely historical charming Vannes, a city untouch by wars all original wooden house going back to the 14C! And of course those hilly cobblestone streets that are always so romantic and so French. Hope you enjoy the nostalgia tour

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

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