Archive for November 22nd, 2020

November 22, 2020

Just arriving in Spain by the Col du Portalet mountains!!!

This is probably one of my shortest post but the most exciting in my road warrior trails. This, this is going over the Port de Portalet mountain from France to Spain! And we love it!!!!

Updating my text of August 2016; hope you enjoy it as I do! Brings back many family memories going over these mountains over the years first with wife , then boys and then parents and family!

We got up earlier from hotel in Bordeaux , (see post) and by about 7h or 7am we were on the road past the beltway of Bordeaux A630 into the expressway A62 towards Pau/Toulouse.  We continue connecting with the A64 road to Pau and then the A65 , connecting on the N134 by Jurançon and Gan, where we got on the D934  all the way past Laruns and to the Col du Portalet passage to Spain.

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As we got up earlier we had breakfast on the road on the  mountains by Bielle on the D934 at boulangerie Laloubère , a small outlet they have right on the road and the back on the mountains; very nice and great breads, sweets, coffee and orange juice for 2,30 euros! per person. Their main store is at Bielle. And we have made it our must stop over the years afterward, by now a routine trip at Laloubére!!

You see beautiful mountain passages like the dam of Artouste  done with a lake at 1997 meters and the spa thermes of Eaux Bonnes, the quant nice town of Laruns, and the final destination in France at the Col du Portalet and the town at 1984 meters high. This is just before taking the tunnel under it to reach Spain at the other side , going up through some twisting and each time higher élévations and breathtaking views of the mountains and valleys not to mention a great challenge for the driver!! Love it!!!!

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A great final ride in France before reaching my beloved Spain, always nice to be back, and glad can do this often in the last few years. Again hope you enjoy this brief road warrior trip up the Pyrénées!!

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The lake of Artouste feeding the dam info here: https://www.lacsdespyrenees.com/lac-23-Lac%20d%E2%80%99Artouste.html

The the Spa at Eaux Bonnes, will love to be back!  https://www.valleedossau-tourisme.com/en/ossau-valley/presentation-of-villages/eaux-bonnes/

How to get to these peaks and valleys : https://www.valleedossau-tourisme.com/en/access/

There you go short and sassy! Go ahead make the run, get the thrill of high mountain driving in pure air with breath taking views, sublime. Hope you enjoy and try it

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

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November 22, 2020

Vacation time arrived, onwards to Spain!!!

I finally was able to convince the wife to come to Spain for vacation. And it was worth it ,and she love it; later many repeats. After going thru Europe or western Europe I finally came with the family to my beloved Spain. Of course, I have been here before read my blog…

We spent two weeks going by car with some metro/subway and bus on major cities. This update is from August 2016. Visited Bordeaux, Cuenca, Las Majadas, Madrid, Toledo, Huerte, Belmonte, Segovia, La Granja de San IIdelfonso, Alcalà de Henares, Aranjuez, Valencia, Ségobriga ,Alarcon, Chinchon, Calatayud, and many smaller towns passing by.

We rented a house in Las Majadas ,Cuenca at 1400 meters high (about 6600 feet) that was absolutively  superb with all the trimmings and fantastic host owners. We passed by goats , sheeps, horses, deers, wild pigs and right on the eyes of cows on the road; all in good expériences. The beginning of a wonderful friendship with the owners and us over the years!

We found the house thru TopRural which is now Vrbohttps://www.vrbo.com/?preferlocale=true

The property is Casa Pituhttp://www.casapitu.es/

We left by car by 8h or 8am from home along the path of avoiding as much as possible toll roads. Taken the N165 towards Nantes N249 and then the D763 and D137 towards La Rochelle, and continue connecting with the A10 for a while before at Bordeaux get on the A62,A65 and A64 towards the Col du Portalet passage to Spain. On the A roads we did pay a toll of 25,70€ but we quickly move back into the D934 on passage routes at 1390 meters high with great views. I wanted to show both sides but something not repeated afterward no more tolls!

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This is the mountain passes we saw and went thru heavens on earth! and great cheese ossau iraty!  http://travel-ossau-pyrenees.com/benou.html

To start we did a quick one night rest stop by Bordeaux .The trip took about 17 hours stopping several times for a break, gas , and eat. It took about 1265 kms or about 784 miles for the whole trip and about 417 kms or 259 miles to Bordeaux in 7 hours.  For those who have traveled by car will note these are longer times but it was done because the only driver was me and taking breaks is a wise thing to do. I do not know why people talk about traffic as with well planned the trip went smooth with only a slow moving traffic along the rocade of Bordeaux arriving there to our road hotel, the inexpensive F1 La Bastide today call the Aréna. Part of the great chain Accor webpage: https://all.accor.com/hotel/2419/index.en.shtml

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We listen to radio 107.7 FM for traffic and weather conditions as well as good music. And the best is yet to come. A memorable vacation indeed! Good for the soul and family times. Hope you enjoy it and look up the sites in the blog

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

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November 22, 2020

Cayo la Rosa, Bauta, Cuba!!!

Ok so one of the biggest enjoyment of looking back at old posts and revising them is finding out that some spots are little mentioned or left out! As my blog is part of my life’s history as well, I like to bring you to a little corner of Cuba not on the tourist trail. Well not even in off the beaten paths! This is personal and for the memories.

Cayo La Rosa, off Bauta, was a huge textile plant (Ariguanabo) of 5000 workers done by Americans now in ruins. The village have not change much, and took a ride with my cousin in an electric moto on the town, crazy but a great and cheap means of transportation there now.  And proud of myself was able to take my local driver from Havana there as he did not know how,and I did it with so many years out just on good memory lol! He was impressed!

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The Textilera Ariguanabo or textile plant Ariguanabo was created and owned by the American Burke Osborne Hedges. My dear late Mom Gladys worked there for a while. In the hands of the Hedges, the Textilera de Ariguanabo was an integrative civil and cultural project. It included an advanced social security program, a campaign for the prestige of employment, the construction of a baseball stadium, a first-aid house, an airport, a fire station, daycare centers, and the financing of various publications to cover local and national events. They introduced rotating six-hour shifts and an excellent system of credits, vacations and withdrawals. All of this was eliminated by the 1959 Cuban revolution.

Cayo La Rosa , part of the town of Bauta and of the new Artemisa province created in 2010 before it was Havana province. It is really part of the bigger town of Bauta. Bauta is a town located about 40 km (25 mi) from Havana. The territory to the south reaches up to the old Laguna de Ariguanabo (lake), now almost dried up. However, it was big and surrounded the town which is why the name is Cayo or Key La Rosa or the Rose or Key Rose! I still have an aunt and cousin living there!

The town of Bauta was found on January 14, 1879. Bauta was best known internationally as the location of a Soviet listening base intended to spy on the United States. In 2000, the service known as the Lourdes base was closed by the Russian government. Thet town is crossed by the highways linking Cuba west to east such as the autopista de Pinar del Río, the autopista Panamericana (norte) ,and the Carretera Central or central highway which we always took.

My last school in Cuba was based at Bauta, where I needed to come by bus, car, hitchhike whatever means. I did not do much school as most of the time I sneak out to go to the baseball stadium not far from there. The school was named after Nguyễn Văn Trỗi a Vietnamese electrician and fighter for the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (Viet Cong). He was sentenced to death by the government of the Republic of Vietnam (south Vietnam), and was executed by firing squad. He was considered a national hero by the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam). And of course ,now the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I believe now they have change the name,not sure.

Bauta escula nyen van throi ultima escuela en Cuba de Pedro

As you can imagine, there are no webpages for this. Just my small recollection and memories of always. These towns Bauta, Cayo la Rosa, look so distant now but never forgotten. Hope you enjoy the post anyway and maybe one day we can get to drive by them again!

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

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November 22, 2020

Another dandy in the East,Manila!!!

And need to revise this older post on the nice city of Manila, capital of the Philippines. It was my first trip ever to the Philippines and Manila! Thereafter, many more trips and really enjoyed it. Looking forward to be back when possible.

Another surprise visit to a far away land, business many times provides unexpected visits to some exotic far away lands, and I am lucky to be part of the business travel loop. I came here and repeat several times and the experiences have been gratifying indeed. I am talking now of the capital, Manila ,in the Philippines.

The city of Manila is one of the 16 cities of the metropolitan area of Manila, one of the most populous in the world. The latter, located on the west coast of Luzon Island, is the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila), and is not part of any province in the country. It is located on the east bank of Manila Bay.  The city is divided into six legislative districts and sixteen geographic districts: Binondo , Ermita, Intramuros, Malate , Paco, Pandacan , Manila Port, Quiapo , Sampaloc , San Andres, San Miguel, San Nicolas , Santa Ana, Santa Cruz , Santa Mesa , and Mowo.

Some of the key dates in history I like are

1571, founding of the city by Miguel López de Legazpi. The Spaniards settled there, and occupied the premises until 1898. 1762-1764: British occupation of Manila and Cavite during the war of seven years. In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, American troops destroyed Spain’s fleet (Battle of Manila Bay), and took over the Philippines.

On December 26, 1941, following the bombardment of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into  WWII, the Americans abandoned the city and withdrew all their military facilities. The Japanese Air force bombarded Manila, before the Imperial Army entered the city on January 2, 1942. In February 1945, the Imperial Japanese Navy refused to evacuate the perimeter, the Allies continue the advance to the city, at the cost of intense fighting that destroyed the town and resulted in the death of many civilians. Manila was one of the most devastated cities during  WWII. In 1948, Quezon City became the new capital of the Republic of the Philippines. Manila becomes the capital of the country on May 29th, 1976.

Some of the interesting areas to visit are on the south bank of the Pasig River where the ancient colonial district of Intramuros, founded in 1571 by the Spaniards, which in a peaceful atmosphere has preserved surprising examples of 17C architecture, and Rizal Park, Manila’s Central Park . Further south, the districts of Ermita and Malate, around its Baroque church, host many bars and restaurants. This is also where you can watch the sunset over Manila Bay.  On the North of the Pasig River, the district of Quiapo is famous for its steel church, the Basilica of San Sebastian, its market and its Basilica of the Black Nazarene, where the procession of the Black Nazarene is held every 9th January and brings together millions of devotees. A little further away the Binondo district is home to the city’s very authentic Chinatown. A fascinating Chinese cemetery is located in the north of the city.

Other popular sites include the Spanish colonial buildings in Intramuros, the World Heritage Site of San Agustin Church, and a few Art Deco and Revival style buildings like Manila Metropolitan Theater and the National Museum of Fine Arts. There are also modern attractions such as the Manila Ocean Park, the integrated resort complex of resorts World Manila, and the City of Dreams Manila and Okada Manila in Entertainment City.

Tourist attractions located inside the Intramuros old town include Fort Santiago, a Spanish citadel located at the mouth of the Pasig River, Manila Cathedral, a 19C ecclesiastical Cathedral which is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila, San Agustin Church. At the Rizal park the Rizal Monument, located in the center of the park, is the memorial to the Philippine national hero, José Rizal. Museums within Manila include the National Museum of Fine Arts, formerly the National Art Gallery, the National Museum of Anthropology, an anthropology and archaeology museum, and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, a premier museum of modern and contemporary visual arts.

The Manila Ocean Park is an oceanarium with a marine-themed mall and hotel, it is located behind Quirino Grandstand, which fronts Rizal Park. Malate, the tourism center of Manila, is famous for the Baywalk and the Remedios nightlife district. Manila Zoo, the oldest zoo and botanical garden in the Philippines, is also located in that district. Binondo, an old district of Manila that is home to Manila’s Chinatown, is established since 1521. Its main attractions are Binondo Church, Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch, Seng Guan Buddhist temple and Chinese restaurants. Quiapo is the location of Plaza Miranda and Quiapo Church, which is home to the Black Nazarene. The San Sebastian Church, which is also located in Quiapo, is the only all-steel Gothic basilica in Asia.

I was briefly on a ride of the above places but was base in the business district of Makati CBD, one of Southeast Asia’s biggest financial hubs, and noted for its cosmopolitan cultural and entertainment ambiance around the huge complex of the Ayala Center, and  the Ayala Triangle Gardens.

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Moving about I was with a local driver because the streets of Manila suffers from a lot of chronic traffic jams. The jeepneys are the main public transport. These are old American army jeeps, left behind after WWII, which were turned into very colorful but also very polluting mini buses, and was told can be dangerous for visitors. Manila has an aerial light rail network, the LRT, which often follows the main axes of the city. It is one of the first urban railway collective transport systems in Southeast Asia. About 29 km Long it has 29 stations, on two lines: the LRT-1 (Yellow Line), and the LRT-2 (Violet line). The city also has a predominantly aerial metro line, the MRT-3 (Blue Line), and a ferry service on the Pasig River, which has 17 stations. The city comprises 10 bridges over the Pasig river of whirch, 2 railway bridges and 8 road bridges (The bridges of Roxas, Jones, McArthur, Quezon, Ayala, Mabini, Padre Zamora and Lambingan).  I always arrived by the Ninoy Aquino International Airport located 8 km southeast of the city center. Official Manila airport authority on the airport: https://www.miaa.gov.ph/miaa/

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Manila airport gates check in nov18

The Philippines tourist board on Manilahttp://www.experiencephilippines.org/tourism/destinations-tourism/manila-environs-department-of-tourism/

A private webpage Yatra good info on Manilahttps://www.yatra.com/international-tourism/manila-travel-guide

The guide to the Philippines private webpage on Makati district: https://guidetothephilippines.ph/articles/ultimate-guides/makati-travel-guide

Hope it helps your planning for a nice visit to Manila and you can enjoy the exotic East and the islands of Philippines. Thereafter, my travels there took me to other islands and less of Manila. It will remain always a memorable visit. Hope you enjoy this brief introduction to the city

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

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