Archive for December 10th, 2020

December 10, 2020

Sisante , deep Cuenca!

Ok so another find, looking at old posts in my blog realise there are some places that deserves more, a post on their own. This is the case of Sisante a quant lovely town in the province of Cuenca, region of Castilla La Mancha of my beloved Spain.

Let me tell you a bit of this typical small Castilian town; Sisante!

We were base in the mountains of the Serrania de Cuenca, especifically at Las Majadas, (see posts) a place of many memories of family visits and good friends. We all love so much that we repeated coming here, and my dear late wife Martine fell in love with the area even thinking of retirement here. Sad could not be, life goes on, memories to take along the roads. Passing again by Sisante brings me many memorable moments in my life.

We drove it from our base in the mountains of the Serrania de Cuenca down to Cuenca and from there into the Don Quijote trail!!! Meandering by the road N420 and then the N320, CM220 to sleepy Motilla del Palancar and into the town of  Sisante with its Church of Santa Catalina.

The Church of Santa Catalina was built in the 17C although it was consolidated in the 18C. It is located in one of the highest parts of the town, exactly in the Plaza Dr Fernández Turégano square. It has a Greek cross plan, with barrel vaults and chapels that run throughout the interior. The Chapel of the Rosary stands out in one of its arms. On the outside, the buttresses and the three-section tower with a bell tower stand out. As a curious element, there is a sundial on its right side.

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The parish diocese of Cuenca has a bit more on the Church of Santa Catalina: https://www.diocesisdecuenca.es/parroquia/parroquia-de-santa-catalina-virgen-y-martir/

Other things to see in Sisante  food to come back again are

The Convent of the Clarisas Religiosas aka Nazarenas in the town; founded by Father Hortelano on May 29, 1656. The City/Town hall, located in the Plaza del Doctor Turégano opposite the side of the Church. Is a convent with two floors and a tower built with lime and stone, the latter recently renovated. The year of its construction 1789 is on the main door of the same. The Casa-Palacio La Sevillana: located on Calle del Convento is a faithful reflection of the great boom and development that took place in Sisante during the 17-18C. It dates from the late 17C and consists of a huge portal adorned by two pairs of columns on both sides and three shields, one located on the balcony and two on the sides.

There is a statue of Padre Jesús Nazareno by sculptor Luisa Roldán. The image had been commissioned by King Carlos II from his chamber sculptor, to be offered as a gift to Pope Innocent III, a detail that in itself shows how well considered Luisa Roldán was as a sculptor at that time. When Pope Innocent III died, the image was destined for the Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, but when it was ready to be sent there, King Carlos II died in 1700, and the image remained in the home of Lisa Roldàn aka “La Roldana”, when she died it continues in power of her children, arriving to pass later, together with an image of the Sorrowful Virgin to the Convent of Nazarenas de Sisante (see above). The image of Jesús Nazareno was acquired by Father Cristóbal Jesús Hortelano y de la Fuente on September 14, 1711. Where it is taken out in processions in certain years.

The town of Sisante now webpage under construction : https://www.sisante.es/

The Castilla La Mancha tourist board on Sisante in English: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/sisante-46731/descripcion/

There you go folks, a small spot in my road warrior travels, but big in family memories. Wonderful Castilla La Mancha for dreamers and positive hopefuls, and quant Sisante to sit and think and dream on as Don Quijote!

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

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December 10, 2020

Valle de los Caidos !!

And continuing to update revise my old posts, a good idea in these times, and very rewarding it has been indeed for me. Many wonderful finds that were not written well or at all before saw a new light. This is the case of my next update. This is still a very complicated issue in still divided Spain, and I like to condense my posts into one with the latest information. I like to tell you about the Valle de los Caidos or the valley of the fallen!!

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This is a historical site, again first came in 1972 with my dear Mother Gladys , and later a few times more. Never with the family, but eventually, I took it as well. A controversial site now still in the new Spain but one that must be remembered for what it is, a resting place of the brave. The Spanish Civil War was viscious and deadly on both sides , and it is time to have it remembered as a thing never to happened again. However, it must be mention ,and talk about it, so future generations understand and do not make the same mistake. A must for the history seeker to understand better our world, and especially the things happening in Spain today. This is the Valley of the Fallen or Valle de los Caidos. A memorial to those who died in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, the practice fields of WWII.

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The Valle de los Caídos for short  or more precisely in Spanish the Abadía de la Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos (in English: Benedictine Abbey of the Holy Cross of the Valley of the Fallen) is a gigantic Spanish monument, located in the Cuelgamuros Valley (Sierra de Guadarrama ), in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial in the autonomous community of Madrid, less than 50 km north-west of Madrid.  The emblematic sign is a huge Cross  at a height of 150 meters of which  25 meters are for the base of the evangelists, 17 meters the corp of the virtues and 108 meters of the Cross. The rock base is also 150 meters in addition to the Cross and the arms of it are 46,40 meters wide. Impressive from a distance!

We came here from San Lorenzo de El Escorial on the M600, and easy free parking at the place. We had lunch here in the cafeteria by the Basilica side, with mahou beers, chorizo frito, omelette or tortilla, ice cream etc nice quiet place and just next to the Cross and cable car entrance.

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There is a funicular or cable car to climb it at a height of 1258 meters to 1383 meters to avoid the unleveling of 125 meters with a trip long of 278 meters at a  43,44% angle with a maximum of 53,1%. The wagons have a window on top to see the views and on the side of the cable car there is a stair of 738 steps for emergencies. There is way up the ramp with stairs that is accessable on foot, and there is an elevator/lift by the interior of the mountain.

The Basílica has 262 meters long and a height of 41 meters, with 6 lateral chapels. Capilla de la Inmaculada (immaculate chapel), Carmen, Loreto, Africa, Merced, del Pilar. between the spaces of the Chapels you see 8 tapestries of the Apocalypse a flamand copie from the 16C acquired by king Carlos III and brought to Spain by king Felipe II; the orginals are in the Palacio de la Granja de San ildelfonso. Behind each Chapel and the other Chapels of Santisimo and Sepulcro on the lateral sides rest in peace almost 34 000 fallen according to the existing registry or more than 50 000 or even 70 000 according to other estimates. These are fallen from both sides of the conflict from all regions of Spain in a sign of brotherhood and reconciliation.

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There is a monastery here too. It was set up in 1955 by a monastic order, the Benedictines. The monks came from a demand to the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos (Burgos) that was restored in 1880 by monks that came from France by the Congregation of Solesmes. It is run by Benedictines monks now of the Comunidad Benedictina de la Abadía Santa Cruz del Valle de los Caídos.

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Subsequently, in 1958, the Spanish government (still under Franco) decided to make it a mausoleum for all the dead fighters of the Spanish Civil War, including the Republican fighters, as long as they were Catholics. Thus, nearly thirty-five thousand fighters, mainly Nationalists but also Republicans, rest in the crypt, not far from the central nave where the graves of Gen Francisco Franco and the head of the Falange party, José Antonio Primo de Rivera are buried. And these are the biggest controversies.

The construction of the Basilica, in the heart of Castilla, in the north-west of Madrid, a few kilometers from Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial began in 1942. The inauguration takes place, in the presence of General Franco, on April 1, 1959. This tribute to the dead of the Civil War is officially built to reconcile Republicans and Nationalists, allowing all the regions of Spain to send the remains that were deprived of formal burial, ten years after their Burial.

The complex as for lack of a neutral word has a wonderful monumental staircase leading to the entrance of the complex, which also includes a Benedictine monastery since 1958. The Fifteen mysteries of the Rosary are depicted on the massive 10 meters high bronze entrance door, and just below, the Twelve Apostles. The ensemble was made in 1956 the Basilica was consecrated by Pope John XXIII on April 7, 1960. The main architectural feature of the Basilica is that it was dug under a hill in the Sierra de Guadarrama. The total length of the crypt is 262 meters underground. The long tunnel (entrance shaft) that leads to the crusader and transept is divided into several parts. The first part includes access with vestibule (11 meters long), the second vestibule and an intermediate space, while the second part is the high and wide nave of 22 meters with on each side three chapels. A final stretch leads to the crossroads and the transept (41 meters long). Four great characters on either side of the last stretch and dressed as the middle-aged mourners recall the mausoleum of the transept. These allegories represent respectively the army, the air, the navy and the militias. On either side of the crossroads are located the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament and the Chapel of the Holy Tomb. The sacristy adjoins these two Chapels while the graves of Primo de Rivera and General Franco are located on either side of the crossroads, one facing the entrance axis and the other towards the choir of the monks. A stone cross of 150 meters high, the largest in the world, surmounts the mountain. Built between 1950 and 1956, it is located above the crossroads. Eight monumental statues are represented at the four corners of its base (the four Evangelists and the four cardinal virtues).

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The largest cemetery of the Spanish Civil War was opened only three times. In 1980, following the request of the towns of Lodosa, 133 bodies were exhumed. Then ten years later, in 1990, the monks made the transfers of remains after infiltration into the sacristy caused too much moisture.  This was done without informing the families. Finally, the last time was in 2010, during a visit of the Committee of Experts created by the Zapatero government after the approval of the law of historical memory.

For the moment, the only signs emitted by the Franco family are rejection of the exhumation and transfer of the corpse. However, both Moncloa (the current government) and the PSOE (ruling political party of Socialists) suggest that the saga of the Franco’s does not have a monolithic position and that the conversations continue. The government, however, will wants to remove the body of Franco from the Valley of the Fallen, even if he does not have the approval of the family. In spite of this, sources of the executive admit that this negative complicates the process; which is long going on as everything in my beloved Spain.

The actions continue bringing more bad memories and remorse, and division instead of unity but that is the credo essential Spanish behavior which only improves when you live abroad. Finally, on August ,the rulling government in Spain adopted a decree that established the remains of Gen Franco need to be exhume before the end of 2018.  On September , the Spanish Supreme Court authorised the exhumation of the remains of Gen Franco, so that they be transfered and this was done eventually on October 24

The coffin was carried by eight members of his Franco’s family including his great-grandson Louis de Bourbon, a distant cousin of King Felipe VI of Spain and considered by legitimists to be the claimant to the throne of France as Louis XX (also by his mother’s side a grandson of Gen Franco!) . He was re buried at the small Mingorrubio or El Pardo Cemetery, 15 km from Madrid, where the dictator’s wife rests.

Even after this event, some are not satisfy and now the controversy continues as to what to do with the Valle de los Caidos or Valley of the Fallen! The issue bringing back old wounds is that Nationalists (Franco’s fascists) are buried there with the honors and especially the agreement of their families. The Republicans (communists, and others) were taken from mass graves without obviously asking for anyone’s consent. So as typical in my Spain, the arguments left right continue….!

The official site of Valle de los Caidos: http://www.valledeloscaidos.es/monumento

The monument is part of the National Heritage of Spain: https://www.patrimonionacional.es/visita/abadia-benedictina-de-la-santa-cruz-del-valle-de-los-caidos

There is an association for the defense of the Valle de los Caidos as a national monument in Spanish: https://www.elvalledeloscaidos.es/portal/

The tourist office of San Lorenzo de El Escorial on the Valle de los Caidoshttps://www.sanlorenzoturismo.es/visitar/abadia-de-la-santa-cruz-del-valle-de-los-caidos/

So now I feel better fully updated revised text and pictures of a wonderful national monument that should remain sacred and a memorial to all the fallen, never to happened again. Hope you enjoy the tour

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

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December 10, 2020

Bucharest , just fine!!!

And I need to revise text and update this memorable visit even if most of the pictures are already in other posts. I have been to Romania about 7 times in the last 9 years and all this time spent time in Bucharest as in and out city. I like to tell you a bit on this visit in January 2015. Hope you enjoy it as I do.

I had a quick trip again here, and again on a cold rainy , drizzle days in Bucharest the feeling was good. A vibrant youthful, active city and pack all over even the hotel was packed. I flew my usual run Nantes, CDG T2, Otopeni Bucharest airport known also as Henri Coanda on AF both ways.

For reference the Bucharest airport webpage: http://www.bucharestairports.ro/en

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I took the shuttle ride for 20 euros nice new car English speaking driver good conversation about the city ins and out..This was pre arranged through the hotel. The trip was both in and out . I stayed at the Ramada Plaza hotel, about 6 km from the old city center but nice places to go around there too and the hotel is full of amenities, TV international channels, heated indoor pool, massages, gym room, business center. A great restaurant Le Parc and a nice bistro bar Red Pepper and the bar with large bar counter call Anais. I have stayed here several times over the next years.

Again for reference the Ramada Plaza Hotel webpage: https://ramadaplazabucharest.ro/

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I  saw lots of construction as the city is undergoing modernisation with a new underground road to the airport into the city center, and additional metro /subway/tube lines such as M4 under construction.

While eating other than at the Le Parc hotel resto, I went out with friends to first dinner at the Caru cu Bere beer restaurant with old world decoration near the National Bank building of Romania. The building is neo gothic located at Stavropoleos street across from Calea Victoriel street the famous city center of Bucharest.  The National Bank here was built in 1884-1890 at the location of the largest inn in Bucharest the, Serban Voda Inn, and you still see traces of it under a small pedestrian area behind the bank covered in glass. Here we had traditional Romanian food with sausages, hams, pork meats, and nice home grown beer. webpage: https://www.carucubere.ro/

Next for lunch the following day we went to the City 18 Lounge on top 18th floor of the Millenium building. It has a 15 meters long bar, and tables all around with wonderful views of the city and the lake Herastrau. Open Mondays to Fridays from 12 noon  until 16h is lunch, then  closed until 18h when it opens again, Saturday and Sunday no menu direct from carte. Here we had a leek soup, and then pork spare ribs in a romanian sauce with Calsberg beer. Great business and romantic place packed with locals and visitors alike. The views alone are worth coming here.  webpage: https://www.18lounge.ro/

The Romanian travel board on Bucharesthttp://romaniatourism.com/bucharest.html

There is more in the horizon, of these quick escapades all over and we began planning our long summer vacation. Enjoy Bucharest for now just fine.

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

December 10, 2020

Bucharest, glad to be back!

I have said, re doing these old post has brought lots of memories and good cheers to me and this is awesome. I realise some of these posts have been overlook by my readers as they were in my early blogging life. I had good times in Bucharest and been to it like 7 times in the last 9 years; this is again Bucharest, glad to be back!

This is becoming routine, coming to Bucharest that is.  Until 2011, I have never visited Romania and then bang an explosion of visits. Always welcome.  This trip was easy going by AF from Nantes to Paris CDG to Bucharest Henri Coandâ airport. Once there, I take a taxi Meridien to my hotel. Only that it was not the usual Ramada one this time it was a Pullman by Accor. 

The  taxi ride was nice, took my coupon off a machine for the taxi, and I always take the Meridian waiting for you outside or arrange ahead online. webpage: http://www.meridiantaxi.ro/

I got to my nice Pullman , this is my chain ACCOR of France, wonderful always anywhere. very nice big rooms bathrooms and plenty of restaurant from the nice chic Aspérge bar to the steakhouse Barbizon, and the breakfast brasserie Paris -Bucharest. Excellent service , prompt, nice, many amenities too much for me to use, as was in and out always. webpage: https://all.accor.com/hotel/1714/index.en.shtml

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A great place to spend your day and across plenty of public transport buses and tramways in the World Trade Center area. More on the WTC webpage here: https://www.wtca.org/world-trade-center-bucharest

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I spent 3 glorious nights here and went on to eat at the La Placinte Moldavian cuisine restaurant with a wooden tray of pork kebaks, potatoes, salad, and compote or drain fruit drink of red fruits sweet and nice down with Ursus local beer was excellent.  Very nicely decorated Inside and nice friendly service.  I went to the Str. Nicolae Caramfil nr. 49. I have a post on restaurants in Bucharest so just post the webpage here: https://laplacinte.ro/ro/pages/restaurante/2/

Another time out of hotel I went to the La Iancu restaurant just outside Bucharest in Otopeni where the airport is located, but a nice town. The service was very nice, and the food with the big veal steak fries and beers Tuborg was nice indeed. I have a post on restaurants in Bucharest so just post the webpage here: https://laiancu.ro/

I had my usual walks around the Romexpo exhibition center. And did my walk and drive up to the University Romano American by the romexpo area, this is a private school US-Romania cooperation. 

Also, the impressive House of the Free Press, old communication palace that I passed by so many times! The locals always show it to me!

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Last, I stop by the Rin Airport Hotel for one night as leaving early and they have free included shuttle to the airport every 30 minutes , very nice and punctual. webpage: https://rinhotels.ro/airport/

And, a chance to pass by Roissy CDG my second home!! back in January for more exotic trips in Asia and now the Holidays are coming, and we still do not know where to go lol! Anyway hope you enjoy the post on nice Bucharest.

Tourist board of Romania on Bucharest: http://romaniatourism.com/bucharest.html

Inyourpocket private site with good tourism info on Bucharest: https://www.inyourpocket.com/bucharest/sightseeing/essentialbucharest

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

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