Archive for December 16th, 2020

December 16, 2020

A quick trip into Lyon!!!

Ok so it is fun to relive good memories and this is what the update on my older posts has brought me, love it! I will continue here with my black and white posts of lately and tell you a bit about Lyon, the city! I have been all over France, but sometimes just touch base like in this case. Hope you enjoy the introduction.

I am not going into the history because it is long and one post or even one blog is not enough. I just tell you of my passing thru Lyon. During my trip to Italy , I had time to come out a bit and explore Lyon thanks to the great public transport system;however, the city was all in fog with under 3°C!!! hardly the time to be out,and the photos were not good unfortunately.

It was an opportunity to come back to the city visited years before, it has change for the better. Some of my observation and that of my hosts.

One of the great one born 300 years ago in Geneva but made this city his for long periods, is Jean-Jacques Rousseau, He lived here or around here from 1722-1724, and again from 1768-1770.

The city of Lyon  is known for its gastronomic marvels second only to Paris, so the food is sublime here. There is an exposition that is worth seeing if time allowed at the musée Gadagne, call “Gourmandises! Histoire de la Gastronomie” works ,films,and videos showing the culinary art of Lyon.

Some work of art in gourmand madmen I am , from this occassion were the Docks 40, 40 quai Rambaud, in the 2éme arrondissement , welcome back to memories with bagels, burgers, club sandwiches, milkshakes, and home made French fries! , and other occassions i have been to the brothers bouchons of Lyon, Au Trois Cochons ,9 rue des Marronniers 2éme arrondissement is great,but take your pick tastes they are all good, recommended.

Then grab a honey nectar at Divins Nectars,(now call Secrets d’Apiculteur), 54 rue Saint-Jean, 5é, my miel d’acacia is great here. How about a great bar of chocolate,  Barres d’Or Noir, at chocolatier Bouiller ,one main store at 15 rue de la Croix-Rousse. Finish it off with some great oils, olive oils that is, at A l’Olivier, 33 Cours F Roosevelt, 6éme.

Of course, I came in at the new Terminal 3 in the Lyon St Exupéry airport, my first taste of it, and it was good. Lots of low cost airlines are now base here. It has two levels connected by a walkaway, retails stores, and a food court. webpage: https://www.lyonaeroports.com/en

You , also, have easy TGV connections, for the train lover in you. Now with connections to Marseille in the 30 cities cover by this hub, the above airport site has more information, but you can go also to Brussels, Torino, or Milan, Avignon,Nicez, Grenoble,, Chambery,Arles, Aix-en-Provence, to name a few. It is an international airport so connections to many cities in Europe,Africa,and rest of France.

Now that we are in the ski season , and my boys leave sunday for the Alps, passing by here, they already have more experience here than I lol!!! There are many bus or navette service from the airport/gares to the ski resorts. You have direct connection from airport to Trois Vallées,Pardiski,Espace Kelly, Alpe d’Huez, Deux Alpes and Val d’Isére. They do five round trips per day, on Fridays Saturdays,and Sundays. You can find schedules and pricing at Altibus the company that service it. webpage from Lyon in English: https://www.altibus.com/en/arriving-by-plane/lyon-saint-exupery-airport/

To move from the airport to center of Lyon as I did this time, you take the public service rhoneexpress, very good indeed even on say foggy day ! In about 30 minutes you are there. It leaves from the TGV station in the airport, every 15 minutes frequency, from 6h to 21h and every 30 minutes from 5h-6h and 21h-00h,you can buy ticket on the bus or at the automatic machines in the stations as I did. webpage: https://www.rhonexpress.fr/en/access-and-schedules/23

Lyon is a great city, but as so many things to see you need at least two days in the city. I was ,also, looking forward to work here but this too was put on hold. Unfortunately, our plans were on hold due to the virus but it is in our list to come back with the boys for an in depth look. For now, hope you enjoy the introduction.

The city of Lyon info for tourists in French: https://www.lyon.fr/touriste

The Lyon tourist office in English: https://en.lyon-france.com/

The Rhône dept 69 tourist board on Lyon: https://www.rhonetourisme.com/decouvrir-le-rhone/le-rhone-et-ses-territoires/le-lyonnais-monts-et-coteaux/

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes tourist board on the Lyon area: https://www.auvergnerhonealpes-tourisme.com/retrouver-le-gout-des-belles-choses/lyon/

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

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December 16, 2020

Alcalà de Henares and the Puerta de Madrid!!!

And here we go again, looking older posts to give them fresh lives updating and revising them, adding or substracting pictures, I have come to find many sights not given credit to even if have several posts. This is the case ,again, of Alcalà de Henares and its Puerta de Madrid! It is time I give it credit in my blog.

First, if you know Spain, and this Comunidad de Madrid region you will notice there is a Puerta de Alcalà in Madrid, and now you see the Puerta de Madrid in Alcalà de Henares! They are related assymmetrical gates!

A bit on the town to repeat for newer readers of my blog.  Alcalà de Henares is about 32 km from Madrid , however, from the last few years we have come always from Cuenca by car along the A40 then A3 and then the A2 direction Zaragoza and then Barcelona but you will find the panel for Alcalà de Henares off exit 28. We went straight to our favorite parking and newest in town as we did last year when we were here at the underground parking San Lucas off Via Complutense street.

The Puerta de Madrid was built in 1788,and located on Calle Andrés Saborit, near the urban center of the town, giving access from the traditional route that connects Alcalá with Madrid. The Puerta de Madrid belongs to the walled enclosure of Alcalá, the city of seven gates. Thus, Alcalá de Henares had the Burgos gate to the north (today within the Cistercian monastery of Las Bernardas and transferred to the current arch of San Bernardo); those of Madrid and Santa Ana or del Postigo to the west; the Puerta del Vado (in the current Plaza del Empecinado) to the south; and to the east, those of Fernán Falcón or Tenerías Viejas (at the end of Calle Santa Úrsula), Guadalajara (at the end of Calle Mayor), and the postigo de los Judíos on Calle Santiago.

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The current Puerta de Madrid was officially inaugurated on December 4, 1788, to replace one of the medieval gates of the old walled enclosure, as it was narrow and elbow space , which made access to the city difficult. It was paid for by Cardinal Lorenzana (Archbishop of Toledo) reigning king Carlos III. The architect Antonio Juana Jordán directed the works.

The Puerta de Madrid was made of stone with a neoclassical pediment and label, presenting the appearance of a triumphal arch, the prevailing typology at the time. It is made up of three bodies, the central one being the highest, with a semicircular arch flanked by giant Doric pilasters, entablature and triangular pediment; and the sides, lower, with lintel openings. On the entrance arch it has two inscriptions; on the side of the city «A EXPENSAS DEL ARZOBISPO DE TOLEDO EL EXCMO. SEÑOR D. FRANCISCO ANTONIO LORENZANA» or something like at the expense of the archbishop of Toledo msgr Mr Francisco Antonio Lorenzana. And «REYNANDO CARLOS III. AÑO DE MDCCLXXXVIII» (1788). on the outside or something like reigning Carlos III, year of MDCCLXXXVIII . It is considered the last architectural work of the splendor of Alcalá de Henares.

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The city of Madrid, in turn, has the Puerta de Alcalá (b.1778), in geographical correspondence with this Alcalà de Henares, puerta de Madrid, with which it is only ten years apart. It has been the scene of some movies. For example, the triumphal procession of the classic Spartacus runs under its arch, “romanized” for this purpose. Spartacus by Stanley Kubrick, 1956.

The space behind the Puerta de Madrid, once crossed, was formerly called Plaza de la Cebada. Today, it is called Plaza Puerta de Madrid, where the streets of Calle Cardenal Sandoval and Calle Rojas and Calle Cardenal Cisneros converge to the east, Calle Andrés Saborit street to the north and south and Avenida de Madrid to the west.

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The Alcalà de Henares tourist office on the Puerta de Madridhttps://alcalaturismoymas.com/la-puerta-de-madrid-en-alcala-de-henares/

Hoping you stop by this wonderful architecturally and historical town of my Comunidad de Madrid in my dear Spain. Alcalà de Henares is grand in tourist circles and for good reason. Hope you enjoy the post!

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

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December 16, 2020

Castillo de Belmonte, the Montijo’s of France!

And again, this is a great story in the family and I need it to bring it to more attention with of course updated text. Great time doing this updates /revisions in my blog, it has brought a lot of memorable moments to share with my boys. One moment was the castle of Belmonte, here is the story.

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And luck comes around when you insists on doing something. I was here last year and we arrive late,the castle was closed; I was very mad ,because it was one of the intended visits while in the area. Well, I was back this August 2017, and this time made sure the castle was open, and it was!!!

This is the Castle or Castillo of Belmonte! In Belmonte, Province of Cuenca, autonomous region of Castilla La Mancha, Kingdom of Spain.  We came here by car straight from Cuenca on the road N 420. It is one of the best castles combining the history of my beloved France and Spain! Plenty of free parking at the Castle grounds.

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However, the main thing here and the reason to come is the Castle of Belmonte, impressive to say the least.  It has been preserved as it was constructed and kept by the family for generations. It was built by 1468 on orders of Don Juan Pacheco, first Marquis of Villena who was involved in many conflicts in the war of succession in Spain. The castle went thru periods of abandoned for several centuries and it was finally, Eugenia de Guzman, heir to the house of Villena and better known as the Imperatrice of the French Eugenia de  Montijo (wife of Napoleon III) who ordered the renovation which began in 1857!

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After the fall of Napoleon III, the castle falls under the care of the French Dominicans monks that use it as a monastery. After they left, the nephew-grandson of the Imperatrice , Duke of Peñaranda, Hernando Fitz-Stuart y Falco continues the renovation and even lived in it. Currently, it is the property of the Ducal house of Peñaranda descendant of the Duchess of Alba, sister of the Imperatrice Eugenia or Eugenie of France , wife of emperor Napoleon III. Thanks to a collaboration with the owners and the local administration and the ministry of culture, the castle has been completely updated and open to the public since 2010. The last phase of renovation was done just this year 2017.

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Initially ,the castle of Belmonte was built as a fortress but eventually it was accommodated more like a luxurious palace. The main building is surrounded by a artillery barrier to defend its lower parts and has three gates or Puertas such as Puerta del Campo (Field), Puerta de la Villa( city), and Puerta de los Peregrinos(pilgrims). In the beautiful room or Sala de Embajadores (ambassadors) there is a mudéjar design similar to that of Alhambra in Granada!

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There is a basement underground cave to see and a nice boutique shop in the beautiful courtyard with a friendly attendant , as well as a restaurant cafeteria.

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There is a visual audio guide aspects throughout with explanation of the different rooms very modern ! One of the highlights was to climb to the top of the towers and see a wonderful view of the countryside windmills and city of Belmonte such as the nice Church or collegial of Colegiata de San Bartolomé (see post); also, ordered built by the Marquis of Villena; the old fortress alcazar of the Infante Don Juan Manuel (today a venta or hostel of Don Quijote), the hospital of  San Andrés, convent of Madres Concepcionistas (conceptionists mothers) , Plaza del Pilar, convent of the  Trinitarios (Trinitarians) , and the rampart wall of the castle that protected the old town of Belmonte.

As an anecdote, several movies have been done here such as El Cid by Anthony Mann, 1961 appearing Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren !!! ,and Juana la Loca, by Vicente Aranda, 2001. Amongst my favorites.

The official webpage of the castle of Belmonte is here in English: http://castillodebelmonte.com/en/

The Belmonte tourist office on things to see: https://www.turismobelmonte.es/visita-guiada/

The city of Belmonte on things to see: https://www.belmonte.es/turismo/

The Castilla La Mancha regional tourist office on the castle of Belmonte in English: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/castillo-de-belmonte-20864/descripcion/

We drove a bit on the town, very old and quant and of course, can’t forget the windmills it reminds me of Don Quijote !!! And of course, the history of two countries dear to us, nice. Enjoy Belmonte, I was finally here!!!

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

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December 16, 2020

San Lorenzo de El Escorial

So here updating revising and new pictures of the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Better known for the monastery, but leave that for its post in my blog. This is up the mountains in the Comunidad de Madrid region.

This is one of the jewels of our times, a masterpiece of construction and a must to visit on your travels to Spain, especially if around Madrid. I have a long history with the place, the Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, in the Comunidad de Madrid region. However, updating I will tell you more of the town here as already have a full post on the monastery in my blog.

My dear late mother Gladys brought me here for the first time back in 1972 as a boy, and at first just realized the grandeur of the place and nothing more. On subsequent trips with her already a teenager realized the history that it is within it the history of our Spain, and it hit me greatly. The place, the history, architecture ,and the knowledge.  In 1990, I brought here what was my girlfriend and then wife; coming in her VW Golf from France. I needed to show her my Spain, and the places dear to me in my life story; this is one of them. We had a flat tire on Floridablanca  street ,and had to call in a tow truck for a garage place nearby that unfortunately the name now fades ; to fix the tire. It remains one of the anecdotes of coming here.

Do not know why when on previous trips we went someplace else and never had come with the boys until now. Well they are now young men, and better to understand this place and their bloodlines; I acting as the tour guide now ,very proudly telling them the folks that laid here and their place in Spanish/European and even World history.  The place still is huge, magnificent and with style. It was unbelievable meaningful walking thru it’s front doors again with my family; remembering Mom always in my heart.  There is so much information written on it elsewhere, will just cover the basic here and encouraged you, beg you to come and visit this place.

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Briefly here, the building is in renaissance style on the hills of the monte Abantos at 1028 meters high. It had some changes to the style from its last architect Juan de Herrera ,called Herrerista. The building is 33 327 m2 and has 16 patios, 88 fountains, 13 oratories, 15 cloisters, 86 stairs, 9 towers, 1200 doors and 2673 windows!!! It’s principal façade has 207 meters long! The main rooms are the Pantéon de los Reyes  (Pantheon of the Kings), Real Basilica (Royal Basilica), and Real Biblioteca (Royal Library).(see post) .We came here by car from our base in Las Majadas (Cuenca) on the A40, then A3, then the M30 beltway to connect with the A6 and into the M505 that takes you here.  We parked easily at the Plaza de la Constitucion underground parking.

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We had our treats for Churros at the La Churreria de San Lorenzo next to the market by same name yummy good; and later had our lunch more like a drink snack at the Meson de 5 Bellotas by Plaza de la Cruz near our parking. We purchased breads at the Panaderia Vicente, Calle Duque de Alba to munch on the way around our trip in the area!

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The town was set up in the 18C and became a municipality early in the 19C with its first mayor.  The old town was called El Escorial, and it  came from lands king Felipe II purchased and built the Monastery by the end of the 16C. The town was not name San Lorenzo de El Escorial until 1767. Since the 16C it is considered the 8th wonder of the world, and it should be.

In the surrounding forests:parks of the monastery you must see the Casita del Principe Don Carlos, and the Casita del Infante. (see posts) Two small houses in neo classic palace style construction from the 18C. Both were built for recreational homes of the prince Carlos IV (Prince of Asturias) and his brother the Infante Gabriel de Borbon ; the children of king Carlos III. However, even if served as a place of residence and burial of the monarchs of hte houses of Austria and Bourbon only one was born here. He was king Fernando VII born at the Monastery in 1784 and died in Madrid in 1833.

Do not forget in addition to the above to visit in the Monastery the Palacio de los Borbones (o Felipe II) ,and Austria’s (or Hapsburg’s) ; Convent, main stair, hall or sala de Batallas (battles) , Panteon de los Infantes (pantheon of the princes) and the pretty gardens.

In town, see the Real Coliseo Carlos III, Casa del Duque de Alba, Cocheras del Rey,Mercado de San Lorenzo, etc. The city center is full of historical buildings and great architectural marvels.

In all , it was the highlight of the trip with the always exception of Madrid ::) Many memories flashing my mind as we walked and saw this place again like nothing has change in all these years! San Lorenzo de El Escorial is immense, beautiful, impressive, and architecturally gorgeous. Enjoy it!!!

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

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