Archive for December 25th, 2020

December 25, 2020

Honfleur is Normandy, the sea, and us!

So here I am again to update a memorable dear post of mine. Many of them have a personal touch, some more than others, Honfleur is top up on the list. If you have read, I have been coming regularly to the city since 1993 and even more so after my dear ones rest here. I like to tell you once again about Honfleur, Normandy, the sea and Us! Of course, many many posts on it in my blog.

There is a vivid lively quant small town in Normandy that is always in my mind. This is special and personal as my dear late mother Gladys and later my dear late wife Martine lies there in the ocean off of it, 2007 and 2018. This is Honfleur, Normandy. We all will be going there eventually.

Honfleur is a city of painters, artists, some of them were Gustave Courbet, Eugene Boudin, Claude Monet, and Johan Barthold Jongkind that created the school of Honfleur style and contributed to the creation of the Impressionist movement; Alphonse Allais and Erik Satie were born in the same street. You smell and see the flavor of seafood all around it, nice old history, quaint streets and Sainte Catherine Church. However, the most is the sea and all related to it.

You have two salt depot from the three originally there, the one was destroyed by fire. The two remaining can store 10K tons of salt used to preserve the fish in the fishing harbor; and both were built in the 17C. My favorite area is the old bassin or vieux basin  in the center of town. They were ordered built by Colbert in 1681 and finished them in 1684.  It has a space of one hectare or 10K M2 and a lenght of 130 meters (429 feet)  by a width of 70 meters (231 feet) on the south side and 85 meters (281 feet )on the north side where you see the channel to the front harbor of Honfleur . It is completely surrounded by wharfs and walkable!

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Along the wharf or quai Sainte Catherine you see wooden houses from the 17C and 18C.  The south side extends the quai Sainte Catherine to the rue Montpensier on an underground stream of La Claire that feeds the bassin. The western part is built around some more houses that are part of the quai Saint-Étienne. One of these houses is the Hôtel de Ville or mayor’s office and the Church of Saint Etienne (marine museum). On the north side or sea side you have the quai de la Quarantaine , and the only building is the Lieutenance that was the home of the lieutenant governor of the King.  There is a movable bridge on the channel towards the front of harbor that makes the tour of the basin final.

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You can see the pont de Normandie from above the côte de Grâce or the Mont Jolie hill nearby. This is an impressive bridge and you can have boat rides right underneath ; like with the Jolie France. There is station of SNSM lifeguards volunteer corps with the main boat Notre Dame du Port, the one that took my Mom and wife ashes to sea. Wonderful guys very much close to them still. More on this great group of lifesavers at sea here: https://station-honfleur.snsm.org/

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honfleur-jolie-france-levies-lock-closing-my13There is a small beach on the north side almost facing Le Havre and just underneath the côte de Grâce; this is the Honfleur beach.  On the côte de Grâce there is a nice small chapel church Notre-Dame de Grâce Chapel; we go there for service couple times a year and especially during the Fête des Marins already about 159 years old tradition where the Notre Dame du Port Virgin is taken out to sea for a ride and blessings.

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honfleur-fete-des-marins-quai-ste-catherine-my13In all a wonderful town , pleasant for the whole family ,and good seafood. Tops to see are the   L’Enclos  and the old basin or Vieux Bassin, the Lieutenance, Church of  Saint-Etienne (today a marine museum), the salt stockages or Greniers à Sel, the Church of Sainte-Catherine (biggest wooden Church in France, actually an upside down boat!) . The wall of the sea or Le mur de mer,a long promenade along the harbor channel on the river Seine.  Museum or Musée Eugene Boudin at rue de l’Homme de Bois. And the museum or musée d’Erik Satie, 67 boulevard Charles V.

The city of Honfleur on things to see: https://www.ville-honfleur.com/decouvrir-honfleur/honfleur-et-son-patrimoine/

The Honfleur tourist office in English: https://www.honfleur-tourism.co.uk/

The department 14 Calvados tourist board in English: https://www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk/top-10/

The Normandy region tourist office on Honfleur  here in English: https://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/unmissable-sites/honfleur/

And there you go folks, another brief general presentation on wonderful Honfleur, never tired of seeing it and love it. Even if brings sad moments, the happy times outnumbered them and I am sure all will be happy reading this one. Thanks

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

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December 25, 2020

A Coruña, La Coruña; it has been a love story!

Well another sentimental favorite of my beloved Spain. I have come here first on business trips, then to meet old friends followers of the Real Madrid, and then family. Lovely land of which many are now like family. Let me tell you my update on this post of A Coruña or La Coruña! The photos are from 2017, and the text revise in 2020..

And I was back to La Coruña (Spanish), or A Coruña (Galician) again. It has become a love affair with several visits all documented in my blog. Since birth , I have known people from here, and once living in Madrid and now in France, I have come to know them up close and personal with great gratitude of friendship and sharing of a similar love, football/soccer, and history.

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I took Iberia from Nantes to A Coruña airport direct on an easy and on time flight. The airport is smallish and it seems like a countrytown home to me by now. The official webpage is here: http://www.aena.es/en/a-coruna-airport/airport-guide.html

This time, I took a taxi from airport to hotel for 15,50€ nice ride on the expressway coming down the bay into the Matogrande district where my usual hotel awaited ,the Attica21 Hotel; great room nice views, good service,and a wonderful all buffet breakfast. webpage: https://www.attica21hotels.com/en/hotel-attica21-coruna/

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Once here had the same friendship welcome and went out to a resto bar I already knew not far from the hotel for dinner in good company; the place is Bogart Baar, and it is a modern resto with great service good food,good beer,and friendly chat; we had the 3 cuts of meats dish to share , the jarra or pints of beer,and dessert ,coffee all for 19€ per person. Best ambiance and best deal in town , still follow them up in FB! webpage: http://bogartbaar.es/

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Just enough for a good night sleep on a great landing day.  I took a ride into the country going as far as Curtis and Ferrol towns and driving around A Coruña ,an easy thing to do.

Back in town ,on the evening of the 26 of April ,there was the game of Real Madrid vs Deportivo La Coruña and saw it live on a bar call O’Sampaio ,Calle  Bailén, 4 Bajo  in old town , and the place was loaded, not to mention I saw the game and we won 2X6! Hala Madrid!!!  webpage: https://osampaio.es/

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Each night we went to a different place and another one was A Taberna de Cunqueiro; a nice bar in a lively night street of good ambiance and family oriented with good friends is a must, Calle de la Estrella, tops. More chorizos, squids!! (pulpo)  and beers lol! webpage: http://www.atabernadecunqueiro.com/es

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We did stop by an old hangout and very popular at La Bombilla, we had our potato rolls with chorizos and more beer Estrella Galicia here, a must stop on any night in A Coruña. Sadly the owners died and the new owners daughter hire new personnel , it was closed for a while and now back open as the sons had an interest, and the employees stuck around.  Anyway no webpage and Facebook inactive, the old tel +34 981 90 30 64 to verify if indeed open. The resto was founded in 1953 by Spaniards coming back from living in Uruguay and open the bar, the name is said to means there was the only light post in town at the time. This is here for the memories.

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Last we went to the beach of Santa Cristina , a nice area in Oleiros, which is full after June; for now we had it all for ourselves and had a beer and tapas at the restaurant Pereiro terrace overlooking the beach in the Santa Cristina Hotel.  Now part of Alda hotels, webpage: https://www.aldahotels.es/alojamientos/hotel-alda-santa-cristina/

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More on the beach at Santa Cristina in Masmar guides in Spanish: http://guias.masmar.net/index.php/Playas/Coru%C3%B1a-Galicia/Playa-de-Santa-Cristina-Oleiros-A-Coru%C3%B1a

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After the above escapade no rooms were available at the Attica21 hotel so needed to rent for one night one that I have also stayed in same area in A Coruña back in 2012 , the AC Hotel,and was ok, actually they are next to the Attica21 Hotel.  The AC are part of the Marriott group. webpage: https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/lcgco-ac-hotel-a-coruna/

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All in all, it was a trip to come back to some repeated wonderful places and to seek new ones, all good ones. A Coruña can be a great experience coming in summer or warmer weather. The nightlife is vibrant and active, and the food is sublime! Hoping not to be the last time there; I am already looking forward to the next time and new places.  Enjoy your Sunday wherever you are; me back at home and ready for another trip by mid to end May ::)

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

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December 25, 2020

Chambord ,the king last stand!!

And I really need to update this one in my blog. It was my first entry on the magnificent Chambord ,and I chose a historical subject that was not to be. France today has no king but it wasn’t because of the revolution, many came after, it was by a men’s decision of traditions. Let me tell you the story of Chambord and its Count of Chambord or Duke of Bordeaux or Henri V!

Chambord is a wonderful huge castle in the Loire region Centre-Val de Loire. Departmet Loire-et-Cher no. 41. It is only 14 km east of Blois, 47 km southwest of Orleans, and 164 km south of Paris (about 101 miles). It is about 381 km from my house. From Paris, exit or sortie 16 of the expressway A10 (on the road to Bordeaux)  will put you at 14 km from the castle.  With its 5 550 hectares and 32 km of walls, Chambord is the largest enclosed park in Europe.  It has not less than 426 rooms and  282 chimneys!

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A bit of history I like

In 1519, François I started not far from Blois in the middle of a desert with trees and marshes on a semi abandoned village a huge project. Victor of the battle of Marignan, the young king intends to seduce by stones as he seduce by arms. It’s time to dazzle the world by a new and perfect work. Chambord was the first castle of François I entirely done from scratch.

On the northern front you see what a looks like a military fortress surrounded by towers. During its construction François I visited 14 times!!! The towers give a impregnable view over the gardens and forest, great for the second vocation that of hunting. Coming out of the staircase to the top you see a lantern that is not inhabited but serve as lookout and has a fleur de lys the symbol of French royalty.  On the southern front you see a lower cercle base where to see the garden at eye level.  Here you see the donjon tower coming to the royal wing as a refuge and passing into the forest by the king. It has 156 meters (about 515 feet) of façade and inside a wonderful staircase.

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François I died in 1547, with finally only passing 72 nights in the castle in 32 years of reign. Work continue under Henri II but he ,also, died in 1559, consolidation work is still done in 1566  under Charles IX. Far from the court, Henri III and Henri IV do not lived in the castle. Louis XIII only spent two nights in the castle, and from 1639, the castle is only occupied by the brother of the exile king Gaston d’Orléans. We need to wait until the coming of Louis XIV to finished the project of François I;giving the work to famous architect Jules Hardouin-Mansard. Louis XIV stayed only 9 times here , first in 1650 and then lastly in 1685 (company of Madame de Maintenon) ; coming each time on the occasion of the play by Moliére, Monsieur de Pourceaugnac and le Bourgeois gentilhomme.

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The king Louix XV used the castle to welcome host the father-in-law Stanislas Leszczynski, king of Poland in exile between 1725 and 1733. By then, the king of Poland leaves for its final place in Nancy. The castle stays uninhabited for many years until 1745, Louis XV gives it as donation to the Maréchal de Saxe that becomes governor for life and lives there permanently since 1748 until his death in 1750.  After, the later passing, the castle is lived by the governors like his nephew Von Friesen died there in 1755, then the marquis de Saumery until 1779, and the marquis de Polignac chase out by the French revolution in 1790. After much destruction by the revolutionaries, the castle is in very bad shape by 1796 but still standing.

By July 1802 the first consul Napoléon Bonaparte gives the castle to the legionnaire that after two years finally comes to lived here ,General Augereau. Finding the castle totally deliberated and begins a period of renovation. Under the emperor Napoléon I, it was decided to use it as a school for girls of the legion of honor guard in 1805 but the decision was not followed. The castle comes into the legion of honor guards and rename the principality of Wagram and given in 1809 to the maréchal Louis-Alexandre Berthier, prince of Neuchâtel and Wagram; he comes only one time to the castle! in 1810. Upon his death in 1815, the castle was put up for sale by his widow not able to keep up with the costs.

In 1821, the castle is acquired by national subscription sale to the young Henri d’Artois, duke of Bordeaux, upon the death of Charles X, the prince is the chief of the senior branch of the house of  Bourbons and takes in exile the courtesy title of Count of Chambord. He continues from afar to invest money for the renovation of the castle. During his period , the castle is open to the public. During the Franco-Prussian war of 1870, the castle served as a hospital and in 1871 the Count of Chambord lived briefly. He calls upon the French to bring the monarchy back under the white flag of the French monarchy; (bad decision the representatives wanted a constitutional monarchy similar to that of the UK). Upon his death in 1883, the castle passes to the descendants prince Bourbon Parma and nephews Robert I of Parma, Duke of Parma and Plaisance, and his brother Henri de Bourbon-Parma count of Bardi. Upon the death of the latter in 1907, it passes to his son Elie de Bourbon duke of Parma and Plaisance.

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With financial situation the castle passes to the French State on April 13, 1930 after been used during WWI by the government.  From the beginning of WWII the castle becomes the center of tri of the treasures of the national museums of Paris and the north of France to be evacuated and protected from the bombings of the Nazis. After the war, the objects of arts are re send back to their original places most of it to the Louvre museum.

You should not miss from the visit the audiovisual room (film presentation), the double revolution staircase, the apartments of François I and Louis XIV, the carved arches of the second floor, the terraces, and the North parterre garden at minimum.  Chambord is originally dedicated to the arts. The Moliére’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme was played for the first time before Louis XIV in 1670! It, also, offers many nature activities in the park, like horse show, carriage ride, visit of reserves in a 4X4 vehicule , visit on foot or by bike etc. Today still open to the public the castle or domaine national de Chambord  covers 5 440 hectares of  which 1 000 hectares are open to the public, also, the biggest forest enclosed park of Europe. A marvel of our times and much needed to be visited while in France.

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The Chambord castle practical information can be translated to several languages, time and prices can change so check the official site Chambord.org . Parking is 6€ per day the closest to the castle. Food inside at the Café d’Orléans is very nice for simple sandwiches snacks etc and soft drinks. The Café des écuries outside is very nice and can see the castle with good views. On the Village square approaching the castle you have several eateries as well and shops.  There is a nice boutique inside by the entrance with all the trimmings including food local product, and there is the La maison des vins de Cheverny, very good for tasting and buying the local wines that are good and good prices.  You can ,also, rent cottages just inside and at the door of the castle very nice; not use them but they look good.

The Chambord castle official webpage: https://www.chambord.org/en

The tourist office of the area of Blois-Chambord webpage: https://www.bloischambord.co.uk/explore/the-chateaux/the-chateau-de-chambord

The dept 41 Val de Loire tourist office on Chambordhttps://www.val-de-loire-41.com/les-4-destinations/la-vallee-de-la-loire/le-chateau-de-chambord/

Enjoy the Sunday, I am off tomorrow lol! but lots of errands to catch up the New year. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2017!

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

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