Archive for February, 2021

February 28, 2021

Vatican City State!!!

And now look up this older post and decided it was time to revise the text and update the links. I was here once while vacationing with the family in Rome. A memorable visit even if hugely overcrowded. Hope you enjoy and have better luck on crowds visiting the Vatican City State!

Let me tell you about something celestial. I have heard about it all my life, and came to watch ceremonies on TV for many years. Even on my business trips to Rome never had the time to get there, until then. The family call to visit Rome and of course, we needed to come here, the Vatican city State, the seat of the Catholic Church.  I remembered taken the bus 62 all the way from Piazza Bologna to near the back of Castel de Sant Angelo and then walk to the Vatican City. It was a hot day in August, but we are used to that and the walked slowly arriving on the Via della Conciliazione was marvelous.

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I like to tell you a bit more on the history and architecture of the Vatican City State.

The ancient origin of this territory of the Papal States is an accumulation of land donations received by successive Popes, from the Constantine’s times to that of the Lombard kingdom . The Pope was thus placed at the head of an important land estate known as the Saint-Pierre heritage, under Byzantine suzerainty.  Some villas, built around imperial gardens, were owned by Agrippina. The latter’s son, Emperor Caligula , had a private circus, the Circus Vaticanus, which was one of the only vestiges of the present Vatican obelisk. It was there, as well as in the adjacent gardens, that the martyrdom of many Christians of Rome took place at the time of Nero . It is said that Saint Peter was buried north of this circus, in a necropolis that skirted a secondary road, via Cornelia. At the place of his burial, the emperor Constantine built between 326 and 333 a grandiose Basilica at the site of the ancient Roman circus, which was then demolished. The building was replaced by the present Basilica in the 16C and 17C. The construction of the Vatican Palace began under the pontificate of Nicolas V in the first half of the 15C.

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Vatican city (Citta del Vaticano), the papal residence, was built over the tomb of Saint Peter. The Vatican’s position as a sovereign state within a state was guaranteed by the Lateran Treaty of 1929, marked by the building of a new road, the Via della Conciliazione. This leads from huge St Peter’s Basilica to Castel Sant’ Angelo (castle). The Vatican is the smallest state in the world, based in RomeItaly. Inside the Vatican city we can find 11 Vatican Museums with the restored Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and Vatican Gardens, an enchanted place, a system of large and small gardens, fountain, fish pool and enclosure for rabbits. They date back to medieval times when vineyards and orchards extended to the north of the Apostolic Palace. The Vatican, in the long form the State of Vatican City (Stato della Città del Vaticano The Vatican consists of two separate legal entities, the Holy See, spiritual entity and the State of the Vatican City, temporal entity. The link between these two entities is the Pope, leader of the spiritual and temporal, with absolute power (executive, legislative and judicial).

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The Vatican, an important archaeological site of the Roman world, located on the hill of the same name, is the seat of the papacy and the Catholic world. According to the Catholic tradition, it goes back to St. Peter himself, as the first bishop of Rome and is the official center of all Christianity since the Emperor Constantine in the 4C, but this point of view is not necessarily shared by all historians or by all Christian denominations. The city is situated on what was called in ancient times the Ager Vaticanus which consists of a small plain on the banks of the Tiber river, rising at some distance in a hill of low elevation, the Montes Vaticani (Vatican Hill).

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In 1870, after the evacuation of the French troops, Rome was conquered by the Piedmont troops and attached to the Kingdom of ItalyPope Pius IX, who resided at the Palace of Quirinal (first the official residence of the kings of Italy, then the President of the Italian Republic), then fled to the Vatican Palace. Its refusal to annexation entails a political and diplomatic dimension to the conflict caused by the Italian state. This controversy lasts until the Lateran Agreements in 1929, which ensure that the Italian government respects the borders of the State which it then recognizes de facto. The oldest army still in exercise, if you can say, is that of the Vatican. This army is recruited since 1506, exclusively in the Swiss cantons. The pontifical troops have no longer been in the line of fire  since their defeat by the Italian troops, which occurred in 1870.

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The architecture and structures of the Vatican City

The Vatican State is enclosed in the walls imposed by article 5 of the Lateran Agreements, which is entirely landlocked in the city of Rome, in the Italian territory. This enclave includes St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Apostolic PalaceVatican museums and gardens.   The Holy See also has full ownership over several buildings located outside the Vatican City, which enjoy a diplomatic status such as  immunity, like an embassy. These include: The entire Lateran: the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the Palace and its annexes, as well as the Scala Santa Basilica of Santa Maria MaggioreBasilica of Saint Paul . Outside the walls and its monastery; it has several  palaces containing the services of the Roman Curia: the palaces of the Daterie (date-building) and the chancery (seats of the Roman Rote, the Supreme Court of the Apostolic Signature and the Apostolic Penitentiary), the Palace of the Propagation of the faith (seat of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples), etc.; and the Castel Gandolfo complex, the pope’s summer residence. In addition, the Gregorian University, the Vatican Radio station located in the suburbs of Rome and various other buildings are tax-free and preserved from any expropriation. These buildings and properties are not part of the state of the Vatican City, but their cumulative area is about double that of the Vatican.

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The official languages of the Vatican City are: Italian for the state of Vatican City, Latin, the official language of the Roman Catholic Church and the legal language of the Vatican; French for the diplomacy of the Holy See (the Vatican is registered as a Francophone state with international organisations); German for the Vatican Army, the Swiss Guards; Other languages are also used: Italian, for dialogue with the Diocese of Rome; and French, English and Spanish for dialogue with Catholics around the world.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and fully enjoy it are

The Vatican State govt webpage on monuments in Italian: https://www.vaticanstate.va/it/

The Vatican on the Popes in English: http://www.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

The Vatican museums in English : https://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/en/musei-del-papa.html

And Unesco on the Vatican in English: https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/286

And now you are all set to visit this wonderful place, even if not religious the magnitude of the buildings, the history and architecture in them will amaze you. Enjoy the Vatican City State!!

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

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February 28, 2021

Caen, a lot more than the memorial!

And here I am updating this wonderful post me think… Always nice to visit Caen even if I admit nowdays is rare if none from Bretagne than when lived in Versailles! There is a wonderful monument museum to Peace here but Caen is a lot more than a memorial! I have included older pictures going back before 2011! Let me tell you a bit on it and hope you enjoy as I.

So why not tell you about Caen, It is nice for the Memorial indeed and the old men and women buildings, and a lot more nice things in town. Caen is the political capital of Normandie and home of the regional council ,while Rouen is the administrative capital; a way to please both in the new administrative realignment of France down to 13 regions from 22 previously.

I did not know this but it is the third oldest University in France founded in 1432 (behind only Paris and Montpellier); it has the most independant libraries of any French city and the best ratio of cultural structures per inhabitant! ; it is probably why it is considered the Cultural Capital of Normandy. And there you go only about 2 hrs from Paris by the A13 autoroute de Normandie and link to England by ferry boat line Caen-Ouistreham-Portsmouth. It has the network Twisto with over 40 lines of buses and 4 lianes high level bus service on platforms unique ; also two lines of tramways A and B . The city is good for bicycling with over 50 kms of bike trails in free service ; they had the network V’eol, however; it closed out in 2017 and now part of the Twisto network. It has tramways, never use any of these always here by car.

The metro area has three expressways very good ones, try them all, the famous A13, then the A84 (linking with Bretagne) and A88 (between Caen and Falaise) and eventually linking up with Bretagne. There are many others such as the N158 around Caen towards Alençon, Le Mans, and Tours and the D562 to Flers Angers ,and Laval. The D613 towards Lisieux and Paris and Cherbourg on the west. D675 to Rouen and the D513 to Cabourg, Deauville, and Honfleur.

There is a train station gare de Caen-Saint-Martin with TER and Intercités train service to Lisieux, Évreux, Paris-Saint-Lazare, Cherbourg, Saint-Lô, Rennes, Rouen, Alençon, Le Mans, Tours , and Saint-Pierre-des-Corps, etc. The station opened officially in 1858. There is also the port of Ouistreham as before mentioned takes you to Portsmouth, England putting London at only 120 km . The port of Caen-Ouistreham is also a commercial and pleasure boating enclave. The pleasure port is at the basin of Saint-Pierre,in city center, and it is they said the second port in France. There is an airport as well the Caen – Carpiquet to the east actually in Carpiquet and the most important airport in Normandy per passengers.

Another peculiarity of Caen is the blonde stone in the quarries today closed but extended to the city itself and very much desired by the Norman nobles as well as the great buildings of England and later those sky risers of New York. In the 19C the medieval quarries were an underground network of 200 to 300 hectares and while the landings of Normandy the townsfolks hide there in 1944. To watch over these undergrounds Caen is one of the rare cities in France to have a quarry service like Paris.

The parks are nice ,and we enjoyed them very much in our visits. There is the hill of birds or the Colline aux Oiseaux, a vast garden in the district of Chemin-Vert very close to the peace memorial ; and if you know this was a garbage dump you realise the enormous beautiful work done here. The small garden by the museum of the rose moon or the Petit jardin-musée dit de luna rossa, at rue Damozanne, The museum or Musée d’initiation à la nature et l’esplanade Jean-Marie-Louvel , and at the abbey of men ,the garden valley or La Vallée des Jardins, the parc Michel-d’Ornano (the garden in the abbey of women) The Jardin des plantes,or sort of botanical garden , as well as the castle moats. Nice all.

Now let me give you some of its history as Iike it.

From the 1C to the 3C a village developped here by the current abbey of men or Abbaye aux Hommes near the Roman road linking Augustodurum (Bayeux) with Noviomagus (Lisieux). It had no administrative function as this was done by Aregenua, capital of the Viducasses located about 15 km south of Caen and the territory under the influence of Augustodurum. In the 7C missionaries from Bayeux, especially Saint Regnobert, founded oratories, surrounded by their cemetary along the old Roman way in the center of isolated villages in the Valley of the Orne and Odon.

In the 10C the great Norman Dukedom comes about. This is evidence especially from the 11C with the politics of William the Conqueror and Mathilde de Flandre. In 1047 after the victory of the battle of Val-ès-Dunes, the duke of Normandy organized the council of Tréve or Trier on the right back of the Orne river ,and had built a Chapel of Sainte-Paix in 1061 to house the relics of Saints. In the second part of the 11C it had ordered a vast fortress on the rocky hills dominating the Valley of the Orne; the Duke and his court regularly resided in the Castle of Caen. The Ducal couple equally founded two great abbeys on the east and west of the city (Hommes et Dames).They were buried in 1083 at the abbey of women or Abbaye aux Dames by Mathilde de Flandre, and in 1087 in the abbey of men or Abbaye aux Hommes for Duke William the Conqueror. The Duchy was incorporated to the kingdom of France by king Philippe II Auguste by 1204 before that of Rouen.

During the French revolution, the opposition was massacred by the crowds, and by 1793 the Jacobins of Caen breaks from those of Paris ; many deputies of assemblies or Girondins look for refuge in Caen and the city becomes a center of insurrection ; however due to lack of men, and in desesparation incite Charlotte Corday to leave Caen for Paris to killed Marat. The Army of the Convention (revolutionaries) entered Caen in August 1793 and ends the insurrection. Later Caen lost most of the buildings durind WWII as it was in the line of the landings of Normandy June 1944. The city was liberated by the Canadians army that fought for a month the troops of the SS Nazi in town.

Things to see in Caen : The theater opened in 1838 ,destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt again on the same spot after the war. There are great collections in the fine arts museum or Musée des beaux-arts right in the heart of the Castle of Caen and also there the museum of Normandy or Musée de Normandie. There are paintings from the 16C to the 20C by such artists as Le Pérugin, van der Weyden, Véronèse, Le Tintoret, Champaigne, Rubens, Le Guerchin, Tiepolo, Courbet, Corot, Monet, Boudin, Dufy, Soulages, and Rebeyrolle. The Castle of William the Conqueror and especially the salon of the chessboard or salle de l’Échiquier,the old fortifications especially the tower or Tour Leroy, the maison des Quatrans, a traditional house from the 15C. Other mansions such as those at 52 and 54 rue Saint-Pierre,the old post office museum from the 16C ,buildings at the place Saint-Pierre, and from the 17C around the place de la République (like the mansions Daumesnil and Banville); and from the 18C around the place Saint-Sauveur, place Fontette ,and the palais de justice de Caen (courthouse of Caen), and the mansions hôtel Brun de Fontenay , and hôtel de Blangy.

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You have the Saint-Jean Church, tilted as it was built on an old swamp, The Church of Saint-Étienne-le-Vieux. The Church Saint-Sauveur is in the city center ,before 1802,this Church was called Notre-Dame-de-Froide-Rue. After 1802,it was changed to Saint Sauveur ( of Jésus-Christ). The Church of Vieux Saint-Sauveur in the Place Saint-Sauveur was before the French revolution simply called Church Saint-Sauveur and before that called by several names such as Saint-Pierre de Darnetal, Saint-Pierre-sous-Caen, Saint-Pierre-du-Châtel, Saint-Pierre-en-Rive, and most visitors think is the Cathedral as it is big….It is on the Church that king Henri IV renounce the Protestant religion ending the wars of Religion ,and it was at the Church of Saint-Pierre that it was sang the Te Deum in presence of all civil and religious leaders of the city. The Church was closed during the French revolution and served as a temple of reason later of the Supreme being from 1793 to 1795 before coming back to the Catholic rite in June 1795. The shot from the castle below.

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You have some wonderful architecture in the hôtel de Than (around 1520-1530), hôtel d’Escoville (around 1540), and hôtel de Mondrainville (around 1550). The current buildings of the abbey of men and women or Abbaye aux Hommes (now housing the municipla services of Caen), and the Abbaye aux Dames (now the seat of the regional council of Normandy), and the magnificent peace memorial or Mémorial pour la Paix; which are a must to visit. As I love food/wine, the best to get here are the tripes à la mode de Caen (intestins or tripes Caen fashion way sort of). Since 1850,the cookie company or Biscuiterie Jeannette,the oldest in Normandy makes madeleines so goood. Or have you try the drink the Embuscade?(ambush) ,a cocktail with calvados (fermented apples liquor of Normandy),cream or syrup of cassis, white wine, and beer!

The anecdote here is that our first visit was to see the Memorial de la paix or peace monument and took a night at a Kyriad hotel Herouville Saint Clair. However, something happened cannot yet explained it. The pictures for the memorial are all gone!!! and all we have is the above and this shot coming out of the hotel!! oh well!! The Kyriad hotel webpage: https://caen-nord-herouville-saint-clair.kyriad.com/fr-fr/

caen kyriad hotel boys and MF 2011

The Caen tourist office: https://www.caenlamer-tourisme.fr/?lang=en

The city of Caen on its heritage/things to see: https://caen.fr/patrimoine

The Calvados dept 14 tourist office on Caen heritage: https://www.calvados-tourisme.co.uk/museums-sites-and-monuments/

The Normandy tourist board on Caen: https://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/unmissable-sites/caen/

Hope you have enjoyed the trip, short one ::) of nice Caen, as I said, just for the Peace Memorial ,the castle and museums in it is worth the detour from Paris! or anywhere in France.

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

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February 28, 2021

The drive over three regions of my belle France!!

And so it goes been such a compact country you can easily cross over departments and regions and in my road warrior trip this is what happened in going over Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, and Centre-Val de Loire as well as a bit into the Nouvelle Aquitaine!! Hope you enjoy the ride as I did! Some pictures for the show but the best was the ride!

We actually passed by three regions by car , sounds a lot but they are actually within 4 hours driving only….!  We started from our pretty Bretagne, and went past the Pays de la LoireCentre Val de Loire, and just a bit into Nouvelle Aquitaine. All along the Loire of course, the great river of France. 

We left our house by 7h or 7am taken the D768 to connect to the N165 free roads; we continue to the beltway or periphérique nord in Nantes to get on the A844, here to make a bit faster we took the toll road A11 direction Angers but got off it at the D763 road to Ancenis for only 3,10€ of tolls. Here at Ancenis we found some nice monuments.

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These were the wonderful castle (b. 984) towers still in pretty good shape, the bridge or pont Bretagne-Anjou ,and  a nice halles or covered market with a belltower at first I thought it was a Church ! An old town founded in 984 by Duke of Brittany, Guérech. Not to mention, the good wines of Ancenis.  The tourist office in the country of Ancenis has morehttps://www.pays-ancenis-tourisme.com/a-voir-a-faire/visites-culture-et-patrimoine/villes-et-villages/ancenis-et-ses-bords-de-loire/

We left Ancenis on the road D17 passing by Le Fuilet (see Church Saint Martin in photo) to Montrevault and Saint Pierre de Montlimart getting here on the D752 towards to Beaupréau-en-Mauges, where we cut off again on the D756 towards Jallais, and reaching Chemillé-Melay ,and onwards to Vihiers. All wonderful sleepy little towns but this is the pleasure of driving in my belle France! We did a bit of a detour to go into the D39 and passed by Les Trois Moutiers; (dept Vienne 86 Nouvelle Aquitaine) cheating as actually this is in the department of the Vienne in region Nouvelle Aquitaine!!!. (see Church Saint Hilaire in photo).

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This area tourist office on the mauges of le Fuilet is here: https://www.osezmauges.fr/page/le-fuilet

The tourist office of Vienne on Les Trois Moutiers: https://www.tourisme-vienne.com/fr/officetourisme/20/trois-moutiers-les/office-de-tourisme-les-trois-moutiers

At Vihiers we got on the D960 towards Saumur, our first real stop. I will put Saumur on a different post to tell you all about it. For now the Saumur tourist office: https://www.ot-saumur.fr/Villes-et-villages_r178.html

After walking around Saumur and having our lunch , we continue to our hotel and final destination at Tours. This we follow the Loire river on the D952 passing first by Varennes sur Loire, then Chouzé sur Loire and La Chapelle sur Loire . This road continues into Saint Michel sur Loire ,and Langeais site of a famous castle. Also, passing by Luynes and finally crossing the Loire river again on the road D37 at the bridge or pont de Saint Cosmé. Here we made a left turn into Avenue Proudhun that continues into rue des Tanneurs, turning right at rue Nationale , then left at Blvd Heurteloup and then another left at rue Victor Lalou to our hotel ; and we arrive.  More of Tours in a separate posts to tell you about the wonderful things to see there.

On the way back we came back out of Tours in the same way we came in, but this time taking the D37 out of town into the D751 direction Saumur. This time no tolls at all. And passing by another wonderful castle ,that of Azay-le-Rideau. Of course we did not stopped at these castles as no time and seen them years ago, we do need to get back for an update.  We passed by Coudray-Montpensier a nice castle we saw from the road. We continue on the side road of D751E at Chinon, another historical castle.

The Touraine Nature area tourist office for many things to do around here: https://www.tourainenature.co.uk/

We went around Saumur on the same D751 along the Loire river direction Gennes with an interesting bridge over the Loire river. We continue on the D751 getting around Angers.  This on road D759  direction Loudun and continuing  to Thouars, and getting around this city as well on the road D938TER direction Bressures. Here we connected to the N249/E62 and got around Cholet as well. Taking direction Vallet and Nantes, where it reads the D149 same road, and connects with the beltway of periphérique nord of the N844 which becomes the A844 and hooks up with the N165 direction Vannes and home!

And we reach home, nice and fresh really. Minimum tolls, which if extend it a bit could have been zero taxes oh yes they call it tolls! We had enough time on Sunday to indulge on the trip and the goodies purchase from handbags, to candies, and chocolates, and of course the nice things we have not far from home that on a weekend can be a huge trip by anyone.

Again, hope you enjoy the ride over three regions of my belle France. My glorious road warrior trips looking forward to do them again when possible.

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

February 27, 2021

How about shopping in Versailles!!!

Ok not the most expert person for shopping… but did some in my lovely Versailles and would like to update the post on shopping in Versailles with new links. Hope you enjoy it and do shop in the city while visiting it, great combination indeed me think. This is a black and white series post as pictures in the many other posts on Versailles! Shopping something I would love to do there right now!!!

The question is ,how about shopping in Versailles?  Anyway, when most come to Paris and think that a thing to do IS to go to Versailles is not right. Paris is 75, Versailles is 78. Paris is the Capital of France, and Versailles by constitution is the de facto capital of France if changes or modifications are done to the constitution. Versailles is in another province/State/Department than Paris, that is Yvelines dept 78.  So, I worked in Paris but lived in Versailles, so I know the shopping from both sides. Versailles is the normal everyday town you love to live in ,yes!

One was on the wonderful shopping center mall of Parly II, the best mall in the whole region of île de France in my opinion. Even if actually is the town next over Le Chesnay-Rocquencourt. Here you have the main department stores like in that other town, Au Printemps and BHV as well as Lenôtre, and many many other stores even a Toys R Us and Truffaut, and FNAC as well as grocery store and cinema. The now Westfield Parly II mall webpage: https://fr.westfield.com/parly2/stores

The Parly II is a housing complex chic Chesnay-Trianon , the biggest division housing in Europe with an extension on two neighboring towns ,Le Chesnay and Rocquencourt (now join as one town); and the mall, it is also, the high school for my boys in the town of Le Chesnay that is just crossing a street to Versailles and uses the same transport network. It now has 182 stores with over 4000 parking spaces! The Parly II housing webpage: https://www.parly2.com/

In fact,the story tell us that the center was to be called Paris 2 but the Parisians objected for fear of losing business, so the name of Parly was used instead ( a town in the dept Yonne ,region of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté). The idea really is to do something on the American style mall/living. You can reach it on the Phébus network of Versailles on lines 1 2 3 5. Also, line 19 of Transdev will get you there from the stop terminal at the avenue Saint Cloud just before the Ave de l’Europe bus depot and direction Les Mureaux you stop at Parly II.

However, there is a lot more than just a mall. Plenty of nice stores some very historical all over town in inner Versailles. Some already with posts and pictures in my blog.

The marché des fleurs is open Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays from 8h to 19h and Sundays mornings. This is at corner of Ave de l’Europe and Ave de Saint Cloud.  Further away you come to my favorite of all markets the Marché Notre Dame of course at the Place Notre Dame. The non food market is held Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 11h to 19h, and the food markets out on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays mornings from 7h to 14h , and inside the halles on Tuesdays to Saturdays from 7h to 19h30 and Sundays from 7h to 14h. Plenty of underground parking too. The Sun King Louis XIV gave us the Marché de Notre Dame in 1721. the actual place was given out after the Domaine de Clagny built in 1665 was demolished. It was renovated with todays halles in 1841. It is the center of the city, if you want to know us! The stories tell us the first inhabitants of the city started arriving in 1671 and so did the market!

The city of Versailles on the Notre Dame market (mine!!!) : https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/notre-dame-market.html

The city of Versailles on the Flower market (yes!! ours) : https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/flower-market.html

And right around here you have the Place du Notre Dame with plenty of shops and restaurants as well. Ahh but wait, did you know the market at Place du Notre Dame is older than the castle? And the halles that surround it are 360 years old? Located in the heart of the city around the Place du Notre Dame and two big streets crossing in a cross the square such as rue de la Paroisse, and Avenue du Maréchal Foch; then you have streets all around the halles such as rue Durcis,rue au pain, Rue de la Pourvoierie, and rue André Chenier ,all founded by king Louis XIV. The old pavilions were destroyed in 1841 and replaced by the covered halles you see today on the method Baltard.

About 20 years ago you can buy here in wholesale, where the store owners came to buy their products that eventually will sell to you in retail. They will buy their products by aisles such as fish, herbs/spices, flour,and beef and these gave the name to the covered halles you see today. There was even an animal market with cows, pigs, and chickens sold.  However, even the above is newer. There was an even older market here when in November 1634, on the initiative of Martial de Loménie ,king Louis XIII ordered installed a market here, even replacing an even older market. In August 1740, there were manifestions here due to the little finding of wheat, the bakers of Paris came here to buy flour and the locals repulse them strongly. A permanent presence of the Swiss guards was needed.

At the French revolution, the market falls in disrepair by 1835 the market is purchase by the city of Versailles; no longer part of the Royal domain, the merchants are taken their businesses and poorly indemnized. Several execution were carried out here. And after going in terrible shape the city eventually rebuilt them and the new market opened September 15, 1842.  There is a parking managed by Vinci Park underneath the place du Notre Dame with 700 spaces and the pedestrian access are on each square of the market with elevators/lifts or escalator. Since 2014, they have painted the square on the market with paintings or trompes-l’œil; they represent the knights of the Carrousel, reminding us of the equestrian history of the city, done by the school of mural arts or the École d’art mural de Versailles. 

The market is very close to another wonderful old world shopping experience that is the Passage des antiquaires. It is a pedestrian only passage of the rue des deux portes leading to the Place du Notre Dame and to the rue Carnot, itself next to the avenue de Saint-Cloud , and a bit further the Place d’Armes, in front of the central façade of the Palace/Museum of Versailles. The passage des Antiquaires webpage: http://www.antiques-versailles.com/le-quartier/le-passage/

I have to tell with pride, this was my district. The quartier Notre Dame, in the axis of the Avenue de Paris, and takes its name from the Church of Notre Dame, the castle parish and oldest (where all princes were baptized, birth certificates and marriages) created while the construction of the city was carried out under king Louis XIV. In this wonderful neighborhood or quartier you ,also, have the theater or Théâtre Montansier opening in 1777,the city history museum of musée Lambinet, the bailiffs mansion or Hôtel du bailliage that housed during the monarchy the local tribunal courthouse ; today the nice courtyard of the neighborhood of antiquaries ,and the shopping full streets of rue de la Paroisse, rue Hoche and the rue du Maréchal Foch.

The rue du Maréchal Foch, crosses the city north south and prolonged the Avenue de l’Europe, to continue until the Place Édouard Laboulaye. This was my train station or gare de Rive-Droite-Versailles! It went to Gare Saint Lazare in Paris.  Here you can find the merchants/businesses of Versailles with over 1700 you should find yours. In French, but easy me think. You go to the left hand side , you have three slots, Catégorie (category of stores you are searching such as antiquités/art), sous-catégorie (more in detail such as céramique but no need to choose this slot), and Quartier (district like Notre Dame).  Versailles commerces webpage: https://www.versaillescommerces.fr/marchands/

An interesting site the Cours des Senteurs (Court of Scents) with an offer on perfums like those in the Maison des Parfums, but also, fine gourmet grocery store, Toile de Jouy with fabrics in colorful motifs from a historical and famous manufacture. The restaurant Table du 11, not yet tasted but look good; and salon de thés with sweets goodies; and from here you can access the Salle du jeu de Paume, birthplace of the founding act of the French democracy, quaint streets of the district of Saint Louis, and into the Potager du Roi vegetable garden of the king. More in the Versailles tourist office: https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/garden-and-court-of-scents.html

The above and more are in the other district Saint Louis on commerces/businesses webpage: http://versaillescotesaintlouis.com/les-commerces-adherents-a-versailles-cote-saint-louis

The Versailles tourist office has more info on the several shops/businesses in town here: https://en.versailles-tourisme.com/the-best-shopping-districts-in-versailles#!/page/1

Of course, this cannot be all of them, will need a series of posts. I have given you above the most important me think and links to see others. And bien sûr if have a question on any let me know.  Hope you enjoy the ride to a Royal , magnificent city, that is a lot more than a castle. My VERSAILLES!!

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

February 27, 2021

My beloved ,memorable, sentimental Honfleur!!!

So I am coming back to update/revise links on this beloved, memorable ,sentimental Honfleur of ours. We came here as many to seek the arts and the ocean breeze along its cobblestones streets and its festivals. Over the years the family took a loving liking to the town, and yes my mom and wife lies off the sea here so we come at least once a year . Let me tell you a bit more about Honfleur, Calvados , Normandy in my belle France!

There has been many ,but this is one I am never tired of writing on it. Brief, the town is historical glorious, quant , old, turn to the sea, architecture, and just great family memories.  I have been coming here for years since first encounter my Frenchie, and my parents especially my mother love it. At the end, and many nice stories there are always some sad ones, that is human life I am afraid. My mom Gladys passed away on December 27, 2007 , just after Christmas and my wedding anniversary; and was her wish to be deposit at sea her ashes here, and so I did. Lately, I have gone thru the sad times again of losing my dear loving wife Martine ,last April 30 2018 and on her last days , her wish was to be deposit here too at Honfleur. And so I did, as always with the lifeguard SNSM on August 24 2018 with the same lifesaving boat the Notre Dame. Eventually, we all will rest in peace here.

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So, Honfleur is more than just a spot, a tourist spot, a town or a visit; it is more personal. One of the spots that is dear to us is up the hill or plateau of Grace or Côte de Grâce and into the quant old Notre Dame Chapel and its outdoor bells with a big Cross of Jesus Christ nearby overlooking the bay of Honfleur and across Le Havre. We come around to see the Mont Joli, or pretty mount with great, wonderful views of the area and the bridges afar Normandie and Tancarville. This is Honfleur .  On the plateau of Grace is one of the oldest sanctuaries in the region surrounded by secular trees. Located 1.5 km from the city/town center of Honfleur, the plateau de Grâce offers a panoramic view of the sea, the Seine estuary and Le Havre.

Right up the hill, sits the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grâce on the limits of the village of  Équemauville, was built between 1600-1615 by the burghers and sailors of Honfleur, replacing an old Chapel that disappeared in a landslide of the cliff. This primitive Chapel was founded before the year 1023 by Richard II, Duke of Normandy, to fulfill a vow made during a storm in which he had almost perished. Since the cult of Our Lady of Grace has perpetuated.  Marble plaques and paintings perpetuate the memory of illustrious characters who came to this Chapel, such as Samuel de Champlain, Pierre Berthelot, king Louis XIII, Napoléon  Bonaparte, Saint Theresa Lisieux…etc.  Located on the heights dominating the town of Honfleur, but on the territory of Équemauville, houses ex-votos, models of boats and an organ made by the organ factor Dupont in 1990. On the outside you can see the bells of the pilgrimages. Our Lady of Grace Chapel has exceptional ex-votos. All the faithful who come to collect in the sanctuary are seized and surprised by the impressive number of plaques, models or inscriptions that testify to the general gratitude. All these ex-Votos have a story. Their presence symbolizes the success of a vow, a recommendation, a prayer.  Of course the protection of the sailors is a privileged place. But it can also be testimonials of recognition as a result of healing or the fulfillment of a happy event.

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Every year, Pentecost is the traditional Marines Festival or Fête des Marins during which it is possible to admire the colorful procession of the models of boats carried by the children from the place Sainte-Catherine to the Chapel Our Lady of Grace. The Chapel and the Grace Plateau, although located on the village of Equemauville, have been owned by the city of Honfleur since the French revolution. The interior Chapel of the Transept, on the left, is dedicated to all Canadians of Norman descent, in remembrance of the departure from this point of many settlers for Canada.   The small road that leaves to the left, behind the Chapel, leads to Mont-Joli, which is also located in the village of Equemauville . Mont-Joli dominates the city and offers a beautiful panorama of the Seine Valley and the Pont de Normandie (bridge) which connects Honfleur to Le Havre. Mont Joli dominates the city and offers a beautiful view  on a clear day you can locate even  the Pont de Tancarville (bridge), located at almost 30 km away.

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These are the nice stories, in addition there is the Sainte-Catherine taken for a ride , she is carried by locals into a small boat and goes out with a flotilla of fisherman’s and sailors, boats into the sea for a Mass by the Bishop. She is brought back into the Church on poles and the faithful walks the Grace plateau up hill carrying a Cross as the Way of Christ into the Our Lady of Grace Chapel (Notre Dame de Grâce) where there is another Mass carried out. Very moving scene on the Marines Festival day.

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The Honfleur tourist officehttps://www.honfleur-tourism.co.uk/

The city of Honfleur on its heritage/things to see: https://www.ville-honfleur.com/decouvrir-honfleur/

The Calvados dept 14 tourist office on Honfleur harbors: https://www.calvados-tourisme.com/offre/port-de-plaisance-dhonfleur/

The Normandy region tourist board on Honfleurhttps://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/unmissable-sites/honfleur/

And then you do what we do /like best walk the beat! And Honfleur is wonderful but of course cannot do all in one day so we rented a nice inexpensive chain of hotels here call B&B right at the entrance of the town! in the neighboring city limits of La Rivière-Saint-Sauveur! These are good for one or two nights and on my road warrior trips used them often. webpage: https://www.hotel-bb.com/fr/hotel/honfleur

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We had our lunch at a new found restaurant which we have been coming back here and nearby us in Lanester, these are the Oncle Scott American style restos which my whole gang enjoys very much. The old Miller beers and Sol as well as Baltimore crab cakes are worth the trip alone. Enjoy it ;webpage: http://www.oncle-scott.com/restaurants-country/

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And for dinner we again tried a new restaurant for the night  this was the La Fregate right in La Rivière Saint-Sauveur not far from the above hotel and on the main road to the old basin of Honfleur. The marmite de la mer was delicious!!! no webpage but on the city of La Riviére Saint-Sauveur it shows on the list of restos: http://www.larivieresaintsauveur.fr/fr/commerces/3

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In all , another memorable visit to Honfleur and there are plenty more in my blog and those pending to go when possible nowdays. Hope you enjoy the post and do visit the 2nd most visited site in all of Normandy! (for info 1st is MSM).

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

February 27, 2021

Quant little Honfleur!!!

And I have to come back to this memorable sentimental town of ours. So many posts and pictures, (see posts) I like to give it fresh life to this post in my black and white series. Honfleur is awesome in many ways! Enjoy the tour!

I will brighten up my mind writing about quant little beautiful ,etc etc Honfleur!  My dear late Mom Gladys and Wife Martine  love the town, and so much that they are buried at sea off Honfleur by the volunteer lifesavers of the SNSM boat Notre Dame base in Honfleur. I given some insights on the tourist spots and places to eat even hotels, now let me tell you a bit about the history I like.

Honfleur is a marvelous little town by the sea and the Seine river. The town is in the département 14 of Calvados in the region of Normandie, and located on the south bank of the estatuary of the Seine river facing Le Havre and on the ending of the bridge of Normandy. Often call an artists/painters town and with its own school. Many times represented in the work of Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet ,and Johan Barthold Jongkind, forming the school of Honfleur, that contributes to the emergence of the impressionniste movement. The artists Alphonse Allais ,and Erik Satie were born here on the same street !

The first mention of Honfleur in writing dates back to Richard III duke of Normandy in 1027. It is known that by the middle of the 12C the town was an important trade point with England coming from Rouen via Seine river. Charles V ordered fortified the town to stop the English to come up the Seine river with the help of the port of Honfleur located just on the statuary of the river. However, nevertheless Honfleur was taken by the English and occupied in 1357 and again in 1419 and 1450.

Honfleur participated in the movement for great discoveries with a Jehan Denis visiting Labrador and Newfoundland that he took in the name of the king of France in 1506. These expeditions made the port of Honfleur one of the most important in France and served as launching pad for adventures in the French colonies of America such as the repeated sailings of Samuel de Champlain that ended by the founding of Québec in 1608. From this point on, commerce developped to Canada, Louisiana, the Caribbean and the African coasts as well as Azores islands, making Honfleur one of the five main towns in the slave trade.

Honfleur was liberated in WWII on August 25 1944 by the Belgian army Brigade Piron and the town suffered no damage, one of the rare Normand towns to be spare. More so that what you see is genuine original in the architecture and buildings of the town!

A bit on what Honfleur has to offer to follow. The town has a whopping 57 historical monuments in its territory, including the wonderful Sainte Catherine Church, Saint Etienne Church, Saint Leonard Church, the Salt depots, the Lieutenance house and most of the houses in the Quai Sainte Catherine, as well as the Vieux Bassin, and my family’s favorite the Notre Dame of Grace Chapel or Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grâce up the côte de Grâce hill and the big Cross of Christ overlooking the harbor and towards Le Havre.

Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grâce,(see post)  built in 1910 in the limits of Equemauville, and here after the fall out of the cliffs houses ex voto , boat models and an organ from 1990; on the exterior you can see the pilgrims bells.  We had held Mass here so a bit more : This Chapelle Notre-Dame de Grâce was built between  1600-1615 by the rich merchant and marines/fisherman of  Honfleur at the place of an older Chapel that was destroyed due to a slide in the cliffs; this older one was built before the year 1023 by Richard II, Duke of Normandy  to pay a wish of which on the course of a storm he could had perished ; thereafter, the cult is perpetuated.

The museum or Musée Eugène-Boudin and its annex dedicated to religious art in the bell tower of the Sainte Catherine Church which a building apart from the Church! ; the house or Maison Satie and the museums of old Honfleur such as marine museum or Musée de la Marine (inside the old Saint Etienne Church and a must to see), and the museum or Musée d’Ethnographie et d’Art populaire; (in the old prison of the Viscount of Roncheville).

The water basin or ponds were built by Abraham Duquesne on orders of Colbert in 1681. The old basin or vieux bassin rounds the quai Sainte-Catherine and the houses are numbered from 2 to 68, the houses dates from the 17C and 18C. They are very narrow and have from 3 to 7 floors (FR) except the No 2 that has one floor. Many of the facades are covered in tiles and other are done in corbel.  Today, most in the street level of the quai Sainte-Catherine are restaurants or brasseries. The side along the quai Sainte-Catherine by the narrow rue Montpensier have an underground trail with a creek of the Claire feeding the basin. The other side of the basin is with other buildings on the quai Saint-Étienne; which include, the city hall or hôtel de ville, and the Saint Etienne Church (St Stephen) now the marine museum. There are three small narrow streets that gives access to the quai Saint-Étienne. On the side of the ocean you have the quai de la Quarantaine,and one building ,the lieutenance that was next to the housing for the king’s lieutenant. The only fortified part of the town today. The movable bridge on the basin and over the channel to the front port is by the Morelle that makes end on the tour of the basin.

The Church dedicated to Sainte Catherine of Alexandria as there is a statue in wood on top of the entrance porch of the bell tower, representing a wheel and a sword. The first nave on the left is the oldest dating from the second half of the 15C and built like a market where the naval construction were done , giving a look as if it were an upside down boat. The bell tower is apart from the Church, unique, this was done to avoid fires that would hurt the parishioners. The Saint Etienne Church is of gothic style part from the 14C and 15C, the oldest Church in town, built in chalk stone with silex and Caen stone as Honfleur is on the limits of these stone formations, the bell tower is in chesnut wood and now houses the marine museum which is very nice with its model boats of old.

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/

There are many films done here and some of my favorites (even if this is not by all means a full list).
Les Trois Mousquetaires (1953), by André Hunebelle, with Georges Marchal and Bourvil (great French comedian).
L’Homme à la Buick (1967), of Gilles Grangier, with Fernandel (another great French comedian) ,and Danielle Darrieux
La Chambre verte (1977), of François Truffaut, with François Truffaut and Nathalie Baye
Tendre Poulet (1978), of Philippe de Broca, with Annie Girardot and Philippe Noiret
Le Quatrième Pouvoir (1985), of Serge Leroy, with Philippe Noiret and Nicole Garcia

There ,is, also since 1995, each year at end November when the town host the Festival of Russian films or Festival du cinéma Russe. A very important movie festival on Russian cinema with producers, directors and actors in competition are invited. Keep an eye on the webpage: http://festival-honfleur.fr/

You now have good shopping at the outlet mall Honfleur Outlet. webpage: https://www.honfleuroutlet.com/fr/

And the wonderful garden event PassionnémentJardin with plants and showings and purchases yes we had and good deals, my Martine love it!!! webpage: https://www.passionnementjardin.fr/

And the good one Naturospace with wild butterflies and tropical lush in Honfleur! Just up the alley from the public park where the garden event is held follow the road and at the end is the Naturospace. webpage: https://www.naturospace.com/

And cruises up the Seine river even to Paris! webpage: https://www.croisierenet.com/ports/301/france/croisiere-honfleur.html

And those out of Honfleur into the ocean and around and under the bridge of Normandy. We have done the Calypso and Jolie France nice. Honfleur tourist office webpage on these: https://www.honfleur-tourism.co.uk/making-my-stay-count/leisures/promenade-en-bateau-honfleur-jolie-france-la-calypso-2/

Well, hope you get the idea , Honfleur is one whole packful of goodies ,and in such a small space is even more cosy, quant, nice, beautiful Honfleur. And hope you enjoy the post as I!! And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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February 26, 2021

The immortal Verdun, the story of a Nation!!!

And here I am with a narrative post for a change updating an earlier post I did on this brave and historical town of my belle France. I have heard of it of course, but always past by on the expressway roads until once or twice we stopped by and saw it. It was very nice, moving and appreciated. Let me tell you a bit more on the immoral Verdun, the story of a Nation!!!

Well as said,  several passing and never in, until one day. We decided to take the roads of Liberty and the Sacred Road, and then you turn and said, wow!! so much sacrifice for me and the rest of us to live better; these were Giants and deserve every recognition known to men. It is all there , all around you in the city and in the fields around it, this is immortal Verdun.

Verdun was called Verdun-sur-Meuse from  1801 to 1970, and it is in the département 55 of the Meuse in the new region of Grand Est ; what was before the region of Lorraine.  The city is towards the center of the department of the Meuse and about 225 km from Paris, 184 km from Strasbourg, 58 km from Metz, 78 kms from Nancy  , as well as 40 km from the Belgium border, 50 km from Luxembourg,  80 km from Germany and 220 km from Switzerland.  Verdun was built on the banks fo the Meuse river  which crosses the town from south to north taking its source deep in the Haute Marne and falling into the North Sea passing by France, Belgique and the Netherlands. It is traverse by several canals including the canal Saint-Vanne ,and the  canal des Augustins, on the left bank of the Meuse, as well on the right bank by the canal Saint-Airy. The Meuse river is connected to the Canal de l’Est that links the Meuse to the Moselle at Saône and known there as the Canal de la Meuse. There is a port pleasure marina with 30 places in city center.

Very good roads here and easy to drive. You have the D603 which is the old N3 linking Paris via Châlons-en-Champagne , and Meaux, taken several times . There is the D964 the former N64 that links on the north at  Charleville-Mézières, and south at Lure via Commercy ,and Neufchâteau.  There is the historical D1916 former N35 that is known as the sacred way as was the logistic route for the battle of Verdun in 1916 during  WWI. The fast way is the autoroute A4 known as the east highway or autoroute de l’Est linking Paris to  Strasbourg via Reims and Metz. You come off at exit 30 Voie sacrée or at exit 31 Verdun. There is a train station Gare de Verdun in city center and the LGV fast train line  at the gare de Meuse TGV at about 25 km from Verdun, there are navette bus taking you to the stations. For airports the best International are the Roissy CDG at Paris or the Luxembourg Findel in Luxembourg.

A bit of history I like , here is long and glorious!

There an existence of a town from antiquity here where the Celtic people found a center along the Meuse river. This became the Civitas Verodunensium one of the four roman provinces of the first Belgium. By 843 the treaty of Verdun shares the Carolinian empire in three kingdoms is signed given rise to the Western France for Charles the Bold, Eastern France for Louis the German, and Middle France for Lothar of which the county of Verdun belonged. ; upon the death of Lothar in 855, the Middle France is as well divided in three by the Treaty of Prûm and Verdun now passes to be part of a territory that will take later the name of Lotharingie; by 925 this area is attached to the kingdom of Germany by Henri Ier the Bird-Catcher, and Verdun becomes part of the Holy Roman Empire for five centuries to come. Finally in 1331, the bishop Henri d’Aprémont places the city under the perpetual guard of France; and while the war of 100 years is on in 1337, the king of France places the city under the joint guard of the counties of Bar and Luxembourg.  Finally, Verdun is under French control in 1552 while the voyage of Germany by the king of France Henri II allied himself to the protestant princes of Germany that fight the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and France becomes the Vicar of the empire and protector of the 3 bishops area taking Metz and Toul as well.  These 3 bishops or Verdun Metz ,and Toul comes officially to France in 1648 under the Treaty of Münster that itself was part of the Treaty of Westphalia.

The city fortress on the east of France has seen many conflicts including the French revolution in  1792 , when the Prussian army was defeated in the battle of Valmy. Many local collaborators with the Prussians were executed under the guillotine in Paris under the Convention period 1792-1795; and the war of 1870 in the Franco-Prussian war that with the treaty of Francfort of 1871, that brings the annexation of the Alsace-Moselle, Verdun  found itself only 45 km from the German empire and will become the stronghold of the frontier north east. A first line of 10 forts are built around and close to Verdun, and in 1880-1914 another 43 forts are built in a perimeter of 45 km, of which included the fort de Douaumont and the fort de Vaux.  All bring a fortified area of Verdun link by 180 km of railroad lines with the center the underground city fortress of Verdun as the command center.

However, the biggest battle was that of 1916 in Verdun during WWI  that made the city world famous and gloriously known, the battle of Verdun. In August 1915, the French general hq does not recognized any value to the forts and leave them unarmed as well as take away the guards; the German high command takes advantage of this as it was the last obstacle before Paris so decide to start an offensive in February 21 1916 by 7h with 2 million  projectiles falls on and around Verdun. However, the French army holds and digs in to last near 10 months, 163K dead , 216K wounded on the French and 143K dead and 196K wounded on the Germans by French standards.  By Fall of 1916 ,the French army takes advantage of the offensive in the Somme and counters attack taking the lost forts and set back the Germans; Verdun is saved; the battle of Verdun was one of the most important of WWI. Finally in August 20 1917 the French army takes the offensive calling on the second battle of Verdun. This allows to get back all the lost territory of 1916; by 1918, the American army in place take the offensive on the line direction  Saint-Mihiel and freed the north of Verdun, finally the Germans abandoned on August 31 1918.

Some of the things to see here are

The Notre Dame Cathedral built in the 10C ,the oldest Cathedral in Lorraine and the biggest Roman style building on the East of France. From the 16C it has several renovations like adding lateral chapels and a cloister. Damage in WWI it was rebuilt from 1920-1935, and while at it found roman parts in the crypt from the 12C. You have the former Episcopal palace built from 1724 by Robert de Cotte, the architect of king Louis XV and considered one of the most prestigious episcopal palaces in the Lorraine. Since 1994 ,it host the World Peace center of liberties and human rights a place of exposition, meetings and reflections.

The former abbey of Saint Paul founded in 973 by the Benedictines, and by 1135 passed to the order of the Premontrasians. It was destroyed in 1552 for military reasons and rebuilt between 1686-1698; after the French revolution, the abbey housed the justice palace, and regional government of Verdun. The tour Saint Vanne is the last part of the Abbey of Saint Vanne founded in 952 by the Benedictines and the name is that of the 8th bishop of Verdun.  The abbey was built on the site of the first Christian oratory dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul founded in the 4C by Saint Saintain, first bishop of Verdun. It was rebuilt and enlarged in the 14C.; after the bombings of the 1870 War it only remains the north tower of the 12C and some parts of the old cloister of the 13C. There is the Church Saint Victor, gothic dating from the 14C dedicated to Saint Victor and Saint Maurice; since 1685 it guards a statue of the Virgin that Verdun honored under the name of Notre Dame des Clefs (keys);the legend been that she would had save the city from Huguenots protestants attacks in 1562. So, on the gate of Saint Victor the inhabitants gives their keys of the city and the statue would had inclined the head in a sign of acceptance. The Church of St John the Baptist built in 1884 in the neighborhood of Faubourg was cut in half in 1916 and rebuilt identically with two bell towers replacing the one before the war; the new stained glass honored the soldiers mixing religious and patriotic feelings.

There is a Synagogue built in 1875 on a byzantine Moorish style by the Jewish community of Verdun; the building replaces the original one done in 1805 on the site of the former Convents of the Jacobins that was destroyed in the war of 1870. When it was tempered with by the Nazis in WWII, the synagogue was restored by the members of the US Army of jewish descend., and it has a jewish cemetery on the Avenue du Commandant Raynal. There is a Reformist Church of France built in 1889 on the site of a wheat depot, it suffered bombings during 1916 and restored again in 1920.  There is a nice city hall or Hôtel de Ville built in 1623 on the Louis XIII style with two bodies crowned by a bell and two wings. The Hôtel de la Princerie is a mansion built in 1525 as it was the place where the princes lived, the highest dignitaries of the diocese after the bishops. Since 1932, it houses the museum of the Princerie. The theater of Verdun was done in a wheat depot destroyed during the war of 1870 and opened in 1893 by Raymond Poincaré, then fine arts minister and later president of France.  The facades are with corinthians columns and balcons, and the interior is Italian style on five levels with neo baroque decoration, and a cupola or dome similar to the Opera Garnier in Paris.

The wonderful underground city or citadelle souterraine of Verdun are underground galleries carved between 1886 and 1893 by miltiary engineers  under the fortress of Verdun, that was built between 1624 to 1635.  By 1914, the galleries had almost 4 km and at the end of the war it had 7 km housing about 2K men and serving as refuge and command post as well as logistic base. It included 6 powder stores, 7 ammunitions stores, bakery, windmill, telephone center and telegraphs, and raising machines sort of elevators for water for the city and the forts, kitchens, and huge storage spaces.  It was here that on November 10 1920, the unknown soldier was designated that now rest under the Arc de Triomphe of Paris.  You have the officers mess hall built on pylons between 1891 and 1893 in the classic style with a rooftop Mansart style. The building was offered to the military authorities in charge of the construction of new fortifications . The city had several military posts such as the Glorieux, Maginot, Niel, and Beaurepaire,today destroyed or redone for something else.

The levy bridge or Pont-écluse Saint Armand is a defensive system created by Vauban and built by Perrault from 1680 to 1685, and was part of the three levy bridges with those of Saint-Airy and Saint Nicolas today gone that allows the flooding of the surrounding of Verdun on 14km with a depth of 2-2,5 meters of water. It took about 6 days to have a full flooding so making any attack impossible into the city. It was the only one in France to have a manoeuver command post with all its mechanism. You can see traces of the ramparts from the 14C that surround the city called the Grand Rempart. There is a gate or Porte Chausée (or tour Chaussée) built in 1380 and one of the three monumental gates of the ramparts. It has two twins round towers of 20 meters high crowned by battlements and machicoulis joint by a portico. The tower or tour de l’Islot is circular flank by a long road of rounded peaks in the ramparts  ,built in the 14C and cut into by deadly and long water rapids called Moson in the Canal du Puty.

There are several monuments to the fallen and the most visible in my opinion are the Monument to the victory and soldiers of Verdun or  à la Victoire et aux soldats de Verdun. Located in city center and opened in 1929 at the place of the former collegiale Church of the Madeleine in the 11C, and takes foothold on the old ramparts of the Roman castrum that were moved during the bombing of 1916. At the top of the tower of 30 meters there is a statue of a soldier resting on his sword and looking to the East. The tower was done with two Russians canon taken by the German and later by the French ; there are 73 steps on a stair leading you to a crypt where are the register of soldiers recipients of the medal of Verdun.  Each year on November 1st ,the flame of the tomb of the unknown soldier that burn under the Arc de Triomphe in paris is brought to the crypt here where it burn until November 11 the day of the Armistice in 1918, end of WWI and then returns to Paris.

Another one I like is the monument to the Children of Verdun dead for France or aux enfants de Verdun morts pour la France , located facing the gate or Porte Chaussée,this monument opened in November 1 1928. It has five soldiers representing the different arms of the army  Infantrymen, firemen, artillery,horsemen, and reservist. These make a wall of soldiers against which the German army jumped on showing the soldiers creed of Verdun They wll not pass or on ne passe pas. The name of  510 Verdun native dead in WWI are  written on the monument as well as other fallen in other conflicts that were added. Another one was a gift from the Netherlands to Verdun or to the Holland Friend or Monument de la Hollande amie. Offered to Verdun in 1920. It represent a wounded soldier held by a winged genius with the furious expression, the arms open towards the horizon and the fingers closed.

These ones I have followed by car, they are the monument of the sacre way and the the road of liberty or the Monument de la Voie Sacrée and the Voie de la Liberté.  Dating from 1947, and located in front of the train station of Verdun you have two historic roads. The La Voie Sacrée  is a strategic road linking Verdun to Bar-le-Duc that brought the men and materials to the front of the battle of Verdun in 1916.  The La Voie de la Liberté  is a road taken by the American Army in 1944 from Normandy to Alsace to liberate France ; this has a monument by a wall on top a head of a marianne lady flanked by two bornes typical of the two roads. The city and surrounding has several resting places worth a detour such as the Nécropole nationale de Bevaux Nécropole nationale du Faubourg-Pavé ,and the Nécropole nationale de Glorieux.  There is also a wonderful park the forêt domaniale de Verdun with an area of almost 10K hectares created after just the end of  WWI that extends on the battle fields to preserve the remains of the fight and the memory of the fighting men.

The forest around Verdun, mand of heroes, in French: http://www1.onf.fr/foret-exception/sommaire/foretreseau/verdun/leprojet/20140806-094957-882920/@@index.html

The Verdun tourist office on things to see: https://en.tourisme-verdun.com/

The city of Verdun on things to see: https://www.verdun.fr/sortir-bouger-se-divertir/tourisme-loisirs/sites-historiques#openModal

The Ministry of the French Armed Forces on the centenary of the Battle of Verdun in French: https://www.defense.gouv.fr/memoire/rubrique-actualites/centenaire-de-la-grande-guerre

The memorial of Verdun of the battlefields in English: http://memorial-verdun.fr/en/

The underground citadelle in Verdun in French: http://www.citadelle-souterraine-verdun.fr/en_index.php

The Ossuary of Douaumont/ Verdun in English: https://www.verdun-douaumont.com/en/?lang=en

The Meuse dept 55 on the Meuse battlefields: https://www.meusetourism.com/en/sightseeing/step-into-history/the-great-war-in-the-meuse.html

And there you have it. Verdun is special needs a special visit and I must return. Enjoy the immortal Verdun indeed glorious. You need to bring your younger ones to explained never again.

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

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February 26, 2021

Retirement time in France!!!!

And as I have done a couple of post on the question of Retirement time in France, this is my third update on the subject. Hope you enjoy the brief post and help some to think about retirement in France from a French perspective! Here I go!

If you have read my blog you know that I was living in the USA as an American for 31 years! While there met a French women in Paris and became my wife while deciding to live with me in Florida USA, where we spent the last 13 years of my life there. We had 3 boys born in Florida! We did visits to France every year of our marriage there and in the course of this life became fluent in French and a citizen of France!

Eventually, my dear wife Martine asked me if we can come back for her to live in France and after falling deeply in love with the country and she, I decided to make the move in August 2003 I was here and she and the boys and my parents followed after selling our home there in December 2003! We came to live in the gorgeous faboulous great city of Versailles, Yvelines dept 78 of the Ïle de France region of by then already my belle France! And to boot I worked in Paris and she at Roissy CDG airport! While here I had the sad episode of losing my dear loving Mother Gladys! on December 27, 2007. My father stayed with me.

As my job required a lot of international travel and many times expats renditions of up to 3 months away from home, she asked me to slow down. Again, I could not say no to my mamie Bleu and found me a job in near Vannes, the Morbihan dept 56 of the lovely region of Bretagne. We end up purchasing a home in Pluvigner.  The area was superbe and we really enjoy the country side having spent many time in Vannes proper and traveling all over France and Europe by car, train, and plane! We both thought of retirement.

Unfortunately for me as life can never be easy, my dear loving wife Martine passed away on April 30 2018 while living in Pluvigner. She could not make it to retirement which we have thought either in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Versailles, Vannes or south of Madrid Spain where we had thought of even if not retired there to purchase a second home for vacations. All thrashed due to her passing.

I stayed with my 3 young men and Dad at home. And now thought about my retirement time, where? As everything that has passed and my Dad Elio sick with a cerebral infactus or AVC Cérébrale we take care of him at home and so far so good. My decision was to stay in Pluvigner as my boys have jobs and support locally so at this stage a move would have been more disrupting to us.

I negotiated with my boss CFO an early exit or early retirement or retraite anticipée that can be done here and just got the written approval!!!!!!! This in a few words is when your company feels that they can save on your salary more by paying you a lump sum and discharging you than continue to pay your salary for probably a lot longer… I had the best timing as when I go out effective March 1 2021 I already can ask for my retirement here!!! And I did lol!!! well will do as officially is from March 1st.

This will allow me more time on the blog lol!! more time with my boys, and Dad been able to help him more. We will continue to travel as already done it with the whole gang including our border collier/labrador (borador) dog Rex who is now 3 yrs + old. And my dog is very good already laying down next to me and follows me everywhere!! love him dearly and my dear late wife Martine gave him the name as it is a dog from an Austrian police serie with a german shepperd name Rex too, the series is name Inspector Rex or Rex chien flic in French or Kommissar Rex in German and Il commissario Rex in Italian.

Here are my previous two posts on Retirement in France from

February 12 , 2019: https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2019/02/12/retirement-time-in-france-opinions/

December 31 ,2019: https://paris1972-versailles2003.com/2019/12/31/retirement-time-in-france-opinions-2/

And this will be my retirement town as current Pluvigner tourist info: http://www.pluvigner.fr/listes/tourisme/

And this is our area tourist office, the Bay of Quiberon on Pluvignerhttps://www.baiedequiberon.co.uk/pluvigner

So after much thought and unfortunate events in our lives we end up deciding to stay put. Now waiting this pm for our delivery of farm produce from local farmers who deliver the goodies to us!!! The country kind of living in the real France as the saying goes. You are welcome to stop by or let me know if nearby for a get together of whatever! always nice to do me think. And of course, will continue with my blog posts and updates of older posts until possible again to travel. Stay safe

Thank you for reading me over the last over 10 years in my blog, really appreciated. It has been a pleasurable ride indeed. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!!

February 26, 2021

The Yvelines dept 78; memorable cities!!

And love it to update this older post in my blog! Talking about my former home department 78 Yvelines in the île de France region of my belle France! I spent my first 9 years in France here living in Versailles, but did went all over including these memorable cities that I like to tell you a bit more about! Hope you enjoy it as I.

On a mundane day in the west coast of France, we remember our wonderful times too in the west of Paris, Yvelines dept 78.  A magical moment to lived in the Royal city of Versailles and worked in the most beautiful city in the world , Paris. We went around a lot, and on many not your typical tourist towns but nevertheless it is our life and my blog is all about that. Footprints all over France ,and the world.  I like to share with my readers some of these towns, all memorable for our family. These are La Verriére, Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Montigny-le-Bretonneux, and Elancourt.

La Verrière only 40 km from Paris and 20 km from Versailles. It is believe La Verrière occupy the site of the village of Watreias in the forest of Yvelines that was given by king Pepin in 768 to the Abbey of Saint Denis.

There are many good roads here and taken many times when lived in Versailles, the N10 passes north of the town and the D58 takes you to Elancourt ( mini France park) and the south to Mesnil-Saint-Denis to Dampierre-en-Yvelines. The D13 takes the western part of the town to the northwes at Montfort –l’Amaury ( Heredia’s house seat 79 académie Française) and on the south to Mesnil-Saint-Denis and later Chevreuse.  There is a great train service here and my oldest son used it a lot. There is a nice train station connecting with the line N Rambouillet-Paris Montparnasse and Line U La Verriére – La Défense.

A bit of history I like

The parish of La Verrière was created in 1739 with the fusion of three villages such as La Petite-Verrière, la Grande-Verrière and l’Agiot, it finally became a city in the French revolution but stayed small during the 20C even if the situation was good bordering the big road N10 that goes from Paris to Chartres.  In 1972 , there was a union of towns into a metropolitan area or agglomeration call the Nouvelle Ville de Saint Quentin en Yvelines, La Verrière was part of this area. Thing to see from afar and the gardens is the Chateau de La Verriére . It was in 1507, the lands were purchased by Barthélemy Séguier, noble and judge that starts to built the castle , his descendant Jean Séguier, adviser to the king Louis XIV finished it in 1660. The gardens were done by André Le Nôtre gardener of the king. Over the years transformed into many things it is now the psychatric center Marcel Riviere.

The City of La Verriére on its history/heritage: https://www.ville-laverriere.com/?Son-histoire

However, how I came to know this town is because my oldest son spent his schooling here initial path to become a commercial agent or salesmen at the specilised school CFA AFFIDA; in lieu of University studies. The school was very nice, good folks and easy to go on direct line train from Versailles or even a bus. 401/415 of the SQYbus network. So , I can say came into this area by car, train ,and bus! for memory lane this is the Affida school webpage: https://www.affida.fr/nos-2-centres/cfa-affida-la-verriere-yvelines-78

In Saint Quentin en Yvelines we love to come shopping at the mall there ,for the cinema and celebrated many younger days birthdays with friends at the bowling alley. The cinema Cine Cité SQY is still there. webpage: https://www.ugc.fr/cinema.html?id=6#

Need to have this picture on the bowling entrance inside even if repeat!

montigny-ugc-cinema-kids-transf-2-movie-jul09

The shopping center has many stores gone now and heard they may demolished it for housing ,unfortunately, the memories will stay on . The Bowling Star is also gone ,I heard and is not listed in their official site so another one for the memories. In the nearby town of Montigny-les-Bretonneux there is an explanation on the bowling but no mention yet is gone: webpage: https://www.montigny78.fr/275/sports-et-loisirs/equipements/bowling-billards.htm

This later town of Montigny-le-Bretonneux ,we used to go to see the baseball games of the Montigny Cougars playing in the French second division or like Triple A level; since 2017 thereabouts ,they have move up to the First division top league in France, their stadium was on our way to the shopping center/cinema/bowling. webpage: http://www.montigny-baseball.com/

The city of Montigny-le-Bretonneux on things to see: https://www.montigny78.fr/116/decouvrir-montigny/patrimoine/le-chateau-de-montigny.htm

And we went as far on the N10 to the town of Coigniéres to buy fresh groceries at discount ;lovely my dear late wife Martine will search for anything! At the Marché-o-Frais, rue de la Gare , and the Grand Frais, 3 rue des Fréres Lumiéres angle rue du Gibet. webpage: https://www.grandfrais.com/magasins/coignieres

The city of Cogniéres on its history/heritage: http://www.coignieres.fr/ouvrages.aspx

And last but not least in this memorable dept 78 Yvelines, when passing on the D58 we had visited at ElancourtFrance Miniature park, model building of the main attractions in France. webpage: https://www.franceminiature.fr/en/attractions

The city of Elancourt on its history/heritage in French : https://elancourt.fr/ma-ville/decouvrir-ma-ville/histoire-et-patrimoine

In all many memorable moments with the boys and now missing their mother even more nostalgic indeed. We cannot forget these towns, it is part of us been French.

This is the agglomeration or metro area of Saint Quentin en Yvelines (SQY)  on tourist info; things to see: https://www.saint-quentin-en-yvelines.fr/fr/sortir-et-decouvrir/tourisme/le-tourisme-sqy

Hope you enjoy this other side of life in France, not visiting but living the real thing. Maybe just maybe you may feel to want to come to these areas just to take a look at how we live normal life away from the tourist throngs , just maybe ,you will be surprise. As I always said, Ernest Hemingway wrote about A Moveable Feast or Paris est une Fête because he only visited there, if he had gone out, he would had had the need to write a second book, France, is a moveable feast!!!

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

February 25, 2021

More on the streets of Vannes!!!

And ok, many posts on this wonderful city of my beautiful Morbihan in my lovely Bretagne and my belle France! And I work just outside for a bit more before retirement rolls in soon ::) I love to come into towns/cities and walk them, it is superbe and we love it, going km after km sightseeing on foot. We by now know Vannes by heart but it never amazes me to see so much beauty in its architecture and history untouched by the times. Let me tell you another episode on the streets of Vannes! Hope you enjoy it as I.

The Place Valencia square is located in the heart of the historic center of Vannes. It is inside the city’s first intramural wall, Place Valencia opens at the intersection of rue des Halles, rue Noé and rue des Orfèvres. It is name after the city of Valencia, Spain , the birthplace of Saint Vincent Ferrier, who came to preach in Vannes in 1418-19. The preacher would have lived in a house in the square. This beautiful half-timbered house on the ground floor in stones is located at n ° 17 of the square. According to tradition, it would have been inhabited by Saint Vincent Ferrier in 1418-1419. It was remodeled in 1574. Some of its relics are venerated at the Saint-Pierre Cathedral nearby, where he is the Patron Saint of Vannes , and of the Community of Valencia region in Spain. The other unique sight here is the Maison de Vannes et sa femme or house of Vannes and its women. This house on the corner of rue Noé is famous for its stone sculpture, probably from the 16C.

vannes pl de valencia two women wall jul17

The Place de la Liberation square forms a quadrilateral halfway between the historic center and the Madeleine district of Vannes. The Place de la Liberation occupies the site of the cemetery of the old Saint-Michel chapel, which already existed in the 13C. Damaged by a storm in 1706, the chapel was demolished in 1743 and the bones of the cemetery transferred to that of the Notre-Dame-des-Lices Chapel, on the place des Lices. In 1748, the nuns of the Visitation acquired the land thus liberated and turned it into an orchard. This was alienated during the French revolution and bought in 1822 by the city, which set up the cattle fair there. The new public square took the name of champ de foire or fairground. In 1850 the square was leveled, the earth cleared and a water reservoir built. Shortly after, it was decided to establish a gendarmerie there and to build a new prefecture. Only the first project was carried out, in 1859. It is the Guillaudot barracks. In 1964, to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Liberation, the place champ de foire   was renamed Place de la Liberation.

vannes pl de la liberation bus depot sep19

The Place de la République square is home to several public buildings and the central Vannes public transport interchange. It is one of the largest public places in Vannes; crossed by rue Thiers, which leads from the city/town hall to the port. It is located on the edge of the historic center, covering an area of approximately 1.8 hectares, it is rectangular in shape. The square is partly used as a parking lot. Underground parking is also available under the square (one of our favorites) . The main public transport interchange in Vannes is located here. Place de la République was created in 1862 under the name of Place de la Halle-aux-Grains, in reference to the market hall which was built there at the same time. Initially square, the square takes a rectangular shape from its origin, when the construction of a courthouse is decided . It is also grew towards the historic center, when the space to the east of rue Thiers, corresponding to the ditches of the old ramparts, is added to it. In 1955, the grain hall, serving as a post office since 1912, was demolished. It was replaced by a new post in the 1970s. There now you have the main post office, Courthouse, Morbihan deparment 56 prefecture services (my father for his resident visitor card), Bank and real estate agencies.

vannes pl de la Republique bus terminal jun17

The Place Henri-IV is a square place located in the inner city on the heights of the Mené hill. It communicates with the Place Saint-Pierre and the cathedral (see below), to rue Saint-Salomon and to rue des Chanoines and rue Émile-Burgault. The square is surrounded by half-timbered houses from the 15-16C, from which they can therefore date the square. In the 18C, this square was called Mallièvre, a distortion of its original Breton name Men-Guevr, or stone with goats. After having been named Place du Département during the French revolution, it was finally renamed to its current name during the 19C. A bird market was held in this square in the 1860s: sellers, called Pilorgets, mainly brought linnets and goldfinches. Most of the houses in this square are listed as historic monuments. This is the case for houses located  at No 1 at the corner of Place Saint-Pierre, at no 2 corner of Place Saint-Pierre; note, on the Place Saint-Pierre side, the existence of a beam bearing the inscription “The sleeping cat is awake; at no 5 the corner of rue Saint-Salomon, at no 6 corner of rue des Chanoines. Although strictly speaking not present on the square, the house located at 32 rue des Chanoines is also protected as historical monuments.

Vannes pl henri IV jul16

The Place Saint Pierre square has a few old houses adjoining La Cohue (fine arts museum), opposite the St Peter’s Cathedral . La Cohue designating the old partly Romanesque halls, remains dating from the 16C. The ground floor was occupied by the stalls of merchants, mostly butchers and the first floor reserved for courts of law. The Parliament of Brittany sat there when it was exiled to Vannes. In the last century, a theater occupied the first floor which now houses the museum. At No. 9 Place Saint Pierre is one of the oldest houses in the city, recognizable by its many small windows, testimonies of civil architecture from the beginning of the 15C. The house at no 7 Place Saint Pierre, built on the edge of the Cohue from which it is separated by an alley. Its facade framework shows that it has retained a first floor from the 15C. This also shows the remains of the small crosses that once ran on the facade. It shows alterations by its wall of the second Renaissance in the basement and an elevation in the 19C. Of course, the must visit in town is that here you have the Cathédrale Saint Pierre or St Peter’s Cathedral built in the 13C-15-16C-19C.

vannes pl st pierre cat right jul14

The Rue du Port has several restaurant in wonderful historical houses such as the Le Comptoir du Port, Créperie du Port, and Don Camilo pizzeria as well as an excellent parking du Port underground. Also, at No 28 Rue du Port there is a house built at the end of the 16C or the beginning of the 17C, which testifies to the old state of the rue du port before the reconstructions of the 17-18-19C. Originally having a single corbelled floor level, it was raised by one floor in the 17C, then by a third in the 18C. The ground floor was advanced following the alignment of 1841 in 1870. Also, at No 10 rue du Port ,you can see the house whose main body on the street was rebuilt in 1747 on the site of a half-timbered house of which the gutter wall with corbel remains. The posterior body is contemporary with that on the street, but seems to be established on an older cellar remaining from the previous construction, open by day provided with a lug grille dating from the 17C. A well, appearing on the 1844 cadastre has disappeared. In the 19C,the house was occupied by a Masonic lodge; a decor from the first half of the 19C with a Masonic symbol is still preserved. Access is via a side hallway adjoining house at n ° 12. The limestone ashlar street façade has two bays, two square floors and an additional floor. The body overlooking rue du Drézen, in granite rubble, has a half-buried cellar, two square floors and an additional floor. Projecting on the alignment of the street , it is covered with a hipped roof. The staircase is in wood, with a single straight flight for each floor. The chimneys are established on the gutter walls.

vannes rue du port 14C houses feb15

You have the picturesque Rue Saint Guénhaël, where at No 17 Rue Saint Guénhaël you can see one of the oldest houses in Vannes. Almost six centuries old!! The house was built on a much older cellar probably remaining from an earlier building. This cellar is shared with house at No. 19 and could date back to the 12C or 13C. The first campaign concerns the ground floor and the first floor and possibly dates back to the second half of the 14C, as can be seen from the upstairs windows as well as the arcades on the ground floor. On the first floor, two blocked doors, as well as strong projecting consoles on the east wall seem to be the traces of an old corbelled raceway. Perhaps at the end of the 16C, the house was raised by one floor, eliminating the passage. The attic seems to have been built in the 19C. The staircase and most of the interior fittings disappeared in the 20C, with iron or wood reinforcements re-joining the structure. Another nice one at No 23 Rue Saint Guénhaël is on the ground floor or 1st floor the Crêperie Saint-Guenhaël. The house was built in the 15C according to its architectural characteristics and mentioned in the archives of 1455 as well as in the archives of the reformation of the estate in 1677. Its L-shaped plan does not seem original and it is likely that the house was made the object of a posterior and perpendicular extension including the previous house from the rear. The stone base has been modified as you can see on the ground floor that the original staircase has undergone modifications but still remain visible part of the original wooden screw and the rounded shape of the stairwell in the west wall which is indicated its place. The staircase on the ground floor only gives access to the basement. Access to the floors is today via another staircase contained in the side corridor. The rear part of the house includes in the wall a fireplace covered with a 17C woodwork which could hide an older granite fireplace. A fountain pierced in the south wall of the basement dates back to the 12C. The later enlargement of the house shows us that this fountain was first outside and that it could be accessed by the alley which led from the rue de la Bienfaisance to that of rue de la Monnaie.

vannes rue saint gunhael side of cat st pierre 14C jul14

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and is a must me think are

The Bay of Quiberon tourist office on Vanneshttps://www.golfedumorbihan.bzh/citybreak/week-end-a-vannes/

The Morbihan dept 56 Tourist board on Vanneshttp://www.morbihan-tourism.co.uk/home/discover/morbihan/the-main-destinations/vannes

The city of Vannes on history and heritage sights: http://en.mairie-vannes.fr/discoveringvannes/history-and-heritage/

The Bretagne region tourist board on Vanneshttps://www.brittanytourism.com/destinations/the-10-destinations/southern-brittany-morbihan-gulf/vannes/

There you go, now you are loaded just release your inner thoughts and transport yourselves to the 14 or 15 or centuries and come to Vannes, you will like it I know ::) And what better ways to feel it all than by walking the streets of Vannes!

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

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