Archive for February 5th, 2021

February 5, 2021

How to moved around the Palace and Versailles!

So there I am again, time to update, revise links etc on my fav city of all France, Versailles! I like to tell you a bit on how to get around and go inside the Château de Versailles or palace of Versailles.  As many posts already and pictures, this will be another in my black and white series. Hope you enjoy it as I did reading it again!

I have heard many bloggers pointing of the crowds and transportation mishaps coming to Versailles, my former home in the Yvelines dept 78 , Île de France region for 9 years. I think I know a thing or two on how to move about in Versailles

Versailles is a city of a bit over 100K folks but it is done very wisely modern by the kings of France, it is pretty much rectangular and all starts at the palace. The three big avenues from it commands all, avenue de Saint Cloud, avenue de Paris, and avenue de Sceaux. The Domaine of Versailles as it is call the whole complex was much bigger than today, (8000 Ha) well have written several posts on it, right now there is about 807 hectares of it (about 8 sq km or 3 sq miles).

The Castle sits as independent with the neighborhoods coming out from it , mine was Notre Dame. Other famous are Saint Louis, Montreuil, Chantiers, and Montbauron. Folks as said come here for the palace mainly, not really to blame but a shame missing on so much, you need more time here. I have written on the monuments and their place in history many times before so will let you do some search in my blog.

The castle/palace/museum is open every day except Mondays from 9h to 18h30 , however, the Trianons opens at 12h (garden closes at 19h) , and the Coach Gallery (wagon carriages) open  by 12h30.;closing by 18h30 The park and gardens are open every day and they are free except on Musical Fountains Shows and Musical Garden. The Trianons you can come through the Gardens or through the city (by the porte Saint Antoine on ave de Versailles). Versailles has three city train stations the one closest on foot to the Castle/palace/museum is on the RER C express trains to the Rive Gauche-château station on ave Général de Gaulle; however, the other two Rive Droite and Chantiers can be access to the Castle/Palace/museum with the local bus network Phebus.

The park domaine per se has the following entry points  on foot thru the Main Gate (place d’Armes) 8h until 20h30; the Queen’s Gate (bd de la Reine and allée des Moutons) 7h to 20h30, Sailor’s Gate (Rue de Saint Cyr (D10)) 9h30 to 19h, Saint Anthony’s Gate (porte Saint Antoine ,along avenue de Versailles) 9h30 to 19h and the Grille of the Royal Star (further back of the Grand Canal on chemin Etoile Royale off the road D7) only accessable on weekends and holidays from 9h30 to 19h15. You can come with vehicles thru the Queen’s gate by 9h until 17h50 last entry and the   Saint Anthony’s Gate only on weekends from 9h last entry at 17h50.  The tricky part are the gardens where you need to verify the dates according to the times you will be here, otherwise the entry points and times are everyday from 8h to 20h30 with last admission at 19h and on foot you can come thru the Main gate 8h to 19h ,the Dragon’s Gate (side of theater Montansier off bd de la Reine) from 12h to 18h30, Neptune Gate (bd de la Reine  and Petit Allée Saint Antoine), Menagerie Gate (Allée des Matelots debut Grand Canal) and Little Venice Gate (by La Flottille resto debut Grand Canal) on similar times. At Porte Saint Antoine below, you can come from avenue de Saint Cloud on bus 19 and stop at Parly II/Les Chesnay(a nice shopping mall and my kids schools)  walk down and entered for free and no crowds to the gardens/Trianons and Hameau properties without going in .We love it for jogging and walking many times.

As told the main entrance is thru the main courtyard passed the grille iron gate and statue in front of king Louis XIV; if you do not have a pre purchase ticket (which you should), and not eligible for free admission (like a student or under 26 UE) go to the ticket office first, on the left of the Main courtyard in the South Ministers’ wing and then to Entrance A of the Palace. This is for individual entries. If you have reserved your tickets in advance then go straight to Entrance A with your ticket and proof of identity. And lastly, if going to the Trianons first opening at 12h go straight to them by their Saint Anthony’s gate (Porte Saint Antoine at Allée de Saint Antoine)) next to it is the Hameau of Marie Antoinette and then the Petit and Grand Trianon.

The basic info on influx of visitors is split in two ; high season from April 1st to October 31st and low season from November 1st to March 31st. However, avoid Wednesdays as it is school day off in France and mom stayed home thinking where to go out, and on Fridays which is the weekend. So come on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and be there at opening time with your advance purchased tickets.

Of course, the above days and hours etc are the norm, as current events dictate, you need to check the proper official webpage to know in advance the latest information.

Basic transportation info tells you that you can get here by

RER C to Versailles ChâteauRive Gauche from many points in Paris and it is about 8-10 minutes walk to the palace. Leaving from Paris Montparnasse you can come to the Chantiers station which is only about 20 minutes from the palace. And last my station the Rive Droite coming from Paris Saint Lazare train station and about another 20 minutes to the palace. The Versailles bus network Phebus is excellent on time, clean and very helpful drivers. For quite some time now there is a bus from Paris RATP Bus No. 171 from Pont de Sévres metro station to the Château of Versailles ave de Paris facing the castle. (see posts)

I must add driving here is easy, from Paris or Normandy on the A13 autoroute de Normandie on exit or sorties 5 and 6. Coming from the west as I do now I take the free N12 and exit:sorties 1-4. There is good parking underground at Notre Dame and Saint Cloud parkings and above ground my favorite at Sceaux next to the rive gauche-château RER C station. At the end of the Avenue de Sceaux, after the parking you have the wonderful garden of Jardin des Etangs Gobert.

You can from Paris following the old King Louis XIV road that still can be done in automobile as well. Leave Paris on rue de la Convention and cross the Seine river at Pont Mirabeau, next street over from the Seine is  appropriately Avenue de Versailles take a left on it and go to the traffic circle at Porte de Saint Cloud ; take direction Boulogne-Billancourt on the D910 ; continue past the wonderful traffic circle of Marcel Sembat, and continue on Avenue du Général Leclerc (same D910) ; cross the Seine river at the Pont de Sévres passing on your right hand side the museum of Sévres or manufacture and continue you are still on the D910 road. Passing the quaint town of Chaville, continue and entering Virofray the road changes to the D10 ,continue same road.(the street name changes to Avenue de Paris appropriable) but same road D10. And you know what, this is Versailles!!! Leading head on to the palace/museum!!! The road of the Kings of France coming from the Louvre fortress (now museum).

From the Hôtel de Ville or even closer from the rive gauche-château train station you go left (not right to the castle) and continue on avenue du Général de Gaulle continuosly street is the Rue Royale at the corner of rue d’Anjou you have the Carré Saint Louis many intimates stories of the kings and an antique shops heaven on either side, if you turn right and continue on rue d’Anjou you will reach the St Louis Cathedral, and onwards to Rue du Maréchal Joffre you hit on the Potager du roi vegetable gardens. If at this street, you turn left you will get to the romantic Parc Balbi on your right hand side.  If you turn right on rue du Maréchal Joffre  eventually becomes rue de Satory, you turn left on rue de l’Orangerie and you will reach the Orangerie from the outside go in on the porte grille de Cent Marshes (100 steps), and right across you see the Piéce d’Eau des Suisses walk alone the edge of the lake to the back you will see the only statue in Versailles to king Louis XVI! If you get off from the rue de Satory into the rue du vieux Versailles you will reach the Salle de Jeu de Paume and continue further you will reach the rue de l’independence Americaine (where the municipal library keeps the table where the support of France for the US independence was signed) . All within walking distance.

The city of Versailles on coming to the city in English: https://www.versailles.fr/ma-ville/se-deplacer/venir-a-versailles/#

The city of Versailles show a nice interactive map in English by the world globe click on it: https://www.versailles.fr/ma-ville/se-deplacer/plan-de-la-ville/

The tourist office of Versailles has plenty of practical information on getting,moving about in Versailleshttps://en.versailles-tourisme.com/useful-information-and-tips

Ahh this is the iceberg on the mountain of possibilities in my beloved Versailles, the Royal town of France, history on every brick or every tile on every stone of France and many of the World.  Hope you enjoy the post as I.

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

February 5, 2021

A nostalgic look back on Alarcon!

Yes indeed, this was family trips on a time we were together and my dear late wife Martine was with us. To be honest, I have heard of this town in the history of Spain I follow since birth.. however, never was on it. We were looking forward to visit Valencia when as a child I had an aunt living just south in El Saler. I decided to take the family and on the way there I saw Alarcon and decided on the way back to stop by. This we did later on as well; nice memories of Alarcon. Hope you enjoy it as we did!

A nostalgic look back on Alarcon, indeed.  On one of our summer runs to Spain, decided to see smaller towns of my beloved Spain, so the turn came for Alarcon. It was memorable indeed.

Alarcon is in the province of Cuenca in the Castilla La Mancha autonomous community about 87 km from Cuenca, the capital of the province.  Alarcon sits on a rocky hill almost completely encircled by a loop of the Jùcar river. In the 8C an Arab fortress was built on the promontory above the river, a useful defensive position. Stone walls and 5 turrets surround the castle of Alarcon. (see post) One of these turrets sits right on the river and enabled the inhabitants to draw fresh water even during a siege. After a long occupation by the Moors the castle was taken by the Castilians during the Reconquest in 1184 following a nine-month siege. As well as the castle admire the main square with its old town hall and the 16C San Juan Bautista Church and stroll through the medieval streets. The church houses some excellent murals by Jesus Mateo. The Santa Maria Church is a lovely Renaissance church. (see posts)

The history of Alarcón is governed by its role as a stronghold; however, the castle is not the town’s only precious heritage: it also claims a rich architectural variety, both religious (the Churches of Santo Domingo de Silos, San Juan Bautista, the Santa Trinidad, and Santa María del Campo, as well as the Hermitage of Santa María de la Orden), and civil (the town hall, the House of Villena, and the Castañeda Palace).

Castle of Alarcon, is of Muslim origin, this medieval fortress was constructed in the 8C and conquered by King Alfonso VIII in 1184. The castle sits atop a promontory inside a bend of the Júcar River, creating a formidable stronghold whose battlements provide an impressive view to the border with Valencia. The keep, built around 1460 by Castilian nobleman Juan Pacheco, serves as the fortress’s trademark feature. The historical figure Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena, who wrote the Tales of Count Lucanor, once lived within the castle walls. It opened its doors as a parador hotel in 1966.

Church of Santo Domingo de Silos, This is a 13C church built in the late Romanesque style. Of the original structure, both the semicircular apse in the nave and the southern portal have been preserved. The portal’s splayed arch consists of three colonnettes per door jamb, capped by pointed proto-Gothic archivolts. In the 16C, the square tower and the walls of the nave were built following Renaissance designs, while the Baroque period saw the modification of the ceiling with a ribbed barrel vault. Today the church has been adapted for use as an exhibition hall and auditorium.

Art Center – The Murals of Alarcón; Old Church of San Juan Bautista. The current structure dates from the 16C as a replacement of the previous Romanesque building. It has a single nave covered with a barrel vault, a portal in the Herrerian style, and a tower that remains from the original church. Buttresses stabilize the lateral walls; however, contrary to custom, they are located in the interior and thus divide the space into smaller areas that serve as tiny chapels. In 1994, the young Spanish painter Jesús Mateo began the project of covering the totality of the old structure in a set of mural paintings. it is considered one of the greatest examples of contemporary art worldwide.

Church of the Santa Trinidad . This Church comprises two naves, dating from the 13C and 16C respectively, although the vault in the older nave was built in the 15C. Of note are its pointed ribbed side arches, its chancel arch, and its Renaissance altar. The original Romanesque apse, circular in form, has been replaced by the current rectangular one. The portal is typically Plateresque; it bears the coats of arms of the Marquis of Villena, and of his contemporary, Bishop. The Church tower stands on a portal known as the arco de la villa (town gate).

Church of Santa María del Campo .This Church presently serves as a parish Church. Erected at the beginning of the 16C, it was constructed in the Plateresque style and features Gothic tracery in the vault. The portal dates from the middle of the same century and was built by Esteban Jamete (born Etienne Jamet) of Orléans, who is also supposed to have made the altarpiece with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary, as well as the sacristy. I put up the picture here because not elsewhere ok.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The only drawback we had is as we were pressed for time, the wait at the restaurant was too long and the reception not to Spanish standards of welcoming. So bad we forgot the resto name lol! The rest was wonderful, history, architecture, old , just what I like. Indeed, we were on the run and expecting perhaps quicker service but of course, this is Spain ::)

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

A wordpress site been use as City Hall on tourist info by a local(see right hand column iglesias and palaces) in Spanish: http://aytoalarcon.es/

The Castilla La Mancha tourist office on Alarcon in English: http://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/alarcon-44031/descripcion/

Hope it helps to bring you out to the deep Spain, the soul of the Spanish people , travel to know and you will know why more travel is needed. Alarcon is nice indeed and memories forever!

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

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February 5, 2021

A little jewel of Oloron Sainte Marie!

And on our near pyrénées road warrior trips we passed by here many many times on our road trips to Spain. However, one time we stop in town and was pleasantly surprise. Let me update/revise text links on this older post of Oloron Sainte Marie to bring about those wonderful road warrior souvenirs! As have many posts and pictures this will be a black and white series post! Hope you enjoy it as I.

Indeed as said, we have passed by several times always on our way to Spain, and each time we say next time we will stop here, well, road warrior goes along the merry roads of France…So one time we finally stop, and actually walk around lol! This is a pleasant town and lovely chocolates. I am talking about my introduction to Oloron Sainte Marie.

Oloron-Sainte-Marie is in the department 64 of Pyrénées-Atlantique in the region of Nouvelle Aquitaine. It only 50 km from Spain by the N134 that have taken zillion times at the confluence of the Aspe and Ossau that in turn creates the Oloron river, it is a the confluence of three valleys ,the Ossau , Barétous, and Soule.  Other than the N134 road that connects with Pau, there is train service TER Nouvelle Aquitaine in the line Pau-Canfranc. The name comes from the Oloron as the Lluro that in local lingo means town and ur water so the city of water ; the Sainte Marie was first mentioned in the 11C.

A bit of history I like

It is a Roman creation from the 1C on the road to the Col du Somport peak. By 1080, the Viscount Centulie V the Young had a new city built Oloron on the former Roman town .  By 1214, Gaston VI Moncade was forced to give these lands to the Bishops as he was sided with the Albigeois (Cathars) considered heretics by the Church. It follows the the town was divided in two with Oloronthe Viscount town and Sainte-Marie,the Episcopal town ,and both were rivals for about eight centuries.  The wars of Religion and the French revolution stop twice the growth of the town, and only the rivalties between the two ends in 1858 by the Second Empire of Napoléon III . There was a town called Sainte-Marie-Legugnon that existed between 1841 and 1858 when it was annexed to Oloron Sainte Marie. Today it is annex to the city . The city is on the Art and History towns of France , and the local language Béarnais is spoken as well.

Some of the things to see here are:

The tour de Gréde from the Middle Ages, the former City/town hall and prison, the ramparts, the Castle of Legugnon from the 16C, the buildings of the rue Pomone dating from the 17C, the parc Pomme, the Cathedral of Sainte Mariethe Holy Cross Church,   Notre Dame Church, from the 10C; St Pierre Church from the 19C, the old monastery of Sainte Marie from the 17C.

The city is on the way or via Tolosane  (Toulosain) one of the four French ways to reach Santiago de Compostela , and the legend of the Grail as the story goes the bishop of Oloron died at Jaca (Spain) in the 6C; thereafter the Béarnais and Aragonese argued over who has the remains.  By the Church of Sainte Marie you have a statue and plaque of the storey of the Saint Grat, where it said, the bishop of Oloron died in Jaca (Aragon,Spain) in the 6C and both the Aragonese and Béarnaise argued over keeping the body. To settle this issue they chose a mule at the col de Somport (the mountain passage we took and divide the countries) to see which direction the mule will take as it was blind. The blind mule carry the body all the way to the steps of the Cathedral of Sainte Marie in Oloron Sainte Marie, end of dispute.

We walk the nice Jardin Public or public garden, very nice and quaint with very nice mansions all around it. The jardin public has many memories of the Fallen in wars all over; a nice covered market or marché couvert for veggies fruits cold cuts goodies, and a wonderful river or gave d’aspe passing thru it.

The district of Sainte Croix you can have a nice walk along the Promenade Bellevue on the ramparts with nice views over the Cathedral, the Valley of Aspe and the mountains. The Sainte Croix or Holy Cross Church is a roman style with a arabesque dome; You can walk nearby to see wonderful old mansions at no 52 rue Dalmais you see the Heritage House or maison de patrimoine in a 17C house in two levels, next to it is the Tour de la Gréde.

 The best for us however, was in the district of Sainte Marie where you have a factory of Lindt chocolates and a boutique to sell direct to the public. However in Oloron, they make them for France,and it is a factory outlet and museum just lovely course, we load up quickly and big!!! Along ,it is worth the visit to the city! webpage: https://www.lindt.fr/shop

Some webpages to help you plan  your trip here are:

The  city of Oloron Sainte Marie on things to see: http://www.oloron-ste-marie.fr/Oloron/decouverte.php?id=4

The tourist office of the Pyrénées Béarnaise on Oloron Sainte Marie in French: https://www.pyrenees-bearnaises.com/offres/oloron-sainte-marie-oloron-sainte-marie-fr-2227838/

Its a pleasant town as said, and great base for the mountains of the Pyrénées on the French or Spanish side. Its a natural for us to stop by here for many years since 1990. Hope you enjoy the introduction and see other posts on sights with pictures.

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

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