Archive for February 28th, 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.


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.


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).


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).


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.


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.



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.


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

The Vatican State govt webpage on monuments in Italian:

The Vatican on the Popes in English:

The Vatican museums in English :

And Unesco on the Vatican in English:

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.



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.



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:

caen kyriad hotel boys and MF 2011

The Caen tourist office:

The city of Caen on its heritage/things to see:

The Calvados dept 14 tourist office on Caen heritage:

The Normandy tourist board on 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.

There was an old 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 more

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).



This area tourist office on the mauges of le Fuilet is here:

The tourist office of Vienne on 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:

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:

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 !!!

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