Archive for March 27th, 2021

March 27, 2021

Collegiale Church of Notre Dame of Mantes la Jolie!!

And this is going back to my former backyard in the Yvelines dept 78 of the Ïle de France region. I was several times in Mantes la Jolie as my oldest son went to specialized restaurant chef school there; once in the city walk around to see its monuments and found out this is also one of the Royal towns of France. Let me update for you and me this wonderful post on the beautiful Collegiale Church of Notre Dame of Mantes la Jolie !!! Hope you enjoy as I.


This is the farthest from Paris but also a Royal town of France. Why because king Henri IV in a letter to Gabrielle d’Estrées, his mistress, who resided in Mantes, the king wrote to her: “I come to Mantes, my Pretty” ,and so it stuck as Mantes-la-Jolie!  And we spent lots of time in the city because of its wonderful market, and the train line from Paris Saint Lazare for my oldest son restaurant/hostellerie studies in Mantes. Therefore, even if wrote before on the city, it really deserves to be written on its most beautiful emblem , the Notre Dame Church.


The Collegiale Church  Notre-Dame de Mantes-la-Jolie is a gothic Church of the 12C and 13C located in Mantes-la-Jolie, on the banks of the Seine river. The total length is about 68 meters and the length of the nave and choir about 58 meters; the total height of the towers is 61 meters. The collegiate Church of Notre-Dame consists, beyond the massif  facade, of a nave of seven arched bays of  warheads flanked by collateral vaulted with quadripartite warheads. The high nave is on three levels with large arches in broken arcs resting on an alternation of weak buttresses and strong pylons, arched grandstands of quadripartite warheads and broken cradles, and finally broken arch windows. The bedside, which supplements the composition, was not originally gifted with any Chapel. The radiant chapels, as well as those of the aisles, are additions to the 13C and 14C. The western façade is pierced by three large carved portals surmounted by a rose, crowned by two towers, the appearance of which was profoundly altered by 19C restorations.


The Collegiate Church Notre Dame of Mantes la Jolie  is one of the top 3 Churches of Île-de-France by its size and its seniority, one of the flagships of Gothic architecture  from the 12C and 13C. It is a simple nave, framed from a low side, without a Transept, which ends with an apse surrounded by an ambulatory and 9 radiant Chapels built in the 13C and 14C. The west-facing façade is pierced by 3 large carved gates surmounted by a rosary.


A bit of history I like

More than 800 years of history, begun towards 1150, it was completed towards 1350  after several work campaigns; the South tower was built towards 1250 and the North Tower by 1510. At its construction, the Collegiate Church reflected the power of the Capetian against the Norman Dukes. This rivalry explains the construction of a building of such imposing dimensions. Integrated into the defensive system of the city, it has been the subject of constant attention of the Royal family.  Philippe-Auguste himself will take charge and the title of Abbot of Mantes.  Built in the place of an ancient church attested before the 10C, the Collegiate Church was included within the walls of the Royal Castle of Mantes , which was destroyed in the 18C. Seat of the mighty Brotherhood of merchants known as the Assumption  in which the aldermen had traditionally been chosen, the Collegiate Church also possessed the title of Royal Chapel. The kings of France themselves or their closest relatives, up to Philip Augustus, were regularly appointed secular abbots of the Church. It was certainly under the joint impetus of the merchants and bourgeois of Mantes and the king of France that the reconstruction was decided and carried out from 1140. Where the heart of king Philippe Auguste was deposited while he died at the old castle now only some ramparts walls left. 

During the French revolution, the Collegiate Church of Notre Dame is severely damaged. In particular, numerous statues of the façade were mutilated in 1794. The central portal dedicated to the Virgin was damaged . The Church was then converted to a temple of reason , then became successively a factory of saltpeter and an Arsenal. After the signing of the Concordat in 1801, some emergency restoration work was carried out, an important restauration was carried out in the 19C as well. The restoration of the North tower is carried out from 1851 to 1855.

No archive has been kept on this subject; only the architectural analysis shows today the chronology of the construction. The 1st, which marks the beginning of the reconstruction, sees the setting up of a platform, destined to catch a gradient located in front of the facade of the old collegiate, and the foundation of the first level of facade wall of the new building. Destroyed, with the tom tom of 1794, only 4 heads were found in 1857. The eardrum set in 1180, strongly mutilated in the French revolution, represents in a style and iconography very close to those of Senlis Cathedral, the coronation of the Virgin surrounded, in the covings, by the tree of Jesse. The 2nd Construction campaign saw the buttresses of the high nave and the vaulting of the lower sides and the ambulatory set up very quickly. The 3rd phase of construction corresponds to the setting up of the grandstands throughout the Church, with the exception of the bays closest to the façade still under construction, and to the particular design of their vaulting. The setting up of the high-level windows and the high-nave vault towards 1200 marks the completion of the major work. The Church, partially unfinished, will be taken over 15 years later by the construction of the upper levels of the facade massif. It was towards 1220 that the façade was connected to the nave and the towers were elevated. Additions and modifications followed until the 14C the right portal, offered by the mayor and the aldermen, was installed towards 1300. Depicting scenes from the childhood of Christ and Passion; Radiant chapels were added to the choir between 1300 and 1325 . During the second half of the 14C, lateral chapels were installed on the southern flank of the Church, and large windows were arranged in the grandstands of the aisles of the nave, while the vaulting was altered.


Some important aspects to see while at the Collegiale Church of Notre Dame are:

The portal of the Resurrection in the west façade, is the oldest work of the Church. It was allegedly directed by 1150-1175 using white stone of Vernon or blonde of Ile de France by the workshops that worked in St Denis and Paris. This portal is dedicated to the resurrection of Christ. Sculpted in a more archaic style, it shows less technical mastery of the artist.

The portal of the Virgin, the main entrance of the Collegiate Church dedicated to Mary and her assumption. The portal of the Virgin is considered a masterpiece of Western sculpture. It consists of 2 sets designed to be 10 or 15 years apart. The lower part, below the level of the base of the lintel, had to be executed very shortly after the portal of the Resurrection. The whole upper part  vaulted and eardrum, is noticeably posterior.


The portal of the Aldermen, located to the right of the façade, this very richly decorated portal was built by 1300-1325  at the request of the aldermen of the city. It resembles its composition and style at the south portal of the Rouen Cathedral. It was severely damaged during the French revolution. It lost notably the statues of the jamb in the lower part and part of the decoration of the eardrum where the heads of the statues disappeared.

The highest gothic nave of the 12C with an elevation of the nave is divided into 3 floors of substantially equal height, the large arcades of the ground floor, those of the grandstands and finally the high windows. The layout of the nave is largely due to its 3 vaults of 6-pointed warheads , each embracing 2 spans. The tall Rosary of Mantes is one of the oldest in France. The oldest signs go back to the vicinity of 1210. It represents the Last Judgement. The central Oculus is occupied by a mandorla where the judge Christ sits, detaching himself on a blue background populated by red stars. He is surrounded by an angel choir whose winged busts come out of the clouds. The first circle, which obeys an axis of vertical symmetry, is that of angels and Intercessors. The blue background of the quad is opposed to the red on which the decorative rinses that complete each compartment are detached.


At the south side of the Church, the Chapel of Navarre or the rosary, is undoubtedly the most famous. It was founded in 1313 by the wish of Marie de Brabant, second wife of Philip III le Hardi. Her wish was to equip the Collegiate Church with two Chapels dedicated to Saint Paul and Saint Louis. It is a double chapel, the result of the meeting of two chapels between 1352 and 1364. Four 14C sculptures, saints and donor queens are affixed to the walls. Traces of polychrome and a set of fake red-seal fixtures on a white background are still visible today. The weapons of Navarre painted in red on a yellow background, are observed on some batteries. A piece of funerary slab was reused in the steps. It now celebrated from the initiative of Queen Jeanne of Evreux and of  France, Queen of Navarre, to have this Chapel called of Navarre in the 7th and 8th bays of the lower south side.

Some webpages that will help you plan your trip to this wonderful Collegiale Church of Notre Dame in Mantes, a detour is recommended, are:

The city of Mantes la Jolie on the church:

The Yvelines dept 78 tourist office on the Mantes’s Church:

The Catholic parish webpage on the Mantes’s Church:

There you go another gem of my belle France. It is easy does it from Paris Saint Lazare to Mantes la Jolie station at  place du 8 mai 1945 (not to take the Mantes Ville station) ,there are two here. On the road ,take the A13 out of Paris direction Rouen (autoroute de Normandie) exit/sortie 11. Follow signs for city center (centre ville), and will come to it.

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

March 27, 2021

Parque del Oeste of Madrid!!!

And here again, find myself updating a memorable space in a sentimental city for me. I have lots of memories of this histocal park in Madrid with lots of youthful exhuberant activities… I have many posts on Madrid in my blog and this one deserves an update/revision. Hope you enjoy the Parque del Oeste or western park of Madrid!

My lovely park another memory that cannot resist visit every year, lucky now that I can do that. My beloved Madrid and my wonderful Parque del Oeste.  So many things here to do other than basic stuff you can do in a park. There monuments such as the magnificent Temple of Debod (see post),and the cable car to Casa de Campo (see post on teleferico) , just fantastic. This is another park you should visit wholly while in Madrid.

Parque del Oeste or western park has 8 hectares, located in the area of Princesa, where the temple of Debod shine in all its splendor. It was installed on the remains of the barracks of the mountain (Cuartel de la Montana) according to the same solar orientation that had in its place of origin. The garden enjoys magnificent views of the country house, the park, and the Sierra. It is officially at Calle Ferraz, 1 and the best to get there by metro Plaza de Espana line 2,3 and 10, Principe Pio lines 6,10,and Radial, as well as Moncloa lines 3 and 6, and Ventura Rodríguez on line 3. It is specifically located between the Carretera de Coruna or expressway , Ciudad Universitaria (university city) and the district of Moncloa, between the avenue of the Arco de la Victoria and the Paseo del Pintor Rosales, to the east; linea del ferrocarril or railroad line, west and Avenida de Seneca, north. They cross it inside, the Paseo de Roberto Chapi, Paseo de Camoens and Calle Francisco and Calle Jacinto Alcántara.

Inside there is an artificial estuary of about 600 meters in length. A cedar tree call “El Abuelo ” or grandfather (Cedrus Atlantica), catalogued as a singular tree, two specimens of Sophora “Pendulum “, a majestic Ginko, the Choperas of Populus nigra and the plantations on the edge of the estuary of Corylus, Cornus, etc. At the end of the Paseo de Platanos (bananas), which runs along this area, you can contemplate various species of birds in the center of AviFauna, such as different birds etc., providing information panels.

Before the 20C, the land currently occupied by the park was the city’s main garbage dump . The work began in 1893 and the first phase was inaugurated in 1905. This phase comprised an approximate area of 87 hectares between the current streets of Moret, and Seneca,and Paseo de Camoens, today Paseo de Camos. In 1906 continued the works of the second phase, reaching the mountain barracks (present location of the Temple of Debod). It was spread parallel to the Paseo del Pintor Rosales, on old dumps. During the Spanish Civil War the Parque del Oeste became battlefield of the Battle of the University city, opening trenches and building bunkers that still today can be seen in its far north. Once the war was over, Cecilio Rodríguez, responsible for the municipal parks, took care of his reconstruction, which lasted until the end of the 1940s. During the years 1956 and 1973 it was extended, occupying the grounds of the Cuartel de la Montana, building the Rosaleda and the Parque de la Montana , placing it at the current Temple of Debod.

You have several monuments ,statues, busts in the park ,but the obvious must are:(pictures in individual posts).  The three gun bunkers of the Republican side that are retained of the twenty that were installed during the Spanish Civil War in the Parque del Oeste.  Its magnificent Rosaleda (see pic) with more than 15,000 m2 and 20,000 roses from all corners of the planet. The Jardín de la Rosaleda  with more than 500 variaties of Roses from the world over; perfect for a family walk and beautiful pictures. La Rosaleda del Parque del Oeste exist since 1956.  This was the work of the main gardener here who was inspired  from the great work done in Paris etc at the end of the 19C early 20C as well as the one at Retiro done in 1915.  The central part has small lakes and here you can see the fountain of youth or Fuente de la Juventud, done by Federico Coullant Valera, who, also did the alas of victory that adorn the Metropolis building in the Gran Vía , and the Monument to Cervantes in the  Plaza de España.  On the laterals you will see arches that you can go in, walk by them like if you were in an underground passageway where the walls are decorated with green leaves and colorful roses. Plenty of trails here to walk into the lawns,and find many variaties of roses, their origins and year that participated and won a prize. The best here is the cable car of many rides of youth and now family trips this is the Teleférico de Rosales (see post).  You can climb into the mountain of Principe Pio and visit the Templo de Debod (see post) and its gardens, and see from there wonderful views of the Palacio Real (see post) or Royal Palace and the Cathedral of the Almudena (see post). The hours here are from 10h to 20h every day and in summer to 21h, check always for hours. The entrance is free. The Rosaleda del Parque del Oeste is located in the Calle Rosaleda s/n, a bit away from Paseo del Pintor Rosales,closer to the Templo de Debod,and a few meters from the cable car /Teleférico


Others are the Fountain of Juan de Villanueva,Monumento al Maestro or the master, Bust of Jaime I, bust of Paul Harris,. Monument to José de San Martín in the north end of the park. Monument to the Infanta Isabel . Statue of General José Gervasio de Artigas (Argentina). A statue of a Nymphe , statue to the poet Miguel Hernández, the statue of the Blessed Virgin, the equestrian sculpture of Simón Bolívar, the monument to the fallen of the Cuartel de la Montana.

The long webpage of the city of Madrid on Parque del Oeste

The Madrid tourist office on Parque del Oeste in English:

The Madrid tourist office on the Rosaleda garden

Again ,another dandy in my beautiful Madrid! One of the nature activities spots you cannot miss visiting the city and enjoying its many spots along a wonderful residential area. Hope you enjoy the Parque del Oeste as I do.

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

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March 27, 2021

The Real Jardines Botanico of Madrid!!!

Love to update this older post for you and me, this is a memorable park  ,one of the first ones I ever visited in Madrid since 1970. In my quest to update and revise these old post, I had a great satisfaction of re living these wonderful places of mine. Hope you enjoy it as I. Let me tell you a bit on the Real Jardines Botanico or the  Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid!

My continuing saga to show the beauty of my beloved Madrid continuos. This is something you come as a child and sticks with you. My dear late mom Gladys brought me here first, and then I took my dear late wife Martine, and then with my boys and then again. It is very nice, educational and family fun for all.  This is a treasure chest of history and fun knowledge right in the famous triangle of museums of Madrid. I have posts that talks about it , but this is the first time alone and well worth it.

The current site of the botanical garden or the Real Jardin Botanico is not accidental and responds to the interest of the enlightened monarch, Carlos III, to create a complex dedicated to the natural sciences in Madrid. That is why it was located next to what today is the Prado Museum, which at the end of the 18C was the Museum of Natural Sciences. The scientific spirit is currently preserved as the space is managed by the Higher Council for Scientific Research, which organizes a multitude of activities of an informative nature, such as conferences and exhibitions. Its collections include a herbarium with more than a million spreads, the library and archive, with about 10,000 drawings, as well as the sample of 5,000 species of living plants. Located officially at Plaza de Murillo, 2,and best going there on Metro Atocha line 1, Atocha Renfe train station metro stop and line 2 Banco de Espana.


A bit of history I like

Founded by Royal Order of 17 October 1755 by King Fernando VI in the spot of Soto de Migas Calientes, near the Manzanares River, king Carlos III ordered the transfer to his current situation in 1781,at Paseo del Prado, next to the Museum of Natural Sciences that was being built (current Prado Museum). King Felipe II created the botanical garden at the behest of the Doctor Andrés Laguna, next to the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. Later, king Fernando VI installed in 1755 by the orchard of Migas Calientes (currently Iron gate=Puerta del Hierro, on the banks of the Manzanares river) creating the Royal Botanical Garden. The continuous extension of the garden led king Carlos III to give instructions in 1774 to move it to its current location in the Paseo del Prado , within the program of management of the Prado and Atocha construction.

That between 1774 and 1781 year of the inauguration with a distribution in three levels, and part of the enclosure, which highlights the Royal gate (Paseo del Prado). On this basis, between 1785 and 1789 a second and definitive project was carried out, more rational and according to the scientific and educational function that the garden should have. It occupied an area of 10 hectares distributed in three terraced levels that adapted to the orography of the terrain, arranged in the form of Square barracks, following an octagonal layout and topped in the corners with circular fountains. The two lower ones Terraza de los Cuadros and Terraza de las Escuelas Botanicas remain today as they were built, while the superior one Terraza del Plano de la Flor was remodeled in the 19C with landscaped features. The enclosure was closed by an elegant iron gate, seated on granite stone and had two access doors: the aforementioned Real Puerta de Sabatini, Classic style with doric columns and pediment, and another secondary, In front of the Prado Museum, which currently accesses the enclosure ,current Plaza de Murillo.

The garden became the recipient of the recipient of the scientific expeditions that sponsored the Crown in this period. Between the 18C and 19C it participated in the development of at least five scientific expeditions, including the Royal Botanical Expedition of the New Kingdom of Granada (present-day Colombia), the botanical expedition to the Viceroyalty of Peru, the Royal Botanical Expedition to New Spain (present-day Mexico), the expedition around the world, and the Scientific commission of the Pacific now Philippines . It contains approximately 5,000 different species of trees and plants around the world.  In 1857, important reforms were carried out that still persist, such as the cold stove that bears its name and the renovation of the upper terrace. Also at that time a zoo was installed, which twelve years later moved to the Retiro park (where it would be known as a zoo Casa de Fieras) in 1893, opens the calle de los libreros (street of booksellers and popularly known as Cuesta de Claudio Moyano) and cutting one end of the main body of the garden, so its surface is reduced to the current eight hectares.


The before mentioned terraces are:

Terraza de los Cuadros (or portraits) is the terrace located below and the most spacious of all. It includes the collections of ornamental plants, medicinal, antique rose, aromatic and orchard and fruit trees, within the geometric tables formed with hedges of boxwood that surround small sources (fontanels) in the central axis of the tables. At the end of the central promenade of this first terrace you will find the coral rock spot.

Terraza de las Escuelas Botanicas ( botanical schools) ;this second terrace is a little smaller than the previous one. This terrace shows the taxonomic collection of plants. Ordered phylogenetically by families, around twelve sources are located. You can take a tour of the plant kingdom from the most primitive plants to the most evolved.

Terraza del Plano de la Flor (map of the flower) this is the highest terrace and a little more reduced, with a romantic style. It is divided into twenty-five figures or bedding curvilinear, limited by hedges of Durillo, four roundabouts and a central roundabout with a pond and a bust of Carlos Linnaeus. On the north flank of this terrace are the greenhouse Graells, a structure of the 19C, where we find tropical plants, aquatic and bryophytes. Next to the former is the largest and most modern greenhouse, the Exhibicion or exhibition, which is divided into three environments with different requirements of temperature and humidity (tropical, temperate and desert).

Terraza Alta o de los Laureles (High Terrace or laurels) , this terrace added as an extension of the garden in 2005, is of much smaller dimensions than the previous ones and is behind the Villanueva pavilion. Destined to host special collections, here is the Bonsai collection donated by the Spanish former President Felipe González.

You find as well the most important herbarium in Spain, bringing together nearly a million spreads, some from the 18C. It is composed of: the Fanerogamia Herbarium, the Cryptogamia herbarium and the historical collections. The latter gather the plants collected in the scientific expeditions carried out during the 18C and 19C.

The Library of the Royal Botanical Garden was formed at the same time as the garden grew. In 1781 it had some 151 works of which 83 were of botany, 19 of Natural history and 49 of Chemistry. Currently at last count, the library consists of some 30 000 books of everything related to botany, 2075 titles of periodic publications, some 26 000 leaflets or separate chucks , 3000 titles in microfiche, 2500 maps. It has facilities and equipment suitable for Internet consultation, reading and reproduction, on paper, microfiche and microfilm, photocopying of books and magazines and scanning zenith.

The Germplasm Bank since its foundation, the Royal Botanical Garden maintains a seed exchange with other institutions around the world. The relationship of the seeds that can be exchanged is published annually in a publication called Index Seminum, which is distributed to more than 500 gardens and research centers. From 1987, with the construction of a refrigeration chamber where they can be stored at low temperature, dried and hermetically sealed, the conditions of conservation of the seeds were improved. This improvement allowed to extend the viability period of the seeds, so it was decided to carry out collection campaigns throughout the state.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here ,and a must visit me think are:

The official webpage of the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid

The Madrid tourist office on the Royal Botanical Garden

The Superior Council of Scientific Investigation on the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid

The Digital Library of the Royal Botanical garden of Madrid

There you go folks, a wonderful space worthy of a visit or two, the Royal Botanical Garden or Real Jardin Botanico of Madrid is awesome, educational, scientific, and naturally beautiful. It should be fun for the whole family, and to be enjoy as we do.

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

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March 27, 2021

Casas Colgadas of Cuenca!!!

Now great pleasure in updating revising this older post for you and me! One of my favorite cities of my beloved Spain, and very sentimental for me is visiting Cuenca, in the Province of Cuenca, Autonomous region of Castilla La Mancha, and the Kingdom of Spain! I need to remind all of the wonderful Casas Colgadas or hanging houses of Cuenca! Hope you enjoy the post and thanks again for reading me over these years.


I have my roots in Tenerife but had traveled extensively there over the years, and no where as a region is more into the traditional history of Spain than at Castilla La Mancha. My favorite town is the one I always used the mountains of the Serrania as base, the wonderful Cuenca. I have many memories here with my dear late wife Martine and the boys. We love it, and each year thinking of going someplace else for our summer vacation, we end up deciding to come here!. Until we meet again Cuenca, now sadder as Martine is not physically with us; memories forever. We will be back when possible.

Let me tell you a bit about the Casas Colgadas (Hanging Houses), also known as Casas del Rey, (houses of the king) ; they are a group of civil construction in the cliffs of the Huécar river, and are name as such because they had huge balconies over size on the cliff given to the canyon of the Huécar river. The denomination of Colgadas or Hanging was a late title and only came to be known as such by 1920.  The graphic story of these houses begain in 1565, the year that the Flemish painter Anton van den Wyngaerde included them together with the curve along the cliff of San Martin in a wonderful panorama of his work ” Cuenca desde el este” or Cuenca from the East.  The oldest photos of the place are from the last third of the 19C showing a group of houses that remained intact for several centuries even if unfortunately there are only one remaining of the architecture of old Cuenca.


From that early period in the 15C along its history they have undergone several renovations and some as recent as 1920 and 1960. They were used as living quarters by individuals, city hall and now a museum Spanish abstract arts by the Foundation Juan March. The museum webpage:


In addition to Cuenca, there are still hanging houses in Spain at Albarracin, Cantavieja, Castellfullit de la Roca, Frias, Gerona, Ronda, Zafra de Zàncara, and Tarazona. Some of these houses only the balconies are left and some interiors next to the windows. The one in Cuenca is sublime romantic beautiful a must to see!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this wonderful city and hanging houses are:

The Cuenca tourist office on the Abstract Arts museum in the Casa Colgada:

The Castilla La Mancha region on the hanging houses of Cuenca

There you have it , another jewel of my beloved Spain in historical beautiful Cuenca. Hope you have enjoyed this short introduction to the Casas Colgadas or hanging houses of Cuenca; a must to visit.

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

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