Archive for July 29th, 2021

July 29, 2021

Hôtel de Ville of Vannes!

As I did with my other two city halls in Paris and Versailles, the one now mine in Vannes is almost a replica, confirm with that of Paris. This is something, again, has written in bits and pieces before but feel needs a post of its own. Let me update this post for you and me ok. Therefore, let me tell you a bit more of the Hôtel de Ville or City/Town Hall of Vannes!


The Hôtel de Ville de Vannes is located on the Place Maurice Marchais, and was built between 1880 and 1886. The other part of the administrtive part is at rue Joseph le Brix coming out of old to your left.

The City/Town Hall of Vannes was built to replace an old city/town hall in poor condition and not reflecting the ambitions of a prefecture city. Located at the place des Lices, the old city/town hall was a typical Breton-style building. Rescued from destruction, the staircase of the old city/town hall was installed in the 1960’s  in the courtyard of the Hotel de Limur. (see post).


In 1878, the Municipal Council of Vannes fixed the location of the City/Town Hall on the place Napoléon, present day place Maurice Marchais and former place du Marché. This building wanted by the Republicans (revolutionaries) after their victory over the Monarchists in 1878 was the triumph of Republican ideas. The City/Town Hall is of Italian Renaissance style  and a copy, on the scale of Vannes, of the City/Town Hall of Paris(Hôtel de Ville).


The main 4-story building is framed by 2 pavilions. On the main façade, the frontispiece is equipped with a clock and topped by the crest of the city. Reminiscent of the former belfry, the steeple located at 36 meters in height dominates the ensemble. The columns engaged in Corinthian capitals and pilasters. A monumental flight of stairs guarded by 2 Lions in cast iron leads to the entrance where 4 busts welcome you with Lesage, Descartes, Thiers and Mirabeau. The interior is the image of the outside;   including statues and stained glass depicting the marriage of Anne of Brittany and Charles VIII in 1491 at the level of the magnificent staircase of honor.

The city of Vannes on the Hôtel de Ville

There you go folks, another dandy in my beautiful capital city of Vannes. Hope you enjoy the post as I. Remind you it can be visited and with a guide to go into the details of it. The Hôtel de Ville of Vannes is on the rue Thiers on the edge of the old town where you can walk into the middle ages and beauty behold you!

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

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July 29, 2021

Houdan in the Yvelines 78, nice!

Now this is off the beaten path town in a vastly popular department 78 Yvelines just west of Paris with the capital city of Versailles! Houdan is south west and worth the detour me think. This is an update of an older post sort of an introduction, and I hope you enjoy as I. This was my old hunting ground…and I have come back as nostalgia sets in always. I have written bits of pieces on it, however, need to tell you more.

I like to tell you about the nice historical city of Houdan. Now I bring you to the heart of the Yvelines; visitors should dare more to come over and out of Paris! This is another example of a town that is not portrayed as Royal, but it is, go figure! .  It is Houdan, 43 km from Versailles. The nice road N12 (free road) passes by the town as well as the Paris Montparnasse direction Granville train line that has stop at Houdan.

The bit of history ,I like tells us that Houdan belongs to the Lords of Montfort from the 10C and later was added to the Duchy of Brittany!!! by marriage. It was disputed between the English and finally entered the Royal domain with the marriage of king Louis XII and Anne of Brittany/Bretagne. Given by king Louis XIV to the Luynes family in exchange for lands closer to Versailles, and stayed with them until the French revolution.

The fair or festival of Saint-Matthieu is done here every year for 2-3 days on the last weekend of September (Saint-Matthieu saint day is Sept 21). It is one of the oldest fairs in Europe with the first one going back to 1065, by the Count Amaury II de Montfort.

If not at the above festival in town, go to see the St James and St Christopher Church or église Saint-Jacques et Saint-Christophe gothic style built in the 15-16C with a renaissance choir, and an organ originally from 1739.  The first church of Houdan, at this site, was built in the 11C under the surname of Saint-Jacques-le-Major (St James the Mayor). It was rebuilt from the beginning of the 16C with the donations of the inhabitants against promises of indulgences. In 1510, the surname of Saint Christopher was added to that of Saint James. Private donation funding explains the length of the work: they ended in the early 18C. With a construction spanning three centuries, the Church of Houdan syncretised the transition from Flamboyant Gothic to Renaissance style. See the tracery of flamboyant style on the windows, and the Renaissance capitals on the pillars of the transept. The transept has only one arm and the upper part of the steeple is missing; probably for lack of funding. The Church of Saint-Jacques-le-Major-Saint-Christophe, 50 meters long, with a fairly stripped interior, is nonetheless worth the visit for its juxtaposition of the various artistic styles, from the gothic walls to the altarpiece of the high altar of 1672, not to mention a 1582 fresco. The canopy is made of white stained glass where fragments of 16C stained glass were inserted, some with a very beautiful greyness.





Also, the tower or donjon very visible as you entered the city by car .It is what remained of the old fortifications been built in the 13C by Count Amaury III de Montfort; a massive tower alone in the western part of the town with 25 meters high and 16 meters of diameter, flank by four smaller towers of 4,8 meters in diameter; it is used today as a water tower.

houdan donjon-fortified-tower-houdan

The Houdan tourist office on the Church

The official Donjon of Houdan webpage:

The Yvelines dept 78 tourist office on Houdan :

This is an overlook town for those visiting the Paris/Versailles corridor and as it is still an off the beaten path area that visitors should try to visit more if can. There is so much to see, I know!!! Anyway, Houdan is nice and lovely city center around the castle and donjon tower, the market right next to the Church all around you! Hope you enjoy the post and Houdan!

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

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July 29, 2021

The Estanque Grande del Parque del Buen Retiro of Madrid!!!

And I take you to my dear beloved Madrid again. Of course , written plenty on this wonderful city, and as well on the Retiro park. This time I like to concentrate on the big pond in it or the Estanque Grande del Buen Retiro in Spanish full name. I like to tell you details of it but mostly its history, as do not want to repeat myself. Here is my take on the Retiro park big pond! OK great news, just name to the Unesco World Heritage list , Parque del Buen Retiro I knew it!!!

The Estanque Grande del Buen Retiro or the Grand Pond of the Good Retreat, popularly known as the Retiro Estanque or Pond, is an extension of an artificial body of water, located in the Retiro Park. It was created in the first half of the 17C as one of the most important landscape elements of the Buen Retiro,an ancient possession of the Spanish Crown arising during the reign of Felipe IV. Its ownership corresponds, since 1868, to the City Of Madrid, as well as the landscaped spaces on which the current public park was formed. With an area of 37 240 m2 and a volume of water of 55 150 m3, it has a jetty that allows recreational navigation and the holding of rowing and canoeing competitions. On its banks are the Monument to Alfonso XII and the Egyptian Fountain.



A bit of history I like

The Estanque Grande was built in the context of the works of the Buen Retiro, a set of palaces and gardens promoted in 1632 by the Count-Duke of Olivares for the enjoyment of King Felipe IV. In its location, it was occupied of a primitive pond, from the time of Felipe II who frequented the old Royal room of the Monastery of the Jeronimos,(see post) around which the Palace of the Buen Retiro would end up forming. According to some historians, it would be the pond that the aforementioned monarch had to make on the occasion of the entry into Madrid of his fourth wife, Queen Anne of Austria , and where a naval battle was staged in her honor. Although there is no written proof of this story, only the thought of historians.

Apart from the playful function that the Estanque Grande would eventually develop, its creation was mainly motivated by the need to have a large water reserve that guaranteed the supply to both the palace and the gardens and fountains. Hence four Ferris wheels were enabled on its banks, which extracted the water for distribution to different points of the complex. In addition to facilitating the practice of fishing, they had a scenic function within the theatrical performances that were held there especially during the reign of Felipe IV. According to the chronicles of the time, one of the most applauded performances was El mayor encanto, amor, or the greatest charm, love, of Calderón de la Barca that was staged in 1635, in the first Estanque Grande, with sketches of Cosme Lotti . Nautical simulations of naval combat were also carried out, using scale-made military ships and artifice fires. They were so numerous that the Royal site came to have its own fleet, integrated not only by military vessels, but also by gondolas and falúas, that made it possible to sail through the pond. In the Museum of Falúas Reales (Royal boats) , in Aranjuez exhibits a golden gondola belonging to this fleet, which King Carlos II commissioned in Naples, in 1686.

Recreational navigation was also practiced in the Rio Grande or El Mallo, a canal that started at the end of the pond and ended, after forming a circle and forking, in the lobbed estuary of San Antonio de los Portugueses (St Anthony of the Portuguese), a hermitage that was located on an artificial island, approximately where today stands the Fountain of the Fallen Angel (Fuente del Angel Caido). The Estanque Grande was surrounded by a lush forest, whose plantation began in 1638 and lasted until 1642. At that time, it should also have been carried out to afforestation of the Rio Grande, with a double row of trees on its edges.  In 1767 King Carlos III allowed public access to the compound, under certain restrictions, and established as a limit of the visits one of the banks of the Estanque Grande. During the War of Independence (1808-1814) the Buen Retiro was used as a barracks of Napoleonic troops, which caused significant damage to both the palace and the gardens, including the pond. With the arrival of king Fernando VII in 1814, its recovery was carried out, while new architectural elements were created The largest, the disappeared Royal Pier, was built in 1817 on the east bank, where the Monument to Alfonso XII is today. On the southern bank was built the Egyptian Fountain, which does stand still today.

During the reign of Fernando VII, the public visit to the gardens was still allowed, except for an area, called El Reservado (the Reserve), which the king took it for his personal enjoyment. In 1867, his daughter Queen Isabel II went a step further and allowed public navigation within the Estanque Grande, by leasing the facilities. In 1867, the boating service was inaugurated, with the assistance of professional rowers, and subsequently the first hotel establishments were opened on the banks. After the Revolution of 1868, which led to the dethroning of Isabel II, the Real Sitio del Buen Retiro (Royal Site of the Good Retreat) passed into the hands of the City Council of Madrid, which would make it a public park, with what the Estanque Grande went on as under municipal management.  In the first two decades of the 20C the physiognomy of the Estanque Grande changed substantially again, as a result of the construction of the Monument to the Spanish Fatherland personified in King Alfonso XII (better known as monument to Alfonso XII) on the shores, right in the place occupied by the Royal jetty. In 1917 the jetty was made that was to be definitive, this time on the northern bank and not on the east, like the previous ones. Six years later, in 1926, the jetty that has arrived to this day was built, as well as the lockers and surveillance posts annexed.

Some interesting facts I like

The Estanque Grande or big pond   has been dried several times throughout its history. This was proceeded in 1964, due to the filming of the film The Fabulous World, where it was used as a stage. In 1982 and 2001 it was emptied again, this time for cleaning, maintenance and repair. In 2001 it had to be waterproofed, since it was losing about 5000 liters a day. In 2001 it was completely emptied to repair it, and when the water disappeared they came to light, among others things , the following treasures: 192 chairs, 40 boats, 41 tables, 20 bins, 9 wooden benches, 3 containers, 19 town hall fences, 50 mobile phones, a gum vending machine, several shopping carts, numerous skateboards and an open empty safe. The Estanque Grande is inhabited by about 8,000 fishes, most of them carp although there are also other species such as catfish or pond perch. It also has other beings such as tortoises or crabs. As for the flora, there are several tree plantations on its banks, belonging to six main species: the false acacia, the white poplar, the chestnut tree of the Indies, the cedar of Lebanon, white eucalyptus and the shade banana trees.



At its deepest point, the pond measures 1.81 meters. Its dimensions are 280 meters long by 140 meters wide. Inside, 55,000 cubic meters of water can fit. During the reign of queen Isabel II, the Paseo de las Estatuas (later christened Argentina) was opened, which touches the west bank with the Puerta de España (Spanish Gate). After the transfer of the Real Sitio to the City of Madrid in 1868, the Avenida de México was inaugurated, which links its northwest angle with the Puerta de la Independencia (Puerta de Alcalà), through the Fuente de los Galapagos. The pond is bounded by four main tracks. The Calle de Nicaragua runs along its west side, while The Plaza del Maestro Villa passes through the back of the Monument to Alfonso XII, marking the eastern flank. To the north extends the Paseo del Estanque and to the south the Paseo de Venezuela.


The tourist office of Madrid on the Estanque Grande of the Retiro park:

Needsless to say as done it in previous blog but for short, I used to lived not far from it and it was  my park; the city limits of Madrid ended there really as the centro was for the visitors and a lot more today. The park has become very popular as well but it is big so all can fit in! My quickest entry was the Puerta de Hernani and the big entrance was at by the Puerta de la Independencia facing the Puerta de Alcalà on Calle de Alcalà ,my street! Memories forever and a must stop by me and now family when in town. It could be your memorable moment too, Retiro Park is awesome!


Hope you enjoy the park and the pond with me many memories that have lasted over the years and with my family too. Estanque Grande del Buen Retiro is sublime, and Madrid awesome! I shall return!!!

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

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