Archive for October 12th, 2021

October 12, 2021

Albi, Toulouse-Lautrec and more!!

Let me tell you on a beautiful historical city of France. The area is well known to me for family and historical reasons I like, and the seat of the Cathars or Albigeois ,therefore, I am talking about the city of Albi. This one have other posts in my blog but it was the instroduction to it,therefore, will be in my black and white series, no pictures. Hope you enjoy it as I.

Albi  is in the department 81 Tarn region of Occitanie . It is a wonderful magnificent city small enough to walk all over after we always arrived by car. It is not far from the vineyards of famous Gaillac, with only about 50 minutes by car from Toulouse (in good traffic) , less than 3 hrs from the Pyrénées and less than 2 hrs from the Mediterranean sea ; the closest towns are Castres, Toulouse, Mazamet, Graulhet, Lavaur, Gaillac, Montauban, Rodez, and Béziers. And we have relatives such as cousins of my wife in Graulhet, Lavaur, and Gaillac…!!! The Tarn river passes thru town and it’s a tributary of the Garonne , Dordogne, and Lot rivers.

By road is always better, taking the superb autoroute A68 you can reach Albi from Toulouse as mentioned above in about 50 minutes. As it gets closer to Albi it becomes the N88 that continues into Rodez, Aveyron, and Lyon. The D612 is very nice reaching Castres then Carcassonne, and Mazamet. The D999 goes east towards Millau passing thru the regional natural park of the Grands Causses. The D600 takes you to Cordes sur Ciel then Saint-Antonin-Noble Val and finally Caussade. Albi is about 789 km from Paris ,390 km from Bordeaux, and 290 km from Girona, Spain. You have two train stations in Albi, the more regional Albi Ville and the TGV of Albi-Madeleine. The airports of Toulouse-Blagnac, Castres, and Rodez are an option.

The Cathedral of Sainte Cécile (built as a show of force vs the Cathars) , Palais de la Berbie, native town of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in which his museum is at the palais de la Berbie with the most important collection in the world of this post impressionist painter. The city that gave the name and principal place of the Cathars adepts who were called Albigeois in which their cult were brutally surpressed in the 13C by the Catholic Church known as the crusades of the Albigeois. The city of Albi has world heritage sites by Unesco such as the the area around the Cathedral Sainte Cécile, palais de la Berbie, and cloister, the banks of the tarn river and the old bridge or pont Vieux as well as other buildings on the French list of National Monuments. A very rich heritage indeed.

Now let me tell you a bit of history I like.

The city is here since antiquity, becoming Roman in 120 ; in 418 the Visigoths come into the town and then the Francs in 507 under king Chilperic 1er king of Neustrie and rapidly the Francs takes it back under king Clotaire II. It became a Episcopal city in the 13C; during the Renaissance the city becomes wealthy thanks to the pastel ( a fabric teinted woad dye) and many mansions are built such as the Maison Enjalbert, Hôtel Gorsse, and Hôtel de Reynés . In the French revolution all the properties of the clergy are sold and many became administrative buildings.  In 1474, Louis d’Amboise is name bishop of Albi, was before the ambassador of France to Rome and adviser of king Louis XI as well as lieutenant general of the province of Languedoc; he is of the origin of the installation here of Neumeister, a master printer from Mayence and collaborator of Gutenberg who opened a shop here only after those of Paris and Lyon.

In the 16C new troubles for the city and area with the arrival of Calvinism around 1540. By 1560 there was a huge procession of spies on the regent Catherine de Médicis after she name her cousin Laurent Strozzi to the Episcopal seat to defend the city against the protestants. The massacre of Saint Barthélemy of 1572 in Paris takes copy at Albi couple months later given rise to settlement of accounts in bloody upheavals. Albi sides with the League and in 1593 the League States were done in presence of Henri Duke de Joyeuse, the palais de la Berbie becomes a stronghold until 1598 at which time the League disappeared with the nomination of Henri IV as king of France.

The 17C there is an economic decline in the city due to the lost of the Pastel and upon the arrival of the French revolution the city is in diehard conditions. The following sale of the clergy properties such as the convent of Carmes becoming the current justice palace, and the convent of Cordeliers a prison, the palais de la Berbie becomes the administrative seat of the department until 1823. The clergy archives were totally burned in 1794 in the place du Vigan. During the WWII, the town is under the Vichy regime, collaborator of the Nazis, and open a foreigner assembly center or another name for concentration camp. A bit before the liberation of the town, The nazis tried to regain a bridge and are confronted by the foreigners many of them Polish and Spanish that fights them on the bridge or pont Neuf before leaving, a monument to the fallen is there now to remember their heroism. A bit outside of town by about 1-2 km,  on the road direction St Juéry there was a camp for Russian prisioners in October 1945.

The absolute must see in Albi are:

The Palais de la Berbie and its gardens one of the episcopal city built after the crusade against the Albigeois. It has a questions rooms and a prison. The name of Berbie comes from the Occitan language meaning bishop. In the 13C the bishop Bernard de Castanet an important person in the construction of the complex had built a donjon tower of 50 meters four towers and walls all around the palace with courts and exterior ramparts until the Tarn river.. This is the origin of the fortress that was change over the centuries in residence ,by 1905 the palace is property of the Department and mayor puts the museum of Albi. Later it becomes after the death of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in 1922 the museum on his honor with donations of his work from his mother. Now,also, the tourist office.

The Sainte Cécile Cathedral is built between the 13C and the 16C by the bishops of Albi who were the lords of the city after the crusade against the Albigeois (Cathars). It is of meridional gothic with bricks and inside has the biggest concentration of Italian paintings in France. The Cathedral is 114 meters long by 35 meters wide and 40 meters high; the bell tower are at 78 meters. The entrance on the side of the nave and not by the gate of entrance under the clock tower for lack of space. The Cathedral was restored in the 19C and by 1948 it was raise to Basilica. The square around the Cathedral of the same name has been renovated into a pedestrian way ,and very nice with restos all around even back of the Cathedral.

There is another Church this one Collegiale Saint Salvi, the oldest in the city carrying the name of the first bishop of Albi in the 6C The complex is in stone and brick with an architecture renovated in the 11C to 18C. It has a cloister from the 12C mixing roman and gothic styles. The Church is surrounded by beautiful mansions that were once the residences of the canons. The bell tower has a Roman base dating from the 11C and the first floor (2nd US) is gothic. The upper level of the tower is crowned in brick with a look out in Florentine style.

The old bridge or Pont Vieux crossing the Tarn river built since 1035 and still there. There is another new bridge or Pont Neuf done in 1868. The before mentioned Hôtel Reynés is a renaissance style mansion of 1520 it has a courtyard in brick and stone bordered by loggias and sculptures of king François Ier and his wife Eléonore of Austria, today is the seat of the Chamber of commerce and industry. The neighborhood of Vieil Alby is where the Castle of Castelnau. With many streets with wooden houses and decorations such as the renaissance period, such as the house or Maison du Vieil Alby located at the angle of rue Puec-Béringuer and rue Croix-Blanche, the most visited house in Albi as it is an exposition center on the childhood days of Toulouse-Lautrec. The pharmacy of the Pénitents or Maison Enjalbert another renaissance house dating from the 16C it has a scuplture in wood representing a phalic personage. See the old Roman baths near the Cathedral by the Tarn river now serving as water aqueduct for the city!

The city of Albi has another nice museum this is the Musée Lapérouse with the collection of the explorer Jean-François de Galaup count of Lapérouse of the 18C given us a view of the known world before Lapérouse to the navigator Cook and after Lapérouse. There is a nice municipal theatre done in 1893.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this magnificent wonderful city of the Tarn dept 81, and Occitanie, and my belle France! Hope you enjoy the post on Albi as I.

The city of Albi on its heritage:

The Albi tourist office:

The Tarn dept 81 tourist office on Albi:

The Occitanie region tourist board on Albi:

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

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October 12, 2021

Poissy, and Saint Louis!!!

And I am , again reviving old glories of my belle France. I used to lived not far from here, and came often , the shopping and the Church are really nice, and the local liquor fantastic. It is very easy from Paris too, can be done in half a day tour. I am talking about Poissy, in department 78 Yvelines, region of ïle de France. I did this as an introductory post in my black and white series, no pictures. I have other posts in my blog on the city. Hope you enjoy as I

The town of Poissy is only about 30 km from Paris and 8 km from Saint Germain en Laye as well as 23 km from Versailles, the capital of the department  (78) Yvelines. It is on the left bank of the Seine river in a stream of water limted by the forest of Saint Germain en Laye on the east and the Seine river on the west. It has a very good train bus terminal with the train on the Paris Le Havre line coming ouf of gare Saint Lazare in Paris and the terminus for the RER A. The regular train Transilien J takes you even to Mantes La Jolie and Vernon (Giverny) There is the A13 road passing by it on way to Normandy, the river road D153 is nice coming facing the Collegiale Church, and the D190 along the St Germain en Laye corridor as well as the D308; many intersecting roads with good car travel to and from Paris. The parking by the train station is good or along the Seine river park Meissonier.

The town has a long history starting with the Pincerais under the  Merovingians, and thereafter becomes one of the oldest Royal towns in Ïle de France, birthplace of kings Louis IX (Saint Louis) and  Philippe III. It was one of the earliest towns to received city designation in 1200 by king Philippe-Auguste, as well as an important religious town with convents of the Dominicans, Capuchins, and Ursulines before the French revolution.

Here is the bit of history I like

From the time of the Gauls ,Poissy  was a modest town of farmers and fishermen on the limit of the territory of the  Carnutes or  Chartres (Carnutum). They have discovered some tombs on the street of  rue de l’Église  when doing work that is from that period. On the Roman times, Poissy was one of the crossing points of the Seine river. Recently, they have found evidence of Antiquity or the Middle Ages by the area of the Royal Priory. Under the Merovingians, Poissy, was called  Pinciacum, and the territory extended to the north of the Seine river to the limit with the forest of Yvelines all including the valley of the Mauldre. Under the Capétiens, there was already a castle here and the first one old castle next to the collegiate Church was on a site of a hunting meeting place of the Mérovingiens. The second or new castle was built probably by Constance d’Arles, 3rd wife of king Robert II the Fair, and was at the enclos of the abbey next to the old castle. In 1200, king Philippe-Auguste gives this castle to his son Louis VIII on the occasion of his marriage to Blanche of Castile.

Saint Louis was born here in 1214, probably in the castle and was baptised in the parish Church of Notre Dame(see post), later he signed private letters as  Louis de Poissy or  Louis, lord of  Poissy  to remember his baptism here.  In 1297, the Pope Boniface VIII does the canonisation for Saint Louis here.  The king Philippe le Bel, founded an abbey of Dominicans here in honor of Saint Louis that was his grandfather.

In 1245, is born here Philippe III le Hardi, son of king Louis IX , and  Marguerite de Provence , and he ruled from 1270 to 1285.  During the War of Hundred Years in 1346 the king of England , Edward III pillage and burn the city  after landing in Normandy and coming along the Valley of the Seine, and defeat king Philippe VI de Valois at Crécy before his capture at Calais. In 1369, king Charles V ordered destroyed what was left of the castle of Poissy, that was burned in 1346 by the Black Prince son of the king of England. In 1429, the troops of Joanne of Arc takes the tower or tour de Béthemont aux Godons. Poissy is again occupied in 1441 by John Talbot and the English and again pillage the town and the abbey.

It is at Poissy in 1561 that the colloquial of Poissy takes place. This was organized by Catherine de Médicis, to meet Catholics and Protestants held on the refectory room after been restored from the pillages of John Talbot. The failure of the effort of reconciliation gave light to the Wars of Religion. Here in 1567, took place the Battle of Poissy between Calvinists (led by the Prince Condé) and Catholics.

In December 12/13 1840, the flotilla of transports carrying the rests of Emperor  Napoléon Ier made a stop at Poissy and a ceremony was held the Sunday December 13. An interesting anecdote, worth mentioning even if no longer there.  There was a live animal market here very important in the region, on the route Paris to Rouen to provide beef to Paris. It was the right to trade given by king Louis IX in 1245 and the names of some streets tells you of the activity that was here such as  rue de la Triperie (tripes) , rue des Moutons (lambs), rue du Bœuf couronné (beef), ruelle aux Vaches (cows). This concentration of animals also needed great expanse of land that was to be built on it . In 1867, the live animal market of Poissy, was cancelled and transferred to the new market at Villette  in Paris on that year.

During the Franco Prussian war of 1870, the town was occupied for several months in 1870/71. The bridge was mined to slow down the Prussian advance arriving from Saint Germain en Laye; the town was submitted to requisitions and needed to maintained a regiment of cavalry and their horses. During WWI, Poissy was in the field of tranches from Paris and many fortified works were done in town, the town hosted two military hospitals for the battlefront wounded.

From 1928 to 1931 the architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret dit Le Corbusier  built the villa  Les Heures claires better known as the Villa Savoye. IT was damaged during WWII and taken by the city in 1958 that wanted demolished. A campaign was done with the intervention  of  d’André Malraux ,then Minister of Culture to save the villa,and of course it was succesful. In 2016, a convention between the town of Poissy and the Fondation Le Corbusier was signed to open the museum Le Corbusier.  During WWII the town was again occupied by the Nazis from 1940 to 1944. The town of Poissy is liberated by the American army in August 26 1944.

Some things to see in Poissy me think

The main sight to see is the Collégiale Church of Notre Dame, (see post) a Roman style of the 12C with two octagonal bells and restored in the 19C. The old bridge of Poissy dates from the 12C destroyed in 1944; it was 410 meters long with 24 arcs now only 3 remains connecting the left bank of the Seine to the isle Migneaux in the middle of the river . It has been replaced by a new bridge of about 300 meters long. The Porterie of the Priory is what is left of the old abbey of Dominicans where the Colloquial of Poissy was held. The Priory founded by king Philippe le  Bel in the 13C was destroyed i the 18C including the Saint Louis Church. The Porterie houses today a very nice old toys museum.

The city hall or Hôtel de ville at rue de la Gare was an old convent of the Capuchins dating from 1620 transformed into city hall/school in 1837. A new city hall was done opening in  1937 with the innovation of integrating a theater.  Renovated in 1991, the theater room has an exceptional accoustic hosting concerts and recordings. The Pavillon de l’Octroi, on an octagonal shape built in 1830 replaces the old gate to Paris (today the tourist office of Poissy).  It has sculptured symbolising the activities of the town at the time such as fishing, agriculture, and live animal market.

The Villa Les Heures Claires  aka Villa Savoye built from 1928-1931 as mentioned above. It is constructed in armored cement with geometrical lines on pylons.  It was occupied by the Nazis and later the Americans during WWII and later abandon for a long period and even in 1958 taken 6 hectares to built a high school lycée Le Corbusier. The STate took over in 1964 and important restorations were done in the 1980-1990 period.

The wonderful delicous Distillerie du noyau de Poissy a herbs liquor with a secret recipe with a store at the rue du Général-de-Gaulle. The Maison Centrale de Poissy or prison been before the convent of the Ursulines from the end of the 17C, renovated since to house the prison. The Château de Villiers, built on orders of the baron Léonce Hély d’Oissel (1803 – 1883). A Louis XIII style building done in stone and brick. In 1976 the town purchase it to open a playcenter; which the presence of the castle makes it very romantic. The Château de La Coudraie, built in 1870  is located in the rue de Migneaux.

The Château de Bethemont,modified in 1858, today host a park and golf course. The manoir normand de Donat Agache built in 1928. The Chapel or Chapelle Saint-Lazare de la Maladrerie,dating from 1120-1140, discovered by an archeologist Edgar Mareuse (1848 – 1926). The tower or tour de Bethemont built in the 14C to 15C damage in 1429 while been reconquered by the troops of Joanne d’Arc and taken by the English that made it uninhabited and of no use.

The 12 hectares park or  parc Meissonier  from city center along the avenue du Bon Roi Saint-Louis (road D153). It has an English style park with a lake of 8 000 m2,a rosary , a theater and a green house.  Owned by the city since 1952 arranged from part of the old enclos of the abbey. The parc de Villard, next to parc Meissonier, own by the city since 1976 ,has a castle, playground and mini farm.

As an anecdote of our memories we came to shop at the Art de Vivre shopping center in Orgeval very close to Poissy and along the A13; it was always a nice family outing; now I read that the stores are gone, the centrer deserted and the town trying to find investments to change it but so far nothing, Sadly another memory erase physically but always remember by us.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip ,worth a detour are :

The City of Poissy on its heritage in French:

The Terres en Seine tourist office for Poissy:

The Yvelines Dept 78 tourist office on Poissy:

The Ïle de France region tourist board on Poissy :

There you go folks another dandy in my belle France.  Hope you enjoy the post on wonderful Poissy. I think is worth a detour. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!

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October 12, 2021

Chateau d’Anet, and Diane de Poitiers !!

I go back in memory time to update this wonderful post about an unique castle, and a grand lady in the Eure et Loir dept 28 in Centre Val de Loire region , This is the Château d’Anet ,it was ordered built in 1543 by king Henri II for Diane de Poitiers. One of the gems on the history of France. I have another post more on the castle and this one more on Diane ; hope you enjoy it as I.

You can come by car from Paris leaving Porte Maillot and taking the A13 direction Rouen, go out at exit/sortie 12 towards Mantes Sud and follow the D928 all the way to Anet. By public transport is long but doable, get on Paris Montparnasse to Dreux train station,and there take the bus L05 direction of Coolen (La Chaussée-d’Ivry) , and descend at stop Boxhorn in Anêt,

The Château dAnet has lots of damage over the years and only exist today from the original a square in U or horseshoe in the left wing that was renovated in the 17C. After the French revolution, the new owner in 1804 had blown up the central body and the right wing of the castle; must have been a revolutionary… !

Many of the wonderful objects here were transferred to Fontainebleau and the fine arts museum of Chartres. The engraving by Rigaud showing 14 busts decorating the exterior walls facing the garden were sent to the Library of Chartres and the archeological society of the Eure et Loir etc. By 1723, the princess de Condé inherit Anet but 171 manuscripts were sold to the library many belonging to Diane de Poitiers preserved after her death. Many more hand changing afterward too long to mention. During WWI one of the owners since 1884 made it into an auxiliary hospital of the Red Cross; and the last owners Jean et Alexandra de Yturbe have it since 1998.


Now ,who was Diane de Poitiers? well she was born in 1499 in the castle of her grandfather Chateau de Saint Vallier that gave her the title of Countess of Valentinois and the shield of Poitiers. She was an able jockey and at an early age joined the court of Anne de Beaujeu and Louis XII. Maid of honor of the queen Anne and later of the future queen Claude (wife of François I) she assisted of his crowning in 1515. She married same year to Louis de Brézé, (40 yrs older) who was a grandson of King Charles VII of France. Louis de Brézé was Lord of Anet, Count of  Maulevrier, Seneschal of  Normandy and Master of the Hunt,  and she reach a nobility rank second only to a princess ,and choose to lived in Anet. Upon king François I death, the children are given for care to Diane in 1524.  Brief in 1531 her husband Louis de Blézé dies and she became known as the lady in black, wearing that color for a long period.

Called upon to the court again in 1533 to help Catherine de Medici into her new life in France and the French customs. She eventually becomes the lover of king Henri II by 1536-1537 thereabouts at the Château d’Ecouen, the favorite home of Anne de Montmorency. During their long relationship and ‘against-all-odds’ love, Henri and Diane created a love symbol that would be engraved all over Paris  even on Henri’s cannons. Their symbol contained two interwoven D’s with a line through the middle, forming an H. Even today, the symbol can be seen on the ceiling of the Louvre Museum, Fountainbleau, Chenonceaux, and the Paris Military Museum. Henry designed his own armor with the symbol  as a sign to France that his true love was not his wife, but Diane.

For her love and affection to the king and the help for Catherine de Medici to give him a child, she was given the Château de Chenonceau (see post) in the Loire valley.  differences began to appear between the mistress Diane and the queen Catherine of Henri II. Catherine did not invite Diane to Henri’s funeral, and she immediately banished her from Chenonceau. Diane moved to her castle in Anet, where she lived in comfortable obscurity for the rest of her life. 

Diane, took over the Château de Chaumont sur Loire (see post) after Catherine had decorated ugly and change everything inside and donates it to her daughter Françoise. Diane comes back again to Anet already at 64 yrs old and still looking good. Finally, two years later in 1566 she died at Anet. She gave away her fortunes to the daughters and the convents in the area, and upon her funeral the poor dressed in white and sang pray God for Diane de Poitiers. She is buried in the Chapel at Anet, during the French revolution the revolutionaries open her tomb and cut her hair to make hair strands in 1795 !


She had been kind to her husband to whom she had been faithful, kind to her daughters whom she had made rich. She had loved a King who had adored and respected her and made her happy. She was an example of great energy with a heritage of beauty exalted in France and became one of its glories.” and further Leonardo da Vinci wise formula may have been her guide: ‘That thou hast acquired in thy youth stays the damage of old age, and if thou dost understand that wisdom is the food of the eld so do that thine old age may not lack sustenance’.

Diane de Poitiers, moon mistress, was quite simply a woman for all time.  The sculpture once surmounted the monumental La Fontaine de Diane (The Fountain of Diana). It dates to the mid 16C, where it was originally placed in the courtyard of the Château d’Anet built by Philibert de L’Orme for Diane de Poitiers, Henry II’s mistress. In the 18C,  the fountain was moved to the nymphaeum before being confiscated during the French revolution when it was transferred to the Musée des Monuments Français in 1798. In 1799-1800, it was restored , and placed in the museum’s Elysée Garden. It was then claimed by the duchess of Orléans, owner of the Château of Anet at the time of the revolution and finally allocated to the Louvre at Paris by ministerial decree in 1819.  The sculpture depicts a semi-reclining Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, accompanied by her two dogs, Phrocyion and Cyrius, clearly depicted as a greyhound and a water spaniel. She has one arm around the neck of the majestic stag.

The official site for the castle of Anet

The city of Anet on the castle

A fascinating story and women, today she could be a role model but she was ahead of her time indeed. Hope you enjoy the story; The Château d’Anet and Diane de Poitiers are always intertwine in history ,the good one of France. Worth the detour me think,

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

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