Archive for October 22nd, 2021

October 22, 2021

Poitiers !!!

Ok so my imagination is blind, but with the name of the town it means many things. One is the city of Poitiers is full of beautiful architecture, wonderful history, and just plain beautiful facades to enjoy it for long. I like to give you an introduction to a wonderful old historical town of my belle France, We were here several years back, and visited the famous Futuroscope park with the boys, It must have been one of those trips of yesteryear that cannot find the pictures !! We were there today and plenty of pictures and posts to follow, I redeem myself!, so why not start with an introduction to the town of Poitiers in my black and white series, Hope you enjoy it as I, The city of Poitiers is in the Vienne department. 86 ; it was the capital of the cultural and historical region of Poitou and until 2016 of the former administrative region of Poitou-Charentes, it is today in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. To note, Poitiers has been a large university town since the creation of its University in 1431, having notably hosted René Descartes, Joachim du Bellay and François Rabelais.

We have been there and was again today by car, the best to travel me think, Poitiers is at the crossroads of the center-west, and is served by the A10 highway, by the D910 which bypasses Poitiers from the west, by the A83 towards Niort and La Rochelle and finally by the N147 of Angers-Limoges,and from where the N151 Poitiers-Auxerre leaves. Poitiers is 340 km from Paris, 180 km from Nantes and 220 km from Bordeaux. It is about 350 km from my house. The city of Poitiers is also served by the LGV Sud Europe Atlantique train given the Poitiers – Paris run in about 75 minutes , and the Poitiers – Bordeaux run in 65 minutes. The TER Nouvelle Aquitaine connects Poitiers to Châteauroux, Angoulême, Limoges, Nantes (via Parthenay and Bressuire), La Rochelle (via Niort) and the other large agglomerations of the West. There is also a stop in Futuroscope park, Finally, many regular flights departing from Poitiers-Biard airport connect with several French and European cities with Ryanair and HOP airlines,

A bit of history I like

Two important battles me think happened in or around Poitiers, The first battle of Poitiers 507, or battle of Vouillé is the least known. It was won by Clovis I on Alaric II king of the Visigoths ,called Campus Vogladensis) at the time just north-west of Poitiers, and allowed the conquest of the entire area between Loire and Pyrenees; and the battle of Poitiers in 732 at Moussais, in the town of Vouneuil-sur-Vienne, north of Poitiers, with the victory of the Franks led by Charles Martel over the Moorish troops and their allies coming up from current day Spain,This stop their further advancement,

Poitiers was the seat of a bishopric since the 4C, the city also developed around the Sainte-Croix monastery founded by Radegonde, queen of the Franks. The city is the capital of the county of Poitiers, whose counts, also titled Duke of Aquitaine lead an important principality grouping together several counties and former counties such as Poitiers, Limoges, Angoulême, Périgueux, Saintes, etc. forming the Duchy of Aquitaine. From 927 to 1216, Poitiers was the capital of the Duchy of Aquitaine. The Dukes of Aquitaine built their castle there and Aliénor d’Aquitaine lived there regularly. The city welcomes many pilgrims who come to venerate the relics of Saint Radegonde or Saint Hilaire, some continuing towards Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain).

During WWII, Poitiers hosted the Belgian government in exile from May 23 to June 18, 1940. To thank the city for its welcome, a copy of the Manneken-Pis was offered in 1950 by the Belgian Police, it is in the Hôtel de Police or police station of Poitiers. An internment camp on the road to Limoges, initially established to accommodate Spanish refugees, became a stopover on the road to death camps for nearly 2,000 Jews and more than a hundred Gypsies.

What can be seen, enjoy at Poitiers, well let me give a brief rundown in this introduction and then my favorites.

Poitiers is a city of art and history, that which is still called “The city of a hundred spiers” or “The city of a hundred churches”, endowed with an old and rich heritage, Poitiers brings together an important monumental complex unmatched in the west of France, including in particular the Saint-Jean baptistery (5C), the hypogeum of the Dunes (7C), the Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church (12C), the Saint-Porchaire Church (12C) ) or the Saint-Pierre Cathedral (end of the 12C – beginning of the 13C) ; as well as the old courthouse (12C), former palace of the Counts of Poitou, Dukes of Aquitaine, where the Queen of France and England Aliénor d’Aquitaine held court.

The city of Poitiers is loaded with religious monuments of great value, so many need a book, I will just tell you the main ones below, all must see while in town, It, also, has two nice bridges over the Clain river pont Joubert , a medieval bridge, one-way since early 2015, and Pont Neuf, built in 1778 ,four lanes traffic, The best park here is the Parc de Blossac, created by the intendant of Poitou from 1753 behind the old ramparts of the Middle Ages, it presents perspectives and French-cut trees. In 1899, a small English garden was installed there and in 2003 the Grand Pré was restored with a contemporary garden. the Park is adorned with statues by Antoine Étex, Hippolyte Maindron, Raymond Sudre, a copy of the Warwick Cup and the Barbedienne fonts. For me the best museum is the Musée Sainte-Croix, It is the largest museum in the city. Built in 1974, the Sainte-Croix museum stands in place of the former Sainte-Croix abbey. It is a vast structure of concrete and glass, in the purest style of the 1970s. It hosts a permanent exhibition from prehistory to contemporary art, including the medieval period and the Fine Arts. In particular, it owns several major sculptures by Camille Claudel. And course, the omnipresent Futuroscope, one of the nicer parks in France, To us this was almost like EPCOT in Walt Disney Orlando Fl USA, It was a change of pace à la Française, Here better with smaller children, say less than 18 me think.

For me the main things to see in Poitiers are below with a brief description taken from the city of Poitiers.

The Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand Church, Built in the 11C, it is located on the burial site of the first attested bishop of Poitiers, Saint Hilaire, who died around 367. An important stage of the Via Turonensis (the way of the Tower), it is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. in 1998, under the roads of Saint-Jaime of Compostela (Spain).

The palace of the Counts of Poitou – Dukes of Aquitaine, Former palace of the counts of Poitou-dukes of Aquitaine, the courthouse of Poitiers is a testament to the architectural style called “Angevin Gothic”. The large ceremonial room known as the “Salle des Pas Perdus” was rebuilt by the Plantagenêt family a little before 1200. It remains today one of the most remarkable examples of medieval civil architecture in France. The Palace of the Dukes of Aquitaine partly became the courthouse of Poitiers during the French revolution.

The Saint-Jean baptistery, built in the 5C, remains one of the oldest surviving evidence in France of the beginnings of Christian architecture.

The Saint-Peter Cathedral or Cathédrale Saint-Pierre follows on from a first church from the 11C. The current cathedral is in the “Angevin Gothic” or “Plantagenêt” style except for the facade, which with a rose window and three gable portals, follows the influence of the Gothic architecture of Île-de-France. Financed by Henry II of England under the influence of his wife, Aliénor d’Aquitaine, the construction of the cathedral began around 1160, and was completed in 1379, the year of its consecration.

The Notre-Dame-la-Grande Church. A major testament to Romanesque architecture, presents an exceptionally rich sculpted facade. It is illuminated every evening in summer and during the Christmas holidays during nocturnal “Polychromies”,

The City/Town Hall, Built between 1869 and 1875, the Poitiers City/Town Hall is the end point of a vast urbanization project for the town center. With its majestic neo-Renaissance facade, the building is a major monument representative of the tastes of the Second Empire (Napoléon III). Inside, the main staircase stages the visitor’s ascent to the loggia.

The city of Poitiers on its heritage :

The Poitiers tourist office on things to see :

The metro area of Poitiers on things to do/see in French :

The Vienne dept 86 tourist office on Poitiers :

There you go folks, another wonder in my belle France indeed. Many memories already fading here and so time to be back soon and will take again pictures! Poitiers is nice ,worth the detour, hope you enjoy the post as I.

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

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October 22, 2021

Monasterio San Juan de la Peña !!!

So let me bring you back to something that should be one of the wonders of the world in my humble opinion and remains very hidden in my beloved Spain. I go there by car so can get into remote areas and curiosity takes me to these places, all wonderful experiences. Let me share with you this one as a rework from previous posts that needs to be let known to the world!

As it goes driving around and walking  in Jaca province of Huesca in the autonomous region of Aragon, stop by the tourist office and voilà  got me  a pamphlet about this monastery. I was not sure if heard about it before but seems very interesting for me history and architecture fan so decided to give it a go. What a pleasant surprise and great road warrior ride up the hilly mountains to it , On the way back we took a more flat road mind you. This is update of an older post mind you with refresh text, and link same pictures. The Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña is worth a detour!! It is located 23 km from Jaca and 2 km from the village of Santa Cruz de la Serós.


We drove from Jaca after coming back from Sabiñanigo, on the N330a. We took going the mountainous ride (about 1280 meters high)  along the A1205 road that change into A1603 that goes to the monastery head on. We arrive about 10H30 in time to go the new monastery and take the mini bus by 11h30 to the old monastery. This bus is free provided by the monastery. We left the place by 18h going the way towards Santa Cruz de los Seros on the A1603 that connects with the N240 that brought us back to Jaca on a flatter terrain!

This is a monumental place that must be seen,told, spread the word more, can’t believe it is not more known. I though the tourist guide who gave all the tour and explanation was excellent recounting  the events here, she was good ;too bad forgot her name. Here in the mount of Oroel you find San Juan de la Peña, the monastery is covered by a huge mountain rock and its done since 920 and known for maintenance of the Christian faith in the Pyrénées at the time of the Muslim occupation, this monastery was chosen as pantheon by the Kings and nobles of Aragón-Navarra. The land was before occupied by hermits who had withdrawn in this hidden corner of the Pyrénées, following the Muslim invasion, around the year 720.  In the 11C, the monastery adopted the Cluniac reform.



The low church or early church who subsequently made office crypt, is one of few Mozarabic buildings remaining in the region. The courts and Pantheon of the Aragon’s nobles /kings of the 11C to 14C. Aligned along the left wall décor billets and pearls, burial niches are minted badge, a crimson or cross in four escutcheons, emblem of lñigo Arista, one of the founders of the Kingdom of Navarra. On a niche you can see an Angel carrying the soul of the deceased. Opposite a door gives access to the Museum, products of excavations in the monastery. This is a reproduction of daily monks lives done in the basement of the Church and can be seen thru glass enclosures. The high Church originally done at the end of the 11C,part of its single nave in the rock for vault and three apse chapels decorated with arches are engaged in the wall.

Santa Cruz de la Seros mon-sj-pena-new-table-aug14

Santa Cruz de la Seros mon-sj-pena-new-worker-aug14

The Royal Pantheon opens in the left wall. For five centuries the Kings of Aragon and Navarra there were buried. Its current appearance dates from the 18C a la renaissance style. The cloister from the 12C and it is reached by a Mozarabic door. Inside you can see the paintings of San Cosme and San Dàmian from the 12C, the Superior Church done in 1094AD, and gothic chapel of San Victorian.


Santa Cruz de la Seros mon-sj-pena-old-rings-of-kings-tombs-aug14

After fires and doubts ; a construction of the new monastery was begun in the year 1676. Throughout its works that extended until the first years of the 19C the monks counted on the advice of numerous professionals, you can see several stained glass windows on the floor covered with glass floors that shows the work been done in the lower floor off from visitors only can be seen thru the glass. The trace of the building constitutes one of the most perfect and evolved examples of the monastic architecture in the modern age, because of its symmetry, because of the multiplication of its cloisters and because of the rational organization that possessed the original project, the one that, regrettably, was never totally carried out.


Santa Cruz de la Seros mon-sj-pena-new-clergy-aug14

The facade of the new monastery building is impressive of a baroque style. It was abandoned in 1835 and after much needed renovation it houses inside the center for interpretation of the monastery of San Juan de la Peña, and a hospederia four stars (lodging hotel), a rest area, cafeteria ‘restaurant, Spa, salons and free parking. The official Hospederia San Juan de la Peña in English :

Santa Cruz de la Seros mon-sj-pena-new-side-aug14

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and you must are:

The official Monasterio de San Juan de la Peña :

The city of Jaca on the monastery :

The Aragon region tourist board on the monastery :

The local region of Jacetania on the monastery:

There you go folks, all you need to convince you to come and see this marvel of my Spain. The Monastery of San Juan de la Pena is a hidden gem that needs to be seen by all at least once in your lifetime. Enjoy it as we did!

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

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