Archive for December 18th, 2021

December 18, 2021

My beautiful memorable Cuenca!!!

I have to update this older post, and reach out in my soul to speak about Cuenca. For many years, I have convinced my dear late wife Martine to come to Spain on vacations. She was always very gentle in agreeing with me and we came to my beloved Spain, Madrid and the Castillas, the soul of the kingdom of Spain. Over the years, she became very attach as well, and who would’nt , Spain is very friendly very family very traditional and just great!  She love it as I do; and of course our boys too. You can read my many posts on Cuenca in my blog, and plenty of pictures, This post will be on my black and white series. Hope you enjoy it as I.

We rented a house in the adjacent Serrania de Cuenca mountains , and of course our base for all was Cuenca. Very nice memories with the family walking its streets not only from a tourist point of view but from a local enjoyment of eating and shopping like the natives. Do not know when will be back , but no matter the time, it will always be special to me, the boys and rememberance of our dear Martine.

Now let me tell you briefly on the history of that I like. Cuenca is in the province of Cuenca, it’s capital and in the autonomous region of Castilla-La Mancha.  It is one of the most beautiful medieval Spanish cities and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located in the mountains of same name (Serrania de Cuenca) on the canyons of the Júcar river and its tributary the Huécar river.  The city is divided in two sections, one is the old town located in a rocky hill surrounded by the  canyons of the Júcar river on the north and the Huécar river on the south that throws itself on the lower part of the old town  just before the bridge of  San Antón.  On the west and south of the old town  separated by the Huécar river, you have the new town. The altitudes here are high from 920 meters in the new town to over 1000 meters in the old town. By the 9C there was a fortress here called Conca built by the Moors that were under the emir of Valencia in the times of the king of the  Taïfas.  This fortress passed later to the king of Sevilla  Al-Maramit,later to the  Almoravides, and finally to king Alfonso VIII of Castilla. As squeeze by the two rivers conca derives from a sort of bucket (Conca) and from that came Cuenca.

The old city of Cuenca has many things to see you will find again in my previous posts, However, some of the not to be missed me think are:

The St Mary and St Julian Cathedral built in gothic anglo norman style unique in Spain; next to it you find the Episcopal palace,  The Casas Colgadas or hanging houses are another must to come here ,built in the 14C and very nicely restored, plunging on the rocky canyons of the Huecar river. They now host a restaurant and a museum of Spanish Abstract Arts or Museo de Arte Abstracto Espanol ,

There is the wonderful Plaza de las Angustias (square of the sorrows) in the lower old town near the Júcar river, small and tree lined where there is an image of the Virgin of Angustias in baroque style. Go up and down to see the Clock Tower or Torre Mangana  built in the 16C on a defensive style architecture like a middle ages bunker. You need to climb the old city narrow cobblestones to the old Castle and the Puerta de Bezugo gate. The plaza Mayor is the meeting place and communication hub between the various routes in the old part of the city. The Church of Virgen de la Luz, dating from the 16C .  This Church is famous for housing the Black Virgin.

The Plaza de Toros (bullfighting arena) is located at Avenida de los Reyes Catolicos, s/n on the road out of town near the Parque de Santa Ana. The city center parque/Jardines de San Juliàn by Calle Caballeros ,where we had many nice lunches, The Tuneles Alfonso VIII (tunnels). These are underground passages showing life as it was in the time ,and serve as refuge during the Spanish Civil War. The rio Jùcar passing thru the city and the life of promenades in the shade very nice. It goes around the town up to the mountains and where we stayed. The Puente de San Pablo  (bridge) is a beam bridge that crosses the Huécar River.

The city of Cuenta has several museums other than the one above, it has the Museo de Cuenca museum located in the Casa del Curato in the San Martín neighborhood, it is a space created to deepen the history, traditions and culture of the province of Cuenca. The Museo Tesoro-Catedral museum (Cathedral’s treasury) located in the Episcopal Palace, adjacent to the Cathedral , The Museo Fundación Antonio Pérez , located in the former Convent of the Discalced Carmelites, since 1998 it houses the particular collection of contemporary works of art by the artist Antonio Pérez. And on the Cerro Molina hill there is the Palaeontology Museum of Castilla La Mancha, a space that also offers excellent panoramic views of the city. 

There is so much else to see and do. The main festivities here are those of San Mateo (St Mathieu) by September 18-21 commemorating the conquest of Cuenca by king Alfonso VIII of Castilla in 1085. During this festival the groups or  peñas filled the streets with colorful costumes, music and the traditional Zurra ( a drink of wine, fruits and other secret ingredients) ,and you run around the cows in a place on the big square. The other is the Holy Week or Semana Santa celebration declared of international tourist interest of Spain.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to Cuenca and recommended trip me think are :

The city of Cuenca tourist office on its heritage :

The Province of Cuenca Tourist office on Cuenca:

The Castilla La Mancha region tourist office on Cuenca :

The UNESCO world heritage sites on Cuenca:

You will do good to visit Cuenca, it will stay with us forever in my minds.  While vacationing in Las Majadas, Serrania de Cuenca my dear late wife began the pains with a checkup at the Hospital Virgen de la Luz of Cuenca. Of course, this lead thereafter to her passing from pancreatic cancer on April 30, 2018 in Vannes near our home. Never forget RIP .Nevertheless, many good times and many memories here for our family over the years, Hope you can bear with me on this ending and do come to visit Cuenca, its all worth it,

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

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December 18, 2021

The Capitol of Havana !!

Let me bring along a emblematic building that represent a linkage of the past and present, a symbol of what and where you are in Cuba and especially Havana.  In my early childhood years ,I spent many afternoon going by and on school tours to see the meaning that it was to the Cubans. Inside is a plethora of historical facts to better understand the country. Again the pictures are from 2012. Hope you enjoy it as I.

One of the most recognisable buildings in Havana and a childhood past time. This is a wonderful building and a must to see while in Havana.  I am talking about the Capitol building in old Havana.  The building was destined to host the two chambers of Congress or legislative body of the Republic of Cuba, before its unfortunate revolution. After the Cuban communist revolution it house the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment and the Academy of Sciences of Cuba.

havana entero

El Capitolio as it is known in Spanish, built in 1929  to house the two chambers of the Cuban congress. Its was inspired by the Roman capitol and that which is in Washington DC USA. The building has a front neo classic style with a dome of 92 meters tall ( 303 ft). It is located between the  calle Pardo, calle Dragones, calle Industria, and calle San Jose, streets. Inside it marks the kilomerter zero of all distances in Cuba with a diamond on the floor. The materials  needed to built it were about five million bricks, 38000 cubic meters of sand and 40000 of stones, 150,000 bags of cement, three 1500 tons of structural steel and two thousand of dowels, quantities truly impressive at the times.  It is in the space where the old city of Havana walls were crossing built in colonial period by the Spanish.  The walls in this section were destroyed in 1863. There was a statue to queen Isabel II, and it was the start of the now Parque Central de La Habana or Central Park.  Part of the public work efforts by then President Gerardo Machado (later dictator too), the team of architects Cuban and French participated in its design and decorations, with an American company for its construction. However, it was the French ,who put together the urban plan of the Capitol and surrounding areas as in Paris.

havana capitolio-middle-diamond-all-dist-in-cuba-measure

The details of the work made the Capitol building  207 meters long in its facade  which included a large monumental stair of about  36 meters wide ( 119 ft) , 28 meters long (92 ft) , and 55 steps with three rest squares . At the two sides of the end of the stair you have two sculptures made in bronze call ” La Virtud Tutelar del Pueblo ” (the virtue of the people) , and ” El Trabajo” (the work) ,both of 6,50 meters high (21 ft).

havana capitolio front

To continue the description of this wonderful Capitol building, we come to the main central door with a lenght of 36 meters (119 ft)  and 16 meters high (53 ft)  all held by 12 ionic columns of granite.  It is here that the main doors of access to the building are place with 7,70 meters high (25 ft) and 2,35  meters wide (8 ft) as well as the sculpture in relief of marbre.  The dome with a high of 92 meters (304 ft)  was at the moment the fifth highest in the world with a diameter of 32 meters (106 ft).  It has 16 panels of which the most impressive are those covered with gold leaves of 22 karats .  The dome has a lantern with 10 ionic columns of which interior were 5 light reflectors until 1959 when taken down by the communist revolutionary government.  In this space you see the symbolism architectural of the sculpture of the ” La República” or the lady marianne or Giraldilla under the dome done in bronze of  15 meters high  (50 ft) and 30 tons in weight that at the moment was the second biggest in the world under a roof. Among the treasures of the installation is the statue that symbolizes the Republic (Giraldilla), Legend of love, history, art, symbol….. everything enclosed in this little statue, made by the Cuban sculptor Jeronimo Martin Pinzon in the 3rd decade of the 17C , and which today is the third largest sculpture under the roof in the world.

havana capitolio-la-giraldilla-simbolo-de-la-habana

You come to the great room call the “Salón de los Pasos Perdidosthe hall of the lost steps, the most monumental of the spaces with almost  50 meters long (165 ft) and 14,5 meters wide( 48 ft)  and almost 20 meters high (66 ft)  that serve the interconnection to the two bodies of government the  Cámara de Representantes (House of Representatives) and the  Senado (Senate). These two blocks are organised in a rectangular fashion around two gardens with dimentions of  45 by 15 meters each (149 x 50 ft). 58 types of marbre, wood of the most exquisite in the country, decoration and ambiance. The wrough iron in bronze by  an American company,  the lamps by the French, and Italians, Germans  for the work in marbre, onyx, etc .  The diamond that mark the distances in Cuba is of brilliance of 25 karats the last owner was the tzar of Russia Nicolas II, and arrive in Cuba by a Turkish jewerler that purchase it in Paris. Now you see a replica, the original is the the vaults of the Bank of Cuba (so they said).  Looking at the volume of its construction it is estimated that the Capitolio de La Habana is the third in importance for its monolithic construction in the world ,and the only one with its characteristics built in the 20C.

havana capitolio-pas-perdu

The Capitol of Havana constitutes one of the most notable symbols of the city, comparable to the Morro Castle,  Cathedral and the image of the architectural profile of the Malecón . It is named by some experts as one of the six most important palaces in the world.  It is inmense ,the pride of Havana, and one of the most visited buildings in the city as of today. It was always like that, a must to see while in Havana. Just now looking at the pictures I am in awe of  its beauty and I have seem some beauties now living in France. Hope you enjoy it as I flashing memories in my mind.

The trip Cuba travel site reg in Cuba on the Capitol of Havana

The La Habana private travel site on the Capitol of Havana:

The Havana tourist office on its heritage:

There you go folks,another dandy memory lane monument in my precious Havana. The Capitol building is it, read could be under renovations, needed for sure but worth the wait to see it anytime. Me always dreaming someday to see all of this again with a better government. Hope you enjoy the post as I recalling these memorable monuments of my Cuba.

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

December 18, 2021

The Cathedral of Havana!

I will go back to tell you about a beautiful building in a distance land, you know its me. I am nostalgic on a cloudy, cold day in my now belle France. I like to tell you about a wonderful building so dear to me when a kid taken there by my dear mother ; this is the Catedral de la Virgen Maria de la Concepcion Inmaculada de La Habana or the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary Cathedral of Havana.  The Cathedral is link directly with the history of Havana and Cuba. My pictures are from last trip in 2012. Hope you enjoy it as I recalling it.

The Catedral de la Virgen María de la Concepción Inmaculada de La Habana  is in the old casco historico or historic center of the city name to UNESCO world heritage sites as a whole. First it was a prayer by old huts and bird dropping use as a house of prayer since 1528 ,then,  it was a prayer site for the disciples of  Saint Ignacio of the order of the Jesuistes in 1727, then construction began by 1748 and by 1767 the collegiale was built but the church not yet completed. It was declared a Cathedral on June 22,  1790. The Cathedral was not finished until 1832.

havana catedral plaza de la catedral

At first , in 1748, the church would be the Oratory of the Children of St. Ignatius of the Order of the Jesuits, then it would become a cathedral. By royal decree in 1714, the Jesuits obtained the long-awaited permission and by 1727 they were notified of the exact place where they could build the church and the convent. In the year 1767, the school was finished, but not the church, at that moment the expulsion of the Jesuits of the New World takes place. In 1772 due to the deplorable state of the major parish, the Spanish authorities decided to move it to the Oratory of San Felipe Neri and in 1777, moved to the church half-built of the Jesuits. In 1778 by order of Bishop Felipe José de Trespalacios began the process of transformation of the old Oratory of St. Ignatius in the Cathedral of Havana, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception, whose image is visible on the main altar. The central nave was occupied until the independence of the island by a funerary monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus, then, at the end of the colonial period , the ashes of the admiral  were kept for 100 years ,later were transferred to the Cathedral of Seville. The wooden frame on the funeral square inside the Cathedral of Seville is original wood from Cuba.

havana catedral altar feb12

The Cathedral is of Baroque style, and considered more similar to those done in Tuscany, Italy by its two side bell towers, its temple forms a rectangle of 34×36 meters,with  three naves and eight lateral chapels, divided by thick pillars. The floor is in black and white marble. The sculptures and goldsmith works of the altars as well as of the main shrine were done by the Italian Bianchini, they were executed in Rome in 1820 under the direction of the famous Spanish sculptor Antonio Solá. Behind this altar are three original frescoes by the Italian painter Perovani. The interior paintings were made by the French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay. Among the various chapels that houses is the one of Notre Dame of Loreto, 1755, before the transformation in cathedral of the former Jesuit parish, it has an independent entrance. There is  a  fine sculpture of  San Cristobal or Saint Christopher, patron saint of Havana, (for Christopher Columbus name as Havana official name is San Cristobal de La Habana) dates from 1632 and was made by Martín Andújar in Sevilla. Its dome that is below the side towers is visible from the surrounding buildings with an intense orange color.

havana catedral inside feb12

It is surrounded by the square that bears its name, Plaza de la Catedral, that houses the mansions of the colonial nobility, among these are the Palace of the Marquis of Arcos, the House of the Counts of Casa Bayona, 1720, which is currently the Museum of Colonial Art and the mansion of the Marques de Aguas Claras. Also, the Palacio del Conde Lombillo or palace of count of LombilloThe Pope John Paul II visited the Cathedral in 1998 to try to bring peace and respect of human life to the island rule by a so call communist dictatorship.

The Havana tourist office on its heritage

The Cuba tourist office on Havana:

 The Archdioceses of Havana

The Catholic Church in Cuba, with parishes

There you go folks, a dandy on a beautiful experience in diehard Havana, Cuba. Hope it helps your understanding and see the wonders of the Paris of the Americas (Havana) even in its still sad situation. The Catedral de la Virgen Maria de la Concepcion Inmaculada de La Habana is beautiful, simply call it the Catédral!

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

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