Archive for January 22nd, 2022

January 22, 2022

Miramar, my Havana, mi Habana !!

This is another time lapse for me going back many years 51 in fact! One has travel the world from a small spot on earth and gather many moments and souvenirs but there is always home. I am a native of Havana, and to come from my district to the old Havana needed to passed each day by Miramar. The name might seems familiar to those in Florida as there is a city there name after the one in Havana, and gosh I lived there many years later!!

Let me give you a bit of off the beaten path trip that would be wonderful to see again if possible. I am talking about the neighborhood of Miramar one of the main residential areas of the city of Havana, Cuba. Today , they put it in the county of Playa in Havana.

The Cuban upper class lived here before 1959 in sumptuous mansions and houses with pools, large patios, and other amenities. Being located in front of the coast, it made possible the existence of numerous spas, yacht clubs and social clubs in the wealthiest sectors. The stores were the best known in Cuba. Its busiest and most fundamental street, Fifth Avenue, with the same name as the famous one in New York, is considered by many to be the most beautiful street in all of Cuba.

The urban project for the construction of Miramar was conceived and signed in 1910 or 1911. The Miramar project was carried out on the grounds of the “La Miranda” family estate, making it a 100% Cuban urban project. This project is approved by the Marianao (another city just next to Havana ,and part of Marianao at the time) city council on February 6, 1911. On July 19, 1913 the contract to execute the urbanization of the Miramar neighborhood is signed.

The metal drawbridge over the Almendares river was popularly called the Pote bridge, an iron bridge over the Almendares river, in the extension of Calzada del Vedado ,a boulevard (going into another modern neighborhood Vedado)   towards Miramar. In 1920, when the 5th avenue to 42nd street section was completely designed and built, the Torre del Reloj or Clock Tower on 5th avenue and 10th street was made between 1921 and 1924 and is a 22-meter-high tower with its old carillon, a replica of London’s Big Ben, according to what it says as there is no written proof. The machinery of the clock has a mechanism by which music and time are synchronized, also chimes that sound every 15, 30 and 60 minutes, as well as every nine hours. After a period of deterioration in the 1960’s and onward, it was decided to do work on it which took three months, and finally the quarter of an hour and the melody of the bells were heard again. The four spheres, located on each side of the tower, give the exact time as they did in a distant 1924. The tower keeper need to climb the tower ladder every 72 hours and wind the machine, using the same mechanism as the manufacturers did. And the tradition is thankfully kept. Great for me as really when you passed this clock tower you really finally were in Miramar for us, memories. I have the first picture from my last visit in 2012.

havana miramar 5ta avenida clock tower feb12

You will see the Fountain of the Americas located at the beginning of 5th Avenue and the sculptures were made in 1920. The Fountain is integrated into one of the parks on both sides of 5th Avenue, like the 2 large street parks at 24 and 26th streets. It is next to one of these two park blocks that the Church of Santa Rita was built in 1941. In Miramar  numerous artificial beaches were built, the so-called Playas del Oeste or west beaches, formerly private clubs. The Miramar Yacht Club founded in 1926 with a nautical, sporty and social atmosphere, began in 1927 with a classic wooden construction on Avenida 96 and the sea. It was in 1952 that it was replaced by one in modern architecture. The 1950s was the year of the real estate explosion in Miramar, the Almendares tunnel and the Linea tunnel date from this time, to substantially improve access to the neighborhood. The most luxurious buildings in Cuba are built in the Miramar at that time, true mansions and palaces, with swimming pools, large gardens and patios decorated with statues and fountains, which alternated with yacht and social clubs such as the Havana Yacht Club, in addition to others truly colossal churches such as that of Jesús de Miramar Church on 5th avenue and 82 street, in addition to the San Antonio de Padua Church on 5th avenue and 60 street. The picture below on the fountain is from my first visit back ,in 1998.

havana miramar 5ta avenida aug98

At the end of the construction of the Malecon (big bulkward to the ocean) that extended it to the mouth of the Chorrera (tower bordering the Almendares and Cojimar rivers), the 5th Avenue becomes its natural extension, towards the other side of the Almendares River, with which the new neighborhood and all the territory of the west becomes a new housing seat. The crossing that was made through the Pote drawbridge, represented a great problem for the heavy traffic in the area and was finally replaced by a double track underwater tunnel in 1957. The vast majority of the people who lived here left Cuba as a result of the triumph of the Cuban revolution (or as some said the stolen revolution) in 1959 and went with their families to the United States, and Spain mainly.

The unofficial Havana Guide on Havana: https://www.lahabana.com/guide/havana-guide-home/places-in-havana/

The Cuba travel site on Havana : https://www.cuba.travel/en/destinations/havana-cuba

The Cuba tourist office infotur on Havana: https://infotur.cu/en/destinos/havana

There you go folks, another nostalgic tour of yours truly. Hope you enjoy the post and possibly visit Miramar in better times. The Clock tower or Torre del Reloj is a memory of the past still shining for all to enjoy in Miramar,my Havana, mi La Habana!

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

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January 22, 2022

Two memorable spots in my nostalgic Havana, La Habana !!!

Of course, when I write/speak about Cuba its all nostalgia from times far away in another world, I am a native son who left the messy dictatorship long ago to into another one before reaching the free world, It has been a long journey indeed. I am remembering my early life and thought about Havana , and search for some pictures , hardly any left but got me one and another on a postcard for the memories still lingered of what it was. My Havana.Mi Habana ! Let me update this older post for you and me and old time’s sake.

When I was just a little boy back in the 60’s I remember my mother Gladys taking me on bus rides the 27, 99, etc into Havana as well as with some friends and family by an Oldsmobile or Chevrolet Bel Air’s mind you.I still have the miniature models of the Bel Air, my maternal grandfather’s cars, One of the essence of Cuba is the cooking, coming from mixtures of races European, African, and in between some Orientals. The choices were big back then, and some scratch for better today.

One of my old time favorites that I have found a picture were the El Conejito (little rabbit) and El Potin (coming from old French Gossips). They are still in my heart today thanks to my dear late mother Gladys or mima as I called her.

The El Conejito was created by 1966 in Vedado district of Havana. On Calle M and 17 . It was a sumptuous restaurant serving many dishes all with the rabbit as main course. I do not recall how many variarities of it they did but it was a full menu carte.  There is not much information online just memories. The below is from a postcard no pictures sadly.

havana-el-conejito-resto c 1971

I remembered we always had to make reservations and it was packed back in the late 60’s. We would be visiting old Havana and on the way home we stopped here; just great souvenirs. Luckily for you,the restaurant is still there and I highly recommend you try it while in Havana. A family hairloom memory ; I believe they are still open.

The El Potin cafeteria restaurant was even closer to home at Linea and Paseo del Prado in Vedado district as well. This is actually a French name meaning gossip, and we really enjoy the cafeteria style sandwiches that are so famous in Paris such as croque monsieur and croque madame as well as French desserts like the Paris Brest! Coffee of course was sublime from the mountains in eastern provinces of Cuba like Oriente; where many French landowner colonists from Haiti settled after the Haiti Revolution of 1805 made them leave there. And maybe this is where my French love affairs really began without noticing it !

havana

I came here with my dear Mom Gladys even more often I recalled, and sat by the terrace looking over Linea street which is a no number street in Vedado. It is one of the modern historical streets there. Linea was for the streetcar (tramway of today ) tracks that ran along this street. It was renamed to Avenida del Presidente Wilson in 1918 and to Doble Vía General Batista in the 50s, but people kept calling it by its original name. One thing that is peculiar about this street is that it has a tunnel across the Almendares River. The picture I have is passing by car as had no will to entered, too many memories.

Again not much information online , just the memoriesI again highly recommend coming here, is not what it was but the feel of Havana and Cuba is still there, and you will mingle with locals. Enjoy i

The unofficial Havana Guidehttps://www.lahabana.com/guide/havana-guide-home/places-in-havana/

The Cuba tourist site on Havanahttps://www.cuba.travel/en/destinations/havana-cuba

The Cuba tourist office on Havanahttps://infotur.cu/en/destinos/havana

There you go folks, another nostalgia spot in my vault. These are or were unique places not back since 2012 and do not know if still open. Nevertheless,El Conejito and Potin are here for the memories of always in my blog!

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

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January 22, 2022

The Réseau Express Régional (RER) of Paris!

So, written plenty on the airports, train stations, metro stations and the favorite bus lines as well as lately tramways of Paris. However, missing one that have rident as well , the RER of Paris. Therefore, here is my rendition to them in a brief format.  I was going to do this post in my black and white series, however, found a picture! Here it goes on the RER C Foch in Paris. Hope you enjoy it and as I said at least they are cool to use with some above ground to see the beauty of Paris passing by.

The Île-de-France regional express network, commonly called “RER” is a rail-gauge public transport network serving Paris and its agglomeration , For historical reasons, part of the network is managed by RATP while the rest is part of the Transilien (SNCF) network. It has five lines RER A, B, C, D , and E.

A bit of history I like

In 1960, an interministerial committee launched the construction of a large gauge east-west railway line. Being at the origin of the idea, it was quite naturally the RATP which was responsible for operating the new line for which, with a view to its constitution, the SNCF gave it two lines that it operated: the Paris line. -Saint-Lazare to Saint-Germain-en-Laye to the west and the Paris-Bastille line to Marles-en-Brie ,also known as the Vincennes line to the east. It was not until 1965, that a true regional network was imagined. The construction of the first east-west line was launched on July 6, 1961 , and was carried out station after station across Paris from 1969 to 1977. It was not until December 12, 1969 that the first new station on the eastern section was inaugurated. at Nation, station which was opened to the public two days later, December 14. This first section is called the Regional Metro (the future RER). The axis of line A was originally chosen to unload metro line 1 between Charles de Gaulle – Étoile and Nation stations, the most saturated axis of the network. However, the new RER line being much faster and serving the suburbs, it quickly attracted as many travelers to the point of reaching saturation itself., A few weeks later the long-awaited western section was opened between Étoile and La Defense. This simple initial shuttle was first extended eastward to the new Auber station on November 23, 1971, then westward on October 1, 1972 to Saint-Germain-en-Laye through its connection to Nanterre at the old line from Paris to Saint-Germain-en-Laye, On February 29, 1972, the regional metro is now designed to consist of three lines, the east-west transverse (future RER A line), a new transverse on the left bank created from existing sections (future RER C line) , the extension of the Sceaux line and its interconnection with a northern network line to be determined (future RER B line), as well as the construction of a new additional interconnected line (future RER D line). On December 9, 1977, the junction between the two sections, western and eastern of the regional Metro, was achieved by the opening of the connection station Châtelet – Les Halles, until which was extended the line of Sceaux from Luxembourg, station located on the left bank, thus creating an embryo of the planned regional metro. Inaugurated by the President of the Republic Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, it made it possible to publicly launch the name of the rail network: “Réseau Express Régional” (RER), replacing Métro régional.

A bit of history and directions for the five RER lines.

On December 9, 1977, just named “RER A”, the line was extended to Noisy-le-Grand-Mont d’Est, the sixth underground and large-gauge station open to the public since 1969, On December 19, 1980, the branch de Noisy-le-Grand is extended in an easterly direction to Torcy station. The route serves the University of Paris-Est Marne-la-Vallée, through the station of Noisy – Champs, the urban center of Noisiel, and crosses the ru de Maubués, between the last two stations of Lognes and Torcy, by a prestressed concrete viaduct. On December 18, 1985, the government signed a protocol with the Walt Disney Company establishing the conditions for the establishment of the Disneyland Paris leisure complex., Therefore, a new extension of line A, 11 km long, from Torcy to Chessy, to provide service to the new Walt Disney amusement park, which is to be established in the heart of the major cereal crops of the Brie zone in Seine et Marne dept 77, in the east of the new town of Marne-la-Vallée, on the territory of Chessy. On April 1, 1992, the line reached Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy, eleven days before the inauguration of the Disneyland park. In December 1992, Bussy-Saint-Georges station opened on the Marne-la-Vallée branch between Torcy and Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy stations. On June 14, 2001, the Serris-Montévrain – Val d’Europe station was put into service, between the Bussy-Saint-Georges and Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy stations, in order to serve a new district in full development.

The rail service to the new town of Cergy-Pontoise from the gare Saint-Lazare to Nanterre-Université in Houilles with viaduct over the Seine, the passage from three to five tracks of the section Houilles – Sartrouville – Saint-Lazare with a flyover, the borrowing of the Achères – Creil line with construction of a new station in Achères and double track of the bridge over the Seine, then a new section of 5 km crossing the Oise river to go towards the Vexin plateau and serve the underground central station of Cergy-Préfecture. On April 1, 1979, this new section was opened. The line was extended by 4 km in September 1985 to Cergy-Saint-Christophe (another work place for me) following the urbanization of the agglomeration. On May 29, 1989, the RER A arrived in Poissy via a new short branch, taking its source west of Maisons-Laffitte, on the Cergy line and serving only one intermediate stop called Achères -Grand Cormier , On August 29, 1994, the branch was extended from Cergy-Saint-Christophe to Cergy-le-Haut. The RER A crosses the Paris agglomeration from east to west, with several branches at the ends of a central section. It connects Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Cergy-le-Haut and Poissy to the west, to Boissy-Saint-Léger and Marne-la-Vallée – Chessy to the east, passing through the heart of Paris.

The last very large-scale operation was the completion of the interconnection between the Sceaux line and the northern suburbs. Work started in 1976, it was to allow trains from the RER B line to reach Gare du Nord and then take the Mitry line and its branch serving Charles-de-Gaulle airport. This extension should thus allow a subsequent connection between the two major airports of Paris, Charles-de-Gaulle and Orly. On December 10, 1981, the RER B was extended from Châtelet – Les Halles to the Paris-Nord train station underground station. The RER B crosses the Parisian conurbation on a north-east / south-west axis, with several branches. It connects Aéroport Charles-de-Gaulle 2 TGV and Mitry – Claye to the north-east, to Robinson and Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse to the south, passing through the heart of Paris. An extension of RER B from Mitry – Claye station to Dammartin – Juilly – Saint-Mard station was planned in phase 3 (horizon 2021-2027).

On September 30, 1979, the Invalides – Orsay tunnel was inaugurated, and the junction was put into service, creating the Transversale Rive Gauche, the result of the extension of the Versailles – Invalides line, which was extensively modernized on occasion to the old station of Orsay and the interconnection of the southwest and west suburbs. In 1980, it became line RER C , and was extended in May 1980 to Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines thanks to the use, from Viroflay, of the Paris – Chartres line and the six-fold increase in tracks between Versailles-Chantiers and Versailles-Matelots (cargo station) in order to better separate the different types of traffic, The site started in 1985 and was completed in 1988 allowing the RER C to reach Argenteuil and Montigny – Beauchamp, from Champ de Mars. On August 28, 2000, the line was extended from Montigny – Beauchamp to Pontoise, capital of Val-d’Oise dept 95. The RER C crosses the Parisian agglomeration, with many branches. It connects to the west Pontoise, Versailles-Château-Rive-Gauche and Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – Montigny-le-Bretonneux on the one hand, and to the south Massy – Palaiseau, Dourdan – La Forêt and Saint-Martin- d’Étampes, as well as Versailles-Chantiers by an almost circular route, passing through the heart of Paris. The relocation of the terminus of the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – Montigny-le-Bretonneux station to the Coignières station. This important project for the service of the agglomeration of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines such as the improvement of the service of La Verrière (my oldest train stop for school right next to it!) and Trappes stations, and control of traffic at Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines – Montigny-le-Bretonneux train station, was however delayed due to the high infrastructure costs required to postponed the deadline for in service est, after 2030.

Paris RER C Foch jul13

On September 27, 1987, the RER D line, following the extension of trains coming from Villiers-le-Bel from the Paris-Nord underground station to the Châtelet – Les Halles connection station, which already receives trains from lines A and B. The trains of the line are received on the three central tracks of Châtelet – Les Halles planned from the start In 1992, the construction of two one-way tunnels between Châtelet and Gare de Lyon, intended for the RER D is launched, in order to relieve congestion on the RER A, making it possible to connect the northern suburbs to the south-eastern suburbs. It allows the RER D to connect Orry-la-Ville – Coye to Melun and La Ferté-Alais, via the Parisian stations of Gare du Nord, Châtelet – Les Halles and Gare de Lyon A new station on the RER D is opened on December 15, 2013, at the crossroads of the towns of Créteil, Valenton and Choisy-le-Roi, near the Pompadour crossroads: Créteil-Pompadour station. The RER D serves a large part of the Île-de-France region along a north-south axis. It connects Orry-la-Ville – Coye and Creil in the north to Melun and Malesherbes in the south, passing through the heart of Paris. The opening of a new branch to the north, using an infrastructure to be created, known as the “Gonesse bar”, between the Villiers-le-Bel – Gonesse – Arnouville station and the Parc des Expositions station (RER B). This infrastructure would then allow service to Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle airport, either by a connection with the RER B, or directly (in the case of sharing the infrastructure used by the RER B), while serving the triangle of Gonesse between Villiers-le-Bel – Gonesse – Arnouville station and Parc des Expositions to allow connection with the RER B. An intermediate station is planned at Gonesse.

Linking the eastern suburbs to gare Saint-Lazare station, the RER E line is the most recent in the network, The Éole project (for Est-Ouest-Liaison Express/ east west express connection) was started in 1993. The depth of the line is particularly important given the size of the Parisian soil, between 25 and 45 meters below the surface; it is authorized at 60 km / h. On the latter, two stations are comparable to the audacity of those of the 1970s and are particularly neat , these are Magenta and Haussmann – Saint-Lazare. On July 14, 1999 the new RER E line is put into service between the new Parisian underground station of Haussmann – Saint-Lazare and the station of Chelles – Gournay, located in the eastern suburbs of Paris, via among others, the new Parisian station of Magenta, also underground, On August 30, 1999, the line reached the station of Villiers-sur-Marne – Le Plessis -Treviso, following the commissioning of the second branch of the line from Noisy-le-Sec. On December 14, 2003, the line was extended from Villiers-sur-Marne – Le Plessis-Trévise to Tournan. A new station on the RER E was put into service on December 13, 2015, between Magenta and Pantin stations, in the 19éme arrondissement of Paris, at the corner of rue de Crimée and rue Gaston-Tessier, the Rosa-Parks station formerly called Evangile. It serves the Porte d’Aubervilliers district, replacing the station initially planned at La Villette – Aubervilliers, the station, which is located three minutes from Magenta and seven minutes from Haussmann – Saint-Lazare.

It is the only one of the five not to cross Paris right through. A new station on the RER E should be opened in 2027, between Boullereaux-Champigny station and Villiers-sur-Marne – Le Plessis-Trévise station, to connect with line 15 of the Grand Paris Express (Bry- Villiers-Champigny). The extension of the RER E line to the west of Paris, consists of extending the RER line, from Haussmann – Saint-Lazare station to Mantes-la Jolie station going through the business district of La Défense and Nanterre, by the year 2022, The project consists of extending the RER E line over 3.5 km, from Tournan station to Val Bréon, one of the largest logistics activity areas in Île-de-France region, The extension of the Chelles branch in Meaux is expected to enter into service after 2030.

The RER was done to provide off-peak service every ten minutes or quarter of an hour in an area of ​​about 15 to 20 kilometers and every twenty minutes or half an hour in that of 40 to 50 kilometers around Paris. Outside Paris, although several suburban towns are served by both the metro and the RER, the two networks operate separately and serve different neighborhoods. The only counter-examples are La Défense and Saint-Ouen, the only RER stations in correspondence with the metro, outside Paris. In 2022, the Île-de-France regional express network consist of five lines, serving a total of 257 stopping points, including 33 in Paris, spread over 587 km of tracks, including 76.5 kilometers located underground, and this , mainly in its central part. The network has the particularity of being operated on certain sections by the RATP and on others by the SNCF. The points where the train passes from one operator to another is referred to as “interconnection”. There is one on the RER A at Nanterre-Préfecture station (for Cergy and Poissy branch trains only) and one on the RER B at Paris-Nord station.

The official RATP on the RER : https://www.ratp.fr/en/infos-trafic/rer

The official Transilien on the RER : https://www.transilien.com/fr/page-deplacements/plan-reseau-ile-de-france

The official Ïle de France Mobilités (magnify to see the RER lines):  https://www.iledefrance-mobilites.fr/le-reseau

There you go folks, another dandy way of transportation in my eternal Paris. OF course, you wondered why congestions with cars well the public transport development is very taxpayer expensive and not enough to cover the greater Paris metro area for years. Now with several streets turn into pedestrians the congestions will increase. Be aware of the jams and delays, even on the RER. Welcome to Paris. I happened to have tried the tramway RER B from Roissy CDG airport to Gare du Nord ,it was not better than the bus or car! Also, tried the RER C from ND ST Michel to Versailles Château Rive Gauche, a bit better but still the car is king for me. And have taken a couple times the RER A from Paris-Auberto Poissy; again nothing to it, the car is better. Anyway, hope you enjoy the post.

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

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