Archive for February 26th, 2022

February 26, 2022

My walks of Arras!!

This is another wonderful city to walk in my belle France. So many times in Arras, yet not there lately due to the virus syndrome scaring us all. I have plenty written on it in my blog, so will do this one in my black and white series, no pictures. Hope you enjoy my brief walk of Arras!!

And I take you up to Arras do come here on a Wednesday or Saturday to enjoy the wonderful market in the place des Héros with about 250 merchants !

The Grand’Place and the Place des Héros are perpendicular and link by the rue de la Taillerie with 17 square km ! The two squares are bordered with 55 facades of the 17C to 18C and 300 columns , unique in the world ! All rebuilt after the Great War or WWI.

The facades at Place des Héros, and especially the houses with 3 cockerels at no 9, a siren at no 13 and a whale at no 64, On the Grand’Place you see the Maison des Trois Luppars the oldest from the 15C.

Next to the countryside Arras becomes a fairs town, a place of exchanges from the 9C. The city has the biggest cereal market north of Paris and a place for all wines destinations Pays Bas and Belgium, At this period the square Place des Héros also called the Petite Place was bordered with wooden houses and arcades housing shops, taverns, cellars etc as well as a subterranean cave of chalk that can be visited, You can climb the Beffroi or belfry with an elevator lift to see great views of the city, and also entered the cellars.

You go on to the Saint Vaast neighborhood, to see the Hôtel de Ville gothic flamboyant style and a Renaissance facade ! When you take the rue de la Taillerie you see the glorious past of bed sheets in Arras as in the Middle Ages the hall of bed sheets was found here. Move on to the Place Guy-Mollet to the left see at no 4 rue du Marché-au-Filé, the Mont de Piété the first example of gables made of curves and countercurves, A bit further you see the Cathedral Saint Vaast built on the old medieval cathedral with imposing dimensions on a gothic layout and a neo classic decoration, Next to it the former abbey sold as national property in the French revolution that houses today the fine arts museum or Beaux-Arts,22 rue Paul Doumer, the original lion that is mounted on the belfry.

The first belfries were used to sound the alarm and gathered the troops in case of an attack, However, from the 11C, the economic push of the cities and a new class made them serve other purposes such as prisons, keeper of the seal and place of meeting of aldermens, Therefore, to show this economic power, one builds a belfry higher than the next town, Until the construction of the belfry of Lille in 1929, the one in Arras was the highest with 75 meters, and built since 1453 ! , The clock is seen on its four faces to be seen by the entire population, and to show the influence of the church, The sound had meanings, such as Banclocque to call the aldermen to meetings, Effroy yells fire, couvre feu meaning sunrise and sunset , and Guet the monitoring of the city . Today the belfry serves a rallient point of the town where concerts are held like in Arras every Saturday morning,

There are still several mansions in the art déco style by rue Saint Aubert or nearby the Italian inspired Theater.

The city of Arras on its cultural sites :

The city of Arras on its heritage :

The Arras tourist office on must sees :

There you go folks, another dandy city this time of the north of my belle France. This is Arras , Pas de Calais dept 62 of the region of Hauts de France. Hope you enjoy the brief walk in city center, worth the detour.

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

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February 26, 2022

On the road warrior trails on the D670!!

Well found me two pictures that need to have in my blog, after all is my life’s history. I have material for a while but in the meantime let me tell you about the road warrior trails on the D670 road!!! Hope you enjoy the story as I.

I was in my road warrior trails coming from Spain and trying to avoid toll roads and see more of my belle France. So I took the D670 on a rainy day and in some parts hail. The road was created in 1933,and it was defined as the road from Saint-André-de-Cubzac to La Réole as a national road N 670.  It was downgraded in 1973 to a department road or  D670.

And of course, while passing driving on this road we came into a nice little village another picturesque spot in my belle France. This was La Riviére!!

La Rivière is located in the Gironde department 33 in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. This town has 427 inhabitants (2018), spread over 3.22 km, It owes its name to its location nestled on the banks of the Dordogne river. It is said that Charlemagne installs a watchtower on a promontory at the site of a Gallo-Roman tomb in 769. It serves as a lookout to alert the military camp located further at Fronsac.

The interesting thing to see here are the Church of Notre-Dame dating back to the 11C. In the 19C, a bell tower was added to the church. The vault of the sanctuary, as well as the semicircular doorway and the narrow windows visible on the south wall, date from the 11C. The nave with ogival vault is a little later since it dates from the 12C. Another we passed by and took a peek was the  Château de La Rivière. Wine is grown there and the historic cellars are open to visitors. The estate covers 100 hectares, including 65 hectares of vines producing AOC Fronsac wines, The current château was completed in 1577! The sad story of the castle/Château de La Riviére is that in September 2003 its owner became James Grégoire who,on December 19, 2013, sold the property to Lam Kok, a Chinese businessman, president of the Bolian group, specializing in the sale of Pu’er teas. Wanting to show him around the estate in his helicopter, he crash lands in the Dordogne, killing James Grégoire, Lam Kok and his 12-year-old son, as well as his adviser. Madame Lau, widow of Lam Kok, survivor of the accident, then becomes, alone, the owner of Château de La Rivière,to this day.


The official Château de La Riviére

The Fronsadais tourist board on La Riviére heritage

The community of towns of the Fronsadais on La Riviére

Continuing along this D670 road we reach the hamlet of Cantenac.

I passed by the Château Cantenac an 18.7 hectare wine estate located in the town of Saint-Émilion . However, way outside thet own on the road D670 actually closer to Libourne. 


The official Château Cantenac

The Saint Emilion tourist office on the castle viticole

The Community of towns of the Saint Emilion area on St Emilion

There you go folks, a dandy road warrior trip in beautiful wine country of my belle France. The beautiful scenery of country air and the smell of vineyards, can’t beat this combination love it. Hope you enjoy this bit of road warrior trip and do it when possible.

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

February 26, 2022

Bordeaux and its castles!!!

I have plenty on wines in my blog , one of my passions since childhood, I have,also written on the Bordeaux region, my favorite wine place in the world, However, I like to do a black and white series, no pictures on the architecture style of the place, Therefore, here is Bordeaux and its castles!!! Bear with me and hope you enjoy it as I.

There is a word in Bordeaux call castle or château very confusing to some, especially those not from the wine trade or passionate as I. There is a « château viticole » ; it designate the wine and the property that produces it, The name on the label does not mean that it is a castle from the architectural point of view as there are some castles that are simple homes without having an influence on the high and low quality of the wine. In a radius of 60 km (about 37 miles) from Bordeaux, the wine region includes 3 sectors : The estuary of the Gironde with the Médoc and the Blayais ; the Garonne with its left bank Sauternes and Graves, and the right bank of the Dordogne with the Libourne. A total of over 115k hectares with about 4K properties that have on their label the word castle Château.

The fashion of the châteaux viticoles left the Médoc to gain other appellations, It was here that before the 17-18C appears the designation more often the reconvertion of a agricultural domain, The 19C created a frenzy to built these castles first in the Médoc then in other appellations like Saint Emilion, Sauternes, and Fronsac, etc, The castles were built with a commercial eye with theatrical decorations, beautiful architecture that represented the quality of wines to the public, A very modern approach in the 19C. The concept of « Bourdieu » understood to be the exploitation of an agricultural domain including the house and its dependencies, They were administered by a manager and it was developped rapidly from the 16C on the banks of the Garonne and the Gironde, An example exist in Barsac with the Maison forte de la Sallasse , a fortified house. This one dates from the 14C very well preserve to our days, It is said to be built in 1340 still under English domination with a defensive wall today gone.

The commercial boom came in the 18C with the islands in the Americas and a triangular commercial entreprise, The interest of England that asked for fine wines created the production towards the high end, It is the reason why the new French clarets the ancestors of our wines today were sold four times more than the classic clarets while at the same time appeared the first cork bottle wines. During the Second Empire (Napoléon III) the commerce done thanks to the agreement of free trade and the railroad line between Bordeaux and Paris put the lights on the Bordeaux wines. Other regions such as Saint Emilion, Pomerol, Sauternes, put the competition on the quality level, The Bordeaux wines tried to differentiate themselves by bringing on the name Château/castle.

The great dates of wine making in the Bordeaux/Médoc area comes from the 1C when the merchants of Narbonne were more expensive and the grape biturica was well in the Roman areas of Brittany that is England. Jump to the 12-13C thanks to this commerce with England made more so from the Aquitaine was English and later when it came back to France in 1224 Bordeaux becomes a very important port, The vineyards extends to Saint Emilion, Bourg and Blaye, Again in the 17C the arrival in Bordeaux of the merchants Flamandes that encourage the making of white and sweet wines, To the claret for England becomes more so preferable the black wines of Spain (the reds), Coming to the 18C the golden age of Bordeaux ! The image of the Pontac family and their Haut-Brion started the movement, The fine Bordeaux wines conquers and give rise to the Grand Crus, In the 19C the classification of 1855 give priority to the château wines making a list of 58 grand crus of the Médoc and Haut Brion on red wines and 22 sweet wines of Sauternes, In this period many castles were built between 1850 and 1880. And we come to the 20C, here in 1935 was created the INAO (Institut de l’Origine et de la qualité) that groups the properties of the control origins, Bordeaux is reborn again from 1960 onwards to today.

Now good moment to tell you about the Médoc again (see post), as most call it Bordeaux but as you can see above, the name of Bordeaux is a much bigger area. My best wines comes from the Médoc. This is the region bounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Gironde, pointe de Grave, and the Landes forest as well as the Bruges marshes. There are three parts: the Bas-Médoc, the Haut-Médoc and the Landes, and two terroirs, the famous Médoc vineyard along the estuary, and the Landes du Médoc towards the ocean. Get it or ask me.

Some brief description of what it is a Bordeaux « château »:

First in the property you have the master house normally rectangular in shape with small towers and decorative elements ; the wings holds the most important facade. Then you have the commons ,which could be attach to the master house in U shape or apart, This is for the animals, stables etc. Then, you have the vinification buildings ,which could be near or apart, with industrial materials like bricks, metal poles, for the vats and cellars. You have the vat where the juice is put to ferment in older days of wood or stone, and today of concrete or stainless steel, and sometimes a press on the same building. The cellars house the barrils where the wine is aged before putting them in the bottle. The big properties have a large personnel that have rooms for them such as in the Château Margaux, You have gardens, to make the castle look in a natural environment, There are chapels apart from the above buildings and sometimes in the extension of a wing;this tell us the merchants speak with God without passing by a priest or parish such as the Chapelle de Château Loudenne. Today the cellars are a work of art build by the great masters of architecture such as those in the Château-Rothschild work of Ricardo Bofill (RIP) or Egyptians lines like the Château Pichon-Longueville done by Jean de Gastines and Patrick Dillon.

Again for reference, the main cultivated grapes here and by now spread all over the world proof of French excellence are : Merlot, Cabinet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cot for the reds , and Sémillon, Sauvignon, and Muscadelle for the whites.

Let me give some examplary properties ,briefly:

The Château Haut-Brion built in the middle of the 16C, the master house is rectangular from the times of Jean de Pontac by 3 corner towers of which one is gone, The facade is in one floor with reduce decorations and old fashion renaissance look. One of the owners of this castle was Talleyrand for four years between 1801 and 1804.

The Château Margaux, in neo classic or neo palladien style in an antique decoration baptised the « Versailles of the Médoc » built between 1810 and 1816. The master house is like a theater on adriveway of plane trees , the facade has 30 bays on four levels with in the middle a monumental stair and at its feet two sphinxes looking like the guardians of the place. The front has four iconic columns of great majesty, It has nice commons as mentioned above, The anecdote here is that after the French revolution the castle is acquired by immigrant Spaniard Bertrand Douat , Marquis de la Colonilla, and later in 1816 it passes by another Spaniard Alexandre Aguado and in 1977 to a Greek André Mentzelopoulus, it is his daughter Corinne at the commands today.

Other follies came like the Garros dynasty in the second half of the 19C with a mix of architectural influences from Italy, England and the Loire valley. Examples of this are the Château Clément-Pichon in Parempuyre with the loire castle inspiration. The castle fortress of Sauternes where they are inhabited all year as an agriculture domain, examples are the Château d’Yquiem at Preignac built in the 15C but renovated several times thereafter. The Tudor style with the English influence in its golden age of the 19C expecially the Oxford style, Examples of these is the Château Cantenac-Brown in Margaux built for John Lewis Brown in the middle of the 19C. You ,also , have the charterhouses like those in Périgord and in Bordeaux are call « girondines » built between 1650 and 1850 with a central master house surrounded by two wings and a principal door in the middle, examples of this style is the Château Loudenne in Saint Yzans de Médoc, The one unique is the Cos d’Estourel a castle apart ! Chinese pagodas without any style but universal look and a simple Burgundian master house,An eclectique decoration with theatrical look in the cellars with heads of bulls, dragons, etc. The main door of the cellars all in sculpture wood comes from the palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar ! This is the masterpiece of Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, inherits some vinyards in 1810 at Cos that means in old gascon pebble hill, his wines were appreciated by the tzar of Russia, Queen Victoria, Napoléon III, Stendhal, Jules Verne, Eugéne Labiche and even Karl Marx ! Ruined by his lifestyle he sells Cos in 1823 to an English banker with the right to stayed in the property. He died at the age of 91 while able to see the consecration of his castle at the head of Saint Estéphe in the classication of 1855.

The Bordeaux tourist convention office on wine castles:

The Bordeaux city tourist office on wine castles:

The city of Bordeaux on wine heritage:

There you go folks a wonderful world of Bordeaux and its castles. Hope you have a little better idea of what a castle means in Bordeaux and appreciate better its wines. Hope you enjoy the post as I. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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