Archive for July 17th, 2022

July 17, 2022

The Sant Angelo of Rome !!

And bringing you back to eternal Rome, and Italy.  We had great weather when visiting with the family and good memories of the Castle museum of Sant Angelo. This is an updated post with new text and links, a wonderful experience worth reliving again. Hope you enjoy it as I. 


Well going to Rome I thought of Roman ruins and narrow streets, great pasta etc. but never figure there was a castle ,even if old as well.  This time been a family vacation wandered all over, and caught this wonderful castle near the Vatican. I am talking about the Castel museo of Sant’Angelo.


The castle grounds were done in 135 and completed in 139, the ashes of emperors Hadrian and Augustus are in its stones, and it was done as a mausoleum to house the ones from Hadrian (emperor born in what is today Spain).  The appearances of an angel had a lot to do with the name of the castle.  It passes by the Aurelian walls right into the Vatican area, with a great moat area now with benches and shade trees, up above by the walls there is a semicircular pathway of beautiful shaded trees and benches with colorful stands selling gelato, and even hot dogs with souvenirs stand with great prices always negotiated down. We purchase t-shirts, scarfs, belts, and caps all starting much higher but always reduce prices at the end!


A bit of condense history I like:

Started construction under orders of emperor Hadrian in 135  to be his mausoleum, the building is the counterpart of the tomb of Augustus. It was completed by Antoninus Pius in 139. The Castle, a massive Rotunda covered with travertine marble, surmounted by a Quadriga bronze figure of the emperor Hadrian . Hadrian’s ashes are deposited in 139. Caracalla was the last emperor to be buried. Very quickly, the building is diverted from its funeral purposes to become military. It is integrated into the Aurelian wall in 403, as the advanced bastion.


The Castle Sant Angelo takes its present name from a legend appeared in the 9C, about the great plague of 590. The Pope then Grégoire Ire, had an apparition of the Archangel Michael at the top of the Castle, handing his sword to the scabbard, thus signifying the end of the epidemic.  In 846, the Saracens made a sudden incursion in the town, looted St. Peter’s Basilica and devastate the Borgo. To protect it, Léon IV connects it by a wall to the Castle.  The castle is then transformed into prison, where four of the popes of the 9C were killed.  During the long struggle between the Pope and the Emperor, the castle became a refuge for Popes. Gregory VII is entrenched in 1083 to resist to Henry IV, Holy Roman Emperor, and in 1227, Nicolas III built a corridor suspended connecting the castle to the Vatican, thus providing a possibility of quick escapes.


When urban V from Avignon returns to Rome, he is giving back not the keys to the city but those of the Castle, which reprises his role of fortress protecting the Vatican. The many renovations allow Alexandre VI  to take refuge when Rome was occupied by the King of France Charles VIII in 1494 (first war of Italy) and Clement VII to resist six months at headquarters of Charles V during the terrible sacking of Rome in 1527. He manages to escape in disguise, by the back door garden Saint-Pierre to reach Orvieto. The castle did not lose its status of a prison.  Until the 19C, the Castle serves as  the papacy political prison, the pontifical flag is brought down for the last time by the Papal troops, under the eyes of the Italian army, which took possession of the castle.


Restored at the beginning of the 20C, the Castel Sant’Angelo is a museum since 1925, where it houses a collection of paintings and armor. Amongst which are :  Apollo room, decorated with frescoes by Perin del Vaga (1547);  the room of Clement VII (paintings from the 15-16C);  the Loggia of Paul III, painted by Antonio da Sangallo the younger. the Loggia of Julius II from 1504;  Paul III Farnèse apartments, decorated between 1542 and 1549  with  frescoes; Salle Pauline decorated of the life of Alexander the great of Marco Pino;  the room of the Adrianeum which houses the Bacchanalia of Dosso Dossi; and the room of garlands, Saint Jerome of Lorenzo Lotto.  Finally, Giacomo Puccini played on the ramparts of the castle the last scenes of Tosca: Cavaradossi, having dreamed happiness past was shot on the terrace by the firing squad and Floria Tosca of despair, flows of the parapet into the Tiber.

The official Castel Museo Sant Angelo

The Rome tourist office on the castle/museum

There you go folks, a must see while in Rome, the Castel Museo Sant Angelo! One of the highlights of our visit and very educational as well. Hope you enjoy it as I.

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

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July 17, 2022

The wonderful nostalgic streets of Meaux !!!

Here I am in my sentimental mood again, on my belle France where else.  I have written on the city of Meaux, in dept 77 Seine-et-Marne, region of Île de France before on several posts. However, it is never enough on Meaux! Let me tell you why !

I was very much French influence since youth, and maybe it was the reason end up marrying a French women , native of Meaux ! which I visited while dating, got her to marry me in Daytona Beach, Florida USA and then convince me already French citizen to come to live in the Yvelines dept 78 of France. It was, and is , and will be the best decision of my life to have found her, and Meaux, and coming to France, all wonderful. If only I lost my dear late wife Martine to cancer in 2018, guess life cannot be perfect. Meaux would be very sentimental and nostalgic for me forever. There are other more beautiful towns in France I guess, and some with major works of arts, and monuments to boot, but little Meaux will remain the biggest of them all. Let me tell you a bit of some of the streets dear to me there. Bear with me ok

Meaux is a small beautiful town, sitting on the Marne river, wrote Michel de Montaigne in 1580 in his diary of travel. On one side the city and the suburbs, on the other the market, sheltered in a meander of the Marne river. Since the Celtic era, it has been an important religious pole; its name remains associated with the tutelary figure of Bossuet, “the Eagle of Meaux “, and its status as an Episcopal seat has earned it its most remarkable monuments: the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, the Episcopal Palace (now Bossuet Museum) and the  Vieux Chapitre (old chapter).

A sentimental big street for me is the rue Noëfort, this is where I first met what was to be my wife, my dear late wife Martine at no 36. The main thing here is that at 3 rue Noéfort  there is the Gendarmerie Nationale. The national military police sort of a State trooper or National Guard. It is also, on the next section of historical Meaux. There are so many walks by here ,and pushing the baby stroller with 3 boys of close ages, and shopping the local nearby shops and eateries, so many memories…. If you come to visit they might become yours too,,,


The Faubourg Saint-Nicolas extends along the great eponymous artery, formerly known as the route d’Allemagne (road of Germany). It is circumscribed by the avenues of  Maréchal Foch, du Maréchal Joffre, de la République, du président Salvador Allende,and the streets of rue des Béguines and rue des Cordeliers , and of course rue Noëfort. It was built at the foot of the promontory housing the Cathedral and the old town, along the rue du Faubourg Saint-Nicolas which brings together the most important buildings of the District such as the former General Hospital, the Church of St. Nicholas, the Protestant Temple. It was separated from the District of the Cathedral by the Brasset, a small arm of the Marne river, now underground.

In the 5C, it was buried Saint Céline, a friend of Saint Genevieve; on her tomb, placed Extra Muros in the ancient Celtic tradition, arose a church that was to endure until the French revolution, the Church of Saint Céline. The suburb also welcomed in the 13C another religious establishment, that of the Franciscans or Cordeliers; their arrival in Meaux is part of the development of the communities of beggars monks in all the cities of Europe. In the 17C, two new establishments settled in the Faubourg Saint-Nicolas: the Priory of Noëfort (on rue Noëfort ) and the General Hospital, founded in 1667 to interne the poor and the vagabonds  in application of the great enclosures  decided by the Royal Ordinance of 1662. The old parish church is indeed moved to the site of the Convent of the Cordeliers, and the primitive Church disappears from the urban fabric from the 19C. Not far from its location is then built the Protestant Temple, 1847. As for the Priory of Noëfort, it is converted into a military building; today is the modern Gendarmerie Natinale (police HQ at 3 rue Noëfort), which no longer has any old vestige. The only pre-19C monuments still present in the Faubourg Saint-Nicolas are the present Parish Church St Nicolas (former convent of the Cordeliers) and the House of the Augustines (former General Hospital).

Another wonderful artery we walked and walked a lot over the years is the one called the boulevard des Anciens fossés (old wells), currently Boulevard Jean Rose, the boulevard that is running along the Gallo-Roman walls of Meaux (ramparts! See post) and great parking area now. The black plague spread over the territory and in Meaux  a third of the population died in 1348. This terrible epidemic upset Jean Rose a local rich merchant, who turned to help the poor and the sick and became the benefactor of the city of Meaux. His wealth, in fact, allowed him to create various pious foundations. In 1356 he built the l’hôpital de la Passion (passion hospital) to accommodate 25 blind and 12 poor, as well as a school for 10 children. It changed its name between the 15C and the 16C. It was gradually called the hospital Jean Rose. It was only in 1647 that the Bishop decided to close the hospital and set up a seminar there. The buildings that housed the Grand Seminary were completely rebuilt in the 18C. Only the Chapel of the Hospital Jean Rose survives today. There is always the crest of the benefactor made up of three roses. Jean Rose is buried alongside his wife Jeanne Rose in a Chapel of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (St Etienne). It is a side chapel dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament that our benefactor built, at his expense in 1331 following the death of his wife. In 1848 the town of Meaux decided to honor the memory of Jean Rose by giving its name to an artery of the city: the present Boulevard Jean Rose. Well done! Up against the ramparts at Boulevard Jean Rose there is a very active market right over the parking area on Tuesday mornings.


Another venerable street is the  Cours Raoult, this is where the old Ford dealership was in town and where I purchase my first car in France ! (Focus break or station wagon),  Now there is Monop convenience store there as the dealer has move to outer limits of the city. This is a short street taking you to the Place Henri IV, and along the Rue du Général Leclerc on one way and across the Quai Jacques Prévert (road D603) to the banks of the Marne river. Indeed a very nice place to walk and shop; there is an even bigger market across the river. There each Saturday, under the historic metal covered cheese market of Meaux built in the second half of the 19C you can have the real cheese Brie de Meaux amongt other things! Magical and nominated for one of the best markets in France! 


Moving right along, you come to the  Rue du Général Leclerc which is pedestrian from the Cours Raoult or Pl Henri IV to the Cathedral at Parvis St Etienne. The Rue du Général Leclerc was call before the rue de la Savaterie, and was well known for commerce from the Middle Ages when it was cut into two section one the rue des Pâtissiers (pastry makers st) and the rue de l’Epicerie( groceries st).


The place Charles-de-Gaulle (square), is at the foot of the Cathedral of St Stephen (St Etienne) where it was also very animated in the Middle Ages when it was called the place des Quatre-Vents, before becoming the Parvis Saint-Etienne, and now the Gen de Gaulle. Very quant pedestrian area with many shops and restos/bars a must to walk it in town. The Cathedral a monument of Gothic France! The Rue St Etienne goes into Rue St Pierre all around the Cathedral. On one side there is Rue Bossuet that takes you to the ramparts and bd Jean Rose . All worth the walks into medieval France and great for shops and restos/bars too.


The place Henri IVis another memorable place as here we went to the movies for the first time in France at the Majestic cinema. It is now part of the cinema group UGC and has a great auto parking above and below ground. Also, at Christmas time there is a nice market here with ice skating ring. The square is name as such because it was to mark the coming of king Henri IV in 1599 when the city was in the middle of the 30 years war of Religions,and decided to rally in favor of the king. King Henri IV was a Protestant, and the city of Meaux , Catholic, and when the king converts to Catholicism, the locals (who are call by their celtic name, the Meldois) decided to signed the peace accords.

The city of Meaux on its heritage :

The Meaux country tourist office on the must to see

You might keep in mind , Meaux is reach very easily from Paris Gare de l’Est train station direct and also, a great home and inexpensive spot for visits to Disneyland nearby. Anyway, the streets of Meaux are eternal !!

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

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July 17, 2022

La Trocha of Havana !

Well digging deep into my vault found another beauty that needs to be in my blog. As I an amateur of history and architecture if you have been reading me, this fix perfect into my domain . The trocha of Havana or at least one of them were setup during Spanish colonial rule in Cuba to tried to stop the liberators called Mambises or men of the jungle! There was one near my native town so will tell you a bit about it. Hope you enjoy it as I.

It is always a shot to go by them as they are still or at least were as of 2012. We drove by the Mariel Majana trocha in the family (no longer in Cuba)  Ford 1954 convertion !!

The trochas or “trails” or « military surveillance lines », were an important element in the Spanish strategy to annihilate the mambises liberating forces. The Mariel-Majana Trocha of General Arolas, was in 1896 for the Spanish, a military line of strategic, tactical and observation entrenchments, with intervals very well equipped with blockhouses, forts and redoubts with artillery.

havana La trocha 1998
This trocha was divided into sections such as the larger Mariel -Artemisa trocha done to operate against General Maceo (Cuban independence hero) in Pinar del Rio province after he have taken the fight from one end to the other of the island, It was reinforced with a second line whose main bases were Alquizar, San Antonio de los Baños, Punta Brava (my native town) and Hoyo Colorado (later Bauta). The main HQ was located in Artemisa, The first 12 km journey was between Mariel and Guanajay, the second 10 km journey between Artemisa and Guanajay, and the third journey between Artemisa and Majana formed by between 10K+ and 16K+ Spanish soldiers.

It is a wonderful thing to see along the road by car or a bus passing on the old Central Highway or Carretera Central between Artemisa and Guanajay. As a child many times passed by them with my parents.

The Cuban base Ecured source has more on the trocha:

There you go folks, a dandy historical fact about the wars of independence in Cuba, seldom mention today with the new/older regime. Hope you enjoy the post and seek it out if going there some day. For me, its a historical trivia.

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

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July 17, 2022

Varadero of Cuba !!!

This again a find in my vault of older pictures and a spot that needs to be in my blog. Many memories of going here as a child and my parents before me. It was a family tradition until the revolution put an end to it. Today the Varadero of old is gone and a new face is turning into new tourists unaware of its history. I like to tell you a bit more of Varadero of Cuba !!!

Varadero beach horse wagon NF 1998

Another favorite beach of my family were Guanabo ,Santa Maria del Mar ,and Salado (see post). Of course Varadero was the prime spot. As a child do not have pictures of it but did took in my last family visit in 1998. My parents of course had one from pre 1959. 

Varadero, is in the province of Matanzas, and part of the town of Cárdenas. Located on the northern coast of Cuba, Varadero is a popular beach resort, one of the largest in the Caribbean, It is precisely in the Hicacos Peninsula, 140 km of Havana, at the eastern end of the Via Blanca highway. The peninsula is only 1,200 meters at its widest point and is separated from the island of Cuba by the Kawama Channel. It is connected to the island by a drawbridge. Punta Hicacos, is the northernmost point of the island of Cuba and the closest to the United States. At the northern end of the peninsula is a nature reserve with pristine forests and beaches.

Varadero beach, also known as Playa Azul, stretches along the narrow peninsula between 700 and 1,200 meters wide. Its 22 km of white sand beach are characterized by a strip of fine white sand and a gentle descent of its platform towards the sea. Varadero, which is a free port, has conditions for diving, fishing, yachting, all kinds of nautical activities, skydiving and a congress center.

The first tourists began to frequent Varadero as early as the 1870s and for years it was considered an elite destination. Tourism flourished in the 1930s when Irénée Dupont de Nemours, an American billionaire, built an estate there. Irene Dupont own the land between the current 54th street to the popular Cueva del Pirata, that is, some 512 hectares, We have as December 15, 1887 as the date of the official foundation of Varadero.

One day Enrique Torres built a kiosk to sell all kinds of items, and in 1926 he built the hotel identified with his last name in 1926, The Torres Hotel was demolished in the 1960s to the surprise, frustration and embarrassment of architects and historians. Total demolition occurred in 1971. Meanwhile, in 1931, La Mansión Xanadú was built, a four-story mansion, numerous rooms and bathrooms, a library and even a superbly stocked cellar. It is located on the rock of San Bernardino

The Spaniard who was the director of the famous Arechabala rum factory, bought a plot of land around a lagoon and built his house in 1938, near which in 1945 the company would build a social club for its employees. residence located in Parque Josone (initials of the owners , José and Onelia). The tunnel built by José Arechabala S.A. is still active. below the first avenue that led to the beach, and which leads to the International Diving Center of the resort, which has the second largest coral reef on the planet. Between the current streets 42 and 48, the first hotel on the peninsula called “Varadero” and later “Club Nautico” was also built in 1915, for the participants of the rowing regatta which was held annually since 1910.

Varadero beach chinese resto fam 1998

The modest Torres Hotel was joined, in 1931, by the Kawama, and during this and the following decade, the Imperial (1936), Dos Mares, Casa La Rosa, Vista Alegre, Casa Portilla Inn, Miramar, Chez Roig, Playa Azul, Varadero, etc., as well as many other buildings outside the jurisdiction of Irene Dupont, In 1950, and with the aim of equipping the spa with a casino, an American company inaugurated the Hotel Varadero Internacional, which during the following years would become an emblem of the place and very exclusive gaming mecca. In addition, thanks to its good location, it has become an excellent base to explore nearby enclaves, since excursions to well-known places such as Cayo Blanco, the Bellamar Caves, Cueva Ambrosio, the Zapatata Peninsula, Bahía Cochinos depart from here; Boca de Guamá, with its Taíno Village and the Laguna del Tesoro, or even nearby cities such as Trinidad, Cienfuegos or Santa Clara.

varadero beach pipo y mima de vacaciones en cuba

The current Cuba tourist site on Varadero:

There you go folks, another dandy of my old Cuba , memories forever, even if today they are becoming blurred and far away in my mind. Varadero still an attracting place even if the crowds are different and the conditions worse; life goes on in this sad forgotten island of the powers to be . Hope you enjoy the post on Varadero and see if for yourselves eventually.

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

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