Archive for ‘France’

October 24, 2021

Hôtel de Ville of Poitiers!!

One of the emblematic buildings of Poitiers is its Hôtel de Ville or city/town hall. We were back to the city after many years gone by and it was a blast. We had great weather and a smooth trip in my road warrior ways of my belle France. I did an introduction and then some, will continue to write a few posts on Poitiers; hope you enjoy as I.

poitiers pl de marechal leclerc old pl d'armes oct21

The Hôtel de Ville of Poitiers or city/town hall is a Second Empire style municipal building located on the Place du Maréchal-Leclerc, a former Place d’Armes. Built between 1869 and 1875, The building remains a major monument representative of the tastes of the Second Empire. The majestic facade is neo-renaissance style, according to the Napoleon III style, lover of architectural pastiches. The building was not only to house the administration of the city, but also the municipal museum of fine arts which left the premises in 1974. The main facade presents a theatrical composition, pierced by large windows with double horizontal crosses, it is punctuated by the columns and ringed pilasters in the manner of the 16C, The elevation of the ground floor resumes almost identically that of the opera house Garnier, built in Paris during the same years. The clock is framed by two allegorical figures, Agriculture and Industry The campanile with four lead tigers are surmounted by putti carrying torches. On the pediment, putti hold the crown above the arms of the city. The coat of arms of Poitiers is composed of the lion of Aquitaine, the fleur-de-lis and nine besants which would represent the first aldermen. The motif is available in many places: pediments, friezes, ironwork, door handles but also parquet floors, paintings, stained glass …etc.

Poitiers hotel de ville front oct21

Poitiers hotel de ville right side oct21

Inside (we did not go in) you could see the Grand staircase ; a theatrical staircase stages the visitor’s ascent to the loggia. From this balcony, you can in turn see and be seen, The salle des mariages or wedding hall ,you see the portraits of Triumph of the Hymeneus (1882). Above the fireplace, Les époux before the Law (1884) in a more severe neo-classical style. The Salon d’Honneur, a former ballroom, retains a parquet floor inlaid with the coat of arms of the city. The stained-glass window represents Eleanor of Aquitaine confirming the town charter in 1199. The former municipal council chamber, today called the salle du blason or coat of arms, is adorned with a ceiling represents the city of Poitiers, under the features of a woman rewarding Work, accompanied by Strength, Justice, Charity and Peace.

The Poitiers tourist office on the city hallhttps://visitpoitiers.fr/en/activite/hotel-de-ville/

The City of Poitiers and its city hall contactshttps://www.poitiers.fr/c__62_816__Horaires_et_coordonnees_des_mairies_de_quartier.html

There you go folks, a brief on one of the must see in Poitiers according to many. For us the architecture and the ambiance in the square were enough to put it in my blog. Hope you enjoy the City/town Hall as we did.

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

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October 23, 2021

Curiosities of Poitiers!

So we came back to Poitiers about 4 hours from home by car ,nice easy ride along marvelous roads, and we left early to have the most of the day, sunny cool nice. I have written an introduction to Poitiers so will now run a series of posts on what we saw and enjoy it. Oh for the geographical buff, Poitiers is in dept Vienne no 86 of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region.

In this post I will put up some miscellaneous spots me think that makes a trip to Poitiers worth it. I will start with getting there. Well we went on the N165 past Nantes hook up with the A83 and then the A10 to Poitiers Centre and after doing some walks and sighseeing with on street parking around the rue Jean Jaurés, we went for the underground parking of the Centre Commercial des Cordeliers shopping center at Rue Henri Oudin for convenience we like. For info the underground parking was 8.80€ the day, and the tolls were 17,30€ each way. I usually do not like to pay tolls but for one day and fast road it is worth it.

Poitiers cc cordeliers entr parking oct21

Poitiers centre commercial Cordeliers oct21

Before on the way in the A83 we stop at the Vendée 85 rest stop for a nice breakfast of coffee, orange juice, one croissant and one pain au chocolat! Very nice indeed.For info the cost was 36€ for five persons.

Vendee aire de vendee A83 to poitiers stop breakfast oct21

We did go straight to the market which is very nice, the marché Notre Dame in lively  Place Charles de Gaulle ; this is open from 6h to 14h Tuesdays to Saturdays. Recommended!! We got our goat cheeses here very famous in this area and found a nice Mexican lady already in France for 20 years who has a stand selling delicious home made Mexican food, and we got our chicken and beef empanadas, and lychéé sodas! We had a nice conversation on A la Mexicana cuisine Mexicaine! 

Poitiers marche notre dame ent oct21

Poitiers marche notre dame goat cheeses purchase oct21

poitiers marche Notre dame a la mexicana 20 yrs oct21

Poitiers marche notre dame a la mexicana empanadas mex lady oct21

The Poitiers tourist office on the marketshttps://visitpoitiers.fr/a-faire/shopping/marches/

The Place Charles de Gaulle is one of the most important and largest square in the city of Poitiers. It is on this square that you will find the city’s indoor (and outdoor, depending on the day) market, the tourist office, the most famous church in Poitiers (see post later) and also many bars and restaurants. If you are by car, you can park in the car park of the same name which is located at the entrance to the square. At night and on Sundays, parking costs only 50 cents. The Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly known as Place du Marché Notre-Dame, unveils a splendid collection of half-timbered houses. All very nice indeed!

Poitiers pl Charles de Gaulle by ND grande ch oct21

We were hungry of course, and time to eat, might as well put it on this post. As things goes around our house lately…I had pinpoint a place to eat before leaving the house which will remain nameless as when we arrive we saw the Factory and it was an instant hit. We had our late lunch here at 31 Rue du Marché Notre Dame not far from the market, the ND church, tourist office and central Poitiers, a lively area of many stores, restos and the university of Poitiers hangouts. We love it!! As it goes had my double wrap goat cheese, with a couple rounds of Tigre Bok blonde beers, and fries, and passionfruit cheesecake with café au lait!! all for about 23€ per person, nice. The place was popping and service was friendly nice and fast! To be repeated. webpage: https://factory-poitiers.fr/

Poitiers factory resto bar oct21

Poitiers factory resto dining room oct21

Poitiers factory resto tigre bock beers oct21

The Sainte-Croix museum is the largest museum in the city of Poitiers. Built in 1974, it stands in the place of the former Sainte-Croix abbey, today in Saint-Benoît. It is a vast structure of concrete and glass, in the purest brutalist style of the 1970s. It also has the particularity of being built on a former excavation site in its Archeology department. The first museum in the city of Poitiers was established in 1820. It then moved to the ground floor of the new city/town hall built at the end of the Second Empire. We did not go in as really brutal but for the must art lover, we passed by and here it is.

Poitiers mus ste croix side oct21

 

Poitiers mus ste croix front oct21

The city of Poitiers on the museumhttps://www.poitiers.fr/c__231_977__accueil_musee_sainte_croix.html

The Vienne dept 86 tourist office on the museum in English : https://www.tourisme-vienne.com/en/activite/245/musee-sainte-croix

There you go folks, a nice town we should had come back earlier but there is always tomorrow and glad we finally reach it again. It brought nice memories of our first visit to Poitiers and the ND church and Futuroscope park as well as the Campanile hotel in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou , a town just outside nearer the park. Hope you enjoy the post as we did!

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

October 23, 2021

A lot of Normandy in Alençon!!

I have passed many times, stop by several times, but never really went in deep as to said saw something. So much beauty to see in my belle France, already the world’s most visited country (UN-WTO), and we have just touch the surface on things to see, really. I heard about the religious importance of Alençon and took it to finally stop by and see the town. To my surprise , there were many other things to see there,so therefore, let me give you an introduction post on Alençon; plenty of posts and pictures elsewhere in my blog. Just one picture here sort of a black and white series in disguise! Hope you enjoy the post as I.

This town is one example, a wonderful city center or downtown ,beautiful historical buildings and great architecture not quite Norman even if in Normandy. I like to tell you a bit about Alençon. The city is in the Department of the Orne,no. 61 in the region of Normandy. It takes an advantage of its position on the Paris-Brest axis (route RN 12) when entered a period of dynamism, then, the route A11 autoroute puts Le Mans in a strategic position on the Paris-Brittany axis, which confirms at the end of the 1980’s by the opening of the LGV Atlantique train service. Alençon is again doomed to be only a relay city on a north-south cross-section, in this case the Rouen-Le Mans A28 autoroute. The town is situated between the Normandy-Maine Regional Natural Park and the Perche Regional Natural Park. Alençon is also located about ten km from the forest of Écouves to the north, the forest of Perseigne to the east, and from the Mancelles Alps to the south. The town of Alençon is located at the confluence of the Sarthe and Briante rivers which descends from the forest of Écouves.

The city is located 119 km from Caen, and 161 km from Rouen, the regional capital, while Le Mans is only 54 km away. It is located between Paris and Rennes, 192 km and 158 km respectively. Alençon is at the crossroads of the national road RN12 connecting Paris with Brittany (take it now all the time) with the old national roads RN 138 and RN 155. In addition, a few kilometers from Alençon you can connect respectively the old RN 158 and RN 176. In this way, Alençon is located at a road crossroads which departing routes to Caen, Rouen, Dreux, Paris, Chartres, Orléans, le Mans, Laval, Fougères, Rennes, Le Mont-Saint-Michel and Saint-Malo. Alençon is served by the A28, a north-south cross-section which is part of the Grand bypass of Paris and allows you to leave Calais and join Bayonne using only the autoroute network and avoiding Paris. It allows for the town of Alençon, in addition to a logical opening, a quick access to the cities of Le Mans, Tours, Angers, Rouen, Le Havre, Lisieux and Deauville. 20 km north of Alençon, at the level of the city of Sees, the A28 gives birth to the A88 leaving to connect the towns of Argentan and Caen.  Alençon ,also has a SNCF train station, the station is located on the line Caen-Alençon-Le Mans-Tours. Daily connections to the stations of Caen, Le Mans, Tours and Saint-Pierre-des-Corps are therefore offered. Connections to the Gare Paris-Montparnasse are organised via the Gare de Surdon or Le Mans stations, respectively thanks to intercity trains and regional express trains (TER) or the TGV Atlantique. The train station of Alençon, rebuilt in 1952 after the bombardment of 1944, was originally a standard station of origin in the west of France.

A bit of history I like

Mentioned in the form Alencione at the time of the Merovingian. Its meaning would therefore be that of “nourishing place”, “fertile place”, which corresponds well to the situation of Alençon in a fertile plain that slices with the harsher lands of the surrounding hills.  Erected in Duchy, in 1414, Alençon is the place of residence of Marguerite of Angoulême, who married, in 1509, at the age of seventeen, the Duke of Alençon Charles IV, first marriage. Even after Charles ‘ death in 1525 at the Battle of Pavia, Marguerite of Angoulême, maternal grandmother of the future Henri IV, sister of King François I, establishes, after her widowhood, her court in Alençon, where she remained after her remarriage with the king of Navarre.  The Protestant Reformation was preached in the Duchy of Alençon, as early as 1524, and the spirit of tolerance of Marguerite de Valois, which also allowed the preachers to penetrate the new ideas in Alençon, made many proselytes among its inhabitants, during the first half of the 16C. The first city of Normandy acquired with Calvinist ideas, it quickly became a hotbed of reform, to the point that, in 1530, a German reformist called Alençon ,the Little Germany. The Protestants then took over the city, pillaged the churches and forbid Catholic worship.

On the death of the Queen of Navarre in 1549, the Duchy of Alençon, despite the disputes of the collateral heirs of Duke Charles IV, was definitively attached to the Royal domain of France. After the death of Francis II, Charles IX ceded the duchy to his mother Catherine de Médici, who enjoyed it until 1566, when she handed it over to the king, who gave it to his younger brother Francis, then twelve years old. It was in Alençon that Henri made his comeback in the Protestant church, publicly denying the Catholicism he had embraced under duress a few weeks after the day of the massacre of St. Barthélemy.  In 1605, Henri IV ceded the city and the duchy to Duke Frederick I of Württemberg, to whom Marie de Medici bought it in 1613. Later included in the privilege of the brother of Louis XIII, Gaston d’Orléans, the Duchy of Alençon passed, in 1660, to his second daughter, Elisabeth d’Orléans, wife of the Duke of Guise.   Alençon soon submitted to the authority of the Convention. In the same year, after the defeat of the Vendéens at Le Mans, a large number of insurgents were taken and led to Alençon, where they were executed.  

During WW II, Alençon was occupied by the Nazis from June 1940, after they bombed the city on 14 June, making 31 casualties. The Gestapo arrives in Alençon during the summer of 1943 and had   executed several resistance fighters. During the occupation, 38 persons are sentenced to death and executed for resistance. A Frontstalag (Camp of prisoners of the Nazis army in occupied area during WWII) was created in Alençon. On 12 August 1944, coming from Champfleur, the 2nd Armoured Division of General Leclerc returned to Alençon and liberated this city from the Nazi yoke before leaving after a few days to Argentan and then to Paris

Things to see that I like in Alençon.

The Castle of the Dukes (see post) was built under Peter II, Duke of Alençon between 1361 and 1404, dismantled in part under Henri IV, serving as a begging depot from 1768 to 1824, the existing buildings represent only 10% of the original. There remains the Châtelet, a curtain, the crowned tower and a posterie; The courthouse dating from the first Empire (Napoléon I) is next door. The castle of the Dukes became an arrest or prison house where during WWII many people were tortured by the Gestapo. The Alençon arrest house was transferred to Coulaines and Le Mans in 2010.

The City/Town Hall (place Foch) (see govt post) was built in the shape of an circular arch from 1783 to 1788 Originally, the city/town hall occupied only the central part. Done in the style of Louis XVI. It was not until the 19C that the town of Alençon acquired the right and left parts which were the property of private individuals. Before the end of the 20C, the city/town hall occupied only 60% of the total area. In 1966, during the renovation of the mayor’s office, we found in the ceiling 297 posters of Charles Éléonor Valazé from1793, member of the Orne in 1792 and who suicide in 1793. One could read on these posters “I am arrested without knowing why, without even having an accuser”. In front of the city/town hall you can see a bronze statue of Louis Derbré.

The House of Ozé (see post) from the 14C ,(1449 exactly) with renovations by the Alderman Jean de Mesnil in 1450 Charles de Valois, Duke of Alençon and his wife, Marguerite of Navarre lived there and even invited the future Henri IV in 1576.   It is now home to the tourist office. At its feet is the conservatory of the House of Ozé which is not strictly speaking a public garden because if it can be a place to walk, it is rather a place of learning and experimentation on plants and other plants. This 585 m2 Orchard is managed for maintenance by the town of Alençon and the Orne Horticulture Society.

The Halle au Blés (see post) or wheat market is a circular building, built 1801 and a glass dome built on top in 1865.   Originally dedicated to the grain trade, this place is used today for various exhibitions and events.

The pharmacy Pesche, (see post streets) at 4 of the place aux Cornes. The dispensary was created under the Directory (French revolution) in a building that belonged to a canvas merchant, then prosperous industry in town. Inside, the fully painted ceiling reminds, by its palms, its serpents, its amphoras, its hive and its bees and the sham of a military tent that its first holder was a pharmacist to the armies returning from the campaign of Egypt. In addition to two monumental vases in Italian ceramics showcases, the pharmacy has a beautiful collection of Empire jars .

The islet Aveline (between the rue du Collège and the Rue Julien) in the Carré de la Dentelle brings together buildings set up from 1675. This site first sheltered the Jesuit college, then the Central School of Orne, then a college, then in 1848 a high school , until the transfer of it in 1963 in new buildings by Boulevard Mézeray, then Aveline high school from 1963 to 1975. The buildings of the 17C were then restored and renovated to bring together the cultural activities of the city such as the Museum of Fine Arts and Lace, library and bookcase, Lace Workshop, municipal Archives, Conservatory, and Auditorium.  The Museum of Fine Arts and Lace (see post), adjoining the library, is devoted, in addition to lace, to schools of French, Italian and Nordic painting of the 4C to the beginning of the 20C and to the arts of Cambodia. Temporary exhibitions, especially on famous fashion designers, are organized regularly.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The birthplace house of Sainte Thérèse, (see post) located 50-52 Rue Saint-Blaise, was reopened after extensive works of accessibility and scenography. It has a foyer, a gallery exhibiting personal objects of the family Martin. An auditorium with film presentation, and the various furnished rooms of the house such as the living room, bedrooms, and kitchen. The parents moved here in 1871 and she was born here in 1873 for the first five years of her life before moving on to Lisieux. There is a chapel added on the house next door in 1925 very nice. For an anecdote before purchasing the house where Saint Teresa was born, the parents lived at 35 rue du Pont-Neuf  where the father Mr Martin had a jewerly store. the parent Luis Martin and Zélia Guérin are Saints too.

Built in 1679, the former St. Joseph’s Church of the Collège of Jésuites, (see post govt ) characterized by its imperial roof, became a library. Its 18C carved oak cabinets from the Val Dieu Abbey contain, among other things, rare editions dating back to the 16C, and medieval manuscripts. There is a library from 1779, today is the Mediathéque of the city opens to all.  The hotel of Préfecture of the Orne (see post govt)  is originally a mansion built around 1630 by a catcher of sizes in the election of Alençon, Charles de Fromont de Bouaille, Lord of the Besnardière. In 1676, Elisabeth d’Orléans, half-sister of the ” Grande Demoiselle”, and cousin of Louis XIV, Duchess of Guise and apanagist of the Duchy of Alençon, took possession of it. Since 1815, the Hôtel Fromont de La Besnardière  has become the Préfecture of the Orne department 61. Located behind, were erected gardens on more than three hectares contributing to the embellishment of the whole. They are open to the public only on heritage days.  The Tribunal du Commerce (see post govt ) or commercial court with its polygonal turret, this elegant construction of the mid-16C described by Balzac in the Le Cabinet des Antiques was the seat of the finance office from 1640. The Palais de Justice (courthouse)(see post govt)  built from 1818-1824 in neo classic style. It was built due to the visit of Napoléon 1er in 1811 to Alençon.

The Grande Rue (see post streets ) is a main thoroughfare of Alençon which leaves from this district to end at the crossroads of Saint-Blaise district streets, where the prefecture, the rue Cazault and the cours Clemenceau are located. It passes through the Place de la Magdeleine, whose name comes from Mary Magdalene, a Saint who witnessed the burial and resurrection of Christ. Until 1789 there was a cemetery there. Today, this place serves as a match to the lines of the bus network Alto and a market is held on Thursdays and Saturdays. This place has become a major part of Alençon over time. This area is entirely pedestrian except for buses.

The Basilica of Notre-Dame (see post) has a 15C nave, flamboyant porch, early 16C. Following a fire, the choir and bell tower were rebuilt in the middle of the 18C. The Church of Notre-Dame of Alençon was elevated to the rank of basilica on 6 June 2009 by Pope   Benedict XVI by a decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. The Tribune organ is from1535.  The Church of Saint-Léonard (see post) of Flamboyant Gothic style of the 15-16C, St. Martin’s Tower of the 12C, very reworked in the 17C following the collapse of the vaults of the nave and restored outrageously in the 19C.

The park of the promenades (see post) of more than 4 ha is the preferred place of the Alençonnais and visitors alike. Built in 1783, renovated in 1999, located close to the city/ town hall and the courthouse, it offers a music kiosk (1888) , a pool, playgrounds for children and animal pens. It also offers a bowling ground as well as a snack bar.  The Alençon Racecourse is located in the Croix-Mercier district not far from the Écouves area. It is run by the Alençon Racing company. An average of eight trotted or mounted trot races are included in the program six annual races.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this nice city and you should are;

The City of Alençon on heritage: https://www.alencon.fr/mes-sortiesmon-temps-libre/tourisme-et-patrimoine/histoire-de-la-ville/

The Alençon tourist officehttps://www.visitalencon.com/

The Orne dept 61 tourist office on Alençonhttps://www.ornetourisme.com/destinations/alencon/#ad-image-0

The Normandie region tourist board on Alençon: https://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/unmissable-sites/alencon/

There you go folks a nice summary of what is best about the wonderful Alençon. The lot of Normandy and worth the detour with easy road connections . I always passed it stop by going on the in N12 national road from my house. Hope you enjoy the recap

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

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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 :https://www.poitiers.fr/c__255_1043__Decouvrir_le_patrimoine.html

The Poitiers tourist office on things to see : https://visitpoitiers.fr/en/les-incontournables/

The metro area of Poitiers on things to do/see in French : https://sortir.grandpoitiers.fr/

The Vienne dept 86 tourist office on Poitiers : https://www.tourisme-vienne.com/en/ville/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 20, 2021

The wines of Alsace, France!

And need to tell you all eventually! I admit this would be the least experience with as the region is mostly whites and I am mostly red. However, over the years I have my share of Alsacian wines and even done a bit of the wine route of Alsace. Therefore, let me tell you a bit of the wines of Alsace! Hope you enjoy it as I.

The Alsatian vineyard is a long ribbon 170 km long, located at the foot of the Vosges massif, which stretches from Marlenheim in the north to Thann in the south, completed by a wine-growing island on the border of Germany, around Wissembourg and of Cleebourg.  In 1828, the vineyard thus extended over 30,000 hectares (ha). But competition from wines from the South and phylloxera in the second half of the 19C and then the world wars of the 20C led to a long process of decline: in 1948, the vineyard had only 9,500 ha. Today, the vineyard covers more than 15,000 ha and produces around 1.2 million hectoliters per year, a quarter of sales being exported; and ironically mostly to Germany.

Recognised in 1962, today the protected designation of origin AOC Alsace represents ‘ over 70% of the production including 90% of white wines. In 2011, AOC Alsace was supplemented with two geographical names: the Communales (villages) and the Lieux-dits (localities).

The majority of Alsatian wines are dry whites (around 80%), aromatic, fruity and floral, well typified by their grape variety. Most of the wines come from a single grape variety, with the exception of a few grands crus (Kaefferkopf or Altenberg for example), crémant and edelzwicker. Frequent, on the label, the mention of the grape variety is not mandatory. Recognized in 1984, the Alsatian “late harvest” and “selections of noble grains” are sweet wines from overripe harvests and subject to very strict production conditions, particularly with regard to the sugar level of the grapes. There are also 51 grands crus in Alsace, corresponding to terroirs defined according to geological and climatic criteria, and meeting strict production and development criteria (limited yields, manual harvesting, use of limited grape varieties, etc). Finally, Alsace is at the top of the production of crémants (sparklers méthode champenoise) in France.

The 12 appellations of Alsace are Chasselas ou Gutedel, Edelzwicker, Gewurztraminer, Crémant d’Alsace, Klevener d’Heligeintein, Pinot noir, Riesling, Sylvaner, Alsace grand cru, Muscat, Pinot blanc or klevner. Good years are 2016 excellent, 2017 very good, 2018 very good, 2019 excellent.

The grapes and some description, keep it simple folks, are:

Riesling, the driest of Alsace wines. The Sylvaner, dry, fruity and fresh.  The Gewurztraminer, full-bodied and fruity. The Pinot Blanc, all in balance. Pinot Gris, ample and fragrant. The Pinot Noir, the only red of Alsace wines, Light, dry and delicately fruity, is drunk chilled and replaces the usual summer rosé. Crémant, festive and sparkling from Pinot blanc, Pinot noir or Riesling, Crémant d´Alsace is a sparkling wine. Muscat d ‘Alsace comes from the assembly or not of three varieties of muscat: white muscat with small grains, pink muscat with small grains and muscat Ottonel.  Only the Alsace wine called either “Edelzwicker”, or “Zwicker” or “Gentil” is a white wine made from the assembly of white grape varieties. The AOP Alsace, AOP Alsace Grand Cru, which has 51 identified terroirs, and finally, for sweet and syrupy wines, Vendanges tardives (VT) and Sélections de grains nobles (SGN).

The official wines of Alsacehttps://www.vinsalsace.com/en/terroirs/ 

The wine routes of Alsace: https://www.wineroute.alsace/

The Alsace tourist boardhttps://www.visit.alsace/en/must-sees-in-alsace/

Of course, could not leave you with just the info. I like to show some of my latest forays into the world of Alsace wines chez moi! Hope you enjoy them as I.

My wonderful red Klipfel Pinot Noir: produces rustic, light wines that give off aromas of cherry, cranberry, strawberry and raspberry with supple, smooth tannins. Pinot Noir in Alsace is required by law to be bottled in tall flute-shape bottles, just like the white wines produced in the region. Webpage: https://boutique.klipfel.com/fr/cuvee-louis-klipfel/19-pinot-noir-cuvee-louis-klipfel.html

alsace klipfel pinot noir 2016

Louis Hauller Family.  A pale gold color, limpid and brilliant Riesling. A nuanced nose revealing aromas of white flowers, citrus fruits and mineral notes. Its attack on the palate is lively with fresh acidity. In the mid-palate, a nice volume with these mineral notes that we found on the nose. webpage: https://boutique.famillehauller.com/riesling-s13.html

Alsace louis hauller riesling 2012

Wolfberger is cooperative whose history dates back to 1902 with the grouping of winegrowers around the cellars of Eguisheim and Dambach-la-Ville. Wolfberger continues its development and counts, in 2021, 420 vine growers members of the cooperative and more of 1200 ha of vineyard. Produced from the seven Alsatian grape varieties (Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sylvaner and Muscat d’Alsace). It also produces wines from localities producing Appellation Alsace Grand Cru wines which include: Rangen, Pfersigberg, Eichberg, Kirchberg-de-barr, Steinert, Ollwiller, Steingrubler, Mandelberg, Hatschbourg, Hengst, Florimont, Pfingstberg , Spiegel, Muenchberg, and Frankstein. Also produces and markets AOC Crémants d’Alsace. In addition to wines and crémants, Wolfberger also produces Eaux-de-Vie and Liqueurs. These range from traditional eaux-de-vie, such as Mirabelle or Raspberry, to innovative liqueurs such as the NEO range of liqueurs. I have tried what you see in the bottles! Webpage: https://www.wolfberger.com/en/

Alsace Wolfberger 2016

There you go folks, a dandy selection of Alsace, and some contribution introduction to the wines of Alsace. WE do love wines, and its shows in my blog. Hope you enjoy them too!

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

October 20, 2021

The Grand Cascade in the Bois de Boulogne!!!

Why not head for a park in Paris, and even better with plenty of water. The beautiful city has plenty of parks and water spots. I like to tell you about a favorite of my family.  We really did not seek this even if I worked for a while not far across the Seine river. Seeking always new things to see in our belle France. I notice this big park, the Bois de Boulogne. Yes ,it is big ,but it has many things to see. I rather just tell you about one, the Grand Cascade. The big waterfall!

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Napoleon III, an emperor like his more-famous uncle emperor, loved waterfalls as much as he loved hunting. So, when he ordered the massive renovation of Paris in the second half of the 19C, he was going to make sure there were waterfalls at the end of it. He instructed his city planner, Baron Haussmann, to turn the royal forest on the west of Paris, the Bois de Boulogne  into a large park complete with lakes, 420,000 trees, waterfowl, and deer to hunt. And, of course, a big waterfall. La Grande Cascade was built in 1856 with four thousand cubic meters of  rock brought in from Fontainebleau, and two thousand cubic meters of cement. The lakes and the waterfall are fed with water from a canal on the Ourcq River, so that in this case the waterfall is gravity-fed. In addition to the picturesque waterfall, it has two artificial grottoes. one over the other, which can be visited.   What’s special is that you can walk inside the grottos behind the cascade and view the lake and the park through the falling water !  There was a hunting lodge ,later expanded and turned into what is today a Michelin-starred restaurant also called La Grande Cascade, one of our more enjoyable restaurant experiences in Paris. Located at Allée de Longchamp, 16éme arrondissement of Paris.

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A bit of history I like on the Bois de Boulogne, briefly.

The Bois de Boulogne is a remnant of the ancient oak forest of Rouvray, which included the present-day forests of Montmorency, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Chaville, and Meudon. Today is a large public park located along the western edge of the 16éme arrondissement of Paris near the cities of Boulogne-Billancourt and Neuilly-sur-Seine, both in Hauts de Seine dept 92. And across from my old work spot in Suresnes! The land was ceded to the city of Paris by the Emperor Napoléon III to be turned into a public park in 1852. The Bois de Boulogne received its present name from a chapel, Notre Dame de Boulogne la Petite, which was built in the forest at the command of king Philippe IV of France . In 1308, Philippe  made a pilgrimage to Boulogne-sur-Mer, on the French coast, to see a statue of the Virgin Mary which was reputed to inspire miracles. He decided to build a Church with a copy of the statue in a village in the forest not far from Paris, in order to attract pilgrims. The chapel was built after Philippe’s death between 1319 and 1330, in what is now the city of Boulogne-Billancourt.

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What things you can see here beside the Grande Cascade.

Within the boundaries of the Bois de Boulogne are an English landscape garden with several lakes and a cascade; two smaller botanical and landscape gardens, the Château de Bagatelle and the Pré-Catelan; a zoo and amusement park , the Jardin d’Acclimatation; also , the GoodPlanet Foundation’s Domaine de Longchamp dedicated to ecology and humanism, The Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil , a complex of greenhouses holding a hundred thousand plants; two tracks for horse racing, the Hippodrome de Longchamp and the Hippodrome d’Auteuil,  a tennis stadium , Roland Garros, where the French Open tennis tournament is held each year, and windmills,(the original wheat breads of Paris see pic) etc.

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Napoleon III, in order to decorate its stops in the wood, built the Buffet of the waterfall in 1856. Enlarged for the Universal exhibition of 1900 it is enlarged and adopts a Belle Epoque decor. Damaged during the bombardment, in 1870, the pavilion was demolished around 1950. It is replaced by the current restaurant of  La Grande Cascade , its style retro-modern. And great meals here too ! For reference, their webpage: https://www.restaurantsparisiens.com/la-grande-cascade/en/home-page-en/

Its creation date, its environment and its vegetation bring it a lot of charm. It can be a step in your walk in visiting this green lung from Paris. In the setting sun, the orange light shaving brings very colorful touches to this waterfall. A wonderful spot in Paris especially in Summer and Fall. Bring the whole family going under the grotto waterfall is fun!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip are:

The city of Paris on the Bois de Boulognehttps://www.paris.fr/equipements/bois-de-boulogne-2779

The Paris tourist office on the Bois de Boulognehttps://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71494/Bois-de-Boulogne

There you go folks, a dandy in beautiful Paris, the Grand Cascade in the Bois de Boulogne is an off the beaten path site that must be visited especially with nature lovers’s and children, me think, You will have a good time here for sure.

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

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October 19, 2021

Gan, the Béarn,and the Jurançon!!!

I passed by here many times on my way to Spain, always using it as a rest stop either at Pau or around Gan. As time went on, we spent more time here and finally several days. And of course, not only did we drank the wines from the area but visited a very nice enclave of the Caves de Jurançon  in Gan. Let me update this wonderful post for you and me, bringing back many nice family memories for me. Hope you enjoy it as I.

The wonderful  Caves des Jurançon, a wine cooperative of Gan founded in 1949, and its delicious Jurançon wines. To find it is real easy as there are right on the National road N134 at Gan just south of Pau. Just follow direction Centre Ville Gan and you will hit the cellars or Caves!

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A cooperative in the heart of the vineyards: the cellar of  Jurançon at Gan plays a major role in the Jurançon and Béarn AOC, bringing together nearly 300 winegrowers. Located a few steps from Pau, this cooperative is committed and respectful of its terroirs. Founded in 1949, it has become a landmark in the Béarn. The wine of the Jurançon: a good wine is made with good grapes, sun, rain and foehn. Its most famous grape varieties are the small and the big Manseng (petit et gros manseng). On the vineyard of the piedmont Pyrenean, the vines are planted in the direction of the slope and are oriented to the South in order to be sheltered from the West wind. Harvest by hand, sort with love, vinify patiently… so many steps necessary to the quality of the wines of the Jurançon.

We arrive early but enough to have them all set up and ready to go. Ample free parking as the Caves occupies spaces on both sides of  Avenue Henri IV in Gan. We went to the main tent right in front of the receiving of grapes store. There was music groups playing French and Basque/Béarnaise music, a beret throwing contest (beret is the hat of the basque/Bearnese) , the store was fully open and staff ready to go.

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We went Inside with a guide name Julien , who was fantastic, we exchange lots of questions and he was right on right away no hesitation real pro.  The building is where they have the process of receiving grapes from the coopératives that are members of the cave, 660 hectares are own by them and about 40 is own direct by the Cave.  The grapes are separated along the two main grapes gros manseng and petit manseng for the whites dry and moelleux or sweet sort of they go from dry to late vendage very sweet, they also do rosé and red wines from coopératives in other regions of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. They are blend it base on the master winemaker decision base on quality.

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We then, took the ride on a petit train or little train into the back of the building where huge aluminum tanks stored the juice for fermetation and treatment. And we ran across with the little train to see the building across the street where they do the filling, labeling ,and packaging of the wines with special computised machines including a robot that does 6000 bottles per hour. The place hold about 80 full time employees and the automation has not decrease the number. They ship 10% international ,30% to individuals, another 30% to small stores mom and pop places and 30% to big distribution. We are glad to be part of the 30% to individual buyers!!!

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The process is very computerized and very clean, all the personnel spoked with us very nicely, and very willing to explain their processes. Once the trip was done we headed back to the main Platform where grapes are received for a free tastings of all their lineup of wines!! Of course, we tasted them all!!! It was great the lady was very nice and we were serve sausages,and cheese to eat along the way.  You were given a list with prices and another pamphlet with the wines and matching suggestions.

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After all this process and wandering about the place we headed for the boutique store for purchases. We already had our price list completed with the wines we wanted, handed it over and they do all the packaging for you. We purchase two cases of different wines for my cellar ::) and we did said goodbye to all, a wonderful day , and very friendly folks;  makes you come back for more….And we had!!! We had always friendly welcome and sharing here, and I am on their mailing list , so if not stopping by ,get my wines by domestic transport to my house.

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For lunch we stay there, one of the bottles we purchase we asked to be open and they did for us, went across to a bakery pastry store Boulangerie le Sarment, wonderful regional products like ham and chorizos yummy with great tarte of fruits, etc there is a bench outside by the road and had our picnic sort of right on the spot with a bottle of Oh Biarnesa rosé cold from their store at the Caves des Jurançon!!!

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The official Caves de Jurançon webpage: https://www.cavedejurancon.com/

the Pau tourist office on the Caves de Jurançon: https://www.pau-pyrenees.com/home/pourquoi-venir-chez-nous-/pau-mag/suivez-le-guide-a-la-cave-cooperative-de-jurancon

The official Wines of Jurançon webpage in French: https://www.vins-jurancon.fr/

But wait, there is more than wines, there is a town name Gan! lovely place quant cosy, we love it!

Gan is located in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department 64 in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region (even thus fiercily keeping the old habits of the Béarn) . 9 km south of Pau. The town is crossed by the national road 134 (N134), as well as by the departmental roads D 134, 217 and 230. Gan train station is located on the Pau-Canfranc line. It is served by the TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine between Pau and Oloron-Sainte-Marie (changing here for Canfranc in Spain). Gan is a bastide founded in 1335 by Gaston II de Foix-Béarn. He gave it this name, the namesake of Ghent (Gan) in Belgium, in memory of the campaign of Flanders to which he participated.

Some things to see other than wineries are:

The prison gate (porte de la prison) dates from 1335; the Roman Baths from 1748 (with iron and sulphur waters); The House of Bazirus (Rue Ossau); The House of Ergashali (on the road to Lasseube); The houses of Arrac (1548), of Aldoins (1593) and the Château Marca prior to 1600 birthplace of Pierre de Marca. Church of Saint Barthélémy was rebuilt near the ancient church of St. Jean, which was restored in several phases between 1811 and 1930. The Church of St. Peter (Saint Pierre) (see post) dates from 1838. The Saint-Pierre Church is well before 1838, since traces are found in the parish archives in 1759 of baptisms, marriages, and burials.

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip ,and worth the detour are:

The Pau tourist office on the bastide of Gan: https://www.pau-pyrenees.com/gan/bastide-de-gan/tabid/315/offreid/d3aaafd7-56f3-4861-b3f7-92496e8f6196

The city of Gan on its heritage: https://gan.pau.fr/rechercher/patrimoine?_source=user&_org=6

The Bastides or fortified towns of the Pyrénées Atlantiques dept 64 on Gan:  https://bastides64.org/bastides/gan/

There you go folks, in all a wonderful time we had here with funny moments, great company, excellent guide and plenty of bottles home to continue the tradition!!! En vino veritas!!! and I hope you enjoy the post and do visit Gan and the Caves des Jurançon! They claim to be the third most visited company in France!

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

October 19, 2021

The Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles of Mayenne!

And in my continuing saga to showcase the very best, traditional and off the beaten track of my belle France, I bring you another beauty. The city of Mayenne is one that I had to passed many times on my way to Paris from my beautiful Morbihan Breton. Eventually, I stop by for a drink or snack in town by the Mayenne river, and finally, came for a visit with the family . It was a nice moment indeed and was impressed by the Basilica , the reason of this post. The Basilique Notre Dames des Miracles or Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles is right by the Mayenne river and a must see in town. We like it even more than the old castle by the same river.

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Mayenne is in department Mayenne no 53 of the region of Pays de la Loire. Easy to come here with a train station connects to Paris and by road the A81 from Rennes or the N12 from Paris are very good and many times taken by yours truly. Some estimated distances from nearby cities are 30 km from Laval, 45 km from Fougères, 100 km from Rennes and Le Mans, 110 km from Angers, 120 km from Caen, 180 km from Nantes, and 250 km from Paris.

The Basilique Notre Dame des Miracles or Basilica of Our Lady of Miracles is a composite building of the 12C, 16C and 19C in the city center of Mayenne, on the right bank of the Mayenne river.  The original Church was built in 1110 to replace a small oratory dedicated to Sainte Anne. It is mentioned for the first time in 1124 in a charter of Juhel I of Mayenne under the name of the Church of St. Mary. At about 1119, the Church was owned by priest of the Diocese of Le Mans, which at the time depended on the Mayenne. It is described as in the form of a cross, composed only of a nave, chancel and vaults. The’ Church was plundered four times by the protestants during the Wars of religion , and during the French revolution, the priest Louis-René Lefebvre de Cheverus refuses to take an oath (to the Constitution and not to God), just as his nephew, Vicar of the parish, the future Cardinal Jean Lefebvre de Cheverus . The Church became a temple of reason and then is used as a temple and the revolutionary Commission sat there. The cult is restored in 1803. The Church is erected in minor Basilica by an Apostolic Brief of May 15, 1900.

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 A bit on the architecture and things to see

The forecourt of the Basilica is endowed with a monumental staircase overlooked by a statue of Joan of Arc, which was inaugurated in 1896. The interior of the primitive Church has still preserved the central part of its façade, the pillars and the arcades of the nave and the gravestones of the Merovingian’s. The vaults of the nave and the transept, which are 14 meters high, are from the 15C, while the aisles are additions of the middle of the 17C. The choir, which is 22 meters high, was built between 1864 and 1890. Inspired by the Cathedral of Le Mans, under the nave, the crypt contains four Chapels.

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During the bombardment of 8 June 1944, all the stained glass windows (1543-1567) of the basilica were shattered as such, three 16C canopies, the prophet Jeremiah, the Prophet Solomon and the Coronation of the Virgin, The current stained glass windows were replaced and laid between 1952 and 1962. In the lower part of the stained glass of Saint Bernard, two famous Cistercian abbeys of the department are represented: Clermont and Fontaine Daniel. You should not leave the interior of the Basilica without detailing the composite architecture (mainly 15C 19C) and some curious elements: the representation of the miraculous statue of Notre Dame and the altar-front turned into a lintel to the arms of the Bazoges family .

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The Basilica Church contains a statuette representing Our Lady of Miracles. Dating from the 16C, it was given to sisters of the city around 1630 by an anonymous rider with the message “weep, but hope”. First preserved in the Chapel of the Calvairiennes where donations helped the Religious order, it was preserved by the family Lemesnager during the French revolution and then given to the Church in 1897. It has been the subject of great devotion to today.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this part of inland off the beaten paths of beautiful France are:

The Haute Mayenne area tourist board on things to see in generalhttps://www.mayenne-tourisme.com/les-vallees-de-la-mayenne/la-haute-mayenne/explorez-la-haute-mayenne/

The city of Mayenne on transportshttps://www.ville-mayenne.fr/utile/deplacement/roule-responsable/

This is a complete story on the basilica church of Mayenne from the Château de Sainte Suzanne webpage in pdf file in French: http://www.chateau-de-sainte-suzanne.fr/images/pdf_guides/FOCUS_BASILIQUE_MAYENNE.pdf

There you go folks, another dandy in my belle France, The Basilica Church of ND des Miracles is a must to visit in Mayenne. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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October 19, 2021

Guérande a lot more than ramparts!!!

It was that time again to go visit one of my favs places in my  west coast of France. The place is not far from me about 1h30 in a free toll road to heaven.  I did some errands in the morning and home by 13h, we sat to have our goodie lunch, and finally done by 14h we set out on our way.  I had contacted a local friend (now living in Canada!) to meet us there ,and set out to see Guérande again, in the Loire Atlantique dept 44 (old Brittany) now part of the region of Pays de la Loire. There was the 2nd edition of Village Vignerons festivities for local Loire muscadet wine tastings as well!

The city of Guérande we have been several times there and even collect my Loire wines there at the parent’s home of the winemaker.  This time we set out for another quick look at the town and take part in the festival. Easy on the road N165 to exit 15 and onwards on the D774 to the Porte or gate Vannetaise just by the ramparts walls of Guérande. Here , we always get a nice metered parking and this time was no exception parking right in front of the gate! The rest is on foot!

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Let me tell you a bit on the transports: The transport here is mainly roads and car is king. The D213 road , nicknamed the Route Bleue (Blue Road) , is a tourist road, which, from the start of the route, leads to Moutier-en-Retz; It connects to Nantes-Saint-Nazaire to the city center, several departmentals roads cross the Blue Road; D 233 leads to Saint-Molf; D 51 heads towards Saint-Lyphard. The D 247 joins Saint-André-des-Eaux ; D 774a reached the peninsula of the Saillé after crossing the salt marshes.  Finally the D 99 leads to the Turballe, after being passed through Clis. The D 774, via Herbignac, joins the dept 56 of Morbihan by connecting on the National road N165 which leads from Nantes to Vannes. (my road usually) . The bus network is Lila, never used it. There are many bicycle paths and one created for the region connecting to the European network here call Vélocéan, which follows the Atlantic coastline in the Loire-Atlantique department. And is served by 4 routes of the network, me never used it.

The city urban part occupies the top of a hillside that dominates a territory almost entirely surrounded by water, salty or sweet, called the Guérande Peninsula. The history of the town itself is strongly marked by the presence of salt marshes that have made its richness.  It is located 17 km from Saint-Nazaire, also at 44 km (about 27 mi) from Vannes and 67 km from Nantes.

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A bit of history I like

The first known signs of the existence of the present locality date from the second half of the 4C. The High Middle Ages is a period disturbed by the differences between Francs and Bretons. It is then Breton under Merovingian domination, then by the Norman invasions. The first known written reference of the town is from  1206. In the 14C, the city was drawn into the war of the Succession of Brittany, which pitted Jean de Montfort with Charles de Blois. It ends with the signature of a treaty  in 1365. At the end of the 15C, the city was the refuge for almost a month of  Anne of Brittany and her court fleeing the plague which then raged in Nantes. The Duchess will maintain privileged ties with Guérande throughout her reign.

  A first church was located on the present site along the centuries, according to tradition, under the aegis of the king of Vannes, Waroc’h II. This religious building, probably modest, would be at the origin of the current urban settlement. After the transferred of the relics of Saint-Aubin of Angers, a second larger church was built in the late 9C or 10C ,and it was the Church of Saint Aubin. This church will be very quickly surrounded by a cemetery between the 10C and 12C. One of the sarcophagus found under the present choir, at the bedside level, in the 19C was deposited in the lower chapel or crypt of the Collegiate Church. The incursions of the Normans, with significant consequences in the region, needed the reconstruction of the church, in Late Roman style.  This phase began after the middle of the 12C and ended with the construction of the main façade in the 13C. After the sack of Guérande by the troops of Louis de La Cerda in 1342 in the context of the War of Succession of Brittany, the ruined Collegiate Church is rebuilt from 1380 in Gothic style; with the south transept and the Crypt done in the 14C , the north transept is then resumed and the choir and bedside are rebuilt in the 15C. A new Gothic façade finishes the church, the frame on the transepts is laid in 1541. The cemetery extends from this time to the north of the Collegiate Church, until its displacement to place Sainte-Anne in the 19C, at the site of the present place John XXIII, thus creating the present place Saint-Aubin. In 1705, a hurricane destroyed the campanile of Renaissance style at the top of the façade. A new arrow is built, it will be destroyed by a storm in 1785. In 1789-1790,during the French revolution, the Church is dilapidated, the pipes of the organ are melted, the bells also. The church will temporarily serve the worship of the temporay supreme being. The Church St Aubin was returned to Catholic worship in 1802 under the Concordat. Some beautiful stained glass; an always beautiful church to visit!

Right around the Church Saint Aubin (see post) and the wonderful Halles (covered market -see post)  you have a wonderful market and especially fish and seafood , and other local products on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturday morning . The building is a nice covered market and the morning markets overflow into the place Saint Aubin, Place de la Psalette areas. City of Guerande on the marketshttps://www.ville-guerande.fr/pratique-vos-demarches/tourisme-et-decouvertes/marches

Now another reason to come this day was the 2nd Edition of the Village Vignerons; or the independent winemakers of the Nantes region. We come here and get our house wines all the way from here to Amboise in Touraine. These are wonderful wines not yet too known ,very affordable and good winemaking with lots of history behind.  For France, this is still small ,regional fanfare but its gaining nicely thanks to folks like me!! The official name of the organizers are the Association de Vignerons Indépendants Nantais. This official webpage tells of their extension:https://www.vignerons-independants-pays-de-la-loire.fr/vignobles/vignoble-nantes/

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The event took place at the Place du Vieux Marché. You buy a glass with the icon of the independent vignerons for 3€ and this allows you to taste up to 3 different wines per winery. Therefore, there were 10 wineries and we tasted 33 wines!!! Not all drank mind you, there is a proper way of spitting most of it. It was done with plenty of children games that my friend’s son really enjoyed and got us into it! there were troubadours singing trios parading the place and goodies from oysters, to foie gras, pate,and jellies/honeys from the area. 

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However, the main thing was the wine and mostly Muscadet Sévre et Marne sur lie, but also, chardonnays, malvoises, gamay, glolleau, melon de Bourgogne,  old berligou red (Breton Ducal wine), 4754 a extinct grape from the 1800’s still kept a parcel here, and of course cabernet franc and apple juice and crémant bubbly wines, sauvignon gris, grape juice,  you name all done on site by families of many generations; my real France!! All was set up in a circular motion around the square of the old market in Place du Vieux Marché.  The welcome or Accueil center where you purchase your glass and get a map of the presenters and a coupon to play on the nose senses challenge to win bottles of wines.  Some of the other producers on site were Servanne Bigot of the Conserverie Les Bocaux Locos with lots of canned, jar goodies, Les Chévres du Cougou with good goat cheese from the best area, Nicolas Josso with its oysters, and mussels etc all yummy!

We started of course with No 1 on the list Château de Fromenteau, and owners Anne and Christian Braud.  We continue with Domaine du Champ Chapron, of Carmen Suteau, Domaine Ménard Gaborit of Philippe Ménard, Château du Coing of Véronique Gunther Chéreau. Vignobles Jaumouillé of Gaêtan Jaumouillé, Domaine Le Jardin d’Edouard , with  Edouard Massart, Domaine le Moulin de la Touche of Vincent Hérissé. Vignoble Marchais of Philippe Marchais (still a provider to us). Domaine Poiron Dabin of Jean-Michel Poiron (still a provider to us). Domaine de la Coche with Laurent Guitteny, and Domaine Pierre-Luc Bouchaud with Pierre-Luc Bouchaud.

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And of course we load up as usual, the idea of coming to these things is not just to taste but to encounter the owners, learn more on wine (always time for that even for old pros like me) ,and buy some of the better ones on a foursome panel (me and my 3 boys, sadly my dear late wife Martine would have love it).

We purchased our favorites from domaine poiron dabin, domaine de la coche, vignobles marchais , and domaine le moulin de la touché. And we pickup some ideas to come back! First, the Vignobles Marchais have a lodging in barrels made into a cabin you can stay and rent it includes aperitif drink to start, a basket of breakfast, and a tour tasting of the property. We did it later and it is fun, good for a repeat! The cabin barrel is right between the vineyards! The other was the Domaine Poiron Dabin , they have a bigger selection of wines including the ones we purchase too, the Berligou Red 2015. This is a grape  ordered planted here by the Dukes of Brittany from 1460 after a gift made by the Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Reckless (téméraire)  cousin of Duke François II of Brittany! here you have a walk escape in the vineyards in early morning to find bottles hidden in their grape plot, middle of the enigma you will have a picnic meal, encounters with members of the wine making team that will take you to the cellar for tastings. This was done too and is a lot of fun drinking those bottles in the middle of the vineyards!!

Another possibility with Poiron Dabin, and Philippe is very talkative guy!!! just my type lol!! jointly with the La Toue de Nantes will give you a boat ride call Régal vigneron, on the boat Libellule a replica of the traditional boats of the region navigating by the Sévre river and later the Maine river with beautiful natural views and fairy tell lights, you will meet a winemaker  like him very passionate about his trade and will taste several bottles.  A wonderful tour indeed; try it! La Toue de Nantes webpage see last entry for the Poiron Dabin trip: https://www.latouedenantes.fr/balades-a-lannee/

My fav winemakers from this region webpages!

Vignobles Marchais: https://www.vignoblemarchais.fr/

Domaine Poiron Dabin: http://www.poiron-dabin.com/fr/accueil/

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip are:

The La Baule-Guérande tourist office on Guérande: https://en.labaule-guerande.com/guerande-the-medieval-one.html

The city of Guérande on things to see: https://www.ville-guerande.fr/pratique-vos-demarches/tourisme-et-decouvertes/visiter-la-cite-medievale

The Loire Atlantique dept 44 on Guérande: https://www.atlantic-loire-valley.com/suggestions/gu%C3%A9rande

There you go a wonderful one day trip as many able to do here in my belle France, wonderful west of France off the coast and rivers of my beloved Bretagne (and some parts that were like Guérande). Enjoy the tour of Guérande, worth the detour.

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

October 18, 2021

The Cathedral Notre Dame of Luxembourg Ville !!!

I am back to this small beautiful country, first encounter in 1990 and love it ever since. Many memorable trips, sometimes even just for lunch from my beloved Versailles with the family. And lucky to have been able to do this run from my now Morbihan breton dept 56, WE all love the city of Luxembourg. After the years, we began to see the rest of the country and it was just as quant magical nice, friendly. Memories never to forget , that I kept going there with my dear late wife Martine and the boys.

I like to tell you about a special place for them, for us, for all. Folks go there for the Casements or the Gund or even the Ducal Palace; we think magical is the Cathedral of Notre Dame! And the story goes… The Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Luxembourg is located in Luxembourg City. Built from 1613 to 1621 as a Church of the College of  Jesuit, it became the Cathedral and seat of the Archbishopric of Luxembourg in 1870. It is also a Marian shrine, housing the statue of  Notre Dame (Our Lady) Comforter of the Afflicted , protector of the city of Luxembourg (Patron Saint).

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A bit of history I like

The history of the Cathedral is linked to that of the Society of Jesus. In 1594, Jesuits settled in Luxembourg, the city which was then part of the Spanish Netherlands. They opened a college there in 1603 ; by 1613, the rector of the College, lays the first stone. The work lasts eight years. By 1621, the Church is solemnly consecrated by the Bishop of Trier, and dedicated to the Immaculate Conception.

In 1773, the Society of Jesus was suppressed by Pope Clement XIV. Their Church in Luxembourg became, in 1778, a parish Church, under the name of Saint-Nicolas-et-Sainte-Thérèse. In 1794, the Church welcomed the miraculous statue of Notre-Dame, comforter of the afflicted, which was formerly in a Chapel outside the city walls. In 1801, the Church changed its name again by being dedicated to Saint Peter, before regaining its dedication to the Virgin Mary in 1848.

In 1840, the Grand duchy was erected by Pope Gregory XVI in Apostolic Vicariate. The Diocese of Luxembourg was erected in 1870 and the Church of the former Jesuit college became the Cathedral. A century later, on 23 April 1988, the Diocese of Luxembourg was raised to the rank of archdiocese by Pope John Paul II. An extension of the Cathedral began in 1935 and continue until 1938. The Choir was remodelled in 1962 – 1963, after which the Cathedral was again consecrated on December 8, 1963, the feast day of the Immaculate Conception. A crypt is built under the choir and dedicated to Saint Peter which contains the tombs of the bishops of Luxembourg. Communicating with the latter, there is also the necropolis of the Grand Ducal family, closed by a grid surrounded by two bronze lions , dated 1936-37.

It was in this crypt that John the Blind, King of Bohemia and Count of Luxembourg found his last rest. This tireless knight that is found all over Europe, whether it is his native county or the Kingdom of Bohemia, Germany where he was the lieutenant of his father or in northern Italy, to the court and to the battlefields of the kings of France or to the Popes in Avignon or Lithuania during the Crusades of the Teutonic Order, was the son of Emperor Henry VII and father of Charles IV. He found death in 1346 at the battlefield of Crécy in the service of the king of France, in one of the first campaigns of the Hundred Years War.

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame of Luxembourg, by its history, has become a temple of Luxembourg memory. The national character of the building is emphasized on the day of the national holiday when the official ceremony organized by the Government takes the form of a service of Thanksgiving in which the Luxembourg authorities and the diplomatic corps participate.

Some description on the architecture

The 17C Notre Dame Cathedral is a late Gothic Church. On its main portal in the primitive Baroque style is the statue of the Blessed Virgin, surrounded by the Apostles Peter and Paul, as well as Ignatius of Loyola and Francis  Xavier, founders of the Society of Jesus. Later a statue of St. Nicholas completed the ensemble. The portal of the new part of the Cathedral, marked by the ornamentation  comprises a hundred human figures, about fifty animal representations and a rich vegetal decoration. The bronze shutters of the doors also all made by Auguste Trémont.

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Among the works present in the cathedral, one can see:  The large canopies of the Choir. The canopies of the Grand Ducal Tribune, representing the characters of the medieval Comtal house.  The stained glass windows  representing biblical scenes (episode of Tobie in the eardrum of the door of the inner courtyard, issuance of Saint Peter in the eardrum of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart) or of the Jesuit Saints (Pierre Canisius, Robert Bellarmine, François Xavier, Ignace de Loyola, Jean Berchmans) and other well-known Jesuits in Luxembourg, such as Alexandre Wiltheim or Jacques Brocquart.  The stained glass windows of the years 1848-1860 depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin.  The abstract canopies of 1966 located at the organ stand , inspired by the canopies of Notre-Dame de Paris. The rood decorated with alabaster statues dating back to the late Renaissance.  The cylindrical pillars adorned with a system of interlaced bands. A painting, the Adoration of the Magi, of Jacques Nikolai, of the School of Rubens.  The mural paintings , dated 1897. The two organs: the Haupt symphonic organ of 1938, and the classical organ of Westenfelder installed in 1995. In the Crypt: you will see the stations of the way of the Cross ,and the altars,  adorned with reliefs representing the Saints Henri and Cunegonde, Hubert and Willibrord.

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The main figure to come here and see and  blessed is Notre-Dame, comforter of the afflicted the statue which is kept at the Cathedral of Luxembourg has been attested since the beginning of the 17C. It is an effigy of a woman bearing her child, carved in Linden Wood, with a height of 73 cm, and established that its date of manufacture dates back to the end of the 16C. In addition, the style and technique of shearing would indicate that the sculptor would come from the greater German region, not from Flanders or Champagne as it has been assumed for a long time. It is a woman standing, the hair untied, the feet laid on the moon, capped with a crown of stars, appearing in the narrative of the Apocalypse according to the traditional Catholic interpretation, this woman is the Virgin Mary, the Sun represents The New Covenant, the moon the Old covenant or heresy. She carries a scepter of the right hand and on the left hand the Child-Jesus seated, wearing a royal crown and carrying  a globe surmounted by a Cross. These symbols evoke the kingship of Mary in heaven and of Jesus on Earth, Christ the king. The sculpture depicts her wearing a tunic, a belt and a cloak. Following a medieval and long-preserved use in Spain, the statue was clad in richly embroidered and ornamented garments, in particular a large cloak in the shape of a cape or a screed descending to the ground and concealing its feet placed on the moon. These ornaments were renewed several times, adapting to the style of the time, as attested by the various representations of the statue published over the centuries. The Crown of the Virgin lost its stars, attributes were added later.

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After the election of Notre-Dame comforter as patron of the city in 1666 and as patron-protector of the Duchy of Luxembourg in 1678, the statue is preserved in the Chapel of the Jesuit college. Since 1766 it is placed during the Octave on a particular votive altar of rock-style, designed in wrought iron and richly adorned. Nowadays it is still the object of veneration, especially from the fourth to the sixth Sunday of Easter. The pilgrimage to the comforter of the afflicted, can be considered as a national pilgrimage. Thus each year the solemn vows of 1678 are renewed in the presence of the Grand Duke, the government and the municipal authorities.

In the crypt of the cathedral are the tombs of the ducal family: such as : John, Count of  Luxembourg, King of Bohemia (10 August 1296-26 August 1346)-(son of Henry VII of the Holy Roman Empire).  Marie-Anne of Portugal (13 July 1861-1 August 1942)-(wife of Grand Duke Guillaume IV of Luxembourg). Marie-Adelaide I of Luxembourg, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (14 June 1894-24 January 1924)-(eldest daughter of Grand Duke Guillaume IV of Luxembourg). Charlotte I, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (23 January 1896-9 July 1985)-(daughter of Guillaume IV of Luxembourg).  Félix de Bourbon-Parma (28 October 1893-8 April 1970)-(husband of the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg).  Charles of Luxembourg (7 August 1927-26 July 1977)-(son of the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg).Josephine-Charlotte of Belgium (11 October 1927-10 January 2005)-(married to the  Grand Duke Jean).

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip , and is worth the detour are:

The Luxembourg tourist office on the Cathedral: https://www.visitluxembourg.com/en/place/misc/cathedrale-notre-dame 

The City of Luxembourg on the Cathedral: https://www.luxembourg-city.com/en/place/church/cathedral-of-the-blessed-virgin

The city of Luxembourg on its heritage: https://www.vdl.lu/fr/la-ville/en-bref/histoire-de-la-ville

And there you go folks ,another jewel of in Luxembourg ville, do not forget to visit the Notre Dame Cathedral. A wonderful city state of Luxembourg, we love it so much. Enjoy the visit as we have over the years, it is recommended.

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

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