Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

February 12, 2020

A castle and museum at Laval!

And I take you now on a trip to Laval, in the dept 53 of the Mayenne and the region of Pays de la Loire.  Of course, I have come by here with the car and by train, but hardly ever did justice to the town  emblematic monuments until now.  I have written on the garden, the Cathedral , and the Basilica, and now its the turn to do it for the Castle-Museum.

The castle is overlook a lot by all, of course in an region where castles are like houses you tend to dismiss some great properties. However, this castle is unique for its architecture and interesting museum in it. Let me tell you about the Château of Laval and its Naîf arts museum.

The Chateau de Laval  has its foundation in the 11C , and allowed the birth of the city. An emblematic monument of Laval, it occupies a rocky promontory above the Mayenne river. It nevertheless has an element which gives it a unique status in the castral landscape: the oldest preserved masonry in France. It is made up of two distinct sets: the Vieux-Château, (old castle) which corresponds to the medieval castle, and the Château-Neuf, (new castle) a Renaissance gallery transformed into a courthouse in the 19C.



The history of the Château de Laval is intimately linked to that of the Maison de Laval, which appeared with Guy I, founder of the château. The Old Castle is remarkable for its 12C chapel as well as for its imposing master tower, crowned with a 13C wooden mantle, an exceptional example of military architecture from the Middle Ages. The richly carved bays of medieval houses, made at the beginning of the 16C, and the gallery of Château-Neuf, dating from the 1540s, are outstanding elements of the Renaissance which show the evolution of architecture at that time.

Laval chateau vieux feb16

The Old Castle, which served as a prison from the French revolution to 1911, has been open to the public since the 1920s. Initially devoted to archaeology, natural history and the decorative arts, it has housed the Musée d ‘Naive Art and Singular Arts of Laval. This museum presents works by numerous artists representative of naive art and singular art.


The Museum of Naive Art and Singular Arts (MANAS) is the oldest museum dedicated to naive art in France. It was created in 1967, and its opening was a way for the town to pay homage to Henri Rousseau, whom it regretted not having celebrated in his lifetime as not accepting his art form. This emblematic painter of naive art was born in Laval. In the following decades, the collections were increased and diversified, in particular to take into account singular art and foreign artists. These are presented in seven rooms, one dedicated to modern primitives like Henri Rousseau, another to various naive currents, another to naive Eastern Europeans, another to the Lefranc collection, the rest being dedicated to singular artists.


The official webpage for the museum is here: Official naif museum on the old castle

A bit on the architecture that I like

The castle forms a triangular set of about a hundred meters on one side. It is surrounded by several streets that date back to the Middle Ages such as to the south is the Grande Rue, to the west the rue des Orfèvres, to the northeast the rue du Val -de-Mayenne. To the northwest, the Château-Neuf and its esplanade are bordered by a steep lane, the roquet du Palais; roquet means pug which is a steep slope in local talk. The main entrance of the castle overlooks the Place de la Trémoille, one of the most important in the city. This square overlooks both the pavilion which provides access to the Vieux Château, and the esplanade opening in front of the Château-Neuf. This is a wonderful area to walk like if you are back in the Middle Ages , just awesome and worth the detour me think.


Since the Château-Neuf housed the Laval courthouse from the French revolution to 1998, the square formerly bore the name of Place du Palais. Its current Place de La Trémoille, honors the youngest son of the last count of Laval, Antoine-Philippe de La Trémoille, royalist chief guillotined in front of the castle gates in 1794.


Some webpages as usual from me to help you plan your trip to this wonderful town of Laval are

City of Laval on the castle museum in French

Tourist office of Laval on the Castle Museum in French

Tourist office of the Mayenne dept 53 on the castle museum in French

There you folks, i put the webpages in French because it has more info as usually the case but in the tourist offces you can see in English for example. Hope you enjoy your visual visit to Laval and its Castle-Museum!

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

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January 27, 2020

La Granja de San Ildefonso, a palace in the mountains

Looking at some older post in between some new finds I did came up with this one. La Granja de San IIdefonso is in a small mountain town near Segovia and in it has a palace done in the style of Versailles for good reason ,read on. It’s smallish but the style is the same. I figure needs more exposure in my library of posts now almost 2700!!! Hope you enjoy it; Cheers
And remember, happy travel, good health, and many cheers to all!!!


On our way back from Segovia we came up the mountain of Navacerrada to see La Granja de San Ildefonso and its Palace. I have to say ,never been here, even if heard all about for yeeears and coming down to Madrid several times a year. Been with the family and already at Segovia , I said ,this is the closest I will ever be so let’s give a visit. It is about 11 kms from Segovia.

We arrive on time, but the palace was getting some facelift, and we did not go in , and believe or not ; I was not impressed. Maybe so used to the best castles/palaces in Europe , especially France and Spain, seen this one was a bit letdown. Nevertheless , the gardens are gorgeous and a brief visit while from Segovia will be good.

The tourist office of the Spanish heritage monuments in…

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January 26, 2020

The land of Sherry or Xéres or Jerez;vinos olé!!!

helloo world
well looking back of some of my old posts found this one on Sherry and as we are winter, best time to try it, cheers I am having my apero lol!! Happy Sunday y’all!!!

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


Here I am back after a most wonderful week in the corners of Spain down in the province of Cadiz, autonomous region of Andalucia, Kingdom of Spain. This is for real Chiclana de la Frontera ,and Jerez de la Frontera. Gorgeous.

The tourist office sites are here:

The sherry wines are made mostly from Palomino grapes in this part of the world for centuries, whites wines of Manzanilla and Fino ,and darker oxidize wines such as Oloroso and Amontillado, and dessert wines done from Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez. The word of Sherry is an English version of Xeres or Jerez. The area covers from Sanlùcar de Barrameda to Puerto de Santa Maria passing by Jerez de la Frontera.

The history here goes back to the Phoenicians to the year 1100 BC! but the distillation was born with the Moors in 711AD ,and from 1264 Under Spanish Kings the…

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December 31, 2019

Retirement time in France! opinions!!!

And the beat goes on in my belle France into 2020. Expect strikes to continue especially on the retirement issue. I had written before on it so I am just tagging update information here. Hope it helps you understand us ::)
France is still the champion of early retirement with an average posted at 60.8 years, according to the overview of pensions from the OECD,(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) published Wednesday, November 27, 2019. Today, the age required to obtain a full retirement rate is 64 years on average in OECD countries for those who retired in 2018. It is 63 years in France due to the penalty imposed by Agirc-Arrco, (Agirc= L’Agirc est l’Association générale des institutions de retraite des cadres) (Arrco= l’Association pour le régime de retraite complémentaire des salaries) complementary scheme for private sector employees, since 2019. Info in French here :

Thus, in the OECD, the retirement age at full rate will be 66 years, as in France due to the lengthening of the contribution period provided for by the Touraine reform, combined with the application of the penalty of the AGIRC ARRCO. So much for the theory, but in practice, that is to say if we look at the real age at which active people retire, the picture is different. According to the OECD, the average age for leaving the labor market in France is 60.8 years, the lowest, and 4 years lower than the OECD average. The replacement rate, the difference between the last salary and the pension level after a full career with an average salary in the private sector, it stands at 74%, a figure well above the OECD average of 58%.

The international organization concludes that France offers very good social protection for retirees with one of the lowest poverty rates. But the problem is the complexity of the system. It is for this reason that the OECD gives a favorable opinion on the establishment of a universal system. And the reason the French government is trying and the unions are opposed as seen by the so far 26 days of strikes in France!

This analysis refers to a flow equilibrium but do not forget all the accumulated deficits which represent debt for future generations. The pension system needs to be balanced on average over the long term. An observation that could attract the ear of the government at a time when the question is what measures the executive could take to restore balance to the pension system by 2025. The OECD also criticizes the structure complex of the system with the concomitance of 42 different pension schemes, which would in particular have the effect of preventing workers from anticipating their future rights (indeed confusing). A remark which, contrary to the postponement of the retirement age, goes in the direction of the future pension reform carried by current administration in France, aiming to unify all these plans. The union response is the system is not broke and this idea will bring more people into the poverty level and making them work longer which they already got this benefit to work less than in the rest of the developed countries such as in the OECD.

The 2020 pension reform does not plan to raise the minimum retirement age, which will therefore remain fixed at 62 years. However, the reform introduce an equilibrium age in order to encourage active workers to leave later, via a system of discounts and premiums on pension amounts. This age was intended to be 64. This is a key point in the strikes as the unions are totally against this pivot age. They like to have the choice to retire at 62 period.

Some of the strikes going on or announce in the near future are
Strike of CTS buses and trams in Strasbourg from 24 December 2019 to 5 January 2020. Unlimited national strike at SNCF from December 5, 2019. Unlimited strike at RATP from December 5, 2019. National strike by lawyers from 6 to 12 January 2020
National strike in the refineries from 7 to 10 January 2020. General and national strike on January 9, 2020. National strike of doctors, lawyers and pilots on February 3, 2020. National strike in air transport from December 5, 2019.
Plan ahead if coming over and enjoy the trip. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!


Ok so today I come to you on a non travel related subject ,really; it could be too lol! Well , my dear readers and travel buddies, I am getting to that age, yes the golden egg or whatever, and its time to think about retirement!!

I am in in what could could be my last full year of my working life per se. Not that I would not continue to dabble in consulting work later on, but to finally get my retirement benefits and start enjoing time and travel even better or at least I hope.

So let me give some light into the subject in my belle France. As the minimum retirement age is 62 years, it is important to anticipate and wonder which French cities are the most accessible or offer the most enjoyable living environment. The cities of the west of France and especially of the…

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December 31, 2019

Westminster Abbey, London!!

On our trips in Europe lucky we have been able to visit several countries and of course England would have been on the list and it was. I have visited many times on business trips but had one visit with the family.

One of the nice things to see there is the Westminster Abbey, and like to give you a glimpse.


Westminster Abbey is one of the most famous religious buildings in London or the UK for that matter. Its construction dates mainly from the 13C, under king Henry III. It is the burial place of most of the kings and queens of England and also of famous men and women. The Poets’ Corner honors the writers of the kingdom. Almost all of the coronations of English monarchs took place in this abbey.

The abbey’s real name is St Peter’s Collegiate Church. Westminster means West Abbey because it was located west of the City as opposed to Eastminster, a Cistercian monastery which was to the east, beyond the Tower of London, on the site of the current Royal Mint. In ancient French, Westminster Abbey was called Ouestmoustier or Latin, monasterium.(Monastery).

According to legend, the Abbey was founded in 616, on the site of an old islet of the Thames called Thorn Ey   or Thorn Island. A fisherman named Aldrich is said to have witnessed visions of the Apostle Peter there. Then, in the middle of the 11C, the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor had his palace built on the banks of the Thames near the monastery which he then decided to build with larger dimensions and which he dedicated to Saint Peter.   The abbey was consecrated on December 28, 1065.

In the 13C king Henry III decided to rebuild the church in the Gothic style. Between 1503 and 1519, under the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII, the Lady Chapel was built, today called the Henry-VII Chapel. In 1540, the Benedictine monks had to leave the monastery during the Anglican reform. Twenty years later, Queen Elisabeth I re-founded the monastery by giving it a different status. There is no longer an abbot, the chapter is chaired by the dean of Westminster.

Since William the Conqueror, all the kings of England, then of the United Kingdom are crowned in Westminster Abbey, with the exception of Edward V and Edward VIII. The King Edward’s Chair, also known as the Coronation Chair , which has been used for the enthronement of British sovereigns since Edward I, is today stored in the Edward the Confessor Chapel.

More than 3,000 people are also buried in the church, including 16 British monarchs, some of them accompanied by their spouses, and many other notable personalities, including six British Prime Ministers, writers, poets. , scientists, actors or explorers.

The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is located near the western gate, buried among kings because he had acted for good, for the cause of God and his home. There are also two French people there: Benjamin de Rohan, Duke of Frontenay and Baron de Soubise , brother of the Duke of Rohan,(Bretagne) he is the last military leader of the Calvinist resistance in France. And François de La Rochefoucauld, Marquis of Montendre (La Rochefoucauld-Doudeauville branch). Huguenot, he had to flee to England where he enlisted in the army and finished Field Marshal of Great Britain and chief of staff of the English armies.

Official Westminster Abbey on visits

Tourist office of London on Westminster Abbey

And there you go can’t missed while visiting London and now is the time to see it from Europe. Hope you enjoy it as we did even if no time to go inside.

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



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December 30, 2019

Paris 16 arrondissement and La Gare…friends.

As there is talk of a meeting in Chicago in September 2020 I thought to bring back this post of the visit of the folks who share a moment with me and now will be hosting the meeting in their city Chicago. These are the old folks from the Virtual Tourist travel forum now defunct but many memories and friendship of several travelers over the years.
I am still open minded on going to Chicago in Sept’20 will see down the road in 2020 how it goes with my job duties and vacation.
For now enjoy this visit and why not do something like this from folks here reading my blog passing by France. Cheers and best wishes for 2020 for all


Well today was a very special day indeed. I am back at home in Versailles,and had some friends coming over from Chicago USA. We discussed things in other travel forum and they were making a trip around cities in Europe. Of course, Paris had to be included.

We teamed up with some local friends, an American and a French lady, and with the couple from Chicago we had lunch at my suggested restaurant La Gare, Chaussée de la Muette , line 9, metro Muette in the 16 district or arrondissement of Paris.  It is no surprise to my readers as it is my fab resto in Paris, not only come here with family even for Sunday brunch but all visiting friends gets a taste of it lol!!! webpage

Needless to say the conversations were funny, witty, nice, friendly, and of course long…We had our lunch reservation for 13h…

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October 23, 2019

Musée Saint-Raymond , Toulouse!!

I will take you south deep cathar country and home of family on wifes side. We have been here many many times and have posts on several locations ,however, most have been brief comments of the sights to see. I think they deserve more so will do several posts on the things to see and we like in the pink city of Toulouse! The city is in the Haute Garonne department 31 of the region of Occitanie. Hope you enjoy the series.

The Saint-Raymond Museum, formerly known as the Antiques Museum, is the archaeological museum of Toulouse opened in 1892. It is housed in the walls of the former Saint-Raymond university college dating from the 16C, which adjoins Saint-Sernin basilica. It preserves and presents archaeological collections from early medieval Protohistory, mainly from the Celtic, Roman and early Christian periods.


Originally at this site was a necropolis Christian dating back to the 4C that stretched on both sides of the Roman road around the tomb of Saturnin, the first bishop of Toulouse near the Basilica of St. Sernin. In the years 1075-1080, instead of the current building, a hospital reserved for the poor and pilgrims making the way to Santiago de Compostela via Tolosane, is founded by Raymond Gayrard and funded by the Counts of Toulouse. On his death around 1120, Raymond Gayrard was buried in the Saint John chapel adjoining the hospital which took the name of Saint-Raymond chapel in 1122. By decision of the abbot of Saint-Sernin, the place becomes In the 19C, when the University was created, the College Saint-Raymond, reserved for the poor students of the University of Toulouse and will retain this function until the French revolution. The City of Toulouse bought it in 1836 to destine it to various functions such as those of stables and barracks. Between 1868 and 1871, it was restored by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc who removes the traces of the demolished chapel and built a fourth angle turret, adds two walls of the interior and many crenellated chimneys that accentuate the medieval aspect of the whole. He also built a neo-Gothic house in the old courtyard of the college, which became a garden.

The building then served as presbytery at the Basilica of St. Sernin until  1890, when the City wished to recover the monument to install the Labor Exchange or the Academies and Learned Societies and eventually opt for the installation of ‘a museum. it is one of the few surviving testimonies of Toulouse university architecture of the late Middle Ages.  The building becomes a “museum of ancient and exotic decorative art” by law of the city council in 1891 and it is inaugurated on April 24, 1892. It is then reserved for small antiquities, that is to say to small works dimensions (ethnographic objects, works of art, furniture, coins and medals and archaeological objects) at all periods. The building is adapted to its new functions and stairs, partitions and cupboards are cut down to create larger exhibition spaces. Many windows are drilled to better illuminate the rooms.

It is named in 1935 the museum of Cluny of Toulouse. In 1939 is created the Society of Friends of the Saint-Raymond Museum and Ancient Arts. It becomes in 1949, the archaeological museum of Toulouse and thus receives the collections of the Antiquity and the high Middle Ages of the city. In 1980, in order to liberate all of the museum’s 2,500 m2 spaces and open them to the public, the City of Toulouse acquired the neighboring building located at 11 rue des Trois-Renards to relocate the offices. and technical services and create meeting rooms, documentation and the conservation library. A building was built between 1992 and 1994 in the district of Bourrassol to accommodate the reserves. Between 1994 and 1996, archaeological excavations were undertaken to uncover the necropolis of Saint-Sernin, located near the tomb of the martyr Saint Saturnin, and its burials dating back to the 4C. It is on this occasion that is discovered the lime kiln dating from the 5C or 6C and today visible in situ. It reopened its doors to the public in 1999, after more than four years of renovation during which the building was restored to its original appearance of 1523 and a part of the ancient Paleochristian necropolis dating from the 4-5C has been uncovered.!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and you must are

Official Museum of St Raymond

Tourist office of Toulouse on the museum St Raymond

There you go another dandy in my belle France, and lovely territory of many memories from and with the family over the years. Again, very nice area ,hope you enjoy the series posts to come on Toulouse, the pink city!

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


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October 9, 2019

St Malo, another magical place in my new Bretagne.

You should have heard of St Malo in the north of Brittany, have been here and need to put this post in front as was done in august 2012 while there took the time to visit some friend from old VT travel forum! It is a must to visit in Brittany or Bretagne. Hope you enjoy the repost exact as it was. And remember, happy travels ,good health, and many cheers to all!!!


Today was time to visit this city with the family. I have past by rather quickly several times, and even gone in for some shots (see my other post on it here), but this time was an in-depth visit. Even if in-depth always leaves a lot to be desire, one more time at least is merit it. This is a very nice quaint inner old city town.

Saint Malo, sits in departement 35 ille et Vilaine, on the north section of Brittany.  The sea waves here by the bay are amongst the most important in Europe, with the ampleur between low tide and high tide can reach 14 meters (46 feet), therefore it is double what the ampleur of the Atlantic ocean!

A bit of history, it is a very old city dating to celtique times, and once the Romans retreated from the area around the year 423 AD, the area known as…

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October 6, 2019

Meaux, brie, mustard and WWI ,the Marne.

With my post on memorials and monuments of the Marne I though opportune to bring back the post on the museum of the First World War in Meaux. It is a great educational trip and very nicely done, there is a bus that takes you there from the train station connection in Paris at Gare de l’Est. or by car. Hope you can visit it one day it is recommended. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

July 8, 2019

Versailles has Parly II in Le Chesnay for shopping!

Need to update this post and tell you about a wonderful place in my Versailles area. More on the property here:
Parly 2 is a regional shopping center and a condominium located at Chesnay-Rocquencourt (Yvelines 78). It officially opened in November 4, 1969 with 150 shops, it was the second largest shopping center in France, just two weeks after the opening of Cap 3000 near Nice. Designed for the automobile, it is located at an exit of the A 13 (autoroute de Normandie )and has extensive parking on two and three levels!. The shopping center includes a covered three-level gallery, in which are located branches of Parisian department stores (Le Printemps, BHV), many shops and cinemas recently opened (june2019 )and modernized. It was enlarged for the first time in 1987 and covered 107,000 m2. The second extension was inaugurated in November 2017 increasing the commercial surface by 10 000 m2. In 2017, it has 187 stores, receiving each year about 11.5 million visitors. The center offers a complete and varied commercial offer, to meet the needs of West Parisian customers.
At the same time as the shopping center, was built the condominium of Chesnay-Trianon (Parly 2). The largest co-ownership in Europe, it includes 7,500 homes for more than 18,000 inhabitants (the Parlysiens). And just behind this was my kids’s middle school!!! More on the residences here:
The shopping center is served by 2 bus stops (Les Comtesses, Parly 2), lines B, H, M, S, Express, U, V and Night 1 of the Phébus bus network of Versailles, lines 17, 17S and 76 from the Transdev d’Ecquevilly establishment, via the D line of the Bus en Seine bus network, by line 51 from the STAVO transport company and by the Express 1 line from the Transdev establishment in Montesson Les Rabaux. Also the bus 19 of Transdev ïle de France stops at the Arboretum just across from the shopping center, and we took it to go from ave de l’Europe corner with Ave Saint Cloud in Versailles to the shopping center and back! Also, a few hundred meters down you can walk into the domaine of Versailles (palace ) by the Porte Saint Antoine and the hameau of M-A and the Trianons, where we did our walks/jogs! More info here:


Well, you probably come from a country of big malls or shopping centers and these are rare in France, a centre commercial is all you get with a handful of stores anchored by a big Carrefour, E Leclerc or else spread over open space. Well ,we were lucky to lived for 10 years in Versailles (see search our many posts on the city here), and we always shopped at Parly II in nearby cross the street Le Chesnay.

My boys went to middle school or collége here in Le Chesnay a very nice town chic a bit upscale and the mall is just an extention of it. The big Paris stores are here like BHV and Au Printemps, as well as the fancy Hédiard, and Lenôtre chains, all you need under one roof is here with class.

The mall webpage is here:

The shopping official address…

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