Posts tagged ‘Americas’

October 13, 2020

Bacalar and San Felipe!!

Ok so giving life to older posts with new text and some older or newer photos in my blog. The name to some will tell you I am in Mexico. This was a memorable visit just north of this have now family as reading previous posts.

So we go on with some exotic parts of Mexico lindo y querido. Not taking you to the popular areas anyone can do that, I like to take you to seldom and little seen Mexico down in a popular State of a well known region but a bit south of it all towards Belize. I will be talking about Bacalar in Quintana Roo, Yucatàn, Mexico.

I will tell you here the visit to historical San Felipe fortress/museum.

Bacalar is a town located on the southeast side of Mexico, in the state of Quintana Roo. The city is bordered on the east by the lagoon of Bacalar, which overlooks the Caribbean Sea. All of this part of the Yucatàn peninsula. The name Bacalar is believed to have gotten its name from b’ak halal, or ‘surrounded by reeds’ in Mayan, with a lagoon – the Laguna de Bacalar or ‘Lake of the Seven Colors’s to the east of the city.  Bacalar lies a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Tulum and around a 40-minute drive from the city of Chetumal (see post) which sits on the border to Belize.

The first inhabitants of the place are the Mayas in pre-Columbian times. In 1543, the city was taken and occupied by the Spanish conquistadors. In 1545, it was  established a Spanish town in the same place and baptized it Salamanca de Bacalar. In 1848, during the Caste war, the rebel Mayans based in Chan Santa Cruz (the current city of Felipe Carrillo Puerto) took the city. The Mexican army reclaims it in 1902.

The Fort of San Felipe was built in 1733 under the order of don Antonio de Figueroa y Silva, field marshal of Yucatan, to protect the Bacalar population from the frequent attacks by pirates from the Caribbean and to defend the region from harassment from the traders of wood in Campeche. In the second half of the 19C, during the so-called War of the Castes, the fortress once again became the scene of skirmishes for the possession of the fortress. It has recently been restored and sits looking over Lake Bacalar in the center of town.

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The fort is built in the form of a four-pointed star and has a moat 4 meters deep.  It was designed by the Italian Juan Podio, and developed based on limestone, marine and volcanic stones. It has 11 cannons, although formerly it had about 34, which were located in places such as the Baluarte de Santa Ana, and also the Baluarte de San José. In the first section of its construction included: 4 bastions called Santa Ana, San Arturo, Santa María and San Joaquín, a plant shaped like a four pointed star, a building shaped like a rectangle, at that time the highest in the construction, which was baptized with the name of Jesús María, which was equipped with a gunpowder store, a chapel, a room for the commander, a supply or food store, a weapons room and a troop accommodation.  Over the years, embankments for bastions, a moat with a drawbridge were added to this fort, the number of cannons was increased, the parapets were improved, as well as the facilities of the High Knight were increased and improved, building new sentry boxes and raising the curtains of the fort. From its towers and watchtowers, you can see the large lagoon area covered by the lookouts.

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The fort San Felipe contains a museum of local history and nice recreations since 1983. The plaques on the museum are in both English and Spanish and there is free parking nearby. Today, this Museum has surround sound, 6 giant video screens, where recreations of pirate attacks and much of the history of Bacalar are projected.

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More on the museum in San Felipe fort and other cultural sites from a local webpage soy de bacalar in Spanish here: https://soybacalar.com/informacion/cultura

And on Mexico Cultural site in Spanish: https://www.mexicoescultura.com/recinto/52178/museo-del-fuerte-de-san-felipe-bacalar.html

A well known webpage there Zona Turistica in English on the museum of San Felipe: https://www.zonaturistica.com/en/things-to-do/quintana-roo/bacalar/museum-of-fort-san-felipe-bacalar

Local government on the history of Bacalar in Spanish: http://www.bacalar.gob.mx/historiabacalar.html

The Mexico tourist board on Bacalar in English: https://www.visitmexico.com/en/quintana-roo/bacalar

There now you are loaded with info and I have updated the text , hope you enjoy this beautiful tranquil part of Mexico. Bacalar is awesome!

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

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October 12, 2020

Mérida of Mexico!!!

Here I go again with some nostalgia in my blog. Well, the main reason I started my blog back in Nov 2010 was to expose my life and travels in it. This along with some wonderful moments of family and friends over the years since birth. That is paris1972-versailles2003 , saw Paris for the first time in 1972 and came to live in Versailles permanently in 2003, a life story.

I have been to Mexico several times and travel from north to south of it. However, this time was special. I had new family marrying to Mexican in Mérida, Yucatàn, Mexico!!! So therefore, when the opportunity arose to visit Mexico city on one of my business trips, took advantage to take a flight to Mérida and see the family. We still talk about this event!

There now lives my aunt, sister of my dear late mom Gladys and my cousin and husband. So it was a pleasant trip indeed. Memories forever at Mérida , who would have guess it!!!

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As I had a nice weekend to do something extra and know that I have family living in Mérida, Yucatàn for several years now took the opportunity for a visit. Online got me a ticket on Interjet airlines of Mexico. Their webpage here: Interjet airlines

The flight took off from terminal 1 at Mexico airport to Merida airport for an easy landing and getting out. The airport webpage is here: Mérida airport Asur main page: Official Merida airport site

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Here the flight was easy and comfortable and had my cousin waiting for me at the airport to take me to her house. I had the inmense pleasure of seeing cousins and aunt that had not seen in person for several years, and we all had a great time. I was able to finally go out to do some shopping and restaurants as well as eating a real meal at a home away from home!!!!

However, let me tell you a bit of the history I like as by now a habit of mine, can’t visit without knowing the place!

Mérida ,call the white city is the capital of the state of Yucatán. It is  located about 30 km from the coast, south of the Gulf of Mexico and north of the Yucatán Peninsula near the epicenter of the Chicxulub crater. The ancient Tiho, or Ichcanziho, which means city of 5 hills was one of the main cities of the Maya province of Chacán. The Spanish conquistador Francisco de Montejo (son) , founded there on January 6, 1542 the city of Mérida.

Mérida is a stopover, even a privileged place to stay, when visiting the Yucatán peninsula. The Dzibilchaltún site is 17 km to the north. In August 1993, Pope John Paul II visited the city on his third trip to Mexico. The city has hosted two bilateral treaty conferences between the United States and Mexico, the first in 1999 (Bill Clinton & Vincente Fox) and the second in 2007 (George W. Bush & Felipe Calderón).

Some of the nice places to walk and see and admit not seen it all, more for a next time. These in my opinion and from local exchanges, the Plaza de la Independencia. This square, also called Zócalo , represents the historic center of Mérida. Very quickly, you will be struck by the imposing San Idelfonso Cathedral built with stones from the ancient Mayan temples of T’ho. The Casa de los Montejo, the oldest building in Mérida built in 1542. It was once the home of the city’s founding father, Francisco de Montejo. This mansion belonged to the Montejo family until the 20C. Today, it houses the Casa de la Cultura, a museum dedicated to exhibiting the objects and furniture of the former owners. The street Paseo de Montejo is lined with luxurious mansions and a number of colonial-era buildings. These are now used as Mérida’s most prestigious hotels, restaurants and entertainment venues. On the Paseo de Montejo stands the largest monument in Mérida,  Palacio de Gobierno is, as its name suggests, a palace that houses the government offices of the state of Yucatán. Know that you can visit part of this palace. For a local museum, head for the Museum of Anthropology and History of Yucatán located in the Palacio Cantón.

This is a private site that can tell you a lot about Yucatàn in general and Mérida in particular , even if thinking of moving to live here! https://yucatanliving.com/destinations/the-neighborhoods-of-merida

In Merida, I visited a couple of big shopping mall. The smaller and older was Plaza Altabrisas, here you have Docker’s, Adolfo Dominguez, Tommy Hilfiger, C&A, Sears, Game Planet, old favorite Radio Shack, and a big hypermarket Soriana, which is very good with huge selections too. They have many old favorites to eat such as Pizza Hut, Dairy Queen ice creams, Chili’s and IHOP as well as Subway and a nice local one El Fogoncito. Great for the whole family; more here: Plaza Altabrisas Merida

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It was the closest to my family so we headed for breakfast at one of my all times favorites IHOP! I had a wonderful breakfast with my cousin, and it was just like the old days. IHOP is tops and you should try them anywhere! I had the sausage omelette, toasted bread, pancakes nature with strawberry sauce just wonderful. More info here: https://www.ihopmexico.com/sucursales/ihop-merida/

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Another one even bigger than above and recently open is La Isla at Merida. An artificial island that is why the name la isla, the island. It is at  Plaza la Isla Cabo.  For starter one of my old favorite Osh’Kosh children store, Calvin Klein, Lacoste, Tommy Hilfiger, another big Cinepolis cinema and a games exchange place we enjoyed in Spain and name CEX; old favorite eateries such as Krispy Kreme, a nice irish pub MaCarthy’s with a nice terrace and an upper level bar Distrito Gourmet with sports TV screens, and a lineup of drinks of all sorts. More on the shopping center here: http://www.laislamerida.mx/

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While at it, we started actually at street level of La Isla shopping center and try some pints at McCarthy’s Irish Pub with some fries on cheddar cheese delicious, only we needed to go as the electricity went out lol! More here: http://www.laislamerida.mx/directorio-act/mccarthys-irish-pub

Go down of page on official site, and find the McCarthy’s Irish Pub at La Isla: http://www.mccarthyspub.com.mx/find-us.php

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We had wonderful drinks on another day, with nice modelo negra beer at Distrito Gourmet Bar upper level of La Isla shopping in Merida. Cold ones and relaxed ambiance while watching American football, and baseball at the same time on separate screens TV’s. Here is more on it! http://www.laislamerida.mx/directorio-act/distrito-gourmet

And their official webpage for Distrito Gourmet Bar is here: https://www.distritogourmet.mx//distritos/plaza-la-isla

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While indulging on the nice beers of the District Gourmet above, we ordered paella from the Tasca Brava just across and it was rather nice dish with good portions and wonderful views and company of my cousins. So new not yet in the directory but is there alright. This one did not make it,no longer there but keep it for the memories , always nice to remember! There are actually a brand name of Distrito Gourmet, here is more on the Tasca Brava: https://www.distritogourmet.mx//locales/la-tasca-brava

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As usual on these encounters, the trip back was sad but life goes on, my family is all over even if all came from the same little town in Havana. The trip back was on Interjet as well landing at Terminal 1 in Mexico city airport. Here was just a transfer to my international flight back to France on same terminal with Air France.  And of course, same routine of landing in Nantes, this time my car was waiting to get me home!

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Hope you enjoy the story , and share the moment with me. Family is family no matter where we are. Mérida is nice and now family there too !!!  And ,remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

October 12, 2020

Brazil, and Fortaleza!!!

Ok so going over my posts realised many were done in a general way with few details of things to see. I am revising the text with some new and some old photos in my blog. I like to tell you a bit more of my passing by Fortaleza in the north east of Brazil.

I went to the North East area covering a vast terrain of over 600 kms from Natal to Fortaleza and surrounding areas. I went thru Sao Paulo Guarulhos airport connecting to Natal and then by car on the road!!! wonderful all the way to Fortaleza and a bit more. I will post something on Natal and then Fortaleza.

Fortaleza is the capital of the state of Ceará, in the North East region of Brazil.  Its name derives from Fort Schoonenborch, built by the Dutch during their second control of the region between 1649 and 1654. It is located along of the Atlantic coast, with a total of 15 beaches and 34 km long including Iracema beach and Meireles beach.

Iracema Beach is one of the most frequented places with its bars and some historic buildings such as St. Peter’s Church, Estoril and the English Bridge, as well as art galleries and the Dragão do Mar of Arts and Culture. It is also here that fishermen and surfers meet. In the square of Meireles is the avenue Beira Mar, which ends in Mucuripe. It has the largest concentration of hotels in the city as well as the city’s most important craft fair.

This is ok now to tell you a bit about the history of Fortaleza ,that I like

The Potiguaras, indigenous people  that come from Fortaleza. They probably populated part of the coast, with probably other tribes belonging to the Tupis group.  Before the colonization of Ceará, there were two passages of European fleets in Fortaleza. Spanish navigators Vicente Yáñez Pinzón and Diego de Lepe landed on the coast before Pedro Alvares Cabral’s voyage to Brazil. Pinzón reached a place believed to be Mucuripe, and Lepe landed at the mouth of the Ceará river in Fortaleza. These discoveries could not be formalized due to the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 (separated lands between Portugal and Spain ).

The beginning of the occupation of the territory where Fortaleza is located today dates from 1597-1598, when a branch of the Potiguara ethnic group that inhabited the region around the Fort of the Kings migrated and settled between the banks of the Coco and the Ceará rivers, in the Pacatuba and Maranguape valley. From 1603, the Portuguese began to colonize Ceara. The Portuguese Pero Coelho de Sousa arrives at the mouth of the Ceará river. In 1631, the Dutch tried to take Fort Saint-Sébastien, but this joint action with the Potiguara Indians failed. In 1637, they finally managed to take the fort, always with the help of the native populations. In 1644, Fort Saint-Sébastien was destroyed by the Indians. The Dutch are killed or expelled. In 1649, a new Dutch expedition, commanded by Matias Beck and negotiated beforehand with the Indians, allowed the construction of Fort Schoonenborch on the banks of the Riacho Pajeú. This is the event that triggers the beginning of the history of Fortaleza. In 1654, with the withdrawal of the Dutch, the fort was renamed Fort de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption. In 1812, the fortress of Our Lady of the Assumption, was rebuilt, replacing the remains of the old fortress of the same name. (see my post on the fortress).

A bit more on the fortress here: http://www.visitfortaleza.com/travel/fort-nossa-senhora-assuncao.html

Between 1943 and 1945, the WWII affected Fortaleza, which hosted the Special Service for the Mobilization of Workers for the Amazon (SEMTA) and two American bases at a base in Pici and the base in Cocorote.

I hit on Fortaleza on my road warrior ways in the northeast. A big city meaning Fortress, and there is one nice with canons looking at the sea,and now a military fort (see post). Right around it you have the Passeio Publico or public park nice , and across the great Mercado Central or market with multi layered floors almost like a shopping center/Mall!! with the best prices in town, get some cashews the local favorites or Cajù. Next you have the wonderful Cathedral Metropolitana, (see post).

These are mentioned in my blog so just give you their webpages for reminders of things to see here:

The Passeio Publicohttp://www.abcdeferias.com.br/passeio-publico-a-praca-mais-bonita-de-fortaleza/

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The Mercado Central market: http://www.mercadocentraldefortaleza.com.br/index_en.html

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The Metropolitan Cathedral: https://www.visitbrasil.com/attractions/metropolitan-cathedral-of-fortaleza.html

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Its airport is Pinto Martins International Airport. It is located 6 km from the city center. Fortaleza is Brazil’s closest state capital to Europe, with 5,467 km separating it from Sagres in Portugal. During World War II, the airport was used by Allied forces. It was at this time that a second airstrip was built. The official webpage here; https://fortaleza-airport.com.br/en

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You have Le Cirque Amar circus that comes every year, nice event indeed, love them, can’t help putting it here: right next to great mall shopping Center Iguatemi.  Not far from here I stayed at the nice Comfort Hotel, central to all!!! Nice room and great views as well at Meireles beach. More info here: https://www.choicehotels.com/en-uk/ceara/fortaleza/comfort-inn-hotels/br010

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And we had a great lunch at Coco Bambù, another great seafood restaurant I love it. shrimp and fish cobia dishes were sublime indeed recommended by locals and now to you must eat here: https://restaurantecocobambu.com.br/

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At Iracema beach, we were part of the celebration on the ousting of a President (Lula) ! peaceful and very democratic an example to follow for many countries. Here we had our dinner with beers and fish dishes at Boteco Prai right next to the beach in the center of it all, great place must be there. More info here: http://www.botecofortaleza.com.br/

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My last resting place lol!! can move here too, was at Praia de Langoinha (see post) or langoinha beach, a town by the beach, lovely. I stayed at the Vivamar Hotel right on the beach. We ate here too a combi of shrimp and fish cobia that was sublime while looking at the wonderful beach below us. The rooms face the sea too. More info on the hotel here: https://www.vivamarhotel.com.br/

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The tourist office of Brazil on Fortalezahttps://www.visitbrasil.com/destinations/fortaleza.html

And I ended this wonderful trip flying out of Fortaleza airport  to Sao Paulo airport and then to Paris CDG. Took the RER B train to gare du Nord and then Metro line 4 to Montparnasse for the TGV train  home to Auray. A bit long but used by now to get out of Bretagne!.

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

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October 12, 2020

Brazil, this is Natal!

Ok so going over my posts realised many were done in a general way with few details of things to see. I am revising the text with some new and some old photos in my blog. I like to tell you a bit more of my passing by Natal in the north east of Brazil.

I went to the North East area covering a vast terrain of over 600 kms from Natal to Fortaleza and surrounding areas. I went thru Sao Paulo Guarulhos airport connecting to Natal and then by car on the road!!! wonderful all the way to Fortaleza and a bit more. I will post something on Natal and then Fortaleza.

Natal is the capital of the State of Rio Grande do Norte, situated at the edge of the Atlantic ocean in the Nord-Est region. The airport I landed here is the Greater Natal International Airport in São Gonçalo do Amarante about 30 km or 19 mi from Natal. This I came on Lantam airlines ;the airport site is here: http://www.natal.aero/en/voos-online/domestico/

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I proceeded to the hotel, the Holiday Express hotel by Ponta Negra beach area, very nice the beach across and great views! the hotel is here: https://www.ihg.com/holidayinn/hotels/gb/en/natal/natar/hoteldetail

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While moving around in the area by car, we ate at the wonderful Camaroés restaurant in Natal, recomm always of locals. shrimp is the name of the restaurant and you know why when you eat them here. Simply awesome in a bed of rice and cheese. More info here: http://www.camaroes.com.br/en/

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I like to inject a bit of history I like on Natal.

The first Portuguese expedition took place in 1535 with the aim of colonizing the lands. Before that, the French had already arrived here to smuggle brazilwood. And that was the main reason for the failure of the first attempt at colonization. The Potiguares Indians helped the French to fight the colonizers, preventing the Portuguese from settling on Potiguares lands. On December 25, 1597, a new Portuguese expedition, this time led by Mascarenhas Homem and Jerânimo de Albuquerque, arrived to expel the French and regain the captaincy. Finally, the town of Natal was founded on December 25 1599, Christmas Day which is why it takes the name from the Latin Natale (birth).

Many attacks later and even the Dutch domination, in 1633, the routine of the village that is beginning to evolve was totally changed. For 21 years, the fort was renamed Fort Kenlen and Natal Nova Amsterdam. With the departure of the Dutch, the city returns to normal. Due to its privileged geographical position, it is the point of the Americas closest to Europe, in WWII, served as a military base for North Americans, gaining airs of international metropolis, definitively transforming Natal and the city had its name known to millions of citizens around the world.

The tourist office for Natal is here: http://turismo.natal.rn.gov.br/simb.php

Some of the nice things to see here which even to castle lack pictures but worth coming back for them in my opinion are the Natal Dunes State Park considered the second largest urban park in Brazil. The Cashew of Pirangi the biggest cashew tree in the world. In 1994, it entered the Guinness book as the tree which covers the largest area, 8,400 square meters! The above mentioned fortress or Forte dos Reis Magos or Fortaleza dos Reis Magos is a medieval fortress that was the first milestone of the city, founded on 25 December 1599 on the right side of the bar of the river Potenji; which today near the Newton Navarro Bridge. The Newton Navarro bridge is one of the highest bridges in Brazil and has over a gorgeous sunset seen from Potengi River.

We then took a long road trip by car up towards the north, passing wonderful towns like Parapaiva, Aracati, Mossoro, etc. One nice highlight of this trip is going to Canoa Quebrada, here we stayed at the Long Beach Hotel , great villa type place very quaint in a back road off the beach, this was tops for a rest right next to the beach as well! More on this superbe hotel here: http://www.longbeachcanoa.com/en/?page_id=11

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And while, in town, why not sample some of the local foodies! Walking down Broadway towards the beach it is full of shops and restaurants, we stop of course at Café Habana bohemia, nice quaint and great shrimp cafe habana house dish! This is a local site but believe closed by now, so check. Just here for the memories!!! More here: http://www.portalcanoaquebrada.com.br/canoa_quebrada_restaurante_cafe_habana.html

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The Brazil tourist board on Natalhttps://www.visitbrasil.com/destinations/natal.html

And there you go , nice to have Natal better explain in my blog. Wonderful road warrior experience on the roads of the North East of Brazil! Memories forever!! Hope you enjoy the post on Natal.

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

October 11, 2020

State of Minas Gerais, Brazil!

And on my road warrior trips in beautiful Brazil, I like to take you back to the State of Minas Gerais with new text and new photos in my blog. This is inland Brazil often too often overlook by visitors but the real thing as often the case in what could be call off the beaten paths. Hope you enjoy it as I did.

I have told you a bit about Minas Gerais but let me tell you a bit more.

The State of Minas Gerais is known for its colonial-era towns founded in the 18C during the Gold Rush. With cobbled streets, rich, ornate mansions and Baroque churches. This state is rich in mines of precious stones ,emeralds in particular. Its name in Portuguese means “Common mines”, an allusion to the mines which then depended on the Portuguese Crown. Minas Gerais is called “the mountain state of Brazil”, because the South and the South-East correspond to the Brazilian highlands, with the serra da Mantiqueira and the serra do Espinhaço. To the southwest, the Mining Triangle stretches out, with its sandstone plateaus, of extraordinary geological diversity and a great wealth of ferrous and non-ferrous ores.

A bit of history I like

In 1708, the first major conflict in the region took place, between Emboabas (“Those who offend” in the Tupi language) and Paulistas, from the province of São Paulo. Defeated, the latter went to colonize more distant regions. The creation of the Minas de Ouro harbor master’s office in 1709 which were called from 1720 Minas Gerais also helped to end the conflict . From the second half of the 18C, gold production showed obvious signs of decline. This encouraged the Portuguese Crown to raise taxes and confiscate the property of those who could not or would not pay. In response, deep discontent on the part of the Mineiros, the inhabitants of the region, arose. Influenced by the ideals of the Enlightenment born in Europe, the Creole elite supported a republican project for Minas Gerais. After independence in 1822 and the establishment of the Empire, the conservative party took power in 1840, causing the revolt of the liberals. Armed conflicts broke out in the province of São Paulo, with the support of liberal Mineiros. To contain the insurgents, the imperial government sent the army until the insurrectionary movement was crushed. You know then came the Republic of Brazil and dictatorship and then democracy as of now.

After doing some roundups in Sao Paulo State , it was time to come back to some familiar places in Minas Gerais State. I first went to Tres Coracoes which is best known as the birthplace of the great football/soccer player Péle! It has a statue in the entrance to the town.  It even has a museum on the street house he was born. See post

Once there, had the honor of staying at the Pousada Calabreza, a nice simple hotel too simple the TV did not work but did had time to rest after the long 4 hrs trek by car.  They have a hotel propertly said in city center a bit better for longer accommodations. My info tells me the pousada has been closed or handle thru the hotel site…The Facebook page is here : https://www.facebook.com/hotelcalabreza/

tres coracoes pousada calabrese pool may17

I was taken to eat at Venda do Chico, more on the side of Très Coraçoes on the road to Varghina; a marvelous place in a farm with cafeteria, resto and grocery store where the coffee is done on an oven the old fashion way. The company was nice, the service great, and the food sublime with minas gerais original food in pork,beef, rice and beans, salads all in different dishes to serve oneself,and original antarctica beers! wonderful;need to repeat here!! More on their webpage: http://vendadochico.com.br/

Tres coracoes venda de chico resto arriving may17

tres coracoes venda do chico cafe stand nov15

Of course, on this trip, went again to Varghina and stayed at a wonderful hotel restaurant there! The hotel was the Hotel Café Royal right in city center near the University campus and much more lively.  This was a very nice hotel, good space rooms and good service as well as a great restaurant with glass windows views of the city. More info here: http://hotelcaferoyal.com.br/

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This is one more fact to show that when traveling as I do, prefer the in country ambiance and real people for great talks and sharing a glass of beer rather than the more bigger tourist traps.  This country is laid back and nice with real people and if you are looking for relax, nice natural sites, architecture ,and especially nice folks around then come here to Minas Gerais inland.

In Varginha we went to a nice restaurant trés chic on a secluded street in town but great chefs creation of beef. The great cuts were awesome and the wine from Chile Taparapa was nice.  The chef owner came out to talk to us and it was nice indeed, a memorable moment. this is the Braseado restaurant at ave Salum Assad David ,30. Due to covid19 I believe the restaurant seems closed but the chef has a Facebook page for home delivery meals here: https://www.facebook.com/cheflucianonunes

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If anything, these need to be in my blog for the wonderful memories given to me over the years visiting Brazil. You have the tourism information from the State of Minas Gerais here: https://www.mg.gov.br/conheca-minas/turismo

The tourist board of Minas Gerais is here in Portuguese too: http://www.minasgerais.com.br/pt

The tourist board of Brazil on touristic sites in Minas Geraishttps://www.visitbrasil.com/blog/six-historical-destinations-in-minas-gerais.html

A private site with good information on Brazil, have it on Minas Gerais: https://www.brazil.org.za/minas-gerais.html

Voilà, another wonderful trip to beautiful Brazil and the State of Minas Gerais, recommended to dwell into this area. For me there will always be great memories and good friendship now still in contact! Hope you enjoy the post as I did/do.

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

October 11, 2020

Brazil and two States!

Ok so here I am taking you again to wonderful Brazil. A dear country and now a long trip of two weeks taking me to two States, Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais.

Wonderful big country with great ambiance and friends; always a pleasure to visit and Lucky to do it every year since 1988 and lived there in 2008. This time went a bit to old grounds and had the opportunity to visit new ones. First I got there from Nantes, Paris CDG and Sao Paulo Guarulhos airport, then on  to Paulinia and Descalvados in the State of Sao Paulo to repeat. I then went on to Varghina in the State of Minas Gerais. A wonderful round trip!!

Varginha is located in the southern region of Minas. The city is located on the banks of Lake Furnas, and at the same time equidistant from three Brazilian capitals: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte. The city is one of the main centers of trade and production of coffee in Brazil and in the world, and is a reference in the production of high quality coffees, in addition to an export hub for the product, draining most of the production in the douth of Minas, making grain trade with several countries.

A bit of history I like

The pioneers from São Paulo through the Paraíba Valley crossed the Serra da Mantiqueira in the region of Embaú gorge, now Passa Quatro. Many traders from São Paulo (the tropeiros) also passed through the region, selling products from São Paulo and Portugal.  The tropeiros, who were regularly passing through Varginha, made, in 1785, a small chapel, close to where the Divino Espírito Santo Matrix Church  is currently located. In 1806, the Chapel of Divino Espírito Santo das Catanduvas was built and, in the same year, the land required by the district  was donated. Then the town was called Catanduvas or Catandubas; word originally from indianTupi, which means “low and closed, rough and thorny, small bush”. Due to the patron saint of the chapel, it was renamed Espírito Santo das Catanduvas.

Varginha was one of the towns that received the most Italian immigration to Brazil in this period. With enormous commitment and workforce, many Italians bought their own land and also started their own businesses, which generated great economic development for Varginha and for the south of Minas in the late 19C and early 20C. Another considerable flow was that of Syrian-Lebanese immigrants, which occurred in the first decades of the 20C, immigrants who lived in most of the products trade in the São Paulo capital. Varginha also received in the seventies several Japanese families, who immigrated as a result of the acquisition by the Japanese of one of the German company at the time, CBC, which had a factory in the city. Nowadays, as a result of the transfer of Taiwanese companies to the region, the city hosts immigrants from Taiwan, who invest, generate jobs and work in Varginha.

The Heritage Foundation on its history in Portuguese: https://fundacaoculturaldevarginha.com.br/historia-de-varginha/

The Heritage Foundation on its heritage monuments in Portuguese: https://fundacaoculturaldevarginha.com.br/patrimoniocultural/bens-protegidos/bens-imoveis/

Upon arriving at Varghina I went straight to the hotel, Grand Enio very modern, nice but had no gel/shampoo in bath! The resto for breakfast was very good indeed. The hotel was in front of the Universidty UNIFAS Santa Luiza; I later in another visit stayed here again. Here I stayed for two nights as well. The best was the breakfast and dinner time here. good dish of picanha beefs with onions in a mayo base sauce with good beers Itaipava premium. More info here: https://www.grandenio.com.br/

varghina hotel grand enio entrance nov15

I was able to go out for lunch to the Recanto Flora, and forgot my camera/phone !!! lol! oh well the place is a typical Minas Gerais cuisine with shop and restaurant overlooking the greens of the fields behind it. Very friendly service was promise if call ahead will cook something typical just for me!  They  have other businesses like a cheese making company in the farm or fazenda casa flora more closer to Très Coraçoes.  The views on this resto search site is just like it for reference and to be back with photos ! here is their Facebook page waiting for the virus nowdays to open again: https://www.facebook.com/RecantoFloraOficial/

At night to top it all off I was taken to Pinga Com Torresmo Avenida Princesa do sul 29 A ( an intriguing word pinga for some Spanish speaking people ::)) but here is an rum alcohol base drink similar to Cachaça. It is another term for it a bit cheaper. And the place was great with pork ribs, fry fish, and great itaipava premium beers. The views over the city as the night fell was fantastic and live music playing oldies but goodies was a king size top off to a wonderful night send off from Brazil; I should be back here::) Cold beer and good bar food with live music on Fridays. No doubt, the best bar of Varginha! Service note 10 and the wonderful menu!!! All done with excellence… Cozy atmosphere, perfect! That’s a restaurant where you can go and try every food on the menu.   Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/pingacomtorresmo?rf=200922129928725&filter=3

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For info Varghina has a good bus terminal or rodoviaria with connection to all the big cities like Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro etc. More info here: https://www.guichevirtual.com.br/rodoviaria/varginha-mg

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There was a big project to open a mall or shopping center just outiside Varghina call Via Café; this is huge and awaiting stores and completion. I am happy to tell you is open and will surely visit if have another opportunity to visit the area. More info (have it on foodie section for stores go to lojas) here: https://viacafegardenshopping.com.br/gastronomia/

The State of Minas Gerais tourism in Portuguese here: http://www.minasgerais.com.br/pt/roteiros/buscar/2

I went by car to Descalvado in the countryside of the State of Sao Paulo, the main sight in city center is the Church of Nossa Senhora do Belem is imposing in the town. The hotel Descalvado was just across the street , the only one, more like a truck stop hotel but decent, clean ,and friendly service. My home away from home for the last 9 years there!!! road warrior from here to Brazil! I am already missing it…! Here is their official page and history in Portuguese: http://www.descalvadoonline.com.br/hoteldescalvado/historia.htm

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We had breakfast all you can eat and room for about 27€! per night. I stayed two nights here enjoying the country life. For dinner I try the new Japanese restaurant here Nintai, newly open and friendly welcome with buffet all you can eat and beers. Unfortunately, this one is close and just here for the memories. For dinner I try Cabana Churrasqueria, a big place lively with local people and local food steakhouse all you can eat with great desserts! and course beers Original Antarctica! This is my central here, always great! and already looking forward to be back! Their webpage here: https://www.espacocabana.com.br/

A better looking Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/cabanachurrascaria/

descalvado nintai jap resto ent nov15

descalvado churrasqueria cabana menu out nov15

I have come to Paulinia couple times, as also a new town created in 1964 carved out of part of Campinas. The term Paulínia is a tribute to José Paulino Nogueira, a farmer from Campinas, one of the owners of Fazenda do Funil, located between the current cities of Paulínia and Cosmópolis. The village that gave rise to the town of Paulínia was called Vila José Paulino until 1944, when a state decree prohibited localities from having names of living persons. Due to this fact, the village was elevated to a district with the name Paulínia. It is now 118 km from Sao Paulo city. Paulinia is not for the tourist curious but more business , however, good to be here and see the other side of the country always fascinating and educational.

I had dinner needed to go on the road to Campinas at the Churrascaria  Estancia Grill, a big place with friendly service and the typical Brazilian grill house with all kinds of cuts of meats, salads buffets,and desserts with beers was a great place and good company.  Many memorable lunches here with old friends and new ones met there too! More info here: https://www.estanciacampinas.com.br/

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More on the history of the city of Paulina from the local government page in Portuguese: http://www.paulinia.sp.gov.br/cidade

I always came here by car from the Guarulhos – Governador André Franco Montoro International Airport in Sao Paulo on the SP 332. More from the chamber of Paulinia on its history in Portuguese here: https://www.camarapaulinia.sp.gov.br/cmp/historia/

The association of tourist offices for the State of Sao Paulo in English is here: http://aprecesp.com.br/quem_somos_en 

The convention center for tourism of the city of Sao Paulo here for info: https://visitesaopaulo.com/#googtrans(pt|en)

Therefore, now you know some new places in Brazil , some known some don’t off the beaten path, this is a huge country , lots of good things to see and do. Hope you like the post and give you some ideas to go deeper into the countryside. Varghina, Descalvado, and Paulinia will stayed on in my memory of good times and good friends; always looking forward to be back.

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

October 10, 2020

Brazil and Vinhedo!!!

Ok so this is one of those surprises, twice. First, looking over my blog I realised do not have a post on Vinhedo except the monastery there. Pity. The second surprise was that due to a friend that lives there, I was able to visit the city and share some moment in his house with his family and eat out with the in laws family. Nice memories indeed I like to tell you more about Vinhedo.

So here I am to talk to you about Brazil. There is a story behind my continuing writing on this country. I have written several blog posts on Brazil and you can do search to find a plethora of information on the country in my blog.  Coming inland into Sao Paulo State, better known for the big city is awesome. You feel the real people, the real country of Brazil.

Vinhedo is a town in the State of São Paulo. It is located in the mesoregion of Campinas, 75 km from São Paulo.  I had the opportunity to do several trips to Brazil over the years covering the 1998 to 2018 period ,both from the USA and France. I have learned Portuguese over these years, and its a country that almost came to live too (read previous post on Curitiba).

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As we say here la vie est belle, or life is beautiful or la vida es chula, there we say A Vida É Bela!!! Enjoy Vinhedo, Sao Paulo, Brazil!!!

Of course, I stayed in a hotel as my friend at the moment had his in laws visiting and well no space. I did went to eat with the whole gang!! The hotel was the Plaza Hotel Vinhedo.Opened in 2006, Plaza Hotel has 79  rooms and 6 bungalows. Strategically located 75 km from São Paulo and 22 km from Viracopos airport. The Plaza Hotel provides complete infrastructure for events and accommodation. The hotel is located 5 minutes from the city center of Vinhedo and access to the highway is easy and fast. I walked there the moment i arrived and see the funny story that I found a resto that later recommended to my local friend!! He did an event there with 34 persons and all love the resto, so now I can say I am the culinary expert on the town lol!!!

The Plaza Hotel webpage in Portuguese here: https://www.vinhedoplazahotel.com.br/

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The Vineyard Grape Festival or Festa da Uva is held annually in February, at Jayme Ferragut Municipal Park. In addition to celebrating the grape, the party pays tribute to immigrants, especially Italians, who came to the region and were part of the construction of the city. The first Grape Festival took place in 1948 and is currently the biggest event in the city, with a lot of parties and great shows.

The local government of Vinhedo on the grape festival in Portuguese: https://www.vinhedo.sp.gov.br/festa-da-uva/

Due to immigrants especially from Italy here, the wine is king. There are several wineries and the wine is pretty good. From the local friend and my own tasting, will give you my two favorites.

The Familia Ferragute Winery is the largest winery open to the public in Vinhedo. The property offers several types of artisanal wines and a delicious natural grape juice, free of preservatives, as well as other rural products, such as cachaças and jams.

The Familia Baccetti Winery. The Baccetti family came from Italy to the Vinhedo region at the beginning of the 20C and dedicated to the production of artisan wines. The production has always involved the whole family and until today the service is done by them. Visitors can buy and taste natural grape juice, wines and products from partner producers.

The Jayme Ferragut Municipal Park has 92,500 m², a lake, walking area, picnic area, sports court, skate park and municipal water park, in addition to the Scoteiro (scouts) de Vinhedo Group headquarters. The biggest events in the city take place there, such as the Grape Festival and the National Meeting of Bikers in Vinhedo, one of the largest in the country. It is located at Avenida Apparecida Tellau Seraphim.

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Other than the monasterty (see post) there is a nice church in city center.  The main Church of Santa Anna ,was built when the city was still called the Rocinha District and was dedicated to Sant’Anna, (Sainte Anne) who would become the city’s patron saint. In 1958 the current church was built in place of the previous one, with donations from its faithful for almost a decade.

Vinhedo SP Church Matriz Sta Ana may17

The portal of the Christ. It is a huge statue of Christ located in one of the highest points of the city and the visit provides a panoramic view of the region. You can see the beautiful city below especially at sunset. The place has a playground, rest area, parking and an acoustic shell with 50 seats. It is located at Rodovia Edenor João Tasca, s / n, Observatório.

Vinhedo SP mirador Christ may17

Vinhedo SP mirador view of city may17

I did went with my friend, wife, daughter ,husband, and the parents of the husband to a local resto Q Maria which is a gourmet grocery store and restaurant in city center. Superbe ! On the restaurant side you can have Japanese sushi style food!!! And I tried everything lol::: ! Not wanting to photo a private event, the picture is from my table to the hallway. Here is their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/qmariaquitanda/

vinhedo sp o-maria resto hallway may17

The local government of Vinhedo on things to see in Portuguese including the above. https://www.vinhedo.sp.gov.br/cultura-e-turismo/pontos-turisticos/

So there, now I feel better to have this wonderful trip with a personal touch on beautiful Brazil and of course on a new spot there for me now known with great souvenirs, Vinhedo in Sao Paulo State. Hope you enjoy the post as I do

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

October 10, 2020

Steakhouse in Campinas, Brazil!!

Ok here I am again for lack of a better name using my best creative mind ….. I like to tell you another wonderful personal experience in beautiful Brazil.

The story here was that had a long time friend here of over 20 years, not seen. This came from my previous visits to the country coming from FL USA. Once moved to France in 2003, I lost contact with many on the other side of the pond. Contact meaning gettting together with them. Then, it happened as all good things should.

My previous job had me going to Brazil a lot, and once they mentioned Paulinia in Sao Paulo State I realised this is close to the city of Sao Paulo. I had an old email that by magic still worked and contacted Daniel. He immediately very happy agreed to meet me. Daniel is a business owner of a industrial factory in the State of Sao Paulo closer to the city of the same name whose wife came from Spain where they met in Brazil and had a daughter there.

He invited me to eat at a neutral site, in Campinas! I was with another couple of local friends and they tag alone. Well so happened my old friend knew them as they were in the same line of business!! Needless to say the conversation was lively and technical afterward many caïpirinhas!!!

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we ate at the Churrasqueria Estancia Grill in Campinas near on the side of Paulinia, it was the usual churrasqueria (sort of like a steakhouse) with meat cuts , salads, and drinks, nice family ambiance, and decoration country style.  The Churrasqueria Estancia Grill is at  Avenida Albino Jose Barbosa de Oliveira 271 Jardim Santa Genebra II, Campinas, State of Sao Paulo.

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The Churrasqueria or steakhouse with the best Rodizio of Baron Geraldo, with the best choice of noble meats. Complete Rodizio with Buffet at will! Hot table, cold table and salads, pasta table, Sushi and Sashimi, Experience their Picanha steaks, that painted on the Ember, and the most succulent Lamb of Baron! And on Sundays, come and taste the salmon in the caper sauce. The staff were very friendly and helpful. The buffet also includes freshly made pasta dishes and other hot dishes.

Present in 2003 in the city of Campinas, the Churrascaria Estancia Grill   has a pleasant and comfortable environment to enjoy with your family The Churrascaria has its own valet parking, aiming at the comfort and safety of its customers. Also, it has kids space with monitors. They do not charge a service fee!

The official webpage is here: https://www.estanciacampinas.com.br/

From Brazil Restaurant Guru on the Churrasqueria Estancia Grill and photos here in Portuguese: https://restaurantguru.com.br/Estancia-Campinas-Campinas-2

And of course, they ,also have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/EstanciaGrillCampinas/

There you go folks, needed to give it more exposure in my blog as it was a pleasant happy moment for many. Looking forward to meet again, hoping is not 20 years as our time is running out!!. We do stay in touch by today’s modern techno lol!!! Enjoy the Churrasqueria Estancia Grill if in the area recommended, and Campinas.

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

October 6, 2020

At Belize ,life is beautiful!!

Here I am back in my roots area of the Americas! Always glorious to be back and see the clear seas again.

The trips now are long and tiring but once there, life comes alive and the beautiful views and tranquil folks makes it all worth while. I have written before on Belize but this is an updated text and photos. Hope you enjoy it as I did.

Yes way down over across Belize life is beautiful. I heard a lot about it as diving and fishing and retirement place for years. I have the chance to visited it for a week, and I agree. However, it is catchy and sublime, one begin to think about why not a retirement there…. Belize.

I had a different approach than most; coming from Chetumal ,Mexico, by road warrior ! car crossing the border with my French passport, glorious trip. We started at the top of the country on the road from Corozal, on the Corozal-Progresso road downward bypassing Belize City, then on the western road to Belmopan (the official Capital city), continuing to Dandriga, then Independance/Mango Creek, to Placencia. On the way back we did passed by Belize City.

We stopped by for the great WiFi at Rose’s bar restaurant in Placencia, and did some groceries at Ming Supermarket  near the post office in Placencia. The best area was by Barefoot bar and we stop at the funky Tupsy Tuna bar in Placencia by the beach, great ambiance. We stayed at the Alan’s Paradise Resort ,wonderful accommodation, great hosts, funny people,and super views of the ocean not to mention the drinks at the bar and the Karaoke. Webpage here: http://www.belize123.com/

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On the way back to Mexico, we entered Belize City, a bit more of  a little town with a nice beachwall along the ocean.  We overnighted at the Ramada Princess hotel Calypso restaurant right on the bay. This is a great complex with hotel casino, and restaurants just near city center and the craftmarket, we ate here at the Calypso Beach Restaurant. wonderful fried fish whole from the catch of the day, and the local beer Belikin. Now part of the Wyndham group here is more info: https://www.wyndhamhotels.com/ramada/belize-city-belize/ramada-belize-city-princess/overview

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We continue north on the Western road towards Chetumal Mexico to take our plane to Mexico City. Belize will be remember ,and will keep an eye for that retirement spot…

The tourist board for Belize : https://www.travelbelize.org/

The tourist office for Placencia: http://placencia.com/

And I thought a great place for full retirement here at Mango Creek: http://www.sanpedroscoop.com/2014/01/independence-mango-creek-hokey-pokey-ferry-big-creek-port-cardies.html

belize-mango-creek-water-taxi-jul14

So now you have a piece of Belize and some thoughts as I did. A peaceful place of great seashores and scuba diving par excellence, need to come to the Caribbean folks. Hope you enjoy the post.

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

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October 4, 2020

For me it all began here a looong time ago, Punta Brava!!!

Ok so September was a nostalgic month as both I and my dear late wife Martine had our birthdays. Let me tell you a bit more on a personal note as to where I was born. Intrigue.? It has been a long trip of four nationalities now and 81 countries visited, and 5 countries live/work and 4 languages. Ok here is where started it all;  my birthplace of Punta Brava!!

Punta Brava is a small town located just to the southwest of  Havana or La Habana, with roughly 1500 inhabitants, and now part of the municipal district of La Lisa (which was and still is a town of my days). Me and my Dad Elio in the front of the house; the one on the right is my paternal grandparents house!!!

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Initially, this area is made up of four large farms owned by Valencians, (Valencia, Spain)  which were called: Armonía, Señorita Tarafa, Tejar Grande or Punta Diamante and Divina Pastora. A certain ,Judge Francisco Castro Palomino remained in charge of them, once the owners left for Spain. Towards 1870 without news of the original owners, it was decided that these farms were subdivided into plots of land, the owners of these paid a small practical monthly payment that was maintained until January 1959. Photo showing my deeper roots!

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In Cuba, we are known for being the site of a great battle for independence from Spain. At the San Pedro farm, near the town of Punta Brava,  on December 7, 1896, General Antonio Maceo y Grajales,the Bronze Titan, fell in combat. Ironically, the Spanish company who took part in the battle included Angel Castro, the father of Fidel Castro!!! Ironie of life of things to come. Photos me in the central park! and my house!!

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In continuing my saga of remembrance of my life’s corners and meandering places I now take you back to where it all began for me a looong time ago, Punta Brava.  I was born there ! Now with the new revolution, all that history is gone and hardly ever mentioned. Cuba has change a lot, it’s not the same , and for me,  it will never be the same….

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Now, only memories lingered, and some places of share family values and love. Far far away, it seems difficult to even write that upon my latest visit in 2012, the area where I grew up seems different….well unrecognizable…. well poorer. It seems to me like I was not from there. It required some days of adjustment for things to come back again.

This post is to all and especially to me as  a reminder of what it was, a lingering space in time of a once upon a time place call Punta Brava, city of Havana metropolitan area, Republic of Cuba.

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Enjoy the stories, I read them myself once in a while just to keep my feet on the ground. Glance my personal old photos, all meaningful as a source of my DNA. Enjoy the pictures, as my dear late mom Gladys took me to El Arte photo studio, and feel the people when visiting , they are the main things, the regular guy on the street. In 1998 I took my dear late wife Martine to visit with our boys very little and it was a hit with the family!

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No tourist webpage for this, just real story real memories to lingered forever and seeking new lands, always look back, it is you. Punta Brava is me, forever!

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

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