Posts tagged ‘Europe’

June 15, 2021

My nostalgic ,sentimental Meaux!!!

And I get nostalgic and sentimental each time I need to write about Meaux . This one was an older post I like to revise, refresh, update links and tell you and me again more about Meaux. Here are the stories…

Once again I have to come back to this quant town of Seine et Marne dept 77 Ïle de France region , where Disneyland is located nearby.  There have been so many times here that I lost count, I know the town without any gps or google help and proved it again this time. Here began my French history when I met a young lady native of the town of Meaux back in 1990, and as the saying goes, the rest is history and a beautiful one indeed falling short due to her cancer that took my dear late wife Martine. And glad thanks for giving me 3 wonderful good young men. 

This trip was to see the maternal mother, mother in law, maternal grandmother and the rest of the French family with sisters and nephews, nieces and cousins. It was something different this time, for the first time on our wedding anniversary (26 December) my young lady was not with me. She passed away from cancer last April 30 2018. It was a sad trip, but a must trip to relieve those times and gain strenght with the family for the future.

This is Meaux, Brie country, the king of cheeses, the cheese of kings, Vienna congress 1815. I like to show you a bit more on this memorable town always in my heart and soul.  We came to the inlaws house and immediately set out to walk the town with the boys and I. First stop was the house where I met her at 36 rue Noefort, a humble sweet home and a magical spot indeed!

We passed by the cinema Majestic in which I saw my first movies in France at place Henri IV. Now part of the UGC cinema group, more here: UGC Cinema Majestic Meaux

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While there we realized they had a Christmas market at the Place Henri IV, where many times we did parking to walk into the old town area on Rue Général Leclerc. It had now an ice skating ring as in many years.

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Walking along the Rue Général Leclerc we go into the old town direction the Cathedral (another post on it) , and we find many familiar spots still open like the wonderful La Fromagerie or cheese store!

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Continuing on the Rue Général Leclerc you past by the historical Hôtel de la Sirene; built by 1740. It has change names until the a luxury hotel; this hotel was occupied by the Nazis in WWII and later by the American officers station in this region. The hotel closed in 1986, and its now private property.

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Our walk coming from rue Noefort along the Rue du Faubourg St Nicolas into old town past place Henri IV and the Rue Général Leclerc with the Cathedral in sight!!

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In the evening we came back after having lunch in the sister in law house in a village nearby; there is a Finnish sauna with a central barbecue which was awesome to do it with the family there.

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We headed back to the city and parked this time by the boulevard Jean Rose right next to the old ramparts and behind the Cathedral of St Etienne (St Stephen) (see post), this is wonderful indeed, and here you walk all along first the Rue du Faubourg Saint Nicolas just around the house of my dear late wife Martine.

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You walked past the wonderful old hospital or Hôtel-Dieu where the historical archives of the city are now kept. Again on Rue du Faubourg Saint Nicolas.  A bit of history on this building is a must. The Priory of Noëfort (today modern headquarters of the gendarmerie French national police) ,and the General Hospital, founded in 1667 to intern the poor and vagrants in application of the great containment decided by the Royal Ordinance of 1662. A large part of the land of this district belonged to settlements. such as the Grand Hôtel- Dieu of Meaux. Also , here there is a large mass of archives, because these are always better preserved by religious institutions than by the laity.

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The Rue du Faubourg-Saint-Nicolas is none other than the Decumanus Maximus which crossed the ancient city from east to west. In the 5C, there was St. Céline, a friend of Saint Geneviève; On her tomb, placed extra muros in the ancient tradition, arose a church that had to endure until the French revolution. So along this wonderful street off my dear late wife Martine street, we found our bakery of old; and of course we purchase the baguettes, apple pie  ,chocolate flan, to take to the family as sharing is a French passion especially when food is concerned. The bakery is Le Fournil du Faubourg (under new owners) at 52 rue du faubourg st nicolas.

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As I am on foood, let me tell you about another gem. I have another exclusive post on it but briefly, this is Meaux. If you know French gastronomy and you should simply the best always imitated but never better,then you should know about Brie. The Brie de Meaux cheese (the real one here! ) was elected by the leaders of Europe in the Congress of Vienna of 1815 as the king of cheeses and the cheese of kings! Here is the original anywhere else is imitation even if legally sold the milk for the original has to come from Brie country and only here you get the Terre de Meaux brie with cow milk from the Meaux region or pays de Meaux!! Enjoy it while here, short distance from Paris and Disneyland and none better than the Fromagerie Saint Faron, (see post) unique. Only in French of course, its original! Official tourist office of pays de Meaux region on the fromagerie Saint Faron

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There you go another wonderful family trip to a memorable wonderful loving enormous city of Meaux for me. Thank you very much for following along my blog ; it is appreciated.

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

June 15, 2021

The Col d’ Aubisque !

Well here I am taking one from the vaults as the saying goes. This one is a memorable road warrior trip of the many taken into and by the Pyrénées mountains between my dear France and Spain over the years. This one was steep and high but we love it, great memories of crossing by the Col d’ Aubisque (mountain pass). Hope you enjoy it as we did!

One of the memorable mountain pass over the years for us and a great sporting history to boot. Here is my small contribution to the Aubisque pass.

The Col d’ Aubisque pass is in the central French Pyrenees, culminating at 1,709 meters, about 40 km from Tarbes and Pau in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques no. 64, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. It is dominated to the south by the peak of Ger (2,613 meters). It is located in the town of Béost and is generally closed to traffic in early December and reopened in early May due to heavy snow avalanches. The Aubisque pass is supported by the Col de Soulor pass, that connects the Ossau valley on the towns of Arudy / Laruns / Gourette to that of the Gave de Pau on the towns of Argelès-Gazost by the ledge road that crosses the Litor cirque, in the upper part. from the Ouzom valley, the road D 918! Magnificent views on the road warrior trips!!

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The Col d’Aubisque pass is a thermal road, built thanks to the Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, who wanted to be able to link Eaux-Bonnes (good waters as in thermal) to the Argelès valley and its various spa towns that she helped to promote through her many trips. This thermal road was completed in 1864.

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The Col d’Aubisque pass is an important summer tourist destination, especially for amateur cyclists. There is a stele in memory of Lucien Buysse , a Belgian cyclist and winner of the tour de France in 1926. He best known for having won in 1926, after more than seventeen hours in the saddle, the Bayonne-Luchon stage, a dantesque stage of anthology, generally considered as the most extraordinary stage in history. of the Tour de France, fully run in the pouring rain. There are giant sculptures of bikes in the colors of the Tour de France (one yellow, one white with red dots, one green). Nowadays, it is a starting point for excursions and a winter sports center. It is close to the Gourette ski station. The ascend/rise of Aubisque is an annual mountain race taking place at the end of August with 18.7 km and 1,204 meters of elevation from the town of Laruns.(which where we past too!)

The Col d’Aubisque pass is an integral part of the “legend of the Tour”. While the organizers of the first tours did not dare to approach the high mountains, the step was taken in 1910 with the first major Pyrenean stage. Since then, the Tour de France has crossed it 73 times, more than one year out of two. A new ascent of the Col d’Aubisque was scheduled during the 6th stage of the Vuelta of Spain 2020, but the passage of this pass was canceled and the stage modified due to the ban on passage in France following the resurgence of the pandemic of COVID-19. Too bad indeed.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here and be ready to climb either bike or car worth it fun sublime views of the wonderful Pyrénées.

The history of the col d’Aubisque by the cyclists: http://www.memoire-du-cyclisme.eu/eta_tdf/aubisque.php

Another cyclist webpage on the ascend of the Col d’Aubisque : https://www.cyclos-cyclotes.org/archives/col_aubisque.html

The Gourette tourist office on the Col d’Aubisque in French: https://www.gourette.com/decouvrir/le-col-d-aubisque/

The Pyrénées tourist office of the Béarn on the Col d’Aubisque route Laruns to Eaux Bonnes in French: https://pratique.tourisme64.com/itineraire/laruns/col-d-aubisque-la-reference/ITIAQU064FS0003O.html

There you go folks, another dandy off the beaten path road warrior trip into the sublime, gorgeous, wonderful Pyrénées. Hope you have enjoy the run as I

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

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June 14, 2021

Giverny or is it Monet!

Let me update this older post with text and links. One of the small popular towns in my belle France due to one person; Claude Monet. Without him, do not know anyone will know where Giverny is! I used to come often here for the old American artists and Monet. When moved to the Morbihan breton it has been years already. I like to tell you on this older post on Giverny or is it Monet! This one in my black and white series as pictures on the specific house museum post in my blog.

This is a small town, you can literally walk along its main street and that is it. However, for the famous per square feet /meter this is the world. Because of only one men, Claude Monet. Of course, they were other like the American painters who came here to seek inspiration and now the museum. I have come here often when lived in Versailles, not at all since moving to the Morbihan dept 56 of my lovely Bretagne ,but it’s time to reminicent after an article by fame French history presenter Stéphane Bern in the magazine Secrets d’Histoire or history secrets.

Giverny is in department Eure no 27 region of Normandie. Only 3,5 km from transport hub Vernon, at the union of the Seine and Epte rivers.  Only 74 km from Paris and 64 km from Versailles. Actually the town is quite old ,  back in 863 king Charles II the Bold gives to the monks of the abbey of Saint Denis le Ferment the possession of Giverny!

In 1883 Claude Monet comes to town in a house that he rented and later purchased in 1890. He change the house and arranged the gardens and vegetable garden as well, and had carved on the epse river in 1893 a flower garden with a water lilies basin from where he painted the famous Nymphéas.  He died in December 5 1926,  and is buried in the cimetery next to the Church. As said, same time many painters most Americans came to the town and some became friends of Monet.

The things you can see here are  of course the house and gardens of Claude Monet.  The Impressionists museum showing the work of the painters of Giverny (before called the American center); The former Hôtel Baudy and the rosary where many of these painters came together.  the Church of Sainte Radegonde ,and the stone of Sainte Radegonde by the Church.

Now, lets get to the reason I write this post and update you on Giverny; Claude Monet! I am sure you know him, the whole world knows him. My favorite painter. The secrets d’histoire story on Monet:

The story tells of the relationship of Alice Hoschedé and Claude Monet or the love in impressionism. The first wife of Claude Monet, Camille is sick and Alice married to his best friend comes to help. The first baby of Camille and Claude Monet is born and Alice helps out. They lived in the house at Vetheuil with Ernest Hoschedé, Alice, and the Monet. They have 8 children with them, 6 with the Hoschedé and 2 with the Monet. Not too far into this ménage à quatre! Ernest leave for Paris not able to withstand the ins and outs of the house. It is said that behind each great men there is a greater women :J You can see theportrait of Claude Monet done by Auguste Renoir in 1875 at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. The Orsay museum on this painting:https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/works-in-focus/search/commentaire/commentaire_id/claude-monet-9871.html?no_cache=1&cHash=3c4c4e1939

There is ,also a portrait of Alice Hoschedé done by Monet in 1881. You can still go by the Castle of Rottembourg where Ernest and Alice Hoschedé lived before the ménage à quatre! It is in the town of Montgeron, Essonne dept 91 region of ile de France. The town of Montgeron and the castle: https://www.montgeron.fr/ma-ville/decouvrir/histoire/

It is the encounter at this castle that created first the love between Claude and Alice. In 1880, he had painted her at the Parc Monceau in Paris. Alice had a character stronger than Camille and at only 32 yrs old has some extra weight been already with five children.  The union with Ernest Hoschedé  came because he buys a portrait from Claude Monet called the  Soleil levant or sunrise done in 1872-73 over the port of Le Havre;  Ernest purchased it in 1874 for 800 francs! It was called later  Impression  possibly given name to the movement that later follow, and eventually change again to  soleil couchant or sunset until 1965 when a study shows Monet really meant the sunrise, it was stolen in 1985, and finally given to the Musée Marmottan-Monet of Paris in 1990. The Marmottan-Monet museum on the sunrise work: https://www.marmottan.fr/notice/4014/

During this early life ,Camille lived in an apartment without heating in Argenteuil , dept 95 Val d’Oise, and love lasts 35 years between her and Claude. There is a painting by Edourd Manet of 1874 La Famille Monet dans le jardin à Argenteuil.   Alice was invited as knowing that her husband had ruined her and left for Paris, she was in love with Claude and could not refuse coming to live with his family in Vetheuil part of the parc naturel regional du Vexin Français (see post) in Val d’Oise dept 95. Camille is sick and died of cancer of the uterus at 32 yrs old, Alice was there to help her until her last breath in her arms. She therefore, burned all clothings or belonging of Camille and stays the only women of Claude Monet.

The winter of 1879-80 is hard with minus 25 degrees Celsius and the Seine on ice .Monet just makes his first real money with the work Le Debacle painted in 1880 and sold for 1500 francs. Alice at home is in charge of all including 8 children!   She becomes jealous because Monet is always out away from home, to Vernon, Rouen, Pourville, Dieppe and Etretat etc. They moved to a house in Poissy (dept 78 Yvelines) changing nothing she demand that he writes to her each evening! He continue to travel, in Normandy, Bordighera in Italy, and Belle-île-en-Mer in the Morbihan Breton! Monet is unstable sometimes destroying his portraits with knives, changes to jokes or stress according to his many friends including Cézanne. He paints Bordighera several portraits while visiting there the one famous is call Bordighera from 1884. While Claude Monet is at Belle-île-en-Mer he writes 65 letters to Alice and paints 30 portraits until their marriage. The letters were burned by Claude Monet on the wish of Alice at her death.

In 1883, Monet makes his biggest decision purchasing a house in Giverny, he is already 43 yrs old. Alice is happy the children are well there. However, Ernest comes back from Paris and has a party with Alice to celebrate the 40th birthday! The children do not see well the sharing of love life in the house, and Martha the oldest daughter never arrived to be married maybe due to the situation in the family, and by January 1886 ,Alice threatens to leave Claude. Claude Monet leaves the house first to Etretat ,do not paint but writes letters to Alice. Becomes depressive do not want to paint, but Alice is in charge even if always jealous. The situation continues with Claude leaving for trips and Ernest coming for visits to Alice for several years!

By 1891 Ernest becomes very ill, and again it is Alice that takes care of him as she had done for Camille, the first wife of Monet. Ernest Hoschedé is buried at Giverny too. Finally ,in July 16, 1892, Alice became officially the wife of Claude Monet. Angélique Emilie Alice Raingo is her real long name. Ten days later her daughter Suzanne married Theodore Butler a young American painter in town. In 1897, Blanche daughter of Alice and Ernest married Jean, the son of Claude and Camille. Suzanne died at 30 yrs old leaving two kids orphan and Alice becomes ill. Depression sets in.

She accompanied Claude Monet on his trips to London 1899, Spain at Madrid in 1904 that they go by Panhard because Claude Monet was a passionate for the automobile. Finally , go to Venice in 1908, and he paints a lot here fascinated by the water coming back with about 40 portraits. It is returning from Venice that Alice begins to show her illness of blood and bone cancer ; a few months later on May 19 1911 at age 67 she died.

At 71 yrs old Claude Monet goes to a period of mourning, and depression gets him to destroy some portraits, when he lost his mother at 16 ,how can he survived alone in the last part of his life. He lost his son Jean in 1914 due to the great war or WWI. His daughter in law Blanche helps him at 50 yrs old and widowed as well becomes the blue angel for Claude Monet. Even with his catarat he paints his masterpiece Les Nymphéas in 19 panels and offered to France. He died December 5, 1926 in the arms of his friend Georges Clemenceau; on his burial the coffin in black cover was removed no, not black for Monet and was replaced by a flowery cloth.  In the shadows of the small Church of Sainte Radegonde of Giverny Claude Monet joins Alice, his son Jean, Suzanne, and Ernest!! (but not Camille Doncieux she is at Vertheil 95). For the record ,Camille was first a model for Monet and later for Renoir and Manet! All the correspondance and photos between her and Monet were detroyed by Alice jeolousy.   Six months later, the musée Claude Monet opened and France salutes one of its greatest artists. In 31 years Claude Monet painted 250 portraits of the Nymphéas. Inside of the former Hôtel Baudy, restaurant museum a place visited by Cézanne, Renoir, Sisley, Rodin,and Monet there is a reconstruction of his painting shop.

Some webpages to help you plan your visit and know a bit more Claude Monet are:

A wonderful site with information in English by an association Giverny: https://giverny.org/

The Claude Monet Foundationhttp://fondation-monet.com/en/giverny/

The Eure dept 27 tourist office on Giverny: https://www.eure-tourisme.fr/je-decouvre/nos-pepites/giverny-limpressionniste/

The Normandie region tourist board on Givernyhttps://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/discover/culture/impressionism/in-giverny/

There, an extraordiany men living ahead of his time,and even with blurry eyes had the best view of us all. The great Claude Monet, he still amazes me on his paintings and stories. Hope you like this one as I did.

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

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June 14, 2021

The National Domain of Chambord !

Ok so this is a new post with older pictures but needed to have in my blog the memories of enjoying the park of Chambord. Yes, I have several posts on the castle of Chambord but not enough or none on the estate which is huge. Will take more than a day to see it all me think, we just saw a bit of it and its beautiful.  Therefore, let me do credit to the park of the National Domain of Chambord!

For reference, the Domaine National de Chambord is a wonderful huge castle/park in the Loire region Centre-Val de Loire. Department Loire-et-Cher no. 41. It is only 14 km from Blois, 47 km from Orleans, and 164 km from Paris (about 101 miles). It is 381 km (about 236 miles) from my house.

A bit of history I like

The forest massif of Boulogne on which is located the national domain of Chambord was property of the counts of Blois in the Middle Ages, then Royal domain from 1498. In 1519, king François Ier acquired the agricultural lands adjoining the forest massif of Boulogne to the north of the Cosson, to constitute the park. More than 2,500 ha of agricultural land will thus be annexed. This area consisted mainly of cultivated land, a few groves, and, probably, moors which fed the sheep of the surrounding peasants. In 1645, Gaston d´Orléans (son of king Henri IV and brother of king Louis XIII) increased the area of the estate and completed the construction of its surrounding wall. The surface of the national domain of Chambord then reached its current surface: 5,433 ha.  The National Domain of Chambord also includes several ponds such as Halay, Fontaine, Baquetière, Grande-Brèche, Montrieux, Neuf, Faisanderie, Périou, Thibaudière and Bonshommes. The Cosson river, a tributary of the Beuvron, crosses the territory of the domain from east to west.

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The surrounding wall of the national domaine of Chambord begun around 1542, is 32 km long. The construction work was long and yet it does not seem to have been interrupted after the death of Francis I as there are invoices from 1556 attesting that Henry II, his son, ordered the residents to continue the work in his absence. This wall of 2.50 meters of average height rests on foundations 70 cm deep. It is made up of small dry stones of limestone from Beauce. The gates created in the perimeter wall were lined with gates which remained in principle closed at night until the beginning of the 20C.They had lots of break-ins! They were then replaced by game grids placed on the roadway which both allow vehicle traffic and prevent the passage of animals.

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The history of hunting and else runs deep here and still very much practice in France with modern regulations. King François Ier hunt with hounds at his time. However, the French revolution of 1789 democratised this type of hunting. The creation of the national hunting and wildlife reserve in 1947 put an end to this mode of hunting in Chambord. Indeed, a population of deer and hinds grows about 30% per year. From 600 animals before birth, we can therefore take 200 individuals without endangering the species. The capture of live deer in the forest of Chambord began in the 19C and took off in the 1950s. The very sustained demand for animals for other sites has led to the capture since 1950 of nearly 100 deer and hinds per year. Chambord has now become the only French, and even European, site specializing in recovering wild deer. The management of the wooded areas of the park is currently carried out by agents from the National Forestry Office (ONF) , and the National Hunting and Wildlife Office (ONCFS) made available to the estate. A third of the forest area of the national domain of Chambord is covered with coniferous trees. In these plots, on average, thinning or stand regeneration is carried out every ten years, if it is mature. Between 12,000 and 15,000 m3 of wood are exploited per year. In 1969, the national domain of Chambord was one of the first French sites to install observatories in the forest. There are eleven observatories in the part of the grounds open to the public, five of which can accommodate fifty people, and six have a capacity of three to four people. These elevated platforms allow the observer to spot , if lucky ; a wild animal, without it being locked up, like in a zoo.

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A selection of products made according to the rules of the art from the natural resources of the domain is already offered for sale under the brand “Château de Chambord” in the castle boutique, (which is always great to buy), in a space identified as such. Honey, game terrines, wooden objects from the Chambord forest, deer antlers (key ring, walking stick, etc.) are currently marketed. From 2019, date of the 500th anniversary of the start of the construction of the castle, the wine was produced on the estate, and therefore the first vintage of wine from the Château de Chambord reach 50,000 bottles. The Sologne ewe is considered to be one of the current breeds closest to the old types of French sheep. In the 15C, its breeding was very important in the region. The rebirth and establishment of the Royal Court in the Loire Valley fostered the prosperity of the wool trade and sheep farming. Following the objective of restoring the domain to its agricultural vocation, 50 ewe lambs (six months old) and a ram arrived to form the basic herd to reach a goal of 200 ewes in 2026, divided into four herds, led in organic breeding!

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Some webpages as usual by me to help you plan your trip here are

The official Nature 2000 ecolo park system on Chambordhttp://www.natura2000.fr/node/64038

The official Domaine National de Chambord webpage on the park in English (most above comes from here) :https://www.chambord.org/en/history/the-park-of-chambord/

The Blois-Chambord tourist office on the castle: https://www.bloischambord.co.uk/explore/the-chateaux/the-chateau-de-chambord

The dept 41 Loir-et-Cher tourist office on Chambord castle: https://www.val-de-loire-41.com/les-4-destinations/la-vallee-de-la-loire/le-chateau-de-chambord/

There you go folks now I feel better to have covered the castle and park domain in my blog. A wonderful site to be seen, a must! The description of others made my comments humble of the beauty of this place; we really enjoy this family trip and of course; loaded up on local products of the Château de Chambord. Hope you enjoy the post as I

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

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June 14, 2021

Blois-Chambord train station!

Aha and here I am telling you about a train station odd but indeed I have been to a few if only ridden in fewer. We were visiting Blois, (see posts) and staying at a hotel nearby and decided to walk by it. The idea is that you can go from Paris to Blois by train same day! Here is my take on the Gare de Blois-Chambord!

The Blois – Chambord train station is on the Paris-Austerlitz line to Bordeaux-Saint-Jean, located in Blois, about 20 km from Chambord, in the department of Loir-et-Cher, dept 41 in the region Centre-Val de Loire. Until December 14, 2013, it bore the name of Gare de Blois train station.

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The new station is built slightly downstream from the old line of 1846. The works lasted from 1890 to 1893 and the new station then cut the avenue de l’Embarcadère (now avenue du Docteur-Jean-Laigret).  On June 12, 2015 a footbridge overhanging the tracks was inaugurated in order to allow users to cross conveniently to the train station and access to passenger platforms.

This Gare Blois-Chambord train station, has a passenger building, with counters, open every day. It is equipped with automatic machines for the purchase of tickets. The two main tracks (1 and 2) of the line from Paris to Bordeaux are bordered by platforms. To these are added two other platform tracks, one of which is bordered by two platforms (tracks 3 and 4). An underground passage connects platforms 1 and 2. The third platform (for tracks 3 and 4) is connected to platform 2 by a underground passage. The platform tracks are partially covered by a steel roof.

They offer service of the regional trains from the TER Center-Val de Loire network. The offer of the latter consists of omnibus or almost omnibus missions to Orléans and Tours, semi-direct missions between Orléans and Tours, semi-direct missions circulating between Paris-Austerlitz and Tours, and the Interloire between Orléans and Nantes, Saint-Nazaire or Le Croisic. So is not a train station of great use due to this connections and bus service instead of trains.

However, things are coming along only slow down by the pandemic but the Gare Blois-Chambord is moving up.

The Bloist Gare district, located in the heart of the city, is one of the major gateways to Blois. Five minutes from the Medici roundabout, and the Royal Castle, the Gare district extends the project of Carré Saint-Vincent and the ACVL to form, as far as the Vienne river, the backbone of the urban development underway in the heart of the city. In addition to the Ducoux block, the first stage of the project was the design and installation of the footbridge and its rotunda the forecourt of the station, which will be completely redesigned to offer a beautiful space open to the new district, of which it will be the heart. The flow of cars will be limited in front of the station, in order to give back their place to people on foot and by bicycle, with clearer routes. The forecourt was to be completed by the end of March 2021, but they have been some delays. Drop-offs and a car park managed by Effia with 200 spaces are also planned. Finally, the station being a privileged interface between urban and interurban coach lines, a real bus station will be created and completed at the end of March 2021, (again some delays) making the square an intermodal exchange hub (railways, bus station, public transport, etc. taxis and gentle traffic). However, all should be done by this coming summer.

The city of Blois on the Gare district project in French: https://www.blois.fr/attractive/grands-projets/gare

The SNCF Gare et Connexions on the Blois Chambord train stationhttps://www.garesetconnexions.sncf/fr/gare/frxbq/blois-chambord

The TER Centre Val de Loire on the Blois Chambord train stationhttps://www.ter.sncf.com/centre-val-de-loire/gares/87574004/Blois%20Chambord/pratique

This is a pretty train station or gare de Blois Chambord, really!  we park just in front in square Pasteur and corner of avenue du Docteur-Jean-Laigret for free! Always nice to visit Blois even if we have come by car, the train station is quant pretty nice should be worth the trip. Hope it helps your choices.

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

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June 14, 2021

The Grand Aquarium de Touraine!

This one is not really an update as only had a small line on it and was there briefly. However, it has grown and would be worth the detour again once in the area of Amboise. In fact, we were in Amboise seeing and buying our house wine in Limeray across the Loire river and as road warrriors well saw something else. This was the old Val de Touraine aquarium. Hope you enjoy the post as I bringing my memories back.

The old Val de Touraine aquarium now call Grand Aquarium de Touraine is at the place les Hauts Bœufs, Lussault-sur-Loire, and easy with a car arriving from Amboise, you will pass the village of Lussault and signs will indicate the direction on your left. This is of course Indre et Loire dept 37 region of Centre Val de Loire.

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The Grand Aquarium de Touraine is an aquarium located between Tours and Amboise in the heart of Touraine. Located near the Loire, it is the largest freshwater aquarium in Europe with about 5,000 m2 and consists of 70 basins including a 30-meter-long freshwater tunnel housing species from the Loire river but also oceans around the world. A total of 12,000 fish are staged in two million liters of water.

The Grand Aquarium de Touraine is split into the following:

The freshwater tunnel. With its 30 meters long, it presents the species of the rivers of France. The tactile basin. A 15-meter tactile pool has been set up, where visitors can pet tame fish. The Silurium in nocturama. This presentation, unique in Europe, reverses the day / night cycle, making it possible to observe the animals in activity.  The Shark Tunnel. This 15-meter-long tunnel presents several species of sharks including bull sharks.

With families is an excellent change from the castles and wines of the Touraine area indeed. Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are

The official Grand Touraine Aquarium webpage: https://www.grandaquariumdetouraine.com/

The Touraine Loire Valley regional tourist office on the aquarium: https://www.touraineloirevalley.com/loisirs/grand-aquarium-de-touraine-amboise/

There you go folks another dandy in my belle France and a lovely region of Centre Val de Loire. The Grand Touraine Aquarium is a nice option especially if with families. Hope you enjoy it.

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

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June 13, 2021

The Vuelta de España at Cuenca!!!

This is a memorable little post I did a while back during our vacations to my beloved Spain. Many memorable moments over my life and very special at Cuenca, province of Cuenca, autonomous community of Castilla La Mancha, Kingdom of Spain. Let me tell you about an event I like.

We were having our vacation in Las Majadas (see posts) and would come down always to Cuenca  (see posts) on our way out as my road warrior instincts tells me. While passing by city center Cuenca we notice preparation for a bike race…it turn out to be the stage of the Vuelta de España or the tour of Spain bicycle race! Therefore, we splash on this opportunity and the first for my sons!

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We cruise,walked and climbed by several sites to get in the flavor, the air, the beauty of this in country place. The best travel is often off the beaten path and this we know well.  We set out from Las Majadas up into the mountains by the site of Los Callejones. on the CUV 9113 road and panels lead you there; passing by it, this is a place of nature walkers with plenty of mountain terrain and rock formations from another era ! high mountain and wild animals such as deers abound and were seen!

We came back to Cuenca and saw the preparations and ending of the 7th stage of the Vuelta de España or tour of Spain bicycle race! The whole town was mobilize, really an spectacle to see.

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On the way back to Las Majadas we were to see a herd of brave bulls leisurely eaten on the prairies, dare not go in lol!!! We saw a stray young deer on the A40 and needed to zigzag around it !!!no time for a picture yikes!

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Another great day in back country Cuenca, and Castilla La Mancha. Really a great vacation time and so hard to think we must come back to work yikes!!!

The Cuenca tourist office in Spanish on the nature wonders including the wonderfully huge Serrania de Cuenca (see post) where we stayed up 1400 meters!(about 4620 feet). https://www.visitacuenca.es/es/naturaleza

The same Cuenca tourist office on the road and nature trails such at the above mentioned Los Callejones: https://visitacuenca.es/es/ruta/los-callejones

The Cuenca province tourist office on trails to see better on foot/bike but car were ok by us! https://www.descubrecuenca.com/es/rutas

Cycling news journal on the “historic” stage 7 of the Vuelta de España we saw in Cuencahttps://www.cyclingnews.com/races/vuelta-a-espana-2017/stage-7/results/

There you go folks, a dandy short post on a wonderful family experience. We are missing one a big one ,but looking forward to be back to the area as soon as possible. Cuenca has become a memorable point of many family happy times and we love it. Hope you enjoy the post as I.

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

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June 13, 2021

Some news from Spain CV

And back to Spain everything under the sun, and things are getting hotter. All is out and most booked in most places already, the hunger to travel is big in the 2nd most visited country in the world (UN-WTO). I am waiting for the stadium Bernabeu to back to my Madrid so will hold on past August for this. In the meantime, here are the latest some news from Spain already in its 105 edition. Thanks for reading me since Nov 2010!!! aprreciated.

Something enormously historical is happening… The National Heritage releases the codices of the Cantigas de Alfonso X. The manuscripts of the wise king kept in El Escorial, the only ones so far inaccessible to the public and researchers, will be available online before the end of July 2021. The two codices of the Cantigas de Santa María ,a collection of more than 400 songs in Galician produced by King Alfonso X the Wise in the 13C  inaccessible until now. The Codex Rico and the Codex of the Musicians have slept a secular dream, kept in the Royal Library of San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Webpage: https://www.patrimonionacional.es/coleccion/real-biblioteca-del-monasterio-de-el-escorial

This in Càceres I had mentioned before, this is an update. It was not enough for it to be a UNESCO World Heritage City or to have one of the best preserved medieval historic centers in Europe, full of palaces, large houses, churches and crenellated towers. Cáceres never tires of hoarding claims. The last (but not the only one) is the new building with a garden at the Helga de Alvear Museum of Contemporary Art. This space is added to the existing one known as Casa Grande, on Calle Pizarro. A total of 8,000 m2 where the most complete private collection of contemporary art in Europe is exhibited, belonging to the gallery owner Helga de Alvear (Germany, 1936). Of all the corners of the palace open to the public, the Sala de Armas ( Weapons room on the first floor) with grotesques decorating its walls and a spectacular polychrome alfarje (carved wooden ceiling), both from the 16C, attracts attention. While on the upper floor there is one of the palace’s greatest treasures: a selection of 9,000 documents and codices from the Foundation’s Historical Archive, with jewels such as the account book of Queen Isabel la Católica written by her waiter, Sancho de Paredes Golfín.  From the Palacio de los Golfines you have to head to the Torre de los Sande (15C), which rises with power although it is topped-like so many others in the city, by order of the Catholic Monarchs. In the Plaza de San Mateo, occupying one of the corners of the Palace of the Saavedra. webpage: http://fundacionhelgadealvear.es/en/art-visual-centre/

The esplanade in front of which the reception opens gives a glimpse, a little further away, of the magnificent façade of the monastery of Santa María de la Vid. It was in 1140 when Sancho Ansúrez and Domingo Gómez de Campdespina, two noble students at the then recently inaugurated Sorbonne University in Paris, returned to their Castilian fiefdoms to found the first two premonstratensian monasteries on the Peninsula: Santa María de Retuerta. (today Abadía Retuerta winery, with its luxurious Le Domaine hotel, in the Ribera del Duero) and Santa María del Monte Sacro, moved two decades later to the other bank of the Duero with the name of the Vid. In 1516, Abbot Íñigo López de Mendoza ordered the erection of a new cloister and a church under the current Renaissance moldings that welcomed other Baroque reforms undertaken during the 18C. The only bestiary in Castilian that exists in the world, written in 1570, is preserved here. Anecdotes and stories are not lacking in the monument, so many as to justify the transformation of the old monastic inn into a modern hotel opened in 2020, in full pandemic convulsion. The first floor is dedicated to the bedrooms. The stairs, or the elevator, are left to contemplate, on the right, the library and the private area of the monks of the order of San Agustín, who since 1856 have inhabited the monument after the ineffable confiscation of Mendizábal (state vs church). To the left are the rooms, whose windows overlook the cloister. Monasterio de la Vid, Calle del Camino Real, 3. La Vid (Burgos) webpage :https://hospederiamonasteriodelavid.es/

Las Chorreras del Cabriel  , wonderful memories as we stayed nearby couple of summers, this is near Las Majadas (see posts). They are waterfalls, and pools of crystalline water, declared a Reserve of the Biosphere of Valle del Cabriel. This incredible natural setting is similar to what we can find on paradisiacal islands, so it is well worth a visit in summer. Of course, it must be borne in mind that it is only allowed to bathe in the pools and it is totally forbidden to step on the tuff formations and slide down the stromatolite ramps since they are very valuable as they are considered one of the best representations of these geomorphological elements of  the Iberian Peninsula. Webpage: https://www.chorrerasdelcabriel.es/es

Hondarribia, a day in the territory of the Vikings (as the locals are call). The medieval and marine town dazzles with its traditional architecture, the views of the bay of Txingudi. The best way to enter Hondarribia is by descending Mount Jaizkibel. The sanctuary of the Virgin of Guadalupe refers us to the traditional Alarde (civic-religious parade to fulfill the vow made by the people to the Virgin during the siege of 1638), which is celebrated every September 8. From here, the Bidasoa river is a water scar that separates it from Irun and Hendaye, a neighbor with a truly irresistible beach. In view are part of the medieval wall that borders the old city.  Before crossing the Santa María gate and entering the walls, the sculpture of the Hatxero (sapper), symbol of the city, welcomes you.

It is impossible not to recall the slow steps of Dustin Hoffman and Steve McQueen, convicted prisoners in Papillon, shot here in 1973. The City/Town Hall and the Zuloaga palace both from the 18C or the Church of Nuestra Señora del Manzano , where on June 3, 1660, Maria Teresa of Austria and Luis XIV, the Sun King, were married by proxy, before staging the formal wedding six days later and at full speed in Saint Jean de Luz France.  The Plaza de Armas , the usual meeting point, is dominated by the parador Carlos V, from the 10C. Half castle, half palace, its monumentality controls, from the top of the promontory, the bay of Txingudi and explains its old function of fortress and watchtower. Continuing along San Nikolas, you reach the Plaza de Gipuzkoa where the brick creaks with the traditional architecture in wood and stone. There is a monument of a bear and a strawberry tree in Plaza Javier Ugarte as a courtesy to the many visitors from Madrid. It is essential to know the essence of the chacolí, cultural heritage of the Basque Country. Nothing like a visit to the Txakolineria Hiruzta, on the outskirts, which thanks to the oenologist Ana Martín has recovered the centuries-old tradition of production and elaboration of versatile, gastronomic and first-rate chacolís. Webpage: https://www.hiruzta.com/en/home/

There are two nearby excursions from Hondarribia. You can go to Saint Jean de Luz and see what remains of the original La Pérgola casino , or visit the fishing villages of Pasaia, crossing by boat from Pasai Donibane to Pasai San Pedro and remember Orson Welles reading only in the historic Casa Cámara restaurant and visit the house where Victor Hugo lived during his stay in 1843. To see what inspired him this place just have to open his book Journey to the Pyrenees and the Alps. More on the house of Victor Hugo here: http://www.oarsoaldeaturismoa.eus/en/explore-oarsoaldea/our-museums/victor-hugo-house.html

The Casa Camara resto of the readings of Orson Welles: https://www.casacamara.com/index_english.html

And the Spring 2021 has arrived with all kinds of gifts at the store that forever changed the wine trade in Spain, Lavinia. Thierry Servant, a French businessman living in Spain, founded Lavinia in Madrid 22 years ago, before those of Paris and Geneva. Following Servant’s death in an unfortunate accident, he was succeeded by his daughter Charlotte. And, in Spain, its director has been Juan Manuel Bellver, a journalist with deep knowledge of wine who has become one of the first merchants in Spain.  The good news is that there is a new  opening of the new Paris headquarters on Avenue Victor Hugo (after closing Madeleine as too big too expensive), better equipped for tasting its thousand most special references, while another 5,000 are sold online. The timing could not be better if it were intentional: The Wine Spectator, the world’s leading wine magazine, has just informed Lavinia Madrid, in this case as a restaurant, that it has been awarded the Best of Award of Excellence, an award for the extraordinary quality of the wine list and the cellar.  The French webpage already has the new addresses: https://www.lavinia.fr/fr/pages/nos-magasins

And to finish with something off the beaten path but worth the detour. The story of Juan de Goyeneche and José de Churriguera who created the town of Nuevo Baztán from scratch, a town that served to house the workers of the luxury factories that settled there.  Its streets have been filled every weekend with curious eyes that came and went from the palace to the church, and from there to the nearby houses. A place created from scratch. The history of an era. Nuevo Baztán is between 40 and 50 km from Madrid, depending on the starting point. And there, in effect, an industrial complex with factories was built at the beginning of the 18C where luxury objects were made for the European market. An innovative development not far from Alcalá de Henares. Webpage on how to reach Nuevo Baztàn: https://turismo.ayto-nuevobaztan.es/#

There you go folks, another episode of my long running series Some news from Spain. Hope you enjoy it and give you some ideas to better spend your time in my beloved Spain.

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

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June 13, 2021

Plaza Mayor of Cuenca!!!

And I bring you back to a sentimental town of my beloved Spain. This is Cuenca in the province of Cuenca and Castilla de La Mancha region in the kingdom of Spain. We walked all over here already is like our town; but spent most of the time in the wonderful quant Plaza Mayor of Cuenca. Another dandy main square of my Spain.

The plaza Mayor is the meeting place and communication hub between the various routes in the old part of the city. The Cathedral, the City Hall building and the Convent of San Pedro dominate the landscape. From the Plaza Mayor part of the Calle Pilares, which leads us to the Ermita de las Angustias, the Calle San Pedro and Ronda de Julían de Romero, which lead to the Castle, the Canónigos and Calle Clavel to the Casas Colgadas (hanging houses) and the Puente de San Pablo (bridge of Saint Paul).

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The land is so small that if we access the square through the Calle Alfonso VIII , we will see that once inside it is a continuation of the street that widens. The main road crosses the square until starting the ascent to the ruins of the Castle, along Calle San Pedro. It is the center of city life, an ideal place to take a break on the terrace, to capture the atmosphere of the city and see its most important architectural works. You can also buy traditional crafts from the region.

In the Plaza Mayor you will find as emblematic buildings the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Grace (see post) from the 12C, the City Hall, a baroque style building from the times of Carlos III; that is raised by three semicircular arches. In the 20C it had to be rebuilt to obtain the appearance it has today, and the beautiful facade of colorful buildings. On one side of the cathedral we find a street that leads us to the statue of Alfonso VIII, (see post) the most important king for the city of Cuenca, since it was he who liberated the city from Muslim occupation in 1177. This monument was built in 2009 and it shows Alfonso VIII on the back of his horse. It is a bronze sculpture on a stone base that exceeds 3 meters in height.

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I like to give you some webpages to help you plan your trip here and especially around the Plaza Mayor; hope it helps.

The city of Cuenca webcam on the Plaza Mayorhttps://www.cuenca.es/webcam-plaza-mayor

The Cuenca tourist office on the Plaza Mayorhttps://www.visitacuenca.es/content/descubre-ciudad-y-paisaje-urbano/plaza-mayor

The province of Cuenca tourist office on the Plaza Mayor of Cuencahttps://www.descubrecuenca.com/es/enclaves-y-poblaciones/la-capital/cuenca-cuenca-plaza-mayor-y-catedral-35

The region of Castilla La Mancha on the Plaza Mayor of Cuencahttp://en.www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/plaza-mayor-de-cuenca-87964/descripcion/

There you go folks, another dandy in my beloved  Spain. This one very close to the heart in memorable Cuenca and its quant nice Plaza Mayor. Enjoy it as we did.

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

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June 12, 2021

Plaza de las Cortes of Madrid!!

Ah and I left this one out, with just bits and pieces of its most famous buildings but really, me think, merits a post of its own in my beloved Madrid. An area, I have walked and stayed over the years alone and with the family. Let me tell you a bit more on the Plaza de las Cortes of Madrid!

The Plaza de las Cortes makes the junction between Sol and the Prado, along the Carrera de San Jerómino. The most notable building is the Congreso de los Diputados. On the main facade of the Congreso de los Diputados, a staircase leads up to the neoclassical portico, with six imposing striated columns, of Corinthian order, on which rises the triangular pediment decorated with reliefs. The iconic lions flanking the entrance were cast with iron from cannons captured during the Moroccan War.

Here you see the imposing Palacio de las Cortes, the name of the building that houses the Congress of Deputies or Congreso de los Diputados, that was built between the years 1843 and 1850. This is one of the two chambers of the Cortes Generales, the Spanish parliament. It is very close to Paseo del Prado, and is one of the emblematic buildings of the 19C, in neoclassical style.

More on Madrid tourist office on the Congreso de los Diputadoshttps://www.esmadrid.com/en/tourist-information/congreso-de-los-diputados

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In this spot was before the Convent of the Holy Spirit, inside which, curiously, some sessions of the Cortes were held. The favorite of the Plaza de las Cortes, the great Miguel de Cervantes. This sculpture, from the year 1834, keeps a curious fact and that is that it was the first public tribute that a person who did not belong to the field of politics or royalty or religion received in Spain!

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Also, down the street you will see the white facade of the Groupama building carillon (see post) that, thanks to its mechanism and automatons, piles up a huge handful of tourists every few hours. The figures were made by the draftsman and writer Antonio Mingote. These represent king Carlos III, the Duchess of Alba together with her poodle, Goya, the bullfighter Pedro Romero and a ‘manola’, the typical Madrid castiza native woman. The five, dressed according to Goya’s paintings, have been greeting, at least twice a day, anyone who stands at the foot of the balcony since 1993.

You can see ,and I was lucky to stayed there once, the most illustrious Westin Palace Hotel. This is one of the most famous and reputable hotels in Madrid. It was built in record time, between 1911 and 1912, taking advantage of the noble plot that previously inhabited the Palace of the Dukes of Medinaceli. World-class figures such as Picasso, Pavarotti, Orson Welles and Einstein have passed through its 400 rooms. Even a spy like Mata Hari. I encourage you to come in one day and admire its magnificent dome.

Advancing along it, looking at the Neptune Fountain (see post) and the Jerónimos Towers on the horizon invites all to continue walking through this city. Showing emphasis and willingness to continue reeling off the benefits of Madrid! The best way to get here if far is on Metro line 2 Banco de España, and bus lines 14 and 27 as the closest. You ; also, can easily drive here as I have and use the wonderful Parking Las Cortes. Webpage: https://www.empark.com/es/en/parking/Madrid/las-cortes/

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There you go folks another dandy spot in my beloved Madrid. Wonderful area in the Barrio de las Letras (see post) and close to wonderful monuments many told in my blog already such as the Prado museum, the Puerta del Sol, and Neptuno fountain. Hope you enjoy the Plaza de las Cortes of Madrid!

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

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