Posts tagged ‘Europe’

April 9, 2021

The Royal Galleries of St Hubert, Brussels!

And of course, with the family and especially wife tagging along we needed to do some shopping and why not at the chic beautiful Royal Galleries of St Hubert in Brussels!! This is a must visit me think , very nice. I am updating this older post for you and me, with lots of memories of our ramblings in the city which we are looking forward to be back when possible. Hope you enjoy the shopping meaning the post !!!

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In our trips to Belgium, Brussels play a big part of it. As said, we like big cities even if lately the smaller town are beginning to appeal and maybe the reason we live in a 7K folks town now. However, the big cities are still attractive and shopping is our past time!  I am used to the passages or thru ways found in Paris; so coming to other cities always love these. Brussels has an exceptional one that all should visit. This is the Royal Galleries of Saint Hubert. We love the Camper shoes, Corné Port Royale chocolates, Longchamp bags, le Pain Quotidien resto, Leonidas chocolats, Mokafé coffee shop, and Häagen Dazs stores!!

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The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert is a complex of three covered passages all along glass in arcades decoration. These galleries are the Galerie de la Reine (queen’s  gallery) on the rue du Marché aux Herbes to the rue des Bouchers; the Galerie du Roi (king’s gallery) on the rue des Bouchers to the rue d’Arenberg; and the Galerie des Princes (princes gallery) from the Galerie du Roi to the rue des Dominicains.

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These galleries opened in 1847 and are amongst the oldest in Europe; they maintain an ambiance of greatness that still exist today, whether it be through the special shops or notable chocolatiers, been the first one Neuhaus chocolate store that was opened here where they are still today.

In the Galerie du Roi houses the Royal Theater of the Galleries or Théatre Royal des Galeries  while the Galerie de la Reine house the theater of Vaudeville opening in 1884 with the name of Casino Saint-Hubert.  The Galerie des Princes was previously called the Passage du Prince. It has the name on the stone above the entrance. This Galerie des Princes houses the library Tropismes, at no 5 there is lodging chambre d’hôte ,and the restaurant L’Ogenblik. There are apartments in the first floor (2nd US) above the stores and extend throughout the whole building.

The Vaudeville theater used to be a flower market but eventually transitioned into a theater in 1872 and hosted several prominent entertainment figures. While both theaters are open to the public, it is mainly the Théâtre des Galeries that continues to showcase performances, concerts and plays.  Brussels was also the first city that the Lumières brothers (the founders of cinematography) visited after debuting their first films in the Grand Café in Paris. These ten short movies  called moving pictures at the time were screened in the Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert in March 1st, 1896.  The Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert contains several letters and manuscripts by renowned scientists, artists and cultural figures. The Museum of Letters and Manuscripts houses an extensive collection showcasing the correspondence and personal thoughts of some of the world’s most historic figures in the arts and sciences including Einstein, Van Gogh and Brussels’ own Jacques Brel.

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However, the most important here is the shopping to kill for, the best  of Brussels in my opinion and we love to visit each time in town, which was often. The Galeries Royales St Hubert are on the tentative list of Unesco World Heritage Sites. Again, looking forward to be back when possible.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

The official site of Galeries Royale de St Huberthttps://www.grsh.be/en/home/

The Brussels tourist office on the Galeries Royales: https://visit.brussels/en/place/Galeries-Royales-Saint-Hubert

Hope it helps you decide to come to the Galeries Royales St Hubert , it is really beautiful. And remember, happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all!!!

April 9, 2021

Oh Toledo, the essence of Spain!!!

Oh yes a wonderful city visiting since teen years ; happy to have brought my wife and boys to it and continue to visit again when possible, never tired of Toledo, the essence of Spain!!! This is an introductory older post I like to update for you and me, on a black and white series with pictures on individual sights. Hope you enjoy it as I.

When I lived in Madrid in the 1970’s, my trip to Toledo were often as family living nearby took me there for long afternoon walks.  The trips were done by car on the old N401 road (now A42). On each trip to Madrid , a stop at Toledo was a must. When in 1990 I took my girlfriend (later wife) to Madrid , a stop in Toledo was a must. We have come back many times with the boys, my dear late wife Martine, love the city, especially the good prices she found on decoration on swords and the lunches ! It will stay in our memories forever. Toledo is a forever memory !!!

Toledo is about 71 km from Madrid. From Toledo part the N-400, which connects this city with Cuenca by Ocaña and Tarancón.  There is now an excellent  A-40 highway of Castilla-La Mancha, that unites Avila with Maqueda (where it links with the Extremadura highway), Toledo, Ocaña (where it joins the highway of Andalusia), Tarancón (where it connects with the highway of Valencia), Cuenca and Teruel. A former national road 401 Madrid-Toledo-Ciudad Real was transformed at the end of the decade of 1980 in the current A-42 .  The mid 19C Toledo was one of the first Spanish cities to have a railway, being joined to Madrid by Aranjuez and inaugurated the line by Queen Isabel II on June 12, 1858. The current Toledo train station, in the Neomudejar style, was inaugurated on the 24th of April of 1919 and is a building of remarkable beauty, especially the coffered ceilings of the main room. (see post)

Toledo is a municipality and city of Spain, capital of the homonymous province and the autonomous community of Castilla-La Mancha. It is known as “the Imperial City” because it was the main seat of the Court of  Carlos V and also as “the city of the three cultures”, for having been populated for centuries by Christians, Jews and Muslims. The old town is located on the right bank of the Tagus river, on a hill hundred meters high above the river, which surrounds it by its base, forming a pronounced meander known as “Torna del Tajo”.

I would tell you a bit about the history of Toledo and some things to see of my favorites.

 The history of the city dates back to the Bronze Age. It was an important center Carpetania until its Roman conquest in 193 BC and there are several remains of the Roman activity in the city, like the aqueduct or the circus. After the Germanic invasions, the city would become with Leovigildo in capital and, later, in the principal ecclesiastical seat of the Visigoth kingdom. In the year 711, after a moderate resistance, Toledo was conquered by the Moors led by Tariq ibn Ziyad. During the Moslem domination, the old Visigoth capital was characterized by its opposition and individualism, concretised in the Taifa of Toledo. king Alfonso VI reconquered the city in 1085. During the modern age the city stood out as the seat of the Catholic monarchs and for their participation in the war of the communities of Castile. When the court moved to Madrid in 1561 the city went into decline, accentuated by the economic crisis of the moment. Already in contemporary times, its Alcazar (see post) became a symbol of the Spanish Civil War because of its siege and defense. In 1983 it became the capital of Castilla-La Mancha, maintaining the capital of the province in Toledo.

In 1162 the city was conquered by King Fernando II of León, during the convulsed period of the age minority of Alfonso VIII of Castilla. King Leonese named Fernando Rodríguez de Castro “El Castellano “, a member of the House of Castro, governor of the city. The city of Toledo remained in the power of the Leon until the year 1166, when it was recovered by the Castilians.  Queen  Isabel (I) the Catholic commanded to build in Toledo the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes to commemorate the Battle of Toro and be buried there with her husband, but after the reconquest of Granada the Kings decided to be bury in this last city, where their remained today .

After the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, the city remained in the Republican zone. However, in the Alcazar of the city, seat of the Academy of Infantry, a group of loyalists to the Rebels (Nationalists) took refuge, in command by the Colonel Moscardó, who resisted the government since July 21, 1936 until the arrival of the troops of the General Varela on September 27  1936. The Alcazar, almost completely destroyed in the siege, was rebuilt in its entirety later.

The manufacture of swords in the city of Toledo goes back to Roman times, more specifically at the time of the Republic, when they were famous their swords and knives, but it was under Arab/Moors domination and during the Reconquista when Toledo and its guilds of swords played a key role. Between the 15C and 17C the industry related to the manufacture of swords had a great boom in Toledo to the point that the industry of swords became considered the best in Europe in late 16C. In early 18C began the decline of production, which motivated the creation of one of the royal factories, the arms factory of Toledo, in 1761 by the command of King Carlos III. In the Royal Factory all the swordmakers guilds of the city were gathered and it was located in the old house of the Coins. During the 20C, the production of white weapons for the troop was reduced exclusively to the arms of cavalry and, after the Spanish Civil War, to the supply of Sabres to officers and noncommissioners of the different bodies. After the closing of the factory, in 1996, this place was rehabilitated to house the school of Architecture of the Campus of Toledo.

Things to see in a general view as more in my blog postings:

The Puerta del Sol (Mudejar), the new Puerta Nueva de Bisagra, the old Puerta de Bisagra, the Puerta del Vado and the Puerta del Cambron. The wall has the so-called Torre de la Alsneera. Among the various bridges that cross the waters of the Tagus are the Alcantara and San Martín. The Cathedral of Santa Maria (Gothic), the Church of San Ildefonso (Baroque), the Church of San Román (Mozarabic), the Church of Santiago del Arrabal (Mudejar), the Church of Santo Tomé (Mudejar). Other Catholic buildings are the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, a prominent representative of the Gothic Elizabethan; The convents of the Mother of God, Santo Domingo el Antiguo and San Pedro the Martyr, the Hermitage of Cristo de la Vega (Mudejar), or the Church San Sebastián (Mudejar), built on a mosque.

Properties associated with other creeds are the synagogues of Santa Maria La Blanca (in synagogue origin, although later it was transformed into a Church) and the Synagogue of the Transit (present Sephardic Museum), in addition to the mosques of Bab al-Mardum, or of the Christ of the light (Cristo de la Luz), in origin a Muslim temple and enlarged for conversion into Church, and the ancient Mosque. Others like the Palace of Galiana, the Palace of Fuensalida, the Palace of Amusco, the House of the Temple, the House of the Nuncio, and the archiepiscopal Palace of Toledo, as well as the Posada de la Hermandad. One of the nerve points of the city is the square of Zocodover. In the streets of Toledo there are other buildings such as the museum-Hospital of Santa Cruz (Renaissance), the Hospital de Tavera (Renaissance), the Teatro Rojas and a Roman circus.

The castle of San Servando, a medieval castle next to the banks of the Tagus River and the Infantry Academy, as well as the Alcázar de Toledo, a fortification on rocks located in the highest part of the city. It’s from the 16C-20C. From 2010 It houses the Army Museum.   Among the finished works are the escalator of the farm (or «of Recaredo»); Museum of Santa Cruz and the so-called Museum of El Greco, a house-museum conceived as recreation of the home of the artist, as this was lost centuries ago. This House contains several relevant paintings, although the famous painting of the burial of the Count of Orgaz is located in the Church of Santo Tomé, also in Toledo.

The Museum of the Councils and the Visigoth culture, located in the Church of San Román, has Romanesque paintings from the 13C and an important collection, original and replicas, of Goldsmith Visigoth, along with other archaeological finds dated between the 6C to 8C. The Sephardic Museum is located in the Transit synagogue, located in the Jewish quarter. In the hermitage of Cristo de la Vega, the image that presides the altar was popularized in the work to good judge, better witness of Jose Zorrilla.

Some of the activities of great interest here and worth to be here at the time are the Easter celebration declared a festival of international tourist interest since March 14, 2014, is celebrated in spring with various processions, highlighting those that take place on Good Friday, and religious and cultural events. Due to the Spanish Civil War, most of the steps were burned or destroyed, so they have had to create new steps or use other images from churches and convents of Toledo. As Toledo is a Castilian city, its Holy Week is characterized by being austere and introspective, as well as great beauty, due in part to the beautiful frame in which it takes place: Toledo. Many people take advantage of Easter to visit the Conventual churches that are only open to the general public at this time of year.  Also, the Corpus Christi ,a festival declared of international tourist interest, the origins of which date back to the 13C. The procession goes through 2 km of  decorated streets. In recent years, after the transfer of the festivity of the traditional Thursday to the current Sunday, has chosen to make two processions, one each of those days, there are certain differences in terms of members and protocol between them.

The Toledo tourist office : https://turismo.toledo.es/

The city of Toledo on public transports: https://www.toledo.es/servicios-municipales/policia-local-y-movilidad/

The Castilla La Mancha tourist office on Toledo:  http://www.turismocastillalamancha.es/patrimonio/lugares-por-descubrir/toledo/

There ,hope it helps your next visit here as I believe history is part of travel and makes it more full.  A wonderful town to spent dayss… really in every little croony street on every temple, history and sharing is evident. Hope you enjoy the introduction to Toledo the essence of Spain.

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

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April 8, 2021

Jaca in the heart of Aragon!

Another wonderful experience in my beloved Spain. Driven by it so many times eventually several years back decided to come in and it has been a stop ever since. Jaca in the heart of Aragon! This is an update and on my black and white series as plenty written and pictures abound on it in my blog. Hope you enjoy this introduction to Jaca!

I like to shift gear into my beloved Spain, and especially the wonderful old kingdom of Aragon now an autonomous region of the kingdom of Spain!  We came actually from France when we were base in Pau, the trip by car is easy over the mountains and Jaca is just there after Somport.  Jaca was wonderful , and we also took advantage to see the wonderful Monastery of San Juan de la Peña nearby.

Jaca is in the province of Huesca in the autonomous region of Aragon, On the axe Pau-Zaragoza passing by the Somport tunnel (or as when I started coming here in 1990  just pushing 2nd gear over the mountain trails with a VW Golf of my dear late wife Martine!). It is in the heart of the Pyrénées in the valley of Aragon, parallel valley to the axis of the Pyrenees, at the foot of Mount Oroel. The city is on a depression of the Canal of Berdùn 818 meters below sea level. It is part of the metro area of the north of Aragon in the Jacetania.

By road as we do, we take it from France under Somport tunnel with the N134 France and then come out with the N330 Spain to direction Huesca, Zaragoza taken the panels for Jaca.   We later tested the new A21 linking all the major towns in Aragon, Navarra, and beyond. There is bus service between main towns such as Castiello, Villanûa , Canfranc, and the ski resorts towns of Candanchu and Astun. The train takes you to Huesca, Zaragoza, and Madrid, as well as the closest airport is Huesca at 80 km, Pau in France at 130 km.

A bit of history I like

Jaca was inhabited by the Jacetani people from pre Roman times, the Roman consul Caton the old conquered it in 196 BC. It was the first capital of the kingdom of Aragon and a point of departure for the Conquering of the New World. The city was from early 11C a fortified military camp as it had an strategic location by the foot of the peak of Somport and on the Aragonese road to St James (Santiago de Compostela). Ramiro I of Aragon , son of king Sancho III the Great of Navarra inherited the county of Jaca and later the counties of Sobrarbe and Ribagorce and takes the title of king of Aragon in 1038. He obtained from the Pope to name Jaca the seat of the bishops of Aragon and gives the city title or fuero of Jaca in 1077 , as well as ordered built the Cathedral of St Peter. Once Huesca is taken from the Moors in 1096 ,Jaca loses its role as capital but stayed a strong commercial center and controlling the road from Zaragoza to France as well as holding resting place of pilgrims on the road to St James.

During the war of successions of Spain ,Jaca takes side with the Bourbons (France) , winners the king Felipe V (born at Versailles) puts a flower of lily on the coat of arms of the city. . During the Napoleonic period in the war of independence of Spain ,Jaca falls to the French in 1809 and will stayed French until 1814. The 1868 revolution (aka La Gloriosa the glorious) against the queen Isabel II the seminary was cancelled, volunteers of Liberty were formed ,civilians organized to protect the public order against the followers of Isabel and against the absolutists in favor of a constitution of 1856, the non nata as it was never put into law.  In December 1930, the Jaca uprising, a mutiny whose leaders demanded abolition of the monarchy, was suppressed with some difficulty. It was an early event that preceded the  Spanish Civil War. At the start of the Spanish Civil War, in August 1936 many of the protagonists in the uprising were executed by firing squad.

Things to see in Jaca

The wonderful St Peter’s Cathedral (Catedral de San Pedro), the superb Citadel aka St Peter’s castle or Castillo de San Pedro until the 19C , ordered built in 1592 by king Felipe II; the San Miguel de Jaca bridge, the museum of military miniatures, Done with lead the material used to make the 32,000 figures, each under 20 mm , in 32 glass enclosures. Recreating periods such as the first great armies, “From the Crusades to the 18th century” “Towards Great War (WW1)”, “The Spanish Civil War and Second World War” and “Towards peace”. The final scale model rises directly from the floor and is the biggest and most attractive of the museum. It recreates the range of tanks and vehicles in the First Brunete Armored Division. The display is made up of nearly 5,500 pieces which commemorate the greatest combat unit in the Spanish army. the Clock tower of Jaca ,gothic style built in 1445 on the same spot as the palace of the Aragonese kings, that was destroyed by fire in 1395. Later uses as king’s representative in the city , prison and since 1986, the HQ of the European Council Pyrenean Work Community.   A cultural heritage kept at the Municipal Archives building, the Libro de la Cadena or the book of chains, a manuscript containing the statues , rights , privileges of the city fuero of Jaca, a copy from the 13C with 101 parchment pages covering the period from 931 to 1324.

I like to mentioned briefly on the Monasterio San Juan de la Peña very near Jaca (see post). Only 23 km in the village of Santa Cruz de la Séros, in the Sierra de la Peña mountain at about 1200 meters altitude and a spectacular view up to it.  From Jaca take the road N240 direction Pamplona, you follow the signs for Santa Cruz de la Seros and a mountain road A1603 takes you to the old monastery and from there 1,5 km to the new monastery. Better as they said park in the new monastery and take the navette bus to the old; the road is really narrow and steep and hard to park along it if impossible.

It was founded in the year 920 in a very secluded site that was previously occupied by the monks that came here hiding from the Moors invasion in 720. In the 11C it took the Clunician reform against the vices that suffered the Church.  In the 16C another monastery was build in the baroque style a bit further up, the road been very narrow and steep parking was very difficult and still is;;;; the cars were park near the newer monastery and a navette bus takes you to the old included in the admission price.

All I can say see it , its a must and a wonderful jewel of my beloved Spain. Do come to Jaca and why not the Monastery!

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here, it is a must in the north old Spain:

The city of Jaca on things to see: https://www.jaca.es/turismo/monumentosymuseos.html

A good unofficial tourist site on Jaca and else: http://www.jaca.com/turismo.htm

The metro area Jacetania of Jaca on history/heritage: https://www.turismojacetania.com/lugares.php?idio=en&Id=120

The Aragon region tourist board on Jaca: https://www.turismodearagon.com/ficha/jaca/#.WxzbWu6FPIV

The official monastery of San Juan de la Peñahttp://www.monasteriosanjuan.com/real-monasterio.php

The metro area Jacetania on the Monastery San Juan de la Peñahttps://www.turismojacetania.com/lugares.php?idio=en&Id=139

A wonderful, terrific, no words combination to see something real of  Jaca, and the Monasterio San Juan de la Peña are unreal.  And remember, happy travels, good health and many cheers to all!!!

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April 8, 2021

The land of discoveries, Trujillo!

And I am going back to a wonderful far away land in my beloved Spain. This is going to the autonomous region of Extremadura and the historical town of Trujillo! I have written on it before and this was my introductory post on it; and will be on my black and white series as pictures elsewhere in other posts. Hope you enjoy as I.

A few years back, I had gone to many not all places of my beloved Spain, and someone was to meet me for business. I was open to suggestions and as the person was from the area ,I was taken to Trujillo; and what a find it was. I have already know the city from my Spanish history, but never been to the town.  Trujillo  is in the Province of Caceres on the west of Spain. The town contains many medieval and renaissance buildings and on many of them were built or enriched by conquerors of the new world. These include, Francisco Pizarro, the conqueror of Peru as well as his brothers Francisco de Orellana, and Hernando de Alarcon.

A bit of history I like

Since Roman times the town was known as Turgalium  and became a prefecture stipendiary of the Lusitanian capital, Emerita Augusta (today Mérida).  With the Muslim invasion and conquest in 711, it became one of the main towns in the region renamed Turjalah, governed by the Taifa based in Madrid. This taifa was subject to the Umayyad Emirate and the subsequent Caliphate ruled until the middle of the 11C. Five centuries of Muslim occupation and control finally ended when an army formed by forces of the Military orders and the Bishop of Plasencia laid siege to the city of Trujillo with the support and blessing of King and Saint Fernando III.

The town was finally captured in 1232. During the final assault, according to the local legend, the Christian forces were faltering just short of victory when many reported seeing the Virgin Mary (known as Virgen de la Victoria or the Virgin Mary of Victory) between the two towers, or Arco del Triunfo, in the castle. Sufficiently inspired, Christian troops pressed on and achieved victory defeating the Muslims who were inside.  King Juan II of Castile gave the town the title of city in 1430.  During the War of Independence (from Napoleon’s France), one of the first authorities that responded to the call of the Junta of Mostoles in May 1808 was the mayor of Trujillo, Antonio Martin Rivas who prepared enlistments of volunteers, with food and arms, plus the mobilization of troops, to go to the aid of the Junta. Trujillo was captured by the French in 1811 and held until 1812.

Some things to see in Trujillo are

The Castle (Alcazaba), the Church of Santiago, the Church of Santa María la Mayor, the Church of San Francisco, the Church of San Martín, the Plaza Mayor, and renaissance palaces such as the palace of the Marquis of the Conquest, the palace of the Orellana-Pizarro family, the palace of the Duques de San Carlos, Marquesado de Piedras Albas, the house of the  Palace Chaves , and of course the walled old town. The Palacio de Piedras Albas was built circa 1530 ,formely owned by the Marquis de Orellana and later by the Marquis de San Juan de Piedras Albas. It has several museums: Museum of Coria (Javier Salas Foundation), Pizzaro’s House, Enrique Elías Museum (local designer), Museum of Cheese and Wine. Overall, all is around the Plaza Mayor, and very nice indeed, as main squares in Spain goes it can rank up there, and the historical building around it are just worth at least a day here. The nice parador is the former convent of Santa Clara at Calle Santa Beatriz de Silva, 1

Some webpages to help you trip planning are:

The Trujillo tourist officehttps://trujilloturismo.org/planea-tu-visita/qu%C3%A9-ver

The city of Trujillo on heritage: http://www.trujillo.es/patrimonio

The Extremadura region tourist board on Trujillohttps://www.turismoextremadura.com/es/explora/Trujillo/

There you go not bad after all, and the needs as usual to come back to these beautiful places of my beloved Spain. Trujillo is on the list to return again when possible. Hope you enjoy the post and give you something to come for a visit. It is worth it.

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

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April 8, 2021

And if going to Calatayud!!

This is a very memorable post going way back, that I did came back to the city for the pictures and the rememberance. First, the title is an old song very popular in Spain , a copla written in 1891 by José Feliú y Codina, and since in many plays, cinema, songs etc. Remember, Si vas a Calatayud you ask for Dolores…

It was sang by my mother to me when a young boy! Always memories of my Spain. As the years went by was lucky enough to lived in Madrid and finally visited Calatayud. Many years later took my girlfriend and eventually wife to it too. My dear late wife Martine love it. We arrive once when there was a wedding going on in the hotel, the hotel is no longer there as we passed by to see what was left of it. We did put gas/petrol in the station next to it on the NII road.  Things change, but the memories lingered forever. We ,ourselves ,need to come back again ,when possible.

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Calatayud

Calatayud is in the province of Zaragoza in the autonomous community of Aragon on the banks of the Jalon river. There are many roads crossing here such as the A2 and the N234 and old N II (which we still preferred to take more in town) ;  The regional roads or autonomous A 1504 to Cariñena , the A202  to Nuévalos and the local road CV 601 to Embid de la Ribera; there is the now wonderful A23 and still away the A24.

A bit of history I like, really started with Augusto, the Roman emperor that raise it to city as Municipium Augusta Bilbilis  and once Tiberio arrived the construction to the temple or forum began , the city even printed money and at this time was born Marcial. Next came the Arabs/Moors and the fortified castle complex is built that eventually gave the name to the town. The town was called Qal’at Ayyub which means Qal’a fortified town or citadel and Ayubb a common Arab name. In the 12C the Moors here were defeated by the king of Aragon, Alfonso I the Battler in 1120 the feast of St John the Baptist. And in the 15C the infante Fernando II is proclaimed heir to the throne of Aragon in the town in 1461. Here too, it is signed in 1481 the charter of Calatayud between the Catholic Kings (Fernando and Isabel) and Fernando de Guanarteme, the king (local name mencey)  of Gran Canarias (in the Canary islands) that will be incorporated into the kingdom of Castile.

Wonderful things to see in Calatayud are:

The fortified castle complex from the Arabs period (castles, ramparts wall and gates). It is from the 9C and the oldest in Spain of Arab/moors time. It has five points or castles, all connected by walls and ramparts that comes up and down canyons. At the highest elevation is the Mayor castle or Castillo Mayor and the Castle of the  Torre Mocha (shortened tower).  In the inferior plateau you have the castles or Castillo de Doña Martina, Castillo del Reloj, and  Castillo de la Peña (the most damaged).

The Castillo de Doña Martina is the oldest. The Castillo Mayor or of Ayyub  is the highest. It has two buildings one lower to the north side and other high on the south side. It also has two towers in a octagonal shape where there is still the tank well. There is a complex of  Recinto de la Longía  there are trees that makes it difficult the view and from the Castillo Mayor rampart walls go on towards the south and east, some remaining towers can be seen.  The Castillo Real or del Reloj (Royal or clock castle), you have a wall in the interior of the rampart towards the south that reaches this castle, there is just a section visible today.  There was a wall that connected it to the Castle of  Doña Martina by the canyon of the Barranco de la Rúa,and here it was open to the gate or Puerta de Valencia. The Torre Albarrana came from the Castillo Mayor to the orient with a rampart section with four towers in square shape. At about 150 meters there was the torre albarrana tower separated by a 7 meters but link to the complex, and it is the oldest section of the tower Albarrana. Another complex call the Recinto de la Torre Mocha or shortened tower, is closed, there was a cord chain reaching the castle of Doña Martina. At the center there is an octagonal tower that was used for water tank and the complex as storage.  The Castillo de la Peña, is today in ruins. The gate or Puerta with a horseshoe arc is the only part that has been restored following the model of the Mezquita of Cordoba.

Other wonderful monuments to see are  the collegiale Church of Santa Maria la Mayor, Royal collegiale Church of  Santo Sepulcro, Church of San Pedro de los Francos; Sanctuary or Santuario de la Virgen de la Peña; Church of San Andrés,  and Church of San Juan el Real. Also, the Museum of Calatayud (archeological museum on findings in the area) in the former convent of Carmelites, and the Museum of La Dolores, located in the tavern Meson de la Dolores ( the history of movies, songs of this famous personage of Calatayud) .

Wonderful Calatayud, full of nice memories needed to post in my blog stand alone, for the souvenirs of always. You too will love if like visiting Spain, and we will wait to be back when possible.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

The city of Calatayud on things to see: https://www.calatayud.es/turismo/visitar

The region of Calatayud tourist office on the city: http://comarcacalatayud.com/index.php/zonas-de-la-comarca/calatayud/

The province of Zaragoza on Calatayudhttps://www.turismodezaragoza.es/provincia/pueblos/calatayud.html

The region of Aragon tourist board on Calatayudhttps://www.turismodearagon.com/en/ficha/calatayud/

There you go another jewel in Zaragoza province, region of Aragon; the famous Calatayud, yes indeed. We shall meet again if you are going by Calatayud ,si vas por Calatayud!!

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

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April 7, 2021

The Basques have San Sebastian!!!

And so much for my beloved Spain, all over is everything under the Sun! I like to update this post dear to the family and just one older personal picture as plenty on the wonderful San Sebastian in my blog. Hope you enjoy the tour and thanks for reading me over the years! This is like a bit of introduction to the city.

We always went around Somport or Portalet and come more central, but one trip we did it down the ocean from Lacanau in the Médoc of Bordeaux and we went to San Sebastian/Donostia, what a pleasant surprise and plenty of memories for the whole family.  Another wonderful place in my world map and lucky to have been able to visit with the family, my dear late wife Martine love it; my father came looking for chorizo, and we got a mouthful of Basque cuisine, with the beach this is it, la vida es chula en San Sebastian.

San Sebastian, also Donostia in basque, the capital of the province of Gipuzkoa, in the Basque Autonomous community of Spain. Bathed by the waters of the Cantabrian Sea, at the mouth of the Urumea River, it owes much of its fame to its harbour, the Bay of La Concha, framed by two rocky isles, the Igeldo and Urgull mountains, true natural balconies from which one can marvel at a large part of the city, the ocean and the hilly landscapes of the surrounding area.

How to get around San Sebastian other than on foot once in town!

City buses are the main means of municipal public transport in San Sebastian. This service is in place, since 1886, the Compañía du Tranvía de San Sebastian,it has 21 lines that include the whole city. Very well connected town with wonderful autovias or highways such as the A-1 Autovia from the North: Madrid-San Sebastian de los Reyes-Burgos-//-Miranda de Ebro-Armiñón-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian; A-8 Autovia of Cantabria: Irun-San Sebastian – Bilbao; N-I Carretera del Norte taken too Madrid-Aranda de Duero-Burgos-Miranda de Ebro-Vitoria-Gasteiz-San Sebastian-Irun-French border; N-634 Carretera del Noroeste Santiago de Compostela-Oviedo-Torrelavega-Bilbao-San Sebastian. The San Sebastian Airport is located in the border town of Hondarribia.

A bit of history I like

The origins of San Sebastian are unknown. The oldest document mentions it in the year 1014. On the other hand, it is more certain that in the 12C, Sancho VI of Navarre, aka the Wise, would have put the monastery of San Sebastian in the hands of the abbot of Leyre and the bishop of Pamplona. This document will be confirmed, in 1201, by King Pedro I. The first written news of San Sebastian refers to a monastery, located in the neighborhood that still today is called San Sebastian el Antiguo (old). This place was primitively known, according to some historians, as Izurum. San Sebastian appears etymologically of the evolution of the word Donebastian (Done (Santo), and Sebastian). This king granted the rights of San Sebastian (a set of laws peculiar to the province), which will mark the chronological beginning of the history of the city.

After two centuries of heroically completing his war mission, king Felipe IV of Spain, in 1662, granted the title of City. Until its foundation there were only small residential areas in the district of the Antiguo (old Quarter), in the old part and in the valley of the Urumea, by undertaking until the 15C a slow process of growth.  In 1719, the city was taken by a strong French army and marshal of Berwick. The citadel is taken on August. The city was occupied by a garrison of two thousand French soldiers, until 25 August 1721, when it was evacuated following the Hague peace. 

During the War of Independence (from France), San Sebastian was occupied in 1808 by the Napoleonic troops. Joseph Bonaparte,(brother of Napoleon I)  ruler of Spain, entered San Sebastian on 9 June, running through Calle Narrica, in which all the windows had remained closed. In June 1813 the Allies, the Anglo-Portuguese troops, under the direct command of Sir Thomas Graham and the General Duke of Wellington, besieged the city. After several days of intense bombardment provoking a widening of the rift (French troops were entered by the latter in 1719), the assault operation formed by a column of volunteers, called the Desperados (outlaws), was started. A fortuitous fire and the explosion of a stockpile of ammunition caused a panic among the French, this event was to take advantage by the assailants obligating the French troops to withdraw to the castle, where they will capitulate on 8 September 1813.

On the death of King Alfonso XII of Spain, in 1885, his widow the Regent Queen Maria-Christina took the court to San Sebastian every summer, residing in the Miramar Palace. The remarkable buildings of the city are all of that timen apart from those of the old town , such as the Cathedral of Buen Pastor or Artzain Ona of San Sebastian, the Escuela de Artes and Oficios (current post Office) and the Instituto Peñaflorida ( then occupied by the Escuela Ingenieros Industriales and nowadays by the Cultural Centre Koldo Mitxelena), the Miramar Palace, the Victoria Eugenia Theater, the María Cristina Hotel, the villas of Paseo de Francia or Frantziako Pasealekua or the North station, as well as the rest of the buildings of the romantic area , all with a French style marked, which gave charm to San Sebastian and its nickname “Little Paris” or “Paris of the South”.

WWI made San Sebastian one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Europe. In its Casino there were all the personalities of the European highlife: Mata Hari, Léon Trotsky, Maurice Ravel, Romanones, Pastora Imperio, renowned bullfighters, bankers, etc. In the Belle Epoque, San Sebastian received the French operetta company, the Ballets Russes, opera singers and many other famous artists.  In 1930, the city hosted a meeting of Republicans, which was called the San Sebastian Agreement, which will have a significant impact in the later advent of the 2nd Republic in 1931. In fact, the first Republican government will be formed, to a great extent, by the core of politicians participating in the “Agreement”. The election of the capital Donostiarra was due on the one hand to the proximity of the city with the French Republic and to the fact that San Sebastian was the summer capital of the court.  Shortly after the start of the Spanish Civil War, on September 13, 1936, San Sebastian fell, without serious combat, into the hands of the Nationalists. The resort city was residence of Gen Franco in the month of August from 1940 to 1975 in the Palace of Aiete, bought by the City/Town Hall and offered to the head of state. During this period the councils of Ministers are held in this building. In the same building, the full Declaration on peace in the Basque Country will be pronounced on 17 October 2011 at the International Peace Conference in Aiete.

Things to see and do in pretty San Sebastian in my opinion are

The beaches , oh yes indeed, glorious right in town , these are the Ondarreta, La Concha ,and Zurriola, the first two located in the Bay of La Concha and the third on the other side of the Urumea River , which we usually park our car.  La Concha , It is one of the most famous urban beaches of Spain. It has a length of 1 350 meters  and an average width of 40 meters. ,its sand is fine white. It has 38 showers, shelters and beach chairs as well as showers and changing rooms. Close to this beach there is a parking lot (parking Kontxa). On the shores of the beach you will find the spa of La Perla, the former royal house of the Thermal baths (Casa Real de Baños) and the Royal Nautical Club (Real club Náutico), buildings which, with the famous grid along the beach, the elegant streetlights, two large clocks of the beginning of the century and the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar), which closes by the west, form an elegant and singular beach.  Ondarreta , Situated between the Palace of Miramar (Palacio de Miramar) and Mount Igeldo, it is the smallest of the three beaches. More informal than the Concha, in the promenade that touches it there are gardens in which one can find a statue in honour of Queen María Cristina. It has a length of 600 meters.  Zuriola , with a length of 800 meters , it is the beach most open to the sea and with higher surge, so that it is transformed by the attendance of  the young and the surfers. In 1994, a restructuring of the beach  was carried out with the construction of a dike which reduced the danger of water and with the general improvement of the quality of sand and water. The practice of naturism has been authorised since 2004.  There is a small beach that forms in the island of Santa Clara, to which can be access by boat in the Summer months or swimming, because it is 500 meters from Ondarreta beach at low tide.

Some great activities at the proper time in San Sebastian are

San Sebastian International Film Festival every year in mid-September, one of the world’s most important film festivals. Created in 1953, this festival has been taking place for a few years at the Kursaal, The Festival of Jazz of San Sebastian called also Jazzaldia, this festival created in 1965 is today one of the most important jazz festivals in Europe. This event usually takes place in mid-July. The Tamborrada is one of the city’s major traditional events. From January 19 (+ or-2 days) to midnight, and for 24 hours, marching bands parade through the city streets, in all quarters. The opening and closing of the festivities takes place in the Plaza de la Constitucion, which is, especially for the opening, crowded to such an extent that it is not possible to move there. It’s really something to live for. The characters in these bands are either cooks or soldiers. In parallel with these fanfares, the population participates in the din with the help of small drums.

And of course, the food is glorious, one of the best cuisine of Spain and I will say Europe. We love our eating out at Juanito Kojua, highly recommended.(see post).

Other things to see are

The City/town hall of San Sebastian dependencies are located in the old casino of the city, with the Bay of La Concha. The building was built in 1887 in the gardens of Alderdi-Eder of San Sebastian. Teatro Victoria Eugenia inaugurated in 1912. Here have played some of the most important interpreters of classical or theater music. It was reopened in March 2007. Teatro Principal ,it is the oldest of the theaters of Donostia/San Sebastian. Inaugurated in 1843, it adopted its present appearance at the end of the 19C. In addition to the usual theater works and some of those presented in the Teatro Feria, there are screenings of the Semana de cine Fantástico y de Terror (week of horror and unusual films) ,and Derechos Humanos Festival (Human Rights Festival) and some films from the film Festival.

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Aquarium-Museum of the Sea ,located on the Paseo Nuevo/Paseo Berria near the harbor, it has a significant historical maritime collection, as well as a modern extension with giant aquariums and an underwater passage that exposes a large amount of species of fish and other marine animals; Whaling Museum , not far from the Aquarium-Museum of the Sea, this small museum reminds of this traditional and dangerous activity of the Basques, now extinct, but which, before the era of coal and hydrocarbons, has supplied oil to cities and made the fortunes of ship owners;  Museum of Science, on the heights of the city, adapted to children and young people of school age, a complete, interactive, experimental and playful panorama of the main physical, chemical and biological phenomena; A statue of Albert Einstein sitting on a bench welcomes visitors, while the park presents models of the main monuments of the Guipuscoa region;  San Telmo Museum, a municipal property and located in a former convent of the 16C. 

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd (Catedral del Buen Pastor) was formerly a parish church, built from 1889 to 1897. The former Arena of Atocha  (bullfight arena). They dated from 1876 in demolishing this arena, its materials were used in the construction of the first houses of the district of Egia, the Castle of La Mota (Castillo de la Mota) and the fortifications are a defensive complex located on Mount Urgull.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip , and you must go are:

The San Sebastian tourist office: https://www.sansebastianturismoa.eus/en/

the city of San Sebastian on moving about and tourist info: https://www.donostia.eus/ataria/es/web/info/hasiera

The Euskadi Basque tourist board on San Sebastian/Donostia: https://tourism.euskadi.eus/en/top10/towns/donostia-san-sebastian/aa30-12376/en/

An unofficial tourism guide ,euskoguide on San Sebastian I found very informative , useful for all in English: https://www.euskoguide.com/places-basque-country/spain/san-sebastian-tourism/

There you have it another jewel in my beloved Spain, you should come to San Sebastian too. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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April 7, 2021

Wonderful Lisbon and Libertade!

I have great memories doing this post and great to have updated in my blog. When I first came to Portugal, the first city I visited was Lisbon, this was back in 2012. My area and repeated several times after was Avenida da Libertade, and I am happy to redo this post. Hope you enjoy it as I , and see my many posts on Portugal in my blog.

Let me tell you today about a nice area of a nice city I came to like very much in my many trips there.   It is something nice to remember of the fonds memories of coming home, back to my dear late wife Martine. Oh yes, I am talking about Lisbon, Portugal. So close to it,  I learned the language as well. My oldest boy godfather is from Faro, and played on many Portuguese football/soccer community teams both in USA and France.  I have come several times to Lisbon,and never tired of it; it is so close to home, and so nice.

Getting here as always been by airplane and using either public transport in the city, or a friendly car ride and lots of walks in the city, especially around the Avenida da Libertade area. I have great stories of eating and drinking at by now my friends restaurant Pinoquio at Praça dos Restauradores close to Rossio. The typical Portuguese seafood and vinho verde wine place, love it. Many stories here; like the time gathered all my friends to come here thinking only 7 will come, and the rest show up by taxi and we were 22 without reservation!. I told the staff ,quick needed to find space, they knew me from many times there, and they move, so fast they created three spaces with extra tables/chairs to accommodate my friends, they were all impressed of my contacts lol!

Let me tell you a bit about the city of Lisbon, shall we take a walk.

Praça dos Restauradores or Restoration  square is located on the extreme southeast of the Avenida da Liberdade, and not far from the Praça de Dom Pedro IV (better known as Rossio). This square is dedicated to the restoration of Portuguese independence in 1640 after 60 years of Spanish domination .  The Obelisk in the center of the square was done in 1886, with the names and dates of the battles to reach the restoration in 1640. It is about 30 meters high.

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The square is in a rectangular shape surrounded by buildings from the 19C and early 20C .You can admire the Palácio Foz, a palace built from the 18C to the 20C with decorated interiors now the  Museu Nacional do Desporto de Portugal (the National sports museum of Portugal) ; the former Eden Cinema which is now a hotel, with its 1930’s facade as well as the former Cinema Condes,built in the 1950’s in a modernist style that now houses the popular restaurant Hard Rock Cafe of Lisbon.

Coming up to this Restoration square you have the wonderful Avenida da Liberdade  or Liberty avenue that I stayed nearby always . It is a 90 meters wide and  1100 meters  long, with ten lanes divided by pedestrian pavements decorated with gardens. It links the Praça dos Restauradores  with Praça do Marquis of Pombal square. The avenue was done to modeled after the big Parisian boulevards. The Avenida da Liberdade, as well as the Praça dos Restauradores, have their origins in a public park (Passeio Público) inaugurated in the area in 1764. The park was initially surrounded by a high wall. It was revamped in the 1830s and 1840s with new arrangement of the flora as well as fountains, a waterfall and statues. The allegoric statues representing the Tagus and Douro rivers still existing in the boulevard of the Avenue date from this time.

The Avenida da Libertade has several nice hotels and restaurants and it is a prize area to stay in Lisbon as I do …. on my business trips.  Several statues adorned the Avenida such as the  Statue to  Simón Bolívar ,done by the Venezuelan community in Portugal in  1978 ; Statue of Oliveira Martins, 1952 ;  Statue of Alexandre Herculano, 1950; Statue of  Almeida Garrett, 1950;  Statue of  António Feliciano de Castilho, 1950;  Monument to Rosa Araújo, 1936;  Monument to the Fallen of WWI , 1931;  and the Monument to Pinheiro Chagas,1908.  Also ,nice building like the jewerler store Prada, and the the one where was born  D. Maria Pia de Saxe-Coburgo Gotha e Bragança,in  1907.  She  was a writer and better known as claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of king  Charles Ier of Portugal and therefore the Duchess of Braganza, and pretender to the throne of Portugal.  She was, also, known as in publishing book under the pseudo name Hilda de Toledano.

There are three metro stations along the avenue such as Restauradores  at the southeast end, served by the blue line. Avenida at about the midpoint of the avenue, served by the blue line. Marquês de Pombal  at the northwest end (close to a giant roundabout with 4 lanes), served by the blue and yellow lines.

At the very nice Praça do Marquês de Pombal square, also known as the round about of the Marquês de Pombal or traffic circle is located between the Avenida da Liberdade and on the other side the Parque Eduardo VII. In the center there is the monument to the Marquês de Pombal, built in 1934. Done with a stone pedestal and 40 meters high ,the statue itself in bronce. The Edward VII park is a very place to unwind with lovely gardens on a 26 hectare park just crossing the Marques of Pombal Square. Its name pays homage to king Edward VII of the United Kingdom who visited Portugal in 1902, to strengthen the relations between the two countries. Until that visit, its name was Liberty Park (Parque da Liberdade).  Inside the park you have the Carlos Lopes Pavilion (the former Portuguese pavilion of the 1922 Rio de Janeiro International Exposition) and the Estufa Fria (a 1.5 hectare greenhouse garden). On the northern top of the park is a flagpole where the present largest Flag of Portugal of the world is usually flown.  The Lisbon Book Fair is annually held in the Parque Eduardo VII.

If the Praça do Marqués de Pombal is at one end of the Avenida da LIbertade passing by the Praça dos Restauradores, then the Rossio Square  as it is known locally but actually officially is the Pedro IV Square  or  Praça de D. Pedro IV  is located in the other extreme. Being one of the main squares since the Middle Ages. It has been the setting of popular revolts and celebrations, bullfights and executions, and is now a preferred meeting place of Lisbon natives and tourists alike. The current name of the Rossio pays homage to Pedro IV, King of Portugal. The Column of Pedro IV is in the middle of the square. Here you have another metro station Rossio on the Green line as well as the train station by same name (previously called Central) and the nice National Theater of Dona Maria II. It was built on the former landlot of the Estaus Palace built itself in 1450 to house the foreign dignataries and nobles visiting Lisbon . In the 16C the palace was the place of the Portuguese inquisition , save from the earthquake of 1755 it was later destroyed by fire in 1836. The theater was completely redone and opened in 1978.

All up and down the Avenida da Libertade passing by the glorious Square of the Marques of Pombal, then the Restauradores square and finally reaching the Rossio is chic grand wonderful Lisbon and easy central to all with good local public transportation. A wonderful area, beautiful walks and looking forward to be back when possible.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here ,and it is a must in my opinion ,are:

The Lisbon tourist office: https://www.visitlisboa.com/en/p/why-lisbon

The city of LIsbon on public transports in Portuguese: https://www.lisboa.pt/cidade/mobilidade/meios/a-pe

The Portugal tourist board on Lisbonhttps://www.visitportugal.com/en/destinos/lisboa-regiao

There you go , a nice piece of real estate in lovely quant Lisbon for you to set your wings on. Hope it helps your plans. And remember, happy travels, good health,and many cheers to all!!!

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April 7, 2021

A detour to Darmstadt, Germany!

And here is a pleasant update older post of a family trip that allow me to show them where I have been on business trip before. I enjoy the educational trip and hope you enjoy it as I. This is when I took a detour to Darmstadt, Germany!  I like to reminicent of this city in Germany a bit ok.  First, thank you all for following my blog ,its a pleasure having you around.

I came to know the city of Darmstadt because my company had a branch there that reported to me Finance wise. My interactions were daily so eventually I traveled a couple times there in 2004! As I recall all my business trips with the family in a general sights views basis, they were interested on all the places I have gone to ,of course. Once, we decided to vacation in Germany back in 2015, I told them would be a perfect opportunity to visit this off the beaten path city, and so we did.  It had good impressions on me and later the family as well so its time to tell you again about it on a bit of history side. Here is the story ,briefly.

Darmstadt is a city in the Hesse region part of the Rhine of Germany; closest cities are Frankfort Main at about 30 km and Mannheim at about 45 km as well as Heidelberg.  It is call the City of Science due to the proliferation of technical schools and research centers there including the technical University founded in 1877.

Darmstadt is connected to a number of major roads, including two Autobahnen the no 5 and no 67 however the main road passing west east is the bunderstrabe 26 and the north south no 3. The public transport system of Darmstadt is integrated in the RMV (the transportation authority of the Frankfort Metropolitan Area). The backbone of public transport in Darmstadt is its modern tramway network of 9 lines and a local bus service serving all parts of the city. Darmstadt is furthermore connected to the Frankfort S-Bahn train network and being served by regional bus lines. Furthermore, regional rail lines R64, R65, and R66 connect six secondary railway stations within the city. Darmstadt is connected to the Frankfurt rapid transit network by the S-Bahn line S3. Darmstadt can be easily accessed from around the world via Frankfort Airport which is located 20 km (12 mi) from central Darmstadt and connected to it via the expressway autobahn no 5 and S-Bahn rail as well as several bus lines and a direct express bus-link , Airliner. On my business trips I came to the airport.

A bit of history I like

Darmstadt was chartered as a city by the Holy Roman Emperor Ludwig the Bavarian in 1330, at which time it belonged to the counts of Katzenelnbogen. When the house of Katzenelnbogen became extinct in 1479, the city was passed to the Landgraviate of Hesse , and was seat of the ruling Landgraves from 1567 to 1806, and thereafter to 1918 of the grand dukes of Hesse. The city became the capital of the princes of Hesse-Darmstadt from 1567 while the creation of the landgravat of Hesse-Darmstadt created after the death of Philip the Magnanimous. Part of the possessions of Philip the Magnanimous were ceded to Hesse-Cassel, Hesse-Marbourg, Hesse-Rheinfels, Hesse-Darmstadt, and Dietz. In 1668, Friedrich Jacob Merck purchase the pharmacy of Engel and put the basis of his empire of the future Merck KgaA pharmaceutical company of today.   In 1711 the Great Landgraves Caroline of Palatine-Deux-Ponts-Birkenfeld and Johann Heinrich Merck of the mentioned family were the initiators of forming a Circle of Romantic composers such as Goethe, Herder, and Klopstock.

In 1806 after the end of the Germanic Holy Roman Empire the landgravat of Hesse-Darmstadt became the Grand Duke of Hesse and the Rhine. This Grand Duke had the protection of the Tsar of Russia, nephew by alliance to the first Grand Duke.  The princes and lovers of arts made Darmstadt an intellectual and cultural capital and towards 1900, a center of the Art Nouveau movement; many institutes especially the German Academy of the Language and Poetry and the Aesthetics and Industrial Institute continues today this tradition. In 1844, the monument to Ludwig Langer was built in the square Louise (Luisenplatz) with the statue of the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig. From 1898 to 1908, the Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig had name 7 artists to create the colony of artists of Mathildenhöhe. His mother was a child of the Queen Victoria and his sister Alix of Hesse-Darmstadt married the Russian tsar Nicolas II to come to a tragic ending. To note, all 3 tsars having married princesses of Hesse-Darmstadt were assassinated.

In 1918, the defeat of Germany made end to the monarchy. Two sisters of the Grand Duke, the tsarine of Russia and the Grand Duchesse Elisabeth were assassinated with their families by the Russian Bolsheviks. The son of the last Grand Duke, openly against the Nazis died with his wife, his mother and the children in 1937 in a suspect airplane accident. Darmstadt was the first city in Germany to force Jewish shops to close in early 1933, shortly after the Nazis took power in Germany. Darmstadt was first bombed on in July 1940, and 34 other air raids would follow before the war’s end. Post-war rebuilding was done in a relatively plain architectural style, although a number of the historic buildings were rebuilt to their original appearance following the city’s capture on 20 March 1945 by the American 4th Armoured Division. At the end of WWII, Darmstadt was among the 112 communities where U.S. Forces were stationed. Early units stationed here included elements of the U.S. Constabulary, Air Force units and a Quartermaster School. As part of the U.S. Army’s ongoing transformation in Germany, the Darmstadt military community, by then designated as U.S. Army Garrison Darmstadt was inactivated on 30 September 2008. Even after the garrison inactivation, however, there is still one unit active in Darmstadt not showing in some official documents until much later, this is the 66th Military Intelligence Group at the Dagger Complex on Eberstädter Weg. They have created a community ,and the base is just a datacenter now. 

You can easily spent a day here on things to see and I would say as a side trip to Frankfort or even Trier near where we were base! And once in the city on foot is glorious! Many of these have a separate posts in my blog so pictures will be few if any here

The Evangelical Church, The Russian Chapel of Darmstadt, and the Saint Louis Church. Other interesting places to see are the History House of Darmstadt, the colony of artists of Mathildenhöhe , the German Center for Art Nouveau and its museum. The Prince Georges palace built in 1710 old residency of the landgraves and today housing the wonderful collection of porcelain from the Grand Dukes in which almost all were gifts of the Imperial and Royal families of Europe forming the biggest collection of porcelain coming from the Grand Ducal factory of Kelsterbach and other German and Russian factories. The Regional museum of Hesse, the Hunting museum, the city hall building built from the 16C to 18C, the column of Louis Ier of Hesse; the castle Frankenstein and the nice theater of Darmstadt.

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The Luisenplatz, the central square of the city, forms the center of the city and is the main public transport hub. Other important squares are the Marktplatz near the old city hall and the Sabaisplatz at the Mathildenhöhe. Among the most important parks are the English style Herrngarten in central Darmstadt. In former times it was part of the Royal Gardens used exclusively by the dukes of Darmstadt. Today it is a public park . The French style parks Prinz-Georgs-Garten and Orangerie, the modern style Bürgerpark or People’s Park in northern Darmstadt and the mystical Park Rosenhöhe, or Rose Heights, which also serves as the cemetery for the dukes, with two impressive mausoleum buildings in its remote parts. The Botanischer Garten or Botanical Garden in eastern Darmstadt is maintained by the Darmstadt University of Technology with a fine collection of rare plants and trees.

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Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are:

The city of Darmstadt on things to see: https://www.darmstadt.de/sprachversionen/english/discover-darmstadt/

The Darmstadt tourist office: https://www.darmstadt-tourismus.de/en.html

The Germany tourist board on Darmstadt: https://www.germany.travel/en/cities-culture/darmstadt.html

The Frankfurt Rhein Main region on the Mathildenhöhe of Darmstadt: https://www.frankfurt-rhein-main.de/en/Discover-Experience/Sightseeing-Attractions/Architecture-Technology/Mathildenhoehe

Enjoy the seldom visit areas of Germany for a wonderful local experience and by going to Darmstadt you will feel just that, unique. Hope you enjoy the post as I.

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

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April 6, 2021

The amazing aqueduct of Segovia!!!!

So I need to update/revise links on this older post of a magnificent monument of my beloved Spain. This is another of my favorite cities of my beloved Spain, or is one of many I think. From an early age , I think first time was when I was 10 years old with my mother; I keep coming back over the years, then with my wife, and then with the family and boys and parents and and ….lost count but each time is like the first time. The  Aqueduct of Segovia is awesome, a must to see. Hope you enjoy the tour.

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Well I admit only once took the bus as always came here taken or on my own by car from Madrid. The roads are good if hilly and curvy even if now they have expressways such as the AP 6 and AP 61 but my all time favorite was/is the N603; from Madrid you can come on the A1.  I drive around to find a parking either at 14 Paseo Ezequiel Gonzalez next to the tribunal , you walk past the statue to famous restaurantor Candido and onwards to the Cathedral and Aqueduct nice walk and car is very safe or the Alcazar or by the Aqueduct and then walk all over the city. By intercity bus you come from the bus depot at Moncloa and the Avanzabus line ,there are suburbian trains such as cercanias by changing trains in Cercedilla. The fast trains or AVE can be taken at the station Segovia-Guiomar and for cheaper slower trains you can do the Avant trains.

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I have written quite a bit on Segovia and all its attractions before, but this one is the Aqueduct, needs a stand alone post. To me , the Aqueduct is in essence my third choice here after the Alcazar and the Cathedral of the tops things to see in Segovia.  According to experts, the Aqueduct of Segovia was built in the second half of the 1C AD or early 2C AD  during the reign of Adrian of Trajan. It is  813 meters long, with about 728 meters visible in the city. It has a maximum height of 28.5 meters and a minimum of 0.5 meters out of the city. The water transported, is on a slope of 1%, to make runs freely into town from the source in the Frio River , 17 km from Segovia ,bringing it to the area of Acebeda 15 km further. The exact location according to experts is from the Aceveda river , a small stream of the Frio river in a pine and oak forest in the northern slopes of the sierra de Guadarrama at 1255 meters altitude.

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It has in all 20400  granite stone taken from the Guadarrama area , 120 pillars or columns and 167 arcs of which 75 are simple arcs , 44 double arcs all in the main area to see and some beyond the city.  The granite stone bound only by their own weight, without any mortar ,thanks to a perfect balance of forces. The stones have small cavities necessary for the use of the self tightening pliers for lifting the blocks The most beautiful part is when crossing the Plaza de Azoguejo square.  To see the best is to position yourself on either side of it , either on the  Plaza de Azoguejo square on the left or the Plaza de Artilleria or Artillery square on the right, as you notice that the aqueduct seems to divide the city in two.

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At the time of the Catholic monarchs the first great work of reconstruction of the aqueduct was carried out. Later, in the 16C, it was when the statues of the Virgin of Carmen and San Sebastián were placed in the central niches. The Aqueduct of Segovia is special in that it has been used almost without interruption since Roman times to the present day.  If you are daring and would like to follow the path from outside the city you can. I have gone by car as much as possible and some walk but not done it completely. You have to be in good shape as it is hilly.

Not far from the source (locally call the Azud) , the aqueduct channel had to cross the small brook of Valdeconejos (valley of rabbits). Here is an interesting structure in the form of a small bridge of 5 granite plates that still serve their original purpose of leading the water of the small creek of Valdeconejos over the top of the aqueduct channel.  Both the Azud (the source) and the Valdeconejos bridge can be reached on foot in about 1 hour (3km) from the village of Revenga.  We parked here in Revenga or you can too at the entrance of the road that runs along the north side of the Embalse the Puenta Alta Lake. However, we stop here, you can continue on the road  from the parking beyond the end of the lake and then follow the yellow aqueduct signs up the hill. There is a track that goes up steeply and passes through the fence, follow this to above the creek on the north side until the track reaches some meadows; cross the creek here, and follow the yellow signs steeply up the hill until reaching the aqueduct channel this can be recognised by the box-shaped maintenance shafts that have been installed on the water pipe in the early 20C. Follow the track now along the contour lines towards the captions upstream (to the right, sign to “azud”).  On the way back, the aqueduct can be followed past Valdeconejos until reaching the track that descends again to Revenga. It is even possible to follow the aqueduct all the way to the city. The tourist information in Segovia can organise trips to the aqueduct source, and has a brochure (saw in Spanish) describing three walks along the course of the conduit, from the mountains to the city.

Once in Segovia, at the junction of the Calle del Coronel Rexach and the Avenida del Padre Claret (this later takes you right into the aqueduct in your car !) is a small monument that marks the start of the most spectacular section of the Segovia aqueduct. The cylindrical stone ( Roman lettering are on it)  is a monument from the 17C, found close to Segovia. It has been placed on the wall that originally supported the Roman aqueduct channel, and  which now carries its narrower successor, the channel from the 15C. This wall, 141 meters  long and 1,4 meters wide, runs up to a building that covers the second and final cleaning basin before the aqueduct bridge. This building, is known locally as the Casa de Aqua. Inside is a basin with an entry and exit of the aqueduct channel. Contrary to the Casa de Piedra, there is no channel at the base of the basin, so that any sediment that accumulated had to be removed by hand, and could not be flushed out. Any dirt would be extremely difficult to remove. The building is at least partly Roman. Once entering the city the aqueduct bridge of Segovia starts at the Casa del Aqua.

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There you have a brief to the point story on one of the most emblematic buildings of Spain, the Aqueduct of Segovia. Some webpages to help you plan your trip ,which is a must, and ask me if need further guidance.

The Segovia tourist office on the aqueduct: http://visitsegovia.turismodesegovia.com/es/monuments/aqueduct

The Segovia provence tourist office on the aqueduct: http://acueducto.turismodesegovia.com/

The Castilla Y Léon region tourist board on Segoviahttp://www.patrimoniocastillayleon.com/en/segovia

And there you go folks a wonderful monument to mankind this aqueduct of Segovia. Again, is a must to see and hope this post will get you going towards it when possible.

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

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April 6, 2021

The Grand Lady ,Tour Eiffel!!

Ok so even if other posts, let me update this one showing the extra security measures now around the Tour Eiffel. I have my world HQ office just around the corner and need to walk in front of it every month in better times. Hope you enjoy the post.

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This is the icon/symbol of Paris for whatever you think of it. Even trying to persuade folks to go elsewhere, they keep coming back here. Even with security barriers that looks like a war zone, people keeps coming back. It is Paris after all, it is the Eiffel tower!! As a disclaimer, the last time I was up was in 2005 when I went with an association of my profession that celebrated its 35th  anniversary there. Before that, yes of course even with the family. However, never again, I believe that Paris has a lot more than the Eiffel tower, but , anyway, I will tell you about it for the diehards lol!!!

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I like to tell you now a bit of history I like.

The tour Eiffel is a steel tower of 324 meters high with antennas at the extreme northwest of the parc du Champ-de-Mars bordering the Seine river in the 7éme arrondissement/district.It was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Universal Exposition of Paris in 1889.  It had originally 312 meters high and remained the tallest building in the world for forty years.  The second level of the third platform sometimes call the 4th level at 279 meters is the highest observation deck in the European Union and second highest in all of Europe.  The tower is set on a square of 125 meters on the side and a height of 324 meters with its 120 antennas and 33,5 meters above sea level. The two pylons on the side of the école militaire rest on a cement base of 2 meters that itself rest on a bed of gravel with a well of 7 meters deep. The two pylons on the side of the Seine river are below the level of the river. The base with its four pylons are house in subterranean squares of 25 meters on each side and 4 meters high with a steel bed and compressed cement stones. There are arches between each pylon at 39 meters high above the floor with a diameter of 74 meters.

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On the first level located at 57 meters high with 4200 square meters of surface with a circular gallery that allows you a 360 degree view of Paris. This first level has the restaurant 58 tour Eiffel that extends on two levels with a view on one side of Paris and the other on the interior of the tower. This is where we had our lunch ,but I ate lunch here even before when it was called Altitude 95!!.

The second level is at 125 meters with an area of 1650 square meters. Here in 1986 was created the restaurant Jules Verne  (which I booked dinner for my boss while in Fl USA way back) It was handled by Alain Ducasse and now you have Frédéric Anton as chef. You go up exclusively on the south pilar elevator/lift.

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The third level is at 276 meters with an area of 350 square meters. The access is done by elevator/lift and gives to an enclosed space with orientation tables. You climb a few steps you arrived at an exterior platform sometimes call the 4th level arriving at 279 meters.  There is the Champagne Bar!

The upper level has sort of a wax museum showing Gustave Eiffel welcoming Thomas Edison that made think this was the work office of Gustave Eiffel but the historical reality is that it was a meteorological laboratory  and then a testing room. The wax museum can be seen from the outside. Also on the upper level floor there is a model of the top of the tower from 1889, made at a scale of 1 / 50th. Painted in the original color of the tower, “red brown”, it allows everyone to rediscover the initial architecture of the period.

You can discover the gardens around the Tour Eiffel, these have been walked by them almost every month as my world HQ is very near. You can discover the belvedere on the side of allée Jean Paulhan, follow the paths that will lead you there (from the paths coming from entrance 2 to the east or from exit 2 to the north). Also, perched on a rock near the basin, its design melts it into nature and offers you an ideal space to admire and photograph the Eiffel Tower. There is a cave in the west garden on the Allée des Refuzniks side. Adorned with a small waterfall that flows into the basin, it guarantees you a bucolic atmosphere! Just above, in addition to the unique perspective on the tower, the belvedere of the hill offers a refreshing break in the shade in the event of high heat. Among the many trees in the garden, don’t miss the superb bicentennial plane tree, planted in 1814 and 20 meters high! You can contemplate it near exit 2 (West) to end your visit to the Eiffel Tower.

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You can see the names of the 72 scientists arranged on the frieze of the four facades of the Eiffel Tower. Gustave Eiffel as a tribute inscribed these 72 scientists men of science. Disappeared during a painting campaign at the turn of the century, they were restored in 1986 and 1987.  The new antenna culminates the Eiffel Tower at a height of 320.75 meters. In 2000, a new UHF (Ultra High Frequency) antenna led to a modification of the height of the Tower, which rose to 324 meters. There are a total of 120 antennas up with 45 TV Channels and 32 radio stations. To our days , all TV from here is numeric. The management of the tour Eiffel is handle by the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE) webpage: https://sete.toureiffel.paris/en

The official site for the Eiffel towerhttps://www.toureiffel.paris/en

The Paris tourist office on Eiffel towerhttps://en.parisinfo.com/paris-museum-monument/71062/La-tour-Eiffel

And there you got the wrap up on the Tour Eiffel, nevertheless a symbol of Paris and France for that matter or whatever… Hope you enjoy the post as I. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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