Posts tagged ‘Food and Wine’

October 22, 2020

My restaurants and bars of Madrid!!!

This is a daunting task as there is so much good choices. However, as in Madrid will love to share my past culinary adventures with you all. Reminder, some of these have already a post in my blog, this is a revision of a much older post.

First,the cheapest and quickest way to eat in Madrid or Spain for that matter, is at the bars and cafés that serve tapas. You have to check that some bars more of the pubs style do not serve food. Family runs places like Ventas, Posadas, Mesones, and Fondas all old words for different types of inn serve inexpensive sit down food so look for their names.

Second, eating habits are way different than anywhere else I have notice in my travels outside , the breakfast is two (desayunos) ,the first is light meal of biscuits toasts,coffee with milk or cafe con leche, butter or jam ; then the second is more substantial between 10h to 11h,there you may have a bocadillo (sandwich) with sausage,ham or chorizo or cheese or a tortilla de patatas (potato omelette),fruit juice, coffee or beer. Then by around 13h some will start to have a drink at a bar then by 14h you sit down for the Almuerzo or lunch which is the main meal of the day. The  Merienda follows by 17h30 to 18h with some pastries ,sandwiches or cakes with coffee,tea,or juice as well as snacks like churros (fried batter sticks). By 19h bars are crowded with folks having tapas with sherry, beer or wine. The dinner or la Cena  begins by 21h ,and sometimes in summer service begins earlier for tourists. Spanish families tend to eat even later, I have had dinner as late as 23h30 start time!

Some bargains can be had by choosing the platos combinados or mix dish or the menu del dia, menu of the day. The platos are given in less expensive places  as the menu of the day is more formal. Some expensier places offered nowdays a menu de degustacion or tasting sampler menu. The menu in Spanish is call the la Carta.  All places welcome children who are the king/queen there,and if ask will offered smaller portions for them. For paying you say La Cuenta por favor or the bill please. Tipping is not obligatory and the service charge is enough included in the bill, however, I always tip a small amount and if one of my regular places as much as 5% extra.

Now let’s get to the details and tell you of my favorites over the years.

La Bola, calle de la Bola 5, the best cocido madrileño in town, stew dish from Madrid. Resto goes back to 1870. http://www.labola.es/

Casa Patas, Calle Canizares 10, tapas bar and flamenco, the best of both worlds. http://www.casapatas.com/

Casa Ciriaco, Calle Mayor 84 tel +34 91 548 0620; near the Royal Palace and known for a great gallina en papitoria (chicken with eggs and saffron). https://www.casaciriaco.es/

Botin, Calle de Cuchilleros 17, oldest restaurant in the world from 1725; traditional Castilian roast lamb and pig.  https://www.botin.es/

La Barraca, Calle de la Reina,29; Valencia style paella, first class one of my family favorites. http://www.labarraca.es/

Casa Paco, plaza Puerta Cerrada,11. great cebon de buey thick juicy steak forever Lol!  https://www.casapaco1933.es/

La Taberna del Pescador, Calle Manuel Pombo Angulo,18, the fish is king here, seafood galore freshly done, the owner is a fisherman lol!  tel +34 917 504 794. metro Las Tablas near autopista M40 beltway of Madrid. No confirmation if still open, to check.

Casa Mingo, Paseo de la Florida,34 near Principe Pio. Asturian ciders and more open started from miners from Asturia, the real thing in Madrid. Many anecdotes here with the family and friends over the years. webpage is at http://www.casamingo.es/

Las Cuevas de Luis Candela, calle Cuchilleros 1, Castilian and roask suckling pig at its very best in wood oven. A family tradition going back to my grandparents that I continue with my wife and boys. http://www.lascuevasdeluiscandelas.es/

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Casa Alberto, calle de las Huertas, 18. Castilian good for years and years since 1827. Another favorite really ! http://www.casaalberto.es/

L’Albufera at Melia Castilla hotel, not often hotel restos but this one was different. Capitan Haya 45, Cuzco. Valencian cuisine and rices galore !  https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/spain/madrid/melia-castilla/albufera.htm

Cafe Gijon, Paseo de Recoletos, 21 ;One of the classic for literary discussions and a light meal over a drink talk with friends, one of my meeting places in Madrid. tel +34 915 215 425; Metro Colon line 4. https://www.cafegijon.com/

Café de la Opera, calle Arrieta 6, in front of Teatro Real or royal theater. Excellent and refine, opera style, they sing lol! https://www.elcafedelaopera.com/

Florida Park, inside the Retiro park, spectacles and fine dining with a show, the very best, and very nostalgic. Way back in my youth this was a community center where dances were held, now if you had a girl you could come here . I did ::) And after some ownership changes it is back strong with several layers of choices in the new Florida Retiro.  https://floridaretiro.com/

Asador de Aranda, castilian at its best and still going strong, at Plaza de Castilla 3 and other locations in the city,and elsewhere in Spain.  My spot here: http://asadordearanda.net/es/content/madrid-plaza-castilla

Cafe de Oriente, one of the traditional and a nice area. Plaza de Oriente 2, near Opera and royal Palace.  http://cafedeoriente.es/

Real Cafe Bernabeu in the magnificent best Real Madrid Santiago Bernabeu stadium, with full view of the field. Metro Santiago Bernabeu line 10, can’t missed it as a long time Madridista, for lunches is tops. And now full renovation of the stadium will be even better!now only catering. https://realcafebernabeu.es/

Posada de la Villa ,from an old posada or inn of 1642. exquisite. Calle de la Cava Baja,9 http://www.posadadelavilla.es/

Taberna del Capitan alastriste.Calle Cava Baja,9  La Latina, try Chuletadas al Capitan or chops of the captain, delicious. http://www.tabernadelcapitanalatriste.com/

Los Galayos, Calle Botonera 5, plaza Mayor, the Madrid of yesteryear ,doing it here since 1894.http://www.losgalayos.net/

Marisqueria Ribeira do Miño, Calle Santa Brigida ,1.Best seafood fresh and daunty, with a great ambiance always until very late. And one of the best meeting places of Madridistas (Real Madrid followers)  Galicia in Madrid.  http://www.marisqueriaribeiradomino.com/es/des-752-inicio

Cañas y Tapas, the best beer place with the locals in mind and modern. Several in town, the Vaguada shopping center ,a great reprive from all those shopping attack by the family. Other locations as well. Always  great ambiance.  https://www.canasytapas.es/restaurante/c-c-la-vaguada/

VIPS, the best cafeterias in Madrid for a quick bite and soft landing on your money, several all over town. I have been coming here since at least 1990. Last was at Calle de Alcalà 200 across from Las Ventas Monumental bullring. More on VIPS here: https://www.vips.es/

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Cafe Restaurante El Espejo, paseo de Recoletos, 31/another institution on a well travel road, my first taste of Madrid with my new wife back in 1990 and one of our sure stops always after that date. You wont go wrong here while watching Madrid walk by you on Recoleto that continues north passing Plaza de Colon towards Castellana and then south to Cibeles fountain and plaza.  http://www.elespejonouveau.com/carta/

Asador de la Esquina, another Real Madrid institution at the stadium by door 44 ,and ave Concha Espina 1. Exquisite Castilian with great cuts of meat.  It is closed due to the virus and renovations in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium but will be back even better! http://asadordelaesquina.es/

Pasteleria Mallorca, has the best pastries in Madrid for years…lately it has gone into restaurant too, the one at Calle Serrano 6 is a dandy not to miss. The store at Puerta del Sol sell its pastries yummy too. https://www.pasteleria-mallorca.com/listado-de-tiendas

La Giralda, calle Claudio Coello, 24, metro Retiro. Andalucia in Madrid. other locations in the city. Great pescaito frito or fry fish. http://www.restauranteslagiralda.com/

Mercado de San Miguel, plaza de San Miguel metro Sol, great for tapas and old ambiance of Madrid. This is a must one time to see a landmark of Madrid, and then evenings is great for tapas and take home.  Events every week for tasting of different tapas and wines. http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/

El Pescador, Jose Ortega y Gasset, 75 the great Madrid seafood place always good. Another Galician beauty in Madrid. http://www.marisqueriaelpescador.net/

Pinocchio, Italian at excellent value and great ambiance at Calle de Sànchez Bustillo,5  metro Estacion del Arte (former Atocha) Metro line 1. https://pinocchio.es/

El Rodizio, when I want to go back to Brazil, this is it. great cuts of beef here,and with samba ambiance lol! Calle Medea 4, just cornering Calle Alcala out of city center a bit but easy on metro line 5 Suanzes, my neck of the woods for non tourist area too. Now under a new concept of Guanabara El Rodizio , Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/GuanabaraMadrid/

Taberna Antonio Sanchez, founded in 1830 by a torero of the same name who died in 1964. painter Ignacio Zuloaga had paintings here. Calle Meson de Paredes,13, metro line 1 Tirso de Molina. tel +34 91 539 78 26. no webpage but by now on many press clippings. do not missed the rabo de toro or bulls oxtails stew yummy. http://www.tabernaantoniosanchez.com/?lang=es

TGIFriday’s, the American in Madrid, an old time favorite of mine, and conveniently located at the Esquina del Bernabeu Real Madrid complex first floor. ave Concha Espina,3. This is now gone due to renovation of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium however, there is a nice we have been too at Calle Virgen de los Peligros corner with Calle de Alcalà 21, Metro Sevilla and Sol, near Puerta del Sol:  https://www.tgifridays.es/restaurantes/fridays-peligros

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Cerveceria Los Timbales, Calle Alcala 227.metro Ventas Line 5. a bullfigher delight next to the Monumental, and a hangout of old. very richly decorated and great ambiance in the evenings.  https://www.restaurantelostimbalesmadrid.com/blank

Chocolateria San Gines, Pasadizo de San Gines,5, near Puerta del Sol, a must as it is nostalgic for me, my mom used to take me there when as a kid love those churros dip in hot chocolates ,yummy. An institution if now too much touristic. Metro Sol line 1,2,3, cercanias train. https://chocolateriasangines.com/

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Museo del Jamon, Gran Via 72; metro Plaza de España line 2,3,and 10. And my latest at Atocha and carrera de San Jeronimo, photo . https://museodeljamon.es/en/historia-del-museo/museo-de-atocha/

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Many many others of just passing and stopping, Madrid has more per sq km than any other city in Europe.  Hope you try them and see for ourselves, the good life of Madrid. Buen provecho, vale. Enjoy it.

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

October 20, 2020

Dusseldorf for the memories!

So here I am on a cold sunny day in my neck of the woods and remembering trips passed, trying to bring them to life again. Of course, I have written before on Dusseldorf, Germany but this is new text and new photos. Hope you enjoy it.

I  admit, Germany always is a gravity pull, and been there on business and family trîps, and cousin married to one.. This time went for a short spell on business to a new city on my map, Dusseldorf, wonderful! I like to tell you briefly and remind myself of the souvenirs of the visit.

It was during the Christmas season ,so plenty of Christmas markets in the zentrum or center, and we did walk the nights away. The Konigsallee area is gorgeous, and the hotel I stayed is the best, know it well because worked on them in management years ago in France. The best way is by taxi only 21 euros at the time, the train is about 6 euros at the time, but need to have changes, and no need to start your trip stress out with these taxpayer supported schemes.

The airport was great too, very clean, and friendly even without speaking German. I try the restaurant on the travel gallery on the E3 level , Das Gasthaus , more chow, this time flaky meaty fish, mashed potatoes, and the same nutty walnut cake type with a large Becks beer lol! A different way to arrive at a city lol! then went out to my hotel! Always goood to revise the posts as again another that bites the dust the resto is no longer there!! So again ,just for the memories.

The Dusseldorf airport webpage is here in English: https://www2.dus.com/en

dusseldorf airport departure level stores nov11

The airport has connection by train, bus, taxi, etc very well connected to city center. The site above will tell you only the S-Bahn S11 train stops at the Düsseldorf Airport Terminal station in the basement of the terminal building. There are several buses too to different locations. Eventually did not tried any of these. I use the taxi , even recommended by the local Germans! However, I saw the rate already up I paid 21 euros and now it says 28!!

The walks in the zentrum old city center was great, full of life nothing left unseen, the people were in their best moods. The bars were full, we had a great time at the Intercontinental Hotel lobby bar, and then went on to check out the two next ones that are a must for everyone visiting the city. The hotel webpage in English: https://www.ihg.com/intercontinental/hotels/gb/en/dusseldorf/dusha/hoteldetail

I like the fact that just out of hotel the Konigsallee street and district is very nice to walk even at nights. The Düssel river passing was perfect with good friends and good cheers and a bit of Paris! Too bad this time not enough time to see much other than the culinary delights which are always welcome by yours truly.

The tourist office of Dusseldorf in English is here: https://www.duesseldorf-tourismus.de/en/

And the city of Dusseldorf page on Konigsallee district is here in English! https://www.duesseldorf.de/international/tourism/discover/koe.html

However, the highlight of the visit was going with friends to eat at a wonderful steakhouse with great wines selection. For the best steaks western style and wines galore head for the The Classic Western Steakhouse, Tubmannstrr 12 with top US beef with sound of country music and old western photos all over the walls,huge and delicious. I had the regular cut of juicy steak, mashed potatoes, nutty cake for dessert which I even forgot its German name, and share a bottle of 2008 Errazuriz Chilean red wine. More info here in German: https://steakhouse-duesseldorf.de/

Dusseldorf The Classic western steakhouse resto nov11

The next evening we went for old German chow, of beef and potatoes and green beens at a place where the beer never stop coming, I had ten glasses!!, and it was delicious, we walk home lol! This was at Brauerie Schumacher, Oststr 123. The brewery been there since 1838, pub with beautiful wood carvings, we went to the back a special room for us lol!!. More info here in German: https://www.schumacher-alt.de/index2.html

And it was time the next morning to say goodbye. Always tough to leave a place you had such a good time. I am very attaching and probably will find it well to even live there already!! nahh just kidding….

I started my return to Nantes airport direct flight , easy quick in and out place, and then my car home in about 1h30, on the N165 expressway. In all a very nice trip, and a discovery is made to come back to Dusseldorf. Hope you share with this post ,for the memories of old and travel thrills!

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

October 19, 2020

Lovely Prague, and more!!

Well lets get back to Europe shall we! I always heard of the country even when it was a different name, and had opportunity to come in but did not. Then , all of a sudden, came to it first by 2014 and thereafter came 3 more times until the virus. Prague is nice and the new country of the Czech Republic has interesting sights as well as the new country of Slovakia! Let me tell you a bit about it with new text using some old photos but new in the blog.

I am not going to go into the history because is long and troublesome, already touch base in previous posts. Let me tell you where I went instead. This was Prague, mainly, as well as by Brno and Bratisalva in Slovakia as well as visit smaller towns like Kurosov, Budmerice, Ostrokevice, and Radnov.

I did walk the Prague,and went to the periphery of Praha 10 or Prague 10 district away from touristic center. This is the real city for me. The airport is smallist but easy to move about, not too many stores. I came by air on AF from Nantes to Paris CDG and then Czech Airlines to Prague Havel airport. The airport is in the nearby town of Lestice.

There are many ways to get to the city with buses ,taxis, shuttles etc. I usually took a taxi, but this time try the tourist in me and took Cedaz the private express airport. The ride was 150 K or about 7 euros; every 30 minutes ride is about 40 minutes. You can take it from Terminal 1 exit F or 2 exit E. Very easy nice ride. It stop me right in front side of the Hilton Old Town Hotel. However, as updates goes, the Cedaz service has been discontinued so this is just for the memories ok.  At the aiport had lunch at a nice restaurant in El Mundo del Tabaco cafe. Where I had my lunch with a nice Czech beer Pilsner Urquel. This has also closed so again just for the memories in my blog.

The Prague airport site in English: https://www.prg.aero/en#/

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prague airport getting to gates C7 T2 oct16

My first stay going in was at the wonderfully nice mansion villa in Praha 10 as well call Hotel Villa, very nice friendly service, good space rooms,and good breakfast, restaurant. They are still there, webpage in English: http://www.hotel-villa.cz/?lang=en

prague hotel villa main ent nov13

However, while in town went out to eat as the locals do for a full feeling of belonging in Praque. I had great lunches at Peugeot Restaurant; very local food and away from tourist, good food and nice prompt service. I went for the menu of Czech specialties and all good. The owners love the Peugeot cars and the rooms are decorated with replicas and posters of them plus scènes from Paris! More here in Czech: http://www.restaurace-peugeot.cz/

prague peugeot resto outside praha 10 nov13

Then, it was a wandering walk thru old town, just missing the Charles river but see everything else.  I stop by the train station which is rather nice and webpage is here: https://www.dpp.cz/en

Also , at  Masarykovo Nadrazi with plenty of tramway and bus service to the city and around it. Also trains as  Hlavni Nadrazi to other towns, webpage here: https://www.cd.cz/en/default.htm

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As I needed to be in and out of Prague ,when back stayed at another wonderful location. I did some ride into town and did some walking until finally settling into my hotel. A new place very inexpensive and very nice, I have already experience knowing the investment guys in the St Christopher’s in Paris, but here it is call Penzion U Krystof in Praha 10 .More info here: https://krystof.cz/en/

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Nice friendly and no English Pizza Next on 131 Zabehlicka street Praha 10, real good pizzas and a nice pint of Pilsner Urquel beer. all for 6€ lol! Cannot find a webpage for them but it is near the Hamr tennis complex on the above street. Talking about the Hamr tennis sports complex, this is superb, and nice modern facilities. Even a soccer/football local match to watch, and great food at the Piazza d’Oro terrace restaurant overlooking the lake Hamersky. too bad is only in Czech, but the facilities are full, the restaurant was goulasch , rice and a nice krusovice beer for 4€ ;more info  here: http://www.hamrsport.cz/cs/zabehlice/restaurace/

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On my way out of Prague and going home I did splurge myself  at the Hilton Old Town Prague. This is  a grand chain and this hotel rank high up. Queen size bed and views of the city in front of you, walking to Namesti Republiky square The room was big ,bath too, wifi, bar, and on the 7th floor nice.  more into the business traveler but families will be in heaven too. More info here: https://www.hilton.com/en/hotels/prgothi-hilton-prague-old-town/

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And of course, going out with a bang. I went to eat at Potrefena Husa resto and it was fantastic ambiance good food and cheap at 10€ including beer. The beer was local and a bit yeasty but ok. More info here: https://www.potrefena-husa.eu/en/

My evening I went to the Kolkovna Celnice typical Czech resto not far from the Hilton, and it was  a simple business dinner pilsner beers that took the idea of Prague even more enticing Old Czech Kolkovna  platter 900 grams for about 13 euros! More info here: https://www.kolkovna.cz/en/kolkovna-celnice-13

Next day was a soul searching in dark old town Prague; and I took my friends on a walking tour of Prague to find a place locals had brought me before, the Hybernia or 2002 with the brewing pilsner beers and more drinks and be merry, recommended for more time. More info here: https://www.dvatisicedva.cz/contact

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I continue the seach for excellence and we just got in before closing at the Dubliner Irish pub that we should come back. More info here: https://aulddubliner.cz/

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In between i was in the market of Monday morning at Namesti Republiky, colorful by the metro station entrance. I walk around seeing the wonderful buildings such as the powder tower ,muséums, and theaters; etc.

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The tourist office of Praguehttps://www.prague.eu/en

This time took some time into the countryside and even into Slovakia. Hurry trip by car moving fast and eating on road stops but now I saw more of a pretty country.  It was new ,also, to have lunch at the road rest stops like Benzina, Mol, and Viva along the road 1 dir Brno, etc. and into Slovakia. This site will help you find some of the stations : https://www.benzina.cz/en/stations/Pages/main.aspx

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And of course the Czech motorway info page is very good for car travel there ! I love it!!! http://www.motorway.cz/

I did had lunch at a nice stop hotel restaurant Atrium near Brno , more info here:https://www.hotelatrium.eu/en

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I drove by Brno and Bratisalva in Slovakia as well as visit smaller towns like Kurosov, Budmerice, Ostrokevice, and Radnov with lots of country and farms. All nice rolling roads and beautiful scenary. It will be a nice to be back when the virus allows it for in depth look.

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Otrokovice city hall passing oct16

And it was time to be back to Prague, and my Hilton again before saying goodbye to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The difference was that I always get a taxi and never a problem,only once had to haggle over a price but was easily settled in my favor. This time I hire the Prague Airport Transfer service and English spoken nice ride and good driver. More info here: http://www.prague-airport-transfers.co.uk/

The tourist office of the Czech Republic:  https://www.visitczechrepublic.com/en-US

The tourist office of Slovakiahttps://slovakia.travel/en

There you folks ,another dandy road warrior trip with a bit of help of airplane to get there. Wonderful country side and lots of souvenirs of these trips. Again, looking forward to be back, it was a blast! Hope you enjoy the post as I did.

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

October 17, 2020

San Cristobal de la Habana, my Havana!!!

So once again back into nostalgia lane, this will be common in our times of covid19, wuhan virus , coronavirus etc ! I am relinquishing viewing some old post in my blog that needs update due to webpages changes routes etc. My last time in Havana was in 2012! After leaving it in 1970! However, always in my heart. Let me tell you a bit of update on San Cristobal de la Habana or simply La Habana or as most outside says Havana/Havane.

It was the ultimate Caribbean destination, the “Paris of the Americas” (by E Hemingway ), the “key to the gulf (of Mexico) the bulkward of the West Indies” (King Felipe II of Spain), to the whole of Cuba. The “most beautiful land human eyes have yet seen” (C Columbus upon arrival 1492) .It brings back memories of childhood, and still vibrates the world from no matter what place on the fence you might be. It is a beautiful city, if only can be kept in one piece.

havana C Oficio y Teniente Rey Feb12

You first arrive most likely by the Jose Marti International Airport in Rancho Boyeros, just outside the city of Havana,and now part of the city administrative speaking; here you ,also find the Havana Zoo. The real name from its founding in 1519 was San Cristobal de la Habana (St Christopher of the Havana), the saint is the name for the genovese navigator Cristobal Colon (Christopher Colombus), Habana is an old indian word meaning a savanah between two rivers the Almendares (also the best Cuban pro baseball team before the revolution) ,and the Cojimar (famous by Hemingway fishing out). The old center is all of a UNESCO heritage site.

If you go by El Templete you will see an old oak tree where the first religious Mass was held on the island on 1519 . There lies a bust to Christopher Colombus and 3 paintings by French painter Jean-Baptiste Vermay (who, also, did the Cathedral!).  It gain notoriety when the Spanish crown decided that the city will hold all shipment coming from the rest of the Americas to be sent in convoy to Spain this in 1561 (to avoid pirates ransacking them) . Finally in 1592 king Felipe II declares it a city!

It fell to British rule in 1762 after a succesful attack by British ships and naval man, it was then exchange for Florida in 1763, and Havana came back to be Spanish for good by the Treaty of Paris. In 1774 the first census of the city is done with 170 000 inhabitants, and on 1796 the remains of Christopher Colombus arrives from Santo Domingo to be put in the Cathedral, later to be transfered to the Cathedral of Sevilla, (where the wood of the tomb complex is from Cuba) as the legend goes. In 1837 the first railroad is born from Havana to the town of Gûines, a first in the Spanish-speaking world.  In 1863 the old city walls were destroyed so the city can enlarge into the suburbs being the first one, the Vedado. It became a free Republic on May 20,1902 under Republica de Cuba under American protectorate by the Platt Amendment until 1934. After some not so good dictators, it fell into the worse in 1959 where still is under a communist dictatorship; second oldest in the world behind North Korea!

The longest river is Almendares for 50 kms (31 mi), and the name for an old baseball team, my family’s favorite. The highest point is at Tetas de Managua at 210 meters (693 ft). The bay of Havana is one of the biggest and best in the world. The average temperature is 25°C or about 77°F. But near the airport it has been recorded as low as 4°C about 36°F in 2010. Today it has about 2,5 million inhabitants or about 20% of the island population.

It was once the Paris of the Americas, the most chic city of Latin America until the revolution destroyed everything; streets names were changed, city names were change, people left in hordes, and more poverty than ever sets in all under the glorious revolution still there. However, it was not always like today.

It quickly grew into the city with Latin America’s biggest middle class, and Hemingway quoted “In terms of beauty only Venice and Paris surpassed Havana”. Gas public lighting came in 1848 and railroad in 1837. Most of the building were inspired by French architect and style such as the Aldama castle build in 1844. See the University of Havana, Capitol (1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA). Neoclassical like the Convent of Santa Clara, Art deco like the Bacardi building,modern like the Habana Hilton Hotel (today Tryp Habana Libre part of the Spanish group Melia), and wonderful castles like La Fuerza, Morro, Cabañas,Atares,Principe,La Punta. The grand theater also known as Garcia Lorca theater,and the biggest in Latin America, cementerio Colon (Colombus cementary).

Some of the places of interest to see in my opinion are the followings : Fortaleza de San Carlos de la Cabaña or simply La Cabaña in the west side of the harbor; Capitolio Nacional, built in 1929 replica of the one in Washington DC USA; Castillo del MorroEl Templete (first Catholic Mass in Cuba), Cemeterio Colon or Colombus Cementary ,the largest in the Americas; Plaza de la Revolucion ,old Plaza Jose Marti; University of Havana, founded in 1728 and one of the oldest in the Americas; Catedral de la Habana or Cathedral, Convento de San Francisco, Convento de Santa Clara, Palacio de Aldama, Estacion Central de Ferrocarril Or the railroad station, Castillo de AtaresCastillo del PrincipeEl Torron de CojimarAcuario or national aquarium of Havana at avenida 3ra; Museo de la Revolucion in the old Presidential palace ; Fabrica Partagàs, cigars of Cuba; go outside towards Cojimar at Vigia to the house /Museum of Ernest Hemingway, his old property; Walk on bulevard PradoManzana de Gomez, a whole city block building of stores, Cinema Yara the old radio city hall, Castillo de la Real FuerzaCastillo San Salvador de la PuntaPalacio del Segundo Cabo, the home of the 2nd in line governor of old Cuba under Spanish rule; Gran TeatroTeatro Amadeo Roldan; old Captain’s General building where the only king’s throne room in the Americas is located, the site of the governor of Cuba in colonial times and today a museum, Chinatown, as the Chinese quarters.

Havana Mon Maceo Malecon apr12

The way for transport is complicated, and very saturated but its the travelers choice to mingle with the locals and feel ,see the way of life as it is. There are metrobuses lines but very unfrequent and best hire a taxi with driver, and get to ride old American cars at least on the outside. There are some long line bus companies like the locals in inter city travel use the Astro buses from the same spot as below , where if pay in foreign currency you can get a preferential seat (not verify but I was told foreigners cannot use it anymore,check). You can also take the more tourist oriented Via Azul , last I heard their hq was at Avenida Independencia No 101 corner with calle 19 de Mayo, Plaza de la Revolucion, but I never taken anything there than a car. The line via azul schedule is from a French side in pdf file here: https://jdsdf.pagesperso-orange.fr/pdf/Bus%20Viazul%20Cuba%20Horaires.pdf

The same webpage above talks about a new service Transtur ,never heard of but apparently It offers transfer between airport and hotels pdf file here: https://jdsdf.pagesperso-orange.fr/pdf/Bus%20Transtur%20Cuba%20Horaires.pdf

Taxis are regulated  under private individuals and agencies, these are best to be hire for all your trips. Again not use them as have someone ride me around there from the family but this site is for real: http://: https://taxincuba.com/es/index.html

Its a very friendly city that will have no problem finding help and very safe. Driving is not recommended for visitors unaware of the laws and bad road signs but if willing to the best is Havanautos company   with official webpage here: https://www.havanautos.com/AboutUs.aspx?lng=2

The gas/petrol is not plentiful and need to know where are they once you hire the car The stations are call Servi-Cupet and need to pay in foreign currency preferably euros. This is a great map application to find them and more I have it on La Rampa Centro Habana: https://cubamaps.travel/es/compras/tiendas/83623-cupet-la-rampa

For hotels or eating places with the locals try the “Casas Particulares” private folks with official approval. These are best to hire for the experience of real Cuba and Havana of course. There are several sites but I put one from there in English and French too: http://www.casas-cuba.org/index.html

The places to eat best are again at the Casas Particulares that also offered restaurant service. There are now many Paladares or private folks restaurant paying a license to operate from the government but are more typical of Cuba and Havana of course. Again several sites but this one is local as I know it Alamesa or to the table! https://www.alamesacuba.com/en/la-habana/search/#places

And a more popular Restaurant guru for Havana here : https://restaurantguru.com/Havana

Then you have the old reliable like La Bodeguita del Medio, and Floridita Bar (the best bar in the world in 1957 by Esquire magazine); El Aljibe in Miramar, La Ferminia also in Miramar,El Conejito in Vedado ,the old family hangout of rabbit dishes; Los Doce Aposteles in the Morro castle; La Divina Pastora overlooking the harbor, La Zaragozana ; El Potin, near prado and Lineaand Coppelia for ice creams are some of my family favorites.

Oh yes to get to Cuba there are many airlines, but for Cuba there is Cubana de Aviacion, webpage in Spanish here https://www.cubana.cu/

There are others foreign companies that do a lot of flights into Cuba such as COPA, AeroMexico, InterJet, Air France, Avianca, Air Europa, LAN, Comviasa, KLM, Iberia etc. Need to check flights due to covid19.

Booking and al. info on Cuba ,see the old reliable junky at http://www.cuba-junky.com/

And another old reliable Netssa at http://www.netssa.com/

The Cuban tourist organisation in Spanish/English is at  https://www.cubatravel.cu/

As the most tourist now arriving and for the last few years are Canadians, here is the Cuba tourist board in Canada in English: https://www.gocuba.ca/en/

And of course ,the tourist board of Cuba in France in French: https://www.voyage-cuba.com/

Its a city to fall in love for no matter what period of time in history you may choose to visit. Just wishing for those there, better times ahead. Enjoy the ride into my nostalgia old land. Havana is for dreamers!

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

October 14, 2020

Mexico DF, magico!!!

So looking over my older posts since started my blog I notice not enough coverage of beautiful Mexico city. This is a pity , as is a country where i have visited several times over the years and have family there which I have visited too. Therefore, this is a compendium of older posts  put together with updated text using the old photos, some of them not in the blog yet. Hope you enjoy it and do visit Mexico.

It is always gratifying to be able to meet old friends, and make new ones, and walk and drive all over the main points of the city. The due diligence is eminent with common sense, but I walk and drove into industrial warehouses and Polanco and all with ease,nice. The weather was very nice, sunny fresh, nice very nice indeed. I try to walk and drive to areas of nostalgic presence for me as once I came to the city since 2001-2002 when i was visiting every month! Many friends kept that I try to meet every time I am in town, and lucky to find them again today.

For most of my stays there and already can call it my hangout of many years in Zona Rosa, the Best Western Royal Hotel, Amberes 78; a great place to stay with wonderful restaurants including the gourmet Tezka basque cuisine,and a plethora of choices outside all around you from stores, bars, restos, clubs etc. Very central between paseo de la reforma and ave chapultepec,right in the in spot. The hotel new webpage as Hotel Royal Reforma new name is here: https://hotelroyalreforma.com/

Mex Royal hotel ent feb13

There was a wonderful Tezka basque restaurant that you can communicate from the above hotel,no longer there.  From 1994 it grew to when I first met them in 2002 and then 2013 it was rank 75 of the 100 best restaurants of the event  World’s 50 Best Restaurants.  Here again just for the memories.

mex tezka resto medallion dining room feb13

I ate again on my culinary search at Konditori, at Calle Genova, in the Zona Rosa, the food was ok and great prices, with even greater company. I had filete tampeño and the food was well done. I finally grabbed my Negra Modelo beer here lol!!! The resto founded in 1953 by Danish immigrants was great but unfortunately it closed. Another wonderful memory for my blog ok.

mex konditori resto zona rosa jul14

From here you are walking distance to the Bosque de Chapultepec,and its wonderful museums. The official site of the magical forest is in Spanish, you go to and click on Bosque de Chapultepec, I have it in the servicios or practical information page in English: https://chapultepec.org.mx/things-to-do/?lang=en

I came back same year and continue my delights in Mexico city, toppled it all with a very nice evening with good old friends in Zona Rosa,near the Royal hotel, at the corner of Hamburgo and Niza streets, there is El Lugar del Mariachi, its a restaurant with live music pop and mariachis alternatively, and a dance floor !!! This is right smack in tourist central so a bit high price but very good food, secure,and a very good group of musicians playing from pop to bolero to cha cha cha and then a group of mariachi singers playing their songs as well; a very good ambiance with romantic overtones or in family. More here: http://www.ellugardelmariachi.com.mx/zona-rosa.html

mex el lugar del mariachi feb13

My best shopping reminds me of my eternal Paris was at the wonderful Liverpool dept store in the Polanco neighborhood at Mariano Escobedo # 425. Col. Chapultepec Morales. Delegación Miguel Hidalgo. I got my boys gifts and dear wife here for many years of visiting Mexico City! More info here: https://www.liverpool.com.mx/tienda/home

Ahh right by the above in the Polanco neighborhood, I have stayed at a wonderful property too! The hotel Camino Real Polanco is unique, and a most for comfort, service, amenities,location and loaded with 7 restos/bars plus pool at 28°C and exercise room. It is just off gal Mariano Escobendo and Liebnitz behind it, across from bosque de Chapultepec and all its wonderful museums. More of this hotel here: https://www.caminoreal.com/en/caminoreal/camino-real-polanco-mexico

At the above hotel  I ate at the wonderful Centro Castellano restaurant that was inside the Camino Real hotel, for a real Castilian Spain food and Spanish wines.  Wonderful time indeed: their webpage is here: http://grupocastellano.com.mx/camino-real/

For a local twist went for real tacos pastor at Taqueria Senele, great tacos alambre as well at Calle Leibnitz, 51  just at the corner coming out of hotel Camino Real Polanco back door.  More real food here: http://www.taqueria-selene.com/

And during this interlude, went out bit further to have lunch at Cambalache, an Argentine jewel small but all kinds of cuts beef that is, at Insurgentes Sur 1384, in Col. Del Valle.  More info here: http://www.cambalacherestaurantes.com/#insurgentes

mex cambalache arg resto feb13

In another memorable visit tried the hotel Segovia Regency in ave Chapultepec 328 across from Amberes. Actually, the anecdote here is that came with my boss who for some reason did not like the Royal and since he was paying, told him the hotel across the street basically we found the Segovia! This hotel at the time (need to check if still do) closed the front doors for security between midnight and 6h or 6am. So we needed clearance each time to get back in lol! More info here: https://segovia-regency-mexico.hotel-rn.com/

Mex hotel segovia regency at chapultepec oct12

Driving around Mexico City was glorious again, its heavy traffic lends to expert driving manouvers and expert drivers that I was lucky to have. The street level and the bustle and hussle of a city is wonderful to my soul! I continue my swing in a couple of trips same year and ate at Los Panchos in Condesa, Calle Tolstoi 9, Col. Anzures, real local food and very popular, the place was packed.  I tried all different dishes from tacos de carnitas, chicharrones, stuffed peppers , etc etc so much food down with agua de jamaica and agua de leche delicious. Los Panchos since 1945! more in foodie site Chilango: https://www.chilango.com/comida/restaurantes/los-panchos-2/

Mex Los panchos menu condesa oct12

Another culinary delight was at Puerto Lapice, here it was the filete tampiqueño real beef that was the plate with Mexican wine chateau Domecq. Located at Poniente 128 647 , corner of Norte 45 ,Azcapotzalco, Col Industrial Vallejo, more at Chilango here: https://www.chilango.com/restaurantes/vallejo/puerto-lapice

Mex puerto Lapice resto ent oct12

I was lucky to be invited for a drink and dinner at the Torre Mayor, private club that has wonderful views of the city and an impeccable service.  More on the choices there on official webpage: https://www.torremayor.com.mx/index.php/en/the-shops#

I did my usual trips around the place eating and enjoying the company of friends. We first tried El Bajio, another typical local foodie from the Veracruz cuisine. The food was great with panoches,chicharones, and the pork dish with black mole and sauce. More see the Patio Universidad location here: https://www.restauranteelbajio.com.mx/sucursales

mex el bajio resto ent feb13

We ,also, visited El Paisa, a more rustic restaurant in a working class area with a nice second floor terrace, a very nice welcome with lots of Mexicans families there; nice ambiance and great conversation with many. The area is nice around a corner, and serve in the terrace in the back upper level. It is best reach here by car; one of the places to go when you know the area and want to get away from it all. Here we had more goodies of the Mexican cuisine such as the alambre with meat and cheese melted sort like a pizza but chewy and yummy, pacifico beers and coffee expresso, first we had some chicharones and all good. I visited the Calle Claveria 199, , Centro, Azcapotzalco district property. More in their Facebook page with link to private site of resto but long link here: https://www.facebook.com/Taqueria-el-Paisa-Claveria-101592618170678/

This allows me just before go over the Plaza Universidad shopping center. Plenty of shops and good restos for a meetup with friends anytime/ more here: http://plaza-universidad.com/

Later I hook up with another group of friends of older days and went over for some snacks and drinks at Sanborns Universidad. Very familiar as in my other life in US once supplied with electronics, and knew the founding family. More here: https://www.sanborns.com.mx/Directorio_tiendas/

And following my culinary taste of Mexico DF on another night went for TGIFridays hahaha yes very original , I remember this resto from back in USA and love them. Found them here with a nice big burger and try Victoria and Pacifico beers !! This was in the Patio Universidad more of the shopping center in their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PatioUniversidad/

The TGIFridays resto official page for the above location is here: http://fridays.mx/tufridays.php?idres=6

mex tgif entrance resto sep18

And, I had time with another friend to see the Mexico vs El Salvador football.soccer match CONCACAF World Cup qualifying won easily by Mexico 3X0 at Hooters Universidad ,another of my old favorites ::) Great Indio beer and nachos snacks with cheese and the action was good with friendly crowd. More here: http://hooters.com.mx/sucursales/universidad/

mex hooters inside tv mex vs el salvador game nov15

Next day, after doing some walking around safe in DF! lol! I met some old friends at the Olive Garden in the Patio Universidad shopping;  here with ravioli stuff champignon and a great Trapiche malbec Argentinian wine, coffee nice, great memories! Again another memorable resto from my Fl US time and catch up with them in Mexico DF! More here: http://olivegardenmexico.com.mx/ubicaciones.html

mex olive garden terrace patio univ nov15

And I enjoy going with friends outside Mexico city into the State of Mexico at Ecatepec de Morelos. Driving around in Ecatepec , I stop for lunch at Los Bisquets de Obregon avenue 1ro de Mayo , Jardines de Morelos,  local cuisine restaurant with a great cecina steak (salted and dried by means of air, sun or smoke) with mashed potatoes, mexican rice, and mango/papaya juices.  More info here: https://bisquetsobregon.com/sucursales

mex los bisquets resto ecotepec state of mex nov15

For more tourist info see the official webpage for the city of Mexico DF. See in Spanish the link mapas tematicos por zona or themes map per zone that helps you guide you even on foot! https://turismo.cdmx.gob.mx/

The Mexico tourist board on Mexico Cityhttps://www.visitmexico.com/en/mexico-city

For reference a private site on tourist info in Mexico city in English: https://www.mexicocity.com/v/city-info/

There you go folks, loaded Mexico city is a must as one of the great cities of our world. Bear in mind especially to my regular readers, this information has been updated but already written elsewhere in my blog with the old info. Hope you like it as I do and do visit Mexico city (no I have nothing related to tourism org or agencies or govt disclamer for my enthusiasm!). Just fun traveling and Mexico is one of them.

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

October 12, 2020

Mérida of Mexico!!!

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

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

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

merida going to Evy house sep18

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

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

mexico-t1-to-merida-airport-sep18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

merida-altabrisas-shopping-mall-arriving-sep18

merida-altabrisas-shopping-hall-sep18

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

merida altabrisas shopping IHOP breakfast sep18

merida-altabrisas-shopping-ihop-dining-room-sep18

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

merida-la-isla-shopping-arriving-sep18

merida-la-isla-shopping-hall-upper-sep18

merida-la-isla-shopping-liverpool-store-sep18

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

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

merida la isla shopping macarthys irish pub entrance sep18

merida-la-isla-macarthys-irish-pub-lights-out-sep18

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

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

merida-la-isla-district-bar-beers-counter-sep18

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

merida-la-isla-shopping-tasca-brava-paella-sep18-e1562502836640

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

merida-depart-airport-b2-sep18

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

October 12, 2020

Brazil, this is Natal!

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

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

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

natal airport going out may16

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

natal-holiday-express-checkin-may16

natal-holiday-express-room-701-to-beach-may16

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

natal-camaroes-resto-ent-may16

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

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

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

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

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

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

canoa quebrada long beach hotel front may16

canoa quebrada long beach hotel patio to rooms may16

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

canoa quebrada cafe habana dining may16

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

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

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

October 11, 2020

State of Minas Gerais, Brazil!

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

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

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

A bit of history I like

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

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

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

tres coracoes pousada calabrese pool may17

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

Tres coracoes venda de chico resto arriving may17

tres coracoes venda do chico cafe stand nov15

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

varginha-hotel-cafe-royal-entrance-may17

varginha-hotel-cafe-royal-lobby-may17

varginha-hotel-cafe-royal-breakfast-resto-may17

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

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

varginha-braseado-resto-on-balcony-night-may17

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 11, 2020

Brazil and two States!

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

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

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

A bit of history I like

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

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

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

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

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

varghina hotel grand enio entrance nov15

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

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

varghina cafe pinga torresmo nov15varghina cafe pinga torresmo inside wall nov15

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

varghina gare routiere nov15

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

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

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

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descalvado

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

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

descalvado nintai jap resto ent nov15

descalvado churrasqueria cabana menu out nov15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 10, 2020

Brazil and Vinhedo!!!

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

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

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

vinhedo sp town entr may17

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

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

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

vinhedo sp plaza hotel entr side may17

vinhedo sp plaza hotel pool deck may17

vinhedo sp plaza hotel restaurant gala may17

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

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

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

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

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

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

vinhedo sp parque farragut fairsground japan expo may17

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

Vinhedo SP Church Matriz Sta Ana may17

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

Vinhedo SP mirador Christ may17

Vinhedo SP mirador view of city may17

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

vinhedo sp o-maria resto hallway may17

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

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

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

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