Category Archives: France

Feria de Pâques de Arles (toros)

Este fin de semana fui con Luismi, un compañero de trabajo, y su hijo Luis a la Feria de Pâques (Pascua) de Arles. En esta entrada quería dejar una serie de fotos de los distintos eventos taurinos y otros que había durante el fin de semana.


La plaza de toros de Arles (arènes), como la de Nîmes, están ubicadas en los anfiteatros romanos que hay en cada una de las dos ciudades. El anfiteatro de Arles data de finales del siglo I, con lo que tiene cerca de 2000 años. Durante la Edad Media se usó como fortaleza, se reforzaron los muros y se construyeron unas torres, que le dan una imagen característica.


El principal atractivo de la jornada del sábado era la corrida con Morante de La Puebla, Jose Maria Manzanares y Álvaro Lorenzo, con 6 toros de la ganadería Garcigrande.


La presencia de Morante atraía una gran expectación, como se podía leer en los periódicos locales, sin embargo no tuvo suerte en el sorteo y tampoco tuvo un buen día.


El triunfador de la tarde fue Manzanares, que cortó tres orejas y salió por la puerta grande. Lorenzo cortó una oreja y también dejó una buena sensación.


Morante de La Puebla.


Alvaro Lorenzo tras cortar una oreja.


Jose Maria Manzanares.

Además de la plaza de toros en el anfiteatro, para la feria se instala otra pequeña plaza desmontable donde se organizan diversos festejos con los jóvenes de la escuela taurina de Arles. El sábado por la tarde había unos jóvenes toreando unas vacas camarguesas, simulando una corrida.


El domingo por la mañana había un grupo de raseteurs con otras vacas desarrollando una corrida camarguesa, la cual es un festejo diferente a las corridas a las que estamos acostumbrados en España y que ya describí en este otro post hace años.


Corrida camarguesa.

En distintas calles de la ciudad se celebraban distintos encierros. En la rue Voltaire se organiza un encierro parecido a los que se organizan en España, aunque no con los toros bravos de lidia que se torean por la tarde, sino con un reses de raza camarguesa con las astas enfundadas. Las reses se sueltan desde un camión en un circuito circular cerrado con barreras verticales.


En el boulevard des Lices se celebró el sábado por la tarde un festejo originario de la Provenza que se llama “bandido” o “abrivado”, dos términos provenzales que hacen referencia a sacar a las reses a pastar al campo y luego a recogerlas de vuelta a los corrales. En dicho encierro, en los extremos opuestos del boulevard (cerrado con vallas) se instalan unos camiones y con la ayuda de caballos se conducen a los toros y vacas de un extremo al otro del boulevard. Los jóvenes a su vez intentan retener a las reses en su avance.


Además de los distintos espectáculos taurinos también hubo conciertos de las distintas bandas de las peñas locales, conciertos, un desfile de calesas y sevillanas.




Para alojarnos la noche del sábado estuvimos en un hotel a las afueras de la ciudad con la casualidad de que estaban allí alojados los toreros Lorenzo y Chamaco (que volvía el domingo a torear después de no hacerlo desde hace años). Un sitio ideal para descansar.

Y aquí los tres antes de la corrida.


Leave a comment

Filed under France, Miscellanea

First World War Armistice Day and Compiègne Wagon

Today, November 11th is commemorated “Armistice Day”, the day in which First World War representatives of the Allies and Germany signed at Compiègne (France) an armistice for the cessation of hostilities on the Western front at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month“.


Last May, we visited the “Musée de l’Armistice 14-18” at Compiègne, in a forest north of Paris. The main attraction of the museum is the Compiègne Wagon, the train coach in which the armistice was signed. A replica of the coach is displayed today at the museum, showing the position of each delegation within the train.


The coach itself, number 2419 D, was a restaurant coach built in May 1914 and delivered to the French Marshal Foch in September 1918 and employed as an office. The coach was the sixth out of the seven of the train that brought the Allied delegation.

Coach number


As part of the display, one can see pieces of the original wagon, the rails where the train once stayed, some monuments to the main actors of the event, military uniforms of the time, pictures of how the delegations arrived to Compiègne, documents with the letters exchanged in advance of the meeting, announcements made to communicate it, some videos of the time, etc.


The armistice initially expired after a period of 36 days. It was followed by the Paris Peace Conference in which diplomats from several countries participated. The British economist John Maynard Keynes was a delegate at the conference, and he wrote the book “The Economic Consequences of the Peace” about it (see here a post about the book).


Months later, on June 28th 1919 the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

Peace Treaty

In September 1919 the coach was donated to the Musée de l’Armée, in Paris. It was then moved to the Cour des Invalides where it was displayed in open air for some years. Thanks to the contribution of the American businessman Arthur H Fleming, a building to house it in the forest of Compiègne was built, where it was displayed until the Second World War.

Second World War

Once France was occupied, on June 22nd 1940, Hitler ordered that the wagon was taken out of the exhibition building and be placed in the rails outside in the exact location in which it was on November 11, 1918, for the signature of another armistice. He carefully prepared the setting, by switching sides for the occasion, the German delegation occupying this time the seats that the Allies had taken in 1918, with Hitler taking the place of Foch. As the story goes, he stayed while the terms were read out by someone of his delegation and left the coach before the signature took place. He then disposed that the coach be transferred to Berlin to be displayed there, at the Cathedral. As the second world war advanced the coach was moved to different locations in Germany and destroyed before the end of the war. Thus, what it is shown today is a replica.

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travelling

Normandy landings on June 6, 1944. D-Day.

Today, June 6th, we commemorate the anniversary of the Normandy landings during World War II in 1944, what is often referred to as D-Day.

A few weeks ago, we visited “Omaha beach“, one of the beaches where Americans landed, which you may have seen as, along with many documentaries, it was staged in the film “Saving Private Ryan“. The beach is about 6 kilometres long and extends through different villages. And it is not the only beach where Allied forces landed, as there were Americans landing at Utah beach as well, together with British landing at Sword and Gold beaches, more to the East, and Canadians at Juno beach.


The Germans had fortified the hills, built barracks, installed obstacles in the beach and planted thousands of mines.

The landings, part of the Operation Overlord, code named Neptune, started at 6:30am, and they continued for weeks. Just on D-Day Allied forces counted 10,000 casualties with over 4,000 confirmed dead, with similar figures in the German side.

After the first days, a bridge, “Mulberry” was built to offload vehicles from boats coming from the United Kingdom. Some days during the summer up to 24,000 men or 3,000 vehicles crossed that bridge. An aerodrome was built uphill to evacuate the injured. The original bridge was brought down in the following winter by strong sea tides. Today a relic has been built, with some of the original concrete blocks visible in low tide.


Today, there are several monuments along the beach, one of them Les Braves Omaha Beach Memorial. It is a sculpture that symbolizes wings of hope, freedom, fraternity.


In front of it there is a monument to the 1st US Infantry Division. It has the following inscription engraved in it:

No mission too difficult.

No sacrifice too great. Duty first.

Forced Omaha beach at dawn 6 June.


By the monument visitors leave candles, flowers and some written notes. Most of them stand by in silence watching the vastness of the beach, thinking of the sheer numbers of people involved in the operation and what awaited them, praying for their lost ones. Occasionally a bus comes with veterans, relatives of soldiers who fought there, you name it, and trumpet plays Taps.

Nearby, a panel reminds the lyrics of the song “Remember Omaha” by Jean Goujon.

Leave a comment

Filed under France, Travelling

Château de Chenonceau

During our last Christmas road trip, we made a stop by the Château de Chenonceau, one of those castles of the Loire valley that stands out among the rest and which we had wanted to visit it on ground since we flew over it in 2015.


As the brochure of the visit tells, and the different panels along the rooms and corridors let you grasp, the Château de Chenonceau is a Ladies’ castle, due to the several women that left a mark in its configuration and history.

The first castle did not cross the river Cher, and was located at the small island between the gardens, where today stands alone the Marques tower (see the aerial view below), built after the castle was burnt down to punish the Marques family, the first proprietors of the castle.

The Marques family facing problems, the chamberlain of the king, Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briçonnet, maneuvered to get in possession of the castle, which they started to rebuild to their taste, used if to host French nobility and to project an image of themselves.


They adopted common initials (TBK) that they displayed around the castle.


They created an aspirational personal motto while building the castle: “S’il vient à point, me souviendra” (i.e. if I get to the end of this construction, I will be remembered).

IMG_20171228_115416510 - Copy

Years later, in 1535, being the castle in possession of Bohier’s son, it was taken by the king Francis I (to cancel out unpaid debts). After his death, his son, king Henri II gave it as a present to his mistress Diane de Poitiers in 1547. It was Diane who built the bridge to join the castle with the opposite river bank, and it was that move that started to make it unique.

At the death of Henri II, her widow, Catherine de Medici, forced Diane to exchange Chenonceau for another castle, the Château Chaumont, and made Chenonceau her favourite residence and a place full of intrigues for the years to come. She closed the bridge into a gallery (multi-storied), she added several rooms and bedrooms, made gardens more magnificent, gathered art collections and hosted parties.



Ever since, the castle was to be linked to French royal family and later French nobility. There is a telling name of the power of the running family, that of the “Five Queens’ Bedroom“, named after Catherine de Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law:

  • Daughters: Queen Margot (wife of Henri IV), Elizabeth of France (wife of Philippe II of Spain),
  • Daughters-in-law: Mary Stuart (wife of Francois II), Elisabeth of Austria (wife of Charles IX) and Louise of Lorraine (wife of Henri III).


Once a widow, after her husband was assassinated, Louise of Lorraine, would retire herself to pray at the castle. A room would be decorated in black, being that another of the landmarks of the castle, under restoration at the time of our visit, though.

Further women would contribute to the enlightenment of the castle in the following centuries, renovating it, bringing in artists and writers such as Montesquieu, Voltaire or Rousseau. It even played the role of hospital where over 2,000 injured were attended during Second World War.


1 Comment

Filed under France, Travelling

Belén laico republicano

El pasado 9 de noviembre se publicó una decisión del Consejo de Estado francés sobre la posibilidad de instalar belenes en lugares públicos. En muchos medios (sobre todo en aquellos radicados en España) rápidamente se recogía la noticia como que el Consejo de Estado sí lo permitía.

La opinión del Consejo de Estado había sido requerida, dado que la instalación de belenes en distintos municipios había sido objeto de denuncia, y los respectivos tribunales administrativos habían fallado en distinto sentido.

¿Qué dice exactamente la decisión del Consejo de Estado?

Le Conseil d’État rappelle la portée du principe de laïcité. Celui-ci crée des obligations pour les personnes publiques, en leur imposant notamment :

  • d’assurer la liberté de conscience et de garantir le libre exercice des cultes ;
  • de veiller à la neutralité des agents publics et des services publics à l’égard des cultes, en particulier en n’en reconnaissant, ni en n’en subventionnant aucun.

Le Conseil d’État juge que l’article 28 de la loi de 1905, qui met en œuvre le principe de neutralité, interdit l’installation, par des personnes publiques, de signes ou emblèmes qui manifestent la reconnaissance d’un culte ou marquent une préférence religieuse.

En raison de la pluralité de significations des crèches de Noël, qui présentent un caractère religieux mais sont aussi des éléments des décorations profanes installées pour les fêtes de fin d’année, le Conseil d’État juge que leur installation temporaire à l’initiative d’une personne publique, dans un emplacement public, est légale si elle présente un caractère culturel, artistique ou festif, mais non si elle exprime la reconnaissance d’un culte ou une préférence religieuse.

Pour déterminer si l’installation d’une crèche de Noël présente un caractère culturel, artistique ou festif, ou si elle exprime au contraire la reconnaissance d’un culte ou une préférence religieuse, le Conseil d’État juge qu’il convient de tenir compte du contexte dans lequel a lieu l’installation, des conditions particulières de cette installation, de l’existence ou de l’absence d’usages locaux et du lieu de cette installation.

Compte tenu de l’importance du lieu de l’installation, le Conseil d’État précise qu’il y a lieu de distinguer les bâtiments des autres emplacements publics :

  • dans les bâtiments publics, sièges d’une collectivité publique ou d’un service public, une crèche de Noël ne peut pas être installée, sauf si des circonstances particulières montrent que cette installation présente un caractère culturel, artistique ou festif ;
  • dans les autres emplacements publics, compte tenu du caractère festif des installations liées aux fêtes de fin d’année, l’installation d’une crèche de Noël est légale, sauf si elle constitue un acte de prosélytisme ou de revendication d’une opinion religieuse.


Si uno toma la molestia de leer la decisión, en ella se aclara, que:

  • los belenes con un carácter religioso quedan prohibidos,
  • se permiten aquellos que presenten sólamente un carácter cultural, artístico o festivo.

La decisión va más allá y ofrece una guía para distinguir los casos, dando especial relevancia al emplazamiento público donde se quiera instalar el belén:

  • la instalación en edificios públicos, o en sedes de colectividades queda prohibida, salvo circunstancias particulares que muestren el carácter cultural, artístico o festivo,
  • en otros lugares públicos, como plazas, se entiende el carácter festivo y queda permitida la instalación, salvo si se considera un acto de proselitismo o reivindicación de opinión religiosa.

La decisión del Consejo de Estado se apoya en el artículo 28 de la ley de 1905, que dice lo siguiente:

Article 28

Il est interdit, à l’avenir, d’élever ou d’apposer aucun signe ou emblème religieux sur les monuments publics ou en quelque emplacement public que ce soit, à l’exception des édifices servant au culte, des terrains de sépulture dans les cimetières, des monuments funéraires, ainsi que des musées ou expositions.

Por último, tenía curiosidad por ver cómo se menciona el laicismo en la constitución francesa, donde queda recogida en el artículo primero dentro del preámbulo:


La France est une République indivisible, laïque, démocratique et sociale. Elle assure l’égalité devant la loi de tous les citoyens sans distinction d’origine, de race ou de religion. Elle respecte toutes les croyances. Son organisation est décentralisée.

La loi favorise l’égal accès des femmes et des hommes aux mandats électoraux et fonctions électives, ainsi qu’aux responsabilités professionnelles et sociales.

Desde hace unos días, en la escuela (republicana) maternal a la que acude mi hija se ha instalado un árbol de navidad con su preceptivo “belén laico republicano”, con carácter cultural, artístico y festivo, donde se representa una ciudad moderna con un Santa Claus.


En el caso español, tenemos el artículo 16 del título primero de la constitución española que define que ninguna confesión tendrá carácter estatal.

Título I. De los derechos y deberes fundamentales


Artículo 16

  1. Se garantiza la libertad ideológica, religiosa y de culto de los individuos y las comunidades sin más limitación, en sus manifestaciones, que la necesaria para el mantenimiento del orden público protegido por la ley.
  2. Nadie podrá ser obligado a declarar sobre su ideología, religión o creencias.
  3. Ninguna confesión tendrá carácter estatal. Los poderes públicos tendrán en cuenta las creencias religiosas de la sociedad española y mantendrán las consiguientes relaciones de cooperación con la Iglesia Católica y las demás confesiones.

Y a partir de ahí, belenes en colegios, ayuntamientos, plazas, concursos patrocinados por ayuntamientos para elegir el mejor belén, insultos a quien se aleje de la doctrina, etc. Todo ello muy español.

¡Se armó el Belén!


Filed under France, Miscellanea

Montolieu, “village of books”

Yesterday, I was referred via a tweet from my friend Javier to an article about a village in Spain, Urueña, a village with more book shops than bars. I strongly suggest the reading of that article (here, in Spanish) as the village seems to be wonderful, a destination for a future trip to Spain.

The article refers to a couple of other such “Village of Books”:  Wigtown (United Kingdom), Tuedrestand (Norway) and Fontenoy-la-Joûte (France). This reminded me of another village of books in the South West of France which we visited last November, Montolieu. What best occasion than to share some lines and pictures about Montolieu than today April 23rd, the International Day of the Book.

In fact, it is interesting to know that there is an International Organisation of Book Towns (see here the article about it in the Wikipedia in English and French – more descriptive). There are about 40 such villages, a couple of them in Spain, some 7 of them in France; the first one to become such a Village du Livre in France was Bécherel, the second, Montolieu, in 1989.

Montolieu 1Montolieu is located some 20 kilometres North from Carcassonne in the Aube department (1), and it has about 800 inhabitants, 15 book shops and a museum about book making (Musée des Arts et Métiers du Livre). We visited a few book shops, made some purchases, walked around the village and had a traditional lunch over there.

However, when we visited the village it was almost winter time, freezing, and the village was nearly deserted. I imagine that Montolieu is best visited in spring or summer, in order to enjoy lunch in a terrace and longer walks between the book shops (not all were open in last late November).

Until we come there again, I leave some pictures from that first visit.

Montolieu 2

Montolieu 4

Montolieu 3

(1) It is also just 5 km South from Saissac and not far from Lastours, two other small villages in the region with nice castles. See here a post I wrote about a flight excursion we did over the Cathar castles with some pictures of them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, France, Travelling

Flight excursion to Rocamadour and Saint Cirq Lapopie, via Montech and Moissac

Rocamadour is a small village built in the gorges of a tributary to the Dordogne river. Several of its houses, churches and shops are partially built within the rocks. With about 500 inhabitants it receives 1.5 million of visitors per year, making it one of the most visited places in France and a major attraction for pilgrims, who among other things come to see a black Madonna in a chapel in the rock carved by Saint Amadour, hence the name of the village.

On the way to Rocamdour, flying from Toulouse there is Saint Cirq Lapopie, a small village built on a cliff over the river Lot. Both Rocamadour and Saint Cirq Lapopie are two of the most beautiful villages in the Midi-Pyrénées region and an obvious destination for an excursion, on the ground (which we did years ago) and flying.

Last Saturday, my father in-law and I booked a plane (a DR-400-120) at about 14:10 to fly over those places. In the way we would fly over Montech, to see the “Pente d’eau” from the sky (1), and Moissac, to see the Pont-Canal du Cacor, a bridge over the river Tarn made to allow the canal Lateral (an extension to the canal du Midi) to continue its course towards Bordeaux.

The flight would be over 175 nautical miles (over 320 km) and would last almost 2 hours with the integration to the aerodrome circuit, though in the end we spent 2 hours and 10 minutes with the rounds we made around the different spots. The navigation went rather well with no other help than the chart, compass, heading indicator and VOR (no GPS nor tablets). We had some doubts at a couple of points but we quickly found ourselves, once with the help of the controller.

Navigation log.

Navigation log.

This was the first flight in which we used the GoPRO video camera that I got last Christmas together with the suction pad to stick it to the windshield. With it we were able to have over 90 minutes of videos recorded that I have tried to shorten into the following 7 minutes:

At some points in the video the ground below seems to move slowly: we were flying at between 180 and 200 kilometres per hour, but at some 1,500 to 2,000 feet (500-700 m) above ground that is the way it feels. Be assured that the closer you get to the ground the faster it feels :-).

In the chart below you can see the route we followed: departure from Toulouse-Lasbordes (East of Toulouse), waypoint EN, Labastide-St. Pierre, Montech (South West of Montauban), Moissac (West of Castelsarrasin aerodrome), St.Cirq Lapopie (via Cahors) and Rocamadour (North West of Figeac).


Lastly, some pictures with the images of both villages and the flight log as used after the flight.

St Cirq Lapopie.

St Cirq Lapopie.





Navigation log as used after the flight.

Navigation log as used after the flight.

(1) See here a post I wrote about it.

(2) Actual engine running time: LFCL-LFCL: 2.17 FH (2h10′, with the aircraft registered as F-GORM, with an engine powered with 120 HP) (taking off and landing from runway 15).

1 Comment

Filed under Aerospace & Defence, France, Travelling