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24 August 2017
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EXPLORING EUROPE (3 of 10)

Along the Riviera

ITALY – FRANCE – MONACO –SPAIN

Tour guide, writer and photographer: Aage Myhre
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

 

 

We have started our little tour of Europe.
Over the next few weeks you are all invited on a
journey from north to south, from east to west. Some
articles will dwell with history. Some with Lithuanian contact
points in various countries. I have travelled across Europe with
camera and notepad for nearly 40 years and hope you will enjoy seeing
and reading about some of my experiences. We start today's tour in Liguria,
Italy, through France’s Cotes d’Azur to the south-east of Spain. Have a nice trip!

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Our Riviera trip starts here in the stunningly beautiful seacoast town
Portovenere in northern Italy. From here we go west, to the French
border. We follow the French Cotes d’Azur coast to Spain, then
through Catalonia all the way down along the Spanish coast,
till we hit Alicante... Driving distance from Portovenere
to Alicante is only 1.500 km (930 mi).

 

Portovenere

Portovenere is a hidden treasure tucked away in the north-western area of Italy, one of my favourite Mediterranean towns, dating back to at least the middle of the first century. The ancient town is a hidden treasure for tourists and even residents of Italy to discover. When people first hear of Portovenere, the natural comparison is matched against the world renowned Portofino, but when visited, the two places are completely different. In fact, it can be said that Portovenere is a much more inspiring experience because of the breathtaking landscape that has been naturally architected by mother nature and mankind together over time, which is rich history. The town, or “comune” as referred to by the Italian government, is located on the provincial coast of La Spezia, in the region of Liguria. Rocky horizons, lush forests and vegetation, completed with bodies of water supplied by the Mediterranean Sea, surround this area.

We start our Riviera trip here. But first we enjoy a wonderful filletto with a rich, deep red Barbera on the boardwalk Restaurant above.

The next day the tour starts, along the Italian Riviera and the French Cote d'Azur. We travel to France's best preserved medieval town, not far from the Spanish border, Carcassonne! Phenomenal dinner, good

Languedoc wines. Next morning, we go to the village of Mary Magdalene and The Holy Grail. Later that day we pass the Pyrenees. After a few hours’ drive of ever new mountain pass, Paradise opens before us when we arrive at Spain’s Costa Blanca, the White Coast. And down there, below us, the the Mediterranean Sea in all its azure-blue splendour.

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Liguria

Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy, the third smallest of the Italian regions. Its capital is Genoa. It is a popular region with tourists for its beautiful beaches, picturesque little towns, and good food. Liguria borders France to the west, Piedmont to the north, and Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany to the east. It lies on the Ligurian Sea. The narrow strip of land is bordered by the sea, the Alps and the Apennines mountains. Some mountains rise above 2000 m; the watershed line runs at an average altitude of about 1000 m. The winding arched extension goes from Ventimiglia to La Spezia and is one of the smallest regions in Italy. Liguria is just 5,422 square kilometres, or 1.18% of all of Italy. Of this, 3524.08 kilometres are mountainous (65% of the total) and 891.95 square kilometres are hills (35% of the total). Liguria's Natural Reserves cover 12% of the entire region, or 60,000 hectares of land. They are made up of one National Reserve, six large parks, two smaller parks and three nature reserves.

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The Cinque Terre is a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera. It is in the Liguria region of Italy, to the west of the city of La Spezia. "The Five Lands" is composed of five villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Photo: http://www.dycnic.com

Genoa (Genova in Italian)

Money flowed into the Ligurian port city made famous by Columbus and now it's a better place than ever to visit. Genoa has a fascinating aquarium, an interesting port, and a historic center said to be the largest medieval quarter in Europe, with a wealth of churches, palaces, and museums. In 2006, Genoa's Rolli Palaces were added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Genoa is famous for pesto (basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmigiano cheese) usually served overtrenette or trofia pasta cooked with potatoes and green beans. Being a port city, Genoa also has some good seafood dishes such as the fish stewburidda.

Genoa is Italy's principal seaport and is located on the northwest coast of Italy in the region of Liguria, not far from the French border.

Panorama of the Piazza De Ferrari, Genoa
Piazza de Ferrari, Genoa.

 

Was Christopher Columbus from Genoa or from Lithuania?

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Christopher Columbus

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King Wladyslaw III

Will Lithuanians be able to add another page to their already epic history? Will the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame (NLAHF) have yet one more candidate for induction? Daine Jablonskyte-Marquez and Jon Platakis, members of the NLAHF, tracked down historian Manuel Rosa at his job at Duke University, to enlighten us on his 20 plus years of research into the identity of Christopher Columbus.

Confidently, and with primary source documents to verify his assertions, Rosa states, “Columbus was a royal prince, son of a Portuguese noble lady and exiled King Wladyslaw III (a direct descendent of one of Europe’s greatest ruling dynasties, Lithuania’s Gedeminian dynasty). He was hiding his identity from the public at large but the courts of Europe knew who he was.” Pointing to documentation in his new book, COLON. La Historia Nunca Contada (COLUMBUS. The Untold Story) recently published in Spain, published May 2012 in Poland, that Columbus’ marriage in 1479 to a Portuguese noblewoman, who was a member of the Portuguese military order of Santiago, required the approval of the King of Portugal, a procedure reserved only for someone of major importance. “This new Portuguese document alone,” stated Rosa, “makes the entirety of Columbus’ Italian history false.” Rosa’s evidence appears irrefutable that Columbus, who had been housed in the palaces of the nobility, had access to royal courts, and married into nobility, could not be, as our history books tell us, the son of a poor weaver from Genoa.

So, who was Christopher Columbus, if not a poor weaver’s son from Genoa? Rosa believes that his true identity was Prince Segismundo Henriques which was concealed in order to protect his father. All of Rosa’s evidence points to Wladyslaw III, king of Poland and Lithuania as being the father of Christopher Columbus. Rosa suggests that there is proof the king survived the Battle of Varna in 1444 against the Ottomans and lived in exile on the island of Madeira under the name of “Henrique the German,” married to a Portuguese noblewoman.

Is this just another nutty conspiracy theory? Not according to leading historians based at the University of Lisbon, and St. Joseph’s University. Rosa utilized medieval documents and chronicles from multiple kingdoms to cross-reference historical events and personalities, plus ancient genealogy and heraldry. In addition, Rosa’s mastery of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese, allowed him a more accurate interpretation of these primary source documents.

Members of the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame, lament the fact that there seems to be little interest from American, and our own Lithuanian historians and researchers, to either accept or contradict Rosa’s findings. According to Rosa, he has not yet had any success in finding a U.S. publisher for this history altering book.

It appears a certainty that Christopher Columbus was not the poor weaver’s son from Genoa. However, in the near future, it is hoped that Polish authorities will open the tomb of King Wladyslaw II, (Jogaila) the Lithuanian King of Poland, to obtain DNA evidence to prove that Christopher Columbus is a son of Lithuania who hid his royal lineage to protect the secret that his father had survived the Battle of Varna.

Read more in VilNews: http://vilnews.com/?page_id=150

 

Ventimiglia

Ventimiglia is located on the Italian side, a few kilometers from the border with France, in the province of Imperia. It is divided into two zones: the upper part, medieval, perched right on the river Roia, and the lower part located, between the Roia and the Nervia, on the flat part of the coast. The old centre rises in an imposing position and is easily distinguished for all corners of the plain. The urban structure is characterized by the presence of several clusters of houses, which are built one to each other according to the different time frames of construction: Like in most of the centers of Liguria, due to the lack of space, the houses grow in height. The irregular arrangement of buildings, arches, canopies and religious shrines create always different angles and do not leave space for monotony.

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Monaco

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The Monte Carlo Casino.
Photo: Wikipedia.

We have come to Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, a sovereign city state on the French Riviera. It is bordered on three sides by its neighbour, France, and its centre is about 16 km (9.9 mi) from Italy. Its area is 1.98 km2 (0.76 sq mi) with a population of 35,986 as of 2011 and is the most densely populated country in the world. Monaco boasts the world's highest GDP nominal per capita at $151,630. Monaco also has the world's highest life expectancy at almost 90 years (CIA estimate, 2011), and the lowest unemployment rate at 0%, with about 40,000 workers who commute from France and Italy each day. After a recent expansion of Port Hercule, Monaco's total area is 2.05 km2 (0.79 sq mi), with new plans to extend the district of Fontvieille, with land reclaimed from the Mediterranean Sea.

Monaco is a principality governed under a form of constitutional monarchy, with Prince Albert II as head of state. The House of Grimaldi has ruled Monaco, with brief interruptions, since 1297. The state's sovereignty was officially recognized by the Franco-Monegasque Treaty of 1861. Despite Monaco's independence and separate foreign policy, its defence is the responsibility of France.

Citizens of Monaco are called Monacans, while Monegasque is the proper term for describing someone who was born in Monaco.

Le Grand Casino de Monte Carlo opened in 1858, and the casino benefited from the tourist traffic the newly built French railway system created. Due to the combination of the casino and the railroads, Monaco finally recovered from the previous half century of economic slump, and the principality's success attracted other businesses. In the years following the casino's opening Monaco founded its Oceanographic Museum and the Monte Carlo Opera House, 46 hotels sprang up and the number of jewellers operating in Monaco increased by nearly 500 percent. By 1869, the casino was making such a vast sum of money that the principality could afford not to collect tax from the Monegasques; a master stroke that was to attract affluent residents from all over Europe.

Today, Société des bains de mer de Monaco which owns Le Grand Casino still operates in the original building the Blancs constructed and has been joined by several other casinos, including Le Casino Café de Paris, the Monte Carlo Bay Casino, the Monte Carlo Sporting Club & Casino (Summer Casino) and the Sun Casino. The most recent addition to the list—the first casino to open in Monte Carlo in 75 years—is the Monte Carlo Bay Casino, which sits on 4 hectares of the Mediterranean Garden and, among other things, offers 145 slot machines.

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Provence

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Provence is the south eastern region of France on the Mediterranean adjacent to Italy. It is part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The traditional region of Provence comprises the départements of Var, Vaucluse, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes and parts of Hautes-Alpes. The Romans formed this region into their Gallia Transalpina, the first Roman provincia outside the Alps. From thus, it derives its name today.

From the Alpine mountains down to the sand beaches of Saint Tropez, Cannes, Nice, the region is an important destination for tourist offering a favorable climate all year round. Perfumes, rosé wines, jazz and a distinct cuisine, the region has a rich culture, traditions and festivals. The Cannes Film festival, Nice Carnival and the Jazz festival are just a few of the highlights.

Nice

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Photo: Wikipedia.

Nice is the fifth most populous city in France, after Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, with a population of 348,721 within its administrative limits on a land area of 71.92 km2 (28 sq mi). The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of more than 955,000 on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, Nice is the second-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast. The city is called Nice la Belle (Nissa La Bella in Niçard), which means Nice the Beautiful, which is also the title of the unofficial anthem of Nice, written by Menica Rondelly in 1912. Nice is the capital of the Alpes Maritimes département and the second biggest city of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region after Marseille. The area of today’s Nice is believed to be among the oldest human settlements in Europe. One of the archaeological sites, Terra Amata, displays evidence of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory.

Grasse (the world’s perfume capital) and a Lithuanian designer

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Juozas Statkevièius (b. 1968 in Kaunas ) - Lithuanian fashion designer, theatre costume designer, hairdressing master, professional model. First Lithuanian designer presented in the magazines Vogue, L'Officiel, Elle, Harper's Bazaar. Has created his own perfume named "Josef Statkus.

Let me suggest that you drive a bit inland after Nice. Go to Grasse, a commune in the Alpes-Maritimes department, atown considered the world's capital of perfume. It obtained two flowers in the Concours des villes et villages fleuris contest and was made "Ville d'Art et d'Histoire" (town of art and history).

The Lithuanian-born designer Juozas Statkevicius, now based in Paris, has been designing fashions and theatre costumes since the 1990s, but first came to international attention after showing a perfume collection in Paris in 2002. His first perfume, titled simply Juozas Statkevicius Eau de Parfum, was launched in 2004.

Cannes

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Photo: Wikipedia.

Cannes is one of the best-known cities of the French Riviera, a busy tourist destination and host of the annual Cannes Film Festival. It is a Commune of France in the Alpes-Maritimes department. The city is also famous for its various luxury shops, restaurants, and hotels. This Riviera city on the Cote d'Azur hosts Europe's most famous annual Film Festival, and has long been a playground for sophisticated pleasure seekers. Cannes is noted for beautiful sandy beaches, most of which charge an entry fee to keep out the riff-raft. It's a far cry from the early 19th century, when this was a small fishing and agricultural village. But then the place was discovered by the aristocracy, who built exclusive holiday villas, and it was only a matter of time before Cannes became a seriously classy resort.

Saint-Tropez

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Brigitte Bardot at St. Tropez, 1963.

Saint-Tropez is located on the French Riviera, west of Cannes, and is known today for its famous and extremely wealthy summertime guests. It has been dubbed the 'playground to jetsetters, fashion models, and millionaires', and it is most-enduringly known as the place where the iconic Brigitte Bardot was "discovered" and for its role in the liberation of southern France during World War II. Topless sunbathing is now a usual way for both men and women, from Pampelonne beaches to yachts in the centre of Saint-Tropez port. The Tahiti beach is "clothing-optional", but also nudists are going to private nudist lands, like that in Cap d' Agde. "Modest" clothing is basically seen in Saint-Tropez, because of the end of "illegal taste-era" and stars (but not everyone), that don't want their nude photos, made available next day on colour magazines, by paparazzi.

Avignon

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Let me suggest that you go a bit inland again, after the luxurious, expensive experiences you had in Saint-Tropez...

Let’s go to Avignon at the bank of the Rhône River, often referred to as the "City of Popes" because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism, it is currently the largest city and capital of the département of Vaucluse. This is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts, its historic centre, the palace of the popes, Rocher des Doms, and the bridge of Avignon. It was classified a World Heritage Site by UNESCO under the criteria I, II and IV.

The bridge of Avignon, which today is only a half-bridge, has achieved worldwide fame through its commemoration by the song "Sur le pont d'Avignon" ("On the bridge of Avignon"). It goes as follows:

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Languedoc-Roussillon

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Cathedral of Saint-Nazaire Languedoc-Roussillon.
Photo: http://www.citypictures.org

Languedoc-Roussillon is one of the 27 regions of France. It comprises five departments, and borders the other French regions of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, Rhône-Alpes, Auvergne, Midi-Pyrénées on the one side, and Spain, Andorra and the Mediterranean sea on the other side.

This region was one of the earliest to be inhabited by humans and, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean, was an extremely important trade route and passage.

The Roman history of Languedoc-Roussillon is long and has left some spectacular traces. The names of towns, the Catalan language, the region’s heady wines and olive-oil dishes all testify to the lasting influence of 400 years of occupation. It is also where the Romanesque art emerged in the early 11th C in its most impressive way ranging from little churches to large, important Cistercian abbeys. This is also a region where the “Cathars”, named after the Greek “katharos” or “pure”, fought the Catholic church of the time in the 13th C; it took many decades to exterminate this movement whose followers believed the visible world to be the work of the devil. Nowadays, many impressive fortresses perched on dizzying heights and the ancient villages still bear witness to a lost religion.

Sète – the Venice of France

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Known as the Venice of Languedoc and the singular island (in Paul Valéry's words), it is a port and a sea-side resort on the Mediterranean Sea with its own very strong cultural identity, traditions, cuisine and dialect. It is also the hometown of artists like Paul Valéry, Jean Vilar and Georges Brassens.

Narbonne

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Narbonne is a charming small city in the Languedoc, with wonderful historic attractions as well as a relaxing beach along the Mediterranean. Until I came to Lithuania I thought this was the city in the world with the most beautiful girls.

The heart of Narbonne, once a key port for the Roman Empire, is the dramatic Place de l'Hôtel de Ville. Also be sure to stroll through the village’s old town, where you can’t miss the main attraction: Cathedrale Saint-Just. The most dominant building in this neighbourhood, the 13th century church connects to the Palais des Archevêques, which has an ornately carved 130-meter keep. Narbonne lives up to its part in the deal. The weather never ceases to be perfectly cloudless with good, hot temperatures hovering around 90 to 95 Fahrenheit, (32 to 38 Celsius), low humidity and lots of boisterous, fragrant restaurants serving up mussels steamed in white wine, paella, platters of shellfish on ice, and gallons of chilled wines.

Carcassonne - France’s most genuine Medieval town

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Photo: Wikipedia.

We drive from Languedoc's Riviera to France's best preserved medieval town, not far from the Spanish border.

Carcassonne! Phenomenal dinner, good Languedoc wines. Paté of crispy roasted toasts as starter, quails as main course. Castle towns around Europe are fantastic. The story lives around us Europeans. We are lucky to live and experience such as this...

No matter which direction you are coming from, you can’t miss the imposing silhouette of the City of Carcassonne which is encircled by a huge double row of fortified walls that run almost 2 miles long, accentuated by 56 watchtowers. During the 9th and 10th centuries B.C., the village of Carcas was already a very large and active agglomeration, about a mile south of Carcassonne. Its inhabitants migrated to the present location of Carcassonne around 600 B.C. At that time, the common way to protect a city was to dig a large moat and build a very tall reinforced wood fence all around it. The 3rd century A.D. was a particularly unstable period that saw incessant Barbarian invasions. This is when Carcassonne decided to update its defense mechanisms and solidify its ramparts, building the fortified walls that we can still admire today. Rattled by another period of invasions and insecurity, the inhabitants built a second exterior wall around 1230. It took several thousand soldiers to protect the city back then. The 2000-year-old city of Carcassonne still stands today as the most successful achievement in military architecture of that time in Europe. Nothing has really changed since the 13th century, and if you find yourself in the south of France, you should not miss the chance to be carried back to the heart of the Middle Ages and feel the magic of its glorious past.

carcassonne medieval city

Who were the Cathars?

The Cathars were an integral part of Carcassonne history. Catharism was a very active religion in Europe and especially in the area around Carcassonne. The middle of the 12th century was a prosperous period of French history, as well as one of great religious tolerance when Jews, Catholics and Cathars all lived in harmony. Cathars were Christians, but unlike the Roman Catholics, they believed that God had only created spiritual perfection and eternity, not the material world that they saw as the Devil’s creation. Therefore, they led very austere lives, refusing any earthly pleasure. They did not eat any fancy food such as meat. Sex and wealth were banned.

A VILLAGE IN LANGUEDOC, SOUTHERN FRANCE

Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the “da Vinci Code”,

“the Holy Grail” and Vilnius University Library

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Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have been married. The theory finds its basis in writings from the Gnostic Gospels, which were discovered in 1945 and whose authenticity religious experts still dispute.

The little French village Rennes-le-Chateau in Languedoc. Here, many believe, Mary Magdalene came after the death of Christ. And because of her influence, a whole order of fighting men, known as the Knights Templar, were created.

Here, under the floor boards of the Vilnius University Library, is where the Holy Grail was safely hidden when the university opened in 1579.

Read our VilNews story at:
http://vilnews.com/?p=1652

The village Rennes le Château, 45 km south of Carcassonne, should definitely be part of your Riviera trail. Explore the village and its church which is dedicated to Mary Magdalene and shrouded in mystery. Followers of the Da Vinci code will be fascinated by the history surrounding the whole of this area. Here, many believe, Mary Magdalene came after the death of Christ. And because of her influence, a whole order of fighting men, known as the Knights Templar, were created.

In The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, a book by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln from 1982, the authors put forward a hypothesis, that the historical Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had one or more children, and that those children or their descendants emigrated to what is now southern France. Once there, they intermarried with the noble families that would eventually become the Merovingian dynasty, whose special claim to the throne of France is championed today by a secret society called the Priory of Sion. They concluded that the legendary Holy Grail is simultaneously the womb of saint Mary Magdalene and the sacred royal bloodline she gave birth to. The 2003 conspiracy fiction novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown makes reference to this book, also liberally using most of the above claims as key plot elements.

Wherever Mary traveled in France, she taught the skill of healing with oils. Few people realize the wisdom that the Magdalene presented to the world in the development of the use of essential oils. She was the mystical woman that anointed Jesus' feet. This demonstrates her skill in the use of essential oils.

Biblical references to Mary Magdalene include information that she was one of the women who accompanied Jesus after he healed her of possession by several demons (Luke 8:2, and Mark 16:9). She is also reported to have been one of the women at the foot of the cross (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:56 and John 19:25), and one of the women to arrive at the tomb at first light on Easter morning (Mark 16:1, Matthew 28:1, Luke 24:10, John 20:1-3). The gospel of John says that she came alone to the tomb and encountered Jesus, at first believing him to be the gardener. She even reached out and embraced him when she recognized him, calling him "Rabboni," an affectionate form of the word Rabbi. Obviously this Mary, called "the Magdalene," was an intimate friend and companion of Jesus.

After the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene moved to France and lived for several years. Her offspring became the kings of France, known as the Merovingian line. French history states that she was the sister of Lazarus, who sat at the feet of Jesus, absorbing his teachings (Luke 10:28-42), and who later anointed his feet with nard (spikenard, an essential oil) and dried them with her hair (John 11:2 and 12:3).

Part of the mystery about Rennes-le-Chateau is centered on the offspring of the Magdalene. The last French king in the Merovingian line was Dagobert II. He and his son Sigebert were supposedly killed. However, the young Sigebert was smuggled into Rennes-le-Chateau by his mother, and there, the whole mystery of the Templars was created to prove the birth rites of the lineage of the Magdalene. Because of this wisdom, alchemy in France became a reality. The Merovingians knew the mysteries that Jesus taught, like changing water into wine.

Around 1090, nine priests went to Jerusalem and searched around the temple of Solomon for proof of this lineage, and for a better understanding of the development of alchemy. Out of this search came the birth of the Templars. What they discovered while in Jerusalem is the true wisdom of alchemy. They found the instruments know as the Holy Grail. They learned how to use these instruments to change mind over matter (alchemy).

 
 

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The Pyrenees

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Some Blonde d'Aquitaine on summer pasture near the Pic du Midi d'Ossau.
Photo: Wikipedia.

The Pyrenees, also spelled Pyrénées, is a range of mountains in southwest Europe that forms a natural border between France and Spain. It separates the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of continental Europe, and extends for about 491 km (305 mi) from the Bay of Biscay (Cap Higuer) to the Mediterranean Sea (Cap de Creus).

For the most part, the main crest forms a massive divider between France and Spain, with the tiny country of Andorra sandwiched in between. Catalonia and Navarre have historically extended on both sides of the mountain range, with small northern portions now in France and much larger southern parts now in Spain.

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Catalonia

 

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Catalonia is a part of a nation without state in Spain. Catalonia is also an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an official population of 7,535,251. Its borders essentially reflect those of the former Principality of Catalonia. It borders France and Andorra to the north, Aragon to the west, the Valencian Community to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east (580 km coastline). The official languages are Catalan, Spanish and Aranese (Occitan).

Figueres – the home of Salvador Dalí

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Dalí in 1972.

Figueres is the capital of the comarca of Alt Empordà, in the province of Girona, Catalonia, just south of the French border. The town is the birthplace of artist Salvador Dalí, and houses the Teatre-Museu Gala Salvador Dalí, a large museum designed by Dalí himself which attracts many visitors. It is also the birthplace of Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol, inventor of the first successful machine-powered submarine. Also born here was Mónica Naranjo, one of the best selling Spanish singers of the 1990s and 2000s.

Salvador Domènec Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dalí, was a prominent Spanish surrealist painter born in Figueres, Spain. Dalí was a skilled draftsman,

best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931. Dalí's expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media.

Dalí attributed his "love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes" to a self-styled "Arab lineage", claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors. Dalí was highly imaginative, and also had an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior. His eccentric manner and attention-grabbing public actions sometimes drew more attention than his artwork to the dismay of those who held his work in high esteem and to the irritation of his critics.

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The Persistence of Memory

Barcelona

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Sagrada Família church in Barcelona,
the masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926).

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,6 million within its administrative limits on a land area of 101.4 km2 (39 sq mi). The urban area of Barcelona extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 4,200,000 and 4,500,000, being the sixth-most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Ruhr area, Madrid and Milan. About five million people live in the Barcelona metropolitan area. It is also Europe's largest metropolis on the Mediterranean coast.

Barcelona is today one of the world's leading tourist, economic, trade fair/exhibitions and cultural-sports centres, and its influence in commerce, education, entertainment, media, fashion, science, and the arts all contribute to its status as one of the world's major global cities.

The Basílica i Temple Expiatori de la Sagrada Família (Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family), commonly known as the Sagrada Família, is a large Roman Catholic church in Barcelona, designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí (1852–1926). Although incomplete, the church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2010 was consecrated and proclaimed a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI.

Though construction of Sagrada Família had commenced in 1882, Gaudí became involved in 1883, taking over the project and transforming it with his architectural and engineering style—combining Gothic and curvilinear Art Nouveau forms. Gaudí devoted his last years to the project and at the time of his death in 1926, less than a quarter of the project was complete. Sagrada Família's construction progressed slowly as it relied on private donations and was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War—only to resume intermittent progress in the 1950s. Construction passed the mid-point in 2010 with some of the project's greatest challenges remaining and an anticipated completion date of 2026—the centennial of Gaudí's death. The basílica has a long history of dividing the citizens of Barcelona—over the initial possibility it might compete with Barcelona's cathedral, over Gaudí's design itself, over the possibility that work after Gaudí's death disregarded his design, and the recent possibility that an underground tunnel of Spain's high-speed train could disturb its stability.

Describing Sagrada Familia, art Critic Rainer Zerbst said "it is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art" and Paul Goldberger called it 'the most extraordinary personal interpretation of Gothic architecture since the Middle Ages'.

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Valencia Region

 

The Valencia region in Spain is an extremely beautiful and very fertile area known as La Huerta (Garden of Spain).

The famous Spanish song lyrics of the popular Spanish song Valencia proclaim that Valencia is the 'land of flowers, light and love' and this is very true, because Valencia is indeed full of flowers and well known for the amazing light which Valenciano painter Joaquín Sorolla y Bastida highlights in his paintings. It's also overflowing with romance and passion and as there are many romantic things to do in Valencia it's a popular choice for city breaks and holidays in the sun.

The Valencia Region of Spain is divided into 3 provinces. CASTELLON to the north, VALENCIA in the center and ALICANTE in the south.

These three provinces form the Comunitat Valenciana - Land of Valencia - the city and the provinces are all called Valencia. This lovely region of Spain has over 500 kilometres of stunning coastline which are full of some of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe.

Valencia City

Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona, and the capital of the autonomous community of Valencia, with a population of 809,267 within its administrative limits on a land area of 134.6 km2 (52 sq mi). It is the 15th most populous municipality in the European Union. The urban area of Valencia extends beyond the administrative city limits with a population of between 1,175,000 and 1,564,145. Between 1,705,742 and 2,300,000 people live in the Valencia metropolitan area.

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Altea – the old fishermen’s village at at Costa Blanca

Altea is an old fishermen’s village that has been turned into a tourism magnet the latest year, though still with the original flavours in place.

Benidorm

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Photo: Wikipedia.

Benidorm is a coastal town and municipality located in the comarca of Marina Baixa, in the province of Alicante.

Prior to the 1960s, Benidorm was a small village. Today it stands out for its hotel industry, beaches and skyscrapers, built as a result of its tourist-oriented economy. According to the 2010 census, Benidorm has a permanent population of 71,198 inhabitants, ranking as the fifth most populous town in the Alicante province. It is one of the most important holiday resorts in Spain, with an area of 38.5 km² and a population density of 1,848.8 inhab/km². Due to the unique skyline formed by its numerous tall hotels and apartment buildings it is sometimes referred to as the "Manhattan of Spain" or "Beniyork", which is unlike any other on the Costa Blanca (White Coast). According to the Urban Age project, Benidorm has the most high-rise buildings per capita in the world. Benidorm itself is dwarfed by the 1406 m tall Puig Campana, which is one of the most impressive mountains of the Costa Blanca.

Alicante

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Esplanada and Carbonell House, Alicante.
Photo: Wikipedia.

Alicante is a the capital of the province of Alicante and of the comarca of Alacantí, in the south of the Valencian Community. It is also a historic Mediterranean port. The population of the city of Alicante proper was 334,329, estimated as of 2011, ranking as the second-largest Valencian city. Including nearby municipalities, Alicante conurbation was populated by 462,281 residents.[3] Population of the metropolitan area (including Elche and satellite towns) was 771,061 as of 2011 estimates, ranking as the eighth-largest metropolitan area of Spain.

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Mediterranean beaches

From your very first glimpse, the views of the Mediterranean Sea make a dramatic and lasting impression. The climate in the Mediterranean area is very warm and pleasant, and has very nice hot and dry summers. These are the best conditions for wonderful summer holidays at the beach, but also for a high rate of water evaporation. The Mediterranean Sea looses in this way nearly one meter of its water height every year!

This evaporating water leaves all its salts in the remaining water. This is why you feel a lot lighter when you swim in the Mediterranean than when you swim in the ocean: the water of the Mediterranean contains more salt than the water of the Atlantic (36 to 38 grams per litre in the Mediterranean against 34.9 in the Atlantic).

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Mediterranean waters

The origins of the Mediterranean waters

The origins of this water are:

· a small quantity coming from the rivers and the rain (1200 km3 per year);

· a very small quantity coming from the Black Sea (200 km3 per year);

· most of it comes from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Strait of Gibraltar (35 000 km3 per year).

It has been calculated by scientists that the Mediterranean waters need 100 years to renew themselves totally (through evaporation and water coming in through the Strait of Gibraltar).

The Strait of Gibraltar is not very wide (around 14 km at the narrowest point) and quite shallow (300 m deep). Therefore, there is a very strong current going through the Strait, coming from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean Sea.

Sailing in Mediterranean waters

The Mediterranean- it conjures up images of gorgeous coves, aqua water, cities spreading up hillsides, amazing food and friendly tanned locals. The Mediterranean lives up to its reputation- it is hugely varied, bordered by so many European, Middle Eastern and North African countries, and has an amazing climate.

Where you might go whilst sailing the med depends on what you would like to see or do. The French Riviera is a mecca for those seeking glamour, shopping and the celebrity lifestyle- think Monaco, Nice, St Tropez and Cannes. Here you can take your boat into the marinas and see the glitz and glamour of the cities, or anchor offshore and watch the world go by.

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Mediterranean living

Styles, colours and beauty of living alongside the Mediterranean. The good life…

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Mediterranean food & wines

 

The idea of the ‘standard Mediterranean’ ... is a modern construction of food writers and publicists in Western Europe and North America earnestly preaching what is now thought to be a healthy diet to their audiences by invoking a stereotype of the healthy other on the shores of the Mediterranean. Their colleagues in Mediterranean countries are only too willing to perpetuate this myth. The fact of the matter is that the Mediterranean contains varied cultures...

Around 1975, under the impulse of one of those new nutritional directives by which good cooking is too often influenced, the Americans discovered the so-called Mediterranean diet.... The name... even pleased Italian government officials, who made one modification: changing from diet—a word which has always seemed punitive and therefore unpleasant—to Mediterranean cuisine.

Despite this, given the geography, these nation-states have influenced each other over time in both food and culture and the cooking evolved into sharing common principles. Mediterranean cuisine is characterized by its flexibility, its range of ingredients and its many regional variations. The terrain has tended to favour the raising of goats and sheep.

Fish dishes are also common, although today much of the fish is imported since the fisheries of the Mediterranean are weak. Seafood is still prominent in many of the standard recipes.

Olive oil and garlic are widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. It is widely believed that Mediterranean cuisine is particularly healthful; see Mediterranean diet.

Grilled meats, pita bread, hummus, and falafel are very popular forms of the eastern type of the cuisine.

Spain also makes paella, which is rice and mussels or other types of seafood.

Paella

Paella is an internationally-known rice dish from Spain. It originated in the fields of a region called Valencia in eastern Spain. Today paella is made in every region of Spain, using just about any kind of ingredient that goes well with rice. There are as many versions of paella as there are cooks. It may contain chicken, pork, shellfish, fish, eel, squid, beans, peas, artichokes or peppers. Saffron, the spice that also turns the rice a wonderful golden color is an essential part of the dish.

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A good fish meal in Spain or Italy

is often made in Lithuania


Reidar Inselseth is General Director of the Espersen fish factory in Klaipeda, Lithuania,
where cod from the Baltic Sea and Arctic Ocean is converted into delicious fish fillets for southern European markets.

Every day, all year round, a truck drives out from the Espersen fish processing plant in the Klaipeda Free Economic Zone, fully loaded with over 20 tonnes of finished fish fillets for the south and west European markets. Not many days later, these fish products are to be found at a restaurant table in Spain, Italy and Greece as delicious dishes prepared by chefs who so often are amazing fish experts and know to appreciate the wonderful ingredients the Baltic Sea and Arctic Ocean have to offer. Because it is from these seas Espersen Lietuva gets its fish raw material, roughly 40 tonnes per day.

About 50% of the fish they purchase from the Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia, Sweden and Denmark, while the remaining half is purchased from Norway, caught in northern Atlantic waters. Some of the fish is purchased fresh, some frozen. Fish products from the plant are eaten at present by people in the UK, Germany, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Greece.

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Fish products offered by Espersen, in Italy. See www.espersen.it

 

Riviera wines

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One of the key elements in the Mediterranean diet -- along with olive oil and bread --
is wine. Wherever the Greeks and later the Romans went in their efforts to conquer the
Mediterranean world, they took along wine and the grapes to produce it.

Even in recent years, wine has continued to play a strong dietary role. Ancel and Margaret Keys, in their 1975 book ``How to Eat Well & Stay Well The Mediterranean Way,'' write: ``... the use of wine at every main meal and as an aperitif now and then means that the average man gets close to 10 percent of his daily calories from alcohol.''

In the south of France, a radical change in direction has led to the planting of classy varietals such as chardonnay, merlot and cabernet in the Languedoc-Roussillon region that stretches along the Mediterranean shore west of the Rhone toward the border with Spain. Many wine shops and restaurant wine lists now carry wines from one or more small producers in the region and two large-scale efforts are producing wines of exceptional value. Look for Fortant de France or Reserve St. Martin, both of which offer cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, viognier and syrah.

In Provence, if we include the southern Rhone Valley, a vast selection of red wine ranges from the pricey estate wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape to small producer and cooperative wines from various ``Cotes'' or ``Coteaux'' appellations with names such as Ventoux, Luberon, Provence, Aix-en-Provence, Baronnies and Rhone or Rhone-Villages. Among the most dependable and widely circulated wines from this area are those from La Vieille Ferme.

Crossing into Italy, one sees a good deal of white Gavi and red Cinqueterre on the Italian Riviera. Wines made to the south, along the west coast, may have charm but most are too ephemeral to export. The white wines of Orvieto are an exception, but the reds don't shine until we reach the southern peninsula. There, in Campania, the aglianico grape makes superior reds and the white fiano and greco di tufo wines stand out. The region's outstanding producer is Mastroberardino, whose labels include Lacryma Christi and Taurasi. In Apulia, to the east, grapes such as primativo, negroamaro and malvasia nera make dark, fruity wines, all too often robbed of character by overcropping. The outstanding red of Basilicata, Aglianico del Vulture, is worth seeking out, however. Most of Calabria's wine is drunk there, but Sicily exports considerable wine to the United States, most notably Corvo.

In Spain, the most important region facing the Mediterranean, is the Penedes in Catalonia. It is the center of the country's sparkling wine industry and also produces very serviceable reds, whites and roses. The region's leading producer of still wines is Torres. To the south, inland from Alicante, some good wines are coming from vineyards at Jumilla.

Abbaye st hilaire wines in original gift boxes for Christmas

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Languedoc - Roussillon wine, including the vin de pays labeled Vin de Pays d'Oc, is produced in southern France. While "Languedoc" can refer to a specific historic region of France and Northern Catalonia, usage since the 20th century (especially in the context of wine) has primarily referred to the northern part of the Languedoc-Roussillon région of France, an area which spans the Mediterranean coastline from the French border with Spain to the region of Provence. The area has around 700,000 acres (2,800 km2) under vines and is the single biggest wine-producing region in the world, being responsible for more than a third of France's total wine production.
As recently as 2001, the region produced more wine than the entire United States.

Category : Blog archive



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