Category Archives: Travels

Living the Good Life!

A lovely drive through the Gers countryside brought me to the town of St. Puy.  The restaurant and farm of Terre Blanche serves excellent gourmet meals, along with tasty food products like pate de foie gras.

Close by to the Terre Blanche farm is the Chateau Monluc, a vineyard, creating its own sparkling wines with various other products of the vineyards:  Armagnac, Floc, red and white wine.  As the Chateau is sited atop a hill, it has a clear view of the nature and countryside.

A great way to spend the day, living the good life!

Lavardens Landscape
Lavardens Landscape


Valence-sur-Baise is a bastide town, founded in 1274 on the banks of the Baise river in the Gers department in the Midi-Pyrenees region.  The main part of town is centered around the church and central square, but Valence also has a river port. The town was originally surrounded by eight meter high ramparts with four large stone gateways.  Sections of the ramparts still exist along with one of the gates, the Porte d’Espagne also known as the ‘hedgehog’.  The ramparts are floodlit on a night making them very pleasant for an evening stroll.

Unique Church on the Main Square
Unique Church on the Main Square


Exploring the Chateau de Lavardens

The town of Lavardens is classified as one of the beautiful villages of France,  situated in the Gers (Gascony) department of south-west France, to the north of the town of Auch.  A very small village located on a hill, Lavardens is dominated by its castle.  Historically, it was a fortified village but today there are just sections left for view.  The current castle dates from the early 17th century, although an earlier castle stood in the same location as early as the 12th century.  By the 19th century the castle had fallen to ruin, starting to collapse but over the last 40 years it has been carefully restored.


Spa Town High on A Hill

Lectoure is a small 4,000-inhabitant town in the Gers department of the Midi-Pyrenees, north of Fleurance.  Lectoure sits high above the Gers river, overlooking the paysage, the farming landscape. The main street running through the town has a thermal spa at one end and a large antique market at the other end. In between, there is a large Cathedral of Saint Gervais Saint Protais as well as some interesting 18th century townhomes.


Abbaye de Flaran in the Gers

Abbaye de Flaran    Flaran has one of the most well-preserved abbeys in the southwest of France.  In 1151, the Abbaye was founded in Baise Valley and lies in a tranquil setting surrounded by well maintained grounds. There are arched doorways encircling a central courtyard as well as several historical exhibits.  The chapel is quite charming with high arches and stained glass windows.   One floor contains an art collection with works from Gainsborough, Monet, Rodin, Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, Lautrec and beautiful sculptures by Dali.  Quite a surprise to view such great art!


Real Estate Viewing in Southwest France

Flew to Toulouse by KLM;  staying at the Hotel Castelpierre, Lagraulet du Gers

The Chateau has charm, quiet gardens, large comfortable rooms; sited on top of a hill in Lagraulet with great views.  It was relaxing, comfortable in beautiful surroundings.  The young couple who host the hotel visitors are friendly and helpful.


The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

The Rijksmuseum is the National Museum of the Netherlands showcasing the art and history of the Netherlands and Amsterdam.  It is located on the Museumplein along with the beautiful Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum and the Concert Hall, the Concertgebouw.

Promptly at 10am on Tuesday, I presented myself to the Research Library, having an appointment with a Researcher of the Rijksmuseum Archives to view original prints of my ancestor, Jan van Brakel, which they hold in the archives and can also be seen online.  I was thrilled to see the original prints in person as the details are much more visible to the eye in person.  He was involved with several battles, the most known is the Battle of Chatham, or Raid on the Medway during the Second Anglo-Dutch War in June 1667.  Captain Jan van Brakel in the ship Vrede (“Peace”) followed by two other men-of-war, sailed as close to the fort as possible to engage it with cannon fire.  As a result of this battle, the Dutch Navy captured the three-decked, 100‑gun Royal Charles, the gilded flagship of the Duke of Albemarle, taking it to the Netherlands, and winning this Battle.


During my visit viewing most of the Rijksmuseum paintings and exhibits, I fell onto 3 favorite paintings: The Windmill, the van Steen painting, and the winter landscape.

The Windmill painting for obvious reasons was a favorite.

The van Steen painting is included as my Mother has a copy of this painting in her house, having engaged a painter to paint the copy while living in Brussels, Belgium.

The winter landscape is a favorite landscape style, similar to Jan Brueghel the Elder and the Younger, Flemish painters.


Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age at The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam

The Hermitage Museum in Amsterdam, located on the banks of the Amstel river in Amsterdam, is a branch museum of the Hermitage Museum of Saint Petersburg, Russia.  The exhibit called Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age which includes Amsterdam’s forefathers is currently showing at the Museum.  Thirty enormous 17th-century group portraits from the collections of the Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum have been brought together for the first time in the Hermitage Amsterdam.  The detail of the faces with their comprehension of their amazing feats and business acumen was impressive.  My Grandfather’s family is from Amsterdam so it has a special significance for me.