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The French Châteaux of the Loire Valley by Ray Raposo

Châteaux de Chambord is the largest chateaux of of the Loire Valley

After a few days in Paris, four of us, our friends Rick and Marilyn, my wife Peg and I rented a car and drove southwest to visit the historic Châteaux of the Loire Valley. 

There are 42 Châteaux mostly located in the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Montsoreau, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the Loire River in France, just a couple hours southwest of Paris. Chateaux is a term used to describe anything from a hunting lodge to a residence, we might say mansion or palace, of important people. 

Approaching Amboise from across the Loire River

The Loire River flows through a gorgeous green landscape and these marvelous Renaissance palaces, castles and fortresses. They are the real jewels of the area located mostly between the towns of Tours and Blois. Besides the numerous chateaux, the surrounding deep forests with deer and wild boars, plus area’s wine regions, add to the large tourist interest in the Loire Valley.

The sun sets on beautiful Amboise, the Chateau is high in the distance
We visited three of these towns starting with the picturesque village of Amboise. The Royal Château d’Amboise sits on a hill overlooking the whole countryside, the town below and the Loire River. The Renaissance designed building and gardens were rebuilt in 1492 by Charles III.
Château d’Amboise
Château d’Amboise
Village and St. Hubert
View of village
The lovely Amboise streets with the chapel in background
Rick in Amboise
Amboise night falls
Walking at night
Nighttime Amboise

The current chateau d’Amboise is but a quarter of the original size of this palace. Tapestries and royal furnishings are still displayed inside the now smaller palace. The town below is quite charming with lovely shops and restaurants lining the narrow cobblestone sidewalks. King Francois I brought an older Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance master, and had him stay at the nearby Chateau Clos-Lucé where he lived for 3 years. Some like Clos-Lucé, the stone and brick building built in the 1470s, even more than the royal residence. It also has a secret underground entrance used by the King when visiting da Vinci to see his many inventions, some of which now sit in the park grounds surrounding the chateau.

Chapelle de St. Hubert
Leonardo da Vinci’s tomb
A monument to da Vinci
Chateau Close-Luce

It might surprise you to hear, but Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519, is actually buried in a tomb in the small Chapelle de St. Hubert on the Château d’Amboise grounds. We used the town of Amboise as our base camp, staying in a nice hotel, enjoying the town’s many restaurants, with outdoor sitting, while visiting the surrounding area.

Rick, Marily, Peg and Ray with the Chateaux de Chenonceau arching across the River Cher.
About a twenty minute drive from Amboise is the Chateaux de Chenonceau. Of all these incredible chateau, I had always wanted to see the beautiful Chateaux de Chenonceau most of all. The Chateaux de Chenonceau arches across the River Cher. Known as the ladies’ Chateau as it was the only one built by a woman, Katherine Briconnet, and lived in by the Dames de Chenonceau. King Henri II originally purchased it for his mistress, Diane de Poitiers in 1547. At that point the chateaux did not cross the river, originally the back part was just a wooden bridge. It was when Catherine de Medici, the King’s wife, took it over after his death in 1559 and built the two story gallery over the river. It is said that with memories of her native Florence and perhaps the Ponte Vecchio that the present form took hold.
Chateaux de Chenonceau
Chateaux de Chenonceau
Chateaux de Chenonceau
Chateaux de Chenonceau


Chateau de Chenonceau and gardens

The inside the chateau Chenonceau there are tapestries and paintings by Rubens and Poussin adorning the various rooms and the long grand gallery. The large gardens on either side are lovely as well with many flowering plants and walkways for you to enjoy.

Chenonceau gardens
Chenonceau gardens
Chenonceau gardens
Chenonceau gardens
Looking out a balcony of the Chateaux de Chenonceau
You can tour both the inside of the chateaux, peer out the balconies and wander the walkways of the extensive flower filled gardens. A smaller tower sits by the chateau.
Châteaux de Chambord building is colossally massive building
Just under an hour drive from Amboise is the Châteaux de Chambord. It is indeed the largest chateaux of them all with over 400 rooms and perhaps the second most beautiful. The chateau is the biggest attraction in the whole region. The Renaissance inspired architecture with Leonardo da Vinci’s influence, shows perfect symmetry with fairy tale towers topping the large fortress-like main structure. The construction took 20 years, finishing the chateau around 1539. It was originally a hunting lodge for King Francois I, although he never lived in the chateau. Other kings after him stayed there including Louis XIV, the sun King of Versailles fame.
Inside Chambord
Inside Chambord
Inside Chambord
Atop Chambord

Make no mistake when you hear hunting lodge, this Châteaux de Chambord building is colossally massive and deceives the eye from a distance seeming smaller than it really is.

The very large Châteaux de Chambord in the distance with dry fall leaves on the ground
Last year, after months of work, they have added some lovely formal gardens to the large front grassy area as you approach the chateau improving the overall beauty of Chambord.
A stone bridge approaching Chambord 
While there are over 300 chateaux in the area, other popular Loire Valley Chateaux you might want to visit include Chaumont, Villandry, Beauregard, Blois, Cheverny, d’Ussé, d’Azay-le-Rideau and Sully-sur-Loire. Some of these chateaux have wonderful water surroundings.  Although I recommend driving, you can visit the area from Paris via train perhaps staying in Tours or Bois then finding a ride to each site, Chenonceau has a train station right near the main entrance. 
A church sits near Chateaux de Chambord
Having been fortunate enough to visit this area and these chateaux, it certainly makes one want to visit again to see more of these marvelous French treasures of the lovely Loire Valley. 
Le Labyrinthe, an English Garden hedge maze outside Chateaux de Chenonceau

After our time in the Loire Valley area, we drove south, first to Lyon then on to the towns of Avignon and Arles before continuing to the French Riviera and further east into Italy. But that’s a story for another time. Hope you get to enjoy this beautiful historic area of France.

I AM MDC Day celebrates Miami Dade College’s tradition of providing educational opportunity to more than two million students since first opening its doors on Sept. 6, 1960


I AM MDC Day celebrates Miami Dade College’s tradition of providing opportunity, changing lives through education and elevating the entire community since first opening its doors on Sept. 6, 1960. The day of giving and school pride raises critical funds needed for scholarships and programs for students.

MDC Foundation raised more than Miami Dade College Foundation raised a record of $1,044,000 (and counting) for Miami Dade College (MDC) scholarships and programs that support students on its third annual I AM MDC Day Sept. 6. The amount raised more than quadruples last year’s total of $228,543.  The day of giving and school pride raises critical funds needed for scholarships and programs for students.

The ceremony  also featured MDC’s globally renowned President, Medal of Freedom winner and alumnus Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón with notable alumni guests Alex De Armas of WSVN, Monique Madan of The Miami Herald, and model and social media influencer Rafael Behrends.

L-R Mark Cole, Executive Director, MDC Foundation; Dr. Joaquin Martinez, Wolfson and Hialeah Campuses’ President; Bernie Navarro, Chair, MDC Board of Trustees; Julie Grimes, Chair MDC Foundation; Dr. Eduardo J. Padrón, MDC President.
Photo: Cristian Lazzari, Miami Dade College

There will also be a special check presentation by lead sponsor – McDonald’s South Florida Operators Association Scholarship Program.   Across MDC’s eight campuses, celebrations will take place this afternoon, including a comedy show about the history of Miami featuring award-winning comedian and MDC professor Freddy Stebbins.

September 6 marks the first day of classes in 1960 where 1,428 eager students walked the hallways with very high hopes. Today, MDC is the largest and most diverse campus-based institution of higher education in the nation, with an enrollment of more than 165,000 students and more than two million alumni. Last year, government leadersofficially proclaimed Sept. 6 as I AM MDC Day in the City of Miami and across Miami-Dade County.

I AM MDC Day encourages the community to show their MDC school pride by wearing blue on Sept. 6, posting to social media with the official hashtag #IAMMDC, and making a gift online at to support students.  MDC’s National Landmark Freedom Tower will be illuminated in MDC blue Thursday,  Sept. 6, at sunset.

I AM MDC Day is organized by the Miami Dade College Foundation and is one of the largest college-wide fundraisers of the year. Last year, funds raised on I AM MDC Day provided scholarships to 100 students and funded several important MDC programs.

For more information and to make an online gift, visit


Christy’s, the Classic Gables Steakhouse by Ray Raposo

Christy's Restaurant on the corner of Ponce and Malaga in Coral Gables

Christy’s has been a staple of Coral Gables fine dining for decades. Still in the same corner location on Ponce de Leon near the circle. Four couples of good friends had dinner at Christy’s on a recent Saturday night to try the Miami Spice Menu of $39.00pp. We first waited for all of us to arrive at the cozy bar area and enjoyed some drinks.

Friends sitting at the restaurant’s bar area

Our reservations where for 7:30 and we sat down at a large round table near the front windows in the middle section of the place. The restaurant still offers that old NY classic steakhouse feel with the decor which include white linens, red walls, lots of dark wood, old world paintings and tin-tiled ceilings.

From left: Writer Ray, and other tasters, Peg, Violet, Carlos, Jack, Gisela, Maria and Charles

While some already had drinks from the bar, others ordered wine, both by the glass and a bottle. We had to ask for some bread for the table as it was not offered as we sat for quite a while. Other than that delay, before we ordered, the overall service was excellent. On this night the restaurant was quite full. First let me say that the food was excellent, although we weren’t served for an hour after we had sat down.


I was the only one to start with the black bean soup which was tasty, all others had the restaurant’s famous Caesar Salad. For my main course I had the delicious Miso Maple Salmon with mashed potato instead of the rice offered. Others had the Half Rack of Lamb or the 8OZ, Filled Mignon. For Desserts they offered the Key Lime Pie or Nut Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream. All were cooked well, no complaints… everyone enjoyed their meal.

On their regular Menu, classic Appetizers include Jumbo Lump Crab cake, Oyster Rockefeller, Escargot, Shrimp Cocktail, Crispy Calamari and more. If you go for the steaks, they offer quite a few choices including New York strip, filet mignon, prime rib, porterhouse, plus veal and three thick double lamb chops. They also offer a variety of seafood including snapper, sea bass, salmon, Mahi-Mahi, and shrimp to name a few. Some of the Sides they offer include Grilled Asparagus, Sauteed Broccoli, Sautéed Mushrooms, Truffle Mac and Cheese, Yukon Mashed Potatoes, Potatoes Au Gratin or a Baked Potato.

Although on this visit we didn’t order it, they’re one of the few places still serving a baked Alaska dessert. A table close by ordered one and we watched the flaming show.

Their normal Menu prices for beef runs from the high $30s, to $40s, fish dishes are a bit less costly.

Ray and Peg
Gisela and Jack
Violet and Carlos
Maria and Charles

On our bill the restaurant added the automatic Gratuity charge of just under 20%; so our total for 2 people with no drinks was just under $100. All in all, we had a great relaxing time and really enjoyed each other, the ambiance and specially the good food.

Part of the center room at Christy’s

Christy’s is located at 3101 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, Coral Gables, FL 33134.

For reservations call: 305-446-1400 or

You can check out their website at

A tribute to Ginés Serrán-Pagán at Miami River Art Fair December 3, 2018





Curator Nina Torres is delighting us at this year’s Miami River Art Fair with a tribute to artist Ginés Serrán-Pagán!

Born in Ceuta, Spain, Ginés Serrán-Pagán has lived most of his life in New York where he graduated in Anthropology from New York University. Xinhua News (Beijing) and EFE News (Madrid) recently considered him as one of the most renowned international contemporary artists in the world today and the western artist who has had more exhibitions in Asia. He has had over 250 exhibitions in 20 countries (128 solo exhibitions). His paintings and sculptures are collected by major museums including the Guggenheim Museum of New York and by numerous institutions and private collectors.

He is the recipient of many important international awards and acknowledgments. Amongst them, he has received the Medal of the City of Kanazawa, Japan, and the Gold Keys to the City of Miami for his artistic and humanitarian contributions to the world.


A tribute to Ginés Serrán-Pagán at Miami River Art Fair on December 3, 2018

For information contact:

Nina Torres





Illustrator and painter Ana Juan is the poster artist for the 36th edition of the acclaimed Miami Film Festival that will take place March 1 – 10, 2019.

Miami Dade College’s Miami Film Festival announced today that renowned Spanish artist, illustrator and painter Ana Juan is the poster artist for the 36thedition of the acclaimed Festival that will take place March 1 – 10, 2019.

Juan, a frequent contributor of cover art to The New Yorker magazine, has had numerous solo exhibitions of her work over the past 30 years and received a multitude of international awards and prizes, including the National Illustration Award from Spain’s Ministry of Culture in 2010.

“Ana Juan’s delightful creation to represent Miami Film Festival’s 36th season evokes the color and playfulness of Miami, with a beautiful femininity that captures our moment,” said Miami Film Festival’s executive director Jaie Laplante.

Of her creation for this year’s Miami Film Festival poster, Juan stated:A flower is color, color is life, life is passion and passion makes a dream become true: The dream of cinema.”
Individual tickets for all Festival events will go on sale to the general public beginning Sept. 24. Festival members have the opportunity for pre-buy and premium seating. For more information, visit