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Barefoot Blogger

Traveling wasn't enough for this free spirited female. I needed to live abroad. Now I am happily living in Uzes, France. My blogs are about my adventures as a post-career, solo woman maneuvering her way through everyday life in France and on travels to various parts of the world. I hope you enjoy my adventures, photography and the people and places I run into along my way.

Where in the World is the Barefoot Blogger?

I’ve been slack writing posts and I apologize. Those who follow the Barefoot Blogger on social media know I’m back in the US for awhile. Rejuvenating!

I returned to the States in October because I needed to attend to some family matters. Mostly, I’ve been working with my son. He needed some extra hands with his new business.

How lucky am I that my son is in the med/spa business?

Rejuvenating

A new adventure. Rejuvenation! 

I’m learning all about the latest anti-aging and rejuvenation procedures. It’s simply amazing what a little technology can do! 

The new rage is non-surgical treatments that “interrupt” the skin’s surface so that the body’s own collagen will kick in and grow healthy new cells. The process at Spa Sydell includes layering serum with growth hormones on the face after the treatment. Basically, it’s supposed to trick your system into thinking you’re young again.

Here’s what I’ve experienced lately. It’s called an Erbium Pixel laser treatment. With numbing cream, it’s not too painful at all. Never mind the little puffs of smoke. It’s a good thing!

Rejuvenating tricks 

One of the secrets to a successful rejuvenation treatment is the after care. A recovery mask with another dose of growth serum does the trick. Is it worth it?

Is it just vanity? Here’s my take on all this. We all strive to live healthy lives. We watch the foods we eat, we exercise, and we fix our body parts when they wear out. Why not care for our skin and our complexion? If it makes you happy and it hurts no one, I’m all for it!

Remember the spa visit in France with my friend Nevenka? This takes me back… to a kinder, gentler rejuvenation … 

Tour and a Cure: A French Thermal Spa Experience

Happy Holidays!

Thinking of all of you during the holiday season and I’m wishing you health and happiness. See you back in France before too long.

Meanwhile, enjoy the memories of holidays not too long ago…

https://bfblogger.com/2017/12/21/very-best-christmas-markets/

Rejuvenating

 

 

 

My First Beaujolais Nouveau Day in France

I’m digging way back into the archives of the Barefoot Blogger to republish the post about my first Beaujolais Nouveau day in France. It’s because of stories and friends like this that I’m still loving life here. By the way, Beaujolais Nouveau was this week. Hope you enjoyed it wherever you are!

Beaujolais Nouveau, on the third Thursday of November, is traditionally a celebration of the end of the harvest in the Beaujolais region of France. In Uzes, the event is another good excuse to meet with friends in bars.

I wish I had the imagination to make up this crazy life I’m living in France. The best I can do is to write it down. The day and events of Beaujolais Nouveau are no exceptions.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day: A quiet start

The most exciting thing I had scheduled for Beaujolais Nouveau day was to finish up a blog entry, then to drift down to a wine store at some time to sample the first crop of Beaujolais. The wine store is a new find since it’s quite well hidden. It is in a “cave” at the back of a florist shop. If I could read the signs, I would have known about it before now. Nevertheless, I literally ran across the “Cave” on Wednesday and I stopped in to check it out.

Just by accident I asked the shop owner about Beaujolais Nouveau. He informed me that my query was quite timely. He was “unveiling” his Beaujolais Nouveau the next day, Thursday, November 21. Showing my total ignorance about wine,  I asked if I could taste the new wine right then. I was already at the shop. Politely he informed me that French law forbids anyone to open a bottle before the prescribed date. He invited me to return the next day for a sampling.

On Thursday, November 21, when I was getting into writing the blog about my first house guest, and later going to the wine shop, Geoffrey called. “Looking for adventure,” he said.

I could see a smile on his face through his voice on the phone. “What’s up” I responded. “I’m really busy today, and I don’t want to spend any money.”

Apparently my reply wasn’t taken as a “no.” It showed I had a spark of interest. He had me on the hook. “Won’t cost you a dime,” he promised. “Just thought you might like to ride down the road to this little town for lunch,” he said cheerily. “Real French country food,” he added. You’ll love it.”

I agreed to meet him in 15 minutes in front of my building.

Beaujolais Nouveau DayBeaujolais Day Begins: Blauzac

Somehow I had forgotten that  I have “possession” of Mustang Sally. So Geoffrey has no car. That meant he was picking me up in the blue van. Fair enough. As promised, Geoffrey and the blue van showed up at the downstairs entrance to my apartment building, I squeezed into the front seat of the car that has no dashboard and no upholstery; I strapped myself in; and we headed to Blauzac, a tiny village about 20 minutes from Uzes.

The views along the road were of vineyards and ancient stone farm houses. The ride itself was already enough of an excuse to have put my other plans for the day aside. Arriving in Blauzac, I was immediately impressed with its raw beauty. This little town, tucked in the middle of nowhere, among wine fields, reminded me again that I am truly in France.

 Lunch with the boys

Beaujolais Nouveau DayThe cafe Geoffrey talked about all the way to Blauzak was exactly as I imagined. The small, quaint, restaurant and bar was filled with men and smoke. Introductions to “Deborah” were accompanied with the offer of a drink and a toast. Only one person in the cafe could, or would, speak English — aside from me and Geoffrey. Soon the three of us started talking, even though there were many interruptions for translations.

We mostly talked about why so many French people smoke. I asked why rolling cigarettes is so popular. I was told that rolling cigarettes is not only cheaper than buying them by the pack, it’s also better for your health. Here’s the rationale: 1) rolling cigarettes means that you know what’s inside the wrapper. Cigarettes in packs are full of “garbage”;  2) rolled cigarettes have less tar and nicotine; and, most convincing to the roller fans, 3) you smoke fewer cigarettes because you’re pre-occupied during the few minutes it takes to roll them.

Where’s the beef?
Soon it was 2pm and no sign of food… except for sightings of steaming hot onion soup the owner of the cafe served to lunch patrons who had shown up. I reminded Geoffrey why we had come this distance at lunch time. Almost immediately a table was set for Geoffrey, me, and our three new friends. Then out from the kitchen came our baskets of crusty bread, bowls of onion soup with croutons swimming on top, complete with melted cheese.

After devouring the delicious soup, the “plat” (main course) was served. A choice of gardiane de taureau (bull stew) or saute de veau aux les olives, les champignons (veal stew with olives and mushrooms) — both resting over rice. All served from this modest kitchen by our gracious host and chef.

Good thing I’m retired and have nothing really important to do. But I do wonder how so many people can spend so much time in bars and cafes. By the time we left Blauzac, there was evidence that no one, with the exception of the bar owner and staff, planned to do any work that day

Beaujolais Nouveau Bar Hopping

I was bushed from all that eating and from struggling to participate in part English/mostly French conversations. My sweet little apartment and a nap were calling. The idea of going to the wine shop to try the Beaujolais nouveau was going on the back burner for next year. Geoffrey and I said our farewells and I thought that was that. Not so. Within 30 minutes my phone was ringing. Geoffrey. “I’m coming to pick you up to taste the new wines,” he said. “You can’t miss this.”

“Good grief,” I said to myself. Then realizing I’d hate to miss this blog opportunity, I said to Geoffrey, “OK, I’ll meet you downstairs.”

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #1

It was after 7pm when we reached the wine “cave” I had hoped to visit. It was closed. We took off down the street to another wine shop where there was definitely something going on. It was a party… not a big party …  a gathering of the shop owner’s friends. We were invited to join the group and I was handed my first glass of the new wine.

The small celebration included bottles of wine, baguettes of bread, a few types of cheese, and thin slices of French cured ham, all spread casually over the store counters near the checkout. According to Geoffrey, the wine connoisseurs were discussing the quality of the new wine — or lack, thereof. they said there was the presence of an artichoke flavor, not fruit, in the wine. They could have been joiking. I miss so much not understanding the French language.

To me, the taste of the new wine was very watery. Not uncommon for a freshly bottled Beaujolais, I was told. It was certainly drinkable and we could have stayed on and on. Another bar adventure was calling.

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #2

The second stop for Beaujolais Nouveau tasting was at a cafe/bar I’ve walked past many times since living in Uzes. Admittedly, I always walked on the opposite side of the street. As in most places in town, Geoffrey knew everyone in bar #2. He was greeted with open arms. They eyed me with suspicion. Trying to make my 5’9” self invisible was impossible.

“OK,” said I to myself: “You’re on this mission for a purpose.” With that, I bellied up to the bar beside the others. The bar keeper pulled out the wine flavor-of-the-day, Beaujolais Nouveau, and served me a glass. In no time, I’d made some new friends. At a table nearby, the young men offered to share the cheese, ham and bread.

When it was time to move on to the last leg of our Beaujolais hop, I was determined to make friends with the “big guy” at the end of the bar. He’s a former rugby player and he lives with his mom. I mean, who would expect the “big guy” in the corner to be a teddy bear?

Beaujolais Nouveau Tasting #3

Beaujolais Nouveau DayLes Pieton is a cafe/bar I walk past several times a day. Sometime I stop to join people I know for a drink or a meal. This night there was definitely a party going on. The place was packed inside and out. The scene seemed even more crowded because all the other shops and restaurants along the main street had shut down. Even on the night of Beaujolais Nouveau, everything in Uzes is closed by 10 pm.

By this time I was ready to sit down and actually taste the wine. I pulled a bar stool up to a tall table outside and covered my legs with one of the blankets provided for chilly evenings. It is getting cold in Uzes with temperatures in the 40s and 50s farenheit  (I don’t speak French, nor do I know the metric system!)  To me the temperature is pleasant. To the French residents here, it’s really cold. They wear parkas with fur trim and hats. After another bottle of wine was uncorked and new acquaintances were made, I said my farewell to all. The night of Nouveau Beaujolais 2013 was now history.

Perhaps others bring in the end of the wine harvest with fanfare and at great expense. For me, I realize just how lucky I am to be having this simple, strange, new life. What I’m certain of — and learning more everyday — is that life is what we make it; we are all more alike than we are different; and that a spirit of adventure, instead of fear, leads to learning more about ourselves, understanding more about others; and to truly loving one another.

 

 

 

French Etiquette: Say It With Flowers

When it comes to French etiquette, Nancy McGee knows the answers. From the proper way to cut cheese, to eating oysters, she can tell us the French way.

Nancy is my good friend from Sete and tour planner, Absolutely Southern France, for our Memories Tours. She’s used to my asking a lot of questions.

“What is a proper gift to bring your French host when you’ve been invited for dinner?I asked. 

She replied with her usual flair, along with a personal story from her early days in France…

I’d dreamed of living in the South of France from an early age. (My family home was in northernmost Quebec – need I say more?) Whenever we made a trip into town, ice and snow permitting, I’d buy magazines full of chic French fashion, luxurious apartments, glorious food, and stylish entertaining. I liked to experiment with French cooking but let’s face it, with a moose as our closest neighbor the scope for social life and entertaining was, well, limited. My mind was made up.

Mid-October several years later I finally arrived in southern France. It was bliss to be enveloped by warm sunshine. My first home was a charming, albeit minuscule, ‘chambre de bonne’, a former maid’s quarters, in a historic building.

France was a ‘coup de coeur’. I loved exploring the streets, window shopping, and admiring the architecture. After a landscape of snow and pine trees, France was a colorful wonderland. In fact,  the huge variety of bright-colored flowers when I first arrived immediately caught my eye.  It was chrysanthemum season and there were displays at every street corner, in supermarkets, gas stations, everywhere…

French Etiquette

Learning French Etiquette

Having worked hard on my French language skills, disguising my Quebecois accent and trying to acquire that certain French ‘je ne sais quoi,’ I was confident about my ability to integrate.  So imagine my delight when I received a dinner invitation from the elderly couple who lived below me. They probably felt sorry for me in my cramped accommodation. Their apartment was quite grand and I was filled with anticipation.

This being my first French dinner party, I solicited advice from a French acquaintance I’d met as to what to wear and an appropriate gift for my hosts. Chocolates? Fine. Wine – no, the French prefer to choose their own. Flowers? Perfect. Chrysanthemums.

When I went to the flower shop there were chrysanthemums in all sizes and colors. A multi-colored beauty caught my eye, seemingly saying ‘take me home!

French Etiquette

Being invited to a formal dinner party in France, guests are expected to arrive around 7pm for the traditional “apéro,” or pre-dinner drinks.  At the appointed hour I arrived armed with my elaborately wrapped bouquet.

Oh… but one glance at my hostess’ face told me something was not, well, quite right. Had I mistaken the date? Was I too early?

Smiling awkwardly, she began to say something, clearly changed her mind, then she gathered my bouquet in her arms. My mood immediately lifted as I was invited in and wonderful cooking aromas wafted through the air. I complimented my hosts on their elegant home, and I enthusiastically asked if they liked my bouquet.

“I was unsure what to choose,” I explained, “but I noticed the French particularly love chrysanthemums.”

They smiled and explained, in a most gracious way, the significance of chrysanthemums and La Toussaint (All Saints Day) which we were celebrating in a few days. We laughed and all was forgiven. Besides, it was time for the apéro.

Nothing was served as mundane as chips and peanuts. Rather, delicious little ‘amuse bouches’ (I love that name) served with a choice of wine or champagne.

French Etiquette

Next was ‘à table’ where we enjoyed course after course of exquisitely presented food, accompanied by fine wines.

Conversation flowed easily and the other guests were charming. I realized I had fantastic neighbors and that France would fulfill my early dreams.

 A Word about the Role the Chrysanthemum Plays in All Saints Day (La Toussaint) in France

La Toussant is the traditional day when the French visit cemeteries to clean up tombs and place flowers on the graves of deceased family members and close friends. It is customary to leave chrysanthemums, an important symbol of grief and funerals, or wreaths of artificial flowers, on or close to the graves. Candles may also be lit to symbolize happiness in the afterlife and it provides an opportunity to strengthen family ties in a respectful atmosphere.

Now you can see why Chrysanthemums are rarely given as gifts!


Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern France

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Occitanie region

The Wild, Wonderful Occitanie Region: The Camargue

The Occitanie Region and the Camargue

Aigues-Mortes is at the gateway town to the Occitanie region of the Camargue. The walled city with its history of Kings and crusades is as impressive as its past.“From its earliest days, Aigues-Mortes was significant for its salt fields and its location bordering the Mediterranean Sea. (click here to read more …) 

It was last year’s visit to Aigues-Mortes, however, that made a lasting impression on the Barefoot Blogger. It was the site of my unfortunate accident on Day 8 of the 2018 Memories TourGoing back to the same location a year later was bittersweet. My fall in the street led to a year of pain and recovery. The thought of it, when I retraced the steps, brought me to tears. On a positive note, walking past the spot was a victory. I shared the moment with new friends from this year’s tour. They flanked me on all sides. Nevertheless, I carried a walking stick … just in case!

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Gypsies and Legends

To best visit the Camargue region, there’s nothing quite like a tour by Jeep. In Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, local guides met us to drive through the backroads they know so well. Most of the guides are lifelong residents of the Camargue. But first, a visit to the church of Sarah the Egyptian, revered by Gypsies. Read more here …

Carmargue by Jeep

High on our list of places and things to see on our Camargue safari were the white horses, bulls, and flamencos. The Parc naturel régional de Camargue is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons, and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes, and grain. The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all eat natural feed and grasses. Read more here … 

The people of the Camargue are proud of their region, history, and their country. Our driver, Cedric, invited us to a sing-a-long while cruising through the land of horses, bulls, wine, rice, and salt.

 

Flamenco Sighting 

Finding horses and bulls was not such a challenge. Flamencos, on the other hand, were scarce.

Occitanie region

The feathered creatures that grace the marshlands to eat tiny rose-colored shrimp that give the birds their pink hue must have been at the next stop on their flight plan. I must come back. Winter is a very privileged moment since it is at this time that flamingos are the most colorful, and they perform their spectacular “courtship displays.”

 

It’s a sight I hope someday to see.

Sampling the Occitanie Region Foods and Flavors: Camarguaise-style

A quick guide to the foods of the Camargue is the land itself. As you ride through the flatlands, you see rice, vineyards, bulls, and, in some areas, salt hills and lagoons. The area has not always been so productive as today. Conservation and cooperation between the people, the government, and industry have led to an environment where all benefit.

Occitanie region

Our stop for a food tasting allowed us to get “up close and personal” with the locals.

Hills and fields of salt

I’d been looking forward to seeing the salt fields since I learned that the Camargue is the birthplace for fleur de sel. It was hard for me to believe the precious flakes of salt “bloom.” Then they’re harvested. 

Occitanie region

Walking to the top of one of the hills of salt at La Baleine, I had to stop to brush my fingers on the path and taste the salt before I believed it was true. Sometimes the truth seems more unreal than fiction.

What could match a day like this? Wait… there’s more.

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Occitanie

Exploring France’s Occitanie Region: The Mediterranean Port of Sete

The new “go-to” place in the south of France is Occitanie

occitanieOccitanie is the new “go-to” place in the south of France. When visitors have had their fill of Nice, the Côte d’Azur, and Provence, they’re finding that the southernmost region of France, once known as Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées, is pretty remarkable.

The South of France Memories Tour 2019 with author Patricia Sands and the Barefoot Blogger introduced the eighteen ladies from the US and Canada to some of the “go-to” places. First on the list was one of my favorite spots in Occitanie: Sete.

Sete on a Sunday

Touring anywhere on an overcast Sunday may not sound like the most fun. But when you’re in Sete and with the Mediterranean town’s best guide, Nancy McGee, you’re bound to enjoy the day.

Join us on the tour of the town

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Next stop in Occitanie: The Camargue

Want to know more about Sete?

Sete, France: How Sweet It Is

7 Reasons To Visit Sete This Year

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

A Day at the Beach in Sete: That’s Life!

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Memories Tour “A List”: Antibes, Aix, and Arles

It’s not a coincidence that the South of France Memories Tour would visit Antibes, Aix, and Arles straight in a row. They are definitely A-List tourist spots south of France.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

You know by now that Antibes is one of my favorite places to visit on the Côte d’Azur. For the past four years, it’s been where friends and I meet before the onslaught of heat and visitors in Uzès. This time, with 18 Memories Tour ladies, Antibes took on a unique flavor, thanks to the Love in Provence book series by my friend and co-leader, Patricia Sands. Here we followed in the footsteps of Katherine and her handsome Frenchman, Philippe.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Patricia guided us through the Antibes Market where Philippe was the modest- and eligible — purveyor of cheeses.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

Choosing a spot for a group photo in Antibes isn’t easy when there are so many spectacular views.

Antibes

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

Shopping in Antibes is a favorite sport. The best news for our tour gals? It was market day in Antibes. Wahoo!

 

Antibes

Market day in Antibes Vieux town square

 

Antibes

A stop at the Absinth Bar was a first taste of the legendary drink for most.

 

There’s a method for creating an absinthe drink. A cube of sugar, a slotted spoon, and just enough water to melt the sugar cube. Interesting! Tastes like licorice.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Aix-en-Provence

“Aix” is one of the largest and most visited towns in Provence. The home of Cézanne, it’s high on the list for tourists who want to know about the artist. Unfortunately, as we learned through our guide, Stephanie, Cezanne was never appreciated by the townspeople. His paintings are scarce in Aix. Nowhere else, though, can you follow in the footsteps of the artist’s youth and life.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Following the footsteps of Cézanne took us through the town with a unique perspective.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Picasso had a special relationship with Cèzanne, although the young Picasso was an unknown artist at the time. Picasso studied Cèzanne’s work and considered him “the father of us all.” Today Picasso’s work is exhibited in galleries in Aix like Musée Granet.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

One of the 1,000 fountains in Aix — the Four Dolphins

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The Cours Mirabeau, once the site of the town’s wall, is the prominent avenue in Aix and displays the statue of René d’Anjou (1434 – 1480), king of Jerusalem, king of Naples and Sicily, Duke of Lorraine. Folklore says he was a noble character — poet, artist, musician, and importer of the muscat grape into Provence.

 

During our day stop in Aix, our tour was pleased to see students marching in support of climate change reform. It was an impressive peaceful demonstration.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Arles

Arles was the stopping place for the second half of the Memories Tour. For seven days we called the luxurious Hotel Jules César our home away from home.

Hotel Jules César

Hotel Jules César In Arles

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The front terrace of the hotel made the perfect reading spot for Patricia’s book, Drawing Lessons. Characters and places in Drawing Lessons were based on Arles.

 

Arles is filled with ancient relics of Roman days that are still very much in use today, including the 2000-year-old arena.

 

Arles

The arena at night is magical.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

One rainy day and a wrong turn was a real adventure through the back roads of Arles. Nevertheless, the Barefoot Blogger trudged on, and we had lots of laughs. Never a dull moment on the Memories Tour!

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Shopping was always on our minds. Market day in Arles did not disappoint.

 

Aix

Our tour guests included Cheryl Jamison of James Beard cookbook acclaim. She raved about the food! Is it any wonder?

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The new home of the Luma Foundation in Arles is a tourist attraction in itself. It is, perhaps, the last public space to be designed by the 90+-year-old architect, Frank Gehry. The modern and controversial building is a new symbol for art and culture for the ancient Roman town of Provence.

A highlight of dining on the Memories Tour in Arles was our evening at the Hotel Particulier, a 5-star hotel in the heart of Arles. The home of aristocrats with its walls from the time of Roman Emperor Constantine was restored to the imaginative vision of architects for the Luma Foundation.

 

 

What’s next??? The Memories Tour 2019 heads for Occitanie — Sete, the Camargue, and Uzès!

hills of the côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 4

When Nice was in its infancy, the hills of the Côte d’Azur were where the poor people lived. The mountainous area with sharp cliffs was remote and without water.

Today, judging by the opulence of the towns that have sprung up, we wish we could be so lucky to live there.

hills of the côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

The views on the drive out of Nice in our comfortable 20 passenger van gave the women of the Memories Tour 2019 a sampling of life on the Riviera as lived by the rich and famous. On one mountain, the chateau of Elton John. On another, the estate of Tina Turner. Imagine the neighborhood parties!

Our first stop was Eze known as the “eagle’s nest” because of its lofty perch 427 metres (1,401 ft) above sea level. The adorable town, dotted with shops and cafes, was quite an uphill climb. The Jardin botanique d’Èze ,with its gardens of succulents and cacti, and its panoramic views of the Mediterranean, made it all worth the effort.

Hills of the côte d’Azure

Hills of the côte d’Azure

 

Hills of the côte d’Azure

 

Hills of the côte d’Azure

Hills of the côte d’Azure

 

Hills of the côte d’Azure

On to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild...

The lavish home of Charlotte Béatrice de Rothschild,was built between 1905-1912 for the French banking heiress.

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

The rose-colored, Venetian villa, overlooking Cap Ferrat, was a personal project of the Baroness. It is said she meticulously managed every aspect of construction, even though Aaron Messiah, architect of King Leopold of Belgium and designer of Villa Masséna in Nice, was in charge.

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild 

Baroness Rothschild was a demanding client and a fanatic for detail. When she imagined the villas’ nine gardens, for example, she asked the gardeners to “pretend” they were trees and bushes. They would move around the garden as she directed to create her fantasy of a perfect rose garden, a precise Japanese garden …

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the cote d’azur

Hills of the cote d’azur

Hills of the cote d’azur

A most entertaining part of visiting the Rothschild gardens is to see the fountains dance as classical music plays throughout the estate.

We’re having so much fun!

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Next stop, Antibes.

Antibes

 

Côte d’azur Shopping spree

Côte d’Azur Shopping Spree: Memories Tour Day 3

When twenty ladies gather together, you know they’re going to shop. It’s only natural. That’s why the South of France Memories Tour, with best-selling author Patricia Sands and the Barefoot Blogger, planned a full day for a Côte d’Azur shopping spree.

Côte d’Azur Shopping Spree

Grasse

The “shop til you drop” agenda for Day 3 started with a visit to the town of Grasse and the Fragonard perfume factory.

Fragonard is one of the leading perfumeries in the world. Before the area became famous for perfume, the main industry was glove making. Perfumes were introduced into the production process when clients complained about the gloves’ foul smell. Years later, when gloves went out of fashion, the perfume company remained.

Côte d’Azur shopping spree

Choosing a favorite fragrances when there are so many is never easy

Tourettes Sur Loup

The tiny village of Tourettes Sur Loup was a surprise stop on our way to St. Paul de Vence. The small town, known for violettes, made a perfect setting for lunch under a chestnut tree and browsing through lots of little shops.

Côte d’azur Shopping spree

 

Côte d’Azure shopping

Côte d’Azure shopping

Côte d’Azure shopping

St. Paul de Vence 

One of the oldest medieval towns along the Côte d’Azur, St. Paul de Vence became a haven for starving artists in the early 1900’s when a simple guesthouse, now the La Colombe d’Or hotel, welcomed unknowns such as Picasso. In return for room payment, the artists would leave paintings. While the hotel’s reputation spread and more artists visited, the whole town benefited. Today St. Paul de Vence is filled with galleries, and the hotel family owns one of the finest contemporary art collections in the world.

Côte d’Azur shopping spree

Enjoy the day along with us … 

 

Top Spots in Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

A visit to the most famous city on the Côte d’Azur is exciting enough for most travelers. To really appreciate the top spots in Nice, you need to have a good guide. For the Memories Tour, our guide Stephanie Is one of the best. She’s lived in the city more than 30 years and she’s studied it all.

Top Spots in Nice

Sightseeing on Day 2 in Nice started from our hotel, the Beau Rivage, across the street from the famous “Prom,” or Promenade des Anglais. 

It was a crystal clear day, so the views of the city and the coastline were magnificent. The sea was a brilliant blue, a sharp contrast to the white stones on the beach and the pale, “Riviera-style” architecture along the distant hillside. 

Top Spots in Nice

Promenade des Anglais

Our first stop was for a group photo at the iconic blue chair sculpture.

Memories Tour 2019

Next, a bit of history ..,

Nice

Stephanie tells the history of the 19th century Centenary Monument that commemorates Nice’s annexation to France

 

Top spots in Nice

A symbol of Nice (young girl) embracing France (the armor-glad woman) on the Centenary Monument

 

Top spots in Nice

This modern art statue beside the Promenade was originally not a favorite of the locals. The Mayor convinced them it was a brilliant representation of how the rivers and cultures of the city’s neighboring regions, through the centuries, had come together to form the extraordinary city.

Tourism has been the main industry for Nice for centuries. Many of the famous people who lived here, like Matisse, Chekhov, and Marc Chagall, came for their health and the clean air.  Italy, for example, had “bad air” because of the coal industry. 

Top spots in Nice

Old town Nice. Matisse lived at the house at the end of the street. Both Matisse and Chekhov once resided at the Beau Rivage which is at the entrance to this street.

Although much of Nice was destroyed through the years prior to the 1600s, the tie with Italy through the years is strongly visible, from the architecture to the food.

Top spots in Nice

 

Nice

 

Top spots in Nice

Place Masséna, towered over by Apollo, is the public square between old and new parts of Nice

Top Spots in Nice to Dine

Along our tour route, one of our guests, Cheryl Jamison, broke away to run into La Merenda to make reservations for lunch. The restaurant of Michelin Star chef Dominique Le Stanc is one of our food expert and talk show host’s top spots in Nice to dine when she’s here from Sante Fe.Top Spots in Nice

 

Top spots in Nice

Chef Dominique Le Stanc

chef Dominique Le Stanc

Daube à la Niçoise 

Top Spots in Nice by Bus

An extraordinary lunch at La Merenda was followed by a hop-on-hop off bus ride out and about Nice.

Top spots in Nice

Top of the bus view out of Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer

Top spots in Nice

Port of Nice

 

Top spots in Nice

Top Spots in Nice On Your Own

After a packed day of sightseeing, the tour gals were on their own to play in Nice. Some of the daring took to the skies…

Top spots in Nice

Parasailing is not included on the tour, but while in Nice … some couldn’t resist!

Top spots in Nice

 

Tomorrow…there’s more! 

Welcome to Nice

Memories Tour 2019: Welcome To Nice

Arrival day for the Memories Tour was filled with excitement, anticipation and busy last minute preparations for a welcome to Nice for our 18 guests. Patricia Sands, tour co-leader and I were anxious to put names  and faces together.

Welcome to Nice!

Our hotel for the tour, is the Beau Rivage. Set at the entrance to “old town” Nice, its location is perfect for tourists like us. Streets are filled with restaurants, shops and beautiful architecture. The front of the hotel is just across the street from the Promenade and the Mediterranean. Truly “côte d’azur.

Welcome to Nice

Vieux Nice

Welcome to Nice

Côte d’Azur and the private beach and restaurant of the Beau Rivage

“Welcome Cocktails” for our group was scheduled for 6pm. That gave us some time to scout the town before everyone arrived. Patricia took off to meet friends who live in Nice. I was able to enjoy a bit of individual time with my friend Cheryl, from Atlanta, who joined us this year. (Shout out to Lynn and Kathy, “old” friends on Memories Tour 2018.)

Welcome to Nice

Cheryl taking the first photos of Nice

Sunday Flower Market

Welcome to Nice

Sunday Flower Market in old town

 

Welcome to Nice

Vegetables and fruit at Sunday Market

 

Welcome to Nice

Buying “real” sponges

Welcome to Nice Everyone!

Welcome to Nice

Welcome Party on the terrace at the Beau Rivage

 

Welcome to Nice

Dinner by the sea

 

Nice

More of our group of 20

Ready to start the tour!

Welcome to Nice

Tomorrow it’s all about Nice! 

 

 

Welcome to Nice

Memories Tour. Here We Go Again.

Yesterday I left for Nice from Uzès for the 2019 Memories Tour of the south of France. Patricia Sands beat me there by a day after spending a few days in Paris with friends joining our tour.

2019 Memories Tour

Patricia Sands, best-selling author “Love in Provence” series

I’m looking forward to meeting my new friends, but a bit anxious because of the not-so-good memory of falling and breaking myself last year.

Yes, it’s the anniversary of my accident in Aigues Mortes where I broke my arm, shoulder, and hip. The tour was in its eight day. I’m not going to dwell on the details, or the thought of it now. But you won’t hear me refer to this year’s adventure as a “trip.” I intend to stay upright.

2019 Memories Tour

View from the Promenade in Nice

2019 Memories Tour

The eighteen ladies in this year’s excursion are joining us from places around the US and Canada. We are based in Nice for the first few days where we’ll sightsee around Nice, Antibes and the scenic coastline of the Côté d’Azur. Then we move to Arles to experience a totally different part of Provence, and to travel into the Languedoc region, now called “Occitanie.”

2019 Memories Tout

Patricia Sands, Nancy McGee (tour planner Absolutely Southern France) and the Barefoot Blogger acting up in Nice

Join us as I post the highlights of the tour from day to day.

2019 Memories Tour

Requisite Aperol Spritz to start every special occasion in the south of France

 

2019 Memories Tour

Niçoise Salade: the salad specialty of Nice. Of course it’s my first meal!

 

Nice

A wedding sighting in the streets of Vieux Nice

 

2019 Memories Tour

Mussels in garlic butter and parsley… another treat from Nice and Côté d’Azur

Memories Of The South Of France You Promised Yourself 2019

France Travel Guide

Live Like a King and Wallace Simpson

When my Brit friends from Uzès invited me to tag along with them to “live like a King” at the weekend home of the Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson outside Paris, I was thrilled. No one really knows how much I love and follow the British Royals. It’s a great addition to my French travels, too.

Living like a King

Queen Elizabeth Doll

I vividly remember the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. A Queen Elizabeth doll was my prized possession.

I’m so firmly attached to the Royal Family that I went to the wedding of Will and Kate. Yes, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of spectators at Will and Kate’s wedding that glorious April day.

In fact, it was while I was on the same side of the ocean for the wedding that a friend invited me to visit in France. We spent a Saturday Market Day in Uzes. The rest is history.

France Travel Guide

Saturday Market in Uzes

Live Like a King

Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that I would spend four days and nights in the same house as the former King of England and the famous American divorcee, Wallace Simpson. Who knew I’d be stomping the same garden paths and walking the same village streets?

Living like a King

Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson

For any who are too young, or aren’t familiar with the story of King Edward and Wallace Simpson, it’s probably the most romantic love story in modern history (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton next?) Edward was King of England after the death of his father; he was having an affair with Wallace Simpson — an American divorcee; he abdicated the throne to marry Wallace Simpson; and they “exiled” to France. If you’d like to see a new recreation of the events, you must watch the TV series “The Crown.”

Living like a King

Wedding Day of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Getting there

The stay at the Duke and Wallace Simpson’s country home was planned for the week following my return to France from the States. (Hopefully, you traveled with me through CDG airport; Cook’n with Class;  and Montmartre.)

After a few days in Paris, I  left for Gif-Sur-Yvette by train from Gard du Nord in Paris to meet my friends who were driving up from Uzes.

France Travel Guide  Yes, I had a ton of luggage with me from the States to haul onto the train. Luckily a lovely young man who was catching the same train gave me a hand.

France Travel Guide

Paris Gard du Nord

When I arrived at the train station in Gif-Sur-Yvette, I was “gathered” by my friends and delivered to Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, only a few miles away.

What a wonderful sight!

Living like a King

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

Here’s a slideshow of the home, cottages, and grounds. 

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A brief history of Le Mouline de la Tuilerie

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was the weekend home of the Duke and Duchess and the only property the couple owned together. Their formal residence in France was in Paris, 4 Route du Champ d’Entrainement in the Bois de Bologna. The history of Le Moulin dates back to the 1500s when a working mill was on the site. The current main house was built in 1734 — as indicated by the date carved over the transom of the front door. At that time, the house and grounds were known as “Moulin Aubert.” When Edward and the Duchess took possession of Moulin Aubert in 1952, the Duchess renamed the estate after the adjacent village — ” Moulin Tuilierie.”

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was owned and occupied by the Windsors until the Duke’s death in 1972. In 2009 it became a Landmark Trust property.

An inside look

After purchasing Le Moulin, the Windsors spent two years redecorating the interior and guest houses. With the help of renowned designer Stéphane Boudin, the home was tastefully filled with bright colors and furnishings the couple had amassed during their lives separately and together. Today, only a few of the same decorations remain.

During our stay at Le Moulin, the four couples — and me — occupied the five bedrooms in the main house. My room was quickly decided because it was the only single. For the other four bedrooms, my friends drew straws. Two couples joined me in the “servants quarters.” The remaining two were given the room of the Duchess and the room of the Duke. As you can see, there was nothing opulent about the living quarters of Le Moulin. Just utilitarian and comfortably dressed in a 1950’s way.

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The living room upstairs, on the other hand, was huge and inviting. During the time of the Windsors, the room was used primarily for entertaining. (See photos above) There are framed photographs that show the Duke and Duchess surrounded by elegantly-dressed and famous guests.

The kitchen area was added as the home morphed from a private residence to a Landmark Trust site.

Living like a King

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

Live Like a King: Wallace Simpson Dinner Parties

Not to be outdone by royalty, my Brit friends and I put on our own “Royals Nights.”  Cocktails were served promptly at seven and dinner at eight. Two evenings we all dressed the part of Wallace Simpson and the Duke. Glam, eh?

Our cocktails, aperos, and meals were divine.

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All followed by fun and games… and just a bit of drama.

Note: Mas d’Augustine lovebirds, Jane and Gary Langston, made the best of their holiday away from the B&B.

Living like a King

Jane and Gary

Live Like a King: Out and about 

During the daytime, there was plenty of sightseeing to do.  Walking through the village of Gif-Sur-Yvette, for one.

Then a day in Paris that started with an hour-long train ride, a hop-on bus tour, and a fabulous lunch.

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The most magnificent of all — a day in Versailles!

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Then … it was time to say “goodbye”…

Living like a King

Yet another memory … 

France Travel Guide

 

Where next? Stay tuned …

France Travel Guide

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

If you’ve been to Paris before, you might not want to see the Eiffel Tower every time you return. This visit to Paris, I chose to stay in Montmartre. In just two days I got a taste of the town. And I loved it! Now I have my favorite 5 to do’s in Montmartre.

5 To Do's in MontmartreI confess, I’ve been to Montmartre before. A night at the Moulin Rouge was high on the “must do” list when I was a twenty-something in Paris for the first time with college friends. In the 60s it was pretty raunchy.  I stood in the line and walked through the  Sacré Coeur Cathedral many years later.

So what do you do in Montmartre if you’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and Sacré Coeur? Plenty!

 

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

#1  Cooking Class

Travel Guide France

Cook’n with Class Paris

Go to a cooking class at Cook’n with Class Paris. If it’s a Sunday, all the better. The Sunday Market Class includes shopping at the city market. Then you go back to the school to prepare a sumptuous meal with all the fresh ingredients. Read all about the fun experience — click here.

#2 Enjoy the Scenery

Even on a cloudy day, Montmartre is charming. Check out the patisseries and cafes along the way.

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Who knows who you’ll run into? My good buddy and playwright, Silver Wainhouse! She lives near me in Uzès and she was in town for the day. 

Travel Guide France

#3 Eat the food

Take your time to find just the right spot to have lunch or a snack. I mean, is there anything quite as good as French Onion Soup — in France?  Pair that with a glass of your favorite wine and you’re just about in heaven.

Travel Guide France

One day, wandering around near Pigalle, what should appear? Le Chat Noir. Right out of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.

5 To Do's in Montmartre

Le Chat Noir

I expected Picasso or Toulouse to walk in any moment. Surely they would enjoy the cafe’s Paysanne salad — filled with duck magret and gizzards. I did!

#4 Climb the hill to Sacrè Couer

Go ahead. Even if you’ve been to the Sacrè Couer, do it again.  The views are spectacular. Yes, it’s quite a hike to the top, but there’s a lift and a small train that can take you up. If you’re around on a weekend, plan to have a coffee and croissant while sitting at a cafe near where the artists hang out. You might even snag a painting at a good price. It’s what memories are made of.
5 to do's in Montmartre

Imagine yourself here…

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5 to do's in Montmartre

Travel Guide France

Musée de Montmartre

#5 Visit Musée de Montmartre

If you want to take a trip through Montmartre’s past — to actually see where artists, writers and sculptors such as Renoir, Émile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre Reverdy and Demetrius Galanis actually lived and worked, visit the Musée de Montmartre. It’s tucked away on a side street at the top of Montmartre and it’s worth the stop.

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Would I stay in Montmartre again? Absolutely! 

I don’t always “plug” a place that I stay when I’m traveling, but I have to give a big shout out to Le Grey Hotel. The boutique hotel is so convenient to everything I wanted to see and do on my short stay. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. The breakfast is fresh, tasty and served late into the morning. And there is a bar and sitting room that’s cozy and inviting.

Next stop: Living Like A Royal!
Travel Guide France

Look What’s Cooking on Sunday in Paris

Sunday is a day of rest for many people, but there’s plenty to keep you busy on Sunday in Paris… like a cooking class with a professional chef and the market in Montmartre. 

Starting off just after 8 o’clock this morning, I walked from the hotel to a nearby metro station to catch a train to the rendezvous spot for the Paris school of Cook’n with Class. I was to watch for a man “toting a green grocery cart.” Sure enough, just on time, here came Anton.


Sunday in Paris

 

Sunday in Paris

Sunday market in the area near the Jules Joffrin Metro is quite different from market days in Uzes. Here the “stalls” are actual stores that are open for Sunday shoppers. For today, though, many stores were shuttered for the presidential Election Day. Fortunately, we had a great selection of fish, meats, and vegetables available that stirred our imagination…and our appetite.

Have you ever seen such perfect produce?

Sunday in Paris

apples in paris

tomatoes in paris

….and the meats and fish. Perfect!

Sunday in Paris

Sunday in Paris

Sunday in Paris

After gathering the main ingredients for our menu, which was decided upon while we were shopping, we headed for the Cook’n With Class school, which was nearby.

Sunday in Paris

By the time we’d reached the cooking school, Chef Anton had come up with our 4-course menu: pan-seared sea bass with asparagus and tomato butter; duck breast with baby vegetables and celeriac mousseline; cheese, and pear tart baurdalou.

Sunday in Paris

Here’s where we started:

Sunday in Paris

Sunday in Paris

Sunday in Paris

vegetables in france

cook'n with class

cook'n with class

Here’s where we ended … all those lovely ingredients…and WE created this!

Sunday in Paris

Sea Bass

Sunday in Paris

cook'n with class

Cheese assortment

Sunday in Paris

Pear tart bourdalou with fresh strawberries

For more on Sunday’s cooking adventure check out the slideshow on the Barefoot Blogger’s Facebook page –and follow me on FB if you don’t already. There’s always something going on there.

To find out more about the Cook’n With Class schedule in Paris and their school “down south” in Uzès, click here. Check it out.

 

 

Learn to Cook Provençal

Learn to Cook Mediterranean with a French Pro

One thing I dreamed about before moving to France was to attend a cooking class in Paris. Little did I know that my wish would come true —  without leaving the little town of Uzès. Chef Eric Fraudeau of Cook’n with Class Paris has a cooking school right down the road — Cook’n with Class Uzès. Now I can learn to cook Mediterranean, too!

Learn to Cook Mediterranean 

It’s exciting to know you’re learning to cook with one of the best. With over 20 years of experience as a chef in acclaimed hotels and restaurants such as the five-star Hotel de Paris MonacoChef Eric Fraudeau has a background few chefs can claim. His early career includes working in the kitchen with both Robuchon and Ducasse.

Chef Fraudeau’s schoolCook’n with Class Uzès, specializes in Provençal & Mediterranean Cuisine — the foods people in the south of France love to eat and often serve in their homes. Classes offered include “French Market Class” and “Cook’n with Fish – Fish and Seafood class.” On market days the Chef and students go shopping together in either of two neighboring towns, Uzès (Wednesday) or San Quentin de la Poterie (Tuesday and Friday). They return to the class kitchen to create and enjoy a meal from the day’s best finds.

“Cook’n with Fish” sounded like the best choice for me, especially since fish is one of my favorite foods. What better way to learn how to prepare seafood Mediterranean-style than from an expert?

“Fish day” Menu

Apéro

Garlic and basil spread, olives, pâtébrandade

Entrée

Pissaladière (a classic Niçoise specialty that’s like a pizza)

Plat

Poulpe (octopus) salad with basil, olives, and capers

Sea bream with fennel, mussels and saffron sauce

Cheeses

Dessert

Paris-Deauville

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Prepping the food

For our Provençal & Mediterranean dinner on “fish day,” some ingredients were more intimidating than others. Squid? Octopus? They’re great to eat, but how to cook them? I was in the right place.

Everything was laid out before us when we came into the chef’s kitchen. One by one, the ingredients morphed into a pissaladière, a sauce, a salad, a lovely fish dish, a dessert. Chef Eric, along with his guest, Chef Patrick, from the Paris school, stood by to guide and instruct us.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Here are just a few of the tips from the day’s lesson:

Tip #1: Anchovies melt! Who knew? The steps for the pissaladière called for us to slice and brown onions, then add anchovies. Did you know that anchovies melt? They actually disappear when they are heated and stirred into a recipe.

Tip #2: Boil oranges? Chef Eric surprised us all when he popped two oranges from off the counter into a saucepan of water … to boil. “Organic oranges only,” he said. “We’re going to use the rind and all,” he added. The oranges, after they were soft enough from boiling, were going into a blender, then into the batter for the cake we were preparing for dessert.

Tip #3:  How to clean mushrooms. Chanterelles, which are known as “girolles” in France, were spread out on the kitchen counter in all their yellow splendor. Never having “properly” cleaned a mushroom, I was anxious to hear what the Chef would suggest. He recommended that we use our fingers to brush off the dirt, followed by a quick wipe with a paper towel. He said he finds this way of cleaning mushrooms easier than using a brush. It means one less utensil in the kitchen drawer, too.

Tip #4: How to fillet a fish

During a gourmet tour of Sète, Nancy McGee from “Absolutely Southern France” taught me how to filet a cooked whole fish, served at the table. To filet a fish to cook, do it the same way.

Tip #5: How to “fix” a cooking mistake?

Every chef has his secrets and, for this cooking class, Chef Eric and Chef Patrick were willing to share everything, including how to recover from making a mistake. According to Chef Eric, almost every cooking error can be resolved.

We watched one “mistake” happen when the “mayonnaise” for the rouille separated.

Rouille” is a creamy, garlicky sauce that’s commonly found in the south of France. You can prepare and serve it in many different ways, including as a main course. For our meal, rouille was a side dish.

While preparing the rouille, someone (not me, thank goodness) combined the ingredients too quickly. The sauce curdled. Chef Patrick “fixed it” by working with small bits of the mixture at a time. He pushed a little of the rouille to one side of the bowl, then dropped in an egg — yolk and all. The chef whipped the egg and rouille by hand. Little by little, he incorporated the “bad” mix into the “good,” until it all was a perfect consistency.

Chef Patrick says you can do the same with chocolate if it “goes to seed.”

Tip #6: French etiquette

To cook with “class” in France you should know about French etiquette. There are “rules” on how to serve, eat, toast, and drink. For example, before a toast, with drinks in hand, you must look at each person straight in the eyes. It may take a little longer to take that first sip, but taking the time to do it right will make a lasting impression.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Déjeuner/Diner is served

Déjeuner, or “lunch” is served mid-day in France. Until the 1960s, déjeuner was the big meal of the day. Families would gather at home for a two-hour break from work or school and sit down for a multi-course meal prepared by the mother. With changing times, many mothers work today. Everyone still takes a two-hour break; but, the mid-day meal is abbreviated to something much lighter, and not everyone comes home to eat.

“Dîner,” or dinner, is seldom served before 7:30pm. If it is the main meal, and especially on weekends and holidays, dîner can last three to four hours. Starting with the apéro, each course is served with complimentary wines, spirits, apéritifs, and digestifs.

The Cook’n With Class menu was designed for a typical main meal. Call it “dejeuner” or “diner.”

When all the cooking and the lessons were done, Chef Eric invited us to gather around the side table for our apéro course. We toasted each other with tall flutes of champagne. Moving over to a large, beautifully appointed dining table where we sat, we were served the entrée course, or starter — the pissaladière.  The main course (“plat”) with “accompaniment” (side dishes) followed.

Just when we thought we had eaten enough to literally explode, a wooden platter with an assortment of soft and hard cheeses was passed around — a custom in French dining. Next, dessert — the heavenly “boiled orange” cake with chocolate ganache flowing on top.

Now that a bit of the mystery of Provençal & Mediterranean cooking has been revealed, I feel a little friendlier toward raw octopus and squid. Perhaps a visit to Cook’n with Class Paris will take the fear out of wine and cheese pairings … or unveil the magic of macaroons. Today Uzès, next time in Paris. Oh, be still my heart!

 

 

Visit Uzés France

Visit Uzés, France: Inside the Château de Duché

Any who visit Uzés, France are in awe of the Château de Duché. It’s the centerpiece of the town and home to the Duke of Uzés — the oldest ducal peerage in France.

If France was still a kingdom, the Duke of Uzés would rank just below “princes of the blood.” It is he who would announce Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! at each state funeral, and defend the honour of the queen mother.”

The Château de Duché was built in the 12th century by Lord Bermonde of the House of Crussol. Along with the château, three distinctive towers were erected within the wall of the medieval town. The most prominent tower of all carries his name — Bermonde Tower. All of the structures are standing today. The wall has disappeared and the wall’s watchtower is in ruins.

Visit Uzes, France

visit uzes franceThe gothic chapel, a striking feature of the château’s courtyard with its glittering red tiled roof, was added in the 15th century. During the 16th century, the cháteau underwent extensive renovations. Duke Antoine — the first peer of France, ordained by Charles IX — ordered refurbishments that morphed the medieval castle into an elegant Renaissance cháteau. The courtyard became the main attraction.

The château served as a defense unit during the War of Religion and the Revolution.  It was never attacked or destroyed. As the town went through various phases of wealth and decline, the château was used as a school dormitory, workshops and classrooms. During WWII the buildings were occupied by the Germans.Jacques de Crussol, the current resident of the Château de Duché and 17th Duke of Uzès has this to say about the state of Uzes during the era of his grandfather (1943-1999).

“Uzès was then steadily declining. The population of eight thousand at the time of Louis XIV had dropped to three and a half thousand. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes had already prompted some of the inhabitants to leave. Since the Revolution, the town had lost the bishopric and its tenure, the silk industry was practically non-existent, the Piémont régiment had gone, and so had the sub-prefecture. The arcades surrounding the Place aux Herbes rested on makeshift supports and many houses were in a state of neglect.”

It was the Duke’s grandmother, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who lobbied the Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle to list Uzés as a protected site, enabling the chatéau and the town to find funding for the much needed restorations. Due to the efforts of the Duchess of Uzes, a law is now in place in France that similarly benefits other cultural and historic sites throughout the country. The gutsy grandmother was the first woman in France to be granted a driver’s license. She was instrumental in campaigning for women’s rights, including the right to vote.

Tour of the Château de Duché

I’ve spent day after day staring at the Duché from my apartment windows and I’ve taken hundreds of photos every angle. Finally I found the perfect opportunity to visit inside — along with hundreds of other sightseers — during the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days. 

Come along and let’s take a tour.

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Visit Uzes, France

 

 

Uzes visit

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès. Six Insider Tips

One of the hardest parts about visiting a new place is knowing exactly when during the year you want to go and what you want to see when you get there.

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès 

Now that the Barefoot Blogger calls Uzès“home,” here are some hints for a one day Uzés visit. On this trip you’ll have time to experience the rhythm of the town. That’s the best way to see it.

How to get to Uzes
There are a number of ways to get to Uzès by air and train. If you are arriving from the US, fly into Paris, London, or Barcelona. Check on the best fares. From each of these cities, I suggest you board a train to Nimes or Avignon, France. In fact, there’s a direct train from London to Avignon. If you prefer to fly, head for Marseilles, Nimes and Avignon, but schedules are often interrupted by airline strikes, so keep on guard for notices. (See “A Photo Guide to SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport-Updated”)

When you arrive in Nimes or Avignon, there is bus service to Uzès with regional buses that depart on a regular, reliable schedule. The bus station in Uzès is in the middle of town, number #6 on the map below, close to most destinations in the historic district.

How to Get to Uzès” from other locations.

 Tip #1 

Visit on a Saturday or a Wednesday for a market day in Uzès.

Both the Saturday and Wednesday markets in Uzès are centered in the Place aux Herbes. It’s at  #17 on the map below. Start out early in the morning on whichever market day you choose because the crowds start arriving around 10am. In the summer, you will be shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists by noon.

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Map of Historic Uzès

Saturday Market – When I visited Saturday Market in Uzès for the first time, I fell in love with the town. In fact, Saturday’s one of my favorite days of the week living here. The market vendors are in the Place aux Herbes with fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and all the flavors and foods that make this part of France so wonderful. Throughout the plaza and along the main avenue that circles the historic part of town, more vendors line up side by side selling men and women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, hats and more.  Musicians are on almost every corner playing French, Spanish and even Dixieland sounds. 

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Musicians in Uzès

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Musicians in Uzès

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Claude the Cheese Man

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

“Cat” with beautiful leather bracelets, located on the main street of town.

Wednesday Market – The market on Wednesdays in a scaled-down version of the weekend event. Most of the vendors are selling food items that are local to the region. The market is mainly in the Plaza aux Herbes which gives visitors a chance to get a good look at the permanent shops located along the main streets and alleyways. 

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

French Farmer

Tip #2

Stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the boulevard or plazas.

For an unforgettable day in Uzès, take your choice of restaurants along the main avenue for lunch. Make yourself comfortable, like the French do, and take a long — sometimes two hour — break to eat, drink wine and relax. Most restaurants serve from noon to 2pm. If it’s a very busy day in town, scope out a place you want to stop for lunch before market, then make a reservation for “dejeuner”.

Uzes visit

Map of Uzès historic area

Tip

Stroll through the historic area (map above).

There are so many things to enjoy seeing on an unforgettable day in Uzès …  like the Medieval Garden, the Fenestrelle tower, and the Cathedral of Saint Théodorit with it’s classic French organ. Pull out your camera and capture some amazing photos that the people and town provide. Narrow, cobblestone streets lined with 12th century architecture are everywhere.

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Tip #4

Visit a special hideaway frequented by Uzès insiders: Valle de l’Eure.  It’s not easy to find but it’s worth the venture.

If you want to pick up a snack or a picnic for the park, Gaiffier’s Green Grocer is on the way. Ask there for directions to the entrance to Valle de l’Eure which is just down the road toward San Quentin la Poterie. There’s a stone archway on the righthand side of the road that leads into the parklike area. The public swimming pool and tennis courts are on the left. Follow the path that’s beside the tennis courts until it ends at the “stairway” shown below. It’s a long way down the steps, but as they say in France: “oh la,la!”

Uzes visit

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzès

 Tip #5

Make your way back to the center of all the action — Place aux Herbes — to enjoy the fountain, shop! and take in all the sights and sounds around you. On market days, the vendors are out of the way and the plaza is back in time for you to enjoy a glass of wine, a pastis or an aperitif before dinner.

Day in Uzès

Fountain at Place aux Herbes

 Tip #6

Dinner at a restaurant with an outdoor patio.

If you can stay long enough for a lovely dinner under the skies, there are several nice restaurants with outdoor patio/gardens. If there’s a crowd in town, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance. They will welcome you anytime around 7pm, but not before. One of my favorite places is Les Comptoir Sept. The food is excellent and the service is superb.

Uzes visit

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir Sept

Uzes visit

Scallops with risotto

Enjoy! Come Back Often!

For  more information about these favorite spots, check out these posts for your unforgettable day in Uzès.

Saturday market: Virtually real time

Tasty Bites in Uzes

IMG_4894

Wish for France

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: UNESCO Pre-Historic Caves and Ardeche River Gorges

For visitors to Uzès there’s always something to keep you busy. If you’re not shopping on market day or wandering through the ancient town and discovering its charming streets and alleyways, you’re walking beside the stream in the Valle du l’Eure.

Perhaps you would like to venture out a bit more? See a totally different part of France, but travel only an hour or so away? Taking easy day trips from Uzès to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes visiting so appealing.

Ardèche

Gorges de l’Ardèche

The Ardeche River runs through southeast France from the Massif Central to the Rhône River at Pont-Saint-Esprit near Orange. Along the way the Ardeche tumbles into a gorge that’s surrounded in some places by limestone river walls over nine hundred feet high. Known as the “European Grand Canyon,” the area draws over a million tourists each year.

Ardèche

In summer folks head to the Pont d’Arc at the entrance to the Ardeche canyon for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and picnicking.

Ardèche

As you can imagine, in autumn the drive along the river and through the multicolored hillside is spectacular. Add a stop for lunch in the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Whether pre-history or cave drawings interest you or not, the UNESCO park and Cavern du Pont-d-Arc is a must-see if you’re in this part of France.

You can spend hours exploring the nature trails in the stunning park.

Paula

Friend Paula is leading the way. Or not.

Or head straight to the ultra-modern, twenty-first century exhibition center, the Cavern du Pont d’Arc, that houses a replica of one of the most important prehistoric finds in the world. The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave.

Easy day trips from Uzés g_9536

The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave was discovered in 1994 by three amateur cave explorers. The cave’s interior is approximately 1300 feet (400 meters) with numerous chambers and galleries. Displayed on the walls, crooks and crannies of the cave are more than 1000 drawings dated from 32,000 to 36,000 years ago.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Cavern du Pont d’Arc

Caverne du Pont-d’Arc is a near-exact copy of the Chauvet cave which is the oldest known and the best preserved cave decorated by man. The modern-day designers of the Cavern were scientists and computer geniuses who mimicked every aspect of the original cave with the help of 3D graphics and highly advanced computer imaging techniques.

Easy day trips from Uzés

On entering the exhibition area of the Cavern Du Pont d’Arc, you are immediately enveloped with the sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smell of a 30,000 year old, Paleolithic shrine.

Easy day trips from Uzés

You transcend time to a place where Stone Age artists visited and left behind drawings to depict their everyday lives, images of themselves, their animals and their imaginings. Disney could not have done it better.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

“This is a scientific and cultural site with touristic potential,” says Sébastien Mathon, a scientist and one of the 500 artists, engineers and special effects designers who worked on the Pont d’Arc project.This is a place to give a sense of the origin of us all.”

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

If you’re wondering why you must visit a replica and not the real cave, there’s a good reason. The Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994 and sealed off to the public the same year. Why? Scientists discovered from the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne that CO2 from  humans breathing creates mold that deteriorates cave drawings. The destruction within the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne was not to be repeated here.

The Aurignacian Gallery

While at the cavern plan to spend a few minutes … or hours, especially if you’re with children, at the Aurignacian Gallery. There you literally step back in time as you walk past life-sized humans and creatures that roamed this part of the world 30,000 years ago.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

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Cooking Class in Marseille

What’s Cooking in Marseille? A Day with the Provence Gourmet

For someone who had never spent much time in Marseille, now I’m loving it!  I jumped at the chance to join a cooking class in Marseille with Gilles Conchy of Provence Gourmet. Read on and you’ll see why …

Marseille is a city of wide, busy streets and tight alleys. High end fashions and ethnic robes. Elegant eateries and takeout pizzas. It’s everything you might expect from France’s second largest city, plus a whole lot more. For my return visit to Marseille, I was excited to see it again, especially Les Vieux Port, the Saturday fish market and an inside view of a true “Marseillese” apartment. An invitation from Gilles Conchy to attend a cooking class in Marseille fit the bill in every way.

Cooking Class in Marseille

Gilles arranged for me and his two guests from Toronto to meet him on Saturday morning at the Tourist Office. That meant I needed to stay overnight in Marseille for the next morning’s 9:30 am start. What a pity … lol! I made the most of it by stopping by my new favorite restaurant, Brasserie on Le Vieux Port (OM Cafe),  for a seafood medley plancha-style.

Le Vieux Port Fish Market 

When Gilles met us, we headed right away for the fish market at the port. As colorful as it was, the fish market was a bit disappointing in that there were so few fishermen around selling their catch. Gilles says there are only 20 fishermen in Marseille now who sell at the market — a result of overfishing in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the catch of “rockfish” for the fish soup starter on our menu was easy to find. Watch the video and imagine you’re along with us at the fish market in Marseille!

Cooking Class in Marseille

Fresh Market

After our outing at the fish market, we were off to the “fresh market” in Marseille — vegetables, cheese and more.

Cherries and asparagus were in season, so the stalls were filled with the luscious picks from local farmers.

After our stop at the fresh market, then off to the butcher for fresh ground meats.

Onto the wine store for Gilles’ favorite picks from Provence.

 

Next, onto the lovely apartment in downtown where Gilles conducts his Marseille cooking classes. It’s the home of his charming mother, a true Marseillaise who often helps as his sous chef.

Cooking Class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

Now … what we were waiting for. The cooking lessons — and the scrumptious meal to follow.

Our Menu

Fish Soup (the base for Bouillabaisse)

Petits Farçis

Clafoutis aux Cerises with Raspberry Creme

Assorted Cheeses

Wine

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

How To Make the Perfect Aioli

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

A perfect day ended with the perfect meal.

Thanks to Gilles, his Mom and my new Canadian friends, Louise and Jerry, for a truly unique, wonderful experience. 

Cooking Class in Marseille

Cooking class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

Plan your day with the Provence Gourmet. Classes are offered in Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The intimate cooking experience will give you a true taste of Provence. Authentic, classic menus are prepared in Gilles’ charming Provençal home in Marseille, or at his 12-acre countryside home near Saint- Rémy.

Contact the Provence Gourmet at www.provence-gourmet.fr

More about Marseille

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. A weekend spent there to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend from Uzès totally changed my mind. On top of being an incredibly beautiful city with lovely, welcoming people, Marseille is for foodies like me.

I’ve been to Marseille on several occasions since living in Uzès. Once to the warehouse district to claim a shipment and more than once to the airport. Neither area offers the best of the city. It was hearing that Marseille is for foodies, especially bouillabaisse, that called me back.

Is it food that makes Marseille so appealing to millions of travelers?

Marseille is for Foodies

Food in Marseille is as varied as the people: French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, North and South and Central Americans and more. Restaurants and cafes are on nearly every street and corner. There are over 1000 listed in TripAdvisor, including fifteen Michelin star restaurants. Along Le Vieux Port, where we stayed for the weekend, there were places to eat lined side by side.

My first meal in Marseille was a medley of seafoods at La Brasserie du Port. The waterfront restaurant was right below our hotel, Grand Hôtel Beauvau Marseille Vieux-Port.  The fresh, beautifully prepared seafood and the service couldn’t have been better. The view from the terrace of the brasserie — the architectural masterpiece by Norman Foster against the background of the ancient port — was stunning.

Marseille is for Foodies

The birthday girl’s selection for meals on her special day was eclectic and international — Indian for lunch and Columbian for dinner.  Palais du Maharaja,  chosen from TripAdvisor, proved to be the perfect place to satisfy our appetites for Indian food.

… Indian Food

… Columbian Food

Discovering Columbia tapas at Tapas La Picadita  turned out to be one of the best food finds of the weekend. The menu, the preparation and the friendly staff were so special that we came back the next night for more.

Marseille is for Foodies

… “Little Istanbul”

Even though it rained during part of our stay in Marseille, it didn’t keep us from wandering the streets near Le Vieux Port. A shop overflowing with bins and bags of Turkish delicacies stopped us in our tracks. We loaded up on dried fruits, spices, teas and candies to take back with us. And we laughed a lot!

Marseille is for Foodies

… Street Food

Somehow the rain in Marseille made the atmosphere even more picturesque and interesting. Food vendors and cafes were open for business… and happy to see us .

 

One stop for tea and coffee ended up in a karaoke! The proprietor thought I looked like Petula Clark. We all started singing “Downtown”! What fun!

Marseille is for Foodies

… Bouillabaisse!

I was really looking forward to a bowl of bouillabaisse. Who can go to Marseille without tasting it?

You need to book reservations two days in advance for some restaurants to prepare this Marseille favorite for you. Be sure to plan ahead. We chose to try the bouillabaisse at Grand Bar des Goudes in Le Goudes, a  village outside Marseille. The tiny town is in a district of Marseille on the way to the Calanques. Little did we know that it would take a couple of hours to drive to Le Goudes on a Sunday.  It didn’t help that throngs of people in cars, on bikes and on foot were heading that way after three days cooped up in the rain. Yes, we were late for our reservations, but the drive along the winding road and the views of Marseille were worth the hassle.

 

The view of the fishing harbor from the restaurant in Goudes was pretty special too.

Marseille is for Foodies

 

Back to the main attraction — the bouillabaisse. 

Bouillabaisse is a provençal fish stew traditionally created by the fishermen of Marseilles. It was concocted as a way to use up the bony rockfish they’d caught along the Calanques that they couldn’t sell.

According to the Michelin Guide Vert, “the four essential elements of a true bouillabaisse are the presence of rascasse, the freshness of the fish; olive oil, and an excellent saffron.” American chef and author, Julia Child, wrote in her book, My Life in France: “to me the telling flavor of bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base — garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel — and, of course, the fish — lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish.”

Not all bouillabaisse is created equal. The variety I sampled was missing some of the shellfish. I’m taking the fact that there may be the “perfect” bouillabaisse waiting for me. A good enough reason to return to Marseille, don’t you agree?

 

Did you know there’s a proper way to serve and eat bouillabaisse?

Have you been to Marseille? Do you have a favorite restaurant? Where’s the best place for the bouillabaisse? Please let me know. I will return! 

 

 

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseilles: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

 

 

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