In memory of those who lost their lives in Strasbourg and for others who are no longer with us. Pray for them and for us all.
Peace on Earth
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.
In memory of those who lost their lives in Strasbourg and for others who are no longer with us. Pray for them and for us all.
The holidays are the perfect time to make a wish.
If you could visit anywhere in France, where would it be?
Let’s have some fun and see where Barefoot Blogger friends wish they could go in France. Send a photo of any place in France you dream of seeing. Who knows? By showing off your French dream destination to others, your wish might come true!
Send photos by January 5, 2019 to be published on the “Wish for France” blog post. Photos will be published with your name unless you say “no name.”
If you’re on Facebook, post your photo here on Barefoot Blogger
On Twitter, post you photo here on Deborah@bfblogger
On Instagram, post your photo on BarefootBlogger_france
Or email your photo to email@example.com
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL!!
You who follow the adventures of the Barefoot Blogger know I had a fall in the Fall (pun intended), a trip on a Trip, and I’m still recovering.
After ten weeks cooped up in a hospital and rehab, I’m back home in Uzés, remembering it all. In retrospect, it was very traumatic. The fall, the ambulance ride and emergency room experience — all were very sudden and all in French.
I know I’ll get to the “other side” soon. I’ll walk without a limp; I’ll have full range of motion with my arm and shoulder. It’ll just takes time.
It seems a coincidence that during my confinement I learned about a friend’s bad luck that makes my “inconvenience” seem minor. The amazing Verity Smith, the blind equestrian I’ve written about, has lost the horse that was to take her gallantly into the Olympics.
This setback isn’t Verity’s first. She’s faced more than most of us could bare, including a childhood disease that left her blind.
After each setback, Verity gets up again. She finds a way to the “other side.”
Verity Smith inspires me and thousands of others. She gives meaning to so many lives. She needs our help. Please read on…republished from ¨France Today Magazine.“
By Deborah Bine
To learn more about a “gift with meaning” for Verity Smith, go directly to the GoFundMe site. Click here.
This time last year I was enjoying all that Alsace has to offer for the holiday. Over the next few weeks the Barefoot Blogger will be publishing glimpses of Strasbourg, Colmar, Equisheim, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Ribeauville on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. Please stop by for your holiday cheer!
You may only have one time in your life to experience the “best” Christmas markets in France. Join me as I revisit Alsace…
How do you cap off an unforgettable twelve day tour of the South of France? By taking part in a wine harvest done the old fashion way, of course.
To make the day extra special, Nick Martin of A Wine Affair arranged for the “sensational sixteen” to visit a fifteenth century Mas and vineyard to experience grape picking and stomping.
Patricia Sands, author and tour leader, tells about the final day which ends with a spectacular dinner party in Arles.
“And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had. This was a dream come true …” (Click here to read more)
After a busy morning at Pont du Gard and the quaint pottery town of San Quentin de Poterie, the gals on the South of France Memories You Promised Yourself tour excitedly landed in Uzés.
As you can imagine, I talked about Uzés constantly before I unexpectedly ended my time on the tour. So everyone was geared up to see just what made the place so special. Apparently, they weren’t disappointed.
Let’s read on with Patricia Sands, author and tour leader extraodinaire, and learn about the places the “sensational sixteen” enjoyed in my new hometown, Uzés.
This was “my day.” My chance on the tour to show off the part of France I call “home.” But no, instead, I was busy mending my broken bones while my new best friends were having all the fun!
Patricia Sands, my friend and co-leader, chronicled it all on her blog so let’s join the ladies of the tour for Day 11 Part 1…
“Today was supposed to be a special day for my BFF and co-leader (aka Barefoot Blogger), Deborah Bine, sharing her stomping grounds with us. Instead she was recuperating in the hospital and in our thoughts constantly!… “ Click here for more.
Patricia Sands and the “sensational sixteen” ladies on our Memories Tour 2018 descended on St. Rémy and Les Baux de Provence on Day 10. Hold on for some amazing photos as the fun continues.
Just because I didn’t make it to the last part of the Memories Tour 2018, doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun and adventures. Join my co-tour leader and buddy, Patrica Sands, as she and the “sensational sixteen” ladies continue the tour and the story.
As you recall, I was on the Memories Tour in the South of France when I fell and broke my hip and shoulder. Every tour leaders’ worse nightmare. Click here for Part One
“Our day in the Camargue got off to an exciting start. We were ready to explore the world of the fictional Jacques de Villeneuve, from Drawing Lessons, and eager to see the legendary horses, bulls, and flamingos of this unique region…
If you’ve been following the adventures of the Barefoot Blogger’s life in France, you might remember my brush with fame and the TV show, House Hunters International.
Well, it wasn’t exactly me on the popular show, but now I’m friends with the couple who brought the story to Uzès.
It all started with this email:
“We’ve been waiting a long time to email you! In a little nutshell, my husband and I started researching the South of France and Uzes in particular last fall and discovered your blog. We fell in love with the area and made an offer on an apartment in Uzes that we now own!…We would love to meet you if are free at the end of June.“
I couldn’t wait! House Hunters International is one of my favorite TV shows. I was going to get “up close and personal” with celebrities.
Over the months, between the first email and our dinner together, Erin and I exchanged emails. She told me about her husband Stuart and their blended family that includes four children. We clicked. As Erin said:
“We have loved learning about Uzes through your blog and feel a special connection because you are from the southern US as well. We are also weak on our grasp of the French language!“
Now that I know Erin and Stuart, I’ve had a chance to learn a bit more about their TV experience. I asked them to tell me what it was like moving into their new place in France. A “behind the scenes” view to share with you.
Here’s the story in Erin’s own words.
“We found out about Uzes on a general Google search. I put in ‘French Fractional Ownership’ because I thought that was all we could afford. One was available in Uzes through International Property Shares.
I had never heard of the town, so I started watching Youtube videos and reading blogs. We liked the history of Uzes, the location: proximity to the coast, vineyards, mountains, and airports/train stations.
Once we had fallen in love with Uzes online, we decided to look at the real estate market for a full purchase opportunity, and VOILA!”
How did House Hunters International get involved?
“We approached House Hunters via an introductory email about our plans to look in Uzés for a second home. The show directors contacted us and set up a Skype interview to learn more about us. It moved forward from there.”
Did you buy your new French home “as is?”
“We bought the apartment fully remodeled.”
You have four young adult children. What did they think?
“The children did not have any clue of our plans until the actual filming of the show. We announced our plans on camera for the full effect of their reactions. They LOVED it!”
During the course of your House Hunters adventure, what was your worse day?
“Our worst day was on our first visit to our apartment in Uzés.
The day started with a trip to the local Carrefour store to buy a full list of things we needed to outfit our home. After what seemed like hours, scouting through the huge store, trying to read signs and language that made no sense to us, we headed to the checkout aisle. The store manager was there to meet us. He didn’t leave until he was convinced we could pay the bill.
Next we raced off to Nimes to buy a mattress and portable air conditioner. Thinking we would enjoy a nice lunch with a view before resuming our shopping, we looked for a cafe near the Arena. No parking. By the time we found a spot and walked back to the Arena in 95 degree heat, it was 2pm. The restaurant was no longer serving lunch.
We grabbed sandwiches and set off to finish our task. It took longer than we imagined to buy a mattress and an air conditioner in sign language, so when we headed back to Uzés we were pushing it. We’d planned to have time to freshen up, enjoy an aperitif and spend a relaxing evening at one of Uzés’ finest restaurants.
It didn’t happen that way. A wrong turn took us miles out of our way. We were on the road to Barcelona.
We made it back to Uzés; rushed to the restaurant, sweaty and exhausted; but happy to relax with an elegant French meal.”
That was quite a day! What was your best day?
“Our best day was when all the kids were in Uzés with us the summer of 2017. On Saturday we went to the Uzes market, each with a mission. Using euros and a poor grasp of the French language, we were each to purchase food items for a picnic: cheese, bread, veggies, charcuterie. The next day we picnicked on the bank of the Gardon and canoed to the Pont du Gard.
The kids had the best time. Alex jumped off a huge rock into the river. It was a wonderful experience!”
Erin and Stuart admit their dream to live in France is just beginning. They are busy professionals and have many obligations at home. They’ll be “empty-nesters” soon. Their lives will change. Their getaway home in France is ready and waiting for them.
For more of the story: House Hunters International TV Show Spotlights Uzes
Perfectly Provence‘s Carolyne Kause-Abbott asked questions you’ll want answered if you’re considering a big change in your life after retirement.
Deborah Bine spent her childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina dreaming of “faraway places” (her words). Her early travels included visiting her Aunt Rose in exhilarating Manhattan. “Aunt Rose owned New York — or so this sixteen-year-old ingénue from the Carolinas assumed.” On this voyage, Deborah learned some travel lessons that she continues to follow today:
#1 Take a guided tour of the new place you’re visiting (ideally the first day).
#2 Wear comfortable shoes
#3 Life is an adventure
Since those early days in New York City, Deborah’s thirst for travel has taken her to Asia, West Africa, Central America and well beyond. Newly retired from her corporate marketing job and recently divorced, Deborah followed a dream and moved from South Carolina to Uzès in France.
The Barefoot Blogger is Deborah’s blog, which she launched as the reservoir for her travel stories. The blog posts are records of her approach to life and adventure as a solo, female traveller – a dose of humour, a quest for discovery and mostly lots of fun.
We asked The Barefoot Blogger to answer some questions related to the lifestyle in Provence and her experiences as an expat living in the South of France.
To me the lifestyle in Provence is like life was in the 1940’s and 50’s, or as it was portrayed in movies and images. In the small towns and villages of Provence, shopkeepers know you by name. You can walk to most of the places you want to go. People are generally friendly and smiling. No one seems to be in a particular hurry, unless you’re driving on the roads. That’s an entirely different experience anywhere in France!
History, flowers, wine, olives, and blue skies.
Yes, the clichés work for me, but, of course, Provence is so much more than cliché. Most important is the fact that Provence changes with the weather. Summers in Provence are busy, bustling with tourists and holiday vacationers who fill the cafes and markets. There’s a constant buzz of noise and activities.
During Autumn and Spring, the rhythm of life in Provence is calmer, cooler and less frantic. Everyone and everything slows down to a pleasant pace so you can enjoy the beauty of the villages and the countryside.
In Winter Provence is asleep. It’s a peaceful time of year that’s perfect for cocooning, for taking stock of your life and for planning your year ahead. Only a few of the cafes and shops are open during winter, and that’s OK. The atmosphere is warm there and oh, so French. It’s like a scene from an old French movie.
Mediterranean climate means “warm” to me. I’m from the southern part of the United States, so the weather in Provence is much like it is back in the Carolinas. It’s hot in the Summer and not too cold in the Winter. It rarely, if ever, snows. The most significant difference in the weather to me is the wind. Le Mistral is ferocious and seems to last for days if not for months.
My favourite season in Provence is Autumn. There’s something unique about the colours of Autumn here. Perhaps it’s the way the shades of brown, beige and yellow meld into the stonework of the houses and buildings. When the leaves of grape vines are turning red and gold, it’s magical to drive through the countryside where vineyards stretch out as far as you can see along the roadway.
I love to go to Sète in the Summer, to eat all the seafood I can possibly hold, and sit under an umbrella at the beach — attended to by handsome and lovely young bar staffers who are serving icy, tall drinks, of course!
I know when I’m back in Provence when I smell the fresh, clean air. There’s no pollution where I live in France because there are no large industries, only a candy factory – Haribo. Highways are far away, and streets are mostly one-way with speed limits of 30 kph. So, no smelly gas fumes. Vineyards and olive groves surround the old town of Uzès.
When I’ve gone back to the States to visit family in the past, I’ve tried to take some of my favourite foods from France with me – tapenades, truffle oil, sea salts and the like. For some reason, the things I love in France don’t transfer to my life outside France.
The term “Provence-style” stirs thoughts of brightly colored things in my mind – bright yellows and reds, blue shutters on stone houses and rows of stately white and green plane trees.
To me, Provence decorative style is ageless. The decorations and colour scheme of a simple farmhouse can easily adapt to the living spaces of a country estate or the veranda of a seaside resort.
I never realised how much my fashion style has changed since moving to France until I posted photos of myself and friends say I look “so French.” To me, my style here is simply practical and suits the climate and my activities. Yes, I do wear lots of skirts and slippers instead of jeans and sneakers, but that may have more to do with my age than a fashion statement. Hats are a “must” nearly year-round. Read French Fashion: Bobo Style.
If I could label anything or anyplace in Provence as “authentic,” it would be Arles. The tiny town with its Roman arena and amphitheatre, the shops with brightly decorated linens and gift items, the outdoor cafes, the festivals, the food – it’s all so Provençal. To me, Arles seems the way it has always been and how Provence is meant to be.
The foods of Provence are influenced by geography and by the cultures of its bordering countries. From one end of Provence to the other you see, experience and taste foods that originated in Spain or Italy. The diet is influenced by the Mediterranean, featuring fish, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables, goat and sheep cheeses and lots of olives and olive oil.
I could eat fish every day. The easy access to fresh fish, along with local, seasonal produce, makes me love to dine and cook in Provence.
I crave anchovy tapenade! There’s nothing like a dollop of “tapenade d’anchois” on a thin cracker and a “verre de vin rosé.”
Those who follow the Barefoot Blogger know that I have a love/hate relationship with learning the French language. I know how important it is to be able to communicate in the language of the place I live. However, I continuously resist the discipline that comes with learning the language. Fortunately, I’ve been here long enough now that a bit of the language is rubbing off on me. I can hold my own ordering food in a restaurant and, with the help of sign language, I can pretty much make myself understood when I need to.
I discovered the audio tapes of Michel Thomas this year through a friend. Thomas’s approach to teaching and learning French is unique. It speaks to me. Now I’m hoping to get the nerve to enrol in a French immersion class.
There are lots of blogs written by expats like myself who have gone through the experience of moving to France. Check them out. Don’t hesitate to write the author for suggestions and information. When you relocate to France (or anywhere), be open to your new home and environment. Don’t try to make it like the place you left. Embrace the new, enjoy the differences and get out and travel as much and as often as you can.
When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.
Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.
It was everything I’d imagined. And more.
The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.
Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.
My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.
History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.
By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.
Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.
A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.
Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.
The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.
I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.
Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”
Not knowing what we were getting into, Alan and I determined a meeting place near the seaside town so we could drive together for photos and a story. All we knew from the online promotion was that there was an Abrivado taking place somewhere near Saintes-Maries-De-la-Mer. Since it’s a small town we felt confident that we couldn’t miss hundreds of horses and riders.
Wrong. The town looked deserted.
“Let’s head out the beach road,” Alan suggested, hoping we hadn’t missed it all. (I might add here that neither Alan nor I speak or read French. It’s very possible we’d misunderstood the promo.)
There on the road to the beach we began to see a few people on horseback and others walking. A few cars were parked towards the far end of the beach road. Apparently we were headed the right way. We followed the traffic of people, horses and vehicles which was increasing as we walked along. Boldly I stopped several “pilgrims” to ask: “Do you speak English?” Then to query “Where does the event start?” The only answer I got in return was a hand signal “straight ahead.” So there we went – straight ahead down the road that paralleled the beach.
About this time I was getting concerned about taking photos to show off the event. “If the horses and riders come from in front of us, and the sun is shining on the water like it is now, how can you take pictures straight into the sun?” Alan seemed nonplussed. “OK,” I said to myself. “He’s the pro. He must have a plan.” We kept walking along with the others.
By the time we were a good mile or so down the road, the numbers of observers increased significantly. Apparently they had gotten the information to approach the event from another vantage point. Never mind. We were on the way … hopefully not too late. Along with the others, we crossed a gully of water and climbed a slight sand bar to get closer to the sea. Once on the beach we saw there were gatherings of kindred folk who had set up viewing spots. As much as I would have liked to join them for a tumbler of wine, we kept walking. Our intent was to get to a point where Alan could take the best shots.
“Are we there yet?” I asked, repeatedly. We kept walking.
Then … straight ahead … we saw and heard a “crack” of light and fire… and hundreds of horses, riders and people were lined up. They headed our way!
To my surprise there were bulls in between the horses and riders. What was I thinking? An “abrivado” Of course there were bulls!
As the through of horses, bulls and humans passed, it was exhilarating. “When do they run through water?” I shouted to Alan.
That’s when he made his move. He’d observed there was another group of horses and riders and bulls at the “starting line.” Another running of the bulls was ready to take off. In an instant, Alan disappeared. I looked back and watched him head for the beach road. Up and over the sand bar. Through the water, then to the side of the road. I ran to join him just before … behind me …the sight I was waiting for… horses in the water! The riders on horses were rushing the bulls through the gully. Splash! The herd followed en masse. They headed for a pool of water at the end of the road.
Oh that I had only known the rules of the game … the course of the Abrivados But … who cares!?? Could there be anything better than this?
I’m not certain how many “runs” were made that morning along the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Almost as quickly as it started, it was over. The movement of people, beasts and vehicles headed back the way we started — towards town. Soon we were in a “traffic jam.” Rather than fight the crowd, we did what any story-teller and photographer would do. We watched and took advantage of the photo opportunity.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this tour South France and the telling of the Abrivados at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Thanks so very much to Alan McBride for making our day so memorable with his amazing vision and his artful photography.
Have I told you lately how much I love France? After spending a few stressful months in the States, I was really looking forward to returning to France. Most of all, I was yearning to be here because autumn is my favorite season of the year. There’s something about autumn that makes France look more beautiful to me. I’m sure it’s the colors. The browns and beige, golds and burnt orange. They trim every tree and grapevine. They blend with aged stones on buildings and ancient streets. Crystal blue skies highlight the outlines of steeples and towers. It’s truly a glorious time.
This past week I did some of my favorite things, including browsing through brocante stores and markets. A great find at an out-of-the-way store in Uzes was discovering a panetiere — a decorative “breadbox” introduced in the 18th century in the south of France to keep bread safe from children and pets. I sadly admit, I left it behind. Remember, I’m done with collecting “stuff”!
Just as interesting but less compelling were the old wheelchairs. Apparently they were not freewheeling. It took two people to operate one of these ancient chairs. One pushed from behind while the person in the chair steered.
Wining and dining with friends while eating some of the best ever foods.
Exploring towns and villages
Then there are the unrenowned villages next door that are just as charming …
Discovering hidden Roman ruins
Just outside Uzes the remains of a Roman bridge still stands. The two thousand-year old structure spans the creek bed between two large fields. Wear from wagon wheels dragging heavy loads across the bridge are a reminder of early civilizations that lived and toiled on this very spot.
Checking out seasonal foods and merchandise at the Uzes Saturday Market — yes, that’s a must!
But the very best thing about autumn in France is being in my little tower apartment. Just me, the white pottery cat and a mouse.
More on autumn in the south of France:
I fell while crossing the street in Aigues-Mortes, France on September 18. I broke my hip and shoulder on the right side. Since then, I’ve sampled how healthcare is delivered, French-style. (American in France: French Healthcare: Part 1)
As crazy as it might seem, several years ago in the US I experienced an almost identical injury to the one in France. Except it was on my left side. This post is about my US healthcare experience.
The accident eight years ago happened in my home in South Carolina. I had just separated from my husband of 40 years, so I was alone. As I had been warned not to do many times during my marriage, I was standing on top of the kitchen counter. I fell off.
“Why was I standing on the kitchen counter? ” you ask. My most popular answer is “pole dancing.” Believe as you will.
When I fell from the countertop onto the tile floor in the kitchen, I landed on my left side. Immediately I knew I was in trouble. My left leg was crooked at a 45 degree angle. My left arm was killing me. I was nauseous.
There was no one around except my labradoodle, Bentley, so I had to find my cellphone to call for help.
But where was the phone?
In my foggy state, I remembered I had last used the cellphone in the living room. I dragged myself on the floor to find it. Fortunately it was where I thought I’d left it. I called my sister-in-law who was in the same town.
The next thing I remember, a strange man was kneeling over me calling my name. I had passed out. The man was an EMT. With the aide of another EMT, he lifted me onto what felt like a board. My leg was still bent. I was in excruciating pain.
When we arrived at the hospital emergency room, my brother, sister-in-law and my ex-husband were there. They took care of the details of admitting me to the emergency room while I was wheeled into a “holding area.”
As I remember, it was close to 9pm when I entered the emergency room of the hospital. After X-rays and the sad discovery that I had broken both my hip and my arm, I was put into my private room.. It was after 4am. Apparently the hospital had a problem locating the doctor. Without his approval, they could not admit me.
Fortunately, I was loaded with meds, so I was in and out of consciousness. I remember vividly, however, when they put me in the hospital bed and forced my leg down straight with a pulley and weights. That hurt big time.
My hip was operated on the second day I was in the hospital. Three pins were inserted through a very small incision to hold the break in the hip. No surgery was needed for the broken bone in my arm. Just a bandage.
Five days after I was admitted, I was discharged from the hospital.
Anytime I’ve been hospitalized for surgery in the US, I’ve been asked “is there anyone at home who can take care of you?” Don’t ask me why no one mentions a stop at a rehabilitation hospital.
In fact, I know of only one person who has gone from a hospital to an inpatient rehab facility. It was my daughter-in-law after spinal surgery. It’s been my experience that you find somebody to take care of you after you leave the hospital.
Miss Rosie’s Rehab
That “somebody” for me was Rosemary. We’re like sisters. We were in journalism school together at UNC-Chapel Hill; we were in each others’ wedding; and we lived together in Greenville, SC for our first jobs out of university. At the time of my accident Rosemary was single. She lived on a farm with horses, donkeys, 3 dogs and 20+ cats.
After my discharge from the hospital, no one talked about hiring an ambulance to take me home. Rosemary hauled me there in the backseat of her car. I’m not sure how we managed to fit my 5’9″ broken body in the car, but we did it. Family members met us at my condo and put me into my bed. I could bear no weight on my left leg nor use my arm. I was fragile and I was in a great deal of pain. Mind you, I had broken the femoral arm of my hip into two pieces only five days earlier.
Rosemary was with me through one of the most horrifically painful times in my life. We stayed most of the time at her farm in North Carolina. Neither of us knew anything about tending a patient after surgery.
Through trial and error we discovered “tricks” to help us deal with the adversities of my lame condition and pain. For example, “how to move a lame patient in the bed.”
I’d experienced being pulled on a sheet from the stretcher to the x-Ray table at the hospital. At the time I remember asking the two female X-ray technicians, “how do you two manage to move a large man?”
” The same way,” they said.
So Rosemary kept a doubled sheet under me at all times on the bed. When I needed to get out of bed, she’d pull the two corners of the doubled sheet towards the side of the bed. Laying flat, my body would slide with the movement of the sheet to the edge of the mattress. Then, ever so slowly and gently, I’d sit up.
We used this routine day and night. Especially when I needed the toilet. It never dawned on us to use a bedpan.
For over six weeks I moved from place to place at Miss Rosie’s with a walker. On one foot, with a broken arm. I was pretty much a prisoner in her guest room and kitchen. The floor plan of the house was multi-level.
One day we had the bright idea to use a kitchen stool to help me get to her deck outside. I sat on the stool in the kitchen. Then I swiveled my body around to face the kitchen door and the deck that was one step down. Rosemary took my walker onto the deck, and Voila! I stepped off the stool on my one good leg, grabbed the walker and I was outside in the fresh air.
When I felt ok to be on my own, I left “Miss Rosey’s Rehab” and returned to South Carolina. I had to go back to work. Fortunately I telecommuted from home with IBM, so there was no “going to the office.”
I began a twice weekly regimen of physical therapy. My health insurance with IBM allowed for 8 weeks. After 6 weeks I had to stop. The pins in my hip were causing a problem. I waited until they were removed a month later to resume my treatment. Fortunately, IBM insurance paid for another 6 weeks of physical therapy.
The good news is that the physical therapy experience was excellent. I regained mobility and strength nearly one hundred percent.
I wish I could recall the hospital and surgery cost but it was eight years ago. I don’t remember how much I was paying for health insurance, either. I do know, however, that I wasn’t on Medicare; I was covered by an employee policy provided by IBM; and I paid monthly for a supplemental insurance policy. Bottom line, I was well-covered.
That means nothing now. With the cost of healthcare in the US today, whatever it cost in 2010 wouldn’t be relevant today.
Which is why I’m writing this post.
I’m writing this post because I think it’s important to let others know about healthcare outside of the US. As difficult as it is to believe, the US no longer has the best healthcare. (See below.)
Think of your own experience in the US with hip surgery, back surgery, or any other condition where you required extended care. Compare it to what you read about my healthcare in France.
Just the other day, I called a dear friend in the US who had expressed concern that I was staying in France after my accident. The first thing she told me when I called was that her son had been in an automobile accident. He was in the hospital with a crushed ankle, a broken leg and a broken wrist. After telling me about the car crash, we celebrated the fact that he had survived.
Then she revealed a horrible truth. Her son had no medical insurance. His policy had lapsed. A sad mistake too many of us make when have busy lives.
As a result, my friend’s son was leaving the hospital after five days and two surgeries. He was going home to avoid the continuing hospital costs. He was barely conscious because of the massive doses of medication he needed for pain. He had a metal rod visibly running through his foot.
A third surgery is scheduled in two weeks. He’ll go to the hospital, then back home after surgery. There’s not a trained medical person to stay with him during those days he’ll require intensive care and pain management. The entire family will need to chip in with time off work as they can.
#1 Worst Healthcare in the Developed World
The state of healthcare in the US is alarming. Once a leader, US Healthcare is Ranked the Worst in the Developed World.
#2 Cost is Prohibitive
The cost of healthcare is prohibitive for many, especially those without insurance or with poor coverage,
#3 Healthcare Costs are Bankrupting America
Healthcare is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US today.
I read a statement recently that I can’t get out of my head. A young girl who was returning home to France after two years in the US as an au pair was asked:
“Would you like to stay in the US?”
To the surprise of the interviewer, she replied “No,” and continued, “the US doesn’t take care of its people.”
French Healthcare for Expats?
Renestance, an American-staffed relocation company in Montpelier, has produced an excellent series of ebooks on Healthcare in France. Check out their website for all types of guidance for expats.
The Barefoot Blogger is going to step out of her carefree expat role to talk about something that is critically important to me at this moment: Healthcare.
As I type with one finger of my left hand, I am lying in a bed in a rehabilitation hospital outside Nimes, France.
I’ve been hospitalized in the French healthcare system now since September 18, the date I fell crossing the street while co-leading a ladies’ tour with my good friend, author Patricia Sands.
A unique perspective on my French vs. USA healthcare from one who has experienced a similar orthopedic injury and treatment in both countries.
I wrote about the accident in a previous post. I knew I’d be writing an “inside story” about my experience with the French medical system as an American expat.
Telling the story now, prior to the upcoming election in the US, seems the perfect time.
My accident occurred in Aigues-Mortes, a historic walled city in the south of France, on Tuesday afternoon, September 18.
After my fall I was taken by ambulance to the hospital of my choice, Centre Hospitalizer Universitaire Carémeau, in Nimes. A hospital in Montpelier was a nearby alternative, but Nîmes was closer to my home in Uzès. Both are university hospitals with excellent reputations.
The ambulance ride to the hospital in Nimes was traumatic, just as you’d expect. The heat, the pain and my anxiety were all at play. Fortunately, the hospital was less than an hour away.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was asked a few questions, fortunately by someone who spoke English. Simple things like my full name, where I lived and did I have allergies. No one asked for my passport, for any type of formal identification, or for proof of medical insurance.
The admissions process, emergency room examination, X-rays and placement in a semi-private room took about 3 hours.
A longtime friend who was on the ladies’ tour was allowed to accompany me through each stage of the process. “To hold my hand.” The hospital staff quickly knew neither of us spoke French.
The hospital I was taken to in Nimes after the accident is a university hospital. They have a large, active emergency care unit. Since my situation was far from life-threatening, my surgery was not performed immediately. It was more like 36 hours later.
Meanwhile, I was in a semi-private room with a patient who was awaiting her second knee operation. Not because of my room nor roommate, but I was pretty miserable. No morphine or heavy pain killers were given to me prior to surgery. I was told morphine was not allowed because of its adverse affects on anesthetics administered during surgery.
I remember how relieved I was when the mask went on my face at the beginning of surgery. I knew when I woke up I would be in la la land.
I had no idea where I was when I awoke from surgery. No one spoke English. All I remember is that I was moved around a bit, probably from on level of surgery aftercare to another.
Fortunately I was cognizant that I was in France, that I was alive, and that I wanted to move to my room as quickly as possible so people would let me be. So I said “c’est bien” anytime I was asked a question. No telling what I was agreeing to.
For ten days I occupied a hospital bed in a large double room with a dear French woman who became my new best friend, Chantal. She spoke not a word of English. Nevertheless, we carried on a daily ritual something like this:
”Bonjour, Deborah,” she said each morning. “Comment allez vous?” she’d ask.
”Bonjour, Chantal,” I’d respond. “Ça va bien, “ I’d answer. Then “ Comment allez vous?”
The simple question\answer exercise would continue through the day — every day — ending with our shared “Bonne nuit.”
My daily care during the ten days in the hospital (“hopital” in French) was extraordinarily good. Except for the bad food and occasional curt response from a nurse or “ colleague,” presumedly because my French was unintelligible, I was treated well. There was a time or two when I was left too long on a bedpan, but the small things could be overlooked when I considered my every physical need was being tended 24/7.
Sometime before the end of my ten days in the hospital in Nimes, I learned I was being transferred for physical rehabilitation to a hospital in a small town outside Nimes. I was not going to the rehab hospital in Uzès as I’d expected. It was fully occupied. For the first time since the ordeal started, I cried. In fact, I boo-hooed.
The idea that I was going to some unknown village where no one would speak English was terrifying. Thoughts of Jane Eyre came to my mind. I envisioned being cast away behind stone walls where I would be starved and mistreated. What had I done to deserve such a fate?
When I came to my senses, I realized I could find out about the strange new place by simply searching the Internet. There I discovered I was headed for a brand new hospital, built in 2016, with a sterling reputation for orthopedic rehabilitation. Case closed. I was content with my fate.
It’s day 40 since I have been hospitalized in France due to a hip and shoulder fracture. Except for a bill for the ambulance that transferred me from the Nimes hospital to the rehab hospital outside Nimes, and a bill for compression stockings, I have not been asked to pay for anything.
The costs for the items above were 76 euros ($86.83) and 56 euros ($63.98) respectively. I paid those bills by check. I will be reimbursed by the travel insurance company when I file a claim.
For time spent in the rehab hospital, I will receive a bill when I leave. A friend who inquired about payment for the rehab hospital was told it will cost 197 euros per day ($224). Included in the cost is physical therapy: 1 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday.
News flash: I have heard I won’t be billed for my time at the hospital in Nimes. Not for the surgery nor the 10 days as an inpatient.
There is no charge for emergency services in France.
Let that sink in.
Tomorrow I am moving to the rehab hospital in Uzès. My doctor here pulled a few strings to have me transferred. Perhaps she did it because she thought it would be good for me to be closer to home and to my friends. Or, she might have wanted to get rid of me. Draw your own conclusion. Either way, I’m “outta here.”
The plan is for me to stay in Uzès until November 6 when I’ll be taken by ambulance to the hospital in Nimes. If all checks out and my bones are healed, I’ll spend the next 3 to 4 weeks in the Uzès rehab hospital and begin weight-bearing exercises to regain my mobility.
When the doctor releases me, I’ll be able to return to independent living and out-patient rehab.
Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”
Stay tuned for Part 2 …..
French Healthcare for Expats?
The afternoon of the second day of the “French spa tour and cure” Nevenka and I arrived at the Sourcéo resort in Saint-Paul-Les-Dax just in time to meet with the site physician. Before leaving on the spa excursion, I was required to bring a letter from my own doctor stating I had no serious condition that would kill me while taking a cure. He had to note a reason for a cure, as well. Since I’m in good health, fortunately, we choose “phlebology.” Improving my circulation certainly couldn’t hurt.
The doctor at the resort seemed satisfied with my credentials and I received his stamp of approval to participate in the “cure”. After unpacking the car and sorting out our belongings at our hotel apartment, we reported to the appointment center to receive our daily schedules.
My thermal spa assignment was to spend six days with four treatments each day. Each treatment was to last ten to twenty minutes. A body massage was added to the regimen each of the last two days. Everyday I was given a fresh, clean terrycloth robe which I wore with flipflops through the treatment area and to the swimming pools.
Here’s how I spent each day, but first, a little primer. (Click on photos for captions.)
Treatment #1: Bain carbo-gazeux- “Bath in cold Perrier”
I’m not kidding. Every morning I was immersed in a bath filled with cold, bubbly mineral water. Talk about getting your circulation going. If it hadn’t been for the cheerful assistant who helped me in and out of the tub, it would have been murder.
Duration: 10 minutes
Treatment #2″ Mobilisation en Piscine – “Water Aerobics”
This was aerobics of the simplest kind. Merely moving and stretching in a warm pool. It was a welcomed next step after freezing in bubbly mineral water.
Duration: 20 minutes
Treatment #3: Hydro Massage – “Bath in bubbly hot water (36 degrees C, 98 degrees F)
Yes, it was hot, and bubbling, and absolutely divine. I could have stayed in the tub for days. But no … 10 minutes only.
Duration: 10 minutes
Treatment #4: La Pelotherapie – Boue = “Mud Bath”
This was the crazy good part of the cure. It was not really a mud bath, more of a “wallow.” First I had to disrobe, then enter a private cabin where the attendant plopped 3 huge mounds of gooey mud on a table that was covered with plastic wrap. I sat on the table just below the last plop of mud. The attendant spread a healthy glob of mud on my upper back, then I reclined onto the aforementioned piles of mud. “Squish.” The attendant, wearing an apron, mud boots and long rubber gloves then stacked mud on my shoulders, my knees, my feet and on my thighs. To keep the mud on my thighs in place, the attendant stuck my hands firmly into the mud on each thigh and slapped more mud on each hand. Next she applied dripping wet, cold cloths on my forehead, chest and on the shins of my legs. She wrapped me in the plastic I was laying on and I was left alone to sweat. In hot mud– 46 degrees C or 117 degrees F. Half way through the treatment, the attendant came into see if I was alive and to wet the cloth on my head with more cold water. When the time was up, the attendant came back into the room and removed much of the mud from my body. I was left to wash off the rest under the warm shower in the far corner of the room. She hosed me off from the back then disappeared into a back room. She quickly returned holding a warm sheet which she wrapped around me. Slipping back into my terrycloth robe, I was done. Literally.
Duration: 15 minutes
Massage personnalisé – Personalized body massage
A luxurious massage was added to my regimen the last three days of the “cure.” It couldn’t have been more welcomed after a mud bath. I’ve never been a big fan of massages, but this masseuse made a believer out of me. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I was already so relaxed. Whatever the reason, I needed to be reminded more than once that my time was up.
Duration: 10 minutes
There were plenty of activities we could have joined at the spa such as Pilates, sophrology, hypnotism, dietetic consultations and all types of water therapies. If we hadn’t planned to make side trips to the exotic places nearby we would have had plenty to do.
The road trip from our overnight at L’hostellerie des Cédres to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was a brilliant plan, thanks to my trip guide extraordinaire, Nevenka. She knew the view from Villeneuve-de-Rivière along the autoroute would be breathtaking. All along the way autumn colors unfolded before us. One turn in the road was more beautiful than the last. The snow-covered mountains of the Pyrenees were always at our side.
Even the brief time we stopped at a roadway “aire” (rest area) to fill up the gas tank was an adventure. Imagine finding a full-service cafeteria with lovely French cuisine on an interstate highway!
When the French designate a town a “Beaux Village” they mean it. The petite town of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and its famous Cathedral are truly sights to behold. What is now a UNESCO cited medieval village of only a few hundred inhabitants was once where 30,000 Romans lived.
The colony was founded by General Pompey during the Roman campaign in Spain. By the fourth century the thriving town had its own diocese. Destroyed by the Vandals and again by the Germans, “Comminges” lay deserted for five centuries. The bishopric, nevertheless, was preserved so in the early twelfth century construction of a cathedral was ordered. From that time since the cathedral town has been a stage on the route to Santiago de Compostela.
Arriving on a Sunday during a church service at the Cathedral of Saint-Mary was, perhaps, not the best idea… or maybe it was. The church was closed for Mass. While waiting for the service to end, we had plenty of time to stroll through the courtyard and garden … accompanied by the most beautiful organ music.
As soon as Mass ended we scampered into the sanctuary to view the famous organ inside. The massive organ, considered one of the best classical organs in France and the only one of its kind in Europe, stands over 53 feet tall in a corner beside the entrance. The organ has three keyboards and forty-one pipes — twelve pipes are original from 1523. Across from the organ is a wooden wall that divides the entranceway and organ from the sanctuary. Since the service was just ending, the door on the dividing wall was open to let parishioners depart. We dashed through the door to see what we could before the next service.
Oh, that I could have stayed to discover more. Yet less time in the cathedral left more time to walk through the town.
Our brief visit to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was a small preview of what lay ahead in our journey towards the Basque Country of France. Some houses had exteriors with wood and brick facings, others were decorated with strings of red peppers around doors and windows.
Before we knew it, we were running late. Our check-in with the doctor at the spa was at four o’clock. We were off… but not before one last photo.
Next stop the “cure”…stay tuned
Since moving to France I have met some very interesting people. Few are more entertaining than Nevenka. Serbian by birth, she has lived and traveled all over Europe, Asia and the US. She speaks five languages fluently. I was introduced to Nevenka at a “Hen Party.” For those who have never heard of such, a Hen Party is a bridal shower. Nevenka arrived at the Hen Party like the diva she is. Full of life and style, she made her grand entrance with a flourish and a song.
When Nevenka suggested I accompany her on a visit to Saint-Paul-Les-Dax for a week of relaxation and a “cure,” I couldn’t possibly turn her down. The trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure. Certainly a story for the blog.
To ready myself for the tour and the cure, I had to learn something about why the French Thermal spa is so popular.
Saint-Paul-Le-Dax and it’s neighboring city, Dax, have fifteen thermal spas and a thermal hospital where 60,000 spa therapy patients visit each year. The spa resorts specialize in rheumatology, phlebology and fibromyalgia. Chemical vapors in the water help relieve asthma.
The Romans were first to discover the restorative benefits of the local water and silt from the Adour river that flows through Dax. The city’s early name was “Aquarius Augustae” in honor of Julia Augustae who sought cures here during her father Emperor Augustus’ reign.Thermal spas have natural, warm (64 degrees centigrade) spring waters, mineral waters or clays.
It took centuries for the Dax area to claim its premier spa therapy status. The emergence of the railways in the nineteenth century brought masses of patients to the cities in the Landes area of France. In the 1950s medical thermal spas and therapies began being funded by the state.
Our journey to Saint-Paul-Les-Dax started mid morning when I arrived and parked my car at Nevenka’s home. When I saw the stuff she’d pack in the back of her SUV, I knew this was no ordinary road trip. In addition to a Nespresso and special lights for the hotel apartment we would share, there was champagne, a box of wine and “gourmet” sandwiches.
With her customary flair, Nevenka arranged for us to stop overnight along the six-hour route through the Pyrenees in Villeneuve-Vilde-Rivière. L’hostellerie des Cédres to be exact, the seventeenth country home of Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan, better known as Madame de Montespan.
Madame de Montespan was the mistress of King Louis XIV of France. She bore him seven children and she was considered by many to be the “real” queen of France. Born into one of the noblest house in France, Madame de Montespan appeared in Louis’ life when she danced with him at a palace ball hosted by King Louie’s brother, Phillippe I. Her downfall came because of her involvement in the Affaire des Poisons. Claims against her ranged from murder to worse, perhaps because of Louis’ new affair with another beauty.
Never tried for her alleged transgressions, Madame de Montespan retired to a convent, given a pension of a half-million francs by the King. Before her death she was respected as a benefactress to the arts, befriending the likes Corneille, Racine and La Fontaine.
Saint-Bertrand-des-Comminges: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) Association
Co-leading a tour of the South of France with Patricia Sands for sixteen ladies was the ideal opportunity to design the perfect day trip to a Sete—one of my favorite places to go along the Mediterranean. But where to start?
Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, my friend and tour destination planner extraordinaire, created a plan that highlighted Sete’s history, famous foods and oyster farming.
Come along and join the fun. Imagine you’re right there with us on the South of France Memories Tour with Nancy Mcgee and Patricia Sands.
Pretend you’re enjoying the video I created about our perfect day in Sete. Guess what? I’m in the hospital. .. the video won’t download over the hospital WiFi! I’ll save the video for another place and time. While I’m experiencing technical difficulty and a new part of my adventure in France, the hospital system, please stay tuned to the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook for daily updates.
Patricia Sands is revisiting the Memories Tour on her blog. Oh, it’s so much fun traveling with these ladies! Read on…
On our first morning in Arles, we met on the front terrace of our hotel Le Cloître to set off on today’s adventure. This would become a favourite gathering spot, morning and evening, under the magnificent giant Paulownia tree.…
Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9