Category: Beaches

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.

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!

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! 

 

 

sing in a rock band

I Just Want To Sing in a Rock Band

Before the Barefoot Blogger ever dreamed of living in France, I longed to sing in a rock band.

No joke. It’s been my suppressed desire to sing in a rock band. That and wanting to live in a ‘hippy’ van on the beach. So when the Bad Girls Groove Band came to town while I was visiting Sete, I fell in love with them.  They are everything I ever wanted to be … and more! The girls are not only drop-dead gorgeous, but they also have that kind of glamor that’s a flashback to the past.

Revisit the first time I met the Bad Girls’ Groove Band in Sete in 2015…

 

sing in a rock band

Bad Girls 2015

 

sing in a rock band

 

And the Bad Girls are a whole lot of Rock n’ Roll!

sing in a rock band

Bad Girls Groove Band 2015

 

The weekend of the Saint Louis Festival in Sete, the Bad Girls Groove Band of London ruled the main stage. 

 

It’s no wonder!

Here’s a quick visit with the Bad Girls Groove Band in Sete on the main stage and at St. Clair’s. Same time, next year! (Fingers crossed!)

 

The Bad Girls in Sete

Barefooting in Sete, France

It’s St. Louis Festival in Sete. Time for Water Jousting!

7 Reasons To Visit Sete This Year

 

 

 

A Foodie Holiday in Antibes

Antibes has a special attraction for me. Perhaps it’s the architecture and the narrow colorful avenues. It could be the quaint little hotel where I stay that’s so close to little shops and outdoor cafes, yet so hidden away. On my most recent visit, the main attraction was the food. Here’s a look at Antibes restaurant favorites

The past three years, I’ve made a long weekend pilgrimage to Antibes with my good buddies Paula and Rich. This year we added our friend, Trish, to the party.

Before we left for Antibes, Trish innocently asked, “what do we do in Antibes?”

Paula and I, almost in unison, replied: “absolutely nothing.”

We meant it. The annual getaway is our chance to be together in a totally relaxed atmosphere — before the onslaught of summer visitors, traveling and activities in and around Uzès.

Usually we spend a part of a day exploring something we haven’t seen or done around Antibes. Last year it was the Fete Voiles. This year we walked to and around the park at Fort Carreé.

Most of our time in Antibes, we ate. A lot.

Hungry? Read on at your own risk!

Antibes restaurant favorites

Lunch (déjuener) at Le Don Juan is becoming a regular stop on visits to Antibes. Always good! The gnocchi with veggies was a perfect choice for our vegetarian friend.

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Don Juan for dèjeuner was a treat with ancienne tomato salad, veggie-stuffed farci, calamari, and gnocchi with vegetables

Dinner at Autour du Jardin was even more special with friends from House Hunters International. We lucked out that Erin, Stewart and kids were visiting Antibes at the same time. (Can I call these adorable young adults “kids?”) 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Autour du Jardin, Antibes with the kids, Paula and Erin, Stewart and the Barefoot Blogger. A fancy caprese salad and lemon tart.

 

Dinner at Côte Terroir meant eating fancy food that really tasted as good as it looked. Because it was a windy night, there was no outside seating. Who cared? The service and foods were impeccable. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Côte Terroir, Antibes muse bouche parmesan “pops”; soft boiled egg with nut-crumb wrap and jambon; gambas (shrimp) risotto, and the chef’s take on pavlova with mango

 

Final night in Antibes means dining out on the plage (beach) in Juan-les-Pins. This year we discovered Le Ruban Bleu. Our “regular” restaurant had disappeared. Seems like there are some restaurants on city property, some spots are owned by the French government. The state owned ones are closed. Go figure? 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Ruban Bleu in Juan-les-Pins offered the seafood specialties we were craving. Fish soup, pasta with clams and a fancy mixed vegetarian salad

 

Light lunch and drinks at The Brooklyn was a great find. Located along the busy byway to the harbor, the cafe was buzzing. No wonder! Who could resist this smiling waiter, a bento box for our vegetarian, and a giant Jack Daniels burger. The Colonel cocktail (citron sorbet with vodka) was pretty amazing, too. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

 

Want to know more about Antibes? Check out these posts:

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Antibes in 2 Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

See more of Antibes on Pinterest … click here!

Marseille, Resilient After All

Admittedly, my old view of Marseille came from mob and war stories in books, on TV and movies.

Now after visiting the city, I’m impressed. To me Marseille’s story is one of resilience. It shows how perseverance conquers adversity.

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

Marseille’s StoryThe earliest settlements in the area, now know as Marseille, date back to the Paleolithic period (60,000 BC). Residents lived along the Marseille basin which was about the size of the current city. The location was ideal for all types of sea activities. It was protected on the opposite side from the strong northerly wind, Les Mistral, by a range of tall mountains.

Around 600 BC the Phocaeans, Greeks from Asia Minor, arrived in the area to be close to their trading partner, Gaul. They named the city “Massalia.”

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

A popular legend is that Massalia was a wedding gift from the Gallic king, Nannos, to his daughter upon her marriage to a Greek sailor. The story supports the belief that the nations were peaceful at that time. We do know the blending of the two cultures resulted in the introduction of olive oil, wine, ceramics and Grecian gods into the Gaelic world.

Marseille’s Story

From 600 BC to 49 BC the independent Greek city of Massalia grew into a prestigious seaport. Its sea trade, its infrastructure and its political system dominated the trade routes. They distributed goods along the coasts of Gaul to Iberia.

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

Caesar captured Massalia in 49 BC. Artifacts unearthed at a site where the History Museum now stands attest to the Roman influence on the town. Massalia’s habits and customs, however, remained strongly Greek. Even the language.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: Sacked, Ravaged, Back on Track

From the Roman age through medieval times, the city that became Marseille saw great prosperity and near-total destruction. The Visigoths captured Marseille and the Franks sacked it. In the early 10th century, Marseille experienced a revival as part of a Provençal territory which was divided in two. Arles and Marseille were the capitals.

During the twelfth century, Marseille was an independent republic with strong trade relations and naval prowess. A currency of its own boosted the city’s stature as well.

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

Marseille’s StoryMarseille maintained political autonomy until it was absorbed into the Kingdom of France in 1481 along with Provence. Through years of religious wars and changes in French rulers, Marseille maintained its role as a major center of commerce and a vital port for defense. The city had an arsenal and fleets of warships.

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

Under Louis XIV, Marseille was given “free port” status. To affirm his political power, the king ordered a new urban plan for the city. The size of Marseille went from 65 hectares to 195. Straight streets lined with mansions appeared, including the Canebière that leads to the Old Port. The new city had a fort and a new town hall.

The Great Plague

Thought to be carried from Central Asia through ship crews, the Great Plague of 1720 devastated Marseille. Over 30,000 out of the city’s population of 90,000 died from the outbreak.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

The people of Marseille supported the Revolution sending hundreds of men north to Paris to fight. Along the way the rebellious marchers sang a song that is now the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

Marseille’s Story

Troops from Marseille as depicted on the Arch de Triomphe in Paris

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

The middle of the nineteenth century was a “boom” time for Marseille. The port became a maritime hub for the rest of the world. Trade with the Far East and major shipping lines boosted the creation of a modern culture. At the same time, prosperity cut a deep wedge between the already divided city. The rich against the working class.

Marseille’s Story

Refugees, expelled or fleeing from their countries after WWI, brought droves of Italians, Corsicans, Germans, Armenians and Spaniards to Marseille in search of work. The world of gangsters and the underground grew under leaders such as Carbone and Spirito.

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

The image of Marseille as a den of violence, drugs and crime is persistent in the eyes of many. Big screen movies and TV series, still today, such as “Marseille” help perpetuate the city’s reputation. Marseille is the second largest city in France today, so an element of such activity can be expected.

It’s how Marseille survived the apocalypse during World War II that is nearly incomprehensible.

Marseilles’ Story

German troops seal off the Old Port quarter of Marseille, the harbour side community.

The Old Port and surrounding districts were bombed and destroyed. The Germans, the Vichy government, the Militia and the French Popular Party actively suppressed the people. In January, 1943, more than 2,000 Marseillais were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. 

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

Marseille has an enduring charm. The metropolitan area of 1.5 million people consists of a melange of people of all races, creeds and nationalities. It is a place of huge economic, social and cultural significance to France. Marseille is proud and it shows.

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

tour south france

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

When I heard there were going to be white horses racing on the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, I couldn’t wait to get there. I sent a note to my photographer friend, Alan McBride, and suggested he join me with his fancy cameras. It was an event neither of us should miss!

tour south france

Abrivado Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer

 

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.

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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.

For more about the white horses and the Camargues:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

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Perfect Day Trip to sete

A Perfect Day Trip to Sete: Gourmet Tour and Oyster Farming

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? 

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

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.

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Accccccccchhhhhhh

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. 

Meanwhile… 

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.

 

South of France Memories Tour 2018

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

Day 2: Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

Day 3-5 Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 3-5

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

Day 7: A Perfect Day Trip to Sete: Gourmet Tour and Oyster Farming

Day 8: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 8 ~ Arles

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

Day 10: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 10 – St. Rèmy and Les Baux de Provence

Day 11: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 11(part 1) – Pont du Gard and San Quentin la Poterie

Day 11: Memories tour/18 – Day 11, part 2 – Uzés

Day 12: Memories tour/18 ~ day 12 – Wine Harvest

Memories Tour Interrupted

Seafoods of Sete, France

Eating Your Way Through Sete, France

There are few things I enjoy more than eating seafood. A Sete gourmet tour introduced me to a whole lot more favorites.

I was brought up going to a fish camp on the Catawba River, just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, where you could have all the fried fish, tiny Calabash shrimp, and hush puppies you could eat. It was later in life that I learned fish doesn’t always have to be dipped in batter and fried in oil to be delicious.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Probably my best lessons on fish varieties, flavors and textures came from living in the Philippines during my ex’s work assignment in the 1970’s. I could devour a whole fish — head, tail, fins and all. In fact I was told I eat fish like a “Philippina”. Nothing’s left but the bones.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Discovering Sete has been like striking gold. It’s a seafood paradise. From anchovies to oysters, from sea snails to mussels, clams and shrimp. They have it all.

To find out about seafood from the Mediterranean and other regional foods, I joined a gourmet tour by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. Nancy’s lived in Sete over 30 years, so she knows the best local foods and vendors. She’s also very socially active, so she knows what’s in vogue in this part of France.

Here’s a glimpse of the foods we sampled on the tour and the vendors we met.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Lou Pastrou Cheeses – Lou Pastrou cheeses are extraordinary. Perhaps he wears a physician’s coat because they are so special. The house favorite is Roquefort which is truly one of the best cheeses I’ve ever eaten. In addition to the sharp and tangy Roquefort flavor, the cheese’s texture is velvety and creamy. It literally melts in your mouth.We learned a few interesting facts about Roquefort and cheese etiquette. First, Roquefort is pronounced “rock”fort. Second, only cheese from Roquefort can be called by that name. It’s just like calling sparkling wine “champagne” if it’s not from the Champagne district of France. It’s simply not done. Furthermore, it’s illegal.Sete Gourmet Tour

Sete Gourmet TourCheese etiquette is very important in France. When you are served a slice of cheese on a platter to share, never serve yourself the tip end of the slice. That’s the best part of the piece and you’ll offend the other guests. Likewise, don’t cut a piece along the edge. That’s the worse part of the cheese slice because it has the rind, or other curing ingredients — like salt — and you’ll be disappointed. Instead, cut several diagonal sections (start at the front edge and cut towards the center) then take one piece for yourself.

The unusual cheese cutter displayed at the shop has an interesting history. Sete Gourmet TourCutters like this were used in monasteries by monks who were discouraged from taking large slices of cheese for themselves because they were “not worthy.” The slicer is used for a particular variety of hard cheese — like Parmesan– and the cutter blade sweeps in a circle slicing a finely shaved piece of cheese.

Demoiselles Dupuy Restaurant serves oysters to die for! I’ve eaten a lot of oysters in my life because I seek them out whenever I travel. The oysters here are the best ever. They are large, tender and salty. They come directly to the table from the Etang de Tau, an oyster farm district just outside Sete. The restaurant owner who also owns his oyster beds, frowns at the suggestion of putting lemon or their special variety of vinegar on the oysters. Don’t even think about asking for cocktail sauce or Tabasco. Just ease the edges around oyster with a tiny fork to separate it from the shell, then slurp it down. Yum!!

Sete Gourmet Tour Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern French[/caption]

We were told it is better to serve white wine with cheese, not red wine. According to this wine expert, the tannins in red wine react unfavorably with cheese, altering the taste. When serving an assortment of cheeses, a variety of white wines are needed. Hosts who prefer to serve only one type of white wine need to make their choice of cheese families accordingly.

Not knowing a great deal about cheese or wine, I was glad to have some guidance on pairings, especially because serving cheese courses is becoming so popular. I was also interested to learn that this region of France is the country’s largest producer of wines. While the wines are not as famous or expensive as varieties from other areas, their importance and popularity is catching on.

The French owe a debt of gratitude to Languedoc for rescuing the wine industry in the late 1800’s. After a severe blight wiped out over 40% of the vineyards and grapes in the country, American-grafted vines were planted in Languedoc because of the fast growing season near the Mediterranean. When the vines were replanted in other regions, the country’s wine business was saved.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Here’s just a sample of some of the seafood specialties in Sete.

For your walking tour of Sete, contact Nancy McGee at Absolutely Southern France

More information about Sete? Contact the Tourist Office

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It’s St. Louis Festival in Sete. Time for Water Jousting!

It’s time for the St. Louis Festival in Sete. Gee, I hate to miss it this year. It’s always so  much fun: beach time, parties and the Sete water jousting competitions.

I’m in the States with family. Why now?  After four years in France, I’ve learned that August is a good time to leave — it’s hot and too many tourists in Uzés! Yet …

Sete water jousting

Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

If you’re not familiar with water jousting, it started centuries ago. Most notably in Egypt and Greece. Evidence of the competitions was found in stone carvings. The Romans were known to enjoy the sport. In lieu of water, they sometimes flooded the city arenas they used for people sports like gladiator fights.

Water jousting, or “joutes nautiques” began  in Lyon, France in the 12th century. In the 13th century, crusaders embarking on the Holy Wars with King Louis IX (Saint Louis) teamed up against each other in small boats outside Aigue-Mortes.

In Sete water jousting was first seen when the city celebrated the opening of harbor in 1666. Today the sport has become a tradition and is played pretty much the same.

Sete Water Jousting

The first time I saw the sport of water jousting was on a visit with Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. It just happened to be the St. Louis Festival. After that, I intentionally planned my visits to Sete for the late August wild and crazy weekend.

Some of you might remember one of the St. Louis Festival trips to Sete. I met the Bad Girls Groove Band of London for the first time. They rocked the main stage at the festival’s award ceremony.

Then there was the time when I was up close and personal with the winner of the week’s event.

Sete water jousting

Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy”

Sete Water Jousting

By far the most exciting St. Louis Festival celebration for me was when the Sete Tourist Office invited me to attend the finals as a member of the “press.” Events included parties at the tourist office for jousting club members and special guests. And yes! Specialties from Sete like mini tielles and oysters were front and center.

Meanwhile at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) local members of the town administration and the jousting federation, in all their festive regalia, readied themselves to meet the crowd.

Yes, there was a party going on! Town square was mobbed with entertainers, jousters and fans.

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When time came for the championship match, the press crew marched alongside the dignitaries to the canal for the grand finale.

The Barefoot Blogger was in the parade! Yahoo! If that wasn’t enough, the press members were invited to jump in a boat and try their luck at jousting!

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting

A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

Yes, I’m missing the St. Louis Festival and a whole lot more. Where else can you run into this? Water jousting in Sete. Love it!

St. Louis Festival 2018 August 23-28, 2018

For a closer look at the tradition of water jousting in Sete, here’s a video from Culture Trip. Be sure to watch it in full. It’s a wonderful story about a family and their passion for jousting that’s passed from one generation to the next. 

 

Sete has a sweet tooth

Sete, France: How Sweet It Is

Sète may be a small town on the French Mediterranean coast but it hits above its weight in the gastronomic arena.  Home of the most sought after oysters in France, Sete is known for these specialties: the famous octopus pie (tielle), red labelled gourmet fish soup (Azais Polito ), and hearty macaronade (macaroni and sausages). Sete has a sweet tooth, too.

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France knows Sete like the back of her hand. She’s here to tell us about sweet treats in Sete that are sought after in specialty stores from Paris to China.

The Sètois are proud of their home-grown biscuits, the Zezette and the Navette. Outsiders may think the two biscuits are the same, but those in the know beg to differ. So how do you tell a Navette from a Zezette?

Sete has a sweet toothThe “ Navette”  

Some say that the small hollow slit on top suggests a navette – a “shuttle” in French, or perhaps, a shuttle boat. These little boats, or Les ‘Navettes Cettoises’, were launched by the artisan Biscuiterie Pouget in 1913.

To this day the original machinery, including the oven, are in daily use. To be more exact, the machinery is still operated by the apprentice, Jean-Marie Fabre, who took over the business after Mr. Pouget. If you time your visit right you’ll see how a Navette is made.

The original recipe usually includes orange flower but other flavors are now available: anis, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon.  Biscuiterie Pouget also bakes equally delicious madeleines and fresh macarons in the store – the owners are extremely welcoming and will be happy to let you sample their wares.

Sete has a sweet tooth

The Zezette

Ooh la la, sounds exotic – so what puts the zing in the Zezette? La Zezette differs from La Navette inasmuch as it has a flat top and contains the local Muscat wine. Gaston Bentata, nostalgic for his mother’s cooking and North African roots, started baking these cookies in the late 1970s. In 1994 he commercialised them and in 1995 he formed his business, La Belle Époque. You’ll find the products in major outlets not only throughout France  but in the UK, China, Belgium and Germany.

Sete has a sweet tooth

To learn more about zezettes (and practice your French!) check out this mouth-watering video.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/zezettes-sete-toute-histoire-689873.html

Sete has a sweet tooth

La Cure Gourmande (The Gourmet Cure)

Not only is the nearby town of Balaruc-les-Bains famous for La Cure (the cure) in its thermal spa, but also for La Cure Gourmande (the Gourmet Cure). This artisan biscuit maker founded in 1989 is a real success story of ‘local boys made good’ on an international scale. You’ll find navettes, madeleines, sweets, biscuits and chocolates in the company’s distinctive colourful stores in 60 countries (Asia, North America, Middle East and Europe) as well as its flagship store in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.

Sete has a sweet tooth

All products in La Cure Gourmande are homemade in the south of France in a factory converted from old train station. The sweets are attractively packaged to ‘revive old-fashion and traditional presentation from the beginning of the last century’. Everything is  designed to entice: the colours, the presentation, and the packaging.

All of the boutiques have the same furniture “made in France” the same candy boxes “made in France” Produce  is seasonal (fruit cakes). Ingredients are local. For instance the sea salt from the Camargue is used to make the toffees.

The founder’s daughter is pictured on in the company’s visuals. She is now a 19-year-old student who found a job last summer …. at the production facility.

Plan for a guided tour of the production facility the next time you’re in Sete. 

Bon appetit!

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

French food, etiquette and more:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

Bizarre Holiday Gift Ideas from France

Sea Urchins: Facts, Fiction and How to Eat Them! 

The Romance of Roquefort 

“Cutting the Cheese” and More French Etiquette

Who’s Got the World’s Best Oysters?

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 9-10 Port Vendres and Collioure

Revisit the seaside towns of Port Vendres and Collioure, France with me and my North Carolina friends. You may want to put these two on your “must see” list!

When “The Golden Girls” discovered Port Vendres and Collioure, the quaint towns along the Mediterranean, it was quite by accident. We were looking for an airport near Sete that had cheap flights to Italy.  With a little research, we found that the airport in Girona, Spain was only a little over an hour’s drive from Sete. It was not far from the coast, so we could drive along the Med and, hopefully, find a seaside town where we could stop overnight before taking a flight to Italy.

Collioure jumped off the map as the perfect place. The tiny village is the picture-book image of what you’d expect in this part of the world. There was only one problem: Collioure had “no room at the inn.”

Apparently Europeans know Collioure. It was packed with tourists. Not to be discouraged, we settled for the next best thing: Port Vendres, the town just a bit farther down the coast.

Visiting Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Port Vendres

We arrived in Port Vendres in the late afternoon. Having driven south from Sete, staying mostly on the “super” highway until we turned east at Perpignan.  The first town we ran into on the Mediterranean was Canet-en-Roussillon. We stopped for lunch in a Spanish restaurant, Vigatane, then pointed Sally south along the sea toward Port Vendres.

Here’s our view from the car as we went away from the restaurant and drove towards Collioure and Port Vendres.

Tired and anxious to get out of the car for the day, we passed through Collioure, then came to Port Vendres and parked Sally in the town square. Just minutes after calling our AirBNB host, to tell her we were in town, Anna appeared at our car

Anna is a tall, blonde and fair-complexioned woman of Scandinavian ancestry. She spends time between her apartment in Port Vendres and a home in the Pyrenees. To welcome us to Port Vendres, she personally guided us around the small business area showing us her favorite restaurants and wine merchant.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Wine merchant in Port Vendres

Afterwards, we set out for a night on the town.

Returning to our Airbnb “loft” to relax and sleep, we were there just in time to catch sight of the most glorious rainbow — surely a good omen for the next part of our adventure.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Rainbow photo by Arlene Wouters

Visiting Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Collioure

We had a full day planned in Collioure, so we started out early in the morning, giving ourselves just enough time to grab a cafe latte and croissant, and to check out the Saturday Market in Port Vendres.

Backtracking, we arrived in Collioure and parked Mustang Sally at a hilltop rest stop. When we got out of the car, we realized the “rest stop” was, indeed, the parking lot for a restaurant. We went into the restaurant, which was busy with staff preparing for lunch, and assured them we would return later for a meal–not just take a free parking spot.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Mustang Sally looking over Collioure

From here we were able to walk through most of the town, wade in the surf, and do a bit of shopping.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Seaside dining

Thinking the day couldn’t get any better, we headed back towards the restaurant on the hill. Oh my! What a treat. Port Vendres and Collioure, FranceThe entrance to the restaurant was near the top of the hill; but the service area was down a narrow, stone stairway that led to the sea. When we reached where tables were set, we literally stepped onto a yacht, or what appeared to be one because of the shape of the deck. From our table made us feel like we had set sail on a calm sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

The food? It was heavenly.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Mixed seafood- Collioure

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Tuna Collioure

And the wait staff? Well, one Golden Girl thought he was HOT. You judge for yourself.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

We told him he could drive Mustang Sally if we could adopt him.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Visiting Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Musee Collioure. The artist is in the house. Our lunch was long and leisurely with us all agreeing we are the “luckiest people in the world”. Still we had time to wander into the town’s art museum. The small space handsomely displayed a collection of French artists such as Claude Viallat , Joan Brossa , Dominique Gauthier, Henri Marre, Matisse, and Jean Peské.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Francois Bernadi

Our good fortune was that one of the area’s well-known artists, Francois Bernadi, was working in the museum that day. We introduced ourselves and he seemed as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet him. His exhibit, which spanned his career since 1945, had just been taken down to make room for the new show, but we did purchase posters which he proudly autographed with a personal message.

View at the top We had a flight to catch from the Girona airport, which was less than an hour away. Before leaving Collioure we drove to the highest spot in town. From top to bottom, high and low, this is a town that should be on every tour map. Love, love!

Photos: A big “thanks” to the Golden Girls for contributing some of the fab photos for this blog. We wanted to show you the best of the best! Next stop: Pisa, Italy

Next on the Golden Girls’ Tour: Pisa!

Port Vendres and Colliure, France

For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Golden Girls on the Mediterranean side of France

Side trips from Uzes are now behind us. It’s time for the Golden Girls to hit the super highway and head for the Mediterranean coast of France.

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean Side of France: Sete

The Venice of France
I couldn’t wait to show off Sete to my friends from North Carolina. After a week’s stay last year, I knew my beach-loving travel companions would like the place. Not only is the city itself of interest because of the canals, architecture, and fabulous seafood, also, the beaches outside the city are magnificent. We envisioned at least one full day in the sun being pampered by handsome waiters as we sunned ourselves at a private beach club.

Only one problem. Our days in Sete turned out to be cold and rainy.

Mediterranean side of France

Sete, France

Mediterranean side of France

Oh well, not to be disappointed because of the weather, we found plenty to do exploring Sete’s indoor market and nearby towns along the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

 

The Mediterranean Side of France: Bezier

Bezier is one of the oldest cities in France, tracing back to 535 BC. Only a few kilometers from the coast, Beziers was a Roman stronghold along the trade route from Provence to the Iberian Peninsula. It was the scene of a bloody massacre in the 13th century when Cathars, considered a heretic group by Catholics, were murdered — along with all other residents of the town– in a two hour battle. The leader of the crusade, when asked “how the warriors could tell Cathars from Catholics,” reportedly answered: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” or “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Today Beziers is well known for the “Feria”, a 5-day bullfighting festival that draws over a million spectators each year to the town’s ancient arena. Gothic architecture and stately English gardens, also, lure visitors to step back into the past.

Mediterranean side of France

Beziers, France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Bouziques

Bouzigues, a beachside town beside the L’Etang de Thau is well known for its fresh seafood– especially oysters

Mediterranean side of France

Bouzigues, France

From the narrow street that runs through Bouzigues, you can see miles of oyster beds that stretch into the Mediterranean .

Oysters in L’Etang de Thau are grown on posts designed specifically for maximizing the crop yield.

 

Mediterranean side of France

Another attraction in Bouziques is the many seaside restaurants. On a rainy day, however, most were closed for afternoon business.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Getting There

Mustang Sally is the red 1996 Ford Mustang I’ve been blessed to drive in France. She belongs to my dear friend, Geoffrey, who has been the star character in many of my blog posts.

When I first arrived to set up my new life in France, Geoffrey made an offer I couldn’t refuse. We arrived at a lease agreement for the red car with black racing stripes. Now Mustang Sally is living in the underground car park near my apartment. She’s raring to go at a moment’s notice.

The trip down to Sete was no exception. Packed to the brim with suitcases, bags and hats, Sally proudly provided more than transportation down the super highway and scenic roads for my Carolina guests, she was our “touch of class.” I mean, how else would passerbys know The Golden Girls were around? She stood as a beacon wherever we landed.

Mediterranean side of France

Along the highways she hit the 120 KPH speed limit with no hesitation. It was at the many toll booths along the way that she showed her one malady. The driver side window is stuck closed.

After one or two stops, my travel companions and I had the tollbooth routine down flat. Sally would roll up to the gate while I was unbuckling my seatbelt; the front seat passenger would ready the change for the toll; I’d stretch as far as my arms and legs would reach to insert a ticket into the machine to add up the fare; I’d feed the fare into the meter; slam the door; buckle the seatbelt; and we’d speed off before the car behind us could blow its horn in total frustration.

This scenario repeated for most of the two-hour drive to Sete. We went the quickest route, rather than drive on the back roads. Likewise, the stops at Beziers and Bouziques were easy turns-offs from the super highway.

The Mediterranean side of France: Where to stay in Sete

One of my favorite things about the visit to Sete was the Airbnb apartment. Right in the center of town, facing the main canal, the location would please my friends, I was certain. Yes, they were thrilled with the apartment with two private bedrooms and an amazing view, as I suspected. They clicked immediately with our host, Nancy, and soon we were feeling right at home.

Mediterranean side of France

To view the Airbnb listing, click here.

The Mediterranean side of France: What to eat in Sete

There’s only one good answer for what to eat in Sete: seafood! One of the most “productive” fishing areas on the Mediterranean, the town is particularly well known for oysters, sardines and tuna. Restaurants line the streets along the harbor and they seem to serve similar dishes.

Grabbing a plate of raw oysters at the city market, along with a glass of wine or beer, is a treat I was determined to give myself.

Mediterranean side of France

The idea of “raw” didn’t go so well with the other Golden Girls, but they did taste “tielle” which is a local delicacy– octopus pie.

Mediterranean side of France

Another specialty from Sete is fish soup. It is a tomato-based, heavy fish broth served in bowls like chowder.

Mediterranean side of France

The best part of the soup is the croutons that float on top. But before you set the croutons off to sail, you smother the crunchy bits of toast with garlicky aioli, and cover them with flaky Parmesan cheese.

Fish soup from Sete can be purchased online from sites like Bien Manger (click here)

Mediterranean side of France

Helpful hint: Wherever you go

When driving in an unfamiliar place, especially if you don’t know the language, be sure to take note of where you park. It’s easy to get lost if you’re as absent-minded as I am! To insure you get back to the right place, take pictures of your parking spot and direction signs along the way.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Next stop: Port Vendres and Collioure

Mediterranean side of France

Click here for more about the Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: The Riviera

I’ve been asking Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France Tours to tell me all about her Mediterranean cruise shore excursions. There are several of you who have contacted the Barefoot Blogger for information.

Mediterranean cruise shore excursionRead on and learn about going ashore along the French Riviera. Even if you’re an armchair traveler, you’ll enjoy the visit. As I’ve learned, when you travel with an expert like Nancy, you’re going to explore and experience the best spots for food, scenery and lifestyle along the Côte d’Azur. Let’s see what she has up her sleeves for us to do. 

I love every inch of the French Riviera – from the narrow medieval streets of St Paul de Vence to glitzy Nice and Cannes to the adrenaline surge of the Monaco Grand Prix.

Nancy McGee

When people ask me what they absolutely must see during their shore excursion, the answer is ‘everything’. Of course this is not always practical and so my Riviera tours offers what I consider the major highlights. The Riviera is addictive – once hooked visitors invariably return to see what they missed the first time.

For your Mediterranean cruise shore excursion … Food First 

France conjures up images of gourmet restaurants, boulangeries and local markets offering a breathtaking array of fresh, local produce, cheeses and regional specialties – and that’s exactly right. Since the weather’s good why not make the first stop at the market and shop for a picnic? (Always a hit if with children.) And let’s not forget a bottle of rosé wine from Provence -‘de rigeur’ for a French picnic.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Grasse

Wake up and Smell the Roses 

With appetites appeased – for now at least – the olfactory senses are in for a treat and they’ll get just that in Grasse, the Riviera’s flower capital.A tour of a perfume factory is an absolute must – and an excellent place to buy gifts. This is a really charming historic town with an 11th century cathedral, perfume museum, sandy beaches and fine dining.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Gourdon

Dreaming of Chocolate Heaven?

Visit Gourdon and those dreams will come true with a sampling at the famous chocolate factory.Mediterranean cruise shore excursionBut leave room for artisan ice cream in floral flavors, violet, rose, jasmine….sublime.  And there’s no need to worry too much about the waistline because this beautiful old fortress town is built on a high promontory with stunning views – a good way to work off the day’s excesses.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Tourrettes-sur-Loup

The ‘City of Violets’

The tiny medieval village of Tourrettes-sur-Loup perches on a rocky spur and is an all-time favourite visitors. It boasts impressive historic buildings including a 15th century church, arts and crafts boutiques, an annual violet festival and museum. Just a stone’s throw from Nice and Cannes it is definitely worth a detour.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: St. Paul de Vence

In Chagall’s FootstepsMediterranean cruise shore excursion

St Paul de Vence is one of the oldest medieval towns on the Riviera and also known as the artist’s village – it was home to Chagall to name but one. It’s a joy to simply stroll the colourful streets full of art galleries and boutiques. Olive oil and wine tastings, and a visit to an olive oil mill can be arranged, as well as lunch at a restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Monaco

Jetsetting to Monaco 

The tiny principality of Monaco fits comfortably into a day trip with time to view the exquisite Palace of the Prince and the cathedral where Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly were married, followed by the Changing of the Guards. Mediterranean cruise shore excursion

And now fasten your seatbelts for a lap of the world famous Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit to reach Monte-Carlo with its famous Casino, Golden Square and the luxurious Hotel de Paris and Hotel Hermitage. Fancy your luck? Armed with valid ID and appropriately dressed you can join the high rollers at the famous Casino

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Éze

A Change of Pace
Visitors always fall in love with this typical medieval cliff top village of narrow lanes, stone buildings and breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. Éze is in the heart of perfume country and a tour of the perfume factory can be arranged as well as a visit to its impressive botanical garden.

 

Mediterranean Cruise Shore Excursions: Nice

Mediterranean cruise shore excursionPutting on the Glitz

The city of Nice needs no introduction! Aside from a reputation for glamour, it is steeped in history, with evidence of a settlement as far back as 350bc, and its historical centre dates back to the 13th century.  Highlights of the tour include a walk along the “Promenade des Anglais” – former haunt of the British aristocracy, an unsurpassed, flower market and Michelin star restaurants.

Mediterranean cruise shore excursionShore excursions by Absolutely Southern France are fully private 7 or 8 hour customized experiences with  English speaking local and professional driver/guides with a van or sedan.

Riviera Ports of Call : Monaco, Monte Carlo, Villefranche, Antibes, Nice, Cannes, St Tropez, Provence ports of call : Toulon, La Seyne, Marseille,

Languedoc/Occitanie Ports of Call : Sète, Port Vendres.

 

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

 

Mediterranean cruise shore excursion

Sete, a French beach holiday site

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete, France


If you want to travel in France and you don’t really care where you go, just put your finger on a spot on the map. Then go there.

That’s pretty much how I decided to take my French beach holiday in Sete (pronounced “set”).

A little bit Venice, a little bit Riviera
Sete is a town of approximately 40,000 people who mostly earn their livelihood from the sea. Louis XIV was instrumental in establishing Sete as a prosperous shipping center during his reign. He understood the value of a seaport on the Mediterranean that could bring in the goods and valuables he desired to fill his lavish tastes.

Seal for Sete a French beach holiday siteIt was not until years later that Italian immigrants helped turn the city into a fishing Mecca. Sete is now France’s biggest fishing port on the Mediterranean, and provides the world’s largest tonnage of tuna, sardines, herring and anchovies. In the inland waters, oyster and mussel farm are abundant and thriving.

Connoisseurs say that oysters from Sete are the best anywhere.
Sete, a French beach holiday siteThe early name for Sete was Cette (Cettoise) which means “whale”. The name of the city was changed to Sete in 1929. The name was given by sailors who, when passing the undeveloped island, thought it looked like a giant whale

Known as the Venice of France, Sete has 24 bridges that crisscross the city to carry people and vehicles from one send to the other. If you miss the last bridge, you run into the sea wall that separates the town from the Mediterranean.

Beyond the seawall are rocky cliffs where sunbathers stretch out if they choose not to head down the road to the miles of sandy beaches. (Stay tuned for a visit to the beaches.)

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Every day markets
Sete is not a tourist place…yet. So the markets and stores are devoted to the general population. Food and other goods purchased in Sete are at least half the price of Uzes, or nearby Montpelier.

There is an indoor city market open 6 days a week and a large outdoor market on Wednesdays. Now I’ve been to both which are quite different.

The indoor market is a social meeting place. Everyone in town comes to do their food shopping and to meet their friends and neighbors. For the older generations it’s a place to meet and enjoy a glass of wine, beer and oysters… in the morning.

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Buildings and architecture

The center city of Sete is filled with ornate buildings with carvings and pillars that testify to the early wealth of the city. Many of the downtown apartments were created from majestic homes that bordered the canals.

Is it any wonder that I find Sete such an amazing place to go for a French beach holiday?

Nice city break

Nice City Break: Marc Chagall Makes It Nicer.

If your Nice city break is all about fancy Côte d’Azur beach clubs, great French and Italian food and the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean, you’d be right. It’s all that…

Nice city break

… and more. 

Nice city break

Musée National Marc Chagall

Nice city break

Marc Chagall

Nice was the home of artist Marc Chagall during the last part of his life and the largest collection of his work is permanently enshrined in the Musée National Marc Chagall, specifically, his “Bible” series. The museum is a bit hard to find, nestled in a park-like setting in a residential neighborhood of Nice, but it is every bit worth the effort to go there if you’re an art lover.

Nice city break

Musée National Marc Chagall

In addition to the  paintings which Chagall offered to the French State in 1966, he created the stained glass windows facing the garden and in the concert hall.

Nice city break

The Blue Rose

Nice city break

The Creation of the Word

Chagall’ surrealistic approach to his subject and bright basic colors is what delighted me with the exhibit. His deep understanding of the Bible, which came from his roots and from years of study as a Hasidic Jew growing up in Russia, is more than obvious in his work. Yet the simplicity of his characters makes the stories easy to grasp for all.

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I did not see the Bible, I dreamed it. Ever since early childhood, I have been captivated by the Bible. It has always seemed to me and still seems today the greatest source of poetry of all time.

Marc Chagall

Nice city break

 

Next time you plan your Nice city break, work in a morning or afternoon at the Musêe National Marc Chagall. Spend some time in the garden and stop for a coffee and dessert. It’s a favor to yourself you won’t forget.

Nice city break

 

More about Nice:

Heading for a Beach in France? Nice!

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

Uzes to Nice: Nice!

Nice city break

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Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Last summer was the first time I visited Antibes. Afterwards I realized how much I love the place and I started scheming how to return. Thanks to author-friend Patricia Sands, I had the perfect excuse. She invited me to come back to play! 

Here’s a trip back to last year’s post for first impressions…

Antibes in Two Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

As long as I can remember I’ve dreamt about Antibes. When thoughts of the tiny dot-of-a-place on the French Rivera came to my mind, I’d imagine myself lounging on the deck of a massive yacht. Sipping champagne. Dining in the moonlight.

Sigh…

Little did I imagine that I’d live within a morning’s drive of Antibes. Yes. Dreams do come true…

Although no yacht was waiting for me (sigh…) the sights and sounds of Antibes were truly memorable. I don’t know when I’ve taken so many photos in such a short time — just two days. Everywhere I turned there was an amazing door or window to photograph. A partially hidden alley. A striking piece of artwork in a courtyard. It was truly a feast of colors, shapes, images and sounds.

Views of the coastline were breathtaking. 

Antibes

 

Antibes

Portholes through stone walls had their own glimpse of the sea.

 

Yachts were everywhere

Yachts in Antibes

 

Sidewalk cafes were just inviting as I imagined they’d be. 

Cafe in Antibes

 

Cafe in Antibes

The marketplace and stores around town were filled with fresh products, souvenirs and tourists.

 

 

Walking around the Old Town of Antibes (Le Vieil Antibes) three of four times during the two days of my visit, I saw much that I’d imagined. What I wasn’t expecting was that every narrow street seemed to be more picturesque than the last.

Also, I never imagined such spectacular public artwork. Everywhere.

There was a gigantic sculpture of “words” by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa — Nomade. (Click on link to learn more.)

And the works of  Nicolas Lavarenne . His graceful statues were artfully placed through the streets and ramparts of Old Town Antibes. 

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

Only on exhibit for the summer, the striking and athletic figures seemed suspended in air as they leapt from walls and ancient structures. 

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

As if that wasn’t enough, there was outdoor art in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum. Even from the street level, you could see the statues towering above the town — as if they were guarding the priceless pieces of art within the building. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside.

 

Antibes

Picasso Museum Antibes

 

A walk on the wild side

While seeking out artists and shopping are my passions while traveling, you know there’s going to be a bit of the “absurd” thrown in somewhere.  In Antibes a visit to the Absinthe Museum was a “must.”

 

Absinthe Museum in Antibes

 

AntibesThe storefront of the Absinthe Museum was a gift shop, the side street entrance led down into a cave of “inequity” — filled with absinthe and drinking paraphernalia from throughout the ages. 

Hats for the occasion were provided as well as the telling of the history and absinthe-drinking technique. Who knew? Sugar cubes and water? A spoon made just for preparing the perfect drink?

To be honest, we visited the museum during the broad daylight and had only one drink each. In case you’re wondering, the alcohol content and taste of the variety we were drinking were similar to pastis. However, I was told about more potent types. All in all, it was great fun and a memorable way to spend an hour or so on a warm summer day. Especially if you want to recall thoughts of Van Gogh and all who fell under the magical spell of the “green fairy.”

Antibes has a lot going on after dark in the Old Town but the nearby town of Juan-Les-Pins is “party central.”

Rich and Paula, the train passed through Cap d’Antibes where we had a glimpse of some of the famous mansions and coastline. We arrived in Juan-Les-Pins in less than half and hour — in time for shopping and a walk on the busy boardwalk.

The afternoon of the second day of our visit to Antibes, my friends, Paul and Rich, and I boarded the “petite train” that ran from in front of our hotel in Antibes to Juan-Les-Pins. Between the two towns

Antibes

 

Juan-Les-Pins at night

 

It was there, in Juan-Les-Pins, that my dream came true. 

Remember “dining under the moonlight? 

 

Antibes

 

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

 

I hope you enjoyed the visit to Antibes!

A BIG thanks to Patricia Sands who helped plan the trip and visited with us in Antibes — her favorite place and hangout. 

Patricia’s novels on Provence are a “must read” if you love traveling and dreaming about France.

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

More favorite places:

Boutique hotel in Antibes – Hotel Le Relais du Postillon 

Lunch in Antibes – Le Don Juan 

Light dinner in Juan Les Pins (on the pier or on the beach) – La Voille Blanche

Good website for more information on Antibes 

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

 

dream come true

 

 

 

 

 

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

While we’re on the subject of Sete from our recent train-from-Barcelona post, there’s a question that fish soup lovers who visit the South of France want to know: What’s the difference between Marseilles’ bouillabaisse  and Sete’s fish soup?

Leave it to Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France to have the answer. She’s an expert on foodie things in both Sete and Marseilles where she offers walking gourmet tours. Recipes from Cook’n with Class make it easy for us to prepare their version of the Sete’s fish soup and Marseilles’ bouillabaisse at home!

A TALE OF TWO CITIES – by Nancy McGee

Bustling, edgy Marseille, France’s second and oldest city, and largest commercial port. Designated as Top Ten Oceanfront Cities by National Geographic in 2014 and one the New York Times’ favourite destinations, Marseille is becoming increasingly trendy.  Sete, its younger, understated cousin and the most important fishing port on the Mediterranean is ‘the most fascinating small town on the French Mediterranean coast’, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Despite their differences they have much in common: a strong shared maritime tradition, fascinating history – and a passion for food. So how does a visitor to the South of France choose between the two? Easy – visit both, they’re only a two-hour drive apart.

While in the South of France, a visitor’s first question is invariably food-related, often about authentic regional dishes. So let’s look at two typically Mediterranean specialities: fish soup from Sète and bouillabaisse from Marseille. What is the difference between the two?

It’s simple.

Sete’s City Market serves up a fresh catch for fish soup

Fish soup from Sete is made from a variety of small rockfish that become caught in the fishermen’s nets as they feed off the rocks near the Mediterranean shore. Rather than toss them back into the sea the fishermen take them home and cook them in a special blend of herbs and spices. The bones are then removed and the broth is put through a sieve. The soup is served with thinly sliced croutons spread with rouille  (a type of mayonnaise with olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper.)  In restaurants, this fish soup is served as a starter and cost is around 8 euros for the dish.

The best rockfish soup has been produced in Sete  since 1963  by the same family Azais Polito. http://www.azais-polito.fr/. Their fish soup is featured in gourmet shops such as Harrods and Lafayette  Gourmet and is exported worldwide… If you get a craving,  simply order online.

Bouillabaisse from Marseille is basically fish soup but  served with a side dish of  fillets of  least three types of fish – mullet, turbot, monkfish .   The fish fillets are cooked in the soup and along with potatoes. Like the fish soup, it is served with a rouille and croutons. The Bouillabaisse is a main course costing at least 35 euros per person to as much as 100 euros  for  versions including more delicate species of fish and seafood.

My favorite spot for  a Bouillabaisse in Marseille is at Chez FonFon. http://www.chez-fonfon.com/    Not only is the soup tasty but you are offered constant refills.  The restaurant is  niched in an alcove barely noticed by passerbys and is overlooking the inlet crammed with small fishing boats.

 

Bouillabaisse in Marseille at Chez FonFon

 

Picpoul de Pinet

Isn’t a meal without wine like a day without sunshine – especially in France? Definitely and there’s no shortage of good regional wine to complement a fish soup. To play it safe, choose a Bandol rosé from Provence or a refreshing Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc.

Anything else not to be missed? Quite a lot, but I’d need to write an encyclopaedia! From Marseille: navettes, light biscuits delicately flavoured with eau de fleur d’oranger. And let’s not forget pastis, France’s  favourite aperitif.

From Sète: the Tielle, a deliciously piquant octopus pie with a strong Italian heritage, also zezettes,  a light biscuit delicately flavoured with local muscat wine.

 

 

Thanks to Cook’n with Class Uzes, here are their recipes for the famous fish soups from Marseilles and Sete.

 

 

 

 

Want to see it all in Sete and Marseilles? Contact Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France for guided tours — especially her famous “walking gourmet” tour.

Absolutely Southern France’s Nancy McGee and the Mayor of Sete — of course!

Here’s where to find year-round activities in Sete. 

Discover Marseilles?  it’s on my travel list… soon! 

 

For information on train schedules from Barcelona to Sete click here

 

 

Mapping Barcelona to Sete

 

Seeing the South of France by train from Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

All Aboard for Carcassonne

7 Reasons to Visit Sete This Year 

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