Category: Around France

Château du Duché

Starlight Tango at Uzes’ Château du Duché

Nothing prepared me for watching Tango dancers at the Château du Duché. Practically at my doorstep.

The parking lot that my apartment shares with the Château du Duché is closed to traffic once a week through August. An ongoing festival, clearly for the benefit of tourists, is staged one evening each week to draw visitors to the village.

The fact that it takes place within a few feet of my apartment is pure good luck.

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Dance with the experts at Château du Duché

You can show up at the Château du Duché with your favorite partner or solo and dance the night away. Or you can show up for lessons with a tango expert. Whether you’re dancing or just watching, the music and the drama of the tango carry you away.

The tango is a popular dance in the south of France, due largely to the proximity of the region to Italy. Wherever you go that there is music, you will see couples dancing the tango. Even if they are not the best performers, tango dancers always seem to put their heart and soul into their moves. For me, I’m sure I’ll never step foot out on the floor. But for others who are not so timid, it looks like great fun.

Makes one want to put on your dancing shoes…

 Château du Duché

Tango in Uzes

July 14th Holiday in Uzes France

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Brocante Uzes, France

What’s  happening July 14th in Uzes?

I set out with my camera to see how the French celebrate in this small village.

It’s all about family, food, dancing and fireworks. This year, it was also about brocante.

A hundred or more brocante dealers showed off their best wares in the town’s parking lot — a beautiful spot overlooking the valley.

Brocante in Uzes, France

Brocante in Uzes, France

 

Uzes

China, pottery, porcelain treasures galore.

 

Uzes

Colorful wares and colorful brocante dealers.

 

uzes

El Toro for your man cave?

 

uzes

Perfect gift or the man who has everything.

 

Brocante Uzes, France

 

Uzes

Every man’s junk is someone’s treasure.

 

Cafes in town were packed with visitors, couples and families eating, drinking and enjoying their long weekend holiday.

Uzes, France July 14

 

All waiting for the music and dancing …

Uzes France July 14, 2014

 

 

And the fireworks.firework1

Here are some interesting facts about the July 14th French holiday:

1-  French don’t call the holiday “Bastille Day”?

It’s called “July 14th”, just like “July 4th” in the States. The formal name is  La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration).

2- “Storming the Bastille” was not all about freeing political prisoners.

Rebels freed four crooks and two “lunatics” and, according to Wikipedia, one “deviant” aristocrat. The Bastille was chosen as the target of the rebellion because it was a symbol of the abusive monarchy — a place stocked with weapons and ammunition.

3- The French Revolution was not the beginning of an independent French republic.

The French Revolution of 1787 is considered by historians as a major step towards establishing the concept of “independent republics.” The world saw the uprising of the people of France as an example to create their own political change;

The French, however, were anything but “independent” afterwards. They enduring years of terror led by Roperpeare’s government; and later, a military empire led by Napolean.  It was the Third Republic in 1870 that gave way to national elections and political parties in France.

Charles de Gaulle founded the French Fifth Republic and served as its first president from 1959 to 1969.

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Jersey Boys, The French Movie

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There’s a movie theatre not too far from my apartment — the only one in town.

The French version about the “4 Hommes” was playing when I got there. The English version would be two hours later.

“What the heck,” says me to me. “I’ll watch the movie in French.”

Jersey Boys

Jersey Boys

Loved the theatre. It’s like one of the “art” theaters in the States with food, drinks, and cafe seating in the lounge.

Movie Theatre in Uzes

Movie Theatre in Uzes

Loved the music.

Other than that, I might as well have been wearing ear muffs.

“Yes,  I still don’t speak French!”

 Note: Hope you’re enjoying the Village Scenes. Would love your comments.

 

Deepak Chopra

Village Scenes in Uzes: Public Services

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One morning I was awakened to a strange sound in the street beneath my window. There were horses braying below.

Like a child looking for Saint Nicholas, I jumped out of the bed, flew open the sash, and grabbed my camera.

Uzes Horses

Uzes

Uzes

Later I learned the horses were pulling a water wagon to feed the town’s plants.

Clever!

It would be a real feat to maneuver a truck around these street barriers. Uzes

Plus, what a delightful way to start a day.

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French folklore

French Folklore: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer


What I love about living in France is the opportunity to re-learn history. I never expected French folklore from the Bible.

Who knew, for example, that Lazarus and Mary Magdalene ended up in France? According to Provencal tales, which I learned upon my recent day trip to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, Jesus’s friend Lazarus; his sister, Martha; Mary Magdalene; Mary of James, sister of the Virgin; and a servant girl, Sarah the Egyptian, all arrived in the south of France around 40 A.D. Albeit under less than desirable circumstances.

Legend has it that after the Crucifixion, while Jews continued to be persecuted in Jerusalem, the extended “family” of Christ was cast into the sea in a small boat equipped with neither oars nor food. Miraculously they landed safely here, now Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, where they erected a small chapel and dedicated it to the Virgin. The two Marys and Sarah remained at the church while Mary Magdalene and Martha went on throughout Provence preaching. Catholic tradition says that Lazarus was the first Bishop of Marseilles. In the 11th century the chapel became a church and was reconstructed as a fortress.  

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Miracles attributed to the Saints are shown in paintings displayed inside the Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer.

French folklore

Sainte Maria dela Mer

Sarah the Egyptian: Revered by Gypsies

St. Sarah is highly venerated by gypsies. Around the 15th century the nomadic groups from Spain and other regions began annual pilgrimages to the church. In a colorful procession, the gypsies would carry the statue of St. Sarah and immerse it in sea. Modern day pilgrimages honoring St. Sarah take place in May and October. The events are celebrated with horse races, parades of costumed ladies from Arles, and “the running of bulls”, staged by herders from the nearby Camargue. Gypsies march the statue of St. Sarah to the sea.

Gypsy Blessings  

While visiting the Church, I was sighted and stopped by a gypsy woman who pinned a religious symbol on my shirt. Looking straight into my eyes, she placed a finger on my forehead and gave me a blessing. As I thanked her and started to walk away, she stuck out her hand… for an “offering”. When I kept walking, she quickly removed the pin from my shirt. Oh well… guess “blessings” come at a price.

 

More about the Camargue

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

 

Uzes Day Trip: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

Let me reign in your expectations upfront. There’s no way you can take an Uzes day trip to Arles, Saintes-Maries and the Camargue and be satisfied.

I did, however, get a glimpse of these sites so that I can return for another visit. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the short preview as much as I enjoyed the day trip out of Uzes.

Uzes Day Trip

Sunflowers in France

But first, a field of sunflowers to start the day.

Uzes Day Trip to Arles. It’s More than Van Gogh.

Today most people go to Arles to trace the footsteps of Van Gogh. That idea intrigues me, but not for this trip. There were other places I wanted to see that are nearby. So I spent the morning in Arles visiting a couple of its most important Roman artifacts: the Arena and the Amphitheatre.

Frankly, I am surprised at myself, but history is taking on a whole new meaning. It’s actually fun to put together names and events now that I can put them into context.

Uzes Day Trip

Arles Arena

 Arles has a history that traces back to a primitive tribe of people who lived between the river (Rhone) and the marshes, Ar-laith. From early on, Arles was overshadowed by Marseilles, the nearby settlement by the sea, It’s interesting that the city’s fate and wealth took a positive turn when the people of Arles gave aid to Julius Caesar in defeating Pompey in Marseilles. Among other contributions to Caesar’s cause, the shipbuilders of Arles constructed twelve fighting vessels for Caesar’s troops, reading them to sail in less than 80 days.

Caesar bestowed the title “Colonia Julia Paterna Arelatensis Sextanorum” upon Arles. He then stationed his Vi legion in Arles which helped create a Roman city of great reknown. The Arles Arena is a reminder of the rich Roman city Arles became. Built on a smaller scale than the arena in Nimes, it appears to be a “mini” arena in comparison. Even so, it accommodates up to 25,000 spectators. Like in Nimes, the Arena has an active life still today, hosting popular bull fights and local festivals.

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Romulus Augustus, the last Roman emperor, died in 476 and, soon, Arles fell into the hands of barbarians. The city collapsed in 480 with the arrival of the Visgoths.The Theatre in Arles, by some accounts was built somewhere between 15BC and 30BC. Because of the religious significance of the original statues and monuments, it has been plundered repeatedly.

 

Arles reasserted itself through the years, at one time becoming the capital of the kingdom including Provence and Bourgogne.  Although the Roman architecture and magnificent structures in Arles have been ransacked and materials removed for other purposes, those that remain  rank among the finest and most important in Provence.

Uzes Day Trip

 

Next Uzes Day Trip: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

Holidays in France: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer

 

 

 

 

French Fashion for Summer: Bobo Chic Style

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original_411433__L51bZZIfra_ZNZaTxDkpaZE1There’s a magical space

just steps from my door

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with Teddy Bears,

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

Teacups,

and Flowers

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

Galore.

 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 

 

Button-eyed dogs with long floppy ears,

 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 

Stuffed Rabbits, 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 Baby Slippers ,

 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

…  and  more,

 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 Live together, in Harmonyimages

 

 

Of one accord.

 

 

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  I mean, can you imagine?

 

Rompers …

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

… and rooms filled with Lace,

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

… Dresses and Petticoats,

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France  

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

All in one place?

 

 

 

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Perhaps Pinocchio makes all the rules?

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 … so that Ruffles and Skirts,

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

… Ribbons on Hats 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

… and Frilly Night Shirts

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

… are Here …

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

… where Time 

 

 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

… stands Still.

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

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L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France
L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

 

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A return to the Romance Era of French fashion is not a dream. It is alive and more appealing than ever for summer. Thanks to L’Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France for the inspiration for this post on Bohemian Chic style. 

L'Atelier des Ours in Uzes, France

For more information on L’Atelier des Ours, visit the blog and Pinterest. 

Does anyone wonder why I love France? Am Living in France? Love the Fashion in France?

 

 

Uzès on Sundays: Horses, Swans, and Otters “Oh My!”

Sundays in Uzès are quiet. Most of the stores are closed in town and, except for flea market-style shopping along the streets, there’s not much going on. It was the perfect time to pick on Geoffrey.

Geoffrey is my good friend in Uzès. He’s been here through thick and thin, helping me adjust to my new world. He’s also the unpredictable character you’ve grown to love in earlier posts.

Due to The Golden Girls’ adventures, Geoffrey’s stories have taken a backseat.

He’s back! Sundays in UzèsYet recently, in a less enthusiastic form.

You see, over the past few days, Geoffrey and I have been indulging in a sort of contest. A “pity party”, if you will.

“Who can gripe the most.”

As hard as it might be to believe, and as perfect as living a dream may seem, there are “down” days. Fortunately for me, like Winnie the Pooh and Eeyore, when I’m down, Geoffrey’s perky. When he’s on the “low” side of the see-saw, I’m on the “high” side.

“It’s snowing still,” said Eeyore gloomily.”So it is.””And freezing.””Is it?””Yes,” said Eeyore. “However,” he said, brightening up a little, “we haven’t had an earthquake lately.”

Sundays in Uzès

Last Sunday’s a perfect example. After several days of not hearing from Geoffrey, I rang him up to see if he was still alive. From the sound of his voice, which is usually cheerful, I could tell he was “alive” but far from “lively.”

After our “Bonjour”s, I asked, a bit sarcastically, “Comment allez-vous ?”

C’est bien,” he replied. “Et vous“, he said in very sing-song tone. Not his always jovial, laughing voice.

Ok, Geoffrey,” I barked. “This bad mood of yours has got to quit. It’s gone on quite long enough.

Before he could reply I ordered: “I’m going out to Carrefour to do some shopping. Mustang Sally and I are coming to pick you up.”

Silence.

I could hear noise in the background which meant he wasn’t at home. “Where are you“, I asked, as if he owed me an answer.

I’m at the little bar at the Esplanade‘” he said. “Having a pastis with Nicholae,” he added. “You can come by and pick me up if you’d like.

I’ll be there in 15 minutes,” I said.

The Esplanade is a small, sparsely shaded park in the center of Uzes that is between the city’s post office and the regional bus station. The park is most often used on Saturdays for various market vendors’ booths. Occasionally its the site of gypsy carnivals. During the week you’ll find locals and tourists sitting on the few benches that are around the perimeter.

The “little bar” is on the street corner across from the Esplanade. It’s mostly a “hangout” for the town’s “idle” older men who seem to be unemployed. They are there all hours of the day.

I stopped at the “little bar” with Mustang Sally just as Geoffrey was finishing up his drink. It was close to thirty minutes after we had talked. He saw me and quickly gulped down the last of his pastis. While getting in the passenger side of the car, a man at the bar called out to him. He said Sally had a flat tire.

Oh crap!” said Geoffrey. “Something else to ruin my day.”

We can fix it at the service station at Carrefour,” I exclaimed.

Geoffrey checked to see if we had enough air in the tire to get the short distance out of town, then jumped in the car.

As we headed down the road, my travel companion was silent. I decided I’d try to cheer up “Old Grumpy” with a joke he’d told me a few days before, even though I’m terrible at telling jokes.

I took a breath and started: “I’m sorry I’m late,” I said.

No problem,” Geoffrey replied glumly.

I told you I’d pick you up in fifteen minutes,” I added.

Yes you did,” said Geoffrey. “It’s OK.”

I would have been here on time,” I continued, hoping he wouldn’t catch on and ruin the punchline.

Taking a breath, I looked at him from the drivers seat with my most serious face and stated: “Well then, you didn’t have to call back every half an hour to remind me.”

Geoffrey looked at me. His face lit up. He chuckled. Then he let out that familiar belly laugh. He was going to be OK.

Sundays in Uzès

As our sour moods were lifting we arrived at Carrefour only to find it, too, was closed. Shopping would have to wait. We could; however, use the air pump to fill Sally’s tire. It was at the service station adjacent to the front of the store.

While Geoffrey was showing me how to put air in the tire, I asked: “Want to go see the horses at Les Haras’ stables when we’re done? You said you wanted to take me there.

Great idSundays in Uzèsea,” said Geoffrey, obviously happy that I had thought of something he actually wanted to do.

“Let’s go.”

Les Haras Nationaux  is a French national riding academy and champion stud farm. It is one of a dozen or so regulated facilities of its kind in France.

The institutionalization of horse breeding for military, farming, leisure and competition purposes in France traces back as early as the time of Charlemagne.

In 1665 the King’s Council of Louis XIV established what was to become “royal standards” and control for stud farming in France. In 1715 requirements for breeding the “Haras du Pin” or “royal stud” were strictly enforced throughout the country.

These days the French Ministry of Agriculture manages the activities of “Haras du Pin” breeders. The ministry’s responsibilities are to insure the blood lines of quality horses bred in France, and to regulate and oversee services for breeders and horse lovers.

These are some of the studs we found hanging out in their stalls, waiting for a “roll in the hay” with the mares who were primping themselves in separate quarters.

The “white” horses are the famous “Camargue” breed, originally found only in the swampy, Camargue region in the south of France. Their origins go back, some say, to the Paleolithic period more than 17,000 years ago. Through time they have been bred with other breeds, especially Arabians,

“This genetic combination permits these brawny animals to withstand the region’s bleak, cold winters and intensely hot summers. They are so strong it is said they are able to canter through mud up to their bellies!” (White Horses of France’s Camargue)

Below is the layout of Les Haras Nationaux  outside Uzes.

Sundays in Uzès

Haras International in Uzes

Sundays on Uzès: La Vallée de l’Eure

After a trompe around the stud farm at Les Haras Nationaux, the Sunday afternoon was still too beautiful to leave behind. We headed to the park at la Vallée de l’Eure on the other side of Uzès.

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It was my first time at the park, although I’ve passed the turn off on the way to San Quentin La Poterie several times. Once down the road we drove close to the rocky hill that I had viewed from the distance. Rock climbers are particularly fond of this spot and they are allowed to set up camp in the park.

Geoffrey says people who have no yards or terraces where they live spend their Sundays here.

In addition to the hill for rock climbing, the park’s other attraction is its spring: the source of water for the Gard River that flows beneath the famous landmark, Pont du Gard.

During Roman times the spring fed the Pont du Gard aqueduct and delivered water along the miles and miles of Roman-built conduits to the city of Nimes (“Colony of Nemausus”).

(See earlier posts on visits to Pont du Gard.)

Sundays in Uzès

Source of water for the Pont du Gard

Today, while Pont du Gard draws millions of tourists yearly, the spring that started it all is barely noticed.  The origins of the aqueduct — as old as the stone facade of the Pont du Gard — is close to ruins.

Sundays in Uzès

Beginning of the Pont du Bard in the Vallee D’eure

 

Sundays in Uzès

Pont du Gard

Standing next to the spring, Geoffrey got on his “bandstand”

With his loudest voice he proclaimed to me, and everyone else within hearing distance, that it is “scandalous” the way the French government is neglecting the ancient structure.

For my entertainment and, perhaps, for distribution to the UNESCO  World Heritage Center, I put together this “public service announcement” regarding the plight of the Pont du Gard’s most important monument.

Swans and Otters on Parade

While Geoffrey continued ranting about the “Scandal of Pont du Gard”, I busied myself watching swans who were gathered in the stream that ran around the edge of the park grounds.

Beside the spring, Geoffrey got on his "bandstand" With his loudest voice he proclaimed to me, and everyone else within hearing distance, that it is "scandalous" the way the French government is neglecting the ancient structure.

“Chase the otter” seemed to be the game of the day.  

Enjoy!

… and remember

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“The Golden Girls” in France and Italy: Day 1-4 Uzes, France

So it begins…

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Following the adventures of the Golden Girls on the whirlwind tour of France and Italy is going to be a challenge. We are 3 crazy, fearless women who have more energy and curiosity than we should at this age.

Day 1-4

After missing the flight to Marseilles from Paris due to an airline strike, my two guests from the Carolinas arrived in Uzes a day late and dead tired. Showing them the 55 steps to climb to my apartment in the tower was not the best way to welcome them, but the excitement of it all gave them the adrenaline they needed to get to the top.
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The guest room was ready and waiting, along with the view — the home of the Duke of Uzes.
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After a night’s rest they were ready to take in the sights and meet some of the locals in my new “hometown”, Uzes.

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The shops along the plazas
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Hen party at Le Provençal
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Meeting Nicholas and the roaming musicians.

20140527-184827.jpgAnd of course, Geoffrey who helps chart our course with cool things to do along the way.

Saturday Market
No visit to Uzes is complete without a visit to the Saturday Market. If you’re planning to come this way, be sure to plan to be here on Saturday. It’s the reason I fell in love with this place. It’s still one of my favorite ways to spend a day.

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A Golden Girl’s View of Uzes
One of the best parts of entertaining friends new to Uzes is to see their reaction to the surroundings. Photos below are borrowed from each of my friends.

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Hints for Visiting Uzes
When to visit
The best time of year to visit Uzes is spring and fall. In the summer months the weather is very warm–especially late July through August. Also, there are crowds of tourists.

If planning a trip, try to arrange to be in Uzes for the Saturday Market. If that’s not possible, Wednesday Market is a “farmers market” only, but festive and colorful. The town pretty much shuts down on Mondays.

How to get to Uzes
There are a number of ways to get to Uzes by air and train. If you are arriving from the US, fly into Paris, London, or Barcelona. Check on the best fares.

From each of these cities, I suggest you board a train to Nimes or Avignon, France. There are flights to Marseilles, Nimes and Avignon, but schedules are often interrupted by airline strikes. If not a strike, the “add-on” charges for luggage, etc. can be extravagant (ie, Ryan Air).

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

Stay tuned. On the road with Mustang Sally,

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Adventures of The Golden Girls: France and Italy in 20 Days

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When expats told me living in France draws lots of visitors, I had no idea how true it is. Since returning to Uzes in April, friends have come to see me that I haven’t seen in years…and I love it!

After a two–day visit with a friend I met on a trip to China, two of my long-time buddies from work days in North Carolina found their way to Uzes. Their visit was delayed a day due to an airline strike in Paris, nevertheless, they showed up raring to start our “Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy. ”

How could I resist?

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Besides the chance to see unfamiliar parts of France and Italy, the prospect of fun and lessons for traveling with “mature ladies” had me anxious to go. The stories I can share, I will in this and upcoming blogs. The others I’ll save for my “tell all” book.

Itinerary
Day 1-4 Uzes
Day 5 Pont du Gard and Avignon
Day 6-7 Sete, Bezier and Bouzigues
Day 8-9 Pont Vendres and Collioure, France to Pisa, Italy
Day 10-12 Florence, Italy and surroundings
Day 13-16 Rome and surroundings
Day 17-20 Akiris Nova Siri, Italy (a resort along the “arch of Italy’s boot”)

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Stay tuned!

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Nimes Arena: The Great Roman Games

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Imagine revisiting the Roman Games of Augustus Caesar’s time. Now place yourself in the very spot where the “games” were actually held. Then add the fanfare, color and a raving crowd. Such just happened this weekend in the Arena in Nimes, France.

Battle reenactments are popular in the States. In fact, I’ve enjoyed going to a few while living near Washington, DC and Richmond. Our re-creations go back  to the battlefields of the American Revolution. Also to the mid-1800’s to revisit the “War Between the States” (or as Southerners say: “The War of Northern Aggression).

A chance to see over 400 actors from France, Germany and Italy relive the Roman games from 2000 years ago, was an event too good to miss.

The first Roman Emperor and founder of Nîmes, Emperor Augustus died in 14 AD — 2000 years ago. The re-enactment in Nimes commemorates his death and stages the Roman Games in Nimeevents that led to the accession of Augustus to the highest position in the Roman Empire — Emperor.

Fortunately my visitors from North Carolina were here to join in on the adventure.

The Venue

Nimes Arena

Arena in Nimes France

Imagine a Roman Arena — the best preserved in the world today. Now imagine gladiators, horses and chariots running through the halls and tunnels of the arena, then running out before the crowd in the amphitheater.

The Event

The reenactment honored the death of Augustus Caesar 2000 years ago. In a variety of scenes, it told the story — all in French — of the events that led up to the rise of Augustus, the first Roman Emperor and founder of Nîmes.

The program, with all its granduer, vividly demonstrated the passion and excitement of the times: Emperor’s parades, military parades, gladiatorial combats and chariot races.

The death of Julius Caesar and the reconstruction of the great Battle of Philippi were the final attractions.

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The Death of Julius Caesar
The Battle of Philippi

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Back to Modern Times

Meanwhile, back on main street, Nimes. The old and the new meld together seamlessly. 

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May in Uzes: Art, Food and Mustang Sally

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It’s officially tourist season in Uzes. By the first of May all of the shops that closed for winter are open. The town is becoming lively again with art shows and fun things to fill your day.

Last week I was off to visit Geoffrey to resume our “play dates” — yes, he’s back!

An advertising flyer for2014-04-30 13.12.03 the opening of an art expo was stuck to the front door of his house. Fortunately, I noticed it because the opening for the exhibit was that day. Instead of going to dinner, as planned, we made a quick decision to attend the expo. First, there would be plenty of food and wine and, second, we would meet some new and old friends.

Geoffrey's door Uzes If I havent’ told you before, Uzes is for artists and for those who love art of all kinds. With numerous “pop-up” art galleries, there are lots of exhibits.

Arriving at the Gallery Indigo, Geoffrey and I were among rooms full of guests — some were invited, others joined from off the street.  Various yummy things were being served, including a variety of pizzas in small bites, as well as seafood, cheese and sausages in puffed pastries. A choice of red, white and rose wines was waiting for guests to serve themselves.

Definitely not an art critic, yet I was … and still am intrigued by some of these paintings — especially the “portraits.”

(Please note: these photos were taken with my iPhone at the exhibition, but you will get the idea …)

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The faces are quite compelling. Perhaps it’s their innocence shown in unexpected guises that draws me in.

Also displayed were larger paintings with totally different themes.

Art in Uzes   The “Crevettes” is the title of one of the series of paintings, ie: “Shrimp”     2014-05-08 14.41.39

 

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And ceramics

Francois Mandin, 100Drine, Dom Labreuil, and Cecile Constantin are the artists.

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 Lunch at Le Provencal

One of my favorite places for lunch in Uzes is Le Provencal. The cafe is on the main street right across from the Cathedral.

My first visit to Le Provencal was the night of Beaujolais Nouveau. It seemed a bit “rough”. During tourist season and warmer weather when you can be served outside, it’s quite different. Definitely the best food I’ve eaten in town. In fact, I’m seriously considering having the “plat du jour” several times a week to treat myself … and to economize. A fabulous meal with fresh, local ingredients is prepared and served at a price that can’t be beat. It’s really less expensive, and much more fun, than grocery shopping and cooking.

Even the four-legged guests are charming.

Chein

My new devotion comes from my special treatment from Alex and Fabien who work at Le Provencal.

One day when I met Geoffrey and his new friend, Annabelle, for lunch at Le Provencal,  I drove Mustang Sally and parked her across the street.

Sally had just been picked up from her winter parking place and she needed gas. In fact, she needed a bath, too. So after her bath and when I was ready to fill her tank at Carrefour’s gas pump, I found the key for the gas lid wouldn’t work. Or at least it wouldn’t work for me.

Not wanting to break the key in the lock, I called Geoffrey — of course. He invited me to stop by Le Provencal for him to inspect the key to make sure it was the right one and to join them for dessert.

No quicker than I had dipped my spoon into the heavenly île flottante (floating island – see below), Alex and Fabien were yelling: “Geoffrey, the police are ticketing your car!” (in French.)

With that, they both left the restaurant and the tables they were waiting, and ran towards the police beside Mustang Sally. I jumped up and joined them to plead mercy with the gendarmes.

Fortunately the officers were merciful and I drove Sally away without a ticket.

Here’s what I missed!

île flottante

île flottante

… and on the opposite side of the table..a French take on Apple Pie … apples and cinnamon ice cream on a thin pastry.

French apple pie dessert

French apple pie dessert

 

Mustang Sally gets a make-over

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Uzès to Nice: Nice!

Traveling by train from Uzès to Nice for the weekend was too much of a good thing to pass up. If the chance to visit with friends wasn’t enough, the low-cost train fare made the trip a “must.”

A friend from North Carolina was accompanying her daughter to Nice to enjoy some “together time” before the daughter, Jacqueline, signed into classes in London. Jacqueline is completing her freshman year abroad from Florida State University after spending the first part of the year in Florence.

Jacqueline’s older sister visited me in Uzes in the fall while on break from her study-abroad program in Copenhagen from Tulane. We had so much fun that I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to “play” with Jacqueline and her mother on the Rivera. (See post)

Uzès to Nice: Low- cost train fare

Now that I’m planning to travel a lot by train in Europe, I’m glad to have found out about the “senior” rail pass. The discount on the fare from Avignon to Nice was incredible — 75 Euros roundtrip, first class.

With “Mustang Sally” now at my disposal, I drove to Avignon and parked her with her 4-wheeled friends at the train station. Even with paying for parking, the transportation cost was less than if I taken Sally and paid for gas.  Uzès to Nice

On the train to Nice

This blog posting was started on the way from Avignon to Nice on the TGV train.  Join me as I experience the comfortable ride in the first-class coach. Fortunately, there’s no one beside or across from me. The table for four and the seats are empty so that I can stretch out as much as I please. 

We are skirting along the Mediterranean from Marseilles to Nice, getting glimpses of the beaches and coastline villas.

It’s a blue-sky sunny day with only a few clouds.

From one side of the train you see sunbathers stretched out on mats and lounge chairs on the beaches. The temperature is in the high 60s.

The view from the left windows reveals town people walking busily down the streets wearing leather jackets.

Marseille. Toulon. Sainte Maxime.

Stretches of low forests with cedars, olive trees and pines are interrupted by occasional towns. Beaches appear from nowhere as the train speeds along.

The sea draws closer to the tracks. It darts away again.

Yacht coves appear below rocky cliffs

Cannes. Antibes.

Train stations with familiar names click by alerting passengers that Nice is ahead.

High-rise condos and apartment buildings are beginning to crowd together on the hills to the left of the train tracks. More are packed together towards the sea.

Old and new, unkept and clean; the contrast of tan, yellow, reddish-brown and, occasionally, green stucco and concrete structures seem to blend together in perfect harmony.

 

Uzès to Nice

Uzès to Nice

 

Arriving in Nice

This is the Real Deal: The French Rivera

Uzès to Nice

 

Today the Beach… tomorrow the town!

Uzès to Nice

More about Nice:

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

Nice is Nice. Marc Chagall Makes It Nicer

Heading for a Beach in France? Nice!

Up, Up and Away

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Saying farewell to family and friends in the US for the next chapter of “single living in France.”

It’s been almost four months since I left my adopted home in France. As excited as I was to get to the States for the holidays and the birth of a grandchild, I’m anxious to get back to the next chapter in my new life in France. This time, I promise, I’m learning French!

Today is travel day from Atlanta to London. I’ll arrive tomorrow in the early morning and head straight for my stay in a B@B booked through Airbnb. It looks like a great apartment in Earls Court, close to Kensington Palace and the V&A Museum.

During my 4-day stay in London, I’m meeting up with the friend who rented my apartment in Uzes while I was gone, as well as spending a day with my Godchild. Of course, I’ve planned a day for visiting Buckingham Palace to check out memorabilia for the birth of baby Edward. I’m such an Anglophile!

Packing for the return journey

If I could get everything I want to bring back to France in my suitcase, that would be great…and wishful thinking. Yes, I packed the one checked bag to the 50 pound limit. Then I have a carry-on which had to be re-packed at check-in. They don’t allow a bag that has a bulge. Obviously the lady at the Air Canada counter doesn’t travel!

Then there are four (4) cardboard cartons that are being shipped. Yes! I do need all those clothes, cosmetics and office supplies. I’ve compared prices in France and some stuff is either too hard to find, or too expensive.

Could be I’m just spoiled.

So here I go. Back for more fun and adventure in France and beyond. I’m looking forward to taking you along!

Last meal in the US.

For my last meal in the States what American specialty Should I choose? Hotdogs from Atlanta’s famous Varsity Restaurant? Mexican from El Tacos? Lettuce wraps from Pei Wei asian? or Fried chicken and waffles from Pecans & Such?

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Asian wins!! Lettuce wraps, vegetable roll and Tsing Tao beer!

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Bon voyage!

On the Road Again

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Time to think seriously about getting back to France.

A bout with shingles, the birth of a first grand-baby, and a bunch of happenings that would make great stories to share have kept me quite busy the last few months. But since most of you joined the adventures of the Barefoot Blogger to travel and learn about France, my US tales will go on the back burner for now.

For the trip back to France, I’m wondering if life will be like I left it. I was fortunate to rent out my apartment to a friend who tried to keep me informed. Sadly for her, Geoffrey was not well during most of my leave and he spent much of the time in and out of hospital.

Surely there’s a story or two there just waiting for me to discover. I do know that a few chickens, ducks and rabbits now reside in his fenced garden.

I’m checking out airfares for the best deals. A flight through London might be the cheapest way to get there, then take a “pond jumper” to Nimes.

Besides, it’s time for a trip back to London. I’d like to drop by Buckingham Palace to give my congratulations to the Queen. Now that we’re both new grandmothers, we have a lot to chat about.

A lineup of friends are heading to visit in Uzes starting in early May. I can’t wait to show them around and to do more exploring myself. So much to do! So much to see!

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A Visit from France: Getting Back Home

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Two days is never enough time to spend in Paris. Perhaps I tried to squeeze too much into my senses, because my brain definitely went into overload.

All went perfectly as planned for my short visit to Paris. The only small mess-up happened when I realized the AIRBNB apartment I rented was on the sixth floor, with no elevator. As you’ll remember, Geoffrey came to the rescue when he summoned the cab driver to carry my two gy-normous suitcases up the stairs. He was talking on the cellphone in Uzes to the cabby at the airport in Paris.

Although I thought I would spend most of the daylight hours in Paris at the Louvre, I changed plans when I saw how close I was toorsay map the Musée d’Orsay. The museum is on the left bank of the Seine and is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built around 1898. Since I have suddenly become passionate about the Romantic era in France — especially since the blog about “BoBo” (Bourgeois Bohemian fashion) — the idea of spending my days among the famous art of the time seemed “heaven blessed.”

apartment in paris

  Sights along the way

A short walk from the apartment where I stayed for two nights, across the Place de la Concorde, took me straight to the Jardin des Tuileries and the bank of the Seine. The traffic and bustle of the Paris morning was drowned out by the beautiful scenery along the way. Fortunately, the weather was perfect for my slow stroll to the Musée d’Orsay. I wanted to take it all in — the smells, the people, the noise and the sights.

Motorcyclists speed to work, seemingly unaware of the city's sights.

Motorcyclists speed to work, seemingly unaware of the city’s sights.

A walk in the park

Even though I’ve been to Paris before, I’ve never seen it like this. On my own and with no real agenda, I was perfectly free to spend an hour or so taking photos, or to stop for an espresso in the park. Surely I’ve seen these statues before, but now they seem to have more meaning.

Who can help but wonder what was going through the artists head with this pose?

 Statue at Tuileries


Statue at Tuileries

Or this??

Jardin des Tuileries Statue

Jardin des Tuileries Statue

Paris

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Musee de Orsay

Musee de Orsay

Musee Orsay

Musee Orsay

Lunchtime at the Musée d’Orsay

Restaurant Musée d'Orsay

Restaurant Musée d’Orsay

The Musée d’Orsay is a “must see” whether you enjoy art, or not. Formerly an early 20th century train station, the museum holds the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art in the world. Its architecture heightens the drama of the building with soaring windows and steel beams.

 

A “living” museum, the Orsay is active with learning opportunities for people of all ages that are scheduled throughout the year along with concerts and rotating art exhibits.

For “foodies” like me, the museum had cafes and restaurants that range from casual to formal.The day I visited, I ventured all the way to the top of the building to the Musée d’Orsay Restaurant. The view and the food were magnificent.

There’s something about taking in a setting like this that makes traveling more fun for me. I can imagine dining with Royalty.

Truly, I have a champagne and caviar appetite on a “plat du jour” budget. 

Getting home

The rest of the Paris trip is chronicled in the Paris Lights post. The part you don’t know is what happened next. 

Remember the spiral staircase in the apartment building? Geoffrey may have saved the day when I arrived in Paris, arranging for the cabby to carry the bags up the six flights of steps. Now I was on my own.

No problem. My kind host at the AIRBNB apartment arranged for a cab with a driver who would come up for my bags. The cabby didn’t even mind that he was picking me up at 4am for a 7am flight out of Charles de Gaul. Case closed, done.

Not so fast …

The morning of my departure home came earlier than I wished. After walking for hours along the Champs Elysee, and after a nice dinner and after treating myself to a ride on the Paris “Loop”, it was a short night.P1020297

The morning alarm clock that rang at 3AM was most unwelcomed. Nevertheless, I scampered out of bed and readied myself for the long trip home — from Paris, through Frankfurt, to Atlanta.

P1020306

Just as scheduled, the cabby arrived, hustled my bags downstairs, and we were off to the airport. Since there was hardly traffic at 4AM, we made it to the Charles de Gaul at close to 4:30AM for my 7 o’clock flight.  Not only was there no traffic on the roads, there was hardly a soul at the airport.

A few people were huddled near the United Airlines desk ready, like me, to check baggage when the attendant arrived. I sat down to make myself as comfortable as possible.

4:30 AM…. 5 AM … 5:30 AM ….6AM

No attendant at the United Airlines desk.

By 6:30 a United person showed up and a short line formed. I was in the front.Morning at Charles de Gaulle

I should have known something was wrong all along, right? My flight was scheduled for 7am. I hadn’t checked my bags, no security, no gate stop. All that was going through my mind was that perhaps flights had been cancelled in and out of Paris.

The United attendant looked at the itinerary I handed her. It was printed straight off the United Airlines website. She looked at me, she looked at my luggage. Was she going to scold me for carrying too many bags?

Instead, she said: “you are at the wrong airline.” Then she continued, “Your flight is scheduled with Lufthansa.”

I’m not certain what sound came out of my mouth next, but I’m still hoping the attendant isn’t well-versed in English 4-letter words.

“But, I made the reservation with United!” I cried. “Where’s Lufthansa?” I murmured as I fled away in tears.

“Around that way,” the nice United lady directed as she pointed to the right.

hysterical ladyScreeching through the now-busy airport to the Lufthansa desk, I was met by a very strict-looking German lady. When I told her my mistake, she wasn’t phased.

“Too late”, she said in part German/part English.

“But, but …” I literally cried, although I knew I didn’t have a chance with her, nor with my situation.

I had been ready to leave Paris since 3AM in the morning. Now I wasn’t going to get home at all!

The new me

There was a time when this news would have sent me into orbit. Fortunately, my new “sensibility” to adventure set in.

This will make a great story!

I swear, I can’t make this stuff up!

Needless to say, I was fortunate to get a flight to Atlanta through New Happy airplaneYork, in spite of the holiday tourist surge. Better yet, the tale of my airport dilemma made a big hit with the flight attendant assigned to my coach section in the very back of the plane.

He supplied me with free drinks all the way.

Vintage christmas salt and pepper shaker

Confession: Homesick in France

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I’ve been trying to decide how to write that I got homesick and came home from France for a visit.

There! I just said it.

If you think I’m a “fearless traveler” who can take off in a moment’s notice and take on a life-changing journey, you’re right. If you think I’m too tough to be homesick for my friends and family during the holidays, you’ll be surprised at my last-minute decision. I returned to the US to spend Christmas with my boys.

A quick getaway

As you know, I had a delightful Thanksgiving in Uzes introducing new friends to the American holiday. Nevertheless, for the first time since moving to France, I found myself getting very homesick. The thought of spending another holiday away from home made me sad. The trip I planned to Paris would surely be a diversion, but my heart strings were still a bit “off tune”.

Fighting the urge to go back to the States and with the map of Europe spread out in front of me, I imagined traveling by train to various well-known places, jumping off the train for a few hours to take pictures of the city’s holiday decorations, then getting back on the train ’til the next stop. It sounded like fun, but perhaps it was an adventure I should save for the spring.

Two days before my scheduled trip to Paris, I decided I was going back to the States for Christmas. As impulsively as I had decided to move to France, I called my boys to tell them I was coming home for a visit. The plan was to board an airplane on my last day in Paris and head for Atlanta.

Even with the holiday scramble for tickets, the United airlines website produced a good fare and descent schedule on a flight from Paris through Frankfurt that would reunite me with my family in Atlanta in less than twelve hours. Instead of an overnight bag for the intended 2-day stay in Paris, my baggage swelled to two suitcases. They were filled with warm winter clothes, boots, and the few presents I could gather from France in my haste. Enough was packed for several months since, now that I was home, I would stick around Atlanta and the southeast until my first grandchild was born in late March.

Rescued … again

If you think a Barefoot Blogger story must have a tale of Geoffrey, you’ll be pleased to read on.

apartment in parisThe apartment I found in Paris turned out to be perfect. In an 18th century building between the Place de la Concorde and The Madeleine Church, it met my three demands for the short trip to Paris: 1) close to the Champs Elysee; 2) within walking distance of the Louvre; and 3) the price, with breakfast, was around US$125 per night. That would allow for at least one fancy dinner.

There was only one drawback to the charming apartment . It was on the sixth floor of the building … with no elevator.

 

The day I left for Paris, Geoffrey insisted on taking me to the train station in Nimes.

2014-02-15_14-47-55After helping me lug my bags onto the train, Geoffrey and I bid each other a teary farewell. I thought: “Now I’m on my own to find a new adventure.”

Not so.

By the time I arrived at the train station in Paris and hailed a cab, Geoffrey was ringing me on the cellphone. I motioned to the taxi driver to turn down the volume on the radio.

“S’il vous plaît”, I said in my very best French. I had learned quickly that the very large and burly African from Nigeria spoke no English,

On the phone Geoffrey was chirping with all the cheerfulness he could muster: “Hello daa-ling,” he chimed in his heavy British accent. “Have you arrived in Paris?”

“Why, yes, daw–ling” I replied. “In the cab on the way to the apartment,” I added. “Just not looking forward to that sixth floor climb.”

spiral staircaseThe moment the words came out of my mouth I literally gasped. Geoffrey must have heard the sound through the phone.

“How am I going to get these bags all the way up those steps to the apartment?” I cried to him. Dreading the thought of being dumped off on the sidewalk. “I totally forgot!” I added.

Without hesitation, Geoffrey ordered, “Hand the phone to the driver. I want to speak with him.”

Obediently, I tapped the cab driver on the shoulder and handed him the phone with Geoffrey on the other end of the line.

In less time than I could offer up a quick plea to heaven, the driver handed back the phone.

“No problem, daa-ling,” said Geoffrey, “it’s all arranged”, he confirmed most assuredly.

He had done it again.

The cabby drove up to the apartment building on the busy street — right up onto the sidewalk. He quickly opened the door to the cab for me to jump out. He then hurried to the rear of the taxi and unloaded the two large bags from the trunk.

As he rolled both bags through the security gate and lifted them through the entry door of the apartment building, I stood back to watch as he assessed the climb ahead. With seemingly no effort, he grabbed the suitcase handles and carried both bags onto the wide, spiral staircase, up six tall flights of stairs, and into the front door of the apartment: my home-away-from-home for the next two nights.

Giving him a nice tip and a big hug, I wished the big, burly, STRONG man from Nigeria a “Joyeux Noël”. He would never know that his act of kindness started off my holiday in the very best way.

Stay tuned … the unexpected layover

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