Category: Around France

On the Road Again

Follow on Bloglovin
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!

20140407-221913.jpg

A Visit from France: Getting Back Home

Follow on Bloglovin

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

P1020037

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

Follow on Bloglovin

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

5 Eco Tips I Learned in France

One of the main reasons I moved to France was to experience the French way of life. What I’ve learned so far has given me eco-friendly, economical and sure-fire ways to solve some vexing problems … like how to:

1. Treat cold sores

french way of life

Medicine man

Remember hearing about the “medicine man” that roamed through cities and towns hawking a “miracle cure”? He sometimes called the unknown potion “snake oil” or some other mysterious name. I think I know what that miracle potion might have been… lavender oil.

Honest!

Right after I arrived in France, a cold sore appeared on my lip. I wasn’t surprised since I get them often when I’m tired and/or stressed, or if I’m getting the least bit sick. When I complained about the sore to a new friend, she suggested I put a drop or two of lavender oil on the sore spot. She told me to repeat this routine several times that day.

I’m not kidding. The next day the cold sore was gone! A miracle! Actually, it’s the French way of life.

2. Soothe/heal grease burns

Close to the time that I learned about the healing powers of lavender oil, I stuck my finger into a pan with hot oil. No, I’m not a masochist. I just wanted to see if the olive oil I’d put into a frying pan was warming up. You see, I haven’t used a gas-top stove in years … and … I wasn’t thinking! As soon as it registered in my pea-brain that I had scalded the tip of my finger,

I screamed.

Then I ran to the medicine cabinet to get the tiny bottle of lavender oil. Within seconds of putting lavender oil on the burn, the stinging stopped. What’s more, a blister never formed on the burned spot. I didn’t have to suffer more than a few minutes for the obvious stupidity of sticking a finger in a pan of hot oil. Another miracle! The French way of life.

3. Clean and protect wood furniture

Moving into an unfurnished apartment, I set out to decorate the rooms as comfortably … and inexpensively … as possible. I headed to the brocante stores (antique/used furniture) around town to find what I needed.

french way of lifeHappily, I picked up some really good buys. The only problem was that the brocante dealers weren’t too sure whether all the furniture had been treated for tiny bugs that bore into wood. Since I seem to act first and think later, I charged ahead and bought the items … bugs and all.

I would deal with the wood munchers later.

When I researched how to rid furniture from insects,  I learned about the disinfectant qualities of lavender oil.  french way of life

I was told to mix up the special potion that contained lavender oil in a spray bottle and to apply it liberally all over each piece of furniture. It didn’t matter if the surface was wood or leather. That meant everything I brought into the apartment had to get a heavy dose of the miracle mixture — inside, outside, all around the tiniest corners.

Deep cleaning furniture isn’t my favorite way to spend a day, nevertheless, I recognized the necessity of the chore. So on the appointed day, I pulled out a big bucket, filled it with warm water, grabbed a few sponges, and covered my hands with rubber gloves.

First, I washed down each piece of furniture with a wet sponge — to get rid of the spiders, dust and other crud that came in with the furniture. Most of the pieces had been sitting in a warehouse-type store for months — maybe years.

Then I sprayed on the disinfectant solution. Here’s the formula for the potion that fills a spray bottle the size of a regular Windex bottle:

1/3 bottle olive oil

40 drops lavender oil

Fill rest of spray bottle with lemon juice

For the lemon juice, I used the concentrated version from a plastic squeeze bottle, diluted down with water to a “real lemon” strength.

Voila!

Not a sign of wood-boring insects in over 3 months. (No sawdust) I’ll repeat the treatment in another few months just in case

4. Prolong shelf-life of cheese

The answer to my long-time question about “how long does cheese last” was answered simply by visiting my friend, Claude, the cheese man.

french way of life

It only took a few trips to pick up my weekly selection of cheeses from Claude at his usual place at the Saturday market in Uzes to answer my concern about cheese.

For hard cheeses, you shave off the top that might look bad or moldy, and it’s good as new. These cheeses are aged, anyway.

It’s no big deal to shave them down a bit. 

The same for soft cheese. Cut off the parts that look dried out or off-colored. But you must also smell the cheese to see if it’s still fit to eat.

For fresh cheese, like goat milk cheese,  the shelf-life is very short. Eat it as soon as you get it… no more than 3 days later. Smell it first.

Keep your cheese in a closed container in the refrigerator. I use a rectangular Pyrex baking dish that has a tight-fitting lid. You can separate the “smelly” cheese from the other, if you like. I just keep them all together, but individually wrapped in the same shiny paper that Claude’ wrapped it in at his shop.

french way of life

Cheese selection from Claude at the Saturday Market, Uzes

 

5. Soften clothes/dryer

The water in Uzes is filled with calcium. Deposits form all over the glass shower stall and calcium stops up the tiny holes in the faucets. I didn’t realize the problem was so bad until hot water stopped coming out of my kitchen sink tap.

When I complained to the rental office about “no hot water in the kitchen”, the reply was “soak the spray head in vinegar”, or “buy a new one.”

I chose to buy a new one. Soaking the spray head in vinegar sounded like a process that my patience couldn’t bear.

It did, however spark my interest in the cleansing power of vinegar. 

Not long after this episode, I overheard someone talking about using vinegar when you shampoo your hair. It supposedly works like a cream rinse to soften the hair after soaking it too often in the calcium-rich water. All I could think about was walking around spelling like vinegar.

Later, I was told that vinegar is good for softening clothes. Just put 1/4 cup vinegar in the water when you’re washing the clothes.

french way of life

Now, I’ve never told you about my clothes washer. It’s brand new and it will wash the clothes and it will dry them. Unfortunately the instructions didn’t come in English so it took me a few uses to discover how to change the settings from “wash” to “dry”. In fact, I believe bunch of clothes were washed 5 times before I totally figured it out.

To make a long story short, when the clothes would come out of the dryer, they were stiff as a board. Even adding a softener and/or drying sheet didn’t seem to help. It was frustrating. Even worse, I have an aversion to softeners and drying sheets. I think they have too many chemicals and may be harmful to our health.

The next time I went to Carrefour, I picked up two giant bottles of vinegar.

Now I use it in the washing machine, when I wash dishes, and when cleaning the shower.

The clothes come out of the dryer softer than ever before, drinking glasses and silverware wash up spotlessly, and a water-vinegar solution shines up the glass shower door and faucets, almost like new. Thanks to the French way of life.

For more tips from France, stay tuned …

It’s A Blustery Day in France: Le Mistral

Follow on Bloglovin

When I was first considering the move to Uzes, France, a new friend mentioned the “wind” in the winter.

Since she chooses to return to her home in London each year from late September until April, I figured the “wind” was a convenient rational, rather than a real reason to leave. That was before I experienced the “wind” for myself. It is so prevalent and so powerful that it has a name: “Le Mistral.” Residents of Uzes have a saying about Le Mistral:

“It sometimes lasts only one or two days, frequently lasts several days, and sometimes lasts more than a week.”

Let me know if you can figure out that prediction. From my brief experience in this part of France where Le Mistral is prevalent, I’ve known it to last more than a week. Having lived next to the Atlantic Ocean, I would describe it as a strong ocean breeze during hurricane season. In France, the wind can be dry or wet, warm or cold, There are times when Le Mistral is so strong, you feel it will knock you off your feet, literally.

What is Le Mistral?

Piglet in a blustery windI know nothing about meteorology; however, I will paraphrase the description of the weather pattern during Le Mistral to say that it occurs when the flow of air from north to south creates a current of cold air that picks up speed through the foothills of the Alps and Cevennes. It then spills out into the Languedoc region of France, Provence, the Rhone Valley, and as far southeast as Sardinia and Corsica — sometimes as far as Africa. Wind speeds can reach more than 90 kilometers per hour.

Le Mistral winds generally blow from the north or northwest. At certain times, the airflow is channelled by the mountains through pre-alpine valleys and along the Cote de Azur so that it blows from east to west.mistral_map

Le Mistral that blows from the west brings air that is not so cold. It is generally followed by clear skies and warmer temperatures. This type of mistral usually blows for no more than one to three days. The mistral from the northeast, on the other hand, is very cold, sometimes bringing heavy snow to low altitudes in the winter. Le Mistral with these characteristics it is felt only in the west of Provence and as far as Montpellier — right where I live.

Mistral_wind1

Depending on the direction, the wind can bring weather conditions that quickly change from good to worse.

One Sunday I experienced a torrential rain storm that lasted all day. The rest of the week was rainy and cold.

Winnie and the wind

Summer winds

The good news about Le Mistral is that conditions brought about by the winter winds help make the year-round climate very desirable — 2700 to 2900 hours of sunshine a year. During the summer — mostly July — Le Mistral sweeps through the area around Provence and Uzes when the temperatures are particularly warm. It is caused by a flow of air from the north toward the east and it generally means sunny skies — even when the surrounding areas may be cloudy. The summer winds can clear the sky in less than two hours, blowing away dust and pollution, to make a cloudy day crystal clear.

Van Gogh’s Inspiration?

Among other artists who were inspired by both the beauty of the Provence region and the clarity of the air, Van Gogh seems to capture it all — and the wind. During my road trip to St. Reme last summer, I hadn’t experienced Le Mistral. So when visiting the asylum where he was self-imposed during his last days, I was impressed by the way this masterful artist mimicked the natural phenomena around him — the sunflowers, the starry night and more. (Here’s a link to the earlier blog)

Now that I have knowledge of Le Mistral, it is interesting to go back to look at the work of Van Gogh. The effect of Le Mistral on his paintings — the wind, the clear skies — is undeniable. In fact, I ran across a blog that describes Van Gogh’s art and temperament during that period of his life. (Click here to read the related post)

Wheat Field with Cypresses

760px-Wheat-Field-with-Cypresses-(1889)-Vincent-van-Gogh-Met

Starry Night, Van Gogh 1889

vincent-van-gogh-starry-night-oil 2

Rest Work, Van Gogh 1890 (Clear, calm sky)

restwork2

Le Mistral and tradition

Evidence of Le Mistral was found in archeological remains from as early as 400 BC. Ancient ruins in an area that is now Nice showed stone walls were erected the northwest side of fire pits to keep the wind from extinguishing the fire.

The construction of farmhouses, facing south, helped residents minimize the effects of Le Mistral. Roofing tiles and chimneys that distinguish the rural landscapes and towns have links to Le Mistral.Mostly facing south, town homes and buildings have small windows on the north side.

French farmhouse

Roof tiles France

Roofs are gently sloped with sturdy tiles to endure the winds and rain of Le Mistral.

(Visit this site to learn more about wind and architecture in the south of France.)

This early Provincial creche shows the shepherd boy holding his hat, fending off heavy winds.

450px-Santon_in_Mistral_Wind_Arles

Bell towers that hover over towns and villages in the path of Le Mistral were designed to filter the wind.

This particular bell tower is visible from my apartment terrace.

wind in the bell tower Uzes, France

More signs of Le Mistral

The day I went out to take pictures of the plane trees that line the roads near Uzes, the wind was ferocious. There were times when I had to hold onto the side of a tree trunk to keep my balance.

It’s pretty evident to me that these trees have seen their share of Le Mistral … from the bare limbs on one side of the tree…

Plane trees Uzes France

… to the abundance of foliage on one side.

Plane trees

Everything in sight seems to tilt with the wind, and grow that way.

Plane trees

Imagine the storms this tree has weathered.

Plane tree

300px-Wind-Beaten_Tree,_A

Revisiting the works of Van Gogh, I was amazed to see this familiar representation of Le Mistral. I am truly walking in his footsteps!

Van Gogh Lavender

2013-06-026Barefoot Blogger’s  own photo!

Le Mistral brings beautiful skyscapes

These are some of the amazing views around Uzes before, during and after Le Mistral. Photos were actually taken from the windows of my apartment. Perhaps bearing the wind is worth viewing how it brews up turmoil in the skies.

2013-09-30 07.18.58

.

2013-11-13 07.29.30

Even the birds know when Le Mistral is on its way.

2013-11-25 16.52.08

Uzes

Le Mistral

Summer days on the Mediterranean boast mainly clear skies.

2013-07-07 15.49.55

2013-07-05 18.58.39

On a lighter note, Marilyn Monroe, stationed at the neighborhood bar, seems to know when Le Mistral is in town.

2013-11-12 18.00.19

Plane trees

I mention these plantings along the roadways in France so much you might want to know more. Visit this blog for details.

French Fashion: Bobo Style

Now that I’m settled in France, I’m beginning to understand why I love it here. I’m a hopeless romantic.

It didn’t happen by accident that I live in a tower apartment. I’m a princess. Or at least, I always wanted to be one. If I had long hair, I’d wish to be Rapunzel, pining away in my tower prison, waiting on my prince to climb up the garden wall. Seriously, that will never happen. But living in the small town of Uzes, across from the palace of the Duke, it is pretty close to having my own castle. Better yet, if I walk only a few steps down the cobblestone street, I enter into a pure fantasy land where I am transported to the early 1800’s — the age of Romanticism — French fashion bobo style.

French Fashion Bobo Style: L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

There’s a little shop at the end of the road where I live named “L’Atelier des Ours“. You can’t miss the place because of the teddy bear outdoor decorations, and because there are usually crowds of tourists standing around the entrance taking photos.

french fashion bobo style

Bobo fashion in Uzes

When I first stepped inside the fairytale-like shop, L’Atelier des Ours, I immediately felt I’d walked into another world. First of all, there was literally “sand beneath your feet.” The floor of the entire first level of the shop was covered in several inches of pure white sand.

Second, the cozy store is filled with a vast collection of clothing, folk art and fond reminders of years ago — even centuries passed. Wherever you look, there are decorations and clothing items from an earlier age arranged in elegant, small vignettes.

Being a shopaholic, I’ve visited many stores attempting a “return to the past” theme. Never before have I experienced anything like this.

The “feeling” is achieved masterfully at L’Atelier des Ours, no doubt, because of the clever, topical store decorations, but also because of the artful selection of clothing and accessories — couture straight out of early 1800 France.

french fashion bobo style

Vignette at L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

Roses and time clocks from an earlier age

french fashion bobo style

Folk history and fantasy combine

french fashion bobo style

Romantic glimpses from an earlier time

French Fashion Bobo Style: How do you describe the look?

There is a certain style in the south of France that is best described as “provençal“. As I travel around other towns near Uzes, the provençal style of dress is scarcely visible.

It is alive and well in Uzes.

When I discovered how much I admired the look, I tried to discern why some of the avant garde, provençal clothing at other shops around Uzes was so different from the distinctive style found at L’Atelier des Ours.

That’s when I discovered “Bobo”.

Here’s an example the clothing at one shop in Uzes that sells popular French “provençal” clothing.

french fashion bobo style

One type of provençal fashion found in Uzes

 

Here’s a example of the style of clothing at L’Atelier des Ours

 

french fashion bobo style

Fashions at L’Atelier des Ours

What is ” Bobo”?

David Brooks, the NY Times columnist, wrote a book about “Bobos” in the year 2000. Brooks’ book, “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper-Class and How They Got There,” was subject of an interview with Gwen Ifill on NPR the year it was published. (Read the interview here)

Bottomline, Brooks describes “Bobos” as the cultural result of the “information age”. Quoting from his own review in the NY Times of his own book, Brooks says about Bobos: “These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemian. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos.”

According to Brooks, Bobos are identified by having “rebel attitudes and social-climbing attitudes all scrambled together.”

So what does Bobo have to do with fashion?

Bobo fashionistas are everywhere. You may describe the style as “bohemian”, but it’s not. It’s a higher grade of the 1960s “hippy” generation. Kate and Ashley Olsen probably would say they are Bobo. They’d probably enjoy shopping at L’Atelier des Ours. However, I would describe the true Bobo “look” as much more sophisticated than the Olsen twins’.

Personally, I like to think about Bobo as a look that was re-popularized in Paris at the beginning of this century. It is a true throwback to the early 19th century, with a uniqueness that makes it new. It’s a look that is flirty, yet puritan; dark, yet light; feminine, yet tight-laced; rich, yet peasant; fun; yet reserved; elegant, yet simple.

french fashion bobo style

This photo of Mary-Kate is from an article in the Huffington Post that labels her style as ” bag lady” or “homeless chic”. They even mention the moniker “Bobo Chic” for Olsen’s style.

Such is the fashion you find at L’Atelier des Ours and I understand that wealthy Parisian women flock to the store and to its store online.

Expensive? Well, yes!

You can imitate “Bobo” by layering and stacking on clothes you find at the thrift store or in the back of your closet. If you want to go for the “real” Bobo, it’s going to cost you, big time. For a special occasion, it’s tempting to splurge.

It’s tempting! And here’s why …

french fashion bobo style

 

french fashion bobo style

Ruffles and lace make Bobo irresistable

 

french fashion bobo style

Crochet lace and patterned wool make a Bobo statement

french fashion bobo style

Bobo is romance and fashion

french fashion bobo style

A store filled with visions of a romantic age

french fashion bobo style

Time travels backwards at L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

Bobo is simple. Bobo is elegant.

A teddy bear’s delight

french fashion bobo style

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to L’Atelier des Ours — translated, Teddy Bear Workshop. Be sure to stop and visit the store when you visit Uzes. It’s definitely a “must see”.

Meanwhile, visit L’Atelier des Ours on the web and Pinterest site. to see more.

french fashion bobo style

Visions of L’Atelier des Ours

Expat Moving Tips for France

Paris Night Lights

Follow on Bloglovin

I’ve always wanted to visit Paris or London for Christmas. The thought of either of those magnificent cities decked in holiday lighting is thrilling.

Since I’m only two hours away by fast train to Paris, I decided I’d check out the Paris lights at Christmas. London will have to wait for another year.

To find a place to stay, I turned to AIRBNB. If you haven’t used the AIRBNB website to find vacation rentals, you must. You can find just about any type of rental you could possible want — from an apartment to a whole house, to a sleeper sofa, to a berth in a sailboat — all around the world.

For my two-day visit,  I wanted a reasonably priced place that would be convenient to the Champs Elysees and to the Louvre. That ended up to be a private room in the home of an American ex-pat, her French husband and college-aged daughter. Their centuries old apartment is a stone’s throw from the Paris Loop (the giant ferris wheel), the Obelisque and the Tuileries Gardens. Everything I wanted to see was easily within walking distance, including the Eiffel Tower.

The only bad thing about my choice of apartments was that it was up six flights of stairs — no elevator. That was a feature I had read about on the AIRBNB listing, and when I booked it I wasn’t concerned. With 55 steps to climb everyday at my own place, I should be used to stairs.  It wasn’t until I had walked around Paris all day that I began to dread the spiral staircase each night.

A surprise on the Champs Elysees

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know the Champs Elysees is pretty fancy. It’s where all the “handsome men and dazzling ladies” hang out to shop and dine. So I was more than surprised to find a “Christmas Village” with hotdog and sausage vendors, beer and wine stands, and cotton candy peddlers all along the avenue. Not that I’m complaining, because I love junk food and “chaud vin” (warm wine); nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting it.

Nor was I expecting to see a real-life Santa in his sleigh streak across the sky.

A two-day visit to Paris is certainly not enough time to take in all the places I wanted to see. Yet it gave me a taste for the city that makes me want to return again soon.

Here are some of the night scenes Parisians and visitors are enjoying this holiday.

Christmas Market in Uzes, France

Christmas Market in Uzes is an annual event that residents and visitors eagerly await. It’s the time when everyone knows they can find favorite holiday foods and unique handmade gifts.

Mid-December Uzes stages a Christmas Market that no one wants to miss. In addition to food and wine tastings for the adults, children are treated to a day of free games and fun family time. This year’s event was blessed with sunny skies to make it even more special. Hopefully these photos will give you a sampling of the market atmosphere and Uzes surroundings you many want to visit the Christmas Market in Uzes at the town’s most magical time of year.

Christmas in Technicolor

Christmas in Uzes, France is candy-coated with sugarplums and bright colored packages. What better way to capture it than in technicolor?!

The Cathédrale Saint-Théodorit d’Uzès was the inspiration for these photos in technicolor of Christmas in Uzes, France. The day I visited the Cathedral, the sun was shining brightly through the stained glass windows, projecting colorful images against the stone walls. The reflections seemed a reminder that beauty exists everywhere around us. We just need to stop long enough to see it.

Stay tuned for more holiday stories and sights… meanwhile, enjoy!

Sunday Fetes in France: Wine Tasting and Pottery

Follow on Bloglovin

Living in France for a little over three months, I’m beginning to get into the rhythm of the weekly calendar.

Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days; Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are work days with all the stores and businesses open; on Sundays and Mondays the place shuts down. Streets are quiet and mostly empty. If you want a liter of milk, a loaf of bread, or a bottle of aspirin, you have to drive out of town to buy it.

Sundays during Christmastime are different. There are holiday events at churches, tastings at wine domains and in villages like San Quentin la Poterie.

Here are some highlights from a wine tasting at Domaine du Grand Chemin, a wine domaine near Arles, less than an hour’s drive from Uzes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Open house in San Quentin la Poterie; heaven-on-earth for pottery lovers like me.

So many choices. So many amazing artisans. Visiting one shop after another in this small village that’s dedicated to ceramic arts, it’s difficult to realize there is so much talent and variety in one place. This is a “must-see” for visitors to Uzes. This weekend all the shops were open with the artist present. There were many I had never been in before. As hard as it was for me, I walked away with only one small pot and six small coffee cups (tasse).

san Quentin la Poterie

Here’s a slide show for a better view some of my favorite ceramics and artists.

Party Over? Flamenco!

Follow on Bloglovin

Thanksgiving dinner with new friends from around Uzes may be a hard act to follow. Just leave it to Geoffrey.

As you’ve gathered by now, life around Geoffrey is never dull. Saturday morning, after Thanksgiving, he called to remind me I was invited to lunch.

“There’s an interesting group of people coming over, ” he said in his most inviting tone. Usually Geoffrey starts off our calls with “Bonjour” or something else in French — as if he forgets who he’s calling. This day he started right off in his British-flavored English. “And bring your camera.”

I hadn’t forgotten about lunch, I just didn’t know who was invited to join us. It’s always a different group of his friends and acquaintances. This day must be special if he asked me to bring my camera. He knows I like good stories for my blog.

Flamenco Guitars

Walking to Geoffrey’s from my apartment was no small chore this day. The wind was whirling and making the air colder than usual. There’s a wind current called the “Mistral” in this part of France. I’ll give you the details on another blog. It’s a story all by itself.

I bundled up in my new black wool coat and warm scarf, threw on my black and tan hat; then set off to walk the ten minute route to Geoffrey’s. Getting there just in time, I was introduced to a Scottish couple who were joining us, and I greeted Angus (the guitarist from Thanksgiving) and Nandine.

Then the fun began.

In walked the guitarists and the Flamenco dancer.

P1010244 Flamenco in Uzes Flamenco in Uzes

Watch in full screen to enjoy the video and music

Flamenco in France

If you, like me, wonder about Flamenco in France, its’ easy to explain. The distance between Uzes and Barcelona is like going east-to-west across the state of North Carolina. Music and traditions from Spain simply spill over into neighboring France. Being from the United States, I have to keep reminding myself how close these countries are to each other. The entire country of France is smaller than the state of Texas.

Gypsies did not invent flamenco as we know it, but they certainly played a significant role in its development.

Flamenco dates back to the sixteenth century as a folk art and culture that originated in the Andalusia provence of Spain. Passed on for generations, mostly through the oral history of the poor and oppressed, Flamenco gained public acceptance in the second half of the nineteenth century. The first “cafe cantante” opened in Seville, Spain in 1842. It’s appeal to all classes in society resulted in a rapid acceptance of the music and celebrities of Flamenco. Performers such as Ramon Montoya and Antonio Chacon are still revered today.

After a decline of Flamenco in the early twentieth century, it has found popularity throughout the world today. In the south of France, you’ll find Flamenco guitarists and singers on street corners and in concert halls. Impromptu “jam sessions” can occur anywhere artists meet — in cafes and bars. It’s a tradition that is welcomed and cursed in a town like Uzes. Performers range from talented professionals to beggars who play for tips.

 

Not Your Holiday? Celebrate Anyway!

Follow on Bloglovin

This season I’m learning a lesson from my new friends in France. If it’s not your holiday, celebrate anyway!

Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if, instead of fussing about what to call a holiday, we’d just celebrate it together? Spending Thanksgiving in Uzes this year showed me just how that might feel. As we stood around the kitchen in a circle, holding hands — just as my own family has done for years — we all had something in common. We were all thankful. No translations needed.

Prepping for the day

It’s not easy finding the ingredients for an American holiday meal in this part of France. Yes, we did have a turkey. It took a little doing, but we had one. And it was fresh… like in live.

The Turkey – Yep, one evening just before dark Geoffrey called and said “time to get the turkey.”  He picked me up in the blue van (which I’ve named the “Blue Devil”), and we took off down the road to pick out a live turkey.

Uzes

I wasn’t looking forward to the event. You see, Geoffrey told me that when we went to pick out a turkey, he would have to kill the turkey on the spot. It was a French law. The people at the fowl farm would then run the turkey through some kind of machine to take the feathers off. None of that sounded like anything I’d enjoy watching; however, I decided to go for the experience. Besides, Geoffrey says” “if you can’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it.”

I’m still thinking about that.

When we arrived at the poultry farm, it was much like a warehouse. All types of fowl were running around in very well maintained 2013-11-25 17.35.37cages and they had plenty of space, food and drink. I looked for the turkeys. None were to be seen. There were lots of chickens, geese and rabbits, but no turkeys.

I took a big sigh of relief, thinking we would stop by Carrefour for a nicely packaged chicken.

2013-11-25 17.34.02Just when we were getting ready to get back into the Blue Devil, a man came from behind us with a turkey in his hands. Ugh. He held her up for us to take a look, slammed her down on a scale big enough to weigh trucks, then threw her into a box. Geoffrey went off to “negotiate” the deal, then he put the box with the turkey in the back of the van and told me to “jump in”.

On the way back to Uzes Geoffrey explained to me why things didn’t go as I was told earlier. It seems there’s some “poultry edict” in France now that forbids live fowl from being killed at this type of facility. It has something to do with health requirements, I’m sure. So it was up to Geoffrey to kill the bird and de-feather it himself. I’ll just say, he wasn’t looking forward to it.2013-11-26 20.35.16

The Oysters

Shopping for oysters was left up to me. Or, better, it was left up to me to pick them up exactly where I was told to go — to Nimes and to Geoffrey’s favorite oyster man at the downtown market.

Geoffrey was going to spend the day “preparing” the turkey.

The market in Nimes is a colorful place. It’s on the ground floor of a multi-level shopping mall in a very fashionable part of town. The vendors are at the market until just after noon, six days a week. They sell mostly fresh food items, wine, olive oil and the like. You can buy oysters that are from Sete (the Mediterranean) and some from the Atlantic Ocean. The selection of seafood, meats, cheeses and prepared specialties — like tapenades and pastries — is huge.

2013-11-27 11.32.01

Sally and I started out early for the 40 minute drive. I brought along a little cart with wheels so that I could carry the oysters to the car. There was no time to do any other shopping so Sally and I returned soon to Uzes with two crates of oysters — eight dozen of the most beautiful, fat and juicy oysters you can imagine. And yes, I did sample a few from the nice oyster man.

2013-11-27 11.18.53

Cranberry sauce and pecans

2013-11-28 13.04.44The hardest items to find for the Thanksgiving menu were pecans and cranberry sauce. After searching through Carrefour for longer than you can imagine, I discovered them both. Guess where? You know the aisle in the grocery store where they keep all the “international” food. Should have looked there first, I guess.

Since they were “special” they were pricey. One package of pecans and one small jar of cranberry sauce cost more than US$12! (Perhaps you can tell how small the packages are from the set of keys nearby.)

The celebration

After all the planning, shopping and cooking — done almost completely by Geoffrey — it was time for Thanksgiving. Let me say no more. The pictures and video speak for themselves.

Recently Updated

Jammin’ with Angus

Click here to enjoy the “Thanksgiving in Uzes “sing-a-long”

The party goes on …. stay tuned

Give Thanks for New Friends Who Help Color Your World

Follow on Bloglovin

Thanksgiving has new meaning to me this year.  It’s not a holiday in France. Never mind,  I’m making it my personal day to give thanks to all the new people who have come into my world this year.

November road scene, Uzes

November road scene, Uzes

I drove out into the countryside near Uzes yesterday to take pictures of the Autumn views. As spectacular as it is, I couldn’t help comparing the colors and scenery of France with my Carolina home. Rather than getting all mope-y eyed and sad that I won’t be spending the holiday with my family and friends in the US, I thought about my new friends.

How lucky I am to have them in my life!

Pictured in this photo gallery are just a few of the many, many people I have “run into” in 2013. You’ve read about them in the posts of Barefoot Blogger. Some are destined to be lifelong friends. Others will be acquaintances.  Some are “people in the crowd” who allowed me to take their photograph. And others didn’t know they were in the sights of my lens.

Geoffrey is shown more than once. See if you can pick him out. His flamboyant style makes it hard to appreciate only one of his “many faces”. 

Stay tuned … Thanksgiving in France … Live turkey … Tomorrow I will be celebrating an American-style holiday dinner with my new friends in France. It will be a Thanksgiving to remember, for sure. Yet it will bring back memories of all those Thanksgivings in the past.

Uzes in November: A Two-Day Tour

My  first house guest came to visit recently. During her two-day stay, my college-aged friend and I visited some of my favorite spots around Uzes : Pont du Gard, San Quentin La Poterie and Nimes.

When I learned that my friend from North Carolina’s daughter wanted to visit Uzès in November as part of her break from college, I was thrilled. She is a student at Tulane and is studying a semester abroad in Copenhagen.

Imagine: A “20-something” wants to spend time with me!”

Through emails I learned my visitor wanted to plan her time around a market day — either on Wednesday or Saturday. Since she reads my blog and she knows how I rave about “markets” she wanted to see one for herself. Plans worked out that she would arrive in Nimes by train on Tuesday evening and return for the train on Thursday evening.

Perfect. 

The “agenda” we decided upon would give her a chance to go to the Wednesday market in Uzes, and then see Pont du Gard, shop a bit in San Quentin les Poterie and tour around the quaint pottery village. Then on Thursday we would see the sights in Nimes — remains of Roman civilization — before meeting the train in the evening.

Uzès in November: Day One

I was so excited about meeting my visitor at the train that I got to the station in downtown Nimes well ahead of time. The train was delayed but she arrived close to schedule at 7pm. When she stepped off the train to greet me she was more adorable than I remembered. The last time we saw each other was when she was in middle school.

After quick “hellos” and hugs, we took the elevator in the train station to the parking lot below. We hopped in Mustang Sally and took off for Uzes — a 40-minute drive along a very narrow, curvy, downhill road. The same route the Tour de France cyclist often travel.

First impressions of Uzes – When we entered the town of Uzes I deliberately drove slowly down the tree-lined street, around the tall cathedral and along the walled passage. I could tell my young friend was taking it all in. Before we got to the main street, I pulled Sally into the almost-empty underground parking lot. We walked up the steps, through the staircase that leads from the garage, and into the fresh air.

A short walk through a backstreet alley led us to the plaza of the Duche — Place de Duche.

“Oh my,” my friend blurted out as we rounded the corner; I knew the feeling. Seeing the Duche, the towers, and the ancient stone buildings for the first time is pretty amazing.

When we reached the apartment building and entered the massive entrance door, I led her up the fifty-five steps to my place and to her room for the next few days — decorated just in time for her visit. A room with a view.

Uzes in November

Knowing we would be returning to Uzes late, I’d planned a simple dinner, one of my favorite meals in France so far: Mont d’Or over boiled potatoes with a green salad. As hoped, she loved it and claimed Mont d’Or is” the best cheese I’ve ever eaten.”

Rise and shine – Not one to awaken early, I made an exception this day so that we could cram in as much sight-seeing  as possible.

Our first stop: a cafe for “petite dejuener”. After going by three of my favorite places,we learned that cafes around here don’t serve pastries with their coffee. It is, however, perfectly acceptable to bring in a bag with your own. (You can tell that eating out this time of day isn’t part of my routine.) Happily, we went to the boulangerie to choose from a decadent selection of fresh, hot bakery items. Our choice:  croissants — two chocolate, two almond. Then off for coffee and latte at the nearest cafe.

Uzes in November

Uzes in November

Wednesday Market

Market vendors and tourists are dwindling down in numbers with the cooler weather in Uzes.  Anyway, there was enough activity that my guest could picture the Place aux Herbes crowded with people and things to buy.

Shops were open that displayed the season’s new fashions. Wishing she had brought a bigger suitcase, my young friend found a linen, ruffled dress that she could easily stuff into her backpack.

Pont du Gard

The aqueduct built by the Romans to supply water to the early Gaelic city of Nimes was next on the tour.

On the 20-minute drive from Uzes to Pont du Gard, I became concerned about the weather. The sky was cloudy and the wind was ferocious at times. I was a bit concerned about our plan to walk through the expansive, open grounds at Pont du Gard, then across the long, open bridge that is part of the aqueduct.

My mind darted back to last summer when, crossing the Pont du Gard, my hat flew off and it almost went over the side.  It’s a long way down to the river and valley below. I didn’t want to be a “killjoy” but I related the hat story and added that the wind was blowing much harder now. My companion wasn’t worried at all. She had seen worse in Copenhagen. We forged ahead.

There’s a blog about Pont du Gard that I wrote this summer. It goes into detail about my feelings the first time I saw Pont du Gard. I really hoped it would have the same affect on others. I wondered how I would react seeing it again.

Uzes in November

Uzes in November

In the fall, with few visitors in the park, the view of Pont du Gard is still amazing.

San Quentin la Poterie

Right on schedule after a half day at Pont du Gard, there was plenty of time for sightseeing and shopping in the small village on the other side of Uzes known for its artists, pottery and laid-back atmosphere.

Uzes in November

San Quentin la Poterie

Uzes in November

Uzès in November: Day Two

We accomplished a lot in Day One of the two-day tour, including plenty of time to eat lunch at Pont du Gard, to sip lattes in a tiny cafe/reading shop in San Quentin la Poterie, and to enjoy “mashed cod and potato” pizza at “Pizza les Duche” when we returned to Uzes.

The next day was just as busy, filled with visiting more sites of the Roman occupation of Gard. A tour of Nimes.

Nimes

The city of approximately 150,000 citizens, is proudly called the City of Art and History. Its beginning starts over 2000 years ago with many sites dating back as early as 25 BC.

To include Nimes on a visit to Uzes is not only a must-see, it’s convenient. The train station is in the middle of the city — the closest around. Trains connect to Paris and the rest of France where you can get most anywhere in Europe. My house guest’s train to Marseilles, then onto Nice, was scheduled for early that evening, giving us time to leisurely walk around the historic town.

La Maison Carrée – To me this is the practical place to start the tour. The grand, majestic “forum” is in the middle of downtown.

A 20-minute movie plays constantly during the daytime at la Maison Carrée that presents the city and its history in 3-D. It seems a bit “hokey” because the scenes are intended to represent people and events 2000 years ago; however, it’s entertaining. I definitely enjoyed the film more this time than when I saw it last summer. Then there were lots of tourists and I had to sit on the theater steps.

Uzes in November

The Arena – Also known as the Coliseum, is one of the most spectacular places to see in Nimes.

It is one of the few remaining arenas from the Roman days and, reportedly, it is the most well-preserved. We both agree it is a more impressive landmark than the Coliseum in Rome. The park-like historic district where the arena sits in Nimes gives the giant structure the space it deserves. Even though it is in the center of town, there are no tall buildings around that hinder the view.

Ooops!   Ok, there was a slight interference with the view that day — a ferris wheel

Uzes in November

Just a reminder that Nimes is a lively, modern town. Uzes in November

Uzes in November

Our lunch stop in Nimes gave me a chance to introduce a local dish to my guest — moules and frites.

When I see mussels and fries offered on a street menu as the “plat du jour”, I go for it. To pay nine or ten euros, it’s a good value. Plus, it’s really tasty! Especially with an icy, cold glass of beer from the tap.

Uzes in November

Tour Magne – The Great Tower is at the highest spot in the city of Nimes and the only remaining remnant of the ancient wall built by Augustus near 15 BC.

Getting to the Tour Magne is a mission in itself. Standing tall above the beautiful Jarden de la Fontaine, the monument is reached only by climbing the stairways that lead to the top of the terraced garden. The views along the way are magnificent, even in late fall.

Uzes in November

By the time we reached the monument visitor hours had just ended. Just as well for me since I swore the last time I climbed the stairs of the tower would be … well … the last time. My energetic friend could have easily taken it on, but she assured me she wasn’t disappointed. To see Nimes from this height was quite enough.

Uzes in NovemberUzes in November

Missing the climb to the top of the Tower meant we had more time to relax, visit and see other parts of Nimes.

Uzes in November

It also meant we had time to take in one of the most interesting, amusing spots of all — the cafe near the train station. My guest agreed these out-of-the-way places and people you meet make France the place to spend as much time as possible.

          Uzes in November   Uzès in November: Farewell

The non-stop, three day visit to this part of the Gard in southern France was over.

Before leaving on the train, I heard my “20-something” friend proclaim: “I’ll be back … soon!”

For another view of Nimes visit this earlier blog post 

For another view of Pont du Gard visit this earlier post

For another view of San Quentin la Poterie visit this earlier post 

Life in France: More about Sheets

Follow on Bloglovin

Perhaps stories about bedding in France is too much about nothing. I wish it could be over and done with myself. It just goes on… and on.

Life in France: More Sheets

Claude the cheeseman

Saturday started out so well. Earlier than usual I was up and out to the weekend market. Claude, the cheese man presented me with a new cheese to sample. By noontime I had made all my purchases, including ruffled tops and loose-fitting linen pants on sale for 15 euros each! “Bo-Bo” style is “in”. (Watch for this in an upcoming BFBlog)

In the afternoon, Geoffrey called for his daily update on my whereabouts. He wanted to lead me, in his borrowed van, to visit his friend who was going to check out Sally’s latest malady — a skipping engine. I had discovered there might be a problem with Sally’s transmission during my ride back from Nimes on Thursday. With a trip planned to the train station this week to pick up my house guest, I didn’t want to take any chances with Sally breaking down.

Geoffrey and I met at his favorite cafe/bar, then took off for a “quick” stop at the nearby Monoprix store for … more sheets. I still needed bottom sheets for the guest room. Finding there was only one choice for bottom sheets for the odd-sized beds — i.e. top sheets to tuck in to fit — I resigned myself to paying 59 euros for the pair (approximately $80). Eyeing the purchase price with total amazement (as only a man can do!), Geoffrey led be back up the main street of town to pick up a gas can at his house.

Why a gas can?

For gas for the borrowed van he was driving, of course. Gas can in hand, we picked up Sally in her underground parking space and drove to the gas station for petrol. Then to the free parking lot behind the high school to find the borrowed van.

You want me to drive this? Really!

Arriving at the high school parking lot, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Among rows of “regular-looking” cars, vans and trucks was this …

Life in France: More Sheets

“You must be kidding! I shouted. “I’m not picking up anyone in this!”

Then I started to backtrack on my story about Sally’s problems.”Maybe the engine wasn’t skipping after all. Perhaps my foot slipped off the pedal.”

Geoffrey wasn’t falling for any of my new claims and insisted we continue with the plan to visit his friend for Sally’s checkup. It wasn’t until he started filling the gas tank that I saw the humor in it all. Did I mention his wardrobe choice for the day? AKA “disguise”?

A photo opportunity.

Promise, I don’t make this stuff up. It just happens. That’s why Geoffrey was put into my life here in France. He’s a book!

Life in France: More Sheets

Life in France: Sheets

Arriving at his friend Paschal’s house, outside Uzes, Geoffrey announced he hadn’t told anyone we were coming to visit. In fact, he said with a sly wink:

They might be in bed.

Without going into too much detail, Geoffrey explained the Saturday ritual for many people living in this part of France. They awaken early to go to the Saturday market, they shop, they drink, they eat a leisurely lunch. Then they go home to bed.

Great. Now I was committed to leaving Sally in the driveway and riding back to Uzes in THAT van. But wait! There’s Paschal heading our way

I couldn’t believe my good fortune. Even better, after giving Sally a spin around the neighborhood, Paschal said she was fine… “probably just dirty spark plugs.”

Paschal not only relieved my concern about Sally’s transmission, he fixed the window on the driver’s side of the car. It would go up and down. Or maybe it always worked? Can you believe I never tried to put the window down myself? I took Geoffrey’s word that it was broken. What was I thinking? All those times I wrenched my back opening the car door to pick up a ticket at the car park, I could have opened the window?

Best of all, Geoffrey and I had finished our mission with enough time for him to lead me to the warehouse store we’d visited. For sheets. Surely I could find flat sheets for less than $80! Always happy to oblige me, Geoffrey scooted off in the blue van and I took off in Sally, heading for the discount store. I had totally forgotten how to find it again.

In the sheet section of the store, Geoffrey witnessed for himself my confusion with bedding and sheets. He joined in on my search for top sheets to fit the 80×200 cm beds. The best we came up with was a pair of red sheets, sized 180×290 cm — obviously too big, but the smallest size available. Then we looked for pillowcases to match.

Why do you need pillowcases to match?” Geoffrey queried, proudly handing me packages with grey pillowcases.

Because I do“, I said, taking the red sheets out of his hands. “Now we need to find grey sheets.”

With that, I swear to you, I heard Geoffrey’s heels click as he turned around and headed for the front of the store.

Where are you going?” I asked.:

Geoffrey, in his most polite English, gentlemanly voice replied: “To catch a breath.

This, my friends, is the closest I’ve come to losing my composure in public in France. I continued chuckling all the way to the checkout counter to pay 30 euros ($40) for the pair of grey sheets.

Not a bad day afterall. A savings on sheets and a great story to boot.

Stay tuned: House tour…

The View at the Top

Follow on Bloglovin

There are some awesome views in the world that you can wake up to everyday. For me, this one ranks pretty high. Fate took me to the real estate office in Uzes to check out where I might live . With 55 steps to climb to my tower apartment, I’m still thankful and amazed I’m in France.

2013-11-09 09.24.542013-11-09 09.25.032013-11-09 09.24.39

Living modern in an ancient tower

Just because the walls are stone and the staircase is spiral and narrow doesn’t mean you have to live like a monk. When I moved into this apartment, I wanted to keep some of the “monastic” elements in tact. Would my love for bright colors — especially red and yellow —  be at odds with the look I was going for?

The building entrance

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

Located directly opposite the Palace of the Duchy of Uzes, the apartment building is only steps away from the village marketplace… and the town’s bell tower which rings every hour and half hour from 7 am until 10 pm. The short tower that appears to be below the bell is at the highest level of my apartment.UzesWalking from the the front of the apartment building down the street to the left leads to small shops and cafes.

UzesUzes


20130607-220223.jpg

On Saturdays and Wednesdays people are heading down this street to the open market.

Uzes20130608-204648.jpg

Taking the road to the right around the Palace leads to the town’s main street.

Uzes

Uzes

Uzes

A glimpse inside

Once you enter the apartment building on the ground floor, there is a handsome foyer that leads to the first floor apartments. (Yes, there are apartments on the ground floor, too.)

20130729-164920.jpgJust up the steps …

Then the fun begins. Take 20 steps on the spiral staircase to my apartment door.

2013-10-29 14.54.272013-11-03 10.07.48

… through the glass door and “welcome” chain to the entrance to the living room.

2013-11-10 15.24.42

Up more steps ….

2013-11-10 15.24.08

… to the tower.

2013-11-03 10.02.332013-11-03 10.02.46

2013-11-03 10.04.03

Inscribed with the date of the most recent renovation 2004

The guided tour – Part I

The Guest Room

2013-11-09 09.27.20

2013-11-09 09.22.59

2013-11-09 09.26.56

Original print by my friends and co-workers at Frameworks, London

Original print by my friends and co-workers at Frameworks, London

Pillow and lap blanket from two of my "best"!

Pillow and lap blanket from two of my “best”!

%d bloggers like this: