Category: Provence

Cooking Class in Marseille

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

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

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

Cooking Class in Marseille

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

Le Vieux Port Fish Market 

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

Cooking Class in Marseille

Fresh Market

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cooking Class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

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

Our Menu

Fish Soup (the base for Bouillabaisse)

Petits Farçis

Clafoutis aux Cerises with Raspberry Creme

Assorted Cheeses

Wine

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

How To Make the Perfect Aioli

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

A perfect day ended with the perfect meal.

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

Cooking Class in Marseille

Cooking class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

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

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

More about Marseille

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille is for Foodies

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

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

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

Marseille is for Foodies

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

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

Marseille is for Foodies

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

… Indian Food

… Columbian Food

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

Marseille is for Foodies

… “Little Istanbul”

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

Marseille is for Foodies

… Street Food

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

 

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

Marseille is for Foodies

… Bouillabaisse!

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

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

 

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

Marseille is for Foodies

 

Back to the main attraction — the bouillabaisse. 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseilles: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

 

 

Expat Moving Tips for France

A Travel Pro’s Favorite Places in Provence

A visit to Provence – one of the most visited areas in France – is the second post in the Barefoot Blogger travel series by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France.

Nancy has lived in the south of France for over 30 years so, I’d say, she knows her way around. When asked “what do you recommend when tourist want to visit Provence?” Nancy gave me her picks below. Now that I’ve visited with Nancy in Sete and we’ve taken a some really fun trips together, I’ve learned to take her advice. In fact, I’m convinced it’s really important to ask an expert to help with your plans. If you have limited time, a bit of sage advice will help you make the most of every day you’re traveling. You’ll see the places you’ve heard about as well as off-the-beaten-path sights you’ve only dreamed about. It’s the best way to sample French life like you’re a local. Need I say more?

Welcome to Provence!

From bustling, edgy Marseille to the red cliffs of Cassis, fragrant lavender fields of the Luberon, Aix-en-Provence’s colorful markets, wine and art … there’s something in Provence to please everyone. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite.

Visit Provence: Marseille

Founded in 600 BC, Marseille, France’s second largest city, is steeped in history and culture. A good way to start the day in Marseilles is to visit the Basilica of Notre Dame. Perched high above the harbour it offers breathtaking views of the Old Port and the Mediterranean. Those who brave the climb on foot no doubt work up an appetite. And that’s why bouillabaisse – Marseille’s famed dish –  was invented. It is almost ‘obligatoire’ with a traditional glass of pastis. There’s more to see so explore the Old Port and don’t miss the iconic MuCEM museum – one reason why Marseille has held the title ‘European Capital of Culture.’

 

Visit Provence: The Red Cliffs of Cassis

Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything,” said the Nobel poet Fredric Mistral. When visitors see the stunningly pretty Roman harbour it’s invariably love at first sight. Two natural monuments protect the town: Cap Canaille, that glows red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques (sheltered inlets) that can be admired on a short boat outing. It’s a joy to simply roam the streets, browse the museum, or enjoy fresh seafood with a glass of the local rosé wine.

Visit Provence: Bandol

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine… and there’s plenty of each in Bandol, where vineyards bask in 3,000  hours of sunshine a year! The resort itself – just a stone’s throw from Marseille and Cassis – is among the oldest and most popular on the coast.  Its sandy beaches lured the literary set long before the days of Brigitte Bardot and Saint Tropez. A cliff stroll, a vineyard tour and dining on fresh seafood – to which the fruity and racy rosé wines are a great accompaniment – is on everyone’s list.

Visit Provence: Chateauneuf du Pape

Red Wine…The distinguished red wines of Chateauneuf du Pape need no introduction. Masterclasses, food and wine pairing workshops  and wine tours of the historic chateaux and vineyards are “must do’s and can be  arranged. The vineyards in Chateauneuf du Pape are so cherished that a 1950s decree banned flying saucers from sailing over them! The tiny town itself is sheer magic. Take a walk up the hill to the ruins of the 14th century château  – ‘the Pope’s castle’ – and the reward is a view as far as Avignon and its Popes’ Palace. Hungry after that climb? There are many fine restaurants in town serving traditional French cuisine to complement the wines.

 

Visit Provence: Avignon

visit to ProvenceSur le Pont d’Avignon…Standing on the legendary bridge in Avignon provides a good view of Le Palais des Papes,’ (Popes’ Palace), the ancient ramparts and much more of this historic and cultural French city. There’s something for everyone here: museums and galleries; fine dining to please the most exacting palate; and plenty of shopping. During the Avignon Festival in July, live music and theatre fill every street, but the ‘hot ticket’ is a performance in the Popes’ Palace. As for the bridge, the angels inspired a poor shepherd, Benezet, to build it and, convinced of divine intervention, the town’s authorities canonised the shepherd. That’s the legend at least and a popular song was born.

 

Visit Provence: Arles

From Ancient Rome to Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso … Located on the banks of the Rhone River and known as the ‘gateway to the Camargue,’ Arles is one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in France. The ancient arena, amphitheatre and Roman baths top any visitor’s list, as well as a walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso. Talking of Van Gogh, a visit to nearby sunflower fields will brighten anyone’s day.

Visit Provence: The Luberon

Lavender Fields Forever ...The very best time to visit the Luberon is July, when the Valensole plateau is awash with lavender and the towns are alive with festivals celebrating everyone’s favourite flower! It’s a sight – and scent – to behold! There’s something here for foodies too –  from a range of small bistrots serving the “dish of the day” to the local delicacy “lavender honey.

Visit Provence: St Rémy de Provence

Here’s Van Gogh Again! Whilst we’re in the area, let’s not miss St. Rémy.  Pretty and picturesque, this pocket-size town offers much to do amid its narrow medieval alleyways, shady squares and wonderful architecture –  including museums, excellent restaurants, an annual donkey fair and the remains of nearby 2nd century b.c. Glanum. As for Van Gogh, his stay in St. Rémy inspired many masterpieces.

Visit Provence: Les Baux de Provence

“Ils Sont Beaux.” Set on a rocky plateau, magical Les Baux de Provence offers stunning views of Arles and the Camargue. It is a listed heritage site that has earned the accolade of ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’, amongst others. What it lacks in size it makes up for with art and cultural activities, one of which is the annual Carrières de Lumières – the most amazing light show we’ve ever seen.

Visit Provence: Aix-en-Provence

The City of Art and Lights. Beauty, culture and a rich historical heritage exemplify Aix-en-Provence, hometown of Paul Cézanne among other luminaries. Having taken leave of lavender fields and vineyards, here is the opportunity for some serious shopping, sightseeing, not to mention food tours and culinary workshops. . Follow in the footsteps of Cézanne, browse the museums or the famous farmers’ and flower markets or buy that designer outfit in one of the upscale boutiques.  There’s never enough time in Aix and you’ll never want to leave!

How’s that for a tour of Provence? What are you waiting for?  I can’t wait to see it all myself!

visit Provence

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

For information about Med cruise shore excursions 

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”

So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.

Les Plus Beaux Villages

There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.

The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.

In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.

So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!

Eguisheim

Riquewihr

Domme

La Roque-Gageac

Les Baux-de-Provence

Gordes

Lourmarin

Menerbes

Roussillon

Najac

Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.

If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!

 

Marseille, Resilient After All

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

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

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

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

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

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

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

Marseille’s Story

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

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

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

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

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

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

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

The Great Plague

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

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

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

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

Marseilles’ Story

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

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

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

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

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

Today’s French Lesson: “Parler de l’Amour”

It’s St. Valentine’s Day. What better time to learn French, the language of love?

In French class today at IS Aix-en-Provence we dove into a treasure chest of words and phrases the French use to express their feelings of love.

Would your heart go pitter-patter if your loved one called you “ma Puce” (my Flea)?

If someone said “avoir un cœur d’artichaut*” is it a compliment?

(*fall in love easily)

French the love language

I was surprised to be told that perfume tops the gift list for Saint Valentine’s Day in France, not a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Flowers are always good. Lingerie is even better –in red, of course.

Restaurants and cafes are packed for the occasion. Boulangeries are stacked with heart-shaped, chocolate-filled, cream-puffed, decadent delicacies of every description.

“Croyez-vous au coup de foudre?” Do you believe in love at first sight?

I do.

Click here for information on the French language school IS Aix-en-Provence

Learning French. Getting There.

It’s taken five years for the Barefoot Blogger to get to the point where she’s making progress in her new language. Now I’m learning French in Aix-en-Provence.

Learning French. What’s taken so long?

If you’ve been following the Barefoot Blogger, you’ve read at least six blog posts about “learning French,” starting with this one from 2013: “I’m Not Learning French.” There’s no real reason you should believe I’m serious now, is there?

Au contraire. Until now I’ve never “committed myself to a two-week, live-in, immersive French school experience.

Why now?

The big reason that I’m taking the leap to attend an immersion language school is that I might have a chance to be successful. The recent 10+ week experience in French hospitals gave me an intensive dose of listening to, learning and muttering French, live or die.

Seriously.

With practically no one around who spoke French during my hospital stay, it was critical that I pay attention and wrap my mind around the language: speaking and being heard. It all began to make sense to me. Now that I can utter a few intelligible sentences in French and I’m ready to build on it.

Learning French in Aix-en-Provence

A couple of years ago the language school IS Aix-en-Provence contacted me about their French school. My guess is that someone at the school read my blog and thought “if we can teach this 60-something American lady to speak French, we can teach anyone.”

After a few trys to schedule my visit, complicated by travel and other issues such as accidents, etc., we settled in on the first two weeks in February. It fit in between my move to a new apartment in Uzés and a trip back to the States.

The date suited my two good buddies in Uzés, too, so they volunteered to drive me to school to explore Aix-en-Provence. So off we went.

Learning French in Aix

Paula, Trish and me in Aix

Exploring Aix

Arriving in Aix the day before the start of classes, my friends and I filled our time with shopping, picture-taking and eating–our favorite pastimes, regardless of locale. The Hotel Le Concorde where we stayed was cheap and cheerful and within easy walking distance for it all.

Retail navigation

Since the purpose of our early arrival in Aix was to explore the town, we had no idea where when we started out. We resisted pulling out a map or GPS. It would be too “touristy.” Interestingly, before long, we were navigating around town by memory. We’d learned our way by recalling stores and shop windows we’d seen and visited.

Learning French in Aix-en-Provence

Dinner at Portofino, a restaurant in the Place Forum des Cardeurs, was memorable–especially the gigantic “bowl” of fresh Parmesan cheese where the chef mixed fresh pasta and herbs.

Learning French in Aix-en-provence

Sunday Market

One of the best things about visiting Aix on the weekend is the markets. We were too late arriving in town on Saturday to go before it closed. So on Sunday we headed to the food market near the Hôtel de Ville which was cheerful and bustling, in spite of the cold weather.

French school in Aix

French school in Aix

Learning French in Aix

What a wonderful way to start a new adventure!

Learning French in Aix

Aix-en-Provence in One Day

It’s surprising to me that when people come to Provence their tours are often so short. Traveling from the Côte d’ Azur to Marseilles, to Aix-en-Provence, to Montpelier, to St. Rémy, to the Luberon, to Avignon, and all the quaint villages in between is a pretty tall order.

One destination that seems to be on everyone’s travel list is Aix-en-Provence. Simply known as “Aix,” the city has a bit of everything that makes Provence special: history, art, amazing architecture and charming Provençal markets.

Aix in one day

What if you had only one day in Aix-en-Provence? That was our challenge when planning this year’s South of France Memories Tour.

Aix in One Day: The Market

Market days in Aix-en-Provence are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Our Memories Tour visited Aix on a Saturday. The market, as expected, was packed. Fortunately, the wide avenue that cuts through Aix, Le Cours Mirabeau, easily accommodates large crowds of tourists, vendors and traffic. It’s seen more than its share since the seventeenth century road was built where the medieval ramparts once lay.

Aix in one day

Food markets, flower stalls and vendors with traditional and new Provençal merchandise filled popular downtown streets and plazas.

Aix in one day

The day we visited, the area was more congested than usual due to road construction. Torn up streets are not uncommon in cities with a growing population like Aix. Whenever roads are ripped up for repair or expansion, often ancient ruins are unearthed. All construction work stops until special teams of archeologists come in to access the findings. After all, a Roman city once stood and prospered here two thousand years ago.

Aix in One Day: Cézanne

Aix in one day

A “must” for a one day visit to Aix-en-Provence is a stroll through town along the footsteps of Cézanne. Square metal medallions literally mark the way.

A two-hour tour along the marked path with our brilliant guide Jennifer gave us an overview of the life of Paul Cézanne: the places he frequented around town: his father’s millinery store, his favorite cafe; and the neighborhood where he lived.

Aix in one day

Cézanne’s work spanned more than forty years, from roughly 1860 to 1906. He produced more than 900 paintings and 400 watercolors, some which were never finished.

Picasso said of Cézanne, “he’s the father of us all.

Interestingly, there are only a few of Cézanne’s art works in Aix. Or anywhere else in France for that matter. Cézanne was rejected personally and artistically by the art communities in Paris and in Aix. Towards the end of his life he was “discovered” by the Germans and Americans. Most of his work can be found in the great museums and galleries in those countries.

Aix in one day

Obsessed with Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Cézanne painted the mountain near Aix more than eighty times.

Cézanne is said to have inspired cubism.

Aix in one day

Two hours is hardly enough to explore all the life of Cézanne in Aix, but it was a start. Another day, another reason to visit …

Aix in One Day: Tourist Train

As the Barefoot Blogger suggests for first-time visits to a city, a hop-on-hop-off bus or tour train is a great way to get an overview.

It’s an especially good idea in Aix where landmarks can be obscure and far away from each other.

Aix in one day

During our one day visit to Aix, Memories Tour co-leader Patricia Sands and I carved out time to do what we love most: shop, eat and drink! I must come back, indeed.

Aix in one day

South of France Memories Tour 2018

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

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

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

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

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

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

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

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

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

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

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

Memories Tour Interrupted

 

 

 

Aix in one day

French Light Show

Techno-Fabulous French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

If you haven’t seen a techno-fabulous French light show, you’re in for a treat. The French take lights and action to new dimensions: music, drama and imagination.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

A recent visit to Carrières de Lumières was my third experience with the digital, immersive events that are staged in a former bauxite mine outside the village Les Baux de Provence. This year’s exhibition is Picasso and the Spanish Masters” along with a pop culture show, “Flower Power”. Believe me, the photos don’t do justice to the real events.

First, let me set the stage. When you enter the Carrières de Luminères you think you are walking into a movie theatre. Except that it’s built into the side of a mountain. You can go directly into the theatre area or you can walk around the inside of the cavernous halls of the mine. I would suggest you do the latter sometime during your visit. Walls of bauxite surround you, almost as wide and high as you can see.

Once you enter the theatre area, be prepared to gasp. It’s ginormous! Every surface, except the floor, is a projection area. Art images are stretched across huge canvases of stone in front of you, behind you and around every corner. The experience is totally surreal.

French Light Show

Added to the impact, the colossal space is cool and mostly dark. Except for the light that reflects from the art, there is no lighting in the room. When the scenery changes, you stumble around in near-darkness until the next images appear. If fact, if you’re not sure of your footing, you might want to take a seat on the stone steps that are around in various places

Take along a sweater or wrap. It’s really cold inside. If you forget one, you can buy a fleece blanket at the admission office for €5. No kidding!

Before Carrières de Lumières

In 1821 French geologists discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux. During the 19th century there was a large demand for construction-worthy white stone. The mine in Les Baux prospered. Later with the advent of more modern building materials, the demand for stone fell and in 1935 the quarry closed.

The abandoned quarry was repurposed in the 1960s as a movie set by French filmmaker, Jean Cocteau. His movie, Le Testament d’Orphée (The Testament of Orpheus), featured an appearance by Picasso, of all people! as well as Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín. 

Carrières de Luminères took on its current form and purpose in 2012 with the digital audiovisual production Gauguin, Van Gogh, the Painters of Color.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Picasso and the Spanish Masters

“Picasso and the Spanish Masters”  is divided into two parts: one, to explore Picasso’s Spanish origins; and two, to show how Picasso, inspired by the masters, shattered traditional figurative art. Portraits and scenes of daily Spanish life painted by Goya, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, and Sorolla appear in the first part of the presentation. Picasso’s work dominates the second part of the show with a near-chronology of his life and art forms. Never before, and perhaps never again, will the public be shown such an emotion-filled demonstration of the life and works of Picasso. Through the images displayed on the massive walls, emphasized by a dramatic, musical sound track, we pass through history and the tumultuous life of one of the world’s greatest modern artists.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Pop Culture: Flower Power

Remember the psychedelic visuals, colors and music of the 60’s? The “Flower Power” exhibition that follows immediately after Picasso takes you back to the hippy generation. The bright and lively show is not only fun to watch, the tunes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beach Boys had me dancing in the dark.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

Important! The best time to visit Carrières de Lumières is in the morning. Drive towards the entrance to the historic town of Les Baux. Just follow the signs. If you arrive early, you’ll easily find a parking spot. If you’re late, it’ll be a nightmare.

The production is repeated throughout the day and lasts less than an hour. You can stay to watch as long as you’d like.

Practical Information: Open every day. 
January, March, November and December: 10h-18h 
April, May, June, September and October: 9h30-19h 
July and August: 9h30-19h30 
Last entry 1 hour before closing

Here are some images from this year’s show.

 

Scenes below are from Carrières de Lumières 2016 – Dreams of a Summer Night – Chagall 

Photos courtesy of mon fils, Pete Bine.

 

 

Wish for France

The Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

When visitors to the south of France put “wine tour” at the top of their list of things to do, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tour quickly comes to mind. The wine growing region that covers approximately 3,200 hectares (12.4 miles) of land in the Rhone valley is home to some of France’s most well known … and pricey wines.

Unless you know a lot about wine, you might be surprised to hear that “Châteauneuf-du-Pape” is not just a wine growing region. It’s also a historic “monument” as well as a town in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape “monument” is what is left of a fourteenth century chateau built under the auspices of Pope John XXII. Towering above the fields and vineyards of the region and visible for miles around, the chateau is among the last vestiges of the Roman Popes who ruled from nearby Avignon from 1309 until the Schism of 1378. “Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” translated “new castle of the Pope,” was built to be the summer home of the Popes.

The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small village with a few restaurants and lots of wine sellers. It reminds me of a wine smorgasbord. You can hop from one “degustion” to another.

Just outside the town center, there are dozens of wine producers devoted to making and selling their own special varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Farther out you’ll find private and “open to the public” wine domains with acres and acres of vineyards. Some new, some old. Some that have been handed down through centuries of vingerons, complete with ancient stone chateaus and wine caves.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Barefoot Blogger has visited Chateâuneuf-du-Pape to check out the wines on several occasions. The first was to see the territory by myself, next was with my cousin visiting from Arizona. The last time was to treat my visitor from North Carolina to her first wine tour in France. I called on my friend who’s considered to be one of the best guides in the area — Sophie Bergeron of Travel in Provence.

During the half day we spent with Sophie, I found out why she’d earned her good reputation. She knows her wine. From working in vineyards to selling wines, Sophie’s been in the business since she was a child. The no-nonsense tour guide educated and entertained us. The wine “lesson” was complete with charts and maps and wine tasting. Next we were off to the wineries.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Sophie’s choice of wineries to visit was brilliant– including one that appeared to “blessed” by the ancient chateau’s tower because of its proximity. How much fun to get  “up close and personal” with the winemaker and his crew.

To add to the perfect day, after our Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour, Sophie introduced us to one of her favorite restaurants that overlooked the valley, Verger des Papes

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Lunch with a view

A Perfect day, A Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

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For more information about Sophie Bergeron and Travel in Provence, visit the website.

If you would like to keep up with the day-by-day adventures of the Barefoot Blogger, join the conversation on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

 

A Photo Guide to the SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport

If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go.

This is a beginner’s level CDG train/airport guide that may help you navigate. As they say in France, “bonne chance.”

CDG Airport Photo Guide

“Gare” = Train

The first thing for non-French speakers to know when looking for a train station is the word for “train station”  in French. It’s  “GARE. ” If you plant that into your brain, you can read the signs.

Next you should know that SNCF and  TGV  train lines run out of the same station at the CDG airport. They go from there to almost anywhere in Europe. Those acronyms should also go on file in your head because you need to watch for them on the signs along the way.

International arrivals

 

CDG train/airport guide

A better map of CDG airport from the Internet

The most important thing for you to remember is that the train station (GARE) is in between Terminal 2 (A)(B)(C)(D)  and Terminal 2 (E)(F) 

CDG train/airport guide

GARE at CDG airport

Arriving Terminal 2  A-F

You have it made. Head for GARE on “Niveau 2”.

CDG train/airport guide

CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV

Arriving Terminal 1 or Terminal 3

If you arrive at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3,  you have to take the shuttle from “Aeroport CDG 1” at Terminal 3 to “Aeroport CDG 2-TGV (see below)

CDG train/airport guide

Shuttle from Terminal 1 and 3 to Terminal 2 and TGV at CDG Airport

From Terminal 3 this is one of the entrances to the shuttle. The sign is near a rack of baggage carts.

You have to go down an escalator here. (Hope you don’t have too many bags. I have no idea where there’s an elevator.)

 

CDG train/airport guideEntrance to the GARE shuttle from inside Terminal 2B

 

CDG Airport Photo Guide

After the Shuttle

When you exit the shuttle, signs for “Gare SNCF” will show you the way to the train station. This is a multi-level building. The station and trains are on the lower levels. See map of CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV above.

CDG train/airport guide

Take a left when you pass Paul’s 
If you have plenty of time and you’re hungry, stop and eat. There aren’t many choices for food beyond here.

 

CDG train/airport guide

When you round the corner from Paul’s you’ll see this huge board. Never mind it. Look for the nearest “down” elevator.

CDG train/airport guide

Downstairs looks like this.

CDG train/airport guide1

If you’ve made it here, you’re almost there!

Look for the Departure and Arrival signs that list destinations in France and Europe.  (Trains leave this same station for destination inside Paris, so be certain you’re looking at the correct sign.)

Have a seat and wait for 20 minutes until it’s time for your train. That’s when they post the platform where you board. If you don’t see the name of your destination right away, don’t worry. The train must be within 20 minutes of so from the terminal to show up on the board. 

If you miss your train, like I did, you’ll need to look for the SNCF information office. It’s on this floor and the entrance is well-marked. The information agents help with TGV, too. Be sure to grab a ticket when you walk in the door, or you’ll never be served. The line moves quicker than you think, so don’t take a ticket and walk out. 

BUY INSURANCE – It’s really cheap to purchase trip insurance when you make your original purchase, especially when you’re coming in from an international flight.

If you miss your train, you’ll get a full refund deposited into your bank. Unless you have lots of time at the station, don’t worry about getting a refund on the spot. The attendant at the information office will help you buy a new ticket and you can get a refund for the missed train from the insurance company later. Ask for a duplicate of your new ticket so that you can send it to the insurance company if they request it. You have five business days to file for a refund.

CDG train/airport guide

SNCF Information at CDDG

CDG Airport Photo Guide

How to find the right train car. 

Since I make every mistake possible, I’m going to assume you’re as uninformed as I am about trains and how to board them.

On the ticket pictured below I’ve circled the train car number and the seat number. VOITURE = CAR #         PLACE ASSISE =  SEAT #

“Depart” and “Arriv” are self-explanatory — except remember you’re on a 24 hour clock!

CDG train/airport guide

All that’s left to know is the platform where you meet the train. You find that out from the board inside the terminal about 20 minutes before the train’s arrival. (See above.)

Assuming you’ve found the correct platform, you’ll find electronic displays on the platform indicating where each car of the train will be located for boarding. You can use this chart to find the mark on the platform corresponding to the car you would like to board. Don’t hesitate to ask another passenger or railway agent for help. Even if the person doesn’t speak English, you can show them the “car” and “seat” number on your ticket and they’ll point the way.

CDG Airport Photo Guide

First class or second?

I like to pass on budget-conscious tips to others when I can. Having traveled in France by train, both first and second class, there are a few distinct differences: crowds, space, noise. Everytime I’ve traveled first class I’ve had a place that seats four all to myself. This time, on second class, all four seats were filled. There were also lots of children and babies.

If you can deal with these differences, the cost of second-class vs. first class is sometimes as much as half. They both arrived at the same place at the same time. 

CDG train/airport guide

Second class train car Paris to Avignon

Hope this has been helpful.   

For more information, this TGV post has more photos, videos and explanations.

Here’s a post with tips for safe traveling through CDG for 60+ travelers

Stay tuned for more adventures traveling in France! 

 

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

visit to Marseille

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

A recent weekend in Marseille turned my perception of the city inside out. Now I can’t wait to return.

I’ll admit, a weekend in Marseille was not at the top of my travel list. Even though it’s less than two hours away from Uzés. It’s surely because I’ve watched too many movies and TV shows about seaports and gangsters.The trips I made to Marseille to the warehouse district and to the airport didn’t help either.  The warehouse district is definitely not a place for tourists. The airport is sprawling, uninviting and confusing.

Thank goodness, I was invited to Marseille to celebrate the birthday of a friend from Uzès. That, plus the promise of a great bowl of bouillabaisse, was enough to weaken my resistance. 

Marseille: A stormy past

For any who visit Marseille, start your trip at the History Museum. The totally modern museum that’s within easy walking distance to Le Vieux Port represents the history of Marseille in 13 sequences.

At the History Museum you have a glimpse of the ancient town, formerly known as “Massalia.” As you wander through the sprawling museum, generations of life and events in and around the seaport town unfold. Exhibits tell of of times from the Phocean Greeks of Asia Minor who founded the colony, to the 21st century when Marseille was named “European Capital of Culture.”

 

weekend in Marseille

 

Through its history of fortune and misfortune, Marseille has maintained a unique character that thrives on its diversity. 

 

Your Weekend in Marseille

What’s to do in Marseille over a 3-day weekend? Plenty. Even in the rain.

Tourist Office – Go here first for maps, tours and informations

Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus – Take your initial tour of the city on a bus with multi-language narration. Hop on/off as you please.

History Museum of Marseille – A look back in time 

Notre Dame de la Garde – Climb the steep hill to the Cathedral and enjoy the neighborhood and gardens along the way. 

Maison Empereur – The oldest hardware store in France (since 1827) A HUGE store to ramble through and purchase tools, kitchenware, toys, and more.

Vieux Port – The old seaport of Marseille, now a center of tourist activity with shops, cafes, fishing boats, sea vessels and the site of the Norman Foster “Umbrella”. 

Gare Saint Charles – The train station in the center of town, also a historical monument site, with its magnificent stairway that leads to the city.

La Canebrière – Shop along the lively street for a the taste, look and sounds of Marseille and its diversity. 

La Panier – The oldest district of the city, now an arty, funky tourists’ favorite.

MUCEM – An amazingly striking piece of architecture on the former port pier. Exhibits were disappointing but a visit to the building and adjacent Fort Saint Nicholas are a must.

Hôtel de Ville – Just a walk by is fine, but don’t miss seeing the bust of Louis XIV above the door.

Les Goudes – Just out of town from the city of Marseille, this small village is packed over the weekend, but the coves and views of the calanques are worth the drive.

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

weekend in MarseilleVideo soundtrack by George Brassens. Among his visits to Marseille was this signing event at the bookstore “La Boîte à bouquins” at 1, rue de la Bibliothèque

 

 

 

 

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

After my first true visit to Marseille, I can’t say enough good things about the city. While I’m composing my thoughts for a post on the long weekend, I want to share some highlights: the doors and windows of Marseille.

Marseille, the second largest city in France, is one of those places where photographers are compelled to stop every few seconds to take a picture. When walking through the historic heart of Marseille, “Le Panier” district, I snapped photos at almost every corner. The artistic spirit of the area was electric. Paintings and graffiti on walls and buildings were expressions of the culture and the people. They were colorful, energetic, and eclectic. It was the doors and windows of Marseille and Le Panier, however, that made me melt.

These photos of Le Panier district help set the scene for the video of doors and windows shown below. Believe me, it’s only a small sample of the area and its creativity.

 

 

Enjoy this brief look at the doors and windows of Marseille.

Stay tuned for more: the views, the history and the food of the fabulous seaport city.

 

 

 

Only a few spaces are left for the “Memories You Promised Yourself” women’s tour. Please join best-selling author, Patricia Sands, and me for 12 days in September touring our favorite places in the south of France.

 

For tour details visit Absolutely Southern France.

van gogh's trail

On Van Gogh’s Trail

Now that I’ve seen the movie “Loving Van Gogh” — in French no less, with no subtitles — I’m remembering my first visit to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

I started my quest for Van Gogh’s trail in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence early on a beautiful, sunny morning. Temperatures were in the high 70’s and a light wind was blowing. Planned stops along the way to St. Rémy were the towns of Remoulins and Beaucaire.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Remoulins

I’m not certain why I chose to stop in Remoulins because I had done no research — just a spot on a map. Nevertheless, a cemetery along the way caught my eye while I was passing through the town. I’d been intrigued about French cemeteries since being here, so stopping in Remoulins gave me a chance to check one out. To me it’s interesting to find out how different cultures honor their deceased. In Remoulins, and other areas of Provence, bodies are buried above the ground in family plots. Most grave stones in this cemetery dated back many centuries. Many were adorned with elaborate porcelain flower displays and family memorabilia.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Beaucaire
Moving onto Beaucaire, the scenery definitely changed. The older part of town where tourist visit is centered around a busy canal. Marine traffic is active, mostly for pleasure boats, and cafes and restaurants cater to transients and locals. Some boat owners who tour the western Mediterranean in summer moor their vessels in Beaucaire in the winter.

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Finding the way
1  If you’re wondering how I find my way around, it is relatively easy. On this trip I had a Michelin Atlas of France. I know the main ways in and out if Uzes. So with a couple of stops at petrol stations along the way to ask directions, I got along fine. Note: Both petrol stations where I stopped had female attendants. Neither spoke English. I simple pointed where I was going on the map and they totally understood what I wanted. They gave me perfect directions. Not to be sexist, but a man giving directions would have described every landmark along the way. The females just drew straight lines from one turn to another. Simple.

Another guide for finding my way on the roadways is “roundabouts.”I’m not kidding, there are roundabouts every two miles or so along French roadways. That means there are frequent direction signs that point your way.

When you get into a city, there’s usually clearly marked signage to follow. If you don’t see your destination on the sign, just keep going straight. Soon there will be a sign that says: “Autres Direction” or “Toutes Direction.” Follow that sign. It will lead you to the right road.

If all else fails, ask a woman.

On Van Gogh’s Trail: St. Rémy de Provence

St. Rémy is advertised as the one place you must see if you want to experience Provence.

Nostradamus was born in SVan Gogh's Trailt. Rémy and Doctor Albert Schweitzer was “hospitalized” here in 1917-18 when he wrote The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization and Civilization and Ethics, part of his philosophical study of civilization.

Most importantly St. Rémy is where the artist, Van Gogh, lived from 1889-90 in the asylum at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean
Driving into St. Rémy, an almost “spiritual” feeling came over me. There was something different about the countryside . It felt like a movie set. The road into the city is lined with white-banded “plane” trees, like those leading out if Uzes. But they go on for miles and miles. Ancient stuccoed farm houses and buildings are close to the road with lush farmlands spreading deep behind them.

Van Gogh's Trail

The historic district of St. Rémy is set in a circle. I found a parking place in the public lot that was close to the entrance of town. After depositing the equivalent of $5 in the meter, I looked for the tourist office. Before I had gotten very far,  a menu special at a charming cafe caught my eye– salmon. I stopped for dejeuner.Van Gogh's Trail
Perfectly prepared salmon, risotto with tiny chunks of tomato and scallions, and a glass of rose.

I skipped the tourist office and took off to explore the shops. Of course.

Van Gogh's TrailInterestingly, I saw more Americans in St. Rémy than anywhere else I’ve traveled in this area. I’m sure its because they’ve read the publicity about St. Rémy being the “place to be” in Provence. They head there on day stops while cruising the Med. There’s definitely a distinctively high-class atmosphere in St. Rémy. Its appeal to the “rich and famous” is apparent throughout the shops and boutiques.

Some of the architecture even looks rich– more “French” than “provincial” or “Provençal.”

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Art and architecture
Walking around St. Rémy, there were so many times I reminded myself, “Van Gogh was here”, I could imagine how he was inspired. It inspired me.

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In the footsteps of Van Gogh

The creme de la creme of my day was a tour of Saint Paul-de-Mausolean, the monastery complex and asylum where Van Gogh was voluntarily committed from 1889-90. From here he produced two of his most notable works, “Starry nights” and his self-portrait. Taking the photos below, I was transported to Van Gogh’s day and time. I could imagine how he felt fortunate for all the beauty around him, in spite of his imprisonment. The entrance, the buildings, the inside, Van Gogh’s Garden, the chapel, the view!

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Van Gogh was released from the hospital at Saint Paul-de-Mausolean in May 1890 and left for Auvers-sur-Oise, near Paris. It is said he shot himself on 27 July 1890 and died two days later.

Fortunately his art lives on.

van gogh's trail

visit Orange, France

Three Very Good Reasons to Visit Orange, France

Not everyone who goes to Provence makes a stop in Orange, France. I’m not sure why because it’s not that far from popular places like Avignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Plus, it’s an extraordinary place to visit. 

I’ve been to visit Orange, France three times now. For three different reasons. The first visit was with my son when he came to Uzés to see me for the first time. It was literally a “drive by” to take photos of the Triumphal Arch and the Roman Theatre (Théâtre Antique) and to stop at Vaison-la-Romaine. Mon fils loves to go to as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible. He’s also a wonderful photographer, so most of the photos I’m sharing with you are his. The second visit to Orange was to attend the opera, Madame Butterfly, at the Théâtre Antique d’Orange. The third trip was for a meeting of Network Provence (women’s business group) that gave me another chance to explore the theatre and town.

Orange is a town of just over 30,000 only 20 kms (12.7 miles) away from Avignon. It was founded as a Roman city in 35 BC. Like Nimes, Orange was established by Roman soldiers who were awarded with land for their service. Also like Nimes, the town was a cultural center with impressive structures like the Roman theatre, built before 25 BC.

1) The Roman Theatre (Théâtre Antique d’Orange) is the first good reason to visit Orange, France

One of the best preserved theatres from Roman times, the Théâtre Antique was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. It still has its original stage wall which serves as the external wall. Once covered by an awning, the stage is now covered with glass. The theatre is has three tiers which can seat up to 9.000 spectators. The best seats are up front although none are what you would call comfortable. Hard as a rock, matter of fact.

visit Orange, France

 

visit Orange, France

2) The Opera is the second good reason to visit Orange, France

In 1869 the Théâtre Antique’s three tiers were restored so that the venue could rediscover its past,  hosting performances of the great Greco-Roman tragedies, as well as promoting French authors. Since 1971 the theatre has been home to one of France’s leading summer opera festivals, the “New Chorégies.

Last year I splurged to buy a ticket for “Madame Butterfly.” Seeing it in the magnificent amphitheatre was one of my most treasured memories of France. It’s well worth the cost to just be there.

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 3) The third very good reason to visit Orange, France is to see and experience the country’s biggest and most important sites of Gallo-Roman artifacts

Even if you’re not into history, you can’t help but be amazed by the ancient structures, including whole cities of Roman ruins that remain in and around Orange. In addition to the Théâtre Antique, a Roman Temple was discovered during the excavation of the amphitheatre. A Roman arch is a famous landmark in Orange and not far away are two Roman neighborhoods in Vaison-la-Romaine –Puymin and La Villasse.  Once part of the Roman city of Vasio, the neighborhoods span over two eight-hectare sites. While there can stroll along the paved streets where the Romans lived, worked and shopped. You can walk through the homes of the town’s wealthiest families. You can see what remains of the fountains and pools, the kitchen, the living areas and garden. You can witness the grand design of “Maison à la Tonnelle,” a 3000-m2 “mansion” built on 3 levels.

From the two neighborhoods, paths lead to a Roman theatre that was unearthed in 1912. Dating from the 1st century BC the theatre could seat 7000 people. Today it still serves as an event venue for theatre, chorales and dance. In the center of the Puymin site is the Théo Desplans Archaeological Museum. It contains a collection of more than 2000 everyday objects and decorative statues.

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Other reasons to visit Orange are the little shops and alleyways with all types of Frenchy things…

 It’s even more fun when you visit with a really good friend like Yetunde from Cook’n with Class who’ll show you the best places to eat.

Have you been to Orange? Tell me about it on a comment. What did you enjoy the most? 

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

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

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

A TALE OF TWO CITIES – by Nancy McGee

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

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

It’s simple.

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

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

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

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

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

 

Bouillabaisse in Marseille at Chez FonFon

 

Picpoul de Pinet

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

For information on train schedules from Barcelona to Sete click here

 

 

Mapping Barcelona to Sete

 

Seeing the South of France by train from Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

All Aboard for Carcassonne

7 Reasons to Visit Sete This Year 

How Can One Fine Day Go So Terribly Wrong?


When I look back at the horror that ended the day, July 14th, it’s almost impossible to believe it started off so well. 

July 14th isn’t just any day in France. It’s French National Day. The country celebrates its special holiday with festive events, family gatherings and oodles of fireworks. This year I traveled out of Uzes to Caromb to visit with friends and to see what we could see of the Tour de France. Caromb is only a short distance away from Mount Ventoux, the twelfth stage of the 2016 race.

Mount Ventoux viewed from Caromb

Mount Ventoux viewed from Caromb

The day started out better than we could have ever expected. Mistral winds were blowing briskly so the skies were sparkling blue and the temperature was pleasant for mid-July. With a bit of time to spare before the cyclists were to reach our viewing spot, we stopped the car and walked through the hilltop village of Crillon-le-Brave.

Parking for Tour de France

Parking for Tour de France

Then we were off to find a parking spot near where the race fans were gathering. What luck! A car that was parked only a few steps away from the crowd pulled out of  the most perfect place — albeit on a curb. “The French park anywhere they please,” we joked. “So will we!”

 

When the cyclists were near, a parade of cars — all painted with sponsor’s colors and logos  — appeared first. Then, in what seemed like an instant, the bikers passed en mass.  Over the next few minutes, cars with dozens of bikes perched on racks on top whizzed by.

What fun!

IMG_4783After our quick glimpse of the Tour de France, we returned to Caromb where our friend, Carola, and her new puppy, Fan Fan, were waiting to hear all about our adventure. Carola informed us that she had heard on the radio that the Tour de France leader had been involved in a freak accident. He had lost his bike in the crash and had run in his cleats to win the race. It was an unfortunate turn of events, for sure, but not enough to steal the “buzz” from our wonderful day.

When evening came, we tried out the new restaurant in town then we walked home. On the way we all remarked about the peaceful glow of the moon over the village.

 

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Mount Ventoux viewed from Caromb

Who could have dreamt the moon was shining on a different scene unfolding.

Prayers for Nice. Prayers for France. Prayers for the World.

 

Pray for Nice. Pray for France. Pray for the World.

 

Fall … In Love With Provence

The Barefoot Blogger’s mid-week drive into Provence inspired some stunning photos to share. This time of year brings out my very favorite colors in the crayon box.

Fall in Provence

Fall in Provence

Plane trees along the drive into Provence

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Fall in Provence

Outside Lourmarin

 

 

Fall in Provence

Bonnieux

 

 

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Roussillon

 

Fall in Provence

 

 

Fall in Provence

 

Thanks to the friends who help color my world. 

Fall in Provence

Rich and Paula in Roussillon along with new Barefoot Blogger friend, Aggie.

Note: Most photos picture Roussillon

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36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence

If the Barefoot Blogger didn’t live so close to Provence, I’d stress about where to go and what to see if I had only 36 hours to visit.

Cousin Judy from Arizona spent two weeks with me this summer giving me a chance to figure out some new road trips from Uzes. Touring Provence was high on our priority list. When I got down to planning, 36 hours — spending two nights on the road — would give us time to enjoy each stop. Digging deeper into the plan, the trip began to take on a theme: “36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence: “wine” in the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, and “roses” at La Bastide “Rose”, home and boutique hotel of Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger.

Hope you enjoy following our trip!

Itinerary

Day One 

Morning tour of Avignon

Lunch and tour Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Two 

Morning touring St. Paul de Mausolee and the “trail of Van Gogh”

Lunch and shopping Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

Late afternoon Carrières de Lumières and wine tasting in Les Baux de Provence

Dinner and overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Three

 L’Isle sur la Sorgue Sunday Antique Market

Drive back to Uzes

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Day One 

Itinerary: Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Thor

To get anywhere from Uzes, you almost always have to go through Avignon or Nimes. For this jaunt into Provence, Avignon was the direction to take. Plus, it is a city I wanted Judy to see, even if only briefly.

Our travel plan for the first day was to visit Avignon in the morning then to have a late lunch in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We would wander through Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the town famous for wines, stop for a few tastings (degustions) and end up at La Bastide Rose where we were staying for two nights.

Avignon – Morning 

IMG_4073An early morning wakeup in Uzes got us to Avignon in time for our second cup of coffee. Since I had taken the tour of the Pope’s Palace on an earlier visit, we opted to stroll around the main tourist area, then take a mini-train to view the rest of the historic landmarks. The timing was perfect for us to get to the second stop of the day, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For a tour of the Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) add another 1 1/2 to 2 hours to your morning in Avignon.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape –  Lunchtime 

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Just over 30 minutes up the road from Avignon, the wine district of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was waiting for us. In English the name of the town and region means “Pope’s new chateau.” The once glorious chateau in the village, which was the summer home of Pope John XXII, the second of the popes who resided in Avignon, is now in ruins.

While part of our mission in Chateauneuf-du-Pape was to taste wine, we also wanted to see Chateau Des Fines Roches and have lunch on the terrace of the elegant hillside resort.  I wish I could say we enjoyed the meal as much as the scenery, but the food and service were disappointing. Perhaps it was a bad day for the chef and staff because I’d seen rather good reviews by others who have been there to stay and to dine. You should go there anyway… even if it’s for a cocktail. The view is amazing and the poolside dining spot is elegant, indeed.

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Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Afternoon Wine Tasting

Chateau Cabrieres

Chateau Cabrieres

After lunch it was on to wine tasting.  A little research reading online wine magazines definitely helped identify some of the world famous domaines to seek out.  If we could hit just one of the well-known places for “degustion” (a wine tasting), we would be happy.

The first place we stopped was Chateau Cabrieres.  The wines we tasted were very typical of the Côtes du Rhône region, filled with flavors of figs, cherries and berries. Quite nice.

IMG_4183Our second stop was at one of the domaines on our list — Paul Avil’s Clos des Pape. The centuries old domaine consistently ranked high in wine publications and, for example, they were Wine Spectator’s 2012 Top 100.  The tasting room was unassuming and the host was very friendly and helpful. Needless to say, the wine was superb!

Thor – La Bastide Rose  – Overnight

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Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House Press Secretary, Pierre Salinger

A friend told me about La Bastide Rose, a boutique hotel located centrally in the area of Provence we were planning to visit. The bastide is owned by Poppy Salinger-Le-Cesne, wife of the late Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John Kennedy. My friend also told me there was a museum on the property, filled with memorabilia from Salinger’s days in the White House.  Since I was a huge fan of the Kennedys and a journalist myself, I could think of nothing better than to visit Salinger’s home to learn about his life and career. Perhaps I would learn some secrets about the days of “Camelot.” Cousin Judy agreed that a stay at La Bastide Rose would be the crown jewel in our tour of Provence.

Pierre Salinger lived at La Bastide Rose with his family the last four years of his life. The private property, which is less than an hour from Avignon, is hidden away among groves of apple trees and acres of vineyards. The seventeenth century home and adjoining structure, converted from a paper mill,  is along a section of the Sorgue River.  At one time the property was a production facility for Italian marble objects.

The comfortably elegant estate includes an outdoor garden with massive contemporary sculptures and art pieces. Beside the garden is the river and a park-like island that is part of the property. Hammocks, swings, benches and sun chairs are arranged throughout the island where visitors can relax and hide out. The peaceful ambiance is complete with a waterfall that sends rippling sounds throughout the place.

Our first night at the bastide we enjoyed a light meal of tapas, served to us as we sat on the terrace. Then it was early to bed. Day two was going to be very busy.

Day Two

Itinerary: Saint- Remy,  Le Baux de Provence, La Bastide Rose.

Even though I had been to Saint-Remy, I was anxious to see it again. My last trip was in the springtime and I knew the surroundings would look much different in the summer. Of course, who can resist shopping and lunch in the beautiful town of Saint-Remy? In Les Baux de Provence we were headed straight to see the famous light show (Carrières de Lumières). A wine tasting at Cave Vignoble Sainte Berthe was conveniently nearby. Next, dinner and overnight at La Bastide Rose.

 St. Paul de Mausolee in Saint-Remy -Morning tour

St. Paul de Mausolee is the hospital-asylum where Van Gogh self-committed himself just prior to his death. The well-maintained site is faithfully preserved to remind visitors of the time when Van Gogh was a patient there. From the bedroom where Van Gogh’s wheelchair and desk sat, to the courtyard below, everything was just as he would have left them. A new addition to St. Paul since my last visit is the kitchen, restored to perfection.  

 IMG_4224Saint-Rémy – Afternoon lunch and shopping

The morning market in Saint-Remy was coming to a close when we arrived, nevertheless, there were plenty of shops open and ready to serve up everything Provencal.  From olive oil to configures and calissons — a new sort of candy to me that’s famous in Provence. Cans of sardines, Camargue rice — both red and black — and flavored salts were my finds of the day.

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence- Late afternoon

IMG_4302Not too far down the road from Saint-Remy is Les Baux de Provence. The village that sits atop a hill in the southern part of the Alpilles mountain range is a sight to see. During the summer the hilltop village is packed with tourists, so we opted to skip the steep climb and visit only the Carrières de Lumières. Neither of us was prepared for the experience. First of all, the cave was mammoth. Second, the presentation of art and music was mind-blowing. Hundreds of tourists filled the aisles between the illuminated walls of the cave, yet it seemed as if we were the only ones there. Visitors sat around the perimeter of the huge space just so they could take it all in. 

Mas-sainte-berthe

Mas-sainte-berthe

Coming out from the light show we were happy to run into Mas Sainte Berthe , a winery on our way out of Les Baux. Yes, more wine!  Some of my favorite tastings of the trip.

Bastide Rose in Thor -Dinner and overnight

Discovering that Bastide Rose had a fine restaurant onsite was an added reason for staying for two nights. The mastermind of the kitchen is Poppy’s son, Emmanuel de Menthon.

La Bastide Rose for dinner

Emmanuel

Along with his son, who serves as wine host and waiter, Emmanuel and his chef create imaginative dishes from local and home-grown products. Guests appear at La Bastide Rose from far and near to enjoy a meal and the beautiful surroundings.

Day Three

Itinerary: L’Isle sur la Sorgue and return to Uzes

My Aunt Rose was one of the reasons I grew to love collecting things, so I knew her daughter Judy would love L’Isle sur la Sorgue. The small town has a Sunday antique market that is well-known in this part of France. There is also a Sunday “everything” market, similar to Saturday Market in Uzes. It was a perfect last stop for our tour —  and only a few kilometers from the bastide. After our “goodbye” to Poppy, we set out to see what we could find.

In the tiny town lined with canals and shopping stalls, we walked through throngs of people and stopped only for a late lunch at one of the busy cafes. With full stomachs and happy hearts we were ready to head back to Uzes, ending our 36-hour tour of Provence.  We had “been there, done that” … and had a ball along the way!

For more information about places we visited, check out these blog posts.

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

On Van Gogh’s Trail

A Sunday in Provence: L’isle Sur la Sorgue

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