Category: Chapter 1: The First Visit

Discovering Uzes on a 2013 holiday to the south of France

Tree Sports in Uzes. Who knew?

Have you ever heard of “tree sports?” Neither had I. Now trees are where I’d love to hang out. Literally! Time to learn about tree sports in Uzès.

Tree sports in Uzès

One of my favorite places in Uzes is the Vallée de l’Eure. I’ve written about the spring that feeds Pont du Gard, the swans, the STEPS, and various other things that amuse me there.

Tree sports in Uzès

 

Nothing has caught me more off guard, however, than to find men hanging in the trees.

The woods are quite thick along the winding trails in the Vallée de l’Eure. Often it is difficult to see more than a few yards ahead. It’s part of the charm of being there. This particular day, when I saw the men in the trees, I had left the apartment with the intention of taking only a short walk.

I had planned to get a lot accomplished that day and the walk was just the first of many things on my “to do” list. It was right after I got to the last of the STEPS that lead down to the park that I heard men talking in the distance. Walking slowly, as usual, because the path is very rocky and uneven, I intentionally headed towards the voices. Of course, I had no idea what they were saying. They were speaking in French. By the time I could hear them more clearly, it was obvious the sounds were coming from the trees.

There they were! Dangling on ropes up in the air. I couldn’t get there fast enough. My curiosity was killing me!

Tree sports in Uzès

Then I realized I didn’t have my camera!

“What!” says me to myself. “What a great story for my blog: ‘Finding Tarzan in the Jungles of France.'”

Reality hit. I had an appointment in less than an hour. How could I get back to the apartment, grab my camera, run back to the park, take pictures, go back to the apartment, change clothes, then be on my way, and on time? Impossible!

At that moment It was like there was a “good angel” on my right shoulder saying: “Forget it, you’ve made a commitment. You have to forget about this story for your silly blog and get on with your life.” A “bad angel” on my left shoulder was saying: “Forget, Hell! This is a great story. Don’t be stupid.”

So what did I do? I went back for the camera, of course!

 

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Tree sports in Uzès

Tree climbing, or hanging out in trees, is becoming a popular pastime, especially in France. The abundance of lush forests and people looking for new and different ways to spend time outdoors have created a new industry. The young men I met are utility workers for their “real jobs” and they run a business for tourists on the side. From what I could understand, since they spoke little English, and … you know me and my French … their business is quite good. They provide the ropes, harnesses and expertise to get you up into a tree. Plus they set up the tree “boats” where you can spend as much time as you’re willing to pay for to “hang” out.

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Sounds like fun to me!!

Prayer of a Tree
—————-

To The Wayfarer,

Ye who pass by and would raise your hand against me, harken ere you harm me.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun.

My fruits are refreshing draughts,
quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam which holds your house,
the board of your table,
the bed on which you lie,
and the timbers of your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.

Ye who pass by,
listen to my prayer; harm me not.

–reportedly from the book “Spanish Sunshine” by Elinor Elsner, circa 1925, and was a notice found on a tree in a park in Seville, Spain; posted by Ray on the Boards of the Native Tree Society

To contact the tree sport company website Phytofeel.com

Seafoods of Sete, France

Eating Your Way Through Sete, France

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

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

Sete Gourmet Tour

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

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

Sete Gourmet Tour

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

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

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

Sete Gourmet Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sete Gourmet Tour

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

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

More information about Sete? Contact the Tourist Office

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Sete, a French beach holiday site

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete, France


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Buildings and architecture

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

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

France tours

France Tour? Uzes Market Bites and Sound Bytes

All the things I like best on a France tour can be found in the Uzes market: eating, shopping and music.

For those of you who like a little of it all, here are some of my favorite bits and bites.

 

Market sellers at work
Market vendors take great care of their wares and their customers.

Stops along the way

Morning shopping means taking a break for café au lait by mid day. Afterwards, I headed around the corner and down an alley for more shopping.  To my surprise…a southern ragtime band. South of France, that is.

Food for thought 
Exploring and shopping is hard work, so a stop for lunch was a must.

Most meals I’ve eaten at restaurants since I’ve been here have been at lunchtime, or Déjeuner. That’s because I can get a great fixe prix meal at a fraction of the cost of the same meal at dinner. It’s also a healthier alternative since I have time to work off the calories before I go to bed.

Saturday Déjeuner was at le Bistrot du Grezac. The entre (starter), vegetable flan; the plat (main course), beef; and dessert, strawberries with a meringue cookie.

Impromptu cabaret
One of the most thrilling moments of my weekend was being entertained by a most interesting family in the plaza. The father showed up at the cafe where I was having lunch on Sunday. Within moments a little girl playing an accordion and her mother joined him at his table. That’s when the fun started.

#France tour? I LOVE THIS PLACE

 

Pottery at San Quentin La Poterie France

Oh La La! San Quentin la Poterie, France

Imagine a little village in the south of France where the main industries are farming and pottery. Can you think of a place that is more “down to earth?” (Pun intended!)

Friday is market day in San Quentin la Poterie. It’s only a few miles down the road from Uzes and it’s getting to be one of my favorite places to shop. There’s the farmers’ market with all the local foods and vendors …

… but even better than the farmers’ market, through the winding village streets, there are dozens of pottery shops. Many stores have the artist’s workshop attached. Most if the artists are there, busy at work on their new creations.

When they say San Quentin is world famous for pottery, they mean pottery of the finest kind. Not to discount our fabulous potters from western North Carolina, but I have never seen so much magnificent pottery. Each shop I visited was better than the last.

View a San Quentin la Poterie artist at work.

Expat Moving Tips for France

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Visiting monuments isn’t on the top of my sightseeing list; however Pont du Gard is a “must”.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard is reportedly one of the most visited ancient sites in France. But not until I saw it myself would I know why. It literally took my breath away. There, hiding out in the French countryside — not far from groves of olives trees and fields of grape vines — was a magnificent structure from the early Roman Empire. From the 1st Century AD, to be exact.

My first trip to Pont du Gard started in the early afternoon. It’s only a 25-minute bus ride from Uzes, so I decided to try my luck with public transportation. No problem. Except that the bus dropped me off in the middle of nowhere. With only an arrow on a road sign that read “Pont du Gard” to show me the way, I took off walking. Fortunately the entrance to the park was only a few minutes’ trek down the road.

I must have been the one of the only people who has ever arrived at the park on foot, because there were no pedestrian signs or entrance. Just a parking lot for buses and cars. In fact, a park guard saw me and came down the road to greet me. He must have thought I was lost — or a spy! Anyway, he pointed me towards the main entrance of the park.

Pont du Gard

Museum exhibit at Pont du Gard

Inside the park there was a large, very modern, covered loggia where several groups of people were sitting at tables or just standing around. A very nice snack shop, glacé stand, and a few souvenir and gift shops were along the side. The indoor exhibit hall and cinema I was told to visit first were on the right and could be accessed by going through a central door and walking two floors underground. Since I had arrived 45 minutes before the English version of the introductory film was scheduled to run, I had plenty of time to visit the exhibit hall.

Or so I thought. I could have spent hours there if I had wanted to go into a deep study of Roman aqueducts and water systems. There were exhibits of early Roman baths, latrines and more. I was particularly taken with the displays of numerous artifacts unearthed from the earliest days of the bridge, into the 6th century, when it was in constant use. A near-real sized replica of a worksite demonstrated how the bridge and aqueduct were constructed. Faux pulleys operated by mannequins showed how the stones were lifted into place. The theatrical set seemed quite authentic and very well done.

Armed with a small bit of the history of Pont du Gard, I was ready to see the real thing. Back into the heat and scorching sun, I walked down a short path where the occasional tourists– and dogs — were taking their time getting to the monument.

Then, beyond the trees… and a few yards farther… there is was.
pont du gard

I was transported to the days of the Roman Empire. When I walked closer to the bridge, I knew I was walking in the same steps as Roman soldiers and early French citizens centuries before me. Like so much of the architecture I’ve seen on this trip, I was amazed at the shape of the arches and the stones.

As I walked across the bridge, the wind was blowing briskly. Never mind. Even though I had to scurry to catch my hat to keep it from blowing over the side of the bridge into the ravine, I was mesmerized. Several times I had to prop myself up against the sidewall to keep my balance. I was disoriented from trying to take photos from every possible angle.

An 18th century visitor and famous writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau was overwhelmed when he visited Pont du Gard.

“I had been told to go and see the Pont du Gard; I did not fail to do so. It was the first work of the Romans that I had seen. I expected to see a monument worthy of the hands which had constructed it. This time the object surpassed my expectation, for the only time in my life. Only the Romans could have produced such an effect. The sight of this simple and noble work struck me all the more since it is in the middle of a wilderness where silence and solitude render the object more striking and the admiration more lively; for this so-called bridge was only an aqueduct. One asks oneself what force has transported these enormous stones so far from any quarry, and what brought together the arms of so many thousands of men in a place where none of them live. I wandered about the three storeys of this superb edifice although my respect for it almost kept me from daring to trample it underfoot. The echo of my footsteps under these immense vaults made me imagine that I heard the strong voices of those who had built them. I felt myself lost like an insect in that immensity. While making myself small, I felt an indefinable something that raised up my soul, and I said to myself with a sigh, “Why was I not born a Roman!”

After I strolled slowly across the aqueduct, taking pictures along the way, I came upon a seemingly hidden path. You know how I like surprises! So I tramped up the rocky pathway, higher and higher above the bridge, wishing only that I had worn better walking shoes. Although there were hundreds of tourists, I didn’t encounter any other people along the way. Happily alone, I climbed to the highest possible vantage point. Surely others had been this way before. The shiny stones on the pathway were evidence enough. But today, the panorama that lay before me was all for me.

As hard as it was to leave this perfect spot, I had to catch a bus. So I came down from my perch, hurriedly explored the left bank of the bridge, and promised myself I’d return some day.

pont du gardDinner at the lovely restaurant on the water’s edge with a view of Pont du Gard is in my future.

Place aux Herbes, Uzes, France

So it begins. Destination: Uzes, France

I’m off again on a road trip. This time to Alba, Italy for the White Truffle Festival.  To leave you with some reading while I’m gone, let’s go back to the beginning — my first stay in Uzes. You’ll see how this journey began and why I’m still loving it here today. 

Arrivederci!

********

Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure to Uzes in the south of France. Solo. Just as planned.

This is my first time blogging an adventure, so I’ll start by telling why I’m heading to Uzes, France; how I’m getting there; also, I’ll describe how I arrived at the itinerary– sketchy as it is.

Why Uzes?

I confess, I’ve been to Uzes. I visited there during a “great adventure” in 2011. My main destination was London to see Prince William kiss his bride on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, quite “out of the blue”, I had the opportunity to take off for France and to spend a Saturday market day in Uzes. Right then, that day, I swore to myself I would return to that exact spot.

Why did I choose Uzes as  the centerpiece of my adventure through the south of France? It’s simple. Uzes is somewhat out of the way, so large crowds of tourists won’t gather there; it’s close to Airles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I want to see; and, if that’s not reason enough, the walled, historic city is beyond charming.

Uzes

 

The master plan

I started with a budget. My first trip to Europe was in 1966. I traveled with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill and we spent two-and-a-half months in England and around most of western Europe. Our “bible” was the book titled, “Europe on $5-a-Day.”

Dare say, there’s not a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but there are ways to keep costs down so that you can afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than you think. My goal is to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).

Choosing to make this a six-week trip was somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to stay as long a possible on my allotted budget, so I started checking on the cost of lodging in Uzes. I turned to AIRBNB, the travel website recommended to me by friends and that I had used recently on a trip to Fredrik, Maryland. The room I booked at a B&B through AIRBNB was delightful.

With a little searching around on the website, I found the perfect location in Uzes, at a reasonable price. The four-story apartment with one room on each floor is located within the walled city where I wanted to stay.

Once I had some dates to work with, the itinerary for the trip began to take shape. I started to communicate directly with the apartment owner in Uzes (who lives in Copenhagen). He advised me to fly in and out of Barcelona so that I could enjoy the train ride through the countryside to Uzes.  He also recommended that I stay in Barcelona my first night after the transatlantic flight so that I could fully enjoy the train ride the next day.

June 4 – Charleston, SC to New York

June 5 – Arrive Barcelona, Spain

June 6 – Train to Uzes, France

June 29 – Leave Uzes for Sete, France

seteSete. Here’s where the plan got creative. I wanted to visit a town on the Mediterranean after leaving Uzes that would take me south towards Barcelona and my flight home. Plotting a course on Google Earth, I stumbled upon Sete, France.

Reading a few travel reviews, I quickly realized Sete is a little jewel. Checking with AIRBNB,  I found there was an apartment “to die for” waiting for me. I connected with the hostess and, as luck would have it, I learned about the worldwide music festival in town during that time. That was good news and bad news. It meant I could only have the dream room for 2 nights, but it also led me to a bit of luck. My hostess managed to arrange a place  for me in the home of her friend for the rest of my stay. A guest house directly on the ocean — all for me, and right on budget!  More good news is that my hostess runs a wine tour. So I booked the stay and a tour. Whoopee!

July 7 – “Sketchy”

“Sketchy” is good. Really. I mean, everyone needs to schedule in time for a real adventure. A side trip. A chance to do something amazing — an experience of a lifetime, You have to allow a few days to wing it. That might sound a bit too crazy for some of you but just try it. You can always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else comes along, I can take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. Wouldn’t it be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage? To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo?  Or, to spend time wandering along the Costa Brava? This part of the adventure may be the best of all!

July 11 – Barcelona

My lodging through AIRBNB is an apartment in El Born, a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops,  tapas bars and restaurants. Most important for a solo woman, the area is safe– although I understand you have to watch for pickpockets wherever you go in the city.

I visited Barcelona, on my “Europe on $5 a Day” trip in 1966.  I remember a bullfight, some great paella, and a quick trip from Barcelona to Majorca. Honestly, I haven’t thought much about Barcelona since then. But when I saw I had an opportunity to revisit the city, I knew I wanted to spend more than an overnight. I have 3 guide books and a picture book about Gaudi to study before I get there. Plus, I have no problem meeting people along the way who, I’m sure, will give me lots of advice. Again, I’m winging it. This unplanned adventure in Barcelona could be very special.

July 15 – Charleston, SC

Home again! The end of another great adventure and the beginning of the next unknown.

 

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off the beaten track

Off the beaten track


Continuing on my trip down memory lane. It  was three years ago that a solo holiday in Uzes turned into a dream come true.

Long distance bike riding isn’t my forte. Tootling around my neighborhood is about the sum of my biking habit.

The self- designed bike tour planned for today was supposed to be fairly short. Or so it appeared to be on the map.

Au contraire

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The idea for the trip was Oliver’s, the cutey from the bike rental shop. (See yesterday’s blog) The trail map he gave me looked simple enough to follow. Problem was, I discovered, the bike routes take you the farthest possible distance to get to any destination.

 

I’m not saying the trail wasn’t scenic. There were no major roadways or traffic to spoil the views of the places I ventured today –from Uzes to St- Mediers to Montaron and back.

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

 

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

 

A funny thing happened

Like Mel Brooks’ famous play about a trip to the Roman Forum, a “funny thing” happened at an intersection along the bike path. I came upon a horse that was staring me straight in the face. He seemed to say: “take me with you!”
Outside Uzes

 

Oh that I had heeded his advice. The next section of the road was a killer. The lanes of the trail were piled with sand and the route was mostly uphill. After a few minutes trying to plow through the sand, I resorted to pushing the bike.

One reason I went on this excursion was to find a quaint town with a memorable cafe where I could have lunch. Walking the bike through St-Medlers, I saw no restaurants, cafes or sundry shops. In fact, the place was rather deserted.

Outside Uzes

Dying of thirst and quite hungry by this time, I tried not to panic. In the distance I saw a man getting into his car. Hurrying to stop him, I yelled out “bonjour!”. We tried to communicate but ended up using sign language. Pointing toward the road ahead, he held up two fingers and said: “two kilometers, Montaron,”

Civilization

Montaron was off the bike trail, yet clearly, it was just down the main road. Downhill!

When I arrived I literally staggered into the first restaurant I came to in the town, Passing through the bar area, I took three steps up to the tables in the outdoor covered patio. Dropping down into a chair, I was immediately met by the waiter.

Apparently I looked as desperate as I felt. The waiter hustled to bring a pitcher of water to the table – with ice.

Not long after, I finished lunch and a cold glass of beer.

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes
The short way back
Know why I said the bike route was the longest route possible to anywhere? The road sign in Montaron told me so. Four kilometers to Uzes. I had traveled at least ten kilometers from Uzes to get here. I took the main road back.

Tomorrow’s adventure? Stay tuned.

Heaven on earth

Revisiting this day from 3 years ago reminds me how exciting it is to discover you have stumbled upon something really good.

OMG! This place is better than I remembered. A true heaven on earth!

After leavinq the hotel yesterday morning, I took a cab to the train station. My luck had taken a turn for the worse with computer problems and no AC in my hotel room, so I decided to take no chances and get a cab to the train station.

The scenery from the train wasn’t as exciting as I expected, and the windows of my coach were dirty, so I didn’t get the spectacular views and photos I hoped for. However, it was exciting enough traveling at 250 km/hr to get to Nimes just after noon.

Before leaving the states I messaged a friend I met in France in 2011 to see if we could meet up sometime in Uzes. Good news, he was available to meet me at the train in Nimes!

After a “welcome back” lunch and chance to catch up on the last two years, Sandy and his friend, Maggie, dropped me at my door in Uzes. In addition to the ride and lunch, I picked up some great sightseeing and photo tips since they are both accomplished travelers and photographers.

Here’s my home-away-from-home. Ain’t it great?

Uzes

Uzes

Uzes

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Airport day

Continuing on my sentimental flashback to three years ago when my “life in France” adventure began. This day I realized my idea of blogging along the way was wrought with technical problems — the joys of traveling abroad had begun.

Procrastination is one of my biggest faults. Packing for this trip was no exception.

While I had the items laid out in neat piles for weeks, I was still putting things in my suitcase and backpack Tuesday morning. (Hints for “what to pack” posting soon.)

Yesterday was airport day. My iPhone and tablet were put in accessible places to keep me occupied sending emails and blogging during the 5-hour wait in Newark. Little did I know that I’d have technical problems that kept me from connecting all day.

Now in Barcelona and ready to throw the laptop in the trash. Looks like I should have bought an iPad!

So it begins. Destination: Uzes, France

On returning to life in France after a long visit in the States, I’m melancholy thinking of how my life has evolved. Hopefully you’ll enjoy looking back with me

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Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure to Uzes in the south of France. Solo. Just as planned.

This is my first time blogging an adventure, so I’ll start by telling why I’m heading to Uzes, France; how I’m getting there; also, I’ll describe how I arrived at the itinerary– sketchy as it is.

Why Uzes?

I confess, I’ve been to Uzes. I visited there during a “great adventure” in 2011. My main destination was London to see Prince William kiss his bride on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, quite “out of the blue”, I had the opportunity to take off for France and to spend a Saturday market day in Uzes. Right then, that day, I swore to myself I would return to that exact spot.

Why did I choose Uzes as  the centerpiece of my adventure through the south of France? It’s simple. Uzes is somewhat out of the way, so large crowds of tourists won’t gather there; it’s close to Airles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I want to see; and, if that’s not reason enough, the walled, historic city is beyond charming.

Uzes

 

The master plan

I started with a budget. My first trip to Europe was in 1966. I traveled with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill and we spent two-and-a-half months in England and around most of western Europe. Our “bible” was the book titled, “Europe on $5-a-Day.”

Dare say, there’s not a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but there are ways to keep costs down so that you can afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than you think. My goal is to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).

Choosing to make this a six-week trip was somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to stay as long a possible on my allotted budget, so I started checking on the cost of lodging in Uzes. I turned to AIRBNB, the travel website recommended to me by friends and that I had used recently on a trip to Fredrik, Maryland. The room I booked at a B&B through AIRBNB was delightful.

With a little searching around on the website, I found the perfect location in Uzes, at a reasonable price. The four-story apartment with one room on each floor is located within

Uzes

Rue St. Roman

the walled city. I could have the whole place to myself from June 6-29.

Once I had some dates to work with, the itinerary for the trip began to take shape. I started to communicate directly with the apartment owner in Uzes (who lives in Copenhagen). He advised me to fly in and out of Barcelona so that I could enjoy the train ride through the countryside to Uzes.  He also recommended that I stay in Barcelona my first night after the transatlantic flight so that I could fully enjoy the train ride the next day.

June 4 – Charleston, SC to New York

June 5 – Arrive Barcelona, Spain

June 6 – Train to Uzes, France

June 29 – Leave Uzes for Sete, France

seteSete. Here’s where the plan got creative. I wanted to visit a town on the Mediterranean after leaving Uzes that would take me south towards Barcelona and my flight home. Plotting a course on Google Earth, I stumbled upon Sete, France.

Reading a few travel reviews, I quickly realized Sete is a little jewel. Checking with AIRBNB,  I found there was an apartment “to die for” waiting for me. I connected with the hostess and, as luck would have it, I learned about the worldwide music festival in town during that time. That was good news and bad news. It meant I could only have the dream room for 2 nights, but it also led me to a bit of luck. My hostess managed to arrange a place  for me in the home of her friend for the rest of my stay. A guest house directly on the ocean — all for me, and right on budget!  More good news is that my hostess runs a wine tour. So I booked the stay and a tour. Whoopee!

July 7 – “Sketchy”

“Sketchy” is good. Really. I mean, everyone needs to schedule in time for a real adventure. A side trip. A chance to do something amazing — an experience of a lifetime, You have to allow a few days to wing it. That might sound a bit too crazy for some of you but just try it. You can always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else comes along, I can take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. Wouldn’t it be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage? To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo?  Or, to spend time wandering along the Costa Brava? This part of the adventure may be the best of all!

July 11 – Barcelona

My lodging through AIRBNB is an apartment in El Born, a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops,  tapas bars and restaurants. Most important for a solo woman, the area is safe– although I understand you have to watch for pickpockets wherever you go in the city.

I visited Barcelona, on my “Europe on $5 a Day” trip in 1966.  I remember a bullfight, some great paella, and a quick trip from Barcelona to Majorca. Honestly, I haven’t thought much about Barcelona since then. But when I saw I had an opportunity to revisit the city, I knew I wanted to spend more than an overnight. I have 3 guide books and a picture book about Gaudi to study before I get there. Plus, I have no problem meeting people along the way who, I’m sure, will give me lots of advice. Again, I’m winging it. This unplanned adventure in Barcelona could be very special.

July 15 – Charleston, SC

Home again! The end of another great adventure and the beginning of the next unknown.

 

Movie Night in Uzes: Carmen at the Met

Movie Night in Uzes: Carmen at the Met

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Somehow it seems strange to see a French opera, performed live in New York, broadcast live at a cinema in Uzes — with French subtitles.

It was truly a memorable event. Carmen and more. Not only was it the first time The Barefoot Blogger has seen the opera “Carmen” in full;  and the first time I’ve seen an HD performance by the Metropolitan femk14_15_900x900carmen_500x500Opera; but also, the first time I’ve attended a night-time cinema in Uzes.

 

The opera and cast

When last I heard music from “Carmen” I was in Myrtle Beach, SC. The Carolina Master Choral of the Grand Strand, as a fund-raiser, hosted a professional opera singer who performed a few of the most famous arias.

This “live” version of “Carmen,”  in HD from the Met,  was broadcast in the only cinema in Uzes. As I watched the performance, I was remembering Myrtle Beach and other times in my life when I’ve heard the music from “Carmen.” I also thought of the millions of people all over the world who were attending the HD event along with me at their local theaters. Isn’t technology amazing!??

People who have seen an HD version of the Met operas have said how wonderful it is. Now that I’ve been to one myself, I have to agree. It’s the next best thing to sitting in Lincoln Center.

 

The Cinema in Uzes

The only theater in Uzes is on a narrow street that runs into the main “rue” of town. From the outside the building looks like a theater straight out of a Woody Allen film.

Cinema in Uzes, France

Cinema in Uzes, France

 

The inside isn’t much different.

 Except at this cinema, there are “do-it-yourself” popcorn machines and bizarre candy machine.

Popcorn maker for "vanilla" flavored popcorn, as well as another machine for "salted" popcorn.

Popcorn maker for “vanilla” flavored popcorn, as well as another machine for “salted” popcorn.

 

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

 

Most interesting is that you can order a meal that is served during intermission.

 

Cinema - goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

Cinema – goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

 

The menu

 

Cheese and fruit plate

Cheese and fruit plate

 

Serving up soup and salad

Serving up soup and salad

 

Wine, beer, champagne and other drinks of your liking, of course.

 

The cinema bar

The cinema bar

 

The Met performance of “Carmen” was a unique experience. Now that I know that meals and drink are available for most nightly theater shows, I know I’ll be back! If you’re in Uzes, the Cinema is definitely a place you should check out. There are several films with English subtitles each week. Or if you’re trying to learn French, going to a show with French subtitles is an interesting way to practice reading the language.

Love Carmen! Love the Cinema!

 

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Women Friends: Age is Irrelevant

Women Friends: Age is Irrelevant

The Barefoot Blogger was 50 years old when she started her career at IBM. Maybe that’s no big deal now, but years ago, “middle aged” women were not entering corporate jobs.

The work I took on — helping introduce the second generation IBM personal computer– was not only the hardest job I’d ever held, it was life-changing. It put me in a world of brilliant young men and women who didn’t think about the age of their workmate. Just what I could contribute to the tasks.

Perhaps the experience gave me the confidence I have today. To forge headlong into the unknown. Like moving to France, with little knowledge of the country, the culture or the language.

I know the IBM experience taught me that women friends defy age. Thirty-something girlfriends from that time are still buddies. Now they’re in their fifties.

Returning from my trip to South Carolina, I’m thinking of all the women friends I’ve reconnected with recently, and all the others who fill my life.

Last week I visited my dear “Ms. Dottie”, who is 93 years old. When we were next door neighbors in Beaufort, we were as close friends as there could be.

Now Ms. Dottie is frail in body and mind, living her last days in a nursing home. When I saw her, curled up in the bed, half asleep, half awake, I could barely recognize her. She had a hard time remembering me, too.

The beaded cap I gave her before I left for France was hanging on her bedpost. When I reminded her, she was glad to know where it had come from.

The “memory” tour to my old stomping grounds included the oyster roast, detailed in the last post, and lunch with girlfriends at our favorite haunts. Dinner “dates” were raucous with wine, food and Makers Mark flowing freely.

On the way back to Georgia, after all the gossip and hugs from the SC gals were done, I stopped off to see one more girlfriend who lives along the shore. We have been friends for fifty years. College sorority sisters. She welcomed me, literally, with open arms. Then she stuffed me with homemade chicken pot pie.

Someday I’ll write down what it’s like to have a friend as eccentric and special as she is. This southern belle is a story all in herself. For now I’ll just say, our brief day together was the perfect ending to this “girls reunion”.

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Oyster Roasts, Magnolias and Pat Conroy

Oyster roasts, magnolias and Pat Conroy

This must be the “South”… USA, that is.

While away from my beloved France, I thought, perhaps, friends there and beyond might like to know how we spend time in the winter months in the southern states along the east coast.

In Beaufort, South Carolina — where I used to live– the Historic Society throws a party in January as a fund raiser for the organization. An oyster roast is held “down by the riverside” in front of one of the town’s most beautiful and historic properties — Marshlands.

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This year the weather was very agreeable with temperatures in the 50’s. (I’ve been to some when the temps were barely above freezing.) Unless there’s torrential rain, folks gather around each year, ready to put down bushels of steamy hot oysters, served by the bucketfuls.

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Oyster roasts, southern style, are accompanied by a spread of pork barbecue, baked beans, coleslaw and cornbread. For most of us, the main attraction is the plump oysters that are plucked out of the marsh-water beds that surround the town.

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Nothing like their oyster cousins in the south of France that are single-shelled and huge, the low country variety are small but, oh…so tasty. Short knives with wooden handles are put to action slipping into the crevices of the shell clusters. You know it’s worth the trouble when you take your first bite, with lemon slices, saltine crackers and hot sauce on the side.

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The tradition of serving steaming oysters on long tables by the waterway goes back to the earliest times of southern living.

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Truly, in Beaufort, old customs are very fitting. Here Spanish moss and ancient oaks have graced the landscape for centuries.

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Stately mansions have survived revolutionary and civil wars.

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The flags of five nations have flown over this town– Spain, France, England, the Confederacy and American.

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Novelist Pat Conroy calls this “home” and many of his books and movies have been rooted right here, including “The Prince of Tides”, and “The Great Santini.”

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“Forrest Gump” and the “Big Chill” were filmed in Beaufort, and at least a dozen more.

In Beaufort front porches, magnolia trees and quaint gardens are common along historic district streets.

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Breakfast patrons at Blackstones stand to pledge allegiance to the flag mornings at eight (see #3).

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Not far away are beaches and scrub grass and places to play.

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Yes, if there are beautiful destinations you want to see, head to one of the best on earth — Beaufort, S.C.

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Top spots in Nice

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

With all the cold, rainy weather in winter, I enjoy looking back at some of summer’s favorite places. Enjoy the city side of Nice and think about sunny days

Traveling to Nice to enjoy the beaches is always nice. However, don’t forget there’s a city side of Nice to explore, too.

In 1966 I traveled to Nice with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill. It was a splurge on our “Europe on $5 a Day” budget. Nevertheless, we had to see the French Rivera. As I recall, it looked much like this.

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Nice France 1966

 

Take a look now.

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Nice France 2014

This was 1966.

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Beach in Nice 1966

Now.

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Nice France 2014

Then.

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Nice France 1966

Now.

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Nice France now

While much has changed, the spirit of the city seems the same. It is still the place where you feel you can “hide out.” No one seems to care what anyone else is doing. And there are so many people of different backgrounds, cultures and languages, there’s no telling who “belongs” there and who is a tourist.

The European architecture and neighborhoods of Nice remind me more of Italy than of France. I was reminded by my AIRBNB host that it’s not by accident. Nice was part of France until the mid-1800’s. It was again occupied by Italy during WWII.  (Guess I missed history class the day this factoid was taught.)

These are some of the city-side sights:

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 City Side of Nice Transportation

Getting around town in Nice is a breeze. If you aren’t up for walking, which is always a good way to sightsee and stop along the way, there are public buses and trams. For those who like to bicycle, you can rent by the hour or more.

 

City Side of Nice Restaurants

Unfortunately, I didn’t do my homework on places to eat in Nice. Nor do I have the budget to dine on expensive French cuisine. Consequently, all of my meals were disappointing … except for dinner at La Favola.

My friends and I discovered it after we had a so-so lunch at a sidewalk cafe. La Favola was the one with the people standing in line waiting for a table. That’s always a good sign. We made a point to go by the cafe for dinner.

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Restaurant in Nice

Here are two of the reasons why La Favola is popular. Lobster and pasta for the seafood lover. Gnocchi and Aubergine (eggplant) for the vegan.

We didn’t try the antipasta that was lusciously displayed on tables at the front of the restaurant. That’s for next trip. Any of the many choices is a meal in itself.

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Lobster with Rigatoni at La Favola in Nice

 

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Gnocchi with Aubergine at La Favoli in Nice

Here’s a link to La Favola’s website (click here) if you’d like to check it out.

If you arrive too early for dinner — before 7:00 pm — there are plenty of cafes and bars nearby. Some with entertainment and music like the Blues Brothers you’ll recognize.

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“Blues Brothers” in Nice, France

Room with a View

Again, I was pleased with my AIRBNB choice in Nice. While my friends had booked rooms not knowing I was definitely joining them, I was looking at the last-minute for a place that would be close to where they were staying. It was a holiday weekend in France, so I was fortunate to find a place … and such a good find.

The hosts were friendly and extremely helpful with touring suggestions. I felt like I was a welcomed guest and friend. Since I’m now living in France — a mere three hour drive or train ride from Nice, I’ll definitely be back.

These are some of the views from my private room and a link to the “Chambre sur Jardin” on AIRBNB.

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City Side of Nice Markets

There are many market days in Nice and I made it to one — the flower market. The brocante (antique, etc.) market is next on my list when I return to Nice again.  This is a list for your trip (click here). Maybe I’ll see you there!

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 Nice is for Dog Lovers

Since moving to France, I’ve discovered the French love their dogs. It’s not uncommon to find a “chien” in restaurants sitting at the table. If you look carefully at the diners at a sidewalk cafe, there’s often a pet at the patron’s feet. Waiters always accommodate the furry companion with a bowl of water.

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Ready to relax?

When you get tired of city sites, you can always sit by the sea … the Mediterranean, that is.

city side of Nice

Nice France


For more tips on traveling to Nice and other destinations in France, here are some ideas from Your RV Lifestyle. 100 Things to do in France. A great resource!

 

If you enjoy this blog, please “like” Barefoot Blogger on Facebook. Be sure to “follow” new blogs, too. Just sign up for an email notice.

 

 

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“Why Did You Move to France?”

“Why Did the Barefoot Blogger Move to France?”
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People often ask: “why did you move to France?”

My common response is: “because I could.”

That might sound like a smug answer, and I don’t mean it to be taken that way. Yet it’s true. I’m healthy, my children are in good places in their lives, and I figured out how I could afford to live in France.

Let’s set the record straight. I’m not wealthy. A farmhouse to remodel in Provence is not in the plan. I “finagle” and try to stretch my retirement funds,  just like most everyone else.

What I did was add up how much it would cost me to live in France — which is less than you’d think– then I minimized my monthly costs in the US.

By “minimize“, I mean I got rid of my “stuff.” Some things went to my children, some were sold at an estate sale. Charities got boxes full of clothes and household items and the few remaining “treasures are stored in a mini-warehouse.20130913-213816.jpg

“Minimize” also says to me, for the time I’m in the States over the holidays,  I “mooch”.  (There are a few friends who actually love for me to visit with them for weeks at a time.) My first year back to the US from France, I put over 5000 miles on a “borrowed” car to see friends. I drove to South Carolina, North Carolina and through Georgia to stay for one to two weeks each with various good buddies. Most of them have guest “suites” which works out great for us all. Happily, all my hosts have homes with beautiful views. I’m blessed.

P.S. They all know they have a “vacation home” to visit in France, anytime they’d like. Some have already taken my offer.

Camp Rosie

Camp Rosie

This year I really lucked up. I moved in with my son and family during my time state-side.

50196353Throughout my youngest son’s childhood he often said: “Mom, when I’m married, I’m going to build a house in my backyard for you.”

I took him up on it.

He’s finished the walk-out basement of his home into a guest apartment.

It pays to teach your children to keep promises.

  P.S. The “rent” I pay while I’m in the guest quarters helps him with the cost of the house addition — which adds to the re-sell value of his home. A “win-win” for us both.

Costs in France

Apartment rental is less than you’d think in small villages in France. Problem is, if you want a furnished apartment, usually, you can only get a one-year lease. The “tower” apartment I fell in love with was unfurnished. It has a three-year lease.

DSC_0087As you’ll remember through various early posts, I furnished the apartment in Uzes with pieces mostly from brochante stores. I shopped around for good values on other new items. The best part about this is that when/if I leave, everything can be sold back to the brocantes or through a house sale.

Brocante furniture for my tower apartment

Brocante furniture for my tower apartment

Some things I “bartered” from my friend Geoffrey who was “downsizing” his massive collection of “stuff.” As for the cost of utilities, food and “miscellaneous”, everything’s about the same as in the US.

Hauling furniture up the winding steps to the "tower"

Hauling furniture up the winding steps to the “tower”

Cars and more cars

Just like iPhones, I have a car for France and a car for the US. Both compact vehicles were purchased “used” with 100,000+ miles on each odometer — for less than the price of one “new” car. Yes, I pay to store the car in France, but it’s not exorbitant, and I know it’s safely put away from weather and vandals.

“Minnie” is stateside, Lucy” is in France. Again, if I ever leave France, “Lucy” will find a new “cash ‘n carry” home.

"Lucy" (female "Lucifer"

“Lucy” (female “Lucifer”

 

 

"Minnie" - my stateside car

“Minnie” – my stateside car

Why not move to France?

Now when anyone asks why I moved to France, I turn the tables and reply: ask “Why not?”

Believe me, if you want something badly enough, you can figure out how to get it. 

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Shopping Finds in San Quentin la Poterie

Shopping Finds in San Quentin la Poterie

No matter how many times I visit the villages near Uzes, I find something new and irresistible.

My destination was San Quentin la Poterie — the home of some of the most amazing potters in all of France.

This time, I did find a pottery shop I’ve never seen before …

….but it was a little out-of-the-way gift shop that was a real gem.

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L’Effet Reve in San Quentin de la Poterie

From the outside, the shop was quite unassuming. In fact, I almost passed it by. The promise of tea and pastries advertised in the window, however, drew me in.

At first glance, the store looked like so many you see in the States, filled with little nick nacks and kitchenware. It was not until I wandered into the rooms hidden in the back that I discovered the true treasures.

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Inside L’Effet Reve in San Quentin la Poterie

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Yes, this petite iron sofa would be perfect in my apartment! Oh drool!

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Too bad I was penny-pinching that day, or I would have fit it in the back trunk of my car, “Lucy.”

Beyond the little rooms and cubby holes in L’Effet Reve, was the pièce de résistance — a charming outdoor tea room…

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Outdoor tea room

… decorated to delightful perfection.

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Shopping Finds in San Quentin la Poterie

Little villages near Uzes

Sometimes the little places close to Uzes never make it to the tourist lists. Yet they can be the most charming places of all.

Here are more sights and scenes that make San Quentin la Poterie so much fun to visit.

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Little rooms that stretch over arched walkways

 

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Mosaics along the street in San Quentin de la Poterie

 

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Narrow, colorful walkways in San Quentin la Poterie

 

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Little ladies shelling and selling almonds along the street

 

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Art and artists everywhere

 

And pottery !!!

Hopefully you enjoyed this pictorial visit to San Quentin la Poterie. Be certain to put this little village on your “must see” when you visit the south of France.

Other views of the town are in several earlier posts. Just search “San Quentin la Poterie” on the “My Travels” page.

Oh… by the way… don’t try to beat me to it.  I’m calling tomorrow to see if the little sofa is still waiting for me!

san quentin la poterie

Lost in the Luberon Part Two

Lost in the Luberon Part Two

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In October I started writing the story about my adventures “Lost in the Luberon”. It’s time to get back to to telling the tales because there are blanks in the story I need your help to complete.

Here’s a link to the first part of “Lost” in case you want to catch up. Click here.

In Part One, as you may remember, I confessed I am directionally challenged. That competency must be a left brain thing. Honestly, I can’t read a compass. Maps are a horror. GPS systems confuse me if there’s not a voice attached.
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I try not to think about my shortcoming too much because it would definitely limit my adventurous spirit. That’s why I was willing to take off on a tour of the Luberon with my friend Pat, who was visiting from Wisconsin.

Little did I know, Pat’s sense of direction is no better than mine!

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Me: “There’s a sign ahead, Pat. Is that where we’re supposed to turn?
Pat: (silence)
Me: “Pat, do we turn there?”
Pat: (silence)
Me: “Pat, I can’t pull over. What does it say on the map? ”
Pat: “Oh! The map!

Remember that from Part One?

Rather than retell the tale, I’ll say, we succeeded in getting to the first destination of the Luberon trip, Gordes.

A nice lunch and a walk around Gordes got us back in the mood to travel on.

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Finding our way around the second half of the day was supposed to be a cinch. From Gordes, our next stops — Roussillon, Menerbes, and Lacoste– were only a few miles apart.

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By that time, too, we’d figured out how to find ourselves on the GPS on my iPad. (“Figured out” means we knew which dot on the GPS was us and which dot was our destination. I’m not kidding.)

Nevertheless, the rest of the day went sort of like this: backing up and turning around.

Me: “Pat, we’re supposed to turn off of this road soon, aren’t we?”
Pat: “Yes.”
Me: “Pat, the road is coming up. Do we turn here? ”
Pat: “Well … we could.”
Me: “Could? …. what does that mean?
Pat: (As we pass the road) Well, we could turn … Oh! … I guess we should have turned!”

Road signs like this had us a bit confused, too.

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It was at this sign, in fact, that we experienced “divine intervention.” I’m not joking. A female voice, speaking English, told us to take the turn to the left.

Both Pat and I screamed: “where’d that come from?!”

Then we broke out laughing. Belly laughs. Mapquest on my iPad, that had failed us so miserably up to now, suddenly had found its voice.

By this time, we were so confused we didn’t know where we were. One narrow street looked like another.

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Each church looked like the other.

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Town halls were the same.

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Later that day

Much later than we were supposed to check in for the night, we arrived at the bastide in Lacoste. Our hostess couldn’t offer us glasses of wine fast enough.

“How was your day, ” she asked?

“Couldn’t have been better!” we both exclaimed.

Here’s where you, my French friends and travelers, come in. If you recognize a street, church, or anything pictured in this post, please send it to me on the comment line. /

It’s bad enough being directionless. It would be great to actually know where I’ve been

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Saturday Market in Pezenas, France

Saturday Market in Pezenas, France
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One day last summer, while I was heading back to Uzes from Sete, I detoured from the home-bound route to visit Pezenas. I had heard the Saturday Market in Pezenas is one not to miss.

As you very well know, market day is my favorite time to see new places in France, Even though it meant leaving Sete early in the morning, I was anxious to get on my way. If you don’t get to a Saturday market by 10am,  it’s really hard to find a parking place.  Also, by 1pm the vendors are pretty much closing up.

It’s a short window of time to “go and do.”

Saturday Market in Uzes is a hard act to follow. Pezenas was going to have to be pretty special to get in the rankings.

Let’s just say, I wasn’t disappointed.

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Flowers and more in Pezenas' Saturday market

Flowers and more in Pezenas’ Saturday market

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One of the “most beautiful towns” in Languedoc

Pezenas, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in the Languedoc-Roussilon area of France, was once the political center of the États du Languedoc and the home of Parliament. The Hôtel des Consuls (Consuls’ Palace) stands on one of the main squares (Place Gambettat) which, on market day, is surrounded by shoppers and tourists.

Hôtel des Consuls (Consuls’ Palace) on Place Gambetta in Pezenas

Hôtel des Consuls (Consuls’ Palace) on Place Gambetta in Pezenas

moliere  Moliere in Pezenas

The French Ministry of Culture designated Pezenas a Protected Area (Secteur sauvegardé) because of its over 30 historical monuments, including a monument dedicated to the French playwright, Moliere.

Apparently Moliere spent only a few days in Pezenas where he put on several of his less important theater works. Nevertheless, the town honors his contributions to the arts in France. For me, I need to learn more about Moliere than I picked up from the movie “Mozart.” In the film, Moliere was depicted as far from a “nice guy.”

Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic

One of the more obvious monuments in the center of Pezenas is a fountain with the statue of Marianne — a familiar symbol of the French Republic. Marianne triumphantly holds the flag of France in her left hand and a bolt of lighting in her right hand. The lighting rod symbolizes human rights “Droits de l’Homme”.

Statue of Marianne in Pezenas

Statue of Marianne in Pezenas

She stands atop a column which is surrounded by cherubs riding dolphins. On the column is inscribed with the motto of France: “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.” The statue in the Cours Jean-Jaurès. was molded in 1880. The fountain was built in 1887.

"Marianne", a symbol of the French nation, standing in Pezenas

“Marianne”, a symbol of the French nation, standing in Pezenas

Architecture in Pezenas

During my short half-day stay in Pezenas, I was struck by the awesome architecture in the town. I understand most of the large building were hotels or homes. The French and other Europeans of long ago loved to stay or visit in Pezenas because of its beauty, culture and proximity to the Mediterranean.  Many of the town’s structures qualify for the  “Inventaire des Monuments Historiques” for their “porte à colonne et ponton” or “entrance with columns and carvings.”

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Doorway in Pezenas

Doorway in Pezenas

Pezenas doorway

Pezenas doorway

Mostly, I was blown away by the vaulted passageways. They are not uncommon in France, but here they seemed more colorful, friendly and inviting.

Street scene on market day in Pezenas

Street scene on market day in Pezenas

Passageway in Pezenas

Passageway in Pezenas

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Food and more

For a solo female traveler, one of the things I often judge about a place is how comfortable I feel having a meal alone.  In Pezenas, the scenery around the eateries — especially those in the city squares — is enough to keep you company. Here’s my view at lunchtime that day.

The Plat Du Jour

Plat du Jour in Pezenas

Plat du Jour in Pezenas – Gratin de Fruits de Mer

Jeweler in Pezenas

Jeweler in Pezenas

Later, after spending more time than I should visiting with the designer at a fabulous jewelry shop …

… here’s the view when I stopped for an afternoon refreshment.

 Pezenas is a MUST GO BACK TO! place. There’s so much more to see and do. Especially in the summertime. There are festivals galore. Stay tuned for more …

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