Category: Chapter 1: The First Visit

Discovering Uzes on a 2013 holiday to the south of France

Traveling abroad solo

See what I see! Uzes, France!

After two days on a bike in the hot sun, I needed a break. So I did one of my favorite things today …. sleep.

It’s a little hard to justify sleeping when there’s so much to see and do. I just have to remind myself I’m here to “play like” I’m a local.

The main events for the day were a walk around the back streets of Uzes to get away from the tourist area; a visit to the plaza for a glace; then shopping for something interesting to prepare for dinner. The temperature was in the 90’s so most people were trying to stay out of the sun. Like me, many stopped in shaded cafes and shops to cool off.

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After a relaxing day, preparing a special meal myself was fun … and so delicious. With so many foods to choose from at the markets, it’s hard to fail!

The menu: Roasted chicken and moussaka (prepared at the meat market); asparagus with assorted tapas spreads (Saturday Market); salad with fresh vegetables, olives, spiced almonds, and my own vinaigrette concoction made from local mustard (Wednesday Market); and of course, more wine. Yum!!!

Food in France


Expat Moving Tips for France

Uzes France: Off the Beaten Track, Part Two

Traveling abroad solo means you can stop whenever, wherever you like. Sightseeing while riding on a bicycle makes it even easier.

It’s a wonder I made any progress on the backroads journey to San Quentin la Poterie and back to Uzes. The scenery is amazing. Everything around is a subject for a picture. When I’d stop my bike to take a photo, I’d have to remind myself to turn around and look back, too.

Like life, some things appear to be better when we look “back” than “through”.

Before starting out on my day’s bike riding adventure, I stopped by the Wednesday Market in the main square, Place aux Herbes. I picked up vegetables and other items to prepare meals for myself the rest of the week. Saturday I’ll shop “fresh” again. More strawberries, cherries, cheeses, and vegetables, plus locally made mustard, beer and Madeline cookies were my stash for the day.

Off to San Quentin la Poterie
It was not difficult to get started on the bike trail to “la Poterie”. I had ridden past the entrance on my way back from the bike rental shop on Tuesday. However, “started” is the operative word above. The path that seemed so clear at the “start” soon dumped me onto a four-way intersection. None of the intersecting roads looked like a bike path. Fortunately there were two men standing in a driveway who could possibly give me directions. Of course neither of them could speak a word of English. Nevertheless, using my map and the universal language –hand waving– they gave me enough information to go on my way.

And oh! What a view!

Another advantage of traveling by bike is that you can take off onto side roads you would miss by car. Who could resist checking out this road with no gates, no signs? Not me. Just look what awaited me!

A hidden path… And just a few feet farther…

Then.. braving it down a well-maintained, tree-lined road, I rode slowing, hoping no one would come after me with dogs or a gun — or both. Soon, in the distance, I could hear chattering voices. Instead of turning around and hightailing it back to the main road, I headed closer to the voices. I would excuse my invasion by saying, “I’m lost.”

By this time I was off the bike and I was pushing it beside me. Taking a few steps ahead, I saw a small stone house to the right of the roadway. The chattering was coming from three or four people sitting around a table on the patio. I could also see a second stone building and the entrance to a large, stately mansion that was surrounded by a stone wall.

Apparently the people sitting around the table enjoying their lunch were house and grounds keepers for the estate. They certainly weren’t guards. They were so heavily engaged in conversation that no one noticed me.

Traveling abroad solo Announcing myself by shouting “bonjour” in my best French, I saw the older woman in the group look my way. She then walked to the road to greet me. As she approached, I held up my iPhone and motioned with my hands that I’d like to take a picture. Seeing that I was neither a threat, nor a professional photographer (a photo journalist with an iPhone?), she said “Ok” in English.

I asked then if I could take pictures of the big house from inside the courtyard. Replying In broken English, she said “someone lives there.”

In other words, “no.”

Not to be dismissed so easily, yet trying to be as polite as possible, I asked if I could take her picture and photograph other sights around the estate. She said “oui”. Viola! My persistence paid off!

Pays de la ceramics
Practically “around the bend” from my off-road venture to the French chateau was the famed village of art pottery: San Quentin la Poterie.

San Quentin la Poterie
With a tradition in pottery since the fourteenth century, the village has maintained it’s reputation for world-class ceramics.

The purpose of my trip here today was to take in the scenery.

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And of course, the food. Salad Nicoise.

Traveling abroad solo


Traveling abroad solo

Uzes, France: Off the Beaten Track

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

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

Au contraire

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.

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A funny thing happened

off the beaten trackLike 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!” 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. 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,”


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.

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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.

off the beaten track


Bikes in Uzes France

Je Parle Le Français? Non!

Today has been challenging because I don’t speak French …at all.

Worse, I keep popping up with very badly enunciated Spanish words! So now I have a new BFF at the Office of Tourists. She speaks English.

speak FrenchRenting a bicycle for a few days was my main objective for the day. There are so many back roads and adjoining towns that I want to explore. A car isn’t practical since parking near the apartment is nearly impossible.

I headed to the Uzes tourist office where the very accommodating agent gave me information on a bike rental place. She drew arrows on a map to show me the way and, also, suggested I call in advance to make a reservation. Instead of asking her to make the call right then, I walked back to the apartment and called Oliver at the bike shop. Big mistake. Olivier couldn’t understand a word I said. So, back to the tourist office to ask my BFF to do me the favor.

Lesson learned: in person you may get away with not speaking the local language; but, not on the phone. Get a translator.

The walk to Oliver’s was a piece of cake. Negotiating the two day rental wasn’t so easy; but, it worked out fine with a little sign language and lots of laughs.

Olivier escorted me back to town on his bike. He probably wanted to make sure I was able to ride a bike better than I could communicate. Did I mention he’s adorable? Shut my mouth. He’s younger than my sons.

Today’s frugal, light, superb menu

Some of you are showing an interest in the food I’m enjoying. I’m certainly not a food stylist or photographer. However, there’s something inspiring about this place to try doing both.

speak FrenchArranging meals in a setting before eating it is actually very entertaining. It seems to keep me from gulping my food down too fast, as well. I might try it at home.

Le petit déjeuner
Light breakfast due to the rich food for dinner last night. (See “Settling in” post from yesterday.) The best EVER granola, off the shelf at the local grocery; strawberries from the Saturday Market; and fresh pressed Kenyan coffee.speak French


Saturday Market ham and cheese pastry; herbed olives; figs and strawberries. The pastry was filled with a soft cheese with a consistency close to cream cheese…but smoother… and topped with shredded Gouda; accompanied by the “drink that refreshes”, Coca-Cola Light.

Another light meal in anticipation of a full day’s bike riding tomorrow. Fois Grau (reserved from last night’s restaurant dinner); vegetables, cheeses and olives from the Saturday Market; crouton crackers; plus, prize-winning olive oil and wine from Uzes.

speak French

Note: not a dime spent on food today.

Uzes France

Uzes, France: Settling In

Staying in Uzes for 25 days means I want to see what it’s like living here. .. not just being a tourist.

So after three days, I’m beginning to settle in. That means I’m stocking up the fridge and beginning to learn my way around. After spending a leisurely morning in the loggia enjoying my coffee, chocolate croissant and a Bach piano concerto on the stereo, I set out for a walking tour of the neighborhood.

Here are some of the sights within a few blocks of my apartment.


Sunday Market
During my walk, lo and behold, what should I wander into back at the main plaza, but a Sunday market! More shopping!

Check out this fabulous jewelry from an artisan from Avignon. A new BFF!

Dinner treat
What’s left to cap off the day but to treat myself to dinner at one of the popular restaurants,Terroirs. The specialty, fois gras. Best of all, I was able to discretely sneak a part of the large serving into a napkin and into my bag for lunch tomorrow. Apparently restaurants in France don’t understand the concept of “doggie bags.”

Tomorrow, a guided tour of the city. Please join me.

Saturday Market Uzes, France

Uzes, France: Saturday Market Virtually Real Time

Now that I’ve discovered I can blog about my visit to Uzes on my iPhone, my tech problems may be solved.

You won’t see the most professional layout, but hopefully, you’ll enjoy the monologue and photos.

Shopping everywhere
Saturday Market Day usurps any other business activity that might go on in the historic district of the small town. Lots of the permanent shops are closed. Vendors are everywhere, not just in the plazas; but also, along the main streets.

Place aux Herbes and Place Nicclas Fromant
Produce, meats, cheeses, pastries, clothing and more are spread out for sale around the popular plazas at the center of the historic district

What couldn’t I resist?
Today’s purchases included a little something from almost every vendor shown here. Plus, a handmade leather bracelet with silver clasp that just had to go home with me.


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First Stop: Shopping

Anyone who knows me has to admit I’m a diehard shopper.

Of course, my first stop in Uzes would have to be to buy something “irresistible.” Who could help from walking into this boutique? Promise, I did find something a bit more suitable than all the ruffles. 😉

Shopping in Uzes FranceThank goodness my new acquaintances from Australia were willing to give my new couture their approval.

New friends in Uzes France
A wonderful start to my visit — lunch at a charming cafe near the Place aux Herbes..

Uzes France

… And children chattering below my window on their way home from school.

Uzes France

Oh yes, I did take a few minutes to walk by THE fountain. The one that entranced me two years ago. Tomorrow it will be surrounded by Saturday Market vendors. See you there!

Uzes France

Heaven On Earth

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?

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south france acventure

Airport Day

Procrastination is one of my biggest faults. Packing for this trip was no exception and now it’s time for my south France adventure.

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!

south france adventure

destination uzes france

So It Begins. Destination Uzes France

Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure. Destination Uzes 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?

Destination Uzes France

Place aux Herbes, 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 to make Uzes the centerpiece of my adventure through the south of France? If it was not reason enough that the walled, historic city was beyond charming, there were other reasons. It’s somewhat out-of-the-way, so I figured large crowds of tourists wouldn’t gather there. It’s also very close to Arles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I wanted to see.

The master plan: Destination Uzes France

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, I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but I knew there were ways to keep costs down so that I could afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than I thought. My goal was to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).

Six weeks? 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 a site that I had used on a trip to Frederick, Maryland. The room I booked at the B&B in Frederick 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 was located within 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.

Basic Itinerary

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

Sete. 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.

Destination Uzes France

View down the Grand Canal in Sete France

Reading a few travel reviews, I quickly realized Sete was 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, I knew I had to allow a few days to wing it. I could always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else, I could take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. It would be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage. To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo. Or, I could spend time wandering along the Costa Brava. Winging it could be the best part of the adventure!

July 11 – Barcelona

The lodging I found through AIRBNB in Barcelona was an apartment in El Born — a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops, tapas bars and restaurants. Most importantly, the El Born is safe for solo travelers. Safe enough, that is. I knew I to watch for pickpockets wherever I went 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 hadn’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 would have no problem meeting people along the way who would give me lots of advice. Again, I’d be 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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