Category: Loving Food

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal Cruising in France: Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

If visiting the south of France is in your future, put an Athos Canal du Midi Cruise at the top of your “bucket” list.

Kid you not. My Canal du Midi cruise on the luxury hotel barge Athos is fast becoming one of my most memorable experiences in France. Where else could you go on private tours of quaint and romantic French towns and villages; eat the most authentic and delicious French cuisine, including wines and cheeses selected just for you; cruise on a historic winding canal; experience wildlife within reach, and be waited on hand and foot?

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal du Midi Cruise

For a full week I was a guest on the Athos du Midi which is owned and managed by Dannielle and Julian Farrant. The Athos is their “Love Boat.” Dannielle — a Canadian, and Julian — a Brit, met and married while working aboard the canal barge over twenty years ago.

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

While Dannielle and Julian are busy taking care of business on shore these days, they leave the five-person crew of the Athos to wine, dine and attend to passengers onboard the 100-foot barge (30.48 meters). The Athos is one of the largest barges on the canal.

Port of Origin: Marseillan

Marseillan is the port of departure for most of the week-long cruises. By lucky coincidence we were in Marseillan for the celebration of the reopening of the port. As crowds gathered around the harbor, the town was lively with music when we arrived. By dark there was a spectacular fireworks just feet away from us.  Quite a welcome for our first day on Athos Canal Midi cruise!

Guests aboard the Athos were Heidi and Tim from New Zealand; and Canadians from Victoria: Michelle and Dave. Ten passengers on the Athos are the norm, so right away, we knew our holiday with only five was going to be very special. We were going to be pampered.

Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

Arriving in Beziers by car, I was driven to the port by Mathieu, our tour guide. Other passengers stayed overnight in Beziers and met us at the Athos. The crew welcomed guests with what was to become a standard: friendly, gracious service and lots of attention.

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Onboard the Athos the crew met the five passengers with champagne and canapés

 

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Dinner is served!

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Yes! There’s more … more canal cruise adventures and food! Stay tuned …

Join the Barefoot Blogger on FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for more photos and fun on the Athos Canal du Midi. 

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

A Foodie Holiday in Antibes

Antibes has a special attraction for me. Perhaps it’s the architecture and the narrow colorful avenues. It could be the quaint little hotel where I stay that’s so close to little shops and outdoor cafes, yet so hidden away. On my most recent visit, the main attraction was the food. Here’s a look at Antibes restaurant favorites

The past three years, I’ve made a long weekend pilgrimage to Antibes with my good buddies Paula and Rich. This year we added our friend, Trish, to the party.

Before we left for Antibes, Trish innocently asked, “what do we do in Antibes?”

Paula and I, almost in unison, replied: “absolutely nothing.”

We meant it. The annual getaway is our chance to be together in a totally relaxed atmosphere — before the onslaught of summer visitors, traveling and activities in and around Uzès.

Usually we spend a part of a day exploring something we haven’t seen or done around Antibes. Last year it was the Fete Voiles. This year we walked to and around the park at Fort Carreé.

Most of our time in Antibes, we ate. A lot.

Hungry? Read on at your own risk!

Antibes restaurant favorites

Lunch (déjuener) at Le Don Juan is becoming a regular stop on visits to Antibes. Always good! The gnocchi with veggies was a perfect choice for our vegetarian friend.

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Don Juan for dèjeuner was a treat with ancienne tomato salad, veggie-stuffed farci, calamari, and gnocchi with vegetables

Dinner at Autour du Jardin was even more special with friends from House Hunters International. We lucked out that Erin, Stewart and kids were visiting Antibes at the same time. (Can I call these adorable young adults “kids?”) 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Autour du Jardin, Antibes with the kids, Paula and Erin, Stewart and the Barefoot Blogger. A fancy caprese salad and lemon tart.

 

Dinner at Côte Terroir meant eating fancy food that really tasted as good as it looked. Because it was a windy night, there was no outside seating. Who cared? The service and foods were impeccable. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Côte Terroir, Antibes muse bouche parmesan “pops”; soft boiled egg with nut-crumb wrap and jambon; gambas (shrimp) risotto, and the chef’s take on pavlova with mango

 

Final night in Antibes means dining out on the plage (beach) in Juan-les-Pins. This year we discovered Le Ruban Bleu. Our “regular” restaurant had disappeared. Seems like there are some restaurants on city property, some spots are owned by the French government. The state owned ones are closed. Go figure? 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Ruban Bleu in Juan-les-Pins offered the seafood specialties we were craving. Fish soup, pasta with clams and a fancy mixed vegetarian salad

 

Light lunch and drinks at The Brooklyn was a great find. Located along the busy byway to the harbor, the cafe was buzzing. No wonder! Who could resist this smiling waiter, a bento box for our vegetarian, and a giant Jack Daniels burger. The Colonel cocktail (citron sorbet with vodka) was pretty amazing, too. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

 

Want to know more about Antibes? Check out these posts:

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Antibes in 2 Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

See more of Antibes on Pinterest … click here!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages: Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Recently I challenged myself to visit all the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” — France’s most beautiful villages. Perhaps I should have done a bit more research before making such a statement. There are 156 official villages with the “Plus Beaux” distinction. Even though France is only the size of Texas, it’s a big place!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Now that I’m a bit more realistic about the “task” (albeit, a pleasure) it’s more feasible for me to do one region at a time.

Plus Beaux Villages by Region

There are 13 regions in France. The region where I’ve visited the most beaux villages in Aquitaine. It’s also where there are the most “official” Plus Beaux Villages in France — in Dordogne.

 Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages

Three years ago a hometown friend that I hadn’t seen in 40 years came to visit me in France. While here we entertained ourselves by driving from Uzès to Dordogne. Like typical tourists we focused on the area around the Dordogne river: the “classic” Dordogne: picturesque villages, medieval castles, limestone cliffs and caves with prehistoric drawings. The French call it “le Pèrigord.”

During our week-long tour we stopped at two of the most well known beaux villages in Dordogne — Domme and La Roque-Gageac. To learn about these villages read on here…

On the way back from my recent visit to the States, I intentionally stopped in Dordogne to see four of the beaux villages on my list: Beynac-et-Cazenac, Castlenaud-la-Chapelle, Monpazier, and St. Jean-de-Côle.

A Day in Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Because they’re so close together, you can visit both of these villages in a day. Admittedly, I lingered over lunch in Beynac so I didn’t see as much as I could have. But then, relaxing to enjoy your surroundings is part of the journey, too.

Beynac-et-Cazenac

If you dream about France, like I do, you’ve seen Beynac-et-Cazenac in your dreams. It’s a fairytale French villages perched above the Dordogne river, complete with narrow cobblestone streets, storybook houses and a stately castle at the top. You would expect Cinderella and her prince to appear at any moment.

Like all Plus Beaux Villages de France, Beynac is tiny. The max population for beaux villages is 2000. In 2015 Beynac had 552 residents.

It takes only a few hours to walk around town and through the castle. If you’re driving you can find parking at several levels on the way up to the castle. It’s a pretty steep climb if you stop at the bottom and you only want to visit the castle.

I strongly advise you plan to spend enough time in Beynac to stroll the streets and enjoy the medieval architecture. There are not many places that are as original and as well maintained.

They say the castle, “Château de Beynac”, is the most authentic example of a feudal fortress in the Pèrigord. Towering above the river and valley, it is a reminder of legendary conquerors like King Richard “the Lionhearted” who walked this very courtyard and within the stone walls.  Likewise, it is a shrine to wars that raged through Dordogne for over nine centuries.

If you visit Beynac on I sunny day like I did, enjoy a lovely meal with a “to die for” view of the river at La Terrasse des Chateaux.

Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Literally down the road from Beynac-et-Cazenac is the plus beaux village Castlenaud-la-Chapelle. The magnificent castle, Château de Castelnaud, soars above the Céou River valley as if to announce “Look at me!”

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

The proud castle, like its neighbor in Beynac, was the site of numerous wars and confrontations, including the Hundred Years War. It changed occupants between the French and the English seven times. During its history, the castle was burned to the ground, rebuilt, abandoned during the French Revolution, then used as a stone quarry. During WWII the fortress gave shelter to French resistance groups. Between 1974 and 2005 it was restored to its near-original state.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Today the castle is one of the most visited spots in Dordogne, especially by families with children. A museum features medieval weapons from all over Europe. In the village perigordine style houses with high-pitched roofs are tightly terraced along narrow streets.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

When visiting Castlenaud-la-Chapelle there’s a large parking lot at the top. You can walk directly to the castle from there. That view alone will make your day!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Stay tuned for photos and an overview of the visit to Monpazier and St. Jean du Côle. To read about the earlier tour of Domme and La Roque-Gageac, click here

Want to see more photos? Join the Barefoot Blogger on Pinterest

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

 

 

 

Why Do We Think France Is So Romantic?

Why do we think France is romantic?

Is it because of glamorous and exquisite French movie stars like Catherine DeneuveBrigitte Bardot, Louis Jourdan, Gérard Depardieu, Charles Boyer that we think France is romantic? Even  Maurice Chevalier?  

Or because movies like “A Man and a Woman” with Anouk AiméeThe English Patient and Chocolat with Juliette Binoche; and Amelie with Audrey Tautoo are imprinted on our hearts?

Perhaps we think of “love” and “France” because of the romantic cities 

 

 

… and fairytale palaces

The castles

 

The storybook villages…

 

 

Then there’s the art …

France is romantic

 

… the food 

Let’s not forget, champagne — the elixir of lovers — and it comes only from France

France is romantic

If there was a poll for the “World’s Most Romantic Country” and you could cast only one vote. Which place would you choose? 

I’d choose “France.” 

… and seal it with a kiss …

France is romantic

“The Kiss” by Rodin

For a closer look at the castles, chateaus and villages of France, click here and enjoy browsing! 

France is romantic

 

Memories Tour Day 12: A Wine Harvest Finale

How do you cap off an unforgettable twelve day tour of the South of France? By taking part in a wine harvest done the old fashion way, of course.

To make the day extra special, Nick Martin of A Wine Affair arranged for the “sensational sixteen” to visit a fifteenth century Mas and vineyard to experience grape picking and stomping.

Patricia Sands, author and tour leader, tells about the final day which ends with a spectacular dinner party in Arles.

And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had.  This was a dream come true (Click here to read more)

Memories Tour Finale

Provencal lifestyle

Big Life Changes Ahead? Consider A Provençal Lifestyle

What does the Barefoot Blogger think about the Provençal lifestyle after moving to the south of France?

Perfectly Provence‘s Carolyne Kause-Abbott asked questions you’ll want answered if you’re considering a big change in your life after retirement. 

Choosing the Provencal Lifestyle to Embark on a Retirement Adventure

Deborah Bine spent her childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina dreaming of “faraway places” (her words). Her early travels included visiting her Aunt Rose in exhilarating Manhattan. “Aunt Rose owned New York — or so this sixteen-year-old ingénue from the Carolinas assumed.” On this voyage, Deborah learned some travel lessons that she continues to follow today:

#1 Take a guided tour of the new place you’re visiting (ideally the first day).
#2 Wear comfortable shoes
#3 Life is an adventure

Since those early days in New York City, Deborah’s thirst for travel has taken her to Asia, West Africa, Central America and well beyond. Newly retired from her corporate marketing job and recently divorced, Deborah followed a dream and moved from South Carolina to Uzès in France.

Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure

The Barefoot Blogger is Deborah’s blog, which she launched as the reservoir for her travel stories. The blog posts are records of her approach to life and adventure as a solo, female traveller – a dose of humour, a quest for discovery and mostly lots of fun.

We asked The Barefoot Blogger to answer some questions related to the lifestyle in Provence and her experiences as an expat living in the South of France.


What is Provençal Lifestyle?

How would you describe the lifestyle in Provence to someone who has not visited?

To me the lifestyle in Provence is like life was in the 1940’s and 50’s, or as it was portrayed in movies and images. In the small towns and villages of Provence, shopkeepers know you by name. You can walk to most of the places you want to go. People are generally friendly and smiling. No one seems to be in a particular hurry, unless you’re driving on the roads. That’s an entirely different experience anywhere in France!

When you think of Provence what are the words that pop into your head?

History, flowers, wine, olives, and blue skies.

To some degree, Provence lives on its clichés in photos – scenes of lavender, sunflower fields, and boules players. Is this your Provence?

Yes, the clichés work for me, but, of course, Provence is so much more than cliché. Most important is the fact that Provence changes with the weather. Summers in Provence are busy, bustling with tourists and holiday vacationers who fill the cafes and markets. There’s a constant buzz of noise and activities.

During Autumn and Spring, the rhythm of life in Provence is calmer, cooler and less frantic. Everyone and everything slows down to a pleasant pace so you can enjoy the beauty of the villages and the countryside.

Provence Autumn Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

In Winter Provence is asleep. It’s a peaceful time of year that’s perfect for cocooning, for taking stock of your life and for planning your year ahead. Only a few of the cafes and shops are open during winter, and that’s OK. The atmosphere is warm there and oh, so French. It’s like a scene from an old French movie.

What does Mediterranean climate mean to you?

Mediterranean climate means “warm” to me. I’m from the southern part of the United States, so the weather in Provence is much like it is back in the Carolinas. It’s hot in the Summer and not too cold in the Winter. It rarely, if ever, snows. The most significant difference in the weather to me is the wind. Le Mistral is ferocious and seems to last for days if not for months.

What is your favourite season in Provence?

My favourite season in Provence is Autumn. There’s something unique about the colours of Autumn here. Perhaps it’s the way the shades of brown, beige and yellow meld into the stonework of the houses and buildings. When the leaves of grape vines are turning red and gold, it’s magical to drive through the countryside where vineyards stretch out as far as you can see along the roadway.

What is your favourite activity in Provence?

I love to go to Sète in the Summer, to eat all the seafood I can possibly hold, and sit under an umbrella at the beach — attended to by handsome and lovely young bar staffers who are serving icy, tall drinks, of course!

Sète Seashore Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

When you first return to Provence what aroma “says” I have arrived?

I know when I’m back in Provence when I smell the fresh, clean air. There’s no pollution where I live in France because there are no large industries, only a candy factory – Haribo. Highways are far away, and streets are mostly one-way with speed limits of 30 kph. So, no smelly gas fumes. Vineyards and olive groves surround the old town of Uzès.

When you leave Provence what is the thing you miss the most and wish you could take with you?

When I’ve gone back to the States to visit family in the past, I’ve tried to take some of my favourite foods from France with me – tapenades, truffle oil, sea salts and the like. For some reason, the things I love in France don’t transfer to my life outside France.

When you hear or see the term “Provence-style” what is your first thought?

The term “Provence-style” stirs thoughts of brightly colored things in my mind – bright yellows and reds, blue shutters on stone houses and rows of stately white and green plane trees.

Provence and the Cote d’Azur appear to evoke a decorative (home decor, restaurants, hotels) style – how might you describe this trend?

To me, Provence decorative style is ageless. The decorations and colour scheme of a simple farmhouse can easily adapt to the living spaces of a country estate or the veranda of a seaside resort.

Antibes Doors Windows

What about fashion style in Provence?

I never realised how much my fashion style has changed since moving to France until I posted photos of myself and friends say I look “so French.” To me, my style here is simply practical and suits the climate and my activities. Yes, I do wear lots of skirts and slippers instead of jeans and sneakers, but that may have more to do with my age than a fashion statement. Hats are a “must” nearly year-round. Read French Fashion: Bobo Style.

BFBlogger Bobo Fashion

The Provence that many imagine today is relatively “new” thanks to the likes of Peter Mayle and others. What is “Authentic Provence” to you?

If I could label anything or anyplace in Provence as “authentic,” it would be Arles. The tiny town with its Roman arena and amphitheatre, the shops with brightly decorated linens and gift items, the outdoor cafes, the festivals, the food – it’s all so Provençal. To me, Arles seems the way it has always been and how Provence is meant to be.

Arles Roman Arena Explore Provence @PerfProvence

Food in Provence

Life in Provence seems to revolve to a degree around food. How would you describe the food in the region to someone who has not visited?

The foods of Provence are influenced by geography and by the cultures of its bordering countries. From one end of Provence to the other you see, experience and taste foods that originated in Spain or Italy. The diet is influenced by the Mediterranean, featuring fish, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables, goat and sheep cheeses and lots of olives and olive oil.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

What are your favourite things to eat in Provence?

I could eat fish every day. The easy access to fresh fish, along with local, seasonal produce, makes me love to dine and cook in Provence.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

Is there a food or ingredient that you wish you could find outside of Provence?

I crave anchovy tapenade! There’s nothing like a dollop of “tapenade d’anchois” on a thin cracker and a “verre de vin rosé.”

Expat Living in Provence

How important do you feel it is to have a decent level of French comprehension and speaking skills in Provence?

Those who follow the Barefoot Blogger know that I have a love/hate relationship with learning the French language. I know how important it is to be able to communicate in the language of the place I live. However, I continuously resist the discipline that comes with learning the language. Fortunately, I’ve been here long enough now that a bit of the language is rubbing off on me. I can hold my own ordering food in a restaurant and, with the help of sign language, I can pretty much make myself understood when I need to.

What resources might you recommend to others to improve their language skills?

I discovered the audio tapes of Michel Thomas this year through a friend. Thomas’s approach to teaching and learning French is unique. It speaks to me. Now I’m hoping to get the nerve to enrol in a French immersion class.

What resources might you recommend to expats and those considering a move to Provence?

There are lots of blogs written by expats like myself who have gone through the experience of moving to France. Check them out. Don’t hesitate to write the author for suggestions and information. When you relocate to France (or anywhere), be open to your new home and environment. Don’t try to make it like the place you left. Embrace the new, enjoy the differences and get out and travel as much and as often as you can.

Perfect Day Trip to sete

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

Co-leading a tour of the South of France with Patricia Sands for sixteen ladies was the ideal opportunity to design the perfect day trip to a Sete—one of my favorite places to go along the Mediterranean. But where to start? 

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, my friend and tour destination planner extraordinaire, created a plan that highlighted Sete’s history, famous foods and oyster farming.

Come along and join the fun. Imagine you’re right there with us on the South of France Memories Tour with Nancy Mcgee and Patricia Sands.

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Accccccccchhhhhhh

Pretend you’re enjoying the video I created about our perfect day in Sete. Guess what? I’m in the hospital. .. the video won’t download over the hospital WiFi! I’ll save the video for another place and time. While I’m experiencing technical difficulty and a new part of my adventure in France, the hospital system, please stay tuned to the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook for daily updates. 

Meanwhile… 

Patricia Sands is revisiting the Memories Tour on her blog. Oh, it’s so much fun traveling with these ladies! Read on…

On our first morning in Arles, we met on the front terrace of our hotel Le Cloître to set off on today’s adventure. This would become a favourite gathering spot, morning and evening, under the magnificent giant Paulownia tree.

 

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

Farmers' Market

Village Scenes in Uzes: The Green Grocer

The French love their fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s why there are farmers markets in France in nearly every town, once a week or more often. In between, lots of places have their hometown green grocer.

In Uzes there are market days on Wednesdays and Fridays. The green market of Jean Claude Gaiffier helps fill the fresh food gap in between market days with local produce, epicurean items and wines. The cheerful shop is open every day of the week.

Hometown Green Grocer

Gaiffier’s is located at an intersection of Uzes that leads into town. San Quentin la Poterie is down the road to the right about 15 minutes away.

hometown green grocer.

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

The food market is run by Mr. Gaiffier who speaks only French, and his son Christophe who speaks some English.  Whenever I visit the shop, which is several times a week, both Mr. Gaiffiers are happy to pick out the “perfect” cantaloupe for me. Often there’s a fruit or vegetable I don’t recognize. They tell me the French name and sometimes share thoughts on how its prepared.

Hometown Green Grocer

Mr. Gaiffier senior and I have an understanding about cantaloupes. I was told that the best cantaloupe is a “female.” When I asked Mr. Gaiffier how you tell the gender of the fruit, it took a long time for him to understand what I meant. “Femme” doesn’t make sense, somehow, when you’re describing a fruit. Finally I picked up a few of the melons and showed him the difference in the way the bottoms are put together. He got it. Now when I ask for a “good” melon, he goes straight for the ones without the bumps.

Frankly, they’re all good!

Inside and out there is a selection of colorful fruits and vegetables, sausages, dairy items and lots of wine, — most are locally grown and produced in our region.

Hometown Green Grocer

Here is a sampling of the produce that is available right now — only a short walk from where I live.

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It’s like having a French farmers’ market at your doorstep every day.


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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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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

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes D’Uzes

There’s a party going on every Tuesday night, right under my window. Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes. I’m not complaining. It’s vendors with jewelry, leather goods, wine and, of course, there are musicians.

Nothing compares with the Saturday or Wednesday markets  in Uzes. Yet these Tuesday events, clearly for tourists, have the added attraction of a nighttime ambiance in the Place des Duche.

Tuesday market at the Place de Duche, Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Zumba in Uzes

The event runs from 6-11pm and starts off with Zumba.The Zumba sessions are led by a local class and visitors are welcome to join in.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Soon the marketplace is busy with people.  By night it’s loud and filled with music and happy sounds.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

Later, musicians take center stage at the Mairie (town hall).

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Candy and nougat

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Jewelry vendors with handmade necklaces, bracelets and more

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepes made on the spot

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepe making with either Nutella or the buttery sugar variety are favorites.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Silver jewelers add initials to bracelets and necklaces

 

 

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Balloons are for kids here in France, too.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Dogs are well-behaved

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes Handmade head dresses are modeled by beautiful young women.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

 

No matter how I try to stay in on Tuesday nights, I just can’t miss  Les Mardes Nocturnes D’Uzes. Who could blame me?

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Scarves on sale blow in the summer night’s breeze.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Ruins of the city walls look over Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

For more about Uzès visit here

2014-07-27 22.11.10

Sete has a sweet tooth

Sete, France: How Sweet It Is

Sète may be a small town on the French Mediterranean coast but it hits above its weight in the gastronomic arena.  Home of the most sought after oysters in France, Sete is known for these specialties: the famous octopus pie (tielle), red labelled gourmet fish soup (Azais Polito ), and hearty macaronade (macaroni and sausages). Sete has a sweet tooth, too.

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France knows Sete like the back of her hand. She’s here to tell us about sweet treats in Sete that are sought after in specialty stores from Paris to China.

The Sètois are proud of their home-grown biscuits, the Zezette and the Navette. Outsiders may think the two biscuits are the same, but those in the know beg to differ. So how do you tell a Navette from a Zezette?

Sete has a sweet toothThe “ Navette”  

Some say that the small hollow slit on top suggests a navette – a “shuttle” in French, or perhaps, a shuttle boat. These little boats, or Les ‘Navettes Cettoises’, were launched by the artisan Biscuiterie Pouget in 1913.

To this day the original machinery, including the oven, are in daily use. To be more exact, the machinery is still operated by the apprentice, Jean-Marie Fabre, who took over the business after Mr. Pouget. If you time your visit right you’ll see how a Navette is made.

The original recipe usually includes orange flower but other flavors are now available: anis, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon.  Biscuiterie Pouget also bakes equally delicious madeleines and fresh macarons in the store – the owners are extremely welcoming and will be happy to let you sample their wares.

Sete has a sweet tooth

The Zezette

Ooh la la, sounds exotic – so what puts the zing in the Zezette? La Zezette differs from La Navette inasmuch as it has a flat top and contains the local Muscat wine. Gaston Bentata, nostalgic for his mother’s cooking and North African roots, started baking these cookies in the late 1970s. In 1994 he commercialised them and in 1995 he formed his business, La Belle Époque. You’ll find the products in major outlets not only throughout France  but in the UK, China, Belgium and Germany.

Sete has a sweet tooth

To learn more about zezettes (and practice your French!) check out this mouth-watering video.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/zezettes-sete-toute-histoire-689873.html

Sete has a sweet tooth

La Cure Gourmande (The Gourmet Cure)

Not only is the nearby town of Balaruc-les-Bains famous for La Cure (the cure) in its thermal spa, but also for La Cure Gourmande (the Gourmet Cure). This artisan biscuit maker founded in 1989 is a real success story of ‘local boys made good’ on an international scale. You’ll find navettes, madeleines, sweets, biscuits and chocolates in the company’s distinctive colourful stores in 60 countries (Asia, North America, Middle East and Europe) as well as its flagship store in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.

Sete has a sweet tooth

All products in La Cure Gourmande are homemade in the south of France in a factory converted from old train station. The sweets are attractively packaged to ‘revive old-fashion and traditional presentation from the beginning of the last century’. Everything is  designed to entice: the colours, the presentation, and the packaging.

All of the boutiques have the same furniture “made in France” the same candy boxes “made in France” Produce  is seasonal (fruit cakes). Ingredients are local. For instance the sea salt from the Camargue is used to make the toffees.

The founder’s daughter is pictured on in the company’s visuals. She is now a 19-year-old student who found a job last summer …. at the production facility.

Plan for a guided tour of the production facility the next time you’re in Sete. 

Bon appetit!

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

French food, etiquette and more:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

Bizarre Holiday Gift Ideas from France

Sea Urchins: Facts, Fiction and How to Eat Them! 

The Romance of Roquefort 

“Cutting the Cheese” and More French Etiquette

Who’s Got the World’s Best Oysters?

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

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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.

 

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

Sarlat. You’re the winner. Of all the places I’ve been on my Dordogne tour these past five days,  I like you the best. Take a look at market day in Sarlat!

Ok. I’m a sucker for market days.

Market Day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

 

Maybe what I fell in love with in Sarlat was the cool hand-made bag I bought from this guy…

Market day in Sarlat

 

Or the foie gras…
Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

 

Or the walnuts (“noix” not “noisette”)



Market day in Sarlat

Perhaps it was the buildings and the alleyways
Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

 

…and the amazing church where I could feel the Spirit…

Sarlat
Sarlat
Sarlat
Sarlat

I wish you could have been there to taste the galette and the cider.



Market day in Sarlat

The macaroons…

Market day in Sarlat

I’m sure you’d feel the same. 

Sarlat

It was so much fun we almost ended up with feathers braided in our hair!

Market day in Sarlat

Tomorrow’s adventure? A surprise!

Stay tuned…

For more about the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

Day five in the seven-day Dordogne marathon trip with my long-time friend, Julie, was one thing we looked forward to the most– Visit Rocamadour.

The village carved into a hill, Rocamadour, takes at least a half-day to explore. It is recommended you arrive early to catch the best view because it is east-facing. Oh well…today we took our time leaving the hotel and probably enjoyed the visit more because we were rested. There are lots of hills and steps to climb.

Visit Rocamadour

Walking tour map of Rocamadour

 

Visit Rocamadour

Walking tour map Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour

Rocamadour

 

Visit Rocamadour

I’d heard of Rocamadore many times, and seen pictures, I knew little about its history. Did you know the name of the village is really “Roc-Amadore” and it was named for Saint Amadore? Did you know that Saint Amadore was thought by many to be Zacchaeus of the Bible. Did you know a bone of Saint Amadore’s is enshrined at the chapel in Rocamadour?

Visit Rocamadour

Relic Bone of Zacchaeus

 

That’s only the beginning of the tales and legends of the place so many have visited. The eleventh century. Rocamadour is, in fact, a pilgrim’s center.

Visit Rocamadour

 

Aside from being along the trail of Compostella, Rocamadore’s holy relics bring worshippers there to “admire” to “contemplate” and to “pray.”

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Admiring” Rocamodore is easy. 

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour


“Contemplating” wasn’t easy with the crowds of people everywhere, even though vacation season is over. 

 

Visit Rocamadour

Praying” is inevitable when you realize the importance of the shrines throughout the village.

 

Visit Rocamadour

Remains of Saint Amadour inside

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Almost every town you visit in France has a memorial to their war dead. Rocamadore is no exception. Mostly remembered are the veterans of the “Great War” — World War I

Visit Rocamadour

Statue honoring war dead in Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Of course, a day in France always means great food. That’s a given. And what’s a meal without a pichet of rose? 

Visit Rocamadour

Beautiful lamp chops!

Truly, I adore Roc-AMADORE.

Visit Rocamadour
Tomorrow.. Market day in Sarlat.

Stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

inspirational-travel-quote-10

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

On the third day of the seven day Dordogne tour with my friend since kindergarten, we finally got it right.  

We narrowed down the “to do” list for our seven day Dordogne tour to a manageable number of places to see in one day. We came up with the concepts of “walkabouts” and “drive by photo shootings.” In other words, there are places where we want to park the car and walk around, and there are others we just want to drive through and take pictures on the run.

We’ve gotten quite good at spotting a perfect photo opportunity, slowing the car down to a near-stop, then Julie taking a picture out the window.

Today’s adventure started after we took more photos and checked out of our “dream” Chateau Mercués outside Cahors.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Mercués

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Home of Josephine Baker

First stop: Les Milandes, Chateau built by Caumont family in the 1400’s and former home of Josephine Baker. 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Les Milandes

The self-guided tour through the chateau and the immaculate grounds was well worth the time and 3.5 euros fee. Costumes and possessions of the American songstress and philanthropist, who dazzled Paris during the 30’s at the Follies Bergere were displayed throughout the chateau. Most rooms had the furnishings and decorations that were owned and used by Baker and her large family, the “Rainbow Tribe,” while living there. (No inside photos allowed.)

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour:  Roque Gageac

As if carved into the side of cliffs, Le Rogue Gageac is a small and friendly tourist town alongside the Dordogne. There were lots of tourists, but not so many as we imagined had filled the town a few weeks earlier.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

It was here we began to see our first signs of foie gras– the duck delicacy found famously in this part of the world.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour
Could there be anything better than a salad with duck gizzards, slices of smoked duck and foi gras, and a cold glass of beer on a day with temperatures in the high 90’s? (35 degrees Celsius)

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Domme

The picturesque town above the Dordogne valley was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought it was going to be much larger than it is. While quite a nice place with cute shops and cafes, Domme was a quick stop for us. Parking the car for an hour and walking around taking photos was quite enough for us to say we’d “done” Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

I will say,  if we had not already stopped for lunch, this spot that looks over the valley would have given us a great view.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Sarlat

If I didn’t love Uzes so much, Sarlat could possibly be my next home. Oh my! To die for! 

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

After a “drive by photo shooting” in Beynac-et-Cazenet where the pictures of the town and chateau are still in Julie’s camera, we landed in Sarlat.

Today’s visit to Sarlat was short — mostly to find where to park and where to go on Saturday for market day. I can tell I want to spend more time exploring the place, its shops, cafes and intriguing back street.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Marquay

I’m not certain how we decided on this spot to stay for the next three nights, but the tiny village of Marquay is giving us a welcomed respite from our hurried pace.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Marquay

Actually, the small, family-owned hotel outside Sarlat is a good jumping off place for each of the next days on our trip. A “home base,” so to speak. It’s a far cry from the luxurious chateau last night, but it’s cozy and friendly, and everything we need to recharge and move on.

 

 

Next stop: Lascaux 

 

Stay tuned…

 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

Day two on the week-long car tour from Uzes to Tours, through the Dordogne with my long-time friend, Julie, was hurried and hot–35 degrees centigrade. Happily we ended up in total luxury–a chateau!

There are two luxuries Julie and I splurged on during our 7-day Dordogne auto tour. One was to spend a night in a hilltop chateau and enjoy a fancy dinner. The other I’ll divulge later.

Check this out!

Dordogne auto tour

Château de Mercuès near Cahors

Château de Mercuès near Cahors is a dream come true! The thirteenth century chateau with its vineyards that produce superb Georges Vigouroux wines is a haven for travelers in search of history, truffles, saffron and Malbec.

 

Dordogne auto tour

Wine storage at Château de Mercuès

Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour

Starting the Dordogne Auto Tour

After a stop and start, scenic ride from Albi, through Galliac, Montauban, Lauzerte and Cahors, we landed at the Chateau in the late afternoon. Had we known better, we would have gone straight  to Cahors, spent time there, then we would have enjoyed a more leisurely visit at the chateau. Oh well…now I’ll just have to go back sometime!

 

Dordogne auto tour
We had plenty of time for dinner at the chateau, thank goodness. Plus a private tour of the winery with the hotel manager.

Here’s just a sample to whet your appetite. More details later.

 

Dordogne auto tour

Wine tasting with the General Manager at Château de Mercuès

 

Dordogne auto tour

Dinner menu at Château de Mercuès

 

Dordogne auto tour

Dordogne auto tour

Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour

 

Tomorrow, Sarlat! Stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 


“The Golden Girls” Loving Italy: Day 16-20 Nova Siri

Ever heard of Nova Siri?  Neither had I until the Golden Girls’ adventure took me to the coastal resort town in the “instep” of  Italy’s boot.

Visit Nova Siri

After 15 days of jumping from place to place in France and Italy, the Golden Girls were ready for a little rest and relaxation. As par for this journey, we picked a spot on the map because it was there and headed to Nova Siri, Italy to spend time unwinding on a beach. 

One of the Golden Girls is a double crystal, diamond-crusted, ruby slipper, 24-karat gold medallion member of a worldwide timeshare group. She suggested we try out the four-star timeshare beach resort in Nova Siri. It wasn’t her first choice, but every other place we looked was booked solid.

She had never traveled to Europe and she was so excited about finding a timeshare that I didn’t have the nerve to tell her “four-star” in Europe is not quite up to the same standards as in the US.

It didn’t really matter to me if we had luxury accommodations. My incentive was to see the “instep” of Italy’s “boot” and the Ionian Sea.

Visit Nova Siri, Italy

Getting there

Traveling to Nova Siri from Rome meant a two-hour flight to Bari, then a two-hour drive on a pretty good highway to Nova Siri.

Bari is a relatively large town on the Adriatic Sea. The population is close to 400,000. Bari gained some small degree of fame from the movie “Bridges of Madison County”. Meryl Streep’s character claimed she “came from Bari.”

We probably should have spent a little time looking around the town, but our “driver” was waiting to take us to Nova Siri.

The view along the way

Fortunately I have long legs and was given the privilege of riding in the front seat of the Audi taxi with the driver. He spoke a little English and was happy to answer my questions about his part of the world.

The geography of the Basicilata region is a mix of mountain ranges, hills and plains. While we never went directly through mountains on the way to the southern coast of the Matera province, they were ever-present on the horizon.

Visit Nova Siri

Basilicata Region, Italy Volcanic Mount Vulture in the background

The towns along the way to Nova Siri were few and far between.

Visit Nova Siri

Basilicata Region, Italy Volcanic Mount Vulture in the background

Occasionally, when there was a village in the far distance, it looked as if it was a ghost town … deserted.

Visit Nova Siri

Basilicata region of Italy

As we drove along, you could see the landscape change.Visit Nova Siri

In one area olive trees were lining both sides of the highway. While ahead, vineyards stretched as far as you could see.

Visit Nova Siri

In just a matter of minutes, and for miles and miles beyond, fields of yellow wheat were in sight; some within touching distance of the cars on the highway.

Visit Nova Siri

Akiris: A “Disneyland” on the Ionic Sea

Arriving at our destination — the Akiris Resort — Golden Girl #1 was disappointed that is was not the “four-star” quality she expected. On the other hand, all the amenities were there and the beach with the mountains in the background was magnificent.

Visit Nova Siri

Akiris Resort, Nova Siri, Italy

There was something going on all the time at Akiris. And this wasn’t the busy tourist season. 

Our accommodations were the equivalent of a 3-bedroom apartment. The rooms were large and the beds comfortable. My room had bunk beds. I slept on the top bunk … reminiscent of my college days.

There was no decoration in any of the rooms. All household items had to be purchased at the resort “market”. Nothing was provided — except towels that were like large kitchen towels.

What’s with that? Plush bath towels must be an American “thing”? Interestingly the towels we rented for the beach were plush. We ended up using them, instead, for our showers in the apartment.

We did enjoy the beach. Which is exactly why we went to Nova Siri. To relax on the beach.

 We ate great food.

Visit Nova Siri

… and learned the freshest seafood is brought to the table before cooking while it’s still wiggling. Visit Nova Siri

We enjoyed new friends. 

Like magnets, we quickly found the few Americans who were visiting the resort and we became close friends immediately. We did everything together …

… we checked out the nearby town of Nova Siri Marina…

… and lounged by one of the two swimming pools.

One friend we literally adopted. We met her the first day she arrived. She was at the resort’s dining room, sitting alone, so we invited her to join us for dinner.

Quickly we learned she is German and speaks very little English. She was on a holiday by herself, which she often does.  She had been crying all that day because the airlines had lost her baggage. She would have to retrieve them herself the next day … two-hour trip up to Bari and back.

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After dinner we took her to our place and filled her arms with clothing and personal essentials, including a “South Carolina Girl” T-shirt. She became our new “best friend”.

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Side Trips

Some among our group took a side trip to Matera. This “little piggy” stayed home. The day’s journey would have been interesting, but I was totally into being a lump on a beach chair.

Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” was staged in Matera. He supposedly chose the town because it resembles Jerusalem. Without the tourists.

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Matera Italy

The Golden Girls Adventure Ends Here … That’s all, Folks

At 4:00 am on the last day of our adventure, The Golden Girls were perched outside the Akiris Resort awaiting the shuttle bus to the airport in Bari. From Bari I was heading to Rome, then to Girona, Spain. The other Golden Girls were going to Paris for five days before returning to the States.

Hopefully you enjoyed our adventures as you followed us in the blog. We laughed a lot, we stretched our comfort zones, and we found you’re never too old to learn something new. Most importantly, after 25 years spent apart, we proved that The Golden Girls are truly “forever friends”.  “Veni, vidi, vici

Here’s my challenge to you:

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For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The Golden Girls” Loving Italy: Day 12-13 Florence

Florence, Italy is a place you should try to see at least once in your lifetime. For “The Golden Girls”, two of us were making repeat visits. That meant this had to be a unique and fun experience for each of us to remember.

Little did we know our memorable experience would start as soon as we got there.

As you recall, Mustang Sally was left behind in Girona, Spain so that we could take the late night flight to Pisa, Italy. That meant from here on out, we were getting from place to place by plane, train, bus and cab.

“Nothing wrong with that,” you say.

Well, it depends on who you’re traveling with. You see, (1) none of The Golden Girls know north and south from east and west; (2) trying to read a map is a joke; and (3) we’re all “blonds” to the root.

We arrived at the train station in Florence from Pisa with all our luggage, bags and hats in tow. Planning to take a cab to the AIRBNB apartment, we were pleased that someone met us immediately to take us to the front of the cab stand.

But wait. It wasn’t a strong, burly cab driver.

It was a petite young girl. She quickly grabbed our bags, putting two under each arm. Pulling rolling bags with her hands, she darted about the crowded train station. Through the crowds, down the stairs, to the outside, up more stairs, and then to the cab stand. It was then that we discovered the place we landed looked very familiar. She had taken us in a circle. The cab stand was basically where we got off the train… just outside the door.

We had been duped. She just wanted to hustle us for a tip. 

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Hint #1: Get your own cab at the train station in Florence.

Fortunately, the cab driver was honest and took us directly to our AIRBNB apartment — although he couldn’t take us to the door. Our building was on the street of one of the busiest marketplaces in town.- San Lorenzo. Yippee!

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San Lorenzo Market

You know that’s not a problem for us. Bring it on! Shopping at our doorstep.

Even better, the apartment and the hosts were terrific. We had our own place with three bedrooms, a kitchen and a living room. After our ordeal in Pisa, this was a palace.

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Shopping, Eating and Walking

Two of us had seen all the museums, churches and gold-laced artwork we wanted to see on previous trips to Florence. Golden Girl #3 had no interest in the above. So we set out to make this trip memorable with everything else that Florence has to offer.

Shop ’til you drop

One of the biggest markets in Florence was at our doorstep. — San Lorenzo. Need I say more? There were leather goods everywhere. So many choices and so little space to fit purchases. Believe it or not, I bought nothing!

There were plenty of temptations. Florence is a mecca for leather, jewelry and high fashion.

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People watching

Tourists were everywhere. It was easier to find someone speaking English than anywhere else we’d been. Picking out locals from visitors was no problem.

Eat often. Eat well

We had no real agenda for tours or anything else. Our meals and restaurant stops were not scheduled.

An inviting cafe surrounded by interesting sights and sounds would draw our attention and we’d pop in for a drink or a meal. We surely missed a lot of well-known and fabulous restaurants by not focusing on where to eat. However, with no car and no real schedule, mealtime was not a priority. Regardless, you can see we ate well.

A little gnocchi with aubergine and tomato here ..

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Gnocci with Albergine

A little fried avocado there … 

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Bruschetta as often as possible

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Bruschetta

Our apartment host was a chef at a local restaurant, so he gave us a few suggestions for places to eat. One was so good we returned for every meal!

Check out La Falterona

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Pici freschi al ragù di cinghiale – Pasta with Wild Boar Meat

 

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Grande piatto di verdure grigliate – Mixed grilled vegetables

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Carpaccio di manzo con rucola e parmigiano – Thin sliced beef with rocket salad and parmesan chesse

Hint #2: Eat where you please. It’s all good!

If there’s music, even better!

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Amazing architecture

Visiting Florence, you feel like you’re walking back through history. Ornate buildings, voluptuous statues and narrow streets remind you of another time. The smallest detail on a structure has meaning and a story behind it.Like this monument on the side of a building. Its design gave rise to the tradition of encasing important religious items in glass enclosures. It was hidden away on a side street in Florence’s busy tourist area.

Shrine encased in glass

 

The Duomo is a study in art, architecture and history all in one. Perhaps you’ve never noticed this ornament at one of the entrances to the cathedral. An ancient compass.Details everywhere.

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Compass at the entrance to the Duomo

Hint #3: Take a tour

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You can find a tour that suits your interests. It’s worth the time and it gives you lots of exercise.

So you can eat more!

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Cycles everywhere

Hint #4: Watch where you walk

There are bicycles and motorcycles that think they have the right-of-way. I’m not kidding. It’s a problem and a danger, but it’s all part of being in Florence.

Best of Florence

For me, the best part of returning to Florence was to share good times with good friends.

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Visit the Ponte Vecchio once more.

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And look at handsome Italian men!

Next stop: Cinque Terre

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For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Day 9-10 Port Vendres and Collioure

Day 11 Pisa 

Learn to Cook Provençal

Learn to Cook Mediterranean with a French Pro

French Cooking with a Pro

One thing I dreamed about before moving to France was to attend a cooking class in Paris. Little did I know that my wish would come true —  without leaving the little town of Uzès. Chef Eric Fraudeau of Cook’n with Class Paris has a cooking school right down the road — Cook’n with Class Uzès. Now I can learn to cook Mediterranean, too!

Learn to Cook Mediterranean 

It’s exciting to know you’re learning to cook with one of the best. With over 20 years experience as chef in acclaimed hotels and restaurants such as the five-star Hotel de Paris MonacoChef Eric Fraudeau has a background few chefs can claim. His early career includes working in the kitchen with both Robuchon and Ducasse.

Chef Fraudeau’s schoolCook’n with Class Uzès, specializes in Provençal & Mediterranean Cuisine — the foods people in the south of France love to eat and often serve in their homes. Classes offered include “French Market Class” and “Cook’n with Fish – Fish and Seafood class”. On market days the Chef and students go shopping together in either of two neighboring towns, Uzès (Wednesday) or San Quentin de la Poterie (Tuesday and Friday). They return to the class kitchen to create and enjoy a meal from the day’s best finds.

“Cook’n with Fish” sounded like the best choice for me, especially since fish is one of my favorite foods. What better way to learn how to prepare seafood Mediterranean-style than from an expert?

“Fish day” Menu

Apéro

Garlic and basil spread, olives, pâtébrandade

Entrée

Pissaladière (a classic Niçoise specialty that’s like a pizza)

Plat

Poulpe (octopus) salad with basil, olives and capers

Sea bream with fennel, mussels and saffron sauce

Cheeses

Dessert

Paris-Deauville

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Prepping the food

For our Provençal & Mediterranean dinner on “fish day,” some ingredients were more intimidating than others. Squid? Octopus? They’re great to eat, but how to cook them? I was in the right place.

Everything was laid out before us when we came into the chef’s kitchen. One by one the ingredients morphed into a pissaladière, a sauce, a salad, a lovely fish dish, a dessert. Chef Eric, along with his guest, Chef Patrick, from the Paris school, stood by to guide and instruct us.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Here are just a few of the tips from the day’s lesson:

Tip #1: Anchovies melt! Who knew? The steps for the pissaladière called for us to slice and brown onions, then add anchovies. Did you know that anchovies melt? They actually disappear when they are heated and stirred into a recipe.

Tip #2: Boil oranges? Chef Eric surprised us all when he popped two oranges from off the counter into a saucepan of water … to boil. “Organic oranges only,” he said. “We’re going to use the rind and all,” he added. The oranges, after they were soft enough from boiling, were going into a blender, then into the batter for the cake we were preparing for dessert.

Tip #3:  How to clean mushrooms. Chanterelles, which are known as “girolles” in France, were spread out on the kitchen counter in all their yellow splendour. Never having “properly” cleaned a mushroom, I was anxious to hear what the Chef would suggest. He recommended that we use our fingers to brush off the dirt, followed by a quick swipe with a paper towel. He said he finds this way of cleaning mushrooms easier than using a brush. It means one less utensil in the kitchen drawer, too.

Tip #4: How to filet a fish

During a gourmet tour of Sète, Nancy McGee from “Absolutely Southern French” taught me how to filet a cooked whole fish, served at the table. To filet a fish to cook, do it the same way.

Tip #5: How to “fix” a cooking mistake?

Every chef has his secrets and, for this cooking class, Chef Eric and Chef Patrick were willing to share everything, including how to recover from making a mistake. According to Chef Eric, almost every cooking error can be resolved.

We watched one “mistake” happen when the “mayonnaise” for the rouille separated.

Rouille” is a creamy, garlicy sauce that’s commonly found in the south of France. You can prepare and serve it in a number of different ways, including as a main course. For our meal, rouille was a side dish.

While preparing the rouille, someone (not me, thank goodness) combined the ingredients too quickly. The sauce curdled. Chef Patrick “fixed it” by working with small bits of the mixture at a time. He pushed a little of the rouille to one side of the bowl, then dropped in an egg — yoke and all. He whipped the egg and rouille by hand. Little by little he incorporated the “bad” mix into the “good,” until it all was a perfect consistency.

Chef Patrick says you can do the same with chocolate if it “goes to seed.”

Tip #6: French etiquette

To cook with “class” in France you should know about French etiquette. There are “rules” on how to serve, eat, toast and drink. For example, before a toast, with drinks in hand, you must look each person straight in the eyes. It may take a little longer to take that first sip, but taking the time to do it right will make a lasting impression.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Déjeuner/Diner is served

Déjeuner, or “lunch” is served mid-day in France. Until the 1960s, déjeuner was the big meal of the day. Families would gather at home for a two-hour break from work or school and sit down for a multi-course meal prepared by the mother. With changing times, many mothers work today. Everyone still takes a two hour break; but, the mid-day meal is abbreviated to something much lighter and not everyone comes home to eat.

“Dîner”, or dinner, is seldom served before 7:30pm. If it is the main meal, and especially on weekends and holidays, dîner can last three to four hours. Starting with the apéro, each course is served with complimentary wines, spirits, apéritifs and digestifs.

The Cook’n With Class menu was designed for a typical main meal. Call it “dejeuner” or “diner.”

When all the cooking and the lessons were done, Chef Eric invited us to gather around the side table for our apéro course. We toasted each other with tall flutes of champagne. Moving over to a large, beautifully appointed dining table where we sat, we were served the entrée course, or starter — the pissaladière.  The main course (“plat”) with “accompagnement” (side dishes) followed.

Just when we thought we had eaten enough to literally explode, a wooden platter with an assortment of soft and hard cheeses was passed around — a custom in French dining. Next, dessert — the heavenly “boiled orange” cake with chocolate ganache flowing on top.

Now that a bit of the mystery of Provençal & Mediterranean cooking has been revealed, I feel a little friendlier toward raw octopus and squid. Perhaps a visit to Cook’n with Class Paris will take the fear out of wine and cheese pairings … or unveil the magic of macaroons. Today Uzès, next time Paris. Oh, be still my heart!

More here on my day in Paris!

Look What’s Cooking on Sunday in Paris

 

 

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