Category: Loving History

Memories Tour “A List”: Antibes, Aix, and Arles

It’s not a coincidence that the South of France Memories Tour would visit Antibes, Aix, and Arles straight in a row. They are definitely A-List tourist spots south of France.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

You know by now that Antibes is one of my favorite places to visit on the Côte d’Azur. For the past four years, it’s been where friends and I meet before the onslaught of heat and visitors in Uzès. This time, with 18 Memories Tour ladies, Antibes took on a unique flavor, thanks to the Love in Provence book series by my friend and co-leader, Patricia Sands. Here we followed in the footsteps of Katherine and her handsome Frenchman, Philippe.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Patricia guided us through the Antibes Market where Philippe was the modest- and eligible — purveyor of cheeses.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

Choosing a spot for a group photo in Antibes isn’t easy when there are so many spectacular views.

Antibes

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

Shopping in Antibes is a favorite sport. The best news for our tour gals? It was market day in Antibes. Wahoo!

 

Antibes

Market day in Antibes Vieux town square

 

Antibes

A stop at the Absinth Bar was a first taste of the legendary drink for most.

 

There’s a method for creating an absinthe drink. A cube of sugar, a slotted spoon, and just enough water to melt the sugar cube. Interesting! Tastes like licorice.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Aix-en-Provence

“Aix” is one of the largest and most visited towns in Provence. The home of Cézanne, it’s high on the list for tourists who want to know about the artist. Unfortunately, as we learned through our guide, Stephanie, Cezanne was never appreciated by the townspeople. His paintings are scarce in Aix. Nowhere else, though, can you follow in the footsteps of the artist’s youth and life.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Following the footsteps of Cézanne took us through the town with a unique perspective.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Picasso had a special relationship with Cèzanne, although the young Picasso was an unknown artist at the time. Picasso studied Cèzanne’s work and considered him “the father of us all.” Today Picasso’s work is exhibited in galleries in Aix like Musée Granet.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

One of the 1,000 fountains in Aix — the Four Dolphins

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The Cours Mirabeau, once the site of the town’s wall, is the prominent avenue in Aix and displays the statue of René d’Anjou (1434 – 1480), king of Jerusalem, king of Naples and Sicily, Duke of Lorraine. Folklore says he was a noble character — poet, artist, musician, and importer of the muscat grape into Provence.

 

During our day stop in Aix, our tour was pleased to see students marching in support of climate change reform. It was an impressive peaceful demonstration.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Arles

Arles was the stopping place for the second half of the Memories Tour. For seven days we called the luxurious Hotel Jules César our home away from home.

Hotel Jules César

Hotel Jules César In Arles

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The front terrace of the hotel made the perfect reading spot for Patricia’s book, Drawing Lessons. Characters and places in Drawing Lessons were based on Arles.

 

Arles is filled with ancient relics of Roman days that are still very much in use today, including the 2000-year-old arena.

 

Arles

The arena at night is magical.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

One rainy day and a wrong turn was a real adventure through the back roads of Arles. Nevertheless, the Barefoot Blogger trudged on, and we had lots of laughs. Never a dull moment on the Memories Tour!

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Shopping was always on our minds. Market day in Arles did not disappoint.

 

Aix

Our tour guests included Cheryl Jamison of James Beard cookbook acclaim. She raved about the food! Is it any wonder?

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The new home of the Luma Foundation in Arles is a tourist attraction in itself. It is, perhaps, the last public space to be designed by the 90+-year-old architect, Frank Gehry. The modern and controversial building is a new symbol for art and culture for the ancient Roman town of Provence.

A highlight of dining on the Memories Tour in Arles was our evening at the Hotel Particulier, a 5-star hotel in the heart of Arles. The home of aristocrats with its walls from the time of Roman Emperor Constantine was restored to the imaginative vision of architects for the Luma Foundation.

 

 

What’s next??? The Memories Tour 2019 heads for Occitanie — Sete, the Camargue, and Uzès!

France Travel Guide

Live Like a King and Wallace Simpson

When my Brit friends from Uzès invited me to tag along with them to “live like a King” at the weekend home of the Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson outside Paris, I was thrilled. No one really knows how much I love and follow the British Royals. It’s a great addition to my French travels, too.

Living like a King

Queen Elizabeth Doll

I vividly remember the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth. A Queen Elizabeth doll was my prized possession.

I’m so firmly attached to the Royal Family that I went to the wedding of Will and Kate. Yes, I was one of the hundreds of thousands of spectators at Will and Kate’s wedding that glorious April day.

In fact, it was while I was on the same side of the ocean for the wedding that a friend invited me to visit in France. We spent a Saturday Market Day in Uzes. The rest is history.

France Travel Guide

Saturday Market in Uzes

Live Like a King

Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that I would spend four days and nights in the same house as the former King of England and the famous American divorcee, Wallace Simpson. Who knew I’d be stomping the same garden paths and walking the same village streets?

Living like a King

Duke of Windsor and Wallace Simpson

For any who are too young, or aren’t familiar with the story of King Edward and Wallace Simpson, it’s probably the most romantic love story in modern history (Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton next?) Edward was King of England after the death of his father; he was having an affair with Wallace Simpson — an American divorcee; he abdicated the throne to marry Wallace Simpson; and they “exiled” to France. If you’d like to see a new recreation of the events, you must watch the TV series “The Crown.”

Living like a King

Wedding Day of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor

Getting there

The stay at the Duke and Wallace Simpson’s country home was planned for the week following my return to France from the States. (Hopefully, you traveled with me through CDG airport; Cook’n with Class;  and Montmartre.)

After a few days in Paris, I  left for Gif-Sur-Yvette by train from Gard du Nord in Paris to meet my friends who were driving up from Uzes.

France Travel Guide  Yes, I had a ton of luggage with me from the States to haul onto the train. Luckily a lovely young man who was catching the same train gave me a hand.

France Travel Guide

Paris Gard du Nord

When I arrived at the train station in Gif-Sur-Yvette, I was “gathered” by my friends and delivered to Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, only a few miles away.

What a wonderful sight!

Living like a King

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

Here’s a slideshow of the home, cottages, and grounds. 

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A brief history of Le Mouline de la Tuilerie

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was the weekend home of the Duke and Duchess and the only property the couple owned together. Their formal residence in France was in Paris, 4 Route du Champ d’Entrainement in the Bois de Bologna. The history of Le Moulin dates back to the 1500s when a working mill was on the site. The current main house was built in 1734 — as indicated by the date carved over the transom of the front door. At that time, the house and grounds were known as “Moulin Aubert.” When Edward and the Duchess took possession of Moulin Aubert in 1952, the Duchess renamed the estate after the adjacent village — ” Moulin Tuilierie.”

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie was owned and occupied by the Windsors until the Duke’s death in 1972. In 2009 it became a Landmark Trust property.

An inside look

After purchasing Le Moulin, the Windsors spent two years redecorating the interior and guest houses. With the help of renowned designer Stéphane Boudin, the home was tastefully filled with bright colors and furnishings the couple had amassed during their lives separately and together. Today, only a few of the same decorations remain.

During our stay at Le Moulin, the four couples — and me — occupied the five bedrooms in the main house. My room was quickly decided because it was the only single. For the other four bedrooms, my friends drew straws. Two couples joined me in the “servants quarters.” The remaining two were given the room of the Duchess and the room of the Duke. As you can see, there was nothing opulent about the living quarters of Le Moulin. Just utilitarian and comfortably dressed in a 1950’s way.

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The living room upstairs, on the other hand, was huge and inviting. During the time of the Windsors, the room was used primarily for entertaining. (See photos above) There are framed photographs that show the Duke and Duchess surrounded by elegantly-dressed and famous guests.

The kitchen area was added as the home morphed from a private residence to a Landmark Trust site.

Living like a King

Le Moulin de la Tuilerie

Live Like a King: Wallace Simpson Dinner Parties

Not to be outdone by royalty, my Brit friends and I put on our own “Royals Nights.”  Cocktails were served promptly at seven and dinner at eight. Two evenings we all dressed the part of Wallace Simpson and the Duke. Glam, eh?

Our cocktails, aperos, and meals were divine.

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All followed by fun and games… and just a bit of drama.

Note: Mas d’Augustine lovebirds, Jane and Gary Langston, made the best of their holiday away from the B&B.

Living like a King

Jane and Gary

Live Like a King: Out and about 

During the daytime, there was plenty of sightseeing to do.  Walking through the village of Gif-Sur-Yvette, for one.

Then a day in Paris that started with an hour-long train ride, a hop-on bus tour, and a fabulous lunch.

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The most magnificent of all — a day in Versailles!

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Then … it was time to say “goodbye”…

Living like a King

Yet another memory … 

France Travel Guide

 

Where next? Stay tuned …

France Travel Guide

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

If you’ve been to Paris before, you might not want to see the Eiffel Tower every time you return. This visit to Paris, I chose to stay in Montmartre. In just two days I got a taste of the town. And I loved it! Now I have my favorite 5 to do’s in Montmartre.

5 To Do's in MontmartreI confess, I’ve been to Montmartre before. A night at the Moulin Rouge was high on the “must do” list when I was a twenty-something in Paris for the first time with college friends. In the 60s it was pretty raunchy.  I stood in the line and walked through the  Sacré Coeur Cathedral many years later.

So what do you do in Montmartre if you’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and Sacré Coeur? Plenty!

 

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

#1  Cooking Class

Travel Guide France

Cook’n with Class Paris

Go to a cooking class at Cook’n with Class Paris. If it’s a Sunday, all the better. The Sunday Market Class includes shopping at the city market. Then you go back to the school to prepare a sumptuous meal with all the fresh ingredients. Read all about the fun experience — click here.

#2 Enjoy the Scenery

Even on a cloudy day, Montmartre is charming. Check out the patisseries and cafes along the way.

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Who knows who you’ll run into? My good buddy and playwright, Silver Wainhouse! She lives near me in Uzès and she was in town for the day. 

Travel Guide France

#3 Eat the food

Take your time to find just the right spot to have lunch or a snack. I mean, is there anything quite as good as French Onion Soup — in France?  Pair that with a glass of your favorite wine and you’re just about in heaven.

Travel Guide France

One day, wandering around near Pigalle, what should appear? Le Chat Noir. Right out of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.

5 To Do's in Montmartre

Le Chat Noir

I expected Picasso or Toulouse to walk in any moment. Surely they would enjoy the cafe’s Paysanne salad — filled with duck magret and gizzards. I did!

#4 Climb the hill to Sacrè Couer

Go ahead. Even if you’ve been to the Sacrè Couer, do it again.  The views are spectacular. Yes, it’s quite a hike to the top, but there’s a lift and a small train that can take you up. If you’re around on a weekend, plan to have a coffee and croissant while sitting at a cafe near where the artists hang out. You might even snag a painting at a good price. It’s what memories are made of.
5 to do's in Montmartre

Imagine yourself here…

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5 to do's in Montmartre

Travel Guide France

Musée de Montmartre

#5 Visit Musée de Montmartre

If you want to take a trip through Montmartre’s past — to actually see where artists, writers and sculptors such as Renoir, Émile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre Reverdy and Demetrius Galanis actually lived and worked, visit the Musée de Montmartre. It’s tucked away on a side street at the top of Montmartre and it’s worth the stop.

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Would I stay in Montmartre again? Absolutely! 

I don’t always “plug” a place that I stay when I’m traveling, but I have to give a big shout out to Le Grey Hotel. The boutique hotel is so convenient to everything I wanted to see and do on my short stay. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. The breakfast is fresh, tasty and served late into the morning. And there is a bar and sitting room that’s cozy and inviting.

Next stop: Living Like A Royal!
Travel Guide France

Visit Uzés France

Visit Uzés, France: Inside the Château de Duché

Any who visit Uzés, France are in awe of the Château de Duché. It’s the centerpiece of the town and home to the Duke of Uzés — the oldest ducal peerage in France.

If France was still a kingdom, the Duke of Uzés would rank just below “princes of the blood.” It is he who would announce Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! at each state funeral, and defend the honour of the queen mother.”

The Château de Duché was built in the 12th century by Lord Bermonde of the House of Crussol. Along with the château, three distinctive towers were erected within the wall of the medieval town. The most prominent tower of all carries his name — Bermonde Tower. All of the structures are standing today. The wall has disappeared and the wall’s watchtower is in ruins.

Visit Uzes, France

visit uzes franceThe gothic chapel, a striking feature of the château’s courtyard with its glittering red tiled roof, was added in the 15th century. During the 16th century, the cháteau underwent extensive renovations. Duke Antoine — the first peer of France, ordained by Charles IX — ordered refurbishments that morphed the medieval castle into an elegant Renaissance cháteau. The courtyard became the main attraction.

The château served as a defense unit during the War of Religion and the Revolution.  It was never attacked or destroyed. As the town went through various phases of wealth and decline, the château was used as a school dormitory, workshops and classrooms. During WWII the buildings were occupied by the Germans.Jacques de Crussol, the current resident of the Château de Duché and 17th Duke of Uzès has this to say about the state of Uzes during the era of his grandfather (1943-1999).

“Uzès was then steadily declining. The population of eight thousand at the time of Louis XIV had dropped to three and a half thousand. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes had already prompted some of the inhabitants to leave. Since the Revolution, the town had lost the bishopric and its tenure, the silk industry was practically non-existent, the Piémont régiment had gone, and so had the sub-prefecture. The arcades surrounding the Place aux Herbes rested on makeshift supports and many houses were in a state of neglect.”

It was the Duke’s grandmother, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who lobbied the Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle to list Uzés as a protected site, enabling the chatéau and the town to find funding for the much needed restorations. Due to the efforts of the Duchess of Uzes, a law is now in place in France that similarly benefits other cultural and historic sites throughout the country. The gutsy grandmother was the first woman in France to be granted a driver’s license. She was instrumental in campaigning for women’s rights, including the right to vote.

Tour of the Château de Duché

I’ve spent day after day staring at the Duché from my apartment windows and I’ve taken hundreds of photos every angle. Finally I found the perfect opportunity to visit inside — along with hundreds of other sightseers — during the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days. 

Come along and let’s take a tour.

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Visit Uzes, France

 

 

Wish for France

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: UNESCO Pre-Historic Caves and Ardeche River Gorges

For visitors to Uzès there’s always something to keep you busy. If you’re not shopping on market day or wandering through the ancient town and discovering its charming streets and alleyways, you’re walking beside the stream in the Valle du l’Eure.

Perhaps you would like to venture out a bit more? See a totally different part of France, but travel only an hour or so away? Taking easy day trips from Uzès to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes visiting so appealing.

Ardèche

Gorges de l’Ardèche

The Ardeche River runs through southeast France from the Massif Central to the Rhône River at Pont-Saint-Esprit near Orange. Along the way the Ardeche tumbles into a gorge that’s surrounded in some places by limestone river walls over nine hundred feet high. Known as the “European Grand Canyon,” the area draws over a million tourists each year.

Ardèche

In summer folks head to the Pont d’Arc at the entrance to the Ardeche canyon for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and picnicking.

Ardèche

As you can imagine, in autumn the drive along the river and through the multicolored hillside is spectacular. Add a stop for lunch in the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Whether pre-history or cave drawings interest you or not, the UNESCO park and Cavern du Pont-d-Arc is a must-see if you’re in this part of France.

You can spend hours exploring the nature trails in the stunning park.

Paula

Friend Paula is leading the way. Or not.

Or head straight to the ultra-modern, twenty-first century exhibition center, the Cavern du Pont d’Arc, that houses a replica of one of the most important prehistoric finds in the world. The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave.

Easy day trips from Uzés g_9536

The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave was discovered in 1994 by three amateur cave explorers. The cave’s interior is approximately 1300 feet (400 meters) with numerous chambers and galleries. Displayed on the walls, crooks and crannies of the cave are more than 1000 drawings dated from 32,000 to 36,000 years ago.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Cavern du Pont d’Arc

Caverne du Pont-d’Arc is a near-exact copy of the Chauvet cave which is the oldest known and the best preserved cave decorated by man. The modern-day designers of the Cavern were scientists and computer geniuses who mimicked every aspect of the original cave with the help of 3D graphics and highly advanced computer imaging techniques.

Easy day trips from Uzés

On entering the exhibition area of the Cavern Du Pont d’Arc, you are immediately enveloped with the sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smell of a 30,000 year old, Paleolithic shrine.

Easy day trips from Uzés

You transcend time to a place where Stone Age artists visited and left behind drawings to depict their everyday lives, images of themselves, their animals and their imaginings. Disney could not have done it better.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

“This is a scientific and cultural site with touristic potential,” says Sébastien Mathon, a scientist and one of the 500 artists, engineers and special effects designers who worked on the Pont d’Arc project.This is a place to give a sense of the origin of us all.”

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

If you’re wondering why you must visit a replica and not the real cave, there’s a good reason. The Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994 and sealed off to the public the same year. Why? Scientists discovered from the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne that CO2 from  humans breathing creates mold that deteriorates cave drawings. The destruction within the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne was not to be repeated here.

The Aurignacian Gallery

While at the cavern plan to spend a few minutes … or hours, especially if you’re with children, at the Aurignacian Gallery. There you literally step back in time as you walk past life-sized humans and creatures that roamed this part of the world 30,000 years ago.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

https://m.facebook.com/cavernedupontdarc/

3 Days in Paris

3 Days in Paris

When it’s your first visit to Paris, how do you decide what to do? There are so many ways you can go, things to see in just 3 days in Paris. 

Last year this time, I was in Paris celebrating a landmark birthday with one of my best friends from North Carolina. It was her first time in Paris. So, of course, we had to make the rounds of the places she had heard and dreamed about.

The Paris tour gave me a chance to see Notre Dame for the last time in its glory. We did something I’ve never done, too. We rode the elevator all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. What a thrill! And what a fascinating story about the tower’s early beginnings.

Did you know the people of Paris disliked the Eiffel Tower when it was built? They thought it was ghastly. Not until it was used as a watchtower during the War did it gain appreciation. Imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower! 

3 Days in Paris

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Ricki!

For more about Paris visit these posts on Barefoot Blogger

Christmas in Paris

Paris Night Lights

Paris: Fiddlers Rock the Château

Paris Through Your Eyes

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

Travel Tips for Passing Through CDG Paris

Look What’s Cooking on Sunday in Paris

France Travel Guide: Living Like a King and Wallace Simpson

Travel Guide France: 5 Things To Do in Montmartre

 

3 days in Paris

pont du gard show

Pont du Gard. Lights, Cameras, Action!

Each year The ancient Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard is alive with an exciting sound and light show. 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one of the most influential thinkers and writers of the eighteenth century was overwhelmed when he visited Pont du Gard. Imagine what he would say if he witnessed it today.

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

 

More about Pont du Gard:

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Summer 2019 don’t miss the Pont du Gard light show:  “The Bridge at Dusk” 

living in the south of france

Living in the South of France

There’s nothing ordinary about living in the South of France. Especially in the spring. There’s always a festival , a brocante, a party or something extraordinary going on.

Here are a few snippets on “living in the South of France” in the month of May.

Lunch with friends

Now that everyone who has been away from Uzès for the winter is back, meeting friends for lunch is a must for catching up. Even though there were eight of us, the little backstreet cafe, La Boca, was perfect for our Saturday get together.

Ever eaten couteaux? They’re razor clams that were featured at La Boca.

Living in the South of France

Couteaux – Razor Clams

Roman Games in Nimes 

Each May in nearby NImes, there is a historic reenactment staged in the ancient arena. It’s world class. The Great Roman Games are presented just as they were 2000 years ago — chariot races, gladiators, Roman dignitaries and all.

This year the theme was “Barbarian Kings.” Romans and barbarian battles that raged throughout this area from 113 to 101 BC were brilliantly recreated during the 2+ hour show. The production crew that moved seemingly effortless on the arena floor constructed a near-lifesize fortress, a village market, and a realistic representation of the port in Marseille. For a snippet, view the video below.

Shopping at IKEA

My new apartment in Uzès is far from furnished as I’d like it. Moving from “Rapunzel’s Tower” to my ground-level flat was harder than I thought. In just five years, I accumulated a lot of stuff that’s not going to fit. Yet, I’m still shopping.

Living in the south of France, I’ve learned the French love IKEA. I haven’t checked IKEA in the US lately, but the store in Avignon is different and better than any I’ve seen. Right now shelving and storage for my kitchen is my priority.

Interestingly, when you rent an apartment in France, it doesn’t always come equipped with a complete kitchen. Sometimes there’s just a sink. Occasionally, there’s not even a sink. So renters have to create their own “cuisines.” You can take whatever you’ve bought with you to your next rental.

The kitchen in my first apartment was tiny. It had a sink, a cooktop and little or no storage. The new kitchen has bottom cabinets, a cooktop and an exhaust fan. Anything else that I want in the space, I have to purchase and have installed. Fortunately IKEA has good designs and affordable prices on kitchen fittings. Now to find the time to get it done.

What do you think of this?

living in the south of france

Renewing my Carte de Sejour

Yes, it’s that time of year … again. My appointment at the Prefecture in NImes to renew my carte de sejour was this week. Thank goodness for Renestance! Jennifer is so familiar with the people and the process at the Prefecture that it’s getting to be a breeze. That is, if you call pulling together a snapshot of your life and finances to present for your card simple.

This was my fifth year going through the French requirement for my 12-month visa. My compliments to the Nimes Prefecture this go round. They’ve figured out how to move people through the system. Perhaps it’s because of the number of Brits coming through the system due to Brexit.

Note: Tell Renestance the Barefoot Blogger sent you for a 10% discount! 

Best Steak in Town

Dining out at one of the restaurants in town is one of my favorite pastimes. I prefer not to eat alone. Ordering steak is something I’ve learned not to do. Generally, the beef that’s served is tasteless and chewy. Now there’s a new place in town for a really good steak — Paul and Cow. It’s so new it’s not on Tripadvisor. Don’t ask me why it’s not called Paul and Vache? Whatever … I don’t have to wait to go back to Atlanta for a good steak.

living in the south of france

 

Market Day in Uzès

What’s a week in Uzès without a visit to the Saturday Market? Just getting there is half the thrill. Yes, I do love living in the south of France.

Hope you had a great week too!

living in the south of france

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

 

 

 

Lyon, France: Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon is truly one of the most beautiful and interesting cities the Barefoot Blogger has visited in France. Aside from its magnificent river views, churches, and extraordinary food, Lyon hides some of its best features out of sight, behind closed doors.

Secret passageways or traboules du Vieux Lyon, were created shortly after the Romans left this area of France, the aqueducts failed, and the citizens moved to the river Saone. The hidden, enclosed walkways were intended to provide protection from the elements to those living nearby as they made their daily treks to gather water. 

Later, the traboules were busy passageways for the silk makers of the city. Their long rolls of silk were much too precious to transport by ordinary means through the streets.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Traboules in Lyon, France

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

When wars raged in and through Lyon, traboules were used as hiding places and hangouts for locals who knew how to find their way from one place to another. Today, traboules act as hallways and elaborate entrances that lead to shops and apartments. 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Some even open onto elevator entrances.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

While wandering through a traboules, I ran into a most interesting shop. Medieval wear at Mandragore. Imagine the fun going through the racks of gowns and robes and imagining times gone by in Lyon.

More about Lyon

What Does a Southern Gal Think of Lyon? “Hog Heaven!”

Lyon’s Musee des Beaux Arts: “The Most Elegant Woman in Paris”

Lyon: A Feast For the Eyes

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and New Chaussures


Lyon Behind Closed Doors

mini rocamador

Discovering Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Along the way back to Uzès from my first visit to the Dordogne, I received an email from my good friend, artist Andy Newman.

“If you like Rocamadour, you must see Najac. It’s a mini Rocamadour,” Andy wrote.

With GPS onboard, I found that Najac was an easy stopover.

Narjac: A Mini Rocamadour

As it was definitely a last minute decision, I was lucky to find an Airbnb room for the night near Najac. Even luckier that it was a seventeenth century mas with the most delightful hosts.

mini Rocamador

Property deed

Arriving just before dinner, I was greeted with open arms and a most unexpected and delicious meal. French hospitality at its best.

The next morning I was off to explore Najac.

Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Following the Aveyron River as it wove around narrow country roads, through lush green hills and valleys, I was forced to stop along the way to Najac to take photos and enjoy the views.

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Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

When I arrived in Najac it was all very quiet. The village center, literally a small square area with timber-framed shops, cafes, and other commercial establishments, looked like it was everyone’s day off. In fact, the only store open was a pottery shop.

Yes, I did buy the little red pitcher on the shelf.

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Since I had no idea where I was going, I strolled down what appeared to be the only road in town. Before long I saw a castle (château) in the distance.

mini rocamador

The Château de Najac

The farther I roamed the more interesting the vistas became.

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The town beyond the square was spread out along the long road, perched above the river. A splendid example of a 13th century bastide.

Château de Najac

Known for its medieval buildings and its château, Najac has been near major events of history since its beginning, including the first English occupation, the Albigensian Crusade, the Hundred Years’ War, the imprisonment of the Knights Templar, the peasants’ revolts, and the French Revolution. The château was built in 1253 at the summit of the hill overlooking the Aveyron at the bidding of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Count of Toulouse. Its location and design were key to controlling the region.

mini rocamadour

Najac

Today it remains a prime example of the type of military defense used in the 13th century to fight against the Cathars and during the Hundred Years War. The dungeon of the castle was used as a prison for the last Knights of the Rouergue.

Mini Rocamadour

Towers at each corner and a square tower, once part of the castle, helped guards coordinate defense of the château and the town.

Mini Rocamadour

The castle is known for its high, thin apertures — the tallest in France. The openings were used by archers, three at a time, who defended the castle and its inhabitants.

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Najac: Mini Rocamadour

Najac is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France — the most beautiful villages of France. The castle, owned by the Cibiel family, has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1925.

Andy Newman, thanks for the tip. Pass it on! 

mini rocamadour

 

Marseille, Resilient After All

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

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

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

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

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

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

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

Marseille’s Story

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

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

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

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

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

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

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

The Great Plague

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

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

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

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

Marseilles’ Story

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

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

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

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

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

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

Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.

Behind French Garden Walls

Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

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

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Need A Reason To Love Pézenas?

Why will you love Pézenas? 

Pézenas is a small town that reminds many people of Uzès. In fact, when some expats are choosing a place to locate, it seems to be a toss-up between the two. Read on for a reason you’ll love Pézenas!

#1 Reason To Love Pézenas

Saturday Market

Although the Saturday Market in Uzès has won awards and acclaim as one of the best markets in France, the market in Pézenas isn’t far behind.

#2

Reason To Love Pézenas

One of the “most beautiful towns” in Languedoc

Pézenas, is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in the Languedoc-Roussilon area of France. Once the political center of the États du Languedoc and the home of Parliament, the consul’s palace (Hôtel des Consuls) stands on one of the main squares (Place Gambetta). On market day the palace is surrounded by shoppers and tourists.

Reason To Love Pézenas

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

#3 Reason To Love Pézenas

Moliere Festival

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

Apparently Moliere spent only a few days in Pézenas where he put on several of his less important theater works. Nevertheless, the town honors his contributions to the arts in France. Remember Moliere from the movie “Mozart.” If you’re like me, you’d like to know more.

Reason To Love Pézenas

#4 Reason To Love Pézenas

Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic\

Reason To Love Pézenas

Statue of Marianne in Pezenas

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

Reason To Love Pézenas

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

#5 Reason To Love Pézenas

Architecture in Pezenas

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

Reason To Love Pézenas

Reason To Love Pézenas

Reason To Love Pézenas

Reason To Love Pézenas

Reason To Love Pézenas

Street scene on market day in Pezenas

#6 Reason To Love Pézenas

Food!

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

The Plat Du Jour

Saturday market in Pézenas

Plat du Jour in Pezenas

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

Saturday market in Pézenas

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

Pézenas is a MUST GO BACK TO! place. There’s so much more to see and do.  Stay tuned for more …

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

It’s St. Louis Festival in Sete. Time for Water Jousting!

It’s time for the St. Louis Festival in Sete. Gee, I hate to miss it this year. It’s always so  much fun: beach time, parties and the Sete water jousting competitions.

I’m in the States with family. Why now?  After four years in France, I’ve learned that August is a good time to leave — it’s hot and too many tourists in Uzés! Yet …

Sete water jousting

Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

If you’re not familiar with water jousting, it started centuries ago. Most notably in Egypt and Greece. Evidence of the competitions was found in stone carvings. The Romans were known to enjoy the sport. In lieu of water, they sometimes flooded the city arenas they used for people sports like gladiator fights.

Water jousting, or “joutes nautiques” began  in Lyon, France in the 12th century. In the 13th century, crusaders embarking on the Holy Wars with King Louis IX (Saint Louis) teamed up against each other in small boats outside Aigue-Mortes.

In Sete water jousting was first seen when the city celebrated the opening of harbor in 1666. Today the sport has become a tradition and is played pretty much the same.

Sete Water Jousting

The first time I saw the sport of water jousting was on a visit with Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. It just happened to be the St. Louis Festival. After that, I intentionally planned my visits to Sete for the late August wild and crazy weekend.

Some of you might remember one of the St. Louis Festival trips to Sete. I met the Bad Girls Groove Band of London for the first time. They rocked the main stage at the festival’s award ceremony.

Then there was the time when I was up close and personal with the winner of the week’s event.

Sete water jousting

Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy”

Sete Water Jousting

By far the most exciting St. Louis Festival celebration for me was when the Sete Tourist Office invited me to attend the finals as a member of the “press.” Events included parties at the tourist office for jousting club members and special guests. And yes! Specialties from Sete like mini tielles and oysters were front and center.

Meanwhile at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) local members of the town administration and the jousting federation, in all their festive regalia, readied themselves to meet the crowd.

Yes, there was a party going on! Town square was mobbed with entertainers, jousters and fans.

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When time came for the championship match, the press crew marched alongside the dignitaries to the canal for the grand finale.

The Barefoot Blogger was in the parade! Yahoo! If that wasn’t enough, the press members were invited to jump in a boat and try their luck at jousting!

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting

A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

Yes, I’m missing the St. Louis Festival and a whole lot more. Where else can you run into this? Water jousting in Sete. Love it!

St. Louis Festival 2018 August 23-28, 2018

For a closer look at the tradition of water jousting in Sete, here’s a video from Culture Trip. Be sure to watch it in full. It’s a wonderful story about a family and their passion for jousting that’s passed from one generation to the next. 

 

Loire Valley Châteaux: Amboise and Clos Luce

Revisiting the Loire Valley …

The Barefoot Blogger is off to explore the middle of France: the Loire Valley châteaux and vineyards.

Along with me on the adventure through the Loire Valley is my good friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. The tour expert extraordinaire and I started out on the three day trip, plus two travel days.

Our home base on this trip is an Airbnb ‘chalet’ in Amboise. From there we can easily reach more châteaux and wine than we can possibly cram into three days.

Loire Valley Chateaus

Loire Valley Châteaux

Château Royal du Amboise

The Château de Amboise is in the center of the charming city that shares its same name. The first trenches of the château were built in the 4th century to defend the residents of the town.

Loire Valley Châteaux
The château was the home and place to stay for the Valois and Bourbon kings. Charles VIII was born here.  King Francis and children of Henri II and Catherine de Medici were raised here. Leonardo da Vinci, friend of King Francis, is buried on the property.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Château Amboise

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Inside Château Amboise

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Chateaux

The Gardens at Château Amboise 

An overcast morning made views of the gardens at Château de Amboise impressively dramatic.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

After bidding Château de Amboise “avoir,” our next stop was the town of Amboise. 

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux: Clos Luce

Chateau Clos Luce and Leonardo da Vinci

The small château, Clos Luce, is within easy walking distance of downtown Amboise. It was here that Leonardo da Vinci was invited to live by King Francis I. DaVinci stayed at Clos Luce from 1516 until his death in 1519. He is buried on the grounds of Château de Ambroise.

Château Clos N itself houses over 40 of da Vinci’s inventions. An audio-visual presentation of his life and work, presented by IBM, instructs tourists as they move through the rooms.

Loire Valley Châteaux

 

Loire Valley Châteaux

Stayed tuned…

Follow the tour!

Hanging Out In The Loire Valley

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

 

Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

This a republished post by the Barefoot Blogger from France Today

Why is Nimes a “must see” for Roman history lovers? Because it’s a city where you can literally see, touch and experience Roman life in France during the days of the Roman Empire.

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes to learn about Roman life in France. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

Roman Life in France

Nimes

Roman Life in France

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

Roman Amphitheater , the Arènes de Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The Tour Magne

 

Roman Life in France

The Roman History of Nimes

The area that is now Nimes was an established community as early as 400o BC. It was founded as a Roman colony (Colonia Nemausus) by Tiberius Claudius Nero in 45 or 44 B.C. for veterans that had served Julius Caesar under his command in Gaul and the invasion of Egypt. The name “Nemausus” was derived from the name of a Celtic god — the protector of the nearby spring that provided water for the early settlement.

Roman Life in France

Coin of Nemausus circa 40 BC

 

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 AD) and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée in Nimes

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 BC) — and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond,VA

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The Arènes de Nimes or the “Amphitheater”

In Roman times, the Arènes de Nimes could hold up to 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces.  Divided into four separate areas, each section could be accessed  through hundreds of galleries, stairwells and passages.

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Aréna in Nimes

The amphitheatre was designed for crowd control and ultimate viewing pleasure. There were no bottlenecks when spectators flooded in and all had unrestricted visibility of the entire arena. Several galleries and entrances were located beneath the arena so that animals and gladiators could access the arena during the Roman games.

The “games” included animal hunts with lions, tigers and elephants and gladiator matches. Executions were held, as well, where those in town who were convicted to death were thrown to the animals as punishment.

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Inside the Aréna Nimes

 

Roman Life in France

After the times of the Roman Empire, Nimes fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Muslims. The Visigoths turned the arena into a fortress or “castrum arena” where the townspeople could gather in the event of an attack. When Pepin the Short, father of Charlemagne, captured the city in 752, the splendor that was Nimes was pretty much in ruins. It was not until 1786 that work began to be restore the arena to its original grandeur.

The Tour Magne (Magne Tower) remains a prominent structure in Nimes, erected during the reign of Augustus in 1 BC. It is said to have been built atop an earlier Celtic/Gallic tower from 15BC- 14BC. The tallest structure for miles around, the Tour Magne was used as part of the fortification that surrounded the city. What remains of the tower can be seen from throughout the city.

Along with the Roman buildings that are still in use today in Nimes, there are ruins of the early civilization that visitors can wander through or view.

 

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The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

 

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The so-called Temple of Diana, built during the Augustine era
(Photo by Carole Raddato)

 

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Your Walking Tour of Nimes

The downtown area of the Roman city of Nimes is still alive. The most historic Roman monuments are within walking distance. To reach Les Jardin de la Fontaine, you might want to hop on a local bus. Visit the Temple de Diane while you are there. If you climb up to the highest levels of the terraced stairway, through more  gardens, you will reach the park-like area of Mont Cavalier. Further up the hill is the Tour Magne. It’s a hike to reach the tower, but it’s worth it if you want a view of the city from all directions. Take along plenty of water and, perhaps, a snack so that you can stop and enjoy the view along the way.

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Historic area of Nimes

 

Step by step guide

  • Nimes can be reached by train, bus and car. The train station (GARE) is in the center of the historic area. Regional buses stop behind the train station as well. From the station, a pedestrian promenade leads straight from the station to the amphitheater.
  • Park at any one of the downtown parking lots. Just follow the blue P signs.  Some of the parking is outside and some in a garage. When I visit Nimes I park at the Marché (city market) that is outlined in purple on the map because it is so close to the Maison Carrée.
  • Start your tour at the Maison Carrée. A  20-minute film runs every 30 minutes during tourist season. It’s excellent and it gives you an overview of the history of Nimes. You can buy combination tickets that give you admission to the film, the amphitheater and the Tour Magne.
  • Walk to the Arèna (amphitheater). There are self-guided tours of the amphitheater with headphones and an audio presentation describing the days of gladiators. Stop along the way to the amphitheater, or afterwards, at any of the many cafes and restaurants for a more leisurely visit.
  • Walk past the Porte d’Auguste to view a part of the fortification that protected the ancient city. It’s not a short walk from the amphitheater, but it’s on the way to your next stop.
  • Les Jardin de la Fontaine is a “modern” part of Nimes that has a rich Roman background. It was built in the 18th century atop the ruins of Roman baths (thermal). You can stroll for hours in the garden enjoying the fountains, canals and seasonal plantings.

 

  • Tour Magne is your last stop. The tower is open for tourists (check the schedule) to wander through inside. A very narrow, spiral stairway leads to a viewing area where you can see the city of Nimes from all angles.

Here’s another reason why you must see Nimes

 Nimes blends the “new” with the “ancient”. A modern world among ancient Roman buildings.The Amphitheatre, for example, is the entertainment center used for rock concerts and other popular musical events. 

 Roman Life in France

Times amphitheater is home for huge music events

Roman history reenactments, with all the pomp and ceremony, are staged in the Nimes amphitheater each year.

 

Amphitheater in Nimes

Then there are the Ferias or bull fights in the amphitheater. The events are popular in the south of France still today and draw crowds for the weekend events. 

 

 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Nimes, there’s a party going on. 

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Maison Carrée

 

For more information about the arena

Maison Carrée

More places to visit history in Provence

Film trailer of the history of Nimes, on view at the Maison Carrée

 

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7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

What a day! What a way to end the week traveling and touring in Dordogne. Let’s just say, it ended on a very high note.

My traveling companion and long-lost and found friend from grade school, Julie, and I put some serious miles behind us. We drove over four hours straight from Sarlat to Tours. I’m dropping Julie off at the train station in Tours tomorrow and heading back toward Uzes. Julie’s going on to Paris for a few days before returning to Colorado.

Before we ended our “reunion” tour, we were giving ourselves the last “treat” of our journey. As you may remember, we planned two special treats for the trip. One was an overnight stay and dinner in a chateau.  The last we scheduled for today. We ventured into the Loire Valley to see one of the most magical royal chateaus in France. More than that, we experienced the chateau from every angle possible.

Touring Chenonceau

The Château at Chenonceau 

Known as the “Ladies Château,” Chenonceau was built in the 16th century on the remains of a 14th century castle and mill belonging to the Marquay family. There are writings, however, that mention the castle and mill as early as the 11th century. Still intact from the Marquay era is the chateau’s well and the Marques tower which was restored in the Renaissance style.

The property is in the Loire Valley and has been inhabited throughout history by the mistress of a King, Queens, heiresses and business tycoons. It is currently owned by a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates.

I’ll leave the history and stories of the château for a later post. Today will be a photo tour. A most unusual one, too. I was particularly interested in the “crooks and crannies” of the place since everything else is in hundreds of books.

Touring in Dordogne

Château at Chenonceau

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne: Chenonceau 


Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Part 2…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: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

 

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