Category: Loving Art

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

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

 

French Light Show

Techno-Fabulous French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

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

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

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

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

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

French Light Show

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

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

Before Carrières de Lumières

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

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

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

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Picasso and the Spanish Masters

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

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Pop Culture: Flower Power

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

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

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

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

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

Here are some images from this year’s show.

 

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

Photos courtesy of mon fils, Pete Bine.

 

 

Dordogne travel guide

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

A couple of years ago a friend from my growing up days in Charlotte, North Carolina and I reconnected on FaceBook. She now lives in Denver, Colorado. We were in school together from kindergarten through high school. Julie came to visit me in France after a cruise on the Seine. Together we took off to wander through Dordogne.

I challenged myself to record the highlights of our stops and share them with you along the way.  Here goes…

Day one: Uzes to Albi

A full day at Pont du Gard and Nimes meant we got a late start from Uzes today. Oh well…it’s a pleasure trip, so being rested to start was important.  Nevertheless, we were on the road and at our first stop — lunch — by 1:30. We had no idea where we’d take our first break, but decided we’d get beyond the major roads to Albi. Our goal was to reach Albi before the close of the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum at 6pm. Pulling off the road at du Bois du Four, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, there was a hotel, bar and restaurant. After a plat du jour of roasted chicken, potato au gratin and a corgette tartine, we rushed out to get back on the road.

Albi and Toulouse-Lautrec

The new Garmin for the car proved its worth in getting us “almost” directly to Albi. A few turnarounds is par for the course on any trip I make, it seems. Still we made it to check into the hotel and run across the Tarn River bridge to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.

It was so worth the rush!

The museum contains, perhaps, the largest number of pieces of original artwork, by one famous artist, that I have ever seen in one place. The exposition reveals the story of Toulouse-Lautec’s life as well as the evolution of his style. The presence of his work in the magnificent La Berbie Palace, in the center of town, is an homage to the respect Albi holds for one of its favorite sons.

Sainte Cécil Cathedral

As impressive as the rich collection of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work at the la Berbie Palace in Albi is the Sainte Cécil Cathedral. The gigantic religious structure is a testament to respect the area has for art, religion and architecture through the ages.

The project to build the cathedral was started in the thirteenth century. It’s history, that follows the tribulations and the triumphants of French religion and culture from that time, is a story unto itself that I promise to explore. Meanwhile, the beauty and reverence of the place is breathtaking.

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Because no day in France is complete without rosé and cheese, we finished our near-200 mile journey with hot chèvre and a creamy, cold gazpacho at a bistro near the banks of le Tarn.

dordogne travel guide

Stay tuned….

For more on the Dordogne

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: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

Albi to Cahors

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van gogh's trail

On Van Gogh’s Trail

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

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

On Van Gogh’s Trail: Remoulins

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

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

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

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

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

If all else fails, ask a woman.

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

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

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

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

Van Gogh's Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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In the footsteps of Van Gogh

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

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

Fortunately his art lives on.

van gogh's trail

Andy Newman exposition Uzes France 7-2017

Original Art Keepsakes From France

One of the first artist friends I made after moving to Uzes is bringing his original art to Uzes this summer.

Andy Newman exposition Uzes France 7-2017

Andy Newman, an American with deep roots in France, had read my blog and emailed to tell me about himself, that he and his partner had a home near here, and that he had painted original art of many of the scenes I had photographed of Uzes. On his next visit to France we met and we’ve been keeping up with each other ever since. Now Andy’s bringing his art work to Uzes this summer. His exhibit is in August 5-18 at the art gallery next to the Tourist Office — for those of you who know Uzes.

Visitors to Andy’s exhibit will love the paintings of places we know around Uzes and this part of France. They’ll especially appreciate that many of the original art pieces are miniatures. You can pack them away in your suitcase for your travels home or elsewhere.  How good is that!

Here is a sample of the small paintings that will be available

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Original Art by an American Artist with French Roots

Andy spends most of each year in Concord, Massachusetts but his heart is in France where he spent his early school years. Andy’s father was in the US Foreign Service. That meant they moved often when he was a child — from London where he was born to Paris, to Rome, then back to London. After University at Trinity College, Oxford and fifteen years as a lawyer in Washington, DC, Andy found his life’s true meaning through art. In 1990 he had his first gallery show and since then he has exhibited his work in the US, France, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Canada and Macau. His inspiration comes from artists such as Edward Hopper, John Collier, Honoré Daumier and Mark Rothco.

Each summer Andy and his family call Cavillargues “home”. The house they bought in the small town near Bagnols was built as two barns in the 1790’s. It was converted into a house with a barn in the 1920’s. When they moved to Cavillargues in 2005, they took the whole place apart and put it back together again. The French community has welcomed Andy’s family with open arms and Andy’s work is displayed in the Mairie and in Bagnols. An exhibition in Cavillargues is scheduled after the Uzes showing in August.  

An earlier post about Andy is  Amazing Proof That “Art Imitates Life In France” 

For more information about the August exhibition in Uzes click here. Contact Andy for more information about his paintings and pricing at asnpainter@icloud.com. You can find his work on his website

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sete, a French beach holiday site

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete, France


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Buildings and architecture

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

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

Pottery at San Quentin La Poterie France

Oh La La! San Quentin la Poterie, France

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

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

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

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

View a San Quentin la Poterie artist at work.

Expat Moving Tips for France

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

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

Pont du Gard

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

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

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

Pont du Gard

Museum exhibit at Pont du Gard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux Day 3: The Magnificent City

What can I say about the city side of Bordeaux other than “I love it!”? 

If I was in the business of designing a modern city, it would be just like Bordeaux.

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux city tour

Perhaps that’s why the mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Marie Juppé, is thought of like a rock star. He is considered a monumental player in promoting and revitalizing the city — from infrastructure to visionary new projects such as the La Cité de Vin.

Bordeaux city tour

La Cité de Vin

Throughout its existence Bordeaux has been a city fraught with war and nation-changing. From 300BC when a Celtic tribe settled Burdigala through the eighth century, Bordeaux was ruled by Romans (the capital of Aquitaine), the Vandals, the Visigoths, Franks and marched on by the Muslims, Basques, and the Vikings. (Click on the highlighted links for more history information.)

Port Cailhau, shown below, is part of the city wall from 1496

 

Bordeaux city tour

Porte Cailhau

In the 12th Century, Bordeaux gained importance throughout Europe with the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to the heir of the French throne, Louis VI who became King Louis VII. Eleanor later divorced Louis and married Henry of Anjou, aka King Henry II of England.

Some girls have all the luck!

OK … right … Eleanor also spent a good amount of time fighting in the Crusades and years in prison, but still …

Cathédrale Saint-André is the site of the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Louis VII, the future king of France, in 1137.

Bordeaux city tour

CATHÉDRALE SAINT-ANDRÉ (Bordeaux Cathedral)

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Bordeaux city tour: 19th Century Architecture

Bordeaux hit its stride in the 1800s when most of the city’s downtown buildings were built with such elegance that it became the model for transforming Paris to a “modern” capital.  Today many of those structures still frame the boulevards, pedestrian walks, neighborhoods and parks.

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From the fine details of art and color found on private homes and public buildings, to the massive and ornate statues and churches, Bordeaux is a masterpiece of art and architecture.

Bordeaux city tour

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Church of Saint-Louis in Chartrons

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One of the places I walked past dozens of times was the Opera House. My hotel was only a few steps away. I didn’t plan ahead and there were no tickets available for the current performance; however I sneaked into the lobby to take a few photos. Photos inside the Opera area were not allowed. (Be sure to check out the Opera’s website)

Bordeaux city tour

Opéra National de Bordeaux

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A memorial to the Girondins, a political faction during the French Revolution, is the centerpiece at the Place des Quinconces and one of the most vivid reminders of the French Revolution. 

Bordeaux city tour

Monument aux Girondins at Place des Quinconces

And who isn’t amazed at the Miroir d’Eau — the Water Mirror created in 2006 along the UNESCO sited Port de la Lune between The Place del la Bourse and the River Garonne?

Bordeaux city tour: Food and shopping

Restaurants, food and places to shop are just as diverse and colorful as the rest of the city. Here are some of the stops I made through the city.

A cheese shop here …

Bordeaux city tour

Goat cheeses

A canele store there …

(a pastry that’s a legend – read more here)

 

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux city tour

Canele de Bordeaux with macaron and almond treat

Unique shopping galleries, big name brands and charming boutiques fill the town.

 

Bordeaux city tour

 

Bordeaux city tour

 

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux city tour: At night

Perhaps the most memorable is Bordeaux at night.

 

Bordeaux city tour

Opéra National de Bordeaux

Bordeaux city tour

Bordeaux city tour

Place de la Bourse

This isn’t a fraction of the sights and sounds of Bordeaux. I could go on and on. Now you know why I must return! 

 

More about Bordeaux:

3 Perfect Days in Bordeaux

Wine Tour Bordeaux: The Secrets of Great Wine

Day 2: Wine Tour Bordeaux Cité de Vine

 

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7 Great Ideas for An Awesome Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

 An autumn weekend around Uzes makes living in the south of France even more delightful for this expat. 

The tourists have left, or at least the crowds are gone. The weather is cool. The colors of nature and the man-made village walls, homes and regal buildings are all the shades of red and yellow against the autumn sky. Most noticeably, there’s a calm in the air that has been missing.

Being that this is the Barefoot Blogger’s third autumn in Uzes, I now know a few more people and a few more places to roam. My world is expanding. However, I’ve discovered you don’t have to go very far away to enjoy sights and experiences that are familiar. But as you’ll see from the photos here, it’s all somehow very different in France. Come with me to spend a weekend around Uzes.

Vernissage

October is when many artists show off their latest works to the locals. In the nearby village of Cavillargues, an art exhibit — or vernissage — was hosted by town officials in the Mairie (town hall.) Andy Newman — one of my favorites who lives part-time in the US, part-time in Cavillargues — was the center of attraction at this event. The village is less than an hour’s drive from Uzes, so it was a perfect start for weekend activities. (See the earlier post for more on Andy’s exhibit.)

2

Dinner in Uzes

After the vernissage with all its wine and apéros (snacks), a visit to the cozy Italian restaurant, La Voglia, in Uzes was a perfect choice for a late, casual dinner.

3

Vallée de l’Eure Festivities

In the valley park near Uzes there is almost always something going on. This weekend the main event was “Envolée Céleste” or “Heavenly Flight.” Twenty hot air balloons lifted off the valley floor to soar above the town and countryside. We watched the pre-flight setup from ground level, then we climbed up a rocky, narrow path — filled with prickly bushes — to reach the highest viewpoint.  The sights along the way and at the top were amazing, even though it was an overcast day. If you have 5 minutes and want to feel like you were actually there to see the huge balloons pop up behind the trees and hills around Uzes, watch the video.

4

Saturday Dinner and Jazz at Au Petit Jardin

To round out the balloon day events, friends gathered at the Au Petit Jardin for dinner and music.  To top it all off? Caraxés: A new taste from France — spirits made with rum and aquavit.

5

Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

Le Zanelli’s in Uzes

Sunday Lunch at Le Zanelli’s 

One of the best Italian restaurants in Uzes, in the opinion of many friends, is Le Zanelli’s. I confess this was my first visit, so I reserve my vote for a later time. A small salad was all I cared for after a large meal the night before. I will say, it’s one of the prettiest restaurants in town. Indoor and outdoor seating makes the location ideal for a Sunday, rain or shine.

6

A car ride into the Cevennes

As a child in the Carolinas, we’d often go for a “ride” on Sunday afternoons. We’d visit friends and relatives, or drive into a town nearby just to see what was going on. The habit is one I will pick up again now in France. So many interesting places are only a few hours away from Uzes.

A drive into the Cevennes sounded like a great idea, especially with the changing colors of foliage in the mountains. So off we went in good ‘ol Lucy —  me, Paula and Rich — and we picked up Geoffrey to add humor and guidance. After an hour or so on the winding road, we ran upon a market where the locals were selling apples and onions. It wasn’t long before we discovered there was a festival farther up the road. Too bad we hadn’t looked at an events calendar or we would have made an earlier start. Next time! There’s a famous book to read about the area, too —  Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

 

What an amazingly beautiful ride! Stops along the way to take pictures of the French countryside proved this was no ordinary “Sunday drive.”

Nosey me, I insisted we stop to peer into the yard and garden of a luxury château.

7

A Monday afternoon walk in the Garrigue 

Depending upon how much time you have to spend in and around Uzes, try to find an opportunity to take off to explore by foot. Recently I’ve joined a “newcomer’s” group — AVF — and one of their popular activities is hiking. This walk, however, was with a leader of the AVF hiking group who was doing a “test” walk on an unfamiliar course before offering it to AVF. By the end of the afternoon, we’d travelled 8-10 kilometers along rocky trails, up and down large and small hills, in the garrigue (scrubland) area outside Uzes. Even where there is little more than short trees and sparse vegetation, the scenery was enchanting.  (For a wonderful review of the garrigue, read this article at The Good Life France.)

Back to Uzes

After a very busy weekend, there’s no place like home. For me, this is the way…

Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

More on autumn in the Cevennes:

The Cevennes: Saint Jean du Gard

Halloween Train to the Cevennes

 

Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

I was so impressed by the doors and windows of Antibes I couldn’t wait to show you!

While organising photos from my recent trip to Antibes, I was so excited I just HAD to show you the photos of just the doors and windows of Antibes. What a picturesque place! A blog post with highlights, touring tips and more photos of the road trip to Antibes will follow …

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

doors and windows of Antibes

 

Doors and Windows of Antibes

Doors and Windows of Antibes

 

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7 Great Ideas for An Awesome Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

 Autumn is my favorite time of year in Uzes.

The tourists have left, or at least the crowds are gone. The weather is cool. The colors of nature and the man-made village walls, homes and regal buildings are all the shades of red and yellow against the autumn sky. Most noticeably, there’s a calm in the air that has been missing.

Being that this is the Barefoot Blogger’s third autumn in Uzes, I now know a few more people and a few more places to roam. My world is expanding. However, I’ve discovered you don’t have to go very far away to enjoy sights and experiences that are familiar. But as you’ll see from the photos here, it’s all somehow very different in France. Come with me to spend a weekend around Uzes.

Vernissage

October is when many artists show off their latest works to the locals. In the nearby village of Cavillargues, an art exhibit — or vernissage — was hosted by town officials in the Mairie (town hall.) Andy Newman — one of my favorites who lives part-time in the US, part-time in Cavillargues — was the center of attraction at this event. The village is less than an hour’s drive from Uzes, so it was a perfect start for weekend activities. (See the earlier post for more on Andy’s exhibit.)

2

Dinner in Uzes

After the vernissage with all its wine and apéros (snacks), a visit to the cozy Italian restaurant, La Voglia, in Uzes was a perfect choice for a late, casual dinner.

3

Vallée de l’Eure Festivities

In the valley park near Uzes there is almost always something going on. This weekend the main event was “Envolée Céleste” or “Heavenly Flight.” Twenty hot air balloons lifted off the valley floor to soar above the town and countryside. We watched the pre-flight setup from ground level, then we climbed up a rocky, narrow path — filled with prickly bushes — to reach the highest viewpoint.  The sights along the way and at the top were amazing, even though it was an overcast day. If you have 5 minutes and want to feel like you were actually there to see the huge balloons pop up behind the trees and hills around Uzes, watch the video.

4

Saturday Dinner and Jazz at Au Petit Jardin

To round out the balloon day events, friends gathered at the Au Petit Jardin for dinner and music.  To top it all off? Caraxés: A new taste from France — spirits made with rum and aquavit.

5

Le Zanelli's in Uzes

Le Zanelli’s in Uzes

Sunday Lunch at Le Zanelli’s 

One of the best Italian restaurants in Uzes, in the opinion of many friends, is Le Zanelli’s. I confess this was my first visit, so I reserve my vote for a later time. A small salad was all I cared for after a large meal the night before. I will say, it’s one of the prettiest restaurants in town. Indoor and outdoor seating makes the location ideal for a Sunday, rain or shine.

6

A car ride into the Cevennes

As a child in the Carolinas, we’d often go for a “ride” on Sunday afternoons. We’d visit friends and relatives, or drive into a town nearby just to see what was going on. The habit is one I will pick up again now in France. So many interesting places are only a few hours away from Uzes.

A drive into the Cevennes sounded like a great idea, especially with the changing colors of foliage in the mountains. So off we went in good ‘ol Lucy —  me, Paula and Rich — and we picked up Geoffrey to add humor and guidance. After an hour or so on the winding road, we ran upon a market where the locals were selling apples and onions. It wasn’t long before we discovered there was a festival farther up the road. Too bad we hadn’t looked at an events calendar or we would have made an earlier start. Next time! There’s a famous book to read about the area, too —  Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

 

What an amazingly beautiful ride! Stops along the way to take pictures of the French countryside proved this was no ordinary “Sunday drive.”

Nosey me, I insisted we stop to peer into the yard and garden of a luxury château.

7

A Monday afternoon walk in the Garrigue 

Depending upon how much time you have to spend in and around Uzes, try to find an opportunity to take off to explore by foot. Recently I’ve joined a “newcomer’s” group — AVF — and one of their popular activities is hiking. This walk, however, was with a leader of the AVF hiking group who was doing a “test” walk on an unfamiliar course before offering it to AVF. By the end of the afternoon, we’d travelled 8-10 kilometers along rocky trails, up and down large and small hills, in the garrigue (scrubland) area outside Uzes. Even where there is little more than short trees and sparse vegetation, the scenery was enchanting.  (For a wonderful review of the garrigue, read this article at The Good Life France.)

Back to Uzes

After a very busy weekend, there’s no place like home. For me, this is the way…

 

IMG_8105

Amazing Proof That “Art Imitates Life” in France

When the Barefoot Blogger decided to travel to France, this blog was born. It was intended as a “letter back home” to those I know so they could keep up with my adventure. Little did I know that the blog would take on a life of its own. Now it introduces me to new friends from around the world.

Andy Newman, an artist from Massachusetts who lives in France part of the year, made contact after reading a blog post about the Luberon. Not only did he recognize the location of each of the photos in the blog, he had paintings that looked like they were created at the very same spot.  As we passed emails back and forth over the next months, we were amazed at the similarities in my photos and his art work.

Art imitates Life 

A visit to Tresques, France

Before Andy and I met in person, you may remember a blog post about this interesting man who had put aside a prosperous law practice to be an artist. Needless to say, when Andy and his family were in France this summer, we had to meet. He was presenting his work in Tresques, a quaint village that’s less than an hour from Uzes. It was a great day trip through beautiful countryside to visit the exhibit and the town. As you can see from another “art imitates life” painting by Andy, the road to Tresques is lined with plane trees as far as you can see.

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In a few weeks Andy will be back in the area to present his work at the Mairie in Cavillargues, October 23 to November 8 — (town hall)

 He asked me to invite you all!

Uzes to Cavillargues

Uzes to Cavillargues

“Lost in the Luberon” posts:

Lost in the Luberon: Gordes, Goult and Menerbes

Lost in the Luberon Part Two

IMG_2692

My Life in France. Pinch Me.

You don’t know how many times the Barefoot Blogger has to pinch herself to believe she is really living in France. It’s more than a dream come true. It’s pure heaven.

It’s not fair to brag about what a good time I’m having, but … just saying. Take a look at this past week. There was the Feria in Nimes; a cooking class with a French chef; wine tasting; Blanche Nuit with music and art; and a town-wide brocante. Throw in dinners and shopping with friends and tell me what there’s not to love about France!

Feria Nimes

The September Feria in Nimes is a 3-day party with celebrations all around the town for young and old. The tradition of the feria showcases the Spanish influence in the south of France where corridas are an honored tradition. (See post on “The Bullfight”)

French Cooking Class

It was pure good luck that I was invited to attend at the new Cooking With Class Uzes.  Replicated from the company’s successful operation in Paris, the Uzes offshoot offers expert guidance on cooking that is strictly Provencal. The near-day-long experience deserves a post of it’s own, which will follow. Here are highlights  — “cooking with fish.”

To find out more, stay tuned …

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Wine tasting 

How convenient!  A winery is just across the street from the Cooking With Class Uzes school. I just rolled from one to another … and took the class along with me.  How lucky, too, there was an art exhibition upstairs.

Blanche Nuit

Each Fall Uzes dazzles with white lights and the town celebrates ’til midnight for Blanche Nuit. Music, art galleries and shops are everywhere you look along the streets and alleyways.

This year the celebration started early with dinner at the newly re-opened Hotel Entraigues with Chef Axel and jazz performed by popular local musicians.

A sampling of the art …

Artists: Oliver Bevan, Anne-Marie Lanteri and Catherine Robin 

Artist: Jean-louis Dulaar

Artist: Laurent Dubè

Artist: Viva Blevis

Chapeaux et Accessoires: Petit Béguin 

Uzès Lavoir

For the first time in recent history, the Uzes lavoir was lighted and welcoming visitors on Blanche Nuit. The lavoir, built in 1854, was used as a communal house for washing clothes.

Vide-greniers UZES

A brocante sale covered the town all day Sunday with items ranging from devine to bizarre.

Dining and shopping

With friends from near and far ….

… and a beautiful full moon to cap it all off!

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36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence

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

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

Hope you enjoy following our trip!

Itinerary

Day One 

Morning tour of Avignon

Lunch and tour Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Two 

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

Lunch and shopping Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

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

Dinner and overnight at Bastide Rose

Day Three

 L’Isle sur la Sorgue Sunday Antique Market

Drive back to Uzes

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Day One 

Itinerary: Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Thor

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

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

Avignon – Morning 

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

Chateauneuf-du-Pape –  Lunchtime 

Chateau Des Fines Roches

Chateau Des Fines Roches

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

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

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Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Afternoon Wine Tasting

Chateau Cabrieres

Chateau Cabrieres

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

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

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

Thor – La Bastide Rose  – Overnight

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

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

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

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

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

Day Two

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

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

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

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

 IMG_4224Saint-Rémy – Afternoon lunch and shopping

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

Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence- Late afternoon

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

Mas-sainte-berthe

Mas-sainte-berthe

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

Bastide Rose in Thor -Dinner and overnight

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

La Bastide Rose for dinner

Emmanuel

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

Day Three

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

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

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

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

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

On Van Gogh’s Trail

A Sunday in Provence: L’isle Sur la Sorgue

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Deviation: Language Barrier Ahead!

The Barefoot Blogger is still not learning French. Although I have at least three online courses and two books on French open at any time, it’s just not sinking it. Well, maybe a little.

Now I’m beginning to think that, perhaps, I understand some of the French words that are around me.

That’s dangerous.

Take for instance the new art exhibit of my friend, Francois Lewandrowski, along with artists Jean-Marie Memin, Guy Mouriame and Lionel Mathieu. It’s named “Deviation.”

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The exhibit started a few weeks ago; but before that, Francois sent out a small preview of his work to his Google group. My first impression of the new pieces was that they were “dark” and depressing. In fact, when I saw Francois at the tourist agency soon afterwards, I asked in my poor French, “es tu malade?”

He didn’t have a clue what I’d said.  Because he was curious, I guess, he walked over to the only English-speaking person behind the desk and asked her to translate for us. “No, no!” Francois replied after learning I thought he was sick. “It’s an art movement” he said … or at least that’s what I thought he said.

“An art movement?”  Hmmmm….

When the show started I ran into Francois downtown again.  I followed him to the gallery so that I could have a personal, guided tour. He handed me a pamphlet that was sitting on a table near a group of the pen and inks. It was about the book “Outrage” written by Stephene Hessel

“I get it,” my little brain said to myself. Now I know why they named the exhibit “Deviation.” As I went through the gallery, looking at each piece of art, I began seeing the “hidden” messages. It wasn’t hard to do.  These pen and inks by Lewandrowski were surely intended as an “outrage” about something. “If only I could read the print behind the images.”

 

Artwork in iron by Mouriame was certainly a “deviation.” An up and down staircase. Is it up? or is it “down?”

 

Work in iron by Mouriame in Uzes

Work in iron by Mouriame in Uzes

Same for Memin’s pieces, like “Je te port en moi.”

"Deviation" exhibit piece by Memin

“Deviation” exhibit piece by Memin

How could this painting of a bird hatching out of a strange shell be anything but a “deviation?”

Duck and Avocado

Bird out of the shell

Being the “journalist” that I am, I decided to check my theory about the exhibit’s name before I printed it as a “fact” in the blog. I downloaded and read Hessel’s book “Time for Outrage -Indignez-Vous!” It is one of his award-winning writings about the occupy movement that, it is said, inspired the “Occupy Wall Street Movement.”

Was “deviation” another word for “outrage?” I thought to myself. “Was the fact that some of the artists’ work pictured “normal” things in an abnormal way an outrage of sorts.” I returned to the gallery to visit the artists. I was certain they would be amazed and impressed at my deep understanding of their work.

Painting by Mathieu, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Painting by Mathieu, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Painting by Lewandrowski, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Painting by Lewandrowski, Deviation Exhibit, Uzes

Memin and Lewandrowski were in the gallery when I went in to confront them with my brilliance and my theory on their event theme.

“Where did you come up with the title for your exhibit, ‘Deviation?” I asked the two artists.

They hemmed and hawed.

Memin was the first to speak: “It’s very simple,” he said. “It’s because this gallery is out of the way, not on a busy pathway of the town.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “The gallery is on a pretty secluded side street. “Surely that’s not the only reason for “deviation,” I insisted. “There must be a deeper meaning,”  I prodded, incredulous.

“There’s no other meaning for me,” Memin said, matter-of-fact. “Let’s ask Francois,” he urged. “The theme was his idea.”

“Ah… yes,” Francois said when we called him over to ask him to explain his choice of the word “deviation.”

“It’s like a road sign,” he explained, using his hands to draw a rectangle in the air. “We simply wanted passerbys to see the sign “deviation” and “deviate” from their usual route,” he said.

Memin nodded in agreement.

“Really!” I said in some form of French or English while trying not to show my disbelief and my disappointment.

“Really!” I said to myself, “all this time, all this mental energy! These imaginings?  for naught?”

Deviation. A road sign. Guess that’s what I get for spending too much time thinking about French words. Perhaps the French language isn’t as hard as it seems.

"Deviation" Exhibit in Uzes

“Deviation” Exhibit in Uzes