Tag: About Uzes

Perfect Day Trip to sete

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

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

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

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

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

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Accccccccchhhhhhh

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

Meanwhile… 

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

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

 

South of France Memories Tour 2018

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

Day 2: Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

Day 3-5 Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 3-5

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

Day 7: A Perfect Day Trip to Sete: Gourmet Tour and Oyster Farming

Day 8: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 8 ~ Arles

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

Day 10: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 10 – St. Rèmy and Les Baux de Provence

Day 11: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 11(part 1) – Pont du Gard and San Quentin la Poterie

Day 11: Memories tour/18 – Day 11, part 2 – Uzés

Day 12: Memories tour/18 ~ day 12 – Wine Harvest

Memories Tour Interrupted

Farmers' Market

Village Scenes in Uzes: The Green Grocer

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

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

Hometown Green Grocer

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

hometown green grocer.

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

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

Hometown Green Grocer

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

Frankly, they’re all good!

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

Hometown Green Grocer

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

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


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Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon Adventures in France

Everytime I make a visit to the US to see family, it’s always the same. My grandson insists on watching videos of his grandmother’s hot air balloon ride.

I’ll admit, when I think about the day I took my first hot air balloon ride, I get as excited as a 4-year old, too.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

The idea for a hot air balloon ride was not mine. Good friend Julie, who I traveled with a few years ago through the Dordogne, was the brainchild. She’s one of those travelers who does a lot of research. Somewhere she learned there was a company that offered balloon rides near where we were headed. Between the Dordogne and Paris. All she had to do was mention it and I was sold.

Never did I imagine it could be quite so much fun.

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying high in a hot air balloon, come along for the ride!

To read more about the day of hot air ballooning over the Loire Valley, click here.

Hot Air Balloon

If you like hot air ballooning as a spectator sport, several times a year there are hot air balloon events near Uzès. Like this one at the Vallée de l’Eure.

Have you taken a balloon ride in France? Please tell me all about it!

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Would I do it again? You betcha!

 

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.

 

 

Le Pistou Cooking School Uzès.

Who Knew Cooking Could Be So Much Fun? Le Pistou School Uzès

When you go to a friend’s house and there’s great food and wine flowing and lots of people you enjoy sitting around, it’s pretty special, don’t you agree?

What if you learn how to create the foods you are served? A hands-on cooking class? That’s the perfect way to describe a “Provençal Small Dish” class at Le Pistou School Uzès.

Learn to Cook Provençal

From tarts with roquefort cheese and walnuts to tarts with abricots and everything in between, learning to cook with Petra Carter of Le Pistou Cooking School Uzès is not just an education, it’s a ton of fun.

 

Just start with the freshest ingredients.

The south of France is known for fresh local ingredients and healthy foods. When you know how to prepare vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant Provençal-style, for example, you’ll be changed for life. A “Mediterranean” diet is addictive… and good for you.

And let the good times roll!

Everyone gets into the action when you spend the day with Petra.

Make your own cheese? Yes! You can!

How would you like to serve a cheese board to your friends and family and say: “I made that!” It’s easier than you think with the recipes and tips that Petra shares with the class.

 

Learn to Cook Provençal

So when you’re visiting in Uzès, make a date with Pistou Cooking School. It’ll be a day you’ll remember as one of the best.

 

Visit the website for more information.

https://bfblogger.com/2017/07/16/le-pistou-cooking-school-uzes-france/

 

Wish for France

The Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

When visitors to the south of France put “wine tour” at the top of their list of things to do, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tour quickly comes to mind. The wine growing region that covers approximately 3,200 hectares (12.4 miles) of land in the Rhone valley is home to some of France’s most well known … and pricey wines.

Unless you know a lot about wine, you might be surprised to hear that “Châteauneuf-du-Pape” is not just a wine growing region. It’s also a historic “monument” as well as a town in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape “monument” is what is left of a fourteenth century chateau built under the auspices of Pope John XXII. Towering above the fields and vineyards of the region and visible for miles around, the chateau is among the last vestiges of the Roman Popes who ruled from nearby Avignon from 1309 until the Schism of 1378. “Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” translated “new castle of the Pope,” was built to be the summer home of the Popes.

The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small village with a few restaurants and lots of wine sellers. It reminds me of a wine smorgasbord. You can hop from one “degustion” to another.

Just outside the town center, there are dozens of wine producers devoted to making and selling their own special varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Farther out you’ll find private and “open to the public” wine domains with acres and acres of vineyards. Some new, some old. Some that have been handed down through centuries of vingerons, complete with ancient stone chateaus and wine caves.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Barefoot Blogger has visited Chateâuneuf-du-Pape to check out the wines on several occasions. The first was to see the territory by myself, next was with my cousin visiting from Arizona. The last time was to treat my visitor from North Carolina to her first wine tour in France. I called on my friend who’s considered to be one of the best guides in the area — Sophie Bergeron of Travel in Provence.

During the half day we spent with Sophie, I found out why she’d earned her good reputation. She knows her wine. From working in vineyards to selling wines, Sophie’s been in the business since she was a child. The no-nonsense tour guide educated and entertained us. The wine “lesson” was complete with charts and maps and wine tasting. Next we were off to the wineries.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Sophie’s choice of wineries to visit was brilliant– including one that appeared to “blessed” by the ancient chateau’s tower because of its proximity. How much fun to get  “up close and personal” with the winemaker and his crew.

To add to the perfect day, after our Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour, Sophie introduced us to one of her favorite restaurants that overlooked the valley, Verger des Papes

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Lunch with a view

A Perfect day, A Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

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For more information about Sophie Bergeron and Travel in Provence, visit the website.

If you would like to keep up with the day-by-day adventures of the Barefoot Blogger, join the conversation on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

 

Uzès Summer Events

What’s Happening in Uzès? Summer Events 2018

Planning a visit to Uzès? Here are some of the Uzès summer events you’ll want to put on your calendar.

The Tourist Office of Pays d’Uzès – Pont du Gard has asked the Barefoot Blogger to help promote Uzès summer events to English-speaking visitors to our area. I’m so happy to oblige. You know it’s my favorite place!

  • To see all pages of the attached brochures, click on the image title and/or caption to reveal the pdf.
  • To translate to English, copy the section of content you wish to read, then paste into Google Translate. Voila! French to English.
  • To keep up with Uzès events on a regular basis, join us on Barefoot Uzes on FaceBook. It’s a group forum where you can ask questions about where to stay, what to see … even where to find a plumber! 

Uzès Summer Events

Uzès Summer Calendar

Uzès Summer Events

Rendez-Vous Uzès Group Tours – Guided Tours

Uzès summer eventsRendez-Vous Uzès

 

VISIT OF UZÈS IN ENGLISH

Thursday, 26th of July

Friday, 17th of August 

Visit the historical centre with a guide in English and discover a history full of events and the historical mansions of the aristocratic families.

Meeting point at 10:15 am at the Pays d’Uzès Pont du Gard Tourist office in Uzès center. (Duration 2 hours)

Rates:6€/4€ Information:+33(0)466226888

 

Uzès Summer Events

 Balades Vigneronnes” Guided Tours + Tasting in the Vineyards

Uzès summer events“Balades Vigneronnes” Guided Tours + Tasting in the Vineyards

 

Uzès Summer Events

Haras “Les Peuples Cavaliers”

 

Uzès Summer Events

Mondays at the Tourist Office in Uzès 

Morning : Welcoming breakfast for new tourists in Uzès

Afternoon : Welcoming snack for new tourists in Remoulins

Uzès summer events

Pays d’Uzès Pont du Gard Tourist Office Service Area

Uzès summer events

 

For more information about Uzès and some of the Barefoot Blogger’s favorite places, click here

Remember to join Barefoot Uzès on Facebook

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

If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go.

This is a beginner’s level CDG train/airport guide that may help you navigate. As they say in France, “bonne chance.”

CDG Airport Photo Guide

“Gare” = Train

The first thing for non-French speakers to know when looking for a train station is the word for “train station”  in French. It’s  “GARE. ” If you plant that into your brain, you can read the signs.

Next you should know that SNCF and  TGV  train lines run out of the same station at the CDG airport. They go from there to almost anywhere in Europe. Those acronyms should also go on file in your head because you need to watch for them on the signs along the way.

International arrivals

 

CDG train/airport guide

A better map of CDG airport from the Internet

The most important thing for you to remember is that the train station (GARE) is in between Terminal 2 (A)(B)(C)(D)  and Terminal 2 (E)(F) 

CDG train/airport guide

GARE at CDG airport

Arriving Terminal 2  A-F

You have it made. Head for GARE on “Niveau 2”.

CDG train/airport guide

CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV

Arriving Terminal 1 or Terminal 3

If you arrive at Terminal 1 or Terminal 3,  you have to take the shuttle from “Aeroport CDG 1” at Terminal 3 to “Aeroport CDG 2-TGV (see below)

CDG train/airport guide

Shuttle from Terminal 1 and 3 to Terminal 2 and TGV at CDG Airport

From Terminal 3 this is one of the entrances to the shuttle. The sign is near a rack of baggage carts.

You have to go down an escalator here. (Hope you don’t have too many bags. I have no idea where there’s an elevator.)

 

CDG train/airport guideEntrance to the GARE shuttle from inside Terminal 2B

 

CDG Airport Photo Guide

After the Shuttle

When you exit the shuttle, signs for “Gare SNCF” will show you the way to the train station. This is a multi-level building. The station and trains are on the lower levels. See map of CDG Terminal 2 and SCNF/TGV above.

CDG train/airport guide

Take a left when you pass Paul’s 
If you have plenty of time and you’re hungry, stop and eat. There aren’t many choices for food beyond here.

 

CDG train/airport guide

When you round the corner from Paul’s you’ll see this huge board. Never mind it. Look for the nearest “down” elevator.

CDG train/airport guide

Downstairs looks like this.

CDG train/airport guide1

If you’ve made it here, you’re almost there!

Look for the Departure and Arrival signs that list destinations in France and Europe.  (Trains leave this same station for destination inside Paris, so be certain you’re looking at the correct sign.)

Have a seat and wait for 20 minutes until it’s time for your train. That’s when they post the platform where you board. If you don’t see the name of your destination right away, don’t worry. The train must be within 20 minutes of so from the terminal to show up on the board. 

If you miss your train, like I did, you’ll need to look for the SNCF information office. It’s on this floor and the entrance is well-marked. The information agents help with TGV, too. Be sure to grab a ticket when you walk in the door, or you’ll never be served. The line moves quicker than you think, so don’t take a ticket and walk out. 

BUY INSURANCE – It’s really cheap to purchase trip insurance when you make your original purchase, especially when you’re coming in from an international flight.

If you miss your train, you’ll get a full refund deposited into your bank. Unless you have lots of time at the station, don’t worry about getting a refund on the spot. The attendant at the information office will help you buy a new ticket and you can get a refund for the missed train from the insurance company later. Ask for a duplicate of your new ticket so that you can send it to the insurance company if they request it. You have five business days to file for a refund.

CDG train/airport guide

SNCF Information at CDDG

CDG Airport Photo Guide

How to find the right train car. 

Since I make every mistake possible, I’m going to assume you’re as uninformed as I am about trains and how to board them.

On the ticket pictured below I’ve circled the train car number and the seat number. VOITURE = CAR #         PLACE ASSISE =  SEAT #

“Depart” and “Arriv” are self-explanatory — except remember you’re on a 24 hour clock!

CDG train/airport guide

All that’s left to know is the platform where you meet the train. You find that out from the board inside the terminal about 20 minutes before the train’s arrival. (See above.)

Assuming you’ve found the correct platform, you’ll find electronic displays on the platform indicating where each car of the train will be located for boarding. You can use this chart to find the mark on the platform corresponding to the car you would like to board. Don’t hesitate to ask another passenger or railway agent for help. Even if the person doesn’t speak English, you can show them the “car” and “seat” number on your ticket and they’ll point the way.

CDG Airport Photo Guide

First class or second?

I like to pass on budget-conscious tips to others when I can. Having traveled in France by train, both first and second class, there are a few distinct differences: crowds, space, noise. Everytime I’ve traveled first class I’ve had a place that seats four all to myself. This time, on second class, all four seats were filled. There were also lots of children and babies.

If you can deal with these differences, the cost of second-class vs. first class is sometimes as much as half. They both arrived at the same place at the same time. 

CDG train/airport guide

Second class train car Paris to Avignon

Hope this has been helpful.   

For more information, this TGV post has more photos, videos and explanations.

Here’s a post with tips for safe traveling through CDG for 60+ travelers

Stay tuned for more adventures traveling in France! 

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes D’Uzes

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

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

Tuesday market at the Place de Duche, Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Zumba in Uzes

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

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

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

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

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

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Candy and nougat

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Jewelry vendors with handmade necklaces, bracelets and more

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepes made on the spot

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

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

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Silver jewelers add initials to bracelets and necklaces

 

 

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Balloons are for kids here in France, too.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Dogs are well-behaved

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

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

 

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

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

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

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

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

 

For more about Uzès visit here

2014-07-27 22.11.10

“The Golden Girls” Loving Italy: Day 11 Pisa

Whenever you are on an extended trip that takes you to many destinations, you’re bound to go to certain places just because they’re on the way. That’s how The Golden Girls ended up in Pisa, Italy. 

Discovering Port Vendres and Collioure because they were on the way to an airport was good luck. Stopping overnight in Pisa because we wanted to land somewhere near Cinque Terre was a mistake.

Sorry, “Pisans”. Aside from the Leaning Tower and surroundings, we didn’t find Pisa to be a great place to visit.

If you want to see the tower, and take one of those predictable “holding up the leaning tower” photos , I suggest you drive by and jump out with your camera.

Visit Pisa, Italy

Perhaps after a busy day in Collioure, a drive to the airport in Girona, dropping off Mustang Sally in an unfamiliar country, a long wait and bad food at the airport, we weren’t in the mood for what happened next.

Visit Pisa, Italy

Where not to stay
For the first time in my traveling with AirBNB, I made a mistake. In my defense, we made this part of our plan at the last-minute. So there were few–almost none– places listed for Pisa. We pretty much booked what was available.

For a twenty-something it would have been fine. For The Golden Girls, it was bleak and noisy.

To begin with, the room we booked in the “B&B” was tucked away in a scary alley in the oldest part of town. The cab driver wouldn’t even take us down the street.

Visit Pisa, Italy

After we got over our shock and disappointment with our location, we lugged our bags up the three flights of stairs to our room.

The place was stark and dreary, but clean. One double bed, one single bed, and a side table. That was it. No lamps, pictures or decoration of any type. Beds and pillows were hard, bath towels resembled large kitchen towels. It was adequate, and I repeat, it was clean. But it wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for when we were so tired.

One of the good things about traveling with these friends is that they make the best of everything. Just minutes after taking in the situation, we were laughing hysterically. I think it was right after we discovered our room was on top of Pisa’s “party central” — the square where college kids meet to drink and dance. All night.

Daylight came really quickly and our surroundings didn’t look so bad. We agreed the. B&B would be a good choice for young people. There was a nice living area and kitchen. It could be fun if we were forty years younger.

 

Visit Pisa, Italy

 

 

Visit Pisa, Italy

The Leaning Tower

Close to everything” was a true description of the B&B in the AirBNB listing. Not only were we in the middle of the town’s night life, we were within walking distance of the Leaning Tower and the cathedral.

 

Visit Pisa, Italy

For some reason, I wasn’t expecting all the ornate buildings around the tower. Even though I’d done a “ride by” on the “Europe on $5 a Day” trip. The area is truly beautiful.

Taking a few more photos of the town to remind us we don’t have to come back, we were off to the train station.

Visit Pisa, Italy

Helpful hint
When you are traveling alone to a new destination, or you’re with a small group, budget enough to pay for a cab from the train station, or airport. It’s particularly advisable if it’s late in the day, and/or, you don’t speak the language. This might sound pricey, but it can mean a safer, more relaxing entre to your new location.

Next stop: Florence, Italy

Visit Pisa, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Thanks to all The Golden Girls for photo contributions to this post. 

For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Day 9-10 Port Vendres and Collioure

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

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Learn to Cook Provençal

Learn to Cook Mediterranean with a French Pro

French Cooking with a Pro

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

Learn to Cook Mediterranean 

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

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

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

“Fish day” Menu

Apéro

Garlic and basil spread, olives, pâtébrandade

Entrée

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

Plat

Poulpe (octopus) salad with basil, olives and capers

Sea bream with fennel, mussels and saffron sauce

Cheeses

Dessert

Paris-Deauville

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Prepping the food

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

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

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

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

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

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

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

Tip #4: How to filet a fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #6: French etiquette

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

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Déjeuner/Diner is served

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

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

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

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

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

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

More here on my day in Paris!

Look What’s Cooking on Sunday in Paris

 

 

The Romance of Roquefort

All you need is Love and Roquefort… or “How mold found its way into the first Roquefort cheese”

In response to our recent article on cheese etiquette, many readers have wondered just how mould from rye bread found its way into the first Roquefort cheese. Let’s just say that the French are great lovers who also love their cheese. As one might suspect, love and roquefort, therein lies a tale of great romance.

Love and Roquefort

By Nancy McGee, Contributor to Barefoot Blogger
Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette

Napoleon and Josephine, de Beauvoir and Sartre, Rimbaud and Verlaine, Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette…are just a few of France’s famous lovers, real or legendary. But way back, a largely unknown young couple were responsible for one of the country’s most enduring traditions. Their story is decidedly among the most romantic of all.

Ingredients for a Great French Culinary Tradition
All You Need is Love...

Once upon a time – almost two thousand years ago, as legend has it – a young shepherd took shelter from a raging storm in a cave on Mount Combalou near Roquefort. No sooner had he begun his lunch of ewe’s milk curds on rye bread when a beautiful young shepherdess appeared, rain-soaked, at the mouth of the cave. The chivalrous young man offered to share his lunch, but as they became better and better acquainted, so to speak, lunch was soon forgotten.

Love and Roquefort

When the storm abated, each went their own way – with stomachs empty but with hearts full.

While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night…

...a king was born – that is to say the ‘King of Cheese’ as French philosopher Diderot declared “Roquefort.

A month or so after the young lovers first rendezvous, the shepherd was tending his flock near the same cavern. Fond memories of that romantic interlude surfaced, as did the memory of the abandoned lunch. When he entered the cave, much to his surprise it was still there, but hardly recognisable! Mold blanketed the rye bread and had infiltrated the curds to produced deep blue/green veins.

Love and RoquefortThe shepherd, whose hunger knows no bounds, took a bite of the mouldy cheese.  One can only imagine his reaction – ‘C’est formidable’!

Yes, there’s more. This tale has a happy ending. The shepherdess returned and shared her lover’s passion for the new-born cheese. Together they quickly mastered the art of producing blue-veined cheese in the damp caves of Mount Combalou. An industry was born – along with several heirs who passed on the Roquefort tradition throughout the generations.

Love and Roquefort

As a postscript, the couple probably lived happily for quite a long time ever after. Recent studies have revealed the anti-inflammatory properties of mouldy, blue-veined cheeses – which could explain why French mortality rates from cardiovascular-related diseases are among the lowest.

Long live the King of French Cheeses!

Love and Roquefort

A Few Facts about Roquefort Cheese
Roquefort cheese is made from the perfumed raw milk from the Lacaunes ewe. Lacaunes sheep produce far less milk than cows, making the cheese rare and precious.

Today the mould from rye bread is injected into the sheep’s milk.

Mount Combalou provided a rock-like fortress – hence the name ‘Roc Fort’. In fact it was the only environment capable of creating the blue/green veins; other caves close by did not have the same effect.

Combalou collapsed a million years ago, leaving narrow cracks as long as half a mile beneath the surface. Cool air blows through them into the caves, providing perfect climatic conditions — 48 degrees year round — for cheese maturation.

Roquefort was Charlemagne’s favorite cheese and, according to Casanova, an aphrodisiac.

France produces over half of the world’s cheese and it exports more than any other country, including of course the much sought-after Roquefort. Let’s see what President Charles de Gaulle had to say:

Only peril can bring the French together.
One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country
that has 265 different kinds of cheese.

Today, France is the home to over 1000 types of cheese. It’s a wonder how a modern President can hold things together?

Love and Roquefort

 

Check out more great information from Nancy about French food and etiquette on Barefoot Blogger’s page,  Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette 

Love and Roquefort

Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern French

 

 

Time to Renew the French Expat Visa

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to renew the French Expat Visa. It’s a gift from France that keeps on giving.

Wish I could say that everything about living in France is wonderful. But when it comes to dealing with French bureaucracy, frankly, it can be a nightmare.

As an American expat, I’m required to renew my long-stay visa yearly.  It allows me to stay in France 12 months. When renewing a visa you have to make an appointment at the local Prefector. You have to make the appointment online no earlier than two months before your visa expires. You can’t submit documents online. Most aggravating, the information you have to provide is the same your gave them the year before. You can’t just update it. You have to start all over again.

Here’s the list of items I have to produce this year. Mind you, not all regions of France have the same requirements. Wherever you are, however, materials except for your passport must be translated to French — including bank statements and proof of revenue.

  • Current carte de séjour
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate and translation
  • Proof of address (less than 3 months old)
  • 3 ID photos
  • Proof of revenue (proof that you have at least 1149 EUR per month)
  • Written statement (in French) that you will not work in France

Once your card is ready to pick up, you pay €269 in fiscal stamps. 

Renewing a French Expat Visa

Renewing my visa last year was a real pain. It was to expire in August. So I went to the website of the Prefecture in Nimes in June, two months in advance, as instructed, to set up an appointment.

“No appointments available. Try again,” it said in French, of course.

French Expat Visa

I tried the website again the next day. Same response. And the next day. And the day after that. The same screen appeared each time. “No appointment available. Try again.”

By the end of July, with no appointment, I was beginning to worry. I was told by others they were having the same problem.

“No need going to Nimes in person to ask for an appointment,” they said. Online only.

French expat visaOh, what to do? Visions of gendarmes at my door were running through my head. Worse yet, what if I finally got an appointment, and it was in September?!  I had plans to be in the Dordogne! How could I be in two places at one time? All those non-refundable reservations! Panic!

I started asking around for help. That’s when I heard about a company that helps expats cut through French red tape. Renestance. They literally came to my rescue.

The Renestance office is in Montpelier.  They can help expats wherever they live in France. Jennifer, whom I got to know quite well, lives in Nimes. We met more than once. She could easily go with me to the Prefecture in Nimes. Whenever we could get an appointment.

Renestance was having the same problem with the Nimes website with all their clients. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Renewing a French Expat Visa…finally

Finally, after sending a registered letter to the Prefecture explaining my carte de séjour had expired, I had an appointment. November 29th at noon. By that time I’d spent a vacation in the Dordogne agonizing that I might miss an appointment date. And I’d cancelled my plans to spend the holidays with my family in the States. Oh, the frustration!

During all the waiting, Renestance was busy working on my case. They were online multiple times each day and night checking to see if the website was accepting appointments. They were managing the translation of my documents. Most of all, they were dealing with me!

For example, the “original copy” of the birth certificate that I ordered from the courthouse in North Carolina, where I was born, the one my son hand carried to France when he visited, was lost. Bless his heart, my dear son went to the county courthouse, in person, picked up another “original” birth certificate for me, and sent it by FedEx to France.

By the time November 29th rolled around, everything was ready for the appointment in Nimes. Jennifer met me at the train station, guided me to the Prefector’s office, which had moved sometime over the past year, and she walked me through the whole process. Which, by the way, would have been impossible for me without speaking the language. Yes, American Jennifer speaks perfect French. It was another three months before I actually had a new carte de séjour in hand, but I had a signed government document that served the purpose.

So now, when anyone asks me if there’s anyone in France who can help Americans or other English-speaking expats through the French bureaucracy, the answer is “Yes!” Renestance. They help with visas, drivers’ licences, relocation issues and more. Jennifer is helping me again this year. She’s already made an appointment at the Prefector on March 5th. It’s all under control.

Thank you Renestance!

 

Read about the first experience with a French Visa

 

A “Blustery Day, Winnie the Pooh” : Le Mistral

Living in the south of France is a beautiful thing. Except for the wind. It is so prevalent and so powerful that it has a name: “Le Mistral”

Residents of Uzes have a saying about Le Mistral:

“It sometimes lasts only one or two days, frequently lasts several days, and sometimes lasts more than a week.”

Let me know if you can figure out that prediction. From my brief experience in this part of France, I’ve known it to last more than a week. Having lived next to the Atlantic Ocean, I would describe it as a strong ocean breeze during hurricane season. In France, the wind can be dry or wet, warm or cold, There are times when Le Mistral is so strong, you feel it will knock you off your feet, literally.

What is Le Mistral?

Le MistralI know nothing about meteorology; however, I will paraphrase the description of the weather pattern during Le Mistral to say that it occurs when the flow of air from north to south creates a current of cold air that picks up speed through the foothills of the Alps and Cevennes. It then spills out into the Languedoc region of France, Provence, the Rhone Valley, and as far southeast as Sardinia and Corsica — sometimes as far as Africa. Wind speeds can reach more than 90 kilometers per hour.

Le Mistral winds generally blow from the north or northwest. At certain times, the airflow is channelled by the mountains through pre-alpine valleys and along the Cote de Azur so that it blows from east to west.Le Mistral

Le Mistral that blows from the west brings air that is not so cold. It is generally followed by clear skies and warmer temperatures. This type of mistral usually blows for no more than one to three days. The mistral from the northeast, on the other hand, is very cold, sometimes bringing heavy snow to low altitudes in the winter. Le Mistral with these characteristics it is felt only in the west of Provence and as far as Montpellier — right where I live.

Le Mistral

Depending on the direction, the wind can bring weather conditions that quickly change from good to worse.

One Sunday I experienced a torrential rain storm that lasted all day. The rest of the week was rainy and cold.

Le Mistral

Summer winds

The good news about Le Mistral is that conditions brought about by the winter winds help make the year-round climate very desirable — 2700 to 2900 hours of sunshine a year. During the summer — mostly July — Le Mistral sweeps through the area around Provence and Uzes when the temperatures are particularly warm. It is caused by a flow of air from the north toward the east and it generally means sunny skies — even when the surrounding areas may be cloudy. The summer winds can clear the sky in less than two hours, blowing away dust and pollution, to make a cloudy day crystal clear.

Van Gogh’s Inspiration?

Among other artists who were inspired by both the beauty of the Provence region and the clarity of the air, Van Gogh seems to capture it all — and the wind. During my road trip to St. Rémy last summer, I hadn’t experienced Le Mistral. So when visiting the asylum where he was self-imposed during his last days, I was impressed by the way this masterful artist mimicked the natural phenomena around him — the sunflowers, the starry night and more. (Here’s a link to the earlier blog)

Now that I have knowledge of Le Mistral, it is interesting to go back to look at the work of Van Gogh. The effect of Le Mistral on his paintings — the wind, the clear skies — is undeniable. In fact, I ran across a blog that describes Van Gogh’s art and temperament during that period of his life. (Click here to read the related post)

Wheat Field with Cypresses

Le Mistral

Starry Night, Van Gogh 1889

Le Mistral

Rest Work, Van Gogh 1890 (Clear, calm sky)

Le Mistral

Le Mistral and tradition

Evidence of Le Mistral was found in archeological remains from as early as 400 BC. Ancient ruins in an area that is now Nice showed stone walls were erected the northwest side of fire pits to keep the wind from extinguishing the fire.

The construction of farmhouses, facing south, helped residents minimize the effects of Le Mistral. Roofing tiles and chimneys that distinguish the rural landscapes and towns have links to Le Mistral.Mostly facing south, town homes and buildings have small windows on the north side.

Le Mistral

Le Mistral

Roofs are gently sloped with sturdy tiles to endure the winds and rain of Le Mistral.

(Visit this site to learn more about wind and architecture in the south of France.)

This early Provincial creche shows the shepherd boy holding his hat, fending off heavy winds.

Le Mistral

Bell towers that hover over towns and villages in the path of Le Mistral were designed to filter the wind.

This particular bell tower is visible from my apartment terrace.

Le Mistral

More signs of Le Mistral

The day I went out to take pictures of the plane trees that line the roads near Uzes, the wind was ferocious. There were times when I had to hold onto the side of a tree trunk to keep my balance.

It’s pretty evident to me that these trees have seen their share of Le Mistral … from the bare limbs on one side of the tree…

Le Mistral

… to the abundance of foliage on one side.

Le Mistral

Everything in sight seems to tilt with the wind, and grow that way.

Le Mistral

Imagine the storms this tree has weathered.

Le Mistral

Le Mistral

Revisiting the works of Van Gogh, I was amazed to see this familiar representation of Le Mistral. I am truly walking in his footsteps!

Le Mistral brings beautiful skyscapes

These are some of the amazing views around Uzes before, during and after Le Mistral. Photos were actually taken from the windows of my apartment. Perhaps bearing the wind is worth viewing how it brews up turmoil in the skies.

Le Mistral

.

Le Mistral

Even the birds know when Le Mistral is on its way.

Le Mistral

Uzes

Le Mistral

Summer days on the Mediterranean boast mainly clear skies.

Le Mistral

Le Mistral

On a lighter note, Marilyn Monroe, stationed at a bar in Nimes, seems to know when Le Mistral is in town.

Le Mistral

img_8107

Southern France Chambre d'Hôte

A Southern France Chambre d’Hôte: The Season Finale

Now that we’ve followed a year in the life of Brit expats, Jane and Gary, at their southern France chambre d’hôte, let’s see how the season ends at Mas d’Augustine.

The September and October sunshine is glorious, with lovely warm afternoons and slightly chilly mornings – two of our favourite months of the year in France. The summer is officially over and our last really busy weekend was in early September, although we still had guests coming and going until the end of that month – but life is now a little slower, having made the decision to close at the end of September, a month earlier than usual.

What an amazing season. We are both exhausted but delighted with the business, which has significantly increased this year and, happily, gave us the chance to meet again so many returning guests who have become firm friends (this year almost 40% of our income came from returning guests and referrals).

The weather was unbelievably good from the beginning of May, since when we’ve had non-stop sunshine right through until the end of August, with the temperature constantly hitting 40C (104F) in the latter months.  Fantastic for our guests, but not so good for maintaining a green and colourful garden and very testing when working in the kitchen! On one evening that I remember being particularly hot, by 11.30 p.m. I was so tired Gary sent me to bed and said he would take care of the guests and clear. I was just lying down with the air conditioning working full blast when the music started!  I got up and looked out of our window – apparently, our wonderful multi-national diners wanted a music evening and so Gary played many well-known English songs and, despite the fact that no one spoke English, after a few tunes they were all singing at the tops of their voices, using salt and pepper pots as improvised microphones.  So much for my early night, as this went on until 2.30 in the morning. There were some very sore heads in the morning…….

Gourmet Dining at Mas d’Augustine’s Southern France Chambre d’Hôte

I prepared an evening Table d’hȏtes or bistro menu every night for three weeks in July and it was 45C (113F) in the kitchen on many of those.  We had fans working, trying to cool the kitchen down, but they had to be turned off when the soufflés came out of the oven or when plating up.  Gary was exhausted running up and down the steps to the courtyard in this heat, but our guests were relaxed and happy dining by the pool.

 

I had some fun this season introducing some new recipes, the most successful of which was probably the flambéed chicken in a tarragon and cream sauce, served on a bed of crushed new potatoes and leeks with haricot beans and some sautéed chanterelles – it was very popular.  However, I am not sure it was the most sensible dish for me to create when the temperature in the kitchen was already over 40C..……. I’ve included the recipe so you can try it at home, but hopefully when it’s cooler!

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Behind the Scenes

Southern France Chambre d'HôteWe never seem to find the time to swim in the pool ourselves but, one very hot afternoon when Gary was walking back through the pool area with the clean laundry, to the amazement of all 10 guests (who were sitting/lying by the pool) he put down the laundry basket, took off his shoes and, fully clothed, walked into the pool and ducked under the water…… he then resurfaced, came out, put on his shoes, picked up the laundry and carried on as if nothing had happened. The fabled eccentric Englishman is now a definite reality to many nationalities!

This season we were lucky and met the first 3 couples who found our home via this Blog – two American couples travelling together and one Canadian couple, all of whom visited us in September. We hope they had a great time and enjoyed us as much as we enjoyed them. We look forward to meeting the rest of you avid readers if you visit France!

Mas d’Augustine Flambéed Chicken

Southern France Chambre d'Hôte

 

Ingredients

 

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 tbsp Seasoned plain flour

2 tbsp Olive oil

Knob of butter

4 Shallots, finely chopped

4 tbsp Brandy or cognac

300ml Chicken stock

16 Asparagus spears, halved (optional)

4 Rounded tbsp. crème fraiche

1 tbsp Chopped tarragon

 

Method

  1. Dust the chicken with the flour.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large, wide pan with a lid, add the chicken, then sauté on all sides until slightly browned.
  3. Add the shallots, then sauté for about 2 mins until they start to soften, but not colour.
  4. Pour in the brandy, carefully ignite, then stand well back until the flames have died down.
  5. Stir in the stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Reduce heat, cover, then cook for 15 mins until the chicken is tender.
  7. Add the asparagus (optional) to the sauce. Cover, then cook for 5 mins more until tender.
  8. Stir in the crème fraîche and tarragon and simmer gently.
  9. Season to taste and serve with a green vegetable and potato puree.

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

More Barefoot Blogger posts on Mas d’Augustine

The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

The Inside Story: Owning and Running a Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

An Expat’s Life in A Chambre d’Hôtes in France: Jane’s Story

If Owning a Chambre d’Hote in France Is Your Dream, Spend a Day Picking Olives

A Slice of Life in the “Off” Season: A Chambre d’Hôtes in France

“Company’s Coming!” Owning and Running a Chambre d’Hôte in the South of France

Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

 

destination uzes france

From the Beginning: Destination Uzes France

This time four years ago I was headed toward one of the biggest adventures in my life — destination Uzes France. To grasp the reality of it all, I’m taking a look back to see how it all started.


Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure. Destination Uzes France. Solo. Just as planned.

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

Why Uzes?

Destination Uzes France

Place aux Herbes, Uzes

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

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

The master plan: Destination Uzes France

I started with a budget. My first trip to Europe was in 1966. I traveled with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill and we spent two-and-a-half months in England and around most of western Europe. Our “bible” was the book titled, “Europe on $5-a-Day.” Dare say, I knew there wasn’t a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but I knew there were ways to keep costs down so that I could afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than I thought. My goal was to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).

Six weeks? Choosing to make this a six-week trip was somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to stay as long a possible on my allotted budget, so I started checking on the cost of lodging in Uzes. I turned to AIRBNB, the travel website recommended to me by friends and a site that I had used on a trip to Frederick, Maryland. The room I booked at the B&B in Frederick was delightful. With a little searching around on the website, I found the perfect location in Uzes, at a reasonable price. The four-story apartment with one room on each floor was located within the walled city. I could have the whole place to myself from June 6-29.

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

Basic Itinerary

June 4 – Charleston, SC to New York

June 5 – Arrive Barcelona, Spain

June 6 – Train to Uzes, France

June 29 – Leave Uzes for Sete, France

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

Destination Uzes France

View down the Grand Canal in Sete France

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

July 7 – “Sketchy”

“Sketchy” is good. Really. I mean, everyone needs to schedule in time for a real adventure. A side trip. A chance to do something amazing — an experience of a lifetime, I knew I had to allow a few days to wing it. I could always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else, I could take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. It would be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage. To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo. Or, I could spend time wandering along the Costa Brava. Winging it could be the best part of the adventure!

July 11 – Barcelona

The lodging I found through AIRBNB in Barcelona was an apartment in El Born — a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops, tapas bars and restaurants. Most importantly, the El Born is safe for solo travelers. Safe enough, that is. I knew I to watch for pickpockets wherever I went in the city.

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

July 15 – Charleston, SC

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

France tours

France Tour? Uzes Market Bites and Sound Bytes

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

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

 

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

Stops along the way

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

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

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

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

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

#France tour? I LOVE THIS PLACE

 

Pottery at San Quentin La Poterie France

Oh La La! San Quentin la Poterie, France

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

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

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

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

View a San Quentin la Poterie artist at work.

renting a French Apartment

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.

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