Tag: About Uzes

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Last summer was the first time I visited Antibes. Afterwards I realized how much I love the place and I started scheming how to return. Thanks to author-friend Patricia Sands, I had the perfect excuse. She invited me to come back to play! 

Here’s a trip back to last year’s post for first impressions…

Antibes in Two Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

As long as I can remember I’ve dreamt about Antibes. When thoughts of the tiny dot-of-a-place on the French Rivera came to my mind, I’d imagine myself lounging on the deck of a massive yacht. Sipping champagne. Dining in the moonlight.

Sigh…

Little did I imagine that I’d live within a morning’s drive of Antibes. Yes. Dreams do come true…

Although no yacht was waiting for me (sigh…) the sights and sounds of Antibes were truly memorable. I don’t know when I’ve taken so many photos in such a short time — just two days. Everywhere I turned there was an amazing door or window to photograph. A partially hidden alley. A striking piece of artwork in a courtyard. It was truly a feast of colors, shapes, images and sounds.

Views of the coastline were breathtaking. 

Antibes

 

Antibes

Portholes through stone walls had their own glimpse of the sea.

 

Yachts were everywhere

Yachts in Antibes

 

Sidewalk cafes were just inviting as I imagined they’d be. 

Cafe in Antibes

 

Cafe in Antibes

The marketplace and stores around town were filled with fresh products, souvenirs and tourists.

 

 

Walking around the Old Town of Antibes (Le Vieil Antibes) three of four times during the two days of my visit, I saw much that I’d imagined. What I wasn’t expecting was that every narrow street seemed to be more picturesque than the last.

Also, I never imagined such spectacular public artwork. Everywhere.

There was a gigantic sculpture of “words” by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa — Nomade. (Click on link to learn more.)

And the works of  Nicolas Lavarenne . His graceful statues were artfully placed through the streets and ramparts of Old Town Antibes. 

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

Only on exhibit for the summer, the striking and athletic figures seemed suspended in air as they leapt from walls and ancient structures. 

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

As if that wasn’t enough, there was outdoor art in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum. Even from the street level, you could see the statues towering above the town — as if they were guarding the priceless pieces of art within the building. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside.

 

Antibes

Picasso Museum Antibes

 

A walk on the wild side

While seeking out artists and shopping are my passions while traveling, you know there’s going to be a bit of the “absurd” thrown in somewhere.  In Antibes a visit to the Absinthe Museum was a “must.”

 

Absinthe Museum in Antibes

 

AntibesThe storefront of the Absinthe Museum was a gift shop, the side street entrance led down into a cave of “inequity” — filled with absinthe and drinking paraphernalia from throughout the ages. 

Hats for the occasion were provided as well as the telling of the history and absinthe-drinking technique. Who knew? Sugar cubes and water? A spoon made just for preparing the perfect drink?

To be honest, we visited the museum during the broad daylight and had only one drink each. In case you’re wondering, the alcohol content and taste of the variety we were drinking were similar to pastis. However, I was told about more potent types. All in all, it was great fun and a memorable way to spend an hour or so on a warm summer day. Especially if you want to recall thoughts of Van Gogh and all who fell under the magical spell of the “green fairy.”

Antibes has a lot going on after dark in the Old Town but the nearby town of Juan-Les-Pins is “party central.”

Rich and Paula, the train passed through Cap d’Antibes where we had a glimpse of some of the famous mansions and coastline. We arrived in Juan-Les-Pins in less than half and hour — in time for shopping and a walk on the busy boardwalk.

The afternoon of the second day of our visit to Antibes, my friends, Paul and Rich, and I boarded the “petite train” that ran from in front of our hotel in Antibes to Juan-Les-Pins. Between the two towns

Antibes

 

Juan-Les-Pins at night

 

It was there, in Juan-Les-Pins, that my dream came true. 

Remember “dining under the moonlight? 

 

Antibes

 

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

 

I hope you enjoyed the visit to Antibes!

A BIG thanks to Patricia Sands who helped plan the trip and visited with us in Antibes — her favorite place and hangout. 

Patricia’s novels on Provence are a “must read” if you love traveling and dreaming about France.

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

More favorite places:

Boutique hotel in Antibes – Hotel Le Relais du Postillon 

Lunch in Antibes – Le Don Juan 

Light dinner in Juan Les Pins (on the pier or on the beach) – La Voille Blanche

Good website for more information on Antibes 

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

 

dream come true

 

 

 

 

 

All Aboard for Carcassonne

Second of the series on train rides from Barcelona into the South of France, let’s go to Carcassonne. 

Visitors to France who fancy medieval times, Renaissance festivals, dragons and gargoyles must run — not walk — to the village of Carcassonne. It’s like stepping into the back lot at Universal Studios — except it’s for real.

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. The earliest known site dates back to the 6BC when a fort was built overlooking the ancient route that linked the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe.

Between 1BC and 27BC the settlement, known as “Carcaso Volcarum Tectosagum,” became a Roman town, “Colonia Iulia Carcaso.” During the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, a wall was built around the settlement — a fortification that has been destroyed, remodeled and restored throughout the ages. to give Carcassonne it’s distinction as a World Heritage site and one of the best restored fortified cities in the world.

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The walls of Carcassonne and the people who lived within were prime targets for those who desired to have such a prime location for their settlements. The Visigoths ruled the city through the 5th and 6th century and are believed to have erected a cathedral on the site of the present structure. After Arab rule, then a successful siege by Pepin the Short, work began on the Romanesque Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in 1096.

Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in Carcassonne

Basilica in Carcassonne

 

The outside of the cathedral, like others of its kind in the south of France, has no flying buttresses. 

Basilica in Carcassonne

Stability for the structure is provided by interior vaulting. 

 

By the end of the 13th century, Carcassonne had acquired a castle, Château Comtaland, and an extension of the fortified wall. The castle, as today, has a drawbridge and a ditch leading to the entrance.

One section of the wall is notably Roman because of its red brick layers and the shallow pitch of its terracotta tile roofs.  Architect Eugène Viollet le Duc is responsible for guiding the restoration of the city that is enjoyed today by so many. Starting in 1855 he completely designed the city, rebuilding what was nothing more than ruins.

 

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

Fact or Fiction?

Dame Carcas of CarcassonneOne of the mythical, if not factual, stories about Carcassonne is shared by tour guides of the city today. It has to do with the naming of the city. The story claims that during one of the many sieges on Carcassonne, the people inside created a ruse to fool the aggressors. Because Carcassonne had so many attacks it was believed the inhabitants of the place might be suffering from malnutrition and lack supplies to defend themselves. Knowing they were at great risk, one resident, “Dame Carcas,” grabbed a healthy pig  — one of the last in the city — stuffed its belly full with food, then threw it over the wall as a “present” to the enemy. On receiving such a well-nourished sow, the charging army retreated, assuming the entire population inside the walled fortress was well-fed and ready to defend their city. Hence “Carcassonne” is derived from “Dame Carcas.” Her image (or so they say) can be found on a city gate.

 

Carcassonne Today

Visitors to Carcassonne today will find there are two parts of the city — the walled city and a “modern” city, founded by some of the inhabitants who were thrown out of Carcassonne in 1347.  You can see the walled city for miles around. Its approach from below — after walking up quite a distance from the new city, or after walking from the parking lot at the top of the hill — is  an amazing sight. Not many of us in the 21st century have had the privilege to see a “real” medieval castle — much less, enter it over what had been a drawbridge.

Entrance to Carcassonne

Entrance to Carcassonne

Once inside the huge, wide, stone passageway, the ancient-ness quickly fades away into modern-day tourism. Gift shops, candy stores and souvenir places are everywhere along the narrow streets.

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the tourist office that’s just inside, to the right.  My advice? Find it and schedule a walking tour. The guide for my visit was superb.

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Another idea? Ride the small train that encircles the grounds, inside and out. It’s not just for kids … or should I say …. for kids of all ages.

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

 

 

A view of the "modern" city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

A view of the “modern” city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

 

Best Time of Year to Visit?

My first trip to Carcassonne was in November. As in the rest of Europe, tourists are mostly at home. That’s a good time to hire a guide who will walk with you inside and outside of the city wall. The stories and images recounted by an imaginative docent are priceless.

If you want to see Carcassonne with hundreds of thousands of others on one day, visit July 14th — Bastille Day. The crowds are as bad as you can imagine, but the fireworks display is magnificent. “The best show in all of France,” some say. Click here for a great map of the “modern city” that shows where’s the best view.

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Train from Barcelona

Carcassonne is just over two hours from Barcelona by train. For more information about schedules and prices, click here 

Barcelona to Carcassonne

Click here for more information on Carcassonne and upcoming events.

P.S. Thanks to Pete Bine, my oldest son, for sharing some of his photos for this post

 

 

12540797_10153842872997731_6748382701076641046_n

Uzes Saturday Market

Winter Market in Uzés: It’s Not Quite the Same

If you’ve visited the Uzés Saturday Market during tourist season and hate the crowds, you should be here in February. The market is almost the same, minus the throngs of people.

Uzes Saturday MarketThis weekend’s market day was sunny and cold — a crisp 45 degrees when I set out. Clear blue skies and a light wind.

 

Uzes Saturday Market

 

While some of my favorite vendors were in place, many shops were shuttered and closed.

 

 

A local hangout, Au Suisse d’Alger, was minus its usual outside market-watchers. Yet there was a bustle inside where it was warm and cozy.

 

 

In the market an assortment of new produce was proudly displayed and on sale.

Uzes Saturday Market

 

 

Market regulars were busy as usual. 

 

On such a beautiful day, all who could be there were out to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Main Street for Uzés Saturday Market

On the main street, or Rue Gambetta, there was a marked difference in the numbers of street vendors. Although there were many more than earlier days of winter when the weather was in the 30’s. 

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Still you could count on those who gather at the Café de l’Esplanade to be there for coffee and to pick up their fresh oysters. 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Best of all, inventory at stores and on the street were priced to go.

 

 

Yes, the 3 pairs of boots are mine! At 15 euros a pair, could I resist?

Uzes Saturday Market

When the sun is shining you can depend on the French to dine outdoors. Market days are a time for friends to gather wherever there’s an open table.

 

 

Uzes Saturday Market

Cafes outside with customers

Uzes Saturday Market

 

Happy, happy day! Oh La Vache was open again after a too-long winter break. Their “CocoRico” chicken sandwich was still same. The best! Grilled chicken, aubergine and melted chèvre. Oh la la! (Not to mention a pichet (50cl) of rosé – to share, of course!)

Uzés Saturday Market Day

To top off the day, a stop at Gaffier’s Green Grocery was a “must.” Always the same: the freshest produce, wine at great prices — and a welcoming smile.  

Uzes Saturday Market

 

And, oh yes, it’s the only place in town to buy fresh herbs out of season. After a day at the market, my next mission? Gravlax! 

 

Uzes Saturday Market

 

 

Stay tuned …

Uzes Saturday Market

Homage to Truffle Hunting Pigs

Saturday night I served a fancy pork terrine bought in the Loire Valley to friends who were in town for the Uzes Black Truffle Festival. That bite of pork could have been my last. I’m in love with pigs.

I’ve always had an attraction to pigs, namely Porky Pig, Piglet, Babe and Miss Piggy. However, the attraction never kept me from having more than my share of pork barbecue, pork chops, ham and bacon. Yesterday, though, I fell under the spell of a truffle hunting pig. She was awesome.

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle hunting pig in Uzes

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Snout down finding a truffle

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival Activities

Let me set the stage …

Sunday morning, under a bright sunny sky, there was a brisk Mistral wind blowing across the main plaza in Uzes, Place aux Herbes. Crowds of couples, families and singles were scurrying towards the centre of the plaza to join in on the Black Truffle Festival festivities.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Morning view of Place aux Herbes in preparation for the Truffle Festival

 

In the square there was a huge tent and dozens of little food stands, each filled with vendors with their renditions of truffled delicacies. 

Merchants with truffle paraphernalia were set up to sell knives, bags, truffle shavers and more.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle gadget vendor in Uzes

 

There were even tiny tree starts implanted with truffles at their roots so you could take one home.

Uzes Black Truffle Hunt

A “truffle pen” filled with dirt and small trees was set up along one side of the plaza. It had been seeded with black truffles that were free to any man, woman or child with a dog who could find them. 

 

Not one dog found a truffle, but one stole the show. Nancy McGee’s 2-pound Papillon, Jewel. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Jewel the truffle dog

 

 

 

 

Jewel was the show stopper … until the truffle-hunting pig arrived. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

“Madame Cochon” rooted where others n’er dared to go.

 

She snorted and dug until every truffle was sorted out.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Finding a truffle

 

Surely Madame Cochon’s talent was due to the mutual admiration between she and her master. You might even call it piggy love. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Who could resist such a loveable pig?

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

 

Even the piglets-in-waiting were envious. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival Auction

Meanwhile, back at center stage, a truffle auction was starting. Truffles that had been blessed at an earlier church service were up for sale to the highest bidders to raise money for charity.

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Blessed truffles for auction

 

Each truffle was carefully cleaned, weighed and sold, starting at 1000 euros per kilo.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle auction

 

All was supervised by the ever-present Compagnie Bachiques — a group of wine-loving men who show up at every wine event, dressed in the colors and golden coat of arms of the Duchy of Uzes. It is their duty to spread the word about wines from the region and to proclaim:

 

“VINO NON AQUA” 

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Uzes Black Truffle Sales

 

All through the day curious and truffle-hungry guests mobbed vendors who were selling truffles by weight. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Selling truffles by weight

 

 

Precious truffle oil, butter and cheese sold fast.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Those seeming to have the most fun were those who just showed up for the experience, the food, the company and the wine.

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

What truffle delight did I buy? A little block of truffle butter, cheese with truffles and a small jar of truffle pate that I’ll  have to give away — it’s made with pork! 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Barefoot Blogger “do I shop or take photos?”

Oh yes … and dare I forget? Nancy and I polished off  a few Truffle macaroons with a nice pot of tea before she left for her drive back to Sete.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Another fun day in the South of France!

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

“Legally” it’s Christmas until Twelfth Night here in France. To stay in the holiday spirit just a bit  longer, let’s visit the Langton’s at Mas d’Augustine for a chambre d’hôte holiday. We’ll take a glimpse of holiday decorations and parties and best of all, Jane will share her secrets on how to create the perfect traditional Christmas cake. 


Christmas Time at the Mas 

chambre d'hôte holiday

Holiday party at Mas d’Augustine

Jane and Gary are ready for guests

The chambre d’hôte is decked out for the holiday party

The aperos are prepared and ready to be served 

Time for the party to arrive!

chambre d'hôte holiday

Traditional Christmas Cake

chambre d'hôte holiday

 “Whilst I absolutely love living in France, when it comes to Christmas there are a few things that I really miss and one of them is a traditional Christmas cake.  Gary does not like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies and so in previous years I have made a yule tide chocolate log or, as they are called in France, a Bouche de Noel. This year, however, I decided to make myself a proper English Christmas cake and I have a very quick and easy recipe.  I have used this recipe for many years, whether making a Christmas cake or Wedding cake, and it always turns out rich and moist (although it might be something to do with the extra brandy I pour over the base!).”

 

Ingredients

400g Currants

250g Sultanas

300g Glace cherries, rinsed, quartered and dried

75g Candied peel

4 tbls Brandy

300g Plain flour

1 tsp Mixed spice

½ tsp Grated nutmeg

300g Soft unsalted butter

5 Eggs

300g Soft dark sugar

1 tbls Black treacle

Extra brandy

Method

 

Place all the fruit and candied peel into a bowl and pour over the brandy, leave overnight in the fridge to soak.

 

The next day line the sides and bottom of a 20 – 23 cm tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 140C or, for a fan assisted oven, 120C.

Place all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, starting slowly with an electric whisk, beat until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Stir in the brandy soaked fruit, ensuring the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the cake mixture.

Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and cover the top with greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for 4.5 – 5 hours, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Remove the cake from the tin and turn it upside down, using the skewer make random holes in the cake and pour over your additional brandy (about 2 tbls).

At this stage, if you are efficient and have made your cake in plenty of time (ideally 3 months before you want to eat it), you can keep adding brandy (about 1 – 2 tbls) each month to enrich the cake.  Make sure it is well wrapped up and stored in an air tight container.

Decorating

 

The next stage is the marzipan and you can make your own or buy it and, I must confess, I buy mine.  The French love marzipan and so I can buy excellent quality marzipan in our local stores.  For some reason, rather than being golden or white as it is in England, it always comes with a pink, white and green stripe.  But it tastes delicious and these colours will not show under the icing.

Roll out your marzipan to the right size.  Heat a little apricot jam in a saucepan and brush this on the top and sides of the cake – this will keep the marzipan in place.  Make sure you cover your cake completely and allow the marzipan to dry out for at least 2 days before you attempt the final icing and decoration.

I decorated mine with a plain white fondant icing and golden sugar granules. I made the holly leaves, red ribbon and twisted rope from coloured sugar paste and carefully frosted everything with edible glitter.

“I confess, I did not think about making my cake 3 months in advance, but probably put it together over about 10 days – but It still tastes great.”

chambre d'hôte holiday

Happy Holiday to All from Mas d’ Augustine

See you in the New Year!

chambre d'hôte holiday

 

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

My Life in France: Taking Stock and Next Steps

Three years ago I made one of the biggest decisions in my life. I moved to France. Alone. To compound the weight of my choice, I knew very few people in my new “hometown” of Uzes and I didn’t know the language. 

Any who have followed me on the journey from South Carolina to the south of France know I started out my expat life with a three-year plan. (For those who are new to the saga, click on the hot links for more of the story.) I sold my belongings in the states, except for a few very “special” things, and said goodbye to my friends and family. With a long-stay visa in hand, I moved into an empty apartment in Uzes which I quickly filled with brocante furniture and dreams. That was September, 2013.

It’s 2016. Where has the time gone?

Travel

Before moving to France the only places I’d been in the country were Paris and Nice. Now I’ve visited more than a hundred French towns, villages and cities, mostly in the south and southwest. There have been short trips to Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, Istanbul and a tour of Nepal since 2013. Also, I spent three 6-month stays in the US, one of which was for dental surgery, the other two were to help welcome a grand baby boy into the world, then a grand baby girl.

French Holidays and Fetes

Bastille Day was the only French holiday I knew about before moving to France. Funny, it’s not even called “Bastille Day.”It’s “Fête Nationale française” , July 14th” or bon fête.” Festivals like Fete Votive, and Nuit Blanche,  music festivals and Ferias were totally new to me.

Customs

French customs. It’s a subject I learn more about with each passing day. From “what to eat when” to “how to cut cheese,” there seems to be “rules” for everything — or at least, good etiquette. For example, whenever you are with a friend(s) and you have your first cocktail or drink, there’s always a “toast.” The proper language is a vote santé which is spoken while lifting your glass, clinking your glass with everyone in your party, looking each person you’re toasting straight in the eye, then taking a sip of your drink. Any step in this ritual that you omit curses your sex life for years. (No comment)

Fashion

How do they dress in France? It’s one of my favorite finds. Mind you, I live in the south of France, very close to Provence. Fashions here are as varied as the people who live here. From blue jeans and t-shirts to frilly bo-bo or provençal styles, you see it all. What I love the most is that it doesn’t really matter what you wear. You can be as flamboyant or as reserved as you like. It’s all OK. I will say, however, you can spot a tourist if he/she’s wearing a baseball cap.

French cooking

OMG! The best food ever! I don’t know where to start on this subject except that I’ve enjoyed every food moment. Everyone knows about breads, pastries, cheeses and wines. What I didn’t know was how French foods and palettes change within the regions of the country. A mystery to me was why Paris restaurants offer rich, creamy foods and dishes that are not as easy to find around Uzes. Simply, it’s because there are very few, if any, pastures and cows around here. Rocky, garrigue terrain surrounds this area. So foods are more in line with the Mediterranean diet — olives and olive oil, goat and sheep cheeses, and lots of garlic.

Another treat to living here has been attending cooking classes. There are two world-class cooking schools in Uzes — Cook’n with Class Uzes and Le Pistou.  Each one offers a different type of experience  — which makes both a “must” to do!

Dining out is my passion. It’s more than a weekly event here since there are so many bistros and cafes that offer a “plat du jour” at such reasonable prices. Then there are the many restaurants with dishes that are superbly designed in taste and appearance. Truly masterpieces. I miss my tacos and sushi, but I realise you can’t have it all!

French bureaucracy

Even the French laugh about the struggles you go through getting things done around here. Mostly, you know it’s going to take two to three times longer than you’d hoped to get things done. Which is partly why I chose to live here. To learn to be patient. There are daily lessons.

Visitors

Everyone says when you move to France your long lost friends appear from “out of the woodwork.” Agree. Visitors have come here I haven’t seen in 40 years. If I had to come to France to meet up with them again, I’m thankful for the move. Many of my closest friends from the US have stopped by to check out my new “digs” and to play in France and beyond. More are signed up for future trips.

Friends

New friends made along the way are the best of all rewards for changing continents. Never did I imagine I would meet so many lovely people — just by moving to Uzes. The French have welcomed me with open arms. They award me daily with big smiles when they recognize I’m trying to learn the language. The town is a magnet for tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all over Europe. Barefoot Blogger followers who have let me know they’re in town have become my best buddies.

What’s Next?

Life’s so unpredictable, who knows what the future will bring. Right now, I’m happy as a clam in France. The only drawback is that I’m so far away from my adorable grandchildren. I’m missing them at their most precious ages –toddlers. We “FaceTime” every week, though, and I’m hoping they will be ready to travel this way soon. I’m thinking I would have liked a”grandma in France” I could visit.

In the back of my head I feel there’s still another big move left in me. Maybe to Spain where I know a little more of the language than I did French. As I’ve said before: “while I have the energy and curiosity to travel and experience this great big world of ours, I’ll find a way to get there.”

Frankly, change is better for you than you can ever imagine.

1238355_10152300328899768_120530542_n-300x219

 

 

 

“French Bo-Bo” Style for the Holidays is Trés Chic

You know if I’m spending the holidays in Uzes, I’m going to visit l’Atelier des Ours. It’s just down the street and it’s irresistible, especially this time of year. From the moment you enter l’Atelier des Ours, you leave this world and float away on a cloud of snowballs and ruffles.

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

Fluffy flowers and lace trim the place from top to bottom

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

You enter a fantasy world that takes you back to another time and place

 

 

A simpler time. When little things mattered

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours 

 

A time when “dressing up” meant adding a flower, a scarf or a bow

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

At  l’Atelier des Ours every detail matters

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

Atelier des Ours

Atelier des Ours

Atelier des Ours

 

Fashion comes to life in the simplest ways 

Atelier des Ours

 

Winter favorites take on new flair 

 

It’s one of my favorite places, l’Atelier des Ours. 

 

Perhaps it’s because Papa Bear faithfully watches out below, guarding the street where I live. 

 

Atelier des Ours

 

Atelier des Ours

 

Silly mice in Uzes, France

Uzes Christmas Market In Real Time

Christmas Market is in Uzes right now. If you cover your eyes and click your heels together, you can imagine you’re here!

 

Uzes Christmas Market 2016

Uzes Christmas Market 2016

 

The Saturday Market was hurried this weekend for the setup of the annual Marché Noél Saturday evening. Through Monday the Place Aux Herbes is filled with vendors operating out of white-topped stalls selling all types of holiday gifts and foods.  Wrap your taste buds around these morsels

 

 

My favorite jewellery maker is in town with more of his fabulous designs…. and a big hug and kiss for me, too!

 

 

Along with the woolies for sale and games for children and families, the market has something for everyone.

Handmade woolens in Uzes France

 

 

Furs at Uzes Christmas Market

 

 

 

 

Click on the slide show below and imagine the music ringing through the town. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Everything from religious santons to a silly mouse …

Santons in Uzes France

 

Silly mice in Uzes, France

Christmas in Uzes

 

The holidays are in full swing here and new shops are opened to welcome the crowds.

Le Comptoir de Mathilde 

 

 

Le Goûter d’Uzés

For my first full Christmas in Uzes, everything is merry and bright!

images-12

 

Bread Pudding and French Connections

Today I was enjoying the last of my Thanksgiving Dinner leftovers —  for breakfast — bread pudding. After I woofed it down, I stopped for a moment to think that I should be thankful for every bite, for everything about my simple bread pudding meal.

Take for example, the bread. I made a special effort to choose that specific bread at Mr. Gaffier’s corner grocery store. There were many choices, but this loaf of sliced white bread was specially recommended by the young woman behind the counter.

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

“It will be perfect for croutons for your soup” she said in her perfect French.

The raisins in the bread pudding were given to me by my dear friends, Paula and Rich, when they left Uzes for the States. White raisins. Just right for bread pudding.

IMG_4842

The eggs in the pudding came from the young man at the Saturday Market in Uzes. He picked out the perfect fresh eggs and delicately placed them into a small box for me.

fullsizerender

The sugar was left over in the sugar “pot” from Thanksgiving dinner. I purchased the sugar and creamer in the tiny village of Najac on my trip back from the Dordogne.

img_0543

The milk came from Carrefour, the large supermarket I visited a few weeks ago to stock up on basic essentials.

img_0463

Walnuts and pecans were in my freezer, leftover from aperos I’d made for friends when my son was visiting in October.

img_8483

The baking dish was from IKEA, reminding me of the day I was lost trying to find the store in Avignon.

img_0464

Along with the bread pudding, I had tea in a “proper” teapot that I purchased on my way from France to the US last year on a stopover in the British Cotswolds.

img_0465

The tea cup was from my favorite potter in St. Siffret. I bought it in the summer at a “pottery marche” in Collias.

img_0466

When was the last time you looked at your meal and took into consideration every item on the table. Where did it come from? How much effort went into putting it in front of you?

It was a small lesson in humility for me. Just a simple bowl of bread pudding.

So much to be thankful for. 

bread-pudding

fullsizerender

i-am-grateful-clipart-2

Celebrating An American Holiday in the South of France

Thanksgiving with friends in France is getting to be a ritual now that I’ve been here for three celebrations. Remembering the first time we got together to enjoy the holiday — that’s not really French — puts tears in my eyes. 

This year’s dinner for twelve at my place welcomed some of the same friends as the first and many who are new to me and to our town — Brits, Americans, Swedes and French. My world is growing bigger and better every day.

Happy Day of Thanks to you all!

Remembering Thanksgiving 2013! 

Not Your Holiday? Celebrate Anyway!

 

This season I’m learning a lesson from my new friends in France. If it’s not your holiday, celebrate anyway!

Wouldn’t the world be a wonderful place if, instead of fussing about what to call a holiday, we’d just celebrate it together? Spending Thanksgiving in Uzes this year showed me just how that might feel. As we stood around the kitchen in a circle, holding hands — just as my own family has done for years — we all had something in common. We were all thankful. No translations needed.

Prepping for the day

It’s not easy finding the ingredients for an American holiday meal in this part of France. Yes, we did have a turkey. It took a little doing, but we had one. And it was fresh… like in live.

The Turkey – Yep, one evening just before dark Geoffrey called and said “time to get the turkey.”  He picked me up in the blue van (which I’ve named the “Blue Devil”), and we took off down the road to pick out a live turkey.

Uzes

I wasn’t looking forward to the event. You see, Geoffrey told me that when we went to pick out a turkey, he would have to kill the turkey on the spot. It was a French law. The people at the fowl farm would then run the turkey through some kind of machine to take the feathers off. None of that sounded like anything I’d enjoy watching; however, I decided to go for the experience. Besides, Geoffrey says” “if you can’t kill it, you shouldn’t eat it.”

I’m still thinking about that.

When we arrived at the poultry farm, it was much like a warehouse. All types of fowl were running around in very well maintained 2013-11-25 17.35.37cages and they had plenty of space, food and drink. I looked for the turkeys. None were to be seen. There were lots of chickens, geese and rabbits, but no turkeys.

I took a big sigh of relief, thinking we would stop by Carrefour for a nicely packaged chicken.

2013-11-25 17.34.02Just when we were getting ready to get back into the Blue Devil, a man came from behind us with a turkey in his hands. Ugh. He held her up for us to take a look, slammed her down on a scale big enough to weigh trucks, then threw her into a box. Geoffrey went off to “negotiate” the deal, then he put the box with the turkey in the back of the van and told me to “jump in”.

On the way back to Uzes Geoffrey explained to me why things didn’t go as I was told earlier. It seems there’s some “poultry edict” in France now that forbids live fowl from being killed at this type of facility. It has something to do with health requirements, I’m sure. So it was up to Geoffrey to kill the bird and de-feather it himself. I’ll just say, he wasn’t looking forward to it.

2013-11-26 20.35.16

The Oysters

Shopping for oysters was left up to me. Or, better, it was left up to me to pick them up exactly where I was told to go — to Nimes and to Geoffrey’s favorite oyster man at the downtown market. Geoffrey was going to spend the day “preparing” the turkey.

The market in Nimes is a colorful place. It’s on the ground floor of a multi-level shopping mall in a very fashionable part of town. The vendors are at the market until just after noon, six days a week. They sell mostly fresh food items, wine, olive oil and the like. You can buy oysters that are from Sete (the Mediterranean) and some from the Atlantic Ocean. The selection of seafood, meats, cheeses and prepared specialties — like tapenades and pastries — is huge.
2013-11-27 11.32.01

Sally and I started out early for the 40 minute drive. I brought along a little cart with wheels so that I could carry the oysters to the car. There was no time to do any other shopping so Sally and I returned soon to Uzes with two crates of oysters — eight dozen of the most beautiful, fat and juicy oysters you can imagine. And yes, I did sample a few from the nice oyster man.

2013-11-27 11.18.53

Cranberry sauce and pecans

2013-11-28 13.04.44The hardest items to find for the Thanksgiving menu were pecans and cranberry sauce. After searching through Carrefour for longer than you can imagine, I discovered them both. Guess where? You know the aisle in the grocery store where they keep all the “international” food. Should have looked there first, I guess.

Since they were “special” they were pricey. One package of pecans and one small jar of cranberry sauce cost more than US$12! (Perhaps you can tell how small the packages are from the set of keys nearby.)

The celebration

After all the planning, shopping and cooking –done almost completely by Geoffrey– it was time for Thanksgiving. Let me say no more. The pictures and video speak for themselves.

Recently Updated

Jammin’ with Angus

Click here to enjoy the “Thanksgiving in Uzes “sing-a-long”

The party goes on …. stay tuned

ff9b5ea987cea49c5a888346a2eb35b7

The Hunt for White Truffles

If you haven’t discovered the Barefoot Blogger’s “sister site”, please do — BarefootBloggerWorld.com . Follow the adventures and missteps of the Barefoot Blogger in the world beyond France. Yes, there are those places!  This post is on BarefootBloggerWorld.com right now, along with tales of Nepal, Istanbul, UK and more. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the “world” site as we’re on this journey together. Enjoy!

*********

Mystical, Magical Truffles. Alba’s White Truffle Festival

 

 In 3000 BC Babylonians searched for truffles on their beaches and in their sandy desert.

 Love Goddess Aphrodite spoke of their aphrodisiac power.

Mythical legend says truffles appeared where Zeus’s thunderbolts hit  the ground.

Cicero deemed them children of the earth. 

White Truffle Festival

White Truffle Festival

 

Early October through the end of November, the white truffle is the main attraction in the town of Alba, a piedmont city in the Langhe region of Italy,  close to where a large portion of the world’s truffle crop is grown.  The Alba White Truffle Festival brings together buyers and sellers for an extraordinary food event that takes over the town — from the truffle market to restaurants, to specialty stores and pizza shops.

 

 

From classical times until today, truffles have been hunted, savoured and treasured by noblemen and Popes, kings and connoisseurs.  The white truffle is the most highly prized and known truffle because of its taste and commercial importance. It lives in symbiosis with the roots of trees and is rarely found in combination with other truffles. A white truffle crop appears below ground and is usually harvested from September to December with the help of trained dogs or pigs that can smell the truffles through a layer of earth. Retail prices in the U.S. for the Italian white truffle have reached $1000 and $3000 per pound. Most truffles are harvested in the wild and since the wild supply is diminishing, prices continue to climb.

 

Sale of white truffles at Alba White Truffle Festival

Sale of white truffles at Alba White Truffle Festival

 

White Truffle Festival 

For this year’s White Truffle Festival, visitors from all over the world clambered through the streets to reach the exhibition site.. They filled every shop and cafe through the downtown area of Alba from morning to night to dig into all sorts of truffle delights.

 

img_0239

 

Truffle selection on Alba restaurant menu during the White Truffle Festival

Truffle selection (Tartufo) on Alba restaurant menu during the White Truffle Festival

 

 

Parma UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy 

A highlight of the Truffle show for the Barefoot Blogger was the Parma UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy cooking exhibition. There I was invited to sit “ringside” by the organisers, Parma Alimentare, to watch some of Italy’s top chef’s create haute cuisine dishes from simple Italian ingredients — the ones that make “Parma” synonymous with famous cheese and pork products.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The Menu 

Truffles were not on the featured menu, yet Chefs Antonio Di Vita of Parma Rotta and Filippo Cavalli of Osteria dei Mascalzoni presented the best Culatello you can buy and dishes made with the finest Parmigiano Reggiano.  Delizioso!

 

Antipasto: Culatello

Yes! It's OK to use your fingers to eat this antipasto.

Yes! It’s OK to use your fingers to eat this antipasto.

 

Primo: tortelli di erbetta

img_0284

Secondo: punta di vitello ripiena

img_0290

Dessert: dolci al cucchiaio and meringa

(Persimmon)

img_0296

Wines

Azienda Agricola Palazzo: Brioso  

and
Cà Nova: Malvasia DOC 

 

 

Eating White Truffles!

So did I taste white truffles? You bet I did! From pasta to the most amazing pizza.

img_0206

 

img_0207

 

Yes, that’s with egg and cheese. Eat your heart out!

img_0212

 

Markets and festival activities went well into the night. 

 

Visitors to Alba's White Truffle Festival filled the streets into the night.

Visitors to Alba’s White Truffle Festival filled the streets into the night.

Until next time …

Buon Appetito!

 

img_6095

 

 

 

 

Visit Uzes

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

After visiting new friends Jane and Gary Langton at Mas d’Augustine, the chambre d’hôte they own and run in the south of France, I asked if they would talk about chambre d’hôte living with me and Barefoot Blogger followers.  Happily, they agreed!

The original post about the Langstons, The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France, told us the history of Mas d’Augustine, the eighteenth century silk mill converted to a luxury B&B that’s located outside of Uzes. The personal bits of the first story were told by Gary. Now it’s Jane’s turn to talk about chambre d’hôte living.

chambre d'hôte living

Jane preparing lunch for our visit

Whose idea was it to own and run a B&B? Yours or Gary’s or both?

Jane: “A small boutique hotel has been my dream since my thirties.  I wanted to work at something I love doing. My vision was to combine my love of beautiful things and my passion for cooking into a business. To create a holiday place where guests could enjoy a stylish décor, superb food and exceptional service.  Unfortunately, chambre d’hôte living was far from Gary’s dream. It was probably his worst nightmare.”

Did it take much persuasion to convince Gary?

Jane: “It took a lot!  Fortunately he couldn’t come up with an alternative way for us to work together in the sunshine,  so he gave in !”

How did you decide on a business in France?

Jane: We thought long and hard about our where we would locate and we considered various different countries.  South Africa was probably my favourite destination but we thought it was too far away from our combined family of seven children. We considered Spain because I had lived and worked there and I loved the sunshine, the food and the wine. However, I was not keen on the ex-pat lifestyle on the Costa del Sol. France seemed the obvious choice — as long as we headed south. 

chambre d'hôte living

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

What was the condition of the property and house when you bought it?

Jane: “Once we decided upon France, we searched the whole southern coastline and came across Uzes by accident.  A friend recommended that we stop by Uzes and visit the Place Aux Herbes at lunchtime if we happened to be nearby. We did and we loved it !  Focusing our search in and around Uzes, we looked at about fifty properties until we found Mas d’Augustine. It was love at first sight for both of us.  The old mas was badly in need of some TLC but it offered us the opportunity to create our five ensuite guest rooms  — and still have our own private family house with two ensuite rooms.”

What prepared you for taking on the project of a B&B?

Jane: “Nothing prepared us! It has proven to be much harder work than I anticipated!  I have cooked and cleaned for a large family for twenty years, at the same time carving out a successful career, so I thought this challenge would be easy —  it wasn’t. It is incredibly hard work.”

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

How do you divide up responsibilities?

Jane: “We have a very clear division of responsibilities. There are certain jobs involved with chambre d’hôte living that Gary simple will not do. For example, he will not clean the bathrooms. Gary scrubbing toilets is just never going to happen.  So I clean the rooms and make up the beds. I’m very fussy, so in the long run, its easiest for me to just do them myself. Gary does all the washing and ironing and he does it well. There are no creases in our bed linen. He takes charge of the front of house and I take on all the cooking. Gary loves to talk and I love to cook, so it works. Gary looks after the pool beautifully, it’s always glistening. I’m in charge of the garden and have had lots of successes and lots of failures trying to work out what grows down here and what doesn’t.  I spent ages planting daffodil bulbs only to find they bloomed in January when we were closed. By Easter, when we opened for guests, I just had lots of straggly leaves! Gary, under strict supervision, does all the chopping and hedge trimming. Left on his own, my flowers seem to disappear.”

chambre d'hôte living

 

What has been the most fun about renovating the property?

Jane:”The original renovation was great fun, we spent 18 months creating the finished property. From the shell we bought, it now looks exactly as I imagined, inside and out. So it is my dream home.”

 

chambre d'hôte living

What has been the least enjoyable part about your new life venture?

Jane: “The worse part has been sorting through all the French bureaucracy to get ourselves, and the property, registered and operating legally.  Gary had to take two courses in French, in order to understand how to get the correct licences for a Chambre d’Hotes in France.”

What’s the hardest part?

Jane: “Getting up every morning to prepare breakfast. There are no days off once the season starts. Its every morning.”

What did your family think?

Jane: “First of all, they said we had made them homeless by moving abroad, but once they saw the project, they understood why we wanted to do it.  Now they love coming over whenever possible and all think they have the best back garden possible!”

chambre d'hôte living

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

 

Do you ever regret your decision?

Jane: “Not at all, we are both very happy with our new lifestyle. We work together extremely well.  Going from seeing each other just at the weekends to working together 24/7, it was a risk. But it’s great fun and we both love it!”

Describe the very best day you’ve spent so far. 

Jane: “The best days by far have been our daughters’ special celebrations here: Frankie’s 21st birthday party with all her friends and Kathryn’s wedding for 40 guests and family.”

chambre d'hôte living

 

And the very worse day?

Jane: “The worst day was right back at the beginning.  We completed the sale on the house in August 2010 and scheduled to move down in December.  In August, we planned and ordered our new kitchen. The idea was for it to be installed prior to our arrival in December, in time for Christmas.  When we got to October and had heard nothing from the kitchen company, we became suspicious.  Then we got the news. The company had gone into receivership. So not only would our kitchen not be fitted but we had lost our very sizeable deposit.  We moved down in December, the house was freezing, the fire just billowed smoke and we had no kitchen! But we sorted the fire, got the heating going, bought a little hot plate and, using this and our George Forman grill, we had a great Christmas lunch!”

Since you love to cook, will you share a favorite autumn recipe with us … or two?

Jane: Of course. Here are two recipes we enjoy serving ourselves and friends in November — after the guests have left for the season. They’re easy to prepare and remind us it’s Autumn.  Spicy parsnip soup and a lovely apple cake. 

*********************************

Spicy Parsnip Soup  

A tasty warming soup for the winter months, made with simple ingredients.   You can omit the chili if you prefer less heat and the flavor will still be wonderful. This soup makes a filling lunch, or serve smaller portions as an impressive starter to your evening meal.

chambre d'hôte living

Spicy Parsnip Soup

Ingredients – serves 4

2 Large parsnips

½ Onion, finely chopped

20g Butter

500 mls Chicken stock

150 mls Cream

1 tsp Turmeric

1 tsp Ras el Hanout

1 Large clove of garlic peeled and crushed

1 Piece of ginger (about 3 cms long), peeled and grated

1 Small red chilli, deseeded and chopped – optional

Salt and black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Peel, core and slice the parsnips, place them in a saucepan with the butter and sweat until they soften.
  1. Add the chopped onion, garlic, ginger and chilli (if used) and cook for a further 5 minutes until soft, but not browned.
  1. Add the spices and cook for a few minutes to allow the flavour to develop. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the parsnips are very soft (about 15 mins).
  1. Remove from the heat, allow to cool slightly and then liquidise until really smooth.
  1. Place back on a gentle heat and stir in the cream. Adjust the seasoning to suit your taste with black pepper and sea salt.
  1. The soup can be thinned down by adding water if required.

To serve, reheat the soup gently and serve garnished with some finely chopped parsley or coriander, crispy croutons and some crusty bread.

our breakfast buffet for our guests and then also as a dessert, warm with cinnamon ice cream.


Apple Cake

Apples are in season now!  This cake was a great success with our guests, lovely and moist and not too sweet!  It would also be really good served slightly warm with some vanilla ice cream.

chambre d'hôte living

Apple Cake from Jane’s kitchen at Mas d’Augustine

Ingredients – serves 8

3 Eggs

25g Ground almonds

225g Soft butter

200g Castor sugar

25g Vanilla sugar

(I use vanilla sugar in this recipe but, if you can’t find any, use a tsp of vanilla essence and 225g of castor sugar)

500g Apples (Granny Smith or similar)

225g Self-raising Flour

2 tsp Baking powder

1 tsp of Powdered cinnamon

Butter for greasing the tin

Lemon juice

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C (fan assisted). Line the bottom and sides of a 24cm loose bottom cake tin with baking parchment.

 

  1. Peel and core the apples, then chop into cubes and toss in the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Set aside.

 

  1. Whisk the butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl until thick, pale and creamy.

 

  1. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each addition.

 

  1. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and fold gently into the mixture.

 

  1. Gently stir in the ground almonds and chopped apple. Mix thoroughly.

 

  1. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 1 hour.

 

  1. Check the cake after 30 minutes and, if it is becoming too brown, place a piece of tin foil or baking parchment loosely over the top.

 

  1. After one hour, check to see if the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into its centre – it should come out clean.

 

  1. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.

Serve cold on its own for tea or breakfast, or warm as a delicious dessert with crème fraiche, mascarpone, cinnamon or vanilla ice cream.

Enjoy!!

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

286118-and-so-the-adventure-begins

Place aux Herbes, Uzes, France

So it begins. Destination: Uzes, France

I’m off again on a road trip. This time to Alba, Italy for the White Truffle Festival.  To leave you with some reading while I’m gone, let’s go back to the beginning — my first stay in Uzes. You’ll see how this journey began and why I’m still loving it here today. 

Arrivederci!

********

Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure to Uzes in the south of 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?

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 Uzes as  the centerpiece of my adventure through the south of France? It’s simple. Uzes is somewhat out of the way, so large crowds of tourists won’t gather there; it’s close to Airles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I want to see; and, if that’s not reason enough, the walled, historic city is beyond charming.

Uzes

 

The master plan

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, there’s not a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but there are ways to keep costs down so that you can afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than you think. My goal is to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).

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 that I had used recently on a trip to Fredrik, Maryland. The room I booked at a B&B through AIRBNB 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 is located within the walled city where I wanted to stay.

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.

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

seteSete. 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.

Reading a few travel reviews, I quickly realized Sete is 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, You have to allow a few days to wing it. That might sound a bit too crazy for some of you but just try it. You can always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else comes along, I can take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. Wouldn’t it be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage? To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo?  Or, to spend time wandering along the Costa Brava? This part of the adventure may be the best of all!

July 11 – Barcelona

My lodging through AIRBNB is an apartment in El Born, a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops,  tapas bars and restaurants. Most important for a solo woman, the area is safe– although I understand you have to watch for pickpockets wherever you go 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 haven’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 have no problem meeting people along the way who, I’m sure, will give me lots of advice. Again, I’m 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.

 

SaveSaveSaveSave

French Fashion: Bobo Style

Now that I’m settled in France, I’m beginning to understand why I love it here. I’m a hopeless romantic.

It didn’t happen by accident that I live in a tower apartment. I’m a princess. Or at least, I always wanted to be one. If I had long hair, I’d wish to be Rapunzel, pining away in my tower prison, waiting on my prince to climb up the garden wall. Seriously, that will never happen. But living in the small town of Uzes, across from the palace of the Duke, it is pretty close to having my own castle. Better yet, if I walk only a few steps down the cobblestone street, I enter into a pure fantasy land where I am transported to the early 1800’s — the age of Romanticism — French fashion “bobo” style.

French Fashion Bobo Style: L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

There’s a little shop at the end of the road where I live named “L’Atelier des Ours“. You can’t miss the place because of the teddy bear outdoor decorations, and because there are usually crowds of tourists standing around the entrance taking photos.

french fashion bobo style

Bobo fashion in Uzes

When I first stepped inside the fairytale-like shop, L’Atelier des Ours, I immediately felt I’d walked into another world. First of all, there was literally “sand beneath your feet.” The floor of the entire first level of the shop was covered in several inches of pure white sand.

Second, the cozy store is filled with a vast collection of clothing, folk art and fond reminders of years ago — even centuries passed. Wherever you look, there are decorations and clothing items from an earlier age arranged in elegant, small vignettes.

Being a shopaholic, I’ve visited many stores attempting a “return to the past” theme. Never before have I experienced anything like this.

The “feeling” is achieved masterfully at L’Atelier des Ours, no doubt, because of the clever, topical store decorations, but also because of the artful selection of clothing and accessories — couture straight out of early 1800 France.

french fashion bobo style

Vignette at L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

Roses and time clocks from an earlier age

french fashion bobo style

Folk history and fantasy combine

french fashion bobo style

Romantic glimpses from an earlier time

French Fashion Bobo Style: How do you describe the look?

There is a certain style in the south of France that is best described as “provençal“. As I travel around other towns near Uzes, the provençal style of dress is scarcely visible.

It is alive and well in Uzes.

When I discovered how much I admired the look, I tried to discern why some of the avant garde, provençal clothing at other shops around Uzes was so different from the distinctive style found at L’Atelier des Ours.

That’s when I discovered “Bobo”.

Here’s an example the clothing at one shop in Uzes that sells popular French “provençal” clothing.

french fashion bobo style

One type of provençal fashion found in Uzes

 

Here’s a example of the style of clothing at L’Atelier des Ours

 

french fashion bobo style

Fashions at L’Atelier des Ours

What is ” Bobo”?

David Brooks, the NY Times columnist, wrote a book about “Bobos” in the year 2000. Brooks’ book, “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper-Class and How They Got There,” was subject of an interview with Gwen Ifill on NPR the year it was published. (Read the interview here)

Bottomline, Brooks describes “Bobos” as the cultural result of the “information age”. Quoting from his own review in the NY Times of his own book, Brooks says about Bobos: “These are highly educated folk who have one foot in the bohemian world of creativity and another foot in the bourgeois realm of ambition and worldly success. The members of the new information age elite are bourgeois bohemian. Or, to take the first two letters of each word, they are Bobos.”

According to Brooks, Bobos are identified by having “rebel attitudes and social-climbing attitudes all scrambled together.”

So what does Bobo have to do with fashion?

Bobo fashionistas are everywhere. You may describe the style as “bohemian”, but it’s not. It’s a higher grade of the 1960s “hippy” generation. Kate and Ashley Olsen probably would say they are Bobo. They’d probably enjoy shopping at L’Atelier des Ours. However, I would describe the true Bobo “look” as much more sophisticated than the Olsen twins’.

Personally, I like to think about Bobo as a look that was re-popularized in Paris at the beginning of this century. It is a true throwback to the early 19th century, with a uniqueness that makes it new. It’s a look that is flirty, yet puritan; dark, yet light; feminine, yet tight-laced; rich, yet peasant; fun; yet reserved; elegant, yet simple.

french fashion bobo style

This photo of Mary-Kate is from an article in the Huffington Post that labels her style as ” bag lady” or “homeless chic”. They even mention the moniker “Bobo Chic” for Olsen’s style.

Such is the fashion you find at L’Atelier des Ours and I understand that wealthy Parisian women flock to the store and to its store online.

Expensive? Well, yes!

You can imitate “Bobo” by layering and stacking on clothes you find at the thrift store or in the back of your closet. If you want to go for the “real” Bobo, it’s going to cost you, big time. For a special occasion, it’s tempting to splurge.

It’s tempting! And here’s why …

french fashion bobo style

 

french fashion bobo style

Ruffles and lace make Bobo irresistable

 

french fashion bobo style

Crochet lace and patterned wool make a Bobo statement

french fashion bobo style

Bobo is romance and fashion

french fashion bobo style

A store filled with visions of a romantic age

french fashion bobo style

Time travels backwards at L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

Bobo is simple. Bobo is elegant.

A teddy bear’s delight

french fashion bobo style

I hope you have enjoyed this visit to L’Atelier des Ours — translated, Teddy Bear Workshop. Be sure to stop and visit the store when you visit Uzes. It’s definitely a “must see”.

Meanwhile, visit L’Atelier des Ours on the web and Pinterest site. to see more.

french fashion bobo style

Visions of L’Atelier des Ours

A Funny Thing Happened In French Today

I’ve been putting off picking up my free pass to Pont du Gard for years now. Anyone who can prove they live in the Gard can get one. 

My friend and neighbor, Rich, said I’d murmured about it long enough. He was going to accompany me to the Mairie and translate so I could get the pass. He was going to ask for one for himself and Paula, too.

After I made a trip to the Citroen dealer to order a part for my broken passenger window  –another French translation nightmare — I was ready to go to the Mairie with an application in hand that I had filled out a year ago.

At the Mairie Rich walked right up to the “lady in charge” in the secretary’s office. He was quickly served with the same paper I had already filled in. No questions asked. Meanwhile the second “lady in charge” -Estelle- started fumbling with the form I had given her. She promptly crumbled it up and threw it in the nearby trashcan. Then she asked for my “carte grise” (car registration.)

How she knew that I could not produce the carte grise is a mystery to me. The only copy I had was a photocopy tucked away in the glove compartment of my car in the underground parking lot (gide). Trying to ask Rich was impossible. He was dead set on getting his own paperwork submitted — without a carte grise might I add.

Nothing I could say in sign language would satisfy Estelle. I waved and said “avoir” and headed (in the heat) for the car in the parking gide.  

When I returned to Estelle, she was starting out the door to have a smoke. Kindly she turned around and went back behind the desk to “deal” with me. When I handed her the photocopy of the carte grise she asked for the original. My hands went up in the air to demonstrate “up in smoke.” That seemed to satisfy her for the moment. Until she asked for … as I could figure out … the police report.

Police report!?

Ah! Then it clicked. Estelle thought my car was stolen!

Not able to hide my amusement, I laughed loudly and said “no, no, no!”  Then I did what I should have done in the first place, I pulled out my iPhone and went directly to Google Translate. Telling Google I just wanted a pass to Pont du Gard, I handed the phone to Estelle. She belly-laughed, too, when she read the translation. (Well, as much of a “belly-laugh” as the French do.)

With that, she bent over and picked the crumpled paper out of the trash, smoothed it out, stamped it, then handed it back to me. Deed done.

Estelle joined me as I walked out of the Mairie, almost arm-in-arm. On our way, she said something that I took to mean “let’s meet for coffee so you can learn French and I can learn to speak English.” After agreeing and exchanging our email addresses, we parted. Friends.

IMG_6505

 

 

 

 

 

French silk mill

Inside A French Artist’s Home

Each time I begin a blog post, it seems to start off with “One of my favourite things in France is ….” 

Sorry about that, but every day, every experience in this wonderful new world of mine seems to be better than the last.

One of my favorite things in France is seeing behind village walls and witnessing the inside beauty of the stone buildings and centuries-old houses. Especially those homes which have been converted from a former French silk mill.

This time I had the pleasure of visiting the home of Jean Marie Memin, one of the artists I’ve admired since my earliest time in Uzes. Happily I’ve seen his work in various exhibitions over the past couple of years. He is a master at pen and ink drawings which he uses to illustrate people and their “traits.”

Last week I tagged along with my artist friend, Andy Newman, to visit Memin at his home to see various artwork on view. We were warmly received by Jean Marie and his lovely wife, who is also an artist. We were served apéritifs and offered a peek at the rooms on the main floor. Of course, I had to pull out my camera so I could share this with you.

Oh happy day! I hope you enjoy this visit and view behind the walls, too. 

French silk mill

Salon of artist Jean Marie Memin

French silk mill

Salle à manger that is used an put to work for everyday business, like at my place.

French silk mill

Ghirlaine Memin in the cuisine preparing apéritifs

French silk mill

Everyday decor in the cuisine of French artists

French silk mill

Apéritifs are served. Rosé or white wine, or homemade liqueur d’orange

French silk mill

Jean Marie Memin at home

 

An artist’s home within a restored French silk mill

I’m always curious about the artwork that artists display in their own homes. Among the beautiful pieces, this one stood out to me.

French silk mill

Artwork displayed in Memin home

A quick view of a part of the house that surrounds the garden.

French silk mill

French silk mill

French silk mill

Memin home and garden

French silk mill

A farewell to new friends

French silk mill

A small example of Jean Marie Memin’s work which includes a “porchette signet” collection.  Each porchette signet contains a series of small drawings put together with a theme.

P. S. The Memins are hoping to move back to Marseilles to live near family in so the home is for sale. It’s about 20 minutes from Uzes.  Email me at deborah@bfblogger.com if you want more details. I’m not an agent, but I’m always glad to connect people who want to move to France!

Posts about Memin and the exhibitions of his work I’ve visited:

Uzes: Village of Artists

Deviation: Language Barrier Ahead!

 

Post about Andy Newman’s work

French Artists and Friends

French silk mill

Andy and the Memins

twyla-tharp-quotes[5]

Expat in Uzès

A Day in the Life of an Expat in Uzes

Friends often ask me “how do you spend your day as an expat in Uzes? Since you’ve asked, here’s an example of one day this week.  

I started the day with café crème and a treat, pain au chocolate, at a local cafe with friends. We were all heading for French class at l’Université Populaire. Yes, I’m going to give French another try and this time I’m going to succeed! My friends gingerly persuaded me that I needed to go with them — not just because I need to speak the language, but especially because they needed another person to sign up so they could hold the class. A little hot coffee, a tin of sweet biscuits and a fabulous teacher — Claudine — made the lesson go much faster than I expected. And more fun!

Morning French Class and Brocante

The Université Populaire is only a few steps away from my favorite brocante store, so who could resist? I stopped in and spent a few minutes looking around. Then I dropped a few euros to buy a small piece of furniture for my apartment — a carved chest. How do you like it? (photo below). It’ll be perfect to store things in my bedroom. I’ll add a couple of square pillows for seats.  I’m still trying to decide if I can live without the headboards you see below. For the guest room… hmmm.

While shopping I sighted a tapestry rolled up on a chair near the front door of the store. I immediately thought  of my friends Paula and Rich. They’ve been looking for something “medieval”to decorate their apartment. I called them and suggested they come down to see the tapestry.

 

Lunch at the Place aux Herbes

Expat in UzèsBefore I continue talking about my day in Uzes, let me introduce you to Paula and Rich. They are friends from California that I met a couple of years ago. I’ve mentioned them in several previous posts and on Facebook. Now they’re my apartment neighbours and “partners in crime.” They love to “go and do” as much as I do.  Rich and I are taking French lessons together. Paula’s pretty proficient at her new language. You’ll hear a lot about them in future posts, I’m sure. 

Paula and Rich joined me at the brocante. They loved the tapestry! On the way back to the apartment we stopped at a restaurant in the Place aux Herbes for lunch and to people-watch. A favourite pastime during tourist season.

Neighborhood Repas (Pot Luck)

Nowadays, I often take a nap in the afternoon. The temperature in the south of France is warm — in the high 80’s — and it’s a bit humid. (Compared to Atlanta? NOT!) Things pretty much shut down in Uzes and so do I. This day, after my nap, I had a chore to do. I had picked up some fresh pineapple, melons and cherries from the market in front of Université Populaire and I needed to prepare a fruit bowl to take to a neighborhood party. Everyone in our apartment building was invited for “repas”  — a pot luck dinner — and we were meeting on the rooftop terrace at around 7pm.

Here’s something I’ve learned about entertaining in France. If you’re invited to someone’s home for “apero” the hosts serve drinks and some type of simple food — a small bowl of nuts, chips or pretzels and perhaps a canapé — like tapenade on a toast crouton. Apero last for only an hour. Afterwards you might go together for dinner.  If you’re invited for “repas” you can expect a light meal along with drinks.  For a neighbourhood gathering the guests bring food to share. 

A dish that some of my French friends bring for repas is  chilled, creamed vegetable or fruit “soup.” For our neighbour’s gathering, there were two kinds of cold soups — avocado and beetroot. Both were presented in small bowls. The avocado soup was lightly flavoured with lemon, garlic and herbs. The beetroot soup had diced beets and walnuts on top of the slightly garlic-y, creamed base and a hint of herbs. They were both divine!

Oh.. by the way … never think about using beets from a can around here. It’s a travesty! 

Along with our delicious spread of food and good neighbours who have different levels of French and English language proficiency, it was a clear, beautiful evening. Up above the rooftops of Uzes we had quite a view

 

.

Expat in Uzès

Rooftops of Uzes

I love this place!

IMG_0001

Countdown to This Expat’s Return to France

Six days, twenty-two hours and fifteen minutes until I leave the US to start my return trip to France. But who’s counting?

When I moved to France three years ago it felt like I was going so far away from family and friends that we’d lose touch. Instead, I’ve returned to the States for 5-6 months each year. The first return visit was for Christmas and to await the birth of my first grandchild. The second, I was detained after Christmas with a surprise tooth implant. This year I’ve been here 5 months to “granny nanny” the two-year old grandson and to welcome my second grandchild — a baby girl.

Now that my son and daughter-in-law have assured me their family is complete, I plan to spend only a few weeks in the states each year in the future.  Only time will tell how that works out.

Two different worlds

There’s no question that my life in France is vastly different than my life in the US.  It’s “culture shock” when I move from one place to  the other.  How can you begin to compare living alone in a twelfth century tower to living with a family with small children?

Friends are friends

One of the first friendships I made in Uzes was with a couple from the UK who lives part-time in France. When I confided to them that I hadn’t made many friends in Uzes during my first year, they told me it would take three years before I would really began to make close friends. So true. Last year, my third season in Uzes, I met expats and locals I’m sure will be my friends for the rest of my life.

In the US it’s friends who keep me busy and entertained while I’m stateside. This year, for example, I’ve traveled with friends to London, to the Cotswolds; from Las Vegas, Colorado and Nevada to  Florida. I’ve stayed with friends up and down the Carolina coast.  Some have been friends of mine since we were children.

I drove a snowmobile and looked out over the US Continental Divide …

IMG_0529

… And I spent my birthday on a dog sled pulled by a team of huskies. IMG_1147

How does it feel to leave for France again? 

To be honest, it’s going to be hard to leave my two-year old grandson. I’ve spent almost half of his life with him while on home visits. He’s grown from an infant to a little boy who can say “Grandma.” My new granddaughter will be a toddler when I see her next.

If you think I haven’t given this a great deal of thought, you’d be wrong. 

On the other side of the coin, I’m living my dream in France.

Uzes

Uzes

Someone told me about a TV show that aired recently with Dr. Phil. For those who aren’t familiar with Dr. Phil, he hosts a talk show in the US where he counsels guests with various family issues. On this day a 70-year old couple were on stage with him, along with their 40-year-old son. The son had returned home to live and it was causing problems. Dr. Phil drew a line on the studio floor with a zero at one end and the number “84” at the other end. “This represents the life expectancy of an average person today,” he said. “Eighty-four years,” he continued. “I want you to stand on the line at the spot that represents your age,” he said to the parents. “Now I want you to look ahead at how many years you have left.”

He repeated the exercise with the 40-year-old son.

It was clear to all the viewers and the guests. The parents had only fourteen years ahead of them. The son had a lifetime.

Dr. Phil’s exercise hit home with me, too. And with my 40-year-old son who I’ve been staying with in the US. We both realize I’m coming close to the end of my “timeline.” How do I want to spend the time that’s left? It’s all up to me. Today, I want to get back to my life in France. I want to return to the US less often yet I want to stay close to my family. With airline travel, technology and God’s will, all things are possible.

Stay tuned….

12552957_10153838104432731_2702802744014076326_n

 

 


The Feria’s in Nimes. Let the Party Begin!

Enough reminiscing. Fast forward to this weekend in Nimes. The ancient Roman city in the south of France is going to party like it’s 2016!


One of the most exciting events in the Languedoc region of France is coming up Pentecost weekend (May 12-16) in Nimes. The Pentecost Feria brings Bulls, toreros, herdsmen from the Camargue, and tens of thousands of jubilant spectators to the once-Roman town of Nimes and its Arena.

Nimes Feria

Celebrated since 1952, the Pentecost Feria has become a wildly popular festival for people of all ages. There’s dancing in the streets and all types of merry-making throughout the festival, including parades and abrivados (bulls running in the street).

Feria in Nimes

Ferias are by far one of my favorite things to do since moving to France. While fighting bulls might not be for everyone, there is much more to the nearly week-long event. If you like brass bands, horses, paella, Spanish dancing and all the fanfare, it’s all at the Feria.


Nimes Feria
If you want to experience a bullfight, join the crowd. This part of France is one of the few places in the world where the tradition of the Feria, with all its pomp and ceremony, still exists.


Feria NimesExhibitions are held in the various museums during the feria, including the Museum of Taurine Cultures. Art galleries are filled with images and sculptures of toros and toreadors.

Nimes Feria

Nimes Feria

Food vendors and bars line the streets with wine, beer and pastis — one of the south of France’s famed drinks.

NimesFeria

This is by far the most important of the two Nimes ferias that are celebrated each year. If you are anywhere in the vicinity, head that way. It promises to be a party for all!

  


 

 

 

off the beaten track

Off the beaten track


Continuing on my trip down memory lane. It  was three years ago that a solo holiday in Uzes turned into a dream come true.

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

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

Au contraire

20130611-185524.jpg

The idea for the trip was Oliver’s, the cutey from the bike rental shop. (See yesterday’s blog) The trail map he gave me looked simple enough to follow. Problem was, I discovered, the bike routes take you the farthest possible distance to get to any destination.

 

I’m not saying the trail wasn’t scenic. There were no major roadways or traffic to spoil the views of the places I ventured today –from Uzes to St- Mediers to Montaron and back.

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

 

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

 

A funny thing happened

Like Mel Brooks’ famous play about a trip to the Roman Forum, a “funny thing” happened at an intersection along the bike path. I came upon a horse that was staring me straight in the face. He seemed to say: “take me with you!”
Outside Uzes

 

Oh that I had heeded his advice. The next section of the road was a killer. The lanes of the trail were piled with sand and the route was mostly uphill. After a few minutes trying to plow through the sand, I resorted to pushing the bike.

One reason I went on this excursion was to find a quaint town with a memorable cafe where I could have lunch. Walking the bike through St-Medlers, I saw no restaurants, cafes or sundry shops. In fact, the place was rather deserted.

Outside Uzes

Dying of thirst and quite hungry by this time, I tried not to panic. In the distance I saw a man getting into his car. Hurrying to stop him, I yelled out “bonjour!”. We tried to communicate but ended up using sign language. Pointing toward the road ahead, he held up two fingers and said: “two kilometers, Montaron,”

Civilization

Montaron was off the bike trail, yet clearly, it was just down the main road. Downhill!

When I arrived I literally staggered into the first restaurant I came to in the town, Passing through the bar area, I took three steps up to the tables in the outdoor covered patio. Dropping down into a chair, I was immediately met by the waiter.

Apparently I looked as desperate as I felt. The waiter hustled to bring a pitcher of water to the table – with ice.

Not long after, I finished lunch and a cold glass of beer.

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes

Outside Uzes
The short way back
Know why I said the bike route was the longest route possible to anywhere? The road sign in Montaron told me so. Four kilometers to Uzes. I had traveled at least ten kilometers from Uzes to get here. I took the main road back.

Tomorrow’s adventure? Stay tuned.

%d bloggers like this: