Tag: About Uzes

Heaven on earth

Revisiting this day from 3 years ago reminds me how exciting it is to discover you have stumbled upon something really good.

OMG! This place is better than I remembered. A true heaven on earth!

After leavinq the hotel yesterday morning, I took a cab to the train station. My luck had taken a turn for the worse with computer problems and no AC in my hotel room, so I decided to take no chances and get a cab to the train station.

The scenery from the train wasn’t as exciting as I expected, and the windows of my coach were dirty, so I didn’t get the spectacular views and photos I hoped for. However, it was exciting enough traveling at 250 km/hr to get to Nimes just after noon.

Before leaving the states I messaged a friend I met in France in 2011 to see if we could meet up sometime in Uzes. Good news, he was available to meet me at the train in Nimes!

After a “welcome back” lunch and chance to catch up on the last two years, Sandy and his friend, Maggie, dropped me at my door in Uzes. In addition to the ride and lunch, I picked up some great sightseeing and photo tips since they are both accomplished travelers and photographers.

Here’s my home-away-from-home. Ain’t it great?

Uzes

Uzes

Uzes

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Airport day

Continuing on my sentimental flashback to three years ago when my “life in France” adventure began. This day I realized my idea of blogging along the way was wrought with technical problems — the joys of traveling abroad had begun.

Procrastination is one of my biggest faults. Packing for this trip was no exception.

While I had the items laid out in neat piles for weeks, I was still putting things in my suitcase and backpack Tuesday morning. (Hints for “what to pack” posting soon.)

Yesterday was airport day. My iPhone and tablet were put in accessible places to keep me occupied sending emails and blogging during the 5-hour wait in Newark. Little did I know that I’d have technical problems that kept me from connecting all day.

Now in Barcelona and ready to throw the laptop in the trash. Looks like I should have bought an iPad!

So it begins. Destination: Uzes, France

On returning to life in France after a long visit in the States, I’m melancholy thinking of how my life has evolved. Hopefully you’ll enjoy looking back with me

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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

Uzes

Rue St. Roman

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.

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.

 

Magical, Mythical 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. 

 

Cathedral in Carcassonne

 

 

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

 

View from the visitors' train at Carcassonne

View from the visitors’ train at 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. Here’s 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

Another journey to Carcassonne is in my future, hopefully soon, as I venture through the Minervois region in the south of France.

Minervois Region of France

Minervois Region of France

Stay tuned.

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

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Me, Leave France? No Way!

Oh dear … it seems some friends of Barefoot Blogger think I may be leaving France.

Just the opposite!

Me and barefootblogger.com,  are here to stay.

I’m as dedicated to living in my little ivory tower in Uzes and to stories about life, travels and adventures in France as ever!

Until I get kicked out of the country, that is, for not learning French … or for some foolishness which I will always share with you.

(Speaking of which … did I tell you about the last fiasco? I’ll give you a hint. It didn’t have anything to do with putting the wrong gas in “Lucy” my red Citroen again, but it did have something to do with my trousseau clés.) 

Stay tuned to barefootblogger.com — and visit the new sister site — barefootbloggerworld.com to follow the Barefoot Blogger’s fun and missteps when I venture outside France. Yes, two blogs to keep you and me busy traveling, learning, reading, writing and dreaming about that great big world of ours out there.

Thank you so much for following and caring … and for keeping in touch!

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Introducing a New Blog for Travel-Hungry Readers: BarefootBloggerWorld.com

Three years ago I started writing the Barefoot Blogger. It was intended as a “letter home” to friends and family about my new life as an expat in France. It was meant to record, with stories and pictures, the events and emotions that were becoming my new reality.

To my delight, others found the blog and began to follow my adventures as a solo female in France who speaks no French. Like me, blog followers were — and still are, thank you! –curious about the country of chateaus and champagne.

Today I am launching a new blog for travel-hungry readers. Barefoot Blogger World
Barefoot Blogger World is an extension of the Barefoot Blogger. But the events take place outside of France. The stories are a mix of travelog, diary, mishaps and amazements that happen along my way.  The site will be populated regularly with stories about “faraway places” and some that are closer than you think.

Please stop by soon and take a look. Let me know if you like it and more things you’d like to see. It starts off with a recent discovery of a most amazing artist who paints with peanut butter and jelly!

I hope you will enjoy the journey.  

 

Click here and Sign up!

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Duck Tales from North Carolina

This week I’ve been visiting Camp Rosie. It sits deep in the Cape Fear region of North Carolina.

For those who don’t know the southern states of the US, a lot of geography here is defined by rivers. The Cape Fear River runs through this part of the state of North Carolina. The area is known also for its American Indians, the Lumbees, who may have taken the name from the Lumber River that’s here—or vice versa. It’s one of those southern folk stories.

My brother, now deceased, told me a story about the Lumbee Indians. He said they are actually the descendants of the “lost colony” of English settlers who landed in the colonies 22 years before Jamestown and 37 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, under the ultimate authority of Sir Walter Raleigh. The colony later disappeared. My brother told the tale very convincingly because Jamestown is not that far from here, and he said: “many of the Lumbee tribe have blue eyes.” I’ve never tried to validate the last theory with facts.

southern folk tales

The Lumbee tribe

I’m staying at Camp Rosie because my friend, “Miss Rosie,” needs some assistance while she’s recuperating from spinal surgery. There are a lot of mouths to feed and animal chores around the 40-acre farm we affectionately call “Camp Rosie.  Miss Rosie needs a little tending to as well, although she claims spinal surgery is  a “piece of cake” compared to the double-knee replacement she endured this summer. What a trooper.

Right now, all is well at Camp Rosie. The two horses, two donkeys, five dogs, 16 cats and hundreds of Canada geese that she feeds are peacefully quite and happy .. oh, and let me not forget Grendel, the white farm goose that thinks he’s Canadian.

 

 

An ice and snow storm swept through here a day ago. The same storm that hit and paralyzed New York and Maryland. Fortunately all we lost was power for a few hours. That’s what happens when a wet, icy winter storm hits the south. The ice and heavy, wet snow freeze power lines and bring down spinly loblolly pine trees that fall over, also bringing down power lines. It’s pretty much a mess.

On the positive side, though, the scenery during the ice storms is pretty spectacular. Especially at Camp Rosie.

 

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Camp Rosie

 

 

southern folk tales

Camp Rosie

 

 

southern folk tales

Camp Rosie

 

Duck tales: Southern folk tales

Most of the dogs and cats at Camp Rosie are strays. Miss Rosie finds them on the side of the road near where she lives, or they wander up to her gate. She takes them all in. That’s who she is.

Miss Rosie bought Ester, the donkey. She came to Miss Rosie with a bonus. She was with “child.” Rosie planned to name the offspring a Biblical name since he/she was son/daughter of “Ester.” However, as fate would have it, the offspring was born on the 4th of July. “Firecracker” he was … of course.

 

Grendel, the farm goose who thinks he’s Canadian showed up at Miss Rosie’s some 16 years ago. He, like Firecracker, was embryonic. Grendel hatched just after Mother Goose was rescued by Miss Rosie. Grendel is the lone survivor of the brood now.

Grendel is in charge of the migration of Canada geese on the 15-acre lake at Camp Rosie. Each year he welcomes new arrivals; chooses a pair to “adopt;” babysits the family’s goslings; then flies off with the gaggle of geese, escorting them to their next stop — we think.  Each year Grendel leaves on a pilgimage, Miss Rosie is certain he is gone for good. Then he reappears. He swims around the lake in lonely despair until his friends reappear to settle in again.

 

southern folk tales

Grendel the farm goose with friends from Canada

Once when I was visiting,  Miss Rosie and I set out to find Grendale and her adopted goslings. They were together in the morning, but by afternoon, they were nowhere in sight. Mama and Papa Goose were swimming around the lake, enjoying their free time together. They seemed oblivious to the fact that Grendel and the babies had disappeared. Had the fox that lives nearby snatched them away? Was there evidence somewhere of “fowl” play?

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There, on the far side of the lake was the scene we feared. Footprints and duck feathers. We thought the worse.

 

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Next day, though, there they were. Grendel and the family, paddling along as if nothing had happened. Not a feather was out of place.

More duck tales

While on the subject of ducks, I must share two of my favorite duck tales with you. They’re written by my friend, Larry Johnson, author of The War Baby — a book you really must read – especially if you’re a “baby boomer.” Larry is a master of words and just a bit corny—two gifts that make his writing so genuine and compelling.

 Duck Tales

The strangest thing has happened with my ducks. When I first got them from my friends Roy and Elizabeth, these gorgeous Indian River ducks were still immature. One was obviously a drake, but the other two appeared to be female. I named them Peter, Pauline, and Mary.

After a few weeks, Pauline started turning darker, and also began taking on masculine features. His ducktails commenced turning up too, a sure sign. It soon became apparent that they were indeed Peter, Paul, and Mary.

But there was never a doubt who the couple was. Peter and Mary were definitely the pair. Paul was always the tagalong. I could not help but feel sorry for him.

When the mating season started in January, I spotted some ducky panky on several occasions. The odd male just looked on with envy. The alpha male made sure that Paul did not get too close to his ducky darling. He made it obvious that he did not want to deal with any duck cuckoldry.

I got really excited about the possibility of Mary raising a brood. One time I spotted her coming out from under the ivy on the bank. I thought for certain that was where her nest would be. Then I started finding eggs laid on the ground right at the water’s edge. Now, I’m not so sure. Maybe she is one of those females that did not come pre-wired with mothering instincts.

Within the last couple of weeks, the male competition has been raised a notch or two. The dominant male has been relentless in attacking and running off his rival. Paul would sometimes duck under the water to get away. It was not unusual to hear some rather fowl language coming from the two, either.

I continued feeling sorry for the mate less male. I kept thinking that he was bringing so much of that fury on himself, though, and wondered why he would not just back off. The damsel duck seemed not in distress at all, really enjoying the attention. What was the meaning of all of this quackery?

Then I got up one morning last week, looked out across the lake, and the pretender Paul was swimming merrily along with the duckess Mary. Her former beau was nowhere to be seen. I was momentarily afraid that something had happened to Peter. With my binoculars, I spotted him on the bank across the lake all alone.

Overnight, there had been a coup- de-duck. Peter (the not so) Great had been dethroned. I went to check him out, and he was fine except for obvious shame and grief. In his disgrace, the deposed drake has presently retired to another small pond across a little swamp from mine.

He is so pitiful. I wonder if I could fix him up with the AFLAC duck. Or maybe I should just get him a bottle of Cold Duck.

Just before dark on the day of the duck swapping, I went out for an evening walk. The adulterous ducks were on the dam sleeping together. They were cuddled up with their duckbills snugly around each other. Ah, the excitement (and exhaustion) of a new illicit romance. And I thought ducks mated for life, but a little aduckery had undoubtedly been going on right there in front of my eyes.

I will continue to commiserate with both Peter and Paul – Peter for his loss, and Paul for his gain. Will Paul ever be able to trust his duplicitous duck, especially with her former flame, Peter, looming in the shadows? Would Peter take back the unfaithful female even if she begged to come home?

Like sands through an hourglass, these are the ducks of our lives.

Duck Facts 

At first there were three. I named them Peter, Pauline, and Mary. They were just youngsters when they first came to live with me. Gradually, Pauline’s voice began to change, and I realized that his name was really Paul. I shared some of their ducky antics with you before.

Peter and Mary were sweethearts. But back there somewhere in the early spring, Paul moved in on Peter’s woman. One morning there was a new top duck. The rivalry was intense. Peter seemed finally to accept his defeat.

Mary’s biological clock started ticking, and she with new mate Paul started making plans for a family. She would work on the nursery, but then forget what she was doing. After squandering numerous opportunities Mary, ever the modern woman, finally went to set on her nest.

After several hours, the duck came off for a brief respite, only she forgot what she was doing and went over and took a nap with the guys. The next morning she was back on the nest again, but by noon, she took another break, and this time did not return at all. The following day she had rolled all of the eggs out of the nest, cracking most of them open. Apparently, Mary had far more important things to do than take a month or so off to incubate and raise a brood.

It was at that point that I suppose I should have reported the derelict and delinquent mom-to-be to duck-facs. The little wench. She was far more interested in getting laid than in laying. Like many of her human counterparts, her paramount concern was engaging in activities in which babies are made, but then ducking out of the responsibility of having and raising them. As for her priorities, she just could not seem to get her ducks in a row.

All the while, the wanton floozy flaunted herself before both of her suitors. And she was never without attention. The three of them seemed rather to enjoy their little ménage-a-duck.

And then there were two. One recent Friday morning, I looked out the window and Paul was dead in the water. His ducktail was sticking up in the air, and his head still ducked under. Apparently, Peter had been waiting for his chance. Sometime during the nighttime it had come. He had fought his rival drake and had drowned him.

Before the carcass had floated to the bank, I looked out and saw a coyote across the lake. Peter and Mary spotted him too and watched nervously. He eyed the dead duck. For a minute, I thought he was going to swim out and get it. But something looked too suspicious. He meandered on down through the woods. Later, Paul was given a decent burial.

Peter and Mary were together again and now alone. Peter the Great strutted his stuff. He was no quack. The Duckess Mary was wooed.

And now there is one. On the following Sunday morning, I was awakened by Mary calling loudly and pleadingly. Peter was nowhere to be seen. He had been abduckted. Round and round the lake she dawdled, quacking mournfully. On the dam where the ducks slept at the water’s edge was a little pile of feathers. They were all that was left of Peter.

My suspicion is that the coyote returned. I also wonder if Peter, with no longer a rival with which to concern himself, might have let his guard down. In forty-eight hours, Mary had gone from having two doting beaus, to double duck widowhood.

That Sunday happened to be Mother’s Day. So late that afternoon I had a serious talk with the young lady. I told her that if she had any fertilized eggs yet in her that it was time to start taking this motherhood thing seriously. But so far she has shown no signs of building a new nest.

Humans are not the only species to experience grief. Mary is obviously in a state of shock and bereavement. In light of her aduckerous ways, and now with her brooding, my counselor friend BJ made an interesting deducktion. She suggested that I should try to find the widow Mary a self-help duck tape.

– by Larry Johnson

Please do yourself a favor and check out Larry’s book, The War Baby. Here’s the link on Amazon.

 

southern folk tales

french lavender

5 Eco Tips I Learned in France

Just in time for the Paris Climate Change Conference…

One of the main reasons I moved to France was to experience the French way of life. What I’ve learned so far has given me eco-friendly, economical and sure-fire ways to solve some vexing problems … like how to:

1. Treat cold sores

Medicine man

Medicine man

Remember hearing about the “medicine man” that roamed through cities and towns hawking a “miracle cure”? He sometimes called the unknown potion “snake oil” or some other mysterious name. I think I know what that miracle potion might have been… lavender oil.

Honest!

Right after I arrived in France, a cold sore appeared on my lip. I wasn’t surprised since I get them often when I’m tired and/or stressed, or if I’m getting the least bit sick. When I complained about the sore to a new friend, she suggested I put a drop or two of lavender oil on the sore spot. She told me to repeat this routine several times that day.

I’m not kidding. The next day the cold sore was gone! A miracle!

2. Soothe/heal grease burns

Close to the time that I learned about the healing powers of lavender oil, I stuck my finger into a pan with hot oil. No, I’m not a masochist. I just wanted to see if the olive oil I’d put into a frying pan was warming up. You see, I haven’t used a gas-top stove in years … and … I wasn’t thinking! As soon as it registered in my pea-brain that I had scalded the tip of my finger,

I screamed.

Then I ran to the medicine cabinet to get the tiny bottle of lavender oil. Within seconds of putting lavender oil on the burn, the stinging stopped. What’s more, a blister never formed on the burned spot. I didn’t have to suffer more than a few minutes for the obvious stupidity of sticking a finger in a pan of hot oil. Another miracle! lavender oil

3. Clean and protect wood furniture

Moving into an unfurnished apartment, I set out to decorate the rooms as comfortably … and inexpensively … as possible. I headed to the brocante stores (antique/used furniture) around town to find what I needed.

brocante furnitureHappily, I picked up some really good buys. The only problem was that the brocante dealers weren’t too sure whether all the furniture had been treated for tiny bugs that bore into wood. Since I seem to act first and think later, I charged ahead and bought the items … bugs and all.

I would deal with the wood munchers later.

When I researched how to rid furniture from insects,  I learned about the disinfectant qualities of lavender oil.  french lavender

I was told to mix up the special potion that contained lavender oil in a spray bottle and to apply it liberally all over each piece of furniture. It didn’t matter if the surface was wood or leather. That meant everything I brought into the apartment had to get a heavy dose of the miracle mixture — inside, outside, all around the tiniest corners.

Deep cleaning furniture isn’t my favorite way to spend a day, nevertheless, I recognized the necessity of the chore. So on the appointed day, I pulled out a big bucket, filled it with warm water, grabbed a few sponges, and covered my hands with rubber gloves.

First, I washed down each piece of furniture with a wet sponge — to get rid of the spiders, dust and other crud that came in with the furniture. Most of the pieces had been sitting in a warehouse-type store for months — maybe years.

Then I sprayed on the disinfectant solution. Here’s the formula for the potion that fills a spray bottle the size of a regular Windex bottle:

1/3 bottle olive oil

40 drops lavender oil

Fill rest of spray bottle with lemon juice

For the lemon juice, I used the concentrated version from a plastic squeeze bottle, diluted down with water to a “real lemon” strength.

Voila!

Not a sign of wood-boring insects in over 3 months. (No sawdust) I’ll repeat the treatment in another few months just in case.

4. Prolong shelf-life of cheese

The answer to my long-time question about “how long does cheese last” was answered simply by visiting my friend, Claude, the cheese man.

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It only took a few trips to pick up my weekly selection of cheeses from Claude at his usual place at the Saturday market in Uzes to answer my concern about cheese.

For hard cheeses, you shave off the top that might look bad or moldy, and it’s good as new. These cheeses are aged, anyway.

It’s no big deal to shave them down a bit. 

The same for soft cheese. Cut off the parts that look dried out or off-colored. But you must also smell the cheese to see if it’s still fit to eat.

For fresh cheese, like goat milk cheese,  the shelf-life is very short. Eat it as soon as you get it… no more than 3 days later. Smell it first.

Keep your cheese in a closed container in the refrigerator. I use a rectangular Pyrex baking dish that has a tight-fitting lid. You can separate the “smelly” cheese from the other, if you like. I just keep them all together, but individually wrapped in the same shiny paper that Claude’ wrapped it in at his shop.

Cheese selection from Claude at the Saturday Market, Uzes

Cheese selection from Claude at the Saturday Market, Uzes

 

5. Soften clothes/dryer

The water in Uzes is filled with calcium. Deposits form all over the glass shower stall and calcium stops up the tiny holes in the faucets. I didn’t realize the problem was so bad until hot water stopped coming out of my kitchen sink tap.

When I complained to the rental office about “no hot water in the kitchen”, the reply was “soak the spray head in vinegar”, or “buy a new one.”

I chose to buy a new one. Soaking the spray head in vinegar sounded like a process that my patience couldn’t bear.

It did, however spark my interest in the cleansing power of vinegar. 

Not long after this episode, I overheard someone talking about using vinegar when you shampoo your hair. It supposedly works like a cream rinse to soften the hair after soaking it too often in the calcium-rich water. All I could think about was walking around spelling like vinegar.

Later, I was told that vinegar is good for softening clothes. Just put 1/4 cup vinegar in the water when you’re washing the clothes.

washer dryer

Now, I’ve never told you about my clothes washer. It’s brand new and it will wash the clothes and it will dry them. Unfortunately the instructions didn’t come in English so it took me a few uses to discover how to change the settings from “wash” to “dry”. In fact, I believe bunch of clothes were washed 5 times before I totally figured it out.

To make a long story short, when the clothes would come out of the dryer, they were stiff as a board. Even adding a softener and/or drying sheet didn’t seem to help. It was frustrating. Even worse, I have an aversion to softeners and drying sheets. I think they have too many chemicals and may be harmful to our health.

The next time I went to Carrefour, I picked up two giant bottles of vinegar.

Now I use it in the washing machine, when I wash dishes, and when cleaning calcium from shower heads and the shower. vinegar in france

The clothes come out of the dryer softer than ever before, drinking glasses and silverware wash up spotlessly, and a water-vinegar solution shines up the glass shower door and faucets, almost like new.

For more tips from France, stay tuned …

7 Great Ideas for An Awesome Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

 Autumn is my favorite time of year in Uzes.

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

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

Vernissage

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

2

Dinner in Uzes

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

3

Vallée de l’Eure Festivities

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

4

Saturday Dinner and Jazz at Au Petit Jardin

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

5

Le Zanelli's in Uzes

Le Zanelli’s in Uzes

Sunday Lunch at Le Zanelli’s 

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

6

A car ride into the Cevennes

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

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

 

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

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

7

A Monday afternoon walk in the Garrigue 

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

Back to Uzes

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

 

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A Look Inside a French Emergency Room

Before friends and family freak out …

The emergency visit to the hospital in the small town of Bagnol-sur-Ceze was not for me. One of my dear friends, Sue, fell backwards off a 2-foot garden wall while trimming a tree. She had to be rushed to the hospital. She was quite upset and, not knowing what to expect, she called to ask me to go along with her. I thought it was a good idea for both of us. I could help keep her calm and, at the same time, check out the experience …  just in case something ever happened to me.

It’s been one of my only fears living in a country where I don’t speak the language.  “What if there is an emergency?” 

Now I know the first thing to do is to dial “15” for an emergency. In less than 10 minutes, an ambulance with three attendants was at Sue’s house. Sue is English and she speaks French very well. However, she was so rattled that it was difficult for her to get her thoughts out in French. Fortunately, one of the attendants knew a bit of English. Also, a neighbor who spoke both English and French stopped by her house to help.

After the ambulance helpers assessed Sue’s immediate condition, they transported her to the nearest hospital — about 20 minutes away in Bagnol. French law forbids anyone riding along with a patient so I rode with Robin, Sue’s husband, in their car. We followed the ambulance as closely as possible to the emergency entrance to the hospital.

Emergency Unit Hospital in Bagnol France

Entrance to Emergency Unit at the hospital in Bagnol France

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The waiting room at the hospital was similar to any I’ve seen in the US. That’s where Sue’s husband and I spent the next four hours. Sue went alone to register, to see the doctor, to be X-rayed and to see the doctor after the X-ray for a diagnosis.

During the waiting time, Robin and I entertained ourselves watching other patients come in and out — none with traumatic injuries. We read, or tried to read, the various brochures and bulletins on shelves and walls in the area — all written in French, of course.

Most interesting was a list of emergency service costs.

So that you can better understand the costs, there are a few things to know:

  • 1 euro = $US 1.11
  • For the French and others with EU health insurance, emergency treatment costs are reimbursable
  • Emergency treatment costs are higher than similar non-emergency services

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Even for those of us who may not know the French language, it’s pretty easy to figure out the services offered and the costs. (Example 1 above)

Consultation – 23 euros (US$25.53)

ECG (Electrocardiogram) –  13.52 euros (US$15)

AMI (Emergency 5 level) – 15.75 euros (US$17.48)

Total cost   = 52.27 euros (US$58.02)

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While we hoped that Sue would come out of the emergency room with good news, it wasn’t so great– a fractured shoulder. The ray of sunshine was that her accident could have been worse — she doesn’t have a hefty hospital bill –and the experience wasn’t so scary after all.

Feel better soon, my friend. 

Sue and Robin enjoying a happy day in Uzes

Sue and Robin enjoying a happy day in Uzes

 

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Saturday Market in Pezenas, France

As you know by now, market day is my favorite time to visit new places in France.

 

Saturday Market in Uzes is a hard act to follow. Pezenas isn’t far behind.

 

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One of the “most beautiful towns” in Languedoc

Pezenas, which is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in the Languedoc-Roussilon area of France, was once the political center of the États du Languedoc and the home of Parliament. The Hôtel des Consuls (Consuls’ Palace) stands on one of the main squares (Place Gambettat) which, on market day, is surrounded by shoppers and tourists.

 

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

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

 

 

moliere  Moliere in Pezenas

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

Apparently Moliere spent only a few days in Pezenas where he put on several of his less important theater works. Nevertheless, the town honors his contributions to the arts in France. For me, I need to learn more about Moliere than I picked up from the movie “Mozart.” In the film, Moliere was depicted as far from a “nice guy.”

 

 

 

Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic

One of the more obvious monuments in the center of Pezenas is a fountain with the statue of Marianne — a familiar symbol of the French Republic. Marianne triumphantly holds the flag of France in her left hand and a bolt of lighting in her right hand. The lighting rod symbolizes human rights “Droits de l’Homme”.

Statue of Marianne in Pezenas

Statue of Marianne in Pezenas

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

 

"Marianne", a symbol of the French nation, standing in Pezenas

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

 

Architecture in Pezenas

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

 

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Doorway in Pezenas

Doorway in Pezenas

Pezenas doorway

Pezenas doorway

Mostly, I was blown away by the vaulted passageways. They are not uncommon in France, but here they seemed more colorful, friendly and inviting.

Street scene on market day in Pezenas

Street scene on market day in Pezenas

Passageway in Pezenas

Passageway in Pezenas

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Food and more

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

The Plat Du Jour

Plat du Jour in Pezenas

Plat du Jour in Pezenas – Gratin de Fruits de Mer

Jeweler in Pezenas

Jeweler in Pezenas

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

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

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

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20 Things That Are Just So Odd In France

Friends ask “how’s your life in France.” Yes,  it’s very different from my life in the States. Some of the simplest things in France are the most unusual and most complicated.

Here are just a few of the differences.

1

Cemeteries

Cemetery in France

Cemeteries in France are above the ground

 

 

2

Stairs

Narrow spiral staircases are everywhere

Narrow spiral staircases

 

 

3

Air conditioning

Fans

Fans

 

 

 

4

Fashion

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5

Hot chocolate

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6

Coliseums 

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7

Door locks

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8

Manicures and pedicures 

Water-less manicures and pedicures

Water-less manicures and pedicures

 

 

 

 

9

Toilet paper holders

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10

Flushing toilets

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11

Washing machines 

Tiny washer and dryer all-in-one

Tiny washer and dryer all-in-one

 

12

Hot water

Faucet head soaking in vinegar to remove calcium that clogs hot water

Faucet head soaking in vinegar to remove calcium that clogs hot water

 

13

Streets

Narrow streets

Narrow streets

 

14

Coffee

 

Coffee in tiny cups

Coffee in tiny cups

 

 

15

Rooftops

Rooftops in Uzes

Rooftops in Uzes

 

 

 

 

 

16

Street Signs

 

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17

Crepes

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18

Carousels

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19

Wine caves

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20

Public toilets

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I love France!

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Movie Night in Uzes: Il Trovatore

If you’ve  attended an HD production of the Metropolitan Opera in your local theatre, you know how good it is. You have the best seats possible to hear and see the performance without paying the big bucks to be in Lincoln Center. If you live in, or are visiting another country when there’s an HD opera production, there’s another dimension to the experience.

This weekend “Il Trovatore” played at the Cinema in Uzes. It was the second opera I’ve seen here. Last year, when mon fils was visiting, we saw “Carmen.” I missed him!

il trovadore

 

Anna Netrebko, the heroine Leonora who sacrifices her life for the love of the troubadour, was superb, as was Yonghoon Lee who played the role of Manrico.

2015-10-05_14-22-57But it was Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count di Luna who won our hearts. Prior to the beginning of the Met season, Hvorostovsky announced he had a brain tumor. He was never expected to perform again. Despite the seriousness of his illness, he was there, on stage, for a most magnificent portrayal of the Count. The closeups of his face, which cameras the HD audience captured, were able to show he knew millions of viewers were watching. For a few seconds he seemed to step out of his role to acknowledge the loud applause from the live viewers at the Met. You didn’t have to be there in person to feel the love and admiration.

The other dimension

The night’s experience for those attending in New York may have been wonderful, however, it couldn’t have been as interesting as in Uzes. The funky, retro cinema was packed with enthusiastic opera lovers and lots of champagne!

 

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It is France! 

Like last year, it seemed a bit bizarre.  An Italian opera, performed live in New York, broadcast live at a cinema in Uzes — with French subtitles —

Serving sushi!

Sushi at the Cinema in Uzes

Sushi at the Cinema in Uzes

 

Here’s a review of last year’s performance of “Carmen” and more views of the Uzes movie house.

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The opera and cast of Carmen

When last I heard music from “Carmen” I was in Myrtle Beach, SC. The Carolina Master Choral of the Grand Strand, as a fund-raiser, hosted a professional opera singer who performed a few of the most famous arias.

This “live” version of “Carmen,”  in HD from the Met,  was broadcast in the only cinema in Uzes. As I watched the performance, I was remembering Myrtle Beach and other times in my life when I’ve heard the music from “Carmen.” I also thought of the millions of people all over the world who were attending the HD event along with me at their local theaters. Isn’t technology amazing!??

People who have seen an HD version of the Met operas have said how wonderful it is. Now that I’ve been to one myself, I have to agree. It’s the next best thing to sitting in Lincoln Center.

 

The Cinema in Uzes

The only theater in Uzes is on a narrow street that runs into the main “rue” of town. From the outside the building looks like a theater straight out of a Woody Allen film.

Cinema in Uzes, France

Cinema in Uzes, France

 

The inside isn’t much different.

 Except at this cinema, there are “do-it-yourself” popcorn machines and bizarre candy machine.

Popcorn maker for "vanilla" flavored popcorn, as well as another machine for "salted" popcorn.

Popcorn maker for “vanilla” flavored popcorn, as well as another machine for “salted” popcorn.

 

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

 

Most interesting is that you can order a meal that is served during intermission.

 

Cinema - goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

Cinema – goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

 

The menu

 

Cheese and fruit plate

Cheese and fruit plate

 

Serving up soup and salad

Serving up soup and salad

 

Wine, beer, champagne and other drinks of your liking, of course.

 

The cinema bar

The cinema bar

 

The Met performance of “Carmen” was a unique experience. Now that I know that meals and drink are available for most nightly theater shows, I know I’ll be back! If you’re in Uzes, the Cinema is definitely a place you should check out. There are several films with English subtitles each week. Or if you’re trying to learn French, going to a show with French subtitles is an interesting way to practice reading the language.

Love Carmen! Love the Cinema!

 

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Top 10 Reasons Why I’m Not Learning French

The past two weeks the Barefoot Blogger has spent a lot of time with new French friends. Admitting that I live in France and that I can barely put together a sentence in French is getting embarrassing.

Currently I have Rosetta Stone and another online language program on my computer. I work on them occasionally. A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a beginner’s class through a local expats group. Friday was the first day of class. When I arrived for the lesson, it had been postponed. So, you see, some of it isn’t my fault.

Perhaps if I write down all my excuses for not learning French I’ll shame myself into trying harder.

Here’s the countdown:

 #10

It’s the weekend

#9

I’ll do it tomorrow.

#8

I’m too old

 #7

I have a headache

 #6

I don’t get it

#5

I need a drink

#4

I get along fine

#3

I watch French movies

#2

Where’d the day go?

#1 Excuse

 “Don’t even try it!” says Joel, the owner of Le Bistrot in Uzes.

I sampled a few French phrases on him and he says “No! Stop!”

Apparently I’m abusing the language. He says I can quote him.

joel

Joel at Le Bistrot in Uzes

joel2

Le Bistrot in Uzes

 

 

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I Just Want To Be A Girl in the Band

Before the Barefoot Blogger ever dreamed of living in France, I longed to be the lead singer in a rock band.

No joke. It’s been my suppressed desire to sing with a rock band– along with living in a ‘hippy’ van on the beach. So when the Bad Girls Groove Band came along (thank you, Nancy McGee in Sete!) I fell in love with them.  They are everything I ever wanted to be … and more! The girls are not only drop-dead gorgeous, they have that kind of glamor that’s a flashback to the past…

 

 

Bad Girls Groove Band

Bad Girls Groove Band

 

 

Bad Girls Groove Band

Bad Girls Groove Band

 

 

… and a whole lot of Rock n’ Roll!

Bad Girls Groove Band

Bad Girls Groove Band

 

The weekend of the Saint Louis Festival in Sete, the Bad Girls Groove Band of London ruled the main stage. 

 

 

It’s no wonder!

Here’s a quick visit with the Bad Girls Groove Band in Sete on the main stage and at St. Clair’s. Same time, next year! (Fingers crossed!)

More about the Bad Girls in Sete:

The Bad Girls in Sete

Barefooting in Sete, France

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taking pets abroad

Taking Pets Abroad

I moved to France and left my Labradoodle, Bentley, behind.

“How could you do that?” I’ve been asked by friends and others, especially by animal lovers who believe in taking pets abroad.

How could I do that? I keep saying to myself. Bentley is the best friend I’ve ever had — or perhaps the “best” since my golden retriever, Morgan, went over the “rainbow bridge.”

I mean, it’s easy to take a dog to France. In fact, France loves dogs. All you need to do to take a dog into the country is have a current vaccination record. Or so I’ve been told.

That’s a piece of cake. “Bentley, you’re moving to France!”

Not so fast.

How is Bentley getting to France?

The only route I could imagine for transporting my 70-pound Labradoodle from South Carolina to France was by commercial airplane — along with me. In the baggage compartment. Under the airplane. Down where it’s very noisy and very scary.

The noise and darkness may not be a big deal for some animals, “give him a tranquilizer,” you say.

That might work, but let me tell you a little something about Bentley. Bentley is scared to death of loud noises. He leaps into the bed with you during the night if there’s a thunderstorm. He stands on your head.

He leaves the room if someone sneezes.

He’s been known to have seizures if he gets too upset.

In other words, transporting Bentley underneath an airplane would be a death sentence.

So, what’s the alternative? Stay home because of a dog? Throw away the dream of living in France because you don’t want to leave your dog? All these thoughts certainly ran through my head. They still do. I miss Bentley everyday. I can’t look at another dog and not feel guilty about leaving Bentley behind.

Bentley and I have had long conversations about this dilemma.

You see, Bentley lives with my son’s family now. He moved in with them when I left for France. He shares the family with their Goldendoodle Maddy. He helps guard my three-year-old grandson and one-year old granddaughter/. I get to visit with him for months at a time when I return to the States. When we’re back together, it’s like nothing’s changed. We take walks. He sits on my lap when we’re watching TV. He jumps on my bed when there’s a thunderstorm.

However, when I pull out my bags to start packing to go away, he knows. I know.

We kiss and hug and whisper “goodbye” when I leave the house to take a flight back to France. I get on that noisy airplane and I think of Bentley as we’re taking off down the runway.

He’s with me. We’re together. Always. In our hearts.

The good news is Bentley is happy with his new home because he has an important job. He and Maddy the Goldendoodle take turns watching over my grandchildren and the family.

taking pets abroad

Guard dogs Bentley and Maddy keep a watchful eye out for back yard intruders

 

If you live or travel abroad and have a story about your pet, I’d love to hear about it. Feel free to add a comment to the post or send an email to deborah@bfblogger.com

 

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A Day at the Beach in Sete: That’s Life!

A day at the beach in Sete is one of my favorite things to do during the summer in France. Read on and you’ll know why.

There’s something about the air, the sand, the attitude of the people around you at the beach that’s fun and carefree. I’ve felt that way since I was a teenager spending days on the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now, instead of baking in the sun, drenched in baby oil and drinking beer, the Barefoot Blogger sits under an umbrella on the Mediterranean drinking mojitos. Spoiled. You betcha!

If you get a chance to come to the south of France and you think the Rivera is the only place by the sea to go, try Sete

beach in Sete

Sitting on the Mediterranean outside Sete, France

 

 

Look at that sky! Look at the canal!  Small boats are standing by to take people out to sea, or just around the corner.

 

 

beach in Sete

 

A Day at the Beach in Sete

One of my favorite reasons to go to Sete is to visit with friends like Nancy McGee of the travel company Absolutely Southern France. She is the “Pearl Mesta” of the 21st century. If there’s anything going on in Sete, Nancy knows about it. Plus she has the experience as a destination planner to make an ordinary day a special event. Below she is telling my guest and her daughter, McKenna, about a special rose wine from Languedoc. This one, aside from it’s crisp, fruity taste, is topped with a glass stopper — an ingenious marketing ploy for selling wine to women. The bottles of wine are available with stoppers of various colors. So women like me want to collect them. The pink, green, yellow or clear “corks” can be used to top other wine bottles as well. Clever!

 

beach in Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Glass wine stoppers come in a variety of colors for collectors

 

Even though the temperatures were in the high 90’s, we were happy as “clams” on our soft-cushioned lounges, under beach umbrellas at the l’ACD club. We were treated like queens. Handsome young waiters and attendants were on call for beverages, snacks, or for simply adjusting our chairs when the sun shifted.

 

beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

If being pampered on the beach isn’t enough, there’s a restaurant a stone’s throw away with the most delicious varieties of seafood you can imagine. The tuna, however, was our favorite choice of the day. Sete is known for its bluefin tuna.

 

beach in Sete

Tuna tartare at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Sesame bluefin tuna at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

Nancy, aside from her tour business, is an expert in French etiquette. This day we had a lesson on the proper way to filet a fish at the table. According to Nancy, you run a knife along both sides of the skeleton bone on the top; then along each edge. Simply lift the fileted fish off the bones. When done with this side, turn the fish over and repeat. How easy is that!

 

beach in Sete

 

Now that the day at the beach in Sete is over, it’s time to take the train to Carcassone. Never mind that we missed the train we booked! Friendly personnel on SNCF helped us “get on track” to our next destination. To read about our holiday in Carcassonne, click here.

 

beach in Sete

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

 

To book the South of France Memories You Promised Yourself women’s tour with Absolutely Southern , click here

 

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Oh! “The Places You’ll Go!”

Female expat living in Uzes travels in France for fun and education. Click here for Trip Ideas You Can Steal

 

The whirlwind tour of the south of France is now history for my recent guests, including 10-year old McKenna. Now that they’re gone, the words of Dr. Seuss’s poem seem perfect to share with McKenna as a reminder of her visit.

 

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

For five full days McKenna, her mother and I packed in as much history, animal adventures, and fun in the south of France as we possibly could. Here’s a picture view of the highlights. Posts to follow will fill in the stories and learnings.

Day One – Uzes

Saturday market and dinner with our friend, Geoffrey, at Le Comptoir 7 

How many ways can you say “foie gras”? This entree featured foie gras as pate, ice cream and creme brûlée!

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

 

 

Day Two – Pont du Gard and Nimes

 

Tracing the Romans in France started with a visit to Pont du Gard. Wading in the cool river water was a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

 

 

Day Three – The Camargue 

A safari in the Camargue gave us “up close” views of the white horses, Camargues bulls and flamingos

 

Day Four – Sete and Carcassonne 

A day on the beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

 

Day Five – Carcassonne 

 

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

… and a lot of 10-year-old craziness along the way!

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Stay tuned for the full story on each location, including the scoop on …

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The Simple Ways Tourists Make the Best of Hot Weather in Uzes

For days the temperature has hovered around the ninety degree mark in Uzes. Next week, they say, it’ll hit ninety-nine.

For those who live in hot-weather areas around the world, ninety degrees is not so bad for summer. In France, when it’s this hot, it breaks records.

Century-old buildings with thick walls help to insulate homes and businesses from the intense heat, so air conditioning is scarce. There are some tried and true ways the French try to keep their indoor spaces cooler.

They shutter windows.

They turn on all the fans. 

 

They water the plants and close windows in the early morning.

Closed window in apartment

Closed window in apartment

 

Store owners know to take afternoon breaks and enjoy a cool beverage 

Store owners in Uzes

Store owners in Uzes

Yes, the French have ways to cope with the heat. But what about the tourists who are out in droves? How do they deal with it when it’s really hot?

They line up for ice cream. 

 

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They hang out at Place aux Herbes eating ice cream. 

Fountain at Place aux Herbes, Uzes

Fountain at Place aux Herbes, Uzes

They sit around outdoor fans that blow cool mist.

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They enjoy people-watching with friends while sipping on cool beverages.

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They look for water fountains where they can play.


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Tourists seem to love to shop when it’s hot.  It’s often cooler on the inside of a store than it is on the streets.

Tourist shopping in Uzes

Tourist shopping in Uzes

 

There are plenty of irresistible things to buy .. and a sale going on!

 

 

Some tourists patiently wait on others who are shopping.

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On the other hand, some tourists who wait are not so patient.

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What does the Barefoot Blogger do when it’s hot?

I “play” at one of my favorite stores.

 

… and eat raspberry sorbet!

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