Tag: apartment in Uzes

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.

 

expat tips

Expat Tips: Nothing Is Easy About Moving To France

A new Barefoot Blogger friend is moving to Uzes and wants some expat tips. Just like me, she’s tossing away most of her worldly possessions in the US and she’s starting all over in France.

There are a few things I learned my first year here that seem to be helpful to my friend. Things that were real challenges.

Like bedding.  Bedding is something I just couldn’t  seem to understand. First there’s choosing a mattress. There are more configurations and iterations that you want to know. Just when I got that figured out, there were the sheets, pillows and other confusions.

Picky-picky.  Yes, I know I’m picky. Finding the right sized linen for a bed seemed to be important. I should have thought about that when I purchased the two 80x200cm beds instead of 90×190 for the guest room. Who knew there are no linens to fit. The guy that sold them to me certainly must not have known I’d have these problems. Or maybe he did. I couldn’t understand everything he was telling me in French.
Fitted sheet: Housse  The Conforama store in Nimes where I shopped had a bedding section that seemed to answer my prayers. Good thing because the Castorama store was a bust. (“Rama” is a popular store name, apparently) Conforama had fitted sheets for 80x200cm beds! See for yourself. The package says: 2 x 80×200.

expat tips

There was even an illustration of two beds. Voila! I was beginning to figure it out. Since the beds are meant to be pulled together to make a queen-sized bed, they must sell the sheets together.

I could hardly wait to get home to make up the beds. Not so fast.  The fitted sheets were sewn together in a section down the middle to fit the queen bed! Now what did I do? I cut the housse in half! So what if there are raw edges. My guests would  never know!

Duvet: Couette Never learned French, never owned a duvet. Two pitfalls for living in France.

Duvets have never been my thing. To me, here’s something untidy about a bed that’s not tightly put together. (Reexpat tipsmember, my mother was a nurse.) Therefore, the joy of stuffing a duvet into it’s cover is an art I never mastered. Like learning to speak French. Here duvets are the norm. Top sheets are not. So to make up a bed properly in France, I had to convert.

Duvet cover: Housse de couette. Like other bed linens, the couette and the housse de couette come in a gazillion sizes and permutations. Amazingly, I chose the correct size for the two guest room beds. Slipping the couette into the housse de couette was a breeze. Especially because there’s a tiny slit in each side of the housee de couette. Right at the top. It allows you to stick you hand in to grab the end of the couette. Perhaps the American version of duvets have a similar design. If not, the French have something on us.


Oreiller vs. Traversin.  
OK. Another head-scratcher. An “oreiller” is an ordinary pillow. Easy enough even though they are all shapes and sizes. It’s the an odd-shapeexpat tipsd “pillow” named “traversin” that’s a puzzlement.

I’ve seen similar in the States, but they’re everywhere here. The most common size is like the big one shown in this picture. The smaller ones I bought from the same man that sold me the beds. Maybe when he told me I wouldn’t find sheets for the 80cm beds he also mentioned the same problem for a small-sized traversin.

The large one you can decorate quite nicely with ribbons and bows on the ends.

The smaller ones you hide under a stack of pillows so the edges don’t show. Yes, I cut a large traversin cover (taie) in half.

If you’re thinking of moving to France, I hope these photos and descriptions of bedding you might encounter are helpful. If you wanted to know a few obscure but important words in French, I hope you’re pleased. For others who just like to hear about the trials of an American expat in France who speaks no French, you see why nothing’s easy!

Expat tips: It’s so worth it!  

expat tips

expat tips

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Family is visiting Uzes! Nothing could make me happier than to show my son the sights and to introduce him to my new friends.

The first stop was the Saturday market in Uzès. Even though the tourist season is over, the market this week was busy. These days there are many English-speaking voices in the crowds.

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Saturday Market in October Uzes

 

Claude, the cheese man, was one of our first stops at the market. His “green” cheese with pistachios is one of my favorites. When he met my son, who is fluent in French, they started teasing with each other right away.

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Claude the Cheese Man

 

The farmer with the chèvre from the “French Farmer” post was handing out his cheese samples, as always. When I told him about my blog where he was featured, I was surprised he already knew about it! Apparently, someone shopping that morning had written the link to the site on a piece of paper for him. He pulled the wrinkled note out from under his cash box to show it to me….with a big grin, I might add.

For me, it was the final shopping day before packing up my belongings to head to the States for a visit. There were clothes I’d been eyeing for some time that now, I couldn’t resist. Oh.. that I could pass up some of these tops and jackets! 

Family Is Visiting Uzès

 

Family Is Visiting Uzès

While walking through the rows of vendors, I ran into friends I’d met last week in San Quentin La Poterie. It’s an interesting story about how we became friends.

For months I have been receiving emails from a cafe in San Quentin that puts on monthly musical events and dinner. The cafe is tiny and tucked in between pottery shops on one of the narrow streets of the town.Family Is Visiting Uzès

This particular night an English friend who is moving to Uzes was in town, so it was an excellent time to try out the dinner concert. We were early getting to the cafe, and we had our choice of seating. Instead of going to a table for two, the hostess suggested we sit at a table for six. She knew that four French ladies had reservations and that some of them spoke English. She thought it would be fun for us to get to know each other.

Fortunately, my friend speaks French quite well because when the ladies arrived, only one spoke English. For a short while, the conversation was a bit reserved since we could not all join in. However, in no time, we were laughing and communicating with broken English and French the best we could. The evening was such a success that my friend and I were invited back for a birthday party.

Family is Visiting Uzès

Thanks to the hostess at the cafe, now I have more new friends for my family to meet in Uzès… and a party on Saturday night.

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Friends meeting Pete for lunch after the Saturday Market at Le Provencal. Check out those yummy salads… even better with fries on top!

 

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It’s Time to Make the Wine

It’s time to make the wine
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Remember the TV ad for Dunkin’ Donuts: “It’s time to make the donuts!”  It’s time to make wine in France. Unusually cool weather over the summer months caused a late grape harvest. (“La vendange”)

Vendange in Castillion-du-Gard

Vendange in Castillion-du-Gard

It was almost the last harvest of grapes for the season before I had a chance to get to a vineyard for picture-taking. As you may recall, the day I was to head up north with Geoffrey, the battery in my car gave out. (See “One Step Forward”)

As good fate would have it, I was invited to a “vendange”– grape harvest — in a vineyard near Uzes. My friend from the States was here, so it was a chance to do something fun and totally unexpected during her visit.

What to wear?

After being invited to spend the day in a vineyard., “what do you wear to a vendange” was my first thought, shared by friend Pat,

Definitely wear a hat,” we decided. Then put on something that “looks cute,” of course.

For me, I had a closet full of shirts that would do; but for Pat, she had only “precious” outfits that grape stains and mud would ruin.

With less than 24 hours to shop, we ran to a “H&M-type” store in Uzes and started our search. “Maybe something blue,” said Pat, “so it won’t show grape stains.” A blue denim shirt was there, waiting for her on the rack. “If it gets stained, “she rationalized, “I’ll just say ‘oh, that? it’s from picking grapes in France.'”  

Pat dressed in her "grape-picking in France" outfit.

Pat dressed in her “grape-picking in France” outfit.

 

The vineyard

La Gramière is a winery owned by a young American couple who started the business in 2005. They produce Grenache-based wines made from organically grown, hand-picked grapes.The vineyard is just outside Castillon-du-Gard, a tiny village near Pont du Gard, the Roman aqueduct.

For directionally challenged Pat and me, the vineyard for “La Gramière” winery would have been impossible to find. Thankfully a friend offered to meet us at the village square in Castillon-du-Gard . The unpaved, “backwoods” route proved it was a good thing we didn’t have to find our own way.

Arriving at the spot where we met Amy and Matt and the rest of the “pickers.” we discovered the vineyard for La Gramière is made up of several small fields scattered among a very large area of vines. The “vineyard sharing” concept is popular in France.

Amy and Mark Kling of La Gramière

Amy and Matt Kling of La Gramière

Other than Amy and Matt, there are no paid employees at the winery. They have discovered that there are plenty of volunteers who are more than happy to help harvest the crop.

The vendange

To harvest grapes you have to start early in the morning. The temperature should not be too hot . The day Pat and I volunteered, the weather was sunny and cool.

When we reached the vineyard, everyone had on their work gloves. Clippers and buckets were in their hands. Pat and I put on borrowed garden gloves and we grabbed the rest of the gear.

After brief instructions: “go two by two and pick one vine at a time,” Pat and I split up. We’d spent enough time together! Besides, there were others there we wanted to get to know.A delightful new friend from Canada and I teamed up. She is an artist and lives in Vers-Pont du Gard. We became instant buddies.

 Amy and Matt have made the vendange routine somewhat of a game.

“Who can finish first?” Taking one long row of vines at a time, we worked in three or four pairs interspersed down the row. We’d “jump over” the slower pickers. Then we’d move onto another row. It kept chit-chat with your partner down to a minimum since you had the same goal.

La Gramière vineyard

La Gramière vineyard

 

 

When grapes are ready to harvest they are bursting with juice. That means you must handle the bunch gently when you cut it off the vine.

 

Ripe grapes ready for picking

Ripe grapes ready for picking

A simple garden clipper does the trick. 

Garden clippers easily remove the cluster of grapes from the vine.

Garden clippers easily remove the cluster of grapes from the vine.

 

“Only pick the best grapes,” we were told.  Any clusters that had rotten grapes or grapes that were too green or yellow should be discarded. Amy and Matt’s philosophy is “there are plenty of grape.” They want only the “pick of the crop” for La Gramière wines.

Grape picking at La Gramière

Grape picking at La Gramière

 

I’m not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I have a new appreciation for “bio” or organic wines.

Most consumer wines today are produced by companies that pick grapes with machines. I’ve seen the big machinery in the fields and observed the vines picked clean.

 

Bucket brimming with grapes ready to be sorted by hand

Bucket brimming with grapes ready to be sorted by hand

After filling our buckets, we dumped the grapes into small crates that were strategically placed among the rows of vines. Matt and helper rode through the vineyard and loaded each crate onto the back of a tractor.

Tractor filled with harvested grapes

Tractor filled with harvested grapes

 

Time for a break!

Cake and coffee brought to the vineyard by Amy’s mom, Cindy, is devoured by hungry workers

 

Mid-morning break

A couple of hours after bending over the vines and carrying our buckets to the crates for pick up, it was time for a break. The hungry crew quickly devoured the bundt cake that Amy’s mom, Cindy, baked for the occasion.

During this time of year, Amy’s mom and dad come to France from their home in Colorado to help with the harvest. A few years ago they bought a place in the village of Vers-Pont du Gard. so they could be nearby. Apparently it didn’t take much persuading to convince them to help with the business, although I will say, it’s hard work.

 

Then it’s back to the vineyard

There's a whole field of grapes. Who'll miss a few?

There’s a whole field of grapes. Who’ll miss a few?

Pat "pretending" to be busy clipping grapes

Pat “pretending” to be busy clipping grapes

Before too long,  Cindy shows up with her wagon and it’s quickly emptied with the next treat of the day. 

The lunch wagon has arrived

The lunch wagon has arrived

 

La vendange lunch

After our chores, those of us who finished early helped bring folding chairs to the table that was set up near the edge of one of the vineyards. All the accoutrements for the outdoor feast were there, including a tablecloth, which we weighed down with rocks found alongside the field. A breeze had kicked up a bit and blew slightly over the field, just enough to blow away an untethered cloth.  Soon it was time to eat!

Green salad loaded with tomatoes picked from the garden that morning; lasagna Provence-style; apricot crumble; and just enough wine to insure we could all find our way home safely.

Finishing touches are made on a fresh green salad with tomatoes straight from the garden

One of the helpers adds the finishing touches to the  green salad, piled with tomatoes  from her garden

 

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Salad with garden tomatoes

 

Lasagna Provence-style

Lasagna Provence-style

 

Apricot crumble

Apricot crumble

 

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Now I know why Amy and Matt never have to look far to find helpers for their harvest. Mom’s a fabulous “chef,” plus, the company and atmosphere are hard to beat.

After a leisurely lunch,  those of us on the work crew packed up and went home. For Amy and Matt, their long day of sorting grapes by hand was just beginning.

To read more about Amy and Matt and the La Gramière wines, click here to visit their blog. 

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Rain: The Aftermath

Rain: The Aftermath
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By now you know the south of France was hit by flooding in many towns and villages. In the center of historic Uzes, the biggest problem now is from water that leaked in through walls, windows and roofs. Villages below Uzes are still suffering from flood damage.

The event around Uzes was recorded by some amazing photography.  Several photos were given to me by friends who asked me to share them with you.

Moon over Uzes 10-09-2014

Moon over  Place du Duche, Uzes 10-08-2014

Storm clouds 10-09-2014

Storm clouds 10-09-2014

 

Flood waters outside Uzes

Flood waters outside Uzes

Roads either collapsed or lifted from the heavy flood waters.

Roads either collapsed or lifted from the heavy flood waters.

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Road outside Uzes 10-11-2014

Cars and trucks slid off the roads with torrential downpour

Cars and trucks slid off the roads with torrential downpour

 Remember the poultry farm outside Uzes? The one where Geoffrey and I picked up our Thanksgiving turkey last year? 

Here it is then….

Here it is now … 

Poultry farm outside Uzes after the flood

Poultry farm outside Uzes after the flood

The birds “flew the coop.” Literally. 

The day after the storm was cloudy and misty

The day after the storm was cloudy and misty

The night after the flood skie were still ominous

The night after the flood the skies were still ominous

Then the bad weather skies gave us a beautiful sunset

Then the bad weather skies gave us a beautiful sunset

Last night's sunset from my terrace

Last night’s sunset from my terrace

All is well.

Wine time at the Duchey

Wine time. Sea shells from South Carolina remind me of storms  from the past.

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expat in France

Living the Dream. An Expat in France.

I’m here! In just two months I’ve transitioned from a starry-eyed optimist to a legal expat in France.

I can hardly believe it myself. It took the efforts of my amazing friends and family in the US and in France to make it happen. I will honor your privacy and not call you out by name, however, you know who you are. I am forever grateful for your time, your sweat and muscle, and for your love and encouragement. Truly, I am the luckiest person in the world because of the friends and family that surround me.

The journey

So… the move started immediately after I returned from France in July.

Cleaning out
First was the sorting out of a lifelong collection of “stuff.” Then, an estate sale and a clothing sale which were held over two weekends. (Of course I would choose July to make this move. It’s the second hottest month of the year in the Low Country of South Carolina.)

The Visa
In between, the preparation and paperwork for a long-stay visa and a visit to the French consulate in Atlanta were necessary to keep things rolling along and legal.

Empty house
By mid-August (THE hottest month in the Low Country) my son and friends helped me move everything out of the house in Beaufort. A bit of my most precious belongings went to a small, climate-controlled warehouse space, some to my friends’ homes for safe keeping, some to consignment stores in Beaufort, and lots to my son to sell on eBay.

Whew!

expat in France

By the time I left Beaufort to say my final goodbyes to sons in Alabama and Atlanta, I was down to ONLY a carful of stuff. Oh…I should say a “rental car” full of stuff. Along the way I was in a wreck and my old, faithful Acura was declared a total lost. Actually, it was great luck. I needed to dump it anyway before my departure to France.

Deep cleaning
With the expert help of my daughter-in-law, who actually throws out refrigerator items according to the expiration dates, I condensed a carful of stuff to one large suitcase, one carry-on suitcase, and a backpack. OK, I must confess. My son is shipping two more 18″x18″x16″ boxes to Uzes.

Saying goodbye
After two months of exhausting work, after imposing on almost everyone I know, after eating every Southern fried food item I could stuff into my mouth, and after a memorable farewell party with friends, I was on my way to my new life in France.

expat in France

Fried green tomatoes and fried chicken

Fried green tomatoes and fried chicken
Whistlestop Cafe in Birmingham, Alabama, made famous by Fannie Flag’s book and movie, “Fried Green Tomatoes”

Landing in France
This trip I took the route to France through Atlanta, to Toronto, to Paris, to Marseilles. Originally, I planned to take a train from Paris to Nimes. However, as luck would have it, a train strike on the day I was to land in Paris was announced in time for me to change my plans. Instead of the train, I flew from Paris to Marseilles. I’m not certain I would recommend this route because there is a six hour layover in Toronto. However, it did give me time to take a shuttle to the nearby Sheraton for a manicure, pedicure, and a decent meal before the long flight to Paris.

Almost home

CDG Airport

On Tuesday, September 10, I arrived in Paris, then Marseilles, France. My move-in goal is Tuesday, September 27.

 

My French Home. I’m an expat in France!

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