Tag: duchy of uzes

French royals

Royalty in Uzes: Up Close and Personal

There’s not much that I love more than hobnobbing with royalty. Even if it’s from a distance.

Each year Uzes hosts a musical event during the summer that brings in famed artists from around the world. This year, the festival brought in French royalty — Prince Albert of Monaco. All in all, there were eight princes and eight princesses attending the festivities.

French royalsPrior to the Prince, his family and entourage arriving, the town was abuzz with where the royals were going to stay. Would they visit with the Duke at the Château de Duché? Or would they be hanging out at Maison d’Uzes — the fancy hotel in town? Oh … the suspense.  I learned it was, in fact, the Maison d’ Uzes, right around the corner from where I live. The royal guest were brought into Uzes by helicopter, according to Midi Libre,  and they were guarded during their stay by the gendarmerie d’Uzès.

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Guards at the entrance to the Château de Duché

Before I continue the story about my “meeting” with the nobility, I’ll admit I’ve been trying to catch sight of the Duke of Uzes, Jacques de Crussol, since I’ve lived here.

After all, we are neighbors. As luck would have it, when my friend and author, Patricia Sands, was here visiting, we had a “Duke sighting.” We were walking to the market and passed by the garage door of the Duché. There a handsome man, who looked very “Duke-y,” was having an animated conversation with someone who could have been his driver.  Trying not to be noticed, I snapped a photo, supposedly of Patricia, who was standing between me and the “Duke.”  Here’s the shot — without Patricia.

French royals

French royalsMy next “Duke-sighting” was on a visit to the Duché during the European Heritage Days last September. On those days many cultural landmarks in France are opened to the public at free or reduced prices. While touring through the rooms of the château, I saw the quick movement of someone heading toward the back stairs. It was the Duke. Excuse the bad image but I was surprised to see him and I didn’t have my camera ready. Perhaps he was in a hurry because I accidentally blurted out “there’s the Duke!” when I saw him, loud enough for everyone to hear. So much for protocol.

Back to the story about Prince Albert

Prince Albert of Monaco and Jacques de Crussol are “cousins” of sorts. The two royal houses were linked by the marriage of Anne-Hippolyte de Grimaldi, Princess of Monaco, daughter of Louis I, to the 7th Duke of Uzes, Jean-Charles de Crussol. The royal bond was broken, tragically, when the princess died in 1700 giving birth to twins who did not survive.

On his first visit to Uzes, Prince Albert II was treated to a Nuits Musicals concert in the courtyard of the Duché which is where I was lucky enough to be at the same time. When I made plans to attend the event, I had no idea there would be such illustrious guests.

French royals

Here’s a slideshow of the evening, the music, the people and the regal atmosphere.

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French royals

The LES SIECLES ROMANTIQUES choir and orchestra playing the national anthem of Monaco for the royals.

 

Uzes Saturday Market

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

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

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

 

Uzes Saturday Market

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

Uzes Saturday Market

 

 

Market regulars were busy as usual. 

 

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

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Main Street for Uzés Saturday Market

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

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

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

Winter market in Uzes

 

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

 

 

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

Uzes Saturday Market

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

 

 

Uzes Saturday Market

Cafes outside with customers

Uzes Saturday Market

 

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

Uzés Saturday Market Day

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

Uzes Saturday Market

 

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

 

Uzes Saturday Market

 

 

Stay tuned …

Uzes Saturday Market

Homage to Truffle Hunting Pigs

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

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

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle hunting pig in Uzes

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Snout down finding a truffle

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival Activities

Let me set the stage …

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

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

 

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

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle gadget vendor in Uzes

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Hunt

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

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Jewel the truffle dog

 

 

 

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

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

 

She snorted and dug until every truffle was sorted out.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Finding a truffle

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Who could resist such a loveable pig?

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

 

Even the piglets-in-waiting were envious. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival Auction

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

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Blessed truffles for auction

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle auction

 

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

 

“VINO NON AQUA” 

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Uzes Black Truffle Sales

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Selling truffles by weight

 

 

Precious truffle oil, butter and cheese sold fast.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

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

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Barefoot Blogger “do I shop or take photos?”

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

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Another fun day in the South of France!

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Bread Pudding and French Connections

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

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

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much to be thankful for. 

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southern france holiday

Uzes: A Food Lover’s Southern France Holiday

You would be forgiven for thinking that Paris is the best place to experience French food. However, surprisingly many would argue against such a claim. While it is at the forefront, and to some extent the gateway to French cuisine for the average traveler, there are many other wonderful food hubs across the country that rival Paris’s thriving restaurant scene.

https://bfblogger.com/2016/11/06/southern-french-food/Though, that doesn’t mean the city isn’t without its fair share of amazing restaurants. Chez Dumonet for one, helmed by Chef Jean-Christian Dumonet, was at one point dubbed by Fodor’s Travel as the best restaurant in Paris. Chez Dumonet is so well known now that this restaurant is on most foodies bucket lists when the visit the capital.

Getting to visit such a place gives travelers a real sense of the roots of French cuisine. In The Scene’s ‘Presents’ series, a video blog was published about ‘Honest French Food’, and Chez Dumonet’s classic French dishes were described as “masterfully assembled” which in turn has attracted lots of patrons from all corners of the world in recent years.

There are, happily, many other wonderful food hubs across the country that rival Pariss thriving restaurant scene…like Uzes, way down in the south of France. 

Uzes is a hidden gem. The NY Times Travel Magazine described the town as one of the “best preserved and most meticulously renovated towns in the South of France.”

southern france holiday

A Food Lover’s Southern France Holiday

In Uzes the people have retained their identity in every aspect of daily living, from the architecture to cultural practices to the way they prepare food and their cooking traditions.You would be forgiven for thinking that Paris is the best place to experience French food. However,

Amazing foods, cafes and restaurants are everywhere. The food markets in Uzes are bustling with vendors that sell only the best and freshest, locally grown produce, meats, cheeses and breads. These markets were included by The Guardian amongst the best food markets around the world.

If you’d rather pass on checking out every stall and just fancy watching people make their way around in the morning, head to Terroirs within the Place aux Herbes. Simply sit down and sip your cup of coffee or tea while watching one of the finest markets within the whole southern region of France spring to life.

La Table 2 Julien at Montaren-et-Saint-Médiers serves sumptuous food at lunchtime that you can pair with a glass of your preferred wine.

Uzes has ‘natural wines’ which, according to Real Food Warrior are made only from sun-ripened grapes and free from any additives.

For special occasions there’s Le Comptoir du 7, one of my favorites.

The newly-renovated Hotel Entraigues is a rising star on the restaurant scene in Uzes with Chef Axel Grousset-Bachelard returning to his hometown, determined to outshine any competition. His “nothing is fixed’ menu” is short and imaginative, featuring market-day fresh, local products that “excite the tastebuds,”according to Chef Axel.

You can also have a bistro meal on the spot in cafes and restaurants scattered around the area. They are worthy additions to your culinary journey.

In case you’re wondering about food etiquette during your Southern France holiday, be sure to see Nancy’s McGee’s post about cutting cheese.

Do you have restaurants in Uzes, or nearby that you would like to add to the list? Let me know by leaving a comment!

Time for Fete Votive Uzes. Which Year Was Best? You Decide.

Fete Votive Uzes 2015 was spectacular. How will this year’s event compare?

By far, one of the most exciting events of the year in Uzes, in my opinion, is Fete Votive. Next week it’s live along the main street in Uzes with lights, action and extraordinary booming sounds. The imaginative “électros soirée” on August 5, 2016 will be the third I’ve experienced. Oh what a night that will be! 

Below are photos and a video from 2015 and there’s a link to highlights from Fete Votive 2014 for you to preview.  When I post the Fete Votive 2016 extravaganza, let me know which you think is the best of the best from the three years.

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

 

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A true fantasy!

Here’s just a sample of the sight and sounds…

Will they outdo themselves this year? All I can say is, “I can’t wait to see it!”

See Fete Votive Parade 2014 revisited here. 

Here’s the schedule for this year’s event — 

 

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South France Holiday

A Dream Vacation in the South of France.

I’m feeling pretty smug these days that I get a south France holiday everyday. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world to be here.

Lately I’ve had more good luck to be included in the travel plans of my “blog world” friends. Some of them you know since I talk about them a lot — Nancy McGee from Absolutely Southern France and Yetunde from Cook’n With Class Uzes (and Paris) and Carolyne with Perfectly Provence and Edible Heritage are now part of my “gang,” too. While I was still in the States, Nancy put together a whirlwind tour for the four of us, upon my return, to visit in Uzes and Sete. She arranged the trip with the tourist agencies from both cities so that we could learn more about the towns and help promote tourism — as if I didn’t already promote them. Sete and Uzes are two of my favourite places in the world.

Nevertheless — I was more than happy to go along. Albeit I was jet-lagged from the US trip and Scotland. (Oh… I do hate to complain!)

In three days we stuffed in so many activities and sights that it’s hard to tell you about it all. Perhaps a synopsis will do for now and I’ll write more about each place in later posts. So here goes..

 

South France Holiday

Nancy introduces everyone and we begin our tour

Uzes Historic Tour

Nancy and Carolyne arrived at my apartment in Uzes around 5pm — just in time to meet Yetunde for our historic tour of Uzes. We were hosted by Fadila, our host in Uzes, and our guide from the tourist agency.

Starting with the Mairie (town hall) we visited the inter-court of the Duché and heard the history of the “castle” and the three main towers in Uzes.

A visit to the Saint Théodorit Cathedral with its Fenestrelle Tower helped explain some of the religious background of the town — which is both fascinating and complicated as this place was once a very important bishopric. If I thought I knew a lot about Uzes I was fooling myself. The history of the town is like peeling an onion. The more you learn, the more there is to know.

South France Holiday

Fenestrelle Tower and Saint Théodorit Cathedral

A bit of rain stalled our tour of the city, but we continued our history lesson inside the Hotel d’Entraigues where we were treated to wine, aperitifs and an amazing dinner.

Fortunately the raindrops stopped falling in time to view the hotel’s amazing views of the town from its rooftop… and the pool.

South France Holiday

Hotel Entraigues

Cook’n With Class Day

Early morning the next day we grabbed a croissant and coffee and hurried off to meet the chef and students of Cook’n With Class. It was market day in San Quentin la Poterie and we were to choose and prepare a menu in the Cook’n With Class kitchen from the day’s best finds.

Look what we created!

South France Holiday in Uzes Countryside

Just when we all could have taken a nap from all the food shopping, preparing and eating, we were off on a limousine tour of the countryside near Uzes — the shops at San Quentin la Poterie —

South France Holiday

San Quentin la Poterie

 

… and the luxury hotel in Castillon du Gard – Hotel Le Vieux Castillon . What a view!!

On to Sete!

If you think our day was finished, you’d be so wrong. On to drive to Sete!

South France Holiday

Canal view in Sete

Stopping off  just long enough to drop our luggage at Nancy’s AIRBNB after reaching Sete, we were whisked away to the beach.

South France Holiday

Tuk-tuk ride to the beach in Sete

South France HolidayThere we were met by our friend Marie-France from the Sete tourist office and treated to an amazing dinner at Le Cabanon de la Plage.

South France Holiday

Le Cabanon de la Plage

South France Holiday

La Cabanon de la Plage

South France Holiday Gourmet Tour of Sete

South France HolidayNancy’s Absolutely Southern France weekly gourmet tours are quite the “thing to do” in Sete these days. In fact, Nancy has recently been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the entire region of France. It’s no wonder. The Canadian-born expat who has lived in the south of France for thirty years is a fountain of knowledge. Her tour not only includes the city markets of Sete, she also tells of the history and architecture that makes the town so distinctive and compelling.

Here are just a few of our stops along the tour.

Al Fresco Dining at Oh Gobi

Finishing our gourmet tour of the city we were invited to a seafood FEAST at the waterside restaurant Oh Gobie.

South France Holiday

There we joined the restaurant owner … and an uninvited guest.

Fish Auction House

Probably the most unexpected opportunity Nancy and Marie-France opened up to us as guests of the tourist office was to visit the fish auction house in Sete. First of its kind to be automated and computerised, the fish auction occurs each weekday in the late afternoon — just in time for the fishermen to deliver and sell their catch of the day.

Fancy a South France Holiday Tour?

The best thing about the whirlwind tour of Uzes and Sete is that it’s available to everyone. Most of the activities are free. You just have to show up in Uzes or Sete to enjoy the scenery, the history and the ambience. For Nancy’s Gourmet Tour, contact her at Absolutely Southern France, and for Cook’n With Class Uzes, learn more and contact Yetunde here. Links to the hotels and restaurants mentioned are “hot” in this post, so learn more as you please. For any additional information, feel free to send me a note at deborah@bfblogger.com.

There will be more posts to follow about this experience with more stories and photos. Hope you enjoy!

Stay tuned ….

Travel-Quotes-3

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.

 

True Confessions of a Blundering Expat in France

Well, I did it again. I’ve made almost every blunder imaginable since moving to France. And I keep adding to it.

First I was locked out of my apartment when returning from a visit to the States. It wasn’t enough that I had endured a grueling 23-hour travel day. The keys were left in a drawer in Atlanta.

Then there was the fiasco with putting gasoline in “Lucy,”  my diesel-engine Citroen.

The latest was a doozy.

My good friend from Sete, Nancy McGee, was on her way to visit me in Uzes for the first time.  (That’s Nancy McGee of “Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette.) It was a Saturday afternoon and I had just finished straightening up the guest room when she called from her car to tell me she was approaching Uzes.  I told her I’d meet her on the main street of town and direct her to a nearby parking lot. I grabbed my keys and the two bags of trash I wanted to drop off in the dumpster on the way.  I turned around to lock the door to the apartment, then changed my mind.

“It’ll just be a few minutes,’ I said to myself. “No need to lock the door.”

I literally flew down the 55 steps that descend to street level of the building; dashed out into the parking lot; then headed for the trash dumpster.

Lifting the lid of the dumpster, I tossed the bags of trash into the barrel drawer; flipped the front lid closed with a “bang;” and listened while the barrel drawer rolled upside down, dumping its contents into the bowels of the can below…with a loud “clunk.”

Suddenly I felt a wave of nausea. You know that sick feeling you get in your gut when you know you’ve done something totally stupid? Something irretrievably dumb? I was overcome with it. I almost threw up. “Oh no!” I said to myself (although the language was not quite as polite.)

I had dropped more than the bags of garbage. My keys were no longer in my hand. They were in the dumpster.

When the nausea subsided I ran to the meeting place to find Nancy.

“What can I tell her?” I said to myself, knowing she would think I was a total “bean brain.”

Nancy’s car approached the parking lot. As soon as she stopped I opened the passenger door and jumped in, breathless.

“You won’t believe what I’ve done,” I moaned.

“Oh dear,” said Nancy, surely thinking I’d killed someone judging from the look on my face.

“I threw my keys into the dumpster,” I cried. Then I blurted out the whole story, including the fact that she’d have to drive us around the whole weekend. We had a list of places to see near Uzes.

Maintaining her customary, calm composure, Nancy pulled the car into a vacant parking space near my building.

“Hey, wait!” I exclaimed as we were unloading her overnight bag and her tiny Papillon dog from the back seat. “There’s a telephone number on the dumpster! You can call the company and explain what happened,” I chirped, hopefully.

Nancy is from Canada and she has lived in France for nearly 30 years. She speaks French like a native. When I told her how I knew there was a phone number on the dumpster — because I’d had an earlier episode with the dumpster and my cellphone — a false alarm — she wasn’t amused. Nevertheless, she called the number. Of course there was no answer. It was Saturday evening. Nancy left a message on the answering machine and she gave several phone numbers so they could call us back.

If there was any good news about the key incident it was that my apartment door was unlocked.  Also, I had a second set of apartment keys. But that was it. No extra key to the tower entrance downstairs. No key to the large wooden door at the street level. No key for my mailbox. No extra key for the car.

“This is going to be a big problem,” I lamented to myself. “And it’s going to cost me a bundle, “ I predicted.

“When does the city picked up the trash?” Nancy asked later, after we’d had a glass of wine to settle our nerves.

“Early Monday morning,” I answered, recalling the noises I heard under my bedroom window each week. A big garbage truck parks beside the dumpster and pulls the cans out of the ground. It’s a noisy process that seems to take forever when you’re trying to sleep four stories above.

“Go down there and ask the man to help you look for your keys Monday morning,” Nancy suggested –as if I could converse with anyone in French.

“I thought about that,” I admitted, “perhaps he’ll understand sign-language,” I said to myself.

Nancy didn’t volunteer for duty. I didn’t blame her.

“I’ll do it,” I said.

Picking up the trash

Sunday night I could hardly sleep. Plotting how I was going to communicate my dilemma to the garbage man was all I could think about. Just when I dozed off, I heard the familiar, jarring sound of the big garbage truck below the window. I peered out and the garbage “extraction” process had already begun.

One of the two dumpsters was being lifted out of the ground. “Oh my God,” I shrieked to myself. “It’s too late for me to get down there!” Then I saw the dumpster that held my keys in its belly was still firmly planted. I had time to act. In fact, I figured, I had too much time. So I sat in a chair at my bedroom window, with a coat thrown over my nightgown, and I watched.

Dumpster

 

It was all very organized … and automated. The crane on the truck lifted the dumpster and … the driver punched buttons on a remote control and … the crane and dumpster moved over the backend of the truck … and ..the bottom of the bin flapped open…and the contents fell out onto all the other garbage in the truck.

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Forget it!

There was no way the garbage man would help me sift through a truck full of trash for my keys. Nor would I!

Monday morning Nancy drove me to the Citroen dealership before she left town for Sete. We were certain they would cut new keys as I waited since I had a plastic replacement key I’d found among “Lucy’s important papers.

No such luck. The key had to be ordered from the factory. Plus, “Lucy” had to be towed to the dealership to program the new key. A week later.

 

"Lucy" on the tow truck on her way out of the parking garage to the Citroen dealership

“Lucy” on the tow truck on her way out of the parking garage to the Citroen dealership

 

New friends at the Ciroen dealership in Uzes

New friends at the Citroen dealership in Uzes

 

The Payoff

Bottomline, my blunder with the keys cost me a pretty penny. Replacing the keys to the apartment wasn’t a big deal. Obtaining new car keys was expensive and a pain in the neck… but I now have friends at the dealership. The weekend with my friend, Nancy, was a blast — including a party for the opening of La Grandmère wine and coffee house in Vers Pont du Gard , La Grange

 

 A night of music, food and dancing at Au Petit Jardin in Uzes.

Petite Jardin in Uzes

Au Petit Jardin in Uzes

 

 

Poubelle

And I learned a little French along the way …poubelle … the garbage can!

 

P.S. Nancy says the trash company returned her call Monday afternoon. They apologized for not offering any help. The office was closed for the weekend. They informed her that if I had lost the keys on a weekday, they would have sent a small truck to the dumpster and sorted the trash. I could have found my keys.

Geez. Next time I’ll be a little more intentional when I do something really stupid.

Read about the lost cellphone here

Read about the left-behind apartment keys here 

Read about Lucy’s problem with gas here 

 

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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.

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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

 

 

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Camp Rosie

 

 

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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.

 

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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

They Chose Uzes! House Hunters International Update

For those of you who may not have seen the House Hunters International episode on HGTV this week, Erin and family chose Uzes!

Erin, Stuart and their blended family with four children went on a house hunt in the south of France for a second home property. Along the way they contacted House Hunters International who filmed the search for the HGTV network audience.

The property agent — who I happen to know! Pierre Guillery — had three choices of locations that met a majority of the family’s “wish list.” Two were near Avignon, one in Uzes.

Of course, they chose Uzes!

Like many of you who watched the show, I was anxious to see how Uzes was pictured to the TV audience. Because Avignon was the site of two of the choices, Uzes didn’t get the attention it really deserves. BUT!!! Winner, Winner!!

Here are some of my favorite places I wish the viewers could have seen:

 

Place de Duche

I mean, where else do you find a Duke in residence?

Place de Duche

 

Fenestrelle tower and Cathedral of Saint Théodorit

The cathedral and tower that mark the skyline in Uzes are part of the deep-rooted religious history of France. The cathedral, named for Saint Theodorit, was built in the 12th century,  destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the 16th century Wars of Religion. Built again in the 17th century, it was stripped out during the French Revolution, then refurbished in it’s neoclassical style in the 18th century. The 11th century Romanesque Tour Fenestrelle (“Window Tower”), through all the religious and political fervor,  is still intact — although previously two stories taller. The cathedral served as the seat of the Uzes bishopric from the 5th century until 1801. It is now a Protestant parish church. In the middle of the 16th century, Uzès was the fifth biggest Protestant town in France.

 

Cathedral of Saint Theodorit

 

The Cathedral and 12th Century Tour Fenestrelle in Uzes

 

Saint Etienne d’Uzes

The church Saint Etienne d’Uzes has a similar history to Saint Théodorit of being built, destroyed and rebuilt during religious wars in France. Renovation of the Baroque-style church that was built in 1764-1774 was started in 2004.  Saint Etienne maintains its Greek cross design and curved façade, decorated with fire pots from which flames flow. The bell tower that served as the town’s watchtower and defense still stands since the 13th century.  The interior dome, arches and cornices are original, with stonework  made at that time. The church continues to serve a Catholic congregation.

St. Etienne - Uzes

 

 

Remnants of the ancient wall

Remnants of the ancient guard wall Uzes

 

Bishop’s Tower

Uzes was the seat of the bishop’s temporal powers. The Bishop’s Tower was used as a tribunal and prison. This tall, square tower is topped by an octagonal clock tower and belfry, added in the 19th century.Bishop's Tower - Uzes

King’s Tower

King’s tower was used as a royal residence, as well as for housing troups. Louis XIII stayed here in July 1629. It is said that King Charles hit his head on one of the low doorways in the tower and died from the blow.

King's Tower - Uzes

 

 

 Cinéma Le Capitole

The cinema in Uzes is a step back into the 40’s with it’s art films, Metropolitan Opera re-broadcasts and  season’s newest movies. Can’t you imagine Humphrey Bogart walking down the street?

Cinema in Uzes

 

 

Gendarmerie and Uzes police — always on busy and on guard

Uzes gendarmer and police

 

Philippe Dechamps

This is where the locals go for the finest chocolates and pastries in town.

Philippe Dechamps Uzes

 

Le Provencal

My favorite hangout for lunch!

Le Provencal

 

 

Watering the Flowers

A horse-drawn cart with a tank of water for the flowers is a common sight in the Place de Duche during the summertime.

Water horses in Uzes

 

 

Place aux Herbes

What we did see in the House Hunters episode was a lot of the Place aux Herbes. There’s no question this is the true center of Uzes.

Place aux Herbes

 

 

Welcome to Uzes!

 

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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!  

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expat tips

The #1 Insult to the French Palate

Sugar.

Who would think that the French, with all their pastry and chocolate shops, would be offended by sugar?

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French pastry shop

 

I learned it the hard way.

After two years living in the south of France, I’ve discovered that the French have an aversion to overly sugary foods. The first hint I got was when I volunteered to prepare a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner for friends two years ago. My dear friend, Geoffrey, hosted the event at his home and he prepared a fresh turkey, stuffing and vegetables. My contribution was a sweet potato souffle — just like my mother taught me to make it.

Who would think the French wouldn’t like a souffle? Well, after Geoffrey watched me assemble the ingredients into the bowl— sweet potatoes, cream, eggs and brown sugar. Then he saw me spread the mixture into a glass casserole dish and add marshmallows to the top. He refused to let me put it into the oven to bake.

“They won’t eat it,” he said. “it will offend their palates,” he stated, emphatically.

“What!” I said in surprise. “People who eat chocolate mousse, cinnamon-raisin pastries and cream puffs won’t eat a sweet potato casserole?” I was in complete amazement.

Not to embarrass the host, I left the sweet potato casserole in the refrigerator. I took it home later to eat by myself.

This year for Thanksgiving, I invited guests to my home for a meal I prepared by myself. I dared not cook a turkey. Instead, two fat hens. The menu included a creamy pumpkin soup; corn bread stuffing; mashed potatoes and “giblet” gravy; brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar, chestnuts and pancetta; and haricot vert (green beans).

For dessert? No traditional American pecan, pumpkin or chocolate pies. Just fruit tarts — pear and almonds; pear and walnuts — no sugar added. I sneaked in an apple and walnut tart with a sweet cranberry relish drizzled on top — just to see what would happen.

Most of the apple/walnut/cranberry tart was left in the dish.

Interestly, my taste buds have adjusted to the toned-down, French version of desserts. If it’s so sweet that it makes your teeth hurt, it’s too sweet. Not a bad lesson to learn.

 

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Bon bons in Carcassonne

Bon bons in Carcassonne

 

 

Now, will someone please explain why the French are such love lovers of bonbons?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fete Votive 2015 Uzes: Explosive!

There are few words better than “explosive” to describe the late night parade in Uzes that accompanied Fete Votive 2015.

After waiting for hours to see what event organizers had in store for this year’s Fete Votive parade, the crowds went wild. Justly so. The contrast of the loud, bright, huge moving floats against the pale, regal, ancient buildings along the streets of Uzes was striking. And exhilarating!

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

Fete Votive Parade Uzes 2015

 

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A true fantasy!

Here’s just a sample of the sight and sounds…

 

Did they outdo themselves this year? All I can say is, “I can’t wait until same time, same place 2016!

See Fete Votive Parade 2014 revisited. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Make French History More Fun

Female expat living in Uzes travels to Nimes and Pont du Gard for fun and learning – Join the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, too!

“Someday you’ll be glad you’ve seen this,” was the theme of a recent tour of Nimes and Pont du Gard with my 10-year-old visitor, McKenna. As spectacular and amazing as seeing an ancient Roman aqueduct or coliseum might seem, most children would rather spend the afternoon at the pool, or at the Haribo Bon Bon Museum.

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

 

la Maison Carrée

la Maison Carrée

I’m not saying that McKenna didn’t learn something from the narrative film at la Maison Carrée — the centerpiece of the historic district of Nimes — or from walking where lions and tigers entered the arena.

She definitely took it all in. Now that she’s back in the States she is sharing the stories with all her friends.

 

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

If the truth is told, I’m guessing her favorite part of the day was cooling off in the sparkling clear waters of the river below the Pont du Gard.

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

 

Another favorite spot for the active 10-year-old was the Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes. Somewhere among the ruins of Diana’s Temple, she found a playmate.

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

 

Climbing on the pediments of the first century monument dedicated to Augustus, or exploring the vaulted ceiling rooms might have been McKenna’s best memory of the day if we adults hadn’t been in such a hurry.

I guess we just don’t get it.

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An Insider’s Guide to Shopping in Nimes

Last week the Barefoot Blogger took a shopping trip into Nimes, the closest “big city” near Uzes. I had curtains on my mind.

As much as I try, there’s always something I think will make my apartment in Uzes even better. This time I’m looking for some simple curtains for my “utility” room. To be honest, the room didn’t need curtains until I bought the precious daybed in San Quentin de la Poterie. Remember it from this blog? It’s now in my “utility” room, soon to be “reading room.”

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After a few times driving to shopping areas in Nimes, I’m beginning to know my way around. There’s the downtown area with it’s trendy shops and promenades. Then there’s the megastores on the outskirts of town. Carrefour is one of the biggest stores and it’s much like a Walmart or Target. The big difference is that there are a number of smaller stores under the same roof, so it’s like a shopping center with an anchor store — except the whole center has the name of the anchor store — “Carrefour.”

Then there are a multitude of huge, sprawling stores along the same highway as Carrefour. Most are named “rama“-something.

IMG_2781 My destination for the day was Castorama. 

Castorama reminds me of Home Depot in the states, complete with huge lighting displays, appliances and garden decor. (How ’bout those crazy floor lamps?!)

Wandering through the store, I couldn’t help but wish I could use a chartreuse toilet seat!

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If the wall sign “J’dore” had been in red, not hot pink, it would have gone home with me!

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Outdoor furniture was really impressive. I’m not certain I’ve seen anything quite this stylish in the Home Depots I visit. Not a bad price either!

But back to my reason for the shopping trip — curtains. There was a big selection, including Hello Kitty.

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After filling my tiny shopping cart (large carts are available) with my selection of curtains, rods and curtain hardware, I went to the checkout where I was welcomed by the friendly, English-speaking cashier. Who, by the way, loves the USA. Her cousin lives in California.

 

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Oh! One thing that I failed to mention is how you get from Uzes to Nimes by car.

You drive along a two-lane, winding road that requires a lot of concentration and courage. If you have a few minutes to watch the video, you can imagine the ride. Areas along the narrow roadway are lined with blanc trees that are so close together you don’t want to blink when a car is approaching. The mountainous curves remind you of road races you see televised from France. In fact, the route between Nimes and Uzes is often on the Tour de France course because of it’s difficulty.

(OK, so I sped up the video a bit … but you get the idea!)

Later, Dinner in Uzes

The drive to Nimes and shopping trip took less than two hours. Then it was back to Uzes for dinner with two new friends — readers of the Barefoot Blogger from Pittsburgh!

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It’s not often that I rave about a restaurant; however, this night was special. I hardly recommend Comptoir du 7 in Uzes. Our dinner in the garden was devine.

First course, salads (anytime a salad is served with a puffed pastry, it’s a winner!)

Main course

Beef course served by Cyriel

Beef course served by Cyriel

 

… and a very special dessert — an assortment of sorbets with spun sugar and chocolate lace on a cookie crumble

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A very fine day, indeed!

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It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

As you know, Saturday is the Barefoot Blogger’s favorite day in Uzes. It’s market day!

When I headed out the door the first thing I heard was music in the plaza…

Just around the corner …

 

… and there’s more!

 

Just in time for Father’s Day …

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“My mother is terrible, my father is a genius, and me … I like them!!

 

A carnival in town

A carnival in town

 

... and sidewalk cafes filled to the brim...

… and sidewalk cafes filled to the brim…

 

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Renting a French Apartment

Back to Uzes and Breaking All The Rules

There are times when the Barefoot Blogger thinks she’s a seasoned international traveler. This trip back to France, however, I broke all the rules.

Rule #1 – Wear dark clothes to travel

Khaki traveling pants

Khaki traveling pants

Murphy’s Law says that if you’re traveling, and you eat or drink along the way, you’re going to end up with it on you. Always wear dark clothing. That’s why I wore khaki pants. On top of that, they were brand new. What was I thinking?!

There were no disasters, but I’ll be working on some grease stains from the Einstein bagel sandwich. Could have been worse.

Rule #2 – Take emergency cash

Again, what was I thinking? Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by having too many accessible ATM machines where I travel. A good rule of thumb is to carry about $200 in cash. I left the states with $20 in my pocket. Figuring that I wouldn’t need money until I reached the airport in Paris,  I knew there was an ATM machine there where I could get euros with my credit card. Little did I know that my choice of low cost airlines — WOW — charges for everything you put in your mouth. Not even a free bottle of water or cup of coffee. The $20 was used up fast before I landed in Paris. Which leads to Rule #3.

Rule #3 – Tell your credit card companies you’re traveling

4441573-Free-of-charge-anti-euro-sign--Stock-Photo-euro-noOops! When I ordered a sandwich wrap and Coke at the train terminal at Charles de Gaulle — after I’d missed the train, by the way — my credit card was refused. I pulled out my brand new AA Advantage card. It worked. It worked again when I bought a new train ticket to get to Avignon. It didn’t work when I wanted euros out of the ATM. So what did I do? I messaged my adorable daughter-in-law! She was home. I gave her all my credit card information and she called the bank impersonating me. Voila!

I don’t even want to think what my next step would have been.

Rule #4 – Make certain you have all the keys at your destination

Breaking this rule had me standing in the street outside my apartment in Uzes until the wee hours of the night of my arrival.

Let me take you back a little to the day(s) of the trip to explain my state of delirium.

WOW Airlines

WOW Airlines

As you recall from the last post, I chose to try the “budget” route back to France. I saved $500-600 dollars on the one-way fare. In so doing, my trip consisted of four legs — Atlanta to Charlotte; to Boston; to Iceland; to Paris. Unfortunately, the plane sat on the runway in Boston for three hours as a terrible thunderstorm swept over the airport. Fortunately WOW airline waited for us to arrive in Iceland. Never mind, we were still three hours late to Paris. Since I’d given myself barely three hours between original air arrival time and departure time on the train to Avignon, I missed the train.

This story gets longer and more confusing, so I’ll save getting a ticket exchange, maneuvering through the airport to the train, and other such information for the next post. 

When I arrived in Avignon, Geoffrey was there waiting, as planned. (I was able to text to him about the delay.) Happily we chatted all the way from the Avignon TGV station to Uzes. Since he was as exhausted as me, I insisted that I could carry my own bags to the apartment.

He asked: “You have your keys, right?

I knew I had the key ring that I retrieved from the dresser drawer in Atlanta. The keys had been safely tucked away since my arrival there in December.

Yes, of course,” I said dangling the keys in front of him. “Right here,” I added.

I no longer have the set of keys you gave me,” he stated.

He had given the keys to my friend who was minding the apartment while I was gone. She lives in Nimes.

With that, I bounded out of the door, grabbed the bags as Geoffrey handed them out of the car, and headed for the big wooden doors to the apartment building.

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

I even remember the code for the entrance door this time,” I chimed smugly.

Good thing,” Geoffrey replied, remembering the code had been a problem on my last return from the states.

By the time I carried the bags through the big door that leads to the atrium to my building, I was feeling the pain from my long journey.

Only 55 steps and I’ll be home,” I said to myself as I staggered up the first 20 steps.

2013-07-11 10.20.29The red door that leads into the tower was a welcomed sight. I fumbled with the keys and the lock to the tower door. It opened.

“Almost there,” I panted.

Now up 20 steps to the door to my apartment. Key in door. Open.

Then up the remaining 10 steps to my living room and bedroom area where there are more locked doors.

This open door was locked. closed. Here's the spot where i landed in despair!

This open door was locked. closed. Here’s the spot where i landed in despair!

These doors were locked. AACCHH! There were no more keys.

Where was  that third key?!

At that point, I don’t know whether I screamed or fainted. All I do know is, after taking every bag and parcel I was carrying apart more than once, I flopped on one of the stone steps, close to tears.

If I had thought there would be a resolution to the problem in the morning, I may have slept on the spiral steps.

Knowing that wouldn’t be the case, I pulled myself together and tried, in vain, to call Geoffrey. No answer. I called his number again and again. No answer.

OK,” says me to me. “He must be at a bar downtown, “I surmised. “I’ll go to one of the restaurants near his house and wait for him to go home.”

I could close and lock the door on one level of the apartment, so I left my bags behind. Off I went.

When I reached downtown, the first restaurant I came to was closed. The second restaurant I walked to was closing. The restaurant owner told me the only places open at this hour would be at Place des Herbes — the touristy fountain area of town.

Sure enough, Terroirs was still serving customers.

I wasn’t the least bit hungry, even though I’d eaten only one meal since I left Atlanta, 26 hours earlier. But I did need to sit down. I composed myself as best I could, then engaged the waiter. She could speak some English, so I told her my plight. Bless her heart, she was as upset as I should have been. I was numb. She brought a menu and a bottle of cold water.

Then an idea came to my head. “Why don’t I just look for a hotel or place to stay? Even if it was almost midnight.” Then I remembered I had the telephone number of a friend of a friend who, I thought, owned a B&B.

I called.

It turns out he doesn’t own a B&B, but, he was awake and he did have the keys for our friend’s three-story mansion — across from the Duche! In 20 minutes he had called our friend, met me at our friend’s home, opened the door, and showed me to the guest bedroom.  

View from the guest bedroom

View of the Duche from the guest bedroom

I landed in heaven!

Next day, I was awakened by a phone call at 2pm from the friend in Nimes who had the set of keys. All the keys. I picked myself up, packed up, and rescued the set of keys from her office in Uzes.

Lessons learned?

All of the above are rules that will stick indelibly into my brain. I hope. However, on another note … if these things didn’t happen to me, would life be so grand?

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Romans in France: The Mini-Series

Four days and nights I was glued to the TV last week. I watched the entire two-season mini-series, “Rome,” and I did it with the same intensity that I devoured “Gone With The Wind.”

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, Art or Architecture?

You see, ever since I moved to the south of France, I’ve been living in a Roman time warp. You’ve heard me say that many times, especially after visiting the aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Or after seeing the ruins of Roman-style villas in Orange; and the arena in Arles. So much of what is revered today in this part of France was established by Romans when they occupied “Gaul.” Miraculously, in spite of wars, weather, politics, and developers, lots of it still stands — from as long ago as 25BC and before.

Watching the HBO series saved me days of laboring through the historical novels I thought I’d have to read about  the Romans. Especially if I wanted to know about the “Caesars,” Julius and Augustus, who left such big footprints in France.

I know you’re thinking a mini-series is hardly the most factual way to learn history. Well, that’s probably true; however, I figure it’s close enough to give me a high-level view of what I wanted to know.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t study ancient history in high school and college. I did. More than that, I took four years of Latin and “translated” the “Aeneid.” Nevertheless, the mini-series had to remind me that Octavius Caesar became known as “Augustus” and that he wasn’t the “true” son of Julius, as if that makes any real difference in history. Also, I was reminded of the importance of “Gods” and “Spirits” during the period when images were carved, engraved and built in their likeness throughout the empire — including “Gaul”, the early name for what was later much of France.

Being armed with a bit of new knowledge, I’m looking forward to delving back into my tours through the south of France and taking notes on more Roman sites. Stay tuned!

For more information on Romans in Gaul check out this article on NYTimes.com

For the mini-series:

 

 

 

 

La Grande-Motte: A Thoroughly Modern French Holiday

Just an hour down the road from Uzes, near Montpelier, is the beach resort, La Grande-Motte. At first glance, it’s a bit like seeing a piece of contemporary furniture among French antiques.

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By all descriptions, La Grande-Motte is a modern, planned, vacation home community. I wasn’t expecting to see such a place in this part of France. Perhaps around Nice. But not so close to Montpelier, a city that is so splendid and classically elegant.   Nevertheless, the manicured walkways, golf courses and harbor at the holiday site are very appealing.

Le Grande-Motte

Le Grande-Motte

 

 

 

 

A sailing regatta was underway the day I was visiting. Many of the famous boaters of France were participating.

Sailing regatta at La Grande-Motte

Sailing regatta at La Grande-Motte

 

A walk around the property leads to the promenade with shops and restaurants.

Promenade at La Grande-Motte

Promenade at La Grande-Motte

 

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Dejeuner offers a wide selection of local fare.

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La Grande-Motte, which boasts seven miles of sandy beach, offers a wide choice of accommodations. In season, I understand the resort is filled to near-capacity.

Accommodations and parking at La Grande-Motte

Accommodations and parking at La Grande-Motte

 

I mean, who can resist a walk or bike ride along this beautiful shoreline?

 

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Biking at La Grande-Motte

Biking at La Grande-Motte

 

One of the best features to  me is the proximity to one of my favorite places — the Camargue. Catamaran tours and 4×4 “safaris” into the marshlands of the Camargue are once-in-a-lifetime adventures that make La Grande-Motte a stop on my tour list.

 

 

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