Tag: expat over 60

Tree Sports in Uzes. Who knew?

Have you ever heard of “tree sports?” Neither had I. Now trees are where I’d love to hang out. Literally! Time to learn about tree sports in Uzès.

Tree sports in Uzès

One of my favorite places in Uzes is the Vallée de l’Eure. I’ve written about the spring that feeds Pont du Gard, the swans, the STEPS, and various other things that amuse me there.

Tree sports in Uzès

 

Nothing has caught me more off guard, however, than to find men hanging in the trees.

The woods are quite thick along the winding trails in the Vallée de l’Eure. Often it is difficult to see more than a few yards ahead. It’s part of the charm of being there. This particular day, when I saw the men in the trees, I had left the apartment with the intention of taking only a short walk.

I had planned to get a lot accomplished that day and the walk was just the first of many things on my “to do” list. It was right after I got to the last of the STEPS that lead down to the park that I heard men talking in the distance. Walking slowly, as usual, because the path is very rocky and uneven, I intentionally headed towards the voices. Of course, I had no idea what they were saying. They were speaking in French. By the time I could hear them more clearly, it was obvious the sounds were coming from the trees.

There they were! Dangling on ropes up in the air. I couldn’t get there fast enough. My curiosity was killing me!

Tree sports in Uzès

Then I realized I didn’t have my camera!

“What!” says me to myself. “What a great story for my blog: ‘Finding Tarzan in the Jungles of France.'”

Reality hit. I had an appointment in less than an hour. How could I get back to the apartment, grab my camera, run back to the park, take pictures, go back to the apartment, change clothes, then be on my way, and on time? Impossible!

At that moment It was like there was a “good angel” on my right shoulder saying: “Forget it, you’ve made a commitment. You have to forget about this story for your silly blog and get on with your life.” A “bad angel” on my left shoulder was saying: “Forget, Hell! This is a great story. Don’t be stupid.”

So what did I do? I went back for the camera, of course!

 

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Tree sports in Uzès

Tree climbing, or hanging out in trees, is becoming a popular pastime, especially in France. The abundance of lush forests and people looking for new and different ways to spend time outdoors have created a new industry. The young men I met are utility workers for their “real jobs” and they run a business for tourists on the side. From what I could understand, since they spoke little English, and … you know me and my French … their business is quite good. They provide the ropes, harnesses and expertise to get you up into a tree. Plus they set up the tree “boats” where you can spend as much time as you’re willing to pay for to “hang” out.

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Sounds like fun to me!!

Prayer of a Tree
—————-

To The Wayfarer,

Ye who pass by and would raise your hand against me, harken ere you harm me.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun.

My fruits are refreshing draughts,
quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam which holds your house,
the board of your table,
the bed on which you lie,
and the timbers of your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.

Ye who pass by,
listen to my prayer; harm me not.

–reportedly from the book “Spanish Sunshine” by Elinor Elsner, circa 1925, and was a notice found on a tree in a park in Seville, Spain; posted by Ray on the Boards of the Native Tree Society

To contact the tree sport company website Phytofeel.com

Much Ado About French Truffles in Uzès

Uzès is famous for French truffles. Black ones. Pigs and dogs sniff them out from beneath the roots of trees.

Before I moved to France I knew very little about truffles. This naive southern belle thought truffles only came in a fancy gold box from Godiva. My favorite truffle was a devine, creamy dark chocolate.

Now I know that a truffle is a fungus, not a chocolate, and it’s a culinary delicacy, a fungus, that can cost upwards of $85,000 a pound.

Each year Uzès goes all out to celebrate truffle season. The celebration can last almost a month with lots of truffle-themed activities taking place  in and around town. The festival’s peak weekend is towards the end of the month with various truffle hunts, a truffle market, a blessing over truffles in the Cathedral and a big money-making truffle auction.

Since this year is my fourth time attending the Truffé Fête, I’ve taken in many of the events. Check out the posts listed below to revisit them with me. It’s hard to choose, but I believe going on a  truffle hunt last year was one of my favorites. Table & Truffes & Calèche. It started with a horse-drawn carriage ride through Uzès and ended with a very classy truffle and wine tasting at the elegant 17th century Hôtel Particulier, La Maison d’Uzès.

Join me on this video tour and see for yourself.

Better yet, join me next year in Uzès!

For more information on the 2019 Truffle Festival in Uzès, click here.

More about Truffles

Homage to a Truffle Hunting Pig

Mystical, Magical Truffles: Alba’s White Truffle Festival

Expat in France

5 Years an Expat in France

5 Years an Expat in France…

Would you believe? It’s been five years since I started my expat adventure in France. After all this time, I’m as as excited as ever about being here. And not a bit trepidatious at what lies ahead.

Highlights: 5 Years an Expat in France

Feeling at home

My little apartment that’s up 55 steps in a tower across from the Duché in Uzes is just as charming as it was on first sight. I still love it. The fact that it is in the middle of all the activity in Uzés is still a plus.

Expat in France

I love leaning out my window when I hear horses’ hooves clomping around the Place de Duché. Sometimes it’s a horse-drawn cart and driver who take care of the potted flowers in the square. Sometimes it’s a coach filled with tourists visiting the town.

Expat in France

I will say, however, there’s a change in the works. Not a move from Uzés, but a bit of repositioning. A chance to get to know the town from a new perspective. Stay tuned…

Making friends

Living in France is a constant whirl of activities with lots of friends. Some friends are French; others are expats; and some are “regulars” or part time expats who return year after year.

Expat in France

Initially, it wasn’t easy to make friends. Especially since I didn’t speak a word of French. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I’m recognized by locals, in the kindest way, as the “American who still doesn’t speak French.”

Travel, travel and more travel

Living in the south of France has to be the best place ever to see the world. That’s probably not the truth, but it seems so. Coming from the US, where it can take 7 hours to travel from Beaufort, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia, it’s amazing how you can get from one country to another in so little time. Easy access to travel by train simplifies things, too.

Beginning the “Memories Tour”

A new adventure started in 2018 — the first of the “South of France Memories You Promised Yourself” tour with my great friend and best-selling author, Patricia Sands. We started a tradition of yearly women’s tours, organized by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, my partner in crime and tour planner extraordinaire from Sete. My first ever time tour leading may not have ended up as planned, but along the way I met sixteen new friends I will hold close and in my heart forever. Tour plans for 2019 are ready for you to join. Stay tuned …

Facing my fears

What could be more frightening than having a serious accident while in a “foreign country?” Happily I’m now acquainted with the French healthcare system. There could be no finer anywhere in the world.

Blogging

expat in FranceWhile I’m aghast how 5 years have flown by, I’m equally amazed I’m still writing and loving the Barefoot Blogger.

To tell you the truth, the “Barefoot Blogger” has taken on a life of her own. The person I write about now is an out-of-body extension of myself. As she fumbles her way through life and travels in and about France, it’s amazing she’s survived without more mishaps.

The best part about blogging is connecting with readers. Some visit Uzès and contact me to meet up. We’re like instant friends.

Loving France

Where can I possibly begin to express how much I’ve grown to love France. From early on I confessed I never imagined spending a lot of time in France, much less living here.

Life in Uzés over the past five years has been like living a dream. The longer I stay the more I’m attached to the rhythm of the town and its people. Coexisting with centuries-old architecture and ancient history has changed me.

Expat in France

Learning French

Surely you are weary hearing how I’ve struggled to learn French. Please don’t count how many times I’ve said: “I’m turning a new leaf. I’m taking French lessons.”

Not to disappoint, I have a new plan for in place for Expat Year #6. Stay tuned…

expat in France

Moving to France Healthcare

Moving to France: Healthcare

One of the most asked questions for this American expat in France is about healthcare. “What do you do about healthcare when moving to France?”

The simple reply is “travelers insurance.” The answer you really want to know is “don’t worry about it.”

I couldn’t be more serious. If you’re going to be insured or sick, you couldn’t find a better place to do it than France. Yes, you can take it from one who knows. I’ve just completed a 10-week stint going through an emergency operation, hospitalization and rehab hospitalization in the South of France.

The post below was written when I was literally flat on my back in the hospital. Since then I’ve returned to my apartment in Uzés, back up the 55 steps, and I’m going to physical therapy 5 days a week. I’m walking there and back. It’s been a really long road; albeit, an amazing experience. It’s given me great respect for the French, their hospitals and the staffs. And I’ve learned a bit of French — out of sheer necessity. Very few people I encountered along the way spoke English.

I’ll be honest, the travelers insurance company hasn’t kicked in to repay me, but so far, the bills are minimal. My surgeon and the hospital continue to say there’s no charge for the emergency surgery or 10-day hospital stay afterwards. The rehab hospitals have yet to totally bill me, but I understand it’s like 220 euros a day for room, board and 2 hours of physical therapy a day. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s the story …

The Barefoot Blogger is going to step out of her carefree expat role to talk about something that is critically important to me at this moment: Healthcare.

As I type with one finger of my left hand, I am lying in a bed in a rehabilitation hospital outside Nimes, France.

I’ve been hospitalized in the French healthcare system now since September 18, the date I fell crossing the street while co-leading a ladies’ tour with my good friend, author Patricia Sands.

A unique perspective on my French vs. USA healthcare from one who has experienced a similar orthopedic injury and treatment in both countries.

I wrote about the accident in a previous post. I knew I’d be writing an “inside story” about my experience with the French medical system as an American expat.

Telling the story now, prior to the upcoming election in the US, seems the perfect time.

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

My accident occurred in Aigues-Mortes, a historic walled city in the south of France, on Tuesday afternoon, September 18.

After my fall I was taken by ambulance to the hospital of my choice, Centre Hospitalizer Universitaire Carémeau, in Nimes. A hospital in Montpelier was a nearby alternative, but Nîmes was closer to my home in Uzès. Both are university hospitals with excellent  reputations.

The ambulance ride to the hospital in Nimes was traumatic, just as you’d expect. The heat, the pain and my anxiety were all at play. Fortunately, the hospital was less than an hour away.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was asked a few questions, fortunately by someone who spoke English. Simple things like my full name, where I lived and did I have allergies. No one asked for my passport, for any type of formal identification, or for proof of medical insurance.

The admissions process, emergency room examination, X-rays and placement in a semi-private room took about 3 hours.

A longtime friend who was on the ladies’ tour was allowed to accompany me through each stage of the process. “To hold my hand.” The hospital staff quickly knew neither of us spoke French.

French Healthcare: Surgery

The hospital I was taken to in Nimes after the accident is a university hospital. They have a large, active emergency care unit. Since my situation was far from life-threatening, my surgery was not performed immediately. It was more like 36 hours later.

Meanwhile, I was in a semi-private room with a patient who was awaiting her second knee operation. Not because of my room nor roommate, but I was pretty miserable. No morphine or heavy pain killers were given to me prior to surgery. I was told morphine was not allowed because of its adverse affects on anesthetics administered during surgery.

I remember how relieved I was when the mask went on my face at the beginning of surgery. I knew when I woke up I would be in la la land.

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

I had no idea where I was when I awoke from surgery. No one spoke English. All I remember is that I was moved around a bit, probably from on level of surgery aftercare to another.

Fortunately I was cognizant that I was in France, that I was alive, and that I wanted to move to my room as quickly as possible so people would let me be. So I said “c’est bien” anytime I was asked a question. No telling what I was agreeing to.

For ten days I occupied a hospital bed in a large double room with a dear French woman who became my new best friend, Chantal. She spoke not a word of English. Nevertheless, we carried on a daily ritual something like this:

Bonjour, Deborah,” she said each morning. “Comment allez vous?” she’d ask.

Bonjour, Chantal,” I’d respond. “Ça va bien, “ I’d answer. Then “ Comment allez vous?”

The simple question\answer exercise would continue through the day — every day — ending with our shared “Bonne nuit.”

Moving to France Healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

My daily care during the ten days in the hospital (“hopital” in French) was extraordinarily good. Except for the bad food and occasional curt response from a nurse or “ colleague,” presumedly because my French was unintelligible, I was treated well. There was a time or two when I was left too long on a bedpan, but the small things could be overlooked when I considered my every physical need was being tended 24/7.

Moving to France Healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

Sometime before the end of my ten days in the hospital in Nimes, I learned I was being transferred for physical rehabilitation to a hospital in a small town outside Nimes. I was not going to the rehab hospital in Uzès as I’d expected. It was fully occupied. For the first time since the ordeal started, I cried. In fact, I boo-hooed.

The idea that I was going to some unknown village where no one would speak English was terrifying. Thoughts of Jane Eyre came to my mind. I envisioned being cast away behind stone walls where I would be starved and mistreated. What had I done to deserve such a fate?

When I came to my senses, I realized I could find out about the strange new place by simply searching the Internet. There I discovered I was headed for a brand new hospital, built in 2016, with a sterling reputation for orthopedic rehabilitation. Case closed. I was content with my fate.

Moving to France Healthcare

(Upper left) Nurse and English-speaking Doctor (Upper right) Rehab hospital outside Nimes (Lower left) My physical therapist, Clement, also English/speaking (Lower right) Me in motion

French Healthcare: Cost

It’s day 40 since I have been hospitalized in France due to a hip and shoulder fracture. Except for a bill for the ambulance that transferred me from the Nimes hospital to the rehab hospital outside Nimes, and a bill for compression stockings, I have not been asked to pay for anything.

The costs for the items above were 76 euros ($86.83) and 56 euros ($63.98) respectively. I paid those bills by check. I will be reimbursed by the travel insurance company when I file a claim.

For time spent in the rehab hospital, I will receive a bill when I leave. A friend who inquired about payment for the rehab hospital was told it will cost 197 euros per day ($224). Included in the cost is physical therapy: 1 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

News flash: I have heard I won’t be billed for my time at the hospital in Nimes. Not for the surgery nor the 10 days as an inpatient.

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

Tomorrow I am moving to the rehab hospital in Uzès. My doctor here pulled a few strings to have me transferred. Perhaps she did it because she thought it would be good for me to be closer to home and to my friends. Or, she might have wanted to get rid of me. Draw your own conclusion. Either way, I’m “outta here.”

The plan is for me to stay in Uzès until November 6 when I’ll be taken by ambulance to the hospital in Nimes. If all checks out and my bones are healed, I’ll spend the next 3 to 4 weeks in the Uzès rehab hospital and begin weight-bearing exercises to regain my mobility.

When the doctor releases me, I’ll be able to return to independent living and out-patient rehab.

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..

For More on French Healthcare for Expats Contact Renestance

Moving to France drama

Moving to France: The Drama

Five years ago the Barefoot Blogger started her extraordinary journey to live in France. Remembering some of my early days moving to France, the drama and friends is so much fun. This is one of my favorite blogs 2013 … enjoy!

If “Dancing Queen” from the movie “Mama Mia” came into your mind last Friday, it was me blasting the music from iTunes through my rooftop in France. I was celebrating that my internet connection and phone in the apartment were finally working!

To tell the truth, before then, I was close to a meltdown. My lack of French language skills was about to get the best of me. Imagine trying to place a service call to the cable or telephone company if you can’t communicate. There’s o way to get through an automated phone answering system if you can’t speak French!

The drama

Move to France dramaEveryday I was showing up at my friend Geoffrey’s house with a “Deborah-do” list. He’s the only bi-lingual person I know that I’ve felt comfortable asking ffavors. However, depending on him to deal with my never-ending household issues was getting to be a bit much. Even for me, the “Queen of do-me-a-favor ple..eee…ase.”

So last Thursday morning I stopped by the town’s tourist office to ask about a newcomers group I heard about last summer. The receptionist gave me verbal directions to the newcomers’ office. Wasting no more time, I set out to find it. After a few wrong turn I came to the athletic field mentioned in the directions.  A sign led me to a tiny building inside the fence at the far end of the playing field. The squat, stone structure looked like a baseball dugout shelter; except it had a door at the end closest to me and barred windows on the sides.

The fence gate was open and just inside the gate a dirt path led to the entrance door. When there I turned the worn knob and pushed my weight against the heavy, wooden door.  Expecting to see a reception desk inside, or at least to hear a “bonjour”, I saw only a hallway of closed doors and heard muffled voices coming from behind one of the doors.

Moving to France dramaWalking towards the voices I reached the room that, I hoped, would be full of English-speaking people. Opening the door and sticking my head inside the tiny, dimly lit room, my eyes met the glares from at least a dozen men and women, all sitting around a table. They were probably conducting a very important meeting of some kind, which I rudely interrupted. But surely they would understand. I was on a mission.

I needed someone, anyone, to come to my rescue… to speak English.

Before I was totally into the room, a kind young woman stood up from behind the table to greet me at the door . But by then, I had blurted out “does anyone speak English?”

No one said a word. They just looked at each other, waiting for someone to speak up.

Silence.

“What??” I said to myself. ” No one speaks English? What kind of a “welcome”  group is this?!”

Fortunately, none of that ‘head-talk’ came out of my mouth. Nevertheless, I’m sure every person in the room, from the look on their faces, got the message and said in their own heads: “Ugly American!”

Meanwhile, the nice lady who was standing with me quickly grabbed my hand, pulled me into the hall, and closed the door behind us. With sign language and a few French words that I could understand, she managed to communicate that I should come back the next week for French lessons.

In total despair, I walked home. Right past Geoffrey’s house.

As fate would have it

Friday morning I was surprised to hear my new cellphone ringing. I’d purchased it for calls in France and I couldn’t imagine who would be calling me. It was Geoffrey. He announced he had found the perfect person to help me with my phone and internet problems. His English friend, Andy, could help me out for a few hours — for a small fee.

Eureka! Within a couple of hours of showing up at my apartment, Andy worked miracles. The internet, the landline, the wifi connections … all were up and running. On top of that, the plumber was on his way to find out why I had no hot water, and to turn on the radiators. I had been taking cold showers for five days and the apartment was cold at night. No wonder I was getting hysterical.

While my new best friend had fulfilled his intended mission, he inadvertently informed me he had a van.

A van! A strong, young man with a van! My prayers were answered. Now my ten boxes that were stuck in a warehouse in Marseilles could be rescued !The boxes filled with clothes and household items were shipped from the States in August and had been “held hostage” since early October. I was having a spat with the handling company and customs agent about taxes. (Another story, another time.)

Quick trip to Marseilles

This tale is best told by pictures.

Driving the two hours to Marseilles was no problem. Finding the warehouse where the boxes were stored was another story. Our GPS map didn’t take into consideration there is massive construction work underway around the port in Marseilles.

Moving to France drama

 

At the warehouse everything looked orderly and well-managed. Then my boxes were trucked on a forklift to the door.

Please no! These can’t be mine!

Notice there are no pictures of Andy hauling the boxes up the 55 steps to the tower apartment. I didn’t have the nerve!

Moving to France drama

Home at last!

Moving to France Drama: Stress, yes. But fun along the way

When I look back on my first month living in France, I can easily say the “good times” have outnumbered the “bad”.

Hanging out with Geoffrey almost every day has been an adventure in itself –with enough stories to fill a book. It’s given me a great chance to meet some interesting “characters”. These are not the kind of folks you’d meet at fancy social gatherings. They are the people you’d pass on the street. Luckily I’ve had a chance to get to know them and experience their ways and antics. Here are just a few …

Rugby Reggie

Reggie is from the French Basque country. “I’m Basque” he proudly proclaims in his raspy, deep voice to anyone within listening distance. He lives on the same street as Geoffrey and spends a lot of time on his doorstep. When he’s not teaching the young boys in town how to play rugby. Reggie (shown on the right) and his good friend Matthew gave me permission to use their names and pictures in the blog. I told them they could say “Hi” to the many women who like to read about life in France.

The day this picture was taken Reggie and Matthew moved a mural and wrought iron patio set  I bought from Geoffrey from his house to my apartment. Little did they know that, aside from carrying the mural and patio set through the streets of Uzes, with no vehicle, they’d also have to climb the 55 steps to my “tower” apartment.

The part that no one knew was that the mural was too big to come up the winding tower steps.Did that stop Reggie the Basque? Of course not! With a stroke of shear genius, Reggie figured out how to hoist the mural up the side of the tower wall and maneuver it sideways into the upper window of the apartment. Voila!

Michel and Nicholas come for dinner

Perhaps the two most delightful characters I’ve met in Uzès are Michel and Nicholas. Both were invited, along with me and Geoffrey’s girlfriend Nandine, to have dinner with Geoffrey on a Sunday afternoon.

Geoffrey prepared a special French meal for us with the Mont d’ Or cheese I bought at the Saturday market.  “Mont d’ Or” means “mountain of gold” in English. It tastes like honey from heaven.  The cheese comes in a round bamboo container with a paper lid. To prepare Mont d’ Or you remove the box lid and stuff two or three cloves of garlic deep down into the middle of the cheese. Wrap the container in aluminum foil and bake the cheese for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is nicely melted.

Geoffrey served the Mont d’ Or with boiled potatoes, a salad with vinagrette dressing and fresh baguettes. For dessert we had formage blanc with rum raisin sauce, sprinkled with roasted almonds.

It’s hard to decide if the meal that Sunday, or the company, was more entertaining. Geoffrey’s friend Michel is quiet and introspective. Nicholas is rowdy and comical. Most of the conversation around the table was in French. Nevertheless, I could understand a lot that was said from the occasional French words I know and from the animated facial expressions and laughter.

Who wouldn’t have fun with guys like these?

(RIP Nicolas – 2018 – We miss you)

Stay tuned. More friends to meet. 

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Wish for France

Visit France? Make a Wish

The holidays are the perfect time to make a wish. 

Wish for France

If you could visit anywhere in France, where would it be?

 

Wish for France

Let’s have some fun and see where Barefoot Blogger friends wish they could go in France. Send a photo of any place in France you dream of seeing. Who knows? By showing off your French dream destination to others, your wish might come true!

Send photos by January 5, 2019 to be published on the “Wish for France” blog post. Photos will be published with your name unless you say “no name.”

If you’re on Facebook, post your photo here on Barefoot Blogger

On Twitter, post you photo here on Deborah@bfblogger

On Instagram, post your photo on BarefootBlogger_france

Or email your photo to deborah@bfblogger.com

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL!!

 

 

very best christmas markets in France

The Very Best Christmas Markets in France

This time last year I was enjoying all that Alsace has to offer for the holiday. Over the next few weeks the Barefoot Blogger will be publishing glimpses of Strasbourg, Colmar, Equisheim, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Ribeauville on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. Please stop by for your holiday cheer!

You may only have one time in your life to experience the “best” Christmas markets in France. Join me as I revisit Alsace…

Continue reading “The Very Best Christmas Markets in France”

Memories Tour Day 12: A Wine Harvest Finale

How do you cap off an unforgettable twelve day tour of the South of France? By taking part in a wine harvest done the old fashion way, of course.

To make the day extra special, Nick Martin of A Wine Affair arranged for the “sensational sixteen” to visit a fifteenth century Mas and vineyard to experience grape picking and stomping.

Patricia Sands, author and tour leader, tells about the final day which ends with a spectacular dinner party in Arles.

And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had.  This was a dream come true (Click here to read more)

Memories Tour Finale

Memories Tour Day 11, Part 2

After a busy morning at Pont du Gard and the quaint pottery town of San Quentin de Poterie, the gals on the South of France Memories You Promised Yourself tour excitedly landed in Uzés.

As you can imagine, I talked about Uzés constantly before I unexpectedly ended my time on the tour. So everyone was geared up to see just what made the place so special. Apparently, they weren’t disappointed.

Let’s read on with Patricia Sands, author and tour leader extraodinaire, and learn about the places the “sensational sixteen” enjoyed in my new hometown, Uzés.

After our visit to breathtaking Pont du Gard and charming Saint-Quentin-la-Potèrie, our intrepid travellers continued a short distance down the road to the town of Uzès….” (Click here to continue.)

Memories Tour Uzés

Provencal lifestyle

Big Life Changes Ahead? Consider A Provençal Lifestyle

What does the Barefoot Blogger think about the Provençal lifestyle after moving to the south of France?

Perfectly Provence‘s Carolyne Kause-Abbott asked questions you’ll want answered if you’re considering a big change in your life after retirement. 

Choosing the Provencal Lifestyle to Embark on a Retirement Adventure

Deborah Bine spent her childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina dreaming of “faraway places” (her words). Her early travels included visiting her Aunt Rose in exhilarating Manhattan. “Aunt Rose owned New York — or so this sixteen-year-old ingénue from the Carolinas assumed.” On this voyage, Deborah learned some travel lessons that she continues to follow today:

#1 Take a guided tour of the new place you’re visiting (ideally the first day).
#2 Wear comfortable shoes
#3 Life is an adventure

Since those early days in New York City, Deborah’s thirst for travel has taken her to Asia, West Africa, Central America and well beyond. Newly retired from her corporate marketing job and recently divorced, Deborah followed a dream and moved from South Carolina to Uzès in France.

Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure

The Barefoot Blogger is Deborah’s blog, which she launched as the reservoir for her travel stories. The blog posts are records of her approach to life and adventure as a solo, female traveller – a dose of humour, a quest for discovery and mostly lots of fun.

We asked The Barefoot Blogger to answer some questions related to the lifestyle in Provence and her experiences as an expat living in the South of France.


What is Provençal Lifestyle?

How would you describe the lifestyle in Provence to someone who has not visited?

To me the lifestyle in Provence is like life was in the 1940’s and 50’s, or as it was portrayed in movies and images. In the small towns and villages of Provence, shopkeepers know you by name. You can walk to most of the places you want to go. People are generally friendly and smiling. No one seems to be in a particular hurry, unless you’re driving on the roads. That’s an entirely different experience anywhere in France!

When you think of Provence what are the words that pop into your head?

History, flowers, wine, olives, and blue skies.

To some degree, Provence lives on its clichés in photos – scenes of lavender, sunflower fields, and boules players. Is this your Provence?

Yes, the clichés work for me, but, of course, Provence is so much more than cliché. Most important is the fact that Provence changes with the weather. Summers in Provence are busy, bustling with tourists and holiday vacationers who fill the cafes and markets. There’s a constant buzz of noise and activities.

During Autumn and Spring, the rhythm of life in Provence is calmer, cooler and less frantic. Everyone and everything slows down to a pleasant pace so you can enjoy the beauty of the villages and the countryside.

Provence Autumn Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

In Winter Provence is asleep. It’s a peaceful time of year that’s perfect for cocooning, for taking stock of your life and for planning your year ahead. Only a few of the cafes and shops are open during winter, and that’s OK. The atmosphere is warm there and oh, so French. It’s like a scene from an old French movie.

What does Mediterranean climate mean to you?

Mediterranean climate means “warm” to me. I’m from the southern part of the United States, so the weather in Provence is much like it is back in the Carolinas. It’s hot in the Summer and not too cold in the Winter. It rarely, if ever, snows. The most significant difference in the weather to me is the wind. Le Mistral is ferocious and seems to last for days if not for months.

What is your favourite season in Provence?

My favourite season in Provence is Autumn. There’s something unique about the colours of Autumn here. Perhaps it’s the way the shades of brown, beige and yellow meld into the stonework of the houses and buildings. When the leaves of grape vines are turning red and gold, it’s magical to drive through the countryside where vineyards stretch out as far as you can see along the roadway.

What is your favourite activity in Provence?

I love to go to Sète in the Summer, to eat all the seafood I can possibly hold, and sit under an umbrella at the beach — attended to by handsome and lovely young bar staffers who are serving icy, tall drinks, of course!

Sète Seashore Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

When you first return to Provence what aroma “says” I have arrived?

I know when I’m back in Provence when I smell the fresh, clean air. There’s no pollution where I live in France because there are no large industries, only a candy factory – Haribo. Highways are far away, and streets are mostly one-way with speed limits of 30 kph. So, no smelly gas fumes. Vineyards and olive groves surround the old town of Uzès.

When you leave Provence what is the thing you miss the most and wish you could take with you?

When I’ve gone back to the States to visit family in the past, I’ve tried to take some of my favourite foods from France with me – tapenades, truffle oil, sea salts and the like. For some reason, the things I love in France don’t transfer to my life outside France.

When you hear or see the term “Provence-style” what is your first thought?

The term “Provence-style” stirs thoughts of brightly colored things in my mind – bright yellows and reds, blue shutters on stone houses and rows of stately white and green plane trees.

Provence and the Cote d’Azur appear to evoke a decorative (home decor, restaurants, hotels) style – how might you describe this trend?

To me, Provence decorative style is ageless. The decorations and colour scheme of a simple farmhouse can easily adapt to the living spaces of a country estate or the veranda of a seaside resort.

Antibes Doors Windows

What about fashion style in Provence?

I never realised how much my fashion style has changed since moving to France until I posted photos of myself and friends say I look “so French.” To me, my style here is simply practical and suits the climate and my activities. Yes, I do wear lots of skirts and slippers instead of jeans and sneakers, but that may have more to do with my age than a fashion statement. Hats are a “must” nearly year-round. Read French Fashion: Bobo Style.

BFBlogger Bobo Fashion

The Provence that many imagine today is relatively “new” thanks to the likes of Peter Mayle and others. What is “Authentic Provence” to you?

If I could label anything or anyplace in Provence as “authentic,” it would be Arles. The tiny town with its Roman arena and amphitheatre, the shops with brightly decorated linens and gift items, the outdoor cafes, the festivals, the food – it’s all so Provençal. To me, Arles seems the way it has always been and how Provence is meant to be.

Arles Roman Arena Explore Provence @PerfProvence

Food in Provence

Life in Provence seems to revolve to a degree around food. How would you describe the food in the region to someone who has not visited?

The foods of Provence are influenced by geography and by the cultures of its bordering countries. From one end of Provence to the other you see, experience and taste foods that originated in Spain or Italy. The diet is influenced by the Mediterranean, featuring fish, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables, goat and sheep cheeses and lots of olives and olive oil.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

What are your favourite things to eat in Provence?

I could eat fish every day. The easy access to fresh fish, along with local, seasonal produce, makes me love to dine and cook in Provence.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

Is there a food or ingredient that you wish you could find outside of Provence?

I crave anchovy tapenade! There’s nothing like a dollop of “tapenade d’anchois” on a thin cracker and a “verre de vin rosé.”

Expat Living in Provence

How important do you feel it is to have a decent level of French comprehension and speaking skills in Provence?

Those who follow the Barefoot Blogger know that I have a love/hate relationship with learning the French language. I know how important it is to be able to communicate in the language of the place I live. However, I continuously resist the discipline that comes with learning the language. Fortunately, I’ve been here long enough now that a bit of the language is rubbing off on me. I can hold my own ordering food in a restaurant and, with the help of sign language, I can pretty much make myself understood when I need to.

What resources might you recommend to others to improve their language skills?

I discovered the audio tapes of Michel Thomas this year through a friend. Thomas’s approach to teaching and learning French is unique. It speaks to me. Now I’m hoping to get the nerve to enrol in a French immersion class.

What resources might you recommend to expats and those considering a move to Provence?

There are lots of blogs written by expats like myself who have gone through the experience of moving to France. Check them out. Don’t hesitate to write the author for suggestions and information. When you relocate to France (or anywhere), be open to your new home and environment. Don’t try to make it like the place you left. Embrace the new, enjoy the differences and get out and travel as much and as often as you can.

Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.

Behind French Garden Walls

Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

Autumn Week South of France

An Autumn Week South of France

How do you spend an autumn week in the south of France? Visiting beaux villages; going to brocante stores and outdoor markets; dining with friends and eating great food. That’s how!

Have I told you lately how much I love France? After spending a few stressful months in the States, I was really looking forward to returning to France. Most of all, I was yearning to be here because autumn is my favorite season of the year. There’s something about autumn that makes France look more beautiful to me. I’m sure it’s the colors. The browns and beige, golds and burnt orange. They trim every tree and grapevine. They blend with aged stones on buildings and ancient streets.  Crystal blue skies highlight the outlines of steeples and towers. It’s truly a glorious time.

Favorite things on an autumn week south of France

“Brocanting”

This past week I did some of my favorite things, including browsing through brocante stores and markets. A great find at an out-of-the-way store in Uzes was discovering a panetiere — a decorative “breadbox” introduced in the 18th century in the south of France to keep bread safe from children and pets. I sadly admit, I left it behind. Remember, I’m done with collecting “stuff”!

Just as interesting but less compelling were the old wheelchairs. Apparently they were not freewheeling. It took two people to operate one of these ancient chairs.  One pushed from behind while the person in the chair steered.

Wining and dining with friends while eating some of the best ever foods.

Exploring towns and villages

I’ve promised myself that I will try to visit as many of the designated Beaux Villages de France. There are hundreds of them, but if I start now ….

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Then there are the unrenowned villages next door that are just as charming …

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Favorite things to do on an autumn week south of France 

Discovering hidden Roman ruins

Just outside Uzes the remains of a Roman bridge still stands. The two thousand-year old structure spans the creek bed between two large fields. Wear from wagon wheels dragging heavy loads across the bridge are a reminder of early civilizations that lived and toiled on this very spot.

 

Checking out seasonal foods and merchandise at the Uzes Saturday Market — yes, that’s a must!

But the very best thing about autumn in France is being in my little tower apartment. Just me, the white pottery cat and a mouse.

 

More on autumn in the south of France:

The Cevennes: Saint Jean du Gard

7 Great Ideas for An Awesome Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

Halloween Train to the Cevennes

 

French Thermal spa

Visiting A French Thermal Spa

While”lounging” at a rehab hospital in France, I’m reminiscing this time last year. I was beginning a voluntary stay in a totally different part of the French health care system: a French thermal spa.

Since moving to France I have met some very interesting people. Few are more entertaining than Nevenka. Serbian by birth, she has lived and traveled all over Europe, Asia and the US. She speaks five languages fluently. I was introduced to Nevenka at a “Hen Party.” For those who have never heard of such, a Hen Party is a bridal shower. Nevenka arrived at the Hen Party like the diva she is. Full of life and style, she made her grand entrance with a flourish and a song.

When Nevenka suggested I accompany her on a visit to Saint-Paul-Les-Dax for a week of relaxation and a “cure,” I couldn’t possibly turn her down. The trip would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, for sure. Certainly a story for the blog.

French Thermal spa

A Tour and a French Thermal Spa

To ready myself for the tour and the cure, I had to learn something about why the French Thermal spa is so popular.

Saint-Paul-Le-Dax and it’s neighboring city, Dax, have fifteen thermal spas and a thermal hospital where 60,000 spa therapy patients visit each year. The spa resorts specialize in rheumatology, phlebology and fibromyalgia. Chemical vapors in the water help relieve asthma.

The Romans were first to discover the restorative benefits of the local water and silt from the Adour river that flows through Dax. The city’s early name was “Aquarius Augustae” in honor of Julia Augustae who sought cures here during her father Emperor Augustus’ reign.Thermal spas have natural, warm (64 degrees centigrade) spring waters, mineral waters or clays.

French Thermal spa

“Fontaine Chaude” (Hot Spring Fountain), is surrounded by a Romanesque wall, with constant running warm water of 64°

It took centuries for the Dax area to claim its premier spa therapy status. The emergence of the railways in the nineteenth century brought masses of patients to the cities in the Landes area of France. In the 1950s medical thermal spas and therapies began being funded by the state.

French thermal spa experience: The trip to the cure

Our journey to Saint-Paul-Les-Dax started mid morning when I arrived and parked my car at Nevenka’s home. When I saw the stuff she’d pack in the back of her SUV, I knew this was no ordinary road trip. In addition to a Nespresso and special lights for the hotel apartment we would share, there was champagne, a box of wine and “gourmet” sandwiches.
French Thermal spa
With her customary flair, Nevenka arranged for us to stop overnight along the six-hour route through the Pyrenees in Villeneuve-Vilde-Rivière. L’hostellerie des Cédres to be exact, the seventeenth country home of Françoise Athénaïs de Rochechouart de Mortemart, Marquise of Montespan, better known as Madame de Montespan.

Madame de Montespan was the mistress of King Louis XIV of France. She bore him seven children and she was considered by many to be the “real” queen of France. Born into one of the noblest house in France, Madame de Montespan appeared in Louis’ life when she danced with him at a palace ball hosted by King Louie’s brother, Phillippe I. Her downfall came because of her involvement in the Affaire des Poisons. Claims against her ranged from murder to worse, perhaps because of Louis’ new affair with another beauty.

Never tried for her alleged transgressions, Madame de Montespan retired to a convent, given a pension of a half-million francs by the King. Before her death she was respected as a benefactress to the arts, befriending the likes Corneille, Racine and La Fontaine.

French thermal spa experience: Dinner fit for two Queens

French Thermal Spa Experience: Next stop

Saint-Bertrand-des-Comminges: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) Association

Aix-en-Provence in One Day

It’s surprising to me that when people come to Provence their tours are often so short. Traveling from the Côte d’ Azur to Marseilles, to Aix-en-Provence, to Montpelier, to St. Rémy, to the Luberon, to Avignon, and all the quaint villages in between is a pretty tall order.

One destination that seems to be on everyone’s travel list is Aix-en-Provence. Simply known as “Aix,” the city has a bit of everything that makes Provence special: history, art, amazing architecture and charming Provençal markets.

Aix in one day

What if you had only one day in Aix-en-Provence? That was our challenge when planning this year’s South of France Memories Tour.

Aix in One Day: The Market

Market days in Aix-en-Provence are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Our Memories Tour visited Aix on a Saturday. The market, as expected, was packed. Fortunately, the wide avenue that cuts through Aix, Le Cours Mirabeau, easily accommodates large crowds of tourists, vendors and traffic. It’s seen more than its share since the seventeenth century road was built where the medieval ramparts once lay.

Aix in one day

Food markets, flower stalls and vendors with traditional and new Provençal merchandise filled popular downtown streets and plazas.

Aix in one day

The day we visited, the area was more congested than usual due to road construction. Torn up streets are not uncommon in cities with a growing population like Aix. Whenever roads are ripped up for repair or expansion, often ancient ruins are unearthed. All construction work stops until special teams of archeologists come in to access the findings. After all, a Roman city once stood and prospered here two thousand years ago.

Aix in One Day: Cézanne

Aix in one day

A “must” for a one day visit to Aix-en-Provence is a stroll through town along the footsteps of Cézanne. Square metal medallions literally mark the way.

A two-hour tour along the marked path with our brilliant guide Jennifer gave us an overview of the life of Paul Cézanne: the places he frequented around town: his father’s millinery store, his favorite cafe; and the neighborhood where he lived.

Aix in one day

Cézanne’s work spanned more than forty years, from roughly 1860 to 1906. He produced more than 900 paintings and 400 watercolors, some which were never finished.

Picasso said of Cézanne, “he’s the father of us all.

Interestingly, there are only a few of Cézanne’s art works in Aix. Or anywhere else in France for that matter. Cézanne was rejected personally and artistically by the art communities in Paris and in Aix. Towards the end of his life he was “discovered” by the Germans and Americans. Most of his work can be found in the great museums and galleries in those countries.

Aix in one day

Obsessed with Montagne Sainte-Victoire. Cézanne painted the mountain near Aix more than eighty times.

Cézanne is said to have inspired cubism.

Aix in one day

Two hours is hardly enough to explore all the life of Cézanne in Aix, but it was a start. Another day, another reason to visit …

Aix in One Day: Tourist Train

As the Barefoot Blogger suggests for first-time visits to a city, a hop-on-hop-off bus or tour train is a great way to get an overview.

It’s an especially good idea in Aix where landmarks can be obscure and far away from each other.

Aix in one day

During our one day visit to Aix, Memories Tour co-leader Patricia Sands and I carved out time to do what we love most: shop, eat and drink! I must come back, indeed.

Aix in one day

South of France Memories Tour 2018

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

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

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

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

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

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

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

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

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

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

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

Memories Tour Interrupted

 

 

 

Aix in one day

Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

The “South of France Memories You Promised Yourself” tour kicked off yesterday with ladies from the US, Canada and Australia arriving in Nice for 12 days of fun and adventure. Join us for Day 2…

Around and About Nice

Vieux Nice

Patricia and I, along with our wide-eyed tour guests, were up early to meet our guide Stephanie. Today’s itinerary: around and about Nice.

Around and about Nice

The colorful old town (Vieux Nice welcomed us with its bright flower and food market and its baroque architecture.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Everyday business was going on in the streets, mixed with historic monuments and landmarks that told of the city’s rich past.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and About Nice

Hop on Hop Off

A tour on an open-air bus that runs daily through Nice was the perfect way to see the highs and lows of the city. The two-hour ride took us through the town, along the sea, then up to the summit of Villefranche-sur-Mer where the views were spectacular.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and About Nice

Afternoon Delight

Where do eighteen lovely ladies go to spend the late afternoon in Nice? The Negresco, of course!

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

A pedicab back to the hotel for some…

Around and about Nice

A walk along the promenade for others.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Then a dinner fit for queens, topped off with the most wonderful tarte tartine.

Around and about Nice

Stay tuned… Bonne Nuit♥️🇫🇷

South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2018 with Patricia Sands and the Barefoot Blogger  September 10-22

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

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

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

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

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

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

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

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

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

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

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

Memories Tour Interrupted

 

Farmers' Market

Village Scenes in Uzes: The Green Grocer

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

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

Hometown Green Grocer

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

hometown green grocer.

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

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

Hometown Green Grocer

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

Frankly, they’re all good!

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

Hometown Green Grocer

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

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


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Seafoods of Sete, France

Eating Your Way Through Sete, France

There are few things I enjoy more than eating seafood. A Sete gourmet tour introduced me to a whole lot more favorites.

I was brought up going to a fish camp on the Catawba River, just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, where you could have all the fried fish, tiny Calabash shrimp, and hush puppies you could eat. It was later in life that I learned fish doesn’t always have to be dipped in batter and fried in oil to be delicious.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Probably my best lessons on fish varieties, flavors and textures came from living in the Philippines during my ex’s work assignment in the 1970’s. I could devour a whole fish — head, tail, fins and all. In fact I was told I eat fish like a “Philippina”. Nothing’s left but the bones.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Discovering Sete has been like striking gold. It’s a seafood paradise. From anchovies to oysters, from sea snails to mussels, clams and shrimp. They have it all.

To find out about seafood from the Mediterranean and other regional foods, I joined a gourmet tour by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. Nancy’s lived in Sete over 30 years, so she knows the best local foods and vendors. She’s also very socially active, so she knows what’s in vogue in this part of France.

Here’s a glimpse of the foods we sampled on the tour and the vendors we met.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Lou Pastrou Cheeses – Lou Pastrou cheeses are extraordinary. Perhaps he wears a physician’s coat because they are so special. The house favorite is Roquefort which is truly one of the best cheeses I’ve ever eaten. In addition to the sharp and tangy Roquefort flavor, the cheese’s texture is velvety and creamy. It literally melts in your mouth.We learned a few interesting facts about Roquefort and cheese etiquette. First, Roquefort is pronounced “rock”fort. Second, only cheese from Roquefort can be called by that name. It’s just like calling sparkling wine “champagne” if it’s not from the Champagne district of France. It’s simply not done. Furthermore, it’s illegal.Sete Gourmet Tour

Sete Gourmet TourCheese etiquette is very important in France. When you are served a slice of cheese on a platter to share, never serve yourself the tip end of the slice. That’s the best part of the piece and you’ll offend the other guests. Likewise, don’t cut a piece along the edge. That’s the worse part of the cheese slice because it has the rind, or other curing ingredients — like salt — and you’ll be disappointed. Instead, cut several diagonal sections (start at the front edge and cut towards the center) then take one piece for yourself.

The unusual cheese cutter displayed at the shop has an interesting history. Sete Gourmet TourCutters like this were used in monasteries by monks who were discouraged from taking large slices of cheese for themselves because they were “not worthy.” The slicer is used for a particular variety of hard cheese — like Parmesan– and the cutter blade sweeps in a circle slicing a finely shaved piece of cheese.

Demoiselles Dupuy Restaurant serves oysters to die for! I’ve eaten a lot of oysters in my life because I seek them out whenever I travel. The oysters here are the best ever. They are large, tender and salty. They come directly to the table from the Etang de Tau, an oyster farm district just outside Sete. The restaurant owner who also owns his oyster beds, frowns at the suggestion of putting lemon or their special variety of vinegar on the oysters. Don’t even think about asking for cocktail sauce or Tabasco. Just ease the edges around oyster with a tiny fork to separate it from the shell, then slurp it down. Yum!!

Sete Gourmet Tour Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern French[/caption]

We were told it is better to serve white wine with cheese, not red wine. According to this wine expert, the tannins in red wine react unfavorably with cheese, altering the taste. When serving an assortment of cheeses, a variety of white wines are needed. Hosts who prefer to serve only one type of white wine need to make their choice of cheese families accordingly.

Not knowing a great deal about cheese or wine, I was glad to have some guidance on pairings, especially because serving cheese courses is becoming so popular. I was also interested to learn that this region of France is the country’s largest producer of wines. While the wines are not as famous or expensive as varieties from other areas, their importance and popularity is catching on.

The French owe a debt of gratitude to Languedoc for rescuing the wine industry in the late 1800’s. After a severe blight wiped out over 40% of the vineyards and grapes in the country, American-grafted vines were planted in Languedoc because of the fast growing season near the Mediterranean. When the vines were replanted in other regions, the country’s wine business was saved.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Here’s just a sample of some of the seafood specialties in Sete.

For your walking tour of Sete, contact Nancy McGee at Absolutely Southern France

More information about Sete? Contact the Tourist Office

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It’s St. Louis Festival in Sete. Time for Water Jousting!

It’s time for the St. Louis Festival in Sete. Gee, I hate to miss it this year. It’s always so  much fun: beach time, parties and the Sete water jousting competitions.

I’m in the States with family. Why now?  After four years in France, I’ve learned that August is a good time to leave — it’s hot and too many tourists in Uzés! Yet …

Sete water jousting

Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

If you’re not familiar with water jousting, it started centuries ago. Most notably in Egypt and Greece. Evidence of the competitions was found in stone carvings. The Romans were known to enjoy the sport. In lieu of water, they sometimes flooded the city arenas they used for people sports like gladiator fights.

Water jousting, or “joutes nautiques” began  in Lyon, France in the 12th century. In the 13th century, crusaders embarking on the Holy Wars with King Louis IX (Saint Louis) teamed up against each other in small boats outside Aigue-Mortes.

In Sete water jousting was first seen when the city celebrated the opening of harbor in 1666. Today the sport has become a tradition and is played pretty much the same.

Sete Water Jousting

The first time I saw the sport of water jousting was on a visit with Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. It just happened to be the St. Louis Festival. After that, I intentionally planned my visits to Sete for the late August wild and crazy weekend.

Some of you might remember one of the St. Louis Festival trips to Sete. I met the Bad Girls Groove Band of London for the first time. They rocked the main stage at the festival’s award ceremony.

Then there was the time when I was up close and personal with the winner of the week’s event.

Sete water jousting

Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy”

Sete Water Jousting

By far the most exciting St. Louis Festival celebration for me was when the Sete Tourist Office invited me to attend the finals as a member of the “press.” Events included parties at the tourist office for jousting club members and special guests. And yes! Specialties from Sete like mini tielles and oysters were front and center.

Meanwhile at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) local members of the town administration and the jousting federation, in all their festive regalia, readied themselves to meet the crowd.

Yes, there was a party going on! Town square was mobbed with entertainers, jousters and fans.

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When time came for the championship match, the press crew marched alongside the dignitaries to the canal for the grand finale.

The Barefoot Blogger was in the parade! Yahoo! If that wasn’t enough, the press members were invited to jump in a boat and try their luck at jousting!

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting

A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

Yes, I’m missing the St. Louis Festival and a whole lot more. Where else can you run into this? Water jousting in Sete. Love it!

St. Louis Festival 2018 August 23-28, 2018

For a closer look at the tradition of water jousting in Sete, here’s a video from Culture Trip. Be sure to watch it in full. It’s a wonderful story about a family and their passion for jousting that’s passed from one generation to the next. 

 

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