Tag: expats

Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 2

I fell while crossing the street in Aigues-Mortes, France on September 18. I broke my hip and shoulder on the right side. Since then, I’ve sampled how healthcare is delivered, French-style. (Why You Should Care About Healthcare This Election: Part 1)

As crazy as it might seem, several years ago in the US I experienced an almost identical injury to the one in France. Except it was on my left side. This post is about my US healthcare experience.

The accident eight years ago happened in my home in South Carolina. I had just separated from my husband of 40 years, so I was alone. As I had been warned not to do many times during my marriage, I was standing on top of the kitchen counter. I fell off.

“Why was I standing on the kitchen counter? ” you ask. My most popular answer is “pole dancing.” Believe as you will.

When I fell from the countertop onto the tile floor in the kitchen, I landed on my left side. Immediately I knew I was in trouble. My left leg was crooked at a 45 degree angle. My left arm was killing me. I was nauseous.

There was no one around except my labradoodle, Bentley, so I had to find my cellphone to call for help.

But where was the phone?

In my foggy state, I remembered I had last used the cellphone in the living room. I dragged myself on the floor to find it. Fortunately it was where I thought I’d left it. I called my sister-in-law who was in the same town.

The next thing I remember, a strange man was kneeling over me calling my name. I had passed out. The man was an EMT. With the aide of another EMT, he lifted me onto what felt like a board. My leg was still bent. I was in excruciating pain.

When we arrived at the hospital emergency room, my brother, sister-in-law and my ex-husband were there. They took care of the details of admitting me to the emergency room while I was wheeled into a “holding area.”

As I remember, it was close to 9pm when I entered the emergency room of the hospital. After X-rays and the sad discovery that I had broken both my hip and my arm, I was put into my private room.. It was after 4am. Apparently the hospital had a problem locating the doctor. Without his approval, they could not admit me.

Fortunately, I was loaded with meds, so I was in and out of consciousness. I remember vividly, however, when they put me in the hospital bed and forced my leg down straight with a pulley and weights. That hurt big time.

US Healthcare: Surgery and Post Op

My hip was operated on the second day I was in the hospital. Three pins were inserted through a very small incision to hold the break in the hip. No surgery was needed for the broken bone in my arm. Just a bandage.

Five days after I was admitted, I was discharged from the hospital.

US Healthcare: Rehab

Anytime I’ve been hospitalized for surgery in the US, I’ve been asked “is there anyone at home who can take care of you?” Don’t ask me why no one mentions a stop at a rehabilitation hospital.

In fact, I know of only one person who has gone from a hospital to an inpatient rehab facility. It was my daughter-in-law after spinal surgery. It’s been my experience that you find somebody to take care of you after you leave the hospital.

Miss Rosie’s Rehab

That “somebody” for me was Rosemary. We’re like sisters. We were in journalism school together at UNC-Chapel Hill; we were in each others’ wedding; and we lived together in Greenville, SC for our first jobs out of university. At the time of my accident Rosemary was single. She lived on a farm with horses, donkeys, 3 dogs and 20+ cats.

My us healthcare

Four-legged friends at Miss Rosey’s: Ester and her son, Firecracker

After my discharge from the hospital, no one talked about hiring an ambulance to take me home. Rosemary hauled me there in the backseat of her car. I’m not sure how we managed to fit my 5’9″ broken body in the car, but we did it. Family members met us at my condo and put me into my bed. I could bear no weight on my left leg nor use my arm. I was fragile and I was in a great deal of pain. Mind you, I had broken the femoral arm of my hip into two pieces only five days earlier.

Patient Care

Rosemary was with me through one of the most horrifically painful times in my life. We stayed most of the time at her farm in North Carolina. Neither of us knew anything about tending a patient after surgery.

My US Healthcare

View at Miss Rosey’s Rehab

Through trial and error we discovered “tricks” to help us deal with the adversities of my lame condition and pain. For example, “how to move a lame patient in the bed.”

I’d experienced being pulled on a sheet from the stretcher to the x-Ray table at the hospital. At the time I remember asking the two female X-ray technicians, “how do you two manage to move a large man?

The same way,” they said.

So Rosemary kept a doubled sheet under me at all times on the bed. When I needed to get out of bed, she’d pull the two corners of the doubled sheet towards the side of the bed. Laying flat, my body would slide with the movement of the sheet to the edge of the mattress. Then, ever so slowly and gently, I’d sit up.

We used this routine day and night. Especially when I needed the toilet. It never dawned on us to use a bedpan.

For over six weeks I moved from place to place at Miss Rosie’s with a walker. On one foot, with a broken arm. I was pretty much a prisoner in her guest room and kitchen. The floor plan of the house was multi-level.

One day we had the bright idea to use a kitchen stool to help me get to her deck outside. I sat on the stool in the kitchen. Then I swiveled my body around to face the kitchen door and the deck that was one step down. Rosemary took my walker onto the deck, and Voila! I stepped off the stool on my one good leg, grabbed the walker and I was outside in the fresh air.

US Healthcare: Physical Therapy

When I felt ok to be on my own, I left “Miss Rosey’s Rehab” and returned to South Carolina. I had to go back to work. Fortunately I telecommuted from home with IBM, so there was no “going to the office.”

I began a twice weekly regimen of physical therapy. My health insurance with IBM allowed for 8 weeks. After 6 weeks I had to stop. The pins in my hip were causing a problem. I waited until they were removed a month later to resume my treatment. Fortunately, IBM insurance paid for another 6 weeks of physical therapy.

The good news is that the physical therapy experience was excellent. I regained mobility and strength nearly one hundred percent.

US Healthcare: Costs

I wish I could recall the hospital and surgery cost but it was eight years ago. I don’t remember how much I was paying for health insurance, either. I do know, however, that I wasn’t on Medicare; I was covered by an employee policy provided by IBM; and I paid monthly for a supplemental insurance policy. Bottom line, I was well-covered.

That means nothing now. With the cost of healthcare in the US today, whatever it cost in 2010 wouldn’t be relevant today.

Which is why I’m writing this post.

I’m writing this post because I think it’s important to let others know about healthcare outside of the US. As difficult as it is to believe, the US no longer has the best healthcare. (See below.)

Think of your own experience in the US with hip surgery, back surgery, or any other condition where you required extended care. Compare it to what you read about my healthcare in France.

FACT

Over 28 Million Americans have no healthcare insurance.

Just the other day, I called a dear friend in the US who had expressed concern that I was staying in France after my accident. The first thing she told me when I called was that her son had been in an automobile accident. He was in the hospital with a crushed ankle, a broken leg and a broken wrist. After telling me about the car crash, we celebrated the fact that he had survived.

Then she revealed a horrible truth. Her son had no medical insurance. His policy had lapsed. A sad mistake too many of us make when have busy lives.

As a result, my friend’s son was leaving the hospital after five days and two surgeries. He was going home to avoid the continuing hospital costs. He was barely conscious because of the massive doses of medication he needed for pain. He had a metal rod visibly running through his foot.

A third surgery is scheduled in two weeks. He’ll go to the hospital, then back home after surgery. There’s not a trained medical person to stay with him during those days he’ll require intensive care and pain management. The entire family will need to chip in with time off work as they can.

US Healthcare: 3 Reasons We Deserve Better

#1 Worst Healthcare in the Developed World

The state of healthcare in the US is alarming. Once a leader, US Healthcare is Ranked the Worst in the Developed World.My us healthcare

#2 Cost is Prohibitive

The cost of healthcare is prohibitive for many, especially those without insurance or with poor coverage,

My us healthcare

#3 Healthcare Costs are Bankrupting America

Healthcare is the #1 cause of bankruptcy in the US today.

My us healthcareI read a statement recently that I can’t get out of my head. A young girl who was returning home to France after two years in the US as an au pair was asked:

“Would you like to stay in the US?”

To the surprise of the interviewer, she replied “No,” and continued, “the US doesn’t take care of its people.”

My us health care

Vote!

French Healthcare for Expats?

Renestance, an American-staffed relocation company in Montpelier, has produced an excellent series of ebooks on Healthcare in France. Check out their website for all types of guidance for expats.

Les Mardis Nocturnes D’Uzes

There’s a party going on every Tuesday night, right under my window. Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes. I’m not complaining. It’s vendors with jewelry, leather goods, wine and, of course, there are musicians.

Nothing compares with the Saturday or Wednesday markets  in Uzes. Yet these Tuesday events, clearly for tourists, have the added attraction of a nighttime ambiance in the Place des Duche.

Tuesday market at the Place de Duche, Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Zumba in Uzes

The event runs from 6-11pm and starts off with Zumba.The Zumba sessions are led by a local class and visitors are welcome to join in.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Soon the marketplace is busy with people.  By night it’s loud and filled with music and happy sounds.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

Later, musicians take center stage at the Mairie (town hall).

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Candy and nougat

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Jewelry vendors with handmade necklaces, bracelets and more

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepes made on the spot

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepe making with either Nutella or the buttery sugar variety are favorites.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Silver jewelers add initials to bracelets and necklaces

 

 

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Balloons are for kids here in France, too.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Dogs are well-behaved

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes Handmade head dresses are modeled by beautiful young women.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

 

No matter how I try to stay in on Tuesday nights, I just can’t miss  Les Mardes Nocturnes D’Uzes. Who could blame me?

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Scarves on sale blow in the summer night’s breeze.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Ruins of the city walls look over Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

For more about Uzès visit here

2014-07-27 22.11.10

“The Golden Girls” Loving Italy: Day 16-20 Nova Siri

Ever heard of Nova Siri?  Neither had I until the Golden Girls’ adventure took me to the coastal resort town in the “instep” of  Italy’s boot.

Visit Nova Siri

After 15 days of jumping from place to place in France and Italy, the Golden Girls were ready for a little rest and relaxation. As par for this journey, we picked a spot on the map because it was there and headed to Nova Siri, Italy to spend time unwinding on a beach. 

One of the Golden Girls is a double crystal, diamond-crusted, ruby slipper, 24-karat gold medallion member of a worldwide timeshare group. She suggested we try out the four-star timeshare beach resort in Nova Siri. It wasn’t her first choice, but every other place we looked was booked solid.

She had never traveled to Europe and she was so excited about finding a timeshare that I didn’t have the nerve to tell her “four-star” in Europe is not quite up to the same standards as in the US.

It didn’t really matter to me if we had luxury accommodations. My incentive was to see the “instep” of Italy’s “boot” and the Ionian Sea.

Visit Nova Siri, Italy

Getting there

Traveling to Nova Siri from Rome meant a two-hour flight to Bari, then a two-hour drive on a pretty good highway to Nova Siri.

Bari is a relatively large town on the Adriatic Sea. The population is close to 400,000. Bari gained some small degree of fame from the movie “Bridges of Madison County”. Meryl Streep’s character claimed she “came from Bari.”

We probably should have spent a little time looking around the town, but our “driver” was waiting to take us to Nova Siri.

The view along the way

Fortunately I have long legs and was given the privilege of riding in the front seat of the Audi taxi with the driver. He spoke a little English and was happy to answer my questions about his part of the world.

The geography of the Basicilata region is a mix of mountain ranges, hills and plains. While we never went directly through mountains on the way to the southern coast of the Matera province, they were ever-present on the horizon.

Visit Nova Siri

Basilicata Region, Italy Volcanic Mount Vulture in the background

The towns along the way to Nova Siri were few and far between.

Visit Nova Siri

Basilicata Region, Italy Volcanic Mount Vulture in the background

Occasionally, when there was a village in the far distance, it looked as if it was a ghost town … deserted.

Visit Nova Siri

Basilicata region of Italy

As we drove along, you could see the landscape change.Visit Nova Siri

In one area olive trees were lining both sides of the highway. While ahead, vineyards stretched as far as you could see.

Visit Nova Siri

In just a matter of minutes, and for miles and miles beyond, fields of yellow wheat were in sight; some within touching distance of the cars on the highway.

Visit Nova Siri

Akiris: A “Disneyland” on the Ionic Sea

Arriving at our destination — the Akiris Resort — Golden Girl #1 was disappointed that is was not the “four-star” quality she expected. On the other hand, all the amenities were there and the beach with the mountains in the background was magnificent.

Visit Nova Siri

Akiris Resort, Nova Siri, Italy

There was something going on all the time at Akiris. And this wasn’t the busy tourist season. 

Our accommodations were the equivalent of a 3-bedroom apartment. The rooms were large and the beds comfortable. My room had bunk beds. I slept on the top bunk … reminiscent of my college days.

There was no decoration in any of the rooms. All household items had to be purchased at the resort “market”. Nothing was provided — except towels that were like large kitchen towels.

What’s with that? Plush bath towels must be an American “thing”? Interestingly the towels we rented for the beach were plush. We ended up using them, instead, for our showers in the apartment.

We did enjoy the beach. Which is exactly why we went to Nova Siri. To relax on the beach.

 We ate great food.

Visit Nova Siri

… and learned the freshest seafood is brought to the table before cooking while it’s still wiggling. Visit Nova Siri

We enjoyed new friends. 

Like magnets, we quickly found the few Americans who were visiting the resort and we became close friends immediately. We did everything together …

… we checked out the nearby town of Nova Siri Marina…

… and lounged by one of the two swimming pools.

One friend we literally adopted. We met her the first day she arrived. She was at the resort’s dining room, sitting alone, so we invited her to join us for dinner.

Quickly we learned she is German and speaks very little English. She was on a holiday by herself, which she often does.  She had been crying all that day because the airlines had lost her baggage. She would have to retrieve them herself the next day … two-hour trip up to Bari and back.

Visit Nova Siri

After dinner we took her to our place and filled her arms with clothing and personal essentials, including a “South Carolina Girl” T-shirt. She became our new “best friend”.

Visit Nova Siri

Side Trips

Some among our group took a side trip to Matera. This “little piggy” stayed home. The day’s journey would have been interesting, but I was totally into being a lump on a beach chair.

Mel Gibson’s “Passion of Christ” was staged in Matera. He supposedly chose the town because it resembles Jerusalem. Without the tourists.

Visit Nova Siri

Matera Italy

The Golden Girls Adventure Ends Here … That’s all, Folks

At 4:00 am on the last day of our adventure, The Golden Girls were perched outside the Akiris Resort awaiting the shuttle bus to the airport in Bari. From Bari I was heading to Rome, then to Girona, Spain. The other Golden Girls were going to Paris for five days before returning to the States.

Hopefully you enjoyed our adventures as you followed us in the blog. We laughed a lot, we stretched our comfort zones, and we found you’re never too old to learn something new. Most importantly, after 25 years spent apart, we proved that The Golden Girls are truly “forever friends”.  “Veni, vidi, vici

Here’s my challenge to you:

Visit Nova Siri

For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit Cinque Terre

“The Golden Girls Loving Italy” Day 14-15: Rome

A visit to Rome is too overwhelming to be consumed in only a few days. It would take weeks to appreciate the breadth and depth of the city.

Like Florence, The Golden Girls were in Rome for a holiday, not a history tour. Besides, this was my fourth visit to Rome. Instead of rushing around, we concentrated on Vatican City. A visit to the Sistine Chapel was one of the Golden Girl’s objectives for traveling to Italy.

For two days, we stayed, ate and wandered around the Vatican City area. Except for going onto the papal grounds, we were mostly away from tourists. Which translates to: ‘No one spoke English.” .

We were lost most of the time, wandering around aimlessly look for a bus, a cab… the way back to the AIRBNB apartment.

Thanks to Map quest, we were OK … when and if we could get online.

Visit Rome

One thing we learned over the two days is that Romans are very considerate and helpful … except for the cabby who drove us to the Airbnb our first night in town. A ride that should have cost no more than 25 euros cost almost 70 euros.
Visit Rome

 

Ok. Give us a break. We’d just arrived by train after a full day in Cinque Terra. And it was after midnight. We were exhausted.

 

 

 

Visit Rome

 Hint #1: Don’t take a “gypsy cab”. Make certain there’s a meter in the car.

The friendly Romans were happy to help three struggling American females.

Visit RomeWe met them at the bus stop when we needed directions on using the transportation systems.

They were there for us on buses to wave us off at the right stop.

 

 

 

Cafe owners stopped in the middle of their busy morning to give us advice on getting around.

Hint #2: If you need help, ask. You will meet some charming folks.

Visit Rome

Visit Rome

People Watching at Vatican City

One Golden Girl wanted to see the Sistine Chapel. The huge crowds that were gathered in lines to visit the Chapel were enough to convince me that two visits to the Chapel were enough for a lifetime. When I learned the ceiling art had been restored and the restoration was finished, I was happy to wait in line. Seeing Michelangelo’s masterpiece in its full glory was a whole new experience.

Visit Rome

Dividing light from Darkness – Sistine Chapel

Get Happy, Rome

What I particularly enjoyed that day at the Vatican City was watch people. While looking through my photos of Rome, I realized I had captured with the camera a contrast of “happy” and “not”. The video was lots of fun to make, although apologies to those I might have caught having bad moment.

Next stop: Nova Sira, Italy

Visit Rome

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

“The Golden Girls” Loving Italy: Day 11 Pisa

Whenever you are on an extended trip that takes you to many destinations, you’re bound to go to certain places just because they’re on the way. That’s how The Golden Girls ended up in Pisa, Italy. 

Discovering Port Vendres and Collioure because they were on the way to an airport was good luck. Stopping overnight in Pisa because we wanted to land somewhere near Cinque Terre was a mistake.

Sorry, “Pisans”. Aside from the Leaning Tower and surroundings, we didn’t find Pisa to be a great place to visit.

If you want to see the tower, and take one of those predictable “holding up the leaning tower” photos , I suggest you drive by and jump out with your camera.

Visit Pisa, Italy

Perhaps after a busy day in Collioure, a drive to the airport in Girona, dropping off Mustang Sally in an unfamiliar country, a long wait and bad food at the airport, we weren’t in the mood for what happened next.

Visit Pisa, Italy

Where not to stay
For the first time in my traveling with AirBNB, I made a mistake. In my defense, we made this part of our plan at the last-minute. So there were few–almost none– places listed for Pisa. We pretty much booked what was available.

For a twenty-something it would have been fine. For The Golden Girls, it was bleak and noisy.

To begin with, the room we booked in the “B&B” was tucked away in a scary alley in the oldest part of town. The cab driver wouldn’t even take us down the street.

Visit Pisa, Italy

After we got over our shock and disappointment with our location, we lugged our bags up the three flights of stairs to our room.

The place was stark and dreary, but clean. One double bed, one single bed, and a side table. That was it. No lamps, pictures or decoration of any type. Beds and pillows were hard, bath towels resembled large kitchen towels. It was adequate, and I repeat, it was clean. But it wasn’t exactly what we were hoping for when we were so tired.

One of the good things about traveling with these friends is that they make the best of everything. Just minutes after taking in the situation, we were laughing hysterically. I think it was right after we discovered our room was on top of Pisa’s “party central” — the square where college kids meet to drink and dance. All night.

Daylight came really quickly and our surroundings didn’t look so bad. We agreed the. B&B would be a good choice for young people. There was a nice living area and kitchen. It could be fun if we were forty years younger.

 

Visit Pisa, Italy

 

 

Visit Pisa, Italy

The Leaning Tower

Close to everything” was a true description of the B&B in the AirBNB listing. Not only were we in the middle of the town’s night life, we were within walking distance of the Leaning Tower and the cathedral.

 

Visit Pisa, Italy

For some reason, I wasn’t expecting all the ornate buildings around the tower. Even though I’d done a “ride by” on the “Europe on $5 a Day” trip. The area is truly beautiful.

Taking a few more photos of the town to remind us we don’t have to come back, we were off to the train station.

Visit Pisa, Italy

Helpful hint
When you are traveling alone to a new destination, or you’re with a small group, budget enough to pay for a cab from the train station, or airport. It’s particularly advisable if it’s late in the day, and/or, you don’t speak the language. This might sound pricey, but it can mean a safer, more relaxing entre to your new location.

Next stop: Florence, Italy

Visit Pisa, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos: Thanks to all The Golden Girls for photo contributions to this post. 

For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Day 9-10 Port Vendres and Collioure

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 9-10 Port Vendres and Collioure

Revisit the seaside towns of Port Vendres and Collioure, France with me and my North Carolina friends. You may want to put these two on your “must see” list!

When “The Golden Girls” discovered Port Vendres and Collioure, the quaint towns along the Mediterranean, it was quite by accident. We were looking for an airport near Sete that had cheap flights to Italy.  With a little research, we found that the airport in Girona, Spain was only a little over an hour’s drive from Sete. It was not far from the coast, so we could drive along the Med and, hopefully, find a seaside town where we could stop overnight before taking a flight to Italy.

Collioure jumped off the map as the perfect place. The tiny village is the picture-book image of what you’d expect in this part of the world. There was only one problem: Collioure had “no room at the inn.”

Apparently Europeans know Collioure. It was packed with tourists. Not to be discouraged, we settled for the next best thing: Port Vendres, the town just a bit farther down the coast.

Visiting Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Port Vendres

We arrived in Port Vendres in the late afternoon. Having driven south from Sete, staying mostly on the “super” highway until we turned east at Perpignan.  The first town we ran into on the Mediterranean was Canet-en-Roussillon. We stopped for lunch in a Spanish restaurant, Vigatane, then pointed Sally south along the sea toward Port Vendres.

Here’s our view from the car as we went away from the restaurant and drove towards Collioure and Port Vendres.

Tired and anxious to get out of the car for the day, we passed through Collioure, then came to Port Vendres and parked Sally in the town square. Just minutes after calling our AirBNB host, to tell her we were in town, Anna appeared at our car

Anna is a tall, blonde and fair-complexioned woman of Scandinavian ancestry. She spends time between her apartment in Port Vendres and a home in the Pyrenees. To welcome us to Port Vendres, she personally guided us around the small business area showing us her favorite restaurants and wine merchant.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Wine merchant in Port Vendres

Afterwards, we set out for a night on the town.

Returning to our Airbnb “loft” to relax and sleep, we were there just in time to catch sight of the most glorious rainbow — surely a good omen for the next part of our adventure.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Rainbow photo by Arlene Wouters

Visiting Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Collioure

We had a full day planned in Collioure, so we started out early in the morning, giving ourselves just enough time to grab a cafe latte and croissant, and to check out the Saturday Market in Port Vendres.

Backtracking, we arrived in Collioure and parked Mustang Sally at a hilltop rest stop. When we got out of the car, we realized the “rest stop” was, indeed, the parking lot for a restaurant. We went into the restaurant, which was busy with staff preparing for lunch, and assured them we would return later for a meal–not just take a free parking spot.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Mustang Sally looking over Collioure

From here we were able to walk through most of the town, wade in the surf, and do a bit of shopping.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Seaside dining

Thinking the day couldn’t get any better, we headed back towards the restaurant on the hill. Oh my! What a treat. Port Vendres and Collioure, FranceThe entrance to the restaurant was near the top of the hill; but the service area was down a narrow, stone stairway that led to the sea. When we reached where tables were set, we literally stepped onto a yacht, or what appeared to be one because of the shape of the deck. From our table made us feel like we had set sail on a calm sea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

The food? It was heavenly.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Mixed seafood- Collioure

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Tuna Collioure

And the wait staff? Well, one Golden Girl thought he was HOT. You judge for yourself.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

We told him he could drive Mustang Sally if we could adopt him.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Visiting Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Musee Collioure. The artist is in the house. Our lunch was long and leisurely with us all agreeing we are the “luckiest people in the world”. Still we had time to wander into the town’s art museum. The small space handsomely displayed a collection of French artists such as Claude Viallat , Joan Brossa , Dominique Gauthier, Henri Marre, Matisse, and Jean Peské.

Port Vendres and Collioure, France

Francois Bernadi

Our good fortune was that one of the area’s well-known artists, Francois Bernadi, was working in the museum that day. We introduced ourselves and he seemed as thrilled to meet us as we were to meet him. His exhibit, which spanned his career since 1945, had just been taken down to make room for the new show, but we did purchase posters which he proudly autographed with a personal message.

View at the top We had a flight to catch from the Girona airport, which was less than an hour away. Before leaving Collioure we drove to the highest spot in town. From top to bottom, high and low, this is a town that should be on every tour map. Love, love!

Photos: A big “thanks” to the Golden Girls for contributing some of the fab photos for this blog. We wanted to show you the best of the best! Next stop: Pisa, Italy

Next on the Golden Girls’ Tour: Pisa!

Port Vendres and Colliure, France

For more of the Golden Girls’ Tour

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Day 5-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Golden Girls on the Mediterranean side of France

Side trips from Uzes are now behind us. It’s time for the Golden Girls to hit the super highway and head for the Mediterranean coast of France.

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean Side of France: Sete

The Venice of France
I couldn’t wait to show off Sete to my friends from North Carolina. After a week’s stay last year, I knew my beach-loving travel companions would like the place. Not only is the city itself of interest because of the canals, architecture, and fabulous seafood, also, the beaches outside the city are magnificent. We envisioned at least one full day in the sun being pampered by handsome waiters as we sunned ourselves at a private beach club.

Only one problem. Our days in Sete turned out to be cold and rainy.

Mediterranean side of France

Sete, France

Mediterranean side of France

Oh well, not to be disappointed because of the weather, we found plenty to do exploring Sete’s indoor market and nearby towns along the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

 

The Mediterranean Side of France: Bezier

Bezier is one of the oldest cities in France, tracing back to 535 BC. Only a few kilometers from the coast, Beziers was a Roman stronghold along the trade route from Provence to the Iberian Peninsula. It was the scene of a bloody massacre in the 13th century when Cathars, considered a heretic group by Catholics, were murdered — along with all other residents of the town– in a two hour battle. The leader of the crusade, when asked “how the warriors could tell Cathars from Catholics,” reportedly answered: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” or “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Today Beziers is well known for the “Feria”, a 5-day bullfighting festival that draws over a million spectators each year to the town’s ancient arena. Gothic architecture and stately English gardens, also, lure visitors to step back into the past.

Mediterranean side of France

Beziers, France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Bouziques

Bouzigues, a beachside town beside the L’Etang de Thau is well known for its fresh seafood– especially oysters

Mediterranean side of France

Bouzigues, France

From the narrow street that runs through Bouzigues, you can see miles of oyster beds that stretch into the Mediterranean .

Oysters in L’Etang de Thau are grown on posts designed specifically for maximizing the crop yield.

 

Mediterranean side of France

Another attraction in Bouziques is the many seaside restaurants. On a rainy day, however, most were closed for afternoon business.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Getting There

Mustang Sally is the red 1996 Ford Mustang I’ve been blessed to drive in France. She belongs to my dear friend, Geoffrey, who has been the star character in many of my blog posts.

When I first arrived to set up my new life in France, Geoffrey made an offer I couldn’t refuse. We arrived at a lease agreement for the red car with black racing stripes. Now Mustang Sally is living in the underground car park near my apartment. She’s raring to go at a moment’s notice.

The trip down to Sete was no exception. Packed to the brim with suitcases, bags and hats, Sally proudly provided more than transportation down the super highway and scenic roads for my Carolina guests, she was our “touch of class.” I mean, how else would passerbys know The Golden Girls were around? She stood as a beacon wherever we landed.

Mediterranean side of France

Along the highways she hit the 120 KPH speed limit with no hesitation. It was at the many toll booths along the way that she showed her one malady. The driver side window is stuck closed.

After one or two stops, my travel companions and I had the tollbooth routine down flat. Sally would roll up to the gate while I was unbuckling my seatbelt; the front seat passenger would ready the change for the toll; I’d stretch as far as my arms and legs would reach to insert a ticket into the machine to add up the fare; I’d feed the fare into the meter; slam the door; buckle the seatbelt; and we’d speed off before the car behind us could blow its horn in total frustration.

This scenario repeated for most of the two-hour drive to Sete. We went the quickest route, rather than drive on the back roads. Likewise, the stops at Beziers and Bouziques were easy turns-offs from the super highway.

The Mediterranean side of France: Where to stay in Sete

One of my favorite things about the visit to Sete was the Airbnb apartment. Right in the center of town, facing the main canal, the location would please my friends, I was certain. Yes, they were thrilled with the apartment with two private bedrooms and an amazing view, as I suspected. They clicked immediately with our host, Nancy, and soon we were feeling right at home.

Mediterranean side of France

To view the Airbnb listing, click here.

The Mediterranean side of France: What to eat in Sete

There’s only one good answer for what to eat in Sete: seafood! One of the most “productive” fishing areas on the Mediterranean, the town is particularly well known for oysters, sardines and tuna. Restaurants line the streets along the harbor and they seem to serve similar dishes.

Grabbing a plate of raw oysters at the city market, along with a glass of wine or beer, is a treat I was determined to give myself.

Mediterranean side of France

The idea of “raw” didn’t go so well with the other Golden Girls, but they did taste “tielle” which is a local delicacy– octopus pie.

Mediterranean side of France

Another specialty from Sete is fish soup. It is a tomato-based, heavy fish broth served in bowls like chowder.

Mediterranean side of France

The best part of the soup is the croutons that float on top. But before you set the croutons off to sail, you smother the crunchy bits of toast with garlicky aioli, and cover them with flaky Parmesan cheese.

Fish soup from Sete can be purchased online from sites like Bien Manger (click here)

Mediterranean side of France

Helpful hint: Wherever you go

When driving in an unfamiliar place, especially if you don’t know the language, be sure to take note of where you park. It’s easy to get lost if you’re as absent-minded as I am! To insure you get back to the right place, take pictures of your parking spot and direction signs along the way.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Next stop: Port Vendres and Collioure

Mediterranean side of France

Click here for more about the Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

French Fashion: Bobo Style

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

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

French Fashion Bobo Style: L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

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

french fashion bobo style

Bobo fashion in Uzes

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

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

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

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

french fashion bobo style

Vignette at L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

Roses and time clocks from an earlier age

french fashion bobo style

Folk history and fantasy combine

french fashion bobo style

Romantic glimpses from an earlier time

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

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

It is alive and well in Uzes.

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

That’s when I discovered “Bobo”.

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

french fashion bobo style

One type of provençal fashion found in Uzes

 

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

 

french fashion bobo style

Fashions at L’Atelier des Ours

What is ” Bobo”?

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

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

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

So what does Bobo have to do with fashion?

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

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

french fashion bobo style

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

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

Expensive? Well, yes!

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

It’s tempting! And here’s why …

french fashion bobo style

 

french fashion bobo style

Ruffles and lace make Bobo irresistable

 

french fashion bobo style

Crochet lace and patterned wool make a Bobo statement

french fashion bobo style

Bobo is romance and fashion

french fashion bobo style

A store filled with visions of a romantic age

french fashion bobo style

Time travels backwards at L’Atelier des Ours

french fashion bobo style

Bobo is simple. Bobo is elegant.

A teddy bear’s delight

french fashion bobo style

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

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

french fashion bobo style

Visions of L’Atelier des Ours

Airport day

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

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

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

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

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

Lyon bouchons

What Does a Southern Gal Think of Lyon? “Hog Heaven!”

Lyon, France is famous for its bouchon restaurants. In the southern states of the US, we call it “home cooking.”

Lyon bouchons are known for their modest food made from inexpensive ingredients like organ meats. We have chitterlings, tripe and hog’s feet served in restaurants throughout the southern states of the US. We call them “innards” and “parts.”  Bouchon takes “parts” to a new level — cow’s foot, veal nose, veal paunch (stomach) — just to name a few tasty bits.

Lyon bouchons

Bouchon restaurant menu

 

Lyon Bouchons

Bouchon gastronomes in Lyon were where the silk merchants frequently ate during the day. Now there are so many restaurants that serve bouchon there is a rating system to help differentiate the “authentic” from the “tourist-traps.”

Lyon bouchons

Since 1997, Pierre Grison and his organization, L’Association de défense des bouchons lyonnais (The Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons), bestow annual certifications to restaurants as “authentic” bouchons. These restaurants receive the title Les Authentiques Bouchons Lyonnais and are identified with a sticker showing the marionette Gnafron, a Lyonnais symbol of the pleasures of dining, with a glass of wine in one hand and a napkin bearing the Lyon crest in the other.” (Wikipedia)

 

Bouchon de l’Opera 

Bouchon de l’Opera is a little restaurant with a big heart. When I arrived without reservations I was seated at one of the two small tables the owner’s wife designated as “unreserved.” Looking around, it was obvious all the other settings were for groups of six or more. Soon the place was filled with couples and friends who seemed to know the place well as a friendly stop after work.

Decorations in the homey cafe are vintage kitchenware with a big emphasis on “piggy” collectibles. 

There were only two people working in the restaurant — the owner/chef and his wife.

Lyon bouchons

Owner/chef at Le Bouchon de l’Opera

The chef was chopping away on salad fixings, then he’d turn to stir a pot on the stove. It was all open to view if you peered into the back.

His wife was scurrying around the front of the house with menus and carafes of water and house wine.

“English menu?” she asked, figuring quickly that the tall blonde she’d seated didn’t appear to be French.

Fortunately there was a menu in English. The items would have been hard to explain in French.

 

Yes! I ordered the Bouchon de l’Opera salad…

Veal’s nose and cow’s foot and all…

It reminded me of the andouillette at the markets in Uzes. Unlike the cajun variety of andouille, the French sausage is made from pork intestines (chitterlings) and stomach (tripe). It was just a bit more unusual to see it served here with pieces of herring.

Lyon bouchons

Bouchon de l’Opera salad 

 

My main course, or “plat,” was another extraordinary taste-test: home-made pike quenelle — a mixture of creamed fish, bread crumbs and egg served in a cream sauce.

 

 

Lyon bouchons

Pike Quenelle

 

 

Lyon bouchons

Tripe with cornichon “mayonnaise”

Tripe: another bouchon plat choice 

Tripe (cow’s stomach), breaded and pan-fried. It was served with a cornichon (gherkin) “mayonnaise” that tastes much like tartar sauce.

 

Served with vegetables

Although it was quite in disguise, pumpkin was a side dish. Alongside, a French variety of potato pancakes. Lyon bouchons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For dessert …

There was no way that I was going to finish the night without a dessert. Below are just two of the choices –terrine glacée au chocolat noir and the tarte tatin et sa confiture de Beaujolais nouveau. Fabulous!

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

White horses, bulls, pink flamingos, rice, salt, culture, and the economics of the Camargue region are all interconnected in this surreal geo-triangle in the south of France.

The “Camargue” spreads over more than 360 square miles of pastureland and wetlands formed by the two branches of the River Rhône and the Mediterranean. The largest river delta in Europe, the Camargue is a thriving center of agriculture and tourism.

Camargue region

Wetlands and grasslands of the Camargue

While the area appears to be a “natural” wilderness, it is in fact, “manipulated” to maintain its sophisticated biodiversity. Most specifically, in the last century alone, enlightened promoters of the Camargue have demonstrated how the creative and sensitive management of water levels can create a rich environment for man and living creatures instead of a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.

Camargue region

Homes in the Camargue are for residents and popular as vacation rentals

Camargue region

A ferry carries passengers between two areas of the region every 30 minutes.

Camargue region

Ferry over the Rhone

Camargue region

The distinctive symbol of the area. The Camargue Cross.

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue region

White horses of the Camargue

The breed of “white horses” found in the Camargue are believed to have appeared in the Paleozoic era (Solutre horses).  They are thought by some to have come from the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia that run from modern Hungary to Mongolia along the Silk Roads.


Camargue region

Nomad horseback riders from the Steppe are typified by Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols; and the Huns, led by Attila. Steppe warriors migrated south seeking better lands and waged war with inhabitants on the way, including the Romans. Along with them, the nomads brought their strong horses that have ruled the marshes for centuries.

The horses have large hooves for walking in muddy waters and white coats to endure the sun.

Some who believe in mythology say the white horses were a gift from Neptune, “Poseidon’s Horses”, given to man as his faithful companion and put on earth to share the everyday riches.

Camargue region

Image by Walter Crane of Neptune’s horses

While the Camargue horses appear to run free, they are well-managed by “cowboys”  or “les gardians”.

Camargue region

Camargue Cowboy

Stallions roam the rocky grasslands.– a tradition that has been respected for generations.The rustic breed only eats grass from the soil — no additives.

Camargue region

Bred properly, a Camargue mare produces only one foal a year — by natural childbirth. There is no help from vets.. Mares are “quarantined” one year after giving birth to allow time for rest.


Camargue region

Those who know these animals recognize they are very intelligent. They are suitable for all types of requirements — for work or show. They must be treated gently but firmly. The trainer or handler needs to be in charge.

Visitors to the Camargue who wish to ride the white horses will find numerous stables and excursions available for all ages of riders. Entering the area is like a vacation playground with horses as one of the main attractions.

Camargue region

A hotel with stable for horseback riding in the Camargue

If you have a few minutes, take time to watch this video I found on YouTube. The majesty of the magnificent creatures and the accompanying music will make your day.

More on the Camargue:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

 


Camargue region

Movie Night in Uzes: Il Trovatore

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

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

il trovadore

 

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

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

The other dimension

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

 

IMG_7385

It is France! 

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

Serving sushi!

Sushi at the Cinema in Uzes

Sushi at the Cinema in Uzes

 

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

femk14_15_900x900carmen_500x500

The opera and cast of Carmen

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

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

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

 

The Cinema in Uzes

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

Cinema in Uzes, France

Cinema in Uzes, France

 

The inside isn’t much different.

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

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

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

 

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

 

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

 

Cinema - goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

Cinema – goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

 

The menu

 

Cheese and fruit plate

Cheese and fruit plate

 

Serving up soup and salad

Serving up soup and salad

 

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

 

The cinema bar

The cinema bar

 

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

Love Carmen! Love the Cinema!

 

10502437_788415777896797_3058996173419804088_n

I Just Want To Be A Girl in the Band

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

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

 

 

Bad Girls Groove Band

Bad Girls Groove Band

 

 

Bad Girls Groove Band

Bad Girls Groove Band

 

 

… and a whole lot of Rock n’ Roll!

Bad Girls Groove Band

Bad Girls Groove Band

 

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

 

 

It’s no wonder!

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

More about the Bad Girls in Sete:

The Bad Girls in Sete

Barefooting in Sete, France

IMG_4560

 

 

I’m Learning French!

The Barefoot Blogger is learning French!
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For all those ‘doubters’ out there who think the Barefoot Blogger will never learn French, here’s news.

After two years living in France, and during a short visit to family in the States, I’m taking French lessons seriously. Seriously.

The Rosetta Stone CDs, levels 1-5, are loaded in the computer and the headphone is out of the storage box. What’s more, every night before I go to sleep, I play games in French on my iPhone. The phone app’s called “Mindsnaps” and it’s really cool.

Mindsnaps French

Mindsnaps French

 

“With 1000+ words to master and up to 40 hours of engaging gameplay, shooting the breeze in French will soon be as easy as enjoying the view from atop the Eiffel Tower. As for that difficult French accent, each word in the app features a matching audio clip provided by a native French speaker to help with pronunciation.

 

 

2tAs infantile as it looks, this silly game seems to be teaching me something. I’m already to level 10!  Perhaps ‘infantile’ is exactly what I needed to inspire me!

If you recall, my French tutor in Uzes gave me a good start. She’s a speech therapist, so making the right sounds is important to her. Now if I can just build on what I learned during that brief time, hopefully, I’ll make some progress.

I’ll keep you posted. Wish me luck!

 

2015-02-18 09.24.19

Stacey Kent Concert in Uzes

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There are a few musical events in my life that the Barefoot Blogger will always remember. The concert with Stacey Kent in the Cour du Duche high on the list.

A magnificent azure sky against the yellow haze of the Chateau du Duche and a soft summer breeze made the evening in Uzes seem heaven-sent. Add to that the clear, innocent voice of Stacey Kent, singing my favorite type of music — Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz, aka Diana Krall and Melody Gardot. It was an experience that made me pinch myself several times during the performance to make certain I was not dreaming.

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Although I live only a few feet away from the Chateau du Duche, I had never been inside the courtyard. Guests are invited for special events and occasional tours.

 

Inside the Cour des Duche

Inside the Cour des Duche

 

The Cour des Duche

The Cour du Duche

 

The private Chapel

The private Chapel

 

 

Stain glass windows to the Chapel des Duche upclose.

Stain glass windows to the Chapel du Duche up close.

 

The stage set up inside the Cours des Duche

The stage set up inside the Cours du Duche

 

There was even a glimpse of the Duke and the family who were entertained from the balcony onto the Cour du Duche.

 

The family and the Duke

The family and the Duke

 

Isn’t it fun to see royalty up close and personal?

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Stacey Kent and her ensemble were casual and at ease with the mostly French audience. Stacey Kent is an American and conversed easily in French, telling the crowd about the music and her fellow musicians — especially her husband, the lead brass and wind artist.

 

 

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Stacey Kent in concert in Uzes

 

Stacey Kent

Stacey Kent

 

 

Jim Tomlinson, Stacey's husband and saxophonist extraordinaire.

Jim Tomlinson, Stacey’s husband and saxophonist extraordinaire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now sit back and enjoy the music of Stacey Kent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Movie Night in Uzes: Carmen at the Met

Movie Night in Uzes: Carmen at the Met

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Somehow it seems strange to see a French opera, performed live in New York, broadcast live at a cinema in Uzes — with French subtitles.

It was truly a memorable event. Carmen and more. Not only was it the first time The Barefoot Blogger has seen the opera “Carmen” in full;  and the first time I’ve seen an HD performance by the Metropolitan femk14_15_900x900carmen_500x500Opera; but also, the first time I’ve attended a night-time cinema in Uzes.

 

The opera and cast

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

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

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

 

The Cinema in Uzes

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

Cinema in Uzes, France

Cinema in Uzes, France

 

The inside isn’t much different.

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

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

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

 

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

Candy machine at Cinema in Uzes

 

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

 

Cinema - goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

Cinema – goers enjoying a meal at intermission of Carmen

 

The menu

 

Cheese and fruit plate

Cheese and fruit plate

 

Serving up soup and salad

Serving up soup and salad

 

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

 

The cinema bar

The cinema bar

 

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

Love Carmen! Love the Cinema!

 

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O, Come Let Us Adorn Thee

The Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques 

Over the past few years I’ve had the blessing to travel to some of the most religious places in the world. One of the most impressive things I’ve learned is that, regardless of the religion, followers adorn their places of worship in much the same way. Enjoy some of the brilliant churches, temples and mosques of France, Scotland, Turkey and Nepal and embrace the similarities they share.

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Lyon, France

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Lyon, France

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Istanbul, Turkey

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Uzes, France

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Istanbul, Turkey

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Lyon, France

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Lyon, France

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Pisa, Italy

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Nepal

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Istanbul, Turkey

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Avignon, France

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Kathmandu, Nepal

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Lyon, France

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Rome, Italy

 

 

Brilliant Churches, Temples and Mosques

Strasbourg, France

 

 

 

Lyon Day One: Hog Heaven

Lyon Day One: Hog Heaven

It didn’t take long for for Mon Fils (my son) and I to settle into our hotel and find a restaurant in Lyon that’s worth writing home about. We arrived by train at five in the afternoon and we were ordering “bouchon lyonnaise” style at the Bouchon de l’Opera by eight.

Lyon, France is famous for its bouchon restaurants. In the States we might call the fare “home cooking.” Many restaurants here offer the same type of “country” food, But the quality and flavor vary widely because of different family recipes.

Early bouchon gastronomes in Lyon were the silk merchants who frequented the downtown café. Now there are so many restaurants that serve bouchon there is a rating system to help differentiate the “authentic” from the “tourist-traps.”

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Since 1997, Pierre Grison and his organization, L’Association de défense des bouchons lyonnais (The Association for the Preservation of Lyonnais Bouchons), bestow annual certifications to restaurants as “authentic” bouchons. These restaurants receive the title Les Authentiques Bouchons Lyonnais and are identified with a sticker showing the marionette Gnafron, a Lyonnais symbol of the pleasures of dining, with a glass of wine in one hand and a napkin bearing the Lyon crest in the other.” (Wikipedia)

 

Bouchon de l’Opera 

Bouchon de l’Opera is a little restaurant with a big heart. Mon fils and I arrived without reservations so we were seated at one of the two small tables the owner’s wife designated as “unreserved.” Looking around after we sat down, it was obvious all the other settings were for groups of six or more. Soon the place was filled with couples and friends who seemed to know it well as a friendly stop after work.

Decorations in the homey cafe are vintage kitchenware with a big emphasis on “piggy” collectibles. 

Within a few minutes we saw there were only two people working in the restaurant — the owner/chef and his wife.

Owner/chef at Le Bouchon de l'Opera

Owner/chef at Le Bouchon de l’Opera

The chef was chopping away on salad fixings, then he’d turn to stir a pot on the stove. It was all open to view if you peered into the back.

His wife was scurrying around the front of the house with menus and carafes of water and house wine.

“English menu?” she asked, figuring quickly that the tall blondes she’d seated didn’t appear to be French.

Fortunate for us there was a menu in English. The items would have been hard to explain in French.

 

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Yes! I ordered the Bouchon de l’Opera salad…

Bouchon de l'Opera salad

Bouchon de l’Opera salad 

Veal’s nose and cow’s foot and all…

It reminded me of the andouillette  I’ve bought at the markets in Uzes. Unlike the cajun variety of andouille, the French sausage is made from pork intestines (chitterlings) and stomach (tripe). It was just a bit more unusual to see it served with pieces of herring.

My main course, or “plat,” was another extraordinary taste-test: home-made pike quenelle — a mixture of creamed fish, bread crumbs and egg served in a cream sauce.

 

Pike Quenelle

Pike Quenelle

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Tripe with cornichon "mayonnaise"

Tripe with cornichon “mayonnaise”

Mon Fils totally enjoyed his plat choice…

Tripe (cow’s stomach), breaded and pan-fried. It was served with a cornichon (gherkin) “mayonnaise” that tastes much like tartar sauce.

 

Served with vegetables

Another unusual dish caused us to ask what it could be. “Pumpkin.” Alongside were a French variety of potato pancakes. IMG_4318

 

 

 

 

For dessert …

There was no way that I was going to finish the night without a dessert. Just as the other courses were extraordinarily prepared, the Terrine glacée au chocolat noir and the Tarte tatin et sa confiture de Beaujolais nouveau were fabulous.

In Awe of the French: History Preserved

In awe of the French

Anytime I take a trip in France and walk among ancient Roman ruins, I am thankful to the French.

In French towns and villages where the Romans used to roam, you can actually see, feel, touch and experience the places of the past. There are arenas, forums and amphitheaters in the center of towns that are as active today as they were 2000 years ago.

Maison Carree in Nimes

Maison Carree in Nimes

 

 

 

Arena in Arles

Arena in Arles

 

Arena in Nimes

Arena in Nimes

You can climb on and over the walls, paths and steps where Caesar’s men walked.

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

Pont du Gard Aqueduct

 

You can tread the same routes where early villagers pushed their carts and lead their horses.

 

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

Ruins of Maison au Dauphin in Vaison-la-Romaine

 

l'Arc de Triomphe in Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe in Orange

 

Thank you, France, for preserving these sites; for leaving these places open and

available to the public.

Roman Baths in Arles

Roman Baths in Arles

 

Théâtre antique d'Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

 

Thank you for enabling us to re-live, revere and learn from those before us. 

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes

 

 

Amphitheatre in Arles

Amphitheatre in Arles

 

Tour Magne in Nimes

Tour Magne in Nimes

 

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l'eure, Uzes

Source of the Pont du Gard in Vallée de l’eure, Uzes

 

Amphitheater in Arles

Amphitheater in Arles

 

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

Remnants of the aqueduct at Pont du Gard

 

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Thanks to Pete Bine for contributing photos for this post!

For more information on the sights, visit these “sites”

In Nimes:

Arena

Jardins de la Fontaine

Maison Carree

Tour Magne

 

Pont du Gard

 

In Arles:

Arena

Amphitheatre

Roman Baths

 

In Orange

Théâtre antique d’Orange

l’Arc de Triomphe

 

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