Tag: French cuisine

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

If you’ve been to Paris before, you might not want to see the Eiffel Tower every time you return. This visit to Paris, I chose to stay in Montmartre. In just two days I got a taste of the town. And I loved it! Now I have my favorite 5 to do’s in Montmartre.

5 To Do's in MontmartreI confess, I’ve been to Montmartre before. A night at the Moulin Rouge was high on the “must do” list when I was a twenty-something in Paris for the first time with college friends. In the 60s it was pretty raunchy.  I stood in the line and walked through the  Sacré Coeur Cathedral many years later.

So what do you do in Montmartre if you’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and Sacré Coeur? Plenty!

 

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

#1  Cooking Class

Travel Guide France

Cook’n with Class Paris

Go to a cooking class at Cook’n with Class Paris. If it’s a Sunday, all the better. The Sunday Market Class includes shopping at the city market. Then you go back to the school to prepare a sumptuous meal with all the fresh ingredients. Read all about the fun experience — click here.

#2 Enjoy the Scenery

Even on a cloudy day, Montmartre is charming. Check out the patisseries and cafes along the way.

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Who knows who you’ll run into? My good buddy and playwright, Silver Wainhouse! She lives near me in Uzès and she was in town for the day. 

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#3 Eat the food

Take your time to find just the right spot to have lunch or a snack. I mean, is there anything quite as good as French Onion Soup — in France?  Pair that with a glass of your favorite wine and you’re just about in heaven.

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One day, wandering around near Pigalle, what should appear? Le Chat Noir. Right out of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.

5 To Do's in Montmartre

Le Chat Noir

I expected Picasso or Toulouse to walk in any moment. Surely they would enjoy the cafe’s Paysanne salad — filled with duck magret and gizzards. I did!

#4 Climb the hill to Sacrè Couer

Go ahead. Even if you’ve been to the Sacrè Couer, do it again.  The views are spectacular. Yes, it’s quite a hike to the top, but there’s a lift and a small train that can take you up. If you’re around on a weekend, plan to have a coffee and croissant while sitting at a cafe near where the artists hang out. You might even snag a painting at a good price. It’s what memories are made of.
5 to do's in Montmartre

Imagine yourself here…

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5 to do's in Montmartre

Travel Guide France

Musée de Montmartre

#5 Visit Musée de Montmartre

If you want to take a trip through Montmartre’s past — to actually see where artists, writers and sculptors such as Renoir, Émile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre Reverdy and Demetrius Galanis actually lived and worked, visit the Musée de Montmartre. It’s tucked away on a side street at the top of Montmartre and it’s worth the stop.

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Would I stay in Montmartre again? Absolutely! 

I don’t always “plug” a place that I stay when I’m traveling, but I have to give a big shout out to Le Grey Hotel. The boutique hotel is so convenient to everything I wanted to see and do on my short stay. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. The breakfast is fresh, tasty and served late into the morning. And there is a bar and sitting room that’s cozy and inviting.

Next stop: Living Like A Royal!
Travel Guide France

Learn to Cook Provençal

Learn to Cook Mediterranean with a French Pro

One thing I dreamed about before moving to France was to attend a cooking class in Paris. Little did I know that my wish would come true —  without leaving the little town of Uzès. Chef Eric Fraudeau of Cook’n with Class Paris has a cooking school right down the road — Cook’n with Class Uzès. Now I can learn to cook Mediterranean, too!

Learn to Cook Mediterranean 

It’s exciting to know you’re learning to cook with one of the best. With over 20 years of experience as a chef in acclaimed hotels and restaurants such as the five-star Hotel de Paris MonacoChef Eric Fraudeau has a background few chefs can claim. His early career includes working in the kitchen with both Robuchon and Ducasse.

Chef Fraudeau’s schoolCook’n with Class Uzès, specializes in Provençal & Mediterranean Cuisine — the foods people in the south of France love to eat and often serve in their homes. Classes offered include “French Market Class” and “Cook’n with Fish – Fish and Seafood class.” On market days the Chef and students go shopping together in either of two neighboring towns, Uzès (Wednesday) or San Quentin de la Poterie (Tuesday and Friday). They return to the class kitchen to create and enjoy a meal from the day’s best finds.

“Cook’n with Fish” sounded like the best choice for me, especially since fish is one of my favorite foods. What better way to learn how to prepare seafood Mediterranean-style than from an expert?

“Fish day” Menu

Apéro

Garlic and basil spread, olives, pâtébrandade

Entrée

Pissaladière (a classic Niçoise specialty that’s like a pizza)

Plat

Poulpe (octopus) salad with basil, olives, and capers

Sea bream with fennel, mussels and saffron sauce

Cheeses

Dessert

Paris-Deauville

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Prepping the food

For our Provençal & Mediterranean dinner on “fish day,” some ingredients were more intimidating than others. Squid? Octopus? They’re great to eat, but how to cook them? I was in the right place.

Everything was laid out before us when we came into the chef’s kitchen. One by one, the ingredients morphed into a pissaladière, a sauce, a salad, a lovely fish dish, a dessert. Chef Eric, along with his guest, Chef Patrick, from the Paris school, stood by to guide and instruct us.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Here are just a few of the tips from the day’s lesson:

Tip #1: Anchovies melt! Who knew? The steps for the pissaladière called for us to slice and brown onions, then add anchovies. Did you know that anchovies melt? They actually disappear when they are heated and stirred into a recipe.

Tip #2: Boil oranges? Chef Eric surprised us all when he popped two oranges from off the counter into a saucepan of water … to boil. “Organic oranges only,” he said. “We’re going to use the rind and all,” he added. The oranges, after they were soft enough from boiling, were going into a blender, then into the batter for the cake we were preparing for dessert.

Tip #3:  How to clean mushrooms. Chanterelles, which are known as “girolles” in France, were spread out on the kitchen counter in all their yellow splendor. Never having “properly” cleaned a mushroom, I was anxious to hear what the Chef would suggest. He recommended that we use our fingers to brush off the dirt, followed by a quick wipe with a paper towel. He said he finds this way of cleaning mushrooms easier than using a brush. It means one less utensil in the kitchen drawer, too.

Tip #4: How to fillet a fish

During a gourmet tour of Sète, Nancy McGee from “Absolutely Southern France” taught me how to filet a cooked whole fish, served at the table. To filet a fish to cook, do it the same way.

Tip #5: How to “fix” a cooking mistake?

Every chef has his secrets and, for this cooking class, Chef Eric and Chef Patrick were willing to share everything, including how to recover from making a mistake. According to Chef Eric, almost every cooking error can be resolved.

We watched one “mistake” happen when the “mayonnaise” for the rouille separated.

Rouille” is a creamy, garlicky sauce that’s commonly found in the south of France. You can prepare and serve it in many different ways, including as a main course. For our meal, rouille was a side dish.

While preparing the rouille, someone (not me, thank goodness) combined the ingredients too quickly. The sauce curdled. Chef Patrick “fixed it” by working with small bits of the mixture at a time. He pushed a little of the rouille to one side of the bowl, then dropped in an egg — yolk and all. The chef whipped the egg and rouille by hand. Little by little, he incorporated the “bad” mix into the “good,” until it all was a perfect consistency.

Chef Patrick says you can do the same with chocolate if it “goes to seed.”

Tip #6: French etiquette

To cook with “class” in France you should know about French etiquette. There are “rules” on how to serve, eat, toast, and drink. For example, before a toast, with drinks in hand, you must look at each person straight in the eyes. It may take a little longer to take that first sip, but taking the time to do it right will make a lasting impression.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Déjeuner/Diner is served

Déjeuner, or “lunch” is served mid-day in France. Until the 1960s, déjeuner was the big meal of the day. Families would gather at home for a two-hour break from work or school and sit down for a multi-course meal prepared by the mother. With changing times, many mothers work today. Everyone still takes a two-hour break; but, the mid-day meal is abbreviated to something much lighter, and not everyone comes home to eat.

“Dîner,” or dinner, is seldom served before 7:30pm. If it is the main meal, and especially on weekends and holidays, dîner can last three to four hours. Starting with the apéro, each course is served with complimentary wines, spirits, apéritifs, and digestifs.

The Cook’n With Class menu was designed for a typical main meal. Call it “dejeuner” or “diner.”

When all the cooking and the lessons were done, Chef Eric invited us to gather around the side table for our apéro course. We toasted each other with tall flutes of champagne. Moving over to a large, beautifully appointed dining table where we sat, we were served the entrée course, or starter — the pissaladière.  The main course (“plat”) with “accompaniment” (side dishes) followed.

Just when we thought we had eaten enough to literally explode, a wooden platter with an assortment of soft and hard cheeses was passed around — a custom in French dining. Next, dessert — the heavenly “boiled orange” cake with chocolate ganache flowing on top.

Now that a bit of the mystery of Provençal & Mediterranean cooking has been revealed, I feel a little friendlier toward raw octopus and squid. Perhaps a visit to Cook’n with Class Paris will take the fear out of wine and cheese pairings … or unveil the magic of macaroons. Today Uzès, next time in Paris. Oh, be still my heart!

 

 

Uzes visit

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès. Six Insider Tips

One of the hardest parts about visiting a new place is knowing exactly when during the year you want to go and what you want to see when you get there.

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès 

Now that the Barefoot Blogger calls Uzès“home,” here are some hints for a one day Uzés visit. On this trip you’ll have time to experience the rhythm of the town. That’s the best way to see it.

How to get to Uzes
There are a number of ways to get to Uzès by air and train. If you are arriving from the US, fly into Paris, London, or Barcelona. Check on the best fares. From each of these cities, I suggest you board a train to Nimes or Avignon, France. In fact, there’s a direct train from London to Avignon. If you prefer to fly, head for Marseilles, Nimes and Avignon, but schedules are often interrupted by airline strikes, so keep on guard for notices. (See “A Photo Guide to SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport-Updated”)

When you arrive in Nimes or Avignon, there is bus service to Uzès with regional buses that depart on a regular, reliable schedule. The bus station in Uzès is in the middle of town, number #6 on the map below, close to most destinations in the historic district.

How to Get to Uzès” from other locations.

 Tip #1 

Visit on a Saturday or a Wednesday for a market day in Uzès.

Both the Saturday and Wednesday markets in Uzès are centered in the Place aux Herbes. It’s at  #17 on the map below. Start out early in the morning on whichever market day you choose because the crowds start arriving around 10am. In the summer, you will be shoulder-to-shoulder with other tourists by noon.

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Map of Historic Uzès

Saturday Market – When I visited Saturday Market in Uzès for the first time, I fell in love with the town. In fact, Saturday’s one of my favorite days of the week living here. The market vendors are in the Place aux Herbes with fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and all the flavors and foods that make this part of France so wonderful. Throughout the plaza and along the main avenue that circles the historic part of town, more vendors line up side by side selling men and women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, hats and more.  Musicians are on almost every corner playing French, Spanish and even Dixieland sounds. 

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Musicians in Uzès

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Musicians in Uzès

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Claude the Cheese Man

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

“Cat” with beautiful leather bracelets, located on the main street of town.

Wednesday Market – The market on Wednesdays in a scaled-down version of the weekend event. Most of the vendors are selling food items that are local to the region. The market is mainly in the Plaza aux Herbes which gives visitors a chance to get a good look at the permanent shops located along the main streets and alleyways. 

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

French Farmer

Tip #2

Stop for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the boulevard or plazas.

For an unforgettable day in Uzès, take your choice of restaurants along the main avenue for lunch. Make yourself comfortable, like the French do, and take a long — sometimes two hour — break to eat, drink wine and relax. Most restaurants serve from noon to 2pm. If it’s a very busy day in town, scope out a place you want to stop for lunch before market, then make a reservation for “dejeuner”.

Uzes visit

Map of Uzès historic area

Tip

Stroll through the historic area (map above).

There are so many things to enjoy seeing on an unforgettable day in Uzès …  like the Medieval Garden, the Fenestrelle tower, and the Cathedral of Saint Théodorit with it’s classic French organ. Pull out your camera and capture some amazing photos that the people and town provide. Narrow, cobblestone streets lined with 12th century architecture are everywhere.

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

An Unforgettable Day in Uzès

Tip #4

Visit a special hideaway frequented by Uzès insiders: Valle de l’Eure.  It’s not easy to find but it’s worth the venture.

If you want to pick up a snack or a picnic for the park, Gaiffier’s Green Grocer is on the way. Ask there for directions to the entrance to Valle de l’Eure which is just down the road toward San Quentin la Poterie. There’s a stone archway on the righthand side of the road that leads into the parklike area. The public swimming pool and tennis courts are on the left. Follow the path that’s beside the tennis courts until it ends at the “stairway” shown below. It’s a long way down the steps, but as they say in France: “oh la,la!”

Uzes visit

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzès

 Tip #5

Make your way back to the center of all the action — Place aux Herbes — to enjoy the fountain, shop! and take in all the sights and sounds around you. On market days, the vendors are out of the way and the plaza is back in time for you to enjoy a glass of wine, a pastis or an aperitif before dinner.

Day in Uzès

Fountain at Place aux Herbes

 Tip #6

Dinner at a restaurant with an outdoor patio.

If you can stay long enough for a lovely dinner under the skies, there are several nice restaurants with outdoor patio/gardens. If there’s a crowd in town, you’ll need to make a reservation in advance. They will welcome you anytime around 7pm, but not before. One of my favorite places is Les Comptoir Sept. The food is excellent and the service is superb.

Uzes visit

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir Sept

Uzes visit

Scallops with risotto

Enjoy! Come Back Often!

For  more information about these favorite spots, check out these posts for your unforgettable day in Uzès.

Saturday market: Virtually real time

Tasty Bites in Uzes

IMG_4894

Wish for France

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: UNESCO Pre-Historic Caves and Ardeche River Gorges

For visitors to Uzès there’s always something to keep you busy. If you’re not shopping on market day or wandering through the ancient town and discovering its charming streets and alleyways, you’re walking beside the stream in the Valle du l’Eure.

Perhaps you would like to venture out a bit more? See a totally different part of France, but travel only an hour or so away? Taking easy day trips from Uzès to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes visiting so appealing.

Ardèche

Gorges de l’Ardèche

The Ardeche River runs through southeast France from the Massif Central to the Rhône River at Pont-Saint-Esprit near Orange. Along the way the Ardeche tumbles into a gorge that’s surrounded in some places by limestone river walls over nine hundred feet high. Known as the “European Grand Canyon,” the area draws over a million tourists each year.

Ardèche

In summer folks head to the Pont d’Arc at the entrance to the Ardeche canyon for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and picnicking.

Ardèche

As you can imagine, in autumn the drive along the river and through the multicolored hillside is spectacular. Add a stop for lunch in the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Whether pre-history or cave drawings interest you or not, the UNESCO park and Cavern du Pont-d-Arc is a must-see if you’re in this part of France.

You can spend hours exploring the nature trails in the stunning park.

Paula

Friend Paula is leading the way. Or not.

Or head straight to the ultra-modern, twenty-first century exhibition center, the Cavern du Pont d’Arc, that houses a replica of one of the most important prehistoric finds in the world. The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave.

Easy day trips from Uzés g_9536

The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave was discovered in 1994 by three amateur cave explorers. The cave’s interior is approximately 1300 feet (400 meters) with numerous chambers and galleries. Displayed on the walls, crooks and crannies of the cave are more than 1000 drawings dated from 32,000 to 36,000 years ago.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Cavern du Pont d’Arc

Caverne du Pont-d’Arc is a near-exact copy of the Chauvet cave which is the oldest known and the best preserved cave decorated by man. The modern-day designers of the Cavern were scientists and computer geniuses who mimicked every aspect of the original cave with the help of 3D graphics and highly advanced computer imaging techniques.

Easy day trips from Uzés

On entering the exhibition area of the Cavern Du Pont d’Arc, you are immediately enveloped with the sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smell of a 30,000 year old, Paleolithic shrine.

Easy day trips from Uzés

You transcend time to a place where Stone Age artists visited and left behind drawings to depict their everyday lives, images of themselves, their animals and their imaginings. Disney could not have done it better.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

“This is a scientific and cultural site with touristic potential,” says Sébastien Mathon, a scientist and one of the 500 artists, engineers and special effects designers who worked on the Pont d’Arc project.This is a place to give a sense of the origin of us all.”

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

If you’re wondering why you must visit a replica and not the real cave, there’s a good reason. The Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994 and sealed off to the public the same year. Why? Scientists discovered from the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne that CO2 from  humans breathing creates mold that deteriorates cave drawings. The destruction within the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne was not to be repeated here.

The Aurignacian Gallery

While at the cavern plan to spend a few minutes … or hours, especially if you’re with children, at the Aurignacian Gallery. There you literally step back in time as you walk past life-sized humans and creatures that roamed this part of the world 30,000 years ago.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

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Cooking Class in Marseille

What’s Cooking in Marseille? A Day with the Provence Gourmet

For someone who had never spent much time in Marseille, now I’m loving it!  I jumped at the chance to join a cooking class in Marseille with Gilles Conchy of Provence Gourmet. Read on and you’ll see why …

Marseille is a city of wide, busy streets and tight alleys. High end fashions and ethnic robes. Elegant eateries and takeout pizzas. It’s everything you might expect from France’s second largest city, plus a whole lot more. For my return visit to Marseille, I was excited to see it again, especially Les Vieux Port, the Saturday fish market and an inside view of a true “Marseillese” apartment. An invitation from Gilles Conchy to attend a cooking class in Marseille fit the bill in every way.

Cooking Class in Marseille

Gilles arranged for me and his two guests from Toronto to meet him on Saturday morning at the Tourist Office. That meant I needed to stay overnight in Marseille for the next morning’s 9:30 am start. What a pity … lol! I made the most of it by stopping by my new favorite restaurant, Brasserie on Le Vieux Port (OM Cafe),  for a seafood medley plancha-style.

Le Vieux Port Fish Market 

When Gilles met us, we headed right away for the fish market at the port. As colorful as it was, the fish market was a bit disappointing in that there were so few fishermen around selling their catch. Gilles says there are only 20 fishermen in Marseille now who sell at the market — a result of overfishing in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the catch of “rockfish” for the fish soup starter on our menu was easy to find. Watch the video and imagine you’re along with us at the fish market in Marseille!

Cooking Class in Marseille

Fresh Market

After our outing at the fish market, we were off to the “fresh market” in Marseille — vegetables, cheese and more.

Cherries and asparagus were in season, so the stalls were filled with the luscious picks from local farmers.

After our stop at the fresh market, then off to the butcher for fresh ground meats.

Onto the wine store for Gilles’ favorite picks from Provence.

 

Next, onto the lovely apartment in downtown where Gilles conducts his Marseille cooking classes. It’s the home of his charming mother, a true Marseillaise who often helps as his sous chef.

Cooking Class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

Now … what we were waiting for. The cooking lessons — and the scrumptious meal to follow.

Our Menu

Fish Soup (the base for Bouillabaisse)

Petits Farçis

Clafoutis aux Cerises with Raspberry Creme

Assorted Cheeses

Wine

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How To Make the Perfect Aioli

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

A perfect day ended with the perfect meal.

Thanks to Gilles, his Mom and my new Canadian friends, Louise and Jerry, for a truly unique, wonderful experience. 

Cooking Class in Marseille

Cooking class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

Plan your day with the Provence Gourmet. Classes are offered in Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The intimate cooking experience will give you a true taste of Provence. Authentic, classic menus are prepared in Gilles’ charming Provençal home in Marseille, or at his 12-acre countryside home near Saint- Rémy.

Contact the Provence Gourmet at www.provence-gourmet.fr

More about Marseille

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. A weekend spent there to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend from Uzès totally changed my mind. On top of being an incredibly beautiful city with lovely, welcoming people, Marseille is for foodies like me.

I’ve been to Marseille on several occasions since living in Uzès. Once to the warehouse district to claim a shipment and more than once to the airport. Neither area offers the best of the city. It was hearing that Marseille is for foodies, especially bouillabaisse, that called me back.

Is it food that makes Marseille so appealing to millions of travelers?

Marseille is for Foodies

Food in Marseille is as varied as the people: French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, North and South and Central Americans and more. Restaurants and cafes are on nearly every street and corner. There are over 1000 listed in TripAdvisor, including fifteen Michelin star restaurants. Along Le Vieux Port, where we stayed for the weekend, there were places to eat lined side by side.

My first meal in Marseille was a medley of seafoods at La Brasserie du Port. The waterfront restaurant was right below our hotel, Grand Hôtel Beauvau Marseille Vieux-Port.  The fresh, beautifully prepared seafood and the service couldn’t have been better. The view from the terrace of the brasserie — the architectural masterpiece by Norman Foster against the background of the ancient port — was stunning.

Marseille is for Foodies

The birthday girl’s selection for meals on her special day was eclectic and international — Indian for lunch and Columbian for dinner.  Palais du Maharaja,  chosen from TripAdvisor, proved to be the perfect place to satisfy our appetites for Indian food.

… Indian Food

… Columbian Food

Discovering Columbia tapas at Tapas La Picadita  turned out to be one of the best food finds of the weekend. The menu, the preparation and the friendly staff were so special that we came back the next night for more.

Marseille is for Foodies

… “Little Istanbul”

Even though it rained during part of our stay in Marseille, it didn’t keep us from wandering the streets near Le Vieux Port. A shop overflowing with bins and bags of Turkish delicacies stopped us in our tracks. We loaded up on dried fruits, spices, teas and candies to take back with us. And we laughed a lot!

Marseille is for Foodies

… Street Food

Somehow the rain in Marseille made the atmosphere even more picturesque and interesting. Food vendors and cafes were open for business… and happy to see us .

 

One stop for tea and coffee ended up in a karaoke! The proprietor thought I looked like Petula Clark. We all started singing “Downtown”! What fun!

Marseille is for Foodies

… Bouillabaisse!

I was really looking forward to a bowl of bouillabaisse. Who can go to Marseille without tasting it?

You need to book reservations two days in advance for some restaurants to prepare this Marseille favorite for you. Be sure to plan ahead. We chose to try the bouillabaisse at Grand Bar des Goudes in Le Goudes, a  village outside Marseille. The tiny town is in a district of Marseille on the way to the Calanques. Little did we know that it would take a couple of hours to drive to Le Goudes on a Sunday.  It didn’t help that throngs of people in cars, on bikes and on foot were heading that way after three days cooped up in the rain. Yes, we were late for our reservations, but the drive along the winding road and the views of Marseille were worth the hassle.

 

The view of the fishing harbor from the restaurant in Goudes was pretty special too.

Marseille is for Foodies

 

Back to the main attraction — the bouillabaisse. 

Bouillabaisse is a provençal fish stew traditionally created by the fishermen of Marseilles. It was concocted as a way to use up the bony rockfish they’d caught along the Calanques that they couldn’t sell.

According to the Michelin Guide Vert, “the four essential elements of a true bouillabaisse are the presence of rascasse, the freshness of the fish; olive oil, and an excellent saffron.” American chef and author, Julia Child, wrote in her book, My Life in France: “to me the telling flavor of bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base — garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel — and, of course, the fish — lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish.”

Not all bouillabaisse is created equal. The variety I sampled was missing some of the shellfish. I’m taking the fact that there may be the “perfect” bouillabaisse waiting for me. A good enough reason to return to Marseille, don’t you agree?

 

Did you know there’s a proper way to serve and eat bouillabaisse?

Have you been to Marseille? Do you have a favorite restaurant? Where’s the best place for the bouillabaisse? Please let me know. I will return! 

 

 

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseilles: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

 

 

The Oyster World of Tarbouriechh

Best Oysters South of France: Tarbouriech

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France and I often team up for a road trip. Or just to get into trouble. This time, the road took us to find the best oysters south of France. We visited the oyster world of Tarbouriech. 

Oyster world of Tarbouriech

For three days in the heat of the south of France, it was road trip time for Nancy McGee and me. This outing, we did one of my favorite things — eat oysters! Not just any oysters, Tarbouriech. The name may not mean much to some, but to oyster fans, Tarbouriech oysters are among the very best in the world. It’s all due to the unique farming process they developed. Oysters actually spend a scientifically determined number of days being dipped in and out of the water. It’s all automated through solar panels. Welcome to the oyster world of Tarbouriech.

Oyster fact: Did you know that seahorses love to live around oysters? The presence of seahorses proves the water is very safe. Tarbouriech has loads of seahorses. Real ones!

The Oyster World of Tarbouriech

 

Oyster Spa, too!

Everything at Tarboureich is about oysters. The new Tarbouriech Domaine with luxury rooms, restaurant, bar, and pool. And they have an oyster spa. Even an oyster massage. No, there are no raw oysters involved. Just a finely polished, heated oyster shell. It’s much like a massage with hot rocks. Devine!

Best oysters south of France

Down the road Le St. Barth Tarbouriech is where the oyster business started. Home to a seaside oyster bar, you can ask for a boat tour of the oyster beds…. after an oyster feast, of course!

Loving South of France Oysters

 

Come along and enjoy the day!

 

 

 

Loving South of France Oysters

 

 

 

 

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages: Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Recently I challenged myself to visit all the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” — France’s most beautiful villages. Perhaps I should have done a bit more research before making such a statement. There are 156 official villages with the “Plus Beaux” distinction. Even though France is only the size of Texas, it’s a big place!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Now that I’m a bit more realistic about the “task” (albeit, a pleasure) it’s more feasible for me to do one region at a time.

Plus Beaux Villages by Region

There are 13 regions in France. The region where I’ve visited the most beaux villages in Aquitaine. It’s also where there are the most “official” Plus Beaux Villages in France — in Dordogne.

 Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages

Three years ago a hometown friend that I hadn’t seen in 40 years came to visit me in France. While here we entertained ourselves by driving from Uzès to Dordogne. Like typical tourists we focused on the area around the Dordogne river: the “classic” Dordogne: picturesque villages, medieval castles, limestone cliffs and caves with prehistoric drawings. The French call it “le Pèrigord.”

During our week-long tour we stopped at two of the most well known beaux villages in Dordogne — Domme and La Roque-Gageac. To learn about these villages read on here…

On the way back from my recent visit to the States, I intentionally stopped in Dordogne to see four of the beaux villages on my list: Beynac-et-Cazenac, Castlenaud-la-Chapelle, Monpazier, and St. Jean-de-Côle.

A Day in Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Because they’re so close together, you can visit both of these villages in a day. Admittedly, I lingered over lunch in Beynac so I didn’t see as much as I could have. But then, relaxing to enjoy your surroundings is part of the journey, too.

Beynac-et-Cazenac

If you dream about France, like I do, you’ve seen Beynac-et-Cazenac in your dreams. It’s a fairytale French villages perched above the Dordogne river, complete with narrow cobblestone streets, storybook houses and a stately castle at the top. You would expect Cinderella and her prince to appear at any moment.

Like all Plus Beaux Villages de France, Beynac is tiny. The max population for beaux villages is 2000. In 2015 Beynac had 552 residents.

It takes only a few hours to walk around town and through the castle. If you’re driving you can find parking at several levels on the way up to the castle. It’s a pretty steep climb if you stop at the bottom and you only want to visit the castle.

I strongly advise you plan to spend enough time in Beynac to stroll the streets and enjoy the medieval architecture. There are not many places that are as original and as well maintained.

They say the castle, “Château de Beynac”, is the most authentic example of a feudal fortress in the Pèrigord. Towering above the river and valley, it is a reminder of legendary conquerors like King Richard “the Lionhearted” who walked this very courtyard and within the stone walls.  Likewise, it is a shrine to wars that raged through Dordogne for over nine centuries.

If you visit Beynac on I sunny day like I did, enjoy a lovely meal with a “to die for” view of the river at La Terrasse des Chateaux.

Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Literally down the road from Beynac-et-Cazenac is the plus beaux village Castlenaud-la-Chapelle. The magnificent castle, Château de Castelnaud, soars above the Céou River valley as if to announce “Look at me!”

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

The proud castle, like its neighbor in Beynac, was the site of numerous wars and confrontations, including the Hundred Years War. It changed occupants between the French and the English seven times. During its history, the castle was burned to the ground, rebuilt, abandoned during the French Revolution, then used as a stone quarry. During WWII the fortress gave shelter to French resistance groups. Between 1974 and 2005 it was restored to its near-original state.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Today the castle is one of the most visited spots in Dordogne, especially by families with children. A museum features medieval weapons from all over Europe. In the village perigordine style houses with high-pitched roofs are tightly terraced along narrow streets.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

When visiting Castlenaud-la-Chapelle there’s a large parking lot at the top. You can walk directly to the castle from there. That view alone will make your day!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Stay tuned for photos and an overview of the visit to Monpazier and St. Jean du Côle. To read about the earlier tour of Domme and La Roque-Gageac, click here

Want to see more photos? Join the Barefoot Blogger on Pinterest

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

 

 

 

Learning French. Getting There.

It’s taken five years for the Barefoot Blogger to get to the point where she’s making progress in her new language. Now I’m learning French in Aix-en-Provence.

Learning French. What’s taken so long?

If you’ve been following the Barefoot Blogger, you’ve read at least six blog posts about “learning French,” starting with this one from 2013: “I’m Not Learning French.” There’s no real reason you should believe I’m serious now, is there?

Au contraire. Until now I’ve never “committed myself to a two-week, live-in, immersive French school experience.

Why now?

The big reason that I’m taking the leap to attend an immersion language school is that I might have a chance to be successful. The recent 10+ week experience in French hospitals gave me an intensive dose of listening to, learning and muttering French, live or die.

Seriously.

With practically no one around who spoke French during my hospital stay, it was critical that I pay attention and wrap my mind around the language: speaking and being heard. It all began to make sense to me. Now that I can utter a few intelligible sentences in French and I’m ready to build on it.

Learning French in Aix-en-Provence

A couple of years ago the language school IS Aix-en-Provence contacted me about their French school. My guess is that someone at the school read my blog and thought “if we can teach this 60-something American lady to speak French, we can teach anyone.”

After a few trys to schedule my visit, complicated by travel and other issues such as accidents, etc., we settled in on the first two weeks in February. It fit in between my move to a new apartment in Uzés and a trip back to the States.

The date suited my two good buddies in Uzés, too, so they volunteered to drive me to school to explore Aix-en-Provence. So off we went.

Learning French in Aix

Paula, Trish and me in Aix

Exploring Aix

Arriving in Aix the day before the start of classes, my friends and I filled our time with shopping, picture-taking and eating–our favorite pastimes, regardless of locale. The Hotel Le Concorde where we stayed was cheap and cheerful and within easy walking distance for it all.

Retail navigation

Since the purpose of our early arrival in Aix was to explore the town, we had no idea where when we started out. We resisted pulling out a map or GPS. It would be too “touristy.” Interestingly, before long, we were navigating around town by memory. We’d learned our way by recalling stores and shop windows we’d seen and visited.

Learning French in Aix-en-Provence

Dinner at Portofino, a restaurant in the Place Forum des Cardeurs, was memorable–especially the gigantic “bowl” of fresh Parmesan cheese where the chef mixed fresh pasta and herbs.

Learning French in Aix-en-provence

Sunday Market

One of the best things about visiting Aix on the weekend is the markets. We were too late arriving in town on Saturday to go before it closed. So on Sunday we headed to the food market near the Hôtel de Ville which was cheerful and bustling, in spite of the cold weather.

French school in Aix

French school in Aix

Learning French in Aix

What a wonderful way to start a new adventure!

Learning French in Aix

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

 

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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Le Pistou Cooking School Uzès.

Who Knew Cooking Could Be So Much Fun? Le Pistou School Uzès

When you go to a friend’s house and there’s great food and wine flowing and lots of people you enjoy sitting around, it’s pretty special, don’t you agree?

What if you learn how to create the foods you are served? A hands-on cooking class? That’s the perfect way to describe a “Provençal Small Dish” class at Le Pistou School Uzès.

Learn to Cook Provençal

From tarts with roquefort cheese and walnuts to tarts with abricots and everything in between, learning to cook with Petra Carter of Le Pistou Cooking School Uzès is not just an education, it’s a ton of fun.

 

Just start with the freshest ingredients.

The south of France is known for fresh local ingredients and healthy foods. When you know how to prepare vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant Provençal-style, for example, you’ll be changed for life. A “Mediterranean” diet is addictive… and good for you.

And let the good times roll!

Everyone gets into the action when you spend the day with Petra.

Make your own cheese? Yes! You can!

How would you like to serve a cheese board to your friends and family and say: “I made that!” It’s easier than you think with the recipes and tips that Petra shares with the class.

 

Learn to Cook Provençal

So when you’re visiting in Uzès, make a date with Pistou Cooking School. It’ll be a day you’ll remember as one of the best.

 

Visit the website for more information.

https://bfblogger.com/2017/07/16/le-pistou-cooking-school-uzes-france/

 

For the Love of Lavender 

Had the Barefoot Blogger known lavender fields are so close to Uzes, and how fabulous they are in person, I would have been visiting them much before now.lavender fields

 

Thank goodness I found out how to get to some of the best fields.

 

lavender fields

Lavender in Provence

 

There’s more than one way to keep lavender year round. It’s more lasting than sachets and bouquets.

 

 

 

Last week I discovered lavender salt!

 

lavender fields

Lavender salt

 

There’s a tiny village just outside Uzes that sells all types of local specialties, including olive oil that’s milled on site. The store and the moulin à huile are inside a garage attached to the proprietor’s home.

 

 

 

 

The most surprising discovery was  the building attached to the opposite side of her house — the remains of a church from the 11th century!

 

 

This is part of the joy of living in this part of the world. A tiny, out-of-the-way place can be an amazing find. Ancient buildings are still standing, alongside some of the most unique local items for sale.

 

 

So far, I’ve tried the lavender salt. It’s a winner. The rest is yet to be enjoyed!

lavender fields

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

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travel guide to Dordogne

Travel Guide to Dordogne: Hints, Finds and Faux-Pas

After a week-long visit to Dordogne I’d like to pass on some personal thoughts that could be helpful to you planning a trip. A travel guide to Dordogne, of sorts, that gives some tips on do’s and don’ts we discovered.  

Planning Hints and Faux-Pas

Narrow it down Dordogne is a big place — the third largest department in metropolitan France. If you have only a few days to visit, choose your route with the intention to visit only one, maybe two, places each day. Our first two days we made too many stops, then we slowed down our pace. You don’t want to return from your trip and it’s all a “blur.”

travel guide to Dordogne

Map of Dordogne region

“Home” base – Changing places to stay every night is exhausting for me. Sometimes it’s unavoidable. If possible, find a central location and “camp out” there for two or three nights. Our mistake on this trip was that our home base was in the middle of nowhere. Even finding a place for a meal was a problem. So stay in a village where you can buy a glass of wine, or two, when you arrive back in the evening.

A place to relax – Your “home” base is probably not going to be your “place to relax.” You’ll be busy traveling from there to hither and beyond. Choose to spend a couple of nights where you can “chill”. Make it towards the end of your holiday, perhaps, so you’ll be relaxed when you return home.  Choose something special — a little village by the river, or at a chateau.

travel guide to Dordogne

Chateau Mercues

Travel guide to Dordogne

Bad weather alternatives – As  much as you hate to think about bad weather during your holiday, it happens. We were fortunate to be close to Lascaux, so we spent our one day of rain underground, in a cave. No caves? Shopping and wine tastings are great alternatives, too!

travel guide to Dordogne

Painted caves at Lascaux

Time to dine – One thing you don’t want to miss about the Dordogne is the food. If you wish to enjoy the canard, the fois gras, the cheese, the wine …. remember you’re in France. In some towns and villages, restaurants serve dinner starting a 7:00 pm. During heavy tourist season you may be more fortunate to find businesses that have longer hours, but don’t always count on it. Plan your day accordingly. Stock up on cheese, bread, wine and fruit that you can enjoy in your room — just in case.  Take plenty of water bottles that you can fill whenever you stop.

travel guide to Dordogne

Photo opportunities – As much as I hate to admit it, getting up early in the morning is a good idea if you want great photos from the Dordogne. My friend, Julie, has some fabulous sunrise shots. For example, the best shots of Rocamadore are taken early in the morning, before the sun shines right into your camera lens. Bring several camera batteries, chargers and, if possible, more than one camera. My iPhone, iPad and camera were all put into action at one time or another.

travel guide to Dordogne

This photo of Rocamadore could have been so much better!

Travel guide to Dordogne

Driving hazards

If you plan to drive through the Dordogne — which is fabulous, by the way — be prepared for “interesting” road conditions along the way.

Maps vs. GPS – I love my Garmin GPS. However … there were a few places we wanted to go that Garmin didn’t recognise. That’s because we didn’t program it before we left on the trip. Oh dear. That’s where my map-reading friend, Julie came in. She had every map of this part of France that’s been printed, I believe. If you want to use a GPS, check the route beforehand.

Curvy roads, one-way roads and bridges – If you think you are used to back road driving, Dordogne is a test to your skills. Roads that lead to some of the most charming places are way off the beaten path. In many cases, you’ll think the road you’re on is a path.

Travel guide to Dordogne

Favorite places 

Click on each of the links below to read about my favorite places we visited and view the photos.

Rocamadore

Sarlat

Lascaux

 

Best finds

Albi’s Saint Cecil Cathedral and Toulouse-Latrec Museum

Abbey in Brantome

Saturday market in Sarlat

 

Whatever you do … eat fois gras! 

 

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

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Visit Cinque Terre

“The Golden Girls” Loving Italy: Day 13 Cinque Terre

Who knew “Cinque Terre” meant “five villages”? Before  heading on The Golden Girls’ adventure, I’d never heard of it.

The Golden Girls’ Cinque Terre visit started on a chartered bus from Florence. Our AIRBNB host set up the tour that was by bus, train and boat.

Since visiting Cinque Terre, I’ve learned that many friends have been there. Some have even gone between each of the villages on foot.

My hat’s off to you. We found it hard enough to be carried by bus and train.

Visit Cinque Terre

Tour bus to Cinque Terre

Visit Cinque Terre

The day we visited Cinque Terre, unfortunately, there was bad weather. A landslide in one of the villages and no ships sailing to another meant we had a full day exploring three of the villages — Riomaggiore, Corniglia and Monterossa.

Visit Cinque Terre

Map of Cinque Terre

Riomaggiore

After leaving the chartered bus in La Spezia, The Golden Girls boarded a train for Riomaggiore. Getting there on a foggy, cool day was a bit disappointing. We were hoping for sunny skies. However, the beauty of the quaint hillside village more than made up for the clouds and sprinkles of rain.

Visit Cinque Terre

Corniglia

By the time we reached Corniglia by train the clouds had lifted and the sun came out to give us an excuse to head for the beach. This was the ideal village for lounging at a seaside cafe and watching people, my favorite pastime.

Visit Cinque TerreAhh… the beer was tasty too!

Visit Cinque Terre

 Village and sea views in all directions were breath-taking.

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Visit Cinque Terre

Monterossa

Nothing prepared me for Monterossa. From the multi-colored houses to the dramatic coastal cliffs, this village is one to underline in the memory book. Interestingly, now that I have only photos to remind me, it’s hard to believe these came out of my camera. It is truly real.

Pinch me.

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Dare I forget about shopping?

Not as dazzling as the scenery in Monterossa, the local shops still put on quite a show.

How can you resist stopping to check out the retail here? Join me to look around.

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Hopefully when you visit Cinque Terre you will see all five villages. For me and The Golden Girls, perhaps another day.

Visit Cinque Terre

Visit Cinque TerreNext stop: 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 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

The Romance of Roquefort

All you need is Love and Roquefort… or “How mold found its way into the first Roquefort cheese”

In response to our recent article on cheese etiquette, many readers have wondered just how mould from rye bread found its way into the first Roquefort cheese. Let’s just say that the French are great lovers who also love their cheese. As one might suspect, love and roquefort, therein lies a tale of great romance.

Love and Roquefort

By Nancy McGee, Contributor to Barefoot Blogger
Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette

Napoleon and Josephine, de Beauvoir and Sartre, Rimbaud and Verlaine, Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette…are just a few of France’s famous lovers, real or legendary. But way back, a largely unknown young couple were responsible for one of the country’s most enduring traditions. Their story is decidedly among the most romantic of all.

Ingredients for a Great French Culinary Tradition
All You Need is Love...

Once upon a time – almost two thousand years ago, as legend has it – a young shepherd took shelter from a raging storm in a cave on Mount Combalou near Roquefort. No sooner had he begun his lunch of ewe’s milk curds on rye bread when a beautiful young shepherdess appeared, rain-soaked, at the mouth of the cave. The chivalrous young man offered to share his lunch, but as they became better and better acquainted, so to speak, lunch was soon forgotten.

Love and Roquefort

When the storm abated, each went their own way – with stomachs empty but with hearts full.

While Shepherds Watched their Flocks by Night…

...a king was born – that is to say the ‘King of Cheese’ as French philosopher Diderot declared “Roquefort.

A month or so after the young lovers first rendezvous, the shepherd was tending his flock near the same cavern. Fond memories of that romantic interlude surfaced, as did the memory of the abandoned lunch. When he entered the cave, much to his surprise it was still there, but hardly recognisable! Mold blanketed the rye bread and had infiltrated the curds to produced deep blue/green veins.

Love and RoquefortThe shepherd, whose hunger knows no bounds, took a bite of the mouldy cheese.  One can only imagine his reaction – ‘C’est formidable’!

Yes, there’s more. This tale has a happy ending. The shepherdess returned and shared her lover’s passion for the new-born cheese. Together they quickly mastered the art of producing blue-veined cheese in the damp caves of Mount Combalou. An industry was born – along with several heirs who passed on the Roquefort tradition throughout the generations.

Love and Roquefort

As a postscript, the couple probably lived happily for quite a long time ever after. Recent studies have revealed the anti-inflammatory properties of mouldy, blue-veined cheeses – which could explain why French mortality rates from cardiovascular-related diseases are among the lowest.

Long live the King of French Cheeses!

Love and Roquefort

A Few Facts about Roquefort Cheese
Roquefort cheese is made from the perfumed raw milk from the Lacaunes ewe. Lacaunes sheep produce far less milk than cows, making the cheese rare and precious.

Today the mould from rye bread is injected into the sheep’s milk.

Mount Combalou provided a rock-like fortress – hence the name ‘Roc Fort’. In fact it was the only environment capable of creating the blue/green veins; other caves close by did not have the same effect.

Combalou collapsed a million years ago, leaving narrow cracks as long as half a mile beneath the surface. Cool air blows through them into the caves, providing perfect climatic conditions — 48 degrees year round — for cheese maturation.

Roquefort was Charlemagne’s favorite cheese and, according to Casanova, an aphrodisiac.

France produces over half of the world’s cheese and it exports more than any other country, including of course the much sought-after Roquefort. Let’s see what President Charles de Gaulle had to say:

Only peril can bring the French together.
One can’t impose unity out of the blue on a country
that has 265 different kinds of cheese.

Today, France is the home to over 1000 types of cheese. It’s a wonder how a modern President can hold things together?

Love and Roquefort

 

Check out more great information from Nancy about French food and etiquette on Barefoot Blogger’s page,  Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette 

Love and Roquefort

Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern French

 

 

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