Tag: French cuisine

Barefooting in Sete, France

A summer weekend in Sete is more than a bar scene. It’s a multi-cultural extravaganza.

In fact, there are so many activities going on during a summer weekend in Sete, it’s hard to decide what to do first. Regardless of what you choose, you can’t go wrong. It’s going to be different from anything this Southern girl has ever seen. Just a walk around town is an experience.

A walk to the “central park” presented a chance to see a ride for kids I wish was in every town. Children LOVE getting the exercise racing each other on their make-believe ponies

Sete

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Sete

Park “ponies” for kids in Sete

Summer weekend in Sete

The city is a major seaport for France, so Sete takes advantage of every aspect of being an international coastal town, from seafood markets to private beaches.

Oysters are so abundant in Sete, people of the town enjoy the salty, tender mollusks all times of the day. These pictures were the “small” version. On weekend mornings, people of Sete are gathered in the city market (Halles) enjoying oysters and beer. Shellfish of all types are ready for eating on the spot or to bag up to take away. If you’ve never tried sea snails, you must. But then, you’d better like chewy things, because they will remind you of a tasty pencil eraser.

 

Nighttime in Sete is a thrill to the senses. The views, the music, the whole atmosphere is exciting to see, to feel, and to enjoy.

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Daytime in Sete is beach time.

summer weekend in Sete

Beach club in Sete

 

If you’re going to Sete in the summer and you want to go to a private club on the beach, MAKE A RESERVATION. We didn’t and ended up with one beach chair and one umbrella.
As much as I love the French, there are a few things I just don’t get. The biggest thing is why business people don’t understand the concept of “turning over” tables, etc. For example, we went to a beach club without a reservation. We arrived at 11 o’clock in the morning, and almost all the chairs were empty. Nevertheless, we left because all the seats were reserved. Even when we said we were only staying until 3pm and we’d be willing to move chairs if people with the reservation arrived, we were denied our request.

We left and went down the beach to another “club.” There the nice hostess found us one umbrella and one chair, even though others on her beach were empty. The four of us took turns sitting on the chair and on the sand. I figure the first establishment lost 40 euros business, plus our lunch trade. The second club could have seated us all, then taken in another 30 euros for chairs and umbrellas that were still empty when we left.

Go figure.

summer weekend in Sete

Summer weekend in Sete

Joutes Nautiques in Sete

Water jousting, or “joutes nautique” has been a summer sport and spectacle in Sete since 1666 when the seaport was formally opened. I thought I had missed the season since the most prominent events are held earlier in August. Sea jousting is held throughout sea towns on the Mediterranean, though Sete is world-famous for its teams and tournaments.

To my surprise and delight, we literally ran into an event one afternoon where two teams from Sete were up against each other. 

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

You would never know that the home town team would win either way by the enthusiasm the crews on the jousting boats performed. They were both elegant and fierce.

Each boat is filled with a team of ten oarsmen, one jouster and a “spare,” a helmsman and two musicians.  The “spare” is on board for the next joust.

summer weekend in Sete

 

One jouster on each boat stands on a raised platform, called a “la tintaine” at the stern of the boat. The jouster stands about 10 feet (three meters) above the surface of the water.

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

After a polite “pass by” the jousters and crew are ready for the duel.

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

It would seem the red team stacked the deck … so to speak.

summer weekend in Sete

 

Even so, the blue team was victorious.

summer weekend in Sete

 

summer weekend in Sete

 

Afterward, it’s all about teamwork and getting quickly out of the boat to have a smoke and to celebrate.

summer weekend in Sete

Is it any wonder I love Sete?

 

Thanks, Nancy, for being the “hostess with the mostest.” To readers who want to visit Sete, be sure to look up Nancy’s destination tour company, Absolutely Southern France. She has fantastic tours of Sete and the area.

Also, thanks to Christina Rabaste for welcoming me back to your studio and home to view your art. I’m looking for spaces to put them all! Love!

 

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Check out these earlier posts for more information about Sete, Nancy’s tours, and Christina’s art.

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

Sete: Eat, Pray (to eat), Love (to eat)

Final Days in Sete: Parties, Artist Friends and Days at the Beach

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

The Bad Girls in Sete

For more about water jousting, here’s the Men’s Journal’s view.

 

 

Sete, France on a weekend

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Uzès to Nice: Nice!

Traveling by train from Uzès to Nice for the weekend was too much of a good thing to pass up. If the chance to visit with friends wasn’t enough, the low-cost train fare made the trip a “must.”

A friend from North Carolina was accompanying her daughter to Nice to enjoy some “together time” before the daughter, Jacqueline, signed into classes in London. Jacqueline is completing her freshman year abroad from Florida State University after spending the first part of the year in Florence.

Jacqueline’s older sister visited me in Uzes in the fall while on break from her study-abroad program in Copenhagen from Tulane. We had so much fun that I wasn’t about to pass up the chance to “play” with Jacqueline and her mother on the Rivera. (See post)

Uzès to Nice: Low- cost train fare

Now that I’m planning to travel a lot by train in Europe, I’m glad to have found out about the “senior” rail pass. The discount on the fare from Avignon to Nice was incredible — 75 Euros roundtrip, first class.

With “Mustang Sally” now at my disposal, I drove to Avignon and parked her with her 4-wheeled friends at the train station. Even with paying for parking, the transportation cost was less than if I taken Sally and paid for gas.  Uzès to Nice

On the train to Nice

This blog posting was started on the way from Avignon to Nice on the TGV train.  Join me as I experience the comfortable ride in the first-class coach. Fortunately, there’s no one beside or across from me. The table for four and the seats are empty so that I can stretch out as much as I please. 

We are skirting along the Mediterranean from Marseilles to Nice, getting glimpses of the beaches and coastline villas.

It’s a blue-sky sunny day with only a few clouds.

From one side of the train you see sunbathers stretched out on mats and lounge chairs on the beaches. The temperature is in the high 60s.

The view from the left windows reveals town people walking busily down the streets wearing leather jackets.

Marseille. Toulon. Sainte Maxime.

Stretches of low forests with cedars, olive trees and pines are interrupted by occasional towns. Beaches appear from nowhere as the train speeds along.

The sea draws closer to the tracks. It darts away again.

Yacht coves appear below rocky cliffs

Cannes. Antibes.

Train stations with familiar names click by alerting passengers that Nice is ahead.

High-rise condos and apartment buildings are beginning to crowd together on the hills to the left of the train tracks. More are packed together towards the sea.

Old and new, unkept and clean; the contrast of tan, yellow, reddish-brown and, occasionally, green stucco and concrete structures seem to blend together in perfect harmony.

 

Uzès to Nice

Uzès to Nice

 

Arriving in Nice

This is the Real Deal: The French Rivera

Uzès to Nice

 

Today the Beach… tomorrow the town!

Uzès to Nice

More about Nice:

City Side of Nice: Favorite Finds

Nice is Nice. Marc Chagall Makes It Nicer

Heading for a Beach in France? Nice!

Art, Food and Qigong. This must be France.

Travel isn’t complete without learning about totally unexpected things. Like Qigong.

Qigong is a Chinese practice of alternative healthcare that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques, and a focused mind. It’s kin to Tai Chi and Karate, but the body movements are gentler and much slower.

I would never have thought I’d be exposed to Qigong while in France. However, a new friend, Bernard, spoke about it, then demonstrated it when we spent the morning at the public park near my neighborhood.

Bernard and I met yesterday in the alleyway beside my apartment. I stopped him to ask directions to the recycling center. He didn’t have a clue about the trash since he is a visitor in Uzes, also. But he did know about some places the locals go, like the park.

Bernard speaks English pretty well– well enough for us to converse easily–and he loves to talk. Most conveniently, he is a retired elementary school French teacher, so he was willing to help me learn a few basic words and phrases in French. Within a few minutes of meeting each other, Bernard and I were fast friends. So today, I joined him on his walk to the nearly hidden, public park.

Hidden playground
Getting to the park required only a short walk down the main street of Uzes and a climb down a very rocky, steep hill. At the bottom of the hill, the path led to a abandoned, crumbling gristmill and a small waterfall fed by L’Eure river.

 

In a few more yards, the path led through the woods and opened into a public park. 

On weekends the park must be crowded, but this day, there were very few people in sight.

Within minutes of getting to the flat, grassy area, I was laying flat on my back, gazing through the leaves towards the blue and white sky.

Could life get any better than this?

Qigong lesson
While I was sky-gazing, Bernard stood not too far away and started waving his hands and arms through the air as if going into a trance. I remembered he had told me about Qigong, so I wasn’t the least alarmed at his behavior. In fact, when he finished a few of the hypnotic, dance-like movements, I got up from where I sitting and asked him to show me a few simple Qigong poses.

Vallée de l'Eure, Uzès, France
He kindly obliged my request and led me into my first Qigong lesson.

Qigong
Dejeuner and an art show
Energized from the morning’s hike and my introduction to Qigong, I invited Bernard to join me for lunch at a Thai restaurant downtown. It seemed fitting we should stay in an Asian mood.

We chose the fixe prix menu with fish as the “plat” (main course). For the “entree” (first course) I had a salad with shredded chicken. Bernard ordered the “egg rolls with pork and vegetables. All in all, the meal was tasty, but not fabulous. The wait staff and surroundings, however, were excellent.

 

Art show crashers
When no one knows you, and you don’t speak the language, you can barge right into private art exhibit, right? I mean, they’d have to physically throw you out if you don’t understand “where’s your invitation?” in French. That’s the sense of confidence I had strolling into an art gallery later in the afternoon. It was really their fault I showed up uninvited. They had a live band playing so loudly that I had to go check out where it was coming from. Right?

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Another treat to cap off the day!

To find out more about Qigong visit:
Qigong
Note: Bernard has left Uzes to visit family in Nimes, then return to his home along the French border of Germany. Merci mon ami et adieu

Traveling abroad solo

See what I see! Uzes, France!

After two days on a bike in the hot sun, I needed a break. So I did one of my favorite things today …. sleep.

It’s a little hard to justify sleeping when there’s so much to see and do. I just have to remind myself I’m here to “play like” I’m a local.

The main events for the day were a walk around the back streets of Uzes to get away from the tourist area; a visit to the plaza for a glace; then shopping for something interesting to prepare for dinner. The temperature was in the 90’s so most people were trying to stay out of the sun. Like me, many stopped in shaded cafes and shops to cool off.

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After a relaxing day, preparing a special meal myself was fun … and so delicious. With so many foods to choose from at the markets, it’s hard to fail!

The menu: Roasted chicken and moussaka (prepared at the meat market); asparagus with assorted tapas spreads (Saturday Market); salad with fresh vegetables, olives, spiced almonds, and my own vinaigrette concoction made from local mustard (Wednesday Market); and of course, more wine. Yum!!!

Food in France

 

Expat Moving Tips for France

Uzes France: Off the Beaten Track, Part Two

Traveling abroad solo means you can stop whenever, wherever you like. Sightseeing while riding on a bicycle makes it even easier.

It’s a wonder I made any progress on the backroads journey to San Quentin la Poterie and back to Uzes. The scenery is amazing. Everything around is a subject for a picture. When I’d stop my bike to take a photo, I’d have to remind myself to turn around and look back, too.

Like life, some things appear to be better when we look “back” than “through”.

Before starting out on my day’s bike riding adventure, I stopped by the Wednesday Market in the main square, Place aux Herbes. I picked up vegetables and other items to prepare meals for myself the rest of the week. Saturday I’ll shop “fresh” again. More strawberries, cherries, cheeses, and vegetables, plus locally made mustard, beer and Madeline cookies were my stash for the day.

Off to San Quentin la Poterie
It was not difficult to get started on the bike trail to “la Poterie”. I had ridden past the entrance on my way back from the bike rental shop on Tuesday. However, “started” is the operative word above. The path that seemed so clear at the “start” soon dumped me onto a four-way intersection. None of the intersecting roads looked like a bike path. Fortunately there were two men standing in a driveway who could possibly give me directions. Of course neither of them could speak a word of English. Nevertheless, using my map and the universal language –hand waving– they gave me enough information to go on my way.

And oh! What a view!

Another advantage of traveling by bike is that you can take off onto side roads you would miss by car. Who could resist checking out this road with no gates, no signs? Not me. Just look what awaited me!

A hidden path… And just a few feet farther…

Then.. braving it down a well-maintained, tree-lined road, I rode slowing, hoping no one would come after me with dogs or a gun — or both. Soon, in the distance, I could hear chattering voices. Instead of turning around and hightailing it back to the main road, I headed closer to the voices. I would excuse my invasion by saying, “I’m lost.”

By this time I was off the bike and I was pushing it beside me. Taking a few steps ahead, I saw a small stone house to the right of the roadway. The chattering was coming from three or four people sitting around a table on the patio. I could also see a second stone building and the entrance to a large, stately mansion that was surrounded by a stone wall.

Apparently the people sitting around the table enjoying their lunch were house and grounds keepers for the estate. They certainly weren’t guards. They were so heavily engaged in conversation that no one noticed me.

Traveling abroad solo Announcing myself by shouting “bonjour” in my best French, I saw the older woman in the group look my way. She then walked to the road to greet me. As she approached, I held up my iPhone and motioned with my hands that I’d like to take a picture. Seeing that I was neither a threat, nor a professional photographer (a photo journalist with an iPhone?), she said “Ok” in English.

I asked then if I could take pictures of the big house from inside the courtyard. Replying In broken English, she said “someone lives there.”

In other words, “no.”

Not to be dismissed so easily, yet trying to be as polite as possible, I asked if I could take her picture and photograph other sights around the estate. She said “oui”. Viola! My persistence paid off!

Pays de la ceramics
Practically “around the bend” from my off-road venture to the French chateau was the famed village of art pottery: San Quentin la Poterie.

San Quentin la Poterie
With a tradition in pottery since the fourteenth century, the village has maintained it’s reputation for world-class ceramics.

The purpose of my trip here today was to take in the scenery.

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And of course, the food. Salad Nicoise.

Traveling abroad solo

 

Traveling abroad solo

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