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Uzes Fete Votive

Summer’s in Full Swing in the South of France: It’s Uzès Fete Votive

There’s lots going on and plenty of people around to enjoy Uzès Fete Votive.

Uzès Fete Votive

A summer event that everyone looks forward to attending is Uzès Fete Votive. A few posts ago I was raving about the Fete and saying how happy I was that it was coming back to Uzes soon. The long weekend event I remembered had been spectacular. In fact, I wondered how this year’s activities could equal the previous ones. Sad to say, I was disappointed with the attraction I enjoy the most– the Procession of Pégoulade — the parade down main street.

But who wouldn’t be excited about this? As good as it gets!

Uzes Fete Votive

Abrivado in Uzes for Fete Votive 2016

What is a Fete Votive?

Uzes Fete Votive

St. Theodoret Cathedral n Uzes

Fete Votives are celebrations with long traditions in many villages throughout the south of France. The festivals were customarily held at the end of harvest time. Today you see signs announcing various Fete Votives anytime during summer and fall. The event honors the patron saint of the town. In Uzès the patron is Saint Theodoret of Antioch — the saint for whom the beautiful cathedral that stands majestically in the town is named. (The story of Saint Theodoret looks like something I’m going to explore for a future post. Stay tuned ….)

When Fete Votive comes to town, you know it’s here when metal barricades are set up alongside the main street, Boulevard Gambetta.  Running the bulls and horses is one of the first events — sponsored by various Abrivado clubs from the area and from as far away as the Camargue.  The town awards coveted prizes to the clubs that are the best animal handlers.

While an Abrivado looks like a mad rush of animals, riders and young men who follow behind grabbing at the bulls, it’s pretty much orchestrated and managed. There are stories, however, of bulls that break into the crowd — or spectators who get in the way of the “stampede.” Note: bull’s horns are covered with leather protectors, but just the force of a bull is enough to keep me out of the way! (Except to take photos, of course.)

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Uzes Fete Votive

Steak tartare at Ma Cantine

Uzès Fete Votive Fun with Friends

Activities for the Fete Votive seem endless. To be honest, I go to just a few. Getting together with friends for the Abrivado and the parade that follows is my own sort of tradition. This year, dinner at Ma Cantine was our place to be. The cafe is located right alongside Boulevard Gambetta. My friends and I didn’t miss a thing!  Ma Cantine offers house specialties during Fete Votive that include their freshly hand-chopped steak tartare. It’s not one of my favourite dishes, but plenty of visitors and locals love it. Add a bit of hot sauce and crispy fries on the side and my friends who tried it were in heaven.

Procession of Pégoulade

After dinner and close to dark it was time for us to leave Ma Cantine and join the crowds waiting for the Procession of Pégoulade – a parade that starts at the Cathedral and ends at the bottom of  the Boulevard. This year ‘s parade had a “back to the future” theme with a “robotic” float — ‘Turbulence Steampunk.” It was a ambidextrous steam engine with psychedelic lights and loud, booming music. Along with the float were “blowers”in belle époque costumes who ran in front and around the float shooting streamers of coloured paper and confetti at everything and everyone in sight.Behind the “blowers” were ladies wearing flowing silk dresses who were walking effortlessly on stilts. They thrilled admirers by stooping over to paint elegant designs on the faces and arms of any who stepped forward. The Fete Votive procession, with fewer and less grand floats than previous years’, was still an amazing sight to see as the process glided down the boulevard, silhouetted against the ancient buildings of Uzes.

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So … the challenge “how will they top the past years’ Procession of Pégoulade?” is answered. But there’s always next year.

Maybe you’ll be here to see it for yourself!

For photos and sounds from previous Fete Votive parades in Uzes, click here.

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Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

This a republished post by the Barefoot Blogger from France Today

Why is Nimes a “must see” for Roman history lovers? Because it’s a city where you can literally see, touch and experience Roman life in France during the days of the Roman Empire.

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes to learn about Roman life in France. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

Roman Life in France

Nimes

Roman Life in France

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

Roman Amphitheater , the Arènes de Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The Tour Magne

 

Roman Life in France

The Roman History of Nimes

The area that is now Nimes was an established community as early as 400o BC. It was founded as a Roman colony (Colonia Nemausus) by Tiberius Claudius Nero in 45 or 44 B.C. for veterans that had served Julius Caesar under his command in Gaul and the invasion of Egypt. The name “Nemausus” was derived from the name of a Celtic god — the protector of the nearby spring that provided water for the early settlement.

Roman Life in France

Coin of Nemausus circa 40 BC

 

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 AD) and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée in Nimes

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 BC) — and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond,VA

Roman Life in France

The Arènes de Nimes or the “Amphitheater”

In Roman times, the Arènes de Nimes could hold up to 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces.  Divided into four separate areas, each section could be accessed  through hundreds of galleries, stairwells and passages.

Roman Life in France

Aréna in Nimes

The amphitheatre was designed for crowd control and ultimate viewing pleasure. There were no bottlenecks when spectators flooded in and all had unrestricted visibility of the entire arena. Several galleries and entrances were located beneath the arena so that animals and gladiators could access the arena during the Roman games.

The “games” included animal hunts with lions, tigers and elephants and gladiator matches. Executions were held, as well, where those in town who were convicted to death were thrown to the animals as punishment.

Roman Life in France

Inside the Aréna Nimes

 

Roman Life in France

After the times of the Roman Empire, Nimes fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Muslims. The Visigoths turned the arena into a fortress or “castrum arena” where the townspeople could gather in the event of an attack. When Pepin the Short, father of Charlemagne, captured the city in 752, the splendor that was Nimes was pretty much in ruins. It was not until 1786 that work began to be restore the arena to its original grandeur.

The Tour Magne (Magne Tower) remains a prominent structure in Nimes, erected during the reign of Augustus in 1 BC. It is said to have been built atop an earlier Celtic/Gallic tower from 15BC- 14BC. The tallest structure for miles around, the Tour Magne was used as part of the fortification that surrounded the city. What remains of the tower can be seen from throughout the city.

Along with the Roman buildings that are still in use today in Nimes, there are ruins of the early civilization that visitors can wander through or view.

 

Roman Life in France

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The so-called Temple of Diana, built during the Augustine era
(Photo by Carole Raddato)

 

Roman Life in France

Your Walking Tour of Nimes

The downtown area of the Roman city of Nimes is still alive. The most historic Roman monuments are within walking distance. To reach Les Jardin de la Fontaine, you might want to hop on a local bus. Visit the Temple de Diane while you are there. If you climb up to the highest levels of the terraced stairway, through more  gardens, you will reach the park-like area of Mont Cavalier. Further up the hill is the Tour Magne. It’s a hike to reach the tower, but it’s worth it if you want a view of the city from all directions. Take along plenty of water and, perhaps, a snack so that you can stop and enjoy the view along the way.

Roman Life in France

Historic area of Nimes

 

Step by step guide

  • Nimes can be reached by train, bus and car. The train station (GARE) is in the center of the historic area. Regional buses stop behind the train station as well. From the station, a pedestrian promenade leads straight from the station to the amphitheater.
  • Park at any one of the downtown parking lots. Just follow the blue P signs.  Some of the parking is outside and some in a garage. When I visit Nimes I park at the Marché (city market) that is outlined in purple on the map because it is so close to the Maison Carrée.
  • Start your tour at the Maison Carrée. A  20-minute film runs every 30 minutes during tourist season. It’s excellent and it gives you an overview of the history of Nimes. You can buy combination tickets that give you admission to the film, the amphitheater and the Tour Magne.
  • Walk to the Arèna (amphitheater). There are self-guided tours of the amphitheater with headphones and an audio presentation describing the days of gladiators. Stop along the way to the amphitheater, or afterwards, at any of the many cafes and restaurants for a more leisurely visit.
  • Walk past the Porte d’Auguste to view a part of the fortification that protected the ancient city. It’s not a short walk from the amphitheater, but it’s on the way to your next stop.
  • Les Jardin de la Fontaine is a “modern” part of Nimes that has a rich Roman background. It was built in the 18th century atop the ruins of Roman baths (thermal). You can stroll for hours in the garden enjoying the fountains, canals and seasonal plantings.

 

  • Tour Magne is your last stop. The tower is open for tourists (check the schedule) to wander through inside. A very narrow, spiral stairway leads to a viewing area where you can see the city of Nimes from all angles.

Here’s another reason why you must see Nimes

 Nimes blends the “new” with the “ancient”. A modern world among ancient Roman buildings.The Amphitheatre, for example, is the entertainment center used for rock concerts and other popular musical events. 

 Roman Life in France

Times amphitheater is home for huge music events

Roman history reenactments, with all the pomp and ceremony, are staged in the Nimes amphitheater each year.

 

Amphitheater in Nimes

Then there are the Ferias or bull fights in the amphitheater. The events are popular in the south of France still today and draw crowds for the weekend events. 

 

 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Nimes, there’s a party going on. 

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

For more information about the arena

Maison Carrée

More places to visit history in Provence

Film trailer of the history of Nimes, on view at the Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

After six days in Dordogne with my Colorado friend, it was time for the grand finale. We threw caution to the wind and took our very first hot air balloon ride over the Loire Valley. Visiting Chenonceau no less.

The tour of the Château at Chenonceau is not exactly what you’d expect from a tour of the Dordogne region of France. It’s in the Loire Valley. We drove a long way to get there, but it was worth it in every way — and from every angle.

Visiting Chenonceau

First, a boat ride on the River Cher.

A summer event that everyone looks forward to attending is Uzès Fete Votive

River boat launch at Chenonceaux

 

Visiting Chenonceau

River view of the Chateau at Chenonceau

 

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

…and if that wasn’t enough…

Balloon over Château Chenonceau

Visiting Chenonceau

Balloon ride over the Chateau at Chenonceau and the Loire Valley

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

 

Visiting Chenonceau

Balloon over Chateau at Chenonceau and the Loire Valley

 

My first balloon ride!!!

balloon over Château Chenonceau

 

A toast to Julie and to me for a fun and memorable reunion! Here’s to friends! 

May they be with us for a reason, for a season … for a lifetime!

For more about 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!

 

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7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

What a day! What a way to end the week traveling and touring in Dordogne. Let’s just say, it ended on a very high note.

My traveling companion and long-lost and found friend from grade school, Julie, and I put some serious miles behind us. We drove over four hours straight from Sarlat to Tours. I’m dropping Julie off at the train station in Tours tomorrow and heading back toward Uzes. Julie’s going on to Paris for a few days before returning to Colorado.

Before we ended our “reunion” tour, we were giving ourselves the last “treat” of our journey. As you may remember, we planned two special treats for the trip. One was an overnight stay and dinner in a chateau.  The last we scheduled for today. We ventured into the Loire Valley to see one of the most magical royal chateaus in France. More than that, we experienced the chateau from every angle possible.

Touring Chenonceau

The Château at Chenonceau 

Known as the “Ladies Château,” Chenonceau was built in the 16th century on the remains of a 14th century castle and mill belonging to the Marquay family. There are writings, however, that mention the castle and mill as early as the 11th century. Still intact from the Marquay era is the chateau’s well and the Marques tower which was restored in the Renaissance style.

The property is in the Loire Valley and has been inhabited throughout history by the mistress of a King, Queens, heiresses and business tycoons. It is currently owned by a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates.

I’ll leave the history and stories of the château for a later post. Today will be a photo tour. A most unusual one, too. I was particularly interested in the “crooks and crannies” of the place since everything else is in hundreds of books.

Touring in Dordogne

Château at Chenonceau

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne: Chenonceau 


Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Part 2…stay tuned…

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: The Finale

 

 

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7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

Sarlat. You’re the winner. Of all the places I’ve been on my Dordogne tour these past five days,  I like you the best. Take a look at market day in Sarlat!

Ok. I’m a sucker for market days.

Market Day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

 

Maybe what I fell in love with in Sarlat was the cool hand-made bag I bought from this guy…

Market day in Sarlat

 

Or the foie gras…
Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

 

Or the walnuts (“noix” not “noisette”)



Market day in Sarlat

Perhaps it was the buildings and the alleyways
Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat
Market day in Sarlat

Market day in Sarlat

 

…and the amazing church where I could feel the Spirit…

Sarlat
Sarlat
Sarlat
Sarlat

I wish you could have been there to taste the galette and the cider.



Market day in Sarlat

The macaroons…

Market day in Sarlat

I’m sure you’d feel the same. 

Sarlat

It was so much fun we almost ended up with feathers braided in our hair!

Market day in Sarlat

Tomorrow’s adventure? A surprise!

Stay tuned…

For more about 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

Visit Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

Day five in the seven-day Dordogne marathon trip with my long-time friend, Julie, was one thing we looked forward to the most– Visit Rocamadour.

The village carved into a hill, Rocamadour, takes at least a half-day to explore. It is recommended you arrive early to catch the best view because it is east-facing. Oh well…today we took our time leaving the hotel and probably enjoyed the visit more because we were rested. There are lots of hills and steps to climb.

Visit Rocamadour

Walking tour map of Rocamadour

 

Visit Rocamadour

Walking tour map Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour

Rocamadour

 

Visit Rocamadour

I’d heard of Rocamadore many times, and seen pictures, I knew little about its history. Did you know the name of the village is really “Roc-Amadore” and it was named for Saint Amadore? Did you know that Saint Amadore was thought by many to be Zacchaeus of the Bible. Did you know a bone of Saint Amadore’s is enshrined at the chapel in Rocamadour?

Visit Rocamadour

Relic Bone of Zacchaeus

 

That’s only the beginning of the tales and legends of the place so many have visited. The eleventh century. Rocamadour is, in fact, a pilgrim’s center.

Visit Rocamadour

 

Aside from being along the trail of Compostella, Rocamadore’s holy relics bring worshippers there to “admire” to “contemplate” and to “pray.”

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Admiring” Rocamodore is easy. 

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour


“Contemplating” wasn’t easy with the crowds of people everywhere, even though vacation season is over. 

 

Visit Rocamadour

Praying” is inevitable when you realize the importance of the shrines throughout the village.

 

Visit Rocamadour

Remains of Saint Amadour inside

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Almost every town you visit in France has a memorial to their war dead. Rocamadore is no exception. Mostly remembered are the veterans of the “Great War” — World War I

Visit Rocamadour

Statue honoring war dead in Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Of course, a day in France always means great food. That’s a given. And what’s a meal without a pichet of rose? 

Visit Rocamadour

Beautiful lamp chops!

Truly, I adore Roc-AMADORE.

Visit Rocamadour
Tomorrow.. Market day in Sarlat.

Stay tuned…

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: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

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Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Last summer was the first time I visited Antibes. Afterwards I realized how much I love the place and I started scheming how to return. Thanks to author-friend Patricia Sands, I had the perfect excuse. She invited me to come back to play! 

Here’s a trip back to last year’s post for first impressions…

Antibes in Two Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

As long as I can remember I’ve dreamt about Antibes. When thoughts of the tiny dot-of-a-place on the French Rivera came to my mind, I’d imagine myself lounging on the deck of a massive yacht. Sipping champagne. Dining in the moonlight.

Sigh…

Little did I imagine that I’d live within a morning’s drive of Antibes. Yes. Dreams do come true…

Although no yacht was waiting for me (sigh…) the sights and sounds of Antibes were truly memorable. I don’t know when I’ve taken so many photos in such a short time — just two days. Everywhere I turned there was an amazing door or window to photograph. A partially hidden alley. A striking piece of artwork in a courtyard. It was truly a feast of colors, shapes, images and sounds.

Views of the coastline were breathtaking. 

Antibes

 

Antibes

Portholes through stone walls had their own glimpse of the sea.

 

Yachts were everywhere

Yachts in Antibes

 

Sidewalk cafes were just inviting as I imagined they’d be. 

Cafe in Antibes

 

Cafe in Antibes

The marketplace and stores around town were filled with fresh products, souvenirs and tourists.

 

 

Walking around the Old Town of Antibes (Le Vieil Antibes) three of four times during the two days of my visit, I saw much that I’d imagined. What I wasn’t expecting was that every narrow street seemed to be more picturesque than the last.

Also, I never imagined such spectacular public artwork. Everywhere.

There was a gigantic sculpture of “words” by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa — Nomade. (Click on link to learn more.)

And the works of  Nicolas Lavarenne . His graceful statues were artfully placed through the streets and ramparts of Old Town Antibes. 

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

Only on exhibit for the summer, the striking and athletic figures seemed suspended in air as they leapt from walls and ancient structures. 

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

Antibes

 

As if that wasn’t enough, there was outdoor art in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum. Even from the street level, you could see the statues towering above the town — as if they were guarding the priceless pieces of art within the building. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside.

 

Antibes

Picasso Museum Antibes

 

A walk on the wild side

While seeking out artists and shopping are my passions while traveling, you know there’s going to be a bit of the “absurd” thrown in somewhere.  In Antibes a visit to the Absinthe Museum was a “must.”

 

Absinthe Museum in Antibes

 

AntibesThe storefront of the Absinthe Museum was a gift shop, the side street entrance led down into a cave of “inequity” — filled with absinthe and drinking paraphernalia from throughout the ages. 

Hats for the occasion were provided as well as the telling of the history and absinthe-drinking technique. Who knew? Sugar cubes and water? A spoon made just for preparing the perfect drink?

To be honest, we visited the museum during the broad daylight and had only one drink each. In case you’re wondering, the alcohol content and taste of the variety we were drinking were similar to pastis. However, I was told about more potent types. All in all, it was great fun and a memorable way to spend an hour or so on a warm summer day. Especially if you want to recall thoughts of Van Gogh and all who fell under the magical spell of the “green fairy.”

Antibes has a lot going on after dark in the Old Town but the nearby town of Juan-Les-Pins is “party central.”

Rich and Paula, the train passed through Cap d’Antibes where we had a glimpse of some of the famous mansions and coastline. We arrived in Juan-Les-Pins in less than half and hour — in time for shopping and a walk on the busy boardwalk.

The afternoon of the second day of our visit to Antibes, my friends, Paul and Rich, and I boarded the “petite train” that ran from in front of our hotel in Antibes to Juan-Les-Pins. Between the two towns

Antibes

 

Juan-Les-Pins at night

 

It was there, in Juan-Les-Pins, that my dream came true. 

Remember “dining under the moonlight? 

 

Antibes

 

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

 

I hope you enjoyed the visit to Antibes!

A BIG thanks to Patricia Sands who helped plan the trip and visited with us in Antibes — her favorite place and hangout. 

Patricia’s novels on Provence are a “must read” if you love traveling and dreaming about France.

Barefoot Blogger in Antibes

More favorite places:

Boutique hotel in Antibes – Hotel Le Relais du Postillon 

Lunch in Antibes – Le Don Juan 

Light dinner in Juan Les Pins (on the pier or on the beach) – La Voille Blanche

Good website for more information on Antibes 

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

 

dream come true

 

 

 

 

 

All Aboard for Carcassonne

Second of the series on train rides from Barcelona into the South of France, let’s go to Carcassonne. 

Visitors to France who fancy medieval times, Renaissance festivals, dragons and gargoyles must run — not walk — to the village of Carcassonne. It’s like stepping into the back lot at Universal Studios — except it’s for real.

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. The earliest known site dates back to the 6BC when a fort was built overlooking the ancient route that linked the Atlantic with the Mediterranean and the Iberian peninsula with the rest of Europe.

Between 1BC and 27BC the settlement, known as “Carcaso Volcarum Tectosagum,” became a Roman town, “Colonia Iulia Carcaso.” During the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, a wall was built around the settlement — a fortification that has been destroyed, remodeled and restored throughout the ages. to give Carcassonne it’s distinction as a World Heritage site and one of the best restored fortified cities in the world.

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The medieval walled city of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region of France

The walls of Carcassonne and the people who lived within were prime targets for those who desired to have such a prime location for their settlements. The Visigoths ruled the city through the 5th and 6th century and are believed to have erected a cathedral on the site of the present structure. After Arab rule, then a successful siege by Pepin the Short, work began on the Romanesque Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in 1096.

Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus in Carcassonne

Basilica in Carcassonne

 

The outside of the cathedral, like others of its kind in the south of France, has no flying buttresses. 

Basilica in Carcassonne

Stability for the structure is provided by interior vaulting. 

 

By the end of the 13th century, Carcassonne had acquired a castle, Château Comtaland, and an extension of the fortified wall. The castle, as today, has a drawbridge and a ditch leading to the entrance.

One section of the wall is notably Roman because of its red brick layers and the shallow pitch of its terracotta tile roofs.  Architect Eugène Viollet le Duc is responsible for guiding the restoration of the city that is enjoyed today by so many. Starting in 1855 he completely designed the city, rebuilding what was nothing more than ruins.

 

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

The early fortifications at Carcassonne consisted of two lines of walls and a castle,

Fact or Fiction?

Dame Carcas of CarcassonneOne of the mythical, if not factual, stories about Carcassonne is shared by tour guides of the city today. It has to do with the naming of the city. The story claims that during one of the many sieges on Carcassonne, the people inside created a ruse to fool the aggressors. Because Carcassonne had so many attacks it was believed the inhabitants of the place might be suffering from malnutrition and lack supplies to defend themselves. Knowing they were at great risk, one resident, “Dame Carcas,” grabbed a healthy pig  — one of the last in the city — stuffed its belly full with food, then threw it over the wall as a “present” to the enemy. On receiving such a well-nourished sow, the charging army retreated, assuming the entire population inside the walled fortress was well-fed and ready to defend their city. Hence “Carcassonne” is derived from “Dame Carcas.” Her image (or so they say) can be found on a city gate.

 

Carcassonne Today

Visitors to Carcassonne today will find there are two parts of the city — the walled city and a “modern” city, founded by some of the inhabitants who were thrown out of Carcassonne in 1347.  You can see the walled city for miles around. Its approach from below — after walking up quite a distance from the new city, or after walking from the parking lot at the top of the hill — is  an amazing sight. Not many of us in the 21st century have had the privilege to see a “real” medieval castle — much less, enter it over what had been a drawbridge.

Entrance to Carcassonne

Entrance to Carcassonne

Once inside the huge, wide, stone passageway, the ancient-ness quickly fades away into modern-day tourism. Gift shops, candy stores and souvenir places are everywhere along the narrow streets.

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

Inside the stone walls at Carcassonne

If you’re not careful, you’ll miss the tourist office that’s just inside, to the right.  My advice? Find it and schedule a walking tour. The guide for my visit was superb.

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Tour guide at Carcassonne tells stories of advancing enemy troops and the rigor of the fortifications

Another idea? Ride the small train that encircles the grounds, inside and out. It’s not just for kids … or should I say …. for kids of all ages.

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

Train travels around the exterior of the city of Carcassonne

 

 

A view of the "modern" city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

A view of the “modern” city below from the walled fortress of Carcassonne

 

Best Time of Year to Visit?

My first trip to Carcassonne was in November. As in the rest of Europe, tourists are mostly at home. That’s a good time to hire a guide who will walk with you inside and outside of the city wall. The stories and images recounted by an imaginative docent are priceless.

If you want to see Carcassonne with hundreds of thousands of others on one day, visit July 14th — Bastille Day. The crowds are as bad as you can imagine, but the fireworks display is magnificent. “The best show in all of France,” some say. Click here for a great map of the “modern city” that shows where’s the best view.

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

Fireworks over the walled city of Carcassonne on Bastille Day

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Train from Barcelona

Carcassonne is just over two hours from Barcelona by train. For more information about schedules and prices, click here 

Barcelona to Carcassonne

Click here for more information on Carcassonne and upcoming events.

P.S. Thanks to Pete Bine, my oldest son, for sharing some of his photos for this post

 

 

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Friends and Family for the Holiday at Mas d’Augustine

“Legally” it’s Christmas until Twelfth Night here in France. To stay in the holiday spirit just a bit  longer, let’s visit the Langton’s at Mas d’Augustine for a chambre d’hôte holiday. We’ll take a glimpse of holiday decorations and parties and best of all, Jane will share her secrets on how to create the perfect traditional Christmas cake. 


Christmas Time at the Mas 

chambre d'hôte holiday

Holiday party at Mas d’Augustine

Jane and Gary are ready for guests

The chambre d’hôte is decked out for the holiday party

The aperos are prepared and ready to be served 

Time for the party to arrive!

chambre d'hôte holiday

Traditional Christmas Cake

chambre d'hôte holiday

 “Whilst I absolutely love living in France, when it comes to Christmas there are a few things that I really miss and one of them is a traditional Christmas cake.  Gary does not like Christmas cake, Christmas pudding or mince pies and so in previous years I have made a yule tide chocolate log or, as they are called in France, a Bouche de Noel. This year, however, I decided to make myself a proper English Christmas cake and I have a very quick and easy recipe.  I have used this recipe for many years, whether making a Christmas cake or Wedding cake, and it always turns out rich and moist (although it might be something to do with the extra brandy I pour over the base!).”

 

Ingredients

400g Currants

250g Sultanas

300g Glace cherries, rinsed, quartered and dried

75g Candied peel

4 tbls Brandy

300g Plain flour

1 tsp Mixed spice

½ tsp Grated nutmeg

300g Soft unsalted butter

5 Eggs

300g Soft dark sugar

1 tbls Black treacle

Extra brandy

Method

 

Place all the fruit and candied peel into a bowl and pour over the brandy, leave overnight in the fridge to soak.

 

The next day line the sides and bottom of a 20 – 23 cm tin with greaseproof paper and pre-heat your oven to 140C or, for a fan assisted oven, 120C.

Place all the other ingredients into a large mixing bowl and, starting slowly with an electric whisk, beat until the mixture is thoroughly blended.

Stir in the brandy soaked fruit, ensuring the fruit is evenly distributed throughout the cake mixture.

Tip the mixture into your prepared tin and cover the top with greaseproof paper.

Bake in the oven for 4.5 – 5 hours, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Leave the cake to cool in the tin.

Remove the cake from the tin and turn it upside down, using the skewer make random holes in the cake and pour over your additional brandy (about 2 tbls).

At this stage, if you are efficient and have made your cake in plenty of time (ideally 3 months before you want to eat it), you can keep adding brandy (about 1 – 2 tbls) each month to enrich the cake.  Make sure it is well wrapped up and stored in an air tight container.

Decorating

 

The next stage is the marzipan and you can make your own or buy it and, I must confess, I buy mine.  The French love marzipan and so I can buy excellent quality marzipan in our local stores.  For some reason, rather than being golden or white as it is in England, it always comes with a pink, white and green stripe.  But it tastes delicious and these colours will not show under the icing.

Roll out your marzipan to the right size.  Heat a little apricot jam in a saucepan and brush this on the top and sides of the cake – this will keep the marzipan in place.  Make sure you cover your cake completely and allow the marzipan to dry out for at least 2 days before you attempt the final icing and decoration.

I decorated mine with a plain white fondant icing and golden sugar granules. I made the holly leaves, red ribbon and twisted rope from coloured sugar paste and carefully frosted everything with edible glitter.

“I confess, I did not think about making my cake 3 months in advance, but probably put it together over about 10 days – but It still tastes great.”

chambre d'hôte holiday

Happy Holiday to All from Mas d’ Augustine

See you in the New Year!

chambre d'hôte holiday

 

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

Visit Uzes

2016’s Top Post: The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Close to 1,000 viewers enjoyed Jane and Gary’s story the day it appeared on the Barefoot Blogger! Thanks to your interest and response, Jane and Gary have agreed to frequently update their stories of  Mas d’Augustine. Like me, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to peek into their world. Stay tuned …


 

Have you ever thought about owning a B&B? I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

 

Mas d'Augustine Uzees

Mas d’Augustine Uzés

 

Mas d’Augustine is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

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Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

 

 

 

Restored cave at Mas d'Augustine

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

 

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property. Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d'Augustine

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

View of La Bruguière from Mas d'Augustine

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move to France and open a B&B?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

Manicured lawn at Mas d'Augustine

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

Courtyard and garden at Mas d'Augustine

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

 

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

 

Pool area at Mas d'Augustine

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

 

How long did it take you to make the renovations?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

Little things mean a lot at Mas d'Augustine

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

Original stonework at Mas d'Augustine

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

View of Mas d'Augustine courtyard

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

 

 

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

 

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

Table d'Hote at Mas d'Augustine

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

 

#2  I want his life! 

Pet chien at Mas d'Augustine

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website Mas d’Augustine. 

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

 

shelly-wu

 

My Life in France: Taking Stock and Next Steps

Three years ago I made one of the biggest decisions in my life. I moved to France. Alone. To compound the weight of my choice, I knew very few people in my new “hometown” of Uzes and I didn’t know the language. 

Any who have followed me on the journey from South Carolina to the south of France know I started out my expat life with a three-year plan. (For those who are new to the saga, click on the hot links for more of the story.) I sold my belongings in the states, except for a few very “special” things, and said goodbye to my friends and family. With a long-stay visa in hand, I moved into an empty apartment in Uzes which I quickly filled with brocante furniture and dreams. That was September, 2013.

It’s 2016. Where has the time gone?

Travel

Before moving to France the only places I’d been in the country were Paris and Nice. Now I’ve visited more than a hundred French towns, villages and cities, mostly in the south and southwest. There have been short trips to Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, Istanbul and a tour of Nepal since 2013. Also, I spent three 6-month stays in the US, one of which was for dental surgery, the other two were to help welcome a grand baby boy into the world, then a grand baby girl.

French Holidays and Fetes

Bastille Day was the only French holiday I knew about before moving to France. Funny, it’s not even called “Bastille Day.”It’s “Fête Nationale française” , July 14th” or bon fête.” Festivals like Fete Votive, and Nuit Blanche,  music festivals and Ferias were totally new to me.

Customs

French customs. It’s a subject I learn more about with each passing day. From “what to eat when” to “how to cut cheese,” there seems to be “rules” for everything — or at least, good etiquette. For example, whenever you are with a friend(s) and you have your first cocktail or drink, there’s always a “toast.” The proper language is a vote santé which is spoken while lifting your glass, clinking your glass with everyone in your party, looking each person you’re toasting straight in the eye, then taking a sip of your drink. Any step in this ritual that you omit curses your sex life for years. (No comment)

Fashion

How do they dress in France? It’s one of my favorite finds. Mind you, I live in the south of France, very close to Provence. Fashions here are as varied as the people who live here. From blue jeans and t-shirts to frilly bo-bo or provençal styles, you see it all. What I love the most is that it doesn’t really matter what you wear. You can be as flamboyant or as reserved as you like. It’s all OK. I will say, however, you can spot a tourist if he/she’s wearing a baseball cap.

French cooking

OMG! The best food ever! I don’t know where to start on this subject except that I’ve enjoyed every food moment. Everyone knows about breads, pastries, cheeses and wines. What I didn’t know was how French foods and palettes change within the regions of the country. A mystery to me was why Paris restaurants offer rich, creamy foods and dishes that are not as easy to find around Uzes. Simply, it’s because there are very few, if any, pastures and cows around here. Rocky, garrigue terrain surrounds this area. So foods are more in line with the Mediterranean diet — olives and olive oil, goat and sheep cheeses, and lots of garlic.

Another treat to living here has been attending cooking classes. There are two world-class cooking schools in Uzes — Cook’n with Class Uzes and Le Pistou.  Each one offers a different type of experience  — which makes both a “must” to do!

Dining out is my passion. It’s more than a weekly event here since there are so many bistros and cafes that offer a “plat du jour” at such reasonable prices. Then there are the many restaurants with dishes that are superbly designed in taste and appearance. Truly masterpieces. I miss my tacos and sushi, but I realise you can’t have it all!

French bureaucracy

Even the French laugh about the struggles you go through getting things done around here. Mostly, you know it’s going to take two to three times longer than you’d hoped to get things done. Which is partly why I chose to live here. To learn to be patient. There are daily lessons.

Visitors

Everyone says when you move to France your long lost friends appear from “out of the woodwork.” Agree. Visitors have come here I haven’t seen in 40 years. If I had to come to France to meet up with them again, I’m thankful for the move. Many of my closest friends from the US have stopped by to check out my new “digs” and to play in France and beyond. More are signed up for future trips.

Friends

New friends made along the way are the best of all rewards for changing continents. Never did I imagine I would meet so many lovely people — just by moving to Uzes. The French have welcomed me with open arms. They award me daily with big smiles when they recognize I’m trying to learn the language. The town is a magnet for tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all over Europe. Barefoot Blogger followers who have let me know they’re in town have become my best buddies.

What’s Next?

Life’s so unpredictable, who knows what the future will bring. Right now, I’m happy as a clam in France. The only drawback is that I’m so far away from my adorable grandchildren. I’m missing them at their most precious ages –toddlers. We “FaceTime” every week, though, and I’m hoping they will be ready to travel this way soon. I’m thinking I would have liked a”grandma in France” I could visit.

In the back of my head I feel there’s still another big move left in me. Maybe to Spain where I know a little more of the language than I did French. As I’ve said before: “while I have the energy and curiosity to travel and experience this great big world of ours, I’ll find a way to get there.”

Frankly, change is better for you than you can ever imagine.

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“French Bo-Bo” Style for the Holidays is Trés Chic

You know if I’m spending the holidays in Uzes, I’m going to visit l’Atelier des Ours. It’s just down the street and it’s irresistible, especially this time of year. From the moment you enter l’Atelier des Ours, you leave this world and float away on a cloud of snowballs and ruffles.

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

Fluffy flowers and lace trim the place from top to bottom

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

You enter a fantasy world that takes you back to another time and place

 

 

A simpler time. When little things mattered

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours 

 

A time when “dressing up” meant adding a flower, a scarf or a bow

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

 

At  l’Atelier des Ours every detail matters

 

Visit l'Atelier des Ours

Atelier des Ours

Atelier des Ours

Atelier des Ours

 

Fashion comes to life in the simplest ways 

Atelier des Ours

 

Winter favorites take on new flair 

 

It’s one of my favorite places, l’Atelier des Ours. 

 

Perhaps it’s because Papa Bear faithfully watches out below, guarding the street where I live. 

 

Atelier des Ours

 

Atelier des Ours

 

Silly mice in Uzes, France

Uzes Christmas Market In Real Time

Christmas Market is in Uzes right now. If you cover your eyes and click your heels together, you can imagine you’re here!

 

Uzes Christmas Market 2016

Uzes Christmas Market 2016

 

The Saturday Market was hurried this weekend for the setup of the annual Marché Noél Saturday evening. Through Monday the Place Aux Herbes is filled with vendors operating out of white-topped stalls selling all types of holiday gifts and foods.  Wrap your taste buds around these morsels

 

 

My favorite jewellery maker is in town with more of his fabulous designs…. and a big hug and kiss for me, too!

 

 

Along with the woolies for sale and games for children and families, the market has something for everyone.

Handmade woolens in Uzes France

 

 

Furs at Uzes Christmas Market

 

 

 

 

Click on the slide show below and imagine the music ringing through the town. 

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Everything from religious santons to a silly mouse …

Santons in Uzes France

 

Silly mice in Uzes, France

Christmas in Uzes

 

The holidays are in full swing here and new shops are opened to welcome the crowds.

Le Comptoir de Mathilde 

 

 

Le Goûter d’Uzés

For my first full Christmas in Uzes, everything is merry and bright!

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Bizarre Holiday Gift Ideas from France

Finding the “perfect” gift for those on your list who seem to have everything is a chore. Here are two ideas for gifts from France you’ve probably never come across before.

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, has a holiday gift suggestion that tops the “bizarre” list. Before you find out about it, there’s another present that you can find at the Uzes Saturday market that’s certain to please — donkey milk.

Donkey Milk Skin Creme

Donkey Milk Skin Creme

 

Donkey milk has been a favorite for women of distinction since the time of Cleopatra. It is said that Cleopatra traveled with a team of 100 donkeys so that she could indulge in a bath of donkey milk. Personally, I love the soap, bath lotion and the cream shown above. It’s absolutely luxurious!

Nancy McGee has another totally unique idea for holiday gifts she discovered at the Wednesday Market in Sete — bat shit!

Bat shit at the Sete market

Bat shit at the Sete market

 

Bats in the belfry? No – under the tree!  And Santa’s going Batshit Crazy this year, his sacks bulging with gifts ranging from bat-logo apparel to the actual guano — to use the polite term. No kidding, bat shit’s big business.

 

Bat Shit Ready for Gift Giving

Bat Shit Ready for Gift Giving

 

” I love Sète’s weekly Wednesday market” said Nancy, “last week I was searching for unique gifts amongst the food, household goods, clothing and flower stalls,” she continued.  “Then I spotted it — a stall piled high with boxes of bat guano amongst the plants and flowers. You’d have to be blind a bat to miss it,” she exclaimed.

What is it for?

The merchant explained: ‘It’s an excellent natural soil conditioner and fertiliser – acts fast, hardly any odour and makes good tea.”

Tea?? 

“Tea for the roses!’ he countered hastily. He packages the guano himself and sells around 25 boxes a day, with prices ranging from 2-5 euros.

Bats can be found in most countries but prefer warm climates and so many have made their home in southern France. They roost in tree holes or behind the bark, in caves, cellars, attics and crevices of buildings, as well as in man-made bat houses. Bats are really intelligent creatures with a sophisticated navigation system. Most use sound or biological sonar – echolocation – and emit noises that bounce back like an echo, enabling them to detect obstacles or and find food.

Twitter?

Yes, some do make a kind of tweeting sound and according to recent studies they form long lasting relationships through a social networking system! They know too that by sleeping upside down on a branch they’ll be well positioned for flight and safe from predators. How then do they – er, you know – if they wake up in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t that be messy. Not at all – they simply flip right way up and then back down again!

Where bats reside there will be plenty of guano and so for business and especially ecological reasons it’s in our interest then to protect the species. The Eurobats organisation of EU countries, including France, was formed for just that purpose. Each August they celebrate the International Night of the Bat.  France is home to 34 species of bats including horseshoe, long-fingered and mouse-eared varieties — absolutely none of the bloodsucking types.

christmas-bat

Myths, facts and superstitions

Bats were once believed to drive people insane, hence expressions such as ‘bats in the belfry,’  ‘batty’ and of course ‘bat crazy’. The battiest of all, of course, was Dracula – the bloodthirsty count who gave the reputation of bats a thorough “battering,” so to speak. Here are some of the facts and myths about bats:

  • Bats live in huge numbers and the resulting heaps of Guano house small creatures, thus forming a new ecosystem
  • Bats have been populating the earth for 50 million years
  • Many bats eat insects – up to 1,200 mosquitoes an hour, helping keep pests in check
  • Others eat fruit and can play an important role as pollinators
  • Vampire bats do not drink human blood
  • Blind as a bat? No, bats aren’t blind
  • The French name ‘chauve souris’ (bald mouse) is inaccurate.

See more about bats here

What bizarre gifts are you giving this year? Please send a comment and share it with us!

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The Inside Story: Owning and Running a Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

A  few months ago I had the privilege of  visiting chambre d’hôte owners Jane and Gary Langton at their home and place of business, Mas d’Augustine. That day I was given a glimpse into my dream of owning and running a chambres d’hôte in the south of France.

Since our visit, the Langton’s and I have become good friends. With the friendship, they are indulging me in learning more about “life behind the walls” of Mas d’Augustine. In other words, along with you, I’m going to find out the “nitty-gritty” about B&B ownership. It’s ups and downs.  We’ll find out about the food and drink tourists expect when they’re on a luxury holiday in France.  We’ll learn how Jane uses her professional interior design talent to adorn the Mas and the gardens. We’ll pry into which of the business and property chores Gary dreads the most.

Jane will share her recipes and Gary will enlighten us on his best before-dinner aperos. In other words, you and I are going to get an inside view of their lifestyle — as if it was our own.

As we begin this adventure together, I invite you to send comments and questions for Jane and Gary. Pretend we’re all together at their home, the Mas, and you can ask them anything you want to know about owning such a property. Think of it as a “private consultation” with the experts. 

The first post on Mas d’Augustine is attached below — to remind you where we started.

Stay tuned … 

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The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Have you ever thought about owning a B&B? I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

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Mas d’Augustine Uzés

Mas d’Augustine is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

Ichambre d'hôte owners

Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

chambre d'hôte owners

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property. Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

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Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

chambre d'hôte owners

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move to France and open a B&B?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

chambre d'hôte owners

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

How long did it take you to make the renovations?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

chambre d'hôte owners

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

chambre d'hôte owners

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

chambre d'hôte owners

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

#2  I want his life! 

chambre d'hôte owners

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website Mas d’Augustine. 

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

shelly-wu

Loire Valley Holiday

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

When the plan was conceived for a 3-day visit to the Loire Valley, I thought the trip was going to be rather low-key. It was the first time in years that Nancy McGee’d been away from her business, Absolutely Southern France. Now I know there’s nothing “low-key” about traveling with Nancy, destination planner extraordinaire.

For the long drive from the south of France to our Loire Valley “base” in Amboise, Nancy had smartly planned our lunch stop in Clermont-Ferrand.

“I met the merchant during a tour I was offered,” Nancy wrote to me before our trip. “He is one of only 10 cheese merchants in France who ripens his cheeses,” she continued. And oh yes … ” We could get him to prepare a small sampling platter for our dinner on arrival.”

As you learned from the first post in the series, “Hanging out in the Loire Valley,” Clermont-Ferrand, the cheese shop, the boulangerie and the whole experience was something to remember as much as visiting chateaus and wineries.

That wasn’t all Nancy had up her sleeve. She conjured up  a private chef.

“A private chef!” I exclaimed to myself when I read the first lines of Nancy’s email. “That’ll cost a fortune!” I sighed. Then I read the next part of Nancy’s note:

“I spoke to the Chef today. Here is what he has to offer on Sunday evening. He arrives at 7 with everything, and leaves at 9. He sets the table, cooks (some things he makes in advance) and does the washing up. He cooks with local produce and uses organic when he can.”

When she added that the menu would feature regional foods, complete with the chef’s choice of local wines — and cost no more that a meal at a moderately upscale restaurant — I was “in.”

But first … Château Villandry

The date set for our private chef to prepare dinner at our “chalet” was Sunday evening.  That meant we had all day to visit one of the châteaux we heard was extraordinary — Château Villandry. Believe me, it didn’t disappoint.

Château Villandry in the Loire Valley

Château Villandry in the Loire Valley

Château Villandry was built in the sixteenth century by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francis I. The structure was erected on the site of a feudal castle from which Breton salvaged only the keep (fortified tower) because of its historical significance — the site of the peace treaty signing, “La Paix de Colombiers ” (The Peace of Colombiers), between   Henry II of England (Henry Plantagenet) and King Philip Augustus of France.

Château Villandry was confiscated during the French Revolution and acquired by Emperor Napoleon to house his brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. In 1906 the château was purchased by Joachim Carvallo, a Spanish doctor and medical researcher, married to Ann Coleman, an American heiress. The Carvallos piled massive amounts of money and effort into creating a home and showplace,  including resurrecting and installing a magnificent tri-level garden. Enrique Carvallo, the doctor’s great-grandson, and his family live on the grounds of the château today.

From any angle, the château and gardens are both man and nature’s works of art. 

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Gardens at Château Villandry

Gardens at Château Villandry

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The day we visited Château Villandry the sky was overcast and grey. In spite of the weather, the garden was colorful and cheerful — flush with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and assorted other seasonal fruits and vegetables. I could only imagine how it the same place might look in the summertime with a different variety of plants and flowers.

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While I admire gardens, it was the interior of the château that, to me, was breath-taking. Especially the dining room.

Dining room at Château Villandry

Dining room at Château Villandry

If you wonder how dinner is served in a château, this setting showed it off to pure perfection.

Family portraits and live flower arrangements throughout the château created a warm and friendly ambience. 

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Long halls filled with an impressive art collection belonging to the Carvallo family and intricately designed ceilings were reminders that Château Villandry is a grand château worthy of its World Heritage Site designation.

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Ceiling decoration at Château Villandry

Ceiling decoration at Château Villandry

Dinner Dimanche 

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Back to chalet “chez moi.”  

After a long day visiting the château and gardens at Villandry, we were more than ready for our special treat — dinner with Chef Arnaud.

Chef Arnaud

Chef Arnaud

Le menu

Entrée
Oeufs Meurette au Chinon (poached eggs in onion and red wine sauce)

Plat
Joues de Porc Confites , Purée de Vitelottes  (candied pork cheek and purple potatoes)

Fromage

Toast de Fromage de Chèvre (goats cheese on toast)

Dessert

Tarte à la tatin  (apple pie with creme)

For any who think eggs poached in wine is weird, just try it. If you cringe at the thought of pork “cheeks,” this Southern Girl has never tasted anything quite like it. The pork was slowly cooked until the meat was deep pink. It was so tender it melted like butter in my mouth, yet there was an outside crust that was crispy and savoury.

Along with the meal fixings, Chef Arnaud brought more regional delicacies from his own kitchen that we could buy — pâte, rilettes de porc and confitures. And buy we did.

Brad even got in on the evening fun!

Many “thanks” to Barefoot Blogger readers for your comments on photo representation in the blog posts. In addition to saying “keep the photos in the post as usual,”  you seem to like the slide shows and video slides, too. Always open to your thoughts and suggestions on how to make the postings easier to manage and enjoyable for you. I love having you along with me on this ride!

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3 Days in the Loire Valley: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

On a three-day visit to the Loire Valley, my friend Nancy McGee and I made up our itinerary along the way. Nancy, destination guide “extraodinare” of Absolutely Southern France, was on vacation. That meant no set schedule, just a home base near Amboise. 

After seeing Château Amboise which is in the middle of the town of Amboise, Nancy and I walked a short distance to Château Clos Lucé. The attraction of the small chateau was , to us, that it was where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years.

Château Clos Lucé in Amboise

Château Clos Lucé in Amboise

 

The chateau was built in the fifteenth century by Hugues d’Amboise. It was acquired by Charles VIII for his wife, Anne de Bretagne. Later, it was used by Francis I who invited da Vinci to stay and work there. Da Vinci remained at the chateau until his death in May 1519. It is now a museum dedicated to the memory and inventions of the master artist and inventor.

 

Workshop of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Luce

Workshop of Leonardo da Vinci at Chateau Clos Luce

 

An Experiment. Please comment!

In the spirit of the visit to Clos Lucé, I’d like to experiment with a different format for sharing photos with you. I really need your feedback, please. There are many pictures I’d like to show you from the Loire Valley trip. However, I don’t want to make my posts too difficult for you to view. So … how do you like to help me decide.

For example, do you like slideshows that you can view from YouTube? (The quality is not as good as the slideshow through WordPress) … or do you prefer the imbedded slideshow that has better quality but requires more time to download? Other options are below.

Let’s give this a try and please, please, let me hear from you on your preference:

  • Slideshows from Youtube
  • Imbedded slideshow?
  • Photos (6-10) per blog post? (as usual)
  • Photos and slideshow?

Here’s Château Clos Lucé … enjoy!

 

(Imbedded slideshow)

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Youtube slideshow

 

 

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 3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

Staying in a small village near Amboise turned out to be one of the best choices along this visit to the Loire Valley. Fireplace, neighborhood parties and wine caves.

Arriving at our “château” after a day of castles and wine in Amboise, our host popped in to invite us to a neighborhood party–a birthday celebration. Perhaps it was because of the guest we picked up in town.

Where's Brad Pitt
He was quite a hit with the ladies.. and a big help, too.

Where's Brad Pitt
I guess he’s used to partying in France and I’m certain he was ready to have some fun. He really got into helping out in the kitchen, especially getting prepared for the barbecue.

Where's Brad Pitt

Party! party! 

Next day all the party-animals met at the nearby wine cave, Caves du Pigeonnier,  for a tour and degustion (tasting)

Amboise France

Amboise France

My friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, who has taken many tours in France with her travel customers,  says this was the “best guided wine tour ever.”

Amboise France

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

 

With Nancy performing as interpreter the few English speakers,  we all learned so much about wine production in the Loire, especially about the 300 year old cave that’s been owned by the same family for six generations.

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

The ancient cave has been enlarged in recent years yet wine producing techniques from its beginning are still prominent, including the “vat” in the cave wall that was used in the process before the introduction of barrels.

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Bubbling juices and skins being prepared to use as “coloring”

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Wooden crate contraption that rotates to turn bottled wine during the production process

 

Under the wine appellation (AOC) Montlouis, the production at Guestault is predominately white wines from chinon grapes, including sparkling wines.
Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

As ancient as the caves and some of the original processing methods, the grape production at Guestault is thoroughly modern. I turned on the video recorder for this explanation, interpreted onsite by Nancy.

Next stop, Château Clos Lucé

 

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3 Days in the Loire Valley: Amboise

The Barefoot Blogger is off to explore the middle of France: the chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley.

Along with me on the three day adventure is my good friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. The tour expert extraordinaire and I started out on the three day trip, including two days on either end, from Sete where I drove to meet her.

Our home base on this trip is an Airbnb ‘chalet’ in Amboise. From there we can easily reach more chateaus and wine than we can possibly cram into three days.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley:

Chateaus and Vineyards of the Loire Valley

Château Royal du Amboise

The Chateau Amboise is in the center of the charming city that shares its same name. The first  trenches of the château were built in the 4th century to defend the residents of the town.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley
The château was the home and place to stay for the Valois and Bourbon kings. Charles VIII was born here.  King Francis and children  of Henri II and Catherine de Medici were raised here. Leonardo da Vinci, friend of King Francis, is buried on the property.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateau Amboise

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley:

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley:

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

The Chateau

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Gardens at Chateau de Amboise 

Although it was an overcast morning, views of the gardens at Chateau de Amboise were dramatic.

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Bidding Chateau de Amboise “avoir,” the town of Amboise was next stop. 

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

 

Chateaus and Vineyards of the Loire Valley

Chateau Clos Luce and da Vinci

The small château, Clos Luce, is within easy walking distance of downtown Amboise. It was here that Leonardo da Vinci, the invited guest of King Francis I, lived between 1516 and 1519 when he died.  The castle itself houses over 40 of da Vinci’s inventions. An audio-visual presentation of his life and work, presented by IBM, instructs tourists as they move through the rooms.

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

 

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

(From this point I changed cameras. More photos later!)

A surprise at the wine cave

After a day of châteaux, it was wine time at the nearby wine bottler and merchant recommended in the Rick Steves travel guide.
chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley
chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

To our surprise, we met up with a most unexpected celebrity who, rumored to be depressed and somewhere in hiding, we persuaded to join us.

chateaus and vineyards of the Loire Valley

Stayed tuned…

Follow the tour!

Hanging Out In The Loire Valley

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

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Hanging Out In The Loire Valley

Ten hours on the French highways and the Barefoot Blogger is in the Loire Valley.

Join me on an adventure into the heartland of France–a Loire Valley tour. Along with my “partner in crime” Nancy McGee from “Absolutely Southern France” destination management company (travel advisor.) Our challenge is to visit as many chateaus and vineyards as we can cram into three days in the Loire Valley, plus two travel days.

Day One: Sete to Amboise, via Clermont Ferrand 

Starting out from Sete, we drove non-stop to Clermont Ferrand , crossing the Millau Viaduct.

Loire Valley tour

Millau Viaduct

The home of Michelin Tires, Clermont Ferrand shows its rich heritage with impressive buildings and magnificent St. Pierre Cathedral.

Loire Valley tour

Clermont Ferranc

Loire Valley tour

Clermont Ferrand


Loire Valley Tour: Cityscapes

Wish we’d had more time to see the city, especially the Cathedral. Here are some of the picture-perfect scenes that are “oh, so French.”

Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour

Loire Valley tour

Apparently, the town’s favorite boulanerie

Loire Valley tour
and here’s why …

Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
and especially this…

Loire Valley tour
One very special stop in Clermont Ferrand was the artisan Fromagerie Nivesse.  Nancy visited there recently with a tour group and she raved about the selection and quality of the cheeses. She was so right! In fact, since tasting their 36-month aged cheeses, I’m hooked!

Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour
Loire Valley tour

Loire Valley tour

Look at the aged goat cheese! Yes, the dark brown logs of cheese

Follow the tour!

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Amboise

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

 

 

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