Tag: Holiday in France

sing in a rock band

I Just Want To Sing in a Rock Band

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

No joke. It’s been my suppressed desire to sing in a rock band. That and wanting to live in a ‘hippy’ van on the beach. So when the Bad Girls Groove Band came to town while I was visiting Sete, I fell in love with them.  They are everything I ever wanted to be … and more! The girls are not only drop-dead gorgeous, but they also have that kind of glamor that’s a flashback to the past.

Revisit the first time I met the Bad Girls’ Groove Band in Sete in 2015…

 

sing in a rock band

Bad Girls 2015

 

sing in a rock band

 

And the Bad Girls are a whole lot of Rock n’ Roll!

sing in a rock band

Bad Girls Groove Band 2015

 

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

 

It’s no wonder!

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

 

The Bad Girls in Sete

Barefooting in Sete, France

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

7 Reasons To Visit Sete This Year

 

 

 

Fête Votive: The Bulls are Here!

Oh my!  Every August the streets of Uzés turn from business into a carnival. It’s Fête Votive!   Bulls run in the streets;  brass bands with men and women in colorful uniforms “oomp-pa-pa” through the village; and parades with spectacular floats fill the place with music and lights.

The Uzés Fête Votive schedule goes on for six days. This is the running of the Bulls — Day One.

Fête Votive

 People line the “main” street of Uzes waiting for the entertainment to start.

Horse and riders from the Camargue wait for the action to start.

Horses and cowboys from the Camargue ready themselves for the action.

  Fête Votive   Fête Votive

Fête Votive

They know there’s an important, dangerous job ahead.

Fête Votive

 Horses are restless. Even so, this one made a special effort to pose for the camera.

 

Fête Votive   Fête Votive   Fête Votive

Handlers were listening for the signal to let out their cargo of Camargue bulls.

Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Your guess what this was about?

The crowds were anxious.

Fête Votive     Fête Votive  

Fête Votive

Then, in a flash, the truck gate was down and the bulls dashed out in a fury  … faster than the eye … and faster than my camera. The bulls were released in such a hurry … three of them at once … that I thought I had missed it all.

 

Fête Votive

You do see the bull? Right?

 In  just a few minutes a buzz from the excited crowd signaled the bulls were on the way back!

Fête Votive

Oops! Too fast. Missed again.

Fête Votive

Note: Bull on the bottom right .. or leg of bull.

Fête Votive

Thinking I had totally missed getting a shot of the bulls, I glanced around and saw that the young people standing near me — Arnaud and his friends from Normandy —  had captured  the action on video.  They were more than happy to share it for the blog.

(Thank you Arnaud!)

 

Yes, it was over that fast… 2+ seconds!

 What I didn’t know was that chasing the bulls up and down the boulevard goes on for an hour. Up and down, down and up.

Fête Votive

And if you walk down the street, there are better places to view the spectacle.

Fête Votive

After an hour of bulls and horses running up and down the street, I was able to catch a few decent shots.  Mind you, they  come storming down from the boulevard in a mass of horses with riders, bulls, and people chasing the bulls. Then they’re gone.

 

Fête Votive   Fête Votive

Fête Votive

Bulls running in Uzes

Fête Votive

Yes,  they were that close!

Fête Votive

If you wonder what it feels like to be standing in the middle of a street with horses and bulls headed your way, check out the video.

12 Ways To Calm The Overactive Mind

CDG Airport

Lost at CDG: How to Find Your Airport Hotel

Have you ever been lost at CDG Airport (Charles de Gaulle) trying to find your way to the hotel where you’ve reserved a room? I have. 

When I head back to the US from Uzés for my family visits, I try to stay at a hotel at CDG the night before the flight. It’s my way of dealing with travel stress. Until this trip, however, I’ve been lost trying to find the way to the hotel. More stress…

This time I was determined to figure it out. It couldn’t be that hard. Besides, what else was I going to do to spend the 24 hours before my next day flight to Atlanta? So I walked slowly through the train station; I read all the signs; and I took photos along the way. Now, if I forget next visit, hopefully, this will help.

Here we go … from the CDG trains (Gare) to one of these airport hotels: Citizen M, Hilton, Novotel or Ibis (If you’re staying at a CDG hotel other than these, I’m afraid this guide won’t help you.)

lost at CDG

 

lost at CDG

Trains arrive at CDG on this lower level. Ride the escalator up to the next level. If you have too many bags for the escalator, walk behind it, and you’ll see signs for the elevator (Ascenseur)

 

lost at CDG

At the top of the escalator

 

lost at CDG

Enter the terminal

 

lost at CDG

You’re here. Now look for the escalator to your left.

 

lost at CDG

Take this escalator up to the level with the big blue display board.

 

lost at CDG

 

lost at CDG

Look at the second sign, the one on the left. It’s showing you the way to the airport shuttle … see close up below.

 

lost at CDG

Airport shuttle sign looks like a little train on a track. Follow the sign and go left here.

 

lost at CDG

Up the escalator

 

lost at CDG

On this level, it gets a little confusing. Relax. Look to your right for the hallway with signs that have the little train on the track. That’s the way to the airport shuttle.

 

lost at CDG

Down again

You’ve made it to the shuttle. But there are two tracks … and everyone’s in a hurry…which way to go??? Here’s a little secret … you can’t go the wrong way!! Both shuttles go back and forth along the same route. 

lost at CDG

If you go the wrong way, sit back and relax. You’ll get to the right stop… Roissypôle.

lost at CDG

 

You’re almost there! But it does continue to be a bit confusing. There’s a lot of construction going on at Roissypôle.

Roissypôle

Exit the terminal. An IBIS hotel is right there. For others,  look for a sign to the left of where the buses are stationed.

 

Roissypôle

Hotel sign!

 

Citizen M at CDG

There it is! My favorite … Citizen M. The Hilton and others are off this same walkway.

 

Citizen M at CDG

Citizen M

 

Citizen M at CDG

At Citizen M, there’s always a friendly, welcoming host to meet you.

 

For more about “lost at CDG” and help navigating around the airport and train station: Finding Your Way Through Paris’ CDG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brocante July 14th in Uzès

July 14th in Uzès

Looking back one of my first “Bastille Day” celebrations in France, not much has changed in the way we prep for July 14th in Uzès.

The carpark is filled with brocante dealers …

 

July 14th in Uzès

 

 

The partying hasn’t started … but here’s a look back at 2014. Wherever you are, party like it’s July 14th!

(Follow the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get in on today”s fun in Uzès)

 

Brocante Uzes, France

What’s  happening July 14th in Uzes?

I set out with my camera to see how the French celebrate in this small village.

It’s all about family, food, dancing and fireworks. This year, it was also about brocante.

A hundred or more brocante dealers showed off their best wares in the town’s parking lot — a beautiful spot overlooking the valley.

Brocante in Uzes, France

Brocante in Uzes, France

 

Uzes

China, pottery, porcelain treasures galore.

 

Uzes

Colorful wares and colorful brocante dealers.

 

uzes

El Toro for your man cave?

 

uzes

Perfect gift or the man who has everything.

 

Brocante Uzes, France

 

Uzes

Every man’s junk is someone’s treasure.

 

Cafes in town were packed with visitors, couples and families eating, drinking and enjoying their long weekend holiday.

Uzes, France July 14

 

All waiting for the music and dancing …

Uzes France July 14, 2014

And the fireworks.

firework1

 Facts about the July 14th French holiday:

1-  French don’t call the holiday “Bastille Day”?

It’s called “July 14th”, just like “July 4th” in the States. The formal name is  La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration).

2- “Storming the Bastille” was not all about freeing political prisoners.

Rebels freed four crooks and two “lunatics” and, according to Wikipedia, one “deviant” aristocrat. The Bastille was chosen as the target of the rebellion because it was a symbol of the abusive monarchy — a place stocked with weapons and ammunition.

3- The French Revolution was not the beginning of an independent French republic.

The French Revolution of 1787 is considered by historians as a major step towards establishing the concept of “independent republics.” The world saw the uprising of the people of France as an example to create their own political change;The French, however, were anything but “independent” afterward. They enduring years of terror led by Roperpeare’s government; and later, a military empire led by Napolean.  It was the Third Republic in 1870 that gave way to national elections and political parties in France.

Charles de Gaulle founded the French Fifth Republic and served as its first president from 1959 to 1969.

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Expat Moving Tips for France

A Travel Pro’s Favorite Places in Provence

A visit to Provence – one of the most visited areas in France – is the second post in the Barefoot Blogger travel series by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France.

Nancy has lived in the south of France for over 30 years so, I’d say, she knows her way around. When asked “what do you recommend when tourist want to visit Provence?” Nancy gave me her picks below. Now that I’ve visited with Nancy in Sete and we’ve taken a some really fun trips together, I’ve learned to take her advice. In fact, I’m convinced it’s really important to ask an expert to help with your plans. If you have limited time, a bit of sage advice will help you make the most of every day you’re traveling. You’ll see the places you’ve heard about as well as off-the-beaten-path sights you’ve only dreamed about. It’s the best way to sample French life like you’re a local. Need I say more?

Welcome to Provence!

From bustling, edgy Marseille to the red cliffs of Cassis, fragrant lavender fields of the Luberon, Aix-en-Provence’s colorful markets, wine and art … there’s something in Provence to please everyone. No wonder it’s everyone’s favorite.

Visit Provence: Marseille

Founded in 600 BC, Marseille, France’s second largest city, is steeped in history and culture. A good way to start the day in Marseilles is to visit the Basilica of Notre Dame. Perched high above the harbour it offers breathtaking views of the Old Port and the Mediterranean. Those who brave the climb on foot no doubt work up an appetite. And that’s why bouillabaisse – Marseille’s famed dish –  was invented. It is almost ‘obligatoire’ with a traditional glass of pastis. There’s more to see so explore the Old Port and don’t miss the iconic MuCEM museum – one reason why Marseille has held the title ‘European Capital of Culture.’

 

Visit Provence: The Red Cliffs of Cassis

Anyone who has seen Paris, but hasn’t seen Cassis, hasn’t seen anything,” said the Nobel poet Fredric Mistral. When visitors see the stunningly pretty Roman harbour it’s invariably love at first sight. Two natural monuments protect the town: Cap Canaille, that glows red when the Mistral blows, and the white limestone Calanques (sheltered inlets) that can be admired on a short boat outing. It’s a joy to simply roam the streets, browse the museum, or enjoy fresh seafood with a glass of the local rosé wine.

Visit Provence: Bandol

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine… and there’s plenty of each in Bandol, where vineyards bask in 3,000  hours of sunshine a year! The resort itself – just a stone’s throw from Marseille and Cassis – is among the oldest and most popular on the coast.  Its sandy beaches lured the literary set long before the days of Brigitte Bardot and Saint Tropez. A cliff stroll, a vineyard tour and dining on fresh seafood – to which the fruity and racy rosé wines are a great accompaniment – is on everyone’s list.

Visit Provence: Chateauneuf du Pape

Red Wine…The distinguished red wines of Chateauneuf du Pape need no introduction. Masterclasses, food and wine pairing workshops  and wine tours of the historic chateaux and vineyards are “must do’s and can be  arranged. The vineyards in Chateauneuf du Pape are so cherished that a 1950s decree banned flying saucers from sailing over them! The tiny town itself is sheer magic. Take a walk up the hill to the ruins of the 14th century château  – ‘the Pope’s castle’ – and the reward is a view as far as Avignon and its Popes’ Palace. Hungry after that climb? There are many fine restaurants in town serving traditional French cuisine to complement the wines.

 

Visit Provence: Avignon

visit to ProvenceSur le Pont d’Avignon…Standing on the legendary bridge in Avignon provides a good view of Le Palais des Papes,’ (Popes’ Palace), the ancient ramparts and much more of this historic and cultural French city. There’s something for everyone here: museums and galleries; fine dining to please the most exacting palate; and plenty of shopping. During the Avignon Festival in July, live music and theatre fill every street, but the ‘hot ticket’ is a performance in the Popes’ Palace. As for the bridge, the angels inspired a poor shepherd, Benezet, to build it and, convinced of divine intervention, the town’s authorities canonised the shepherd. That’s the legend at least and a popular song was born.

 

Visit Provence: Arles

From Ancient Rome to Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso … Located on the banks of the Rhone River and known as the ‘gateway to the Camargue,’ Arles is one of the most beautiful cities anywhere in France. The ancient arena, amphitheatre and Roman baths top any visitor’s list, as well as a walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh, Gaugin & Picasso. Talking of Van Gogh, a visit to nearby sunflower fields will brighten anyone’s day.

Visit Provence: The Luberon

Lavender Fields Forever ...The very best time to visit the Luberon is July, when the Valensole plateau is awash with lavender and the towns are alive with festivals celebrating everyone’s favourite flower! It’s a sight – and scent – to behold! There’s something here for foodies too –  from a range of small bistrots serving the “dish of the day” to the local delicacy “lavender honey.

Visit Provence: St Rémy de Provence

Here’s Van Gogh Again! Whilst we’re in the area, let’s not miss St. Rémy.  Pretty and picturesque, this pocket-size town offers much to do amid its narrow medieval alleyways, shady squares and wonderful architecture –  including museums, excellent restaurants, an annual donkey fair and the remains of nearby 2nd century b.c. Glanum. As for Van Gogh, his stay in St. Rémy inspired many masterpieces.

Visit Provence: Les Baux de Provence

“Ils Sont Beaux.” Set on a rocky plateau, magical Les Baux de Provence offers stunning views of Arles and the Camargue. It is a listed heritage site that has earned the accolade of ‘one of the most beautiful villages in France’, amongst others. What it lacks in size it makes up for with art and cultural activities, one of which is the annual Carrières de Lumières – the most amazing light show we’ve ever seen.

Visit Provence: Aix-en-Provence

The City of Art and Lights. Beauty, culture and a rich historical heritage exemplify Aix-en-Provence, hometown of Paul Cézanne among other luminaries. Having taken leave of lavender fields and vineyards, here is the opportunity for some serious shopping, sightseeing, not to mention food tours and culinary workshops. . Follow in the footsteps of Cézanne, browse the museums or the famous farmers’ and flower markets or buy that designer outfit in one of the upscale boutiques.  There’s never enough time in Aix and you’ll never want to leave!

How’s that for a tour of Provence? What are you waiting for?  I can’t wait to see it all myself!

visit Provence

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

 

For information about Med cruise shore excursions 

The Oyster World of Tarbouriechh

Best Oysters South of France: Tarbouriech

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

Oyster world of Tarbouriech

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

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

The Oyster World of Tarbouriech

 

Oyster Spa, too!

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

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

Loving South of France Oysters

 

Come along and enjoy the day!

 

 

 

Loving South of France Oysters

 

 

 

 

heat wave in uzès

Scorching Heat Wave in Uzès

What do Uzètians do when there’s a heat wave in Uzès and it’s a scorching 107 degrees (41.7°c) outside?

If you’re wondering how the heat is affecting Uzès, let’s look at the places people always gather. Join me on a walk around town.

Looks like Christina from the teddy bear shop” and David, real estate agent extraordinaire, are out today. Of course, the Barefoot Blogger had to check if it was hot enough to fry an egg!

heat wave in uzès

How bad is the heat wave in Uzès on tourists?

A few years ago when the high in town was 99, I thought THAT was hot.. read more … .For those who live in hot-weather areas around the world, ninety degrees is not so bad for summer. In France, when it’s this hot, it breaks records.

heatwave in Uzès

 

Heat wave in Uzès Go to Corsica

Heat Wave! Go To Corsica

We’re having a heat wave in Uzès this week. It’s supposed to be close to 105° (41°C). The French call it “la canicule.” All I can say is “it’s cooler in Corsica.” 

Always a little cooler than the mainland of France, Corsica is a popular destination for those wanting to escape the heat. Take a look and imagine yourself there…

 

Want to know more about Corsica? You have to Travel Corsica to believe how much the terrain of an island can change within a short drive. The contrast between Corsica’s coastline with soft-curvy coves and the island’s mountain region with snow-capped mountains is remarkable. The contrast between Corsica’s coastline with soft-curvy coves and the island’s mountain region with snow-capped mountains is remarkable. With a week to visit the French island, I thought it would be a simple task to drive to the major towns — Bastia, Ajaccio, Corte, Calvi, Saint Florent, Porto Vecchio, and Bonifacio. Not so. Now I’ve learned you measure the distance between towns in Corsica by hours, not miles.  Most roads are narrow and winding and go through populated towns and/or commercial areas. It can take you two hours to travel 15 miles (25km). That’s why I ended up seeing only a portion of the southern half of the island. Most of my time in Corsica was spent in the southern part of the island at the beaches around Porto Vecchio and in the town of Bonifacio. And because I spent half the time at the beach or in the swimming pool. The Travel Corsica trip was a beach holiday, too. The day I took the mountainous route through the Corsica Regional Nature Park and visited Corte. Another day, Sartene. The scenery in each of the places could not have been more different…(read on)…

 

go to Corsica

Summer Concert in Nîmes' ancient arena

Nîmes Rocks! Summer in Nîmes’ Ancient Arena

Elton John is in Nîmes tonight. He’s just one of the stars showing up for a concert this summer in Nîmes’ ancient arena. 

Last year I saw Sting in the arena. It was more than magical. Imagine watching and listening to a 21st century rock idol in a 1st century coliseum. There’s no doubt, the French love him. What a night!

Join me as I reminisce …

Summer Concert in Nîmes’ Ancient Arena

Want to know more about Nîmes and the Roman history behind its stone walls and majestic architecture? Read on here …  Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

 

Fete de la Musique

Fête de la Musique: Street Dancing in Uzès

Who doesn’t love a music festival? It’s Fete de la Musique in Uzès again and everyone’s out dancing in the streets.

Fête de la Musique 2019

Click here for a flashback to one of the Barefoot Blogger’s first Fête de la Musique moments … 

Hello Summer. It’s Music Time in Uzes!

 

 

pont du gard show

Pont du Gard. Lights, Cameras, Action!

Each year The ancient Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard is alive with an exciting sound and light show. 

No one does it better than the French!

More about Pont du Gard:

Pont du Gard, France: Architecture or Art?

Summer 2019 don’t miss the Pont du Gard light show:  “The Bridge at Dusk” 

wine tasting and canal cruising

Wine Tasting and Cruising Canal du Midi

Canal cruising is more than floating along slowly in a barge. Wine tasting and cruising was the perfect way to spend the day on the Athos Canal du Midi.

The itinerary for our first full day on the Athos Canal du Midi barge took us to the House of Noilly Prat in Marseillan for a wine tasting. The famous vermouth company, owned by Martini & Rossi, was developed by French herbalist Joseph Noilly from Lyon in 1813. Noilly Prat was officially created when Louis Noilly became business partners with his son-in-law, Claudius Prat. The company moved to Marseillan in the 1850s because of its ideal location.  Proximity to Marseille enabled easy shipping and the sea spray from the coastal location aided in oxidizing and aging the wine.

The location was perfect for wine tasting and for starting our cruise of the Canal du Midi, too!

wine tasting and canal cruising

Noilly Prat is only a few steps from the Marseillan harbor

 Noilly Pratt’s three variants of vermouth is made totally in the factory we visited — except for bottling. Our tour followed each process.

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Wine Tasting and Canal Cruising

Entering the Canal du Midi

From the harbor in Marseillan the Athos canal barge approached the entrance to the Canal du Midi. It wasn’t long before we were at the first of the canal locks we would encounter over the next days of our cruise.

wine tasting and canal cruising

Route of the Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

 

Enjoy the video and the ride!

wine tasting and canal cruising

A Foodie Holiday in Antibes

Antibes has a special attraction for me. Perhaps it’s the architecture and the narrow colorful avenues. It could be the quaint little hotel where I stay that’s so close to little shops and outdoor cafes, yet so hidden away. On my most recent visit, the main attraction was the food. Here’s a look at Antibes restaurant favorites

The past three years, I’ve made a long weekend pilgrimage to Antibes with my good buddies Paula and Rich. This year we added our friend, Trish, to the party.

Before we left for Antibes, Trish innocently asked, “what do we do in Antibes?”

Paula and I, almost in unison, replied: “absolutely nothing.”

We meant it. The annual getaway is our chance to be together in a totally relaxed atmosphere — before the onslaught of summer visitors, traveling and activities in and around Uzès.

Usually we spend a part of a day exploring something we haven’t seen or done around Antibes. Last year it was the Fete Voiles. This year we walked to and around the park at Fort Carreé.

Most of our time in Antibes, we ate. A lot.

Hungry? Read on at your own risk!

Antibes restaurant favorites

Lunch (déjuener) at Le Don Juan is becoming a regular stop on visits to Antibes. Always good! The gnocchi with veggies was a perfect choice for our vegetarian friend.

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Don Juan for dèjeuner was a treat with ancienne tomato salad, veggie-stuffed farci, calamari, and gnocchi with vegetables

Dinner at Autour du Jardin was even more special with friends from House Hunters International. We lucked out that Erin, Stewart and kids were visiting Antibes at the same time. (Can I call these adorable young adults “kids?”) 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Autour du Jardin, Antibes with the kids, Paula and Erin, Stewart and the Barefoot Blogger. A fancy caprese salad and lemon tart.

 

Dinner at Côte Terroir meant eating fancy food that really tasted as good as it looked. Because it was a windy night, there was no outside seating. Who cared? The service and foods were impeccable. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Côte Terroir, Antibes muse bouche parmesan “pops”; soft boiled egg with nut-crumb wrap and jambon; gambas (shrimp) risotto, and the chef’s take on pavlova with mango

 

Final night in Antibes means dining out on the plage (beach) in Juan-les-Pins. This year we discovered Le Ruban Bleu. Our “regular” restaurant had disappeared. Seems like there are some restaurants on city property, some spots are owned by the French government. The state owned ones are closed. Go figure? 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Ruban Bleu in Juan-les-Pins offered the seafood specialties we were craving. Fish soup, pasta with clams and a fancy mixed vegetarian salad

 

Light lunch and drinks at The Brooklyn was a great find. Located along the busy byway to the harbor, the cafe was buzzing. No wonder! Who could resist this smiling waiter, a bento box for our vegetarian, and a giant Jack Daniels burger. The Colonel cocktail (citron sorbet with vodka) was pretty amazing, too. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

 

Want to know more about Antibes? Check out these posts:

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Antibes in 2 Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

See more of Antibes on Pinterest … click here!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

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

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

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

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

Plus Beaux Villages by Region

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

 Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages

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

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

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

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

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

Beynac-et-Cazenac

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

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

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

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

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

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

Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

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

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

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

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

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

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

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

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

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

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Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

 

 

 

Tree Sports in Uzes. Who knew?

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

Tree sports in Uzès

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

Tree sports in Uzès

 

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

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

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

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

Tree sports in Uzès

Then I realized I didn’t have my camera!

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Tree sports in Uzès

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

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Sounds like fun to me!!

Prayer of a Tree
—————-

To The Wayfarer,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To contact the tree sport company website Phytofeel.com

Finding Your Way Through Paris’ CDG

Like many of you who will be finding your way through Paris’ CDG in the next weeks and months, I’m heading there, too. It’s time to plan ahead and remember some of the things I’ve learned.  Mostly the hard way.

Travel Tips for Passing Through CDG Paris

Passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris can be a daunting experience for even the most seasoned traveler. On my last trip, I took notes on some of the things that make my travel a little easier…and safer. Hopefully, these Charles de Gaulle Airport tips will be helpful to you. (Read more here …)

A Photo Guide to the SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport

If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go. (Read more here …)

Lost at CDG: How to Find Your Airport Hotel

Have you ever been lost at CDG (Charles de Gaulle) Airport trying to find your way to the hotel where you’ve reserved a room?  I have. (Read more here…)

 

Packing Light

Thanks to all who contributed tips through comments on the post Packing tips for the 60+ solo female traveler. I’m rearranging my bags with some of your suggestions in mind. As always, please feel free to send me a note with your thoughts, hints, and edits!

Finding Your Way Through Paris' CDG

 

 

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”

So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.

Les Plus Beaux Villages

There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.

The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.

In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.

So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!

Eguisheim

Riquewihr

Domme

La Roque-Gageac

Les Baux-de-Provence

Gordes

Lourmarin

Menerbes

Roussillon

Najac

Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.

If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!

 

Why Do We Think France Is So Romantic?

Why do we think France is romantic?

Is it because of glamorous and exquisite French movie stars like Catherine DeneuveBrigitte Bardot, Louis Jourdan, Gérard Depardieu, Charles Boyer that we think France is romantic? Even  Maurice Chevalier?  

Or because movies like “A Man and a Woman” with Anouk AiméeThe English Patient and Chocolat with Juliette Binoche; and Amelie with Audrey Tautoo are imprinted on our hearts?

Perhaps we think of “love” and “France” because of the romantic cities 

 

 

… and fairytale palaces

The castles

 

The storybook villages…

 

 

Then there’s the art …

France is romantic

 

… the food 

Let’s not forget, champagne — the elixir of lovers — and it comes only from France

France is romantic

If there was a poll for the “World’s Most Romantic Country” and you could cast only one vote. Which place would you choose? 

I’d choose “France.” 

… and seal it with a kiss …

France is romantic

“The Kiss” by Rodin

For a closer look at the castles, chateaus and villages of France, click here and enjoy browsing! 

France is romantic

 

mini rocamador

Discovering Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Along the way back to Uzès from my first visit to the Dordogne, I received an email from my good friend, artist Andy Newman.

“If you like Rocamadour, you must see Najac. It’s a mini Rocamadour,” Andy wrote.

With GPS onboard, I found that Najac was an easy stopover.

Narjac: A Mini Rocamadour

As it was definitely a last minute decision, I was lucky to find an Airbnb room for the night near Najac. Even luckier that it was a seventeenth century mas with the most delightful hosts.

mini Rocamador

Property deed

Arriving just before dinner, I was greeted with open arms and a most unexpected and delicious meal. French hospitality at its best.

The next morning I was off to explore Najac.

Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Following the Aveyron River as it wove around narrow country roads, through lush green hills and valleys, I was forced to stop along the way to Najac to take photos and enjoy the views.

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Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

When I arrived in Najac it was all very quiet. The village center, literally a small square area with timber-framed shops, cafes, and other commercial establishments, looked like it was everyone’s day off. In fact, the only store open was a pottery shop.

Yes, I did buy the little red pitcher on the shelf.

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Since I had no idea where I was going, I strolled down what appeared to be the only road in town. Before long I saw a castle (château) in the distance.

mini rocamador

The Château de Najac

The farther I roamed the more interesting the vistas became.

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The town beyond the square was spread out along the long road, perched above the river. A splendid example of a 13th century bastide.

Château de Najac

Known for its medieval buildings and its château, Najac has been near major events of history since its beginning, including the first English occupation, the Albigensian Crusade, the Hundred Years’ War, the imprisonment of the Knights Templar, the peasants’ revolts, and the French Revolution. The château was built in 1253 at the summit of the hill overlooking the Aveyron at the bidding of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Count of Toulouse. Its location and design were key to controlling the region.

mini rocamadour

Najac

Today it remains a prime example of the type of military defense used in the 13th century to fight against the Cathars and during the Hundred Years War. The dungeon of the castle was used as a prison for the last Knights of the Rouergue.

Mini Rocamadour

Towers at each corner and a square tower, once part of the castle, helped guards coordinate defense of the château and the town.

Mini Rocamadour

The castle is known for its high, thin apertures — the tallest in France. The openings were used by archers, three at a time, who defended the castle and its inhabitants.

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Najac: Mini Rocamadour

Najac is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France — the most beautiful villages of France. The castle, owned by the Cibiel family, has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1925.

Andy Newman, thanks for the tip. Pass it on! 

mini rocamadour

 

Wish for France

Travel Corsica: From Sea to Snow-Capped Mountains

You have to Travel Corsica to believe how much the terrain of an island can change within a short drive.

The contrast between Corsica’s coastline with soft-curvy coves and the island’s mountain region with snow-capped mountains is remarkable.

 

With a week to visit the French island, I thought it would be a simple task to drive to the major towns — Bastia, Ajaccio, Corte, Calvi, Saint Florent, Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio. Not so. Now I’ve learned you measure the distance between towns in Corsica by hours, not miles.  Most roads are narrow and winding and go through populated towns and/or commercial areas. It can take you two hours to travel 15 miles (25km). That’s why I ended up seeing only a portion of the southern half of the island.

…and because I spent half the time at the beach or in the swimming pool. The Travel Corsica trip was a beach holiday, too.

 

Travel Corsica SouthTravel Corsica

Most of my time in Corsica was spent in the southern part of the island at the beaches around Porto Vecchio and in the town of Bonifacio. One day I took the mountainous route through the Corsica Regional Nature Park and visited Corte. Another day, Sartene. The scenery in each of the places could not have been more different.

The Beaches

The beaches in Corsica have everything I could ever wish for.  You can sit on a blanket in the sand or lounge on a chair at a private beach. (I’m the “on a lounge chair, under an umbrella, near a restaurant with fabulous seafood” type.)  With temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler than in Uzes when I left, the beach weather was perfect.  Beachside lunches of grilled sardines one day and tuna tartare the next day made this fish lover more than happy.

Let me not forget the wine from Corsica,  It’s devine…and incredibly affordable.  There are nine AOC wine regions in Corsica and more than thirty grape varieties. 

Needless to say, a wine tour of Corsica is something I won’t miss on my next trip.

 

Bonifacio – Corsica’s Oldest Town

Travel CorsicaMy first impression of Bonifacio was that it is not only a bustling tourist city, it’s also a busy port. As a matter of fact, there are three ports in Bonifacio — a fishing port, a pleasure port and a travel port. It is said that Bonifacio is the busiest port in France. The marina at the entrance of town is where the sea-based activities such as yachting and diving are centered . From the travel port, ships go in and out to nearby islands and to Sardinia which is less than 10 miles away.

As I walked toward the city on the hill,  I couldn’t resist taking photos along the way. 

Travel Corsica

In the distance was the 9th century Citadel standing prominently at the top of Bonifacio’s vieille ville (old town) or la Haute Ville (the Upper city). Through the years most of the citizens of Bonafacio lived in the old town, protected by the fortified Citadel. Today residents are scattered along the harbor and in new housing areas below the old city. Those who live on the most southern part of the city are perched on a cliff that plunges 230 feet (70 meters) to the sea.

Travel Corsica

As I walked through the gates of the old city, onto the cobblestone streets, there were narrow passageways, tiny shops, and dozens of cafes.

 

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Not too far away was the Citadel and remains of the old town’s fortifications. The Citadel has been rebuilt and repurposed many times since its construction. Today parts of it are used as a museum. 

 

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After seeing the city from the top, a boat ride to view it from the sea was a must. 

Travel Corsica Regional Nature Park

High above the sea is Corsica’s Regional Nature Park. The protected area covers over 1300 square miles (3,500 square km) of the the islanda — approximately 40% of its total surface.  Established to preserve the island’s natural wildlife, the success of the project can be witnessed by the numbers of  golden eagles, bearded vultures, boars, deer and wildcats that flourish in the environment.

 

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Corte – Corsica’s Early Capital

High in the mountains of Corsica is the colorful town of Corte and, like a beacon on a hill, its towering Citadel .

Travel Corsica

Corte, Corsica

Corte was my favorite place to visit in Corsica. It’s mountainous setting and its houses and buildings painted in bright orange, yellow and red colors made the small town unique and inviting.

 

Corte had a fairytale feeling about it. 

 

I could hardly believe I was seeing this man hanging out of his window. He waved as he saw me take the photo. 

 

Here are more of my favorite views of Corte.

 

Sartene – Pirates and Bandits 

Sartene was on my Tour Corsica list because of a story about pirates I wanted to track down. Supposedly pirates kidnapped people of the town; carried them away on their pirate ships; and they were never found or heard of again. I couldn’t find any evidence of the tale, but I did find an interesting museum with artifacts from the days of Romans.

 

I also enjoyed roaming through the streets, shopping and taking in the scenery.Travel Corsica

 

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Only a short drive away from Sartene I was at the sea again. Tucked away in a cozy cove was L’Escale with more gorgeous fish. 

 

Now you know why I must return to Tour Corsica. There’s so much more. So much to see. So much to do!

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