Tag: Mediterrean beaches

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 “go to 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? Read onYou 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……

go to Corsica

tour south france

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

When I heard there were going to be white horses racing on the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, I couldn’t wait to get there. I sent a note to my photographer friend, Alan McBride, and suggested he join me with his fancy cameras. It was an event neither of us should miss!

tour south france

Abrivado Saintes-Marie-de-la-Mer

 

Not knowing what we were getting into, Alan and I determined a meeting place near the seaside town so we could drive together for photos and a story. All we knew from the online promotion was that there was an Abrivado taking place somewhere near Saintes-Maries-De-la-Mer. Since it’s a small town we felt confident that we couldn’t miss hundreds of horses and riders.

Wrong. The town looked deserted.

“Let’s head out the beach road,” Alan suggested, hoping we hadn’t missed it all. (I might add here that neither Alan nor I speak or read French. It’s very possible we’d misunderstood the promo.)

There on the road to the beach we began to see a few people on horseback and others walking.  A few cars were parked towards the far end of the beach road. Apparently we were headed the right way. We followed the traffic of people, horses and vehicles which was increasing as we walked along. Boldly I stopped several “pilgrims” to ask: “Do you speak English?”  Then to query “Where does the event start?” The only answer I got in return was a hand signal “straight ahead.”  So there we went – straight ahead down the road that paralleled the beach.

About this time I was getting concerned about taking photos to show off the event. “If the horses and riders come from in front of us, and the sun is shining on the water like it is now, how can you take pictures straight into the sun?”  Alan seemed nonplussed. “OK,” I said to myself. “He’s the pro. He must have a plan.” We kept walking along with the others.

By the time we were a good mile or so down the road, the numbers of observers increased significantly. Apparently they had gotten the information to approach the event from another vantage point. Never mind. We were on the way … hopefully not too late. Along with the others, we crossed a gully of water and climbed a slight sand bar to get closer to the sea. Once on the beach we saw there were gatherings of kindred folk who had set up viewing spots. As much as I would have liked to join them for a tumbler of wine, we kept walking. Our intent was to get to a point where Alan could take the best shots.

“Are we there yet?” I asked, repeatedly. We kept walking.

Then … straight ahead … we saw and heard a “crack” of light and fire… and hundreds of horses, riders and people were lined up.  They headed our way!

To my surprise there were bulls in between the horses and riders. What was I thinking? An “abrivado” Of course there were bulls! 

As the through of horses, bulls and humans passed, it was exhilarating. “When do they run through water?” I shouted to Alan.

That’s when he made his move.  He’d observed there was another group of horses and riders and bulls at the “starting line.”  Another running of the bulls was ready to take off. In an instant, Alan disappeared. I looked back and watched him head for the beach road.  Up and over the sand bar. Through the water, then to the side of the road.  I ran to join him just before … behind me …the sight I was waiting for… horses in the water! The riders on horses were rushing the bulls through the gully. Splash! The herd followed en masse. They headed for a pool of water at the end of the road.

Oh that I had only known the rules of the game … the course of the Abrivados But … who cares!?? Could there be anything better than this?

I’m not certain how many “runs” were made that morning along the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Almost as quickly as it started, it was over. The movement of people, beasts and vehicles headed back the way we started — towards town.  Soon we were in a “traffic jam.” Rather than fight the crowd, we did what any story-teller and photographer would do. We watched and took advantage of the photo opportunity.

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Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this tour South France and the telling of the Abrivados at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Thanks so very much to Alan McBride for making our day so memorable with his amazing vision and his artful photography.

For more about the white horses and the Camargues:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

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Sete has a sweet tooth

Sete, France: How Sweet It Is

Sète may be a small town on the French Mediterranean coast but it hits above its weight in the gastronomic arena.  Home of the most sought after oysters in France, Sete is known for these specialties: the famous octopus pie (tielle), red labelled gourmet fish soup (Azais Polito ), and hearty macaronade (macaroni and sausages). Sete has a sweet tooth, too.

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France knows Sete like the back of her hand. She’s here to tell us about sweet treats in Sete that are sought after in specialty stores from Paris to China.

The Sètois are proud of their home-grown biscuits, the Zezette and the Navette. Outsiders may think the two biscuits are the same, but those in the know beg to differ. So how do you tell a Navette from a Zezette?

Sete has a sweet toothThe “ Navette”  

Some say that the small hollow slit on top suggests a navette – a “shuttle” in French, or perhaps, a shuttle boat. These little boats, or Les ‘Navettes Cettoises’, were launched by the artisan Biscuiterie Pouget in 1913.

To this day the original machinery, including the oven, are in daily use. To be more exact, the machinery is still operated by the apprentice, Jean-Marie Fabre, who took over the business after Mr. Pouget. If you time your visit right you’ll see how a Navette is made.

The original recipe usually includes orange flower but other flavors are now available: anis, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon.  Biscuiterie Pouget also bakes equally delicious madeleines and fresh macarons in the store – the owners are extremely welcoming and will be happy to let you sample their wares.

Sete has a sweet tooth

The Zezette

Ooh la la, sounds exotic – so what puts the zing in the Zezette? La Zezette differs from La Navette inasmuch as it has a flat top and contains the local Muscat wine. Gaston Bentata, nostalgic for his mother’s cooking and North African roots, started baking these cookies in the late 1970s. In 1994 he commercialised them and in 1995 he formed his business, La Belle Époque. You’ll find the products in major outlets not only throughout France  but in the UK, China, Belgium and Germany.

Sete has a sweet tooth

To learn more about zezettes (and practice your French!) check out this mouth-watering video.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/zezettes-sete-toute-histoire-689873.html

Sete has a sweet tooth

La Cure Gourmande (The Gourmet Cure)

Not only is the nearby town of Balaruc-les-Bains famous for La Cure (the cure) in its thermal spa, but also for La Cure Gourmande (the Gourmet Cure). This artisan biscuit maker founded in 1989 is a real success story of ‘local boys made good’ on an international scale. You’ll find navettes, madeleines, sweets, biscuits and chocolates in the company’s distinctive colourful stores in 60 countries (Asia, North America, Middle East and Europe) as well as its flagship store in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.

Sete has a sweet tooth

All products in La Cure Gourmande are homemade in the south of France in a factory converted from old train station. The sweets are attractively packaged to ‘revive old-fashion and traditional presentation from the beginning of the last century’. Everything is  designed to entice: the colours, the presentation, and the packaging.

All of the boutiques have the same furniture “made in France” the same candy boxes “made in France” Produce  is seasonal (fruit cakes). Ingredients are local. For instance the sea salt from the Camargue is used to make the toffees.

The founder’s daughter is pictured on in the company’s visuals. She is now a 19-year-old student who found a job last summer …. at the production facility.

Plan for a guided tour of the production facility the next time you’re in Sete. 

Bon appetit!

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

French food, etiquette and more:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

Bizarre Holiday Gift Ideas from France

Sea Urchins: Facts, Fiction and How to Eat Them! 

The Romance of Roquefort 

“Cutting the Cheese” and More French Etiquette

Who’s Got the World’s Best Oysters?

7 Reasons To Visit Sete This Year

Visit Sete This Year

Those of you who follow the Barefoot Blogger regularly know how much I love to visit Sete. It’s one of my favorite places to go for the beach, for the fabulous seafood and for the “always on” fun. If you’re traveling from Barcelona to the South of France, Sete is less than 3 hours away by train.

Here are 7 reasons you really must go:

#1 Visit Sete for Great food

Sete has been one of France’s major seaports for centuries. It is said that Louix XIV made Sete his personal sea gateway so that the treasures of the Orient and beyond could travel directly to Versailles. Italian fishermen helped establish the port as a prime supplier of tuna, sardines, anchovies — among other sea delicacies. Oysters abound around Sete — especially in nearby Bouziques — rounding out a perfect assortment of most delectable seafoods.

Visit Sete

Bluefin tuna from Sete

 

Visit Sete

#2

Visit Sete for History

Along with fishing and importing kingly goods, Sete grew to become a prosperous town with stately homes and thriving businesses along the canal waterfront. Evidence of that prosperity can be seen still today, even though new trade routes and bigger seaports have largely impacted Sete’s economy. Tourism is bringing it back.

 

Visit Sete

Sete’s canal front

 

Visit Sete

Opulent details throughout Sete’s waterfront architecture.

 

 

 

Beyond being a famous port, Sete is known for her favourite son, George Brassens — composer, singer and activist.  In fact, there’s a museum in Sete dedicated to Brassens. It tells of his life and work that captivated me as much as learning about American icons Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley. Click here to learn more about visiting the museum.

Visit Sete

George Brassens

 

#3 Visit Sete for Unique Natural Beauty

Canals that run throughout the town 

Visit Sete

Canals that run throughout the town

 

Visit Sete

 

Sky high, panaromic views of the Mediterrean Sea

Clear blue sea

Visit Sete

#4 Visit Sete White Sandy Beaches

Think the Cote d’Azur has the only beaches in the South of France? Try to beat this. Sete has beautiful beaches, blue skies and all-day beach clubs with seafood and much more!

Visit Sete

Beach buddies

#5 Visit Sete for Summer Sports

 

Where else can you sit in a covered arena, overlooking a sea canal, watching water jousting? Day and night?

 

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

#6 Visit Sete for Extravaganzas

Plan your holiday in Sete, especially around August during the St. Louis Festival, and you’ll be amazed the sights you’ll see.

 

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Visit Sete

Sete

#7 Visit Sete for Party hearty

Summertime in Sete there’s always a party going on!

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

London’s Bad Girls’ Groove Band

 

Visit Sete

Partying at St. Clairs

 

Visit Sete

St. Louis Festival celebration

 

So what’s holding you back? Stop by Sete in the South of France. You might be surprised who you’ll run into!

 

Visit Sete

My “gang”: Hilda, Paula and Rich hanging out in Sete

 

Want to see it all in Sete? Contact Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France for guided tours — especially her famous “walking gourmet” tour.

Here’s where to find year-round activities in Sete. 

More about Sete:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

A Day at the Beach in Sete: That’s Life!

Next Stop: Sete France

Barefooting in Sete, France

The Bad Girls in Sete

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

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

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

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

For information on train schedules from Barcelona to Sete click here

 

 

Visit Sete

 

Seeing the South of France by train from Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

All Aboard for Carcassonne

Sea Urchins: Facts, Fiction and How To Eat Them!

Ever eaten a sea urchin? Find out why the French love them, fresh from the Mediterrean.

One of my favorite people in France is Nancy McGee, contributor to the Barefoot Blogger’s  Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette page. She really knows about the south of France, it’s foods, its places and its customs. Proprietor of the now infamous Absolutely Southern France tour company in Sete, Nancy’s company won Best Holiday Tours 2016 in Luxury Travel Guide and … drumroll …. Nancy is Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year for her region of France for 2015.  Thanks to Nancy we’ve enjoyed reading about two of France’s favorite foods — cheese and oysters. Now it’s time to learn about sea urchins. Yes, those spiny creatures that, if you’re not careful,  you step on while wading in the Mediterranean.

Would you believe they’re edible? Read on and find out more.

SEA URCHINS  : A REVELATION

My story – Nancy McGee

What is it that makes one fall in love with the south of France? Is it the lifestyle, climate, food, wine…? For me it was all of the above – plus my future husband, a young medical student. Thirty years ago, rather than return home to Canada after a one-year work assignment, I readily exchanged the arctic climate of Quebec for endless days of sunshine. My husband and I spent our summers in his hometown of Ajaccio on the island of Corsica. I have many happy memories of those leisurely days spent on the beach, swimming, sunbathing and also discovering many culinary gems of this Mediterranean island. However, it wasn’t until much later that I learned to appreciate the most highly prized of all: the sea urchin.

Sea urchin from Sete

In Corsica, where this bounty from the sea is almost revered, summer beach parties which centred around the thorny creatures are a popular tradition. The young men dive for the urchins and return to the beach bearing sacks full of ‘treasure’. Beach towels are spread out, bottles of wine, opened – and the sea urchins are slit and eaten on the spot. Fresh from Canada, I was quite taken aback by the “primitive” nature of this event. As far as I was concerned, sea urchins were something to be cursed, especially if one had the bad luck to step on one! But to eat them raw and live? It was simply out of the question!

I graciously refused the kind offers to join the feast but have since made up for lost time!

Originally called ‘sea hedgehog’ for obvious reasons, the sea urchin has been a much maligned creature along with its cousins like the sea cucumber, sea star and sand dollar. The very name suggests ragged, scavenging youngsters out of the pages of Charles Dickens. (And indeed the species – echinoidea – does scavenge the ocean floor.) In 19th century Newfoundland they were disdainfully referred to as ‘whore’s eggs’, yet they were considered delicacies in the days of Pompeii. The philosopher Aristotle studied them long and hard. In his book The History of Animals he described their ‘mouth’ (center) as a horn lantern, known as ‘Aristotle’s Lantern“. It is capable of drilling through rocks!

The “revelation” for me came around five years ago when a friend in the colourful Mediterranean port of Sète, which is now my home, invited me to a New Year’s Eve party. As the guests sipped aperitifs, a huge seafood platter was presented and we were asked to serve ourselves. I must admit I don’t know if it was the excitement of the New Year or a little too much bubbly, but I spontaneously took hold of a sea urchin, scooped out the small bright orange sections – and cautiously took a bite.

Never could I have imagined such a delicious and delicate sweetness. I felt like a princess (the word primitive was instantly erased from my vocabulary) as I explored the shell in search of a small bite of this newly discovered treasure. It took me back to the beach parties and the young men offering unlimited quantities of sea urchins. It made me realize how much I had missed and how silly I had been to refuse to taste this fabulous sea food.

 

A FESTIVAL TO CELEBRATE THE SEA URCHIN

The south of France offers a variety of festivals, mainly during the summer, which draw hoards of visitors and tourists to the Mediterranean coast.

urchin 3

 

One of my favorites is the Sea Urchin Festival in March , or ‘oursinade’ which is unique to the town of Sete. Over 20,000 sea urchins are served in the main square over the weekend. Just 5 euros buys a glass of local Picpoul white wine and a dish of raw sea urchins, which are generally accompanied with slices of fresh baguettes and butter.
The urchins are hand picked by divers in the neighboring lagoon by the Mediterranean and sold in the local markets for approximately a mere 4 euros per dozen.
At first glance, admittedly, sea urchins do not appear particularly appealing, but they are comparable to oysters for delivering a fresh, straight-from-the-sea flavour. Often described as tasting like the sea without being fishy, they have a “creamy ocean, slightly sweet flavour”. Rich in vitamin C and vitamin A, they are a good source of protein. (Also rumoured to be an aphrodisiac, but that’s another story…)
Please bear in mind if you plan on travelling to the Mediterranean coast that sea urchins are not available in the summer (from May to October). It is the reproduction season with laws instated to protect the species.

Recipes

Scrambled eggs with sea urchin
Ingredients
8 eggs, 12 sea urchins, 2 spoons of butter, salt and pepper
Open sea urchins and retrieve the « coral » ,
Beat eggs , add salt and pepper.

In a double boiler, first melt t 1 teaspoon? spoon of butter. If you don’t have a double boiler, you can easily place a light, non-plastic bowl set over a pot of lightly steaming boiling/simmering? water
Add eggs and stir with wooden spoon until the eggs become creamy
In a saucepan, melt 1 spoon teaspoon? of butter and add the sea urchin coral coral wasn’t explained , heat for 1 minute
Pour over the scrambled eggs and serve

As legend would have it...

  • Fossil sea urchins were thought to be stones that had fallen from the sky during a storm.
  • The druids thought that sea urchins were eggs of snakes.
  • Sea urchins “Eurhodia”, found in abundance, are called ” lucky stones ” in Jamaica.

And the facts…

  • The sea urchin first appeared five-million years ago and more than 200 species of sea urchin populate waters around the world.
  • In the south of England, fossil sea urchins are placed on the racks of the dairies to prevent milk from turning.
  • They are believed to be strong aphrodisiacs.
  • Sea urchins prefer rocks to the ocean floor because their tentacles can cling to rocks.
  • Sea urchins do not have a brain.

urchin 2

La Grande-Motte: A Thoroughly Modern French Holiday

Just an hour down the road from Uzes, near Montpelier, is the beach resort, La Grande-Motte. At first glance, it’s a bit like seeing a piece of contemporary furniture among French antiques.

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By all descriptions, La Grande-Motte is a modern, planned, vacation home community. I wasn’t expecting to see such a place in this part of France. Perhaps around Nice. But not so close to Montpelier, a city that is so splendid and classically elegant.   Nevertheless, the manicured walkways, golf courses and harbor at the holiday site are very appealing.

Le Grande-Motte

Le Grande-Motte

 

 

 

 

A sailing regatta was underway the day I was visiting. Many of the famous boaters of France were participating.

Sailing regatta at La Grande-Motte

Sailing regatta at La Grande-Motte

 

A walk around the property leads to the promenade with shops and restaurants.

Promenade at La Grande-Motte

Promenade at La Grande-Motte

 

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Dejeuner offers a wide selection of local fare.

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La Grande-Motte, which boasts seven miles of sandy beach, offers a wide choice of accommodations. In season, I understand the resort is filled to near-capacity.

Accommodations and parking at La Grande-Motte

Accommodations and parking at La Grande-Motte

 

I mean, who can resist a walk or bike ride along this beautiful shoreline?

 

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Biking at La Grande-Motte

Biking at La Grande-Motte

 

One of the best features to  me is the proximity to one of my favorite places — the Camargue. Catamaran tours and 4×4 “safaris” into the marshlands of the Camargue are once-in-a-lifetime adventures that make La Grande-Motte a stop on my tour list.

 

 

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French folklore

French Folklore: Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer


What I love about living in France is the opportunity to re-learn history. I never expected French folklore from the Bible.

Who knew, for example, that Lazarus and Mary Magdalene ended up in France? According to Provencal tales, which I learned upon my recent day trip to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, Jesus’s friend Lazarus; his sister, Martha; Mary Magdalene; Mary of James, sister of the Virgin; and a servant girl, Sarah the Egyptian, all arrived in the south of France around 40 A.D. Albeit under less than desirable circumstances.

Legend has it that after the Crucifixion, while Jews continued to be persecuted in Jerusalem, the extended “family” of Christ was cast into the sea in a small boat equipped with neither oars nor food. Miraculously they landed safely here, now Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer, where they erected a small chapel and dedicated it to the Virgin. The two Marys and Sarah remained at the church while Mary Magdalene and Martha went on throughout Provence preaching. Catholic tradition says that Lazarus was the first Bishop of Marseilles. In the 11th century the chapel became a church and was reconstructed as a fortress.  

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Miracles attributed to the Saints are shown in paintings displayed inside the Church at Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer.

French folklore

Sainte Maria dela Mer

Sarah the Egyptian: Revered by Gypsies

St. Sarah is highly venerated by gypsies. Around the 15th century the nomadic groups from Spain and other regions began annual pilgrimages to the church. In a colorful procession, the gypsies would carry the statue of St. Sarah and immerse it in sea. Modern day pilgrimages honoring St. Sarah take place in May and October. The events are celebrated with horse races, parades of costumed ladies from Arles, and “the running of bulls”, staged by herders from the nearby Camargue. Gypsies march the statue of St. Sarah to the sea.

Gypsy Blessings  

While visiting the Church, I was sighted and stopped by a gypsy woman who pinned a religious symbol on my shirt. Looking straight into my eyes, she placed a finger on my forehead and gave me a blessing. As I thanked her and started to walk away, she stuck out her hand… for an “offering”. When I kept walking, she quickly removed the pin from my shirt. Oh well… guess “blessings” come at a price.

 

More about the Camargue

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

 

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