Tag: Occitanie

Learn to Cook Provençal

Learn to Cook Mediterranean with a French Pro

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

Learn to Cook Mediterranean 

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

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

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

“Fish day” Menu

Apéro

Garlic and basil spread, olives, pâtébrandade

Entrée

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

Plat

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

Sea bream with fennel, mussels and saffron sauce

Cheeses

Dessert

Paris-Deauville

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Prepping the food

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

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

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

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

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

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

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

Tip #4: How to fillet a fish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #6: French etiquette

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

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Déjeuner/Diner is served

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Visit Uzés France

Visit Uzés, France: Inside the Château de Duché

Any who visit Uzés, France are in awe of the Château de Duché. It’s the centerpiece of the town and home to the Duke of Uzés — the oldest ducal peerage in France.

If France was still a kingdom, the Duke of Uzés would rank just below “princes of the blood.” It is he who would announce Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! at each state funeral, and defend the honour of the queen mother.”

The Château de Duché was built in the 12th century by Lord Bermonde of the House of Crussol. Along with the château, three distinctive towers were erected within the wall of the medieval town. The most prominent tower of all carries his name — Bermonde Tower. All of the structures are standing today. The wall has disappeared and the wall’s watchtower is in ruins.

Visit Uzes, France

visit uzes franceThe gothic chapel, a striking feature of the château’s courtyard with its glittering red tiled roof, was added in the 15th century. During the 16th century, the cháteau underwent extensive renovations. Duke Antoine — the first peer of France, ordained by Charles IX — ordered refurbishments that morphed the medieval castle into an elegant Renaissance cháteau. The courtyard became the main attraction.

The château served as a defense unit during the War of Religion and the Revolution.  It was never attacked or destroyed. As the town went through various phases of wealth and decline, the château was used as a school dormitory, workshops and classrooms. During WWII the buildings were occupied by the Germans.Jacques de Crussol, the current resident of the Château de Duché and 17th Duke of Uzès has this to say about the state of Uzes during the era of his grandfather (1943-1999).

“Uzès was then steadily declining. The population of eight thousand at the time of Louis XIV had dropped to three and a half thousand. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes had already prompted some of the inhabitants to leave. Since the Revolution, the town had lost the bishopric and its tenure, the silk industry was practically non-existent, the Piémont régiment had gone, and so had the sub-prefecture. The arcades surrounding the Place aux Herbes rested on makeshift supports and many houses were in a state of neglect.”

It was the Duke’s grandmother, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who lobbied the Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle to list Uzés as a protected site, enabling the chatéau and the town to find funding for the much needed restorations. Due to the efforts of the Duchess of Uzes, a law is now in place in France that similarly benefits other cultural and historic sites throughout the country. The gutsy grandmother was the first woman in France to be granted a driver’s license. She was instrumental in campaigning for women’s rights, including the right to vote.

Tour of the Château de Duché

I’ve spent day after day staring at the Duché from my apartment windows and I’ve taken hundreds of photos every angle. Finally I found the perfect opportunity to visit inside — along with hundreds of other sightseers — during the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days. 

Come along and let’s take a tour.

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Visit Uzes, France

 

 

Wish for France

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

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

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

Ardèche

Gorges de l’Ardèche

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

Ardèche

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

Ardèche

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

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

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

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

Paula

Friend Paula is leading the way. Or not.

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

Easy day trips from Uzés g_9536

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

Easy day trips from Uzés

Cavern du Pont d’Arc

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

Easy day trips from Uzés

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

Easy day trips from Uzés

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

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

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

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

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

The Aurignacian Gallery

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

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

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Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille is for Foodies

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

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

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

Marseille is for Foodies

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

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

Marseille is for Foodies

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

… Indian Food

… Columbian Food

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

Marseille is for Foodies

… “Little Istanbul”

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

Marseille is for Foodies

… Street Food

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

 

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

Marseille is for Foodies

… Bouillabaisse!

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

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

 

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

Marseille is for Foodies

 

Back to the main attraction — the bouillabaisse. 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseilles: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

 

 

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

Marseille, Resilient After All

Admittedly, my old view of Marseille came from mob and war stories in books, on TV and movies.

Now after visiting the city, I’m impressed. To me Marseille’s story is one of resilience. It shows how perseverance conquers adversity.

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

Marseille’s StoryThe earliest settlements in the area, now know as Marseille, date back to the Paleolithic period (60,000 BC). Residents lived along the Marseille basin which was about the size of the current city. The location was ideal for all types of sea activities. It was protected on the opposite side from the strong northerly wind, Les Mistral, by a range of tall mountains.

Around 600 BC the Phocaeans, Greeks from Asia Minor, arrived in the area to be close to their trading partner, Gaul. They named the city “Massalia.”

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

A popular legend is that Massalia was a wedding gift from the Gallic king, Nannos, to his daughter upon her marriage to a Greek sailor. The story supports the belief that the nations were peaceful at that time. We do know the blending of the two cultures resulted in the introduction of olive oil, wine, ceramics and Grecian gods into the Gaelic world.

Marseille’s Story

From 600 BC to 49 BC the independent Greek city of Massalia grew into a prestigious seaport. Its sea trade, its infrastructure and its political system dominated the trade routes. They distributed goods along the coasts of Gaul to Iberia.

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

Caesar captured Massalia in 49 BC. Artifacts unearthed at a site where the History Museum now stands attest to the Roman influence on the town. Massalia’s habits and customs, however, remained strongly Greek. Even the language.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: Sacked, Ravaged, Back on Track

From the Roman age through medieval times, the city that became Marseille saw great prosperity and near-total destruction. The Visigoths captured Marseille and the Franks sacked it. In the early 10th century, Marseille experienced a revival as part of a Provençal territory which was divided in two. Arles and Marseille were the capitals.

During the twelfth century, Marseille was an independent republic with strong trade relations and naval prowess. A currency of its own boosted the city’s stature as well.

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

Marseille’s StoryMarseille maintained political autonomy until it was absorbed into the Kingdom of France in 1481 along with Provence. Through years of religious wars and changes in French rulers, Marseille maintained its role as a major center of commerce and a vital port for defense. The city had an arsenal and fleets of warships.

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

Under Louis XIV, Marseille was given “free port” status. To affirm his political power, the king ordered a new urban plan for the city. The size of Marseille went from 65 hectares to 195. Straight streets lined with mansions appeared, including the Canebière that leads to the Old Port. The new city had a fort and a new town hall.

The Great Plague

Thought to be carried from Central Asia through ship crews, the Great Plague of 1720 devastated Marseille. Over 30,000 out of the city’s population of 90,000 died from the outbreak.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

The people of Marseille supported the Revolution sending hundreds of men north to Paris to fight. Along the way the rebellious marchers sang a song that is now the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

Marseille’s Story

Troops from Marseille as depicted on the Arch de Triomphe in Paris

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

The middle of the nineteenth century was a “boom” time for Marseille. The port became a maritime hub for the rest of the world. Trade with the Far East and major shipping lines boosted the creation of a modern culture. At the same time, prosperity cut a deep wedge between the already divided city. The rich against the working class.

Marseille’s Story

Refugees, expelled or fleeing from their countries after WWI, brought droves of Italians, Corsicans, Germans, Armenians and Spaniards to Marseille in search of work. The world of gangsters and the underground grew under leaders such as Carbone and Spirito.

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

The image of Marseille as a den of violence, drugs and crime is persistent in the eyes of many. Big screen movies and TV series, still today, such as “Marseille” help perpetuate the city’s reputation. Marseille is the second largest city in France today, so an element of such activity can be expected.

It’s how Marseille survived the apocalypse during World War II that is nearly incomprehensible.

Marseilles’ Story

German troops seal off the Old Port quarter of Marseille, the harbour side community.

The Old Port and surrounding districts were bombed and destroyed. The Germans, the Vichy government, the Militia and the French Popular Party actively suppressed the people. In January, 1943, more than 2,000 Marseillais were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. 

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

Marseille has an enduring charm. The metropolitan area of 1.5 million people consists of a melange of people of all races, creeds and nationalities. It is a place of huge economic, social and cultural significance to France. Marseille is proud and it shows.

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

Walk in Uzès

Home Again In Uzès

 After two weeks away at language school in Aix-en-Provence, it’s wonderful to be back home in Uzès. Join me on a morning walk to town. 

Home in Uzès

It’s Wednesday. That means market day in Uzès with local vendors. They bring my favorite tapenades, like anchoïade spread, and only fresh, seasonal products.

That’s why many who make their home in Uzès prefer to shop on Wednesdays.

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

Oh yes… mind the road. Construction is everywhere. There’ll be new walkways all around for the tourists. They’ll be here soon!

No wonder. There are so many things to enjoy seeing in Uzès …  like the Medieval Garden, the Fenestrelle tower, and the Cathedral of Saint Théodorit with it’s classic French organ. Pull out your camera and capture some amazing photos that the people and town provide. Narrow, cobblestone streets lined with 12th century architecture are everywhere.

Home in uzes

Expat in France

5 Years an Expat in France

5 Years an Expat in France…

Would you believe? It’s been five years since I started my expat adventure in France. After all this time, I’m as as excited as ever about being here. And not a bit trepidatious at what lies ahead.

Highlights: 5 Years an Expat in France

Feeling at home

My little apartment that’s up 55 steps in a tower across from the Duché in Uzes is just as charming as it was on first sight. I still love it. The fact that it is in the middle of all the activity in Uzés is still a plus.

Expat in France

I love leaning out my window when I hear horses’ hooves clomping around the Place de Duché. Sometimes it’s a horse-drawn cart and driver who take care of the potted flowers in the square. Sometimes it’s a coach filled with tourists visiting the town.

Expat in France

I will say, however, there’s a change in the works. Not a move from Uzés, but a bit of repositioning. A chance to get to know the town from a new perspective. Stay tuned…

Making friends

Living in France is a constant whirl of activities with lots of friends. Some friends are French; others are expats; and some are “regulars” or part time expats who return year after year.

Expat in France

Initially, it wasn’t easy to make friends. Especially since I didn’t speak a word of French. Now that I’ve been here for a while, I’m recognized by locals, in the kindest way, as the “American who still doesn’t speak French.”

Travel, travel and more travel

Living in the south of France has to be the best place ever to see the world. That’s probably not the truth, but it seems so. Coming from the US, where it can take 7 hours to travel from Beaufort, South Carolina to Atlanta, Georgia, it’s amazing how you can get from one country to another in so little time. Easy access to travel by train simplifies things, too.

Beginning the “Memories Tour”

A new adventure started in 2018 — the first of the “South of France Memories You Promised Yourself” tour with my great friend and best-selling author, Patricia Sands. We started a tradition of yearly women’s tours, organized by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, my partner in crime and tour planner extraordinaire from Sete. My first ever time tour leading may not have ended up as planned, but along the way I met sixteen new friends I will hold close and in my heart forever. Tour plans for 2019 are ready for you to join. Stay tuned …

Facing my fears

What could be more frightening than having a serious accident while in a “foreign country?” Happily I’m now acquainted with the French healthcare system. There could be no finer anywhere in the world.

Blogging

expat in FranceWhile I’m aghast how 5 years have flown by, I’m equally amazed I’m still writing and loving the Barefoot Blogger.

To tell you the truth, the “Barefoot Blogger” has taken on a life of her own. The person I write about now is an out-of-body extension of myself. As she fumbles her way through life and travels in and about France, it’s amazing she’s survived without more mishaps.

The best part about blogging is connecting with readers. Some visit Uzès and contact me to meet up. We’re like instant friends.

Loving France

Where can I possibly begin to express how much I’ve grown to love France. From early on I confessed I never imagined spending a lot of time in France, much less living here.

Life in Uzés over the past five years has been like living a dream. The longer I stay the more I’m attached to the rhythm of the town and its people. Coexisting with centuries-old architecture and ancient history has changed me.

Expat in France

Learning French

Surely you are weary hearing how I’ve struggled to learn French. Please don’t count how many times I’ve said: “I’m turning a new leaf. I’m taking French lessons.”

Not to disappoint, I have a new plan for in place for Expat Year #6. Stay tuned…

expat in France

Moving to France Healthcare

Moving to France: Healthcare

One of the most asked questions for this American expat in France is about healthcare. “What do you do about healthcare when moving to France?”

The simple reply is “travelers insurance.” The answer you really want to know is “don’t worry about it.”

I couldn’t be more serious. If you’re going to be insured or sick, you couldn’t find a better place to do it than France. Yes, you can take it from one who knows. I’ve just completed a 10-week stint going through an emergency operation, hospitalization and rehab hospitalization in the South of France.

The post below was written when I was literally flat on my back in the hospital. Since then I’ve returned to my apartment in Uzés, back up the 55 steps, and I’m going to physical therapy 5 days a week. I’m walking there and back. It’s been a really long road; albeit, an amazing experience. It’s given me great respect for the French, their hospitals and the staffs. And I’ve learned a bit of French — out of sheer necessity. Very few people I encountered along the way spoke English.

I’ll be honest, the travelers insurance company hasn’t kicked in to repay me, but so far, the bills are minimal. My surgeon and the hospital continue to say there’s no charge for the emergency surgery or 10-day hospital stay afterwards. The rehab hospitals have yet to totally bill me, but I understand it’s like 220 euros a day for room, board and 2 hours of physical therapy a day. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s the story …

The Barefoot Blogger is going to step out of her carefree expat role to talk about something that is critically important to me at this moment: Healthcare.

As I type with one finger of my left hand, I am lying in a bed in a rehabilitation hospital outside Nimes, France.

I’ve been hospitalized in the French healthcare system now since September 18, the date I fell crossing the street while co-leading a ladies’ tour with my good friend, author Patricia Sands.

A unique perspective on my French vs. USA healthcare from one who has experienced a similar orthopedic injury and treatment in both countries.

I wrote about the accident in a previous post. I knew I’d be writing an “inside story” about my experience with the French medical system as an American expat.

Telling the story now, prior to the upcoming election in the US, seems the perfect time.

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

My accident occurred in Aigues-Mortes, a historic walled city in the south of France, on Tuesday afternoon, September 18.

After my fall I was taken by ambulance to the hospital of my choice, Centre Hospitalizer Universitaire Carémeau, in Nimes. A hospital in Montpelier was a nearby alternative, but Nîmes was closer to my home in Uzès. Both are university hospitals with excellent  reputations.

The ambulance ride to the hospital in Nimes was traumatic, just as you’d expect. The heat, the pain and my anxiety were all at play. Fortunately, the hospital was less than an hour away.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was asked a few questions, fortunately by someone who spoke English. Simple things like my full name, where I lived and did I have allergies. No one asked for my passport, for any type of formal identification, or for proof of medical insurance.

The admissions process, emergency room examination, X-rays and placement in a semi-private room took about 3 hours.

A longtime friend who was on the ladies’ tour was allowed to accompany me through each stage of the process. “To hold my hand.” The hospital staff quickly knew neither of us spoke French.

French Healthcare: Surgery

The hospital I was taken to in Nimes after the accident is a university hospital. They have a large, active emergency care unit. Since my situation was far from life-threatening, my surgery was not performed immediately. It was more like 36 hours later.

Meanwhile, I was in a semi-private room with a patient who was awaiting her second knee operation. Not because of my room nor roommate, but I was pretty miserable. No morphine or heavy pain killers were given to me prior to surgery. I was told morphine was not allowed because of its adverse affects on anesthetics administered during surgery.

I remember how relieved I was when the mask went on my face at the beginning of surgery. I knew when I woke up I would be in la la land.

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

I had no idea where I was when I awoke from surgery. No one spoke English. All I remember is that I was moved around a bit, probably from on level of surgery aftercare to another.

Fortunately I was cognizant that I was in France, that I was alive, and that I wanted to move to my room as quickly as possible so people would let me be. So I said “c’est bien” anytime I was asked a question. No telling what I was agreeing to.

For ten days I occupied a hospital bed in a large double room with a dear French woman who became my new best friend, Chantal. She spoke not a word of English. Nevertheless, we carried on a daily ritual something like this:

Bonjour, Deborah,” she said each morning. “Comment allez vous?” she’d ask.

Bonjour, Chantal,” I’d respond. “Ça va bien, “ I’d answer. Then “ Comment allez vous?”

The simple question\answer exercise would continue through the day — every day — ending with our shared “Bonne nuit.”

Moving to France Healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

My daily care during the ten days in the hospital (“hopital” in French) was extraordinarily good. Except for the bad food and occasional curt response from a nurse or “ colleague,” presumedly because my French was unintelligible, I was treated well. There was a time or two when I was left too long on a bedpan, but the small things could be overlooked when I considered my every physical need was being tended 24/7.

Moving to France Healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

Sometime before the end of my ten days in the hospital in Nimes, I learned I was being transferred for physical rehabilitation to a hospital in a small town outside Nimes. I was not going to the rehab hospital in Uzès as I’d expected. It was fully occupied. For the first time since the ordeal started, I cried. In fact, I boo-hooed.

The idea that I was going to some unknown village where no one would speak English was terrifying. Thoughts of Jane Eyre came to my mind. I envisioned being cast away behind stone walls where I would be starved and mistreated. What had I done to deserve such a fate?

When I came to my senses, I realized I could find out about the strange new place by simply searching the Internet. There I discovered I was headed for a brand new hospital, built in 2016, with a sterling reputation for orthopedic rehabilitation. Case closed. I was content with my fate.

Moving to France Healthcare

(Upper left) Nurse and English-speaking Doctor (Upper right) Rehab hospital outside Nimes (Lower left) My physical therapist, Clement, also English/speaking (Lower right) Me in motion

French Healthcare: Cost

It’s day 40 since I have been hospitalized in France due to a hip and shoulder fracture. Except for a bill for the ambulance that transferred me from the Nimes hospital to the rehab hospital outside Nimes, and a bill for compression stockings, I have not been asked to pay for anything.

The costs for the items above were 76 euros ($86.83) and 56 euros ($63.98) respectively. I paid those bills by check. I will be reimbursed by the travel insurance company when I file a claim.

For time spent in the rehab hospital, I will receive a bill when I leave. A friend who inquired about payment for the rehab hospital was told it will cost 197 euros per day ($224). Included in the cost is physical therapy: 1 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

News flash: I have heard I won’t be billed for my time at the hospital in Nimes. Not for the surgery nor the 10 days as an inpatient.

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

Tomorrow I am moving to the rehab hospital in Uzès. My doctor here pulled a few strings to have me transferred. Perhaps she did it because she thought it would be good for me to be closer to home and to my friends. Or, she might have wanted to get rid of me. Draw your own conclusion. Either way, I’m “outta here.”

The plan is for me to stay in Uzès until November 6 when I’ll be taken by ambulance to the hospital in Nimes. If all checks out and my bones are healed, I’ll spend the next 3 to 4 weeks in the Uzès rehab hospital and begin weight-bearing exercises to regain my mobility.

When the doctor releases me, I’ll be able to return to independent living and out-patient rehab.

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..

For More on French Healthcare for Expats Contact Renestance

Moving to France: The Visa

Looks like lots of folks are thinking about moving to France. First, the visa. This post was #1 among blog followers in 2018. Bonne chance!

Yes, it’s that time of year again. Time to renew the French Expat Visa. It’s a gift from France that keeps on giving.

Wish I could say that everything about living in France is wonderful. But when it comes to dealing with French bureaucracy, frankly, it can be a nightmare.

As an American expat, I’m required to renew my long-stay visa yearly.  It allows me to stay in France 12 months. When renewing a visa you have to make an appointment at the local Prefector. You have to make the appointment online no earlier than two months before your visa expires. You can’t submit documents online. Most aggravating, the information you have to provide is the same your gave them the year before. You can’t just update it. You have to start all over again.

Here’s the list of items I have to produce this year. Mind you, not all regions of France have the same requirements. Wherever you are, however, materials except for your passport must be translated to French — including bank statements and proof of revenue.

  • Current carte de séjour
  • Passport
  • Birth certificate and translation
  • Proof of address (less than 3 months old)
  • 3 ID photos
  • Proof of revenue (proof that you have at least 1149 EUR per month)
  • Written statement (in French) that you will not work in France

Once your card is ready to pick up, you pay €269 in fiscal stamps. 

Renewing a French Expat Visa

Renewing my visa last year was a real pain. It was to expire in August. So I went to the website of the Prefecture in Nimes in June, two months in advance, as instructed, to set up an appointment.

“No appointments available. Try again,” it said in French, of course.

Moving to France Visa

I tried the website again the next day. Same response. And the next day. And the day after that. The same screen appeared each time. “No appointment available. Try again.”

By the end of July, with no appointment, I was beginning to worry. I was told by others they were having the same problem.

“No need going to Nimes in person to ask for an appointment,” they said. Online only.

French expat visaOh, what to do? Visions of gendarmes at my door were running through my head. Worse yet, what if I finally got an appointment, and it was in September?!  I had plans to be in the Dordogne! How could I be in two places at one time? All those non-refundable reservations! Panic!

I started asking around for help. That’s when I heard about a company that helps expats cut through French red tape. Renestance. They literally came to my rescue.

The Renestance office is in Montpelier.  They can help expats wherever they live in France. Jennifer, whom I got to know quite well, lives in Nimes. We met more than once. She could easily go with me to the Prefecture in Nimes. Whenever we could get an appointment.

Renestance was having the same problem with the Nimes website with all their clients. Nevertheless, we persisted.

Renewing a French Expat Visa…finally

Finally, after sending a registered letter to the Prefecture explaining my carte de séjour had expired, I had an appointment. November 29th at noon. By that time I’d spent a vacation in the Dordogne agonizing that I might miss an appointment date. And I’d cancelled my plans to spend the holidays with my family in the States. Oh, the frustration!

During all the waiting, Renestance was busy working on my case. They were online multiple times each day and night checking to see if the website was accepting appointments. They were managing the translation of my documents. Most of all, they were dealing with me!

For example, the “original copy” of the birth certificate that I ordered from the courthouse in North Carolina, where I was born, the one my son hand carried to France when he visited, was lost. Bless his heart, my dear son went to the county courthouse, in person, picked up another “original” birth certificate for me, and sent it by FedEx to France.

By the time November 29th rolled around, everything was ready for the appointment in Nimes. Jennifer met me at the train station, guided me to the Prefector’s office, which had moved sometime over the past year, and she walked me through the whole process. Which, by the way, would have been impossible for me without speaking the language. Yes, American Jennifer speaks perfect French. It was another three months before I actually had a new carte de séjour in hand, but I had a signed government document that served the purpose.

So now, when anyone asks me if there’s anyone in France who can help Americans or other English-speaking expats through the French bureaucracy, the answer is “Yes!” Renestance. They help with visas, drivers’ licences, relocation issues and more. Jennifer is helping me again this year. She’s already made an appointment at the Prefector on March 5th. It’s all under control.

Thank you Renestance!

 

Read about the first experience with a French Visa

 

Memories Tour Day 12: A Wine Harvest Finale

How do you cap off an unforgettable twelve day tour of the South of France? By taking part in a wine harvest done the old fashion way, of course.

To make the day extra special, Nick Martin of A Wine Affair arranged for the “sensational sixteen” to visit a fifteenth century Mas and vineyard to experience grape picking and stomping.

Patricia Sands, author and tour leader, tells about the final day which ends with a spectacular dinner party in Arles.

And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had.  This was a dream come true (Click here to read more)

Memories Tour Finale

House Hunters International Uzés: The Inside Story

If you’ve been following the adventures of the Barefoot Blogger’s life in France, you might remember my brush with fame and the TV show, House Hunters International.

Well, it wasn’t exactly me on the popular show, but now I’m friends with the couple who brought the story to Uzès.

It all started with this email:

We’ve been waiting a long time to email you! In a little nutshell, my husband and I started researching the South of France and Uzes in particular last fall and discovered your blog. We fell in love with the area and made an offer on an apartment in Uzes that we now own!…We would love to meet you if are free at the end of June.

I couldn’t wait! House Hunters International is one of my favorite TV shows. I was going to get “up close and personal” with celebrities.

House Hunters International Uzés
Erin and Stuart at our first meeting

Over the months, between the first email and our dinner together, Erin and I exchanged emails. She told me about her husband Stuart and their blended family that includes four children. We clicked. As Erin said:

“We have loved learning about Uzes through your blog and feel a special connection because you are from the southern US as well. We are also weak on our grasp of the French language!

Now that I know Erin and Stuart, I’ve had a chance to learn a bit more about their TV experience. I asked them to tell me what it was like moving into their new place in France. A “behind the scenes” view to share with you.

House Hunters International Uzés

Here’s the story in Erin’s own words.

Why Uzés?

“We found out about Uzes on a general Google search. I put in ‘French Fractional Ownership’ because I thought that was all we could afford. One was available in Uzes through International Property Shares.

House Hunters International Uzés

I had never heard of the town, so I started watching Youtube videos and reading blogs. We liked the history of Uzes, the location: proximity to the coast, vineyards, mountains, and airports/train stations.

House Hunters International Uzés

Once we had fallen in love with Uzes online, we decided to look at the real estate market for a full purchase opportunity, and VOILA!”

How did House Hunters International get involved?

“We approached House Hunters via an introductory email about our plans to look in Uzés for a second home. The show directors contacted us and set up a Skype interview to learn more about us. It moved forward from there.”

Did you buy your new French home “as is?”
“We bought the apartment fully remodeled.”

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

House Hunters International Uzés

You have four young adult children. What did they think?

House Hunters International Uzés

“The children did not have any clue of our plans until the actual filming of the show. We announced our plans on camera for the full effect of their reactions. They LOVED it!”

During the course of your House Hunters adventure, what was your worse day?

“Our worst day was on our first visit to our apartment in Uzés.

The day started with a trip to the local Carrefour store to buy a full list of things we needed to outfit our home. After what seemed like hours, scouting through the huge store, trying to read signs and language that made no sense to us, we headed to the checkout aisle. The store manager was there to meet us. He didn’t leave until he was convinced we could pay the bill.

Next we raced off to Nimes to buy a mattress and portable air conditioner. Thinking we would enjoy a nice lunch with a view before resuming our shopping, we looked for a cafe near the Arena. No parking. By the time we found a spot and walked back to the Arena in 95 degree heat, it was 2pm. The restaurant was no longer serving lunch.

We grabbed sandwiches and set off to finish our task. It took longer than we imagined to buy a mattress and an air conditioner in sign language, so when we headed back to Uzés we were pushing it. We’d planned to have time to freshen up, enjoy an aperitif and spend a relaxing evening at one of Uzés’ finest restaurants.

It didn’t happen that way. A wrong turn took us miles out of our way. We were on the road to Barcelona.

House Hunters International Uzés

We made it back to Uzés; rushed to the restaurant, sweaty and exhausted; but happy to relax with an elegant French meal.”

That was quite a day! What was your best day?

“Our best day was when all the kids were in Uzés with us the summer of 2017. On Saturday we went to the Uzes market, each with a mission. Using euros and a poor grasp of the French language, we were each to purchase food items for a picnic: cheese, bread, veggies, charcuterie. The next day we picnicked on the bank of the Gardon and canoed to the Pont du Gard.

House Hunters International Uzés

The kids had the best time. Alex jumped off a huge rock into the river. It was a wonderful experience!”

House Hunters International Uzés

Erin and Stuart admit their dream to live in France is just beginning. They are busy professionals and have many obligations at home. They’ll be “empty-nesters” soon. Their lives will change. Their getaway home in France is ready and waiting for them.

Welcome to France!

House Hunters International Uzés

For more of the story: House Hunters International TV Show Spotlights Uzes

They Chose Uzes! House Hunters International Update

Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.

Behind French Garden Walls

Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

American in France: French Healthcare, Part 1

The Barefoot Blogger is going to step out of her carefree expat role to talk about something that is critically important to me at this moment: Healthcare.

As I type with one finger of my left hand, I am lying in a bed in a rehabilitation hospital outside Nimes, France.

I’ve been hospitalized in the French healthcare system now since September 18, the date I fell crossing the street while co-leading a ladies’ tour with my good friend, author Patricia Sands.

A unique perspective on my French vs. USA healthcare from one who has experienced a similar orthopedic injury and treatment in both countries.

I wrote about the accident in a previous post. I knew I’d be writing an “inside story” about my experience with the French medical system as an American expat.

Telling the story now, prior to the upcoming election in the US, seems the perfect time.

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

My accident occurred in Aigues-Mortes, a historic walled city in the south of France, on Tuesday afternoon, September 18.

After my fall I was taken by ambulance to the hospital of my choice, Centre Hospitalizer Universitaire Carémeau, in Nimes. A hospital in Montpelier was a nearby alternative, but Nîmes was closer to my home in Uzès. Both are university hospitals with excellent  reputations.

The ambulance ride to the hospital in Nimes was traumatic, just as you’d expect. The heat, the pain and my anxiety were all at play. Fortunately, the hospital was less than an hour away.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was asked a few questions, fortunately by someone who spoke English. Simple things like my full name, where I lived and did I have allergies. No one asked for my passport, for any type of formal identification, or for proof of medical insurance.

The admissions process, emergency room examination, X-rays and placement in a semi-private room took about 3 hours.

A longtime friend who was on the ladies’ tour was allowed to accompany me through each stage of the process. “To hold my hand.” The hospital staff quickly knew neither of us spoke French.

French Healthcare: Surgery

The hospital I was taken to in Nimes after the accident is a university hospital. They have a large, active emergency care unit. Since my situation was far from life-threatening, my surgery was not performed immediately. It was more like 36 hours later.

Meanwhile, I was in a semi-private room with a patient who was awaiting her second knee operation. Not because of my room nor roommate, but I was pretty miserable. No morphine or heavy pain killers were given to me prior to surgery. I was told morphine was not allowed because of its adverse affects on anesthetics administered during surgery.

I remember how relieved I was when the mask went on my face at the beginning of surgery. I knew when I woke up I would be in la la land.

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

I had no idea where I was when I awoke from surgery. No one spoke English. All I remember is that I was moved around a bit, probably from on level of surgery aftercare to another.

Fortunately I was cognizant that I was in France, that I was alive, and that I wanted to move to my room as quickly as possible so people would let me be. So I said “c’est bien” anytime I was asked a question. No telling what I was agreeing to.

For ten days I occupied a hospital bed in a large double room with a dear French woman who became my new best friend, Chantal. She spoke not a word of English. Nevertheless, we carried on a daily ritual something like this:

Bonjour, Deborah,” she said each morning. “Comment allez vous?” she’d ask.

Bonjour, Chantal,” I’d respond. “Ça va bien, “ I’d answer. Then “ Comment allez vous?”

The simple question\answer exercise would continue through the day — every day — ending with our shared “Bonne nuit.”

My French healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

My daily care during the ten days in the hospital (“hopital” in French) was extraordinarily good. Except for the bad food and occasional curt response from a nurse or “ colleague,” presumedly because my French was unintelligible, I was treated well. There was a time or two when I was left too long on a bedpan, but the small things could be overlooked when I considered my every physical need was being tended 24/7.

My French healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

Sometime before the end of my ten days in the hospital in Nimes, I learned I was being transferred for physical rehabilitation to a hospital in a small town outside Nimes. I was not going to the rehab hospital in Uzès as I’d expected. It was fully occupied. For the first time since the ordeal started, I cried. In fact, I boo-hooed.

The idea that I was going to some unknown village where no one would speak English was terrifying. Thoughts of Jane Eyre came to my mind. I envisioned being cast away behind stone walls where I would be starved and mistreated. What had I done to deserve such a fate?

When I came to my senses, I realized I could find out about the strange new place by simply searching the Internet. There I discovered I was headed for a brand new hospital, built in 2016, with a sterling reputation for orthopedic rehabilitation. Case closed. I was content with my fate.

My French healthcare

(Upper left) Nurse and English-speaking Doctor (Upper right) Rehab hospital outside Nimes (Lower left) My physical therapist, Clement, also English/speaking (Lower right) Me in motion

French Healthcare: Cost

It’s day 40 since I have been hospitalized in France due to a hip and shoulder fracture. Except for a bill for the ambulance that transferred me from the Nimes hospital to the rehab hospital outside Nimes, and a bill for compression stockings, I have not been asked to pay for anything.

The costs for the items above were 76 euros ($86.83) and 56 euros ($63.98) respectively. I paid those bills by check. I will be reimbursed by the travel insurance company when I file a claim.

For time spent in the rehab hospital, I will receive a bill when I leave. A friend who inquired about payment for the rehab hospital was told it will cost 197 euros per day ($224). Included in the cost is physical therapy: 1 1/2 hours each day, Monday through Friday.

News flash: I have heard I won’t be billed for my time at the hospital in Nimes. Not for the surgery nor the 10 days as an inpatient.

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

Tomorrow I am moving to the rehab hospital in Uzès. My doctor here pulled a few strings to have me transferred. Perhaps she did it because she thought it would be good for me to be closer to home and to my friends. Or, she might have wanted to get rid of me. Draw your own conclusion. Either way, I’m “outta here.”

The plan is for me to stay in Uzès until November 6 when I’ll be taken by ambulance to the hospital in Nimes. If all checks out and my bones are healed, I’ll spend the next 3 to 4 weeks in the Uzès rehab hospital and begin weight-bearing exercises to regain my mobility.

When the doctor releases me, I’ll be able to return to independent living and out-patient rehab.

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..

Vote!

French Healthcare for Expats?

Renestance

Farmers' Market

Village Scenes in Uzes: The Green Grocer

The French love their fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s why there are farmers markets in France in nearly every town, once a week or more often. In between, lots of places have their hometown green grocer.

In Uzes there are market days on Wednesdays and Fridays. The green market of Jean Claude Gaiffier helps fill the fresh food gap in between market days with local produce, epicurean items and wines. The cheerful shop is open every day of the week.

Hometown Green Grocer

Gaiffier’s is located at an intersection of Uzes that leads into town. San Quentin la Poterie is down the road to the right about 15 minutes away.

hometown green grocer.

Gaiffier Green Grocer in Uzes

The food market is run by Mr. Gaiffier who speaks only French, and his son Christophe who speaks some English.  Whenever I visit the shop, which is several times a week, both Mr. Gaiffiers are happy to pick out the “perfect” cantaloupe for me. Often there’s a fruit or vegetable I don’t recognize. They tell me the French name and sometimes share thoughts on how its prepared.

Hometown Green Grocer

Mr. Gaiffier senior and I have an understanding about cantaloupes. I was told that the best cantaloupe is a “female.” When I asked Mr. Gaiffier how you tell the gender of the fruit, it took a long time for him to understand what I meant. “Femme” doesn’t make sense, somehow, when you’re describing a fruit. Finally I picked up a few of the melons and showed him the difference in the way the bottoms are put together. He got it. Now when I ask for a “good” melon, he goes straight for the ones without the bumps.

Frankly, they’re all good!

Inside and out there is a selection of colorful fruits and vegetables, sausages, dairy items and lots of wine, — most are locally grown and produced in our region.

Hometown Green Grocer

Here is a sampling of the produce that is available right now — only a short walk from where I live.

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It’s like having a French farmers’ market at your doorstep every day.


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

It’s time for the St. Louis Festival in Sete. Gee, I hate to miss it this year. It’s always so  much fun: beach time, parties and the Sete water jousting competitions.

I’m in the States with family. Why now?  After four years in France, I’ve learned that August is a good time to leave — it’s hot and too many tourists in Uzés! Yet …

Sete water jousting

Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

If you’re not familiar with water jousting, it started centuries ago. Most notably in Egypt and Greece. Evidence of the competitions was found in stone carvings. The Romans were known to enjoy the sport. In lieu of water, they sometimes flooded the city arenas they used for people sports like gladiator fights.

Water jousting, or “joutes nautiques” began  in Lyon, France in the 12th century. In the 13th century, crusaders embarking on the Holy Wars with King Louis IX (Saint Louis) teamed up against each other in small boats outside Aigue-Mortes.

In Sete water jousting was first seen when the city celebrated the opening of harbor in 1666. Today the sport has become a tradition and is played pretty much the same.

Sete Water Jousting

The first time I saw the sport of water jousting was on a visit with Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. It just happened to be the St. Louis Festival. After that, I intentionally planned my visits to Sete for the late August wild and crazy weekend.

Some of you might remember one of the St. Louis Festival trips to Sete. I met the Bad Girls Groove Band of London for the first time. They rocked the main stage at the festival’s award ceremony.

Then there was the time when I was up close and personal with the winner of the week’s event.

Sete water jousting

Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy”

Sete Water Jousting

By far the most exciting St. Louis Festival celebration for me was when the Sete Tourist Office invited me to attend the finals as a member of the “press.” Events included parties at the tourist office for jousting club members and special guests. And yes! Specialties from Sete like mini tielles and oysters were front and center.

Meanwhile at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) local members of the town administration and the jousting federation, in all their festive regalia, readied themselves to meet the crowd.

Yes, there was a party going on! Town square was mobbed with entertainers, jousters and fans.

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When time came for the championship match, the press crew marched alongside the dignitaries to the canal for the grand finale.

The Barefoot Blogger was in the parade! Yahoo! If that wasn’t enough, the press members were invited to jump in a boat and try their luck at jousting!

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting

A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

Yes, I’m missing the St. Louis Festival and a whole lot more. Where else can you run into this? Water jousting in Sete. Love it!

St. Louis Festival 2018 August 23-28, 2018

For a closer look at the tradition of water jousting in Sete, here’s a video from Culture Trip. Be sure to watch it in full. It’s a wonderful story about a family and their passion for jousting that’s passed from one generation to the next. 

 

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Tracing the history of the Romans in the south of France is a fascination I am anxious to share with visitors.

Guests visiting from North Carolina were more than happy to take the short ride from Uzès to Nimes to attend the Roman Days extravaganza at the Arena. Even though the event was narrated only in French, we were able to understand the storyline. The anniversary of Augustus Caesar’s death was being celebrated by a reenactment of important events during his life.

On top of it being a beautifully sunny day in Nimes, the opportunity to step back into a time, nearly 2000 years ago, was extraordinary. It was particularly interesting to see the costumed actors roaming through the city before the event. (For more about Roman Days, click here to see the earlier posting.)

Roman Days in Nimes

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

 

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

 

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France: Pont du Gard

Tracing the Romans in France must include a visit to Pont du Gard.
Even though I’ve been to Pont du Gard four times, there’s no better place to take visitors who come to Uzes. The aqueduct that supplied water to the Romans in Nimes as early as 1AD is still a marvel to behold. Every time I round the bend along the walkway in the World Heritage park and see the magnificent structure, I get chills. Visiting during different times times of year makes it new each time to me.

The Romans in the south of France

The Romans in the south of France

School children at the highest point viewing Pont du Gard put this Golden Girl in her element.

The Romans in the south of France

Avignon, City of Popes.

An afternoon in Avignon is hardly enough time to get a fair impression of the historic city, much less to write a post. For the Golden Girls, it was a beautiful and convenient place to stop for dinner.

The Roman connection in Avignon is difficult to follow because most of the Roman ruins have disappeared. However, the Pope’s Palace, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed “Palais des Papes” reminds us that Avignon was once the center of the Roman Catholic world. It is a place that is definitely worth spending time to explore. The Palais des Papes was the residence of seven successive popes in the 14th century. Avignon’s control by the Papacy ended in 1791 when the city was claimed by France during the French Revolution.

I shall definitely research Avignon and write more later. Until then, enjoy the photos of our quick visit.

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

Romans in the South of France

How to get there
From Uzes to Pont du Gard is a 30- minute car ride. Buses run regularly to the park area from the station in the center of Uzes, as well. To travel to Avignon, it is another 30 minute ride or drive.

Where to eat
The park at Pont du Gard is very well equipped with cafeteria-type restaurants and snack shops. The park itself is perfect for hiking and for finding places to stop for a picnic lunch.

In Avignon we had a quick meal before returning back to Uzes that night. Nothing to brag about.

Next: Sete to Collioure. Picture book towns along the Mediterranean

Romans in the South of France

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Friends contact me for thoughts on where to travel around the south of France on “girl trips.” Let me share the adventures of my buddies, the Golden Girls, from our tour of France and Italy.  Perhaps you’ll get some ideas. 

Two of my long-time friends from work days in North Carolina asked if I’d like to join them on a tour of France and Italy. With the chance to see unfamiliar parts of France and Italy, plus the prospect of traveling with Arlene and Linda, how could I resist?

Tour of France and Italy Itinerary

Tour of France and Italy

Day 1-4 Uzès
Day 5 Pont du Gard, Nimes and Avignon
Day 6-7 Sete, Bezier and Bouzigues
Day 8-9 Pont Vendres and Collioure, France to Pisa, Italy
Day 10-12 Florence, Italy and surroundings
Day 13-16 Rome and surroundings
Day 17-20 Akiris Nova Siri, Italy (a resort along the “arch of Italy’s boot”)

So it begins…

Tour of France and Italy: Day 1-4 Uzès

My two guests from the Carolinas arrived in Uzès a day late after missing the flight to Marseilles from Paris due to an airline strike. They were dead tired. Showing them the 55 steps to climb to my apartment in the tower was not the best way to welcome them, but the excitement of it all gave them the adrenaline they needed to get to the top. Photos below are borrowed from each of my friends.

Tour of France and Italy

The “tower”

Tour of France and Italy

Just a few of the 55 steps

Tour of France and Italy

Top of the “tower”

The guest room was ready and waiting, along with the view — the home of the Duke of Uzès.

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

After a night’s rest they were ready to take in the sights and meet some of the locals in my new “hometown”, Uzès.

Tour of France and Italy

The shops along the plazas

Tour of France and Italy

Hen party at Le Provençal

 

Saturday Market in Uzès

No visit to Uzès is complete without a visit to the Saturday Market. If you’re planning to come this way, be sure to plan to be here on Saturday. It’s the reason I fell in love with this place. It’s still one of my favorite ways to spend a day.

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

 

Tour of France and Italy
A Golden Girl’s View of Uzès

One of the best parts of entertaining friends new to Uzès is to see their reaction to the surroundings.

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

 

 

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

Tour of France and Italy

 

Stay tuned!

 Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont Du Gard, Avignon

Chariot races

 

For more about visiting Uzès, check our About Uzès

 

 

 

 

Samuel Beckett’s Roussillon, France

The red hills of Roussillon are an inspiration for artists, but I had no idea how many famous authors came to visit Roussillon.

On my first visit to Roussillon, while riding along the winding roads of the Luberon, I was amazed to see the massive red hills up ahead. They seemed to appear from nowhere. The nearby towns had only small tinges of red.

“How is it possible for so much red to be in one place?” I said to myself.

Then I learned, as others before me, that Roussillon is like a stoplight, insisting that all who pass stay awhile.

Visit Roussillon

Red hills of Roussillon

You only have to look around to understand why artists love Roussillon. It was as surprise to me, however, to discover how many great authors passed this way.

For example, Peter Mayle’s best-selling book, A Year in Provence, was inspired by Roussillon. Laurence Wylie’s, A Village in the Vaucluse was set there too. It was the fact that Samuel Beckett lived in Roussillon that really surprised me. In fact, life in the 1940s village greatly affected his writing, most notably, his play, “Waiting for Godot” (En Attendant Godot).

I remember seeing “Waiting for Godot” many years ago at the Playmaker’s Theatre in Chapel Hill, NC. With season tickets to the University of North Carolina theatre, I saw many popular plays performed by the renowned repertoire cast. To me, “Waiting for Godot” was one of the best. In its simplicity the play spoke volumes.

Perhaps it was “Waiting for Godot” that convinced me I had to travel and see the world.

Indeed, I was not going to spend my life “Waiting for Godot.” 

Visit Roussillon

Caspar David Friedrich painting which may have inspired “Waiting for Godot”

Samuel Beckett’s Roussillon

It is said that Samuel Beckett wrote “Waiting for Godot” because of a painting by German artist Caspar David Friedrich. To describe it simply, the painting is of two people standing on a pathway staring at the moon.  Beckett’s storyline has pretty much the same theme. The entire play takes place on one spot on a road, beside a tree.

The play is viewed as a masterpiece of post–modernism. Indeed the author paints a simple, rather vague picture of the village, Roussillon.  Some say the characters and their stories are straight out of life in and around the 1940’s village and the War.

For example, the character Vladimir speaks of ochre quarries and picking grapes for a man named Bonnelly. Tales of starvation, hiding in trenches, and threats of beatings are, perhaps, Beckett’s own remembrances of time with the French  Resistance. He pictures Lucky, a man who is starving, tied to a paunchy man with a whip, Pozzo — a scene that calls up thoughts of Nazi concentration camps. Beckett winds all these tales together with vaudeville humor and mime.

Written in French

Perhaps the most astounding fact about Beckett, to this American who somehow refuses to learn French, is that he wrote his most famous works in French. Yes, an Irishman from Dublin chose to pen in French. To Beckett, English was too literal.  He could write in a more colloquial style in French.

Beckett preferred to express himself in French even in his last work,  a poem entitled “Comment Dire.”

In 1988 Beckett was diagnosed with aphasia, a condition defined as the “loss of speech, partial or total, or loss of power to understand written or spoken language, as a result of disorder of the cerebral speech centers” (OED). Before he died he regained his ability to speak and to read. His writing, again, showed his determination to understand the unexplainable. “Comment Dire“, “How do you say”, with its dashes and repetitions, shows an artist’s everlasting search for words. 

Visit RoussillonSamuel Beckett, “Waiting for Godot”

 

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For more about Roussillon:

Why Roussillon is “Red”: Fact and Fable

Fall … In Love With Provence

Lost in the Luberon: Gordes, Goult and Menerbes

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