Tag: over 60 expat

Lyon, France: Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon is truly one of the most beautiful and interesting cities the Barefoot Blogger has visited in France. Aside from its magnificent river views, churches, and extraordinary food, Lyon hides some of its best features out of sight, behind closed doors.

Secret passageways or traboules du Vieux Lyon, were created shortly after the Romans left this area of France, the aqueducts failed, and the citizens moved to the river Saone. The hidden, enclosed walkways were intended to provide protection from the elements to those living nearby as they made their daily treks to gather water. 

Later, the traboules were busy passageways for the silk makers of the city. Their long rolls of silk were much too precious to transport by ordinary means through the streets.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Traboules in Lyon, France

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

When wars raged in and through Lyon, traboules were used as hiding places and hangouts for locals who knew how to find their way from one place to another. Today, traboules act as hallways and elaborate entrances that lead to shops and apartments. 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Some even open onto elevator entrances.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

While wandering through a traboules, I ran into a most interesting shop. Medieval wear at Mandragore. Imagine the fun going through the racks of gowns and robes and imagining times gone by in Lyon.

More about Lyon

What Does a Southern Gal Think of Lyon? “Hog Heaven!”

Lyon’s Musee des Beaux Arts: “The Most Elegant Woman in Paris”

Lyon: A Feast For the Eyes

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and New Chaussures


Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

The “South of France Memories You Promised Yourself” tour kicked off yesterday with ladies from the US, Canada and Australia arriving in Nice for 12 days of fun and adventure. Join us for Day 2…

Around and About Nice

Vieux Nice

Patricia and I, along with our wide-eyed tour guests, were up early to meet our guide Stephanie. Today’s itinerary: around and about Nice.

Around and about Nice

The colorful old town (Vieux Nice welcomed us with its bright flower and food market and its baroque architecture.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Everyday business was going on in the streets, mixed with historic monuments and landmarks that told of the city’s rich past.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and About Nice

Hop on Hop Off

A tour on an open-air bus that runs daily through Nice was the perfect way to see the highs and lows of the city. The two-hour ride took us through the town, along the sea, then up to the summit of Villefranche-sur-Mer where the views were spectacular.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Around and About Nice

Afternoon Delight

Where do eighteen lovely ladies go to spend the late afternoon in Nice? The Negresco, of course!

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

A pedicab back to the hotel for some…

Around and about Nice

A walk along the promenade for others.

Around and about Nice

Around and about Nice

Then a dinner fit for queens, topped off with the most wonderful tarte tartine.

Around and about Nice

Stay tuned… Bonne Nuit♥️🇫🇷

South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2018 with Patricia Sands and the Barefoot Blogger  September 10-22

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

Day 2: Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

Day 3-5 Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 3-5

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

Day 7: A Perfect Day Trip to Sete: Gourmet Tour and Oyster Farming

Day 8: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 8 ~ Arles

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

Day 10: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 10 – St. Rèmy and Les Baux de Provence

Day 11: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 11(part 1) – Pont du Gard and San Quentin la Poterie

Day 11: Memories tour/18 – Day 11, part 2 – Uzés

Day 12: Memories tour/18 ~ day 12 – Wine Harvest

Memories Tour Interrupted

 

For the Love of Lavender 

Had the Barefoot Blogger known lavender fields are so close to Uzes, and how fabulous they are in person, I would have been visiting them much before now.lavender fields

 

Thank goodness I found out how to get to some of the best fields.

 

lavender fields

Lavender in Provence

 

There’s more than one way to keep lavender year round. It’s more lasting than sachets and bouquets.

 

 

 

Last week I discovered lavender salt!

 

lavender fields

Lavender salt

 

There’s a tiny village just outside Uzes that sells all types of local specialties, including olive oil that’s milled on site. The store and the moulin à huile are inside a garage attached to the proprietor’s home.

 

 

 

 

The most surprising discovery was  the building attached to the opposite side of her house — the remains of a church from the 11th century!

 

 

This is part of the joy of living in this part of the world. A tiny, out-of-the-way place can be an amazing find. Ancient buildings are still standing, alongside some of the most unique local items for sale.

 

 

So far, I’ve tried the lavender salt. It’s a winner. The rest is yet to be enjoyed!

lavender fields

French Thermal Spa

French Thermal Spa: The Cure

Of all the places the Barefoot Blogger has wandered, a trip to a French thermal spa for a cure has to be the most relaxing… and French! I’m pretty sure I was the only person at the resort who was from outside France. I was certainly the only one not speaking French.

The afternoon of the second day of the “French spa tour and cure” Nevenka and I arrived at the Sourcéo resort in Saint-Paul-Les-Dax just in time to meet with the site physician. Before leaving on the spa excursion, I was required to bring a letter from my own doctor stating I had no serious condition that would kill me while taking a cure. He had to note a reason for a cure, as well. Since I’m in good health, fortunately, we choose “phlebology.” Improving my circulation certainly couldn’t hurt.

The doctor at the resort seemed satisfied with my credentials and I received his stamp of approval to participate in the “cure”. After unpacking the car and sorting out our belongings at our hotel apartment, we reported to the appointment center to receive our daily schedules.

French thermal spa cure

Sourcéo Thermal Spa, Saint Paul les Dax

 

French Thermal Spa Cure

My thermal spa assignment was to spend six days with four treatments each day. Each treatment was to last ten to twenty minutes. A body massage was added to the regimen each of the last two days. Everyday I was given a fresh, clean terrycloth robe which I wore with flipflops through the treatment area and to the swimming pools.

Here’s how I spent each day, but first, a little primer. (Click on photos for captions.)

Treatment #1: Bain carbo-gazeux- “Bath in cold Perrier”

I’m not kidding. Every morning I was immersed in a bath filled with cold, bubbly mineral water. Talk about getting your circulation going. If it hadn’t been for the cheerful assistant who helped me in and out of the tub, it would have been murder.

Duration: 10 minutes

Treatment #2″ Mobilisation en Piscine – “Water Aerobics”

This was aerobics of the simplest kind. Merely moving and stretching in a warm pool. It was a welcomed next step after freezing in bubbly mineral water. 

Duration: 20 minutes

 

Treatment #3: Hydro Massage – “Bath in bubbly hot water (36 degrees C, 98 degrees F)

Yes, it was hot, and bubbling, and absolutely divine. I could have stayed in the tub for days. But no … 10 minutes only.

Duration: 10 minutes

 

Treatment #4: La Pelotherapie – Boue = “Mud Bath”

This was the crazy good part of the cure. It was not really a mud bath, more of a “wallow.” First I had to disrobe, then enter a private cabin where the attendant plopped 3 huge mounds of gooey mud on a table that was covered with plastic wrap. I sat on the table just below the last plop of mud. The attendant spread a healthy glob of mud on my upper back, then I reclined onto the aforementioned piles of mud. “Squish.” The attendant, wearing an apron, mud boots and long rubber gloves then stacked mud on my shoulders, my knees, my feet and on my thighs. To keep the mud on my thighs in place, the attendant stuck my hands firmly into the mud on each thigh and slapped more mud on each hand. Next she applied dripping wet, cold cloths on my forehead, chest and on the shins of my legs. She wrapped me in the plastic I was laying on and I was left alone to sweat. In hot mud– 46 degrees C or 117 degrees F. Half way through the treatment, the attendant came into see if I was alive and to wet the cloth on my head with more cold water. When the time was up, the attendant came back into the room and removed much of the mud from my body. I was left to wash off the rest under the warm shower in the far corner of the room. She hosed me off from the back then disappeared into a back room. She quickly returned holding a warm sheet which she wrapped around me. Slipping back into my terrycloth robe, I was done. Literally.

Duration: 15 minutes

Massage personnalisé – Personalized body massage

French Thermal SpaA luxurious massage was added to my regimen the last three days of the “cure.” It couldn’t have been more welcomed after a mud bath. I’ve never been a big fan of massages, but this masseuse made a believer out of me. Perhaps I enjoyed it because I was already so relaxed. Whatever the reason, I needed to be reminded more than once that my time was up.

Duration: 10 minutes

French Thermal Spa Activities

There were plenty of activities we could have joined at the spa such as Pilates, sophrology, hypnotism, dietetic consultations and all types of water therapies. If we hadn’t planned to make side trips to the exotic places nearby we would have had plenty to do.

 

Stay tuned for day trip highlights…. Biarritz, Bayonne and San Sebastián

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

White horses, bulls, pink flamingos, rice, salt, culture, and the economics of the Camargue region are all interconnected in this surreal geo-triangle in the south of France.

The “Camargue” spreads over more than 360 square miles of pastureland and wetlands formed by the two branches of the River Rhône and the Mediterranean. The largest river delta in Europe, the Camargue is a thriving center of agriculture and tourism.

Camargue region

Wetlands and grasslands of the Camargue

While the area appears to be a “natural” wilderness, it is in fact, “manipulated” to maintain its sophisticated biodiversity. Most specifically, in the last century alone, enlightened promoters of the Camargue have demonstrated how the creative and sensitive management of water levels can create a rich environment for man and living creatures instead of a desolate, salty wasteland, good for nothing but the extraction of salt.

Camargue region

Homes in the Camargue are for residents and popular as vacation rentals

Camargue region

A ferry carries passengers between two areas of the region every 30 minutes.

Camargue region

Ferry over the Rhone

Camargue region

The distinctive symbol of the area. The Camargue Cross.

White Horses of the Camargue

Camargue region

White horses of the Camargue

The breed of “white horses” found in the Camargue are believed to have appeared in the Paleozoic era (Solutre horses).  They are thought by some to have come from the Steppe grasslands of Eurasia that run from modern Hungary to Mongolia along the Silk Roads.


Camargue region

Nomad horseback riders from the Steppe are typified by Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols; and the Huns, led by Attila. Steppe warriors migrated south seeking better lands and waged war with inhabitants on the way, including the Romans. Along with them, the nomads brought their strong horses that have ruled the marshes for centuries.

The horses have large hooves for walking in muddy waters and white coats to endure the sun.

Some who believe in mythology say the white horses were a gift from Neptune, “Poseidon’s Horses”, given to man as his faithful companion and put on earth to share the everyday riches.

Camargue region

Image by Walter Crane of Neptune’s horses

While the Camargue horses appear to run free, they are well-managed by “cowboys”  or “les gardians”.

Camargue region

Camargue Cowboy

Stallions roam the rocky grasslands.– a tradition that has been respected for generations.The rustic breed only eats grass from the soil — no additives.

Camargue region

Bred properly, a Camargue mare produces only one foal a year — by natural childbirth. There is no help from vets.. Mares are “quarantined” one year after giving birth to allow time for rest.


Camargue region

Those who know these animals recognize they are very intelligent. They are suitable for all types of requirements — for work or show. They must be treated gently but firmly. The trainer or handler needs to be in charge.

Visitors to the Camargue who wish to ride the white horses will find numerous stables and excursions available for all ages of riders. Entering the area is like a vacation playground with horses as one of the main attractions.

Camargue region

A hotel with stable for horseback riding in the Camargue

If you have a few minutes, take time to watch this video I found on YouTube. The majesty of the magnificent creatures and the accompanying music will make your day.

More on the Camargue:

7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

A Most Unusual Place for a French Vineyard

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

 


Camargue region

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

A day at the beach in Sete is one of my favorite things to do during the summer in France. Read on and you’ll know why.

There’s something about the air, the sand, the attitude of the people around you at the beach that’s fun and carefree. I’ve felt that way since I was a teenager spending days on the Grand Strand in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Now, instead of baking in the sun, drenched in baby oil and drinking beer, the Barefoot Blogger sits under an umbrella on the Mediterranean drinking mojitos. Spoiled. You betcha!

If you get a chance to come to the south of France and you think the Rivera is the only place by the sea to go, try Sete

beach in Sete

Sitting on the Mediterranean outside Sete, France

 

 

Look at that sky! Look at the canal!  Small boats are standing by to take people out to sea, or just around the corner.

 

 

beach in Sete

 

A Day at the Beach in Sete

One of my favorite reasons to go to Sete is to visit with friends like Nancy McGee of the travel company Absolutely Southern France. She is the “Pearl Mesta” of the 21st century. If there’s anything going on in Sete, Nancy knows about it. Plus she has the experience as a destination planner to make an ordinary day a special event. Below she is telling my guest and her daughter, McKenna, about a special rose wine from Languedoc. This one, aside from it’s crisp, fruity taste, is topped with a glass stopper — an ingenious marketing ploy for selling wine to women. The bottles of wine are available with stoppers of various colors. So women like me want to collect them. The pink, green, yellow or clear “corks” can be used to top other wine bottles as well. Clever!

 

beach in Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Glass wine stoppers come in a variety of colors for collectors

 

Even though the temperatures were in the high 90’s, we were happy as “clams” on our soft-cushioned lounges, under beach umbrellas at the l’ACD club. We were treated like queens. Handsome young waiters and attendants were on call for beverages, snacks, or for simply adjusting our chairs when the sun shifted.

 

beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

If being pampered on the beach isn’t enough, there’s a restaurant a stone’s throw away with the most delicious varieties of seafood you can imagine. The tuna, however, was our favorite choice of the day. Sete is known for its bluefin tuna.

 

beach in Sete

Tuna tartare at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Sesame bluefin tuna at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

Nancy, aside from her tour business, is an expert in French etiquette. This day we had a lesson on the proper way to filet a fish at the table. According to Nancy, you run a knife along both sides of the skeleton bone on the top; then along each edge. Simply lift the fileted fish off the bones. When done with this side, turn the fish over and repeat. How easy is that!

 

beach in Sete

 

Now that the day at the beach in Sete is over, it’s time to take the train to Carcassone. Never mind that we missed the train we booked! Friendly personnel on SNCF helped us “get on track” to our next destination. To read about our holiday in Carcassonne, click here.

 

beach in Sete

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

 

To book the South of France Memories You Promised Yourself women’s tour with Absolutely Southern , click here

 

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7 Reasons You Should Go To The Camargue

It’s hard to say when the Barefoot Blogger will ever get her fill of visiting the Camargue.

The preserved area south of Arles,  the Parc naturel régional de Camargue, is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes and grain.

The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all feed only on natural feed and grasses. Salt mines that create pink-tinted lagoons and canals produce some of the world’s finest salts.  Shrimp that thrive on the algae in the pinkish waterways feed flamingoes that gather in ponds and pools alongside the fields and roads. The shrimp diet colors the birds’ feathers pink.  It’s all a grand circle of life.

The Camargue Safari

The most recent jaunt to the Camargue was with my guests from the States, including 10-year-old McKenna. While her mother and I thought a safari would be a huge thrill for McKenna, we all totally enjoyed the 4-hour tour by jeep. It wasn’t just because of our adorable and multi-lingual guide, we learned there are at least 7 reasons this place is so amazing … and so popular for tourists. 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #1: The Camarguais horses

 

visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #2: The Camargue bulls

visiting the camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Camargues Bulls

 

Reason #3: Flamingos

visiting the camargue

Flamingos in the Camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Flamingo

 

Reason #4: Salt mines

visiting the camargue

Salt processed in the Camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

Balin Salt brand from the Camargue is exported worldwide

 

Reason #5: Rice

visiting the camargue

Rice fields in the Camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #6: Wine

visiting the camargue

 

 

visiting the camargue

 

visiting the camargue

 

Reason #7: The culture

visiting the camargue

A home of a Gardian, or “rancher”

 

 

visiting the camargue

The Camargue cross is a symbol of “faith, hope and charity” to dwellers of the region

 

For more about the Camargues, please see these earlier posts:

Tour South France for White Horses on the Beach

Back to the Camargue: The White Horses

Day Trip from Uzes: Arles, Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer and the Camargue

For your own Camargue Safari, contact Nancy McGee at southernfranceluxury.com

 

visiting the camargue

 

How to Make French History More Fun

Female expat living in Uzes travels to Nimes and Pont du Gard for fun and learning – Join the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, too!

“Someday you’ll be glad you’ve seen this,” was the theme of a recent tour of Nimes and Pont du Gard with my 10-year-old visitor, McKenna. As spectacular and amazing as seeing an ancient Roman aqueduct or coliseum might seem, most children would rather spend the afternoon at the pool, or at the Haribo Bon Bon Museum.

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

McKenna at the ancient arena in Nimes

 

la Maison Carrée

la Maison Carrée

I’m not saying that McKenna didn’t learn something from the narrative film at la Maison Carrée — the centerpiece of the historic district of Nimes — or from walking where lions and tigers entered the arena.

She definitely took it all in. Now that she’s back in the States she is sharing the stories with all her friends.

 

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

If the truth is told, I’m guessing her favorite part of the day was cooling off in the sparkling clear waters of the river below the Pont du Gard.

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

Wading in the river of the Pont du Gard

 

Another favorite spot for the active 10-year-old was the Jardins de la Fontaine in Nimes. Somewhere among the ruins of Diana’s Temple, she found a playmate.

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

Playing in the Jardins de la Fontaine

 

Climbing on the pediments of the first century monument dedicated to Augustus, or exploring the vaulted ceiling rooms might have been McKenna’s best memory of the day if we adults hadn’t been in such a hurry.

I guess we just don’t get it.

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Irresistible French Fashion for Summer

Female expat living in Uzes travels through Languedoc and Provence in France for fun and French fashion – Join the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, too! 

A week or so ago, the Barefoot Blogger could not resist going into one of my favorite shops in Uzes, L’atelier des Ours. There’s a sale going on!

IMG_3240Yes, summer bobo chic fashions are everywhere. Lightweight pantaloons and flouncy ruffled dresses, among other irresistible things.

Who could pass it by?

Certainly not me! 

As is often the case, whenever I stop into the little shop with teddy bears on the door, I enter into a world that’s in a totally different dimension. A little story I wrote about the visit is now published in France Today. Come along with me and see what’s “in” for summer, French Fashion for Summer: Bobo Romantic.

…”There’s a little shop in Uzès, France where “women of a certain style” flock all times of the year. In summer, they pour out of the lace-curtained door of L’atelier des Ours in a steady stream, all carrying pink packages filled with pretty feminine things.”

 

 

 

 

 

Check out L’atelier des Ours on  Facebook and Pinterest

While you’re at it, visit the Barefoot Blogger Facebook page too. There’s always something going on!

 

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Oh! “The Places You’ll Go!”

Female expat living in Uzes travels in France for fun and education. Click here for Trip Ideas You Can Steal

 

The whirlwind tour of the south of France is now history for my recent guests, including 10-year old McKenna. Now that they’re gone, the words of Dr. Seuss’s poem seem perfect to share with McKenna as a reminder of her visit.

 

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know.

And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

For five full days McKenna, her mother and I packed in as much history, animal adventures, and fun in the south of France as we possibly could. Here’s a picture view of the highlights. Posts to follow will fill in the stories and learnings.

Day One – Uzes

Saturday market and dinner with our friend, Geoffrey, at Le Comptoir 7 

How many ways can you say “foie gras”? This entree featured foie gras as pate, ice cream and creme brûlée!

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

 

 

Day Two – Pont du Gard and Nimes

 

Tracing the Romans in France started with a visit to Pont du Gard. Wading in the cool river water was a perfect way to cool down on a hot summer day.

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

 

 

Day Three – The Camargue 

A safari in the Camargue gave us “up close” views of the white horses, Camargues bulls and flamingos

 

Day Four – Sete and Carcassonne 

A day on the beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

 

Day Five – Carcassonne 

 

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

… and a lot of 10-year-old craziness along the way!

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Stay tuned for the full story on each location, including the scoop on …

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Trip Ideas You Can Steal From a 10-Year-Old’s Visit to France

Special friends are on the way to visit the Barefoot Blogger, including my dear 10-year-old McKenna. Planning the 7-day visit has been easier than you’d think.

McKenna and I have always had a closer-than- usual relationship because we share the same birthday date. We both agree, that makes us “twins” of sorts.  Almost every birthday since she was born, we’ve spent the day together. Her mother and I are friends from IBM. This past birthday, McKenna wanted her theme to be “Paris” in preparation for her upcoming visit to France.

Paris themed birthday party

Paris themed birthday party

 

Here’s the 7-day itinerary. You’re welcomed to steal!

My guests are arriving the end of this week and we’ll be taking off for an active tour of southwest France.

Day one: Pick them up at the TGV station in Avignon and take a walk around the Pope’s Palace.

Day two: Saturday Market in Uzes. Of course, it’s my favorite thing to do! Trek in the Vallee d’LEure and take a swim at the public pool. Dinner somewhere fabulous in Uzes.

Day three: Pont du Gard tour followed by a visit to Nimes to follow in the footsteps of the early Romans.

Day four:  Morning tour and lunch in the walled city of Aigue Morte. An afternoon “Safari” tour of the Camargue, starting from Grau de Roi. Drive to Sete and spend the night at my favorite Airbnb apartment.

Day five: Breakfast at the city market in Sete followed by an afternoon at a beach club in Sete on the Meditterean.  Catch an early evening train to Carcassone in time to check-in our Airbnb “converted bar” lodging. View the Bastille Day fireworks display in Carcassone, along with 40,000 other tourists.

Day six: Guided tour of Carcassone and shopping (along with thousands of other tourists.) Catch the late afternoon train back to Sete. Drive two hours to Uzes.

Day seven: Say goodbye and scurry to Nimes for an early morning flight.

Collapse. Sleep. Repeat.

(Yes, there will be posts and pictures of it all. Stay tuned!)

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The Simple Ways Tourists Make the Best of Hot Weather in Uzes

For days the temperature has hovered around the ninety degree mark in Uzes. Next week, they say, it’ll hit ninety-nine.

For those who live in hot-weather areas around the world, ninety degrees is not so bad for summer. In France, when it’s this hot, it breaks records.

Century-old buildings with thick walls help to insulate homes and businesses from the intense heat, so air conditioning is scarce. There are some tried and true ways the French try to keep their indoor spaces cooler.

They shutter windows.

They turn on all the fans. 

 

They water the plants and close windows in the early morning.

Closed window in apartment

Closed window in apartment

 

Store owners know to take afternoon breaks and enjoy a cool beverage 

Store owners in Uzes

Store owners in Uzes

Yes, the French have ways to cope with the heat. But what about the tourists who are out in droves? How do they deal with it when it’s really hot?

They line up for ice cream. 

 

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They hang out at Place aux Herbes eating ice cream. 

Fountain at Place aux Herbes, Uzes

Fountain at Place aux Herbes, Uzes

They sit around outdoor fans that blow cool mist.

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They enjoy people-watching with friends while sipping on cool beverages.

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They look for water fountains where they can play.


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Tourists seem to love to shop when it’s hot.  It’s often cooler on the inside of a store than it is on the streets.

Tourist shopping in Uzes

Tourist shopping in Uzes

 

There are plenty of irresistible things to buy .. and a sale going on!

 

 

Some tourists patiently wait on others who are shopping.

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On the other hand, some tourists who wait are not so patient.

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What does the Barefoot Blogger do when it’s hot?

I “play” at one of my favorite stores.

 

… and eat raspberry sorbet!

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An Insider’s Guide to Shopping in Nimes

Last week the Barefoot Blogger took a shopping trip into Nimes, the closest “big city” near Uzes. I had curtains on my mind.

As much as I try, there’s always something I think will make my apartment in Uzes even better. This time I’m looking for some simple curtains for my “utility” room. To be honest, the room didn’t need curtains until I bought the precious daybed in San Quentin de la Poterie. Remember it from this blog? It’s now in my “utility” room, soon to be “reading room.”

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After a few times driving to shopping areas in Nimes, I’m beginning to know my way around. There’s the downtown area with it’s trendy shops and promenades. Then there’s the megastores on the outskirts of town. Carrefour is one of the biggest stores and it’s much like a Walmart or Target. The big difference is that there are a number of smaller stores under the same roof, so it’s like a shopping center with an anchor store — except the whole center has the name of the anchor store — “Carrefour.”

Then there are a multitude of huge, sprawling stores along the same highway as Carrefour. Most are named “rama“-something.

IMG_2781 My destination for the day was Castorama. 

Castorama reminds me of Home Depot in the states, complete with huge lighting displays, appliances and garden decor. (How ’bout those crazy floor lamps?!)

Wandering through the store, I couldn’t help but wish I could use a chartreuse toilet seat!

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If the wall sign “J’dore” had been in red, not hot pink, it would have gone home with me!

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Outdoor furniture was really impressive. I’m not certain I’ve seen anything quite this stylish in the Home Depots I visit. Not a bad price either!

But back to my reason for the shopping trip — curtains. There was a big selection, including Hello Kitty.

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After filling my tiny shopping cart (large carts are available) with my selection of curtains, rods and curtain hardware, I went to the checkout where I was welcomed by the friendly, English-speaking cashier. Who, by the way, loves the USA. Her cousin lives in California.

 

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Oh! One thing that I failed to mention is how you get from Uzes to Nimes by car.

You drive along a two-lane, winding road that requires a lot of concentration and courage. If you have a few minutes to watch the video, you can imagine the ride. Areas along the narrow roadway are lined with blanc trees that are so close together you don’t want to blink when a car is approaching. The mountainous curves remind you of road races you see televised from France. In fact, the route between Nimes and Uzes is often on the Tour de France course because of it’s difficulty.

(OK, so I sped up the video a bit … but you get the idea!)

Later, Dinner in Uzes

The drive to Nimes and shopping trip took less than two hours. Then it was back to Uzes for dinner with two new friends — readers of the Barefoot Blogger from Pittsburgh!

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It’s not often that I rave about a restaurant; however, this night was special. I hardly recommend Comptoir du 7 in Uzes. Our dinner in the garden was devine.

First course, salads (anytime a salad is served with a puffed pastry, it’s a winner!)

Main course

Beef course served by Cyriel

Beef course served by Cyriel

 

… and a very special dessert — an assortment of sorbets with spun sugar and chocolate lace on a cookie crumble

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A very fine day, indeed!

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Hello Summer. It’s Music Time in Uzes!

What better way to welcome in summer in Uzes than with music all around town?

It’s Fête de la musique à Uzès with music ranging from flamenco guitar to folk music, to rock. Stages were set up on street corner and plazas throughout the historic area with hundreds of spectators taking in every precious moment.

My venue of choice was flamenco. My new friends from Pittsburgh — fans of Barefoot Blogger! — invited me to join them for dinner at Ma Cantine, directly in front of the street stage.

The friendly owner of Ma Cantine, Terry, welcomed all to join that could squeeze around the tiny tables. Menu selections for the night were limited and reasonably priced. Along with his wife and the Liv Tyler-lookalike server, Terry kept busy serving drinks to seated customers, as well as people standing in the crowd.

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Down the street a bit and around the corner, more music in the Place aux Herbes, more bands.

 

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Of course, I should have known it would be a perfect night when I headed out the door wearing

a blue polka-dot dress, a petticoat

and red shoes with bows …

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… and it all ended with a perfect summer sky.

Uzes sky welcoming summer

Uzes sky welcoming summer

 

 

It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood!

As you know, Saturday is the Barefoot Blogger’s favorite day in Uzes. It’s market day!

When I headed out the door the first thing I heard was music in the plaza…

Just around the corner …

 

… and there’s more!

 

Just in time for Father’s Day …

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“My mother is terrible, my father is a genius, and me … I like them!!

 

A carnival in town

A carnival in town

 

... and sidewalk cafes filled to the brim...

… and sidewalk cafes filled to the brim…

 

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Renting a French Apartment

Back to Uzes and Breaking All The Rules

There are times when the Barefoot Blogger thinks she’s a seasoned international traveler. This trip back to France, however, I broke all the rules.

Rule #1 – Wear dark clothes to travel

Khaki traveling pants

Khaki traveling pants

Murphy’s Law says that if you’re traveling, and you eat or drink along the way, you’re going to end up with it on you. Always wear dark clothing. That’s why I wore khaki pants. On top of that, they were brand new. What was I thinking?!

There were no disasters, but I’ll be working on some grease stains from the Einstein bagel sandwich. Could have been worse.

Rule #2 – Take emergency cash

Again, what was I thinking? Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by having too many accessible ATM machines where I travel. A good rule of thumb is to carry about $200 in cash. I left the states with $20 in my pocket. Figuring that I wouldn’t need money until I reached the airport in Paris,  I knew there was an ATM machine there where I could get euros with my credit card. Little did I know that my choice of low cost airlines — WOW — charges for everything you put in your mouth. Not even a free bottle of water or cup of coffee. The $20 was used up fast before I landed in Paris. Which leads to Rule #3.

Rule #3 – Tell your credit card companies you’re traveling

4441573-Free-of-charge-anti-euro-sign--Stock-Photo-euro-noOops! When I ordered a sandwich wrap and Coke at the train terminal at Charles de Gaulle — after I’d missed the train, by the way — my credit card was refused. I pulled out my brand new AA Advantage card. It worked. It worked again when I bought a new train ticket to get to Avignon. It didn’t work when I wanted euros out of the ATM. So what did I do? I messaged my adorable daughter-in-law! She was home. I gave her all my credit card information and she called the bank impersonating me. Voila!

I don’t even want to think what my next step would have been.

Rule #4 – Make certain you have all the keys at your destination

Breaking this rule had me standing in the street outside my apartment in Uzes until the wee hours of the night of my arrival.

Let me take you back a little to the day(s) of the trip to explain my state of delirium.

WOW Airlines

WOW Airlines

As you recall from the last post, I chose to try the “budget” route back to France. I saved $500-600 dollars on the one-way fare. In so doing, my trip consisted of four legs — Atlanta to Charlotte; to Boston; to Iceland; to Paris. Unfortunately, the plane sat on the runway in Boston for three hours as a terrible thunderstorm swept over the airport. Fortunately WOW airline waited for us to arrive in Iceland. Never mind, we were still three hours late to Paris. Since I’d given myself barely three hours between original air arrival time and departure time on the train to Avignon, I missed the train.

This story gets longer and more confusing, so I’ll save getting a ticket exchange, maneuvering through the airport to the train, and other such information for the next post. 

When I arrived in Avignon, Geoffrey was there waiting, as planned. (I was able to text to him about the delay.) Happily we chatted all the way from the Avignon TGV station to Uzes. Since he was as exhausted as me, I insisted that I could carry my own bags to the apartment.

He asked: “You have your keys, right?

I knew I had the key ring that I retrieved from the dresser drawer in Atlanta. The keys had been safely tucked away since my arrival there in December.

Yes, of course,” I said dangling the keys in front of him. “Right here,” I added.

I no longer have the set of keys you gave me,” he stated.

He had given the keys to my friend who was minding the apartment while I was gone. She lives in Nimes.

With that, I bounded out of the door, grabbed the bags as Geoffrey handed them out of the car, and headed for the big wooden doors to the apartment building.

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

Apartment entrance at the Place de Duche

I even remember the code for the entrance door this time,” I chimed smugly.

Good thing,” Geoffrey replied, remembering the code had been a problem on my last return from the states.

By the time I carried the bags through the big door that leads to the atrium to my building, I was feeling the pain from my long journey.

Only 55 steps and I’ll be home,” I said to myself as I staggered up the first 20 steps.

2013-07-11 10.20.29The red door that leads into the tower was a welcomed sight. I fumbled with the keys and the lock to the tower door. It opened.

“Almost there,” I panted.

Now up 20 steps to the door to my apartment. Key in door. Open.

Then up the remaining 10 steps to my living room and bedroom area where there are more locked doors.

This open door was locked. closed. Here's the spot where i landed in despair!

This open door was locked. closed. Here’s the spot where i landed in despair!

These doors were locked. AACCHH! There were no more keys.

Where was  that third key?!

At that point, I don’t know whether I screamed or fainted. All I do know is, after taking every bag and parcel I was carrying apart more than once, I flopped on one of the stone steps, close to tears.

If I had thought there would be a resolution to the problem in the morning, I may have slept on the spiral steps.

Knowing that wouldn’t be the case, I pulled myself together and tried, in vain, to call Geoffrey. No answer. I called his number again and again. No answer.

OK,” says me to me. “He must be at a bar downtown, “I surmised. “I’ll go to one of the restaurants near his house and wait for him to go home.”

I could close and lock the door on one level of the apartment, so I left my bags behind. Off I went.

When I reached downtown, the first restaurant I came to was closed. The second restaurant I walked to was closing. The restaurant owner told me the only places open at this hour would be at Place des Herbes — the touristy fountain area of town.

Sure enough, Terroirs was still serving customers.

I wasn’t the least bit hungry, even though I’d eaten only one meal since I left Atlanta, 26 hours earlier. But I did need to sit down. I composed myself as best I could, then engaged the waiter. She could speak some English, so I told her my plight. Bless her heart, she was as upset as I should have been. I was numb. She brought a menu and a bottle of cold water.

Then an idea came to my head. “Why don’t I just look for a hotel or place to stay? Even if it was almost midnight.” Then I remembered I had the telephone number of a friend of a friend who, I thought, owned a B&B.

I called.

It turns out he doesn’t own a B&B, but, he was awake and he did have the keys for our friend’s three-story mansion — across from the Duche! In 20 minutes he had called our friend, met me at our friend’s home, opened the door, and showed me to the guest bedroom.  

View from the guest bedroom

View of the Duche from the guest bedroom

I landed in heaven!

Next day, I was awakened by a phone call at 2pm from the friend in Nimes who had the set of keys. All the keys. I picked myself up, packed up, and rescued the set of keys from her office in Uzes.

Lessons learned?

All of the above are rules that will stick indelibly into my brain. I hope. However, on another note … if these things didn’t happen to me, would life be so grand?

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Going, Going to France

Today started out early for me … like 5:30am to put together the last bit of packing. 

Admittedly, I’m not the best at packing light. Visits back and forth to France include shipping a few boxes by Fedex. It’s down to three 16″x20″ cartons each way. 

  
My travel luggage is pretty reasonably sized. Except for the fact I chose a large handbag as a carry-on instead of a small suitcase and purse. Of course, by the time I lugged it on my shoulder it through check-in, I realized it was too heavy. So now I have a new traveling companion: a wheeled cart from Brookstone. 

  

No cost savings here, but it is light, easy to roll, and it folds down easily. So far so good. 

 While putting the buldging boxes together last night with packing tape, my son commented I had bought the wrong boxes. “Heavyweight,” he said. 

“Just wrap them with extra plastic wrap,” I said, undaunted. “If they’re dropped, they’ll bounce.  

  

On the ride to the airport this morning, in the backseat with my fourteen month old grandson who was strapped into the car seat, we held hands all the way . 

Those little hands will be a bit larger the next time we meet.

There were sad goodbyes to Bentley and Maddy, too. I’ll miss our walks along the wooded trails in the neighborhood. 

  

Cutting up with seat mates

Judging from the travelers who I sat beside on the two legs of the U.S. Journey, this is going to be an interesting trip: a master craftsman of knives, and a nanny for a high-powered family in DC. 

The blade smith, Wally Hayes, sells “folders,” swords and the like to Saudi kings and American rock stars. After mentioning “folder” several times, I finally asked what he meant. A folder is a folding knife, not a marketing brochure as I thought. Duh…

The nanny told me of her glamourous life in DC, meeting Presidents and dignitaries. Vacations with the family are to exotic places all over the world. 

I may have stumbled upon a new career!

Now, so that I can post this before leaving the States, I’ll say: stay tuned. Iceland and landing in Paris next! 

  

France Bound At Last! Returning the Economy Way

After six months away from my home in France, I’m on the way back to Uzes!

I’ve had a wonderful time in the U.S. with family and friends; and now it is time to continue my life-changing adventure in the south of France.

My dear friend, Geoffrey, is picking me up at the TGV station In Avignon on Tuesday.

2014-04-30 13.12.03When I called to let him know my plans I joked:  “Are you ready to play?”

“Why, of course!” he replied in his usual jovial tone.

Good thing he didn’t ask me about my French proficiency. 

Try as I might, I continue to find that studying French is not my favorite pastime. It’s not that I don’t think it’s important for me to speak the language of my new home. It’s just that is such a labor to learn it. Perhaps when I’m back among all French-speakers, I will have picked up more than I know. We’ll all find out soon!

Budget Travel Hints

My oldest son is a genius at traveling light and traveling cheap. He should write a book. For my return home trip he shared one of his economy flight-scheduling tips.

He uses the flight search engine Skyscanner. It enables you to put in a country as the origination, instead of designating your closest airport, then enter your destination city.  For example, origination= USA, destination = Paris.  When the scan is finished, you can see the city in the US that has the lowest fare to Paris. (It’s usually JFK, BWI, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, or Boston.) Then search for the lowest fare from that place to you nearest major airport.

When I was searching for my flight, it happened that BWI (Baltimore/Washington) had a fare to Paris that was practically 1/3 the cost of flying from my closest airport, Atlanta to Paris. When I added the cost of a flight to BWI from Atlanta, the total was half the cost of a trip straight from Atlanta — including paying for luggage and extra legroom at my seat.

Mind you, on the day of travel, I fly from Atlanta to BWI, to Iceland, to Paris. It’s going to take awhile, but I’m saving $500-$600!

From Paris, I’ll take the TGV high-speed train to Avignon.

This is all going down on Monday. On Tuesday evening, I’ll be back home in my sweet tower apartment in Uzes!

Stay tuned!

Duche in Uzes

Duche in Uzes

 

Romans in France: The Mini-Series

Four days and nights I was glued to the TV last week. I watched the entire two-season mini-series, “Rome,” and I did it with the same intensity that I devoured “Gone With The Wind.”

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, Art or Architecture?

You see, ever since I moved to the south of France, I’ve been living in a Roman time warp. You’ve heard me say that many times, especially after visiting the aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Or after seeing the ruins of Roman-style villas in Orange; and the arena in Arles. So much of what is revered today in this part of France was established by Romans when they occupied “Gaul.” Miraculously, in spite of wars, weather, politics, and developers, lots of it still stands — from as long ago as 25BC and before.

Watching the HBO series saved me days of laboring through the historical novels I thought I’d have to read about  the Romans. Especially if I wanted to know about the “Caesars,” Julius and Augustus, who left such big footprints in France.

I know you’re thinking a mini-series is hardly the most factual way to learn history. Well, that’s probably true; however, I figure it’s close enough to give me a high-level view of what I wanted to know.

Now, it’s not that I didn’t study ancient history in high school and college. I did. More than that, I took four years of Latin and “translated” the “Aeneid.” Nevertheless, the mini-series had to remind me that Octavius Caesar became known as “Augustus” and that he wasn’t the “true” son of Julius, as if that makes any real difference in history. Also, I was reminded of the importance of “Gods” and “Spirits” during the period when images were carved, engraved and built in their likeness throughout the empire — including “Gaul”, the early name for what was later much of France.

Being armed with a bit of new knowledge, I’m looking forward to delving back into my tours through the south of France and taking notes on more Roman sites. Stay tuned!

For more information on Romans in Gaul check out this article on NYTimes.com

For the mini-series:

 

 

 

 

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