Fête de la Musique 2019
Click here for a flashback to one of the Barefoot Blogger’s first Fête de la Musique moments …
Click here for a flashback to one of the Barefoot Blogger’s first Fête de la Musique moments …
Each year The ancient Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard is alive with an exciting sound and light show.
No one does it better than the French!
More about Pont du Gard:
Summer 2019 don’t miss the Pont du Gard light show: “The Bridge at Dusk”
Canal cruising is more than floating along slowly in a barge. Wine tasting and cruising was the perfect way to spend the day on the Athos Canal du Midi.
The itinerary for our first full day on the Athos Canal du Midi barge took us to the House of Noilly Prat in Marseillan for a wine tasting. The famous vermouth company, owned by Martini & Rossi, was developed by French herbalist Joseph Noilly from Lyon in 1813. Noilly Prat was officially created when Louis Noilly became business partners with his son-in-law, Claudius Prat. The company moved to Marseillan in the 1850s because of its ideal location. Proximity to Marseille enabled easy shipping and the sea spray from the coastal location aided in oxidizing and aging the wine.
The location was perfect for wine tasting and for starting our cruise of the Canal du Midi, too!
Noilly Pratt’s three variants of vermouth is made totally in the factory we visited — except for bottling. Our tour followed each process.
Entering the Canal du Midi
From the harbor in Marseillan the Athos canal barge approached the entrance to the Canal du Midi. It wasn’t long before we were at the first of the canal locks we would encounter over the next days of our cruise.
If visiting the south of France is in your future, put an Athos Canal du Midi Cruise at the top of your “bucket” list.
Kid you not. My Canal du Midi cruise on the luxury hotel barge Athos is fast becoming one of my most memorable experiences in France. Where else could you go on private tours of quaint and romantic French towns and villages; eat the most authentic and delicious French cuisine, including wines and cheeses selected just for you; cruise on a historic winding canal; experience wildlife within reach, and be waited on hand and foot?
Canal du Midi Cruise
For a full week I was a guest on the Athos du Midi which is owned and managed by Dannielle and Julian Farrant. The Athos is their “Love Boat.” Dannielle — a Canadian, and Julian — a Brit, met and married while working aboard the canal barge over twenty years ago.
While Dannielle and Julian are busy taking care of business on shore these days, they leave the five-person crew of the Athos to wine, dine and attend to passengers onboard the 100-foot barge (30.48 meters). The Athos is one of the largest barges on the canal.
Marseillan is the port of departure for most of the week-long cruises. By lucky coincidence we were in Marseillan for the celebration of the reopening of the port. As crowds gathered around the harbor, the town was lively with music when we arrived. By dark there was a spectacular fireworks just feet away from us. Quite a welcome for our first day on Athos Canal Midi cruise!
Guests aboard the Athos were Heidi and Tim from New Zealand; and Canadians from Victoria: Michelle and Dave. Ten passengers on the Athos are the norm, so right away, we knew our holiday with only five was going to be very special. We were going to be pampered.
Arriving in Beziers by car, I was driven to the port by Mathieu, our tour guide. Other passengers stayed overnight in Beziers and met us at the Athos. The crew welcomed guests with what was to become a standard: friendly, gracious service and lots of attention.
Dinner is served!
Yes! There’s more … more canal cruise adventures and food! Stay tuned …
Antibes has a special attraction for me. Perhaps it’s the architecture and the narrow colorful avenues. It could be the quaint little hotel where I stay that’s so close to little shops and outdoor cafes, yet so hidden away. On my most recent visit, the main attraction was the food. Here’s a look at Antibes restaurant favorites
The past three years, I’ve made a long weekend pilgrimage to Antibes with my good buddies Paula and Rich. This year we added our friend, Trish, to the party.
Before we left for Antibes, Trish innocently asked, “what do we do in Antibes?”
Paula and I, almost in unison, replied: “absolutely nothing.”
We meant it. The annual getaway is our chance to be together in a totally relaxed atmosphere — before the onslaught of summer visitors, traveling and activities in and around Uzès.
Most of our time in Antibes, we ate. A lot.
Hungry? Read on at your own risk!
Dinner at Autour du Jardin was even more special with friends from House Hunters International. We lucked out that Erin, Stewart and kids were visiting Antibes at the same time. (Can I call these adorable young adults “kids?”)
Dinner at Côte Terroir meant eating fancy food that really tasted as good as it looked. Because it was a windy night, there was no outside seating. Who cared? The service and foods were impeccable.
Final night in Antibes means dining out on the plage (beach) in Juan-les-Pins. This year we discovered Le Ruban Bleu. Our “regular” restaurant had disappeared. Seems like there are some restaurants on city property, some spots are owned by the French government. The state owned ones are closed. Go figure?
Light lunch and drinks at The Brooklyn was a great find. Located along the busy byway to the harbor, the cafe was buzzing. No wonder! Who could resist this smiling waiter, a bento box for our vegetarian, and a giant Jack Daniels burger. The Colonel cocktail (citron sorbet with vodka) was pretty amazing, too.
Want to know more about Antibes? Check out these posts:
Sometimes it seems that I’m being unappreciative to my family I visit in the US. But when I return back to France again, I can’t believe how happy I feel. I’m at home. But at the same time, I’m on a great adventure.
The last two months I’ve revelled in spending time with my adorable grandchildren in Georgia. We played together, like I always imagined I’d enjoy three and five year old grandchildren. Tea parties, visits to a dinosaur museum, lunch on a red caboose and birthday parties. We did them all.
Then it was time to say “goodbye.” At least now they’re recognizing that “Grandma will come back.” Perhaps it gives us all a chance to rewind.
The journey back to France this time was complicated slightly by the fact that I’m haven’t totally recuperated from my September accident. Knowing that I had to spend part of the trip on a train, I had to pack light. That doesn’t mean that my suitcase wasn’t overloaded with goodies to take back to France. This time I was transporting jewelry making materials to an American friend who lives near Uzés. A good half of my 38 pounds of luggage was devoted to clasps, findings and other jewelry components that are hard to find near here. For my efforts, my friend is bartering her talent painting furniture. She’s already transformed my office desk from a boring brown to a stylish French Provençal white. Perfect for my new apartment!
Living in the south of France gives me a chance to stop along the way back from the US. This trip I visited some of the Plus Beaux Villages of France. Remember, it’s now my new obsession: to see as many Plus Beaux Villages as possible. So for four days I spent part of every day exploring a different spot in the Dordogne. In the next posts I will share some of the sights and my thoughts about Monpazier, St. Jean de Cole, Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chappelle.
Stay tuned …
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.
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.
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!
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 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.
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
Like many of you who will be finding your way through Paris’ CDG in the next weeks and months, I’m heading there, too. It’s time to plan ahead and remember some of the things I’ve learned. Mostly the hard way.
Passing through Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris can be a daunting experience for even the most seasoned traveler. On my last trip I took notes on some of the things that make my travel a little easier…and safer. Hopefully these Charles de Gaulle Airport tips will be helpful to you. (Read more here …)
If you’re like me it’s sometimes difficult to find my way around airports and train stations. Since I often take a train from Avignon to Charles de Gaulle in Paris, I jotted down directions and took a few photos to create a CDG Airport Photo Guide to help me learn and remember where to go. (Read more here …)
Thanks to all who contributed tips through comments on the post Packing tips for the 60+ solo female traveler. I’m rearranging my bags with some of them in mind. As always, please feel free to send me note with your thoughts, hints and edits!
There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”
So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.
There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.
The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.
The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.
In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.
So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!
Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.
If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!
“If you like Rocamadour, you must see Najac. It’s a mini Rocamadour,” Andy wrote.
With GPS onboard, I found that Najac was an easy stopover.
As it was definitely a last minute decision, I was lucky to find an Airbnb room for the night near Najac. Even luckier that it was a seventeenth century mas with the most delightful hosts.
Arriving just before dinner, I was greeted with open arms and a most unexpected and delicious meal. French hospitality at its best.
The next morning I was off to explore Najac.
Following the Aveyron River as it wove around narrow country roads, through lush green hills and valleys, I was forced to stop along the way to Najac to take photos and enjoy the views.
Najac: A Mini Rocamadour
When I arrived in Najac it was all very quiet. The village center, literally a small square area with timber-framed shops, cafes, and other commercial establishments, looked like it was everyone’s day off. In fact, the only store open was a pottery shop.
Yes, I did buy the little red pitcher on the shelf.
Since I had no idea where I was going, I strolled down what appeared to be the only road in town. Before long I saw a castle (château) in the distance.
The farther I roamed the more interesting the vistas became.
The town beyond the square was spread out along the long road, perched above the river. A splendid example of a 13th century bastide.
Known for its medieval buildings and its château, Najac has been near major events of history since its beginning, including the first English occupation, the Albigensian Crusade, the Hundred Years’ War, the imprisonment of the Knights Templar, the peasants’ revolts, and the French Revolution. The château was built in 1253 at the summit of the hill overlooking the Aveyron at the bidding of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Count of Toulouse. Its location and design were key to controlling the region.
Today it remains a prime example of the type of military defense used in the 13th century to fight against the Cathars and during the Hundred Years War. The dungeon of the castle was used as a prison for the last Knights of the Rouergue.
Najac: Mini Rocamadour
Najac is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France — the most beautiful villages of France. The castle, owned by the Cibiel family, has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1925.
Andy Newman, thanks for the tip. Pass it on!
It’s taken five years for the Barefoot Blogger to get to the point where she’s making progress in her new language. Now I’m learning French in Aix-en-Provence.
If you’ve been following the Barefoot Blogger, you’ve read at least six blog posts about “learning French,” starting with this one from 2013: “I’m Not Learning French.” There’s no real reason you should believe I’m serious now, is there?
Au contraire. Until now I’ve never “committed myself to a two-week, live-in, immersive French school experience.
The big reason that I’m taking the leap to attend an immersion language school is that I might have a chance to be successful. The recent 10+ week experience in French hospitals gave me an intensive dose of listening to, learning and muttering French, live or die.
With practically no one around who spoke French during my hospital stay, it was critical that I pay attention and wrap my mind around the language: speaking and being heard. It all began to make sense to me. Now that I can utter a few intelligible sentences in French and I’m ready to build on it.
A couple of years ago the language school IS Aix-en-Provence contacted me about their French school. My guess is that someone at the school read my blog and thought “if we can teach this 60-something American lady to speak French, we can teach anyone.”
After a few trys to schedule my visit, complicated by travel and other issues such as accidents, etc., we settled in on the first two weeks in February. It fit in between my move to a new apartment in Uzés and a trip back to the States.
The date suited my two good buddies in Uzés, too, so they volunteered to drive me to school to explore Aix-en-Provence. So off we went.
Arriving in Aix the day before the start of classes, my friends and I filled our time with shopping, picture-taking and eating–our favorite pastimes, regardless of locale. The Hotel Le Concorde where we stayed was cheap and cheerful and within easy walking distance for it all.
Since the purpose of our early arrival in Aix was to explore the town, we had no idea where when we started out. We resisted pulling out a map or GPS. It would be too “touristy.” Interestingly, before long, we were navigating around town by memory. We’d learned our way by recalling stores and shop windows we’d seen and visited.
Dinner at Portofino, a restaurant in the Place Forum des Cardeurs, was memorable–especially the gigantic “bowl” of fresh Parmesan cheese where the chef mixed fresh pasta and herbs.
One of the best things about visiting Aix on the weekend is the markets. We were too late arriving in town on Saturday to go before it closed. So on Sunday we headed to the food market near the Hôtel de Ville which was cheerful and bustling, in spite of the cold weather.
What a wonderful way to start a new adventure!
While the Barefoot Blogger has been distracted with a move to a new apartment in Uzes and NO wifi, my friend and cohort Patricia Sands has been busy gathering our next new best friends for the 2019 South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2019.
Only 4 Spots Left!!
The “South of France Memories” tour itinerary was created by one of the top experts in travel in the south of France — Absolutely Southern France. It is designed for all travelers — veterans and novices. Our itinerary includes some of the most visited places in the south of France — and some that are just getting on the travel radar. From the Côte d’Azur to village markets to historic towns to wild life sanctuaries, we’ll experience it all.
Here’s an overview of the destinations for our 2019 women’s tour. It includes 12 days of exploring, touring, eating, drinking and making new friends. For all the facts and cost, click here.
Life is short.
Sometimes you have to get packing and make memories you promised yourself.
Before I moved to France I knew very little about truffles. This naive southern belle thought truffles only came in a fancy gold box from Godiva. My favorite truffle was a devine, creamy dark chocolate.
Now I know that a truffle is a fungus, not a chocolate, and it’s a culinary delicacy, a fungus, that can cost upwards of $85,000 a pound.
Each year Uzès goes all out to celebrate truffle season. The celebration can last almost a month with lots of truffle-themed activities taking place in and around town. The festival’s peak weekend is towards the end of the month with various truffle hunts, a truffle market, a blessing over truffles in the Cathedral and a big money-making truffle auction.
Since this year is my fourth time attending the Truffé Fête, I’ve taken in many of the events. Check out the posts listed below to revisit them with me. It’s hard to choose, but I believe going on a truffle hunt last year was one of my favorites. Table & Truffes & Calèche. It started with a horse-drawn carriage ride through Uzès and ended with a very classy truffle and wine tasting at the elegant 17th century Hôtel Particulier, La Maison d’Uzès.
Join me on this video tour and see for yourself.
Better yet, join me next year in Uzès!
For more information on the 2019 Truffle Festival in Uzès, click here.
More about Truffles
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
While 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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
If you’re contemplating a move to France, hopefully some of this will help.
If I can do it, anyone can!
Find someone you know who can understand French legal documents. I lucked out that my son has experience reviewing similar paperwork. He served in the Peace Corps in Cameroon and worked with French banks that use some of the same legalize.
Google Translate is second option. Copy and paste the content into Google Translate. The translation may not be the best, but it can help you with the highlights. Then ask your rental agent in France to go over it with you. You should be able to communicate with your agent by email. (Be sure to get an agent who speaks English!)
Be especially mindful of the charges from the rental agency. I was surprised with the cost of a “honorarium” that was owed to them by both the owner of the apartment and by me — more than the cost of a month’s rent! When I complained about the cost, the agent stated it is the customary way to work with rental agencies in France. To pacify me, he moved my closing date so that the overall price was reduced.
Inspection Prior to moving into your apartment you will be required to make an inspection. It is very important that you go over everything, every cubbyhole, and note any problems on the inspection document. A friend inspected my apartment for me since I was not in France at the time. There was a crack at the bottom of the toilet that wasn’t noted. After I was in the apartment for six months or so, the toilet started leaking. When I called the rental agency to send a plumber, they found I needed a whole new toilet. Since it wasn’t noted on the inspection, guess who ended up paying for it? Me!
Opening a bank account in France is a requirement for renting an apartment. The agent and apartment owner like to have monthly payments set up through a draw on the account.
Fortunately I was told it was easier to open an account in person in France than from the US. Believe me, it’s really a smart thing to do. I opened my account before I left to return to the US to pack for my move. If you speak little or no French, do a little research to find a bank with an English-speaking manager. You’ll be forever glad to have a bank manager in your town to help you with various banking and non-banking issues. (Love Mr. Lamur at LCL in Uzes!)
One item that stopped my progress opening the account was that I had to show proof that IRS taxes are paid in the US. I contacted my tax man in the states. He emailed the cover page from my most recent tax forms.
You must also show proof of residence in France. Use the paperwork from the rental agency as proof.
Don’t ask me how crooks get away with foreign bank accounts! Guess they know all the angles.
Assuming you are moving to France to retire, you must have a “long stay” visa to stay in the country longer than 90 days per semester.
Look on the Internet for the French consulate that serves the area where you live. For example, the southeast consulate in Atlanta serves South Carolina. You must have an appointment at the consulate to apply in person for the visa. Appointments are made through an online tool.
When I first checked, there were no appointments available for the next 3 months! So I called the consulate (which they advise NOT to do) and I was lucky enough that someone answered the phone. The lady who answered graciously took my name and promised she would call me when there was a cancellation. I got a call for an appointment in three weeks. But don’t trust your luck. Start out in plenty of time to get an appointment.
There are a number of forms on the French consulate website that must be filled in to accompany your application. The directions on the forms are pretty clear. One very important fact is that they want proof of everything! That includes a rental agreement, French bank account, your financial statement and an airline ticket to France.
Yes, you’ll need to buy a “refundable” ticket for your flight to France — just in case you don’t get all your paperwork approved in time.
For example, I messed up on proof of medical insurance. All the information was there about my coverage but not there was not a statement about services outside the US. I told the interviewer I talked with the insurance company and that I had travel insurance for part of the year. The first 60-days out of the US would be covered by my current health insurance. She wanted to see it in writing from the insurance company.
Getting the letter about the insurance meant I had to stay over in Atlanta an extra day. Lesson learned: don’t be vague about anything.
All this might sound like a lot of trouble. It’s worth it. Promise!
If “Dancing Queen” from the movie “Mama Mia” came into your mind last Friday, it was me blasting the music from iTunes through my rooftop in France. I was celebrating that my internet connection and phone in the apartment were finally working!
To tell the truth, before then, I was close to a meltdown. My lack of French language skills was about to get the best of me. Imagine trying to place a service call to the cable or telephone company if you can’t communicate. There’s o way to get through an automated phone answering system if you can’t speak French!
Everyday I was showing up at my friend Geoffrey’s house with a “Deborah-do” list. He’s the only bi-lingual person I know that I’ve felt comfortable asking ffavors. However, depending on him to deal with my never-ending household issues was getting to be a bit much. Even for me, the “Queen of do-me-a-favor ple..eee…ase.”
So last Thursday morning I stopped by the town’s tourist office to ask about a newcomers group I heard about last summer. The receptionist gave me verbal directions to the newcomers’ office. Wasting no more time, I set out to find it. After a few wrong turn I came to the athletic field mentioned in the directions. A sign led me to a tiny building inside the fence at the far end of the playing field. The squat, stone structure looked like a baseball dugout shelter; except it had a door at the end closest to me and barred windows on the sides.
The fence gate was open and just inside the gate a dirt path led to the entrance door. When there I turned the worn knob and pushed my weight against the heavy, wooden door. Expecting to see a reception desk inside, or at least to hear a “bonjour”, I saw only a hallway of closed doors and heard muffled voices coming from behind one of the doors.
Walking towards the voices I reached the room that, I hoped, would be full of English-speaking people. Opening the door and sticking my head inside the tiny, dimly lit room, my eyes met the glares from at least a dozen men and women, all sitting around a table. They were probably conducting a very important meeting of some kind, which I rudely interrupted. But surely they would understand. I was on a mission.
I needed someone, anyone, to come to my rescue… to speak English.
Before I was totally into the room, a kind young woman stood up from behind the table to greet me at the door . But by then, I had blurted out “does anyone speak English?”
No one said a word. They just looked at each other, waiting for someone to speak up.
“What??” I said to myself. ” No one speaks English? What kind of a “welcome” group is this?!”
Fortunately, none of that ‘head-talk’ came out of my mouth. Nevertheless, I’m sure every person in the room, from the look on their faces, got the message and said in their own heads: “Ugly American!”
Meanwhile, the nice lady who was standing with me quickly grabbed my hand, pulled me into the hall, and closed the door behind us. With sign language and a few French words that I could understand, she managed to communicate that I should come back the next week for French lessons.
In total despair, I walked home. Right past Geoffrey’s house.
As fate would have it
Friday morning I was surprised to hear my new cellphone ringing. I’d purchased it for calls in France and I couldn’t imagine who would be calling me. It was Geoffrey. He announced he had found the perfect person to help me with my phone and internet problems. His English friend, Andy, could help me out for a few hours — for a small fee.
Eureka! Within a couple of hours of showing up at my apartment, Andy worked miracles. The internet, the landline, the wifi connections … all were up and running. On top of that, the plumber was on his way to find out why I had no hot water, and to turn on the radiators. I had been taking cold showers for five days and the apartment was cold at night. No wonder I was getting hysterical.
While my new best friend had fulfilled his intended mission, he inadvertently informed me he had a van.
A van! A strong, young man with a van! My prayers were answered. Now my ten boxes that were stuck in a warehouse in Marseilles could be rescued !The boxes filled with clothes and household items were shipped from the States in August and had been “held hostage” since early October. I was having a spat with the handling company and customs agent about taxes. (Another story, another time.)
Quick trip to Marseilles
This tale is best told by pictures.
Driving the two hours to Marseilles was no problem. Finding the warehouse where the boxes were stored was another story. Our GPS map didn’t take into consideration there is massive construction work underway around the port in Marseilles.
At the warehouse everything looked orderly and well-managed. Then my boxes were trucked on a forklift to the door.
Please no! These can’t be mine!
Notice there are no pictures of Andy hauling the boxes up the 55 steps to the tower apartment. I didn’t have the nerve!
When I look back on my first month living in France, I can easily say the “good times” have outnumbered the “bad”.
Hanging out with Geoffrey almost every day has been an adventure in itself –with enough stories to fill a book. It’s given me a great chance to meet some interesting “characters”. These are not the kind of folks you’d meet at fancy social gatherings. They are the people you’d pass on the street. Luckily I’ve had a chance to get to know them and experience their ways and antics. Here are just a few …
Reggie is from the French Basque country. “I’m Basque” he proudly proclaims in his raspy, deep voice to anyone within listening distance. He lives on the same street as Geoffrey and spends a lot of time on his doorstep. When he’s not teaching the young boys in town how to play rugby. Reggie (shown on the right) and his good friend Matthew gave me permission to use their names and pictures in the blog. I told them they could say “Hi” to the many women who like to read about life in France.
The day this picture was taken Reggie and Matthew moved a mural and wrought iron patio set I bought from Geoffrey from his house to my apartment. Little did they know that, aside from carrying the mural and patio set through the streets of Uzes, with no vehicle, they’d also have to climb the 55 steps to my “tower” apartment.
The part that no one knew was that the mural was too big to come up the winding tower steps.Did that stop Reggie the Basque? Of course not! With a stroke of shear genius, Reggie figured out how to hoist the mural up the side of the tower wall and maneuver it sideways into the upper window of the apartment. Voila!
Michel and Nicholas come for dinner
Perhaps the two most delightful characters I’ve met in Uzès are Michel and Nicholas. Both were invited, along with me and Geoffrey’s girlfriend Nandine, to have dinner with Geoffrey on a Sunday afternoon.
Geoffrey prepared a special French meal for us with the Mont d’ Or cheese I bought at the Saturday market. “Mont d’ Or” means “mountain of gold” in English. It tastes like honey from heaven. The cheese comes in a round bamboo container with a paper lid. To prepare Mont d’ Or you remove the box lid and stuff two or three cloves of garlic deep down into the middle of the cheese. Wrap the container in aluminum foil and bake the cheese for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is nicely melted.
Geoffrey served the Mont d’ Or with boiled potatoes, a salad with vinagrette dressing and fresh baguettes. For dessert we had formage blanc with rum raisin sauce, sprinkled with roasted almonds.
It’s hard to decide if the meal that Sunday, or the company, was more entertaining. Geoffrey’s friend Michel is quiet and introspective. Nicholas is rowdy and comical. Most of the conversation around the table was in French. Nevertheless, I could understand a lot that was said from the occasional French words I know and from the animated facial expressions and laughter.
Who wouldn’t have fun with guys like these?
(RIP Nicolas – 2018 – We miss you)
Stay tuned. More friends to meet.
The holidays are the perfect time to make a wish.
If you could visit anywhere in France, where would it be?
Let’s have some fun and see where Barefoot Blogger friends wish they could go in France. Send a photo of any place in France you dream of seeing. Who knows? By showing off your French dream destination to others, your wish might come true!
Send photos by January 5, 2019 to be published on the “Wish for France” blog post. Photos will be published with your name unless you say “no name.”
If you’re on Facebook, post your photo here on Barefoot Blogger
On Twitter, post you photo here on Deborah@bfblogger
On Instagram, post your photo on BarefootBlogger_france
Or email your photo to email@example.com
HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL!!
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)
After a busy morning at Pont du Gard and the quaint pottery town of San Quentin de Poterie, the gals on the South of France Memories You Promised Yourself tour excitedly landed in Uzés.
As you can imagine, I talked about Uzés constantly before I unexpectedly ended my time on the tour. So everyone was geared up to see just what made the place so special. Apparently, they weren’t disappointed.
Let’s read on with Patricia Sands, author and tour leader extraodinaire, and learn about the places the “sensational sixteen” enjoyed in my new hometown, Uzés.