Tag: Place de Duche

Les Mardis Nocturnes D’Uzes

There’s a party going on every Tuesday night, right under my window. Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes. I’m not complaining. It’s vendors with jewelry, leather goods, wine and, of course, there are musicians.

Nothing compares with the Saturday or Wednesday markets  in Uzes. Yet these Tuesday events, clearly for tourists, have the added attraction of a nighttime ambiance in the Place des Duche.

Tuesday market at the Place de Duche, Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Zumba in Uzes

The event runs from 6-11pm and starts off with Zumba.The Zumba sessions are led by a local class and visitors are welcome to join in.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Soon the marketplace is busy with people.  By night it’s loud and filled with music and happy sounds.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

Later, musicians take center stage at the Mairie (town hall).

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

 

There is truly something for everyone to enjoy.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Candy and nougat

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Jewelry vendors with handmade necklaces, bracelets and more

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepes made on the spot

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Crepe making with either Nutella or the buttery sugar variety are favorites.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Silver jewelers add initials to bracelets and necklaces

 

 

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Balloons are for kids here in France, too.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Dogs are well-behaved

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes Handmade head dresses are modeled by beautiful young women.

Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

 

No matter how I try to stay in on Tuesday nights, I just can’t miss  Les Mardes Nocturnes D’Uzes. Who could blame me?

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Scarves on sale blow in the summer night’s breeze.

 

Les Mardis Nocturnes d'Uzes

Ruins of the city walls look over Les Mardis Nocturnes d’Uzes

 

For more about Uzès visit here

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Uzes Saturday Market

Winter Market in Uzés: It’s Not Quite the Same

If you’ve visited the Uzés Saturday Market during tourist season and hate the crowds, you should be here in February. The market is almost the same, minus the throngs of people.

Uzes Saturday MarketThis weekend’s market day was sunny and cold — a crisp 45 degrees when I set out. Clear blue skies and a light wind.

 

Uzes Saturday Market

 

While some of my favorite vendors were in place, many shops were shuttered and closed.

 

 

A local hangout, Au Suisse d’Alger, was minus its usual outside market-watchers. Yet there was a bustle inside where it was warm and cozy.

 

 

In the market an assortment of new produce was proudly displayed and on sale.

Uzes Saturday Market

 

 

Market regulars were busy as usual. 

 

On such a beautiful day, all who could be there were out to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air.

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Main Street for Uzés Saturday Market

On the main street, or Rue Gambetta, there was a marked difference in the numbers of street vendors. Although there were many more than earlier days of winter when the weather was in the 30’s. 

 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Still you could count on those who gather at the Café de l’Esplanade to be there for coffee and to pick up their fresh oysters. 

Winter market in Uzes

 

Best of all, inventory at stores and on the street were priced to go.

 

 

Yes, the 3 pairs of boots are mine! At 15 euros a pair, could I resist?

Uzes Saturday Market

When the sun is shining you can depend on the French to dine outdoors. Market days are a time for friends to gather wherever there’s an open table.

 

 

Uzes Saturday Market

Cafes outside with customers

Uzes Saturday Market

 

Happy, happy day! Oh La Vache was open again after a too-long winter break. Their “CocoRico” chicken sandwich was still same. The best! Grilled chicken, aubergine and melted chèvre. Oh la la! (Not to mention a pichet (50cl) of rosé – to share, of course!)

Uzés Saturday Market Day

To top off the day, a stop at Gaffier’s Green Grocery was a “must.” Always the same: the freshest produce, wine at great prices — and a welcoming smile.  

Uzes Saturday Market

 

And, oh yes, it’s the only place in town to buy fresh herbs out of season. After a day at the market, my next mission? Gravlax! 

 

Uzes Saturday Market

 

 

Stay tuned …

Uzes Saturday Market

Homage to Truffle Hunting Pigs

Saturday night I served a fancy pork terrine bought in the Loire Valley to friends who were in town for the Uzes Black Truffle Festival. That bite of pork could have been my last. I’m in love with pigs.

I’ve always had an attraction to pigs, namely Porky Pig, Piglet, Babe and Miss Piggy. However, the attraction never kept me from having more than my share of pork barbecue, pork chops, ham and bacon. Yesterday, though, I fell under the spell of a truffle hunting pig. She was awesome.

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle hunting pig in Uzes

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Snout down finding a truffle

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival Activities

Let me set the stage …

Sunday morning, under a bright sunny sky, there was a brisk Mistral wind blowing across the main plaza in Uzes, Place aux Herbes. Crowds of couples, families and singles were scurrying towards the centre of the plaza to join in on the Black Truffle Festival festivities.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Morning view of Place aux Herbes in preparation for the Truffle Festival

 

In the square there was a huge tent and dozens of little food stands, each filled with vendors with their renditions of truffled delicacies. 

Merchants with truffle paraphernalia were set up to sell knives, bags, truffle shavers and more.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle gadget vendor in Uzes

 

There were even tiny tree starts implanted with truffles at their roots so you could take one home.

Uzes Black Truffle Hunt

A “truffle pen” filled with dirt and small trees was set up along one side of the plaza. It had been seeded with black truffles that were free to any man, woman or child with a dog who could find them. 

 

Not one dog found a truffle, but one stole the show. Nancy McGee’s 2-pound Papillon, Jewel. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Jewel the truffle dog

 

 

 

 

Jewel was the show stopper … until the truffle-hunting pig arrived. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

“Madame Cochon” rooted where others n’er dared to go.

 

She snorted and dug until every truffle was sorted out.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Finding a truffle

 

Surely Madame Cochon’s talent was due to the mutual admiration between she and her master. You might even call it piggy love. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Who could resist such a loveable pig?

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

 

Even the piglets-in-waiting were envious. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival Auction

Meanwhile, back at center stage, a truffle auction was starting. Truffles that had been blessed at an earlier church service were up for sale to the highest bidders to raise money for charity.

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Blessed truffles for auction

 

Each truffle was carefully cleaned, weighed and sold, starting at 1000 euros per kilo.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Truffle auction

 

All was supervised by the ever-present Compagnie Bachiques — a group of wine-loving men who show up at every wine event, dressed in the colors and golden coat of arms of the Duchy of Uzes. It is their duty to spread the word about wines from the region and to proclaim:

 

“VINO NON AQUA” 

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Uzes Black Truffle Sales

 

All through the day curious and truffle-hungry guests mobbed vendors who were selling truffles by weight. 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Selling truffles by weight

 

 

Precious truffle oil, butter and cheese sold fast.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Those seeming to have the most fun were those who just showed up for the experience, the food, the company and the wine.

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

What truffle delight did I buy? A little block of truffle butter, cheese with truffles and a small jar of truffle pate that I’ll  have to give away — it’s made with pork! 

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

Barefoot Blogger “do I shop or take photos?”

Oh yes … and dare I forget? Nancy and I polished off  a few Truffle macaroons with a nice pot of tea before she left for her drive back to Sete.

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Another fun day in the South of France!

Uzes Black Truffle Festival

 

Visit Uzes

2016’s Top Post: The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Close to 1,000 viewers enjoyed Jane and Gary’s story the day it appeared on the Barefoot Blogger! Thanks to your interest and response, Jane and Gary have agreed to frequently update their stories of  Mas d’Augustine. Like me, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to peek into their world. Stay tuned …


 

Have you ever thought about owning a B&B? I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

 

Mas d'Augustine Uzees

Mas d’Augustine Uzés

 

Mas d’Augustine is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

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Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

 

 

 

Restored cave at Mas d'Augustine

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

 

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property. Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d'Augustine

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

View of La Bruguière from Mas d'Augustine

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move to France and open a B&B?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

Manicured lawn at Mas d'Augustine

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

Courtyard and garden at Mas d'Augustine

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

 

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

 

Pool area at Mas d'Augustine

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

 

How long did it take you to make the renovations?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

Little things mean a lot at Mas d'Augustine

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

Original stonework at Mas d'Augustine

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

View of Mas d'Augustine courtyard

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

 

 

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

 

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

Table d'Hote at Mas d'Augustine

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

 

#2  I want his life! 

Pet chien at Mas d'Augustine

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website Mas d’Augustine. 

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

 

shelly-wu

 

My Life in France: Taking Stock and Next Steps

Three years ago I made one of the biggest decisions in my life. I moved to France. Alone. To compound the weight of my choice, I knew very few people in my new “hometown” of Uzes and I didn’t know the language. 

Any who have followed me on the journey from South Carolina to the south of France know I started out my expat life with a three-year plan. (For those who are new to the saga, click on the hot links for more of the story.) I sold my belongings in the states, except for a few very “special” things, and said goodbye to my friends and family. With a long-stay visa in hand, I moved into an empty apartment in Uzes which I quickly filled with brocante furniture and dreams. That was September, 2013.

It’s 2016. Where has the time gone?

Travel

Before moving to France the only places I’d been in the country were Paris and Nice. Now I’ve visited more than a hundred French towns, villages and cities, mostly in the south and southwest. There have been short trips to Italy, Spain, England, Scotland, Istanbul and a tour of Nepal since 2013. Also, I spent three 6-month stays in the US, one of which was for dental surgery, the other two were to help welcome a grand baby boy into the world, then a grand baby girl.

French Holidays and Fetes

Bastille Day was the only French holiday I knew about before moving to France. Funny, it’s not even called “Bastille Day.”It’s “Fête Nationale française” , July 14th” or bon fête.” Festivals like Fete Votive, and Nuit Blanche,  music festivals and Ferias were totally new to me.

Customs

French customs. It’s a subject I learn more about with each passing day. From “what to eat when” to “how to cut cheese,” there seems to be “rules” for everything — or at least, good etiquette. For example, whenever you are with a friend(s) and you have your first cocktail or drink, there’s always a “toast.” The proper language is a vote santé which is spoken while lifting your glass, clinking your glass with everyone in your party, looking each person you’re toasting straight in the eye, then taking a sip of your drink. Any step in this ritual that you omit curses your sex life for years. (No comment)

Fashion

How do they dress in France? It’s one of my favorite finds. Mind you, I live in the south of France, very close to Provence. Fashions here are as varied as the people who live here. From blue jeans and t-shirts to frilly bo-bo or provençal styles, you see it all. What I love the most is that it doesn’t really matter what you wear. You can be as flamboyant or as reserved as you like. It’s all OK. I will say, however, you can spot a tourist if he/she’s wearing a baseball cap.

French cooking

OMG! The best food ever! I don’t know where to start on this subject except that I’ve enjoyed every food moment. Everyone knows about breads, pastries, cheeses and wines. What I didn’t know was how French foods and palettes change within the regions of the country. A mystery to me was why Paris restaurants offer rich, creamy foods and dishes that are not as easy to find around Uzes. Simply, it’s because there are very few, if any, pastures and cows around here. Rocky, garrigue terrain surrounds this area. So foods are more in line with the Mediterranean diet — olives and olive oil, goat and sheep cheeses, and lots of garlic.

Another treat to living here has been attending cooking classes. There are two world-class cooking schools in Uzes — Cook’n with Class Uzes and Le Pistou.  Each one offers a different type of experience  — which makes both a “must” to do!

Dining out is my passion. It’s more than a weekly event here since there are so many bistros and cafes that offer a “plat du jour” at such reasonable prices. Then there are the many restaurants with dishes that are superbly designed in taste and appearance. Truly masterpieces. I miss my tacos and sushi, but I realise you can’t have it all!

French bureaucracy

Even the French laugh about the struggles you go through getting things done around here. Mostly, you know it’s going to take two to three times longer than you’d hoped to get things done. Which is partly why I chose to live here. To learn to be patient. There are daily lessons.

Visitors

Everyone says when you move to France your long lost friends appear from “out of the woodwork.” Agree. Visitors have come here I haven’t seen in 40 years. If I had to come to France to meet up with them again, I’m thankful for the move. Many of my closest friends from the US have stopped by to check out my new “digs” and to play in France and beyond. More are signed up for future trips.

Friends

New friends made along the way are the best of all rewards for changing continents. Never did I imagine I would meet so many lovely people — just by moving to Uzes. The French have welcomed me with open arms. They award me daily with big smiles when they recognize I’m trying to learn the language. The town is a magnet for tourists from Australia, New Zealand, Canada and all over Europe. Barefoot Blogger followers who have let me know they’re in town have become my best buddies.

What’s Next?

Life’s so unpredictable, who knows what the future will bring. Right now, I’m happy as a clam in France. The only drawback is that I’m so far away from my adorable grandchildren. I’m missing them at their most precious ages –toddlers. We “FaceTime” every week, though, and I’m hoping they will be ready to travel this way soon. I’m thinking I would have liked a”grandma in France” I could visit.

In the back of my head I feel there’s still another big move left in me. Maybe to Spain where I know a little more of the language than I did French. As I’ve said before: “while I have the energy and curiosity to travel and experience this great big world of ours, I’ll find a way to get there.”

Frankly, change is better for you than you can ever imagine.

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7 Great Ideas for An Awesome Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

 An autumn weekend around Uzes makes living in the south of France even more delightful for this expat. 

The tourists have left, or at least the crowds are gone. The weather is cool. The colors of nature and the man-made village walls, homes and regal buildings are all the shades of red and yellow against the autumn sky. Most noticeably, there’s a calm in the air that has been missing.

Being that this is the Barefoot Blogger’s third autumn in Uzes, I now know a few more people and a few more places to roam. My world is expanding. However, I’ve discovered you don’t have to go very far away to enjoy sights and experiences that are familiar. But as you’ll see from the photos here, it’s all somehow very different in France. Come with me to spend a weekend around Uzes.

Vernissage

October is when many artists show off their latest works to the locals. In the nearby village of Cavillargues, an art exhibit — or vernissage — was hosted by town officials in the Mairie (town hall.) Andy Newman — one of my favorites who lives part-time in the US, part-time in Cavillargues — was the center of attraction at this event. The village is less than an hour’s drive from Uzes, so it was a perfect start for weekend activities. (See the earlier post for more on Andy’s exhibit.)

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Dinner in Uzes

After the vernissage with all its wine and apéros (snacks), a visit to the cozy Italian restaurant, La Voglia, in Uzes was a perfect choice for a late, casual dinner.

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Vallée de l’Eure Festivities

In the valley park near Uzes there is almost always something going on. This weekend the main event was “Envolée Céleste” or “Heavenly Flight.” Twenty hot air balloons lifted off the valley floor to soar above the town and countryside. We watched the pre-flight setup from ground level, then we climbed up a rocky, narrow path — filled with prickly bushes — to reach the highest viewpoint.  The sights along the way and at the top were amazing, even though it was an overcast day. If you have 5 minutes and want to feel like you were actually there to see the huge balloons pop up behind the trees and hills around Uzes, watch the video.

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Saturday Dinner and Jazz at Au Petit Jardin

To round out the balloon day events, friends gathered at the Au Petit Jardin for dinner and music.  To top it all off? Caraxés: A new taste from France — spirits made with rum and aquavit.

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Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

Le Zanelli’s in Uzes

Sunday Lunch at Le Zanelli’s 

One of the best Italian restaurants in Uzes, in the opinion of many friends, is Le Zanelli’s. I confess this was my first visit, so I reserve my vote for a later time. A small salad was all I cared for after a large meal the night before. I will say, it’s one of the prettiest restaurants in town. Indoor and outdoor seating makes the location ideal for a Sunday, rain or shine.

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A car ride into the Cevennes

As a child in the Carolinas, we’d often go for a “ride” on Sunday afternoons. We’d visit friends and relatives, or drive into a town nearby just to see what was going on. The habit is one I will pick up again now in France. So many interesting places are only a few hours away from Uzes.

A drive into the Cevennes sounded like a great idea, especially with the changing colors of foliage in the mountains. So off we went in good ‘ol Lucy —  me, Paula and Rich — and we picked up Geoffrey to add humor and guidance. After an hour or so on the winding road, we ran upon a market where the locals were selling apples and onions. It wasn’t long before we discovered there was a festival farther up the road. Too bad we hadn’t looked at an events calendar or we would have made an earlier start. Next time! There’s a famous book to read about the area, too —  Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

 

What an amazingly beautiful ride! Stops along the way to take pictures of the French countryside proved this was no ordinary “Sunday drive.”

Nosey me, I insisted we stop to peer into the yard and garden of a luxury château.

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A Monday afternoon walk in the Garrigue 

Depending upon how much time you have to spend in and around Uzes, try to find an opportunity to take off to explore by foot. Recently I’ve joined a “newcomer’s” group — AVF — and one of their popular activities is hiking. This walk, however, was with a leader of the AVF hiking group who was doing a “test” walk on an unfamiliar course before offering it to AVF. By the end of the afternoon, we’d travelled 8-10 kilometers along rocky trails, up and down large and small hills, in the garrigue (scrubland) area outside Uzes. Even where there is little more than short trees and sparse vegetation, the scenery was enchanting.  (For a wonderful review of the garrigue, read this article at The Good Life France.)

Back to Uzes

After a very busy weekend, there’s no place like home. For me, this is the way…

Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

More on autumn in the Cevennes:

The Cevennes: Saint Jean du Gard

Halloween Train to the Cevennes

 

Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

The Inside Story: Owning and Running a Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

A  few months ago I had the privilege of  visiting chambre d’hôte owners Jane and Gary Langton at their home and place of business, Mas d’Augustine. That day I was given a glimpse into my dream of owning and running a chambres d’hôte in the south of France.

Since our visit, the Langton’s and I have become good friends. With the friendship, they are indulging me in learning more about “life behind the walls” of Mas d’Augustine. In other words, along with you, I’m going to find out the “nitty-gritty” about B&B ownership. It’s ups and downs.  We’ll find out about the food and drink tourists expect when they’re on a luxury holiday in France.  We’ll learn how Jane uses her professional interior design talent to adorn the Mas and the gardens. We’ll pry into which of the business and property chores Gary dreads the most.

Jane will share her recipes and Gary will enlighten us on his best before-dinner aperos. In other words, you and I are going to get an inside view of their lifestyle — as if it was our own.

As we begin this adventure together, I invite you to send comments and questions for Jane and Gary. Pretend we’re all together at their home, the Mas, and you can ask them anything you want to know about owning such a property. Think of it as a “private consultation” with the experts. 

The first post on Mas d’Augustine is attached below — to remind you where we started.

Stay tuned … 

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The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Have you ever thought about owning a B&B? I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

chambre d'hôte owners

Mas d’Augustine Uzés

Mas d’Augustine is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

Ichambre d'hôte owners

Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

chambre d'hôte owners

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property. Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

chambre d'hôte owners

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

chambre d'hôte owners

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move to France and open a B&B?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

chambre d'hôte owners

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

How long did it take you to make the renovations?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

chambre d'hôte owners

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

chambre d'hôte owners

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

chambre d'hôte owners

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

chambre d'hôte owners

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

#2  I want his life! 

chambre d'hôte owners

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

For more information about Mas d’Augustine — the history of the house, region and their offerings — please visit the website Mas d’Augustine. 

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

shelly-wu

French chambre d'hôte

The Truth About Owning and Running A Chambres d’Hôtes in the South of France

Have you ever thought about owning a French chambre d’hôte … or “B&B” as we non-French speakers call it?  I certainly have.

For years I could see myself entertaining guests in an antebellum mansion. Or in a sprawling Victorian farmhouse. I’d serve a breakfast stacked high with crispy bacon and fluffy pancakes — “your choice of banana, berry, or chocolate chip for the children.” Every afternoon there would be tea at 4 o’clock — just like in the Orangery in London. Aperitifs would be served at seven, just before guests left for their dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant nearby.

My dream bubble popped one day when someone asked: “Who’s going to make up the beds? Who’s going to clean the toilets?” POP! There went that idea. Until recently, that is.

Jane and Gary Langton are living my dream. They are an English couple who own a French-style B&B — actually a “Chambres d’Hôtes” — Mas d’Augustine in La Bruguière, a charming village just outside Uzes. I met Jane and Gary a couple of years ago and they invited me to visit them at Mas d’Augustine. When I ran into them recently in the marketplace in Uzes, they extended the invitation again. This time I wasn’t going to miss it!

OMG! What a place! what a day! what a life! Every bit of brown-eyed envy that I have inside of me was stirred up again.

French chambre d'hôte

Mas d’Augustine Uzés

The French chambre d’hôte, Mas d’Augustine, is everything you’d want in a luxury B&B. The location in the south of France; the stone buildings that have been around for centuries; the tasteful and beautiful room design and decorating; the food! Should I go on?

According to Gary, the Mas was built in the last part of the eighteenth century as a silk mill.

(Note: Did you know France was one of the major producers of fine silks from the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries? Check out the links at the bottom of the post to learn more and to find out where to view the silks from this region of France.)

French chambre d'hôte

Cave before restoration at Mas l’Augustine

After the property was no longer a silk mill, there were only a few owners. One that Gary knows of was “Madame Augustine,” a beloved citizen of her community for whom the Mas was named. Through the years Mas d’Augustine fell into bad, then worse, condition. Spaces that are now guest suites were dirty caves. Gary says animals were kept there, as was customary for the times.

Today the caves, the house and the grounds are immaculately and carefully restored. Original stonework in one of the former caves frames what is a guest suite. Another cave is a ground-level kitchen

Each room is filled with history, yet designed for twenty-first century comfort.

French chambre d'hôte

Restored cave at Mas d’Augustine

Not an opportunity was wasted to reveal the highlights of the original dwelling and property when renovating the French chambre d’hôte Not a detail was missed — from keeping original doors and windows, to plantings in the garden around hand-laid stone walls.

French chambre d'hôte

Outdoor eating area around the pool at Mas d’Augustine

Turning a dream into reality

To satisfy my curiosity during my visit, I had to ask questions. Millions. I had to know how you turn the dream of owning and running a B&B into a reality. The story was best told by Gary who retired from an investment career in London to start the next chapter in his life.

French chambre d'hôte

View of La Bruguière from Mas d’Augustine

When did you decide you wanted to “chuck it all, move from UK and open a French chambre d’hôte?

“We decided to stop “proper work” in late 2008 and we choose France as a potential place to live. We love France and it’s easy for our children to visit us here.  House-hunting began when we came to France over long weekends through 2009 into 2010. The idea of the B&B was Jane’s. She’d always wanted to open a B&B or boutique hotel and I bought into it. I will say, in my defense, we looked at properties where we would just retire, too. We wanted to keep our minds open on what we would do once we were here.”

How many properties did you look at before deciding on Mas d’Augustine and where were they?

“In total we looked at over a hundred properties during a fifteen-month period. Before deciding to focus on the Uzes area (i.e. within a 15 min maximum drive of Uzes) in early 2010, we started our hunt in Provence and moved (left) across the bottom of the country towards Spain. Getting as far as Carcassonne, we realised that properties were becoming too Spanish for our taste so we headed back towards Provence. We happened upon Uzes by accident, having stopped there once on our earlier travels for a quick lunch.”

When did you buy the property?

“We closed on the purchase of the Mas in August 2010.”

What was the condition of the house when you bought it? How much of the structure was habitable?

The house was extremely run down and all the ground level rooms had earth floors. It was obvious they had been used in the past to keep animals. The first floor was partly habitable, but the “useable” rooms were in bad shape. The house originally had about 200m2 of habitable space when we acquired it. It now has almost 400m2.”

What was the condition of the exterior of the house? The yard? The garden?

“The exterior of the house was in similar condition to the inside. There was very little grass in the yard, just lots of weeds and undesirable plants. Now the garden has been completely replanted and grassed, It’s just beginning to mature. In another couple of years, it will look great.”

French chambre d'hôte

Manicured lawn at Mas d’Augustine

“The courtyard, where we have breakfast, did not exist.”

French chambre d'hôte

Courtyard and garden at Mas d’Augustine

“The pool and the surrounding area were expanded and renovated. We wanted to create separate areas to give our guests as much privacy as possible. Walls were knocked down and rebuilt in slightly different locations so that we could make better use of the space. Old stones were always used to re-build new walls.” 

French chambre d'hôte

Pool area at Mas d’Augustine

How long did it take you to make the renovations to your French chambre d’hôte?

“From the time we closed on the purchase of the house, until the workers left, it was close to eighteen months.”

How many people helped you with the restoration? What were the trade specialties of the workers?

French chambre d'hôte

Little things mean a lot at Mas d’Augustine

“We used a local builder who specialises in redoing old stone properties, meaning he had real stone masons working for him. Depending on the day and the project, we had as few as six workmen on site daily and as many as twelve or fourteen. Jane and I were right alongside them. We fixed some of the external walls and we did all of the interior ourselves — styling, finishing and decorating.”

French chambre d'hôte

Original stonework at Mas d’Augustine

What was the most difficult project that you tackled?

“The whole project was tough, as neither of us spoke fluent French. In fact, I spoke no French. But as we were here all the time while the work was being done, there were no real difficulties.  We addressed each issue as it arose in a relatively calm and common-sense manner.”

What was your biggest surprise?

“The biggest surprise was discovering how good our French workers were. They were, by far, the best people we have ever worked with, in any country. This wasn’t our first project. We’ve taken on major renovations to properties in the UK and in the USA. The guys working on Mas d’Augustine turned up when they said they would; they did what they said they would do; and they agreed upon fixed price contracts. They stuck to their word through to the end.”

French chambre d'hôte

View of Mas d’Augustine courtyard

What was your biggest headache?

No problems, really. Aside from the purchase process — which is a pain and not cheap — everything went along remarkably well.

When are you open for guests at Mas d’ Augustine?

“We’re open from Easter through the end of October.”

Anything else you want to add?

“No regrets !”

After my visit with Jane and Gary at their French chambre d’hôte,  Mas d’Augustine, I can vouch they are both happy with their choice of a new lifestyle. Jane’s move from a career of interior design in London richly prepared her for challenges of remodelling the Mas. Her love of gardening and her talents imagining and preparing delightful, fresh meals for guests are now her life. Gary is happy “working the front” of the house. Together they are a perfect team and gracious hosts.

About the bed making and toilets? A femme de ménage comes in once a week to tidy up the main house. Jane takes care of the guest rooms herself. She’d have it no other way.

Thanks to Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine, I have some new things to dream about.

#1 Return to Mas d’Augustine for “Table d’Höte” 

French chambre d'hôte

Table d’Hote at Mas d’Augustine

#2  I want his life! 

French chambre d'hôte

Pet chien at Mas d’Augustine

Mas d’Augustine, a former silk farm built in the latter part of the 18th Century, retains many of its original features and has been restored with respect for the original architecture. For information about a visit with Jane and Gary at Mas d’Augustine in the village outside Uzes,  La Bruguière, check out the website: masdaugustine.com

To learn more about the silk industry in France, click here and here. 

To see examples of silk stockings made in the Languedoc region of France, see information about the V&A Museum’s new exhibit “The history of underwear.” 

 

French chambre d'hôte

Expat in Uzès

A Day in the Life of an Expat in Uzes

Friends often ask me “how do you spend your day as an expat in Uzes? Since you’ve asked, here’s an example of one day this week.  

I started the day with café crème and a treat, pain au chocolate, at a local cafe with friends. We were all heading for French class at l’Université Populaire. Yes, I’m going to give French another try and this time I’m going to succeed! My friends gingerly persuaded me that I needed to go with them — not just because I need to speak the language, but especially because they needed another person to sign up so they could hold the class. A little hot coffee, a tin of sweet biscuits and a fabulous teacher — Claudine — made the lesson go much faster than I expected. And more fun!

Morning French Class and Brocante

The Université Populaire is only a few steps away from my favorite brocante store, so who could resist? I stopped in and spent a few minutes looking around. Then I dropped a few euros to buy a small piece of furniture for my apartment — a carved chest. How do you like it? (photo below). It’ll be perfect to store things in my bedroom. I’ll add a couple of square pillows for seats.  I’m still trying to decide if I can live without the headboards you see below. For the guest room… hmmm.

While shopping I sighted a tapestry rolled up on a chair near the front door of the store. I immediately thought  of my friends Paula and Rich. They’ve been looking for something “medieval”to decorate their apartment. I called them and suggested they come down to see the tapestry.

 

Lunch at the Place aux Herbes

Expat in UzèsBefore I continue talking about my day in Uzes, let me introduce you to Paula and Rich. They are friends from California that I met a couple of years ago. I’ve mentioned them in several previous posts and on Facebook. Now they’re my apartment neighbours and “partners in crime.” They love to “go and do” as much as I do.  Rich and I are taking French lessons together. Paula’s pretty proficient at her new language. You’ll hear a lot about them in future posts, I’m sure. 

Paula and Rich joined me at the brocante. They loved the tapestry! On the way back to the apartment we stopped at a restaurant in the Place aux Herbes for lunch and to people-watch. A favourite pastime during tourist season.

Neighborhood Repas (Pot Luck)

Nowadays, I often take a nap in the afternoon. The temperature in the south of France is warm — in the high 80’s — and it’s a bit humid. (Compared to Atlanta? NOT!) Things pretty much shut down in Uzes and so do I. This day, after my nap, I had a chore to do. I had picked up some fresh pineapple, melons and cherries from the market in front of Université Populaire and I needed to prepare a fruit bowl to take to a neighborhood party. Everyone in our apartment building was invited for “repas”  — a pot luck dinner — and we were meeting on the rooftop terrace at around 7pm.

Here’s something I’ve learned about entertaining in France. If you’re invited to someone’s home for “apero” the hosts serve drinks and some type of simple food — a small bowl of nuts, chips or pretzels and perhaps a canapé — like tapenade on a toast crouton. Apero last for only an hour. Afterwards you might go together for dinner.  If you’re invited for “repas” you can expect a light meal along with drinks.  For a neighbourhood gathering the guests bring food to share. 

A dish that some of my French friends bring for repas is  chilled, creamed vegetable or fruit “soup.” For our neighbour’s gathering, there were two kinds of cold soups — avocado and beetroot. Both were presented in small bowls. The avocado soup was lightly flavoured with lemon, garlic and herbs. The beetroot soup had diced beets and walnuts on top of the slightly garlic-y, creamed base and a hint of herbs. They were both divine!

Oh.. by the way … never think about using beets from a can around here. It’s a travesty! 

Along with our delicious spread of food and good neighbours who have different levels of French and English language proficiency, it was a clear, beautiful evening. Up above the rooftops of Uzes we had quite a view

 

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Expat in Uzès

Rooftops of Uzes

I love this place!

IMG_0001

So it begins. Destination: Uzes, France

On returning to life in France after a long visit in the States, I’m melancholy thinking of how my life has evolved. Hopefully you’ll enjoy looking back with me

###

Only four more days until I leave for my great adventure to Uzes in the south of France. Solo. Just as planned.

This is my first time blogging an adventure, so I’ll start by telling why I’m heading to Uzes, France; how I’m getting there; also, I’ll describe how I arrived at the itinerary– sketchy as it is.

Why Uzes?

I confess, I’ve been to Uzes. I visited there during a “great adventure” in 2011. My main destination was London to see Prince William kiss his bride on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. However, quite “out of the blue”, I had the opportunity to take off for France and to spend a Saturday market day in Uzes. Right then, that day, I swore to myself I would return to that exact spot.

Why did I choose Uzes as  the centerpiece of my adventure through the south of France? It’s simple. Uzes is somewhat out of the way, so large crowds of tourists won’t gather there; it’s close to Airles, Avignon, Nimes and other places I want to see; and, if that’s not reason enough, the walled, historic city is beyond charming.

Uzes

 

The master plan

I started with a budget. My first trip to Europe was in 1966. I traveled with two friends from UNC-Chapel Hill and we spent two-and-a-half months in England and around most of western Europe. Our “bible” was the book titled, “Europe on $5-a-Day.”

Dare say, there’s not a chance I’d survive on our 1966 budget, but there are ways to keep costs down so that you can afford a fabulous trip abroad for less than you think. My goal is to spend six weeks living, exploring and learning about the south of France and Barcelona on a $5000 budget (excluding airfare).

Choosing to make this a six-week trip was somewhat arbitrary. I wanted to stay as long a possible on my allotted budget, so I started checking on the cost of lodging in Uzes. I turned to AIRBNB, the travel website recommended to me by friends and that I had used recently on a trip to Fredrik, Maryland. The room I booked at a B&B through AIRBNB was delightful.

With a little searching around on the website, I found the perfect location in Uzes, at a reasonable price. The four-story apartment with one room on each floor is located within

Uzes

Rue St. Roman

the walled city. I could have the whole place to myself from June 6-29.

Once I had some dates to work with, the itinerary for the trip began to take shape. I started to communicate directly with the apartment owner in Uzes (who lives in Copenhagen). He advised me to fly in and out of Barcelona so that I could enjoy the train ride through the countryside to Uzes.  He also recommended that I stay in Barcelona my first night after the transatlantic flight so that I could fully enjoy the train ride the next day.

June 4 – Charleston, SC to New York

June 5 – Arrive Barcelona, Spain

June 6 – Train to Uzes, France

June 29 – Leave Uzes for Sete, France

seteSete. Here’s where the plan got creative. I wanted to visit a town on the Mediterranean after leaving Uzes that would take me south towards Barcelona and my flight home. Plotting a course on Google Earth, I stumbled upon Sete, France.

Reading a few travel reviews, I quickly realized Sete is a little jewel. Checking with AIRBNB,  I found there was an apartment “to die for” waiting for me. I connected with the hostess and, as luck would have it, I learned about the worldwide music festival in town during that time. That was good news and bad news. It meant I could only have the dream room for 2 nights, but it also led me to a bit of luck. My hostess managed to arrange a place  for me in the home of her friend for the rest of my stay. A guest house directly on the ocean — all for me, and right on budget!  More good news is that my hostess runs a wine tour. So I booked the stay and a tour. Whoopee!

July 7 – “Sketchy”

“Sketchy” is good. Really. I mean, everyone needs to schedule in time for a real adventure. A side trip. A chance to do something amazing — an experience of a lifetime, You have to allow a few days to wing it. That might sound a bit too crazy for some of you but just try it. You can always come up with a plan. For example, if nothing else comes along, I can take off from Sete and head west toward the wine country of Languedoc. Wouldn’t it be fun to stay in a winemaker’s cottage? To stomp grapes… like Lucy Ricardo?  Or, to spend time wandering along the Costa Brava? This part of the adventure may be the best of all!

July 11 – Barcelona

My lodging through AIRBNB is an apartment in El Born, a popular district in Barcelona that’s filled with history, neat shops,  tapas bars and restaurants. Most important for a solo woman, the area is safe– although I understand you have to watch for pickpockets wherever you go in the city.

I visited Barcelona, on my “Europe on $5 a Day” trip in 1966.  I remember a bullfight, some great paella, and a quick trip from Barcelona to Majorca. Honestly, I haven’t thought much about Barcelona since then. But when I saw I had an opportunity to revisit the city, I knew I wanted to spend more than an overnight. I have 3 guide books and a picture book about Gaudi to study before I get there. Plus, I have no problem meeting people along the way who, I’m sure, will give me lots of advice. Again, I’m winging it. This unplanned adventure in Barcelona could be very special.

July 15 – Charleston, SC

Home again! The end of another great adventure and the beginning of the next unknown.

 

True Confessions of a Blundering Expat in France

Well, I did it again. I’ve made almost every blunder imaginable since moving to France. And I keep adding to it.

First I was locked out of my apartment when returning from a visit to the States. It wasn’t enough that I had endured a grueling 23-hour travel day. The keys were left in a drawer in Atlanta.

Then there was the fiasco with putting gasoline in “Lucy,”  my diesel-engine Citroen.

The latest was a doozy.

My good friend from Sete, Nancy McGee, was on her way to visit me in Uzes for the first time.  (That’s Nancy McGee of “Absolutely Southern French Food and Etiquette.) It was a Saturday afternoon and I had just finished straightening up the guest room when she called from her car to tell me she was approaching Uzes.  I told her I’d meet her on the main street of town and direct her to a nearby parking lot. I grabbed my keys and the two bags of trash I wanted to drop off in the dumpster on the way.  I turned around to lock the door to the apartment, then changed my mind.

“It’ll just be a few minutes,’ I said to myself. “No need to lock the door.”

I literally flew down the 55 steps that descend to street level of the building; dashed out into the parking lot; then headed for the trash dumpster.

Lifting the lid of the dumpster, I tossed the bags of trash into the barrel drawer; flipped the front lid closed with a “bang;” and listened while the barrel drawer rolled upside down, dumping its contents into the bowels of the can below…with a loud “clunk.”

Suddenly I felt a wave of nausea. You know that sick feeling you get in your gut when you know you’ve done something totally stupid? Something irretrievably dumb? I was overcome with it. I almost threw up. “Oh no!” I said to myself (although the language was not quite as polite.)

I had dropped more than the bags of garbage. My keys were no longer in my hand. They were in the dumpster.

When the nausea subsided I ran to the meeting place to find Nancy.

“What can I tell her?” I said to myself, knowing she would think I was a total “bean brain.”

Nancy’s car approached the parking lot. As soon as she stopped I opened the passenger door and jumped in, breathless.

“You won’t believe what I’ve done,” I moaned.

“Oh dear,” said Nancy, surely thinking I’d killed someone judging from the look on my face.

“I threw my keys into the dumpster,” I cried. Then I blurted out the whole story, including the fact that she’d have to drive us around the whole weekend. We had a list of places to see near Uzes.

Maintaining her customary, calm composure, Nancy pulled the car into a vacant parking space near my building.

“Hey, wait!” I exclaimed as we were unloading her overnight bag and her tiny Papillon dog from the back seat. “There’s a telephone number on the dumpster! You can call the company and explain what happened,” I chirped, hopefully.

Nancy is from Canada and she has lived in France for nearly 30 years. She speaks French like a native. When I told her how I knew there was a phone number on the dumpster — because I’d had an earlier episode with the dumpster and my cellphone — a false alarm — she wasn’t amused. Nevertheless, she called the number. Of course there was no answer. It was Saturday evening. Nancy left a message on the answering machine and she gave several phone numbers so they could call us back.

If there was any good news about the key incident it was that my apartment door was unlocked.  Also, I had a second set of apartment keys. But that was it. No extra key to the tower entrance downstairs. No key to the large wooden door at the street level. No key for my mailbox. No extra key for the car.

“This is going to be a big problem,” I lamented to myself. “And it’s going to cost me a bundle, “ I predicted.

“When does the city picked up the trash?” Nancy asked later, after we’d had a glass of wine to settle our nerves.

“Early Monday morning,” I answered, recalling the noises I heard under my bedroom window each week. A big garbage truck parks beside the dumpster and pulls the cans out of the ground. It’s a noisy process that seems to take forever when you’re trying to sleep four stories above.

“Go down there and ask the man to help you look for your keys Monday morning,” Nancy suggested –as if I could converse with anyone in French.

“I thought about that,” I admitted, “perhaps he’ll understand sign-language,” I said to myself.

Nancy didn’t volunteer for duty. I didn’t blame her.

“I’ll do it,” I said.

Picking up the trash

Sunday night I could hardly sleep. Plotting how I was going to communicate my dilemma to the garbage man was all I could think about. Just when I dozed off, I heard the familiar, jarring sound of the big garbage truck below the window. I peered out and the garbage “extraction” process had already begun.

One of the two dumpsters was being lifted out of the ground. “Oh my God,” I shrieked to myself. “It’s too late for me to get down there!” Then I saw the dumpster that held my keys in its belly was still firmly planted. I had time to act. In fact, I figured, I had too much time. So I sat in a chair at my bedroom window, with a coat thrown over my nightgown, and I watched.

Dumpster

 

It was all very organized … and automated. The crane on the truck lifted the dumpster and … the driver punched buttons on a remote control and … the crane and dumpster moved over the backend of the truck … and ..the bottom of the bin flapped open…and the contents fell out onto all the other garbage in the truck.

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Forget it!

There was no way the garbage man would help me sift through a truck full of trash for my keys. Nor would I!

Monday morning Nancy drove me to the Citroen dealership before she left town for Sete. We were certain they would cut new keys as I waited since I had a plastic replacement key I’d found among “Lucy’s important papers.

No such luck. The key had to be ordered from the factory. Plus, “Lucy” had to be towed to the dealership to program the new key. A week later.

 

"Lucy" on the tow truck on her way out of the parking garage to the Citroen dealership

“Lucy” on the tow truck on her way out of the parking garage to the Citroen dealership

 

New friends at the Ciroen dealership in Uzes

New friends at the Citroen dealership in Uzes

 

The Payoff

Bottomline, my blunder with the keys cost me a pretty penny. Replacing the keys to the apartment wasn’t a big deal. Obtaining new car keys was expensive and a pain in the neck… but I now have friends at the dealership. The weekend with my friend, Nancy, was a blast — including a party for the opening of La Grandmère wine and coffee house in Vers Pont du Gard , La Grange

 

 A night of music, food and dancing at Au Petit Jardin in Uzes.

Petite Jardin in Uzes

Au Petit Jardin in Uzes

 

 

Poubelle

And I learned a little French along the way …poubelle … the garbage can!

 

P.S. Nancy says the trash company returned her call Monday afternoon. They apologized for not offering any help. The office was closed for the weekend. They informed her that if I had lost the keys on a weekday, they would have sent a small truck to the dumpster and sorted the trash. I could have found my keys.

Geez. Next time I’ll be a little more intentional when I do something really stupid.

Read about the lost cellphone here

Read about the left-behind apartment keys here 

Read about Lucy’s problem with gas here 

 

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Me, Leave France? No Way!

Oh dear … it seems some friends of Barefoot Blogger think I may be leaving France.

Just the opposite!

Me and barefootblogger.com,  are here to stay.

I’m as dedicated to living in my little ivory tower in Uzes and to stories about life, travels and adventures in France as ever!

Until I get kicked out of the country, that is, for not learning French … or for some foolishness which I will always share with you.

(Speaking of which … did I tell you about the last fiasco? I’ll give you a hint. It didn’t have anything to do with putting the wrong gas in “Lucy” my red Citroen again, but it did have something to do with my trousseau clés.) 

Stay tuned to barefootblogger.com — and visit the new sister site — barefootbloggerworld.com to follow the Barefoot Blogger’s fun and missteps when I venture outside France. Yes, two blogs to keep you and me busy traveling, learning, reading, writing and dreaming about that great big world of ours out there.

Thank you so much for following and caring … and for keeping in touch!

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They Chose Uzes! House Hunters International Update

For those of you who may not have seen the House Hunters International episode on HGTV this week, Erin and family chose Uzes!

Erin, Stuart and their blended family with four children went on a house hunt in the south of France for a second home property. Along the way they contacted House Hunters International who filmed the search for the HGTV network audience.

The property agent — who I happen to know! Pierre Guillery — had three choices of locations that met a majority of the family’s “wish list.” Two were near Avignon, one in Uzes.

Of course, they chose Uzes!

Like many of you who watched the show, I was anxious to see how Uzes was pictured to the TV audience. Because Avignon was the site of two of the choices, Uzes didn’t get the attention it really deserves. BUT!!! Winner, Winner!!

Here are some of my favorite places I wish the viewers could have seen:

 

Place de Duche

I mean, where else do you find a Duke in residence?

Place de Duche

 

Fenestrelle tower and Cathedral of Saint Théodorit

The cathedral and tower that mark the skyline in Uzes are part of the deep-rooted religious history of France. The cathedral, named for Saint Theodorit, was built in the 12th century,  destroyed in the Albigensian Crusade, rebuilt, and destroyed again in the 16th century Wars of Religion. Built again in the 17th century, it was stripped out during the French Revolution, then refurbished in it’s neoclassical style in the 18th century. The 11th century Romanesque Tour Fenestrelle (“Window Tower”), through all the religious and political fervor,  is still intact — although previously two stories taller. The cathedral served as the seat of the Uzes bishopric from the 5th century until 1801. It is now a Protestant parish church. In the middle of the 16th century, Uzès was the fifth biggest Protestant town in France.

 

Cathedral of Saint Theodorit

 

The Cathedral and 12th Century Tour Fenestrelle in Uzes

 

Saint Etienne d’Uzes

The church Saint Etienne d’Uzes has a similar history to Saint Théodorit of being built, destroyed and rebuilt during religious wars in France. Renovation of the Baroque-style church that was built in 1764-1774 was started in 2004.  Saint Etienne maintains its Greek cross design and curved façade, decorated with fire pots from which flames flow. The bell tower that served as the town’s watchtower and defense still stands since the 13th century.  The interior dome, arches and cornices are original, with stonework  made at that time. The church continues to serve a Catholic congregation.

St. Etienne - Uzes

 

 

Remnants of the ancient wall

Remnants of the ancient guard wall Uzes

 

Bishop’s Tower

Uzes was the seat of the bishop’s temporal powers. The Bishop’s Tower was used as a tribunal and prison. This tall, square tower is topped by an octagonal clock tower and belfry, added in the 19th century.Bishop's Tower - Uzes

King’s Tower

King’s tower was used as a royal residence, as well as for housing troups. Louis XIII stayed here in July 1629. It is said that King Charles hit his head on one of the low doorways in the tower and died from the blow.

King's Tower - Uzes

 

 

 Cinéma Le Capitole

The cinema in Uzes is a step back into the 40’s with it’s art films, Metropolitan Opera re-broadcasts and  season’s newest movies. Can’t you imagine Humphrey Bogart walking down the street?

Cinema in Uzes

 

 

Gendarmerie and Uzes police — always on busy and on guard

Uzes gendarmer and police

 

Philippe Dechamps

This is where the locals go for the finest chocolates and pastries in town.

Philippe Dechamps Uzes

 

Le Provencal

My favorite hangout for lunch!

Le Provencal

 

 

Watering the Flowers

A horse-drawn cart with a tank of water for the flowers is a common sight in the Place de Duche during the summertime.

Water horses in Uzes

 

 

Place aux Herbes

What we did see in the House Hunters episode was a lot of the Place aux Herbes. There’s no question this is the true center of Uzes.

Place aux Herbes

 

 

Welcome to Uzes!

 

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House Hunters International TV Show Spotlights Uzes

TV viewers stateside are in for a treat! House Hunters International is airing a show on HGTV featuring Uzes on Monday night, January 18th.

A few months ago I received an email from Erin, a new reader of the Barefoot Blogger who lives in Birmingham, Alabama. She told me she discovered Uzes through my friend Ginny Blackwell’s website,  International Property Shares. When she googled “Uzes” for more information, she stumbled on the blog.

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

Since her first note, Erin and I have written back and forth about her visits to Uzes. Now she and her husband have decided to move to Uzes, along with their four children! Their story will be highlighted on House Hunters International on January 18th, 7:30pm CST and 8:30pm EST.

Here’s the promo for the show:

Erin and Stuart have a storied history in France; they got engaged in Paris and returned to be married. Now, the two of them have formed a large blended family with 4 children and they’re hoping to own a piece of the country they’ve grown so fond of. Paris is a bit too crowded and busy so they’ve opted for the peace and beauty of the south of France. They’re unsure of what town to settle in, but they know they want enough space for the whole family. Erin would love to move in to something turn-key right away, while Stuart is open to renovation and putting his own stamp on a property. Find out which sensibility prevails when House Hunters International tours the south of France.

At the time of the show’s airing, Erin hadn’t seen the video. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be looking for some of my favorite spots!

The entrance to the village 

The entrance to the village of Uzes

The entrance to the village of Uzes

The Fenestrelle Tower

Fenestrelle Tower

Fenestrelle Tower

Le Château “Duché”

The home of the Duke

Remains of the ancient wall

Remnants of the ancient wall

Remnants of the ancient wall

Place aux Herbes

Place aux Herbes

Place aux Herbes

Saturday Market

Saturday Market in Place aux Herbes

Saturday Market in Place aux Herbes

Lavender everywhere!

Lavender in the Uzes market

Lavender in the Uzes market

Terroirs

Terroirs Restaurant on the Place aux Herbes

Terroirs Restaurant on the Place aux Herbes

Passion Glaces

Passion Ice Cream on Place aux Herbes

Passion Glaces on Place aux Herbes

Uzes natives and tourists

Le Provencal 

Sidestreets

Sidestreet in Uzes

Sidestreet in Uzes

“Dixieland” Music in the streets

Sky scapes that take your breath away!

Skyscape in Uzes France

Sky scape in Uzes France

Sky scape in Uzes France

Sky scape in Uzes France

Sky scape in Uzes France

Sky scape in Uzes France

Sky scape in Uzes France

Best wishes to Erin, Stuart and children on your new adventure in France!

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7 Great Ideas for An Awesome Autumn Weekend Around Uzes

 Autumn is my favorite time of year in Uzes.

The tourists have left, or at least the crowds are gone. The weather is cool. The colors of nature and the man-made village walls, homes and regal buildings are all the shades of red and yellow against the autumn sky. Most noticeably, there’s a calm in the air that has been missing.

Being that this is the Barefoot Blogger’s third autumn in Uzes, I now know a few more people and a few more places to roam. My world is expanding. However, I’ve discovered you don’t have to go very far away to enjoy sights and experiences that are familiar. But as you’ll see from the photos here, it’s all somehow very different in France. Come with me to spend a weekend around Uzes.

Vernissage

October is when many artists show off their latest works to the locals. In the nearby village of Cavillargues, an art exhibit — or vernissage — was hosted by town officials in the Mairie (town hall.) Andy Newman — one of my favorites who lives part-time in the US, part-time in Cavillargues — was the center of attraction at this event. The village is less than an hour’s drive from Uzes, so it was a perfect start for weekend activities. (See the earlier post for more on Andy’s exhibit.)

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Dinner in Uzes

After the vernissage with all its wine and apéros (snacks), a visit to the cozy Italian restaurant, La Voglia, in Uzes was a perfect choice for a late, casual dinner.

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Vallée de l’Eure Festivities

In the valley park near Uzes there is almost always something going on. This weekend the main event was “Envolée Céleste” or “Heavenly Flight.” Twenty hot air balloons lifted off the valley floor to soar above the town and countryside. We watched the pre-flight setup from ground level, then we climbed up a rocky, narrow path — filled with prickly bushes — to reach the highest viewpoint.  The sights along the way and at the top were amazing, even though it was an overcast day. If you have 5 minutes and want to feel like you were actually there to see the huge balloons pop up behind the trees and hills around Uzes, watch the video.

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Saturday Dinner and Jazz at Au Petit Jardin

To round out the balloon day events, friends gathered at the Au Petit Jardin for dinner and music.  To top it all off? Caraxés: A new taste from France — spirits made with rum and aquavit.

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Le Zanelli's in Uzes

Le Zanelli’s in Uzes

Sunday Lunch at Le Zanelli’s 

One of the best Italian restaurants in Uzes, in the opinion of many friends, is Le Zanelli’s. I confess this was my first visit, so I reserve my vote for a later time. A small salad was all I cared for after a large meal the night before. I will say, it’s one of the prettiest restaurants in town. Indoor and outdoor seating makes the location ideal for a Sunday, rain or shine.

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A car ride into the Cevennes

As a child in the Carolinas, we’d often go for a “ride” on Sunday afternoons. We’d visit friends and relatives, or drive into a town nearby just to see what was going on. The habit is one I will pick up again now in France. So many interesting places are only a few hours away from Uzes.

A drive into the Cevennes sounded like a great idea, especially with the changing colors of foliage in the mountains. So off we went in good ‘ol Lucy —  me, Paula and Rich — and we picked up Geoffrey to add humor and guidance. After an hour or so on the winding road, we ran upon a market where the locals were selling apples and onions. It wasn’t long before we discovered there was a festival farther up the road. Too bad we hadn’t looked at an events calendar or we would have made an earlier start. Next time! There’s a famous book to read about the area, too —  Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

 

What an amazingly beautiful ride! Stops along the way to take pictures of the French countryside proved this was no ordinary “Sunday drive.”

Nosey me, I insisted we stop to peer into the yard and garden of a luxury château.

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A Monday afternoon walk in the Garrigue 

Depending upon how much time you have to spend in and around Uzes, try to find an opportunity to take off to explore by foot. Recently I’ve joined a “newcomer’s” group — AVF — and one of their popular activities is hiking. This walk, however, was with a leader of the AVF hiking group who was doing a “test” walk on an unfamiliar course before offering it to AVF. By the end of the afternoon, we’d travelled 8-10 kilometers along rocky trails, up and down large and small hills, in the garrigue (scrubland) area outside Uzes. Even where there is little more than short trees and sparse vegetation, the scenery was enchanting.  (For a wonderful review of the garrigue, read this article at The Good Life France.)

Back to Uzes

After a very busy weekend, there’s no place like home. For me, this is the way…

 

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My Life in France. Pinch Me.

You don’t know how many times the Barefoot Blogger has to pinch herself to believe she is really living in France. It’s more than a dream come true. It’s pure heaven.

It’s not fair to brag about what a good time I’m having, but … just saying. Take a look at this past week. There was the Feria in Nimes; a cooking class with a French chef; wine tasting; Blanche Nuit with music and art; and a town-wide brocante. Throw in dinners and shopping with friends and tell me what there’s not to love about France!

Feria Nimes

The September Feria in Nimes is a 3-day party with celebrations all around the town for young and old. The tradition of the feria showcases the Spanish influence in the south of France where corridas are an honored tradition. (See post on “The Bullfight”)

French Cooking Class

It was pure good luck that I was invited to attend at the new Cooking With Class Uzes.  Replicated from the company’s successful operation in Paris, the Uzes offshoot offers expert guidance on cooking that is strictly Provencal. The near-day-long experience deserves a post of it’s own, which will follow. Here are highlights  — “cooking with fish.”

To find out more, stay tuned …

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Making dough. Stay tuned to find out more!

Wine tasting 

How convenient!  A winery is just across the street from the Cooking With Class Uzes school. I just rolled from one to another … and took the class along with me.  How lucky, too, there was an art exhibition upstairs.

Blanche Nuit

Each Fall Uzes dazzles with white lights and the town celebrates ’til midnight for Blanche Nuit. Music, art galleries and shops are everywhere you look along the streets and alleyways.

This year the celebration started early with dinner at the newly re-opened Hotel Entraigues with Chef Axel and jazz performed by popular local musicians.

A sampling of the art …

Artists: Oliver Bevan, Anne-Marie Lanteri and Catherine Robin 

Artist: Jean-louis Dulaar

Artist: Laurent Dubè

Artist: Viva Blevis

Chapeaux et Accessoires: Petit Béguin 

Uzès Lavoir

For the first time in recent history, the Uzes lavoir was lighted and welcoming visitors on Blanche Nuit. The lavoir, built in 1854, was used as a communal house for washing clothes.

Vide-greniers UZES

A brocante sale covered the town all day Sunday with items ranging from devine to bizarre.

Dining and shopping

With friends from near and far ….

… and a beautiful full moon to cap it all off!

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“Why Did You Move to France?”

“Why Did the Barefoot Blogger Move to France?”
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It’s time to answer a most-frequently-asked question: “Why did you move to France?”

“Because I could” 

That might sound like a smug answer, and I don’t mean it to be taken that way. Yet it’s true. I’m healthy, my children are in good places in their lives, and I figured out how I could afford to live in France.

Let’s set the record straight. I’m not wealthy. A farmhouse to remodel in Provence is not in the plan. I “finagle” and try to stretch my retirement funds, just like most everyone else.

What I did was add up how much it would cost me to live in France — which is less than you’d think– then I minimized my monthly costs in the US.

Getting rid of “stuff” for a move to France
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By “minimize”, I mean I got rid of my “stuff.” Some things went to my children, some were sold at an estate sale. Charities got boxes full of clothes and household items and the few remaining “treasures are stored in a mini-warehouse.

 

“Minimize” also says to me, for the time I’m in the States over the holidays, I “mooch“. (There are a few friends who actually love for me to visit with them for weeks at a time.) My first year back to the US from France, I put over 5000 miles on a “borrowed” car to see friends. I drove to South Carolina, North Carolina and through Georgia to stay for one to two weeks each with various good buddies. Most of them have guest “suites” which works out great for us all. Happily, all my hosts have homes with beautiful views. I’m blessed.

Camp Rosie

Camp Rosie

P.S. They all know they have a “vacation home” to visit in France, anytime they’d like. Some have already taken my offer.

This year I really lucked up. I moved in with my son and family during my time state-side.

50196353Throughout my youngest son’s childhood he often said: “Mom, when I’m married, I’m going to build a house in my backyard for you.”

I took him up on it.

He’s finished the walk-out basement of his home into a guest apartment.

It pays to teach your children to keep promises.

P.S. The “rent” I pay while I’m in the guest quarters helps him with the cost of the house addition — which adds to the re-sell value of his home. A “win-win” for us both.

Costs in France

Apartment rental is less than you’d think in small villages in France. Problem is, if you want a furnished apartment, usually, you can only get a one-year lease. The “tower” apartment I fell in love with was unfurnished. It has a three-year lease.

As you’ll remember through various early posts, I furnished the apartment in Uzes with pieces mostly from brochante stores. I shopped around for good values on other new items. The best part about this is that when/if I leave, everything can be sold back to tDSC_0087he brocantes or through a house sale.

Some things I “bartered” from my friend Geoffrey who was “downsizing” his massive collection of “stuff.” As for the cost of utilities, food and “miscellaneous”, everything’s about the same as in the US.

 

Cars and more cars

Just like iPhones, I have a car for France and a car for the US. Both compact vehicles were purchased “used” with 100,000+ miles on each odometer — for less than the price of one “new” car. Yes, I pay to store the car in France, but it’s not exorbitant, and I know it’s safely put away from weather and vandals.

"Minnie" - my stateside car

“Minnie” – my stateside car

“Minnie” is stateside, “Lucy” is in France.  If I ever leave France, “Lucy” will find a new “cash ‘n carry” home.

 

 

 

Why not move to France?

Now when anyone asks why I moved to France, I turn the tables and reply: ask “Why not?”

Believe me, if you want something badly enough, you can figure out how to get it.

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The French “Ninth Art”: Bandes Dessinées

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The French love bandes dessinées — drawn cartoons.  We may call them  “funnies”  in the States  but here they take the art form quite seriously. 

The graphic style is recognized and debated by art historians in France as the “Ninth Art”  —  a category that ranks comic drawings along with poetry, architecture, painting and sculpture.

My first exposure to bandes dessinées (drawn strips) was at an exhibition in the Place De Herbes.

Art in UzesThinking it was a book signing that was drawing the crowd of people, young and old, I walked up to the tent set up in the plaza to get a closer look.

Strips of cartoons on single sheets of paper; comic books in soft and hard covers; and colorful posters were stacked in piles on the tables. Hard-bound books with CDs of George Brassens, Jacques Brel, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and other music icons were arranged in neat rows.

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Artists were busy selling and signing the books and comic strips to the enthusiastic shoppers.

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The artist that got my attention was Jose Correa.

Jose Correa

Jose Correa

He was seated at the end of one of the long tables, busy signing his work — with gusto. It was his art that was featured on the poster for the event, I learned.

“Ok,” says me to me as I walked to get in line to meet Correa. “I’ll get a poster and have it signed.” “Better, yet, ” says me, “I’ll  ask him to sign one of his CD books.”

Jose Correa

The CD set has music of Jacques Brel, the French singer who became famous during the time of Frank Sinatra. Brel is still a legend in France. The CD book has pages and pages of  cartoon drawings by Correa, along with his dialogue on the music.

Jacques Brel CD book

Jacques Brel CD book

 

Inside bande dessinee graphics, poetry and CDs

Inside bande dessinee graphics, poetry and CDs

Owning a CD with a personal message from the artist sparked my curiosity about bandes dessinées.  Here’s what I’ve learned.

“Bandes dessinée” is a type of art made popular in France and Belgian in the 19th century. Unlike “comic books”, the subject matter for bandes dessinées was not humorous. The “strips of paper” were more like graphic novels, occasionally penned by famous French artists. The drawings often raised public debate, similar to political cartoons. (See below for reference and more details.)

 "A family supper" from Caran d'Ache in le Figaro on February 14, 1898. The drawing depicts the divisions of French society during the Dreyfus Affair. At the top, somebody says "above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!". At the bottom, the whole family is fighting, and the caption says "they have discussed it".

“A family supper” from Caran d’Ache in le Figaro on February 14, 1898. The drawing depicts the divisions of French society during the Dreyfus Affair. At the top, somebody says “above all, let us not discuss the Dreyfus Affair!”. At the bottom, the whole family is fighting, and the caption says “they have discussed it”. Wikipedia

In the 20th century the popularity of bandes dessinées grew rapidly as the drawings appeared in national papers and magazines. Themes were both serious and humorous. Cartoon characters and comic books from America flooded into Europe.

Le Journal de Mickey, based on Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse, was published in France in 1934.

Le Journal de Mickey

Le Journal de Mickey

When War started, the Nazis occupying this part of Europe banned comics that came in from the US. Bandes dessinées artists in France and Belgium picked up the slack and finished many of the adventures of Superman and Flash Gordon. Since then, comics from the US have never been as popular with the French — replaced by the work of famous comic artists from around the world.

Some of the cartoon characters known in the US today originated in France.

Recognize this?

The Smurf characters originated in France.

The Smurf characters originated in France.

References: Thanks to Wikipedia for providing just enough information to make me dangerous!

Caran d’Ache the artist 

The Dreyfus Affair

‘Til next time 10247353_712774975446317_5694589719174608707_n

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Family is visiting Uzes! Nothing could make me happier than to show my son the sights and to introduce him to my new friends.

The first stop was the Saturday market in Uzès. Even though the tourist season is over, the market this week was busy. These days there are many English-speaking voices in the crowds.

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Saturday Market in October Uzes

 

Claude, the cheese man, was one of our first stops at the market. His “green” cheese with pistachios is one of my favorites. When he met my son, who is fluent in French, they started teasing with each other right away.

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Claude the Cheese Man

 

The farmer with the chèvre from the “French Farmer” post was handing out his cheese samples, as always. When I told him about my blog where he was featured, I was surprised he already knew about it! Apparently, someone shopping that morning had written the link to the site on a piece of paper for him. He pulled the wrinkled note out from under his cash box to show it to me….with a big grin, I might add.

For me, it was the final shopping day before packing up my belongings to head to the States for a visit. There were clothes I’d been eyeing for some time that now, I couldn’t resist. Oh.. that I could pass up some of these tops and jackets! 

Family Is Visiting Uzès

 

Family Is Visiting Uzès

While walking through the rows of vendors, I ran into friends I’d met last week in San Quentin La Poterie. It’s an interesting story about how we became friends.

For months I have been receiving emails from a cafe in San Quentin that puts on monthly musical events and dinner. The cafe is tiny and tucked in between pottery shops on one of the narrow streets of the town.Family Is Visiting Uzès

This particular night an English friend who is moving to Uzes was in town, so it was an excellent time to try out the dinner concert. We were early getting to the cafe, and we had our choice of seating. Instead of going to a table for two, the hostess suggested we sit at a table for six. She knew that four French ladies had reservations and that some of them spoke English. She thought it would be fun for us to get to know each other.

Fortunately, my friend speaks French quite well because when the ladies arrived, only one spoke English. For a short while, the conversation was a bit reserved since we could not all join in. However, in no time, we were laughing and communicating with broken English and French the best we could. The evening was such a success that my friend and I were invited back for a birthday party.

Family is Visiting Uzès

Thanks to the hostess at the cafe, now I have more new friends for my family to meet in Uzès… and a party on Saturday night.

Family Is Visiting Uzès

Friends meeting Pete for lunch after the Saturday Market at Le Provencal. Check out those yummy salads… even better with fries on top!

 

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Rain, Rain, Go Away
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The last few days in Uzes have not been a lot of fun. Torrential rain has caused flooding and many nearby towns and villages have been hard hit.

Right now, Uzes is under an orange alert.

6245-1412933438_Fortunately the city of Uzes is on a hill, so even though we are close to the epicenter of a major storm, we have not been affected as much as others by the floods.

This is the fourth big storm in the region bringing more than two feet of rain since mid September. You may have heard that Montpelier had major damage from the first deluge.

The flooding is blamed on a stagnant weather pattern over Scotland, Ireland and the eastern Atlantic Ocean. It has caused more-than-normal amounts of moisture to flow into France.

Photos from some of the areas affected by this storm are pretty dramatic. Here are a few that I picked up from news sources and friends. 

My apartment

For me, the only damage in my apartment has been a bit of water — apparently from the windows in the guest room. The water must have seeped from under the windows into the electrical outlets. It caused a breaker switch to flip off — fortunately. Some overhead lights and a few other plugs in the apartment were affected, including where the refrigerator and internet are connected.  As you can see I “jerry-rigged” the refrigerator and internet with extension cords that connect to functioning outlets.IMG_3530

 

Electricians among you must be freaking out.

The problem has solved itself now. The electricity is back on, including the hot water tank!

 

 

Another storm is expected tomorrow that may be the worse yet.IMG_3532

The night of the biggest downpour I went out to the terrace several times to sweep away debris from a drain that empties water down the side of the building to the street below.

Today in the sunshine I cleaned the floor of the terrace with a scrub brush and swept away as much trash as I could find. If the water accumulate again, it might creep under the sliding glass door of the guest room.

I’m certain the terrace hasn’t been this clean in years.

 

The Duche

One thing I noticed while cleaning the terrace is the flagpole at the Duche.  The flag that flies on top of his tower indicates if the Duke is in town.

Apparently the Duke’s not at home.  I guess he’s left for higher ground …. perhaps to his apartment in Paris.

 

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The Palace of the Duche with no flag.

Saturday Market

Another coincidence of the stormy weather is that Saturday Market was nearly empty of vendors and shoppers. Where the streets and cafes are generally mobbed, this day was a different story.

 

Saturday Market in Uzes after the October flood

Saturday Market in Uzes after the October flood

 

Saturday Market cafes were open but few customers after the October flood

Saturday Market cafes were open but few customers after the October flood

 

 

A few shoppers wandered around the usually busy Saturday Market in Uzes

A few shoppers wandered around the usually busy Saturday Market in Uzes

 

Amazing photos

If anything good could be said about the stormy weather, the skies have been putting on a quite a show.

This photo was "borrowed" from a local news source and shows one of the powerful lightning strikes during the storm.

This photo was “borrowed” from a local news source and shows one of the powerful lightning strikes during the storm.

 

A view of the street without Saturday Market crowds and vendors.

A view of the street from my terrace showing  the street on  that is generally packed with shoppers and vendors

 

 

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The view from my living room window just prior to the first rain event

The view from my living room window just prior to the first rain event

 

If you note in the last photo, there are swarms of birds flying near the 11th century Tour Fenestrelle (“Window Tower”). It may be only me that thinks this, but the birds always seem to know when there’s a big change in the weather. Today they are unusually silent.

Perhaps the birds are resting up for what is ahead….. stay tuned.

 

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