Tag: Provence Languedoc

wine tasting and canal cruising

Wine Tasting and Cruising Canal du Midi

Canal cruising is more than floating along slowly in a barge. Wine tasting and cruising was the perfect way to spend the day on the Athos Canal du Midi.

The itinerary for our first full day on the Athos Canal du Midi barge took us to the House of Noilly Prat in Marseillan for a wine tasting. The famous vermouth company, owned by Martini & Rossi, was developed by French herbalist Joseph Noilly from Lyon in 1813. Noilly Prat was officially created when Louis Noilly became business partners with his son-in-law, Claudius Prat. The company moved to Marseillan in the 1850s because of its ideal location.  Proximity to Marseille enabled easy shipping and the sea spray from the coastal location aided in oxidizing and aging the wine.

The location was perfect for wine tasting and for starting our cruise of the Canal du Midi, too!

wine tasting and canal cruising

Noilly Prat is only a few steps from the Marseillan harbor

 Noilly Pratt’s three variants of vermouth is made totally in the factory we visited — except for bottling. Our tour followed each process.

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Wine Tasting and Canal Cruising

Entering the Canal du Midi

From the harbor in Marseillan the Athos canal barge approached the entrance to the Canal du Midi. It wasn’t long before we were at the first of the canal locks we would encounter over the next days of our cruise.

wine tasting and canal cruising

Route of the Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

 

Enjoy the video and the ride!

wine tasting and canal cruising

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal Cruising in France: Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

If visiting the south of France is in your future, put an Athos Canal du Midi Cruise at the top of your “bucket” list.

Kid you not. My Canal du Midi cruise on the luxury hotel barge Athos is fast becoming one of my most memorable experiences in France. Where else could you go on private tours of quaint and romantic French towns and villages; eat the most authentic and delicious French cuisine, including wines and cheeses selected just for you; cruise on a historic winding canal; experience wildlife within reach, and be waited on hand and foot?

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal du Midi Cruise

For a full week I was a guest on the Athos du Midi which is owned and managed by Dannielle and Julian Farrant. The Athos is their “Love Boat.” Dannielle — a Canadian, and Julian — a Brit, met and married while working aboard the canal barge over twenty years ago.

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

While Dannielle and Julian are busy taking care of business on shore these days, they leave the five-person crew of the Athos to wine, dine and attend to passengers onboard the 100-foot barge (30.48 meters). The Athos is one of the largest barges on the canal.

Port of Origin: Marseillan

Marseillan is the port of departure for most of the week-long cruises. By lucky coincidence we were in Marseillan for the celebration of the reopening of the port. As crowds gathered around the harbor, the town was lively with music when we arrived. By dark there was a spectacular fireworks just feet away from us.  Quite a welcome for our first day on Athos Canal Midi cruise!

Guests aboard the Athos were Heidi and Tim from New Zealand; and Canadians from Victoria: Michelle and Dave. Ten passengers on the Athos are the norm, so right away, we knew our holiday with only five was going to be very special. We were going to be pampered.

Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

Arriving in Beziers by car, I was driven to the port by Mathieu, our tour guide. Other passengers stayed overnight in Beziers and met us at the Athos. The crew welcomed guests with what was to become a standard: friendly, gracious service and lots of attention.

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Onboard the Athos the crew met the five passengers with champagne and canapés

 

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Dinner is served!

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Yes! There’s more … more canal cruise adventures and food! Stay tuned …

Join the Barefoot Blogger on FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram for more photos and fun on the Athos Canal du Midi. 

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

A Foodie Holiday in Antibes

Antibes has a special attraction for me. Perhaps it’s the architecture and the narrow colorful avenues. It could be the quaint little hotel where I stay that’s so close to little shops and outdoor cafes, yet so hidden away. On my most recent visit, the main attraction was the food. Here’s a look at Antibes restaurant favorites

The past three years, I’ve made a long weekend pilgrimage to Antibes with my good buddies Paula and Rich. This year we added our friend, Trish, to the party.

Before we left for Antibes, Trish innocently asked, “what do we do in Antibes?”

Paula and I, almost in unison, replied: “absolutely nothing.”

We meant it. The annual getaway is our chance to be together in a totally relaxed atmosphere — before the onslaught of summer visitors, traveling and activities in and around Uzès.

Usually we spend a part of a day exploring something we haven’t seen or done around Antibes. Last year it was the Fete Voiles. This year we walked to and around the park at Fort Carreé.

Most of our time in Antibes, we ate. A lot.

Hungry? Read on at your own risk!

Antibes restaurant favorites

Lunch (déjuener) at Le Don Juan is becoming a regular stop on visits to Antibes. Always good! The gnocchi with veggies was a perfect choice for our vegetarian friend.

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Don Juan for dèjeuner was a treat with ancienne tomato salad, veggie-stuffed farci, calamari, and gnocchi with vegetables

Dinner at Autour du Jardin was even more special with friends from House Hunters International. We lucked out that Erin, Stewart and kids were visiting Antibes at the same time. (Can I call these adorable young adults “kids?”) 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Autour du Jardin, Antibes with the kids, Paula and Erin, Stewart and the Barefoot Blogger. A fancy caprese salad and lemon tart.

 

Dinner at Côte Terroir meant eating fancy food that really tasted as good as it looked. Because it was a windy night, there was no outside seating. Who cared? The service and foods were impeccable. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Côte Terroir, Antibes muse bouche parmesan “pops”; soft boiled egg with nut-crumb wrap and jambon; gambas (shrimp) risotto, and the chef’s take on pavlova with mango

 

Final night in Antibes means dining out on the plage (beach) in Juan-les-Pins. This year we discovered Le Ruban Bleu. Our “regular” restaurant had disappeared. Seems like there are some restaurants on city property, some spots are owned by the French government. The state owned ones are closed. Go figure? 

Antibes restaurant favorites

Le Ruban Bleu in Juan-les-Pins offered the seafood specialties we were craving. Fish soup, pasta with clams and a fancy mixed vegetarian salad

 

Light lunch and drinks at The Brooklyn was a great find. Located along the busy byway to the harbor, the cafe was buzzing. No wonder! Who could resist this smiling waiter, a bento box for our vegetarian, and a giant Jack Daniels burger. The Colonel cocktail (citron sorbet with vodka) was pretty amazing, too. 

 

Antibes restaurant favorites

 

Want to know more about Antibes? Check out these posts:

The Doors and Windows of Antibes

Antibes Again? It Just Gets Better

Antibes in 2 Days: Moonlight and Absinthe

See more of Antibes on Pinterest … click here!

Back to France

Back to France … Home Again in Uzès

Sometimes it seems that I’m being unappreciative to my family I visit in the US. But when I return back to France again, I can’t believe how happy I feel. I’m at home. But at the same time, I’m on a great adventure. 

The last two months I’ve revelled in spending time with my adorable grandchildren in Georgia. We played together, like I always imagined I’d enjoy three and five year old grandchildren. Tea parties, visits to a dinosaur museum, lunch on a red caboose and birthday parties. We did them all.

Then it was time to say “goodbye.” At least now they’re recognizing that “Grandma will come back.” Perhaps it gives us all a chance to rewind.

Back to France

The journey back to France this time was complicated slightly by the fact that I’m haven’t totally recuperated from my September accident. Knowing that I had to spend part of the trip on a train, I had to pack light. Back to FranceThat doesn’t mean that my suitcase wasn’t overloaded with goodies to take back to France. This time I was transporting jewelry making materials to an American friend who lives near Uzés. A good half of my 38 pounds of luggage was devoted to clasps, findings and other jewelry components that are hard to find near here. For my efforts, my friend is bartering her talent painting furniture. She’s already transformed my office desk from a boring brown to a stylish French Provençal white. Perfect for my new apartment!

Along the way … Dordogne

Living in the south of France gives me a chance to stop along the way back from the US. This trip I visited some of the Plus Beaux Villages of France. Remember, it’s now my new obsession: to see as many Plus Beaux Villages as possible. So for four days I spent part of every day exploring a different spot in the Dordogne. In the next posts I will share some of the sights and my thoughts about Monpazier, St. Jean de Cole, Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chappelle.

Stay tuned …

 

Back to France

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Sports in Uzes. Who knew?

Have you ever heard of “tree sports?” Neither had I. Now trees are where I’d love to hang out. Literally! Time to learn about tree sports in Uzès.

Tree sports in Uzès

One of my favorite places in Uzes is the Vallée de l’Eure. I’ve written about the spring that feeds Pont du Gard, the swans, the STEPS, and various other things that amuse me there.

Tree sports in Uzès

 

Nothing has caught me more off guard, however, than to find men hanging in the trees.

The woods are quite thick along the winding trails in the Vallée de l’Eure. Often it is difficult to see more than a few yards ahead. It’s part of the charm of being there. This particular day, when I saw the men in the trees, I had left the apartment with the intention of taking only a short walk.

I had planned to get a lot accomplished that day and the walk was just the first of many things on my “to do” list. It was right after I got to the last of the STEPS that lead down to the park that I heard men talking in the distance. Walking slowly, as usual, because the path is very rocky and uneven, I intentionally headed towards the voices. Of course, I had no idea what they were saying. They were speaking in French. By the time I could hear them more clearly, it was obvious the sounds were coming from the trees.

There they were! Dangling on ropes up in the air. I couldn’t get there fast enough. My curiosity was killing me!

Tree sports in Uzès

Then I realized I didn’t have my camera!

“What!” says me to myself. “What a great story for my blog: ‘Finding Tarzan in the Jungles of France.'”

Reality hit. I had an appointment in less than an hour. How could I get back to the apartment, grab my camera, run back to the park, take pictures, go back to the apartment, change clothes, then be on my way, and on time? Impossible!

At that moment It was like there was a “good angel” on my right shoulder saying: “Forget it, you’ve made a commitment. You have to forget about this story for your silly blog and get on with your life.” A “bad angel” on my left shoulder was saying: “Forget, Hell! This is a great story. Don’t be stupid.”

So what did I do? I went back for the camera, of course!

 

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Tree sports in Uzès

Tree climbing, or hanging out in trees, is becoming a popular pastime, especially in France. The abundance of lush forests and people looking for new and different ways to spend time outdoors have created a new industry. The young men I met are utility workers for their “real jobs” and they run a business for tourists on the side. From what I could understand, since they spoke little English, and … you know me and my French … their business is quite good. They provide the ropes, harnesses and expertise to get you up into a tree. Plus they set up the tree “boats” where you can spend as much time as you’re willing to pay for to “hang” out.

 

Tree sports in Uzès Tree sports in Uzès

 

Sounds like fun to me!!

Prayer of a Tree
—————-

To The Wayfarer,

Ye who pass by and would raise your hand against me, harken ere you harm me.

I am the heat of your hearth on the cold winter nights,
the friendly shade screening you from the summer sun.

My fruits are refreshing draughts,
quenching your thirst as you journey on.

I am the beam which holds your house,
the board of your table,
the bed on which you lie,
and the timbers of your boat.

I am the handle of your hoe,
the door of your homestead,
the wood of your cradle,
the shell of your coffin.

I am the bread of kindness and the flower of beauty.

Ye who pass by,
listen to my prayer; harm me not.

–reportedly from the book “Spanish Sunshine” by Elinor Elsner, circa 1925, and was a notice found on a tree in a park in Seville, Spain; posted by Ray on the Boards of the Native Tree Society

To contact the tree sport company website Phytofeel.com

Lyon, France: Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

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

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

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

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Traboules in Lyon, France

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

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

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Some even open onto elevator entrances.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

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

More about Lyon

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

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

Lyon: A Feast For the Eyes

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and New Chaussures


Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

There’s a new obsession running around in my head: “visit as many of France’s ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages‘ as I possibly can.”

So far, I’ve seen only 10 out of some 156 “authentic” Les Plus Beaux Villages. I have a lot of traveling to do.

Les Plus Beaux Villages

There are 156 communities in France with the distinction of being a beaux village. Most are in the Dordogne and Aveyron departments. Vancluse and Lot are next with seven and six beaux villages respectively.

Most Beautiful Villages in France

The designation “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” was borrowed from the Reader’s Digest book of the same name. Charles Ceyrac, mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, one of the villages featured in the book, believed his village and others like it could be revitalized economically if they joined together and promoted themselves as the most beautiful villages in France.

The criteria for the title was based on (1) the character and population of a village: rural with no more than 2,000 inhabitants; (2) two national heritage sites; and (3) the local council of the municipality must have voted on the application.

In 1981 mayors from 66 villages joined Collonges to form the association.

So far, these are Les Plus Beaux Villages I’ve visited. Click on the name of each village to learn and see more. Enjoy!

Eguisheim

Riquewihr

Domme

La Roque-Gageac

Les Baux-de-Provence

Gordes

Lourmarin

Menerbes

Roussillon

Najac

Yes, I have a lot of traveling to do.

If you have thoughts on the Beaux Villages I shouldn’t miss, please leave a comment. Let’s all go!

 

Wish for France

Moving to France? Here’s Advice, Help and Discounts

If you’re seriously thinking of moving to France, there’s a lot of information and help you will need. Here are some services and discounts for relocating to France to get you started. Believe me, I wish I had known about them years ago!

Relocation Seminar and Tours

It may seem adventurous to fumble your way through relocating to France, but it’s not the wisest move. Getting advice from a reputable service should be at the top of your list. From obtaining a visa to finding a place to live, Renestance has proven themselves over and over again to me. Many Barefoot Blogger followers have used and recommend their services, too.

For those of you who may be here in April, here’s an opportunity to learn more about relocating to France… Renesting in France Seminar.

Plus a discount just for you! Book before March 15th. (See below)

Book the seminar and a tour. Yes, there’s a tour of Uzès, too!

The 2019 seminar is followed by 3 Real Estate and Real Life tours to help you discover more about investing and living in the region.

  • Tuesday 9 April – Montpellier & Sète
  • Thursday 11 April – Béziers, Pézenas & Marseillan
  • Saturday 13 April – Uzès & Sommières

Relocating to France

 

relocating to France

 

Marseille, Resilient After All

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

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

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

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

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

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

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

Marseille’s Story

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

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

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

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

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

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

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

The Great Plague

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

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

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

Marseille’s Story

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

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

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

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

Marseilles’ Story

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

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

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

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

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

Walk in Uzès

Home Again In Uzès

After two weeks away at language school in Aix-en-Provence, it’s wonderful to be back home in Uzès.

Join me on a morning walk to town. 

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

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

Home in uzes

Learning French. Getting There.

It’s taken five years for the Barefoot Blogger to get to the point where she’s making progress in her new language. Now I’m learning French in Aix-en-Provence.

Learning French. What’s taken so long?

If you’ve been following the Barefoot Blogger, you’ve read at least six blog posts about “learning French,” starting with this one from 2013: “I’m Not Learning French.” There’s no real reason you should believe I’m serious now, is there?

Au contraire. Until now I’ve never “committed myself to a two-week, live-in, immersive French school experience.

Why now?

The big reason that I’m taking the leap to attend an immersion language school is that I might have a chance to be successful. The recent 10+ week experience in French hospitals gave me an intensive dose of listening to, learning and muttering French, live or die.

Seriously.

With practically no one around who spoke French during my hospital stay, it was critical that I pay attention and wrap my mind around the language: speaking and being heard. It all began to make sense to me. Now that I can utter a few intelligible sentences in French and I’m ready to build on it.

Learning French in Aix-en-Provence

A couple of years ago the language school IS Aix-en-Provence contacted me about their French school. My guess is that someone at the school read my blog and thought “if we can teach this 60-something American lady to speak French, we can teach anyone.”

After a few trys to schedule my visit, complicated by travel and other issues such as accidents, etc., we settled in on the first two weeks in February. It fit in between my move to a new apartment in Uzés and a trip back to the States.

The date suited my two good buddies in Uzés, too, so they volunteered to drive me to school to explore Aix-en-Provence. So off we went.

Learning French in Aix

Paula, Trish and me in Aix

Exploring Aix

Arriving in Aix the day before the start of classes, my friends and I filled our time with shopping, picture-taking and eating–our favorite pastimes, regardless of locale. The Hotel Le Concorde where we stayed was cheap and cheerful and within easy walking distance for it all.

Retail navigation

Since the purpose of our early arrival in Aix was to explore the town, we had no idea where when we started out. We resisted pulling out a map or GPS. It would be too “touristy.” Interestingly, before long, we were navigating around town by memory. We’d learned our way by recalling stores and shop windows we’d seen and visited.

Learning French in Aix-en-Provence

Dinner at Portofino, a restaurant in the Place Forum des Cardeurs, was memorable–especially the gigantic “bowl” of fresh Parmesan cheese where the chef mixed fresh pasta and herbs.

Learning French in Aix-en-provence

Sunday Market

One of the best things about visiting Aix on the weekend is the markets. We were too late arriving in town on Saturday to go before it closed. So on Sunday we headed to the food market near the Hôtel de Ville which was cheerful and bustling, in spite of the cold weather.

French school in Aix

French school in Aix

Learning French in Aix

What a wonderful way to start a new adventure!

Learning French in Aix

Moving to France: Patience

I’m not a very patient person. Never have been. When I moved to France, I knew it would try my patience.

Moving is one thing. Learning a new way to deal with bureaucracy and red tape takes frustration to a whole new dimension.

It takes patience

My move to a new apartment in Uzès, on top of recovering from my September 18th nightmare, has brought back to mind how difficult it is to do simple things in my new country… like having WiFi and telephone installed, or expecting dependable heating and hot water. You know, the essentials. I’m now two weeks in my new place and I’m still struggling with all of the above.

When I recently complained in an email to a new friend and blog follower, she reminded me of a post published five years ago. “You sound just as frustrated as you did when you first landed in Uzès,” she said.

Yep.

I must say, it’s worth a bit of agony to be here. I’m literally one step off street level. Three steps from my front door into the living area.

France takes patience

While the magnificent view of the Duché is no longer outside my office window, and the Medieval Garden is missing from my bedroom view, I’ve gained a regal courtyard and easy access. The latter is a godsend.

France takes patience

A new perspective

The September 18th nightmare wasn’t supposed to happen for at least five years. Five years from now I would have said “it’s time to go back to the States.” My whirlwind adventure in France would have ended with a big grand finale. 

That’s not how it’s going to end now. I haven’t had my fill of France.

Instead, I’m looking forward to stepping out this street-level door to spend more time with French neighbors and friends. After five years of watching the French enjoy their special kind of lifestyle, I’m going to try to participate. 

Yes, I’m going to be out there and I’m going to be speaking in French!

Stay tuned for next week’s news and another great adventure. A French language school in Aix-en-Provence. I’m so excited and you’ll be coming along, too! 

France takes patience

Much Ado About French Truffles in Uzès

Uzès is famous for French truffles. Black ones. Pigs and dogs sniff them out from beneath the roots of trees.

Before I moved to France I knew very little about truffles. This naive southern belle thought truffles only came in a fancy gold box from Godiva. My favorite truffle was a devine, creamy dark chocolate.

Now I know that a truffle is a fungus, not a chocolate, and it’s a culinary delicacy, a fungus, that can cost upwards of $85,000 a pound.

Each year Uzès goes all out to celebrate truffle season. The celebration can last almost a month with lots of truffle-themed activities taking place  in and around town. The festival’s peak weekend is towards the end of the month with various truffle hunts, a truffle market, a blessing over truffles in the Cathedral and a big money-making truffle auction.

Since this year is my fourth time attending the Truffé Fête, I’ve taken in many of the events. Check out the posts listed below to revisit them with me. It’s hard to choose, but I believe going on a  truffle hunt last year was one of my favorites. Table & Truffes & Calèche. It started with a horse-drawn carriage ride through Uzès and ended with a very classy truffle and wine tasting at the elegant 17th century Hôtel Particulier, La Maison d’Uzès.

Join me on this video tour and see for yourself.

Better yet, join me next year in Uzès!

For more information on the 2019 Truffle Festival in Uzès, click here.

More about Truffles

Homage to a Truffle Hunting Pig

Mystical, Magical Truffles: Alba’s White Truffle Festival

Expat in France

5 Years an Expat in France

5 Years an Expat in France…

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

Highlights: 5 Years an Expat in France

Feeling at home

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

Expat in France

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

Expat in France

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

Making friends

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

Expat in France

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

Travel, travel and more travel

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

Beginning the “Memories Tour”

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

Facing my fears

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

Blogging

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

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

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

Loving France

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

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

Expat in France

Learning French

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

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

expat in France

Moving to France Healthcare

Moving to France: Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the story …

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

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

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

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

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

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

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

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

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

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

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

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

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

French Healthcare: Surgery

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

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

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

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving to France Healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

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

Moving to France Healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

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

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

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

Moving to France Healthcare

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

French Healthcare: Cost

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

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

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

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

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

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

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

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

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..

For More on French Healthcare for Expats Contact Renestance

Moving to France: The Visa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewing a French Expat Visa

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

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

Moving to France Visa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Renewing a French Expat Visa…finally

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you Renestance!

 

Read about the first experience with a French Visa

 

Moving to France drama

Moving to France: The Drama

Five years ago the Barefoot Blogger started her extraordinary journey to live in France. Remembering some of my early days moving to France, the drama and friends is so much fun. This is one of my favorite blogs 2013 … enjoy!

If “Dancing Queen” from the movie “Mama Mia” came into your mind last Friday, it was me blasting the music from iTunes through my rooftop in France. I was celebrating that my internet connection and phone in the apartment were finally working!

To tell the truth, before then, I was close to a meltdown. My lack of French language skills was about to get the best of me. Imagine trying to place a service call to the cable or telephone company if you can’t communicate. There’s o way to get through an automated phone answering system if you can’t speak French!

The drama

Move to France dramaEveryday I was showing up at my friend Geoffrey’s house with a “Deborah-do” list. He’s the only bi-lingual person I know that I’ve felt comfortable asking ffavors. However, depending on him to deal with my never-ending household issues was getting to be a bit much. Even for me, the “Queen of do-me-a-favor ple..eee…ase.”

So last Thursday morning I stopped by the town’s tourist office to ask about a newcomers group I heard about last summer. The receptionist gave me verbal directions to the newcomers’ office. Wasting no more time, I set out to find it. After a few wrong turn I came to the athletic field mentioned in the directions.  A sign led me to a tiny building inside the fence at the far end of the playing field. The squat, stone structure looked like a baseball dugout shelter; except it had a door at the end closest to me and barred windows on the sides.

The fence gate was open and just inside the gate a dirt path led to the entrance door. When there I turned the worn knob and pushed my weight against the heavy, wooden door.  Expecting to see a reception desk inside, or at least to hear a “bonjour”, I saw only a hallway of closed doors and heard muffled voices coming from behind one of the doors.

Moving to France dramaWalking towards the voices I reached the room that, I hoped, would be full of English-speaking people. Opening the door and sticking my head inside the tiny, dimly lit room, my eyes met the glares from at least a dozen men and women, all sitting around a table. They were probably conducting a very important meeting of some kind, which I rudely interrupted. But surely they would understand. I was on a mission.

I needed someone, anyone, to come to my rescue… to speak English.

Before I was totally into the room, a kind young woman stood up from behind the table to greet me at the door . But by then, I had blurted out “does anyone speak English?”

No one said a word. They just looked at each other, waiting for someone to speak up.

Silence.

“What??” I said to myself. ” No one speaks English? What kind of a “welcome”  group is this?!”

Fortunately, none of that ‘head-talk’ came out of my mouth. Nevertheless, I’m sure every person in the room, from the look on their faces, got the message and said in their own heads: “Ugly American!”

Meanwhile, the nice lady who was standing with me quickly grabbed my hand, pulled me into the hall, and closed the door behind us. With sign language and a few French words that I could understand, she managed to communicate that I should come back the next week for French lessons.

In total despair, I walked home. Right past Geoffrey’s house.

As fate would have it

Friday morning I was surprised to hear my new cellphone ringing. I’d purchased it for calls in France and I couldn’t imagine who would be calling me. It was Geoffrey. He announced he had found the perfect person to help me with my phone and internet problems. His English friend, Andy, could help me out for a few hours — for a small fee.

Eureka! Within a couple of hours of showing up at my apartment, Andy worked miracles. The internet, the landline, the wifi connections … all were up and running. On top of that, the plumber was on his way to find out why I had no hot water, and to turn on the radiators. I had been taking cold showers for five days and the apartment was cold at night. No wonder I was getting hysterical.

While my new best friend had fulfilled his intended mission, he inadvertently informed me he had a van.

A van! A strong, young man with a van! My prayers were answered. Now my ten boxes that were stuck in a warehouse in Marseilles could be rescued !The boxes filled with clothes and household items were shipped from the States in August and had been “held hostage” since early October. I was having a spat with the handling company and customs agent about taxes. (Another story, another time.)

Quick trip to Marseilles

This tale is best told by pictures.

Driving the two hours to Marseilles was no problem. Finding the warehouse where the boxes were stored was another story. Our GPS map didn’t take into consideration there is massive construction work underway around the port in Marseilles.

Moving to France drama

 

At the warehouse everything looked orderly and well-managed. Then my boxes were trucked on a forklift to the door.

Please no! These can’t be mine!

Notice there are no pictures of Andy hauling the boxes up the 55 steps to the tower apartment. I didn’t have the nerve!

Moving to France drama

Home at last!

Moving to France Drama: Stress, yes. But fun along the way

When I look back on my first month living in France, I can easily say the “good times” have outnumbered the “bad”.

Hanging out with Geoffrey almost every day has been an adventure in itself –with enough stories to fill a book. It’s given me a great chance to meet some interesting “characters”. These are not the kind of folks you’d meet at fancy social gatherings. They are the people you’d pass on the street. Luckily I’ve had a chance to get to know them and experience their ways and antics. Here are just a few …

Rugby Reggie

Reggie is from the French Basque country. “I’m Basque” he proudly proclaims in his raspy, deep voice to anyone within listening distance. He lives on the same street as Geoffrey and spends a lot of time on his doorstep. When he’s not teaching the young boys in town how to play rugby. Reggie (shown on the right) and his good friend Matthew gave me permission to use their names and pictures in the blog. I told them they could say “Hi” to the many women who like to read about life in France.

The day this picture was taken Reggie and Matthew moved a mural and wrought iron patio set  I bought from Geoffrey from his house to my apartment. Little did they know that, aside from carrying the mural and patio set through the streets of Uzes, with no vehicle, they’d also have to climb the 55 steps to my “tower” apartment.

The part that no one knew was that the mural was too big to come up the winding tower steps.Did that stop Reggie the Basque? Of course not! With a stroke of shear genius, Reggie figured out how to hoist the mural up the side of the tower wall and maneuver it sideways into the upper window of the apartment. Voila!

Michel and Nicholas come for dinner

Perhaps the two most delightful characters I’ve met in Uzès are Michel and Nicholas. Both were invited, along with me and Geoffrey’s girlfriend Nandine, to have dinner with Geoffrey on a Sunday afternoon.

Geoffrey prepared a special French meal for us with the Mont d’ Or cheese I bought at the Saturday market.  “Mont d’ Or” means “mountain of gold” in English. It tastes like honey from heaven.  The cheese comes in a round bamboo container with a paper lid. To prepare Mont d’ Or you remove the box lid and stuff two or three cloves of garlic deep down into the middle of the cheese. Wrap the container in aluminum foil and bake the cheese for approximately 30 minutes, or until it is nicely melted.

Geoffrey served the Mont d’ Or with boiled potatoes, a salad with vinagrette dressing and fresh baguettes. For dessert we had formage blanc with rum raisin sauce, sprinkled with roasted almonds.

It’s hard to decide if the meal that Sunday, or the company, was more entertaining. Geoffrey’s friend Michel is quiet and introspective. Nicholas is rowdy and comical. Most of the conversation around the table was in French. Nevertheless, I could understand a lot that was said from the occasional French words I know and from the animated facial expressions and laughter.

Who wouldn’t have fun with guys like these?

(RIP Nicolas – 2018 – We miss you)

Stay tuned. More friends to meet. 

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Wish for France

Visit France? Make a Wish

The holidays are the perfect time to make a wish. 

Wish for France

If you could visit anywhere in France, where would it be?

 

Wish for France

Let’s have some fun and see where Barefoot Blogger friends wish they could go in France. Send a photo of any place in France you dream of seeing. Who knows? By showing off your French dream destination to others, your wish might come true!

Send photos by January 5, 2019 to be published on the “Wish for France” blog post. Photos will be published with your name unless you say “no name.”

If you’re on Facebook, post your photo here on Barefoot Blogger

On Twitter, post you photo here on Deborah@bfblogger

On Instagram, post your photo on BarefootBlogger_france

Or email your photo to deborah@bfblogger.com

HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO YOU ALL!!

 

 

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