Tag: sete

Perfect Day Trip to sete

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

Co-leading a tour of the South of France with Patricia Sands for sixteen ladies was the ideal opportunity to design the perfect day trip to a Sete—one of my favorite places to go along the Mediterranean. But where to start? 

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, my friend and tour destination planner extraordinaire, created a plan that highlighted Sete’s history, famous foods and oyster farming.

Come along and join the fun. Imagine you’re right there with us on the South of France Memories Tour with Nancy Mcgee and Patricia Sands.

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Accccccccchhhhhhh

Pretend you’re enjoying the video I created about our perfect day in Sete. Guess what? I’m in the hospital. .. the video won’t download over the hospital WiFi! I’ll save the video for another place and time. While I’m experiencing technical difficulty and a new part of my adventure in France, the hospital system, please stay tuned to the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook for daily updates. 

Meanwhile… 

Patricia Sands is revisiting the Memories Tour on her blog. Oh, it’s so much fun traveling with these ladies! Read on…

On our first morning in Arles, we met on the front terrace of our hotel Le Cloître to set off on today’s adventure. This would become a favourite gathering spot, morning and evening, under the magnificent giant Paulownia tree.

 

South of France Memories Tour 2018

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

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

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

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

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

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

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

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

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

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

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

Memories Tour Interrupted

Seafoods of Sete, France

Eating Your Way Through Sete, France

There are few things I enjoy more than eating seafood. A Sete gourmet tour introduced me to a whole lot more favorites.

I was brought up going to a fish camp on the Catawba River, just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, where you could have all the fried fish, tiny Calabash shrimp, and hush puppies you could eat. It was later in life that I learned fish doesn’t always have to be dipped in batter and fried in oil to be delicious.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Probably my best lessons on fish varieties, flavors and textures came from living in the Philippines during my ex’s work assignment in the 1970’s. I could devour a whole fish — head, tail, fins and all. In fact I was told I eat fish like a “Philippina”. Nothing’s left but the bones.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Discovering Sete has been like striking gold. It’s a seafood paradise. From anchovies to oysters, from sea snails to mussels, clams and shrimp. They have it all.

To find out about seafood from the Mediterranean and other regional foods, I joined a gourmet tour by Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. Nancy’s lived in Sete over 30 years, so she knows the best local foods and vendors. She’s also very socially active, so she knows what’s in vogue in this part of France.

Here’s a glimpse of the foods we sampled on the tour and the vendors we met.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Lou Pastrou Cheeses – Lou Pastrou cheeses are extraordinary. Perhaps he wears a physician’s coat because they are so special. The house favorite is Roquefort which is truly one of the best cheeses I’ve ever eaten. In addition to the sharp and tangy Roquefort flavor, the cheese’s texture is velvety and creamy. It literally melts in your mouth.We learned a few interesting facts about Roquefort and cheese etiquette. First, Roquefort is pronounced “rock”fort. Second, only cheese from Roquefort can be called by that name. It’s just like calling sparkling wine “champagne” if it’s not from the Champagne district of France. It’s simply not done. Furthermore, it’s illegal.Sete Gourmet Tour

Sete Gourmet TourCheese etiquette is very important in France. When you are served a slice of cheese on a platter to share, never serve yourself the tip end of the slice. That’s the best part of the piece and you’ll offend the other guests. Likewise, don’t cut a piece along the edge. That’s the worse part of the cheese slice because it has the rind, or other curing ingredients — like salt — and you’ll be disappointed. Instead, cut several diagonal sections (start at the front edge and cut towards the center) then take one piece for yourself.

The unusual cheese cutter displayed at the shop has an interesting history. Sete Gourmet TourCutters like this were used in monasteries by monks who were discouraged from taking large slices of cheese for themselves because they were “not worthy.” The slicer is used for a particular variety of hard cheese — like Parmesan– and the cutter blade sweeps in a circle slicing a finely shaved piece of cheese.

Demoiselles Dupuy Restaurant serves oysters to die for! I’ve eaten a lot of oysters in my life because I seek them out whenever I travel. The oysters here are the best ever. They are large, tender and salty. They come directly to the table from the Etang de Tau, an oyster farm district just outside Sete. The restaurant owner who also owns his oyster beds, frowns at the suggestion of putting lemon or their special variety of vinegar on the oysters. Don’t even think about asking for cocktail sauce or Tabasco. Just ease the edges around oyster with a tiny fork to separate it from the shell, then slurp it down. Yum!!

Sete Gourmet Tour Nancy McGee, Absolutely Southern French[/caption]

We were told it is better to serve white wine with cheese, not red wine. According to this wine expert, the tannins in red wine react unfavorably with cheese, altering the taste. When serving an assortment of cheeses, a variety of white wines are needed. Hosts who prefer to serve only one type of white wine need to make their choice of cheese families accordingly.

Not knowing a great deal about cheese or wine, I was glad to have some guidance on pairings, especially because serving cheese courses is becoming so popular. I was also interested to learn that this region of France is the country’s largest producer of wines. While the wines are not as famous or expensive as varieties from other areas, their importance and popularity is catching on.

The French owe a debt of gratitude to Languedoc for rescuing the wine industry in the late 1800’s. After a severe blight wiped out over 40% of the vineyards and grapes in the country, American-grafted vines were planted in Languedoc because of the fast growing season near the Mediterranean. When the vines were replanted in other regions, the country’s wine business was saved.

Sete Gourmet Tour

Here’s just a sample of some of the seafood specialties in Sete.

For your walking tour of Sete, contact Nancy McGee at Absolutely Southern France

More information about Sete? Contact the Tourist Office

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

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

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

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

Sete water jousting

Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

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

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

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

Sete Water Jousting

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

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

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

Sete water jousting

Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy”

Sete Water Jousting

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

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

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting

A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

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

St. Louis Festival 2018 August 23-28, 2018

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

 

Sete has a sweet tooth

Sete, France: How Sweet It Is

Sète may be a small town on the French Mediterranean coast but it hits above its weight in the gastronomic arena.  Home of the most sought after oysters in France, Sete is known for these specialties: the famous octopus pie (tielle), red labelled gourmet fish soup (Azais Polito ), and hearty macaronade (macaroni and sausages). Sete has a sweet tooth, too.

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France knows Sete like the back of her hand. She’s here to tell us about sweet treats in Sete that are sought after in specialty stores from Paris to China.

The Sètois are proud of their home-grown biscuits, the Zezette and the Navette. Outsiders may think the two biscuits are the same, but those in the know beg to differ. So how do you tell a Navette from a Zezette?

Sete has a sweet toothThe “ Navette”  

Some say that the small hollow slit on top suggests a navette – a “shuttle” in French, or perhaps, a shuttle boat. These little boats, or Les ‘Navettes Cettoises’, were launched by the artisan Biscuiterie Pouget in 1913.

To this day the original machinery, including the oven, are in daily use. To be more exact, the machinery is still operated by the apprentice, Jean-Marie Fabre, who took over the business after Mr. Pouget. If you time your visit right you’ll see how a Navette is made.

The original recipe usually includes orange flower but other flavors are now available: anis, lemon, vanilla and cinnamon.  Biscuiterie Pouget also bakes equally delicious madeleines and fresh macarons in the store – the owners are extremely welcoming and will be happy to let you sample their wares.

Sete has a sweet tooth

The Zezette

Ooh la la, sounds exotic – so what puts the zing in the Zezette? La Zezette differs from La Navette inasmuch as it has a flat top and contains the local Muscat wine. Gaston Bentata, nostalgic for his mother’s cooking and North African roots, started baking these cookies in the late 1970s. In 1994 he commercialised them and in 1995 he formed his business, La Belle Époque. You’ll find the products in major outlets not only throughout France  but in the UK, China, Belgium and Germany.

Sete has a sweet tooth

To learn more about zezettes (and practice your French!) check out this mouth-watering video.

https://france3-regions.francetvinfo.fr/occitanie/zezettes-sete-toute-histoire-689873.html

Sete has a sweet tooth

La Cure Gourmande (The Gourmet Cure)

Not only is the nearby town of Balaruc-les-Bains famous for La Cure (the cure) in its thermal spa, but also for La Cure Gourmande (the Gourmet Cure). This artisan biscuit maker founded in 1989 is a real success story of ‘local boys made good’ on an international scale. You’ll find navettes, madeleines, sweets, biscuits and chocolates in the company’s distinctive colourful stores in 60 countries (Asia, North America, Middle East and Europe) as well as its flagship store in Paris’ Charles de Gaulle/Roissy airport.

Sete has a sweet tooth

All products in La Cure Gourmande are homemade in the south of France in a factory converted from old train station. The sweets are attractively packaged to ‘revive old-fashion and traditional presentation from the beginning of the last century’. Everything is  designed to entice: the colours, the presentation, and the packaging.

All of the boutiques have the same furniture “made in France” the same candy boxes “made in France” Produce  is seasonal (fruit cakes). Ingredients are local. For instance the sea salt from the Camargue is used to make the toffees.

The founder’s daughter is pictured on in the company’s visuals. She is now a 19-year-old student who found a job last summer …. at the production facility.

Plan for a guided tour of the production facility the next time you’re in Sete. 

Bon appetit!

Contact: nancy@absolutelysouthernfrance.com

Website : http://absolutelysouthernfrance.com/

French food, etiquette and more:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

Bizarre Holiday Gift Ideas from France

Sea Urchins: Facts, Fiction and How to Eat Them! 

The Romance of Roquefort 

“Cutting the Cheese” and More French Etiquette

Who’s Got the World’s Best Oysters?

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Golden Girls on the Mediterranean side of France

Side trips from Uzes are now behind us. It’s time for the Golden Girls to hit the super highway and head for the Mediterranean coast of France.

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean Side of France: Sete

The Venice of France
I couldn’t wait to show off Sete to my friends from North Carolina. After a week’s stay last year, I knew my beach-loving travel companions would like the place. Not only is the city itself of interest because of the canals, architecture, and fabulous seafood, also, the beaches outside the city are magnificent. We envisioned at least one full day in the sun being pampered by handsome waiters as we sunned ourselves at a private beach club.

Only one problem. Our days in Sete turned out to be cold and rainy.

Mediterranean side of France

Sete, France

Mediterranean side of France

Oh well, not to be disappointed because of the weather, we found plenty to do exploring Sete’s indoor market and nearby towns along the Mediterranean.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

 

The Mediterranean Side of France: Bezier

Bezier is one of the oldest cities in France, tracing back to 535 BC. Only a few kilometers from the coast, Beziers was a Roman stronghold along the trade route from Provence to the Iberian Peninsula. It was the scene of a bloody massacre in the 13th century when Cathars, considered a heretic group by Catholics, were murdered — along with all other residents of the town– in a two hour battle. The leader of the crusade, when asked “how the warriors could tell Cathars from Catholics,” reportedly answered: “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius” or “Kill them all and let God sort them out.”

Today Beziers is well known for the “Feria”, a 5-day bullfighting festival that draws over a million spectators each year to the town’s ancient arena. Gothic architecture and stately English gardens, also, lure visitors to step back into the past.

Mediterranean side of France

Beziers, France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Bouziques

Bouzigues, a beachside town beside the L’Etang de Thau is well known for its fresh seafood– especially oysters

Mediterranean side of France

Bouzigues, France

From the narrow street that runs through Bouzigues, you can see miles of oyster beds that stretch into the Mediterranean .

Oysters in L’Etang de Thau are grown on posts designed specifically for maximizing the crop yield.

 

Mediterranean side of France

Another attraction in Bouziques is the many seaside restaurants. On a rainy day, however, most were closed for afternoon business.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

The Mediterranean side of France: Getting There

Mustang Sally is the red 1996 Ford Mustang I’ve been blessed to drive in France. She belongs to my dear friend, Geoffrey, who has been the star character in many of my blog posts.

When I first arrived to set up my new life in France, Geoffrey made an offer I couldn’t refuse. We arrived at a lease agreement for the red car with black racing stripes. Now Mustang Sally is living in the underground car park near my apartment. She’s raring to go at a moment’s notice.

The trip down to Sete was no exception. Packed to the brim with suitcases, bags and hats, Sally proudly provided more than transportation down the super highway and scenic roads for my Carolina guests, she was our “touch of class.” I mean, how else would passerbys know The Golden Girls were around? She stood as a beacon wherever we landed.

Mediterranean side of France

Along the highways she hit the 120 KPH speed limit with no hesitation. It was at the many toll booths along the way that she showed her one malady. The driver side window is stuck closed.

After one or two stops, my travel companions and I had the tollbooth routine down flat. Sally would roll up to the gate while I was unbuckling my seatbelt; the front seat passenger would ready the change for the toll; I’d stretch as far as my arms and legs would reach to insert a ticket into the machine to add up the fare; I’d feed the fare into the meter; slam the door; buckle the seatbelt; and we’d speed off before the car behind us could blow its horn in total frustration.

This scenario repeated for most of the two-hour drive to Sete. We went the quickest route, rather than drive on the back roads. Likewise, the stops at Beziers and Bouziques were easy turns-offs from the super highway.

The Mediterranean side of France: Where to stay in Sete

One of my favorite things about the visit to Sete was the Airbnb apartment. Right in the center of town, facing the main canal, the location would please my friends, I was certain. Yes, they were thrilled with the apartment with two private bedrooms and an amazing view, as I suspected. They clicked immediately with our host, Nancy, and soon we were feeling right at home.

Mediterranean side of France

To view the Airbnb listing, click here.

The Mediterranean side of France: What to eat in Sete

There’s only one good answer for what to eat in Sete: seafood! One of the most “productive” fishing areas on the Mediterranean, the town is particularly well known for oysters, sardines and tuna. Restaurants line the streets along the harbor and they seem to serve similar dishes.

Grabbing a plate of raw oysters at the city market, along with a glass of wine or beer, is a treat I was determined to give myself.

Mediterranean side of France

The idea of “raw” didn’t go so well with the other Golden Girls, but they did taste “tielle” which is a local delicacy– octopus pie.

Mediterranean side of France

Another specialty from Sete is fish soup. It is a tomato-based, heavy fish broth served in bowls like chowder.

Mediterranean side of France

The best part of the soup is the croutons that float on top. But before you set the croutons off to sail, you smother the crunchy bits of toast with garlicky aioli, and cover them with flaky Parmesan cheese.

Fish soup from Sete can be purchased online from sites like Bien Manger (click here)

Mediterranean side of France

Helpful hint: Wherever you go

When driving in an unfamiliar place, especially if you don’t know the language, be sure to take note of where you park. It’s easy to get lost if you’re as absent-minded as I am! To insure you get back to the right place, take pictures of your parking spot and direction signs along the way.

Mediterranean side of France

Mediterranean side of France

Next stop: Port Vendres and Collioure

Mediterranean side of France

Click here for more about the Golden Girls’ Tour of France and Italy

Day 1-4 Uzès

Day 5-6 Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon

Uzes, France July 14th

Uzes, France July 14th

Uzes, France July 14th

What’s  happening in Uzes, France on July 14th? I set out with my camera to see how the French celebrate in this small town. It’s all about family, food, dancing and fireworks. This year, it was also about brocante. A hundred or more brocante dealers showed off their best wares in the town’s parking lot — a beautiful spot overlooking the valley.

Uzes, France July 14th

Brocante in Uzes, France

Uzes, France July 14th

China, pottery, porcelain treasures galore.

Uzes, France July 14th

Colorful wares and colorful brocante dealers.

Uzes, France July 14th

El Toro for your man cave?

Uzes, France July 14th

Perfect gift or the man who has everything.

Uzes, France July 14th

Uzes, France July 14th

Every man’s junk is someone’s treasure.

Uzes, France July 14th cafes in town were packed with visitors, couples and families eating, drinking and enjoying their long weekend holiday.

Uzes, France July 14th

All waiting for the music and dancing …

Uzes, France July 14th

 And the fireworks.Uzes, France July 14th

Here are some interesting facts about the July 14th French holiday:

1-  French don’t call the holiday “Bastille Day”?

It’s called “July 14th”, just like “July 4th” in the States. The formal name is  La Fête Nationale (The National Celebration).

2- “Storming the Bastille” was not all about freeing political prisoners.

Rebels freed four crooks and two “lunatics” and, according to Wikipedia, one “deviant” aristocrat. The Bastille was chosen as the target of the rebellion because it was a symbol of the abusive monarchy — a place stocked with weapons and ammunition.

3- The French Revolution was not the beginning of an independent French republic.

The French Revolution of 1787 is considered by historians as a major step towards establishing the concept of “independent republics.” The world saw the uprising of the people of France as an example to create their own political change;

The French, however, were anything but “independent” afterwards. They enduring years of terror led by Roperpeare’s government; and later, a military empire led by Napolean.  It was the Third Republic in 1870 that gave way to national elections and political parties in France.

Charles de Gaulle founded the French Fifth Republic and served as its first president from 1959 to 1969.

 

Sete, a French beach holiday site

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete, France


If you want to travel in France and you don’t really care where you go, just put your finger on a spot on the map. Then go there.

That’s pretty much how I decided to take my French beach holiday in Sete (pronounced “set”).

A little bit Venice, a little bit Riviera
Sete is a town of approximately 40,000 people who mostly earn their livelihood from the sea. Louis XIV was instrumental in establishing Sete as a prosperous shipping center during his reign. He understood the value of a seaport on the Mediterranean that could bring in the goods and valuables he desired to fill his lavish tastes.

Seal for Sete a French beach holiday siteIt was not until years later that Italian immigrants helped turn the city into a fishing Mecca. Sete is now France’s biggest fishing port on the Mediterranean, and provides the world’s largest tonnage of tuna, sardines, herring and anchovies. In the inland waters, oyster and mussel farm are abundant and thriving.

Connoisseurs say that oysters from Sete are the best anywhere.
Sete, a French beach holiday siteThe early name for Sete was Cette (Cettoise) which means “whale”. The name of the city was changed to Sete in 1929. The name was given by sailors who, when passing the undeveloped island, thought it looked like a giant whale

Known as the Venice of France, Sete has 24 bridges that crisscross the city to carry people and vehicles from one send to the other. If you miss the last bridge, you run into the sea wall that separates the town from the Mediterranean.

Beyond the seawall are rocky cliffs where sunbathers stretch out if they choose not to head down the road to the miles of sandy beaches. (Stay tuned for a visit to the beaches.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Every day markets
Sete is not a tourist place…yet. So the markets and stores are devoted to the general population. Food and other goods purchased in Sete are at least half the price of Uzes, or nearby Montpelier.

There is an indoor city market open 6 days a week and a large outdoor market on Wednesdays. Now I’ve been to both which are quite different.

The indoor market is a social meeting place. Everyone in town comes to do their food shopping and to meet their friends and neighbors. For the older generations it’s a place to meet and enjoy a glass of wine, beer and oysters… in the morning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Buildings and architecture

The center city of Sete is filled with ornate buildings with carvings and pillars that testify to the early wealth of the city. Many of the downtown apartments were created from majestic homes that bordered the canals.

Is it any wonder that I find Sete such an amazing place to go for a French beach holiday?

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

While we’re on the subject of Sete from our recent train-from-Barcelona post, there’s a question that fish soup lovers who visit the South of France want to know: What’s the difference between Marseilles’ bouillabaisse  and Sete’s fish soup?

Leave it to Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France to have the answer. She’s an expert on foodie things in both Sete and Marseilles where she offers walking gourmet tours. Recipes from Cook’n with Class make it easy for us to prepare their version of the Sete’s fish soup and Marseilles’ bouillabaisse at home!

A TALE OF TWO CITIES – by Nancy McGee

Bustling, edgy Marseille, France’s second and oldest city, and largest commercial port. Designated as Top Ten Oceanfront Cities by National Geographic in 2014 and one the New York Times’ favourite destinations, Marseille is becoming increasingly trendy.  Sete, its younger, understated cousin and the most important fishing port on the Mediterranean is ‘the most fascinating small town on the French Mediterranean coast’, according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. Despite their differences they have much in common: a strong shared maritime tradition, fascinating history – and a passion for food. So how does a visitor to the South of France choose between the two? Easy – visit both, they’re only a two-hour drive apart.

While in the South of France, a visitor’s first question is invariably food-related, often about authentic regional dishes. So let’s look at two typically Mediterranean specialities: fish soup from Sète and bouillabaisse from Marseille. What is the difference between the two?

It’s simple.

Sete’s City Market serves up a fresh catch for fish soup

Fish soup from Sete is made from a variety of small rockfish that become caught in the fishermen’s nets as they feed off the rocks near the Mediterranean shore. Rather than toss them back into the sea the fishermen take them home and cook them in a special blend of herbs and spices. The bones are then removed and the broth is put through a sieve. The soup is served with thinly sliced croutons spread with rouille  (a type of mayonnaise with olive oil, garlic, saffron and cayenne pepper.)  In restaurants, this fish soup is served as a starter and cost is around 8 euros for the dish.

The best rockfish soup has been produced in Sete  since 1963  by the same family Azais Polito. http://www.azais-polito.fr/. Their fish soup is featured in gourmet shops such as Harrods and Lafayette  Gourmet and is exported worldwide… If you get a craving,  simply order online.

Bouillabaisse from Marseille is basically fish soup but  served with a side dish of  fillets of  least three types of fish – mullet, turbot, monkfish .   The fish fillets are cooked in the soup and along with potatoes. Like the fish soup, it is served with a rouille and croutons. The Bouillabaisse is a main course costing at least 35 euros per person to as much as 100 euros  for  versions including more delicate species of fish and seafood.

My favorite spot for  a Bouillabaisse in Marseille is at Chez FonFon. http://www.chez-fonfon.com/    Not only is the soup tasty but you are offered constant refills.  The restaurant is  niched in an alcove barely noticed by passerbys and is overlooking the inlet crammed with small fishing boats.

 

Bouillabaisse in Marseille at Chez FonFon

 

Picpoul de Pinet

Isn’t a meal without wine like a day without sunshine – especially in France? Definitely and there’s no shortage of good regional wine to complement a fish soup. To play it safe, choose a Bandol rosé from Provence or a refreshing Picpoul de Pinet from the Languedoc.

Anything else not to be missed? Quite a lot, but I’d need to write an encyclopaedia! From Marseille: navettes, light biscuits delicately flavoured with eau de fleur d’oranger. And let’s not forget pastis, France’s  favourite aperitif.

From Sète: the Tielle, a deliciously piquant octopus pie with a strong Italian heritage, also zezettes,  a light biscuit delicately flavoured with local muscat wine.

 

 

Thanks to Cook’n with Class Uzes, here are their recipes for the famous fish soups from Marseilles and Sete.

 

 

 

 

Want to see it all in Sete and Marseilles? Contact Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France for guided tours — especially her famous “walking gourmet” tour.

Absolutely Southern France’s Nancy McGee and the Mayor of Sete — of course!

Here’s where to find year-round activities in Sete. 

Discover Marseilles?  it’s on my travel list… soon! 

 

For information on train schedules from Barcelona to Sete click here

 

 

Mapping Barcelona to Sete

 

Seeing the South of France by train from Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

All Aboard for Carcassonne

7 Reasons to Visit Sete This Year 

7 Reasons To Visit Sete This Year

Visit Sete This Year

Those of you who follow the Barefoot Blogger regularly know how much I love to visit Sete. It’s one of my favorite places to go for the beach, for the fabulous seafood and for the “always on” fun. If you’re traveling from Barcelona to the South of France, Sete is less than 3 hours away by train.

Here are 7 reasons you really must go:

#1 Visit Sete for Great food

Sete has been one of France’s major seaports for centuries. It is said that Louix XIV made Sete his personal sea gateway so that the treasures of the Orient and beyond could travel directly to Versailles. Italian fishermen helped establish the port as a prime supplier of tuna, sardines, anchovies — among other sea delicacies. Oysters abound around Sete — especially in nearby Bouziques — rounding out a perfect assortment of most delectable seafoods.

Visit Sete

Bluefin tuna from Sete

 

Visit Sete

#2

Visit Sete for History

Along with fishing and importing kingly goods, Sete grew to become a prosperous town with stately homes and thriving businesses along the canal waterfront. Evidence of that prosperity can be seen still today, even though new trade routes and bigger seaports have largely impacted Sete’s economy. Tourism is bringing it back.

 

Visit Sete

Sete’s canal front

 

Visit Sete

Opulent details throughout Sete’s waterfront architecture.

 

 

 

Beyond being a famous port, Sete is known for her favourite son, George Brassens — composer, singer and activist.  In fact, there’s a museum in Sete dedicated to Brassens. It tells of his life and work that captivated me as much as learning about American icons Frank Sinatra or Elvis Presley. Click here to learn more about visiting the museum.

Visit Sete

George Brassens

 

#3 Visit Sete for Unique Natural Beauty

Canals that run throughout the town 

Visit Sete

Canals that run throughout the town

 

Visit Sete

 

Sky high, panaromic views of the Mediterrean Sea

Clear blue sea

Visit Sete

#4 Visit Sete White Sandy Beaches

Think the Cote d’Azur has the only beaches in the South of France? Try to beat this. Sete has beautiful beaches, blue skies and all-day beach clubs with seafood and much more!

Visit Sete

Beach buddies

#5 Visit Sete for Summer Sports

 

Where else can you sit in a covered arena, overlooking a sea canal, watching water jousting? Day and night?

 

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

#6 Visit Sete for Extravaganzas

Plan your holiday in Sete, especially around August during the St. Louis Festival, and you’ll be amazed the sights you’ll see.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Visit Sete

Sete

#7 Visit Sete for Party hearty

Summertime in Sete there’s always a party going on!

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

 

Visit Sete

London’s Bad Girls’ Groove Band

 

Visit Sete

Partying at St. Clairs

 

Visit Sete

St. Louis Festival celebration

 

So what’s holding you back? Stop by Sete in the South of France. You might be surprised who you’ll run into!

 

Visit Sete

My “gang”: Hilda, Paula and Rich hanging out in Sete

 

Want to see it all in Sete? Contact Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France for guided tours — especially her famous “walking gourmet” tour.

Here’s where to find year-round activities in Sete. 

More about Sete:

Sete or Marseille? Which Has the Best Fish Soup?

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

Next Stop: Sete France

Barefooting in Sete, France

The Bad Girls in Sete

“The Golden Girls” Loving France: Day 7-8 Sete, Beziers and Bouziques

Sete: Abbeys and Vineyards

By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sete

Sete: Eat, Pray (to eat), Love (to eat)

Final Days in Sete: Parties, Artist Friends and Days at the Beach

For information on train schedules from Barcelona to Sete click here

 

 

Visit Sete

 

Seeing the South of France by train from Barcelona

How to Get To France Via Barcelona by Train

All Aboard for Carcassonne

Bizarre Holiday Gift Ideas from France

Finding the “perfect” gift for those on your list who seem to have everything is a chore. Here are two ideas for gifts from France you’ve probably never come across before.

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, has a holiday gift suggestion that tops the “bizarre” list. Before you find out about it, there’s another present that you can find at the Uzes Saturday market that’s certain to please — donkey milk.

Donkey Milk Skin Creme

Donkey Milk Skin Creme

 

Donkey milk has been a favorite for women of distinction since the time of Cleopatra. It is said that Cleopatra traveled with a team of 100 donkeys so that she could indulge in a bath of donkey milk. Personally, I love the soap, bath lotion and the cream shown above. It’s absolutely luxurious!

Nancy McGee has another totally unique idea for holiday gifts she discovered at the Wednesday Market in Sete — bat shit!

Bat shit at the Sete market

Bat shit at the Sete market

 

Bats in the belfry? No – under the tree!  And Santa’s going Batshit Crazy this year, his sacks bulging with gifts ranging from bat-logo apparel to the actual guano — to use the polite term. No kidding, bat shit’s big business.

 

Bat Shit Ready for Gift Giving

Bat Shit Ready for Gift Giving

 

” I love Sète’s weekly Wednesday market” said Nancy, “last week I was searching for unique gifts amongst the food, household goods, clothing and flower stalls,” she continued.  “Then I spotted it — a stall piled high with boxes of bat guano amongst the plants and flowers. You’d have to be blind a bat to miss it,” she exclaimed.

What is it for?

The merchant explained: ‘It’s an excellent natural soil conditioner and fertiliser – acts fast, hardly any odour and makes good tea.”

Tea?? 

“Tea for the roses!’ he countered hastily. He packages the guano himself and sells around 25 boxes a day, with prices ranging from 2-5 euros.

Bats can be found in most countries but prefer warm climates and so many have made their home in southern France. They roost in tree holes or behind the bark, in caves, cellars, attics and crevices of buildings, as well as in man-made bat houses. Bats are really intelligent creatures with a sophisticated navigation system. Most use sound or biological sonar – echolocation – and emit noises that bounce back like an echo, enabling them to detect obstacles or and find food.

Twitter?

Yes, some do make a kind of tweeting sound and according to recent studies they form long lasting relationships through a social networking system! They know too that by sleeping upside down on a branch they’ll be well positioned for flight and safe from predators. How then do they – er, you know – if they wake up in the middle of the night? Wouldn’t that be messy. Not at all – they simply flip right way up and then back down again!

Where bats reside there will be plenty of guano and so for business and especially ecological reasons it’s in our interest then to protect the species. The Eurobats organisation of EU countries, including France, was formed for just that purpose. Each August they celebrate the International Night of the Bat.  France is home to 34 species of bats including horseshoe, long-fingered and mouse-eared varieties — absolutely none of the bloodsucking types.

christmas-bat

Myths, facts and superstitions

Bats were once believed to drive people insane, hence expressions such as ‘bats in the belfry,’  ‘batty’ and of course ‘bat crazy’. The battiest of all, of course, was Dracula – the bloodthirsty count who gave the reputation of bats a thorough “battering,” so to speak. Here are some of the facts and myths about bats:

  • Bats live in huge numbers and the resulting heaps of Guano house small creatures, thus forming a new ecosystem
  • Bats have been populating the earth for 50 million years
  • Many bats eat insects – up to 1,200 mosquitoes an hour, helping keep pests in check
  • Others eat fruit and can play an important role as pollinators
  • Vampire bats do not drink human blood
  • Blind as a bat? No, bats aren’t blind
  • The French name ‘chauve souris’ (bald mouse) is inaccurate.

See more about bats here

What bizarre gifts are you giving this year? Please send a comment and share it with us!

happy-giving_more_quotegraphic

 

 

 

 

 

South France Holiday

A Dream Vacation in the South of France.

I’m feeling pretty smug these days that I get a south France holiday everyday. I’m sorry, but it’s true. I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world to be here.

Lately I’ve had more good luck to be included in the travel plans of my “blog world” friends. Some of them you know since I talk about them a lot — Nancy McGee from Absolutely Southern France and Yetunde from Cook’n With Class Uzes (and Paris) and Carolyne with Perfectly Provence and Edible Heritage are now part of my “gang,” too. While I was still in the States, Nancy put together a whirlwind tour for the four of us, upon my return, to visit in Uzes and Sete. She arranged the trip with the tourist agencies from both cities so that we could learn more about the towns and help promote tourism — as if I didn’t already promote them. Sete and Uzes are two of my favourite places in the world.

Nevertheless — I was more than happy to go along. Albeit I was jet-lagged from the US trip and Scotland. (Oh… I do hate to complain!)

In three days we stuffed in so many activities and sights that it’s hard to tell you about it all. Perhaps a synopsis will do for now and I’ll write more about each place in later posts. So here goes..

 

South France Holiday

Nancy introduces everyone and we begin our tour

Uzes Historic Tour

Nancy and Carolyne arrived at my apartment in Uzes around 5pm — just in time to meet Yetunde for our historic tour of Uzes. We were hosted by Fadila, our host in Uzes, and our guide from the tourist agency.

Starting with the Mairie (town hall) we visited the inter-court of the Duché and heard the history of the “castle” and the three main towers in Uzes.

A visit to the Saint Théodorit Cathedral with its Fenestrelle Tower helped explain some of the religious background of the town — which is both fascinating and complicated as this place was once a very important bishopric. If I thought I knew a lot about Uzes I was fooling myself. The history of the town is like peeling an onion. The more you learn, the more there is to know.

South France Holiday

Fenestrelle Tower and Saint Théodorit Cathedral

A bit of rain stalled our tour of the city, but we continued our history lesson inside the Hotel d’Entraigues where we were treated to wine, aperitifs and an amazing dinner.

Fortunately the raindrops stopped falling in time to view the hotel’s amazing views of the town from its rooftop… and the pool.

South France Holiday

Hotel Entraigues

Cook’n With Class Day

Early morning the next day we grabbed a croissant and coffee and hurried off to meet the chef and students of Cook’n With Class. It was market day in San Quentin la Poterie and we were to choose and prepare a menu in the Cook’n With Class kitchen from the day’s best finds.

Look what we created!

South France Holiday in Uzes Countryside

Just when we all could have taken a nap from all the food shopping, preparing and eating, we were off on a limousine tour of the countryside near Uzes — the shops at San Quentin la Poterie —

South France Holiday

San Quentin la Poterie

 

… and the luxury hotel in Castillon du Gard – Hotel Le Vieux Castillon . What a view!!

On to Sete!

If you think our day was finished, you’d be so wrong. On to drive to Sete!

South France Holiday

Canal view in Sete

Stopping off  just long enough to drop our luggage at Nancy’s AIRBNB after reaching Sete, we were whisked away to the beach.

South France Holiday

Tuk-tuk ride to the beach in Sete

South France HolidayThere we were met by our friend Marie-France from the Sete tourist office and treated to an amazing dinner at Le Cabanon de la Plage.

South France Holiday

Le Cabanon de la Plage

South France Holiday

La Cabanon de la Plage

South France Holiday Gourmet Tour of Sete

South France HolidayNancy’s Absolutely Southern France weekly gourmet tours are quite the “thing to do” in Sete these days. In fact, Nancy has recently been named “Entrepreneur of the Year” for the entire region of France. It’s no wonder. The Canadian-born expat who has lived in the south of France for thirty years is a fountain of knowledge. Her tour not only includes the city markets of Sete, she also tells of the history and architecture that makes the town so distinctive and compelling.

Here are just a few of our stops along the tour.

Al Fresco Dining at Oh Gobi

Finishing our gourmet tour of the city we were invited to a seafood FEAST at the waterside restaurant Oh Gobie.

South France Holiday

There we joined the restaurant owner … and an uninvited guest.

Fish Auction House

Probably the most unexpected opportunity Nancy and Marie-France opened up to us as guests of the tourist office was to visit the fish auction house in Sete. First of its kind to be automated and computerised, the fish auction occurs each weekday in the late afternoon — just in time for the fishermen to deliver and sell their catch of the day.

Fancy a South France Holiday Tour?

The best thing about the whirlwind tour of Uzes and Sete is that it’s available to everyone. Most of the activities are free. You just have to show up in Uzes or Sete to enjoy the scenery, the history and the ambience. For Nancy’s Gourmet Tour, contact her at Absolutely Southern France, and for Cook’n With Class Uzes, learn more and contact Yetunde here. Links to the hotels and restaurants mentioned are “hot” in this post, so learn more as you please. For any additional information, feel free to send me a note at deborah@bfblogger.com.

There will be more posts to follow about this experience with more stories and photos. Hope you enjoy!

Stay tuned ….

Travel-Quotes-3

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.

 

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

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

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

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

beach in Sete

Sitting on the Mediterranean outside Sete, France

 

 

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

 

 

beach in Sete

 

A Day at the Beach in Sete

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

 

beach in Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Glass wine stoppers come in a variety of colors for collectors

 

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

 

beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

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

 

beach in Sete

Tuna tartare at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

 

beach in Sete

Sesame bluefin tuna at ACD restaurant on the beach outside Sete

 

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

 

beach in Sete

 

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

 

beach in Sete

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

 

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

 

19548245701_7514dd9295_o

Oh! “The Places You’ll Go!”

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

 

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

 

“You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

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

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

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

 

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

Day One – Uzes

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

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

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

Foie grae entree at Le Comptoir 7 in Uzes

 

 

Day Two – Pont du Gard and Nimes

 

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

Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard

 

 

 

Day Three – The Camargue 

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

 

Day Four – Sete and Carcassonne 

A day on the beach in Sete

A day on the beach in Sete

 

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

Bastille Day Fireworks in Carcassonne

 

Day Five – Carcassonne 

 

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

Train rides from Sete to Carcassonne and back.

 

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

IMG_3565

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

IMG_3744

 

 

 

IMG_3375

 

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

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

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

Paris themed birthday party

Paris themed birthday party

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Collapse. Sleep. Repeat.

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

2015-06-07 11.17.47

Who’s Got the World’s Best Oysters?

The Barefoot Blogger looked up “the World’s Best Oysters” and found a lot of answers. It’s the French, however, that believe theirs are the best … and they believe it with a passion.

The French are so passionate about their oysters, they consume more of the hard-shelled delicacies than they export. 

Along with enjoying the taste of an oyster, there’s a type of French “etiquette” about oyster eating. Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France tours and guest writer for the Barefoot Blogger’s has provided us with a guide.

The Art Of Eating An Oyster

Some Pearls of Wisdom

World's Best Oysters

World's Best Oysters

Oyster beds

Oysters farming is a thriving part of the culture and economy of the Étang de Thau (the Thau Lagoon between Sète and Bouzigues) in the Languedoc Roussillon and the picturesque town of Bouzigues produces the most sought-after oysters in Europe. That is because, due to the higher density of salt in the lagoon, they are considered much tastier than their ocean-produced counterparts.

World's Best Oysters

Bouziques, France

Even Bouzigues’ extensive oyster beds, however, are hard pressed to keep up with the worldwide demand. My theory is that the local population is consuming more than its fair share! it is not uncommon to see a glass of wine and 6 oysters consumed at the local indoor market as early in the day as breakfast

Myths and Misunderstandings

World's Best Oysters

City market oyster merchant in Sete

Oyster myths and misunderstandings abound and so I decided to educate myself by a trip to Bouzigues’ oyster museum (well worth the visit). Also I talked with local merchants and restaurant owners about oyster facts. What I learned is that not all oysters are created equal; there is quite a hierarchy. Yes, size does matter.

Oysters range in sizes from 1 to 6 or 7. Size one is the largest, yet the lowest in the taste “pecking order.” Nevertheless, baked ‘au gratin’ with parsley, garlic, butter and breadcrumbs it emerges triumphant. For the smaller, bluer-blooded relations, a size 3 or 4 simply demands to be consumed raw. Cremating them in an oven would be an unfortunate ending.

 More on that later. First, we need to know how to open – or shuck – the oyster.

Shucking an Oyster (and Leaving Your Fingers Intact)

World's Best OystersSpecial chain mail gloves are available for those wary of injuring your hands; but save your money. Instead, purchase a bottle of Languedoc white Picpoul de Pinet wine. For enjoying oysters, it’s a marriage made in heaven. It insures your oysters’ last moments are happy ones (it will still be alive, after all). Just follow these directions and shucking will prove a painless experience:

Wrap the oyster in a tea towel or cloth, the flatter shell facing upwards and the hinge pointing towards you.

Grip the oyster/shucking knife firmly and insert into the small hole located in the hinge. A short knife with a strong, blunt blade can substitute for an oyster knife.

Do not use a sharp kitchen knife. Twist the oyster knife until the shells snap apart (like turning the ignition key in a car). Then run the knife blade backwards and forwards along the upper shell in order to sever the muscle holding the two shells together.

Gently remove the top shell, taking care not to spill any of the liquid inside. It is a good idea to open the oysters over a bowl. Some people prefer to empty the liquid but to their surprise, as the oyster is alive, it will refill with water that it has been storing.

How To Savour Your Oyster

Now that you have successfully shucked your oyster, how should you eat it? Heated debate centers around this question: swallowed whole – or chewed first? No oyster aficionado would forego the subtle flavours (nut or cucumber for example, depending on season), which are released when the oyster is gently chewed.

What accompaniments should you serve with the oyster? Nothing at all, say the experts – especially given the tastiness of Bouzigues oysters.

World's Best Oysters

Oysters, French style

The North American tradition of adding horseradish or hot sauce is considered tantamount to manslaughter! However, French restaurants offer the options of simply adding a few drops of lemon or shallot vinegar, which will not detract from the natural flavours.  (Lemon originally was used to check if the oyster was alive: if alive it ‘cringes’ when the juice is applied.)

Oysters can live outside of water up to 10 days and are good travelers – producers from Bouzigues have exported their oysters all the way to China.

Oysters in water can live up to 20 years

Oysters are bisexual. Born first as males they produce sperm, then they become egg producing females and later switch back to being a male.

Oysters can release around 1 million eggs in one spawning season.

A rich source of vitamins, eating six oysters a day also meets the daily recommended intake of many minerals

What are the odds of finding a pearl in an oyster?

One in 12,000. If you were lucky enough to find one, however, the world would really be your oyster!

(Also published in France Today)

2015-03-01 18.00.56

Southern France Tour

‘Cutting the Cheese’ and More French Etiquette

‘Cutting the Cheese’ and More French Etiquette for your Southern France Tour

The Barefoot Blogger stumbles her way through France with little knowledge of the country or the language. That’s why I’m so excited that Nancy McGee, a gourmet guru, will be adding some culture to my blog, starting off with “Cheese Etiquette.”

Nancy and I met during my first visit to Sete, France through AIRBNB. She hosts guests to stay in her fabulous apartment right on the waterway. We became instant friends.

Southern France TourOn the many trips I’ve made to Sete, it has been to attend various functions with Nancy and her friends. A Canadian who has lived in France for the last 30 years, Nancy is in literally in the middle of everything in Sete.  In fact, it’s her business. She is the founder of Absolutely Southern France, a unique tourist company that specializes in offering travellers to the south of France one-of-a-kind experiences including her gourmet walking tour of Sète . Rick Steves and TripAdvisor rank her tours a top attraction!

Now that Nancy has agreed to author occasional posts for the Barefoot Blogger, you and I can take advantage of her knowledge of French cuisine, destinations and food etiquette. To find out more about Nancy and Absolutely Southern France, check out her page on Barefoot Blogger.

Now, let’s learn about ‘Cutting the Cheese’ – French style.

Cheese Etiquette – Roquefort – by Nancy McGee

Shortly after I arrived in France, I was invited as guest of honor at a dinner party for eight. I was flattered but also somewhat apprehensive as to the correct protocol. And so I dusted off my French etiquette book, which suggested simply following what the host does. It made perfect sense and worked well – up to a point, that is! Imagine my horror when I was the first to be invited to serve myself from the cheese platter. A selection of cheeses in all shapes and sizes, some familiar, others perfect strangers confronted me.

Southern France Tour

French cheese plate

Sitting imperiously in the centre of the platter the famed Roquefort and it had the air of just waiting for me to commit an error! . Numerous questions presented themselves: should I cut a piece from just one cheese or from several – and what size? In an effort to be fair I tried mentally dividing the cheeses into equal parts for the seven other guests – who by this time were wondering if I would ever pass the platter around!

Now, after over 30 years in France and any number of dinner parties, this is what I recommend when confronted with a similar dilemma: Take what you can! That platter may not come back to you and even if it does your favorite cheese might be gone. So go for it first time around! There is only one totally unacceptable error, and that is to take an entire piece of cheese. One other useful tip: if you are the host you should serve yourself last.

That is not quite the end of your troubles, however. Let us return to the Roquefort – the ‘cheese of kings and popes’ and a reputed favourite of Emperor Charlemagne. No self-respecting cheese platter in France would be without it but beware – it demands respect and is full of hazards for the unwary! Oh la la…

Southern France Tour

Roquefort and wine tasting

First a word about Roquefort. This creamy white cheese is made with sheep’s milk and injected with mould from rye bread to produce blue veins. It is then rolled in coarse salt and stored in caves in the village of Roquefort for three months. Roquefort is located at the base of a cliff that shifted long ago to create crevasses, which the cheesemakers now use as cellars . Temperatures in the cellars year round are between 8 to 10 degrees and 80 percent humidity provide the perfect conditions for producing the cheese.

Now back to the business of helping yourself to Roquefort cheese and how to avoid the two most common faux pas.

First, never serve yourself the creamy blue edge in the middle. That would be considered really bad manners, since it is the best part. (I don’t know if this is true, but my cheese merchant told me that men are the worst offenders!)

The second mistake is to cut a piece from top to bottom vertically – it isn’t fair to other guests! The person after you will get the outer slice with the mostly salty crust, while the person with the slice in the middle will have the best creamy part with the tasty mould. The proper way to cut Roquefort cheese is from the center outwards toward the rind (i.e in the shape of a triangle),

Roquefort is just an hour’s drive from Montpellier and Sète and all the Roquefort cheese in the entire world comes from this tiny village. Once there were 30 producers and today there are just 7.

For a personal cheese étiquette experience during your Southern France Tour,  join Nancy on a Gourmet Walking Tour of Sète and/or Montpellier.

As seen in France Today

%d bloggers like this: