Tag: travel over 60

living in the south of france

Living in the South of France

There’s nothing ordinary about living in the South of France. Especially in the spring. There’s always a festival , a brocante, a party or something extraordinary going on.

Here are a few snippets on “living in the South of France” in the month of May.

Lunch with friends

Now that everyone who has been away from Uzès for the winter is back, meeting friends for lunch is a must for catching up. Even though there were eight of us, the little backstreet cafe, La Boca, was perfect for our Saturday get together.

Ever eaten couteaux? They’re razor clams that were featured at La Boca.

Living in the South of France

Couteaux – Razor Clams

Roman Games in Nimes 

Each May in nearby NImes, there is a historic reenactment staged in the ancient arena. It’s world class. The Great Roman Games are presented just as they were 2000 years ago — chariot races, gladiators, Roman dignitaries and all.

This year the theme was “Barbarian Kings.” Romans and barbarian battles that raged throughout this area from 113 to 101 BC were brilliantly recreated during the 2+ hour show. The production crew that moved seemingly effortless on the arena floor constructed a near-lifesize fortress, a village market, and a realistic representation of the port in Marseille. For a snippet, view the video below.

Shopping at IKEA

My new apartment in Uzès is far from furnished as I’d like it. Moving from “Rapunzel’s Tower” to my ground-level flat was harder than I thought. In just five years, I accumulated a lot of stuff that’s not going to fit. Yet, I’m still shopping.

Living in the south of France, I’ve learned the French love IKEA. I haven’t checked IKEA in the US lately, but the store in Avignon is different and better than any I’ve seen. Right now shelving and storage for my kitchen is my priority.

Interestingly, when you rent an apartment in France, it doesn’t always come equipped with a complete kitchen. Sometimes there’s just a sink. Occasionally, there’s not even a sink. So renters have to create their own “cuisines.” You can take whatever you’ve bought with you to your next rental.

The kitchen in my first apartment was tiny. It had a sink, a cooktop and little or no storage. The new kitchen has bottom cabinets, a cooktop and an exhaust fan. Anything else that I want in the space, I have to purchase and have installed. Fortunately IKEA has good designs and affordable prices on kitchen fittings. Now to find the time to get it done.

What do you think of this?

living in the south of france

Renewing my Carte de Sejour

Yes, it’s that time of year … again. My appointment at the Prefecture in NImes to renew my carte de sejour was this week. Thank goodness for Renestance! Jennifer is so familiar with the people and the process at the Prefecture that it’s getting to be a breeze. That is, if you call pulling together a snapshot of your life and finances to present for your card simple.

This was my fifth year going through the French requirement for my 12-month visa. My compliments to the Nimes Prefecture this go round. They’ve figured out how to move people through the system. Perhaps it’s because of the number of Brits coming through the system due to Brexit.

Note: Tell Renestance the Barefoot Blogger sent you for a 10% discount! 

Best Steak in Town

Dining out at one of the restaurants in town is one of my favorite pastimes. I prefer not to eat alone. Ordering steak is something I’ve learned not to do. Generally, the beef that’s served is tasteless and chewy. Now there’s a new place in town for a really good steak — Paul and Cow. It’s so new it’s not on Tripadvisor. Don’t ask me why it’s not called Paul and Vache? Whatever … I don’t have to wait to go back to Atlanta for a good steak.

living in the south of france

 

Market Day in Uzès

What’s a week in Uzès without a visit to the Saturday Market? Just getting there is half the thrill. Yes, I do love living in the south of France.

Hope you had a great week too!

living in the south of france

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages: Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Recently I challenged myself to visit all the “Plus Beaux Villages de France” — France’s most beautiful villages. Perhaps I should have done a bit more research before making such a statement. There are 156 official villages with the “Plus Beaux” distinction. Even though France is only the size of Texas, it’s a big place!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Now that I’m a bit more realistic about the “task” (albeit, a pleasure) it’s more feasible for me to do one region at a time.

Plus Beaux Villages by Region

There are 13 regions in France. The region where I’ve visited the most beaux villages in Aquitaine. It’s also where there are the most “official” Plus Beaux Villages in France — in Dordogne.

 Dordogne’s Plus Beaux Villages

Three years ago a hometown friend that I hadn’t seen in 40 years came to visit me in France. While here we entertained ourselves by driving from Uzès to Dordogne. Like typical tourists we focused on the area around the Dordogne river: the “classic” Dordogne: picturesque villages, medieval castles, limestone cliffs and caves with prehistoric drawings. The French call it “le Pèrigord.”

During our week-long tour we stopped at two of the most well known beaux villages in Dordogne — Domme and La Roque-Gageac. To learn about these villages read on here…

On the way back from my recent visit to the States, I intentionally stopped in Dordogne to see four of the beaux villages on my list: Beynac-et-Cazenac, Castlenaud-la-Chapelle, Monpazier, and St. Jean-de-Côle.

A Day in Beynac-et-Cazenac and Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Because they’re so close together, you can visit both of these villages in a day. Admittedly, I lingered over lunch in Beynac so I didn’t see as much as I could have. But then, relaxing to enjoy your surroundings is part of the journey, too.

Beynac-et-Cazenac

If you dream about France, like I do, you’ve seen Beynac-et-Cazenac in your dreams. It’s a fairytale French villages perched above the Dordogne river, complete with narrow cobblestone streets, storybook houses and a stately castle at the top. You would expect Cinderella and her prince to appear at any moment.

Like all Plus Beaux Villages de France, Beynac is tiny. The max population for beaux villages is 2000. In 2015 Beynac had 552 residents.

It takes only a few hours to walk around town and through the castle. If you’re driving you can find parking at several levels on the way up to the castle. It’s a pretty steep climb if you stop at the bottom and you only want to visit the castle.

I strongly advise you plan to spend enough time in Beynac to stroll the streets and enjoy the medieval architecture. There are not many places that are as original and as well maintained.

They say the castle, “Château de Beynac”, is the most authentic example of a feudal fortress in the Pèrigord. Towering above the river and valley, it is a reminder of legendary conquerors like King Richard “the Lionhearted” who walked this very courtyard and within the stone walls.  Likewise, it is a shrine to wars that raged through Dordogne for over nine centuries.

If you visit Beynac on I sunny day like I did, enjoy a lovely meal with a “to die for” view of the river at La Terrasse des Chateaux.

Castlenaud-la-Chapelle

Literally down the road from Beynac-et-Cazenac is the plus beaux village Castlenaud-la-Chapelle. The magnificent castle, Château de Castelnaud, soars above the Céou River valley as if to announce “Look at me!”

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

The proud castle, like its neighbor in Beynac, was the site of numerous wars and confrontations, including the Hundred Years War. It changed occupants between the French and the English seven times. During its history, the castle was burned to the ground, rebuilt, abandoned during the French Revolution, then used as a stone quarry. During WWII the fortress gave shelter to French resistance groups. Between 1974 and 2005 it was restored to its near-original state.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Today the castle is one of the most visited spots in Dordogne, especially by families with children. A museum features medieval weapons from all over Europe. In the village perigordine style houses with high-pitched roofs are tightly terraced along narrow streets.

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

When visiting Castlenaud-la-Chapelle there’s a large parking lot at the top. You can walk directly to the castle from there. That view alone will make your day!

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

Stay tuned for photos and an overview of the visit to Monpazier and St. Jean du Côle. To read about the earlier tour of Domme and La Roque-Gageac, click here

Want to see more photos? Join the Barefoot Blogger on Pinterest

Dordogne's Plus Beaux Villages

 

 

 

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

mini rocamador

Discovering Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Along the way back to Uzès from my first visit to the Dordogne, I received an email from my good friend, artist Andy Newman.

“If you like Rocamadour, you must see Najac. It’s a mini Rocamadour,” Andy wrote.

With GPS onboard, I found that Najac was an easy stopover.

Narjac: A Mini Rocamadour

As it was definitely a last minute decision, I was lucky to find an Airbnb room for the night near Najac. Even luckier that it was a seventeenth century mas with the most delightful hosts.

mini Rocamador

Property deed

Arriving just before dinner, I was greeted with open arms and a most unexpected and delicious meal. French hospitality at its best.

The next morning I was off to explore Najac.

Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Following the Aveyron River as it wove around narrow country roads, through lush green hills and valleys, I was forced to stop along the way to Najac to take photos and enjoy the views.

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Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

When I arrived in Najac it was all very quiet. The village center, literally a small square area with timber-framed shops, cafes, and other commercial establishments, looked like it was everyone’s day off. In fact, the only store open was a pottery shop.

Yes, I did buy the little red pitcher on the shelf.

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Since I had no idea where I was going, I strolled down what appeared to be the only road in town. Before long I saw a castle (château) in the distance.

mini rocamador

The Château de Najac

The farther I roamed the more interesting the vistas became.

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The town beyond the square was spread out along the long road, perched above the river. A splendid example of a 13th century bastide.

Château de Najac

Known for its medieval buildings and its château, Najac has been near major events of history since its beginning, including the first English occupation, the Albigensian Crusade, the Hundred Years’ War, the imprisonment of the Knights Templar, the peasants’ revolts, and the French Revolution. The château was built in 1253 at the summit of the hill overlooking the Aveyron at the bidding of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Count of Toulouse. Its location and design were key to controlling the region.

mini rocamadour

Najac

Today it remains a prime example of the type of military defense used in the 13th century to fight against the Cathars and during the Hundred Years War. The dungeon of the castle was used as a prison for the last Knights of the Rouergue.

Mini Rocamadour

Towers at each corner and a square tower, once part of the castle, helped guards coordinate defense of the château and the town.

Mini Rocamadour

The castle is known for its high, thin apertures — the tallest in France. The openings were used by archers, three at a time, who defended the castle and its inhabitants.

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Najac: Mini Rocamadour

Najac is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France — the most beautiful villages of France. The castle, owned by the Cibiel family, has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1925.

Andy Newman, thanks for the tip. Pass it on! 

mini rocamadour

 

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

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!!

 

 

very best christmas markets in France

The Very Best Christmas Markets in France

This time last year I was enjoying all that Alsace has to offer for the holiday. Over the next few weeks the Barefoot Blogger will be publishing glimpses of Strasbourg, Colmar, Equisheim, Riquewihr, Kaysersberg and Ribeauville on FaceBook, Twitter and Instagram. Please stop by for your holiday cheer!

You may only have one time in your life to experience the “best” Christmas markets in France. Join me as I revisit Alsace…

Continue reading “The Very Best Christmas Markets in France”

Wish for France

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: UNESCO Pre-Historic Caves and Ardeche River Gorges

For visitors to Uzès there’s always something to keep you busy. If you’re not shopping on market day or wandering through the ancient town and discovering its charming streets and alleyways, you’re walking beside the stream in the Valle du l’Eure.

Perhaps you would like to venture out a bit more? See a totally different part of France, but travel only an hour or so away? Taking easy day trips to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes Uzès so appealing.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Gorges de l’Ardèche

The Ardeche River runs through southeast France from the Massif Central to the Rhône River at Pont-Saint-Esprit near Orange. Along the way the Ardeche tumbles into a gorge that’s surrounded in some places by limestone river walls over nine hundred feet high. Known as the “European Grand Canyon,” the area draws over a million tourists each year.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

In summer folks head to the Pont d’Arc at the entrance to the Ardeche canyon for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and picnicking.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

As you can imagine, in autumn the drive along the river and through the multicolored hillside is spectacular. Add a stop for lunch in the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Whether pre-history or cave drawings interest you or not, the UNESCO park and Cavern du Pont-d-Arc is a must-see if you’re in this part of France.

You can spend hours exploring the nature trails in the stunning park.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Friend Paula is leading the way. Or not.

Or head straight to the ultra-modern, twenty-first century exhibition center, the Cavern du Pont d’Arc, that houses a replica of one of the most important prehistoric finds in the world. The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave.

img_9536

The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave was discovered in 1994 by three amateur cave explorers. The cave’s interior is approximately 1300 feet (400 meters) with numerous chambers and galleries. Displayed on the walls, crooks and crannies of the cave are more than 1000 drawings dated from 32,000 to 36,000 years ago.

Cavern du Pont d’Arc

Caverne du Pont-d’Arc is a near-exact copy of the Chauvet cave which is the oldest known and the best preserved cave decorated by man. The modern-day designers of the Cavern were scientists and computer geniuses who mimicked every aspect of the original cave with the help of 3D graphics and highly advanced computer imaging techniques.

img_9549

On entering the exhibition area of the Cavern Du Pont d’Arc, you are immediately enveloped with the sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smell of a 30,000 year old, Paleolithic shrine.

Easy day trips from Uzés

You transcend time to a place where Stone Age artists visited and left behind drawings to depict their everyday lives, images of themselves, their animals and their imaginings. Disney could not have done it better.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

“This is a scientific and cultural site with touristic potential,” says Sébastien Mathon, a scientist and one of the 500 artists, engineers and special effects designers who worked on the Pont d’Arc project.This is a place to give a sense of the origin of us all.”

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

If you’re wondering why you must visit a replica and not the real cave, there’s a good reason. The Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994 and sealed off to the public the same year. Why? Scientists discovered from the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne that CO2 from  humans breathing creates mold that deteriorates cave drawings. The destruction within the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne was not to be repeated here.

The Aurignacian Gallery

While at the cavern plan to spend a few minutes … or hours, especially if you’re with children, at the Aurignacian Gallery. There you literally step back in time as you walk past life-sized humans and creatures that roamed this part of the world 30,000 years ago.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: A Holiday Special Occasion

Visitors to the Cavern du Pont d’Arc December 27 and 28, January 3 and 4, 2018 are in for a big treat. You can meet the discovers of the Chauvet Cave, Eliette Brunel, Jean-Marie Chauvet and Christian Hillaire.

The cavern and park are open year round. If you want to skip the line, be sure to order tickets in advance.

https://m.facebook.com/cavernedupontdarc/

Provencal lifestyle

Big Life Changes Ahead? Consider A Provençal Lifestyle

What does the Barefoot Blogger think about the Provençal lifestyle after moving to the south of France?

Perfectly Provence‘s Carolyne Kause-Abbott asked questions you’ll want answered if you’re considering a big change in your life after retirement. 

Choosing the Provencal Lifestyle to Embark on a Retirement Adventure

Deborah Bine spent her childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina dreaming of “faraway places” (her words). Her early travels included visiting her Aunt Rose in exhilarating Manhattan. “Aunt Rose owned New York — or so this sixteen-year-old ingénue from the Carolinas assumed.” On this voyage, Deborah learned some travel lessons that she continues to follow today:

#1 Take a guided tour of the new place you’re visiting (ideally the first day).
#2 Wear comfortable shoes
#3 Life is an adventure

Since those early days in New York City, Deborah’s thirst for travel has taken her to Asia, West Africa, Central America and well beyond. Newly retired from her corporate marketing job and recently divorced, Deborah followed a dream and moved from South Carolina to Uzès in France.

Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure

The Barefoot Blogger is Deborah’s blog, which she launched as the reservoir for her travel stories. The blog posts are records of her approach to life and adventure as a solo, female traveller – a dose of humour, a quest for discovery and mostly lots of fun.

We asked The Barefoot Blogger to answer some questions related to the lifestyle in Provence and her experiences as an expat living in the South of France.


What is Provençal Lifestyle?

How would you describe the lifestyle in Provence to someone who has not visited?

To me the lifestyle in Provence is like life was in the 1940’s and 50’s, or as it was portrayed in movies and images. In the small towns and villages of Provence, shopkeepers know you by name. You can walk to most of the places you want to go. People are generally friendly and smiling. No one seems to be in a particular hurry, unless you’re driving on the roads. That’s an entirely different experience anywhere in France!

When you think of Provence what are the words that pop into your head?

History, flowers, wine, olives, and blue skies.

To some degree, Provence lives on its clichés in photos – scenes of lavender, sunflower fields, and boules players. Is this your Provence?

Yes, the clichés work for me, but, of course, Provence is so much more than cliché. Most important is the fact that Provence changes with the weather. Summers in Provence are busy, bustling with tourists and holiday vacationers who fill the cafes and markets. There’s a constant buzz of noise and activities.

During Autumn and Spring, the rhythm of life in Provence is calmer, cooler and less frantic. Everyone and everything slows down to a pleasant pace so you can enjoy the beauty of the villages and the countryside.

Provence Autumn Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

In Winter Provence is asleep. It’s a peaceful time of year that’s perfect for cocooning, for taking stock of your life and for planning your year ahead. Only a few of the cafes and shops are open during winter, and that’s OK. The atmosphere is warm there and oh, so French. It’s like a scene from an old French movie.

What does Mediterranean climate mean to you?

Mediterranean climate means “warm” to me. I’m from the southern part of the United States, so the weather in Provence is much like it is back in the Carolinas. It’s hot in the Summer and not too cold in the Winter. It rarely, if ever, snows. The most significant difference in the weather to me is the wind. Le Mistral is ferocious and seems to last for days if not for months.

What is your favourite season in Provence?

My favourite season in Provence is Autumn. There’s something unique about the colours of Autumn here. Perhaps it’s the way the shades of brown, beige and yellow meld into the stonework of the houses and buildings. When the leaves of grape vines are turning red and gold, it’s magical to drive through the countryside where vineyards stretch out as far as you can see along the roadway.

What is your favourite activity in Provence?

I love to go to Sète in the Summer, to eat all the seafood I can possibly hold, and sit under an umbrella at the beach — attended to by handsome and lovely young bar staffers who are serving icy, tall drinks, of course!

Sète Seashore Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

When you first return to Provence what aroma “says” I have arrived?

I know when I’m back in Provence when I smell the fresh, clean air. There’s no pollution where I live in France because there are no large industries, only a candy factory – Haribo. Highways are far away, and streets are mostly one-way with speed limits of 30 kph. So, no smelly gas fumes. Vineyards and olive groves surround the old town of Uzès.

When you leave Provence what is the thing you miss the most and wish you could take with you?

When I’ve gone back to the States to visit family in the past, I’ve tried to take some of my favourite foods from France with me – tapenades, truffle oil, sea salts and the like. For some reason, the things I love in France don’t transfer to my life outside France.

When you hear or see the term “Provence-style” what is your first thought?

The term “Provence-style” stirs thoughts of brightly colored things in my mind – bright yellows and reds, blue shutters on stone houses and rows of stately white and green plane trees.

Provence and the Cote d’Azur appear to evoke a decorative (home decor, restaurants, hotels) style – how might you describe this trend?

To me, Provence decorative style is ageless. The decorations and colour scheme of a simple farmhouse can easily adapt to the living spaces of a country estate or the veranda of a seaside resort.

Antibes Doors Windows

What about fashion style in Provence?

I never realised how much my fashion style has changed since moving to France until I posted photos of myself and friends say I look “so French.” To me, my style here is simply practical and suits the climate and my activities. Yes, I do wear lots of skirts and slippers instead of jeans and sneakers, but that may have more to do with my age than a fashion statement. Hats are a “must” nearly year-round. Read French Fashion: Bobo Style.

BFBlogger Bobo Fashion

The Provence that many imagine today is relatively “new” thanks to the likes of Peter Mayle and others. What is “Authentic Provence” to you?

If I could label anything or anyplace in Provence as “authentic,” it would be Arles. The tiny town with its Roman arena and amphitheatre, the shops with brightly decorated linens and gift items, the outdoor cafes, the festivals, the food – it’s all so Provençal. To me, Arles seems the way it has always been and how Provence is meant to be.

Arles Roman Arena Explore Provence @PerfProvence

Food in Provence

Life in Provence seems to revolve to a degree around food. How would you describe the food in the region to someone who has not visited?

The foods of Provence are influenced by geography and by the cultures of its bordering countries. From one end of Provence to the other you see, experience and taste foods that originated in Spain or Italy. The diet is influenced by the Mediterranean, featuring fish, poultry, fresh fruits, vegetables, goat and sheep cheeses and lots of olives and olive oil.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

What are your favourite things to eat in Provence?

I could eat fish every day. The easy access to fresh fish, along with local, seasonal produce, makes me love to dine and cook in Provence.

Sète Seafood Provencal Lifestyle Retirement Adventure Deborah Bine Barefoot Blogger

Is there a food or ingredient that you wish you could find outside of Provence?

I crave anchovy tapenade! There’s nothing like a dollop of “tapenade d’anchois” on a thin cracker and a “verre de vin rosé.”

Expat Living in Provence

How important do you feel it is to have a decent level of French comprehension and speaking skills in Provence?

Those who follow the Barefoot Blogger know that I have a love/hate relationship with learning the French language. I know how important it is to be able to communicate in the language of the place I live. However, I continuously resist the discipline that comes with learning the language. Fortunately, I’ve been here long enough now that a bit of the language is rubbing off on me. I can hold my own ordering food in a restaurant and, with the help of sign language, I can pretty much make myself understood when I need to.

What resources might you recommend to others to improve their language skills?

I discovered the audio tapes of Michel Thomas this year through a friend. Thomas’s approach to teaching and learning French is unique. It speaks to me. Now I’m hoping to get the nerve to enrol in a French immersion class.

What resources might you recommend to expats and those considering a move to Provence?

There are lots of blogs written by expats like myself who have gone through the experience of moving to France. Check them out. Don’t hesitate to write the author for suggestions and information. When you relocate to France (or anywhere), be open to your new home and environment. Don’t try to make it like the place you left. Embrace the new, enjoy the differences and get out and travel as much and as often as you can.

Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.

Behind French Garden Walls

Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

A Day at a French Health Spa

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

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

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

French Health Spa

Sourcéo Thermal Spa, Saint Paul les Dax

French Thermal Spa Cure

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

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

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

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

Duration: 10 minutes

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

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

Duration: 20 minutes

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

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

Duration: 10 minutes

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

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

Duration: 15 minutes

Massage personnalisé – Personalized body massage

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

Duration: 10 minutes

French Thermal Spa Activities

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

French Thermal spa tour

A French Thermal Spa Tour: Autumn in the Pyrenees

The second day of the French Thermal Spa Tour started with a drive through the Pyrenees to the “beaux village” of Saint-Bertrand-De-Comminges.

The road trip from our overnight at L’hostellerie des Cédres to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was a brilliant plan, thanks to my trip guide extraordinaire, Nevenka. She knew the view from Villeneuve-de-Rivière along the autoroute would be breathtaking. All along the way autumn colors unfolded before us. One turn in the road was more beautiful than the last. The snow-covered mountains of the Pyrenees were always at our side.

Even the brief time we stopped at a roadway “aire” (rest area) to fill up the gas tank was an adventure. Imagine finding a full-service cafeteria with lovely French cuisine on an interstate highway!

 

French Spa Tour and a Cure: Saint-Bertrand-De-Comminges

When the French designate a town a “Beaux Village” they mean it. The petite town of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and its famous Cathedral are truly sights to behold. What is now a UNESCO cited medieval village of only a few hundred inhabitants was once where 30,000 Romans lived.

The colony was founded by General Pompey during the Roman campaign in Spain. By the fourth century the thriving town had its own diocese. Destroyed by the Vandals and again by the Germans, “Comminges” lay deserted for five centuries. The bishopric, nevertheless, was preserved so in the early twelfth century construction of a cathedral was ordered. From that time since the cathedral town has been a stage on the route to Santiago de Compostela.

 

Arriving on a Sunday during a church service at the Cathedral of Saint-Mary was, perhaps, not the best idea… or maybe it was. The church was closed for Mass. While waiting for the service to end, we had plenty of time to stroll through the courtyard and garden … accompanied by the most beautiful organ music.

 

As soon as Mass ended we scampered into the sanctuary to view the famous organ inside. The massive organ, considered one of the best classical organs in France and the only one of its kind in Europe, stands over 53 feet tall in a corner beside the entrance. The organ has three keyboards and forty-one pipes — twelve pipes are original from 1523. Across from the organ is a wooden wall that divides the entranceway and organ from the sanctuary. Since the service was just ending, the door on the dividing wall was open to let parishioners depart. We dashed through the door to see what we could before the next service.

 

Oh, that I could have stayed to discover more. Yet less time in the cathedral left more time to walk through the town.

 

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Our brief visit to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was a small preview of what lay ahead in our journey towards the Basque Country of France. Some houses had exteriors with wood and brick facings, others were decorated with strings of red peppers around doors and windows.

 

Before we knew it, we were running late. Our check-in with the doctor at the spa was at four o’clock. We were off… but not before one last photo.

French Spa Tour

Next stop the “cure”…stay tuned

(Part one: Visiting A French Thermal Spa)

French Spa Tour

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

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

Day 3-5 of the “Memories You Promised Yourself” tour revealed friendships and alliances were forming among the sixteen ladies who joined the Barefoot Blogger and Patricia Sands. We happily made our way through the hot spots on the Côte d’Azur: Grasse, Tourrettes Sur Loup, Saint Paul de Vence, Eze Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and Antibes.

Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur

From our perfectly located hotel in Nice, the Beau Rivage, each day we jumped on our 20-passenger bus to explore famous towns and vistas near Nice. Our guide, Stephanie, and Rene the driver led the way.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Grasse

Known as the perfume capital of the world, there was no doubt our tour of ladies would love Grasse. The Parfumerie Fragonard was our main stop.

 

Here we learned the way perfume was made in the eighteenth century and which techniques remain the same today.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Over 6,000 bottles of perfume are produced daily in the Grasse Fragonard factory, along with soaps, lotions, eaux de toilette and other fragrant products.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Smell testing the different florals and scents used in perfume products

Tourrettes Sur Loup

A short distance from Grasse was Tourettes Sur Loup, an artist village of less than 2,000 residents.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

It was the perfect place for lunch and a quick look at the artisan shops before heading onto the main attraction for the day, St. Paul de Vence.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

St. Paul de Vence

St. Paul de Vence is a small, medieval village on a hill that is bustling with tourists and dozens of tiny shops, art galleries and cafes.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

At the entrance to the town is a petanque game square where locals gather and tourists who dare.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

St. Paul de Vence was a simple medieval village until a cafe and modest inn was opened by a local resident, Paul Roux, and his wife in the 1920s. The inn attracted many artists who had discovered the area during the time between the world wars, like Matisse, Picasso and Chagall. They stayed at the inn and, as payment for their lodging, they often left behind pieces of their work. The priceless painting are still on the walls of the Colombe d’Or. The hotel and the town are now world famous for art and galleries.

Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur

Eze

Memories Tour Day 4 morning was free for all to rest, shop, visit the Chagall or Matisse Museum, or for more sightseeing.

After lunch we were off to the village of Eze.

Riding by bus along the Moyenne Corniche, northeast of Nice, the views of the Riviera coastline became more dramatic the higher we climbed.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

In Eze we continued to climb. Not by bus but by foot. We determined the town with its steep hills was meant for serious walkers.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Fortunately there were plenty of shops to browse through when we needed to catch out breaths.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

The highlight of the visit was the Exotic Garden located at the top of the village a mere 429 meters above the Mediterranean Sea.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

While walking along the landscaped paths of succulent plants, the views of the sea were breathtaking.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Leaving Eze we passed through Beaulieu and Villefranche-sur-Mer. Real estate along this stretch of the Riviera, to Our next stop, St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat is among the highest priced in the world. Homes of celebrities and billionaires dot the hills and seascape.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Villa Rothschild

The elegant mansion looming high above the Mediterranean in St. Jean-Cap-Ferrat was the next stop on tour of the high road of the Riviera — Villa Rothschild.Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Built by Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild, wife of banker Baron Maurice de Ephrussi, the rose-colored villa is in the image of a Italian palazzo.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

With its priceless antiques, art and porcelain collections, the interior of the villa is stunning.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

The gardens, however, are truly magical. Both formal and meandering, they were strategically designed to enhance the best views of the sea and the villa.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

A water show set to music was all it took for me to escape momentarily into my fantasyland. My life as a baroness on the Riviera.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur

Antibes

Day 5: Readers of Patricia’s “Love in Provence” book series were especially excited about the Antibes part of our tour. Here they could envision Kat meeting Phillippe at the colorful Provençal market in the center of town.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Antibes didn’t disappoint the Barefoot Blogger even though this was my fifth visit.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

The scenery and conviviality of the town are so uplifting.

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

For sure, the Memories Tour gals were taking it all in

Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur

Just a little drama…

To prove there is always a bit of drama wherever the Barefoot Blogger roams, one evening before dinner we lost one of our travelers. In the hotel. In the elevator.

A power outage that struck the hotel just prior to our meet-up in the lobby had trapped someone in the elevator. Sure enough, when we did our attendance count, Margaret was missing.

Never fear. The nice Nice pompiers saved the day!

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Margaret was such a good sport. The firemen loved her!

Stay tuned …

South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2018 with the Barefoot Blogger and Best Seller Author Patricia Sands

September 10-22

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

Hot spots on the Côte d’Azur

Memories Tour Nice

South of France Memories Begin in Nice 👍

The South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour landed in Nice today. All signs say it’s going to be an amazing 12 days with these fun-loving ladies!

Memories Tour Nice

You know it’s going to be an extraordinary event when a bird lands on your head in old town Nice.

Memories Tour Nice

No kidding!

Memories Tour Nice

After only a few minutes you know you’ve met your new best friends.

Memories Tour Nice

Memories Tour Nice

Today was the “meet and greet” and a relaxing seaside dinner.

Memories Tour Nice

Tomorrow we take on Nice.

Stay tuned…

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

Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

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

Memories Tour Interrupted

 

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon Adventures in France

Everytime I make a visit to the US to see family, it’s always the same. My grandson insists on watching videos of his grandmother’s hot air balloon ride.

I’ll admit, when I think about the day I took my first hot air balloon ride, I get as excited as a 4-year old, too.

Hot Air Balloon

Hot Air Balloon

The idea for a hot air balloon ride was not mine. Good friend Julie, who I traveled with a few years ago through the Dordogne, was the brainchild. She’s one of those travelers who does a lot of research. Somewhere she learned there was a company that offered balloon rides near where we were headed. Between the Dordogne and Paris. All she had to do was mention it and I was sold.

Never did I imagine it could be quite so much fun.

If you’ve ever dreamed of flying high in a hot air balloon, come along for the ride!

To read more about the day of hot air ballooning over the Loire Valley, click here.

Hot Air Balloon

If you like hot air ballooning as a spectator sport, several times a year there are hot air balloon events near Uzès. Like this one at the Vallée de l’Eure.

Have you taken a balloon ride in France? Please tell me all about it!

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Would I do it again? You betcha!

 

Exploring Loire Valley Wine Caves

Staying in a small village near Amboise turned out to be one of the best choices on this visit to the Loire Valley. Not only were we close to beautiful châteaux, there were Loire Valley wine caves all around. 

Loire Valley Wine Caves

After a day of visiting Château Ambroise and Château Clos Luce, it was wine time. Fortunately for us, there was a wine bottler and merchant nearby recommended in the Rick Steves travel guide, Caves Duhard. Along with the musty caves and ancient bottles, there was some really good wine.

Loire Valley Wine Caves
Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Loire Valley Wine Caves

 Just around the corner from our chalet in Ambroise was another find: Caves du Pigeonnier.

http://www.le-pigeonnier-de-fombeche.eu/

Loire Valley Wine Caves

My friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, who has taken many tours in France with her travel customers,  says this was the “best guided wine tour ever.”

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

With Nancy performing as interpreter the few English speakers,  we all learned so much about wine production in the Loire, especially about the 300 year old cave that’s been owned by the same family for six generations.

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

The ancient cave has been enlarged in recent years yet wine producing techniques from its beginning are still prominent, including the “vat” in the cave wall that was used in the process before the introduction of barrels.

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Guestault Caves of the Loire Valley

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Bubbling juices and skins being prepared to use as “coloring”

Loire Valley Wine Caves

Wooden crate contraption that rotates to turn bottled wine during the production process

Under the wine appellation (AOC) Montlouis, the production at Guestault is predominately white wines from chinon grapes, including sparkling wines.
Loire Valley Wine Caves

As ancient as the caves and some of the original processing methods, the grape production at Guestault is thoroughly modern. I turned on the video recorder for this explanation, interpreted onsite by Nancy.

Stay tuned …

 

French Light Show

Techno-Fabulous French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

If you haven’t seen a techno-fabulous French light show, you’re in for a treat. The French take lights and action to new dimensions: music, drama and imagination.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

A recent visit to Carrières de Lumières was my third experience with the digital, immersive events that are staged in a former bauxite mine outside the village Les Baux de Provence. This year’s exhibition is Picasso and the Spanish Masters” along with a pop culture show, “Flower Power”. Believe me, the photos don’t do justice to the real events.

First, let me set the stage. When you enter the Carrières de Luminères you think you are walking into a movie theatre. Except that it’s built into the side of a mountain. You can go directly into the theatre area or you can walk around the inside of the cavernous halls of the mine. I would suggest you do the latter sometime during your visit. Walls of bauxite surround you, almost as wide and high as you can see.

Once you enter the theatre area, be prepared to gasp. It’s ginormous! Every surface, except the floor, is a projection area. Art images are stretched across huge canvases of stone in front of you, behind you and around every corner. The experience is totally surreal.

French Light Show

Added to the impact, the colossal space is cool and mostly dark. Except for the light that reflects from the art, there is no lighting in the room. When the scenery changes, you stumble around in near-darkness until the next images appear. If fact, if you’re not sure of your footing, you might want to take a seat on the stone steps that are around in various places

Take along a sweater or wrap. It’s really cold inside. If you forget one, you can buy a fleece blanket at the admission office for €5. No kidding!

Before Carrières de Lumières

In 1821 French geologists discovered bauxite near the village of Les Baux. During the 19th century there was a large demand for construction-worthy white stone. The mine in Les Baux prospered. Later with the advent of more modern building materials, the demand for stone fell and in 1935 the quarry closed.

The abandoned quarry was repurposed in the 1960s as a movie set by French filmmaker, Jean Cocteau. His movie, Le Testament d’Orphée (The Testament of Orpheus), featured an appearance by Picasso, of all people! as well as Spanish matador Luis Miguel Dominguín. 

Carrières de Luminères took on its current form and purpose in 2012 with the digital audiovisual production Gauguin, Van Gogh, the Painters of Color.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Picasso and the Spanish Masters

“Picasso and the Spanish Masters”  is divided into two parts: one, to explore Picasso’s Spanish origins; and two, to show how Picasso, inspired by the masters, shattered traditional figurative art. Portraits and scenes of daily Spanish life painted by Goya, Rusiñol, Zuloaga, and Sorolla appear in the first part of the presentation. Picasso’s work dominates the second part of the show with a near-chronology of his life and art forms. Never before, and perhaps never again, will the public be shown such an emotion-filled demonstration of the life and works of Picasso. Through the images displayed on the massive walls, emphasized by a dramatic, musical sound track, we pass through history and the tumultuous life of one of the world’s greatest modern artists.

Carrières de Lumières 2018: Pop Culture: Flower Power

Remember the psychedelic visuals, colors and music of the 60’s? The “Flower Power” exhibition that follows immediately after Picasso takes you back to the hippy generation. The bright and lively show is not only fun to watch, the tunes of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beach Boys had me dancing in the dark.

French Light Show: Carrières de Lumières

Important! The best time to visit Carrières de Lumières is in the morning. Drive towards the entrance to the historic town of Les Baux. Just follow the signs. If you arrive early, you’ll easily find a parking spot. If you’re late, it’ll be a nightmare.

The production is repeated throughout the day and lasts less than an hour. You can stay to watch as long as you’d like.

Practical Information: Open every day. 
January, March, November and December: 10h-18h 
April, May, June, September and October: 9h30-19h 
July and August: 9h30-19h30 
Last entry 1 hour before closing

Here are some images from this year’s show.

 

Scenes below are from Carrières de Lumières 2016 – Dreams of a Summer Night – Chagall 

Photos courtesy of mon fils, Pete Bine.

 

 

Wish for France

The Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

When visitors to the south of France put “wine tour” at the top of their list of things to do, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tour quickly comes to mind. The wine growing region that covers approximately 3,200 hectares (12.4 miles) of land in the Rhone valley is home to some of France’s most well known … and pricey wines.

Unless you know a lot about wine, you might be surprised to hear that “Châteauneuf-du-Pape” is not just a wine growing region. It’s also a historic “monument” as well as a town in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Châteauneuf-du-Pape “monument” is what is left of a fourteenth century chateau built under the auspices of Pope John XXII. Towering above the fields and vineyards of the region and visible for miles around, the chateau is among the last vestiges of the Roman Popes who ruled from nearby Avignon from 1309 until the Schism of 1378. “Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” translated “new castle of the Pope,” was built to be the summer home of the Popes.

The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a small village with a few restaurants and lots of wine sellers. It reminds me of a wine smorgasbord. You can hop from one “degustion” to another.

Just outside the town center, there are dozens of wine producers devoted to making and selling their own special varieties of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. Farther out you’ll find private and “open to the public” wine domains with acres and acres of vineyards. Some new, some old. Some that have been handed down through centuries of vingerons, complete with ancient stone chateaus and wine caves.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

The Barefoot Blogger has visited Chateâuneuf-du-Pape to check out the wines on several occasions. The first was to see the territory by myself, next was with my cousin visiting from Arizona. The last time was to treat my visitor from North Carolina to her first wine tour in France. I called on my friend who’s considered to be one of the best guides in the area — Sophie Bergeron of Travel in Provence.

During the half day we spent with Sophie, I found out why she’d earned her good reputation. She knows her wine. From working in vineyards to selling wines, Sophie’s been in the business since she was a child. The no-nonsense tour guide educated and entertained us. The wine “lesson” was complete with charts and maps and wine tasting. Next we were off to the wineries.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Sophie’s choice of wineries to visit was brilliant– including one that appeared to “blessed” by the ancient chateau’s tower because of its proximity. How much fun to get  “up close and personal” with the winemaker and his crew.

To add to the perfect day, after our Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour, Sophie introduced us to one of her favorite restaurants that overlooked the valley, Verger des Papes

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

Lunch with a view

A Perfect day, A Perfect Châteauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

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For more information about Sophie Bergeron and Travel in Provence, visit the website.

If you would like to keep up with the day-by-day adventures of the Barefoot Blogger, join the conversation on FaceBook and Twitter.

 

 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape Wine Tour

 

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