Tag: travel over 60

Memories Tour “A List”: Antibes, Aix, and Arles

It’s not a coincidence that the South of France Memories Tour would visit Antibes, Aix, and Arles straight in a row. They are definitely A-List tourist spots south of France.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

You know by now that Antibes is one of my favorite places to visit on the Côte d’Azur. For the past four years, it’s been where friends and I meet before the onslaught of heat and visitors in Uzès. This time, with 18 Memories Tour ladies, Antibes took on a unique flavor, thanks to the Love in Provence book series by my friend and co-leader, Patricia Sands. Here we followed in the footsteps of Katherine and her handsome Frenchman, Philippe.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Patricia guided us through the Antibes Market where Philippe was the modest- and eligible — purveyor of cheeses.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

Choosing a spot for a group photo in Antibes isn’t easy when there are so many spectacular views.

Antibes

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Antibes

Shopping in Antibes is a favorite sport. The best news for our tour gals? It was market day in Antibes. Wahoo!

 

Antibes

Market day in Antibes Vieux town square

 

Antibes

A stop at the Absinth Bar was a first taste of the legendary drink for most.

 

There’s a method for creating an absinthe drink. A cube of sugar, a slotted spoon, and just enough water to melt the sugar cube. Interesting! Tastes like licorice.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Aix-en-Provence

“Aix” is one of the largest and most visited towns in Provence. The home of Cézanne, it’s high on the list for tourists who want to know about the artist. Unfortunately, as we learned through our guide, Stephanie, Cezanne was never appreciated by the townspeople. His paintings are scarce in Aix. Nowhere else, though, can you follow in the footsteps of the artist’s youth and life.

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Following the footsteps of Cézanne took us through the town with a unique perspective.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Picasso had a special relationship with Cèzanne, although the young Picasso was an unknown artist at the time. Picasso studied Cèzanne’s work and considered him “the father of us all.” Today Picasso’s work is exhibited in galleries in Aix like Musée Granet.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

One of the 1,000 fountains in Aix — the Four Dolphins

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The Cours Mirabeau, once the site of the town’s wall, is the prominent avenue in Aix and displays the statue of René d’Anjou (1434 – 1480), king of Jerusalem, king of Naples and Sicily, Duke of Lorraine. Folklore says he was a noble character — poet, artist, musician, and importer of the muscat grape into Provence.

 

During our day stop in Aix, our tour was pleased to see students marching in support of climate change reform. It was an impressive peaceful demonstration.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France: Arles

Arles was the stopping place for the second half of the Memories Tour. For seven days we called the luxurious Hotel Jules César our home away from home.

Hotel Jules César

Hotel Jules César In Arles

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The front terrace of the hotel made the perfect reading spot for Patricia’s book, Drawing Lessons. Characters and places in Drawing Lessons were based on Arles.

 

Arles is filled with ancient relics of Roman days that are still very much in use today, including the 2000-year-old arena.

 

Arles

The arena at night is magical.

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

One rainy day and a wrong turn was a real adventure through the back roads of Arles. Nevertheless, the Barefoot Blogger trudged on, and we had lots of laughs. Never a dull moment on the Memories Tour!

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

Shopping was always on our minds. Market day in Arles did not disappoint.

 

Aix

Our tour guests included Cheryl Jamison of James Beard cookbook acclaim. She raved about the food! Is it any wonder?

 

A-List Tourist Spots South of France

The new home of the Luma Foundation in Arles is a tourist attraction in itself. It is, perhaps, the last public space to be designed by the 90+-year-old architect, Frank Gehry. The modern and controversial building is a new symbol for art and culture for the ancient Roman town of Provence.

A highlight of dining on the Memories Tour in Arles was our evening at the Hotel Particulier, a 5-star hotel in the heart of Arles. The home of aristocrats with its walls from the time of Roman Emperor Constantine was restored to the imaginative vision of architects for the Luma Foundation.

 

 

What’s next??? The Memories Tour 2019 heads for Occitanie — Sete, the Camargue, and Uzès!

Visit Uzés France

Visit Uzés, France: Inside the Château de Duché

Any who visit Uzés, France are in awe of the Château de Duché. It’s the centerpiece of the town and home to the Duke of Uzés — the oldest ducal peerage in France.

If France was still a kingdom, the Duke of Uzés would rank just below “princes of the blood.” It is he who would announce Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! at each state funeral, and defend the honour of the queen mother.”

The Château de Duché was built in the 12th century by Lord Bermonde of the House of Crussol. Along with the château, three distinctive towers were erected within the wall of the medieval town. The most prominent tower of all carries his name — Bermonde Tower. All of the structures are standing today. The wall has disappeared and the wall’s watchtower is in ruins.

Visit Uzes, France

visit uzes franceThe gothic chapel, a striking feature of the château’s courtyard with its glittering red tiled roof, was added in the 15th century. During the 16th century, the cháteau underwent extensive renovations. Duke Antoine — the first peer of France, ordained by Charles IX — ordered refurbishments that morphed the medieval castle into an elegant Renaissance cháteau. The courtyard became the main attraction.

The château served as a defense unit during the War of Religion and the Revolution.  It was never attacked or destroyed. As the town went through various phases of wealth and decline, the château was used as a school dormitory, workshops and classrooms. During WWII the buildings were occupied by the Germans.Jacques de Crussol, the current resident of the Château de Duché and 17th Duke of Uzès has this to say about the state of Uzes during the era of his grandfather (1943-1999).

“Uzès was then steadily declining. The population of eight thousand at the time of Louis XIV had dropped to three and a half thousand. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes had already prompted some of the inhabitants to leave. Since the Revolution, the town had lost the bishopric and its tenure, the silk industry was practically non-existent, the Piémont régiment had gone, and so had the sub-prefecture. The arcades surrounding the Place aux Herbes rested on makeshift supports and many houses were in a state of neglect.”

It was the Duke’s grandmother, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who lobbied the Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle to list Uzés as a protected site, enabling the chatéau and the town to find funding for the much needed restorations. Due to the efforts of the Duchess of Uzes, a law is now in place in France that similarly benefits other cultural and historic sites throughout the country. The gutsy grandmother was the first woman in France to be granted a driver’s license. She was instrumental in campaigning for women’s rights, including the right to vote.

Tour of the Château de Duché

I’ve spent day after day staring at the Duché from my apartment windows and I’ve taken hundreds of photos every angle. Finally I found the perfect opportunity to visit inside — along with hundreds of other sightseers — during the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days. 

Come along and let’s take a tour.

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Visit Uzes, 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 from Uzès to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes visiting so appealing.

Ardèche

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.

Ardèche

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

Ardèche

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.

Paula

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.

Easy day trips from Uzés g_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.

Easy day trips from Uzés

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.

Easy day trips from Uzés

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

 

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Cooking Class in Marseille

What’s Cooking in Marseille? A Day with the Provence Gourmet

For someone who had never spent much time in Marseille, now I’m loving it!  I jumped at the chance to join a cooking class in Marseille with Gilles Conchy of Provence Gourmet. Read on and you’ll see why …

Marseille is a city of wide, busy streets and tight alleys. High end fashions and ethnic robes. Elegant eateries and takeout pizzas. It’s everything you might expect from France’s second largest city, plus a whole lot more. For my return visit to Marseille, I was excited to see it again, especially Les Vieux Port, the Saturday fish market and an inside view of a true “Marseillese” apartment. An invitation from Gilles Conchy to attend a cooking class in Marseille fit the bill in every way.

Cooking Class in Marseille

Gilles arranged for me and his two guests from Toronto to meet him on Saturday morning at the Tourist Office. That meant I needed to stay overnight in Marseille for the next morning’s 9:30 am start. What a pity … lol! I made the most of it by stopping by my new favorite restaurant, Brasserie on Le Vieux Port (OM Cafe),  for a seafood medley plancha-style.

Le Vieux Port Fish Market 

When Gilles met us, we headed right away for the fish market at the port. As colorful as it was, the fish market was a bit disappointing in that there were so few fishermen around selling their catch. Gilles says there are only 20 fishermen in Marseille now who sell at the market — a result of overfishing in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, the catch of “rockfish” for the fish soup starter on our menu was easy to find. Watch the video and imagine you’re along with us at the fish market in Marseille!

Cooking Class in Marseille

Fresh Market

After our outing at the fish market, we were off to the “fresh market” in Marseille — vegetables, cheese and more.

Cherries and asparagus were in season, so the stalls were filled with the luscious picks from local farmers.

After our stop at the fresh market, then off to the butcher for fresh ground meats.

Onto the wine store for Gilles’ favorite picks from Provence.

 

Next, onto the lovely apartment in downtown where Gilles conducts his Marseille cooking classes. It’s the home of his charming mother, a true Marseillaise who often helps as his sous chef.

Cooking Class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

Now … what we were waiting for. The cooking lessons — and the scrumptious meal to follow.

Our Menu

Fish Soup (the base for Bouillabaisse)

Petits Farçis

Clafoutis aux Cerises with Raspberry Creme

Assorted Cheeses

Wine

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How To Make the Perfect Aioli

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

A perfect day ended with the perfect meal.

Thanks to Gilles, his Mom and my new Canadian friends, Louise and Jerry, for a truly unique, wonderful experience. 

Cooking Class in Marseille

Cooking class in Marseille

A Day with the Provence Gourmet

Plan your day with the Provence Gourmet. Classes are offered in Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The intimate cooking experience will give you a true taste of Provence. Authentic, classic menus are prepared in Gilles’ charming Provençal home in Marseille, or at his 12-acre countryside home near Saint- Rémy.

Contact the Provence Gourmet at www.provence-gourmet.fr

More about Marseille

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille wasn’t high on my list of places to visit. A weekend spent there to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend from Uzès totally changed my mind. On top of being an incredibly beautiful city with lovely, welcoming people, Marseille is for foodies like me.

I’ve been to Marseille on several occasions since living in Uzès. Once to the warehouse district to claim a shipment and more than once to the airport. Neither area offers the best of the city. It was hearing that Marseille is for foodies, especially bouillabaisse, that called me back.

Is it food that makes Marseille so appealing to millions of travelers?

Marseille is for Foodies

Food in Marseille is as varied as the people: French, Italian, Spanish, Indian, Middle Eastern, African, North and South and Central Americans and more. Restaurants and cafes are on nearly every street and corner. There are over 1000 listed in TripAdvisor, including fifteen Michelin star restaurants. Along Le Vieux Port, where we stayed for the weekend, there were places to eat lined side by side.

My first meal in Marseille was a medley of seafoods at La Brasserie du Port. The waterfront restaurant was right below our hotel, Grand Hôtel Beauvau Marseille Vieux-Port.  The fresh, beautifully prepared seafood and the service couldn’t have been better. The view from the terrace of the brasserie — the architectural masterpiece by Norman Foster against the background of the ancient port — was stunning.

Marseille is for Foodies

The birthday girl’s selection for meals on her special day was eclectic and international — Indian for lunch and Columbian for dinner.  Palais du Maharaja,  chosen from TripAdvisor, proved to be the perfect place to satisfy our appetites for Indian food.

… Indian Food

… Columbian Food

Discovering Columbia tapas at Tapas La Picadita  turned out to be one of the best food finds of the weekend. The menu, the preparation and the friendly staff were so special that we came back the next night for more.

Marseille is for Foodies

… “Little Istanbul”

Even though it rained during part of our stay in Marseille, it didn’t keep us from wandering the streets near Le Vieux Port. A shop overflowing with bins and bags of Turkish delicacies stopped us in our tracks. We loaded up on dried fruits, spices, teas and candies to take back with us. And we laughed a lot!

Marseille is for Foodies

… Street Food

Somehow the rain in Marseille made the atmosphere even more picturesque and interesting. Food vendors and cafes were open for business… and happy to see us .

 

One stop for tea and coffee ended up in a karaoke! The proprietor thought I looked like Petula Clark. We all started singing “Downtown”! What fun!

Marseille is for Foodies

… Bouillabaisse!

I was really looking forward to a bowl of bouillabaisse. Who can go to Marseille without tasting it?

You need to book reservations two days in advance for some restaurants to prepare this Marseille favorite for you. Be sure to plan ahead. We chose to try the bouillabaisse at Grand Bar des Goudes in Le Goudes, a  village outside Marseille. The tiny town is in a district of Marseille on the way to the Calanques. Little did we know that it would take a couple of hours to drive to Le Goudes on a Sunday.  It didn’t help that throngs of people in cars, on bikes and on foot were heading that way after three days cooped up in the rain. Yes, we were late for our reservations, but the drive along the winding road and the views of Marseille were worth the hassle.

 

The view of the fishing harbor from the restaurant in Goudes was pretty special too.

Marseille is for Foodies

 

Back to the main attraction — the bouillabaisse. 

Bouillabaisse is a provençal fish stew traditionally created by the fishermen of Marseilles. It was concocted as a way to use up the bony rockfish they’d caught along the Calanques that they couldn’t sell.

According to the Michelin Guide Vert, “the four essential elements of a true bouillabaisse are the presence of rascasse, the freshness of the fish; olive oil, and an excellent saffron.” American chef and author, Julia Child, wrote in her book, My Life in France: “to me the telling flavor of bouillabaisse comes from two things: the Provençal soup base — garlic, onions, tomatoes, olive oil, fennel, saffron, thyme, bay, and usually a bit of dried orange peel — and, of course, the fish — lean (non-oily), firm-fleshed, soft-fleshed, gelatinous, and shellfish.”

Not all bouillabaisse is created equal. The variety I sampled was missing some of the shellfish. I’m taking the fact that there may be the “perfect” bouillabaisse waiting for me. A good enough reason to return to Marseille, don’t you agree?

 

Did you know there’s a proper way to serve and eat bouillabaisse?

Have you been to Marseille? Do you have a favorite restaurant? Where’s the best place for the bouillabaisse? Please let me know. I will return! 

 

 

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseilles: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

 

 

 

Are Murano and Burano Worth a Visit?

Are Murano and Burano worth a visit while you’re in Venice?

That’s a question I’ll say “yes!” to. Without hesitation.

I loved both of the small island villages that are a short boat ride from Venice. The half-day I spent walking around and taking in the colorful towns of Murano and Burano was a highlight of my holiday with my son.

Murano glass and more … 

The vaporetto ride from Venice to the small islands was less than $30 roundtrip. When I arrived in Murano, it was busy, filled with tourists. The town is so tiny that you can easily walk along both sides of the canal, enjoy the scenery and shop for a souvenir piece of Murano glass.

Murano’s history of glassmaking began in the 13th century when artisans from Venice were forced by law to move to the island. The raging fires that often spread through Venice were too often started in glass factories. Once settled in Murano, the glassmakers collectively honed their art and became known as the best in  Europe. Murano chandeliers, enameled glass, and beads were sought by the elite. Through the centuries, Murano developed products that defined the industry: clear glass, milk glass, mirrors, and imitation gemstones.

Burano, a kaleidoscope

Landing on the boat docks of Burano was like entering the set of a technicolor movie. The pink, green, purple, and yellow houses and buildings made a setting around the narrow canals that only an artist could conceive.

Like its neighbor, Murano, the island of Burano is known for its artisans. Burano lace has been exported throughout Europe and beyond since the 16th century.

 

Are Murano and Burano worth a visit?

I think so. This video might help you decide … enjoy!

3 Days in Paris

3 Days in Paris

When it’s your first visit to Paris, how do you decide what to do? There are so many ways you can go, things to see in just 3 days in Paris. 

Last year this time, I was in Paris celebrating a landmark birthday with one of my best friends from North Carolina. It was her first time in Paris. So, of course, we had to make the rounds of the places she had heard and dreamed about.

The Paris tour gave me a chance to see Notre Dame for the last time in its glory. We did something I’ve never done, too. We rode the elevator all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower. What a thrill! And what a fascinating story about the tower’s early beginnings.

Did you know the people of Paris disliked the Eiffel Tower when it was built? They thought it was ghastly. Not until it was used as a watchtower during the War did it gain appreciation. Imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower! 

3 Days in Paris

Enjoy!

Happy Birthday, Ricki!

For more about Paris visit these posts on Barefoot Blogger

Christmas in Paris

Paris Night Lights

Paris: Fiddlers Rock the Château

Paris Through Your Eyes

A Photo Guide to the SNCF/TGV Trains at Paris’ CDG Airport

Travel Tips for Passing Through CDG Paris

Look What’s Cooking on Sunday in Paris

France Travel Guide: Living Like a King and Wallace Simpson

Travel Guide France: 5 Things To Do in Montmartre

 

3 days in Paris

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. 

Home in Uzès

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

That’s why many who make their home in Uzès prefer to shop on Wednesdays.

Wednesday Market – The market on Wednesdays in a scaled-down version of the weekend event. Most of the vendors are selling food items that are local to the region. The market is mainly in the Plaza aux Herbes which gives visitors a chance to get a good look at the permanent shops located along the main streets and alleyways. ... (read more here…)

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

No wonder. There are so many things to enjoy seeing in Uzès …  like the Medieval Garden, the Fenestrelle tower, and the Cathedral of Saint Théodorit with it’s classic French organ. Pull out your camera and capture some amazing photos that the people and town provide. Narrow, cobblestone streets lined with 12th century architecture are everywhere.

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”

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

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