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Occitanie region

The Wild, Wonderful Occitanie Region: The Camargue

The Occitanie Region and the Camargue

Aigues-Mortes is at the gateway town to the Occitanie region of the Camargue. The walled city with its history of Kings and crusades is as impressive as its past.“From its earliest days, Aigues-Mortes was significant for its salt fields and its location bordering the Mediterranean Sea. (click here to read more …) 

It was last year’s visit to Aigues-Mortes, however, that made a lasting impression on the Barefoot Blogger. It was the site of my unfortunate accident on Day 8 of the 2018 Memories TourGoing back to the same location a year later was bittersweet. My fall in the street led to a year of pain and recovery. The thought of it, when I retraced the steps, brought me to tears. On a positive note, walking past the spot was a victory. I shared the moment with new friends from this year’s tour. They flanked me on all sides. Nevertheless, I carried a walking stick … just in case!

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Gypsies and Legends

To best visit the Camargue region, there’s nothing quite like a tour by Jeep. In Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, local guides met us to drive through the backroads they know so well. Most of the guides are lifelong residents of the Camargue. But first, a visit to the church of Sarah the Egyptian, revered by Gypsies. Read more here …

Carmargue by Jeep

High on our list of places and things to see on our Camargue safari were the white horses, bulls, and flamencos. The Parc naturel régional de Camargue is between the Mediterranean and the Rhone river delta. One-third of the Camargue is marshland, lagoons, and lakes. The rest is cultivated fields brimming at different times of the year with rice, grapes, and grain. The ecology of the area is unlike any other place in the world. White Camarguais horses roam on open fields with Camargue bulls and all eat natural feed and grasses. Read more here … 

The people of the Camargue are proud of their region, history, and their country. Our driver, Cedric, invited us to a sing-a-long while cruising through the land of horses, bulls, wine, rice, and salt.

 

Flamenco Sighting 

Finding horses and bulls was not such a challenge. Flamencos, on the other hand, were scarce.

Occitanie region

The feathered creatures that grace the marshlands to eat tiny rose-colored shrimp that give the birds their pink hue must have been at the next stop on their flight plan. I must come back. Winter is a very privileged moment since it is at this time that flamingos are the most colorful, and they perform their spectacular “courtship displays.”

 

It’s a sight I hope someday to see.

Sampling the Occitanie Region Foods and Flavors: Camarguaise-style

A quick guide to the foods of the Camargue is the land itself. As you ride through the flatlands, you see rice, vineyards, bulls, and, in some areas, salt hills and lagoons. The area has not always been so productive as today. Conservation and cooperation between the people, the government, and industry have led to an environment where all benefit.

Occitanie region

Our stop for a food tasting allowed us to get “up close and personal” with the locals.

Hills and fields of salt

I’d been looking forward to seeing the salt fields since I learned that the Camargue is the birthplace for fleur de sel. It was hard for me to believe the precious flakes of salt “bloom.” Then they’re harvested. 

Occitanie region

Walking to the top of one of the hills of salt at La Baleine, I had to stop to brush my fingers on the path and taste the salt before I believed it was true. Sometimes the truth seems more unreal than fiction.

What could match a day like this? Wait… there’s more.

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!

hills of the côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 4

When Nice was in its infancy, the hills of the Côte d’Azur were where the poor people lived. The mountainous area with sharp cliffs was remote and without water.

Today, judging by the opulence of the towns that have sprung up, we wish we could be so lucky to live there.

hills of the côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

The views on the drive out of Nice in our comfortable 20 passenger van gave the women of the Memories Tour 2019 a sampling of life on the Riviera as lived by the rich and famous. On one mountain, the chateau of Elton John. On another, the estate of Tina Turner. Imagine the neighborhood parties!

Our first stop was Eze known as the “eagle’s nest” because of its lofty perch 427 metres (1,401 ft) above sea level. The adorable town, dotted with shops and cafes, was quite an uphill climb. The Jardin botanique d’Èze ,with its gardens of succulents and cacti, and its panoramic views of the Mediterranean, made it all worth the effort.

Hills of the côte d’Azure

Hills of the côte d’Azure

 

Hills of the côte d’Azure

 

Hills of the côte d’Azure

Hills of the côte d’Azure

 

Hills of the côte d’Azure

On to Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild...

The lavish home of Charlotte Béatrice de Rothschild,was built between 1905-1912 for the French banking heiress.

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

The rose-colored, Venetian villa, overlooking Cap Ferrat, was a personal project of the Baroness. It is said she meticulously managed every aspect of construction, even though Aaron Messiah, architect of King Leopold of Belgium and designer of Villa Masséna in Nice, was in charge.

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

Gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild 

Baroness Rothschild was a demanding client and a fanatic for detail. When she imagined the villas’ nine gardens, for example, she asked the gardeners to “pretend” they were trees and bushes. They would move around the garden as she directed to create her fantasy of a perfect rose garden, a precise Japanese garden …

Hills of the Côte d’Azur

 

Hills of the cote d’azur

Hills of the cote d’azur

Hills of the cote d’azur

A most entertaining part of visiting the Rothschild gardens is to see the fountains dance as classical music plays throughout the estate.

We’re having so much fun!

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Memories Tour 2019

 

Next stop, Antibes.

Antibes

 

Top Spots in Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

A visit to the most famous city on the Côte d’Azur is exciting enough for most travelers. To really appreciate the top spots in Nice, you need to have a good guide. For the Memories Tour, our guide Stephanie Is one of the best. She’s lived in the city more than 30 years and she’s studied it all.

Top Spots in Nice

Sightseeing on Day 2 in Nice started from our hotel, the Beau Rivage, across the street from the famous “Prom,” or Promenade des Anglais. 

It was a crystal clear day, so the views of the city and the coastline were magnificent. The sea was a brilliant blue, a sharp contrast to the white stones on the beach and the pale, “Riviera-style” architecture along the distant hillside. 

Top Spots in Nice

Promenade des Anglais

Our first stop was for a group photo at the iconic blue chair sculpture.

Memories Tour 2019

Next, a bit of history ..,

Nice

Stephanie tells the history of the 19th century Centenary Monument that commemorates Nice’s annexation to France

 

Top spots in Nice

A symbol of Nice (young girl) embracing France (the armor-glad woman) on the Centenary Monument

 

Top spots in Nice

This modern art statue beside the Promenade was originally not a favorite of the locals. The Mayor convinced them it was a brilliant representation of how the rivers and cultures of the city’s neighboring regions, through the centuries, had come together to form the extraordinary city.

Tourism has been the main industry for Nice for centuries. Many of the famous people who lived here, like Matisse, Chekhov, and Marc Chagall, came for their health and the clean air.  Italy, for example, had “bad air” because of the coal industry. 

Top spots in Nice

Old town Nice. Matisse lived at the house at the end of the street. Both Matisse and Chekhov once resided at the Beau Rivage which is at the entrance to this street.

Although much of Nice was destroyed through the years prior to the 1600s, the tie with Italy through the years is strongly visible, from the architecture to the food.

Top spots in Nice

 

Nice

 

Top spots in Nice

Place Masséna, towered over by Apollo, is the public square between old and new parts of Nice

Top Spots in Nice to Dine

Along our tour route, one of our guests, Cheryl Jamison, broke away to run into La Merenda to make reservations for lunch. The restaurant of Michelin Star chef Dominique Le Stanc is one of our food expert and talk show host’s top spots in Nice to dine when she’s here from Sante Fe.Top Spots in Nice

 

Top spots in Nice

Chef Dominique Le Stanc

chef Dominique Le Stanc

Daube à la Niçoise 

Top Spots in Nice by Bus

An extraordinary lunch at La Merenda was followed by a hop-on-hop off bus ride out and about Nice.

Top spots in Nice

Top of the bus view out of Nice to Villefranche Sur Mer

Top spots in Nice

Port of Nice

 

Top spots in Nice

Top Spots in Nice On Your Own

After a packed day of sightseeing, the tour gals were on their own to play in Nice. Some of the daring took to the skies…

Top spots in Nice

Parasailing is not included on the tour, but while in Nice … some couldn’t resist!

Top spots in Nice

 

Tomorrow…there’s more! 

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

If you’ve been to Paris before, you might not want to see the Eiffel Tower every time you return. This visit to Paris, I chose to stay in Montmartre. In just two days I got a taste of the town. And I loved it! Now I have my favorite 5 to do’s in Montmartre.

5 To Do's in MontmartreI confess, I’ve been to Montmartre before. A night at the Moulin Rouge was high on the “must do” list when I was a twenty-something in Paris for the first time with college friends. In the 60s it was pretty raunchy.  I stood in the line and walked through the  Sacré Coeur Cathedral many years later.

So what do you do in Montmartre if you’ve been to the Moulin Rouge and Sacré Coeur? Plenty!

 

5 To Do’s in Montmartre

#1  Cooking Class

Travel Guide France

Cook’n with Class Paris

Go to a cooking class at Cook’n with Class Paris. If it’s a Sunday, all the better. The Sunday Market Class includes shopping at the city market. Then you go back to the school to prepare a sumptuous meal with all the fresh ingredients. Read all about the fun experience — click here.

#2 Enjoy the Scenery

Even on a cloudy day, Montmartre is charming. Check out the patisseries and cafes along the way.

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Who knows who you’ll run into? My good buddy and playwright, Silver Wainhouse! She lives near me in Uzès and she was in town for the day. 

Travel Guide France

#3 Eat the food

Take your time to find just the right spot to have lunch or a snack. I mean, is there anything quite as good as French Onion Soup — in France?  Pair that with a glass of your favorite wine and you’re just about in heaven.

Travel Guide France

One day, wandering around near Pigalle, what should appear? Le Chat Noir. Right out of a Toulouse Lautrec poster.

5 To Do's in Montmartre

Le Chat Noir

I expected Picasso or Toulouse to walk in any moment. Surely they would enjoy the cafe’s Paysanne salad — filled with duck magret and gizzards. I did!

#4 Climb the hill to Sacrè Couer

Go ahead. Even if you’ve been to the Sacrè Couer, do it again.  The views are spectacular. Yes, it’s quite a hike to the top, but there’s a lift and a small train that can take you up. If you’re around on a weekend, plan to have a coffee and croissant while sitting at a cafe near where the artists hang out. You might even snag a painting at a good price. It’s what memories are made of.
5 to do's in Montmartre

Imagine yourself here…

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5 to do's in Montmartre

Travel Guide France

Musée de Montmartre

#5 Visit Musée de Montmartre

If you want to take a trip through Montmartre’s past — to actually see where artists, writers and sculptors such as Renoir, Émile Bernard, Suzanne Valadon, Pierre Reverdy and Demetrius Galanis actually lived and worked, visit the Musée de Montmartre. It’s tucked away on a side street at the top of Montmartre and it’s worth the stop.

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Would I stay in Montmartre again? Absolutely! 

I don’t always “plug” a place that I stay when I’m traveling, but I have to give a big shout out to Le Grey Hotel. The boutique hotel is so convenient to everything I wanted to see and do on my short stay. The staff is extremely friendly and helpful. The breakfast is fresh, tasty and served late into the morning. And there is a bar and sitting room that’s cozy and inviting.

Next stop: Living Like A Royal!
Travel Guide France

Learn to Cook Provençal

Learn to Cook Mediterranean with a French Pro

One thing I dreamed about before moving to France was to attend a cooking class in Paris. Little did I know that my wish would come true —  without leaving the little town of Uzès. Chef Eric Fraudeau of Cook’n with Class Paris has a cooking school right down the road — Cook’n with Class Uzès. Now I can learn to cook Mediterranean, too!

Learn to Cook Mediterranean 

It’s exciting to know you’re learning to cook with one of the best. With over 20 years of experience as a chef in acclaimed hotels and restaurants such as the five-star Hotel de Paris MonacoChef Eric Fraudeau has a background few chefs can claim. His early career includes working in the kitchen with both Robuchon and Ducasse.

Chef Fraudeau’s schoolCook’n with Class Uzès, specializes in Provençal & Mediterranean Cuisine — the foods people in the south of France love to eat and often serve in their homes. Classes offered include “French Market Class” and “Cook’n with Fish – Fish and Seafood class.” On market days the Chef and students go shopping together in either of two neighboring towns, Uzès (Wednesday) or San Quentin de la Poterie (Tuesday and Friday). They return to the class kitchen to create and enjoy a meal from the day’s best finds.

“Cook’n with Fish” sounded like the best choice for me, especially since fish is one of my favorite foods. What better way to learn how to prepare seafood Mediterranean-style than from an expert?

“Fish day” Menu

Apéro

Garlic and basil spread, olives, pâtébrandade

Entrée

Pissaladière (a classic Niçoise specialty that’s like a pizza)

Plat

Poulpe (octopus) salad with basil, olives, and capers

Sea bream with fennel, mussels and saffron sauce

Cheeses

Dessert

Paris-Deauville

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Prepping the food

For our Provençal & Mediterranean dinner on “fish day,” some ingredients were more intimidating than others. Squid? Octopus? They’re great to eat, but how to cook them? I was in the right place.

Everything was laid out before us when we came into the chef’s kitchen. One by one, the ingredients morphed into a pissaladière, a sauce, a salad, a lovely fish dish, a dessert. Chef Eric, along with his guest, Chef Patrick, from the Paris school, stood by to guide and instruct us.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Here are just a few of the tips from the day’s lesson:

Tip #1: Anchovies melt! Who knew? The steps for the pissaladière called for us to slice and brown onions, then add anchovies. Did you know that anchovies melt? They actually disappear when they are heated and stirred into a recipe.

Tip #2: Boil oranges? Chef Eric surprised us all when he popped two oranges from off the counter into a saucepan of water … to boil. “Organic oranges only,” he said. “We’re going to use the rind and all,” he added. The oranges, after they were soft enough from boiling, were going into a blender, then into the batter for the cake we were preparing for dessert.

Tip #3:  How to clean mushrooms. Chanterelles, which are known as “girolles” in France, were spread out on the kitchen counter in all their yellow splendor. Never having “properly” cleaned a mushroom, I was anxious to hear what the Chef would suggest. He recommended that we use our fingers to brush off the dirt, followed by a quick wipe with a paper towel. He said he finds this way of cleaning mushrooms easier than using a brush. It means one less utensil in the kitchen drawer, too.

Tip #4: How to fillet a fish

During a gourmet tour of Sète, Nancy McGee from “Absolutely Southern France” taught me how to filet a cooked whole fish, served at the table. To filet a fish to cook, do it the same way.

Tip #5: How to “fix” a cooking mistake?

Every chef has his secrets and, for this cooking class, Chef Eric and Chef Patrick were willing to share everything, including how to recover from making a mistake. According to Chef Eric, almost every cooking error can be resolved.

We watched one “mistake” happen when the “mayonnaise” for the rouille separated.

Rouille” is a creamy, garlicky sauce that’s commonly found in the south of France. You can prepare and serve it in many different ways, including as a main course. For our meal, rouille was a side dish.

While preparing the rouille, someone (not me, thank goodness) combined the ingredients too quickly. The sauce curdled. Chef Patrick “fixed it” by working with small bits of the mixture at a time. He pushed a little of the rouille to one side of the bowl, then dropped in an egg — yolk and all. The chef whipped the egg and rouille by hand. Little by little, he incorporated the “bad” mix into the “good,” until it all was a perfect consistency.

Chef Patrick says you can do the same with chocolate if it “goes to seed.”

Tip #6: French etiquette

To cook with “class” in France you should know about French etiquette. There are “rules” on how to serve, eat, toast, and drink. For example, before a toast, with drinks in hand, you must look at each person straight in the eyes. It may take a little longer to take that first sip, but taking the time to do it right will make a lasting impression.

Learn to Cook Mediterranean

Déjeuner/Diner is served

Déjeuner, or “lunch” is served mid-day in France. Until the 1960s, déjeuner was the big meal of the day. Families would gather at home for a two-hour break from work or school and sit down for a multi-course meal prepared by the mother. With changing times, many mothers work today. Everyone still takes a two-hour break; but, the mid-day meal is abbreviated to something much lighter, and not everyone comes home to eat.

“Dîner,” or dinner, is seldom served before 7:30pm. If it is the main meal, and especially on weekends and holidays, dîner can last three to four hours. Starting with the apéro, each course is served with complimentary wines, spirits, apéritifs, and digestifs.

The Cook’n With Class menu was designed for a typical main meal. Call it “dejeuner” or “diner.”

When all the cooking and the lessons were done, Chef Eric invited us to gather around the side table for our apéro course. We toasted each other with tall flutes of champagne. Moving over to a large, beautifully appointed dining table where we sat, we were served the entrée course, or starter — the pissaladière.  The main course (“plat”) with “accompaniment” (side dishes) followed.

Just when we thought we had eaten enough to literally explode, a wooden platter with an assortment of soft and hard cheeses was passed around — a custom in French dining. Next, dessert — the heavenly “boiled orange” cake with chocolate ganache flowing on top.

Now that a bit of the mystery of Provençal & Mediterranean cooking has been revealed, I feel a little friendlier toward raw octopus and squid. Perhaps a visit to Cook’n with Class Paris will take the fear out of wine and cheese pairings … or unveil the magic of macaroons. Today Uzès, next time in Paris. Oh, be still my heart!

 

 

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.

 

 

 

CDG Airport

Lost at CDG: How to Find Your Airport Hotel

Have you ever been lost at CDG Airport (Charles de Gaulle) trying to find your way to the hotel where you’ve reserved a room? I have. 

When I head back to the US from Uzés for my family visits, I try to stay at a hotel at CDG the night before the flight. It’s my way of dealing with travel stress. Until this trip, however, I’ve been lost trying to find the way to the hotel. More stress…

This time I was determined to figure it out. It couldn’t be that hard. Besides, what else was I going to do to spend the 24 hours before my next day flight to Atlanta? So I walked slowly through the train station; I read all the signs; and I took photos along the way. Now, if I forget next visit, hopefully, this will help.

Here we go … from the CDG trains (Gare) to one of these airport hotels: Citizen M, Hilton, Novotel or Ibis (If you’re staying at a CDG hotel other than these, I’m afraid this guide won’t help you.)

lost at CDG

 

lost at CDG

Trains arrive at CDG on this lower level. Ride the escalator up to the next level. If you have too many bags for the escalator, walk behind it, and you’ll see signs for the elevator (Ascenseur)

 

lost at CDG

At the top of the escalator

 

lost at CDG

Enter the terminal

 

lost at CDG

You’re here. Now look for the escalator to your left.

 

lost at CDG

Take this escalator up to the level with the big blue display board.

 

lost at CDG

 

lost at CDG

Look at the second sign, the one on the left. It’s showing you the way to the airport shuttle … see close up below.

 

lost at CDG

Airport shuttle sign looks like a little train on a track. Follow the sign and go left here.

 

lost at CDG

Up the escalator

 

lost at CDG

On this level, it gets a little confusing. Relax. Look to your right for the hallway with signs that have the little train on the track. That’s the way to the airport shuttle.

 

lost at CDG

Down again

You’ve made it to the shuttle. But there are two tracks … and everyone’s in a hurry…which way to go??? Here’s a little secret … you can’t go the wrong way!! Both shuttles go back and forth along the same route. 

lost at CDG

If you go the wrong way, sit back and relax. You’ll get to the right stop… Roissypôle.

lost at CDG

 

You’re almost there! But it does continue to be a bit confusing. There’s a lot of construction going on at Roissypôle.

Roissypôle

Exit the terminal. An IBIS hotel is right there. For others,  look for a sign to the left of where the buses are stationed.

 

Roissypôle

Hotel sign!

 

Citizen M at CDG

There it is! My favorite … Citizen M. The Hilton and others are off this same walkway.

 

Citizen M at CDG

Citizen M

 

Citizen M at CDG

At Citizen M, there’s always a friendly, welcoming host to meet you.

 

For more about “lost at CDG” and help navigating around the airport and train station: Finding Your Way Through Paris’ CDG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brocante July 14th in Uzès

July 14th in Uzès

Looking back one of my first “Bastille Day” celebrations in France, not much has changed in the way we prep for July 14th in Uzès.

The carpark is filled with brocante dealers …

 

July 14th in Uzès

 

 

The partying hasn’t started … but here’s a look back at 2014. Wherever you are, party like it’s July 14th!

(Follow the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to get in on today”s fun in Uzès)

 

Brocante Uzes, France

What’s  happening July 14th in Uzes?

I set out with my camera to see how the French celebrate in this small village.

It’s all about family, food, dancing and fireworks. This year, it was also about brocante.

A hundred or more brocante dealers showed off their best wares in the town’s parking lot — a beautiful spot overlooking the valley.

Brocante in Uzes, France

Brocante in Uzes, France

 

Uzes

China, pottery, porcelain treasures galore.

 

Uzes

Colorful wares and colorful brocante dealers.

 

uzes

El Toro for your man cave?

 

uzes

Perfect gift or the man who has everything.

 

Brocante Uzes, France

 

Uzes

Every man’s junk is someone’s treasure.

 

Cafes in town were packed with visitors, couples and families eating, drinking and enjoying their long weekend holiday.

Uzes, France July 14

 

All waiting for the music and dancing …

Uzes France July 14, 2014

And the fireworks.

firework1

 Facts about the July 14th French holiday:

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

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

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

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

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

The French Revolution of 1787 is considered by historians as a major step towards establishing the concept of “independent republics.” The world saw the uprising of the people of France as an example to create their own political change;The French, however, were anything but “independent” afterward. They enduring years of terror led by Roperpeare’s government; and later, a military empire led by Napolean.  It was the Third Republic in 1870 that gave way to national elections and political parties in France.

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

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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

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

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

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

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

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

Canal du Midi Cruise

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

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

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

Port of Origin: Marseillan

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

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

Aboard the Athos Canal du Midi Luxury Barge

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

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

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

 

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Dinner is served!

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

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

Athos Canal du Midi Cruise

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

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

 

Wish for France

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

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

Relocation Seminar and Tours

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relocating to France

 

relocating to France

 

Wish for France

Travel Corsica: From Sea to Snow-Capped Mountains

You have to Travel Corsica to believe how much the terrain of an island can change within a short drive.

The contrast between Corsica’s coastline with soft-curvy coves and the island’s mountain region with snow-capped mountains is remarkable.

 

With a week to visit the French island, I thought it would be a simple task to drive to the major towns — Bastia, Ajaccio, Corte, Calvi, Saint Florent, Porto Vecchio and Bonifacio. Not so. Now I’ve learned you measure the distance between towns in Corsica by hours, not miles.  Most roads are narrow and winding and go through populated towns and/or commercial areas. It can take you two hours to travel 15 miles (25km). That’s why I ended up seeing only a portion of the southern half of the island.

…and because I spent half the time at the beach or in the swimming pool. The Travel Corsica trip was a beach holiday, too.

 

Travel Corsica SouthTravel Corsica

Most of my time in Corsica was spent in the southern part of the island at the beaches around Porto Vecchio and in the town of Bonifacio. One day I took the mountainous route through the Corsica Regional Nature Park and visited Corte. Another day, Sartene. The scenery in each of the places could not have been more different.

The Beaches

The beaches in Corsica have everything I could ever wish for.  You can sit on a blanket in the sand or lounge on a chair at a private beach. (I’m the “on a lounge chair, under an umbrella, near a restaurant with fabulous seafood” type.)  With temperatures 10-15 degrees cooler than in Uzes when I left, the beach weather was perfect.  Beachside lunches of grilled sardines one day and tuna tartare the next day made this fish lover more than happy.

Let me not forget the wine from Corsica,  It’s devine…and incredibly affordable.  There are nine AOC wine regions in Corsica and more than thirty grape varieties. 

Needless to say, a wine tour of Corsica is something I won’t miss on my next trip.

 

Bonifacio – Corsica’s Oldest Town

Travel CorsicaMy first impression of Bonifacio was that it is not only a bustling tourist city, it’s also a busy port. As a matter of fact, there are three ports in Bonifacio — a fishing port, a pleasure port and a travel port. It is said that Bonifacio is the busiest port in France. The marina at the entrance of town is where the sea-based activities such as yachting and diving are centered . From the travel port, ships go in and out to nearby islands and to Sardinia which is less than 10 miles away.

As I walked toward the city on the hill,  I couldn’t resist taking photos along the way. 

Travel Corsica

In the distance was the 9th century Citadel standing prominently at the top of Bonifacio’s vieille ville (old town) or la Haute Ville (the Upper city). Through the years most of the citizens of Bonafacio lived in the old town, protected by the fortified Citadel. Today residents are scattered along the harbor and in new housing areas below the old city. Those who live on the most southern part of the city are perched on a cliff that plunges 230 feet (70 meters) to the sea.

Travel Corsica

As I walked through the gates of the old city, onto the cobblestone streets, there were narrow passageways, tiny shops, and dozens of cafes.

 

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Not too far away was the Citadel and remains of the old town’s fortifications. The Citadel has been rebuilt and repurposed many times since its construction. Today parts of it are used as a museum. 

 

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After seeing the city from the top, a boat ride to view it from the sea was a must. 

Travel Corsica Regional Nature Park

High above the sea is Corsica’s Regional Nature Park. The protected area covers over 1300 square miles (3,500 square km) of the the islanda — approximately 40% of its total surface.  Established to preserve the island’s natural wildlife, the success of the project can be witnessed by the numbers of  golden eagles, bearded vultures, boars, deer and wildcats that flourish in the environment.

 

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Corte – Corsica’s Early Capital

High in the mountains of Corsica is the colorful town of Corte and, like a beacon on a hill, its towering Citadel .

Travel Corsica

Corte, Corsica

Corte was my favorite place to visit in Corsica. It’s mountainous setting and its houses and buildings painted in bright orange, yellow and red colors made the small town unique and inviting.

 

Corte had a fairytale feeling about it. 

 

I could hardly believe I was seeing this man hanging out of his window. He waved as he saw me take the photo. 

 

Here are more of my favorite views of Corte.

 

Sartene – Pirates and Bandits 

Sartene was on my Tour Corsica list because of a story about pirates I wanted to track down. Supposedly pirates kidnapped people of the town; carried them away on their pirate ships; and they were never found or heard of again. I couldn’t find any evidence of the tale, but I did find an interesting museum with artifacts from the days of Romans.

 

I also enjoyed roaming through the streets, shopping and taking in the scenery.Travel Corsica

 

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Only a short drive away from Sartene I was at the sea again. Tucked away in a cozy cove was L’Escale with more gorgeous fish. 

 

Now you know why I must return to Tour Corsica. There’s so much more. So much to see. So much to do!

Today’s French Lesson: “Parler de l’Amour”

It’s St. Valentine’s Day. What better time to learn French, the language of love?

In French class today at IS Aix-en-Provence we dove into a treasure chest of words and phrases the French use to express their feelings of love.

Would your heart go pitter-patter if your loved one called you “ma Puce” (my Flea)?

If someone said “avoir un cœur d’artichaut*” is it a compliment?

(*fall in love easily)

French the love language

I was surprised to be told that perfume tops the gift list for Saint Valentine’s Day in France, not a heart-shaped box of chocolates. Flowers are always good. Lingerie is even better –in red, of course.

Restaurants and cafes are packed for the occasion. Boulangeries are stacked with heart-shaped, chocolate-filled, cream-puffed, decadent delicacies of every description.

“Croyez-vous au coup de foudre?” Do you believe in love at first sight?

I do.

Click here for information on the French language school IS Aix-en-Provence

South of France Memories Tour 2019: Only 4 Spots Left!

Sign up now for the South of France holiday you’ll never forget.

While the Barefoot Blogger has been distracted with a move to a new apartment in Uzes and NO wifi, my friend and cohort Patricia Sands has been busy gathering our next new best friends for the 2019 South of France Memories You Promised Yourself Tour 2019. 

Only 4 Spots Left!!

We’ve done all the trip planning.

The “South of France Memories” tour itinerary was created by one of the top experts in travel in the south of France — Absolutely Southern France. It is designed for all travelers — veterans and novices.  Our itinerary includes some of the most visited places in the south of France — and some that are just getting on the travel radar. From the Côte d’Azur to village markets to historic towns to wild life sanctuaries, we’ll experience it all.

Here’s an overview of the destinations for our 2019 women’s tour. It includes 12 days of exploring, touring, eating, drinking and making new friends. For all the facts and cost, click here.

  • Stroll the seaside Promenade des Anglais in Nice and tour the colorful city
  • Meander through cobblestone streets of Saint Paul de Vence, filled with history, galleries and charming shops
  • Discover Eze and the spectacular gardens of Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild
  • Explore the ancient harbor town Antibes, Patricia’s home away from home
  • Walk in Cézanne’s footsteps in Aix en Provence
  • Savor vibrant, trendy Sète and a culinary adventure
  • Live in Arles among roman treasures, world-renowned  architecture and the spirit  of Van Gogh
  • Enjoy a safari to observe the Camargue’s unique flora, fauna and rose-colored salt marshes
  • Experience market day in St Remy de Provence & the spectacular Carrières de Lumières in les Baux de Provence
  • Peek into the Barefoot Blogger’s world in Uzés, Pont du Gard
  • Join harvest time and taste the wine

Life is short.

Sometimes you have to get packing and make memories you promised yourself.

visit the south of France

 

 

Much Ado About French Truffles in Uzès

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

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

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

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

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

Join me on this video tour and see for yourself.

Better yet, join me next year in Uzès!

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

More about Truffles

Homage to a Truffle Hunting Pig

Mystical, Magical Truffles: Alba’s White Truffle Festival

Moving to France Healthcare

Moving to France: Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s the story …

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

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

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

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

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

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

French Healthcare: Hospital Admission

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

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

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

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

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

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

French Healthcare: Surgery

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

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

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

French Healthcare: Post Surgery

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving to France Healthcare

My hospital room with Chantal

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

Moving to France Healthcare

A fabulous nurse and aide at Carémeau Hospital

French Healthcare: Rehab

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

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

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

Moving to France Healthcare

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

French Healthcare: Cost

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

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

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

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

There is no charge for emergency services in France.

Let that sink in.

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

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

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

Next: US Healthcare “A comparison”

Stay tuned for Part 2 …..

For More on French Healthcare for Expats Contact Renestance

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