Bonjour and welcome to the latest edition
of The Good Life France Magazine.
As I write this, France is still on a virtual
lockdown and people can’t travel here
to enjoy its many charms from historic
cities to pretty villages and the wonderful
gastronomy. And we’re still not sure
when things will be back to normal. The
hospitality business is suffering terribly
and everyone is hoping that things will
get better soon and we can welcome
back our family, friends and much valued
In the meantime, we’re hoping to keep
your France dreams alive and this issue
covers gorgeous Annecy in Haute-Savoie,
Brocélliande – Merlin’s Forest in Brittany
and a corner of bucolic paradise close to
Paris – the lovely Vallée de Chevreuse.
Provence lovers will adore our 4 Seasons
of Provence feature, a photographic
essay that had me dreaming of packing
a bag and heading straight to the south
of France from my little pigsty office in
rural northern France. The sunny city of
Pau, the beautiful Basque region, Canal
du Midi and the French Riviera are also
featured. And I hope that these articles
bring back happy memories or help you
plan a trip in the future for that happy
day when we can travel again.
There are loads of luscious recipes and
we take a look at the gastronomy of
Touraine in the Loire Valley in the shadow
of some of the greatest castles ever
And for those who live in France or want
to live in France – there’s plenty of inspiration
in the practical section.
Something for every Francophile.
You’ll find me every day on Facebook,
Twitter and Instagram and I love to chat
to you there. And every week I send out
a newsletter, weekly whimsies someone
called them. Feel free to join me for your
Wishing you and yours well.
Bisous from France,
Bonjour and welcome to the latest edition of
The Good Life France Magazine.
As I write this, France is planning to reopen
and though people can’t travel yet to enjoy
its many charms from historic cities to pretty
villages and the wonderful gastronomy,
hopefully it won’t be too much longer.
The hospitality business is suffering terribly,
and everyone is hoping that things will get
better soon, and we can welcome back our
family, friends and much valued visitors.
In the meantime, we’re hoping to keep your France dreams alive and this issue
covers gorgeous Annecy in Haute-Savoie, Brocélliande – Merlin’s Forest in Brittany
and a corner of bucolic paradise close to Paris – the lovely Vallée de Chevreuse.
Provence lovers will adore our 4 Seasons of Provence feature, a photographic essay
that had me dreaming of packing a bag and heading straight to the south of France
from my little pigsty office in rural northern France. The sunny city of Pau, the
beautiful Basque region, Canal du Midi and the French Riviera are also featured. And
I hope that these articles bring back happy memories or help you plan a trip in the
future for that happy day when we can travel again.
There are loads of luscious recipes and we take a look at the gastronomy of Touraine
in the Loire Valley in the shadow of some of the greatest castles ever created.
And for those who live in France or want to live in France – there’s plenty of
inspiration in the practical section. Something for every Francophile.
You’ll find me every day on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and I love to chat to
you there. And every week I send out a newsletter, weekly whimsies someone called
them. Feel free to join me for your French fix.
Wishing you and yours well.
Bisous from France,
8 Spotlight on: Annecy
A-list Annecy, cultural, friendly and
absolutely gorgeous. Janine Marsh
explores the Venice of the Alps…
24 Slow Travel: Basque
Uncover the charms of slow travel in the
Basque Country says Sue Aran
32 City Focus: Pau
Capital of the historic Béarn, elegant Pau
stands beneath the Pyrenees. Or does it,
wonders Gillian Thornton
42 Vallée de Chevreuse
Melissa Barndon explores the charming
countryside of the Chevreuse Valley, a
fairy tale-like landscape on the outskirts
54 The 4 Seasons of Provence
Photographer Helen Leather captures the
charms of Provence through the seasons
and shares her favourite places…
60 The Canal du Midi
Andrea Hoffman explores the fascinating
history of the UNESCO listed canal
66 Brocelliande, Brittany
Kevin Pilley wanders through a wizard’s
woods and finds it’s truly magical
72 Winston Churchill’s French
Artist Paul Rafferty was inspired to
follow in Winston Churchill’s paint brush
80 Your Photos
The most popular photos on our
106 Notes from a pigsty
Meeting Madame and Monsieur
84 My Life in France
Joanna Leggett reveals a few of her
86 Life in Auvergne Rhone Alps
Local agent Carol Lobertreau looks at
property and life in the Alps
90 Finance in France
Jennie Poate says that British expats
should review their finances post Brexit
92 Digital banking in France
Credit Agricole explains how technology
is transforming banking in France
96 Travel with your taste buds to
Chateaux, gateaux and the gastronomy of
Where to eat out at some of the most
beautiful castles in the Loire Valley and
some truly spectacular recipes for a taste of
29 Basque Cheesecake
99 Brouillade aux truffes de Touraine –
an eggy delight
101 Cormery Macarons – irresistible
103 Nougat of Tours – a seriously
105 Roasted Scallops with saffron
butter sauce – need we say more?
Annecy city guide
Annecy City Guide
Annecy is everything a French alpine
city should be – fairy tale pretty, historic,
cultural, friendly and utterly delicious.
Janine Marsh falls head over heels for the
“Venice of the Alps”…
‘’Now I have been happy. Now I have lived.’’
18th century French philosopher and writer Jean Jacques Rousseau
on seeing Lake Annecy.
If there was a contest for France’s most
beautiful city, I’m pretty sure Annecy
would be at the top of the list. Its charms
are, quite simply, irresistible.
At the heart of it is a crystal clear lake,
and, surrounded by majestic mountains,
you’re never far from nature here.
Winding canals cross its historic cobbled
streets and flow under picturesque
bridges, past ancient churches and
ancient buildings. There are beautiful
beaches French riviera style, activities
galore, fabulous restaurants and great
Annecy’s old town
Annecy is used to having superlatives
thrown at it “one of the most beautiful
towns in France” – tick. “One of most
floral cities in France” – tick. European
capital of outdoor sports – tick.
The light in Annecy is like nowhere
else, it has a purity that I’ve never seen
The city is quite ridiculously photogenic
and there are sites galore to make you
Canals, bridges and little cobbled streets.
Terraced cafes, beautiful old buildings
and a medieval castle. Les Jardins de
l’Europe, an elegant park on the edge of
And of course the famous Palais d’Île,
a former prison and probably the most
iconic site in the city.
And all this with a backdrop of snow
What not to miss in Annecy
This is a city that’s made for flaneurs
– that French word which has no
real equivalent in English but is often
translated as to wander. It means so
much more. It means to wander in a
leisurely way, to soak up the ambiance,
to see the sights – Annecy is a flaneur’s
dream town. And, it is the best way to
get to know this place, simply wander,
get lost in its flower-filled streets, take
a break at a café, enjoy a leisurely lunch,
walk some more, stop for aperitifs, walk
some more, relax over dinner and fall in
love with this pretty city.
Get up early to see the Pont d’Amour at
its best. There is a myth that says that
if two lovers kiss on the bridge, they
will stay together forever. That aside,
you have the most beautiful views over
the lake and into the city as the water
flows gently under the bridge. Watch the
sun come up and light up the water, it’s
rays spiking over the tree lined quays,
stroking the rooftops of the city and
through the stained glass windows of the
14th century church of Saint-Maurice,
the oldest in Annecy.
You can’t miss the 12th century Palais
de L’Île in the middle of the Thiou
Canal which has recently undergone
a restoration. It is now an interesting
museum you can visit to discover its
history as a fort, prison, school…
Climb a small mountain to reach the
medieval Château d’Annecy, now a
museum and exhibition venue. There are
marvellous views over the town from the
“My god it’s beautiful”
Napoleon III on seeing Lake Annecy
Take a detour to Talloires
I took a taxi boat across the lake and was
dropped off at the pontoon of Auberge
du Père Bise, a legendary hotel/2
Michelin Star restaurant in Talloires, a
tranquil medieval village. It was a bit of
a Grace Kelly moment in that I felt like
a princess and a celebrity! The wind
wooshed through my hair as the sun
was setting and we sped across the still
I drank in the sights – a castle on the
edge of the lake, birds flying overhead,
the mountains turning dark as the light
fell. It’s expensive but one of those
experiences that are rarely bettered.
After a wine tasting session with one
of France’s most famous sommeliers at
the divine Abbaye de Talloires Hotel/
Restaurant was followed by dinner at
1903, the bistro of Auberge du Père Bise
where star chef Jean Sulpice came out to
say hello and ask if I enjoyed my meal.
“Enjoy it Monsieur le Chef” I said, “that
is one of the best meals of my life” and I
If you’re staying in Annecy it’s easy to get
around on foot or by bus. You can also
hide a bike and take a guided tour - book
at the tourist office. And there’s one of
those very French little train tours.
Outside of Annecy a car is pretty much
“Lake Annecy. It’s a revelation, it’s a
miracle. It is so enchanting that you have
tears in your eyes... It stretches out under
the caressing sun, bordered by majestic
waters in Europe. Filtered and
pumped into buildings in the
area it tastes delicious.
Before you go worrying about
pesky mosquitoes, put all
such thoughts aside. There
are none here. There are
two canals in Annecy which
run into the lake, and in the
1960s the then Mayor had
them lined with concrete
leaving the mosquitoes
unable to breed. Twice a
year the canals are emptied
and cleaned which ensures
no pests and very clean
water flowing into the lake,
fed by melted snow on the
mountains, a body of water radiating
blue one could not be more divine. Its
waters include all the blues… so beautiful
that it risks breaking your heart.” Mark
I can give you some facts about
Lake Annecy – 14.6km long, 50km
circumference, up to 82m deep. It was
created some 18000 years ago by melted
glaciers and is the second biggest lake in
France. But that doesn’t tell you anything
about the reality of Lake Annecy – it is
one of the most beautiful lakes in the
The water is turquoise coloured when
the sun comes out, more like the
Caribbean than southeast France. This
is due to the plankton at the bottom
of the lake which contains the cleanest
The lake has three main types
of fish, much prized by locals.
Fishing is strictly controlled
so if you want to find a
restaurant serving authentic
Lake Annecy fish, ask at the
tourist office for details.
You can swim in it and it has man-made
beaches where you can relax and make
like you’re in the Mediterranean. You can
even dive in it, there’s a cruise ship wreck
site close to the Imperial Palace Hotel
suitable for experienced divers but you
can also take a beginners course in the
It takes about an hour to drive all the
way round the lake, by bike it takes 4-5
hours and if you don’t fancy a hard slog,
hire an e-bike. There’s a great cycle path
all the way round and it is absolutely
worth the trip, maybe even staying
overnight somewhere en route since
you’ll pass through some lovely little
Veyrier-le-Lac just 5km from Annecy is
known to the locals as the “Savoyard
Emerald Coast”, it’s a very pretty
village and home to several excellent
restaurants overlooking the lake.
A little further on you’ll arrive in
Menthon-Saint-Bernard, another pretty
village with a 1000 year old fairy-tale
castle in which a Saint was born and
whose descendants still live there. It’s a
fascinating place to visit with exquisite
views over the lake and gorgeous
gardens. Read more about it here
Then there’s the truly scrumptious village
of Talloires with its ancient abbey, now a
hotel and restaurant with one of the best
sommeliers in France. Read more about it
Don’t miss lovely Doussard, a tiny little
village of astonishing beauty which is
the gateway to the Massif des Bauges
Mountains and as pretty a place as you’re
ever likely to see.
Go further on and you’ll arrive at Duingt,
nicknamed the pearl of Lake Annecy,with
its gorgeous chateaux – yes two of them,
turrets peaking over the trees as the
snowy mountain peaks soar into the sky
I love French markets. I’ve been to
hundreds but I can truthfully say, I would
go to Annecy for the market alone.
There’s been a market here for centuries,
going back to the middle ages. Every
Tuesday, Friday and Sunday morning
stalls are set up and the streets fill with
I arrived around 7am on a beautiful
autumn morning with the dawn sun
rising slowly over the mountains,
warming the air. I watched mesmerised
as a man in a beret cycled past, an old
lady pulled a trolley over the cobbles, a
baker bought out a tray of still steaming
croissants, the scent carried on the air.
Beautiful displays of vegetables and fruit,
bread and cakes, cheese and chocolate,
artisan gifts, baskets and more, were laid
out along the ancient streets and over
the bridges. This really is a market to fall
in love with.
Make like the locals and enjoy a hot
chocolate or coffee at the Buvette de
Marché, the oldest café in Annecy.
20 Rue Sainte-Claire, 74000 Annecy.
Eat: There are many reasons to go to
Annecy and one that might be less wellknown
(for now, get in quick while you
can) is gastronomy. Fresh fish from the
lake, alpine cheeses, locally grown wines,
génépi – a sort of gin/absinthe hybrid
liqueur with a kick, farms galore, numerous
artisan producers, chefs drawn to
the amazing array of seasonal produce,
saffron is grown in the valleys as well as
other herbs including cumin and dill.
It’s not easy to pick just three restaurants
to highlight in this gastronomic city, but:
Above: La Brasserie Irma
Lunch: Midget, Cave à Manger, is the
perfect place for a light lunch tapas style,
and a glass of wine. Run by sommeliers
Benjamin and Karin it’s friendly, local and
4 Quai Madame de Warens
Dinner: Whatever you do, don’t miss
the locals favourite: La Brasserie Irma,
Bocuse Brasserie. Yes that Bocuse.
Irma, the mother of legendary French
chef Paul Bocuse was born in Annecy
and lived here before moving to Lyon.
The fabulous restaurant which opened
in 2020, nestles on the edge of Lake
Annecy with wonderful views.
It’s the locals favourite secret. You can
get a takeaway for a feast on the beach
opposite, enjoy aperitifs on a pontoon
in the lake, relax in the garden or dine
inside the bright interior. The food is
Avenue du Petit Port
Wine and Dine: Feel like a celeb and
take a river taxi across the lake at sunset
to eat like a lord at restaurant 1903.
Aperitifs: There’s so much choice but
the locals tip is to head to the pretty rue
Coffee: Aux Roseaux du Lac famous
for its chocolate-coffee roseaux (reeds)
6, rue du Lac
Taste of Annecy at home:
A few recipes to whet your appetite
Gateau de Savoie
Around and about
Visit the 1000 year old Chateau de
Lake Annecy. A saint was born here and
his descendants still live here. Read more
Take a detour to Thones, just 20km
from Annecy (about 30mins by bus) this
buzzing, vibrant mountain town will
give you a flavour of village life half way
between the city and the resorts of the
Aravis Massif, the Annecy mountains.
Go on a Saturday to enjoy the market
and if you’re lucky enough to be
there when the food festival is on,
first weekend of September – you’re
in for a serious treat. Tourist office:
Make for Manigod, 5km from Thones.
An impossibly beautiful mountain village
with the most astonishing views. Read
Faverges just 25km from Annecy is a
fascinating little town with a wonderful
Wednesday morning market.
The town is in a glacial valley which gave
birth to Lake Annecy. In the summer the
area holds a Festival des Cabanes, arty
cabins dotted throughout the exquisite
countryside, on the edge of lakes,
alongside waterfalls, up mountains.
Take a treasure hunt tour to see them
all. Climb the 13th century tower of the
Chateau de Faverges.
Visit the excellent Archaeological
museum of Viuz-Faverges with its
fascinating collection of Roman artefacts
from the local area.
Discover the grotto and waterfall of
Seythenex at the food of the Bauges
And book a guided tour of the area
known as Faverges-Seythenex which
takes in several of the most beautiful
villages in the area.
Pop to the tourist office in Faverges
for what’s on when you’re there: Place
Doussard (in the Faverges-Seythenex
commune) is like stepping into the past.
A picturesque bridge over a bubbling
river, houses that look like they’ve
popped out of a fairy tale, flowers
You’ll remember that you’re in the 21st
century when you look up on sunny days
though, there’s a landing pad here for the
dare devil paragliders who have launched
themselves from the Col de la Forclaz!
You’ll also find here the Bout du Lac
I stayed at Le Boutik Hotel, with one
door opening onto the lake and another
door opening onto the old town of
Annecy – it’s in an ideal location.
The rooms are all unique in this elegant
mansion house so pick what suits you:
retro-vintage, Scandi – interior designer
and owner Delphine has great style.
And the beds are super comfy. The hotel
also has a concept store full of fabulous
things you’ll fall for and a lovely little
café, perfect for brunch at the weekends.
Don’t miss in Annecy
Paraglide: Head up into the mountains
and the Col de la Forclaz, an alpine road
pass, if you like adrenaline thrills. From
here you can hang-glide over the lake. It’s
massively popular with locals and visitors
at one of the best-known paragliding
sites in the world. annecy-parapente.fr
Hang-sleep: If you’ve got a head for
heights you may like to spend the night
suspended on a cliff over Lake Annecy.
No, I didn’t try it, I got taken to the
Empire State Building in New York for
my 40th birthday and crawled round
the viewing platform on my hands and
knees – being high up isn’t for me. But…
it does sound fun, a suspended hammock
hanging from a cliff under the stars with
the lake far, far below…
Boat: Take a cruise of the lake, there
are loads of options from catamaran to
restaurant boat Libellule, or even hire a
Car: Take a guided tour by 2CV, the little
French cars we all love!
Air: Take a tour by helicopter, small plane
or even gyrocopter and get a birds eye
Wheels: Hire a bike, e-bike, scooter,
Segway – take a guided tour or
freewheel your way round the lake.
Details from the tourist office:
lac-annecy.com Lac d, 1 Rue Jean Jaurès
Cake my Day: Annecy is gifted in the
gateau stakes. Try a Mr Smith tart – a
green apple tart from Patisserie Philippe
Rigollot, voted World’s Best Pastry Chef.
1 Place Georges Volland
Cheesy does it: Third generation cheese
masters the Dubouloz family are famous
for their cheeses and Jacques Dubouloz
holds a Meilleur Ouvrier de France
award. Find their cheeses at the market
where they’ve had a stall since 1950 or
at their store Crèmerie de Marches in
Poisy, a suburb of Annecy.
Ice, ice baby: Though there’s a ton of
choice, they like their ice cream in
Annecy, Glacier des Alpes is pretty
Try ice cream Mont Blanc – a dreamy
concoction of chestnut cream and
confit of chestnut with Chantilly cream,
resistance is futile.
From Paris (Gare de Lyon) take the TGV
direct to Annecy – the journey takes
from 3h 40m.
Geneva International Airport is 50km
from Annecy, from there take the train
Blue Diamond Taxi lake taxis
Take a Slow Travel Tour
Through the Basque Country
Uncover the charms of slow travel in the Basque Country says
Sue Aran of French Country Adventures. It’s a land where the
day is long, and the culture is one of the oldest in the world.
The Basque Country, Pays Basque,
Euskal Herria, is located in the western
Pyrénées mountains, straddling the
border between France and Spain,
meeting at the Atlantic Coast’s Bay of
Emerald landscapes, distinctly rugged
mountains, precipitous shorelines
and the rich heritage of the Basque,
Euskaldunak, kept this area uniquely
Proudly independent, the Basque people,
who are neither Spanish nor French, have
been living in this autonomous region
since the earliest known modern man
was discovered in France some 45,000
Discover some of the best of the Pays
St Jean de Luz
St. Jean de Luz is the most iconic fishing
village in the Pays Basque. It has a
working port where 10,000 tons of
fish from over 100 varieties are caught
each year, including tuna, sardine and
anchovy. It was from this port that 15th
century fishermen chased whales to the
shores of Newfoundland.
St. Jean de Luz has a lively old town
center offering daily farmers’ markets,
boutique shops selling Basque linens,
berets and espadrilles, restaurants and
Espelette is a small, colorful village
nestled at the foot of the Mondarrain
mountain, renowned for its famous
Espelette pepper, which arrived from
Mexico by New World explorers during
the 16th century. Since then this lightly
spicy, red pepper has been rooted in the
traditions of rural life. When autumn
comes the facades of houses are
adorned with strings of peppers.
La Bastide Clairence
La Bastide Clairence was founded by the
King of Navarre in 1314 and settled by
The village church is distinguished by a
unique courtyard cemetery paved with
In the 17th century, Portuguese Jews
fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition
arrived in the village bringing with them
the art of making chocolate.
Bayonne is situated at the confluence
of the Nive and the Adour Rivers in the
French Pays Basque. The historic district
of Grand Bayonne is characterized by its
narrow medieval streets, the Gothic Saint
Marie cathedral and its 13th century
The Petit Bayonne district is dedicated
to the arts, crafts and traditions of the
region with over 3,000 objects on view
at the Musée Basque.
Bayonne is considered France’s first
capital of chocolate.
Sare is one of Les Plus Beaux Villages de
France. It is a tiny village tucked below
the sacred Rhune mountain.
Le Petit Train de la Rhune climbs 2,970
feet above the village and affords a
spectacular 360 degree, unobstructed
view of the Pyrénées, the Atlantic Ocean
and the surrounding Basque Country.
The Basque Corniche, at the edge of
the village of Urrugne, is one of the last
protected areas on the French Pays
Just a short drive from St. Jean de Luz
and the village of Hendaye near the
Spanish border, its steep cliffs, caves and
famous rocks, “The Twins”, have seen
millions of years of planetary history.
Biarritz was once a Phoenician fishing
port used to send goods to Britain, and
a whaling port until Napoléon III and his
wife, Éugenie, established their summer
During the Belle Epoque, thousands of
people visited glittering Biarritz by the
In 1918 Picasso arrived, followed by
Hemingway in the 20s. Frank Sinatra
arrived in the 1950s with Rita Hayworth
and Marilyn Monroe.
Hollywood embraced Biarritz as one of
its glittering incognito getaways.
Donostia, as San Sebastian is called in
Basque, is a vibrantly blended traditional
and modern city, a mere ten minutes
from the French border. Its circular bay
is rimmed with a picturesque promenade
and pristine white beaches. The city
hosts the San Sebastian Film Festival
and some of the most spectacular
monumental art in all of Spain. San
Sebastian is also recognized as having
some of the best food in all of Europe
with 18 Michelin-starred restaurants.
While Pinxtos, Basque tapas, takes
center stage here, the Basque
cheesecake, can’t be overlooked. It’s
a savory, decadent creation with a
slightly burnt crust, which you can easily
recreate at home. (See over the page for
If you want to feel like a local, and you’re
craving a more authentic experience, one
that leaves you with a feeling that you
truly got to know the places, people and
cultures that you’ve encountered, then
without a doubt, the Basque Country is
As they say in Basque, Saran Astia, we
Sue runs a 10-day tour which takes
in the most exquisite scenery and
fabulous cuisine in this seldom traveled,
southwestern corner of France…
Find out more at
A creamy, delicious and easy to make
taste of the Basque…
Unsalted butter (for pan)
2lb. cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups sugar
6 large eggs
2 cups heavy cream
1tsp. coarse salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
Preheat oven to 400°. Butter a 10”
springform pan, then line with two
overlapping 16x12” sheets of parchment,
making sure parchment comes at least
2” above top of pan on all sides. Because
the parchment needs to be pleated and
creased in some areas to fit in pan, you
won’t end up with a clean, smooth outer
edge to the cake, that’s okay!
Place pan on a baking tray.
Beat the cream cheese and sugar
together in the bowl of a stand
mixer fitted with the paddle
attachment on medium-low
speed, scraping down sides
of bowl, until very smooth,
no lumps remain, and sugar
has dissolved, for about two
Increase speed to medium and
add eggs one at a time, beating
each egg 15 seconds before
adding the next. Scrape down
sides of bowl, then reduce mixer
speed to medium-low.
Add cream, salt, and vanilla and
beat until combined, about 30
Turn off mixer and sift flour
evenly over cream cheese
mixture. Beat on low speed until
incorporated, about 15 seconds.
Scrape down sides of bowl (yet again)
and continue to beat until batter is very
smooth, homogenous, and silky, about
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake
cheesecake until deeply golden brown
on top and still very jiggly in the center,
Let cool slightly (it will fall drastically
as it cools), then un-mold. Let cool
completely. Carefully peel away
parchment from sides of cheesecake.
Slice into wedges and serve at room
temperature, preferably with a glass of
port or sherry alongside.
Cheesecake can be made one day ahead.
Cover and chill. Be sure to let cheesecake
sit for several hours at room temperature
to remove chill before serving.
City focus: Pau
Capital of the historic Béarn, elegant Pau
stands beneath the Pyrenees. Or does it,
wonders Gillian Thornton.
Every major city has its iconic street.
The boutique-lined boulevard. The
monumental avenue. Or perhaps the
quaint quarter fringed with historic
houses. But few can boast anything to
match the elegant city of Pau, capital of
the Béarn region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine.
Pau’s must-do walkway is the Boulevard
des Pyrenees, bordered on one side by
imposing Belle Epoque apartment blocks
and, on the other – yes, you guessed
it – by the distant jagged peaks of the
But don’t hold your breath. You do
need a modicum of luck to enjoy the
spectacular backdrop to this wonderful
Belle Epoque Boulevards
I’ve been to Pau twice before and on
both occasions have found this rugged
mountain frontier stubbornly hidden in
cloud, so I’m delighted third-time round
to see the mountains towering into the
evening sky. I can even identify them,
each one neatly labelled on the iron
railings that fringe the south side of the
Boulevard. Just line up the notch on the
balustrade with the tall chimney on the
old tramway factory below.
The Boulevard begins just a short
walk from my stylish overnight
accommodation at the Hôtel Parc
Beaumont, which overlooks a glorious
green space broken up by magnificent
trees and tranquil lakes.
Stay here during the legendary car races
in May and you’ll have a front row seat
on the action as the drivers race past.
The rest of the year, this modern hotel is
a tranquil base for exploring the town on
Pau owes much of its success to the
British. First came Wellington’s soldiers
who passed through in 1856 after the
Napoleonic wars and liked what they
saw. Many of them never left, settling
down and establishing France’s very first
golf course. Scottish doctor Alexander
Taylor extolled the virtues of the town’s
clean air, and soon Europe’s well-todo
were arriving to enjoy the dance
evenings, hunting parties, and buzzing
Their Belle Epoque villas still dot the
town and fringe the Boulevard des
Pyrénées, brainchild of engineer Jean
Charles Alphand. In 1891, Alphand
declared that ‘Pau should have its
Promenade des Anglais of Nice’ and so
he set about creating one.
Today this marvel of 19th century
engineering is a must-do amble with its
mountain panorama and direct access
into historic squares such as Place
Royale, hub of the city since the 18th
century, and Square Georges V, created
in the 1920s and ‘30s. Hang over that
famous balustrade to see a reminder
of the French cyclists who have passed
through Pau on the Tour de France; their
names and dates are painted on the
tarmac of Avenue Napoléon Bonaparte
The upper and lower levels are linked
by steps or a lift, but the most unusual
transit is on board the free funicular.
Installed in 1908 to link the town centre
with the railway station on the banks
of the Pau de Gave, it runs every three
minutes from early morning to midevening,
afternoons only on Sundays.
At the foot of the Funicular near what
was once the city’s cycle race track, 104
bronze totems tell the story of the Tour
de France with anecdotes and archive
photos. Pau hosted the event for the
71st time in 2019 and every year, a new
totem is added to Le Tour des Géants to
celebrate the winner.
Castles, towers and legends
The Boulevard des Pyrénées comes to
an end beneath Pau’s most emblematic
monument, the gleaming white Château
de Pau with its turrets, towers and
balustrades. Significantly altered across
the centuries, the castle saw the addition
of a defensive brick keep by Gaston
Fébus in the 14th century. But its current
appearance is largely due to significant
19th-century restoration under Louis-
Look out for the Tour de la Monnaie, set
slightly apart, and home to a royal mint
until the French Revolution. And look
down onto the geometric patterns of the
Renaissance Gardens. Then head across
the deep ditch via the Pont d’Honneur to
the courtyard and main entrance. Inside,
the birthplace of Henri de Bourbon –
later Henri III of Navarre and Henri IV
of France - houses rich collections of
drawings, paintings and sculptures, plus
an important collection of Louis XIV and
Louis XV tapestries.
Opposite the castle entrance, the Hotel
Sully is one of several mansions in the
Quartier du Château. Legends has it that
brushing the Basset Hound door-knocker
will mend a broken heart. More imposing
buildings line Rue Joffre, formerly named
simply Grande Rue, and now one of an
increasing number of pedestrianised
streets in the town centre.
But head down the steps behind the
castle to discover the Hédas district,
one of the oldest parts of the city and
recently given an urban makeover.
Women once came here to fetch water
from the Hédas brook, which now flows
underground. Today, a pleasant walkway
links play areas and tiny parks, nestled
beneath the backs of multi-storied
properties facing the mountains.
Pau is full of surprises and I discovered
one of its best on Rue Tran, which
runs parallel with Rue du Hédas. Just
take a right up Rue des Cordeliers.
Here the Musée Bernadotte recalls
the extraordinary life of Jean-Baptiste
Bernadotte, a humble solider born
in Pau in 1870 who rose to become
a Brigadier General under Napoleon
Bonaparte. Such was his reputation that
when Swedish king Charles XIII died
without an heir in 1818, Bernadotte was
invited to take the royal job and today,
his descendants still reign in Stockholm.
Quite some career path!
Wandering deeper into the town, my
back to the Pyrenees, I stopped off
to savour the sights and smells of Les
Halles. This gastronomic hub has been
completely renovated since 2017 and
when I visited, the first phase of the
project was open and clearly a popular
venue with its wine bars, food stalls and
escalators. This ultra-modern market
hall is an essential stop for anyone who
has bought a Pass Gourmand, a brilliant
initiative that enables visitors to taste
their way round the city in bite-sized
More than 22 shops and food stalls
throughout the city centre and within
Les Halles serve some kind of iconic
local flavour in return for a ticket. A
sweet macaron, here. A date stuffed
with foie gras there. And maybe a glass
of Jurançon to wash it all down. Eat in,
take away, or pack up your goodies for a
gourmet picnic, perhaps with a view of
Weather not to your liking? Not a
problem if you drop by my last port of
call, the unique Fabrique de Parapluies, a
block away from Les Halles on the corner
of Rue Montpensier and Rue Nogué. At
the turn of the last century, shepherds
would stop in Pau, grazing their sheep
on the current Place de Verdun, en route
to and from the mountain pastures for
And here in Pau, they would catch up on
©Pau Pyrénées Tourisme Guilhamasse
repairs to their traditional umbrellas, each
one a lifelong companion which sheltered
them from rain, sun and even lightning.
Twenty years ago, Hervé Pando opened
an umbrella workshop in Pau, and today
his son Christophe is the last craftsman
to hand-make traditional parapluies de
Fashioned from double-thickness
proofed cotton with nine robust ribs,
the umbrellas are guaranteed not to
turn inside out, and can be held aloft
hands-free, thanks to a round beechwood
handle that sits neatly in the
shepherd’s pocket. The perfect accessory
for any picnic – rain or shine – along the
Boulevard des Pyrénées!
5 MUST-DO EXPERIENCES
Follow in the footsteps of Henri IV
Built in the 14th century, the lofty
chateau was the birthplace of
Renaissance king Henri IV in December
1553. The royal baby was rocked in a
turtle shell cradle that is still on display.
Open all year apart from 1 Jan, 1 May
and 25 Dec. Adults 7€. Free shuttle bus
from Place de Verdun car park. www.
Stroll the Boulevard des Pyrenees
Step back into the Belle Epoque when
Pau town was a popular winter resort
with wealthy travellers for its clean
mountain air, multiple amenities, and
elegant villas. Built from 1894 to 96, the
Boulevard stands on a viaduct with large
arcs supported by 49 piers.
Enjoy a taste of the Béarn with a Pass
Choose from 45 local food specialities
from 22 craft producers in the Halles
and around the town centre with a Pass
Gourmand, just 8€ for 6 tickets, 15€ for
12. Eat on site or take away. Includes
macaroons and chocolate, cheese and
Discover the French soldier who became
King of Sweden
Musée Bernadotte is housed in the
birthplace of the young soldier who
became King of Sweden in 1810. An
atmospheric property with wooden
galleries overlooking cobbled courtyard.
Open daily except Monday and major
Watch a sporting event
Le Grand Prix de Pau takes place around
the city streets in May, and lovers
of equestrian sport will flock to the
town from 21-25 October for the 4*
equestrian Three Day Event. Pau is also
one of the top three towns to host the
Tour de France.
By train: Daily TGV services to Paris,
Toulouse and Bordeaux. The SNCF
station is in the lower town with
funicular access to the town centre.
By air: Pau airport is 13km from the
town centre. Fly to Pau from London-
Heathrow with Air France. Or to
Toulouse (195km) or Biarritz (125km)
WHERE TO STAY AND EAT
Gillian stayed at the Hotel Parc
Beaumont which has 75 rooms, a spa,
gourmet restaurant, café, and private
parking hotel-parc-beaumont.com. She
ate at Le Poulet à 3 Pattes, 26 Boulevard
des Pyrénées – outside terrace or inside
For the loftiest view of all, book a stay
at Le Belvédère AirBnB, a micro-maison
with just one double bed, tiny kitchen
and shower room in a glazed turret
several storeys up.
The Vallée de Chevreuse,
Melissa Barndon explores the charming
countryside of the Chevreuse Valley, a fairy tale-like
landscape on the outskirts of Paris.
In the Upper Chevreuse Valley, when
the sun comes out, the tops come down.
Of the convertibles, I mean. That’s how
you know spring is finally here; under
the sunshine of the newly verdant
trees, open-topped red cabriolets,
sleek motorbikes and packs of colourful
cyclists compete for space on the
twisting, turning roads. There are castles
and châteaux, crumbling medieval
abbeys and watermills, and a lovely,
meandering stroll along the petits ponts
of the Yvette river.
It’s a short drive from Paris, only an hour
or so to the southeast. Paris is exquisite,
but here, the slow-moving river bordered
by undulating green hills, dotted with
stone houses and church steeples is a
Officially known as the Parc Naturel
régional Haute Vallée de Chevreuse, the
area encompasses more than 25,000
hectares, and there’s a lot to see.
This charming petite cité médiévale,
which gives its name to the valley, is
home to one of the most recognisable
sites in the area - the Château de la
Madeleine. The castle fortress casts
a protective eye on the village below
from its hilltop perch, as it has done for
over 1000 years. It was named for the
Saint Marie-Madeleine Chapel, built
in the 13th century, but unfortunately
destroyed prior to the French Revolution.
Chevreuse was considered a prime
position, marking the boundary between
the duchy of Normandy and France, and
its prosperous tanning industry made it a
The castle was constructed in the 11th
century to keep the inhabitants safe
from pillagers, and later fortified during
centuries of war; only the original stone
keep remains. It is free to visit, and the
main tourist office of the region, the
Maison du Parc, can be found inside the
It’s a steep drive, cycle or climb to the
top, up the sharp Chemin Jean Racine,
named for the 16th century poet who
lived in one of the castle’s towers for
a while, but there’s a pleasantly shady
footpath for your walk back down to
the town. After visiting the small centre
ville, call in to The Alchemist, a former
herbalist shop and now acclaimed sirop
(syrup) bar and boutique where they
create the most sublime concoctions.
Sit outside on the terrace, with a view
to the Château de la Madeleine above
and sip a revitalising mix of Verveine
Gingembre or a sweet and refreshing
Fraise à la menthe.
Don’t leave without popping inside to
choose from the gorgeous selection of
artisanal syrups to take with you.
Through the village of Chevreuse runs a
tiny offshoot of the Yvette river, gently
traversing timeworn cottages, ancient
wash-houses, and a medieval tannery.
There are 22 petits ponts, or little
bridges, that span the river, crossing
A popular walk for locals and visitors, this
promenade is hidden behind high fences
sandwiched between the backs (or
fronts) of perennial houses and a public
Perhaps the best times of the year to
visit are during the spring, when the
blossoms and jonquils perform their brief
but beautiful annual display, and during
the summer, when the hydrangeas
cascade over the tiny bridges.
It’s not unusual to see amateur painters
with their easels and half-finished
canvases on the path.
The walk is not long, less than a
kilometre and perfect for a Sunday stroll.
When you cross the canal there is also a
chance to explore the tannery building,
which made Chevreuse its fortune
for many centuries, now used as an
Close to the pretty stone bridge in the
centre of the chemin you’ll find a wooden
lavoir, or public wash house, long since
Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay
Beautifully restored by the outrageously
wealthy Rothschild family in the late
19th century, the buildings and extensive
grounds of the Abbaye des Vaux de
Cernay are the perfect setting for a
peaceful wander on a sunny spring
afternoon. Only the shell of the ancient
abbey remains, but one can imagine
coloured shards of sunlight streaming
through the rounded rose window a
thousand years ago.
Now, the ravages of time and greenery
have taken their toll. The abbey was long
associated with the pious Saint Thibault,
abbot of the monastery in 1235.
A famous legend rose up around the
fountain in the abbey grounds; that after
the infertile King Louis IX and his wife
Marguerite of Provence were invited
by St Thibault to drink the water at this
miraculous fountain, they went on to
have eleven children.
The Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay is
now run as a luxury hotel and function
centre, although you can visit the ruins
and the fountain and walk around the
lake at your leisure (it’s free during the
On Sundays there are guided tours of the
grounds. If you’re looking for some fine
French dining, take your seat amongst
the vaulted arches in the restored priory
which is now La Table du Prieur.
Or indulge yourself on a Sunday, prior
to your guided tour, with an extravagant
Buffet déjeuner brunch in the former
When the weather is lovely, drinks and
delicate pastries can be purchased from
the tearooms, and you can sit on the
paved terrasse and contemplate life with
a view of the captivating abbey.
Château de Breteuil
The graceful Château de Breteuil has
been in the hands of the same family
for over 300 years. The grand house
itself dates to the 18th century, and one
hundred years later would play host to
a secret meeting between the French
government and the future King Edward
But it’s the gardens of this lovely locale,
classified jardins remarquable, which
make it an unmissable stop on your tour
of the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse.
There’s a classic French garden with a
miroir d’eau or a reflecting pond lined
with white marble statues, a smooth
lawn and mosaiced boxwood and
The Jardin des princes, formerly known
as the English garden and renamed in
honour of the secret meeting mentioned
above, is truly delightful.
Behind this walled garden is a cacophony
of colour and fragrance - pink and white
blossoms herald the beginning of spring,
daffodils, tulips and snowdrops surge
delicately from the rich soil, and the
heady scent of roses assails the senses.
Stand under the white cherry trees in
full blossom for a wonderful photo or sit
on an old stone bench and inhale this
romantic, heavenly garden.
An entrancing labyrinth entertains both
young and old, and waiting
in the centre of the maze is
Old Mother Goose. Because
there’s more to this château
than just history and elegant
gardens. For children,
it’s pure magic. Charles
Perrault was a famous
fairy tale author from the
17th century, and a great
friend of a long-dead lord
of Breteuil, and scenes from
eight of his most famous
fairy tales can be found all
over the outbuildings of the
Look in on Cinderella in the
stables getting dressed for
the royal ball, watch out for
the murderous Bluebeard,
or keep an eye on Sleeping
Beauty in her enchanted slumber. And
don’t forget to be on your guard when
Little Red Riding Hood arrives at her
grandmother’s cottage, the fearsome
wolf is lurking.
There’s a fantastic playground in the
grounds, with slides and climbing
equipment, and benches in the shade if
you want to bring your picnic lunch.
The Château de Breteuil is open
throughout the year, but the fairy tales
only on Sundays and in school holidays.
If you love to get out and about in
nature, there are hundreds of walking
trails criss-crossing the Haute Vallée
de Chevreuse, ranging from a few
kilometres to an all-day hike.
Eat local produce
The valley includes part of the ancient
forest of Rambouillet, former hunting
ground of French kings, where you can
still see wild sangliers and graceful deer
through the whispering trees.
Close to the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay
is a large network of paths, many of
which converge on the sparkling green
Étang des Cernay, from where the monks
replenished their water supply; a little
further on, you can view the cascades
which powered the Petit Moulin de
The sandstone under your feet is lucky
to be there - in the beginning of the
19th century, much of it was excavated
and sent by train to Paris to become its
You won’t even need to pack your
picnic lunch on your day in the valley.
Whether you’re in the car, on foot or
on your bike, stop in one of the tiny
village boulangeries for a warm and fresh
baguette, and at La Ferme de Coubertin
for a round (or two) of cheese.
This locally recognised farm raises its
own cows and goats and makes award
winning cheeses of all varieties. Make
sure you pick up some flavoured yoghurt
for your dessert.
For something a little bit different, yet
completely French, why not visit a snail
Snails are not just for the tourist
restaurants in Paris, they are a popular
dish in their own right all over France,
especially at Christmas.
The Ferme de Fanon, in Senlisse,
emblematic of the Valley region, has
been raising their own snails for almost
20 years. The thousands of snails here
snack daily on fresh parsley, shallots and
garlic for around 14 months, before they
are sent off to restaurants or sold in the
small boutique store on the farm. It is
also possible to take a tour of the farm,
before you head home with your chewy
snails for dinner.
Other highlights of the
Domaine de Dampierre
This magnificent château dominates the
small village of Dampierre. The château
itself has been under restoration for
several years now, but it’s a beautiful
walk around the estate with its magical
pond and 17th century outbuildings.
Port Royal des Champs
The sister Abbey to that of Vaux-de-
Cernay, there is not a great deal which
remains of this 13th century nunnery.
Largely destroyed under Louis XIV
because of religious conflict, later
buildings were used as a school, or to
keep the memory of the abbey alive.
Located in Magny-les-Hameaux, the
ruins are a tranquil place to spend an
afternoon, and some of the buildings
have been converted to a museum.
This restored château, former royal
palace and now one of the official
residences of the French President, has
seen the likes of Louis XVI and Marie
Antoinette, Napoléon Bonaparte and
Josephine, and Emmanuel and Brigitte
In the sweeping grounds, which include
an artificial lake populated with white
swans and geese, is a marbled
dairy built for Marie Antoinette,
and an ethereal shell cottage
designed for the Princess
de Lamballe before she was
tragically executed in the French
Close by is also the Bergerie
Nationale, which has been
raising sheep for the past several
hundred years and is a fantastic
place for children.
Official tourism website
Provence is enchanting
year round. From the
poppy fields of spring to
the blooming lavender of
summer, the vibrant colours
of autumn and the serenity
of winter, photographer
Helen Leather captures the
charms of Provence through
the seasons and shares her
The Four Seasons of
The beautiful village of Murs is close
to gorgeous Gordes and ravishing
Roussillon. In spring the valleys around
Murs are filled with flowers. Take a peek
through the gates of the privatelyowned
Castle of Murs, built between
the 12th and 6th century. And from
the town, enjoy one of the numerous
hiking trails, and in summer you will find
many cyclists stopping for lunch at the
charming Hotel le Crillon.
The village of Goult is authentic and
charming with a bustling center where
you’ll find lots of restaurants and shops.
After lunch, walk to the top of the
village where you will find a fabulous old
Tarascon (left) is a vibrant, colourful little
town, close to Saint-Remy-de-Provence,
it’s well worth a detour and has a
beautifully preserved castle overlooking
the River Rhone.
Bonnieux is one of my favourite villages in the Luberon. It has something for
everyone: vineyards, old farm houses, antique shops, lavender fields in July, and
great cycle routes around the village. From Bonnieux you can look across the
valley to Lacoste, another magical village well worth visiting.
Fontaine de Vaucluse is beautiful year-round, but when the temperatures soar
in the Vaucluse, it’s great to visit the springs and have a picnic. There are many
beautiful spots to sit, relax, eat, drink, and read. The spring is the largest in
France, and one of the largest in the world.
One of the treats in Fontaine de Vaucluse is the traditional papermill where you
can watch paper being made using traditional methods.
The view from the old village of Bonnieux to the new church at the bottom of the
hill. In summer, night-time classical music concerts take place at the magnificent
old cathedral atop the village.
The Café de France is an iconic café in
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, perfect for people
watching or resting after a day in the
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, built around a series
of waterways, is most famous for the
number of antique shops (the most of
anywhere in France outside of Paris).
On Sundays the village centre is bustling
with the weekly market where you will
find traditional clothing and homewares
as well as numerous raconteurs selling
“antique” finds, not to be confused with
the treasures in the antique shops.
Aged but timeless buildings (left)
overlooking the Église Notre-Dame-des-
Anges in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and it by
The view from my window (above)
over the valley. Every day brings another
magical view. The most beautiful time is
in winter when the mornings are cloaked
in mist – just magical.
Follow Helen’s gorgeous Instagram page
The History of the Canal
The slow glide of a canal boat across the waters of
the Canal du Midi has an incomparably relaxing and
calming effect with everyday stresses quickly forgotten
says Andrea Hoffman, travel writer and author. In this
extract from her new book Canal du Midi: The Ultimate
Guide she examines the history of the Canal du Midi…
History of the Canal du
The Romans are said to have previously
planned the construction of a waterway
that linked the Atlantic with the
Mediterranean. However, the project
did not start until the 17th century
under King Louis XIV, the legendary Sun
King. Pierre-Paul Riquet (1604–1680),
a wealthy tax collector, presented his
plans to the King in 1662 and was able
to persuade him about the merits of the
project. In the canal, Louis saw another
opportunity to make himself immortal.
In October 1666, he gave the royal seal
of approval to the project. 40 per cent
of the costs were borne by the Crown,
40 per cent by the State and 20 per
cent by the Riquet family, with the latter
becoming the owner after the death of
Around 12,000 people worked on the
canal. They built 328 structures such as
locks, tunnels, bridges, dams, harbours
and aqueducts. The canal is filled with
water from the Montagnes Noires, the
black mountains. In addition, various
small rivers are fed in, and reservoirs and
ditches provide the right water level.
In addition to the tremendous technical
feat, the canal also impressed through its
excellent integration into the landscape
of southern France.
Around 42,000 trees lined the banks.
Their roots still serve to fortify the banks
today and their foliage provides shelter
for both people and animals.
Before engine-driven vessels, barges
were pulled by horses that walked along
the towpaths that line the canal.
The opening of the Canal
On 24 May 1681, the ‘Canal Royal en
Languedoc’ (Royal Languedoc Canal), as
it was initially called, was opened. The
waterway allowed merchant ships to
bypass the Iberian Peninsula, meaning
that they now had to cover almost 2,500
Pierre-Paul Riquet did not live to see
the canal finished. He died a poor man
in October 1680. He had invested his
entire fortune and more into the canal.
His two sons worked on the canal until
1682 and it took them more than 40
years to pay off the debts incurred by
From 1686, engineer Sébastien de
Vauban (1633–1707) was entrusted
with the canal. In the following years,
he improved the waterways, mainly to
reduce the risk of flooding.
Later, branches of the canal were added,
including the ‘Canal latéral de la Garonne’
and the ‘Canal de la Robine Narbonne’.
Trade blossomed and brought wealth
to the communities along the Canal du
Midi. Fuel, building materials, cereals
and wine were transported by ships, and
later there were also postal ships and
The travellers needed to be provided
for, and soon guest houses, shops
and hostels were built along the
banks. Barges, usually towed by three
horses, took four days to make the
240-kilometre trip between Toulouse
and Sète. This was incredibly quick.
The Riquet family retained their property
rights until the French Revolution (1789),
after which the Canal du Midi became
the property of the French Republic.
Since 1992, the Voies navigables de
France (VNF), has been responsible for
the Canal du Midi. Under Napoleon, a
canal company was established in which
the sovereign had a 90 per cent share. In
1858, the waterway was leased to a rail
company, but in 1898 it was returned to
the French government.
In the 1970s, an attempt was made
to widen the Canal du Midi to make it
possible for larger boats to navigate.
However, due to the construction of the
motorway that runs parallel, this plan
was soon abandoned because freight can
be transported far quicker by road. The
main focus then became the use of the
waterway by tourists. Since 1992, the
Voies navigables de France (VNF), the
canal authority, has been responsible for
the Canal du Midi.
Canal du Midi: The
Ultimate Guide takes you
along the length of the
Canal du Midi, revealing
the best places to hop off
and visit. Historic sites,
and more are covered
from Sète to Toulouse.
There are top tips on
how to navigate, use the
locks and everything else to help you
have your best boat holiday. Be warned,
reading this book gives you serious
wanderlust… Read our review
Canal du Midi: The Ultimate Guide by
Andrea Hoffmann and Hans Zaglitsch is
published by Adlard Coles, Bloomsbury
Publishing and is out now (Paperback:
King Arthur’s forest
Kevin Pilley wanders through a wizard’s forest and finds
that though there are no signs of ogres or medieval
maidens – it is truly magical…
Brocéliande in Brittany
© Aurelie Polvet Tourist Office Broceliande
In the forest of Brocéliande in Brittany,
forty miles south-west of Rennes, there
is a pile of red slate blocks. Through
them grows an ancient holly tree. In its
branches are flowers and wreaths of
seven times knotted hair.
Wedged into the peeling bark are little
anonymous messages. Some are written
on slips of paper, some on the back of
supermarket receipts. All are addressed
to Merlin, the ancient intercessor
between man and nature. The world’s
most famous wizard is said to be buried
in these sacred Celtic woods.
Since the origins of fifth and sixth
century Celtic mythology, and the
publication in the twelfth century of
the romances of Chretien de Troyes
and Elinor of Aquitaine’s poet, Robert
of Wace’s “Roman du Brut (1155),
the Arthurian legend has fascinated
and inspired millions. And mentioned
Brocéliande. The name appears in
Tennysons’s “Idylls of the King” and
inspired Tolkien’s region of Beleriand in
Some claim King Arthur is buried in
Glastonbury or Worthyvale in Cornwall.
His sword “Excalibur” is said to lie at
the bottom of a pool in Bodmin Moor.
Camelot is said to be in Tintagel,
Winchester or Roxburgh in Scotland. No
one can really say for sure, the details are
lost in the mists of memory. But here in
France they know where Arthur’s most
trusted advisor is. A Breton, his tomb is
in the forest of Brocéliande.
“Le Tombeau de Merlin” is under an hour
© Aurelie Polvet Tourist Office Broceliande
away from L’Orient airport.
A wizard in love
Merlin fell in love with one of his
students, a fairy called Viviane. She
enclosed him in a magic circle and there
“I don’t think this is his final resting
place. He is a spirit. He is everywhere.
Not in one place,” said my guide,
a professional Merlinologist and
official tourist guide for “Le Centre
de L’Imaginaire Arthurien” which aims
to discover and spread Arthurian
knowledge. The centre has several
official “Round Table” guides.
“His spirit definitely inhabits the woods.
That is why pilgrims come here. They
seek guidance. The area is invested with
memories of pre-Christian life.”
The forest has lots of well-marked
footpaths and is a magical place to walk
and feel the spirit of the old wizard. The
tomb is indisputably an ancient site of
worship. It stands near an old Neolithic
gallery grave. The woods contain
cromlechs and burial mounds from the
Bronze and Iron ages. Water from the
Fontaine de Barrenton spills over the
Perron de Merlin (Merlin’s steps) into a
pool where Merlin reputedly inducted
Vivian into necromancy. For centuries
locals believed that the water had
Deeper into the forest, the Pont Dom
Jean is believed to be the bridge of the
sword crossed by Lancelot to deliver
Guinevere. There is also a “Rock des
Faux Amants”. The lover who betrayed
Morgan, Arthur’s half-sister, and was
turned into stone.
© Aurelie Polvet Tourist Office Broceliande
Brocéliande is a part of Paimpont forest.
The misty lakes and bubbling ponds of
Les Forges and Perray and the castles of
Trécesson and Pas-du-Houx are straight
out of the pages of literary romance. The
forest contains what many believe is the
fountain of Barenton, where Merlin sat
on his perron and conjured up a storm.
Golden trees and a lover’s
In 1990, the woods burned for five
days. As part of a massive re-plantation
scheme, artist Francois Davin created his
“L’Arbre d’Or”, a chestnut tree covered
with gold leaf and surrounded by five
Our walking tour led us to the Val sans
Retour (The Valley of No Return). It’s
said the witch Morgane lived here and
punished knights who were unfaithful to
Surrounded by rocks which - to the
guide’s eyes resemble the backbone of
a sleeping dragon, we looked into the
Miroir-aux-Fees (faerie pool) and sat on
Merlin’s seat, a rock formation where he
reputedly watched sunsets thinking up
new ways of enchanting the world.
A bridge over a river called Pont du
Secret is where Queen Guinevere told Sir
Lancelot she loved him.
“Faithful lovers like Lancelet who
avowed a perfect love for Guinevere can
cross it without risk,” my guide explained
with a sideways look. “The unfaithful
remain as prisoners encaged by invisible
The church at Tréhorenteuc celebrates
© Aurelie Polvet Tourist Office Broceliande
and symbolizes the fusion of Arthurian
legend with Celtic traditions and
Christian faith. The mosaics, paintings
and stained glass are all the work of a
priest, Henri Gillard. The Celtic influence
is symbolized by the oaks and acorns in
the large stained glass window.
A fairy castle
All the Arthurian tours of Brocéliande
finish at Comper Castle, former
stronghold of the king of Brittany. Here,
Merlin is reputed to have created a
crystal palace for the faerie Vivian so that
none could gaze upon her. It’s believed
to be buried in the lake where she is said
to have swum with the baby Sir Lancelot
after finding him abandoned. It’s why he
is called Sir Lancelot of the Lake and she
is known as the Lady of the Lake.
“They all come here and try not to
look but they all do,” said my guide as
we watched a group of schoolchildren
looking down into the water.
“They all look, hoping to see Merlin or
catch a sight of the Lady of the Lake.
They look for a long time. They are
convinced they are both down there.
They want to believe. It is an entrance
to another world. The whole place is a
dream world. It has a very otherworldly
We did not see any white-footed stags
ferrying souls to the eternal shores,
meet any mad washerwomen, ogres
or medieval maiden in white dresses.
Apparitions were thin on the ground. No
black knights challenged us to mortal
combat. But it does feel special…
For further information about guided
tours of the area contact Centre
L’Imaginaire Arthurien, Comper-en-
By Kevin Pilley, a freelance writer for
numerous publications including The
Telegraph, USA Today, Irish Times and
many, many more.
Winston Churchill painting on the
Artist Paul Rafferty was inspired to follow in Winston
Churchill’s paint brush strokes…
In 2015, artist Paul Rafferty began
a project to find the locations of Sir
Winston Churchill’s painting locations
for a book. His focus was the South
of France, where he lives, though his
discoveries went beyond this region.
It became a voyage of discovery which
took him to many of the most iconic
locations of Provence and the Cote
d’Azur and resulted in a gorgeous coffee
table book, filled with photos and
An artist inspired by an
Long ago, in 2004, I came across a
watercolour in an antique bookshop
in Los Angeles. It was signed ‘Winston
Churchill’. I took a photograph and sent it
to David Coombs who is the authority
on Churchill’s paintings. He informed me
it was not by Sir Winston as he never
painted in watercolour. Thus began my
interest in Churchill’s paintings and a
bond with David. I began to locate places
where Churchill painted…
Finding these locations through a
combination of Google Earth, cartes
postales anciennes and knowledge of the
region turned out to be a huge challenge.
It was much more of an undertaking than
I had ever imagined.
Even before this, I had found myself
painting some of Churchill’s locations,
though many of the views were not
obvious. The painting at Villa Sylvia in
Cap Ferrat titled “The Little Harbour,
St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat” painted in 1921, is a
This pretty little cove lies just below
the exquisite Villa Rothschild and I had
painted this exact view before, though
I had taken in a wider field of view.
Churchill chose a more cropped view
and focused on the villa. It was the jetty
tower with its distinctive gazebo on
top that I eventually recognised, one of
many Eureka moments.
This led me to find another painting
of the garden of Villa Sylvia featuring
an old pergola. The painting of the
magnificent villa Churchill visited with
Sir John Lavery was a new discovery, no
one knew he’d ever been there.
Finding the locations was just one
element of my search. Getting into
these places, if they were private, was a
whole other task and no less daunting.
I had to find out whom owned the villa
or chateau. Try to contact the owner
and ask permission to visit. These
are very private, wealthy people with
large secluded properties. Thankfully,
the admiration for Churchill and
documenting history won them over, and
I was kindly granted access.
I visited Cassis, Lourmarin, Pont-du-Gard,
Cap de Antibes and many other locations
on my journey to follow in his footsteps.
Discovering where Churchill painted
the red rocks between Theoule and St
Raphael was a special find, It’s really not
that easy to find a specific rock among a
coastline full of red rocks!
Living the highlife
There is no doubt that Churchill lived a
grand life on the French Riviera. Not for
him the life of poor, starving artist. His
travels were replete with valets, Scotland
Yard Detective bodyguards, secretaries
and all manner of equipment to write and
Churchill was a Francophile and loved
his trips to the Cote d’Azur, coming often
and staying as long as was permissible.
Though there was one occasion he
ventured there alone. Winston, arriving
at the glorious Chateau de l’Horizon
and low on funds, tried the hazardous
experiment of foregoing his valet.
Greeted by his hostess, Maxine Elliott,
he said “You have no idea how easy it is
to travel without a servant. I came away
from London alone and it was quite
simple.” Maxine replied “Winston, how
brave of you.”
Winston was enraptured by the French
Riviera, the sun, the colours and
abundant subject matter were irresistible
to him and he longed to capture them
on canvas. The Pol Roger, fine food and
Casinos were also to be indulged in.
Churchill painted a possible 600
paintings in total during his lifetime, at
least 150 of them were of the South
of France. He only painted one canvas
during the Second World War, in
Marrakech, which he gifted to President
Considering his relatively limited time
and output as a painter, one has to
judge his work with this in mind. To me,
he excelled as an amateur painter. The
more I looked at the canvases and the
locations, the more I came to respect him
as an artist. He painted large canvases
on site, in the elements. He would
finish them off at his studio in Chartwell
because of his busy schedule. If it was
possible to return to the same location to
continue or complete a canvas, he would.
Churchill painted fast, a one and a
half hour session could see the canvas
covered. He was bold, attacked the
canvas and did not shy away from a
subject, colour or challenge. He adored
colour and squeezed all the colours of
the rainbow onto his palette. Some of his
works tended to have somewhat garish
colouring. His wife Clementine would
encourage him to “cool your palette a la
Nicholson” (Sir William Nicholson, friend
and artist mentor).
Lady Churchill would also try to grab a
canvas off his easel when she thought
it was done, much to the chagrin of
Winston. He had a tendency to overwork
a canvas and kill the freshness he’d
captured on location.
Pont-du-Gard is remarkably carpeted by
Churchill’s brush, glowing as it does in
the last light. In fact this was a common
thread with the canvases as they tended
to be painted in the afternoon light,
probably after his lunch.
I used laminated reproductions around
the size of a large post card to find
the exact spot on location. This was
imperative for me as I wished to line
all the elements up with the canvas.
Many times it would be identical, quite
incredible considering the development
along the coast.
I live in Mougins where Churchill visited
the Guinness family in the 1930’s and
painted the chapel next door, Notre
Dame de Vie. In 1960 Pablo Picasso
bought the house having also visited the
Guinness family and falling in love with
This would be Picasso’s home and studio
until his death in 1973.
One of the highlights of the book
occurred during my research when I
managed to discover a small photograph
at Chartwell, showing Churchill in a dark
robe at Chateau de l’Horizon holding
a painting of St Paul de Vence. This
proved to reverse a decision made on
national tv, the BBC’s Fake or Fortune
programme, and the painting is today in
the Churchill collection.
A true artist
Even though Churchill considered these paintings ‘my daubs’, he was very serious
and studious about his work. I came to the conclusion that for him, this was a
passion above all others and a way of escape from his busy life, and a means of
relaxation that no other hobby could offer. He would be absorbed while painting,
time would pass quickly and his mind was focused only on his subject. Despite
his love of good food and wine, he even had to be badgered and coaxed from his
easel to go to lunch or dinner. A true artist…
Paul Rafferty’s book Winston
Churchill: Painting on the
French Riviera, published by
Unicorn is available from Amazon
and all good book shops. The author
is hoping to produce a documentary
of the project and has plans to
produce a companion book of
Churchills paintings of Great Britain,
the Stately Homes and landscape he
so loved. paulrafferty.art
Every weekend, we invite you to share your photos on Facebook - it’s a great way
for everyone to see “real” France and be inspired by real travellers snapping pics as
they go. Every week there are utterly gorgeous photos being shared and here we
showcase the most popular of each month. Share your favourite photos with us on
Facebook - the most “liked” will appear in the next issue of The Good Life France
January: Stormy, misty, marvellous and medieval Mont-Saint-Michel, Mont
St Michel during the “blue hour” by Martin McKenzie. (You can find more of
Martin’s amazing photos at unkamartin.smugmug.com
February: Stunning photo of the Eiffel
Tower by moonlight by Anne Craven
March: Colmar in spring by Ramus.
Joanna Leggett, Marketing Director of
Leggett Immobillier lives in Dordogne
and has lived in France for around 20
years. We asked her what she loves most
Since the very first time I crossed the
Channel as a teenager, I’ve always loved
France. Now I couldn’t imagine living
anywhere else! I could write a book
about my favourite things – I may yet –
in the meantime, here’s my top 20!
1. Luscious, sweeping landscapes,
breath-taking scented fields of Lavender
in Provence; fields of sunflowers in the
Charente; magnificent lakes below the
2. Long relaxed summer meals in the
garden as the sun goes down - or seated
around long tables beside a large open
fire at lunchtime in the winter.
3. The joy of dining in France is taking
the time to talk as well as eat.
4. It’s also about adopting the idea of
living to eat, not eating to live. The
French eat smaller courses, then sit and
5. Expanding my culinary repertoire!
Neighbours have promised to show me
how to prepare Foie Gras following a
long discussion about exactly how many
minutes it should be cooked à vapeur!
6. I adore Paris – it’s a compact city and
just so beautiful. I love visiting its food
and flower markets and discovering new
things around every corner.
7. The glorious ocean beaches of the
South West Atlantic coast. My absolute
favourite is St. Jean-de-Cap-Ferret, a
beautiful bay opposite Arcachon not far
from Bordeaux – Arcachon, of course, is
famed for oysters!
8. While on the subject of seafood,
the sheer joy of sharing a freshly
caught plateau of Fruits de Mer while
overlooking the sea in a quaint old port
in Brittany – heaven!
9. The beautiful gardens everywhere in
France – my favourite time is May when
gardens are full of an early summer
bloom and heady with the scent of roses.
10. Beautiful buildings, châteaux with
fairy-tale pointed towers, ancient
churches, old stone houses – mine
dates back to the 13th century - the
joy of opening bedroom curtains in the
morning to look over a sea of ancient
russet-coloured tiled roofs.
11. The French love dogs, each time I
take mine for a walk around my village,
someone stops to talk. As I pass, I hear
classical music from one house, and
wonderful cooking smells from another!
It takes dog walking to a whole new
12. Ease of travel – the great roads (few
potholes!). And by TGV it takes just two
hours from my local station in South
West France to Paris.
13. The French are incredibly polite and
always greet you with a handshake or
‘bises’ (kiss on the cheek), just how many
depends on which part of the country
you live in!
14. The beautiful light - especially in
Provence - no wonder the Impressionists
loved to paint there!
15. Discovering regional foods and
dishes – so many to try, so little time!
16. Wine tasting with friends in Saint-
Émilion, especially with someone who
knows good wine!
17. Feasting on the ballet in Bordeaux,
shopping in the Chartreuse, browsing
antique shops and then choosing
between fabulous restaurants for lunch.
18. Visiting brocantes, finding all sorts
of wonders from tables and chairs to
armoires, beautiful old carved beds and
things to upcycle.
19. I love the changing seasons, watching
the migration of the cranes (Grus) which
fly right over my garden.
20. And finally, coming home to my
lovely ancient house and my garden.
My parents, loved my home from the
moment they first visited, for me it’s a
love affair which continues!
Auvergne Rhône Alpes
Carole Lobertreau has been an estate
agent at Leggett Immobillier for more
than 15 years, and she tells us why
Morzine, Les Gets, and the Vallée d’Aulps
are magical places to live and work.
Originally from the north of France, I
moved to the Valleé d’Aulps in 2000. The
area is stunning, and the skiing is superb,
it genuinely was “love at first sight.” One
of the things I like the most is that it is
a community where people live all year
round. It’s not just a ski resort and, as
such, it has a lovely, friendly atmosphere
with fun activities throughout the year.
Morzine is in the Chablais mountain
range and sits between Lake Geneva and
Mont Blanc. It is the ideal location in the
middle of the Portes du Soleil ski area
(which has 650 km of linked pistes in
France and Switzerland), yet only an hour
from the international airport in Geneva.
When I say that we have fun activities
here, I do mean it! Perhaps the most
famous is the annual Rock des Pistes
week, where live bands play on the pistes
themselves, while other groups rock the
bars down in Morzine centre. In summer,
it plays host to internationally renowned
mountain biking events.
Morzine is an old farming town, a fact
that becomes clear when you visit the
weekly market and see the fantastic
array of local produce on offer. The
resort has not been over-developed, and
the low-level, traditional chalet- style
architecture gives it a unique charm.
The fact that it has so much character
makes Morzine a popular spot with
both local buyers and those from
further afield. The average price of
an apartment is 6,372 euros per m²,
and there are around 10,000 chalets/
apartments in the town - this is an
average price and, as such, should
be treated as a guide only. Some of
the properties here are available “offmarket”
so it always pays to work with
an estate agent who has their ear to the
Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a vast region,
covering just under 70,000 km², and
property prices vary enormously even
within the same resort.
The Auvergne is a beautiful area full of
lakes, rivers, and dramatic (dormant)
volcanoes. Here rural France is at its
best, and you will find that property
prices are way lower than in the ski
resorts in the Alps. Don’t be fooled
though, you can still ski, cycle and hike in
the Auvergne, and property is excellent
value for money.
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However, the Alps remain the main
reason that France is the number one
ski destination in the world, attracting
54m visitors a year. It’s not just the
skiing either, the lakes in the region
are stunning and a beautiful place to
buy a permanent or second home. Take
Annecy, for example. It is the largest city
in Haute-Savoie, yet it is known for its
beauty and is even called “The Venice of
the Alps.” Full of terrific bars, restaurants,
and boutiques, it is one of the most
beautiful summer tourist destinations in
Leggett has a fabulous portfolio of
properties in the region, and all their
local experts live and work there. Find
out more at frenchestateagents.com
Why British expats in
France should review
their finances post
Following the UK’s departure
from the European Union in 2021,
Jennie Poate, head of operations
at Beacon Global Wealth, financial
advisors for expats in France,
advises on changes that may affect
How has Brexit affected banking
and finance services for expats
There have been occasions where UK
financial institutions have changed how
they treat clients who live outside of the
UK and companies. For instance some
banks notifying clients that they can no
longer hold accounts, and
The changes brought about by Brexit
mean that some companies no longer
have a European licence for financial
and insurance services. Essentially they
are no longer able to support offshore
clients. Even the big banks such as
Barclays have been in the headlines for
sending letters saying they will close
bank accounts for non-residents.
This caused causing concern and upset
for many people. There are though on
line bank accounts which offer multicurrency
accounts which may provide a
simple solution for those who are tech
savvy and want to maintain a sterling
account – those with pension income for
example. (Ed’s note: for instance Revolut
Pensions post Brexit for expats
Some Brits with pensions in the UK are
having issues, for instance Aviva not
allowing online access for clients.
When it comes to pensions that are
in drawdown or not yet in payment, a
France-based advisor who is qualified
to advise on both the UK and French
finances can help you asses your current
arrangements and compare alternatives
which might hold greater flexibility.
If you would like a no-obligation, free
consultation, contact Jennie Poate, head
of operations at Beacon Global Wealth.
jennie @ bgwealthmanagement.net
Please be aware that Beacon Global
Wealth management are not tax advisors
The information on these pages based on
current regulations is intended only as an
introduction only and is not designed to
offer solutions or advice. Beacon Global
Wealth management are not tax advisors
or accountants. Beacon Global Wealth
Management can accept no responsibility
whatsoever for losses incurred by acting on the
information on this page.
The financial advisers trading under Beacon
Wealth Management are members of
Nexus Global (IFA Network). Nexus Global
is a division within Blacktower Financial
Management (International) Limited (BFMI).
All approved individual members of Nexus
Global are Appointed Representatives of BFMI.
BFMI is licenced and regulated by the Gibraltar
Financial Services Commission and bound by
their rules under licence number FSC00805B
How banking in
France is going digital
Changing customer expectations and
new technology is transforming the face
of banking, the experts at Credit Agricole
Britline explain how…
Banking has a long history. Historical
documents suggest that a form of
banking dates from Ancient Greece and
the Roman empire, with money loaned
out and kept safe. In France, Napoleon
Bonaparte established the Banque de
France, with the first currency issued
in 1800. The very first mutual bank in
France was Crédit Agricole, founded in
February 1885 in the Jura region.
Today, innovative technology and shifting
customer expectations are changing the
face of banking, with new services and
new ways of working. We consider why
this digital evolution is happening – and
the benefits for customers.
Why are banks going
Innovation in financial services is not
new. In the 1970s, French engineer
Roland Moreno invented a portable
memory device leading the way to the
world’s first smart payment card. During
the 1980s, this invention revolutionised
banking. In the mid-1990s, the world’s
first online banking services started up.
In 1999, Crédit Agricole Britline was
Today the pace of change is increasing,
and the massive growth in the use of
mobile phones and development of high
speed internet are the key drivers.
The smartphone revolution
An estimated 48 million smartphones
are currently in use in France. And, not
just used for social and search purposes,
users are increasingly using phones
for banking too, with apps driving this
change. Apps are a form of software
which provides a means to carry out a
task such as shopping or games.
In 2020, there were almost 3 million
apps available for downloading in Google
Play Store, enabling users to access a
huge variety of digital services.
Banks are responding to this appetite
for apps by launching new apps which
are secure and offer more services. Ma
Banque is an app developed by Crédit
Agricole Normandie to enable customers
to consult and manage accounts and
budgets as well as carrying out daily
banking transactions. You can view
multiple accounts, transfer money
immediately safely and securely as well
as review balances on loans and interest
on savings accounts. In addition, the app
allows you to budget and control your
spending, with handy alerts on accounts
and budget overruns.
High speed internet
Another reason for the digital change
is the expansion of high speed internet
coverage. The French government
published a plan ‘Plan France Haut/Très
Haut Débit’ with a target to provide highspeed
broadband of at least 30 mbps to
all of France by 2022.
Despite slow progress in many areas, it
is fair to say though that fast broadband
including fibre optic services are
gradually being rolled out throughout
the country, enabling people to use
their computers for online banking and
shopping. However access to high speed
internet in France is far from universal;
currently an estimated 6 million people
lack a minimum quality access to the
internet, particularly in rural areas.
Expectations are changing
For us as customers, some things will
never change. We want to receive a good
quality service, at a reasonable price and
within a realistic timescale. However our
needs and expectations are changing.
Some credit this to the so-called ‘Amazon
effect’, whereby consumers can find and
purchase products with only a few clicks,
getting the items delivered straight to
Research reveals a shift in expectations
particularly amongst younger
generations. These age groups – often
referred to as ‘Generation X’ and
‘Millennials’ are used to the speed and
flexibility of online banking and prefer
the digital experience. But this attitude
is affecting all age groups. One in five
people over the age of 65 now has an
online bank account, a trend which is
likely to increase.
As COVID19 continues to restrict
activity, particularly for more vulnerable
people, the ability to undertake everyday
financial transactions such as for paying
bills online and ordering shopping is even
more crucial. The pandemic may also
hasten the move to a cashless society; a
February 2021 survey by the Banque de
France found that 39% of French citizens
have reduced their use of cash since
The future is personal
Customers want to feel valued. The
growth in e-commerce and digitalisation
in all services including banking, offers
choice and greater diversity of services,
all easily accessible by using our
To deliver a personalised service in
our digital age requires data; historical
customer data based on personal
experience. The massive growth in
available data, the development of
algorithms and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
is central to this trend. French banks,
along with financial institutions across
the world, are now heavily investing in
this form of innovation.
Personalised email messages can be
delivered to customers, blog content,
offers and services can be tailored based
upon previous activity online.
Chatbots are arguably one of the most
exciting technological advances in
recent years, allowing computers to
communicate intelligently with humans
using natural language.
They can provide customer support
services, asking a user to specify their
problem, providing information or
directing them to the appropriate place.
Linked to social media profiles such as
Facebook and Messenger, Chatbots work
The future is digital
For some people, digital advances may
be confusing. At CA Britline we understand
that not everyone wishes to communicate
with a chatbot or use their
bank purely for online transactions. For
us, banking is about people as well, and
we are always here to talk to and help
CA Britline is part of Crédit Agricole
Normandie, one of France’s largest and
oldest banks. We provide services to
English speakers in France, Ireland and
second home owners in the UK. Find out
Travel with your
taste buds to
The lure of the Loire – chateaus, gateaus and tasty treats
– it’s an irresistible combination says Janine Marsh…
Some things are made for each
other. Peaches and Cream.
Cheese and wine. Chateaus
and gateaus (castles and cakes).
Which got me thinking about
the best places in the UNESCO
listed Loire Valley where you can
feast like royalty - restaurants
in castles or in the shadow of
castles. Chefs who make dishes
you’ll remember long after you’ve
tasted them. Famous local wines,
vegetables grown in castle
gardens, historic dining rooms,
local specialities and irresistible
For an authentic taste of the
Loire Valley, add these delicious
addresses to your itinerary and
take a gastronomic journey of the
French Valley of the Kings with
these scrumptious recipes…
© Chateau du Rivau
Chateau du Rivau
The Chateau du Rivau is a medieval fairy tale castle with magical gardens and a
delicious restaurant. Its beautifully restored royal stables are thought to be the
oldest in France – Joan of Arc arrived here in 1429 in search of a horse to carry her
to battle. The rooms of the castle are beautifully furnished and embellished with an
extraordinary art collection and regular exhibitions.
The 14 fairy-tale like gardens at the
foot of the château are a classified
“Remarkable Garden of France” and
house monumental works of art and an
impressive collection of more than 460
varieties of roses, carefully selected for
their scents. Read more about the fairy
tale Chateau du Rivau
The chateau has a lovely restaurant.
The Jardin Secret of Château du Rivau.
On sunny days, dine outside in the
heart of those scented rose gardens
under a magical canopy. Vegetables
are cultivated at the chateau farm,
and wine produced from their own
vineyards. Products are locally sourced
and exquisitely presented by Chef
Nicolas Gaulandeau who offers
innovative cuisine inspired by the Rivau
garden and nature.
Black truffles flourish in Touraine, growing at the feet of oak, hazelnut and even
lime trees and local restaurants love to use this homegrown products.
Brouillade aux truffes
Ingredients for 4:
1 x 30g truffle
40g liquid cream
Salt and pepper (from a grinder)
This mouth-wateringly delicious recipe from Chef Nicolas Gaulandeau of the
Chateau de Rivau restaurant will make your taste buds do cartwheels! Though
simple, the use of truffles elevates it to a whole new level...
Brush the truffle to remove any earth, rinse it under water and pop into an airtight
box with the eggs and keep in the fridge for a few days.
Cut the truffle into small pieces.
In a saucepan, put half the butter, half the liquid cream, half the truffle and the
lightly beaten eggs.
Season with salt and pepper and then stir with a wooden spoon, making sure the
eggs do not firm up but cook gently.
When eggs are ready to firm, add the rest of the butter and cream, warm though
for a short time.
Arrange on a plate, sprinkle with the remaining truffle and serve instantly.
Chateau de Chenonceau
The white façade of this exquisite château
is reflected in the water of the Cher river,
spanned elegantly by its famous gallery.
Visit the gorgeous gardens and wander the
rooms that are filled with most beautiful floral
bouquets and rich furnishings. Read more here
and take a virtual visit:
Then treat yourself to a memorable meal - and
a choice from the best cheese platters I’ve ever
seen. The Orangerie restaurant at the exquisite
Chateau de Chenonceau is exceptional. I would
go back here for the cheese alone. Fabulous
local wines – here you’re in the heart of the
AOC Touraine Chenonceaux appellation. Plus
gourmet dishes from chef Christophe Canati
(make sure you leave room for dessert) and
a memorable setting make this a top notch
The baker’s recipe: Cormery’s macarons - Pascal Debaud at the
bakery Aux Vrais Macarons in Cormery.
Typical of the Touraine, recognisable by the legendary round shape, Cormery’s
macarons are one of the oldest cookies in France! Invented by monks in 781 at the
thousand-year-old abbey of Cormery, this recipe has passed through centuries and
down the generations. You can have an authentic taste at Aux Vrais Macarons, a
boulangerie and patisserie in the heart of the pretty village of Cormery near the
Chateau of Chenonceau (8 rue nationale, Cormery).
Ingredients (for about 15 macarons):
200g ground almonds
100g caster sugar
50g icing sugar
2 egg whites
2 teaspoons bitter orange marmalade
A few drops of bitter almond extract
Mix together the almonds, sugar and
Add 3/4 of the egg whites, bitter almond
extract and orange marmalade.
Leave to rest for 2 hours.
Add the rest of the egg whites and form
a loose dough. Fill a pastry bag with the
dough then form small circles on the
sheet of baking paper.Bake in a very hot
oven for 5 minutes (Cormery’s pastry
chefs bake reach 300˚C), Gas Mark 8-10.
Leave to cool on a wire rack.
Enjoy for breakfast, with an aperitif
or a glass of Vouvray, for dessert with
ice cream, with a coffee and even with
savoury food such as foie gras.
Watch them being made at Aux Vraix
Standing on an island in the middle of
the Indre River, the Chateau d’ Azey
le Rideau was built during the reign of
François I. The design combined the
latest technical innovations from Italy
and the art of French architecture. It is
one of the absolute jewels of the Loire
Valley. Incredibly pretty, the river that
surrounds it reflects its beauty in a
thousand ripples. Exquisitely furnished
rooms are decorated with tapestries and
paintings and the most extraordinary
artworks. Automatons bring the castle
to life, whirling figures, dancing cake
stands, swishing curtains – it’s all very
fairy-tale like and perfectly suits this
most romantic and elegant of chateaux.
You sort of expect Harry Potter to
pop out at any moment as things start
moving around and twirling – it really is
utterly enchanting. Read more about the
Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau
Locals love restaurant L’Aigle d’Or just
outside the town centre and a five
minute walk from the chateau. Chef
Simon Desiles dishes up a delicious
menu in an elegant dining room or under
the shade of a mulberry tree in the pretty
walled garden when it’s sunny.
Push the boat out at L’auberge
Pom’Poire, 6 km from the château, which
has a Michelin Star. Chef Bastien Gillet’s
innovative menu is mouth-wateringly
Nougat of Tours
Unlike the famous chewy nougat of Montélimar, Nougat of Tours is actually a cake.
And it’s seriously scrumptious.
Nougat of Tours cake
80g caster sugar
150g candied fruit
50g apricot jam
80g almond powder
100g egg white
Icing sugar to sprinkle
Pinch of salt
Mix the butter, 35g icing sugar, the egg and a pinch of salt, add the flour and a little
water if necessary. Form a ball and place in the refrigerator.
Mix sugar and almond powder in a bowl. Beat the egg whites until stiff and gently
fold into the mixture.
Roll out the dough and line a greased cake tin (bottom and sides). Spread a thin
layer of apricot jam and then the candied fruit.
Pour the macaron mix over the top. Sprinkle with icing sugar (and repeat 15 minutes
Bake at a temperature of 180˚C for 30 minutes.
Recipe by Pâtisserie et Chocolaterie Bigot, place du château, Amboise.
Find out more: touraineloirevalley.com/nougat-de-tours/
Royal Fortress of Chinon
The royal fortress sits majestically
watching over its domaine, located high
on the banks of the river Loire, right in
the centre of the city. Built in 945 by
Theobald I, Comte De Blois it has been
a residence for both the French and
English royal families. A highlight for the
visitor is the lofty “gate” tower built in
1200. In the 14th century it was raised
to make room for a clock. Gaze out from
the viewing platform via Google Arts
& Culture over the glorious town and
countryside. You can sense the historic
significance of the site from wherever
you are in this beautiful city. The
charming streets are lined with medieval
houses, many of which date back to the
1400’s, making the town an excellent
place to wander in wonder. Find out
Did you know that saffron is produced
in the Touraine area? Just a few pounds
of “red gold” is produced each year,
one of the most expensive spices in the
world! It’s used in the kitchen, but also
for perfumes and dyes. Saffron is said to
have anti-depressive qualities, promotes
digestion, regulates stomach functions
and seems to have a positive effect
against certain cancers, multiple sclerosis
and age-related macular degeneration.
Eat at: Le chapeau Rouge
Loved by the locals, Le chapeau Rouge, in the centre of Chinon serves traditional and
gourmet cuisine featuring locally sourced and seasonal produce. Chef Christophe
Duguin is a local ambassador making use of local and seasonal products wherever
possible and his dishes are simply irresistible. touraineloirevalley.com/restaurants/
Chef’s recipe: Roasted scallops
with saffron butter sauce
This delicious recipe by Chef Duguin is
delicate full of flavour…
Ingredients for 4
Allow for 3-4 scallops per person
10 cl white wine
1 dash of cider vinegar
10 filaments of Safran
160 g butter
Finely chop the shallots. Crush the
saffron filaments with your fingertips in
the palm of your hand and add the white
wine, vinegar and shallots and leave to
infuse overnight in the fridge.
The next day, in a saucepan, reduce
the mixture over low heat to about two
Sear the scallops lightly on each side,
just until lightly browned, don’t overcook
them. Season and keep warm.
Cut the butter into pieces an add a little
at a time to the reduced shallot mixture,
whisking vigorously. Season.
Serve the scallops with rice, risotto or
vegetable puree, and pour the saffron
Discover what to see and do in Touraine:
This time of the year in my little French village, the fields are filled with cows.
There are certainly more cows than people – this is farming country.
My favourite cow-keepers are Monsieur and Madame Pepperpot. Not their
real names of course but they are very petite and ancient. Lifelong farmers,
they are too old to keep a large herd but like to keep their hand in, and have
just three very spoiled, much loved black and white creatures called Marie-
Antoinette, Blanche and Marguerite – all named after famous Queens of
I met them by accident as they live in a rather hidden part of the village,
down a woodland pathway off the beaten track, though since there are just
150 residents, it’s hardly beaten anywhere around here. One early spring
morning, a damp sort of day, mist hanging over the village like giant cobwebs,
the dogs, instead of going our usual walking route, ran off down the wooded
pathway and didn’t return when we called them. Following in their footsteps
we encountered a very large cow eating the flowers in a tiny cottage garden.
Our dogs loud barking did nothing to move the cow but out of the cottage
came a tiny old lady with white hair tied in a bun. Together we heaved the
cow back to its field at the back of their home.
Since then, we’ve become firm friends. Madame Pepperpot loves to cook –
robust stews, pies, tarts and flammekueches – the local pizza. Eaten straight
out of the oven, it burns your fingers a little but, she says that’s how it should
be enjoyed. She is famous for her rice puddings made with milk from her
We often walk past her cottage these days and wave to her as she stands
at her kitchen sink at the window which overlooks her little front garden.
Always she has a big smile and will laugh as she watches our dogs run about,
excited at the prospect of finding another cow. It makes me think of a quote
by Victor Hugo “laughter is sunshine, it chases winter from the human face”.
Wishing you well from a tiny village in the middle of nowhere, rural northern
Janine Marsh is the author of My Good Life in France: In Pursuit of the Rural
Dream and My Four Seasons in France: A Year of the Good Life, available on