Issue No. 28

This gorgeous issue is stuffed full of fabulous features from beautiful Annecy to the sunny southern Basque country and the city of Pau, the Canal du Midi and much more. There’s a fabulous photo essay of the four seasons of Provence, practical guides and recipes galore with a focus on the gastronomy of the Touraine region in the Loire Valley - from an ancient recipe for macarons to more-ish nougat cake!

This gorgeous issue is stuffed full of fabulous features from beautiful Annecy to the sunny southern Basque country and the city of Pau, the Canal du Midi and much more. There’s a fabulous photo essay of the four seasons of Provence, practical guides and recipes galore with a focus on the gastronomy of the Touraine region in the Loire Valley - from an ancient recipe for macarons to more-ish nougat cake!

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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

French fix.

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

of Paris

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

Facebook page

106 Notes from a pigsty

Meeting Madame and Monsieur



84 My Life in France

Joanna Leggett reveals a few of her

favourite things

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

the Loire…

29 Basque Cheesecake

99 Brouillade aux truffes de Touraine –

an eggy delight

101 Cormery Macarons – irresistible

sweet treat

103 Nougat of Tours – a seriously

scrumptious cake

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

anywhere before.

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

the lake.

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

peaked mountains.

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

castle ramparts.

“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

meant it.

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 life

“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

around them.

Annecy market

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

Reblochon pie



Gateau de Savoie

Around and about

Visit the 1000 year old Chateau de

Menthon-Saint-Bernard overlooking

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

Marcel Piquand.

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

nature reserve.


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…

Details: inax-aventure.com


Boat: Take a cruise of the lake, there

are loads of options from catamaran to

restaurant boat Libellule, or even hire a

small motorboat.

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.

Get there

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

or coach.

Useful websites


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

years ago.

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 Gascons.

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

Basque coast.

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

court there.

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

super recipe).

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

for you.

As they say in Basque, Saran Astia, we

have time…

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


Basque cheesecake

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

10 seconds.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake

cheesecake until deeply golden brown

on top and still very jiggly in the center,

60–65 minutes.

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

high-level boulevard.

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


Discover Pau

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

social scene.

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

the Pyrenees.

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

summer grazing.

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!


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

Jurançon wine.

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

public holidays.

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)


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.


Visit tourismepau.com

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

fairy-tale setting.

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

wealthy town.

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

castle grounds.

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

various pathways.

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

car park.

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

exhibition hall.

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

cloister building.

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

château grounds.

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.

Discover Nature

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

cobblestoned streets.

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.

Useful websites

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

favourite places…

The Four Seasons of

Provence SPRING

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

winter sun…

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

at: instagram.com/frenchfascination

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…

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

the King.

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

du Midi

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

fewer kilometres.

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

their father.

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

passenger ships.

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,

wonderful patisseries

and boulangeries,

museums, castles,

vineyards, restaurants

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

he stays…

“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

enchanted properties.

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

blackened trees.

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

their ladies.

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-

Brocéliande Castle

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

French Riviera

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

good example.

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.

The search

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.

The painter

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

the Mas.

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

Your Photos

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.

My France

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

about France…

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

French Alps.

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

digest properly.

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.


ClickMoves.com can help. They take care of all

the paperwork, the packing and your precious

things. Get a free quote and expert help.




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

some people.

How has Brexit affected banking

and finance services for expats

in France?

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

and Transferwise).

Pensions post Brexit for expats

in France

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

or accountants.

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

their door.

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

March 2020.

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

our customers.

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

more: britline.com

Travel with your

taste buds to


Loire Valley

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

sweet treats.

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.

Touraine speciality

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

de Touraine

Ingredients for 4:

8 eggs

1 x 30g truffle

20g butter

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

dining experience…

Touraine speciality

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).

Cormery Macarons

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

icing sugar.

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


Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau

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


Touraine speciality

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

140g flour

80g caster sugar

70g butter

1 egg

150g candied fruit

(melon-papaya) diced

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

before baking).

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

more: www.forteressechinon.fr

Touraine speciality


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

2 shallots

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

butter around.

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

queenly cows.

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


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