8 fabulous contests
The chateau de
Escape to the
Dick and Angel Share their top tips
+ Fabulous recipes, practical guides
and advice features.
Du pain, du vin,
du train to
Nantes, Le Mans,
Welcome to the winter issue of The Good Life France Magazine.
It's a bumper issue and will definitely satisfy your French fix through the winter months!
There are loads of fabulous features about some of the best places to visit in France
including marvellous Marseille, home of Pastis and brilliant Bordeaux which you can
reach by train from Paris in just 2 hours! Our guides are written by some of the top travel
writers in the business with a brief to tell it like it is and seek out the secrets.
If you thought Le Mans was a place where a famous race took place and nothing else,
you're in for a surprise, there is a gorgeous medieval town and plenty to see and do.
We've checked out the best tours of France 2019; spent the weekend in Nantes, a truly
quirky and arty city and ski'd at Meribel. We totally fell in love with the wonderful art deco
swimming pool museum of La Piscine in the north of France where we caught up with
the architect (who also converted the Gare d'Orsay into the world's favourite museum)
We talk to TV stars Dick and Angel of Escape to the Chateau to get their top tips for
those who dream of their own escape.
2019 is a key year in the Loire Valley as 500 years of the French Renaissance will be
celebrated with more than 500 events. It's one place you really ought to pop on your
bucket list - you'll have a ball, literally if you choose, as the Chateau d'Amboise is holding
two fabulous balls in its grand hall and they're open to everyone.
There are wonderful recipes, useful guides, inspirational guides and some fabulous
competitions including the chance to win a week in Carcassonne, ferry tickets, a row of
vines in Provence and great books...
This issue has been put together with passion - it's totally free to read and download and
if you enjoy it, please do share it with your friends, thank you so much,
Bisous from France,
8 500 years of Renaissance in
the Loire Valley...
Discover the heritage of the Loire Valley's
18 escape to the chateau
Janine Marsh talks to TV stars Dick & Angel
about life at the chateau...
28 brilliant bordeaux
Just 2 hours by train from Paris, the sunny
city couldn't be more different.
38 la piscine - the stunning
museum gets an update
The stunningly beautiful museum adds to
its fabulous collection with new space.
46 Chateau vaux-le-vicomte
Decked up for the Christmas season, this
incredible castle is truly captivating.
52 best tours of france 2019
If you want special, authentic and original
tours - then don't miss our round up.
56 le mans, motoring & more
If you thought Le Mans is just a place where
a race takes place - think again!
62 marvellous and tasty
Peter Jones heads to Marseille to sample its
charms - and pastis!
68 le weekend in nantes
Amy McPherson visits the quirky, creative
city & discovers her inner child!
74 in the tracks of the tour
Michael Cranmer pedals in the tracks of
the Tour de France - sort of...
82 truffle hunting in
Hunting for black diamonds and a truffle
festival in Sarlat, an aromatic visit.
Justine Halifax finds "Little England" in the
French Alps is "the best skiing. Ever."
90 Bonjour Paris
Video diary of a trip to Paris...
92 I spy with my expat eye
Keith van Sickle is bemused by French
politics "it wouldn't happen in the US"...
98 Your Photos
The most popular photos on our Facebook
page shared here.
94 Give Aways
A very special issue with loads of give
aways including a week in Carcarssonne,
ferry tickets, vines and books...
110 Expat good life in
An Australian family find their dream house
in unspoiled France...
122 My Good Life in France
Winter comes to the Seven Valleys
100 guide to mortgages
The experts explain how French mortgages
104 French tax charge
Experts update on the French tax charge
updates for 2019.
106 Property guide to cote
Where to find more affordable property in
the popular south.
114 turkey parcels with
116 pain d'epices with
118 chestnut cream
120 duck confit & p rovencal
Chateau de Chambord © D-Darrault CRTCentreVdL
Celebrate 500 yea
Renaissance in th
2019 sees a major celebration of the French Renaissance heritage in the Loire Va
French Renaissance and how the key date of 1519 marks the 500
What is the French Renaissance?
The finale of the 15th century saw the end
of the Hundred Years’ War between France
and England. It was a period during which
Joan of Arc had travelled to the heart of the
Loire Valley to persuade the Dauphin to
give her an army and persuade him to take
his place as King of France and become
Charles VII. With constant attacks by the
English on French soil, the homes of the
royals and nobility were more like
fortresses, designed to fend off invaders
and keep people, animals and belongings
In 1494, Charles VII waged war in Italy and
though unsuccessful, he gained a love of
Renaissance art and culture and returned to
France taking with him Italian craftsmen
and artisans. Thus began the French love
affair with all things Renaissance. It was a
time of economic and social change, when
the arts, literature and culture flourished.
And we can see the legacy of the French
Renaissance to this day, forever recorded in
the architecture of many chateaux and
towns in the Loire Valley where the French
s of the French
e Loire Valley
lley and the Centre-Val de Loire region. Janine Marsh looks at what sparked the
th anniversary with a rich programme of events and celebration...
1519 was a key year
Leonardo da Vinci the, the very definition
of a Renaissance man, died in the Loire
Valley on 2 May, 1519 at the Chateau du
Catherine de Medici was born in Florence
that year and grew up to be a major figure
of the Renaissance, a patron of the arts, her
legacy lives on in the Loire Valley.
And, the first stone of the magnificent
Chateau of Chambord was laid,
commissioned by King Francis I, known as
the father of the French Renaissance. The
chateau is a perfect example of all that the
Renaissance came to be.
In 2019, the Centre-Val de Loire region
celebrates 500 years of Renaissance since
this key date, with more than 500 events
taking place throughout the area.
Exhibitions, workshops, concerts and much
more will take place, in what is surely an
ongoing French love affair with the arts and
The double helix staircase mirrors the
same structure as DNA! Although no
one can say for sure that the
staircase is the work of Leonardo da
Vinci, he left behind drawings of this
style of staircase and even one for a
The Chateau de Chambord
The flamboyant King Francis I loved to put
on a show and at Chambord, his
imagination ran wild. A grand castle in true
Renaissance style, built to shout to the
world that this was the home of the
greatest King that ever lived.
426 rooms (60 of which are open to the
public), 83 staircases including a double
helix staircase said to have been at the
very least inspired by (if not designed by)
Leonardo da Vinci, 282 fireplaces (never
enough to keep it warm) tall towers and
Straight out of a fairy tale, Chambord is an
absolute dream of a castle bought to life.
It’s been called an “example of
architectural megalomania”, Victor Hugo
said it was “admirably bizarre”. It was
outrageously expensive to build with up to
2000 workmen employed on its creation.
In fact the King ran out of money before it
was completed despite raiding the
treasuries of churches and grabbing silver
from his subjects. When he was captured in
battle in Italy in 1525, just 6 years after the
first stone of Chambord was laid, he gave
up his sons to take his place and then
couldn’t ransom them due to lack of funds.
Work went on in in fits and starts but by the
time he died aged 52 in 1547, the King had
only spent 50 days t there in total.
Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site
and much loved monument to the
Renaissance in the Loire Valley, an
amazing example of the style of the day.
The castle grounds cover around 13,500
hectares, roughly the size of inner Paris,
and is the largest enclosed park in Europe,
with boundary walls covering 20 miles. You
can discover it on foot, by bike, horse, 4x4
or horse and carriage and there are 20km
of trails to explore in the forest.
Inside there are 4,500 works of art,
tapestries, paintings and furnishings. On
cold days some of the fires are lit giving it a
homely feeling so that you can imagine
how it must have been when the court
were in residence. In some of the rooms
there are actors dressed in the costumes of
the day, regaling visitors with stories and
A new formal garden was inaugurated in
2017 with thousands of trees, plants and
roses and the terrace overlooking it, with
its central great lantern tower is
magnificent. In the grounds, actors on
horse back roam the park evoking a spirit
of the past and its grand heyday.
There’s even a small village of shops,
café’s, a fabulous biscuiterie where you
can taste the local liqueur Chambord, wine
tasting store, a 4* hotel Relais de
Chambord and fabulous restaurant which
overlooks the Chateau. It has to be one of
the most extraordinary views to enjoy lunch
or dinner anywhere in the world.
From the medieval chateaux that were the
norm just decades before, the Chateau of
Chambord ushered in a new style of
building and a new art of living, and things
in France would never be the same again.
Read more about Chambord here.
Just 3 years before that first stone was laid,
63 year old Leonardo da Vinci arrived in
nearby Amboise, invited to stay in the grace
and favour Chateau du Clos Lucé by his
new royal patron, Francis I of France...
WHATS ON 2019: Exhibition: May to
September, International architecture
competition: one aspect focused on the
history of the château, and one on its future,
aiming to virtually transform it into a 21stcentury
utopian ideal. www.chambord.org
Leonardo da Vinci
What’s on 2019:
The Last Supper
tapestry based on
Vinci’s fresco will
be presented, the
first time it has
outside of Italy
for Louise of Savoy
mother of Francis
before 1514. In 1533,
Francis gave it to
Pope Clement VII
on the occasion of
the marriage of his
son Henri II and
the Pope’s niece,
Chateau du Clos Lucé
When Francis I issued an invite to Leonardo
da Vinci he travelled to France by donkey –
carrying the Mona Lisa painting - and
headed over the alps to the Loire Valley. He
spent the rest of his life at the Chateau du
Clos Lucé working on engineering and
architectural projects, completing the Mona
Lisa, scribbling his notes and inspiring the
King. The chateau du Clos Lucé was joined
by a secret underground passage to the
nearby Chateau d'Amboise where Francis 1
lived and Leonardo would scuttle along it to
meet with his patron. Francis was very fond
of the Italian architect, painter, philosopher,
engineer, botanist, poet, musician, writer
Leonardo died at the chateau on May 2,
1519 – his work having changed the world.
Visit the castle today and discover an
atmospheric museum, restored and
furnished in Renaissance style. It’s very
easy to imagine the great man living and
working there. In what was his bedroom
Minette the cat sleeps on the bed, in his
workshop and study, notes, paintings, an
easel, the tools of his trade are laid out.
There is a fabulous 3D film and models of
some of his most incredible projects.
Read more about the Chateau du Clos Lucé
The 15 acre park contains more amazing
models of the great man’s inventions. The
trees are hung with huge translucent
representations of his paintings and
sayings, they seem to float. It’s romantic,
ethereal and beautifully done.
Read more about the gardens of Clos Luce
As well as a charming creperie and snack
style restaurant the Auberge du Prieuré
restaurant in a former 16th century house
serves typical French Renaissance dishes.
Chateau Royale Amboise, credit: L De Serres
Chateau d’ Amboise
Leonardo da Vinci was laid to rest in the
flamboyant St Hubert’s chapel at the
Chateau d’Amboise, a fitting place as it’s
here that the French Renaissance began.
When Charles VII returned to France from
the Italian military campaigns of the late
15th century, he bought Italian architects
and artists back with him to teach the
French. He set his workmen to upgrade the
Medieval fortress (in which up to 4000
people had lived) of Amboise into a
chateau fit for a King. They worked day and
night by torchlight. However he never got
to see it finished. Inspecting their work one
day, he hit his head on the stone lintel of a
door. Though he said he was okay, he
collapsed and died within hours.
His successor Louis XI continued the
renovation but it was Francis I who bought
In May and July you can have a ball at Amboise
- literally, join in the Renaissance dancing, dress
up and feel the history
it to full Renaissance glory. Born in Cognac,
he moved to Amboise aged 6 and was
educated there, making it his court when
he was crowned King in 1515, the year he
invited Leonardo da Vinci to France.
Under his direction the Chateau d’Amboise,
perched on a hill dominating the town,
became a pleasure palace of immense
beauty. He kept lions, tigers, leopards and
bears in a dry part of the moat. He staged
huge, ostentatious parties, with Leonardo
da Vinci designing costumes and
automatons, including a clockwork lion. It
walked and urinated and its body opened
up and was filled with lilies. For a play, he
recreated the night sky over the stage
complete with constell-ations and planets.
Go there today and you won’t find the
castle that Leonardo knew, much of it was
demolished in the 19th century when the
owner couldn’t afford to maintain it. But
what does remain is glorious and and the
views over the Loire Valley from its terraces
In the great hall inside, a bust of Francis I
looks down on visitors as they explore the
grand architecture of this historic chateau.
In May and July 2019 you can catch the
King’s eye by joining in at a grand ball in
that very room.
Book your tickets as soon as possible to
hire a Renaissance costume at the castle
and join in the dancing. It’s an extraordinary
experience, I’ve done it myself
(above) and for one night, felt like a
Princess as I danced to Renaissance music
until the sun went down, a truly magical
way to feel the history of Amboise.
What’s on 2019 Chateau d'Amboise:
Exhibition on the death of Leonardo da
Vinci, including, from 2 May 2019, François-
Guillaume Ménageot’s 1781 painting “The
Death of Leonardo da Vinci”. Renaissance
balls and workshops, music festivals,
fireworks and more throughout the year.
The Chateau de Blois
Whilst working on Amboise, Francis I also
embarked on a refurbishment programme
at the nearby Chateau of Blois. It had been
the childhood home of his wife Claude and
was where a young Anne Boleyn was lady
in waiting to the Queen.
It’s said that Anne acquired a taste for the
Renaissance style here and at other Royal
Chateaux. It influenced her style and when
she returned to England and married Henry
Chateau de Blois
A range of styles from the 13th to 17th
centuries can be seen at the Chateau de
Blois, and the Renaissance part is evident.
The wing that Francis built is sumptuous
and the cage staircase is magnificent.
Read more about Blois here
Whats on 2019: Children of the
Renaissance - May to September 2019
Exhibition on the theme of childhood from
the late 15th century to the early 17th
century; May to October 2019 Sculptures
by artist Laurence Dréano in the rooms of
Catherine de Medici
Born in 1519 in Florence, Catherine de
Medici was married in 1533, aged 14, to the
son of Francis I who became Henri II of
France in 1547. It wasn’t the happiest of
marriages, Henri was in love with his
mistress Diane de Poitiers, Catherine’s
cousin. Their pass-ionate affair lasted until
his death in 1559.
It was Diane who wielded political influence
when her lover the King was alive, she who
was showered with jewels and gifted
castles including the stunning Chateau of
Chenonceau, a Renaissance jewel.
Read more about Chenonceau here.
In 1559, Henri was fatally injured at a
jousting tournament at which he was
wearing the colours of Diane. His sons were
too young to rule, so it was Catherine de
Medici who became effective ruler of
France, making Blois her key royal base.
Diane de Poitiers was ordered to return the
crown and Catherine took Chenonceau
from her but gave her the pretty Chateau de
Chaumont to soften the blow.
Read more about Chaumont here.
Diane also had her beautiful chateau d’Anet
to retire to. Probably the most
beautiful chateau you never heard of it, it is
an incredible jewel of the Renaissance and
contains Diane’s bed and several
belongings, including a love letter from the
King, her hand mirror and all sorts of
Read more about Chateau d’Anet here.
Catherine de Medici’s 30 year rule through
her sons was at a time of turbulence,
tarnished by the bloody turmoil of religious
wars. It’s claimed that she would despatch
teams of beautiful young women to calm
down aggressive noblemen and to find out
their secrets. The 1572 St Bartholomew
massacre of thousands of Protestants
happened on her watch. The infamous
assassination of the Duke de Guise, leader
of the Catholic League took place at the
Chateau de Blois in 1588 while she lie sick
in bed. She died a year later, aged 69, and
was buried first at Blois before being reinterred
at the Basilica of Saint-Denis with
the husband she had loved.
During her time she became an influential
patron of the arts, making a significant
contribution to the French Renaissance for
three decades. She spent vast amounts of
money on monuments and chateaux,
employed Italian artists and architects,
patronised French artists and became a
renowned collector. She was famous for her
lavish parties, known as “magnificences” as
well as championing the theatrical arts,
ballet and opera.
VIVA LEONARDO DA VINCI
Viva Leonardo da Vinci, celebrating 500
years of the French Renaissance in the
Loire Valley, sees around 500 events
taking place all over the region. In this rich
programme of arts and culture, the French
Renaissance lives on…
For further inspiration visit:
Escape to the
Dick Strawbridge and wife Angel Adoree
relocated from the UK in 2015 to do up a
run-down 5-storey chateau with 45
rooms in Mayenne, Pays de la Loire,
France. “It was cheaper than a onebedroom
flat in East London” says Dick –
but it needed a lot of work to transform it
into the home and good life they wanted,
and to create an income earning
Janine Marsh talks to Dick and Angel
about life at the Chateau and their top
tips for those who dream of escaping to
A legion of fans
Millions have watched the intrepid couple,
the stars of TV Series “Escape to the
Chateau” as they’ve painstakingly restored
the Chateau-de-La-Motte Husson with its
tall towers and pretty orangerie where they
now host weddings.
No strangers to TV, Dick with his distinctive
moustache, has appeared in shows like
Scrapheap Challenge, It’s Not Easy Being
Green and Celebrity Masterchef. Red-head
Angel has a passion for 1940s clothes and
all things vintage, she’s an author and
founder of The Vintage Patisserie which
she presented on TV show Dragons Den in
2010, winning over the panel and public
with her pluck and passion.
With Escape to the Chateau, they’ve
inspired a huge audience with the
dedication and hard work they’ve put into
transforming their chateau into a gorgeous
new home and business. Bringing up two
young children, 5-year-old Arthur and 4-
Angel and Dick share a taste of the
year-old Dorothy, renovating a huge home,
creating a business which will earn them an
income and pay for the work needed on the
chateau hasn’t been easy. But it’s made for
riveting viewing and has led to a spin off
series “Escape to the Chateau DIY” in which
we’ve seen more plucky Brits take on
chateaux and get some advice and
sometimes practical help from Dick and
Dick, 59, and Angel, 40, have also inspired a
legion of fans to consider a move to France
to start a new life. Leggett Immobillier, top
estate agents in France say that each time
an episode of the Escape to the Chateau
DIY is shown, they see a massive jump in
chateau search numbers on their website!
They’ve not just seen viewings increase but
It seems that many of us dream of escaping
to our very own chateau in France – but just
how realistic is it?
"It's a marathon not a sprint"
What has been the worst job you’ve had to
take on at the chateau and – knowing
what you know now, would you have done
Probably clearing the bird droppings from
the attic – it wasn’t the smell it was the
very fine dust. And of course, we did it in
the summer when it was extremely hot!
Reckon we’d make it a winter job if we did
Clearly renovating a chateau and starting
a new business from scratch isn’t all a bed
of roses – what motivates you to keep
We love that we've brought the chateau
back to life! Yes, there are challenges and a
project like this is a marathon not a sprint,
but we are doing it for the family and that
is more than enough motivation.
“If it’s meant for you, it won’t go
Millions watch you on the telly and dream
about following in your footsteps – what
three key pieces of advice would you give
them when starting out?
Do it for the right reasons – know what you
want and then go for it. That way problems
will always be overcome rather than putting
an end to your dream.
Have a plan. Planning ahead must include
how you are going to live and earn money.
This will also help you when you're
Be patient, the search is all part of the
journey so don’t settle for something that
isn’t absolutely right for you. We know a
wise lady who always says ‘if it’s meant for
you, it won’t go by you.’
What would be your top tips for starting
any business in France that involves the
hospitality service – gites, B&B, cafés,
Do the sums – a quaint tea room will not
pay for a chateau. Know your target
customers – if you are interested in the
British market think about their travel.
There’s a lot of competition so what makes
you stand out? Invest in good photography,
a website and social media – this
will be the most cost-effective way to
promote your business.
One of the things people love when
watching the show is that you seem very
“real”, we can tell when Dick is exasperated
with one of Angel’s ideas, and when
Angel is peeved that Dick doesn’t get her
vision! How do you manage to still make it
seem such fun!
We have the same goal and although
sometimes we may have different ideas
about how things can/should be done, we
trust each other’s instincts. There are
always going to be challenges but we’re
both equally focused and in love with this
project and creating the life we want for
ourselves and Arthur and Dorothy.
What are you most proud of in your new
life in France?
Not sure pride is the right term, but we
know we have made the decision and we
are bloody minded enough to succeed in
all aspects of our venture.
"Eat an elephant a bite at a time!"
Where do you find your best bargains?
Emmaus [charity shops where you'll find a
great range of furniture and more [read how
to find an Emmaus store here], flea markets,
brocantes and eBay!
Would you do it all again?
In a heartbeat. We really are living our dream
and we wouldn’t change it for the world.
Were you ever afraid of taking on such a huge
project or did you just believe that you could
We have always been sure we can do this, but
it’s not just good luck, you have to plan -
and it’s worth remembering - you eat an
elephant a bite at a time!
Can you tell us a bit about the events
We currently host Weddings, Fun &
Festivities and Gardening Work Days, as
well as a few Food Lovers Weekends. We
also have a new unique glamping
experience ‘Chateau under the Stars’. All
our events capitalise on the local produce
that is so impressive in the Pays de le Loire.
The Food Lovers Weekend at the Chateau
means sampling plenty of amazing food
and drink. The weekend starts with us
hosting all the guests for a meal of many
courses, then after a trip to the local market
at Laval [more on Laval market here], we all
cook together - it's seasonal produce and
dishes that many have not been brave
enough to attempt.
What plans do you have for the future?
It’s fair to say there’s a lot left to do at the
chateau. We haven’t really started some of
the very big jobs, like re-doing our windows
and replacing the roof, and if you add
converting the outbuildings to the ‘to do
list’, there’s no shortage of things to keep
There are also a couple of other very
exciting projects in the pipeline for next
year, but at the moment our lips are sealed!
Dick and Angel's Top
Tips for Chateau
owners and seekers
Location is key: France is a big country,
about three times the size of the UK.
There are many remote, rural areas and
while for lots of us that’s part of the
appeal, but when you're running a
business like this, being close to an
airport or port for transport options is
Be realistic. Chateaux are old, it’s
inevitable that they will need work,
whether that’s full-blown renovation or
just maintenance. And, they generally
cost a lot of money to run (heating
Plan ahead: It’s really important to
consider how you’re going to earn an
income. If your chateau is going to be run
as a business, do some research and plan
what you will offer guests, how it will work
to suit you and your guests and, critically,
how you’ll market it. This will also help
you when you’re planning renovations.
Set deadlines and try as much as you can
to work to a timeline. Keeping focussed
will motivate you to keep going, you’re
going to need that. Reaching milestones
does wonders for your morale!
Join in: Don’t forget you have to live there,
it’s not just about the bricks and mortar.
Integrate with the locals and join in with
community events as much as you can.
Be patient. The French love bureaucracy,
there will be a ton of paperwork. It’s life. In
Don't buy pigs and chicken straight away! It’s
easy to get carried away, to want to live the good
life straight away, but concentrate on the basics
first, you need to make your home weatherproof
etc – then you get the pigs and chickens!
Reuse: Make the
most of what your
chateau has to offer.
mend things, re-love
the bits and pieces
that the chateau
yields. It’s cheaper
Don't rely on getting everything you need in
France. Some things are cheaper in the UK, such
as paint, tools and even radiators. Some things
are cheaper in France or essential to buy here,
electrics and plumbing for instance. Shop around!
Don't get carried away – prioritise fundamental
basics such as heating (if you have a wood fire,
don’t leave ordering the wood until its cold, it may
be more expensive), electricity and plumbing.
Don't be surprised by the fact that in France long
lunches are still common - even for French
artisans who are working on your home! Always
get a quote based on the job, rather than time.
Don't rely totally on the expat community. By
learning French, you’ll be able to communicate
better and importantly, get the best person for the
job you want done.
Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced builder,
you can learn lots from books, YouTube and the
internet. The ability to plan well is really important,
start with this.
Don’t forget that much of France closes down for
August holidays. You’re likely to find that there
are fewer shops and services are available, and it
feels like all artisans take an extended holiday
Website for Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson for
details of events and news from Dick and Angel
Follow Escape to the Chateau on Facebook and
If you need more room for guests, why
not put up a posh tent, and offer a
Janine Marsh disovers the secrets, flavours and
architectural wonders of sunny Bordeaux, AKA the
Pearl of Aquitaine...
Getting to know Bordeaux
I took the fast train from Paris to Bordeaux
and arrived in just over 2 hours. Watching
the speed monitor on a screen in the
carriage hovering around the 320km/hour
mark for much of the journey was pretty
impressive. We slowed down on the
outskirts of Bordeaux which gave me time
to admire the voluptuous outline of the
city’s new emblematic Museum of wine,
the sun bouncing of its snake-like outline.
Some people say Bordeaux is a bit like a
smaller Paris but apart from the fact that
it’s a city, I think Bordeaux is completely
unlike it - in a good way.
Don’t get me wrong I love Paris but
Bordeaux is very different. It’s smaller,
sunnier, the architecture is mellow,
neoclassical masterpieces span three
centuries (18th -20th) which gives a
coherence and consistency to the overall
look - as well as a UNESCO listing. It’s
home to the most wonderful wine bars,
surrounded by the most amazing vineyards
and has its own specialities which you
simply won’t find elsewhere. There are far
less cars, thanks to a tram system and
Mayor Alain Juppé’s support for promoting
cycling. It’s cosmopolitan and has a happy
and relaxed place.
Finding your way round
Bordeaux’s tram service is terrific. It’s easy
to use, cheap and efficient. And, if you
arrive by train, you can hop on a tram right
outside the station (either use the ticket
machines or buy a carnet, a book of tickets,
in the Relay shop in the station).
In the centre of Bordeaux is Quinconces, a
huge square, served by several tram lines.
It’s a good starting point for getting to
know the city. And the best way to do it is
The Roman legacy
The Romans called the city Burdigala and
there are remains of their presence, from
the ruins of an amphitheatre known locally
as 'Le Palais Gallien' to towers hidden
inside buildings. They started off importing
wine from Italy and Spain but in 1AD began
planting a grape species called Biturica, the
ancestor of Cabernet Franc.
You can’t walk more than a few steps in
the city without reminders of that
monumental decision the Romans took -
there are wine bars everywhere.
“Can you tell me what’s the best wine bar
in Bordeaux?” I ask a local outside the
tourist office where I stopped to pick up a
map. He ponders and points across the
road “Maison Gobineau is magnifique” he
enthuses “every kind of Bordeaux wine
there and not expensive at all”.
I head off to find this wine paradise. It looks
very chic and sleek from outside and I
wonder about the not expensive comment.
Inside there are stained glass windows, an
Aubusson tapestry behind the bar, rack
upon rack of bottles and a very long wine
list menu which I pick up cautiously. “2
Euros a glass?” I can’t help exclaiming out
loud. The bar man smiles at me and
explains that it’s about making the wines of
Bordeaux accessible and known to all. I feel
it would be churlish to resist and indulge in
what the barman says is a “cheeky, spicy
After this I’m ready to continue my tour
having been given a potted history of
Bordeaux wines - did you know that there
are about 9000 wine makers in the region
and each make an average of 2-3 varieties...
astonishing! If you only go to one wine bar
(which would be tough on you I must say)
go to this one, it’s terrific.
From here it’s a stone’s throw to the
famous Opera National de Bordeaux, a
veritable landmark in a city of landmarks. It
isn’t like other opera houses. It’s traditional
to be boisterous and noisy I’m told, a
throwback to the good old days when it
first opened and it was a place where the
rich went to let their hair down. More a club
than an opera house in those days, it
would open at 5 pm and cost an average of
several days wages for the average
working man – it was meant to keep the
By the 18th century, when the Opera was
built, Bordeaux was the second wealthiest
city in France, after Paris. It already had a
reputation for some of the best wines and
its harbour was one of the most important
in the world with an an immense flow of
goods coming into the city. When Louis
XIV visited in the mid-17th century,
Bordeaux was very medieval looking
despite its growing wealth, and the king
commanded that it be modernised. After all
this was where many visitors to France first
came, he wanted to make a good
The rich merchants built new areas and
erected fabulous buildings in the
neoclassical style. Today they are part of
that give Bordeaux the status of a UNESCO
world heritage centre. All around you, the
magnificent architecture is truly impressive.
Opposite the Opera is L’Intendant wine
store, an institution for the locals, with wine
from 6 euros to 6000 euros. “There isn’t
" says local Alex Palerologue “a single bad
bottle in here. They are all outstanding even
the cheapest, and the people that work
here give excellent advice”.
Bordeaux used to have a reputation for
being a bit grubby which is hard to believe
as you wander its streets of honeycoloured
buildings. But, if you head to the
17th century Church of Notre Dame
(modelled after the Church of Gesú in
Rome), stand facing it and look to your left,
you’ll see a tea room and in between the
church and the tea room is a narrow alley.
Look at the walls there, you’ll see what
colour Bordeaux was before the big clean
up began in 1995 and left it the mellow,
gleaming blonde stone beauty it is today.
Locals recall the dark days when the
buildings were blackened by years of
pollution so that you couldn’t see the
lovely carvings and sculptures and the
walkways by the river were blocked by ugly
The project to beautify Bordeaux is
ongoing and seems to have a moving goal
post, currently it extends to 2050, with the
introduction of a new tram line, the
continued regeneration of the docklands
and more museums opening. The ugly
warehouses are no more, instead there are
swanky shops and loads of bars and
restaurants, pleasant walkways and
fabulous views. Now the quaysides are
busy with runners, cyclists and people
enjoying themselves. The Miroir d’Eau, a
water sculpture in front of the impressive
Place de la Bourse draws people day and
night to marvel at and enjoy it, kids splash
in the water and cool down in the misty
Don’t miss in Bordeaux
There were 350 churches in Bordeaux
before the French Revolution, many of
them are now deconsecrated and have
been transformed into restaurants, art
galleries even a cinema.
The great door or the Cathedral of Notre
Dame in Paris was modelled on the doors
of the 11th century Cathedral of Bordeaux.
Here Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII
in 1137. In the 14th century, Bordeaux's
Archbishop became Pope Clement V and
moved the seat of Papal rule from Rome to
You’ll see little brass floor plates as you
walk through the city indicating that you’re
on the Way of St James (Camino de
Santiago). There are 3 UNESCO listed
churches on the route.
Not far from the Cathedral, the current town
hall of Bordeaux was intended to be the
palatial residence of Archbishop
Monseigneur the prince of Rohan
Ferdinand-Maximilian de Mériadeck in the
18th century. He spent 2 million livres on it,
a phenomenal sum of money in those days,
he could have built three enormous
chateaux with 500 hectares of land for the
same money. He never spent a night there
as he was sent to a new job. Napoleon did
though, and whilst there he commissioned
the building of the Pont de Pierre, the first
bridge across the Garonne River in
As you wander you might notice that some
streets have more than one name. Streets
often changed names over centuries, and
this was particularly so in France following
the French Revolution. In Bordeaux though,
they kept the old names too, for instance
Marché Royale became Marché Liberté– but
both names are shown (above left).
Don't miss the magnificent Cité du Vin
about which there is so much to write but
not enough room here (read about my visit
on The Good Life website here). It is a
superb museum, the history of wine
throughout the ages and around the world
though of course with an emphasis on
Innovative displays, high tech marvels, a
most fabulous wine tasting area with
panoramic views over the city. A superb
wine store and gift shop are also terrific.
There are several markets in Bordeaux
including Le Marché des Grands Hommes
in the posh Triangle d’Or district and the
Marche des Quais on a Sunday morning,
not far from the Cite du Vin. And if flea
markets are your thing, the weekly Puces
de St Michel will thrill with its vintage,
antiques, books and more (Sunday
When your legs are weary from walking the
streets of this wonderful city, just hop on a
boat and take a tour to admire Bordeaux
from it’s river, said to be one of the cleanest
All this walking is bound to make you
Treats and eats in Bordeaux
Is Bordeaux the new gastronomic capital of
France I found myself wondering. With more
than 3000 restaurants it’s not easy to
decide which is the best but when the same
names crop up from local recommendations
time and time again you have to
figure they’re worth checking out.
Wine and Dine: Restaurant le Chapon Fin
had 3 Michelin Stars but they changed
chefs so the stars went and now they’re
working to get them back. As a result the
menu is cheaper than before but the food,
say the locals, is just as good. For a touch of
real Belle Époque style, this restaurant
which opened in 1825 is unbeatable. To
know that Sarah Bernhardt, Toulouse
Lautrec and the rich and famous who visited
Bordeaux always chose this place and sat
here enjoying the splendid architecture and
sculptures makes the food taste even
better! (5 Montesquieu Street)
Locals lunch: Le Petit Commerce,
traditional, friendly, great menu and full of
French people enjoying a great value meal
that tastes like heaven. 22 Rue Parlement
Locals love: Braderie Bordelaise “a taste of
Bordeaux” is how the locals described it.
There’s always a queue to get in and that
says it all. It’s worth the wait though – if
you’re a steak frites fan, you will never
taste better than here.
Locals new love: Seven at Cité du Vin. The
7th floor restaurant at the wine museum is
divine in every way. Fabulous menu,
brilliant wine list and absolutely stunning
view over the city. It’s open for lunch,
dinner, afternoon tea and any time for a
glass of wine!
Bake my day: Canéles are delicious little
rum and vanilla cakes, a speciality of
Bordeaux where they’ve been making them
for at least 300 years.
There are two famous places to go for one
of these sweet treats: Ballardin and La
Toque-Cuivrée (theirs are slightly crispier).
Personally I prefer the new cake in town –
Dunes Blanches. A speciality of Patisserie
Pascal in Cap Ferret, the seaside town
that’s just an hour from Bordeaux. The
sweet Dunes Blanches were so good that
people started to go to Cap Ferret just to
buy them, so Pascal opened a shop in the
city. They do a different flavour each week
but ‘natural’, the originals, are best - soft,
crunchy and wonderfully sweet, filled with
cream and dusted with icing sugar – I
would go back to Bordeaux for those alone.
If you want to make like a local and
impress them, ask for a chocolatine not
pain au chocolat for your breakfast treat!
The beasts of Bordeaux: Gordon Ramsay is
at the Hotel Intercontinental – everyone I
spoke to loves Ramsay in Bordeaux and
his reputation is sky high. His rival chef
Philippe Etchebest, who is a star on French
TV appearing in Cooking Nightmares, the
French-language version of Ramsay’s
Kitchen Nightmares, can be found
opposite at the Opera 'LA' Tables d’Hotes.
Here there's a hosted gastronomic table
for 12 people only. It’s pricey but Etchebest
is held in the highest esteem in Bordeaux,
and there’s a long waiting list. He also has
La Brasserie which offers a very reasonably
Bordeaux Tourist Office:
Stop here first for a map, to book tours and
find out what's on.
Where to stay: I highly recommend www.
yourbordeauxhome.com - I stayed in the
Chateau Giscours apartment in the city but
in a quiet residential street and it was
Roubaix is in the suburbs of Lille, capital of
Hauts-de-France (Nord, Pas de Calais,
Picardy). It was once famous for its textile
production, an industry which had been
active in the area since the 14th century. In
the 19th century Roubaix was known as the
“French Manchester”, one of the world
capitals of textiles. It was also called the
“city of a thousand chimneys” and its
factories proliferated well into the 20th
century. It's from those times that La
The municipal swimming pool was built in
1932, commissioned by the Mayor and
designed by architect Albert Baert. In its
day it was cutting edge – a stunning art
deco monument, not just a pool but it also
had bathrooms for men and women at a
time when most poor people didn’t have
access to such things. It was much loved
and stayed in use until 1985 when it closed
needing complete renovation after chlorine
in the water caused damage to the
structure, especially the roof.
By then, the textile industry had also
declined and Roubaix found itself
undergoing a dramatic change. The city
councillors decided to ensure that the
heritage of Roubaix was preserved and
were awarded a label of “City of Art and
History. They needed somewhere to house
their expanding art collection and Bruno
Gaudichon, now director of La Piscine,
admits choosing the former swimming pool
area as the location, was “a gamble, as by
now, Roubaix had a lot of industrial empty
Left, the atelier of Henri Bouchard, recreated from
his original studio in Paris; above left La Piscine
in the 1930s, above right, La Piscine today
La Piscine had been left neglected for
several years and a public contest was
held for architects to come up with a
design for the space. In 1994 the winner
was chosen - Jean-Paul Phlippon, already
famous for his conversion of the former
Gare d’Orsay in Paris into the stunning
Musée d’Orsay in 1979 (voted world’s top
museum by Trip Advisor Traveller Choice
Awards 2018) and the Musée des Beaux
Arts, Quimper, Brittany in 1993.
Philippon’s plans for La Piscine centred
around keeping the integrity and
authenticity of the much-loved swimming
pool. “I wanted to keep the basin of water”
he says - and it is now the heart of the
museum. “But I narrowed it to make room
for the artworks. I created pontoons
alongside with ceramic lining created from
the original elaborate mosaics. Thousands
and thousands of tiny pieces were all
carefully preserved. Some of the original
changing rooms were kept, others were
dismantled. It was like a giant Lego game
putting all the pieces together and
In 2001 the council allocated a former
textile factory building to be part of the
museum as well, one of the original walls
still stands as a memorial to the old
building after part of it was demolished to
let light in. It is, says Philippon, one of his
favourite aspects. “In my design, I wanted
people to be able to circulate easily and to
see the collection as it should be seen, it
was an important aspect of the museum”.
“Roubaix had a small collection of 17th century paintings, Lille Musée des Beaux Arts had
a lot, so we decided to focus on 18th and 19th century paintings” says Gaudichon. “We
distributed our 17th century paintings to museums in the north. In 1924 a local textile
magnate donated a large collection of paintings and furniture. Since then we’ve built up
a superb collection of 18th and 19th century works. Now with the Henri Bouchard atelier,
and some wonderful sculptures including by Camille Claudel (bought by public
subscription), we have a truly spectacular museum offering”.
La Piscine was an immediate and
tremendous success with an astounding
200,000 visitors in its first year. The art
deco beauty of the museum proved the
perfect backdrop for the growing collection
of painting, sculptures and textiles. The
museum won accolades, being voted the
best museum outside of Paris, attracting
more visitors each year. It was so
successful that another contest had to be
held to create an extension.
Jean-Paul Philippon was again the winner
(2011). “I didn’t expect to win” he says
modestly “I would have been happy for
whoever won. Architecture is about
evolution”. His winning design featured lots
of light and ceilings that mirror the curve of
that over the original pool. It is as beautiful
as the prototype.
There were several key requirements in the
contest brief including creating a home for
an enormous painting that was found
rolled up in the attic of the town hall
opposite La Piscine. It was being used to fill
holes in the roof to stop water leaking
through. The painting depicted the
opening of Roubaix’s town hall in 1911 and,
restored, it is superb. Another requirement
was to recreate the Paris atelier of Henri
Bouchard (1875-1960) a sculptor whose
works can be seen in several locations in
Paris including the Trocadero Gardens, and
in museums around the world.
The new extension of more than 2000m
opened in October 2018 after two years of
major work. It is light and airy, there are
rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions,
permanent exhibitions, plinths to display
specific pieces – this is innovative, bespoke
and magnificent museum design.
The painting of Roubaix town hall, the
Cinderella in the attic, is now a show
stopper in its dedicated space. The Henri
Bouchard atelier is breath-taking, filled with
his sculptures, looking as if the great artist
just popped out and is coming back any
time. Next door, a room encourages visitors
to touch art, feel it as a sculptor would, the
lines and flaws, the coldness of marble or
bronze. “We recreated the ambiance, colour,
light of Paris, the same set up of the studio”
Interview with Jean-Paul Philippon
What has influenced your style?
When I started in architecture in the 1970s,
the excesses of the post-modern
movement of the beginning of the 20th
century, the ‘mouvement moderne’ were
being challenged. The Gare d’Orsay was
considered too ornate at that time, I
remember sitting in my office nearby, in the
summer with the window open, you could
hear the bateau-mouches boat guides
giving their speeches. Inevitably one would
say “on your left is Paris’s ugliest
building” – they meant Orsay. I disagreed.
Did you know as soon as you walked into
La Piscine Roubaix that you wanted to
keep the pool?
“Non. Your first impression as an architect
is based partly on intuition and feeling,
partly on analysis as well as knowledge of
what needs to be done. Architecture can’t
be purely rational, but it has to work so it
can’t be just emotional. You use logic, what
has been done in the past, choices based
of the personality of the building. As an
architect I think, what references can I draw
on, not just of my own projects but those of
others. Influence is based not just in the
moment, the now, but of centuries ago.
With this project I had to consider how it
would relate to the existing building, to
create the Bouchard studio but also toilets
accessibility, galleries for sculpture etc.
For me, architecture is like writing a novel,
laying out the different scenes, like The
Bonfire of the Vanities! Then scenes are
cut together, like a film director.
The building had been earmarked for
renovation, the Louvre had run out of space
to showcase their huge 19th century art
collection so a contest was held to redesign
Orsay. I had been heavily influenced by the
destruction of Les Halles, I didn’t think it
was right to destroy all things. Le Corbusier
competed for the project you know, he
wanted to knock the station down and
create a giant suitcase… he wanted to
transform Paris into a huge, modern grid
Would you say that any one part of this
museum reflects your signature?
I’m not like someone who says ‘I always do
red walls’, I make ethical choices. As to my
signature, that’s for others to say! For me
architectural design must relate to the
needs of the users. When you update
existing architecture, you need to give it a
new life, I think of a project as being like a
town or a city, every aspect of its use must
be considered. Every project has a ‘town
centre’, at the Musée d’Orsay this is the
heat of the station, at La Piscine, it’s the
Do you have a favourite part of La Piscine
Non – though, I do really love the brick wall
of the old factory in the front, it pleases me
to see it there.
Christmas at the Castle....
The Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte
Janine Marsh falls under the spell of a captivating
Chateau with a festive vibe.....
In 1661, the famous French writer and poet
Jean de la Fontaine wrote of Vaux-le-
The stage was set with green so lush,
and by a hundred torches lit;
Once curtain raised, all Vaux was
All strove to please this King of ours:
Music, cascades, lanterns and stars…
More than 350 years later, de la Fontaine
would certainly recognise the castle and
his description would be unchanged other
than that it is not a King who will thrill to
the sight but visitors who will relish the
music, cascades, lanterns and stars on
show at Vaux at Christmas.
Just 35 minutes by train from Gare de l'Est
in the centre of Paris brings you to Maincy
where a shuttle bus whisks you to the
historic 17th century Chateau of Vaux-le-
Vicomte. At Christmas it takes on an extra
layer of glitter and air of enchantment
when rooms are decorated with thousands
of lights, garlands and baubles and this
captivating castle presents a unique festive
"Sparkles, twinkles... the smell
of Christmas spices..."
Sparkles, twinkles, the smell of Christmas
spices and chocolate, traditional carol
songs and glowing lights. But this is no
Disney castle, Vaux-le-Vicomtes Christmas
coat is traditional, classic and just a little
kitsch as the best Christmas’s should be.
Rooms are adorned with lights, Christmas
trees and vintage toys, scented with
cinnamon and chocolate, spices and sweet
smells. It’s a unique presentation of
Christmas in an incredible setting.
As you walk up the path to the chateau, it’s
a wow moment. Glittering Christmas trees
line the route, the castle is festooned with
giant festive bows and two huge toy
soldiers stand either side of the door that
leads into the largest private domaine in
50 years of visitors
Incredibly the chateau was a wedding
present to the current resident, 90 year old
Count Patrice de Voguë in 1967. He has
made it his life’s work to protect the castle
for future generations. A chateau of this
size isn’t easy or cheap to maintain, so he
opened the doors to the public in 1968,
inspired by the British National Trust (which
is entrusted with opening buildings of
major interest to the public), and in
particular by Highgrove house, home to
The Count's son Alexandre, who together
with his brothers Ascanio and Jean-Charles
now runs the estate, says that his father
began the Christmas at the Chateau event
12 years ago, again inspired by Highgrove
House. The event has become more and
more popular over the years, and in 2017
more than 67,000 visitors headed to Vaux-
Le-Vicomte to enjoy the Christmas fun.
What began as just a weekend event
attracts so many visitors that the castle is
now open from Wednesday to Sunday (until
23 December) and daily until 6 January
(excluding Christmas day and New Year’s
Click to read about the etraordinary history of Vaux-le-Vicomte
The castle has been decorated in style by
interior designer Eric Naudin, assisted by
everyone at the Chateau, from the ladies
who work in the gorgeous gift shop to the
This year’s theme is bright, bold and
beautiful and includes a life-size hot air
balloon in the grand salon, piloted by a
waving teddy bear. Vintage toys have been
borrowed from a specialist museum in
Colmar, Alsace. There are 150 Christmas
trees, more than a mile of garlands and
around 15,000 decorations and lights
In the carriage museum Christmas carols
play and there are tableaux of yesteryear’s
Christmases with train sets, lights and
Santa seated in an ancient carriage.
In the castle itself the rooms are decorated
in bright blues, soft whites and shades of
pastel. The trees are hung with the most
beautiful baubles, soft teddies and snow
white owls (by the way, if you like them pop
to the gift shop where they have some for
sale plus fabulous souvenirs that you’ll
want to bring out for Christmas for years to
come). Tables are laid for a festive feast
with trees and ornaments, sparkling crystal
and colourful macarons and a band made
up of giant moles, extraordinary
automatons. In the kitchen there’s a
sugarplum fairy vibe with huge gingerbread
cakes, giant rabbit footmen, dolls and
And as dusk falls, the magic continues in
the garden where you can take a carriage
ride and enjoy thousands of twinkling
lights. Take a walk in the enchanted wood
and admire the gorgeous landscape that
has wowed visitors for 350 years, designed
by Louis XIV’s favourite gardener Le Nôtre.
It’s not Disney but it is magical, Vaux-le-
Vicomte at Christmas is where you’ll find a
bucket load of festive charm.
Travel like a local!
We've picked 14 fabulous tours in France where the
experience is built around the things YOU want to see
Small Group tours
Each and every private tour is different and they are
all typically for less than ten people.
Enjoy the trip of a lifetime...
Tour at your own pace
Unlike most tours that rush you around like vast herds
of sheep without time to relish the sights and
wonderful food and wines for which France is famous
and you’ve travelled so far to experience - these tours
are designed to ensure you fully savour your time in
France. Whether you’re a lover of chateaux, culture,
gourmet cuisine, wonderful wines, gorgeous
countryside, the prettiest villages – these tours are full
of thrills and wonder.
Champagne tasting tours
Discover the pleasures of the Champagne
region and enjoy an effervescent
experience. Champagne tasting without all
the tedious, time consuming searching
online. Vineyard tours, sabrage,
workshops, picnics and more - discover
the real Champagne.
Glamour and gourmet welllness
stay in France
Enjoy a truly glamorous, gastronomic stay in
a historic mansion with top Australian stylist
Joh Bailey. You’ll be well & truly pampered
with spa sessions, sensational wines and
gastronomy. Re-energise & recharge your
batteries in one of the most beautiful parts of
France and have the holiday of a life time.
private provence tours
Customized traveling to give you memories
to last a lifetime. Lavender tours, truffle,
grape harvest, bespoke tours as well as
chauffeur services for day trips or a lot
longer. Emily Durand’s Private Provence
tours are designed to make you feel like a
local – not a tourist.
Culinary holiday with a Master
Chef in France
If you love food, and all things French –
you’re going to love Master Chef at the
Maison. A unique week-long break in the
gorgeous Haute-Pyrenees at the luxury
mansion Le Belvedere, where you’ll learn to
cook with fabulous, internationally
renowned Master Chef Alain Fabrégues.
TANDEMS & TURRETS BIKE TOURS
Discover gastronomic, gorgeous south
west France on a bicycle made for two…
For 2019, there’s a new way to see some
of the best of France – by electric assist
tandem. You'll enjoy luxury chateau
accommodation with lovely hosts, plus
truly superb cuisine. Take a great new
luxury bike holiday tour in the Lot et
Garonne department, south west France
with Tandems and Turrets.
Cottages & Classics Experience
Cottages and Classics offer a diverse range
of options for holidays from self-catering,
B&B mini breaks or B&B. The Cottages and
Classics Experience includes the use of a
4-seater Morgan, perfect for touring the
small roads of Charente-Maritime and
boulevards of towns like Cognac,
Angoulême and La Rochelle.
Culture & cookery in Provence
Cooking classes with chefs in their homes
where you'll cook "authentic French dishes,
no frou frou" says tour guide Martine Bertin-
Peterson. You'll shop at the enchanting
street markets with chefs and dine at the
most scrumptious restaurants in beautiful
towns of Provence on this fully escorted trip
of a life time. There's also a total immersion
tour version for 2019!
Gorgeous Gascony Tours
Nourish your soul and unleash your spirit
of adventure in Gascony. With tour guide
Sue Aran, you'll experience the famous
food, wine and Amagnac of the region.
You'll discover where to find the best
antique shops and flea markets, the most
beautiful villages and magnificent
chateaux. From one day to week long
tours that are customised for you.
Wine & Gastronomy Tours
On these tours you’re accompanied by
your very own private in-house chef,
gourmet dining catered to your personal
taste. There are visits to the most stunning
areas of France including the Loire Valley,
Paris, Normandy & Alsace. Enjoy the finest
wines too plus cookery lessons. Luxury &
the best of France with your charming
hosts Kimberley and Walter Eagleton.
Food Lovers tour of Dordogne
Chateaux, gateaux and gorgeous villages –
a week long foodie tour of the Dordogne.
An edible expedition where you'll explore
some of the hidden gastronomic and
historic icons of the region making this
September tour a deliciously mouthwatering
experience. Explore fabulously
photogenic medieval villages, chateaux
and riverside hamlets.
The real south of France Tours
Discover real southern France from
captivating Carcassonne to magical
Montpellier and the best of Provence.
Tours lasting 7 days or 9 days in which
you'll get to be a temporary local and
indulge in the best Occitanie and
Provence has to offer from gastronomy to
culture and then some. This is a tour for
those who love the authentic.
Cycling tours in the Tarn
Tours du Tarn are specialists in leisure and
road cycling holidays and they’ve
discovered the ideal location for the perfect
cycling holiday. Bordering the most
beautiful areas of the Tarn, the Aveyron
and the Tarn et Garonne regions the centrebased
cycling enterprise plan to put this
‘un-pedalled’ area of south-west France on
the cycling map.
Luxury Tours of France
Guided tours of Bordeaux, Loire Valley,
Paris, Normandy, Brittany, Provence and
the south where you stay in the finest
hotels and experience the best food &
wines. There's also a very special Porsche
tour - 5* hotels, Michelin starred dining &
the chance to drive a Porsche on
Autohbahn in Stuttgart, just over the
border from Alsace. Customised tours also
French immersion course
A French immersion course is all about
learning the language but it is also about
getting to experience the culture,
gastronomy, the wonderful sites and
scenery that make learning so much more
fun, interesting and memorable. Stay in a
17th century chateau in Burgundy while you
learn & experience the best of French food,
wine and culture.
More than Motoring
Janine Marsh discovers the secrets and charms of Le
Mans, it's a town you shouldn't race through....
More than a quarter of a million people
head to the small city of Le Mans in the
department of Sarthe, Pays de La Loire
each June for the epic Le Mans 24 Hours –
one of the most famous car races in the
world. The majority of them watch the race,
enjoy the local cuisine and the friendly bars
Amazingly most of them never even realise
that there is a most beautiful old town just
a few steps away from that legendary race
course which runs through the streets of
the newer parts of Le Mans. They don’t spot
the Roman ruins, they miss the cobblestoned
alleyways lined with half-timbered
houses. And, they haven’t a clue about the
fabulous medieval architecture.
They don’t know that on the outskirts of the
town there is an astounding historic abbey
where a queen is buried, as well as a
fabulous nature reserve with a spectacular
restaurant. There’s a famous saying, don’t
be a tourist, be a traveller, and Le Mans is
the perfect town to illustrate just why you
shouldn’t race through - but take your time
to discover its charms.
What to see in Le Mans
You’re walking in the footsteps of the
greats – the Romans, the Plantagenets and
Robert Doisneau, the famous photographer!
The presence of the Latin conquerors can
be easily spotted at the Roman Wall, a
500m section of it is wonderfully preserved
on the River Sarthe side of town. With its
distinctive pink mortar and ochre sandstone
blocks, this wall once encircled the city of
Le Mans, which takes its name from an
ancient tribe: Cenomani. Hidden away in
some of the medieval houses in the town,
there are even more Roman remains. I was
lucky enough to get a peek inside one
when I visited at the end of September for
the fabulous open garden event known as:
opened their doors to the public to show off
their gorgeous courtyard gardens, and in
one of them, the lovely French family
offered a glimpse of their Roman cellar,
complete with a Roman charcoal burner.
This is a town that’s full of surprises.
Le Mans is known as the Plantagenet City
and the Vielle Quartier, the old district
within the Roman wall, overlooked by the
monumental Cathedral of Saint-Julian was
built between the 11th and 15th centuries.
More than 100 timber-framed houses
survive, making this part of town a bit of a
honey pot for film makers looking to
recreate scenes of ancient history -
providing a perfect backdrop for Cyrano de
Bergerac for instance.
Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of
England was born in Le Mans in 1133. He
married Eleanor of Aquitaine and spawned
a family of Kings including Richard the
The old town of Le Mans…
Exploring the old town will once and for all
push out of your mind that Le Mans is a
one trick pony – or rather race venue.
Robert Doisneau knew it when he visited,
the famous photographer captured its
vintage beauty in an iconic image of an
ancient house with a child in front holding a
teddy bear (above top right). That was in 1962
but little has changed. Go there today and
you’ll spot a teddy waving from the window
of that house, an homage to the photographer!
Successive owners have kept the
spirit of Doisneau alive, each one placing a
teddy in the window, making this what has
to be one of the best selfie spots in town!
Wander the winding, narrow cobble stoned
alleys and explore quirky shops and
boutiques, wine bars and restaurants – a
great place to while away the day.
There are several museums in Le Mans
including a bike museum, arts, history and
archaeology. Without a doubt, the most
visited by tourists is the fabulous 24 hours
Circuit de la Sarthe Museum. You don’t
need to be a petrolhead to appreciate its
incredible collection of more than 100
exceptional cars and a great portrayal of the
history of the renowned race through film,
photo and artefacts.
Gastronomy of Le Mans
Don’t miss the chance to taste Jasnières
wine while you’re in Le Mans, it’s rarely seen
outside the local area and is absolutely
delicious. It’s not made in huge quantities
and the locals keep most of it to themselves,
so stock up at the 15th century Cave de
Pedro – a feast for the senses in the Pont-
Lieu district of the old town. Wine master
Pedro has a brilliantly stocked shop, not just
wine but local specialities too. Book in
advance for a wine tasting - he speaks
Indulge your sweet tooth at biscuit shop La
Sablésienne, perfect for a souvenir, if they
make it home in one piece!
When it comes to cakes – Takayanagi has
the locals queuing up. Japanese Chef
Takayanagi says: “Cakes are simple, but
complex; I create French cakes but with
Japanese influences”. For instance in this
shop you can get a Paris-Tokyo, rather than
a Paris-Brest. They serve a traditional Japanese
lunch here so, head to the little shop in
rue du Tertre for your Japanese-French fix.
If you’re a market fan you won’t be
disappointed by Le Mans' lovely Sunday
morning market in front of the huge
Cathedral. Don’t miss the mushroom man,
his champignons are a legend here.
Fabulous vegetables, fruit, bread, cheese,
fish, Plantagenet honey – a vibrant
atmosphere and a picturesque setting.
Wine and Dine: Auberge de Bagatelle. This
Michelin starred restaurant serves food that
looks amazing and tastes even better. Chef
Jean-Sébastien Monné creates dishes that
you don’t forget in a hurry, the lunch menu is
incredibly good value at just 32 Euros for 2
courses, 38 Euros for 3 courses. Push the
boat out with the 6 course tasting menu –
Locals love: Café du Jet d’Eau, next to the
Cathedral it’s the perfect pit stop for market
shoppers and watching the world go by. A
plate of oysters, tangy cheeses, crunchy
baguette and classic French dishes in a
really busy and welcoming atmosphere.
What the locals know and
tourists rarely discover
Le Mans is surrounded by glorious
countryside and it only takes a few
minutes on the excellent tram service to
discover some of its secrets.
5 minutes by car or about 15 minutes by
tram from the city centre is the Domaine de
l’Épau and the Abbaye Royale de l’Épau.
The Domaine is an area of outstanding
natural beauty which covers 600 hectares
and hosts two restaurants and a bar, ideal
for a taste of the countryside.
Next door is the little known but beautiful
Abbey, commissioned by the Plantagenet
Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of
Richard the Lionheart - though she never
saw it in person. This monumental building
has witnessed drama and centuries of
history. It was burned by locals during the
15th century to stop English looters using it
as a military base, it was home to Cistercian
monks who wrote books here in the
freezing rooms, keeping their ink warm in
the only heated cell. It’s where Berengaria,
wife of Richard the Lionheart. AKA the
good widow was laid to rest. There is a
wonderful tomb sculpture at the Abbey.
When Queen Elizabeth II visited the Abbey
some 25 years ago, it’s said she suggested
the statue be moved to lie with that of
Berengaria’s royal family at the Abbey of
It hasn’t happened so far and it’s probably
fitting that this neglected wife, who likely
only spent a matter of weeks with her
crusading husband during their entire eight
years of marriage, remains where she
chose to be.
Don’t miss the café where Sylvie makes
cakes using products grown at the abbey or
locally. The gardens are undergoing
restoration with the aim to grow vegetables
popular in medieval times. Stop off for
quiche, salad, risotto – the menu changes
with the season and Sylvie makes
exceedingly fine cakes!
Now a cultural centre, there are some lovely
frescoes, interesting exhibitions both inside
and out, plus concerts. You can take a tour
in English if you book in advance.
Practical info for Le Mans
How to get about
The tram system is efficient and cheap 1,50
€ single ticket (valid for 1 hour); 4,20 € day
pass (valid for 24 hours) - both are also valid
on the bus network.
How to get there
With trains taking around an hour from
Paris It’s an easy day trip to Le Mans
Where to stay
Hotel Concordia which is very reasonably
Le Doyenné: in what has to be one of the
best locations right next to the Cathedral in
an ancient house.
Tourist office Le Mans, 16 Rue de l'Étoile
Marseille, on the edge of the Mediterranean in the far south of France,
is a city that’s steeped in history with a reputation for being a bit gritty.
Peter Jones discovers that it’s thrilling, friendly, fun and fabulous…
Marseille is not like other
Now before you dive into Marseille, here’s a
tip: even though it’s a grand metropolis, the
pace of life is very different to other cities.
Folk here are seriously laid back, their
attitude is that life is for enjoying, there is
nothing good to be gained by rushing. So, if
it takes a while to get served in a bar or
restaurant – it’s no big deal, it’s just the way
Marseille people are very friendly, they love
to chat, and you’ll find it easy to make
Meander in Marseille
Make your first port of call the tourist office
at 11 Canebière, the historic high street in the
city, where you can buy a city pass from
24-72 hours. As well as entry to many
attractions, discounts and free tastings and
samples, it gives you use of the city
transport system including the excellent
Make sure you pick up a free map and
guide, then go exploring and lose yourself in
the city, keeping the map for when you are
well and truly lost!
There’s not much more fun than
wandering round the ‘Vieux Port’, a vast
horse shoe shaped harbour where, every
morning a bustling fish market takes
place. The boats dock alongside, and the
fish is sold direct by the fishermen and
their families. An early morning start at
the street markets with their fantastic
colourful displays of fruit and vegetables
is always fun. Marseille is amazing - one
minute you are looking in the windows of
some of the great French fashion houses,
the next you feel as if you’re in a street in
Take the metro to the Noailles district and
you’ll find yourself in yet another world. A
rabbit warren of streets and lanes, cafés and
cheap restaurants, flatbreads being cooked
on the pavement, it really is exotically
Must-sees in Marseille
There are cafés shops, restaurants and
clubs galore and if you’re there to relax,
watch the world go by and just enjoy
yourself, Marseille is perfect.
“Discover the French Fjord”
Take a trip from the Vieux Port around the
coast to the Calanques to discover what’s
known as the French Fjord. Actually, it’s a
National Park where the white limestone
cliffs rise dramatically above the sea.
The port is also the departure point for
boat trips to the Friou Islands, where you
can visit Chateau d’If, home of Alexander
Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. It’s not as
big a trip as the Calanques but well worth
If you’re a Netflix fan and watched the
series ‘Marseille’ starring French superstar
Gerard Depardieu as a fictional Mayor,
you’ll recognise many of the scenes
including the magnificent Hotel de Ville.
The harbour comes alive at night with
musicians and jugglers, plenty of street
food choice and a great party atmosphere
as the sun sets, it’s definitely the place to
Food of the gods
Locals love: When it comes to dining out,
follow the locals! In Marseille you’ll find
them in Rue Sainte near the port in the café
Pastis et Olives.
Don’t miss: Chez Madie on the Quai Du
Port. www.maidielesgalinettes.com is
always bustling with mainly French
customers and has a reputation for the
best bouillabaisse in town. Just a few
doors down is La Maison du Pastis, www.
lamaisondupastis.com. Owned and run by
Belgian Frederick Bernard, you’ll find more
than 95 brands of Pastis and Absinths with
tastings and information freely available.
Try a local speciality: The city has a
cosmpolitan ambiance. I popped into a
Tunisian café and enjoyed a ‘Brik’, a cross
between a giant samosa and a Cornish
pasty, with a surprising twist, inside is a
of L’Aromat, just a few yards from the Vieux
Port, where he presents his contemporary
take on Mediterranean cooking. His
number one dish, a firm favourite with
Marseillans is a truly surprising, utterly
mouth-watering bouillabaisse burger.
Served with a shot glass of fish soup made
from fish freshly bought at the Vieux port,
and a saffron infused fougasse bun it is
sensational. Served with chips made from
chickpea flour, another local speciality, it's
a dish you'll remember. 49 Rue Sainte,
If you only have one meal in Marseille,
make it here.
Must-eat: Sylvain Robert is the chef patron
Pass the Pastis
Marseilles is the home of Pastis, an aniseed-based drink which is popular
across the whole of France. These days there is only one factory in the city
still producing it, Cristal Liminana. Founded in 1884, today it’s run by
Maristella Vasserot, a direct descendant of the founder. Take a tour, tasting
and visit the shop to discover the city’s favourite drink.
It’s the perfect aperitif as you sit at a terraced café in the sunny city. Locals
ask for a “jaune” even though this strong liqueur is clear in the bottle. Add
water and ice to it though and it goes cloudy and a milky soft yellow.
Traditionally it's about four parts water to one part Pastis, ice goes in last.
Marseilles is easy to get to from within
France or other parts of Europe. Trains
including the TGV are regular and frequent
into the Gare St Charles, which is also the
pickup/drop off point for the Navette bus
which serves the airport.
There is a huge choice of accommodation
from 5-star hotels through Airbnb, but I can
highly recommend the 3* Hotel Maison
Montgrand right by the Vieux Port. A 17th
Century property with the bonus of a
courtyard sheltered by chestnut trees
where you could sit with a drink and
recharge your batteries. Frankly, it's hard to
Magnificent Marseille, so much to see, so
much to do, three hundred days of
sunshine a year, 95 different Pastis and #1
for a city break!
5 MARSEILLE MUST SEES
The oldest part of the city
nestled between MuCEM,
the Museum of European
Civilisations in a stunning
waterside setting, and the
Vieux Port. You’ll find a
warren of hilly narrow
streets, boho bars,
boutiques, art galleries and
charming squares (left)
La Grand Savonnerie
Marseille soap makers are
world famous. To qualify for
the genuine Marseille
Savon label, it must be
made to strict guidelines
including 72% olive oil, a
centuries old recipe. Stock
up on the real thing while
you’re in town. Read more
about it here
Notre-Dame de la Garde
Basilica of Notre-Dame de la
Garde is perched high over
the Vieux Port. Topped by a
golden angel this icon of the
city can be seen for miles
around. Take the Petit Train
to reach this ancient
emblem and enjoy the views
inside and out (right)
La Friche la Belle de Mai
Art and culture heaven – exhibition spaces,
cinema, rooftop bar, skate park, community
gardens and artists studios and more.
Much loved by the locals, often missed by
visitors and definitely worth seeking out.
Vallon des Auffes
A small but utterly charming working
harbour with fishing cabins and boats
bobbing about on the Med – a taste of
authentic Marseille (centre).
Nantes is a vibrant city, a place of reinvention in more
ways than one as Amy Macpherson discovers…
Situated in southwest France, in the
department of Loire-Atlantique, region Pays
de la Loire, Nantes was once the capital of
Brittany. It was independent from France
and home to one of the country’s largest
Although not directly accessed by the sea,
the city’s strategic historic location on the
confluence of the Loire and Erdre rivers
gained the city its historical nickname of
Venice of the West’ (La Venise de l'Ouest).
The rivers are what made Nantes a thriving
city with a solid base for ship building and
traders arriving from far away.
Today, parts of the river system have been
reclaimed for modern roads and tramways.
Large steel cranes and the dry docks are
the only remains of its former industrial
glory. And, Nantes continues to evolve,
transforming spaces where factories and
warehouses once stood into creative and
leisure facilities, implementing innovative
ways to enhance the joie de vivre of the city.
There’s a great balance of preserving the
past whilst introducing the future and
ensuring residents have a good quality of
It is no wonder that Nantes has consistently
been voted one of the top three best places
to live in France, and its why Nantes makes
a great weekend getaway.
The Machines de L’Île
Ready to channel your inner child? Cross
the river to Île de Nantes and enjoy a ride
on the Grand Elephant or play with the sea
creatures on The Carrousel des Mondes
Marins. You can’t help but smile at the
mechanical fairy-tales of The Machines de
Born from the imagination of Francois
Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, The
Machines de L’Île brings to life the
fantastical stories of French novelist Jules
Verne, whilst also paying homage to the
industrial heritage of the city. At the
Gallery, mechanical caterpillars and cranes
wow visitors. And, don’t miss out on a visit
to the workshop where the magic happens.
It is guaranteed fun for the young, and the
young at heart. lesmachines-nantes.fr/en
Follow the green line
Every year during summer months, there's
a trail of creative discoveries so that
visitors and locals can explore the city and
find surprises en route. Indicated by a lime
green paint line running along the streets,
The Voyage à Nantes is a 12 km trail that
zigzags in and out of elegant squares,
taking in major sites as well as backstreets.
You’ll uncover unexpected works of
art dotted around the city, which might
include a stackable chair roller-coaster, tree
climbing bears or random sculptures.
Look out for the Micro’Home by Myrtille
Drouet on Rue Du Puits-d’Argent. The
quirky house is 5m above ground, at 2m
wide it contains a living room/kitchen,
bathroom and bedroom. It’s an imaginative
way of life in the city and you can actually
stay in it too. Book with www.nantestourisme.com
Artists have reinvented shop signs as
imaginative interpretations, injecting fun
into shopping. Whenever there is a painted
eye along the green line, you're sure to find
a surprise above. Most art installations are
temporary, but some are so loved by locals
they have become permanent fixtures.
Château des ducs de Bretagne
Dominating the historic Bouffay quarter is
the former residence and fortress of the
last Duke of Brittany, François II and his
daughter Anne of Brittany. She is famous
for being twice Queen of France, having
married Charles VIII and Louis XII. After the
integration of Brittany into French rule in
the 1532, the château became a residence
for the kings of France.
Today, the château, a monumental
landmark, is home to the Musee d’Histoire
de Nantes (Nantes History Museum).
The museum divides its exhibitions into
themes. From the Roman conquerors
through its Brittany connections, the World
Wars to the city’s industrial heritage, as well
as the dark history of the slave trade:
It is a part of the city’s past that it has found
hard to come to terms with, much of the
population are descendants of both traders
and slaves. The museum aims to educate
locals and visitors. There is also a memorial,
a walkway dug into the shores of the river
Loire featuring historical and geographical
information, statistics, maps and timelines,
as well as testimonials etched into its glass
The memorial is open to public for free and
makes a solemn follow up after learning
about the slave trade at the history
Cross the Loire on the Navibus ferry and
alight in the colourful Trentemoult
neighbourhood, an old fishing village. It's a
brilliantly artistic and gastronomic detour.
Locals love to come here to dine and
socialise, to enjoy the vintage atmosphere
and watch the sun set over the Loire. The
narrow streets are bright, the buildings
appear haphazardly piled together giving it
a quirky charm, and it’s home to around 20
Le Lieu Unique
This is the only remaining tower of what
was once the Lu biscuit factory, today, Le
Lieu Unique is a space for individual
expression. Have a drink at the bar, enjoy a
night out at the theatre, browse for a book
at the library or relax with a spa treatment
at the hammam: www.lelieuunique.com
Locals Love: Creperie Heb-Ken: A friendly,
no-fuss popular creperie in the centre of the
Graslin Quarter with an extensive menu of
crepes for all tastes from savoury to sweet,
it is always busy! Get there early or risk a
long wait. The patio is especially pleasant in
the summer. www.heb-ken.fr
La Civellet: On the waterfront of the
Trentemoult neighbourhood, excellent
seasonal French dishes in a lively
atmosphere. Worth crossing the river for.
How to get there
EasyJet has a base in Nantes with flights to
the UK and European destinations: www.
Wine and Dine - Brasserie la Cigale. It is
impossible to walk past this brasserie
without stopping to peek. Brasserie la
Cigale on the Gralin Square was once the
headquarters of the city’s Surrealists and
is today a popular gastronomic
destination. The seafood platter is
seriously impressive as is the elegant
Indulge your sweet tooth: Maison
Georges Larnicol – MOF: A famous
Biscuiterie Chocolaterie in the Pommeraye
Passage shopping mall. The sweet scent
of their pastries fill the air. Don't miss the
‘gâteau nantais', an almond based cake
with rum - a Nantes speciality and their
Kouign Amann cakes are the best!
Eurostar has regular services to Paris from
London/Ebbfleet International. From Paris
it's just 2 hours by TGV to Nantes. Check
out the new interactive robot at the
departure lounge in St Pancras station. Not
only does it answer your questions, it can
read facial expressions and even pose for
photographs if you ask nicely!
How to get about
A Nantes Pass gives you access to public
transport and 28 tourist sites. Available for
24, 48 and 36 hours from Nantes Tourist
office. For active travellers, Bicloo offers
self-service bike hires with 123 stations in
the city: bicloo.nantesmetropole.fr
Where to stay
There are hotels for all budgets, but for
those who enjoy comfort with history the
18th century former townhouse now Hotel
de France on Place Graslin is wonderful.
In the tyre tracks
Tour de France
Michael Cranmer takes to two wheels to discover the Pays-de-le-Loire as the Tour
de France did just before him...
A trip must have a purpose, a focus, a
raison d'être. So, when I read that the 2018
Grand Depart of the Tour de France was
from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, I had an idea...
I would stage my own Great Departure
(doesn’t sounds quite so dramatic in
translation, does it?) and explore the bits of
the Vendée in the Pays de la Loire playing
host to two stages.
When the planners were considering how
best to get the 176 riders, their teams, the
press and TV, plus thousands of spectators
on and off the island, they had two options.
1) The Passage du Gois, a natural 4.3km
causeway flooded twice a day by up to 4m,
where the foolhardy die if they jumble up
their tide-times. Or 2) the road bridge.
Mmm… you guessed right, they opted for
You can’t cycle without a bike, and as I
couldn’t afford to fork out £12,000 for a
Pinarello Dogma F10 X-Light (same price as
a medium sized car) I hired the latest
electric bike from Bike n’ Tour, quite legally I
might add. ‘Motor-doping’ is hot news in the
pro-cycling world, but, despite rumours only
one case has ever been identified. Time to
At 20km end-to-end, therefore manageable
in a day, Noirmouitier is a delightful
backwater with beaches straight from
childhood memory; buckets-and-spades,
rock-pools to investigate, golden sand and
sun. At my hotel, the utterly lovely Le
Général d'Elbée, I compared the stats on my
personal motor-doped two-wheeler with the
stage winner that day. Me: 10km. 4 hours
(give or take…I did stop for a beer along the
way). Fernando Gaviria, Team Quick Step
Floors: 201km. 4h 23' 32". Oh well.
Nutrition for tour riders is paramount. They
burn around 5,000 calories per stage and
must eat and drink constantly to top up. I
have no problem topping-up constantly but I
don’t seem to burn it off quite the same.
Post-stage they’ll consume recovery drinks
with carbohydrate and protein whilst cooling
down, then sandwiches, rich cakes and
cereal bars. I had a couple of beers and a
plate of chips…or crisps if you’re thinking in
Their evening meals start with salad, soup or
juice for a nutrient boost, followed by meat
or fish and carbohydrate-rich foods, with
homemade cakes, yoghurt, fruit and flans for
For my evening nutrition I strolled to Le p’tit
Noirmout, hard to find but worh it, with an
unassuming front hiding its treasures within.
As the restaurant was but an oyster-shell’s
throw from the harbour, my choice wasn’t
hard to decide upon. Oysters, then Fruits de
Mer. And a glass or two of wine.
The racers tucked up in their cheap hotels,
two to a room, would have gorged on latenight
carbohydrate-rich snacks: small cakes,
fruit, nuts and cereal to ensure glycogen
levels are constantly being topped up.
Let’s hope they didn’t get crumbs in their
beds. Nothing worse than crumbs to keep
you awake after 200 shattering kilometres on
a saddle skinnier than Victoria Beckham’s
My stage 2 was part of the TDF’s stage 1
and Vincent, my directeur and mécanicien
rolled into one met me with the bike at Saint-
Jean-de-Monts down the coast. I came by
taxi. After all I had a notebook and cameras
to tote, plus overnight bag, something the
riders needn’t lug around. Saint-Jean is
holiday-central for French, Brits, Dutch,
Germans, you name it. 8 kms of golden
beach and a 400m pier.
There is a vast network of cycle paths,
known as the Sentiers Cyclables de la
Over a pre-stage nutrient boost of hot
chocolate and croissant, Vincent suggested
that my performance needed upping if I was
to achieve pro standard and that he was
going to introduce me to Rosalie. I perked up
no end at this. Hmm, Rosalie. Personal
trainer perhaps? Soigneur? (therapist).
She was round a corner, parked. An orange
quadricycle, with a stripey awning and
smiley face on the front. She had seven
seats, one reserved for me. It should have
been fun but she was soooo heavy, like a
Mini with a boot-load of bricks. A TDF bike
weighs in around 6.8 kg, Rosalie felt like 6.8
tons. She was a big girl and the lactic acid
built up in my quads as my legs pumped up
and down. Vincent was training me the hard
Staggering like a still-drunk-the-morningafter,
I dismounted Rosalie to be told a
‘treat’ was waiting. What could it possibly
be! The Rack, Iron Maiden, Thumbscrew?
No. Treatments. “No tricks this time,
Vincent…please” I said. True his word he
took me to Thalasso Valdys for a Pause
Cocoon which involved some ‘Zen
Modeling’ (a body massage) with seaweed
kelp cream; Hydromassage bath with
seaweed jelly (better than it sounds)
finishing off with ‘marine rain’ (a seawater
By now I’d lost all track of where the Tour
had been. Bye-bye to Vincent and my
doped-motor, and into my taxi for the one
hour transfer to Les Sables-d’Olonne which
the riders passed through during stage 1.
My new steed was black with white spots
and came fully equipped with a seat squishy
enough to sooth the sorest undercarriage,
and, casting aside all pretence at weightsaving,
a sturdy metal shopping basket into
which I stowed my camera bag. For the first
time I joined a peloton (tour-speak for a pack
of riders who save energy by riding behind
other riders). The dynamic of the peloton is
more complex than a John Le Carré spy
novel. Teams sacrifice lesser members to
get their Wiggins, Froome, or Evans on to
the podium. Bitter rivals work together until
push literally comes to shove in the race to
This was my longest day, a mere 35 kms.
with a rest day scheduled for the morrow.
Pros get two rest days throughout the 21
stages, but it’s questionable how rest is
defined. Interviews, updating social media,
sleeping, eating, massage, patching up any
injuries and, let’s not forget… a bike ride just
in case they hadn’t done enough.
I was now in the Hotel Côte Ouest Thalasso
and Spa, my welcome pack scheduling me
for Enveloppement d'Algues Essentielles at
9.30. This turned out to be a generous
slapping all over with hot seaweed cream, a
most agreeable sensation offset only slightly
by the disagreeable ritual of donning paper
pants. When my body was judged to be
‘remineralised with iodine and trace
elements’ I was ceremoniously hosed down
and sent packing back to my suite where I
fell into a deep sleep.
Lunch was a revelation. Tables decked with
each and every type of seafood imaginable;
lobster; spider crabs, crabs, oysters, clams,
mussels, cockles, bigorneau (sounds better
than winkles, doesn’t it), langoustine,
prawns, shrimps, I’ve probably left some out.
The small mountains of discarded shells and
carapaces were cleared as fast as they piled
up until even I reached a point when I had to
admit I’d had enough. It was ‘epic’.
The last day was spent catching up with
stage 4 of the Tour de France in La Baule
where savvy Parisians escape the
unbearable heat and tourist-hassle of the
capital in August.
The epicentre is Hotèl L’Hermitage, oldmoney,
solid 5-star traditional luxury, it’s
been attracting the rich since 1926.
Churchill, the Agha Khan, Aristotle Onassis,
and Maurice Chevalier have all stayed.
The 9 km beach is big enough to land the
world's largest passenger airliner, the Airbus
A380, on with bags of room left for beach
volleyball, and stripy changing huts. It might
sink into the soft sand though.
Early each day only horse riders and
pisteurs are about. Pisteurs? We’re not in
the Alps. Correct, but this beach is pisted
each day not by a Ratrack, but a tractor
dragging a harrow. Result? Perfect corduroy
sand good enough to ski on if it was snow,
and if it was halfway up a mountain.
Up the north coast is an uber-exclusive
enclave of villas, each with its high wall,
entry-phone access only, cool pines, and
private, very private sea front access.
These are the holiday homes of the
privileged, government ministers, financiers,
and the famous. A certain Sir M Jagger
brings his family here. Well some of them
anyway. He has eight children with five
women, five grandchildren, and a greatgrand-daughter.
Must be a decent-sized
The riders would have taken in none of this
as they sped past at 40 kmph. Only another
2,930 to go. Me? Please don’t ask.
Michael Cranmer was the guest of Pays de
la Loire tourist board www.paysdelaloire.co.
uk and the Vendée tourist board www.
La Baule by Goodcityfordreamers/Wikipedia
Truffle hunting in Dordogne...
Janine Marsh wraps up warm for winter and heads off to the beautiful hills and
dales of Dordogne to hunt for the earth's black diamonds - truffles!
Truffles are one of those foods that
you either love or hate. They’re not a take it
or leave it type of thing – they’re too
pungent for that. In Dordogne, everyone
loves them, they’re one of the region’s
Truffles are a form of mushroom, an edible
fungus that some people swear makes your
food taste like paradise. Growing at the
base of trees, in damp conditions, they give
off a scent that can be sniffed out by trained
goats, female pigs and these days mostly
by dogs. The pigs have largely been retired
from the job of truffle hunting on account of
the fact that the aroma drives them wild –
and they scoff the prize if they can. The
scent is apparently almost identical to a sex
pheromone found in male pig’s saliva.
They’re supposed to be an aphrodisiac and
in fact in the middle ages, monks were
forbidden from eating truffles in case the
taste led them astray!
France is the largest producer of truffles,
with more than 30 tonnes a year being
sniffed out and in the Dordogne, they’re
revered. Each year a special truffle market
takes place in the uber gorgeous medieval
town of Sarlat and the hunt is on to fill
baskets for keen customers.
“It’s a shame that they have such a
reputation for being expensive because
really they’re not” says Eduard Aynour at La
Tuffière de la Pechalifour, a truffle
plantation deep in the countryside of Saint-
Cyprien near Sarlat. “15 Euros can get you
a decent sized truffle – and there’s a lot you
can do with it” he adds.
On a chilly January morning I follow him
round his sodden truffle farm in the rain
accompanied by Leno, his faithful sheep
dog who is keen as mustard to start looking
for the “black diamonds”. Edouard assures
me we’ll be successful despite the rain.
“Cherche, cherche, cherche” he suddenly
shouts out making me jump, Leno darts into
action, slinking about under the trees,
sniffing at the ground. She stops, sits and
stares at us. Edouard pulls a small pick out
of his pocket and prods gently at the soil
until about a foot down he thrusts his hand
in and “voila!” he says, holding aloft a small
black lump. “Smell it” he urges, handing the
lump to me. There’s a scent of earth, decay,
musky and strong. “It takes five years to
train a dog to be able to do this” he says
proudly as he pats Leno in appreciation for
a job well done.
We head into the little shop on the site and
Eduoard gently brushes the dirt off the
truffle and weighs it and then pops it into a
box to keep in the fridge to ensure it stays
fresh. It’s a fascinating little place and
Edouard is happy to talk truffles til the cows
“Beware fakes” he urges “there are a lot of
them about. They have no scent, no taste.
When you can buy a real truffle for as little
as 5 Euros here, why would you ever even
think about buying a phony?” he asks.
At the Tuffière de la Pechalifour you can buy
your truffle fresh from the ground, truffle
products and local wines and do a truffle
tour with Leno. It takes around 2 hours in
total and is a fun way to get to know more
about the famous “fairy apple”.
Sarlat Truffle Market
Back in Sarlat I head to the truffle festival, I’m
beginning to warm to these little smelly fungi
and there are plenty on offer at the Saturday
market when they’re in season from
December to February. But I’m here for a
dedicated truffle market which is held on the
3rd weekend of January each year.
Thousands flock to this festival in honour of
the truffle. There are numerous stalls with
local people who bring in their horde,
secretive about where they found them, as
well as dealers who sell to top chefs from
around the world. You really can buy truffles
from 5 euros though of course you can spend
many hundreds more on these strange
There are steaming pots of truffle infused
scrambled egg, lightly perfumed, very runny –
the French way. Happy punters are scoffing
the eggs, ladled onto paper plates and
washed down with a glass of wine. It’s raining
still but it doesn’t matter, truffles seem to
bring out the best in people, and medieval
time warp town Sarlat is an absolute gem to
look at whatever the weather.
Trophee Jean Rougié
If you want to keep warm and to get a grip
with the French love of “la gastronomie”, pop
into the Trophée Jean Rougié competition
which is always held when the Sarlat Truffle
market is on in January. Organised by the
Culinary Academy of Foie Gras and Truffles,
it’s a cooking contest featuring young chefs
from around France and further afield. They
cook on a stage in front of the public, entry is
free, and judging is carried out by some of the
most famous names in the culinary world of
France including many Michelin starred chefs.
They parade in their big toques, those famous
white, tall chef hats, they make speeches and
add a lot of pizzazz to the event. The young
chefs meanwhile fill the venue with amazing
smells as they cook at a frantic rate - it’s a
hugely popular event in this town and all adds
to the truffle razzmatazz weekend...
Sarlat Tourist office: www.sarlat-tourisme.
How to make scrambled egg with truffle
If you’re doing it the French way, you’ll only cook
the egg until it has an almost soupy texture…
Ingredients per person
Generous knob of unsalted butter, melted
Table spoon of milk
Shavings of black truffle, around 15 grams or half a
small truffle. (you can use truffle paste
or oil if you can’t get the real thing)
Pinch of salt
Crack the eggs into a bowl, add all the ingredients
and gently whisk with a fork to blend it all together.
Pour into a saucepan on a low heat and stir
constantly with a wooden spoon until you get the
consistency that suits you.
Eat straight away!
Meribel: Little England on the Alps....
If you crave beautiful Alpine runs, dramatic mountain backdrops, sun, fantastic ski
conditions and lovely wide pistes - then you’ll certainly be in your element if you
follow in my snowy footsteps to Meribel says Justine Halifax…
As a seasoned skier, and regular visitor to
the Alps over the last decade, I’m no
stranger to the vast beauty of this
stunning, snow-capped mountain range.
But what I wasn’t expecting, on my family’s
latest winter visit here, was to be so taken
with the ski resort of Meribel.
Located in the middle of the largest ski
area in the world, The Three Valleys boasts
a ski area four times greater than the
surface area of Paris. We enjoyed the best
week of ski-ing we’ve ever had in the
French Alps at this picturesque resort. It
ticked so many boxes for my family-offour
– both on, and off-piste.
Boasting a global reputation for being one
of safest places in the world to ski, the
resort’s been such a hit with Brits – a third
of its visitors are British - it’s even earned
the nickname of “Little England on the
Ski conditions here are so great because
85% of the resort is based at 1800 metres
above sea level, with its 150k of pistes,
accessible on a local area pass, reaching its
highest peak at 2952m. But, if you plump
for a Three Valleys pass, then you’ll be able
to reach runs at an even higher 3230m
peak and explore an impressive 600km of
beautiful pistes across 335 runs.
This includes runs on the other side of
Meribel, within easy reach at Courchevel,
and if you have got time to venture slightly
further afield, you can also ski at Val
Thoren and Les Menuires.
It's easy to see why Meribel is such a hit
with families and intermediate skiers. The
bulk of its 68 runs are either blue or red –
6 green, 30 blue, 25 red and 7 black. And,
it’s extremely easy to traverse the slopes
by tackling just green and blue runs if
you’re ski-ing with young children, or
beginners, in tow. There are even “Family
Cool” signs indicating safe and easy pistes
for families with a mix of abilities.
Meribel also has dedicated sledging
experiences, fun snowparks, secured
freeride areas, reserved racing areas and
dedicated ski touring slopes.
When it comes to sledging there’s a rather
exhilarating run called Mission Black
Forest (you pay per run here, including
sledge hire, so it can be a pricey option). Or
there’s a weekly evening sledge ride, (rent a
sledge and get a ticket at Coombes lift)
which is great value for money, and more to
the point, fabulous fun. To make life even
easier, the sledge run, which was also a
green ski run in the day, even ran past the
hotel where we were staying - which was
virtually ski in ski out (a one minute walk
from the ski room to the piste’s edge).
If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in your element
here. There are some great options for
lunch on the piste, including the fantastic
Le Plan des Mains at Les Allues. We
enjoyed fabulous homemade delights here
including homemade breads and cakes,
and mains included succulent steaks to
power us on for an afternoon of ski-ing.
There’s a choice of a host of activities to
indulge in such as igloo building. At the
resort leisure centre, Parc Olympic, you
could enjoy a range of activities from a
relaxing massage to sooth those achy legs
to swimming and skating on its Olympicsize
ice rink. A completely new experience
for us was ski-joring. It’s basically ski-ing
while you are being pulled by a horse (or it
could be by dogs) that you have to steer (or
try to!). It was fast, exhilarating, and I’d
definitely do it again as would my 13-yearold
son and husband, who were fans of this
newfound activity. While we enjoyed an
introductory lesson in the safety of a
penned in snowy paddock with Le Coeur
Equestre Des 3 Vallees, once you’ve honed
your skills you can even venture onto
selected pistes, for extended fun.
Getting to and from Meribel, was straight
forward. We enjoyed a smooth sailing with
DFDS from Dover to Calais with priority
boarding and very comfortable priority
lounge access, which included free drinks,
snacks, and day beds to put your feet up
on. And, while there are airports nearer to
the resort of Meribel, travelling by ferry and
car, even adding on the tolls you’ll need to
pay en route, driving is still, more often than
not, the cheaper option.
But facing a near nine-hour car journey is a
daunting one, so I would recommend
breaking the journey up with an overnight
stay somewhere near the half way mark,
which is exactly what we did. I can highly
recommend a stay in the beautiful city of
Dijon, and a meal at Maison Milliere
restaurant based in one of Dijon’s oldest
Situated behind the Cathedral of Notre
Dame – make sure you follow the lucky
carved owl trail around it – the food here is
fantastic, the service was excellent and the
historic building intriguing too. On the way
back we stopped off at Hotel Les Remparts
in Rue de Verdun, Chaumont, Haut-Marne,
Champagne, which was full of character.
All in all, Meribel is now our favourite
French ski resort!
Justine and family stayed for a week with
Ski France at Hotel Le Mottaret. Ski
France’s flagship hotel in the Alps, it had a
three star-rating, but they say they would
rank it higher than that. It had a hot tub,
out door bar, free parking, ski and boot
rooms at piste level...
Hotel Le Mottaret; www.skifrance.co.uk
Ski hire: Sport 2000 Mottaret Ski Evasion.
For more information on Meribel visit:
Ski season 2019 opens 8 December at
Australian videographers Gai Reid and Neil McLean journeyed to Europe for 120
days of authentic travel ‘living like locals’. Their goal was to pet and house sit their
way across four countries to experience what life is like in other cultures videoing
their journey as they went. Gai tells how the couple started their journey in Paris...
France is the most visited country on the
planet with roughly 80 million tourists per
15 million of those visitors have a Paris stop
Everywhere you walk in Paris there is
something to catch your eye. It’s busy. It’s
frenetic. It’s exotic. It’s mesmerizing and
nourishing all at the same time. The energy
and beauty of Paris is always intoxicating.
People often ask me “When is the best time
to visit Paris?”. My automatic reply is “As
soon as possible”. And I’m only half joking.
Paris is perfect any time of the year, but you
will have different experiences and
memories depending on when you go.
My hands down favourite time to be in this
luscious city is autumn. If you arrive in
September, you will miss the heat and the
crowds of summer. The sun will still be
shining and evenings extremely pleasant for
dinner outdoors. By October the parks
gather a carpet of russet leaves, mornings
are crisp and the days perfect for long walks
in parks and those ancient streets. We
arrived at the end of winter and the trees
were mostly bare, giving us a clear view of
the exquisite detail on the architecture.
I’d booked us into a comfortable but
unremarkable hotel on rue de Rivoli. From
there, we could walk in just about any
direction and find gems.
Being smack bang in the middle of Marais
district gave us a slice of history, colourful
characters, small intriguing shops, street
music, culture galore and a clutch of
One of my favourite chill out areas is a short
walk away. Place des Vosges has style. It’s the
oldest planned square in Paris built in 1605,
commissioned by King Henri IV – and it really
Underneath the elegant archways are highend
retail and galleries. Nothing has changed
- it was a very fashionable and expensive
square to live in during the 17th and 18th
centuries. And, you'd need a wad of Euros to
buy a townhouse there today – but it’s free to
enjoy the park as is the Victor Hugo museum
in the square.
Disover more of Gai and Neil's visit to Paris in
the video above...
The broadcast series of Village to Villa - Living
Like Locals is on Amazon Prime and The Good
Life France website.
Keith van Sickle muses on life in France
I live part of the year in Provence and one
day I was reading Le Monde and a headline
about a “sexy politician” caught my eye.
“Well, those are two words you don’t see
together very often,” I thought. So I read the
article and found out that there had been a
poll asking French women, “What politician
would you like to have a summer fling
“Wow,” I said to myself, “they would never
have a poll like that back home in the US—
it’s way too sexist.” And if they did conduct
such a poll, American women would take
one look at our politicians, imagine a fling
with them and immediately flee the
I showed the article to my wife Val.
“Honey,” I asked sweetly, “if I was a
politician and they did this poll, would you
vote for me?”
She looked me up and down and said,
“Don’t quit your day job.”
Another time there was an election for the
European Parliament. In France, it doesn’t
take much to field a slate of candidates, so
there were 48 (yes, 48) different parties
running. And some had very interesting
New Anti-Capitalist Party
Union of Struggle Against the Banks
For a Royal France at the Heart of Europe
Cannabis Without Borders
Esperanto, a Fair Common Language for All
Libertarian Program for a Europe Setting an
Example Against Sexism and
Each of these parties got equal airtime to
run TV ads and they were one of the
highlights of the day.
The various Green parties seemed to run
the same kinds of ads, all rainbows and
lollipops “We believe in a clean
environment, good jobs for everyone, and
The Regionalism Party was the opposite.
Their ad was an angry guy who kept shaking
his fist and railing against the Jacobins in
“Do you know who the Jacobins are?” I
asked Val. “A bunch of guys named Jacob?”
She didn’t know so I looked it up. It turns out
that they were a group that existed way back
during the French Revolution, so getting
upset about Jacobins was kind of like
complaining that you just can’t find a good
snuffbox these days.
Then there was the New Deal Party ad that,
trust me, would never be allowed in the US.
It started with a naked young couple lying in
bed and energetically doing, um, what naked
young couples do. Suddenly a lady comes
into the room and sits on the bed.
“You’re trying to make a baby, aren’t you?”
“Well, have you thought about what kind of
future that baby is going to have? Have you
thought about whether that baby will have
political leaders who will make sure there
are good jobs, fair wages, and a clean
“No,” says the guy, looking miffed, “I
definitely was not thinking about that just
“Why yes,” says the gal, “I was!”
“So vote New Deal in the European
elections!” says the lady.
I can’t wait for the next election...
Keith Van Sickle is the author of One Sip at
a Time. His new book Keith & Vals's
Adventures in Provence is out 8 Dec, 2018.
Find him at: keithvansickle.com
Win a row of Vines in the Rhone Valley,
with award winning 3D Wines
Win a row of vines from the fabulous
Montirius estate, a family-run,
biodynamic vineyard in the Rhône
Valley. You’ll receive a certificate of
“ownership” for 12 months and
3DWines will send you a bottle of wine
made from your grapes*. You will also
receive information about your vines
and wine as well as exclusive
partnership benefits. (Value £83).
3DWines Vineyard partnerships are
popular with wine lovers around the
world, offering partnerships with some
of the best vineyards in France. It’s a
fabulous way to get to know more
about wine and to taste some of the
best wines in the world, knowing that
they always taste better when they’re
“yours”. (*UK only)
Find out more about 3D Wines here:
DRAW IS CLOSED
CLICK ON THE PICTURES OR THE
TEXT LINK TO ENTER THE DRAWS FOR
THESE FABULOUS CONTESTS
Win a return ticket from Dover to Calais/Dunkirk
We’ve got a set of return tickets for use on DFDS’
Ferries Dover/Calais (1 hour 30 minutes) or
Dover/Dunkirk (2 hours) route for a car and up to
9 passengers. *
DRAW Is closed
Win a copy of Lavender & Lovage: A Culinary Notebook of
Memories & Recipes From Home & Abroad
Part travel diary, part memoir, part history, and all cookbook,
Lavender & Lovage is an invitation from Karen Burns-Booth
to join her on a personal culinary journey through the
memories of the places she has lived and visited.
Draw is closed
Win a copy of Paris
by Guy Hibbert
The unique sights, smells
and sounds of the famous
city are the luminous
backdrop to eleven tales
whose colourful characters
are lured to the City of Light
and Love, like moths to a
flame. Within each story is
a simple postcard which
may have consequences...
DRAW IS CLOSED
Win a copy of Finding
by Diane Covington-Carter
A true story about the
power of love and
Carter weaves a tale that
spans seven decades,
beginning and ending on
the shores of Normandy.
In it, she discovers the role
that forgotten dreams play
in guiding us towards our
Win a copy of Le Mot Juste destinies. DRAW IS
by Imogen Fortes
st of fabulous French words that
used in every day conversation
which are classic and have oodles
harm. DRAW is Closed...
We've teamed up with holiday rental company French Connec
bring you a fabulous chance to win a week in a gorg
La Petite Maison Devine, once a farmer's cottage, built in 1790 - before the French
Revolution, has been renovated by an architect to keep its authentic charm whilst
offering a comfortable stay in a stunning location.
This pretty town house has three floors of spacious rooms in the medieval village of
Laurac le Grand. UNESCO listed Carcassonne is to one side, and historic Castelnaudary,
famous for its cassoulet is to the other side.
Surrounded by glorious countryside, La Petite Maison Devine makes for a superb base
from which to explore the area. This is an ideal get away from it all space in one of the
most beautiful parts of France.
tions who have oodles of fabulous holiday homes in France, to
eous gite near Carcassonne for a week in June 2019
There's a spa pool, lovely terraced area, perfect for aperitifs under the stars, beautiful
bedroom suite with glorious views, a lovely salon with a balcony overlooking the terrace.
Hosts Linda and Bernard Devine have many years of experience in the hospitality market
and aim to make your stay exceed your expectations.
We're giving away a week at La Petite Maison Devine - June 1 to June 7, 2019
*Transport is not included.
Just click here to enter the competition
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 Magazine...
October: La Roque
by Szilvási Éva
NOVEMBER: When a door is a
Created in 1901 by Jules Lavirot
Photo: Susan Whitbread
DECEMBER: Bayeux Normandy, kissed
by Autumn's colours... Photo: Linda J
work of art... 29 Avenue Rapp, Paris.
te, it's an art nouveau masterpiece
Join us on Facebook and like
and share your favourite photos
The Experts guide to
CA Britline specialises in Banking and
Insurance in France. Mortgages are also
available to residents in France, UK and
Ireland. As with the Banking and Insurance
side of things, when you talk Mortgages
with CA Britline it will be in English.
Buying a property in France whether to use
for holidays, longer periods or to rent out
whilst still residing in the UK is possible
with CA Britline.
As with applying and opening an account
at Britline the mortgage application online
and there's no language barrier - our staff
speak English and many of them are British
Applying for a mortgage
We advise that before applying for your
mortgage with us, you open an account.
You can apply for your account at www.
In order to apply for a mortgage you need to
be over 18 and hold no county court
judgements. We will need to understand
your financial position and will require
documents confirming your employment,
general assets, project and bank details
amongst other items. A copy of the
‘compromis de vente’ for the property you
are purchasing will also be required
Self-employed applicants will be asked for
additional documentation such as bank
statements concerning the company’s
bank accounts, statements of accounts (i.e.
profit and loss accounts) and SA302 tax
Once your mortgage application has been
studied, if you're successful, a ‘decision in
principle’ (DIP) will be issued.
Choosing the right
mortgage for you
There is a choice of mortagages - either
fixed or variable rate. The duration may run
from two - 25 years.
Fixed rate mortgages over a longer
duration tend to be the popular choice in
France compared with the UK where
variable rate and interest only mortgages
are often the first choice.
At CA Britline, a fixed rate means fixed for
the whole term of the mortgage.
Redemption fees may be applied if you
decide to pay it off before the end of its
term. Generally the fees will be the
equivalent to 3% of the capital reimbursed
or 6 months’ worth of interest. The lower of
the two amounts will be applied.
Variable rates can be capped at different
levels and some mortgages, depending on
the characteristics of your project, can have
a 0% rate of interest. Eco loans are also
Life insurance called ADE (Assurance
Décès Emprunteur) is recommended when
taking out a mortgage. In the event of
death during the term of the policy, it
covers the outstanding debt. There is no
fixed cost for this type of policy as it
depends entirely on individual
The Mortgage offer
Once you have accepted your Decision in
Principle offer, the official mortage offer will
be issued and you then have have a
cooling off period. After this, if you want to
go ahead, the offer should be signed and
returned by post.
Once the paperwork is complete your
Notaire is updated with the information.
The Notaire will later send a request for the
mortgage to be released based on the date
of the Compromis de Vente signing - the
day you take ownership of your French
For further information visit britline.com
*Mortgages via CA Britline for the purchase
of properties in France only.
In the next edition of The Good Life France
we will be talking about Savings Accounts
and what is available in France.
All CA Britline mortgages are Capital
Repayment only and include options to
allow monthly repayments to be as flexible
Increasing or decreasing your monthly
payments or taking a break is possible
(subject to terms and conditions).
Changes to French tax from Jan 2019
Paul Flintham, International Financial Advisor at Beacon Global Wealth Management,
financial advisors for expats in France, explains the main changes to tax in France in 2019.
PAYE in France: The big change in France for 2019 will be the full introduction of
PAYE (pay as you earn). Tax payment at source has been an option for some time in
France but effective January 2019, a full roll out will be implemented. The tax authorities
will inform employers and pension payers of the nominal income tax to apply, and payable
tax will need be deducted at source. PAYE will not be deducted by French authorities on
overseas incomes – but it is declarable on your tax return.
Tax stage payments: Tax stage payments are to change from twice a year to
monthly. The last page of this year’s tax advice (for 2017 incomes) shows the calculation
and the amount of monthly tax to pay from January 2019. It will still be necessary to
submit a 2018 “Declaration de Revenus” in 2019. This registration of the tax return will
regularise the tax due and takes into consideration tax paid by stage-payments or
deducted at source on French based incomes.
Register your bank account: The tax authorities are asking people to
register their bank account details, so that monthly stage payments can be deducted by
French Property Income: Tax will not be deducted at source for French
property income. This needs to be declared on the 2018 Declaration de Revenus.
Savings Tax: From January 2019, income from savings such as interest and
dividends will be taxed at a flat rate of 30% (consisting of 12.8% income tax and 17.2%
social tax). French banks will deduct this at source. However in certain circumstances it is
possible to opt out of the Income Tax deduction (but not out of the Social Tax). Your bank
will be able to confirm if you are eligible, contact them if you haven’t received notification
Interest received from overseas bank accounts and savings (such as a UK ISA) have to be
declared on your French tax return.
Tax free savings: There are tax free savings accounts available in French banks
such as the Livret A. Tax-efficient investment vehicles such as the Assurance Vie may
also help reduce your tax.
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 licensed and
regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and bound by their rules under licence number
And the information on these pages is intended as an introduction only and is not designed to offer solutions
or advice. Beacon Global Wealth Management can accept no responsibility whatsoever for losses incurred by
acting on the information on these pages.
Expert Property Guide
The French Riviera, AKA Cote d'Azur, has
been the summer playground of choice for
the rich and famous for over a century now.
With the best climate in France and some
of the most stunning coastal scenery, it has
attracted artists and writers such as F Scott
Fitzgerald and Picasso as well as
celebrities like Bridget Bardot who brought
glamour to the fishing village of St. Tropez.
Today Cannes is famous for its film festival,
Nice as the Riviera’s buzzy metropolis and
the Caps of Antibes and Ferrat for offering
many of the most expensive seaside
homes in France. Easy access to the Italian
Riviera at its eastern end, and the beautiful
hinterland of Provence and the foothills of
the Alps is another plus point, but there are
also superb international schools serving a
very large cosmopolitan expat community,
golf courses, fantastic restaurants and
vibrant village markets.
The legacy of its long history as a holiday
destination is a slew of beautiful Belle-
Epoque mansions and trophy homes at
eye-watering prices, but the good news is
that if you head back from the coast a little,
it’s surprisingly affordable - you can get
properties within little more than an hour
from the coast from €100,000.
The key is to head up into the hills above
the seaside resorts behind the trafficclogged
coastal strip for peace and
In the Arrière-Pays, the stylish hill-top
towns of Vence, St-Paul-de-Vence and
Grasse, the perfume capital of France,
international buyers have been attracted to
the Provençal style villas, rustic mas or
pretty sky-blue shuttered village houses.
In Vence, about an hour from the sea, for
example, it’s possible to buy a threebedroom
character house in the centre of
town for less than €250,000.
In recent years the hilltop town of Mougins,
just 15 minutes from Cannes, has become
popular for its high-class restaurants and
its renowned international school.
Lorgues is a beautiful historic town famed
for its market and worth a look. Even in this
fashionable area you can get a twobedroom
apartment in an 18th century
building right in the heart of the lovely old
town at a good price.
Or how about Tourtour? A charming village
in the Var, which true to its name, has
ancient towers dating back to the 11th
century. There is a pretty central square,
welcoming cafés, restaurants and shops,
and it's no surprise it is classed as one of
the most beautiful villages in France. For
€245,000 you can get a three-bedroom
villa in a private wooded estate with pool
and tennis courts.
Head back behind Aix-en-Provence
towards the Luberon in the heart of
Provence, and for even greater value, look
east past the Verdon area into the Alpes-
Maritime national park. “For just over
€100,000 you can get a small onebedroom
home that is close to ski resorts,
and just over an hour from the coast,” says
Sascha Jenner, local estate agent based in
the popular hub of Saint-Vallierde-Thiey.
For €250,000 it’s easy to find a threebedroom
house with a garden.
In the ski resort of Greolières-les-Neiges
you can get a 3-bedroom timber chalet with
pool and stunning views in the mountains
of the French Riviera, 48km to the sandy
beaches of Cannes.
Last but no means least, the lovely
picturesque ancient village of Cipières is
also worth a look. Perched on a rocky ridge
high above the Loup river valley, with a view
north and east across to the Montagne du
Cheiron, it offers village properties for under
www.frenchestateagents.com for expert
advice and to browse a huge range of
properties for sale in the Cote d’Azur and all
The Good Life in ...
Robynne McTaggart loves to spend time in
France, whether skiing in the alps or
enjoying the summer in the picturesque
villages and glorious countryside. With a
business doing well in Perth, Australia
where she and husband Garry live,
Robynne decided to find a home of her
own in 2006. She set herself a goal – to
visit as much of the unspoiled, uncrowded
and authentic far south west France as she
could in just two weeks - and find her
“Arriving at the Vallées du Gaves in the
Hautes-Pyrénées, close to Lourdes, the
French capital of miracles, I immediately
and instinctively felt it was where I wanted
to be, and that I would find ‘the one’” says
Robynne. She rented a hotel room in Pau
and got to know the area. Finding herself
more and more inspired by what she found
she became more determined than ever
that this was where she wanted to be. She
already knew that her dream home was a
maison de maitre, a mansion house, but it
seemed an impossible task to find just one,
let alone ‘the one’. By luck, as she spoke to
a bar owner about her quest, some local
people told her of a rumour that a family
with just the type of house she was
interested were thinking of selling. It was
called Le Belvedere, and it was a large
mountain style mansion house.
Robynne went to see the property and
meet the family who, it turned out, were
indeed selling their home in the village of
Salles, on the outskirts of Argelès-Gazost.
The 300 year old local stone property
nestles at the base of the Regional Nature
Reserve of the Pibeste-Aoulhet. Robynne
says “the minute I went through the door, I
knew I’d found my home. It blew my budget
out of the water but, it was love at first sight
and I just felt I had to do everything I could
to make this mine”.
The house needed little structural
renovation, the authentic chestnut wood
floors, plasterwork, fixtures and fireplaces
are beautiful. It meant that Robynne could
concentrate on getting the house
decorated and furnished. She was
fascinated by the history of her home but
found it hard to find out details since most
of the documents were lost almost a
century ago, though in its location next to
the Chateau Arzaas, it was likely built by
Local artisans have transformed the house
into a gorgeous, comfortable and stylish
home, though it took a lot longer than
estimated. “It takes time to understand a
property” she says, “and I wanted to make
sure that the restoration was authentic and
the best it could be”. In fact what she
thought would take a year or two, took 12
years in total. There was a lot to consider,
for instance the 300-year-old wooden
staircase which is heritage listed for its
unique construction as it is entirely free
standing without vertical support beams
and needed to be completely preserved.
During this time she made friends with her
neighbours and the families of the French
mountain guides and got to know the area
well. It’s a village with a rich natural
heritage, and thanks to its mountain
environment it has preserved its authentic
Perfect for nature lovers, the beautiful
landscape is stunning, wild and totally
unspoiled. “It’s a place where foraging for
mushrooms such as girolles and cèpes,
and wild berries is the norm” she says, “it is
an absolutely joy to experience a way of life
that most of us think simply doesn’t exist
The nearby UNESCO listed Cirque de
Gavarnie, described by famous French
writer Victor Hugo as a “colosseum of
nature” was created by glacial erosion over
millions of years. “The mountains and
rivers, the gentle pace of life, the richness
of the heritage here and the relationship
between man and terroir are just some of
the reasons that this place is so very
special” says Robynne.
From the 12th century, the village of Salles
was located within the Noble Fiefdom of
Arzaas and was linked to the 10 villages in
the valley by a series of footpaths, still in
existence to this day. The town has held a
farmers market for 800 years and it
remains one of the most important markets
in the area with more than 100 merchants.
Robynne now rents out the gorgeous 4-
bedroom mansion house with its stunning
grand salon, magnificent views and luxury
furnishings. She also hosts some very
special events there. In 2019 Master chef
Alain Fabrégues of the Loose Box and
Bistro des Artistes, Perth will become chef
and tutor at Le Belvedere for an 8 day event,
sharing his know-how, techniques and
cooking with guests. (LINK) And Joh Bailey,
Australia’s leading hair stylist and stylist to
the stars will hold a spectacular glamour
and gourmet week, sharing tips and
personally styling guests. (LINK) These are
small group events perfect for friends,
couples and singles, quite unique and
Robynne says of Le Belvedere, “it is really
special, it’s somewhere to recharge,
reenergise and to completely relax in the
most beautiful house in the most amazing
surroundings, whether you’re here for a
week or more – it’s home”.
Discover more about the exclusive,
fabulous events and about renting Le
Belvedere at: www.lebelvedere.net
Turkey is traditional in France at Christmas and this delicious take
on turkey with French vermouth Noilly Prat is delicious and easy to
INGREDIENTS: Serves 4
115g (40z) of vine leaves, drain them from the tin
4 turkey escalopes (roughly 120g each)
300 ml (1/2 pint) of chicken stock
For the stuffing
30 ml Olive oil
3 Shallots, chopped finely
75 g (3oz) cooked wild rice
4 Tomatoes peeled and chopped (tinned or fresh)
3 tablespoons Noilly Prat
25 g (1 oz) pine nuts chopped finely
salt and pepper
1. Rinse the vine leaves in cold water
and leave to drain.
2. Make the stuffing. Heat the oil in a
pan add the shallots, frying them gently
until they soften.
3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in
the rice, tomatoes, pine nuts and the
Noily Prat, season with salt and pepper
4. Flatten the turkey escalopes, cover
them with cling film and whack with a
rolling pin or meat mallet.
5. When they’re flat, split the stuffing
mix between them, and roll or fold the
meat to hold the stuffing in.
6. Lay out the vine leaves, put the
turkey on top and fold the vine leaves
over so they overlap on the top to keep
everything in and covered. Then tie with
cooking twine or similar.
7. Put them in a dish that holds them
tight together and pour the hot chicken
stock over. Bake in the oven for 40
Serve with vegetables and/or potatoes.
Tip: You can make a sauce with the
stock that’s left (skim any fat off the top
first). Add ½ pint chicken stock, 60 ml
port mixed and heated, add a little
cornflower to thicken If necessary, at
the end add a teaspoon of butter,
whisked in gently on a high heat.
Looking for festive inspiration? Sign up to The French
Life Cookalong via Paola's Facebook page and receive a
free mini-cookbook featuring a selection of holidayinspired
recipes and enter a fab competition to win a box
of French goodies...
Makes 1 loaf
Whenever I visit the small town of Buxy
in France’s Côte Chalonnaise, you will
likely find me at the tiny market held in
the centre ville on Thursday mornings.
Though there aren’t many stalls, everything
on offer is absolutely delicious. In
the winter, they sometimes sell fresh
choucroute garnie. And what an aroma it
spreads through the cold air!
I especially look forward to stopping by
the stand selling honey and French
gingerbread, or pain d’épices. The dense,
fragrant loaves come in different
flavours such as blueberry or chocolate
chip. But I prefer mine with a touch of
candied orange, and a good pat of butter.
This is my recipe for a really moist pain
d’épices. Eat it for breakfast with a
bowl of black coffee or as an afternoon
snack with a cup of tea.....
Paola Westbeek is a food, wine and travel
journalist. For more of her recipes, visit
ladoucevie.eu, thefrenchlife.org and her
YouTube channel, LaDouceVieFood
250g spelt or rye flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
2 ½ tsps pain d’épices spices
(French gingerbread spices)
75g light brown sugar
70g candied orange peel, chopped
Preheat oven to 180°C and line a
28cm rectangular baking pan with
parchment paper. Put the flour,
baking powder and baking soda into a
large bowl. Add in spices and the
brown sugar and mix well. Stir in the
candied orange. Whisk the honey,
water and eggs in a small bowl. Make
a well in the centre of the dry
ingredients. Pour in the wet
ingredients and fold until you have a
smooth batter. Pour the batter into the
baking pan and bake for 40-45
minutes. Check the cake after about
20 minutes and cover with foil if the
top is getting too dark. Allow the cake
to cool on a rack before serving.
Serves 6 Preparation time: 10 minutes
1.5 cups (200g) thick crème fraiche
1 heaped tablespoon marscapone
2 teaspoons sweet chestnut purée (crème de marrons)
50z (150g) bittersweet chocolate
5 tablespoons (70g) lightly salted butter
1 tablespoon demerara sugar
12 small meringue shells
1. STIR the crème fraiche and mascarpone together until evenly combined. Fold in the
chestnut purée but do this gently or the mixture will become too thick.
2. MELT the chocolate and butter together in a microwave or bain-marie, add the sugar,
and stir until smooth
3. SPREAD a little of the chestnut cream over the flat base of one of the meringues and
press another meringue on top to make a small sandwich. Repeat with the remaining
chestnut cream and meringues.
4. SERVE immediately with the chocolate sauce.
Recipe from C'est Bon, Recipes inspired by La
Grande Epicerie, Paris by Trish Deseine,
published by Flammarion.
6 duck legs
2 Tablespoons salt/1 tablespoon pepper corns
9 cloves garlic, peeled
6 large bay leaves
2-3 tubs duck fat
Prepare in advance
Sprinkle duck legs with 2 tablespoons of salt.
Sprinkle the bottom of a glass pan with 1 TBS
cracked pepper corns. Lay 3 duck legs skin
side down. Place 3 garlic cloves and 2 bay
leaves on each duck leg. Lay the other 3 duck
legs on top of the first three, sandwich style.
Tightly wrap the pan with plastic wrap and
refrigerate for 24 hours.
How to make
Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.
Rinse each duck leg under cool water to
remove most of the salt.
just large enough to hold the duck legs in one
layer. Lay the duck legs skin-side up on top of
the herbs and spices.
In a glass bowl, heat the duck fat in the
microwave for 1-2 minutes until the fat has
melted. Be sure to cover the bowl to avoid
splatters! Pour the melted duck fat over the
duck legs, submerging the duck legs
completely, and place in the pre-heated oven.
Cook the duck legs for 8-10 hours.
To serve immediately, carefully remove the
duck legs from the fat and place on a broiler or
under a grill for 3-5 minutes until skin is crisp.
The duck legs may be kept refrigerated, in the
fat, for up 5 days. To serve, re-heat the duck
legs for 1 hour in a 225 oven and proceed as
above to crisp skin.
Note: Strain the duck fat into a clean plastic
tub or glass jar. The duck fat keeps
refrigerated or frozen for 3 months.
Place the garlic, bay leaves and 1 tablespoon
cracked pepper corns on the bottom of a pan
Duck confit is such a
wonderful dinner party
entree. It can (and should!)
be prepared 2-3 days in
advance. The key to
successful duck confit are
good quality duck legs
submerging the legs in
duck fat for their long,
slow bake in the oven.
Even a novice home chef
can experience mouthwatering
legs (drumstick and thigh)
are not always easy to find
outside of France so you
may want to order them in
advance from your usual
8-10 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled
and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley
3 garlics cloves, minced
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
4 TBS good quality olive oil
1 tsp salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12
cup muffin tin generously with oli or
nonstick cooking spray. Combine parsley,
garlic, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, olive
oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add sliced
potato to the parsley mixture and toss to
coat each slice thoroughly.
Overlap the potato slices, pressing firmly
as you go and filling each muffin cup 3/4
Bake potatoes in oven 40-45 minutes until
edges are browned and centers can be
easily pierced with the sharp point of a
Cut around each potato stack with a knife
or spatula to serve.
Recipes by Martine Bertin-Peterson of Gout et Voyage travel and taste company who run
gastrocnomic, cultural and French language tours to Provence...
I love winter in my part of rural France. It's damp for sure, cold at times,
sometimes bitterly so. It snows and there are storms, the wind can blast through
the trees in the fields that surround the Seven Valleys making the huge balls of
mistletoe that grow throughout the area swing wildly.
Inside the village houses, log fires are lit and often the only signs of life are the
wisps of smoke that escape from chimneys, sometimes hanging in the still cold
air, sometimes painting patterns in the wind.
Walking the dogs this time of the year, I'm pretty much alone save for deer
bounding across the hedges, their tufty white tails bobbing up and down, and
pheasants disturbed by the crazy lady who comes by every day whatever the
In the village, of which people say "140 people and 1000 cows", there are none of
the latter to be seen, they're safely tucked up in warm barns. My cats lie in front
of the fire all day, I have to push them out the door to do what is necessary and
ten minutes later they're back, screeching to be let in to join the dogs and shuffle
about until everyone finds their nook.
My chickens, ducks and geese are hardy, but at times even they retreat to the
shed, they don't always get on but when it's cold, they find a way to survive
together, huddled in the straw.
The shutters we fitted in the summer have changed life for us this winter. Even
with a gale blowing, inside we have no idea, buffered from reality, it's warm and
cosy, we're snug as bugs (it's taken 14 years!).
This is what winter is all about for me here... my dream come true.