Issue No. 21

This issue is bursting with fabulous features. The Loire Valley celebrates 500 years of French Renaissance, discover Marseille, Le Mans, Bordeaux, Nantes, the exquisite Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte at Paris, an art deco swimming pool turned museum, fantastic recipes and much much more…

This issue is bursting with fabulous features. The Loire Valley celebrates 500 years of French Renaissance, discover Marseille, Le Mans, Bordeaux, Nantes, the exquisite Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte at Paris, an art deco swimming pool turned museum, fantastic recipes and much much more…

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8 fabulous contests<br />

The chateau de<br />

Vaux-le-Vicomte<br />

at Christmas<br />

Escape to the<br />

Chateau<br />

Dick and Angel Share their top tips<br />

+ Fabulous recipes, practical guides<br />

and advice features.<br />

Du pain, du vin,<br />

du train to<br />

Bordeaux<br />

Spotlight on<br />

Nantes, Le Mans,<br />

Sarlat, Marseille,<br />

and more

Welcome to the winter issue of The Good Life France Magazine.<br />

It's a bumper issue and will definitely satisfy your French fix through the winter months!<br />

There are loads of fabulous features about some of the best places to visit in France<br />

including marvellous Marseille, home of Pastis and brilliant Bordeaux which you can<br />

reach by train from Paris in just 2 hours! Our guides are written by some of the top travel<br />

writers in the business with a brief to tell it like it is and seek out the secrets.<br />

If you thought Le Mans was a place where a famous race took place and nothing else,<br />

you're in for a surprise, there is a gorgeous medieval town and plenty to see and do.<br />

We've checked out the best tours of France 2019; spent the weekend in Nantes, a truly<br />

quirky and arty city and ski'd at Meribel. We totally fell in love with the wonderful art deco<br />

swimming pool museum of La Piscine in the north of France where we caught up with<br />

the architect (who also converted the Gare d'Orsay into the world's favourite museum)<br />

We talk to TV stars Dick and Angel of Escape to the Chateau to get their top tips for<br />

those who dream of their own escape.<br />

2019 is a key year in the Loire Valley as 500 years of the French Renaissance will be<br />

celebrated with more than 500 events. It's one place you really ought to pop on your<br />

bucket list - you'll have a ball, literally if you choose, as the Chateau d'Amboise is holding<br />

two fabulous balls in its grand hall and they're open to everyone.<br />

There are wonderful recipes, useful guides, inspirational guides and some fabulous<br />

competitions including the chance to win a week in Carcassonne, ferry tickets, a row of<br />

vines in Provence and great books...<br />

This issue has been put together with passion - it's totally free to read and download and<br />

if you enjoy it, please do share it with your friends, thank you so much,<br />

Bisous from France,<br />

Janine<br />


contents<br />

Features<br />

8 500 years of Renaissance in<br />

the Loire Valley...<br />

Discover the heritage of the Loire Valley's<br />

French Renaissance.<br />

18 escape to the chateau<br />

Janine Marsh talks to TV stars Dick & Angel<br />

about life at the chateau...<br />

28 brilliant bordeaux<br />

Just 2 hours by train from Paris, the sunny<br />

city couldn't be more different.<br />

38 la piscine - the stunning<br />

museum gets an update<br />

The stunningly beautiful museum adds to<br />

its fabulous collection with new space.<br />

46 Chateau vaux-le-vicomte<br />

at christmas<br />

Decked up for the Christmas season, this<br />

incredible castle is truly captivating.<br />

52 best tours of france 2019<br />

If you want special, authentic and original<br />

tours - then don't miss our round up.<br />

56 le mans, motoring & more<br />

If you thought Le Mans is just a place where<br />

a race takes place - think again!<br />

62 marvellous and tasty<br />

marseille<br />

Peter Jones heads to Marseille to sample its<br />

charms - and pastis!

Features continued<br />

68 le weekend in nantes<br />

Amy McPherson visits the quirky, creative<br />

city & discovers her inner child!<br />

74 in the tracks of the tour<br />

de france<br />

Michael Cranmer pedals in the tracks of<br />

the Tour de France - sort of...<br />

82 truffle hunting in<br />

dordogne<br />

Hunting for black diamonds and a truffle<br />

festival in Sarlat, an aromatic visit.<br />

86 Meribel<br />

Justine Halifax finds "Little England" in the<br />

French Alps is "the best skiing. Ever."<br />

90 Bonjour Paris<br />

Video diary of a trip to Paris...<br />

Regular<br />

92 I spy with my expat eye<br />

Keith van Sickle is bemused by French<br />

politics "it wouldn't happen in the US"...<br />

98 Your Photos<br />

The most popular photos on our Facebook<br />

page shared here.<br />

94 Give Aways<br />

A very special issue with loads of give<br />

aways including a week in Carcarssonne,<br />

ferry tickets, vines and books...<br />

110 Expat good life in<br />

Hautes-Pyrenees<br />

An Australian family find their dream house<br />

in unspoiled France...<br />

122 My Good Life in France<br />

Winter comes to the Seven Valleys

Expert Advice<br />

100 guide to mortgages<br />

The experts explain how French mortgages<br />

work.<br />

104 French tax charge<br />

update<br />

Experts update on the French tax charge<br />

updates for 2019.<br />

106 Property guide to cote<br />

d'azur<br />

Where to find more affordable property in<br />

the popular south.<br />

Gastronomy<br />

114 turkey parcels with<br />

noily prat<br />

116 pain d'epices with<br />

candied orange<br />

118 chestnut cream<br />

meringues<br />

120 duck confit & p rovencal<br />


Chateau de Chambord © D-Darrault CRTCentreVdL<br />

Celebrate 500 yea<br />

Renaissance in th<br />

2019 sees a major celebration of the French Renaissance heritage in the Loire Va<br />

French Renaissance and how the key date of 1519 marks the 500<br />

What is the French Renaissance?<br />

The finale of the 15th century saw the end<br />

of the Hundred Years’ War between France<br />

and England. It was a period during which<br />

Joan of Arc had travelled to the heart of the<br />

Loire Valley to persuade the Dauphin to<br />

give her an army and persuade him to take<br />

his place as King of France and become<br />

Charles VII. With constant attacks by the<br />

English on French soil, the homes of the<br />

royals and nobility were more like<br />

fortresses, designed to fend off invaders<br />

and keep people, animals and belongings<br />

safe.<br />

In 1494, Charles VII waged war in Italy and<br />

though unsuccessful, he gained a love of<br />

Renaissance art and culture and returned to<br />

France taking with him Italian craftsmen<br />

and artisans. Thus began the French love<br />

affair with all things Renaissance. It was a<br />

time of economic and social change, when<br />

the arts, literature and culture flourished.<br />

And we can see the legacy of the French<br />

Renaissance to this day, forever recorded in<br />

the architecture of many chateaux and<br />

towns in the Loire Valley where the French<br />

Renaissance began...

s of the French<br />

e Loire Valley<br />

lley and the Centre-Val de Loire region. Janine Marsh looks at what sparked the<br />

th anniversary with a rich programme of events and celebration...<br />

1519 was a key year<br />

Leonardo da Vinci the, the very definition<br />

of a Renaissance man, died in the Loire<br />

Valley on 2 May, 1519 at the Chateau du<br />

Clos Lucé.<br />

Catherine de Medici was born in Florence<br />

that year and grew up to be a major figure<br />

of the Renaissance, a patron of the arts, her<br />

legacy lives on in the Loire Valley.<br />

And, the first stone of the magnificent<br />

Chateau of Chambord was laid,<br />

commissioned by King Francis I, known as<br />

the father of the French Renaissance. The<br />

chateau is a perfect example of all that the<br />

Renaissance came to be.<br />

In 2019, the Centre-Val de Loire region<br />

celebrates 500 years of Renaissance since<br />

this key date, with more than 500 events<br />

taking place throughout the area.<br />

Exhibitions, workshops, concerts and much<br />

more will take place, in what is surely an<br />

ongoing French love affair with the arts and<br />


The double helix staircase mirrors the<br />

same structure as DNA! Although no<br />

one can say for sure that the<br />

staircase is the work of Leonardo da<br />

Vinci, he left behind drawings of this<br />

style of staircase and even one for a<br />

quadruple staircase<br />

Francis 1494-1547<br />

The Chateau de Chambord<br />

The flamboyant King Francis I loved to put<br />

on a show and at Chambord, his<br />

imagination ran wild. A grand castle in true<br />

Renaissance style, built to shout to the<br />

world that this was the home of the<br />

greatest King that ever lived.<br />

426 rooms (60 of which are open to the<br />

public), 83 staircases including a double<br />

helix staircase said to have been at the<br />

very least inspired by (if not designed by)<br />

Leonardo da Vinci, 282 fireplaces (never<br />

enough to keep it warm) tall towers and<br />

turrets.<br />

Straight out of a fairy tale, Chambord is an<br />

absolute dream of a castle bought to life.<br />

It’s been called an “example of<br />

architectural megalomania”, Victor Hugo<br />

said it was “admirably bizarre”. It was<br />

outrageously expensive to build with up to<br />

2000 workmen employed on its creation.<br />

In fact the King ran out of money before it<br />

was completed despite raiding the<br />

treasuries of churches and grabbing silver<br />

from his subjects. When he was captured in<br />

battle in Italy in 1525, just 6 years after the<br />

first stone of Chambord was laid, he gave<br />

up his sons to take his place and then<br />

couldn’t ransom them due to lack of funds.<br />

Work went on in in fits and starts but by the<br />

time he died aged 52 in 1547, the King had<br />

only spent 50 days t there in total.<br />

Today it is a UNESCO world heritage site<br />

and much loved monument to the<br />

Renaissance in the Loire Valley, an<br />

amazing example of the style of the day.<br />

The castle grounds cover around 13,500<br />

hectares, roughly the size of inner Paris,<br />

and is the largest enclosed park in Europe,<br />

with boundary walls covering 20 miles. You<br />

can discover it on foot, by bike, horse, 4x4<br />

or horse and carriage and there are 20km<br />

of trails to explore in the forest.

Inside there are 4,500 works of art,<br />

tapestries, paintings and furnishings. On<br />

cold days some of the fires are lit giving it a<br />

homely feeling so that you can imagine<br />

how it must have been when the court<br />

were in residence. In some of the rooms<br />

there are actors dressed in the costumes of<br />

the day, regaling visitors with stories and<br />

anecdotes.<br />

A new formal garden was inaugurated in<br />

2017 with thousands of trees, plants and<br />

roses and the terrace overlooking it, with<br />

its central great lantern tower is<br />

magnificent. In the grounds, actors on<br />

horse back roam the park evoking a spirit<br />

of the past and its grand heyday.<br />

There’s even a small village of shops,<br />

café’s, a fabulous biscuiterie where you<br />

can taste the local liqueur Chambord, wine<br />

tasting store, a 4* hotel Relais de<br />

Chambord and fabulous restaurant which<br />

overlooks the Chateau. It has to be one of<br />

the most extraordinary views to enjoy lunch<br />

or dinner anywhere in the world.<br />

From the medieval chateaux that were the<br />

norm just decades before, the Chateau of<br />

Chambord ushered in a new style of<br />

building and a new art of living, and things<br />

in France would never be the same again.<br />

Read more about Chambord here.<br />

Just 3 years before that first stone was laid,<br />

63 year old Leonardo da Vinci arrived in<br />

nearby Amboise, invited to stay in the grace<br />

and favour Chateau du Clos Lucé by his<br />

new royal patron, Francis I of France...<br />

WHATS ON 2019: Exhibition: May to<br />

September, International architecture<br />

competition: one aspect focused on the<br />

history of the château, and one on its future,<br />

aiming to virtually transform it into a <strong>21</strong>stcentury<br />

utopian ideal. www.chambord.org

Leonardo da Vinci<br />

1452-1519<br />

What’s on 2019:<br />

The Last Supper<br />

tapestry based on<br />

Leonardo da<br />

Vinci’s fresco will<br />

be presented, the<br />

first time it has<br />

been shown<br />

outside of Italy<br />

together with<br />

artworks from<br />

international<br />

museums. Woven<br />

for Louise of Savoy<br />

mother of Francis<br />

before 1514. In 1533,<br />

Francis gave it to<br />

Pope Clement VII<br />

on the occasion of<br />

the marriage of his<br />

son Henri II and<br />

the Pope’s niece,<br />

Catherine de’<br />

Medici.<br />

www.vinci-closluce.com<br />

Chateau du Clos Lucé<br />

When Francis I issued an invite to Leonardo<br />

da Vinci he travelled to France by donkey –<br />

carrying the Mona Lisa painting - and<br />

headed over the alps to the Loire Valley. He<br />

spent the rest of his life at the Chateau du<br />

Clos Lucé working on engineering and<br />

architectural projects, completing the Mona<br />

Lisa, scribbling his notes and inspiring the<br />

King. The chateau du Clos Lucé was joined<br />

by a secret underground passage to the<br />

nearby Chateau d'Amboise where Francis 1<br />

lived and Leonardo would scuttle along it to<br />

meet with his patron. Francis was very fond<br />

of the Italian architect, painter, philosopher,<br />

engineer, botanist, poet, musician, writer<br />

and more.<br />

Leonardo died at the chateau on May 2,<br />

1519 – his work having changed the world.<br />

Visit the castle today and discover an<br />

atmospheric museum, restored and<br />

furnished in Renaissance style. It’s very<br />

easy to imagine the great man living and<br />

working there. In what was his bedroom<br />

Minette the cat sleeps on the bed, in his<br />

workshop and study, notes, paintings, an<br />

easel, the tools of his trade are laid out.<br />

There is a fabulous 3D film and models of<br />

some of his most incredible projects.<br />

Read more about the Chateau du Clos Lucé<br />

The 15 acre park contains more amazing<br />

models of the great man’s inventions. The<br />

trees are hung with huge translucent<br />

representations of his paintings and<br />

sayings, they seem to float. It’s romantic,<br />

ethereal and beautifully done.<br />

Read more about the gardens of Clos Luce<br />

here.<br />

As well as a charming creperie and snack<br />

style restaurant the Auberge du Prieuré<br />

restaurant in a former 16th century house<br />

serves typical French Renaissance dishes.

Chateau Royale Amboise, credit: L De Serres<br />

Chateau d’ Amboise<br />

Leonardo da Vinci was laid to rest in the<br />

flamboyant St Hubert’s chapel at the<br />

Chateau d’Amboise, a fitting place as it’s<br />

here that the French Renaissance began.<br />

When Charles VII returned to France from<br />

the Italian military campaigns of the late<br />

15th century, he bought Italian architects<br />

and artists back with him to teach the<br />

French. He set his workmen to upgrade the<br />

Medieval fortress (in which up to 4000<br />

people had lived) of Amboise into a<br />

chateau fit for a King. They worked day and<br />

night by torchlight. However he never got<br />

to see it finished. Inspecting their work one<br />

day, he hit his head on the stone lintel of a<br />

door. Though he said he was okay, he<br />

collapsed and died within hours.<br />

His successor Louis XI continued the<br />

renovation but it was Francis I who bought<br />

In May and July you can have a ball at Amboise<br />

- literally, join in the Renaissance dancing, dress<br />

up and feel the history<br />

it to full Renaissance glory. Born in Cognac,<br />

he moved to Amboise aged 6 and was<br />

educated there, making it his court when<br />

he was crowned King in 1515, the year he<br />

invited Leonardo da Vinci to France.<br />

Under his direction the Chateau d’Amboise,<br />

perched on a hill dominating the town,<br />

became a pleasure palace of immense<br />

beauty. He kept lions, tigers, leopards and<br />

bears in a dry part of the moat. He staged<br />

huge, ostentatious parties, with Leonardo<br />

da Vinci designing costumes and<br />

automatons, including a clockwork lion. It<br />

walked and urinated and its body opened<br />

up and was filled with lilies. For a play, he<br />

recreated the night sky over the stage<br />

complete with constell-ations and planets.

Go there today and you won’t find the<br />

castle that Leonardo knew, much of it was<br />

demolished in the 19th century when the<br />

owner couldn’t afford to maintain it. But<br />

what does remain is glorious and and the<br />

views over the Loire Valley from its terraces<br />

are stunning.<br />

In the great hall inside, a bust of Francis I<br />

looks down on visitors as they explore the<br />

grand architecture of this historic chateau.<br />

In May and July 2019 you can catch the<br />

King’s eye by joining in at a grand ball in<br />

that very room.<br />

Book your tickets as soon as possible to<br />

hire a Renaissance costume at the castle<br />

and join in the dancing. It’s an extraordinary<br />

experience, I’ve done it myself<br />

(above) and for one night, felt like a<br />

Princess as I danced to Renaissance music<br />

until the sun went down, a truly magical<br />

way to feel the history of Amboise.<br />

What’s on 2019 Chateau d'Amboise:<br />

Exhibition on the death of Leonardo da<br />

Vinci, including, from 2 May 2019, François-<br />

Guillaume Ménageot’s 1781 painting “The<br />

Death of Leonardo da Vinci”. Renaissance<br />

balls and workshops, music festivals,<br />

fireworks and more throughout the year.<br />

www.chateau-amboise.com<br />

The Chateau de Blois<br />

Whilst working on Amboise, Francis I also<br />

embarked on a refurbishment programme<br />

at the nearby Chateau of Blois. It had been<br />

the childhood home of his wife Claude and<br />

was where a young Anne Boleyn was lady<br />

in waiting to the Queen.<br />

It’s said that Anne acquired a taste for the<br />

Renaissance style here and at other Royal<br />

Chateaux. It influenced her style and when<br />

she returned to England and married Henry<br />


Catherine<br />

1<br />

Chateau de Blois<br />

A range of styles from the 13th to 17th<br />

centuries can be seen at the Chateau de<br />

Blois, and the Renaissance part is evident.<br />

The wing that Francis built is sumptuous<br />

and the cage staircase is magnificent.<br />

Read more about Blois here<br />

Whats on 2019: Children of the<br />

Renaissance - May to September 2019<br />

Exhibition on the theme of childhood from<br />

the late 15th century to the early 17th<br />

century; May to October 2019 Sculptures<br />

by artist Laurence Dréano in the rooms of<br />

the château.<br />

Catherine de Medici<br />

Born in 1519 in Florence, Catherine de<br />

Medici was married in 1533, aged 14, to the<br />

son of Francis I who became Henri II of<br />

France in 1547. It wasn’t the happiest of<br />

marriages, Henri was in love with his<br />

mistress Diane de Poitiers, Catherine’s<br />

cousin. Their pass-ionate affair lasted until<br />

his death in 1559.<br />

It was Diane who wielded political influence<br />

when her lover the King was alive, she who<br />

was showered with jewels and gifted<br />

castles including the stunning Chateau of<br />

Chenonceau, a Renaissance jewel.<br />

Read more about Chenonceau here.<br />

In 1559, Henri was fatally injured at a<br />

jousting tournament at which he was<br />

wearing the colours of Diane. His sons were<br />

too young to rule, so it was Catherine de<br />

Medici who became effective ruler of<br />

France, making Blois her key royal base.<br />

Diane de Poitiers was ordered to return the<br />

crown and Catherine took Chenonceau<br />

from her but gave her the pretty Chateau de<br />

Chaumont to soften the blow.<br />

Read more about Chaumont here.<br />

Diane also had her beautiful chateau d’Anet<br />

to retire to. Probably the most

de Medici<br />

519-1589<br />

beautiful chateau you never heard of it, it is<br />

an incredible jewel of the Renaissance and<br />

contains Diane’s bed and several<br />

belongings, including a love letter from the<br />

King, her hand mirror and all sorts of<br />

fabulous objects.<br />

Read more about Chateau d’Anet here.<br />

Catherine de Medici’s 30 year rule through<br />

her sons was at a time of turbulence,<br />

tarnished by the bloody turmoil of religious<br />

wars. It’s claimed that she would despatch<br />

teams of beautiful young women to calm<br />

down aggressive noblemen and to find out<br />

their secrets. The 1572 St Bartholomew<br />

massacre of thousands of Protestants<br />

happened on her watch. The infamous<br />

assassination of the Duke de Guise, leader<br />

of the Catholic League took place at the<br />

Chateau de Blois in 1588 while she lie sick<br />

in bed. She died a year later, aged 69, and<br />

was buried first at Blois before being reinterred<br />

at the Basilica of Saint-Denis with<br />

the husband she had loved.<br />

During her time she became an influential<br />

patron of the arts, making a significant<br />

contribution to the French Renaissance for<br />

three decades. She spent vast amounts of<br />

money on monuments and chateaux,<br />

employed Italian artists and architects,<br />

patronised French artists and became a<br />

renowned collector. She was famous for her<br />

lavish parties, known as “magnificences” as<br />

well as championing the theatrical arts,<br />

ballet and opera.<br />


Viva Leonardo da Vinci, celebrating 500<br />

years of the French Renaissance in the<br />

Loire Valley, sees around 500 events<br />

taking place all over the region. In this rich<br />

programme of arts and culture, the French<br />

Renaissance lives on…<br />

For further inspiration visit:<br />

www.loirevalley-france.co.uk; www.france.fr

Escape to the

Chateau...<br />

Dick Strawbridge and wife Angel Adoree<br />

relocated from the UK in 2015 to do up a<br />

run-down 5-storey chateau with 45<br />

rooms in Mayenne, Pays de la Loire,<br />

France. “It was cheaper than a onebedroom<br />

flat in East London” says Dick –<br />

but it needed a lot of work to transform it<br />

into the home and good life they wanted,<br />

and to create an income earning<br />

business.<br />

Janine Marsh talks to Dick and Angel<br />

about life at the Chateau and their top<br />

tips for those who dream of escaping to<br />

the chateau…

A legion of fans<br />

Millions have watched the intrepid couple,<br />

the stars of TV Series “Escape to the<br />

Chateau” as they’ve painstakingly restored<br />

the Chateau-de-La-Motte Husson with its<br />

tall towers and pretty orangerie where they<br />

now host weddings.<br />

<strong>No</strong> strangers to TV, Dick with his distinctive<br />

moustache, has appeared in shows like<br />

Scrapheap Challenge, It’s <strong>No</strong>t Easy Being<br />

Green and Celebrity Masterchef. Red-head<br />

Angel has a passion for 1940s clothes and<br />

all things vintage, she’s an author and<br />

founder of The Vintage Patisserie which<br />

she presented on TV show Dragons Den in<br />

2010, winning over the panel and public<br />

with her pluck and passion.<br />

With Escape to the Chateau, they’ve<br />

inspired a huge audience with the<br />

dedication and hard work they’ve put into<br />

transforming their chateau into a gorgeous<br />

new home and business. Bringing up two<br />

young children, 5-year-old Arthur and 4-<br />

Angel and Dick share a taste of the<br />

chateau...<br />

year-old Dorothy, renovating a huge home,<br />

creating a business which will earn them an<br />

income and pay for the work needed on the<br />

chateau hasn’t been easy. But it’s made for<br />

riveting viewing and has led to a spin off<br />

series “Escape to the Chateau DIY” in which<br />

we’ve seen more plucky Brits take on<br />

chateaux and get some advice and<br />

sometimes practical help from Dick and<br />

Angel.<br />

Dick, 59, and Angel, 40, have also inspired a<br />

legion of fans to consider a move to France<br />

to start a new life. Leggett Immobillier, top<br />

estate agents in France say that each time<br />

an episode of the Escape to the Chateau<br />

DIY is shown, they see a massive jump in<br />

chateau search numbers on their website!<br />

They’ve not just seen viewings increase but<br />

sales too.<br />

It seems that many of us dream of escaping<br />

to our very own chateau in France – but just<br />

how realistic is it?

"It's a marathon not a sprint"<br />

What has been the worst job you’ve had to<br />

take on at the chateau and – knowing<br />

what you know now, would you have done<br />

it differently?<br />

Probably clearing the bird droppings from<br />

the attic – it wasn’t the smell it was the<br />

very fine dust. And of course, we did it in<br />

the summer when it was extremely hot!<br />

Reckon we’d make it a winter job if we did<br />

it again.<br />

Clearly renovating a chateau and starting<br />

a new business from scratch isn’t all a bed<br />

of roses – what motivates you to keep<br />

going?<br />

We love that we've brought the chateau<br />

back to life! Yes, there are challenges and a<br />

project like this is a marathon not a sprint,<br />

but we are doing it for the family and that<br />

is more than enough motivation.<br />

“If it’s meant for you, it won’t go<br />

by you”<br />

Millions watch you on the telly and dream<br />

about following in your footsteps – what<br />

three key pieces of advice would you give<br />

them when starting out?<br />

Do it for the right reasons – know what you<br />

want and then go for it. That way problems<br />

will always be overcome rather than putting<br />

an end to your dream.<br />

Have a plan. Planning ahead must include<br />

how you are going to live and earn money.<br />

This will also help you when you're<br />

prioritising renovations.<br />

Be patient, the search is all part of the<br />

journey so don’t settle for something that<br />

isn’t absolutely right for you. We know a<br />

wise lady who always says ‘if it’s meant for<br />

you, it won’t go by you.’

What would be your top tips for starting<br />

any business in France that involves the<br />

hospitality service – gites, B&B, cafés,<br />

weddings etc.<br />

Do the sums – a quaint tea room will not<br />

pay for a chateau. Know your target<br />

customers – if you are interested in the<br />

British market think about their travel.<br />

There’s a lot of competition so what makes<br />

you stand out? Invest in good photography,<br />

a website and social media – this<br />

will be the most cost-effective way to<br />

promote your business.<br />

One of the things people love when<br />

watching the show is that you seem very<br />

“real”, we can tell when Dick is exasperated<br />

with one of Angel’s ideas, and when<br />

Angel is peeved that Dick doesn’t get her<br />

vision! How do you manage to still make it<br />

seem such fun!<br />

We have the same goal and although<br />

sometimes we may have different ideas<br />

about how things can/should be done, we<br />

trust each other’s instincts. There are<br />

always going to be challenges but we’re<br />

both equally focused and in love with this<br />

project and creating the life we want for<br />

ourselves and Arthur and Dorothy.<br />

What are you most proud of in your new<br />

life in France?<br />

<strong>No</strong>t sure pride is the right term, but we<br />

know we have made the decision and we<br />

are bloody minded enough to succeed in<br />

all aspects of our venture.

"Eat an elephant a bite at a time!"<br />

Where do you find your best bargains?<br />

Emmaus [charity shops where you'll find a<br />

great range of furniture and more [read how<br />

to find an Emmaus store here], flea markets,<br />

brocantes and eBay!<br />

Would you do it all again?<br />

In a heartbeat. We really are living our dream<br />

and we wouldn’t change it for the world.<br />

Were you ever afraid of taking on such a huge<br />

project or did you just believe that you could<br />

succeed?<br />

We have always been sure we can do this, but<br />

it’s not just good luck, you have to plan -

and it’s worth remembering - you eat an<br />

elephant a bite at a time!<br />

Can you tell us a bit about the events<br />

you’re running?<br />

We currently host Weddings, Fun &<br />

Festivities and Gardening Work Days, as<br />

well as a few Food Lovers Weekends. We<br />

also have a new unique glamping<br />

experience ‘Chateau under the Stars’. All<br />

our events capitalise on the local produce<br />

that is so impressive in the Pays de le Loire.<br />

The Food Lovers Weekend at the Chateau<br />

means sampling plenty of amazing food<br />

and drink. The weekend starts with us<br />

hosting all the guests for a meal of many<br />

courses, then after a trip to the local market<br />

at Laval [more on Laval market here], we all<br />

cook together - it's seasonal produce and<br />

dishes that many have not been brave<br />

enough to attempt.<br />

What plans do you have for the future?<br />

It’s fair to say there’s a lot left to do at the<br />

chateau. We haven’t really started some of<br />

the very big jobs, like re-doing our windows<br />

and replacing the roof, and if you add<br />

converting the outbuildings to the ‘to do<br />

list’, there’s no shortage of things to keep<br />

us occupied.<br />

There are also a couple of other very<br />

exciting projects in the pipeline for next<br />

year, but at the moment our lips are sealed!

Dick and Angel's Top<br />

Tips for Chateau<br />

owners and seekers<br />

Do's<br />

Location is key: France is a big country,<br />

about three times the size of the UK.<br />

There are many remote, rural areas and<br />

while for lots of us that’s part of the<br />

appeal, but when you're running a<br />

business like this, being close to an<br />

airport or port for transport options is<br />

seriously important.<br />

Be realistic. Chateaux are old, it’s<br />

inevitable that they will need work,<br />

whether that’s full-blown renovation or<br />

just maintenance. And, they generally<br />

cost a lot of money to run (heating<br />

especially).<br />

Plan ahead: It’s really important to<br />

consider how you’re going to earn an<br />

income. If your chateau is going to be run<br />

as a business, do some research and plan<br />

what you will offer guests, how it will work<br />

to suit you and your guests and, critically,<br />

how you’ll market it. This will also help<br />

you when you’re planning renovations.<br />

Set deadlines and try as much as you can<br />

to work to a timeline. Keeping focussed<br />

will motivate you to keep going, you’re<br />

going to need that. Reaching milestones<br />

does wonders for your morale!<br />

Join in: Don’t forget you have to live there,<br />

it’s not just about the bricks and mortar.<br />

Integrate with the locals and join in with<br />

community events as much as you can.<br />

Be patient. The French love bureaucracy,<br />

there will be a ton of paperwork. It’s life. In<br />


Don’ts<br />

Don't buy pigs and chicken straight away! It’s<br />

easy to get carried away, to want to live the good<br />

life straight away, but concentrate on the basics<br />

first, you need to make your home weatherproof<br />

etc – then you get the pigs and chickens!<br />

Reuse: Make the<br />

most of what your<br />

chateau has to offer.<br />

Recycle furniture,<br />

mend things, re-love<br />

the bits and pieces<br />

that the chateau<br />

yields. It’s cheaper<br />

and greener.<br />

Don't rely on getting everything you need in<br />

France. Some things are cheaper in the UK, such<br />

as paint, tools and even radiators. Some things<br />

are cheaper in France or essential to buy here,<br />

electrics and plumbing for instance. Shop around!<br />

Don't get carried away – prioritise fundamental<br />

basics such as heating (if you have a wood fire,<br />

don’t leave ordering the wood until its cold, it may<br />

be more expensive), electricity and plumbing.<br />

Don't be surprised by the fact that in France long<br />

lunches are still common - even for French<br />

artisans who are working on your home! Always<br />

get a quote based on the job, rather than time.<br />

Don't rely totally on the expat community. By<br />

learning French, you’ll be able to communicate<br />

better and importantly, get the best person for the<br />

job you want done.<br />

Don’t worry if you’re not an experienced builder,<br />

you can learn lots from books, YouTube and the<br />

internet. The ability to plan well is really important,<br />

start with this.<br />

Don’t forget that much of France closes down for<br />

August holidays. You’re likely to find that there<br />

are fewer shops and services are available, and it<br />

feels like all artisans take an extended holiday<br />

then!<br />

Website for Chateau-de-la-Motte Husson for<br />

details of events and news from Dick and Angel<br />

Follow Escape to the Chateau on Facebook and<br />

Twitter<br />

If you need more room for guests, why<br />

not put up a posh tent, and offer a<br />

glamping experience

Brilliant<br />

Bordeaux<br />

Janine Marsh disovers the secrets, flavours and<br />

architectural wonders of sunny Bordeaux, AKA the<br />

Pearl of Aquitaine...

Getting to know Bordeaux<br />

I took the fast train from Paris to Bordeaux<br />

and arrived in just over 2 hours. Watching<br />

the speed monitor on a screen in the<br />

carriage hovering around the 320km/hour<br />

mark for much of the journey was pretty<br />

impressive. We slowed down on the<br />

outskirts of Bordeaux which gave me time<br />

to admire the voluptuous outline of the<br />

city’s new emblematic Museum of wine,<br />

the sun bouncing of its snake-like outline.<br />

Some people say Bordeaux is a bit like a<br />

smaller Paris but apart from the fact that<br />

it’s a city, I think Bordeaux is completely<br />

unlike it - in a good way.<br />

Don’t get me wrong I love Paris but<br />

Bordeaux is very different. It’s smaller,<br />

sunnier, the architecture is mellow,<br />

neoclassical masterpieces span three<br />

centuries (18th -20th) which gives a<br />

coherence and consistency to the overall<br />

look - as well as a UNESCO listing. It’s<br />

home to the most wonderful wine bars,<br />

surrounded by the most amazing vineyards<br />

and has its own specialities which you<br />

simply won’t find elsewhere. There are far<br />

less cars, thanks to a tram system and<br />

Mayor Alain Juppé’s support for promoting<br />

cycling. It’s cosmopolitan and has a happy<br />

and relaxed place.<br />

Finding your way round<br />

Bordeaux’s tram service is terrific. It’s easy<br />

to use, cheap and efficient. And, if you<br />

arrive by train, you can hop on a tram right<br />

outside the station (either use the ticket<br />

machines or buy a carnet, a book of tickets,<br />

in the Relay shop in the station).<br />

In the centre of Bordeaux is Quinconces, a<br />

huge square, served by several tram lines.<br />

It’s a good starting point for getting to<br />

know the city. And the best way to do it is<br />

on foot.

The Roman legacy<br />

The Romans called the city Burdigala and<br />

there are remains of their presence, from<br />

the ruins of an amphitheatre known locally<br />

as 'Le Palais Gallien' to towers hidden<br />

inside buildings. They started off importing<br />

wine from Italy and Spain but in 1AD began<br />

planting a grape species called Biturica, the<br />

ancestor of Cabernet Franc.<br />

You can’t walk more than a few steps in<br />

the city without reminders of that<br />

monumental decision the Romans took -<br />

there are wine bars everywhere.<br />

“Can you tell me what’s the best wine bar<br />

in Bordeaux?” I ask a local outside the<br />

tourist office where I stopped to pick up a<br />

map. He ponders and points across the<br />

road “Maison Gobineau is magnifique” he<br />

enthuses “every kind of Bordeaux wine<br />

there and not expensive at all”.<br />

I head off to find this wine paradise. It looks<br />

very chic and sleek from outside and I<br />

wonder about the not expensive comment.<br />

Inside there are stained glass windows, an<br />

Aubusson tapestry behind the bar, rack<br />

upon rack of bottles and a very long wine<br />

list menu which I pick up cautiously. “2<br />

Euros a glass?” I can’t help exclaiming out<br />

loud. The bar man smiles at me and<br />

explains that it’s about making the wines of<br />

Bordeaux accessible and known to all. I feel<br />

it would be churlish to resist and indulge in<br />

what the barman says is a “cheeky, spicy<br />

red”.<br />

After this I’m ready to continue my tour<br />

having been given a potted history of<br />

Bordeaux wines - did you know that there<br />

are about 9000 wine makers in the region<br />

and each make an average of 2-3 varieties...<br />

astonishing! If you only go to one wine bar<br />

(which would be tough on you I must say)<br />

go to this one, it’s terrific.

From here it’s a stone’s throw to the<br />

famous Opera National de Bordeaux, a<br />

veritable landmark in a city of landmarks. It<br />

isn’t like other opera houses. It’s traditional<br />

to be boisterous and noisy I’m told, a<br />

throwback to the good old days when it<br />

first opened and it was a place where the<br />

rich went to let their hair down. More a club<br />

than an opera house in those days, it<br />

would open at 5 pm and cost an average of<br />

several days wages for the average<br />

working man – it was meant to keep the<br />

poor out.<br />

By the 18th century, when the Opera was<br />

built, Bordeaux was the second wealthiest<br />

city in France, after Paris. It already had a<br />

reputation for some of the best wines and<br />

its harbour was one of the most important<br />

in the world with an an immense flow of<br />

goods coming into the city. When Louis<br />

XIV visited in the mid-17th century,<br />

Bordeaux was very medieval looking<br />

despite its growing wealth, and the king<br />

commanded that it be modernised. After all<br />

this was where many visitors to France first<br />

came, he wanted to make a good<br />

impression.<br />

The rich merchants built new areas and<br />

erected fabulous buildings in the<br />

neoclassical style. Today they are part of<br />

that give Bordeaux the status of a UNESCO<br />

world heritage centre. All around you, the<br />

magnificent architecture is truly impressive.<br />

Opposite the Opera is L’Intendant wine<br />

store, an institution for the locals, with wine<br />

from 6 euros to 6000 euros. “There isn’t<br />

" says local Alex Palerologue “a single bad<br />

bottle in here. They are all outstanding even<br />

the cheapest, and the people that work<br />

here give excellent advice”.

Bordeaux used to have a reputation for<br />

being a bit grubby which is hard to believe<br />

as you wander its streets of honeycoloured<br />

buildings. But, if you head to the<br />

17th century Church of <strong>No</strong>tre Dame<br />

(modelled after the Church of Gesú in<br />

Rome), stand facing it and look to your left,<br />

you’ll see a tea room and in between the<br />

church and the tea room is a narrow alley.<br />

Look at the walls there, you’ll see what<br />

colour Bordeaux was before the big clean<br />

up began in 1995 and left it the mellow,<br />

gleaming blonde stone beauty it is today.<br />

Locals recall the dark days when the<br />

buildings were blackened by years of<br />

pollution so that you couldn’t see the<br />

lovely carvings and sculptures and the<br />

walkways by the river were blocked by ugly<br />

warehouses.<br />

The project to beautify Bordeaux is<br />

ongoing and seems to have a moving goal<br />

post, currently it extends to 2050, with the<br />

introduction of a new tram line, the<br />

continued regeneration of the docklands<br />

and more museums opening. The ugly<br />

warehouses are no more, instead there are<br />

swanky shops and loads of bars and<br />

restaurants, pleasant walkways and<br />

fabulous views. <strong>No</strong>w the quaysides are<br />

busy with runners, cyclists and people<br />

enjoying themselves. The Miroir d’Eau, a<br />

water sculpture in front of the impressive<br />

Place de la Bourse draws people day and<br />

night to marvel at and enjoy it, kids splash<br />

in the water and cool down in the misty<br />

spray.<br />

Don’t miss in Bordeaux<br />

There were 350 churches in Bordeaux<br />

before the French Revolution, many of<br />

them are now deconsecrated and have<br />

been transformed into restaurants, art<br />

galleries even a cinema.

The great door or the Cathedral of <strong>No</strong>tre<br />

Dame in Paris was modelled on the doors<br />

of the 11th century Cathedral of Bordeaux.<br />

Here Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII<br />

in 1137. In the 14th century, Bordeaux's<br />

Archbishop became Pope Clement V and<br />

moved the seat of Papal rule from Rome to<br />

Avignon.<br />

You’ll see little brass floor plates as you<br />

walk through the city indicating that you’re<br />

on the Way of St James (Camino de<br />

Santiago). There are 3 UNESCO listed<br />

churches on the route.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t far from the Cathedral, the current town<br />

hall of Bordeaux was intended to be the<br />

palatial residence of Archbishop<br />

Monseigneur the prince of Rohan<br />

Ferdinand-Maximilian de Mériadeck in the<br />

18th century. He spent 2 million livres on it,<br />

a phenomenal sum of money in those days,<br />

he could have built three enormous<br />

chateaux with 500 hectares of land for the<br />

same money. He never spent a night there<br />

as he was sent to a new job. Napoleon did<br />

though, and whilst there he commissioned<br />

the building of the Pont de Pierre, the first<br />

bridge across the Garonne River in<br />

Bordeaux.<br />

As you wander you might notice that some<br />

streets have more than one name. Streets<br />

often changed names over centuries, and<br />

this was particularly so in France following<br />

the French Revolution. In Bordeaux though,<br />

they kept the old names too, for instance<br />

Marché Royale became Marché Liberté– but<br />

both names are shown (above left).<br />

Don't miss the magnificent Cité du Vin<br />

about which there is so much to write but<br />

not enough room here (read about my visit<br />

on The Good Life website here). It is a<br />

superb museum, the history of wine<br />

throughout the ages and around the world<br />

though of course with an emphasis on<br />


Innovative displays, high tech marvels, a<br />

most fabulous wine tasting area with<br />

panoramic views over the city. A superb<br />

wine store and gift shop are also terrific.<br />

There are several markets in Bordeaux<br />

including Le Marché des Grands Hommes<br />

in the posh Triangle d’Or district and the<br />

Marche des Quais on a Sunday morning,<br />

not far from the Cite du Vin. And if flea<br />

markets are your thing, the weekly Puces<br />

de St Michel will thrill with its vintage,<br />

antiques, books and more (Sunday<br />

morning).<br />

When your legs are weary from walking the<br />

streets of this wonderful city, just hop on a<br />

boat and take a tour to admire Bordeaux<br />

from it’s river, said to be one of the cleanest<br />

in Europe.<br />

All this walking is bound to make you<br />

hungry…<br />

Treats and eats in Bordeaux<br />

Is Bordeaux the new gastronomic capital of<br />

France I found myself wondering. With more<br />

than 3000 restaurants it’s not easy to<br />

decide which is the best but when the same<br />

names crop up from local recommendations<br />

time and time again you have to<br />

figure they’re worth checking out.<br />

Wine and Dine: Restaurant le Chapon Fin<br />

had 3 Michelin Stars but they changed<br />

chefs so the stars went and now they’re<br />

working to get them back. As a result the<br />

menu is cheaper than before but the food,<br />

say the locals, is just as good. For a touch of<br />

real Belle Époque style, this restaurant<br />

which opened in 1825 is unbeatable. To<br />

know that Sarah Bernhardt, Toulouse<br />

Lautrec and the rich and famous who visited<br />

Bordeaux always chose this place and sat<br />

here enjoying the splendid architecture and<br />

sculptures makes the food taste even<br />

better! (5 Montesquieu Street)

Locals lunch: Le Petit Commerce,<br />

traditional, friendly, great menu and full of<br />

French people enjoying a great value meal<br />

that tastes like heaven. 22 Rue Parlement<br />

Saint-Pierre<br />

Locals love: Braderie Bordelaise “a taste of<br />

Bordeaux” is how the locals described it.<br />

There’s always a queue to get in and that<br />

says it all. It’s worth the wait though – if<br />

you’re a steak frites fan, you will never<br />

taste better than here.<br />

Locals new love: Seven at Cité du Vin. The<br />

7th floor restaurant at the wine museum is<br />

divine in every way. Fabulous menu,<br />

brilliant wine list and absolutely stunning<br />

view over the city. It’s open for lunch,<br />

dinner, afternoon tea and any time for a<br />

glass of wine!<br />

Bake my day: Canéles are delicious little<br />

rum and vanilla cakes, a speciality of<br />

Bordeaux where they’ve been making them<br />

for at least 300 years.<br />

There are two famous places to go for one<br />

of these sweet treats: Ballardin and La<br />

Toque-Cuivrée (theirs are slightly crispier).<br />

Personally I prefer the new cake in town –<br />

Dunes Blanches. A speciality of Patisserie<br />

Pascal in Cap Ferret, the seaside town<br />

that’s just an hour from Bordeaux. The<br />

sweet Dunes Blanches were so good that<br />

people started to go to Cap Ferret just to<br />

buy them, so Pascal opened a shop in the<br />

city. They do a different flavour each week<br />

but ‘natural’, the originals, are best - soft,<br />

crunchy and wonderfully sweet, filled with<br />

cream and dusted with icing sugar – I<br />

would go back to Bordeaux for those alone.<br />

If you want to make like a local and<br />

impress them, ask for a chocolatine not<br />

pain au chocolat for your breakfast treat!

The beasts of Bordeaux: Gordon Ramsay is<br />

at the Hotel Intercontinental – everyone I<br />

spoke to loves Ramsay in Bordeaux and<br />

his reputation is sky high. His rival chef<br />

Philippe Etchebest, who is a star on French<br />

TV appearing in Cooking Nightmares, the<br />

French-language version of Ramsay’s<br />

Kitchen Nightmares, can be found<br />

opposite at the Opera 'LA' Tables d’Hotes.<br />

Here there's a hosted gastronomic table<br />

for 12 people only. It’s pricey but Etchebest<br />

is held in the highest esteem in Bordeaux,<br />

and there’s a long waiting list. He also has<br />

La Brasserie which offers a very reasonably<br />

priced lunch.<br />

Practical information<br />

Bordeaux Tourist Office:<br />

www.bordeaux-tourisme.com<br />

Stop here first for a map, to book tours and<br />

find out what's on.<br />

Where to stay: I highly recommend www.<br />

yourbordeauxhome.com - I stayed in the<br />

Chateau Giscours apartment in the city but<br />

in a quiet residential street and it was<br />


La Pi<br />


scine Museum,<br />


Roubaix is in the suburbs of Lille, capital of<br />

Hauts-de-France (<strong>No</strong>rd, Pas de Calais,<br />

Picardy). It was once famous for its textile<br />

production, an industry which had been<br />

active in the area since the 14th century. In<br />

the 19th century Roubaix was known as the<br />

“French Manchester”, one of the world<br />

capitals of textiles. It was also called the<br />

“city of a thousand chimneys” and its<br />

factories proliferated well into the 20th<br />

century. It's from those times that La<br />

Piscine comes.<br />

The municipal swimming pool was built in<br />

1932, commissioned by the Mayor and<br />

designed by architect Albert Baert. In its<br />

day it was cutting edge – a stunning art<br />

deco monument, not just a pool but it also<br />

had bathrooms for men and women at a<br />

time when most poor people didn’t have<br />

access to such things. It was much loved<br />

and stayed in use until 1985 when it closed<br />

needing complete renovation after chlorine<br />

in the water caused damage to the<br />

structure, especially the roof.<br />

By then, the textile industry had also<br />

declined and Roubaix found itself<br />

undergoing a dramatic change. The city<br />

councillors decided to ensure that the<br />

heritage of Roubaix was preserved and<br />

were awarded a label of “City of Art and<br />

History. They needed somewhere to house<br />

their expanding art collection and Bruno<br />

Gaudichon, now director of La Piscine,<br />

admits choosing the former swimming pool<br />

area as the location, was “a gamble, as by<br />

now, Roubaix had a lot of industrial empty<br />

industrial buildings”.

Left, the atelier of Henri Bouchard, recreated from<br />

his original studio in Paris; above left La Piscine<br />

in the 1930s, above right, La Piscine today<br />

La Piscine had been left neglected for<br />

several years and a public contest was<br />

held for architects to come up with a<br />

design for the space. In 1994 the winner<br />

was chosen - Jean-Paul Phlippon, already<br />

famous for his conversion of the former<br />

Gare d’Orsay in Paris into the stunning<br />

Musée d’Orsay in 1979 (voted world’s top<br />

museum by Trip Advisor Traveller Choice<br />

Awards 2018) and the Musée des Beaux<br />

Arts, Quimper, Brittany in 1993.<br />

Philippon’s plans for La Piscine centred<br />

around keeping the integrity and<br />

authenticity of the much-loved swimming<br />

pool. “I wanted to keep the basin of water”<br />

he says - and it is now the heart of the<br />

museum. “But I narrowed it to make room<br />

for the artworks. I created pontoons<br />

alongside with ceramic lining created from<br />

the original elaborate mosaics. Thousands<br />

and thousands of tiny pieces were all<br />

carefully preserved. Some of the original<br />

changing rooms were kept, others were<br />

dismantled. It was like a giant Lego game<br />

putting all the pieces together and<br />

reconstructing it”.<br />

In 2001 the council allocated a former<br />

textile factory building to be part of the<br />

museum as well, one of the original walls<br />

still stands as a memorial to the old<br />

building after part of it was demolished to<br />

let light in. It is, says Philippon, one of his<br />

favourite aspects. “In my design, I wanted<br />

people to be able to circulate easily and to<br />

see the collection as it should be seen, it<br />

was an important aspect of the museum”.

“Roubaix had a small collection of 17th century paintings, Lille Musée des Beaux Arts had<br />

a lot, so we decided to focus on 18th and 19th century paintings” says Gaudichon. “We<br />

distributed our 17th century paintings to museums in the north. In 1924 a local textile<br />

magnate donated a large collection of paintings and furniture. Since then we’ve built up<br />

a superb collection of 18th and 19th century works. <strong>No</strong>w with the Henri Bouchard atelier,<br />

and some wonderful sculptures including by Camille Claudel (bought by public<br />

subscription), we have a truly spectacular museum offering”.

La Piscine was an immediate and<br />

tremendous success with an astounding<br />

200,000 visitors in its first year. The art<br />

deco beauty of the museum proved the<br />

perfect backdrop for the growing collection<br />

of painting, sculptures and textiles. The<br />

museum won accolades, being voted the<br />

best museum outside of Paris, attracting<br />

more visitors each year. It was so<br />

successful that another contest had to be<br />

held to create an extension.<br />

Jean-Paul Philippon was again the winner<br />

(2011). “I didn’t expect to win” he says<br />

modestly “I would have been happy for<br />

whoever won. Architecture is about<br />

evolution”. His winning design featured lots<br />

of light and ceilings that mirror the curve of<br />

that over the original pool. It is as beautiful<br />

as the prototype.<br />

There were several key requirements in the<br />

contest brief including creating a home for<br />

an enormous painting that was found<br />

rolled up in the attic of the town hall<br />

opposite La Piscine. It was being used to fill<br />

holes in the roof to stop water leaking<br />

through. The painting depicted the<br />

opening of Roubaix’s town hall in 1911 and,<br />

restored, it is superb. Another requirement<br />

was to recreate the Paris atelier of Henri<br />

Bouchard (1875-1960) a sculptor whose<br />

works can be seen in several locations in<br />

Paris including the Trocadero Gardens, and<br />

in museums around the world.<br />

The new extension of more than 2000m<br />

opened in October 2018 after two years of<br />

major work. It is light and airy, there are<br />

rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions,<br />

permanent exhibitions, plinths to display<br />

specific pieces – this is innovative, bespoke<br />

and magnificent museum design.<br />

The painting of Roubaix town hall, the<br />

Cinderella in the attic, is now a show<br />

stopper in its dedicated space. The Henri<br />

Bouchard atelier is breath-taking, filled with<br />

his sculptures, looking as if the great artist<br />

just popped out and is coming back any<br />

time. Next door, a room encourages visitors<br />

to touch art, feel it as a sculptor would, the<br />

lines and flaws, the coldness of marble or<br />

bronze. “We recreated the ambiance, colour,<br />

light of Paris, the same set up of the studio”<br />

says Gaudichon.

Interview with Jean-Paul Philippon<br />

What has influenced your style?<br />

When I started in architecture in the 1970s,<br />

the excesses of the post-modern<br />

movement of the beginning of the 20th<br />

century, the ‘mouvement moderne’ were<br />

being challenged. The Gare d’Orsay was<br />

considered too ornate at that time, I<br />

remember sitting in my office nearby, in the<br />

summer with the window open, you could<br />

hear the bateau-mouches boat guides<br />

giving their speeches. Inevitably one would<br />

say “on your left is Paris’s ugliest<br />

building” – they meant Orsay. I disagreed.<br />

Did you know as soon as you walked into<br />

La Piscine Roubaix that you wanted to<br />

keep the pool?<br />

“<strong>No</strong>n. Your first impression as an architect<br />

is based partly on intuition and feeling,<br />

partly on analysis as well as knowledge of<br />

what needs to be done. Architecture can’t<br />

be purely rational, but it has to work so it<br />

can’t be just emotional. You use logic, what<br />

has been done in the past, choices based<br />

of the personality of the building. As an<br />

architect I think, what references can I draw<br />

on, not just of my own projects but those of<br />

others. Influence is based not just in the<br />

moment, the now, but of centuries ago.<br />

With this project I had to consider how it<br />

would relate to the existing building, to<br />

create the Bouchard studio but also toilets<br />

accessibility, galleries for sculpture etc.<br />

For me, architecture is like writing a novel,<br />

laying out the different scenes, like The<br />

Bonfire of the Vanities! Then scenes are<br />

cut together, like a film director.<br />

The building had been earmarked for<br />

renovation, the Louvre had run out of space<br />

to showcase their huge 19th century art<br />

collection so a contest was held to redesign<br />

Orsay. I had been heavily influenced by the<br />

destruction of Les Halles, I didn’t think it<br />

was right to destroy all things. Le Corbusier<br />

competed for the project you know, he<br />

wanted to knock the station down and<br />

create a giant suitcase… he wanted to<br />

transform Paris into a huge, modern grid<br />

system...<br />

Would you say that any one part of this<br />

museum reflects your signature?<br />

I’m not like someone who says ‘I always do<br />

red walls’, I make ethical choices. As to my<br />

signature, that’s for others to say! For me<br />

architectural design must relate to the<br />

needs of the users. When you update<br />

existing architecture, you need to give it a<br />

new life, I think of a project as being like a<br />

town or a city, every aspect of its use must<br />

be considered. Every project has a ‘town<br />

centre’, at the Musée d’Orsay this is the<br />

heat of the station, at La Piscine, it’s the<br />

pool.<br />

Do you have a favourite part of La Piscine<br />

Roubaix?<br />

<strong>No</strong>n – though, I do really love the brick wall<br />

of the old factory in the front, it pleases me<br />

to see it there.

Christmas at the Castle....<br />

The Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte<br />

Janine Marsh falls under the spell of a captivating<br />

Chateau with a festive vibe.....

In 1661, the famous French writer and poet<br />

Jean de la Fontaine wrote of Vaux-le-<br />

Vicomte:<br />

The stage was set with green so lush,<br />

and by a hundred torches lit;<br />

Once curtain raised, all Vaux was<br />

hushed,<br />

All strove to please this King of ours:<br />

Music, cascades, lanterns and stars…<br />

More than 350 years later, de la Fontaine<br />

would certainly recognise the castle and<br />

his description would be unchanged other<br />

than that it is not a King who will thrill to<br />

the sight but visitors who will relish the<br />

music, cascades, lanterns and stars on<br />

show at Vaux at Christmas.<br />

Just 35 minutes by train from Gare de l'Est<br />

in the centre of Paris brings you to Maincy<br />

where a shuttle bus whisks you to the<br />

historic 17th century Chateau of Vaux-le-<br />

Vicomte. At Christmas it takes on an extra<br />

layer of glitter and air of enchantment<br />

when rooms are decorated with thousands<br />

of lights, garlands and baubles and this<br />

captivating castle presents a unique festive<br />

show.<br />

"Sparkles, twinkles... the smell<br />

of Christmas spices..."<br />

Sparkles, twinkles, the smell of Christmas<br />

spices and chocolate, traditional carol<br />

songs and glowing lights. But this is no<br />

Disney castle, Vaux-le-Vicomtes Christmas<br />

coat is traditional, classic and just a little<br />

kitsch as the best Christmas’s should be.<br />

Rooms are adorned with lights, Christmas<br />

trees and vintage toys, scented with<br />

cinnamon and chocolate, spices and sweet<br />

smells. It’s a unique presentation of<br />

Christmas in an incredible setting.<br />

As you walk up the path to the chateau, it’s<br />

a wow moment. Glittering Christmas trees<br />

line the route, the castle is festooned with<br />

giant festive bows and two huge toy<br />

soldiers stand either side of the door that<br />

leads into the largest private domaine in<br />

France.<br />

50 years of visitors<br />

Incredibly the chateau was a wedding<br />

present to the current resident, 90 year old<br />

Count Patrice de Voguë in 1967. He has<br />

made it his life’s work to protect the castle<br />

for future generations. A chateau of this<br />

size isn’t easy or cheap to maintain, so he<br />

opened the doors to the public in 1968,<br />

inspired by the British National Trust (which<br />

is entrusted with opening buildings of<br />

major interest to the public), and in<br />

particular by Highgrove house, home to<br />

Prince Charles.<br />

The Count's son Alexandre, who together<br />

with his brothers Ascanio and Jean-Charles<br />

now runs the estate, says that his father<br />

began the Christmas at the Chateau event<br />

12 years ago, again inspired by Highgrove<br />

House. The event has become more and<br />

more popular over the years, and in 2017<br />

more than 67,000 visitors headed to Vaux-<br />

Le-Vicomte to enjoy the Christmas fun.<br />

What began as just a weekend event<br />

attracts so many visitors that the castle is<br />

now open from Wednesday to Sunday (until<br />

23 December) and daily until 6 January<br />

(excluding Christmas day and New Year’s<br />

Day).<br />

Click to read about the etraordinary history of Vaux-le-Vicomte

The castle has been decorated in style by<br />

interior designer Eric Naudin, assisted by<br />

everyone at the Chateau, from the ladies<br />

who work in the gorgeous gift shop to the<br />

family.<br />

This year’s theme is bright, bold and<br />

beautiful and includes a life-size hot air<br />

balloon in the grand salon, piloted by a<br />

waving teddy bear. Vintage toys have been<br />

borrowed from a specialist museum in<br />

Colmar, Alsace. There are 150 Christmas<br />

trees, more than a mile of garlands and<br />

around 15,000 decorations and lights<br />

In the carriage museum Christmas carols<br />

play and there are tableaux of yesteryear’s<br />

Christmases with train sets, lights and<br />

Santa seated in an ancient carriage.<br />

In the castle itself the rooms are decorated<br />

in bright blues, soft whites and shades of<br />

pastel. The trees are hung with the most<br />

beautiful baubles, soft teddies and snow<br />

white owls (by the way, if you like them pop<br />

to the gift shop where they have some for<br />

sale plus fabulous souvenirs that you’ll<br />

want to bring out for Christmas for years to<br />

come). Tables are laid for a festive feast<br />

with trees and ornaments, sparkling crystal<br />

and colourful macarons and a band made<br />

up of giant moles, extraordinary<br />

automatons. In the kitchen there’s a<br />

sugarplum fairy vibe with huge gingerbread<br />

cakes, giant rabbit footmen, dolls and<br />

fairies.<br />

And as dusk falls, the magic continues in<br />

the garden where you can take a carriage<br />

ride and enjoy thousands of twinkling<br />

lights. Take a walk in the enchanted wood<br />

and admire the gorgeous landscape that<br />

has wowed visitors for 350 years, designed<br />

by Louis XIV’s favourite gardener Le Nôtre.<br />

It’s not Disney but it is magical, Vaux-le-<br />

Vicomte at Christmas is where you’ll find a<br />

bucket load of festive charm.<br />

Details: www.vaux-le-vicomte.com

The<br />

Best<br />

tours of<br />

France<br />

2019<br />

Travel like a local!<br />

We've picked 14 fabulous tours in France where the<br />

experience is built around the things YOU want to see<br />

and do.<br />

Small Group tours<br />

Each and every private tour is different and they are<br />

all typically for less than ten people.<br />

Enjoy the trip of a lifetime...<br />

Tour at your own pace<br />

Unlike most tours that rush you around like vast herds<br />

of sheep without time to relish the sights and<br />

wonderful food and wines for which France is famous<br />

and you’ve travelled so far to experience - these tours<br />

are designed to ensure you fully savour your time in<br />

France. Whether you’re a lover of chateaux, culture,<br />

gourmet cuisine, wonderful wines, gorgeous<br />

countryside, the prettiest villages – these tours are full<br />

of thrills and wonder.<br />

Champagne tasting tours<br />

Discover the pleasures of the Champagne<br />

region and enjoy an effervescent<br />

experience. Champagne tasting without all<br />

the tedious, time consuming searching<br />

online. Vineyard tours, sabrage,<br />

workshops, picnics and more - discover<br />

the real Champagne.<br />

www.champagne-booking.com<br />

Glamour and gourmet welllness<br />

stay in France<br />

Enjoy a truly glamorous, gastronomic stay in<br />

a historic mansion with top Australian stylist<br />

Joh Bailey. You’ll be well & truly pampered<br />

with spa sessions, sensational wines and<br />

gastronomy. Re-energise & recharge your<br />

batteries in one of the most beautiful parts of<br />

France and have the holiday of a life time.<br />


private provence tours<br />

Customized traveling to give you memories<br />

to last a lifetime. Lavender tours, truffle,<br />

grape harvest, bespoke tours as well as<br />

chauffeur services for day trips or a lot<br />

longer. Emily Durand’s Private Provence<br />

tours are designed to make you feel like a<br />

local – not a tourist.<br />

yourprivateprovence.com<br />

Culinary holiday with a Master<br />

Chef in France<br />

If you love food, and all things French –<br />

you’re going to love Master Chef at the<br />

Maison. A unique week-long break in the<br />

gorgeous Haute-Pyrenees at the luxury<br />

mansion Le Belvedere, where you’ll learn to<br />

cook with fabulous, internationally<br />

renowned Master Chef Alain Fabrégues.<br />

www.lebelvedere.net<br />


Discover gastronomic, gorgeous south<br />

west France on a bicycle made for two…<br />

For 2019, there’s a new way to see some<br />

of the best of France – by electric assist<br />

tandem. You'll enjoy luxury chateau<br />

accommodation with lovely hosts, plus<br />

truly superb cuisine. Take a great new<br />

luxury bike holiday tour in the Lot et<br />

Garonne department, south west France<br />

with Tandems and Turrets.<br />

Cottages & Classics Experience<br />

Cottages and Classics offer a diverse range<br />

of options for holidays from self-catering,<br />

B&B mini breaks or B&B. The Cottages and<br />

Classics Experience includes the use of a<br />

4-seater Morgan, perfect for touring the<br />

small roads of Charente-Maritime and<br />

boulevards of towns like Cognac,<br />

Angoulême and La Rochelle.<br />

cottagesand classics.com

Culture & cookery in Provence<br />

Cooking classes with chefs in their homes<br />

where you'll cook "authentic French dishes,<br />

no frou frou" says tour guide Martine Bertin-<br />

Peterson. You'll shop at the enchanting<br />

street markets with chefs and dine at the<br />

most scrumptious restaurants in beautiful<br />

towns of Provence on this fully escorted trip<br />

of a life time. There's also a total immersion<br />

tour version for 2019!<br />

www.goutetvoyage.com<br />

Gorgeous Gascony Tours<br />

<strong>No</strong>urish your soul and unleash your spirit<br />

of adventure in Gascony. With tour guide<br />

Sue Aran, you'll experience the famous<br />

food, wine and Amagnac of the region.<br />

You'll discover where to find the best<br />

antique shops and flea markets, the most<br />

beautiful villages and magnificent<br />

chateaux. From one day to week long<br />

tours that are customised for you.<br />

www.frenchcountryadventures.com<br />

Wine & Gastronomy Tours<br />

On these tours you’re accompanied by<br />

your very own private in-house chef,<br />

gourmet dining catered to your personal<br />

taste. There are visits to the most stunning<br />

areas of France including the Loire Valley,<br />

Paris, <strong>No</strong>rmandy & Alsace. Enjoy the finest<br />

wines too plus cookery lessons. Luxury &<br />

the best of France with your charming<br />

hosts Kimberley and Walter Eagleton.<br />

www.artisticgourmetadventures.com<br />

Food Lovers tour of Dordogne<br />

Chateaux, gateaux and gorgeous villages –<br />

a week long foodie tour of the Dordogne.<br />

An edible expedition where you'll explore<br />

some of the hidden gastronomic and<br />

historic icons of the region making this<br />

September tour a deliciously mouthwatering<br />

experience. Explore fabulously<br />

photogenic medieval villages, chateaux<br />

and riverside hamlets.<br />


The real south of France Tours<br />

Discover real southern France from<br />

captivating Carcassonne to magical<br />

Montpellier and the best of Provence.<br />

Tours lasting 7 days or 9 days in which<br />

you'll get to be a temporary local and<br />

indulge in the best Occitanie and<br />

Provence has to offer from gastronomy to<br />

culture and then some. This is a tour for<br />

those who love the authentic.<br />

www.tripusafrance.com<br />

Cycling tours in the Tarn<br />

Tours du Tarn are specialists in leisure and<br />

road cycling holidays and they’ve<br />

discovered the ideal location for the perfect<br />

cycling holiday. Bordering the most<br />

beautiful areas of the Tarn, the Aveyron<br />

and the Tarn et Garonne regions the centrebased<br />

cycling enterprise plan to put this<br />

‘un-pedalled’ area of south-west France on<br />

the cycling map.<br />

www.tarncyclingholidays.com<br />

Luxury Tours of France<br />

Guided tours of Bordeaux, Loire Valley,<br />

Paris, <strong>No</strong>rmandy, Brittany, Provence and<br />

the south where you stay in the finest<br />

hotels and experience the best food &<br />

wines. There's also a very special Porsche<br />

tour - 5* hotels, Michelin starred dining &<br />

the chance to drive a Porsche on<br />

Autohbahn in Stuttgart, just over the<br />

border from Alsace. Customised tours also<br />

available. www.froggytravel.com<br />

French immersion course<br />

A French immersion course is all about<br />

learning the language but it is also about<br />

getting to experience the culture,<br />

gastronomy, the wonderful sites and<br />

scenery that make learning so much more<br />

fun, interesting and memorable. Stay in a<br />

17th century chateau in Burgundy while you<br />

learn & experience the best of French food,<br />

wine and culture.<br />


Le Mans<br />

More than Motoring<br />

Janine Marsh discovers the secrets and charms of Le<br />

Mans, it's a town you shouldn't race through....

More than a quarter of a million people<br />

head to the small city of Le Mans in the<br />

department of Sarthe, Pays de La Loire<br />

each June for the epic Le Mans 24 Hours –<br />

one of the most famous car races in the<br />

world. The majority of them watch the race,<br />

enjoy the local cuisine and the friendly bars<br />

and leave.<br />

Amazingly most of them never even realise<br />

that there is a most beautiful old town just<br />

a few steps away from that legendary race<br />

course which runs through the streets of<br />

the newer parts of Le Mans. They don’t spot<br />

the Roman ruins, they miss the cobblestoned<br />

alleyways lined with half-timbered<br />

houses. And, they haven’t a clue about the<br />

fabulous medieval architecture.<br />

They don’t know that on the outskirts of the<br />

town there is an astounding historic abbey<br />

where a queen is buried, as well as a<br />

fabulous nature reserve with a spectacular<br />

restaurant. There’s a famous saying, don’t<br />

be a tourist, be a traveller, and Le Mans is<br />

the perfect town to illustrate just why you<br />

shouldn’t race through - but take your time<br />

to discover its charms.<br />

What to see in Le Mans<br />

You’re walking in the footsteps of the<br />

greats – the Romans, the Plantagenets and<br />

Robert Doisneau, the famous photographer!<br />

Roman legacy<br />

The presence of the Latin conquerors can<br />

be easily spotted at the Roman Wall, a<br />

500m section of it is wonderfully preserved<br />

on the River Sarthe side of town. With its<br />

distinctive pink mortar and ochre sandstone<br />

blocks, this wall once encircled the city of<br />

Le Mans, which takes its name from an<br />

ancient tribe: Cenomani. Hidden away in<br />

some of the medieval houses in the town,<br />

there are even more Roman remains. I was<br />

lucky enough to get a peek inside one<br />

when I visited at the end of September for<br />

the fabulous open garden event known as:<br />

www.entrecoursetjardins.com. Locals<br />

opened their doors to the public to show off<br />

their gorgeous courtyard gardens, and in<br />

one of them, the lovely French family<br />

offered a glimpse of their Roman cellar,<br />

complete with a Roman charcoal burner.<br />

This is a town that’s full of surprises.

Plantagenet city<br />

Le Mans is known as the Plantagenet City<br />

and the Vielle Quartier, the old district<br />

within the Roman wall, overlooked by the<br />

monumental Cathedral of Saint-Julian was<br />

built between the 11th and 15th centuries.<br />

More than 100 timber-framed houses<br />

survive, making this part of town a bit of a<br />

honey pot for film makers looking to<br />

recreate scenes of ancient history -<br />

providing a perfect backdrop for Cyrano de<br />

Bergerac for instance.<br />

Henry II, the first Plantagenet King of<br />

England was born in Le Mans in 1133. He<br />

married Eleanor of Aquitaine and spawned<br />

a family of Kings including Richard the<br />

Lionheart.<br />

The old town of Le Mans…<br />

Exploring the old town will once and for all<br />

push out of your mind that Le Mans is a<br />

one trick pony – or rather race venue.<br />

Robert Doisneau knew it when he visited,<br />

the famous photographer captured its<br />

vintage beauty in an iconic image of an<br />

ancient house with a child in front holding a<br />

teddy bear (above top right). That was in 1962<br />

but little has changed. Go there today and<br />

you’ll spot a teddy waving from the window<br />

of that house, an homage to the photographer!<br />

Successive owners have kept the<br />

spirit of Doisneau alive, each one placing a<br />

teddy in the window, making this what has<br />

to be one of the best selfie spots in town!<br />

Wander the winding, narrow cobble stoned<br />

alleys and explore quirky shops and<br />

boutiques, wine bars and restaurants – a<br />

great place to while away the day.<br />

Culture vulture<br />

There are several museums in Le Mans<br />

including a bike museum, arts, history and<br />

archaeology. Without a doubt, the most<br />

visited by tourists is the fabulous 24 hours<br />

Circuit de la Sarthe Museum. You don’t<br />

need to be a petrolhead to appreciate its<br />

incredible collection of more than 100<br />

exceptional cars and a great portrayal of the<br />

history of the renowned race through film,<br />

photo and artefacts.

Gastronomy of Le Mans<br />

Don’t miss the chance to taste Jasnières<br />

wine while you’re in Le Mans, it’s rarely seen<br />

outside the local area and is absolutely<br />

delicious. It’s not made in huge quantities<br />

and the locals keep most of it to themselves,<br />

so stock up at the 15th century Cave de<br />

Pedro – a feast for the senses in the Pont-<br />

Lieu district of the old town. Wine master<br />

Pedro has a brilliantly stocked shop, not just<br />

wine but local specialities too. Book in<br />

advance for a wine tasting - he speaks<br />

English.<br />

Indulge your sweet tooth at biscuit shop La<br />

Sablésienne, perfect for a souvenir, if they<br />

make it home in one piece!<br />

When it comes to cakes – Takayanagi has<br />

the locals queuing up. Japanese Chef<br />

Takayanagi says: “Cakes are simple, but<br />

complex; I create French cakes but with<br />

Japanese influences”. For instance in this<br />

shop you can get a Paris-Tokyo, rather than<br />

a Paris-Brest. They serve a traditional Japanese<br />

lunch here so, head to the little shop in<br />

rue du Tertre for your Japanese-French fix.<br />

If you’re a market fan you won’t be<br />

disappointed by Le Mans' lovely Sunday<br />

morning market in front of the huge<br />

Cathedral. Don’t miss the mushroom man,<br />

his champignons are a legend here.<br />

Fabulous vegetables, fruit, bread, cheese,<br />

fish, Plantagenet honey – a vibrant<br />

atmosphere and a picturesque setting.<br />

Wine and Dine: Auberge de Bagatelle. This<br />

Michelin starred restaurant serves food that<br />

looks amazing and tastes even better. Chef<br />

Jean-Sébastien Monné creates dishes that<br />

you don’t forget in a hurry, the lunch menu is<br />

incredibly good value at just 32 Euros for 2<br />

courses, 38 Euros for 3 courses. Push the<br />

boat out with the 6 course tasting menu –<br />

utterly delectable.<br />

Locals love: Café du Jet d’Eau, next to the<br />

Cathedral it’s the perfect pit stop for market<br />

shoppers and watching the world go by. A<br />

plate of oysters, tangy cheeses, crunchy<br />

baguette and classic French dishes in a<br />

really busy and welcoming atmosphere.

What the locals know and<br />

tourists rarely discover<br />

Le Mans is surrounded by glorious<br />

countryside and it only takes a few<br />

minutes on the excellent tram service to<br />

discover some of its secrets.<br />

5 minutes by car or about 15 minutes by<br />

tram from the city centre is the Domaine de<br />

l’Épau and the Abbaye Royale de l’Épau.<br />

The Domaine is an area of outstanding<br />

natural beauty which covers 600 hectares<br />

and hosts two restaurants and a bar, ideal<br />

for a taste of the countryside.<br />

Next door is the little known but beautiful<br />

Abbey, commissioned by the Plantagenet<br />

Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, mother of<br />

Richard the Lionheart - though she never<br />

saw it in person. This monumental building<br />

has witnessed drama and centuries of<br />

history. It was burned by locals during the<br />

15th century to stop English looters using it<br />

as a military base, it was home to Cistercian<br />

monks who wrote books here in the<br />

freezing rooms, keeping their ink warm in<br />

the only heated cell. It’s where Berengaria,<br />

wife of Richard the Lionheart. AKA the<br />

good widow was laid to rest. There is a<br />

wonderful tomb sculpture at the Abbey.<br />

When Queen Elizabeth II visited the Abbey<br />

some 25 years ago, it’s said she suggested<br />

the statue be moved to lie with that of<br />

Berengaria’s royal family at the Abbey of<br />


It hasn’t happened so far and it’s probably<br />

fitting that this neglected wife, who likely<br />

only spent a matter of weeks with her<br />

crusading husband during their entire eight<br />

years of marriage, remains where she<br />

chose to be.<br />

Don’t miss the café where Sylvie makes<br />

cakes using products grown at the abbey or<br />

locally. The gardens are undergoing<br />

restoration with the aim to grow vegetables<br />

popular in medieval times. Stop off for<br />

quiche, salad, risotto – the menu changes<br />

with the season and Sylvie makes<br />

exceedingly fine cakes!<br />

<strong>No</strong>w a cultural centre, there are some lovely<br />

frescoes, interesting exhibitions both inside<br />

and out, plus concerts. You can take a tour<br />

in English if you book in advance.<br />

Practical info for Le Mans<br />

How to get about<br />

The tram system is efficient and cheap 1,50<br />

€ single ticket (valid for 1 hour); 4,20 € day<br />

pass (valid for 24 hours) - both are also valid<br />

on the bus network.<br />

How to get there<br />

With trains taking around an hour from<br />

Paris It’s an easy day trip to Le Mans<br />

Where to stay<br />

Hotel Concordia which is very reasonably<br />

priced.<br />

Le Doyenné: in what has to be one of the<br />

best locations right next to the Cathedral in<br />

an ancient house.<br />

Tourist office Le Mans, 16 Rue de l'Étoile<br />


Marseille, on the edge of the Mediterranean in the far south of France,<br />

is a city that’s steeped in history with a reputation for being a bit gritty.<br />

Peter Jones discovers that it’s thrilling, friendly, fun and fabulous…<br />

Marseille is not like other<br />

cities…<br />

<strong>No</strong>w before you dive into Marseille, here’s a<br />

tip: even though it’s a grand metropolis, the<br />

pace of life is very different to other cities.<br />

Folk here are seriously laid back, their<br />

attitude is that life is for enjoying, there is<br />

nothing good to be gained by rushing. So, if<br />

it takes a while to get served in a bar or<br />

restaurant – it’s no big deal, it’s just the way<br />

Marseille is.<br />

Marseille people are very friendly, they love<br />

to chat, and you’ll find it easy to make<br />

friends here.<br />

Meander in Marseille<br />

Make your first port of call the tourist office<br />

at 11 Canebière, the historic high street in the<br />

city, where you can buy a city pass from<br />

24-72 hours. As well as entry to many<br />

attractions, discounts and free tastings and<br />

samples, it gives you use of the city<br />

transport system including the excellent<br />

metro.<br />

Make sure you pick up a free map and<br />

guide, then go exploring and lose yourself in<br />

the city, keeping the map for when you are<br />

well and truly lost!

There’s not much more fun than<br />

wandering round the ‘Vieux Port’, a vast<br />

horse shoe shaped harbour where, every<br />

morning a bustling fish market takes<br />

place. The boats dock alongside, and the<br />

fish is sold direct by the fishermen and<br />

their families. An early morning start at<br />

the street markets with their fantastic<br />

colourful displays of fruit and vegetables<br />

is always fun. Marseille is amazing - one<br />

minute you are looking in the windows of<br />

some of the great French fashion houses,<br />

the next you feel as if you’re in a street in<br />

<strong>No</strong>rth Africa.<br />

Take the metro to the <strong>No</strong>ailles district and<br />

you’ll find yourself in yet another world. A<br />

rabbit warren of streets and lanes, cafés and<br />

cheap restaurants, flatbreads being cooked<br />

on the pavement, it really is exotically<br />


Must-sees in Marseille<br />

There are cafés shops, restaurants and<br />

clubs galore and if you’re there to relax,<br />

watch the world go by and just enjoy<br />

yourself, Marseille is perfect.<br />

“Discover the French Fjord”<br />

Take a trip from the Vieux Port around the<br />

coast to the Calanques to discover what’s<br />

known as the French Fjord. Actually, it’s a<br />

National Park where the white limestone<br />

cliffs rise dramatically above the sea.<br />

The port is also the departure point for<br />

boat trips to the Friou Islands, where you<br />

can visit Chateau d’If, home of Alexander<br />

Dumas’s Count of Monte Cristo. It’s not as<br />

big a trip as the Calanques but well worth<br />

doing.<br />

If you’re a Netflix fan and watched the<br />

series ‘Marseille’ starring French superstar<br />

Gerard Depardieu as a fictional Mayor,<br />

you’ll recognise many of the scenes<br />

including the magnificent Hotel de Ville.<br />

The harbour comes alive at night with<br />

musicians and jugglers, plenty of street<br />

food choice and a great party atmosphere<br />

as the sun sets, it’s definitely the place to<br />

be.<br />

Food of the gods<br />

Locals love: When it comes to dining out,<br />

follow the locals! In Marseille you’ll find<br />

them in Rue Sainte near the port in the café<br />

Pastis et Olives.

Don’t miss: Chez Madie on the Quai Du<br />

Port. www.maidielesgalinettes.com is<br />

always bustling with mainly French<br />

customers and has a reputation for the<br />

best bouillabaisse in town. Just a few<br />

doors down is La Maison du Pastis, www.<br />

lamaisondupastis.com. Owned and run by<br />

Belgian Frederick Bernard, you’ll find more<br />

than 95 brands of Pastis and Absinths with<br />

tastings and information freely available.<br />

Try a local speciality: The city has a<br />

cosmpolitan ambiance. I popped into a<br />

Tunisian café and enjoyed a ‘Brik’, a cross<br />

between a giant samosa and a Cornish<br />

pasty, with a surprising twist, inside is a<br />

boiled egg!<br />

of L’Aromat, just a few yards from the Vieux<br />

Port, where he presents his contemporary<br />

take on Mediterranean cooking. His<br />

number one dish, a firm favourite with<br />

Marseillans is a truly surprising, utterly<br />

mouth-watering bouillabaisse burger.<br />

Served with a shot glass of fish soup made<br />

from fish freshly bought at the Vieux port,<br />

and a saffron infused fougasse bun it is<br />

sensational. Served with chips made from<br />

chickpea flour, another local speciality, it's<br />

a dish you'll remember. 49 Rue Sainte,<br />

Marseille<br />

If you only have one meal in Marseille,<br />

make it here.<br />

Must-eat: Sylvain Robert is the chef patron

Pass the Pastis<br />

Marseilles is the home of Pastis, an aniseed-based drink which is popular<br />

across the whole of France. These days there is only one factory in the city<br />

still producing it, Cristal Liminana. Founded in 1884, today it’s run by<br />

Maristella Vasserot, a direct descendant of the founder. Take a tour, tasting<br />

and visit the shop to discover the city’s favourite drink.<br />

It’s the perfect aperitif as you sit at a terraced café in the sunny city. Locals<br />

ask for a “jaune” even though this strong liqueur is clear in the bottle. Add<br />

water and ice to it though and it goes cloudy and a milky soft yellow.<br />

Traditionally it's about four parts water to one part Pastis, ice goes in last.

Marseilles is easy to get to from within<br />

France or other parts of Europe. Trains<br />

including the TGV are regular and frequent<br />

into the Gare St Charles, which is also the<br />

pickup/drop off point for the Navette bus<br />

which serves the airport.<br />

There is a huge choice of accommodation<br />

from 5-star hotels through Airbnb, but I can<br />

highly recommend the 3* Hotel Maison<br />

Montgrand right by the Vieux Port. A 17th<br />

Century property with the bonus of a<br />

courtyard sheltered by chestnut trees<br />

where you could sit with a drink and<br />

recharge your batteries. Frankly, it's hard to<br />

beat.<br />

Magnificent Marseille, so much to see, so<br />

much to do, three hundred days of<br />

sunshine a year, 95 different Pastis and #1<br />

for a city break!<br />


Le Panier<br />

The oldest part of the city<br />

nestled between MuCEM,<br />

the Museum of European<br />

and Mediterranean<br />

Civilisations in a stunning<br />

waterside setting, and the<br />

Vieux Port. You’ll find a<br />

warren of hilly narrow<br />

streets, boho bars,<br />

boutiques, art galleries and<br />

charming squares (left)<br />

La Grand Savonnerie<br />

Marseille soap makers are<br />

world famous. To qualify for<br />

the genuine Marseille<br />

Savon label, it must be<br />

made to strict guidelines<br />

including 72% olive oil, a<br />

centuries old recipe. Stock<br />

up on the real thing while<br />

you’re in town. Read more<br />

about it here<br />

<strong>No</strong>tre-Dame de la Garde<br />

Basilica of <strong>No</strong>tre-Dame de la<br />

Garde is perched high over<br />

the Vieux Port. Topped by a<br />

golden angel this icon of the<br />

city can be seen for miles<br />

around. Take the Petit Train<br />

to reach this ancient<br />

emblem and enjoy the views<br />

inside and out (right)<br />

La Friche la Belle de Mai<br />

Art and culture heaven – exhibition spaces,<br />

cinema, rooftop bar, skate park, community<br />

gardens and artists studios and more.<br />

Much loved by the locals, often missed by<br />

visitors and definitely worth seeking out.<br />

Vallon des Auffes<br />

A small but utterly charming working<br />

harbour with fishing cabins and boats<br />

bobbing about on the Med – a taste of<br />

authentic Marseille (centre).

Nantes is a vibrant city, a place of reinvention in more<br />

ways than one as Amy Macpherson discovers…

in<br />

NANTES<br />

Situated in southwest France, in the<br />

department of Loire-Atlantique, region Pays<br />

de la Loire, Nantes was once the capital of<br />

Brittany. It was independent from France<br />

and home to one of the country’s largest<br />

ports.<br />

Although not directly accessed by the sea,<br />

the city’s strategic historic location on the<br />

confluence of the Loire and Erdre rivers<br />

gained the city its historical nickname of<br />

Venice of the West’ (La Venise de l'Ouest).<br />

The rivers are what made Nantes a thriving<br />

city with a solid base for ship building and<br />

traders arriving from far away.<br />

Today, parts of the river system have been<br />

reclaimed for modern roads and tramways.<br />

Large steel cranes and the dry docks are<br />

the only remains of its former industrial<br />

glory. And, Nantes continues to evolve,<br />

transforming spaces where factories and<br />

warehouses once stood into creative and<br />

leisure facilities, implementing innovative<br />

ways to enhance the joie de vivre of the city.<br />

There’s a great balance of preserving the<br />

past whilst introducing the future and<br />

ensuring residents have a good quality of<br />

life.<br />

It is no wonder that Nantes has consistently<br />

been voted one of the top three best places<br />

to live in France, and its why Nantes makes<br />

a great weekend getaway.

The Machines de L’Île<br />

Ready to channel your inner child? Cross<br />

the river to Île de Nantes and enjoy a ride<br />

on the Grand Elephant or play with the sea<br />

creatures on The Carrousel des Mondes<br />

Marins. You can’t help but smile at the<br />

mechanical fairy-tales of The Machines de<br />

L’Île.<br />

Born from the imagination of Francois<br />

Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice, The<br />

Machines de L’Île brings to life the<br />

fantastical stories of French novelist Jules<br />

Verne, whilst also paying homage to the<br />

industrial heritage of the city. At the<br />

Gallery, mechanical caterpillars and cranes<br />

wow visitors. And, don’t miss out on a visit<br />

to the workshop where the magic happens.<br />

It is guaranteed fun for the young, and the<br />

young at heart. lesmachines-nantes.fr/en<br />

Follow the green line<br />

Every year during summer months, there's<br />

a trail of creative discoveries so that<br />

visitors and locals can explore the city and<br />

find surprises en route. Indicated by a lime<br />

green paint line running along the streets,<br />

The Voyage à Nantes is a 12 km trail that<br />

zigzags in and out of elegant squares,<br />

taking in major sites as well as backstreets.<br />

You’ll uncover unexpected works of<br />

art dotted around the city, which might<br />

include a stackable chair roller-coaster, tree<br />

climbing bears or random sculptures.<br />

Look out for the Micro’Home by Myrtille<br />

Drouet on Rue Du Puits-d’Argent. The<br />

quirky house is 5m above ground, at 2m<br />

wide it contains a living room/kitchen,<br />

bathroom and bedroom. It’s an imaginative<br />

way of life in the city and you can actually<br />

stay in it too. Book with www.nantestourisme.com<br />

Artists have reinvented shop signs as<br />

imaginative interpretations, injecting fun<br />

into shopping. Whenever there is a painted<br />

eye along the green line, you're sure to find<br />

a surprise above. Most art installations are<br />

temporary, but some are so loved by locals<br />

they have become permanent fixtures.

Château des ducs de Bretagne<br />

Dominating the historic Bouffay quarter is<br />

the former residence and fortress of the<br />

last Duke of Brittany, François II and his<br />

daughter Anne of Brittany. She is famous<br />

for being twice Queen of France, having<br />

married Charles VIII and Louis XII. After the<br />

integration of Brittany into French rule in<br />

the 1532, the château became a residence<br />

for the kings of France.<br />

Today, the château, a monumental<br />

landmark, is home to the Musee d’Histoire<br />

de Nantes (Nantes History Museum).<br />

The museum divides its exhibitions into<br />

themes. From the Roman conquerors<br />

through its Brittany connections, the World<br />

Wars to the city’s industrial heritage, as well<br />

as the dark history of the slave trade:<br />

chateaunantes<br />

It is a part of the city’s past that it has found<br />

hard to come to terms with, much of the<br />

population are descendants of both traders<br />

and slaves. The museum aims to educate<br />

locals and visitors. There is also a memorial,<br />

a walkway dug into the shores of the river<br />

Loire featuring historical and geographical<br />

information, statistics, maps and timelines,<br />

as well as testimonials etched into its glass<br />

walls.<br />

The memorial is open to public for free and<br />

makes a solemn follow up after learning<br />

about the slave trade at the history<br />

museum. memorial.nantes.fr

Trentemoult<br />

neighbourhood<br />

Cross the Loire on the Navibus ferry and<br />

alight in the colourful Trentemoult<br />

neighbourhood, an old fishing village. It's a<br />

brilliantly artistic and gastronomic detour.<br />

Locals love to come here to dine and<br />

socialise, to enjoy the vintage atmosphere<br />

and watch the sun set over the Loire. The<br />

narrow streets are bright, the buildings<br />

appear haphazardly piled together giving it<br />

a quirky charm, and it’s home to around 20<br />

professional artists.<br />

Le Lieu Unique<br />

This is the only remaining tower of what<br />

was once the Lu biscuit factory, today, Le<br />

Lieu Unique is a space for individual<br />

expression. Have a drink at the bar, enjoy a<br />

night out at the theatre, browse for a book<br />

at the library or relax with a spa treatment<br />

at the hammam: www.lelieuunique.com<br />

Gastronomic Delights<br />

Locals Love: Creperie Heb-Ken: A friendly,<br />

no-fuss popular creperie in the centre of the<br />

Graslin Quarter with an extensive menu of<br />

crepes for all tastes from savoury to sweet,<br />

it is always busy! Get there early or risk a<br />

long wait. The patio is especially pleasant in<br />

the summer. www.heb-ken.fr<br />

La Civellet: On the waterfront of the<br />

Trentemoult neighbourhood, excellent<br />

seasonal French dishes in a lively<br />

atmosphere. Worth crossing the river for.<br />


Practical Information<br />

How to get there<br />

EasyJet has a base in Nantes with flights to<br />

the UK and European destinations: www.<br />

easyjet.com<br />

Wine and Dine - Brasserie la Cigale. It is<br />

impossible to walk past this brasserie<br />

without stopping to peek. Brasserie la<br />

Cigale on the Gralin Square was once the<br />

headquarters of the city’s Surrealists and<br />

is today a popular gastronomic<br />

destination. The seafood platter is<br />

seriously impressive as is the elegant<br />

interior: www.lacigale.com<br />

Indulge your sweet tooth: Maison<br />

Georges Larnicol – MOF: A famous<br />

Biscuiterie Chocolaterie in the Pommeraye<br />

Passage shopping mall. The sweet scent<br />

of their pastries fill the air. Don't miss the<br />

‘gâteau nantais', an almond based cake<br />

with rum - a Nantes speciality and their<br />

Kouign Amann cakes are the best!<br />

larnicol.com<br />

Eurostar has regular services to Paris from<br />

London/Ebbfleet International. From Paris<br />

it's just 2 hours by TGV to Nantes. Check<br />

out the new interactive robot at the<br />

departure lounge in St Pancras station. <strong>No</strong>t<br />

only does it answer your questions, it can<br />

read facial expressions and even pose for<br />

photographs if you ask nicely!<br />

www.eurostar.com<br />

How to get about<br />

A Nantes Pass gives you access to public<br />

transport and 28 tourist sites. Available for<br />

24, 48 and 36 hours from Nantes Tourist<br />

office. For active travellers, Bicloo offers<br />

self-service bike hires with 123 stations in<br />

the city: bicloo.nantesmetropole.fr<br />

Where to stay<br />

There are hotels for all budgets, but for<br />

those who enjoy comfort with history the<br />

18th century former townhouse now Hotel<br />

de France on Place Graslin is wonderful.

In the tyre tracks<br />

of the<br />

Tour de France<br />

Michael Cranmer takes to two wheels to discover the Pays-de-le-Loire as the Tour<br />

de France did just before him...

A trip must have a purpose, a focus, a<br />

raison d'être. So, when I read that the 2018<br />

Grand Depart of the Tour de France was<br />

from <strong>No</strong>irmoutier-en-l'Île, I had an idea...<br />

I would stage my own Great Departure<br />

(doesn’t sounds quite so dramatic in<br />

translation, does it?) and explore the bits of<br />

the Vendée in the Pays de la Loire playing<br />

host to two stages.<br />

When the planners were considering how<br />

best to get the 176 riders, their teams, the<br />

press and TV, plus thousands of spectators<br />

on and off the island, they had two options.<br />

1) The Passage du Gois, a natural 4.3km<br />

causeway flooded twice a day by up to 4m,<br />

where the foolhardy die if they jumble up<br />

their tide-times. Or 2) the road bridge.<br />

Mmm… you guessed right, they opted for<br />

the latter.<br />

You can’t cycle without a bike, and as I<br />

couldn’t afford to fork out £12,000 for a<br />

Pinarello Dogma F10 X-Light (same price as<br />

a medium sized car) I hired the latest<br />

electric bike from Bike n’ Tour, quite legally I<br />

might add. ‘Motor-doping’ is hot news in the<br />

pro-cycling world, but, despite rumours only<br />

one case has ever been identified. Time to<br />

explore.<br />

At 20km end-to-end, therefore manageable<br />

in a day, <strong>No</strong>irmouitier is a delightful<br />

backwater with beaches straight from<br />

childhood memory; buckets-and-spades,<br />

rock-pools to investigate, golden sand and<br />

sun. At my hotel, the utterly lovely Le<br />

Général d'Elbée, I compared the stats on my<br />

personal motor-doped two-wheeler with the<br />

stage winner that day. Me: 10km. 4 hours<br />

(give or take…I did stop for a beer along the<br />

way). Fernando Gaviria, Team Quick Step<br />

Floors: 201km. 4h 23' 32". Oh well.<br />

Nutrition for tour riders is paramount. They<br />

burn around 5,000 calories per stage and<br />

must eat and drink constantly to top up. I<br />

have no problem topping-up constantly but I<br />

don’t seem to burn it off quite the same.<br />

Post-stage they’ll consume recovery drinks<br />

with carbohydrate and protein whilst cooling<br />

down, then sandwiches, rich cakes and<br />

cereal bars. I had a couple of beers and a<br />

plate of chips…or crisps if you’re thinking in<br />

English.<br />

Their evening meals start with salad, soup or<br />

juice for a nutrient boost, followed by meat<br />

or fish and carbohydrate-rich foods, with<br />

homemade cakes, yoghurt, fruit and flans for<br />


For my evening nutrition I strolled to Le p’tit<br />

<strong>No</strong>irmout, hard to find but worh it, with an<br />

unassuming front hiding its treasures within.<br />

As the restaurant was but an oyster-shell’s<br />

throw from the harbour, my choice wasn’t<br />

hard to decide upon. Oysters, then Fruits de<br />

Mer. And a glass or two of wine.<br />

The racers tucked up in their cheap hotels,<br />

two to a room, would have gorged on latenight<br />

carbohydrate-rich snacks: small cakes,<br />

fruit, nuts and cereal to ensure glycogen<br />

levels are constantly being topped up.<br />

Let’s hope they didn’t get crumbs in their<br />

beds. <strong>No</strong>thing worse than crumbs to keep<br />

you awake after 200 shattering kilometres on<br />

a saddle skinnier than Victoria Beckham’s<br />

wrist.<br />

My stage 2 was part of the TDF’s stage 1<br />

and Vincent, my directeur and mécanicien<br />

rolled into one met me with the bike at Saint-<br />

Jean-de-Monts down the coast. I came by<br />

taxi. After all I had a notebook and cameras<br />

to tote, plus overnight bag, something the<br />

riders needn’t lug around. Saint-Jean is<br />

holiday-central for French, Brits, Dutch,<br />

Germans, you name it. 8 kms of golden<br />

beach and a 400m pier.<br />

There is a vast network of cycle paths,<br />

known as the Sentiers Cyclables de la<br />

Vendée.<br />

Over a pre-stage nutrient boost of hot<br />

chocolate and croissant, Vincent suggested<br />

that my performance needed upping if I was<br />

to achieve pro standard and that he was<br />

going to introduce me to Rosalie. I perked up<br />

no end at this. Hmm, Rosalie. Personal<br />

trainer perhaps? Soigneur? (therapist).

She was round a corner, parked. An orange<br />

quadricycle, with a stripey awning and<br />

smiley face on the front. She had seven<br />

seats, one reserved for me. It should have<br />

been fun but she was soooo heavy, like a<br />

Mini with a boot-load of bricks. A TDF bike<br />

weighs in around 6.8 kg, Rosalie felt like 6.8<br />

tons. She was a big girl and the lactic acid<br />

built up in my quads as my legs pumped up<br />

and down. Vincent was training me the hard<br />

way.<br />

Staggering like a still-drunk-the-morningafter,<br />

I dismounted Rosalie to be told a<br />

‘treat’ was waiting. What could it possibly<br />

be! The Rack, Iron Maiden, Thumbscrew?<br />

<strong>No</strong>. Treatments. “<strong>No</strong> tricks this time,<br />

Vincent…please” I said. True his word he<br />

took me to Thalasso Valdys for a Pause<br />

Cocoon which involved some ‘Zen<br />

Modeling’ (a body massage) with seaweed<br />

kelp cream; Hydromassage bath with<br />

seaweed jelly (better than it sounds)<br />

finishing off with ‘marine rain’ (a seawater<br />

shower).<br />

By now I’d lost all track of where the Tour<br />

had been. Bye-bye to Vincent and my<br />

doped-motor, and into my taxi for the one<br />

hour transfer to Les Sables-d’Olonne which<br />

the riders passed through during stage 1.<br />

My new steed was black with white spots<br />

and came fully equipped with a seat squishy<br />

enough to sooth the sorest undercarriage,<br />

and, casting aside all pretence at weightsaving,<br />

a sturdy metal shopping basket into<br />

which I stowed my camera bag. For the first<br />

time I joined a peloton (tour-speak for a pack<br />

of riders who save energy by riding behind<br />

other riders). The dynamic of the peloton is<br />

more complex than a John Le Carré spy<br />

novel. Teams sacrifice lesser members to<br />

get their Wiggins, Froome, or Evans on to<br />

the podium. Bitter rivals work together until<br />

push literally comes to shove in the race to<br />

the finish.

This was my longest day, a mere 35 kms.<br />

with a rest day scheduled for the morrow.<br />

Pros get two rest days throughout the <strong>21</strong><br />

stages, but it’s questionable how rest is<br />

defined. Interviews, updating social media,<br />

sleeping, eating, massage, patching up any<br />

injuries and, let’s not forget… a bike ride just<br />

in case they hadn’t done enough.<br />

I was now in the Hotel Côte Ouest Thalasso<br />

and Spa, my welcome pack scheduling me<br />

for Enveloppement d'Algues Essentielles at<br />

9.30. This turned out to be a generous<br />

slapping all over with hot seaweed cream, a<br />

most agreeable sensation offset only slightly<br />

by the disagreeable ritual of donning paper<br />

pants. When my body was judged to be<br />

‘remineralised with iodine and trace<br />

elements’ I was ceremoniously hosed down<br />

and sent packing back to my suite where I<br />

fell into a deep sleep.<br />

Lunch was a revelation. Tables decked with<br />

each and every type of seafood imaginable;<br />

lobster; spider crabs, crabs, oysters, clams,<br />

mussels, cockles, bigorneau (sounds better<br />

than winkles, doesn’t it), langoustine,<br />

prawns, shrimps, I’ve probably left some out.<br />

The small mountains of discarded shells and<br />

carapaces were cleared as fast as they piled<br />

up until even I reached a point when I had to<br />

admit I’d had enough. It was ‘epic’.

The last day was spent catching up with<br />

stage 4 of the Tour de France in La Baule<br />

where savvy Parisians escape the<br />

unbearable heat and tourist-hassle of the<br />

capital in August.<br />

The epicentre is Hotèl L’Hermitage, oldmoney,<br />

solid 5-star traditional luxury, it’s<br />

been attracting the rich since 1926.<br />

Churchill, the Agha Khan, Aristotle Onassis,<br />

and Maurice Chevalier have all stayed.<br />

The 9 km beach is big enough to land the<br />

world's largest passenger airliner, the Airbus<br />

A380, on with bags of room left for beach<br />

volleyball, and stripy changing huts. It might<br />

sink into the soft sand though.<br />

Early each day only horse riders and<br />

pisteurs are about. Pisteurs? We’re not in<br />

the Alps. Correct, but this beach is pisted<br />

each day not by a Ratrack, but a tractor<br />

dragging a harrow. Result? Perfect corduroy<br />

sand good enough to ski on if it was snow,<br />

and if it was halfway up a mountain.<br />

Up the north coast is an uber-exclusive<br />

enclave of villas, each with its high wall,<br />

entry-phone access only, cool pines, and<br />

private, very private sea front access.<br />

These are the holiday homes of the<br />

privileged, government ministers, financiers,<br />

and the famous. A certain Sir M Jagger<br />

brings his family here. Well some of them<br />

anyway. He has eight children with five<br />

women, five grandchildren, and a greatgrand-daughter.<br />

Must be a decent-sized<br />

villa.<br />

The riders would have taken in none of this<br />

as they sped past at 40 kmph. Only another<br />

2,930 to go. Me? Please don’t ask.<br />

Michael Cranmer was the guest of Pays de<br />

la Loire tourist board www.paysdelaloire.co.<br />

uk and the Vendée tourist board www.<br />

vendee-tourism.co.uk<br />

La Baule by Goodcityfordreamers/Wikipedia

Truffle hunting in Dordogne...<br />

Janine Marsh wraps up warm for winter and heads off to the beautiful hills and<br />

dales of Dordogne to hunt for the earth's black diamonds - truffles!<br />

Truffles are one of those foods that<br />

you either love or hate. They’re not a take it<br />

or leave it type of thing – they’re too<br />

pungent for that. In Dordogne, everyone<br />

loves them, they’re one of the region’s<br />

prized treasures...<br />

Truffles are a form of mushroom, an edible<br />

fungus that some people swear makes your<br />

food taste like paradise. Growing at the<br />

base of trees, in damp conditions, they give<br />

off a scent that can be sniffed out by trained<br />

goats, female pigs and these days mostly<br />

by dogs. The pigs have largely been retired<br />

from the job of truffle hunting on account of<br />

the fact that the aroma drives them wild –<br />

and they scoff the prize if they can. The<br />

scent is apparently almost identical to a sex<br />

pheromone found in male pig’s saliva.<br />

They’re supposed to be an aphrodisiac and<br />

in fact in the middle ages, monks were<br />

forbidden from eating truffles in case the<br />

taste led them astray!<br />

France is the largest producer of truffles,<br />

with more than 30 tonnes a year being<br />

sniffed out and in the Dordogne, they’re<br />

revered. Each year a special truffle market<br />

takes place in the uber gorgeous medieval<br />

town of Sarlat and the hunt is on to fill<br />

baskets for keen customers.<br />

“It’s a shame that they have such a<br />

reputation for being expensive because<br />

really they’re not” says Eduard Aynour at La<br />

Tuffière de la Pechalifour, a truffle<br />

plantation deep in the countryside of Saint-<br />

Cyprien near Sarlat. “15 Euros can get you<br />

a decent sized truffle – and there’s a lot you<br />

can do with it” he adds.<br />

On a chilly January morning I follow him<br />

round his sodden truffle farm in the rain<br />

accompanied by Leno, his faithful sheep<br />

dog who is keen as mustard to start looking<br />

for the “black diamonds”. Edouard assures<br />

me we’ll be successful despite the rain.<br />

“Cherche, cherche, cherche” he suddenly<br />

shouts out making me jump, Leno darts into<br />

action, slinking about under the trees,<br />

sniffing at the ground. She stops, sits and<br />

stares at us. Edouard pulls a small pick out<br />

of his pocket and prods gently at the soil<br />

until about a foot down he thrusts his hand<br />

in and “voila!” he says, holding aloft a small<br />

black lump. “Smell it” he urges, handing the<br />

lump to me. There’s a scent of earth, decay,<br />

musky and strong. “It takes five years to<br />

train a dog to be able to do this” he says<br />

proudly as he pats Leno in appreciation for<br />

a job well done.<br />

We head into the little shop on the site and<br />

Eduoard gently brushes the dirt off the<br />

truffle and weighs it and then pops it into a<br />

box to keep in the fridge to ensure it stays<br />

fresh. It’s a fascinating little place and<br />

Edouard is happy to talk truffles til the cows<br />

come home.<br />

“Beware fakes” he urges “there are a lot of<br />

them about. They have no scent, no taste.<br />

When you can buy a real truffle for as little<br />

as 5 Euros here, why would you ever even<br />

think about buying a phony?” he asks.<br />

At the Tuffière de la Pechalifour you can buy<br />

your truffle fresh from the ground, truffle<br />

products and local wines and do a truffle<br />

tour with Leno. It takes around 2 hours in<br />

total and is a fun way to get to know more<br />

about the famous “fairy apple”.

Sarlat Truffle Market<br />

Back in Sarlat I head to the truffle festival, I’m<br />

beginning to warm to these little smelly fungi<br />

and there are plenty on offer at the Saturday<br />

market when they’re in season from<br />

December to February. But I’m here for a<br />

dedicated truffle market which is held on the<br />

3rd weekend of January each year.<br />

Thousands flock to this festival in honour of<br />

the truffle. There are numerous stalls with<br />

local people who bring in their horde,<br />

secretive about where they found them, as<br />

well as dealers who sell to top chefs from<br />

around the world. You really can buy truffles<br />

from 5 euros though of course you can spend<br />

many hundreds more on these strange<br />

smelling lumps.<br />

There are steaming pots of truffle infused<br />

scrambled egg, lightly perfumed, very runny –<br />

the French way. Happy punters are scoffing<br />

the eggs, ladled onto paper plates and<br />

washed down with a glass of wine. It’s raining<br />

still but it doesn’t matter, truffles seem to<br />

bring out the best in people, and medieval<br />

time warp town Sarlat is an absolute gem to<br />

look at whatever the weather.<br />

Trophee Jean Rougié<br />

If you want to keep warm and to get a grip<br />

with the French love of “la gastronomie”, pop<br />

into the Trophée Jean Rougié competition<br />

which is always held when the Sarlat Truffle<br />

market is on in January. Organised by the<br />

Culinary Academy of Foie Gras and Truffles,<br />

it’s a cooking contest featuring young chefs<br />

from around France and further afield. They<br />

cook on a stage in front of the public, entry is<br />

free, and judging is carried out by some of the<br />

most famous names in the culinary world of<br />

France including many Michelin starred chefs.<br />

They parade in their big toques, those famous<br />

white, tall chef hats, they make speeches and<br />

add a lot of pizzazz to the event. The young<br />

chefs meanwhile fill the venue with amazing<br />

smells as they cook at a frantic rate - it’s a<br />

hugely popular event in this town and all adds<br />

to the truffle razzmatazz weekend...<br />

Sarlat Tourist office: www.sarlat-tourisme.<br />

com<br />

How to make scrambled egg with truffle<br />

If you’re doing it the French way, you’ll only cook<br />

the egg until it has an almost soupy texture…<br />

Ingredients per person<br />

2 eggs<br />

Generous knob of unsalted butter, melted<br />

Table spoon of milk<br />

Shavings of black truffle, around 15 grams or half a<br />

small truffle. (you can use truffle paste<br />

or oil if you can’t get the real thing)<br />

Pinch of salt<br />

Crack the eggs into a bowl, add all the ingredients<br />

and gently whisk with a fork to blend it all together.<br />

Pour into a saucepan on a low heat and stir<br />

constantly with a wooden spoon until you get the<br />

consistency that suits you.<br />

Eat straight away!

Meribel: Little England on the Alps....<br />

If you crave beautiful Alpine runs, dramatic mountain backdrops, sun, fantastic ski<br />

conditions and lovely wide pistes - then you’ll certainly be in your element if you<br />

follow in my snowy footsteps to Meribel says Justine Halifax…<br />

As a seasoned skier, and regular visitor to<br />

the Alps over the last decade, I’m no<br />

stranger to the vast beauty of this<br />

stunning, snow-capped mountain range.<br />

But what I wasn’t expecting, on my family’s<br />

latest winter visit here, was to be so taken<br />

with the ski resort of Meribel.<br />

Located in the middle of the largest ski<br />

area in the world, The Three Valleys boasts<br />

a ski area four times greater than the<br />

surface area of Paris. We enjoyed the best<br />

week of ski-ing we’ve ever had in the<br />

French Alps at this picturesque resort. It<br />

ticked so many boxes for my family-offour<br />

– both on, and off-piste.<br />

Boasting a global reputation for being one<br />

of safest places in the world to ski, the<br />

resort’s been such a hit with Brits – a third<br />

of its visitors are British - it’s even earned<br />

the nickname of “Little England on the<br />

Alps”.<br />

Ski conditions here are so great because<br />

85% of the resort is based at 1800 metres<br />

above sea level, with its 150k of pistes,<br />

accessible on a local area pass, reaching its<br />

highest peak at 2952m. But, if you plump<br />

for a Three Valleys pass, then you’ll be able<br />

to reach runs at an even higher 3230m<br />

peak and explore an impressive 600km of<br />

beautiful pistes across 335 runs.<br />

This includes runs on the other side of<br />

Meribel, within easy reach at Courchevel,<br />

and if you have got time to venture slightly<br />

further afield, you can also ski at Val<br />

Thoren and Les Menuires.

It's easy to see why Meribel is such a hit<br />

with families and intermediate skiers. The<br />

bulk of its 68 runs are either blue or red –<br />

6 green, 30 blue, 25 red and 7 black. And,<br />

it’s extremely easy to traverse the slopes<br />

by tackling just green and blue runs if<br />

you’re ski-ing with young children, or<br />

beginners, in tow. There are even “Family<br />

Cool” signs indicating safe and easy pistes<br />

for families with a mix of abilities.<br />

Meribel also has dedicated sledging<br />

experiences, fun snowparks, secured<br />

freeride areas, reserved racing areas and<br />

dedicated ski touring slopes.<br />

When it comes to sledging there’s a rather<br />

exhilarating run called Mission Black<br />

Forest (you pay per run here, including<br />

sledge hire, so it can be a pricey option). Or<br />

there’s a weekly evening sledge ride, (rent a<br />

sledge and get a ticket at Coombes lift)<br />

which is great value for money, and more to<br />

the point, fabulous fun. To make life even<br />

easier, the sledge run, which was also a<br />

green ski run in the day, even ran past the<br />

hotel where we were staying - which was<br />

virtually ski in ski out (a one minute walk<br />

from the ski room to the piste’s edge).<br />

If you’re a foodie, you’ll be in your element<br />

here. There are some great options for<br />

lunch on the piste, including the fantastic<br />

Le Plan des Mains at Les Allues. We<br />

enjoyed fabulous homemade delights here<br />

including homemade breads and cakes,<br />

and mains included succulent steaks to<br />

power us on for an afternoon of ski-ing.

There’s a choice of a host of activities to<br />

indulge in such as igloo building. At the<br />

resort leisure centre, Parc Olympic, you<br />

could enjoy a range of activities from a<br />

relaxing massage to sooth those achy legs<br />

to swimming and skating on its Olympicsize<br />

ice rink. A completely new experience<br />

for us was ski-joring. It’s basically ski-ing<br />

while you are being pulled by a horse (or it<br />

could be by dogs) that you have to steer (or<br />

try to!). It was fast, exhilarating, and I’d<br />

definitely do it again as would my 13-yearold<br />

son and husband, who were fans of this<br />

newfound activity. While we enjoyed an<br />

introductory lesson in the safety of a<br />

penned in snowy paddock with Le Coeur<br />

Equestre Des 3 Vallees, once you’ve honed<br />

your skills you can even venture onto<br />

selected pistes, for extended fun.<br />

Getting to and from Meribel, was straight<br />

forward. We enjoyed a smooth sailing with<br />

DFDS from Dover to Calais with priority<br />

boarding and very comfortable priority<br />

lounge access, which included free drinks,<br />

snacks, and day beds to put your feet up<br />

on. And, while there are airports nearer to<br />

the resort of Meribel, travelling by ferry and<br />

car, even adding on the tolls you’ll need to<br />

pay en route, driving is still, more often than<br />

not, the cheaper option.<br />

But facing a near nine-hour car journey is a<br />

daunting one, so I would recommend<br />

breaking the journey up with an overnight<br />

stay somewhere near the half way mark,<br />

which is exactly what we did. I can highly<br />

recommend a stay in the beautiful city of<br />

Dijon, and a meal at Maison Milliere<br />

restaurant based in one of Dijon’s oldest<br />

houses.<br />

Situated behind the Cathedral of <strong>No</strong>tre<br />

Dame – make sure you follow the lucky<br />

carved owl trail around it – the food here is<br />

fantastic, the service was excellent and the<br />

historic building intriguing too. On the way<br />

back we stopped off at Hotel Les Remparts<br />

in Rue de Verdun, Chaumont, Haut-Marne,<br />

Champagne, which was full of character.<br />

All in all, Meribel is now our favourite<br />

French ski resort!

Practical information<br />

Justine and family stayed for a week with<br />

Ski France at Hotel Le Mottaret. Ski<br />

France’s flagship hotel in the Alps, it had a<br />

three star-rating, but they say they would<br />

rank it higher than that. It had a hot tub,<br />

out door bar, free parking, ski and boot<br />

rooms at piste level...<br />

Hotel Le Mottaret; www.skifrance.co.uk<br />

Ski hire: Sport 2000 Mottaret Ski Evasion.<br />

For more information on Meribel visit:<br />

www.les3vallees.com/en/ski-resort/<br />

meribel/<br />

Ski season 2019 opens 8 December at<br />

Meribel.<br />


Australian videographers Gai Reid and Neil McLean journeyed to Europe for 120<br />

days of authentic travel ‘living like locals’. Their goal was to pet and house sit their<br />

way across four countries to experience what life is like in other cultures videoing<br />

their journey as they went. Gai tells how the couple started their journey in Paris...<br />

France is the most visited country on the<br />

planet with roughly 80 million tourists per<br />

year.<br />

15 million of those visitors have a Paris stop<br />

over.<br />

Everywhere you walk in Paris there is<br />

something to catch your eye. It’s busy. It’s<br />

frenetic. It’s exotic. It’s mesmerizing and<br />

nourishing all at the same time. The energy<br />

and beauty of Paris is always intoxicating.<br />

People often ask me “When is the best time<br />

to visit Paris?”. My automatic reply is “As<br />

soon as possible”. And I’m only half joking.<br />

Paris is perfect any time of the year, but you<br />

will have different experiences and<br />

memories depending on when you go.<br />

My hands down favourite time to be in this<br />

luscious city is autumn. If you arrive in<br />

September, you will miss the heat and the<br />

crowds of summer. The sun will still be<br />

shining and evenings extremely pleasant for<br />

dinner outdoors. By October the parks<br />

gather a carpet of russet leaves, mornings<br />

are crisp and the days perfect for long walks<br />

in parks and those ancient streets. We<br />

arrived at the end of winter and the trees<br />

were mostly bare, giving us a clear view of<br />

the exquisite detail on the architecture.

I’d booked us into a comfortable but<br />

unremarkable hotel on rue de Rivoli. From<br />

there, we could walk in just about any<br />

direction and find gems.<br />

Being smack bang in the middle of Marais<br />

district gave us a slice of history, colourful<br />

characters, small intriguing shops, street<br />

music, culture galore and a clutch of<br />

museums.<br />

One of my favourite chill out areas is a short<br />

walk away. Place des Vosges has style. It’s the<br />

oldest planned square in Paris built in 1605,<br />

commissioned by King Henri IV – and it really<br />

IS square!<br />

Underneath the elegant archways are highend<br />

retail and galleries. <strong>No</strong>thing has changed<br />

- it was a very fashionable and expensive<br />

square to live in during the 17th and 18th<br />

centuries. And, you'd need a wad of Euros to<br />

buy a townhouse there today – but it’s free to<br />

enjoy the park as is the Victor Hugo museum<br />

in the square.<br />

Disover more of Gai and Neil's visit to Paris in<br />

the video above...<br />

The broadcast series of Village to Villa - Living<br />

Like Locals is on Amazon Prime and The Good<br />

Life France website.<br />

Website: www.villagetovilla.com

Keith van Sickle muses on life in France<br />

I live part of the year in Provence and one<br />

day I was reading Le Monde and a headline<br />

about a “sexy politician” caught my eye.<br />

“Well, those are two words you don’t see<br />

together very often,” I thought. So I read the<br />

article and found out that there had been a<br />

poll asking French women, “What politician<br />

would you like to have a summer fling<br />

with?”<br />

“Wow,” I said to myself, “they would never<br />

have a poll like that back home in the US—<br />

it’s way too sexist.” And if they did conduct<br />

such a poll, American women would take<br />

one look at our politicians, imagine a fling<br />

with them and immediately flee the<br />

country.<br />

I showed the article to my wife Val.<br />

“Honey,” I asked sweetly, “if I was a<br />

politician and they did this poll, would you<br />

vote for me?”<br />

She looked me up and down and said,<br />

“Don’t quit your day job.”<br />

Another time there was an election for the<br />

European Parliament. In France, it doesn’t<br />

take much to field a slate of candidates, so<br />

there were 48 (yes, 48) different parties<br />

running. And some had very interesting<br />

names.<br />

New Anti-Capitalist Party<br />

Union of Struggle Against the Banks<br />

For a Royal France at the Heart of Europe<br />

Cannabis Without Borders<br />

Esperanto, a Fair Common Language for All<br />

Libertarian Program for a Europe Setting an<br />

Example Against Sexism and<br />

Precariousness<br />

Each of these parties got equal airtime to<br />

run TV ads and they were one of the<br />

highlights of the day.<br />

The various Green parties seemed to run<br />

the same kinds of ads, all rainbows and<br />

lollipops “We believe in a clean<br />

environment, good jobs for everyone, and<br />


The Regionalism Party was the opposite.<br />

Their ad was an angry guy who kept shaking<br />

his fist and railing against the Jacobins in<br />

Paris.<br />

“Do you know who the Jacobins are?” I<br />

asked Val. “A bunch of guys named Jacob?”<br />

She didn’t know so I looked it up. It turns out<br />

that they were a group that existed way back<br />

during the French Revolution, so getting<br />

upset about Jacobins was kind of like<br />

complaining that you just can’t find a good<br />

snuffbox these days.<br />

Then there was the New Deal Party ad that,<br />

trust me, would never be allowed in the US.<br />

It started with a naked young couple lying in<br />

bed and energetically doing, um, what naked<br />

young couples do. Suddenly a lady comes<br />

into the room and sits on the bed.<br />

“You’re trying to make a baby, aren’t you?”<br />

she demands.<br />

“Uh, yes.”<br />

“Well, have you thought about what kind of<br />

future that baby is going to have? Have you<br />

thought about whether that baby will have<br />

political leaders who will make sure there<br />

are good jobs, fair wages, and a clean<br />

environment?”<br />

“<strong>No</strong>,” says the guy, looking miffed, “I<br />

definitely was not thinking about that just<br />

now!”<br />

“Why yes,” says the gal, “I was!”<br />

“So vote New Deal in the European<br />

elections!” says the lady.<br />

I can’t wait for the next election...<br />

Keith Van Sickle is the author of One Sip at<br />

a Time. His new book Keith & Vals's<br />

Adventures in Provence is out 8 Dec, 2018.<br />

Find him at: keithvansickle.com

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Win a return ticket from Dover to Calais/Dunkirk<br />

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We’ve got a set of return tickets for use on DFDS’<br />

Ferries Dover/Calais (1 hour 30 minutes) or<br />

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power of love and<br />

kindness, Covington-<br />

Carter weaves a tale that<br />

spans seven decades,<br />

beginning and ending on<br />

the shores of <strong>No</strong>rmandy.<br />

In it, she discovers the role<br />

that forgotten dreams play<br />

in guiding us towards our<br />

Win a copy of Le Mot Juste destinies. DRAW IS<br />

by Imogen Fortes<br />

CLOSED<br />

st of fabulous French words that<br />

used in every day conversation<br />

which are classic and have oodles<br />

harm. DRAW is Closed...

We've teamed up with holiday rental company French Connec<br />

bring you a fabulous chance to win a week in a gorg<br />

La Petite Maison Devine, once a farmer's cottage, built in 1790 - before the French<br />

Revolution, has been renovated by an architect to keep its authentic charm whilst<br />

offering a comfortable stay in a stunning location.<br />

This pretty town house has three floors of spacious rooms in the medieval village of<br />

Laurac le Grand. UNESCO listed Carcassonne is to one side, and historic Castelnaudary,<br />

famous for its cassoulet is to the other side.<br />

Surrounded by glorious countryside, La Petite Maison Devine makes for a superb base<br />

from which to explore the area. This is an ideal get away from it all space in one of the<br />

most beautiful parts of France.

tions who have oodles of fabulous holiday homes in France, to<br />

eous gite near Carcassonne for a week in June 2019<br />

There's a spa pool, lovely terraced area, perfect for aperitifs under the stars, beautiful<br />

bedroom suite with glorious views, a lovely salon with a balcony overlooking the terrace.<br />

Hosts Linda and Bernard Devine have many years of experience in the hospitality market<br />

and aim to make your stay exceed your expectations.<br />

We're giving away a week at La Petite Maison Devine - June 1 to June 7, 2019<br />

*Transport is not included.<br />

Just click here to enter the competition


Every weekend, we invite you to<br />

share your photos on Facebook -<br />

it's a great way for everyone to<br />

see "real" France and be inspired<br />

by real travellers snapping pics as<br />

they go. Every week there are<br />

utterly gorgeous photos being<br />

shared and here we showcase the<br />

most popular of each month.<br />

Share your favourite photos with<br />

us on Facebook - the most "liked"<br />

will appear in the next issue of<br />

The Good Life France Magazine...<br />

October: La Roque<br />

Gageac, Dordogne...<br />

by Szilvási Éva<br />

NOVEMBER: When a door is a<br />

Created in 1901 by Jules Lavirot<br />

Photo: Susan Whitbread

DECEMBER: Bayeux <strong>No</strong>rmandy, kissed<br />

by Autumn's colours... Photo: Linda J<br />

Brennan<br />

work of art... 29 Avenue Rapp, Paris.<br />

te, it's an art nouveau masterpiece<br />

Join us on Facebook and like<br />

and share your favourite photos<br />

of France...

The Experts guide to<br />

french mortgages<br />

CA Britline specialises in Banking and<br />

Insurance in France. Mortgages are also<br />

available to residents in France, UK and<br />

Ireland. As with the Banking and Insurance<br />

side of things, when you talk Mortgages<br />

with CA Britline it will be in English.<br />

Buying a property in France whether to use<br />

for holidays, longer periods or to rent out<br />

whilst still residing in the UK is possible<br />

with CA Britline.<br />

As with applying and opening an account<br />

at Britline the mortgage application online<br />

and there's no language barrier - our staff<br />

speak English and many of them are British<br />

expats.<br />

Applying for a mortgage<br />

We advise that before applying for your<br />

mortgage with us, you open an account.<br />

You can apply for your account at www.<br />

britline.com online.<br />

In order to apply for a mortgage you need to<br />

be over 18 and hold no county court<br />

judgements. We will need to understand<br />

your financial position and will require<br />

documents confirming your employment,<br />

general assets, project and bank details<br />

amongst other items. A copy of the<br />

‘compromis de vente’ for the property you<br />

are purchasing will also be required

Self-employed applicants will be asked for<br />

additional documentation such as bank<br />

statements concerning the company’s<br />

bank accounts, statements of accounts (i.e.<br />

profit and loss accounts) and SA302 tax<br />

calculation forms.<br />

Once your mortgage application has been<br />

studied, if you're successful, a ‘decision in<br />

principle’ (DIP) will be issued.<br />

Choosing the right<br />

mortgage for you<br />

There is a choice of mortagages - either<br />

fixed or variable rate. The duration may run<br />

from two - 25 years.<br />

Fixed rate mortgages over a longer<br />

duration tend to be the popular choice in<br />

France compared with the UK where<br />

variable rate and interest only mortgages<br />

are often the first choice.<br />

At CA Britline, a fixed rate means fixed for<br />

the whole term of the mortgage.<br />

Redemption fees may be applied if you<br />

decide to pay it off before the end of its<br />

term. Generally the fees will be the<br />

equivalent to 3% of the capital reimbursed<br />

or 6 months’ worth of interest. The lower of<br />

the two amounts will be applied.<br />

Variable rates can be capped at different<br />

levels and some mortgages, depending on<br />

the characteristics of your project, can have<br />

a 0% rate of interest. Eco loans are also<br />

available.<br />

Life insurance<br />

Life insurance called ADE (Assurance<br />

Décès Emprunteur) is recommended when<br />

taking out a mortgage. In the event of<br />

death during the term of the policy, it<br />

covers the outstanding debt. There is no<br />

fixed cost for this type of policy as it<br />

depends entirely on individual<br />

circumstances.<br />

The Mortgage offer<br />

Once you have accepted your Decision in<br />

Principle offer, the official mortage offer will<br />

be issued and you then have have a<br />

cooling off period. After this, if you want to<br />

go ahead, the offer should be signed and<br />

returned by post.<br />

Once the paperwork is complete your<br />

<strong>No</strong>taire is updated with the information.<br />

The <strong>No</strong>taire will later send a request for the<br />

mortgage to be released based on the date<br />

of the Compromis de Vente signing - the<br />

day you take ownership of your French<br />

property.<br />

For further information visit britline.com<br />

Email contact@britline.com<br />

*Mortgages via CA Britline for the purchase<br />

of properties in France only.<br />

In the next edition of The Good Life France<br />

we will be talking about Savings Accounts<br />

and what is available in France.<br />

All CA Britline mortgages are Capital<br />

Repayment only and include options to<br />

allow monthly repayments to be as flexible<br />

as possible.<br />

Increasing or decreasing your monthly<br />

payments or taking a break is possible<br />

(subject to terms and conditions).

Changes to French tax from Jan 2019<br />

Paul Flintham, International Financial Advisor at Beacon Global Wealth Management,<br />

financial advisors for expats in France, explains the main changes to tax in France in 2019.<br />

PAYE in France: The big change in France for 2019 will be the full introduction of<br />

PAYE (pay as you earn). Tax payment at source has been an option for some time in<br />

France but effective January 2019, a full roll out will be implemented. The tax authorities<br />

will inform employers and pension payers of the nominal income tax to apply, and payable<br />

tax will need be deducted at source. PAYE will not be deducted by French authorities on<br />

overseas incomes – but it is declarable on your tax return.<br />

Tax stage payments: Tax stage payments are to change from twice a year to<br />

monthly. The last page of this year’s tax advice (for 2017 incomes) shows the calculation<br />

and the amount of monthly tax to pay from January 2019. It will still be necessary to<br />

submit a 2018 “Declaration de Revenus” in 2019. This registration of the tax return will<br />

regularise the tax due and takes into consideration tax paid by stage-payments or<br />

deducted at source on French based incomes.<br />

Register your bank account: The tax authorities are asking people to<br />

register their bank account details, so that monthly stage payments can be deducted by<br />

direct debit.<br />

French Property Income: Tax will not be deducted at source for French<br />

property income. This needs to be declared on the 2018 Declaration de Revenus.<br />

Savings Tax: From January 2019, income from savings such as interest and<br />

dividends will be taxed at a flat rate of 30% (consisting of 12.8% income tax and 17.2%<br />

social tax). French banks will deduct this at source. However in certain circumstances it is<br />

possible to opt out of the Income Tax deduction (but not out of the Social Tax). Your bank<br />

will be able to confirm if you are eligible, contact them if you haven’t received notification<br />

yet.<br />

Interest received from overseas bank accounts and savings (such as a UK ISA) have to be<br />

declared on your French tax return.<br />

Tax free savings: There are tax free savings accounts available in French banks<br />

such as the Livret A. Tax-efficient investment vehicles such as the Assurance Vie may<br />

also help reduce your tax.<br />

www.beaconglobalwealth.com; enquiries@bgwealthmanagement.net<br />

The financial advisers trading under Beacon Wealth Management are members of Nexus Global (IFA Network).<br />

Nexus Global is a division within Blacktower Financial Management (International) Limited (BFMI). All<br />

approved individual members of Nexus Global are Appointed Representatives of BFMI. BFMI is licensed and<br />

regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and bound by their rules under licence number<br />

FSC00805B.<br />

And the information on these pages is intended as an introduction only and is not designed to offer solutions<br />

or advice. Beacon Global Wealth Management can accept no responsibility whatsoever for losses incurred by<br />

acting on the information on these pages.

Expert Property Guide<br />

The French Riviera, AKA Cote d'Azur, has<br />

been the summer playground of choice for<br />

the rich and famous for over a century now.<br />

With the best climate in France and some<br />

of the most stunning coastal scenery, it has<br />

attracted artists and writers such as F Scott<br />

Fitzgerald and Picasso as well as<br />

celebrities like Bridget Bardot who brought<br />

glamour to the fishing village of St. Tropez.<br />

Today Cannes is famous for its film festival,<br />

Nice as the Riviera’s buzzy metropolis and<br />

the Caps of Antibes and Ferrat for offering<br />

many of the most expensive seaside<br />

homes in France. Easy access to the Italian<br />

Riviera at its eastern end, and the beautiful<br />

hinterland of Provence and the foothills of<br />

the Alps is another plus point, but there are<br />

also superb international schools serving a<br />

very large cosmopolitan expat community,<br />

golf courses, fantastic restaurants and<br />

vibrant village markets.<br />

The legacy of its long history as a holiday<br />

destination is a slew of beautiful Belle-<br />

Epoque mansions and trophy homes at<br />

eye-watering prices, but the good news is<br />

that if you head back from the coast a little,<br />

it’s surprisingly affordable - you can get<br />

properties within little more than an hour<br />

from the coast from €100,000.

The key is to head up into the hills above<br />

the seaside resorts behind the trafficclogged<br />

coastal strip for peace and<br />

authentic charm.<br />

In the Arrière-Pays, the stylish hill-top<br />

towns of Vence, St-Paul-de-Vence and<br />

Grasse, the perfume capital of France,<br />

international buyers have been attracted to<br />

the Provençal style villas, rustic mas or<br />

pretty sky-blue shuttered village houses.<br />

In Vence, about an hour from the sea, for<br />

example, it’s possible to buy a threebedroom<br />

character house in the centre of<br />

town for less than €250,000.<br />

In recent years the hilltop town of Mougins,<br />

just 15 minutes from Cannes, has become<br />

popular for its high-class restaurants and<br />

its renowned international school.<br />

Lorgues is a beautiful historic town famed<br />

for its market and worth a look. Even in this<br />

fashionable area you can get a twobedroom<br />

apartment in an 18th century<br />

building right in the heart of the lovely old<br />

town at a good price.

Or how about Tourtour? A charming village<br />

in the Var, which true to its name, has<br />

ancient towers dating back to the 11th<br />

century. There is a pretty central square,<br />

welcoming cafés, restaurants and shops,<br />

and it's no surprise it is classed as one of<br />

the most beautiful villages in France. For<br />

€245,000 you can get a three-bedroom<br />

villa in a private wooded estate with pool<br />

and tennis courts.<br />

Head back behind Aix-en-Provence<br />

towards the Luberon in the heart of<br />

Provence, and for even greater value, look<br />

east past the Verdon area into the Alpes-<br />

Maritime national park. “For just over<br />

€100,000 you can get a small onebedroom<br />

home that is close to ski resorts,<br />

and just over an hour from the coast,” says<br />

Sascha Jenner, local estate agent based in<br />

the popular hub of Saint-Vallierde-Thiey.<br />

For €250,000 it’s easy to find a threebedroom<br />

house with a garden.<br />

In the ski resort of Greolières-les-Neiges<br />

you can get a 3-bedroom timber chalet with<br />

pool and stunning views in the mountains<br />

of the French Riviera, 48km to the sandy<br />

beaches of Cannes.<br />

Last but no means least, the lovely<br />

picturesque ancient village of Cipières is<br />

also worth a look. Perched on a rocky ridge<br />

high above the Loup river valley, with a view<br />

north and east across to the Montagne du<br />

Cheiron, it offers village properties for under<br />

€250,000.<br />

www.frenchestateagents.com for expert<br />

advice and to browse a huge range of<br />

properties for sale in the Cote d’Azur and all<br />

over France.


The Good Life in ...<br />

The Hautes-Pyrénées<br />

Robynne McTaggart loves to spend time in<br />

France, whether skiing in the alps or<br />

enjoying the summer in the picturesque<br />

villages and glorious countryside. With a<br />

business doing well in Perth, Australia<br />

where she and husband Garry live,<br />

Robynne decided to find a home of her<br />

own in 2006. She set herself a goal – to<br />

visit as much of the unspoiled, uncrowded<br />

and authentic far south west France as she<br />

could in just two weeks - and find her<br />

dream property.<br />

“Arriving at the Vallées du Gaves in the<br />

Hautes-Pyrénées, close to Lourdes, the<br />

French capital of miracles, I immediately<br />

and instinctively felt it was where I wanted<br />

to be, and that I would find ‘the one’” says<br />

Robynne. She rented a hotel room in Pau<br />

and got to know the area. Finding herself<br />

more and more inspired by what she found<br />

she became more determined than ever<br />

that this was where she wanted to be. She<br />

already knew that her dream home was a<br />

maison de maitre, a mansion house, but it<br />

seemed an impossible task to find just one,<br />

let alone ‘the one’. By luck, as she spoke to<br />

a bar owner about her quest, some local<br />

people told her of a rumour that a family<br />

with just the type of house she was<br />

interested were thinking of selling. It was<br />

called Le Belvedere, and it was a large<br />

mountain style mansion house.<br />

Robynne went to see the property and<br />

meet the family who, it turned out, were<br />

indeed selling their home in the village of<br />

Salles, on the outskirts of Argelès-Gazost.<br />

The 300 year old local stone property<br />

nestles at the base of the Regional Nature<br />

Reserve of the Pibeste-Aoulhet. Robynne<br />

says “the minute I went through the door, I<br />

knew I’d found my home. It blew my budget<br />

out of the water but, it was love at first sight<br />

and I just felt I had to do everything I could<br />

to make this mine”.

The house needed little structural<br />

renovation, the authentic chestnut wood<br />

floors, plasterwork, fixtures and fireplaces<br />

are beautiful. It meant that Robynne could<br />

concentrate on getting the house<br />

decorated and furnished. She was<br />

fascinated by the history of her home but<br />

found it hard to find out details since most<br />

of the documents were lost almost a<br />

century ago, though in its location next to<br />

the Chateau Arzaas, it was likely built by<br />

nobility.<br />

Local artisans have transformed the house<br />

into a gorgeous, comfortable and stylish<br />

home, though it took a lot longer than<br />

estimated. “It takes time to understand a<br />

property” she says, “and I wanted to make<br />

sure that the restoration was authentic and<br />

the best it could be”. In fact what she<br />

thought would take a year or two, took 12<br />

years in total. There was a lot to consider,<br />

for instance the 300-year-old wooden<br />

staircase which is heritage listed for its<br />

unique construction as it is entirely free<br />

standing without vertical support beams<br />

and needed to be completely preserved.<br />

During this time she made friends with her<br />

neighbours and the families of the French<br />

mountain guides and got to know the area<br />

well. It’s a village with a rich natural<br />

heritage, and thanks to its mountain<br />

environment it has preserved its authentic<br />

pastoral character.<br />

Perfect for nature lovers, the beautiful<br />

landscape is stunning, wild and totally<br />

unspoiled. “It’s a place where foraging for<br />

mushrooms such as girolles and cèpes,<br />

and wild berries is the norm” she says, “it is<br />

an absolutely joy to experience a way of life<br />

that most of us think simply doesn’t exist<br />


The nearby UNESCO listed Cirque de<br />

Gavarnie, described by famous French<br />

writer Victor Hugo as a “colosseum of<br />

nature” was created by glacial erosion over<br />

millions of years. “The mountains and<br />

rivers, the gentle pace of life, the richness<br />

of the heritage here and the relationship<br />

between man and terroir are just some of<br />

the reasons that this place is so very<br />

special” says Robynne.<br />

From the 12th century, the village of Salles<br />

was located within the <strong>No</strong>ble Fiefdom of<br />

Arzaas and was linked to the 10 villages in<br />

the valley by a series of footpaths, still in<br />

existence to this day. The town has held a<br />

farmers market for 800 years and it<br />

remains one of the most important markets<br />

in the area with more than 100 merchants.<br />

Robynne now rents out the gorgeous 4-<br />

bedroom mansion house with its stunning<br />

grand salon, magnificent views and luxury<br />

furnishings. She also hosts some very<br />

special events there. In 2019 Master chef<br />

Alain Fabrégues of the Loose Box and<br />

Bistro des Artistes, Perth will become chef<br />

and tutor at Le Belvedere for an 8 day event,<br />

sharing his know-how, techniques and<br />

cooking with guests. (LINK) And Joh Bailey,<br />

Australia’s leading hair stylist and stylist to<br />

the stars will hold a spectacular glamour<br />

and gourmet week, sharing tips and<br />

personally styling guests. (LINK) These are<br />

small group events perfect for friends,<br />

couples and singles, quite unique and<br />

utterly fabulous.<br />

Robynne says of Le Belvedere, “it is really<br />

special, it’s somewhere to recharge,<br />

reenergise and to completely relax in the<br />

most beautiful house in the most amazing<br />

surroundings, whether you’re here for a<br />

week or more – it’s home”.<br />

Discover more about the exclusive,<br />

fabulous events and about renting Le<br />

Belvedere at: www.lebelvedere.net

Turkey is traditional in France at Christmas and this delicious take<br />

on turkey with French vermouth <strong>No</strong>illy Prat is delicious and easy to<br />

make…<br />

INGREDIENTS: Serves 4<br />

115g (40z) of vine leaves, drain them from the tin<br />

4 turkey escalopes (roughly 120g each)<br />

300 ml (1/2 pint) of chicken stock<br />

For the stuffing<br />

30 ml Olive oil<br />

3 Shallots, chopped finely<br />

75 g (3oz) cooked wild rice<br />

4 Tomatoes peeled and chopped (tinned or fresh)<br />

3 tablespoons <strong>No</strong>illy Prat<br />

25 g (1 oz) pine nuts chopped finely<br />

salt and pepper<br />

1. Rinse the vine leaves in cold water<br />

and leave to drain.<br />

2. Make the stuffing. Heat the oil in a<br />

pan add the shallots, frying them gently<br />

until they soften.<br />

3. Take the pan off the heat and stir in<br />

the rice, tomatoes, pine nuts and the<br />

<strong>No</strong>ily Prat, season with salt and pepper<br />

and mix.<br />

4. Flatten the turkey escalopes, cover<br />

them with cling film and whack with a<br />

rolling pin or meat mallet.<br />

5. When they’re flat, split the stuffing<br />

mix between them, and roll or fold the<br />

meat to hold the stuffing in.<br />

6. Lay out the vine leaves, put the<br />

turkey on top and fold the vine leaves<br />

over so they overlap on the top to keep<br />

everything in and covered. Then tie with<br />

cooking twine or similar.<br />

7. Put them in a dish that holds them<br />

tight together and pour the hot chicken<br />

stock over. Bake in the oven for 40<br />

minutes.<br />

Serve with vegetables and/or potatoes.<br />

Tip: You can make a sauce with the<br />

stock that’s left (skim any fat off the top<br />

first). Add ½ pint chicken stock, 60 ml<br />

port mixed and heated, add a little<br />

cornflower to thicken If necessary, at<br />

the end add a teaspoon of butter,<br />

whisked in gently on a high heat.

Looking for festive inspiration? Sign up to The French<br />

Life Cookalong via Paola's Facebook page and receive a<br />

free mini-cookbook featuring a selection of holidayinspired<br />

recipes and enter a fab competition to win a box<br />

of French goodies...<br />


Pain<br />

d’épices with<br />

candied<br />

orange<br />

Makes 1 loaf<br />

Whenever I visit the small town of Buxy<br />

in France’s Côte Chalonnaise, you will<br />

likely find me at the tiny market held in<br />

the centre ville on Thursday mornings.<br />

Though there aren’t many stalls, everything<br />

on offer is absolutely delicious. In<br />

the winter, they sometimes sell fresh<br />

choucroute garnie. And what an aroma it<br />

spreads through the cold air!<br />

I especially look forward to stopping by<br />

the stand selling honey and French<br />

gingerbread, or pain d’épices. The dense,<br />

fragrant loaves come in different<br />

flavours such as blueberry or chocolate<br />

chip. But I prefer mine with a touch of<br />

candied orange, and a good pat of butter.<br />

This is my recipe for a really moist pain<br />

d’épices. Eat it for breakfast with a<br />

bowl of black coffee or as an afternoon<br />

snack with a cup of tea.....<br />

"<br />

Paola Westbeek is a food, wine and travel<br />

journalist. For more of her recipes, visit<br />

ladoucevie.eu, thefrenchlife.org and her<br />

YouTube channel, LaDouceVieFood<br />

Ingredients:<br />

250g spelt or rye flour<br />

1 ½ tsp baking powder<br />

½ tsp baking soda<br />

2 ½ tsps pain d’épices spices<br />

(French gingerbread spices)<br />

75g light brown sugar<br />

70g candied orange peel, chopped<br />

120ml honey<br />

80ml water<br />

2 eggs<br />

Instructions:<br />

Preheat oven to 180°C and line a<br />

28cm rectangular baking pan with<br />

parchment paper. Put the flour,<br />

baking powder and baking soda into a<br />

large bowl. Add in spices and the<br />

brown sugar and mix well. Stir in the<br />

candied orange. Whisk the honey,<br />

water and eggs in a small bowl. Make<br />

a well in the centre of the dry<br />

ingredients. Pour in the wet<br />

ingredients and fold until you have a<br />

smooth batter. Pour the batter into the<br />

baking pan and bake for 40-45<br />

minutes. Check the cake after about<br />

20 minutes and cover with foil if the<br />

top is getting too dark. Allow the cake<br />

to cool on a rack before serving.

Chestnut cream-filled<br />

meringues with<br />

chocolate sauce<br />

Serves 6 Preparation time: 10 minutes<br />

1.5 cups (200g) thick crème fraiche<br />

1 heaped tablespoon marscapone<br />

2 teaspoons sweet chestnut purée (crème de marrons)<br />

50z (150g) bittersweet chocolate<br />

5 tablespoons (70g) lightly salted butter<br />

1 tablespoon demerara sugar<br />

12 small meringue shells<br />

1. STIR the crème fraiche and mascarpone together until evenly combined. Fold in the<br />

chestnut purée but do this gently or the mixture will become too thick.<br />

2. MELT the chocolate and butter together in a microwave or bain-marie, add the sugar,<br />

and stir until smooth<br />

3. SPREAD a little of the chestnut cream over the flat base of one of the meringues and<br />

press another meringue on top to make a small sandwich. Repeat with the remaining<br />

chestnut cream and meringues.<br />

4. SERVE immediately with the chocolate sauce.<br />

Recipe from C'est Bon, Recipes inspired by La<br />

Grande Epicerie, Paris by Trish Deseine,<br />

published by Flammarion.

Duck Confit<br />

and<br />

Provencal<br />

potatoes<br />

Ingredients<br />

6 duck legs<br />

2 Tablespoons salt/1 tablespoon pepper corns<br />

9 cloves garlic, peeled<br />

6 large bay leaves<br />

2-3 tubs duck fat<br />

Prepare in advance<br />

Sprinkle duck legs with 2 tablespoons of salt.<br />

Sprinkle the bottom of a glass pan with 1 TBS<br />

cracked pepper corns. Lay 3 duck legs skin<br />

side down. Place 3 garlic cloves and 2 bay<br />

leaves on each duck leg. Lay the other 3 duck<br />

legs on top of the first three, sandwich style.<br />

Tightly wrap the pan with plastic wrap and<br />

refrigerate for 24 hours.<br />

How to make<br />

Pre-heat oven to 225 degrees.<br />

Rinse each duck leg under cool water to<br />

remove most of the salt.<br />

just large enough to hold the duck legs in one<br />

layer. Lay the duck legs skin-side up on top of<br />

the herbs and spices.<br />

In a glass bowl, heat the duck fat in the<br />

microwave for 1-2 minutes until the fat has<br />

melted. Be sure to cover the bowl to avoid<br />

splatters! Pour the melted duck fat over the<br />

duck legs, submerging the duck legs<br />

completely, and place in the pre-heated oven.<br />

Cook the duck legs for 8-10 hours.<br />

To serve immediately, carefully remove the<br />

duck legs from the fat and place on a broiler or<br />

under a grill for 3-5 minutes until skin is crisp.<br />

The duck legs may be kept refrigerated, in the<br />

fat, for up 5 days. To serve, re-heat the duck<br />

legs for 1 hour in a 225 oven and proceed as<br />

above to crisp skin.<br />

<strong>No</strong>te: Strain the duck fat into a clean plastic<br />

tub or glass jar. The duck fat keeps<br />

refrigerated or frozen for 3 months.<br />

Place the garlic, bay leaves and 1 tablespoon<br />

cracked pepper corns on the bottom of a pan

Duck confit is such a<br />

wonderful dinner party<br />

entree. It can (and should!)<br />

be prepared 2-3 days in<br />

advance. The key to<br />

successful duck confit are<br />

good quality duck legs<br />

and completely<br />

submerging the legs in<br />

duck fat for their long,<br />

slow bake in the oven.<br />

Even a novice home chef<br />

can experience mouthwatering<br />

results. Duck<br />

legs (drumstick and thigh)<br />

are not always easy to find<br />

outside of France so you<br />

may want to order them in<br />

advance from your usual<br />

butcher.<br />

Ingredients<br />

8-10 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled<br />

and thinly sliced<br />

1/2 cup chopped Italian parsley<br />

3 garlics cloves, minced<br />

1 lemon, zested<br />

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese<br />

4 TBS good quality olive oil<br />

1 tsp salt<br />

Freshly ground pepper, to taste<br />

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12<br />

cup muffin tin generously with oli or<br />

nonstick cooking spray. Combine parsley,<br />

garlic, lemon zest, Parmesan cheese, olive<br />

oil, salt and pepper in a bowl. Add sliced<br />

potato to the parsley mixture and toss to<br />

coat each slice thoroughly.<br />

Overlap the potato slices, pressing firmly<br />

as you go and filling each muffin cup 3/4<br />

full.<br />

Bake potatoes in oven 40-45 minutes until<br />

edges are browned and centers can be<br />

easily pierced with the sharp point of a<br />

knife.<br />

Cut around each potato stack with a knife<br />

or spatula to serve.<br />

Recipes by Martine Bertin-Peterson of Gout et Voyage travel and taste company who run<br />

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,<br />

sometimes bitterly so. It snows and there are storms, the wind can blast through<br />

the trees in the fields that surround the Seven Valleys making the huge balls of<br />

mistletoe that grow throughout the area swing wildly.<br />

Inside the village houses, log fires are lit and often the only signs of life are the<br />

wisps of smoke that escape from chimneys, sometimes hanging in the still cold<br />

air, sometimes painting patterns in the wind.<br />

Walking the dogs this time of the year, I'm pretty much alone save for deer<br />

bounding across the hedges, their tufty white tails bobbing up and down, and<br />

pheasants disturbed by the crazy lady who comes by every day whatever the<br />

weather.<br />

In the village, of which people say "140 people and 1000 cows", there are none of<br />

the latter to be seen, they're safely tucked up in warm barns. My cats lie in front<br />

of the fire all day, I have to push them out the door to do what is necessary and<br />

ten minutes later they're back, screeching to be let in to join the dogs and shuffle<br />

about until everyone finds their nook.<br />

My chickens, ducks and geese are hardy, but at times even they retreat to the<br />

shed, they don't always get on but when it's cold, they find a way to survive<br />

together, huddled in the straw.<br />

The shutters we fitted in the summer have changed life for us this winter. Even<br />

with a gale blowing, inside we have no idea, buffered from reality, it's warm and<br />

cosy, we're snug as bugs (it's taken 14 years!).<br />

This is what winter is all about for me here... my dream come true.<br />

Janine Marsh

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