and bienvenue to the Autumn issue of The Good Life France Magazine.
I don't know about you, but that photo on the front cover of this issue makes me long to
go to Paris and sip hot chocolate in the chilly air as leaves float from the tree lined
Escape with me to France in this issue and discover the Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau,
about as fairy-tale as a castle could possibly be and to Chartres, famous for its Cathedral
but where there's so much more to do. Discover the Tarn and its UNESCO listed
attractions and Valence, the gateway town to the south of France. Fall in love with the
French Riviera, Grasse, the perfume capital of France and be prepared to be lured to want
to put on your running shoes and join a bizarre marathon in the Medoc region - where
wine is served en route!
There are recipes galore for you to make your own taste of France dishes at home, useful
guides for expats or those dreaming and planning to move to France including a review
of property on the West Coast.
This issue is packed with fabulous features, gorgeous photos and tempting tales.
Bisous from France,
8 Le Weekend in Chartres
Famous for its UNESCO listed Cathedral,
but there’s much more to this ancient city.
16 Valence, the gateway to
the south of France
Lucy Pitts discovers a place of history,
fabulous restaurants and wonderful
22 Cassel, Favourite village
of the French 2018
Find out why this tiny hill top town was
voted the best loved village in France.
30 Grasse, the sweetest
smelling city in Europe
Kevin Pilley follows his nose in Provence.
38 Chateau d’Azay-le-Rideau
This Renaissance jewel of the Loire Valley
is gleaming after a recent renovation and
we find there’s lots to do in and around the
46 My france: French Riviera
Guest photographer Renata Haidle reveals
what she loves about the French Riviera and
shares her favourite photos.
54 UNESCO World heritage in
Rupert Parker visits the historic department
and discovers its UNESCO listed
62 The Medoc Marathon
The ultimate fun run lures Kevin Pilley to
don his running shoes and drink wine, all in
the name of research.
66 Soap story from
Judi Castille looks into the story of the
famous soap from the fat south of France.
70 Destination Samoens
Residents Morag and Andrew Ashworth tell
us why they love this part of France.
28 New Series: Le Petit
In this issue we discover the history Jean
Jaurès, you’ll see his name in almost every
town of France and yet most visitors have
no idea who he was and why he’s so
52 Your Photos
The most popular photos on our Facebook
page shared here.
68 Give Aways
Enter the draw to win fab books.
102 My Good Life in France
A look back at summer...
76 Property on the West
There’s something for everyone along
France’s Atlantic coastline, from Brittany to
La Rochelle and Biarritz, we look at what’s
82 French Insurance
Guide to the different types of insurance in
86 How to choose the right
Financial Advisor for you
Jennie Poate explains the types of financial
advisors there are in France and what each
can do for you.
90 Apple and Blackberry
92 Scrumptious Crepes
95 Tangy Onion-Tomato jam
97 Delicious Ratatouille
98 mouth-watering Poulet-
From April to October the big draw is the renowned Son et Lumières
which takes over the whole city with installations at 25 monuments -
it’s one of the biggest sound and light shows in the world, Janine
Marsh explores the ancient city...
The city of Chartres is in the department of
Eure-et-Loir, region Centre-Val de Loire, in
south west France.
It’s famous all over the world for its UNESCO
world heritage listed cathedral and no wonder,
it is an extraordinary and wondrous gothic
masterpiece, a major pilgrimage site to this
day. It is the reason why most people go to the
city but there are plenty of other attractions that
visitors will love in this town.
Just an hour from Paris by train, you’ll discover
the past in its cobbled rues.
There are great restaurants, it’s close to the
chateaux of the Loire, and hosts one of the
best light shows in the world – making this a
city break you should definitely pop on your
The Cathedral of Chartres
The Cathedral of course is no. 1 for any
visitor to Chartres, and rightly so. No matter
how many cathedrals or churches you might
have been to, this one sticks out for its
beautiful stained-glass windows, the
extraordinary, ancient crypt, effectively an
underground cathedral, and its mysterious
labyrinth, the biggest and oldest in the
world. It is the only medieval cathedral in
the world to escape war damage - unique.
The first cathedral was erected here in the
4th century, the oldest vestiges date back to
the 9th century, a time when Vikings were
invading England and founding Dublin,
Ireland and Charlemagne was crowned
emperor of Rome. In 876, French King
Charles the Bald gave the town of Chartres
a holy relic, said to be a piece of the veil
worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus.
The fabric survived a fire but not the French
Revolution when it was cut into pieces and
dispersed. A few pieces were returned and
you can see them displayed in the chapel.
The main building of the cathedral was built
between 1194 and 1221. The crypt is one of
the longest in Europe at 200m long, and has
welcomed pilgrims from around the world for
a thousand years.
Without a doubt, whatever your beliefs, one
of the most extraordinary ways to visit the
crypt is at night, by candle light with a guide
who will share the history and secrets of this
incredible place. Seeing the frescoes on the
walls, the underground chambers by
flickering candle is very special. I don’t want
to spoil the surprise but when the singing
started, the hairs on the back of my neck
rose, it was a moving experience, and even
if you don’t speak French, a truly astonishing
way to experience the history of this
majestic cathedral. The tour, organised by
the tourist office, also includes a tour of the
Chartres light show.
candle lit vigil with a guide
g through the underground
ral and crypt holding candles
cker in the slight draft,
ws moving across the ancient
ed walls and statues of Mary:
The famous Labyrinth was built around the
year 1200 on the floor of the nave. It
attracts the esoteric, the curious and the
religious. It is a 261.5m long pilgrimage
walk and each Friday from 10am to 5pm,
from Lent until All Saints Day, the chairs
that normally cover it are moved off, leaving
it free for pilgrims and visitors to walk. Some
walk it slowly, others faster, some cross
themselves as they go, achieving a look of
beatification as they reach the centre. An
astounding 1.3 million pilgrims make their
way to Chartres each year.
The stained-glass windows are sparklingly
exceptional – 172 of them in total covering
an incredible 2,600sqm. Some of them date
back to the 12th century and you can’t help
but love the colours, especially “Chartres
blue” as it's known, a special blue used on
the oldest windows. For the people of that
day, this richness of colour and art must
have been one of the wonders of the world –
it still is. There’s even a tea named after it
“the Blue Tea of
Chartres”, a blend of
black and green tea,
citrus fruits and berries
in a specially designed
tea caddy – the perfect
souvenir! Find it at La
Brulerie Chartraine, tea
and coffee Shop: 5 rue
Noël Ballay. And while
you’re there, nip into the
bookshop at no 10,
where to your surprise
you’ll find the wall of a
Renaissance house hidden away at the
back of the shop, books piled around the
centuries old windows and door...
The Old town of
The best way to visit the ancient streets of
Chartres is on foot. A good place to start is
the tourist office which is in a Renaissance
building with some impressive wall carvings.
In the 13th century the then Bishop of
Chartres fell out with the count of Chartres.
The Bishop enclosed his part of the city
around the cathedral and today the place
where the entrances once were, are marked
in the road such as Porte d’Horloge, the
Clock Gate, which is in front of a
remarkable16th century 24-hour clock.
One of the most interesting buildings is the
13th century Miason Canoniale opposite the
cathedral. Look up and you’ll see ornate
carvings showing vines, fighting and
gambling followed by hell and dragons
breathing fire - a sobering message for
pilgrims of years gone by to warn them of
the dangers of drinking too much!
If you’re a fan of Renaissance buildings,
you’ll spot plenty in Chartres. You can
recognise them by their mushroom shape,
smaller at the bottom and spreading out
from the 1st floor, an attempt to save money
on taxes as owners paid according to how
much ground they took up.
You can take the little tourist train with an
audio guide to see the historic districts from
spring to autumn. Take a guided tour via the
tourist office or visit with a Greeter,
volunteers who are locals who love to share
their knowledge of the city they love.
Chartres Tourist Office
8 Rue de la Poissonnerie
Where to eat and drink
Locals love: Les Feuillantines is authentic
and friendly. The chef creates his own
house cocktail, the one I had was of
limoncello, sparkling local wine and a lemon
liqueur - deliciously decadent...
Tea and cake : La Molière, gorgeous
gardens in a historic home famous for its
17th century owner, a miser who inspired
the famous French playwright Molière to
write Le Misor based on the meanie's penny
pinching by commissioning a grand house
but scrimping on the brick work, hence when
you see it today, you may wonder why the
lovely local white stone first level is topped
with red brick - it was cheaper in the 17th
Wine and dine: Michelin starred Le Georges
restaurant, the Grand Monarque Hotel. A la
carte or tasting menu, the chef’s dishes are
innovative and truly delicious.
Snack - Maison Monarque in front of
cathedral serves a delicious brunch,
sandwiches, patisseries and macarons.
They also make “le Pèlerin” (the pilgrim). A
soft cake with an almond and fruit paste
marked on top with a design symbolising the
labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral.
Awesome aperitifs: L’Academie de la Bière,
rock music, buzzy with a feel good
atmosphere, it's hipster say the locals,
French for a cool, rocking place to go.
Bake my day: Head to Maison Ioos for
great breads and pastries. Don’t miss the
chance to munch on a Mentchikoff! A sweet
made of praline chocolate covered with
Swiss meringue! Close to the Cathedral at
2bis rue du Soleil d'Or
Ice ice baby: Ice cream heaven awaits at La
Chocolaterie, hand-made ice cream and
Market day: In the centre of Chartres you’ll
find the covered market on Place Billard
near the Cathedral. From 7am to 1pm
Wednesday and Saturday mornings, the
place buzzes as stalls piled high with
delicious local produce tempts the locals to
buy! On Wednesday evenings there’s an
organic market – don’t miss the bread stall,
Must-sees in Chartres
Chartres isn’t just home to the majestic
Cathedral, there are more than a dozen
churches in the town and close by dating to
between the 11th and 17th centuries (get
details from the tourist office).
The International Stained-Glass centre is
the only one of its kind in France. Next to
the Cathedral, housed in a listed monument
is the stained-glass museum, you can get
up close to ancient panels of stained glass,
join in workshops and discover the history of
Maison Picasiette, a little bit out of the
centre, but well worth the detour and fans of
Naieve Art will adore it. The house was
decorated with pieces of broken china
between 1930 and 1962 by Raymond
Isidore, an iron foundry worker. His decades
of laborious love are astonishingly bright
and vibrant, every inch of surface covered
and sparkling, like an enormous mosaic
Top tip: Pick up Le Pass from the tourist
office for 10 euros and get discounts and
saving at 50 of their partners including
shops, hotels, restaurants cultural and
tourist sites and more.
What to see nearby:
800-year-old Chateau de Maintenon, home
of Madame de Maintenon, the secret wife of
Louis XIV. Open all year with several
events, the most fabulous of which is the
Christmas event from end November to mid-
December with a performance involving 800
volunteers in costume who bring to life the
history of the castle and its inhabitants.
You can reach the chateau by train from
Far left: Maison Picasiette;
left: the elegant Chateau de
Maintenon, it belonged to
Madame de Maintenon, the
secret wife of Louis XIV. The
gardens are lovely and the
chateau is beautifully
The main events
There are loads of events year-round, of
course The Sound and Light show is the no.
1 but there’s also the quirky Henri IV
weekend each February. A celebration of
Henri IV, the only king to have been
crowned in Chartres, in 1594, sees
restaurants put on “poule au pot” menus,
plus wine tastings.
When Henri IV got sick, he declared “If God
allows me to live, I will make sure that there
is not a single labourer in my kingdom who
does not have the means to enjoy a boiled
chicken on Sundays”. It’s still a popular dish
more than 400 years later!
There are also wine events, music, stained
glass and medieval festivals as well as flea
markets, art and craft events and a grand
Chartres is perfectly doable as a day trip
from Paris with the train taking from 59
minutes. Chartres station is very close to
Getting around in Chartres is easy - you
can walk to most of the sites in Chartres,
hire a bike, or jump on the free shuttle bus
(Monday to Saturday), or the Flilibus
network (MyBus Chartres app gives you all
the bus timetables, schedules and status).
There's plenty of choice for hotels and
B&Bs in Chartres. If you're looking for
luxury then you won't do better than to
splash out at Le Grand Monarque - pure
indulgence and utterly lovely. By the way,
you may see the name Grand Monarque
everywhere in France, it refers to Louis
Eure-et-Loir Tourism: www.tourism28.com
The Gateway to
the south of
Valence, the gateway city to the
south of France, a place of history,
fabulous restaurants and wonderful
architecture as Lucy Pitts discovers
Just an hour south of Lyon, Valence is a beautiful and
surprising city. It’s known as the gateway to the south of
France and from Paris, you can be there in a couple of
hours on the TGV which steams its way through and on
south to Montpellier and beyond.
Perched on the banks of the Rhône River, a stone’s throw
from the Ardèche, Valence is a city of narrow cobbled
streets, parks, canals, the regal Champ de Mars, a
marina, and a diverse mixture of architecture. It has
history, culture and cuisine in abundance and all basking
in the reach of the Vercours Mountains and the Pre Alpes.
In the footsteps of pilgrims and
The TGV station is about 10km out of the centre but the
city’s Gare de Valence Ville is a beautiful 19th century
structure which brings you right into the heart of the city
(or sends you off on its many tendrils to explore the
region). From here walk straight down Avenue Pierre
Sémard and it will being you out into the grand Esplanade
du Champ Du Mars.
You find yourself wondering why
you don’t know more about this
This 3-hectare site has lime trees, lawns
and fountains and the romantic Kiosk de
Peynet. With views across to the Vercours
and Ardèche mountains and the old ruins of
Castle Crussol, it’s a captivating start and
has access to one of the city’s eight parks,
the Jouvet Park. With the impressive line of
19th century façades bordering the Champ
du Mars you find yourself wondering why
you don’t know more about this elegant city.
From the wide Boulevard du Général de
Gaulle head into the narrow back streets
where you’ll find a melting pot of architecture
and intriguing pockets of interest.
This city was on the pilgrims’ trail and the
cathedral (built and rebuilt in the 11th, 17th
and 19th centuries) has a special ambulatory
for pilgrims and monument to Pope
Pius VI, who died in Valence. Then there’s
the Maison des Têtes, a 16th century house
built on the cusp of the transition from Gothic
to Renaissance and covered in sculpted
heads representing wind, wealth and time,
as well as theology, law and medicine. And
there’s the Pendentif which, built in 1548,
broke new architectural ground with its
In fact, almost every twist and turn in the
narrow streets of Valence reveals something
intriguing, from narrow steps in the city walls
to art galleries (the city has an impressive
collection) to three Michelin starred
restaurants. There’s even an Armenian
centre here and the different architecture
seems to sway gently through the centuries.
A bite of Valance
Valence has food and the gourmand at its
heart. In every boulangerie you’ll find a local
speciality: the Suisse and the Pogne. The
Suisse is shaped and decorated as a Swiss
soldier in honour of Pope Pius’ guards, it's a
sort of orange blossom flavoured brioche
while the Pogne is a rounded brioche.
The very best place to try these is the
Boulangerie Nivon, a short stroll from the
station and where they’ve been serving
these delights to commuters since 1856.
They're possibly the best in the city and the
bakers’ passion is palpable, (or should I say
In every restaurant, you’ll come across
another speciality, their tiny Raviole du
Dauphiné, made of white cheese and
parsley. Then there’s Anne Sophie Pic and
her family. An award winning, third
generation chef, she has followed in her
grandfather’s footsteps by winning 3
Michelin stars. Their influence is felt
everywhere and of course, they’re not the
only Michelin starred chefs in the city or the
A weekend for the
And then of course there’s the annual Fête
de la Gastronomie at the end of September.
At this time of year, the weather’s still balmy
and the city throws its doors open to
embrace all the flavours of the region as
well as the cuisine of the world.
Centred on the Place des Clercs but
spreading out through the city, you can
enjoy local celebrity chefs preparing their
favourite dishes, markets, musico –
gastronomic (yes cooking to the rhythm of
the DJ), workshops and a tour of 8 of the
city’s historical monuments who host fine
food tastings. The streets are filled with
music and teasingly delightful aromas and
lots of the restaurants embrace the festival
spirit with special offers and dishes.
Each year the festival celebrates a specific
theme that encourages “the reflection and
discovery of French Gastronomy” and in
2015, the festival saw some 2 million
visitors. If you love France and you love
food, it’s a little slice of the idyllic.
Linger a little longer
Valence feels sophisticated and elegant, yet
quiet and very personal. There are regular
markets here on Tuesdays, Thursdays,
Fridays and Saturdays and other cultural
events going on throughout the year. In July
there’s a large and free music festival on the
Champ Du Mars and of course, there’s the
many places to visit beyond the city and in
the surrounding Drôme. Valence is Lyon’s
beautiful but shy cousin and a city that you
should take the time to get to know much
Details for Fête de la Gastronomie at:
Where to stay:Les Négociants is in the
centre of the city, a few steps from the
station and almost next door to the
Boulangerie Nivon. It has a quirky and fun
feel and is a great place to explore from.
Cassel Village prefere de
Approach the town of Cassel
from the flat countryside, fields
of wheat swaying in a light
breeze in summer, car winding
its way helter-skelter-like, up
and around the mountain of
Cassel until you suddenly
reach the cobbled roads that
lead into the small town with
big views at the top of the
famous hill of French Flanders.
Janine Marsh explores the
newly award-winning favourite
town of the French 2018
View over the countryside around
Favourite garden of the French in Cassel
An essential stop when you visit Cassel has
to be the multi award winning garden known
as the Jardins de Mont des Récollets. This
rather unusual garden is famous in France,
in fact it was voted favourite garden of the
French in 2013 and has an unusual history.
Owner and gardener extraordinaire
Emmanuel de Quillacq took over what was
his grandfather’s farm, in 1986. Having
always worked in an office, he developed an
overwhelming passion for the glorious
countryside and the town of Cassels. After
studying at the famous Versailles school of
gardening, he devoted his life and every
working day to turning the once neglected
farmland into a fabulous garden that visitors
fall head over heels for.
You enter via an alley of apple trees to
discover a grand “room” of topiary, of
hydrangeas, roses, wild meadow flowers.
These “rooms” in the garden are of all
different styles but flow effortlessly, one to
the other. You can’t help but think it looks a
bit like something out of a Breughel painting.
“It’s Flemish renaissance” says Emmanuel,
“that’s what inspired me and drives the
design, over time the style has slowly
The view from the garden over the
surrounding countryside is breath-takingly
beautiful. “When I first saw this place, it
reminded me of Breughel’s painting the
Hunters in the Snow” says the green
fingered Emmanuel, and if you see the
painting, you’ll see what he means. “It’s like
a window on nature here, framing a different
view every single day.” Indeed, there are
windows cut into hedges all over the place
offering a different perspective on the
landscape. It’s said that on a clear day you
can see the English coast from here and the
Belfry of Bruges!
This is a spectacular garden to visit,
peaceful, lush and beautiful. You can also
take a break at the little café which is full of
charm – as well as artefacts of yesteryear.
Lunch is of the traditional Flemish style,
made with local products and fruit from the
garden and is open daily through July and
August, at other times by appointment for
Cassel – favourite village of the French 2018
Those gorgeous gardens are not the only
winners around here. The town itself took
the first prize in the hugely popular “Le
village préféré des Français” contest in
2018. When much-loved TV host Stéphane
Bern announced that Cassel had beaten
much more famous rivals to the title,
including Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy
and Roussillon in Provence, the locals were
more than delighted. You may never have
heard of this place but taking this title
almost guarantees that Cassel is about to
get a lot more well-known.
The charm of Cassel lies in the fact that it is
typically Flemish, that it has outstanding
views over the beautiful countryside, friendly
folk, the gardens of Mont des Récollets and
a strong sense of the authentic and of the
past. It’s been likened to something out of a
story from Père Castor, beloved stories for
children originating in the early 20th century
with a fairy-tale, folklore vibe.
It’s a small town with an excellent museum
with a good collection of paintings and
regular temporary exhibitions.
It’s a nice place in which to take an amble.
Enjoy the views from the ramparts, the
castle having long gone, or from the gardens
at the highest point of Mont Cassel, 176m
up, where you’ll find a windmill on the site of
the former castle. You can drive to the top
but its much more fun to climb the quirky
Alpine stairs. While you’re there, you should
definitely take a break at the enchanting
Estaminet Kasteelhof, a Flemish word for a
tavern. It’s actually the restaurant of
Emmanuel de Quillacq of the Jardins de
Mont des Récollets and reflects his love for
tradition and Flanders with a fabulous rustic
menu, local beers, home made lemonades
and wonderful traditional décor. The terrace
has stunning views and inside is
atmospheric and fun. There’s also a little
shop where you can buy local products (8
Don’t miss the Musée de Flandre which has
a beautiful 16th Renaissance façade. It’s
home to a rich collection of paintings, prints
and sculptures and presents the history of
Photo: Remy Catelain
Enjoy the ambiance of Cassel
There are plenty of charming cafés and
restaurants to lure you.
Locals love: Kasteelhof (above) and Le
Kerelshof II at the heart of the Grand Place.
It gets very lively at the weekends and is
friendly, fun with a great range of beers and
a decent menu of local foods and
specialities from carbonnade (beef stew with
ale and brown sugar) to potjevleesch (cold
meats in aspic) and sugar pie!
Take a break: Café aux Trois Moulins, like
something out of Maigret story. It’s great for
a coffee, beer and robust plates of food like
steak frites, friendly staff and very good
value. 50 Grand'Place
Wine and dine: Fenetre sur la Cour, this
Michelin starred restaurant offers a fabulous
menu at a non-Michelin price. With a 2-
course lunch menu starting at Euros 23.50
or Chef Jean-Luc Paulhan’s 5 course choice
with 3 wines at just €62.50 in beautiful
surroundings. 5 Rue du Marechal Foch
Local specialities and artisans
At La Ferme des Templiers, you’ll be
tempted by Le Boulet de Cassel, a local
mimolette made with milk from a local breed
of cow, the Rouge Flamande.
Ferme des Récollets is run by the Beun
family, and you’ll receive a warm welcome
before you fall in love with their cheeses
which are mostly made from goats milk.
Try the new local brew Bière du Reuze,
named after the famous giants of the area
You can buy local products in the town at
shops in the town at 2 rue Bollaert and 32
Grand Place as well as at the Estaminet
More info: https://www.coeurdeflandre.fr/
Le Petit History:
He was famous for his eloquent speeches,
for standing up for workers’ rights and as
one of the founding members and leader of
the French Socialist Party, the forerunner to
France’s Socialist Party. He also founded
the socialist newspaper L'Humanité, still
On a Friday evening July 31, 1914, a 29-yearold
French nationalist by the name of Raoul
Villain arrived at the Café du Croissant
(which is still there) at 146 Rue Montmartre,
Paris. He pulled a pistol from his pocket
and fired two shots at a diner, striking his
target twice in the head. The hits were fatal
for Jean Jaurès, the victim, dining with the
editor of L'Humanité.
Nowadays Jaurès is best remembered for
his anti-militarism and attempts to avert the
outbreak of the First World War.
Wherever you go in France you’re sure to
come across a Place Jean Jaurès, a rue Jean
Jaurès, Avenue Jean Jaurès, schools and
even metro stations of that name – Paris
Every French school child will learn about
Jean Jaurès, he is one of the most wellknown
figures of French history, though he
is hardly known outside his home country.
Who was Jean Jaurès
Born 1859 in the Tarn region, Jean Jaurès
became one of the most celebrated figures
of French history, a social thinker, anti-war
campaigner and politician. A man who has
left his mark on French culture.
“Never, for forty years, has Europe been in a
more threatening and more tragic
situation," he warned in the spring of 1914.
He had been trying to force governments to
find a path other than war by organising
workers strikes in Europe. It didn’t please
His assassination brought the strike
actions to an end. Just hours later, Germany
declared war on Russia and two days later
on France. By August 4 when Jaurès was
buried, all the major powers of Europe were
officially at war.
Jean Jaurès final resting place is in the
The sweetest smelling city in
Kevin Pilley follows his nose in Provence
I had my own “Nose”.
All to myself.
Grasse, the perfume capital of
France, the most fragrant place on
earth... Kevin Pilley takes a tour
with his "nose"...
The town didn’t always smell this nice. It
used to stink,” my Nose told me. “It was a
leather tanning town and the stench was
unbearable. The first fragrance produced
was for designer gloves. Rose water to
mask the ghastly smell. Catherine de Medici
endorsed them. And Grasse quickly
became the perfume capital of the world.”
I was being shown round “The Galimand
Studio des Fragrances” in the Route de
Cannes. My Nose was a perfume expert
and professional petro-chemist. “Every
perfume has its own unique composition
made from one hundred and forty-seven
notes,” my private Nose said.
“Each perfume has the peak, the heart and
the base or, fond note. The job of professional
noses is to create a harmonious
formula. When you visit Grasse you must be
prepared to be seduced.”
For four hundred heady years, the tiny
village in the foothills of the Alps-Maritimes
above the French Mediterranean coast has
been the centre of the international perfume
industry. “Chanel No.5” was invented there
in 1922. It was the first perfume to use
synthetic materials - aldehyde. But, every
year twenty-seven tonnes of jasmine are
still harvested from the surrounding
countryside and used by the local
“fumeries”. There is also a weekly market in
the Genoa-inspired square, a rose festival in
May and a jasmine festival in August. And
the perfumeries are busier than ever.
My “perfumerie” crawl moved on to the
museum on the third floor of the yellowwalled
“Fragonard” factory where I was
given a new Nose who invited me to take a
deep breath. “You are standing in the most
fragrant place on earth,” my Nose informed
me. “You can smell the whole world from
here. The finest smells the earth can
"You are standing in the most
fragrant place on earth"
My nose swooned and reeled off the
aromas. “Turkish roses picked at dawn,
Egyptian orange blossom, lavender from the
plateaux of Haute Provence, local petal-less
wild mimosa, Madagascan ylang-ylang,
Californian lemons, Calabrian bergamot,
Israeli grapefruit, Indian Ocean vanilla,
Russian coriander, Somalian frankincense,
Sri Lankan sandalwood, Philipinno cloves,
Japanese ginger, Kenyan cedar, Italian iris,
Guatemalan cardamom, South African
I couldn’t hold my breath any longer. The spiel
was highly concentrated, and I was starting to
hyperventilate. But my Nose asked me to
muster one more inhalation. She wanted to
educate my nostrils. Her nose told her I didn’t
know my “Intuition” from my “Knowing”. Or, my
“Youth Dew” from my “Brut”.
“If you want to smell the world you need only to
come to the French Riviera. We can now
simulate the world’s most arousing animal
musk. Did you know ambergris is a substance
secreted by the digestive system of sperm
whales? And castor is produced by beaver
There was a lot of talk about modern, high-tech
techniques and meeting the qualitative and
quantitative expectations of the modern
marketplace and making human beings smell
desirable in an ecologically desirable way.
Having finished the maceration rooms and
proud of myself for finding out that ylang-ylang
comes from a tree belonging to the custard
apple family, my next stop was “The
International Museum of Perfumery”.
It’s a glassy modern makeover of an
eighteenth-century hotel and crammed with
perfume-making paraphernalia, “olfactive
stations”, “essence fountains” and “vapour
trails”, telling the same story of distillation,
absorption, supercritical carbon dioxide
volatile solvents and how it’s become
possible to smell like Beyonce and Lady
Feeling sufficiently up on molecular science,
I read the walls for some more background.
Using donkey-drawn carts, the earliest
French “parfumiers” carried their primitive
and very crude distilling vats into the
mountains around Grasse, gathered wild
flowers and extracted scents on the spot in
the open air by steaming the plants in large
copper cauldrons. The still had been
introduced from Arabia and an Italian monk,
Mauritius Frangipani, had discovered that
perfumes can be preserved in alcohol.
In 1759, using skills learnt from the pomade
(hair ointment) makers of Montpellier, the
people of Grasse began supplying Parisian
scent-makers with their raw materials.
Business grew and soon Grasse was
producing iris, hyacinth and rose scented
soaps in special containers. Antoine Chiris
founded one of the first perfumeries in the
town at the end of the century. There are
now three times more artificial, man-made
fragrances on the market than natural ones.
Approximately six thousand essential oils
are used by the cosmetic industry.
Today, the Grasse perfume industry
employs a workforce of several thousand.
The global cosmetic industry is thought to be
worth $72.7 billion. Four factories in Grasse
are open to the public and guided tours
explain the series of washing, filtration,
purification, evaporation and impregnation
which constitutes the highly involved and
painstaking production process. All this is
overseen by one expert who is affectionately
known as “The Chief Nose” or “Le
“La Musee International de la Perfumerie”,
which opened in 1989, has a collection of
antique amphorae and stoppered bottles
from famous manufactures like Lalique and
Baccarat. Also exhibited is Marie
Antoinette’s travel case and “chatelaines” –
private perfume bottles on chains.
In 1990, one bottle of “Bouchon Mures”, an
electric blue flagon by Lalique, fetched a
staggering £38,000 at auction.
Fine scents are like fine wines. But the
bottle is almost as important as what is
inside. Many, like Ernst Beaux’s Chanel
No.5 bottle, have become design classics.
The story of perfume contains a few
surprises. Russian astronauts went into
space with phials full of perfume and
essential oils to remind them of home. From
its earliest documented use perfume has
put man in touch with the heavens. The
word “perfume” derives from the Latin “per
fumum” meaning “through smoke”, The
ancient Greeks and Egyptians burnt
aromatic substances in their temples to
placate the gods and mask the smell of
burning flesh during human sacrifices.
As Christianity spread perfume was frowned
upon as a vanity until it was revived by the
Crusaders returning from the Middle-East.
In Tudor times, Europeans sprinkled
pleasant-smelling love-in-the-mist seeds
into their hair to prevent lice.
Perfumes fall into three basic categories –
floral, orientals and oceanics. The top
sellers include Chanel’s “Chanel No. 5”
which Marilyn Monroe wore (“and nothing
else”), “Gucci’s “Envy”, Givenchy’s
“Organza”, and Calvin Klein’s “Obsession”.
Paris perfume makers Lubin make Black
Jade, said to be based on a perfume
recipe loved by Marie-Antoinette,
entrusted to a friend, passed down
through the centuries...
Grasse is especially known for
its fragrant May rose, the pale
pink flower that blooms in May,
and jasmine. Both flowers are at
the heart of more than a few
famous fragrances, including
Chanel’s star, No. 5.
A Multi-billion dollar industry - not
to be sniffed at
Today’s perfume industry is very profitable.
It's predicted that the US perfume market
alone will exceed sales of 7 billion dollars in
by 2020. Multinationals now control the
major perfume houses. Paris-based
“L’Oreal” , founded in 1907 by chemist
Eugene Schueler who invented the world’s
first synthetic hair dye, has a portfolio of
twenty-one leading brands including
“Lancome“,” “Giorgio Armani”( acquired in
1980 and including “Mania”, “Acqua di Gio”
and Armani Pour Homme“), “Ralph Lauren”,
“Cacharel” and “Lancome” (bought in 1964)
perfumes and fragrances.
Someone once worked out that more than
eighty-five of its products are bought every
second - every day. Which is a stat not to
be sniffed at.
Along the Boulevard Victor Hugo in the
“Molinard” (depuis 1849) workshop, I
achieved my lifelong ambition of creating my
own fragrance. A smell that is uniquely me.
One day soon I hope to create a whole
range of smells. That will turn heads.
I learned the art of alchemy and seduction
and was allowed to indulge in my mad
professor fantasy in order to create my own
toilet water. Using pipettes, I concocted my
own personalized scent and received a
“diploma l’eleve”, certifying that I had
attended the “tarinology” workshop and
graduated as a “trainee nose” from one of
Grasse’s highly-respected perfume schools.
I am now qualified to boast that I know what
it takes to smell well.
I haven’t named my scent yet. But I have
dedicated it to Giorgio Armani who once said
“For those who live with style
and elegance, dressing is a
ritual. The final act in that
ritual is fragrance.”
Like "a faceted diamond set in the Indre
bathing in the river like princely creature".
Honoré de Balzac
On a hot summer’s night, after dinner at the
lovely Hotel Le Grand Monarque, in the bijou
town of Azay-le-Rideau I decided to stroll
through the pretty little streets and take a
peek at the famed Chateau through its
ornate iron gates, ahead of a day time visit
scheduled for the next day. Imagine my
surprise to discover that at 10pm the gates
were open, and visitors were welcomed in
for free to wander the fragrant gardens and
ooh and ah at the sight of the fairy-tale castle
lit up against a twilight sky, its reflection
shimmering in the moat, perfectly still except
for ripples caused by a dipping dragonfly, a
lazy fish or an amorous frog looking for
company. A full moon hovered over the
castle, a glowing homage to its beauty as the
silhouette of small bats flitted through the
beams of the moon. The scent of lavender
was heady. It was like a dream chateau
come to life…
History of Azay-le-Rideau
Standing on an island in the middle of the
Indre River, the Château of Azay-le-Rideau
was built combining the latest technical
innovations from Italy and the art of French
In around 1510, Gilles Berthelot, Finance
Minister of King Louis XII and Mayor of
nearby Tours, became owner of the ruins of
a fortress in Azay-le-Rideau. He had plans
drawn up for a château, putting his wife
Philippe (in those days, a name for both men
and women) in charge of the construction. By
1515, the year Francois I came to the throne,
the Renaissance influence was in full flow.
Philippe proved to be an excellent project
manager, ordering slate from Anjou, ensuring
masons, carpenters and workmen were on
site at the right time.
Photo Terry Webb
photo: Terry Webb
Gilles paid homage to King Francois and his
wife Queen Claude by having their initials
carved on the walls. Flattery did no good,
the proud owners never had time to enjoy
their home. A general investigation ordered
by Francis I revealed embezzlement.
Berthelot fled, abandoning his wife Philippe
and his château, he died in 1529. Francis I
seized the unfinished Château and gave it
to one of his loyal followers. In places you
can see carvings begun and doomed to
never to be finished, it adds to the romance.
The Chateau today is under state ownership
and it is one of the absolute jewels of the
Loire Valley. Incredibly pretty inside and out,
the river that surrounds it reflects its beauty
in a thousand ripples.
Recent renovations (completed in 2017)
revealed some of the chateau’s secrets, for
instance the practice of bulrush matting for
the walls. The tradition was spotted by an
eagle-eyed historian in a 16th century
tapestry of a man getting dressed. You’ll
now see this in the bedroom that was
Philippe’s. In her day, it wasn’t just a place
to sleep but to live, she would receive
visitors there, eat and work in the room, so
keeping it warm in winter and cool in
summer was essential and the wall
coverings helped as did raising the bed off
the floor on a platform. It was also believed
that the smell of the reeds expelled bad
moods and cleansed the air!
Centuries of pigeons roosting on the roof
had left the famously white castle a rather
dull grey – not any more. Artisans and
craftsmen have repaired and restored the
chateau to glory using authentic methods,
creating a new path which goes all around
the castle and giving it a whole new lease of
The turrets, moat and cobbled sentry walk
are token gestures towards the look of a
fortress because this is in reality a dream
home of the 16th century – and no one
would mind it today either! The staircase
was incredibly innovative for its day, inside
(a novelty then), running centrally through
the chateau and giving fabulous views at
The rooms are exquisitely furnished and
decorated with tapestries and paintings and
the most extraordinary artworks. Automatons
bring the castle to life, whirling figures,
twirling cake stands, swishing curtains – it’s
all very fairy-tale like and perfectly suits this
most romantic and elegant of chateaux.
From early July to end August – the chateau
is lit up at night for evening visits.
What to see in Azay-le-
Take the time to discover the town while
you’re there - it’s charming and authentic
and there are some lovely shops and
Don’t miss – the Thé Salon with its gorgeous
artisan cakes (top left) at 23 Rue nationale.
Stroll down rue de Balzac, the road which
leads to the gates of the chateau, it's lined
with galleries, boutiques and cafés and is
Relax in the secret garden in front of the
chateau, filled with seasonal flowers and
Enjoy the wine... this is an area of
magnificent vineyards producing Touraine
A very small part
of a very large
wines including dry whites, sweet wines,
reds, rosés and sparkling wines. Follow the
Loire Valley wine route and explore the
vineyards and domaines along the counrtry
lanes of this lush region. There's evidence
that vines have been grown here since
Gallo-Roman times and the wines of
Touraine-Azay-le-Rideau reflect the
centuries of savoire-faire.
Don't forget to sample the delicious
Touraine cheeses such as Sainte-Maure de
Touraine, a tangy goats cheese that's
perfect with the regional wines!
Just outside the centre of Azay-le-Rideau in
Marnay you'll find the quirky and fascinating
Musée Maurice Dufresne, the latter an
obsessive collector of things. Set on an
island, it holds an authentic and amazing
collection of ancient vehicles, cars, bicycles,
planes, trucks, motorbikes, tractors,
agricultural or military machinery, vintage
posters and peculiar objects - including a
mobile guilotine. With more than 3000
pieces, allow a minimum of 2-3 hours to see
it all. There's also a restaurant on site which
is popular for lunch, so book your slot on
arrival if you can.
Also close by is the Chateau de l'Islette, a bit
of a hidden gem and not on the main tourist
route. Still lived in, the pretty Renaissance
chateau is known locally as the little sister of
the Chateau d'Azay-le-Rideau. Here, the
great Rodin conducted his stormy love affair
with fellow artist Claude Camille, it's
charming, authentic and has lovely gardens,
perfect for a picnic or a boat ride on the
Hotel: Grand Monarque a former 18th
century post house in the centre of Azay-le-
Rideau is charming; lovely restaurant too.
Take a tour with Val de Loire Travel
Tourist office: www.touraineloirevalley.com;
I love the tiny medieval villages, with
their warm, worn stone walls covered
with abundant, beautiful blooms. I love
the bright, vivid colours of Vieille Nice
and Villefranche-sur-mer, and their lively
atmosphere of a perpetual holiday. The
powdery blue shutters, the Cypress
trees, the sound of cicadas at night, the
blue of the Mediterranean, the red
geraniums in flower boxes, the scent of
jasmine as well as the briny sea. I love
the narrow alleys of Èze and La Turbie,
where you feel like you're lost in a
fairytale. I love Vence, Cagnes-sur-Mer,
and Saint-Paul-de-Vence for their
artistic heritage, the names of so many
famous artists that once called these
places home still alive in the locals'
hearts and minds, and still inspiring
visitors decade after decade. And cliché
of clichés but oh so true, I love the
people, their culture, their beautiful,
enviable joie de vivre, and their
impeccable style that shows in
everything they do.
One of my favourite
restaurants is Au Vieux Four
in tiny Gourdon, where I had
a scrumptious risotto
piémontais with roast
chicken, followed by a
chocolate gâteau with mango
sorbet for dessert. It was one
of the best meals I had in the
south of France, also made
memorable by the fact that it
was preceded by a strenuous,
steep, two hour-long
hike up the mountain, all the
way from Pont-du-Loup to
I love the unpretentious Loco Loco in
Villefranche-sur-mer. Last year, after
having a delicious seafood salad there,
I wanted to pay with a credit card,
unaware of the fact that they only took
cash - which I didn't have. Jean Pierre,
the waiter (and co-owner, but I didn't
know that at the time), graciously
directed me to the nearest cash
machine (which wasn't really that
near), trusting that I'd go back and pay
him, which I did, of course. It felt good
to see him again upon return to
Villefranche-sur-mer one year later,
although I only saw him briefly in the
narrow alley outside the restaurant. I
didn't talk to him but posted this story
on Instagram with a photo of him, and
was surprised in the most pleasant
way when a young girl left a comment
saying, "That man is my father!" Isn't it
lovely how we're all connected
somehow in this digital age!
The beautiful Negresco Hotel, which is
utterly deserving of its great reputation, is
undoubtedly the most beautiful hotel I've
had the good fortune to stay in. Not only is
the Art Deco architecture breathtaking, but
everything inside is curated with the utmost
attention to detail. The interior decor
elements are impeccably chosen to create
a space that is luxurious yet welcoming
and warm. There are countless wonderful
antique furnishings and decorative objects
throughout, and the art collection gracing
the walls is worthy of a small museum. An
experience not to be missed, for sure!
Renata Haidle is a Billings, Montanabased
travel, architecture, and fine art
photographer. She travels to Europe
regularly, mainly to France and
England, where she photographs
beautiful architecture and snippets of
everyday life. Her travel photos have
been featured in numerous
publications and exhibitions. You can
find her at: www.renatahaidle.com
Every weekend, we invite
you to share your photos
on Facebook - it's a great
way for everyone to see
"real" France and be
inspired by real travellers
snapping pics as they go.
Every week there are
utterly gorgeous photos
being shared and here we
showcase the most popular
of each month. Share your
favourite photos with us on
Facebook - the most "liked"
will appear in the next issue
of The Good Life France
Sunset over Carcassonne by
Lisa Felmingham, most
popular photo in July
The colourful town of Dinan,
Brittany by David Jurivcevich,
most popular photo in August!
The Chateau of Versailles through
its gilded gate, by Jerri Freeman,
most popular photo in September
Join us on Facebook and like
and share your favourite photos
UNESCO world heritage
The historic department of Tarn is awash with
UNESCO listed attractions, Rupert Parker
heritage in the Tarn
Tarn, in the Occitanie region, is one of those
places in France that confuses people. They
automatically think of the wild Gorges des Tarn
which are in Lozère, some 140kms to the North
West of Albi, Tarn’s capital. The River Tarn flows
through both but there the comparison ends. The
département has a landscape of green hills, lush
vineyards, medieval Bastide villages and some
notable UNESCO World Heritage sites.
I start in the capital Albi, around an hour west of
Toulouse. From my room in the Mercure Cité
Episcopale Hôtel, overlooking the River Tarn, there’s a
picture postcard view of the city, dominated by the
fortress-like Sainte-Cécile Cathedral. It glows red in
the early morning, a monstrous mountain of brick,
erected from 1282 to 1392, as a powerful show of
strength, after the Cathar revolt was finally quashed.
Bishop Bernard de Castanet didn’t just build this
cathedral, he also started a vicious inquisition
accusing many prominent townspeople of heresy.
I cross the Tarn into the city by the 11th century Pont
Vieux and make my way up to this Fortress of God.
Up close, it’s even more intimidating, a brick bunker,
with windows nothing but slits, topped with the
highest brick tower in Europe, rising to 78m. It’s part
of the UNESCO rated Episcopal City which also
includes Bishop Bernard’s own stronghold, the Palais
de la Berbie plus the palace’s riverside gardens, the
Saint Salvi church and the Pont Vieux.
After the Gothic gauntness of its exterior, the inside of
the Cathedral comes as something of a pleasant
surprise. The vault is covered in richly colourful
frescoes, the largest example of Italian Renaissance
painting in France. At the back is an enormous
depiction of the Last Judgement, four stories high and
taking up the entire width of the building.
It was painted by Flemish artists between
1474 and 1480 and the reptilian demons,
torturing sad souls for eternity, are a stern
reminder of the wages of sin. It’s missing
its central section, knocked through to give
access to a more recent chapel at the base
of the bell tower. Sadly, that means that
God, the judge of the Last Judgement, is no
longer to be seen.
At the other end, surrounding the choir is a
Gothic rood screen, carved out of
limestone, housing dozens of statues in
niches. By the central doorway, you can
make out Adam trying to cover himself,
facing Eve, striking her model’s pose.
Before the Counter Reformation, access to
this part of the church was only available to
the clergy, keeping out the common people
who could only hear, but not see, the
celebration of mass.
Son of Albi - Toulouse-
Albi’s most famous son is the painter Henri
de Toulouse-Lautrec and the house where
he was born in 1864 still exists, although
it’s closed to the public. What you can see
is an almost complete collection of his
works in the Palais de la Berbie, next to the
Cathedral.When he died in 1901 of
alcoholism and syphilis, nobody was
interested in his paintings and they
struggled to find a home. Fortunately one
of his cousins was Mayor of Albi at the time
and the Toulouse Lautrec museum opened
influenced Van Gogh and
Picasso was a great admirer"
Lautrec had bone disease, probably a result
of inbreeding in his family, and broke his
right thigh bone when he fell off a chair
when he was 13. Recuperating in the
Pyrenees, he tripped and broke the other
thigh bone and both never completely
healed. He started drawing and painting
during long periods of convalescence and
went to Paris to study with Bonnat and
Cormon. During this time, he had his first
encounter with a prostitute and started
painting the low life of Montmartre.
What surprises in the museum is that he
really was an accomplished painter although
he never seems to have settled on a style.
You can detect expressionist, impressionist,
classical, even chiaroscuro in the 240
canvases on display. He probably influenced
Van Gogh and Picasso was a great admirer.
Towards the end of his life, in 1891, he taught
himself lithography and made the 31 Moulin
Rouge posters for which he’s justly famous.
singer of the Belle
The other UNESCO listed attraction in Albi is
the parchment Mappa Mundi, dating from
the 8th century, and one of the oldest
representations of the world. It belonged to
Albi cathedral and you can see a facsimile in
the Treasury with information panels
explaining the content and the history.
I’m privileged to be shown the original,
now kept in the Pierre-Amalric Library
and only brought out on special
occasions. As well as being exceptionally
delicate, its surprisingly small, the size of
an exercise book. It represents the world
in the form of a horseshoe, centred
around the Mediterranean, orientated to
the East and features some fifty names of
cities, regions, rivers, seas and winds. I
can just make out the shape of Europe
and even India is represented, although
it’s not as close as they thought.
Around 45 minutes south of Albi is the city
of Castres, which developed around the
Benedictine abbey of Saint Benoît, founded
in AD 647. Don’t miss the Saturday morning
market which fills the whole of Place Jean
Jaurès. From Quai des Jacobins there's a
striking view of the medieval multi-storey
tanners' and dyers' houses lining the River
Agout, known as the Venice of Languedoc
All have basements, opening directly onto
the river where animal skins were cleansed
and rinsed and then put in tanks full of lime.
The ground floor was occupied by the
workers with the masters living above. On
the top two floors were the drying sheds,
with shuttered openings protecting the
hides from the sun during summer and from
the frost during winter. Under the roof, the
“soleiller”, or second drying shed was left
wide open to let the air and light in.
The Bishop's Palace is now the town hall
and has immaculately laid out gardens by
Le Notre, a famous 17th century landscape
gardener who also laid out the gardens at
Versailles. It’s also home to the Goya
museum, dedicated to Spanish artists, and
contains a handful of works by the master
himself. Don’t miss their Picasso, the "Bust
of Man Writing", on loan from the Picasso
Royal School-Abbey of
Half an hour south west from here is the
Bastide village of Sorèze. The Benedictine
abbey became a Royal Military School under
Louis XVI, then a college for the rich and
famous and only closed in 1991.
The main attraction here are the UNESCO
World Heritage tapestries of the master
weavers of Aubusson. It was a monk, Dom
Robert, from the nearby Abbey of En Calcat,
who revived the tradition in the early
In the new museum, located in the Abbey
School, there are 60 stunning examples of
his tapestries, featuring motifs inspired by
nature, plus sketches and paintings. Other
works by the Aubusson weavers are also
featured and there’s an exhibit outlining the
process of creating a tapestry.
In the southwestern end of the Tarn, in the
Black Mountains, is the tiny village of Les
Cammazes. It’s an unlikely UNESCO site
but its claim to fame is the Rigole
de la Montagne, or Mountain Channel,
which supplies water to the Canal du Midi.
It was built in 1666 by engineer Pierre-Paul
Riquet and later modified to pass under the
mountain through a vault designed and
built by Vauban twenty years later. This
122m underground aqueduct has been
recently restored and is open to the public.
It’s not for the faint of heart as the pathway
is dark and narrow, but armed with a torch,
it’s a unique experience.
Tarn Tourisme: information on the region.
Albi Tourisme: information about the city.
Castres Tourisme: information about the
Mercure Cité Episcopale Hotel overlooks
the river in Albi.
Hotel Abbaye Ecole de Sorèze is inside
Villa de Mazamet luxury B&B, Mazamet
Restaurant Le Lautrec has regional fare
opposite the painter’s birthplace in Albi.
La Table du Sommelier offers local wine
pairings with each course in Albi.
La Part des Anges has a Michelin Bib
Gourmand in Castres.
Les Collets Rouges is a stylish
establishment inside Sorèze Abbey.
Le Salon de Vauban serves home grown
produce in Les Cammazes.
The ultimate Fun Run
Kevin Pilley is lured to put on his
running shoes and drink wine for one of
the most unique marathons in the world
Photo © Yves Mainguy/AMCM
Photo © Yves Mainguy/AMCM
There comes to every person the realization
that they are not as young or athletic as they
once were. It came to me in Bordeaux. When I
was overtaken by Obi-Wan Kenobi and lapped
by Darth Vader. Even a Dalek overtook me.
Going uphill, only Jabba the Hutt was slower.
There are several ways to see the famous
vineyards of Bordeaux and Medoc. You can go
by car, by bicycle or do them on horseback.
You can see them by hot air balloon or boat.
And even by all-terrain vehicle. Or you can be
chased through them by the Incredible Hulk.
Every year, the world's largest fine winegrowing
region which produces more than
800 million bottles of wine every year, stages
Le Marathon du Médoc - a 42.195-kilometre
"fun run" which takes in 55 vineyards and
passes 50 chateaux.
The course runs through famous winegrowing
towns such as Saint-Estèphe,
Leyssac, Marbuzet, Saint-Julien-Beychevelle
and Le Pouyalet, home of Château Mouton
Rothschild which, with Lafite and Latour, is
one of the region's three Grand Crus classés
Photo © Yves Mainguy/AMCM
Each year, this unique race and sporting
challenge has a different theme. From
“Carnivals of the World” to this year’s theme
I didn’t run or even amble in the race. I didn’t
want to be humiliated by Carmen Miranda.
And I'm too old for a monokini. And I have a
feather allergy. I ran in the “Science Fiction”
Le Marathon is a resolutely convivial run. It's a
"It's all about taking on liquid and making
friends," winked a RoboCop. He wagged a
finger. "But not too much wine!" A health
certificate (physical rather than mental) is
required to enter the race.
"It's hectare after hectare of
hospitality out there"
Photo © Yves Mainguy/AMCM
"It sums up l'esprit du Medoc" Jean-Yves
Saint-Céran of the PR department said as
we stood at the starting line in Pauillac,
beside the Gironde estuary.
"On this day we celebrate health, sport and
joie de vivre."
A Wookiee in shorts offered me a wine
cork to chew on. "To keep up my energy
levels," he explained.
Les Bouchons de Bordeaux are delicious
almond sweets made to look like wine
"You should try and eat three corks a day
to keep the cramp away," a passing
Romulan smiled. "C'est l'Aquitaine way."
I limbered up among a sea of Ewoks. You
could tell the serious runners from the fun
runners. The elite runners weren't wearing
Batman suits or Superman capes. "It's
hectare after hectare of hospitality out
there. The friendliness is almost
unbearable," said a gentleman dressed as
I was surrounded by tentacles and green
faces, Timelords and Jedi. "This run's about
your tastebuds. Not your lungs and legs,"
said a Joker.
From start to finish, degustation stations, or
"les postes sauvages," offer local
specialties such as "grenier medocain"
(flattened paunch of pig) and Bayonne ham.
People hold out cheese to you as well as
ice cream cornets. Whereas most
spectators at marathons encourage you
with cries of "Keep it going" or "Allez!
Allez!" in Médoc they just say, "Paté?
At the time of the marathon, a roadside
sign of cow does not mean you are
approaching a cattle grid or crossing.
It means: "Warning! Complimentary
gourmet barbecued entrecôte steak ahead
washed down with a rather nice local rosé."
There are 29 wine tasting stops en route.
Local producers pitch tables by the
roadside to tempt you with their wonderful
wares. The Cap Ferret oyster stands were
my downfall and the sponge stations
offering the local "Lillet" fruit liqueur made
Before I got to the "Vers St-Julien" signpost,
my face was the colour of Merlot and I felt I
had aged 20 years.
I started walking like Frankenstein within a
half a mile of the start. Not because of
cramp. But because of gout. I began to
hallucinate when four Godzillas bounded
past me pursued by Bilbo Biggins.
Fortunately, for a while I found myself in the
slipstream of R2-D2 and Willy Wonka. I
remember being passed by Dumbledore. Or
was it Gandalf? And a number of Buffies
Then came real humiliation. When you are
overtaken by a Yoda in a pram, you know
your athletics career is over. Or never really
started. It was a pity. My training had gone
well. The roadwork had been put in. For three
months, I had gone to as many cheese and
wine parties as I could. I had miles of cheese
strips under my belt.
After a short nap among the vines, I followed
the smell of gastronomy back into Pauillac to
see the victor cross the line and win himself
roughly 80 bottles of wine - his body weight
Every competitor gets a T-shirt, a knapsack
and, at my race, an optional handshake from
and photo opportunity with King Kong. A
Klingon appeared beside me and blurted out,
"Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!"
Photos © Yves Mainguy/AMCM
He bore his teeth, crinkled the frown lines on
his cheese-grater forehead and handed me a
"Today is a nice day to die!" Obi-Wan Kenobi
collapsed nearby. "Un vignoble effort, mon
ami," a voice said.
It came from the direction of Aslan. Although
it may have been Conan the Barbarian.
Only in France…
For further information:
Medoc Marathon takes place each
September, you can run or join a walking
If you want to register for next year's race:
A Soap story from
In 1688 Louis IV passed the Edict Of Colbert allowing the
use of Savon de Marseille label for olive oil soaps. By 1924
there were 132 soap makers, but by 1950 there was an
explosion of petrol-based soaps and the olive oil soaps went
out of fashion. Now there are just five savonneries who can
claim the true title Soap de Marseille and they have a
certification mark to prove it too – a small square soap block
with the Union des Professionals du Savon de Marseille
stated clearly on their packaging. Without that, the soap is
in effect – a fake. Judi Castille investigates...
Genuine Marseille soap is made by
artisans with the provenance, passion and
long-standing tradition in their blood to lay
claim to makers of genuine Marseilles
soap. A bar that contains 72% olive oil –
and once tried, you will always be loyal to
its soapy concoction.
Fer a Cheval, Marius Fabre, Savonnerie du
Midi, Le Serail and Pre de Provence
produce the ever popular green olive oil
soap bars. To earn the classification of
Marseille soap, it has to fulfil certain
criteria. It must be made in Marseille, in a
cauldron, have plant-based oils and be
fragrance free, no dyes, no preservatives.
Any chemicals, additives or mention of
allergens and you’ll just have an ordinary
soap. Many soap makers buy flaked soap,
soften the flakes through rollers and add
perfumes and colourants. The genuine
article is hard, homogenous. Its angular
imperfectness wears down slowly, the
special soapy lather lasts for about six
weeks even with daily use.
Using it for the first time was a revelation -
good for skin and for hair. My skin felt
clean, but not dry and it left my hair soft.
The area around Marseille provides all the
ingredients – olives, salt from the
Camargue and from the port, palm,
groundnut and whale oil to stabilize the
soap. Olive oil on its own produces a
sloppy soap, the other oils enable the soap
to clean, not break but still dissolve in
water. There's a five-step soap making
process and the genuine bars must have a
minimum olive oil content of 72%.
Using antique machinery, the soaps pass
through several stages. First there is
empatage, pasting all the ingredients
together in large cauldrons, like a witch’s
brew, until homogenous. The second stage,
cuisson et lavage, is the process of cooking
the soap and then washing out the salts. A
taste test is made, physically with the
tongue, and if too much “sting”, more water
is washed through. Washing removes
glycerol and fatty acids, leaving soap
Like boiled treacle, the soap is poured into
cooling vats to sit for 48 hours. It’s then
sliced into strips and put into miniature
blocks and cut using wire or traditional
soap cutting machines. The bars are then
stacked on wooden shelves to dry. They
range from 1000g to 100g blocks. For
Marius Fabre, Le Mistral wind passing
through the drying room allows the soaps
to dry slowly to avoid splitting. Their soaps
are cut and scraped to create a crisp edged
soap. The final touch is estampillage –
stamping the soaps with their trademark
names and proudly advertising the 72%
olive oil content. Marius Fabre hand stamp
their soaps before cutting. Le Serail use an
old stamping machine with four plates that
emboss and give the soap a softer shape
as the machine squeezes the soap in the
process. Once stamped, the soaps are
simply packaged, nothing fussy.
As with many artisan skills, it takes a long
apprenticeship to learn how to make soap.
Family run Marius Fabre was founded in
1900. Secrets kept and passed down the
generations. Le Serail was founded in 1949,
by Vincent Boetto. His grandson continues
the business. Producing soap is a passion
and not about time saving. It is the process
of creating, getting close to the product,
using your hands, the physicality of the
process that deems these soaps worthy of
their status. A commercial soap can be
made in just four hours, packed and
shipped within the day.
Marseille soap takes weeks, space is at a
premium, and because of this the price is
higher. But you will have an authentic
product and a supporting role in keeping
these traditions going and soft skin to boot.
Click here to
enter the draw
Win a copy of best selling food writer
Trish Deseine's lovely hard book of
recipes inspired by the Grand Epicerie
de Paris—the famous gourmet food
shop in the upscale Bon Marché
Trish shares her twist on both traditional
French classics and dishes with a
distinctly British flavour: from smoked
magret of duck to pear tarte tatin, and
from Welsh rarebit to Guinness cake.
Ever mindful of the home chef’s tight
schedule, the recipes—divided into
appetizers, soups, and salads; main and
side dishes; and desserts—are quick
and easy to prepare. . Each recipe is
accompanied by tips and a suggested
Click here to enter the draw which
ends on October 18, 2018
Win a copy of Catherine de Courcy's tale
of the Cathars of France in the 13th
Click here to
History and drama fans will really enjoy
this terrific blend of fact and fiction.
Montségur is a novel that’s about bravery,
love, faith and passion. Catherine de
Courcy’s descriptive writing brings alive
the struggles faced by the Cathars every
day from the Roman church and the
inquisitors. The history of the high Middle
Ages has been integrated well into the
novel, using details of well researched,
documented historical figures, adding
depth to the saga. There are twists and
turns, details about the Cathar beliefs and
practices and about a dramatic period of
history in France that continues to
fascinate to this day.
Click here to enter the draw which ends
on November 10, 2018
Morag and Andrew Ashworth from Scotland fell in love with
Samoëns, an alpine town, famous for its skiing, in the Haute
Savoie. They have a rental holiday home, The Lodge, there
and tell us why this part of the French alps is the perfect place
for both winter and summer fun…
What makes Samoëns a really great
place for a summer holiday?
Beautiful landscapes with stunning
waterfalls and summer pastures, plus
there’s so much to do for all ages and
levels of fitness with activities from rafting
to parapenting to road and mountain
biking. It’s like living in a large playground!
The village is beautiful and authentic with
wonderful botanic gardens and lovely town
What makes Samoëns a really great
place for a ski break?
For beginners and learners, Samoëns 1600
offers an ideal base, with a nice variety of
green and blue runs to challenge you as
you progress, and a great kids area. The
rest of Samoëns, Morillon and Les Carroz
offer mainly intermediate skiing with fast
blues and red’s, although at the top of
Samoëns there are some tough blacks and
great off piste.
The “green” Marvel run in Morillon is often
portrayed as one of the world’s most
picturesque ski runs (after heavy snow fall
there’s nowhere prettier), and it’s a 4-5km
cruise down to Morillon 1100.
The Flaine bowl is one of the premier ski
areas in France and has a great snow
record due to the “Mont Blanc effect”. There
are views of Mont Blanc from Tete de Saix,
en route to Flaine, and from Flaines Les
Samoëns is a historic town, with a traffic
free centre, the streets are full of gourmet
food shops providing mouth watering
locally made cheeses, bread, cakes and
produce. The weekly market is one of the
best in the region. It's a great place to visit
and across the top of sheer limestone cliffs,
eventually arriving in Sixt which is a small
ski area in its own right.
Ski season this year runs from Saturday,
December 15 to Monday, April 22, 2019.
Tell us about The Lodge
Flaine’s pistes are superb and there is
plenty of scope for off-piste skiing. There is
also an enormous variety of skiing.
The Serpentine piste is tremendous, a
favourite with ski instructors on their day
off, it is wide, fast and rolling. Lucifer lives
up to its name with unexpected
depressions interrupting your beautiful
carving. Diamiant Noir is a black off piste
couloir – definitely not for the faint hearted.
One of the most picturesque runs in Flaine
is Mephisto Superieure, with awesome
views across the Mont Blanc massive -
Mont Blanc is the big one in the middle!
From the top of Flaine you can also access
Cascades, this runs for 14km by waterfalls
The Lodge at Samoëns is an incredibly
beautiful and spacious chalet, which
comprises of contemporary split-level
living for families and groups in a luxury,
fully equipped home from home with
comfortable furnishings and a wood
burning stove. There are three south facing
balconies and the mountain views are
stunning, sitting out here, or lying on the
loungers just contemplating the majestic
scenery is a fabulous experience.
We benefit from Samoëns’ low-lying Alpine
climate - when it’s ski time up at Samoëns
1600, down in the town it can be 23°C! The
house is set in a large extremely private
garden with such amazing scenery it’s like
wandering through a photo album. We’ve
gone for cosy, comfy and stylish and there
are 5 bedrooms, loads of garage space and
storage – essential for all that ski
What is the winter season like in
Many people think the winter season is just
for downhill skiing but there’s so much
more on offer. We love to try cross country
skiing which is great for fitness and for the
incredible views from the top of the Col de
Joux plan; or traverse the valley by the river.
Tailor-made snowshoe adven-tures can be
organised and are a real escape from daily
life and a chance to discover utterly
magical, Narnia-like land-scapes.
Snowshoe walks make snowy winter terrain
accessible to anyone and everyone.
Whether you take a half or full day to
conquer a summit, stroll through the woods,
or build an igloo as a family, there’s an
excursion to suit your needs.
A very different après-ski experience can be
a snow shoe walk through snowy forests
with nothing but the moon and flickering
flame of your handheld torch to guide you,
enjoy the quiet, calm of the mountain after
dark as you make your way to Ludo’s
Yurts – traditional Mongolian roundhouses.
There you will enjoy a traditional meal in a
cosy, friendly environment.
Where to rent equipment
We tend to use Xtreme Glisses which is
efficiently run by Francois, who has a
fabulous team. It’s extremely close to the
Grand Massif Express Gondola, by the
roundabout near to the Bridge over the river.
As part of the ski rental package, you are
provided with overnight storage for your
skis and boots, this is a huge benefit as
there is no need to haul all of your gear
back to The Lodge. A good alternative is Jay
Sports Ski Loc which is a great ski shop
with rental, run by Thierry Jay. They have
three shops, two in the town and a third on
the Samoëns 1600 plateau.
Best places to eat out in Samoëns
Au Relais Septimontain: The food is great,
especially the Tartiflette but leave enough
room for their desserts, the crème brulee is
8 M des Monts: With husband in the
kitchen and wife running the show in the
restaurant, the whole experience is perfect.
Lovely local organic wines and products -
just make sure you leave room for a
Best Mountain Restaurants
Lou Caboens: A lovely varied menu and
Cedric is the perfect host. Lou Caboens is a
sun trap and provides one of the best
terraces in the Grand Massif. This is also
one of the best places for après-ski.
The Igloo – Morillon: Wonderful outside
deck. It is situated at the top of the Bergin chair
lift or can be accessed via the Marvel piste.
They serve great food, the Pila is fabulous, it’s a
similar dish to Tartiflette.
Both restaurants open year round. A great
day out in summer is to take the lifts to
Morillon 1100 on to Igloo, take a hike before
lunch and after walk to Morillon 1100 (1.5-2
Best Village Bars
La Reposette: Great atmosphere, great food
and drink, great people and comfy vouches
by the fireplace, just a short drive from
Samoëns centre. It’s no wonder it’s so
popular with both tourists and locals alike –
it's the perfect après-ski meeting place.
Vin sur Vin: Marco’s wine bar is an ideal
little bar in summer and winter and a great
favourite with the locals. Enjoy a glass from
a vast selection of local and international
wines, accompanied by a plate of Italian
antipasti, snacks or a menu.
What are your must-see places in
Cirque Fer à Cheval: Walking past the
immense cliffs and imposing waterfalls of
the spectacular Cirque Fer à Cheval is
almost unreal it’s so beautiful. Continue all
the way to the back of the cirque and you
will find yourself at the end of the world (Le
Bout du Monde)! You can also enjoy a great
lunch in beautiful surroundings at the
Restaurant du Fer a Cheval.
The cirque is unique, a horseshoe of
limestone mountains rising to 3000m from
the valley floor with huge waterfalls
cascading down rock faces. Plenty of great
walking, from easy to extreme, all marked
clearly. The easy walks are along the valley
floor, although a favourite (but tougher
walk) is up to Chalet du Boret (only in
summer). Simple food at the chalet is a
The Botanic Garden: This alpine botanic
garden was created in 1906 by Marie-
Louise Cognacq-Jaÿ who founded La
Samaritaine department store in Paris. It is
an exceptional garden classified "Jardin
Remarquable". Carved out of the southfacing
side of the mountain, overlooking
the village, La Jaÿsinia covers an area of 3.7
hectares on steeply-sloping terrain (there is
a difference of 80 metres between the top
and the bottom of the garden). It is the only
botanic garden of its kind in the Alps, with
5000 varieties of mountain flowers from all
5 continents, as well as a laboratory where
wide-ranging research is carried out.
Walking the narrow path winding its way up
the mountainside passing waterfalls and
fountains before reaching the ruins of the
12th century Tornalta castle and a 13th
century chapel is a wonderful experience.
The higher you go, the more panoramic the
view of the small town below.
France’s Atlantic coastline offers
something for everyone, from Brittany’s
wild and rugged Finistère to the chic
beach towns around La Rochelle, to
surfing meccas around Biarritz. Liz
Rowlinson asks the experts at Leggett
Immobillier to pick five tempting places
for you to consider...
Starting in the north, where Brittany juts far
out into the Atlantic, the western coast of
France offers a diverse choice of seaside
towns. Whether the wild coastlines of
Brittany and the Vendée, the sandy beaches
of the Charente-Maritime, with chic resorts
beloved of the Paris set, or the forest and
dune-backed beaches of Aquitaine there’s
just about everything. At the southern end
things change again with the surfing spots of
the Basque coast and a Spanish flavour to
Whether you're after an apartment in chi-chi
Biarritz, or a simple little granite cottage in
Brittany, there are homes to suit budgets
from €100,000 to €1 million.
Prices inevitably go up closer to the
coastline, wherever you are, but if you're
prepared to drive 10 minutes inland, you will
get more for your money. However, balance
this with the convenience of walking to the
beach or the seafront restaurants - if you
want to rent out your home these sort of
homes will usually be in greater demand.
Enjoy a tour down the Atlantic coast, starting
in northern Brittany...
A pretty little town located north of St. Brieuc
and south of the beautiful historic port of
Paimpol. As the name suggests, St. Quay is
all about the sea. It retains all the charm of a
Breton fishing port, with a very modern
deep-water 24-hour marina that is home to a
scallop fleet but also from where cruises can
be taken out into the Bay of St. Brieuc, a
sheltered stretch of water popular for
regattas. There are also lovely beaches, and
north of the town, hidden coves around the
highest cliffs in Brittany - the Pointe de
Plouha. In the town there are tennis courts,
shops, hotels, fish restaurants and
best of what Brittany has to offer - the clean
beaches, pretty coastline and harbour - and
buyers (including Parisians) that have a
slightly higher budget and are willing to pay
to be near a particularly pretty bit of coast,”
says Lisa Greene, head of Leggett’s Brittany
network. She says the mainly French buyers
tend to buy apartments in the town, rather
than houses outside. You’ll pay around
€150,000 for a one-bed apartment or
€190,000 for a two-bed compact house or
“This area appeals to people who like the
This charming fishing town is the most
westerly on the Crozon peninsula. It's a
beautifully rugged coastal area of towering
cliffs and rocks with coves and sandy
beaches, gently sloping hills, and ancient
megalithic sites. It's a wild and remote piece
of Brittany so you really need a car - and the
nearest ferry is Roscoff 96km away. But it’s
a favourite among French holiday makers
as well as visitors from across Europe who
come for the water sports - boating, sailing,
fishing - but also those in love with the outdoors.
Artists and writers also love the light and
colours, and the town has an artists' quarter
with over 20 galleries. In the town there’s a
great fishing port, marina, many fish
restaurants, crepéries and a sandy beach.
So what do people buy? “There are lots of
types of properties for sale in this region
from ruins to fancy modern villas, beautiful
character properties and everything in
between,” says local agent, Clara Bay.
Expect to pay €100,000 for a 50m2
apartment in the town, or for a threebedroom
house in the surrounding Crozon
area, from around €125,000.
Vendee, pays de la Loire
This popular modern seaside resort in the
northern Vendée is located at the corner of
the ‘Côte de Lumière’ between Notre-Damede-Monts
and St. Hilaire de Riez. It’s a
fantastic stretch of coastline blessed with
beautiful beaches and 2,300 hours of annual
sun, so little different from the climate of
southern France. Split in two by a long
plantation of pine trees, stretching from
north to south along the coast, the centreville
lies to the east of the cordon, while the
seafront forms a lively centre to the west.
The recently restored seafront offers a
network of footpaths and cycle tracks.
Whilst the pathways between the sea, sand
dunes and forest are great to explore by
foot, bicycle, rollerblade, horse or even by
sand-yacht, there are traditional nautical
activities and a superb golf course 300
metres from a 15km long sandy beach and
700-hectare forest with trails. The laid-back
town with such a choice of activities attracts
both retirees seeking a full-time base and
families seeking a second home. “Expect to
pay around €200,000 for a two-bedroom
home, €300,000 for a thatched-roof home in
the marshes or €450,000 for something
close to the sea, or with more prestige,”
says Anne-Sophie Gaultier, local agent.
Sitting in the hub of the sun-drenched Bay of
Biscay, the historic old port of La Rochelle
should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s
known as the sunniest town of the southwest
of France, and it's true, thanks to the
This buzzy capital of Charente-Maritime is a
university town and yachting centre. It is a
great place for both relaxing, or exploring
this fantastic area.
“Choose between having a drink or a meal
in the historical old port or the market
square, wander the streets admiring the
many architectural styles or join in one of the
many local festivals,” suggests Elinor
Murless, local agent
For nature fans, a base around La Rochelle
is ideal to explore the marshlands of the
“green Venice of France” by flat-bottomed
boat, the Vendée’s long sandy beaches,or,
right on your doorstep, the chic summer
playground of Ile de Ré with its traditional
little villages. The beaches and many nature
reserves are only 15 minutes away. This
area attracts Parisians and French buyers
from other parts of the north but also golfers
- there are two good courses nearby, and
also international second-home owners.
Flights to La Rochelle serve 11 UK regions
whilst Poitiers and Bordeaux offer even
more flight options. You can get an
apartment in the old harbour with change
from €180,000, or a four-bedroom
townhouse from €530,000. Buyers can get
better value looking a little inland, or further
down the coast - 20 minutes from La
Rochelle, in Yves, and very close to the
popular seaside resort of Chatelaillon-Plage,
its possible to find properties that are
cheaper than in La Rochelle.
PAYS BASQUE, PYRÉNÉES
The Basque surfing town of Biarritz oozes
glamour, ever since Coco Chanel created
her first fashion show there. Located near
the Spanish border, Biarritz sits on one of
the best stretches of surfing beaches in
Europe - but there’s so much more too. The
narrow streets of the former spa town are full
of pretty shops and superb restaurants, then
there’s the famous art-deco casino on the
Grande Plage where grand palatial hotels
remind us of its illustrious history - it was a
favourite haunt of various European royals -
but there are also fashionable nightclubs
that draw top DJs. If putting is more your
thing than partying, there are also ten golf
courses within 50km.
But Biarritz is an excellent base for exploring
the Pays Basque, from its beautiful beaches
to the inland landscape of green and
wooded hills and mountains, and with
property prices relatively high in the town
itself, many buyers may opt to be
somewhere accessible, says local agent
Mathilde de St. Martin. It’s a highly
cosmopolitan resort that is very fashionable
with the French but also famous globally.
“You can expect to pay €300,000 for a 50m2
property with a nice view - even a studio
apartment will be at least €130,000,” she
says. Many British buyers prefer to go inland
20 minutes where they find that the prices
plunge to €3,000 per m2.
The Experts guide to
French Home and Contents
Protecting your property, whether it’s a
secondary home, main home or rented out
on a short term, holiday or long term basis,
is vital for peace of mind and also includes
something very important: Public liability
What is Public liability cover?
Public liability cover is included in your
Home and Contents insurance with many
insurers. As a rule the cover is against a
claim for damage caused by the
policyholder to a third party or their
As mentioned above the level of cover
varies according to the type of property
being insured. For example the level of
cover offered on a second home covers
damage caused by the property to a third
party. Cover for a main home extends to
damages caused by the policyholder or a
member of their family to a third party.
For a property you may be renting out for
short holiday periods Public Liability would
continue as long as those staying at the
property were there no longer than 3
consecutive months. For a longer term the
tenant would need to subscribe to their own
Public Liability policy.
Levels of cover
When choosing the level of cover for your
property make sure you have the basics
included such as storm, hail, snow, fire and
water damage to mention a few. You may
then want to add other options depending
on the use of your property to your
insurance such as a swimming pool pack,
garden furniture pack or gîte cover if you run
this type of business. Don’t forget if you do
have a gite talk to your Mairie to make sure
you are registered correctly as if not even if
you are insured for your gite the insurance
will not cover you in the event of a claim.
Make sure you have measured all your
rooms as well as outbuildings correctly
when setting up your cover as in the event
of a claim this is the type of element that is
very important if a pay out is made.
If you build an extension or change the use
of one of your rooms think about calling the
insurer or CA Britline if the insurance is set
up with us, and check that the changes are
reflected in your policy.
French Vehicle Cover
If your residence in France is your main
home the chances are you will have at least
one car. Whether you have opted to bring
your right hand drive car over with you or
have purchased a left-hand drive, insurance
If your vehicle is on UK number plates, visit
your nearest prefecture to find out the
process of changing to French plates. The
process varies in the amount of time it takes
depending on the make, model, age and
country of origin of your vehicle. During this
process your vehicle must be insured. Some
UK insurers, if you have just moved over to
France, may allow the insurance to continue
for a set amount of time. If not, when taking
out a French insurance policy make sure the
insurer knows you are in the process of
changing registration and find out how long
they will insure you for whilst you are still on
your English plates.
If your residence in France is a holiday
home and you have your car in the garage
back home in the UK, do not make the
mistake of thinking if it’s locked away and
not in use no insurance is needed. For
public liability purposes, the car must remain
insured so you might want to change the
level of insurance so a minimum level of
cover is still in place.
Car cover is very similar in France to what's
provided in the UK. You will find ‘Third Party
only’, ‘Third Party Fire and Theft’ and ‘Fully
Comp’ equivalents along with a range of
extras and options that can be included. Via
CA Britline the basics of driver protection,
public liability and legal assistance are
included within each type of cover. Other
options such as Homestart breakdown
cover, glass damage and zero excess
amongst others can also be set up at the
outset or during the life of the contract.
You may also have other types of vehicles
at you property you wish to cover. Ride on
lawn mowers, scooters, motorbikes and
boats can all be catered for to keep all
insurances under one roof.
Legal Protection Cover
If you are resident on a permanent basis in
France Legal Protection is an inexpensive
insurance cover giving you access to a team
of French legal experts in the event of
private, consumer and labour disputes.
Some Home and Contents policies may
have limited Legal Protection cover included
however if you wish to have complete cover
a stand-alone contract is the best option. If
you're a UK resident, in some cases the
cover can be taken out, however it will apply
strictly to French litigation only.
Health Cover: Holidays in
France /Residing at your
It is very important to apply for an EHIC card
before you leave for your holidays abroad
whether travelling to France or another
European country. The card covers you up
to 90 consecutive days for any medical
treatment you may need when away. If you
pay for any treatment, keep your receipts
and proofs of treatment for a reclaim on your
return home. For more information, to apply
for or renew an EHIC card consult the NHS
Health Cover: French Residents
Once resident in France you will need to
contact your local CPAM: Caisse Primaire
d’Assurance Maladie to find out if you will
automatically be covered by the French
social security system for a certain percentage
of your medical costs. If you are
covered you will be provided with an attestation
and then a Carte Vitale, which you
have to present at all medical appointments,
hospitals and chemists. You may
wish to take out Top-Up Health insurance to
cover the costs not reimbursed by CPAM.
Depending on your needs, age and budget
you will find a Top-Up cover to suit you.
If you find out you are not covered by the
CPAM you may need 100% Private Health
cover. This can be obtained through CA
Britline as is the case for Top-Up cover.
How to choose the
Did you know that there are different type of financial advisers?
When you search for a financial adviser, how can you be assured that they are
right for you? In principle there are three categories of adviser:
Tied – Restricted - Independent
In France there are insurance company
agents working almost in every town - they
typically represent just one company, AXA
for example. They will offer you only the
products of that company and will be limited
to “French only” products. They are unlikely
to have a specialisation in UK or international
pensions or investments. Typically,
any product will only be in euros rather than
a choice of currency. The person you deal
with is known as a ‘courtier’ or a broker,
they are usually trained in knowing only
their products and will ‘sell’ those they think
are appropriate for you. They don’t
generally look at other areas of financial
You certainly need a French bank account
when you are living in France and products
like a Livret “A” can be useful for your liquid
cash - up to certain limits. But, you may
wish not to tie yourself into products or
accounts that might have a limited
investment selection or which do not work in
other countries outside of France.
Some savings vehicles the UK has such as
ISAs are not available in France, similarly
there are French savings and bank products
that are not available outside of France.
These companies - whether banks or
insurance companies may offer a limited
range of investments and savings and funds
and some may be tied to just one company.
A restricted adviser is limited as to who and
what they recommend. In the case of the
popular (and essential in good investment
and tax planning in France) Assurance Vie
investments for example, they may only
offer one or two alternatives as well as a
limited range of investment funds for you to
There may be charges for this type of
product and there could be restrictions on
how much you can withdraw in the early
years, thereby limiting your flexibility.
There is of course nothing wrong with this,
but you may be ‘limiting’ your advice and
missing out on a wider market approach
and a significant range of investments and
investment companies which ultimately
may be more suitable for you.
These advisers may not have the
experience or opportunity to look at other
areas for financial planning for you.
This is an adviser who can offer you advice
rather than product placement. Known as a
‘conseiller’ in France. They are highly
trained and will not ‘sell’ you anything.
Independent advisers aim to plan and
collect information on all of your financial
assets and provide a full report across
areas such as inheritance/estate planning,
pensions and investment.
They will search the whole marketplace for
a product that is appropriate for you and
consider your needs and wishes to achieve
the best outcome.
In France this can mean for instance that
you will have a choice of a number of
assurance vie products, a portfolio can be
tailored to your specific needs and
requirements and you are not limited to any
particular Assurance Vie product.
Everyone’s needs are slightly different - you
might be moving across different countries
in Europe or moving to Europe from another
jurisdiction. Having an adviser who
understands your needs may be fluid, can
certainly be an advantage.
On the investment side, you will have
access to a wide selection of funds, tailored
to your aims and your individual risk profiles.
An independent advisor should meet with
you regularly to ensure your choices are the
best for any given time.
This also applies to your pension investments
where you don’t have a “one size fits
Every client’s needs are individual and
family/personal financial requirements are
personal to that individual.
When you’re searching for an adviser, look
for flexibility in approach, independence in
selecting providers and in your investment
Given the choice, you might have to pay a
little more for a highly trained independent
adviser, but you will get good service,
regular contact and may have far better
value for money in the long run.
The financial advisers trading under Beacon
Wealth Management are members of Nexus
Global (IFA Network). Nexus Global is a
division within Blacktower Financial
Management (International) Limited (BFMI).
All approved individual members of Nexus
Global are Appointed Representatives of BFMI.
BFMI is licensed and regulated by the
Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and
bound by their rules under licence number
And the information on these pages is
intended as an introduction only and is not
designed to offer solutions or advice. Beacon
Global Wealth Management can accept no
responsibility whatsoever for losses incurred
by acting on the information on these pages.
Clafoutis is one of the most versatile French desserts and finds its origins in the Limousin,
a lush, green region situated in the heart of the Massif Central. If you’ve never made or
tasted clafoutis before, think of it as a ‘custardy’ type of cake. It doesn’t call for that much
flour, so there isn’t much of a crumb to the dessert. I guess you can also compare it to a
Besides the original cherry clafoutis, I have made clafoutis with strawberries, blueberries,
plums, apricots and even vegetables for a savoury variation (perfect for lunch with a
green salad) and a glass of wine. This autumnal variation calls for apples. For a tart
touch, I added a small handful of plump blackberries.
400g apples (I used Granny Smith)
250g crème fraîche
50ml whole milk
Seeds of 1 vanilla pod
100g all-purpose flour
60g fine sugar
1 tbsp brown rum
Powdered sugar, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a
rectangular baking dish of approx. 26 x 18.5cm
with butter. Peel, core and chop the apples.
Spread them over the baking dish together with
the blackberries. In a large bowl, whisk the crème
fraîche, milk and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk
the eggs, flour, sugar and rum. Add this mixture
to the cream, eggs and vanilla and whisk well.
Pour the custard over the fruit and bake the
clafoutis for 35-40 minutes. Delicious warm or
cold. You can dust it with powdered sugar or
serve with ice cream for a more decadent
Paola Westbeek is a food, wine and travel
journalist. For more of her recipes, visit
ladoucevie.eu, thefrenchlife.org and her
YouTube channel, LaDouceVieFood
In 1896, legend has it that a
dropped alcohol on hot panc
he served them anyway and
dessert, the wily Chef said h
however, asked that the nam
name was Suzette.
Others attribute the creation
Henri Charpentier served as
the ingredients are somewh
Grand Marnier but Curacao
The mystery could end there
dessert for Suzanne Reiche
Nobody will ever truly know
young pastry chef called Henri Charpentier, working at the Café de Paris in Monte Carlo,
akes he was preparing for the Prince of Wales, future King Edward VII. Unable to salvage them,
luckily for him, the dish was a great success. When the prince asked him the name of this
e had invented it especially for the Prince and would call the pancake after him. The Prince
e of the young woman who was dining with him be given the honour. And you guessed it: her
of crepes Suzette to the legendary Auguste Escoffier, creator of the Peach Melba, under whom
an apprentice. The recipe is even included in Escoffier’s Guide Culinaire, released in 1903. But
at different: the orange juice is replaced with mandarin juice and doesn’t mention the classic
, but some stories also mention Joseph Marivaux, a restaurant owner in Paris who invented the
nberg, an actress at the French Comedy, whose stage name was Suzette.
for sure the origin of this dish, but one thing that never changes – the delight is in the tasting!
See over page for recipe
Ingredients for 8-12 crêpes (I serve 2 per person)
120 grams of flour
1 heaped teaspoon of sugar
a pinch of salt
33 cl of milk
1 untreated orange, with peel
1/4 cup of sugar
10 cl of Cognac
20 cl of Grand Marnier
25 grams of butter
Mix with beaters the following ingredients: flour, sugar a big pinch of salt, milk and the 3
eggs. The batter needs to be quite liquid to get nice thin crepes.
Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a crèpe pan and when heated pour out the excess. (you may
need to slightly re-oil the pan after a few crèpes). Evenly spread a very thin layer of batter
in pan. When slightly browned on one side, turn over and then take out quickly as you do
not want crèpes to become crispy. Stack them on a plate.
Slice orange peel very thinly, using only the orange part of the peel (the white part is not
In a pan, put orange peel, butter, sugar, orange juice, 10 cl of cognac and 10 cl of Grand
Marnier. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for about 30 minutes. The alcohol will evaporate
and it will become syrupy.
Dip each crèpe into orange syrup and turn to coat each side. Fold into quarters and place
in a serving dish that you can keep warm in oven.
When ready to serve pour the remaining sauce (hot) over crèpes. Then heat the other 10 cl
of Grand Marnier in a pan, pour over crèpes and light with a match to flambé them in front
of your guests. This is nice plated and served with a scoop of vanilla icecream
Recipe by Mary Pochez, at La Vie du Château, all inclusive culinary holidays in an
18th century chateau in the Pays de la Loir, France
Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)
2 cups red or yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
2 pounds plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 tsp good quality olive oil
2 TBS lemon juice
1/2 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp smoked paprika
Warm the olive oil in a small pot over medium/high heat and
then add the onions, shallots, and salt. Use a wooden spoon
to throughly coat the onions and shallots with oil and turn the
flame down to low. Let the mixture soften for about 10
minutes and then caramelize for another 15-20 minutes,
stirring often. Transfer the onion mixture to a large pot and
add the tomatoes, lemon juice, honey, ground pepper and
smoked paprika. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 40-50
minutes, stirring often, until the mixture has reduced and is
translucent and thickened to a jammy texture with very little
liquid. Jam may be prepared up to 2 days in advance. You
will have more than needed for the tart so consider freezing
half and saving it for another time.
Recipes by Martine Bertin-Peterson at
Gout et Voyage, Gourmet Tours of Provence.
Ingredients (serve 4 as a main course, 6 as a
1/2 -3/4 cup of onion-tomato jam
Pâte brisé for a 9” tart or pre-packaged pie dough
1 small eggplant, skin on & sliced into 1/4 inch thick
1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 medium yellow squash, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
2-3 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch thick rounds
2 roasted red or yellow peppers, sliced into thin strips
Pre-heat the oven to 425 F. (215 C.) Place the pâte
brisé or pie dough in a 9” deep dish pie pan, prick
the bottom in several spots and bake for 10 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 400 F (200 C.) When
the tart shell has cooled slightly, spread the oniontomato
jam evenly on the bottom. Create circles and
layers of zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and
tomato, sprinkling 1/2 of the fresh oregano and
seasoning with salt and pepper between layers. Add
the roasted pepper strips to the top layer. Bake for
25 minutes, uncovered and then cover with
aluminum foil for another 20 minutes. Remove the
tart from the oven and sprinkle with crumbled goat
cheese and remaining fresh oregano. Serve hot or
allow to cool to room temperature.
Serve with a crusty peasant loaf or baguette and a
chilled rose or crisp white wine. Refrigerate any
Poulet - Roti
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: about 1 1/2 hours
2–3 cups roughly chopped assorted root
vegetables (carrots, parsnips, potatoes)
2 medium (12 oz/350 g total) yellow onions,
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small lemons, grate the zest of one and
use both for the chicken
6 sprigs fresh thyme
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 whole chicken (3 lb/1.5 kg)
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled but smashed
A few sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 cup (57 g) salted butter, at room
1–2 teaspoons dried Herbes de Provence or
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup (57 g) salted butter, melted
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled but smashed
1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F (220˚C).
2. Scatter the chopped vegetables in a roasting pan with the olive oil.
Add the lemon zest, thyme, salt and pepper to the vegetables and, using your hands, mix
until all the vegetables are coated. Make sure the vegetables are sitting evenly on the
bottom of the roasting pan.
3. Pat the cavity of the bird dry using a paper towel.
4. Cut both the lemons in quarters and place them in the cavity of the bird with the
smashed garlic and a few sprigs of fresh thyme. If all the lemon quarters don’t fit, you can
pop them in the pan with the vegetables, just don’t forget to take them out when you are
serving the chicken.
5. Cut about half of the butter into small pieces and place them under the skin of the bird.
To do this, start at the cavity end of the chicken and slide one or two fingers between the
meat and the skin. Work slowly, separating the skin from the meat as far as you can reach.
Squish the butter pieces slightly and fit them under the skin as best you can.
6. Spread the remainder of the butter over the outside of the skin. The easiest way to do
this is with your hands. Season the bird with the Herbes de Provence or dried thyme and a
touch of pepper.
7. Place the bird directly on the vegetables in the roasting pan and place in the oven for 20
minutes, until the skin starts to brown nicely.
To smash a garlic clove, place it on a cutting board and place a large knife that's wider than the
garlic clove flat on top of the garlic with the blade facing away from you. Press down hard until the
garlic clove splits. Voila! you've smashed it. This is also an easy way to peel garlic
8. Add the smashed garlic to the melted butter
and place this over very low heat on the
stovetop. You will use this to baste the chicken
while it’s roasting.
9. Turn down the oven to 400˚F (200˚C) and
roast the chicken for 60 to 70 minutes more, or
until a meat thermometer inserted into the high
part of the thigh registers 165˚F (74˚C). Normally
you can count on about 20 minutes’ cook time
per pound (454 g) of chicken but to be absolutely
sure, a meat thermometer is the way to go!
Kids might be squeamish about
touching raw chicken (especially when
it comes to placing the lemons, garlic
and herbs in the cavity and the butter
under and over the skin). The more
they see you doing tasks like this,
though, the more normal (and less
gruesome) it will appear. In the
meantime, get them busy chopping the
vegetables and mixing in the oil and
seasoning in the roasting pan.
10. While the bird is cooking, baste it every 20
minutes or so with the melted butter and
smashed garlic. This will season the bird even
11. Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from
the oven (leave the vegetables in the roasting
pan), place it on a cutting board (preferably one
that has a drain ridge to catch any juices), cover
it loosely with aluminium foil and allow it to rest
for about 10 minutes before you carve it.
12. Give the vegetables a good stir and place the
roasting pan back in the oven until you are ready
to serve the meal. If the vegetables are not
crispy enough, you can set the broiler to high
(around 400˚F/200˚C, if your broiler has a
temperature display) and broil them for about 5
minutes but do keep an eye on them as they
In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes
for the Whole Family to Make and Enjoy by Mardi
Michels. From the prolific blogger behind eat. live. travel.
write comes a new cookbook for parents, children and
Francophiles of all ages. Fuss free, simple, delicious
French dishes with Mardi Michels as your guide. From
savory dishes like Omelettes, Croque-Monsieurs or
Steak Frites to sweet treats like Profiteroles, Madeleines
or Crème Brûlée, readers will find many French classics
here. With helpful timetables to plan out baking projects,
and tips on how to get kids involved in cooking, this book
breaks down any preconceived notion that French
cuisine is too fancy or too difficult for kids to master. With
Mardi's warm, empowering and encouraging instructions,
kids of all ages will be begging to help out in the kitchen
every day of the week.
My Good Life in France....
This year’s summer was extraordinary in the far north of France, pas-de-
Calais. In the south I’ve heard my region referred to as “the north pole of
France” – but not this year. We had a late sunny spring which turned into an
early sunny summer. While the rest of France suffered from rain and storms,
the tip of France basked in record heatwaves. It was so nice, we even took
our coats off! Seriously, this year, the north was the new south.
Every day on my walks with my three dogs, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Bruno and
Churchill, through the village, the main topic of conversation was the
weather. I’d learned long ago not to respond with “je suis chaud” which
literally means I’m hot but is taken to mean “I’m sexy”, you have to say “J’ai
chaud”. Mostly people said “it’s too hot to work” watching us render the
walls, paint shutters (one day it was so hot the paint bubbled as I applied it),
lay tons of gravel and replace the roofs on two outbuildings.
We finished just in time to join in the end of summer harvest party at the
Town Hall. Called a ducasse, this sort of party has been held for centuries in
small rural villages. Whole familes attend these events from babies in
pushchairs to wizzened and bent over ancient great-grandparents.
We were told to be there for 7.30pm. The wine was flowing and it meant
there was lots of time for welcome-to-the-party-kisses-on-cheeks and lots
of chat so that everyone was ready when the starters arrived just after 10pm.
The DJ-with-a-muffly-voice (he does all the local parties and no one can
understand a word he says) played lots of Johnny Halliday music which got
everyone up dancing and waving their arms in the air. Well everyone except
the tables nearest the doors, they were taken by the village oldies, mamies
and papies in their 80's and 90's who wouldn't miss this annual event for
anything, for some of them it's the 97th party they've attended! They left by
midnight but the rest of us partied on until well into the next day.
The morning after the night before, the village returned to its usual trainquil
and silent self, save for the wild birds gathering in hordes in the trees getting
ready to take off as fall approaches.
Welcome to autumn...