Welcome to the Spring issue of The Good Life France Magazine.
Provence lovers are in for a treat as we reveal the top ten visits from gorgeous
towns to the best bike rides and a whole lot more.
Spend Le Weekend is stunning Sarlat, when you arrive in the old town it's almost
like you've stepped through a time tunnel to the past. Old buildings, cobbled
streets and an air of timelessness make this pickled in the past town one of the
most special in France. Take the train to Champagne in our Du Pain, Du Vin, Du
Train feature and make tracks not just for the effervescent towns of Reims and
Epernay but some of the smaller villages en route.
Paris, Aveyron and lovely Lille are featured and we take a look at the best tours
for 2018 from luxury car and wine tours to authentic Normandy, Provence,
Alsace and more tours.
Cake recipes you'll love, useful guides and a whole lot more await, so enjoy a
great read, there are lots of links to more information, the joy of a digital
If you like The Good Life France Magazine, please feel free to pass the details on
to your friends and family - it's always good to share nice things right?
Bisous from France,
Antoine Collas is a marketing specialist and entrepreneur who
runs Instagram agency HapTagmedia.com. He's also a brilliant
photographer who loves to capture images of his home town
Paris and is our valued guest photographer for this issue.
Michael Cranmer is an award-winning freelance travel writer
and photographer. He spends most of the winter up
mountains writing about his primary passion - skiing, but also
manages to sample less strenuous outings.
Lucy Pitts is a copy writer who runs www.stroodcopy.com.
She's also Deputy Editor of The Good Life France Magazine.
She divides her time between the UK and France where she
has a home in the the Vendée area, known as the Green
Venice of France.
Paola Westbeek is a food journalist with an absolute passion
for French cuisine and wine. She loves creating delicious
recipes with joie de vivre. You'll find her at ladoucevie.eu and
on YouTube at La Douce Vie Food Channel and more of her
fabulous recipes at The French Life
Editor: Janine Marsh contact editor (at) the goodlifefrance.com
Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts
Assistant: Sandra Davis
Advertising: sales (at) thegoodlifefrance.com
Digital support: Umbrella Web Solutions
Artistic support: Kumiko at KumikoChesworth.myportfolio.com
Front Cover image: Antoine Collas
8 Provence - ten of the best
places to visit
Local expert and expat Emily Durand
shares her top ten in lovely Provence -
24 Lovely Lille
Discover culture and charm by the bucket
load in the northern city.
The little hilltop town of Montreuil-sur-Mer
in the far north is a foodie's delight.
36 du pain, du vin, du train to
Just 45 minutes from Paris, Reims the
capital of Champagne awaits. Take the
"bubbles line" for effervescent fun.
44 Aveyron & millau
Lucy Pitts discovers the beauty of
54 le weekend in... sarlat
Step back in time and find a pickled in the
60 postcard from paris
Guest photographer Antoine Collas reveals
his favourite places in Paris.
64 10 brilliant tours in 2018
Luxurious, authentic and truly special tours
70 skiing in the french
Michael Cranmer visits a little known part
of the French Alps and finds ski paradise.
68 your photos
The most popular photos shared by our
lovely readers on the TGLF Facebook page.
92 DIrectory of services
94 My Good Life in France
The sometimes strange French laws that
make me think I'll never really get France.
76 La Belle Vie
Joanna Leggett talks about life in France
and how to fit in.
80 Introducing OFX
We've teamed up with the award winning
foreign exchange agency to help you
manage your currency needs effectively.
83 How expats can benefit
from finanical advice
Jennie Poate walks you through how to
avoid a taxing time in France
Mardi Michaels' recipe for the classic little
French cakes is simple and delish.
Paola Westbeek's recipe for the "little
Nuns" is a winner!
Ten of the best visits
It’s impossible to spend just one week in Provence and think you’ve
experienced it fully, but what if you only have a week? Emily Durand
of Your Private Provence has created a one-week itinerary taking in ten
of the most iconic and beautiful towns and locations in Provence...
The region of Provence is vast,
stretching from the border of Italy
and the Mediterranean Sea to the
It’s a region that is famous for its
diverse landscapes, from the Alps
and lush plains of the Camargue to
the vibrant lavender fields, olive
groves and rolling vineyards of the
Luberon where the landscape is
ever changing according to the
seasons. The history, particular to
each region and town, transcends
centuries, millennia even. The
Greeks, the Romans, 19th-century
modernization, the scars of World
War II, the mysterious legends and
local heroes provide you with
secrets and stories that bring to life
In 1309, Pope Clement V, former
Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the
papacy to the town of Avignon where it
remained until 1376 when it returned to
Rome. Châteauneuf-du-Pape literally
translates to "The Pope's new castle"
as it was the location of the summer
residence of Popes in France. They had
vines planted there and to this day the
55 vineyards in the area produce some
of the finest wines.
Read about the Palais des Papes here
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – a historic wine region
Exploring the landscapes lining the Rhone
River takes you back to a time before the
Romans arrived, when the Greeks
established trading posts and vineyards
along the banks.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the perfect place to
start your exploration of the renowned
vineyards of Provence.
Take a leisurely walk in a sea of rolling hills
lined with vines as a wine grower explains
the secrets of making wine, both past and
present. Taste wine in an ancient cellar and
buy a bottle to enjoy with your gourmet
picnic in the vineyard. You don’t have to be
a knowledgeable wine connoisseur to
appreciate your day in Chateauneuf-du-
Pape - the stories go beyond the wine.
Be sure to explore the area 30 minutes east
of Chateauneuf-du-Pape for other cru wines
and discover charming villages such as
Seguret, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Beaumes
Venasque – one of the most beautiful villages
In Provence there are eight villages officially
classified as “Most Beautiful Villages of
France”: Lourmarin, Ansouis, Gordes,
Menerbes, Roussillon, Seguret, Venasque
and Les Baux de Provence. This standard is
obtained only if the village meets the
stringent requirements laid out by the
Venasque often seems to be overlooked by
visitors to Provence. Perhaps it’s because
of its location, perched high on a steep ridge
and tucked away on the other side of the
canyon from its rival gorgeous Gordes. The
unique treasures in this tiny village set up
high on a crag, where it almost feels as if
you’re on a ship that has set-sail, are
endless. Perhaps your favourite will be the
“Place de la Fontaine” where you can
marvel at the beautiful fountain with its cast
iron masks spewing water.
To meet Plus Beaux Villages
classification, there's a raft of
criteria to be met, including that
a town must not have more
than 2000 inhabitants and have
at least two protected sites or
monuments and of course,
must be outstandingly beautiful.
Just 154 villages in the whole
of France make the coveted list
of officially prettiest villages of
It’s amazing to think that villagers still fetched
water from here until 1960, when finally running
water reached the village homes!
Or your highlight might be the story behind a
painting in the church that the village had to fight
to get back from the Louvre. The 6th-century
baptistery and the “capital of cherries” are two
more reasons why Venasque is a top place to
visit in Provence.
- the heart of Provence
If there is one place on the bucket list of
most visitors to Provence, it has to be
Gordes. It’s almost like going to Paris and
seeing the Eiffel Tour, it is the iconic
The best way for your first experience of
Gordes is from afar at the lookout point,
because once you are in the village, your
perspective is completely different, and you
simply can’t appreciate the grandeur upon
which you stand.
Exploring the nooks and crannies and
hidden secrets of this picturesque hill top
town will enchant you. Cobblestone streets,
a majestic 16th century chateau and mellow,
yellow stoned houses make this the town
the poster boy for Provence.
Take time to view the lower fountain where
400 shoemakers worked until the 19th
century, when an earthquake deviated the
underground water sources and ruined their
businesses. Go underground and discover
the Caves of Saint Firmin where dedication
and hard work by a local family unveiled
silos, vats and an olive mill - 7 floors under
the main house!
The environs of Gordes are truly marvellous,
such as the Cistercian architecture of the
Abbey de Senanque where the monks
harvest lavender from the fields that
surround it. Relax in the dry-stone huts,
known as bories, that pepper the landscape
and offer respite from the sun for those who
choose to hike one of the many glorious
- The fishing village
“Charlemagne’s Crown” is to be found in
captivating Cassis - the coronet shaped cliff
hovers over the harbour offering protection.
The coloured facades and wooden fishing
boats bobbing on the turquoise waters of
the Mediterranean Sea are like the jewels in
the crown. With this spectacular setting
before you while you indulge in heavenly
Bouillabaisse, you will understand the words
of the 19th century writer Frederic Mistral
“He who has seen Paris and who has not
seen Cassis, has seen nothing at all!”
The white wine from Cassis is considered a
cru (the best) and was one of the first to be
classified as AOP (Protected Appellation
Origin). For perfect relaxation, sit at a café
sipping white wine and then relax on the
beach. Cassis has many benches for
wanderers to rest, so if you didn't bring your
swimsuit, you can still chill and watch the
world go by.
The morning market is on Wednesdays and
Saturdays and if you stay overnight, wake
up early to see the fisherman arrive to sell
their catch of the day. A drive up to the top
of Cap Canaille, the highest coastal cliff in
France - and one of the highest in Europe, is
one more highlight you won't want to miss:
you’ll have the most spectacular view of the
Photo: Tim Prosser
Goult to Roussillon - the best ride ever!
The real charm of Provence is that there is
so much more to it than picturesque
villages. Cave dwellings, dry-stone huts,
prehistoric vestiges, natural wonders and
hidden chapels are all a part of the
The next best thing about Provence is that
you can choose the way you want to
discover. By bike, by foot, by classic 2CV or
even by scooter, Provence caters to every
type of wanderer. One of the best routes for
a casual bike ride is from Goult to
Roussillon passing through Joucas and the
winery Chateau Blanc.
Stop to take a walking tour of Roussillon one
of the most popular villages in the Luberon.
The views over the rugged rocks, plenty of
pretty cafés, quirky boutiques and 15 art
galleries are a magnet for tourists.
Afterwards carry on your ride down the hill to
the Roman-built bridge, Le Pont Julien. This
area is home to the world’s largest ochre
deposit and the hues of red and orange
contrasted with the green vines and
Provencal blue sun make this a bike ride to
Photo: Julie Whitmarsh
Luberon - from Lourmarin to Ansouis
It’s funny how natural barriers tend to create
distinct regions. Such is the case for the
Luberon Mountain Chain. The official
Luberon region includes both the north and
south side, but there are two personalities to
explore: the north: Luberon Coeur de
Provence, and the south: Côté Sud
Lourmarin and Ansouis are on the list of
"Most Beautiful Village". I recommend both
villages with stops in Vaugines and Cucuron
in-between. If you happen to be here during
the first part of May, you’ll have your very
own red carpet laid out for you as the
poppies are in full bloom.
You can also contemplate the Provence of
“Jean de La Florette” the beautiful book by
Marcel Pagnol, on a walk near Vaugines. In
more recent times, some of the loveliest
scenes in “A Good Year” starring Russell
Crowe were filmed in Cucuron. The
ambiance of the south doesn’t stop here
though. You can also go truffle hunting, taste
olive oil, buy wine and visit castles.
Nostradamus described Menerbes as being like a big ship drifting on a
sea of vineyards and orchards...
– the “floating” village
Allow yourself time to be swept away by the
quiet beauty of Menerbes. Like Gordes, on
the other side of the Luberon valley,
Menerbes is labelled “Most Beautiful
Village”, but you’ll discover a very different
kind of soul.
The legacy of the famous artists who settled
in the village - Picasso, Dora Maar, Nicolas
de Stël, Jane Eakin and Joe Downing to
name a few – have left their mark. Not to
mention the late, great Peter Mayle who
lived there and featured the town in many of
As you walk the cobblestone and narrow
lanes passing houses from the 15th, 17th
and 18th centuries, you won’t be distracted
by postcards and lavender sachets for sale.
The mass of tourists tend to stay in Gordes
and Roussillon so Menerbes is an ideal spot
for lunch and a peaceful stroll through a
typical Provencal village. There are two
bakeries in the village and a general store.
Just enough to pick up some snacks for a
light lunch you can enjoy perched on a
bench in the shade at the top of the village in
front of the 16th century church Saint Luc.
- natural wonders
If you’re feeling energetic and want to
explore off-the-beaten-path, you can rent a
kayak from Port Pin in Cassis. This way
you’ll really appreciate the beauty of one of
France’s most breath-taking landscapes -
Les Calanques. These limestones creeks
are sometimes referred to as the French
If you prefer to stay on land, a trek from Port
Pin to the En-Vau Calanque is easily
accessible for the adventurous hiker and
reveals dreamy turquoise waters in a hidden
cove - paradise guaranteed. You can also
opt for a classic boat ride from the port of
Cassis that offers views of 3, 5 or 7
Should you be traveling with a small group,
opt for a private boat excursion which will
get you up closer to the beaches and
provide you with scuba gear for some
underwater exploration. Don’t leave
Provence without a little aqua adventure.
- Authentic High Vaucluse
More and more people are becoming aware
of the area referred to as Haute (high)
Vaucluse. This region retains an authentic
atmosphere with its less touristy villages.
Here, the mountain atmosphere adds a
touch of Alpine air that opens up the senses
to the lavender, truffles, wine, saffron and
fruit trees. Vaison-la-Romaine is a lively
town with two weekly markets as well as a
lovely Provencal square lined with cafés for
resting tired feet.
It’s also a paradise for Roman history buffs
with open-air museums featuring a 1st
century BC antique theater and one of the
largest Roman villa vestiges in France. Don’t
leave Vaison before crossing the Roman
bridge to explore the Medieval City, Haute
Ville. Should you be feeling in the mood for
a little climb, wend your way to the top
where the Counts of Toulouse built their
castle. The view is worth the effort!
Aix-en-Provence - Provencal city living
Provence has a lot of villages, valleys,
vineyards and orchards. The slow life in the
breath-taking countryside is what attracts
many to the area, but sometimes you might
feel like a little urban action. Aix-en-
Provence is the perfect city for a hit of
European cosmopolitan flair.
People watching on the famous Cours
Mirabeau, under the shade of ancient plane
trees with a glass of rosé can keep you
entertained for hours as you rest from your
market shopping: Tuesdays, Thursdays,
and Saturdays for both the food and flower
market. Then meander up to the Cathedral
to see the baptistery - Aix’s oldest existing
building which incredibly dates back to the
On your way, you may find yourself stopping
to taste the irresistible flavours of France.
My personal favourites are madeleines,
choux pastries, and Puyicard chocolate -
Art lovers can retrace the steps and visit the
studio of the great Cezanne who captured
its beauty and light in his paintings.
Historians can see archaeological digs
taking place. There is really is something for
everyone in Aix.
Your Private Provence runs tours in Provence
including a small group tour in which you visit all
these top ten spots - and more - in September, an
optimal time of the year for exploring the best of
More information at www.yourprivateprovence.com
Bucket loads of
charm and culture in
Lille is known for its cultural allure - it was European City of Culture in
2004 and has never looked back. Old Lille’s architecture is stunning, a bit
like a miniature Paris but with a dash of Flemish influence. Janine Marsh
explores Lille's delights...
LILLE At a Glance
Vieux Lille, the old town, is vibrant,
exuberant and flamboyant. 17th century
buildings, cobble stone streets, intimate
courtyards, elegant squares and a thriving
café culture. It's a bit like a miniature Paris
but easier to discover and has a great vibe
thanks to a young population.
Lille is one of the top gastronomic cities in
France with a plethora of restaurants. It’s
also one of the most cultural and artistic
cities in the country after being elected
European Capital of Culture in 2004, which
has led to it becoming the arty party capital
of France. It’s a friendly city, ask directions
and you’re likely to be personally led to your
There are more than a dozen museums in
Lille. Don’t miss the Palais des Beaux Arts
which is said to hold the second richest
collection of art in France after the Louvre in
Paris, much of it acquired during Napoleon’s
looting sprees during battle.
Browse the second hand book market
(Tuesday to Sunday 13.00-19.00) in the 17th
century Vieille Bourse (former stock
exchange), a Flemish Renaissance marvel
of gargoyles and garlands.
Modern art lovers will fall head over heels for
TriPostal, an art venue in a former post
office and Gare St Sauveur, a cultural centre
in a former frieght station.
Getting Around and about
Walking: Old Lille is a compact city and the
best way to discover it is on foot! Be aware
there are lots of cobble stone rues.
Public transport: Bus, tram and metro, in
fact the world’s first driverless trains were
introduced here in 1983. Buy a book of
tickets, 24 hour or evening pass for just a
few Euros to use on all three modes of
There are two rail stations: Lille Flandres
for Paris and local services and Lille Europe
for international and fast trains round
France. Lille Flandres station used to be the
old Gare du Nord Paris. It was dismantled to
make way for a new, bigger station and reerected
stone by stone in Lille.
Bike: Lille is a cycle friendly city where
motorists are used to wobbly wheeled
tourists. Hire a public bike from V'Lille
Shops are closed on Sundays, and many on
Monday morning. Rue de Bethune is good
for high street style, Vieux Lille for luxury and
high end goods (including Louis Vuitton and
Hermès), Rue Royale for jewellery, bags,
Hop on the tram or metro to nearby Roubaix
and visit the art deco La Piscine museum in
a converted public swimming pool - it has
real wow factor (read more about it here).
Everyone loves a French street market and
Lille has several. Try Wazemmes Sunday
market, one of the largest in France. A
colourful, lively affair where you can furnish
your house, wardrobe or pantry. You’re likely
to hear accordion music here and witness
spontaneous outbreaks of dancing – the
Lillois (people of Lille) love to dance!
Where to Eat
There are loads of restaurants in Lille from
haute cuisine to local specialities…
Fancy a snack: The best chips (a local
speciality) in town can be found at:
l’Express – eat in or take away.
50 Place de la Gare
Locals love: The bars and cafés of Place
des Oignons such as Estaminet Au Vieux
de la Vieille, with handwritten menus in
children’s’ exercise books.
2-4 Rue des Vieux Murs
Wine and dine: Barbue d’Anvers, candles
on book shelves, vintage décor in a
gorgeous old building. A place to linger and
enjoy delectable dishes of the region like
carbonnade flamande (stew with beer and
brown sugar), mussels cooked in white wine
and a cheese platter that includes the local
stinky, delicious Maroilles cheese
1 bis rue Ste Etienne.
There are hundreds of bars in Lille…
Quirky: Peekaboo (92 rue de l'Hôpital
Militaire) is fun and friendly. Food is served
lunchtimes, Tuesday to Saturday. Great
ambience, décor, beers and cocktails.
Splash out: The only Champagne Bar in
Lille, located in a converted 18th Century
Convent that’s now the Couvent des
Minimes Hotel and bar. (17 Quai du Wault)
Popular with the locals: La Capsule: great
selection of beers and friendly staff who are
happy to advise on what beer to try, one of
the best bars in town (25 Rue Trois
Learn about beer: At Vivat Factory they’ll
explain how and where beers are made and
have a great beer tasting menu. appreciate
Above left: Grand
Place, Lille; above:
Couvent des Minimies
At the annual Lille
Braderie, a giant flea
market, it's traditional
for restaurants to pile
up empty mussel
shells - the biggest
pile is judged at the
end of the 33 hour
flea market marathon
and the restaurant
with the biggest pile
claims the win!
Take home a taste of Lille
Best chocolate and sweets: Meert has
been delighting customers since 1761. Pop
in to buy cakes, chocolate and the famous,
sweet, flat waffles of the north - loved by the
locals, royalty, General De Gaulle and
Buffalo Bill! There's also a charming tea
room where the hot chocolate wows.
27 Rue Esquermoise
Best cheese: Philippe Olivier is a legendary
affineur (someone who matures cheese to
perfection) in France; this is THE place to go
for the best fromage ever.
3 Rue du Cure Saint-Etienne
Best boulangerie: Baker Alex Crouquet
admits he is “fou de pain” - crazy about
bread. His yeast mix is so important to him,
he not only talks to it, he takes it on holiday
with him! The bread is amazing – take a loaf
home and savour the memory of your trip.
66, rue Esquermoise
Vieux Boulogne cheese at Philippe Olivier,
officially the smelliest cheese in the world!
How to get there: Travel from central
London to Lille by Eurostar in around
1 hour 28 minutes. Details: Oui.SNCF
Trains from Paris take 50 minutes.
Website for Tourist Office: Lille Tourism
The little town in northern France that’s making
Montreuil-sur-Mer sits atop a hill, encircled
by ancient ramparts. Its medieval buildings
and cobble stone streets have long attracted
tourists including Laurence Sterne
whilst writing his famous book “A Sentimental
Journey”, Napoleon Bonaparte and
the town’s favourite - Victor Hugo. The
famous French playwright based his book
Les Miserables on people he met and sights
he saw in the town when visiting in 1837.
These days savvy Brits nip across the
Channel to soak up the authentic French
ambiance on their doorstep. They’re drawn
not just to the town’s good looks but to the
Saturday morning market, the terraced
bistros, Michelin star restaurants and
gourmet food shops.
Montreuil-sur-Mer is special when it comes
to gastronomy and that gave expat Brit Tim
Matthews who runs the gorgeous Maison 76
B&B in the town, the idea to create the label
Destination Gastronomique. He and his
business partner Michael Bennett joined
with the town’s legendary chef, Alexandre
Gaulthier who runs the famous La
Grenouillère hotel and 2 Michelin Star
restaurant in La Madelaine-sous-Montreuil.
The historic little village sits on the edge of
Montreuil-sur-Mer and attracts guests from
around the world to indulge at the
internationally renowned La Grenouillère.
Together they launched the Destination
Gastronomique website to showcase
excellence in local products and restaurants.
The joining criteria is strictly regulated, only
the best of the best, and the team have held
several food and wine events to great
Their next event will be held on Sunday 6
May, a “Symphony for the Senses“. A wine
and food event combined with a flea market,
live music and vintage cars in a day long
celebration of all things French and fine. It
will take place in the squares of Montreuilsur-Mer
and the surrounding streets – all are
Photo © Michael Bennett
Programme of events
Place General de Gaulle: Join in a
fabulous wine tasting experience and
indulge in snacks in the big main square of
the town featuring produce from some of
the best restaurants and gourmet food
shops from the town including the
renowned Boulangerie Gremont. Don’t
miss a taste of one of their Jean Valjean
bread loaves – a nod to Victor Hugo, and
6 May 2018
A Symphony for the Senses
Cheese shop Caseus will also be present,
they have become a tourist destination in
their own right thanks to the simply
awesome cheeses in store. And
restaurants Le Caveau and Clos des
Capucins will be on hand to tempt your
Place Darnetal: Vegetarian cookery
demonstrations alongside local market
gardeners supported by the boulangeries,
chocolatiers and restaurants that line this
In the surrounding cobbled streets, the
shops of rue d’Herambault and the rue des
Cordonniers will especially open their
doors from 10h-18h to visitors - with plenty
of stop offs for refreshments.
Place Gambetta: a chance to admire and
assembly of vintage cars
Musical entertainment from Gipsy Jazz to
Rock and Pop will take place in the
atmospheric Rue de Clape en Bas… and
there will also be a braderie, a traditional
French flea market!
Finally, the town’s restaurants will be open
for a long, lazy, scrumptious lunch.
Photos: top left: Cave de Montreuil,
sensational wine shop; top middle: Caseus
cheese shop; top right: Tim Matthews and
chef Alexandre Gaulthier of La Grenouillère
There’s nothing quite like the pop of a Champagne bottle to make
you feel festive.
With Reims, the capital of Champagne, just 45 minutes from Paris by
train it’s the perfect day trip location but even more so for a sparkling
weekend break. From Reims you can travel around the Champagne
countryside on the "Bubbles Line". You really don’t need a car to get
around and that means that you can also enjoy a glass or two without
having to worry about being over the limit says Janine Marsh
The city of Kings has treasures above, and below, ground.
Reims train station is in the centre of town
making it easy to walk to all the sites and
there are many. UNESCO heritage sites
abound here, perhaps the most well-known
is the iconic Cathedral of Notre Dame.
33 Kings were crowned in Reims from 816
to 1825 including Charles VII in 1429,
accompanied by Joan of Arc. It comes as a
shock to many visitors to discover that many
of the sculptures featured on its façade are
copies or casts. Damaged badly by
bombing in World War I, the Cathedral was
rebuilt. It says much about the integrity of
the work carried out that this Cathedral is
still considered one of the finest examples
of Gothic architecture in the world. Statues
of 63 kings, 3m high and weighing 6 tonnes
each adorn the façade. It’s no less
impressive inside where stained-glass
windows dating to the 13th century vie for
attention along-side the magnificent stainedglass
windows designed by Marc Chagall.
Next door, visit the Palais du Tau, the former
Bishops’ Palace, and residence of Kings
whilst awaiting coronation, is now a museum
dedicated to the Cathedral. The St Remi
Basilica which was mostly built in the 12th
century is named after the Bishop of Reims
who baptised Clovis, the King of the Franks
Even older is the Roman legacy, the huge
Port de Mars which stands majestically at
the end of a busy road, it is quite simply
A huge area of Champagne itself has
UNESCO status, including Reims, granted
in 2015 in recognition of its Paysages de
You can't go to Reims and not try
Champagne - you're spoiled for choice.
The city is built on top of miles of secret
passages that contain millions of bottles of
Champagne. Nicholas Ruinart started the
trend for maturing Champagne in the
chalky caves, the digging out of which was
begun in the Gallo Roman period. There
are several big Champagne makers
including Mumm, Ruinart, Veuve Cliquot,
Taittinger, Lanson and Drappier, who
make the biggest bottles of Champagne
known as a Melchizedekis. they hold 400
glasses of bubbles!
If you want to try Champagne from smaller
producers and artisans head to the
Champagne Treasures Boutique, where
you can take a tasting - with more than
160 different cuvées each week, you're
sure to find one you absolutely love.
When you’ve had your fill of history, take a
break in one of the many restaurants and
bars - one of the best reasons to visit.
Locals love: Café du Palais is a 4th
generation family run restaurant that has
been pleasing the punters since 1930.
Dishes on the menu pair perfectly with
bubbles. 3 course menu €39.00 includes a
glass of Champagne (14, Place Myron
Wine and dine: The Brasserie Excelsior
near the train station has oodles of old
school glamour, think chandeliers and
banquettes and a style reminiscent of the
Roaring Twenties. 2 course lunch menu
from €28.50 (96 place Drouet d’Erlon).
Make Tracks in Champagne
From Reims, the capital of Champagne
the region, you can take the train direct to
Epernay the capital of Champagne the
drink. But why not see a bit more of this
glorious region and stop off en route...
Champagne the drink, can only be called
Champagne if it is produced from designated
vineyards on the chalkland south of Reims.
Other regions may produce sparkling wine
but they can't call it Champagne.
Vines have been cultivated on the steep
slopes of the Marne since at least Roman
times. It was the Romans who dug under
Reims for chalk almost 2000 years ago,
creating underground passages which have
become the grandest cellars in the world,
holding millions of bottles of Champagne,
maturing in perfect conditions.
Champagne is the world’s favourite festive
drink - Cole Porter must be one of the few
people who don't get a kick from it!
Serve it chilled in a tall flute and never, say
the experts, a coupe, those shallow round
glasses allegedly modelled on the breast of
Marie-Antoinette, or Madame Pompadour –
depending on who you believe. Whatever, I
think you should use whichever glass you
Visit a Champagne House
Enjoy a Champagne tasting either above or
below ground via Champagne-Booking.com.
They list cellar visits and Champagne tasting
sessions including free tastings, with the
famous domaines and with artisan
producers. They can even tell you where to
book a sabrage session (opening a
Champagne bottle with a sword) in front of
the Cathedral of Notre Dame, as well as
master classes and a whole lot more.
Ligne des Bulles, the Bubbles Line
The TER (regional train) line between
Epernay and Reims is called by some
locals: Ligne des Bulles, the Line of the
Bubbles. It makes stops at several villages
in the woodlands and vineyards of the area,
a great way to get to see some of the small
Champagne towns and meet producers at
their vineyards. Here are three of the best:
Rilly-la-Montagne is a charming village,
one of the oldest in the area; here history
and tradition are closely entwined. At the
town hall pick up a copy of a walking guide
of the town and vineyards. Don't miss the
12th century church with its carved choir
stall illustrating the stages of wine
production. There are about 60 Champagne
producers in the town and several offer
cellar tours and tastings. Stop off for a
special lunch at the splendid Chateau de
Rilly, full on glamour amongst the vineyards.
Ay whose motto is “the city that sparkles” is
a lively sort of place. It’s said that King Henri
IV of France loved the wines from here and
owned his own wine press in Ay. Apparently,
it was kept in the half-timbered house behind
St Brice’s Church. Ay was already wellknown
in the Gallo Roman period for the
wines produced here. Around 40 producers
are based in Ay and several offer cellar tours
and tastings. Pop to the town hall to pick up
a leaflet about the town (in English). There
are several restaurants, mainly bistro style
one of the most popular being the Rotisserie
Henri IV named in honour of the town’s most
Avenay-Val-d’Or, just 7km from Epernay is
sleepy and tranquil. There’s a 13th-16th
century church and several Champagne
houses to visit. From here it’s about a 20-
minute walk to the tiny village of Mutigny
from where you will get a wonderful view of
the Montagne of Reims.
Moët et Chandon
The railway line from Paris reached
Epernay in 1849 and trade in
Champagne boomed which led to the
naming of the Avenue de Champagne.
Previously known as rue Royale, and
Fauborg du Commerce, it was renamed
in 1925 and now receives almost half a
million visitors each year
The train station is in the centre of
Epernay so you don't have to walk far to
reach the sites, including the worldfamous
Avenue de Champagne. Here
you can't help but ogle at the famous
names and beautiful buildings that line
this long road. Underneath it are 110km
of cellars filled with bottles maturing
slowly, watched carefully by experts.
The first Champagne house opened on
the avenue in 1729, it belonged to Nicolas
Ruinart. As with Reims, taking a cellar
visit is practically the law in this
effervescent little town and few can resist
the allure of Moët et Chandon who moved
to the Avenue in 1743.
Take a tour with greeters.com, an
initiative in which local people, passionate
about the area where they live, share
their local knowledge with visitors, it’s free
of charge and you’ll get a real insider’s
view of Epernay.
Hautvillers Champagne Prayer:
Give me health for a long time,
Work, not too often,
Love, from time to time,
But Champagne all the time!
Tasting the Stars in Hautvillers
5km north of Epernay is the place where legend
has it, the story of Champagne bubbles began –
Dom Perignon was a French Benedictine monk
who served at the Abbey of Hautvillers. He
worked in the Abbey cellars for almost 50 years
and much of his time was spent improving the
methods for the maturation of wines, the
blending of different grapes, corking the bottles
and the pruning of vines to improve the grape
quality. Apparently he actually spent much of his
time trying to rid the wine of bubbles! He is
though, the person we associate most with the
invention of Champagne, and the legend that he
cried “Brothers, come quick, I am tasting the
stars” has stuck, in no small part thanks to
brilliant French marketing.
There’s no train station in Hautvillers but you
can hire a bike (including electric bike) from
Epernay Tourist Office, the ride takes around 30
For train information see the OuiSNCF
website where you can book tickets to
Champagne. For travel direct in
Champagne on the local trains, buying
tickets at the station is fine.
For more information on the region and
its attractions see
A taste of yesterday, a hint of tomorrow
says Lucy Pitts
© D.Viet / CRT Midi-Pyrénées
Aveyron echoes with the past. Every
densely wooded gorge and valley, every
ancient bastide town and every winding
road seems to whisper of pilgrims making
their weary way south, of Romans and
rebellious Gauls or of Knights Templars,
thundering across the plateaux.
Part of the Massif Central but also the
northern most part of the Midi-Pyrénées, as
a department Aveyron has an earthiness, a
simplicity and a quiet but wild ruggedness
that’s hard to find elsewhere. Forests and
vineyards cling to steep ravines, medieval
villages poke their heads out of leafy
canopies in the hills and rivers dotted with
old mills and forges laze their way through
cool musty valleys.
landscape and you just have to take your
time here and absorb.
walk on the wild side
The plateaux of the Aubrac to the north east
of the region are vast, forlornly beautiful and
represent the Aveyron at its most untamed.
It feels wild and unconquered here with a
haunting beauty to its bleakness and you
can roam for hours in solitary delight
interrupted by nothing more than mountain
shelters (Burons) and the occasional Aubrac
cow. It’s definitely the place to start if you
want to imbibe the very soul of the region
and it also harbours one of the ancient
pilgrim trails that cuts across France.
No one seems to be in a rush here and the
region’s cuisine remains deeply connected
with its past and its terrain. It’s all about the
3 star taste of the Aubrac plateaux
It’s hard to imagine how it must have felt to
the tired travellers as they bowed their
heads into the wind and pushed on to the
south. But, if you have the time, follow in
their footsteps a while across and down
from the lofty plateaux. You'll cross through
the pretty hillside villages and into the thick
and craggy relief of forests of chestnut, pine
and oak. Gradually you will be drawn on to
the beautiful haven of Conques.
But if you can’t travel the trail and don’t want
to meander alone, join one of the “Aubrac
Rando” guided walking tours. They leave
from the village of Laguiole and this way,
you'll get a real sense of these hills.
It’s an area which was also the childhood
home of Michel Bras (the only three star
Michelin - chef in the region) who says that
he takes much of his inspiration from the
2,000 local varieties of flora and fauna that
you’ll find here.
His restaurants is just 10 minutes outside
the village of Aubrac, and hovers like a
floating beacon of luxury, indulgence and all
that is modern, with glass walls giving way to
dramatic views over the valley to Laguiole.
You’ll find that the dishes served here are as
much about art and poetry as they are about
the terrain with the emphasis on edible
flowers, herbs, beauty and all that’s in
season. There’s a hotel here too but you will
need to book.
A sip of the new generation
Wandering down from Conques and the
Aubrac, it’s an easy and logical journey on to
the now regenerated, up and coming wine
growing region and appellation of Marcillac.
It’s a relatively unknown appellation which has
risen from the ashes of the almost extinct wine
production that the monks from Conques and
the wealthy merchants of Rodez enjoyed
many centuries ago.
Renowned for its reddish soil, if you look
carefully you can still see the overgrown and
forgotten vines of the past. And steeply
terraced vineyards now cling to either side of
the valley in a south facing arch, bordered to
the north by the forests, producing spicy and
rustic reds (as well as some rosés)
predominantly from the Fer Servadou
(Mansois) grape and they slip down very
comfortably with earthy local cuisine.
© P. Thebault
There’s a vastly updated cooperative here at
the Vignerons du Vallon with an excellent
visitor centre a short distance from Rodez
which showcases the history and production
of Marcillac. But better still in the summer
months, the local village of Valady is a
wonderfully indulgent way to relax, unwind
and experience local wine and cuisine at their
weekly Saturday fete.
Far right, Aubrac; mid top; the market
at Villedranche-de-Rouergue; below far
left: the Cathedral at Rodez; below
Street in Villefranche-de-Rouergue
assault on your senses in
Before you head on further south, allow
yourself yet another indulgence and head
west over the rolling hills to Villefranchede-Rouergue,
one of the region’s five 13th
century “new concept” bastide towns with
a distinctly southern feel. From the
rawness of the Aubrac and the deep
gorges and ravines cut by the rivers
Aveyron and Dordou, arriving in the
evening to the grid style streets, tall
timbered merchant’s houses and
limestone arcades has a refreshing feel to
it. But come morning, particularly on
market day (Thursday) the town explodes
into a melting pot of colours, scents,
sounds and irresistibly tasty treats.
One of the best in Aveyron, the body of
the market fills the main square (Place
Notre Dame) but spills out in every
direction showcasing fruit, veg, spices,
sticky sweets, warm breads and
patisseries, herbs, flowers, meats slow
turning on the spit and vast pans of
steaming shell fish, all teasing and
tempting you into the many backstreets.
When you’re ready, escape down to the
calm of the esplanade near the riverbank
where you can cool off in the sleepy
shade of a plane tree before continuing on
your journey south.
A glimpse of the future at
the Millau Viaduct
The river and gorges of the Tarn are well
known enough and undoubtedly it’s worth
losing yourself for a while here in what is the
deepest canyon in France, while you
recover from the excesses of Villefranche.
But this really is a place where the vastness
of nature meets the enormity of human
creation and if the Pont du Gard transports
you back to the time of the Romans, I’m not
quite sure where Norman Foster’s Millau
Viaduct will take you.
Higher than the Eiffel Tower, 270 metres
above the ground, it is the highest road
bridge deck and the longest suspension
bridge in the world, straddling the Tarn valley
and has been described as one of the
greatest engineering achievements of all
Don’t rush the experience, it’s one of those
places that you just have to reflect on for a
while. North of the bridge is a service station
area created out of old farm buildings with a
great viewing platform which is best enjoyed
at dawn or dusk.
The service station is also dedicated to local
produce and includes an eatery run by
Michel Bras’ brother where you can sample
his unique “capuchins”, a pancake style
cone filled a choice of gastronomic delights.
But for me, the only way to really savour this
spectacular vision of the future is to head to
nearby Creissels, between April and
October, and just slow things down for a
while with a boat trip. It’s a wonderful way to
enjoy the Tarn, its wild life and pretty river
bank villages like the well-known Peyre (one
of the “most beautiful villages of France”),
but the real pleasure is that you also slip
quietly under the huge, shimmering viaduct.
You can’t rush the Aveyron. You must stop
and try its earthy cheeses and local dishes;
its Aligot and Flaune, its Roquefort and its
Pérail. You must listen to its memories and
think about all who’ve gone before you. And
you must explore and soak up its earthy,
Stop off in Milau
for a bite...
Close to that awesome bridge (and
providing a surreal backdrop) is the ancient
town of Millau, home to a rich history and
beautiful architecture, Roman pottery and
fine leather glove making. It's a pretty town
and also a good place to stop off to enjoy a
leisurely bite to eat and enjoy the stunning
scenery of Aveyron.
A great place to start on this culinary trail is
at the unassuming looking Restaurant
Capion. Tucked away very close to the heart
of the city, you’ll find a good mix of
traditional, local recipes and ingredients
including Roquefort and Aligot, combined
with more international ideas. They also
offer a very reasonably priced express menu
for lunch during the week which includes
three courses and a ¼ of wine for just
€16.50. It has a simple and modern feel and
the dishes are a treat for the eye.
For something a little more modern try the
Restaurant Estanco. The chef here
describes his cuisine as inspired by the ‘near
and far’ of his travels. He specialises in fish
and seafood dishes and combines
everything from Creole to classic French
with lots of colour and spice.
Based around the idea of a tea room (hence
it’s known as Cake’t), this small but
welcoming restaurant serves a very
reasonably priced lunch and is a real delight.
The husband and wife team make charming
hosts, explaining their dishes, which often
include fabulous soups and fresh bread, in
detail and with a great deal of pride. Or if
you have time or space for nothing more,
why not just catch your breath for a while
and enjoy a slice of their cake in the
sunshine of southern France.
Roquefort cheese, can only be called Roquefort
if its matured in the caves of Rouquefort-sur-
Soulzon as it has been for 1000 years
Whilst it may look humble from the outside,
Au Jeu De Paume is set in a beautifully
restored old building with an open fire,
beamed ceilings and a lovely terraced
courtyard. You can enjoy all the local
specialities here and watch the larger meat
cuts being cooked on an open grill. It’s
thoroughly atmospheric and their two or
three course ‘formule’ start at just €12-15.
Finally, if you fancy getting away from the
hustle and bustle of Millau, then why not take
a 7 km detour to the beautiful village of
Peyre. The only restaurant in the village, it
sits above the river with great views across
the countryside and you can see the Millau
viaduct in the distance too. It’s reasonably
basic fodder but good quality, good value for
money and with a welcoming feel.
Janine Marsh visits the
pickled in the past town of
Sarlat in the Dordogne, the
perfect weekend destination.
Photo: Patricia Bruce
You just can’t help but fall in love when you
visit the ancient town of Sarlat. The medieval
buildings, fabulous market and gourmet food
shops are so enticing. The cobbled streets
lure you on to discover winding alleyways,
steep stairways and their treasures. It's a
town where restaurants serve the most
delicious of local dishes with pride and flair.
You can easily spend a weekend or much
longer here enjoying the ambiance, the food
and the sights. And you’ll always yearn to
Time warp town
Visiting Sarlat is like stepping into the past.
You’ll discover a friendly town that’s full of
surprises and intoxicatingly pretty. It has the
look of a gorgeous film set but this is a living,
working town that just happens to be
incredibly ancient and quite extraordinarily
Of course all this is bound to have mass
appeal and Sarlat gets very busy in the
summer months. Go outside of July and
August though and it’s much quieter and life
goes on pretty much as it has done for
centuries here in the heart of Dordogne.
It’s a town that has a long and colourful
history. For ten years from 1360 it was an
English garrison town and even before that it
was well known thanks to a monk who
became Bishop of Sarlat and was made a
Saint after it was said he could cure lepers
and raised his father from the dead. St
Sarcedos died in AD250 and the Cathedral in
Sarlat is dedicated to him.
He’s not the only one to have performed
miracles here. In 1147 Saint Bernard passed
through Sarlat and cured the sick with loaves
he’d blessed. The event is commemorated
by the 12th century tower of Saint-Bernard,
known as the Lanterne des Morts (lantern of
the dead). You’ll see this dark and peculiar
building behind the cathedral.
Much of the architecture is from the 15th to
the 17th century and the Renaissance
influence is strong. That it is so unchanged is
due to the fact that for some time, the town
was cut off.
Sarlat – sleeping beauty
In the mid 1800’s Sarlat pretty much went to
sleep due to the lack of good roads to the
town. People moved away, houses were left
empty, Sarlat became run down and was on
its way to falling into ruin. In fact it wasn’t
until the second half of the 20th century that
people began to realise just how special
In 1958 the then Minister of Culture, Andre
Malraux, who had lived in Sarlat for a while,
pushed through a law for the protection and
restoration of old buildings and old areas of
towns. The law mentioned Sarlat as an
example and soon after, work began to
restore the once neglected streets and
buildings to their former glory. Sarlat has
never looked back and is now one of the
jewels of Dordogne.
If the weather is good take the glass lift to
the top of what was the tower of the church
of Ste-Marie. You’ll be rewarded with
outstanding views over the rooftops of
Sarlat. The deconsecrated building, which
was started in 1367, was turned into an
arms store after the French Revolution and
since then has been a series of shops and
was even used by the post office. Now
redesigned by famous French architect Jean
Nouvel, it makes for a fantastic covered
market. The Saturday morning market is
A muddle of medieval streets impress, and
in rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau you’ll spot
the 17th century Chapelle des Penitents
Blanc where the poor people of Sarlat once
Book a one hour guided tour (in English) at
the tourist office which is in a 16th century
former mansion in Place de la Liberté. It’s an
excellent way to discover more about the
secrets and sites of Sarlat.
One of the best times to see Sarlat is as the
sun is setting when the buildings seem to
glow, but even when its raining it’s still
The Place du Marché des Oies, where a
goose market was once held and now home
to three life size bronze geese – the perfect
selfie spot. The square is surrounded by
superb old houses and shops. Just around
the corner in in rue des Consuls is a
gorgeous 14th century house, Hotel Plamon
which once belonged to cloth merchants.
Sarlat for gastronomes
The Saturday market spreads through the
cobbled streets. Stalls piled with local,
seasonal produce – walnuts, garlic, cheeses
and charcuterie, fruit and veg and artisan
made bread, it really is irresistible. A daily
market is held in the former church of Ste-
Marie where St Bernard once preached and
where the doors are big enough for a giant
to pass through. A night market takes place
throughout the year on Thursdays.
Specialist markets for truffles and foie gras
are held. And if you’re thinking that’s a lot of
markets – well that’s because this place is a
food lovers destination extraordinaire.
The squares and tiny streets are lined with
gourmet food shops selling all manner of
deliciousness. Restaurants galore tempt on
Locals Love: Le Bistrot de l’Octroi, 111,
Avenue de Selves, it has a cosy
atmosphere, friendly service and a menu
that favours local and seasonal produce.
2-course lunch menu from €14.50 and a
special house menu of the best of the area
such as cepes, duck and goose and
desserts such as crème brulee featuring
Wine and dine: Le Presidial in a 16th
century building in the heart of Sarlat just
behind the market. On a sunny day the
terrace is perfect to enjoy al fresco dining,
inside is elegant and utterly charming,
there’s even a balcony area for those very
special occasions. Old school,
unpretentious, refined dining at its best,
local specialities, and dishes with flair. A
great menu that’s also great value €19.50
for 3 course lunch menu (take it from me,
it’s a bargain). 6 rue Landry (book in
advance if you can, this place is very
Major Annual Events
With an all year-round calendar of events,
there’s plenty going on in Sarlat. Art, film
and theatre, sports and heritage and of
course food with truffle, foie gras, culinary
academie and the Fete de la Gastronomie.
By train: Paris to Sarlat via Bordeaux takes
from 4 hours 53 minutes.
Website for tourist office:
Postcard from Paris in the spring
Antoine Collas, a Paris photographer shares his favourite photos of the city of light in the
spring. Originally from Aix-en-Provence he now lives in Paris and never tires of taking
photos of the ever changing scenery. His favourite location is along the Seine River which
he says "never looks the same"...
Montmartre is magical
and one of the best place
Featured in "Midnight in
Paris" the pretty cobbled
streets, old buildings and
street artists make for
one of the best places to
take a stroll. Take a
break at La Halte du
Sacre Coeur restaurant,
bar and tea room (45
Rue Custine) for
authentic food, great
service, good value and
popular with the locals.
The carousel (in French it's
called manège) by the Eiffel
Tower, it's the perfect
location for a photo of
Paris's Grand Dame and it's
really popular with local
children, wedding couples
Paris is ever changing. There
are the ancient streets and
buildings as well as new and
innovative architecture like
the Louis Vuitton art
foundation designed by
Frank Gehry. The landscape
Head to Le Marais
neighbourhood and enjoy
coffee or a hot chocolate
early on a Saturday or
Sunday morning before the
city starts to be active. You'll
feel like a local and really
understand the vibe of Paris...
a big city but with the feel of
a village at times.
See more of Antoine's
10 brilliant tours in France
Travel like a local!
We've picked ten fabulous tours in France where the experience is built around what YOU
want to see and do.
Small Group tours
Each and every private tour is different and they are all small group tours.
Enjoy the trip of a lifetime
There’s no shoving to get on and off the bus on these tours, no rushing from one
monument to another with no time to truly appreciate the history and the beauty.
Whether you’re a lover of chateaux, culture, gourmet cuisine, wonderful wines, gorgeous
countryside, the prettiest villages – these are tours that are full of thrills and wonder.
culture & gastronomy
Gers - Gascony
culture & cookery in
Nourish your soul and unleash your spirit
of adventure in Gascony. With tour guide
Sue Aran, you'll experience the famous
food, wine and Amagnac of the region.
You'll discover where to find the best
antique shops and flea markets, the most
beautiful villages and magnificent
chateaux. From one day to week long
tours that are customised for you.
Cooking classes with chefs in their homes
where you'll cook "authentic French
dishes, no frou frou or crazy foam" says
tour guide Martine Bertin-Peterson. You'll
shop at the enchanting street markets
with chefs and dine at the most
scrumptious restaurants in the beautiful
towns of Provence on this fully escorted
trip of a life time.
wine & gastronomy
On this tour you’re accompanied by your
very own private in-house chef, gourmet
dining catered to your personal taste.
There are visits to the most stunning
vineyards and you'll indulge in the very
best Loire Valley wines. You’ll learn how
to do a wine tasting like the professionals
and meet some of the region’s most
interesting producers with charming hosts
Kimberley and Walter Eagleton.
Small group fully escorted tours or day
trips in Provence with local expat Emily
Durand. You'll get to experience the
glorious lavender fields and the most
picturesque towns like St Remy de
Provence and gorgeous Gordes.
Indulge in scrumptious Mediterranean
cuisine and fine wines and experience
Provence in all its summer glory.
south of france
normandy in summer
like a local
Discover real southern France from
captivating Carcassonne to magical
Montpellier and the best of Provence.
Tours lasting 7 days or 9 days in which
you'll get to be a temporary local and
indulge in the best Occitanie and
Provence has to offer from gastronomy to
culture and then some. This is a tour for
those who love the authentic.
Discover the best of Normandy: history,
gastronomy, beaches and the most
beautiful monuments from Mont St Michel
to Monet's Garden at Giverny and historic
sites. You'll explore the places most
visitors miss with local guides Julia and
Stephane. This is a tour that's anything
but average, you'll feel like you're visiting
Normandy with friends.
Car & wine
provence in autumn
like a local
The Porsche, Alsace, Champagne and
Paris luxury trip will take you from
Stuttgart to France and two of the most
famous wine regions of France –
Champagne and Alsace, then to Paris.
This luxury trip includes 5-star hotels,
Michelin starred dining & Champagne in
Reims. Best of all you will have the
opportunity to drive a Porsche GTS 911
on the unlimited speed Autobahn!
This really is a special trip. The best of
Provence – the sights, the villages, the
culture. You'll be immersed into the
authentic Provencal lifestyle and culure
from playing petanque, tasting the most
amazing wines and enjoying sensational
meals. Visit the very best of Provence,
Cassis, Gordes, Aix-enProvence and
many more of the most beautiful towns -
and get to know them like a local.
ordeaux in october
christmas in alsace
Bordeaux in the fall, the perfect time to
visit as the grapes are picked, the wines
are in production and there's an air of
celebration. This tour introduces you to
the legendary wines of the region,
accompanied by a renowned wine expert
with private wine tastings in the most
amazing locations from chateaux to
vineyards. Exquisite food with your own
chef and Chateau accommodation.
It doesn't get much more festive than this:
visit Alsace and the capital of Christmas -
Strasbourg. Explore charming Colmar with
its famous Christmas market and the
exquisite fairy tale towns of Riquewihr and
Ribeauville which twinkle at this time of
year. Discover wine towns like
Kayserberg, so pretty it looks like
something out of a Disney movie, Enjoy
gourmet meals, fabulous accommodation
Every weekend, we invite you to share your photos on Facebook - it's a great way for
everyone to see "real" France and be inspired by real travellers snapping pics as they go.
Every week there are utterly gorgeous photos being shared and here we showcase the
most popular of each month. Share your favourite photos with us on Facebook - the most
"liked" will appear in the next issue of The Good Life France Magazine...
Pretty in Spring, Paris by @saagoo on Instagram
Burgundy on a
rainy late spring
officially one of
villages in France,
& it's well worth a
visit (close to
Beaune & Dijon).
By Don Knipfer
Join us on Facebook
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your favourite photos
The colours of Nice
over balconies in
Michael Cranmer skidaddles to an as yet hardly
known skiers paradise - the French Cottian Alps
Maybe you’ve skied the ‘Big’Uns’: The Three Valleys, Tignes/Val d’Isère, Paradiski.
With eyes (and credit card) watering, you’ve paid the price for access to those
endless kilometres. But - and here’s the rub - how many of the pistes you paid to
use have you actually been on? My guess is only a fraction.
So, time for a reality check. Quality v Quantity.
Remember the old adage, big is not always better? We all want more for our money
whilst not compromising on quality. In the course of my job I get to ski a vast range of
resorts and countries and here’s my Top Tip for a mid-price, but definitely not mid-quality,
resort that has got pretty much all you could want.
Where? Where? Answer: Montgènevre.
Now some of you will have heard of it, but
I’m guessing most won’t. It’s way down
south, technically the French Cottian Alps.
Think Briançon. But there’s a twist. It’s slapbang
on the Italian border, perched beside
an ancient high pass, now an important
Route National. (This is beginning to sound
like estate-agent’s speak for a mansion
yards away from a motorway – “easy
access to transport links”). Heavy lorries do
go past all hours of the day and night, but
you’d never know it because they’re
underground in a tunnel built for the 2006
Winter Olympics in Turin.
That’s another bit of info to perk your ears
up. Turin Airport is only 1 hour and 20
minutes away…half the time it takes to get
from Geneva to the Big’Uns.
So far so good.
The snowy mountains of
Its location on the pass means huge
dumps of snow scooped up as
precipitation in the south and north give
the area an enviable snow record.
What about the mountains? The village is
at 1,850m, the top lift 2,630m. The skiing
divides into three sectors. First off the
south-facing Le Chalvet, two lifts whizzing
you up from the centre of the village. Pack
a camera as the views over the Ecrins
National Park and Briançon are stunners.
Open reds, easily ridden by competent
intermediates swoop joyfully down to
midpoint. Where better for my invariable
11.00 hot chocolate stop than Les
Terraces? The clue is in the name, a wide
sunny affair with comfy sofas dotted
around…easy to sink into, not so easy to
get out of.
TopTip: have a Café Gourmand. A perfect
Italian espresso with not one, not two, but
five! yummy, tasty sides. Lie back in the sun
and reflect on your excellent choice.
Later in the morning the sun will have
warmed the opposing side of the valley.
Head for Les Gondrans with its very
different vibe. Up past the nursery slopes
through trees to wide higher runs peaking
at L’Observatoire, one of a ring of old
tactical military forts. There are choices
from here, each guaranteed to raise a smile.
Blues, reds, and endless off-piste delights.
If you feel fit, try a top-to-bottom nonstopper
and earn yourself boasting rights in
Le Graal, Montgènevre’s après ski
Endless off piste
delights await the
skier who is lucky
enough to discover
Chilled out L'Aigle
Moving on. The third sector, L’Aigle, is
dramatically different to the others. A long
and slow chair transports you over terrain
untouched by humans but imprinted hither
and thither with the tracks of foxes and
alpine hares. It’s a great ride in sunny
weather, but not recommended if there’s a
wind blowing. Consequently, you might
find yourself the only occupant of the
meandering red Souréou linking with the
black Les Rhodos further down. Both are
achievable by confident intermediates…in
the right conditions.
Most accommodation is on the sunny
south-facing side of the valley, centred
around ancient streets and alleys, with an
obligatory old church and spire. It’s
definitely not party-central. think tranquil,
relaxed and chilled out. Bars and
restaurants sit shoulder-to-shoulder along
what could easily be the sea-front, except
its snow. The last few years have seen the
development of some swish familyorientated
upmarket apartments, each with
shops, swimming pool, sauna, and ski hire,
close to the slopes.
I stayed in the Le Hameau des Airelles,
only 16 steps from my front door to the ski
lift. A few more steps down was Le Chalet
des Gourmandises, the morning essential
stop for fresh, warm croissants. Across the
road, Intersport provided top-of-the-range
skis and boots.
Love thy Neighbour
Here’s where I reveal Montgènevre’s next door
neighbour… Claviere in Italy!
So close they’re practically semi-detached.
Like all good neighbours they get along
famously, swopping recipes, intermarrying,
sharing mountains and slopes. Yes, they’ve
had past disagreements, but that’s all
Skiing the Milky Way
And, beyond little Claviere, is the Via
Lattea –The Milky Way – 400km of pistes
and the resorts of Sestriere, Sauze d’Oulx,
San Sicario, and Cesana. You can choose
to stay within a local sector, or buy a lift
pass for all. Top Tip: find your ski legs in
Montgenevre, then venture further afield.
It’s entirely viable to ‘do’ the Milky Way in a
day, but remember: Quality v Quantity.
Time for some cross-border action. There’s
no queueing for Passport Control, but it is a
bit of a slog. After a hold-your-nerve schuss
down a blue trying to keep some speed, the
run flattens out into a walk as you realise
you’re in Italy. Fantastico! Even more
fantastic is the name of the sector, Monti
de la Luna. It was here I had one of the
most memorable runs of my life, not on a
steep black, or some narrow couloir, but a
From the Colla Bercia 2293m to Cesana
1360m, piste #90 (numbers not names in
Italy) meandered down a farm track
overhung with branches heavy with snow,
forming an ice-tunnel, dappled shadows
contrasting with shafts of piercing sunlight.
I slowly snow-ploughed the more to prolong
my enjoyment of the moment, the place,
and my senses. I don’t believe it could ever
be that perfect again.
To finish, back at the top lift, the rickety old
hostel Baita della Luna served awful
burgers, but wonderful homemade Zuppa
de Ceci con bruschetta (Chickpea soup with
It’s the simple things that stay.
Michael Cranmer was a guest of
Montgènevre Tourist Office, www.
He stayed at Le Hameau des Airelles
courtesy of Zenith Holidays, www.
Photo: J'adore la France
Joanna Leggett, director of
marketing and public relations at
Leggett Immobillier explains the best
ways to integrate into French life,
beginning with the importance of
learning the language and adapting to
Every now and again, as I travel through
France, I have to stop and pinch myself. I
am actually living my dream! All the
magical places I'd read about for so many
years are passing by my window.
France seduces your senses:
The warmth of the sun on your back; smells
of fresh bread and coffee from the local
boulangerie; the scent of flowers – you only
have to sniff lavender oil to recall the fields
that turn the south of France purple.
The countryside is peaceful, from the
verdant landscape, where luscious vines
spill over their supports, to the coastal
resorts and pretty fishing villages.
And the French certainly know how to eat
well: oysters and fresh fish from the coast;
truffles from the Dordogne; salt-marsh lamb,
tender Limousin beef, and of course, the
Am I waxing lyrical? Mais oui, bien sûr.
Living in France means much more than
indulging your olfactory senses. It's not an
extended summer holiday, and it will take
some time to adapt to your new life. There
will be ups and downs – but, to my mind, it
cannot be bettered. So how should we adapt
to life in France? In my opinion, the two
basics are language and culture.
First, you must try to learn French.
Communication really is key. In the UK we
wouldn't expect to switch languages to
converse with a new neighbour. The French
are extremely courteous and polite. You
need to be able to converse so that you can
be courteous in return. At first you may find
your language skills limited to the needs for
materials for the travaux (renovations) on
your house, and the weather; however, it
won't be long before you want to discuss the
matters of the day and to make friends.
Language classes, French radio and
television will help in your quest to settle
here. My school-French was pretty rusty, so
I went to language classes when I first
arrived. We listen to French radio in the car
and watch the actualités (news) on French
TV – though we do turn over to British TV
for Downton! Your 'O' level French might
need brushing up: language does change
over the years, and what you learned at
school is not necessarily the French you
Many of the French will speak a little
English, and shop staff often go out of their
way to help foreigners. The local tax office
might even have someone who speaks
English to help you 'arrange your affairs',
and the EDF electricity board have an
English-speaking helpline. However, this
isn't enough to make you truly happy in your
new environment. You must mix with French
people whenever you can. Perhaps you can
join the 'Comité des Fêtes' in your village.
Help out in your community as often as
possible; it will be noted and appreciated –
and your French will improve enormously.
The culture in France is subtly different to
UK culture. The French have a different way
of doing things: they think differently and
have different values; they prioritise
differently and live quite differently. For
example, you have to get used to the long
lunch hours, when banks and shops close.
The Cost of living and
every day life
Many expats fail to realise that they must
still deal with the everyday chores, hassles
and problems life brings anywhere.
You may wonder how much everyday life is
going to cost. This depends: what may
seem a perfectly reasonable standard of
living for one person could be inconceivable
to another. Talk to people who live
in your target area to get an idea of their
monthly outgoings. Ask your estate agent
for details of rates, but don't forget to
account for electricity, heating, telephone
and food costs.
Many people use wood-burning stoves for
heating. In autumn, your woodsman will
arrive on his tractor to deliver the cubic
metres of logs you ordered. You then get to
stack them. The delivery can be hilarious:
while the woodsman is being charming to
you, he could well be shouting profanities to
his apprentice as he fails to negotiate
backing into a tight driveway.
Then there is the paperwork: be prepared.
You will amass a dossier of essential
papers. You'll need birth and marriage
certificates and, although current EU law
says this is not required, you may have to
get them officially translated. Keep all your
paperwork to hand and go with the flow.
While administrative red tape might seem
infuriating at times, remember the French
find it infuriating too. As an outsider, you
must adapt to local ways; do not expect
local ways to adapt to you.
Time is measured by the seasons. People
greet each other in the street; they talk
about the mushrooms they found in the
woods. They watch for the cranes to fly over
and discuss the return of summer. I would
not live anywhere else.
See www.leggett-immo.com for thousands
of properties and advice for finding your
dream home in France...
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Plan ahead to
For those contemplating the purchase of a
second home in France, or a complete
move, the advantages from a tax
perspective may represent fantastic value.
Jennie Poate, Head of Operations, France
for Beacon Global Wealth Management
There always seem to be horror stories
doing the rounds about tax in France. But if
you're planning to move here as a retiree or
early retiree and already have some (or all)
of your income stream planned, then you
could well be surprised.
For example: if you're married, you are
taxed as a household and will have two taxfree
allowances added together before
income tax becomes payable. This is
certainly handy if, like most people, one of
you has a higher income than the other. All
pensions receive an abatement or
allowance of 10% before tax is payable –
every little helps.
As an individual in the UK you would pay
40% tax above the £43,300 threshold.
Even as an individual in France you wono't
reach this height until above €70,000. So
even higher earners can pay less tax.
The rates for income tax are:
Up to €9,807 0%
Between €9,807 - €27,086 14%
Between €27,086 - €72,617 30%
Between €72,617 - €153,783 41%
Above €153,783 45%
As an example, suppose two adults have a
joint income of €40,000. Tax liability is
worked out on the basis that each has
€20,000. The first €9807 of each person is
zero rated, tax is charged at 14% on the
There are also exemptions, discounts and
reductions available – it can seem like a
highly complex formula when you’re trying to
fill in the paperwork and work out what’s
what. Getting qualified tax advice can save
you money, time and heartache (not to
mention a headache).
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
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FSC00805B. The information in this article 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 this information.
Planning ahead is always a good idea
You shouldn't just research the area or
house you want to buy; you should also
have a clear idea of how much income you
need to live on in France, and how much of
it will be taxed.
Jennie is happy to answer any queries you
may have. She and her team would be
delighted to help you plan your move to
France and offer a free, no obligation, initial
consultation in order to discuss your
You also want to make sure that any
savings you have are taxed as little as
possible. The start of this planning from a
financial point of view should begin before
you move to France.
Using a financial adviser with in-depth
knowledge of both the UK and French
systems from a tax, pension and investment
point of view could save you money as well
as a big tax bill later on.
Although there is a lot of information on the
Internet about taxes in France. It’s often
outdated at best and at worst downright
wrong. Having something bespoke and
tailored to your needs and wishes will ease
your financial transition into your new life.
Jennie can be contacted at:
In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for th
From the prolific blogger behind eat. live. travel. write comes
and Francophiles of all ages. Forget the fuss and bring simpl
kitchen with Mardi Michels as your guide. In her first book, M
have to be complicated. The result is an elegant, approachab
for young chefs and their families. From savory dishes like O
Frites to sweet treats like Profiteroles, Madeleines or Crème
classics here. With helpful timetables to plan out baking pro
involved in cooking, this book breaks down any preconceive
or too difficult for kids to master. With Mardi's warm, empow
of all ages will be begging to help out in the kitchen every da
Financiers are an excellent handheld after-school snack. Essentially a tea cake
made with a touch of almond meal, these are a little more substantial than
madeleines. They come in various shapes, including rectangles and ovals, and here
we’re using a mini muffin pan because they’re easy to find and many people have
them in the kitchen already.
Makes 24 cakes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 10 to 12 minutes
Unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter 4 large
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (50 g) almond meal
1/3 cup (50 g) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt Icing sugar,
Option: Raspberry financiers.
Just before you bake the financiers, cut
12 raspberries in half and place one
half, cut side down, on top of each
financier. Press down gently.
e Whole Family to Make and Enjoy by
a new cookbook for parents, children
e, delicious French dishes to your home
ardi shows that French food doesn't
le cookbook featuring recipes tailored
melettes, Croque-Monsieurs or Steak
Brûlée, readers will find many French
jects, and tips on how to get kids
d notion that French cuisine is too fancy
ering and encouraging instructions, kids
y of the week.
1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F (200˚C). If you are
using a nonstick mini muffin pan you may not need
to butter them, but otherwise generously butter the
cups of the pan.
2. Melt the butter either in a small pot on the
stovetop over medium heat or in a microwave-safe
bowl in the microwave for about 1 minute. Set
aside to cool.
3. Beat the egg whites until frothy with handheld
electric beaters on high speed, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar,
almond meal, flour and salt.
5. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and fold them
in gently with a rubber spatula until just combined.
6. Add the cooled, melted butter to the batter and
use a rubber spatula to gently mix until the butter is
7. Divide the batter between the cups of the muffin
pan. You can do this with a 11/2-tablespoon cookie
scoop or a small spoon. Fill each cup almost to the
8. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the center is
slightly puffed and the edges are golden and
slightly crispy and coming away from the pan.
There may be cracks in the tops. That’s totally
9. Remove the financiers from the muffin pan
immediately and allow to cool on wire racks.
10. Once they have cooled completely, sprinkle
them with icing sugar to serve. These are best
eaten the day they are made, although they can
keep for a couple of days in an airtight container at
Pre order Mardi's fabulous cook book at: Eat.
When the urge to get into the kitchen and make something sweet hits Paola Westbeek,
nonnettes are a favourite. They're a specialty of Dijon in Burgundy. The name means
‘little nuns’ and the cakes find their origins in the Middle Ages...
Orange Nonettes with Grand Marnier
50g light brown sugar
1 tbsp pain d’épices spices
2 tbsps Grand Marnier
180g whole wheat flour
100g all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
Zest of 1 organic orange
6 tsps marmalade
3 tbsps freshly squeezed orange juice
80g icing sugar
Paola Westbeek is a food,
wine and travel journalist.
For more of her recipes,
thefrenchlife.org and her
Heat water, butter, honey and sugar, just until butter is melted. Remove from the heat and
stir in the spices and Grand Marnier.
In a large bowl whisk the flours and baking powder.
Add the orange zest and stir to combine. Pour in the syrup (it should still be fairly hot). Stir
Flour and butter a 12-hole muffin tin. Divide the batter over the holes.
Chill for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 200°C.
Using a teaspoon, make a little well in the centre of the batter and fill with half a tsp of
Bake the nonnettes for 20 minutes. The nonnettes should be tender and spring back when
Allow to cool completely before unmoulding. Place the nonnettes on a rack, making sure
there is a sheet of tin foil underneath it.
Make a thin glaze by whisking the orange juice into the icing sugar. Drizzle over the
nonnettes and leave to set.
My Good Life in France
Sometimes I get France. And sometimes I don’t. Take the law for
In my local café in which the locals gather to gossip, a recent topic of
debate was about the misfortunes of a baker who owns a boulangerie
near Troyes in the Champagne region. He decided to open his
boulangerie 7 days a week in the summer of 2017 in order to serve the
needs of the many tourists who flocked to the area. All well and good
you might think, but non. Someone, who is not owning up to it, reported
him for contravening a local decree that prevents anyone working 7 days
a week, even if it is their own business and they choose to do so. The
labour union that was tasked with enforcing the law was apparently
reluctant to do so, especially as the baker was supported by the local
Mayor and residents. They asked other local business owners if they
agreed that the baker should be fined. Astoundingly, the result was yes,
and the baker was fined €3000. So far, he has refused to cough up.
You might think that strange enough but there’s more. I have a plastic
pig in my garden, don’t ask, I don’t know why I bought it but plastic
animals are popular in my part of France, so it doesn’t look as odd as
you might think! I told Annie the café owner, about my plastic cochon
and said I was going to call it Napoleon. “Ah non” she said, “You can’t do
that, it’s against the law”. And, it’s true. It’s illegal to call a pig Napoleon
in France, maybe even a plastic one.
There are plenty of strange laws in France I’ve since discovered. Did you
know for instance it’s illegal to kiss at a train station in France? Or that
there is a centuries old law that requires all French citizens keep a
haystack handy, in case the King passes by and needs hay for his horse.
Stranger still, it is legal in France to marry a dead person with the
permission of the President and if you have a good reason to do so.
I still have much to learn about France it seems and some of it is very