Issue No. 18

Inspiring and insightful features, stunning photographs and brilliant reporting on French travel, culture, gastronomy, life in France and a whole lot more...

Inspiring and insightful features, stunning photographs and brilliant reporting on French travel, culture, gastronomy, life in France and a whole lot more...

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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 -

simply irresistible.

24 Lovely Lille

Discover culture and charm by the bucket

load in the northern city.

32 Destination


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

mysterious Aveyron.

54 le weekend in... sarlat

Step back in time and find a pickled in the

Features continued

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

in France.

70 skiing in the french

cottian alps

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


86 FInanciers

Mardi Michaels' recipe for the classic little

French cakes is simple and delish.

88 NOnettes

Paola Westbeek's recipe for the "little

Nuns" is a winner!

Ten of the best visits

in Provence

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

the past.

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

de Venise.


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.

3 Gordes

- 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

Provencal village.

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

Mediterranean coastline.

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

his novels.

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

year 500.

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 -

simply divine!

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

Northern Franc


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


Culture Vultures

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,

and accessories.

Inside Track

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.

Best Bars

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

its beauty.

Place Gilleson

Above left: Grand

Place, Lille; above:

Champagne bar

Couvent des Minimies

Mussel power

in Lille

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!

Practical Info

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

gastronomic waves

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

utterly delicious.

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

taste buds.

Place Darnetal: Vegetarian cookery

demonstrations alongside local market

gardeners supported by the boulangeries,

chocolatiers and restaurants that line this

pretty square.

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

in 496.

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...

(see over)


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

in Reims

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

famous fan.

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

cellar entrance!

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

minutes: www.tourisme-hautvillers.com


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.

© T.Lambelin

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,

wholesome soul.



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

of Dordogne

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

Sarlat is.

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

simply outstanding.

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

incredibly beautiful.

Don’t miss

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

every corner.

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

local walnuts.

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.

Details: www.sarlat-tourisme.com

Practical Information

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

for photographers.

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

and tourists.

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

is alive....

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

photographs on

Instagram @


10 brilliant tours in France

in 2018

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


Culture &



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

loire valley

Wine &




provence lavender


Lavender &



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

The real

south of

France Tours


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.


Porsche, alsace,

champagne, Paris


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

Chateauneuf in

Burgundy on a

rainy late spring

morning. It's

officially one of

the prettiest

villages in France,

& it's well worth a

visit (close to

Beaune & Dijon).

By Don Knipfer

Join us on Facebook

and like and share

your favourite photos

of France...

The colours of Nice

- bright


flowers tumbling

over balconies in

the sun...

by Sudarshan




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

forgotten now.

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

simple green.

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

the culture

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

need today.

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...

Introducing OFX

Where the world’s moving when

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Often people default to their bank for international money transfers, as they simply may not

be aware that there are cheaper and more convenient alternatives. At OFX, every client is

important. They offer a top notch team of global currency specialists available 24/7 – so you

always have an experienced person to talk to, on your time. The OFX team works with

global clients to develop bespoke currency plans, which help manage risk and ultimately

save money.

If you prefer to self-manage your international payments, their award winning, online

platform is convenient, quick and simple to use. The platform guides you through the entire

process, so you’ll know exactly what information you need to provide to ensure your

transfer goes through smoothly. This allows you to do business with OFX via your preferred

channel of choice.

Are there hidden fees?

Whether you’re purchasing an overseas property or perhaps moving savings

internationally, when you exchange currency and transfer it through a bank, you’ll typically

be charged a margin of up to 5% above the daily exchange rate. The banks will often add a

hefty transfer fee as well, which many clients aren’t aware of.

With OFX, you’ll get a quote based on the live exchange rate of the moment and the margin

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For further information you can visit the OFX website here or simply contact our dedicated

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*third party bank fees may apply


Plan ahead to

avoid a


taxing time

in France

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:


Tax Rate

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

regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and bound by their rules under licence number

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:


www.beaconglobalwealth.com for


In the French Kitchen with Kids: Easy, Everyday Dishes for th

Mardi Michels.

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

egg whites

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,

for sprinkling

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

completely incorporated.

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

room temperature.

Pre order Mardi's fabulous cook book at: Eat.

Live. Travel.Write


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

Makes 12


150ml water

80g butter

200ml honey

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,

visit ladoucevie.eu,

thefrenchlife.org and her

YouTube channel,



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

until combined.

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


Bisous, bisous


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