Summer is served in this issue - it's time to kick back and enjoy the best of France.
You'll find loads of gorgeous destination pieces including Provence with a focus on the
Drome department - the part that's not well known, as well as the secret bits of Provence
by two locals who share their favourite places. We look at Paris, Burgundy and the
Vendée, the sensational Samoens in the French Alps and the Jazz Festival at Marciac.
There are practical guides for expats and those who dream of moving to France, plus
some fabulous recipes, and a focus on gastronomy in Nice and Paris, There's also "Your
Photos" and a whole lot more.
Don't forget to enter our competitions - we've got some wonderful books to give away as
well as some award winning, delicious rosé wine, just perfect for those summer days and
a taste of France.
If you like this issue please share it with your friends - it's completely free, and always
Bisous from France
Barbara Pasquet James is
a US lifestyle editor,
speaker and urban
explorer who writes about
food fashion and culture,
from Paris. She helped
launch, write and edit USA
Today’s City Guide To
Paris and her photo blog
is at: FocusOnParis.com.
Justine Halifax is a multi
award-winning writer hand
journalist. She writes for the
Birmingham Post and
Sunday Mercury both in
print and online. Recent
journalism awards include
winning Midlands Feature
Writer of the Year 2014.
Peter Jones is a writer
and photographer. He
presents a weekly travel
and food show at
Puritans Radio in the
Sara Neumeier is a New
York food stylist who
shares a summer home in
the Dordogne with her
parents. She and her
recipes are featured in the
memoir Beginning French
by Les Américains.
Rupert Parker is a writer,
cameraman & TV
Producer. Read about his
latest adventures on his
website Planet Appetite
& follow him on Twitter
Lucy Pitts is a writer and
Deputy Editor of The
Good Life France. She is
a professional copywriter
who runs Strood Copy.
She divides her time
between France and the
Editor: Janine Marsh contact editor (at) the goodlifefrance.com
Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts
Advertising: Mark sales (at) thegoodlifefrance.com
Digital support: Umbrella Web Solutions
8 The Other Provence – Drome
Lucy Pitts discovers a romantic and
unspoiled region of lavender fields and
14 Nyons the last Provencal
Lucy Pitts explores the dramatic beauty
of a little known town in Provence
18 The Secrets of Provence
Susana Iwase Hanson and Jeanny
Cronk reveal the most beautiful secret
destinations of Provence
26 Nice – a gastronomic paradise
Janine Marsh gets greedy in Nice but
shares her favourite restaurants with
30 Va va voom to the Vendée
Lucy Pitts takes her kids to the Vendée
and finds a pocket of France that’s a
36 Outdoor Adventures in Samoens
Rupert Parker goes up up and away in
the French Alps
42 Paris Photo Montage
Paris in gorgeous photos
48 The Rules of Boules
Mary Neumeier reflects on the French
52 Zoom in on Burgundy
Janine Marsh on what makes Burgundy
so utterly special
58 Le Nord!
Justine Halifax visits the far north of
France and finds its perfect for the
64 Jazz in Marciac
Peter Jones goes jazzy in the southern
French town, plus the best of the jazz
fests in France
70 Learning French at 50+
Keith Van-Sickle reveals his top tips for
72 The best chomping grounds in
Barbara Pasquet-James checks out the
finest restaurants in the city
78 Two tales of a city
Jemma Hélène explores Antibes and
discovers a tale from World War II
82 Pilgrimage to the Somme
Doug Goodman visits the Somme to
honour a lost relative
62 A page from the history of
Susan Cahill looks at the legacy of King
Henri IV in Paris
68 Your Photos
The most popular photos on The Good
Life France Facebook page shared with
84 - 86 GIVE AWAYS
Fab books to read this summer and
some delish rosé wine to win
Life in France
88 I spy with my Expat Eye
Keith Van-Sickle goes to the butchers
and finds it’s an experience!
90 The Good Life in the Gers
Janine Marsh talks to an artist with a
penchant for chickens, plus a look at
some dream homes in the area
94 The Good Life in Riberac
Janine Marsh meets a couple who run
gites and a cake business in the lovely
Dordogne, plus a look at dream homes
in the area
116 My Good Life in France
100 Ask The Experts
101 Pension legislation
Plus a savings question answered
104 Banking for expats
106 Tips for moving to France
108 Bonnes Vacances
Catherine Berry on the pitfalls of
planning a perfect picnic
110 Omelette a la Mere Poulard
The famous Normandy dish revealed by
111 Tarte au citron
Sara Neumeier shares an easy peasy
lemon squeasy tart recipe
112 Moules Marinières
Chef Spence’s delish Normandy recipe
If you love the south of France and the romantic call of the lavender fields, a visit to
the Drôme will reveal an unspoiled region that will truly delight says Lucy Pitts...
Drôme is one of the two most southerly
departments of the Rhône Alpes region,
with the Ardèche to the west and to the
south and east, the Vaucluse and the
Hautes Alpes departments.
Drôme is a department of contrasts and if
you’ve spent time travelling the steep and
craggy roads of the Ardèche gorges, then
the flat plains of Provencal Drôme in the
south makes for a dramatic change. High,
winding and mountainous roads and heady
views suddenly transform into long, flat,
straight roads and you cannot escape the
smell of the Mediterranean and the feel of
from Orange and headed east.
There’s an instant sense of calm as you
leave the traffic and bustle of the Rhône
behind you. Mont Ventoux and the Alpes
are faintly visible in the distance and in
summer the sight of mile after mile of
perfectly neat rows of lavender is
Avoiding the motorway which runs north to
south, I peeled off the main road about an
hour south of Valence (the capital of the
department) and a little over half an hour
A deserted village
From the flat fields rise sporadic pinnacles;
ancient villages clinging on like giant mole
hills dot the landscape. Valaurie is a quiet
medieval village keeping guard across the
vineyards and lavender fields along with its
neighbour Roussas. Both cling to a hill side
under the watch of their respective
chateaux. Both are unbelievably quiet and
hopelessly pretty with a distinct medieval
In Roussas I decided to climb to the top to
explore the chateau which is not far from
an enormous church (enormous for the
size of the village). Roussas boasts a
population of about 350 all of whom were
notably absent on the day of my visit. I
wound my way around narrow cobbled
streets, up steps, around fortifications and
walls, and up more steps, catching
glimpses of the vineyards and lavender
fields below. There’s a flower tour you can
do around the village to discover different
roses and Mediterranean flowers, the
village specialises in honey plus a special
goats cheese called Foujou. I picked a
handful of small ripe figs, that were
bursting out of their skins with flavour and
ate them on a wall looking back out over
Drôme below. I didn’t see a single person.
I did reach the 12th century chateau which
sadly was all locked up, so I carried on my
meander around the narrow streets of the
village, discovering pretty little houses and
courtyards, stocking up on figs and
enjoying the warm September sunshine. By
the time I got back to my car, I’d been in
Roussas for some time and still not seen a
soul. This is a different side to the Provence
most of us know, as yet unspoilt by an
endless stream of tourists and I was almost
relieved to see a car in the distance.
Lavender, truffles and wine
The Domaine de Grangeneuve is a short
drive through the country from Roussas.
The family who own it have been here for
the last 50 years having returned from
Algeria. Back then the “domaine” consisted
of a derelict farm building, an over grown
plot of woodland and the remains of a
Today they grow Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault
and Mourvedre for their reds and Viognier,
Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache for
their whites and are part of the AOC
Grignan Les Adhemar. Their wines are soft,
elegant and balanced and this is a
beautiful spot to get to grips with a
landscape that in addition to lavender and
wine, is famous for truffles, olives and
wonderful local produce.
Their philosophy at Grangenwuve is to be
the best possible and as you enter the
main farm courtyard, there’s a beautiful
vaulted cellar filled with oak barrels and
vintage wines of the estate. You can
discover the region in a variety of ways
from here: there are two hiking trails and
an electric bike route. They offer wine
tasting, wine workshops or a day in the
vineyards and winery. You can also enjoy
cookery and gourmand workshops or
discover local truffles – all washed down
with a fine wine of course! They also do a
fabulous picnic hamper bursting with local
products which they’ll bring to you at one
of their picnic tables and the focus here is
very much on the gourmand. After all, as
owner Henri Bour told me, “wine is a noble
A night at the mill
Drop back down and out of the clutches of
the Mistral, to the flat fields surrounding
Valaurie and head to Le Moulin de
Valaurie. This rather beautifully restored
mill sits about a mile or so from the village
and has views of it across the sunflower
fields. Arrive at dusk to watch the sun
slowly dropping behind Valaurie.
Le Moulin de Valaurie is a 3-star restaurant
and hotel and is utterly charming. It’s
managed to hold on to its rural past but
feels elegant and chic too. It’s the perfect
place to relax, unwind and refuel before you
head deeper into the delights of Drôme.
For details of Domaine de Grangeneuve
and Le Moulin de Valaurie visit:
For more information about Drôme visit:
Transport to Drôme: Valence has a TGV
station and it’s possible to get trains from
the UK or Paris: tgv.uk.voyages-sncf.com
Although valence has an airport, most
flights are to Lyon or Grenoble.
The Last Provencal Frontier
Lucy Pitts explores the dramatic beauty
of this little known part of Provence
Who doesn’t love a good French market?
It’s such a thoroughly sensual and
deliciously medieval experience, with
people stacking their produce high and
squeezing their stalls into any available
space, even if they’re clinging to the edge
of a roundabout. The market in Nyons is no
exception and it’s just one of the reasons
to visit this remote little town in Drôme, in
the south of the Rhône Alpes region.
Head east, off the beaten track
Nyons is some way off the beaten track to
the east of Valence in the north and
Avignon to the south. It feels like the last
town before the frontier and it sort of is, as
its position nestled in the Pre Alpes
foothills means there are no significant
towns beyond it for some time.
This region is famed for its olives, lavender,
fruit trees and sunflowers and as you drive
east from the Rhône, long, wide, straight,
flat roads take you through the olive groves.
There are giant terracotta olives just in case
you were in any doubt and all the time, you
can see the rugged rise of the mountains in
the hazy distance. Eventually, as the
mountains draw you gradually nearer, you
bear right and as the road starts to gently
undulate and bend, you know that you’re
nearly in Nyons.
A holiday feel
Nyons dates back to before the 5th
century and you’re welcomed by a large
open square surrounded by covered
arcades, plane and palm trees and
pavement cafés and bars. It feels
Mediterranean and in the evening the trees
are lit up, and there’s a holiday feel with
helmetless moped riders buzzing about
and old French cars that smell like they’re
belching out 2 stroke (if anyone else
remembers that smell). Because of its
position tucked right into the foot of the
hills, you’re sheltered from the Mistral and
in September it’s still warm enough to eat
lunch and dinner outside.
A climb to the top
The Thursday market starts before the sun
has crept fully into the streets. The market
seeps out from the square into the veins of
the town, including out through the Saint
Jacques gate (the only gate in the
defensive wall), into the medieval Place des
Arcades and on through a series of narrow
streets. North of the main square is the
Place Josesph Buffaven and to the side of
that you’ll notice a set of intriguing steps
and a first floor corridor looking over the
square. If you’re waiting for the market to
get into full swing, now is the time to
This part is the Rues des Grand Forts and
the old quarter that takes you up above the
town. Tiny cobbled roads, just wide enough
for a horse or a walker, take you slowly
higher and higher and you feel like you’ve
entered a secret world of picturesque but
miniature houses and streets. You catch
views across the hills in one direction as
the sun climbs and glimpses of the
scurrying shoppers at the market in the
other. You’ll also stumble across the Tour
Randonne. This 13th century chapel with its
ornamental bell tower is quite a surprise.
Back in the town and the market has
erupted into life. Nougat, apricots, roasting
chickens, olives and lavender draw you in.
The school in Nyons is right next to the
square, making the smells and sounds of
market day, part of their weekly education.
It’s no wonder this fabulous market
Lavender and Romans
Nyons has a vibrant economy and apart
from olives and fruit, lavender is also a key
player. There’s a beautiful Roman bridge on
the edge of the town and just before that,
there’s a lavender distillery, the Distillerie
Bleu Provence. It’s a great opportunity to
learn more about the harvesting, distilling
process and the quality of the essential oils.
If you’re lucky enough to get a tour with the
owner, Philippe Soguel, you’ll get a rare
insight into the passion that drives lavender
production in this area and the search for
more efficient and more ecologically sound
methods of harvesting and processing. You
can also try some of their ice cream
including geranium, lavender and thyme
flavours, all of which are delicious..
Explore and enjoy
There are all sorts of reasons to linger
here. Nyons is famed for its black olives
and is an olive “appellation contrôlé”
area. You can discover the olive groves
on foot as part of the “Sentiers de
l’Olivier” and there’s also a “Jardin des
Arômes” to explore with 300 different
species of fragrant plants. Or just hire a
bike and take to the vineyards.
Nyons is a wonderful mixture of sensual
colours and flavours, history and nature.
It feels very special tucked away at the
foot of the hills and you won’t want to
leave Although it’s bustling, it feels
strangely calm and welcoming and
you're sure to want to stay as long as
Nyon Tourism: www.paysdenyons
For a tour of the lavender distillery visit:
For places to stay:
Hotel Colombet is ideally placed in
Nyons centre, not far from the tourist
office with tables and dinning
overlooking the square. www.
Transport to Drôme:
Valence has a TGV station and it’s
possible to get trains from the UK or
Although valence has an airport, most
flights are to Lyon or Grenoble.
The Secrets of
Susana Iwase Hanson and Jeanny Cronk,
locals of Provence share their favourite,
The Var is a departement that includes Provence. It stretches from the rugged
mountains of the Verdon to the glamorous beaches of St Tropez and is within
touching distance of Aix-en-Provence, Marseilles and Cannes encompassing
different landscapes and touristic experiences. The non-coastal areas (Centre et
Haut Var) were plain, agricultural terrain until only a few decades ago and this is
reflected in the authentic architecture of the little villages built into the hillsides.
Locals Susana Iwase Hanson and Jeany Cronkselect their favourite five
destinations to visit in this beautiful area...
Bauduen at the Lac du Verdon
The great nature reserve around the Lac St
Croix is a visitors' paradise. The landscape
resembles that of the great nature parks of
North America, complete with a huge
Canyon filled with lagoon green water
called “Les Gorges du Verdon” between St
Moustiers Marie and Castellan. There are
endless walking, boating and sporting
possibilities in the area and it’s well worth a
trip, especially during the hotter period
when it feels a little more fresh and less
crowded rather than down by the coast.
Make for picturesque Bauduen, a village
by the lakeshore with its back built into the
rock. There is a little pebble beach perfect
for kids and you can hire pedaloes and
paddleboards. Take a dip in the crystal
clear waters of the Lac, which is actually a
drinking water reserve. You can also hire a
sailboat if you're feeling more energetic.
A few crèperies and cafés line the lakeshore,
but we recommend you head up to
the Café Du Midi which has a small but
lovely menu and perfect views of the lake.
The staff are friendly and kids can roam
around the boules square next to the
restaurant. The village is tiny with charming
stone houses, but has many cute and photo
worthy corners. If you’re making a day of it,
pop to the neighbouring artists village of
Moustiers-St-Marie where where you can
enjoy a culinary feast at Alain Ducasse’s
Bastide de Moustiers.
Boat Hire: location-bateau-verdon.fr
Restaurants: Café du Midi (booking
essential in high season):
+33 4 94 70 08 94 (mid range price)
Bastide de Moustiers (Moustiers St Marie,
booking essential): bastide-moustiers.com
(pricey, but nice)
At first glance Cotignac wows visitors with
its large limescale cliffs reminiscent of
ancient troglodyte living. Houses are
literally carved into the cliffs and anyone
can climb the steps that lead up to the old
cave dwellings for a 2 euros entry fee
during visiting season.
The village has 2,300 inhabitants and is
typically Provençale. The population
quadruples to over 10,000 in the summer
months when glroious sunshine, festivals,
markets and concerts lure visitors.
Our favourite restaurant, the Café du Cours,
on the Cours Gambetta, serves steak
tartare, tuna tataki, pastas, burgers, and
pizzas fresh out of the oven. Service is
always excellent and it's a great place to
people-watch especially on market day
(Tuesdays). Just a few doors down is the
Centre d'Art La Falaise where seasonal
exhibitions of regional artists can be seen.
Mirabeau Wine has a shop underneath
where you can sample award winning rosé
and buy beautifully selected locally
produced home wares.
More information about Cotignac www.
Tourist office: la-provence-verte.net/
Café du Cours, 23 Cours Gambetta
Mirabeau Wine Showroom: www.
3 Estagnol Beach, Bormes les Mimosas
Bormes les Mimosas is situated on the
stretch of coastline connecting Toulon and
St Tropez and is home to swanky villas and
Châteaux of the rich and famous plus
some of the best beaches in France. Our
favourite is Estagnol. The coastal road,
called Route de Léoube, which runs
between La Londe-les-Maures and
Bormes-les-Mimosas is spectacular –
you’ll spot huge and ancient cork tree
forets and vineyards that literally touch the
There are two famous beaches on this
stretch of road, both with private parking
(paid): Le Pellegrin and L’Estagnol. We
prefer Estagnol for it’s a beautiful bay with
clear waters, which are not too deep for
small children, lined by beautiful old pine
trees. It’s small and gets busy, so avoid
peak times or plan to arrive early or late.
“L’Estagnol” is the perfect beachside
Restaurant, not fancy like in St Tropez, but
good food including lots of choice for little
ones. It’s fun, colourful and efficient and
just behind the dunes of the beach.
Off-season it’s a great idea to walk the
coastal footpath that runs behind the
beaches through the dunes where you
breathe in the scent of sea salt and the
flora and fauna of this protected area. If
you’re not too sandy and tired, pop into
Château Léoube for a Rosé Tasting in an
extraordinarily beautiful setting.
Restaurant L’Estagnol (booking advised):
Château Léoube: www.chateauleoube.com
Tourtour is like a village in the sky, set on
top of a windy hill (elevation 900 meters)
with sweeping views all the way out to
Frejus and the Mediterranean with the
Mount St Victoire between.
The population is just under 500 but the
locals are a tight knit group who put on one
of the most amazing festivals known as the
Fête de l’Oeuf (egg Festival) around Easter
Tourtour is listed as one of the most
beautiful villages in France and is well
worth a visit. Take a walk through tiny
streets to admire the well-restored village
houses with their manicured gardens. The
restaurants serve simple yet freshly made
food which of course goes rather well with a
nice glass of chilled rosé. It’s about a 20
minutes’ drive from Cotignac, via either
Aups or Villecroze which, by the way, are
also both villages worth a detour should
All the cafés and bars here serve casual
food (great frites at La Farigoulette) but
there is also the more distinguished “La
Table” restaurant with one Michelin star
where you will find dishes like sautéed Ray
or Guinea fowl. Prices here start at 28 euros
More information: Tourtour Tourist Office
St Maximin is a mid size town surrounded
by two impressive mountain ranges and
boasts the largest Basilica in Provence.
The cathedral is surrounded by a beautiful
cloister complex. The small, charming
roadsare lined with cafés and shops.
A fantastic food and local produce market
takes place every Wednesday, which
attracts stallholders from far and wide. The
Café de la Renaissance is situated in a
good spot with a raised terrace at the Place
Malherbe. The owner trained at a nearby
Michelin star restaurant and by all accounts
has transferred some of his skills to this
more relaxed setting.
Café de la Renaissance, 6, Place Malherbe
About the authors: Susana Iwase Hanson runs the popular Provence Living website and
Facebook Page. Jeany Cronk is co-founder of award-winning Mirabeau Wines; she writes
widely on the Southern French lifestyle and has been featured regularly in the international
press. Both live in Cotignac.
Nice is a city that honours it's gastronomic
heritage - it's one of only two cities in
France to do so. Lyon often called the
gastronomic capital of France, is the other
Lyon had better look out though because
Nice is catching up and if you ask a Nicois
they will of course assure you they haven't
just equalled but overtaken their
Fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish and a strong
Italian influence - after all the border is just
20 minutes by car - make the sunny
cuisine of Nice full of flavour.
"People here are in love with good food
- it's in their DNA"
says Italian born Caterina who's now a
Nice local, what they call a ‘Nicoise de
coeur’. "In Nice there is respect for the
landscape, the geography, the season...we
learn how to cook with fresh produce when
There are two big markets in Nice, the
famous Cours Saleya, a stone’s throw from
the Mediterranean Sea and the”local’s
market” at Liberation.
The market at Cours Saleya
Colourful stands of local Socca and
Pissaladière will tempt you to stop for a
nibble. Homemade jams, exotic spices,
local fish, organic honeys, juicy fruits, olive
oil, sea salt and lush vegetables will have
you inhaling the scents and flavours of
Nice. And all in the most perfect setting,
lined with gorgeous pastel coloured
buildings, thriving cafés and, glimpsed
through the arched entries to this square of
paradise, the blue waters of the sea.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 07.30 – 18.00;
Mondays are about antiques and Sundays
are reserved for the flower market.
The indoor market is a hub of activity as
locals throng to buy the freshest fish,
fabulous produce and just baked bread. A
couple of kilometres inland, it tends to be a
little cheaper here and much more homely
with a friendly little café where people stop
for a seriously wake-me-up coffee or a
Pastis before pushing on to complete their
shopping or take it home.
Opening hours Tuesday – Sunday 06.00-
Taking advantage of the wonderful array of
produce, a number of restaurants which
specialise in the Nicois gastronomy have
been recognised for their special
contribution. It’s a way of creating flavours
and tastes that has taken centuries to
define and refine and no visit to the city is
complete without a taste. You’ll find the
‘cuisine Nissarde' label at around 16
restaurants and you can get details from
the tourist office.
Eat yourself to a standstill
Now I know what you expect of me so, of
course I’ve tried several restaurants on
your behalf in Nice and here are some of
A Buteghinna - lush lunch venue
Sophie, Marcelle and Evelyn have a deep
love of tradition and food. This led the
three friends to open a tiny restaurant in
old Nice back in 1992. They had no kitchen,
just a couple of electric hobs. They made
traditional foods and the locals loved it.
Over the years they've upgraded to a tiny
restaurant that seats 10 maximum indoors
and outdoor seating for about 20. They
also have a take-away counter and locals
stop by to pick up a snack like "maman
used to make".
Marcelle makes the desserts and believe
me, you want to leave room for something
sweet. Sophie makes the savoury food and
Evelyne serves and keeps everyone happy
with her beaming smile.
Blink as you pass their place, and you'll
miss it but you can’t avoid the delicious
smells that waft out the door. They don't
want their business to grow bigger, it isn’t
about making lots of money for them, it’s
about good food.
"If we grow too big, we may lose our
passion" says Marcelle. "This is home
cooking - it's personal". It's also absolutely
delicious. It's a Nice secret, one that the
locals know but most tourists don't notice
tucked away on a beautiful alley opinion
Old Nice. This is food like your grandma
cooked if you were born in the south of
France, Socca chips, tiny delicate pastries
filled with seasonal veg, tourte de blette, a
sweet tart made with, of all things – the
vegetable chard (it works by the way,
They cook everything fresh in the tiny
kitchen and only open for lunch. If you
want a true taste of Nice, a memory to
cherish and an absolutely amazing eating
experience accompanied with good
humour and a big smile then head to A
Buteghinna -which means in Nicois "the
little place" and don't forget to book your
table, it's very popular!
A Buteghinna 11 rue du marché
La Storia - the perfect location
Its location in the heart of old Nice makes
La Storia a popular venue pretty much all
year round. At No. 1 Cours Saleya it doesn’t
get much better than this. In its touristic
setting, service may not be speedy as it can
get very busy – everyone wants to sit in this
lovely corner of the market square. If you’re
in a rush, let the waiter know. Better still,
take your time, enjoy the sun, the scenery
and people watching while you indulge in
some tasty dishes which are not expensive.
Moules, pizza, pasta are pretty good and
with a 3 course menu at around 20 Euros –
it’s a bit of a steal.
Sentimi - will make you want to move
Sentimi serves Italian influenced food and
it doesn’t get much better than this. It’s not
a touristy type place, this is where the
locals go because they know the food is
top notch and not at all expensive.
The courtyard setting with a huge olive tree
growing inside the restaurant is absolutely
lovely. The terrace seating on Place
Garibaldi couldn’t be nicer. The menu is
fabulous, I wanted to try absolutely
everything on it and found it really hard to
behave myself! I asked the waiter what the
speciality is and he recommended ottima a
type of pizza. One word. Memorable. Okay
more words – completely scrumptious. I’ve
been to Italy many times, my family are
from Milan and I have never had a better
pizza anywhere. Go here on an empty
stomach and make the most of it. I’d
recommend you make a booking, they do
speak English so if you don’t speak French,
not a problem. I could actually move to
Nice just so that I could go to this
restaurant more often.
Tip: Don’t leave without having the ice
cream – it’s icy heaven.
2-4 Place Garibaldi Facebook page:
Restaurant Influence - fabulous food
A relative newcomer to the Nice food scene
the restaurant has made an impact very
quickly thanks to the young chef’s truly
superb menu. A graduate of the Paul
Bocuse institute (the most revered chef in
France), everything is home made and has
a secret ingredient – passion. It must have
been very hard work to get this new eaterie
on the map but the locals love it and no
wonder, the chef’s deft touch and
innovative dishes are knock out. The menu
is not expensive but the food is of the
highest quality, tasty and delicious - you’ll
want to go back to time and time again
Influence-nice.fr 31 rue Bonaparte
Website Nice Tourism for more foodie
Va va voom to the Vendée
to visit an authentic and
very special part of France
Lucy Pitts and her three children discover the area
has oodles of of charm and loads to to do for families
There’s a little pocket of France which remains one of its hidden gems
says Lucy Pitts who has a home in the area. It hovers across four
departments, right on the cusp of where north meets south. The area
is well served by airports and motorways yet is still distinctly rural in
feel and as one local described it to me recently (as he apologised for
not speaking English), it’s still very French.
It’s a place where cuisses de grenuoilles
(frogs legs), escargot (snails) and
andouillette (a sausage not for the faint
hearted made of, amongst other things,
intestines and sometimes tripe) are still
very much in evidence on local lunch
menus. Shops shut for lunch, restaurants
have a habit of shutting for August, some
schools still close on a Wednesday and a
few of the locals speak in a heavy patois
(well my neighbour there does at least and
I wonder if I’ll ever understand him). It’s also
a place where one minute there are rolling
green hills and thick, lush woodland and
then in the blink of an eye, you’re driving
across burnt orange planes dodging the
melon stalls. Sunflowers morph into
vineyards, and huge lazy rivers transform
into a vast network of orderly canals
making up one of the largest marshlands in
The area sits neatly between La Rochelle,
Nantes and Poitiers across the
departments of the Vendée, the Deux
Sevres, the Charente and the Vienne. It’s
diverse, quirky, occasionally infuriating and
surprisingly lacking in tourists (well ok,
there’s a few but not compared to other
Almost in the centre of this quiet little
triangle is the renaissance market town of
Fontenay le Comte which stretches down
in a gloriously straight line from a lofty,
green square at the top of the town, across
the River Vendée and then up again. It’s a
little sleepy unless you arrive on market
day but if you head to the other end of
town and climb up to the Donjon des
Cimes there are amazing views across the
roof tops as well as huge enclosed nets up
in the trees for the kids to play on. It’s in
Fontenay that you first start to get a taste
of the south and it’s not a bad place to be
based to explore.
To the west of Fontenay by about an hour
you have the Atlantic coast with its seaside
towns, the Bay of Aiguillon (home to mud
flats, salt marshes and hundreds of
thousands of migratory birds) and Les
Sables d’Olonne. To the north lie the rolling
hills of the ‘bocage’ and the forest of
Mervent. 4,000 hectares of oak, chestnut
and beech surround a vast lake here, the
result of damming the 2 rivers that flow
through the forest (the Vendée and the
Mère). Ravines, panoramic views, fortified
villages, wildlife and 200km of walks are
the order of the day here and make
Mervent a spellbinding place.
Top left: Fort Boyard, just off La
Rochelle; far left: the Forst of Mervent,
left Fonteay; centre: roof tops of
Fontenay; above: Mervent
The landscape south of Fontenay is
dramatic in contrast; flat and hot with a
Mediterranean feel. Yet as you head south
east, it all changes again, and you find
yourself in the pretty and ingenious world
of the part of the Marais Poitevin known as
the Green Venice. With canal side towns,
ancient abbeys and intricate, arboreal
waterways, it was all created by man out of
what was once little more than a silty bay.
It’s not just the whirlwind of changes in
landscape that makes this little corner so
compelling. Dotted amongst the cornfields,
valleys and rivers there are all sorts of
interesting things going on. The world
famous Puy du Fou theme park for a start,
is to the north. Here you’ll find historical
enactments on a dramatic scale: Viking
boats rise out of the waters, fires stream
out of a moving chateau and huge birds of
prey swoop so close their feet almost
scratch your cheek. You know it’s not an
ordinary theme park when you’re warned
that dangerous animals are in amongst the
audience and not to eat while you’re
watching the show. And that’s before you
get to the gladiators!
Further south there’s the Indian Forest of
Adventures (tree top adventures taken to
the next level) and in a similar vein half an
hour north of Fontenay there’s the Parc
D’Adventure; high octane Go Ape at half
the price. There’s also a zoo at Mervent
where you can walk with some of the
animals, cycle riding in abundance, gentle
water sports or a spot of fishing.
elephant at the
Island of the
In Nantes, you have the Les Machines de
l’île, a fascinating experiment in the old
dockyards which will have you riding on a
12 metre high mechanical elephant or a 4
metre ant and sailing round on a merry go
round in a cranking, metal crustacean. The
vision of two artists, the concept is
described “as visualising a travel-throughtime
world at the crossroads of the
'imaginary worlds' of Jules Verne and the
mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci”.
And that undoubtedly captures the spirit of
your day here.
Yet at the other end of the spectrum and
just a couple of hour’s drive to the east is
Futuroscope, with all that is modern and
high tech. There’s a new water park too,
ancient abbeys perched on marooned little
islands and chateaux to explore in
But despite the dozen or more major
attractions in this area, it doesn’t feel busy.
You’ll get a table without booking at lunch
and your 2 hours will never be rushed.
You’ll find history hand in hand with
adventure, nature to suit every palate and
activities for every generation and speed.
I’ve visited this area in all seasons over the
years and I don’t travel light. As often as
not, I’m to be found to be travelling with
three small children, two huge dogs, a
couple of elderly parents and their small
dog with mental health issues It’s a region
therefore that has to satisfy everyone’s
many demands (including my not
infrequent need for solitude). And in all the
many times that I’ve visited, I don’t
remember it ever to have been found
lacking. Each trip, it offers up something
new and compelling, a different pace, a
different atmosphere or challenge.
With its Mediterranean micro climate and
laid back pace, this year I explored Green
Venice and the Marais Poitevin, La Rochelle
and then Futuroscope for the first time, and
once again, this little corner of France didn’t
Key places of interest:
Award wiinning and fabulous theme
Puy du Fou.com
One of the most popular theme parks
Indian Forest of Adventures:
Huge fun at the Parc d’Adventure:
Magnificent, mesmerising Mechanical
machines at Nantes:
Outdoor adventures in
Rupert Parker discovers the
sporting delights of this picturesque
Samoëns is a pretty “ville fleurie” in the
Haute-Savoie region in south-eastern
France. It sits in the Vallée du Giffre, in the
French Alps, and is only an hour by car
from Geneva. Long a winter skiing
destination, it’s also great in the summer
and I’m here to try out some of its many
activities. On offer is everything from river
rafting to paragliding and I’ve got 24 hours
in this lovely part of France to get a taste.
It’s a glorious sunny day and we start off
early with a mountain bike tour along the
Giffre River. This is where we’ll be rafting
later and I can’t help but notice that it’s
doing a very good impression of a raging
torrent, the result of the previous day’s rain.
We follow the river until it enters a narrow
steep-sided gorge, and then climb above it.
After another hour of easy climbing we turn
round and make our way back down to
lunch by the Lac aux Dames. There’s easy
kayaking here but I’m still worrying about
the white water.
After ploughing through a huge foie-gras
salad, probably not the wisest choice for
bouncing on the water, I get equipped.
Wetsuit, life jacket and helmet are all
essential and we are soon on our way to the
launch site with our inflatable dinghy. We
each get a paddle and our guide shows us
how to use them – there are four
commands – Paddle Forward, Paddle Back,
Stop and Get Down! The first three are
obvious but the last is an order to sink to
our knees and prepare for an imminent
collision. This is too much for one of us who
suddenly loses it: “I don’t want to be
responsible for killing you all” she screams.
We talk her round and soon we’re floating
down the river at great speed.
The trick is to wedge your feet in the gap
between the floor and sides of the boat so
you don’t get thrown out, but one guy is
soon in the water. Fortunately he doesn’t
lose his paddle and we manage to pull him
back in. As we approach the narrow gorge,
the guide pulls us into the shallows and
goes off to inspect. He declares it safe but
only if we work as team, not something
we’ve managed so far. It’s very narrow, the
water is flowing fast and we’re constantly
crashing into the rocks and spinning
round. We lose someone else in the water
but he’s quickly hauled back to safety and
we make it to the end of the ride without
As I climb onto the bank, every bone in my
body is aching. There’s more fun to come,
however, as we’re told that conditions are
perfect for para-gliding, but we must go
now. The women opt out, so it’s left to the
three men, all pretending to each other that
they’re not frightened. In fact, we’re not
going to be flying solo, the plan is for each
of to hang on to an experienced pilot in
what’s known as tandem flight.
We’re driven up the mountain to 1600m
with our flying companions and disguise
our fear by exchanging pleasantries.
Conditions are perfect, no wind, 100%
visibility and good thermals. They tell me it
can be cold in the air and ask if I need a
jacket, but I’m sweating in anticipation. I
ask my pilot Adrian how long he’s been
doing this and he says 15 years, although
he looks young to me. There’s no briefing,
no forms to sign, and we’re just told to
keep running until we lift off. We’re
harnessed together and I put on my
helmet, then told “go”.
I’m running downhill, worrying whether I’m
going too fast or too slow, but suddenly the
land falls away before me and I’m airborne.
We’re soon above the trees and, even
though I’m not good at heights, I realise
there’s nothing I can do, as the pilot is in
complete charge. We’re circling, trying to
find thermals, and climb higher, experiencing
some turbulence. I’m told there’s
nothing to worry about unless I start
feeling sick. Apparently, at this point, some
people experience severe nausea with the
expected results and it can’t be pleasant
cleaning up afterwards.
We keep spiralling upwards and I see one
of my friends way above me. The views are
tremendous down the valley and I begin to
feel I could stay up for ever. Indeed, in
conditions like this it’s normal to travel for
miles, harnessing the thermals to soar over
the mountains. After about 45 minutes, I
begin to hanker for solid ground and am
relieved to find we’re starting to descend.
On the way down, I’m offered the controls
Rupert has a bird's eye view of the valley
from his sky high position
but I politely decline - better to leave it to
As the valley floor comes nearer, there’s a
tractor mowing the grass dangerously
close to the landing site. Not to worry, my
pilot can land on a dime, but he does
instruct me to stand up immediately he
gives me the order. I see the freshly mown
grass rushing towards me, I’m worrying
about twisting my ankle, or smashing my
feet, and it looks like we’re going too fast.
He tells me to stand, I stay sitting and land
flat on my bottom, much to his disgust. I’m
just relieved to be down, glad to have
survived intact and pleased I’ve done
something I’ve always dreamt of.
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PARIS IN PICTURES
PARIS PHOTO MONTAGE
Paris is the most visited Tourist destination in the world, it’s probably the most
photographed too! And yet, we never tire of seeing pictures of the beautiful city of light.
We're loving these pictures taken in Paris by photographer John Woods from Madison,
Wisconsin, US. He and wife Nancy say any time is good to take a photo in Paris but John
especially likes "getting up early and walking down to the Seine to capture Notre Dame,
the bridges across the river, the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, Montmartre, the gardens,
the streets, the people, the monuments—really just about anywhere."
ight: Arc de
Montmartre, the arty & fabulous
hill top village of Paris...
PARIS IN PICTURES
Recommended restaurant in Paris: Moulin
de la Gallette for its history, fab food and
friendly service. Website:
Recommended Hotel in the centre of Paris:
Hotel Marignan for its location just off the
Champs-Elysées, gorgeous rooms, friendly
staff and for making guests feel welcome
and brilliantly looked after.
Top left: Window at
Notre Dame Cathedral;
Above: gargoyles of
More on Paris, just click to read:
Top ten Paris visits for first timers
5 Brilliant free museums in Paris
5 off the beaten track things to do in Paris,
including the house of a man who appears
in a Harry Potter story!
Rue Mouffetard - the oldest street in Paris
Marty Neumeier reveals how to make friends in France over a game of bo
Anton crouches, motionless. He cups a
scuffed metal ball in his right hand, his face
the picture of concentration. Seconds go
by. A minute. The other players are silent
as they wait for his throw. Then, without
moving the rest of his body so much as a
centimetre, he turns his hand over and flips
the ball into the air. It floats there as if the
law of gravity has been suspended. When
the ball comes down with a thud, it rolls to
within inches of the marker.
Robert shakes his head. “Boule devant,
boule d’argent.” A front ball is a money ball.
It can easily block opponents from getting
closer to the marker.
Friday night is boules night in the village.
The official name of boules is pétanque,
meaning “feet fixed.” There’s no difference
between pétanque and boules, but boules
is one syllable shorter, so in our book it
wins. The boules court is a flat, sandy patch
in back of the village salle des fêtes, the
town’s banquet hall. Mature trees surround
the court, and floodlights hang from the
trees to illuminate late games.
Anyone can show up and get on a team.
Regulars are Anton and Sophie, Robert and
Jeannine, Jean-Pierre and Josette, and Peter
and Christine. The four couples are usually
joined by Gilbert, Marco, and Baako, older
men who live nearby. Then there’s Aimée, a
sassy teenager who arrives by motorcycle
and cries “Oh, putain!” whenever she
misses a shot. But the de facto leader of
the group is Jean-Pierre. We’re not exactly
sure why this is. He’s short and shy with a
round belly held in place by a sleeveless
undershirt. Not the classic attributes of a
leader—but leader he is.
oules must have a pattern of lines that
distinguishes them from those of the other
players. In the village, players tell their
boules apart by the number of scratches
and the color of the rust.
I was delighted when Sara gave me a set of
boules for my birthday. Yet whenever I use
them I feel slightly embarrassed. The best
players have boules that are dark and
rough with age; mine are still as shiny as
silver dollars. When everyone’s boules are
thrown, mine stand out from the others,
usually somewhere outside the grouping. I
feel this is a metaphor.
The objective of the game is simple: To get
your boules closer to the marker ball, or
cochonnet, than those of your opponent.
(Cochonnet is French for “piglet,” named
for its smaller size; some are even pink.)
There are two sets of rules for achieving
the objective: the official rules and the
For example, the official rules call for no
more than three players per team. In the
village, it’s come one, come all. If people
show up late, Jean-Pierre just sticks them
on a team and gives the other team a
couple of extra throws.
In the official rules, players are required to
toss their boules from within a perfect
circle drawn exactly 50 centimetres in
diameter. In the village, players throw from
behind a scuff mark made by Josette with
the heel of her shoe.
The official rules say that each player’s
Josette steps up to the line with a boule in
each hand. She’s the polar opposite of
Anton. Anton plays like a professional—
muscular, precise, strategic. Josette just
walks up to the line with a giggle and
tosses the ball. If the throw happens to be a
crucial one, she’ll stick out her tongue for
added accuracy. Surprisingly, Anton’s and
Josette’s styles seem to be equally
Josette’s first ball lands just to the side of
Anton’s.“Merde, pas la!” She throws her
arms up in disbelief. Her second ball is right
on target. It nudges Anton’s slightly to the
left, replacing it with her own and holding
the point for the team. She does a little
victory dance, chubby arms and legs flying
every which way. “Pas mal,” says Anton,
grudgingly. Next up is Baako. Baako and
Marco originally came from Italy, so they
speak a sort of “Fritalian.”
“Troppo fort!” says Marco, as he throws his
boule too hard, sending it past the
cochonnet. He mutters something
decidedly un-French, and casts his eyes
heavenward. Taking a deep breath, he goes
back to the line. His second ball falls short.
“Oh, la la. Maintenant troppo faible!” Too
Josette says that the ball probably hit a
caillou—a pebble. “Ce n’est pas de ta faute,”
she says, touching his arm. He seems
reassured to think the pebble may be at
fault.Peter goes next. He’s tall and thin
compared to the French, and looks more
like cricket bowler than a boules player.
He’s about to go into shooting mode.
Shooting is a strategy in which the player
throws the ball hard enough to knock an
opponent’s boule away from the
cochonnet, or the cochonnet away from an
Just as Peter is about to throw, Robert
emits a barely audible clucking noise. Peter
stops in mid-windup. He puts his hands on
his hips, tilts his head, and stares at Robert.
Their running joke is that Peter turns
chicken whenever he throws. Robert looks
away and feigns innocence.
Peter winds up again, and Robert clucks
again. This time Peter follows through and
his boule misses Josette’s by a mile,
skittering off into the trees. Robert can’t
contain a guffaw.
On his second throw, Peter is ready for him,
and he knocks Josette’s boule off to the
right with an explosive crack, leaving the
Up comes Marco, a man so old that he
doesn’t actually walk. He simply rocks back
and forth while leaning forward. His
throwing style is a miracle of efficiency: he
stands ramrod straight under his sailor hat,
imagining the course of the boule; then he
opens his hand. The boule rolls down his
fingers, onto the ground, and continues to
the target as if pulled by a magnet.
This time it rolls right up to the cochonnet
and holds the point.
Jeannine is the last to go. Her throwing style
could be described as no style at all. Most
players lead with the back of the hand as
they lob the boule into the air, but Jeannine
just tosses it out there underhand.
Her boule lands short of Marco’s, then rolls
up close to it. So close, in fact, that all the
players rush up to see who has won the
round. Jean-Pierre stares at the two balls
and the cochonnet. He squints and rubs his
chin. He looks at Robert, who is walking
from one side to the other to get a better
view. Sophie says it’s Jeannine. Christine
thinks it’s Marco. Members of both teams
are down on their haunches to get a better
look at the situation. Opinions are running
about fifty-fifty. There’s no resolution in
Simple rules of boules
The game is played between two teams of 1, 2
or 3 players - singles or doubles.
To start a coin is generally tossed to decide
who begins the game and has the right to
place the cochonnet (the small ball - literally
piglet). You can also use an a stone or cork
from a bottle.
A circle is drawn by the winning team of the
coin toss. Players must not step outside while
throwing. The circle should be about 0.5m in
diameter. The cochonnet is tossed between
4m and 8m, or 6 to 10 paces from the circle in
A player from the coin toss winning team
throws the first boule. The aim is to get it as
close as possible to the “cochonnet” without
touching it. Both feet must stay together on
the ground and within the circle while
throwing and until the boule has landed.
A player from the other team steps into the
circle and aims to throw a boule closer to the
cochonnet than their opponent, or to knock the
opponent’s boule away. You must throw within
1 minute of your turn starting.
More details on the rules of playing on The
“Attention!” I shout. I’m standing just
outside the group, waving my iPhone. On
the screen is the Pétanque-ometer, a clever
little app that David Stuart told me about.
You hold your phone over the cochonnet,
and the app draws concentric rings to
show precisely which ball is closest. I push
my way into the middle of the group.
“Regardez,” I say, lining up the phone with
the boules. The whole group leans in. They
look at the phone. They look at me.
Then Robert starts clucking. Low at first,
then louder. Soon everyone is imitating a
chicken. “Look at the screen,” I say, “It’s
Jeannine. Jeannine is closest!” The
clucking gives way to out-and-out
“Merci, monsieur iPhone,” says Robert. He
turns to the crowd: “Mesdames et
messieurs, c’est Steve Jobs!”
Aimée runs over to a lavender bush and
breaks off a length of stem. She runs back
and stretches it from the cochonnet to one
boule, and then to the other. She looks up
“C’est Marco!” he cries. The players nod
their heads in agreement. Jean-Pierre looks
at me pityingly, and says I can throw out
the marker to start the next round.
“Allez, monsieur iPhone,” he says, handing
me the cochonnet.
Eileen and Sara beam from the sidelines.
We were in.
Marty Neumeier is the author of Beginning
French by Les Americains. Find out more at
his website: Beginning French
Zoom in on:
Janine Marsh visits Burgundy and
falls in love with its many charms
Photo: Dave Fenwick
Photo: Chateau Tanlay, Yonne
Burgundy has it all: glorious countryside, vineyards, amazing gastronomy, a
fabulous history, picturesque villages, awesome towns, the Burgundy Canal and
an incredible capital city – Dijon. There are also more chateaux in this region than
any other in France many of them available to the public as hotels with well
stocked wine cellars, gourmet restaurants and swimming pools.
Wine, chateaux, gastronomy!
Of the hundreds of reasons why you will
fall in love with Burgundy, or to give it its
French name Bourgogne, and be tempted
to visit again and again - these three stand
out for me: the wonderful wines - some of
the best in the world; the plethora of
delicious cheeses and the astonishingly
Not to mention the diversity of the local
landscape, the chance to stay in a fabulous
chateau, amazing heritage, picturesque
villages, the waterways, the peacefulness of
the countryside, amazing cycle routes, the
friendly people, delicious gastronomy and a
city that's quite simply extraordinary -
Dijon Capital of Bourgogne-
The Dukes of Burgundy were once more
powerful than the royal family of France.
Hugely wealthy, they were patrons of the
arts and spent fortunes on making Dijon as
beautiful as possible. An enormous palace,
wide open squares, medieval streets with
gorgeous mansions – their legacy is there
on every corner.
Wander round Dijon town and soak up the
beauty of this historic town that bears so
many traces of its illustrious and very
prosperous past. Pop into a modern clothes
shop and discover an ancient well left over
from the 15th Century. Dip down an
alleyway and find a hidden medieval house
that looks like it was built yesterday.
The unique and free to enter Museum of
Burgundy Life in Dijon has an eclectic and
rather wonderful mix of objects from giant
snail sculptures to a clock in the shape of
the Eiffel Tower. The recreations of shops
and their contents from the 19th and early
20th Centuries are truly superb.
Dine out in Dijon
Rest your feet and people watch at Place
Francois Rude, encircled by cafés and bars
whose tables spill onto the pedestrianised
square. A lively place named after the
Dijon-born sculptor of “La Marseilleise”
which graces the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
The locals call it Place du Bareuzai thanks
to the statue of a naked man treading
grapes; the name means ”red stockings”
(from bas rosé) which the winegrowers had
after crushing grapes with their feet.
There’s a huge choice of places to eat in
Dijon but I really love Les Oenophiles
restaurant for its 15th century pigeonnier,
17th century dining room, 100% home
cooked food and incredible tasting boeuf
bourguignon, the region’s signature dish.
A perfect Day in Dijon
My perfect day would start with a visit to
Dijon market lapping up the atmosphere,
followed by coffee in the square with a
nibble on a nonette, the local gingerbread
cake. Then I'd browse the second hand
book stalls, have lunch in the Place
Francois Rude and wander the shops and
museums in the afternoon. After which I
reckon it would be time for an apero at the
hipster houseboat Peniche Cancale and
then dinner at Les Oenophiles.
The Eiffel designed market
The beautiful covered market at Dijon was
designed by no less than the great Gustave
Eiffel, creator of the famous tower in Paris
who was born in this city.
Burgundians love their food and in this
market you will really see, smell and taste
the love that goes into preparing it. From
bread with little heart shaped ends to snail
cake, divine chocolate nibbles and
amazing cheese such as Epoisses
produced in a little village of the same
name - all washed down with locally
produced wine such as Chablis.
There is a café in the centre of the market
that simply oozes joie de vivre as happy
customers sit and chat… and eat.
Beaune the winetastic town
From Dijon you can take a train or tram to
Beaune for some serious wine tasting in
the home of the famous and really quite
magnificent Hospices de Beaune.
It’s a pretty town where they take their wine
seriously. When one of the locals
discovered that robbers had been
tunnelling from her wine cellar into the local
bank, she called the robbers “idiots” for
ignoring her wine collection which she felt
was far more worthy than the gold or
money in the bank!
The Hospices de Beaune was a cutting
edge hospital in the 1400s and incredibly
parts of it stayed open until the 1990s. It is
a fascinating place to visit with a fabulous
collection of paintings and THAT roof.
Chateaux in Burgundy:
Great activities for families
Enjoy a picnic along the famous Burgundy
canal, better yet, take a fabulous cruise and
enjoy it in true style on a barge - I did it with
Captain Jason and Chef Dawn of the Barge
Saroche, one of my best ever holidays.
Cycle – there are 800 km of cycle routes
and 5 major routes. One of the most fun
and relaxing ways to see the area by bike is
with Headwater Holidays. They provide
bikes, ferry your luggage around, book you
into restaurants and hotels and make sure
you get to see the best of the region
without having to work hard at it.
A must-see is the Chateau of Guedelon,
Yonnne, a medieval castle being built in the
21st Century. (Open March – November)
Auxerre Tourist Office:
Chateauneuf- en-Auxois is a fairy-tale
looking picture perfect hill top Burgundian
country town. It overlooks the Burgundy
Canal and is officially one of the “Plus
Beaux Villages de France”. A great place to
spend a relaxing day chilling out though
there is not a lot to do other than wander,
wonder and eat - the views alone are worth
Auxerre: a recognised city of "art and
History" and one of the most beautiful
cities in France. The medieval architecture,
half-timbered houses and wiggly streets
are a window to the past. There are lots of
great restaurants and bars, museums and
tourist attractions plus the 1000 year old
majestic Abbey Saint-Germain.
The North of France, or Le Nord, is a region
that won't fail to delight your senses, no
matter what your age says Justine Halifax…
The area is brimming with character, history
and fun activities. Whether it's gastronomy,
the great outdoors, architecture or taking a
close look at the Great War battlefields
which drives your itinerary, you’ll certainly
not be disappointed when you pay this
fabulous area a visit.
My family spent three wonderful nights at a
magnificent property called Manoir du
Bolgaro at Morbeque, near Hazebrouck. It’s
an impressive, luxurious getaway, which I
highly recommend for a get together with
family or friends.
A manor house dating back to 1540, set on
a huge, beautiful, secluded swathe of land,
this amazing, three storey gite, steeped in
character, can sleep up to 12 people. Eager
to enjoy and soak up as much of this
atmospheric property as we could, we
chose to eat in most nights, but we
ventured out one night at an amazing
estaminet that was recommended by Eric
and Francoise, the lovely couple who run Le
Manoir du Bolgaro.
The Estaminet de la Longue Croix, just a 10
minute drive away, is a popular, cosy and
family friendly restaurant brimming with
historical and regional character. There are
old artefacts hanging from the ceiling and
they serve tasty regional fare here. You can
even play traditional Flemish wooden
games at your table - provided for your
enjoyment! I highly recommend you try the
roti porc and "The Welsh". The service was
fantastic, the restaurant was very
atmospheric and welcoming for families.
There were nice little touches for the
children - a glow stick bracelet with pudding
and place mats to colour in between meals.
But, be warned, this is so popular that
tables must be booked a couple of weeks
in advance so plan ahead before you travel.
WHAT TO SEE
There are many reminders of WW1,
including museums and a host of tourist
attractions. These include the famous
Cistercian abbey at Mont des Cats on
Flanders hill – where you can buy the beer
brewed by the monks who reside there to
this day; the towns of Bailleul, Cassel and
Bergues; the city of Lille, where there’s lots
to visit or you can just sit and soak up the
atmosphere; famous Flemish gardens of
Mont des Récollets, Cassel; les gigottos
automates for children in Esquelbecq –
and there’s also a small craft brewery here
that can be viewed by appointment called
In Dunkerque there’s the Museum of the
Port, which includes climbing on board a
couple of docked ships; UNESCO Listed
58-metre St Eloi belfry, and Mémorial du
Souvenir, where you can learn about WW2
Operation Dyanamo; for a trip to the
seaside you are close to Bray-Dunes; if you
want to simply enjoy the outdoors then
there’s the Avesnois regional nature park.
To find out more about Maroilles cheese
that the region is also famous for, take an
insightful tour at Ferme du Ponts des
Loups at Saint-Aubin, which includes
sampling its cheese-y delights before
buying some to take home.
The first known taste of Maroilles dates
back to the 7th century. It comes from the
village of the same name in the Avesnois,
Nord, where the abbey monks transformed
milk into in cheese. It's the only AOC
(appellation d'origine contrôlée - a
recognised mark of quality) from the Nord.
More than 4000 tons are eaten in France
If your family that loves the great outdoors
then Val Joly is the place to head for. Just
90 minutes from Lille, the family orientated
resort is nestled in a picturesque natural
park surrounding the largest lake north of
Paris. It boasts a host of kids activities
ranging from water sports, like windsurfing,
sailing, canoes, catamarans, electric and
pedal boats. There's a great tree climb
adventure; an equestrian centre where you
can take a pony ride, riding lessons or a full
day ride; trampolines; an aquarium;
archery; laser tag; mini golf; bike and
scooter hire; fishing; craft activities; or you
could simply enjoy local nature walks. Our
home while there was a cosy wooden
cottage, on the edge of the lake.
For more on Val Joly visit www.val-joly.com
Website for: Manoir du Bolgarno
Recommended restaurant: When staying at
Le Manoir du Bolgaro don't miss the
Estaminet de Longue Croix in Hondeghem.
Traditional Flemish Games: If you would
like to buy any local Flemish wooden
games, Justine recommends artisan
carpenter Philip Lefebvre at 76 Rue de la
Poissonerie in Saint Omer
A page from the history of France
Susan Cahill reveals the legacy of King Henri IV in Paris...
If you know Paris, you will have walked
over the Pont Neuf , the creation of King
Henri IV (1553 - 1610), visionary, lover,
pluralist, urban designer, and soldier, who
inherited the throne (1594) as the bloody
civil Wars of Religion between Catholics
and the “heretic” Protestants were still
raging. The fanatics hated him because he
was Protestant. A pragmatist, and disenchanted
to say the least with partisan
religions, Henri became a Catholic to calm
Catholic Paris. (There is no evidence that
he ever said, “Paris is worth a Mass.” as
some claim). He was crowned Rex
Christianissimus in Chartres.
Within a few years he had made Paris a city
of tolerance saying "Those who genuinely
follow their conscience are of my religion -
as for me, I belong to the faith of everyone
who is brave and true... We must be
brought to agreement by reason and
kindness, and not by strictness and
cruelty... “ The same year he undertook the
Pont Neuf (1598) he issued the Edict of
Nantes, granting tolerance and freedom of
worship to the Protestants.
Paris was still a war zone of filthy ruins after
decades of war. But Henri was determined
to transform it, “to make this city beautiful,
tranquil, to make it a whole world and a
wonder of the world.” (He adored beautiful
women, having had, according to myth
and/or history, 53 mistresses and many
bastards.) After opening the famous bridge
over the Ile de la Cite, between the Left and
Right Banks - some consider the view from
the Pont Neuf the most beautiful prospect
in Paris - he extended the Louvre, building
its Grande Galerie; designed the Orangerie;
the lovely Place Dauphine directly across
from the bronze horse on the bridge with
Henri in the saddle.
Henry IV of
His most superb creation was the Place
des Vosges in the Marais. He envisioned a
large open public space surrounded by
handsome pavilions of red brick and
golden stone, with vendors in the arcades,
bordered by rows of lime trees, and framed
by the pavilions’ salons where literature,
sex, and music would entertain the rich
and royal. Henri ordered his royal square
coupleted in l8 months. The Place to this
day is still a dreamworld in the early
morning light; Sundays are festivals of
families, Parisians, and tourists looking for
brunch. In the l7th century, it was “the fun
part of town.”
But then a drop-out monk, another fanatic,
stabbed him to death with a kitchen knife
when Henri's carriage was stuck in traffic.
All Paris changed... "everyone began to wail
and cry, with women and girls tearing their
hair out.” Though Henri was reputedly a
garlicky man, not fond of the bath, he is
remembered in Paris “as a charmer, his
eyes full of sweetness... his whole mien
animated with an uncommon vivacity.” He
remains the most beloved king of France.
The up-dated story of his political marriage
to the much maligned Catholic Marguerite
Valois - (described by male historians as a
fat nymphomaniac) is fascinating. Her
medieval hotel still stands in the quiet
southern Marais, on the Seine. Her story is
as complicated and shocking as her
husband’s as well as the story of the St.
Bartholomew’s Day Massacre at the time
of their wedding which - miraculously - did
not kill them both. Margot hid Henri under
her bed and inside her closet while Catholic
royalty and their courtiers beheaded
thousands of Protestant wedding guests
and tossed their heads out the windows of
Susan Cahill is the author of THE STREETS OF PARIS: A Guide to the City of Light Following in
the Footsteps of Famous Parisians Throughout History (St Martin’s Press, June, 2017). A
brilliant read which brings to life 22 dramatic stories of brilliant and passionate Parisian
characters in their physical settings, along the streets that tell the stories of their inspiration,
of how they became the icons that Paris - and history, and are still celebratde. Available from
Jazz in Marciac
© Francis Vernhet
Peter Jones waxes lyrical...
Tucked away in the small valleys of the Gers in south west France is the classic
bastide town of Marciac. It’s not huge, it has a population of around 1300. The
town is dominated by a central village square whose town hall is its main feature,
lined with shops and cafés.
But one thing makes Marciac unique
amongst the many bastide towns of France
and that is Jazz.
Back in 1978 a small group of friends led by
school teacher Jean-Louis Guilhaumon
started a small jazz festival. Nearly 40
years later, it has become one of the most
important jazz festivals in the world.
More than 250,000 people visit the
Marciac Jazz Festival and 65,000 attend
concerts in the Chapiteau (a huge
marquee) erected on the town’s rugby
pitch. It’s here that not just some, but
nearly all of the biggest names in Jazz have
played over those 40 years.
The highlight of the 2016 festival for many
people was a performance by the
legendary Ahmad Jamal. At 86 years old he
came out of retirement to play his only
concert in the world that year. What, I
asked, bought him to play his music in a
little bastide town in Gascony, “when Jean -
Louis asks, you say yes, he is a very special
man” he said, and smiled.
One time school teacher Jean-Louis
Guilhaumon is now mayor of Marciac and
President of the Marciac Jazz festival. He is
also Vice-President of the regional council
of the Midi-Pyrenees.
He is immensely proud that the college he
taught at, now has Jazz on the curriculum.
20 pupils from the area have gone on to be
professional musicians and the town has a
permanent concert venue, the very modern
500 seat L’Astrada , which hosts music,
theatre and dance throughout the year.
Music is everywhere when the festival is on.
Every bar, street corner and alleyway has
musicians playing their hearts out.
The square is one huge free festival, vibrant,
exciting and great for the trip jazz fan or not.
Over the years, luminaries such as Stan Getz,
Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone and Ray Charles
have played Marciac.
But Marciac is not just a town for the jazz
festival, it is worth visiting anytime in the year.
The Jazz Museum Les Territoires du Jazz is also
well worth a visit as are the local Armagnac
vineyards and those of Plaimont wine growers
where you can even sponsor a vine named after
a jazz musician!
Website: Les Teritoires du Jazz Museum
See next page for more
jazzy festivals in France...
Jazz in Marciac 2017 has a whole
raft of international names lined up
and this is one event that any
music and jazz lover will not want
And many more of the world’s best
jazz musicians are set to thrill in
the sun from July 28 – August 15.
Reserve tickets before you go :
The tourist office has details for
accommodation in the area:
Around and about at the Marciac Jazz
The gorgeous Gers is famous for its stunning landscape but did you know that
it’s also one of the best wine making areas of France? It’s not just awesome
Armagnac that’s made here, but also sublime wines. The vines grow alongside
fields of bright sunflowers on steep hills, in natural valleys, in rolling, lush
countryside in soil that’s rich.
Wine buffs are calling the Gers “the new Bordeaux” and raving about the quality
of wine that’s being produced here.
Oenologist and wine writer Tom Fiorina from the US but now living in France, is
letting people in on the secret. He is running a tour in the Gers in which he’ll
take you to visit family-run vineyards and charming and authentic domains
where you’ll receive a warm welcome and a memorable tasting visit. You’ll learn
about the history of wine and production and it’s importance to the way of life
in the region known as Gascony.
Take the tour of Gers fabulous vineyards with Tom Fiorina, French Country
Adventures: July 28-30, 2017. Click here for details and more insider tours of
Gascony at: French Country Adventures
Jazz in Juan-les-Pins, Antibess
The cultural heart of the Cote d’Azur is a
place to sit and watch the world go by. It’s
also where you’ll enjoy a jazz festival in
what must be one of the most lush
settings in the world. Cannes is in the
background, the Mediterranean Sea
glistens in the sun, the scent of pine trees
fills the air . The longest running of
European jazz festivals islegendary.
jazzajuan.com read our review
Jazz in Normandy
In late spring the apples trees vibrate to the
sound of music as Coutances, in the
department of Manche turns from a sleepy
medieval market town to a thronging jazz
town. Punching way above its weight, the
eight-day festival spills out of marquees,
social halls, bars and church buildings on
to streets thronged with music lovers. 50
plus concerts, presenting a kaleidoscope
of jazz styles, from Dixieland and boogiewoogie
to avant-garde: read our review
Jazz in Nice
Nice is home to one of the oldest jazz
festivals in Europe. It opened in 1948 and
headlining the bill was one Louis
Armstrong and his All Stars. Held annually
in July, in the height of the summer sun, it’s
a mellow, fun and fabulous festival that
takes place in the centre of the sunny city
with up to 9000 spaces for jazz fans over 5
nights of music and mayhem.
Jazz in Paris
Seven weekends of jazz events in the
lovely Parc Floral make for a music lovers
dream come true. This event has become
ever more popular since it was founded in
1994 and now attracts more than 100,000
spectators. From mid June to the end of
July, the city hums and Parisians flock to
the park to enjoy jazz in the open air. You
pay to enter the park, the concerts are free.
Take a picnic and chill – it’s a great way to
feel like a local and experience authentic
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 share 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...
MARCH: The Eiffel Tower
looking blooming lovely in
spring. Posted on her
birthday, 31 March this
photo stole the show. With
almost 6000 likes and
more than 2000 shares
reaching more than
200,000 people on
Facebook - this lovely photo
by Kenny Emptage was our
APRIL: This colourful
photo of the Roman
amphitheatre in Arles,
south of France made
thousands of people
long to go there. 3000
likes on Facebook
made Jenny Lloyd our
April photo of the
MAY: The gorgeous Cathedral of
Reims in Champagne, 2,800 likes on
Facebook for Margaret Fleming's
Join us on Facebook
and like and share
your favourite photos
Keith Van-Sickle reveals his top
tips for learning French...
Research shows that learning a second
language offers proven benefits for intelligence,
memory and concentration, plus
lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer's.
Learning French can be challenging but fun
- and it makes trips to France that much
more rewarding. Here’s how I learned
French in my 50s:
Build a Foundation
You need some rudimentary knowledge to
get started, like the fundamentals of
grammar and pronunciation. So take a
beginner’s course - you can easily find one
online or at a local college or community
center. Start by building that foundation.
Talk Talk Talk
It is fascinating to talk to French people in
their own language. By far the best way to
learn a new language is to speak it. But who
wants to talk to a newbie who can barely
string three words together?
The answer is – another newbie. A
Websites, like mylanguageexchange.com,
help you find French speakers who want to
learn English. Find someone whose level is
the same as yours. This other person faces
the same challenges you do, so they will be
patient as you struggle with French as they
know exactly what you are going through.
You are helping them and they are helping
you. I found Skype calls once or twice a
week really accelerated my learning. I do
them for about an hour at a time, the first
half in French and the second in English.
Pro tip: Video calls are better than voice,
especially when you need to pantomime
(and you will.)
When you are first learning French and
someone speaks to you, the words can
kind of run together. You need to “tune
your ear” so you can distinguish individual
words. The way to do this is by listening to
a lot of it.
Happily, there are French-language
podcasts on just about any subject. You
like cooking, history, sports? There is a
podcast for you.
Listen to these podcasts as you walk the
dog or work in the garden. At first it will be
a blur, but slowly your brain will adapt and
you’ll be able to hear the different words.
That’s a big step to learning French.
You Don’t Have to be Perfect
No one likes to make mistakes, so there is
a natural tendency to avoid talking until
you are really good. But that creates a kind
of Catch-22 because you need to talk in
order to get really good. Stop worrying and
learn to laugh at yourself.
People appreciate it when you make an
effort to speak their language. I have found
that French people smile and encourage
me when I try to speak French. It shows
respect for their culture. Who doesn’t
Sometimes when you make a
mistake, you get a funny story out of
French and English share a lot of words,
like nation and pause. If I don’t know a
word in French I sometimes fake it by
using the English word with a French
accent. It usually works, but not always.
I once served some French friends a
cheese with edible ash on it. I announced
it in French as a cheese with ash. My
friends, shocked, explained that this meant
Anticipate a Few Ups and Downs
Language learning is a funny thing – it
happens in spurts. You seem to make no
progress at all, sometimes for weeks, and
suddenly you take a big leap forward. So
don’t be discouraged when you feel like
you are working hard and not getting
anywhere. And enjoy the leaps when they
This is going to take a while and you need
to have fun to stick with it. So find ways to
enjoy the language as you are learning.
Take a trip to France to try out your new
skills. Watch French movies. Go to a
French restaurant and chat with the
I subscribe to a US newspaper and a
French one. I look for stories that both
papers have covered and read them in
English and then in French (I read English
first because that helps me understand
what the story is about.) It can be
fascinating to see two perspectives on the
After following this approach, I can now
hold meaningful conversations in my
second language. I have friends in France
and even read French books. It still
surprises me because I was terrible with
languages as a kid.
Parlez-vous français? You can do it!
Keith Van-Sickle is the author of One Sip at
a Time: Learning to live in Provence, a
charming book about starting a new life in
Available from Amazon
Barbara Pasquet-James a writer who lives in Paris, is no
stranger to the temptations of the city's restaurant scene but
even she was impressed by just how good it can be when she
Paris is indisputably one of the best food
cities in the world. Its marvelous markets
and shops touting eye-popping droolinducing
produce, pastries, chocolates and
more, are fodder for thousands of food
blogs, and there are enough neo bistros
and restaurants to keep food reviewers
busy for a lifetime just revisiting old
So imagine being contacted by insatiable
foodie friends from California, with whom
you’ve shared many a stellar meal,
announcing that they are returning to Paris
not for the shopping, not museums or
monuments, but for four days of “extreme
fooding” - a marathon of restaurants they’d
been dreaming about for ages, and they’d
love it if you (and in my case, French hubby
as well) would join them?
My mission, which I cheerily chose to
accept, was to snag reservations at some
of the hardest-to-get tables in town on
relatively short notice. There would be eight
fantastic restaurants in four days: lunches
and dinners. We would eat and drink our
way round the city.
Juggling bookings at sought-after Paris
eateries can be a challenge: most are open
on certain days only. Others just for dinner
and incredibly, starred players are closed
on weekends. But I was both pistonnée
(food writer/guest eater at chefs’ tables)
and very persistent.
Our only restriction: no fish or shellfish for
one in our party. We were afraid this would
prove to be an obstacle at places with fixed
tasting menus but happily, it wasn’t.
Alain Passard alum David Toutain reboots a
conceptual menu daily. Labor intensive and
well-thought out, Toutain’s inventive menus
induce reverie in his faithful, many of whom
migrated with him from Agapé Substance in
Saint-Germain. Give him a root vegetable and
he’s a magician: sweet potato gnocchi, celeriac
tagliatelle with white alba truffle. Toutain’s
signature smoked eel with black sesame and
green apple left us speechless. Throughout, the
term “neo-Nordic” kept springing to mind as
many of the courses would have been just as
much at home in a forest as on our plates.
Dessert of cauliflower coconut vanilla cream
with a chef’s surprise of quince chips and white
chocolate ice cream by Jacques Genin was
followed by fire-roasted figs with mascarpone
and root vegetables “churros” with chocolate
and smoked salt. A stunning start.
David Toutain (multi-course tasting menu); 29
Rue Surcouf 75007 Paris
Scoring a table at Frenchie on short notice
imparts an enormous sense of
accomplishment. Yet its laid-back location on a
narrow backstreet in the Sentier garment
district makes one wonder what all the
international fuss is about. It’s about the food,
the wine, and terrific service. Nantes native
Gregory Marchand hit it right by offering
gorgeous seasonal farm-to-table fare paired
with just as gorgeous wines. An unpretentious
cave à vins and Frenchie’s To Go followed,
along with gourmet food shops, and now, just a
visit to Frenchie, especially if combined with
nearby market street rue Montorgueil, is a
gourmet experience. Our multi-faceted meal
included perfect duck breast, pumpkin ravioli
packages that exploded with flavor and
crunchy Brussels sprouts topped with
crumbled cheese. Frenchie’s signature maplesyrup-glazed
scones with bacon from the
chalkboard next door put in an appearance and
amused our geueles. Fabuleux.
Frenchie (multi-course tasting menu); 5 Rue du
Nil 75002 Paris
Under the Les Halles canopy a modern
Michelin-starred French bistro-brasserie
signed Alain Ducasse is open every day of
the week. A view of the ancient Church of
Saint-Eustache and modern graffiticovered
walls are a backdrop to French
classics such as boudins, oysters, foie
gras, beef tartare, duck and snails that
share a simple carte alongside ricottaspinach
ravioli, smoked salmon, salads
and oven-fresh soufflés, a specialty.
Kicking off with a coupe de champagne we
tried two raw fish starters: sea bream in
citrus fruit shavings, black pepper and
basil, and sea bass with carrot, fresh lime
and ginger. Spectacular. This was followed
by the copious house salad (romaine,
shaved radish, fennel, carrot, beets.
cucumber dressed in a tart yogurt mint
vinaigrette), all forerunners of two sky-high
soufflés - one cheese, the other in-season
Thursday Lunch asparagus - both exploding with flavor and
Wines were expertly paired with each course. By the time dessert arrived - pistachiolaced
salted butter caramel soufflé, we almost stood up to applaid. But we were too full.
Champeaux Brasserie Bar & Lounge; Forum des Halles La Canopée 75001 Paris
Since the opening of this superstar starred
neo-bistro on a street behind Bastille, chef
Bertrand Grébaut has never looked back. A
relaxed decor belies top talent in the kitchen.
Grébaut’s menu of pure seasonal ingredients
complements a wine list of carefully selected
small producers who avoid additives. All of
the dishes were beautifully presented.
Synergies of flavors and textures were
showcased: white asparagus with an oyster
sauce gribiche; pork tenderloin with slivered
radishes; steamed cod with pickled turnips
and yuzu sauce. A dessert, every French
schoolchild’s fave, riz au lait vanille, creamy
rice pudding tanged up with a passion fruit
coulis, arrived with an old favorite, a deconstructed
Mont Blanc of sweetened feta with
its familiar chestnut cream “spaghetti,”
making this meal a knockout, just as we’d
hoped it would be. Next.
Septime (multi-course tasting menu);80 Rue
de Charonne 75011 Paris
(multi-course tasting menu) Book
well in advance
Verjus is the happy outgrowth of The Hidden Kitchen,
exquisite dinner parties once hosted by Laura Adrian
and Braden Perkins in a private Paris apartment.The
view is of a theater reminiscent of New Orleans’ old
French Quarter and below, in a small intimate room,
is their wine bar with its ever-changing chalkboard. I’d
not dined at Verjus before because we’d fill up on the
apéro plates downstairs - pork belly with sesame
seeds, indescribable Parmesan “churros,” duck
terrine maison with pistachios - and felt no need to
go upstairs for the nine-course extravaganza.
However on this night, oysters from Utah Beach with
rhubarb, gougères dusted with seaweed and salt,
perfectly roasted pork, foie gras with walnuts and a
jaw-dropping beet tarte tatin, plus more, kept us
happy all the way to dessert: caramelized Jerusalem
artichoke ice cream with apple and cinnamon. We
vowed to return.
Verjus (multi-course tasting menu);52 Rue de
Richelieu 75001 Paris
Book well in advance
LiLi at the HOTEL PENINSULA
Being escorted through the opulent Hotel Peninsula then
seated in LiLi’s spacious dining room felt like we’d arrived
on a Hollywood film set. This gastro Chinese temple was our
choice for Saturday lunch, not so much for a change from
French cuisine, but to sample their reputed authentic
gourmet Cantonese dim sum, and more. Excited, we went for
the Menu Dim Sum: steamed lobster dumplings with
asparagus, Shanghai-style steamed pork raviolis, chicken
and eggplant dumplings with XO sauce, pan-fried minced
pork dumplings with bok choy, each deliciously succulent
and elegantly presented. But, as the saying goes, “Chinese
food goes right through you,” we decided to loosen our belts
and go for some mains: Peking-style duck, wok-fried
Brittany blue lobster with ginger and spring onions, braised
French beef with fried ginger and, to wash it down, martinis
with lemon twists which, beautifully cleansed our palates
between courses. Dessert? Not this time. Dinner would be in
a few hours.
LiLi at the Hotel Peninsula; 19 Avenue Kléber 75016 Paris;
Note: The Lobby Restaurant at the Hotel Peninsula has a 48
Euro 2 course lunch/dinner menu that's very good.
Our last stop after such a raffinée experience at
lunch, standing-room-only wine-bar-tapas bar
L’Avant Comptoir seemed a natural choice for
dinner. Loyal fans of chef Yves Camdeborde
since his La Régélade days in the far-flung 14th
way back when, we’d followed him to Saint-
Germain-des-Prés. First-timers here are always
astounded when they see the ceiling, a forest of
banners with photos of dozens of small plates.
An impressive selection of wines, sausages, and
an enormous hunk of salt-studded butter
dominates the zinc counter with its country
loaves cut into chunks, still warm, mustard,
cornichons, and fleur de sel for the taking. We
joined the throng and ordered away: crunchy
calamari and crunchier fried chicken with house
fries and sauce gribiche; fried cheese; waffles
topped with an artichoke cream and Bayonne
ham; foie gras with piquillo kebabs; caramelized
pork belly; sautéed cèpe mushrooms with garlic.
We did it. Bordeaux and dry rosé by the glass
and endless toasts with total strangers, and it
L’Avant Comptoir; 3 Carrefour de l’Odéon
By Jemma Hélène
Finally I did something I’d wanted to do all
There’s a lone bench at the end of l’Ilette
peninsula, a stub of land that juts into the
Mediterranean near Antibes’ rampart walls.
The bench faces the bay, looking onto the
old town, or if you peer over your right
shoulder when seated there, the Cap
d’Antibes. Smack in the centre of that view
lies our summertime home, Bellevue.
Below the bench the sea rolls onto the
rocks. Next door is an upscale beach
restaurant – but this, you could say, is a
The bench itself is unremarkable, an
unforgiving union of two cement slabs.
Behind it stands a tall shard of limestone
with a copper plaque that has gone green
with age. What I wanted to do that summer
was quite simple: to read a particular book
sitting on that bench near that monument.
So there I sat, water bottle beside me, book
in my lap.
Being the height of the Côte d’Azur’s
season, the sun scorched in its late
morning sky. As I tried to enjoy the
experience I’d longed to savour, I only
wanted to dive into the neighbouring
restaurant and continue reading under an
umbrella, cold drink in hand. But I couldn’t
do that. They’d suffered here on l’Ilette
peninsula. I should, too.
I squinted through sunglasses as the sun
bounced off the pages. Duel of Wits by
Peter Churchill. I’d found a beaten-up copy
through a community college in Indiana.
When the book arrived in Toronto, I packed
it away for our summer in Antibes.
Flipping the pages brought forth the
familiar, musty-paper smell of my youth. It
beckoned me into a bygone world.
Churchill dedicated his work to Arnaud –
code name for Captain Alec Rabinowitch, a
radio operator who died in his pursuits.
These writings, the author explained,
covered four secret missions into wartime
France. He’d entered twice by submarine
and twice by parachute between July 1941
and April 1943.
I skipped to the biographical index at the
back – anything to avoid the hard work of
the inside pages in that blazing light. I
recognized some names from my research:
Julien (Captain I Newman) – captured and
Louis of Antibes – Did I recognize this
name? Or was it “Antibes” that sprang
from the page? – captured and died on an
evacuation march from a concentration
Matthieu (Captain Edward Zeff) – captured
Taylor, Lt-Cdr “Buck” – commanded his
own submarine. Survived.
Vigerie, Baron d’Astier de la – never
They were characters in a story I’d found
online, translated into French. Across a
wide ocean, with Toronto’s thermometer
lingering well below freezing, it had read
like a thriller. A British submarine, the H.M.
S. Unbroken, had entered the Baie de la
Salis – the very bay beneath me – one
night in April 1942. In charge of the
operation was the book’s author, a member
of the British Special Operations Executive.
Churchill rowed ashore in the pitch night
and climbed steps that led up l’Ilette
peninsula – landing there, right there, on
the ground beneath my bench. If someone
had lingered that night on the terrace of our
Bellevue, they would’ve witnessed the
landing in its moving shadows.
Churchill’s mission was to deliver two radio
sets and two radio operators (Matthieu and
Julien) to the home of Dr Elie Lévy, a
kingpin of Antibes’ Résistance movement
who lived three blocks inland on Avenue
Foch. Under the cover of night, Churchill
navigated the streets alone, locating Lévy’s
house before returning for his colleagues
and supplies. Then, already clutched by
adrenaline, the secret agent ran into Lévy
himself on l’Ilette peninsula. With him was
Baron d’Astier de la Vigerie, a diplomat
who became a last-minute addition to
Churchill’s passenger roster as the
submarine departed the bay beneath
So that’s what I would recreate: a living
history of Antibes through the allegorical
eyes of Bellevue. All summer long, Antibes
revealed herself to me on two levels, past
and present. Plaques, monuments and
street signs – timeworn tributes that had
faded into everyday life over the years we’d
been coming here – shared their stories.
And there, mounted above a lighting shop
three blocks up Avenue Foch, the trunk
road I’d taken more than a hundred times,
was an unassuming marble plaque: Here
lived Dr. Elie Victor Amedee Lévy, Captain;
arrested May 4, 1942; died in deportation to
Auschwitz; hero and martyr of the
Résistance; died for France.
That was the story I wanted to read in
English, right there on l’Ilette peninsula. A
fat drop of sweat ran down my calf and
deposited itself on my ankle. Skimming
was the only way. I flipped to the book’s
midsection and hunched over its yellowed
pages. A breeze kicked up. Instant airconditioning.
I was doing the right thing.
Some would say I’d been behaving oddly
all summer. I biked around town with one
eye on the road and the other scouring
second-floor facades of buildings where
plaques might appear. Friends began
calling me a history-buff. Really? History
was never, ever my thing. It always seemed
a jumble of useless dates and wars –
except, of course, when my grandmother
told vibrant stories about the wagon train
bringing my ancestors from Pennsylvania
History only mattered to me when there
was a story behind it. History was
interesting only when it was alive.
The story endured.
As I continued to read on l’Ilette peninsula,
I realized I’d forgotten the story’s details –
even important ones. I’d forgotten, for
instance, how Churchill’s surprise
encounter with Lévy had begun.
On that dark night in April 1942, while they
huddled in the darkness of their
clandestine work, Lévy launched a
question to Churchill – before even
bothering to introduce the diplomat
loitering alongside them.
Where, the doctor wondered, were the
faked baptismal certificates for his two
daughters? Churchill had promised these
papers so that Lévy, a Jew, could avoid
having his house – purchased in his
daughters’ names – confiscated by the
My cheeks were burning. The water bottle
was almost dry. I’d continue reading
elsewhere. But before leaving that eventful
site, I lingered before the copper-green
plaque. It was written in English and
French, but as with so many translations,
the two halves offered different
\the monument commemorated the
landing of the H.M.S. Unbroken submarine,
under Captain Peter Churchill, on April 21,
1942, and all those who took part in the
operation. It was presented to Major
Camille Rayon (another major Résistance
player) by Lieutenant-Commander C.W.
Buck Taylor (who steered the submarine
that night) on May 23, 1992.
The last line caught my eye. It spanned the
centerline of the plaque, occupying both
the English and French sides, and
protruded from the stone’s face:
En hommage au Docteur ELIE LEVY
(LOUIS) qui dirigea cette operation, et
mourut en Déportation
directed this operation and died in
I’d learned the story of the H.M.S. Unbroken
through the eyes of Peter Churchill, a
British secret service agent. But the
collective memory of the local people
filtered through a different lens. It was Lévy,
an Antibois, who was the heart of this
mission, not Churchill.
There’s a whole other world occupying the
sunny Côte d’Azur. It lives invisibly
alongside the sandy beaches and glitzy
shops. And it’s breathing, shallowly,
appearing only to those who seek it.
Jemma Hélène is the author of French
Lessons Blog: www.frenchlessonsblog.com
In tribute to Dr Elie Lévy (Louis), who
A family pilgrimage to the
Somme by Doug Goodman
In September 1916 High Wood in Picardy
was a vision of tree stumps and mud – a
deathly landscape. It was here on the
morning of 15 September that a boy
soldier from Wandsworth, London fell in
the battle to take the Wood. Bertram Alec
Reader – known as Alec – was the eldest of
5 children. In the summer of 1915, at the
age of 17, he made a trip to Somerset
House, London, and joined the 15th
Battalion London Regiment, Prince of
Wales’ Own, Civil Service Rifles (CSR).
Having passed the medical inspection he
left as Private B. A. Reader 3623. In March
1916 Alec sailed for France.
All of Alec’s letters home survive and his
story has been pieced together by his
nephew Roger Goodman who, along with
his brother Doug, traced Alec’s life on the
Somme. After making all their research
available to historians through the archives
at The Imperial War Museum, Alec's story
has featured in several books. Through one
of these books contact was made by the
son of a private soldier, Vern Wilkinson,
who served alongside Alec. He had read a
book featuring Alec and remembered
seeing the name in his father's wartime
diary. Alec's family had always known the
time and place where he died but not how.
In his diary Vern wrote:
‘We were happy when we knew definitely
what time the ‘kick off’ was, uncertainty
made one nervous and irritable. We
attempted a little breakfast in the early
hours but the jam tasted of paraffin so we
gave it up. A substantial rum ration
however soon satisfied us, there was
actually some rum to spare as some of the
lads would not participate as they wished
to have all their senses about them when
the great time came. Others were quite
merry and personally I had consumed
plenty... At last ‘zero’ came (6.20am) and
the guns that had quietened towards the
dawn broke out with a terrible clatter as
they put down one of the terrible barrages
that made advancing much easier for the
infantry. We clambered over the top of the
parapet and were immediately met with a
murderous machine gun fire, some of my
pals falling at once...
The Somme is about 90
minutes drive from Calais and
DFDS Seaways has daily
crossings from Dover.
The Historial de la Grande
Beaumont Hamel memorial
Commonwealth War Graves
Photos: far left: Doug Goodman; centre left:
family photo shows Alec Reader; top: Doug
and family members lay a weath at Thiepval;
left: Alec Reader with pals.
...Young Reader fell at the side of me with a
groan and blood rushed from a wound in
the head. I just turned to glance at him and
could see that death was instantaneous
and so passed that cheerful spirited lad to
whom everything was ‘very cosy.’’
Alec’s story is a poignant one as he was
waiting to return to England. Those who
had joined as underage (18 was the
minimum age for joining up) could be
reclaimed by their parents and had the
choice of being repatriated. However, Alec’s
father’s request was delayed due to
administrative issues and before Alec
could return home the Battle of Flers-
Courcelette began. Alec was buried near
the north-west corner of High Wood but
due to continued fighting the details of the
place of burial was lost and Alec is listed as
one of the missing of the Somme; his name
appears on the Thiepval monument.
On the morning of 15 September 2016, 100
years to the day he died, Alec’s family and
two researchers made a pilgrimage to High
Wood where they laid a wreath on the 47th
(London) Division Memorial. They held a
private ceremony before joining a memorial
service at the Thiepval monument where
three generations of the Goodman family,
Doug, his nephew Paul and great-nephew
Charles laid a wreath on behalf of Alec’s
family. "This ‘cheerful spirited lad, to whom
everything was very cosy’ will never be
forgotten and his short life will continue to
be remembered for generations to come"
said Doug Goodman.
High Wood as returned to its natural state
and it's estimated that the remains of
several thousand British and German
troops are still there as the area was never
cleared of munitions. In total around 8000
deaths occurred in the square km. of private
wood during the Somme Battle that lasted
from July to November 1916. High Wood was
the scene of the last cavalry charge and the
first tank attack.
But you are in France Madame by
Catherine Berry, her husband and three
children unzipped and discarded their
comfortable Australian lifestyle and
slipped on life in the country of haute
couture. On arrival, there was no
celebrity designer waiting ready to pin
and fit their new life to them. So, they
threw it on and wore it loosely, tightly,
uncomfortably, any old how—until they
learned for themselves how to trim,
hem and stitch à la française. This book
is testament to the joyous, but not
always easy, journey that they took
along the way.
Read our review
CLICK ON THE PICTURES TO ENTER THE DRAWS
Uncorked by Paul Shore
Celebrating the “uncorking” of a few
tightly held traditions that are near
and dear to hearts of the locals of the
Cote d’Azur and Provence. Like being
taught to play pétanque (boules)
under the clandestine cover of
darkness; drinking pastis before
noon; navigating narrow village
roads at top driving speed. Shore
also “uncorks” personal awakenings
about the value of following roadsless-travelled
and making time to
smell-the-roses, as we cultivate
friendships and traditions. And,
through exposure to the life of artist
Marc Chagall, Shore reflects on the
challenges that all newcomers face
to gain acceptance in a foreign land.
Read our review
See over the page for more great give aways
including some delish rose wine!
Chateau for Sale by Carrie Parker
Can someone really be in love with
two people at the same time? Kate
thinks so when she falls for Nick.
But inevitably she has to choose.
Escaping to Nick’s château in
southern France seems like the
answer. The betrayal of her beloved
husband, Alastair, leaves Kate
racked with guilt, but things are
only going to get worse. She neveer
imagined how fiercely loyal
Alastair’s best friend, Richard,
would prove to be, nor the dire
consequences of his loyalty.
Instead of the new start that she’d
hoped for, Kate’s life at the château
descends into a nightmare, taking
her to the brink of despair,and
when you’re desperate you’ll do
Read our review
Leonardo da Vinci: The Amboise
Connection by Pamela Shields
A fascinating book about one of
the greatest men who ever lived. he
lived in the Loire Valley as the
guest of a king at the end of his life.
He was a tourist attraction then,
and still is. The book is full of
interesting facts and anecdotes
about Leonardo's time in the
Chateau de Clos Lucé in Amboise -
a must read for all Da Vinci fans
and visitors to this lovely part of
Read our review
French for Divorce by Carys Evans
British Catherine and French Jacques live
the good life in France until Jacques starts
fraternising with a colleague and Catherine
realises all is not equal in love and war.
Facing her own personal Brexit, Catherine
becomes a character in her very own
surreal adventures, to the backdrop of chic
restaurants, chalets and chateaux. The
couple’s colourful allies of French
gendarmes, champagne-guzzling best
friends, improbable lovers and a charmingly
chauvinistic father-in-law accompany them
down their road to disunion or reunification
in a country that gives infidelity the
Presidential seal of approval.
Read our review
MORE FAB GIVE AWAYS!
Winetastic give away of award winning delicious rosé
wine from MIRABEAU Provence
Our wine making friends at Mirabeau in
Provence are feeling generous! They have
two cases of 6 bottles of their award
winning Classic rosé to give away. With
its delectable raspberry pink hues and
intense aromas, expressive red berry fruit
remain the essence of this delectable
rose'. Mirabeau Classic has a beautiful
concentration, with strawberry and
raspberry flavours taking centre stage,
balanced by fresh acidity and leading to a
sumptuous finish with notes of redcurrant.
A perfect aperitif for an alfresco
moment, it’s also great with flavoursome
food, or drink it as they do in Provence,
anytime and with almost anything! Just
click on their website & subscribe to their
newsletter to go in the draw:
Two winners will each win a case of 6 bottles of Classic.
Just nip onto Mirabeau’s website here & sign up to their newsletter to enter the contest
which will end 30 June 2017.
Legendary actress Brigitte Bardot led fashion revolutions
throughout her career; this retrospective includes BB’s
comments on her iconic style in a rare, intimate interview.
Brigitte Bardot is a style icon whose legacy has undeniably
shaped the face of fashion as we know it. In photographs
that capture her attending prestigious receptions or on
glamorous visits to the United States, in fashion shoots
and on film sets, this volume illustrates all the key looks
that BB wore and brought to the international spotlight as
she invented and edited her own highly imitated style.
With personal comments on the photos, Bardot explains
the context of the often vanguard fashions she wore,
making headlines wherever she went. A must for BB and
Draw ends: 28 July 2017
And it always will be...
A French town without a baker - it's
unthinkable - everyone would move away!
A butcher is almost as important to French
village life as a baker. The butcher sells the
usual roasts and chops and chickens, as
well as a variety of prepared foods.
My wife Val and I live part of the year in St.-
Rémy-de-Provence, a charming town
between Arles and Avignon. We love going
to our favorite butcher shop, a place that
has been serving the good people of St.-
Rémy for decades. It's run by a husband
and wife who take great care in the quality
of their products and service. When you
order a piece of meat, the butcher will ask
you how you plan to prepare it. Then he will
slice off any extra fat, trim around the bone
and cut it into the size you want. If you
want hamburger, he will take a piece of
beef, run it through his grinder and form it
for you. Burger by burger.
The butcher takes the time to chat with
every customer - waiting in line is like
having a free French lesson. How is the
family? Are your bunions bothering you?
How will you prepare the stew? For how
many people? Do you salt your food? This
usually prompts a general discussion on
salt. It’s like watching a French sitcom.
Sometimes the phone rings and the
butcher answers it – it’s usually an order for
a big meal. This leads to a long discussion
between the person on the phone and the
butcher and his wife. How many people do
they need to feed? What spices will they
use? Should they pick it up at 11:00? No,
maybe 12:00. No, 11:00 would be better.
Okay, they’ll come at 12:00.
Once we went to the butcher to get a gigot
d'agneau (leg of lamb.) We were having
some friends over and figured a gigot
would be easy to make in advance and
would feed a large group.
We explained what we wanted. For how
many people, the butcher asked. Ah, the
gigot in my cabinet is not large enough for
your dinner for ten, he said.
So off he went to the back to get a larger
one. He appeared two minutes later
carrying the entire back half of a lamb. Oh,
my. But at least the wool had been
This doesn’t happen where we live in
He prepared the meat deftly and then
came the cooking discussion. How were
we preparing it? Our marinade met with
his approval, but under no circumstances
were we to use a temperature higher
than 180 degrees Celsius. The butcher
looked at us gravely to make sure we
understood this important point.
And did we want the bones he had just
removed? We should place them next to
the lamb, cover them with some olive oil
and butter, and add a full head of garlic,
herbes de Provence, and salt. It would
make a nice jus for the meat. This kind
of advice is common in France.
If you are in a rush and go to a French
butcher be preapred to be there for at
least a half an hour. But if you do, the
food will be delicious and the floorshow
can’t be beat...
Keith Van Sickle is the author of One Sip
at a time: Learning to live in Provence
The Good Life in ....
When British artist Perry Taylor and his
Dutch wife Caroline moved to rural
Gascony, south west France, one of the
things they were really looking forward to,
apart from the gorgeous countryside,
fabulous cuisine and wines and laidback
lifestyle… was keeping chickens.
“We live in a 250 year-old farmhouse and
in the past it’s been home to cows, pigs,
rabbits and various animals. We keep just
chickens though. Having them around
makes for a homely feeling, bringing the
courtyard and garden to life. We started
with the Light Sussex and over time we've
had a real hotchpotch of blacks, greys,
browns and speckled egg layers. They’re
always on the look-out for something to
eat, they follow you around, especially
when working in the garden, waiting for
some grub or worm to be thrown to them”.”
Not only do the couple enjoy the eggs from
the chickens but there are other benefits
too - Perry, an artist, found that the
chickens were a rich source of inspiration
for his quirky drawings.
“There’s Queeny – she’s really bossy and
Cinderella, she’s at the bottom of the
pecking order… they all have different
personalities and we love them all. Little
Cilla Black became a favourite when she
and Floppy (light Sussex) were the sole
survivors of a fox's visit. They became
inseparable, so when Floppy died, we got a
new batch of different breeds. Cilla
immediately went from underdog to queen
bitch and pecked them all into order, except
a white one that looks like Floppy. These
two firm friends now take the highest perch
in the coop, along with Rusty, a cockerel”.
Top right: Perry and Caroline; above:
"Jeu de Poules"; right: black chicks
Perry loves to sit and observe the
chickens going about their daily lives
and sometimes that creates the basis
for a drawing idea.
Caroline says “We were once playing
boules and when we threw the 'pois', a
couple of chickens came running after
it, probably thinking it was food. Perry’s
drawing 'Jeu de Poules’ came from this”.
Perry recalls seeing four chickens and
Rusty the cockerel all cleaning
themselves under their wings and tails
and for one magic moment, none of
their heads were visible, which gave rise
to his painting titled ‘Headless
Caroline explains how another favourite
came about “Our neighbour has black
Gascon chickens. One day one got
loose and came over to inspect our
Light Sussex. Perry wondered what
would come out if they bred. His 'Black
chicks' drawing was the result”!
Over the last few years Perry has become
quite a celebrity in Gascony as his witty
and whimsical paintings have truly
captured the charm and authentic spirit of
French rural life.
Popular in France, Britain and with
Francophiles around the world, his first
book ‘Petites Gasconneries’ featuring
some of his most popular chicken
drawings was a sell-out. His just published
new book ‘Bon Moments’ went the same
Perry says of his birds “their curiosity and
mannerisms are fun to watch and when
they get used to you, they like to be in your
company. Ours like nothing more than
nestling down or preening right next to us,
which really does give us a feeling of wellbeing.”
Not many people have a chicken as a muse
but for artist Perry Taylor it works well!
FIND YOUR DREAM HOME IN THE GERS
Local property agent Julia Grange says "Gers is often described as the Tuscany of France;
others have compared it to Devon. It is a very rural, agricultural area, with fresh, clean air
as there is no polluting industry. It produces some excellent wines such as Madiran
(scientifically proven to be the best red wine for your health), and is world-famous for its
Armagnac. There are lots of pretty bastide towns, one of which, Larressingle, is known as
a mini-Carcassonne. I live in the west of the Gers. From here I can be surfing or swimming
on the Atlantic coast in 1h30, winter skiing in Cauterets in 1h30, and in Spain in 2h.
There are lots of walking groups and cycling groups and for sports fans, rugby is very
popular here. There are also several golf courses. In summer, the world famous Jazz
festival in Marciac is very popular with many big-name stars appearing. The nearest
airport with UK links is Tarbes-Lourdes (Ryanair), but there is also Toulouse, Bordeaux
and Biarritz." There are a few of Julia's top property picks for the Gers:
This village home in Fusterouau is renovated
and with its small garden would be an ideal
second home. Only 8km to the popular
market village of Aignan and 133km to
Click here for more details
A beautiful 5-bedroom home in Maupas, ready
to move into. South-facing to capture the sun,
with views of the Pyrenees, 5 minutes to the
nearest shops, and less than 2h to the airports
of Toulouse and Bordeaux
Click here for more details
Set in a lovely location in Couloume
Mondebat, a beautiful big property with
business potential. 3 Stables, separate gite
and 13 ha of land with fabulous bviews to the
Click here for more details
Click here to see Julia's portfolio of gorgeous properties in the Gers
The Good life in...
We talk to British expat Linda James who with her Husband Alex runs Le Pommier
gites and a cake making business in Riberac, Dordogne department, Aquitaine,
south west France.
What inspired you to move to
I originally came here on holidays with my
family in the 1980s as my cousin and her
husband moved here with their three
children. I fell in love with the sunny
weather, the stunning countryside, being
able to swim in rivers and lakes, the
beautiful villages, markets, fêtes and the
Although my cousins moved back to the
UK for a short while, they couldn’t keep
away and returned to France. There are
now four generations of our family here as
my aunt moved over just before us. She
was 91 a couple of weeks ago! We
searched a much wider area for our
property but decided we might as well be
close enough to pop round for coffee, or
meet up at the market. And after some
property viewings further down in the
Dordogne, we decided we liked it better
Tell us about your gites and cake
Our property consists of a three bedroom
house, one bedroom apartment and two
bedroom gite. The gite is popular through
the whole season as its a comfy space for
couples as well as the families who come in
the school holidays. The house is bright
and spacious with a new bathroom that
gets the response ‘wow!’ from guest. The
large stone terrace overlooking the pool
and garden and countryside are perfect for
aperos and the spectacular sunsets we get.
We’ve also launched a cake business. The
idea started when I made cupcakes for a
wedding last year, then a café in Ribérac
needed cakes to serve with tea and coffee.
Coffee and Walnut cake is really popular.
We have several walnut trees and shelling
them is a time-consuming process so I
often do it in the evening while watching
telly! I’m beginning to take orders for
Tell us about your house
The buildings are 18th century farm
workers cottages linked by a large barn,
forming an L-shape. We have a lovely
stone well attached to our house and the
grounds are made up of pretty gardens, a
small orchard and a bigger garden with
swimming pool and walnut trees. It’s
typical for the area.
We found it via an estate agent on our
High Street in Portishead that listed
Leggett Immobilier properties. They set
us up with viewings.
My dream was to run gites but it felt like
the timing wasn’t right when I first
started looking so I went back to my job.
It got to the stage where I felt I could
couldn’t stand waiting any longer so I
gave in my notice and left at Christmas in
2013. We jumped in our campervan in the
February and I said “we’re not coming
home until we find our house in France”.
Penny (our agent at Leggett Immobilier)
took us to see six properties a day, then
persuaded us to see one we had thought
was too small.
It was a beautiful sunny day and we
walked into the gite and I said “I think
this it!” That was mid-February. We
moved in at the beginning of June. We
also found a house 10 minutes away in
village square for my in-laws.
We had our first gite guests less than two
weeks after we moved in!
We didn’t have to do major work as it
was beautifully renovated with lovely old
beams but we updated bathrooms and
wood burners and gave everything a
fresh coat of paint and generally
redecorated. We replaced a wooden
terrace with a grand stone one. Our
French neighbour calls it the Acropolis!
How have you found running a business
It was challenging at first as we didn’t know
how to get set up as non-retirees, we had to
have a business to get into the health system
for instance. There is a local online network
called the Dronne Valley Network, The
Franco British Chamber of Commerce and
Industry advertised their services through it,
and we went to see them. They guided us
through the set up process. They also do a
monthly informal social gathering for people
to exchange experiences and information.
What tip would you give anyone
following in your footsteps?
This is a difficult one! We took a leap of faith
really – and underestimated how much
money we’d spend getting everything sorted,
and how challenging it would be to earn
enough money. We know a couple of people
who’ve managed to retain jobs in the UK–
they work remotely from here and go back
once a month for face to face meetings. A
reliable income helps enormously.
What do you love about your area?
We’re living in beautiful countryside and have
plenty of places to visit within a short
distance. The people are friendly and there’s
lots going on – vide-greniers and brocante
markets, music, art exhibitions. We absolutely
love the fact that we can be outside more
because the weather is so good... and having
a swimming pool!
Sharing our lovely space with holiday guests
is a real bonus and we love to make new
friends. The quiet roads and lack of traffic is
Website: Le Pommier Gites, Riberac
See over for what to see/do in Riberac and
fabulous properties in the area...
5 things to see around Riberac
1. Brantome (above)
One of the most visited towns in the area thanks to its gorgeous good looks. A stunning
abbey, a riverside setting that looks like a painting come to life and a pretty town that's
perfect for wandering and sitting at a cafe watching the world go by. The Abbey’s Church
belfry, built into the rock, is said to be the oldest in France dating to the 11th century.
Tip: Behind the Abbey are caves which go back to the 8th century and one of them
contains a depiction of the “Last Judgement” from the 15th century – well worth a look.
2. Aubeterre sur Dronne
A beautiful village with a spectacular monolithic church carved out of the rock. Do the
tour because you can only appreciate it from the inside. The village is arranged around a
lovely square with shops and restaurants but do explore the roads around the square to
discover the second church and other businesses. At the bottom of the hill there is a
sandy beach and river swimming.
Have a wander around to
discover a variety of small
shops, café/bars and
restaurants. The Office de
Tourisme has plenty of
local information. On
Friday Riberac hosts the
biggest market in the area.
A village with cafes and
restaurants, but if
you’re here on the first
Sunday of the month
there is a large
A city with a maze of
medieval lanes lined with
shops opening into squares
with restaurants. The
cathedral is stunning (walk
down to the river for the
best view) and is illuminated
FIND YOUR DREAM HOME IN THE RIBERAC AREA
We talk to Penny Armstrong, the local agent who helped Linda and Alex James to find
their ideal property in Riberac: "Having bought our property here over 30 years ago, I
know the region well. The Dronne Valley has so much to offer. Stunning scenery,
tranquility, plenty of outdoor activities, yet not isolated, with beautiful towns and villages
close by. In this area communities mingle together, French, British and many other
nationalities in a friendly and helpful way..."
Charming 2 bedroomed character cottage set
in the heart of Montagrier, a beautiful village,
walking distance to bar, restaurant and
epicerie with "depot de pain". Tucked away
and offering large covered terrace leading to
plunge pool and garden.
Click here for more details
Situated on the outskirts of Riberac, this is a
lovely Perigordine house with four bedrooms and
two covered terraces. The family sized
accommodation is light, airy and spacious. It has
a summer house in the garden. Garaging for
three cars, tool-shed and workshop. A generous
sized property, all in excellent order. Recently
reduced from €328,600 to €235,400.
Click here for more details
This property has been lovingly cared for and is
spacious light and airy. With 4 bedrooms, 3
bathrooms, a 2 bedroomed gite, garage, large
shed, pool and wonderful views it has a great deal
to offer in versatile accommodation. Close
proximity to Riberac with all amenities yet set in
lovely countryside, this property is HIGHLY
RECOMMENDED. Recently reduced from
€315,000 to €285,000
Click here for more details
Click here to see Penny's portfolio of fabulous properties in Riberac
ask the experts
If you have a question about finance, law, currency, banking, property, satellite
services or any other aspect of living in France, you can email it to us here and we'll
put it to our panel of experts and try to help you.
Question: I've been told that there have been changes to Pension legislation that
might affect British expats in France - can you explain what it's all
Answer: from Jennie Poate at Beacon Global Wealth
In 2017 there have been a raft of changes
to the international pension scene, forcing
financial advisers to dramatically rethink
the way they plan for their clients.
One hugely significant change affecting
the Qualifying Recognised Overseas
Pension Schemes (QROPS)* market came
in April. HM Revenue & Customs updated
its list of these international pension
products after a temporary suspension.
The result was that nine countries fell off of
HMRC’s list completely when it was
The suspension followed a shock
announcement by UK chancellor Philip
Hammond to impose a 25% charge on
pension transfers outside of the EAA** if
the ‘QROPS’ destination is not the same
country in which the retiree is living.
This list is due to be suspended and
republished in June 2017.
To be clear, this does not affect (currently)
those who live and have their pensions in
the EAA. So for those living and paying tax
in France who have a pension in the UK,
you will remain unaffected.
For those planning to live and pay tax in
France going forward there is currently no
change. One would assume that the UK will
be part of the EAA in some shape or form
going forward but of course we can only
deal with the here and now.
This makes uncertain times for those
looking to move their UK pensions into
something more international and flexible.
Beacon Global Wealth Management are
treating these concerns seriously, and as
with all of our advice we obtain full
information from the client and the pension
scheme before providing any advice which
as a minimum comes in two stages.
See over for more info and * **
We only use jurisdictions for pension
transfers that are within HMRC regulation
and in the best interest of the client to
move their pension with a full explanation
of the options, advantages and
The current pension regulation still
provides a marvellous opportunity for
people to take control of their funds inside
their pensions and have more flexibility for
income and cash.
It’s quite a complex subject but to try and
explain it without taking up too much
space, currently with UK providers, the only
option is to have an annuity. These are
based on interest rates and longevity, the
former being very low.
Once you have exchanged your pension
pot for an annuity you can’t change your
mind and it is fixed for life. Nowadays
people want more flexibility and choice
which would include the choice of when to
take income, how much and for how long
and to pass the residual balance to their
Please do contact me if you’d like
obligation free information or just a chat.
Question: I have about £100,000 lump sum from my pension in the UK. When I
move to France I wonder if there is a savings account or vehicle that I can put my
money in that will pay me interest?
Answer: Jennie Poate Beacon Global Wealth
As a UK tax resident, you can draw 25%
PCLS or Pension Commencement Lump
sum tax free.
However as a French resident you have an
obligation to declare the income and pay
tax on it. There are several ways this can be
taxed but the usual is that a 7.5% fixed rate
tax would be levied plus a now new 7.1%
CSG or ‘social charge. So if you move to
France before you effect the drawdown, on
that basis, already £14,600 is payable in
tax. There are other ways this can be paid
so check with your accountant or adviser
as to the best route.
It would be prudent to keep some funds in
an ‘emergency’ account running alongside
your current account so that if for instance
the boiler breaks down you have instant
access to funds.
* A Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Scheme, or QROPS, is an overseas pension scheme
that meets certain requirements set by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A QROPS
must have a beneficial owner and trustees, and it can receive transfers of UK Pension Benefits.
**The European Economic Area (EEA) is the area in which the Agreement on the EEA provides for
the free movement of persons, goods, services and capital within the European Single Market, as
well as the freedom to choose residence in any country within this area. The EEA was established
on 1 January 1994 upon entry into force of the EEA Agreement. There is more to it than this but
with the current issue of Brexit ongoing we’ll have to see if there is any change for the UK or not.
There are several tax free bank deposit
accounts; the nearest equivalent being a
cash ISA. The interest rate is a government
set rate currently (June 2017) 0.75%. There
are two types of account and you can hold
in which you can place a maximum of
€22,950 per person plus accrued interest
Livret de Développement Durable:
In which you can place a maximum
€12,000 per person plus accrued interest.
All banks and the post office offer them.
They aren’t spectacular at giving you
interest but keeping a level of available
cash is always a good idea.
With the remainder of the cash, there are
several things to consider. Do you want
income? If so how much? Do you want a
If you are investing more than €30,000
and are under the age of 70, then the
following option could be considered: A
‘Contrats d’Assurance Vie’ or life
The short version of what is means, is that
it is an open ended investment policy that
can potentially hold multi-currencies and
different types of investment according to
need and the level of risk you want to want
It has great tax advantages for the
policyholder as well as inheritance benefits.
There is no limit to how much you can
place in one of these vehicles but they
usually require a minimum of £20,000 -
£30,000 and some offer the opportunity
for monthly contributions.
They are often considered an 8 year policy
as the tax benefits ramp up at that stage
but they are generally open ended. Some
companies have a penalty clause for early
Want to know more? Then please do
contact me for more information, there’s no
Jennie Poate can be
Beacon Global Wealth website:
See next page for more questions
The information on these pages is intended only as an introduction only and is not designed to
offer solutions or advice. Beacon Global Wealth Management can accept no responsibility
whatsoever for losses incurred by acting on the information on thiese pages.
The financial advisers trading under Beacon Wealth Management are members of Nexus Global
(IFA Network). Nexus Global is a division within Blacktower Financial Management
(International) Limited (BFMI).All approved individual members of Nexus Global are Appointed
Representatives of BFMI. BFMI is licenced and regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services
Commission and bound by their rules under licence number FSC00805B
ask the experts
I am an American living half the year in France and the other half in Hawaii. It is not a
I have struggled with my bank account in France. I can access it when in France, but
cannot in the states. It makes it very difficult to verify transfers, bill payments, etc. I
would love to know if anyone else has had better luck.
Also, a comparison of fees would be helpful and services offered. Since I couldn't access
my account from the states, I had no idea my internet bill was not being paid until a
guest said there was no internet connection.
I would find it helpful to know which banks offer an English speaking department or one
that regularly services expats. Online banking in English would be a dream come true.
Is there any way Credit Agricole Britline can help non UK clients?
Britline Credit Agricole (English language banking for expats in France)
Some banks may “switch off” the online
banking facilities they provide if you are
classed as a non-resident. This may not
always make sense as being a non –
resident is usually when you need this type
of access more than ever . The bank may
decide to do this for security reasons to
protect your account but unfortunately this
can backfire if you are due to receive
electronic statements or simply want to
follow your account.
It is possible to find English speaking
banking services and some banks provide
a website in English. Often these are very
limited and online banking is still not
available in English. Other services
available are English speaking telephone
based teams, for example CA Atlantique
Vendée, Anjou-Maine and Aquitaine.
Sometimes English speaking advisors can
be found in branches eg CA Charente
Up to now the service that provides
everything under one roof from banking,
insurance, mortgage and savings to a
bespoke International Payments Service for
currency exchange, with a team of 40
bilingual and bicultural advisors, is us at CA
At CA Britline we have also developed an
app ‘My Britline’ which enables you to have
online banking facilities in English.
If you are fiscally resident in France, the UK
or Ireland, you may be eligible for a CA
Britline account. However if you are a US
resident we would advise you to contact a
"Direct" service of CA, such as www.
Website for CA Britline:
Dreaming of moving to France?
Top Tips to help you make the move...
Have you been considering a move to
France but don’t know where to start? We
talk to the experts at Renestance who help
English-speakers to settle in France about
their key tips to help you make a smooth
Dream vividly but not wildly
What are you hoping to find? Blue skies,
time to travel, better social life, lots of
wine? Be specific about how you imagine
your future life in France.
Is part of you expecting life in France to be
better in every way? Be careful of
unrealistic expectations and issues that
follow you wherever you go.
What do the people you’re moving with
dream of? Are your visions compatible?
Measure twice, cut once
Explore the areas that interest you – try to
do some reconnaissance trips.
Match your nesting place to your timeline.
Do you plan to live there year-round
indefinitely, do a two-year sabbatical, or
just stay for summers? If you’re rebuilding
your nest in France permanently, visit
during low season and under the rain, if
possible. Also consider renting before
Mind your money
Find the best way to exchange currency
and move money across borders.
Expect hurdles setting up your French bank
account (especially if American) – you’ll
need a proof of address in France and a
thick dossier of papers.
Understand the tax implications of earning
and investing money in France.
Find out how your retirement savings will
be impacted by your move.
Get your affairs in order at home
What will you do with your home? Do you
need to plan for trips back to manage
Do you have family or work-related issues
at home that will require your presence?
Even if you keep an address back home,
you’ll need to access all accounts,
statements and records from France.Make
sure you have internet connected in your
new home ASAP.
Choose a provider with free calls to mobiles
and fixed lines back home.
Skype and Facetime are great to see AND
hear them, but it does require good
Arm yourself for administrative
Are you allowed to work or run a business
in France? Do you already have a job here?
If not, will you find a job you’re qualified for?
Can you work remotely for a non-French
If moving with children, make sure you
know grade level equivalencies, school
start dates (not January as in AUS/NZ!),
and entrance requirements.
Obtain sufficient health coverage in France
(visas for non-EU nationals require it) and
bring your medical records and
prescriptions if you have ongoing issues.
Yes, everyone’s innate language ability is
Yes, you’ve heard about people living in
France for 20 years and getting by with
But your experience will be more enriching
the more comfortable you are with the
language. And no, there is no easy app or
trick to becoming fluent in French - it takes
hundreds of hours of practice listening,
speaking and reading - but one day you
Make friends with the natives…or
Meet and talk to as many people as
possible, even if it’s hard for you. You never
know what you might have in common
with someone, or who will introduce you to
your next best friend. Don’t expect the
French to seek you out and include you in
their social circles right away. They
probably had friends before you arrived
and tend to build friendships at a more
Pursue your passions and interests. What
better way to find like-minded people and
become part of your community, all while
doing what you love?
Don’t exclude expats for fear of speaking
too much English or not integrating with
locals. Not only are expats a wealth of
information when you’re settling in, but
they are often your bridge to meeting
Expect to panic
Even if you’ve lived abroad before, are not
crossing several time zones, nor making a
radical change in your lifestyle (just
married, retiring, starting a business…), the
sheer volume of unknowns and differences
will likely overwhelm you at some point.
You will constantly confront cultural
differences. Things take more time to get
done. People are not as smiley/friendly and
aren’t afraid to contradict you. If you’re
coming from outside Europe, everything is
smaller in France. Basically, it can seem like
nothing is easy!
You are no longer in a place where you
master the environment. It can be quite
humbling to be ‘the foreigner.’
If you’ve followed the tips above, you know
this isn’t just a poorly-planned whim. Have
faith in your vision and your preparation.
Give it time. ‘There’s no place like home,’
and it’s natural to wonder when/if you’ll
ever feel at home in France. One day you
will, and you’ll know because you went
home and found it doesn’t really feel like it
anymore. Then you’ll look forward to going
home to your nest in France.
Renestance can assist you during each
step of the way. Whether you're thinking
about moving, in the planning phase, or
have been in France for a while now and
could use some help with administrative
matters, visit www.renestance.com for more
Get a monthly recap by signing up for our
Omelette a la Mère Poulard
Mère Poulard at Mont St Michel makes the most legendary omelette in France. It’s
cooked over an open fire, in a copper pan with a very long handle. Although her recipe is
a well-kept secret, many French chefs claim to know it and there is a plethora of
theories: no whites, whites whipped separately, adding crème fraiche, Normandy butter,
etc etc. But no one really knows! So if you visit Mont Saint Michel, and can afford a €35
omelette, it’s a historic experience.
American Mary Pochez who runs cookery classes at the stunning 18th century Château
de la Barbée in the Loire, shares her take on this classic recipe.
Ingredients for one large omelette
12 cl of crème fraiche
Salt and pepper
40 gr of butter
Optional: Mushrooms, cheese and lardons
1. In a bowl, crack open 2 eggs. Add the
yolks of 2 more, leaving 2 whites aside.
Whip the eggs on low speed for 5 minutes
and add the crème fraiche, beating for
another 3 minutes. Add salt and pepper.
2. Whip the 2 other whites into soft peaks
and fold gently into the rest of the eggs.
3. Melt butter in a non-stick frying pan and
pour egg mixture into the hot pan*. Cook
slowly for about 5 minutes, the surface
should be slightly liquid still – then fold in
Serve immediately while it’s still hot, with a
green salad and/or fried potatoes.
*If you want to add cheese, sprinkle on top
** Fry mushrooms and lardons and
sprinkled on top before folding
Find more recipes and details for Mary's fabulous cookery courses: www.lavieduchateau.
Eeasy, peasy, lemon squeezy Tarte au Citron...
A lush recipe from Sara Neumeier, inspired by her neighbour Christine in France.
It’s perfect for summer with just five ingredients and no baking!
To adjust the level of sweetness, you can add or subtract from the amount of condensed
milk—it’s pretty fool proof.
Ingredients: Serves 8
8 ounces gingersnap cookies, finely ground
5 ounces unsalted butter, melted
16 ounces mascarpone cheese
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 3 to 4 lemons, depending on desired tartness
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (about half a 14-ounce can)
1. In a medium bowl combine gingersnap crumbs and melted butter. Press evenly into
the bottom and sides of a 9-inch tart tin. Set aside.
2. Using a hand-held or standing mixer on low, combine remaining ingredients until
smooth. Pour into reserved crust, smoothing top with a spatula. Refrigerate at least 4
hours or overnight before serving.
Sara Neumeier is a New York food stylist who shares a summer cottage in the Dordogne
with her parents.
She and her recipes are featured in the memoir Beginning French by Les Américains
Chef Spencer Richards from Normandy
Cooking Days gives a lesson on how to
make the most perfect Moules Marinieres...
Moules Marinières, that oh-so-French dish
that we all love – did you know though that
if you add cream to the stock, it’s called
So let’s start with a few basics. You will find
great moules at markets in France as well
as in shops. You should be able to find
them at supermarkets and fishmongers in
most towns around the world. They come
in different sizes, personally I prefer the
smallest ones, I find them sweeter and a
stronger colour than the big ones. It takes
longer to eat them, but what’s the hurry?
You have a delicious bottle of chilled
Chablis to drink them with, right?
I like to buy them in the morning and leave
them in cold water for the day to give them
a final wash. You should discard any that
are broken and any open ones should
close when you tap them, if they don’t
chuck them away – they’re dead. Then cut
or pull off any rope (beards) left attached to
You can cook the mussels in batches if you
only have small pans, but remember to
retain the stock for each batch.
"Always use the shells as pincers
to eat the next one with"
A large pot with a lid (or a moules pot)
500g of fresh mussels in the shell per
1 Large Onion
1 Head of Celery
2 or more Cloves of Garlic
Butter or Olive Oil
½ litre of water
1 glass of Dry White Wine
Optional Extras: Cream; apple juiceor still
Cider orCalvados (apple brandy)
1. Rough dice the onion and celery and
sweat them in your biggest pot with some
olive oil (or butter).
2. Add the garlic and sweat the mix some
more (you do not want to caramelise or
colour any of this).
3. Add the water and a pinch of salt and
the wine (check it’s up to standard first).
4. Add the bouquet Garni. Let it all come up
to the boil and then add the mussels.
Cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or
until they have all opened. (Discard any
that didn’t open during the cooking
Serve in bowls, cover with stock, sprinkle
some fresh parsley over and eat with fresh
baguette and good friends.
To give your moules dish a Normandy
twist, add a splash of flat (not fizzy) cider or
better still Calvados ( apple juice for those
on a detox) and then a couple of tablespoons
of cream. Always use heavy or
double as single will split.
La Vie du Chateau - brilliant
cooking classes in an 18th century
chateau in the Loire Valley.
Learn to make classic French
dishes, English language cookery
lessons that are fabulous and fun
in a unique & gorgeous setting in
an all inclusive holiday.
Click to read more about it
Hidden Veggie Pop up
restaurant in Haute Vienne at
Saint Laurent-sur-Gorre, close to
Enjoy a delicious flavour-popping
vegetarian (or vegan) homecooked
dish in the home of a local
in a fun and authentic
Click to read more about it
Normandy Cooking Days - learn
to cook with a British chef in
Normandy close to Mont St Michel.
On this one day course you'll shop
at the markets, create classic,
scrumptious Norman dishes &
learn about the famous
gastronomy of Normandy
Click to read more about it
Cookies Campers - the ultimate
glampervan holiday in the south
of France. Hire a luxury
campervan & enjoy the freedom
of the open road and the glorious
outdoors. Go where you want,
when you want & stop off where
you like in the sunny south.
Click to read more about it
Experience (My) France tours of
Aveyron. Veronique, a local, will
show you this little known part of
France in all its stunning glory.
Medieval villages, flowery
meadows, forested gorges &
vineyards that cling to the sides of
steep hills. This is a part of
France to be savoured...
Click to read more about it
Expat Dating France
If you're looking to make new
friends in France or perhaps to
find someone to share the good
life with, Expat Dating in France
may just be the thing. Set up by
an expat who herself found it
hard to make friends, it's a great
way to meet like-minded people
Click to read more about it
Artistic Gourmet Adventures
Holiday in France that inspire
Tours that show you real France
with an itinerary that's perfect for
you and that won't rush you on and
off a bus with hundreds of others.
Have an adventure of a lifetime
with one of these fabulous, luxury
Click here to read more about it
If you love French music, culture,
history and fun facts then click
onto Radio Paris Chanson,
English language radio for
Francophiles everywhere. They
play the "golden age" of music,
share loads of great facts and
Click here to read more about it
Tours du Tarn - cycling holidays.
Offering some of the best cycling
terrain in France, this brand new
centre based company is opening
up the Tarn for all levels of riders.
Training breaks, guided, selfguided,
beginners, weekends &
longer fabulous cycling holidays
in a stunning location.
Click here to read more about it
The Happpy Hamlet
Discover a stunning retreat in a
centuries old farm-hamlet in
southwest France, Tarn et
Garronne. The perfect get-away
with lush accommodation,
fabulous food and wine & loads of
activities from music and art to
yoga & well-being and more.
Click here to read more about it
It's been a crazy few months for me and things have been quite topsy
turvy at home. The reason is - I wrote a book, and it got published. I've got
to tell you it's quite surreal to walk into a branch of WHSmith in the UK
and see your name on the shelf! I have been taking selfies surreptitously,
grinning like a fool next to book "my" shelves in Waterstones. It's even in
Shakespeare & Co. one of my favourite book shops in Paris (and it's in
WHSmith at 148 Rue de Rivoli Paris, opposite the Tuileries Gardens!).
Okay that is the shameless plug almost over with - except if you'd like to
buy it, "My Good Life in France", my story of how I came to France by
accident, gave up my dream job for love and acquired 60 animals and an
understanding of the culture of my adopted country and a whole lot more,
is out in the UK (Australia 1 July and Us soon) and on Amazon
My animals of course have not noticed any of this furore going on. To
them I am simply the maid, cleaner, cuddler and mad woman who gets up
early every morning to feed, water, walk and love them.
"Do you need grounding now you're a famous author" asked my sister, I
think she was joking. Anyway the answer is no, not really, not when I have
to clean out chicken coops after I've just been interviewed by the Daily
Express. Not when I have to worm the cats, after I've just done a live radio
show. Not when I have to clear up after two orphaned baby chickens who
had to live in the house for three weeks as they needed some special TLC
just as I'm about to be interviewed by Woman's Own Magazine.
Writing a book is a dream come true for me and I thank you all because
everyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter, who visits my website,
who reads this magazine - you've been my inspiration.
Bisous from France,