Issue No. 14

From Paris to the Loire Valley, and everywhere in between, how to live like a millionaire in Nice on a budget, French island hopping, a fairy tale chateau and Monet's Garden in Giverny. Everything you want to know about France and more.

From Paris to the Loire Valley, and everywhere in between, how to live like a millionaire in Nice on a budget, French island hopping, a fairy tale chateau and Monet's Garden in Giverny. Everything you want to know about France and more.

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This issue of The Good Life France Magazine is set to provide inspiration for

everyone. There are focus features on the gorgeous gardens of the artist Monet

in Giverny, wild and dramatically beautiful Ardeche and the Loire Valley, in

which we look at the lesser known but no less stunning places to visit.

If you hanker for a break in the sun that won't break the bank, our how to live

like a millionaire in Nice on a budget feature is definitely for you. Or how about a

bit of island hopping on the tiny Ile d'Aix just off the coast of La Rochelle - it's

got real wow factor. Visit the enchanting Chateau du Rivau, a real life fairy tale

castle - there's nowhere else quite like it with its giant wellington boot

sculptures, Rapunzel tower and an exquisite chapel of roses.

Bordeaux, Haute-Savoie, the world's biggest fresh food market in Paris and the

fabulous theme park Futuroscope, perfect for families are all featured. We've got

9 brilliant give-aways - just click on the picture links to enter all the draws! And

the Your Photos section will really impress you, they are absolutely sensational.

If you're dreaming of living in France, or you're an expat already, our location

guides will definitely inspire you and our practical guides will help you sort out

the administration of life in France.

As for the gastronomy section - it's a corker! A fabulous recipe for apple tart

from a Michelin star chef, a look at nougat, that sweet, deliciously sticky stuff

and more.

If you like this issue - please share it, it's free, and always will be...

Happy reading,




Daniel Galmiche is a French chef and author of The French

Brasserie Cookbook and Revolutionary French Cooking.

He's a regular guest on BBC's Saturday Kitchen and

passionate about using produce from local, sustainable

resources. Find out more at Daniel Galmiche.com

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

Peter Jones is a writer, photographer and radio presenter

who loves food and travel. He lives in Oxfordshire, UK and

is a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. Find

out more at Jonesphotos.co.uk

Rupert Parker is a writer, photographer, cameraman & TV

Producer. His special interests are food & travel. His articles

appear in national newspapers, magazines, and global

websites read about his latest adventures at Planet Appetite

& on Twitter @planetappetite.

Lucy Pitts is a freelance 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 UK. Her favourite place is the Vendée area, known

as the Green Venice of France.

Editor: Janine Marsh contact editor (at) the goodlifefrance.com

Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts

Advertising: Mark sales (at) thegoodlifefrance.com

Digital support: Umbrella Web Solutions

Page 56

Page 8



8 Monet’s Garden in Giverny

It’s the most visited private garden in

western Europe and here’s why...

22 The Chateau du Rivau

A Loire Valley fairy tale castle to swoon

over - it's gorgeous.

32 Cycling in the Ardeche

Lucy Pitts falls in love with the wild and

dramatic beauty of the Ardeche.

40 Bordeaux – Wine, Rivers &


Rupert parker says a cycling/barge holiday

in Bordeaux is bound to float your boat.

Page 50

46 Ile D’Aix, Charente-Maritime

The perfect little island for chilling out and

getting away from it all.

50 How to live like a Millionaire

in Nice... on a budget

A break in the sunny southern city doesn’t

need to break the bank!

56 The Loire Valley – like you’ve

never seen it before

The secret side to this beautiful area and a

few surprises too!

page 68

Page 30

Page 98

68 The French Alps – not just for


Discover the beauty of the French Alps in

spring and summer.

78 Fabulous Futoroscope

The award winning French theme park

proves to be a winner for kids of all ages!


30 Your Photos

We share the most popular photos posted

on our Facebook page.

119 My Good Life in France

Janine Marsh talks about life in


Give Aways

20 Win a copy of A Day With Claude

Monet in Giverney AND a copy of Monet

Water Lilies: The Complete Series.

86-87 7 fabulous Books and a beautiful

gift box of goodies from Paris to win.

Life in France

88 I spy with my Expat Eye


An expat reveals an insider view of France

via cheese!

Page 56

Page 31

Page 114

Page 22

92 The Good Life in ... The Loire


We meet a family who’ve found the Loire

Valley is just perfect.

98 The Good Life in ... Paris

A magazine editor in Paris reveals her top

places for first time visitors and where to

find the best bars and restaurants...

102 Finance: Taxing Times

Jennie Poate takes a look at expats'

obligations when it comes to tax.

106 Property: Immobiliers

Tim Sage gives a detailed overview of the

role of the estate agent.

Jo-Ann Howell looks at the administration

side of being self employed.


110 Maman’s Apple Tart

Top French chef Daniel Galmiche reveals

the inspiration behind his scrumptious

apple tart and his famous recipe...

114 Nougat

Lucy Pitts visits Montelimar, home of the

famous nougat.

116 Gigot d’Agneau aux legumes

Sara Neumeier shares her favourite spring

dish from France.

21 Property picks Giverny

55 Property picks Nice

77 Property picks Annecy

97 Property picks Loire Valley

107 Practical: micro-entrepreneurs

As I walked along the pretty little rue Claude

Monet in Giverny, the first thing that I noticed

was the scent of flowers. The closer I got to the

house where the great artist lived and gardened,

the stronger the intoxicating perfume became...

Monet's House and Gardens

Monet’s house and gardens are open to the

public from April to October each year and

lure more than 500,000 people to this tiny

little town in Normandy, northwest of Paris.

Visitors flock to admire the pretty pink

house where Monet lived until his death in

December 1926 and to fall in love with the

magnificent gardens that everyone will

recognise from his luminous paintings.

Whatever month you visit during that time,

the garden is an absolute feast for the eyes

and the scent is dazzling.

Monet signed the rental agreement for the

house on May 3, 1883. In those days a

railway track ran along the bottom of the

then garden and Monet spotted the house

from his train carriage as it trundled past.

He and his second wife Alice moved to

Giverny and in 1890 bought the house; by

then Money was hooked on gardening.

They lived there for the rest of their days

and Monet, who became one of the highest

paid artists of his lifetime, transformed the

gardens into the most enchanting, alluring

corner of Normandy.

70 years after Monet died, the garden is

looked after by Briton James Priest. He’s

only the third gardener since Monet to have

the pleasure and the huge responsibility to

keep the artist’s dream alive.

"Like walking into a painting"

It’s not a gardening job like any other: “I’m

the guardian of this very famous plot of

land” says James who heads up a team of

eight gardeners. Monet himself had up to 7

gardeners working there.

I was taken aback at just how much this

garden looks like the Monet paintings I've

seen. “It’s deliberate” James tells me. He

works from a list of plants Monet liked to

grow. Much of the detail comes from a book

written by Monet's son about his father's

letters which contained information about

the plants he loved. And, there have been

lots of studies to ascertain varieties from

his paintings.

“Those pelargoniums that you see growing

in beds in front of the house, they were

there in Monet's time” advises James “and

we know that he grew roses and daffodils,

poppies and irises. But because he had

cataracts which made colours turn red and

purple to him, it's not always easy to get the

exact plant style right”. I tell him that to me

the colours seem spot on, you feel as

though you are standing in one of those

exquisite paintings when you stand in these

gardens surrounded by a glorious

symphony of colour.

“It wasn’t always like this” says James.

“When Monet first lived here, he had an

orchard and grew vegetables because he

wasn’t as wealthy as you might have

thought”. He also kept chickens and

there’s a chicken coop and pen there now

with lots of chooks clucking and pottering

about, completely oblivious to the hordes

who come to pay homage to the garden

and the painter. As Monet grew richer he

turned all his energy to planting flowers,

the orchard was replaced with crocuses -

but he kept the chickens.

“His wife didn't always agree with him, she

was” says James “more bourgeois than

her husband and wanted a slightly neater

garden which involved chopping down

trees she felt grew too close to the house.

Monet wanted to keep them. In the end, he


And for that, we should be forever grateful.

Colour is everything here, just as it was to

Monet. James explains that the design is

about the light changing. As the sun

passes over the garden it tracks across

swathes of plants that change from pink

through blue and red and I suddenly see

what he means - it's like a giant magical

paint brush has daubed a magical palette

of colours right in front of me.

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”

Claude Monet

Monet painted the garden over and over.

He would paint one section in the morning,

paint it again at noon and again later in the

day, fascinated by the change in colour. In

those days paint didn't come in tubes

ready to use, artists mixed their own

pigments and Monet would be mixing

several times a day, in his workshop trying

to get the colours as he saw them.

As you stroll the gardens, birds sing, bees

and insects flit about, a neighbour’s cat

saunters by, unbothered by the crowds,

and always the scent of blooming flowers.

There are the famous "paint boxes", oblong

plots that James plants up to look like a

palette of colours and I can imagine Monet

using these beds of colour to help him

create his paint box.

Monet’s Waterlilies

When the railway line that ran along the

bottom of the garden was closed, Monet

decided to buy a plot of land on the other

side of the track. He had a hankering to

create a lily pond. Monet paid 1200 francs

and the community paid the remaining

1800 francs to meet the cost of the plot.

Water lilies were a huge novelty in Monet's

time. He saw them at the Paris universal

exhibition in 1889, the year before he

bought the house and he fell in love with

their exotic perfection. He turned the boggy

field of his extended garden into a series of

lakes and filled them with water lilies, he

was obsessed with capturing their beauty

on canvas. More than 250 paintings exist.

The waterlilies weren’t popular with

everyone though and when the artist

imported the mysterious plants from Egypt

and South America, the local authorities

feared they would poison the water.

"This was probably the first garden that had

hybrid lilies" says James. I can’t help

thinking just how clever this garden is and

how far ahead of its day. There is height,

texture, sculpture and the blending of

colour and the little Japanese influenced

bridges that Monet painted bright green are

a perfect contrast to the scene.

“He really was an incredibly innovative

gardener wasn’t he” I say to James “I never

really got that from looking at photos of the

garden”. I’m no artist but even I can see just

how stunning this place is when you see it

with your own eyes.

“Monet was like Da Vinci in his way" agrees

James "the first to really capture the light”.

The day I visited there were volunteers

cleaning the lily leaves, just as in Monet’s

day. He wanted them to look pristine and

James keeps the tradition up, wiping the

dust from time to time to keep them

healthy and looking beautiful.

You can’t help but imagine the painter

sitting here, obsessed and yearning to

capture the colour and the light that he saw

in later years as his sight deteriorated.

Monet’s House

Monet’s house is a true delight and an

unexpected bonus if you’re only going for

the gardens. I was lucky to see it on a

sunny autumn day and the rooms were

filled with light which poured through

windows which were thrown open to give

spectacular framed views of the garden.

It was a family home, Monet, his wife and

two sons and his wife’s six children from

her first marriage lived here. Shades of blue

and yellow predominate and it’s a place

that has a magical atmosphere. You almost

feel as though Monet himself will return at

any moment to sit at the table in the dining

room or smoke a pipe in the reading room

or perhaps he has nipped out to the garden

to pick flowers to fill the rooms with yet

more colour.

Monet is buried in a modest spot at the

churchyard at Giverny, his coffin was

carried as he requested, by his gardeners.

The house and gardens were eventually

bequeathed to the Académie des Beaux

Arts by Monet’s son Michel and restored to

their former glory and status as a living

work of art.

Website: Fondation-Monet.com for details

of opening times and tickets.

See over page for things to do in Giverny...

Pictures: Above, in the garden of a cafe

in Giverny; right at the Hotel Baudy in

the artists atelier; below in the

countryside surrounding Giverny

What to see when you visit Giverny

It’s not a big town but there’s plenty to

please - from tempting gift shops (who can

resist an impressionist inspired umbrella?)

to cafés and restaurants. There’s also a

Museum of Impressionism and a tourist


Don’t miss a trip to the lovely little former

Hotel Baudy at 81 rue Claude Monet. In

1887, the first painters in what would

become the colony of American artists

needed accommodation in the village.

Madame Baudy who owned a grocery store

decided to transform it into a hotel and

restaurant. It became a favourite place for

the likes of Monet, Renoir and Cezanne

and other artists to meet for many years.

Today it’s a restaurant but ask to pop out

the back to view the rose garden and the

former atelier of the artists, complete with

easels and paints and ivy which has grown

through the roof. You'll feel as if Monet’s

great friend Renoir has popped out for a

bottle of wine and will be back any time to

finish painting.

More information on the local tourist

office website: normandy-giverny.com

We've got two gorgeous

MONET books to give away

- see over the page for


Win a copy of A Day with


This beautiful, slipcased volume offers an

intimate tour inside Monet’s home and through

the idyllic Giverny garden that inspired his most

iconic paintings. The garden at Giverny became

the impressionist master’s greatest artistic

accomplishment and a catalyst for his work. In

1890, Monet began renovating it, installing a

picturesque water lily pond inspired by the

Japanese prints he avidly collected.

The beautifully vivid illustrations of Monet’s

paintings, his home, and the grounds give

readers unprecedented access into the flowery

paradise to which Monet dedicated the last 40

years of his life.


Published by Flammarion April 2017

Win a copy of Monet

Water Lilies: The Complete


A beautiful hard cover full on coffee table

book. A complete catalog of Monet’s

famous Water Lilies, featuring 210

paintings from private and public


The Water Lilies brought together in this

volume, "mirrors of time" that influenced

the greatest painters of modern times. A

catalogue of the 251 Water Lilies known to

exist, essays of art historians Jean-

Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart,

panoramic photographs of the Orangerie

murals in Paris, period photographs of

Giverny by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and rare

archival documents complete the work.




Ideally situated between Paris, the Ile-de-France and the Normandy coast, with gems

such as Honfleur, Deauville and Trouville, this lovely area will win you over with its great

variety of landscapes, architectural heritage, ancestral customs and traditions. It's also

famous for celebrities like Claude Monet, Giverny, great Parisian pastry cook and

chocolate maker Gaston Lenôtre and leading painter of the French classical Baroque

style Nicolas Poussin...

Local propery agent James Daillet picks a few of his favourite properties between 5km

and 26km from Giverny, 75km from Paris (via A13/A14 motorway) in a green residential

area with historic, cultural and touristic attractions. Vernon on the banks of the Seine

River, Les Andelys with its famous Château-Gaillard and Nicolas Poussin museum, La

Roche-Guyon with its beautiful 12th century Château and quaint communities of Lyonsla-Forêt

and Gisors on the wealthy Plateau du Vexin. Many leisure activities like golfing,

sailing and rowing on the Seine River, stunning forests and numerous bike and

pedestrian paths make this a fabulous place to live.

€256 800

Charming character house with 5

bedrooms overlooking a quiet and

lusch green valley in lovely Les Andelys

Click here for more details

Magnificent property, entirely

renovated, in the charming village of

Houlbec Cocherel, Eure within 45

minutes of Paris

Click here for more details

€540 000

This stunning villa was designed and

built in the 1930's by the gifted

architect Henri Sauvage in St Martin

La Garenne, Yvelines

Click here for more details

€1 007 000

Click here to see James'portfolio of properties in Normandy near Giverny

This is a love story.

It’s the tale of a couple who fell in love with an abandoned chateau. They

bought it and have spent the last two decades lovingly restoring it and

creating the most magical gardens.

Normally these stories are about expats

who can't resist an abandoned chateau,

but this one is not. French couple Patricia

and Eric Laigneau first saw the chateau in

1996. It had been dreadfully neglected and

was in urgent need of tender loving care

and a lot of work. It was a chateau with an

illustrious history, a place where the horses

of the French kings were once bred, but its

glory days had long since passed.

When they bought the chateau, former art

historian Patricia went back to school and

studied gardening in Versailles. She does

nothing by halves and threw herself into

turning the gardens into something

magical and today, those gardens have

gained fame for being absolutely gorgeous

and like a living fairy tale.

Patricia admits that the chateau is her

passion, “I start at six o’clock in the

morning” she says “and often don’t finish

before midnight”. Rarely for a garden of this

size, the changes in planting are seasonal

and constant.

Above: regal peacocks patrol the

gardens; right Patricia Laigneau

with daughter Caroline

The palette of colours is extraordinary and

there are 14 garden areas separated by

hedges, flower beds and bushes, joined by

a path that weaves under trees and

through secret bowers.

All of the gardens are enchanting - quite

literally because the constant theme here

is fairy tale. Adults and kids alike will fall

under the spell of Patricia's imaginative

designs and creations. When the five

hundred different sorts of roses scent the

air in June it’s overwhelming and breathtaking.

At other times there are swathes of

blue irises, or a host of golden daffodils

and in autumn a plethora of pumpkins

thrill visitors.

There are sculptures which are quirky and

intriguing, firing the imagination and often

making you smile. Discover giant

Wellington boots and an enormous saki

cup with a rather cheeky inside. There's

even a Rapunzel tower complete with rope.

A delicate carousel brings oohs and ah’s. A

giant mole, the gardeners enemy, is a great

resting place for an albino peahen called

Dame Blanche. It calls to its mate, another

gorgeous white peacock, it has a smaller

fan of feathers then the colourful peacocks

that strut the grounds but the white birds

are no less impressive.

Caroline, Patricia's daughter, who works in

the garden with her mother, and who

speaks impeccable English, says she has

been training the peacocks to respond to

her call. She lets out a “cwaac” noise and

one of the peacocks named Leon calls

back and comes to find in us in the floral

chapel. The original building was in such a

bad state that it couldn’t be saved so

Patricia planted a nave of flowers and

covered the walls with roses, it’s peaceful

and quite magnificent.

Everywhere you look there is something to

discover, to fall in love with and when you

think it can't get any better – you can go

into the chateau which the family have

restored beautifully.

Every year an exhibition is held, one year it

was monsters another year it was secrets,

in 2016 it was ghosts and included works

from artists around the world - sculptures,

paintings, photos that were quirky, elegant,

mysterious and fun and had visitors of all

ages enraptured.

In 2017 the exhibition will be "La vie de


Pictures: below, nave of white roses

where the chapel once stood; right top

the Chateau and its fairy tale turrets;

bottom left, a bird in the garden;

bottom right, the giant mole!

In the castle is a room dedicated to Joan of

Arc who it is said to have visited the

chateau to buy horses when on her

campaign to rid France of the English

invaders. In a little tower, you can see a

kneeling figure dressed in a red cloak,

listen carefully and you’ll hear the sound of

someone praying earnestly, it’s quite a

moving experience. Outside the stables

are a reminder of the chateau’s majestic

connections and you can watch a film,

revealing the history of this illustrious


If you visit the gardens, don’t miss the

lovely restaurant in a converted barn or on

the pretty terrace. Here you’ll get a

delicious lunch made from local produce

and vegetables from the castle’s prize

winning organic kitchen garden plus

delicious local Chinon wines. There’s also

cheese and wine tasting - check out the

flower bar - it's truly perfect!

This is a castle to fall in love with and one

visit will never be enough…


There is a full programme of events included Roses Days, jousts and heritage days, see

the website for details - www.chateaudurivau


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 we've decided to post

the most popular of each month here. Share your favourite photos with us on Facebook -

the most liked will appear in the next issue of The Good Life France Magazine...





Photos by:

November: The Florist at St

Tropez by Dave McNeill (+3.7k


December: Christmas in Paris by

Jeff Pierce (+3.3k Likes)

January: The Paris Boulangerie

Paris by John Woods (+2.1k Likes)

February: Minerve by Robin

Locker-Lacey (+3.5k Likes)

Join us on Facebook

and like and share

your favourite photos

of France...

Lucy Pitts visits the lesser

known part of Provence and

falls in love with its wild beauty

Some places in France are made for

lingering and the Ardèche in the Rhônes

Alpes region, just north of Provence is

certainly one of them. It feels untamed at

times with its rugged, craggy gorges and

deep forests, serene at others, with grand

old mother Rhône gliding majestically

through her vineyards and hills.

Start at Tournon sur


If you’re planning on cycling in this

beautiful region, you could do a lot worse

than by starting your stay in the small town

of Tournon sur Rhône. Just north of

Valence (and south of Lyon) it’s delightfully

quirky. One moment you’ll be exploring a

labyrinth of ancient, narrow, cobbled streets

(and a new one way system that will send

you insane) and the next you’ll be bowing in

reverence on the banks of the River Rhône,

as she slowly sweeps passed in all her


There’s a large and rather beautiful 19th

century, pedestrian suspension bridge

which takes you to Tain l’Hermitage and

the vine clad slopes and gourmand

chocolate on the other side of the Rhône. I

happened to follow two children across it

from Tain to their school in Tournon’s large,

shaded market square. The school is

dripping in Mediterranean flowers and sits

right on the banks of the Rhône and as the

early September sunrise slowly unveiled the

town, I had to wonder if the children

appreciated what a stunningly beautiful

spot their seat of learning is in.

With the castle right at Tournon’s heart

(which dates back to the 10th and 14th

century and is next to the square) the town

is also overlooked by a steep hill and the

old fortifications and church. Vines thread

their way up the slopes like plaits on a

head to give a curious effect. There’s

occasional trompe d’oeil in the back streets

and you can feel the mix of southern

France and Alpine style. The bright orange

and yellow turret of the Caisse d’Epargne

in the old quarter even gives it an eastern


Hôtel de la Villeon

Tucked away a short distance behind the

very narrow main street, with its back

against the hills is a hidden gem. A large

old wooden door is the only clue to this

grand old 18th century mansion that used

to belong to one of the town’s long ago

successful merchants. Now a 4-star hotel,

it’s held on to all the integrity of its past.

Limestone floors greet you as you enter the

cool of the ground floor and the original

grand staircase takes you into the hotel’s

heart. It’s a listed building with many

original features like the exquisite parquet

flooring but still has a minimalist feel.

The terraced garden which leads off from

the restaurant, has an array of terracotta

pots and a magnificent wisteria, which you

climb up through to access the top terrace.

On a Sunday night the hotel restaurant is

closed so they bring your dinner from the

nearby gourmand restaurant Comako.

There’s a local trend in cuisine in the

Ardèche so I’m told, which means my entire

meal came condensed into 3 small glass

pots (one for each course)! But, whether it’s

hot coffee and some of the hotel’s fabulous

breakfast or a potted picnic, the top terrace

and its views, has to be a pretty fabulous

way to start or end any day.

The Dolce Via

Hitting the cycling trail –

by train!

The good news is that you don’t have to be

super fit to enjoy the cycling trails of the

Ardèche. Hôtel de la Villeon is only 5

minutes’ walk from the famous Via Rhôna,

a 815 km cycle route that goes from Lake

Geneva to the Mediterranean.

Better still, just to the north of Tournon is

the Tournon St Jean train station for the

local steam train and this is another good

way to start your cycling tour. You can load

your bike on the train and the 1hr 40-

minute ride will take you up through the

Gorges of the River Doux and the Doux

Valley, through chestnut forests and by

way of mountainous views to the lofty

town of Lamastre. It’s a beautiful way to

start getting to know the landscape and

saves your legs a hard climb.

In Lamastre, you can take to the Dolce Via,

75 km of meandering, gentle cycle track .

It’s on the route of a former train line that

originally linked some of the region’s most

rural and remote towns and villages and it

guides you gently from Lamastre through

the Eyrieux Valley.

The route is divided into 6 sections of

between 7 and 16 km each and it’s certainly

something a family could tackle together.

It’s an idyllic way to travel and if you

haven’t got children I’d suggest visiting in

early September. It’s still wonderfully warm

but also blissfully quiet.

There are plenty of places to stay en route,

including a number gîtes which are

“Accueil Vélo” (which means they are

The Via Rhôna home

accredited to a high standard and provide

particular services for cyclists).

Along the way there’s also two “village de

caractère” (Chalencon and Beauchastel) as

well as kayaking, river swimming and tree

top adventure if you want to take a break

from the cycling for a while.

But most importantly, the Dolce Via is a

gently undulating journey over viaducts,

through tunnels and alongside some simply

fantastic views. The valley far below is dotted

with traditional old silk mills of the 19th

century and the surrounding hills are thick

with woodland and wildlife. It’s a thoroughly

civilised way to travel and a journey you

could manage in a day or two or spread out

over 3 or 4 days to a week.

When you ever tire of admiring steep

ravines and pretty villages, at La Voulte

sur Rhône you can pick up the Via Rhôna.

This flatter cycle trail will take you past

vineyards and sleepy hills, along the

banks of the Rhône back to Tournon

(about 35 km), or straight to Valence

(about 20km).

Of course, your quick tour in the saddle

has given you only a glimpse of this

stunning region. If you have the time, head

further south to the Ardèche Gorges and

explore some of the dozens of village de


The Ardèche is a quiet region just basking

in rugged and rural beauty and

somewhere that is worth savouring slowly.

For details of the Dolce Via visit: dolce-via.jimdo.com


There’s a TGV station in Valence which means you can catch a train there direct

from Paris or the UK. For trains to Valence TGV visit: tgv.uk.voyages-sncf.com/en

For details of the steam train visit: trainardeche.fr

For places to stay:

Visit hoteldelavilleon.com. They have secure underground parking should you

need to leave your car or bikes.

Visit gites-de-france-ardeche.com for bike friendly places to stay along the Dolce


For more information about the Ardèche, visit: ardeche-guide.com

Bordeaux – Wine, Rivers and Chateaux

by Boat and Bike

Rupert Parker cruises down the Dordogne River and up the Gironde, stopping off

every day to cycle around a different Bordeaux wine region. There’s the added

bonus of popping into different Chateaux and sampling famous wines like

Margaux, Pomerol, Sauternes, Médoc and Saint-Émilion.

The first day’s cycling is an easy 10km to

the medieval town of Saint-Émilion,

through rows of vines stretching all the

way to the horizon.

Indeed grapes will be my constant

companion throughout the week and the

joy of cycling is that it’s easy to drop into

a chateau and request a tasting. It’s too

early for that so I take a tour of some of

the 200 km of catacombs and visit the

most impressive underground church in


Emilian was an 8th century Bendictine

monk from Brittany who sought refuge in

one of caves here. He is said to have

performed many miracles and he became

so famous they named the village after


In the evening we sail downriver to Bourg,

a fortified village on a rocky outcrop at

the confluence of the Dordogne and

Garonne. On board I get to do my own

wine tasting as they have a selection of

Bordeaux wines available by the glass or

the bottle. They feature a different wine

every night, at a slightly reduced price,

although I would suggest that their

“happy hour” should take place before

the meal, rather than after. Nevertheless

the food’s pretty good, hearty enough to

sustain even the most avid cyclist.

The transfer from Bordeaux airport is less

than an hour and I join the boat at Liborne

on the Dordogne River. It’s a 78m river

cruiser, aptly named Bordeaux and takes up

to 96 guests in 49 cabins, all with en-suite

facilities. I’m introduced to my bike, fitted out

with helmet, lock and pannier and I’m ready

to roll. The clever idea is that you cycle by

day and sleep on board at night whilst the

ship reaches its next destination.

The rain’s held off so far but next morning

the storm clouds are looming as I

meander through the vineyards of Cote

du Bourg, then Cote du Blaye to the town

of the same name. It now begins to pour,

but the immense fortifications of the

citadel provide ample shelter. This

military complex was designed by

Vauban, the famous French military

engineer, and was constructed between

1685 and 1689. It was designed to repel

attackers coming from the Atlantic and

has a tremendous view of the Gironde

estuary, the largest in Europe.

The next day, we anchor near Lamarque,

in the heart of the Medoc wine region.

The soil is a good mix of gravel, sand and

clay perfect for red grape varieties,

producing high quality full bodied reds,

what we Brits used to call claret.

On my way to Pauillac my ride takes me

past many famous wineries but I’m

saving my tasting for the famous

Chateau Margaux in the opposite

direction. Instead I content myself with a

coffee and croissant on the delightful

promenade facing the river and watch

the sailors disembark in the marina.

Another 20kms later, I’m in the town of

Margaux and make my way to the

Chateau. It’s an attractive 18th century

Neo-Classical villa in extensive gardens

but I’m disappointed to find that visits

are by appointment only.

That night we dock in the heart of

Bordeaux, sailing past the city’s newest

tourist attraction the Cite du Vin. It rises

upwards like a giant inflatable toy, its

circular tower all gold striped, resting on

a shiny metallic base.

The inspiration for the shape of the

building is said to be a humble carafe,

coupled with the swirl of wine in a tasting

glass and it’s half museum, half theme

park. Interactivity is the key and a special

iphone-like device guides you through

every aspect of the history and actuality

of wine making across the world.

Best of all, on the top floor, you can

choose a glass of wine, whilst enjoying a

stunning view of the city.

I get on my bike and cycle out of

Bordeaux on a disused railway line,

totally empty of traffic. There are no

vineyards here, just trees and swamp,

and it makes a nice change in the


Pictures: top right

Now I’ve ticked off almost all of

Bordeaux’s famous wine regions and

there’s just one remaining.

I cross the Garonne and visit the bustling

Friday market in Langon before climbing

upwards to the village of Sauternes,

famous for its dessert wines. I’m looking

for the celebrated Château d’Yquem and,

even though it’s marked on my map, it’s

difficult to find.

Perhaps they don’t encourage visitors,

after all, thieves broke into the cellars in

2013 and stole 380 half-bottles of wine

worth €125,000.

Finally, as I stumble across the gates to

the chateau, and cycle down the long

drive, there’s thunder all around me and

the heavens open.

I take shelter in one of the outhouses,

hoping I won’t be arrested by a security

guard, and reflect that I almost got soaked

in Château d’Yquem.

Picture: the ever enchanting

village of Saint Emilion

Rupert Parker travelled with Freedom

Treks on the Bordeaux - Wine, Rivers &

Chateaux cycling tour.

This 7 night, 143 mile Boat & Bike selfguided

tour aboard ‘The Bordeaux’, a long

river cruiser, starts from £958 per person

on full board. Price also includes services

of an English speaking tour leader, daily

briefings of bike tours and complimentary

tea and coffee on board.

Departs on various dates from April –

October. Grade: Easy - Moderate. Bike

hire, including E-bikes available.

Flights and transfers not included; fly to

Bordeaux or take the train from Paris.


The little island of Ile d’Aix sits off the coast from the lovely port town of la Rochelle in

the Charente-Maritime region. Quaint and quirky, this bijou islet is a perfect place for a

get-away-from-it-all break or a fabulous day trip.

There are just 40 full time residents living on the island and most holiday makers are

French – and who can blame them for wanting to keep this place a secret, but, I like to

share the best places with you.

You can’t take your car to the island which is reached by a smart ferry, though

residents may use cars as they’re necessary for getting in supplies. But you’ll find that

without the fumes, this place is an absolute haven of nature and sweet fresh air. You

can leave your car in the car park at the ferry terminal and it’s not a huge island so you

won’t miss your wheels and besides, everyone cycles and walks here. There are great

bike paths that take you all round the island with detours to gorgeous beaches, laid

back bars and cafes and accommodation, there’s just one hotel, a campsite, villas and

a few chambre d’hotes – this is not an island that’s teeming with places to stay so

book in advance to ensure a bed for the night.

A place to chill out and relax

Ile d'aix

What to see on the Ile d’Aix

An island hop to the Ile d’Aix by ferry from

Fouras, a 20 minute journey, makes for a

glorious chill out day, weekend or longer,

At just 3km long and 700m wide – you’re

not going to find it tough to get around, you

are going to find it totally relaxing to be

here. This little gem is a listed “Remarkable

Natural Site”. To the north is the ever

popular Ile de Ré, to the west is the famous

Fort Boyard of TV fame and the bigger Ile

d’Oléron and south lies the Ile de Madame.

The island has been inhabited since the

11th century, fortified thanks to its position

in the coastal waters, especially when the

arsenal was established at Rochefort on

the mainland, home to the shipbuilders of

Louis XIV and later under the Emperor


He landed here in 1808 and again seven

years later, staying for four days in the

home of the governor, his last stop on

French soil before being exiled to the island

of Sainte Helene.

Today you can visit the Governor’s house, a

rather quirky museum with a definite

atmosphere. A collection of clocks, art and

the bed upon which Napoloeon slept will

entertain you for an hour or two. Turning

the house into a museum was the project

of Baron Gargaud, a jet setter of the 19th

century, one of the bright young things of

Paris with more money than he knew how

to spend. He heard the house was up for

sale and bought it and then dedicated

much of his life to finding and buying up

Napoleonic memorabilia to fill it up with.

Fall in love with island living

This is a place of hollyhocks that spring up

everywhere and of wild flowers that scent

the fresh air. There are tiny cafés where

you’ll receive a warm welcome, pretty little

cottages with pastel coloured shutters,

bikes with baskets ready for a picnic lunch

or a bucket to catch a fish for supper.

Though you can cycle round the island in a

couple of hours if you really want to, you’ll

probably take a lot longer due to the

amount of wow moments you’ll have. Go at

a leisurely pace and stop off at pretty bays

and picturesque inlets. Fishing or collecting

shellfish is allowed but restricted to

enough for one meal! Stop off for lunch at a

restaurant with golden sandy beaches in

your view, palm trees waving in a gentle

breeze that makes you feel as if you’re the

Caribbean rather than the Charente-

Maritime. Buy a souvenir from the mother

of pearl shop and museum, a family run

business where they’ve been making little

shell gifts for more than 60 years. You can

also take a carriage ride, pulled by friendly


This is a place to smell the blossom and

the salty sea, to let the silky sand slip

through your toes, to enjoy a glass of

chilled wine and a deliciously fresh cooked

meal and to fall in love with the great

outdoors – French style.

Book the boat and get the time table for

the trip to Ile d'Aix

Charente Maritime Tourist Office

How to live like a millionaire in Nice...

On a budget

Imagine, you wander through the narrow streets of the old town in Nice, stopping at the

market to buy breakfast – socca, the local speciality, a pancake made from chick peas.

The sun is shining, and as you reach the beach, the sound of the sea lapping gently is

soothing... relax.

You break for lunch at an authentic café and enjoy a tasty dish and post a selfie on

Facebook which makes your friends back home in the rain jealous. You return to the

beach, read a book and savour a delicious ice cream. Then you wander back to your

apartment to get dressed for an apero at a local bar, have dinner and wander the wiggly

streets of old Nice listening to free music, soaking up the ambience and people


Nice is famous for its glitz and glamour, for being the playground of the rich and famous.

Everyone from the Queen of England to world leaders and billionaires come up here to

play and party and to soak up the sun that shines more than 300 days a year. But what if

you’re not a millionaire – can you afford Nice? Is it possible to take a break without

breaking the bank? Well yes, absolutely, and in fact, it’s not at all hard to live on a budget

here and enjoy life to the full!

Where to eat

You are totally spoiled for choice in Nice where food is really important to the locals, it’s

part of the heritage of this place. The street food is amazing, delicious socca, Pissaladière

(a tasty onion tart) pastries and snacks are plentiful and at just a few Euros a piece, you

won’t need to spend much.

Plenty of restaurants don’t charge sky high prices and one of the best for local Nicois

dishes is A Buteghinna (11, rue du marché). It’s only open for lunch but the three lovely

Nicois ladies who run cook up a storm in a tiny kitchen. You won’t each much in the

evening after one of their scrumptious dishes which you won’t be able to resist finishing!

And, check out the snack bar at the restaurant for take away heaven!

The food market at Cours Saleya is an experience in itself and surprisingly reasonable,

thanks to the abundance of fruit and vegetables grown in the area and neighbouring

Italy, just 20 minutes’ drive from Nice. There is also the Liberation Market (Avenue

Malausséna - Place du Général de Gaulle Liberation tram stop) Tuesday – Sunday, which

is where most locals go as it’s less touristy. Buy supplies and enjoy a picnic in the sun.

Where to drink

If you want some wine to go with your picnic or to drink on your balcony watching the

sun go down, head to Les Caves Caprioglia (16 Rue de la Prefecture). Take an empty water

bottle and buy direct from the 700l casks of wine that line the wall and choose from

white, red or the locals favourite rose. A litre of red will set you back about 3 euros.

Credit: Martine Hillen

What to do

The beach at Nice is stony – which is fine for most people but if you want a comfy

sunbed, you’ll have to pay for it. You could though nip on the bus for €1.50 and head to

the sandy beach at Villefranche-sur-Mer. (Get transport details from the tourist office).

Walking is of course free and Nice is one of the nicest places to wander with parks,

grand squares, tiny streets and different styles of district. Head to castle hill, via the free

lift – or climb the steps if you’re feeling energetic. The views from here are stunning, there

are shady areas perfect for a picnic and beautiful gardens, and watching the sun set over

the Bay of Angels is memorable. Watch out for the midday Cannon that booms to alert

you to the fact that it's lunch time!

Cool down in La Promenade des Paillons, an enclosed urban park of 12 hectares where

you’ll find fountains, bands, street food and somewhere to sit in the shade of a tree, on a

bench and simply chill.

People watch at Place Massena with its quirky artwork - figures on high poles that light

up at night.

Visit the Matisse Museum - entrance is free. It is next to the Roman ruins in Cimiez, a

short bus ride or longish walk from the centre of Nice. It has a brilliant collection showing

the artist's work through his lifetime - simply magnificent. musee-matisse.nice

Where to stay

When the millionaires come to Nice they stay in posh hotels and villas, many have

second homes or grand yachts they park in the marina where we can ogle them!

But here's how you can do it at a fraction of the price: Stay YNA are the leaders in

providing local accommodation of all styles. I stayed in an apartment which cost just

£36.00 per night (for up to 4 people, not each). You have the use of the whole place,

including kitchen facilities, fresh linen, towels and toiletries are provided and you can

order Champagne etc – it’s a bit like an upmarket Air BNB. You get to live like a local and

also you’ll have a the services of a travel team who will welcome you and provide

assistance and helpful advice about the area. There’s a welcome pack too which has

loads of info including where the nearest boulangerie is so you can get fresh croissants

for breakfast like the locals do.

There is also a hostel in Nice that has a gorgeous little courtyard. You do, though, have to

share rooms to make the best savings. A room for 2 costs from 27 euros each person per


With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, Nice is very nice indeed!

Janine Marsh stayed in 'Stella', a one-bedroom, centrally located apartment in the Carré d’Or. For

bookings, visit www.stayyna.com where you'll find apartments from 39 Euros per night to 20

bedrooms villas from 600 Euros per night.

find your dream property in Nice

Nice, capital of the Cote d'Azur, is where I now call my divine home says local property

agent Gloria Chaussegros. Endless sea front walks, warm sunny days (yes even in winter),

upbeat cosmopolitan vibe, top international schooling, all year cultural, sports and music

events and less than one hour to Italy and ski resorts and around 5 hours by train to

Paris. Above all, the people of Nice are really nice!

Sun, beach, markets, shopping, museums, street art performance, upbeat nightlife,

festivals, great public transport, direct flights worldwide, beautiful sea views, winter snow

stations close by, international people all year round, yummy food, close to Monaco, the

list just goes on! Someone once asked me what don’t you like about Nice and after a

long reflective pause I said, “the little pebbles on the beach?”

Studio in Nice facing over the Promenade

des Anglais with glorious sea views. On

first floor of a quality building, 1 bedroom,

bathroom, kitchen and balcony , private

parking possible.

Click here for more details


Apartment in Nice with breathtaking sea

views. Spacious 1 bedroom (possibly 2

bedroom) 2nd floor apartment in an

impressive block with a lift. Swimming

pool, gardens, BBQ area, 2 balconies &

cellar storage - a must see!

Click here for more details

€399 000

€995 000

2 bedroom, 2 bathroom penthouse in

Villefranche with stunning sea views. Light,

modern with a beautiful terrace overlooking

the bay of the French Riviera just

14km from Monaco and walking distance

to beach.

Click here for more details

Click here to see Gloria's portfolio of wonderful properties in Nice

Credit Derrick J Matthews

For most of us, when we think of the Loire Valley it's the grand chateaux and grand

wines that pop into our minds – but there’s another aspect to this stunning part of

France that’s no less impressive. Though the Loire Valley is UNESCO listed for its

cultural landscape, historic towns and great architectural monuments, there is a rather

sleepier side to the Maine et Loire department. It’s a place of hidden gems, amazing

gastronomy, a village of roses, less well-known chateaux that look like something out of

a fairy tale and towns that are pickled in the past.

So when you head for the greats – look out for the great but off the beaten track places

and double the pleasure of your visit…


Saumur is a tranquil sort of town with a

friendly ambience. It’s a great place for

those who love culture, history, beautiful

architecture, wine and great French cuisine.

And, let’s face it, it doesn’t get much more

tempting than that does it?!

5000 years ago there were settlers here

and just 2km from Saumur you'll find the

biggest funeral chamber in Europe, left

behind by those early inhabitants. A huge

dolmen which bizarrely is located in the

garden of a pub that's privately owned and

currently for sale. If you’re interested in

owning a property which dates back to

probably about the time the most ancient of

Egyptian pyramids were being built –

have a look at the Dolman de Bagneux!

The Plantagenets bought good times to the

town, building a bridge over the River Loire

which helped it prosper. Then Saumur

mostly seemed to go to sleep and not much

happened until the religious wars began in

France. Protestants from around the world

found refuge and safety in Saumur. They

bought with them new ideas, set up a

university and changed the face and pace

of this tranquil place.

Credit: Terry Webb

Urbanisation of Saumur came with the Age

of Enlightenment (mid 17th century). It

brought an attempt to eradicate the bad old

ways including sadly, the abolishment of

medieval buildings. They were considered

dark, damp, small and unsanitary. The

movement took place all over France and

though today we are horrified by the

destruction, then it was seen as a

wonderful opportunity to improve living

conditions and create a better place. New

buildings went up, made with light coloured

stone, wide avenues and airy squares were

constructed. Luckily, laziness prevailed

enough to keep some of those wonderful

old buildings.

Saumur today is a flowery town which feels

prosperous and unhurried, those cream

coloured buildings have mellowed and

contrast beautifully with their pale shutters.

It’s a great place for wandering. You’ll

discover the remains of the ancient walls of

the city,and plenty of surprises. Head to the

Belvedere Hotel and push a button on a

gate to enter a pretty courtyard, walk down

“the streets of hell” and into Place st Pierre,

lined with beautiful buildings some of

which go back to the 15th century. Here you

will find plenty of cafés and places to while

away the hours while you enjoy the local

wine and produce - it's a gourmet pleasure


Don’t miss Saumur Chateau built in the 12th

century. It was converted to a military

barracks and later a prison, causing it to

lose its looks. However it has been partially

restored after architect Jean Drapeau found

a picture by chance in a chapel showing it

as a fairytale looking castle in 1410. He

restored the towers and gold finials of this

quite enormous building. It's not furnished,

but absolutely worth going to for its good

looks and the view over the town and the

river – it is stunning.

Saumur is home to one of the most

important military schools in France – it’s

huge and takes up 20% of the entire town’s

footprint. There’s also an important

equestrian school which puts on a famous

annual event.

A beautiful chapel in the town (now a

school) was once a pilgrimage site of major

importance and spawned a rosary making

industry in Saumur, in fact they still make

them here.

guys this is the place to go if you fancy a

long, cool beer. They play good music and

have a great choice of beer on tap. This

modern bar is loved by locals not just for

the brew but the great saucisson and

cheeses they offer..

Local specialities include mushrooms and

fouées a sort of bread: eat it like the locals

filled with cheese, "snail butter", Nutella or

jam - Loire valley style street food.

Where to eat in Saumur:

Locals love: Bistrot de la Place, there’s a

good choice of dishes and if you go for a

beer or glass of wine they serve great

nibbles! It's very traditional, on a sunny day

the tables spill out onto the pedestrianized

Place St Pierre.

Opposite is Les Tontons (which means

“the uncles”) with a welcoming landlord

who's regarded as a local "character".

There's a fun and friendly atmosphere and

traditional cuisine. This place is a favourite

with the locals.

Insider secret: On a little island in the River

Loire is the Pub House. Run by two young

Must sees in the area

Drive through the Saumur vineyards - the

route to Tours is very picturesque

Wine tasting - (see over)

Smell the roses at Chedigny AKA the

village of roses (see caption left)

Visit the Musee des Blindes with its

collection of tanks/armoured vehicles

Be wowed by Fontevraud abbey (see over)

Pictures: Top left, Place St Pierre, Saumur;

top right: Blois at sunset; bottom the

village of roses Chedigny where an annual

rose festival takes places at the end of May.

Then the sleepy town springs to life as the

streets fill with admiring crowds who can't

resist buying a rose bush to take home as a

souvenir of this lovely place.

Visit the gorgeous fairy tale Chateau du

rivau – see page 22

Discover the famous Mushroom cellars

(see over)

Take a boat ride on the Loire, chill and float

on a traditional wooden boat with an

aperitif and watch the sun set over Blois,

book at: observatoireloire.fr

Stay in a hobbit house, amazing tree

house or gypsy caravan! (see over)

Be inspired by the gorgeous gardens of the

Domaine Chaumont-sur-Loire (see over)

Ride a donkey! At Les Annes de Ballade,

learn to brush the donkeys and get to

know them and the walk them through

beautiful countryside and forests, if you're

under 40 kg you can ride them. Book at:


Be thrilled by the Son et Lumieres show at

the royal castle of Blois

Visit Angers, a beautiful historic town with

many sites and where Cointreau is made!

Above: Louise de Bourbon in a centuries

old "selfie"

Abbey Fontevraud

This has to be one of the most beautiful

abbeys in all of France – and there are a lot

of them. The Abbey de Fontevraud is the

burial place of Richard the Lionheart and

Eleanor of Aquitaine. It has immense

history you can almost feel when you walk

through the doors and into the cool interior

with enormously high ceilings, Byzantine

style domes and white stone walls.

Unusually this was an abbey that was run

by women, powerful Abesses who

answered only to the King and the Pope.

The women who lived here dedicated their

lives to praying. It was a hard life; they were

not allowed to speak to each other or make

eye contact, even during meals. When

Louise de Bourbon (1673–1743) became

Abbesse it became quite popular for the

aristocracy to send daughters there.

Gorgeous paintings show Louise had

herself added to a religious scene, it seems

vanity didn't completely disappear and

subsequent Abesses followed her lead -

making this an early "selfie". During the

French Revolution the Abbey became a

prison which closed in 1963. In 1975 it was

designated a place of culture and arts,

fabulous exhibitions are displayed in some

of the ancient chambers.

On site is a beautiful hotel converted from

one of the buildings. Truly tranquil, it is

exquisitely updated keeping as many

features as possible whilst being a truly

luxurious experience. The air is scented

with oils, the rooms are spacious and über

luxurious but organic at the same time.

Staying here gives you access to the abbey

and the gorgeous gardens. The bar and

restaurant are open to non-residents and

are worth going for on their own merits.

Blois Son et Lumieres Show

On summer evenings a very special son et

lumière show takes place in the grand

courtyard of the Chateau of Blois. Listen to

the music and tales of the castle's history

via audio (in several languages) for a

spectacular extravaganza that lasts for 45

minutes. Take a blanket to sit on or stand,

as you’ll need to swivel as the show is

projected on all four walls and the famous

staircase. Magical, mesmerising and

memorable – this is a must see. Plus, the

town is perfect for wandering. There are

plenty of restaurants, try La Creusille at the

side of the river for delicious dishes in an

ancient courtyard.

You may not be able to stay in the chateau

of Blois but close by is the gorgeous

chateau Tertres. You're guaranteed to feel

like royalty here in the lovely spacious

rooms, mooching around the grounds, or

stroking the attention seeking friendly

Angers and Cointreau

The famous orange liqueur was invented

during the era of Belle Époque. Anyone can

take a tour at Cointreau and you won't

quickly forget the smell as you walk into

the still room – it’s like stepping inside an

orange. Here tons of orange peel, the main

ingredient, is distilled daily in old copper

stills then bottled. In the warm atmosphere,

filled with a heady scent, you'll learn the

secrets of Cointreau, amazingly every bottle

you buy, and every sip of Cointreau you

enjoy, will have come from that distillery


Don’t miss a tasting at the very smart bar,

visit the factory, enjoy the huge collection

of marketing material and promotional

posters on display, it's a great way to while

away an hour and for Cointreau fans, a

must-see: www.remy-cointreau.com

The Blois Son et Lumiere show takes places 1 April to 24 September 2017 March,

April, May, September: starts 22h

June, July, August: starts 22h30

Tickets may be bought at the tourist office in Blois and main towns in the Loire

Pictures: Above, hobbit house;

middle tree house; right

Monmoussea Caves lumiere


And now for something

completely different...

If you hanker after a hobbit house, or

dream of a tree house stay, yearn to live in

a yurt or go wild in a gypsy caravan then

head to La Domaine de la Roche Belin. It's

in glorious countryside that wouldn't be out

of place in a film about bucolic locations.

Have freshly prepared, organic, seasonal

meals brought to your accommodation, or

eat in the beautifully converted barn where

there are also barbecue facilities. The chef

is an ex caterer to the French President

and the food is amazing.

Sheep, ducks, chickens, horses and

donkeys roam the grounds, it really is

idyllic - perfect for families and couples.

There's a lake filled with fish, from the

double storey tree house you can see huge

trout swim below you, and look out over

the countryside. In the hobbit house, if you

leave the skylight open - you're likely to see

a sheep looking down at you as he chomps

away on the grass roof! The yurts are

roomy, colourful and romantic. The gypsy

caravan is beautifully furnished and rather


The night I stayed, a full moon hung in the

sky, deeply yellow like a giant mimollette

cheese, it looked closer than I have ever

seen. I sat on the steps of my caravan,

listening to frogs croaking, a gentle baaaa

now and again, birds singing sweetly in the

night air and just a few crickets up for a late

night party. Otherwise the night was silent,

the stars shine so brightly I could see the

outline of the trees and the pretty duck

house though the ducks had long gone to

sleep. The night air was filled with the scent

of blossom and fresh grass, clear and clean.

When I turned in for the night, a little

reluctant to end the magical moment with

nature, I slept like a baby.

wine tasting

Vineyards were first planted in the area in

the 1st century but it was in 1884 that

Madame Amiot set up Veuve Amiot to

make the sparkling wine for which the area

is famous. The tuffeau, a local Loire

limestone, in the soil gives it a unique taste.

Though its made in the same way as

champagne with the same grapes it cannot

be called champagne as it's not produced

in the strictly controlled areas of the

champagne region.

Veuve Amiot make 300 million bottles a

year – and it’s delicious! You can take a

free tour and tasting which is available in

English, but you need to book in advance

via their website: veuveamiot.fr

This is the only area in France to produce

sparkling red wine – drink it chilled, it’s

utterly lush. You can buy online from www.

iziwine but the postage is expensive, much

more fun to go and buy it!

Monmousseau also do tours and tastings.

They have a fabulous Lumière show in the

caves which are completely covered in

bright lights.

The sparkling wine is matured for a

minimum of three years and is very popular

in the US where its been exported to for a

century. Next time you raise a glass, think

of those grapes growing in the soil of the

Loire valley and resting in the the cool dark

caves where it's matured. Website:


Gardens of


Think Kew Gardens meets Chelsea flower

show with French flair and a stunning

chateau thrown in for good measure.

Set in enormous grounds the annual

Festival International des Jardins is an

unmissable event showcasing the work of

gardeners, architects and designers. Unlike

Chelsea Flower Show, this event lasts from

April to November meaning far less


Somewhere special...

Head to the restaurant Vincent Cuisiner de

Campagne (19 rue de la Galottiere, 37140

Ingrandes-de-Touraine) where chef Vincent

prepares daily deliciousness using only

seasonal, local food produced in his garden

or close by. There's a maximum of 10-12

guests for each service so book ahead - it's

worth it. facebook.com/galotiere

You really need a whole day here to enjoy

the permanent and temporary gardens that

change each year. It is immense - and not

to be rushed. Take a picnic or enjoy lunch

in the pretty restaurant. It's makes for a

relaxing visit in which you can truly

appreciate the surroundings and the



Loire Mushroom caves

Deep inside the cool dark Caves des

Roches at Bourré something is growing...

slowly, silently and surely.

These are several famous funghi farms of

the Loire Valley and this is one of the best.

Here they pick 1000kg of mushrooms a

week, grown in 12km of galleries on seven

levels. They thrive in a natural atmosphere

which ensures the most taste; they’re

delivered all over France and around the

world. The special Pied Bleu mushrooms

grow here – destined for the very best

restaurants. Oyster, Shitake and Paris

button mushrooms are quite a sight to see,

growing from the damp blocks that imitate

a woodland setting - the smell is incredible,

earthy and mysterious.

There's another secret in these caves: a

giant sculpture of a medieval village carved

in the stone by former mushroom pickers

during their breaks. It's closed to the public

as the stone discolours if touched, and they

want to keep the sculpture safe for future


Take a one hour tour, and don’t miss the

chance to buy the freshest mushrooms.

Take them home and fry them in butter with

a little seasoning and some grated fresh

garlic - absolutely delicious, a taste of the

Loire. www.le-champignon.com

Practical information:

Discover loads more things to to in the Loire at www.valdeloire-france.com; www.

anjou-tourisme.com; angersloiretourism.com; www.ot-saumer.fr; www.tourainevalley.

com and www.coeur-val-de-loire.com

For ages my friends who live in Haute Savoie have been urging me to visit. I’ve told

them I’m a rubbish skier and prone to falling over. “Come in the summer then

" they said “Annecy and the ski resorts are so beautiful then – you’ll love it”. Well I

couldn’t resist such a tempting prospect, so on a sunny July day I took the train to

Annecy, a surprisingly easy few hours from Paris...

Summer in the mountains

When the winter snow melts and the sweet

spring air rolls over the mountain tops, the

French Alps undergo an astonishing

transformation. White turns to green,

carpets of wildflowers blossom and the

lakes reflect the deep blue sky.

Up in the mountains, summer

temperatures can be high and sunbathing

is just one of the many activities on offer. If

you like sports and adventure then you’ll

love the French Alps when it’s not ski

season. White water rafting, abseiling,

mountain biking, swimming,

mountaineering, golf, hiking and so much

more make the French Alps one of the

most fun places to go for active holidays.

And for foodies, this area is paradise with

its lovely street markets, local cheeses and

a whole raft of delicious specialities.

Prepare to be won over by Summer in the

French Alps!

Awesome Annecy

Annecy is known as the petit Venice des

Alpes thanks to its famous lake plus a

network of little canals criss crossing the

town. It’s a truly beautiful small city that’s

blessed with more than one gorgeous lake,

local ski resorts, stunningly pretty villages

close by, awesome views, and fabulous

local produce - including the most

delicious cheese.

(caused by plankton on the bottom of the

lake) is said to be the purest in Europe, fed

by melted snow on the mountains.

Pop into the Annecy Tourist office – there’s

always something going on from festivals

to exhibitions: lac-annecy.com

The old town of Annecy is an absolute

must see, it’s not huge and is easy to walk

around but pick up a map from the tourist

office to get your bearings because there

are lots of winding narrow roads and it

would be easy to miss something - and

you don't want to do that!

Annecy’s most famous attraction is of

course it’s lake, one of the most beautiful

in the world. The turquoise coloured water

Annecy Ski Resorts are sensational

summer destinations

The fabulous French alpine resorts of La

Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Manigod and

Saint Jean de Sixt perched on the majestic

Aravis Range, have joined to become Lake

Annecy Ski Resorts. Most people know

them only for ski holidays but they also

make for a stunning break in spring,

summer and autumn.

You really need wheels to be able to get

around and see the area fully here, and

driving on the mountainous roads with

sensational views is just the icing on the

cake. Tiny villages with gorgeous

restaurants, fabulous street markets,

cycling and walking routes and the most

sports activities I’ve ever come across in

one area make this an amazing summer

playground. And there are so many

surprises here.

Col de la Forclaz

From Talloires it’s a

short drive to what is

possibly one of the

most stunning view

points and best selfie

spots in France – the

Col de la Forclaz. From

the lofty peak of this

picturesque place,

paragliders take off,

whizzing over your

head as you swoon at

the colours of the Lake

below. Cow bells tinkle

like a fairy orchestra in

the mountains and the

scent of lush meadow

flowers under a deep

blue sky lull you into


The Divine Abbaye de Talloires

It will take you about an hour to drive all

the way round Lake Annecy Lake, 5 hours

by bike or, you can take a water taxi (watertaxi.fr)

which is great fun and gives you

fabulous views.

There are 12 beaches to enjoy and in

summer they’re a perfect place to relax. I

headed for the town of Talloires which is

about 13km from Annecy, to spend a night

in a gorgeous former 17th century

monastery that’s been converted to a

luxurious hotel. You may think that a

monk’s cell might be a bit small as a

bedroom but the monks that lived here had

it good, the rooms are huge. The whole

place is very beautiful and there are

frequent exhibitions of artworks at the


There’s a private pontoon and an early

morning dip is irresistible in what Winston

Churchill described as “the most beautiful

bay in the world”. In summer the

temperature of the water in Lake Annecy is

around 22°C.

The 4*Hotel Abbaye de Talloires is where

the first ever colour photo was taken in

1902. French physicist Gabriel Lippman

captured the lovely cloisters for posterity.

They’re still there and make for a

sensational spot for an aperitif, Mark Twain

the famous American writer who stayed

here, thought so too. The restaurant is

fantastic and Charly, the famous sommelier

chooses wines that make you feel happy.

Talloires is a tranquil little town and very

pretty with plenty of water activities but I

recommend you hire an electric boat and

discover a secret grotto and the blue lake

painted by the artist Cezanne who stayed

at the Abbaye in 1896.

Take Faverges. It’s a small town with a

wonderful Wednesday morning street

market, shops and restaurants. It’s been

put on the global map by a local butchers

shop, run by two brothers who make a

speciality sausage known as Pormontier –

said to be the best in France. In the Haut-

Savoie, these boiled sausages are a legend,

every family will have their own recipe and

it includes spinach or cabbage or chard.

The sausages are eaten with potatoes – a

hearty meal for the mountain people. I

popped into the shop and asked Monsieur

Le Butcher if I could see his famous

sausages, the ones that were filmed the

day before by a film crew for a Japanese TV

programme. He might make good bangers

but he didn’t have much of a sense of

humour and gave me a stern look and

asked his assistant to help me. But still –

they are very tasty!

There are wonderful places to walk and

even a grotto hidden in a forest to explore.

Take a guided tour of the Grotte de

Seythenex and wear sensible shoes for

your trip as this natural hole in the ground

has a steep descent. Enjoy the beautiful

riverside walk and views over the steep

ravine with its waterfall and if you’re feeling

adventurous – take on the giant zipline! A

visit here makes for a great day out twinned

with a trip to nearby La Sambuy.

If you’re there when the “Cabin Festival”

takes place (15 May – 8 July 2017) you’re in

for a treat. In a woodland and watery

setting, architects and designers create

cabins from natural materials that will make

you smile.

Find out more about the local area and

what's on: www.sources-lac-annecy.com

Thones is a chocolate box pretty place and

home to Reblochon cheese makers, the

piquant cows milk cheese that’s delicious

and perfect for the mountain dish tartiflette.

(Click here to read about my visit to a

grandmother/granddaughter cheese

making outfit and a tartiflette recipe).

Head to the nearby Montremont fish farm

where there’s a restaurant that specialises

in trout dishes. Looking like something out

of the land of the Hobbits, in summer the

garden twinkles under tiny lights, and it’s

incredibly pretty and very laid back.

Le Grand Bornand

This town is a popular summer destination

with the French and no wonder, it’s really

buzzing. There are delicious gourmet food

shops, ravishing restaurants like

Restaurant Confins des Sens which has a

chic chalet ambience, sports activities

galore and the air is fresh and sweet.

It’s also where you’ll find the shop of Didier

Perrillat, one of the last leather artisans left

in Haute-Savoie. In his tiny shop he makes

all manner of things from purses to bags

and key fobs but he’s famous for the

leather necklaces he makes for cows! Did

you know every cow has a unique bell and

a good farmer can recognise an individual

cow by its ring? Well those bells have to

hang on something and Didier makes

beautiful straps for special cows! I'm told

that cows here wear day time bells but in

their closets they may have a special

“dress” bell which is much bigger and

heavier and worn for shows and special

occasions! You can watch Didier creating

in his pretty shop Chez Le Bourrelier

with its mountain views. located in the

main road of Le Grand Bornand.

Head up into the mountains for more

glorious scenery and fabulous restaurants.

A short drive from Le Grand Bornand you’ll

find the Col des Aravis, and at 1498m it has

magnificent views that take your breath

away. Those ski lifts that make skiers life

easy, also work in the summer and make

for a fun ride.

Enjoy a meal high up in the fresh air, there’s

nothing quite like it to whet your appetite

and there’s lots of great choice. For views,

ambiance and scrumptious dishes,

Restaurant les Rhodos ticks all the boxes.

Find out more about the history of the area,

life in the past and Reblochon cheese at

the new Le Hameau des Alpes museum

near La Clusaz. Interactive exhibitions and

great photos make this a fascinating visit.

Take a trip to Distilleries des Aravis where

Mathieu Castellano runs a family liqueur

manufacturing company. In the grand

tradition of liqueurs in France ‘Génépi’, a

sort of gin, was created by a monk in 1878.

The great grandfather of the current owner

was a fan of Génépi. He bought the

company and built the atelier where it’s still

produced in La Clusaz. It’s like a taste of

mountains and herbs in a bottle, and it’s

strong! These days Matthieu makes

around 45 kinds liqueurs from lavender to

melon, raspberry, pear, prunes, a

scrumptious limoncello, absinthe and a

prize winning pastis, quite different from

the Marseille one, with a sprig of fennel

that's put in the bottle by hand.

Matthieu “and is very good for a cocktail

base especially mojitos”. He honours the

heritage of his ancestors and the traditions

of making liqueur, using an old copper still.

“Even the crates we keep the bottles in are

older than me” he jokes.

You’ll find the eye catching bottles on sale

in local shops.

“Genepi makes for a great digestif” says

Perfect summer holiday

The French Alps are not just about snow and après-ski, for a holiday where you’ll feel like

you’ve experience something really spectacular with the most amazing scenery,

activities and food – look no further than the Annecy ski resorts in spring and summer.

Find lots more information at www.lakeannecy-skiresorts.com

find your dream home in Annecy

Lake Annecy is a truly amazing area for those who are fond of outdoor activities all year

round says local property agent Mara Junekere. Cycling, mountain-biking, hiking,

climbing, paragliding, sailing, skiing and many more activities are to be enjoyed. And of

course the views over lake Annecy and mountains always make me feel like I am living

in a "carte postale". Annecy is the capital of Haute-Savoie, just 30 minutes drive from

Geneva. It is known for its old town and river Thiou winding through the medieval

cobbled streets. Some call it the little Venice of the Alps and its lake is considered to be

the cleanest in Europe and offers a vast choice of beaches all around it. There are

numerous events throughout the year including the Venetian Carnival. You have a

choice of numerous ski resorts just 30 minutes drive from the town. La Clusaz, Le Grand

Bornand and Manigod are called Lake Annecy Ski Resorts and offer 220 km of excellent

skiing conditions. This THE place for all outdoor sports fans year round - and the

gastronomy is scrumptious!

Attractive 4 bedroom detached house with

spectacular mountain and lake views in the

lovely village of Talloires. A few minutes to

Lake Annecy and close to the ski resort of


Click here for more details


Detached 4 en-suite bedroom chalet with

lake view in Talloires. Located on the east

bank of Lake Annecy, currently run as a

successful B&B with potential for a

family/holiday home, walking distance to


Click here for more details

€837 900

Amazing 8 bedroom, 7 bathroom lake

Annecy waterfront villa with private deck.

This unique property is beautifully

decorated and would make a perfect

family or second home with excellent

business potential

Click here for more details

Click here to see Mara's portfolio of charming properties in the Annecy area

Lucy Pitts ventures into the weird and wonderful world of Futuroscope

A fantastically bizarre

day out

Futuroscope is brilliant although I was

nearly sick on the first ride. To be fair

though, I’m 47, hadn’t had any breakfast

and it probably wasn’t designed for me. But

my kids aged 6, 9 and 11 loved it.

If you haven’t heard of Futuroscope, what

exactly is it? Well put at its simplest, it’s a

theme park just outside Poitiers based on

multimedia, cinematography and audiovisual

techniques, with 3D and 4D

attractions, some of which are unique in the

world. But that doesn’t really do justice to

this insanely bizarre and utterly French


We started with the Vienne Dynamique,

one of the top attractions and the one that

made me feel sick. If you can imagine being

strapped into a seat in a simulator and then

taken on a journey which involved a

magical spitting tree (yes we got wet), a

bride groom late for his wedding and a full

throttle journey journey that had

us jumping off a train, flying through the sky

over the Vienne, driving a racing car through

the back streets of a tiny village and firing

down a river in a very small boat at top

speed, you might begin to understand when

I say it’s quirky. Despite feeling sick, I loved

every second.

My guts took a further pounding with

another 4D simulator experience Arthur and

the world of the Minimoys. If you don’t

know what that’s all about (and I didn’t),

imagine climbing into the driving seat of a

bug the size of a ladybird and having to

take the controls at high speed. I think we

went down a drain, definitely nearly got

sucked up by a frog’s tongue and ran into a

swarm of angry looking black insects who

appeared to be out to destroy us. Brilliant if

slightly bizarre.

But it’s not all about making mothers feel

sick, and France’s first ever IMAX 4K laser

cinema is genuinely fantastic. With Stephen

Fry doing the commentary, you’re taken

deep into the tiny world of a chipmunk and

mouse. Imagine being smaller than a snake

as it throws its mouth wide open and

prepares for the kill, or seeing the hairy legs

of a giant mouse eating spider reach out to

grab you and gobble you up!

Other favourite attractions for my kids

included the Futur l’Expo where they got to

try out technology including magic mirrors,

robots and eating food of the future that

made them blow smoke out of their noses!

And who doesn’t want to do that? And of

course Dancing with Robots was a massive

hit. Thankfully the man on the door warned

us to view it before we tried it as it was

nothing like what I’d expected or seen in the

trailers. You’re strapped into a chair at the

end of a giant robotic arm and basically

thrown around in the air! You can imagine

the children loved it but my stomach and I

preferred to stay on the ground.

Pictures: top left

Vienne Dynamique;

left IMAX 4K laser

cinema; above

Dancing with Robots

There are 22 main attractions in total and

lots and lots else to explore. You really do

need two days or a pair of long distance

walking shoes and a sense of endurance.

In one day we managed about 13 of the

main attractions as well as the night show

but we barely stopped for a breather.

The timing of the night show varies

according to light conditions. Put on by the

Cirque du Soleil, on our visit this involved a

2CV driving on water, a sound, light and

para-technique display, a giant hologram, a

moon and a massive firework display. I

didn’t quite follow all the details of the

story which seemed to be broadly along

the lines of giant hologram boy meets girl,

puts girl on the moon and then runs into

trouble, and we’d surrendered our headsets

by then. But hey, I don’t think the detail was

that important.

For tamer rides you can travel through time

with the Raving Rabbids whilst sitting on a

toilet, experience the Ice Age, dive to the

bottom of the ocean with Jacques

Cousteau and discover a tiny microscopic

world and the inside of a spider’s web.

There are also live shows including the

iMagic show which we missed because of

timings, and the Mysteries of the Cube

which involved some risky gymnastics.

Not quite what I was expecting” as my

daughter said, more or less summing up

the whole day.

In my admittedly very limited experience,

French theme parks are in a league of their

own (just think of Puy dy Fou for a start)

and Futuroscope is no exception. It wasn’t

what I was expecting and I generally dread

the idea of long queues and lots of people

but the park is spacious and even includes

giant bean bags for you to take a break on.

I saw elderly couples on their own enjoying

the rides and all the staff are really helpful

and nice. The park is also easy to navigate

(if big and a good day’s walk).


Try and avoid peak times, in particular

the first three weeks in August.

A “Pass Premium” at 15€/person gives

you priority to all the simulators in the

park plus a discount in all the shops. If

you’ve only got one day (there is a

hotel if you want to stay), it’s well worth

it. Apart from feeling extremely

important, you save time on queuing

and can squeeze more in!

Get a map with a timetable on it

available in English at the gate. Some

of the big attractions have a last show

at 4pm and you don’t want to miss


The English headset is free with the

ticket and worth-while. Bring your own

headphones or pay 1€ per pair.

It’s one of those places that if you’re in the area

or anywhere close (I was nearly a 2 hour drive

away but it was still well worth it), a visit is a

must. Like I said, stomach churning at times for

the wimps amongst you, funny, odd, exciting,

peculiar, surprising, informative and a totally

bonkers way to spend a day. I’m already

planning my next trip back and the kids are still


Directions and prices

There's an English language website:

Futuroscope.com with a map of the park and

directions. it’s well sign posted for miles

around. Parking is easy but paid and there’s

also a TGV train station.

Book on line or buy at tickets at the gate.

Prices vary and also include “breaks” for 2 or 3

nights. A basic family ticket for 4 for one day,

booked up to 7 days in advance is 34€/person

(check to verify prices in case of change.

Some rides have minimum height

restrictions although I saw what

looked like very young children on

quite bumpy rides.

The late night spectacular is fantastic

but beware getting stuck in the car

park with the crowds. Get your seats

early at the top of the auditorium, close

to the exit and leave 5 minutes before

the end. You'll get a unique viewof the

finale firework display and you drive

straight out of a still deserted car park.

At 10pm or later and with a long drive

home, that makes all the difference.

The worry with some theme parks is

that eating there will leave you close to

financially destitute but actually we

had an evening meal for 4 at just over

43€. My kids had burger in a pancake

followed by chocolate in a pancake

and couldn’t have been happier. And

for the grown-ups, carafes and half

carafes of rosé are available too.

Marché international de Rungis –

the new belly of Paris

Peter Jones makes an early morning visit to the world's biggest fresh food market

It was Emile Zola who named the huge food market of Paris called Les Halles, “the belly

of Paris”. The wonderful Parisian photographer Robert Doisneau captured its vibrant life

in photos for nearly 50 years before it was closed in 1969 after more than 800 years of

trading, a piece of Paris history gone forever…

Well, not quite. Peter Jones visits the International Market of Rungis, the replacement

market on the outskirts of inner Paris.

A few mind blowing figures first:

Rungis International Market is the world’s largest wholesale fresh food market, in fact it’s

larger than Monaco

More than 8 billion euros a year are spent here every year

More than 12,000 people work there

A guided tour of Rungis

It’s not your usual tourist destination in

Paris, but a tour of this incredible market

makes for a fascinating visit.

If you want to go to this market you need to

get up very early in the morning, guided

tours start at 5am. Fortunately it’s a quick

trip from the centre of Paris. When you

arrive here it feels like a bustling city within

the city. Hundreds of lorries and vans of all

types fill the streets - there are 26,000

vehicles delivering every day. It’s a mind

blowing sight.

Rungis is strictly wholesale, only holders of

a purchasing card can buy and whilst the

card is free, its issue is very strictly

controlled and only available to


Rungis operates when most of us are

asleep with the main action taking place

much earlier than the organised tour allows


Take the Marée pavilion dedicated to

shellfish and seafood. It’s one of the stars of

Rungis opening for business at 2 am. Their

proud boast is that they sell the freshest

fish in France – it takes less than 24 hours

from port to plate. Before the days of rapid

transport, by the time fish arrived in the

capital from the coast it was starting to go

off. A skilful fishmonger would remove all

the bad bits with a sharp knife leaving two

“fillets“ of eatable fish - hence the term “fish

fillets”. These days the port to plate process

is speedy, hygienic and slick.

The Triperie Pavilion is not for the

squeamish or faint hearted. Looking like a

scene from a horror film, there are bins full

of entrails, kidneys, pigs trotters and bits

you probably won't recognise. Particularly

gruesome is a demonstration of the

preparation of the great French classic Tete

de Veau. A giant of a worker clad like a

medieval knight in protective chain mail

takes hold of the boiled head of a cow.

In two minutes, he reduced it into various

delicacies all wrapped and ready to be sold

to the restaurants and butchers shops of

Paris… it was enough to make me want to

turn vegetarian.

The meat pavilion was wall to wall with

carcasses of pork, lamb and venison. There

were crates and crates of poultry and

game. Huge joints of mouth-watering ribs

of beef caught my eye making me forget

my vegetarian musings.

Rungis is a working market and you get the

impression that for some who work here,

visitors are to be tolerated rather than

welcomed. No surprise, these people are

working their socks off while everyone is at

home sleeping. You need to keep on your

toes to avoid being run over by a horn

blowing mini truck or worse still - falling

into a bin of pigs entrails.

cheeses of all shapes and sizes from

mouth size portions of Cabachou to wheels

of Ementhal weighing 175 kilos. You can

taste some, though at 5.30 in the morning it

takes a bit of getting used to.

Next up, fruit and veg. Stunning produce

from all over the world including stuff that I

have never heard of and one fruit that

looked positively frightening. A bit of

French humour was on show at a stall of

French beans from a producer whose name

was “Larry Cover” , a clever play on “Le

haricot vert” (French beans).

Organic fruit and vegetables also now have

a place in Rungis albeit a smaller pavilion

but with over 40 different operators. There’s

also a Fresh Flower pavilion where a truly

stunning kaleidoscope of colours and

perfumes from all over the world wowed.

If you’re a fromage fan you will love the

cheese pavilion, it’s the world biggest

cheese shop. Everywhere you look are

After looking at some of the best produce in

the world it’s time for food and, it’s part of

the tour. Rungis has many restaurants and

cafés within the market and whilst it may be

breakfast for us visitors, it’s lunchtime for

the market workers. Tables groan under the

weight of pastries, cheeses, saucissons,

hams, fruit and many other foodstuffs that

you don’t’ see at a breakfast table every day

- including an excellent Bordeaux and a very

quaff-able Sancerre.

Paris is a magical city with much to tempt.

From Notre Dame, Sacré Coeur, the charm of

the Eiffel Tower that never dulls, taking

coffee and people watching But, if you have

an interest in food and where it comes from

then Rungis, the new belly of Paris, off the

beaten track for sure, should be at the top of

your list of must dos.

Find the details for booking a tour on the Rungis market website: /www.

rungisinternational.com Tours are by coach from Paris and cost €85 per person


Win a gorgeous gift box of goodies

from Paris

La Parisienne, a collection of lovely things

from France. We love the fabulous gift boxes

from Le Cadeau Francais. From the pretty

oh-so-French packaging to the gorgeous

goodies inside. This box is full of delightfully

feminine goodies.

Click on the pic to enter the draw!








The Can-Can Girl: and the mysterious Woman in

Pink by Pamela Boles Eglinski

The world of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the Belle Epoque,

and the bohemian life of artists and writers in 1900 Paris

are vividly brought to life in this time travel tale...

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competitions in the next issue of The Good LIfe France

Magazine, so don't forget to subscribe!

Win a copy of One Sip at a Time: Learning to

Live in Provence by Keith Van Sickle

Follow their adventures (and misadventures) of a couple

as they quit their jobs, become consultants and split

their time between two countries.

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competitions in the next issue of The Good LIfe France

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More Give Aways - PAGE 20

in a copy of Itinéraire en Provence : Haut-Var,

erdon, Ubaye by Susan Knapp

book of 76 wonderful ‘postcards’ of Provence beautifully

ainted by artist Susan Knapp of the Haut-Var, Verdon,

baye region. We're sorry - this draw is now done. There will

e more competitions in the next issue of The Good LIfe

rance Magazine, so don't forget to subscribe!

Win a copy of On trying

to become a French

Paysan by Garry


No holds barred, frank look

at rural French life.

Absorbing reading, whether

you are just looking for a

good story, or you decide to

make the move.

Click on the Picture to enter

the draw!

The Paris Effect by Karen S Burns

Friendship, loss and a tantalizing trip to

Paris in this highly praised #1 Amazon

Best Seller! Grab a croissant and settle

in for a decidedly non-touristy trip to the

City of Light.

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next issue of The Good LIfe France

Magazine, so don't forget to subscribe!

Win a copy of the Art of Rebellion by Brenda Leahy

The adventures of a young woman who flees to Paris in the

1900s to escape an arranged marriage to dicover the world of

artists and passion..

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competitions in the next issue of The Good LIfe France

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Cheesy Lessons

by Keith Van Sickle, an American in Provence

When my wife Val and I began spending

time in France, we knew that we had much

to learn. There was the language, of course,

but also the customs and quirks of the

French. Little did we know that some of our

most memorable lessons would be about


One lesson came when we had our first

meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. It

was at Le Cep in Beaune, in the heart of the

Burgundy wine country. The meal started at

8pm and went on until almost midnight.

Course after course of wonderful food

arrived. We were stuffed! And then they

wheeled out the cheese cart.

This was our first experience with a cheese

course and Le Cep’s cart was enormous. It

looked like an aircraft carrier! There were

dozens of different cheeses, beautifully

arranged. But without labels.

The waiter indicated that we should choose

what we would like. We were flummoxed,

as our knowledge of cheese was quite

limited back then - Monterey Jack, Cheddar

and Parmesan pretty much covered it.

Luckily for me, the lady always chooses first

in France. I could let Val sort it out and

follow her lead.

Val, always clever, explained that we were

new to this game and would the waiter

please recommend a nice selection?

Which he kindly did, choosing seven

cheeses and making a circle of them

around the edge of her plate. He told Val

that she should start with number one

and work her way around to number


I asked for the same selection and soon

we were happily munching away. The

cheeses were delicious! The first was a

mild chevre and the others got

progressively more full-bodied.

Val eats faster than I do and she was the

first to taste cheese number seven. She

smiled with pleasure and said, “Oh, this is

good. Take a big bite!”

I should have known better.

Have you ever eaten Époisses? It’s

usually described as “pungent” – now

there’s a word! It is so strong that it sears

the inside of your mouth. You can’t taste

much of anything after you eat it.

Yes, cheese number seven was an

Époisses. Definitely not something to

take a big bite of. But as I blissfully went

ahead and started chewing, my eyes

began to water and I urgently looked for a

way to spit it out.

But here we were in Le Cep, an elegant

Michelin-starred restaurant and that’s just

not done. So I wiped my eyes and kept

going while Val covered her mouth and


I love Époisses today but let’s just say it’s

an acquired taste. And I had not yet

acquired it.

Lesson #1:

Try it, you’ll like it!


Another lesson was during the election for

the European Parliament. About a dozen

political parties had slates of candidates


The conservative party had a televised rally

to fire up the troops and get out the vote.

We decided to watch it, figuring it would

give us insight into the important political

issues of the day. Plus it would be good for

our French.

It is in the most unlikely places that you

learn what moves French hearts.

A few days later the results came in and the

conservative party was the big winner. They

far outperformed the pre-election polls.

Most of the speeches were boring, with the

usual applause lines. There were shoutouts

to dignitaries in the audience,

potshots at the competition, promises to

lead France boldly into the future. The

crowd clapped politely but there wasn’t a

lot of real enthusiasm.

Then things got exciting.

The final speaker was wrapping up his

speech and wanted to go out on a high

note. “We will work with the European

Union on initiatives like the electric car," he

thundered, "but we will defend ourselves

against those bureaucrats in Brussels

when it comes to important French

interests like"...(dramatic pause)...


Suddenly, the crowd went wild, cheering

and stamping their feet, throwing things in

the air. It was like Charles de Gaulle had

just liberated Paris.

Val turned to me. “Did he really say raw

milk cheese?” she asked. “That’s crazy!”

The next day we asked some French

friends about this. It’s true, they said, and

they were outraged. They explained that

there was a move afoot to force cheese

makers across Europe to pasteurize their

milk. “This will make the cheese tasteless!”

they cried. “Tasteless food – the English

must be behind it! “

"Tell me what you

eat and I'll tell you

who you are..."

Jean Anthelme Brillat-

Savarin (was a French lawyer

and politician, who gained

fame as an epicure and

gastronome. The famous raw

milk cheese is named after


Lesson #2:

Never underestimate the power

of cheese.

Keith Van Sickle splits his time between

Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the

author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to

Live in Provence.

Read more at Keith's blog: Life in Provence.

We talk to Charlotte Field from the UK about life as an expat in charming Chinon,

Loire Valley where she has lived for eight years and works as a local agent for Leggett

Immobilier, the award winning French Estate Agency…

Where are you from and how did you

come to be living in France?

I was brought up in Surrey, England and my

husband in Paris, France. We met and

married in London and soon after I

transferred to work in Brussels where we

spent six happy years. Our eldest son (now

11) was born in Brussels (and dislikes me

referring to him as my Brussels Sprout) and

it was whilst on holiday with him, then a

baby of six months, that we came to the

Loire Valley for the first time. Our three

subsequent children (now three, five and

seven) were born here and feel more French

than British – though they do enjoy Mr

Bean and Digestive biscuits dipped in tea

so all is not lost! Seriously though, they

have been in the school system here from

the start and we have been very happy with

it on lots of levels – we have the joy of

small village schools (about 45 children

over four years at maternelle and primaire)

where they benefit from a varied

programme of academic, artistic, cultural

and sporting activities not forgetting the

cooked-fresh-on–the-premises four course

lunch every day!

What inspired you to move to the

Loire Valley?

We are close to Chinon – a medieval town

about halfway down France, home of the

Plantagenet kings, resting place of Richard

the Lionheart, the start of Joan of Arc’s

tragic mission, oh and did I mention home

to over 300 winemakers? We didn’t have

to look too far for inspiration. After years of

watching other people do it on TV and

thinking ‘could we do that?’ my ardent wine

fan husband and I gave up our corporate

careers aged 35. We packed up our small

boy to live a simpler countryside life,

renovate a small but beautifully formed

château, set up our guesthouse and a wine

exporting business.

Did you need to do a lot of renovation

to your French house?

It was a wreck with a reasonable roof, but

we had renovated houses before – albeit

nothing on this scale. Everything needed

doing, plumbing, heating, electricity,

plastering not to mention the wild outdoors

and at times it felt like it would never end,

looking back at the photos now I am still

surprised we made it! It wouldn’t have

happened without the pragmatic approach

of the husband of course, who segmented

each priority area, got our accommodation

ready first, and then we worked day and

night over the next year to get the main

house open for business. Each winter we

have done some further renovation work

and opened more guest accommodation

and entertaining spaces while there aren’t

so many tourists around. We were very

lucky with some of the younger local

tradesmen who were just setting up their

own businesses – our site represented a lot

of work for them, and we became a

reference client; in return if ever we have a

problem they will usually be here in a flash.

What made you fall in love with this

part of France?

The relaxed pace of life: it can be

frustrating when you are used to a 24/7

world but here businesses close at

lunchtimes and on Sundays, people work

to live, they don’t live to work; and I think

that’s a healthier way of viewing life.

The architecture is also gorgeous round

here – beautiful tuffeau stone, slate

rooves, turrets and wrought iron twirls –

just my thing!

Any top tips that you learned when

searching for your house?

We only visited five or six properties, in the

end, and went with our instinct – this one

just kept us awake at night with

excitement and although we knew it

wasn’t the most logical purchase, it was

the one we loved.

Do you consider yourself a member of

the local community?

After London, Paris and Brussels I think

one thing we were both a bit nervous about

in moving to a village of 500 people (with

just as many goats) was whether or not we

would meet people and make new friends.

We were lucky having a school aged child

because I got involved with the Parents

Association from the outset helping

organise fundraising events. Even with my

limited French back then it gave my first

network of school mums and meant I

didn’t stand alone at the school gate for

long! It also gave me a forum to ask daft

questions when I didn’t understand

something having never experienced the

French school system myself.

I also found some brilliantly supportive

Social Network groups for English

speaking women in France through which I

have had the great pleasure to meet some

truly lovely people, as well as through the

two local English speaking churches. My

husband has developed his wine

businesses, and got to know plenty of the

local Vignerons. He has also been elected

onto the Council which has given him a

network of his own!

What would you do on a day off in

your area?

With the children, our favourite day out is

the Bioparc at Doué la Fontaine – hands

down the best zoo I’ve ever seen - so much

so that we buy annual passes! Without the

children my husband and I really enjoy a

wander round Tours or Angers – both are

fantastic cities, great for shopping, great for

eating out, plenty to discover among the

historic buildings and galleries.

Tell us a little about your job...

Every client is different and when they are

looking for a home – be it a permanent

move or a holiday residence – I really enjoy

spending a bit of time finding out what

they like doing and what is motivating their

move. The most recent sale I handled is a

new home for a British couple who have

just purchased a gorgeous gite complex

close to Richelieu. That moment in the

notaire’s office when everyone shakes

hands and congratulates each other is

always feels so full of emotion – the end of

a long journey in some ways, and the brink

of a new adventure; that for me is the

satisfaction of a job well done!

What 3 key pieces of advice do you

give to your clients when they’re

looking for property in the area?

To visit a few properties on the same day –

you might love the first one but a

comparison point is always useful

To do your second visit at a different time

of day, when the light, the traffic etc might

be different

To keep your mind open for a

compromise – sometimes people have

such long lists of criteria they rule out a

property that could have been (almost)



Once the hunting grounds of the French kings and noblemen, the Loire Valley is a

treasure trove of chateaux and historic monuments and many stunning historic palaces

including Azay le Rideau, Villandry and Langeais. However the area’s appeal doesn’t stop

there: if fantastic wineries, wonderful fresh food and a laid back pace of life float your

boat, this is the spot! The meandering Loire and Vienne rivers are close by, cycling along

the towpaths, canoeing and fishing not to mention leisurely boat cruises are available

here all year round. Fabulous medieval towns (Chinon, Bourgueil, Saumur) a-plenty, most

of them with weekly markets, a haven for slow-food afficionados. If you plan a life/work

balance, the tourism sector is vibrant here (gite rentals and B&B/restaurant opportunities)

and many people commute successfully to the UK by air from Poitiers or Tours (both

have regular flights to Stansted) or by TGV high speed train which serves Tours in under

an hour from Paris.

Enjoy the wonderful views across

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Click here to see Charlotte's portfolio of gorgeous properties in the Loire Valley

The Good Life

...in Paris

Janine Marsh talks to Australian in Paris

Sandra Iskander, Editor of Where Paris

Magazine about life in Paris and gets the

insider's view of where to go and what to see...

When was your first visit to


It was back in 2004 that I visited Paris for

the first time. I intended to stay for a year.

I was always obsessed with Paris and the

idea of living here and so I resigned from

my job and decided to give it a go.

"I came to Paris for 12

months, and I've been

here for 13 years..."

Just before I was to head back home, as I

was aching to get back into working with

magazines, and working in publishing

proved a little bit difficult in Paris, I came

across an ad for an editor’s role at Where

Paris and so I applied. I think it was fate

that I saw the ad when I did or else I

would have gone back home and not

have had the incredible experience I have

been so fortunate in having up until now. I

got the role and I have been here ever


Is there anything that you miss

from Australia?

Besides my family and friends I would

have to say I miss how friendly Aussies

are and just how everyone smiles all the

time. Having been away from home I

realise it really is the simple things, and

the little things, that I miss the most.

What’s a typical day for an

editor of a Paris magazine?

I am lucky that I get to do what I love

and that every day is very different. I

could be in front of my computer all day

today replying to emails, writing articles

or editing and approving layouts, and

tomorrow I could be running around all

day discovering new things for my

readers, from the coolest bars to the

season’s must-have accessory.

If you want to get out of the

city – where do you go?

Home! And if I cannot get away long

enough to get back to Melbourne I love

to spend a weekend in London, Italy or

a couple of days in Dubai to get some


What are your favourite bars in


I love Manko, they make the best Pisco

Sour, and Hotel Costes for the great

people watching.

I also like Le Perchoir bars, both in the

11th and on the rooftop of BHV (which

by the way is open on Sundays), they

make great cocktails and they both

boast great views of the city.

What are your favourite

restaurants in Paris

Pictures: Top:

typically metro;

middle: Alain

Ducasse at the Plaza

Athene Hotel;

Bottom: BHV Paris

I love Loulou, Daroco and Le Coq

because it’s just near my place, so when

I don’t want to venture out far I just go

there, the food is good and on the way

there and back you have the best view

of the Eiffel Tower.

For a more refined dinner I would have

to say Alain Ducasse at the Plaza

Athénée, I am a huge fan of his cuisine

and the restaurant itself is exquisite.

coming to Paris for the first

time – what should visitors see?

Definitely seeing the Eiffel Tower is a must.

I think visiting Paris without seeing the

iconic monument would be an incomplete

trip to the French capital.

Get lost in Montmartre, visit the Sacré-

Coeur and just sit on its steps, taking in the

view of the city.

Spend a day at the Louvre.

Laze an afternoon away at Hotel Costes

(it’s very Paris), sitting in the courtyard and

enjoying a glass of white wine.

Visit Versailles. (Take the train - RER Line

C, which takes around 1 hour though may


longer depending on where you're getting

on. It's a 5 minute walk from the station)

Walk around the Marais district and

drinking in the sight of the Place des


Shopping! At Lanvin on Rue Saint-Honoré

and at the famous Chanel boutique on Rue

Cambon. Shopping at the most luxurious

boutiques in the city is a must and

returning home with a new bag or a

beautiful pair of heels from the fashion

capital is just priceless... And, stocking up

on make-up at Sephora on Avenue des

Champs-Elysées and Dior on Avenue


taxing times

Financial Expert Jennie Poate Explains the

requirements for completing your tax forms

in France...

Tax return time is here again!

The annual tax return needs to be completed by May in France, financial expert Jennie

Poates explains how to complete the paperwork and what’s required...

Many, if not most, British expats who are resident in France will have some income

derived from the UK. If this is the case and you’re one of them, you’ll need to complete

some forms (you can download forms from the French Goverment website).

Pink Form 2047 is used to declare income earned outside of France.

Blue Form 2042 is for all income earned - including the revenue declared on the Pink

Form 2047.

The tax year runs from January to December so if you arrived in France part way through

last year you only include income from the time you have been resident here.

For the first time you file your tax returns, you will have to collect the tax forms from the

tax office or Centre Des Impots. After that, they should be sent out to you automatically.

Even if all of your income is taxed or paid in the UK, or you are below the threshold, you

still have to complete a tax return form if you are resident in France.

In general, as French tax residents you have an obligation to declare your worldwide

income and assets to the French authorities. Importantly, with the ‘exchange of

information’ rules now operating between European countries, the French tax authorities

will receive information about income and gains earned from non-French sources. Whilst

this takes time to work through the system, it is important that any information they

receive corresponds to an entry on your tax return.

Pension lump sums

You need to declare lump sum payments received from non-French pension schemes.

Whilst these would normally be available tax-free up to a certain limit (normally 25%) if

you were still a UK tax resident, such lump sum withdrawals are now taxable in France

for French tax residents. The lump sum will be taxed at a flat rate of 7.5% after having

benefited from an allowance of 10%.

There is a little confusion here as generally only if the whole pension fund is taken is

there a tax rate of 7.5%- otherwise it will be considered as part of your income and taxed

at your marginal rate. In reality most tax offices seem happy to levy the 7.5%!

The only exception would be a lump sum received from a military or civil service pension.

Whilst this must still be declared in a different box on your form, the terms of the double

tax treaty (see box below for a short explanation of this treaty) should ensure that it is

not taxed.

Declaration of all foreign bank accounts and life assurance


It has been a requirement for many years to declare on your income tax return the fact

that you hold either bank accounts or Life Assurance Investments outside France.

You have every right to have as many of these as you like, as long as you give the details

to the authorities. For bank accounts, there is a specific form 3916. You should use a

form for each account, or else you can simply list the details on a separate sheet of

paper. The latter is normally easier and the authorities simply want to know the details of


jennie (@) bgwealthmanagement.net or

info (@) bgwealthmanagement.net

Telephone: France 0033634119518

Visit www.bgwealth.eu for information and


Double Taxation Treaty:

There is a tax treaty between

France and the UK meaning that

you cannot be taxed twice – you’ll

need to fill in a form SI2009

France Individual which you can

download from the Gov.UK

website. You can only complete it

once you are officially resident

and paying tax in France

The information on this page 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 this page

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


It needn'

By Tim Sage, Pro

Over the last year we've looked at the

general process of buying and selling a

home in France*. The process involves two

main parties, the seller and the buyer but to

make that process work there is a large

group of people working behind the


The Agent

Of all the people involved, the one person

who will be common to both parties is the

agent. Not only the link between the

parties but also between them and the rest

of the team working on the process. They

have a special rôle (a good agent will see it

as a privileged rôle) in overseeing and

bringing together all the strands that make

for successful selling and buying.

The agent will start the process with a visit

to the seller to take an instruction to

market a property. Selling a home can be a

fairly sad occasion for the seller (it usually

comes with a lot of good and happy

memories even if the reasons for selling

are very positive) and the agent will treat

the meeting with due regard for those

feelings. Along with gaining hard facts

about the property, the agent will also want

to know any history behind it, special

interest, work that has been done recently

etc. The hard facts are needed to create an

exact "product" to market, such as the land

references (cadastrale), the layout of the

property (number of bedrooms, bathrooms),

any planning permission that has been

granted etc. At this time the agent will

probably take measurements of the rooms

to establish habitable surface area (a

different measure to the total surface area).

By checking the price per square metre in

the local area this will give a guide price. If

the obligatory diagnostic checks have been

made there will be an accurate

measurement already by the diagnostic

technicien. Throughout the process, the

agent continually assesses the changing

market conditions and can give advice on

any action to take and of course the allimportant

viewing requests.

For the buyer, the agent is the first point of

contact and while showing you around the

property or properties that you want to look

at is one of the most important aspects,

their help to you will be of more value if

they know what you are really looking for. It

is worth looking at your agent as a sort of

matchmaker - trying to bring you together

with your dream rather than a tour guide.

Expect your agent to ask for information

about your hopes and ideas. At the end of

the meeting there should be mutual trust,

respect and potential friendship.

Property Report

t be a puzzle…

perty Expert and Agent

The Process

Once the agent has successfully brought

together the seller and buyer and

negotiated a price that is acceptable to

both parties the real work begins. The first

step is to draw up the compromis de vente

(initial contract) either through the notaire

or with an in-house legal team. More

detailed information will be needed from

along with copies of documents to give

proof of ID. Then there's liaison with the

diagnostics provider to ensure that all the

surveys are up to date - and if not have

them re-done.

While this is going ahead the agent will

also be processing any finance that is

needed and contacting companies involved

to obtain paperwork for the compromis.

With or without finance and whether you

are the buyer or seller, if the money is

coming from or going to a country outside

the Eurozone your agent will also put you in

touch with a currency expert to get you the

best possible exchange rate. If moving

permanently to France rather than buying a

holiday home you will need advice on

pensions and tax planning; your agent can

help with recommendations.

At the very end your agent will be there to

agree the utility readings and assist in

setting up the new contracts and bank


Marketing, legal, technical, finance,

currency, lifestyle – just a few of the areas

of the process that your agent is there to

assist with.

The day of completion (the Acte de Vente):

your agent has finished the juggling act and

successfully kept all those balls in the air

throughout the process. There's one last

thing to do – the best of all of them: to wish

you all well in your future.

Your celebrations can start now, the agent

will slip quietly out of the notaire's door (and

most likely with a fairly moist eye). For them

it might be moving on to the next one but

each one is special and completion day is

the end of a long relationship.

As always comments and questions can be

passed through the team at The Good Life

France or directly to me: tsage (@) leggett.fr;

tim.sage3 (@) gmail.com

*Access free archived copies of The Good

Life France Magazine for more info.

Accountancy obligations for


Unless you secretly enjoy the administrative

side to independent professional

activity – and experience tells me I am very

much alone there – the title of this article

may have struck fear in your heart, so allow

me to clarify and calm those fears!

Many assume – as the Micrto-Entreprise

statute is, by definition, ultra-simplifiedthat

when it comes to social charges and

income tax, they need do no more than

issue invoices to their clients and make

their monthly, or quarterly, online

declarations of turnover via the netentreprises.fr

site. But this is not the case.

There is no need to engage the services of

a chartered accountant, as the requirements

remain simple, but what are they?

Separate bank account for

Professional Activity

Since 1 January 2015, micro-entrepreneurs,

whatever their field of activity, are required

to dedicate a bank account for all financial

transactions related to their professional

activity. It must be separate from their

personal bank account so that business

and personal transactions are recorded

separately. The key word here is separate

as the bank fees for an official business

account can bring tears to the eyes, and

are wholly unnecessary expenditure.

Although banking in France is rarely free,

check with your bank to see if they can

offer a sweetener; for instance as an

existing client of ING Direct, I was given 80

€ to open a standard current account with

a MasterCard, and which is subject to no

bank charges whatsoever as long as it

receives 750€ per month (get details here).

Purchase & Expenditure Book

The micro-entrepreneur benefitting from

the simplified tax system must nonetheless

keep some accounts, despite the permitted

absence of annual statement of accounts

or balance sheets.

Only the chronological record of revenue

and expenditure is required.

A paper copy for manual completion can be

downloaded here.

Accounting Software

If you prefer a non-paper solution, an Excel

spreadsheet is insufficient because the

cells remain modifiable. There are

numerous packages available, but as most

small businesses need to keep their

expenditure to a minimum I am currently

investigating free options.

I use NetWips who offer a basic package

for a single user and activity of up to 10

invoices per month, absolutely free of

charge. Although it is currently only

available in French, correct set-up ensures

the obligatory wording is in place on every

invoice issued making invoicing a doddle,

and since I twinned it with my separate

bank account it even informs me by email

every time an invoice is paid.

By Jo-Ann Howell of French Admin

Solutions, a company which helps Englishspeaking

residents successfully navigate

all aspects of bringing their family, work

and home lives to France. Join the

community to get your questions


Interview with a chef: Daniel Galmiche

Daniel Galmiche is a French chef with an

absolute passion for delicious food. It’s

something that’s in his DNA having been born

in eastern France in lovely Lure, Franche-Comté

Aside from the magical Jura mountains (a

veritable hotspot during ski season), the great

forests, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, the hidden

valleys and gorges, mountain villages and spa

towns. It's also famous for its gastronomic

products including smoked ham, sausages,

emmental and Bleu de Gex cheese

Daniel's grandparents ran a farm, and the food the family ate was from their own

produce. It instilled a love of fresh, seasonal food in the young boy and that ethos has

never left him.

"As I child I loved to eat at the home of my tante Suzanne, the smell coming out of her

kitchen was always amazing" he says "she used to bake for the family every Sunday.

She taught my mum how to cook, and my mum became a great cook herself".

Daniel learned to love cooking from his grandmother, aunt and mother and at the age of

just 15 started working in a restaurant. For the next 40 years he worked in some of the

most prestigious kitchens around the world, fine tuning his skills, working with the best

of the best including the much loved Michel Roux.

Along the way he collected Michelin Stars and became a TV star on the popular British

Saturday Kitchen TV Show. He’s written two books The French Brasserie Cookbook and

Revolutionary French Cooking. But though he's now an international chef and celebrity,

some things haven’t changed. Daniel still loves to cook with local produce whenever he

can and one of his favourite dishes is simple apple pie – made just like his maman's...

“What used to amaze me about the apples my grandparents grew and stored on

the farm was that, even if the skin was as wrinkled as Grand-Père’s face, the

inside stayed fresh and beautiful - just like him he used to say! Even after

months of storage, the taste was tremendous. So with these apples, my Grand-

Mère taught Maman to bake. Whenever I tell my son, Antoine, we are going to

visit his Grand-Mère in France, the first question he asks is “Can you ask her to

bake an apple tart, please, Papa?”



how to make maman's apple tart


1 large egg

100ml/3 1/3 fl oz/scant ½ cup double cream

(or crème fraiche)

3 heaped tbsp. caster sugar

Butter for greasing

225-250g/8-9 oz readymade shortcrust pastry

(or make your own).

Plain flour, for rolling out the pastry

30g/1 oz/scant 1/3 cup ground almonds

405 apples such as Cox or Braeburn, peeled,


Mix the egg, cream and sugar in a bowl,

beating with an electric mixer or hand-held

electric whisk for about 5 minutes until


Grease a 24cm/9 ½ in loose bottomed tart

tin with butter.

Roll out the pasty on a lightly floured

surface until it is about 305mm/1/8-1/4

inch thick. Then roll the pastry over the

rolling pin and place the pastry over the tart


With one hand lift the pastry edge and with

the other gently tuck the pastry into the

bottom and sides of the tin so that it fits

tightly. Don’t over-stretch it or it’ll break.

and press down gently to push out any


Trim off any excess pastry by rolling the pin

over the top edge of the tin. Prick the pastry

base all over with a fork, cover with cling

film and chill for 25-30 minutes.

Towards the end of the chilling time,

preheat the oven to 180 deg C/350 def F/

gas 4.

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and

sprinkle the ground almonds over the tart

base, then arrange the apple pieces in fan

shape over the almonds starting from the

outside edge and finishing in the centre.

Place the pieces as regularly as you can

and pour the egg mixture over the apples,

making sure that the whole surface has

been drizzled with the mixture and there

are no gaps.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25

minutes until pale golden.

Remove from the oven and set aside until

it has cooled down la little.

Serve the tart while it is still warm, when it

is most delicious. You don’t need cream or

ice cream, its best or is own with a lovely

espresso on the side!

Recipe from Daniel Galmiche’s classic

French recipe book The French Brasserie

Cookbook, available from Amazon.


the sweet taste of the south

Lucy Pitts visits Montélimar. It’s a name that just rolls off the tongue with a

rhythm of its own and it happens to be home to a sweet little secret. You’ll

find the town about half an hour south of Valence in the Drôme, part of the

Rhônes Alpes region, well on the way to the south.

The home, if not the

birthplace of nougat

Nougat has been around for thousands of

years but it arrived in Montélimar in the

19th century. With typical French flair, the

locals took the original ingredients and

created something uniquely French by

adding eggs, their famous almonds and

local honey. The result is a nougat that

bears no resemblance to the mass

produced, overly sweet product that many

of us have tried over the years. Montélimar

nougat is rich in favour and soft. Although

of course it’s still sweet, it doesn’t hit you

with a three day sugar rush or leave you

desperate for water. In fact, I was told, it is

the best nougat in the world and even Lady

Diana, Princess of Wales partook.

The rise to success

Until the advent of fast trains and

autoroutes, Montélimar was strategically

placed on the main route from north to

south. Endorsed by the French President of

the day, Emile Loubet, from the late 19th

century onwards, nougat sales soared.

Touting to passing (and often queuing)

traffic, meant a captive audience and the

industry boomed.

All great things come to an end, the nougat

industry was hit hard by the arrival of the

fast-flowing A7 motorway (“autoroute du

soleil”) which skirts the town. However, you

can still find the last remaining nougat

factories, like Nougat Arnaud Soubeyran, in

the outskirts of Montélimar.

Evolve to survive

Arnaud Soubeyran are a 3rd generation

nougat producer who had the good luck of

stumbling upon some original nougat

recipes from the 1950s and adapting them.

Today they’re a prestigious and bustling

establishment. They’re proud of their

Mediterranean almonds which have, I’m

told, more flavour than Californian

almonds. The floral honey and local fruit

make for an interesting tour of their

factory. They still make their nougat by

hand and you can watch the production

process before indulging yourself in the

dozens of different varieties in their shop

or spending time in their restaurant.

a journey into history, gastronomy and

unspoilt landscape. It’s a much underrated

department that doesn’t seem to get the

press of its Provencal cousin but it will

reward you in spades for the time that you

spend there.


Mirmande is one of those fairy tale villages.

In between Montélimar and Valence, it’s

both medieval and fortified and winds its

way up the hill to the Roman style church

of Sainte Foy at the top. It’s one of the Plus

Beaux Villages de France as well as one of

the Villages Botaniques de la Drôme, so

you know you can expect something


Over the centuries its streets and its

people have had to adapt to embrace first

the silk industry and then, as that lifestyle

gave way, growing fruit in the many

orchards that surround it. Famed cubist

André Lhote put down roots here and as

with all places of incredible beauty, it’s a bit

of a honey pot for local creatives and

artists. It’s a haven of steep, cobbled

streets, leg burning steps and catch your

breath views out across the Drôme. It may

not take you long to explore but it’s a great

stop off place for coffee or lunch if you’ve

just headed out of Valence or need to burn

off some of nougat from Montémilar.

The Drôme is a region that’s full of local

flavour and colour and sweet Montémilar

and Mirmande are just the starting point of

For more information visit:



For a nugget of nougat visit:


Transport: Valence has a TGV station

and it’s possible to get trains from the

UK, Paris or elsewhere in Europe. From

the there you can take a connecting train

to Montelimar.There’s also international

car hire right next to Valence station.


Gigot d'Ag

aux legum

by Sara Neumeier

INGREDIENTS - serves 6-8 people

1 leg of lamb, bone in (6-7 pounds)

Grated zest and juice of two lemons

1/3 cup olive oil

8 cloves garlic

2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

24 ounces fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise

4-5 plum tomatoes, quartered

2 yellow onions, thinly sliced

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise




inspired by the produce at the Bergerac

bio-marché. Feel free to be moved by the

vegetables at your own local

greenmarket (beets or fennel bulb also

work well). Gigot d’agneau is now our

secret party weapon, perfect for evenings

when we’d rather be drinking wine with

our guests than cooking. Its

deliciousness is derived from the lamb,

vegetables, and lemon-oregano

marinade roasting together very slowly;

most of the work is done before the

guests arrive.

Place oil, garlic, salt, oregano, peppercorns, lemon zest and juice in a food processor;

process until peppercorns are coarsely ground.

Place lamb and lemon-oregano mixture in a bowl or plastic container; turn lamb to coat

thoroughly with marinade. Cover, and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Bring to room

temperature before cooking.

Heat oven to 400 . Pour any excess marinade from lamb into a large roasting pan. Add

potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and carrots; toss to coat. Place lamb on top of vegetables.

Roast lamb until browned, 30-40 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue cooking

until a meat thermometer reaches 125 , another 30-40 minutes. Turn off oven; let meat

rest in oven 30 minutes. Slice lamb and serve with roasting pan vegetables and juices.

Find more of Sara's recipes, along with stories, photos, and travel tips every month at

Beginning French

What a mad few months it's been here in the middle of nowhere France!

On Christmas Day, the other half decided this was the right moment to start

building a bathroom. So while most normal people were sitting in front of the

TV, eating chocolates and generally relaxing and over indulging, we were

ripping out very old cupboards from what has been the utility room and will

be the bathroom!

That is exciting enough (I've been without a bath for eight years now though

I do have a shower!) but something else even more thrilling has happened -

for me at least! I've written a book about my life in France and it's going to be

published on May 4. I'm supposed to keep it quiet but I can't help it, I have to

tell someone! I'll of course tell you more once it's formally published but you

can find it on Amazon now. I don't think I've ever been more nervous about

something than I am about revealing all about my life in France, my

neighbours, and how I came to be here!

I'm less happy to tell you that we had a loss in the animal family. Poor Ginger

Roger, the deaf stray cat I took in three years ago succumbed to an illness.

He seemed to rally after a trip to the vets and a massive dose of antibiotics.

He was, I am very sorry to say, extremely badly behaved at the cabinet of the

vet, attacking all the staff. In fact he was so terrible the vet told me never to

bring him back. He was a very feral cat and had to be sedated just to be

given antibiotics. Alas it didn't help in the long run.

Strangely a few days later another stray turned up - I think the cat grapevine

is strong in my village and they knew I had a vacancy. We call her Fat Cat as

she eats absolutely everything I put in the food bowl and she's enormous.

She has a seriously grumpy face but is very well behaved and not at all like

the other wild cats. I did promise no more pets, but it's hard to say "non" and

besides, I've got plenty of love to share with them!

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