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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BISOUS<br />

From<br />

France<br />

Bonjour<br />

This issue of The Good Life France Magazine is set to provide inspiration for<br />

everyone. There are focus features on the gorgeous gardens of the artist Monet<br />

in Giverny, wild and dramatically beautiful Ardeche and the Loire Valley, in<br />

which we look at the lesser known but no less stunning places to visit.<br />

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

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

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

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

castle - there's nowhere else quite like it with its giant wellington boot<br />

sculptures, Rapunzel tower and an exquisite chapel of roses.<br />

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

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

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

the Your Photos section will really impress you, they are absolutely sensational.<br />

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

guides will definitely inspire you and our practical guides will help you sort out<br />

the administration of life in France.<br />

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

from a Michelin star chef, a look at nougat, that sweet, deliciously sticky stuff<br />

and more.<br />

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

Happy reading,<br />

Janine<br />


Contributors<br />

Daniel Galmiche is a French chef and author of The French<br />

Brasserie Cookbook and Revolutionary French Cooking.<br />

He's a regular guest on BBC's Saturday Kitchen and<br />

passionate about using produce from local, sustainable<br />

resources. Find out more at Daniel Galmiche.com<br />

Sara Neumeier is a New York food stylist who shares a<br />

summer cottage in the Dordogne with her parents. She and<br />

her recipes are featured in the memoir Beginning French by<br />

Les Américains<br />

Peter Jones is a writer, photographer and radio presenter<br />

who loves food and travel. He lives in Oxfordshire, UK and<br />

is a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. Find<br />

out more at Jonesphotos.co.uk<br />

Rupert Parker is a writer, photographer, cameraman & TV<br />

Producer. His special interests are food & travel. His articles<br />

appear in national newspapers, magazines, and global<br />

websites read about his latest adventures at Planet Appetite<br />

& on Twitter @planetappetite.<br />

Lucy Pitts is a freelance writer and Deputy Editor of The<br />

Good Life France. She is a professional copywriter who<br />

runs Strood Copy. She divides her time between France<br />

and the UK. Her favourite place is the Vendée area, known<br />

as the Green Venice of France.<br />

Editor: Janine Marsh contact editor (at) the goodlifefrance.com<br />

Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts<br />

Advertising: Mark sales (at) thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

Digital support: Umbrella Web Solutions

Page 56<br />

Page 8<br />



8 Monet’s Garden in Giverny<br />

It’s the most visited private garden in<br />

western Europe and here’s why...<br />

22 The Chateau du Rivau<br />

A Loire Valley fairy tale castle to swoon<br />

over - it's gorgeous.<br />

32 Cycling in the Ardeche<br />

Lucy Pitts falls in love with the wild and<br />

dramatic beauty of the Ardeche.<br />

40 Bordeaux – Wine, Rivers &<br />

Chateaux<br />

Rupert parker says a cycling/barge holiday<br />

in Bordeaux is bound to float your boat.<br />

Page 50<br />

46 Ile D’Aix, Charente-Maritime<br />

The perfect little island for chilling out and<br />

getting away from it all.<br />

50 How to live like a Millionaire<br />

in Nice... on a budget<br />

A break in the sunny southern city doesn’t<br />

need to break the bank!<br />

56 The Loire Valley – like you’ve<br />

never seen it before<br />

The secret side to this beautiful area and a<br />

few surprises too!

page 68<br />

Page 30<br />

Page 98<br />

68 The French Alps – not just for<br />

skiing!<br />

Discover the beauty of the French Alps in<br />

spring and summer.<br />

78 Fabulous Futoroscope<br />

The award winning French theme park<br />

proves to be a winner for kids of all ages!<br />

Regular<br />

30 Your Photos<br />

We share the most popular photos posted<br />

on our Facebook page.<br />

119 My Good Life in France<br />

Janine Marsh talks about life in<br />

ruralFrance...<br />

Give Aways<br />

20 Win a copy of A Day With Claude<br />

Monet in Giverney AND a copy of Monet<br />

Water Lilies: The Complete Series.<br />

86-87 7 fabulous Books and a beautiful<br />

gift box of goodies from Paris to win.<br />

Life in France<br />

88 I spy with my Expat Eye<br />


An expat reveals an insider view of France<br />

via cheese!

Page 56<br />

Page 31<br />

Page 1<strong>14</strong><br />

Page 22<br />

92 The Good Life in ... The Loire<br />

Valley<br />

We meet a family who’ve found the Loire<br />

Valley is just perfect.<br />

98 The Good Life in ... Paris<br />

A magazine editor in Paris reveals her top<br />

places for first time visitors and where to<br />

find the best bars and restaurants...<br />

102 Finance: Taxing Times<br />

Jennie Poate takes a look at expats'<br />

obligations when it comes to tax.<br />

106 Property: Immobiliers<br />

Tim Sage gives a detailed overview of the<br />

role of the estate agent.<br />

Jo-Ann Howell looks at the administration<br />

side of being self employed.<br />

Gastronomy<br />

110 Maman’s Apple Tart<br />

Top French chef Daniel Galmiche reveals<br />

the inspiration behind his scrumptious<br />

apple tart and his famous recipe...<br />

1<strong>14</strong> <strong>No</strong>ugat<br />

Lucy Pitts visits Montelimar, home of the<br />

famous nougat.<br />

116 Gigot d’Agneau aux legumes<br />

Sara Neumeier shares her favourite spring<br />

dish from France.<br />

21 Property picks Giverny<br />

55 Property picks Nice<br />

77 Property picks Annecy<br />

97 Property picks Loire Valley<br />

107 Practical: micro-entrepreneurs

As I walked along the pretty little rue Claude<br />

Monet in Giverny, the first thing that I noticed<br />

was the scent of flowers. The closer I got to the<br />

house where the great artist lived and gardened,<br />

the stronger the intoxicating perfume became...<br />

Monet's House and Gardens<br />

Monet’s house and gardens are open to the<br />

public from April to October each year and<br />

lure more than 500,000 people to this tiny<br />

little town in <strong>No</strong>rmandy, northwest of Paris.<br />

Visitors flock to admire the pretty pink<br />

house where Monet lived until his death in<br />

December 1926 and to fall in love with the<br />

magnificent gardens that everyone will<br />

recognise from his luminous paintings.<br />

Whatever month you visit during that time,<br />

the garden is an absolute feast for the eyes<br />

and the scent is dazzling.<br />

Monet signed the rental agreement for the<br />

house on May 3, 1883. In those days a<br />

railway track ran along the bottom of the<br />

then garden and Monet spotted the house<br />

from his train carriage as it trundled past.<br />

He and his second wife Alice moved to<br />

Giverny and in 1890 bought the house; by<br />

then Money was hooked on gardening.<br />

They lived there for the rest of their days<br />

and Monet, who became one of the highest<br />

paid artists of his lifetime, transformed the<br />

gardens into the most enchanting, alluring<br />

corner of <strong>No</strong>rmandy.<br />

70 years after Monet died, the garden is<br />

looked after by Briton James Priest. He’s<br />

only the third gardener since Monet to have<br />

the pleasure and the huge responsibility to<br />

keep the artist’s dream alive.

"Like walking into a painting"<br />

It’s not a gardening job like any other: “I’m<br />

the guardian of this very famous plot of<br />

land” says James who heads up a team of<br />

eight gardeners. Monet himself had up to 7<br />

gardeners working there.<br />

I was taken aback at just how much this<br />

garden looks like the Monet paintings I've<br />

seen. “It’s deliberate” James tells me. He<br />

works from a list of plants Monet liked to<br />

grow. Much of the detail comes from a book<br />

written by Monet's son about his father's<br />

letters which contained information about<br />

the plants he loved. And, there have been<br />

lots of studies to ascertain varieties from<br />

his paintings.<br />

“Those pelargoniums that you see growing<br />

in beds in front of the house, they were<br />

there in Monet's time” advises James “and<br />

we know that he grew roses and daffodils,<br />

poppies and irises. But because he had<br />

cataracts which made colours turn red and<br />

purple to him, it's not always easy to get the<br />

exact plant style right”. I tell him that to me<br />

the colours seem spot on, you feel as<br />

though you are standing in one of those<br />

exquisite paintings when you stand in these<br />

gardens surrounded by a glorious<br />

symphony of colour.<br />

“It wasn’t always like this” says James.<br />

“When Monet first lived here, he had an

orchard and grew vegetables because he<br />

wasn’t as wealthy as you might have<br />

thought”. He also kept chickens and<br />

there’s a chicken coop and pen there now<br />

with lots of chooks clucking and pottering<br />

about, completely oblivious to the hordes<br />

who come to pay homage to the garden<br />

and the painter. As Monet grew richer he<br />

turned all his energy to planting flowers,<br />

the orchard was replaced with crocuses -<br />

but he kept the chickens.<br />

“His wife didn't always agree with him, she<br />

was” says James “more bourgeois than<br />

her husband and wanted a slightly neater<br />

garden which involved chopping down<br />

trees she felt grew too close to the house.<br />

Monet wanted to keep them. In the end, he<br />

won.”<br />

And for that, we should be forever grateful.<br />

Colour is everything here, just as it was to<br />

Monet. James explains that the design is<br />

about the light changing. As the sun<br />

passes over the garden it tracks across<br />

swathes of plants that change from pink<br />

through blue and red and I suddenly see<br />

what he means - it's like a giant magical<br />

paint brush has daubed a magical palette<br />

of colours right in front of me.

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece”<br />

Claude Monet<br />

Monet painted the garden over and over.<br />

He would paint one section in the morning,<br />

paint it again at noon and again later in the<br />

day, fascinated by the change in colour. In<br />

those days paint didn't come in tubes<br />

ready to use, artists mixed their own<br />

pigments and Monet would be mixing<br />

several times a day, in his workshop trying<br />

to get the colours as he saw them.<br />

As you stroll the gardens, birds sing, bees<br />

and insects flit about, a neighbour’s cat<br />

saunters by, unbothered by the crowds,<br />

and always the scent of blooming flowers.<br />

There are the famous "paint boxes", oblong<br />

plots that James plants up to look like a<br />

palette of colours and I can imagine Monet<br />

using these beds of colour to help him<br />

create his paint box.

Monet’s Waterlilies<br />

When the railway line that ran along the<br />

bottom of the garden was closed, Monet<br />

decided to buy a plot of land on the other<br />

side of the track. He had a hankering to<br />

create a lily pond. Monet paid 1200 francs<br />

and the community paid the remaining<br />

1800 francs to meet the cost of the plot.<br />

Water lilies were a huge novelty in Monet's<br />

time. He saw them at the Paris universal<br />

exhibition in 1889, the year before he<br />

bought the house and he fell in love with<br />

their exotic perfection. He turned the boggy<br />

field of his extended garden into a series of<br />

lakes and filled them with water lilies, he<br />

was obsessed with capturing their beauty<br />

on canvas. More than 250 paintings exist.<br />

The waterlilies weren’t popular with<br />

everyone though and when the artist<br />

imported the mysterious plants from Egypt<br />

and South America, the local authorities<br />

feared they would poison the water.<br />

"This was probably the first garden that had<br />

hybrid lilies" says James. I can’t help<br />

thinking just how clever this garden is and<br />

how far ahead of its day. There is height,<br />

texture, sculpture and the blending of<br />

colour and the little Japanese influenced<br />

bridges that Monet painted bright green are<br />

a perfect contrast to the scene.<br />

“He really was an incredibly innovative<br />

gardener wasn’t he” I say to James “I never<br />

really got that from looking at photos of the<br />

garden”. I’m no artist but even I can see just<br />

how stunning this place is when you see it<br />

with your own eyes.<br />

“Monet was like Da Vinci in his way" agrees<br />

James "the first to really capture the light”.

The day I visited there were volunteers<br />

cleaning the lily leaves, just as in Monet’s<br />

day. He wanted them to look pristine and<br />

James keeps the tradition up, wiping the<br />

dust from time to time to keep them<br />

healthy and looking beautiful.<br />

You can’t help but imagine the painter<br />

sitting here, obsessed and yearning to<br />

capture the colour and the light that he saw<br />

in later years as his sight deteriorated.<br />

Monet’s House<br />

Monet’s house is a true delight and an<br />

unexpected bonus if you’re only going for<br />

the gardens. I was lucky to see it on a<br />

sunny autumn day and the rooms were<br />

filled with light which poured through<br />

windows which were thrown open to give<br />

spectacular framed views of the garden.<br />

It was a family home, Monet, his wife and<br />

two sons and his wife’s six children from<br />

her first marriage lived here. Shades of blue<br />

and yellow predominate and it’s a place<br />

that has a magical atmosphere. You almost<br />

feel as though Monet himself will return at<br />

any moment to sit at the table in the dining<br />

room or smoke a pipe in the reading room<br />

or perhaps he has nipped out to the garden<br />

to pick flowers to fill the rooms with yet<br />

more colour.<br />

Monet is buried in a modest spot at the<br />

churchyard at Giverny, his coffin was<br />

carried as he requested, by his gardeners.<br />

The house and gardens were eventually<br />

bequeathed to the Académie des Beaux<br />

Arts by Monet’s son Michel and restored to<br />

their former glory and status as a living<br />

work of art.<br />

Website: Fondation-Monet.com for details<br />

of opening times and tickets.<br />

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

Pictures: Above, in the garden of a cafe<br />

in Giverny; right at the Hotel Baudy in<br />

the artists atelier; below in the<br />

countryside surrounding Giverny

What to see when you visit Giverny<br />

It’s not a big town but there’s plenty to<br />

please - from tempting gift shops (who can<br />

resist an impressionist inspired umbrella?)<br />

to cafés and restaurants. There’s also a<br />

Museum of Impressionism and a tourist<br />

office.<br />

Don’t miss a trip to the lovely little former<br />

Hotel Baudy at 81 rue Claude Monet. In<br />

1887, the first painters in what would<br />

become the colony of American artists<br />

needed accommodation in the village.<br />

Madame Baudy who owned a grocery store<br />

decided to transform it into a hotel and<br />

restaurant. It became a favourite place for<br />

the likes of Monet, Renoir and Cezanne<br />

and other artists to meet for many years.<br />

Today it’s a restaurant but ask to pop out<br />

the back to view the rose garden and the<br />

former atelier of the artists, complete with<br />

easels and paints and ivy which has grown<br />

through the roof. You'll feel as if Monet’s<br />

great friend Renoir has popped out for a<br />

bottle of wine and will be back any time to<br />

finish painting.<br />

More information on the local tourist<br />

office website: normandy-giverny.com<br />

We've got two gorgeous<br />

MONET books to give away<br />

- see over the page for<br />


Win a copy of A Day with<br />


This beautiful, slipcased volume offers an<br />

intimate tour inside Monet’s home and through<br />

the idyllic Giverny garden that inspired his most<br />

iconic paintings. The garden at Giverny became<br />

the impressionist master’s greatest artistic<br />

accomplishment and a catalyst for his work. In<br />

1890, Monet began renovating it, installing a<br />

picturesque water lily pond inspired by the<br />

Japanese prints he avidly collected.<br />

The beautifully vivid illustrations of Monet’s<br />

paintings, his home, and the grounds give<br />

readers unprecedented access into the flowery<br />

paradise to which Monet dedicated the last 40<br />

years of his life.<br />


Published by Flammarion April 2017<br />

Win a copy of Monet<br />

Water Lilies: The Complete<br />

Series<br />

A beautiful hard cover full on coffee table<br />

book. A complete catalog of Monet’s<br />

famous Water Lilies, featuring 210<br />

paintings from private and public<br />

collections.<br />

The Water Lilies brought together in this<br />

volume, "mirrors of time" that influenced<br />

the greatest painters of modern times. A<br />

catalogue of the 251 Water Lilies known to<br />

exist, essays of art historians Jean-<br />

Dominique Rey and Denis Rouart,<br />

panoramic photographs of the Orangerie<br />

murals in Paris, period photographs of<br />

Giverny by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and rare<br />

archival documents complete the work.<br />




Ideally situated between Paris, the Ile-de-France and the <strong>No</strong>rmandy coast, with gems<br />

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

variety of landscapes, architectural heritage, ancestral customs and traditions. It's also<br />

famous for celebrities like Claude Monet, Giverny, great Parisian pastry cook and<br />

chocolate maker Gaston Lenôtre and leading painter of the French classical Baroque<br />

style Nicolas Poussin...<br />

Local propery agent James Daillet picks a few of his favourite properties between 5km<br />

and 26km from Giverny, 75km from Paris (via A13/A<strong>14</strong> motorway) in a green residential<br />

area with historic, cultural and touristic attractions. Vernon on the banks of the Seine<br />

River, Les Andelys with its famous Château-Gaillard and Nicolas Poussin museum, La<br />

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

and Gisors on the wealthy Plateau du Vexin. Many leisure activities like golfing,<br />

sailing and rowing on the Seine River, stunning forests and numerous bike and<br />

pedestrian paths make this a fabulous place to live.<br />

€256 800<br />

Charming character house with 5<br />

bedrooms overlooking a quiet and<br />

lusch green valley in lovely Les Andelys<br />

Click here for more details<br />

Magnificent property, entirely<br />

renovated, in the charming village of<br />

Houlbec Cocherel, Eure within 45<br />

minutes of Paris<br />

Click here for more details<br />

€540 000<br />

This stunning villa was designed and<br />

built in the 1930's by the gifted<br />

architect Henri Sauvage in St Martin<br />

La Garenne, Yvelines<br />

Click here for more details<br />

€1 007 000<br />

Click here to see James'portfolio of properties in <strong>No</strong>rmandy near Giverny

This is a love story.<br />

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

bought it and have spent the last two decades lovingly restoring it and<br />

creating the most magical gardens.<br />

<strong>No</strong>rmally these stories are about expats<br />

who can't resist an abandoned chateau,<br />

but this one is not. French couple Patricia<br />

and Eric Laigneau first saw the chateau in<br />

1996. It had been dreadfully neglected and<br />

was in urgent need of tender loving care<br />

and a lot of work. It was a chateau with an<br />

illustrious history, a place where the horses<br />

of the French kings were once bred, but its<br />

glory days had long since passed.<br />

When they bought the chateau, former art<br />

historian Patricia went back to school and<br />

studied gardening in Versailles. She does<br />

nothing by halves and threw herself into<br />

turning the gardens into something<br />

magical and today, those gardens have<br />

gained fame for being absolutely gorgeous<br />

and like a living fairy tale.<br />

Patricia admits that the chateau is her<br />

passion, “I start at six o’clock in the<br />

morning” she says “and often don’t finish<br />

before midnight”. Rarely for a garden of this<br />

size, the changes in planting are seasonal<br />

and constant.

Above: regal peacocks patrol the<br />

gardens; right Patricia Laigneau<br />

with daughter Caroline<br />

The palette of colours is extraordinary and<br />

there are <strong>14</strong> garden areas separated by<br />

hedges, flower beds and bushes, joined by<br />

a path that weaves under trees and<br />

through secret bowers.<br />

All of the gardens are enchanting - quite<br />

literally because the constant theme here<br />

is fairy tale. Adults and kids alike will fall<br />

under the spell of Patricia's imaginative<br />

designs and creations. When the five<br />

hundred different sorts of roses scent the<br />

air in June it’s overwhelming and breathtaking.<br />

At other times there are swathes of<br />

blue irises, or a host of golden daffodils<br />

and in autumn a plethora of pumpkins<br />

thrill visitors.

There are sculptures which are quirky and<br />

intriguing, firing the imagination and often<br />

making you smile. Discover giant<br />

Wellington boots and an enormous saki<br />

cup with a rather cheeky inside. There's<br />

even a Rapunzel tower complete with rope.<br />

A delicate carousel brings oohs and ah’s. A<br />

giant mole, the gardeners enemy, is a great<br />

resting place for an albino peahen called<br />

Dame Blanche. It calls to its mate, another<br />

gorgeous white peacock, it has a smaller<br />

fan of feathers then the colourful peacocks<br />

that strut the grounds but the white birds<br />

are no less impressive.<br />

Caroline, Patricia's daughter, who works in<br />

the garden with her mother, and who<br />

speaks impeccable English, says she has<br />

been training the peacocks to respond to<br />

her call. She lets out a “cwaac” noise and<br />

one of the peacocks named Leon calls<br />

back and comes to find in us in the floral<br />

chapel. The original building was in such a<br />

bad state that it couldn’t be saved so<br />

Patricia planted a nave of flowers and<br />

covered the walls with roses, it’s peaceful<br />

and quite magnificent.<br />

Everywhere you look there is something to<br />

discover, to fall in love with and when you<br />

think it can't get any better – you can go<br />

into the chateau which the family have<br />

restored beautifully.<br />

Every year an exhibition is held, one year it<br />

was monsters another year it was secrets,<br />

in 2016 it was ghosts and included works<br />

from artists around the world - sculptures,<br />

paintings, photos that were quirky, elegant,<br />

mysterious and fun and had visitors of all<br />

ages enraptured.<br />

In 2017 the exhibition will be "La vie de<br />

château".<br />

Pictures: below, nave of white roses<br />

where the chapel once stood; right top<br />

the Chateau and its fairy tale turrets;<br />

bottom left, a bird in the garden;<br />

bottom right, the giant mole!

In the castle is a room dedicated to Joan of<br />

Arc who it is said to have visited the<br />

chateau to buy horses when on her<br />

campaign to rid France of the English<br />

invaders. In a little tower, you can see a<br />

kneeling figure dressed in a red cloak,<br />

listen carefully and you’ll hear the sound of<br />

someone praying earnestly, it’s quite a<br />

moving experience. Outside the stables<br />

are a reminder of the chateau’s majestic<br />

connections and you can watch a film,<br />

revealing the history of this illustrious<br />

castle.<br />

If you visit the gardens, don’t miss the<br />

lovely restaurant in a converted barn or on<br />

the pretty terrace. Here you’ll get a<br />

delicious lunch made from local produce<br />

and vegetables from the castle’s prize<br />

winning organic kitchen garden plus<br />

delicious local Chinon wines. There’s also<br />

cheese and wine tasting - check out the<br />

flower bar - it's truly perfect!<br />

This is a castle to fall in love with and one<br />

visit will never be enough…<br />

Information:<br />

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

the website for details - www.chateaudurivau

Y O U R P H O T O S<br />

Every weekend, we invite you to share your photos on Facebook - it's a great way for<br />

everyone to see "real" France and be inspired by real travellers snapping pics as they go.<br />

Every week there are utterly gorgeous photos being shared and we've decided to post<br />

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

the most liked will appear in the next issue of The Good Life France Magazine...<br />

<strong>No</strong>vember<br />


January<br />

February<br />

Photos by:<br />

<strong>No</strong>vember: The Florist at St<br />

Tropez by Dave McNeill (+3.7k<br />

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of France...

Lucy Pitts visits the lesser<br />

known part of Provence and<br />

falls in love with its wild beauty

Some places in France are made for<br />

lingering and the Ardèche in the Rhônes<br />

Alpes region, just north of Provence is<br />

certainly one of them. It feels untamed at<br />

times with its rugged, craggy gorges and<br />

deep forests, serene at others, with grand<br />

old mother Rhône gliding majestically<br />

through her vineyards and hills.<br />

Start at Tournon sur<br />

Rhône<br />

If you’re planning on cycling in this<br />

beautiful region, you could do a lot worse<br />

than by starting your stay in the small town<br />

of Tournon sur Rhône. Just north of<br />

Valence (and south of Lyon) it’s delightfully<br />

quirky. One moment you’ll be exploring a<br />

labyrinth of ancient, narrow, cobbled streets<br />

(and a new one way system that will send<br />

you insane) and the next you’ll be bowing in<br />

reverence on the banks of the River Rhône,<br />

as she slowly sweeps passed in all her<br />

grandeur.<br />

There’s a large and rather beautiful 19th<br />

century, pedestrian suspension bridge<br />

which takes you to Tain l’Hermitage and<br />

the vine clad slopes and gourmand<br />

chocolate on the other side of the Rhône. I<br />

happened to follow two children across it<br />

from Tain to their school in Tournon’s large,<br />

shaded market square. The school is<br />

dripping in Mediterranean flowers and sits<br />

right on the banks of the Rhône and as the<br />

early September sunrise slowly unveiled the<br />

town, I had to wonder if the children<br />

appreciated what a stunningly beautiful<br />

spot their seat of learning is in.

With the castle right at Tournon’s heart<br />

(which dates back to the 10th and <strong>14</strong>th<br />

century and is next to the square) the town<br />

is also overlooked by a steep hill and the<br />

old fortifications and church. Vines thread<br />

their way up the slopes like plaits on a<br />

head to give a curious effect. There’s<br />

occasional trompe d’oeil in the back streets<br />

and you can feel the mix of southern<br />

France and Alpine style. The bright orange<br />

and yellow turret of the Caisse d’Epargne<br />

in the old quarter even gives it an eastern<br />

feel.<br />

Hôtel de la Villeon<br />

Tucked away a short distance behind the<br />

very narrow main street, with its back<br />

against the hills is a hidden gem. A large<br />

old wooden door is the only clue to this<br />

grand old 18th century mansion that used<br />

to belong to one of the town’s long ago<br />

successful merchants. <strong>No</strong>w a 4-star hotel,<br />

it’s held on to all the integrity of its past.<br />

Limestone floors greet you as you enter the<br />

cool of the ground floor and the original<br />

grand staircase takes you into the hotel’s<br />

heart. It’s a listed building with many<br />

original features like the exquisite parquet<br />

flooring but still has a minimalist feel.<br />

The terraced garden which leads off from<br />

the restaurant, has an array of terracotta<br />

pots and a magnificent wisteria, which you<br />

climb up through to access the top terrace.<br />

On a Sunday night the hotel restaurant is<br />

closed so they bring your dinner from the<br />

nearby gourmand restaurant Comako.<br />

There’s a local trend in cuisine in the<br />

Ardèche so I’m told, which means my entire<br />

meal came condensed into 3 small glass<br />

pots (one for each course)! But, whether it’s<br />

hot coffee and some of the hotel’s fabulous<br />

breakfast or a potted picnic, the top terrace<br />

and its views, has to be a pretty fabulous<br />

way to start or end any day.

The Dolce Via<br />

Hitting the cycling trail –<br />

by train!<br />

The good news is that you don’t have to be<br />

super fit to enjoy the cycling trails of the<br />

Ardèche. Hôtel de la Villeon is only 5<br />

minutes’ walk from the famous Via Rhôna,<br />

a 815 km cycle route that goes from Lake<br />

Geneva to the Mediterranean.<br />

Better still, just to the north of Tournon is<br />

the Tournon St Jean train station for the<br />

local steam train and this is another good<br />

way to start your cycling tour. You can load<br />

your bike on the train and the 1hr 40-<br />

minute ride will take you up through the<br />

Gorges of the River Doux and the Doux<br />

Valley, through chestnut forests and by<br />

way of mountainous views to the lofty<br />

town of Lamastre. It’s a beautiful way to<br />

start getting to know the landscape and<br />

saves your legs a hard climb.<br />

In Lamastre, you can take to the Dolce Via,<br />

75 km of meandering, gentle cycle track .<br />

It’s on the route of a former train line that<br />

originally linked some of the region’s most<br />

rural and remote towns and villages and it<br />

guides you gently from Lamastre through<br />

the Eyrieux Valley.<br />

The route is divided into 6 sections of<br />

between 7 and 16 km each and it’s certainly<br />

something a family could tackle together.<br />

It’s an idyllic way to travel and if you<br />

haven’t got children I’d suggest visiting in<br />

early September. It’s still wonderfully warm<br />

but also blissfully quiet.<br />

There are plenty of places to stay en route,<br />

including a number gîtes which are<br />

“Accueil Vélo” (which means they are

The Via Rhôna home<br />

accredited to a high standard and provide<br />

particular services for cyclists).<br />

Along the way there’s also two “village de<br />

caractère” (Chalencon and Beauchastel) as<br />

well as kayaking, river swimming and tree<br />

top adventure if you want to take a break<br />

from the cycling for a while.<br />

But most importantly, the Dolce Via is a<br />

gently undulating journey over viaducts,<br />

through tunnels and alongside some simply<br />

fantastic views. The valley far below is dotted<br />

with traditional old silk mills of the 19th<br />

century and the surrounding hills are thick<br />

with woodland and wildlife. It’s a thoroughly<br />

civilised way to travel and a journey you<br />

could manage in a day or two or spread out<br />

over 3 or 4 days to a week.<br />

When you ever tire of admiring steep<br />

ravines and pretty villages, at La Voulte<br />

sur Rhône you can pick up the Via Rhôna.<br />

This flatter cycle trail will take you past<br />

vineyards and sleepy hills, along the<br />

banks of the Rhône back to Tournon<br />

(about 35 km), or straight to Valence<br />

(about 20km).<br />

Of course, your quick tour in the saddle<br />

has given you only a glimpse of this<br />

stunning region. If you have the time, head<br />

further south to the Ardèche Gorges and<br />

explore some of the dozens of village de<br />

caractère.<br />

The Ardèche is a quiet region just basking<br />

in rugged and rural beauty and<br />

somewhere that is worth savouring slowly.

For details of the Dolce Via visit: dolce-via.jimdo.com<br />

Transport:<br />

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

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

For details of the steam train visit: trainardeche.fr<br />

For places to stay:<br />

Visit hoteldelavilleon.com. They have secure underground parking should you<br />

need to leave your car or bikes.<br />

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

Via<br />

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

Bordeaux – Wine, Rivers and Chateaux<br />

by Boat and Bike<br />

Rupert Parker cruises down the Dordogne River and up the Gironde, stopping off<br />

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

bonus of popping into different Chateaux and sampling famous wines like<br />

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

The first day’s cycling is an easy 10km to<br />

the medieval town of Saint-Émilion,<br />

through rows of vines stretching all the<br />

way to the horizon.<br />

Indeed grapes will be my constant<br />

companion throughout the week and the<br />

joy of cycling is that it’s easy to drop into<br />

a chateau and request a tasting. It’s too<br />

early for that so I take a tour of some of<br />

the 200 km of catacombs and visit the<br />

most impressive underground church in<br />

Europe.<br />

Emilian was an 8th century Bendictine<br />

monk from Brittany who sought refuge in<br />

one of caves here. He is said to have<br />

performed many miracles and he became<br />

so famous they named the village after<br />

him.<br />

In the evening we sail downriver to Bourg,<br />

a fortified village on a rocky outcrop at<br />

the confluence of the Dordogne and<br />

Garonne. On board I get to do my own<br />

wine tasting as they have a selection of<br />

Bordeaux wines available by the glass or<br />

the bottle. They feature a different wine<br />

every night, at a slightly reduced price,<br />

although I would suggest that their<br />

“happy hour” should take place before<br />

the meal, rather than after. Nevertheless<br />

the food’s pretty good, hearty enough to<br />

sustain even the most avid cyclist.<br />

The transfer from Bordeaux airport is less<br />

than an hour and I join the boat at Liborne<br />

on the Dordogne River. It’s a 78m river<br />

cruiser, aptly named Bordeaux and takes up<br />

to 96 guests in 49 cabins, all with en-suite<br />

facilities. I’m introduced to my bike, fitted out<br />

with helmet, lock and pannier and I’m ready<br />

to roll. The clever idea is that you cycle by<br />

day and sleep on board at night whilst the<br />

ship reaches its next destination.<br />

The rain’s held off so far but next morning<br />

the storm clouds are looming as I<br />

meander through the vineyards of Cote<br />

du Bourg, then Cote du Blaye to the town<br />

of the same name. It now begins to pour,<br />

but the immense fortifications of the<br />

citadel provide ample shelter. This<br />

military complex was designed by<br />

Vauban, the famous French military<br />

engineer, and was constructed between<br />

1685 and 1689. It was designed to repel<br />

attackers coming from the Atlantic and<br />

has a tremendous view of the Gironde<br />

estuary, the largest in Europe.

The next day, we anchor near Lamarque,<br />

in the heart of the Medoc wine region.<br />

The soil is a good mix of gravel, sand and<br />

clay perfect for red grape varieties,<br />

producing high quality full bodied reds,<br />

what we Brits used to call claret.<br />

On my way to Pauillac my ride takes me<br />

past many famous wineries but I’m<br />

saving my tasting for the famous<br />

Chateau Margaux in the opposite<br />

direction. Instead I content myself with a<br />

coffee and croissant on the delightful<br />

promenade facing the river and watch<br />

the sailors disembark in the marina.<br />

Another 20kms later, I’m in the town of<br />

Margaux and make my way to the<br />

Chateau. It’s an attractive 18th century<br />

Neo-Classical villa in extensive gardens<br />

but I’m disappointed to find that visits<br />

are by appointment only.<br />

That night we dock in the heart of<br />

Bordeaux, sailing past the city’s newest<br />

tourist attraction the Cite du Vin. It rises<br />

upwards like a giant inflatable toy, its<br />

circular tower all gold striped, resting on<br />

a shiny metallic base.<br />

The inspiration for the shape of the<br />

building is said to be a humble carafe,<br />

coupled with the swirl of wine in a tasting<br />

glass and it’s half museum, half theme<br />

park. Interactivity is the key and a special<br />

iphone-like device guides you through<br />

every aspect of the history and actuality<br />

of wine making across the world.<br />

Best of all, on the top floor, you can<br />

choose a glass of wine, whilst enjoying a<br />

stunning view of the city.<br />

I get on my bike and cycle out of<br />

Bordeaux on a disused railway line,<br />

totally empty of traffic. There are no<br />

vineyards here, just trees and swamp,<br />

and it makes a nice change in the<br />

landscape.<br />

Pictures: top right

<strong>No</strong>w I’ve ticked off almost all of<br />

Bordeaux’s famous wine regions and<br />

there’s just one remaining.<br />

I cross the Garonne and visit the bustling<br />

Friday market in Langon before climbing<br />

upwards to the village of Sauternes,<br />

famous for its dessert wines. I’m looking<br />

for the celebrated Château d’Yquem and,<br />

even though it’s marked on my map, it’s<br />

difficult to find.<br />

Perhaps they don’t encourage visitors,<br />

after all, thieves broke into the cellars in<br />

2013 and stole 380 half-bottles of wine<br />

worth €125,000.<br />

Finally, as I stumble across the gates to<br />

the chateau, and cycle down the long<br />

drive, there’s thunder all around me and<br />

the heavens open.<br />

I take shelter in one of the outhouses,<br />

hoping I won’t be arrested by a security<br />

guard, and reflect that I almost got soaked<br />

in Château d’Yquem.<br />

Picture: the ever enchanting<br />

village of Saint Emilion<br />

Rupert Parker travelled with Freedom<br />

Treks on the Bordeaux - Wine, Rivers &<br />

Chateaux cycling tour.<br />

This 7 night, <strong>14</strong>3 mile Boat & Bike selfguided<br />

tour aboard ‘The Bordeaux’, a long<br />

river cruiser, starts from £958 per person<br />

on full board. Price also includes services<br />

of an English speaking tour leader, daily<br />

briefings of bike tours and complimentary<br />

tea and coffee on board.<br />

Departs on various dates from April –<br />

October. Grade: Easy - Moderate. Bike<br />

hire, including E-bikes available.<br />

Flights and transfers not included; fly to<br />

Bordeaux or take the train from Paris.

Charente-Maritime<br />

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

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

get-away-from-it-all break or a fabulous day trip.<br />

There are just 40 full time residents living on the island and most holiday makers are<br />

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

share the best places with you.<br />

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

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

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

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

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

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

back bars and cafes and accommodation, there’s just one hotel, a campsite, villas and<br />

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

book in advance to ensure a bed for the night.

A place to chill out and relax<br />

Ile d'aix

What to see on the Ile d’Aix<br />

An island hop to the Ile d’Aix by ferry from<br />

Fouras, a 20 minute journey, makes for a<br />

glorious chill out day, weekend or longer,<br />

At just 3km long and 700m wide – you’re<br />

not going to find it tough to get around, you<br />

are going to find it totally relaxing to be<br />

here. This little gem is a listed “Remarkable<br />

Natural Site”. To the north is the ever<br />

popular Ile de Ré, to the west is the famous<br />

Fort Boyard of TV fame and the bigger Ile<br />

d’Oléron and south lies the Ile de Madame.<br />

The island has been inhabited since the<br />

11th century, fortified thanks to its position<br />

in the coastal waters, especially when the<br />

arsenal was established at Rochefort on<br />

the mainland, home to the shipbuilders of<br />

Louis XIV and later under the Emperor<br />

Napoleon.<br />

He landed here in 1808 and again seven<br />

years later, staying for four days in the<br />

home of the governor, his last stop on<br />

French soil before being exiled to the island<br />

of Sainte Helene.<br />

Today you can visit the Governor’s house, a<br />

rather quirky museum with a definite<br />

atmosphere. A collection of clocks, art and<br />

the bed upon which Napoloeon slept will<br />

entertain you for an hour or two. Turning<br />

the house into a museum was the project<br />

of Baron Gargaud, a jet setter of the 19th<br />

century, one of the bright young things of<br />

Paris with more money than he knew how<br />

to spend. He heard the house was up for<br />

sale and bought it and then dedicated<br />

much of his life to finding and buying up<br />

Napoleonic memorabilia to fill it up with.

Fall in love with island living<br />

This is a place of hollyhocks that spring up<br />

everywhere and of wild flowers that scent<br />

the fresh air. There are tiny cafés where<br />

you’ll receive a warm welcome, pretty little<br />

cottages with pastel coloured shutters,<br />

bikes with baskets ready for a picnic lunch<br />

or a bucket to catch a fish for supper.<br />

Though you can cycle round the island in a<br />

couple of hours if you really want to, you’ll<br />

probably take a lot longer due to the<br />

amount of wow moments you’ll have. Go at<br />

a leisurely pace and stop off at pretty bays<br />

and picturesque inlets. Fishing or collecting<br />

shellfish is allowed but restricted to<br />

enough for one meal! Stop off for lunch at a<br />

restaurant with golden sandy beaches in<br />

your view, palm trees waving in a gentle<br />

breeze that makes you feel as if you’re the<br />

Caribbean rather than the Charente-<br />

Maritime. Buy a souvenir from the mother<br />

of pearl shop and museum, a family run<br />

business where they’ve been making little<br />

shell gifts for more than 60 years. You can<br />

also take a carriage ride, pulled by friendly<br />

horses<br />

This is a place to smell the blossom and<br />

the salty sea, to let the silky sand slip<br />

through your toes, to enjoy a glass of<br />

chilled wine and a deliciously fresh cooked<br />

meal and to fall in love with the great<br />

outdoors – French style.<br />

Book the boat and get the time table for<br />

the trip to Ile d'Aix<br />

Charente Maritime Tourist Office

How to live like a millionaire in Nice...<br />

On a budget<br />

Imagine, you wander through the narrow streets of the old town in Nice, stopping at the<br />

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

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

soothing... relax.<br />

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

Facebook which makes your friends back home in the rain jealous. You return to the<br />

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

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

streets of old Nice listening to free music, soaking up the ambience and people<br />

watching.<br />

Nice is famous for its glitz and glamour, for being the playground of the rich and famous.<br />

Everyone from the Queen of England to world leaders and billionaires come up here to<br />

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

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

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

here and enjoy life to the full!

Where to eat<br />

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

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

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

won’t need to spend much.<br />

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

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

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

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

And, check out the snack bar at the restaurant for take away heaven!<br />

The food market at Cours Saleya is an experience in itself and surprisingly reasonable,<br />

thanks to the abundance of fruit and vegetables grown in the area and neighbouring<br />

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

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

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

Where to drink<br />

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

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

bottle and buy direct from the 700l casks of wine that line the wall and choose from<br />

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

Credit: Martine Hillen<br />

What to do<br />

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

you to the fact that it's lunch time!<br />

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

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

bench and simply chill.<br />

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

up at night.<br />

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

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

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

Where to stay<br />

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

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

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

providing local accommodation of all styles. I stayed in an apartment which cost just<br />

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

including kitchen facilities, fresh linen, towels and toiletries are provided and you can<br />

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

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

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

loads of info including where the nearest boulangerie is so you can get fresh croissants<br />

for breakfast like the locals do.<br />

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

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

night.<br />

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

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

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

bedrooms villas from 600 Euros per night.

find your dream property in Nice<br />

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

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

upbeat cosmopolitan vibe, top international schooling, all year cultural, sports and music<br />

events and less than one hour to Italy and ski resorts and around 5 hours by train to<br />

Paris. Above all, the people of Nice are really nice!<br />

Sun, beach, markets, shopping, museums, street art performance, upbeat nightlife,<br />

festivals, great public transport, direct flights worldwide, beautiful sea views, winter snow<br />

stations close by, international people all year round, yummy food, close to Monaco, the<br />

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

long reflective pause I said, “the little pebbles on the beach?”<br />

Studio in Nice facing over the Promenade<br />

des Anglais with glorious sea views. On<br />

first floor of a quality building, 1 bedroom,<br />

bathroom, kitchen and balcony , private<br />

parking possible.<br />

Click here for more details<br />

€176,000<br />

Apartment in Nice with breathtaking sea<br />

views. Spacious 1 bedroom (possibly 2<br />

bedroom) 2nd floor apartment in an<br />

impressive block with a lift. Swimming<br />

pool, gardens, BBQ area, 2 balconies &<br />

cellar storage - a must see!<br />

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€399 000<br />

€995 000<br />

2 bedroom, 2 bathroom penthouse in<br />

Villefranche with stunning sea views. Light,<br />

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

Credit Derrick J Matthews<br />

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

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

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

cultural landscape, historic towns and great architectural monuments, there is a rather<br />

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

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

a fairy tale and towns that are pickled in the past.<br />

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

and double the pleasure of your visit…<br />

Saumur<br />

Saumur is a tranquil sort of town with a<br />

friendly ambience. It’s a great place for<br />

those who love culture, history, beautiful<br />

architecture, wine and great French cuisine.<br />

And, let’s face it, it doesn’t get much more<br />

tempting than that does it?!<br />

5000 years ago there were settlers here<br />

and just 2km from Saumur you'll find the<br />

biggest funeral chamber in Europe, left<br />

behind by those early inhabitants. A huge<br />

dolmen which bizarrely is located in the<br />

garden of a pub that's privately owned and<br />

currently for sale. If you’re interested in<br />

owning a property which dates back to<br />

probably about the time the most ancient of<br />

Egyptian pyramids were being built –<br />

have a look at the Dolman de Bagneux!<br />

The Plantagenets bought good times to the<br />

town, building a bridge over the River Loire<br />

which helped it prosper. Then Saumur<br />

mostly seemed to go to sleep and not much<br />

happened until the religious wars began in<br />

France. Protestants from around the world<br />

found refuge and safety in Saumur. They<br />

bought with them new ideas, set up a<br />

university and changed the face and pace<br />

of this tranquil place.

Credit: Terry Webb<br />

Urbanisation of Saumur came with the Age<br />

of Enlightenment (mid 17th century). It<br />

brought an attempt to eradicate the bad old<br />

ways including sadly, the abolishment of<br />

medieval buildings. They were considered<br />

dark, damp, small and unsanitary. The<br />

movement took place all over France and<br />

though today we are horrified by the<br />

destruction, then it was seen as a<br />

wonderful opportunity to improve living<br />

conditions and create a better place. New<br />

buildings went up, made with light coloured<br />

stone, wide avenues and airy squares were<br />

constructed. Luckily, laziness prevailed<br />

enough to keep some of those wonderful<br />

old buildings.<br />

Saumur today is a flowery town which feels<br />

prosperous and unhurried, those cream<br />

coloured buildings have mellowed and<br />

contrast beautifully with their pale shutters.<br />

It’s a great place for wandering. You’ll<br />

discover the remains of the ancient walls of<br />

the city,and plenty of surprises. Head to the<br />

Belvedere Hotel and push a button on a<br />

gate to enter a pretty courtyard, walk down<br />

“the streets of hell” and into Place st Pierre,<br />

lined with beautiful buildings some of<br />

which go back to the 15th century. Here you<br />

will find plenty of cafés and places to while<br />

away the hours while you enjoy the local<br />

wine and produce - it's a gourmet pleasure<br />

Place.<br />

Don’t miss Saumur Chateau built in the 12th<br />

century. It was converted to a military<br />

barracks and later a prison, causing it to<br />

lose its looks. However it has been partially<br />

restored after architect Jean Drapeau found<br />

a picture by chance in a chapel showing it<br />

as a fairytale looking castle in <strong>14</strong>10. He<br />

restored the towers and gold finials of this<br />

quite enormous building. It's not furnished,<br />

but absolutely worth going to for its good<br />

looks and the view over the town and the<br />

river – it is stunning.

Saumur is home to one of the most<br />

important military schools in France – it’s<br />

huge and takes up 20% of the entire town’s<br />

footprint. There’s also an important<br />

equestrian school which puts on a famous<br />

annual event.<br />

A beautiful chapel in the town (now a<br />

school) was once a pilgrimage site of major<br />

importance and spawned a rosary making<br />

industry in Saumur, in fact they still make<br />

them here.<br />

guys this is the place to go if you fancy a<br />

long, cool beer. They play good music and<br />

have a great choice of beer on tap. This<br />

modern bar is loved by locals not just for<br />

the brew but the great saucisson and<br />

cheeses they offer..<br />

Local specialities include mushrooms and<br />

fouées a sort of bread: eat it like the locals<br />

filled with cheese, "snail butter", Nutella or<br />

jam - Loire valley style street food.<br />

Where to eat in Saumur:<br />

Locals love: Bistrot de la Place, there’s a<br />

good choice of dishes and if you go for a<br />

beer or glass of wine they serve great<br />

nibbles! It's very traditional, on a sunny day<br />

the tables spill out onto the pedestrianized<br />

Place St Pierre.<br />

Opposite is Les Tontons (which means<br />

“the uncles”) with a welcoming landlord<br />

who's regarded as a local "character".<br />

There's a fun and friendly atmosphere and<br />

traditional cuisine. This place is a favourite<br />

with the locals.<br />

Insider secret: On a little island in the River<br />

Loire is the Pub House. Run by two young

Must sees in the area<br />

Drive through the Saumur vineyards - the<br />

route to Tours is very picturesque<br />

Wine tasting - (see over)<br />

Smell the roses at Chedigny AKA the<br />

village of roses (see caption left)<br />

Visit the Musee des Blindes with its<br />

collection of tanks/armoured vehicles<br />

Be wowed by Fontevraud abbey (see over)<br />

Pictures: Top left, Place St Pierre, Saumur;<br />

top right: Blois at sunset; bottom the<br />

village of roses Chedigny where an annual<br />

rose festival takes places at the end of May.<br />

Then the sleepy town springs to life as the<br />

streets fill with admiring crowds who can't<br />

resist buying a rose bush to take home as a<br />

souvenir of this lovely place.<br />

Visit the gorgeous fairy tale Chateau du<br />

rivau – see page 22<br />

Discover the famous Mushroom cellars<br />

(see over)<br />

Take a boat ride on the Loire, chill and float<br />

on a traditional wooden boat with an<br />

aperitif and watch the sun set over Blois,<br />

book at: observatoireloire.fr<br />

Stay in a hobbit house, amazing tree<br />

house or gypsy caravan! (see over)<br />

Be inspired by the gorgeous gardens of the<br />

Domaine Chaumont-sur-Loire (see over)<br />

Ride a donkey! At Les Annes de Ballade,<br />

learn to brush the donkeys and get to<br />

know them and the walk them through<br />

beautiful countryside and forests, if you're<br />

under 40 kg you can ride them. Book at:<br />

les-anes-de-balaam.fr<br />

Be thrilled by the Son et Lumieres show at<br />

the royal castle of Blois<br />

Visit Angers, a beautiful historic town with<br />

many sites and where Cointreau is made!

Above: Louise de Bourbon in a centuries<br />

old "selfie"<br />

Abbey Fontevraud<br />

This has to be one of the most beautiful<br />

abbeys in all of France – and there are a lot<br />

of them. The Abbey de Fontevraud is the<br />

burial place of Richard the Lionheart and<br />

Eleanor of Aquitaine. It has immense<br />

history you can almost feel when you walk<br />

through the doors and into the cool interior<br />

with enormously high ceilings, Byzantine<br />

style domes and white stone walls.<br />

Unusually this was an abbey that was run<br />

by women, powerful Abesses who<br />

answered only to the King and the Pope.<br />

The women who lived here dedicated their<br />

lives to praying. It was a hard life; they were<br />

not allowed to speak to each other or make<br />

eye contact, even during meals. When<br />

Louise de Bourbon (1673–1743) became<br />

Abbesse it became quite popular for the<br />

aristocracy to send daughters there.<br />

Gorgeous paintings show Louise had<br />

herself added to a religious scene, it seems<br />

vanity didn't completely disappear and<br />

subsequent Abesses followed her lead -<br />

making this an early "selfie". During the<br />

French Revolution the Abbey became a<br />

prison which closed in 1963. In 1975 it was<br />

designated a place of culture and arts,<br />

fabulous exhibitions are displayed in some<br />

of the ancient chambers.<br />

On site is a beautiful hotel converted from<br />

one of the buildings. Truly tranquil, it is<br />

exquisitely updated keeping as many<br />

features as possible whilst being a truly<br />

luxurious experience. The air is scented<br />

with oils, the rooms are spacious and über<br />

luxurious but organic at the same time.<br />

Staying here gives you access to the abbey<br />

and the gorgeous gardens. The bar and<br />

restaurant are open to non-residents and<br />

are worth going for on their own merits.

Blois Son et Lumieres Show<br />

On summer evenings a very special son et<br />

lumière show takes place in the grand<br />

courtyard of the Chateau of Blois. Listen to<br />

the music and tales of the castle's history<br />

via audio (in several languages) for a<br />

spectacular extravaganza that lasts for 45<br />

minutes. Take a blanket to sit on or stand,<br />

as you’ll need to swivel as the show is<br />

projected on all four walls and the famous<br />

staircase. Magical, mesmerising and<br />

memorable – this is a must see. Plus, the<br />

town is perfect for wandering. There are<br />

plenty of restaurants, try La Creusille at the<br />

side of the river for delicious dishes in an<br />

ancient courtyard.<br />

You may not be able to stay in the chateau<br />

of Blois but close by is the gorgeous<br />

chateau Tertres. You're guaranteed to feel<br />

like royalty here in the lovely spacious<br />

rooms, mooching around the grounds, or<br />

stroking the attention seeking friendly<br />

Angers and Cointreau<br />

The famous orange liqueur was invented<br />

during the era of Belle Époque. Anyone can<br />

take a tour at Cointreau and you won't<br />

quickly forget the smell as you walk into<br />

the still room – it’s like stepping inside an<br />

orange. Here tons of orange peel, the main<br />

ingredient, is distilled daily in old copper<br />

stills then bottled. In the warm atmosphere,<br />

filled with a heady scent, you'll learn the<br />

secrets of Cointreau, amazingly every bottle<br />

you buy, and every sip of Cointreau you<br />

enjoy, will have come from that distillery<br />

room.<br />

Don’t miss a tasting at the very smart bar,<br />

visit the factory, enjoy the huge collection<br />

of marketing material and promotional<br />

posters on display, it's a great way to while<br />

away an hour and for Cointreau fans, a<br />

must-see: www.remy-cointreau.com<br />

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

April, May, September: starts 22h<br />

June, July, August: starts 22h30<br />

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

Pictures: Above, hobbit house;<br />

middle tree house; right<br />

Monmoussea Caves lumiere<br />

show<br />

And now for something<br />

completely different...<br />

If you hanker after a hobbit house, or<br />

dream of a tree house stay, yearn to live in<br />

a yurt or go wild in a gypsy caravan then<br />

head to La Domaine de la Roche Belin. It's<br />

in glorious countryside that wouldn't be out<br />

of place in a film about bucolic locations.<br />

Have freshly prepared, organic, seasonal<br />

meals brought to your accommodation, or<br />

eat in the beautifully converted barn where<br />

there are also barbecue facilities. The chef<br />

is an ex caterer to the French President<br />

and the food is amazing.<br />

Sheep, ducks, chickens, horses and<br />

donkeys roam the grounds, it really is<br />

idyllic - perfect for families and couples.<br />

There's a lake filled with fish, from the<br />

double storey tree house you can see huge<br />

trout swim below you, and look out over<br />

the countryside. In the hobbit house, if you<br />

leave the skylight open - you're likely to see<br />

a sheep looking down at you as he chomps<br />

away on the grass roof! The yurts are<br />

roomy, colourful and romantic. The gypsy<br />

caravan is beautifully furnished and rather<br />

luxurious.<br />

The night I stayed, a full moon hung in the<br />

sky, deeply yellow like a giant mimollette<br />

cheese, it looked closer than I have ever<br />

seen. I sat on the steps of my caravan,<br />

listening to frogs croaking, a gentle baaaa<br />

now and again, birds singing sweetly in the<br />

night air and just a few crickets up for a late<br />

night party. Otherwise the night was silent,<br />

the stars shine so brightly I could see the<br />

outline of the trees and the pretty duck<br />

house though the ducks had long gone to<br />

sleep. The night air was filled with the scent<br />

of blossom and fresh grass, clear and clean.<br />

When I turned in for the night, a little<br />

reluctant to end the magical moment with<br />

nature, I slept like a baby.

wine tasting<br />

Vineyards were first planted in the area in<br />

the 1st century but it was in 1884 that<br />

Madame Amiot set up Veuve Amiot to<br />

make the sparkling wine for which the area<br />

is famous. The tuffeau, a local Loire<br />

limestone, in the soil gives it a unique taste.<br />

Though its made in the same way as<br />

champagne with the same grapes it cannot<br />

be called champagne as it's not produced<br />

in the strictly controlled areas of the<br />

champagne region.<br />

Veuve Amiot make 300 million bottles a<br />

year – and it’s delicious! You can take a<br />

free tour and tasting which is available in<br />

English, but you need to book in advance<br />

via their website: veuveamiot.fr<br />

This is the only area in France to produce<br />

sparkling red wine – drink it chilled, it’s<br />

utterly lush. You can buy online from www.<br />

iziwine but the postage is expensive, much<br />

more fun to go and buy it!<br />

Monmousseau also do tours and tastings.<br />

They have a fabulous Lumière show in the<br />

caves which are completely covered in<br />

bright lights.<br />

The sparkling wine is matured for a<br />

minimum of three years and is very popular<br />

in the US where its been exported to for a<br />

century. Next time you raise a glass, think<br />

of those grapes growing in the soil of the<br />

Loire valley and resting in the the cool dark<br />

caves where it's matured. Website:<br />


Gardens of<br />

Chaumont-sur-Loire<br />

Think Kew Gardens meets Chelsea flower<br />

show with French flair and a stunning<br />

chateau thrown in for good measure.<br />

Set in enormous grounds the annual<br />

Festival International des Jardins is an<br />

unmissable event showcasing the work of<br />

gardeners, architects and designers. Unlike<br />

Chelsea Flower Show, this event lasts from<br />

April to <strong>No</strong>vember meaning far less<br />

crowds.<br />

Somewhere special...<br />

Head to the restaurant Vincent Cuisiner de<br />

Campagne (19 rue de la Galottiere, 37<strong>14</strong>0<br />

Ingrandes-de-Touraine) where chef Vincent<br />

prepares daily deliciousness using only<br />

seasonal, local food produced in his garden<br />

or close by. There's a maximum of 10-12<br />

guests for each service so book ahead - it's<br />

worth it. facebook.com/galotiere<br />

You really need a whole day here to enjoy<br />

the permanent and temporary gardens that<br />

change each year. It is immense - and not<br />

to be rushed. Take a picnic or enjoy lunch<br />

in the pretty restaurant. It's makes for a<br />

relaxing visit in which you can truly<br />

appreciate the surroundings and the<br />

chateau.<br />


Loire Mushroom caves<br />

Deep inside the cool dark Caves des<br />

Roches at Bourré something is growing...<br />

slowly, silently and surely.<br />

These are several famous funghi farms of<br />

the Loire Valley and this is one of the best.<br />

Here they pick 1000kg of mushrooms a<br />

week, grown in 12km of galleries on seven<br />

levels. They thrive in a natural atmosphere<br />

which ensures the most taste; they’re<br />

delivered all over France and around the<br />

world. The special Pied Bleu mushrooms<br />

grow here – destined for the very best<br />

restaurants. Oyster, Shitake and Paris<br />

button mushrooms are quite a sight to see,<br />

growing from the damp blocks that imitate<br />

a woodland setting - the smell is incredible,<br />

earthy and mysterious.<br />

There's another secret in these caves: a<br />

giant sculpture of a medieval village carved<br />

in the stone by former mushroom pickers<br />

during their breaks. It's closed to the public<br />

as the stone discolours if touched, and they<br />

want to keep the sculpture safe for future<br />

generations.<br />

Take a one hour tour, and don’t miss the<br />

chance to buy the freshest mushrooms.<br />

Take them home and fry them in butter with<br />

a little seasoning and some grated fresh<br />

garlic - absolutely delicious, a taste of the<br />

Loire. www.le-champignon.com<br />

Practical information:<br />

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

anjou-tourisme.com; angersloiretourism.com; www.ot-saumer.fr; www.tourainevalley.<br />

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<br />

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

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

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

Annecy, a surprisingly easy few hours from Paris...<br />

Summer in the mountains<br />

When the winter snow melts and the sweet<br />

spring air rolls over the mountain tops, the<br />

French Alps undergo an astonishing<br />

transformation. White turns to green,<br />

carpets of wildflowers blossom and the<br />

lakes reflect the deep blue sky.<br />

Up in the mountains, summer<br />

temperatures can be high and sunbathing<br />

is just one of the many activities on offer. If<br />

you like sports and adventure then you’ll<br />

love the French Alps when it’s not ski<br />

season. White water rafting, abseiling,<br />

mountain biking, swimming,<br />

mountaineering, golf, hiking and so much<br />

more make the French Alps one of the<br />

most fun places to go for active holidays.<br />

And for foodies, this area is paradise with<br />

its lovely street markets, local cheeses and<br />

a whole raft of delicious specialities.<br />

Prepare to be won over by Summer in the<br />

French Alps!

Awesome Annecy<br />

Annecy is known as the petit Venice des<br />

Alpes thanks to its famous lake plus a<br />

network of little canals criss crossing the<br />

town. It’s a truly beautiful small city that’s<br />

blessed with more than one gorgeous lake,<br />

local ski resorts, stunningly pretty villages<br />

close by, awesome views, and fabulous<br />

local produce - including the most<br />

delicious cheese.<br />

(caused by plankton on the bottom of the<br />

lake) is said to be the purest in Europe, fed<br />

by melted snow on the mountains.<br />

Pop into the Annecy Tourist office – there’s<br />

always something going on from festivals<br />

to exhibitions: lac-annecy.com<br />

The old town of Annecy is an absolute<br />

must see, it’s not huge and is easy to walk<br />

around but pick up a map from the tourist<br />

office to get your bearings because there<br />

are lots of winding narrow roads and it<br />

would be easy to miss something - and<br />

you don't want to do that!<br />

Annecy’s most famous attraction is of<br />

course it’s lake, one of the most beautiful<br />

in the world. The turquoise coloured water

Annecy Ski Resorts are sensational<br />

summer destinations<br />

The fabulous French alpine resorts of La<br />

Clusaz, Le Grand Bornand, Manigod and<br />

Saint Jean de Sixt perched on the majestic<br />

Aravis Range, have joined to become Lake<br />

Annecy Ski Resorts. Most people know<br />

them only for ski holidays but they also<br />

make for a stunning break in spring,<br />

summer and autumn.<br />

You really need wheels to be able to get<br />

around and see the area fully here, and<br />

driving on the mountainous roads with<br />

sensational views is just the icing on the<br />

cake. Tiny villages with gorgeous<br />

restaurants, fabulous street markets,<br />

cycling and walking routes and the most<br />

sports activities I’ve ever come across in<br />

one area make this an amazing summer<br />

playground. And there are so many<br />

surprises here.

Col de la Forclaz<br />

From Talloires it’s a<br />

short drive to what is<br />

possibly one of the<br />

most stunning view<br />

points and best selfie<br />

spots in France – the<br />

Col de la Forclaz. From<br />

the lofty peak of this<br />

picturesque place,<br />

paragliders take off,<br />

whizzing over your<br />

head as you swoon at<br />

the colours of the Lake<br />

below. Cow bells tinkle<br />

like a fairy orchestra in<br />

the mountains and the<br />

scent of lush meadow<br />

flowers under a deep<br />

blue sky lull you into<br />

tranquillity.<br />

The Divine Abbaye de Talloires<br />

It will take you about an hour to drive all<br />

the way round Lake Annecy Lake, 5 hours<br />

by bike or, you can take a water taxi (watertaxi.fr)<br />

which is great fun and gives you<br />

fabulous views.<br />

There are 12 beaches to enjoy and in<br />

summer they’re a perfect place to relax. I<br />

headed for the town of Talloires which is<br />

about 13km from Annecy, to spend a night<br />

in a gorgeous former 17th century<br />

monastery that’s been converted to a<br />

luxurious hotel. You may think that a<br />

monk’s cell might be a bit small as a<br />

bedroom but the monks that lived here had<br />

it good, the rooms are huge. The whole<br />

place is very beautiful and there are<br />

frequent exhibitions of artworks at the<br />

hotel.<br />

There’s a private pontoon and an early<br />

morning dip is irresistible in what Winston<br />

Churchill described as “the most beautiful<br />

bay in the world”. In summer the<br />

temperature of the water in Lake Annecy is<br />

around 22°C.<br />

The 4*Hotel Abbaye de Talloires is where<br />

the first ever colour photo was taken in<br />

1902. French physicist Gabriel Lippman<br />

captured the lovely cloisters for posterity.<br />

They’re still there and make for a<br />

sensational spot for an aperitif, Mark Twain<br />

the famous American writer who stayed<br />

here, thought so too. The restaurant is<br />

fantastic and Charly, the famous sommelier<br />

chooses wines that make you feel happy.<br />

Talloires is a tranquil little town and very<br />

pretty with plenty of water activities but I<br />

recommend you hire an electric boat and<br />

discover a secret grotto and the blue lake<br />

painted by the artist Cezanne who stayed<br />

at the Abbaye in 1896.

Take Faverges. It’s a small town with a<br />

wonderful Wednesday morning street<br />

market, shops and restaurants. It’s been<br />

put on the global map by a local butchers<br />

shop, run by two brothers who make a<br />

speciality sausage known as Pormontier –<br />

said to be the best in France. In the Haut-<br />

Savoie, these boiled sausages are a legend,<br />

every family will have their own recipe and<br />

it includes spinach or cabbage or chard.<br />

The sausages are eaten with potatoes – a<br />

hearty meal for the mountain people. I<br />

popped into the shop and asked Monsieur<br />

Le Butcher if I could see his famous<br />

sausages, the ones that were filmed the<br />

day before by a film crew for a Japanese TV<br />

programme. He might make good bangers<br />

but he didn’t have much of a sense of<br />

humour and gave me a stern look and<br />

asked his assistant to help me. But still –<br />

they are very tasty!<br />

There are wonderful places to walk and<br />

even a grotto hidden in a forest to explore.<br />

Take a guided tour of the Grotte de<br />

Seythenex and wear sensible shoes for<br />

your trip as this natural hole in the ground<br />

has a steep descent. Enjoy the beautiful<br />

riverside walk and views over the steep<br />

ravine with its waterfall and if you’re feeling<br />

adventurous – take on the giant zipline! A<br />

visit here makes for a great day out twinned<br />

with a trip to nearby La Sambuy.<br />

If you’re there when the “Cabin Festival”<br />

takes place (15 May – 8 July 2017) you’re in<br />

for a treat. In a woodland and watery<br />

setting, architects and designers create<br />

cabins from natural materials that will make<br />

you smile.<br />

Find out more about the local area and<br />

what's on: www.sources-lac-annecy.com<br />

Thones is a chocolate box pretty place and<br />

home to Reblochon cheese makers, the<br />

piquant cows milk cheese that’s delicious<br />

and perfect for the mountain dish tartiflette.<br />

(Click here to read about my visit to a<br />

grandmother/granddaughter cheese<br />

making outfit and a tartiflette recipe).<br />

Head to the nearby Montremont fish farm<br />

where there’s a restaurant that specialises<br />

in trout dishes. Looking like something out<br />

of the land of the Hobbits, in summer the<br />

garden twinkles under tiny lights, and it’s<br />

incredibly pretty and very laid back.

Le Grand Bornand<br />

This town is a popular summer destination<br />

with the French and no wonder, it’s really<br />

buzzing. There are delicious gourmet food<br />

shops, ravishing restaurants like<br />

Restaurant Confins des Sens which has a<br />

chic chalet ambience, sports activities<br />

galore and the air is fresh and sweet.<br />

It’s also where you’ll find the shop of Didier<br />

Perrillat, one of the last leather artisans left<br />

in Haute-Savoie. In his tiny shop he makes<br />

all manner of things from purses to bags<br />

and key fobs but he’s famous for the<br />

leather necklaces he makes for cows! Did<br />

you know every cow has a unique bell and<br />

a good farmer can recognise an individual<br />

cow by its ring? Well those bells have to<br />

hang on something and Didier makes<br />

beautiful straps for special cows! I'm told<br />

that cows here wear day time bells but in<br />

their closets they may have a special<br />

“dress” bell which is much bigger and<br />

heavier and worn for shows and special<br />

occasions! You can watch Didier creating<br />

in his pretty shop Chez Le Bourrelier<br />

with its mountain views. located in the<br />

main road of Le Grand Bornand.<br />

Head up into the mountains for more<br />

glorious scenery and fabulous restaurants.<br />

A short drive from Le Grand Bornand you’ll<br />

find the Col des Aravis, and at <strong>14</strong>98m it has<br />

magnificent views that take your breath<br />

away. Those ski lifts that make skiers life<br />

easy, also work in the summer and make<br />

for a fun ride.<br />

Enjoy a meal high up in the fresh air, there’s<br />

nothing quite like it to whet your appetite<br />

and there’s lots of great choice. For views,<br />

ambiance and scrumptious dishes,<br />

Restaurant les Rhodos ticks all the boxes.<br />

Find out more about the history of the area,<br />

life in the past and Reblochon cheese at<br />

the new Le Hameau des Alpes museum<br />

near La Clusaz. Interactive exhibitions and<br />

great photos make this a fascinating visit.

Take a trip to Distilleries des Aravis where<br />

Mathieu Castellano runs a family liqueur<br />

manufacturing company. In the grand<br />

tradition of liqueurs in France ‘Génépi’, a<br />

sort of gin, was created by a monk in 1878.<br />

The great grandfather of the current owner<br />

was a fan of Génépi. He bought the<br />

company and built the atelier where it’s still<br />

produced in La Clusaz. It’s like a taste of<br />

mountains and herbs in a bottle, and it’s<br />

strong! These days Matthieu makes<br />

around 45 kinds liqueurs from lavender to<br />

melon, raspberry, pear, prunes, a<br />

scrumptious limoncello, absinthe and a<br />

prize winning pastis, quite different from<br />

the Marseille one, with a sprig of fennel<br />

that's put in the bottle by hand.<br />

Matthieu “and is very good for a cocktail<br />

base especially mojitos”. He honours the<br />

heritage of his ancestors and the traditions<br />

of making liqueur, using an old copper still.<br />

“Even the crates we keep the bottles in are<br />

older than me” he jokes.<br />

You’ll find the eye catching bottles on sale<br />

in local shops.<br />

“Genepi makes for a great digestif” says<br />

Perfect summer holiday<br />

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

you’ve experience something really spectacular with the most amazing scenery,<br />

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

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

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Lucy Pitts ventures into the weird and wonderful world of Futuroscope<br />

A fantastically bizarre<br />

day out<br />

Futuroscope is brilliant although I was<br />

nearly sick on the first ride. To be fair<br />

though, I’m 47, hadn’t had any breakfast<br />

and it probably wasn’t designed for me. But<br />

my kids aged 6, 9 and 11 loved it.<br />

If you haven’t heard of Futuroscope, what<br />

exactly is it? Well put at its simplest, it’s a<br />

theme park just outside Poitiers based on<br />

multimedia, cinematography and audiovisual<br />

techniques, with 3D and 4D<br />

attractions, some of which are unique in the<br />

world. But that doesn’t really do justice to<br />

this insanely bizarre and utterly French<br />

experience.<br />

We started with the Vienne Dynamique,<br />

one of the top attractions and the one that<br />

made me feel sick. If you can imagine being<br />

strapped into a seat in a simulator and then<br />

taken on a journey which involved a<br />

magical spitting tree (yes we got wet), a<br />

bride groom late for his wedding and a full<br />

throttle journey journey that had

us jumping off a train, flying through the sky<br />

over the Vienne, driving a racing car through<br />

the back streets of a tiny village and firing<br />

down a river in a very small boat at top<br />

speed, you might begin to understand when<br />

I say it’s quirky. Despite feeling sick, I loved<br />

every second.<br />

My guts took a further pounding with<br />

another 4D simulator experience Arthur and<br />

the world of the Minimoys. If you don’t<br />

know what that’s all about (and I didn’t),<br />

imagine climbing into the driving seat of a<br />

bug the size of a ladybird and having to<br />

take the controls at high speed. I think we<br />

went down a drain, definitely nearly got<br />

sucked up by a frog’s tongue and ran into a<br />

swarm of angry looking black insects who<br />

appeared to be out to destroy us. Brilliant if<br />

slightly bizarre.<br />

But it’s not all about making mothers feel<br />

sick, and France’s first ever IMAX 4K laser<br />

cinema is genuinely fantastic. With Stephen<br />

Fry doing the commentary, you’re taken<br />

deep into the tiny world of a chipmunk and<br />

mouse. Imagine being smaller than a snake<br />

as it throws its mouth wide open and<br />

prepares for the kill, or seeing the hairy legs<br />

of a giant mouse eating spider reach out to<br />

grab you and gobble you up!<br />

Other favourite attractions for my kids<br />

included the Futur l’Expo where they got to<br />

try out technology including magic mirrors,<br />

robots and eating food of the future that<br />

made them blow smoke out of their noses!<br />

And who doesn’t want to do that? And of<br />

course Dancing with Robots was a massive<br />

hit. Thankfully the man on the door warned<br />

us to view it before we tried it as it was<br />

nothing like what I’d expected or seen in the<br />

trailers. You’re strapped into a chair at the<br />

end of a giant robotic arm and basically<br />

thrown around in the air! You can imagine<br />

the children loved it but my stomach and I<br />

preferred to stay on the ground.<br />

Pictures: top left<br />

Vienne Dynamique;<br />

left IMAX 4K laser<br />

cinema; above<br />

Dancing with Robots

There are 22 main attractions in total and<br />

lots and lots else to explore. You really do<br />

need two days or a pair of long distance<br />

walking shoes and a sense of endurance.<br />

In one day we managed about 13 of the<br />

main attractions as well as the night show<br />

but we barely stopped for a breather.<br />

The timing of the night show varies<br />

according to light conditions. Put on by the<br />

Cirque du Soleil, on our visit this involved a<br />

2CV driving on water, a sound, light and<br />

para-technique display, a giant hologram, a<br />

moon and a massive firework display. I<br />

didn’t quite follow all the details of the<br />

story which seemed to be broadly along<br />

the lines of giant hologram boy meets girl,<br />

puts girl on the moon and then runs into<br />

trouble, and we’d surrendered our headsets<br />

by then. But hey, I don’t think the detail was<br />

that important.<br />

For tamer rides you can travel through time<br />

with the Raving Rabbids whilst sitting on a<br />

toilet, experience the Ice Age, dive to the<br />

bottom of the ocean with Jacques<br />

Cousteau and discover a tiny microscopic<br />

world and the inside of a spider’s web.<br />

There are also live shows including the<br />

iMagic show which we missed because of<br />

timings, and the Mysteries of the Cube<br />

which involved some risky gymnastics.<br />

“<strong>No</strong>t quite what I was expecting” as my<br />

daughter said, more or less summing up<br />

the whole day.<br />

In my admittedly very limited experience,<br />

French theme parks are in a league of their<br />

own (just think of Puy dy Fou for a start)<br />

and Futuroscope is no exception. It wasn’t<br />

what I was expecting and I generally dread<br />

the idea of long queues and lots of people<br />

but the park is spacious and even includes<br />

giant bean bags for you to take a break on.<br />

I saw elderly couples on their own enjoying<br />

the rides and all the staff are really helpful<br />

and nice. The park is also easy to navigate<br />

(if big and a good day’s walk).


Try and avoid peak times, in particular<br />

the first three weeks in August.<br />

A “Pass Premium” at 15€/person gives<br />

you priority to all the simulators in the<br />

park plus a discount in all the shops. If<br />

you’ve only got one day (there is a<br />

hotel if you want to stay), it’s well worth<br />

it. Apart from feeling extremely<br />

important, you save time on queuing<br />

and can squeeze more in!<br />

Get a map with a timetable on it<br />

available in English at the gate. Some<br />

of the big attractions have a last show<br />

at 4pm and you don’t want to miss<br />

them.<br />

The English headset is free with the<br />

ticket and worth-while. Bring your own<br />

headphones or pay 1€ per pair.<br />

It’s one of those places that if you’re in the area<br />

or anywhere close (I was nearly a 2 hour drive<br />

away but it was still well worth it), a visit is a<br />

must. Like I said, stomach churning at times for<br />

the wimps amongst you, funny, odd, exciting,<br />

peculiar, surprising, informative and a totally<br />

bonkers way to spend a day. I’m already<br />

planning my next trip back and the kids are still<br />

buzzing!<br />

Directions and prices<br />

There's an English language website:<br />

Futuroscope.com with a map of the park and<br />

directions. it’s well sign posted for miles<br />

around. Parking is easy but paid and there’s<br />

also a TGV train station.<br />

Book on line or buy at tickets at the gate.<br />

Prices vary and also include “breaks” for 2 or 3<br />

nights. A basic family ticket for 4 for one day,<br />

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

(check to verify prices in case of change.<br />

Some rides have minimum height<br />

restrictions although I saw what<br />

looked like very young children on<br />

quite bumpy rides.<br />

The late night spectacular is fantastic<br />

but beware getting stuck in the car<br />

park with the crowds. Get your seats<br />

early at the top of the auditorium, close<br />

to the exit and leave 5 minutes before<br />

the end. You'll get a unique viewof the<br />

finale firework display and you drive<br />

straight out of a still deserted car park.<br />

At 10pm or later and with a long drive<br />

home, that makes all the difference.<br />

The worry with some theme parks is<br />

that eating there will leave you close to<br />

financially destitute but actually we<br />

had an evening meal for 4 at just over<br />

43€. My kids had burger in a pancake<br />

followed by chocolate in a pancake<br />

and couldn’t have been happier. And<br />

for the grown-ups, carafes and half<br />

carafes of rosé are available too.

Marché international de Rungis –<br />

the new belly of Paris<br />

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

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

of Paris”. The wonderful Parisian photographer Robert Doisneau captured its vibrant life<br />

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

trading, a piece of Paris history gone forever…<br />

Well, not quite. Peter Jones visits the International Market of Rungis, the replacement<br />

market on the outskirts of inner Paris.<br />

A few mind blowing figures first:<br />

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

larger than Monaco<br />

More than 8 billion euros a year are spent here every year<br />

More than 12,000 people work there

A guided tour of Rungis<br />

It’s not your usual tourist destination in<br />

Paris, but a tour of this incredible market<br />

makes for a fascinating visit.<br />

If you want to go to this market you need to<br />

get up very early in the morning, guided<br />

tours start at 5am. Fortunately it’s a quick<br />

trip from the centre of Paris. When you<br />

arrive here it feels like a bustling city within<br />

the city. Hundreds of lorries and vans of all<br />

types fill the streets - there are 26,000<br />

vehicles delivering every day. It’s a mind<br />

blowing sight.<br />

Rungis is strictly wholesale, only holders of<br />

a purchasing card can buy and whilst the<br />

card is free, its issue is very strictly<br />

controlled and only available to<br />

professionals.<br />

Rungis operates when most of us are<br />

asleep with the main action taking place<br />

much earlier than the organised tour allows<br />

for.<br />

Take the Marée pavilion dedicated to<br />

shellfish and seafood. It’s one of the stars of<br />

Rungis opening for business at 2 am. Their<br />

proud boast is that they sell the freshest<br />

fish in France – it takes less than 24 hours<br />

from port to plate. Before the days of rapid<br />

transport, by the time fish arrived in the<br />

capital from the coast it was starting to go<br />

off. A skilful fishmonger would remove all<br />

the bad bits with a sharp knife leaving two<br />

“fillets“ of eatable fish - hence the term “fish<br />

fillets”. These days the port to plate process<br />

is speedy, hygienic and slick.<br />

The Triperie Pavilion is not for the<br />

squeamish or faint hearted. Looking like a<br />

scene from a horror film, there are bins full<br />

of entrails, kidneys, pigs trotters and bits<br />

you probably won't recognise. Particularly<br />

gruesome is a demonstration of the<br />

preparation of the great French classic Tete<br />

de Veau. A giant of a worker clad like a<br />

medieval knight in protective chain mail<br />

takes hold of the boiled head of a cow.

In two minutes, he reduced it into various<br />

delicacies all wrapped and ready to be sold<br />

to the restaurants and butchers shops of<br />

Paris… it was enough to make me want to<br />

turn vegetarian.<br />

The meat pavilion was wall to wall with<br />

carcasses of pork, lamb and venison. There<br />

were crates and crates of poultry and<br />

game. Huge joints of mouth-watering ribs<br />

of beef caught my eye making me forget<br />

my vegetarian musings.<br />

Rungis is a working market and you get the<br />

impression that for some who work here,<br />

visitors are to be tolerated rather than<br />

welcomed. <strong>No</strong> surprise, these people are<br />

working their socks off while everyone is at<br />

home sleeping. You need to keep on your<br />

toes to avoid being run over by a horn<br />

blowing mini truck or worse still - falling<br />

into a bin of pigs entrails.<br />

cheeses of all shapes and sizes from<br />

mouth size portions of Cabachou to wheels<br />

of Ementhal weighing 175 kilos. You can<br />

taste some, though at 5.30 in the morning it<br />

takes a bit of getting used to.<br />

Next up, fruit and veg. Stunning produce<br />

from all over the world including stuff that I<br />

have never heard of and one fruit that<br />

looked positively frightening. A bit of<br />

French humour was on show at a stall of<br />

French beans from a producer whose name<br />

was “Larry Cover” , a clever play on “Le<br />

haricot vert” (French beans).<br />

Organic fruit and vegetables also now have<br />

a place in Rungis albeit a smaller pavilion<br />

but with over 40 different operators. There’s<br />

also a Fresh Flower pavilion where a truly<br />

stunning kaleidoscope of colours and<br />

perfumes from all over the world wowed.<br />

If you’re a fromage fan you will love the<br />

cheese pavilion, it’s the world biggest<br />

cheese shop. Everywhere you look are

After looking at some of the best produce in<br />

the world it’s time for food and, it’s part of<br />

the tour. Rungis has many restaurants and<br />

cafés within the market and whilst it may be<br />

breakfast for us visitors, it’s lunchtime for<br />

the market workers. Tables groan under the<br />

weight of pastries, cheeses, saucissons,<br />

hams, fruit and many other foodstuffs that<br />

you don’t’ see at a breakfast table every day<br />

- including an excellent Bordeaux and a very<br />

quaff-able Sancerre.<br />

Paris is a magical city with much to tempt.<br />

From <strong>No</strong>tre Dame, Sacré Coeur, the charm of<br />

the Eiffel Tower that never dulls, taking<br />

coffee and people watching But, if you have<br />

an interest in food and where it comes from<br />

then Rungis, the new belly of Paris, off the<br />

beaten track for sure, should be at the top of<br />

your list of must dos.<br />

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

rungisinternational.com Tours are by coach from Paris and cost €85 per person<br />


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Cheesy Lessons<br />

by Keith Van Sickle, an American in Provence<br />

When my wife Val and I began spending<br />

time in France, we knew that we had much<br />

to learn. There was the language, of course,<br />

but also the customs and quirks of the<br />

French. Little did we know that some of our<br />

most memorable lessons would be about<br />

cheese.<br />

One lesson came when we had our first<br />

meal at a Michelin-starred restaurant. It<br />

was at Le Cep in Beaune, in the heart of the<br />

Burgundy wine country. The meal started at<br />

8pm and went on until almost midnight.<br />

Course after course of wonderful food<br />

arrived. We were stuffed! And then they<br />

wheeled out the cheese cart.<br />

This was our first experience with a cheese<br />

course and Le Cep’s cart was enormous. It<br />

looked like an aircraft carrier! There were<br />

dozens of different cheeses, beautifully<br />

arranged. But without labels.<br />

The waiter indicated that we should choose<br />

what we would like. We were flummoxed,<br />

as our knowledge of cheese was quite<br />

limited back then - Monterey Jack, Cheddar<br />

and Parmesan pretty much covered it.<br />

Luckily for me, the lady always chooses first<br />

in France. I could let Val sort it out and<br />

follow her lead.<br />

Val, always clever, explained that we were<br />

new to this game and would the waiter<br />

please recommend a nice selection?

Which he kindly did, choosing seven<br />

cheeses and making a circle of them<br />

around the edge of her plate. He told Val<br />

that she should start with number one<br />

and work her way around to number<br />

seven.<br />

I asked for the same selection and soon<br />

we were happily munching away. The<br />

cheeses were delicious! The first was a<br />

mild chevre and the others got<br />

progressively more full-bodied.<br />

Val eats faster than I do and she was the<br />

first to taste cheese number seven. She<br />

smiled with pleasure and said, “Oh, this is<br />

good. Take a big bite!”<br />

I should have known better.<br />

Have you ever eaten Époisses? It’s<br />

usually described as “pungent” – now<br />

there’s a word! It is so strong that it sears<br />

the inside of your mouth. You can’t taste<br />

much of anything after you eat it.<br />

Yes, cheese number seven was an<br />

Époisses. Definitely not something to<br />

take a big bite of. But as I blissfully went<br />

ahead and started chewing, my eyes<br />

began to water and I urgently looked for a<br />

way to spit it out.<br />

But here we were in Le Cep, an elegant<br />

Michelin-starred restaurant and that’s just<br />

not done. So I wiped my eyes and kept<br />

going while Val covered her mouth and<br />

giggled.<br />

I love Époisses today but let’s just say it’s<br />

an acquired taste. And I had not yet<br />

acquired it.<br />

Lesson #1:<br />

Try it, you’ll like it!<br />


Another lesson was during the election for<br />

the European Parliament. About a dozen<br />

political parties had slates of candidates<br />

running.<br />

The conservative party had a televised rally<br />

to fire up the troops and get out the vote.<br />

We decided to watch it, figuring it would<br />

give us insight into the important political<br />

issues of the day. Plus it would be good for<br />

our French.<br />

It is in the most unlikely places that you<br />

learn what moves French hearts.<br />

A few days later the results came in and the<br />

conservative party was the big winner. They<br />

far outperformed the pre-election polls.<br />

Most of the speeches were boring, with the<br />

usual applause lines. There were shoutouts<br />

to dignitaries in the audience,<br />

potshots at the competition, promises to<br />

lead France boldly into the future. The<br />

crowd clapped politely but there wasn’t a<br />

lot of real enthusiasm.<br />

Then things got exciting.<br />

The final speaker was wrapping up his<br />

speech and wanted to go out on a high<br />

note. “We will work with the European<br />

Union on initiatives like the electric car," he<br />

thundered, "but we will defend ourselves<br />

against those bureaucrats in Brussels<br />

when it comes to important French<br />

interests like"...(dramatic pause)...<br />


Suddenly, the crowd went wild, cheering<br />

and stamping their feet, throwing things in<br />

the air. It was like Charles de Gaulle had<br />

just liberated Paris.<br />

Val turned to me. “Did he really say raw<br />

milk cheese?” she asked. “That’s crazy!”<br />

The next day we asked some French<br />

friends about this. It’s true, they said, and<br />

they were outraged. They explained that<br />

there was a move afoot to force cheese<br />

makers across Europe to pasteurize their<br />

milk. “This will make the cheese tasteless!”<br />

they cried. “Tasteless food – the English<br />

must be behind it! “<br />

"Tell me what you<br />

eat and I'll tell you<br />

who you are..."<br />

Jean Anthelme Brillat-<br />

Savarin (was a French lawyer<br />

and politician, who gained<br />

fame as an epicure and<br />

gastronome. The famous raw<br />

milk cheese is named after<br />

him...<br />

Lesson #2:<br />

Never underestimate the power<br />

of cheese.<br />

Keith Van Sickle splits his time between<br />

Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the<br />

author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to<br />

Live in Provence.<br />

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,<br />

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

Immobilier, the award winning French Estate Agency…<br />

Where are you from and how did you<br />

come to be living in France?<br />

I was brought up in Surrey, England and my<br />

husband in Paris, France. We met and<br />

married in London and soon after I<br />

transferred to work in Brussels where we<br />

spent six happy years. Our eldest son (now<br />

11) was born in Brussels (and dislikes me<br />

referring to him as my Brussels Sprout) and<br />

it was whilst on holiday with him, then a<br />

baby of six months, that we came to the<br />

Loire Valley for the first time. Our three<br />

subsequent children (now three, five and<br />

seven) were born here and feel more French<br />

than British – though they do enjoy Mr<br />

Bean and Digestive biscuits dipped in tea<br />

so all is not lost! Seriously though, they<br />

have been in the school system here from<br />

the start and we have been very happy with<br />

it on lots of levels – we have the joy of<br />

small village schools (about 45 children<br />

over four years at maternelle and primaire)<br />

where they benefit from a varied<br />

programme of academic, artistic, cultural<br />

and sporting activities not forgetting the<br />

cooked-fresh-on–the-premises four course<br />

lunch every day!

What inspired you to move to the<br />

Loire Valley?<br />

We are close to Chinon – a medieval town<br />

about halfway down France, home of the<br />

Plantagenet kings, resting place of Richard<br />

the Lionheart, the start of Joan of Arc’s<br />

tragic mission, oh and did I mention home<br />

to over 300 winemakers? We didn’t have<br />

to look too far for inspiration. After years of<br />

watching other people do it on TV and<br />

thinking ‘could we do that?’ my ardent wine<br />

fan husband and I gave up our corporate<br />

careers aged 35. We packed up our small<br />

boy to live a simpler countryside life,<br />

renovate a small but beautifully formed<br />

château, set up our guesthouse and a wine<br />

exporting business.<br />

Did you need to do a lot of renovation<br />

to your French house?<br />

It was a wreck with a reasonable roof, but<br />

we had renovated houses before – albeit<br />

nothing on this scale. Everything needed<br />

doing, plumbing, heating, electricity,<br />

plastering not to mention the wild outdoors<br />

and at times it felt like it would never end,<br />

looking back at the photos now I am still<br />

surprised we made it! It wouldn’t have<br />

happened without the pragmatic approach<br />

of the husband of course, who segmented<br />

each priority area, got our accommodation<br />

ready first, and then we worked day and<br />

night over the next year to get the main<br />

house open for business. Each winter we<br />

have done some further renovation work<br />

and opened more guest accommodation<br />

and entertaining spaces while there aren’t<br />

so many tourists around. We were very<br />

lucky with some of the younger local<br />

tradesmen who were just setting up their<br />

own businesses – our site represented a lot<br />

of work for them, and we became a<br />

reference client; in return if ever we have a<br />

problem they will usually be here in a flash.

What made you fall in love with this<br />

part of France?<br />

The relaxed pace of life: it can be<br />

frustrating when you are used to a 24/7<br />

world but here businesses close at<br />

lunchtimes and on Sundays, people work<br />

to live, they don’t live to work; and I think<br />

that’s a healthier way of viewing life.<br />

The architecture is also gorgeous round<br />

here – beautiful tuffeau stone, slate<br />

rooves, turrets and wrought iron twirls –<br />

just my thing!<br />

Any top tips that you learned when<br />

searching for your house?<br />

We only visited five or six properties, in the<br />

end, and went with our instinct – this one<br />

just kept us awake at night with<br />

excitement and although we knew it<br />

wasn’t the most logical purchase, it was<br />

the one we loved.

Do you consider yourself a member of<br />

the local community?<br />

After London, Paris and Brussels I think<br />

one thing we were both a bit nervous about<br />

in moving to a village of 500 people (with<br />

just as many goats) was whether or not we<br />

would meet people and make new friends.<br />

We were lucky having a school aged child<br />

because I got involved with the Parents<br />

Association from the outset helping<br />

organise fundraising events. Even with my<br />

limited French back then it gave my first<br />

network of school mums and meant I<br />

didn’t stand alone at the school gate for<br />

long! It also gave me a forum to ask daft<br />

questions when I didn’t understand<br />

something having never experienced the<br />

French school system myself.<br />

I also found some brilliantly supportive<br />

Social Network groups for English<br />

speaking women in France through which I<br />

have had the great pleasure to meet some<br />

truly lovely people, as well as through the<br />

two local English speaking churches. My<br />

husband has developed his wine<br />

businesses, and got to know plenty of the<br />

local Vignerons. He has also been elected<br />

onto the Council which has given him a<br />

network of his own!<br />

What would you do on a day off in<br />

your area?<br />

With the children, our favourite day out is<br />

the Bioparc at Doué la Fontaine – hands<br />

down the best zoo I’ve ever seen - so much<br />

so that we buy annual passes! Without the<br />

children my husband and I really enjoy a<br />

wander round Tours or Angers – both are<br />

fantastic cities, great for shopping, great for<br />

eating out, plenty to discover among the<br />

historic buildings and galleries.

Tell us a little about your job...<br />

Every client is different and when they are<br />

looking for a home – be it a permanent<br />

move or a holiday residence – I really enjoy<br />

spending a bit of time finding out what<br />

they like doing and what is motivating their<br />

move. The most recent sale I handled is a<br />

new home for a British couple who have<br />

just purchased a gorgeous gite complex<br />

close to Richelieu. That moment in the<br />

notaire’s office when everyone shakes<br />

hands and congratulates each other is<br />

always feels so full of emotion – the end of<br />

a long journey in some ways, and the brink<br />

of a new adventure; that for me is the<br />

satisfaction of a job well done!<br />

What 3 key pieces of advice do you<br />

give to your clients when they’re<br />

looking for property in the area?<br />

To visit a few properties on the same day –<br />

you might love the first one but a<br />

comparison point is always useful<br />

To do your second visit at a different time<br />

of day, when the light, the traffic etc might<br />

be different<br />

To keep your mind open for a<br />

compromise – sometimes people have<br />

such long lists of criteria they rule out a<br />

property that could have been (almost)<br />



Once the hunting grounds of the French kings and noblemen, the Loire Valley is a<br />

treasure trove of chateaux and historic monuments and many stunning historic palaces<br />

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

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

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

the towpaths, canoeing and fishing not to mention leisurely boat cruises are available<br />

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

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

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

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

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

an hour from Paris.<br />

Enjoy the wonderful views across<br />

medieval Chinon from this spacious<br />

fully renovated 2 bedroom 2<br />

bathroom home<br />

Click here for more details<br />

€199 000<br />

Gorgeous Presbytery about 10<br />

minutes from Chinon in pretty village<br />

with pool and gardens...<br />

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€499 000<br />

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Stunning Manor house in impeccable<br />

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truffle orchard - irresistible!<br />

Click here for more details<br />

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

The Good Life<br />

...in Paris<br />

Janine Marsh talks to Australian in Paris<br />

Sandra Iskander, Editor of Where Paris<br />

Magazine about life in Paris and gets the<br />

insider's view of where to go and what to see...<br />

When was your first visit to<br />

Paris?<br />

It was back in 2004 that I visited Paris for<br />

the first time. I intended to stay for a year.<br />

I was always obsessed with Paris and the<br />

idea of living here and so I resigned from<br />

my job and decided to give it a go.<br />

"I came to Paris for 12<br />

months, and I've been<br />

here for 13 years..."<br />

Just before I was to head back home, as I<br />

was aching to get back into working with<br />

magazines, and working in publishing<br />

proved a little bit difficult in Paris, I came<br />

across an ad for an editor’s role at Where<br />

Paris and so I applied. I think it was fate<br />

that I saw the ad when I did or else I<br />

would have gone back home and not<br />

have had the incredible experience I have<br />

been so fortunate in having up until now. I<br />

got the role and I have been here ever<br />

since.<br />

Is there anything that you miss<br />

from Australia?<br />

Besides my family and friends I would<br />

have to say I miss how friendly Aussies<br />

are and just how everyone smiles all the<br />

time. Having been away from home I<br />

realise it really is the simple things, and<br />

the little things, that I miss the most.

What’s a typical day for an<br />

editor of a Paris magazine?<br />

I am lucky that I get to do what I love<br />

and that every day is very different. I<br />

could be in front of my computer all day<br />

today replying to emails, writing articles<br />

or editing and approving layouts, and<br />

tomorrow I could be running around all<br />

day discovering new things for my<br />

readers, from the coolest bars to the<br />

season’s must-have accessory.<br />

If you want to get out of the<br />

city – where do you go?<br />

Home! And if I cannot get away long<br />

enough to get back to Melbourne I love<br />

to spend a weekend in London, Italy or<br />

a couple of days in Dubai to get some<br />

sun.<br />

What are your favourite bars in<br />

Paris?<br />

I love Manko, they make the best Pisco<br />

Sour, and Hotel Costes for the great<br />

people watching.<br />

I also like Le Perchoir bars, both in the<br />

11th and on the rooftop of BHV (which<br />

by the way is open on Sundays), they<br />

make great cocktails and they both<br />

boast great views of the city.<br />

What are your favourite<br />

restaurants in Paris<br />

Pictures: Top:<br />

typically metro;<br />

middle: Alain<br />

Ducasse at the Plaza<br />

Athene Hotel;<br />

Bottom: BHV Paris<br />

I love Loulou, Daroco and Le Coq<br />

because it’s just near my place, so when<br />

I don’t want to venture out far I just go<br />

there, the food is good and on the way<br />

there and back you have the best view<br />

of the Eiffel Tower.<br />

For a more refined dinner I would have<br />

to say Alain Ducasse at the Plaza<br />

Athénée, I am a huge fan of his cuisine<br />

and the restaurant itself is exquisite.

coming to Paris for the first<br />

time – what should visitors see?<br />

Definitely seeing the Eiffel Tower is a must.<br />

I think visiting Paris without seeing the<br />

iconic monument would be an incomplete<br />

trip to the French capital.<br />

Get lost in Montmartre, visit the Sacré-<br />

Coeur and just sit on its steps, taking in the<br />

view of the city.<br />

Spend a day at the Louvre.<br />

Laze an afternoon away at Hotel Costes<br />

(it’s very Paris), sitting in the courtyard and<br />

enjoying a glass of white wine.<br />

Visit Versailles. (Take the train - RER Line<br />

C, which takes around 1 hour though may<br />

take<br />

longer depending on where you're getting<br />

on. It's a 5 minute walk from the station)<br />

Walk around the Marais district and<br />

drinking in the sight of the Place des<br />

Vosges.<br />

Shopping! At Lanvin on Rue Saint-Honoré<br />

and at the famous Chanel boutique on Rue<br />

Cambon. Shopping at the most luxurious<br />

boutiques in the city is a must and<br />

returning home with a new bag or a<br />

beautiful pair of heels from the fashion<br />

capital is just priceless... And, stocking up<br />

on make-up at Sephora on Avenue des<br />

Champs-Elysées and Dior on Avenue<br />


taxing times<br />

Financial Expert Jennie Poate Explains the<br />

requirements for completing your tax forms<br />

in France...<br />

Tax return time is here again!<br />

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

Poates explains how to complete the paperwork and what’s required...<br />

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

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

some forms (you can download forms from the French Goverment website).<br />

Pink Form 2047 is used to declare income earned outside of France.<br />

Blue Form 2042 is for all income earned - including the revenue declared on the Pink<br />

Form 2047.<br />

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

last year you only include income from the time you have been resident here.<br />

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

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

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

still have to complete a tax return form if you are resident in France.<br />

In general, as French tax residents you have an obligation to declare your worldwide<br />

income and assets to the French authorities. Importantly, with the ‘exchange of<br />

information’ rules now operating between European countries, the French tax authorities<br />

will receive information about income and gains earned from non-French sources. Whilst<br />

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

receive corresponds to an entry on your tax return.

Pension lump sums<br />

You need to declare lump sum payments received from non-French pension schemes.<br />

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

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

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

benefited from an allowance of 10%.<br />

There is a little confusion here as generally only if the whole pension fund is taken is<br />

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

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

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

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

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

not taxed.<br />

Declaration of all foreign bank accounts and life assurance<br />

policies<br />

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

that you hold either bank accounts or Life Assurance Investments outside France.<br />

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

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

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

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

Contact:<br />

jennie (@) bgwealthmanagement.net or<br />

info (@) bgwealthmanagement.net<br />

Telephone: France 0033634119518<br />

Visit www.bgwealth.eu for information and<br />

factsheets<br />

Double Taxation Treaty:<br />

There is a tax treaty between<br />

France and the UK meaning that<br />

you cannot be taxed twice – you’ll<br />

need to fill in a form SI2009<br />

France Individual which you can<br />

download from the Gov.UK<br />

website. You can only complete it<br />

once you are officially resident<br />

and paying tax in France<br />

The information on this page is intended only as an introduction only and is not designed to offer<br />

solutions or advice. Beacon Global Wealth Management can accept no responsibility whatsoever<br />

for losses incurred by acting on the information on this page<br />

The financial advisers trading under Beacon Wealth Management are members of Nexus Global (IFA<br />

Network). Nexus Global is a division within Blacktower Financial Management (International)<br />

Limited (BFMI).All approved individual members of Nexus Global are Appointed Representatives of<br />

BFMI. BFMI is licenced and regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and bound by<br />

their rules under licence number FSC00805B

French<br />

It needn'<br />

By Tim Sage, Pro<br />

Over the last year we've looked at the<br />

general process of buying and selling a<br />

home in France*. The process involves two<br />

main parties, the seller and the buyer but to<br />

make that process work there is a large<br />

group of people working behind the<br />

scenes.<br />

The Agent<br />

Of all the people involved, the one person<br />

who will be common to both parties is the<br />

agent. <strong>No</strong>t only the link between the<br />

parties but also between them and the rest<br />

of the team working on the process. They<br />

have a special rôle (a good agent will see it<br />

as a privileged rôle) in overseeing and<br />

bringing together all the strands that make<br />

for successful selling and buying.<br />

The agent will start the process with a visit<br />

to the seller to take an instruction to<br />

market a property. Selling a home can be a<br />

fairly sad occasion for the seller (it usually<br />

comes with a lot of good and happy<br />

memories even if the reasons for selling<br />

are very positive) and the agent will treat<br />

the meeting with due regard for those<br />

feelings. Along with gaining hard facts<br />

about the property, the agent will also want<br />

to know any history behind it, special<br />

interest, work that has been done recently<br />

etc. The hard facts are needed to create an<br />

exact "product" to market, such as the land<br />

references (cadastrale), the layout of the<br />

property (number of bedrooms, bathrooms),<br />

any planning permission that has been<br />

granted etc. At this time the agent will<br />

probably take measurements of the rooms<br />

to establish habitable surface area (a<br />

different measure to the total surface area).<br />

By checking the price per square metre in<br />

the local area this will give a guide price. If<br />

the obligatory diagnostic checks have been<br />

made there will be an accurate<br />

measurement already by the diagnostic<br />

technicien. Throughout the process, the<br />

agent continually assesses the changing<br />

market conditions and can give advice on<br />

any action to take and of course the allimportant<br />

viewing requests.<br />

For the buyer, the agent is the first point of<br />

contact and while showing you around the<br />

property or properties that you want to look<br />

at is one of the most important aspects,<br />

their help to you will be of more value if<br />

they know what you are really looking for. It<br />

is worth looking at your agent as a sort of<br />

matchmaker - trying to bring you together<br />

with your dream rather than a tour guide.<br />

Expect your agent to ask for information<br />

about your hopes and ideas. At the end of<br />

the meeting there should be mutual trust,<br />

respect and potential friendship.

Property Report<br />

t be a puzzle…<br />

perty Expert and Agent<br />

The Process<br />

Once the agent has successfully brought<br />

together the seller and buyer and<br />

negotiated a price that is acceptable to<br />

both parties the real work begins. The first<br />

step is to draw up the compromis de vente<br />

(initial contract) either through the notaire<br />

or with an in-house legal team. More<br />

detailed information will be needed from<br />

along with copies of documents to give<br />

proof of ID. Then there's liaison with the<br />

diagnostics provider to ensure that all the<br />

surveys are up to date - and if not have<br />

them re-done.<br />

While this is going ahead the agent will<br />

also be processing any finance that is<br />

needed and contacting companies involved<br />

to obtain paperwork for the compromis.<br />

With or without finance and whether you<br />

are the buyer or seller, if the money is<br />

coming from or going to a country outside<br />

the Eurozone your agent will also put you in<br />

touch with a currency expert to get you the<br />

best possible exchange rate. If moving<br />

permanently to France rather than buying a<br />

holiday home you will need advice on<br />

pensions and tax planning; your agent can<br />

help with recommendations.<br />

At the very end your agent will be there to<br />

agree the utility readings and assist in<br />

setting up the new contracts and bank<br />

accounts.<br />

Marketing, legal, technical, finance,<br />

currency, lifestyle – just a few of the areas<br />

of the process that your agent is there to<br />

assist with.<br />

The day of completion (the Acte de Vente):<br />

your agent has finished the juggling act and<br />

successfully kept all those balls in the air<br />

throughout the process. There's one last<br />

thing to do – the best of all of them: to wish<br />

you all well in your future.<br />

Your celebrations can start now, the agent<br />

will slip quietly out of the notaire's door (and<br />

most likely with a fairly moist eye). For them<br />

it might be moving on to the next one but<br />

each one is special and completion day is<br />

the end of a long relationship.<br />

As always comments and questions can be<br />

passed through the team at The Good Life<br />

France or directly to me: tsage (@) leggett.fr;<br />

tim.sage3 (@) gmail.com<br />

*Access free archived copies of The Good<br />

Life France Magazine for more info.

Accountancy obligations for<br />

Micro-Entrepreneurs…<br />

Unless you secretly enjoy the administrative<br />

side to independent professional<br />

activity – and experience tells me I am very<br />

much alone there – the title of this article<br />

may have struck fear in your heart, so allow<br />

me to clarify and calm those fears!<br />

Many assume – as the Micrto-Entreprise<br />

statute is, by definition, ultra-simplifiedthat<br />

when it comes to social charges and<br />

income tax, they need do no more than<br />

issue invoices to their clients and make<br />

their monthly, or quarterly, online<br />

declarations of turnover via the netentreprises.fr<br />

site. But this is not the case.<br />

There is no need to engage the services of<br />

a chartered accountant, as the requirements<br />

remain simple, but what are they?<br />

Separate bank account for<br />

Professional Activity<br />

Since 1 January 2015, micro-entrepreneurs,<br />

whatever their field of activity, are required<br />

to dedicate a bank account for all financial<br />

transactions related to their professional<br />

activity. It must be separate from their<br />

personal bank account so that business<br />

and personal transactions are recorded<br />

separately. The key word here is separate<br />

as the bank fees for an official business<br />

account can bring tears to the eyes, and<br />

are wholly unnecessary expenditure.<br />

Although banking in France is rarely free,<br />

check with your bank to see if they can<br />

offer a sweetener; for instance as an<br />

existing client of ING Direct, I was given 80<br />

€ to open a standard current account with<br />

a MasterCard, and which is subject to no<br />

bank charges whatsoever as long as it<br />

receives 750€ per month (get details here).<br />

Purchase & Expenditure Book<br />

The micro-entrepreneur benefitting from<br />

the simplified tax system must nonetheless<br />

keep some accounts, despite the permitted<br />

absence of annual statement of accounts<br />

or balance sheets.<br />

Only the chronological record of revenue<br />

and expenditure is required.<br />

A paper copy for manual completion can be<br />

downloaded here.<br />

Accounting Software<br />

If you prefer a non-paper solution, an Excel<br />

spreadsheet is insufficient because the<br />

cells remain modifiable. There are<br />

numerous packages available, but as most<br />

small businesses need to keep their<br />

expenditure to a minimum I am currently<br />

investigating free options.<br />

I use NetWips who offer a basic package<br />

for a single user and activity of up to 10<br />

invoices per month, absolutely free of<br />

charge. Although it is currently only<br />

available in French, correct set-up ensures<br />

the obligatory wording is in place on every<br />

invoice issued making invoicing a doddle,<br />

and since I twinned it with my separate<br />

bank account it even informs me by email<br />

every time an invoice is paid.<br />

By Jo-Ann Howell of French Admin<br />

Solutions, a company which helps Englishspeaking<br />

residents successfully navigate<br />

all aspects of bringing their family, work<br />

and home lives to France. Join the<br />

community to get your questions<br />


Interview with a chef: Daniel Galmiche<br />

Daniel Galmiche is a French chef with an<br />

absolute passion for delicious food. It’s<br />

something that’s in his DNA having been born<br />

in eastern France in lovely Lure, Franche-Comté<br />

Aside from the magical Jura mountains (a<br />

veritable hotspot during ski season), the great<br />

forests, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, the hidden<br />

valleys and gorges, mountain villages and spa<br />

towns. It's also famous for its gastronomic<br />

products including smoked ham, sausages,<br />

emmental and Bleu de Gex cheese<br />

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

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

never left him.<br />

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

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

She taught my mum how to cook, and my mum became a great cook herself".<br />

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

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

most prestigious kitchens around the world, fine tuning his skills, working with the best<br />

of the best including the much loved Michel Roux.<br />

Along the way he collected Michelin Stars and became a TV star on the popular British<br />

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

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

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

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

“What used to amaze me about the apples my grandparents grew and stored on<br />

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

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

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

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

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

bake an apple tart, please, Papa?”



how to make maman's apple tart<br />

Ingredients<br />

1 large egg<br />

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

(or crème fraiche)<br />

3 heaped tbsp. caster sugar<br />

Butter for greasing<br />

225-250g/8-9 oz readymade shortcrust pastry<br />

(or make your own).<br />

Plain flour, for rolling out the pastry<br />

30g/1 oz/scant 1/3 cup ground almonds<br />

405 apples such as Cox or Braeburn, peeled,<br />

Method<br />

Mix the egg, cream and sugar in a bowl,<br />

beating with an electric mixer or hand-held<br />

electric whisk for about 5 minutes until<br />

fluffy.<br />

Grease a 24cm/9 ½ in loose bottomed tart<br />

tin with butter.<br />

Roll out the pasty on a lightly floured<br />

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

inch thick. Then roll the pastry over the<br />

rolling pin and place the pastry over the tart<br />

tin.<br />

With one hand lift the pastry edge and with<br />

the other gently tuck the pastry into the<br />

bottom and sides of the tin so that it fits<br />

tightly. Don’t over-stretch it or it’ll break.<br />

and press down gently to push out any<br />

bubbles.<br />

Trim off any excess pastry by rolling the pin<br />

over the top edge of the tin. Prick the pastry<br />

base all over with a fork, cover with cling<br />

film and chill for 25-30 minutes.<br />

Towards the end of the chilling time,<br />

preheat the oven to 180 deg C/350 def F/<br />

gas 4.<br />

Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and<br />

sprinkle the ground almonds over the tart<br />

base, then arrange the apple pieces in fan<br />

shape over the almonds starting from the<br />

outside edge and finishing in the centre.<br />

Place the pieces as regularly as you can<br />

and pour the egg mixture over the apples,<br />

making sure that the whole surface has<br />

been drizzled with the mixture and there<br />

are no gaps.<br />

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25<br />

minutes until pale golden.<br />

Remove from the oven and set aside until<br />

it has cooled down la little.<br />

Serve the tart while it is still warm, when it<br />

is most delicious. You don’t need cream or<br />

ice cream, its best or is own with a lovely<br />

espresso on the side!<br />

Recipe from Daniel Galmiche’s classic<br />

French recipe book The French Brasserie<br />

Cookbook, available from Amazon.

NOUGAT<br />

the sweet taste of the south<br />

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

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

find the town about half an hour south of Valence in the Drôme, part of the<br />

Rhônes Alpes region, well on the way to the south.<br />

The home, if not the<br />

birthplace of nougat<br />

<strong>No</strong>ugat has been around for thousands of<br />

years but it arrived in Montélimar in the<br />

19th century. With typical French flair, the<br />

locals took the original ingredients and<br />

created something uniquely French by<br />

adding eggs, their famous almonds and<br />

local honey. The result is a nougat that<br />

bears no resemblance to the mass<br />

produced, overly sweet product that many<br />

of us have tried over the years. Montélimar<br />

nougat is rich in favour and soft. Although<br />

of course it’s still sweet, it doesn’t hit you<br />

with a three day sugar rush or leave you<br />

desperate for water. In fact, I was told, it is<br />

the best nougat in the world and even Lady<br />

Diana, Princess of Wales partook.<br />

The rise to success<br />

Until the advent of fast trains and<br />

autoroutes, Montélimar was strategically<br />

placed on the main route from north to<br />

south. Endorsed by the French President of<br />

the day, Emile Loubet, from the late 19th<br />

century onwards, nougat sales soared.<br />

Touting to passing (and often queuing)<br />

traffic, meant a captive audience and the<br />

industry boomed.<br />

All great things come to an end, the nougat<br />

industry was hit hard by the arrival of the<br />

fast-flowing A7 motorway (“autoroute du<br />

soleil”) which skirts the town. However, you<br />

can still find the last remaining nougat<br />

factories, like <strong>No</strong>ugat Arnaud Soubeyran, in<br />

the outskirts of Montélimar.

Evolve to survive<br />

Arnaud Soubeyran are a 3rd generation<br />

nougat producer who had the good luck of<br />

stumbling upon some original nougat<br />

recipes from the 1950s and adapting them.<br />

Today they’re a prestigious and bustling<br />

establishment. They’re proud of their<br />

Mediterranean almonds which have, I’m<br />

told, more flavour than Californian<br />

almonds. The floral honey and local fruit<br />

make for an interesting tour of their<br />

factory. They still make their nougat by<br />

hand and you can watch the production<br />

process before indulging yourself in the<br />

dozens of different varieties in their shop<br />

or spending time in their restaurant.<br />

a journey into history, gastronomy and<br />

unspoilt landscape. It’s a much underrated<br />

department that doesn’t seem to get the<br />

press of its Provencal cousin but it will<br />

reward you in spades for the time that you<br />

spend there.<br />

Mirmande<br />

Mirmande is one of those fairy tale villages.<br />

In between Montélimar and Valence, it’s<br />

both medieval and fortified and winds its<br />

way up the hill to the Roman style church<br />

of Sainte Foy at the top. It’s one of the Plus<br />

Beaux Villages de France as well as one of<br />

the Villages Botaniques de la Drôme, so<br />

you know you can expect something<br />

special.<br />

Over the centuries its streets and its<br />

people have had to adapt to embrace first<br />

the silk industry and then, as that lifestyle<br />

gave way, growing fruit in the many<br />

orchards that surround it. Famed cubist<br />

André Lhote put down roots here and as<br />

with all places of incredible beauty, it’s a bit<br />

of a honey pot for local creatives and<br />

artists. It’s a haven of steep, cobbled<br />

streets, leg burning steps and catch your<br />

breath views out across the Drôme. It may<br />

not take you long to explore but it’s a great<br />

stop off place for coffee or lunch if you’ve<br />

just headed out of Valence or need to burn<br />

off some of nougat from Montémilar.<br />

The Drôme is a region that’s full of local<br />

flavour and colour and sweet Montémilar<br />

and Mirmande are just the starting point of<br />

For more information visit:<br />

www.ladrometourisme.com<br />

www.mirmande.org<br />

For a nugget of nougat visit:<br />

www.nougatsoubeyran.com<br />

Transport: Valence has a TGV station<br />

and it’s possible to get trains from the<br />

UK, Paris or elsewhere in Europe. From<br />

the there you can take a connecting train<br />

to Montelimar.There’s also international<br />

car hire right next to Valence station.<br />


Gigot d'Ag<br />

aux legum<br />

by Sara Neumeier<br />

INGREDIENTS - serves 6-8 people<br />

1 leg of lamb, bone in (6-7 pounds)<br />

Grated zest and juice of two lemons<br />

1/3 cup olive oil<br />

8 cloves garlic<br />

2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt<br />

3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves<br />

1 teaspoon black peppercorns<br />

24 ounces fingerling potatoes, sliced in half lengthwise<br />

4-5 plum tomatoes, quartered<br />

2 yellow onions, thinly sliced<br />

4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise

neau<br />

es<br />

THIS MEAL-IN-ONE-PAN recipe was<br />

inspired by the produce at the Bergerac<br />

bio-marché. Feel free to be moved by the<br />

vegetables at your own local<br />

greenmarket (beets or fennel bulb also<br />

work well). Gigot d’agneau is now our<br />

secret party weapon, perfect for evenings<br />

when we’d rather be drinking wine with<br />

our guests than cooking. Its<br />

deliciousness is derived from the lamb,<br />

vegetables, and lemon-oregano<br />

marinade roasting together very slowly;<br />

most of the work is done before the<br />

guests arrive.<br />

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

process until peppercorns are coarsely ground.<br />

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

thoroughly with marinade. Cover, and refrigerate 2 hours or overnight. Bring to room<br />

temperature before cooking.<br />

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

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

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

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

rest in oven 30 minutes. Slice lamb and serve with roasting pan vegetables and juices.<br />

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

Beginning French

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

On Christmas Day, the other half decided this was the right moment to start<br />

building a bathroom. So while most normal people were sitting in front of the<br />

TV, eating chocolates and generally relaxing and over indulging, we were<br />

ripping out very old cupboards from what has been the utility room and will<br />

be the bathroom!<br />

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

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

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

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

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

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

something than I am about revealing all about my life in France, my<br />

neighbours, and how I came to be here!<br />

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

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

He seemed to rally after a trip to the vets and a massive dose of antibiotics.<br />

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

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

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

given antibiotics. Alas it didn't help in the long run.<br />

Strangely a few days later another stray turned up - I think the cat grapevine<br />

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

she eats absolutely everything I put in the food bowl and she's enormous.<br />

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

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

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

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