Issue No. 13

A fun and festive edition: Provence, Christmas markets, brilliant book nooks in Paris, recipes, expat stories to inspire and a whole lot more - fall in love with France with us.

A fun and festive edition: Provence, Christmas markets, brilliant book nooks in Paris, recipes, expat stories to inspire and a whole lot more - fall in love with France with us.

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16 great prizes<br />

to win<br />


Bonjour!<br />

Two years ago I started this magazine as a way to share the France I know and love and,<br />

thanks to so many people sharing it with friends - it's grown beyond my wildest dreams.<br />

So my first message is a huge THANK YOU to every one of you, for reading, subscribing<br />

and sharing this magazine.<br />

To celebrate this milestone birthday, we have a fabulous 12 days of Christmas contest<br />

where we showcase some wonderful French flavour gifts and give them away. From<br />

personalised luggage to designer bags, vines in iconic French vineyards, caviar, language<br />

lessons, goodies from Paris, brilliant books and more...<br />

Talking of books, in this issue you'll find the best book nooks in Paris, places where you<br />

can browse with a little extra something - a café, art gallery or unique ambience - or all<br />

three! And, on the theme of Christmas gifts, take a look at the best places to shop in<br />

Paris plus a very authentic and charming French Christmas market in the north of France.<br />

There are some delicious recipes for you to try including one from Pierre Hermé, one of<br />

France's most renowned bakers, as he shares his chocolate macarons with you.<br />

Meet cheese makers from the Haute-Savoie, discover how to make a toast the French<br />

way and find out what makes Flaine in the French Alps the perfect family ski destination.<br />

Once again there's an enchanting chateau to get to know, Brissac is said to be the most<br />

haunted in France, it's also the poshest B&B ever! There's a new section in this issue<br />

"Your Photos" which has come from our popular "your photos weekend" on Facebook.<br />

There are features from Provence, the French Riviera, Paris, Carcassonne, Aquitaine; and<br />

expat stories to inspire you plus expert advice for those who want to be expats in France.<br />

Curl up, enjoy this latest issue of The Good Life France, and if you like it, I'd love you to<br />

share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!<br />

Bisous from France,<br />

Janine<br />


Contributors<br />

Brian Beard is a writer, broadcaster and author of several books,<br />

including The Breedon Book of Premiership Records and Three<br />

Lions. He was ghost writer for George Best and is the longest<br />

serving football reporter for Sky Sports.<br />

J.Christina is the blogger behind www.scribblesandsmiles.net. From<br />

the US, J. Christina and her husband share their trips so others can<br />

travel vicariously through their scribbles and images.<br />

Justine Halifax is a multi award-winning writer who has worked as a<br />

journalist and feature writer for 20 years. She writes for the Birmingham<br />

Mail, Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury, both in print and online.<br />

Dr Terry Marsh is a regular contributor to The Good Life France. He<br />

has written many books and runs the France travel website – www.<br />

francediscovered.com and www.lovefrenchfood.com.<br />

Barbara Pasquet James is a US lifestyle editor, speaker and urban<br />

explorer who writes about food fashion and culture, from Paris. She<br />

helped launch, write and edit USA Today’s City Guide To Paris and<br />

writes at: FocusOnParis.com.<br />

Mark Pryor is the author of the best-selling Hugo Marston mysteries set<br />

in Paris, London, and Barcelona. He’s also Assistant District Attorney for<br />

Travis County Texas.<br />

Patricia Sands is the best-selling author of the Love In Provence<br />

series, her love letter to France. She writes about and shares her<br />

photography of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regularly at<br />

patriciasandsauthor.com<br />

Editor: Janine Marsh<br />

Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts<br />

Design Support: Kumiko Chesworth<br />

Advertising: Mark Marsh<br />

Cover photo: Wazim Tagauly, Paris<br />

photographer at Wazim Photos

Page 8<br />

Page 16<br />

Page 34<br />

Contents<br />

Page 22<br />


8 10 Brilliant Book <strong>No</strong>oks in Paris<br />

Janine Marsh and Barbara Pasquet James<br />

seek out cosy, gorgeous book shops with<br />

more than books!<br />

16 Christmas Shopping in Paris<br />

Where to go for the best gifts and festive<br />

fun.<br />

22 Reblochon Cheese Makers<br />

Janine Marsh meets the dedicated cheese<br />

makers of Haute-Savoie.<br />

28 A Very French Christmas<br />

Le Touquet in the north of France is an<br />

especially captivating town at Christmas!<br />

40 Micro Provence<br />

Terry Marsh reveals the beauty and charm<br />

of the Parc Naturel Regional des Alpilles.<br />

46 Fantastic Flaine in the French Alps<br />

Justine Halifax finds Flaine is the pefect<br />

family ski destination.<br />

50 Paris Mon Amour<br />

Author Mark Pryor reveals why he loves the<br />

City of Light...<br />

55 The Belle of the French Riviera<br />

Author Patricia Sands stays at a legendary<br />

hotel with echoes of an extraordinary past.

Page 62<br />

Page 55<br />

Page 84 Page 64<br />

62 Magical Saint-Chapelle Paris<br />

This 800 year old "Holy Chapel" is breathtakingly<br />

beautiful, especially at night with a<br />

concert.<br />

64 Carcassonne Perfect Winter<br />

Destination<br />

Karen Slater reveals why Carcassonne<br />

makes for a great visit even when it's not<br />

hot.<br />

66 French Caviar<br />

How a British family brought Fine French<br />

Caviar to the UK - entente cordiale!<br />

68 Spotlight on Blaye<br />

J Christie visits the beautiful town of Blaye<br />

in Aquitaine.<br />

70 Beginning French<br />

How an American couple lost their heads<br />

to a French house they saw and bought on<br />

the internet!<br />

74 House-sitting in France<br />

Lamia Walker takes time out for a free<br />

holiday in the Ile de France.<br />


34 Enchanting Chateau Series<br />

Chateau de Brissac, the tallest castle in<br />

France; it's the most amazing B&B ever!<br />

84 Your Photos<br />

A new regular feature showcasing the most<br />

popular photos shared on our Facebook<br />

page.<br />

86 5 Minute French Lesson<br />

Géraldine Lepère teaches you how to make<br />

a French toast like a local.<br />

122 My French Life<br />

Life in France is never dull!

Page 98 Page 88<br />

88 The Good Life in Charente-<br />

Maritime<br />

We meet a family who've found a little bit<br />

of heaven in south-west France.<br />

94 The Good Life in Haute-Vienne<br />

Meet the expat couple who've created a<br />

pop up vegetarian restaurant in their home.<br />

98 The Good Life in Dordogne<br />

Brian Beard chats to Jackie and David<br />

Burrows, ex Liverpool footballer who now<br />

lives near Sarlat.<br />

78 Brilliant Christmas Gifts and 16<br />

Fabulous Give-Aways<br />


105 Marketing your rental property<br />

Donna Sloane shares her top tips.<br />

106 Property Guide to France<br />

Tim Sage explains the buying and selling<br />

process.<br />

108 Care for the elderly in France<br />

Jo-Ann Howell looks at state help in France<br />

for those with elderly relatives to care for.<br />

110 Pension Advice for Expats<br />

Jennie Poate examines the options for<br />

expats with UK pensions.<br />


114 Chocolate Macarons, Pierre Hermé<br />

of Paris shares his fabulous recipe.<br />

118 Tartiflette Savoyarde<br />

Made with lush Reblochon cheese, by<br />

Karen Burns booth.<br />

120 Caviar, fettucine and smoked<br />

salmon<br />

121 Home-made Orange liqueur<br />

by Karen Burns Booth.<br />

Page 78

10 Brilliant Book <strong>No</strong>oks in<br />

Paris loves its culture and especially book shops, just think of those green book<br />

boxes that line the River Seine. Known as the bouquinistes de Paris the 217 book<br />

sellers have 900 boxes between them containing 30,000 books! These open air<br />

book stalls that line the walls of the River Seine offer the perfect opportunity for<br />

wandering and flicking through second-hand books and absorbing the history and<br />

culture of the city. But if you're looking for English language books - then Paris has<br />

plenty to keep you happy.<br />

Biblomaniacs Janine Marsh and Barbara Pasquet James browse the book shops of<br />

Paris to bring you ten of the dreamiest book nooks in town...

Shakespeare & Company<br />

One of the most famous and much loved<br />

English language book shops in the city<br />

luring visitors from around the world to<br />

browse amongst the heaving book<br />

shelves. It even made an appearance in<br />

Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris”.<br />

A stone’s throw from <strong>No</strong>tre Dame, a<br />

Wallace Fountain in front, a cute little café<br />

on the corner with fabulous views, I like it<br />

best at night (and it opens really late)<br />

when the fairy lights glow (see left).<br />

Though this is not the original location for<br />

the shop in the days when Ernest<br />

Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald perused<br />

the stock, it continues to win smitten fans<br />

with its mellow, quaint look and feel, it’s<br />

awesome literary connections and<br />

fabulous choice of old and new books.<br />

37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5th Arr;<br />

shakespeareandcompany.com; Metro:<br />

Saint-Michel; Open 10am – 11pm daily.<br />

Abbey Bookshop<br />

Opened in 1989 by expat Canadian Brian<br />

Spence, this gorgeous bookshop in the<br />

Latin Quarter attracts a global audience<br />

thanks to the eclectic collection of over<br />

35,000 titles in English ranging from<br />

scholarly to popular literature. It’s quirky<br />

and utterly photogenic!<br />

29 rue de la Parchminerie, 5th Arr;<br />

Abbeybookshop; Metro: St. Michel/Cluny la<br />

Sorbonne; Open: 10am-11pm Mon-Sat.

La Belle Hortense<br />

Berkeley Books<br />

This is a quite unique book store and it<br />

makes the list though it has almost<br />

entirely French books on the shelves. It’s<br />

the only book shop in Paris, perhaps in<br />

France that opens until 2 o'clock in the<br />

morning - with a wine cellar! It's a great<br />

place to stop off for an aperitif and a<br />

snack or a late night/early morning<br />

coffee or glass of something else. It’s a<br />

literary haven with a cosy, friendly<br />

atmosphere and it’s very French!<br />

La Belle Hortense; 31 rue Vieille du<br />

Temple, Paris 4th Arr; www.cafeine.com;<br />

Métro: Hôtel de Ville, St.Paul, Pont Marie;<br />

Open daily 5pm - 2am.<br />

Berkeley Books of Paris opened for<br />

business in May 2006 when three<br />

Californians who had worked together at<br />

a nearby bookstore decided to team up<br />

and open their own place. Popular<br />

especially with American visitors, it has a<br />

great range of used books (English<br />

language), you can swap, buy, stroke the<br />

shop’s cat and enjoy concerts, readings<br />

and exhibitions that take place here on a<br />

regular basis.<br />

8, rue Casimir Delavigne 6th Arr; Metro:<br />

Odeon; berkeleybooksofparis; Open<br />

12am - 8pm Tues – Sat, 2pm - 8pm<br />


WH Smith<br />

After a 26 year absence, the tea room of<br />

this most English of book shops has reopened<br />

in its prime position on the corner<br />

of Rue de Rivoli and Rue Cambon, a short<br />

distance from the Louvre.<br />

WHSmith & Co. opened here in 1903 and<br />

for expats in France, it’s a true taste of<br />

home, in fact it was like walking into my<br />

local branch in Bromley High Street when I<br />

recently visited! The only things that are<br />

not the same are the prices (it’s more<br />

expensive) and the sales staff have French<br />

accents though they all seem to speak<br />

excellent English. And, there’s a very nice<br />

tea room run by that most British of tea<br />

companies, Twinings! Nip up to the first<br />

floor for a pot of tea, lunch or afternoon tea<br />

with traditional scones and jam. In the past<br />

umpteen celebrities have enjoyed tea here<br />

in this little oasis away from the busy<br />

streets outside. There’s a great selection<br />

of books, newspapers and magazines, and<br />

it’s open 362 days a year!<br />

WH Smith, The English Bookshop, 248 rue<br />

de Rivoli, 1st Arr; whsmith.fr; Metro:<br />

Concorde; Opens 9.30am - 19.30pm Mon<br />

to Sat, 12.30am – 19.30pm Sun.<br />

Merci Le Used Book Café<br />

This place is great for a browse amongst<br />

the 10,000 books in a cosy setting in the<br />

popular fashion and homeware concept<br />

store. Plus you can get breakfast, brunch,<br />

lunch or afternoon tea Monday to<br />

Saturday 10am – 7 pm.<br />

111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 3rd Arr;<br />

Metro Saint Sebastien Froissart (line 8;<br />

www.merci-merci.com<br />

Galigniani<br />

The first English language book shop in<br />

Europe outside of Britain and a long<br />

heritage in the book business make this a<br />

standout store. The Galignani family started<br />

printing books in 1520 in Venice. They<br />

moved to London (they printed the books<br />

of Wordsworth, Byron, Thackeray and Scott<br />

amongst many others) and then to Paris<br />

where they opened a book shop and<br />

reading room in 1801 specialising in<br />

English. They moved the shop to rue de<br />

Rivoli in 1856 – they’re still there. Great<br />

selection of Anglo-American books plus an<br />

extensive fine arts department.<br />

224 rue de Rivoli 1st Arr; Metro: Concorde;<br />

www.galignani.fr; Open Mon–Sat 10am –<br />


American writer in Paris Barbara Pasquet James says "Happily, one-of-a-kind bookshops are<br />

alive, well and thriving in Paris, and everyone seems to have their favorites. More than just<br />

stop-offs to find a good read, these three are slightly off-the-radar and provide just enough<br />

zip and zing to keep me coming back..."<br />

Librarie<br />

Alain<br />

Brieux<br />

It is no accident that Librairie Alain Brieux is located almost around the corner from the<br />

College of Medicine Paris Descartes on rue Jacob. More than a bookshop, the librairie is a<br />

portal to the past that feels like you’ve walked onto a Harry Potter film set. Besides its<br />

formidable selection of antique medical books, it is the cabinets of curiosities and objets<br />

packing their shelves that will grab your attention: stuffed animals, skeletons and skulls,<br />

cringe-worthy scientific, medical and dental instruments, other-era globes, fossilized<br />

eggs, antique maritime brass telescopes, engravings, parlor games... In short, a place<br />

guaranteed to ignite your inner adventurier. More good news is, everything you see - save<br />

for the enormous crocodile hanging from the ceiling in the front room - is for sale.<br />

Browsing is encouraged and one does not have to be in the medical profession to<br />

appreciate this easy-to-walk-past gem.<br />

48 rue Jacob, 6th Arr; www.alainbrieux.com; Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés/ Mabillon

Halle Saint-Pierre<br />

Coffee, art, and seriously funky art books co-mingle in this “concept space” that used<br />

to be an enormous covered market. An unexpected oasis known to induce gasps in<br />

first time visitors, Halle Saint-Pierre is a world away from the nearby tourist hordes at<br />

the foot of Sacre Coeur. On the left as you enter is an inviting café with a healthconscious<br />

array of baked goods, light salads and quiches on the countertop at<br />

lunchtime. If you get lucky as I did one morning you’ll be kept company by macabre<br />

papier-mâché sculptures while nursing a grand crème. Wander behind the black<br />

curtain into the Musée d'Art Naïf where works by heavy hitters such as New York<br />

enfant terrible Warhol protégé Jean-Michel Basquiat might be on exhibit. The can’tmiss<br />

light-flooded bookstore with its fringe art-related titles - many in English - makes<br />

this destination truly exceptional.<br />

2 Rue Ronsard, 18th Arr; www.hallesaintpierre.org; Metro: Anvers

Artazart<br />

Artazart first caught my eye as I walked out of Marcel’s on the Canal Saint-Martin about<br />

a year ago. Its friendly graffiti-feel red façade across the water promised an artsy<br />

experience - and I am all about the experience - and it was. Seventeen years ago the<br />

bookshop started out selling art books only, but later design, photography, architecture,<br />

and a très originale children’s section were added to its repertoire. Their appreciation for<br />

the avant-garde began to attract alternative publishers, which translates into a trove of<br />

some of the most creative content you’ll ever leaf through. While their kids' books are<br />

primarily in French, many feature pop-up cut-outs, which make them coveted by parents<br />

and grand-parents from all language backgrounds. Artazart’s location on the canal,<br />

smack in the middle of many fabuleux places to eat, drink, and hang, will turn a visit to<br />

this intimate librairie into an outing.<br />

85 quai de Valmay, 10th Arr; www.artazart.com; Metro: Jacques Bonsergent (Line 5)<br />

More on Paris Bookshops:<br />

Les Bouquinistes, the second hand book sellers that line the River Seine.<br />

Shakespeare & Co, the full story of the crooked 17th century book shop that's a legend!

Credit Amelie Dupont, Paris Tourist Office

Credit Sarah Sergent, Paris Tourist Office<br />

Credit Amelie Dupont, Paris Tourist Office<br />

Christmas Shopping in Paris – where to go and what to buy<br />

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… goes the song, and in Paris that’s certainly true.<br />

Christmas is when the city of light pulls out all the stops, the streets glitter and the shops<br />

are chock-a-block with gifts and goodies to lure you in!<br />

Many shops go all out festive – even opening on Sundays in December and lots of them<br />

provide a gift-wrapping service which saves you time and always looks fabulous.<br />

Christmas markets<br />

There are more than a dozen Christmas<br />

markets of varying sizes in the capital and<br />

you’ll find something for everyone here. Check<br />

out the mega-market at La Defense aimed at<br />

city workers, or perhaps the small and quirky<br />

market in Montmartre is more your style. Don’t<br />

miss the glitzy market stalls of the premier<br />

shopping Street in Paris, the Avenue des<br />

Champs-Elysées. Whichever Christmas<br />

market you visit, you’re bound to find<br />

Christmas decorations, trinkets, presents and<br />

festive food stuffs galore.<br />

Details for Paris Christmas Markets

Credit Jacques Lebar Paris Tourist Office<br />

Something different and utterly<br />

gorgeous<br />

Two words. Museum boutiques. Paris is awash<br />

with museums and art galleries and most of<br />

them have shops. This is where you’ll find gifts<br />

that are really different and very Parisian. Take<br />

the Comedie Francaise shop, one of my very<br />

favourites in Paris – they have delicious tote<br />

bags and the most chic note pads and other<br />

gifts that I guarantee you will want to keep for<br />

yourself. Surprisingly inexpensive, perfect for<br />

stocking fillers and unique presents that your<br />

loved ones will be over the moon to receive (if<br />

you can bear to let them go).<br />

We have a gorgeous Christian Lacroix<br />

designed tote bag from Comedie Francaise to<br />

give away to a lucky winner – see page 79.<br />

Divine and delicious department stores<br />

Le Bon Marché: If you love Christmas then<br />

don’t miss a trip to this fabulous store which<br />

show cases the best of the best. <strong>No</strong>t just<br />

clothes and accessories but the world famous<br />

La Grande Epicerie food department, plus an<br />

extensive wine cellar and home furnishings<br />

departments. Le Bon Marché is the oldest<br />

department store in Paris and a thoroughly<br />

luxurious shopping experience – think the<br />

French love child of Harrods and Fortnum and<br />

Masons.<br />

It’s not cheap but it is very elegant and<br />

charming.<br />

Credit Amelie Dupont, Paris Tourist Office<br />

Printemps: founded in 1865, the flagship<br />

store in Paris has everything from fashion to<br />

furniture. Plush, luxurious and elegant.<br />

Galeries Lafayette: Founded in 1895, it’s one<br />

of the oldest and most fashionable shopping<br />

centres in France. Famous for its Christmas<br />

displays and show stopping centre piece of a<br />

Christmas tree always decorated in a different<br />

theme each year. From fashion to home ware<br />

and everything in between.

Full on glamour and Bobo treats<br />

This is Paris. Pretty much everywhere you<br />

go fits the bill! From the rue du Fauborg-st-<br />

Honore, one of the oldest shopping streets<br />

in the city to the Champs-Elysées, the<br />

Oxford street of Paris, to tiny side streets<br />

and exquisite Belle Epoque covered<br />

shopping galleries, like Gallerie Vivienne<br />

(2nd Arr, near the Louvre).<br />

Try Lubin for lovely perfumes and you can<br />

tell the person you give the gift to that it<br />

came from the store were Josephine<br />

Bonaparte shopped for her seductive<br />

scents.<br />

At Buly 1803 you’ll find fabulous soaps,<br />

candles, luxury hair brushes, creams and<br />

even scented matches with real wow factor<br />

wrapping. Or how about an adorable<br />

umbrella, you’ll find them in shops and<br />

department stores and Paris has a<br />

reputation for beautiful parapluies (did you<br />

know that the folding umbrella was<br />

invented in France?).<br />

For a spot of bohemian chic, head to the<br />

Pigalle area, not the rather seedy bit but<br />

So-Pi as the locals call it, south Pigalle. It’s<br />

an upcoming area for shopping with a<br />

village-vibe, bobo (bohemian bourgeois)<br />

spirit and vintage boutiques to suit the<br />

most discerning shopper. It's also home to<br />

one of the best sweet shops in France (see<br />

next page).<br />

Above: Gallerie Vivienne<br />

sheer luxury; below<br />

Ladurée for macarons!<br />

The popular rue des Martyrs links the 9th<br />

arrondissement and Montmartre and is<br />

packed with vintage and traditional shops<br />

and cafés. This half mile long street has<br />

old-fashioned charm and a long history. It’s<br />

here that Saint Denis, the first bishop of<br />

Paris, was decapitated under the Roman<br />

Empire. Legend says he picked up his head<br />

to travel the length of this famous street,<br />

dying a few kilometres north of where the<br />

Basilica of Saint-Denis was later founded<br />

and inspiring the name Montmartre.<br />

Credit: Lynn Healy Brunneau

Credit Benh Lieu Song, Wikipedia<br />

Totally fabulous Foodie treats<br />

More-ish Christmas grub with a French<br />

feel, what could be more delicious?!<br />

If you head to department store Le Bon<br />

Marché don’t miss La Grande Epicerie, to<br />

call this a food hall is like saying the<br />

Chateau de Versailles is a house. Stunning<br />

food displays that leave you drooling.<br />

Damman Frères – tea lovers will adore<br />

the blends from this ancient tea store in<br />

Paris. Louis XIV granted the company a<br />

licence to thrill with its tea in 1692. They<br />

have several stores and concessions in<br />

Paris (and 62 countries around the world).<br />

Macarons – France is famous for them<br />

and you can buy them everywhere but<br />

head to Ladurée's pretty stores where<br />

they’ve been making them since 1862, they<br />

have several shops in Paris but the one at<br />

16 rue Royale was the first and is quite<br />

beautiful. Don't miss Pierre Hermé for<br />

beautifully made, sensational tasting,<br />

magnificent boxed macarons in every<br />

colour and flavour. The famous French chef<br />

has shared his recipe for scrumptious<br />

chocolate macarons with us – see page 114.<br />

Bonbons and chocolate – where to start?<br />

Paris has hundreds of chocolate shops but<br />

for a real treat aim for l’Etoile d’or (30 Rue<br />

Pierre Fontaine, near Pigalle/Montmartre).<br />

Owner Denise Acabo is a local legend, a<br />

lady of immense charm and fabulous<br />

pigtails, who has been selling the best of<br />

chocolate and bonbons from all over<br />

France from her Paris-only store for more<br />

than 40 years. (Click here for more<br />

chocolate shops).<br />

Can’t get enough of shopping in Paris?<br />

Head to the Winter Sales which start 11<br />

January and end 21 February 2017

A captivating Corner of Paradise<br />

Haute-Savoie<br />

Janine Marsh visits a farm where Reblochon cheese is<br />

made and finds a little bit of heaven in the hills...<br />

"This is a little corner of Paradise" says the<br />

old lady throwing her arms wide and<br />

indicating at the window of her farmhouse<br />

in the mountains of Haute-Savoie, not far<br />

from the lovely city of Annecy.<br />

We are sitting in her kitchen on a July<br />

afternoon, the cloud is low and the mist is<br />

thick, a rarity for this month she says.<br />

I had started to hike to this little farm from<br />

the village of Manigod with my friend<br />

Gaëlle, but she, a local, decided we should<br />

drive when a shower of rain threatened to<br />

drench us. <strong>No</strong>rmally, summer offers a<br />

lovely, sunny stroll through fields of<br />

meadow flowers and cows, their metal<br />

bells chiming and creating an orchestra of<br />

sound, a magical wind chime effect.

The gentle walk takes about 45 minutes,<br />

past pretty chalets with stunning views<br />

over the surrounding mountains, their<br />

summer greenery forming a palette of<br />

colour that makes you stop and stare at the<br />

intense beauty of this place where the air is<br />

sweet and pure and the world feels tranquil.<br />

At the top is the Ferme de Lorette, a farm<br />

that's famous for its fromage.<br />

The family Bibollet live here and make the<br />

famous cheeses Reblochon and Tomme.<br />

They have a café and shop with an outdoor<br />

terrace from which the sight of the utterly<br />

ravishing scenery takes your breath away.<br />

The day I visited, the dull weather had kept<br />

visitors away, Gaëlle and I were the only<br />

ones there.

A young woman came out of the house<br />

opposite the café and seeing we were<br />

alone asked if we would like a warming<br />

drink as by now it was raining and a slight<br />

chill was settling, high at the top of this<br />

mountain. We followed her into the farm<br />

kitchen where an old lady sat by a wood<br />

fire over which washing hung, a light steam<br />

hissed from shorts and T shirts, the<br />

previous days had been sunny and hot.<br />

Pans gleamed on a traditional dresser and<br />

in front of the window through which the<br />

mountains looked like a particularly lush<br />

and verdant painting, was a large cage with<br />

several canaries cheeping away.<br />

The old lady is Alexia Bibollet, at 89 years<br />

young she has a permanent smile and a<br />

twinkle in her eyes. The young woman who<br />

invited us in, is Rafaëlle, her granddaughter.<br />

She makes us hot chocolate with freshly<br />

pulled milk from her cows, it’s delicious and<br />

for the first time that day I’m happy the sun<br />

has gone in.<br />

"Would you like to see how we make the<br />

cheese" asks Rafaëlle, and grandmère adds<br />

"then come back and try some!"<br />

I don't have to be asked twice, this farm is<br />

very well-known for its delicious cheeses<br />

and we traipse out across the wet courtyard<br />

and into a barn.<br />

They make the cheese by hand -<br />

grandmother and granddaughter, together<br />

with several family members.<br />

"I try to make my grandmother slow down"<br />

says Rafaëlle "but she won't".

The family's 75 cows have already been<br />

milked by the time I get there. It takes 2<br />

litres of milk to make a small Reblochon, 5<br />

litres for a large "Rond".<br />

The curds from fresh cows milk are poured<br />

into moulds to drain and Rafaëlle pats<br />

them lovingly, this is Reblochon in the<br />

making and passion is certainly an<br />

ingredient. Within minutes the drained milk<br />

forms a round shape that wobbles like a<br />

jelly but holds together. The round cheeses<br />

to be, are put into boxes and taken into a<br />

chilled room ready to be turned and sent to<br />

a cave to mature for three weeks. They are<br />

stamped with a green label of authenticity<br />

and unique farm number 420. The cheese<br />

makers do this twice a day, 7 days a week.<br />

“Every day, Christmas Day too” says<br />

Rafaëlle when I ask if she gets at least that<br />

special day off.<br />


Reblochon derives from the word<br />

'reblocher' which literally translated<br />

means 'to pinch a cow's udder again'.<br />

During the 14th century, landowners<br />

would tax the mountain farmers<br />

according to the amount of milk their<br />

herds produced. So the canny farmers<br />

didn’t fully milk the cows until after the<br />

landowner had measured the yield. The<br />

milk that remains is much richer and<br />

makes for the creamy taste of<br />

Reblochon.<br />

In the 16th century Reblochon became<br />

known as "fromage de dévotion<br />

(devotional cheese) because it was<br />

offered to the Carthusian monks of the<br />

Thônes Valley by the farmers, in return for<br />

having their homesteads blessed.

In the summer the cows go higher up the<br />

mountain for the fresh pastures and cool<br />

air, they’re accompanied by locals and it’s<br />

a festive atmosphere, a transhumance,<br />

like a carnival of cows and humans. The<br />

animals are moved lower down where it's<br />

warmer in the winter, again accompanied<br />

by festivities. Here they feed on the hay<br />

that the family also grow.<br />

The seasonal cheeses taste different says<br />

Rafaëlle because what the cows eat is<br />

different according to the seasons.<br />

She tells me that she started learning to<br />

make cheese when she was three years<br />

old "as soon as I was old enough to<br />

respect the rules" she smiles at the<br />

memory.<br />

A typical day for these hard working<br />

cheese makers starts at 5.00 am and<br />

ends at 6.30 pm, they are usually ready to<br />

sleep by 8.00 pm. It's hard work but<br />

grandmère and Rafaëlle say they love<br />

what they do.<br />

There are <strong>13</strong>5 farms making Reblochon in<br />

the Thones area of Haute-Savoie. The<br />

cheese has AOC status; this is the only<br />

place in the world where it can be made<br />

and called Reblochon. Here at the Ferme<br />

de Lorette, the Bibolelt family have been<br />

making it since 1919.<br />

We return to the cosy kitchen and a plate<br />

of three cheeses is placed before us, I<br />

savour a wedge of the nutty, unctuous<br />

Reblochon and grandmère urges me to try<br />

a little red wine with it. Rafaëlle and I clink<br />

glasses. The cheese is delicious, the<br />

kitchen is warm and friendly, the cows<br />

wander past the window and their bells<br />

are ringing like a fairy tale orchestra.<br />

A beam of sunlight bursts through the<br />

clouds and lights up a distant village on<br />

the mountain opposite - the colours are<br />

jewel like.<br />

"We live a simple life" says grandmère "we<br />

are not modern", as she offers me a knife to<br />

cut the rind off a piece of Tomme de<br />

Beauregard but I've already nibbled inside<br />

the wedge avoiding the rind "you look like a<br />

beaver" she laughs.<br />

I can't help asking how at almost 90 years<br />

old, she looks so young and keeps so fit.<br />

"The cheese" she says looking serious and<br />

then she laughs. "That and respect. Respect<br />

for the food you eat, respect for how you live<br />

your life... And good morals, you must have<br />

good morals.”<br />

She tells me she had 11 children and making<br />

cheese has been her life.<br />

I tell her my neighbour in the north of France<br />

is almost the same age and looks wonderful<br />

and is healthy as a donkey. "She says it is<br />

because she eats a slice of pork belly with a<br />

glass of cider every morning".

Grandmère looks astonished, her eyebrows lift<br />

into her snowy hair and she says "perhaps" in<br />

a way that makes me think she doesn't believe<br />

a word of it, her granddaughter grins.<br />

I've known these people for such a short while<br />

but they've welcomed me like a friend, made<br />

me feel at home, fed and watered me, praised<br />

my not brilliant French.<br />

It is a very special place, representative of the<br />

ethos of the mountain people and, as for the<br />

cheese – it is sublime, especially when you<br />

taste it in its natural surroundings.<br />

La Ferme de Lorette<br />

Manigod Tourist Office<br />

Tourism: thones-valsulens.com<br />

Reblochon is perfect for making tartiflette,<br />

a tasty, warming speciality of Haute-Savoie,<br />

see our fab recipe on page 118.<br />

Where to try and buy Reblochon<br />

Coopérative du reblochon “Le Farto” -<br />

Rte d’Annecy, 74230 Thônes, cheese<br />

making from Monday to Friday www.<br />

reblochon-thones.com<br />

You'll find a full range of cheeses at<br />

Fromagerie Hubert Thuet – 2 rue des<br />

vernaies – 7423 Thônes www.<br />

fromageriehubertthuet.fr<br />

Farmers cheeses and regional products<br />

at Crèmerie Perrissin-Fabert, 21 place<br />

Avet, Thônes<br />

Organic cheeses at Biomonde<br />

L’Edelweiss, 8 rue Louis Haase,Thônes<br />


In a seaside resort with<br />

an English vibe in<br />

northern France

Le Touquet is a small seaside town with around<br />

5000 inhabitants, though in summer months,<br />

that number swells to a whopping 100,000 as<br />

this place is hugely popular with Parisians. Hence<br />

it’s full name Le Touquet Paris-Plage, the Paris<br />

beach. An all year-round resort, at Christmas<br />

visitors flock to enjoy the lights, the market and<br />

the special ambience of Le Touquet which is<br />

known as the “pearl of the Opal Coast”. Le<br />

Touquet has bags of charm and is quite unique<br />

amongst the many charming seaside towns of<br />

France. For one thing it has a certain English je<br />

ne sais quoi.<br />

A unique “English” seaside resort in<br />

France<br />

That’s because the town was developed by an<br />

Englishman to have appeal for Brits at the<br />

beginning of the 20th century. You’ll spot<br />

Cotswold style cottages, thatched roofs, tudor<br />

style manor houses and coiffed English style<br />

gardens – not quite what you’d expect to see in a<br />

northern French seaside resort. But it works.<br />

Somehow, the Englishness wedded to the<br />

Frenchness in the shape of an abundant café<br />

lifestyle, restaurants galore, a wonderful street<br />

market and fabulous French shops – is a<br />

marriage made in heaven.<br />

Sporting Paradise<br />

The Le Touquet resort was designed with sports<br />

in mind. At a time when people were just starting<br />

to see sport as a recreational hobby, the creators<br />

of Le Touquet were way ahead of their time.<br />

Tennis courts, a horse race course, swimming<br />

pools, polo, horse riding, golf – everything<br />

designed to please the the wealthy of the day. It’s<br />

rumoured that Queen Elizabeth II learned to sand<br />

yacht here as a teenager! It still is a sporting<br />

paradise and hosts major tennis matches, has a<br />

65 acre equestrian centre, three fantastic golf<br />

courses and water sports galore. It also is where<br />

Enduropale takes place - a legend in France.<br />

Around 1000 professional and amateur bikers<br />

and 800 quad bikers take part in a beach race at<br />

the start of the year in an event that kick starts<br />

the global motorsport season.

Historic and very very chic<br />

Le Touquet attracted wealthy visitors right<br />

from the get-go. It was the place where jetsetters<br />

went to see and be seen. Hollywood<br />

celebrities, millionaires, politicians, anyone<br />

who was anyone came here to play.<br />

Author Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale<br />

based on Le Touquet’s casino, where<br />

coincidentally Cole Porter wrote the music<br />

for “Anything Goes” on the casino piano.<br />

Sean Connery came here to sign his first<br />

James Bond contract. Serge Gainsbourg got<br />

his big break singing in a restaurant here.<br />

Winston Churchill spent summers in Le<br />

Touquet and once claimed that so many<br />

members of Parliament were there on<br />

holiday that he might as well move the<br />

business of Government there. Writer HG<br />

Wells eloped to Le Touquet and the Dolly<br />

sisters, vaudeville performers who captured<br />

the hearts of men around the world strolled<br />

along the front with their pet tortoises set<br />

with a pair of four-carat blue diamonds by<br />

Cartier, given to them by millionaire Harry<br />

Selfridge, of London Selfridges fame when<br />

he took them there on holiday.<br />

Of course all these people needed places to<br />

stay and Le Touquet in the early 1900s<br />

boasted the biggest hotel in the world. Le<br />

Royal Picardy had 500 bedrooms and every<br />

one of them had a private bathroom. In 1930<br />

when it opened – that was unheard of. There<br />

were 120 lounges. And, 50 apartments that<br />

were so large that each one of them had its<br />

own swimming pool as well as a kitchen,<br />

and 10 more rooms including for one’s<br />

butler. If you was disgustingly rich in those<br />

days – you stayed at this hotel.<br />

Sadly it is no more but another famous hotel<br />

of the day survived - The Westminster<br />

whose art deco halls are lined with signed<br />

photographs of past guests from Marlene<br />

Dietrich to Roger Moore and Charles de<br />


Le Touquet’s restaurant scene<br />

Well, there’s plenty of choice here but there<br />

are two truly standout places that really<br />

shouldn’t be missed. The Westminster<br />

Hotel has two great restaurants – the<br />

Michelin Star Le Pavillon with a fabulous<br />

menu created by chef William Elliot (sounds<br />

English but he is French!), and brasserie<br />

Les Cimaisses. I have to tell you, I tried the<br />

“tasting menu” at Le Pavillon and at 95<br />

Euros it isn’t cheap, but, I have never ever<br />

had a meal quite like it, memorably divine.<br />

A little down the road in the rue de Metz<br />

you’ll find restaurant Perard. Those<br />

millionaires of the 1940s and 50s may well<br />

have known of it since Serge Perard the<br />

founder was making soup from 1940<br />

onwards to sell at the market. It rapidly<br />

became famous from Le Touquet to Paris<br />

and beyond and was such a success that<br />

by 1963 Perard was able to open a<br />

restaurant in Le Touquet. The soup, whose<br />

menu he had refined by then, was adored<br />

by customers – it still is. So much so that<br />

Perard soup is now exported worldwide.<br />

Order the soup starter in the restaurant and<br />

you'll be offered a free top up, beware - it's<br />

filling and you'll want to leave room for the<br />

lush main courses and delicious desserts!<br />

Above: Perard;<br />

right: serving<br />

the famous<br />

soup!<br />

Head to Perard today and you can buy two<br />

different soups, the Perard that’s in jars and<br />

sold worldwide, and the home-made soup<br />

that you can only buy at the restaurant<br />

shop. At 5 euros a litre, this delicious fish<br />

soup is a steal. It keeps for a couple of<br />

weeks in the fridge so take some home,<br />

just as those early customers did! Perard<br />

smoke their own salmon here (delicious<br />

and perfect for any time not just Christmas)<br />

and you can see the chefs cooking in the<br />

state of the art kitchens.<br />

Enjoy a glass of wine and fresh oysters,<br />

sushi or soup at the swanky oyster bar or<br />

head into the brasserie for a fabulous lunch<br />

or dinner with locals who love this place.<br />

There's a la carte or choose from set<br />

menus, there’s a very reasonable “Perard<br />

menu” at 20 Euros. You can also get real<br />

bouillabaisse, the only place outside<br />

Marseille that I know where they get it spot<br />

on! And the shop is terrific, the freshest fish<br />

and ready made fish meals to take home.

Left: Le Touquet at Christmas;<br />

above: the emblem of Le<br />

Touquet; below: One of the<br />

many great cake shops in the<br />

town<br />

Christmas in Le Touquet<br />

This place positively sparkles for the festive<br />

season when the Parc des Pins transforms<br />

into an enchanted forest lit by thousands of<br />

twinkling fairy lights and the bandstand<br />

makes for the perfect Christmas selfie to<br />

share with your friends! There are Christmas<br />

chalets here where you can pick up a gift or<br />

useful things like a winter scarf and hat to<br />

keep the chill out! Take a horse-drawn<br />

carriage ride round the town to enjoy the<br />

lights and Christmas decorations that<br />

festoon the streets ( via the tourist office).<br />

In mid-December the listed art deco market<br />

place holds a weekend Christmas Market<br />

that attracts thousands. There's music, a<br />

very festive ambience and stalls groaning<br />

with festive fare and gifts.<br />

There’s also an ice skating rink, pony rides<br />

and the shops pull out all the stops with<br />

lovely window displays – great for<br />

chocolate, macarons, marshmallow, cakes<br />

and bread, fish, charcuterie as well as high<br />

end gifts and clothes (think Paris style).<br />

Details:<br />

Christmas Lights: They're turned on at 17.30<br />

Friday 25 <strong>No</strong>v until 1 Jan 2017.<br />

Santa arrives Saturday 26 <strong>No</strong>v at 17.30 with<br />

a firework display!<br />

Christmas Market 10-11 December<br />

Jazz a <strong>No</strong>el 10-29 December at the Palais de<br />

Congres<br />

Tourist office Le Touquet - for full details.

Chateau de brissac<br />

Janine Marsh visits a fairy tale castle in the Loire Valley that's<br />

been lived in by the same family since 1502

The Chateau de Brissac is a privately owned home that had been in the same family<br />

since 1502 – May 26th to be precise! It was bought by a French lord by the name of<br />

Brissac and it’s lived in today by his descendants. Set in gorgeous grounds in the town of<br />

Brissac-Quincé, located in the département of Maine-et-Loire, Loire Valley, this chateau<br />

is the tallest in France at a whopping seven stories - a folly of towers and chocolate box<br />

pretty. Janine Marsh visits and chats to home owner the Duke de Brissac…<br />

Chateau Life<br />

The current incumbent of this enormously<br />

tall chateau that's been handed down a<br />

long line of an illustrious family is the<br />

Marquis du Brissac, a charming man who<br />

often comes from his apartment on the<br />

upper floors to greet visitors and tell them<br />

a bit about the castle.<br />

"My parents did most of the hard work<br />

here, restoring and renovating" he says<br />

modestly. He takes his responsibility to<br />

this big house seriously and constantly<br />

stresses what an absolute joy it is to be<br />

able to live in the chateau.<br />

His generation, he and his wife have four<br />

children, is the first to live there full time.<br />

Previous family members lived there only<br />

part of the year. In days gone by the Dukes<br />

of Brissac would follow the French royal<br />

family or live in other homes around France<br />

and especially in Paris.<br />

"There are many good things about living<br />

here" says this amicable Duke, "one of<br />

them being that the town is on the<br />

doorstep and it’s a lovely town where you<br />

can find a friendly bar with great beer!"

The chateau is undoubtedly imposing and<br />

grand. History oozes from its thick stone,<br />

tapestry covered walls but it's also very<br />

much lived in and not just by this likeable<br />

family'; here you'll find what must be one of<br />

the most prestigious B&Bs in the world. If<br />

you've ever hankered to feel like a king or<br />

queen then here's your chance to try it out!<br />

In the castle there are two enormous suites<br />

with stunning four poster beds and ancient<br />

wooden flooring walked on for centuries.<br />

They're furnished with antiques, tapestries<br />

and sensational paintings – and they’re set<br />

aside for paying guests.<br />

Breakfast is supplied by the Duke who nips<br />

to the local boulangerie to buy fresh<br />

croissants and pastries. But, the best part is<br />

that you're able to wander at will through<br />

the chateau and enjoy it in all its glory.<br />

From the grand salon to the private theatre<br />

and many other rooms to the garden with<br />

its vineyards and views, guests are able to<br />

appreciate this place in a way that’s unique<br />

and a true privilege.<br />

A Very Grand Home<br />

"It's not easy to say how many rooms there<br />

are" muses the Duke "some are very small<br />

some are very large... 200, maybe more<br />

depending on how you look at it".<br />

"What's your favourite room in the house?"<br />

I ask and he laughs as I try to rephrase it,<br />

house is not exactly the term you would<br />

apply to this enormous palace. He can't<br />

choose but shows me around and you can<br />

tell that he loves every bit of it.<br />

"I like the staircase a lot, it keeps me fit" he<br />

confides. A seven storey castle will do that I<br />

think to myself as I admire the steps that<br />

have been trod for centuries. We linger in<br />

the private theatre, a rarity in France and he<br />

recalls family fun on the petite stage.

Clockwise from top left: Sitting<br />

kitchen 1, dining room, theatre,<br />

It would be hard not to love the chateau -<br />

from the windows of the ground floor<br />

grand salon with its comfy sofas and grand<br />

piano you can see the chateau vineyards.<br />

Family photos line the piano and there's<br />

one of the late British Queen Mutoo. I tell<br />

him they have a photo of her at the<br />

Chateau du Lude not too far away. "She<br />

certainly seems to have got around" I say<br />

and he tells me she loved France and made<br />

many private visits.<br />

Another photo is of the Duke's wife, a<br />

former ballet dancer with the Vienna ballet,<br />

in it she is being held aloft by a male<br />

dancer in tights "not me" the Duke says<br />

hastily. In the chapel is his wife's wedding<br />

dress and press cuttings showing their fairy<br />

tale wedding. It's an intimate view of the life<br />

of an historic chateau that you don't often<br />

get.<br />

En route to the wine cellar for a tasting of<br />

the wine that the Duke produces from his<br />

vineyards, we spot a dog looking longingly<br />

at us through a door. The Duke lets him out<br />

and the friendly dog is exuberant, panting<br />

with pleasure to meet new people.<br />

"19" says the Duke "behave".

oom,<br />

kitchen 2<br />

When one time owner Jacques de<br />

Brézé caught his wife with her<br />

lover, he murdered them both.<br />

Legend has it that the adulterous<br />

couple still haunt the chateau<br />

He explains the dog was a stray, it turned<br />

up at the chateau running through rooms<br />

causing mayhem. <strong>No</strong>body knew where it<br />

came from, the Duke tried to find the owner<br />

but couldn't and his four children begged to<br />

keep the little dog. It was the 19th<br />

December muses the Duke, he couldn't<br />

resist, the dog stayed and they called it 19.<br />

Christmas is a special time here at the<br />

Chateau, which hosts one of the oldest<br />

Christmas markets in the west of France<br />

and certainly one of the most original. The<br />

castle is decorated, artisans and food<br />

producers tempt with delicious gifts, food<br />

and wine, a unique event and very festive.<br />

The chateau has a lovely cafe and cellar<br />

where you can taste and buy delicious wine.<br />

I'd recommend you allow at least two hours<br />

to appreciate everything and extra for the<br />

gorgeous gardens. It's a glorious castle,<br />

uniquely tall among the many Loire Valley<br />

Chateaux and well worth a visit.<br />

Details and opening hours:<br />

Chateau de Brissac.<br />

Information for local area:<br />

Angers Loire Tourism

Micro Provence:<br />

Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles<br />

Provence is the perfect antidote to stress, renowned not only for the startling<br />

luminosity that brought artists like Paul Cézanne, Renoir, Picasso, Mistral, Camus,<br />

Pétrarque and Vincent van Gogh – who, incidentally, new research now reveals really<br />

did cut off his ear rather than just a bit of it – but as much for a tranquillity and scented<br />

hinterland that has a very calming effect.<br />

Terry Marsh explores Provence...

there is every bit as much to relax body<br />

and mind across the wider area, the exact<br />

boundaries of which are in some corners<br />

no more than a vague notion.<br />

Roman Legacy<br />

The Roman bridge at Vaison-la-<br />

Romaine<br />

Provence extends from the left bank of the<br />

lower Rhône River in the west to the Italian<br />

border in the east. It is bordered by the<br />

Mediterranean Sea to the south, and<br />

largely corresponds with the modern<br />

administrative region of Provence-Alpes-<br />

Côte d'Azur. It includes the departments of<br />

Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-<br />

Provence and parts of Alpes-Maritimes and<br />

Vaucluse. The largest city of the region is<br />

Marseille, and while this centre of the<br />

bouillabaisse hierarchy may be top dog,<br />

The Romans made the region into the first<br />

Roman province beyond the Alps. They<br />

called it Provincia Romana, which evolved<br />

into the present name. It was ruled by the<br />

Counts of Provence from their capital in<br />

Aix-en-Provence until 1481, when it<br />

became a province of the Kings of France.<br />

While it has been part of France for more<br />

than five hundred years, it still retains a<br />

distinct cultural and linguistic identity,<br />

particularly in the interior of the region. It<br />

is this individuality that is most appealing;<br />

that and the landscapes of the Camargue<br />

in the south, north through Les Alpilles to<br />

the papal city of Avignon. There is, too, the<br />

sort of independence that in 2016 had the<br />

residents of Saint-Romain-en-Viennois,<br />

not far from the historic and picturesque<br />

Vaison-la-Romaine, up in arms at the<br />

news that McDonald’s are to open a<br />

branch in town. Ironically, the French eat<br />

more Big Macs than any nation outside<br />

the US, but, for some, there are limits to<br />

this form of assault on culinary heritage;<br />

Mac-domination is not welcome<br />

everywhere.<br />

Discovering Authentic Provence<br />

But the danger of trying to ‘do’ Provence,<br />

is that it all becomes too much, with too<br />

little time, and you end up charging hither<br />

and thither like the proverbial bluethingied<br />

fly. That analogy applies equally<br />

well wherever you go, of course, but any<br />

exploration of Provence benefits from a<br />

micro-tourism approach: base yourself in<br />

one place, and explore everywhere within<br />

half an hour; okay, by car if you must. But<br />

go no farther. That way you really do get<br />

to the nitty-gritty of the region, village by<br />

village, wine by wine, cheese by cheese.

Les Alpilles<br />

So it is with Les Alpilles, a limestone extension<br />

of the Luberon range whose ragged<br />

white peaks from afar boast the outlines of<br />

a great mountain chain though few rise<br />

above 400 metres…arid limestone crenulations<br />

set against a brilliant blue sky. Olive<br />

and almond trees spread across the lower,<br />

south-facing slopes, pinned in place by the<br />

occasional line of dark, slender cypress.<br />

Higher up, slopes are planted with kermes<br />

oak (Quercus coccifera) and pine, but just as<br />

likely the rocky landscape is dotted with<br />

ragged bushes covered by maquis, a poor<br />

pastureland suitable only for sheep.<br />

The Alpilles are roughly divided in two,<br />

between the Alpilles des Baux in the west<br />

and the Alpilles d’Eygalières in the east, with<br />

the town of St-Rémy de Provence in the<br />

middle. St-Rémy, birthplace of scientist and<br />

astrologist <strong>No</strong>stradamus (rue Hoche), very<br />

much epitomises Provence with its<br />

boulevards and squares shaded by plane<br />

trees, its tangled labyrinth of narrow streets<br />

and festive atmosphere especially so on<br />

market day (Wednesday) and when they<br />

hold the bull running festivals.<br />

Couple Walking among Olive Trees in a<br />

Mountainous Landscape with Crescent Moon<br />

May 1890, Van Gogh<br />

Princess Caroline of Monaco and her<br />

children lived in St-Rémy following the<br />

death of her husband, Stefano Casiraghi,<br />

which could be interpreted as this being a<br />

place imbued with healing powers. Maybe it<br />

is; Vincent van Gogh was treated here in the<br />

psychiatric centre a few minutes south of<br />

St-Rémy, at Monastery Saint-Paul de<br />

Mausole after he relieved himself of one of<br />

his ears, and it was here that he painted The<br />

Starry Night, one of his best loved works.<br />

Personally, I just find it very unwinding,<br />

which takes me back to my original point<br />

about this being a great counter-balance to<br />

a stress-filled life, should you need one.

South of St-Rémy lie the magnificent ruins of<br />

Glanum and Les Antiques, the latter a<br />

cenotaph rather than a sepulchre, as originally<br />

thought, and standing next to a fine triumphal<br />

arch, giving access to the city of Glanum, built<br />

over 2,000 years ago, and still a worthwhile<br />

and well-interpreted diversion…look for the<br />

fossilised shells in the limestone pavements.

Les Baux de Provence<br />

Continuing south, the road wriggling<br />

between limestone crests to get there, Les<br />

Baux de Provence is justly one of the most<br />

beautiful villages in France. In fact, the<br />

‘village’ as such sits below the great<br />

limestone plateau on which the lords of<br />

Baux built their chateau. Separated a little<br />

from Les Alpilles, Les Baux, which gave its<br />

name to the mineral bauxite, is perfectly<br />

summed up in the words of a song by<br />

Italian folk rock singer-songwriter Angelo<br />

Branduardi: ‘Dans son château le Seigneur<br />

des Baux prend la pluie au visage’ – In his<br />

chateau, the Lord of Baux takes the rain in<br />

his face. Climb to the highest point of this<br />

limestone ridge, and you’ll see why that<br />

might be; it must have been a desolate<br />

spot in winter when there was only wine,<br />

wenching and throwing the odd malcontent<br />

from the battlements to alleviate the gloom.<br />

Today, the village and its diverse architectural<br />

heritage is a charming mix of<br />

narrow streets, gift and craft shops, and<br />

restaurants, all determined to delay you.<br />

Above, for a modest fee, you can head up<br />

onto the plateau itself and the ruins of the<br />

chateau wherein are displayed modern<br />

interpretations of the siege engines of war<br />

used during medieval times. For all its<br />

popularity, it’s easy to fashion a quiet tour<br />

of the citadel that will give you a remarkably<br />

valid impression – well, almost – of<br />

what life might have been like living on this<br />

mountain ridge. There’s plenty of parking,<br />

for a fee, but arriving early is always a good<br />

idea.<br />

Elsewhere, Maussane-les-Alpilles is a<br />

serene, unspoiled village centred on a large<br />

square below the church, used in season as<br />

overflow seating for nearby bistrots and<br />

cafés. Come back mid-afternoon and sit in<br />

the shade with a glass of chilled wine or<br />

panaché and let the world pass you by.

It's amazing how the waiters have taken<br />

to the new French law about traffic having<br />

to stop to allow you to cross the road<br />

once you have shown your intention of<br />

doing so byplacing your foot on the<br />

carriageway. I’m surprised they survive<br />

the week… maybe they don’t!<br />

In the east, Eygalières is a small town of<br />

winding, narrow streets, an authentic and<br />

charming village made vibrant by its<br />

Thursday market, in much the same way<br />

that Fontvieille in the opposite direction,<br />

towards Arles, assumes no pretensions to<br />

grandeur, just exudes a laissez-faire<br />

atmosphere so typical of many small<br />

Provencal villages. In fact, it’s so relaxing,<br />

there isn’t time to be stressed, and who<br />

wants to drive hundreds of miles each<br />

day? Stay put, and make the most of<br />


It may be a hidden gem in the French Alps, but<br />

Flaine’s fantastic pistes are proving perfect for<br />

family fun as Justine Halifax discovers...<br />

It's in the impressive shadow of the snow<br />

capped Mont Blanc, the highest mountain<br />

in the beautiful, French Alps, that you’ll find<br />

the ski resort of Flaine.<br />

Located in the Haute-Savoie region and<br />

part of the Grand Massif ski-ing area,<br />

Flaine has earned itself the nickname of<br />

“big snowy bowl”, as it boasts one of the<br />

best snow records (in the French Alps).<br />

My family and I were fortunate enough to<br />

spend a great week here and we can<br />

certainly confirm that it delivered excellent<br />

snow conditions.<br />

For, despite being close to the end of the<br />

ski season, we enjoyed two snowfalls, and,<br />

with the days in between topped up by 110<br />

snow canons, we had no issues at all with<br />

ice on the resort’s very well maintained<br />

pistes.<br />

And for those travelling with children in<br />

tow, Flaine is a perfect spot for families.<br />

Just one of several reasons for this is that<br />

it’s actually possible to ski purely blue runs<br />

if wanted here, and yet still take in the best<br />

views of the Grand Massif area – which has<br />

70 lifts taking you to no less than 148 runs.<br />

This makes for a perfect afternoon treat for<br />

children still honing their skills in ski school<br />

to be able to enjoy showing off their new<br />

found talents with their parents, without<br />

having to tackle taxing pistes with tired<br />

legs. There’s also a nursery school for<br />

newcomers - with a magic carpet.

Flaine is great for more experienced<br />

families too, there’s no chance of getting<br />

bored of the pistes here. As well as the<br />

resort of Flaine, which boasts 64 runs<br />

reaching an altitude of up to 2500metres,<br />

the Grand Massif ski-ing area also includes<br />

the interconnected areas of Les Carroz,<br />

Sixt, Morillon and Samoens.<br />

Overall you’ll find 8 green runs, 26 blues,<br />

25 reds and 5 blacks at your ski tips in<br />

Flaine and across the Grand Massif area a<br />

total of 20 greens, 65 blues, 50 reds and <strong>13</strong><br />

blacks.<br />

And if that’s not enough to keep you<br />

entertained there’s something for the more<br />

daring too as there are also <strong>13</strong> fun spaces,<br />

including three in Flaine, as well as a<br />

slalom area.<br />

My family’s home for a luxurious week, was<br />

in one of the five star, self-catering<br />

apartments that can be found at Les<br />

Terraces des Helios, run by Pierre and<br />

Vacances, part of the Centre Parcs group,<br />

at Flaine’s Mont Soleil level.<br />

A ski in, ski out venue, located at an<br />

altitude of 1600m, it proved to be a perfect<br />

base for my family for a host of reasons.<br />

Our fabulous apartment featured a large<br />

open plan kitchenette, dining room and a<br />

lounge, which led out onto a spacious<br />

balcony with table and chairs overlooking<br />

the green piste that led back to the venue.<br />

There was also a cloakroom for storing ski<br />

attire/coats, and at slope level we also had<br />

free access to a heated ski room.

<strong>No</strong>t only was the ski in, ski out a much needed<br />

plus for our family, we also had access to every<br />

single thing we need for our week’s stay<br />

literally at our fingertips. For also at slope level,<br />

and in the same complex building, was Ski<br />

Shop Helios to hire ski equipment; a<br />

supermarket to stock up on supplies (if you<br />

want freshly baked croissants and pain au<br />

chocolat without leaving the apartments you<br />

can opt for them to be delivered to reception at<br />

8 am every morning); a cafe; and a restaurant.<br />

And as if that wasn’t enough, the French Ski<br />

School ESF (Escole Ski Francais) even has an<br />

office on slope level to book lessons/ The<br />

instructors pick up children right outside the<br />

building at 9.30am and return them three<br />

hours later each day!<br />

What more could a parent ask for?<br />

Well, perhaps a bit more since the Helios<br />

Apartments also boasts a nice pool, separate<br />

toddler area, sauna, steam room and outside<br />

hot tub where you can bask in the beauty of<br />

the surrounding snow covered mountains, as<br />

well as a spa offering a range of treatments.<br />

And if you still want to enjoy the great outdoors<br />

after the pistes have closed then the<br />

apartments also loan out a range of sledges<br />

without any extra charge.<br />

There are several levels at different altitudes in<br />

Flaine, they are the Forum, Foret and Mont<br />

Soleil.<br />

But while other levels were more of a concrete<br />

block-style, Mont Soleil, where Helios is based,<br />

was, for me, definitely the more aesthetically<br />

appealing, as it’s more alpine, with a more<br />

pleasing wood and natural stone look.<br />

My family and I enjoyed a thoroughly<br />

comfortable stay here, and a week of fabulous<br />

ski-ing so I’ve no hesitation in recommending<br />

other families to follow in our snowy foot<br />



Justine travelled with www.poferries.com. Nearest<br />

airport is Geneva with flights to/from a number of<br />

international airports.<br />

Ski train to the French Alps with SNCF UK<br />


The hotel offers covered parking directly<br />

underneath the apartments which are accessible<br />

via lifts - so no lugging luggage up steps.<br />


Pierre & Vacances 5* Les Terrasses d’Helios<br />

Residence is in a ski, in ski out position with 119<br />

apartments which all have balconies and terraces<br />

for guests to enjoy the views. Apartments sleep<br />

4-8 people and some also feature a fireplace.<br />

There is a Deep Nature Spa relaxation area<br />

(treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and<br />

relaxation room) and indoor heated swimming<br />

pool.<br />

A Grand Massif Lift Pass for 6 days is €242.40 for<br />

adults and €181.8 for children.<br />

Equipment Rental can be booked in advance on<br />

reservation of an apartment with savings of up to<br />

40% off shop prices. Visit: pierreetvacances<br />

For more info about Flaine visit: www.flaine.com

Paris Mon Amour<br />

Author Mark Pryor who's best selling Hugo Marston<br />

series is set in Paris, including The Paris Librarian<br />

and The Book Seller reveals the Paris he loves...<br />

Credit Doug Crawford<br />

True story: a year ago I ran into my friend<br />

David at the courthouse where I work in<br />

Austin and as we talked, he shook his<br />

head ruefully. “I bought my wife The<br />

Bookseller,” he said, “and now she wants<br />

to go to Paris. Insists on it.”<br />

I shrugged. “So take her to Paris.”<br />

“Yeah, that’s cheap. Plus I don’t have a<br />

passport and I don’t speak French. And I<br />

hear they hate Americans.”<br />

I sighed. “Take her to Paris.”<br />

Six months went by and I didn’t see David<br />

until I ran into him in the courthouse again.<br />

“Oh, my goodness,” he gushed. “We went<br />

to Paris and now we’re doing everything we<br />

possibly can to move there. We’re in love!”<br />

I was happy, am always happy, to share my<br />

favorite city in the world, but I wasn’t<br />

surprised. The city of light, of love, has that<br />

effect on people.<br />

That’s why I always smile when readers ask<br />

me why Paris, what the city means to me,<br />

why I set my books there. And it’s certainly<br />

true that I get asked those questions more<br />

than any other. In truth, and as corny as it<br />

may be, it comes down to that one word:<br />

love.<br />

Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “If<br />

you ask the great city, ‘Who is this person?,’<br />

she will answer, ‘He is my child.’” Yes. As<br />

soon as I land or step off the train, Paris<br />

wraps herself around me, sometimes like a<br />

parent and sometimes like a lover,<br />

enveloping me with the sights, sounds, and<br />

smells that are its own.

© Paris Tourist Office David Lefranc<br />

The sullen, sexy Seine nudging its barges<br />

against the bank, the commanding palace of<br />

the Louvre with its leisurely gardens, the<br />

wide boulevards overseen by elegant stone<br />

buildings with their petite balconies and redblooming<br />

window boxes. It’s the oddest and<br />

most wonderful combination of relief that<br />

I’m home, and exhilaration that I’m back to<br />

explore.<br />

And think about this for a reason to love<br />

Paris and Parisians: the Cathedral of <strong>No</strong>tre<br />

Dame was saved by the author I just quoted.<br />

Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of <strong>No</strong>tre<br />

Dame when he found out it was to be torn<br />

down, wrote it to raise awareness and<br />

money, and now look at it. A humble book<br />

inspired lasting love for a beautiful building.<br />

Where else could that happen?

Credit Doug Crawford<br />

In every sense, Paris is a perfect fit for me. I<br />

love to eat, I love to watch people, and I love<br />

to walk. On our last trip, researching The<br />

Paris Librarian, my wife and I averaged<br />

seven miles a day, our longest stroll was<br />

from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre and<br />

back. And the thing is, it’s no struggle. Every<br />

step is a pleasure because Paris unfurls<br />

before you like a seductive woman, casually<br />

spilling a gaudy, touristy layer to reveal<br />

sleek, cream-stone buildings in more<br />

residential areas, before turning up the heat<br />

with her lithe, winding streets that lead you<br />

to the ultimate view of Paris at the Sacré<br />

Coeur.<br />

Credit Barbara Pasquet James<br />

And the reward for all that walking is the<br />

food. We ate at New Jawad one evening, on<br />

Avenue Rapp, finding for ourselves better<br />

Indian food than we’ve ever eaten in<br />

England or America. And the service was<br />

the opposite of that which my friend David<br />

would have expected: full of smiles and<br />

jokes, a free drink when I told them I was a<br />

writer, and one for my wife, too.

The secret garden of the Hotel de<br />

Sens, a medieval palace where a<br />

Queen once lived. The palace is<br />

now home to a library and art<br />

gallery - Bibliotheque Forney. it's<br />

undergoing renovation and reopens<br />

February 2017. You'll find<br />

it not far from <strong>No</strong>tre Dame, at 1<br />

rue du Figuier<br />




MARK PRYOR -<br />

SEE PAGE 78<br />

But the ultimate meal, and it was good<br />

enough for me to send my characters<br />

Hugo and Claudia there on a date, was at Il<br />

Vino on Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg.<br />

The best because the vegetarian meal they<br />

prepared for my wife was as good as, if not<br />

better, than my own fabulous four courses.<br />

And again, fun service with the waiter<br />

taking great delight in making us guess<br />

each of the different wines he served us<br />

with each course.<br />

Paris is more than food and the famous<br />

sights we all know about (and the wonder<br />

of them all being so close, so walkable!)<br />

The thing about Paris is that you can find<br />

havens of peace amid the pomp and<br />

glamor.<br />

Step one way and be in the mix, eyeing the<br />

stunning Louvre before walking five<br />

minutes to a place of peace and quiet like<br />

the Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sens, where you<br />

can sit on a park bench and watch the<br />

pigeons, and the clouds.<br />

Even places like the American Library in<br />

Paris can surprise. An unassuming<br />

frontage, yes, the usual rows of book<br />

shelves, of course, but did you know, the<br />

place has a secret door? Oh yes, and it’s to<br />

be found in the basement, a place that has<br />

its own delightfully eerie ambience.<br />

There is one secret magnet in Paris for me,<br />

though, the place my wife and I know to<br />

meet if phones are lost and rendez-vous<br />

missed. It’s a spot that gives us a choice of<br />

two cafés, a place where three beautiful<br />

streets come together, funneling tourists<br />

and locals past as you watch and sip<br />

coffee. I won’t tell you where exactly, except<br />

that it’s in the Sixth Arrondissment, I can’t<br />

because it’s mine. Ours.<br />

Well, maybe I will if you ask nicely.<br />

After all, Paris is love, and love is for<br />


The Belle of the<br />

French<br />

Author Patricia Sands whisks you away to the<br />

Hotel Belles Rives to discover it's legendary past...

There's something wild about you child<br />

That's so contagious<br />

Let's be outrageous<br />

Let's misbehave!!!<br />

Those frivolous lyrics from Cole Porter’s<br />

Let’s Misbehave might very well have<br />

epitomized the mood on the Côte d’Azur<br />

when the song was published in 1927.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t only was he penning the song, but<br />

quite possibly Porter was working<br />

through it while he hung out with Zelda<br />

and F. Scott Fitzgerald at their rented<br />

Villa Saint-Louis on the shore of a scenic<br />

cove on the west side of the iconic Cap<br />

d’Antibes.<br />

The Fitzgeralds loved partying with their<br />

Jazz Age friends. The semi-Bohemian<br />

crowd included wealthy Americans and<br />

visiting artists, writers and hangers-on.<br />

Picasso, Hemingway, Cocteau, John Dos<br />

Passos, Gertrude Stein and Dorothy<br />

Parker were just a few of the regulars.<br />

Porter was a fixture at the piano in the<br />

music room of Villa Saint-Louis,<br />

overlooking the shimmering<br />

Mediterranean.<br />

From all accounts, notably captured in<br />

Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, along<br />

with letters, journal entries and recorded<br />

memories by others in the Roaring<br />

Twenties, the French Riviera was rather a<br />

wild place to be. It was also, and<br />

continues to be, a fabled coastline of<br />

incomparable beauty and light that<br />

inspires artists to settle there and create.<br />

Since 1929 the privately-owned Villa<br />

Saint-Louis has been known as Hôtel<br />

Belles Rives. At the time it was the only<br />

hotel on the water along the Côte d’Azur.<br />

And since 2001, the gracious thirdgeneration<br />

owner, Marianne Estène-<br />

Chauvin has guided her beloved 5-star,<br />

43-room gem with a clear desire to keep<br />

the best of the Fitzgerald years alive.<br />

Credit Hotel Belles Rives<br />

The atmosphere becomes electric the instant<br />

one steps into the elegant and welcoming<br />

lobby of this gracious Art Deco mansion with<br />

its unique ornate elevator.<br />

Black and white photos of Fitzgerald, his<br />

tormented wife Zelda, and their daughter<br />

Scottie, holidaying here, hang on the walls. A<br />

predominately placed marble plaque quotes<br />

a letter he wrote to Hemingway:<br />

“With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved<br />

Riviera (between Nice and Cannes) I’m happier than<br />

I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange precious<br />

and all too transitory moments when everything in<br />

one’s life seems to be going well.”

One imagines the author peering out<br />

over the sun-kissed bay, “the fairy<br />

blue sea” as he described. His gaze<br />

would continue across to the hills of<br />

the Massif de l’Estérel to the west of<br />

Cannes, perhaps searching for his<br />

muse. He penned much of Tender is<br />

the Night during his stay of almost<br />

two years and drew inspiration for<br />

his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.<br />

Credit Hotel Belles Rives<br />

It’s no surprise that room number 50,<br />

the Fitzgerald room, must be booked<br />

well in advance. However, each room<br />

in the Belles Rives offers a level of<br />

comfort and tasteful decorating that<br />

befits a member of the Small Luxury<br />

Hotels Of The World group. The<br />

blue-striped awnings are one of<br />

many details that have remained<br />

consistent through almost a century.<br />

The Fitzgerald Bar off the lobby<br />

entices the visitor. The stunning art,<br />

grand piano, and authentic Art Deco<br />

styling … leather bar, mirrored<br />

tabletops, leopard-patterned<br />

upholstery … offer an intimate and<br />

elegant invitation to linger. The<br />

panoramic view across Golfe-Juan<br />

and the Baie de Cannes creates its<br />

magic no matter what the hour.<br />

Sunsets, it must be said, are often<br />

unforgettable.<br />

Step through the French doors to the<br />

terrace and into what might justly be<br />

described as Riviera bliss.<br />

A broad patio beckons with lush<br />

potted palms, umbrella-shaded<br />

tables topped with crisp white linen<br />

and Art Deco light fixtures. The<br />

electric blue accent color mimics<br />

shades of the azure sea. Another<br />

flight of steps leads to the water and<br />

other elegant dining areas, carrying<br />

on the blue and white theme so<br />

complimentary to the Mediterranean<br />


Credit Hotel Belles Rives<br />

An elaborate, stunning chandelier hangs over the table de commandant/<br />

captain’s table. Before one consults the menu, art is the main course here:<br />

substantial Leger-inspired sculptures frame the room, Egyptian sculptures,<br />

ceramique flamé in primary colors, la terre rouge, hand-painted Bernardaud<br />

porcelain plates with white background, la terre blanche, hand-blown glass<br />

from the skilled verriers of nearby Biot.<br />

Fun and relaxation are found in equal<br />

measure on the sandy private beach, small<br />

as it is, and along the private jetty. Swimming,<br />

sunbathing plus a variety of water<br />

sports are all indulged. And here we find<br />

another story, the Belles Rives Ski<br />

Nautique: one of the most prestigious<br />

waterskiing clubs in the world.<br />

Just as the Fitzgerald legacy takes us back<br />

to a nostalgic time, so does this story of<br />

Léo Roman. In 1931, the off-duty ski<br />

instructor was inspired by the calm waters<br />

of Golfe-Juan to test a dynamic new sport.<br />

Visitors and locals were excited by the<br />

thrill of gliding across the bay. Today the<br />

club remains very active and open to all.<br />

In the lobby, the artwork of ships on the<br />

wall and subtle furniture create the illusion<br />

of preparing for a voyage. There is a sense<br />

of being on an ocean liner during the grand<br />

days of transatlantic crossings. One enters<br />

the Michelin-starred dining room, La<br />

Passagère. The cuisine focuses on local<br />

seafood and superior desserts under the<br />

direction of some of the finest chefs in<br />

France.<br />

Bold Temple of Luxor-style columns<br />

covered in marble mosaic create a dramatic<br />

sense of structure. The geometric<br />

frescos on the walls were discovered when<br />

wall paper, applied after WW2, was stripped<br />

in 2001 to install air conditioning. They<br />

offer an effective backdrop to the stunning<br />

exhibit of ceramic and glass art created by<br />

local artisans that compliments the<br />

collection of 1930’s art.

Of all the narratives that make up the<br />

foundation of the Hôtel Belles Rives,<br />

possibly the best is that of Madame<br />

Marianne Estène-Chauvin.<br />

Her memories begin with cherished<br />

childhood holidays at this resort owned by<br />

her Russian emigré grandfather and French<br />

grandmother. The original villa was<br />

expanded with two upper floors and a west<br />

wing. Lovingly restored, the hotel played a<br />

major role throughout her life as each<br />

generation of the Estène family carried on<br />

their dedication to being hoteliers of<br />

distinction.<br />

When she first expressed interest in<br />

becoming the owner, she was not taken<br />

seriously. “After all, I am a woman. And<br />

there are many other roles within the<br />

business it was thought would be more<br />

suitable. I became involved with decoration<br />

and public relations… women’s work.”<br />

Perseverance paid off. Ironically, the week<br />

she was to take charge, the uncle who<br />

would help ease her into her new role,<br />

suffered a major heart attack.<br />

Suddenly she was immersed in the<br />

business. Soon she had a plan. She<br />

changed the seasonal schedule to being<br />

open year round, fixed the beach, and<br />

began her dream to establish fine dining.<br />

The name, La Passagère, evokes not only a<br />

passenger on a ship but also a philosophy<br />

that we are passengers in time.<br />

I’ve left the Library, originally the Music<br />

Room, to the last. Here Madame Estène-<br />

Chauvin brought to life intimate stories of<br />

the Fitzgerald’s time at Villa Saint-Louis.<br />

In this room, Cole Porter played the piano.<br />

Fitzgerald’s wealthy American friend,<br />

Gerald Murphy (who along with his wife,<br />

Sarah, had first of this group discovered the<br />

Riviera) had brought a portable<br />

phonograph from the United States, the<br />

first one on the coast.<br />

Madame Chauvin<br />

The music of the Jazz Age frequently filled<br />

this room. Other musicians would filter in<br />

at times. Raucous parties were the norm.<br />

Today the room also displays portraits and<br />

trophies of the winners of the literary Prix<br />

Fitzgerald. Begun by Madame Chauvin in<br />

2010, the submissions are juried by a<br />

distinguished panel of writers and critics.<br />

The recipient is an author working in a<br />

style or addressing themes that interested<br />

Fitzgerald. The prestigious prize is awarded<br />

in early June.<br />

On the 50th anniversary of Zelda’s 1948<br />

death, the two Fitzgerald granddaughters<br />

were guests at the hotel, when the plaque<br />

was mounted in the lobby. They recalled<br />

memories their family had passed along<br />

through the years. There is an excellent<br />

recounting of that visit in this New York<br />

Times article.

Terrace of the Belles Rives with its stunning views<br />

over the bay of Antibes<br />

She described with great pleasure, the<br />

Gatsby-like parties that have become an<br />

institution at the Belles Rives. “It’s<br />

tradition,” she says, indicating vintage<br />

photos showing her grandparents<br />

entertaining in the same way. And parties<br />

were de rigeur for the Fitzgeralds and<br />

friends, often en costume.<br />

Thus was born, the Villa Belles Rives ~<br />

informal-themed Thursday night parties,<br />

open to the public, eating, drinking,<br />

dancing on the beach. “There might be<br />

600 people all dressed in white … or some<br />

other idea. All having fun.”<br />

She is also the owner of the luxurious Hôtel<br />

Juana adjacent to the Belles Rives and has<br />

blended the two “sister” hotels into perfect<br />

complements to each other.<br />

When asked what might be one word that<br />

sums up the reason why her hotels have<br />

achieved such well-deserved reputations,<br />

her thoughtful response again demonstrated<br />

her commitment to excellence.<br />

“Here you will find an experience with a true<br />

difference”, she said, gesturing around us<br />

with her hand. Her explanation revolved<br />

around the French term “compagnonnage”.<br />

She described it as something that went<br />

back to the Middle Ages, a dedication to<br />

passing on skills, crafts, feelings. You work<br />

half the time passing this on to your staff,<br />

mentoring, sharing, teaching. The other half<br />

you give to your customers. “It’s very vieille<br />

Europe … maybe too much.” She ended that<br />

comment with a smile, but it was obvious<br />

this meant a great deal to her.<br />

A true Renaissance woman.<br />

For more information, visit the website of<br />

the Hôtel Belles Rives.

Magical Musical Moments at Saint-Chappelle<br />

The secret Claissical music venue<br />

in Paris that's simply sublime<br />

Janine Marsh follows in the footsteps of the Kings of<br />

France for a magical nightly concert<br />

Earnest faced angels with pale pink and<br />

blue wings and voluminous frocks hover,<br />

and solemn faced saints look down from<br />

their lofty perches over the musicians who<br />

stand beneath jewel coloured windows.<br />

Shadows flicker across the sculpted walls<br />

that have stood for centuries. The sweet<br />

sound of classical music fills the air. An<br />

enrapt audience breaks into spontaneous<br />

applause as the musicians finish.<br />

of the culture of Paris inside one of the<br />

most ancient of churches where Kings and<br />

Queens prayed and religious relics that<br />

cost immense fortunes were once housed.<br />

Sainte-Chappelle is a legendary building,<br />

almost 800 years old. It is now also an<br />

incredible night time venue where Vivaldi,<br />

Bach, Mozart and other masters of music<br />

have their greatest pieces played.<br />

This is a concert like no other… A true taste

The history<br />

It is quite extraordinary to be sitting in this<br />

building known as the "Holy Chapel" on the<br />

Ile de la Cité where the medieval Kings of<br />

France once lived. It’s a short walk from<br />

<strong>No</strong>tre-Dame Cathedral which was begun<br />

before the creation of Sainte-Chappelle but<br />

completed afterwards.<br />

It’s said that Sainte-Chappelle took just<br />

seven years to build and was consecrated<br />

on April 26th, 1248. Its purpose was to<br />

house relics which King Louis IX (1214-<br />

1270), also known as Saint Louis, had<br />

bought. They were said to include<br />

fragments of the Crown of Thorns (now at<br />

<strong>No</strong>tre-Dame) and of the Holy Cross.<br />

Sainte-Chappelle is bijoux and quite<br />

stunningly beautiful. There are 15 windows,<br />

each 15 metres high, the stained glass<br />

panes depict 1,1<strong>13</strong> scenes from the Old and<br />

New Testaments recounting the history of<br />

the world until the arrival of the relics in<br />

Paris. An astonishing work of art that must<br />

have been one of the wonders of its time –<br />

it still is.<br />

Music at Sainte-Chappelle<br />

You can visit Sainte-Chappelle during the<br />

day and, when the sun shines through<br />

those awesome windows, it’s like standing<br />

in a diamond encrusted jewel box.<br />

But, for a really magical experience, there<br />

are almost nightly classical music concerts<br />

held in this ancient place. As you sit here, in<br />

one of the most beautiful, historic buildings<br />

of Paris it is incredible to know that Kings<br />

and Queens have sat here before you.<br />

Listening to great classical music played by<br />

the passionate musicians is quite simply an<br />

encounter to cherish. The accoustics are<br />

magnificent, sending shivers up your spine,<br />

an incredible, inspiring and precious<br />

experience. There are two concerts each<br />

night, and, I highly recommend dinner<br />

afterwards at the Deux Palais brasserie<br />

across the road to completely round out<br />

your experience.<br />

Tickets are available for the concerts<br />

from less than 30 Euros. You can also<br />

book dinner at the same time via:<br />


Carcassonne, the p<br />

Karen Slater, French Holiday expert,<br />

shares one of her favourite winter<br />

playgrounds...<br />

© Julien Roche City Hall Carcassonne<br />

France is an all year round destination<br />

offering something for everyone, though<br />

when we think of winter in France, it's<br />

generally for skiing holidays. But, there is<br />

so much more to this fascinating country<br />

at this time of the year. If you are a lover of<br />

myths and enchanting stories then a great<br />

place to visit in winter is Carcassonne in<br />

the Languedoc region.<br />

The world famous medieval citadel can be<br />

seen for miles around. Some say that<br />

Carcassonne was Walt Disney’s inspiration<br />

for the film Sleeping Beauty! From a<br />

distance it is breath-taking, but once there,<br />

inside the Citadel, your spirits will be lifted<br />

by the magic of this magnificent place. It<br />

was also the inspiration for Kate Mosse’s<br />

best-selling book “Labyrinth” – a story<br />

revolving around an ancient grail.<br />

From early December until early January<br />

Carcassonne’s magic is at its best as it<br />

comes alive with Christmas festivities. With<br />

twinkling lights everywhere, concerts, street<br />

entertainment, an ice rink, Christmas<br />

market and a jolly atmosphere.<br />

Hiring a car is a must as not too far from<br />

Carcassonne are two other enchanting<br />

towns, both have inspired books!<br />

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is about a two<br />

hour drive from Carcassonne. It was once a<br />

fishing village built on an island in the heart<br />

of the beautiful Camargue region of France.<br />

Here you will see stunning white horses<br />

running wild! According to local legend,<br />

after the resurrection of Christ, Mary<br />

Magdalene and several disciples were<br />

forced to flee the holy land in 45 AD. They<br />

arrived in Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer and it is<br />

said Mary Magdalene remained here until<br />

her death many years later. It is now a holy<br />

place and referred to in books as ‘The Holy<br />

Blood and the Holy Grail’ from which Dan<br />

Brown used information and references for<br />

his book The Da Vinci Code.

erfect winter destination<br />

Aigues-Morte, very close to Saintes-Mariesde-la-Mer<br />

is a city marked by crusades and<br />

the Knights Templar. It is a tourist site today<br />

but with an intriguing history and it’s a<br />

wonderful place to relax and chill enjoying<br />

the French lifestyle.<br />

In December the Cathar Castles and<br />

heritage sites are open and many appreciate<br />

that there are no crowds of tourists. The<br />

weather is generally sunny but cold, around<br />

10 degrees. And, if you’re a wine lover now is<br />

a good time to visit as vignerons have a lot<br />

more time to spend with wine enthusiasts.

French Caviar a la Carte<br />

Caviar is one of the most expensive foods<br />

in the world. Most think of it as a Russian<br />

delicacy but it’s also been produced in<br />

France for more than a century…<br />

Mike and Wendy McDowell from the UK<br />

have loved France since spending<br />

childhood holidays there and actually met<br />

in the Loire Valley. When the opportunity<br />

rose for them to start a business, working<br />

with one of the finest French caviar<br />

producers – they leapt at the chance.<br />

History of Caviar in France<br />

In the late 1800s, Russian immigrants<br />

who settled in the Gironde area noticed<br />

that local fishermen catching Siberian<br />

sturgeon in the rivers would eat the meat<br />

and discard the roe. This changed when<br />

the Russians showed the French how to<br />

create caviar and it became a popular<br />

delicacy. Following overfishing of wild<br />

sturgeon, the Government banned fishing<br />

for it and set up a partner farm to raise<br />

and protect the fish. There are now five<br />

caviar farms in France. Wendy and Mike<br />

work with Caviar de France, the oldest<br />

working caviar farm, based at Moulin de la<br />

Cassadotte, in the Gironde department.<br />

Entente Cordiale<br />

Thie partnership was formed when Wendy<br />

was made redundant from her job in 2011<br />

with a trainer manufacturer. “We used the<br />

redundancy money to set up Fine French<br />

Caviar in the UK” says Mike as he recalls<br />

the stress of their new venture, just as<br />

their baby was born. “We spent countless<br />

nights lying awake worrying. I remember<br />

Wendy putting on lots of makeup to hide<br />

her baggy eyes so that she looked ready<br />

for meetings with customers! She set up a<br />

website and was taking orders whilst<br />

trying to feed the baby”.<br />

But they knew that they had a great<br />

product and it inspired them to keep<br />

going. They have two types of caviar –<br />

both exclusive in the UK. Diva is a smooth,<br />

creamy caviar for the more amateur palate,<br />

made using the "malossol" method,<br />

meaning that only fish roe and natural salt<br />

is used to make it, without any<br />

preservatives. It has an authentic, light<br />

buttery taste, with a hint of warmth and<br />

hazelnut. Ebène is perfect for the<br />

connoisseur’s palate, tender, subtle and<br />

well-balanced with a hint of oyster, sea<br />

urchin, butter and hazelnut.

There are a number of 'do's & dont's' when it<br />

comes to caviar. Never use a silver metallic<br />

based spoon to serve or eat it. The silver oxidises<br />

the eggs and kills the flavour. The proper way to<br />

do it: off the back of the hand, off a mother of<br />

pearl or horn spoon. Wood, plastic and porcelain<br />

are all fit to serve caviar too. You can also serve<br />

off a GOLD spoon, if you have one!<br />

Once they drove 560 miles in a day to do a<br />

taste session for their caviar with a top<br />

chef and his team. It was worth it. Wendy<br />

presented Ebène in a blind taste test and it<br />

won hands down “Pound for Pound Ebène<br />

caviar is the best caviar we have ever<br />

tasted” declared the chef.<br />

In fact their caviar is so popular it’s<br />

appeared on the BBC foodie show Great<br />

British Menu no less than three times. It<br />

was even used in a dish prepared by<br />

Britain’s youngest Michelin star chef Aiden<br />

Byrne, scoring a perfect 10 from the 2*<br />

Michelin Chef Judge.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w Wendy and Mike import the caviar to<br />

the UK, delivering not just to loads of top<br />

chefs but to consumers by post in chilled<br />

packaging that ensures it arrives in perfect<br />

condition. “It’s not just for celebrities, the<br />

rich and top chefs, it’s an accessible<br />

product that everyone can enjoy” says<br />

Wendy.<br />

Their website has lots of recommendations<br />

for how to eat it and pair it with<br />

other food, Champagne, perhaps vodka,<br />

but some of Mike’s favourite ways to<br />

indulge include simple blinis and a dollop<br />

of crème fraiche, or even with a little<br />

scrambled egg, or mashed potato.<br />

“Great French caviar and great British<br />

produce – it’s entente cordiale on a plate”<br />

quips Mike.<br />

Fine French Caviar<br />

Enter the draw<br />

to win Fine<br />

French Caviar in<br />

time for<br />

Christmas, see

SPotligHt on BLAYE<br />

spotlight on blaye<br />

Aquitaine<br />

J Christina visits the historic town of<br />

Blaye, it might be small but it packs a<br />

mighty historic punch<br />

The Aquitaine region straddles a<br />

prominent position in southwest France. It<br />

stretches long and lean against the French<br />

Atlantic coastline, reaching up to the<br />

Pyrénées mountain range and<br />

transcending to the Spanish border. Here<br />

in the Gironde department, intrepid<br />

travellers can scamper to the summit of<br />

storybook castles, cycle through vineyardlaced<br />

countryside, walk through ancient<br />

villages and sip world-renowned wines.<br />

And it’s here that curious visitors will<br />

discover the douceur de vivre in a tiny onekilometer<br />

long settlement, once named<br />

Blaye-et-Sainte-Luce…<br />

Let me introduce you to Blaye, a petite but<br />

mighty hamlet, sitting at the southern tip of<br />

the Gironde estuary formed by the<br />

confluences of the nearby Dordogne and<br />

Garonne rivers. Blaye is an ancient and<br />

powerful settlement from medieval times,<br />

where the Citadel of Blaye and its military<br />

fortifications sit majestically over the<br />

waters of western Europe’s largest estuary.<br />

La Citadelle De Blaye, a medieval fortress,<br />

along with Fort Médoc and Fort Paté,<br />

formed a military defence system during<br />

the 18th and 19th centuries to protect the<br />

downstream port of Bordeaux from sea<br />

invasions and wars. It is a legendary<br />

example of engineering genius and<br />

Romanesque architecture designed and<br />

built by Vauban, the engineer of Louis XIV<br />

who left his mark throughout France. It’s a<br />

picture postcard town, with scarred<br />

ramparts that bear witness to battles and<br />

conflict through this historic maritime<br />

route.<br />

<strong>No</strong>wadays, we find the citadel is a living<br />

monument, where inside the bastion, a<br />

maze of cobblestone streets, stone houses,<br />

artisan shops, cafes and wine shops, still<br />


From atop the medieval walls of photogenic<br />

Blaye Citadel there are stunning panoramic<br />

views of the estuary and across to the<br />

famed Médoc.<br />

It is free to enter the UNESCO listed citadel<br />

and its ramparts, but within its walled city<br />

visitors pay for guided tours of Abbey Saint<br />

Romain or Musee d’Archéologie et Histoire<br />

de Blaye, via the Tourist Office.<br />

Walking the main street of Blaye, there is a<br />

feeling of authenticity. Vibrant street<br />

markets are held every Wednesday and<br />

Saturday in front of the Citadel, rich and<br />

colourful with tented stalls, filled with local<br />

produce and seafood. The soil in Blaye is<br />

rich and varied, and the area boasts 240<br />

days of sunshine. This results in prized<br />

asparagus, figs, and celebrated Côtes de<br />

Blaye red wines from vineyards in the<br />

Gironde. A must visit is the Maison du Vin<br />

on the Cours Vauban to taste the famous<br />

wine of this enchanting region.<br />

A visit to Blaye is a like a step-back in time.<br />

a place where the locals are warm and<br />

welcoming making your time in the Gironde<br />

a captivating experience.

Beginning French...<br />

by Les Americains<br />

Marty and Eileen Neumeier from California reveal how they fell in love with a house<br />

and life in the Dordogne even though they live thousands of miles away. They and<br />

their daughter Sara say it’s worth every minute of the effort to get there each year<br />

and they’ve even written a truly inspiring book about it...<br />

The couple unlocks the French doors and walk<br />

onto the stone terrace. Their bodies are stiff,<br />

achy, jetlagged. They’ve just endured the 27-<br />

hour ritual in which they drag heavy bags from<br />

house to car, car to shuttle, shuttle to plane,<br />

plane to plane, plane to taxi, taxi to train, train to<br />

car, and car to old stone house—the house that<br />

waits patiently all autumn, winter, and spring.<br />

They collapse on wicker chairs and stare into<br />

the distance. The air is warm. The first stars<br />

make their shy appearance.<br />

The woman gets up, her chair creaking. She<br />

disappears into the house and returns with a<br />

bottle of pale rosé, sets one glass here, one<br />

there.<br />

After a long pause, she says: “I’m not sure I can<br />

do this anymore.”

The man nods. “It’s impossible.”<br />

They sit, taking small sips as the stars<br />

grow bolder and more numerous. A bat<br />

zigzags through wooden columns that<br />

strain to support a roof heavy with old tiles.<br />

The breeze carries the scent of burning<br />

vines.<br />

“Of course,” the woman says, “I always say<br />

that. Then we get here, we come out onto<br />

the terrace, and I remember why.”<br />

The man turns his head.<br />

“You know—why we do it,” she says. “Why<br />

we pack up our clothes, our computers, the<br />

dogs, everything. Why we close up our<br />

house in California and hire strangers to<br />

watch over it.”<br />

“Why do we?”<br />

“Because of this,” she says, with an<br />

inclusive gesture. “This landscape. This<br />

fragrance. This view. As soon as we get<br />

here I start to forget all the effort and pain.<br />

And then I never want to leave.”<br />

The man raises his eyebrows.<br />

“I think we should write a book about this,”<br />

she says. “I think we should write a book<br />

about this part of France, about our<br />

friends, our neighbors, about Sara, this<br />

house, about learning French.<br />

About this.”<br />

The woman drains her glass and places it<br />

on the table.<br />

“Same way we do everything,” she says,<br />

her smile a miniature Milky Way. “You’ll<br />

drive and I’ll navigate.”<br />

He reaches for her hand. They laugh. They<br />

walk into the house, where the jetlag and<br />

the wine and the fragrance of the night<br />

overtake them.<br />

For the record, my name is Marty and my<br />

wife is Eileen. We’re Americans. But here’s<br />

the thing: if we could introduce ourselves<br />

to all of our 320 million neighbors in all of<br />

our 50 states, no one would call us<br />

Americans. We would simply be Marty and<br />

Eileen. Yet in this part of France, no one<br />

would call us anything but les Américains.<br />

Why? Because there are no others. We’ve<br />

looked.<br />

Aside from the French, we see quite a few<br />

English. In the summer we hear a<br />

smattering of Dutch. While the Dutch may<br />

simply be taking advantage of the cheap<br />

flights out of Rotterdam, the Brits have a<br />

historic claim on the place. They lost it in<br />

the Hundred Years’ War. And now, six<br />

hundred years later, it’s as if they’re quietly<br />

buying it back, bit by bit, hoping no one will<br />

notice.<br />

They gaze across the field. A light goes on<br />

in the next hamlet over. The sky has become<br />

a sea of stars. The Milky Way is the<br />

heavenly wake of some huge ocean liner,<br />

passing silently millions of miles overhead.<br />

“Both of us?” says the man.<br />

“Why not?”<br />

“How can two people write a book?”

But that doesn’t explain why we’re here, les<br />

Américains. Or why we traded our life<br />

savings for a second house in a part of the<br />

world we’d never heard of. We have no<br />

historic ties to France, no family members<br />

living in the “old country,” no vivid<br />

memories of cycling through the ripening<br />

vines during our gap year. More to the point,<br />

we can’t just “pop down” like our British<br />

friends. We have to slog 7,000 miles<br />

through nine time zones and five types of<br />

transportation to get here.<br />

<strong>No</strong>. The reason we ended up in France is<br />

much less obvious. We came by mistake.<br />

We thought if we bought a house in France,<br />

we would—as night follows day—become<br />

French.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w I know what you’re thinking: Wow,<br />

these people must be loaded. Who buys a<br />

house in France on such a whim?<br />

It wasn’t like that. There were no silver<br />

spoons in the kitchen drawer. We started<br />

our marriage as mere children, barely<br />

twenty, already raising a child of our own.<br />

To pay the rent I peddled handmade<br />

greeting cards from the back of an old<br />

Volvo. Eileen fed our little family with food<br />

stamps. When the greeting card business<br />

failed, I set up shop as a freelance designer.<br />

Little by little we built a life - I, designing ads<br />

and logos, she, keeping the books and<br />

running the house.<br />

For the next twenty years, travel was out of<br />

the question. But we kept the idea alive—the<br />

idea that someday we might visit a few<br />

foreign countries, even learn another<br />

language. And maybe, just maybe, if we<br />

worked hard enough and spent next to<br />

nothing on clothes and cars and meals in<br />

restaurants, we could afford to live in a<br />

foreign country. Why not? It doesn’t cost a<br />

cent to dream...<br />

Read the whole story by Les Americains,<br />

Beginning French, available from Amazon.

House Sitting in the Ile de France<br />

- how to have your cake and eat<br />

it<br />

Over the years I have visited various parts<br />

of the French coast, mountains and cities<br />

for holidays, work and pleasure. But I've<br />

seldom had the luxury of time to simply live<br />

in one place and take in my surroundings<br />

without the deadlines of a timed holiday or<br />

tours crammed between business<br />

meetings and a return flight.<br />

Housesitting in Ile de France gave me that<br />

privilege; time to enjoy the country and<br />

savour the character of the heart of la<br />

France Profonde.<br />

Discovering the Ile de France<br />

In the heart of the French countryside just<br />

one hour from Paris lives a British expat<br />

long established in a tiny hamlet near the<br />

town of Coulommiers, with her family of<br />

dogs and hens. Susan occasionally travels<br />

away from her country idyll finding<br />

housesitters to take care of her pets and<br />

home. On the Housesit Match website she<br />

describes her French home as ‘a peaceful<br />

retreat nestled in the heart of the country’.<br />

Driving along the Route National at<br />

Ermenonville I passed the famous Parc<br />

Asterix and noticed scenic road side areas<br />

signposted as bon coins de pique-nique,<br />

and covoiturage. How organised to set<br />

aside land for outdoor lunch and ride<br />

sharing meeting places. It was hard to<br />

visualise anything like this off motorways<br />

elsewhere. When I arrived, nothing had<br />

prepared me for this charming corner of the<br />

world. Susan's home is a characterful gated<br />

property not visible from the road, with<br />

expansive views from the rear facing<br />

veranda.<br />

Land of Brie and Champagne<br />

Before long Susan introduced me to my<br />

charges for the housesit assignment, four<br />

dogs - all different sizes and ages and each<br />

with a unique personality, and 12 chickens.<br />

Their routines were straightforward and her<br />

explanations and briefing document was<br />

clear. I was all set. And she was ready for<br />

her holiday.<br />

Barring downpours of rain in the first two<br />

days the rest of the time at the housesit<br />

was peaceful, warm and sunny. I visited<br />

Coulommiers the nearest town, and the first<br />

place in France to produce what we now<br />

know as Brie cheese.

I also visited nearby Saint Simeon and the<br />

Fromagère de la brie where you can<br />

organise visits to see the cheese being<br />

made, and naturally there are dégustations<br />

à la Laiterie.<br />

This region is close to the home of<br />

Champagne. It's easy to get to and try a<br />

little tasting (or two) and take some bottles<br />

of bubbles home with you.<br />

<strong>No</strong> matter where you house sit in France,<br />

there’s always something wonderful close<br />

by and in this case, one of the many great<br />

places to visit was Fontainebleau. Both the<br />

gardens and chateau were exquisite, really<br />

easy to negotiate and not at all crowded,<br />

not like Versailles which has been plagued<br />

by long queues whenever I have visited.<br />

Originally a fortified castle dating from the<br />

12th Century, this chateau has weathered<br />

more than 800 years of history, 36<br />

monarchs and an Emperor.<br />

Above left: the mountains of Reims,<br />

Champagne, above right: Chateau de<br />

Fontainebleau; right: Susan's chickens!

Housesitting and pet sitting Joys and<br />

Responsibilities<br />

Living like a local as a guest of the home<br />

owner yielded insights I couldn’t have<br />

uncovered in such a short space of time on<br />

a normal holiday. It’s this local knowledge<br />

that can enrich a new experience and that’s<br />

one of the reasons I love housesitting. Ile de<br />

France came to life for me through Susan’s<br />

insider’s tips in a way no guide book could<br />

have managed at such a local level.<br />

And what of my petsitting charges, I hear<br />

you asking? All this eating and drinking and<br />

enjoying the scenery doesn’t get the dogs<br />

walked or the chickens fed and watered!<br />

Well once we were in a routine the dogs and<br />

hens were straightforward and easy to care<br />

for.<br />

The hens were let out of their coop early in<br />

the morning, fed grain and given fresh<br />

water. And because their paddock was well<br />

fenced and they were safely enclosed the<br />

next time I had to worry about them was at<br />

sunset when I needed to ensure they had all<br />

returned and they were safely put away in<br />

their hen house at night.<br />

The dogs on the other hand were far more<br />

entertaining. They loved going for a<br />

country walk first thing. In the large<br />

garden they chased each other, got<br />

excited at the sound of Paris commuters<br />

driving past the gate, or rabbits spotted in<br />

the surroungind fields. It left me free to do<br />

as I wished for the rest of the day!<br />

My trip to Ile de France was brilliant and I<br />

know that I was only able to scratch the<br />

surface of all that was on offer. I hope to<br />

return to this wonderful region and to<br />

uncover more treasures, more produits de<br />

terroir, and through housesitting meet<br />

more wonderful friends and locals in a<br />

way that a classic tourist visit might not<br />

discover.<br />

By offering my services as a house and<br />

pet sitter I was able to live comfortably,<br />

care for pets which made me feel more at<br />

home and I didn’t have to pay for any<br />

accommodation for a wonderful holiday in<br />

a new part of France full of authentic<br />


Above left: Susans's home in Ile de<br />

France; centre: Dogs Barry and Flea;<br />

right: laptop with a view!

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Y O U R<br />

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<br />

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

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

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

Magazine...<br />

AUGUST - Monet's Garden, <strong>No</strong>rmandy<br />

By Helen Dodge Loved on Facebook by 10,462 people<br />

By Helen Dodge loved on Facebook by 10,564 people<br />

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r - Wine store Saint Emilion<br />

Loved on Facebook by 4<strong>13</strong>7 people

Géraldine Lepère of Comme Une Francaise French Language and<br />

Lifestyle shares her top tips to help you sound more French. In this<br />

lesson she demonstrates how to make a toast in France - at this time<br />

of the year it's a very timely lesson!<br />

Toasting in all countries is full of customs and superstitions. It’s a tradition that goes<br />

back to the Middle Ages and probably beyond. And still now, it’s always a ritual. How to<br />

make a toast in France, what to do, what to say? The fun video below will help you toast<br />

in French like a local!<br />

And, there's a saying in France that you when you make a toast, you must look in the<br />

eye of the person you are toasting with or suffer 7 years of bad sex!<br />

Click on the video for your free lesson! It will open full screen then click<br />

on the X in the right hand corner to return to the magazine!

Expat in France Susan Hays shares the excitement of searching, and<br />

finding, your dream home in France, in this case, the charming<br />

Charente-Maritime area, Poitou-Charentes

Our dream of moving to France grew dimmer and dimmer, we couldn't find<br />

The phone burst into life with a sudden jolt<br />

of energy, and picking it up, I heard a voice,<br />

"Susan? Susan? Is that you? I think I may<br />

have found something...". My heart gave a<br />

lurch of excitement, the dread I had been<br />

feeling for a week lifting off my chest. There<br />

were more words on the other end of the<br />

line, but I was already gone, drifting back to<br />

France and the sound of cicadas.<br />

With five children at school and a house to<br />

pack, we'd decided it was my husband’s<br />

turn to go house-hunting. We’d lived in<br />

France before, we knew what we wanted<br />

this time, going back to a country we loved<br />

so much, and we'd drawn up a check-list of<br />

things that were vital to the purchase, along<br />

with a second list of things that would be<br />

'nice'. We'd already chosen the area, the<br />

Charente Maritime, for the prospect of<br />

living in France's second sunniest region<br />

appealed to us greatly. The seaside, figs,<br />

lemons, olives, grapes and melons all<br />

drifted in and out of our conversation, as<br />

did mutterings of beach life and coastal<br />

marshlands. So, he packed a small bag one<br />

late June morning and I drove him to the<br />

airport as we discussed gardens, rooms,<br />

schools and resources. We were confident<br />

enough he would find something from the<br />

list of properties we had booked to see.<br />

Except he didn't.<br />

For five days, he drove his little hire-car<br />

back and forth across the corn-studded<br />

hinterland of the region, and down dusty<br />

little coastal roads by the sea. He sent<br />

nightly reports from a remote chambres<br />

d'hôtes via intermittent internet, and he<br />

slowly whittled down the list of appointments<br />

till they had finished. There was<br />

nothing that matched our list of requirements;<br />

certainly not for the budget we had<br />

in mind, anyway. Each house he visited had<br />

a problem with it, lack of schools, distance<br />

to a town or distance from the coast; there<br />

was always something out of kilter. The one<br />

house that had seemed ideal was signed<br />

away the day before he was due to view. We<br />

talked late into the night as our dreams<br />

grew dimmer and dimmer.

our dream house... and then I got the message "Found something possible"<br />

The morning before he was due to leave, in<br />

desperation he parked his car by the Place<br />

Colbert in Rochefort and went round estate<br />

agents collecting magazines in the rack<br />

outside each door. Settling into a chair at a<br />

café with a coffee he set to work. It took an<br />

hour to cull through the properties and by<br />

the time he finished it was nearly lunchtime<br />

and he still had nothing to show for<br />

his efforts. Looking up, he saw an agency<br />

on the far side of the square he had<br />

missed. He paid for his coffee and set off<br />

across the cobbles.<br />

The estate agent gathered some particulars<br />

of properties that fitted our requirements.<br />

Two of them, my husband had already<br />

visited, and his heart sank as he scanned<br />

the rest. As he did so, the agent fussed with<br />

a notepad, and looked up; "I have something<br />

else, but I don't have any particulars<br />

for it, I'm afraid. It came on the market two<br />

days ago and we already had someone to<br />

see it. Would you like to have a look, maybe<br />

next week? It is within your price-range,<br />

and it is in a village..."<br />

"Yes," laughed my husband, "but it will have<br />

to be today!”<br />

The man across the table scowled at the<br />

difficulties this was going to present, but he<br />

picked up the phone and made a call, and<br />

then asked, "This afternoon, after lunch?"<br />

That was when I received the message I<br />

had been hoping for, a simple text which<br />

read<br />



It was in a village, it had a large garden,<br />

outbuildings, grapevines and a fig tree and<br />

the village had a school and a bakery. It met<br />

just about all of our requirements. It<br />

belonged to a very old lady, and his heart<br />

quailed at the thought of finding something<br />

in a perfect situation, but in complete<br />

disrepair as the asking price would leave<br />

little change from the budget for much<br />

more than a new coat of paint.

Piling into the agent's car at the appointed<br />

hour, the pair of them sped across the<br />

ancient salt marsh towards a church tower<br />

far away on the horizon. Fifteen minutes<br />

later they rolled down a dusty sunny street<br />

into a village, and came to a stop at a huge<br />

pair of gates, covered in ancient peeling<br />

paint. Beyond the gates lay a driveway<br />

bordered with hedges, and a garden that<br />

stretched as far as the eye could see. My<br />

husband told me later that he'd known<br />

instantly this was to be our home.<br />

The house belonged to a family that had<br />

been there for generations. The old woman<br />

had gone to a nursing home near Paris, the<br />

interior was a time warp. In one room,<br />

upstairs, a shelf groaned under the weight<br />

of every Paris Match ever printed, books<br />

stood in stacks, covered in dust. In the attic,<br />

boxes of scientific journals going back a<br />

hundred years lay ready for serious study,<br />

and each room seemed to live on a<br />

different level, steps leading up and down<br />

like a rabbit's warren of dark and shuttered<br />

spaces. The outbuilding turned out to be<br />

the old farm manager's cottage, complete<br />

with a kitchen and bathroom untouched for<br />

decades. But despite the long grass and<br />

unkempt appearance, he knew this would<br />

be a good home for a large family. The<br />

garden even came with a sun-dappled set<br />

of childrens' swings - a proper set, proud<br />

and tall with room for three siblings.<br />

After a frantic night of phone calls and<br />

photos, I put it all in his hands, and told him<br />

it was his decision. The next morning he<br />

rang the agent made his offer, and agreed<br />

to sign the papers at lunchtime. At half-past<br />

two, as he sat at a desk in the agent’s office,<br />

scrawling his signature across the contract,<br />

the phone on the table rang. It was the<br />

people who had seen the house first,<br />

wanting to put in an offer; but they were too<br />

late, the ink had already dried.<br />

Two hours later, he drove back to his<br />

chambres d'hôtes in a daze, a copy of a<br />

power of attorney in one hand, the sale<br />

papers in the other, and two weeks to pay<br />

the deposit. When he rang me, the children<br />

whooped with excitement and my eyes<br />

grew moist with elation. We were going to<br />

France.<br />

Find out how life is in France for Susan and<br />

family at her blog: Our French Oasis

Find your dream home in La Rochelle<br />

La Rochelle is a great place to live, it's<br />

known as the sunniest town of the South<br />

West of France says local property agent<br />

Elinor Murless.<br />

The historical old port of La Rochelle is a<br />

lovely place to sit and relax watching the<br />

world go by with lots of great restaurants<br />

and bars. There's plenty to do all year<br />

round. The different architectural styles of<br />

La Rochelle give it a really special feel, it’s<br />

very atmospheric and picturesque.<br />

For nature fans, living around La Rochelle<br />

is ideal because of its proximity with the<br />

Atlantic coast, the Marais Poitevin and the<br />

Vendée. You can even island hop here as<br />

the Iles de Ré, Aix and Oléron are just a<br />

short ride away.<br />

To sum up, the living is good, there are<br />

lots of brilliant beaches, traditional<br />

villages, the benefits of city life plus nature<br />

reserves on your doorstep. Plus the people<br />

are really friendly!<br />

I would say to that by living close to La<br />

Rochelle, you really have so much choice<br />

for your French lifestyle – there’s<br />

something here to suit every dream…<br />

Large family home with 4 bedrooms on<br />

a big wooded garden with a small pond.<br />

€304,950<br />


Beautiful farmhouse with 6 bedrooms in a<br />

quiet hamlet, on beautiful garden, spa and<br />

sauna 20km from La Rochelle center.<br />

€ 478,000<br />


Splendid Manoir style house with<br />

tennis court, swimming pool and guest<br />

house, large garden with streams.<br />

€880,000<br />


Elinor's Property Portfolio, Leggett<br />


We chat to expats Louise Elsom and Dave Pegram who are finding<br />

success with a pop-up vegetarian and vegan restaurant in their home<br />

in Haute-Vienne and find out their top tips for creating a catering<br />

business in France

How did you come to be in France?<br />

I'm originally from East Yorkshire, England,<br />

UK. There seem to be a lot of us "Yorkshire<br />

Folk" out here. Either I'm being followed or<br />

we all have the same great idea to move to<br />

the Limousin region! Back in 2008, I<br />

finished University and wasn’t really sure<br />

what I wanted to do. My family had<br />

holidayed in Southern France throughout<br />

my childhood and my late dad had always<br />

dreamed of retiring here. Sadly he never<br />

got to live out that wish, but my Mum and I<br />

(after a lot of dithering), decided to go for it<br />

and move to France. We moved to<br />

Carcassonne and I had six happy years<br />

there. I met my Fiancée Dave two years ago<br />

and we've just bought our first home in the<br />

lovely Haute-Vienne region. My mum has<br />

moved to this area too.<br />

I bought a lovely, but unloved, two<br />

bedroomed house with a barn, a little<br />

stable and a bit of land – I just fell in love<br />

with it. Dave wasn’t quite so impressed<br />

when he saw it but I convinced him of the<br />

potential. It had been left abandoned for 15<br />

years but Dave is a builder so we’ve done<br />

all the renovation work ourselves. It's in a<br />

great area just outside the village of Saint<br />

Laurent sur Gorre. It's very peaceful with<br />

lots of lovely lakes and great for walking<br />

our two dogs. But if we want a bit of city life,<br />

Limoges is just 30 minutes away. I can<br />

spend hours walking around the cobbled<br />

streets, visiting the churches and dragging<br />

poor Dave into the many shops. Other<br />

highlights in the area include Saint Junien,<br />

Rochechouart, Chalus, Segur le Chateau.<br />

The list is endless...<br />

What it inspired you to create a pop up<br />

restaurant?<br />

Well I must admit to being a hopeless cook<br />

for many years. I had lived through my<br />

university years on takeaways and had<br />

never bothered cooking. But then I met<br />

Dave and found that he was a vegetarian,<br />

so I couldn't get away with shoving chicken<br />

Kiev and chips in the oven, I had to learn to<br />


To my surprise, I found that I loved it and I<br />

was really good at it. So much so, that I<br />

started a vegetarian recipes blog and, from<br />

there, decided to start a little vegetarian<br />

and vegan restaurant. And The Hidden<br />

Veggie Kitchen was born.<br />

The Hidden Veggie Kitchen is in our home<br />

and people can come and eat homemade<br />

vegetarian and vegan food and meet new<br />

people. It’s very sociable, people sit<br />

together at our two long tables and they<br />

love it. We’ve had so many interesting<br />

people visit, from as far as Holland and<br />

America. Many of our customers aren't<br />

vegetarian, they just want to eat a bit less<br />

meat on a weekly basis and enjoy simple,<br />

home cooked meals.<br />

How has it been to start a business in<br />

France?<br />

It’s rather overwhelming to set up a<br />

business in a foreign country so I got<br />

professional help with the Administration<br />

as I didn't want to make any mistakes! Jo-<br />

Ann Howell from French Admin Solutions<br />

helped me fill in the paperwork to become<br />

a Micro Enterprise and got me signed up<br />

for a 5 day Business course in Limoges. It<br />

is definitely reassuring to have someone<br />

that you can go to with any questions as,<br />

even with reasonable French; it is still easy<br />

to make mistakes!<br />

What top tips would you give to anyone<br />

wanting to set up a catering business in<br />

France?<br />

Well I would definitely say that you should<br />

do your research. I asked around and made<br />

sure that I would have enough potential<br />

customers in the area to make my<br />

business worthwhile. Customers travel<br />

from far and wide now so they obviously<br />

feel it's worthwhile for good food!<br />

I’ve found it easier to set up a business in<br />

my own home rather than on dedicated<br />

business premises. I’ve started small and<br />

grown gradually, rather than jumping in,<br />

renting a building, then finding I can't cover<br />

my monthly expenses. We’re still growing<br />

and we have the potential to extend the<br />

dining space into the barn.<br />

How easy has it been to make friends in<br />

France?<br />

In our little hamlet everyone is French, with<br />

the exception of one British owned holiday<br />

home. Our French neighbours have been<br />

extremely welcoming. When we first moved<br />

in, we had no running water for several<br />

weeks and everyone offered us the use of<br />

their outdoor taps and even showers! I<br />

started a Facebook group, "Get Togethers<br />

in the Limousin", and I've hosted several<br />

events which has been a big help in making<br />

friends.<br />

I know that it can be very hard for a lot of<br />

people to make friends when they move to<br />

France, especially if they haven’t mastered<br />

French. I’ve found that if you make the<br />

effort and join French classes, local social<br />

groups, yoga classes etc, you will soon<br />

meet people.<br />

After eight years in France, I've definitely<br />

adapted. When I return to the UK to visit<br />

friends I often feel overwhelmed at first by<br />

the amount of people. I’ve certainly become<br />

used to life in rural France where<br />

sometimes, the only traffic I see is a tractor<br />

passing by. I’m lucky to have my Mum just<br />

45 minutes away in the Charente and<br />

Dave's mum and stepdad live in the<br />

Dordogne, so we always have people to<br />

turn to if we need help or support.<br />

When we have children, we will make sure<br />

that they fully adapt to life in France and<br />

are bilingual, as that is such a huge<br />

advantage. Perhaps they will help me to<br />

gradually improve my French too!<br />

The Hidden Veggie Kitchen Website


The picturesque villages of the regional park of the Perigord-Limousin offer tranquil<br />

countryside living close to Limoges and its International airport. Rich with culture,<br />

fantastic restaurants, leisure lakes, outdoor activities, and the relaxed pace of living<br />

make this a truly beautiful place to live. When purchasing a property in this region you<br />

still get good value, lovely stone houses, exposed beams and a lot of space for your<br />

money.<br />

This is a region of outstanding natural beauty, perfect for those who enjoy outdoor<br />

living and activities and Limoges city offers city culture and life on the doorstep.<br />

Fiona Marsh, local property agent shares her top picks:<br />

Stunning property with 4 bedrooms set in<br />

private grounds of 2845m² with a swimming<br />

pool. A short drive to the town with facilities<br />

make this a perfect country home.<br />

Guide Price: €288,000<br />


3 bedroom stone hamlet house, beautifully<br />

restored. Gorgeous garden, 2 courtyards and<br />

close to faciities<br />

Guide Price: €77,000<br />


Fabulous country house with 12 hectares<br />

of land, it's own Napoleonic lake,<br />

separate farm house and cottage with<br />

priviate gardens, 4 barns and 2 pools!<br />

Endless possibilities here!<br />

Guide Price: €689,000<br />


Fiona's Property Portfolio<br />

Leggett Immobillier

From Dudley to the Dordogne... Brian Beard meets the Burrows family who<br />

live in rural bliss in south west France<br />

In 2003 David Burrows and his family<br />

decided on a new life in France. The name<br />

may be familiar to you if you are a football<br />

fan because David played for some of the<br />

top English Premier League clubs,<br />

including Liverpool and Everton. He was<br />

part of the last Liverpool team to win the<br />

top flight league title, in 1990, before the<br />

revamp of English football saw the<br />

introduction of the Premier League. A little<br />

known football fact is that he still holds the<br />

record for the second fastest goal in<br />

Merseyside derby history, just 48 seconds<br />

from kick-off, for Liverpool against Everton,<br />

on 31st August 1991, second only to Anfield<br />

legend Kenny Dalglish, who actually signed<br />

the 19 year old left back from West<br />

Bromwich Albion, in 1989.<br />

So why and how did a died-in-the- wool<br />

Black Country lad up sticks and create a<br />

new life for himself and his family.<br />

"Why not" is the answer, accompanied with<br />

a typical Gallic shrug of the shoulders, with<br />

a Midland accent of course.

'Bugsy' as he is nicknamed continues. "We<br />

spent a lot of family holidays in France and<br />

as I was coming to the end of my career I<br />

had a few injuries and there was a lot about<br />

football I didn`t like so we thought, why not<br />

make a new life."<br />

David was in a fortunate position,<br />

financially, after a career in professional<br />

football totalling more than 400 games. A<br />

career which saw him win the Football<br />

League, the FA Cup and two FA Charity<br />

Shields.<br />

He says: "I had my pension from football as<br />

well as other business interests so I didn`t<br />

have to worry about that side of things and<br />

looking after the family."<br />

David met his wife Jackie when they were<br />

16 and 14 respectively. They married in 1990<br />

and she of course followed him around<br />

England as he stopped off to play for; West<br />

Brom, Liverpool, West Ham, Everton,<br />

Coventry, Birmingham City and Sheffield<br />

Wednesday, his last club.<br />

Indeed it was the move to Yorkshire for<br />

'Bugsy' that proved the catalyst for the<br />

move to France. Jackie recalls.<br />

"It was probably me more than David who<br />

wanted the move to France. When he<br />

signed for Sheffield Wednesday it was the<br />

first time he ever had to commute to work<br />

as we usually moved to the new area when<br />

he changed clubs. It was the first time he<br />

ever had to travel to a club and that was<br />

something neither of us liked."<br />

So the family packed up and headed for a<br />

new life in France. A beautiful 17th century<br />

farmhouse of yellow Dordogne stone,<br />

typical of the area, became home for the<br />

couple and their three children, David,<br />

Sophie and Alexandra, `Alex`.<br />

David never harboured any plans to coach<br />

or manage in England and that didn`t<br />

change when they relocated. But in order to<br />

enjoy their new life to the full 'Bugsy' was<br />

determined to keep fit.

David, top left (red) playing for Liverpool at the<br />

25th Anniversary of Hillsborough Match<br />

"I wanted to integrate into the community<br />

and I had already decided a good way of<br />

doing that would be to go along to the local<br />

football club and learn more. I didn`t want<br />

to breeze in and say to people 'look at me<br />

I`m an ex-pro' and 'piggy-back' on that. I'm<br />

a private person and didn`t want that kind<br />

of privileged start. I just wanted to train and<br />

keep fit".<br />

But the local team, Olympique Coux et<br />

Bigaroque beat him to it and after being<br />

invited to train with them he ended up in<br />

the side but was unable to prevent their<br />

relegation. The following season, with, as<br />

David puts it, `"professional organisation,<br />

training and a few new, good, players, we<br />

won the championship of the Dordogne."<br />

Meanwhile the family settled well and<br />

fortunately there weren`t too many<br />

obstacles to the acclimatisation process.<br />

"I think most people who start a new life<br />

abroad encounter situations that lead them<br />

to think 'what are we doing here'" says<br />

Jackie. "But we had no such problems.<br />

David had his football, the children were at<br />

school and meeting up with and talking to<br />

local parents helped immensely in us<br />

settling in to the local community."<br />

The process was helped by the continual<br />

work schedule they had to carry out on<br />

their farmhouse because David and Jackie<br />

put something back into the community, a<br />

tangible contribution to the local economy,<br />

as Jackie explained:<br />

"Rather than use English tradesmen we<br />

made a point of employing local French

Above and left: The<br />

Burrows rental<br />

properties, typically<br />

Dordogne<br />

artisans, and that helped the immersion<br />

into the area. If we needed help or an<br />

opinion there was always someone we<br />

could turn to or someone who knew<br />

someone."<br />

To those who have not changed their lives<br />

in the way the Burrows family have there is<br />

a common misconception that long days<br />

are spent in the sun, on the terrace, sipping<br />

a glass of wine, or several, and winding<br />

down the 'clock of life'. Unfortunately, or<br />

fortunately perhaps, that is neither<br />

sustainable or realistic. Although they had<br />

a solid financial background on which to<br />

build their new life in France Jackie and<br />

David were practical.<br />

"We were financially ok but it wasn`t bulletproof.<br />

" says Jackie. "There has been<br />

economic volatility for some years now and<br />

if you sat on your pension it would go, very<br />

quickly. So we went into property and<br />

bought two beautiful holiday homes that<br />

we rent out as an income stream. I spend<br />

something like 20 hours a week on<br />

everything from bookings to change-overs<br />

while David takes care of the<br />


Living the dream, Hautefort Dordogne, one<br />

of several of the beautiful villages in the<br />

area.<br />

Life in France for many is about variety and<br />

maintaining a balance. Work-life balance is<br />

something the French have turned into a<br />

fine art and, as David added, there is more<br />

to renting out property than simply being<br />

an income stream.<br />

"We find that a lot of the people who rent<br />

our properties come back year after year<br />

and many become friends so it has other<br />

benefits as well as being a source of<br />

income. We put everything into trying to<br />

integrate into the community. That is<br />

crucial for anyone moving to a new<br />

country, a new culture. Football obviously<br />

helped but it was only one part of settling<br />

in."<br />

David only recently called time on his<br />

playing career in France, hanging up his<br />

boots on medical advice as the ravages of<br />

playing the game for four decades took its<br />

toll. But, he still plays the occasional game.<br />

The whole family have really embraced life<br />

in France. David, the couple`s son, works as<br />

an ambulance driver; Sophie works in<br />

Import and Export in Bordeaux; and Alex is<br />

at 6th Form College.<br />

David and Jackie are united in their<br />

evaluation of that life changing decision<br />

made <strong>13</strong> years ago. They say they have<br />

absolutely no regrets.<br />

"Moving here to France is the best decision<br />

we have ever made. The children love it and<br />

we love it. The people are so generous, in<br />

every respect. Life has been, and is,<br />

wonderful. C`est magnifique.<br />


LETS - page 104


The Dordogne is a popular department for foreign buyers due to great weather, lots to<br />

do, fantastic gastronomy, numerous picturesque villages and 4,000 chateaux! The<br />

department has four distinct territories. The ‘Green Périgord' in the north derives its<br />

name from its green valleys and woodland. In the centre of the department is 'White<br />

Périgord', so called because of its limestone plateaux. The 'Purple Périgord', in the<br />

South West of the department, is named from the area's grapes.<br />

In the south-east you'll find 'Black Périgord', with deep valleys and ancient forests. It<br />

contains the towns of Saint-Cyprien and Sarlat-la-Caneda, classic yellow stone<br />

buildings, prehistoric caves and some of the most beautiful villages in France.<br />

Nearest international airports are Limoges, Bergerac and Bordeaux.<br />

Local property agent Antonella reveals three of her top picks in the area:<br />

This charming house has 2 bedrooms<br />

and a converted barn with 2 bedrooms.<br />

A swimming pool, outdoor dining area<br />

and studio make this an absolute mustsee<br />

Guide Price: €318,000<br />


Gorgeous stone property with 5<br />

bedrooms, swimming pool and short walk<br />

to Bastide de Beaumont with shops and<br />

restaurants. Also a great investment<br />

property, achievin E50,000 for 12 weeks<br />

this summer<br />

Guide Price: €449,000<br />


Beautiful old presbytery with loads<br />

of character, 5 bedrooms and a<br />

swimming pool. With fabulous views<br />

over the countryside this is a really<br />

charming home.<br />

Guide price: €461,100<br />


Renting holiday properties are one of the most popular forms of income in France<br />

for expats and so it's really important to make the most of your opportunities.<br />

Successful marketing means being pro-active with a clear strategy and budget<br />

says Donna Sloane of French Connections.<br />

Here are her top marketing tips:<br />


Look online at listing websites and maybe choose more than one. Some are<br />

international, others specialise in France. Some charge a set annual fee, others take<br />

commission. Check out special offers, especially at this time of year.<br />

choose customer service<br />

Will staff help create your presentation and do they answer helpline calls and emails<br />

quickly and effectively? Does the company promote owners through advertising,<br />

blogging and a PR programme?<br />

budget<br />

Allow for hosting of your listing over the long term plus costs like photography and<br />

contingencies like special offers and ‘featured property’ slots on the listing site.<br />

create a great online listing<br />

Use the host site template to display stunning photos and an alluring but honest<br />

description. Aim to show what a holiday at your place offers and make it stand out from<br />

the rest. Holidaymakers want to see what to expect, imagine themselves there and feel<br />

safe to book.<br />

monitor enquiries<br />

Be easy to contact and reply to enquiries within 24 hours maximum. Often it’s good<br />

business to phone for a chat to clinch the booking. Make sure you also get text alerts<br />

and see enquiries in the host site’s owner’s area.<br />

French Connections is at www.frenchconnections.co.uk 01580 819303<br />

The online listing specialist currently has a unique six months free<br />

or money back offer with no commission.

Says Tim Sage, property expe<br />

Buying and selling a property in France –<br />

The Paperwork!<br />

Once you’ve found your dream home in<br />

France and agreed a price, it's almost time<br />

for those Champagne corks to start<br />

popping! But before that, there’s a bit more<br />

to do – the legal transfer of the property<br />

from the seller to the buyer which involves<br />

paying a deposit (usually at least 10%) and<br />

(usually) two sets of paperwork:<br />


The compromis, as the name suggests, is a<br />

legally binding promise between the buyer<br />

and seller, generally known in the UK as<br />

the Initial Contract. It will contain almost all<br />

of the information that will be in the later<br />

Acte de Vente (in the UK known as the<br />

Deed of Sale or Final Contract). The<br />

information will include at the very least:<br />

- The details of the status of both buyer<br />

and seller – full names, dates and places of<br />

birth, marriage and divorce if applicable.<br />

- A description of the property including<br />

plot references (called cadastrales in<br />

France), land area including the buildings<br />

and a map showing the land and buildings.<br />

- The agreed price, the agency fee, the<br />

estimated legal fees (they’ll be confirmed<br />

later), duties and the amount of deposit to<br />

be paid.<br />

- The reasons for which the deposit could<br />

be forfeited and the obligations and<br />

declarations by the seller and buyer.<br />

- Copies of the diagnostic tests and results.<br />

- Any suspensive clauses (special<br />

conditions) both standard and any others<br />

that have been mutually agreed.<br />

- An estimated date for the completion –<br />

this is not fixed and can be changed at a<br />

later stage, either earlier or later but is<br />

always set at a minimum of two months<br />

ahead to allow for the notaire “searches”<br />

which have a maximum of two months for a<br />

reply.<br />

- An inventory of any furniture that is to be<br />

included in the sale - with values if<br />

applicable.<br />

The Compromis, which is in French, is<br />

signed by all parties involved. A good<br />

English speaking agency will supply a<br />

“generic” translation (not including the<br />

specific terms of the contract) but this is<br />

not for signing, only for guidance.

t and agent<br />

The signing is followed by a 10 day<br />

“Cooling Off” period. This period starts at<br />

midnight on the first day after the signing<br />

(unless that is a Sunday) and includes<br />

weekends and Bank holidays. During this<br />

time the buyer can withdraw from the sale<br />

without loss of the deposit.<br />

<strong>No</strong>tice of withdrawal must be made in<br />

writing and sent by recorded delivery to<br />

either the notaire or the agency depending<br />

on who drew up the compromis. This is a<br />

rare occurrence.<br />


This is it! The big day!<br />

All parties meet in the <strong>No</strong>taire's office. The<br />

balance of the money must have been<br />

transferred to the <strong>No</strong>taire account 48 hours<br />

beforehand so all will go according to plan.<br />

You will need to supply an “Attestation<br />

d'Origine des Fonds” to comply with<br />

French anti-money laundering laws and<br />

this can be obtained from your bank or<br />

currency provider (it doesn’t matter which<br />

country they ‘re based in – they will all be<br />

able to do this).<br />

The <strong>No</strong>taire will read through the Acte de<br />

Vente adding in the results of his searches<br />

made during the delay after the compromis<br />

and the names of previous owners – the<br />

paper trail that makes buying property in<br />

France so safe. The Acte itself is in two<br />

parts; the first is a confirmation of the<br />

parties and property while the second is the<br />

“Annexes” or standard clauses. Until<br />

recently, at this stage the paper shuffling<br />

started with all parties signing or initialling<br />

every page as required. Most <strong>No</strong>taires<br />

these days use an “electronic signature”<br />

with a computer screen and electronic pad<br />

that is signed twice by each person and the<br />

results electronically printed on to the<br />

document in the right places. <strong>No</strong> more<br />

writer's cramp!<br />

The notaire will give an “Attestation” to the<br />

buyer and seller. For the seller it allows<br />

them to cancel their insurances etc. and for<br />

the buyer it is proof of ownership while the<br />

<strong>No</strong>taire registers the transfer with the land<br />

registry. During the next three to six months<br />

the new owner will receive a certified copy<br />

of the Acte.<br />

Signing done - the keys are handed over.<br />

The proud new owner can now “live the<br />

dream” and it really is time for those<br />

Champagne corks to pop.<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

Looking after elderly relatives in France<br />

Jo-Ann Howell explains what assistance is available for expats…<br />

First of all, did you know that in France,<br />

children (where finances permit) can be<br />

obliged by the courts to support their<br />

parents and grandparents?<br />

Putting this obligation aside, having family<br />

to stay brings much joy, but having them<br />

move in also brings costs – not only food<br />

and lodging, but you might also need to<br />

undertake home improvements and<br />

organize for extra help to care for them.<br />

In France, it’s possible to get support for<br />

some additional costs for those caring for<br />

elderly relatives; we take a look at what’s<br />

available and how to apply<br />

Home Improvements<br />

When you need to make necessary<br />

improvements to your primary residence to<br />

accommodate the elderly and persons of<br />

reduced mobility, a tax credit is granted for<br />

the installation and replacement of<br />

equipment specially designed to assist<br />

your new residents.<br />

It is a very specific list of works covered,<br />

and they must be carried out by a<br />

professional, however you may be eligible<br />

for 25% of the cost to be reimbursed<br />

against your tax bill.<br />

How to claim: Declare the full amount<br />

spent, including VAT, in box 7WJ of your<br />

‘déclaration de revenues’. The cost of works<br />

is capped at 5.000€ for a single person<br />

household, and 10.000€ for a couple, with<br />

an extra 400€ for every dependent.<br />

Tip: Keep the invoice for the home<br />

improvements in case you are asked for it.

Health Cover<br />

If your family member is not already in the<br />

French health system, but has a CEAM<br />

(Carte Européene d'Assurance Maladie )<br />

you can add them to your own health cover<br />

as a dependent.<br />

How: Use form cerfa 14411*01 and send it<br />

on to the French organisation which<br />

oversees your own cover (CPAM, RSI,…).<br />

Home Help<br />

You need to apply for an Allocation<br />

Personalisée d’Autonomie or APA (at the<br />

local Mairie). A home visit will be made by<br />

a doctor and social worker. They will<br />

establish the needs of your relative and<br />

assess your involvement in their day-today<br />

life. You may be remunerated for your<br />

assistance, or get support for home help.<br />

<strong>No</strong>te: 1 month after you receive confirmation<br />

APA is approved, you must declare if<br />

you have engaged help. (cerfa 10544*02).<br />

The amount of support you get depends on<br />

the revenues of the person you are caring<br />

for as well as how much help they need.<br />

Tax implications & reductions<br />

As far as the French taxman is concerned<br />

your family member is now one of your<br />

household for tax purposes; even if their<br />

pension or disability income is taxed at<br />

source it should be declared on your<br />

household tax return. If not it should be<br />

added as the income of a dependent. If<br />

your dependent has no income, then you<br />

should reduce your total household<br />

revenue by 3.407€ per dependent, per<br />

annum. Your annual taxe d’habitation may<br />

also be reduced if your dependent is over<br />

the age of 70, lives with you and in the<br />

previous year had a declared taxable<br />

income below 10.697€ (16.409€ for two<br />

people).<br />

The list of de-taxed installations is a long<br />

one, so get in touch to check if your<br />

planned works are eligible –<br />


What to do with your UK Pension when you<br />

move to France<br />

Financial expert Jennie Poate examines a real life case study...<br />

I met with John and Jane at their lovely<br />

house in the Dordogne, they had bought it<br />

outright with cash raised from the sale of<br />

their UK property and had a sum of money<br />

set aside for renovation and living costs.<br />

At 53, Jane is unable to take her pension<br />

just yet. She has a pension pot worth<br />

£100,000 with a UK provider and she will<br />

need advice in 2 years’ time when she can<br />

access her pension early if she wishes to.<br />

John will be 55 this year and therefore can<br />

access his pension. He too has a pension<br />

pot worth £100,000 with a UK provider.<br />

John told me that he wants to take his<br />

pension now so that the couple have<br />

money to live on while they’re renovating<br />

their house and settling into their new life.<br />

Though they understood that the UK<br />

pension rules changed in 2015, they had<br />

struggled to find an advisor in the UK to<br />

explain what their options are now they’re<br />

living in France.<br />

As a qualified adviser in both UK and<br />

French financial matters, I asked them<br />

questions about their financial needs and<br />

requirements and then took them through<br />

the options available to them.<br />

1. Annuity<br />

This is where, in exchange for your pension<br />

fund, an insurance company will provide a<br />

monthly income until death (some products<br />

additionally offer a pension to a surviving<br />

spouse). I explained that with this option,<br />

he could draw down 25% of the fund tax<br />

free, known as a Pension Commencement<br />

Lump Sum (PCLS) and a fixed amount of<br />

income for life. Annuity rates have been<br />

particularly poor of late as they are based<br />

on interest rates. If John took this option in<br />

the UK, the PCLS would be tax free.<br />

However as he is a French resident, he<br />

would have to pay tax.<br />

John asked if he could take the whole fund<br />

as cash.

2. Take your Pension in Cash<br />

Well, yes, I told him. But, there are tax<br />

implications that need to be considered,<br />

both with the UK and French tax<br />

authorities. In the UK the first 25% is tax<br />

free, then the rest is taxed at 20% or 40%<br />

(depending upon your UK tax rate). In<br />

France it would be taxed at a set 7.5%. The<br />

pension may well be taxed in both<br />

countries and he would have to apply for a<br />

refund from the UK. John will need to<br />

decide whether he would want all the cash<br />

with a tax charge, or the ability to draw on<br />

the funds as and when required. The latter<br />

is taxed at his marginal rate of tax in<br />

France, but as they would be taxed as a<br />

couple, the first €9790 each would be<br />

added together and no tax would be taken.<br />

3. Drawdown funds<br />

John could move his pension pot to a<br />

different structure altogether. For many UK<br />

pension pots, this is certainly an option.<br />

BUT only if it is in your best interest to do<br />

so, you need to check carefully that you<br />

won’t lose certain benefits with your<br />

existing policies when you move it. A<br />

‘drawdown’ fund may be a great option and<br />

there are several types available including<br />

‘QROPS’ (Qualifying Recognised Overseas<br />

Pension Scheme) and ‘SIPPs’ (Self-Invested<br />

Personal Pension). With some of these<br />

products you can stop and start for income,<br />

and take cash depending on need. This can<br />

suit your circumstances when you may<br />

need more or less income or a cash<br />

injection, and the fund is still yours - you<br />

haven’t relinquished control.<br />

One benefit of a QROPS is that you may<br />

have a higher tax free Pension<br />

Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS ) than<br />

under a UK scheme – 30% as opposed to<br />

25%.<br />

Pension Income in France<br />

John and Jane were worried about how<br />

much tax they would have to pay on their<br />

pension income as well as inheritance tax<br />

which they heard was high in France.<br />

Pension income in France is taxable but is<br />

not subject to the dreaded CSG or ‘social<br />

charges’.<br />

The amount remaining in the fund after<br />

death is not subject to inheritance tax.<br />

Our meeting over, I studied John and Jane’s<br />

requirements carefully, and as with all<br />

clients, recommendations undergo several<br />

stages including rigorous compliance<br />

checks to ensure that their best interests<br />

were considered. It can take a while to do<br />

this but it’s really important that as an<br />

advisor I have all the facts, and as clients<br />

John and Jane know that they’re getting the<br />

best advice and recommendations for their<br />

circumstances and future.<br />

John and Jill are living their dream life in<br />

Dordogne and we wish them much<br />

happiness.<br />

If you’d like obligation free pensions advice,<br />

please contact me at:<br />

jennie@bgwealthmanagement.net<br />

www.bgwealth.eu<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 for<br />

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) Limited<br />

(BFMI). All approved individual members of Nexus Global are Appointed Representatives of BFMI. BFMI<br />

is licensed and regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and bound by their rules under<br />

licence number FSC00805B.

© Sergio Coimbra, from Pierre Hermé: Chocolate (Flammarion, 2016).<br />

Macaron Infiniment Chocolat<br />

Infiniment Chocolat Macaron

By Pierre Hermé, Paris

Perfect for parties, these gorgeous little more-ish<br />

macarons from the master in Paris are from his<br />

new book "Chocolate" and classified as "easy.<br />

Nicknamed the ‘Picasso of Pastry’ by Jeffrey<br />

Steingarten in Vogue, Pierre Hermé is to the<br />

macaron what Louis Vuitton is to the handbag.<br />

Name the World’s Best Pastry Chef 2016 by the<br />

World’s Best 50 Restaurants Academy, Hermé<br />

revolutionized traditional pastry-making. He has<br />

invented a unique universe of tastes, sensations<br />

and pleasures and his empire of pastry boutiques<br />

now spans the globe: from France and the UK to<br />

Japan, Hong Kong and to South Korea.<br />

The book is available from Amazon.<br />


Makes about 72 macarons<br />

Macaron Shell:<br />

1 cup (7 2/3 oz./220 g) (or about 8)<br />

“liquefied” egg whites, divided (see note)<br />

3 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz./300 g) ground<br />

almonds<br />

2 cups + 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 oz./300 g)<br />

confectioners’ sugar<br />

4 1/4 oz. (120 g) pure cocoa paste or dark<br />

chocolate, 100% cocoa<br />

3/4 teaspoon (4.5 g) carmine red food<br />

coloring<br />

1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz./300 g) superfine<br />

sugar<br />

1/3 cup (2 2/3 oz./75 g) mineral water<br />

Cocoa powder Infiniment Chocolat<br />

Ganache:<br />

2/3 cup (5 oz./140 g) butter at room<br />

temperature<br />

12 3/4 oz. (360 g) Guanaja 70% dark<br />

chocolate (Valrhona)<br />

1 1/3 oz. (40 g) pure cocoa paste (or dark<br />

chocolate 100% cocoa)<br />

1 2/3 cups (14 oz./400 g) liquid cream<br />

Finishing:<br />

Cocoa powder<br />


Five days in advance, place the egg whites for the macaron shells in a bowl, cover tightly<br />

with plastic film, pierce a few holes in the film and refrigerate to liquefy.<br />

One day in advance, prepare the macaron shells:<br />

Sift the ground almonds and the confectioners’ sugar together in a bowl. Chop the cocoa<br />

paste and place in a bowl over a bain-marie of simmering water to melt to 122°F (50°C).<br />

Combine 1/2 cup (110 g) of liquefied egg whites with the food coloring. Pour onto the<br />

sifted almond powder–sugar mixture without mixing.

TO MAKE<br />

Combine the sugar and water in a<br />

saucepan and bring to a boil, monitoring<br />

the temperature with a thermometer.<br />

Meanwhile place the remaining 1/2 cup<br />

(110 g) of liquefied egg whites in the bowl<br />

of a mixer fitted with a wire whisk. Once<br />

the sugar syrup has reached 239°F (115°C),<br />

begin beating the egg whites on high<br />

speed. Once the syrup has reached 244°F<br />

(118°C), reduce the mixer speed to medium<br />

and begin pouring the syrup in a steady<br />

stream into the beaten egg whites.<br />

Continue beating until the mixture cools to<br />

122°F (50°C).<br />

Using a spatula, fold the meringue mixture<br />

into the almond–sugar–egg white mixture.<br />

Add the melted cocoa paste, mixing until<br />

the batter loses a little volume. Spoon the<br />

batter into a pastry bag fitted with a <strong>No</strong>. 11<br />

plain tip (1/2 in. diameter). Line baking<br />

sheets with cooking parchment and pipe<br />

out rounds of batter about 1 1/2 in. (3.5 cm)<br />

in diameter, spaced about 3/4 in. apart.<br />

Tap the baking sheets gently on a work<br />

surface covered with a kitchen towel to<br />

smooth the surface. Place the cocoa<br />

powder in a sifter and sprinkle lightly over<br />

the macaron shells. Set aside at room<br />

temperature for at least thirty minutes to<br />

allow a “skin” to form.<br />

cocoa paste, stirring from the center out in<br />

small, then progressively larger concentric<br />

circles. When the temperature of the<br />

chocolate cools to 95°F–104°F (35°C–40°<br />

C), incorporate, little by little, the butter.<br />

Whisk until the ganache is smooth. Pour<br />

into a shallow dish. Press a sheet of plastic<br />

film directly onto the surface of the<br />

chocolate cream and refrigerate until the<br />

texture is creamy.<br />

Spoon the ganache into a pastry bag fitted<br />

with a <strong>No</strong>. 11 plain pastry tip. Turn half of the<br />

macaron shells over, flat side up, on the<br />

work surface and pipe the ganache<br />

generously onto each shell. Cover each<br />

with a second macaron shell. Refrigerate<br />

for twenty-four hours.<br />

The following day, remove the macarons<br />

from the refrigerator two hours before<br />

serving.<br />

Preheat the oven on convection setting to<br />

355°F (180°C/Gas Mark 6). Place the<br />

baking sheets in the oven and bake for<br />

twelve minutes, opening and closing the<br />

oven door quickly twice during the baking<br />

to release steam. Remove from the oven<br />

and slide the macaron shells onto the work<br />

surface.<br />

Prepare the Infiniment Chocolat ganache:<br />

Cut the butter into pieces. Chop the<br />

chocolate and cocoa paste with a serrated<br />

knife, and place them in a bowl. Bring the<br />

cream to a boil in a saucepan and pour it,<br />

one-third at a time, over the chocolate and<br />

<strong>No</strong>te: “Liquefied” egg whites are egg<br />

whites that have been allowed to rest for<br />

several days to lose their elasticity. Simply<br />

place the egg whites in a bowl, cover with<br />

plastic film, pierce a few holes in the film<br />

and refrigerate for five to seven days.

Tartiflette<br />

Savoyarde<br />

with<br />

Reblochon<br />

Cheese<br />

by<br />

Karen Burns Booth<br />

Tartiflette is a baked gratin of potatoes,<br />

onions (or shallots), lardons (bacon), wine,<br />

cream and cheese. It's a staple of ski<br />

lodge or chalet suppers. The dish<br />

originates from the Savoy (Savoie) region<br />

of France, famous for its skiing resorts,<br />

cheese and charcuterie.<br />

This is an adaption of the classic regional<br />

dish, made with Reblochon (see page 22)<br />

which melts like a dream creating an<br />

unctuous and creamy cheese sauce.<br />

There really isn’t another dish that is as<br />

comforting as Tartiflette on a cold winter’s<br />

day; the combination of soft potatoes,<br />

crisp lardons, golden onions all bound in a<br />

silky cheese sauce with a tasty, crunchy<br />

golden-brown topping is heaven in a bowl.<br />

It’s well worth the effort hunting out a<br />

large Reblochon cheese too, although Brie<br />

or Camembert will work if the cheese hunt<br />

proves fruitless. Enjoy it with a large bowl<br />

of salad, cornichons and an acre or two of<br />

crusty bread.<br />

Vegetarians can omit the lardons and add<br />

fried mushrooms. The dish can be partcooked<br />

(as in the potatoes boiled and the<br />

onions and bacon fried) and assembled,<br />

and it can then be popped in the fridge<br />

until you need to bake it – just remember<br />

to take it out half an hour beforehand to<br />

bring it to room temperature, which makes<br />

it a fabulous recipe to have prepared for<br />

any family supper, especially handy for<br />

after work or over the weekend.

Ingredients (for 4 people)<br />

1.2kg potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters<br />

200g smoked lardons (or smoked streaky<br />

bacon cut into small pieces)<br />

2 large pink or red onions, peeled and diced<br />

(or 10 pink shallots)<br />

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced<br />

150mls dry white wine<br />

1 x 500g Reblochon cheese<br />

6 tablespoons crème fraiche<br />

butter<br />

salt and pepper<br />

Directions<br />

Step 1 Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas<br />

mark 6 and butter an oven-proof gratin dish or<br />

shallow casserole dish.<br />

Step 2 Boil the potatoes until just soft. Drain them<br />

and allow them to cool before cutting them into<br />

slices.<br />

Step 3 Meanwhile, fry the lardons (or bacon<br />

pieces), onions and garlic until the lardons are crisp<br />

and the onions and garlic are soft and translucent.<br />

Step 4 Add half of the wine to the lardons and<br />

onion mixture, turn the heat up and de-glaze the wine<br />

for 2 to 3 minutes until half of it has cooked down<br />

with the other ingredients.<br />

Step 5 Add the cooked potatoes to the lardon and<br />

onion mixture and gently mix together. Spoon half of<br />

the mixture into the prepared dish.<br />

Step 6 Cut the Reblochon cheese in half through<br />

the centre, and the cut the two halves into cubes.<br />

Step 7 Scatter half of the Reblochon cheese<br />

cubes over the lardon and onion mixture, crust side<br />

up, then spoon the remaining lardon and onion<br />

mixture over the top. Pour over the remaining wine<br />

and spoon the crème fraiche over the top. Season<br />

with salt (not too much as the lardons are salty) and<br />

pepper.<br />

Step 8 Scatter the rest of the Reblochon cheese<br />

cubes over the top, crust side up again, and bake for<br />

20 to 25 minutes until the cheese has melted and the<br />

tartiflette is golden brown and bubbling.<br />

Step 9 Serve hot from the oven with salad,<br />

cornichons (gherkins), pickled onions, charcuterie

See Page 66<br />

to find out more<br />

about caviar<br />

farming in<br />

France<br />

Ebène Caviar,<br />

Fettuccine &<br />

Scottish Smoked<br />

Salmon<br />


Salt<br />

1/2 pound dry taglierini or fettuccine<br />

pasta<br />

2 tablespoons unsalted butter<br />

1 shallot, minced<br />

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche<br />

or sour cream<br />

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf<br />

parsley<br />

1 teaspoon chopped chives<br />

Freshly ground pepper<br />

2 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon,<br />

cut into 1/2-inch ribbons (1/2 cup)<br />

30g tin of Ebène caviar<br />

METHOD<br />

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook<br />

until al dente. Drain and reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.<br />

In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add<br />

the minced shallot and cook over moderately low heat for 2 minutes, stirring.<br />

Add the crème fraîche, parsley and chives.<br />

Stir in about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and season with pepper. Add<br />

the pasta and smoked salmon ribbons and toss well. Add up to 2 more tablespoons of<br />

the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems too dry. Remove from the heat.<br />

Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with as much Ebène caviar as one likes.

Home-made<br />

Orange Liqueur<br />

By Karen Burns-Booth<br />


600ml dark rum<br />

1 bottle dry white wine<br />

300g (100ozs) golden caster sugar<br />

8 oranges, unwaxed<br />

Peel large strips of zest from the oranges with a vegetable peeler. Divide the orange zest<br />

between two sterilised jars or wide necked bottles.<br />

Add sugar, rum and wine - again, dividing it equally. I use two 500ml Kilner jars. Seal the<br />

jars and give them a good shake. Store in a cool, dark place for six weeks before<br />

decanting the liqueur through a sieve into sterilised decorative bottles; discard the<br />

orange peel, or use it in poached or stewed fruits.<br />

I sometimes dry the orange peel in a cool oven overnight and add it to sugar to be used<br />

for cakes and pies, or add it to stews and daubes etc.<br />

Whilst the liqueur is maturing, give the jars/bottles a good shake once or twice a week.<br />

This vibrant orange liqueur is wonderful served over ice, ice cream, with soda water or<br />

lemonade or when splashed into or onto festive fare. It looks stunning when decanted<br />

into pretty bottles with all the decorative trimmings like bows, tags, labels, dried flowers<br />


My<br />

Good<br />

Life<br />

France<br />

As I sit here writing, Hank Marvin He's<br />

Always Starvin' the little stray cat I took in a<br />

couple of years ago is sat on my lap,<br />

purring with happiness. Loulou the<br />

tortoiseshell cat we got at a boot fair (she<br />

thinks she's a princess) and Shadow, her<br />

partner in crime are curled up on a chair<br />

next to me. 'Enry Cooper, the boss cat, is in<br />

my shopping basket and Winston, the<br />

biggest cat in the village is sitting on the<br />

window sill watching Pierre the farmer go<br />

by in his tractor. Sadly Ginger Roger the<br />

deaf stray I took in got ill and didn't recover.<br />

Down by my feet on their giant cushions<br />

are Frank Bruno, Ella Fitzgerald and<br />

Churchill my three dogs. At the bottom of<br />

the garden in their new shelter are my 25<br />

chickens, 4 geese and 40 ducks. It's been a<br />

good year for ducks chez moi - or a bad<br />

year, depending on how you look at it. I<br />

really didn't want any more but they hide<br />

under hedges and sit on their eggs and<br />

then just turn up at the back door, proudly<br />

leading their new babies. I can't resist.<br />

As we head towards the end of one year<br />

and the start of another, my little brood are<br />

all preparing for winter in France and I'm<br />

ready too. The wood is cut for the fire, the<br />

apples from my trees are stored in<br />

newspaper in the pantry alongside nuts,<br />

jams and bottled fruit given to me by my<br />

neighbours. I am not good at cooking but it<br />

doesn't matter, in rural France it's all about<br />

sharing. <strong>No</strong>t just at Christmas but all year<br />

round. I always have too many apples and<br />

way too many eggs so I give them away. If a<br />

neighbour needs a hand with something<br />

Mark, my husband, is always generous with<br />

his time. In return neighbours share their<br />

excess fruit and vegetables, make cakes<br />

and freely give advice to the only Brits in<br />

the village.<br />

At this time of the year, sharing in rural<br />

communities is especially important. I<br />

remember one Christmas, Bernadette who<br />

lives down the road, slipped in the snow<br />

and broke her leg. Everyone in the village<br />

rallied round, picking up her shopping,<br />

chopping wood, making her soup and<br />

generally helping out.<br />

It's one of the many things that make me<br />

realise that living in the middle-of-nowhere<br />

France is the best thing I've ever done. That<br />

and the markets, the wine, the cheese and<br />

the bread!<br />

I wish you a happy winter, a merry<br />

Christmas and a very Happy New Year.<br />

Janine xx

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