16 great prizes
Two years ago I started this magazine as a way to share the France I know and love and,
thanks to so many people sharing it with friends - it's grown beyond my wildest dreams.
So my first message is a huge THANK YOU to every one of you, for reading, subscribing
and sharing this magazine.
To celebrate this milestone birthday, we have a fabulous 12 days of Christmas contest
where we showcase some wonderful French flavour gifts and give them away. From
personalised luggage to designer bags, vines in iconic French vineyards, caviar, language
lessons, goodies from Paris, brilliant books and more...
Talking of books, in this issue you'll find the best book nooks in Paris, places where you
can browse with a little extra something - a café, art gallery or unique ambience - or all
three! And, on the theme of Christmas gifts, take a look at the best places to shop in
Paris plus a very authentic and charming French Christmas market in the north of France.
There are some delicious recipes for you to try including one from Pierre Hermé, one of
France's most renowned bakers, as he shares his chocolate macarons with you.
Meet cheese makers from the Haute-Savoie, discover how to make a toast the French
way and find out what makes Flaine in the French Alps the perfect family ski destination.
Once again there's an enchanting chateau to get to know, Brissac is said to be the most
haunted in France, it's also the poshest B&B ever! There's a new section in this issue
"Your Photos" which has come from our popular "your photos weekend" on Facebook.
There are features from Provence, the French Riviera, Paris, Carcassonne, Aquitaine; and
expat stories to inspire you plus expert advice for those who want to be expats in France.
Curl up, enjoy this latest issue of The Good Life France, and if you like it, I'd love you to
share it with your friends so they can enjoy it too!
Bisous from France,
Brian Beard is a writer, broadcaster and author of several books,
including The Breedon Book of Premiership Records and Three
Lions. He was ghost writer for George Best and is the longest
serving football reporter for Sky Sports.
J.Christina is the blogger behind www.scribblesandsmiles.net. From
the US, J. Christina and her husband share their trips so others can
travel vicariously through their scribbles and images.
Justine Halifax is a multi award-winning writer who has worked as a
journalist and feature writer for 20 years. She writes for the Birmingham
Mail, Birmingham Post and Sunday Mercury, both in print and online.
Dr Terry Marsh is a regular contributor to The Good Life France. He
has written many books and runs the France travel website – www.
francediscovered.com and www.lovefrenchfood.com.
Barbara Pasquet James is a US lifestyle editor, speaker and urban
explorer who writes about food fashion and culture, from Paris. She
helped launch, write and edit USA Today’s City Guide To Paris and
writes at: FocusOnParis.com.
Mark Pryor is the author of the best-selling Hugo Marston mysteries set
in Paris, London, and Barcelona. He’s also Assistant District Attorney for
Travis County Texas.
Patricia Sands is the best-selling author of the Love In Provence
series, her love letter to France. She writes about and shares her
photography of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regularly at
Editor: Janine Marsh
Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts
Design Support: Kumiko Chesworth
Advertising: Mark Marsh
Cover photo: Wazim Tagauly, Paris
photographer at Wazim Photos
8 10 Brilliant Book Nooks in Paris
Janine Marsh and Barbara Pasquet James
seek out cosy, gorgeous book shops with
more than books!
16 Christmas Shopping in Paris
Where to go for the best gifts and festive
22 Reblochon Cheese Makers
Janine Marsh meets the dedicated cheese
makers of Haute-Savoie.
28 A Very French Christmas
Le Touquet in the north of France is an
especially captivating town at Christmas!
40 Micro Provence
Terry Marsh reveals the beauty and charm
of the Parc Naturel Regional des Alpilles.
46 Fantastic Flaine in the French Alps
Justine Halifax finds Flaine is the pefect
family ski destination.
50 Paris Mon Amour
Author Mark Pryor reveals why he loves the
City of Light...
55 The Belle of the French Riviera
Author Patricia Sands stays at a legendary
hotel with echoes of an extraordinary past.
Page 84 Page 64
62 Magical Saint-Chapelle Paris
This 800 year old "Holy Chapel" is breathtakingly
beautiful, especially at night with a
64 Carcassonne Perfect Winter
Karen Slater reveals why Carcassonne
makes for a great visit even when it's not
66 French Caviar
How a British family brought Fine French
Caviar to the UK - entente cordiale!
68 Spotlight on Blaye
J Christie visits the beautiful town of Blaye
70 Beginning French
How an American couple lost their heads
to a French house they saw and bought on
74 House-sitting in France
Lamia Walker takes time out for a free
holiday in the Ile de France.
34 Enchanting Chateau Series
Chateau de Brissac, the tallest castle in
France; it's the most amazing B&B ever!
84 Your Photos
A new regular feature showcasing the most
popular photos shared on our Facebook
86 5 Minute French Lesson
Géraldine Lepère teaches you how to make
a French toast like a local.
122 My French Life
Life in France is never dull!
Page 98 Page 88
88 The Good Life in Charente-
We meet a family who've found a little bit
of heaven in south-west France.
94 The Good Life in Haute-Vienne
Meet the expat couple who've created a
pop up vegetarian restaurant in their home.
98 The Good Life in Dordogne
Brian Beard chats to Jackie and David
Burrows, ex Liverpool footballer who now
lives near Sarlat.
78 Brilliant Christmas Gifts and 16
ASK THE EXPERTS
105 Marketing your rental property
Donna Sloane shares her top tips.
106 Property Guide to France
Tim Sage explains the buying and selling
108 Care for the elderly in France
Jo-Ann Howell looks at state help in France
for those with elderly relatives to care for.
110 Pension Advice for Expats
Jennie Poate examines the options for
expats with UK pensions.
114 Chocolate Macarons, Pierre Hermé
of Paris shares his fabulous recipe.
118 Tartiflette Savoyarde
Made with lush Reblochon cheese, by
Karen Burns booth.
120 Caviar, fettucine and smoked
121 Home-made Orange liqueur
by Karen Burns Booth.
10 Brilliant Book Nooks in
Paris loves its culture and especially book shops, just think of those green book
boxes that line the River Seine. Known as the bouquinistes de Paris the 217 book
sellers have 900 boxes between them containing 30,000 books! These open air
book stalls that line the walls of the River Seine offer the perfect opportunity for
wandering and flicking through second-hand books and absorbing the history and
culture of the city. But if you're looking for English language books - then Paris has
plenty to keep you happy.
Biblomaniacs Janine Marsh and Barbara Pasquet James browse the book shops of
Paris to bring you ten of the dreamiest book nooks in town...
Shakespeare & Company
One of the most famous and much loved
English language book shops in the city
luring visitors from around the world to
browse amongst the heaving book
shelves. It even made an appearance in
Woody Allen’s film “Midnight in Paris”.
A stone’s throw from Notre Dame, a
Wallace Fountain in front, a cute little café
on the corner with fabulous views, I like it
best at night (and it opens really late)
when the fairy lights glow (see left).
Though this is not the original location for
the shop in the days when Ernest
Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald perused
the stock, it continues to win smitten fans
with its mellow, quaint look and feel, it’s
awesome literary connections and
fabulous choice of old and new books.
37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 5th Arr;
Saint-Michel; Open 10am – 11pm daily.
Opened in 1989 by expat Canadian Brian
Spence, this gorgeous bookshop in the
Latin Quarter attracts a global audience
thanks to the eclectic collection of over
35,000 titles in English ranging from
scholarly to popular literature. It’s quirky
and utterly photogenic!
29 rue de la Parchminerie, 5th Arr;
Abbeybookshop; Metro: St. Michel/Cluny la
Sorbonne; Open: 10am-11pm Mon-Sat.
La Belle Hortense
This is a quite unique book store and it
makes the list though it has almost
entirely French books on the shelves. It’s
the only book shop in Paris, perhaps in
France that opens until 2 o'clock in the
morning - with a wine cellar! It's a great
place to stop off for an aperitif and a
snack or a late night/early morning
coffee or glass of something else. It’s a
literary haven with a cosy, friendly
atmosphere and it’s very French!
La Belle Hortense; 31 rue Vieille du
Temple, Paris 4th Arr; www.cafeine.com;
Métro: Hôtel de Ville, St.Paul, Pont Marie;
Open daily 5pm - 2am.
Berkeley Books of Paris opened for
business in May 2006 when three
Californians who had worked together at
a nearby bookstore decided to team up
and open their own place. Popular
especially with American visitors, it has a
great range of used books (English
language), you can swap, buy, stroke the
shop’s cat and enjoy concerts, readings
and exhibitions that take place here on a
8, rue Casimir Delavigne 6th Arr; Metro:
Odeon; berkeleybooksofparis; Open
12am - 8pm Tues – Sat, 2pm - 8pm
After a 26 year absence, the tea room of
this most English of book shops has reopened
in its prime position on the corner
of Rue de Rivoli and Rue Cambon, a short
distance from the Louvre.
WHSmith & Co. opened here in 1903 and
for expats in France, it’s a true taste of
home, in fact it was like walking into my
local branch in Bromley High Street when I
recently visited! The only things that are
not the same are the prices (it’s more
expensive) and the sales staff have French
accents though they all seem to speak
excellent English. And, there’s a very nice
tea room run by that most British of tea
companies, Twinings! Nip up to the first
floor for a pot of tea, lunch or afternoon tea
with traditional scones and jam. In the past
umpteen celebrities have enjoyed tea here
in this little oasis away from the busy
streets outside. There’s a great selection
of books, newspapers and magazines, and
it’s open 362 days a year!
WH Smith, The English Bookshop, 248 rue
de Rivoli, 1st Arr; whsmith.fr; Metro:
Concorde; Opens 9.30am - 19.30pm Mon
to Sat, 12.30am – 19.30pm Sun.
Merci Le Used Book Café
This place is great for a browse amongst
the 10,000 books in a cosy setting in the
popular fashion and homeware concept
store. Plus you can get breakfast, brunch,
lunch or afternoon tea Monday to
Saturday 10am – 7 pm.
111 Boulevard Beaumarchais 3rd Arr;
Metro Saint Sebastien Froissart (line 8;
The first English language book shop in
Europe outside of Britain and a long
heritage in the book business make this a
standout store. The Galignani family started
printing books in 1520 in Venice. They
moved to London (they printed the books
of Wordsworth, Byron, Thackeray and Scott
amongst many others) and then to Paris
where they opened a book shop and
reading room in 1801 specialising in
English. They moved the shop to rue de
Rivoli in 1856 – they’re still there. Great
selection of Anglo-American books plus an
extensive fine arts department.
224 rue de Rivoli 1st Arr; Metro: Concorde;
www.galignani.fr; Open Mon–Sat 10am –
American writer in Paris Barbara Pasquet James says "Happily, one-of-a-kind bookshops are
alive, well and thriving in Paris, and everyone seems to have their favorites. More than just
stop-offs to find a good read, these three are slightly off-the-radar and provide just enough
zip and zing to keep me coming back..."
It is no accident that Librairie Alain Brieux is located almost around the corner from the
College of Medicine Paris Descartes on rue Jacob. More than a bookshop, the librairie is a
portal to the past that feels like you’ve walked onto a Harry Potter film set. Besides its
formidable selection of antique medical books, it is the cabinets of curiosities and objets
packing their shelves that will grab your attention: stuffed animals, skeletons and skulls,
cringe-worthy scientific, medical and dental instruments, other-era globes, fossilized
eggs, antique maritime brass telescopes, engravings, parlor games... In short, a place
guaranteed to ignite your inner adventurier. More good news is, everything you see - save
for the enormous crocodile hanging from the ceiling in the front room - is for sale.
Browsing is encouraged and one does not have to be in the medical profession to
appreciate this easy-to-walk-past gem.
48 rue Jacob, 6th Arr; www.alainbrieux.com; Metro: Saint-Germain-des-Prés/ Mabillon
Coffee, art, and seriously funky art books co-mingle in this “concept space” that used
to be an enormous covered market. An unexpected oasis known to induce gasps in
first time visitors, Halle Saint-Pierre is a world away from the nearby tourist hordes at
the foot of Sacre Coeur. On the left as you enter is an inviting café with a healthconscious
array of baked goods, light salads and quiches on the countertop at
lunchtime. If you get lucky as I did one morning you’ll be kept company by macabre
papier-mâché sculptures while nursing a grand crème. Wander behind the black
curtain into the Musée d'Art Naïf where works by heavy hitters such as New York
enfant terrible Warhol protégé Jean-Michel Basquiat might be on exhibit. The can’tmiss
light-flooded bookstore with its fringe art-related titles - many in English - makes
this destination truly exceptional.
2 Rue Ronsard, 18th Arr; www.hallesaintpierre.org; Metro: Anvers
Artazart first caught my eye as I walked out of Marcel’s on the Canal Saint-Martin about
a year ago. Its friendly graffiti-feel red façade across the water promised an artsy
experience - and I am all about the experience - and it was. Seventeen years ago the
bookshop started out selling art books only, but later design, photography, architecture,
and a très originale children’s section were added to its repertoire. Their appreciation for
the avant-garde began to attract alternative publishers, which translates into a trove of
some of the most creative content you’ll ever leaf through. While their kids' books are
primarily in French, many feature pop-up cut-outs, which make them coveted by parents
and grand-parents from all language backgrounds. Artazart’s location on the canal,
smack in the middle of many fabuleux places to eat, drink, and hang, will turn a visit to
this intimate librairie into an outing.
85 quai de Valmay, 10th Arr; www.artazart.com; Metro: Jacques Bonsergent (Line 5)
More on Paris Bookshops:
Les Bouquinistes, the second hand book sellers that line the River Seine.
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
Credit Amelie Dupont, Paris Tourist Office
Christmas Shopping in Paris – where to go and what to buy
It’s the most wonderful time of the year… goes the song, and in Paris that’s certainly true.
Christmas is when the city of light pulls out all the stops, the streets glitter and the shops
are chock-a-block with gifts and goodies to lure you in!
Many shops go all out festive – even opening on Sundays in December and lots of them
provide a gift-wrapping service which saves you time and always looks fabulous.
There are more than a dozen Christmas
markets of varying sizes in the capital and
you’ll find something for everyone here. Check
out the mega-market at La Defense aimed at
city workers, or perhaps the small and quirky
market in Montmartre is more your style. Don’t
miss the glitzy market stalls of the premier
shopping Street in Paris, the Avenue des
Champs-Elysées. Whichever Christmas
market you visit, you’re bound to find
Christmas decorations, trinkets, presents and
festive food stuffs galore.
Details for Paris Christmas Markets
Credit Jacques Lebar Paris Tourist Office
Something different and utterly
Two words. Museum boutiques. Paris is awash
with museums and art galleries and most of
them have shops. This is where you’ll find gifts
that are really different and very Parisian. Take
the Comedie Francaise shop, one of my very
favourites in Paris – they have delicious tote
bags and the most chic note pads and other
gifts that I guarantee you will want to keep for
yourself. Surprisingly inexpensive, perfect for
stocking fillers and unique presents that your
loved ones will be over the moon to receive (if
you can bear to let them go).
We have a gorgeous Christian Lacroix
designed tote bag from Comedie Francaise to
give away to a lucky winner – see page 79.
Divine and delicious department stores
Le Bon Marché: If you love Christmas then
don’t miss a trip to this fabulous store which
show cases the best of the best. Not just
clothes and accessories but the world famous
La Grande Epicerie food department, plus an
extensive wine cellar and home furnishings
departments. Le Bon Marché is the oldest
department store in Paris and a thoroughly
luxurious shopping experience – think the
French love child of Harrods and Fortnum and
It’s not cheap but it is very elegant and
Credit Amelie Dupont, Paris Tourist Office
Printemps: founded in 1865, the flagship
store in Paris has everything from fashion to
furniture. Plush, luxurious and elegant.
Galeries Lafayette: Founded in 1895, it’s one
of the oldest and most fashionable shopping
centres in France. Famous for its Christmas
displays and show stopping centre piece of a
Christmas tree always decorated in a different
theme each year. From fashion to home ware
and everything in between.
Full on glamour and Bobo treats
This is Paris. Pretty much everywhere you
go fits the bill! From the rue du Fauborg-st-
Honore, one of the oldest shopping streets
in the city to the Champs-Elysées, the
Oxford street of Paris, to tiny side streets
and exquisite Belle Epoque covered
shopping galleries, like Gallerie Vivienne
(2nd Arr, near the Louvre).
Try Lubin for lovely perfumes and you can
tell the person you give the gift to that it
came from the store were Josephine
Bonaparte shopped for her seductive
At Buly 1803 you’ll find fabulous soaps,
candles, luxury hair brushes, creams and
even scented matches with real wow factor
wrapping. Or how about an adorable
umbrella, you’ll find them in shops and
department stores and Paris has a
reputation for beautiful parapluies (did you
know that the folding umbrella was
invented in France?).
For a spot of bohemian chic, head to the
Pigalle area, not the rather seedy bit but
So-Pi as the locals call it, south Pigalle. It’s
an upcoming area for shopping with a
village-vibe, bobo (bohemian bourgeois)
spirit and vintage boutiques to suit the
most discerning shopper. It's also home to
one of the best sweet shops in France (see
Above: Gallerie Vivienne
sheer luxury; below
Ladurée for macarons!
The popular rue des Martyrs links the 9th
arrondissement and Montmartre and is
packed with vintage and traditional shops
and cafés. This half mile long street has
old-fashioned charm and a long history. It’s
here that Saint Denis, the first bishop of
Paris, was decapitated under the Roman
Empire. Legend says he picked up his head
to travel the length of this famous street,
dying a few kilometres north of where the
Basilica of Saint-Denis was later founded
and inspiring the name Montmartre.
Credit: Lynn Healy Brunneau
Credit Benh Lieu Song, Wikipedia
Totally fabulous Foodie treats
More-ish Christmas grub with a French
feel, what could be more delicious?!
If you head to department store Le Bon
Marché don’t miss La Grande Epicerie, to
call this a food hall is like saying the
Chateau de Versailles is a house. Stunning
food displays that leave you drooling.
Damman Frères – tea lovers will adore
the blends from this ancient tea store in
Paris. Louis XIV granted the company a
licence to thrill with its tea in 1692. They
have several stores and concessions in
Paris (and 62 countries around the world).
Macarons – France is famous for them
and you can buy them everywhere but
head to Ladurée's pretty stores where
they’ve been making them since 1862, they
have several shops in Paris but the one at
16 rue Royale was the first and is quite
beautiful. Don't miss Pierre Hermé for
beautifully made, sensational tasting,
magnificent boxed macarons in every
colour and flavour. The famous French chef
has shared his recipe for scrumptious
chocolate macarons with us – see page 114.
Bonbons and chocolate – where to start?
Paris has hundreds of chocolate shops but
for a real treat aim for l’Etoile d’or (30 Rue
Pierre Fontaine, near Pigalle/Montmartre).
Owner Denise Acabo is a local legend, a
lady of immense charm and fabulous
pigtails, who has been selling the best of
chocolate and bonbons from all over
France from her Paris-only store for more
than 40 years. (Click here for more
Can’t get enough of shopping in Paris?
Head to the Winter Sales which start 11
January and end 21 February 2017
A captivating Corner of Paradise
Janine Marsh visits a farm where Reblochon cheese is
made and finds a little bit of heaven in the hills...
"This is a little corner of Paradise" says the
old lady throwing her arms wide and
indicating at the window of her farmhouse
in the mountains of Haute-Savoie, not far
from the lovely city of Annecy.
We are sitting in her kitchen on a July
afternoon, the cloud is low and the mist is
thick, a rarity for this month she says.
I had started to hike to this little farm from
the village of Manigod with my friend
Gaëlle, but she, a local, decided we should
drive when a shower of rain threatened to
drench us. Normally, summer offers a
lovely, sunny stroll through fields of
meadow flowers and cows, their metal
bells chiming and creating an orchestra of
sound, a magical wind chime effect.
The gentle walk takes about 45 minutes,
past pretty chalets with stunning views
over the surrounding mountains, their
summer greenery forming a palette of
colour that makes you stop and stare at the
intense beauty of this place where the air is
sweet and pure and the world feels tranquil.
At the top is the Ferme de Lorette, a farm
that's famous for its fromage.
The family Bibollet live here and make the
famous cheeses Reblochon and Tomme.
They have a café and shop with an outdoor
terrace from which the sight of the utterly
ravishing scenery takes your breath away.
The day I visited, the dull weather had kept
visitors away, Gaëlle and I were the only
A young woman came out of the house
opposite the café and seeing we were
alone asked if we would like a warming
drink as by now it was raining and a slight
chill was settling, high at the top of this
mountain. We followed her into the farm
kitchen where an old lady sat by a wood
fire over which washing hung, a light steam
hissed from shorts and T shirts, the
previous days had been sunny and hot.
Pans gleamed on a traditional dresser and
in front of the window through which the
mountains looked like a particularly lush
and verdant painting, was a large cage with
several canaries cheeping away.
The old lady is Alexia Bibollet, at 89 years
young she has a permanent smile and a
twinkle in her eyes. The young woman who
invited us in, is Rafaëlle, her granddaughter.
She makes us hot chocolate with freshly
pulled milk from her cows, it’s delicious and
for the first time that day I’m happy the sun
has gone in.
"Would you like to see how we make the
cheese" asks Rafaëlle, and grandmère adds
"then come back and try some!"
I don't have to be asked twice, this farm is
very well-known for its delicious cheeses
and we traipse out across the wet courtyard
and into a barn.
They make the cheese by hand -
grandmother and granddaughter, together
with several family members.
"I try to make my grandmother slow down"
says Rafaëlle "but she won't".
The family's 75 cows have already been
milked by the time I get there. It takes 2
litres of milk to make a small Reblochon, 5
litres for a large "Rond".
The curds from fresh cows milk are poured
into moulds to drain and Rafaëlle pats
them lovingly, this is Reblochon in the
making and passion is certainly an
ingredient. Within minutes the drained milk
forms a round shape that wobbles like a
jelly but holds together. The round cheeses
to be, are put into boxes and taken into a
chilled room ready to be turned and sent to
a cave to mature for three weeks. They are
stamped with a green label of authenticity
and unique farm number 420. The cheese
makers do this twice a day, 7 days a week.
“Every day, Christmas Day too” says
Rafaëlle when I ask if she gets at least that
special day off.
DID YOU KNOW
Reblochon derives from the word
'reblocher' which literally translated
means 'to pinch a cow's udder again'.
During the 14th century, landowners
would tax the mountain farmers
according to the amount of milk their
herds produced. So the canny farmers
didn’t fully milk the cows until after the
landowner had measured the yield. The
milk that remains is much richer and
makes for the creamy taste of
In the 16th century Reblochon became
known as "fromage de dévotion
(devotional cheese) because it was
offered to the Carthusian monks of the
Thônes Valley by the farmers, in return for
having their homesteads blessed.
In the summer the cows go higher up the
mountain for the fresh pastures and cool
air, they’re accompanied by locals and it’s
a festive atmosphere, a transhumance,
like a carnival of cows and humans. The
animals are moved lower down where it's
warmer in the winter, again accompanied
by festivities. Here they feed on the hay
that the family also grow.
The seasonal cheeses taste different says
Rafaëlle because what the cows eat is
different according to the seasons.
She tells me that she started learning to
make cheese when she was three years
old "as soon as I was old enough to
respect the rules" she smiles at the
A typical day for these hard working
cheese makers starts at 5.00 am and
ends at 6.30 pm, they are usually ready to
sleep by 8.00 pm. It's hard work but
grandmère and Rafaëlle say they love
what they do.
There are 135 farms making Reblochon in
the Thones area of Haute-Savoie. The
cheese has AOC status; this is the only
place in the world where it can be made
and called Reblochon. Here at the Ferme
de Lorette, the Bibolelt family have been
making it since 1919.
We return to the cosy kitchen and a plate
of three cheeses is placed before us, I
savour a wedge of the nutty, unctuous
Reblochon and grandmère urges me to try
a little red wine with it. Rafaëlle and I clink
glasses. The cheese is delicious, the
kitchen is warm and friendly, the cows
wander past the window and their bells
are ringing like a fairy tale orchestra.
A beam of sunlight bursts through the
clouds and lights up a distant village on
the mountain opposite - the colours are
"We live a simple life" says grandmère "we
are not modern", as she offers me a knife to
cut the rind off a piece of Tomme de
Beauregard but I've already nibbled inside
the wedge avoiding the rind "you look like a
beaver" she laughs.
I can't help asking how at almost 90 years
old, she looks so young and keeps so fit.
"The cheese" she says looking serious and
then she laughs. "That and respect. Respect
for the food you eat, respect for how you live
your life... And good morals, you must have
She tells me she had 11 children and making
cheese has been her life.
I tell her my neighbour in the north of France
is almost the same age and looks wonderful
and is healthy as a donkey. "She says it is
because she eats a slice of pork belly with a
glass of cider every morning".
Grandmère looks astonished, her eyebrows lift
into her snowy hair and she says "perhaps" in
a way that makes me think she doesn't believe
a word of it, her granddaughter grins.
I've known these people for such a short while
but they've welcomed me like a friend, made
me feel at home, fed and watered me, praised
my not brilliant French.
It is a very special place, representative of the
ethos of the mountain people and, as for the
cheese – it is sublime, especially when you
taste it in its natural surroundings.
La Ferme de Lorette
Manigod Tourist Office
Reblochon is perfect for making tartiflette,
a tasty, warming speciality of Haute-Savoie,
see our fab recipe on page 118.
Where to try and buy Reblochon
Coopérative du reblochon “Le Farto” -
Rte d’Annecy, 74230 Thônes, cheese
making from Monday to Friday www.
You'll find a full range of cheeses at
Fromagerie Hubert Thuet – 2 rue des
vernaies – 7423 Thônes www.
Farmers cheeses and regional products
at Crèmerie Perrissin-Fabert, 21 place
Organic cheeses at Biomonde
L’Edelweiss, 8 rue Louis Haase,Thônes
In a seaside resort with
an English vibe in
Le Touquet is a small seaside town with around
5000 inhabitants, though in summer months,
that number swells to a whopping 100,000 as
this place is hugely popular with Parisians. Hence
it’s full name Le Touquet Paris-Plage, the Paris
beach. An all year-round resort, at Christmas
visitors flock to enjoy the lights, the market and
the special ambience of Le Touquet which is
known as the “pearl of the Opal Coast”. Le
Touquet has bags of charm and is quite unique
amongst the many charming seaside towns of
France. For one thing it has a certain English je
ne sais quoi.
A unique “English” seaside resort in
That’s because the town was developed by an
Englishman to have appeal for Brits at the
beginning of the 20th century. You’ll spot
Cotswold style cottages, thatched roofs, tudor
style manor houses and coiffed English style
gardens – not quite what you’d expect to see in a
northern French seaside resort. But it works.
Somehow, the Englishness wedded to the
Frenchness in the shape of an abundant café
lifestyle, restaurants galore, a wonderful street
market and fabulous French shops – is a
marriage made in heaven.
The Le Touquet resort was designed with sports
in mind. At a time when people were just starting
to see sport as a recreational hobby, the creators
of Le Touquet were way ahead of their time.
Tennis courts, a horse race course, swimming
pools, polo, horse riding, golf – everything
designed to please the the wealthy of the day. It’s
rumoured that Queen Elizabeth II learned to sand
yacht here as a teenager! It still is a sporting
paradise and hosts major tennis matches, has a
65 acre equestrian centre, three fantastic golf
courses and water sports galore. It also is where
Enduropale takes place - a legend in France.
Around 1000 professional and amateur bikers
and 800 quad bikers take part in a beach race at
the start of the year in an event that kick starts
the global motorsport season.
Historic and very very chic
Le Touquet attracted wealthy visitors right
from the get-go. It was the place where jetsetters
went to see and be seen. Hollywood
celebrities, millionaires, politicians, anyone
who was anyone came here to play.
Author Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale
based on Le Touquet’s casino, where
coincidentally Cole Porter wrote the music
for “Anything Goes” on the casino piano.
Sean Connery came here to sign his first
James Bond contract. Serge Gainsbourg got
his big break singing in a restaurant here.
Winston Churchill spent summers in Le
Touquet and once claimed that so many
members of Parliament were there on
holiday that he might as well move the
business of Government there. Writer HG
Wells eloped to Le Touquet and the Dolly
sisters, vaudeville performers who captured
the hearts of men around the world strolled
along the front with their pet tortoises set
with a pair of four-carat blue diamonds by
Cartier, given to them by millionaire Harry
Selfridge, of London Selfridges fame when
he took them there on holiday.
Of course all these people needed places to
stay and Le Touquet in the early 1900s
boasted the biggest hotel in the world. Le
Royal Picardy had 500 bedrooms and every
one of them had a private bathroom. In 1930
when it opened – that was unheard of. There
were 120 lounges. And, 50 apartments that
were so large that each one of them had its
own swimming pool as well as a kitchen,
and 10 more rooms including for one’s
butler. If you was disgustingly rich in those
days – you stayed at this hotel.
Sadly it is no more but another famous hotel
of the day survived - The Westminster
whose art deco halls are lined with signed
photographs of past guests from Marlene
Dietrich to Roger Moore and Charles de
Le Touquet’s restaurant scene
Well, there’s plenty of choice here but there
are two truly standout places that really
shouldn’t be missed. The Westminster
Hotel has two great restaurants – the
Michelin Star Le Pavillon with a fabulous
menu created by chef William Elliot (sounds
English but he is French!), and brasserie
Les Cimaisses. I have to tell you, I tried the
“tasting menu” at Le Pavillon and at 95
Euros it isn’t cheap, but, I have never ever
had a meal quite like it, memorably divine.
A little down the road in the rue de Metz
you’ll find restaurant Perard. Those
millionaires of the 1940s and 50s may well
have known of it since Serge Perard the
founder was making soup from 1940
onwards to sell at the market. It rapidly
became famous from Le Touquet to Paris
and beyond and was such a success that
by 1963 Perard was able to open a
restaurant in Le Touquet. The soup, whose
menu he had refined by then, was adored
by customers – it still is. So much so that
Perard soup is now exported worldwide.
Order the soup starter in the restaurant and
you'll be offered a free top up, beware - it's
filling and you'll want to leave room for the
lush main courses and delicious desserts!
Head to Perard today and you can buy two
different soups, the Perard that’s in jars and
sold worldwide, and the home-made soup
that you can only buy at the restaurant
shop. At 5 euros a litre, this delicious fish
soup is a steal. It keeps for a couple of
weeks in the fridge so take some home,
just as those early customers did! Perard
smoke their own salmon here (delicious
and perfect for any time not just Christmas)
and you can see the chefs cooking in the
state of the art kitchens.
Enjoy a glass of wine and fresh oysters,
sushi or soup at the swanky oyster bar or
head into the brasserie for a fabulous lunch
or dinner with locals who love this place.
There's a la carte or choose from set
menus, there’s a very reasonable “Perard
menu” at 20 Euros. You can also get real
bouillabaisse, the only place outside
Marseille that I know where they get it spot
on! And the shop is terrific, the freshest fish
and ready made fish meals to take home.
Left: Le Touquet at Christmas;
above: the emblem of Le
Touquet; below: One of the
many great cake shops in the
Christmas in Le Touquet
This place positively sparkles for the festive
season when the Parc des Pins transforms
into an enchanted forest lit by thousands of
twinkling fairy lights and the bandstand
makes for the perfect Christmas selfie to
share with your friends! There are Christmas
chalets here where you can pick up a gift or
useful things like a winter scarf and hat to
keep the chill out! Take a horse-drawn
carriage ride round the town to enjoy the
lights and Christmas decorations that
festoon the streets ( via the tourist office).
In mid-December the listed art deco market
place holds a weekend Christmas Market
that attracts thousands. There's music, a
very festive ambience and stalls groaning
with festive fare and gifts.
There’s also an ice skating rink, pony rides
and the shops pull out all the stops with
lovely window displays – great for
chocolate, macarons, marshmallow, cakes
and bread, fish, charcuterie as well as high
end gifts and clothes (think Paris style).
Christmas Lights: They're turned on at 17.30
Friday 25 Nov until 1 Jan 2017.
Santa arrives Saturday 26 Nov at 17.30 with
a firework display!
Christmas Market 10-11 December
Jazz a Noel 10-29 December at the Palais de
Tourist office Le Touquet - for full details.
Chateau de brissac
Janine Marsh visits a fairy tale castle in the Loire Valley that's
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
since 1502 – May 26th to be precise! It was bought by a French lord by the name of
Brissac and it’s lived in today by his descendants. Set in gorgeous grounds in the town of
Brissac-Quincé, located in the département of Maine-et-Loire, Loire Valley, this chateau
is the tallest in France at a whopping seven stories - a folly of towers and chocolate box
pretty. Janine Marsh visits and chats to home owner the Duke de Brissac…
The current incumbent of this enormously
tall chateau that's been handed down a
long line of an illustrious family is the
Marquis du Brissac, a charming man who
often comes from his apartment on the
upper floors to greet visitors and tell them
a bit about the castle.
"My parents did most of the hard work
here, restoring and renovating" he says
modestly. He takes his responsibility to
this big house seriously and constantly
stresses what an absolute joy it is to be
able to live in the chateau.
His generation, he and his wife have four
children, is the first to live there full time.
Previous family members lived there only
part of the year. In days gone by the Dukes
of Brissac would follow the French royal
family or live in other homes around France
and especially in Paris.
"There are many good things about living
here" says this amicable Duke, "one of
them being that the town is on the
doorstep and it’s a lovely town where you
can find a friendly bar with great beer!"
The chateau is undoubtedly imposing and
grand. History oozes from its thick stone,
tapestry covered walls but it's also very
much lived in and not just by this likeable
family'; here you'll find what must be one of
the most prestigious B&Bs in the world. If
you've ever hankered to feel like a king or
queen then here's your chance to try it out!
In the castle there are two enormous suites
with stunning four poster beds and ancient
wooden flooring walked on for centuries.
They're furnished with antiques, tapestries
and sensational paintings – and they’re set
aside for paying guests.
Breakfast is supplied by the Duke who nips
to the local boulangerie to buy fresh
croissants and pastries. But, the best part is
that you're able to wander at will through
the chateau and enjoy it in all its glory.
From the grand salon to the private theatre
and many other rooms to the garden with
its vineyards and views, guests are able to
appreciate this place in a way that’s unique
and a true privilege.
A Very Grand Home
"It's not easy to say how many rooms there
are" muses the Duke "some are very small
some are very large... 200, maybe more
depending on how you look at it".
"What's your favourite room in the house?"
I ask and he laughs as I try to rephrase it,
house is not exactly the term you would
apply to this enormous palace. He can't
choose but shows me around and you can
tell that he loves every bit of it.
"I like the staircase a lot, it keeps me fit" he
confides. A seven storey castle will do that I
think to myself as I admire the steps that
have been trod for centuries. We linger in
the private theatre, a rarity in France and he
recalls family fun on the petite stage.
Clockwise from top left: Sitting
kitchen 1, dining room, theatre,
It would be hard not to love the chateau -
from the windows of the ground floor
grand salon with its comfy sofas and grand
piano you can see the chateau vineyards.
Family photos line the piano and there's
one of the late British Queen Mutoo. I tell
him they have a photo of her at the
Chateau du Lude not too far away. "She
certainly seems to have got around" I say
and he tells me she loved France and made
many private visits.
Another photo is of the Duke's wife, a
former ballet dancer with the Vienna ballet,
in it she is being held aloft by a male
dancer in tights "not me" the Duke says
hastily. In the chapel is his wife's wedding
dress and press cuttings showing their fairy
tale wedding. It's an intimate view of the life
of an historic chateau that you don't often
En route to the wine cellar for a tasting of
the wine that the Duke produces from his
vineyards, we spot a dog looking longingly
at us through a door. The Duke lets him out
and the friendly dog is exuberant, panting
with pleasure to meet new people.
"19" says the Duke "behave".
When one time owner Jacques de
Brézé caught his wife with her
lover, he murdered them both.
Legend has it that the adulterous
couple still haunt the chateau
He explains the dog was a stray, it turned
up at the chateau running through rooms
causing mayhem. Nobody knew where it
came from, the Duke tried to find the owner
but couldn't and his four children begged to
keep the little dog. It was the 19th
December muses the Duke, he couldn't
resist, the dog stayed and they called it 19.
Christmas is a special time here at the
Chateau, which hosts one of the oldest
Christmas markets in the west of France
and certainly one of the most original. The
castle is decorated, artisans and food
producers tempt with delicious gifts, food
and wine, a unique event and very festive.
The chateau has a lovely cafe and cellar
where you can taste and buy delicious wine.
I'd recommend you allow at least two hours
to appreciate everything and extra for the
gorgeous gardens. It's a glorious castle,
uniquely tall among the many Loire Valley
Chateaux and well worth a visit.
Details and opening hours:
Chateau de Brissac.
Information for local area:
Angers Loire Tourism
Parc Naturel Régional des Alpilles
Provence is the perfect antidote to stress, renowned not only for the startling
luminosity that brought artists like Paul Cézanne, Renoir, Picasso, Mistral, Camus,
Pétrarque and Vincent van Gogh – who, incidentally, new research now reveals really
did cut off his ear rather than just a bit of it – but as much for a tranquillity and scented
hinterland that has a very calming effect.
Terry Marsh explores Provence...
there is every bit as much to relax body
and mind across the wider area, the exact
boundaries of which are in some corners
no more than a vague notion.
The Roman bridge at Vaison-la-
Provence extends from the left bank of the
lower Rhône River in the west to the Italian
border in the east. It is bordered by the
Mediterranean Sea to the south, and
largely corresponds with the modern
administrative region of Provence-Alpes-
Côte d'Azur. It includes the departments of
Var, Bouches-du-Rhône, Alpes-de-Haute-
Provence and parts of Alpes-Maritimes and
Vaucluse. The largest city of the region is
Marseille, and while this centre of the
bouillabaisse hierarchy may be top dog,
The Romans made the region into the first
Roman province beyond the Alps. They
called it Provincia Romana, which evolved
into the present name. It was ruled by the
Counts of Provence from their capital in
Aix-en-Provence until 1481, when it
became a province of the Kings of France.
While it has been part of France for more
than five hundred years, it still retains a
distinct cultural and linguistic identity,
particularly in the interior of the region. It
is this individuality that is most appealing;
that and the landscapes of the Camargue
in the south, north through Les Alpilles to
the papal city of Avignon. There is, too, the
sort of independence that in 2016 had the
residents of Saint-Romain-en-Viennois,
not far from the historic and picturesque
Vaison-la-Romaine, up in arms at the
news that McDonald’s are to open a
branch in town. Ironically, the French eat
more Big Macs than any nation outside
the US, but, for some, there are limits to
this form of assault on culinary heritage;
Mac-domination is not welcome
Discovering Authentic Provence
But the danger of trying to ‘do’ Provence,
is that it all becomes too much, with too
little time, and you end up charging hither
and thither like the proverbial bluethingied
fly. That analogy applies equally
well wherever you go, of course, but any
exploration of Provence benefits from a
micro-tourism approach: base yourself in
one place, and explore everywhere within
half an hour; okay, by car if you must. But
go no farther. That way you really do get
to the nitty-gritty of the region, village by
village, wine by wine, cheese by cheese.
So it is with Les Alpilles, a limestone extension
of the Luberon range whose ragged
white peaks from afar boast the outlines of
a great mountain chain though few rise
above 400 metres…arid limestone crenulations
set against a brilliant blue sky. Olive
and almond trees spread across the lower,
south-facing slopes, pinned in place by the
occasional line of dark, slender cypress.
Higher up, slopes are planted with kermes
oak (Quercus coccifera) and pine, but just as
likely the rocky landscape is dotted with
ragged bushes covered by maquis, a poor
pastureland suitable only for sheep.
The Alpilles are roughly divided in two,
between the Alpilles des Baux in the west
and the Alpilles d’Eygalières in the east, with
the town of St-Rémy de Provence in the
middle. St-Rémy, birthplace of scientist and
astrologist Nostradamus (rue Hoche), very
much epitomises Provence with its
boulevards and squares shaded by plane
trees, its tangled labyrinth of narrow streets
and festive atmosphere especially so on
market day (Wednesday) and when they
hold the bull running festivals.
Couple Walking among Olive Trees in a
Mountainous Landscape with Crescent Moon
May 1890, Van Gogh
Princess Caroline of Monaco and her
children lived in St-Rémy following the
death of her husband, Stefano Casiraghi,
which could be interpreted as this being a
place imbued with healing powers. Maybe it
is; Vincent van Gogh was treated here in the
psychiatric centre a few minutes south of
St-Rémy, at Monastery Saint-Paul de
Mausole after he relieved himself of one of
his ears, and it was here that he painted The
Starry Night, one of his best loved works.
Personally, I just find it very unwinding,
which takes me back to my original point
about this being a great counter-balance to
a stress-filled life, should you need one.
South of St-Rémy lie the magnificent ruins of
Glanum and Les Antiques, the latter a
cenotaph rather than a sepulchre, as originally
thought, and standing next to a fine triumphal
arch, giving access to the city of Glanum, built
over 2,000 years ago, and still a worthwhile
and well-interpreted diversion…look for the
fossilised shells in the limestone pavements.
Les Baux de Provence
Continuing south, the road wriggling
between limestone crests to get there, Les
Baux de Provence is justly one of the most
beautiful villages in France. In fact, the
‘village’ as such sits below the great
limestone plateau on which the lords of
Baux built their chateau. Separated a little
from Les Alpilles, Les Baux, which gave its
name to the mineral bauxite, is perfectly
summed up in the words of a song by
Italian folk rock singer-songwriter Angelo
Branduardi: ‘Dans son château le Seigneur
des Baux prend la pluie au visage’ – In his
chateau, the Lord of Baux takes the rain in
his face. Climb to the highest point of this
limestone ridge, and you’ll see why that
might be; it must have been a desolate
spot in winter when there was only wine,
wenching and throwing the odd malcontent
from the battlements to alleviate the gloom.
Today, the village and its diverse architectural
heritage is a charming mix of
narrow streets, gift and craft shops, and
restaurants, all determined to delay you.
Above, for a modest fee, you can head up
onto the plateau itself and the ruins of the
chateau wherein are displayed modern
interpretations of the siege engines of war
used during medieval times. For all its
popularity, it’s easy to fashion a quiet tour
of the citadel that will give you a remarkably
valid impression – well, almost – of
what life might have been like living on this
mountain ridge. There’s plenty of parking,
for a fee, but arriving early is always a good
Elsewhere, Maussane-les-Alpilles is a
serene, unspoiled village centred on a large
square below the church, used in season as
overflow seating for nearby bistrots and
cafés. Come back mid-afternoon and sit in
the shade with a glass of chilled wine or
panaché and let the world pass you by.
It's amazing how the waiters have taken
to the new French law about traffic having
to stop to allow you to cross the road
once you have shown your intention of
doing so byplacing your foot on the
carriageway. I’m surprised they survive
the week… maybe they don’t!
In the east, Eygalières is a small town of
winding, narrow streets, an authentic and
charming village made vibrant by its
Thursday market, in much the same way
that Fontvieille in the opposite direction,
towards Arles, assumes no pretensions to
grandeur, just exudes a laissez-faire
atmosphere so typical of many small
Provencal villages. In fact, it’s so relaxing,
there isn’t time to be stressed, and who
wants to drive hundreds of miles each
day? Stay put, and make the most of
It may be a hidden gem in the French Alps, but
Flaine’s fantastic pistes are proving perfect for
family fun as Justine Halifax discovers...
It's in the impressive shadow of the snow
capped Mont Blanc, the highest mountain
in the beautiful, French Alps, that you’ll find
the ski resort of Flaine.
Located in the Haute-Savoie region and
part of the Grand Massif ski-ing area,
Flaine has earned itself the nickname of
“big snowy bowl”, as it boasts one of the
best snow records (in the French Alps).
My family and I were fortunate enough to
spend a great week here and we can
certainly confirm that it delivered excellent
For, despite being close to the end of the
ski season, we enjoyed two snowfalls, and,
with the days in between topped up by 110
snow canons, we had no issues at all with
ice on the resort’s very well maintained
And for those travelling with children in
tow, Flaine is a perfect spot for families.
Just one of several reasons for this is that
it’s actually possible to ski purely blue runs
if wanted here, and yet still take in the best
views of the Grand Massif area – which has
70 lifts taking you to no less than 148 runs.
This makes for a perfect afternoon treat for
children still honing their skills in ski school
to be able to enjoy showing off their new
found talents with their parents, without
having to tackle taxing pistes with tired
legs. There’s also a nursery school for
newcomers - with a magic carpet.
Flaine is great for more experienced
families too, there’s no chance of getting
bored of the pistes here. As well as the
resort of Flaine, which boasts 64 runs
reaching an altitude of up to 2500metres,
the Grand Massif ski-ing area also includes
the interconnected areas of Les Carroz,
Sixt, Morillon and Samoens.
Overall you’ll find 8 green runs, 26 blues,
25 reds and 5 blacks at your ski tips in
Flaine and across the Grand Massif area a
total of 20 greens, 65 blues, 50 reds and 13
And if that’s not enough to keep you
entertained there’s something for the more
daring too as there are also 13 fun spaces,
including three in Flaine, as well as a
My family’s home for a luxurious week, was
in one of the five star, self-catering
apartments that can be found at Les
Terraces des Helios, run by Pierre and
Vacances, part of the Centre Parcs group,
at Flaine’s Mont Soleil level.
A ski in, ski out venue, located at an
altitude of 1600m, it proved to be a perfect
base for my family for a host of reasons.
Our fabulous apartment featured a large
open plan kitchenette, dining room and a
lounge, which led out onto a spacious
balcony with table and chairs overlooking
the green piste that led back to the venue.
There was also a cloakroom for storing ski
attire/coats, and at slope level we also had
free access to a heated ski room.
Not only was the ski in, ski out a much needed
plus for our family, we also had access to every
single thing we need for our week’s stay
literally at our fingertips. For also at slope level,
and in the same complex building, was Ski
Shop Helios to hire ski equipment; a
supermarket to stock up on supplies (if you
want freshly baked croissants and pain au
chocolat without leaving the apartments you
can opt for them to be delivered to reception at
8 am every morning); a cafe; and a restaurant.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the French Ski
School ESF (Escole Ski Francais) even has an
office on slope level to book lessons/ The
instructors pick up children right outside the
building at 9.30am and return them three
hours later each day!
What more could a parent ask for?
Well, perhaps a bit more since the Helios
Apartments also boasts a nice pool, separate
toddler area, sauna, steam room and outside
hot tub where you can bask in the beauty of
the surrounding snow covered mountains, as
well as a spa offering a range of treatments.
And if you still want to enjoy the great outdoors
after the pistes have closed then the
apartments also loan out a range of sledges
without any extra charge.
There are several levels at different altitudes in
Flaine, they are the Forum, Foret and Mont
But while other levels were more of a concrete
block-style, Mont Soleil, where Helios is based,
was, for me, definitely the more aesthetically
appealing, as it’s more alpine, with a more
pleasing wood and natural stone look.
My family and I enjoyed a thoroughly
comfortable stay here, and a week of fabulous
ski-ing so I’ve no hesitation in recommending
other families to follow in our snowy foot
Justine travelled with www.poferries.com. Nearest
airport is Geneva with flights to/from a number of
Ski train to the French Alps with SNCF UK
The hotel offers covered parking directly
underneath the apartments which are accessible
via lifts - so no lugging luggage up steps.
Pierre & Vacances 5* Les Terrasses d’Helios
Residence is in a ski, in ski out position with 119
apartments which all have balconies and terraces
for guests to enjoy the views. Apartments sleep
4-8 people and some also feature a fireplace.
There is a Deep Nature Spa relaxation area
(treatment rooms, sauna, steam room and
relaxation room) and indoor heated swimming
A Grand Massif Lift Pass for 6 days is €242.40 for
adults and €181.8 for children.
Equipment Rental can be booked in advance on
reservation of an apartment with savings of up to
40% off shop prices. Visit: pierreetvacances
For more info about Flaine visit: www.flaine.com
Paris Mon Amour
Author Mark Pryor who's best selling Hugo Marston
series is set in Paris, including The Paris Librarian
and The Book Seller reveals the Paris he loves...
Credit Doug Crawford
True story: a year ago I ran into my friend
David at the courthouse where I work in
Austin and as we talked, he shook his
head ruefully. “I bought my wife The
Bookseller,” he said, “and now she wants
to go to Paris. Insists on it.”
I shrugged. “So take her to Paris.”
“Yeah, that’s cheap. Plus I don’t have a
passport and I don’t speak French. And I
hear they hate Americans.”
I sighed. “Take her to Paris.”
Six months went by and I didn’t see David
until I ran into him in the courthouse again.
“Oh, my goodness,” he gushed. “We went
to Paris and now we’re doing everything we
possibly can to move there. We’re in love!”
I was happy, am always happy, to share my
favorite city in the world, but I wasn’t
surprised. The city of light, of love, has that
effect on people.
That’s why I always smile when readers ask
me why Paris, what the city means to me,
why I set my books there. And it’s certainly
true that I get asked those questions more
than any other. In truth, and as corny as it
may be, it comes down to that one word:
Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “If
you ask the great city, ‘Who is this person?,’
she will answer, ‘He is my child.’” Yes. As
soon as I land or step off the train, Paris
wraps herself around me, sometimes like a
parent and sometimes like a lover,
enveloping me with the sights, sounds, and
smells that are its own.
© Paris Tourist Office David Lefranc
The sullen, sexy Seine nudging its barges
against the bank, the commanding palace of
the Louvre with its leisurely gardens, the
wide boulevards overseen by elegant stone
buildings with their petite balconies and redblooming
window boxes. It’s the oddest and
most wonderful combination of relief that
I’m home, and exhilaration that I’m back to
And think about this for a reason to love
Paris and Parisians: the Cathedral of Notre
Dame was saved by the author I just quoted.
Victor Hugo wrote The Hunchback of Notre
Dame when he found out it was to be torn
down, wrote it to raise awareness and
money, and now look at it. A humble book
inspired lasting love for a beautiful building.
Where else could that happen?
Credit Doug Crawford
In every sense, Paris is a perfect fit for me. I
love to eat, I love to watch people, and I love
to walk. On our last trip, researching The
Paris Librarian, my wife and I averaged
seven miles a day, our longest stroll was
from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre and
back. And the thing is, it’s no struggle. Every
step is a pleasure because Paris unfurls
before you like a seductive woman, casually
spilling a gaudy, touristy layer to reveal
sleek, cream-stone buildings in more
residential areas, before turning up the heat
with her lithe, winding streets that lead you
to the ultimate view of Paris at the Sacré
Credit Barbara Pasquet James
And the reward for all that walking is the
food. We ate at New Jawad one evening, on
Avenue Rapp, finding for ourselves better
Indian food than we’ve ever eaten in
England or America. And the service was
the opposite of that which my friend David
would have expected: full of smiles and
jokes, a free drink when I told them I was a
writer, and one for my wife, too.
The secret garden of the Hotel de
Sens, a medieval palace where a
Queen once lived. The palace is
now home to a library and art
gallery - Bibliotheque Forney. it's
undergoing renovation and reopens
February 2017. You'll find
it not far from Notre Dame, at 1
rue du Figuier
WIN A COPY OF
MARK PRYOR -
SEE PAGE 78
But the ultimate meal, and it was good
enough for me to send my characters
Hugo and Claudia there on a date, was at Il
Vino on Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg.
The best because the vegetarian meal they
prepared for my wife was as good as, if not
better, than my own fabulous four courses.
And again, fun service with the waiter
taking great delight in making us guess
each of the different wines he served us
with each course.
Paris is more than food and the famous
sights we all know about (and the wonder
of them all being so close, so walkable!)
The thing about Paris is that you can find
havens of peace amid the pomp and
Step one way and be in the mix, eyeing the
stunning Louvre before walking five
minutes to a place of peace and quiet like
the Jardin de l’Hôtel de Sens, where you
can sit on a park bench and watch the
pigeons, and the clouds.
Even places like the American Library in
Paris can surprise. An unassuming
frontage, yes, the usual rows of book
shelves, of course, but did you know, the
place has a secret door? Oh yes, and it’s to
be found in the basement, a place that has
its own delightfully eerie ambience.
There is one secret magnet in Paris for me,
though, the place my wife and I know to
meet if phones are lost and rendez-vous
missed. It’s a spot that gives us a choice of
two cafés, a place where three beautiful
streets come together, funneling tourists
and locals past as you watch and sip
coffee. I won’t tell you where exactly, except
that it’s in the Sixth Arrondissment, I can’t
because it’s mine. Ours.
Well, maybe I will if you ask nicely.
After all, Paris is love, and love is for
The Belle of the
Author Patricia Sands whisks you away to the
Hotel Belles Rives to discover it's legendary past...
There's something wild about you child
That's so contagious
Let's be outrageous
Those frivolous lyrics from Cole Porter’s
Let’s Misbehave might very well have
epitomized the mood on the Côte d’Azur
when the song was published in 1927.
Not only was he penning the song, but
quite possibly Porter was working
through it while he hung out with Zelda
and F. Scott Fitzgerald at their rented
Villa Saint-Louis on the shore of a scenic
cove on the west side of the iconic Cap
The Fitzgeralds loved partying with their
Jazz Age friends. The semi-Bohemian
crowd included wealthy Americans and
visiting artists, writers and hangers-on.
Picasso, Hemingway, Cocteau, John Dos
Passos, Gertrude Stein and Dorothy
Parker were just a few of the regulars.
Porter was a fixture at the piano in the
music room of Villa Saint-Louis,
overlooking the shimmering
From all accounts, notably captured in
Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night, along
with letters, journal entries and recorded
memories by others in the Roaring
Twenties, the French Riviera was rather a
wild place to be. It was also, and
continues to be, a fabled coastline of
incomparable beauty and light that
inspires artists to settle there and create.
Since 1929 the privately-owned Villa
Saint-Louis has been known as Hôtel
Belles Rives. At the time it was the only
hotel on the water along the Côte d’Azur.
And since 2001, the gracious thirdgeneration
owner, Marianne Estène-
Chauvin has guided her beloved 5-star,
43-room gem with a clear desire to keep
the best of the Fitzgerald years alive.
Credit Hotel Belles Rives
The atmosphere becomes electric the instant
one steps into the elegant and welcoming
lobby of this gracious Art Deco mansion with
its unique ornate elevator.
Black and white photos of Fitzgerald, his
tormented wife Zelda, and their daughter
Scottie, holidaying here, hang on the walls. A
predominately placed marble plaque quotes
a letter he wrote to Hemingway:
“With our being back in a nice villa on my beloved
Riviera (between Nice and Cannes) I’m happier than
I’ve been for years. It’s one of those strange precious
and all too transitory moments when everything in
one’s life seems to be going well.”
One imagines the author peering out
over the sun-kissed bay, “the fairy
blue sea” as he described. His gaze
would continue across to the hills of
the Massif de l’Estérel to the west of
Cannes, perhaps searching for his
muse. He penned much of Tender is
the Night during his stay of almost
two years and drew inspiration for
his masterpiece, The Great Gatsby.
Credit Hotel Belles Rives
It’s no surprise that room number 50,
the Fitzgerald room, must be booked
well in advance. However, each room
in the Belles Rives offers a level of
comfort and tasteful decorating that
befits a member of the Small Luxury
Hotels Of The World group. The
blue-striped awnings are one of
many details that have remained
consistent through almost a century.
The Fitzgerald Bar off the lobby
entices the visitor. The stunning art,
grand piano, and authentic Art Deco
styling … leather bar, mirrored
upholstery … offer an intimate and
elegant invitation to linger. The
panoramic view across Golfe-Juan
and the Baie de Cannes creates its
magic no matter what the hour.
Sunsets, it must be said, are often
Step through the French doors to the
terrace and into what might justly be
described as Riviera bliss.
A broad patio beckons with lush
potted palms, umbrella-shaded
tables topped with crisp white linen
and Art Deco light fixtures. The
electric blue accent color mimics
shades of the azure sea. Another
flight of steps leads to the water and
other elegant dining areas, carrying
on the blue and white theme so
complimentary to the Mediterranean
Credit Hotel Belles Rives
An elaborate, stunning chandelier hangs over the table de commandant/
captain’s table. Before one consults the menu, art is the main course here:
substantial Leger-inspired sculptures frame the room, Egyptian sculptures,
ceramique flamé in primary colors, la terre rouge, hand-painted Bernardaud
porcelain plates with white background, la terre blanche, hand-blown glass
from the skilled verriers of nearby Biot.
Fun and relaxation are found in equal
measure on the sandy private beach, small
as it is, and along the private jetty. Swimming,
sunbathing plus a variety of water
sports are all indulged. And here we find
another story, the Belles Rives Ski
Nautique: one of the most prestigious
waterskiing clubs in the world.
Just as the Fitzgerald legacy takes us back
to a nostalgic time, so does this story of
Léo Roman. In 1931, the off-duty ski
instructor was inspired by the calm waters
of Golfe-Juan to test a dynamic new sport.
Visitors and locals were excited by the
thrill of gliding across the bay. Today the
club remains very active and open to all.
In the lobby, the artwork of ships on the
wall and subtle furniture create the illusion
of preparing for a voyage. There is a sense
of being on an ocean liner during the grand
days of transatlantic crossings. One enters
the Michelin-starred dining room, La
Passagère. The cuisine focuses on local
seafood and superior desserts under the
direction of some of the finest chefs in
Bold Temple of Luxor-style columns
covered in marble mosaic create a dramatic
sense of structure. The geometric
frescos on the walls were discovered when
wall paper, applied after WW2, was stripped
in 2001 to install air conditioning. They
offer an effective backdrop to the stunning
exhibit of ceramic and glass art created by
local artisans that compliments the
collection of 1930’s art.
Of all the narratives that make up the
foundation of the Hôtel Belles Rives,
possibly the best is that of Madame
Her memories begin with cherished
childhood holidays at this resort owned by
her Russian emigré grandfather and French
grandmother. The original villa was
expanded with two upper floors and a west
wing. Lovingly restored, the hotel played a
major role throughout her life as each
generation of the Estène family carried on
their dedication to being hoteliers of
When she first expressed interest in
becoming the owner, she was not taken
seriously. “After all, I am a woman. And
there are many other roles within the
business it was thought would be more
suitable. I became involved with decoration
and public relations… women’s work.”
Perseverance paid off. Ironically, the week
she was to take charge, the uncle who
would help ease her into her new role,
suffered a major heart attack.
Suddenly she was immersed in the
business. Soon she had a plan. She
changed the seasonal schedule to being
open year round, fixed the beach, and
began her dream to establish fine dining.
The name, La Passagère, evokes not only a
passenger on a ship but also a philosophy
that we are passengers in time.
I’ve left the Library, originally the Music
Room, to the last. Here Madame Estène-
Chauvin brought to life intimate stories of
the Fitzgerald’s time at Villa Saint-Louis.
In this room, Cole Porter played the piano.
Fitzgerald’s wealthy American friend,
Gerald Murphy (who along with his wife,
Sarah, had first of this group discovered the
Riviera) had brought a portable
phonograph from the United States, the
first one on the coast.
The music of the Jazz Age frequently filled
this room. Other musicians would filter in
at times. Raucous parties were the norm.
Today the room also displays portraits and
trophies of the winners of the literary Prix
Fitzgerald. Begun by Madame Chauvin in
2010, the submissions are juried by a
distinguished panel of writers and critics.
The recipient is an author working in a
style or addressing themes that interested
Fitzgerald. The prestigious prize is awarded
in early June.
On the 50th anniversary of Zelda’s 1948
death, the two Fitzgerald granddaughters
were guests at the hotel, when the plaque
was mounted in the lobby. They recalled
memories their family had passed along
through the years. There is an excellent
recounting of that visit in this New York
Terrace of the Belles Rives with its stunning views
over the bay of Antibes
She described with great pleasure, the
Gatsby-like parties that have become an
institution at the Belles Rives. “It’s
tradition,” she says, indicating vintage
photos showing her grandparents
entertaining in the same way. And parties
were de rigeur for the Fitzgeralds and
friends, often en costume.
Thus was born, the Villa Belles Rives ~
informal-themed Thursday night parties,
open to the public, eating, drinking,
dancing on the beach. “There might be
600 people all dressed in white … or some
other idea. All having fun.”
She is also the owner of the luxurious Hôtel
Juana adjacent to the Belles Rives and has
blended the two “sister” hotels into perfect
complements to each other.
When asked what might be one word that
sums up the reason why her hotels have
achieved such well-deserved reputations,
her thoughtful response again demonstrated
her commitment to excellence.
“Here you will find an experience with a true
difference”, she said, gesturing around us
with her hand. Her explanation revolved
around the French term “compagnonnage”.
She described it as something that went
back to the Middle Ages, a dedication to
passing on skills, crafts, feelings. You work
half the time passing this on to your staff,
mentoring, sharing, teaching. The other half
you give to your customers. “It’s very vieille
Europe … maybe too much.” She ended that
comment with a smile, but it was obvious
this meant a great deal to her.
A true Renaissance woman.
For more information, visit the website of
the Hôtel Belles Rives.
Magical Musical Moments at Saint-Chappelle
The secret Claissical music venue
in Paris that's simply sublime
Janine Marsh follows in the footsteps of the Kings of
France for a magical nightly concert
Earnest faced angels with pale pink and
blue wings and voluminous frocks hover,
and solemn faced saints look down from
their lofty perches over the musicians who
stand beneath jewel coloured windows.
Shadows flicker across the sculpted walls
that have stood for centuries. The sweet
sound of classical music fills the air. An
enrapt audience breaks into spontaneous
applause as the musicians finish.
of the culture of Paris inside one of the
most ancient of churches where Kings and
Queens prayed and religious relics that
cost immense fortunes were once housed.
Sainte-Chappelle is a legendary building,
almost 800 years old. It is now also an
incredible night time venue where Vivaldi,
Bach, Mozart and other masters of music
have their greatest pieces played.
This is a concert like no other… A true taste
It is quite extraordinary to be sitting in this
building known as the "Holy Chapel" on the
Ile de la Cité where the medieval Kings of
France once lived. It’s a short walk from
Notre-Dame Cathedral which was begun
before the creation of Sainte-Chappelle but
It’s said that Sainte-Chappelle took just
seven years to build and was consecrated
on April 26th, 1248. Its purpose was to
house relics which King Louis IX (1214-
1270), also known as Saint Louis, had
bought. They were said to include
fragments of the Crown of Thorns (now at
Notre-Dame) and of the Holy Cross.
Sainte-Chappelle is bijoux and quite
stunningly beautiful. There are 15 windows,
each 15 metres high, the stained glass
panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and
New Testaments recounting the history of
the world until the arrival of the relics in
Paris. An astonishing work of art that must
have been one of the wonders of its time –
it still is.
Music at Sainte-Chappelle
You can visit Sainte-Chappelle during the
day and, when the sun shines through
those awesome windows, it’s like standing
in a diamond encrusted jewel box.
But, for a really magical experience, there
are almost nightly classical music concerts
held in this ancient place. As you sit here, in
one of the most beautiful, historic buildings
of Paris it is incredible to know that Kings
and Queens have sat here before you.
Listening to great classical music played by
the passionate musicians is quite simply an
encounter to cherish. The accoustics are
magnificent, sending shivers up your spine,
an incredible, inspiring and precious
experience. There are two concerts each
night, and, I highly recommend dinner
afterwards at the Deux Palais brasserie
across the road to completely round out
Tickets are available for the concerts
from less than 30 Euros. You can also
book dinner at the same time via:
Carcassonne, the p
Karen Slater, French Holiday expert,
shares one of her favourite winter
© Julien Roche City Hall Carcassonne
France is an all year round destination
offering something for everyone, though
when we think of winter in France, it's
generally for skiing holidays. But, there is
so much more to this fascinating country
at this time of the year. If you are a lover of
myths and enchanting stories then a great
place to visit in winter is Carcassonne in
the Languedoc region.
The world famous medieval citadel can be
seen for miles around. Some say that
Carcassonne was Walt Disney’s inspiration
for the film Sleeping Beauty! From a
distance it is breath-taking, but once there,
inside the Citadel, your spirits will be lifted
by the magic of this magnificent place. It
was also the inspiration for Kate Mosse’s
best-selling book “Labyrinth” – a story
revolving around an ancient grail.
From early December until early January
Carcassonne’s magic is at its best as it
comes alive with Christmas festivities. With
twinkling lights everywhere, concerts, street
entertainment, an ice rink, Christmas
market and a jolly atmosphere.
Hiring a car is a must as not too far from
Carcassonne are two other enchanting
towns, both have inspired books!
Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is about a two
hour drive from Carcassonne. It was once a
fishing village built on an island in the heart
of the beautiful Camargue region of France.
Here you will see stunning white horses
running wild! According to local legend,
after the resurrection of Christ, Mary
Magdalene and several disciples were
forced to flee the holy land in 45 AD. They
arrived in Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer and it is
said Mary Magdalene remained here until
her death many years later. It is now a holy
place and referred to in books as ‘The Holy
Blood and the Holy Grail’ from which Dan
Brown used information and references for
his book The Da Vinci Code.
erfect winter destination
Aigues-Morte, very close to Saintes-Mariesde-la-Mer
is a city marked by crusades and
the Knights Templar. It is a tourist site today
but with an intriguing history and it’s a
wonderful place to relax and chill enjoying
the French lifestyle.
In December the Cathar Castles and
heritage sites are open and many appreciate
that there are no crowds of tourists. The
weather is generally sunny but cold, around
10 degrees. And, if you’re a wine lover now is
a good time to visit as vignerons have a lot
more time to spend with wine enthusiasts.
French Caviar a la Carte
Caviar is one of the most expensive foods
in the world. Most think of it as a Russian
delicacy but it’s also been produced in
France for more than a century…
Mike and Wendy McDowell from the UK
have loved France since spending
childhood holidays there and actually met
in the Loire Valley. When the opportunity
rose for them to start a business, working
with one of the finest French caviar
producers – they leapt at the chance.
History of Caviar in France
In the late 1800s, Russian immigrants
who settled in the Gironde area noticed
that local fishermen catching Siberian
sturgeon in the rivers would eat the meat
and discard the roe. This changed when
the Russians showed the French how to
create caviar and it became a popular
delicacy. Following overfishing of wild
sturgeon, the Government banned fishing
for it and set up a partner farm to raise
and protect the fish. There are now five
caviar farms in France. Wendy and Mike
work with Caviar de France, the oldest
working caviar farm, based at Moulin de la
Cassadotte, in the Gironde department.
Thie partnership was formed when Wendy
was made redundant from her job in 2011
with a trainer manufacturer. “We used the
redundancy money to set up Fine French
Caviar in the UK” says Mike as he recalls
the stress of their new venture, just as
their baby was born. “We spent countless
nights lying awake worrying. I remember
Wendy putting on lots of makeup to hide
her baggy eyes so that she looked ready
for meetings with customers! She set up a
website and was taking orders whilst
trying to feed the baby”.
But they knew that they had a great
product and it inspired them to keep
going. They have two types of caviar –
both exclusive in the UK. Diva is a smooth,
creamy caviar for the more amateur palate,
made using the "malossol" method,
meaning that only fish roe and natural salt
is used to make it, without any
preservatives. It has an authentic, light
buttery taste, with a hint of warmth and
hazelnut. Ebène is perfect for the
connoisseur’s palate, tender, subtle and
well-balanced with a hint of oyster, sea
urchin, butter and hazelnut.
There are a number of 'do's & dont's' when it
comes to caviar. Never use a silver metallic
based spoon to serve or eat it. The silver oxidises
the eggs and kills the flavour. The proper way to
do it: off the back of the hand, off a mother of
pearl or horn spoon. Wood, plastic and porcelain
are all fit to serve caviar too. You can also serve
off a GOLD spoon, if you have one!
Once they drove 560 miles in a day to do a
taste session for their caviar with a top
chef and his team. It was worth it. Wendy
presented Ebène in a blind taste test and it
won hands down “Pound for Pound Ebène
caviar is the best caviar we have ever
tasted” declared the chef.
In fact their caviar is so popular it’s
appeared on the BBC foodie show Great
British Menu no less than three times. It
was even used in a dish prepared by
Britain’s youngest Michelin star chef Aiden
Byrne, scoring a perfect 10 from the 2*
Michelin Chef Judge.
Now Wendy and Mike import the caviar to
the UK, delivering not just to loads of top
chefs but to consumers by post in chilled
packaging that ensures it arrives in perfect
condition. “It’s not just for celebrities, the
rich and top chefs, it’s an accessible
product that everyone can enjoy” says
Their website has lots of recommendations
for how to eat it and pair it with
other food, Champagne, perhaps vodka,
but some of Mike’s favourite ways to
indulge include simple blinis and a dollop
of crème fraiche, or even with a little
scrambled egg, or mashed potato.
“Great French caviar and great British
produce – it’s entente cordiale on a plate”
Fine French Caviar
Enter the draw
to win Fine
French Caviar in
SPotligHt on BLAYE
spotlight on blaye
J Christina visits the historic town of
Blaye, it might be small but it packs a
mighty historic punch
The Aquitaine region straddles a
prominent position in southwest France. It
stretches long and lean against the French
Atlantic coastline, reaching up to the
Pyrénées mountain range and
transcending to the Spanish border. Here
in the Gironde department, intrepid
travellers can scamper to the summit of
storybook castles, cycle through vineyardlaced
countryside, walk through ancient
villages and sip world-renowned wines.
And it’s here that curious visitors will
discover the douceur de vivre in a tiny onekilometer
long settlement, once named
Let me introduce you to Blaye, a petite but
mighty hamlet, sitting at the southern tip of
the Gironde estuary formed by the
confluences of the nearby Dordogne and
Garonne rivers. Blaye is an ancient and
powerful settlement from medieval times,
where the Citadel of Blaye and its military
fortifications sit majestically over the
waters of western Europe’s largest estuary.
La Citadelle De Blaye, a medieval fortress,
along with Fort Médoc and Fort Paté,
formed a military defence system during
the 18th and 19th centuries to protect the
downstream port of Bordeaux from sea
invasions and wars. It is a legendary
example of engineering genius and
Romanesque architecture designed and
built by Vauban, the engineer of Louis XIV
who left his mark throughout France. It’s a
picture postcard town, with scarred
ramparts that bear witness to battles and
conflict through this historic maritime
Nowadays, we find the citadel is a living
monument, where inside the bastion, a
maze of cobblestone streets, stone houses,
artisan shops, cafes and wine shops, still
From atop the medieval walls of photogenic
Blaye Citadel there are stunning panoramic
views of the estuary and across to the
It is free to enter the UNESCO listed citadel
and its ramparts, but within its walled city
visitors pay for guided tours of Abbey Saint
Romain or Musee d’Archéologie et Histoire
de Blaye, via the Tourist Office.
Walking the main street of Blaye, there is a
feeling of authenticity. Vibrant street
markets are held every Wednesday and
Saturday in front of the Citadel, rich and
colourful with tented stalls, filled with local
produce and seafood. The soil in Blaye is
rich and varied, and the area boasts 240
days of sunshine. This results in prized
asparagus, figs, and celebrated Côtes de
Blaye red wines from vineyards in the
Gironde. A must visit is the Maison du Vin
on the Cours Vauban to taste the famous
wine of this enchanting region.
A visit to Blaye is a like a step-back in time.
a place where the locals are warm and
welcoming making your time in the Gironde
a captivating experience.
by Les Americains
Marty and Eileen Neumeier from California reveal how they fell in love with a house
and life in the Dordogne even though they live thousands of miles away. They and
their daughter Sara say it’s worth every minute of the effort to get there each year
and they’ve even written a truly inspiring book about it...
The couple unlocks the French doors and walk
onto the stone terrace. Their bodies are stiff,
achy, jetlagged. They’ve just endured the 27-
hour ritual in which they drag heavy bags from
house to car, car to shuttle, shuttle to plane,
plane to plane, plane to taxi, taxi to train, train to
car, and car to old stone house—the house that
waits patiently all autumn, winter, and spring.
They collapse on wicker chairs and stare into
the distance. The air is warm. The first stars
make their shy appearance.
The woman gets up, her chair creaking. She
disappears into the house and returns with a
bottle of pale rosé, sets one glass here, one
After a long pause, she says: “I’m not sure I can
do this anymore.”
The man nods. “It’s impossible.”
They sit, taking small sips as the stars
grow bolder and more numerous. A bat
zigzags through wooden columns that
strain to support a roof heavy with old tiles.
The breeze carries the scent of burning
“Of course,” the woman says, “I always say
that. Then we get here, we come out onto
the terrace, and I remember why.”
The man turns his head.
“You know—why we do it,” she says. “Why
we pack up our clothes, our computers, the
dogs, everything. Why we close up our
house in California and hire strangers to
watch over it.”
“Why do we?”
“Because of this,” she says, with an
inclusive gesture. “This landscape. This
fragrance. This view. As soon as we get
here I start to forget all the effort and pain.
And then I never want to leave.”
The man raises his eyebrows.
“I think we should write a book about this,”
she says. “I think we should write a book
about this part of France, about our
friends, our neighbors, about Sara, this
house, about learning French.
The woman drains her glass and places it
on the table.
“Same way we do everything,” she says,
her smile a miniature Milky Way. “You’ll
drive and I’ll navigate.”
He reaches for her hand. They laugh. They
walk into the house, where the jetlag and
the wine and the fragrance of the night
For the record, my name is Marty and my
wife is Eileen. We’re Americans. But here’s
the thing: if we could introduce ourselves
to all of our 320 million neighbors in all of
our 50 states, no one would call us
Americans. We would simply be Marty and
Eileen. Yet in this part of France, no one
would call us anything but les Américains.
Why? Because there are no others. We’ve
Aside from the French, we see quite a few
English. In the summer we hear a
smattering of Dutch. While the Dutch may
simply be taking advantage of the cheap
flights out of Rotterdam, the Brits have a
historic claim on the place. They lost it in
the Hundred Years’ War. And now, six
hundred years later, it’s as if they’re quietly
buying it back, bit by bit, hoping no one will
They gaze across the field. A light goes on
in the next hamlet over. The sky has become
a sea of stars. The Milky Way is the
heavenly wake of some huge ocean liner,
passing silently millions of miles overhead.
“Both of us?” says the man.
“How can two people write a book?”
But that doesn’t explain why we’re here, les
Américains. Or why we traded our life
savings for a second house in a part of the
world we’d never heard of. We have no
historic ties to France, no family members
living in the “old country,” no vivid
memories of cycling through the ripening
vines during our gap year. More to the point,
we can’t just “pop down” like our British
friends. We have to slog 7,000 miles
through nine time zones and five types of
transportation to get here.
No. The reason we ended up in France is
much less obvious. We came by mistake.
We thought if we bought a house in France,
we would—as night follows day—become
Now I know what you’re thinking: Wow,
these people must be loaded. Who buys a
house in France on such a whim?
It wasn’t like that. There were no silver
spoons in the kitchen drawer. We started
our marriage as mere children, barely
twenty, already raising a child of our own.
To pay the rent I peddled handmade
greeting cards from the back of an old
Volvo. Eileen fed our little family with food
stamps. When the greeting card business
failed, I set up shop as a freelance designer.
Little by little we built a life - I, designing ads
and logos, she, keeping the books and
running the house.
For the next twenty years, travel was out of
the question. But we kept the idea alive—the
idea that someday we might visit a few
foreign countries, even learn another
language. And maybe, just maybe, if we
worked hard enough and spent next to
nothing on clothes and cars and meals in
restaurants, we could afford to live in a
foreign country. Why not? It doesn’t cost a
cent to dream...
Read the whole story by Les Americains,
Beginning French, available from Amazon.
House Sitting in the Ile de France
- how to have your cake and eat
Over the years I have visited various parts
of the French coast, mountains and cities
for holidays, work and pleasure. But I've
seldom had the luxury of time to simply live
in one place and take in my surroundings
without the deadlines of a timed holiday or
tours crammed between business
meetings and a return flight.
Housesitting in Ile de France gave me that
privilege; time to enjoy the country and
savour the character of the heart of la
Discovering the Ile de France
In the heart of the French countryside just
one hour from Paris lives a British expat
long established in a tiny hamlet near the
town of Coulommiers, with her family of
dogs and hens. Susan occasionally travels
away from her country idyll finding
housesitters to take care of her pets and
home. On the Housesit Match website she
describes her French home as ‘a peaceful
retreat nestled in the heart of the country’.
Driving along the Route National at
Ermenonville I passed the famous Parc
Asterix and noticed scenic road side areas
signposted as bon coins de pique-nique,
and covoiturage. How organised to set
aside land for outdoor lunch and ride
sharing meeting places. It was hard to
visualise anything like this off motorways
elsewhere. When I arrived, nothing had
prepared me for this charming corner of the
world. Susan's home is a characterful gated
property not visible from the road, with
expansive views from the rear facing
Land of Brie and Champagne
Before long Susan introduced me to my
charges for the housesit assignment, four
dogs - all different sizes and ages and each
with a unique personality, and 12 chickens.
Their routines were straightforward and her
explanations and briefing document was
clear. I was all set. And she was ready for
Barring downpours of rain in the first two
days the rest of the time at the housesit
was peaceful, warm and sunny. I visited
Coulommiers the nearest town, and the first
place in France to produce what we now
know as Brie cheese.
I also visited nearby Saint Simeon and the
Fromagère de la brie where you can
organise visits to see the cheese being
made, and naturally there are dégustations
à la Laiterie.
This region is close to the home of
Champagne. It's easy to get to and try a
little tasting (or two) and take some bottles
of bubbles home with you.
No matter where you house sit in France,
there’s always something wonderful close
by and in this case, one of the many great
places to visit was Fontainebleau. Both the
gardens and chateau were exquisite, really
easy to negotiate and not at all crowded,
not like Versailles which has been plagued
by long queues whenever I have visited.
Originally a fortified castle dating from the
12th Century, this chateau has weathered
more than 800 years of history, 36
monarchs and an Emperor.
Above left: the mountains of Reims,
Champagne, above right: Chateau de
Fontainebleau; right: Susan's chickens!
Housesitting and pet sitting Joys and
Living like a local as a guest of the home
owner yielded insights I couldn’t have
uncovered in such a short space of time on
a normal holiday. It’s this local knowledge
that can enrich a new experience and that’s
one of the reasons I love housesitting. Ile de
France came to life for me through Susan’s
insider’s tips in a way no guide book could
have managed at such a local level.
And what of my petsitting charges, I hear
you asking? All this eating and drinking and
enjoying the scenery doesn’t get the dogs
walked or the chickens fed and watered!
Well once we were in a routine the dogs and
hens were straightforward and easy to care
The hens were let out of their coop early in
the morning, fed grain and given fresh
water. And because their paddock was well
fenced and they were safely enclosed the
next time I had to worry about them was at
sunset when I needed to ensure they had all
returned and they were safely put away in
their hen house at night.
The dogs on the other hand were far more
entertaining. They loved going for a
country walk first thing. In the large
garden they chased each other, got
excited at the sound of Paris commuters
driving past the gate, or rabbits spotted in
the surroungind fields. It left me free to do
as I wished for the rest of the day!
My trip to Ile de France was brilliant and I
know that I was only able to scratch the
surface of all that was on offer. I hope to
return to this wonderful region and to
uncover more treasures, more produits de
terroir, and through housesitting meet
more wonderful friends and locals in a
way that a classic tourist visit might not
By offering my services as a house and
pet sitter I was able to live comfortably,
care for pets which made me feel more at
home and I didn’t have to pay for any
accommodation for a wonderful holiday in
a new part of France full of authentic
Above left: Susans's home in Ile de
France; centre: Dogs Barry and Flea;
right: laptop with a view!
A brilliant gift for wine lover
run company www.my3dvines
Choose from 10 of the most ic
wine locations in France from
well as less well-known but tru
a row of vines for a year. You’l
“your” grapes *and the opport
the cellar door price. A welcom
exclusive tastings, lunches, w
visit your vines and meet your
standout and not expensive p
(*You’ll be presented with you
vineyard, winners in the UK m
2 Lucky Winners can choose
dreams – just click here to e
(Read our review here)
Great Christmas gifts with a French flavour and,
well it is Chris
Gifts for those who love to travel don’t
come better than this. www.
personalisedluggage.com make great
suitcases in 6 sizes and personalise them
with the image of your choice. You definitely
won’t be standing at the airport conveyor
belt wondering which case is yours because
no one else will have one like it. You can
upload photos to the site and see what they
look like on the suitcase in 3D before you
choose and anyone who travels will be
thrilled with their utterly unique luggage.
Get 25% off with this exclusive discount code:
goodlife25 (Read our review)
To win a medium sized case with the
image of your choice click here to enter
Some of th
and none m
shop is too
bag – pop
We have o
we're giving away 16 Great Prizes over 12 Days
tmas after all!
s everywhere from the family
onic, authentic world famous
Champagne to St-Emilion as
ly special appellations and rent
l receive a bottle of wine from
unity to buy more at less than
e pack, certificate, invitations to
orkshops and the opportunity to
wine maker make this a really
r bottle when you visit your
ay opt to receive it through the
the vineyard of their
nter the random draw
e best places for
ifts are museum shops
ore so than the brilliant
rancaise in Paris.
1680, since 1799 its
been at the heart of the
al and that’s where its
. You’ll find a range of
quirky to gorgeous like
ian Lacroix designed tote
in and see for yourself,
ething for everyone
our review, page 18)
ne of those lush
Lacroix bags to give
click here to enter the
A great gift for all book lovers
as well as fans of Paris.
Mark Pryor is the author of the
Hugo Marston mystery series
many of them set in Paris like
his latest, The Paris Librarian.
Atmospheric, witty and with a
great hero, think Jack Reacher
if he was cultured. This is a
can’t put it down read that
brings Paris to you with great
descriptions and a thrilling
story (read our review here).
Win a copy of all six of Mark
Pryor’s best-selling Hugo
Marston books AND a lovely
tote bag from the American
Library in Paris – just click
here to enter the draw
L’Esprit Francais: The
Gift boxes that bring a flavour
of Paris to you anywhere in
the world. From a red, white
and blue bracelet, a scented
candle, chocolate, tote bag,
note book, guide book and
more, beautifully gift-wrapped
with real French flair.
We’ve got a gift box to give
away to one lucky winner,
just pop your details here to
enter the draw
EVEDAMONFrance: Hand painted
totes made in France with love.
These fabulous tote bags are hand
made by designer Eve Damon.
Choose from a range of pastel
coloured eco bags, hand dyed, hand
painted and all with her trademark
Eiffel Tower fob. For 25% off at Eve's
Etsy shop, use code
We’ve got a unique bag to give
away – The Good Life France tote
bag in grey and silver from France
with love, just click here to leave
your details for the draw
A fantastic foodie gift – Fine French
Since the early 20th century when
Russian immigrants taught French
fisherman how to produce authentic
caviar, there’s been a thriving
industry in Aquitaine. Fine French
Caviar Ltd. purvey the most delicious
caviar produced using artisan
methods and can deliver to your door
in the UK or in France. Their caviar is
amongst the best in the world, used
by top chefs, and will really add a
certain je ne sais quoi to the table.
2 lucky winners in the UK and 2 in
France will each win a fabulous
Babushka Caviar "Doll y Secrets",
each doll contains 20g of caviar
and tasting spoons*
(Read about Fine French Caviar page
*Due to customs regulations, these
prizes can only be posted to France/UK
Provence, romance and starting
over…book worms perfect gift.
It all starts on the eve of her
anniversary and Katherine Price
can’t wait to celebrate. But instead
of receiving an anniversary card
from her husband, she finds a note
asking for a divorce. Patricia Sands'
best-selling trilogy, Love in
Provence series, about second
chances is a provocative and
We’ve got all three books
(signed!) to give away to one
lucky winner, just click here to
enter the draw.
A great gift for those wanting to
master French pronunciation.
8 video lessons with acclaimed
French teacher Geri Metz of
Pronouncing French whose core
teaching focuses on helping you
to correctly form and pronounce
French words and sound
authentically French, unlearning
the "Anglo-American mouth".
Read our review here
Win a video course with Geri
and learn how to say those
French words like a local! Click
here to enter the draw.
A lovely children's book that is just
perfect for Christmas
Little Noelle loves her papa and
Christmas, she especially loves going to
the Eiffel Tower on Christmas Day to
make a wish. When one year her papa
doesn't come home, Little Noelle decides
to take matters into her own hands and
go and find him. Beautifully illustrated, a
very sweet story, great for bedtime
Read our review here
Win a copy of this lovely book, just
click here to enter the draw
A truly inspiring book about an
American family who bought a 400-
year-old cottage in rural France from an
ad on the Internet.
The heartwarming and witty memoir of
les Américains, Eileen and Marty,
joined by their chef-daughter Sara.
Their dream of being French leads
them into uncharted territory where "oh
la la" takes on a whole different
meaning. Be warned - this book is
inspirational, if you have a hankering to
live in France, reading this may tip you
over the edge!
Read our review here.
Click here to enter the draw for this
The perfect book for foodies visiting
Tom Reeves of Discover Paris has
spent 24 years in the city of light and
knows it like a local. His book dining
out in Paris shares his local
knowledge of restaurants, the ones
that tourists know nothing about but
are loved by Parisians. Great foodie
shops, coffee shops and more.
Read our review here.
Win a copy of this excellent book,
just click here to enter the draw
Y O U R
P H O T O S
Every weekend, we invite you to share your photos on Facebook - it's a great way for
everyone to see "real" France and be inspired by real travellers snapping pics as they
go. Every week there are utterly gorgeous photos being shared and we've decided to
post the most popular of each month here. Share your favourite photos with us on
Facebook - the most liked will appear in the next issue of The Good Life France
AUGUST - Monet's Garden, Normandy
By Helen Dodge Loved on Facebook by 10,462 people
By Helen Dodge loved on Facebook by 10,564 people
By A Caine
september - mont st michel
By Daniela Perria Rickey loved on Facebook by 4,338 people
Join us on
like and share
r - Wine store Saint Emilion
Loved on Facebook by 4137 people
Géraldine Lepère of Comme Une Francaise French Language and
Lifestyle shares her top tips to help you sound more French. In this
lesson she demonstrates how to make a toast in France - at this time
of the year it's a very timely lesson!
Toasting in all countries is full of customs and superstitions. It’s a tradition that goes
back to the Middle Ages and probably beyond. And still now, it’s always a ritual. How to
make a toast in France, what to do, what to say? The fun video below will help you toast
in French like a local!
And, there's a saying in France that you when you make a toast, you must look in the
eye of the person you are toasting with or suffer 7 years of bad sex!
Click on the video for your free lesson! It will open full screen then click
on the X in the right hand corner to return to the magazine!
Expat in France Susan Hays shares the excitement of searching, and
finding, your dream home in France, in this case, the charming
Charente-Maritime area, Poitou-Charentes
Our dream of moving to France grew dimmer and dimmer, we couldn't find
The phone burst into life with a sudden jolt
of energy, and picking it up, I heard a voice,
"Susan? Susan? Is that you? I think I may
have found something...". My heart gave a
lurch of excitement, the dread I had been
feeling for a week lifting off my chest. There
were more words on the other end of the
line, but I was already gone, drifting back to
France and the sound of cicadas.
With five children at school and a house to
pack, we'd decided it was my husband’s
turn to go house-hunting. We’d lived in
France before, we knew what we wanted
this time, going back to a country we loved
so much, and we'd drawn up a check-list of
things that were vital to the purchase, along
with a second list of things that would be
'nice'. We'd already chosen the area, the
Charente Maritime, for the prospect of
living in France's second sunniest region
appealed to us greatly. The seaside, figs,
lemons, olives, grapes and melons all
drifted in and out of our conversation, as
did mutterings of beach life and coastal
marshlands. So, he packed a small bag one
late June morning and I drove him to the
airport as we discussed gardens, rooms,
schools and resources. We were confident
enough he would find something from the
list of properties we had booked to see.
Except he didn't.
For five days, he drove his little hire-car
back and forth across the corn-studded
hinterland of the region, and down dusty
little coastal roads by the sea. He sent
nightly reports from a remote chambres
d'hôtes via intermittent internet, and he
slowly whittled down the list of appointments
till they had finished. There was
nothing that matched our list of requirements;
certainly not for the budget we had
in mind, anyway. Each house he visited had
a problem with it, lack of schools, distance
to a town or distance from the coast; there
was always something out of kilter. The one
house that had seemed ideal was signed
away the day before he was due to view. We
talked late into the night as our dreams
grew dimmer and dimmer.
our dream house... and then I got the message "Found something possible"
The morning before he was due to leave, in
desperation he parked his car by the Place
Colbert in Rochefort and went round estate
agents collecting magazines in the rack
outside each door. Settling into a chair at a
café with a coffee he set to work. It took an
hour to cull through the properties and by
the time he finished it was nearly lunchtime
and he still had nothing to show for
his efforts. Looking up, he saw an agency
on the far side of the square he had
missed. He paid for his coffee and set off
across the cobbles.
The estate agent gathered some particulars
of properties that fitted our requirements.
Two of them, my husband had already
visited, and his heart sank as he scanned
the rest. As he did so, the agent fussed with
a notepad, and looked up; "I have something
else, but I don't have any particulars
for it, I'm afraid. It came on the market two
days ago and we already had someone to
see it. Would you like to have a look, maybe
next week? It is within your price-range,
and it is in a village..."
"Yes," laughed my husband, "but it will have
to be today!”
The man across the table scowled at the
difficulties this was going to present, but he
picked up the phone and made a call, and
then asked, "This afternoon, after lunch?"
That was when I received the message I
had been hoping for, a simple text which
"FOUND SOMETHING POSSIBLE WILL
CALL LATER XXX"
It was in a village, it had a large garden,
outbuildings, grapevines and a fig tree and
the village had a school and a bakery. It met
just about all of our requirements. It
belonged to a very old lady, and his heart
quailed at the thought of finding something
in a perfect situation, but in complete
disrepair as the asking price would leave
little change from the budget for much
more than a new coat of paint.
Piling into the agent's car at the appointed
hour, the pair of them sped across the
ancient salt marsh towards a church tower
far away on the horizon. Fifteen minutes
later they rolled down a dusty sunny street
into a village, and came to a stop at a huge
pair of gates, covered in ancient peeling
paint. Beyond the gates lay a driveway
bordered with hedges, and a garden that
stretched as far as the eye could see. My
husband told me later that he'd known
instantly this was to be our home.
The house belonged to a family that had
been there for generations. The old woman
had gone to a nursing home near Paris, the
interior was a time warp. In one room,
upstairs, a shelf groaned under the weight
of every Paris Match ever printed, books
stood in stacks, covered in dust. In the attic,
boxes of scientific journals going back a
hundred years lay ready for serious study,
and each room seemed to live on a
different level, steps leading up and down
like a rabbit's warren of dark and shuttered
spaces. The outbuilding turned out to be
the old farm manager's cottage, complete
with a kitchen and bathroom untouched for
decades. But despite the long grass and
unkempt appearance, he knew this would
be a good home for a large family. The
garden even came with a sun-dappled set
of childrens' swings - a proper set, proud
and tall with room for three siblings.
After a frantic night of phone calls and
photos, I put it all in his hands, and told him
it was his decision. The next morning he
rang the agent made his offer, and agreed
to sign the papers at lunchtime. At half-past
two, as he sat at a desk in the agent’s office,
scrawling his signature across the contract,
the phone on the table rang. It was the
people who had seen the house first,
wanting to put in an offer; but they were too
late, the ink had already dried.
Two hours later, he drove back to his
chambres d'hôtes in a daze, a copy of a
power of attorney in one hand, the sale
papers in the other, and two weeks to pay
the deposit. When he rang me, the children
whooped with excitement and my eyes
grew moist with elation. We were going to
Find out how life is in France for Susan and
family at her blog: Our French Oasis
Find your dream home in La Rochelle
La Rochelle is a great place to live, it's
known as the sunniest town of the South
West of France says local property agent
The historical old port of La Rochelle is a
lovely place to sit and relax watching the
world go by with lots of great restaurants
and bars. There's plenty to do all year
round. The different architectural styles of
La Rochelle give it a really special feel, it’s
very atmospheric and picturesque.
For nature fans, living around La Rochelle
is ideal because of its proximity with the
Atlantic coast, the Marais Poitevin and the
Vendée. You can even island hop here as
the Iles de Ré, Aix and Oléron are just a
short ride away.
To sum up, the living is good, there are
lots of brilliant beaches, traditional
villages, the benefits of city life plus nature
reserves on your doorstep. Plus the people
are really friendly!
I would say to that by living close to La
Rochelle, you really have so much choice
for your French lifestyle – there’s
something here to suit every dream…
Large family home with 4 bedrooms on
a big wooded garden with a small pond.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Beautiful farmhouse with 6 bedrooms in a
quiet hamlet, on beautiful garden, spa and
sauna 20km from La Rochelle center.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Splendid Manoir style house with
tennis court, swimming pool and guest
house, large garden with streams.
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Elinor's Property Portfolio, Leggett
We chat to expats Louise Elsom and Dave Pegram who are finding
success with a pop-up vegetarian and vegan restaurant in their home
in Haute-Vienne and find out their top tips for creating a catering
business in France
How did you come to be in France?
I'm originally from East Yorkshire, England,
UK. There seem to be a lot of us "Yorkshire
Folk" out here. Either I'm being followed or
we all have the same great idea to move to
the Limousin region! Back in 2008, I
finished University and wasn’t really sure
what I wanted to do. My family had
holidayed in Southern France throughout
my childhood and my late dad had always
dreamed of retiring here. Sadly he never
got to live out that wish, but my Mum and I
(after a lot of dithering), decided to go for it
and move to France. We moved to
Carcassonne and I had six happy years
there. I met my Fiancée Dave two years ago
and we've just bought our first home in the
lovely Haute-Vienne region. My mum has
moved to this area too.
I bought a lovely, but unloved, two
bedroomed house with a barn, a little
stable and a bit of land – I just fell in love
with it. Dave wasn’t quite so impressed
when he saw it but I convinced him of the
potential. It had been left abandoned for 15
years but Dave is a builder so we’ve done
all the renovation work ourselves. It's in a
great area just outside the village of Saint
Laurent sur Gorre. It's very peaceful with
lots of lovely lakes and great for walking
our two dogs. But if we want a bit of city life,
Limoges is just 30 minutes away. I can
spend hours walking around the cobbled
streets, visiting the churches and dragging
poor Dave into the many shops. Other
highlights in the area include Saint Junien,
Rochechouart, Chalus, Segur le Chateau.
The list is endless...
What it inspired you to create a pop up
Well I must admit to being a hopeless cook
for many years. I had lived through my
university years on takeaways and had
never bothered cooking. But then I met
Dave and found that he was a vegetarian,
so I couldn't get away with shoving chicken
Kiev and chips in the oven, I had to learn to
To my surprise, I found that I loved it and I
was really good at it. So much so, that I
started a vegetarian recipes blog and, from
there, decided to start a little vegetarian
and vegan restaurant. And The Hidden
Veggie Kitchen was born.
The Hidden Veggie Kitchen is in our home
and people can come and eat homemade
vegetarian and vegan food and meet new
people. It’s very sociable, people sit
together at our two long tables and they
love it. We’ve had so many interesting
people visit, from as far as Holland and
America. Many of our customers aren't
vegetarian, they just want to eat a bit less
meat on a weekly basis and enjoy simple,
home cooked meals.
How has it been to start a business in
It’s rather overwhelming to set up a
business in a foreign country so I got
professional help with the Administration
as I didn't want to make any mistakes! Jo-
Ann Howell from French Admin Solutions
helped me fill in the paperwork to become
a Micro Enterprise and got me signed up
for a 5 day Business course in Limoges. It
is definitely reassuring to have someone
that you can go to with any questions as,
even with reasonable French; it is still easy
to make mistakes!
What top tips would you give to anyone
wanting to set up a catering business in
Well I would definitely say that you should
do your research. I asked around and made
sure that I would have enough potential
customers in the area to make my
business worthwhile. Customers travel
from far and wide now so they obviously
feel it's worthwhile for good food!
I’ve found it easier to set up a business in
my own home rather than on dedicated
business premises. I’ve started small and
grown gradually, rather than jumping in,
renting a building, then finding I can't cover
my monthly expenses. We’re still growing
and we have the potential to extend the
dining space into the barn.
How easy has it been to make friends in
In our little hamlet everyone is French, with
the exception of one British owned holiday
home. Our French neighbours have been
extremely welcoming. When we first moved
in, we had no running water for several
weeks and everyone offered us the use of
their outdoor taps and even showers! I
started a Facebook group, "Get Togethers
in the Limousin", and I've hosted several
events which has been a big help in making
I know that it can be very hard for a lot of
people to make friends when they move to
France, especially if they haven’t mastered
French. I’ve found that if you make the
effort and join French classes, local social
groups, yoga classes etc, you will soon
After eight years in France, I've definitely
adapted. When I return to the UK to visit
friends I often feel overwhelmed at first by
the amount of people. I’ve certainly become
used to life in rural France where
sometimes, the only traffic I see is a tractor
passing by. I’m lucky to have my Mum just
45 minutes away in the Charente and
Dave's mum and stepdad live in the
Dordogne, so we always have people to
turn to if we need help or support.
When we have children, we will make sure
that they fully adapt to life in France and
are bilingual, as that is such a huge
advantage. Perhaps they will help me to
gradually improve my French too!
The Hidden Veggie Kitchen Website
FIND YOUR DREAM HOME IN HAUTE-VIENNE
The picturesque villages of the regional park of the Perigord-Limousin offer tranquil
countryside living close to Limoges and its International airport. Rich with culture,
fantastic restaurants, leisure lakes, outdoor activities, and the relaxed pace of living
make this a truly beautiful place to live. When purchasing a property in this region you
still get good value, lovely stone houses, exposed beams and a lot of space for your
This is a region of outstanding natural beauty, perfect for those who enjoy outdoor
living and activities and Limoges city offers city culture and life on the doorstep.
Fiona Marsh, local property agent shares her top picks:
Stunning property with 4 bedrooms set in
private grounds of 2845m² with a swimming
pool. A short drive to the town with facilities
make this a perfect country home.
Guide Price: €288,000
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
3 bedroom stone hamlet house, beautifully
restored. Gorgeous garden, 2 courtyards and
close to faciities
Guide Price: €77,000
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Fabulous country house with 12 hectares
of land, it's own Napoleonic lake,
separate farm house and cottage with
priviate gardens, 4 barns and 2 pools!
Endless possibilities here!
Guide Price: €689,000
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Fiona's Property Portfolio
From Dudley to the Dordogne... Brian Beard meets the Burrows family who
live in rural bliss in south west France
In 2003 David Burrows and his family
decided on a new life in France. The name
may be familiar to you if you are a football
fan because David played for some of the
top English Premier League clubs,
including Liverpool and Everton. He was
part of the last Liverpool team to win the
top flight league title, in 1990, before the
revamp of English football saw the
introduction of the Premier League. A little
known football fact is that he still holds the
record for the second fastest goal in
Merseyside derby history, just 48 seconds
from kick-off, for Liverpool against Everton,
on 31st August 1991, second only to Anfield
legend Kenny Dalglish, who actually signed
the 19 year old left back from West
Bromwich Albion, in 1989.
So why and how did a died-in-the- wool
Black Country lad up sticks and create a
new life for himself and his family.
"Why not" is the answer, accompanied with
a typical Gallic shrug of the shoulders, with
a Midland accent of course.
'Bugsy' as he is nicknamed continues. "We
spent a lot of family holidays in France and
as I was coming to the end of my career I
had a few injuries and there was a lot about
football I didn`t like so we thought, why not
make a new life."
David was in a fortunate position,
financially, after a career in professional
football totalling more than 400 games. A
career which saw him win the Football
League, the FA Cup and two FA Charity
He says: "I had my pension from football as
well as other business interests so I didn`t
have to worry about that side of things and
looking after the family."
David met his wife Jackie when they were
16 and 14 respectively. They married in 1990
and she of course followed him around
England as he stopped off to play for; West
Brom, Liverpool, West Ham, Everton,
Coventry, Birmingham City and Sheffield
Wednesday, his last club.
Indeed it was the move to Yorkshire for
'Bugsy' that proved the catalyst for the
move to France. Jackie recalls.
"It was probably me more than David who
wanted the move to France. When he
signed for Sheffield Wednesday it was the
first time he ever had to commute to work
as we usually moved to the new area when
he changed clubs. It was the first time he
ever had to travel to a club and that was
something neither of us liked."
So the family packed up and headed for a
new life in France. A beautiful 17th century
farmhouse of yellow Dordogne stone,
typical of the area, became home for the
couple and their three children, David,
Sophie and Alexandra, `Alex`.
David never harboured any plans to coach
or manage in England and that didn`t
change when they relocated. But in order to
enjoy their new life to the full 'Bugsy' was
determined to keep fit.
David, top left (red) playing for Liverpool at the
25th Anniversary of Hillsborough Match
"I wanted to integrate into the community
and I had already decided a good way of
doing that would be to go along to the local
football club and learn more. I didn`t want
to breeze in and say to people 'look at me
I`m an ex-pro' and 'piggy-back' on that. I'm
a private person and didn`t want that kind
of privileged start. I just wanted to train and
But the local team, Olympique Coux et
Bigaroque beat him to it and after being
invited to train with them he ended up in
the side but was unable to prevent their
relegation. The following season, with, as
David puts it, `"professional organisation,
training and a few new, good, players, we
won the championship of the Dordogne."
Meanwhile the family settled well and
fortunately there weren`t too many
obstacles to the acclimatisation process.
"I think most people who start a new life
abroad encounter situations that lead them
to think 'what are we doing here'" says
Jackie. "But we had no such problems.
David had his football, the children were at
school and meeting up with and talking to
local parents helped immensely in us
settling in to the local community."
The process was helped by the continual
work schedule they had to carry out on
their farmhouse because David and Jackie
put something back into the community, a
tangible contribution to the local economy,
as Jackie explained:
"Rather than use English tradesmen we
made a point of employing local French
Above and left: The
artisans, and that helped the immersion
into the area. If we needed help or an
opinion there was always someone we
could turn to or someone who knew
To those who have not changed their lives
in the way the Burrows family have there is
a common misconception that long days
are spent in the sun, on the terrace, sipping
a glass of wine, or several, and winding
down the 'clock of life'. Unfortunately, or
fortunately perhaps, that is neither
sustainable or realistic. Although they had
a solid financial background on which to
build their new life in France Jackie and
David were practical.
"We were financially ok but it wasn`t bulletproof.
" says Jackie. "There has been
economic volatility for some years now and
if you sat on your pension it would go, very
quickly. So we went into property and
bought two beautiful holiday homes that
we rent out as an income stream. I spend
something like 20 hours a week on
everything from bookings to change-overs
while David takes care of the
Living the dream, Hautefort Dordogne, one
of several of the beautiful villages in the
Life in France for many is about variety and
maintaining a balance. Work-life balance is
something the French have turned into a
fine art and, as David added, there is more
to renting out property than simply being
an income stream.
"We find that a lot of the people who rent
our properties come back year after year
and many become friends so it has other
benefits as well as being a source of
income. We put everything into trying to
integrate into the community. That is
crucial for anyone moving to a new
country, a new culture. Football obviously
helped but it was only one part of settling
David only recently called time on his
playing career in France, hanging up his
boots on medical advice as the ravages of
playing the game for four decades took its
toll. But, he still plays the occasional game.
The whole family have really embraced life
in France. David, the couple`s son, works as
an ambulance driver; Sophie works in
Import and Export in Bordeaux; and Alex is
at 6th Form College.
David and Jackie are united in their
evaluation of that life changing decision
made 13 years ago. They say they have
absolutely no regrets.
"Moving here to France is the best decision
we have ever made. The children love it and
we love it. The people are so generous, in
every respect. Life has been, and is,
wonderful. C`est magnifique.
SEE TOP TIPS FOR MARKETING HOLIDAY
LETS - page 104
FIND YOUR DREAM HOME IN DORDOGNE
The Dordogne is a popular department for foreign buyers due to great weather, lots to
do, fantastic gastronomy, numerous picturesque villages and 4,000 chateaux! The
department has four distinct territories. The ‘Green Périgord' in the north derives its
name from its green valleys and woodland. In the centre of the department is 'White
Périgord', so called because of its limestone plateaux. The 'Purple Périgord', in the
South West of the department, is named from the area's grapes.
In the south-east you'll find 'Black Périgord', with deep valleys and ancient forests. It
contains the towns of Saint-Cyprien and Sarlat-la-Caneda, classic yellow stone
buildings, prehistoric caves and some of the most beautiful villages in France.
Nearest international airports are Limoges, Bergerac and Bordeaux.
Local property agent Antonella reveals three of her top picks in the area:
This charming house has 2 bedrooms
and a converted barn with 2 bedrooms.
A swimming pool, outdoor dining area
and studio make this an absolute mustsee
Guide Price: €318,000
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Gorgeous stone property with 5
bedrooms, swimming pool and short walk
to Bastide de Beaumont with shops and
restaurants. Also a great investment
property, achievin E50,000 for 12 weeks
Guide Price: €449,000
CLICK HERE FOR DETAILS
Beautiful old presbytery with loads
of character, 5 bedrooms and a
swimming pool. With fabulous views
over the countryside this is a really
Guide price: €461,100
CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS
Renting holiday properties are one of the most popular forms of income in France
for expats and so it's really important to make the most of your opportunities.
Successful marketing means being pro-active with a clear strategy and budget
says Donna Sloane of French Connections.
Here are her top marketing tips:
WHERE TO ADVERTISE
Look online at listing websites and maybe choose more than one. Some are
international, others specialise in France. Some charge a set annual fee, others take
commission. Check out special offers, especially at this time of year.
choose customer service
Will staff help create your presentation and do they answer helpline calls and emails
quickly and effectively? Does the company promote owners through advertising,
blogging and a PR programme?
Allow for hosting of your listing over the long term plus costs like photography and
contingencies like special offers and ‘featured property’ slots on the listing site.
create a great online listing
Use the host site template to display stunning photos and an alluring but honest
description. Aim to show what a holiday at your place offers and make it stand out from
the rest. Holidaymakers want to see what to expect, imagine themselves there and feel
safe to book.
Be easy to contact and reply to enquiries within 24 hours maximum. Often it’s good
business to phone for a chat to clinch the booking. Make sure you also get text alerts
and see enquiries in the host site’s owner’s area.
French Connections is at www.frenchconnections.co.uk 01580 819303
The online listing specialist currently has a unique six months free
or money back offer with no commission.
Says Tim Sage, property expe
Buying and selling a property in France –
Once you’ve found your dream home in
France and agreed a price, it's almost time
for those Champagne corks to start
popping! But before that, there’s a bit more
to do – the legal transfer of the property
from the seller to the buyer which involves
paying a deposit (usually at least 10%) and
(usually) two sets of paperwork:
1. THE COMPROMIS DE VENTE
The compromis, as the name suggests, is a
legally binding promise between the buyer
and seller, generally known in the UK as
the Initial Contract. It will contain almost all
of the information that will be in the later
Acte de Vente (in the UK known as the
Deed of Sale or Final Contract). The
information will include at the very least:
- The details of the status of both buyer
and seller – full names, dates and places of
birth, marriage and divorce if applicable.
- A description of the property including
plot references (called cadastrales in
France), land area including the buildings
and a map showing the land and buildings.
- The agreed price, the agency fee, the
estimated legal fees (they’ll be confirmed
later), duties and the amount of deposit to
- The reasons for which the deposit could
be forfeited and the obligations and
declarations by the seller and buyer.
- Copies of the diagnostic tests and results.
- Any suspensive clauses (special
conditions) both standard and any others
that have been mutually agreed.
- An estimated date for the completion –
this is not fixed and can be changed at a
later stage, either earlier or later but is
always set at a minimum of two months
ahead to allow for the notaire “searches”
which have a maximum of two months for a
- An inventory of any furniture that is to be
included in the sale - with values if
The Compromis, which is in French, is
signed by all parties involved. A good
English speaking agency will supply a
“generic” translation (not including the
specific terms of the contract) but this is
not for signing, only for guidance.
t and agent
The signing is followed by a 10 day
“Cooling Off” period. This period starts at
midnight on the first day after the signing
(unless that is a Sunday) and includes
weekends and Bank holidays. During this
time the buyer can withdraw from the sale
without loss of the deposit.
Notice of withdrawal must be made in
writing and sent by recorded delivery to
either the notaire or the agency depending
on who drew up the compromis. This is a
2. THE ACTE DE VENTE
This is it! The big day!
All parties meet in the Notaire's office. The
balance of the money must have been
transferred to the Notaire account 48 hours
beforehand so all will go according to plan.
You will need to supply an “Attestation
d'Origine des Fonds” to comply with
French anti-money laundering laws and
this can be obtained from your bank or
currency provider (it doesn’t matter which
country they ‘re based in – they will all be
able to do this).
The Notaire will read through the Acte de
Vente adding in the results of his searches
made during the delay after the compromis
and the names of previous owners – the
paper trail that makes buying property in
France so safe. The Acte itself is in two
parts; the first is a confirmation of the
parties and property while the second is the
“Annexes” or standard clauses. Until
recently, at this stage the paper shuffling
started with all parties signing or initialling
every page as required. Most Notaires
these days use an “electronic signature”
with a computer screen and electronic pad
that is signed twice by each person and the
results electronically printed on to the
document in the right places. No more
The notaire will give an “Attestation” to the
buyer and seller. For the seller it allows
them to cancel their insurances etc. and for
the buyer it is proof of ownership while the
Notaire registers the transfer with the land
registry. During the next three to six months
the new owner will receive a certified copy
of the Acte.
Signing done - the keys are handed over.
The proud new owner can now “live the
dream” and it really is time for those
Champagne corks to pop.
As always comments and questions can be
passed through the team at The Good Life
France or directly to me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Looking after elderly relatives in France
Jo-Ann Howell explains what assistance is available for expats…
First of all, did you know that in France,
children (where finances permit) can be
obliged by the courts to support their
parents and grandparents?
Putting this obligation aside, having family
to stay brings much joy, but having them
move in also brings costs – not only food
and lodging, but you might also need to
undertake home improvements and
organize for extra help to care for them.
In France, it’s possible to get support for
some additional costs for those caring for
elderly relatives; we take a look at what’s
available and how to apply
When you need to make necessary
improvements to your primary residence to
accommodate the elderly and persons of
reduced mobility, a tax credit is granted for
the installation and replacement of
equipment specially designed to assist
your new residents.
It is a very specific list of works covered,
and they must be carried out by a
professional, however you may be eligible
for 25% of the cost to be reimbursed
against your tax bill.
How to claim: Declare the full amount
spent, including VAT, in box 7WJ of your
‘déclaration de revenues’. The cost of works
is capped at 5.000€ for a single person
household, and 10.000€ for a couple, with
an extra 400€ for every dependent.
Tip: Keep the invoice for the home
improvements in case you are asked for it.
If your family member is not already in the
French health system, but has a CEAM
(Carte Européene d'Assurance Maladie )
you can add them to your own health cover
as a dependent.
How: Use form cerfa 14411*01 and send it
on to the French organisation which
oversees your own cover (CPAM, RSI,…).
You need to apply for an Allocation
Personalisée d’Autonomie or APA (at the
local Mairie). A home visit will be made by
a doctor and social worker. They will
establish the needs of your relative and
assess your involvement in their day-today
life. You may be remunerated for your
assistance, or get support for home help.
Note: 1 month after you receive confirmation
APA is approved, you must declare if
you have engaged help. (cerfa 10544*02).
The amount of support you get depends on
the revenues of the person you are caring
for as well as how much help they need.
Tax implications & reductions
As far as the French taxman is concerned
your family member is now one of your
household for tax purposes; even if their
pension or disability income is taxed at
source it should be declared on your
household tax return. If not it should be
added as the income of a dependent. If
your dependent has no income, then you
should reduce your total household
revenue by 3.407€ per dependent, per
annum. Your annual taxe d’habitation may
also be reduced if your dependent is over
the age of 70, lives with you and in the
previous year had a declared taxable
income below 10.697€ (16.409€ for two
The list of de-taxed installations is a long
one, so get in touch to check if your
planned works are eligible –
What to do with your UK Pension when you
move to France
Financial expert Jennie Poate examines a real life case study...
I met with John and Jane at their lovely
house in the Dordogne, they had bought it
outright with cash raised from the sale of
their UK property and had a sum of money
set aside for renovation and living costs.
At 53, Jane is unable to take her pension
just yet. She has a pension pot worth
£100,000 with a UK provider and she will
need advice in 2 years’ time when she can
access her pension early if she wishes to.
John will be 55 this year and therefore can
access his pension. He too has a pension
pot worth £100,000 with a UK provider.
John told me that he wants to take his
pension now so that the couple have
money to live on while they’re renovating
their house and settling into their new life.
Though they understood that the UK
pension rules changed in 2015, they had
struggled to find an advisor in the UK to
explain what their options are now they’re
living in France.
As a qualified adviser in both UK and
French financial matters, I asked them
questions about their financial needs and
requirements and then took them through
the options available to them.
This is where, in exchange for your pension
fund, an insurance company will provide a
monthly income until death (some products
additionally offer a pension to a surviving
spouse). I explained that with this option,
he could draw down 25% of the fund tax
free, known as a Pension Commencement
Lump Sum (PCLS) and a fixed amount of
income for life. Annuity rates have been
particularly poor of late as they are based
on interest rates. If John took this option in
the UK, the PCLS would be tax free.
However as he is a French resident, he
would have to pay tax.
John asked if he could take the whole fund
2. Take your Pension in Cash
Well, yes, I told him. But, there are tax
implications that need to be considered,
both with the UK and French tax
authorities. In the UK the first 25% is tax
free, then the rest is taxed at 20% or 40%
(depending upon your UK tax rate). In
France it would be taxed at a set 7.5%. The
pension may well be taxed in both
countries and he would have to apply for a
refund from the UK. John will need to
decide whether he would want all the cash
with a tax charge, or the ability to draw on
the funds as and when required. The latter
is taxed at his marginal rate of tax in
France, but as they would be taxed as a
couple, the first €9790 each would be
added together and no tax would be taken.
3. Drawdown funds
John could move his pension pot to a
different structure altogether. For many UK
pension pots, this is certainly an option.
BUT only if it is in your best interest to do
so, you need to check carefully that you
won’t lose certain benefits with your
existing policies when you move it. A
‘drawdown’ fund may be a great option and
there are several types available including
‘QROPS’ (Qualifying Recognised Overseas
Pension Scheme) and ‘SIPPs’ (Self-Invested
Personal Pension). With some of these
products you can stop and start for income,
and take cash depending on need. This can
suit your circumstances when you may
need more or less income or a cash
injection, and the fund is still yours - you
haven’t relinquished control.
One benefit of a QROPS is that you may
have a higher tax free Pension
Commencement Lump Sum (PCLS ) than
under a UK scheme – 30% as opposed to
Pension Income in France
John and Jane were worried about how
much tax they would have to pay on their
pension income as well as inheritance tax
which they heard was high in France.
Pension income in France is taxable but is
not subject to the dreaded CSG or ‘social
The amount remaining in the fund after
death is not subject to inheritance tax.
Our meeting over, I studied John and Jane’s
requirements carefully, and as with all
clients, recommendations undergo several
stages including rigorous compliance
checks to ensure that their best interests
were considered. It can take a while to do
this but it’s really important that as an
advisor I have all the facts, and as clients
John and Jane know that they’re getting the
best advice and recommendations for their
circumstances and future.
John and Jill are living their dream life in
Dordogne and we wish them much
If you’d like obligation free pensions advice,
please contact me at:
The information on this page is intended only as an introduction only and is not designed to offer
solutions or advice. Beacon Global Wealth Management can accept no responsibility whatsoever for
losses incurred by acting on the information on this page.
The financial advisers trading under Beacon Wealth Management are members of Nexus Global (IFA
Network). Nexus Global is a division within Blacktower Financial Management (International) Limited
(BFMI). All approved individual members of Nexus Global are Appointed Representatives of BFMI. BFMI
is licensed and regulated by the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission and bound by their rules under
licence number FSC00805B.
© Sergio Coimbra, from Pierre Hermé: Chocolate (Flammarion, 2016).
Macaron Infiniment Chocolat
Infiniment Chocolat Macaron
By Pierre Hermé, Paris
Perfect for parties, these gorgeous little more-ish
macarons from the master in Paris are from his
new book "Chocolate" and classified as "easy.
Nicknamed the ‘Picasso of Pastry’ by Jeffrey
Steingarten in Vogue, Pierre Hermé is to the
macaron what Louis Vuitton is to the handbag.
Name the World’s Best Pastry Chef 2016 by the
World’s Best 50 Restaurants Academy, Hermé
revolutionized traditional pastry-making. He has
invented a unique universe of tastes, sensations
and pleasures and his empire of pastry boutiques
now spans the globe: from France and the UK to
Japan, Hong Kong and to South Korea.
The book is available from Amazon.
Makes about 72 macarons
1 cup (7 2/3 oz./220 g) (or about 8)
“liquefied” egg whites, divided (see note)
3 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz./300 g) ground
2 cups + 5 tablespoons (10 1/2 oz./300 g)
4 1/4 oz. (120 g) pure cocoa paste or dark
chocolate, 100% cocoa
3/4 teaspoon (4.5 g) carmine red food
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz./300 g) superfine
1/3 cup (2 2/3 oz./75 g) mineral water
Cocoa powder Infiniment Chocolat
2/3 cup (5 oz./140 g) butter at room
12 3/4 oz. (360 g) Guanaja 70% dark
1 1/3 oz. (40 g) pure cocoa paste (or dark
chocolate 100% cocoa)
1 2/3 cups (14 oz./400 g) liquid cream
Five days in advance, place the egg whites for the macaron shells in a bowl, cover tightly
with plastic film, pierce a few holes in the film and refrigerate to liquefy.
One day in advance, prepare the macaron shells:
Sift the ground almonds and the confectioners’ sugar together in a bowl. Chop the cocoa
paste and place in a bowl over a bain-marie of simmering water to melt to 122°F (50°C).
Combine 1/2 cup (110 g) of liquefied egg whites with the food coloring. Pour onto the
sifted almond powder–sugar mixture without mixing.
Combine the sugar and water in a
saucepan and bring to a boil, monitoring
the temperature with a thermometer.
Meanwhile place the remaining 1/2 cup
(110 g) of liquefied egg whites in the bowl
of a mixer fitted with a wire whisk. Once
the sugar syrup has reached 239°F (115°C),
begin beating the egg whites on high
speed. Once the syrup has reached 244°F
(118°C), reduce the mixer speed to medium
and begin pouring the syrup in a steady
stream into the beaten egg whites.
Continue beating until the mixture cools to
Using a spatula, fold the meringue mixture
into the almond–sugar–egg white mixture.
Add the melted cocoa paste, mixing until
the batter loses a little volume. Spoon the
batter into a pastry bag fitted with a No. 11
plain tip (1/2 in. diameter). Line baking
sheets with cooking parchment and pipe
out rounds of batter about 1 1/2 in. (3.5 cm)
in diameter, spaced about 3/4 in. apart.
Tap the baking sheets gently on a work
surface covered with a kitchen towel to
smooth the surface. Place the cocoa
powder in a sifter and sprinkle lightly over
the macaron shells. Set aside at room
temperature for at least thirty minutes to
allow a “skin” to form.
cocoa paste, stirring from the center out in
small, then progressively larger concentric
circles. When the temperature of the
chocolate cools to 95°F–104°F (35°C–40°
C), incorporate, little by little, the butter.
Whisk until the ganache is smooth. Pour
into a shallow dish. Press a sheet of plastic
film directly onto the surface of the
chocolate cream and refrigerate until the
texture is creamy.
Spoon the ganache into a pastry bag fitted
with a No. 11 plain pastry tip. Turn half of the
macaron shells over, flat side up, on the
work surface and pipe the ganache
generously onto each shell. Cover each
with a second macaron shell. Refrigerate
for twenty-four hours.
The following day, remove the macarons
from the refrigerator two hours before
Preheat the oven on convection setting to
355°F (180°C/Gas Mark 6). Place the
baking sheets in the oven and bake for
twelve minutes, opening and closing the
oven door quickly twice during the baking
to release steam. Remove from the oven
and slide the macaron shells onto the work
Prepare the Infiniment Chocolat ganache:
Cut the butter into pieces. Chop the
chocolate and cocoa paste with a serrated
knife, and place them in a bowl. Bring the
cream to a boil in a saucepan and pour it,
one-third at a time, over the chocolate and
Note: “Liquefied” egg whites are egg
whites that have been allowed to rest for
several days to lose their elasticity. Simply
place the egg whites in a bowl, cover with
plastic film, pierce a few holes in the film
and refrigerate for five to seven days.
Karen Burns Booth
Tartiflette is a baked gratin of potatoes,
onions (or shallots), lardons (bacon), wine,
cream and cheese. It's a staple of ski
lodge or chalet suppers. The dish
originates from the Savoy (Savoie) region
of France, famous for its skiing resorts,
cheese and charcuterie.
This is an adaption of the classic regional
dish, made with Reblochon (see page 22)
which melts like a dream creating an
unctuous and creamy cheese sauce.
There really isn’t another dish that is as
comforting as Tartiflette on a cold winter’s
day; the combination of soft potatoes,
crisp lardons, golden onions all bound in a
silky cheese sauce with a tasty, crunchy
golden-brown topping is heaven in a bowl.
It’s well worth the effort hunting out a
large Reblochon cheese too, although Brie
or Camembert will work if the cheese hunt
proves fruitless. Enjoy it with a large bowl
of salad, cornichons and an acre or two of
Vegetarians can omit the lardons and add
fried mushrooms. The dish can be partcooked
(as in the potatoes boiled and the
onions and bacon fried) and assembled,
and it can then be popped in the fridge
until you need to bake it – just remember
to take it out half an hour beforehand to
bring it to room temperature, which makes
it a fabulous recipe to have prepared for
any family supper, especially handy for
after work or over the weekend.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
1.2kg potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
200g smoked lardons (or smoked streaky
bacon cut into small pieces)
2 large pink or red onions, peeled and diced
(or 10 pink shallots)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely diced
150mls dry white wine
1 x 500g Reblochon cheese
6 tablespoons crème fraiche
salt and pepper
Step 1 Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas
mark 6 and butter an oven-proof gratin dish or
shallow casserole dish.
Step 2 Boil the potatoes until just soft. Drain them
and allow them to cool before cutting them into
Step 3 Meanwhile, fry the lardons (or bacon
pieces), onions and garlic until the lardons are crisp
and the onions and garlic are soft and translucent.
Step 4 Add half of the wine to the lardons and
onion mixture, turn the heat up and de-glaze the wine
for 2 to 3 minutes until half of it has cooked down
with the other ingredients.
Step 5 Add the cooked potatoes to the lardon and
onion mixture and gently mix together. Spoon half of
the mixture into the prepared dish.
Step 6 Cut the Reblochon cheese in half through
the centre, and the cut the two halves into cubes.
Step 7 Scatter half of the Reblochon cheese
cubes over the lardon and onion mixture, crust side
up, then spoon the remaining lardon and onion
mixture over the top. Pour over the remaining wine
and spoon the crème fraiche over the top. Season
with salt (not too much as the lardons are salty) and
Step 8 Scatter the rest of the Reblochon cheese
cubes over the top, crust side up again, and bake for
20 to 25 minutes until the cheese has melted and the
tartiflette is golden brown and bubbling.
Step 9 Serve hot from the oven with salad,
cornichons (gherkins), pickled onions, charcuterie
See Page 66
to find out more
1/2 pound dry taglierini or fettuccine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons crème fraîche
or sour cream
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf
1 teaspoon chopped chives
Freshly ground pepper
2 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon,
cut into 1/2-inch ribbons (1/2 cup)
30g tin of Ebène caviar
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a large pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook
until al dente. Drain and reserve about 1/2 cup of the cooking water.
In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add
the minced shallot and cook over moderately low heat for 2 minutes, stirring.
Add the crème fraîche, parsley and chives.
Stir in about 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta cooking water and season with pepper. Add
the pasta and smoked salmon ribbons and toss well. Add up to 2 more tablespoons of
the reserved cooking water if the pasta seems too dry. Remove from the heat.
Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with as much Ebène caviar as one likes.
By Karen Burns-Booth
600ml dark rum
1 bottle dry white wine
300g (100ozs) golden caster sugar
8 oranges, unwaxed
Peel large strips of zest from the oranges with a vegetable peeler. Divide the orange zest
between two sterilised jars or wide necked bottles.
Add sugar, rum and wine - again, dividing it equally. I use two 500ml Kilner jars. Seal the
jars and give them a good shake. Store in a cool, dark place for six weeks before
decanting the liqueur through a sieve into sterilised decorative bottles; discard the
orange peel, or use it in poached or stewed fruits.
I sometimes dry the orange peel in a cool oven overnight and add it to sugar to be used
for cakes and pies, or add it to stews and daubes etc.
Whilst the liqueur is maturing, give the jars/bottles a good shake once or twice a week.
This vibrant orange liqueur is wonderful served over ice, ice cream, with soda water or
lemonade or when splashed into or onto festive fare. It looks stunning when decanted
into pretty bottles with all the decorative trimmings like bows, tags, labels, dried flowers
As I sit here writing, Hank Marvin He's
Always Starvin' the little stray cat I took in a
couple of years ago is sat on my lap,
purring with happiness. Loulou the
tortoiseshell cat we got at a boot fair (she
thinks she's a princess) and Shadow, her
partner in crime are curled up on a chair
next to me. 'Enry Cooper, the boss cat, is in
my shopping basket and Winston, the
biggest cat in the village is sitting on the
window sill watching Pierre the farmer go
by in his tractor. Sadly Ginger Roger the
deaf stray I took in got ill and didn't recover.
Down by my feet on their giant cushions
are Frank Bruno, Ella Fitzgerald and
Churchill my three dogs. At the bottom of
the garden in their new shelter are my 25
chickens, 4 geese and 40 ducks. It's been a
good year for ducks chez moi - or a bad
year, depending on how you look at it. I
really didn't want any more but they hide
under hedges and sit on their eggs and
then just turn up at the back door, proudly
leading their new babies. I can't resist.
As we head towards the end of one year
and the start of another, my little brood are
all preparing for winter in France and I'm
ready too. The wood is cut for the fire, the
apples from my trees are stored in
newspaper in the pantry alongside nuts,
jams and bottled fruit given to me by my
neighbours. I am not good at cooking but it
doesn't matter, in rural France it's all about
sharing. Not just at Christmas but all year
round. I always have too many apples and
way too many eggs so I give them away. If a
neighbour needs a hand with something
Mark, my husband, is always generous with
his time. In return neighbours share their
excess fruit and vegetables, make cakes
and freely give advice to the only Brits in
At this time of the year, sharing in rural
communities is especially important. I
remember one Christmas, Bernadette who
lives down the road, slipped in the snow
and broke her leg. Everyone in the village
rallied round, picking up her shopping,
chopping wood, making her soup and
generally helping out.
It's one of the many things that make me
realise that living in the middle-of-nowhere
France is the best thing I've ever done. That
and the markets, the wine, the cheese and
I wish you a happy winter, a merry
Christmas and a very Happy New Year.