Issue No. 13

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

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

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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

Page 8

Page 16

Page 34


Page 22


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 62

Page 55

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

in Aquitaine.

70 Beginning French

How an American couple lost their heads

to a French house they saw and bought on

the internet!

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

Fabulous Give-Aways


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.

Page 78

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;

shakespeareandcompany.com; Metro:

Saint-Michel; Open 10am – 11pm daily.

Abbey Bookshop

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

Berkeley Books

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

regular basis.

8, rue Casimir Delavigne 6th Arr; Metro:

Odeon; berkeleybooksofparis; Open

12am - 8pm Tues – Sat, 2pm - 8pm


WH Smith

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

Halle Saint-Pierre

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.

Christmas markets

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

next page).

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

chocolate shops).

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

ones there.

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.


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

jewel like.

"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

good morals.”

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

Tourism: thones-valsulens.com

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

Avet, Thônes

Organic cheeses at Biomonde

L’Edelweiss, 8 rue Louis Haase,Thônes


In a seaside resort with

an English vibe in

northern France

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.

Sporting Paradise

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!

Above: Perard;

right: serving

the famous


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…

Chateau Life

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".


kitchen 2

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

Micro Provence:

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.

Roman Legacy

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.

Les Alpilles

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

snow conditions.

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

slalom area.

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

international airports.

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






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

Let's misbehave!!!

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

tabletops, leopard-patterned

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

Marianne Estène-Chauvin.

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.

Madame Chauvin

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

Times article.

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

The history

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

completed afterwards.

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

your experience.

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.

Entente Cordiale

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”

quips Mike.

Fine French Caviar

Enter the draw

to win Fine

French Caviar in

time for

Christmas, see

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

famed Médoc.

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.

Beginning French...

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.

About this.”

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

overtake them.

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.

“Why not?”

“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

France Profonde.

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

her holiday.

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!

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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

Facebook and

like and share

your favourite

photos of


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




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

Elinor Murless.

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.



Beautiful farmhouse with 6 bedrooms in a

quiet hamlet, on beautiful garden, spa and

sauna 20km from La Rochelle center.

€ 478,000


Splendid Manoir style house with

tennis court, swimming pool and guest

house, large garden with streams.



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

meet people.

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


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


3 bedroom stone hamlet house, beautifully

restored. Gorgeous garden, 2 courtyards and

close to faciities

Guide Price: €77,000


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


Fiona's Property Portfolio

Leggett Immobillier

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

keep fit".

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

Burrows rental

properties, typically


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.


LETS - page 104


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


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

this summer

Guide Price: €449,000


Beautiful old presbytery with loads

of character, 5 bedrooms and a

swimming pool. With fabulous views

over the countryside this is a really

charming home.

Guide price: €461,100


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:


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.

monitor enquiries

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 –

The Paperwork!

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:


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

be paid.

- 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

rare occurrence.


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

writer's cramp!

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: tsage@leggett.fr

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

Home Improvements

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.

Health Cover

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,…).

Home Help

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.

1. Annuity

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

as cash.

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

Macaron Shell:

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)

confectioners’ sugar

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

chocolate (Valrhona)

1 1/3 oz. (40 g) pure cocoa paste (or dark

chocolate 100% cocoa)

1 2/3 cups (14 oz./400 g) liquid cream


Cocoa powder


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

122°F (50°C).

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

crusty bread.

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

about caviar

farming in


Ebène Caviar,

Fettuccine &

Scottish Smoked




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.


Orange Liqueur

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

the village.

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

the bread!

I wish you a happy winter, a merry

Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Janine xx

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