And much, much more
Bonjour and bienvenue to the Autumn issue of The Good Life France Magazine.
At this time of the year thoughts turn to the pleasures of autumn and cooler nights
enjoyed with a chocolat chaud. It's also a good time to start looking for your dream home
in France, I always think if you see it in the winter and still love it, it's got to be a
contender! To help you discover the best of what's on offer around France, we'll be
bringing you top tips about the places we visit - a little inspiration is good for the soul!
In this issue you'll discover the stunning Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte, the largest private
residence in France and location for the filming of bonkbuster TV series "Versailles" -
Downton Abbey eat your heart out!
We bring you five lush places to take an autumn break with a vineyard theme, and chat
to author and actress Carol Drinkwater about what makes her love France. We visit
Auvergne, Paris, Angers in the Loire Valley, Langres in Champagne and three gorgeous
towns off the beaten track in Dordogne.
Discover the flavours of Provence and check out the lovely autumnal recipes in this issue
from blackberry muffins to rice pudding with saffron and a simply irresistible apple pie.
For expats and wannabe expats there's tons of great information on finance, property
and how to get a Carte de Residente in France.
There are links you can click for additional information throughout to enhance your
reading pleasure in this jam packed issue and yes - we do even have a recipe for jam!
With best wishes and bisous from France
Karen Booth-Burns is our queen of French cuisine. A
freelance food and travel writer, recipe developer and
food stylist with a passion for local, seasonal
ingredients. She has an award winning blog and runs
a seasonal cookery school in SW France:
Carol Drinkwater is a multi award-winning actress
who is best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot
in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and
Small. She is the author of twenty-one books, both
fiction and non-fiction, and has achieved bestselling
status, over a million copies sold worldwide with her
quartet of memoirs set on her olive farm in the south
Peter Jones is our regular columnist. A writer and
photographer with a French mother and a Welsh
father, he brings a fresh insight to the world of travel
writing. He is a freelance writer for newspapers and
Dr Terry Marsh is a regular contributor to The Good
Life France. He has written extensively for
magazines and produced guidebooks for walkers in
the French Pyrenees and the French Alps. He runs
the France travel websites - francediscovered &
Linda Matthieu is a regular contributor to The Good
Life France. She's an American photographer living in
France with her French husband. and is the Author of
Secrets of a Paris Tour Guide.
Duncan JD Smith is a historian and photographer.
Since 2003 he has been exploring European cities
and publishing his findings in the ground breaking
‘Only In’ Guides. Visit www.onlyinguides.com for more
Editor: Janine Marsh
Deputy Editor: Lucy Pitts
Editorial Assistant: Sandra Davis
Creative Designer: Mark Allen
Technical Support: Umbrella Web Solutions
Above: Chateau Vaux-le-
Vicomte; right above, cycling in
Champagne in Autumn; right
Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris
10 Chateau de Vaux-le-
A story of betrayal, passion and love at this
18 A passion for France
We chat to Carol Drinkwater about her
favourite French things.
24 5 fabulous autumn visits
With a vineyard theme - utterly glorious...
32 Secret part of Champagne
The Haut-Marne department...
42 Saffron Spice and all things nice
Susan Hunting meets a couple who grow
saffron in France.
46 The Magic of Montparnasse
Not as touristy as some Paris districts
Duncan Smith says it has a lot to offer.
52 A long weekend in Auvergne
Peter Jones visits the Volcanic region.
58 Mini break to Angers
Terry Marsh finds a Loire Valley gem.
Page 64 Page 72
64 The flavours of Provence
A feast for your eyes - and your taste buds.
68 All in a good Causse
Discover three sensational villages in the
72 Interview with a Francophile
A new series in which we find out what
makes France so loved...
76 A week in Morzine
Lucy Pitts discovers there's more to
Morzine than snow!
82 The incredible Cave of Pont d’Arc
Linda Matthieu finds the extraordinary
replica cave is as good as the real thing.
8 Events in Autumn
86 French Tongue Twisters
Improve your French with these tricky
88 5 Minute French Lesson
5 easy expressions that will help you pass
92 The Good Life in… The French Alps
Expats in Morzine share their story...
106 The Good Life in… The Auvergne
Expats in Auvergne share their story...
118 My Good Life in France
It's La Rentree!
Ask the Experts
Your chance to ask questions about life in
France - finance, property, tips and lots
96 Top Tips for a move to France
100 Currency Exchange – what does it
mean to you?
102 What is a Carte de Resident –
and how do I get one
104 Property Guide
84-85 4 fab books to win
86 Win a 6 month French language
112 Autumn apple & pear filo parcel
114 Coquille St Jacques with a truffle
and Sauternes sauce
115 Baked Saffron Pudding
116 Blackberry jam
117 Blackberry muffins
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New content daily on our website!
19 September -2 October France Gourmet
Week known as “Tous Au Restaurant”. All
over France restaurants will offer a buy one
meal, get one free menu. Search on the
website for participating restaurants:
23-25 September Fete de la Gastronomie.
Every corner of France will come alive with
events to celebrate its UNESCO-listed
‘world intangible heritage’ status. From
grand-scale concerts to local sing-a-longs,
Michelin-star set menus to small village
It’ll be all white on the
1 October Nuit Blanche Paris. See Paris in
an entirely new light. From 7pm until 7am
hundreds of museums, galleries, cinemas
and even swimming pools open their doors
for free for a night-time celebration of art
and culture. Performances, light
installations, concerts and exhibitions will
be held across Paris, across the city and if
you stay awake till dawn, many town halls
provide breakfast! www.paris.fr
La Rochelle Rocks to the
banquets, the country will celebrate one of
its most popular claims to fame. economie.
17 and 18 September Journées
Européennes du Patrimoine/European
Heritage Days. Across France hundreds of
historical buildings, famous monuments,
Government sites and places of interest –
some of which are normally closed to the
public, open their doors and welcome in
Credit Paris Tourist Office Amellie Dupont
1-9 October Jazz Entre les Deux Tours La
Rochelle, Poitou-Charentes. The two
famous towers that guard the old port of
this most picturesque port town have given
their name to this popular musical fete.
International and local musicians play in
venues around the city in a mix of free and
paid concerts. www.jazzentrelesdeuxtours.
2 October Fete du Gateau Basque. Legend
says that the famous Gâteau Basque has
its origins in the village of Cambo-les-Bains
in Pyrénées-Atlantiques so the village
8 October Retour des Alpages, Annecy,
Rhône-Alpes. When Autumn returns, the
cattle who spend the summer enjoying the
alpine pastures are led back to the bottom
of the valley for winter as its warmer than
at the top. This transhumance is celebrated
in the charming, historic city of Annecy
every year on the second Saturday in
October when cattle are paraded through
the streets and there are artisans,
craftspeople, local producers and
traditional bands ready to herald and
celebrate the changing of the seasons.
8-9 October Fete de la Crevette in Honfleur.
The lovely port town of Normandy
celebrates the crevette grise each year with
a festival. Expect to sing-a-long to sea
shanties, eat plenty of shrimp and fish and
cheer on the contestants in a shrimp
peeling contest! www.ot-honfleur.fr
10-16 October La Semaine du Goût. Across
France – a celebration of French cuisine
and a chance to learn more about the food
we eat. www.legout.com
Get fired up at a pepper
29-30 October Fête du Piment, Espelette,
Pyrénées-Atlantiques. The piment
d’Espelette pepper is celebrated in the
Pyrénées-Atlantiques in a town called
Espelette. There’s a blessing of the pepper
harvest and a food market plus lots of
restaurants serve special dishes in honour
of the pepper of course. The festival dates
back to the mid 1600’s and it’s a lot of fiery
Credit Janine Redman
1 November National Holiday La Toussaint/
All Saints’ Day. All over France pots of
chrysanthemums are placed on graves as
loved ones who have passed on are
11 November National Holiday Armistice
1918. Commemorative services will be held
all over France in honour of those who lost
their lives at war.
Credit Shauna Jenkins Tomlin
17 November Beaujolais Nouveau day. The
new season’s wine arrives on the third
Thursday of November each year, the
festivities start at midnight on Wednesday
for this serious drinking event. See what’s
on in Beaujolais: Beaujolais Nouveau Fetes
Many Christmas markets start in November
and we’ll be bringing you lots of info in the
next issue The Good Life France.
Please note that events are subject to change - please verify details on the events websites.
The ravishing Chateau
© Beatrice Lecuyer-Bibal
The Chateau de Vaux-Le-Vicomte is one of those places that looks
utterly gorgeous in photos but when you view it for real looks even
better says Janine Marsh as she takes a day trip from Paris....
You may have seen it recently and not
even realised. If you’re a fan of the TV
series “Versailles”, the raunchy bonkbuster
serial about the shenanigans of the
Royals and aristos of Louis XIV’s court,
then it may surprise you to know that
much of the filming took place at the
Chateau de Vaux-Le-Vicomte – not at the
Chateau of Versailles. The producers of the
“Versailles” have really done their
homework on the look of the day, from the
shoes, dresses and hairstyles to the
furnishings and architecture. Whilst the
Chateau of Versailles may seem an
obvious choice as the location for filming,
in fact, the décor there is largely 18th
century, a hundred years too late for the
authentic look sought. Vaux-Le-Vicomte
though, has retained its 17th century
beauty, and, as the prototype and
inspiration for the later Chateau de
Versailles – it was the perfect place to film.
Scene from "Versailles" at
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte
Above: The chateau on a
winter's day; below:
filming "Versailles" at
The history of Vaux-le-
This is a chateau with an exquisite and
electrifying heritage. A tale of passion,
betrayal, corruption and despair which
shaped the history of France was played
out here. You feel it in the kitchens with
their gleaming copper pans, in the
beautifully furnished rooms with their
paintings and tapestries and gilded this
and that, in the gardens which look as they
did when Le Notre, the king's favourite
gardener designed them. There is an echo
of the past here and you can't avoid it.
Enter those grand gates, climb the
imposing staircase, and remember that
there, in 1661 stood the owner, a man called
Nicolas Fouquet. He was waiting to
welcome his King to the newly built
chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte. It was 17 August,
a hot, sultry night. Fouquet had served
Louis XIV well and loyally as his minister of
finances, and that night he hoped to wow
him by entertaining him in great style.
Fouquet had invested a small fortune in
the design and building of the chateau,
bringing together three greats from French
history, Le Brun the painter, Le Vau the
architect and Le Notre the gardener. To the
onlooker it wasn’t just fabulous, it was
dizzying in its beauty.
The chateau and gardens had taken 20
years to create. The night the King came, it
wasn’t quite finished. Painters of ceilings
and walls downed tools, masons carving
statues swept up and made everything
look as good as it could and got out of the
way before the King arrived. Even
unfinished, the result was ravishing.
The King’s carriage swept into the
courtyard, he alighted and stood at the
bottom of the stairs looking up at Fouquet,
the minister was proud of his achievement,
quite possibly the most beautiful castle in
all of France. Hours later, the fate of the
minister and the chateau was sealed by a
jealous King. Never again would anyone
stand higher than Louis XIV or have a
chateau more beautiful than his.
The Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte has
appeared in some 80 films including Marie
Antoinete, Moonraker and The Man With The
Iron mask, who incidentally was imprisoned
Instead of staying the night in the bedroom
designed especially for him, with a view of a giant
crown in a lake, which he was supposed to see upon
waking next morning, the king cut short his visit. He
travelled to his own chateau of Fontainebleau, a
journey of three hours by horse and carriage.
Resentful of Fouquet's opulent display of wealth,
incensed by being left at the bottom of the stairs,
prey to the whispers of those who sought to remove
Fouquet from his position of trusted advisor, the
young King had his minister arrested just two weeks
later on 5 September 1661.
Louis had everything in the Chateau removed and
taken to Versailles – the furniture, paintings,
tapestries, ornaments, beds and even the orange
trees in their pots in the garden. He also took Le
Brun and Le Notre and commanded them to help
him turn Versailles, then a glorified hunting lodge,
into the incredible monument we see today.
A show trial took place, with accusations of
Fouquet's having swindled his royal master to build
his chateau. The allegations were backed up by
crooked witnesses and fake paperwork fuelled by
jealous ministers who wanted the King’s allegiance
for themselves. Fouquet, having supported the King
through thick and thin was exiled. It wasn’t enough
for Louis, he recalled Fouquet and had him
imprisoned until he died in 1680.
Vaux le Vicomte went to sleep and from that day no
King every slept there, though it was designed to be
fit for royalty.
The Chateau today - biggest privately owned
home in France
The painters who had put away their
brushes out of sight of the party guests
never returned. Some of the walls of Vauxle-Vicomte
remain unpainted (you’ll see
this in the apartment of the King’s
chamber). There are plain plaster cherubs
and nudes in some rooms lacking the
colour of the finished pieces in other rooms.
Two major ceilings have temporary
paintings, added in 1875 to cover their
bareness. Some statues are not quite as
elegant as others - stand with your back to
the Chateau looking at the grand entrance,
and you’ll see some statues have square
heads, the sculptor hadn’t finished them.
In 1875 the chateau was bought by the
ancestors of the de Vogüé family who now
live in the chateau. It is the largest privately
owned home in France.
© Beatrice Lecuer-Bibal
Above: The grand
entrance hall; right,
detail on shutter; below:
dining room; right one of
Video tells history of the chaeau in under
4 minutes with beautiful imagery
The de Vogüé family have over the past 150
years, devoted themselves to restoring and
maintaining the chateau, forging ties with
universities and schools. They bought
furniture and ornaments of the right period,
piece by piece and returned the garden to its
original design. Their aim is to make sure
Vaux-le-Vicomte's legacy is protected for
future generations to enjoy.
Despite its grandeur and captivating beauty,
this place is nevertheless still a home.
Alexander de Vogüé, son of the Count and
Countess who live there, and often spotted
wandering around, recalls playing here as a
child, hurrying to hide his toys behind the
curtains before chateau visitors arrived.
These days his parents live in a wing of the
chateau, and, with 300,000 visitors a year
things are run more professionally.
Vaux-le-Vicomte today retains an air of the
past. In winter fires are lit to warm the
rooms. At Christmas this stunning palace
comes alive with magnificent decorations,
festive rides, snow and seasonal music, and,
by the way, the gift shop is superb, the
Countess personally chooses all the
Look out for squirrels, a nod to the past
and Fouquet. His name means squirrel in
French and he had the furry red creature
depicted in paintings on the walls, ceilings
and shutters over the grand windows
Rent a costume from the chateau shop, it's
just 3 euros for kids and adults, dress up
like a King or Queen as you wander the
rooms and grounds.
Go on a Saturday night in summer months
and enjoy the spellbinding sight of 2000
candles in the gardens and some of the
Seeing the chateau in the mellow candle
light really makes the place feel special,
and sends shivers down your spine at the
thought that this is just how it would have
looked that fateful summer's night in 1661...
© Beatrice Lecuyer-Bibal
Out in the gardens you can’t help but be awed by the cleverness of Le Notre's design.
Head gardener Patrick Borgeot explains that everything was designed for viewing
pleasure from different parts of the garden and chateau. Hidden canals, topiary designs
that look different from the top of the steps than they do from the bottom of the steps.
There are follies, statues, fountains, ornamental planting, even a waterfall. The gardens
are exquisite and if you don’t want to miss anything, you can rent a buggy to get round it
all, which is also a lot of fun.
As you stand in the garden looking up at the chateau with its wedding cake style dome
and its marvellous symmetry you can understand that the compelling splendour of this
place would drive a King insane with jealousy – it really is breath-takingly beautiful.
How to get there
It’s an easy visit from Paris. From Gare de l’Est,
take a train to Verneuil l'Etang and there is a
shuttle bus service to and from the station.
(Note: do check return times for the train,
especially on weekends)
The Chateau is open daily (including bank
holidays) from April 1 to November 2, 2016 (but
check the website in case of exceptional
closings) and weekends all year round.
There is a restaurant on site as well as picnic
areas and on Saturday nights a bar and
restaurant are available for candlelit soirees –
Champagne and macarons in the gardens of this
fabulous palace – yes please!
Fontaine de Vaucluse Provence, credit Bjorn Stumer
"Long lunches where
children do not have to
sit still and not make a
Multi-award winning actress and best-selling author Carol Drinkwater talks
to Janine Marsh about her passion for France...
Where was your first visit to France?
It is hard to remember now. I think it must
have been when I was about ten and
travelled with my parents to “the
Continent” for a holiday. We were on a
coach tour en route for Italy. Along the way
we made many stops over several days in
France, including Paris, Lyon, the French
Riviera. I remember whizzing through the
Alps and how afraid my mother was that
the driver would miss one of the hairpin
bends and we would go flying off the
narrow mountain road. I remember the
stunning scenery, so dramatic, in the
mountains; the long lunches where
children did not have to sit still and not
make a sound; I remember church bells
tolling; I remember descending towards the
glistening Mediterranean sea for the first
time. We had climbed so high into the Alps
and from my child’s eye, it was all to give us
that first long-distance glimpse, that
astounding perspective on where land slips
beneath turquoise water. The white Belle
Epoque villas like giant sugar cubes; the
yachts; the cries of families playing in the
sea; the wash of waves. Monte Carlo where,
my mother told me, a Prince and Princess
lived in a palace on a cliff-top looking out to
sea. It was all magical.
What are your favourite places in
France and why?
I love Paris and the Cote d’Azur, but I also
love the area around Biarritz down
towards Spain along the Atlantic coast.
Still, Paris and the Cote d’Azur get my
vote. Paris, for the very obvious reasons
that it is one of the greatest and most
beautiful cities in the world. Its choice of
art exhibitions and cinema is probably
only matched by New York. I am not a city
person, or no longer, but I am always
excited when I arrive back in Paris
because I know that for several days I will
be running from one place to another, and
there will be so much to see, friends to
meet and talk with.
There is a very deep-rooted support of the
arts in France and nowhere is it more
apparent than in Paris. Quality of life
matters; freedom of speech is a
fundamental here; respect for the
individual and each individual’s belief,
sexuality, lifestyle. France is a republic,
and that is also deeply rooted within the
What do you think makes France a
great place to visit?
Looking at everywhere in the world I have
visited or lived, there is nowhere else, in
my opinion, that has the balance so well
distributed. It means that sometimes one
is caught up in an air traffic control strike
or such but the point is the French
understand that to take away the right to
voice an opinion, takes away the voice of
the individual. Freedom of speech.
Family values matter here. An excellent
education system and almost entirely free
or very affordable.
"Freedom of speech...
support of the arts...
Along with the United States, but at far less
cost, there is a terrific health care system. If
I am going to get sick – please not – but if
so, I want it to be here where I know I will be
cared for, expertly and swiftly.
Excellent newspapers with intelligent
broadsheet journalism; superb food; a vast
choice of landscapes: skiing, thousands of
kilometres of coastline with the gentle lap
of the Mediterranean or the surfers’
paradise along the Atlantic. Wild coasts,
There are always opportunities for children
and for the young if you are travelling as a
A deep and rich history to explore, to plunge
La Place Du Marché de La Grande Epicerie de Paris, copyright DR
Credit Mairie de Biartiz /Laurent Garcia
left Biarritz; above the
market place, Bon Marché,
below Bruno Oger at
Bristot des Anges
What's your favourite restaurant?
We love to cook so we don’t eat out a
great deal except in Paris. And we don’t
do upscale expensive restaurants. We
prefer something a little simpler.
The Bon Marché store in Paris is my
favourite place to shop when I am in the
capital and they have a wonderful food
Le Gorille Blanc is a traditional bistro
with a lively atmosphere and very good
food (4, impasse Guéménée). Chez René,
14 Boulevard Saint-Germain is an old
favourite of ours. It is lively, very
Parisian, fine food and great
In the south of France, close to the
village of Le Cannet, the Michelinstarred
chef Bruno Oger has opened an
upmarket gastronomic restaurant and
alongside it the more modest Bistrot des
Anges. We eat there from time to time
and send all our cottage guests there,
and they are always very happy.
Where do you live in France and what do you love most about it?
We are very fortunate. We have two homes. Our Olive Farm, the inspiration for many of
my books, overlooks the Bay of Cannes and the Mediterranean. It is twenty minutes from
Nice airport so terrific for all our travelling yet it is tucked away and we can live a rural
idyll when there. I do most of my writing at the Olive Farm having built myself a big
studio entirely separate from the rest of house. Actually, it is a garage and stables
conversion. The farm has a pool so I can exercise in between daily writing bouts and, of
course, the climate is wonderful. The grounds cover almost four hectares so working the
land is a relaxation and an imperative. We have over 300 olive trees and produce organic
olive oil with an AOC label. We also have a small cottage at the foot of the grounds which
we rent out for holiday lets.
Our other home is outside Paris, on the edge of the Champagne region. I call this place
the Mad Old Chateau. It is a thirteenth-century property with walls as thick as the
average car is long. Here is the real bucolic existence where we keep a couple of sheep
and take long country walks at the weekends when there. We are twenty minutes to the
first of the champagne estates and an hour’s drive to Paris. How bad is that?
Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award winning actress who remains best
known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series,
All Creatures Great and Small. She is a best-selling author of 21
books,including her quartet of memoirs set on her Olive Farm.
Twitter: @Carol4OliveFarm; website: www.caroldrinkwater.com;
Win a copy of Carol's latest book The Forgotten Summer - see page 84
Do you dream of living in Provence?
Mediterranean sunshine and rolling
vineyards, lavender fields and sunflowers. A
region where the movie star glamour of the
Riviera meets a landscape unchanged since
the days of Cezanne and Van Gogh. But
there's so much more to this region than just
sunshine and scenery. There are wonderful
street markets in medieval towns, with fruit
so fresh and colours so vibrant that the
produce seems to want to leap straight onto
the plate. There are the sensational wines of
the Côtes du Rhône, the Ventoux, the
Luberon and Bandol. And there are
sophisticated cultural centres such as Aixen-Provence
and Avignon. It's a region that
just keeps on surprising, and it's not as
expensize as you might think. Provence local
property expert Trevor Smith shares three
A totally authentic village property in the
heart of the beautiful Luberon Natural
Park. Just a few kilometers from the
spectacular village of Gordes. Think
cobbled streets, lavender fields, olive
groves. Price €210,000
Click here for more details
The picture postcard Provencal mas.
A stunning five-bedroom property
with pool, surrounded by olive
groves and vineyards near the
famous Mont Ventoux and the
delightful villages of Caromb and
Le Barroux. Price €760,000
Click to read more details about this
In an unspoiled Provencal Village between the
bustling market town of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and
the spectacular Fontaine de Vaucluse lies this
very spacious four-bedroom stone property,
brimming with character and offering huge
terrace with breathtaking views of the Provence
countryside. Price 399,000€
Click here for more details
By France holiday expert Karen Slater of J'Adore La France
Champagne is a wonderful place to spend a few autumnal days : a visit
to the ever impressive city of Reims with its magnificent Cathedral
followed by some champagne tasting at Maison Mumm or the Grande
Maison de Champagne Taittinger or to Veuve Clicquot. A drive or stroll
along the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, just 15 miles from Reims, is
a must. It is here in Epernay you will find the famous Maison de
Champagne Moët & Chandon. The colours of the rolling hillsides
surrounding the vineyards are breath-taking in the autumn.
St-Emilion - sun-fired,
Half the city of Bordeaux is a World Heritage Site. The centre of Bordeaux, flanked by its
three boulevards is a hive of activity with the focal point being Place de la Comedie with
the imposing and architecturally stunning Grand Theatre with its incredible façade. The
huge square, Esplanades Quinconces is host to statues of local Philosophers such as
Montaigne and Montesquieu. Along the riverfront is the bridge of Pont de Pierre from
where the view of the buildings with their arches and thin chimney stacks is very
impressive on an autumnal day. A visit to the famous vineyards of Bordeaux is easy to
do from the city centre; including St Emilion, whose town is built like an amphitheatre. St
Emilion is one vineyard and town not to miss when staying in Bordeaux.
Credit Alain Doire/Bourgogne Tourisme
The most famous wine
auction in the world, the
hospices de Beaune wine
auction takes place during
the weekend 18,19,20
Beaune is in the centre of Burgundy and is known as the capital
of Burgundy wines. The pretty, medieval town is surrounded by
the Cote d’Or vineyards. It is renowned for its annual wine
auction which takes place on the 3rd Sunday in November at the
15th century Hotel-Dieu museum. The Route des Grands Crus,
known as the ‘Champs-Elysées’ of Burgundy is well worth a visit.
Chateau du Clos de Vougeot is an architectural and cultural
splendour, an absolute must for true wine fans, and a wonderful
place to visit in the autumnal sunshine.
Credit Allanah Hagan
Clos de Montmartre, the Paris vineyard
The Paris vineyard harvest is
celebrated 5-9 October in
Montmartre - it's huge fun!
In Paris there are so many beautiful parks and gardens in which to take an
autumnal stroll. Take the famous Jardin des Tuilieries located between the
Louvre and Place de la Concorde - the park was opened to the public in the 17th
century; it has terraces and a central vista which runs down the Grand Axe
through circular and hexagonal ponds. The gardens are dotted with beautiful
statues. Jardin du Luxembourg is a true family park with is merry-go-round,
pony rides, ice cream sellers, puppet shows and more. Parc des Buttes-
Chaumont is a hidden gem, located in the 19th arroundissement, it is one of
Paris’ most magical spots. Paris is also home to a vineyard, tucked away in
Montmartre! If you are staying in Paris for a few days it would be worth taking a
mini cruise along the Seine to Giverny to see the wonderful Monet gardens.
Credit B. Quintard - CRT Centre-Val de Loire
A glass of Loire Valley
red on an autumn night -
The Loire Valley is an exceptional place to visit in the Autumn; chateaux
looming out of the early morning mist surrounded by miles of countryside
and vineyards. And as the Loire is home to some of the best wines in
France such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé and Saumur, a visit to the vineyards
and wine cellars will make your trip extra special. The grapes are normally
picked between September and October and many chateaux including
Chinon, Chombard, Chenonceau and Chateau de Langeais along with the
Gardens of Villandry are all located close to wine domains. Combining a
wine and chateau tour is a great way to give you a real taste of this
The Secret part of
The Haut-Marne department of
Champagne is not as famous as its sister
department the Marne, home to Reims and
Epernay. It is though, a beautiful part of the
region and there’s lots to discover here and
fall in love with - not least the fact that this
place is like one huge gorgeous garden.
Close to the border with Burgundy it makes
for a great stopping off point but is a
deliciously pretty destination in its own
Take Langres, it’s one of the oldest towns
in France and there are plenty of traces of
its illustrious past and those who lived
here. The ramparts that have encircled this
walled town are the longest in Europe and
a wander round them (just under 3km) will
reveal that there are seven towers with look
out platforms as well as six gates into the
town. One of the entrances dates back to
Roman occupation and the “new gate” was
built in the 16th century and shows the
townsfolk certainly had a sense of humour
since it features a carving of two naked
men with their hands tied behind their
backs... A warning message to unwelcome
visitors 500 years ago!
Take a promenade around these ramparts
and you’ll get fabulous views over the
Marne Valley as you listen to the birds
singing and watch the impressive free
funicular going up and down, carrying
visitors between the top of the town and the
bottom. You can also go into some of the
towers where you’ll find exhibitions and in
one of them, on the way up, a sculpture that
illustrates the sense of humour of the
original builders, a man bending over with
his trousers down, a medieval mooner –
meant to make the soldiers smile.
Langres was the birthplace of Denis Diderot,
a famous French philosopher who is
honoured with plenty of references in his
home town – a statue, plaques, a square,
college and in one of the towers on the
ramparts, an exhibition of his achievements.
This town is comfortable with its ancient
buildings of honey coloured stone mellowed
by centuries of sunlight. Shutters of pale
green and grey compliment the buildings,
colourful bunting in the main street gives a
festive air. What makes this place stand out
for me is the authenticity of its streets and
buildings, there’s even a “brulerie” - an
ancient French word for a café, which came
before the arrival of the brasserie.
Pick up a leaflet from the tourist office for a
self-guided walk or book a walk with a guide.
What to see close to Langres
Chateau de Pailly
Langres today is a sleepy sort of a town
where people are friendly and say hello to
strangers – it wasn’t always so. The original
Chateau de Pailly which was built in the
11th century was destroyed by the people of
Langres in retaliation for the Burgundian
owner’s support of the English in the 100
English guide Toni who volunteers at the
Chateau is happy to show visitors round
the “new” chateau which was rebuilt in the
1400s by the de Saulx family. It has a
fascinating history though the facts are a
little sketchy on account of the documents
about this lovely stone castle being
destroyed in a fire in Langres in 1892.
Useless fact fans will appreciate knowing
that one time owner Gaspard de Saulx,
known for his excessive persecution of
Protestants in France appeared in British
TV series Doctor Who. Well, not him, actor
André Morell played him in the 1966 serial
“The Massacre of St Bartholomew’s Eve” in
which Gaspard played a role. Sadly, if
you’re keen to watch – no known footage
of the serial featuring William Hartnell as
the Doctor, and Peter Purves as his able
assistant, is available.
It was Gaspard de Saulx who also gave the
castle its Renaissance upgrade making it
one of the finest examples of its kind in
Gaspard de Saulx (1509–
1575) was featured in a
During the French Revolution, the façade of
the castle was defaced, later it was used as
a school for local children and then in the
1950s the family who owned it but didn’t
really rate it that much sold it to an
insurance company who left it to rot as they
just wanted the land that came with it. By
the time the state stepped in, the chateau
was in a terrible state.
ornately painted ceiling and carved fire
places and a life-sized portrait of a rather
stern looking Gaspard staring at you.
The gardens are being restored and are
lovely to wander in and this chateau is
embracing its resurrection with lots of
events in the summer.
It has these days found love from local
volunteers and that’s essential because the
funds are just not there to restore it. One of
them, Georgette, remembers visiting the
chapel there in the 1950s but says that the
key has been lost, the stairs have rotted
and no one has been in there for at least 50
years. I tried to persuade them to fetch me
a ladder but they wouldn’t!
Inside, the castle sometimes resembles a
mysterious medieval building site. Slowly
the volunteers are bringing it back to life
but it's a huge job. One of the rooms is
complete - and completely stunning.
Popping on plastic sliperettes to protect the
ancient wooden floor (and polish it at the
same time) you enter a vast room with
Website: Chateau de Pailly
Gorgeous Gardens of Cohons
Close by is Cohons, the only commune in
France to boast two classified 'Jardins
The Jardin de Silière is attached to a
rather lovely 17th century mansion. The
owner will tell you that the people of
Langres used to come to this area to pick
grapes including Denis Diderot’s father!
The garden is of a formal style with
fountains, statues and ponds – it’s very
romantic, beautiful and tranquil.
By contrast the second garden in the
town, the Jardin de Vergentière is rustic,
vibrant and was noisy when I went there,
the sun was shining and a pond full of
frogs were clearly loving it and croaking
for all they were worth.
You’ll also come across the giant snails of
Cohons, where the enormous stone
escargots will keep the whole family
occupied climbing up for the views and
running down again!
Top of the.....
The design of the Jardin de Silière is
attributed to France’s most famous
gardener Le Notre (he designed the
gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-
Vicomte, see page 10).
Above : Jardin de
design; below left,
a giant "escargot"
you can cilmb,
reminiscent of an
below at the Jardin
Tufière de Rolampont
For something completely different
and really quite sensational, Tufiere
de Rolampont will fit the bill. The
area is a living, thriving ecosystem
which is thousands of years old, a
series of terraces and pools that
owes its existence to the presence
of bubbling water and limestone
formation. On a hot day it feels a
bit like trekking through a jungle
but the sight of that blue water and
extraordinary rock formation is
unlike anything I’ve ever seen and
really quite other-wordly, ethereally
Chateauvillain - a
historic town with a
sense of humour
History buffs will love the little town
of Chateauvillain with its chateau
ruins, incredibly well-preserved
medieval wash house and beautiful
winding streets of old houses and
buildings. One of the friendliest
towns I’ve ever been to – everyone
says hello here!
Far left: the Villain of Chateauvillain!; right,
above, below: at the extraordinary Tufière de
Rolamport, crazy rock formations and incredible
waterfallswith drafonlies flitting above
Wine and Gastronomy
This is not typical Champagne country as
in bubbles, but the wine here is superb and
you’ll find plenty of places to stop and
taste, like the Domaine des Rubis in
Bugnières run by two brothers who make
fruit based wine. They produce sparkling,
red, white and rosé plus Ratafia, an aperitif
that packs a powerful punch. While you're
there, pop across the road to the lovely
vintage style café Estaminet Maison-
light bun with a delicious aroma.
This area is definitely off the beaten tourist
track, a beautiful, natural part of
Champagne filled with picturesque
villages, old castles and beautiful gardens…
Another great place to taste is Muid
Montsaugeonnais in Vaux Sous Aubginy.
The vines were re-planted here in 1989
after being left to dwindle. 600 local
people bought into the scheme to replant
and raised about 2 million euros. They
bought 13 hectares of land and planted
6000 vines per hectare and the wine they
produce serves the local communes and is
starting to make waves.
Try the "Diderot", "Petit Langres"
"Treasure" and "Rochers Lingons" -
delicious chocolates made in Langres.
Don’t miss the scrummy "Brioche du
Pailly", it’s made with pure butter according
to an age old recipe handed down from
generation to generation, the result is a
How to get there:
One of the easiest ways to get to the
heart of the region is by train: Eurostar to
Paris - Gare du Nord, then Gare de l’Est
to Langres ( a little over 2.5 hours) Book
at uk.voyages-sncf.com the UK's leading
rail ticket agency and European rail
The area is best visited on wheels as
public transport is not available to all
Where to eat:
Auberge de la Fontaine in Villiers-sur-
Suize – a lovely restaurant and terraced
eating area where the food is authentic
and the service is friendly. They also
have a hotel where they’ll knock 10% off
the bill if you’re on the pilgrim trail.
Where to stay
Push the boat out and spend at least
one night at the stunning Hotel le
Source Bleue. Made famous by French
singer Charles Trenet who used to
holiday here (he also sung “La Mer”).
This hotel has a fabulous restaurant,
beautifully luxurious rooms (or a
gorgeous stone house or luxury gypsy
caravans) and a garden that delivers
absolute wow factor with its blue waters
of the source of a spring - the "source
Relax in style at the Clos Eugénie B&B in
Culmont-Chalindrey, 11km from Langres.
This beautiful old manor house has
been exquisitely renovated and has
gorgeous gardens – I’d go back there in
See the tourist office website for a great
choice of places to stay and things to do
in the area:
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Derived from the dried stigmas of the
saffron crocus, it takes anything from 70,000 to 250,000 flowers to make one pound of
saffron. The flowers have to be individually handpicked in the autumn when fully open.
Fortunately, only a little needs to be added to a dish to lend it colour and aroma and it's
the safranal, a volatile oil, which gives saffron much of its distinctive aroma that explodes
Saffron was grown in France for many years but the plants suffered from phylloxera
which also destroyed many vineyards in the 19th century. It is though, making a come
back, and at around £75.00 (US$100) for 1 gram (roughly 150 hand picked flowers), it’s a
lucrative, if manually demanding, plant to cultivate and pick. Which is good news for the
handful of canny entrepreneurs who are taking a leap of faith and investing time and
money into reviving the lost art of saffron production in south west France.
Four years ago, Countess Alexandra Simonoff-Arpels (she prefers just plain old
Alexandra) and her husband Eric started a saffron farm in Verteillac, Dordogne, also
known as the Perigord region.
“We were watching a documentary on saffron growing in Iran, and having thought about
a venture which would give Alexandra a means to fulfil her dream of working with the
land and producing luxury gourmet products, we thought, we can do that , let's take the
chance to invest in saffron, ‘’ explains Eric.
They left behind their lives in Paris though, Parisian by birth, Eric, who says he was
‘adopted’ by the Périgord, still works there part time.
Records detailing the
use of saffron go back to
ancient Egypt and Rome
where it was used as a
dye, in perfumes, and as
a drug, as well as for
culinary purposes. It
reached China in the 7th
century and spread
through Europe in the
Middle Ages. The town
of Saffron Walden,
where it was once
takes its name from the
plant. Now, however,
most saffron is imported
from Iran and Spain
which is recognized as
producing the best
‘’We came up with the name L’Or des
Anges (angel’s gold) because the Romans
dubbed saffron ‘red gold’ and, with my love
of wine,’’ says Alexandra, ‘’I knew that
vintners have a poetic expression for the
percentage of alcohol that is given off
during the fermentation process. They call
it ‘the angel’s share’ in the belief that the
guardian angels, when a bit squiffy, will
look over them and give a good vintage.
It's quite romantic.''
Jam Packed luxury
Saffron has long been a key ingredient in
Mediterrannean cuisine and in addition to
selling the pure spice, Alex uses it in her
range of homemade jams. These luxury
confitures are created in her state of the
art atelier, based on closely guarded family
recipes from her maternal grandmother.
‘’I have a passion for jam,’’ says Alexandra,
‘’and I always work with 2 kgs of fruit, no
more, as I want to make it à l'ancienne
without pectin, just citron, the traditional
way. Sometimes with a base of pear and
apple, I add a little orange and lemon or
dried sultanas, apricots, dates, plum, pruno,
raisin de currant, walnuts, figs, and of
course, some of our lovely saffron.’’
France is rightly known for its gourmandism,
with each region promoting its unique
specialities. The Périgord Vert is no
exception with a diverse cultural heritage,
fantastic cuisine, lovely rolling countryside
and beautiful scenery.
‘‘We value le terroir and a focus on the
traditional local seasonal produce. I buy all
my ingredients from local markets, I don’t
add pectin, gelling agents or preservatives,
and I cook with copper saucepans, this
gives a unique taste of traditional jam,’’
Alexandra tells me.
There is an ancient Greek
story that goes… Krokos, a
mortal youth and
companion of the
messenger god, Hermes
were practicing their discus
throwing when Hermes
accidentally hit Krokos on
the head, fatally wounding
him. On the very spot where
he was felled, a beautiful
purple flower sprang up, the
Crocus sativus, or saffron
crocus. Three drops of
blood from Krokos’s head
fell on the flower, from
which three vivid crimson
As a connoisseur, everything that
Alexandra makes is luxurious and quite
fancy. Her repertoire of jams reflects a love
of French literature as shown in her new
range of haute couture Confiture des
Anges such as the highly decadent
Memoires de Vignes. I can only reveal that
it involves burning off the alcohol from a
bottle of Monbazillac wine, a lot of stirring,
adding sugar, saffron and gold.
The farm with its walls of sandstone and
lauze roofs called Le Repaire near
Verteillac, has been in Alexandra’s family
for three hundred years. Set back off the
beaten track in an ancient Périgordine
hamlet, she watched as her grandparents
grew every vegetable and fruit possible in
their potager and crucially learnt about
respect for the land which left a deep and
lasting impression on Alexandra.
Four years after it was started, L’Or des
Anges is making waves. The safranière is
thriving and this year the couple have
diversified and planted 1,200 truffle oak
saplings and the power and prestige of the
mighty truffle is as much as saffron.
Not content with selling just one high end
product, the Simonoff-Arpels are truly
pushing the boat out in terms of producing
authentic quality products from the
produce of the land that they love and
Find out more at: lordesanges.com
See Alex's delicious saffron rice pudding
and scallop recipes on pages: 114-115
Poverty can be a positive thing for the city explorer. Whilst researching my book “Only in
Paris”, a limited budget forced me to abandon dreams of living in Montmartre in favour of
its Left Bank counterpart, Montparnasse. Any thoughts of having compromised culturally
were quickly dispelled, however, when on my first day I happened upon the Cemetery of
Every bit as interesting as Montmartre’s
burial ground, the Cemetery of
Montparnasse contains its own share of
big name burials and uniquely is home to a
17th century windmill from when the area
was arable land. The writers Baudelaire and
Maupassant are here, and the philosophers
Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.
Serge Gainsbourg, the enfant terrible of
French popular music, is a more recent
arrival, with a grave that is usually adorned
with cigarette packets.
Of particular interest is the memorial
marking the grave of French explorer Jules
Dumont d’Urville. In 1820, whilst serving in
the French navy, Dumont joined a survey
ship in the Mediterranean. It was there
during a visit to the Greek island of Milo
that he saw and sketched a newlyexcavated
Classical statue. Realising it was
something very special, Dumont urged his
captain to purchase the statue. When the
idea was rejected, Dumont showed his
sketches to the French ambassador in
Constantinople, from where a vessel was
immediately dispatched and the statue
For his part in acquiring what became
known as the Venus de Milo, Dumont was
awarded the Légion d’Honneur and
promoted to Lieutenant. The statue is today
one of the most popular exhibits in the
Louvre and its likeness is carved on
Garden of the Observatory or Garden of Great Explorers
Avenue de l’Observatoire by the Boulevard de
So it is elsewhere in Montparnasse. For all
the well-known wonders of Montmartre,
there are equally interesting ones in
Montparnasse – and usually without the
along the Boulevard du Montparnasse is
A walk along the nearby Boulevard du
Montparnasse is a case in point. Many of
the artists attracted by the easy-going
village life of Montmartre in the 1860s
relocated to Montparnasse after the First
World War, drawn by the area’s cafés,
cabarets and art schools.
Modigliani, for example, once hawked his
paintings from table to table at the
venerable café Le Dôme, which overlooks
what is now Place Pablo Picasso. Just
around the corner at 14 Rue de la Grande
Chaumière is a private art school that has
scarcely changed in a century. Further
Most of Montparnasse is in the 14th
Arrondissement (district) of Paris. The
Jardin de Luxembourg lies on the
border in the 6th Arrdondissement
La Coupole, an Art Deco café-cumrestaurant
with it's columns painted by
artists including Chagall. Further still on
Avenue du Maine is the artists’ colony Cité
des Arts in a leafy, cobblestoned cul-de-sac.
Here 30 artists’ studios were constructed
using material salvaged from the Exposition
Universelle de Paris de 1900. One of them
was rented by Russian painter Marie
Vassilieff, who ran a canteen for impoverished
painters there, the studios are still in
Win a copy of Onl
brilliant book of s
Left and right: streets
in Montparnasse, a
wealth of hidden
beauty; below left the
famous Moulin de la
Vierge; below: the roof
top public garden
covers the Gare
Roof top garden
A little to the south is the Gare Montparnasse, where the German military command
relinquished Paris in 1944 (celebrated in a superb museum), and which today is home to
the rooftop Jardin Atlantique.
Further less well-known treasures lie beyond, including what is perhaps the city’s most
extraordinary church. The Église Notre-Dame-du-Travail at 59 Rue Vercingétorix appears
unexceptional until one enters it. Built in 1901 and clearly influenced by the work of
Gustave Eiffel, its nave is supported on a visible iron framework, installed it is said to
make factory workers in the congregation feel at home! More likely the success of the
Eiffel Tower had set a constructional trend.
This tour of Montparnasse finishes farther along the street with the Moulin de la Vierge
at number 105. Surprisingly for such a regular-looking street, this tiny bakery is an
astonishing Belle Époque jewel, with mirrored walls and a glorious painted ceiling. The
Pain au Raisins are excellent and if you ask nicely the baker might let you peek at the
century-old cast iron oven in the cellar.
My time in Montparnasse reiterated a valuable lesson in city travelling. By getting off the
beaten track a more intimate experience can often be had – and in so doing a more
indelible memory taken away.
y in Paris, Duncan Smith's
ecret Paris page 84
Living in Paris
Montparnasse is on the edge of 6th, 7th, 14th
and 15th arrondissements. The area is wellknown
for its cinemas and theatres on the
Boulevard du Montparnasse and La Gaité. There
are great shops in Boulevard Raspail and Rue de
Rennes with Beau Marché just 10 minutes away.
There are three regular street markets in the
area: Marché Raspail, the most glamorous and
expensive on the Left Bank, where celebrities
shop. Marché Edgar Quinet across the street
from the Cementery of Montparnasse, an
excellent market. Marché Port Royal/Val de
Grace - said to be the friendliest market in the
city! Paris property expert Dominique Petit
picks three stunning properties for sale:
click here for more info
In the centre of
famous square with a
village vibe. Close to
all the shops, cafes
and restaurants -
welcome to Paris!
In the Latin Quarter:
At the heart of the
famous for its market.
with great rooftop
click here for more info
click here for more info
Paris 4th - Ile de la Cite
located on the Quai aux
Fleurs, overlooking the
Seine and just behind
It doesn't get much
better than this!
Auvergne is a region of natural beauty and dramatic landscapes, located midway
between Paris and the Mediterranean, anchored in the centre of France by the
Massif Central and almost 100 volcanoes.
From the stark Monts du Cantal in Salers and the Puy Mary area, to the lush green
fields and gardens of Vichy, Auvergne is a very diverse region.
The Hills Are Alive
Clermont Ferrand is a great city to base
yourself as from here you can explore the
region or just relax and unwind.
The famous and thankfully dormant
Volcano Puy–de-Dome is just 6 miles
away; at 1,465m high it is the largest
though not the tallest in this chain of
volcanoes. Within half an hour of arriving in
the Auvergne, I was at the top of it. While
some brave souls grabbed pitons, those
metal poles that help to anchor climbers,
and tied ropes round their waists, ready to
shimmy up the side, I went up on the train.
The views from the top are sensational.
You overlook many of the extinct volcano
craters that the area is famous for, the
summit dominated by a massive
telecommunications antennae that sits
alongside a Roman Temple.
Back down in the city I based myself in the
Hotel Mecure in the corner of the Place de
Jaude, Clermont’s largest square. It’s a
pleasant place to sit in the evening with a
glass or two of wine and watch the world
go by. From here everything is within
walking distance, though there is a fairly
new and exciting Translohr tram system
which is great fun.
Clermont is a dark city architecturally and
has many stunning buildings which are
nearly all built out of black Volvic rock,
giving it a very distinctive look.
Now whilst I would have been happy to
stay and explore the lanes and shops, and
the many wine cellars that run under the
city there was a lot more to see. So next
morning my hire car and me headed a short
distance north to the town of Riom.
Riom is an historic town with 16 listed
monuments and a further 57 registered
monuments. There are many beautiful old
houses with internal courtyards and a
famous clock tower with 128 steps to the
top from where the views are fabulous and
worth the effort of climbing and having
your chest thump like a drum. The Saturday
morning market is very pretty and watching
everyone go about their business is a great
way to get a feel for this pretty town.
The local wine is Saint-Pourcain, made
from grapes grown in one of the oldest
vineyards in France. And, it would have
been plain wrong not to have visited a
vineyard whilst there. A wine tasting is a
must and I visited Domaine Grosbot-
Barbara where the guide gave a long and
passionate explanation of his craft, though
eventually he did open several bottles. -
Credit: Callips, Wikipedia
Moulins and the Museum of Ballet
If someone had told me before I went to
the Auvergne that one of my favourite
moments would be a visit to a museum of
ballet costumes I would have laughed. But
the next morning I visited the National
Centre for Stage Costumes which is based
in a former Cavalry barracks in the town of
Moulins. It is the home of over 10,000 set
costumes from the Opera National de
Paris and the Comedie Francais and
features many outfits created by France’s
top designers and the way in which they
are displayed is truly stunning.
Fans of Rudolf Nuryev the great dancer
(who died in France) will love the exhibition
of the costumes he danced in as well as
many of his personal effects.
Crédit: Comité Régional de Développement Touristique d'Auvergne BEROUJON-Pascale
No visit to this area is complete without
taking in the lovely spa town of Vichy. The
spa tradition was introduced by the
Romans as well as at nearby Bourbon
l’Archambault and Mont-Dore, a tradition
that continues to delight 2000 years later.
Next morning I was in the nearby town of
Thiers. More than 60% of all the kitchen
knives used in France are made here and I
was not only able to visit a factory to watch
them being made but was able to make my
Gastronomy for gourmets
Auvergne has many delights to please
foodies. Saint-Nectaire, Fourme d’Ambert,
Cantal, Salers and Auvergne Blue Cheese
are some of the famous cheeses sold in all
the markets or you can buy direct from a
cave. On top of these specialities, you
have the top quality ‘charcuterie’, cured
meats, sausages, and a local andouillette
(though you need to be a fan of tripe to
enjoy that one). Don’t leave without trying
the traditional petit salé made with green
lentils from Le Puy or stuffed cabbages, or
truffade potato cakes. In autumn wild
mushrooms are used in many dishes –
guaranteed to titillate your taste buds.
The Auvergne is a real treat, a trip here
leaves you revitalised and re-energised
and there’s nowhere else quite like it.
Auvergne Tourist office website
Read more about Auvergne
Expat in Auvergne story Page 106
How to get to Clermont
By Air: The airport at Clermont Ferrand
is served well by Paris airports.
By Train: 3 hours 15 minutes from Paris
Bercy station. Details: UKVoyagesSNCF
Where to stay
Mecure Clermont Ferrand. This brand
new hotel is excellent and in a really
great location in the town centre.
Le Clos de Bourgogn, Moulins. 4 Star old
world excellence with Michelin starred
Hotel Les Nations. Vichy. Central
location. classic functional French Hotel
Where to eat
Les Kancres, Clermont Ferrand: a proper
La Gourmandine, Clermont Ferrand:
sensational classic French food in super
modern city centre setting.
Brasserie Le Lutucre, Vichy: a proper
French brasserie, great meat dishes. (3
Rue de Paris)
Chez La Mere Depalle, Thiers: great
lunch - one of the best meals I have had
Home Buyers Auvergne
Auvergne is a region where authenticity is
truly preserved. Here is where you will
discover old houses and traditional farm
cottages in stunning scenery.
There's easy access to major towns and lots
of social activities. At the same time you will
live your life at a relaxed pace, with greater
time for well-being.
Auvergne is a remote region of natural
wonders with a strong cultural legacy that
can be found in the architecture, cuisine, and
dialect. It is home to beautiful medieval
villages, magnificent frescoed Romanesque
churches and castles of the Bourbon Lords.
Auvergne local property expert Alison
Brettell's top picks:
Three bedroomed stone built detached
house in need of renovation, with separate
appartment and outbuildings located on the
edge of a lovely village.
Click here for more details
Elegant mansion and an
surrounded by 4.5 hectares of
park. Currently run as a
successful B&B and gîte
business. Quiet and peaceful.
Click here for more details
Beautifully renovated three bedroomed stone
house and mini-camping with swimming pool
is situated on the edge of a small village in a
peaceful location with stunning views.
Click here for more details
Terry Marsh takes a short break to
discover the delights of Angers in the
I never feel as if I've arrived in France until
my first lunch, usually outdoors, in some
unpretentious but highly popular eatery
where the plat du jour or a simple galette is
just what you need. It’s a moment of
pleasure, when I realise that I’ve stopped
travelling, and have arrived and start to
tune my ears from English to French.
It's symbolic and I almost don’t care what
the plat du jour might be; it’s the transition
from home life to the French way of doing
things. For me, lunch in France is a
benchmark, the starting line; and so it was
at the Restaurant du Mail in the glorious
Jardin du Mail in Angers.
A Vibrant City
This buzzing city of more than 150,000
souls is highly regarded as urban friendly,
full of fun, lively with festivals and street
theatre, and worthy of its accolade as one
of the greenest cities in France. It also has a
multi-era legacy of stunning architecture; a
history that saw it as the pre-Revolution
capital of Anjou province, and a modernday
trade in Anjou wines and liqueurs,
notably Cointreau and Menthe Pastille.
Easily accessible from the UK, the city
evolved at the confluence of three rivers,
the Mayenne, the Sarthe, and the Loir (Le
Loir), all coming from the north and flowing
south to the Loire (La Loire). The short
distance (just 7 miles) between the Loire
and the confluence of Le Loir, the Mayenne
and the Sarthe, make the Maine river one of
the shortest in France.
The heart of Angers lies on the south side
of the Maine, and here you will find many of
the city’s finest monuments and treasures.
Angers is remarkably compact, and two
pedestrian days will give you a fascinating
taste of everything that Angers has to
offer. But three or more days would
allow a relaxed and in-depth
approach...languid lunches and lazy
It's also an excellent base for touring
the area around, close to Blois and
the Chateaux of the Loire.
Located in the Val de Loire (a World
Heritage Site), and the Loire-Anjou-
Touraine regional natural park,
Angers enjoys a vibrant cultural life,
bolstered by its universities and
The Old Town
The old centre, dating from medieval
times, is still dominated by the
massive chateau of the
Plantagenets, and home of the
astounding Apocalypse Tapestry.
It is the largest medieval tapestry
ensemble in the world.
Above: Hopital St Jean exhibition room; right:
above and below views of Le Chant du Monde
The Famous Tapestries of Angers
The chateau, with its 17 duo-tone towers, is
a great place to start, one of the best
preserved fortresses of its era in France.
Housed in a purpose-built gallery, the
tapestry is one of the oldest in France, it
has survived from the 14th century, second
only to the Bayeux Tapestry. It was
commissioned for Duke Louis I of Anjou,
and probably made in Paris over a period
of ten years.
It is, without doubt, a splendid example of
tapestry work, but, if I’m being honest, I
believe it is outdone in terms of splendour
by the modern version, Le Chant du Monde,
a series of ten tapestries that represent the
crowning achievement of artist Jean Lurçat
(1892-1966) housed on the north side of the
river, in the Hopital Saint-Jean, itself a
masterpiece of Plantagenet Gothic
Le Chant du Monde is both a poetic and
symbolic vision of the world in which the
artists defines Man’s place within the
The centre of mainstream action focuses
on place du Ralliement, dominatedby the
splendid façade of its Grand Theatre, and
flanked by shops and restaurants. Nearby
the cathedral, dedicated to St-Maurice,
contains superb stained glass windows
reminiscent of those at Chartres, and is
another example of Gothic architecture
bestowed by the Plantagenet dynasty.
Well worth seeking out, for their novelty
value if nothing else are the splendid wood
carvings on the timber-framed Maison
d’Adam at place Saint-Croix, a listed
building that dates from the 16th century.
Nearby, at 38 rue St-Laud, the frontage of
Le Boléro, formerly a café and concert hall
known as ‘Alcazar’ and dating from 1892,
displays the effigies of two young ladies,
the oldest examples of art nouveau in
You can get a map from the tourist office
that will suggest an historic route around
the city centre, which extends on both
sides of the river, and this is ideally to be
planned over two or more days rather than
But there is merit, too, in allowing
serendipity and curiosity to be your guide.
Above: street views of
Angers old town; Right
below, the oh so cool bar at
There is also a fairly easy circuit, suited to
visitors with children or less-abled people,
and marked by bronze plaques inserted
into the pavement.
Slightly out on a limb, the Jardin du Mail
was originally created in the 17th century,
but later redesigned, in 1859, to be more
typically a French garden. The Jardin des
Plantes, however, still has the atmosphere
of a small British park, with ponds and a
little animal park as well as a children’s play
area...a great place to have a family picnic in
Angers has culture, heritage and
architecture in considerable abundance,
and is well worth making the journey to
Tourist information office, 7 place
Kennedy, (near the chateau).
CITY PASS: If you are planning on a
few days, then consider buying a City
Pass (€14 for 24 hours, up to €29 for 72
hours, available from the tourist office).
Getting to Angers
Car: Angers is accessible by car from
the Caen ferry port at Ouistreham in
around 3 hours of driving.
Rail: Voyages-SNCF operate a rail
service from Paris (Gare Montparnasse)
to Angers in around 1hour 40 minutes
Air: British Airways fly direct to Angers
from London City (www.ba.com) in little
over 1 hour for less than £100 return
Somewhere to stay
There are a number of excellent hotels
in Angers, but the Best Western Hotel
Anjou is ideally placed from which to
explore the city as is the Mercure Foch
Somewhere to eat
There's no lack of choice here but the
restaurant Chez Remi is fabulous.
Friendly, loved by the local and
5 rue des 2 Haies
Somewhere to drink
There are plenty of bars but for
something a little different, take a tour
at thee Cointreau factory where they
have a cool tasting bar (Carrefour
Moliere, Bd des Bretonnieres.)
Credit: Ann Schmidt
Provence Expert Emily Durand says feast your eyes and your taste buds...
The cuisine of France is rightly famous, in
fact the “gastronomic meal of the French”
is UNESCO listed as part of the “intangible
cultural heritage of humanity.”
In France there is a way to savour, to mix
and match, there is an art to eating and
drinking, everything flows together making
food much more than just a time to eat. It is
a cultural event, artistic, pleasurable and
indulgent, inspiring you to partake in a
harmony of senses that please more than
just your palate.
To fully grasp all that Provence can offer,
ideally you should spend a week to nine
days here to enjoy a true taste of sunny
southern France. You will have time to go
as far south as the Mediterranean, as far
west as the Camargue, as far east as the
Luberon and as far north as the Ventoux/
Cotes-du-Rhone region. These four areas of
Provence not only complete the true
gourmet Provence experience but also
allow travellers to immerse themselves into
the different cultural and historical
elements of this sunny southern region.
For foodies, or even just the curious at
heart, Provence is the ideal location for
exploring flavours and culinary delights. It
is the Garden of Eden which has supplied
the locals for centuries. Treasures such as
mushrooms, truffles, thyme, rosemary and
wild fennel, asparagus and lavender
In Paris, during the
If what you served
lacked truffle, you
sure wouldn’t tell
your friends the
truth for fear of
being “out” of the
Left: Aigues-Mortes, Camargue;
below left: hrbes de Provence;
above: melons from Cavaillon
Region – Camargue
Start with what is known as the “cowboy
culture” in Provence. White Camargue
horses, bulls, flamingoes, rice fields and
salt marshes are all situated where the
Rhone River splits before flowing into the
Mediterranean, this is the fascinating
region known as Camargue.
Getting up close with producers and locals
to discover more about the land and
agricultural practices which are unique in
the world is important in a foodie tour and
brings connection to the product itself.
From a sea shell found only in the marshes
(la telline) to the raising of bull and the salt
marshes lining the Mediterranean,
Camargue is one of the world’s most
intriguing agricultural centers.
Region – Mediterranean
The “real” Provence region does not extend
all the way to the French Rivera (Cannes/
Nice area) but it does include Marseille and
Cassis. A foodie trip to Provence would
never be complete without Bouillabaisse - a
fish stew with a unique broth flavored with
saffron. Many chefs and restaurants have
the authentic recipe (“authentic” being
sometimes unique to the chef cooking). I
enjoy taking my guests to a small family
run restaurant in in Cassis for this
Region – The Luberon
Welcome to my hometown, Cavaillon, the
melon capital of Provence. Melons were
introduced from Italy and to give you an
idea of just how luxurious this fruit was
considered to be, Alexandre Dumas
donated 300 of his published works to
Cavaillon public library in exchange for 12
melons a year!
The Luberon is also a prime area for truffle
growing. No culinary trip to Provence would
be complete without an educational and
mouth-watering truffle hunting and tasting
Region – The Ventoux
If you follow the Tour de France you'll have
heard of Ventoux. The cyclists have
wonderful views of orchards full of cherry,
apricot and olive trees and lovely vineyards
along this picturesque route.
Exploring olive oil mills is a delicious
education for your taste buds. Wine too
should be explored in depth in this region -
home of renowned names such as Cotes
du Ventoux, Cotes du Rhone, Seguret and
Vacqueras. The best way to explore the
wines from Provence is by connecting with
the growers and embracing their love story
with the land - the flavours are enhanced
and wine tasting takes on a new
dimension. You don’t have to be a “wine
drinker” to appreciate wine tasting. It’s an
exploratory experience with your senses.
Not a region but a culinary
delight on its own – Avignon
The gourmet, high-end produce, indoor
market Les Halles in Avignon is the cherry
on the cake. At the end of a foodie tour in
Provence you will be able to synthesize all
your culinary adventures at this market.
Just some of the culinary adventures that can be experienced in Provence:
When to do a gourmet tour in Provence?
June for the still lush countryside and cherries, peaches, apricots, strawberries and
melons at the markets (also fewer tourists and less hot than July/August)
September for all you have in June but add a grape stomp and grape harvest adventure
Summer truffles from May until September
Winter truffles from November to March
Mushroom hunting in October and November
The Causse de Gramat is the northernmost
of the Causses of Quercy, the vibrant,
shimmering limestone country between
the Lot and the Dordogne.
Quercy was a province of pre-Napoleonic
France and has a history of repeated
invasion from Roman times. During the
Hundred Years’ War the region was
claimed both by France and England,
eventually being ceded to England, an
insecure arrangement that lasted only a
For many today, however, the great delight
of the Gramat Causse is Rocamadour itself,
but surrounding this multi-tiered, cliffhanging
pilgrimage site is a vast expanse
of undulating countryside populated by
black-eyed sheep and rusty coloured
cattle, and patrolled by black kites,
buzzards and green woodpeckers.
There are three villages regarded among
the most beautiful in France: Carennac,
Loubressac and Autoire. Together they
make a lovely tour from Rocamadour,
based around lunch in Loubressac. None
of the villages need consume more than an
hour or so, but the relaxed pace of life,
warm colours, the heady scent of thyme
drifting in from the Causse, and general
ambience have a captivating charm that
can persuade you to linger.
Carennac, a short drive from Rocamadour,
sits on a rocky terrace overlooking the left
bank of the Dordogne.There is a pleasing
ensemble of tiled houses and turreted
mansions focused on its old priory, once the
home base of the writer François de
Salignac de la Mothe-Fénélon, a French
Roman Catholic archbishop, theologian,
poet and writer, better known simply as
François Fénélon. The site was occupied in
the Gallo-Roman period and throughout the
early Middle Ages, but it was the abbey of
Cluny, which founded a priory here in 1047,
that sealed the destiny of the place.
Many of the stone-built houses boast
mullioned windows and date from the 16th
century, imbuing the village with
Renaissance elegance and Quercy charm.
A number of the houses have watch towers
or exterior staircases, and collectively
display a patchwork of steeply sloping
brown-tiled roofs. Much older than these, is
the church of St-Pierre, a Romanesque
structure with a fine tympanum that dates
from the 12th century. This is a very pleasing
place to explore, and a leaflet (€0.50)
available from the tourist office located in
the former apartments of the Deans gives a
detailed survey of the village and its
buildings of note.
Feel free to challenge me, but there is no
more delicious goat’s cheese than
Rocamadour Fermier, made at the Ferme
Cazal in Loubressac, and served with warm
honey. Have lunch in the Restaurant Lou
Cantou in Loubressac, with a view reaching
out across the stunning Causse de Gramat,
and finish your meal with the cheese; you’ll
see what I mean.
To be fair, there are a number of farms
producing Rocamadour goat’s cheese, and
they are all delicious.
The charming village of Loubressac
commands a heart-warming view of the
lush Dordogne and Bave valleys, its narrow
and sinuous village lanes converging on a
shady square that the Romanesque church
of St-Jean-Baptiste dominates. The
medieval houses, topped with antique tiles,
turn golden coloured in the evening sun
and encourage you to linger and explore;
many have decorative balconies and
painted shutters. And yet, compact as it is,
the village has a surpriisng number of
delightful twists and turns.
To add to its charm, Loubressac has twice
been awarded the accolade of the finest
‘village fleuri’ in the Midi-Pyrenees. It is the
sort of village that evokes another time,
another place, and a bygone era where
everything seems to be at peace – even
though it wasn’t always. Visiting walkers
will find that a number of trails radiate from
the village centre into verdant countryside.
Anyone seeking away-from-it-all-ness will
find it here.
I had something of a duel with the wine
merchant in Autoire, and lost, to the tune of
six bottles of Marcillac, six rosé, and three
bottles of Gaillac bubbly – we can’t call it
champagne! To be honest, I was all T-eed
up earlier for a similar dual in Loubressac,
but it was lunchtime, and even wine sellers
have to eat...for three hours apparently!
Autoire has gathered its heritage of pigeon
lofts, brown tiled roofs and country manor
houses in the hollow of a cirque on the
limestone plateau between Figeac and
Gramat over centuries; yet it remains small
enough not even to register on some
tourist maps. The village takes its name
from the mountain stream that gushes
down from the Causse de Gramat plateau
in a series of waterfalls that are a delight to
visit, just outside the village.
Under several baronages, in the 14th
century Autoire became one of the vassal
dependencies of the viscountcy of
Even so, the protection the village needed
when the English arrived, confident and alldefeating
from their conquest of Haut
Quercy, was not forthcoming, and Autoire
saw more than its fair share of destruction
during the Hundred Years War. In the 16th
century, the Calvinists laid waste to the
village, and peace did not return until 1588.
Today, the village is serene and peaceful, a
perfect walking base for the GR480 and
eight other walking trails, with plenty of
scope for mountain biking and fishing.
Tourist information: Vallée de la
If planning on having lunch in
Loubressac, it might be wise to make a
Interview with a Francophile
Travel writer and author Antony
Mason reveals his favourite French
towns and places to visit...
Where was your first visit to France?
Paris, or Maisons-Lafitte to be more
precise. I was born in the UK but christened
in the Anglican Church of Maisons-Lafitte,
because my father was in the navy and
was stationed at NATO, when its
headquarters were just outside Paris. OK,
so I don’t remember anything about it, but
my parents retained a special admiration
for France from that time, I think, and
passed it on to me. When I was aged about
10 (i.e. in about 1964), we went caravanning
in Brittany. Baguettes seemed fabulously
exotic back then – and I am convinced they
really were much better than they are
today: fatter, more crusty, more oily and
luscious. To walk into a boulangerie before
breakfast was to enter a different world of
smells and skills and quality. We went to
the Fête des Filets Bleus at Concarneau
where I was enchanted by the Breton hats
and sensed the sustaining power of living
folklore tradition. I still treasure the pottery
that we bought at Quimper.
What are your two favourite places in
France and why?
Paris. What it is about Paris?
I immediately feel more alive there. Maybe
it’s because Parisians live life on the
streets – they have to because their
apartments are all so tiny. My Parisian
friends are endlessly challenging: art,
music, food, literature. They like to take me
to out-of-the-way places – such the Maison
de Balzac, or the room where Van Gogh
died in Auvers-sur-Oise.
Ile de Ré. My family have had a holiday
house there since 1998. It is of course,
famously beautiful, with its little white
villages garlanded with hollyhocks and
their wonderful markets, the cycle paths,
the salt marshes and the oyster farms, and
the silvery Atlantic light and the beaches.
Simple timeless pleasures – almost the
France of my childhood memories…
Above left: Quimper, Brittany;
above Paris; above right: Ile de
Re; below: wine from St Emilion
What do you think makes France a great
place to visit?
Since my childhood, the whole world has
become rather more homogenised – but
France still does enough that is different to
bring back that old excitement of being
abroad. The food is excellent: the quality of
produce in the supermarkets alone is
astonishing, but the best fun is to be had in
seeking out the little, artisan producers and
the restaurants where the great traditions
of la cuisine française still hold firm. In
wine, they have clung on to the concept of
terroir, so every region has is own, unique
expression, usually at little cost. There is
such variety in France, and just about every
place has historic, cultural depth waiting to
The 12th century cathedral in the centre of the
old city was the model for later versions notably
Chartres and Notre Dame in Paris.
Do you have a secret place to share?
On the cycle route coming into St-Martinde-Ré
from the west, along the coast (from
the direction of La Couarde, Loix, and Arsen-Ré)
a series of enterprising oyster farms
have set up open-air pop-up restaurants
where you can eat fresh seafood with a
glass or two of Ile de Ré wine overlooking
the sea – perfect for a long and lazy and
very informal lunch.
Where would you live in France if it could be
anywhere and what sort of house would you
Laon, in the department of Aisne,
fascinates me, and recently, as I wandered
the streets filled with grand and beautiful
18th and 19th-century townhouse mansions,
I fantasized that this is the sort of spot I’d
like to hole up in for a few years, absorbing
its history as a former bishop’s seat and a
military town, and its views out over the
landscape of Picardy from its high ramparts,
and contemplating what role this kind of
proud historic place can play in modern
Antony Mason is the author of some 80
books on travel, history, art and… well,
basically whatever people ask him to do.
LAON – A Great Place to Live
Laon, known as "La Montagne Couronnée"
with it's old, medieval city high on a rock
crowned by a cathedral and over-looking
the newer low town. Located in the Aisne
department in Picardie it is close to the
border of Champagne (Reims is less than
an hour away). Almost unknown outside of
France, this beautiful town has a
population of circa 30,000.
The lower town is a mix of residential and
commercial property and has a thriving city
centre with wide boulevards of shops, bars,
restaurants and hotels. The fortified city
retains small streets of private housing.
This is one of the wealthier parts of France
but house prices are comparatively low
even in a small market. A 6 bedroom
house to modernise in the old city can be
bought for less than €90,000 and a 3
bedroom house for around €120,000,
while a 1 bedroom apartment in the lower
town is less than €40,000.
With a history going back over 3000 years,
its location between the great wine areas
(Champagne & Burgundy) and the beaches
of the Opal Coast in the north, plus a good
climate combined with being a beautiful
city, Laon is a great place to live!
Local property expert Tim Sage shares 3
top picks in the area:
Beautiful, fully restored 19th century
manoir located in the village of Marle,
in the Aisne.
Click here for more details
Exquisite 18th century Maison de Maître,
fully restored and tastefully decorated
Click here for more details
Marne - Must be seen! Beautifully renovated
stone house giving a 2/3 bedroom family
home lying between Reims and Epernay.
Click here for more details
Photo: Morzine Tourist Office/Giles Lansard
it's not all about th
A week in Morzine...
There's a whole lot of fresh air and fun in
the mountains says Lucy Pitts
Photo: Morzine Tourist Office/Jarry Tripelon
The Portes du Soleil area is one of the
largest ski areas in the world. It includes
thirteen resorts (both Swiss and French)
and roughly 650 km of marked ski and
snowboard runs. There are fourteen valleys
and nearly all of the runs are connected.
With a back drop of Mont Blanc and not far
from Lake Geneva, it’s not hard to believe
there is skiing, snowboarding and other
winter sports here for every possible level
and ability, from the black run “The Wall” to
But there’s more to a snowy sojourn in this
mountain paradise as I found out when I
went to learn French in between ski
How often have you promised yourself that
this is the year you will learn or improve
your French? And then somehow never
quite got round to it? Perhaps just not sure
how to begin or was it just time that you
ran out of?
Good news for would be French
Well the good news is that you can actually
make it happen in a way that is easy,
memorable and dare I say fun? Yes fun!
Because there’s a French language school
in a little town called Morzine and after a
week with them, you’ll not just be talking in
French, you may even be thinking in French
and you’ll have had a fantastic alpine
holiday too, packed with memories and
fresh mountain air.
Morzine is a delightful mountain town in
the Haute Savoie region of the Rhones
Alpes about an hour from Geneva and
tucked away in a part of the Alps known as
the Portes du Soleil. Strict planning rules
mean traditional wooden chalets and shops
in the centre of the town have kept a
distinctly alpine style and charm. And
whatever your preferred holiday pleasure,
this is a great place to be based.
Let’s start with improving
Even if you’ve visited Morzine before, you
may not have noticed the busy little Alpine
French School tucked just off the main
road not far from the tourist office. It comes
equipped with a super friendly team of
teachers and staff who can and do speak
English if you need them to and the
atmosphere when you enter is instantly
relaxed and welcoming. There’s a handful
of well-equipped classrooms, a multimedia
room and common room for you to take
advantage of and a whole smorgasbord of
classes and courses to choose from. I
opted for an intensive week of 3 ½ hour
classes at beginner’s level each afternoon.
You’re allocated a class according to your
ability before you arrive and there is
nothing more reassuring as you sit down
for your first lesson than realising that you
are learning with people at roughly the
same level as you.
Our teacher Lucille spoke almost entirely
in French throughout but it was clear and
easy to understand and the format of the
lessons had you talking in French
straightaway. The lessons are a
combination of theory and practical
learning, with games, written French and
lots of conversation.
It’s a long time since I’ve been in a
classroom, and my fellow pupils came from
all walks of life. There was a young Swiss
soldier and a Russian girl who’s been living
in Australia. And then there was Anthony
from the UK whose determination to get to
grips with this language was nothing short
I’m ever so slightly addicted to learning and
it was great to be in a room full of fellow
addicts all enthusiastically lapping up our
“pronoms”, “passé composé” and
“structure infinitives”. Long since forgotten
French which we’d all learnt way back when
came rushing back and our afternoon
classes flew by. We were all speaking
French with each other even after the class
by the end of day one, not least as it was
our only common language, and my
confidence, which has taken more than a
few knocks over the last two decades,
came gradually flowing back.
left: in the
gourmet fun in
Photo: Morzine Tourist Office/Jarry Tripelon
that help you to
talk in French!
And the great thing about the Alpine
French School is that the learning and
experience doesn’t end when class
finishes. One of my fellow pupils was also
enjoying one to one classes each morning
and we both took advantage of the French
conversation get together on a Monday
night where local ex pats joined us. The
school operates a “friendly french scheme”
throughout the town. Just arm yourself
with one of their cards which says just
that, and participating shops and
restaurants will help as you talk to them in
French. It’s fantastic for the confidence.
And… of course you don’t have to be a fan
of winter sports to enjoy this stunning
region. The Alpine French School offers a
whole host of activities for you to combine
with your French lessons throughout the
year which include skiing, hiking, fishing,
kayaking, horse-riding and even golf. So
you can choose a holiday pleasure to suit
you and then combine it with your French
This is a great holiday for couples or solo
travellers because of the different
accommodation options. You can stay with
a French family to really soak up the
French lifestyle (and cuisine) or you can
opt for the 4-star luxury hotel option, chalet
accommodation or stay in an apartment.
Morzine is a haven of bustling bars and
restaurants (including Michelin starred
restaurant L’Atelier in the three-star Hotel
Le Samoyède) on and off the piste. Classes
finish in the evening at about 6.15pm which
is perfect timing for an early evening drink
followed if you want by a meal. But if all the
fresh air and mental agility has worn you
out, or you’re keen to get back and
complete the day’s homework (yes
homework, but not too taxing), you can of
course just head home and cater for
yourself. The school's apartments are
walking distance from the town centre and
there are also plenty of buses.
Customising your holiday
Your first port of call in arranging your
holiday is deciding which of the French
courses suits you best. and then you just
pair up your lessons with one of the 13
alpine activities on offer.
is great for
this is a town
with a sense of
Alternatively, just enjoy a “feet up and
relax” holiday and visit the local pool, spa
and steam room and enjoy the surrounding
villages. There’s plenty to explore!
However you choose to customise your
holiday, one thing is for sure. You’ll be
amazed at how much your French
improves in just the space of a week. You’ll
be talking it, reading it and maybe even
dreaming in it and like many of the people
that I met during my visit here, you’ll be
planning your return trip very soon.
You can find out more about the Alpine
French School at alpinefrenchschool.com
Read our The Good Life in Morzine expat
story: Page 92 with hone seekers top tips.
Cave of Pont
© Patrick Aventurier
Linda Matthieu visits the biggest replica
cave ever created and find it to be an
Imagine that you are a speleogist (one who studies caves) and you are in an area known
for its many caves - in this case, the Ardeche Gorge. You climb the limestone cliffs, doing
a little exploring, when suddenly, unexpectedly, you feel a waft of cool air coming from a
small opening. You squirm through the small opening and into a narrow tunnel having to
chisel your way through at some points until finally you reach an enormous cave.
Casting the light of your flashlight around you are startled to see some ancient drawings
on the cave walls - and it turns out that these drawings were done 30,000 years ago, the
oldest in the world!
This is what happened in 1994 when three
French spelelogists did just that. The
cavern is named after one of them, Jean-
Marie Chauvet. Along with those fantastic
drawings (there are over one hundred
depicting horses, mammoths, bears and
even rhinoceroses), there are handprints,
abstract markings, fossilized remains, bear
skulls and fire pits. There is also a set of a
child's footprints left about a thousand
years after the drawings were done and
before a landslide occurred blocking the
entrance and protecting the interior.
The cave has been sealed off to prevent
further damage from visitors, its walls and
drawings are so delicate that they have to
be protected. However a wonderful replica,
the Caverne du Pont d'Arc, has been built,
the largest cave replica ever. The art is
reproduced in an underground environment
in a circular building above ground with the
same sensations of silence, darkness,
temperature, humidity and acoustics as the
real thing. Sculptors and painters, under the
supervision of scientists, recreated each
geological and artistic characteristic of the
decorated Cave of Pont-d’Arc. It took four
years to create, is wheelchair friendly and is
estimated to have cost about 54 million
© Patrick Aventurier
Left: Details of horse drawings
Above: The panel of the chasing lions
Right: A very modern ancient cave
You can only visit in small groups with a
guide, with most tours done in French
although there is an activated recording in a
headset in many languages and the tour
takes around 50 minutes. You quickly forget
you are in a replica as you wander through
the cave looking in wonder at the drawings
and the bear skulls. The most monumental
panel is of 36 lions, chasing down nearly 100
mammoths, bison and rhinoceroses.
It truly is fascinating.
The grounds of the Cavern are well
landscaped and there is food and drink
available. The Galerie de l’Aurignacien
museum gives some very interesting
information on the cavern and life as it was
32,000 years ago.
You'll find this incredible cave and museum
near the city of Pont d'Arc, a lively place filled
with tourists, and just a few kilometres from
the original cave and the famous gorge.
Reserve online before you go, the number
of people able to enter is limited: Website
There is a free shuttle service from the
bus station at Vallon Pont d'Arc.
A visit to the Galerie de l’Aurignacien is
unguided and takes about 45 minutes –
you can visit this before or after the cave.
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Beginning French by Les Americains
First they took French. Then they took leave of
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certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked,
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Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter
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Beautiful Indian ink drawings of life in rural
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French Language Lesson -Tongue
Try saying this when you’ve had a glass of wine or Champagne:
intergouvernementalisations (the plural of (intergouvernementalisation) or
anticonstitutionnellement. At 27, 26 and 25 letters long, these are the longest words in
the French language!
Their meanings are pretty obvious to English speakers as well as French, since a
surprisingly large number of English words and expressions are the same or very similar
- since they’re of French origin. Thanks to William the Conqueror, French became the
official language of England for 300 years. You’re actually already au fait with quite a lot
of French vocabulary – it’s just that the way the words are pronounced can be very
Fiance, tete-a-tete, entrepreneur – just three words off the top of my head that are the
same in both languages. The more you think about it, the more you realise that often it’s
a matter of pronunciation (and speed of talking) that differentiates French from English.
Had a déjà vu lately? In a restaurant or café, you may start the meal with an aperitif,
perhaps Champagne, and you may find, pâté or omelette is served and end with soufflé
or mousse for dessert.
Improve your French by practicing some of these rather challenging virelangues, tongue
For those tricky ‘s’ and ‘ch’ sounds: Les chaussettes de l'archiduchesse sontelles
sèches, archi-sèches? (Are the Archduchess’ socks dry, very dry?)
How about this for a bit of a mouthful, this French tongue twister is full of words that
sound the same but are written differently, known as homophones: Si six scies scient
six cyprès, six cents scies scient six cent cyprès (If six saws saw six cypresses, six
hundred saws saw six hundred cypresses
And for those who find it hard to get the “on”s and “en”s and “ou”s and “ue”s: “Tonton,
ton thé t'a-t-il ôté ta toux” disait la tortue au tatou. “Mais pas du tout”, dit le
tatou. “Je tousse tant que l'on m'entend de Tahiti à Tombouctou.” ("Uncle, your tea
has cured your cough," said the tortoise to the armadillo. "Not at all," said the armadillo. "I
cough so much that you can hear me from Tahiti to Timbuktu.")
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Géraldine Lepère of Comme Une Francaise French language and lifestyle
shares her top tips to help you sound more French!
Grammar and French lessons in books are useful, but I want to help you go the extra
In this video, I’ll cover some sentences that we French really use in everyday life. These
are typically French expressions that you’ll hear in friendly conversations, in the streets
and cafés. Use them and people will immediately think you’ve been living in France for
Learn how to use expressions like "quoi de neuf" (what's up?), discover how to say the
phrases property and know what kind of situation is appropriate and how to answer
So, if you'd like to fit in and sound like you've really made an effort, which of course you
have by watching my video - and speak French like the French do - enjoy the lesson:
5 Easy Expressions that will help you pass for French!
ASK THE EXPERTS
Got a Question about life in France?
The Good Life France is delighted to help readers who have questions about living
in France – tax, property, currency, legal, healthcare and a whole lot more… if you
have a question simply email: email@example.com and we’ll see if we
can get it answered for you.
currency expert at
Finance expert at
Life in France expert
at French Admin
In this section:
Helen Watts moved to the French Alps, to the lovely Morzine area where she started a
language school and says "embrace the differences between your birth country and
Tim and Ingrid Bell moved to the Auvergne region with its lush countryside and volcanic
scenery to open an auberge. Tim gives his top tips for anyone considering running a
restaurant in France.
Jo-Ann Howell examines the process for getting a Carte de Residente
Jennie Poate gives her top financial tips to consider when moving to France
Euan McLachlans shows how you can make your money work harder for you when you
need French currency.
Tim Sage looks at the sales process in France and says "tidy up" when your house is on
The Good Life in....
The French Alps
You might say, that having lived in the
French Alps for the last 15 years that Helen
Watts, director and teacher at the Alpine
French School in Morzine is living the
dream, but has it all been plain sailing and
what’s expat life really like when you’re
tucked away in the mountains?
What inspired you to move to this little alpine
I moved to Morzine in 2000 after studying
French in Grenoble and falling in love with
the Alps. I liked Morzine because of its
year-round activity and the fact that it's a
working town as well as a ski resort so
unlike many resorts, it is as busy in the
summer as it is in the winter. It is a very
beautiful town with chalet-style
architecture and none of the high rise
buildings that have spoilt so many resorts.
And there’s so much to do.
Was it easy to find the home of your dreams?
We wanted to build our own house so that
we could design it exactly how we wanted.
My husband loves property development
so it was his project really and it is a lovely
house. We built a traditional wooden chalet
while I was pregnant with our son, Xavier
and moved in soon after he was born.
Credit Morzine Tourist Office JB Bieuville
Is there a big expat community where you are?
Yes there are lots of expats here, I think
this is the case in most Alpine areas of
France. We both have French colleagues,
French friends, locals and ones who have
moved to the area like ourselves. Our
children are also at school in France so we
feel like we are part of the French
community as well as the expat one.
What’s been your biggest challenge when it
comes to living in France?
I'd say the biggest challenge to living here
is getting to know the French administration
system and understanding it.
Although France is a neighbouring country
to the UK, the taxation system is very
different and culturally there are big
differences too. But once you understand
how the country works and accept the little
particularities, it’s a great place to live.
Also, of course there are things that you
miss: friends, family, favourite British foods
but luckily being only an hour from Geneva
airport, we fly back regularly and friends
and family come out to visit and make the
most of the mountains at the same time.
When I moved here, Morzine was a lot
smaller than it is now so I found it very easy
to make friends. I think if you have children
in the schools and work with other people
rather than from home then these two
things make a big difference.
Have you had any challenges in running your
business in France?
There are a lot of hoops to jump through
when it comes to running a business. It’s
complicated and the cost of employing staff
is extremely high. But again once you
understand this, you can concentrate on
making your business work. I started
teaching English and French and created a
language school. It has grown steadily over
the years and now we offer a wide range of
courses for adults and juniors and it is
lovely to have a growing business that
helps people to learn languages and
achieve their personal and professional
goals. I am now in partnership with two
French colleagues and we are always
striving to grow the business and offer
more variety and great courses.
Have you found it easy to make friends here?
Credit Morzine Tourist Office JB Bieuville
So what would you do differently if you had
I'm not sure I'd do anything differently
really. Maybe I would have tried to buy
property when the prices were lower in
alpine resorts but I've had a great time
living and working in Morzine and there is
very little that I would change.
Advice for anyone moving to France?
This is quite an easy one ... you need to
start learning French before you come to
France. Then once you’re here, you need to
make an investment of time to continue
learning. It opens so many doors and helps
you integrate properly. Also, accept that
there are many differences between France
and your home country, learn about these
and embrace them…
And bring some proper English tea with
you as the French 'English Breakfast Tea'
just isn't the same!
Looking for a French Alps
Morzine is a winter and summer resort
offering skiing, watersports, road and
mountain biking amongst a host of other
At just over an hour from Geneva Airport,
it sits in the heart of the Portes du Soleil
ski domain, where investment in the
infrastructure is high.
Here you'll find a varied blend of
traditional chalets, oozing Savoyard
charm, rubbing shoulders with chic
apartments, village houses and new
builds and there are a number of
affordable properties available.
Local property expert Nicky Wye's top
Modernised four bedroomed chalet for
sale in the Col de Corbier. Attention
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4/5 bedroom chalet with separate
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Click here for more details
Imposing, high quality 5 bedroom/5
bathroom spacious chalet with panoramic
mountain views, near Morzine. Great as a
family home or ski chalet rental business.
Click here for more details
TOP TIPS FOR BRITS PLANNING TO MOVE TO FRANCE
There’s always such a lot to think about
when you’re moving to France – from
packing boxes and making sure your
favourite glasses don’t get broken when
you’re loading them onto the removal lorry
to getting your post redirected. Some
things are easy to forget but are really
important for ensuring a successful move
when it comes to the financial side of
For instance you should always inform the
UK inspector of taxes at your local HMRC
tax office that you are planning to move.
You don’t have to do it in person, you
simply fill in a form P85 (find and download
it here: www.gov.uk). Doing this enables
the UK tax office to clear up any
outstanding issues before you move. For
example if you are receiving UK property
rental income you will also need to
complete a ‘non-resident landlord
declaration’. This will enable you to receive
the income gross otherwise, if rented
through an agency, they will be obliged to
give you the net rent after tax at 20%.
You should consider planning a strategy for
your savings and income before you move.
Some UK savings products just don’t work
as well as you’d like them to when it comes
to French taxation. For some savings
products, it may be better to consider
closing or changing them before you
become French tax resident. ISAs for
example are a tax free product in the UK
but are subject to a number of taxes in
France. Therefore if you require the cash or
need income, it may be better to look at the
French options available which could be
more tax efficient than keeping the funds
where they are. This should be done before
leaving the UK tax regime and entering the
French as then no taxes will be payable.
Premium bonds are taxable in France so
that big win, may not be so large after all.
What about pensions? Where are they?
Can you access them yet? Review options
with your adviser so that your pensions are
in the best place ready for your move to
France. Use a qualified authorised financial
adviser who understands both the UK and
French tax systems so that you can make
an informed choice about your pension
options. Arrange for a state pension
forecast which will tell you how much you
will receive and when. Pension income is
often tax efficient in French terms
compared with investment income which
has a higher rate of ‘CSG’ or social charges.
However some forms of investment bonds
are incredibly tax inefficient especially if
they are the offshore variety and really can
be a ‘square peg’ in a round hole.
When you’re assessing your income, don’t
forget you may pay tax on it in France -
reducing what you have to spend. A good
adviser will be able to provide you with an
estimate of tax payable and look at ways
of minimising or reducing tax. Your estate
agent can usually recommend someone
English speaking who is local to you for tax
purposes or your financial adviser can
recommend someone to help based on
your needs. Getting it right first time means
that you won’t have to worry going forward.
You may need to think about inheritance
planning, doing this before you move can
save considerable heartache (and
headache) later. You may include all of your
assets (property and cash) wherever they
based. The notaire handling your house
purchase may only look at how the
property ownership should be structured,
which of course might be only part of what
A good adviser will be able to review
everything you have in place now and in
the future (after the sale of your UK
property for example). They should take
into account your income needs and
priorities, coupled with your inheritance
wishes and come up with a plan that will
help you start off on the right foot for tax
purposes once you become resident in
I’d advise you to use a competent tax
adviser to prepare your first French tax
return, especially if you don’t speak fluent
French. Getting it right first time means no
unpleasant surprises later on and allows
you time to figure out how the system
works. Your tax adviser can also liaise with
your financial advisor concerning the
timings for moving/closing some
investments which can be crucial.
Jennie Poate is a qualified financial adviser.
She is happy to answer any queries you
may have by telephone or email and she
and her team would be delighted to help
you plan your move to France.
Jennie can be contacted at: •
The information on this page is intended 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.
CURRENCY EXCHANGE – WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU?
Currency exchange in its simplest is just that, exchanging one currency for another but
there are different methods of doing this and which one is best for you will depend on
what your specific requirement is.
Euan Mclachlan at FC Exchange takes a look at British pounds into euros, and three
different options of carrying out a currency exchange:
Travel cash/Holiday money
For most people their experience of currency exchange will come from needing cash in the
local currency of their holiday destination. For many this transaction will have taken place
on the high street at some bureau de change or other and the rate they received will most
likely not have been given a great deal of consideration. Now however it is far easier to
compare and make sure you are getting the most for your pounds. Online comparison
sites provide the rates available from a number of providers with options to either pick up
the currency or have it delivered to you. Make sure you take account of any delivery
charges for your currency, particularly if it is a relatively small amount you are exchanging
as a good rate of exchange can be negated by a delivery charge.
Prepaid currency card
Prepaid currency cards are not new by any stretch of the imagination but may still be an
under-used but very viable option to carrying foreign currency. Currency cards provide
people with the ability to carry a card in the local currency and avoid the risk of carrying
cash. In addition and perhaps more importantly the exchange rate available on currency
cards is likely to be better than that available when converting to travel money. For
frequent travellers currency cards can be a good option as they can be topped up while
away with many having an app for doing this. Currency cards are also available in multicurrencies
which can prove invaluable for those travelling on business or who visit
The final method of currency exchange that we will look at in this article is the one that is
likely to be the most unfamiliar to most but is the one where the greatest savings can be
made and that is international money transfer or overseas payments. This type of
transaction is more usually carried out where people have a larger currency exchange
requirement and quite often a greater interest in the country that the currency relates to.
The default for many people making a foreign currency exchange of this sort is to use their
bank but a better option is to use an authorised currency broker such as FC Exchange. Not
only can a currency broker provide a better exchange rate they can also offer an improved
level of service and different options to ensure that best possible rate of exchange is
With all currency exchange requirements it is highly advisable to compare, be that online
providers and comparison sites versus the high street offerings for holiday money or a
currency broker versus a high street bank for an international payment. Taking some time
to look into the options available can save you money and make the process easier.
What is a Carte de Resident – and how do I get one?
For many people, the British vote to leave
the EU was a shock, none more so than
expats in France for whom the level of
uncertainty over what comes next for them,
Whilst MEPs in some EU countries openly
support the idea of offering dual citizenship
to residents, and facilitating the
process, it seems unlikely that France will
relax its stringent rules regarding the level
of French language and cultural understanding
currently required to qualify for
naturalisation, leaving many wondering
what they can do to protect their lives,
homes and careers in France before it’s too
But fear not, naturalisation is not the only
The French carte de resident or carte
resident longue durée UE, which is
normally designed for 5+ year residents
from non-EU countries, can also be
obtained by British residents following
application in person at your local
Check with your prefecture before going in,
as some have very specific instructions for
example in Nice (PACA region) you must
go to window Number 3, between 9 & 11.30.
Like all French processes, applying for a
card will mean lots of paperwork.
When you apply for a Carte de Resident,
you’ll need to take originals and copies of
the following documentation:
Recent proof of address (for example an
EDF bill less than 3 months old or a recent
If you married in France, take your ‘Livret
If you married abroad, take your marriage
certificate – accompanied by a translated
copy which must be conducted by a
traducteur assermenté (certified translator)
Your full birth certificate, showing parents’
names – this must also be translated by a
Proof of income
Long term contract and last payslip,
Or if self-employed take a recent extrait
Kbis and your last company accounts or
Auto-entrepreneurs should take their
‘facturier’ – a list of the invoices you have
issued in the previous year, in date order,
Proof of Pension Income
Your last two years of ‘avis d’imposition’ –
tax bill for your household
Your application form will be completed by
a prefecture employee with you present.
And, here’s a real bonus – whilst the UK is
still part of Europe, this card is delivered
free of charge, and without a requirement
for speaking French.
by Jo-Ann Howell at French Admin
Solutions who helps expats settle into life
Find lots more information for expats in
France on The Good Life France website
Property Guide France
It needn't be a puzzle says property expert and agent Tim
Sage as he looks at the selling process
For sellers in France there is both good
and bad news resulting from the UK
decision to leave the European Union.
We’re not here to go into the rights, wrongs
or otherwise of Brexit but let's start with
the bad news.
Over recent months, up to the end of June,
most of France saw a market with roughly
two homes for sale for every buyer
available. The trend is now heading
towards three for every buyer, as potential
home seekers in France await the tangible
results of Brexit. This is making the
existing sellers market harder to compete
in. How can you help yourself to be one of
the lucky ones?
That's where the good news comes in if
you’re a Brit looking to move back to the
UK. If your home has been on the market
for a while, then the first step you can take
is to reduce the asking price and here’s
Towards the end of 2015 we saw the
exchange rate between the euro and the
pound at around 1.45 euros to the GBP
while current levels (August 2016) are at
around 1.18 euros to the GBP.
If you hoped your home would get you
200,000 euros, at last year’s rate you
would have realised around 138,000 GBP
but now that same price will generate about
170,000GBP. Reducing your asking price
by 10% will still give you around 152,000
GBP at this rate.
thinking negative thoughts.
That's the financial side but what else can
you do?It's not unheard of for homes to be
sold without the buyer visiting but it is rare
so the point of advertising your home for
sale is not so much to sell it on the net or in
a window but to get potential buyers
through your door and make them go
“WOW, I really want this home”.
Make your house look its
When you sell, you first visior should be the
agent who will be helping you with the sale.
Make sure you have enough time to
prepare your home for the photographic
work they want to do. There is a limit to
amount of editing an agent can do,
changing grey skies to blue yes - but no
amount of editing will remove that pile of
dirty washing up or put away the laundry!
De-cluttering really helps when it comes to
photos, you can always put things away in
boxes ready for your new home when you
The second set of visitors are the potential
buyers themselves. Normally your agent
will be able to give at least a day’s notice
and often more than that but there are
times when they get a request for the same
day or even within a couple of hours. Make
sure your home is clean and tidy ready for
the visit and don't forget the garden – grass
cut and all looking good. As an agent, I
frequently hear during my after visit chat
with the buyers, “Could be nice but what a
tip, they don't care do they”, and buyers find
this offputting. They think, if your house
isn’t tidy, then what else is wrong with it?
Don’t give potential buyers any chance of
So, the house is looking great and the
garden is a riot of colour, the doorbell rings -
the visitors have arrived. If you have a dog,
put it outside even if its friendly. Not
everyone loves animals and you want to
make the first impression as good as you
Put the dog out!
There is a theory that the smell of freshly
baked bread or cake and brewing coffee will
enhance the viewing. I've no doubt it will but
the smell of burnt bread or cheap coffee
won't! Without sounding like an advert,
Febreeze works not by covering unwanted
smells but removing them (yes, proven) and
leaving a fresh smell in the house.
Personally I'm all for opening doors and
windows for fresh air but there are times in
the year when, in the agricultural parts of
France, they're best left closed!
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to
contact The Good Life France or direct to
The good life
Terry Marsh talks to a couple who've
downsized their life in the UK and moved to
France to run an Auberge
During the years of my doctoral research,
rather than do combat with the university
students for whom parking a car was
looked on as a martial art involving an
exquisite lack of spatial awareness, I opted
for the less hazardous parking available
through the good offices of the manager,
Tim Bell, at the adjacent hotel. The
Lancaster House Hotel is a 99-room, 4-star
establishment, complete with its own
restaurant and a bar menu that serves
arguably the best fish and chips in
Lancashire. Tim was manager here for
more than a decade.
Be that as it may, when, a while ago, I rang
to speak to Tim, I was told he had gone to
France. He’d moved lock, stock and barrel
to the nether regions of the Auvergne and
the Puy-de-Dôme; to a small and typically
rural French village (Auzelles), on the rim of
the Livradois Forez National Park, an area
of pristine afforested countryside and with
the wildlife to match. There, he and his
partner Ingrid, had bought a 5-roomed
auberge wherein they sought a revitalising
richness in their life experience.
Now that’s what I call downsizing...with a
vengeance. Their destination, the Auberge
de Chabanettes, has a long and colourful
history, a familiar landmark in this part of
rural France for over 150 years. In bygone
years, it served as a butchers shop, an
abattoir and a petrol station, but never lost
the inherent purpose of all inns, to provide
good food and lodging for travellers who
pass through the region, as well as warm
and welcoming place of refreshment for the
local community. After a devastating fire in
the 1980s, the Auberge was sadly left in
ruin for many years until it was completely
re-built and renovated in 2004.
I caught up with Tim and Ingrid just as the
magnitude of what they’d done was
dawning on them.
An Auberge in the Auvergne
Plans evolved, were re-shaped, re-born,
rejected, re-invented, knocked about a bit,
re-worked and either given up on, or
applied with an eye to taste and quality
that can only come from long years in the
hotel service industry... and it shows. It
almost goes without saying that whatever
funds they had when the brainchild was
born, were soon metamorphosed into
bricks, mortar, furniture, bedding, linen and
sundry other furnishings and tasteful bits.
Never mind the bank balance; look at the
Tim, in a moment of reflection told me: ‘It
was always going to take something really
quite special to tempt me away from the
green, lush, dramatic land that I’ve been
proud to call home for so long’.
What did it for him was the relatively
unknown volcanic region of France called
the Auvergne. It may even have been me
that told Tim about the Auvergne, as I’ve
been coming here for years... then again it
might be because Ingrid’s parents had
recently retired to ‘nearby’ Languedoc, and
after 20 years in the UK, for Ingrid the
Auvergne was a case of finally going home.
Either way, it was a new beginning.
As is so often the case these days, English
Tim and French Ingrid met by online dating,
and I have to say...Tim did very well out of
the digital coup de foudre. They now have a
son, Lorenzo, who in a year or so should be
good for dishwashing, and a short while
after that, waiting on, preparing meals, and
generally managing the entire business
while mum and dad sit by the river sipping
the award-winning wines produced at
Saint-Georges d’Ibry in the Languedoc.
That is how these things work, isn’t it?
A new life in France
Each year, many people contemplate doing
much the same, up-rooting and setting up
home in France. In Ingrid, Tim has a French
anchor, and that’s sure to make quite a
difference, not least when it comes to the
morass that is French bureaucracy.
The reality is that there are hurdles to
overcome, but all you need is the patience
to overcome them; it’s no use complaining.
You have to get stuck in, red tape can be
quite appealing in a masochistic kind of
way. The UK’s departure from the EU is
certain to throw up yet more hurdles; c’est
la vie. But when the dust settles, normality
will resume, and the Auvergne can
continue its rise in favour with Britain and
the rest of Europe.
I have to say that what they have achieved
so far is awe-inspiring. The auberge is
comfortable, welcoming and a peaceful
place to retreat from the brouhaha of
modern life. As a base from which to
explore this part of the Auvergne it couldn’t
be better, and it just goes to show what can
be achieved with positive thinking.
Tim’s final word on the matter: ‘For us, the
Auvergne hasn’t just ticked every box. It’s
blown us away in terms of what it can offer,
and more importantly...what it can offer
discerning tourists of the future’. But you
don’t have to take Tim’s word for it; come
and see for yourself.
Auberge de Chabanettes
See Tim's top tips for anyone thinking of
running an Auberge in France next page...
Tips and picks for home buyers in the Auvergne see page 56
3 Granny Smith apples
2 pears (we used conference)
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
3 tablesppons blanched almonds
½ teaspoon all-spice
1.5 tbs brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
10 slices filo pastry (30cm round)
Icing sugar to garnish
1. Peel apples and pears and cut into 1.5cm
chunks. Roughly chop almonds and set
aside with the fruit.
2. Put brown sugar into frying pan with a
couple of tablespoons of water to help it
dissolve, cook until it is just turning to
3. Add apples, pears, almonds &
cranberries, cook over medium heat until
the apple and pears are just soft and the
almonds are golden brown; but be careful
not to burn them! Remove from heat and
leave to cool
4. Brush a filo leaf with melted
butter, place another one on top
and brush with butter. Divide the
fruit mix into 5 equal portions, and
place a portion of mix just off
centre on the pastry. Fold in the
sides to cover fruit, then roll/fold
the pastry to form a parcel. Place
on baking tray and repeat for the
other 4 parcels.
5. Cook in pre-heated oven at 160°
C until golden brown (approx 30 to
Dust with icing sugar just before
serving. Lovely autumnal pudding,
very quick to make and a great use
of seasonal fruit. Cooking the
almonds until golden brown brings
out the flavour however they can
burn very easily so you really need
to keep an eye on them!
You can of course vary the fruit you use, or the
nuts pecans are also delicious with this. Lovely
served with vanilla ice-cream, or créme fraîche or
The parcels can be made up to a day in
advance and kept in the fridge but
should be cooked to order.
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By Countess Alex
Coquille St Jacques
with a Truffle and
3-4 large prepared scallops per person
l large wine glass of Sauterne (or any dessert wine )
6-7 dessertspoons double cream
60 g chopped truffle
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and white pepper
1. Wash the scallops well in cold water. Dry with a kitchen towel. Remove the roe and put
to one side. Peel and finely chop shallots. Fry with a little butter until golden brown. Add
the wine and let it simmer for 1 minute then add the cream. Reduce by a third over a low
heat and leave until needed.
2. Take a heavy bottomed frying pan, slice scallops horizontally into 2 thinner discs. Melt
the butter and sear the scallops on each side until golden brown. Add the chopped roe
then take off the heat.
3. Add the scallops to the prepared sauce with the finely chopped truffle and reheat
gently for 12 minutes. Season. Sprinkle with a pinch of the pepper. Serve immediately.
1 litre milk
2 sachets vanilla sugar
1 vanilla pod or 1 tea spoon vanilla essence
15 threads/strands saffron
1. Infuse milk with the saffron threads at least half an hour before cooking. Add sugar and
vanilla pod to the milk and bring to the boil. Remove vanilla pod, split and empty into the
2. Break eggs into a bowl and whisk. Pour boiled milk slowly over the beaten eggs and
continue whisking. Pour mixture into an oven proof glass dish or 6 ramekins.
3. Put into a cold oven. Cook for 20 mins at 120 C (Gas Mark 23); 10 mins at 180 C (Mark
6) and 5 mins at 210 C (Gas mark 7)
Serve with a glass of sweet white wine...
Karen Burns-Booth cre
450g of blackberries, fresh
450g of white cane sugar
1 lemon, juiced
Flake test: dip a large spoon into the pan of jam and
scoop out a spoonful, hold the spoon horizontally
over the pan of jam and allow the jam to
drip……setting point has been reached when the jam
forms a long drip, like webbed feet, and hangs
without dropping from the spoon.
Cold saucer test: place a saucer in the freezer; spoon
a spoonful of jam onto the cold saucer, and push it
with your finger, setting point has been reached
when the jam wrinkles and sets.
Temperature test: use a sugar thermometer and
place the thermometer into a jug of boiling water just
before testing for a set; lower the thermometer into
the jam and setting point has been reached when the
reading is 104.5C (220F)
1 Place the blackberries and lemon juice in
a large pan and simmer gently for about 15
minutes until the fruit is soft
2 Meanwhile, warm the sugar in a low oven.
When the fruit is cooked, add the sugar and
stir the sugar and fruit over a low heat until
the sugar has dissolved
3 Turn the heat up and bring the fruit and
sugar to a boil, boil for 10–15 minutes until
setting point has been reached (see setting
point testing notes above)
4 Once setting point has been reached,
take the pan off the heat, spoon any scum
off the top of the jam and leave to sit for
about 10 minutes
5 Ladle the hot jam into warm, sterile jam
jars and seal immediately with a screw-top
lid. Label once cold.
ates in the cuisine!
400g fresh or frozen blackeberries (well
drained and defrosted if frozen)
100g caster sugar
100g melted butter
300g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large free-range eggs beaten with 150mls
milk (or 150mls buttermilk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 Pre-heat oven to 160C/325F/Gas mark 3
and line a 12 x hole bun/cake or muffin tray
with paper cases. Mix the topping
ingredients of sugar and spice together
and set to one side.
2 Place all of the ingredients, EXCEPT the
blackberries and topping into a mixing
bowl and mix until JUST blended, do NOT
3 Add half of the blackberries and gently
stir through the batter mixture.
4 Spoon half of the mixture into the paper
cases, scatter a few more blackberries on
top of the mixture, then add the rest of the
4 tablespoons Demerara sugar
1 teaspoon mixed spice (or a mixture
of ground cinnamon and nutmeg)
cake mixture. Scatter any remaining
blackberries over the top and bake for 10 to
12 minutes or until the cakes have risen and
are golden brown.
5 Take them out of the oven and sprinkle
over the sugar and spice mixture, whilst
they are still hot and in the tin.
6 As soon as they are cool enough to
handle, after about 5 minutes, gently ease
the cakes out of the tin and place them on
a wire rack to cool completely.
7 Suitable for freezing and are wonderful
when heated and served with custard, as a
I love autumn in France, particularly in my
part of the country, the Seven Valleys in the
This is a lush, verdant part of France,
agricultural, forested and criss-crossed by
streams and rivers. I love how the leaves on
the trees change colour from the bright
greens of summer to vibrant yellow and
fiery red, and the hedgerows start to thin.
Wild flowers put on a display of jewel like
colours in the fields. Apples fall in the wind,
the mornings are misty, the grass is glittery
Everyone seems to have a spring in their
step as they return to work and school after
their long summer holiday. It still never
ceases to amaze me how many businesses
close for summer here in France, even
restaurants, just when you think they
would be busiest!
In preparation for the winter my neighbours
make jam and freeze boiled summer fruits
and vegetables. They store produce from
their gardens and fields, potatoes are
hoarded in cellars, carrots stored in boxes
of sand. Pumpkins start to be harvested
and there is always a contest to see who
grew the biggest in the village - one year a
green fingered monsieur grew one so large
no one could lift it and it had to be rolled
into a tractor bucket to get it out of the
garden. I bet they were eating pumpkin pie
They're not the only ones preparing for
winter. Wild pigs and deer, even eagles start
foraging seriously, and my adopted
hedgehogs - there are five of them that
regularly feed at the back door, will start to
eat more ready for hibernating.
It's a time for celebration of the harvest and
every village will hold a party. Called a
Ducasse or a Kermesse, the entire village is
invited to join in with a meal, usually
mussels and chips, accompanied by
copious amounts of beer, wine or cider
followed by dancing, often going on until
the early hours of the morning. Even the
dogs join in, howling at the surprising and
unusual nocturnal noise in this normally
My ducks, geese and chickens like autumn
too, especially when I chuck the fallen
apples into the pen! My three dogs love to
run in the cooler weather at this time of the
year - the fields of sweet corn and wheat
have been cut and they race down the neat
lines, searching for the grouse and
pheasant that are so plentiful.
Wishing you a Happy Autumn from me and
my (gulp) 72 animals! xx