Issue No. 12

Sensational cities to tiny villages, food and wine, culture and heritage. Champagne, an aristocratic saffron grower, Anger, Montparnasse, Morzeine, Carol Drinkwater shares her passion for France. Gorgeous photos and fabulous features will transport you to the heart of France in this brilliant, free magazine...

Sensational cities to tiny villages, food and wine, culture and heritage. Champagne, an aristocratic saffron grower, Anger, Montparnasse, Morzeine, Carol Drinkwater shares her passion for France. Gorgeous photos and fabulous features will transport you to the heart of France in this brilliant, free magazine...

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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



Our Contributors

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

of France.

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

Page 32

Page 10

Above: Chateau Vaux-le-

Vicomte; right above, cycling in

Champagne in Autumn; right

Jardin de Luxembourg, Paris

Page 46


10 Chateau de Vaux-le-


A story of betrayal, passion and love at this

magnificent castle.

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 76

Page 64 Page 72

Features continued

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

for French.

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!

Page 24

Page 117

Page 9

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

Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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

Nuit Blanche

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

visitors. journeesdupatrimoine.culture.fr

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

de Vaux-le-Vicomte

© 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

alongside Fouquet

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

the sumptuously

decorated rooms

Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte


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

(below right).

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!

Website: www.vaux-le-vicomte

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

national psyche.

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...

balance... democracy...

support of the arts...

excellent education

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,

elegant resorts.

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

yourself within.

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

top picks:

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

sensational house

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


Bubbles, vineyards,

bubbles, chateaux,

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,

medieval, wine-tastic


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.

Loire Valley

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

beautiful region.

The Secret part of

the Champagne


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

years war.

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.....

snail ma!

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

Silière, classic

design; below left,

a giant "escargot"

you can cilmb,

reminiscent of an

Egyptian pyramid;

below at the Jardin

de Vergentièr

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

a flash!

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

when cooked.

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

grown commercially,

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

stigmas grew.

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

Dumont’s grave.

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

tourist throng.

along the Boulevard du Montparnasse is

Discover Arty


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

use today.

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

Atlantique which

covers the Gare


Roof top garden

Montparnasse station

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

lovely Montmartre

over-looking a

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

lively Mouffetard

neighbourhood (5th),

famous for its market.

Recently renovated

with great rooftop



click here for more info


click here for more info

Paris 4th - Ile de la Cite

island: Superbly

located on the Quai aux

Fleurs, overlooking the

Seine and just behind

Notre-Dame Cathedral.

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.

City Life

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.

Mountain Towns

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

restaurant, sensational.

Hotel Les Nations. Vichy. Central

location. classic functional French Hotel

Where to eat

Les Kancres, Clermont Ferrand: a proper

little bistro

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

in France.

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

independent house,

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

Loire valley...

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


City Life

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

in haste.

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

delightful surroundings.

Angers has culture, heritage and

architecture in considerable abundance,

and is well worth making the journey to


Further information

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

amazing desserts!

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

Flavours of

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

abound here.

In Paris, during the

50’s, sophisticated

dinner parties

always had

something “truffle”.

If what you served

lacked truffle, you

sure wouldn’t tell

your friends the

truth for fear of

being “out” of the

“in” crowd.

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

short time.

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

Dordogne, www.vallee-dordogne.com

If planning on having lunch in

Loubressac, it might be wise to make a

reservation: www.loucantou.com

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

be unearthed.

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:

Price €529,000

Beautiful, fully restored 19th century

manoir located in the village of Marle,

in the Aisne.

Click here for more details

Price €392,200

Price €414,000

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

e snow

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

the nursery.

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

your French

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

of inspirational.

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


above Lucy



skiing; right:

gourmet fun in

the alps

Photo: Morzine Tourist Office/Jarry Tripelon

"Friendly French

Scheme -


shops and


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

families; below:

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

awesome experience

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.

Top tips:

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.


Win a Six Month Subscription To Frantastiq

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good dollop of humour, and tips for French life keep you loving this course from start to finish

The Forgotten summer by Carol Drinkwater

The annual grape harvest at the Cambon family's

magnificent vineyard is always a cause for celebration.

But not this year. When an accident destroys the crop,

leaving the estate facing ruin, Clarisse Cambon knows

exactly who to blame - her daughter-in-law Jane. It's just

the latest incident in a decades-long feud whose origin

both women have concealed from Luc, who struggles to

keep his wife and mother on speaking terms. But is Luc

the saint he appears to be? When tragedy strikes, Jane is

thrown into doubt. What secrets has her husband been


Only in Paris by Duncan J Smith

A comprehensive illustrated guide to more

than 100 fascinating and unusual historical

sites in one of Europe's great capital cities -

quiet cloisters, eccentric museums, covered

passageways, secret gardens,and unusual

shops. From the Parisii tribe and Roman

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including sites such as The Pagoda cinema,

the Museum of Magic, Foucault's pendulum,

and a subterranean necropolis.


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Beginning French by Les Americains

First they took French. Then they took leave of

their senses. They bought a 400-year-old

cottage in rural France from an ad on the

Internet. Their “completely restored” farmhouse

certainly looked charming, but the pool leaked,

the walls cracked, and the electricity fizzled

whenever they switched on the kettle. This is

the wry and witty memoir of les Américains,

Eileen and Marty, joined by their chef-daughter

Sara. Their dream of being French leads them

into uncharted territory where “oh la la” takes

on a whole different meaning.

Bon Moments by Perry Taylor

Beautiful Indian ink drawings of life in rural

France in the sunny southern region of

Gascony. Perry's witty take on the daily

goings on in this sunny part of France

makes you smile and his whimsical

drawings are perfect for coffee tables

everywhere - but beware - your friends will

want to "borrow" this beautiful book! Warm,

wonderful and deliciously funny...

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.")

If you’re struggling to get the words right, we’ve partnered with

the fabulous Frantastique whose online French courses are

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month French language course with

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!


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: editor@thegoodlifefrance.com and we’ll see if we

can get it answered for you.

Euan McLachlan

currency expert at

FC Exchange

Jennie Poate,

Finance expert at

Beacon Global


Jo-Ann Howell

Life in France expert

at French Admin


Tim Sage

Property Expert

Leggett Immobillier

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 market!

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

the chance?

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

outdoor activities.

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

grabbing price reduced from

€369,000 to €320,000

Click here for more details



4/5 bedroom chalet with separate

apartment for sale in a village near

Morzine, sunny location with

spectacular views.

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


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

you have.

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 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

differing countries.

Money transfer

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,

is huge.

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:

Your passport

Recent proof of address (for example an

EDF bill less than 3 months old or a recent

rent receipt

If you married in France, take your ‘Livret

de famille’

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

traducteur assermenté

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,

including value

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

in France.

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

The Auvergne

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

60g butter

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

40 minutes)

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

whipped cream.

Advanced Preparation

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

Sauterne Sauce


3-4 large prepared scallops per person

2 shallots

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.





andra Simonoff-Arpels


5 eggs

1 litre milk

140g sugar

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

hot milk.

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

Setting points:

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

over mix.

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

hot pudding.





I love autumn in France, particularly in my

part of the country, the Seven Valleys in the

far north.

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

with dew.

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

for months!

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

tranquil countryside.

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

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