Spring 2022

Discover Paris in the spring, Caen in Normandy and its marvellous markets plus Yvoire, a picturesque village on the edge of Lake Geneva in Haute-Savoie. Explore Saint-Omer, a historic city in the far north that's full of secrets and treasures, and Evian, where Frankenstein's monster stayed! Head with us to Metz in Lorraine to find out about its incredible past, La Couvertoirade, one of the prettiest villages in France, and the UNESCO heritage of Avignon. Guides, gorgeous photos, what's new in France, the best tours and delicious recipes from the legendary Le Nôtre bakery in Paris - and more.

Discover Paris in the spring, Caen in Normandy and its marvellous markets plus Yvoire, a picturesque village on the edge of Lake Geneva in Haute-Savoie. Explore Saint-Omer, a historic city in the far north that's full of secrets and treasures, and Evian, where Frankenstein's monster stayed! Head with us to Metz in Lorraine to find out about its incredible past, La Couvertoirade, one of the prettiest villages in France, and the UNESCO heritage of Avignon. Guides, gorgeous photos, what's new in France, the best tours and delicious recipes from the legendary Le Nôtre bakery in Paris - and more.

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The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 29<br />

Paris<br />

in the spring<br />

Spotlight<br />

on the UNESCO<br />

sites of Avignon<br />

Le weekend:<br />

in Metz<br />

Saint-Omer,<br />

the secret gem of<br />

northern France<br />

Discover Evian,<br />

La Couvertoirade,<br />

Yvoire and more...<br />

Unmissable<br />

Provence<br />

- the must see sites<br />

Discover<br />

historic Caen<br />

Magazine<br />

Iconic cake<br />

& croissant<br />

recipes from the<br />

legendary<br />

Lenôtre's of Paris<br />

120 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos

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Bienvenue<br />

Bonjour and bienvenue to The Good Life France magazine<br />

<strong>Spring</strong> <strong>2022</strong> issue, and I’m absolutely delighted to be back<br />

with the magazine after a little break and with travel opening<br />

up again. I’ve been busy behind the scenes with a new book<br />

out this year (Toujours la France!) and we’ve moved the<br />

magazine onto a new whizzy platform and our new designer<br />

Philippa has made it look even more beautiful than ever I hope<br />

you’ll agree.<br />

I know many of you will be dreaming of, and planning to visit<br />

France, so I hope that you will find this edition inspirational and<br />

the cause of daydreams!<br />

Before I get started – a massive thank you to all the sponsors<br />

who’ve made this issue possible, you’ll spot their adverts<br />

throughout and I promise you this, they are the best!<br />

This issue is going to seriously tempt your taste buds with the<br />

most delicious pastry recipes from the famous Le Nôtre bakery<br />

in Paris. And talking of Paris – our gorgeous photos of the City<br />

of Love and Light in the spring will definitely make you want to<br />

come and sit under a Parisian cherry tree.<br />

Explore the wonderful, historic city of Metz in Alsace in the<br />

north-east, the mouth-watering markets of Caen in Normandy<br />

and the extraordinary town of Saint-Omer in the north of<br />

France, which has so many ancient and secret places it is<br />

mind-boggling. Discover the lost monuments of Paris, stunning<br />

alpine Evian, Avignon astounding UNESCO listed sites,<br />

unmissable Provence – and much more.<br />

I hope I’ve tempted you to flip every page of this issue, so I’ll<br />

let you go now, and enjoy the fabulous articles and stunning<br />

photos.<br />

Don’t forget to subscribe – it’s free (see page 4) and share this<br />

issue with your friends – that’s free too! You can download the<br />

magazine, and even print it if you prefer!<br />

Bisous from France,<br />

Janine<br />

Follow us @frenchjanine<br />

On Twitter, Instagram &<br />

Facebook<br />

Janine Marsh<br />

Editor<br />

The Good Life France | 3

To Subscribe to<br />




The magazine is free to read, download and share<br />

Contributors<br />

Amy McPherson is a London<br />

based travel writer and regular<br />

contributor to The Good Life<br />

France whose work has been<br />

featured in many international<br />

publications. When not on<br />

assignment, she loves a day spent<br />

riding her bike or running along the<br />

river Thames, or relaxing with her<br />

cat on her lap.<br />

Sue Aran is a writer, photographer,<br />

and tour guide living in the Gers<br />

department of southwest France.<br />

She is the owner of French Country<br />

Adventures, which provides<br />

personally-guided, small-group,<br />

slow travel tours into Gascony,<br />

the Pays Basque, Provence and<br />

beyond.<br />

Keith Van Sickle is a writer who<br />

splits his time between California<br />

and Provence. He is the author<br />

of An Insider’s Guide to Provence,<br />

One Sip at a Time: Learning to<br />

Live in Provence and Are<br />

We French Yet? Keith & Val’s<br />

Adventures in Provence. Read<br />

more at Life in Provence.<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Front Cover: By renowned Paris photographer Saul Aggo.<br />

Find more of his gorgeous photos on Instagram: saaggo and at<br />

saaggophoto.com<br />

Editor-in-chief: Janine Marsh<br />

Editorial assistant: Trudy Watkins<br />

Press enquiries: editor (at) the Good Life France.com<br />

Advertising: sales (at) the Good Life France.com<br />

Digital support: websitesthatwork.com<br />

Layout design: Philippa French littlefrogdesign.co.uk<br />

Issue 29 <strong>Spring</strong> <strong>2022</strong>, released March <strong>2022</strong><br />

4 | The Good Life France


The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 29/<strong>Spring</strong> <strong>2022</strong><br />


8 Paris in the spring<br />

Is there anything dreamier than<br />

the city of love in the spring?<br />

We don’t think so…<br />

16 Marvellous markets and<br />

Janine Marsh heads for Caen<br />

and discovers the historic city<br />

has markets to drool over.<br />

36<br />

24 Hidden France: Jewel<br />

of the north<br />

With its wonderful architecture,<br />

incredible wildlife and vibrant<br />

town centre, Saint-Omer is<br />

simply wonderful.<br />

36 Le Weekend in Metz<br />

Just 80 minutes from Paris by<br />

train, Moselle’s main city has<br />

something for everyone.<br />

48 UNESCO listed Avignon<br />

The sunny city in Provence is<br />

home to a treasure trove of<br />

historic buildings.<br />

48<br />

74 Unmissable Provence<br />

Need inspiration for a visit<br />

to the south of France?<br />

Keith van Sickle shares some<br />

of the top sights.<br />

The Good Life France | 5

60<br />


42 Plus Beau Village<br />

One of the best preserved<br />

Templar Knights villages in<br />

France, La Couvertoirade is a<br />

great place to visit.<br />

56 Lost Monuments of Paris<br />

Sue Aran uncovers the stories<br />

behind some of Paris’ most<br />

beautiful lost buildings.<br />

60 Spotlight on Evian<br />

The tranquil city where<br />

Frankenstein once stayed!<br />

66 Active by Nature<br />

Amy McPherson finds beauty<br />

and adventure in unspoiled<br />

Vercors in south-east France.<br />

89 French Canals<br />

Author David Jefferson cruises<br />

the mighty river Rhône.<br />

94<br />


94 Your Photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our Facebook<br />

page.<br />

70 The Pearl of Lake Geneva<br />

Photo Essay of the gorgeous<br />

medieval village of Yvoire in<br />

Haute-Savoie.<br />


78 What’s New<br />

New series – all the news and<br />

events you need for your next<br />

trip to France.<br />

78<br />

84 Tours de France<br />

The very best of France for<br />

tours and holidays.<br />

6 | The Good Life France

92 Language<br />

New series –<br />

5 Minute French Lesson.<br />

118 Last word<br />

Life in rural France.<br />

36<br />

GUIDES<br />

98 Central France<br />

A look at the property scene in<br />

Auvergne, Burgundy, Centre<br />

and Limousin.<br />

103 What is a French Vie<br />

Assurance?<br />

The experts explain how it all<br />

works and what it means.<br />


The famous Le Nôtre boulangerie<br />

in Paris shares scrumptious recipes…<br />

104 Croissant<br />

Make France’s favourite pastry<br />

like a pro.<br />

108 Chocolate croissant<br />

Be inspired to make this<br />

irresistible treat.<br />

24<br />

112 Brioche pudding<br />

Utterly, butterly scrumptious<br />

brioche.<br />

114 French Almond cake<br />

This sweet treat is sure to<br />

become a favourite home bake.<br />

116 Pain d’épices des Gâtines<br />

Delicious and oh so moreish<br />

spice cake.<br />

112<br />

4 Subscribe to The Good Life<br />

France Magazine<br />

Everything you want to know<br />

about France and more<br />

The Good Life France | 7

8 | The Good Life France

PARIS<br />

in the spring<br />

“When spring comes to Paris, the humblest mortal<br />

alive must feel that he dwells in paradise”<br />

– Henry Miller<br />

Champs de Mars © Nathalie Geffroy<br />

Paris is undoubtedly a year-round city, but<br />

there is something about the spring that’s<br />

special. Paris in the spring is a cliché but<br />

like the best of clichés, it’s also a tangible<br />

experience.<br />

The air is soft and warm, the sun’s rays filter<br />

through the cherry blossom and light up<br />

bunches of pink and purple wisteria festooning<br />

fences, climbing over shop windows and<br />

doorways. The trees that line boulevards and<br />

avenues burst into life; boules games resume<br />

in the parks. Favourite city spots start to fill up<br />

with people flinging off their coats and settling<br />

in to watch the world go by from the terraces<br />

of their favourite cafés from Montmartre to<br />

Montparnasse. Families stroll in the parks,<br />

The Good Life France | 9

Basilica of Sacré-Coeur at sunset<br />

the pleasure boats float on the Seine beneath<br />

the bridges and alongside famous landmarks,<br />

the Eiffel Tower, the Conciergerie, the Musée<br />

d’Orsée.<br />

When the spring rain falls, people say, oh but<br />

the chestnut trees smell better in the rain. The<br />

sun rises a little earlier each morning, twilight<br />

arrives a little later each night and the sunsets<br />

glow every shade of rosiness from pale salmon<br />

to burned-orange, turning the Basilica of<br />

Sacre-Coeur from pure white to blush pink.<br />

At the flower market in the shadow of the<br />

great Cathedral of Notre-Dame, old ladies<br />

wander through the Belle Epoque kiosks<br />

choosing pots of flowers to decorate their<br />

windowsills and balconies with daffodils, lily<br />

of the valley, miniature roses and geraniums.<br />

The sellers at the market rediscover their<br />

dormant joie de vivre, their fingers no longer<br />

turning purple-blue with the cold, and in rue<br />

Mouffetard, the fruit sellers lay out bunches<br />

https://www.cognac-no22.com/<br />

10 | The Good Life France

of asparagus and sweet strawberries tempting<br />

buyers to enjoy the taste of spring.<br />

The public parks and secret gardens burst<br />

into colour as flowerbeds bloom, and<br />

strollers take a break on the famous green<br />

chairs. Puppet shows, guignol, return and<br />

in the Luxembourg Gardens, starry-eyed<br />

children sail wooden boats across the Grand<br />

Basin. Close by, flowers flourish in great<br />

pots around the Medici fountain which<br />

was commissioned by Marie de Medici,<br />

Queen of France, in about 1630.<br />

The bouquinistes open their book boxes<br />

along the Seine and bring out their<br />

piles of posters and books. The sun<br />

shines through stained glass windows<br />

of churches casting a kaleidoscope of<br />

colours inside the cool interiors.<br />

The famous green chairs you see in Paris parks were originally commissioned by<br />

the Paris Senate, Sénat, and are known as SENAT chairs. They first appeared<br />

in the Luxembourg gardens, and though you can’t buy SENAT chairs (they are<br />

exclusive to Paris), you can buy similar – Luxembourg chairs!<br />

The Good Life France | 11

Twilight in rue Saint-Dominique © Nathalie Geffroy<br />

Pavement cafe in spring © Nathalie Geffroy<br />

https://jackdawjourneys.com/<br />

12 | The Good Life France

Paris flower market © Nathalie Geffroy<br />

The Good Life France | 13

Parc Clichy-Batignolles – Martin Luther King, 17th arrondissement<br />

© Nathalie Geffroy<br />

The cherry blossom blooms around mid-<br />

April in Paris and several parks and gardens<br />

have rows of them including Parc Clichy-<br />

Batignolles – Martin Luther King, 17th<br />

arrondissement and Place Marcel Aymé.<br />

It’s just off Rue Norvins in Montmartre,<br />

where you’ll find a statue of Dutilleul AKA<br />

‘The Walker through the Walls.’ Bookworms<br />

will enjoy the cherry blossom tree in front<br />

of Shakespeare & Co. book shop near the<br />

Cathedral of Notre Dame. Parc Monceau,<br />

and Jardins des Plantes are also lovely.<br />

And if you’re a wisteria fan, head to Au<br />

Vieux Paris d’Arcole restaurant in rue<br />

Channoinesse, a stone’s throw from Notre<br />

Dame to enjoy the spring blooms that<br />

drape across the front. The wisteria here<br />

was planted in 1946 and has its own special<br />

license to grow large!<br />

Rue Mouffetard one of the oldest streets in Paris where there has been a market since the Middle Ages.<br />

Photos by Nathalie Geffroy, Paris photographer extraordinaire, find more of her stunning<br />

photographs at : Instagram/nathparis and at nathparis.net<br />

14 | The Good Life France

Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole © Nathalie Geffroy<br />

The Good Life France | 15

Caen La Mer:<br />

Markets, monuments,<br />

museums and memorials<br />

16 | The Good Life France

Think of Caen and most likely the things that pop into your mind will include William<br />

the Conqueror, whose power base was here, and Caen Memorial.<br />

Caen is the biggest city in, as well as the capital of, lower Normandy. It’s a town<br />

with a vibrant vibe, history, grand architecture, a fantastic foodie culture and a real<br />

community spirit – it’s all about the markets.<br />

There is a market every day of the week here but the two big ones are on Friday and<br />

Sunday mornings…<br />

The Market of<br />

Saint-Sauveur<br />

The Friday morning market in Place Saint-<br />

Sauveur is a stone’s throw from the famous<br />

Abbaye aux Hommes, built as a penance<br />

by William the Conqueror. The Pope<br />

excommunicated the then Duke of Normandy<br />

for marrying his cousin Matilda of Flanders<br />

in 1053, but he was forgiven by founding the<br />

Abbey in 1063, whilst Matilda founded the<br />

nearby Abbaye aux Dames in about 1060.<br />

Both buildings, each to the side of the castle<br />

of Caen, were paid for with booty stolen<br />

from England. And both Matilda and William<br />

were interred in their abbeys. Marble<br />

plaques mark the spots, though William’s<br />

now only contains a single thigh bone, the<br />

rest of his bones were scattered during the<br />

French Revolution.<br />

The Good Life France | 17

Early on a sunny Friday morning, I explored<br />

the market which spills out of Place Saint-<br />

Sauveur the oldest square in the city and into<br />

the roads around. It’s probably the oldest<br />

market in Caen too. Though the date for when<br />

it started isn’t known, the market is mentioned<br />

in documents from the time of Richard II,<br />

William the conqueror’s grandfather.<br />

About 250 traders are here, selling everything<br />

foodie and almost everything else. Local<br />

honey, butter, cider, calvados (apple brandy),<br />

garlic and even ginger, saffron and yuzus<br />

grown less than an hour from the city.<br />

Of course, Norman cheeses are there in<br />

abundance - Camembert, affectionately<br />

known as God’s feet by the locals, Pont-<br />

L’Evêque, Livarot and Neufchâtel. I stopped in<br />

my tracks at the sight of chocolate bread and<br />

a delicious spread of tarts and cakes. “Would<br />

you like to try” the stall holder asked me,<br />

smiling as I sighed with happiness – it tastes<br />

divine. An elderly lady nodded approvingly<br />

and told me that she never buys any food at a<br />

supermarket, only this market and the Sunday<br />

morning ‘big one.’<br />

In the square, shoppers pulling trolleys and<br />

carrying baskets and bags are watched over<br />

by a statue of a no-doubt approving Louis XIV<br />

dressed as a Roman Emperor. A voracious<br />

gourmand, he was said to eat up to 300<br />

oysters in a single sitting. With that in mind I<br />

followed my nose to the fish market where the<br />

freshest of scallops, which are emblematic of<br />

Caen, sea snails, bulots, fish and all manner of<br />

shellfish were arrayed. A group of infants on<br />

a school trip to learn about food passed me<br />

18 | The Good Life France

y chatting about the incredible display and<br />

laughing at a stall called ‘Standouille’, a play<br />

on words in French ‘c’est un andouille’ which<br />

sells an impressive range of sausages.<br />

Tripe of course is also sold at the market, Tripe<br />

à la mode de Caen is the traditional dish of<br />

the city, and they’re very proud of it here. And<br />

it if floats your boat, pop to Boucherie Sabot<br />

in Boulevard des Alliés near the 14th century<br />

Tour Leroy. Sabots is Normandy’s most<br />

famous, multi-award winning, third-generation<br />

family producers of Tripe.<br />

It’s an impressively beautiful, irresistibly<br />

scrumptious market – enough to make me<br />

want to move to Caen!<br />

At the other end of the marketplace, the<br />

vast ramparts of Caen Castle are imposing<br />

The Good Life France | 19

20 | The Good Life France

and majestic, one of the largest medieval<br />

enclosures in Europe, built in around 1060.<br />

Though the castle lies in ruins, there are<br />

wonderful views from the top and there are<br />

two excellent museums – the Musée des<br />

Beaux Arts and the fascinating Musée de<br />

Normandie which explores the history of the<br />

Norman people, within the enclosure.<br />

Marché du Dimanche<br />

Saint Pierre<br />

The most important market in the region takes<br />

place on Sunday morning market at the port<br />

de Plaisance in Caen. Along the quay of the<br />

bassin Saint-Pierre, on Place Courtonne and<br />

Quai Vandeuvre, you’ll find a whopping 400+<br />

traders selling pretty much everything. There’s<br />

a mind-boggling array of local products<br />

straight from the farm, olives from Provence<br />

and goods from all around France, artisan and<br />

craft goods, clothes, homeware and more.<br />

Families amble, browse and buy, stopping to<br />

look out over the port at the boats bobbing<br />

up and down, their anchors clanging gently,<br />

while birds hover waiting for titbits. Keen cooks<br />

buy the freshest produce for the all-important<br />

Sunday meal, and baskets are filled with food<br />

for the week ahead.<br />

What really surprised me about this market<br />

was the dizzying amount of street food<br />

stands. Great steaming bowls of aromatic<br />

noodles and cauldrons of prawns and shellfish,<br />

irresistible Brittany style galettes, succulent<br />

roasting chickens, even vegan.<br />

Where to eat out:<br />

Caen is a foodie’s paradise and the local<br />

restaurant chefs are often to be seen at the<br />

city’s markets. You’ll find heaps of choice<br />

when it comes to eating out, these are just a<br />

few of my favourites:<br />

L’Aromate, 9 Rue Gémare, 14000 Caen.<br />

laromate-caen.fr<br />

Superb menu and it’s all about the ingredients<br />

– the freshest fish and vegetables and chef.<br />

The staff are friendly, the ambiance is great –<br />

you simply can’t go wrong here.<br />

The Good Life France | 21

https://www.sophiesgreatwartours.com/<br />

https://parischanson.fr/<br />

22 | The Good Life France

L’Okara, 24 Rue Froide, 14000 Caen.<br />

lokara.fr<br />

Welcoming organic and ethical vegetable<br />

restaurant that’s perfect for vegetarian and<br />

vegan dining.<br />

Une Cuillére a Carrée, 22 Rue de Bernières,<br />

14000 Caen. unecuillerecarree.fr<br />

A real favourite with the locals for its refined<br />

and delicious menu.<br />

Le Pt’tit B 15 Rue du Vaugueux, 14000<br />

Caen. leptitb.fr<br />

In an ancient building in the medieval district,<br />

in a picture postcard pretty street, in the<br />

shadow of the great castle ramparts with a<br />

superb menu and delicious cocktails – an<br />

absolute winner.<br />

Bouef and Cow, 6 Boulevard des Alliés.<br />

boeufandcow.com<br />

Elegant and welcoming setting overlooking<br />

the beautiful church of Saint-Pierre and<br />

serving Normandy’s finest burgers and meaty<br />

dishes.<br />

La Ferme de Billy, 29 bis, 31 Rue de l’Eglise,<br />

14980 Rots. ferme-de-billy.com/en<br />

A 15-minute drive from Caen city centre<br />

brings you to the glorious apple-growing<br />

countryside of Normandy – and a traditional<br />

cider farm. The Ferme de Billy’s weekend<br />

brunch and Thursday/Friday lunch buffet is<br />

the best I have ever been to. A huge choice<br />

of local products, beautifully cooked and<br />

presented. Afterwards take a walk around the<br />

estate with its 13th century chapel. A must if<br />

you’re in Caen.<br />

Where to stay<br />

I stayed at the 3* Hotel Des Quatrans,<br />

17 rue Gémare, 14000 Caen.<br />

hotel-des-quatrans.com It’s in a tranquil spot<br />

but just steps from the city centre, ideal as a<br />

base to visit Caen and the wider area.<br />

Go Trade is a European<br />

project which since 2017<br />

has worked with English<br />

and French partners to<br />

support and preserve the role that traditional<br />

markets play in daily life. Find our more at:<br />

gotrade-markets.eu<br />

Details of markets and what to see and do in<br />

Caen: caenlamer-tourisme.com<br />

Did you know: Caen is one of<br />

those tongue-twister words<br />

non-French find really hard<br />

to say. Some say it like ‘con’<br />

which in French means idiot<br />

(or worse). It’s more like<br />

‘Carn’ –pronounce the ‘n’ but<br />

emphasise the ‘r’!<br />

The Good Life France | 23

Marché St-Omer©Office de tourisme de la Région de Saint-Omer<br />

Saint-Omer –<br />

quintessential<br />

northern France<br />

24 | The Good Life France

Why head to the south of France when the north has so much to offer? I get it. It’s what almost<br />

everyone does. “It’s wall to wall sunshine in the south” they say. “There are beaches. The food is<br />

fabulous. The map says follow this route for a whole day.”<br />

But take it from me, stop off in the north of France and you’ll find out why that habit of heading<br />

south needs to change. Discover a part of France that’s truly authentic, where the food is<br />

sensational, the countryside is idyllic and the seaside is glorious. There are historic towns<br />

and cities, battlefield and remembrance sites, world-class museums, gorgeous little villages,<br />

spectacular countryside with great cycling and hiking routes, water sports and some activities<br />

that are unique. And if that sounds tempting – then I know just the place for you… Saint-Omer is<br />

an absolute jewel of the north of France.<br />

The Good Life France | 25

26 | The Good Life France<br />


Saint-Omer<br />

Saint-Omer in the Pas-de-Calais department<br />

is just 30 minutes from Calais by car and<br />

2.5 hours from Paris by car or train. It is<br />

a town that has an extraordinary history<br />

spanning millennia. The Romans set up shop<br />

here. Thomas Becket AKA Saint Thomas<br />

of Canterbury, took refuge there. Three of<br />

America’s Founding Fathers studied at the<br />

Jesuit Chapel. Saint-Omer is the symbolic<br />

home of the British Royal Air Force and<br />

it’s where Douglas Bader, hero of the RAF<br />

in WWII was shot down, escaped from his<br />

captors and was sheltered in the town.<br />

And surrounding Saint-Omer is some of the<br />

most bucolic countryside in France, with<br />

shades of the Dordogne.<br />

Visit the town<br />

Start your visit at Place du Maréchal Foch<br />

in the centre of the town. It’s lined with<br />

gourmet food shops and cafés that are<br />

perfect for sitting outside and watching the<br />

life of the town go on. Behind the theatre<br />

which dominates this ancient square, is Guy<br />

Delalleau’s delicious boulangerie/patisserie –<br />

his cakes are like small works of art and taste<br />

as good as they look – it’s not to be missed.<br />

Around the squares are cobbled streets with<br />

300 year old merchants houses and majestic<br />

manors, a place that lures artists to capture<br />

the topsy-turvy Flemish style. The River Aa<br />

runs through the town and makes for a pretty<br />

walk and if you happen to be there in the last<br />

week in July, you’ll be able to join in the fun of<br />

the annual nautical procession, a carnival of<br />

floats on water!<br />

Park your car (there are several free car parks)<br />

and pick up a map from the tourist office<br />

which is in a tranquil green area behind the<br />

Cathedral and where you can sit on Paris style<br />

park chairs at the café and listen to those<br />

mellow bells ring. And if you go on Saturday<br />

morning, you’ll find one of the best markets in<br />

the region. Saint-Omer is a place to wander,<br />

and discover it’s many secrets…<br />

The Good Life France | 27

Saint-Omer Cathedral © A-S Flament<br />

Notre Dame<br />

The former Cathedral of Notre Dame is a<br />

stunning, flamboyant 13th century Gothic<br />

church and inside is even more impressive.<br />

It houses the tomb of Saint Omer, medieval<br />

funeral slabs, a several centuries old statue of<br />

Christ and a collection of paintings including<br />

The Descent from The Cross by Rubens. There<br />

are several ornate marble side chapels inside<br />

one of which hangs an RAF regimental flag, a<br />

reminder that the aerodrome at Longuenesse<br />

on the outskirts of Saint-Omer is the spiritual<br />

home of the RAF, the successor to the Royal<br />

Flying Corps who had their HQ here during<br />

WWI. The Cathedral also houses a mindboggling<br />

astronomical clock dating to 1588,<br />

one of the oldest in France, and a vast 300<br />

year-old 115-pipe organ, a listed historic<br />

monument, which if you are lucky enough<br />

to hear played, will leave you with a lasting<br />

memory.<br />

Saint-Omer Cathedral, to the left Louis XIV's doors under the astronomical clock<br />

28 | The Good Life France

Palais de Cathédrale<br />

Around the great Cathedral are beautiful<br />

mansion houses including the Palais de la<br />

Cathédrale at 12 Rue Henri Dupuis. Owner<br />

Jean-Luc Montois has spent the last few<br />

years restoring it to look as it did two hundred<br />

years ago when it was lived in by a local<br />

merchant. Although Jean-Luc lives there, he<br />

has opened it to the public and to enter is<br />

like stepping back in time, an extraordinary,<br />

exquisite home that is filled with wonderful<br />

treasures that he has collected for many<br />

decades. It’s so extraordinary in fact, that<br />

we’ll bring you a whole article about it in the<br />

next issue of the magazine. Book a tour via<br />

Saint-Omer tourist office<br />

A sumptious Theatre<br />

The locals affectionally call the exquisite<br />

domed building which dominates the Place<br />

du Marechal Foch - Le Moulin à café, the<br />

coffee grinder. Completed in 1840 on the<br />

site of the former 14th century Alderman’s<br />

Hall, it became the Town Hall complete<br />

with an opulent Italian-style theatre which<br />

gave the local bigwigs bragging rights. The<br />

theatre closed in 1973 and for 45 years was<br />

hidden from sight. In 2018, after restoration,<br />

it reopened to the public, complete with the<br />

original stage machinery. In its day it attracted<br />

some of the most well-known performers of<br />

the time including Edith Piaf and Luis Mariano.<br />

Under an ornate ceiling, the circular operastyle<br />

theatre has three balconies and private<br />

boxes. Book tickets via labacarolle.org<br />

Ancient Library<br />

From the outside, the municipal library in<br />

Saint-Omer does little to tempt, a modern<br />

building of the sort found in every town in<br />

every country. But – go inside, head to the first<br />

floor and discover the wood-panelled former<br />

Jesuit Chapel library filled with thousands<br />

of ancient books some of which date to the<br />

Palais de la Cathedrale entrance<br />

Shakespeare First folio © Y CADART<br />

7th century. Their collection includes a first<br />

volume Gutenberg Bible, less than 50 of the<br />

original 180 copies thought to be printed have<br />

survived. Not long ago, an eagle-eyed librarian<br />

dusting the shelves spotted a Shakespeare first<br />

Folio. Those two books alone are worth some<br />

$50million.<br />

The Good Life France | 29

Saint-Omer theatre<br />

https://perigourmet.com/<br />

30 | The Good Life France

The Jesuit Chapel<br />

Next door to the library, the Jesuit Chapel<br />

was built from 1615 to 1640 by Jean du Blocq<br />

(1583-1656), a Jesuit architect who also<br />

designed the Cathedral of Luxembourg. He<br />

was inspired by Gesù, the Jesuit church in<br />

Rome, combined with Gothic style. It’s here<br />

that Founding Fathers Charles Carroll, signer<br />

of the Declaration of Independence, Daniel<br />

Carroll, one of the Constitution’s two authors,<br />

and John Carroll who became America’s first<br />

Catholic Bishop and founder of Georgetown<br />

University, spent many years studying. It’s now<br />

used as a performance and cultural venue,<br />

though is currently undergoing a restoration.<br />

Abbey of Saint-Bertin<br />

By the neo-classical train station of Saint-<br />

Omer, one of the most beautiful in France<br />

and a listed historic monument, you’ll find<br />

the remains of Saint Bertin’s Abbey. Sadly<br />

destroyed during the French Revolution, it was<br />

at this location on the edge of the marsh that<br />

a Swiss monk called Omer, sent to become<br />

Bishop of nearby Thérouanne in 637, founded<br />

an abbey in what was known then as Sitiu. It<br />

became the Abbey of Saint Bertin, named<br />

after one of Omer’s helpers, while the town<br />

that grew up around it became Saint-Omer.<br />

The abbey was expanded over the years and<br />

was updated to the Gothic style now evident<br />

in the ruins.<br />

It was here in 1165 that Thomas Beckett who<br />

became a Saint, sought refuge from Henry<br />

II. The abbey became so important that a<br />

prince’s quarters was built for visiting Kings<br />

and Queens. Francis 1 came here on his way<br />

to the Field of the Cloth of Gold Summit with<br />

Henry VIII in nearby Guînes. Historians believe<br />

that Anne Boleyn may also have been there<br />

in the retinue of Queen Claude, wife of King<br />

France, though no one knows if she met Henry<br />

VIII at this time. Coincidentially, it was from<br />

Saint-Omer that Henry VIII later sought a<br />

swordsman to lop off poor Anne’s head.<br />

Louis XIV also came here in 1677 when Saint-<br />

Omer, which had been under Spanish rule,<br />

was taken back by the French. He visited the<br />

floating islands of the marshes that surround<br />

the town, famous even then. In fact he was<br />

so impressed he returned three years later<br />

with the entire royal family and the court<br />

and stayed at the Governor’s Hotel at the<br />

spot where the Sandelin Museum now is. The<br />

people of Saint-Omer marked his first visit<br />

with an inscription on the grand doors to the<br />

Cathedral, which is still there. Louis rewarded<br />

the town by having his engineer Vauban<br />

reinforce the rampart walls which now encircle<br />

a beautiful park.<br />

The Good Life France | 31

Sandelin Museum by Jean-Pol Grandmont<br />

Musée Sandelin<br />

The museum contains works by Flemish, Dutch and French masters, tapestries, plus a wonderful<br />

collection of ceramics and a fascinating clay pipe collection which pays homage to the towns<br />

past as an important producer of pipes and pottery.<br />

After you’ve enjoyed the many attractions of the town, nip to the countryside on its<br />

doorstep and discover the Clairmarais, the UNESCO listed biosphere marshland<br />

where you can take a boat ride and discover the wildlife, unusual residences and<br />

much, much more...<br />

2CVs at Belle Echapees<br />

32 | The Good Life France

The Audomarois<br />

Marshlands<br />

Hire a boat or take a guided ride in traditional<br />

wooden bacoves along tree-lined canals<br />

buzzing with bird life, where migrating herons<br />

stop off and the postman delivers post by<br />

boat, the only area in France with such a<br />

service to homes which sit on floating islands<br />

in the marshes. This 15 square mile network<br />

of canals and farmland is unique in France<br />

and a UNESCO-listed Biosphere Reserve. It<br />

was started by monks in 638. They diverted<br />

the River Aa, divided the land into plots and<br />

farmed the land. Today a few dozen market<br />

gardeners continue to work the plots. It is<br />

the cauliflower capital of France with some<br />

5million grown each year.<br />

Visit the Maison du Marais, less than 10<br />

minutes on foot from the centre of Saint-<br />

Omer. It’s dedicated to the history of the<br />

marshes, features exhibits, an educational<br />

garden, and boat tours of the marshes.<br />

lamaisondumarais.com/en<br />

Marshland activities<br />

Meet the last of the Saint-Omer boat<br />

makers: In a wooden shed on the edge of the<br />

marsh, a team of enthusiasts make up the<br />

last Audomarois shipyard in existence. Take a<br />

fascinating guided tour, and discover how this<br />

family business continues to hand-make the<br />

traditional wooden boats of the marshes using<br />

500 year-old plans and wood that is up to 100<br />

years old.<br />

You can also hire a boat here:<br />

lesfaiseursdebateaux.fr<br />

Explore in style: Hire a 2CV, VW camper van<br />

or vintage electric bikes for a day, half-day or<br />

weekend. les-belles-echappees.com<br />

Beer: While you’re at their office, nip to the<br />

brewery on the grounds of an extraordinary<br />

Abbey. Founded by Saint Bernard de<br />

Clairvaux in the 12th century, the once<br />

monumental Monastery of Clairmairais was<br />

yet another victim of the French Revolution<br />

The Good Life France | 33

Laurent Delafosse Abbaye de Clairmarais brewery<br />

and now just ruins remain. There was a<br />

brewery on the grounds until 1790 and it’s<br />

here that Laurent Delafosse now brews his<br />

fabulous beers. abbayedeclairmarais.fr<br />

True beer lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to<br />

the Brasserie Goudale in nearby Arques,<br />

a branch of the Brasserie de Saint-Omer<br />

company, a hugely successful brewery<br />

started by the legendary André Pecque AKA<br />

the ‘King of Beer’. Some of his best known<br />

brews include La Goudale (Old English for<br />

good ale), Saint-Omer and Le Panaché.<br />

Brasserie-goudale.com<br />

Rando Rail: Pedal a 4-person kart on an old<br />

railway line through leafy woods and across<br />

fields on a 10km ride. www.rando-rail.com<br />

Close by<br />

La Coupole is an unmissable visit just 7km<br />

from Saint-Omer. Beneath a 72 metres<br />

wide, five-and-a-half metres thick, 55,000<br />

tonne concrete dome, Hitler had a secret V2<br />

rocket base built. A strike to the entrance put<br />

paid to its aim to churn out bomb-carrying<br />

Clairmarais<br />

34 | The Good Life France

ockets. Today it is a fascinating and<br />

haunting historical and scientific museum.<br />

You get goosebumps when you walk into<br />

the chilly and chilling 20 metre high tunnels<br />

where the V2 rockets were prepared for<br />

launch. This former bunker is also the home<br />

of the most advanced planetarium in the<br />

world. With a unique 15m wide screen with<br />

10K resolution, the seats are interactive with<br />

audience response technology and the 3D<br />

films (D-Day Normandy, 1944; Explore and<br />

Voyager which make you feel as if you’re<br />

in space with astronauts) are nothing short<br />

of utterly incredible. I promise you I gasped<br />

out loud and ducked when rocks from Mars<br />

came hurtling towards my head!<br />

lacouple-france.com<br />

Vintage train ride: in nearby Arques, hop on<br />

a steam train or vintage train and explore<br />

the gorgeous countryside in style on the Aa<br />

Valley tourist railway. cftva62.com<br />

Day at the seaside: Saint-Omer is around<br />

one hour from the glorious beaches of<br />

the Opal Coast including Wimereux with<br />

its Belle Epoque villas, Audresselles an<br />

authentic little fishing village and historic<br />

Boulogne-sur-Mer.<br />

Where to eat<br />

Traditional: La Baguernette on the edge of<br />

the marshes, and next to the embarkation<br />

point for a boat trip. Their speciality is suckling<br />

pig cooked in milk for eight hours in a woodfired<br />

oven. They also serve local favourite beer<br />

tart, utterly irresistible. labaguernette.fr/en<br />

Upmarket: La Bacôve, opened by Top Chef<br />

winner Camille Delcroix. Refined, innovative<br />

and seriously scrumptious food in a beautiful<br />

setting. You can expect something with<br />

cauliflower on the menu soon as the chef<br />

will in <strong>2022</strong> be inducted into the Saint-Omer<br />

Confrérie du Chou Fleur (Brotherhood of<br />

Cauliflower). restaurant-bacove.com<br />

Tourist office: tourisme-saintomer.com<br />

The Good Life France | 35

Le Weekend<br />

Metz, Lorraine<br />

Janine Marsh explores the historic city<br />

of light where a dragon once lived…<br />

36 | The Good Life France<br />

Place Saint-Louis © Arnaud Hussenot

“Anyone been to Metz?” I asked in my local bar in the<br />

Seven Valleys, Pas de Calais. There was silence. Even<br />

in France, Metz is not well known and if you’re from<br />

outside of France you might not even have heard of it.<br />

Metz is in the north-east of France, in the<br />

Moselle department. It is the capital of the<br />

region formerly known as Lorraine, now<br />

joined up with Champagne, Ardennes and<br />

Alsace and called Grand Est.<br />

Metz is one of France’s oldest cities with a<br />

history going back some 3,000 years and<br />

the fact that it is rather under the tourism<br />

radar is astonishing. Close to Luxembourg<br />

and Germany, it is a superbly gastronomic<br />

city. It is historic, architecturally glorious,<br />

home to arguably France’s oldest church -<br />

the basilica of Saint-Pierre-aux-Nonnains<br />

which began life in the 4th century, and<br />

a Cathedral which has one of the largest<br />

expanses of stained glass windows in the<br />

world. There are magnificent museums<br />

including a branch of the Pompidou, the<br />

city is surrounded by glorious, mountainous<br />

countryside – and yet, it’s less than an hour<br />

and a half from Paris.<br />

48 hours in Metz<br />

Metz is steeped in history and character.<br />

It’s a city of architectural contrasts, with<br />

a medieval district, classical 18th century<br />

architecture in the Place d’Armes and Palais<br />

de Justice, the enormous neo-Romanesque<br />

train station built by the Germans at the<br />

start of the 20th century, and a modern side<br />

too including the extraordinary Pompidou<br />

centre behind the station.<br />

It’s a compact city that’s easy to discover on<br />

foot, but if you want to take it easy there's a<br />

free hop-on-hop off navette bus, and there<br />

are loads of cosy café’s and funky bars to<br />

tempt you to stop awhile.<br />

The must-sees<br />

The great Gothic cathedral of Metz<br />

In medieval days, Metz was a mecca for<br />

artists and the Cathedral St Etienne, the<br />

third highest nave in France, beautifully<br />

illustrates the skill of stone masons and<br />

artisans of the day. Made from golden local<br />

Jaumont stone it has stood for more than<br />

800 years (built between 1220-1522). The<br />

vast stained glass windows (69,920 sq ft)<br />

have earned it the nickname ‘God’s Lantern’.<br />

The windows here range from medieval<br />

masterpieces by Hermann de Münster and<br />

Thiébauld de Lixheim to striking modern<br />

panes by Jacques Villon and Marc Chagall.<br />

During WWII windows were removed and<br />

stored in crates, sent to Château de Dissay,<br />

near Poitiers. This didn’t save them however,<br />

they were discovered and sent to Germany.<br />

Miraculously they were found in a salt mine<br />

and returned to their home after the war.<br />

At night the cathedral is illuminated and is<br />

one of the reasons the city is known as the<br />

Ville Lumières.<br />

Museums<br />

Housed in an old Carmelite convent, Le<br />

Musée de la Cour contains three museums.<br />

The Musée Archaeologique has one of<br />

the most important collections of Gallo-<br />

Romain archaeology in France including<br />

ancient baths preserved in situ. The Musée<br />

d’Architecture showcases Romanesque<br />

and Gothic pieces. And the Musée des<br />

Beaux Arts includes works by a range of<br />

prominent artists including Delacroix,<br />

Corot and Sargent.<br />

The Good Life France | 37

Cathedral of Saint-Etienne (1)<br />

https://chateau-masburel.com/<br />

38 | The Good Life France

Train station of Metz © Philippe Gisselbrecht<br />

Pompidou Centre<br />

A regional branch of Paris’s Pompidou<br />

Centre opened in Metz in 2010. The<br />

avante-garde building, which is highlighted<br />

by an undulating roof, houses an extensive<br />

collection of modern art. The 77-meter<br />

high spire is a nod to the year 1977, when<br />

the Paris Center Pompidou opened.<br />

Modern and contemporary art exhibitions<br />

are regularly updated. The centre has a<br />

café and a very nice restaurant with a<br />

terraced area.<br />

The Graoully – Metz’s dragon<br />

The legend goes that a terrible dragon named<br />

the Graoully terrorised the people of Metz<br />

until the city’s first Bishop, Saint Clement,<br />

drowned it. It’s said that the Bishop led the<br />

dragon from its lair, along a narrow road to<br />

the River Seille, warning onlookers “Taisonsnous/keep<br />

quiet, don’t wake the monster.’<br />

Stroll along the pretty cobbled street of what<br />

is now called rue Taison, and look up, away<br />

from the many boutiques and cafés, and<br />

you’ll spot the Graoully, hanging over you!<br />

The Imperial Quarter<br />

Between 1902 and 1914, the Imperial<br />

Quarter around the train station was built<br />

to strict Germanic town planning principals.<br />

Originally called Neue Stadt (new city)<br />

the area has some of the best preserved<br />

examples of German Empire urbanism,<br />

especially the luxurious villas on Avenue<br />

Foch and the remarkable train station.<br />

Don’t miss<br />

Porte des Allemands and the ramparts:<br />

The old city gate (Gate of the Germans)<br />

and a miniature fortified medieval castle<br />

spans the river Seille. The ramparts once<br />

formed a 5.5km enclosure enclosure<br />

punctuated by 12 gates and 76 towers.<br />

You can follow the ramparts path along the<br />

river Moselle.<br />

The Good Life France | 39

Port de plaisance ©Philippe Gisselbrecht<br />

Head to the Quai des Régates and take an<br />

electric boat tour– you can even combine<br />

it with wine tasting or aperitifs. And take a<br />

break in the park at Metz Marina, Port de<br />

Plaisance.<br />

Les Halles: The U-shaped covered market<br />

on Place Jean-Paul II has a superb range of<br />

food including a shop selling local Mirabelle<br />

(plum) brandy. Take a break at the market<br />

bistro L’Assiette du Marché or pick up<br />

something delicious like fuseau lorrain, a soft<br />

garlic sausage that’s a regional specialty<br />

from Chez Mauricette opposite.<br />

The squares: in the heart of Metz,<br />

renovated squares such as the Place de<br />

Chambre (nicknamed the gourmet square<br />

of Metz), the Place d’Armes (the medieval<br />

Place Saint-Louis, and the Place de la<br />

République offer a place to relax. Place<br />

Jeanne d’Arc is just perfect for summer<br />

drinks and dining<br />

https://sommailier.com/TheGoodLifeFrance/<br />

40 | The Good Life France

Where to eat<br />

El Theatris in Place de la Comédie on the<br />

Petit Saulcy island in the centre of Metz serves<br />

gastronomic food with an emphasis on local,<br />

seasonal products. One of the dining rooms is<br />

the former office of the Marquis de La Fayette,<br />

French aristocrat and American Revolution<br />

War hero. He was appointed commander of the<br />

French army at Metz in 1791.<br />

Head out of the city to Sarreguemines<br />

(around an hour by car) for a Michelin star<br />

feast created by Chef Stephan Schneider at<br />

the gorgeous 4* hotel Auberge Saint-Walfrid:<br />

stwalfrid.fr<br />

Where to stay<br />

4* MGallery La Citadelle Hotel in a former<br />

16th century military building for its superb<br />

décor and fabulous view over cathedral from<br />

some rooms. 5 Av. Ney, 57000 Metz<br />

Info<br />

Trains to Metz run from Gare de l’Est, Paris<br />

and take from 83 minutes.<br />

tourisme-metz.com<br />

Summer garden in the Place de la Comédie © Philippe Gisselbrecht-Ville de Metz<br />

Did you know?<br />

Metz is pronounced Mess which is<br />

not a grammar thing – it’s unique<br />

to Metz. In fact, says Vivienne<br />

Rudd from Metz tourist office, even<br />

most Messins (people of Metz)<br />

don’t know why it’s pronounced this<br />

way. Metz was called Divodorum<br />

Médiomatricorum in Gallo-<br />

Roman – a bit of a mouthful<br />

and horrendous for inscribers<br />

of the day. In the 5th century, it<br />

was shortened to Mettis then to<br />

Mets, Mèz, Mès, Metz and Mess in<br />

the 14th century. A recent article<br />

suggests that 17th century French<br />

printers wanted to use the German<br />

“ß” symbol to represent the<br />

double “s”, but didn’t have one, so<br />

replaced it with something that<br />

looked (a bit) like it: “tz”, but the<br />

old pronunciation stuck... why?<br />

Because it’s easier to say!<br />

The Good Life France | 41

Plus<br />

© TripUSAFrance<br />

42 | The Good Life France

Beaux Village de France:<br />

La Couvertoirade<br />

La Couvertoirade may be one<br />

of the prettiest places in France<br />

that you never heard of says<br />

Janine Marsh...<br />

The Good Life France | 43

© TripUSAFrance © TripUSAFrance<br />

Deep in the heart of the Aveyron<br />

department, southeast France, the little<br />

village of La Couvertoirade provides a<br />

glimpse into a long-gone past. It is one of<br />

the best preserved Templar Knights villages<br />

in France, and it’s a classified plus beaux<br />

village – officially one of the prettiest villages<br />

in France…<br />

La Couvertoirade is located in territory<br />

known as the Causses and Cevennes, a<br />

UNESCO classified World Heritage site,<br />

listed for its ‘agro-pastoral cultural landscape<br />

of the Mediterranean’. It’s a rather dry<br />

description of a stunningly beautiful area<br />

of France with exquisite countryside where<br />

villages in the valleys look as though they<br />

have been hung on the sides of the hills<br />

like baubles on a Christmas tree. The area<br />

touches on four departments: Aveyron and<br />

Lozère in the Midi-Pyrénées region, and<br />

Gard and Herault in Languedoc-Roussillon.<br />

La Couvertoirade looks out over the Larzac<br />

plateau, a land of fertile valleys and villages<br />

which seem to grow out of the rocks. In the<br />

12th century, this area was considered the<br />

private fiefdom of the crusading Knights<br />

Templar and later the Knights Hospitaller. And<br />

in La Couvertoirade you’ll find the only castle<br />

built by the Knights Templar in France.<br />

There’s plenty to see and fall in love with as<br />

you wander the narrow cobbled alleyways<br />

lined with ancient houses. The atmospheric<br />

14th century church of Saint Christophe<br />

is reached by steps cut into the rock. The<br />

14th century Windmill of Le Rédounel is the<br />

only restored windmill in Aveyron, from its<br />

hilly position you have fabulous views over<br />

the village. The wonderfully well preserved<br />

Templar castle was built at the end of the 12th<br />

century and last updated in the 15th century.<br />

It sit atop a rocky spur, dominating the town<br />

with its imposing high walls.<br />

44 | The Good Life France

© TripUSAFrance<br />

“It’s so extraordinary that when you walk<br />

around the medieval ramparts, you know that<br />

these walls are original. It’s easy to imagine<br />

that the Knights Templar and generations of<br />

people since have walked here and looked out<br />

at the astonishing views for hundreds of years”<br />

says Julia Girard-Gervois of TripUSAFrance.<br />

“It never ceases to amaze me just how<br />

absolutely gorgeous this village is with its<br />

cobbled streets, beautiful grey stone houses<br />

and flowers and vines everywhere. It’s been<br />

likened to a miniature Carcassonne and it<br />

really is incredibly pretty.”<br />

Just an hour’s drive from the city of<br />

Montpellier and close to the beautiful village<br />

of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert, La Couvertoirade<br />

has an epic history. “This is no museum town<br />

though” says Julia “it’s brimming with history<br />

and vibrant with artisans, potters, wool<br />

spinners and more. It’s not hard to imagine it<br />

how it was in the days of the Templars. There’s<br />

even a communal bread oven at the windmill<br />

which has been restored and once a week you<br />

can taste bread and other local specialities.”<br />

This little village certainly lives up to its Plus<br />

Beaux Village award…<br />

The Good Life France | 45

The Knights Templar<br />

The Knights Templar was a military<br />

organisation of devout Christians founded<br />

in 1118. They originally formed with the<br />

aim of protecting pilgrims journeying<br />

to the Holy Land and in 1129, they were<br />

endorsed by Bernard of Clairvaux, a<br />

prominent French abbot who became<br />

a saint, Ten years later Pope Innocent II<br />

© TripUSAFrance gave the Templars special rights including<br />

exemption from paying taxes and only<br />

answering to the authority of the Pope.<br />

Members swore an oath of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The Templars became a<br />

wealthy and influential group with a network of banks which lent money to royal families<br />

and the aristocracy. They owned a sizeable fleet of ships and land, built numerous castles<br />

and became a powerful army. Almost 200 years after they began, the Templars were<br />

dissolved by Pope Clement V and some of their assets were passed to the Hospitalier<br />

Knights. Mystery surrounds the history of the Templars and continues to fascinate to<br />

this day. In the 18th century the Freemasons revived some of their symbols, rituals and<br />

traditions. Some believe that the Templars are still in existence and they were a key part<br />

of Dan Brown’s popular book The Da Vinci Code…<br />

https://tripusafrance.com/<br />

46 | The Good Life France

3 Must-sees in Aveyron<br />

Aveyron is a land that echoes with the past. Every densely wooded gorge and valley, every<br />

ancient bastide town and every winding road seems to whisper of the footsteps of pilgrims<br />

making their way south, of Romans and rebellious Gauls or of Knights Templars, thundering<br />

across the plateaux. It’s a place where you’ll find picture-postcard-pretty medieval villages,<br />

historic towns, rolling valleys and vast canyons where rivers roam and forests reach to the<br />

sky. Here you’ll find authentic markets, ancient churches clinging to rocky cliffs and divine<br />

cathedrals with soaring towers. There are ancient castles and museums galore, it’s a land that’s<br />

rich in natural beauty, as well as cultural and spiritual. We picked just 3 of the many must-sees<br />

in Aveyron:<br />

Conques This is a village with an inescapably<br />

spiritual feel, with its towering masterclass in<br />

Romanesque engineering and architecture<br />

(the Abbey of St. Foy) and the very tangible<br />

memory of the weary feet of pilgrims, shuffling<br />

along the well-worn streets. The village has<br />

a genuine sense of hushed reverence with<br />

its medieval walls, slate roof tops, forgotten<br />

gates, time worn 11th century fountains,<br />

narrow, cobbled streets and views that<br />

leave you in stunned and silent awe and<br />

contemplation. Read more about Conques<br />

Belcastel<br />

Conques<br />

Belcastel The village is well deserving of<br />

its “plus beaux villages de France” status<br />

because, yet again, here is a place in the<br />

Aveyron that is shockingly beautiful, with the<br />

gentle tumble of water from the River Aveyron<br />

in the background and its steep, cobbled<br />

streets leading up to the castle. If you’ve got<br />

the time, have lunch at the Vieux Pont (a<br />

Michelin star restaurant in the village) and<br />

then walk off your indulgences with the climb<br />

(and it really is a climb) up to the castle.<br />

Rodez<br />

Rodez which is certified as a “grand site Midi<br />

Pyrénées and “pays d’art et d’histoire” is a<br />

city which, like so many in France really seems<br />

to enjoy mixing the old and the new whether<br />

that’s in terms of art, architecture, gastronomy<br />

or culture. A small city which clings to the<br />

last of the mountains of the Massif Central<br />

and dozes quietly 600 metres above sea<br />

level. It was originally two cities and is ever so<br />

slightly disjointed, with two city squares and a<br />

heady combination of gothic and renaissance<br />

architecture, hand in hand with the ultramodern<br />

Musée Soulages. Read more about<br />

Belcastel and Rodez.<br />

The Good Life France | 47

UNESCO spotlight:<br />

Avignon, Provence<br />

Aerial view of Avignon ©ProductAir<br />

48 | The Good Life France

The Good Life France | 49

For many, the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of Avignon in Provence is<br />

the well-known French children’s song about dancing on a bridge in the city:<br />

“sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse, l’on y danse”. But did you know that the 12th<br />

century bridge is UNESCO listed? And it’s not the only UNESCO-listed site in this<br />

medieval city…<br />

The UNESCO-listed sites of Avignon<br />

Palais des Papes and the<br />

Place du Palais<br />

From 1309 to 1377 Avignon was the seat of<br />

seven successive Catholic Popes beginning<br />

with Clement V, a Frenchman. Unrest in<br />

Rome and politics played a part in the<br />

decision to move papal power to Provence.<br />

Of course the Popes had to have somewhere<br />

suitable to live. The monumental Palais des<br />

Papes, the Popes’ Palace, was built between<br />

1335 to 1352 and over the years there were<br />

more modifications. Jean Froissart, a 14th<br />

century chronicler and writer who visited<br />

Avignon, described it as “the most beautiful<br />

and strongest house in the world” and it<br />

housed Europe’s largest library at the time. It<br />

wasn’t cheap to build, costing 400,000 Livres<br />

(the French currency at the time), six times<br />

what Pope Clement VI spent when he bought<br />

the city of Avignon from Johanna, Countess<br />

of Provence, in 1348 – the city was only<br />

reclaimed by France in 1793.<br />

Set in the immense Place du Palais, the palace<br />

is as big as five cathedrals with a whopping<br />

15,000 m² of floor space (three times the size<br />

of the White House in Washington DC). It is<br />

the biggest Gothic palace in the world.<br />

When the Papal court was moved back to<br />

Rome, dissident cardinals in Avignon “elected”<br />

50 | The Good Life France

two more Popes to reign in France, it split<br />

the church for 39 years, but in the end Rome<br />

was the victor. The Popes Palace in Avignon<br />

became a residence for visiting dignitaries<br />

and fell into disrepair. During the French<br />

Revolution it became a prison and then<br />

was turned into a barracks for Napoleon’s<br />

soldiers. It wasn’t until the early 1900s that<br />

the magnificence of the building was once<br />

again recognised and it became a public<br />

museum in 1906.<br />

Twenty-five rooms in the palace are open<br />

to visitors including the former Indulgence<br />

Window where the Pope gave blessings to<br />

the crowds below, the grand formal rooms<br />

which held banquets and ceremonies,<br />

the Treasury, the private chapels and<br />

apartments with priceless frescoes.<br />

Petit Palais<br />

The palace is surrounded by other<br />

monuments including the former residence<br />

of Bishops, known as the Petit Palais. It’s not<br />

actually that petit and covers an impressive<br />

3000 m² with two inner courtyards. It was<br />

rebuilt in the 15th century on the site of a<br />

former palace built to house Archbishop<br />

Julien de la Rovère who later became Pope<br />

Jules II. It’s now a museum with an extensive<br />

collection of artworks of the Middle Ages<br />

and the Renaissance including works by<br />

Botticelli and Carpaccio.<br />

Notre-Dame des Doms<br />

Cathedral<br />

Next to the Palais des Papes is the<br />

Cathedral of Notre Dame des Doms,<br />

which was built in 1150 in the Provençal<br />

Romanesque style and predates the Papal<br />

complex. Gothic style chapels were added<br />

between the 14th and 17th centuries. Atop<br />

the cathedral’s bell tower, a 20-foot gilded<br />

statue of the Virgin Mary presides over the<br />

surroundings.<br />

©F Olliver<br />

© Empreintes Dailleur<br />

The Good Life France | 51

Rocher des Doms Gardens<br />

A short walk from the cathedral you’ll find<br />

the Rocher des Doms park. From its peak you<br />

have panoramic views of the Rhone river. It’s<br />

a beautiful park, centred around a pond which<br />

is home to swans and other waterfowl, and<br />

offers a green refuge from the summer heat to<br />

tourists and locals alike.<br />

Clos de la Vigne<br />

Within the Rocher des Doms park the Clos de<br />

la Vigne is the only AOC intramural vineyard<br />

in France on a UNESCO World Heritage site.<br />

The small parcel of vines features 12 grape<br />

varieties for red and white wines. Grapes<br />

are harvested by hand, and in 2021 the first<br />

bottles of matured wine were auctioned<br />

for charity. The vineyard overlooks the river<br />

Rhone and the famous Saint-Bénézet bridge,<br />

the town’s emblem and yet another UNESCO<br />

listed monument in Avignon…<br />

© Sylvie Villeger<br />

https://www.ophorus.com/<br />

52 | The Good Life France

© Jill Converyr<br />

Saint-Bénézet bridge – the<br />

Pont d’Avignon<br />

The building of the bridge of Avignon was<br />

begun in 1175 after a 10 year-old shepherd<br />

from the Ardèche named Bénézet (which<br />

means ‘Little Benoit’) claimed to have been<br />

told by God to build a bridge along the<br />

waterfront in Avignon. Legend has it that, after<br />

walking to Avignon, accompanied by an angel<br />

disguised as a pilgrim, he was challenged by<br />

the Bishop’s provost to carry an impossibly<br />

large block of stone to the water’s edge. It<br />

was so large, it was said that thirty strong men<br />

couldn’t move it. The tale goes that aided<br />

by angels bathed in golden light, he hoisted<br />

the stone onto his shoulder and laid it as the<br />

foundation stone for the Bridge. Overcome<br />

by this miraculous feat, benefactors supplied<br />

sufficient funds. It took ten years to complete<br />

the bridge. Bénézet’s feat was declared a<br />

miracle, though he died without seeing it<br />

completed, he died in 1184. Pilgrims flocked<br />

to see the bridge whose fame spread far and<br />

wide, and the shepherd became the patron<br />

saint of bridge builders.<br />

Originally almost a kilometre long, the bridge<br />

had 22 arches. It was built at a point of the<br />

river where the force of water was so strong,<br />

even Roman engineers were deterred from<br />

building there. Today, only four arches remain,<br />

the bridge having been poor maintained,<br />

reconstructed several times and finally swept<br />

away by floods, it collapsed in the 17th century<br />

and it’s said that King Louis XIV was one of the<br />

last people to walk across it.<br />

On the bridge the little stone Chapel of Saint-<br />

Bénézet where the saint was originally buried,<br />

was rebuilt in 1414 after the “War of the<br />

Catalonians”. The Saint’s remains are now in<br />

the nearby 14th century Gothic church of Saint-<br />

Didier, built during the time of the Popes in Avignon.<br />

The ramparts of Avignon<br />

The old city of Avignon is encircled by<br />

ramparts. They are 4.3km long and were<br />

The Good Life France | 53

https://yourprivateprovence.com/<br />

https://yourprivatechauffeurprovence.com/private-chauffeur/<br />

54 | The Good Life France

uilt to protect the city from the assaults<br />

by gangs of marauding mercenaries. Work<br />

began in 1355 during the Papacy of Pope<br />

Innocent VI and were completed in 1370<br />

under the reign of Pope Urban V. The<br />

entrance of the Avignon Bridge provides<br />

access onto the ramparts, and to the Rocher<br />

des Doms Gardens. The views over the city<br />

and the Rhône River are breath-taking.<br />

“Very few medieval cities in Provence have<br />

intact ramparts today because they were<br />

sometimes demolished by kings to weaken<br />

the power of the local community for<br />

instance Louis XIV ordered the demolition of<br />

Orange’s fortifications in 1660, which makes<br />

Avignon’s ramparts all the more special. And<br />

sometimes they were just taken by the locals<br />

to use for building materials.” says Emily<br />

Durand of Your Private Provence.<br />

But don’t go thinking Avignon is a museum<br />

town – it’s a vibrant city with lots of<br />

beautiful squares where you can sit and<br />

watch the world go by at superb bars<br />

and restaurants. There are more than a<br />

dozen museums and year-round festivals.<br />

You’ll find fabulous markets (don’t miss<br />

Les Halles), and it’s the perfect place to<br />

wander with picturesque streets lined with<br />

magnificent architectural gems.<br />

Recommended tour:<br />

Heritage sites and<br />

lavender tour<br />

Where to eat out in<br />

Avignon as recommended<br />

by the locals<br />

Top things to do in Avignon<br />

yourprivateprovence.com/escortedtravel-perks/provence-heritage-sites-tour<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com/10-greatrestaurants-and-bars-in-avignonprovence/<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com/top-ten-things-tosee-in-avignon/<br />

Palais of the Papes when it was used as a barracks<br />

Inside Palais des Papes<br />

Palais des Papes<br />

The Good Life France | 55

56 | The Good Life France

Lost Monuments<br />

of Paris<br />

Sue Aran explores the history of two of Paris’s lost palaces…<br />

Paris is a city of contrasts – light and dark, old and new, past and present. Erased from the<br />

memories of most Parisians, however, are two buildings: the Palais du Trocadéro and the Palais<br />

Bardo. These ephemeral constructions of grandeur were richly imagined for the Paris World<br />

Fairs Expositions Universelle. Paris hosted seven world fairs beginning in 1855 and ending in<br />

1937. Visitors flocked from around the world and in 1900, Paris broke records with more than 50<br />

million visitors and 83,000 exhibitors at that year’s Fair.<br />

Palais du Trocadéro<br />

The Palais du Trocadéro was built<br />

for the Exposition Universelle of<br />

1878 by architect Gabriel Davioud.<br />

He was a colleague of Georges-<br />

Eugène “Baron” Haussmann, the<br />

urban planner who was responsible<br />

for the spectacular renovation of<br />

Paris during the reign of Napoléon<br />

III in the mid-19th century. Davioud<br />

designed most of the Parisian<br />

street furniture we see today,<br />

including the benches, lamp-posts,<br />

signposts, fences, balustrades,<br />

kiosks, pavilions, bandstands,<br />

monuments and fountains, the<br />

most recognizable of which is the landmark<br />

fountain at Place Saint-Michel.<br />

The Palais du Trocadéro was built on the hill<br />

of Chaillot, across the Seine from the Eiffel<br />

Tower in the 16th arrondissement. The Palais<br />

was named in honour of the 1823 Battle<br />

of Trocadéro in which the fortified Isla del<br />

Trocadero in Spain was captured by French<br />

forces under the leadership of the Duc<br />

d’Angoulême, the son of Charles X. Davioud<br />

conceived the elaborate palace as a pastiche<br />

of Byzantine and Moorish architecture where<br />

meetings of international organizations<br />

could be held during the fair. There was a<br />

large concert hall flanked by two 76-meter<br />

(249-foot) towers. The hall contained a large<br />

Palais de ChaillotPalais du Trocadero, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons<br />

organ built by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, the first<br />

large organ to be installed in a concert hall<br />

in France. It is still in use at the Auditorium<br />

Maurice Ravel in Lyon. The building proved<br />

unpopular, but the cost expended in its<br />

construction delayed its replacement for<br />

nearly 50 years, and the central building was<br />

finally demolished in 1937.<br />

It was replaced by the Palais de Chaillot<br />

for the International Exhibition of Arts and<br />

Techniques held in 1937. The wings of the<br />

Palais du Trocadéro were reused for the<br />

Chaillot building. It’s now home to four cultural<br />

institutions: the City of Architecture and<br />

Heritage, the National Maritime Museum, the<br />

The Good Life France | 57

Musée de l'Homme and Chaillot – National<br />

Dance Theater. Often left out of tourist<br />

itineraries, the Palais de Chaillot is worth<br />

visiting for the magnificent architecture as well<br />

as the extraordinary museums. Plus there is a<br />

wonderful view over the Eiffel Tower and the<br />

Champs du de Mars from the Esplanade des<br />

Libertés et des Droits de l'Homme, between<br />

the two wings. And there are several places<br />

to eat including the Café de l'Homme, at the<br />

back of the back of the Musée de l'Homme,<br />

one of the favourite spots for Parisians in<br />

summer with a terrace overlooking the tower<br />

opened in 2020.<br />

The space between the palais and the Seine<br />

is set with gardens, designed by Jean-Charles<br />

Alphand, and an array of fountains. Within<br />

its gardens, two large animal statues stood<br />

– a rhinoceros and an elephant, which were<br />

removed and stored during the demolition of<br />

the old palace, and have been located next to<br />

the entrance of the Musée d’Orsay since 1986.<br />

Saint-Michel Fountain<br />

https://frenchcountryadventures.com/<br />

58 | The Good Life France

Clockwise: Palais du Bardo, vintage postcard, Public Domain<br />

Head of the Statue of Liberty on display in Paris at the World Fair 1878 Source<br />

Album de la Statue de la Liberté, Public Domain<br />

Aerial view of the Exposition Universelle of 1878, public domain<br />

The head of the Statue of Liberty was also<br />

showcased in the garden until it was packed<br />

in one of 214 wooden crates for shipment to<br />

the United States. The Statue of Liberty was<br />

designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste<br />

Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel. It was<br />

given by the people of France to the United<br />

States and dedicated in situ in 1886. There are<br />

more than 100 replicas of the iconic statue<br />

including more than 30 in France!<br />

Palais du Bardo<br />

The Palais du Bardo, built for the Exposition<br />

Universelle of 1867 in the 14th arrondissement<br />

at Parc Montsouris, was designed by the<br />

French architect, Alfred Chapon. The original<br />

Bardo Palace was the 13th-century royal<br />

residence of the Hafsid family, located in<br />

the suburbs of Tunis. It was one of the most<br />

important museums of the Mediterranean<br />

basin, tracing the history of Tunisia over<br />

several millennia. Chapon carefully recreated<br />

a reduced-scale replica of the Bardo Palace<br />

in Tunisia in pure Moorish style. Six statues of<br />

lions flanked the staircase of honor that led to<br />

a brilliantly green-tiled, colonnaded courtyard<br />

evoking A Thousand and One Nights. The Bey<br />

of Tunis rested here during his visits to the expo<br />

in a private bed chamber with an adjoining<br />

harem room.<br />

After the expo, the City of Paris bought<br />

the Palais and commissioned a redesign<br />

by Gabriel Davioud. It accommodated<br />

housing for the staff of the astronomical<br />

and meteorological Observatoire de Paris,<br />

installed on its premises in 1876. In 1974 the<br />

building had deteriorated to such an extent<br />

that its occupants were evacuated. A fire<br />

destroyed it completely in 1991.<br />

Most buildings of the Expositions Universelle<br />

were meant to be temporary and only a few<br />

vestiges remain, most famously the Eiffel Tower<br />

(1889), the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and<br />

the Alexandre III Bridge (1900), the Palais de la<br />

Porte Dorée (1931) and the Palais de Chaillot<br />

and Palais de Tokyo (1937). But you’ll find<br />

drawings, paintings and maps of all the buildings<br />

created at the Musée Carnavalet museum.<br />

Sue Aran lives in the Gers department of<br />

southwest France where she runs French Country<br />

Adventures which provides private, personallyguided,<br />

small-group food & wine adventures into<br />

Gascony, the Pays Basque, Tarn and beyond…<br />

The Good Life France | 59

60 | The Good Life France Evian Funicular: © P.Leroy.Semaphor

Spotlight on: EVIAN<br />

MAP<br />

The spa town of Evian-les-Bains on the shores of Lake Geneva, in Haute-Savoie has played<br />

host to a glittering list of guests spanning royalty, celebrities and notables over the course<br />

of two centuries. In fact, it was so popular that even Frankenstein holidayed here…<br />

Left: © Evian Ville Top right: Palais Lumiere © Evian Ville Middle right: Lausanne © Hotel R Evian Resort Bottom: Wine slopes Lausanne © Hotel R Evian Resort<br />

The Good Life France | 61

The history of Evian<br />

The curative virtues of the water in Evian were<br />

first discovered in the late eighteenth century<br />

by a French aristocrat. The Marquis de Lessert,<br />

whilst out walking in the town in 1789, took a<br />

drink from a natural spring. He was much taken<br />

with it pronouncing it to be ‘easy to drink’. It<br />

started a trend and an enterprising local started<br />

to sell bottles of it. People were wowed by the<br />

water’s qualities. If it was good enough to drink,<br />

it was certainly good enough to bathe in. The<br />

first “Hydropathetic Establishment” (thermal<br />

spa) opened in 1826. Hotels, restaurants, and a<br />

casino followed, keen to cash in on the visitors<br />

who flocked to the town.<br />

What to see in Evian<br />

From the hotel it’s a downhill stroll and<br />

twenty minute uphill cardio-vascularly<br />

challenging hike back to the town of Evianles<br />

Bains. It’s a surprisingly culturally rich town<br />

with a medieval hospital and a thirteenth<br />

century church. The Belle Epoque stye is<br />

obvious with a lake front 1878-built casino<br />

and a theatre with a neo-classical façade<br />

which was built in 1885, the 1900-built Palais<br />

Lumiere, and the 1826-built Cachat Pump<br />

Room (which is being restored). The funicular<br />

railway was completed in 1907. At the Cachat<br />

Source, Sainte Catherine’s Fountain, built in<br />

1903, the locals fill up their bottles with free,<br />

magnesium-rich, sand-bank filtered water.<br />

A French count fleeing from the French<br />

Revolution, suffering from gallstones was said<br />

to be cured by drinking the water from this<br />

source daily. It flows year round at a constant<br />

temperature of 11.6°C.<br />

Tranquil.<br />

Sans gaz.<br />

62 | The Good Life France

Lac Leman<br />

Lac Leman (Lake Geneva in English) is the<br />

largest lake in western Europe. It gets its name<br />

from either the Greek for ‘lake’s port’ or the<br />

Celtic word ‘limos’, referring to the local fertile<br />

mud. It’s just a 30-minute ferry crossing from<br />

Evian to Lausanne from where you can easily<br />

visit the Swiss Riviera and the steep-sided<br />

UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyards on the<br />

shores of the lake. If you do, stop for a tasting<br />

of the local Chasselas wines. The Domaine<br />

Bovard in Cully is one of the best, their Buxus<br />

Sauvignon Blanc is superb. In the 12 th century,<br />

Cistercian monks created miles of walls and<br />

terraces using French stones across the lake to<br />

support the terraces. So, there are, arguably,<br />

two French sides of Lake Geneva. The monks<br />

also planted the original vine rootstock.<br />

Lunch at Tout un Monde Restaurant in Lavaux<br />

and you’ll enjoy a view down most of the 104<br />

mile perimeter, croissant-shaped, 25-mile long<br />

Evian Resort golf course © Hotel R Evian Resort<br />

by 11-mile wide lake which is fed by forty-two<br />

rivers. From the terrace you see Evian, the<br />

Bernese Alps, Mont Pelerin, the Savoie and<br />

Valais mountains, Montreux and Vevey. While<br />

digesting your char, féra, perch fillets and lake<br />

shrimps you can watch the yachts and swanky<br />

boats as you relish the fabulous view.<br />

Frankenstein connection<br />

Everyone sleeps well at the Hotel Royal.<br />

All except Mrs Frankenstein. She and her<br />

husband honeymooned there, before she was<br />

strangled. In Mary Shelley’s dark tale, Victor<br />

Frankenstein, the creator of the monster,<br />

agrees to create a mate for him. Destroying it<br />

before completion, the monster vows ‘I will be<br />

with you on your wedding night.’ On the day<br />

Victor married Elisabeth, the monster breaks<br />

into the bridal suite at the Hotel Royal and<br />

strangles the new bride.<br />

The Good Life France | 63

https://www.tv5mondeplus.com/?xtor=CS5-70-%5BEUR_Trafic%5D-%5Bthegoodlife_<br />

france%5D-%5B300x250%5D-<br />

https://www.aveyron.tours/<br />

64 | The Good Life France

The 467-acre 150 room hotel opened in 1909<br />

in honour of King Edward VII who died before<br />

he could schmooze there and blag some luxury.<br />

The hotel was allowed to keep its royal status.<br />

The Jean-Albert Hebrard-designed “white<br />

steam ship anchored in the hills” sits above Lac<br />

Leman. One of the first spa palace hotels, the<br />

hotel has always been a magnet for the rich<br />

and famous. The spa’s relaxation lounge is the<br />

Aga Khan III’s old apartment. They still have<br />

the original chandelier in storage. The Royal<br />

was the holiday choice for sultans, maharajahs,<br />

shahs, and other royalty as well as celebrities<br />

and statesmen. Just 45 minutes from Les<br />

Portes du Soleil, Europe’s largest ski area, it<br />

hosted the 2003 G8 summit.<br />

Frankenstein’s monster would never have<br />

made a spa therapist. But he could have been<br />

mistaken for a customer. Or health tourist.<br />

He had the gait of one. Frankenstein walked<br />

like he had a metabolic disorder or a urinary<br />

ailment. Or maybe he was just getting used to<br />

the very scanty, hardly-there and rather tight<br />

briefs the spa staff make you wear.<br />

By Kevin Pllley and Janine Marsh<br />

Website: Evian Tourist Office<br />

tourism.evian-tourisme.com<br />

Top: © Evian Ville<br />

Bottom: Lake © P.Leroy.Semaphor<br />

The Good Life France | 65

Vercors:<br />

Active by<br />

Nature<br />

66 | The Good Life France


finds beauty and adventure in unspoiled territory<br />

Before I went, I had no idea where Vercors<br />

was, but I did know it was famous for its<br />

outdoor activities. A two hour car journey<br />

from Lyon Airport brought me to a small<br />

range of pre-Alps mountains that straddles<br />

the departments of Isère and Drome in southeastern<br />

France. As we turned off the dusty<br />

highway into the valley, I was greeted by a<br />

heavenly view. The hills were a crisp lime<br />

green and the sky a brilliant blue. Vercors<br />

makes a great first impression.<br />

I came here seeking an adventure. Vercors, a<br />

utopia for outdoors enthusiast, was ready to<br />

indulge me.<br />

Hiking in Hauts Plateaux<br />

Nature Reserve<br />

One of the great things about hiking is that all<br />

you need is a good solid pair of shoes. It is so<br />

easy to simply walk into nature and feel miles<br />

away from civilisation. Being a mountainous<br />

region, Vercors has plenty of hiking options<br />

on offer.<br />

In the Hauts Plateaux Nature Reserve, the<br />

largest land-based metropolitan reserve in<br />

France, there are no roads or houses, apart<br />

from refuge huts providing shelter for hikers.<br />

The 17,000 hectares of wild land with its<br />

forests of oaks, beeches, firs, spruce, pines<br />

is home to much wildlife including marmots,<br />

black grouse, Alpine ibex, vultures and<br />

golden eagles.<br />

Paths that crisscross the reserve are rocky with<br />

limestone which has been sculpted by water<br />

and weather, covered with pine needles and<br />

tree roots, lined with mountain flora. The moist<br />

undergrowth of the forest is full of ferns, fungi<br />

and fabulous fauna. I spotted Lady’s Slipper<br />

orchids, Edelweiss, Gentians, as well as the<br />

rare scabiosa columbaria ‘Vercors’ in various<br />

shades of purple. Other than the crunch of<br />

my footsteps, the only other sounds were the<br />

whistle of the wind and the rustle of leaves. So<br />

quiet, not even the birds stirred. The air was<br />

fresh, the surrounding nature energising, and<br />

the sound of silence meditating.<br />

Gentle cycling along<br />

ViaVercors<br />

No respectable ‘outdoor destination’ would<br />

be without the offer of some great cycling.<br />

The Good Life France | 67

Grotte de Choranche in the heart of Vercors, is full of mysterious beauty<br />

Here in Vercors, while the lycra-wearers rule the<br />

spectacular balcony roads that are dramatically<br />

carved onto the rock face with breath-taking<br />

views of gorges beyond, cliffs above and alpine<br />

meadows below, there is an alternative leisure<br />

option to exploring on two wheels.<br />

‘Don’t worry’ guide Olivier from Velectrip,<br />

which specialises in nature sports, assured<br />

a group of us keen to explore the area. ‘We<br />

don’t have to wear lycra!’<br />

ViaVercors is a network of designated cycling<br />

routes that cuts through the valley floors<br />

connecting all the main towns in Vercors. The<br />

mostly flat routes took us from farmland to<br />

villages, along running streams and quiet<br />

back roads.<br />

A bike tour is a great way to explore the<br />

many villages of Vercors and visit the local<br />

craftspeople and farmers. Other than forest<br />

and nature, Vercors is also well known for<br />

its agriculture. We stopped at the Ferme du<br />

Pic Saint Michel, where Marion and Yannick<br />

Rochas have 60 chamois alpine breed goats.<br />

After much petting and cooing the goats who<br />

seemed more than happy at the attention, we<br />

sampled goats cheese of different stages of<br />

maturity direct from the farmer’s hands.<br />

‘Many people say they don’t like goats cheese,’<br />

Olivier said as he stuffed a cube of the one<br />

week old cheese into his mouth. ‘That’s because<br />

they’ve never really tried it directly from the farm.<br />

‘You cannot get this from the supermarkets.’<br />

Of course, a day on the bike also means guiltfree<br />

sampling of great regional cuisine from<br />

many of the cafés and restaurants conveniently<br />

en route. They’re all listed in the ViaVercors<br />

map which you can get from the tourist office,<br />

or you can book a guided tour.<br />

The best part? I was pedalling an e-bike,<br />

which are readily available for hire at local<br />

bike shops. It meant the ride was relaxing and<br />

I could take it easy and enjoy the views.<br />

Trying out the sport of<br />

biathlon<br />

Biathlon is a sport that requires the agility of<br />

a cross country skier and the sharp aim of a<br />

sniper. It was never on my radar as a holiday<br />

activity. Yet, when you find yourself among<br />

champions as I did unexpectedly it seemed a<br />

shame not to give it a go.<br />

68 | The Good Life France

‘Actually, many of the French Nordic sport<br />

champions comes from Vercors’ said Loïs<br />

Habert. He and his wife Marie Dorin, both<br />

ex-national biathletes, and cross-country<br />

skier Robin Duvillard manage ZeCamp<br />

Hotel in Corrençon-en-Vercors, which offers<br />

a selection of sports and wellness holiday<br />

activity options. It is the perfect place to try<br />

biathlon.<br />

‘Shooting a rifle is all about the breathing,’<br />

Loïs said just before he pulled the trigger and<br />

downed one of the targets. I tried to replicate,<br />

concentrating with all my energy and<br />

managing to hit three out of five targets.<br />

For the ski part of the biathlon, it being<br />

summer we ‘ski’d’ on roller skis. It’s not that<br />

easy, and not like roller skating, and though I’d<br />

seen school groups make it look easy as they<br />

rolled up and down the streets of Villard-de-<br />

Lans, the town where I was based, I retreated<br />

to the hotel for a session of yoga.<br />

On top of the world in<br />

Vercors<br />

All around Vercors, the sight of silvery<br />

mountain peaks like limestone fingers reaching<br />

to the sky is never far away. If you want to get<br />

closer to them then a spot of rock climbing is<br />

a popular pastime here. I couldn’t resist and<br />

joined mountain guide Jehan-Roland Guillot.<br />

As he strapped ropes and hooks onto each of<br />

us in our intrepid group of climbers he assured<br />

us we would be on top of the world soon. I<br />

pulled on a helmet and looked up. The sun was<br />

streaking through the vertical silhouette of the<br />

so-called Three Maidens – Les Trois Pucelles,<br />

a set of limestone formation above the valley<br />

of Grenoble 1456 meters above sea level. It<br />

looked daunting. It looked impossible.<br />

‘Don’t worry, winked Jean-Roland ‘I’m good<br />

with beginners!’<br />

Two hours later, we had hiked past the 90-metre<br />

springboard used during the 1968 Winter<br />

Olympic Games at Grenoble, picked our way<br />

through patches of coniferous trees, abseiled<br />

down a rock wall like James Bond, climbed the<br />

jagged edges of the cliffs to the top, and finally<br />

reached the gap between the rocks. A rope,<br />

stretched tight between the peaks of the rocks,<br />

was our way across. Tentatively I hooked my<br />

clips onto the rope, inched towards the edge. It<br />

was a steep drop to the ground, I gulped.<br />

‘Trust the rope, trust yourself, there is nothing to<br />

be afraid of. Just let go’ encouraged Jehan.<br />

In my line of sight, the city of Grenoble spread<br />

before like walnut butter, covering the basin<br />

and towards the edges of the mountains. It was<br />

a beautifully clear day and the peak of Mount<br />

Blanc was just visible in the distance. Adrenaline<br />

kicked in. It felt like I was at the top of the world.<br />

I breathed it all in and let go.<br />

For nature, beauty, adventure and sheer joie<br />

de vivre – Vercors is hard to beat.<br />

For more information:<br />

inspiration-vercors.com<br />

isere-tourisme.com<br />

The Good Life France | 69

Yvoire<br />

Church of Saint Pancrace<br />

70 | The Good Life France

, Haute-Savoie<br />

Yvoire, in Haute-Savoie, Auvergne-Rhône-<br />

Alpes region, was founded in 1306 when<br />

Amédée V, Count of Savoy began fortifying<br />

the former fishing village. It’s officially one<br />

of the most beautiful villages in France (Plus<br />

Beaux Villages de France). Sitting of the<br />

shores of the grand Lake Geneva, known<br />

as Lac Leman in French, it’s nicknamed the<br />

“pearl of Lake Geneva.” The colourful<br />

streets are beautifully floral with geraniums<br />

and wisteria have won it numerous and<br />

prestigious distinctions and the Garden of<br />

the Five Senses featuring 1500 varieties<br />

of plants makes for a sensory walk<br />

accompanied by bird song and the sound of<br />

a tinkling stream.<br />

The Good Life France | 71

72 | The Good Life France

14th century Chateau d’Yvoire<br />

Artists have long flocked to the village and<br />

photographer Jerome Palacios from Mougins<br />

in the south of France loves to capture it’s<br />

medieval beauty. His partner Manuella<br />

Houssais says“ Yvoire is full of history with<br />

its 14th century castle, ramparts, fortified<br />

gates and beautiful medieval houses. Strolling<br />

through the streets, discovering the labyrinth<br />

of the Jardin des Cinq Sens which offers<br />

a green escape in the heart of the village,<br />

browsing the quaint shops and sampling the<br />

delicious restaurants are some of the many<br />

pleasures to be found here…”<br />

In the heart of the village, be sure to visit the<br />

Jardin des Cinq Sens. Classified as a Remarkable<br />

Garden by the Ministry of Culture, this little<br />

paradise of greenery invites you to a poetic<br />

discovery of plants thanks to your 5 senses.<br />

See more of France on Jerome’s Instagram<br />

Instagram.com/jeromepalcios<br />

Photographs © Jerome Palacios<br />

The Good Life France | 73

10<br />

fabulous<br />

things to do<br />

in Provence<br />

In an area famous for so many things, like beautiful lavender fields, charming hilltop<br />

villages, and delicious food, it’s hard to pick favourites. We asked local author Keith van<br />

Sickle for his top ten Provence things to do…<br />

Les Carrières des Lumières, Baux-de-Provence<br />

Magic in a Mountain<br />

Imagine this: you enter a giant cavern with<br />

sheer, 30-foot-high walls. Huge images start<br />

to appear on one wall, then another, then on<br />

the floor. You realize that they are paintings by<br />

a great artist like van Gogh or Cézanne. The<br />

images pulse and swirl, full of life and color,<br />

their movements choreographed to beautiful<br />

music. This is the Carrières de Lumières, the<br />

world’s most magical sound and light show,<br />

and a different artist is featured each year. It’s<br />

so popular that copies are popping up all over<br />

the world, but none matches the original. You<br />

really do have to see it to believe it!<br />

Picnic in the Sky<br />

The Cedar Forest sits far above the Luberon<br />

Valley, higher even than the nearby hilltop<br />

village of Bonnieux. As you take the winding<br />

road up to the forest, there’s a secret spot off<br />

to the side<br />

where you<br />

can picnic<br />

under a tree<br />

and enjoy an<br />

unparalleled<br />

view across<br />

the valley.<br />

74 | The Good Life France

Les Calanques, Peter Jones<br />

Cassis, Nick Meersman<br />

France’s Fjords<br />

East of Marseille, tall cliffs plunge down to the sea, with craggy inlets here and there. These<br />

calanques are like mini fjords, the grey stone contrasting with the deep blue waters of the<br />

Mediterranean where you see sailboats anchored, their passengers sunning on tiny beaches.<br />

If you’re feeling energetic you can hike to the calanques, but I recommend taking one of the<br />

regular boat rides that depart from the pretty little port town of Cassis, then you can see the<br />

calanques in two hours or less. Be sure to try some seafood at one of the restaurants along<br />

Cassis’s waterfront.<br />

Walk Through<br />

a Rainbow<br />

A century ago, ochre was<br />

mined in Roussillon and<br />

used as pigment in paint.<br />

The ochre quarries are<br />

abandoned now but there’s<br />

a well-marked walking trail<br />

through them. Follow it<br />

and admire the brilliantlycoloured<br />

hillsides—you’ll<br />

see red, purple, orange,<br />

and yellow. The town of<br />

Roussillon is a nice place to<br />

enjoy lunch or coffee, and<br />

all the buildings are painted<br />

in various ochre shades.<br />

Nearby and less crowded is<br />

the Colorado Provençal, with<br />

its own abandoned ochre<br />

quarries that are more rustic<br />

than Roussillon’s but equally<br />

beautiful.<br />

Roussillon<br />

The Good Life France | 75

Les Baux-de-Provence<br />

Bike to Hell and Back<br />

The Alpilles Mountains are full of biking<br />

routes with fabulous views, that range from<br />

easy to moderately difficult. Our favourite<br />

ride is to puff our way from St-Rémy up to<br />

the Val d’Enfer (Hell Valley.) It’s full of rugged<br />

boulders and rocky outcroppings and there’s<br />

a spot where you can look straight across<br />

to the mountaintop fortress of Les Bauxde-Provence.<br />

The best part of the ride is<br />

coasting back!<br />

Hike to the Top of<br />

the World<br />

La Caume is one of the highest points of the<br />

Alpilles Mountains and is surprisingly easy<br />

to reach on foot. Rather than starting at the<br />

bottom, you can drive to a big parking lot<br />

that’s part of the way up and join the trail<br />

there. It’s paved and well-marked and not<br />

too steep, and the view from La Caume is<br />

terrific—to the north you can see the Rhône<br />

Valley and to the south the view goes all the<br />

way to the Mediterranean Sea.<br />

The Outdoor Markets<br />

One of the glories of Provence is its outdoor<br />

markets, full of wonderful sights, smells, and<br />

tastes. You can sample cheeses, drool over<br />

roast chickens, and chat with the olive vendor,<br />

find perfect souvenirs, then relax in a café.<br />

You can’t visit Provence without going to its<br />

markets – every town and village has its own.<br />

My favorite, of course, is St-Rémy’s.<br />

market Provence<br />

76 | The Good Life France

Pont du Gard<br />

The Stunning Roman Aqueduct<br />

The Pont du Gard was built over 2,000 years ago, to bring water to the city of Nîmes. It is so<br />

big that Roman engineers had to build it on three levels, each with its own set of arches. The<br />

aqueduct crosses over the Gard River and is as tall as the top of the Statue of Liberty’s torch!<br />

For extra fun you can rent a kayak and float under it.<br />

Birth of a River<br />

Imagine that you<br />

are walking on a<br />

path next to a river,<br />

going upstream.<br />

You look up and<br />

see that you are<br />

coming to a high<br />

cliff. You wonder<br />

how the river gets<br />

past it – maybe it<br />

goes around? Then<br />

you get to the cliff<br />

Fontaine de Vaucluse<br />

and you realize the<br />

river is coming out of the ground, just bursting<br />

forth. You’re at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, one of<br />

the largest springs in the world, and so deep<br />

that even Jacques Cousteau couldn’t reach<br />

the bottom.<br />

A River of Sheep<br />

Every year, thousands of sheep march<br />

through the streets of St-Rémy,<br />

accompanied by musicians, shepherds,<br />

sheepdogs, and the occasional goat. It’s<br />

like a river of sheep flowing through town!<br />

Afterwards there are sheepdog trials. This is<br />

a fun event for the whole family. It’s all part<br />

of the annual transhumance festival that<br />

commemorates the days when sheep used<br />

to walk to higher pastures to escape the<br />

summer heat.<br />

Keith and Val Van Sickle live part of the year in<br />

St-Rémy-de-Provence and have traveled widely<br />

throughout the region. Keith is the author of An<br />

Insider’s Guide to Provence (read our review).<br />

The Good Life France | 77

What’s<br />

New?<br />

Roundup of openings and major events<br />

In 2021:<br />

Paris saw the opening of the historic Hôtel<br />

de la Marine, the spectacular Bourse de<br />

Commerce | Collection Pinault and the rebirth<br />

of La Samaritaine Department Store.<br />

A brand new modern art museum housed in<br />

the former stables of the 12th century Royal<br />

Abbey of Fontevraud in the Loire was opened.<br />

It showcases the private collection (some<br />

900 objects from paintings to sculptures and<br />

antiques) of Martine and Léon Cligman.<br />

In the south of France, the long awaited Frank<br />

Gehry tower, the crown jewel of the LUMA<br />

Foundation in Arles was completed. And in<br />

Narbonne, the Musée Narbo Via designed<br />

by Norman Foster, who also designed the<br />

world famous Millau Viaduct, opened in May.<br />

Featuring a wall of 760 antique stones, the<br />

museum brings together over 1,000 antiquities<br />

aimed to show the Narbonne’s Roman past<br />

when it was known as Narbo Martius.<br />

78 | The Good Life France

© Bassin de Lumieres, Bordeaux -5<br />

In <strong>2022</strong>:<br />

February <strong>2022</strong> – January 2023:<br />

In Bordeaux, the Bassins de Lumières,<br />

the largest digital art centre in the world,<br />

house in 4 huge basins of the former WWII<br />

submarine base will feature “Venice and its<br />

Masters,” and another show dedicated to<br />

Spanish painter Sorolla.<br />

bassins-lumieres.com<br />

Plage Dieppe Plage Dieppe © B. Collier<br />

12 March – 19 August: <strong>2022</strong> marks the<br />

80th anniversary of the Raid, and with it<br />

the occasion to pay tribute to the Canadian<br />

soldiers who fought there, many of whom<br />

gave their lives fighting for freedom. The<br />

ceremonies, commemorations and festivities<br />

will take on an international dimension and will<br />

feature parades, festivals, military displays,<br />

exhibitions and fireworks throughout the year.<br />

junobeach.org<br />

The Good Life France | 79

23 April – 1 May: International Kite Festival, Berck, Pas-de-Calais. cerf-volant-berck.com<br />

6 April – 25 July: The Louvre Lens, the first regional annex of the Louvre Museum in Paris,<br />

will mark its 10th anniversary with two major exhibits: Rome from April 6 to July 25, <strong>2022</strong>,<br />

and Hieroglyphics from September 28, <strong>2022</strong> to January 16, 2023. Lens, which is in Northern<br />

France, is easily accessible from Paris in a little over 1 hour by high-speed train.<br />

louvrelens.fr<br />


Warm, uplifting and<br />

effervescent, Janine Marsh's<br />

voice and humour bubble<br />

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Toujours-France-Living-Dream-Rural/dp/1789293847/<br />

ref=sr_1_1?crid=3FD3QEGDKGLMM&keywords=toujours+la+france+janine+marsh&-<br />

right off the page, making<br />

qid=1646217630&sprefix=toujours+la+france%2Caps%2C49&sr=8-1<br />

you want to pack your<br />

bags and head off to<br />

rural France...<br />

From Amazon,<br />

Barnes & Noble, Waterstones<br />

and all good bookshops this spring<br />

80 | The Good Life France

Cite Internationale de la Gastronomie et du Vin ©AAABAgence d'Architecture Anthony Béchu<br />

6 May: Burgundy’s beautiful capital city,<br />

Dijon, will open the Cite Internationale de<br />

la Gastronomie et du Vin on the site of the<br />

former historic Hotel-Dieu breathing new<br />

life into 15th and 18th century buildings and<br />

creating new spaces. The new landmark<br />

destination, a ten-year project, The<br />

International City of Gastronomy & Wine is<br />

at the starting point of the region’s famous<br />

Wine Route which runs from Dijon to Macon<br />

via Beaune. Among the highlights will be a<br />

gastronomy and wine cultural and training<br />

centre, new shops and restaurants, cookery<br />

classes and wine tasting sessions, a fourstar<br />

hotel and a 13-screen cinema complex.<br />

citedelagastronomie-dijon.fr<br />

https://www.rhonewineholidays.com/<br />

The Good Life France | 81

26 May – 16 October: Amiens Hortillonnages Arts and Gardens Festival takes place on a<br />

network of medieval waterways and islands in the shadow of the city’s great Gothic Cathedral.<br />

artetjardins-hdf.com<br />

Grotte Cosquer replica at La Villa Méditerranée ©Kléber Rossillon<br />

Penguin painting replica Grotte Cosquer<br />

June: Marseille sees a major new<br />

opening of a replica of the remarkable<br />

underwater prehistoric cave known as<br />

the Grotte Cosquer. Hosted at La Villa<br />

Méditerranée, an ultra-contemporary<br />

building on the old harbour, it will provide<br />

an immersive and interactive experience<br />

as you discover the original cave’s 500<br />

cave paintings depicting marine animals<br />

like penguins plus seals and what seems<br />

to be jellyfish, and mammals that<br />

roamed in that era. The original cave<br />

was lived in as early as 33,000 years<br />

ago, the actual cave is located in the<br />

mini-fjords between Cassis and Marseille<br />

known as the Calanques, specifically in<br />

Triperie Calanque, near Cape Morgiou.<br />

grotte-cosquer.com<br />

82 | The Good Life France

30 June-3 July: Le Mans Classic returns<br />

after a four-year absence. Expect 600 racing<br />

cars on the track in this classic day and night<br />

race. Plus 8,500 classic cars displayed in the<br />

specially designed enclosures.<br />

lemansclassic.com<br />

1-24 July: Tour de France starting in<br />

Copenhagen, Denmark and finishing in the<br />

Champs-Elysees Paris.<br />

letour.fr<br />

24-31 July: The Woman’s Tour de France<br />

returns after an absence of more than 30<br />

years. Start on the day of the final stage 21 of<br />

the Men’s Tour. 1028km eight-day race will<br />

take in back to back mountain stages as well<br />

as gravel sectors, flat stages and more. Starting<br />

at the Eiffel Tower and ending atop La Planche<br />

des Belles Filles in the Vosges mountains.<br />

letourfemmes.fr<br />

<strong>Spring</strong>: Fans of Serge Gainsbourg will rejoice<br />

to know that France’s first cultural institution<br />

dedicated to the songwriter Serge Gainsbourg<br />

will open Mason Gainsbourg including a<br />

museum, bookstore and Le Gainsbarre, a<br />

hybrid space that hosts a café during the day<br />

and a piano bar by night.<br />

maisongainsbourg.fr<br />

The ‘Seine à Vélo’ cycle route, launched in<br />

2021, which follows the River Seine from Paris<br />

to Le Havre and Deauville in Normandy, has<br />

been named as one of the best places to<br />

explore in <strong>2022</strong> by National Geographic! The<br />

270-mile Paris-to-the-sea path passes through<br />

some of the region’s most beautiful and famous<br />

sites, including Giverny – home to Claude<br />

Monet’s house and garden, Château-Gaillard<br />

at Les Andelys, Jumièges and picture-perfect<br />

Honfleur. It also goes through Rouen which was<br />

awarded UNESCO gastronomic status in 2021!<br />

laseineavelo.com<br />

Carriage of Le Grand Tour train<br />

In 2023:<br />

Puy du Fou, the award winning, world’s<br />

most incredible theme park, launches the<br />

world’s longest show on ‘Le Grand Tour’, a<br />

6-day spectacular Grand Tour of France on<br />

France’s first private rail company. The train<br />

takes a 4000km journey across France on<br />

an authentic and luxurious Belle Epoque<br />

train taking in some of the greatest sights<br />

including Champagne and Burgundy, Avignon<br />

in Provence, the castles of the Loire Valley,<br />

wonderful Lake Annecy and the Arcachon<br />

Basin. Find out more: legrandtour.com<br />

All information contained here is correct at<br />

the time of publication, but we recommend<br />

you check with the individual venues for<br />

the latest updates, as dates may remain<br />

subject to change and events may need to<br />

be cancelled or postponed in line with the<br />

health situation in France.<br />

The Good Life France | 83

Luxury cruises, CroisiEurope © Gregory Gerault.<br />

Tours de France<br />

We’ve got one thing on our mind – taking a tour or a holiday in fabulous France.<br />

Wandering cobbled streets, cruising on the Mediterranean or<br />

French rivers, discovering gorgeous little villages and historic towns and cities,<br />

visiting memorial sites, indulging in the gastronomic delights or<br />

learning to cook with a chef, visiting the markets, staying in a castle or<br />

a luxury farmhouse in the most beautiful location…<br />

Check out our favourite tours and stays for <strong>2022</strong>…<br />

84 | The Good Life France

delivering truly unforgettable immersive<br />

historical travel experiences. Every tour is<br />

bespoke and tailored to your needs.<br />

Sophiesgreatwartours.com<br />

Tours for those who love the authentic<br />

Discover the real southern France – from<br />

captivating Carcassonne to magical<br />

Montpellier, or the best of Provence and the<br />

lavender fields, Normandy, Bordeaux and<br />

Dordogne. On these luxury, small group tours<br />

you’ll get to be a temporary local and indulge in<br />

the best gastronomy, discover the beauty and<br />

culture of France... tripusafrance.com<br />

The best cruises of France<br />

CroisiEurope is the number one cruise<br />

company in Europe though they also operate<br />

worldwide. In France they offer superb river,<br />

canal, Mediterranean, regional and themed<br />

cruises. As you’d expect from a French<br />

company, their food and wine is the best –<br />

and it’s inclusive, so once you’re on board,<br />

all you have to do is relax, be pampered, and<br />

enjoy the breath-taking scenery and fabulous<br />

excursions. croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Outstanding Rhône Valley Wine Tours<br />

The Rhône Valley is the ultimate wine lovers<br />

destination. And there’s no better way to<br />

discover this beautiful area of Provence and<br />

its vineyards than with a three day tour with<br />

a local expert guide. This is a unique chance<br />

to experience the real Provence. You’ll meet<br />

local wine makers, visit the grand domaines<br />

and famous estates. And of course, to taste<br />

the very best wines and cuisine to match.<br />

rhonewineholidays.com<br />

Battlefield tours and memorial tourism<br />

Sophie’s Great War Tours is a family-run<br />

specialist tour operator, creating exceptional<br />

WW1 & WW2 battlefield tours across France,<br />

Belgium and the Netherlands. Their guides<br />

are experts in history and hospitality,<br />

Les Braves Monument, Omaha Beach<br />

The Good Life France | 85

Foodie tour of Dordogne<br />

Fabulous Food Tours of Dordogne<br />

Unique and utterly scrumptious gastronomic day tours of Dordogne. You’ll be transported by<br />

2CV through the glorious Dordogne landscape to visit the most amazing foodie destinations<br />

and taste local specialities including truffles, caviar and wine. Visit castles, breath-takingly<br />

pretty villages, vineyards, churches, manors and mills. perigourmet.com<br />

Year round themed and bespoke small<br />

group tours of Provence<br />

Small group tours and customized travelling<br />

to give you memories to last a lifetime.<br />

Discover the best of Provence: Lavender tours,<br />

truffle, grape harvest, and bespoke tours as<br />

well as chauffeur services for day trips or a<br />

lot longer. Emily Durand’s Private Provence<br />

tours are unique, exclusive and truly fabulous.<br />

yourprivateprovence.com<br />

Gascony, the Basque country, Provence<br />

and southern France<br />

Nourish your soul and unleash your spirit of<br />

adventure in Gascony. You’ll experience the<br />

famous food, wine and Armagnac of the<br />

region and discover where to find the best<br />

antique shops and flea markets, the most<br />

beautiful villages and magnificent chateaux.<br />

Lavender fields, Provence<br />

86 | The Good Life France

Vineyard in the Rhône Valley Villefranche-sur-Mer Gascony countryside<br />

From one day to week long tours that are<br />

customised for you. There are also tours of<br />

Provence, southern France and the Basque<br />

country. frenchcountryadventures.com<br />

Day trips and tour packages all over<br />

France, plus brilliant shore excursions<br />

Ophorus Tours are a French family run<br />

business with huge experience of running<br />

small group tours all over France as well as<br />

shore excursions. There is a huge choice<br />

of tours from fun and informative guided<br />

walking city tours to very carefully crafted<br />

multi regional packages, wine tasting, cycling<br />

and more. Their aim is to show you France as<br />

they believe it should be shown – authentic,<br />

colourful and friendly. www.ophorus.com<br />

<strong>Spring</strong> and autumn small group tours<br />

of Provence<br />

Custom tours of Provence for small groups.<br />

Jackdaw Journeys tours are designed for<br />

those who wish to immerse themselves in<br />

the culture of Provence. Cooking classes,<br />

markets, antiquing, gastronomy and wine – it’s<br />

all about discovering authentic Provence and<br />

the French Riviera. You’ll make memories to<br />

cherish forever. jackdawjourneys.com<br />

Stunning B&B near Bergerac,<br />

Chateau Masburel<br />

With honey-toned stone walls and sage-<br />

green shutters, the 18th Chateau de<br />

Masburel wine domaine and B&B, has a<br />

timeless, unhurried feel to it. It’s a working<br />

winery producing award winning wines. Close<br />

to Bergerac, Saint-Emilion and ten minutes<br />

from the bastide town of Sainte-Foy-la-<br />

Grande on the banks of the River Dordogne<br />

in the Gironde. it’s the perfect base to<br />

explore the area and enjoy a relaxing break.<br />

Chateau-masburel.com<br />

Culture & cookery tours in Provence<br />

Cooking classes with chefs in their homes<br />

where you’ll cook “authentic French dishes,<br />

no frou frou” says host Martine Bertin-<br />

Peterson. You’ll shop at the enchanting<br />

street markets with chefs and dine at the<br />

most scrumptious restaurants in beautiful<br />

towns of Provence on this fully escorted<br />

delicious and cultural trip of a lifetime.<br />

goutetvoyage.com<br />

Cognac no. 22 – luxury farmhouse in<br />

Charente-Maritime<br />

A 19th century traditional farmhouse with<br />

a luxurious pool is in a tranquil village<br />

surrounded by vineyards and fields of summer<br />

sunflowers. Close to the Charente River and<br />

the market towns of Rouillac and Matha, this<br />

gorgeous holiday rental is ideally situated for<br />

trips to the historic towns of Cognac, St Jean<br />

d ‘Angely, Saintes and Angoulême and the<br />

Atlantic Coast beaches. Cognac-no22.com<br />

The Good Life France | 87

https://www.lachambreparis.com/en<br />

https://www.pimlico.eu/<br />

88 | The Good Life France

Cruising the Rhône<br />

France is criss-crossed by a network of 100 canals and rivers totalling thousands of miles.<br />

David Jefferson’s book Through the French Canals features the main waterways of France<br />

and in this extract, he explores the mighty river Rhône, the second longest in France and the<br />

Saône river…<br />

The Rhône<br />

The Rhône is fed by several navigable<br />

canalised rivers including, to the north of<br />

Lyon, the Saône with the Petite Saône and<br />

the southern arm of the Canal du Rhône<br />

au Rhin and, just a few kilometres from the<br />

Mediterranean, the Petite Rhône and the<br />

Rhône à Séte Canal. This will be of interest to<br />

anyone considering moving their boat down to<br />

the Mediterranean by the waterways because<br />

ultimately the choice is limited to navigating<br />

the Rhône or a seaward passage down the<br />

Bay of Biscay and taking the Canal des Deux<br />

Mers. The Rhône is the more popular choice.<br />

Particularly for smaller craft, the Rhône<br />

comes as something of a challenge after days<br />

spent progressing at a leisurely walking pace<br />

along the Bourgogne or Bourbonnais routes,<br />

stopping for lunch and mooring up in the early<br />

evening near a promising restaurant. In the<br />

space of a few days, the skipper is suddenly<br />

having to cope with a strong current and pay<br />

some attention to the weather as the boat<br />

is piloted down the broad waters of the fastmoving<br />

Rhône, sweeping her towards the giant<br />

locks that are a feature of the waterway. The<br />

rivers that feed into the Rhône are peaceful<br />

enough during the summer months. There is<br />

little current to cope with on the Saône, which<br />

is particularly popular with those who choose<br />

to charter boats on the French waterways.<br />

Those who are bringing their boats through<br />

The Good Life France | 89

Sète<br />

France to the Mediterranean<br />

from the Strasbourg region<br />

or from Germany may<br />

well be motoring along the<br />

southern arm of the Canal<br />

du Rhône au Rhin and<br />

experiencing mile after mile<br />

of spectacular scenery along<br />

the Doubs valley.<br />

At the Mediterranean end<br />

of the Rhône, the skipper<br />

has the choice of either<br />

continuing almost to the end<br />

and branching off at Port-<br />

St-Louis or joining the Petit<br />

Rhône which enables a boat<br />

to transfer to the Rhône<br />

à Séte Canal and motor<br />

through the Camargue<br />

to reach a more westerly<br />

Mediterranean port.<br />

Saône: St-Jean-de-Losne<br />

to Lyon<br />

Yachts bound for the Mediterranean by way of<br />

the northern waterways will eventually reach<br />

the important junction at<br />

St-Jean-de-Losne. On the<br />

way there, some will have<br />

sampled the considerable<br />

attractions of the Canal de<br />

Bourgogne, others will have<br />

chosen the Marne route<br />

through the Champagne<br />

region. Boats passagemaking<br />

from Strasbourg<br />

and the north-east will have<br />

emerged from the Canal du<br />

Rhône au Rhin and others<br />

may have experienced<br />

the delights of the Petite<br />

Saône. Only those who have<br />

taken the most westerly<br />

Bourbonnais route will miss<br />

St-Jean-de-Losne, meeting<br />

the Saône 57km downriver<br />

at Chalon-sur-Saône.<br />

Having arrived at St-Jean-de-Losne, via the<br />

various routes from the north, west or east,<br />

crews should anticipate a marked contrast in<br />

their surroundings once through the first of the<br />

Saône’s massive locks (Seurre). The channel<br />

widens from a modest 12–15m in the Petite<br />

Saône to a minimum of 40m and at times the<br />

90 | The Good Life France

© David Jefferson<br />

river is 200m across from one bank to the<br />

other. There are numerous shoals, shallows<br />

and manmade submerged training walls to be<br />

avoided, with red and green channel buoys<br />

much in evidence.<br />

Watch out for the dérivations on the Saône.<br />

These are canal sections bypassing parts<br />

of the river that are no longer navigable.<br />

Sometimes a portion of what is being<br />

bypassed can be navigated and provides<br />

a peaceful night’s stop free from the wash<br />

of passing barges. There is still commercial<br />

traffic on the Saône, with pushing tugs<br />

connected to several dumb<br />

barges creating considerable<br />

wash as they speed by at<br />

15kn. When considering the<br />

day’s passage, the crew will<br />

appreciate an itinerary that<br />

makes provision for a quiet<br />

berth for the night, undisturbed<br />

by the wash of passing traffic.<br />

During the season, there is<br />

little current unless, due to<br />

exceptional weather conditions,<br />

the water level is markedly<br />

heightened with local flooding.<br />

If navigating the river early or<br />

late in the year, and you are<br />

concerned about the height/<br />

current, contact direction<br />

interrégionale Rhône-Saône.<br />

Between St-Jean-de-Losne and Lyon, much of<br />

the countryside is rich meadowland dotted with<br />

farmhouses with their distinctive red tiled roofs<br />

associated with the south of France. Arriving in<br />

Mâcon brings you into a famous wine-growing<br />

area. Then the scenery changes to woodland<br />

and cliffs. All along the route, there are plenty<br />

of stopping places including ports de plaisance<br />

in most of the riverside towns. With only 5 locks<br />

to cope with a very modest fall, you can reckon<br />

on 20–25 hours to cover the 170km to Lyon,<br />

unless you are tempted to dawdle awhile and<br />

perhaps explore a short length of the beautiful<br />

Doubs river.<br />

Through the French Canals by David Jefferson is<br />

published by Adlard Coles and out now:<br />

Bloomsbury.com<br />

The Good Life France | 91

C’est la vie:<br />

Learn French<br />

French is a Romance language, meaning it<br />

comes from what is known as Vulgar Latin<br />

(spoken Latin as opposed to literary Latin).<br />

French evolved, influenced by Gallic, Anglo-<br />

Norman and regional languages of what is<br />

now modern France over hundreds of years to<br />

become the modern French we know today.<br />

English is a Germanic language that’s heavily<br />

influenced by Romance languages, such as<br />

300 years of French being the official language<br />

of England thanks to William the Conqueror!<br />

French tongue twisters<br />

You’re actually already au fait with quite a<br />

lot of French vocabulary say the experts at<br />

Newsdle, the news-based learning app – it’s<br />

just that the way the words are pronounced<br />

can be very different. Avant-garde, bureau,<br />

cabaret, detour… they’re the same in both<br />

English and French, as are thousands of words.<br />

The more you think about it, the more you<br />

realise that often it’s a matter of pronunciation<br />

(and speed of talking) that differentiates<br />

LINK https://www.newsdle.com/<br />

92 | The Good Life France

French from English. Had déjà vu lately? In<br />

a restaurant or café, you may start the meal<br />

with an aperitif, perhaps Champagne, and you<br />

may find pâté or omelette is served and end<br />

with soufflé or mousse for dessert.<br />

When it comes to tongue twisters –<br />

virelangues – it gets a little more challenging<br />

but you’re sure to recognise some of the words<br />

in these examples:<br />

Les chaussettes de l’archiduchesse sont-elles<br />

sèches, archi-sèches?<br />

Are the Archduchess’ socks dry, very dry?<br />

Or how about this tongue twister that’s full of<br />

words that sound the same, but are written<br />

differently, known as homophones:<br />

Si six scies scient six cyprès, six cents scies<br />

scient six cent cyprès<br />

If six saws saw six cypresses, six hundred saws<br />

saw six hundred cypresses<br />

And this one is perfect for practicing your ‘on’s<br />

and ‘en’s and ‘ou’s and ‘ue’s:<br />

‘Tonton, ton thé t’a-t-il ôté ta toux’ disait la<br />

tortue au tatou. ‘Mais pas du tout’, dit le tatou.<br />

‘Je tousse tant que l’on m’entend de Tahiti à<br />

Tombouctou.’<br />

‘Uncle, your tea has cured your cough,’ said<br />

the tortoise to the armadillo. ‘Not at all,’ said<br />

the armadillo. ‘I cough so much that you can<br />

hear me from Tahiti to Timbuktu.’<br />

Practice your French language reading<br />

and speaking skills and learn more about<br />

France with Newsdle’s fun and easy to use<br />

news-based app – and get 25% off, just<br />

pop in the goodlife25<br />

newsdle.com<br />

https://www.goutetvoyage.com/<br />

The Good Life France | 93

Your Photos<br />

Every weekend we invite you to share your photos on Facebook – it’s a great way for<br />

everyone to “see” real France and be inspired by real travellers snapping pics as they go.<br />

Every week there are utterly gorgeous photos being shared, and here we showcase just a<br />

few of the most popular. Share your favourite photos with us on Facebook, the most ‘liked’<br />

will appear in the next issue of the The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Salers, Cantal by Barbara Pasquet James<br />

The department of Cantal in the<br />

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region is a rather<br />

secret place. A land of lakes and rivers,<br />

volcanoes, forests and mountains. There<br />

are peaceful villages, medieval towns and<br />

cities in this agricultural area. And it’s<br />

famous for its delicious cheese.<br />

94 | The Good Life France

Paris in the spring by Yvonne Rodriguez<br />

Wisteria blooms in paris usually in May and at<br />

Aux Vieux Paris d’Arcole restaurant (The building<br />

was competed in 1512) the wisteria was planted in<br />

1946 and has its own special licence to grow big!<br />

https://www.facebook.com/goodlifefrance/<br />

Join us on Facebook and<br />

like and share your favourite<br />

photos of France...<br />

The Good Life France | 95

96 | The Good Life France<br />

info@leggett.fr<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A07741/<br />

house-for-sale-in-mauron-morbihan-brittany-france<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-propertyfor-sale/view/104839VSM17/<br />

house-for-sale-in-contr%C3%A9-charente-maritime-poitou-charentes-france<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A11605/<br />

apartment-for-sale-inor%C3%A9e-d-anjou-maineet-loire-pays-de-la-loire-france<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A11593/<br />

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https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A08600/<br />

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A10269/house-for-sale-inp%C3%A9rigueux-dordogneaquitaine-france<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A11606/<br />

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https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A07637/<br />

house-for-sale-in-clenleu-pasde-calais-nord-pas-de-calaisfrance<br />

https://www.frenchestateagents.com/french-property-for-sale/view/A07871/<br />


Brantome, Dordogne by Ian Walls<br />

Brantôme is pretty enough to be pictured on the lid<br />

of a chocolate box. The most well-known attraction<br />

of the town is the magnificent Benedictine Abbey.<br />

The original was built by Charlemagne in the 8th<br />

century. Rebuilt in the 11th century, it is now the<br />

location of town hall and art museum.<br />

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Janine-Marsh/e/B071Y4RTMM?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2&-<br />

qid=1646217925&sr=8-2<br />

The Good Life France | 97

Auxerre<br />

Central France<br />

Benefitting from historically low mortgage rates and with a wide choice of<br />

properties to choose from, it’s no wonder that so many home buyers are looking at<br />

the spectacular value that Central France offers says Leggett Immobillier’s Area<br />

Co-ordinator Kevin Andrews.<br />

98 | The Good Life France

We have more than our fair share of glorious<br />

châteaux, sumptuous country estates and<br />

swanky ski chalets and you will find some of<br />

the lowest priced, best value, property<br />

in France.<br />

Much of this area is rural France at its best.<br />

With unspoiled views, peaceful towns and<br />

villages, where “local produce” means that the<br />

person selling the fruit and veg probably dug it<br />

up or picked it that morning.<br />

Ignoring the newly created map of France,<br />

we’re labelling central France as the four<br />

traditional regions of Centre, Limousin,<br />

Auvergne and Burgundy. Each of them has a<br />

very different landscape and “feel” but all share<br />

the common traits of beautiful countryside,<br />

friendly locals, historic towns and great value.<br />

Centre<br />

Centre is renowned for having the most<br />

beautiful collection of historic châteaux in<br />

the world. Scattered along the lovely river<br />

Loire they seem to dominate the landscape<br />

and provide a stunning backdrop to the<br />

countryside. The popular towns of Orléans and<br />

Tours are welcoming, pretty and packed full of<br />

historic buildings. Buy a house within striking<br />

distance of either and you’ll never be short of<br />

something to do on a rainy day.<br />

The Good Life France | 99

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100 | The Good Life France

Limousin<br />

Limousin has been my home for many years. I<br />

moved across with my family and we saw our<br />

quality of life sky-rocket. We are surrounded<br />

by clean air, open spaces and delicious food.<br />

The region is best known to holidaymakers<br />

for its outdoor pursuits, thanks to the<br />

proliferation of rivers that flow through<br />

the area, as well as numerous springs and<br />

lakes. Cycling, sailing, canoeing, kayaking<br />

and fishing are very popular such as at<br />

Lac Vassivière, a man-made lake of 1000<br />

hectares where you can swim and do all<br />

manner of water sports as well enjoy walking<br />

trails and boat rides to a central island with a<br />

sculpture park, café and museum. Summers<br />

here are long and hot.<br />

This is the least populated region in mainland<br />

France, though that doesn’t mean there’s<br />

not plenty to do year-round. A roll-out of<br />

high speed fibre optic in Limousin as well<br />

as Government support for the area to<br />

be rejuvenated as a potential tech centre<br />

has seen both second and permanent<br />

home status rocket in the last two years.<br />

The properties available here are simply<br />

remarkable value for money. The average<br />

house price in my department – Haute<br />

Vienne, which is home to the city of Limoges,<br />

is €121,500 while in the neighbouring Creuse<br />

they are just €80,000!<br />

Burgundy<br />

Burgundy is the place to explore if you like<br />

vineyards, rolling hills and exceptional food.<br />

The locals are proud of the wide choice of<br />

incredible wine they can choose from – much<br />

of it from little known vineyards, off the beaten<br />

track. Local agent knowledge about where to<br />

live is the key here as it’s such a diverse area.<br />

Without that expertise you could miss out on<br />

discovering the most popular villages, where to<br />

get the best wine and which markets offer the<br />

freshest produce. If you enjoy the finer things<br />

in life you’ll love Burgundy.<br />

e Puy en Velay<br />

Burgundy<br />

Auvergne<br />

Limousin cattle<br />

Auvergne has the most dramatic landscape<br />

of all the regions. It’s a land of dormant<br />

volcanoes, hulking mountain ranges and<br />

bustling towns and cities. If you like the<br />

outdoor life then this region has to be on your<br />

shortlist. Hiking, biking, skiing, snow-boarding<br />

and jumping off the side of a mountain in a<br />

wing suit are just some of the madcap things<br />

on offer. And, if you like being close to a ski-lift<br />

but find the prices in the Alps or Pyrénées a<br />

little heady then take a look in the Auvergne.<br />

Mont Dore ski resort at the foot of Puy de<br />

Sancy is ideal for beginners, intermediates<br />

and families. The resort has a connection to<br />

Besse ski resort. A Spa town with traditional<br />

restaurants, shops, ice skating rink, bowling<br />

alley, casino and cinema. Equally as busy with<br />

summer activities and music festivals. It’s ideal<br />

for permanent residence, a holiday home or<br />

just a rental investment with almost all year<br />

round rental potential.”<br />

The average house price in the Puy de Dome<br />

is just €160,000.<br />

Find out more properties in the Auvergne<br />

The Good Life France | 101

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102 | The Good Life France

What is a<br />

French Assurance Vie<br />

We talk to Paul Flintham, an International Financial<br />

Advisor at Beacon Global Wealth about the<br />

Assurance Vie…<br />

Well, literally translated it means Life<br />

Insurance, but actually it’s quite different<br />

from the life insurance policy you might be<br />

used to in say the UK. An Assurance Vie<br />

is essentially a life insurance wrapper that<br />

holds investments. It’s available to French tax<br />

residents, including foreign nationals living<br />

in France and as well as offering inheritance<br />

advantages, it’s one of the most versatile and<br />

efficient tax structures in France.<br />

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Inheritance: Assets within an Assurance Vie<br />

may be dispersed as you wish on death, and<br />

there are tax advantages for beneficiaries.<br />

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This is a simple view of how an Assurance Vie<br />

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The information on this page is intended as an introduction only<br />

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Wealth Management can accept no responsibility whatsoever for<br />

losses incurred by acting on the information on this page.<br />

Beacon Global Wealth Management are members of Nexus<br />

Global (IFA Network). Nexus Global EU is a division of Blacktower<br />

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Control Service (ICCS) - Licence No. 5101<br />

The Good Life France | 103

Croissants<br />

104 | The Good Life France<br />

Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

If you’ve ever sighed over a photo of croissants and<br />

wished you could make them at home – then read on…<br />

A Makes 12–15 (1¼ lb./600 g dough)<br />

Active time: 1 hour<br />

Chilling time: 4–5 hours (preferably<br />

overnight)<br />

Rising time: 4 hours<br />

Cooking time: 15 minutes<br />

Storage: Up to 2 months in the<br />

freezer in a sealed bag<br />

(see Chef’s Notes)<br />


Instant-read thermometer<br />

Stand mixer fitted with the dough hook<br />

2 silicone baking mats (or parchment paper)<br />

Rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment<br />

paper<br />


Water dough<br />

1⁄3 oz. (10 g) fresh yeast (see Chef’s Notes)<br />

1 tbsp (15 ml) lukewarm water<br />

2 tbsp (25 g) sugar<br />

1½ tsp (7 g) fine salt<br />

1 tbsp (20 g) butter<br />

¼ cup (60 ml) water<br />

¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk +<br />

1 tbsp for the sugar and salt<br />

2 cups (9 oz./250 g) bread flour<br />

For laminating<br />

1 stick + 1 tbsp (4½ oz./130 g) butter, at room<br />

temperature<br />

1 egg, lightly beaten<br />

METHOD<br />

1. To prepare the water dough, dissolve the<br />

yeast in the lukewarm water in a small<br />

bowl. In a separate bowl, stir the sugar<br />

and salt into the 1 tbsp milk until dissolved.<br />

2. Heat the 1 tbsp (20 g) butter in a small<br />

saucepan with the water and milk,<br />

until the butter has melted and the<br />

temperature reaches 86°F (30°C).<br />

3. Sift the flour into the bowl of the stand<br />

mixer. Beat in the sugar/salt/milk mixture<br />

on low speed, then the warm butter/milk<br />

mixture. Finally, mix in the dissolved yeast.<br />

4. Continue kneading until the dough is<br />

smooth, comes away from the sides of the<br />

bowl, and is just warm to the touch (about<br />

1 minute).<br />

5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and<br />

let the dough rise at room temperature,<br />

ideally around 77°F/25°C, until doubled<br />

in volume (about 1 hour).<br />

6. Dust a shallow baking dish with flour<br />

and press out the dough over the base.<br />

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate<br />

for 2–3 hours.<br />

7. To laminate the dough, remove the butter<br />

from the refrigerator about 30 minutes<br />

ahead, so it will be easier to work with.<br />

Place between the two silicone baking<br />

mats or two sheets of parchment paper,<br />

then beat with a rolling pin to make the<br />

butter as malleable as the dough. Cut into<br />

2 equal pieces, wrap 1 piece, and return it<br />

to the refrigerator.<br />

8. On a lightly floured surface, roll the<br />

dough into a rectangle three times as<br />

long as it is wide.<br />

9. Cut the butter into small pieces. Dot<br />

these evenly over the bottom two-thirds<br />

of the dough: the butter should be slightly<br />

softer than the dough at this point. Fold<br />

the top third of the dough down over the<br />

butter and the bottom third up. Give the<br />

The Good Life France | 105

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106 | The Good Life France

folded dough a quarter turn and roll into a<br />

rectangle again. Fold in thirds as before.<br />

Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least<br />

2 hours, or, for best results, overnight.<br />

10. When ready to proceed, remove the<br />

remaining butter from the refrigerator and<br />

leave it at room temperature for about<br />

30 minutes. Beat with a rolling pin until<br />

malleable, as described in step 7, and<br />

repeat the rolling and folding instructions<br />

(steps 8–9) with the chilled dough and<br />

butter. After giving the dough a quarter<br />

turn, in the same direction as before, roll<br />

it into a rectangle measuring about 8 × 10<br />

in. (20 × 25 cm). Cover with plastic wrap<br />

and chill for 1 hour.<br />

11. To form the croissants, roll the dough into<br />

a rectangle measuring 6 × 17½ in. (15 ×<br />

45 cm), with a thickness of about 1⁄8 in.<br />

(3 mm). Cut into 12–15 triangles with a<br />

narrower, 2–3-in. (6–7.5-cm) base.<br />

12. Roll up each triangle from the base<br />

to the tip. Place on the baking sheet,<br />

leaving space between each one. The<br />

croissants can now be frozen, if desired<br />

(see Chef’s Notes).<br />

13. Brush the croissants with beaten egg to<br />

prevent them drying out while rising. Let<br />

rise for about 2 hours in a warm place<br />

(about 82°F/28°C), until doubled in<br />

volume. Toward the end of the rising<br />

time, preheat the oven to 400°F<br />

(200°C/Gas Mark 6).<br />

14. Brush the croissants with the<br />

remaining beaten egg; brush lightly<br />

so as not to deflate them. Bake for<br />

15 minutes until deep golden brown.<br />

If necessary, rotate the baking sheet<br />

toward the end of the baking time<br />

so they brown evenly. Cool on a<br />

wire rack.<br />

Chef’s Notes<br />

• Croissants are traditionally made using<br />

fresh yeast, as it gives the best results. If<br />

fresh yeast is unavailable, you can substitute<br />

2¼ tsp (7 g) active dry yeast or 1½ tsp (5 g)<br />

instant yeast. Instant yeast must be mixed<br />

directly into the flour before any liquid is<br />

added, rather than dissolved in the water,<br />

which can be omitted.<br />

• If freezing, place the unbaked croissants<br />

on the baking sheet in the freezer until<br />

solid, then place them in a freezer bag,<br />

seal, and return to the freezer. Let them<br />

thaw overnight in the refrigerator, on a<br />

baking sheet lined with parchment paper,<br />

then proceed with steps 13 and 14.<br />

Extracted from French<br />

Pastries and Desserts<br />

by Lenôtre: 200 Classic<br />

Recipes Revised and Updated<br />

(Flammarion, 2021).<br />

The Good Life France | 107

Chocolate<br />

Croissants<br />

108 | The Good Life France<br />

Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Makes 15<br />

Active time: 10 minutes +<br />

making the croissant dough<br />

Rising time: 2 hours<br />

Cooking time: 18 minutes<br />

for each baking sheet<br />

Storage: Up to 2 months in<br />

the freezer (unbaked),<br />

in a sealed freezer bag<br />


Instant-read thermometer<br />

Stand mixer fitted with the dough hook<br />

2 silicone baking mats (optional)<br />

2 rimmed baking sheets lined with<br />

parchment paper<br />


Water dough<br />

1⁄3 oz. (10 g) fresh yeast (see Chef’s Notes)<br />

1 tbsp (15 ml) lukewarm water<br />

2 tbsp (25 g) sugar<br />

1½ tsp (7 g) fine salt<br />

1 tbsp (20 g) butter<br />

¼ cup (60 ml) water<br />

¼ cup (60 ml) whole milk +<br />

1 tbsp for the sugar and salt<br />

2 ¾ cups (9 oz./250 g) bread flour<br />

For laminating<br />

1 stick + 1 tbsp (4½ oz./130 g) butter<br />

Chocolate filling<br />

30 pain au chocolat sticks, weighing 1⁄6 oz. (5<br />

g) each, or 15 sticks weighing 1⁄3 oz. (10 g) each<br />

(see Chef’s Notes)<br />

1 egg, lightly beaten<br />

METHOD<br />

1. To prepare the water dough, dissolve the<br />

yeast in the lukewarm water in a small<br />

bowl. In a separate bowl, stir the sugar<br />

and salt into the 1 tbsp milk until dissolved.<br />

2. Heat the 1 tbsp (20 g) butter in a small<br />

saucepan with the water and milk,<br />

until the butter has melted and the<br />

temperature reaches 86°F (30°C).<br />

3. Sift the flour into the bowl of the stand<br />

mixer. Beat in the sugar/salt/milk mixture<br />

on low speed, then the warm butter/milk<br />

mixture. Finally, mix in the dissolved yeast.<br />

4. Continue kneading until the dough is<br />

smooth, comes away from the sides of the<br />

bowl, and is just warm to the touch (about<br />

1 minute).<br />

5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and<br />

let the dough rise at room temperature,<br />

ideally around 77°F/25°C, until doubled<br />

in volume (about 1 hour).<br />

6. Dust a shallow baking dish with flour<br />

and press out the dough over the base.<br />

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate<br />

for 2–3 hours.<br />

7. To laminate the dough, remove the butter<br />

from the refrigerator about 30 minutes<br />

ahead, so it will be easier to work with.<br />

Place between the two silicone baking<br />

mats or two sheets of parchment paper,<br />

then beat with a rolling pin to make the<br />

butter as malleable as the dough. Cut into<br />

2 equal pieces, wrap 1 piece, and return it<br />

to the refrigerator.<br />

8. On a lightly floured surface, roll the<br />

dough into a rectangle three times as<br />

long as it is wide.<br />

9. Cut the butter into small pieces. Dot<br />

these evenly over the bottom two-thirds<br />

of the dough: the butter should be slightly<br />

softer than the dough at this point. Fold<br />

the top third of the dough down over the<br />

butter and the bottom third up. Give the<br />

folded dough a quarter turn and roll into a<br />

rectangle again. Fold in thirds as before.<br />

Cover in plastic wrap and chill for at least<br />

2 hours, or, for best results, overnight.<br />

10. When ready to proceed, remove the<br />

The Good Life France | 109

110 | The Good Life France<br />


emaining butter from the refrigerator and<br />

leave it at room temperature for about<br />

30 minutes. Beat with a rolling pin until<br />

malleable, as described in step 7, and<br />

repeat the rolling and folding instructions<br />

(steps 8–9) with the chilled dough and<br />

butter. After giving the dough a quarter<br />

turn, in the same direction as before, roll<br />

it into a rectangle measuring about 8 × 10<br />

in. (20 × 25 cm). Cover with plastic wrap<br />

and chill for 1 hour.<br />

11. Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring<br />

35 × 6 in. (90 × 15 cm), with a thickness of<br />

about 1⁄8 in. (3 mm), and cut into 15 equalsized<br />

smaller rectangles.<br />

12. Place 1 large or 2 small chocolate sticks<br />

near the base of each rectangle and roll<br />

up the dough around the sticks to enclose<br />

them. Divide the croissants between the<br />

baking sheets, seam side down, leaving<br />

space between each one. The tops<br />

can be scored using a bread knife for a<br />

decorative effect. The croissants can now<br />

be frozen, if desired (see Chef’s Notes).<br />

13. Brush the croissants with a little beaten<br />

egg to prevent them from drying out while<br />

rising. Let rise at room temperature for<br />

about 2 hours, until doubled in volume.<br />

Toward the end of the rising time, preheat<br />

the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas Mark 6).<br />

14. Lightly brush the tops of one sheet of<br />

croissants with half the remaining beaten<br />

egg, taking care not to deflate the dough.<br />

Place immediately in the oven and bake<br />

for 18 minutes, until deep golden brown.<br />

If the croissants are browning too quickly,<br />

reduce the heat to 350°F (180°C/Gas<br />

Mark 4). Rotate the baking sheet toward<br />

the end of the baking time, if necessary,<br />

so they brown evenly. Brush the tops of<br />

the second sheet of croissants with the<br />

remaining beaten egg and bake in the<br />

same way.<br />

15. Cool the croissants on a wire rack.<br />

Chef’s Notes<br />

• Croissants are traditionally made using<br />

fresh yeast, as it gives the best results. If<br />

fresh yeast is unavailable, you can substitute<br />

2¼ tsp (7 g) active dry yeast or 1¼ tsp (3.5<br />

g) instant yeast. Instant yeast must be mixed<br />

directly into the flour before any liquid is<br />

added, rather than dissolved in the water,<br />

which can be omitted.<br />

• If pain au chocolat sticks are unavailable in<br />

stores, they can be purchased online from<br />

various suppliers.<br />

• If freezing, place the unbaked croissants on<br />

the baking sheet in the freezer until solid,<br />

then place them in a freezer bag, seal,<br />

and return to the freezer. Let them thaw<br />

overnight in the refrigerator, on a baking<br />

sheet lined with parchment paper, then<br />

proceed with steps 4−6.<br />

https://perrytaylor.fr/en/<br />

Extracted from French Pastries and Desserts by<br />

Lenôtre: 200 Classic Recipes Revised and Updated<br />

(Flammarion, 2021).<br />

The Good Life France | 111

Pudding Royal<br />

Brioche<br />

Bread Pudding<br />

112 | The Good Life France<br />

Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Makes 2 desserts, each<br />

serving 6<br />

Active time: 15 minutes<br />

Infusing time: 10 minutes<br />

Cooking time: 50 minutes<br />


2 × 9-in. (23-cm) round porcelain baking<br />

dishes, 1½ in. (4 cm) deep<br />

Electric hand beater<br />

Large baking pan for the bain-marie<br />


For the baking dishes<br />

3 tbsp (1¾ oz./50 g) butter<br />

2 tbsp (25 g) sugar<br />

Custard<br />

3 cups (750 ml) whole milk<br />

1 Bourbon Madagascar vanilla bean,<br />

split lengthwise<br />

5 eggs (1 cup/250 g)<br />

8 egg yolks (scant 2⁄3 cup/160 g)<br />

1½ cups (10½ oz./300 g) Sugar<br />

METHOD<br />

1. Preheat the oven to 340°F (170°C/Gas<br />

Mark 3). Grease the baking dishes with<br />

the butter, then sprinkle with the sugar<br />

until coated.<br />

2. To prepare the custard, pour the milk into<br />

a saucepan. Scrape in the vanilla seeds<br />

and add the bean.<br />

3. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the<br />

heat. Cover and let infuse for 10 minutes.<br />

Remove the bean.<br />

4. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar<br />

together for 1 minute until frothy. Slowly<br />

whisk in the warm milk on low speed.<br />

5. To assemble the bread pudding, cut the<br />

brioche into approximately ¾-in. (1.5-cm)<br />

slices. If necessary, chop the dried and<br />

candied fruit into smaller pieces, removing<br />

any pits.<br />

6. Line the bases of the baking dishes with<br />

brioche slices, packing them tightly<br />

together. Spoon the fruit over the brioche<br />

slices. Cut the remaining brioche into<br />

cubes, then scatter them over the fruit in a<br />

single layer.<br />

7. Divide the custard between the dishes.<br />

Place them in the baking pan and pour<br />

in enough hot water to come halfway up<br />

the sides of the dishes. Carefully transfer<br />

to the oven and bake for 50 minutes.<br />

Cover with aluminum foil if the tops<br />

brown too quickly. Remove from the oven<br />

and let cool.<br />

8. Serve at room temperature or chilled, with<br />

vanilla custard sauce, chocolate sauce, or<br />

apricot or raspberry fruit coulis.<br />

To assemble<br />

9 oz. (250 g) leftover day-old brioche<br />

10½ oz. (300 g) assorted dried and candied<br />

fruit (such as golden raisins, currants,<br />

candied cherries)<br />

To serve<br />

Vanilla custard sauce, chocolate sauce or<br />

apricot or raspberry coulis<br />

Extracted from French Pastries and Desserts by<br />

Lenôtre: 200 Classic Recipes Revised and Updated<br />

(Flammarion, 2021).<br />

The Good Life France | 113

Pain De Gênes<br />

French<br />

Almond Cake<br />

114 | The Good Life France<br />

Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Makes 2 cakes, each<br />

serving 6<br />

Active time: 30 minutes<br />

Cooking time: 30 minutes<br />

Storage: Up to 4 days in the<br />

refrigerator or 3 months<br />

in the freezer, wrapped<br />

airtight<br />


2 × 7-in. (18-cm) round cake pans<br />

2 × 7-in. (18-cm) rounds of parchment paper<br />

Stand mixer fitted with the paddle beater<br />


7 tbsp (3½ oz./100 g) butter + more for the<br />

pans<br />

2⁄3 cup (1¾ oz./50 g) sliced almonds<br />

13¼ oz. (375 g) marzipan, roughly chopped<br />

6 eggs (1¼ cups/280 g)<br />

1½ tbsp (15 g) AP flour<br />

1½ tbsp (15 g) potato starch<br />

1 tsp (5 ml) Grand Marnier<br />

1 tsp (5 ml) aged rum<br />

Extracted from French<br />

Pastries and Desserts<br />

by Lenôtre: 200 Classic<br />

Recipes Revised and<br />

Updated (Flammarion,<br />

2021).<br />

METHOD<br />

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas<br />

Mark 6). Grease the pans with butter<br />

and line the bases with the rounds of<br />

parchment paper to prevent the cakes,<br />

which are fragile, from sticking. Press the<br />

sliced almonds around the sides of the<br />

pans, removing any that do not stick.<br />

2. Beat the marzipan on slow speed in the<br />

bowl of the stand mixer until malleable<br />

and smooth.<br />

3. Add the eggs, one by one, and beat for<br />

5 minutes on medium speed after each<br />

addition. Scrape down the sides of the<br />

bowl as needed. The mixture should be<br />

light and airy.<br />

4. Sift the flour and potato starch into<br />

a bowl.<br />

5. Melt the butter in a saucepan until<br />

foaming. Remove from the heat. Whisk<br />

in about one-quarter of the marzipan<br />

mixture, then the Grand Marnier and rum.<br />

6. Gently fold the flour and potato starch<br />

into the marzipan mixture in the bowl.<br />

Slowly pour in the butter mixture and fold<br />

it in using a spatula.<br />

7. Divide the batter between the pans, filling<br />

them three-quarters full.<br />

8. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the<br />

oven temperature to 350°F (180°C/Gas<br />

Mark 4) and bake for an additional 20<br />

minutes, until the cakes are golden and<br />

the tip of a knife inserted into the center<br />

comes out clean.<br />

9. Let the cakes cool completely in the<br />

pans before carefully inverting them onto<br />

flat serving plates, with the parchment<br />

paper uppermost. Carefully peel off the<br />

parchment paper.<br />

Chef’s Notes<br />

• These cakes can be served with chocolate<br />

sauce or vanilla custard sauce, or with a<br />

fresh fruit coulis. They are also delicious on<br />

their own, with a cup of tea.<br />

The Good Life France | 115

Pain D’épices Des Gâtines<br />

Lenôtre Gâtines<br />

Spice Cake<br />

116 | The Good Life France<br />

Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Makes 2 cakes, each serving 8<br />

Active time: 30 minutes<br />

Cooking time: 1½ hours<br />

Cooling time: 1 hour<br />

Resting time: Up to 3 days<br />

(optional, see Chef’s Notes)<br />

Storage: Up to 12 weeks in the refrigerator or<br />

6 months in the freezer<br />


2 × 12-in. (30-cm) loaf pans<br />

Microplane grater<br />

Stand mixer fitted with the paddle beater<br />


1 stick + 2 tbsp (5¼ oz./150 g) butter, diced +<br />

more for the pans<br />

12⁄3 cups (400 ml) water<br />

1 cup + 3 tbsp (14 oz./400 g) golden honey<br />

1¼ cups (9 oz./250 g) sugar<br />

2 oranges<br />

1 lemon<br />

1 cup (3½ oz./100 g) sliced almonds<br />

3½ tbsp (50 ml) anise syrup or 1 tbsp anise<br />

seeds (see Chef’s Notes)<br />

Generous 4¾ cups (1 lb. 3 oz./550 g) whole<br />

wheat flour or 5 cups (1 lb. 3 oz./550 g)<br />

rye flour<br />

¼ cup (1½ oz./45 g) baking powder<br />

Decoration (optional)<br />

Candied orange peel, cut into thin strips the<br />

same length as the width of the cakes<br />

Finely grated orange zest<br />

Extracted from French Pastries<br />

and Desserts by Lenôtre: 200<br />

Classic Recipes Revised and<br />

Updated (Flammarion, 2021).<br />

METHOD<br />

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/<br />

Gas Mark 6). Lightly grease the loaf pans<br />

with butter and line them with enough<br />

parchment paper to leave an overhang.<br />

2. Heat the water in a saucepan. Stir in the<br />

honey and sugar until dissolved. Add the<br />

butter and stir until it has melted.<br />

3. Wash and dry the oranges and lemon.<br />

Remove the peel in quarters from one<br />

orange and cut it into small dice. Zest the<br />

other orange and the lemon, preferably<br />

using a Microplane grater, as the zest needs<br />

to be very fine. Place the diced peel and<br />

zest in a mixing bowl and add the almonds<br />

and anise syrup or seeds. Stir to combine.<br />

4. Sift the flour and baking powder into<br />

the bowl of the stand mixer. With the<br />

mixer running on low speed, gradually<br />

incorporate the first mixture. Sprinkle in<br />

the citrus peel/almond/anise mixture and<br />

beat until combined.<br />

5. Divide the batter between the pans.<br />

Bake for 30 minutes, then reduce the<br />

temperature to 340°F (170°C/Gas Mark<br />

3) and bake for an additional 1 hour, or<br />

until the tip of a knife pushed into the<br />

center of each cake comes out clean. If<br />

the cakes brown too quickly, cover them<br />

with aluminum foil.<br />

6. Cool the cakes in the pans for at least 1<br />

hour, before serving. If possible, let them<br />

rest overnight or up to 3 days, still in<br />

their pans (see Chef’s Notes). If wished,<br />

decorate the tops of the cakes with strips<br />

of candied orange peel and sprinkle over<br />

finely grated zest before serving.<br />

Chef’s Notes<br />

• There is no need to grind the anise seeds, as<br />

they will disintegrate as the cake bakes.<br />

• Although the spice cakes can be eaten 1<br />

hour after being removed from the oven,<br />

they will be easier to slice and their flavors<br />

will have had time to develop if they are<br />

stored in their pans for 2–3 days.<br />

The Good Life France | 117

Our local bar is the sort of place where everyone has an opinion about absolutely<br />

everything, and they love to complain. The goings on at the Champs-Elysées<br />

Palace are spoken of as if we are all on first name terms with the President, the<br />

Prime Minister and the various political agencies – of which are there are many in<br />

France. If you didn’t know better, you might well believe that many of the villagers<br />

spent the week in Paris moonlighting as eavesdropping staff in governmental<br />

offices. According to just about everyone, Monsieur Macron isn’t nearly as<br />

interesting as some of his previous incumbents, Monsieur Sarkozy for instance<br />

had everyone going due to his aversion to cheese. And Monsieur Hollande was a<br />

constant source of fascination and complaint thanks to his many girlfriends and<br />

predilection for riding through Paris on the back of a small motorbike.<br />

There actually was a poll held in France quite recently about what French people<br />

complain about most and it probably comes as no surprise to find out it was – the<br />

government. I’m sure it is the same everywhere.<br />

Complaining, loudly, is a very French thing. For the last I don’t know how many<br />

years, immediately after meeting Jean-Claude and sharing a kiss on the cheeks<br />

and saying bonjour, the first words out of his mouth will always be complaints<br />

about the weather, it’s too hot, too cold, too wet, too dry, too foggy, too frosty.<br />

Born in London, I am not generally a loud complainer. We Brits tend to sigh loudly<br />

and mumble insults under our breath “pushing in up there, did you see that?” we’ll<br />

say, but we won’t confront the push-inner.<br />

In France though, if you don’t learn to complain, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb.<br />

For the French, it’s not just about letting those negative feelings out, it’s about<br />

connecting with your tribe, bonding.<br />

With all that’s going on in the world, I count my blessings every day and rarely find<br />

anything to complain about for myself. But, in the interests of fitting in, now, if<br />

anyone complains here, I simply nod and say “oui, oui, I know, I agree.”<br />

Truly I am starting to feel French…<br />

Janine<br />

Last<br />

Word<br />

Janine Marsh lives in France with her husband and 72 animals. Her latest book,<br />

Toujours la France: Living the Dream in Rural France, is out in spring <strong>2022</strong> on<br />

Amazon and all good book shops<br />

118 | The Good Life France

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