Summer 2022

Discover captivating Corsica, the island of beauty and glitzy, cinematic Cannes. Explore Antibes, less well known than it's neighbours Nice and Cannes, it's incredibly pretty and authentic, and the Camargue in the south of France where wild white horses and pink flamingoes roam. Come with us to arty Arles, historic Agincourt and Aisne in Picardy - the ancient cradle of France. Meet artisan gin makers in Cognac, discover the prune route of France, fabulous recipes, guides, gorgeous photos, the best tours, what's new in France and delicious recipes - and more...

Discover captivating Corsica, the island of beauty and glitzy, cinematic Cannes. Explore Antibes, less well known than it's neighbours Nice and Cannes, it's incredibly pretty and authentic, and the Camargue in the south of France where wild white horses and pink flamingoes roam. Come with us to arty Arles, historic Agincourt and Aisne in Picardy - the ancient cradle of France. Meet artisan gin makers in Cognac, discover the prune route of France, fabulous recipes, guides, gorgeous photos, the best tours, what's new in France and delicious recipes - and more...

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The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 30<br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

Captivating<br />

Corsica<br />

The Island<br />

of Beauty<br />

Historic Agincourt<br />

An inspiring museum<br />

Discover<br />

Antibes<br />

Gem of the<br />

French Riviera<br />

Camargue<br />

A land of pink<br />

flamingos and wild<br />

white horses<br />

Magazine<br />

Meet the artisan<br />

gin makers of<br />

Cognac<br />

Cannes<br />

Bucket list France<br />

destination<br />

Just why do<br />

the French love<br />

prunes so much?!<br />

Delicious recipes<br />

to bring a taste of<br />

France to your home<br />

120 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos

Bienvenue<br />

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

<strong>Summer</strong> <strong>2022</strong> issue.<br />

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that this issue is<br />

absolutely brimming with fabulous photos and fantastic<br />

features. And with travel now open, it’s brilliant to be able to<br />

take that holiday you’ve been dreaming about, visit friends and<br />

family – and discover the very best of France with The Good<br />

Life France.<br />

Discover Corsica, the island off the coast of Nice that<br />

captivates all who visit, I certainly left a piece of my heart<br />

there. We have features on Cannes, the glitzy, glamourous<br />

cinematic city on the French Riviera, and it’s nothing like its<br />

neighbour Antibes, an absolute gem of a town. Be inspired by<br />

Arty Arles and the Camargue, an unspoiled part of southern<br />

France where wild horses roam and pink flamingos paddle.<br />

We go off the beaten track and discover the Prune Route of<br />

France, visit Aisne in Picardy – the ancient cradle of France,<br />

and historic Azincourt (Agincourt as non-French call it) with its<br />

fabulous museum. Meet the artisan gin makers in Cognac, find<br />

out about France’s biodynamic wines, and meet our new wine<br />

expert. Read about the world’s greatest floral artist and the<br />

UNESCO-listed treasure of Burgundy-Franche-Comté.<br />

And there’s heaps more.<br />

Don’t forget to subscribe – the magazine is free (see page 4)<br />

and share this issue with your friends – that’s free too!<br />

I wish you a very happy summer<br />

Bisous from my little corner of France<br />

Janine<br />

Follow us on Twitter,<br />

Instagram & 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 />

Kit Smyth is a<br />

retired chef with a<br />

passion for French<br />

cuisine. Originally<br />

from Australia, Kit is<br />

dedicated to exploring<br />

both old and new<br />

ingredients, techniques<br />

and styles, and<br />

developing recipes for<br />

home cooks. She also<br />

teaches these recipes<br />

online and in-person.<br />

Find out more at her<br />

website: TheBiteLine<br />

Gillian Thornton is an<br />

award-winning travel<br />

writer and member<br />

of the British Guild<br />

of Travel Writers,<br />

specialising in French<br />

destinations and<br />

lifestyle. Her favourite<br />

place? ‘Usually where I<br />

have just been!’<br />

Laurent Yung was<br />

born and raised in<br />

his 5-generation<br />

family vineyard in<br />

Bordeaux, France.<br />

He now runs, from<br />

San Diego, California,<br />

SomMailier.com, a<br />

fabulous and unique<br />

Wine Club 100%<br />

dedicated to French<br />

wines in the USA. He is<br />

passionate about wine,<br />

especially the small<br />

hard-to-find French<br />

wines.<br />

Sue Aran is a writer,<br />

photographer, and<br />

tour guide living in the<br />

Gers department of<br />

southwest France. She<br />

is the owner of French<br />

Country Adventures,<br />

which provides<br />

personally-guided,<br />

small-group, slow travel<br />

tours into Gascony, the<br />

Pays Basque, Provence<br />

and beyond.<br />

Philip Reddaway<br />

holds a Wine and Spirit<br />

Educational Trust<br />

diploma, qualified as<br />

an AIWS (Associate of<br />

the Institute of Wine<br />

and Spirits) and is a<br />

WSET approved wine<br />

instructor. He runs<br />

Rhone Wine Holidays<br />

fabulous wine tours in<br />

the Rhone Valley.<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Front Cover: Antibes by photographer Marianne Furnes,<br />

@myfrenchmap Instagram<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 />

ISSN 2754-6799 Issue 30 <strong>Summer</strong> <strong>2022</strong>, released June <strong>2022</strong><br />

4 | The Good Life France


The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 30/<strong>Summer</strong> <strong>2022</strong><br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

8<br />


8 Captivating Corsica<br />

A cruise around the island<br />

of beauty captures<br />

Janine Marsh’s heart.<br />

38<br />

32 Camargue – France’s<br />

cowboy country<br />

Gillian Thornton discovers a<br />

land of pink flamingos and wild<br />

white horses.<br />

38 Historic Agincourt<br />

Glorious countryside and an<br />

inspiring, revamped museum.<br />

44 Antibes<br />

Janine Marsh explores this gem<br />

of the French Riviera.<br />

50 Bucket list France: Cannes<br />

New Series: Janine Marsh<br />

visits the glitzy, glamorous<br />

cinematic city.<br />

76 The Prune route of France<br />

Kevin Pilley and Janine Marsh<br />

uncover the history of France’s<br />

love of prunes<br />

44<br />


18 Spotlight on Aisne<br />

Janine Marsh heads to<br />

Picardy and finds Champagne<br />

vineyards, and historic<br />

sites galore.<br />

The Good Life France | 5

26<br />

26 The Treasures of Arles<br />

Gillian Thornton reviews<br />

the history and heritage of<br />

arty Arles.<br />

54 The Raphael of Botanica:<br />

Pierre-Joseph Redouté<br />

Sue Aran explores the life of<br />

one of the world’s great<br />

floral artists.<br />

60 Green wines of France<br />

Phillip Reddaway checks out<br />

the biodynamic wines that are<br />

making a splash in France.<br />

64 The artisan gin makers<br />

of Cognac<br />

Janine Marsh finds that passion<br />

is the secret ingredient of a very<br />

fine gin.<br />

70 UNESCO listed Burgundy-<br />

France-Comté<br />

Discover the treasures of this<br />

diverse region.<br />

90<br />

80 Château de Digoine,<br />

Burgundy<br />

Catherine Scotto finds out<br />

what it’s really like to live in a<br />

chateau.<br />


90 Your Photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our<br />

Facebook page.<br />


86 What’s New<br />

All the news and events you<br />

need for your next trip to<br />

France.<br />

64<br />

92 Tours de France<br />

The very best of France for<br />

tours and holidays.<br />

6 | The Good Life France

94 Language<br />

5 Minute French Lesson.<br />

106 The Wine Expert<br />

New series –<br />

everything French wine!<br />

118 Last word<br />

Life in rural France.<br />

GUIDES<br />

97 Lights, Camera… Action!<br />

Joanna Leggett looks at some<br />

of the most cinema-worthy<br />

places to live in France.<br />

102 How to become resident<br />

in France<br />

The experts explain the<br />

different types of visas.<br />

106<br />

105 French Gift tax<br />

Expert advice on how it works.<br />


111 Easy, cheesy Camembert<br />

Scrumptious tear and share<br />

baked Camembert.<br />

97<br />

112 Chicken with 40 cloves<br />

of garlic<br />

Yes – really. And it’s delicious!<br />

114 Far Breton cake<br />

This classic cake from Brittany<br />

is delectable and easy to make<br />

says chef Kit Smyth.<br />

116 Prune sticky toffee pudding<br />

Kit Smyth’s mouth-watering,<br />

moreish recipe will have you<br />

pining for prunes!<br />

116<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

Captivating<br />

Calanques de Piana<br />

Cruise of CORSICA<br />

The Island of Beauty<br />

8 | The Good Life France

Crystal clear waters and picture-postcard-perfect beaches, wild and unspoiled nature<br />

where flowers and cactus grow everywhere, chestnut and cork forests splattered with wild<br />

fig, lemon and olive trees surround medieval villages, and folk are welcoming. Janine Marsh<br />

takes a cruise and falls head over heels for the island the ancient Greeks called “the most<br />

beautiful”…<br />

Bonifacio<br />

Corsica is one of the best-kept secrets of the<br />

French. A whopping 80% of visitors to the<br />

island are from France, and just 20% are<br />

from Europe and the rest of the world. For<br />

the last two years my plans to visit had been<br />

scuppered but I finally made it in the spring of<br />

<strong>2022</strong>…<br />

Arriving at the port in Nice on a rather dull<br />

and drizzly day, it was easy to spot the cruise<br />

ship Belle des Oceans which was to be my<br />

home for the next week.<br />

Guests were welcomed aboard by a violinist<br />

and the ship’s staff. It set the scene for the<br />

rest of the trip – right from the start you’re<br />

made to feel valued. My room was spacious<br />

and modern with a good sized window from<br />

which I could see dark clouds forming over the<br />

hills of Nice.<br />

Before we left port, there was a safety drill, life<br />

jackets on, counting heads and there are no<br />

exceptions. It was a good chance to see my<br />

fellow residents – mainly French, a smattering<br />

of Australian, Canadian and America, mostly<br />

in the older age range, some families and no<br />

kids (there are other cruises that cater to kids).<br />

As we set sail in the evening, dinner was<br />

announced. The servers stood in the doorway<br />

and wished everyone a good evening,<br />

sometimes they broke out into song and<br />

warbled us through the doors – it made<br />

everyone laugh and broke the ice. By the<br />

end of dinner – a very French gastronomic<br />

The Good Life France | 9

affair, four courses and wine – everyone was<br />

chatting. The crew asked English speakers<br />

beforehand if they’d like to sit with fellow<br />

Anglophones – some do, some don’t - and<br />

I found myself sitting with a couple from<br />

Michigan and a couple from Canada.<br />

For the next 7 days the boat was to cruise<br />

around the island, which is closer to Italy than<br />

France, taking in the main historic cities,<br />

off the beaten track villages and beaches,<br />

including wine tastings and lunch in gorgeous<br />

little family-run traditional restaurants. There<br />

is a choice of excursions each day – classic<br />

tours take in the major sites and discovery<br />

tours take you to more secret and hidden<br />

gems, with French and English speaking<br />

guides. It’s a brilliant way to see a lot of<br />

Corsica while you relax, enjoy the sites and<br />

simply soak the atmosphere where joie de<br />

vivre meets la dolce vita.<br />

Lunch at Figari<br />

Ajaccio and Iles<br />

Sanguineres<br />

We arrived the next morning to brilliant<br />

sunshine in Ajaccio, birthplace of Napoleon<br />

Bonaparte. There’s plenty to see and do in the<br />

rather upmarket and picturesque town and<br />

you can’t help but notice the number of bars<br />

and shops dedicated to the famous French<br />

General! There’s a Napoleon Museum and the<br />

fabulous fine arts Fesch museum. Corsicanborn<br />

Joseph Fesch was half uncle of Napoleon<br />

Bonaparte, a cardinal and archbishop of Lyon.<br />

Born in Ajaccio he donated his enormous<br />

collection of some 16,000 artworks to<br />

museums and the Musée Fesch contains a<br />

huge chunk, including works by Botticelli,<br />

Giovanni Bellini and Titian amongst others.<br />

From here we visited La Parata along the<br />

coast of the Iles Sanguineres, a classified<br />

Grande Site de France, in time to watch<br />

the sun slowly dipping into the sea. Famous<br />

French crooner Tino Rossi had a home in this<br />

most beautiful area with its pointy islands<br />

poking through the top of waves like tiny<br />

pyramids. A Genoese tower sits atop a hill,<br />

Ajaccio<br />

10 | The Good Life France

one of many built along the coastline to<br />

defend the island. Corsica’s history tells<br />

a turbulent tale of invasion, rebellion and<br />

social upheaval. Conquered by the Greeks<br />

in 565BC, ruled by Genoa for hundreds<br />

of years, and changing hands between<br />

the Italians and French. Corsica is now<br />

classified as a region of France with two<br />

departments, Corse-de-Sud, and<br />

Haute-Corse.<br />

What’s immediately apparent is just how lush<br />

and flowery Corsica is. Everywhere there are<br />

wild lemon, fig and olive trees, cactus plants,<br />

lavender and poppies vie for attention. Every<br />

verge is covered in greenery and brightly<br />

coloured flowers, and the ever present<br />

aromatic maquis, a bit like the garrigue of<br />

southern France, an undergrowth of herbs<br />

bush shrubs which blanket the ground. It was<br />

only our first day in Corsica and already I<br />

was a little in love with it.<br />

Tower of Parata, built 1550, it was one of 90 Genoese towers created to defend<br />

the coast of Corsica<br />

Iles Sanguineres<br />

The Good Life France | 11

Calanques de Piana<br />

Piana<br />

Calanques de Piana<br />

A coach took us via mountain roads several<br />

hundred metres above sea level to the town<br />

of Porto. We passed the Chateau de la Punta<br />

built partially from the stones of the Palace of<br />

the Tuileries in Paris which once belonged to<br />

Catherine de Medici but was destroyed by fire<br />

in the late 1800s. And past Corsica’s highest<br />

vineyard at 500m, the area where Corsica’s<br />

“king of the outlaws” Nunzio Romanetti once<br />

lived. He was no Robin Hood although he<br />

was romanticised by many including those<br />

with power and influence including Baron<br />

Haussmann of Paris and the writer Flaubert.<br />

We stopped at the village of Piana, officially<br />

one of the prettiest in France, where – typically<br />

laid back Corsica, the church bells struck<br />

10 o’clock at eight minutes past, as we admired<br />

the dazzling views over the Golfe de Porto. In<br />

Corsica, you feel it just can’t get any more lovely<br />

and then you come across another gorgeous<br />

village, vineyard, beach, town. From there we<br />

headed to the village of Ota, a popular starting<br />

point for hiking the spectacular gorges de<br />

Spelunca via an ancient mule trail, and Aitone<br />

Forest, to board a boat for the Calanques (or<br />

calanche in Corsican) de Piana, a UNESCO<br />

World Heritage site, and the highest calanques<br />

in Europe. Sheer cliffs and dramatic rock<br />

formations jutting out of the inky sea are<br />

magnificent, majestic and mesmerising, home<br />

to birds including eagle-like ospreys.<br />

Mexican belumbra tree Porto Vecchio<br />

Porto Vecchio<br />

The glittering coastal city of Porto Vecchio<br />

on the south side of the island is built on salt<br />

marshes where salt is still harvested, the<br />

salt pans glinting in the sun as you look out<br />

from the town. This is the most deluxe part<br />

of Corsica. Several celebrities have homes<br />

here, Rihanna was spotted here on holiday<br />

recently and George Clooney I’m told – though<br />

not together, don’t be starting any rumours!<br />

Fabulous beaches and a lively, picturesque<br />

town make this a favourite with tourists.<br />

12 | The Good Life France

Bonifacio<br />

Sunrise on deck arriving at Bonifacio<br />

Bonifacio and Lavezzi<br />

Islands<br />

The best way to see this historic city for the<br />

first time is from the sea. As our boat pulled<br />

into the harbour, the top deck was bathed<br />

in the rays of the rising sun and we tucked<br />

into snacks and drinks to the sound of soft<br />

music. The towers of Bonifacio were bathed<br />

in a soft light, the sky was luminescent blue<br />

with hints of pink. There is something ancient<br />

about the sight of those soaring cliffs turning<br />

apricot coloured as the sun burns off the light<br />

mist sitting over the inky waters of the Med.<br />

Big cruise ships can’t get through the narrow<br />

opening but we glided through and it felt<br />

magical to witness this special sight.<br />

Bonifacio feels authentic. It’s stunningly<br />

hilly and its maze of cobbled winding streets<br />

are lined with medieval buildings and tall<br />

old houses in shades of muted yellows and<br />

oranges with delicate iron work balconies from<br />

which washing hangs, pale pastel coloured<br />

shutters closed against the growing heat of<br />

the dawning day.<br />

There are plenty of restaurants and bars,<br />

and shops selling jewellery carved from local<br />

red coral – said to ward off the evil eye. At<br />

Rocca Serra ice cream bar, they sell an ice<br />

cream flavoured with clementine, mandarin<br />

and macquis which legend claims was<br />

invented when Napoleon fell in love with a<br />

local woman and gave her a coral necklace<br />

– and in return she gave him an ice cream<br />

made to that recipe! Corsica is known as the<br />

‘city of coral’ inspiring Matisse to capture it<br />

on canvas.<br />

One of the most incredible sites in the city is<br />

The Good Life France | 13


Warm, uplifting and<br />

effervescent, Janine Marsh's<br />

voice and humour bubble<br />

right off the page, making<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 />

14 | The Good Life France

the King of Aragon’s staircase. I’d seen a<br />

photo of the 187 steep stairs carved into<br />

the chalk white cliffs but nothing prepares<br />

you for the reality. Do not attempt to use<br />

the stairs if you have a fear of heights –<br />

though a safety rail has recently been<br />

added – it’s rather harrowing. Legend says<br />

Argonese soldiers created the 187 stairs in<br />

a single night!<br />

After lunch in a picturesque and deliciously<br />

rustic traditional restaurant in the<br />

countryside, we toured the remote Lavezzi<br />

Islands which looks as if the Caribbean<br />

has been plonked down just off the coast<br />

of Bonfacio. You can only reach them by<br />

boat, and you’ll find a haven of wild birds,<br />

and one swanky inhabited island where<br />

the rich and famous craving anonymity<br />

holiday, locals claim to have seen Beyonce,<br />

Princess Caroline of Monaco and former<br />

President Sarkozy there!<br />

Bonifacio street<br />

Cap Corse<br />

Docking in Bastia, a town of art and<br />

history and immense charm, we headed<br />

to Cap Corse making a stop at Clos<br />

Santini vineyard for a wine tasting where<br />

they poured generously and plied us<br />

with cheese and Corsican charcuterie<br />

– figatellu, smoked pork liver and other<br />

cured meats.<br />

From here we went to Barrettali for lunch<br />

at a restaurant at the Giottani Marina<br />

overlooking a fabulous beach. It’s one of<br />

those places that you see in French films,<br />

romantic, unspoiled and unbelievably<br />

beautiful. But you know you will never find<br />

it. Well here it is, one restaurant, one hotel<br />

and a whole lot of paradise.<br />

On the way back to the ship, we stopped<br />

off at Erbalunga, a charming and typical<br />

Corsican town, where a game of boules<br />

was taking place on the town square, little<br />

alleyways lead to the sea, and friendly bars<br />

and restaurants sit alongside shops selling<br />

clothes and handmade jewellery.<br />

The Good Life France | 15



Europe’s largest river<br />

cruise line<br />

French canal journeys<br />

aboard elegant hotel barges<br />



45 years’ experience<br />

and 55 ships<br />

All inclusive for drinks<br />

onboard<br />

French coast<br />

Corsica and its hidden treasures<br />




Departures in July and August <strong>2022</strong><br />

From £ 1 714 per person £ 2 285<br />



Departures in July and August <strong>2022</strong><br />

From £ 1 720 per person £ 2 294<br />

INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS: Tel. 0208 3281 281 • resuk@croisieurope.com<br />

www.croisieurope.co.uk<br />

16 | The Good Life France IM067100025. Non-contractual photos - Copyrights: Letabatha.net, Alexandre Sattler - CreaStudio 2206004.

Calvi L’Île-Rousse<br />

Arriving at the Port of L’Île-Rousse we made<br />

our way to the city of Calvi along roads<br />

lined with pine trees and eucalyptus from<br />

Australia and New Zealand. It’s claimed<br />

Christopher Columbus was born here, and<br />

we stopped at the remains of what the locals<br />

claim was his ancestral home in the famous<br />

Citadel which dominates the town. Just 30<br />

people still live here in the “Carcassonne<br />

of Corsica”. The roads are steep and wind<br />

around like a helter-skelter of steps. Nelson<br />

stood here at the siege of Calvi in 1794, the<br />

sense of history is palpable.<br />

Below the citadel is a bustling town,<br />

where Rue Clemenceau is known to the<br />

locals as “shopping street” and you’ll<br />

find shops peddling everything from<br />

chic summery clothes to spicy sausages.<br />

The marina is lined with fabulous<br />

restaurants. Nip to the streets beyond<br />

rue Clemenceau where everything is less<br />

touristic. The cafés that don’t have a view<br />

over the bay are where the locals go, like<br />

Brasserie à Macagna where the smell of<br />

cooking – garlic and herbs makes your<br />

mouth water. Join locals gathered at<br />

the bar for a pre-lunch glass of Corsican<br />

wine before tucking into the dish of the<br />

day – Moules de Diane, with mussels from<br />

L’etang de Diana, Diane’s lake in Aleria,<br />

once the Roman capital of Corsica, and<br />

renowned for its succulent oysters.<br />

Life on board a Croisi-<br />

Europe cruise<br />

Being on board is a cross between a<br />

country house hotel where every guest<br />

is known. Each morning I was asked if I<br />

wanted my usual “Earl Grey, no sugar or<br />

milk?” Each evening – “a glass of red, not<br />

too dry?” And though you get to see a lot<br />

on this trip, it is never hurried, never rushed,<br />

always relaxing, slow travel at its very best…<br />

Find our more at: CroisiEurope<br />

Calvi<br />

Ota<br />

The Good Life France | 17

Spotlight on: Aisne<br />

The department of Aisne in Picardy is the ancient cradle of France. Its capital Laon was<br />

once also the capital of France, and it is the only place in the world where Champagne is<br />

produced - outside of Champagne. Discover a land brimming with historic cities, glorious<br />

countryside, picturesque villages and monumental cultural sites…<br />

Laon<br />

The great French writer Victor Hugo once<br />

said, “everything is beautiful in Laon.” Almost<br />

200 years after his visit, he would recognise<br />

its Cathedral and winding streets of ancient<br />

buildings – a whopping 84 listed monuments –<br />

and surely feel the same way.<br />

This ancient city with its ramparts and stone<br />

gateways was the capital of France from the<br />

8th to 10th centuries when Paris was still a<br />

village. Perched on a hill 180m high, the site<br />

is perfect for defence, and Queen Berthe au<br />

Grand Pied (the unlikely named Bertha of the<br />

Big Feet), mother of the great Charlemagne,<br />

made Laon her seat of government. It was<br />

only when Hugues Capet was made King<br />

in 987, that Paris became the capital. Laon<br />

18 | The Good Life France

Laon Porte © Vincent Colin/ Agence Aisne Tourisme<br />

though, remained an important religious city<br />

and a centre of learning.<br />

The 800 year old cathedral of Notre Dame,<br />

a Gothic masterpiece, dominates the upper<br />

town. Flanked by two magnificent turreted<br />

towers, from which large stone oxen peer.<br />

They are a nod to the sturdy beasts who<br />

dragged the stones to build it and the local<br />

legend that when an exhausted oxen fell to<br />

the ground, a white ox was sent by God to<br />

help carry the stones. The façade is intricately<br />

carved and inside there are beautiful 13th<br />

century stained glass windows. The sound<br />

of monks chanting creates a spiritual<br />

atmosphere.<br />

Laon<br />

The Good Life France | 19

The streets around the Cathedral are lined<br />

with old buildings, all encompassed within<br />

the medieval ramparts from which there are<br />

wonderful views over the town below and the<br />

countryside. On clear days you can see as far<br />

as the plain of neighbouring Champagne.<br />

Look closely at some of the buildings and<br />

you’ll notice fossils and shells embedded in<br />

the walls. They’re left over from the time when<br />

the area was under a tropical sea - some 65<br />

million years ago. And many of the buildings<br />

are listed historic monuments including the<br />

tourist office which is located in a building<br />

dating to 1167 and the underground passages<br />

of the Citadel. There is a legend that at the<br />

16th century Cour du Change, formerly known<br />

as the Hotellerie du Dauphin in rue Sérurier,<br />

King Louis XIII stayed on a stormy night in<br />

1638. He and his wife Anne of Austria had<br />

prayed for children but to no avail. However<br />

that night, Louis XIV was conceived. Just don’t<br />

check the dates too carefully, you might see<br />

that there are 13 months between the night<br />

Louis XIII stayed and Louis XIV’s birth!<br />

Laon is also where<br />

Abelard and Heloise<br />

met – the Romeo<br />

and Juliet of France.<br />

It was a tragic love<br />

story, the student,<br />

Heloise falling for the<br />

teacher, marrying<br />

in secret and having<br />

a baby against the<br />

wishes of her uncle/<br />

guardian. The lovers<br />

were torn apart and<br />

she was sent to an<br />

abbey whilst he was<br />

castrated on the<br />

orders of Heloise’<br />

uncle. You’ll spot<br />

their likeness in the<br />

fabulous street art<br />

that illuminates the town.<br />

Abelard Laon<br />

You can book guided tours at the town hall to<br />

discover Laon’s many secrets and charms.<br />

Tourisme-paysdelaon.com<br />

© Horizon Bleu/Agence Aisne Tourisme<br />

20 | The Good Life France

Familistère of Guise – a most unusual Museum<br />

Guise was once an important border town<br />

ruled by the powerful Dukes of Guise. Now it<br />

is a rather sleepy place with pretty streets, a<br />

ruined castle and superbly restored fortified<br />

church. But its most famous attraction is the<br />

monumental Familistère – a ‘social palace.’<br />

It was created by Jean-Baptiste André<br />

Godin, founder of the famous Godin stoves<br />

company. He was born in 1817 in Aisne, the<br />

son of a locksmith and left school at the age<br />

of 11. At 17 he moved to Paris, taught himself<br />

architecture. In 1840 he returned to Aisne and<br />

began manufacturing a cast-iron heatingstove<br />

which he had designed. To this day<br />

they are known as Godins in France and an<br />

astonishing number of them have survived, still<br />

working to this day – I have one myself!<br />

Godin made a fortune from his stoves and<br />

at its height his factory in Guise employed<br />

almost a thousand workers. In 1856, moved by<br />

the plight of workers living conditions, Godin<br />

started to build the Familistère, a place where<br />

his employees and their families could live.<br />

It had a nursery, school, laundrette, shops,<br />

600-seat theatre and swimming pool. The<br />

monumental residential building was based on<br />

the Palace of Versailles with apartments for up<br />

to 900 people. It was essentially a small town,<br />

and all within easy walking distance of the<br />

huge factory.<br />

Familistère GODIN<br />

He called it a social palace.<br />

Around 75% of the workforce lived there<br />

with their families. He paid workers well,<br />

around 150 francs per month and their<br />

rent was just 8-12 francs. He set a 10 hour<br />

working day when the norm at the time was<br />

13-15 hours. And gave his workers Sunday<br />

off. He set up a workers union who decided<br />

the rules in the factory via a series of<br />

committees.<br />

It seemed like utopia… But when he died<br />

in 1888 having lost his only son just 15 days<br />

before, the running of the factory fell to the<br />

committees and without his influence it all<br />

fell apart as infighting and disagreement<br />

took over.<br />

The German army occupied the site from 1914<br />

to November 1918. They turned the theatre<br />

into a jail, the central palace became military<br />

hospital and they destroyed some of the<br />

buildings.<br />

The Utopia Project began in 2002 to restore<br />

the palace and remaining buildings. It is a<br />

triumph. You can tour an apartment, have a<br />

guided tour, visit the theatre and pool and<br />

discover this extraordinary tale. There’s a cafe<br />

on site and a great shop where you can buy<br />

Godin products.<br />

Familistere.com<br />

The Good Life France | 21

22 | The Good Life France

Saint-Quentin – Art Deco dazzler<br />

What is art deco?<br />

Born in France, Art Deco began in 1908 – a merging of art of various influences:<br />

antiquity, cubism, the arts of Africa and the Far East.<br />

Saint-Quentin © Sylvain Cambon / Agence Aisne Tourisme<br />

St Quentin station buffet<br />

Saint-Quentin has been through a lot. Founded<br />

by the Romans, it was a major medieval<br />

trading centre. It’s been invaded, conquered,<br />

besieged and finally all but destroyed during<br />

World War I - the Great War as the French call<br />

it. Rebuilt in the 1920s it has many Art Deco<br />

buildings including the extraordinary railway<br />

station where trains ran from as early as 1850.<br />

It became a key site in the 1940s when Saint-<br />

Quentin once more come under foreign control<br />

and the city became the headquarters of the<br />

2nd German army.<br />

Visit now and you’ll find a hugely cultural city<br />

with 9 museums and extraordinary buildings.<br />

The station buffet, a listed historical<br />

monument, is pure Art Deco with walls and<br />

furniture covered in soft silver and glistening<br />

gold mosaics with an accent of bright red,<br />

featuring flowers and Normandy ocean liner<br />

window design.<br />

From the station it’s a short walk across the<br />

canal to the town. Built in 1801, it was the<br />

first canal north of Paris and inaugurated by<br />

Napoleon in recognition of its importance to<br />

France.<br />

In the city, the Art Deco vibe is everywhere.<br />

There are some 3000 buildings that feature<br />

the Art Deco style of which 300 are classified<br />

as Historic Monuments. This includes the<br />

tourist office where you can book an audio<br />

guide and route map.<br />

Whatever you do don’t miss<br />

the Musée des Beaux-Arts<br />

Antoine Lécuyer which in<br />

my opinion is the city’s<br />

star. There is a superb<br />

collection of pastels by<br />

Maurice Quentin de la<br />

Tour, known as the ‘King<br />

of the Pastels’, an artist<br />

who ‘looked into the souls’<br />

of his subjects and then captured<br />

their likeness with pastels in a way never seen<br />

before or since. Sadly not all the pastels were<br />

out on display when I visited but enough for<br />

me to be able to be completely amazed.<br />

Destination-saintquentin.fr<br />

The Good Life France | 23

4<br />

Must-sees<br />

in Aisne<br />

Champagne<br />

Chateau-Thierry in Aisne is the only place<br />

in the world outside of champagne where<br />

champagne is made. There are cellars dating<br />

to the 12th century and 400 vineyards<br />

producing Champagne. Visit Champagne<br />

Pannier for a tour and tasting and to stock up<br />

on their superb fizz.<br />

champagnepannier.com<br />

Chemin des Dames<br />

During World War I, the Chemin des Dames<br />

was a frontline position where violent fighting<br />

took place. There an underground quarry<br />

called ‘The Caverne du Dragon’ which was<br />

turned into army barracks. Today you can<br />

visit the galleries and see the chapel, first aid<br />

station, command post and No Man’s Land<br />

which movingly testify to the lives of the<br />

soldiers - both French and German – who<br />

fought and lived, sometimes even side by<br />

side, within the confines of the cavern and the<br />

countryside around.<br />

chemindesdames.fr<br />

Chateau de Conde<br />

Once home to the Princes of Conde and still<br />

lived in, this glorious castle was transformed<br />

into the Renaissance gem in the 16th century<br />

for Louis de Bourbon. Sumptuously decorated<br />

with gorgeous gardens, it’s well worth a visit.<br />

chateaudeconde.com<br />

Château de Condé<br />

Jardin Viel Maison<br />

There are 16 sections to this magnificent<br />

private garden and it looks different in each<br />

of the four seasons. In the distance you can<br />

hear the town church bells, spot woodpeckers<br />

and wild birds and wander at will to enjoy the<br />

superb planting.<br />

Book in advance: jardins-vielsmaisons.net<br />

24 | The Good Life France

25 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 25

The Treasures<br />

of Arles<br />

© David Juricevich<br />

26 | The Good Life France

Listed by UNESCO for its architectural heritage, Arles offers an irresistible<br />

Mediterranean lifestyle at the gateway to France’s largest wetland. Gillian Thornton let<br />

herself go with the flow.<br />

Roman theatre, Arles<br />

There are many good reasons why I would love<br />

to live in Arles. The warm Provençal sunshine.<br />

That enviable Mediterranean lifestyle. And the<br />

irresistible buzz of art and architecture from<br />

ancient times to the present day. But there’s<br />

another reason.<br />

I’d really love to ask friends to ‘Meet me by<br />

the Roman Theatre at midday’ or ‘Catch up<br />

outside the Arena at 7 tonight’. Not many<br />

places can boast such monumental Roman<br />

meeting places as Arles in the heart of a 21st<br />

century city.<br />

Historic past –<br />

Roman legacy<br />

Northern gateway to the wetlands of the<br />

Camargue, Arles, in the department of<br />

Bouches-du-Rhône, stands on the right<br />

bank of the Rhône and was originally a<br />

Celtic city, later colonised by the Greeks.<br />

The Romans arrived in the 1st century AD,<br />

quickly expanding the city until it was home<br />

to some 50,000 people. More than 21,000<br />

toga-clad citizens could watch high-octane<br />

combat in the vast amphitheatre of Roman<br />

Arelate, whilst just a short walk away across<br />

the paved streets, the theatre was the<br />

place for more intellectual entertainment.<br />

Local citizens have been meeting by these<br />

monuments ever since.<br />

In the Middle Ages, the 130-metre arena<br />

was redeployed as a fortified community,<br />

but today you can still sit in the ancient tiers<br />

and enjoy events such as the popular Course<br />

Camarguaises, or Bull Races. No bulls are<br />

harmed in this test of man versus bovine, but<br />

human competitors can expect a few sharp<br />

scratches if they try to snatch rosettes from<br />

the up-turned horns of the local black bulls.<br />

Too much excitement? Then buy a ticket for a<br />

summer concert or drama production at the<br />

Roman theatre, a chance to slip back in time,<br />

even without a toga. And Roman immersion<br />

doesn’t stop there. Explore the Baths of<br />

Constantine, close to the banks of the Rhône;<br />

visit the city’s well-stocked archaeological<br />

museum, the Musée Départemental Arles<br />

Antique; and stroll the tree-lined Alyscamps<br />

lined with Christian tombs. Couturier Christian<br />

Lacroix, who was born in the city in 1951,<br />

recalls happy childhood games amongst these<br />

ancient stones.<br />

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28 | The Good Life France

Place de la Republique with Obelisk and Saint Trophime Church<br />

Medieval Marvels,<br />

Renaissance gems<br />

But Arles isn’t all about the Romans. Fast<br />

forward to the 12th century when the city<br />

was further embellished with a wealth of<br />

Romanesque monuments. If you have time for<br />

just one, make it the Church of Saint Trophime<br />

with its spectacular carved portal and doubledecker<br />

cloister. Invest a handful of euros<br />

for the experience of standing on the upper<br />

gallery and looking down into the tranquil<br />

space. And in the square outside, what else<br />

but a Roman obelisk, originally positioned in<br />

the Roman Circus.<br />

In 1981, UNESCO<br />

bestowed World Heritage<br />

status on Arles for its<br />

abundance of Roman and<br />

Romanesque buildings,<br />

but turn the clock<br />

forward yet again to the<br />

17th century to add fine<br />

Renaissance mansions<br />

to the architectural mix,<br />

testimony to the wealth of<br />

their well-to-do owners.<br />

Saint Trophime from the upper cloister gallery<br />

The Good Life France | 29

Artists in Arles<br />

No surprise then that this multi-layered city<br />

attracted the artistic eye of Vincent Van<br />

Gogh who spent his most productive spell<br />

here. The Dutch artist arrived on a cold<br />

winter’s day in 1888 in search of light and<br />

found so much of it that he painted 200<br />

paintings and produced almost as many<br />

drawings and letters in just 15 months.<br />

Sadly none of Vincent’s paintings are on<br />

permanent display here, but it’s still spinetingling<br />

to follow in the artist’s footsteps and<br />

stand at the spots where he placed his easel.<br />

Download the self-guided trail from www.<br />

arlestourisme.com to find ten reproductions<br />

of his work, particularly atmospheric at night<br />

when you can appreciate his vision of La Nuit<br />

Etoilée from the banks of the Rhône and the<br />

illuminated canopy of Le Café ‘Le Soir’ in<br />

Place du Forum.<br />

After three psychotic attacks, one of which<br />

involved cutting off part of his ear, Van Gogh<br />

left the city in May 1889 for a sanatorium in<br />

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, but his presence<br />

infuses the city streets to this day. Other<br />

artists left a more tangible legacy. Pablo<br />

Picasso fell in love with the Réattu Museum<br />

of fine arts, modern and contemporary art<br />

that was launched in the 19th century with a<br />

donation of works by neo-classical painter<br />

Jacque Réattu.<br />

The collection is housed in the former Grand<br />

Priory of the Knights of Malta and in 1971,<br />

Picasso donated 57 of his drawings to what<br />

became one of the first public collections of<br />

his work. Don’t miss the city’s only original<br />

Van Gogh – a letter written by Vincent to<br />

Paul Gauguin in 1889.<br />

The Musée Réattu was also the first French<br />

fine arts museum to have a photography<br />

department and the city has since become<br />

synonymous with photographic images. Visit<br />

any time from July through September to<br />

see photos on show in a variety of indoor and<br />

outdoor spaces as part of the International<br />

Photography Festival.<br />

Arles, Espace Van Gogh © Helen Wong Hsing<br />

© Grace Marshall<br />

30 | The Good Life France

Tour Luma Adrian de Weerdt<br />

LUMA<br />

Most recent addition to the city skyline is<br />

LUMA Arles, an eye-catching art and culture<br />

centre on the site of a former railway siding.<br />

Designed by Frank Gehry, the 56-metre high<br />

twisted tower is made from recycled materials,<br />

rising from the Parc des Ateliers and visible<br />

from all over the city.<br />

Inside its wonky walls, experimental artists,<br />

scientists and thinkers of all kinds seek to<br />

challenge conceptions through exhibitions,<br />

accessible archives, and public events, not<br />

just around art and culture, but human rights,<br />

the environment, and research. Check out<br />

their programme at www.luma.org/arles and<br />

make time to wander the 4-hectare park,<br />

landscaped as a journey through the flora and<br />

fauna of the region.<br />

Some love it; others loathe it. But whatever<br />

your view on LUMA Arles, there’s no denying<br />

that this controversial building is just the<br />

latest phase in a city that has been pushing<br />

the boundaries for almost 2,000 years.<br />

Visitor information<br />

Visit www.arlestourisme.com to plan your<br />

trip and once in town, head for the Tourist<br />

Information Office on Boulevard des Lices<br />

to book themed guided tours and pick up<br />

self-guided trail maps. A Pass Liberté is<br />

valid for one month and gives access to four<br />

monuments/museums of your choice for 12<br />

euros (concessions, 10 euros).<br />

Take a tour of Arles with Ophorus Tours<br />

The Good Life France | 31

The wild<br />

wetlands<br />

of France<br />

Where white horses roam and pink flamingos flock…<br />

France’s largest wetland is much more than<br />

just marshland. Gillian Thornton explores<br />

this diverse landscape on foot and by boat,<br />

four wheels and four legs.<br />

Sunset over the Camargue and the still water<br />

of the lagoon turn slowly silver as the sky<br />

morphs through a palette of pastel blues and<br />

pinks, deep yellows and burning orange. Rosetinted<br />

flamingos sift the shallows in search of<br />

supper, whilst a sturdy coypu watches intently<br />

from the bank for an unsuspecting fish.<br />

It’s a magical moment for any lover of wildlife<br />

and open spaces, but particularly when seen<br />

from the back of a horse. Our leader turns his<br />

mount into a shallow lagoon and we trustingly<br />

follow in his wake, an enthralled band of riders<br />

mounted on the surefooted white horses of<br />

this legendary wetland.<br />

Situated at the heart of the Bouches du<br />

Rhône department in western Provence,<br />

the Camargue forms a triangle between the<br />

ancient Roman city of Arles to the north, and<br />

the two liquid arms of the Rhône delta. Le<br />

Petit Rhône to the west is a protected nature<br />

reserve that joins the Mediterranean at Les-<br />

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, whilst Le Grand<br />

Rhône carries commercial river traffic from<br />

Lyon and Avignon to the west.<br />

Fly into Marseille – less than an hour’s drive<br />

from Arles – and the flat landscape of the<br />

delta doesn’t look overly inviting from the air,<br />

but seen from ground level, it’s a different<br />

story altogether. Covering more than<br />

100,000 hectares with 75km of coastline,<br />

the Camargue embraces a wide variety of<br />

eco-systems that include salt plains and<br />

32 | The Good Life France

freshwater marshes, salt marshes and lagoons,<br />

sandy beaches, paddy fields and dunes. Birdwatchers<br />

can find an incredible 237 species<br />

here, one-third of all those seen in Europe,<br />

and the closer you look, the more surprises are<br />

in store.<br />

Listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site<br />

and famous for its white horses, black bulls,<br />

and pink flamingos, this glorious wetland is a<br />

must-do for anyone who likes big skies, wide<br />

horizons, and a wealth of soft-adventure<br />

activities. You can take a guided nature tour<br />

in a 4x4 or take a leisurely look from a horsedrawn<br />

carriage; book a birdwatching tour or<br />

enjoy the landscape from water level with a<br />

boat trip on the Petit Rhône. Visit the Arles<br />

Tourism website and Camargue Tourist Guides<br />

for inspiration and online booking.<br />

The Good Life France | 33

For a lifelong rider like me, the chance to<br />

explore on horseback was top of my priority<br />

list, but you don’t need to be a gardian – or<br />

camarguais cowboy – to access this stunning<br />

landscape on horseback. Simply settle<br />

yourself in the comfortable saddle, take up<br />

the reins, and proceed at a leisurely pace. I<br />

shared the 2-hour Sunset Lovers experience<br />

from L’Auberge Cavaliere du Pont des Bannes<br />

in a mixed-ability group. Those of us with<br />

experience were able to enjoy a gallop behind<br />

the dunes, whilst the other mounts proceeded<br />

obediently at a stately walk, but most of the<br />

ride was conducted at a stately walk with eyes<br />

wide open. Speed doesn’t matter in a natural<br />

environment like this and the slower you go,<br />

the more you see.<br />

Take those famous flamingos. Pass any stretch<br />

of shallow water in the Camargue and you’ll<br />

almost certainly spot small groups of these<br />

improbable birds with their downturned beaks<br />

and ‘back to front’ legs. But for the full-on<br />

flamingo experience, book onto a guided tour<br />

to see Europe’s largest breeding colony - some<br />

10,000 pairs who hatch their young every year<br />

at the protected Etang du Fangassier. Tours<br />

Aigues-Mortes<br />

Salt pans<br />

34 | The Good Life France<br />

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer<br />


un from April through September, bookable<br />

through Camargue Nature Guides along with<br />

a wide range of environmental excursions, all<br />

available in French and English.<br />

Expert guides Frédéric Bouvet and Christophe<br />

Giraud gave me a fascinating insight into<br />

local agriculture and wildlife, as we made<br />

our way by Land Rover and then on foot<br />

across salt plains dotted with tree stumps<br />

bleached by sun and salt. Finally we arrived<br />

at a viewing platform erected at a ruined<br />

17th century customs post and, through<br />

powerful binoculars, were treated to a unique<br />

view of the quivering mass of pink feathers.<br />

An unforgettable Attenborough moment in<br />

anyone’s book! On the way back to base,<br />

there was another colourful bonus as Frédéric<br />

drove us past a sandbank to watch multi-hued<br />

bee-eaters flying in and out of nesting holes.<br />

The Camargue’s resident bulls may not be as<br />

eye-catching in colour but they’re certainly<br />

full of character. Smaller than their Spanish<br />

cousins, Camargue bulls have horns that<br />

point upwards rather than forwards and are<br />

used in the local course camarguaises or bull<br />

games, a popular family entertainment that<br />

is played out at arenas across the Camargue<br />

throughout the summer months.<br />

Aigues-Mortes © Ann Schmidt<br />

-Mer<br />

The Good Life France | 35

36 | The Good Life France

On the church roof at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer<br />

Mas de Peint<br />

Traditional Camargue cabin<br />

After a rousing parade through the streets, bulls<br />

and all, the human contestants on horseback<br />

– the raseteurs – attempt to pluck a rosette or<br />

cockade from between the bull’s horns. Each<br />

contest lasts 15 minutes and at the end of the<br />

day, the bulls are taken back home for a quiet<br />

night at the ranch. A good cockardier – or<br />

competitive bull – is a much-prized beast and<br />

there’s a vibrant statue of one fine specimen<br />

outside the bull ring in Saintes-Maries-de-la-<br />

Mer, a jolly, whitewashed seaside resort with an<br />

intriguing backstory.<br />

The town takes its name from the three Marys<br />

who were the first witnesses to Jesus’s empty<br />

tomb after the Resurrection. Legend has it<br />

that that Mary Magadalene, Mary Salome,<br />

and Mary Jacobe arrived here in a boat<br />

after being expelled from Jerusalem around<br />

AD40, together with their black servant Sarah<br />

who became patron saint of the gypsies.<br />

Every May, gypsies from all over Europe<br />

gather in town for a religious festival in Sara’s<br />

honour. See her statue – dressed in layers of<br />

gypsy clothes – in the vaulted crypt of the<br />

Romanesque church where the air is heavy<br />

from the heat of candles.<br />

Then head from the depths of the church up<br />

the narrow spiral staircase to the roof, once<br />

used as a lookout post against maritime<br />

invaders. Take in the views to the marina<br />

then head past the boats towards the beach,<br />

backed with a line of whitewashed cabanes.<br />

Thatched with reeds, they were traditionally<br />

used by fishermen and farm workers.<br />

With waterways in every direction, it wouldn’t<br />

seem right not to take a duck’s eye view<br />

of this extraordinary wetland. Some 10km<br />

inland from Saintes-Maries, I enjoyed a<br />

nature discovery cruise by Zodiac with<br />

Kayak-Vert Camargue, who also offer<br />

excursions by kayak, paddle board, or<br />

mountain bike. But if all this sounds too<br />

energetic, there’s yet another way to enjoy<br />

this unique area at water level.<br />

As well as exploring the Camargue<br />

independently, I have cruised the Petit<br />

Rhône on board a leisurely hotel barge<br />

operated by CroisiEurope, Europe’s biggest<br />

river cruise operator. The 7-night trip<br />

travels from Sète on the Mediterranean<br />

coast to Arles – or the reverse - and<br />

includes visits to a traditional manade or<br />

camarguais ranch, as well as Les Saintes-<br />

Maries and the walled town of Aigues-<br />

Mortes.<br />

With no strategic port on the western<br />

Mediterranean coast, French king Louis<br />

XIV commissioned Aigues-Mortes in the<br />

13th century, six kilometres inland and<br />

surrounded by malaria-infested swamps.<br />

But today, this enchanting town is a mix<br />

of historic buildings, shady squares, and<br />

rampart walks without the inconvenience<br />

of malaria. Visit the commercial salt pans<br />

beneath the city walls and buy a bag to<br />

enjoy at home with some camarguais rice -<br />

an authentic taste of one of Europe’s most<br />

inspiring wetlands.<br />

The Good Life France | 37


revisited<br />

Words: Gillian Thornton and Janine Marsh<br />

38 | The Good Life France

There are no real winners when two nations<br />

fall out, but today we live in an age when wars<br />

can rumble on for years and involve countless<br />

civilian casualties. So it’s a surreal experience<br />

to look over a field where an international<br />

conflict – legendary for hundreds of years –<br />

was all wrapped up before teatime.<br />

The Battle of Agincourt kicked off in heavy<br />

rain late in the morning of October 25th 1415,<br />

St Crispin’s Day, and by mid-afternoon, the<br />

cream of French nobility had been cut down in<br />

the mud by the firepower of English archers.<br />

The English army, believed to be around<br />

8,500 men, marching to Calais to return<br />

home by boat after a campaign in Normandy<br />

and led by King Henry V, faced a French<br />

army of around 12,000 men. Henry’s army<br />

of English soldiers and largely from Wales<br />

archers, were already exhausted and suffering<br />

from dysentery. Some of them removed their<br />

trousers and fought half naked. Many of them<br />

kissed the earth of this corner of Pas de Calais<br />

in northern France, believing they would be<br />

buried in it later that day. Henry V heard Mass,<br />

not just once, but three times.<br />

The French were led by the Constable of<br />

France Charles d’Albret and Marshal Jean<br />

II le Meingre (Boucicaut). The battle ‘barely<br />

lasted a few hours’ says Ludovic Hiltenbrand,<br />

manager of the Centre Azincourt 1415, but<br />

it was a decisive victory for the English and<br />

became the stuff of legend. The French,<br />

wearing heavy armour and bogged down<br />

in mud were cut down as armour-piercing<br />

arrows with a range of 250 yards were<br />

unleashed from the innovative longbows of<br />

their enemy. Among the lost was Gallois de<br />

Fougières, a Marshall of France, effectively<br />

the first recorded gendarme to have died in<br />

the line of duty. The uniformed official we<br />

know today, the ‘Gendarme’, is a derivative of<br />

‘gens d’armes’, or people with arms (weapons),<br />

hence the expression ‘to take up arms.’<br />

Look for Agincourt on the map and you won’t<br />

find it. The village is actually called Azincourt,<br />

nestled in the lush countryside of The Seven<br />

Valleys. The change of spelling is down to a<br />

mispronunciation by an English knight when<br />

asked by Henry V for the name of the nearby<br />

fortress.<br />

You can still see the field where the face off<br />

took place, most of it now farmland and all<br />

of it bordered by quiet country roads – a 4km<br />

circuit on foot or by car.<br />

In the heart of the village, you’ll find the<br />

excellent Centre Azincourt 1415 museum.<br />

The Good Life France | 39

Centre Azincourt 1415<br />

The totally revamped museum (2021) aims<br />

to tell the true story of the great 15th century<br />

battle and provides new detail about the<br />

Anglo-French conflict dubbed The Hundred<br />

Years War.<br />

The new museum was designed by British<br />

Professor and author Anne Curry Emeritus<br />

Professor of Medieval History at the University<br />

of Southampton and French historian and<br />

author Christophe Gillot, Director of the<br />

Centre. They pored over material pertaining<br />

to the Battle of Agincourt that has survived<br />

in the National archives in the UK as well as<br />

chronicles and material in France. Their work<br />

has led to a new understanding of the battle.<br />

For many centuries much of our ‘knowledge’<br />

of Agincourt has come from William<br />

Shakespeare. Who can listen and not be<br />

moved by the stirring speeches the English<br />

king gives in Shakespeare’s Henry V (1599):<br />

They are words which have inspired time and<br />

again, representing “Englishness” and triumph<br />

in the face of adversity. Some 500 years<br />

later Laurence Olivier’s famous film of the<br />

play, released in 1944, was dedicated to the<br />

commandos and airborne troops who made<br />

D-Day possible. A great piece of propaganda.<br />

But not everything we think we know is true<br />

and the Centre Azincourt1415 sets out to<br />

dispel the myths and examine the real and<br />

extraordinary story.<br />

The museum gives a lot of information in<br />

an easy and digestible way – in French and<br />

in English. Try games like Sovereigns of the<br />

Hundred Years’ War; discover what soldiers<br />

ate, and words from the Middle Ages, and<br />

details of daily life, the clothes of the period,<br />

the illnesses, the treating of wounds.<br />

The section devoted to armour shows how<br />

different ranks were protected, the richer you<br />

were, the better your equipment of course.<br />

‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;<br />

And<br />

‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers’<br />

40 | The Good Life France

Step back in time<br />

and discover the past at<br />

Azincourt 1415 historic centre<br />

Azincourt1415.com<br />

24 Rue Charles VI<br />

62310 Azincourt<br />

The Good Life France | 41

A video demonstrates how a knight put on<br />

his armour (not an easy task), and you get a<br />

chance to feel the weight of a helmet, handle<br />

a medieval sword and feel the force needed to<br />

shoot a longbow. There are interactive screens<br />

to play with, videos and clever touches – listen<br />

to the Hundred Years’ War explained in 100<br />

seconds.<br />

The Centre Azincourt 1415 puts on events<br />

every year – medieval banquets, Night at<br />

the Museum, exhibitions and more. (See the<br />

website for details)<br />

What to see around and<br />

about<br />

But Azincourt isn’t the only reason to stop<br />

over in this delightful area of gentle, rolling<br />

farmland dotted with small villages and farms.<br />

Five small rivers flow south to join two larger<br />

rivers – the Canche and Authie, hence the<br />

name Seven Valleys. Drop into the Tourist<br />

Office in historic Hesdin, for information on<br />

outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling and<br />

fishing.<br />

42 | The Good Life France

Follow the Canche through the Seven<br />

Valleys towards its estuary at Le Touquet and<br />

you pass through Montreuil-sur-Mer, worth<br />

a stopover in anyone’s book for its rampart<br />

walks, historic citadel and associations with<br />

Victor Hugo who set part of Les Misérables<br />

here.<br />

Montreuil has also become a hot destination<br />

for foodies, thanks to an indecent number<br />

of good restaurants for a town of just 2,500<br />

people. Enjoy Alexandre Gauthier’s Michelinstarred<br />

fare at La Grenouillère beneath the<br />

ramparts or another of his three restaurants in<br />

the cobbled streets of the old town.<br />

Montreuil has plenty of interesting<br />

independent shops, the sort you rarely see<br />

on British high streets nowadays. Cheese<br />

fans should pack a cool bag to stock up<br />

from Fromagerie Caseus on Place Général<br />

de Gaulle, where a large market is held on<br />

Saturday mornings. On the opposite corner,<br />

Aux Douceurs d’Antan stocks a range of local<br />

products from chocolates and biscuits to soup,<br />

jam and beer. Children will love Dragibonbons,<br />

a sweet shop on rue d’Hérambault that makes<br />

its own themed ‘cakes’ from sweets, whilst<br />

Oliviers near the Citadel is an Aladdin’s cave<br />

of wines and spirits.<br />


Centre Azincourt 1415, 24 rue Charles VI, 62310 Azincourt, azincourt1415.fr<br />

Open all year round: 10 am – 5:30 pm except Tuesdays (10am – 4:30pm);<br />

July/August: 10 am – 6:30 pm<br />

The Good Life France | 43

Antibes Juan-les-Pins<br />

– paradise on the<br />


44 | The Good Life France

Antibes Juan-les-Pins is located in the heart of<br />

the French Riviera, between Cannes and Nice<br />

and yet unlike either of them. Antibes is home<br />

to the Picasso Museum, a fabulous Provençal<br />

market and a stunning old district while the<br />

famous Jazz in Juan festival takes place in<br />

Juan-les-Pins. With 24km of coastline and<br />

picturesque rampart walls which flush coral<br />

pink at dusk, Antibes stands out against the<br />

backdrop of the Alps.<br />

Antibes is one of those places that you<br />

stumble upon and realise that you’ve found a<br />

sun drenched French corner of paradise. Of<br />

course others have found this too, Picasso,<br />

Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway all fell in<br />

love with its charms. They would probably<br />

recognise its famous sites today, almost a<br />

hundred years after they partied here in the<br />

roaring twenties.<br />

Wander the old district of Antibes and the<br />

scent of orange blossom, lavender and<br />

jasmine fills the air. Narrow winding roads<br />

with ornamental cobbles lead you past tall old<br />

houses dripping with bright pink bougainvillea.<br />

In the centre, numerous bars, restaurants<br />

and shops lead off from the central Cours<br />

Masséna where the market is held and wind<br />

around the port. It’s a smallish town but there’s<br />

plenty to see and do…<br />

Picasso Museum<br />

The former Grimaldi Chateau which houses<br />

a permanent exhibition of Picasso’s works as<br />

well as temporary exhibitions, is the number<br />

one attraction in Antibes. You don’t need<br />

to be a Picasso fan to enjoy it, the castle is<br />

lovely with fabulous views over the sea from<br />

its statue-strewn terrace. If you are a fan,<br />

you’ll love the sense of the artist that you get<br />

here. He had a key to the castle and spent<br />

from September to November 1946 here,<br />

creating huge paintings in the vast space<br />

and a collection of black and white photos<br />

portray his time in Antibes.<br />

The Good Life France | 45

Le Marché Provençal<br />

The daily covered market in the centre of the<br />

walled old city is one of the best I’ve ever been<br />

to. Tables groan under the bounty of Southern<br />

France: spices and lavender, olives and oils,<br />

fig vinegar and jams with violet, hibiscus and<br />

lavender. Amazing vegetables of jewel-like<br />

colours, glistening celery, dried fruit, salt from<br />

the Camargue, colourful Italian pasta, gold<br />

medal winning saucissons from Corsica on<br />

the stall of “Tony and Nadia”, skewers strung<br />

with meat, peppers and onions, slathered<br />

in fresh pesto that make you long to light<br />

the barbecue, cheese and yoghurts. Giant<br />

courgette flowers ripe for stuffing, truffleeverything<br />

from mustard to oil and pasta,<br />

macarons in every colour, flowers and berries.<br />

Nature is clearly kind in this part of France<br />

and the bounty is well… bountiful.<br />

For the best bread, it’s a stone’s throw from<br />

the market to Boulangerie Veziano (2 rue de<br />

la Pompe). Baker Jean-Paul Veziano made<br />

the bread for the wedding of Prince Albert of<br />

Monaco and is famous for this Main de Nice<br />

bread. Literally translated as ‘hand of Nice’<br />

this once traditional bread is rarely to be seen<br />

in the south of France.<br />

And when the market ends around mid-day,<br />

the square is covered with tables and chairs<br />

from the surrounding bars and restaurants.<br />

A town of art and culture<br />

Antibes has lured many artists. Graham Greene<br />

lived in a modest apartment here for 24 years<br />

and lunched most days at Café Felix (still<br />

there) by the archway to the port. Russian-born<br />

artist Nicolas de Staël lived and worked here,<br />

unhappy in love and lacking confidence in his<br />

own talent , a dawn to dusk painter, he jumped<br />

to his death from his studio, marked with a<br />

plaque, overlooking the beach.<br />

It’s still very arty. All along the Boulevard<br />

d’Auillon, the former casemates, rooms in<br />

the rampart wall, have been converted to<br />

artists ateliers including potters, painters,<br />

46 | The Good Life France

ceramicists, and master glassblower, Didier<br />

Saba.<br />

Fulfil your literary desire for English language<br />

books at Antibes Books. It’s a lovely bookshop<br />

and my opinion has zero to do with the fact<br />

that I did a double take when I went in and<br />

saw all three of my own books in the best<br />

sellers and new releases sections!<br />

Absinthe makes the heart<br />

grow fonder<br />

Absinthe was a favourite drink of many artists<br />

from Van Gogh to Picasso. Find out what they<br />

loved about it at the fabulous absinthe bar (25<br />

Cours Masséna). Three generations have run<br />

the bar and serve 50 varieties of the “green<br />

fairy.” I have to say, it was my first time and<br />

it was much nicer than I expected. Slightly<br />

liquorice-y, sweet, refreshing and rather<br />

surprisingly not strongly alcoholic tasting! It’s<br />

served the correct way, ice cold water drips<br />

from a fountain on the table, through a lump<br />

of sugar on a flat silver spoon to dilute the<br />

pure absinthe. And all this inside a former<br />

Roman well where you are encouraged to<br />

wear an old-fashioned hat from a selection –<br />

just as they did in the old days!<br />

Safranier district<br />

There is a flowery little corner of Antibes<br />

known as the Safranier district which is a ‘free<br />

commune.’ Created in the 1960s, this small<br />

area has its own Mayor who is powerless<br />

but whose job it is to organise festivities<br />

year-round! This includes the making of a<br />

record-breaking yule log at Christmas which<br />

measures some 14 metres. It’s a great place<br />

to go for a meal or an aperitif and soak up the<br />

fun atmosphere. Head to café Lilian Bonnefoi,<br />

the restaurant of head pastry chef at the very<br />

prestigious hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, in Place<br />

Safranier. It’s also a cake-making laboratory,<br />

where you can take cookery lessons and or<br />

enjoy a gourmet coffee break treat.<br />

Lilian Bonnefoi<br />

The Good Life France | 47

48 | The Good Life France

Juan-les-Pins<br />

You can walk to Juan-les-Pins from the centre<br />

of Antibes in around an hour. Or just hop on<br />

the train for a couple of euros and be there<br />

in minutes. There’s a very different vibe here,<br />

it’s buzzy and more commercial. The beaches<br />

are fabulous, but head around the bay to see<br />

the swanky homes of former artists, writers<br />

and the great and good of the day. And treat<br />

yourself to a cocktail at the Belle Rives Hotel,<br />

which was once the Villa St. Louis, home to<br />

Scott Fitzgerald and his troubled wife Zelda.<br />

Peynet Museum<br />

Peynet Museum<br />

Looking rather like a repurposed post office<br />

building, the Peynet Museum is a hidden gem.<br />

Raymond Peynet is famous for his whimsical<br />

drawings of a young romantic couple, but<br />

at the museum you see more of his artwork<br />

which reveals an artist who had a deft touch,<br />

delicate drawings and a droll sense of humour.<br />

Sometimes his art is sneaky, sometimes lustful,<br />

other times witty. His commercial posters and<br />

illustrations are beautiful.<br />

A place to enjoy the<br />

good life<br />

This isn’t a place for racing around. Here you<br />

relax, take your time, swim or sunbathe on one<br />

of the long sandy beaches, people watch, sit<br />

at bars where 6pm is celebrated with a glass<br />

of wine brought to you with a smile and a<br />

cheery ‘avec plaisir’ and petanque games go<br />

on from morning to nightfall.<br />

Eat at: There’s a fabulous choice of<br />

restaurants here but don’t miss Restaurant<br />

Bistrot Margaux. Just a few minutes’ walk<br />

from the centre, it faces Port Vauban and<br />

chef Frédéric Buzet creates mouth-wateringly<br />

memorable dishes.<br />

bistrot-margaux-antibes.fr<br />

Stay at: I stayed at the lovely Hôtel La Villa<br />

Port d’Antibes & Spa**** which opened in<br />

June 2020. Ideally located a stone’s throw<br />

from Port Vauban and the ramparts of the old<br />

town. villa-port-antibes.com<br />

Practical information:<br />

Antibes-juanlespins.com<br />

The Good Life France | 49


France: Cannes<br />

50 | The Good Life France<br />

La Croisette

Cannes on the Cote d’Azur, which English speakers call the French Riviera, is famous for the<br />

world’s most glamorous annual trade show – the Film Festival. Each May, the sunny city attracts<br />

the great, the good and the wannabees of the movie world – drawn to the glitzy, glamorous<br />

town like moths to a flame. For the duration of the event, red carpets abound, parties are held,<br />

superstars parade and blow kisses to celebrity-spotting fans and paparazzi, Champagne corks<br />

pop and Cannes’ beaches are groomed to photo-op ready perfection.<br />

But there’s a different side to Cannes that makes it a year-round bucket list destination<br />

and a perfect weekend getaway…<br />

Explore the old town<br />

Head to the old district of Cannes, built<br />

on a hill, it’s known as Le Suquet. Once a<br />

fishermen’s quarter, it’s home to steep cobbled<br />

alleys and candy-coloured houses their<br />

window boxes dripping with flowers. Wander<br />

and get lost in the little winding streets where<br />

you’ll find plenty of boutiques, bars and<br />

bistros. Don’t forget your camera because<br />

this is a very photogenic little part of Cannes<br />

with fountains and hidden gardens, and make<br />

your way to the top of the hill of Le Suquet. It<br />

now houses a collection of paintings and puts<br />

on a different exhibition each year. From this<br />

lofty position, which has a tranquil feel, quite<br />

different from the Cannes that lies below, you<br />

have sweeping views over the bay of Cannes.<br />

Climb the 109 steps of the square tower which<br />

crowns the chateau, for a bird’s eye view and<br />

360 degree panorama. If you don’t fancy the<br />

hike to the top, hop on the Little Tourist Train.<br />

At the base of Le Suquet, visit Marché Forville<br />

the city's outdoor produce market near the<br />

Maritime port. Each morning, stalls are piled<br />

high with local produce, delectable olives,<br />

cheeses, fresh vegetables and pasta daily except<br />

Monday, when it becomes a flea market.<br />

Le Suquet<br />

Life’s a beach<br />

In the centre of Cannes there are 33 sandy<br />

beaches spread over 7.5km. Every year the<br />

city funds the reclamation of sand washed<br />

out to sea in the winter. As a result, the width<br />

of beaches has increased from 25 to 40<br />

meters. Scattered among the private beaches<br />

Marche Forville<br />

The Good Life France | 51

Mademoiselle Gray beach bar and restaurant © Jean Michel Sordello<br />

are public areas including les Rochers,<br />

Nadine, Pointe Croisette, Roubine, Mace and<br />

Gazagnaire. Each summer the town protects<br />

bathers from jelly fish and the latter three<br />

beaches have special nets in place until the<br />

end of September. Locals favour the miles of<br />

public beach along the Boulevard du Midi les<br />

Rochers (opposite La Bocca railway station), a<br />

bit of a local secret, and great for snorkelling.<br />

Take some bread and the fish will eat out of<br />

your hands.<br />

Promenade. It seems everyone who visits<br />

Cannes just loves to walk along the Croisette.<br />

I’ve never seen so many glittery T-shirts in one<br />

place! There are plenty of kiosks selling food<br />

and drink en route, and chairs are available<br />

(free) to drag under the shade of trees or<br />

sit and soak up the sun. Spot your favourite<br />

celebrity’s handprints on the star-studded floor<br />

in front of the Palais des Festivals!<br />

Go island-hopping<br />

Off the coast of Cannes lie the Îles de Lérins,<br />

the Lérins Islands. You can visit the Île Sainte-<br />

Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat by taking<br />

a short shuttle boat ride which run regularly<br />

throughout the year from Quai St Pierre. It’s a<br />

real escape from the hustle and bustle of the<br />

city. Saint-Honorat, which has been home to<br />

monks for more than 1600 years. Nowadays,<br />

the 25 monks who live here produce wine from<br />

eight hectares of vineyard as well as a local<br />

speciality, Lerina liquor, and honey. Wander the<br />

pine tree-lined paths and visit the abbey, there<br />

are a couple of restaurants and it’s an ideal<br />

place for a picnic, idyllic and tranquil.<br />

The Musée de la Mer on the Île Ste-Marguerite,<br />

the largest of the islands and separated from<br />

Saint Honorat by just 600m of water, is in the<br />

former Royal Fortress. Built by Richelieu, the<br />

prison once housed the Man in the Iron Mask.<br />

Film tour<br />

Even when the<br />

Film Festival is<br />

over – Cannes film<br />

credentials are ever<br />

present – take a<br />

guided tour to see<br />

the street art and famous locations.<br />

Where to eat<br />

The Croisette beaches are lined with<br />

Instagrammable restaurants and dining here is<br />

one of the Riviera's great pleasures.<br />

52 | The Good Life France

Wine and dine: Fouquet's Brasserie, 10,<br />

boulevard de la Croisette at the Majestic puts<br />

a Riviera touch to the cuisine of the Champs-<br />

Élysées landmark of the same name. The menu<br />

has been designed by 3 Michelin-star Chef<br />

Pierre Gagnaire, and their Sunday brunch at a<br />

civilised 12-4pm, complete with Champagne,<br />

is superb.<br />

Locals love: In the old district of Cannes you’ll<br />

find the city’s oldest restaurant da bouttau<br />

founded in 1860. Picasso dined here and it’s<br />

long attracted the film festival stars from Sean<br />

Connery to George Clooney.<br />

Shop until you drop<br />

If you’re a fan of shopping and in particular<br />

posh brands, head to two long parallel streets:<br />

La Croisette and rue d’Antibes. All the big<br />

names are there – and you’ll need a big purse.<br />

Enjoy a sundowner<br />

da bouttau restaurant<br />

Aperitif time on the Cote d’Azur is one of life’s<br />

great pleasures. There’s plenty of choice in<br />

Cannes from the bars in the old town, along la<br />

Croisette and in the city. La Rotonde Grande<br />

Dame Champagne Bar is just about perfect –<br />

Room with a view, Hotel Le Gray d'Albion © Jean Michel Sordello<br />

listen to the gentle lapping of the waves while<br />

you gaze at the sun setting over the Lerins<br />

Islands.<br />

Where to stay –<br />

bucket list hotel<br />

For a luxury stay (de rigeur in Cannes), Hôtel<br />

Barrière Le Gray d’Albion is ideal. It’s long<br />

been the secret refuge of the stars of cinema<br />

who love it for its refined comfort. All 200<br />

designer rooms and suites are decorated in an<br />

understated muted palette of soft colours –<br />

very Chanel-like and not ostentatious. Nearly<br />

all rooms have balconies and the views over<br />

the sea or rooftops of Cannes are superb. The<br />

big King size beds have a cocooning effect<br />

– essential for your beauty sleep in this city<br />

of beautiful people. There’s a great terrace<br />

restaurant that’s like a little oasis in the city,<br />

and a perfectly air-conditioned designer bar.<br />

Guaranteed to make you feel like a celebrity,<br />

the hotel is in a perfect location, just steps<br />

from La Croisette where you’ll find the hotel’s<br />

beachside restaurant Mademoiselle Gray and<br />

beach area Plage Barrière, and a stone’s throw<br />

from Le Suquet.<br />

Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d’Albion<br />

The Good Life France | 53

Jardin des Plantes<br />

Pierre-Joseph Redouté:<br />

Sue Aran explores the life of<br />

one of the world’s greatest floral artists…<br />

54 | The Good Life France

It was in June of 1840, the month of roses,<br />

when Pierre-Joseph Redouté died suddenly at<br />

the age of eighty. His coffin was laid to rest in<br />

Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris with a wreath<br />

of roses and lilies, the two flowers he loved the<br />

most. Although he never met a flower he didn’t<br />

like, the rose and the lily were the perfect<br />

epitaph by which he was remembered. He is<br />

still considered the greatest botanical painter<br />

of all time.<br />

Pierre-Joseph Redouté was born in 1759 in the<br />

village of St. Hubert, in the province of Liége,<br />

a part of the Ardennes that then belonged to<br />

the Duchy of Luxembourg and now belongs<br />

to Belgium. He was the grandson, son and<br />

brother of painters, so it was almost inevitable<br />

that he would follow in their footsteps. He left<br />

home at the age of thirteen and spent the<br />

next ten years living a precarious life painting<br />

interior decorations, portraits and religious<br />

commissions. He travelled across Flanders<br />

and the Low Countries studying the works<br />

of the master Flemish and Dutch botanical<br />

painters Jan van Huysum, Rachel Ruysch and<br />

Jan Davidsz de Heem.<br />

The Good Life France | 55

At the age of 23, Redouté arrived in Paris<br />

where he spent the rest of his life, joining his<br />

eldest brother, Antoine-Ferdinand, who was<br />

a stage designer for the Théâtre des Italiens.<br />

In Paris it was the very end of the Age of<br />

Enlightenment when the city was a mecca<br />

for science and culture. When Redouté<br />

wasn’t working at the theatre, he frequently<br />

visited the Jardin du Roi, now the Jardin des<br />

Plantes and would draw for hours on end. It<br />

was there that he caught the eye of Charles-<br />

Louis L’Héritier de Brutelle who encouraged<br />

him to produce botanical studies, offering<br />

him free access to his botanical library and<br />

plant collection. A noted French aristocrat,<br />

the Superintendent of Parisian Waters and<br />

Forests, a biologist and plant collector,<br />

L’Héritier became Redouté’s instructor,<br />

teaching him to dissect flowers and portray<br />

their specific characteristics precisely.<br />

Portrait of Redouté by Louis-Léopold Boilly, 1800<br />

L’Héritier was so impressed with his new<br />

student he commissioned him to illustrate two<br />

books on botany. As a result Redouté created<br />

more than 50 drawings which were included<br />

in L’Heritier’s Stirpes Novae, New Plants,<br />

and Sertum Anglicum, An English Garland.<br />

L’Héritier generously recommended Redouté<br />

to Gérard van Spaendonck, the miniature<br />

and flower painter to King Louis XVI. Together<br />

with other artists, van Spaendonck produced<br />

drawings and paintings for the famous Vélins<br />

du Roi, Royal Collection of Paintings on<br />

Vellum, archival drawings and paintings of<br />

all the specimens brought to the Jardins du<br />

Roi, containing nearly 7,000 gouaches and<br />

watercolours on vellum representing flowers,<br />

plants and animals.<br />

Spaendonck recruited Redouté as a pupil and<br />

staff painter, and he subsequently contributed<br />

over 500 paintings to the ongoing Vélins<br />

project. Spaendonck taught him a special<br />

watercolour technique that produced flower<br />

paintings on vellum with an unusually bright<br />

translucency. By his own account, his student’s<br />

work was finer than his own.<br />

In 1787 Redouté and L’Héritier left France to<br />

study plants at the Royal Botanic Gardens<br />

56 | The Good Life France

Flower loving Queen Marie-Antoinette by Elisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, 1783,<br />

it’s said that roses and violets were her favourites and at the Trianon, Versailles,<br />

roses were said to flower all year long in greenhouses<br />

at Kew, near London, returning the following<br />

year. While at Kew, Redouté collaborated<br />

with the greatest botanists of the day and<br />

participated in nearly 50 publications<br />

depicting both the familiar flowers of the<br />

French court and rare plants from places<br />

as distant as Japan, America, South Africa,<br />

and Australia. Redouté produced over 2,100<br />

published plates depicting over 1,800 different<br />

species, many never rendered before.<br />

L’Héritier also introduced Redouté to<br />

members of the court at Versailles, following<br />

which Marie Antoinette became one of his<br />

patrons. She appointed him her personal court<br />

painter. Even though encounters with the royal<br />

family were few, one biography cites a famous<br />

incidence when Redouté was asked to visit the<br />

royal family in prison during the Revolution.<br />

They wanted him to capture the beautiful<br />

moment of a rare cactus in bloom. With skill<br />

and savvy, Redouté survived the political<br />

turbulence of the French Revolution and the<br />

ensuing Reign of Terror.<br />

The Good Life France | 57

During the 1790s, Redouté gained<br />

international recognition as one of the<br />

most popular flower painters in the world.<br />

His renderings of plants remain as fresh<br />

now as when he first painted them. He was<br />

recognized as a celebrity with a fashionable<br />

clientele, a private apartment in the Louvre,<br />

a country residence outside of Paris and a<br />

salary of 18,000 francs ($200,000) a year.<br />

He perfected the colour stipple engraving<br />

technique, which he had learned during<br />

his stay in London and first applied it in<br />

his illustrations for L’Héritier’s publication<br />

of Augustin Pyramus de Candolle’s work,<br />

Plantes Grasses Succulents. It was Redouté’s<br />

first major botanical work featuring only<br />

colour-printed plates, and his last publishing<br />

collaboration with L’Hériter.<br />

In 1798 the Empress Josephine Bonaparte,<br />

the first wife of Emperor Napoléon<br />

Bonaparte, became his patron and<br />

appointed him to paint the flowers of her<br />

garden at Château de Malmaison. She was<br />

resolute in filling her gardens with the finest<br />

specimens of nature as well as having their<br />

essence preserved on paper.<br />

That same year Redouté published 500<br />

plates of exquisite lilies in his book Liliacées.<br />

In 1819 his paintings were exhibited at the<br />

Louvre. In 1824 his most famous work, Les<br />

Roses, was published. It was said that each<br />

delivery of the finished colour copperplates<br />

was received with a storm of enthusiasm.<br />

It was these two works which distinguished<br />

Redouté as a true artist and not merely an<br />

illustrator. Between 1802 and 1816, eight folio<br />

volumes were printed, each dedicated to<br />

Empress Josephine.<br />

After Joséphine’s death, Redouté was<br />

appointed a Master of Draughtsmanship for<br />

the National Museum of Natural History. He<br />

became a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour<br />

in 1825. Between 1827 and 1833 Choices of<br />

Beautiful Flowers and Fruits, was printed. By<br />

then Redouté had become a master engraver<br />

of such singularity that he was able to apply<br />

all of his colours at once on one single copper<br />

plate. Folio editions of this masterwork<br />

58 | The Good Life France

were published<br />

each year for<br />

seven following<br />

years. In 1834<br />

he was awarded<br />

the prestigious<br />

Order of Leopold<br />

of Belgium<br />

for his artistic<br />

contributions.<br />

Eva Mannering,<br />

who wrote the<br />

introduction<br />

to the 1954 publication of Pierre-Joseph<br />

Redouté’s Roses remarked, “The conditions<br />

which made possible a work like this exist<br />

no longer, nor do the roses themselves<br />

as they are illustrated in this book… They<br />

are reminders of a more leisurely age,<br />

pleasing and delighting us in their colourful<br />

abundance. For by giving us one rose, he has<br />

given us at the same time, all the roses of all<br />

summer days.”<br />

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

The Good Life France | 59

Green wines<br />

of France…<br />

60 | The Good Life France

Winegrowers in France are going big on biodynamic viticulture. Over the last few years,<br />

wine growers have turned to organic methods of caring for the vines – not just because of<br />

concern for the environment but because of the high quality of the wines that result. Phillip<br />

Reddaway of Rhone Wine Holidays explains how this growing movement is set to stay…<br />

What are biodynamic wines all about?<br />

Biodynamic wine culture is essentially organic farming-plus. Biodynamics as a philosophy of<br />

farming was the brainchild of Austrian-born philosopher, spiritualist and intellectual Rudolf<br />

Steiner (1861-1925). At the core of his beliefs was that optimal plant health is achieved through<br />

minimal chemical intervention - especially zero pesticides<br />

and fertilizers. Instead, he preached substituting these<br />

interventions with natural homeopathic treatments and a<br />

holistic approach in recognition that plant health is a function<br />

of myriad factors, not only from the soil below but also the<br />

sky above, and the microclimate that surrounds the growing<br />

area. Biodynamics covers all farmed plant crops not just wine<br />

though – you will even find biodynamic canned peppers in<br />

health shops!<br />

When it comes to wine growing, most people focus on the<br />

seemingly weird practices of biodynamics, like filling cow<br />

horns with dung and burying them in vineyards and aligning<br />

certain chores with phases of the moon and stars. That said,<br />

The Good Life France | 61

that less is more when it comes to chemicals<br />

– though this makes heaps more work. It’s also<br />

very common for biodynamic producers to<br />

keep livestock on or around their vineyards. I<br />

have seen carthorses, sheep, goats and even<br />

a herd of Llamas at Domaine Creve Coeur!<br />

It’s part of the artisanal way of production,<br />

of sustaining the land, creating a balance<br />

between nature and the farm. And of course,<br />

keeping down the weeds on the land!<br />

several scientific studies have shown it can<br />

be effective, even if the underlying reasons<br />

are not yet understood. Indeed, those who<br />

are new to biodynamic farming might think<br />

it’s a world populated strictly with neohippies.<br />

Absolutely not so, some of the biggest<br />

wine names in France - Leroy in Burgundy,<br />

ZindHumbrecht in Alsace and Chapoutier in<br />

the Rhone are converts and these are very<br />

serious businesses. In the UK both Tesco and<br />

Marks and Spencer’s wine buyers have gone<br />

on record to say they prefer to organise trade<br />

tastings on biodynamic calendar<br />

days best suited to tasting wine.<br />

When I’m researching the finest<br />

vineyards in the Rhone, trying<br />

wines and generally discovering<br />

everything about Rhone wines,<br />

it’s become abundantly clear that<br />

when it comes to biodynamic<br />

wines, the producers have one<br />

thing in common - a passionate<br />

obsession with tending their vines.<br />

They use plant base infusions<br />

and remedies and home-made<br />

fertiliser - that’s where that<br />

buried cow dung comes in – all<br />

practices which take a lot of time<br />

and effort. Their whole ethos is<br />

The biodynamic calendar is based on<br />

the belief that not only moon cycles but<br />

astrological cycles have varying influences<br />

on plant life and farming. Every day in the<br />

biodynamic calendar is categorized as either<br />

a flower/leaf/root/fruit day according to the<br />

position of the moon/planets. Each category<br />

determines an ideal focus in the vineyard/<br />

winery. For example, root days are ideal for<br />

pruning. Flower days are better for working in<br />

the winery. Biodynamic adherents follow the<br />

calendar suggestions but most are pragmatic<br />

- weather considerations usually trump the<br />

calendar suggestions!<br />

And this attention to detail, to getting closer<br />

to the growing process, inevitably shows<br />

through in wine quality. So, it doesn’t matter<br />

whether you sign on for the belief system,<br />

the wines just have a TLC advantage over<br />

regular wines.<br />

62 | The Good Life France

Want to try biodynamic French wines?<br />

You can spot bottles of biodynamic wines in France by the orange and green ‘flag’ logo<br />

of Demeter International or Biodyvin who certify the wines. You may spot certification as<br />

Agriculture Biologique or Ecocert – but this simply means organic.<br />

Even better – visit a biodynamic wine maker and see behind the scenes. Many vineyards open<br />

their doors to visitors and share their biodynamic philosophy and working ways. Domaine<br />

Montirius in Gigondas-Vacqueyras in Provence, for instance, hold workshops which include a<br />

tasting of their entire range of wines, cellar visit and an introduction to their approach to wine<br />

production. And like most of the biodynamic wine producers I meet, they never use their beliefs<br />

as a marketing tool, on the contrary, they tend to be self-effacing about the practice, preferring<br />

to talk about the health of their vines and what you can taste in your glass. And that is the best<br />

way to judge the wines and make up your own mind…<br />

Join Philip on a Rhone Wine tour for an exceptional wine experience in Provence:<br />

RhoneWineHolidays.com<br />

Exceptional arts and<br />

crafts made in Provence<br />

L'AUGUSTE Provence<br />

create a unique artisanal<br />

collection of bags and<br />

accessories from exclusive<br />

watercolors to bring a little<br />

Provencal style into your<br />

life wherever you are.<br />

laugusteprovence.com<br />

The Good Life France | 63

The expat<br />


makers of Cognac<br />

64 | The Good Life France

Janine Marsh meets expat gin makers distilling<br />

an award winning gin in the living room of a house<br />

in Cognac…<br />

“The gin and tonic has saved more<br />

Englishmen's lives, and minds, than all the<br />

doctors in the Empire…” So said Winston<br />

Churchill, and it has to be said, gin is generally<br />

thought of as an “English” drink. However, gin<br />

originated as a medicinal drink (yes really),<br />

distilled by monks and alchemists in the<br />

Netherlands and later in Europe including in<br />

Flanders, now northern France. Then it was<br />

called “genever”, an eau de vie made from<br />

juniper berries. But when William III of England<br />

banned imports of foreign alcohol, English<br />

distillers created ‘gin’, a cheaper version,<br />

which wreaked havoc on the working classes<br />

and earned it the nickname “mother’s ruin.”<br />

Eventually controls over production were<br />

brought in and the gin and tonic became a<br />

popular drink around the world.<br />

In France “le gin and tonic” has never been<br />

more popular than now, inspiring a legion of<br />

artisan distillers to create new, exciting gins.<br />

And in the heart of Cognac country, in the<br />

living room of his house, a distiller called Miko<br />

has been quietly creating his intoxicating and<br />

sensational Pink Pepper Gin…<br />

Miko, AKA “the man in the lab”, from Sydney,<br />

Australia looks every inch a mad scientist!<br />

He moved to Cognac from London where<br />

he’d been working, in 2011 and worked as a<br />

Cognac distiller. But his real passion was for<br />

gin. Inspired since he was a teen by his mum<br />

Nici who made fruit liqueurs from family<br />

recipes and dad Michel to understand the<br />

process and flavours of spirits, he’d long been<br />

experimenting but it was in Cognac that he<br />

had his Eureka moment. He developed a<br />

honey-led gin but felt it wasn’t quite there.<br />

Remembering a pink peppercorn tree in the<br />

family garden, he added some of the spicy<br />

pods to another 8 botanicals (herb and plant<br />

derivatives) in the mix – and a star was born.<br />

In 2014 Miko met Ian, an English expat who<br />

The Good Life France | 65

moved to Cognac in 2008 to do up a manor<br />

house. Ian set up a soup stall in the local<br />

market and when Miko offered to swap gin for<br />

soup, Ian was so impressed he joined Miko’s<br />

newly formed company Audemus Spirits. The<br />

taste of Pink Pepper Gin has wowed all who<br />

taste it and the company has taken off but,<br />

says Ian, production is still done in the front<br />

room of Miko’s house.<br />

Ian explains how Audemus Spirits have<br />

become one of the best gin-makers in France:<br />

The Audemus Distillery is a little atypical<br />

for the Cognac region, where we usually<br />

encounter giant copper beasts which can<br />

churn out hundreds of litres of their spirit<br />

a day. In fact, there are only a handful of<br />

distilleries around the globe that create the<br />

way we do.<br />

We operate a vacuum distillery out of Miko’s<br />

living room. Every botanical we distil is done<br />

individually, with its own specific method.<br />

The maceration time, botanical ratio,<br />

alcohol ABV, distillation time, pressure and<br />

temperature will all depend on the botanical’s<br />

character. If we’re looking for delicate<br />

flavours, everything will be done with a gentle<br />

touch. If we’re looking for spicier and stronger<br />

notes, we will increase the intensity at which<br />

we extract flavour.<br />

Once we have distilled all the botanicals which<br />

go into the gin – we blend them together in<br />

their specific ratios with a French neutral grain<br />

spirit and filter it lightly before bottling; giving<br />

the different elements time to rest before<br />

every stage of production.<br />

Our form of distilling is at the cross-roads<br />

between distillation, perfumery and chemistry<br />

– and is an entirely empirical operation.<br />

There are no textbooks that give us direction.<br />

Everything is born from experimentation<br />

and a love for the work we do. We don’t just<br />

make gin, we make all sorts of products –<br />

liqueurs, bitters, hybrid spirits that don’t fit into<br />

any category and so on. Our methodology<br />

changes depending on what we’re making.<br />

Being in the heart of the ‘Spirits Valley‘ in<br />

Cognac, we have numerous resources at<br />

our fingertips, from coopers to traditional<br />

distilleries. While we work with innovative<br />

and new technologies to produce drinks that<br />

are representative of our epoch, we maintain<br />

absolute respect for the time, passion and<br />

effort needed to create beautiful things.<br />

Each new batch of Pink Pepper Gin is<br />

dedicated to someone we love, the people<br />

that have helped us on our journey. But we<br />

also make different gins – Umami Gin is<br />

another member in our permanent range (or<br />

66 | The Good Life France

family) of products. And we make limited<br />

edition gins (Hoppy, Dive Bar, Old Ma’s) and<br />

bespoke gins for other people (Anne Sophie<br />

Pic Gin for example).<br />

We only work with fresh, dried botanicals<br />

– nothing artificial. Pink Pepper Gin has 9<br />

botanicals: Pink Peppercorns and Cinnamon<br />

from Madagascar, Italian Juniper, Cardamom<br />

from Guatamala, Honey from the Cognac<br />

region, Tonka Bean from Brazil and Vanilla<br />

from Sāo Tomé. Plus two secret ingredients.<br />

We work closely with all our suppliers and<br />

ensure that each botanical used is grown<br />

and harvested sustainably. For the vanilla<br />

for example we have partnered with a small<br />

co-operative on the tiny island of São Tomé.<br />

Miko visited and invested in the co-op who are<br />

trying to re-establish the vanilla production<br />

following years of neglect. We receive a small<br />

percentage of each crop as a return on our<br />

investment.<br />

The Good Life France | 67

It's so nice out...<br />

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Luxury bedding at professional prices<br />

Contact hello@lachambreparis.com<br />

for more details.<br />

www.lachambreparis.com<br />

68 | The Good Life France

We just won the highest award at the <strong>2022</strong><br />

IWSC spirits challenge, a Gold Outstanding.<br />

I’ll quote the judges here: “Bold and bright,<br />

here we have fantastic notes of black pepper<br />

spice on the nose, alongside a charming<br />

perfume of dried herbs. Fresh and crisp, yet<br />

beautifully round. An absolutely fascinating<br />

flavour profile and an exquisite example of its<br />

kind."<br />

For us it’s all about experimentation, being<br />

inspired by the things around us. Covert Fig<br />

Leaf Liqueur is a perfect example of this,<br />

it was inspired by the fig tree next door!<br />

The recipes take months of tweaking and<br />

development, and nothing leaves the Lab<br />

(living room), however many times we have to<br />

taste a product, unless Miko is 100% happy<br />

with the finished result.<br />

You can buy Pink Pepper Gin and all the<br />

liqueurs online (and find details of outlets<br />

around the world) at: audemus-spirits.com<br />

Shaken and stirred…<br />

Audemus Spirits tips for making a great Gin & Tonic: Fill the glass with as much ice as<br />

you can possibly fit into it. When the ice melts it dilutes the flavours and can ruin a G&T, and<br />

the more ice you put into the glass, the slower it melts. We love a 50ml shot of Pink Pepper<br />

Gin and roughly twice the amount of premium tonic. And - experiment with garnishes – we<br />

love something herbal, a bay leaf or sprig of rosemary for example. Citrus is also good –<br />

pink grapefruit or a slice of lemon.<br />

French 75 gin cocktail<br />

French 75, also called a<br />

75 Cocktail, or in French<br />

simply a Soixante-Quinze<br />

is a classic gin cocktail. It<br />

is named for the French<br />

75-millimeter gun used by<br />

Allied troops, including,<br />

according to one story,<br />

Capt. Harry S. Truman.<br />

Ingredients ; 1 tablespoon<br />

sugar syrup, 1 tablespoon<br />

fresh lemon juice, 50ml<br />

(1oz) gin, Champagne,<br />

lemon twist (optional).<br />

Pour the lemon juice,<br />

sugar syrup and gin into a<br />

cocktail shaker then fill up<br />

with ice. Shake well then<br />

strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne, leave to settle (as it will bubble<br />

up) then fill up with more champagne. Swirl gently and garnish with a strip of lemon<br />

zest if you like.<br />

The Good Life France | 69

The UNESCO listed<br />

treasures of<br />

Burgundy-Franche-Comté<br />

The region of Burgundy-Franche-Comté boasts traditional French gastronomy and world<br />

class vineyards as well as castles, majestic churches and charming villages. It also shares<br />

first place with the region of Occitanie (Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées) for the<br />

highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites…<br />

70 | The Good Life France<br />

Clos Vougeot

Burgundy’s UNESCO World Heritage sites<br />

The Climats du Vignoble de Bourgogne<br />

Awarded UNESCO World Heritage List status in 2015, the Climats du vignoble de Bourgogne<br />

(Burgundy) vineyards are recognised as a “cultural landscape” which embodies “the<br />

combined works of nature and man and express a long and close relationship between the<br />

people and their environment”.<br />

Don’t be deceived by the term “Climat”. It doesn’t mean climate or weather in this instance,<br />

instead it is a local word for a specific plot of vines with a precisely defined border, producing<br />

wine with a unique taste and which bears its name. There are more than 1,200 Climats<br />

across the entire listed area, between Dijon and the Maranges, to the south of Beaune. The<br />

“Climats” are the result of a unique combination of a 2000 year old cultural heritage, a<br />

diverse landscape and the know-how of the wine growers. The area features stone walls and<br />

shelters in the vineyards, winegrowers’ houses in the villages and monuments in the towns of<br />

Dijon and Beaune.<br />

climats-bourgogne.com/en/<br />

Cistercian Abbey of<br />

Fontenay<br />

Founded in 1118, the Cistercian Abbey of<br />

Fontenay is one of the oldest abbeys in<br />

France and the only one founded by Saint<br />

Bernard which has remained intact.<br />

The abbey was officially recognised for its<br />

valuable contribution to humanity in 1981.<br />

It went through a brief transformation as<br />

a paper mill during the French Revolution<br />

– thanks to the Montgolfier family of<br />

hot air balloon fame. Despite this and<br />

having welcomed millions of visitors over<br />

the centuries, it has retained a mystical<br />

charm. Incredibly almost all of the original<br />

buildings have survived intact including<br />

the church, dormitory and refectory.<br />

Saint Bernard designed the abbey to<br />

represent the Cistercian principles of<br />

simplicity, self-sufficiency and usefulness.<br />

Its Romanesque lines are pure and<br />

symmetrical with no decorative elements,<br />

which gives it a uniquely harmonious look<br />

and feel that's very spiritual.<br />

abbayedefontnay.com<br />

Fontenay<br />

The Good Life France | 71

Basilica and hill of Vézelay<br />

An hour west of Fontenay brings you to another UNESCO listed abbey, and town. The village<br />

of Vézelay is a classified “Sanctuary city in France” and together with the 17 communes that<br />

surround it, a classified ‘Grand Site de France.’ Winding streets are lined with Renaissance houses<br />

and 17th and 18th century buildings with sculpted doorways. The Basilica sits atop a hill at the<br />

end of the main street above the ramparts. Known as the “Eternal Hill” it has played its part in the<br />

history of Burgundy, acting as a beacon to welcome and guide pilgrims and crusaders.<br />

Shortly after its foundation in the 9th century, the Benedictine abbey of Vézelay claimed to<br />

have acquired the relics of St Mary Magdalene and since then it has been an important place of<br />

pilgrimage, not to mention a great spot to overlook the Morvan Valley.<br />

destinationgrandvezelay.com/<br />

Vezelay<br />

Chapel Notre Dame Ronchamp<br />

Chapel Notre-Dame du<br />

Haut, Ronchamp<br />

The chapel Notre-Dame du Haut, the<br />

pilgrim’s shelter, the chaplain’s house and<br />

the pyramid of peace, built by architect Le<br />

Corbusier (1887-1965) have been listed as<br />

UNESCO World Heritage sites since July<br />

2016 along with 16 other Le Corbusier sites.<br />

The chapel, built in 1955 was criticised by<br />

some, while others recognised that it heralded<br />

an architectural revolution. Le Corbusier<br />

designed the chapel furniture and even<br />

painted some pieces.<br />

collinenotredameduhaut.com<br />

72 | The Good Life France

Church of Notre-Dame,<br />

La Charité-sur-Loire<br />

La Charité-sur-Loire was once an<br />

important port originally called Seyr.<br />

However in the 11th century, the monks of<br />

the local abbey grew such a reputation<br />

for kindness to pilgrims that locals started<br />

to call it La Charité – and the name<br />

changed. The monks church was the<br />

second biggest in France at the time, after<br />

the mighty Abbey of Cluny. A fire in 1559<br />

destroyed a large part of it though it still<br />

has four of its five original naves, which<br />

were rebuilt in 1695. The Church is famous<br />

thanks to its sculpted decor: pillars,<br />

capitals, lofty arcades and the bestiary<br />

are all typical of Cluny’s richly inspired<br />

architecture. In 1998, Notre-Dame church<br />

became a UNESCO World Heritage site<br />

as it is a major stage on the “Route of<br />

Santiago de Compostela”.<br />

lachairtesurloire-tourisme.com<br />

Charite sur Loire<br />

The Good Life France | 73

74 | The Good Life France

Franche-Comté’s UNESCO World Heritage sites<br />

Besançon<br />

The 17th century Citadel dominated the<br />

city of Besançon. Designed by Louis XIV’s<br />

military engineer Vauban in 1668, the citadel<br />

and 11 other impressive military architectural<br />

sites were recognised as a UNESCO World<br />

Heritage Site in 2008. The fortifications cover<br />

11 hectares and look out over the old town<br />

and the Doubs River. The site is encircled by<br />

ramparts with walkways and watchtowers,<br />

step out on to the Chemin de rond to walk<br />

along the citadel’s outer ramparts though if<br />

you’ve not got a head for heights you may not<br />

enjoy it. Set atop a hill 100 metres above the<br />

city, the walls are up to 20 metres high and 5<br />

to 6 metres thick.<br />

The Citadel is home to three museums: the<br />

Comtois museum (local life and history), the<br />

French Resistance and Deportation museum<br />

and the Natural History museum.<br />

citadelle.com<br />

Besancon Citadel<br />

Saline Royale (Royal Saltworks),<br />

Arc-et-Senans, Doubs<br />

Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage<br />

List for 40 years, the Saline Royale of Arcet-Senans,<br />

commissioned by Louis XV, is<br />

the masterpiece of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.<br />

Built between 1775 and 1779, the factory was<br />

dedicated to salt production from the briny<br />

water of natural springs at Salins some 16km<br />

away. A unique monument consisting of eleven<br />

buildings, where almost the entire workforce<br />

lived as well as worked.<br />

salineroyale.com<br />

Saline Royale © Landscape-drone<br />

Grande Saline<br />

Saltworks, Salins-les-Bains<br />

The Grande Saline salt factory is one of the<br />

most ancient industrial sites in France. Salt<br />

was produced in this town for more than 1200<br />

years. Sourced from natural saltwater springs,<br />

saltier even than the Dead Sea, in the 13th<br />

century an underground gallery was created.<br />

The cathedral like tunnel is 165m long and<br />

part of a vast industrial complex covering<br />

two hectares which was built by the Dukes of<br />

Burgundy in the Middle Ages to produce the<br />

coveted ‘white gold.’<br />

salinesdesalins.com<br />

Prehistoric pile dwellings Chalain and Clairvaux Jura<br />

In 2011, 111 Prehistoric palaeolithic sites around the Alps were inscribed on<br />

the UNESCO World Heritage List as being “representative of prehistoric<br />

habitats” from 5000 to 500 BC, located near the main water bodies<br />

in the Alpine arc. The Lake Dwelling is an “invisible cultural property.”<br />

These prehistoric dwellings were the first underwater cultural property to<br />

be inscribed. Now buried and covered with water, the remains including<br />

artefacts of every day life including food and fabrics, have been remarkably<br />

well preserved in this waterlogged and oxygen deprived environment.<br />

clairvaux-les-lacs.com<br />

The Good Life France | 75

© Agen Tourisme<br />


route of France<br />

Kevin Pilley and Janine Marsh uncover the history of France’s love of prunes!<br />

76 | The Good Life France

You don’t get any of that at the Louvre.<br />

Or by staring up at the Sistine ceiling.<br />

The New York Met and Tate London have<br />

nothing on Musée du Pruneau on the Berino-<br />

Matinet farm in Lafitte-sur-Lot in Lot-et-<br />

Garonne.<br />

“Awe” is the only word for it.<br />

It’s the only way you can describe the feeling<br />

you get when you find yourself in the presence<br />

of the world’s two oldest prunes.<br />

The star attractions and most prized of the<br />

world’s first – and so far only - prune museum,<br />

are two elderly and very frail plums. They<br />

are the oldest and most wizened prunes in<br />

captivity. Experts believe them to be priceless.<br />

Although they will never be auctioned. Food<br />

safety regulations assure that.<br />

“Le Musée du Pruneau Gourmand” houses<br />

a unique collection of prune-related<br />

paraphernalia. Its famous pickled relics,<br />

which are kept in an airtight and thief-proof<br />

cabinet to deter private collectors (yes really),<br />

date back to 1857. They are local celebrities.<br />

Although no longer edible, they are of great<br />

historical significance.<br />

The oldest prunes in the world<br />

There is a museum near Agen in south-west<br />

France that will move you in a way no museum<br />

has moved you before.<br />

You’ll feel your body’s bile production surge,<br />

blood sugar level stabilize, ossification<br />

parameters dramatically improve and<br />

cholesterol rapidly plummet. You may even<br />

feel the toxins being flushed away. The<br />

relaxation is tangible. The soluble fibre<br />

palpable.<br />

The Good Life France | 77

Agen<br />

Agen is the centre of France’s plum-growing<br />

and prune-producing industry. This is a region<br />

that is steeped in prunes. Every September,<br />

millions of purple, velvety soft plums are<br />

shaken into huge, inverted umbrellas in the<br />

Lot-et-Garonne region. Agen plums have a<br />

high sugar content which allows them to fully<br />

ripen on the tree – without fermenting around<br />

the stone. Around 30% of them are made into<br />

prunes. Agen produces an average of 45,000<br />

tonnes of prunes each year.<br />

“La Route du Pruneau” is an official<br />

signposted tourist route which takes you<br />

around prune-dependent villages like<br />

Beauville, Bonaguil, Lacapelle-Biron,<br />

Mouflanquin, Villeneuve-sur-Lot and the<br />

medieval village of Pujols which has a weekly<br />

market at which plums and prunes take<br />

centre stage. Local prune farms offer tastings<br />

to the passing trade. In some towns there<br />

are “prune boutiques” selling a wide variety<br />

of pruney things. Think prunes covered in<br />

dark chocolate and perhaps a sprinkling<br />

of Espelette pepper, cream of prunes, and<br />

prunes immersed in rum, Eau de vie de Prune<br />

d’Ente and Pruneaux à l’Armagnac. Ditch<br />

those memories of prunes and cold custard<br />

you may have had at school – prunes are<br />

cool!<br />

Agen holds an annual “Great Prune Show”<br />

during the last weekend in August. The Town<br />

Hall at Place Esquirol is bathed in prunecoloured<br />

light. The main street is turned into<br />

Le Boulevard des Pruneaux and prunes are<br />

given away for free.<br />

Prunes are everywhere. You half expect to go<br />

to your hotel room and find a prune waiting for<br />

you on your pillow.<br />

At the shop of the Maitre Prunille factory<br />

in Casseneuil they will tell you ‘We French<br />

treasure our prunes. They are in our blood.<br />

Our mothers brought us up with prune bread,<br />

glazed tarts, soft custard filled pastries, petit<br />

fours filled with prunes. At Christmas, the<br />

turkey is always stuffed with prunes.’<br />

The surprisingly<br />

fascinating history of<br />

the prune<br />

In French “une prune” is, in fact, a plum and<br />

a prune is “un pruneau”. The Agen prune,<br />

which received its official appellation in the<br />

eighteenth century, was first known as the<br />

“Prune de Bordeaux” because it was shipped<br />

in great quantities to England and Holland<br />

from the port of Bordeaux.<br />

Plum seeds first made their way to France<br />

from China, transported by merchants via the<br />

Silk Road. The Romans planted plum trees in<br />

Gaul and Benedictine monks of the Abbey of<br />

Clairac (in the Lot-et-Garonne) brought back<br />

the plum trees that we know, on their return<br />

from the Crusades in the 12th century. One<br />

of the most popular varieties today is prune<br />

d´Ente, which comes from the old French word<br />

‘enter’, which means to graft, due to the monks<br />

grafting the trees to make them bear fruit.<br />

Prune cultivation developed in the 16th century.<br />

Agen prunes are the only dried fruit to<br />

have an European Union PGI (Protection<br />

Geographical Indication Origine).<br />

78 | The Good Life France

Prunes, prunes and<br />

more prunes<br />

Throughout the region of Lot-et-Garonne,<br />

you will find prune dishes on menus in most<br />

restaurants. Prune bread, prune tajines, potato<br />

and prune vegetable dishes, and pretty much<br />

everything from guinea fowl breasts, duck<br />

and geese to mushrooms stuffed with prunes.<br />

And for dessert, prune crumble with the local<br />

Armagnac grape is rather delicious. They’re<br />

also popular at the bottom of a glass of hot<br />

wine at Christmas.<br />

To create a prune, cooking time is determined<br />

by the plum’s sugar level. Usually this is<br />

between 18-26 hours at 75 deg C. Two<br />

centuries ago they were dried over brambles,<br />

then in a fournière, or bread oven. After<br />

drying, called le machonnage, the prunes are<br />

graded. It takes 3 kilos of plums to produce<br />

one kilo of prunes.<br />

At Confiserie Boisson sweet shop in the<br />

backstreets of Agen, six generations of the<br />

Boisson family has been bathing and boiling<br />

prunes in big brass pots and oven-drying them<br />

since 1835. The shop is crammed with prune<br />

conserves, jams, bon bons and their speciality,<br />

chocolate-truffle prunes with prune paste.<br />

One visit to this shop, and you’ll become a<br />

regular…<br />

Useful sites:<br />

Musee-du-pruneau.com<br />

en.destination-agen.com<br />

See a recipe for<br />

Far Breton, the most<br />

popular prune cake in<br />

France on page 114, and<br />

sticky toffee prune<br />

pudding on page 116.<br />

The Good Life France | 79

Château de Digoine,<br />

Burgundy<br />

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live in a chateau? Nearly half of France’s<br />

44,000 heritage sites are castles in various states of repair and author Catherine<br />

Scotto embarked on a journey to find out who lived in these medieval fortresses, and<br />

what they were like inside…<br />

The greenhouse adjoining the château, commissioned by Chabrillan in 1830<br />

80 | The Good Life France

From the moment that Jean-Louis Remilleux took in hand the extraordinary feat implied in<br />

its preservation, Digoine, nestling in its vast Burgundian demesne, can once again reveal its<br />

splendor. The château invites us to take a nostalgia-free deluxe promenade through the universe<br />

of this captivating art collector.<br />

The north-facing <strong>Summer</strong> Dining Room, also referred to as the Buffet Room, is equipped with two devices for reheating and cooling dating from the eighteenth<br />

century, which did service for both dining rooms. On the table can be seen a spectacular Temple of Love in bisque porcelain, a present from Napoleon to the<br />

Empress Marie-Louise.<br />

The Never-Ending Story<br />

Remilleux is a lucky man. A former journalist<br />

who currently produces the TV program<br />

Secrets d’Histoire, he explains his success as<br />

follows: Before buying Digoine in 2012, he<br />

had owned the Château de Groussay (just<br />

west of Versailles), the celebrated residence of<br />

Charles de Beistegui, which he sold after ten<br />

years of passionate loving care. In order to be<br />

able to afford Groussay he had sold a small<br />

eighteenth-century house in the Berry region.<br />

He started from nothing—but not everything<br />

can be explained by chance.<br />

A great lover of decorative art, whose<br />

expertise and aesthetic make him the envy of<br />

his profession, he is a prudent collector whose<br />

taste was formed at a very early age in the<br />

flea markets of Paris and London, as well as<br />

in auction houses. “I’ve done the only thing I<br />

know how to do: please myself,” he explains<br />

by way of justification, accusing himself of a<br />

bulimic urge to acquire the inordinate number<br />

of books, items of furniture and works of art<br />

that surround him. Jean-Louis Remilleux<br />

has found in the Château de Digoine an<br />

endless playground, endowed with hundreds<br />

of hectares of land, a pond, and several<br />

outbuildings, which he is restoring with gusto.<br />

But this is a man for whom nothing is set in<br />

aspic. In September 2015 he sold off part of<br />

Digoine’s furnishings to Christie’s. “When I run<br />

out of space, I sell something off. Rather like<br />

being at the casino, where you cash in your<br />

chips and leave. I am fond of my possessions,<br />

but they are not human: they remain objects.”<br />

Within five years the empty spaces left by<br />

The Good Life France | 81

82 | The Good Life France<br />


Jean-Louis Remilleux never parts<br />

company with these two jealously<br />

guarded ceramic baboons<br />

placed on the mantelpiece of the<br />

small green drawing room-cumlibrary.<br />

The clock, acquired in<br />

the Portobello Road flea market<br />

in London, also has sentimental<br />

value. A portrait of the Duchess<br />

of Bourbon (Mademoiselle de<br />

Nantes, daughter of Madame<br />

de Montespan and Louis XIV) in<br />

mourning hangs on the wall.<br />

these sales have already been filled up again.<br />

The decor of each room is executed with<br />

exquisite taste, the fruit of feverish trips to<br />

antique shops, or the painstaking study of<br />

auction house catalogs. Remilleux never<br />

tires of telling the story of his finds; to follow<br />

him through the maze of his château is to be<br />

guaranteed protection against boredom.<br />

Every piece of furniture, every painting and<br />

every ornament provides the backdrop to<br />

an enthusiastic digression, peppered with<br />

hilarious anecdotes that cannot fail to amuse<br />

the listener. A natural storyteller, he considers<br />

himself both lucky and lazy, but is a man of<br />

true culture notwithstanding, combined with<br />

a strong will. “Ornaments, whether taken<br />

separately or together, besides the fact that<br />

they are poems, are a way for the connoisseur<br />

to express himself in secret, to whisper secrets<br />

to all and sundry,” as Paul Morand aptly puts it<br />

in L’Enfant de cent ans. Jean-Louis Remilleux’s<br />

residence is far more than a pretty interior.<br />

Everything had to be started from scratch<br />

in the case of Digoine; fortunately, the sale<br />

of Groussay, coming as it did as a sort of<br />

miraculous manna from heaven, rendered<br />

the task that much easier. “I’ve been here ten<br />

years now; who knows, perhaps one day I’ll<br />

grow tired of it. People are prisoners of family<br />

The Good Life France | 83

ties. As for me, I didn’t inherit a château and<br />

can sell it if the fancy takes me. I like to vary<br />

my pleasures.”<br />

A diversionary tactic? It’s difficult to imagine<br />

Jean-Louis Remilleux abandoning the<br />

peaceful Charolais-Brionne countryside…<br />

The Great Salon has beautiful views of the garden-level ceremonial rooms. The<br />

architraves above the doors, executed in grisaille, are perfectly preserved. A<br />

ceramic vase by Théodore Deck (1823–1891) is a nod to its neighbor, which dates<br />

from the Second Empire. A collection of ornithological plates manufactured by<br />

Darte can be seen on the console table.<br />

Extracted from French Chateau Style: Inside France’s Most Exquisite Private<br />

Homes Text by Catherine Scotto; Images by Marie Pierre Morel. Published by<br />

Prestel, <strong>2022</strong><br />

The Story of Digoine<br />

The lords of Digoine had owned the terrain<br />

that bears their name since the eleventh<br />

century. Following the marriage of Marie de<br />

Digoine to Robert de Damas, the ancient<br />

medieval castle began to take on the aspect<br />

we recognize today. The Damas of Digoine<br />

thought big: the construction had to be rock<br />

solid. Two imposing towers protected the north<br />

façade, while two others were constructed at<br />

the end of the south esplanade, enclosed by<br />

dry moats.<br />

When the wealthy Reclesne family bought<br />

the demesne in the eighteenth century,<br />

the castle was turned into a château<br />

de plaisance. Transformations, in which<br />

architect Edme Verniquet played a key role<br />

from 1750 on, lasted fifty years. The founder<br />

of the School of Fine Arts in Dijon and a<br />

friend of Buffon, Verniquet had participated<br />

in the laying out of the Jardin des Plantes in<br />

Paris, as well as designing several imposing<br />

townhouses in the capital.<br />

Throughout his career the architect was<br />

responsible for designing a dozen or so<br />

châteaux in his native Burgundy, including<br />

that of Digoine. Under his supervision the<br />

austere north façade was endowed with a<br />

double colonnaded portico, a pilastered top<br />

floor surmounted with a carved trophy (in<br />

the eighteenth century the term “trophy”<br />

referred to military exploits), and superb<br />

wrought-iron balconies. The metamorphosis<br />

reached its apotheosis with the entrance<br />

to the south façade, adorned with two<br />

high French windows and a neoclassical<br />

pediment. The two medieval towers<br />

surrounding the new construction were<br />

graced with lantern domes.<br />

84 | The Good Life France

The bed of<br />

Madame Roland,<br />

a society lady<br />

guillotined in<br />

1793, entirely<br />

restored in a silk<br />

workshop in Prelle<br />

by the Burgundian<br />

tapestry artist<br />

Beccat. A medley<br />

of vases can<br />

be seen on the<br />

mantelpiece,<br />

together with<br />

some Louis XVI<br />

perfume-burners.<br />

The first half of the nineteenth century saw<br />

Digoine at its most splendid. Its new owners,<br />

Count Aimé de Chabrillan, chamberlain to<br />

Napoleon, and Countess Zéphyrine Olympe<br />

de Choiseul Gouffier, heiress of Digoine,<br />

continued the transformation, adding a<br />

heated greenhouse, a library and a small<br />

theatre in which Jacques Offenbach and<br />

Sarah Bernhardt performed. The count,<br />

whom Remilleux nicknames “Le Beistegui<br />

de Digoine,” had benches installed in<br />

the vestibule, bas-reliefs, and consoles<br />

supported by legs carved in the shape of<br />

lions’ paws, designed by Clodion, which the<br />

Count had inherited: they came from the<br />

monumental nymphaeum of the Hôtel de<br />

Besenval (now the Swiss Embassy) in Paris.<br />

Digoine was sold in 1908 to the Marquis<br />

de Croix, who bequeathed it to his<br />

descendants. When Remilleux bought the<br />

château in 2012, it was empty. However, he<br />

succeeded in buying some of its furniture<br />

during a large auction organized by<br />

auctioneers Beaussant-Lefèvre. Having<br />

made further improvements with the<br />

help of pieces from his own collection, he<br />

embarked on an enormous restoration:<br />

floors, paintwork, roof repairs, electricity,<br />

and the installation of cast-iron radiators.<br />

An additional, prestigious project is on the<br />

horizon: the restoration of the small amateur<br />

theatre, designed in 1842.<br />

The soon-to-be-renovated tiny amateur theatre, whose curtain and decorations<br />

were painted by Pierre-Luc-Charles Ciceri (1782–1868), chief scenographer<br />

at the Opéra in Paris. He had considerable influence on the development of<br />

scenography during the first half of the nineteenth century.<br />

The fireplace in the Great Salon is surmounted by a Louis XVI clock and two<br />

portraits of the Mademoiselles de Blois and de Nantes, two of the daughters<br />

born to Louis XIV and Madame de Montespan.<br />

The Good Life France | 85

What’s<br />

New?<br />

Roundup of openings and major events<br />

Chartres © Gojira photographie © Spectaculaires<br />

Chartres-en-lumière, Chartres lights up!<br />

Until 14 January 2023, the town of Chartres in the Centre-Val de Loire region, will light up<br />

for the largest heritage highlighting operation in the world. The glorious Gothic Cathedral of<br />

Chartres, the bridges and washhouses on the banks of the River Eure, the Montescot mansion,<br />

church, theatre and museums – more than 20 monuments are included in this free and fabulous<br />

programme. Chartres-en-lumière takes place every night from dusk to 1am until October 31,<br />

then from dusk to 10.30 pm until 14 January. chartresenlumieres.com<br />

© eric Barnabe Photographie<br />

Dive into a new underwater<br />

eco-museum, Cannes<br />

The first underwater eco-museum in France has opened in<br />

Cannes, off the island of Sainte Marguerite. British sculptor<br />

Jason deCaires Taylor has created six statues made of an<br />

ecological material to raise public awareness and promote<br />

the return of underwater flora and fauna to this now protected<br />

space where boat mooring is prohibited. To enjoy, a mask and<br />

snorkel are all you need.<br />

cannes-destination.com<br />

86 | The Good Life France

Pressoria, Champagne<br />

Pressoria is a new visitor centre dedicated to understanding the<br />

production process, history and culture of champagne. Housed in<br />

the former Pommery press in Aÿ near Epernay it offers multi-sensory<br />

exhibitions as well as a tasting area with a view of the vineyard listed as<br />

a UNESCO World Heritage Site.<br />

pressoria.com<br />


© Sophie Spiteri<br />

Aix-en-Provence Festival –<br />

4-23 July <strong>2022</strong><br />

The Aix-en-Provence Festival, one of the most<br />

famous classical music and opera festivals<br />

in France, takes place each year in July,<br />

attracting major European orchestras and top<br />

conductors.<br />

festival-aix.com<br />

Cité du Vitrail – Stained<br />

glass museum, Troyes<br />

Troyes in the Champagne region has been<br />

known for centuries as the stained glass<br />

capital of Europe. This year, the city, which<br />

is also famous for its medieval quarter with<br />

beautiful half-timbered houses and Gothic<br />

churches with striking windows, will open<br />

a new museum dedicated to stained glass.<br />

The Cité du Vitrail will be housed in the<br />

magnificently restored 18th Century Hôtel-<br />

Dieu-le-Comte, with more than 32,000<br />

square feet to showcase stained glass works<br />

dating from the 12th to 21st centuries.<br />

Cite-vitrail.aube.fr<br />

Castle of Villers-<br />

Cotterêts in Picardy, to<br />

reopen to the public<br />

Abandoned for decades, the only<br />

Renaissance castle, built by French King<br />

Francis 1 in the Picardy Region of Northern<br />

France, Château Villers-Cotterets, will<br />

reopen to the public in autumn of <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

It was here in 1539 that Francis 1<br />

signed an ordinance which ruled that<br />

the French language was to be used in<br />

all administrative and judicial areas of<br />

work and not Latin which had been used<br />

for centuries. This link with the French<br />

language has endured over the centuries:<br />

The great medieval writer François Rabelais<br />

stayed at the castle, Molière presented<br />

Tartuffe there, and Alexandre Dumas was<br />

born in Villers-Cotterêts.<br />

Cite-langue-francaise.fr<br />

Les Chorégies d’Orange,<br />

Provence –<br />

August <strong>2022</strong><br />

Les Chorégies d’Orange, world famous<br />

opera festival, is staged in the exceptional<br />

location of the UNESCO listed 1st century<br />

AD Roman amphitheatre at Orange. The<br />

Chorégies d’Orange—with a program of<br />

operas, ballets and recitals, is the oldest<br />

French festival and the world’s oldest<br />

opera festival, dating back to 1869.<br />

choregies.fr<br />

The Good Life France | 87

Marathon du Médoc, Bordeaux: September 10, <strong>2022</strong><br />

The Medoc Marathon is a festive and eye-popping event held every year on the second<br />

Saturday of September. The run takes place through the vineyards of Bordeaux’s Médoc area<br />

and features wine and fine food stops! If you don’t get on the running list for this year – add it to<br />

your must-do for next year or cheer on from the vineyards…<br />

marathondumedoc.com<br />

© Yves Mainguy<br />

Trafic%5D-%5Bthegoodlife_france%5D-%5B300x-<br />

250%5D-<br />

88 | The Good Life France

American Film Festival, September <strong>2022</strong><br />

The American Film Festival highlights the diversity of American cinema, from major Hollywood<br />

productions to independent films. It is the only European festival of this scale to open its doors<br />

to the public, presenting each year more than a hundred films and attended by major American<br />

actors and stars.<br />

festival-deauville.com<br />

2023<br />

Rouen-Armada of Tall<br />

Ships: June 8 -18, 2023<br />

The largest sailing ships in the world will gather<br />

in the port of Rouen in Normandy, in June<br />

2023, joined by warships and barges and<br />

nearly 8,000 sailors. Enjoy free entertainment,<br />

access to the ships and demonstrations, plus<br />

concerts and fireworks. This major event<br />

takes place roughly every 4 years – and it is<br />

unmissable.<br />

armada.org<br />

Coming soon....<br />

The Good Life France podcast<br />

Everything you want to know about<br />

France and more...<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

The Good Life France | 89

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 Good Life France Magazine<br />

Spring in Paris by M France<br />

With a whopping 26000 likes on<br />

Facebook, this gorgeous photo really<br />

captured our hearts…<br />

90 | The Good Life France

Mont-Saint-Michel by Basia Michalowska<br />

The mysterious beauty of the ‘Pyramid of<br />

the Seas’ is mesmerising…<br />

Sault, Provence by Marianne Furnes<br />

You can’t help but fall in love with this<br />

gorgeous pink door…<br />

Join us on Facebook and<br />

like and share your favourite<br />

photos of France...<br />

The Good Life France | 91

Tours de France<br />

Travel is back! And the early signs for<br />

<strong>2022</strong> are that tourism in France is surging.<br />

Frankly, we’re not surprised, France has<br />

it all. Some of the world’s most iconic<br />

landmarks, outstanding gastronomy, art,<br />

architecture, beaches and ski resorts,<br />

rivers and canals just made for cruising, the<br />

Mediterranean Sea, historic cities, gorgeous<br />

little villages and a simply staggering<br />

amount of history.<br />

So if you’re dreaming of visiting France<br />

here are some of our top tour & destination<br />

recommendations:<br />

Ophorus Tours of France<br />

Family run Ophorus Tours, one of the most<br />

renowned and popular tour companies in<br />

France, adds Provence to its impressive list<br />

of tour destinations. They have a huge range<br />

of half and full day trips with the best English<br />

speaking guides in the business. Private tours,<br />

group tours, excursions and longer tours of 5<br />

days take in the very best of Provence.<br />

Ophorus.com<br />

‘Real’ South of France Tours<br />

Occitanie – formerly Languedoc-Roussillon<br />

and Midi-Pyrenees – is to many the real south<br />

of France. Full of hidden gems and home to<br />

captivating Carcasssonne, the vineyards of<br />

Saint-chinian where some of the very best<br />

wines in France are produced, the historic<br />

town of Perpignan and more. The Real South<br />

of France Tours 6 and 7 day small group tours<br />

take you to the heart of this area and reveal its<br />

innermost, delicious and fascinating secrets.<br />

Discover real France with ‘Real’ South of<br />

France Tours…<br />

realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

92 | The Good Life France

© Helwin Goetzinger<br />

CroisiEurope – the best<br />

for cruises<br />

The largest cruise operator in France,<br />

CroisiEurope’s cruises are unbeatable. Sail<br />

the rivers, canals and Mediterranean Sea<br />

and discover the culture, gastronomy and<br />

cultural wealth of France. Enjoy all-inclusive<br />

life onboard with the finest food and wines and<br />

fabulous tours that take you to the heart of<br />

each destination. No stressing, no driving, no<br />

wondering how to fit in all the glorious must-see<br />

places or how to reach the off the beaten track<br />

gems, CroisiEurope’s cruises and excursions<br />

take you to the very best of France – in style.<br />

croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Perigourmet – a true taste<br />

of Dordogne<br />

Take a gastronomic tour of Dordogne by 2CV<br />

and discover hidden gems, delicious bakeries,<br />

regional specialities, fabulous restaurants,<br />

cooking classes with local chefs, wine tasting<br />

and more. And they also offer a 2CV and driver<br />

for half or full day excursions to discover the<br />

historical and prehistoric heritage of Dordogne,<br />

villages classified among the most beautiful<br />

villages in France, unspoiled nature and the<br />

region’s culinary treasures.<br />

perigourmet.com<br />

Goût et Voyage Winter<br />

Holiday Tour in Provence<br />

Planning for an end of the year seasonal treat?<br />

Join Goût et Voyage’s Winter Holiday Tour of<br />

Provence. It’s a small group tour that features<br />

fabulous food and wine, truffle hunt, santon<br />

markets, beautifully decorated towns and<br />

villages including arty Saint-Rémy-de-Provence<br />

Arles and Aix-en-Provence, cooking lessons with<br />

chefs and holiday shopping. Seasonally sublime.<br />

goutetvoyage.com<br />

The Good Life France | 93

What’s the Best Way to<br />

Learn French Online?<br />

With a wealth of online resources and tools, there has never been a better time to learn<br />

French online. Studying French through websites and apps allows you to study little-andoften,<br />

wherever you are.<br />

Top Ten Tips to Learn French Online<br />

1. Study with an online French graded<br />

newspaper, such as Newsdle.<br />

Studying French with graded news is a<br />

great way to learn through engaging,<br />

authentic content. With new lessons<br />

published each day across website an<br />

app, there’s something for everyone!<br />

2. Spaced repetition (SRS) software.<br />

SRS flashcards are a great way to learn<br />

and reinforce vocabulary. You’ll be tested<br />

more on words you remember less.<br />

Tip: organise your words into groups to<br />

lighten the load!<br />

3. Feeling brave? Switch your email and<br />

phone to French system language!<br />

Why not switch your email and<br />

phone settings to French? As these<br />

are platforms that you’re already<br />

familiar with, you’ll get exposure<br />

to new vocabulary without feeling<br />

overwhelmed.<br />

4. Meet a French language partner<br />

online.<br />

Studying with language exchange<br />

partners is a great way to practice<br />

your French language skills and make<br />

new friends in the process. There are<br />

loads of online platforms to help you<br />

find someone suitable. Just remember<br />

to take steps to stay safe online!<br />

5. Get an online tutor!<br />

Study with the help of a teacher<br />

without needing to leave your home.<br />

This is a great option if you don’t get<br />

so much exposure to French language<br />

in your daily life.<br />

6. Watch French TV and films online.<br />

You can use free tools such as<br />

YouTube or subscription service such<br />

as Netflix to learn French. This is<br />

a great way to expose yourself to<br />

accents from across the Frenchspeaking<br />

world!<br />

94 | The Good Life France

7. Listen to French podcasts on streaming<br />

platforms.<br />

A great option if you’re on the go! Study<br />

French as you travel, exercise, or relax<br />

through podcasts!<br />

8. Try a learning French browser<br />

extension.<br />

Hover over words on websites for<br />

immediate translation for an easy win!<br />

9. Use an online dictionary tool.<br />

Put your words and texts into an online<br />

dictionary tool to help decipher the<br />

meaning. Even better, find one that links<br />

to your SRS flashcards to build the new<br />

words into your daily study routine!<br />

10. Learn to sing French songs!<br />

Learning songs is a great way to learn<br />

vocabulary in context and have fun when<br />

learning French. Get those endorphins<br />

flowing with a French karaoke session!<br />

If you want to learn French through a<br />

graded online newspaper, why not try<br />

Newsdle? There are new lessons every<br />

day from beginner to advanced levels,<br />

as well as loads of tools to support your<br />

language learning journey!<br />

Use discount code goodlife25 for 25% off initial<br />

transaction amount through the website at<br />

newsdle.com<br />

The Good Life France | 95


ClickMoves.com can help. They take care of all<br />

the paperwork, the packing and your precious<br />

things. Get a free quote and expert help.<br />



96 | The Good Life France

LIGHTS …<br />

CAMERA …<br />

ACTION –<br />

France in film…<br />

The Good Life France | 97 Chamonix

France has huge allure for movie producers, let alone actors lucky enough<br />

Paris, like a film set © Peter Jones<br />

Seduced by wonderful architecture, beautiful<br />

cities and towns and wonderful countryside,<br />

France provides the perfect movie location.<br />

Add in the glorious golden light of Provence,<br />

seascapes perfect for Bond girls, mountains<br />

for feats of bravado and derring-do, châteaux<br />

providing the most romantic of settings -<br />

France deserves its own billing!<br />

Then there’s the food – and wine – that every<br />

film shot in France seems to focus upon at<br />

some stage. The 100 foot Journey with Helen<br />

Mirren shot in the Midi Pyrénées was all about<br />

cuisine and a restaurateur’s quest for an<br />

elusive second Michelin star!<br />

Perhaps the attraction of France as a movie<br />

location came when French films started to be<br />

shown overseas in the 50’s and 60’s. I mean<br />

just look what Brigitte Bardot did for St Tropez<br />

in 1956 with And God created Woman. In<br />

1964, Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (filmed in<br />

Normandy) launched the career of Catherine<br />

Deneuve with her luminous beauty, and was<br />

nominated for 5 Academy Awards in the USA.<br />

Iconic films featuring<br />

Paris<br />

Audrey Hepburn enchanted us in several<br />

movies, including the iconic Charade – a<br />

love story set in Paris featuring Cary Grant.<br />

Although her stunning apartment, beside<br />

the Parc Monceau, is actually a museum,<br />

the Jardins des Champs Elysées and the<br />

Palais Royale also feature as well as a bateau<br />

mouche along the Seine by night. It’s the<br />

98 | The Good Life France

to film here says Joanna Leggett…<br />

perfect introduction to this wonderful city -<br />

with timeless Givenchy couture to boot.<br />

In the wonderfully quirky Amélie with Audrey<br />

Tatou, Paris, and Montmartre in particular,<br />

was almost a character in its own right. La<br />

Vie en Rose included a visit to Edith Piaf’s<br />

favourite restaurant, Julien, an Art Nouveau<br />

brasserie in the 10th arrondissement. And,<br />

while we’re talking Parisian bistros, La<br />

Renaissance in the 18th has featured in almost<br />

a dozen films including Tarantino’s Inglourious<br />

Basterds as well as Stuntwoman starring the<br />

late, great, Jean Paul Belmondo.<br />

Then there’s Le Grand Vefour restaurant<br />

in rue du Beaujolais, where time seems to<br />

have been suspended since the 19th century.<br />

It’s been frequented by everyone from<br />

Bonaparte to Coco Chanel. It played its part<br />

in the film Coco before Chanel as well as in<br />

Midnight in Paris, which spotlights a veritable<br />

smorgasbord of gorgeous Paris locations.<br />

Time for Action!<br />

Time to move south to Marseille – perhaps<br />

first put on the entertainment map by<br />

Alexandre Dumas who set the Count of<br />

Monte Cristo in the Château d’If, on a rocky<br />

© Wazim<br />

The Good Life France | 99

Villefranche-sur-Mer © Peter Jones<br />

island off the coast. In 1971, Marseille was<br />

the location for The French Connection<br />

starring Gene Hackman. A few years later,<br />

also speeding through Marseille’s streets, was<br />

Luc Besson’s action comedy Taxi, where a<br />

pizza delivery boy raced around with reckless<br />

abandon! And in Love Actually, Le Bar de<br />

la Marine in Marseille is where Colin Firth’s<br />

character proposes to Aurelia.<br />

Meanwhile the world’s favourite spy 007 had<br />

many visits to France. Sean Connery’s Bond<br />

visited Cap d’Antibes during Diamonds are<br />

Forever. Various locations along the French<br />

Riviera have featured, including a motorcycle<br />

chase between Bond and the SPECTRE<br />

baddies with stunning scenery courtesy of<br />

Menton and Villefranche-sur-Mer. Other<br />

Bond locations include the magnificent<br />

chateau at Vaux le Victome (just an hour<br />

south of Paris) in Moonraker. He also visited<br />

the stables at Chantilly. Moving on a few<br />

years Pierce Brosnan got up to all sorts of<br />

hair raising tricks along the Riviera before<br />

dodging real life avalanches during extreme<br />

skiing in Argentière near Chamonix. Connery,<br />

a confirmed Francophile, even bought a<br />

magnificent villa overlooking Nice!<br />

The south of France in film<br />

Long after the book A Year in Provence<br />

first enticed readers to the joys of southern<br />

France, echoes of Peter Mayle’s prose linger.<br />

One of his later books was the basis of<br />

A Good Year filmed in the Luberon close to<br />

where Mayle and director, Ridley Scott, had<br />

homes. Locations included the Château la<br />

Canorgue in Bonnieux, Cucuron and Gordes<br />

where Russell Crowe waited at table.<br />

Hugh Jackman trekked to freedom in Les<br />

Miserables around the beautiful village of<br />

Gourdon with incredible views out to the Med!<br />

After Pride and Prejudice many women<br />

waited a long time for Colin Firth to dive<br />

into another lake and he actually did<br />

in the Var, just outside Vadauban, for<br />

Love Actually. However one of the more<br />

memorable films made around here must be<br />

Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief starring Cary<br />

Grant and Grace Kelly, who met her Prince<br />

in the south of France while attending the<br />

Cannes Film Festival. The famous film fest is<br />

a chance for the great, the good and many<br />

wannabe’s to hobnob and promote their<br />

offerings each May.<br />

100 | The Good Life France

5<br />

stunning locations which have<br />

featured in famous films and where<br />

you may find your dream home:<br />

Brittany: Back in the ‘50’s Monsieur Houlot<br />

(aka Jacques Tati) famously dipped his toes in<br />

the sea on the coast of Morbihan. Meanwhile<br />

Kirk Douglas flexed his muscles in the Vikings<br />

at Fort la Latte, Cap Frehel Cotes d’Armor.<br />

Homes for sale Brittany.<br />

Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Dunkirk was<br />

filmed largely on location on the beaches of<br />

Dunkirk in Nord-Pas-de-Calais. The closest<br />

area to the UK, separated by just 21 miles of<br />

English Channel, Pas-de-Calais offers the<br />

quintessential French lifestyle.<br />

Homes for sale Pas-de-Calais<br />

Good enough for Bond: Chamonix in Haute-<br />

Savoie is close to where The World Is Not<br />

Enough was filmed and this area really does<br />

have star quality.<br />

Homes for sale in Haute-Savoie<br />

Ridley Scott’s first film "Les Duellistes", was<br />

shot in Dordogne, in particular between Les<br />

Eyzies and the beautiful medieval town of<br />

Sarlat.<br />

Homes for sale in Dordogne<br />

Chocolat, the deliciously romantic film based<br />

on Joanne Harris’s book of the same name<br />

featured Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Cote d’Or, in<br />

Burgundy. And though the chocolate shop<br />

doesn’t exist in real life, the area offers a sweet<br />

taste of the good life in France.<br />

Homes for sale in Burgundy<br />

Brittany, © Bretagne Toursme<br />

Saint-Tropez ©Dave McNeill<br />

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte<br />

Sarlat © Jim Steinbach<br />

The Good Life France | 101

How to become a<br />

France<br />

No matter which French visa you arrived<br />

on, there may come a moment when you<br />

realise it will expire in a few months and you<br />

don’t want to leave.<br />

Perhaps you just came over on a 6 month<br />

short stay visa for an extended holiday. Or<br />

maybe you opted for a 12 month long stay visa<br />

to see if you like the lifestyle.<br />

Either way, it has all gone too quickly. You’ve<br />

fallen in love with France and want to make it<br />

your permanent home, but you’re not sure how<br />

to go about it.<br />

That’s where we can help<br />

French Connections HCB was set up a<br />

few years ago to help people from around<br />

the world to navigate the administrative<br />

complexities in moving to France. Since then,<br />

we’ve helped thousands of people move and<br />

settle permanently over here. And of course,<br />

the first step in achieving that is to apply for a<br />

residency permit.<br />

Let’s start with the<br />

good news<br />

If you are here on a 12 month long stay visa,<br />

you’ll be able to apply from France without<br />

leaving the country. You just need to start the<br />

residency application process two months<br />

before your visa is due to expire.<br />

If you are here on a short stay 6 month visa,<br />

you will need to leave France and apply for a<br />

12 month long stay visa to allow you to come<br />

back. Once here, you will be eligible to apply<br />

for residency before that 12 month visa expires.<br />

Is it difficult to apply?<br />

Applying for residency is quite a long process<br />

but almost always successful if you meet the<br />

necessary criteria and produce the correct<br />

documents.<br />

If you don’t have the time or confidence do it<br />

yourself, we offer a Residency Application service<br />

that takes care of the entire process start to finish.<br />

This is how it works<br />

Firstly, we’ll invite you to talk to our friendly<br />

relocation specialist, Diana. She will discuss<br />

your current status with you to make sure that<br />

all the requirements are met before you start<br />

your application.<br />

We’ll then ask you to provide the documents<br />

required by the French administration. Some<br />

have to be the original, so it is always a good<br />

idea to make a copy before handing them over.<br />

Your originals will be returned to you by the<br />

French administration at the moment of your<br />

interview, which is the last step in the process<br />

and much less scary than it sounds!<br />

Typically, you will need to provide:<br />

• Your passport<br />

• Proof of French residency, such as a recent<br />

utility bill that is less than three months old<br />

• A copy of your Private Health Insurance /<br />

Social Security Number/ S1<br />

• Proof that you have sufficient funds to<br />

support yourself<br />

Once we have everything we need, we will<br />

then apply online on your behalf, upload the<br />

documents and track your application as it<br />

progresses through the administrative system.<br />

102 | The Good Life France

esident in<br />

Once your dossier has been accepted you<br />

will be invited to an appointment at your local<br />

Prefecture. Here you’ll be asked to provide your<br />

fingerprints electronically, plus 3 passport-style ID<br />

photos and any additional information they need.<br />

After that there is nothing more to do. You will<br />

receive your residency permit in the post a<br />

couple of weeks later, unless you are invited to<br />

collect it in person from the prefecture.<br />

How long does it all take?<br />

From start to finish, the residency application<br />

process can take several months so don’t worry<br />

if it drags on. This is completely normal!<br />

The next steps<br />

If you’d like to find out more or talk about how<br />

we can help, simply book your FREE initial<br />

consultation with relocation specialist Diana<br />

via our website frenchconnectionshcb.com<br />

Alternatively, you can reach her at<br />

diana@frenchconnectionshcb.com<br />

We look forward to talking to you about<br />

becoming a permanent French resident!<br />

The French Connections HCB Team<br />




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The Good Life France | 103

Beacon Global Wealth Management<br />

Standing out, amongst the best<br />

UK and French financial advice<br />

Tax and investment advice<br />

Inheritance advice<br />

Reviewing pension arrangements<br />

It’s simple...<br />

We care about you and your money<br />

Our vision is to build a long term strategy<br />

to take care of your financial requirements<br />

for your life in France.<br />

Please contact<br />

Our UK office 0044 33 3241 6966<br />

enquiries@bgwealthmanagement.net<br />

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

104 | The Good Life France

What is French Gift Tax<br />

(“Droits de Donation”)?<br />

Paul Flintham, an International Financial Advisor at Beacon Global<br />

Wealth Management explains how French Gift Tax works…<br />

In simple terms, with French gift tax the donor<br />

makes the gift. The donee receives the gift and is<br />

responsible for paying any tax that is due (droits<br />

de donation).<br />

Residency<br />

If the donor is tax resident in France, tax is payable<br />

on all worldwide assets transferred in excess of the<br />

allowances available.<br />

If the donor is non-resident, but the donee has<br />

been a tax resident of France for at least six out of<br />

the last ten years, liability arises on all worldwide<br />

assets transferred to the donee in excess of the<br />

allowances available.<br />

If both donor and donee are non-resident, tax is<br />

payable on the gift of real estate only in France.<br />

Relationships<br />

The gift free allowances are only for family<br />

members and are variable according to the<br />

relationship to the donor. The donor must also be<br />

under 80 years old, and the donee over 18 for the<br />

allowances to apply.<br />

A gift made every 15 years may be made free of<br />

gift tax, provided it does not exceed the exemption<br />

limits (below). If the donor dies within the 15 years<br />

the gift may then incur a tax penalty.<br />

The exemption limits in <strong>2022</strong> are as follows:<br />

• Spouses/Partners – €80,724 between<br />

spouses, PACS and those in civil partnership.<br />

• Children – €100,000 from each parent to<br />

each child (or child to parent).<br />

• Grandchildren – €31,865 from each<br />

grandparent to each of their grandchildren.<br />

• Brother/Sisters – €15,932 to brothers and<br />

sisters.<br />

• Nieces/Nephews – €7,967 to nieces and<br />

nephews.<br />

In addition to these allowances, it is also possible<br />

to make tax-free family gifts in cash (dons<br />

familiaux de sommes d’argent) of up to €31,865<br />

to each child, grandchild, or great grandchild<br />

from each donor, or, in the absence of these<br />

descendants, to a niece or nephew.<br />

These allowances can be cumulative so, for instance,<br />

a child may receive gifts from parents, grandparents<br />

and great grandparents individually, without one<br />

affecting the exemption limits of the other.<br />

Survivorship Period<br />

Even though a gift may be made tax-free every 15<br />

years, if the donor dies within the 15-year period<br />

then the gift is added to the total value of the<br />

estate for the calculation of inheritance tax. This<br />

process is called the ‘rapport fiscal.’<br />

The child allowances for inheritance tax are the<br />

same as those for gift tax. If gifting real estate<br />

then the situation can be made easier by applying<br />

the 'reversionary interest' in the property, whilst<br />

the donor retains the 'life use' of the property.<br />

If the gifts made are above these exemption limits,<br />

then tax is applied rom 5% (less than €8,072 up<br />

to 20% (from €15,932 - €552,324).<br />

For more details and information on how to<br />

manage, maximise and protect your assets for you<br />

and your family, contact<br />

enquiries@bgwealthmanagement.net<br />

beaconglobalwealth.com<br />

This communication is for informational purposes only based on our<br />

understanding of current legislation and practices which is subject to<br />

change and is not intended to constitute, and should not be construed as,<br />

investment advice, investment recommendations or investment research.<br />

You should seek advice form a professional adviser before embarking on<br />

any financial planning activity. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure<br />

the information contained in this communication is correct, we are not<br />

responsible for any errors or omissions.<br />

Beacon Global Wealth Management are members of Nexus Global<br />

(IFA Network). Nexus Global EU is a division of Blacktower Financial<br />

Management (Cyprus) Limited (BFMCL) and Blacktower Insurance<br />

Agents & Advisors Ltd (BIAAL). Beacon Global Wealth Management is an<br />

Appointed Representative of BFMCL which is licensed and regulated by the<br />

Cyprus Securities & Exchange Commission (CySEC) - Licence No. 386/20.<br />

Beacon Global Wealth Management is an Appointed Representative of<br />

BIAAL which is licensed and regulated by the Insurance Companies Control<br />

Service (ICCS) - Licence No. 5101<br />

The Good Life France | 105

The Wine Expert’s<br />


Languedoc<br />

106 | The Good Life France

Situated on the south coast of France,<br />

Languedoc is one of the biggest wine<br />

producing regions in the world. Annual<br />

production is the equivalent of 1.8 billion<br />

bottles. That’s around 30% of the output<br />

of wine produced in France, and more than<br />

the whole of Australia’s production. Wine<br />

has been made here since the 5th century<br />

BC when the Greeks introduced vines to the<br />

area. The wily Romans expanded production,<br />

knowing a good thing when they drank it.<br />

It was also their practice to plant vines as<br />

they expanded throughout France – they<br />

mixed wine with water because the alcohol<br />

kills microorganisms, which helped to keep<br />

the army strong and healthy. The prolific<br />

production of wine here doesn’t mean lower<br />

quality wines. If you’ve not tried Languedoc<br />

wine then you really are in for a treat, and if<br />

you have, then you’re probably a fan already.<br />

In terms of quality, Languedoc’s wines are<br />

considered to be among the best in the<br />

world, especially for their red (around 60%)<br />

and rosé (around 19% and more than the<br />

whole of Provence) wines, however, quality<br />

white, sweet and sparkling wines are on the<br />

rise. Languedoc boasts varieties such as<br />

Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Roussanne,<br />

Marsanne and more! And the area is the<br />

largest producer or organic wines in France.<br />

Many of the wineries are small family holdings<br />

that date back generations and that handing<br />

down of knowledge is part of what makes<br />

these wines so very special. Fermenting<br />

different grape varieties separately – plus the<br />

art of then assembling them – and growing<br />

The Good Life France | 107

methods, shape Languedoc AOCs, producing<br />

structured, full-bodied wines.<br />

Among the 23 Languedoc appellations<br />

that unfurl across 40,000 hectares of<br />

vineyards, no two wines are alike. The only<br />

common denominator since antiquity is the<br />

Mediterranean. The Mediterranean is to thank<br />

for the mild, bright winters, the russet of hot,<br />

dry summers, the fragrance of scrubland and<br />

the winds carrying the sea air.<br />

Nestled in the heart of the region of<br />

Languedoc-Roussillon the wine appellation<br />

Saint-Chinian (AOC Saint-Chinian) is one<br />

of the best areas for wine. Spread across<br />

some 3,300 hectares and home to 450<br />

wine producers including 110 wineries and<br />

8 cooperatives, there are rich pickings here<br />

for the wine connoisseur with an abundance<br />

of different grapes, blends and processes.<br />

Historically producing reds and rosés but<br />

more recently producing classified whites too,<br />

whether you’re a serious and informed wine<br />

drinker or just an enthusiast starting out on<br />

your wine journey – the wines of Saint-Chinian<br />

are really pretty much unbeatable.<br />

And what about the area? Languedoc takes<br />

in the Roman town of Nîmes, with hints of the<br />

Camargue and the Cévennes. The arty city<br />

of Montpellier with its historical heritage and<br />

Béziers, a town that has endured 27 centuries<br />

of history peppered with periods of prosperity,<br />

revolt and massacre. Narbonne, described as<br />

a little Rome, and unforgettable Carcassonne,<br />

boasting the biggest medieval fortress-town in<br />

Europe.<br />

It can get very hot here in the summer months.<br />

Autumns and springs are mild, although<br />

morning frosts are sometime seen into the<br />

month of April. Winters are mild and sunny with<br />

temperatures barely dipping below 0°C. Rainfall<br />

levels are low (among the lowest in France in<br />

some communes) and the Tramontane wind is<br />

omnipresent, drying the vines and warding off<br />

disease. It is an ideal climate for growing vines.<br />

But the Mediterranean’s grasp is reduced in<br />

the far west of the region, in the appellations<br />

of Cabardès and Malepère in particular, where<br />

the climate here is transitional: the mild Atlantic<br />

meets the intense Mediterranean.<br />

And the terroir (that impossible to translate<br />

French word which refers to the soil and growing<br />

conditions) differs vastly across the region,<br />

depending on ancient geological formations.<br />

In some parts terraces of smooth pebbles,<br />

sandstone and marl, in others you’ll find<br />

limestone and shale, clay soil, pudding stone,<br />

sandy soil, molasses, etc. It gives wines grown<br />

here unique qualities and a whole range of<br />

very different tastes, with countless aromatic<br />

variations – sometimes even within the same<br />

appellation. The soils play a very important role<br />

because they dictate what grape varietal is<br />

grown, you see grapes are very picky about heat<br />

and water retention and have very demanding<br />

preferences on what kind of soil type they like<br />

best! And because of the large array of soil<br />

types, Languedoc-Roussillon can offer many<br />

different wines to please every sipper.<br />

Shop Wines from Languedoc with<br />

SomMailier.com, the French Wine Club<br />

in the USA, and get 10% off your first<br />

order with the code TGLF<strong>2022</strong><br />

108 | The Good Life France Photo: © Caroline Faccioli

Did you know: Ask the Wine Man…<br />

Why should you store wine on its side?<br />

It’s a good question. After all, go into most shops and you’ll see<br />

the vast majority of bottles of wine standing upright on the shelf.<br />

The answer is simple – wine stored on its side keeps longer – if<br />

it has a cork stopper. In a shop, it’s assumed that there will be<br />

rapid turnover and therefore it’s considered ok to stand it up<br />

which makes it easier for shoppers to see and buy. But at home,<br />

you might not drink it straight away. In fact you might intend to<br />

keep it for months or much longer. And if that bottle has a cork<br />

stopper, then the cork can dry out, then it will shrivel, dry out<br />

and start breaking, which lets in air and ruins the wine you’ve<br />

been waiting to enjoy.<br />

If the wine has a screw-cap top or plastic stopper, which is increasingly common these days.<br />

There’s no need to store the bottle on its side.<br />

However it’s sealed, you should store your wine in the dark as much as possible as UV rays<br />

from sunlight can damage wine’s flavors and aromas!<br />

Santé! Cheers!<br />

Laurent, AKA the Wine Man, SomMailier.com<br />

The ONLY<br />

Authentic<br />

French Wine Club<br />

in the U.S.<br />

The Perfect Gift:<br />

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French wines!<br />

somMailier.com<br />

The Good Life France | 109

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Easy cheesy<br />

tear and share<br />

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in bread<br />

This is a super easy to make dish, plus it’s<br />

absolutely perfect for sharing, has plenty<br />

of wow factor and takes next to no time to<br />

prepare!<br />


I round loaf – sourdough, rye, brown or white<br />

(about 400-500g, a large loaf)<br />

250g whole Camembert<br />

3-4 garlic cloves<br />

Few sprigs of thyme leaves<br />

Sprig of rosemary<br />

2 Tablespoons white wine (optional)<br />

2 Tablespoons runny honey<br />

3 Tablespoons Olive oil<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180°C, fan 160°C.<br />

Slice the top of the loaf off (like a lid). Cut<br />

a round hole in the middle of the loaf, deep<br />

enough to pop the whole round of Camembert<br />

in. Keep the cut pieces of bread to one side.<br />

Score the top of the bread across the top.<br />

Unwrap the Camembert and place in the hole<br />

in the bread, then pierce the top of the cheese<br />

all over with the tip of a knife. Place on a<br />

baking sheet.<br />

Mix the garlic and olive oil and pour over the<br />

cheese and into the scores of the loaf. Push<br />

the thyme and rosemary into the holes in the<br />

cheese. Pour the wine over the cheese and<br />

drizzle the honey over the cheese and bread.<br />

Tear the remaining pieces of bread (from<br />

step 1) into chunks. Scatter on the baking tray<br />

and drizzle with olive oil.<br />

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the bread is<br />

golden and toasted and the cheese is melted<br />

and scrumptiously gooey.<br />

Slice the bread from the outside in and use the<br />

crispy croutons for dipping into the cheese.<br />

The Good Life France | 111

Chicken with<br />

40 cloves of garlic<br />

112 | The Good Life France

Yes – you read that right. 40 cloves of<br />

garlic. Apparently it was popular in the old<br />

days when cooking an old chicken. The<br />

great American cook Julia Childs liked to<br />

cook three heads of garlic whole leaving a<br />

buttery and sweet taste and “still kissable”.<br />

When cooked, squeeze the soft flesh of the<br />

garlic and spread it on bread, big hunks of<br />

baguette, to enjoy with the chicken and<br />

the juices…<br />

There are loads of different versions<br />

for this recipe, add cream, or cognac,<br />

some use pieces of chicken. This recipe<br />

is an easy to make version using a whole<br />

chicken. And it’s utterly scrumptious.<br />

Serves 4<br />


40 cloves of garlic<br />

1 chicken<br />

2 tablespoons olive oil<br />

250 ml dry white wine (1 cup)<br />

One onion<br />

One carrot<br />

2 stalks celery (leaves can be left on)<br />

2 sprigs or teaspoon rosemary<br />

4 sprigs or teaspoon thyme<br />

Tablespoon chopped parsley (optional)<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C (Gas Mark 6).<br />

Peel the garlic.<br />

Pop half of the chopped celery, rosemary,<br />

thyme, parsley and 6 cloves of garlic inside<br />

the chicken.<br />

Slaver the chicken with oil and season well.<br />

Scatter 10 cloves of garlic in the base of<br />

a cooking dish with the rest of the celery,<br />

rosemary and thyme, plus roughly chopped<br />

carrot and onion.<br />

Place the chicken in the dish, add the wine<br />

to the dish. Cover and bake for about 1hr 20<br />

minutes. The juices should run clear when you<br />

pierce the leg with a skewer.<br />

Lift the chicken out and leave to one side.<br />

Strain the juices into a pan and boil for a<br />

couple of minutes to thicken it.<br />

Serve the chicken with some of the garlic<br />

pieces and the juices. Spread the garlic over<br />

bread, or toasted bread. You can also add<br />

the garlic to soups and stir fries for a burst<br />

of flavour. You can keep it in a small, sealed<br />

container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.<br />

The Good Life France | 113

Far Breton<br />

A rich custard and prune tart<br />

by Kit Smyth<br />

114 | The Good Life France

Prep Time: 15mins +<br />

overnight rest time<br />

Cook Time: 1hour<br />

Total Time: 1hour 15mins<br />

(+ overnight rest time)<br />

Portions: 8<br />


500ml / 2 cups whole (full-cream) milk<br />

3 large eggs<br />

125g / ½ cup sugar<br />

125ml / 5tbsp butter, melted and cooled<br />

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract<br />

Pinch salt<br />

95g / ¾ cup all-purpose flour<br />

180 / 6oz / 1 cup prunes, pitted<br />

(Agen prunes are perfect!)<br />

120ml / ½ cup water<br />

85ml / 1⁄3 cup raisins<br />

60ml / ¼ cup Armagnac, Cognac, or Pineau<br />

Powdered sugar<br />

Far Breton has been a French favourite,<br />

especially in Brittany, for hundreds of years.<br />

The word ‘far’ comes from the Breton “farz<br />

forn” which literally means far in the oven. The<br />

origin of this rich custard tart dates is said to<br />

date to the 18th century when it was dished up<br />

is a salty version and without prunes, alongside<br />

meat. According to a Breton baker we spoke<br />

“Prunes were widely used in Breton seafarers<br />

communities because they are easily stored and<br />

are an ideal nutritional asset to keep you going<br />

on a long journey. Adding them to this already<br />

popular dish with sailors was a good way to<br />

enhance nutrition.”<br />

Bretons recommend a glass of cider goes well<br />

with Far Breton!<br />

METHOD<br />

Prep ahead:<br />

Part 1: Custard: In a bowl or jug or blender,<br />

process the eggs, melted butter, milk, sugar,<br />

salt and vanilla until smooth. Strain the<br />

liquid through a medium sieve into a clean<br />

container, and chill in the fridge overnight.<br />

Part 2: Prunes: Place the prunes and water<br />

in a pan and cook on a medium heat until the<br />

prunes start to soften, about 10-15mins - most<br />

of the water should boil away. Once the liquid<br />

is reduced, pour in the alcohol, and using either<br />

long-stemmed match or gas-lighter, from a<br />

safe distance, ignite the warmed spirit to cook<br />

off the alcohol - give the saucepan a light jiggle<br />

to ensure all of the liquid is reached.<br />

Once cooled to room temperature, transfer to<br />

a container and store in the fridge overnight.<br />

Main event:<br />

Heat the oven to 180˚C/375˚F/Gas Mark 4.<br />

Butter a 20cm/8inch diameter and 4-5cm/2inch<br />

high sided cake pan – not one with a loose<br />

bottom! Line the bottom, with greaseproof<br />

baking paper, and butter again. Then dust the<br />

inside of the baking pan lightly with plain flour.<br />

To assemble your Far Breton, remix the<br />

custard to make sure it’s all combined evenly<br />

and pour into the prepared baking pan. Tap<br />

the pan lightly on the kitchen countertop<br />

once or twice to dislodge any air-bubbles.<br />

Roll the prunes in flour (so they don’t sink to<br />

the bottom), and carefully transfer the filled<br />

baking pan to the oven: If carrying a semi-full<br />

baking tray is daunting, place it on a larger<br />

baking tray, and this will also catch any spills<br />

or overflow as it rises.<br />

Bake on a middle rack for about 1 hour or until<br />

the pudding fluffs up and the edges are lightly<br />

brown. The centre of the tart should only jiggle<br />

a little bit when gently shaken.<br />

Leave to cool completely on a wire rack, do<br />

NOT attempt to remove the Far Breton from<br />

the pan until it is cool.<br />

When ready, lightly run a knife around the edge<br />

of the pan, and then place a large plate over<br />

the top before inverting to remove the pudding.<br />

Once freed, dust with icing/powdered sugar,<br />

and cut into portions. Serve with crème fraîche.<br />

The Good Life France | 115

Sticky Prune &<br />

Toffee Pudding<br />

116 | The Good Life France

Indulge your tastebuds with this<br />

delectably mellow sticky prune and<br />

toffee pudding with a hint of spices<br />

and deliciously sweet toffee sauce.<br />

Kit Smyth’s more-ish recipe is easy<br />

to make and super scrumptious…<br />

Serves 6<br />


300g (10.5 oz) prunes (preferably<br />

fresh prunes, d’Agen are perfect)<br />

300ml (10 fl oz) water, boiled<br />

75g (2.6 oz) butter, softened<br />

75g (2.6 oz) brown sugar<br />

3 large eggs<br />

225g (8 oz) plain flour<br />

3tsp baking powder<br />

1 tsp cinnamon<br />

½ tsp each cloves and nutmeg<br />

For the toffee sauce<br />

300ml double cream<br />

75g (2.6 oz) brown sugar<br />

75g (2.6 oz) butter<br />

METHOD<br />

Place the pitted prunes in a small high-sided<br />

bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for<br />

20 minutes to soak.<br />

Preheat oven to 180˚C/360˚F/Gas Mark 4<br />

and grease an ovenproof dish.<br />

Blend together half the butter and sugar<br />

until light and fluffy, add the eggs one at a<br />

time, and mix until thoroughly combined.<br />

Mix the plain flour, baking powder, and<br />

spices, then add to the wet ingredients and<br />

mix thoroughly until smooth.<br />

Purée the prunes and water together then<br />

add to the mix, this will give a chunk-free<br />

pudding. If you prefer it to have chunks,<br />

chop the prunes finely or crush them with<br />

a form, then fold in the chopped prunes<br />

and water until evenly distributed through<br />

the batter.<br />

Pour the batter into the baking dish,<br />

smooth it out evenly, and place in the oven<br />

for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester<br />

comes out clean.<br />

While the pudding is baking, make the<br />

toffee sauce:<br />

Over a low heat, melt together the butter<br />

and sugar. Once dissolved, add the cream<br />

and bring to the boil. Once bubbling,<br />

remove from the heat and keep warm.<br />

Remove the pudding from the oven when<br />

ready, and pierce all over with a fork. Pour a<br />

third of the sauce over the hot pudding, and<br />

let it cool for 5-10-minutes before slicing<br />

into portions and serving.<br />

Serve in a bowl with extra sauce, and a<br />

dollop of rich vanilla ice cream.<br />

The Good Life France | 117

Last<br />

Word<br />

In the last 18 years since I bought my old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere rural<br />

northern France – much has changed in my village, and much has not.<br />

With a new, young and energetic mayor came streetlamps, pavement, a football<br />

pitch and fast internet. The local supermarkets now open on a Sunday morning,<br />

though most shops still close for the sacrosanct 2-hour lunch break and Sundays.<br />

What hasn’t changed are the people and the way they choose to live.<br />

Bread Man delivers cakes, bread and pastries three times a week. You can hear<br />

the hooter of his little van as he drives up and down the valleys alerting customers<br />

to his arrival. When the previous Bread Man retired and there was talk of the<br />

service being cancelled, it caused uproar in the village. A new Bread Man was<br />

swiftly appointed.<br />

The annual straw sculpture contest between the villages is still one of the highlights<br />

of the year, as are the village ducasses (an old French word for party) and summer<br />

illuminations (don’t get excited, people light candles and hang up Christmas lights<br />

in the front garden – might as well get more use from them!).<br />

My personal favourite tradition of summer in these here parts is the barter and<br />

sharing of produce. Over the years we’ve helped neighbours with whatever has<br />

been needed from potato picking to looking after animals, been roped in for rat<br />

catching, mended things from fences to gates, roofs to doors (my other half is a<br />

carpenter) and helped build the village boules pitch. It’s all about community.<br />

In return our neighbours have befriended us and are generous when it comes to<br />

the fruits of their labour. Always first to arrive is Jean-Claude with lettuces grown<br />

under glass in his garden. Salade, he calls it. This is cause for celebration. Wine is<br />

served and we sit and admire the green leaves. And always he shares instructions<br />

for how it should be eaten. Torn, not cut (that makes the leaves go brown), served<br />

on its own with vinaigrette “it doesn’t need anything else.”<br />

Trays of ripe cherries are left on the doorstep, boxes of new potatoes, bags of<br />

tomatoes and as the season progresses, plums, apples and jars of home made jam.<br />

Life here is like Jean-Claude’s lettuce, being surrounded by such welcoming<br />

friendly people – it doesn’t need anything else.<br />

Janine<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 now on Amazon<br />

and all good book shops.<br />

118 | The Good Life France

The Good Life France | 119


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