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Winter 2022

Discover France’s magical winter wonderland destinations - from the French Alps to the French Riviera. Read about the biggest bûche de Noël, Christmas log cake, in the world and see Paris when it snows. Head to the sweet village of Flavigny in Burgundy where the film Chocolat was filmed and to Rouen, the Ardèche region and Côtes du Rhône. Go gaga for gorgeous Gascony and feel festive at the colourful Christmas market of Metz, Lorraine.Toulouse, feel good films, recipes, guides and giveaways…

Discover France’s magical winter wonderland destinations - from the French Alps to the French Riviera. Read about the biggest bûche de Noël, Christmas log cake, in the world and see Paris when it snows. Head to the sweet village of Flavigny in Burgundy where the film Chocolat was filmed and to Rouen, the Ardèche region and Côtes du Rhône. Go gaga for gorgeous Gascony and feel festive at the colourful Christmas market of Metz, Lorraine.Toulouse, feel good films, recipes, guides and giveaways…

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The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 32<br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

<strong>Winter</strong><br />

Wonderland<br />

destinations<br />

From the twinkling town of<br />

Annecy to the charms of<br />

the French Riviera<br />

The biggest<br />

Yule Log cake<br />

in the world!<br />

A slice of heaven<br />

in Antibes<br />

Paris in<br />

<strong>Winter</strong><br />

The sparkling city of light<br />

Magazine<br />

CHRISTMAS<br />

PUDDING<br />

The French connection<br />

Spotlight<br />

on Rouen<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


Interested in<br />

buying in France?<br />

Bienvenue<br />

SPONSORED BY<br />

Register for FREE TICKETS at<br />

frenchpropertyexhibition.com<br />

Novotel West,<br />

Hammersmith, London<br />

28th and 29th January 2023<br />

10am – 5pm<br />

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

<strong>Winter</strong> <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

This issue is a real treat – scrumptious recipes, great giveaways<br />

and fabulous features galore.<br />

Dive right in to discover some of France’s most magical<br />

winter wonderland destinations. If you’re a lover of bûche de<br />

Noël, the famous French Christmas yule log cake, you’ll love<br />

reading about the annual biggest bûche de Noël in the world<br />

event in lovely Antibes on the French Riviera, and of course<br />

we’re sharing a recipe! And on the subject of cakes – discover<br />

the French connection when it comes to the great British<br />

Christmas pudding – yes really!<br />

Paris lovers will adore our winter in Paris photo essay -<br />

when it snows, the city of light really does sparkle. And<br />

follow in Napoleon’s footsteps in Paris to find his legacy is<br />

clearly still there.<br />

Head to the sweet village of Flavigny in Burgundy where the<br />

film Chocolat was filmed and to Rouen, packed with medieval<br />

history alongside a buzzing contemporary vibe, it’s an ideal<br />

city break. Discover the treasures of the Ardèche region and of<br />

the Côtes du Rhône - home to some of the steepest vineyards<br />

in France. Go gaga for gorgeous Gascony and feel festive at<br />

the colourful Christmas market of Metz, Lorraine.<br />

Enjoy a taste of Toulouse with some of the city’s traditional<br />

favourite foods, and discover the best feel good films about<br />

France. And don’t forget to enter our great give-away contests<br />

– you’ve got to be in it to win it!<br />

And there’s a whole lot more – far too much to mention here.<br />

I hope you enjoy reading this issue, shared with you with love<br />

and best wishes,<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh<br />

Editor<br />

Follow us on Twitter,<br />

Instagram & Facebook<br />

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The Good Life France | 3


ISSN 2754-6799<br />

To Subscribe to<br />

THE GOOD LIFE FRANCE MAGAZINE<br />

CLICK HERE<br />

SUBSCRIBE<br />

CONTENTS<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 32 <strong>Winter</strong> <strong>2022</strong><br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

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

Contributors<br />

8<br />

ON THE COVER<br />

8 France’s <strong>Winter</strong> Wonderland<br />

destinations<br />

From the twinkling town of<br />

Annecy to charms of Provence,<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> is a great time to visit<br />

France.<br />

Colin Taylor writes about<br />

French agriculture, gastronomy,<br />

history and language. His new<br />

book Menu from the Midi: A<br />

gastronomic journey through<br />

the South of France reveals<br />

the history and production of<br />

some of France’s most famous<br />

foodstuffs.<br />

colinduncantaylor.com<br />

Gillian Thornton is an<br />

award-winning travel writer<br />

and member of the British<br />

Guild of Travel Writers,<br />

specialising in French<br />

destinations and lifestyle.<br />

Her favourite place? ‘Usually<br />

where I have just been!’<br />

Katja Gaskell is a freelance<br />

journalist, family travel blogger<br />

and Francophile. Her work has<br />

appeared in The Telegraph,<br />

Wanderlust Magazine, the<br />

Mail on Sunday, and The<br />

Independent among others.<br />

Globetotting.com<br />

Ally Mitchell is a freelance<br />

writer, specialising in food<br />

and recipes. Ally left the UK<br />

to live in Toulouse in 2021 and<br />

now writes about her new life<br />

in France on her food blog<br />

NigellaEatsEverything<br />

Jeremy Flint is an awardwinning<br />

photographer<br />

(Association of Photographers<br />

Discovery Award Winner,<br />

National Geographic Traveller<br />

Grand Prize Winner, five-times<br />

finalist Travel Photographer of<br />

the Year) and writer specialising<br />

in travel, landscape and location<br />

photography.<br />

66<br />

18 The biggest Yule Log cake in<br />

the world!<br />

Head to Antibes in southern<br />

France to discover a slice of<br />

heaven.<br />

24 Christmas pudding – the<br />

French connection<br />

Who’d have thought this great<br />

British classic had French<br />

connections!<br />

Chantille de Lincourt is a<br />

writer and photographer who<br />

specialises in small villages<br />

and French heritage. Find out<br />

more on her blog<br />

villagesetpatrimoine.fr<br />

Marian Jones is a former<br />

teacher of French now<br />

travel writer with a podcast<br />

– City Breaks, bringing<br />

listeners and readers the<br />

background history and<br />

culture which will inform<br />

their travels in l’Hexagone.<br />

citybreakspodcast.co.uk<br />

FREE<br />

Sue Aran is a writer,<br />

photographer, and tour guide<br />

living in the Gers department<br />

of southwest France. She is<br />

the owner of French Country<br />

Adventures, which provides<br />

personally-guided, smallgroup,<br />

slow travel tours into<br />

Gascony, the Pays Basque,<br />

Provence and beyond.<br />

Amy McPherson is a London<br />

based travel writer whose work<br />

has been featured in many<br />

international publications. When<br />

not on assignment, she loves<br />

to ride her bike, go running<br />

along the river Thames, or<br />

relax with her cat on her lap.<br />

footprintsandmemories.com<br />

Kit Smyth i is a retired chef<br />

with a passion for French<br />

cuisine. Kit is dedicated to<br />

developing recipes for home<br />

cooks to enjoy, she also<br />

teaches cookery online and<br />

in-person. Find out more at<br />

her website: TheBiteLine<br />

42 Spotlight on Rouen<br />

Packed with medieval<br />

history but with a buzzing<br />

contemporary vibe,<br />

Normandy’s regional capital<br />

makes for an ideal city break.<br />

50 The sweet village of Flavigny<br />

The captivating medieval<br />

village where they make famous<br />

aniseed sweets.<br />

The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 32<br />

<strong>Winter</strong><br />

Wonderland<br />

destinations<br />

From the twinkling town of<br />

Annecy to the charms of<br />

the French Riviera<br />

The biggest<br />

Yule Log cake<br />

in the world!<br />

A slice of heaven<br />

in Antibes<br />

Paris in<br />

<strong>Winter</strong><br />

The sparkling city of light<br />

CHRISTMAS<br />

PUDDING<br />

The French connection<br />

Spotlight<br />

on Rouen<br />

Delicious recipes<br />

to bring a taste of<br />

France to your home<br />

Magazine<br />

120 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Front Cover: Nice, French Riviera <strong>Winter</strong> wonderland destination<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 32 <strong>Winter</strong> <strong>2022</strong>, released December <strong>2022</strong><br />

18<br />

66 Paris in <strong>Winter</strong><br />

A renowned Paris photographer<br />

shares “his” Paris, sparkling in<br />

her winter coat.<br />

DISCOVER<br />

30 Be amazed by Ardèche<br />

Ardèche’s tumbling rivers,<br />

prehistoric caves and ancient<br />

villages.<br />

4 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 5


36 Côtes du Rhône<br />

The treasures of the Rhône<br />

Valley from some of the steepest<br />

vineyards in France to some of its<br />

most enchanting villages.<br />

54 Petite Guide to Gascony<br />

26 reasons to fall in love with<br />

Gorgeous Gascony.<br />

58 The Genius from the Jura<br />

Remembering Louis Pasteur in<br />

the 200th anniversary year of<br />

his birth.<br />

62 Baubles, bubbles and bells<br />

Metz Christmas market is<br />

marvellous!<br />

REGULARS<br />

94 What’s New<br />

All the news and events you need<br />

for your next trip to France.<br />

96 Your Photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our Facebook<br />

page.<br />

98 Tours de France<br />

The very best of France for your<br />

tours and holidays.<br />

102 French language lesson<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> feel-good films that help<br />

you learn French!<br />

118 Last word<br />

Life in rural France.<br />

42<br />

70 The most unusual walk in<br />

France<br />

An extraordinary hike in the<br />

mountains where the sound of<br />

music echoes.<br />

96<br />

GUIDES<br />

90 The lure of the Seine<br />

Joanna Leggett explores the<br />

beautiful towns and ports of the<br />

River Seine.<br />

74 The oldest sparkling wine in<br />

the world<br />

Limoux’s historic carnival and<br />

sips an ancient effervescent wine.<br />

86 Walking in Napoleon’s<br />

footsteps in Paris<br />

On the trail of Napoleon’s legacy<br />

in the city of light.<br />

NEW SERIES<br />

78 Hidden gems of France:<br />

Pays de Gex<br />

One of France’s smallest<br />

departments has big allure.<br />

BON APPÉTIT<br />

23 Bûche de Noël<br />

28 Christmas pudding recipe<br />

111 Snow eggs<br />

Meringues and crème anglaise –<br />

irresistible!<br />

112 Hazelnut puree<br />

113 Chestnut puree<br />

How to make a classic French<br />

chestnut puree for cakes, sauces<br />

and ice cream.<br />

114 Festive eclairs<br />

Kit Smyth’s colourful and delicious<br />

eclairs are perfect year-round!<br />

50<br />

82 A taste of France - Toulouse<br />

Ally Mitchell takes you on a tasty<br />

tour of Toulouse’s gut-busting<br />

favourite foods.<br />

90 SPECIAL<br />

Give-aways and great<br />

Christmas gifts.<br />

111<br />

116 Goats cheese wreath<br />

A delicious vegetable and cheese<br />

pastry from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen<br />

4 Subscribe to The Good Life<br />

France Magazine<br />

Everything you want to know<br />

about France and more.<br />

6 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 7


<strong>Winter</strong><br />

WONDERLAND<br />

France<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> in France has charm by the bucketload, from snow-capped mountains<br />

perfect for skiers to Christmas markets, and even fun in the sun.<br />

Le Grand Bornand © T. Vattard Le Grand-Bornand<br />

Mountain high<br />

Annecy © Olivier Puthon<br />

Haute-Savoie –<br />

snowy sojourns<br />

Landscapes that look like they are straight<br />

from fairy-tale Narnia. And the twinkling lights<br />

of enchanting mountain villages in a sea of<br />

snow. Horse and carriage rides snuggled under<br />

a blanket. Robust and rustic alpine delights like<br />

tartiflette and raclette, fondue and Reblochon<br />

pie. We’re talking Haute-Savoie in winter.<br />

With trains taking from just 3 hours 40<br />

minutes from Paris to Annecy, a mountain<br />

break is hard to resist.<br />

The city of Annecy, nicknamed the Venice of<br />

the Alps for its pretty canals, watery arteries<br />

that criss-cross the city, is gorgeous year<br />

round. With its winding cobbled streets lined<br />

with ancient buildings, nestled on the edge<br />

of the translucent turquoise lake Annecy, this<br />

is a town to fall head over heels for. And in<br />

winter, with an average of 32 days of snowfall,<br />

then Annecy really takes on a magical glow.<br />

Fabulous restaurants, museums, a great<br />

farmers market three times a week, plus a<br />

wonderful Christmas market. <strong>Winter</strong> walks are<br />

plentiful around the lake, including the not to<br />

be missed Chateau de Menthon.<br />

Plus there are superb ski resorts close by -<br />

and easy to reach by bus year round with<br />

snow-covered roads quickly cleared. Annecy<br />

Mountains really is an out and out winter<br />

destination extraordinaire…<br />

Close to the lovely city of Annecy there are<br />

several ski resorts of the Aravis Massif and<br />

lots of lovely alpine villages. You can ski the<br />

whole of the Aravis ski area on one ski pass -<br />

220km of perfect slopes linked by pistes and<br />

ski buses. La Clusaz is a traditional ski town<br />

with great restaurants and bars, quirky shops<br />

and stunning scenery. Le Grand Bornand,<br />

another stunning alpine town is close by and<br />

the smaller Manigod is within easy distance by<br />

free shuttle bus. Meanwhile the lovely market<br />

town of Thones has a fabulous Saturday<br />

morning market and excellent gourmet food<br />

shops.<br />

If you love skiing you’ll find everything you<br />

could possibly want here – a wide range of<br />

pistes that cater to skiers of all levels and<br />

snow sports galore. There are friendly towns<br />

and fabulous après ski and even if you’re<br />

not a skier there are plenty of activities from<br />

snowshoeing to dog sledging and even gokarting<br />

on ice.<br />

In La Clusaz: This lively ski resort buzzes with<br />

bonhomie throughout the winter with shows,<br />

concerts and events including Savoyard folk<br />

dancing, which all are welcome to join in with,<br />

on the main piazza. One of the most beautiful<br />

walks in the area is around the glacial lake<br />

at the 1450m high Plateau des Confins,<br />

Plateau des Glières near Manigod ©Sarah Goudeau<br />

8 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 9


alongside the Nordic skiing pistes. And who<br />

can resist floating in the village’s heated<br />

outdoor pool as the snow falls around you…<br />

In Le Grand Bornand: This is proper ‘Heidi’<br />

country – alpine chalets galore, mountain<br />

views that make your soul soar, as well as<br />

museums and superb restaurants. Don’t miss<br />

the Restaurant les Rhodos, a cosy mountain<br />

bistro on the Aravis Pass.<br />

In Manigod: Off the pistes, visit the Paccard<br />

cheese cellars and taste local favourites<br />

including Manigodine, Reblochon and<br />

Chevrotin. Don’t miss The Garage Concept<br />

Café, ‘Lo Garajo’, which has a deck<br />

overlooking the mountains. Indulge in a<br />

gastronomic experience at the Chalet-Hotel<br />

La Croix-Fry – their Reblochon pie is mouthwateringly<br />

good. And try out Paret’s sledge,<br />

the emblematic ride is a one-shoe’d wooden<br />

sledge with a vertical handle - you can borrow<br />

one for free from Manigod tourist office!<br />

Noël la clusaz © Pierrick Aubert<br />

Ovonetwork.com<br />

Lac de Thuy Hiver 2021 © OT Thônes CDV<br />

Thones © Thônes Cœur des Vallées Tourist Office<br />

10 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 11


In Thones: When it’s a full moon enjoy a ski tour adventure in a fairy-tale like landscape. Every<br />

Thursday, at the end of the day, just as most ski areas close for the evening, Glières Plateau bursts<br />

into life as skiers don headlamps for a magical guided tour.<br />

Useful sites: annecymountains.com; manigod.com; thonescoeurdesvallees.com<br />

French Riviera –<br />

WINTER sunshine!<br />

Where to stay<br />

Where you stay is part of the adventure when it comes to Haute-Sauvoie. Gorgeous chalets,<br />

roasty toasty wood fires, sitting in a hot tub as the snowflakes fall all around you and views that<br />

make your soul soar. OVO Network’s exclusive, hand-picked holiday homes in the Alps are<br />

nothing short of irresistible….<br />

Chalet Riparian is just 200m<br />

from the centre of La Clusaz<br />

but feels like it’s in the middle<br />

of nowhere. Ski-in/ski-out cosy<br />

fireplace, gorgeous décor, walking<br />

distance to the ice rink, shops, bars<br />

and restaurants, child friendly and<br />

with a sauna and a hot tub on the<br />

terrace from where you can watch<br />

the skiers whizz through the trees.<br />

Chalet Manoe in Manigod with a<br />

hot tub and ‘bubble’ sauna, open<br />

fire and balcony with breath-taking<br />

views, is a little bit of heaven.<br />

Fabulous décor, electric boot<br />

warmers and zero pollution for<br />

outstanding star gazing – this cosy<br />

retreat is superb.<br />

Chalet Alti in Le Grand Bornand<br />

sleeps 14 and is utterly enchanting<br />

with its traditional feel whilst<br />

making the most of green<br />

technology with solar panels and<br />

geothermal heating. The ski bus<br />

stop is just 200m away though<br />

experienced skiers can ski right<br />

down to the Rosay gondola in<br />

the centre of town. A gorgeous<br />

kitchen, magnificent views, and<br />

a large jacuzzi. <strong>Winter</strong> has never<br />

been more fun.<br />

Find more brilliant<br />

accommodation in the<br />

Alps at ovonetwork.com<br />

Riparian<br />

Chalet Manoe<br />

12 | The Good Life France Mimosa © Jérôme Kelagopian / OTC Mandelieu<br />

The Good Life France | 13


Before the French Riviera became de<br />

rigeur for summer holidays – it was in fact<br />

primarily considered a ‘winter resort.’ Even in<br />

mid-winter, the French Riviera gets around<br />

8 hours of sunshine a day. It’s not warm<br />

enough to swim in the sea, with average daily<br />

temperatures of 9-13 degrees centigrade, but<br />

it rarely snows and all that sunshine means<br />

you have plenty of time for sightseeing. With<br />

less crowds you can enjoy the ambiance of<br />

hilltop villages, visit cities that are thronging<br />

with tourists in summer months like Saint-<br />

Tropez and Cannes, discover superb museums<br />

and get a table in even the most popular<br />

restaurants plus enjoy the French Riviera’s<br />

winter events.<br />

Nice<br />

Warm enough during<br />

the day to not wear a<br />

coat, Nice’s year-round<br />

buzz is irresistible.<br />

2023 marks the 150th<br />

anniversary of the<br />

famous winter carnival<br />

and the 2023 theme<br />

is in honour of Nice<br />

achieving UNESCOlisted<br />

status as the<br />

“<strong>Winter</strong> resort city of<br />

the Riviera”, reflecting<br />

its popularity as a<br />

winter destination<br />

between the end of<br />

the 18th century and<br />

the end of the 19th<br />

century which led<br />

to its development<br />

architecturally and<br />

culturally.<br />

Nice Carnival 10-<br />

26 February 2023.<br />

explorenicecotedazur.<br />

com<br />

Mimosa<br />

The mimosa season! From the end of<br />

January the French Riviera glows a dazzling<br />

golden yellow as the mimosa trees burst into<br />

bloom. Imported by British visitors in the<br />

early 20th century from Australia where it’s<br />

known as wattle, mimosa trees have spread<br />

throughout the south of France. From<br />

January to March their delicious scent fills<br />

the air, heralding the arrival of spring, and<br />

several events take place in celebration.<br />

One not to miss is the Mimosa Festival at<br />

Mandelieu-La Napoule – 5 days of colourful<br />

floral parades, exhibitions and markets.<br />

Details: mandelieu-tourisme.com<br />

Fete du Citron, Menton © Ville de Menton<br />

Menton Lemon Festival<br />

What sort of recipe calls for 145,000 kgs of oranges and lemons? Where can you see an animal,<br />

castle or a train made of fruit? The colourful and flamboyant Menton Lemon festival on the<br />

French Riviera sees a weeklong refreshing and fruity festival feature giant figures made from<br />

lemons and oranges. It all started when the winter crowds of the 19th century came to a halt in<br />

the early 20th century and to lure them back, a hotel owner devised a plan to create a citrus fruit<br />

exhibition in 1928. It’s now a major event in the south of France – and a fabulous winter tonic!<br />

Menton Fete de Citron: 11-26 February 2023. fete-du-ctiron.com<br />

Nice Carnival credit Nice Tourism<br />

14 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 15


Kaysersberg, Lori Prosser Atlanta<br />

Alsace – perfect for<br />

culture lovers<br />

Alsace is the quintessential winter destination<br />

with its fairy tale like villages, especially with<br />

a dusting of snow. Museums are less crowded,<br />

menus reflect the season with robust and<br />

tasty dishes and there’s not much that beats<br />

enjoying a glass of vin chaud in a cosy café.<br />

We look at some of the best things to do in<br />

winter in Alsace…<br />

Kaysersberg<br />

Head to Kaysersberg for a taste of yesteryear.<br />

This lovely little village was voted favourite<br />

village of the French in 2017 and it’s easy to<br />

see why. The village boasts an imperial castle,<br />

half-timbered houses and fortified bridge<br />

spanning the Weiss River. At Christmas it hosts<br />

one of the prettiest markets in France.<br />

Riquewihr<br />

Riquewihr<br />

Base yourself<br />

in enchanting<br />

Riquewihr if you like<br />

tiny villages with<br />

quaint half-timbered<br />

houses, wine bars<br />

and fabulous<br />

restaurants. This<br />

little village, just ten<br />

minutes by car from<br />

the city of Colmar<br />

is incredibly pretty,<br />

like a fairy-tale come to life. Wander the old<br />

town streets and you’ll believe you’ve woken<br />

up in the world of Hansel and Gretel. It’s a<br />

great base for touring the countryside (you’ll<br />

need wheels, public transport isn’t an option).<br />

In town, Domaine Dopff, the first winemaking<br />

house to produce Crémant d’Alsace is open<br />

year-round. For a memorable meal head to<br />

Au Trotthus, next to the famous 13th century<br />

Dolder Tower, and experience the skills of top<br />

chef Philippe Aubron.<br />

Strasbourg<br />

If you want more activity, especially at night,<br />

then base yourself in Strasbourg, the capital<br />

of Alsace. In the winter the frosted cobbled<br />

streets are enchanting, especially in the Petite<br />

France medieval district. There’s plenty to<br />

do, the restaurants are superb, and there are<br />

several truly superb museums.<br />

Strasbourg<br />

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16 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 17


iggest<br />

The BÛCHE DE NOËL<br />

in the world<br />

© Service communication, ville d'Antibes<br />

Janine Marsh heads to Antibes in southern France to discover a slice of heaven…<br />

At Christmas in France, the star of the<br />

festive table is the bûche de Noël cake. It’s a<br />

tradition that goes back to the middle ages<br />

though then the bûche, log, was a real one<br />

and burned on the day of the winter solstice,<br />

the longest night of the year. It was believed<br />

that the ashes from the log, which might be<br />

soaked in oil or wine, would bring luck. The<br />

burning log was said to purify the house and<br />

drive bad spirits away. In the 1800s, the log<br />

tradition was transformed from wood to cake,<br />

it became a ‘fake’ yule log, and a symbol of<br />

Christmas in France. No one knows exactly<br />

when this happened but some historians say<br />

that the bûche de Noël cake was invented by<br />

a Paris hotel chef, others that it was created<br />

by Antonine Charadot, a pastry chef in Lyon<br />

(who invented buttercream). Or perhaps by<br />

Felix Bonnat, a Lyon-based chocolate master<br />

or by Pierre Lacam, cake ice cream maker to<br />

Prince Charles III of Monaco.<br />

In December boulangeries and patisseries<br />

all over France create bûches de Noël of<br />

every flavour. One of the most popular is<br />

the traditional chocolate bûche, made to<br />

look just like a wooden log. But bakers and<br />

cake makers let their imagination run wild,<br />

meringue mushrooms, marzipan holly, spun<br />

sugar cobwebs and tiny sugar axes often<br />

feature. At the Hotel Negreso in Nice this year<br />

they’re even making a yule log cake that looks<br />

like a top hat featuring Corsican chestnuts,<br />

creamy chestnut crème brûlée, Bavarian<br />

mousse with blue vanilla from Réunion island<br />

and confit from Burgundy.<br />

But there is one place in France that takes the<br />

bûche de Noël to a whole new level.<br />

In the lovely coastal town of Antibes on the<br />

French Riviera, you’ll see bûche de Noël<br />

cakes in every boulangerie and patisserie.<br />

But that’s not all. Each year local bakers and<br />

chefs get together with volunteers to make the<br />

biggest bûche de Noël in the world – up to a<br />

mouth-watering 50 feet (15.3 metres) long. A<br />

whopping 800 eggs, 85kg of flour, 100kg jam,<br />

20kg of sugar, 20 litres of rum and 40 litres<br />

of Chantilly cream go into the making of this<br />

enormous cake.<br />

In mid-December, those in the know head to<br />

the pretty Le Safranier district, a flowery little<br />

corner of the old town. It’s known as a ‘free<br />

commune’, set up in the sixties, and has its own<br />

mayor whose role it is to organise activities!<br />

There are cake shops, restaurants and flowerfilled<br />

streets. It's here in the main square that<br />

the cake is set up. Songs are sung and to<br />

much applause the cake is cut by the Mayor<br />

of Antibes and the Mayor of Le Safranier<br />

with a huge saw as it’s too big to cut with a<br />

conventional knife. Everyone gets a piece of<br />

the bûche de Noël, served with mulled wine<br />

or chocolat chaud. A true taste of the spirit of<br />

Christmas in France…<br />

Details of the event 18 December <strong>2022</strong>:<br />

lacommunelibredusafranier.fr<br />

18 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 19


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20 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 21


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crafts made in Provence<br />

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accessories from exclusive<br />

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If you’d like a festive taste<br />

of France at home, our<br />

easy recipe for a yule log<br />

cake is truly scrumptious!<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

For the cake<br />

3 eggs<br />

85g golden caster sugar (3oz)<br />

75g plain flour (all-purpose flour) (2.7 oz)<br />

2 tbsp cocoa powder<br />

½ tsp baking powder<br />

FOR THE FILLING<br />

284ml/10fl oz whipping cream<br />

1 vanilla pod<br />

Icing sugar, to taste<br />

For the chocolate ganache<br />

226g dark chocolate (8 oz)<br />

2 teaspoons sugar<br />

1/2 cup heavy cream<br />

MAKE THE CAKE:<br />

Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.<br />

Butter and line a Swiss roll tin with<br />

baking paper.<br />

Beat the eggs and golden caster sugar<br />

together until thick and creamy. Separately<br />

mix the flour, cocoa powder and baking<br />

powder together, then sift onto the egg<br />

mixture. Fold in gently (not stirring) and<br />

then pour into the tin. Spread the mixture<br />

evenly (tipping the tray to get the mix to go<br />

to the corners.<br />

Bake for 10 minutes.<br />

Lay a clean tea towel or sheet of baking paper<br />

on a work surface. When the cake is ready, tip<br />

it onto the towel/baking paper and peel of the<br />

paper it baked in.<br />

Roll the cake gently from its longest edge to<br />

form a ‘log’ shape. You have to do this while<br />

the cake is still hot or it won’t play nice! Leave<br />

to cool.<br />

When it’s cool, unroll it, spread the Chantilly<br />

cream and roll it up again. You can also use<br />

a buttercream filling which works really well.<br />

And you can spread a layer of jam before the<br />

cream for a bit of fruity sweetness.<br />

Make Chantilly cream: Pour the cream into<br />

a bowl. Cut the vanilla pod in half lengthways<br />

with a sharp knife, scrape out the seeds and<br />

add them to the cream. Whip the cream until<br />

it forms soft peaks. Add icing sugar, to taste,<br />

and mix in gently.<br />

Make the ganache: In a saucepan over a very<br />

low heat, melt the chocolate and sugar slowly.<br />

Add the heavy cream, stirring constantly with<br />

a whisk until smooth. Leave it to cool until<br />

ready to use.<br />

When the cake is completely cooled, spread<br />

it with chocolate ganache, score with a<br />

knife to make it look like a log and decorate.<br />

Simple icing sugar sprinkled over and a sprig<br />

of holly looks good but you can go all out with<br />

baubles, marzipan snowmen and whatever<br />

festive favourites float your boat…<br />

22 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 23


A very<br />

British<br />

Christmas<br />

Pudding<br />

With a French Connection…<br />

William of Normandy enjoying a feast with his nobles – on the menu chicken on skewers and stew cooked on a wood oven.<br />

Ever since 1066 when William, Duke of<br />

Normandy conquered England, the language<br />

of the English and then the British followed a<br />

different route. For the next 300 years French<br />

became the language of the English courts,<br />

eventually filtering through into everyday use.<br />

It’s estimated that to this day there are some<br />

7000 originally French words still in use in the<br />

UK – from attaché to zest.<br />

And it wasn’t just the language that took hold.<br />

The food did too. By all accounts William<br />

had a robust appetite. It’s said he got so<br />

large that at one point he put himself on a<br />

diet of wine and spirits... It didn’t work. The<br />

culture of French dishes of the time was<br />

strictly for the rich, us peasants continued<br />

to eat whatever was affordable as usual. In<br />

the royal kitchens, French chefs ruled and<br />

French cuisine remained popular – and still<br />

is. An advert posted for a sous chef based<br />

in Buckingham Palace in 2021 required that<br />

applicants be “thoroughly trained in classical<br />

French cuisine.” Two of France’s most famous<br />

chefs worked for the British royal family. The<br />

great Auguste Escoffier often cooked for<br />

King Edward VII and was known as “the king<br />

of chefs, and chef of kings.’ Marie-Antoine<br />

Carême, arguably the first celebrity chef,<br />

worked for George, Prince of Wales, the future<br />

King George IV, in 1816 and was reportedly<br />

paid a fortune for his services.<br />

French gastronomy’s influence on British<br />

cuisine can be found in several dishes,<br />

sausages from saucisson, blancmange<br />

and cottage pie, an adaptation of hachis<br />

parmentier (minced beef and mashed<br />

potatoes).<br />

And even that most British of puddings – the<br />

great Christmas Pudding, has a soupcon of<br />

French influence…<br />

Now, before I get a million emails telling me<br />

I’m wrong, Christmas Pudding, also known as<br />

plum pudding, is of course a British invention<br />

and a beloved tradition for Christmas Day. It<br />

should have 13 ingredients to represent Jesus<br />

and the 12 disciples, traditionally boiled in<br />

pudding cloth and be decorated with a sprig<br />

of holly to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns.<br />

And before serving you should pour brandy<br />

over it and set fire to it. Yes. If you’re not<br />

British and reading this. We really do this.<br />

24 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 25


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So, what’s the French influence you might ask.<br />

Well first, the ingredients include dried fruit<br />

and since the mid-1800s, the best Christmas<br />

puddings used glace cherries and candied fruit<br />

from Apt in Provence.<br />

Apt has been famous for its crystalised fruit<br />

production since medieval times. The Popes<br />

of Avignon were fans and the dried fruit has<br />

long been a key part of the famous 13 Desserts<br />

of Provence, a southern French Christmas<br />

tradition. When British pudding maker Matthew<br />

Wood visited France in the mid-1800s he fell<br />

head over heels for the quality of Apt’s dried<br />

fruit and imported it for use in cakes and of<br />

course Christmas puddings where it gained a<br />

reputation for being the crème de la crème<br />

and all the best British cake producers sourced<br />

their dried fruit from Apt for many years.<br />

Today crystallised fruit from Apt has Intangible<br />

Cultural Heritage status, and the town has<br />

“Site Remarquable du Goût” (Remarkable Site<br />

of Flavour) status. And at the Maison du Fruit<br />

Confit, you can discover all about the history<br />

of the sweet, sugared fruit.<br />

In the 1920s, King George V commissioned a<br />

Frenchman to reinvent the Christmas pudding.<br />

The King’s chef was a Frenchman called Henri<br />

Cédard and he was asked to adapt the Royal<br />

family’s traditional pudding recipe so that<br />

it could be shared with the public. It was an<br />

enormous success and to this day, it’s a recipe<br />

with a French connection that is made in<br />

thousands of homes in the UK.<br />

For the last few years, on “stir-up Sunday”,<br />

the last Sunday before Advent Sunday The<br />

Royal Family have shared the recipe for their<br />

Christmas Pudding on Twitter – which caused<br />

quite a stir!<br />

26 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 27


To make a 1kg pudding for 8<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

125g raisins<br />

125g currants<br />

95g sultanas<br />

75g mixed peel<br />

125g suet or vegetarian suet<br />

125g breadcrumbs<br />

45g flour<br />

6g mixed spice<br />

1 whole egg<br />

45g demerara sugar<br />

140ml beer<br />

20ml dark rum<br />

20ml brandy<br />

METHOD<br />

First, mix all the dry ingredients and stir together.<br />

Then stir in the beaten egg and liquid ingredients.<br />

Grease a pudding basin and press the mix<br />

into the basin. Cover the basin with a circle<br />

of parchment paper, muslin or foil (aluminum)<br />

paper so that the pudding bowl is sealed.<br />

Put the basin in a large saucepan and fill with<br />

enough water to come up to around the ¾<br />

mark of the basin and cover the pan with foil.<br />

Steam for 6 hours – making sure to check<br />

regularly to keep the water topped up to the<br />

¾ mark.<br />

Allow the pudding to cool, cover the top with<br />

fresh parchment paper or foil and store and<br />

wrap the whole basin in 2-3 layers of cling<br />

film in a cool, dark place (or the fridge) until<br />

Christmas.<br />

On Christmas Day, reheat the pudding.<br />

Remove the plastic wrapping, cover the top<br />

with foil and boil for one hour, or remove all<br />

the wrapping and heat in a microwave oven<br />

for 10 minutes.<br />

Before serving, pour a couple of tablespoons<br />

of warmed brandy over the top, set fire to it.<br />

Let the flames burn out, which burns off the<br />

alcohol and serve with cream, ice cream,<br />

brandy butter or crème anglaise (custard!).<br />

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28 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 29


Tumbling rivers and spectacular caverns, ancient<br />

villages and chestnut orchards. Gillian Thornton takes<br />

a leisurely journey through the heart of Ardèche.<br />

Aurignacian Gallery at Chauvet 2<br />

Be amazed by<br />

ARDÈCHE<br />

Grotte-Chauvet-2-vue-du-ciel-©NEOS-Films<br />

France is home to some spectacular painted<br />

caves, each one with its own USP. But there’s<br />

nowhere quite like the Grotte Chauvet-Pont<br />

d’Arc, discovered in 1994 by three cavers<br />

deep beneath a limestone plateau in the<br />

rural department of Ardèche, Auvergne-<br />

Rhone-Alpes.<br />

More than 1000 animals gallop and graze<br />

across its textured walls, skilfully painted<br />

36,000 years ago by people who hunted<br />

them for food but revered them enough to<br />

depict them on the cavern walls. Why? We<br />

can only guess.<br />

I’m standing in front of a group of horses<br />

with bristly manes, each head in a different<br />

position. One animal has its mouth open in<br />

surprise, another its eyes shut in pain, and<br />

another has ears back in anger. In front of<br />

Vogue<br />

Vallon Pont d'Arc<br />

them is a rhinoceros, his huge horn a warning<br />

to any would-be combatants. On another wall,<br />

I spot a massive bison that seems to have eight<br />

legs until I look closer and see there’s a second<br />

beast behind him. Everywhere I look I sense<br />

movement. I can almost hear the pounding<br />

of hooves, the snorts of breath, and grunts of<br />

animals in fight or flight mode.<br />

The hundreds of paintings in Grotte Chauvet<br />

depict 14 different species, some never or<br />

rarely seen in other paintings from the period.<br />

Fierce creatures like lions and leopards,<br />

mammoths and cave bears, but an owl too,<br />

unique in Palaeolithic art. It’s spine tingling<br />

stuff and bizarrely all the more so when I<br />

remind myself it isn’t real.<br />

The original cave, designated a World<br />

Heritage Site by UNESCO, is too fragile to<br />

open to the public. So I’m standing in front<br />

of an extraordinary copy, the world’s largest<br />

replica of a decorated cave that is perfect in<br />

every minute detail. Grotte Chauvet 2 enables<br />

all of us to get up close and personal with<br />

Humanity’s first masterpiece, and to discover<br />

the whole back story through the excellent<br />

Aurignacian Gallery that completes this<br />

unmissable visitor attraction.<br />

But then there’s a lot about Ardèche that’s<br />

unmissable. ‘Be Amazed by Ardèche’ is the<br />

buzz line from the tourist board and they’re<br />

not wrong. One of France’s most sparsely<br />

populated departments, this unspoilt rural<br />

area nestles up to the west bank of the river<br />

Rhône for 135 km south of Lyon, part of the<br />

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.<br />

And yet many people pass by at speed, bound<br />

for the holiday spots of the Mediterranean.<br />

Turn off the Autoroute du Soleil however at<br />

Tournon-sur-Rhône or further south towards<br />

Privas and you’re in for a treat. Named after<br />

the river that flows east from the Ardèche<br />

30 | The Good Life France Ardeche Gorges<br />

The Good Life France | 31


Cascade du Ray<br />

Vallon Pont d'Arc<br />

Mountains before turning sharply south near<br />

Aubenas, this is a department for anyone who<br />

loves outdoor adventure – soft or challenging<br />

– and an authentic rural lifestyle that’s in tune<br />

with the environment.<br />

First major town that you come to travelling<br />

south is Annonay, renowned for the colourful<br />

July festival that celebrates the invention<br />

of the hot air balloon. But ‘major’ is a tad<br />

misleading. Despite being the department’s<br />

largest town, Annonay has fewer than 17,000<br />

people. Tournon-sur-Rhône, some 35 km<br />

to the south, is even smaller but well worth<br />

a stopover for its castle museum, riverside<br />

frontage and lively café culture.<br />

Further south and west, the land begins to rise<br />

as you approach the county town of Privas,<br />

gateway to the Monts d’Ardèche Regional<br />

Natural Park and UNESCO-listed Géopark.<br />

This is Big Sky Country where the lands ripples<br />

towards the distant horizon in huge folds.<br />

Highest point at 1753 metres, close to the<br />

border with Haute-Loire, is Mont Mézenc, but<br />

most iconic is Mont Gerbier de Jonc, source<br />

Ardeche at Balazuc<br />

of France’s longest river. It’s a popular tourist<br />

attraction, but don’t expect to see a gush of<br />

water springing neatly out of the earth. The<br />

Loire’s inauspicious start is formed by the<br />

joining together of small streams that flow<br />

down from the top of the plug topping this<br />

ancient volcano.<br />

If, like me, you can’t resist a dramatic<br />

landscape, the Monts d’Ardèche deliver at<br />

every turn. This once turbulent landscape still<br />

bears the evidence of ancient eruptions and<br />

not just in its volcanic hills. At the Cascade du<br />

Ray-Pic, water tumbles 200 feet over basalt<br />

columns that solidified more than 30,000<br />

years ago. Look too for signs indicating the<br />

invisible Ligne du Partage des Eaux, the<br />

natural watershed that slices north-south<br />

through the west of the department. Rain<br />

falling on one side flows to the Mediterranean,<br />

and on the other, to the Atlantic, though how<br />

people prove this, I’m never quite!<br />

Many artists, sculptors and crafts people have<br />

studios in this inspirational landscape and<br />

eight eclectic outdoor artworks have been<br />

installed along the 100-km Watershed Trail. I<br />

particularly loved Mazan Abbey, a Cistercian<br />

ruin nestled in a deep valley and location for<br />

‘Un Cercle et Mille Fragments’, an innovative<br />

installation by artist Felice Varini. The roof,<br />

walls and adjacent bridge are painted with arcs<br />

of gold leaf, arresting in themselves but if you<br />

stand in the right spot, complete circles appear<br />

to balance on the church roof. Clever stuff!<br />

With no urban population exceeding 17,000,<br />

Ardèche is a region of villages with 21 of them<br />

awarded the Villages de Caractère label. Two<br />

of them are also listed amongst the elite band<br />

of Plus Beaux Villages de France. Walk the<br />

medieval streets of Vogüé, dominated by a<br />

16th century chateau, and explore the vaulted<br />

passageways and ancient fortifications of<br />

Balazuc, perched – like Vogüé – above the<br />

Ardèche river.<br />

The artistic gem of the Grotte Chauvet once<br />

stood beside the river, but over the millennia<br />

the course has changed and today the<br />

Ardèche cuts deeper through the limestone.<br />

But whilst the original Grotte Chauvet<br />

32 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 33


may be out of bounds to visitors, there are<br />

stalagmites and stalactites aplenty at the<br />

magnificent Aven d’Orgnac, classified Grand<br />

Site de France. Also at the Grotte de Saint<br />

Marcel, where you can book an underground<br />

wine tasting without the sensory distractions<br />

experienced above ground.<br />

Caving, climbing and canoeing enthusiasts<br />

flock to Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, riverside hub of<br />

the local outdoor leisure industry. Don’t miss<br />

the natural rock arch that spans the river, an<br />

Instagram moment for the many kayakers who<br />

cruise beneath, as well as for those who drive<br />

the Corniche above the spectacular, winding<br />

Ardèche Gorges.<br />

Cycle tourism is big in Ardèche too. Not just<br />

for lycra-clad enthusiasts, but family groups<br />

too through initiatives like La Dolce Via, a<br />

level cycle and walking route that runs for<br />

75km along a former railway track in the<br />

Eyrieux valley. Many small hotels and guest<br />

houses offer bikes to guests or you can hire<br />

locally, including e-bikes. And many are part<br />

of the Acceuil Vélo network that offer bike<br />

storage and cleaning facilities to pedalpowered<br />

tourists.<br />

You’ll find every kind of accommodation<br />

from chateau B&Bs to farmhouse hotels in<br />

Ardèche. Even treehouses at Peaugres Safari<br />

Park. But the most popular style of holiday<br />

accommodation ere is the humble tent. Or<br />

sometimes not quite so humble. Here you can<br />

be one with nature without roughing it, given<br />

the choice of camping or glamping, yurts,<br />

bubbles and log cabins.<br />

Light show on the basins inside Grotte Saint Marcel d'Ardeche<br />

Meyras<br />

All this fresh air makes you hungry, but<br />

Ardèche is justifiably proud of both its<br />

gastronomy and its less formal ‘bistronomy’.<br />

Chefs are passionate about local produce, in<br />

particular the AOP Ardèche chestnut. Staple<br />

food of the area for centuries, Ardèche is<br />

France’s No 1 chestnut producer, cultivating<br />

65 different varieties that are sold fresh, dried,<br />

and as chestnut flour. Gen up at the Castanea<br />

discovery centre in Joyeuse. (And see our<br />

fabulous chestnut puree recipe on page 113).<br />

And of course good food deserves good<br />

wine. Ardèche is home to many high quality<br />

vintages that combine full flavour with<br />

minimal food miles. Famous names include<br />

Crozes Hermitage and Saint-Joseph, Cornas<br />

and Saint-Péray, Côtes du Rhône and Côte<br />

de Vivarais. Look out for the Vignobles et<br />

Découvertes wine tourism label for vineyards<br />

that offer tours, tastings and various innovative<br />

experiences to enthusiasts.<br />

Then raise a glass or two to Ardèche –<br />

underground or overground, this rural<br />

department really will amaze you.<br />

For more information, visit<br />

ardeche-guide.com<br />

The Good Life France podcast<br />

Everything you want to know about<br />

France and more...<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

34 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 35


Côtes du Rhône<br />

Jeremy Flint explores the beauty of the Côtes du Rhône on a road trip through the<br />

Rhône Valley following the wine route along through enchanting villages, glorious<br />

countryside and the steepest vineyards in France…<br />

A road trip along the Rhône River is a great<br />

way to discover this lesser-known region<br />

of France, bound by picturesque villages,<br />

sweeping roads and spectacular scenery,<br />

where vineyards cling to the hillsides and<br />

delicious wines and warm hospitality await.<br />

I decided to drive along the idyllic Côtes du<br />

Rhône to get a flavour of its wine route and<br />

remarkable beauty which follows the course<br />

of the Rhône River 125 miles southwards along<br />

three regions including the Rhône, the Drome<br />

and Ardèche in the southeast of France.<br />

Starting just south of Lyon I drove its length<br />

from Saint-Cyr-sur-le-Rhône almost to the<br />

Mediterranean Sea as far as Avignon.<br />

The Rhône is one of the classic French wine<br />

regions and has been a hub of wine culture<br />

since ancient times. It is amongst the oldest<br />

vineyard regions on the planet, where Greeks,<br />

Romans and Medieval Popes fell under the<br />

spell of the native-grape rocky-soil flavours.<br />

Today it is just as popular, with more than<br />

5,000 producers and over 100 villages<br />

making wines over a whopping 86,000 acres,<br />

making it the second-largest wine region in<br />

France. The Côtes du Rhône is a region wide<br />

appellation, the official title given to wines<br />

made on the hillsides and communes along<br />

the Rhône River. Here, the winemakers of the<br />

Côtes du Rhône experiment with blends and<br />

Tain L'Hermitage<br />

vineyard techniques nurturing the ancient<br />

grape varieties into quality wines. Dedicated<br />

artisans and producers offer an exceptional<br />

range of red wines (and some whites) that<br />

are easy to drink. The classic Côtes du<br />

Rhône wine is a delicious fruity middleweight<br />

red blend based on Grenache, Syrah and<br />

Mourvedre grapes.<br />

Tournon and Tain<br />

L’Hermitage<br />

This superb region provides some of the<br />

best vineyards, wine routes and magnificent<br />

landscapes in France. In the northern Côtes<br />

du Rhône, explore the captivating medieval<br />

towns of Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage for<br />

a great introduction to the region. Situated<br />

either side of the Rhône they form the<br />

gateway to the Route des Vins driving route<br />

where you can navigate through the heart<br />

of the hillside vineyards, going from cellar<br />

36 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 37


to cellar to help you discover and taste the<br />

appellations of the region: the Hermitage,<br />

Crozes Hermitage and St. Joseph. Uncovering<br />

this wine route is nothing short of spectacular<br />

with its epic views, winery visits and quality<br />

plonk.<br />

Beyond the vineyards, both these towns are<br />

great places to visit. You can relax and take a<br />

boat trip along the river from Tain L’Hermitage<br />

or wander the embankments for great<br />

riverside views. I hiked up to the watchtowers<br />

above Tournon for spectacular panoramas of<br />

the surrounding vineyards and Rhône River<br />

meandering below before admiring the Marc<br />

Seguin footbridge and visiting the historic<br />

centre and Chapel Hermitage for some<br />

unique cultural heritage.<br />

Seguret<br />

A week is ample time to unearth the best parts<br />

of this rural journey. After three nights in the<br />

north, I headed to the southern part of the<br />

Côtes du Rhône, following the Rhône River to<br />

the incredible hilltop villages of Seguret and<br />

Sablet. Elevated above the vineyards, Seguret<br />

is classified as one of the most beautiful<br />

villages in France. Inside the old town you will<br />

find characterful cobbled streets, historical<br />

stone houses, a traditional stone archway and<br />

a charming bell tower.<br />

Seguret<br />

Sablet<br />

Nearby Sablet is the jewel in the crown with its<br />

breath-taking picture postcard views, framed<br />

by vineyards and the magnificent Dentelles<br />

de Montmirail mountains beyond. This rocky<br />

outcrop is a geological masterpiece, eroded<br />

by time to form the chiselled mountains that<br />

span 8 kilometres. These mountains are a<br />

paradise for nature lovers and the scenic<br />

beauty is best explored on foot, by mountain<br />

bike or rock climbing. You will be rewarded<br />

with spectacular views over of a seemingly<br />

infinite sea of vineyards and forests.<br />

For more places like this, visit nearby Vaisonla-Romaine<br />

with its Roman ruins and old town<br />

or the highly esteemed architectural delights<br />

and Roman monuments at Orange.<br />

Châteauneuf-du-Pape<br />

Chateauneuf du Pape<br />

The last historic place I recommend visiting<br />

in the southern Rhône Valley is Châteauneufdu-Pape,<br />

nestled between the historic towns<br />

of Avignon and Orange. Famous for its<br />

powerful, full-bodied red wine the village of<br />

Chateauneuf-du-Pape offers great cellars<br />

Sablet<br />

38 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 39


Gorges Ardeche<br />

or wine shops seemingly every few metres –<br />

perfect for a wine tasting. It is simply the best<br />

place to source true and original tasting, top<br />

quality wines along the southern Rhône River.<br />

Visiting the winding lanes, medieval tower and<br />

Place de la Fontaine with its outdoor cafés<br />

and restaurants is equally sublime.<br />

Gorges de l’Ardeche<br />

Don’t miss the scenic Gorges of the Ardèche,<br />

a visual feast of winding gorges and the<br />

snaking Ardeche river, a tributary of the<br />

Rhône. Zigzagging for 29 kilometres and<br />

peppered with scenic twists and turns as<br />

you drive along the canyon’s rim you'll feel<br />

compelled to stop for the jaw-droppingly<br />

spectacular views of the limestone Gorges<br />

at every corner. If you’re feeling energetic,<br />

take to the waters and canoe beneath the<br />

impressive natural stone bridge Pont d’Arc<br />

for close-up views.<br />

Wherever you decide to drive along this<br />

enchanting route, take your time, savour<br />

the views, sip the wine and simply enjoy the<br />

spectacular journey…<br />

40 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 41


SPOTLIGHT<br />

Packed with medieval history but with a buzzing contemporary vibe, Normandy’s<br />

regional capital is a stunning destination for a city break says Gillian Thornton.<br />

ON:<br />

ROUEN<br />

It’s not every day that I sit down to dinner<br />

in a medieval cemetery, but then Rouen’s<br />

Aître Saint-Maclou is no ordinary burial<br />

ground. Surrounded by an ossuary gallery<br />

– a repository for storing bones – this<br />

extraordinarily tranquil spot is one of just four<br />

to survive in France. And it’s a must-see for<br />

any visitor to this captivating city.<br />

Far from being macabre, the Aître Saint-<br />

Maclou is a classic example of how Rouen<br />

uses its rich history to educate, entertain<br />

and enthuse 21st century visitors. And when<br />

your city has connections to Joan of Arc<br />

and Gustave Flaubert, Claude Monet and<br />

the Impressionist artists, you have plenty of<br />

material to work with.<br />

Easily reached by car from the Channel<br />

ports, by train from Paris, and by river cruise<br />

along the Seine, Rouen was ravaged by the<br />

Black Death in the mid-14th century. Already<br />

weakened by the ongoing battles with England<br />

in what came to be called The Hundred Years<br />

War, Rouen struggled to keep pace with the<br />

mortality rate. The Aître Saint-Maclou helped<br />

solve the problem, first as a mass grave, then<br />

with the addition of a galleried ossuary where<br />

bones could be stored in the roof trusses.<br />

Street children and beggars began to<br />

congregate here and traders set up fruit<br />

stalls, until in 1778, the Aître closed as a<br />

cemetery and morphed into a location for<br />

charity-run schools. Walk through the galleries<br />

today with their ornate carved columns and<br />

you can almost hear the shouts of Rouen’s<br />

poor children at play. Come back in the<br />

evening when the site is closed to casual<br />

visitors to dine at Café Hamlet within those<br />

atmsoopheric half-timbered galleries.<br />

Saint-Maclou was one of many pleasant<br />

surprises when I made a long overdue return<br />

to Rouen this summer as part of a touring<br />

holiday by car. The Radisson Blu Centre<br />

proved a great base with its underground car<br />

park and popular restaurant, easily accessed<br />

Eglise Jeanne Darc<br />

off the perimeter road and an easy walk<br />

to the historic centre through a network of<br />

pedestrian streets.<br />

I clearly remembered the flamboyant carved<br />

façade of the city’s cathedral, or did it just<br />

seem familiar from some 30 paintings made<br />

by Claude Monet in differing lights? Many<br />

were painted from an upstairs room in the<br />

former House of Exchequer – now the Tourist<br />

Information Office - at the corner of the nowpedestrianised<br />

square in front of this towering<br />

Gothic monument.<br />

Take advantage of one of the free telescopes<br />

around the square for a close up view of the<br />

west front that Monet would surely have envied.<br />

Then head inside to see a monument to English<br />

king Richard the Lionheart. His body lies in the<br />

Plantagenet necropolis at Fontevraud but his<br />

heart is buried here in Rouen.<br />

The half-timbered buildings were certainly<br />

familiar to me in the streets behind the<br />

cathedral that lead to the Church of Saint-<br />

42 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 43


Maclou, but twenty years on from my last visit,<br />

they seemed brighter and better maintained,<br />

clearly the result of ongoing restoration. I<br />

walked beneath the colourful facades of 14th<br />

century houses; indulged in a scrumptious<br />

cake at Dame Cakes by the cathedral; and<br />

wandered through the lofty interior of Saint-<br />

Ouen Church, currently the subject of a major<br />

restoration campaign.<br />

Like many French cities, Rouen is dotted with<br />

churches, some big, some small, and some<br />

utterly unique like the Joan of Arc church in<br />

the Place du Vieux Marché. A peasant girl<br />

from the Vosges, Joan claimed that God had<br />

instructed her to support Charles, heir to the<br />

French throne, against the English. But she<br />

was captured by their allies, the Burgundians,<br />

tried in the Archbishop’s Palace at Rouen and<br />

condemned to death.<br />

Joan was burnt at the stake in the Old Market<br />

Place in 1431 and today a modern church<br />

built in 1979 stands next to the covered<br />

market at the place where she breathed her<br />

last. Unprepossessing from the outside, the<br />

church is a different story inside, dappled with<br />

colour from a multi-coloured wall of brilliant<br />

medieval stained glass.<br />

Discover Joan’s dramatic story at the<br />

immersive experience that is the Historial<br />

Jeanne d’Arc, a digital journey through a<br />

second trial that took place here in 1456 in the<br />

very spot where she was tried the first time.<br />

Headsets provide the commentary in English<br />

from an array of ‘talking heads’ and as you<br />

move from room to room, you really get the<br />

feeling that you are in on the decision that<br />

was made to pardon the ‘Maid of Orleans’.<br />

Absorbing and instructive with no previous<br />

Joan knowledge necessary.<br />

Wander the streets to take in other<br />

monuments such as the Gros Horloge, an<br />

enormous 14th century clock with one of the<br />

oldest clock mechanisms in Europe, and La<br />

Maison Sublime, oldest Jewish monument in<br />

France. Walk or cycle along the quaysides<br />

beside the Seine, and browse Rouen’s rich<br />

offering of high street retailers and specialist<br />

boutiques, liberally dotted with tempting<br />

places to eat and drink.<br />

But leave time too for some of the city’s<br />

eight free museums. I loved the eclectic<br />

mix on display in the Antiquities Museum<br />

that includes a Roman mosaic, an Egyptian<br />

mummy and Greek pottery, as well as the<br />

Natural History Museum which boasts one of<br />

the most diverse collections in France.<br />

But top slot for me goes to the Impressionist<br />

collection within the Fine Arts Museum.<br />

Works by Monet, of course, but Pissarro,<br />

Renoir and Sisley too, who all painted in the<br />

city and surrounding area. One of the most<br />

important Impressionist collections outside<br />

Paris, it is a highlight of one of France’s most<br />

delightful cities.<br />

Further information from<br />

www.rouentourisme.com<br />

Beyond the city centre<br />

A few days at your disposal? Follow the<br />

meanders of the Seine to east and west, by car<br />

or maybe by bike. Heading east, the Route des<br />

Abbayes links ecclesiastical gems such as the<br />

Abbey of Saint-Pierre de Jumièges – 30 km<br />

from the city centre – where contemporary art<br />

exhibitions are frequently held amongst the<br />

ruins, and Saint-Georges de Boscherville with<br />

its terraced abbey gardens. And buy seasonal<br />

fruit, jams and jellies along the Route des<br />

Fruits between Duclair and Notre-Dame de<br />

Bliquetuit where the microclimate favours all<br />

manner of orchard fruits.<br />

Head east for the ruins of Château Gaillard,<br />

a strategic fortress built by Richard the<br />

Lionheart on a hilltop beside the Seine at<br />

Les Andeleys, 40 km from historic Rouen.<br />

Another 30 km brings you to Giverny and the<br />

legendary house and garden of Impressionist<br />

supremo Claude Monet. Walk amongst the<br />

flower beds, spend time in the house he<br />

shared with his wife and children, and stroll<br />

around the famous lily pond that featured<br />

in so many vast canvasses painted towards<br />

the end of his long life. But do try to visit<br />

early or late in the day, or outside peak<br />

season, to enjoy this magical plot without the<br />

international crowds desperate for the next<br />

Instagram selfie.<br />

For a different kind of Norman countryside,<br />

drive east from Rouen for 35 km, passing<br />

through a glorious beech forest to Lyons-la-<br />

Forêt, an enchanting village of half-timbered<br />

and brick houses that is deservedly classified<br />

amongst Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.<br />

Find out more at lyons-andelle-tourisme.com<br />

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The CHAMPAGNE of the north<br />

Beer producers in the far north of France<br />

are revitalising the brewing industry, and in<br />

Lille micro-breweries are taking beer to new<br />

heights!<br />

Is beer the new wine in France? If you go<br />

to Lille, the capital of the Hauts-de-France<br />

region, you will certainly be forgiven for<br />

thinking it is! The historic city has seen a<br />

rebirth of the beer-making industry over the<br />

last 20 years or so. But these new-breed<br />

micro-brewers aren’t just producing standard<br />

beers. They’re brewing new and exciting<br />

beers, experimental beers, sour beers, fruity<br />

beers, stout beer, blonde beer, old school<br />

IPAs, double IPAs, New England IPAs,<br />

American pale ale, lager, beers stored in<br />

whisky, Cognac and wine barrels and more.<br />

These new beers are having a ripple effect in<br />

the industry and the beer trend has spread<br />

throughout France.<br />

Beer has been brewed in France for<br />

hundreds of years. But its due to French King<br />

Louis XIV that the culture of brewing in the<br />

north became so important. He ordered that<br />

beer imports from the Netherlands – which<br />

was at war with France – should cease, and<br />

northern France had to brew enough for<br />

French needs.<br />

Until the 1990s beer was pretty much brewed<br />

in the traditional way in big breweries but<br />

the new micro-breweries are innovative,<br />

creative and sometimes playful with their<br />

mix. The new beers are all about brewing in<br />

an artisan way, there’s no algorithm for it, it’s<br />

about passion, experimentation and creating<br />

unique tastes. And the new beers have found<br />

a whole new legion of fans.<br />

There are more than 30 micro-breweries<br />

in Lille. Typically, there are just 3-4 people<br />

involved in the artisanal production process<br />

and they make around 1000hl (175,000<br />

pints) per year - compared to companies<br />

like Heineken who make more than 1.5 million<br />

pints per day.<br />

You’ll find an enormous choice of bars,<br />

breweries and bistros pairing beer and<br />

food in Lille…<br />

Brewers feast – where to<br />

drink beer in Lille<br />

Le Capsule – locals will tell you this is THE bar<br />

to go to for beer lovers. Knowledgeable staff,<br />

comfy chairs and an outstanding, constantly<br />

updated range of beers.<br />

Bar-lacapsure.fr<br />

There’s a new breed of tap room in Lille –<br />

fun, quirky and funky, with micro-breweries<br />

making new beers throughout the year<br />

and serving them with food that’s perfectly<br />

paired with beer. At Hein in the centre of<br />

Lille, the eclectic mix of grannie’s posh<br />

parlour ornaments and modern vibrant<br />

colours is eccentrically brilliant. Every<br />

two weeks they launch a new beer. If the<br />

customers like them they produce more!<br />

The menu features traditional northern<br />

dishes like carbonade flamande (beef<br />

cooked in beer) and chips. Manager Loic<br />

Movellan says “Sure we make beer with<br />

hops and malt, but we also make beer using<br />

mango smoke, pepper and coffee, vanilla,<br />

raspberry, mint and lime. Our mission is to<br />

help people discover every type of beer, we<br />

want to democratise beer.”<br />

briquehouse.com<br />

Take a craft beer tasting tour, guided tour with<br />

a ‘beerologist’, and even a blind beer tasting<br />

treasure hunt with Echappée Bière. There<br />

are several ways to discover historic Lille and<br />

enjoy beer, including in an iconic 2CV. Pop<br />

into the tourist office in the centre for lots of<br />

details. Lilletourism.com<br />

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THREE<br />

brilliant<br />

Lille<br />

brewers<br />

Brewbaix at Roubaix<br />

Brewer Jerome Gervais<br />

and his small team make<br />

beer in a big shed in<br />

the Roubaix district of<br />

Lille. His hugely popular<br />

innovative beers include<br />

meringues, chocolate<br />

and vanilla in the recipe!<br />

Cambier<br />

At Cambier, you can<br />

watch the beer being<br />

brewed and relax at<br />

the tasting bar. Though<br />

production is on a more<br />

professional scale, they<br />

are also experimenting<br />

with ingredients like<br />

elderflower.<br />

Motte Cordonnier<br />

Once a huge name in<br />

beer-making in France<br />

going back some 300<br />

years but bought out by<br />

Belgian brewery Stella<br />

Artois in 1970. Now<br />

Henry Motte, grandson<br />

of the last of a long<br />

line of beer-makers is<br />

resurrecting the practice<br />

near the family’s old<br />

brewing premises in<br />

Armentières. Beers<br />

include ingredients such<br />

as ginger and yuzu,<br />

coffee and pepper.<br />

Azincourt1415.com<br />

24 Rue Charles VI<br />

62310 Azincourt<br />

Step back in time<br />

and discover the past at<br />

Azincourt 1415 historic centre<br />

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SPOTLIGHT ON:<br />

The sweet village of<br />

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain<br />

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain in Burgundy is a<br />

picturesque medieval village surrounded by<br />

bucolic countryside, vineyards and lush green<br />

hillsides. And it’s a place where the streets<br />

are filled with the scent of anise - Chantille de<br />

Lindcourt finds out why…<br />

Flavigny in the heart of Auxois, Cote d’Or is<br />

classified as one of the most beautiful villages<br />

in France (Plus Beaux Villages de France).<br />

It has a long history linked to gastronomy,<br />

because it’s here, in this small, perched<br />

village of 300 inhabitants, that the famous<br />

“Anis de Flavigny” sweets have been made<br />

for several centuries.<br />

How it all began<br />

In 52 BC, Alesia in Burgundy was the site of<br />

a great battle between the Roman Emperor<br />

Julius Caesar and the leaders of the Gauls,<br />

Vercingetorix. A certain Flavinius was<br />

then head of the Roman camp which was<br />

established close by. And after the battle,<br />

given the land in gratitude for his bravery, he<br />

gave it the name Flaviniacum. Later it became<br />

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.<br />

Legend has it that the Roman conquerors used<br />

anise seeds for stomach problems and the<br />

practice spread.<br />

In the 9th century, the monks at Flavigny<br />

Benedictine Abbey began making small<br />

anise dragees - a form of sugar-coated<br />

confectionary, after Charlemagne, King of the<br />

Franks ordered all monasteries to grow anis<br />

for medicinal purposes in 812. Why the monks<br />

in Flavigny coated the anis pastilles in sugar,<br />

no one knows.<br />

Anise sweets are still made in the town<br />

using green anise seeds, coated in flavoured<br />

sugar. Anise de Flavigny use a recipe, which<br />

after being refined over the centuries, has<br />

remained unchanged since 1591 gaining<br />

the company a “Living Heritage Company”<br />

award. And when you visit the town, a tour<br />

of the manufacturing workshop to discover<br />

its secrets plus a stop at their sweetshop, full<br />

of colourful pretty boxes of anis sweets, is an<br />

absolute must.<br />

But this little Burgundy gem has plenty more<br />

to tempt you to visit.<br />

During the French Revolution, the monks<br />

deserted the abbey, which was then sold<br />

as a public property and for the most part,<br />

destroyed. The Carolingian (750-887) crypt is<br />

well-preserved though, and you can visit it for<br />

free. Since 1591, the abbey has been occupied<br />

by the Anis de Flavigny factory. Long popular<br />

in France, they were even enjoyed by King<br />

Louis XIV who kept some in his pocket.<br />

What to see in Flavignysur-Ozerain?<br />

Take a stroll through the village and admire<br />

the architecture and ancient buildings. Halftimbered<br />

houses give an air of timelessness<br />

and fans of the film Chocolat, with Johnny<br />

Depp and Juliette Binoche, will recognise the<br />

pretty cobbled streets – as it’s here that the<br />

filming took place.<br />

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the Porte de Barme, the Poterne and the Tour<br />

du Guet are worth seeking out.<br />

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain was also renowned for<br />

its wool production, weaving, hemp, tin, glass<br />

and pottery production. The brown wool of<br />

the Burel sheep was used to make the monks’<br />

brown robes. In the village today, you can still<br />

see the ancient houses of drapers, millers,<br />

tanners and winegrowers.<br />

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

Don’t miss a visit to the 13th century Gothic<br />

church of Saint Genest with its intricately<br />

carved 16th century stalls. The building has<br />

housed the relics of Saint Regina since 1793<br />

when they were removed from the abbey<br />

where they had been kept for more than<br />

1000 years.<br />

Between the 12th and 14th centuries, the town<br />

was fortified with a great wall. The gates are<br />

still in place: Porte du Val, the Porte du Bourg,<br />

What to see and do<br />

near Flavigny<br />

For hiking enthusiasts, an easy walking trail<br />

“from Anis to the Vineyard” takes you on a<br />

loop of about 8km around the village with<br />

great views (2h30).<br />

About 10km away, Muséoparc Alesia<br />

presents the famous battle between<br />

Vercingetorix and Caesar.<br />

And a little further on, the Chateau de<br />

Bussy-Rabutin is a magnificent Renaissance<br />

castle with large French gardens.<br />

52 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 53


Guide to GASCONY<br />

Originally called Vasconia, a part of Roman Gallia Aquitania,<br />

Gascony spanned the width and breadth of western France from<br />

the Loire River south to the Spanish Pyrenees, and from Toulouse<br />

west to the Atlantic Ocean. Its capital was once Bordeaux. Today<br />

Gascony is divided between the regions of Nouvelle-Aquitaine<br />

and Occitanie. Each region has its own ancient history, colorful<br />

landscapes, and unique traditions.<br />

A powerful duchy in the Middle Ages, Gascony came under<br />

English rule in 1154 through the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine<br />

to Henry Plantagenet (Henry II) King of England, and remained<br />

English until the end of the Hundred Years’ War in 1453, when it<br />

formally became part of France.<br />

Gascony local Sue Aran who runs guided tours of the region shares 26 reasons to fall in<br />

love with Gascony:<br />

Armagnac is the oldest French brandy you’ve<br />

most likely never heard of, unless you’re a<br />

connoisseur. Introduced in 1411, it precedes<br />

Cognac by some 200 years.<br />

Berets as we know them today came from<br />

Gascony, more specifically the Béarn<br />

region high in the Pyrénées. In old Gascon<br />

“bérret” was the word for cap. Originally,<br />

a local craft made from wool or felt, it was<br />

the headdress of the high mountain guides<br />

and Béarnais shepherds of the Pyrénées.<br />

The first factory began producing them<br />

commercially in the 19th century in the<br />

village of Oloron-Sainte-Marie nestled in<br />

the Pyrénées-Atlantic department. The<br />

small “tail” which protrudes in the center,<br />

the cabilhòt or cabilhou was the end of the<br />

threads resulting from hand knitting. If a<br />

cabilhou is missing from a beret, bad luck<br />

will come to the wearer. Gascon bérets are<br />

typically larger and worn flatter than the<br />

more commonly recognized Basque béret.<br />

Cyrano de Bergerac was written in 1897 by<br />

Edmond Rostand. The play is a fictionalization<br />

following the broad outlines of the life of the<br />

real Cyrano, a dashing officer of the Gascon<br />

Nerac<br />

D'Artagnan's House<br />

Cadets. The Cadets were a French regiment<br />

under King Louis XIII, recruited from the<br />

youngest sons of the aristocratic families of<br />

Gascony. The word cadet comes from the old<br />

Gascon dialect of Occitan, capdèth, meaning<br />

chief or captain. Bergerac straddles the<br />

Dordogne River, with a statue of Cyrano in<br />

one of its many pretty squares.<br />

D’Artagnan was not just the fictionalized<br />

character from Alexandre Dumas’ novels, but<br />

a real person by the name of Charles Ogier<br />

de Batz-Castelmore D’Artagnan. He was a<br />

valiant soldier who became Captain of the<br />

Espelette Peppers<br />

Musketeers and was answerable only to the<br />

Sun King himself, Louis XIV. D’Artagnan was<br />

born in Lupiac, a village in the Gers, in 1611.<br />

The Chateau de Castelmore, D’Artagnan’s<br />

home is a few kilometers outside the village<br />

proper. In the 1630s D’Artagnan moved to<br />

Paris, where he lived a life of daring and<br />

espionage. The Musée D’Artagnan, housed<br />

in the Chapelle Notre Dame in Lupiac, is<br />

dedicated to his life and legend.<br />

Espelette Peppers are a cornerstone of<br />

Basque cuisine, replacing black pepper as<br />

a spice. Espelette peppers are harvested in<br />

late summer and, in September, festoons of<br />

peppers are hung on balconies and exterior<br />

house walls to dry out.<br />

Floc de Gascogne is a local aperitif made only<br />

in Gascony. Produced since the 16th century,<br />

it comes from an old peasant recipe of 2/3 grape<br />

juice and 1/3 Armagnac, and is available in both<br />

red and white varieties.<br />

Garlic is a speciality from the Gers and Tarnet-Garonne<br />

departments dating back to the<br />

13th century when it was brought to France by<br />

nomadic merchants from Asia. A legend states<br />

that one trader had no money to pay for his<br />

dinner at a restaurant in the village of Lautrec<br />

in the Tarn department, so he settled up with<br />

pink garlic cloves instead. The innkeeper<br />

planted the cloves and Lautrec is now the<br />

centre of pink garlic cultivation.<br />

Henri IV of France was a man of courage<br />

and foresight who, more than 400 years ago,<br />

saved his country from pious quarrels. Instead<br />

of paying for wars to be fought, he paid for<br />

them not to be fought. He understood the<br />

conditions of the common people, whom he<br />

had a real affection for, and tried to improve<br />

their lives. He pledged that all, even the<br />

poorest should be able to afford 'poule au pot',<br />

a chicken stew popular to this day.<br />

Irouléguy is a small Basque village in<br />

Lower Navarre in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques<br />

department. Its delicious wines are grown<br />

in one of the smallest vineyards in France,<br />

the only one in the French Basque country.<br />

The history of the vineyard is linked to the<br />

pilgrimage to Saint Jacques-de-Compostelle.<br />

Jurançon is an area west of Pau. Jurançon<br />

was one of King Henri IV’s favorite wines,<br />

grown along the hillsides on the southern<br />

banks of the Gave de Pau covering 1,000<br />

hectares. It is still considered the wine of Kings<br />

and still served at important events.<br />

Jurancon Wine<br />

Kakouetta Gorge, with a length of a little<br />

less than four kilometers, offers a beautiful<br />

landscape for nature lovers. Mosses, lichens,<br />

and ferns are so abundant that the area<br />

resembles tropical microclimate.<br />

Kakauetta Gorge<br />

54 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 55


Ossau-Iraty<br />

Urrugne<br />

Lourdes is nestled in the foothills of the<br />

Pyrenees Mountains, in the department of the<br />

Haute-Pyrenees. For 159 years, millions of the<br />

faithful from all over the world have flocked<br />

to Lourdes, where, it is said, the sick can be<br />

healed miraculously.<br />

Marciac – This 13th century bastide village<br />

boats the tallest church steeple in the Gers,<br />

standing at an impressive 293 ft. Since<br />

1978, the Jazz in Marciac festival has hosted<br />

internationally renowned musicians and<br />

singers from Wynton Marsalis to Norah Jones.<br />

Nérac – Built on a Gallo-Roman villa<br />

along both banks of the Baïse River, Nérac<br />

prospered as the favorite summer residence<br />

of King Henri IV, the most beloved king of<br />

France. The remains of his impressive chateau,<br />

are now a museum. Its Saturday market is the<br />

best in the Lot-et-Garonne department.<br />

Nerac<br />

Ossau-Iraty goats cheese. Goats were first<br />

introduced to Southwest France in the 8th<br />

century.<br />

Pousse Rapier is a liquor made from wellguarded<br />

recipes containing a base of 24%<br />

eau de vie, steeped and flavored with orange<br />

peel, lemon peel, vanilla and sugar.<br />

Quiteria – Saint Quitterie – was a young girl<br />

of noble Visigoth blood, who preferred to die<br />

rather than deny her faith. According to a<br />

medieval manuscript from the 12th century,<br />

she was decapitated around 477. Legend says<br />

she carried her head in her hands to the pagan<br />

sanctuary of Mas d’Aire (now a fountain)<br />

above the church which bears her name in the<br />

village of Aire-sur-l’Adour.<br />

Ravel – Maurice Ravel was a 19th and early<br />

20th century French composer of classical<br />

music. His best known works are Bolero and<br />

Daphne and Chloé. He was born in the Basque<br />

town of Ciboure, France, just across the bridge<br />

from the fishing village of St. Jean de Luz.<br />

Séviac – one of the largest Gallo-Roman<br />

archeological sites in Gascony includes a<br />

classic villa dating from the 2nd century,<br />

complete with a thermal bath complex, and<br />

beautiful, multi-colored mosaics.<br />

Terraube – a medieval village that once<br />

belonged entirely to Hector de Galard, a<br />

renowned warrior during the Hundred Year’s<br />

War. His face is represented as the Jack of<br />

Diamonds in the French pack of playing cards.<br />

Urrugne is a beautifully preserved Pays<br />

Basque village which stretches from the ocean<br />

along the beautiful Basque Corniche to the<br />

first mountains of the Pyrenees.<br />

Villa Arnega is in the Pays Basque village<br />

of Cambo-les-Bains, and was the home<br />

to Edmund Rostand, dramatist of the play,<br />

Cyrano de Bergerac.<br />

Villa Arnega<br />

Woad is a plant in the mustard family native<br />

to parts of Asia and Europe, whose leaves<br />

have been used since antiquity to produce<br />

a “pastel” blue dye. Pastel dye was the only<br />

source of blue available until the late 16th<br />

century. Blue dyed fabrics became a luxury<br />

and many fortunes were made in its cultivation<br />

and production, particularly in and around the<br />

towns of Toulouse and Albi. When trade routes<br />

to the Indies opened, indigo dye extracted<br />

from another species of plant, was imported.<br />

Both Pastel and Indigo industries declined with<br />

the invention of synthetic blue dye. Denise<br />

Woad<br />

and Henri Lambert of Bleu de Lectoure, in<br />

the Gers department, are credited with rediscovering<br />

the wonders of the woad plant.<br />

Xaintrailles is located on the old Roman<br />

road of the Ténarèze (linking Bordeaux to<br />

the central Pyrenees). Once home to Poton<br />

de Xaintrailles, Marshall of France and<br />

companion of Joan of Arc. He left to the<br />

village his 12th century castle, which is now<br />

open to the public for guided tours.<br />

Yquem – a magnificent 16th century chateau<br />

wine estate which once belonged to the King<br />

of England.<br />

Zut alors! I could not find a place, person or<br />

word associated with Gascony that begins<br />

with a “z”, hence zut alors, which translates,<br />

appropriately, to “darn”!<br />

Yquem<br />

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The Genius<br />

from the<br />

JURA<br />

Born 200 years ago in Dole, world-famous<br />

chemist Louis Pasteur returned regularly to his<br />

native Jura. Gillian Thornton headed east to<br />

find out more.<br />

As someone who loves both history and<br />

houses, I’ve always found it hard to resist a<br />

period property with a personality attached.<br />

But few have left such a lasting impression on<br />

me as the house of Louis Pasteur at Arbois<br />

in Franche-Comté. Full of atmosphere and<br />

personal artefacts, it feels as though the great<br />

man has just popped out for a baguette and<br />

could return at any moment.<br />

Nestled up against Switzerland in the foothills<br />

of the Jura mountains, Arbois is a tranquil<br />

small town surrounded by a lush landscape of<br />

rolling pastures and vineyards. Not at all the<br />

place where you would expect to find a homelaboratory<br />

for a man who made some of the<br />

most important scientific findings of the age.<br />

Of any age. Now, 200 years after his birth,<br />

there are thought to be more French streets<br />

named after Louis Pasteur than any other<br />

public figure. So what exactly did he do?<br />

To those of us with a sketchy grasp of<br />

science, the technicalities of Pasteur’s<br />

achievements can be hard to understand,<br />

especially when it comes to his first big<br />

discovery, molecular asymmetry. But it’s<br />

not hard to appreciate the difference his<br />

findings made to a 19th century society that<br />

understood little about the causes of disease<br />

in plants, animals and humans. Pasteur was<br />

to change all that.<br />

The story begins in Dole where Louis was<br />

born on 27 December 1882, the son of a<br />

tanner who had been decorated during the<br />

Napoleonic Wars. Two centuries later, the<br />

genius from the Jura has been celebrated<br />

throughout <strong>2022</strong> with exhibitions, scientific<br />

workshops and family activities across his<br />

native area and beyond.<br />

But you can get close to this amazing man at<br />

any time. From February to November, the<br />

two properties most closely associated with<br />

the scientist and his family are open to the<br />

public, key sites on a self-drive Route Pasteur.<br />

When Louis was four, the family moved to<br />

Arbois, 35 Km from Dole, where he attended<br />

the local primary school before moving to<br />

secondary school in nearby Besançon. In<br />

1845, he was awarded a science degree in<br />

Paris and from then on, Pasteur focussed on a<br />

career on scientific research and teaching.<br />

At the age of just 31, Pasteur was appointed<br />

Dean of the Science Faculty at Lille University<br />

where he began to study fermentation.<br />

He spent several years studying both the<br />

beneficial and harmful effects of microbes<br />

on foodstuffs, applying his findings to the<br />

contamination problems that beset the French<br />

wine and beer industries. And in 1862, he<br />

came up with a revolutionary process to kill<br />

off bad microbes. Named pasteurization in his<br />

honour, it has been applied to milk and a wide<br />

range of other foods ever since.<br />

One discovery led to another. By 1866,<br />

Pasteur and his wife Marie had lost three<br />

of their five children – two to typhoid fever<br />

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But step inside Pasteur’s front door in Dole or<br />

in Arbois and you are instantly transported<br />

back two centuries to a world before modern<br />

medicine to meet a man whose curiosity and<br />

determination changed all our lives for the<br />

better. The very least we can do is name roads<br />

after him.<br />

Pasteur Country<br />

Dole: Visit Pasteur’s birthplace close to<br />

the banks of the Doubs and the canal that<br />

linked the former tanneries. Follow the<br />

brass plates in the pavement of a perched<br />

cat – Le Circuit du Chat Perché – for<br />

4Km to discover the hidden treasures of<br />

this charming Art & History town, capital<br />

of the Comté region in the 15th century.<br />

Doletourisme.fr<br />

www.doletourisme.fr/en/<br />

Pasteur's home laboratory in Arbois<br />

and one from a liver tumour. Diseases, he<br />

realised, were caused by germs, and from<br />

1867, Pasteur promoted the sterilization of<br />

surgical instruments and the importance of<br />

cleaning wounds that soon produced radical<br />

improvements in public health. He also<br />

addressed the disease crisis in the French<br />

silk industry and identified the organisms<br />

responsible for contaminating silkworms. But<br />

there was still work to be done. During the<br />

anthrax epidemic of the 1870s, Pasteur turned<br />

his attention to immunology, coming up with<br />

vaccines for both anthrax and rabies.<br />

Louis Pasteur’s health declined steadily after<br />

a stroke in 1894 and he died a year later on<br />

28 September 1895 in Paris, where he had<br />

lived with his wife for the last seven years. At<br />

her request, he was buried in a crypt beneath<br />

the Pasteur Institute, founded by him in 1888<br />

for research into infectious diseases, his tomb<br />

surrounded by Byzantine-style mosaics that<br />

honour his many discoveries.<br />

Arbois: Centre of the Jura winemaking<br />

industry, Arbois was home to the Pasteur<br />

family from 1823; visit at your own pace<br />

with a tablet, ‘guided’ by his nephew.<br />

Walk the Circuit Pasteur; indulge yourself<br />

with handmade chocolates from Maison<br />

Hirsinger; and explore the vineyards and<br />

hiking trails of the local Coeur du Jura area.<br />

coeurdujura-tourisme.com<br />

60 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 61


Baubles, bubbles<br />

Baubles<br />

= bells<br />

MERRY CHRISTMETZ<br />

Just 1.5 hours from Paris by train,<br />

Metz (pronounced Mess) in<br />

Moselle, northeast France, hosts<br />

a marvellous Christmas market.<br />

And, if you love Christmas<br />

markets, fabulous architecture,<br />

streets lined with great shops<br />

and unique boutiques and great<br />

gastronomy – then pop Metz on your<br />

must-do Christmas list…<br />

Metz is Christmas central. Not just<br />

one Christmas market here. There<br />

are five Christmas markets spread<br />

around this compact city in a sort<br />

of ring around the great Gothic<br />

Cathedral. It’s easy to visit them all<br />

on foot or hop on the free navette buses<br />

that traverse the city.<br />

Head to Place de la Republique for traditional<br />

chalets specialising in local products and<br />

gorgeous gifts made by local artisans. Warm<br />

up at the German Christmas Pyramid bar<br />

with a steaming hot chocolate or vin chaud.<br />

Did you know that the German pyramid<br />

decorations were the pre-cursor to Christmas<br />

trees – which originated in neighbouring<br />

Alsace in the 16th century? At this market pick<br />

up a brilliant bauble for your tree. Meisenthal<br />

glassware have a chalet at the market – they<br />

are famous in these parts and make wonderful<br />

Christmas family heirloom decorations.<br />

In Place Saint-Louis, is a traditional gifts<br />

Christmas market with a carousel where the<br />

scent of gingerbread will make you smile. In<br />

Place d’Armes, there are more Christmas<br />

chalets and<br />

a Ferris<br />

Wheel from<br />

where you<br />

will have<br />

the most<br />

incredible<br />

views over<br />

the lit up<br />

Cathedral.<br />

And in<br />

Place Saint-<br />

Jacques,<br />

there are<br />

beautiful<br />

specialist<br />

artisan<br />

products on<br />

offer from<br />

food to gifts.<br />

62 | The Good Life France Marché de Noël Place Saint-Louis©Philippe Gisselbrecht<br />

The Good Life France | 63


Sentier des Lanternes<br />

Bubbles<br />

Meanwhile at Place de la Comédie the whole<br />

Christmas market is devoted to food – and it’s<br />

the perfect place to pop for a glass of bubbles,<br />

an aperitif, snack or delicious street food.<br />

Tip: Moselle was an important wine region<br />

in the 18th and 19th centuries producing<br />

Pinot Noir to make Champagne in Reims.<br />

But phylloxera, war and the creation of the<br />

Champagne AOC meant the wines of Moselle<br />

were almost entirely wiped out. In recent years<br />

there has been a resurrection of the vines and<br />

you can now enjoy superb reds, whites, rosés<br />

and even a Moselle sparkling wine…<br />

Bells<br />

Make a stop at the grand Gothic Saint-<br />

Etienne Cathedral in the city centre, a jewel<br />

of a building with a whopping 6,500m²<br />

(1.6 acres) of stained glass windows from the<br />

13th century to the 20th century including<br />

windows by Marc Chagall. All this glorious<br />

glass art has earned the Cathedral the<br />

nickname “The lantern of God”.<br />

Unusually one of the bells of the cathedral rings<br />

out at 9.50pm each night. The bell is named<br />

Anne de Turmel, after the daughter of Joseph<br />

de Turmel who was the mayor of Metz (1816-<br />

1830). Anne was engaged to be married but her<br />

fiancée was attacked and his body thrown in<br />

the river. Legend has it that the Mayor ordered<br />

a 10pm curfew and commissioned a bell to<br />

remind the inhabitants of the time. It’s said that<br />

the heartbroken Anne threw her engagement<br />

ring into the molten liquid of the bell cast. Alas<br />

the legend is untrue, the bell once belonged<br />

to a hospital but was acquired to apparently<br />

remind the Messines – people from Metz – to<br />

clean the streets each morning and to go home<br />

before dark each night!<br />

Sentier des Lanternes – a<br />

luminous Christmas event<br />

As darkness falls, Place Boufflers in the centre<br />

of Metz, a stone’s throw from the Christmas<br />

market in Place de la Republique is transformed<br />

into a magical lantern trail. The ‘lanterns’ are<br />

giant light sculptures – snowflakes, gingerbread<br />

men, elves, toy soldiers, lollipops, teddy bears,<br />

rabbits on scooters. Trees are decorated with<br />

LED lights, so that they look as if they have<br />

come from the Magic Faraway Forest. into a<br />

wonderland of giant light sculptures. In 2021 it<br />

featured more than 1 million LED lights, 2000<br />

lit up figures including a gingerbread house, and<br />

a 4 metre high St Nicolas on his donkey! There<br />

are 9 kilometres of cable involved on an area<br />

of 3000sqm. It’s totally free. 26 November-30<br />

December <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

See the Metz Tourist office for details of<br />

Christmas festivities and much more:<br />

tourisme-metz.com<br />

Find out more about Christmas in<br />

Moselle: noelsdemoselle.fr<br />

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Frosty cobbled streets,<br />

charming bistros and<br />

picturesque squares lined with<br />

ancient buildings on top of<br />

a hill – Montmartre’s chilly<br />

charms are irresistible.<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> in<br />

PARIS –<br />

a feast for<br />

the senses<br />

500 years ago, King Francis 1 of France<br />

said “Paris is not a city, it’s a world…” That<br />

still holds true today, and in each season<br />

a different side to the world of Paris is<br />

revealed – especially when winter comes,<br />

bringing a sharp edge to the air, decorating<br />

the streets and buildings with a sparkling<br />

frost and sometimes draping the city in a<br />

blanket of snow.<br />

We asked one of our favourite photographer’s,<br />

Wazim Tagaully, to share some of his favourite<br />

winter wonderland photos of Paris…<br />

Sparkling Galerie Vivienne, a shopping mall built<br />

in the 1820s, is a listed historic monument.<br />

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The white stone Basilica of Sacré-Coeur<br />

shimmers in the snow.<br />

The Canal St-Martin, commissioned by Napoleon in 1802, criss-crossed by iron footbridges<br />

glistens with glacial beauty.<br />

In winter when it snows, Paris turns a whiter<br />

shade of pale.<br />

The Eiffel Tower appears to pop its head into<br />

the clouds on cold nights.<br />

Sip seasonal mulled wine in Le Consulat café<br />

in Montmartre, the favourite of many artists,<br />

including Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and<br />

Toulouse-Lautrec.<br />

Wazim Tagaully’s photos can be purchased<br />

at wazim-photos.com and you can follow<br />

him on Instagram @wazou_75<br />

68 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 69


Katja Gaskell goes walk about in the mountains where the sound of music echoes<br />

The most<br />

unusual<br />

walk in<br />

France<br />

The sun is hanging low in the sky when I meet<br />

Alexandre Guhery on a late summer afternoon<br />

at La Ruche à Gîter. The hostel is in the heart<br />

of the Massif de la Chartreuse, a regional<br />

park which straddles the Isère and Savoie<br />

départements in south-eastern France. It’s a<br />

beautiful setting, an emerald green landscape<br />

punctuated by dramatic limestone cliffs and<br />

overlooked by the peaks of Chamechaude,<br />

Grand Som and the Dent de Crolles.<br />

The area is as popular in the summer months<br />

as it is in winter. When the snow melts and<br />

the first signs of spring appear, walking<br />

shoes replace skis and mountain bikes take<br />

the place of snowshoes. It’s a popular spot<br />

for climbing, hiking and even hang gliding.<br />

Today, however, I’m about to embark on a<br />

less traditional mountain pursuit and follow<br />

Alexandre as he leads me on what is possibly<br />

the most unusual walk in France.<br />

Originally from Brittany, Alexandre Guhery<br />

has lived in Chartreuse for more than ten<br />

years, drawn to the region by his love of<br />

the mountains. He’s tall with silver hair, a<br />

boyish grin, and an infectious enthusiasm<br />

for the Great Outdoors. Recently qualified<br />

as a mountain guide, Alexandre now leads<br />

individuals and groups on walking tours<br />

throughout the Chartreuse mountains. So<br />

far, not so unusual. But Alexandre is not just<br />

a hiking guide, he’s also a concert pianist<br />

and last year he decided to combine his love<br />

of music with his love of the mountains and<br />

launched the “Rando’piano”, a guided walk<br />

that ends with an outdoor piano recital, in the<br />

middle of the forest.<br />

There are 15 of us in the assembled group<br />

and we set off with Alexandre guiding us up a<br />

gentle incline and among the beech and pine<br />

trees. The path is uneven and rocky underfoot,<br />

twisting its way around giant boulders, as the<br />

late afternoon sunlight peers through the tree<br />

canopy. We have only been going 20 minutes<br />

when Alexandre tells us to stop, to spread out<br />

and to simply listen to the sounds of the forest.<br />

This idea of pausing to appreciate nature is<br />

a theme that Alexandre returns to regularly<br />

during our time together.<br />

We continue onwards and upwards, the<br />

rocky path eventually giving way to dirt trails<br />

carpeted in fragrant pine leaves. After a<br />

couple more kilometres we are deep within<br />

the Chartreuse Forest. We walk by ancient<br />

trees, past verges thick with nettles that<br />

have grown waist-high, and across meadows<br />

where wildflowers sway in the warm summer<br />

breeze. The forest is the only one within the<br />

French Alps (and the only one of just 15 in<br />

France) to have been given the title Forêt<br />

d’Exception (Exceptional Forest). This label<br />

is awarded to destinations that promote<br />

the forest heritage and marks the forest as<br />

exemplary in sustainable development.<br />

But these trees hide other stories too; in<br />

the 11th century the Carthusian Fathers<br />

established a small community at the foot<br />

of Charmant Som in the village of Saint-<br />

Pierre-de-Chartreuse. From this small<br />

beginning grew a new monastic order that<br />

spread across Europe. Still today some 30<br />

monks live in the Grande Chartreuse, the<br />

head monastery, leading a life of solitude<br />

and silence. They are also the keepers of the<br />

famous Chartreuse liqueur recipe. Monks<br />

have been making this herbal liqueur, the<br />

only one in the world with a natural green<br />

colour, since 1737. The recipe, which blends<br />

70 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 71


130 different plants and herbs, is known only<br />

to a handful of monks.<br />

After two hours of gentle walking (this is very<br />

much a stroll as opposed to a hike) we arrive<br />

at a lookout and see the sun beginning to<br />

set over the lush green valley below. In the<br />

distance is the city of Lyon and the summit of<br />

La Grande Sure, which rises to nearly 2,000<br />

metres. We don’t stay long, however, because<br />

our concert is about to begin. A short walk<br />

from the lookout the last of the sunlight shines<br />

on a large overgrown meadow surrounded by<br />

pine trees where, in the middle, there stands<br />

an upright piano under a bottle-green canopy.<br />

“For me, this walk through the forest is like<br />

walking into a very long concert hall,” explains<br />

Alexandre. “I like spending time with my<br />

audience rather than being thrust straight into<br />

the spotlight.”<br />

To one side of the makeshift stage lie a<br />

handful of yellow and turquoise bean bags.<br />

Some camping chairs have also been set up,<br />

draped in pale yellow blankets to ward off the<br />

inevitable evening chill. We’re each handed a<br />

glass of chilled rose and people bring picnics<br />

out of backpacks, cutting slices of saucisson<br />

and Chartreux cheese, and tearing off pieces<br />

of baguette, while Alexandre prepares himself.<br />

And then the recital begins, and it is nothing<br />

short of magical.<br />

During the 50 minutes that Alexandre<br />

plays, without sheet music, we’re treated to<br />

wonderful renditions of works by composers<br />

including Bach, Brahms and Chopin. The last<br />

of the remaining sunshine quickly disappears<br />

and soon the only light comes from the two<br />

head torches dangling from the ceiling of<br />

the canvas canopy. When we arrived in the<br />

meadow Alexandre had explained that he<br />

would much rather play in the open air but<br />

needs the tent covering to stop humidity<br />

affecting the piano. But as the skies grow ever<br />

darker, I disagree with him, the torches in the<br />

canopy shine like a spotlight on the performer.<br />

The last song, Metamorphosis by Philip Glass,<br />

is a dramatic and soul-stirring finale after<br />

which nobody moves for several minutes.<br />

It’s nearly 10pm by the time the recital finishes<br />

but fortunately the walk back to our original<br />

meeting point is much faster and takes just<br />

25 minutes. We start the descent wearing our<br />

head torches but soon turn these off and let<br />

the light of the stars guide us instead. It seems<br />

only fitting to end the most unusual – and<br />

wonderful – walk in France the way that we<br />

began, very much at one with nature.<br />

Other things to do in the<br />

Chartreuse region<br />

Although the Grande Chartreuse is closed<br />

to visitors, you can walk to the monastery<br />

and see the grounds. Start with a visit to<br />

the Museum of the Grande Chartreuse, for<br />

a better understanding of the mystery of<br />

the Carthusian Order and then walk to the<br />

monastery itself. The walk takes roughly<br />

one hour.<br />

Chartreuse appears on almost every menu<br />

but if spirits aren’t your thing, then don’t worry,<br />

there are plenty of other opportunities to<br />

get a taste of this unique liquor from cheese<br />

to ice cream. One of the best ways to try<br />

Chartreuse is to combine it with chocolate;<br />

visit Chocolaterie Sandrine Chappaz who<br />

create award-winning chocolates including a<br />

Chartreuse cocktail inspired collection.<br />

Housed in the mountain church of Saint-<br />

Pierre-de-Chartreuse is the Arcabas Museum.<br />

The museum is dedicated to the works of the<br />

contemporary French sacred artist Jean-<br />

Marie Pirot, better known as Arcabas. It’s<br />

thought that during his lifetime he created<br />

between 4-5,000 works of art, a fraction of<br />

them are on display here.<br />

Katja Gaskell was a guest of Chartreuse<br />

Tourism and Isere Tourism. Alexandre<br />

Guhery runs organised guided walks<br />

including Rando’piano via his company<br />

L’Oreille du Lynx.<br />

72 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 73


LIMOUX, where<br />

the carnival goes<br />

with a fizz<br />

Colin Duncan Taylor goes to a historic carnival and sips the<br />

oldest sparkling wine in the world.<br />

The town of Limoux lies on the river Aude 25<br />

kilometres upstream from Carcassonne in Aude,<br />

Occitanie. It has two claims to international<br />

fame: its sparkling wine and its carnival.<br />

The longest carnival in the<br />

world<br />

Venice may boast the oldest and Rio the<br />

largest, but Limoux claims to have the longest<br />

carnival in the world. Around 600 dancers<br />

belonging to 30 different troupes ensure that<br />

these festivities can be sustained three times a<br />

day, every weekend – plus Mardi Gras – from<br />

the end of January until early April.<br />

The Carnival of Limoux is unusually compact.<br />

Here, there are no carnival floats, no long<br />

parades. Events unfold in the intimacy of<br />

the medieval square with a graceful beauty<br />

which has been described as a miraculous<br />

combination of immobility and movement.<br />

Join them for a slow dance<br />

Each procession starts at one of the cafés<br />

on the square and continues to the next, and<br />

there are so many watering-holes beneath<br />

the arcades, the road is never a long one.<br />

Typically, the dancers advance around 40<br />

metres in 20 minutes, so spectators have all<br />

the time in the world to take photographs and<br />

admire the masquerade.<br />

Two accessories are essential to the traditional<br />

carnival dancer’s performance. First the wand,<br />

around two metres long and made from reeds<br />

gathered on the Mediterranean coast just<br />

after the first frosts of January. Second, the<br />

confetti bag, coloured to match each dancer’s<br />

costume, and large enough to hold several<br />

kilograms of shredded paper.<br />

The birth of the carnival<br />

The carnival started in the 16th century when<br />

most wind or water mills around Limoux were<br />

worked by tenants. These millers had to pay<br />

their annual rent at the end of winter, and<br />

each year when they had settled their dues,<br />

they celebrated. Legend claims that when, in<br />

1582, this celebration coincided with Mardi<br />

Gras, the millers paraded in the central square<br />

accompanied by oboes, fifes and drums. The<br />

Carnival of Limoux was born.<br />

Rowdy and sometimes<br />

violent<br />

These festivities sometimes turned violent.<br />

Take 1605, for example: there was a torchlit<br />

procession and joyful dancing beneath the<br />

arcades to the music of violin and drums, but<br />

then fighting broke out between rival factions,<br />

and some of the town’s consuls were roughed<br />

up in the melee. In the 18th century, the<br />

74 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 75


Blanquettes de Limoux©Anthony Molina<br />

Abbaye de Saint-Hilaire_2016_ © Alain François Photographies<br />

carnival was often a rowdy affair fuelled by<br />

tensions between the rich and the poor. There<br />

were frequent stand-offs between hatters,<br />

weavers and merchants, and municipal<br />

authorities were jeered and even stoned.<br />

Today, the carnival is a peaceful affair and the<br />

only threat of violence comes on the last night<br />

when the carnival king is tried for his crimes.<br />

Seven judges hear evidence for and against<br />

the poor king, although everyone knows what<br />

the verdict will be. It’s the same every year:<br />

death by burning. Luckily, the king is only a<br />

straw mannequin and he goes up in flames like<br />

a Christmas tree.<br />

The oldest sparkling wine<br />

in the world<br />

The last night of the carnival is known as la<br />

nuit de la blanquette, named in honour of a<br />

sparkling wine called Blanquette de Limoux,<br />

the town’s other claim to fame. Blanquette de<br />

Limoux promotes itself as the oldest sparkling<br />

wine in the world, and there is no better place<br />

to taste it than at the carnival. These festive<br />

companions share a heritage that stretches<br />

back to the 16th century, and according to<br />

some sources, the slow rhythmic gestures<br />

of the carnival dance represent the peasants<br />

pressing the grapes with their feet. But how did<br />

the wine first get its fizz?<br />

The legend of Saint-Hilaire<br />

The Abbey of Saint-Hilaire lies halfway<br />

between Carcassonne and Limoux. It was<br />

founded by Benedictine monks in the early<br />

ninth century. Before long, they were tending<br />

vines, and a document from the year 931<br />

records that a vineyard was donated to the<br />

abbey. In the bedrock beyond the cloisters, the<br />

monks dug out caves, and this is where they<br />

made and stored their wine.<br />

One day in 1531, a monk was sent to fetch<br />

a bottle, and on removing the stopper, he<br />

discovered that a second fermentation had<br />

taken place. The wine was fizzy. By accident,<br />

the monks of Saint-Hilaire had created the<br />

world’s first sparkling wine.<br />

The story does not end there. A century later,<br />

legend has it that the monks received a visit<br />

from one of their brothers in the north. Naturally<br />

they served him their sparkling wine, and the<br />

good Dom Pérignon returned to his monastery<br />

at Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers in Champagne with<br />

the recipe hidden in his habit.<br />

Fake news or hard news?<br />

The first part of this legend gained a little<br />

more credibility when a document dating to<br />

1544 was discovered in 2013. It is a ledger<br />

kept by the Limoux town treasurer, and an<br />

entry records that various wines were supplied<br />

to Sieur d’Arques, and among them were four<br />

pints of blanquette to accompany the good<br />

lord’s dinner (today, Sieur d’Arques is the name<br />

of the main cooperative and it is an excellent<br />

place for a dégustation.)<br />

Unfortunately there was no mention of<br />

the wine being effervescent, or even that it<br />

came from Limoux. Blanquette was the old<br />

name for a local type of vine which is now<br />

called mauzac, and any wine derived from<br />

the mauzac or blanquette vine was also<br />

called blanquette, and although this vine was<br />

primarily cultivated in the Midi, it was not<br />

exclusive to Limoux.<br />

So, although today a wine can only be called<br />

Blanquette de Limoux if it is effervescent<br />

and contains at least 90% mauzac, we know<br />

little about the wine that Sieur d’Arques was<br />

drinking in 1544, apart from its name.<br />

Silencing the doubters<br />

We have to wait until the start of the 19th<br />

century for the first written confirmation<br />

of effervescence: in 1801, a certain Dr Fau<br />

claimed that his sparkling mineral water was<br />

far superior to Blanquette de Limoux with its<br />

frothy fermentation. Some wines from Limoux<br />

were undoubtedly effervescent before then,<br />

but it is impossible to say when this became a<br />

reliable and deliberate characteristic.<br />

In conclusion, although the claims of seniority<br />

made by Blanquette de Limoux remain<br />

unproven, nowhere else has presented a more<br />

credible pitch for the title, Oldest Sparkling<br />

Wine in the World. Come to the carnival,<br />

follow a troupe of dancers into a bar, and you<br />

won’t find anyone who doubts the legend.<br />

After a few glasses, neither will you.<br />

76 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 77


Switzerland - without depending on either<br />

of them.”<br />

Voltaire acquired his estate in 1759 and<br />

restored the existing castle, it’s just a<br />

five-minute drive from the French exit to<br />

Geneva Airport. And it’s here that he found<br />

intellectual freedom, away from the pressures<br />

of Versailles, and where he led his most<br />

productive years until his death in 1778. He<br />

hardly ever left the estate, instead he was<br />

inspired to write, protesting against social<br />

injustice, political and religious intolerance,<br />

mostly through his literary work as well<br />

as letters of activism, which, along with<br />

furnishings of the period and his collection<br />

of portraits and figurines are displayed in the<br />

castle which is now a museum.<br />

HIDDEN GEMS<br />

of FRANCE<br />

Discovering Pays de Gex<br />

© Nicolas Gascard<br />

A spot of wellness<br />

Close by, the spa town of Divonne-les-Bains<br />

is a perfect place to contemplate Voltaire’s<br />

philosophies while sitting on a beach with<br />

a cocktail, watching swimmers and paddle<br />

boarders enjoy the water at your feet. A<br />

couple of palm trees sway in the wind, but<br />

the backdrop doesn’t lie. You’re not in the<br />

tropics but a fountain’s squirt from the French<br />

Alps. Divonne is popular for its thermal<br />

baths, believed to sooth mental and physical<br />

ailments, but if that’s not your thing, maybe<br />

a round of golf at one of the several courses,<br />

or playing blackjack at the Grand Hotel du<br />

Amy McPherson visits the small department of Pays de Gex and finds that<br />

sometimes, small regions are huge fun…<br />

The Pays de Gex in the Ain department,<br />

wedged between Lake Geneva and the Jura<br />

Mountains is bijou and beautiful. Depending<br />

on the season, you could be hiking or skiing a<br />

mere 15 minutes after exiting Geneva airport,<br />

and immediately feel like you’re 1000 miles<br />

away.<br />

And that is exactly what the great French<br />

writer and philosopher Voltaire thought too.<br />

A corner of worldly<br />

influence<br />

François-Marie Arouet, known as Voltaire,<br />

made Ferney, a small hamlet in Pays de<br />

Gex, his retreat in the 18th Century. It was<br />

this ‘between places’ feeling that he desired.<br />

Talking of his castle, he declared “is there<br />

a happier state? I am between France and<br />

Voltair Castle in Ferney<br />

78 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 79


Say Cheese<br />

One of Pays de Gex’s most treasured products<br />

is Bleu de Gex, a raw cow’s milk cheese AOC<br />

(Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée). You are<br />

unlikely to find Bleu de Gex in your average<br />

supermarket because production is limited<br />

and strictly controlled.<br />

Domaine might do the trick too. And for those<br />

who prefer a bit more of an active visit, it’s a<br />

fabulous place for cycling.<br />

Playground Jura<br />

Voltair Castle<br />

north through the forest tracks which are some<br />

of the best Nordic skiing sites in winter, and<br />

for the sake of it, I crossed the Swiss border<br />

at La Cure, before following the shadows of a<br />

setting sun.<br />

You can also traverse the mountains on a<br />

mountain-bike version of an e-scooter called<br />

Ze Trott, which rolls effortlessly up the slopes,<br />

from the top of which you can even spot the<br />

big water fountain in Geneva. The main draw<br />

though, is the Alps. White powdered peaks<br />

cover the horizon even on a hot summer day,<br />

and among the many minor mountains, one<br />

distant peak stands regal: Mont Blanc.<br />

“When farmers taste cheese that they think<br />

is not good enough, they throw it away<br />

rather than pass it on for others to taste,”<br />

says Nicolas Guitton, a proud member of the<br />

region’s Bleu de Gex Brotherhood.<br />

When a cheese has its own fraternity, you<br />

know it’s a serious business.<br />

Armed with a plateful of differently aged<br />

Blue de Gex, I was taught the correct way to<br />

appreciate the taste.<br />

“It’s about the feeling, smell and texture.<br />

The test is simple. Squeeze, smell it to see<br />

if it makes you feel you’re wrapped in the<br />

mountains and then taste it.”<br />

© OTI Pays de Gex Monts Jura<br />

Pays de Gex is a place where size doesn’t<br />

matter. With so much packed into this<br />

relatively unknown corner of France, it is no<br />

wonder that even the Swiss are tempted to<br />

cross over the borders to enjoy many of its<br />

attractions.<br />

Find out more about Pays de Gex at:<br />

paysdegex-montsjura.com<br />

The Jura Mountain range cascades from the<br />

Bern area in Switzerland, pouring itself into<br />

France through three departments, before<br />

ending in Ain, with the highest point of the<br />

Jura rising in Pays de Gex. It’s in the heart of<br />

one of the largest National Nature Reserves<br />

in France, laced with hiking trails, and is<br />

perfectly located for mountain sports. Here<br />

you’ll find one of the longest rail toboggan<br />

runs in Europe, as well as France’s steepest<br />

zipline at the Col de la Faucille, a ski area<br />

in winter, active adventures playground in<br />

summer.<br />

Riding an e-bike hired from Le Tiapi Sports in<br />

Mijoux, a pretty village where many houses<br />

feature colourful frescoes representing trades<br />

of yesteryear, I sped along narrow country<br />

roads. Accompanied by the sound of tinkling<br />

cow bells, I admired the hills from the floor<br />

of the valley, just under the Crêt de la Neige,<br />

the highest point of the Jura Massif. Heading<br />

A fort that held its ground<br />

Actually, you can see Mont Blanc from<br />

almost any high ground in Pays de Gex, as I<br />

discovered after climbing 1000 steps to the<br />

top of Fort l’Ecluse which clings onto the rocky<br />

face of the Jura at the very southern tip of<br />

Pays de Gex, with the Rhône River glistening<br />

90 metres below. It once functioned as a<br />

defensive fort, as well as a tax border between<br />

Geneva and France. The road that used to run<br />

through the fort was the only way in and out<br />

of France before modern roads were built, and<br />

this “Pas de la Cruse” was first mentioned by<br />

Julius Caesar in 58BC.<br />

A self-guided tour takes you through tunnels<br />

and up and down steep stairs where soldiers<br />

used to have to carry cannons to different<br />

parts of the fort using a labour-intensive rope<br />

system. The fort is now famous for its annual<br />

Jazz festival.<br />

80 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 81


Food writer and Toulouse local Ally Mitchell takes you on a tour through Toulouse’s gutbusting<br />

and most delicious must try foods.<br />

A Taste<br />

of<br />

FRANCE<br />

Taste Toulouse:<br />

10 pink city…<br />

legendary foods<br />

of the<br />

France is without a doubt a world leader in<br />

culinary excellence. It’s the country with the<br />

most Michelin stars throughout Europe – 627<br />

currently – and can proudly declare some<br />

of the most iconic foods in the world as their<br />

own. Pleasure is on the menu across the<br />

country with regional specialities owning star<br />

status.<br />

Temptations of tasty<br />

Toulouse<br />

Toulouse, nicknamed la ville rose thanks to<br />

its many buildings in magnificent shades of<br />

pink through terracotta, is a city of winding<br />

cobbled streets, timber-framed houses - and<br />

a bustling food scene. The city’s delicious<br />

temptations are irresistible even if, as you’re<br />

about to find out, they might add a few<br />

pounds! Some of these recommendations are<br />

heavy with regional significance, while others<br />

demonstrate the city’s expanding menu to<br />

cater to all tastes. Most importantly, these 10<br />

foods are tributes to France’s delicious cuisine<br />

– and put Toulouse firmly on the food map.<br />

Cassoulet First is, of course, cassoulet. If<br />

you visit Toulouse without trying this famous<br />

regional delicacy, then your experience is<br />

incomplete! To say the southern cassoulet<br />

is hearty is an understatement. It is a<br />

celebration of meat, surrounded by baked<br />

white beans which, thanks to their thin skins,<br />

soak up all the rich flavours. Cassoulet<br />

originated in the medieval era as peasant<br />

food and cities across the region all serve<br />

their own versions with either mutton, duck<br />

or goose. In Toulouse cooking it is considered<br />

an art, often presented with a saucisse de<br />

Toulouse as well as the preferred meat of the<br />

chef, duck confit. Cooked low and slow, the<br />

dish is meltingly soft.<br />

Saucisse de Toulouse Dating back 250<br />

years, saucisse de Toulouse is sold in coils, like<br />

a pink pudgy snake. Made from pork mince,<br />

pork belly and the butcher’s own ‘secret’<br />

seasonings, it is an essential ingredient in the<br />

regional cassoulet but is also delicious fried.<br />

Magret de Canard And yes, the meat<br />

continues! An iconic dish of the south-west<br />

magret de canard – seared duck breast – is<br />

one of the most revered dishes across France.<br />

Cooked like a steak, duck breast is pan-fried<br />

82 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 83


Place du Capitole CAR© Arnaud Späni<br />

Trafic%5D-%5Bthegoodlife_france%5D-%5B300x-<br />

250%5Duntil<br />

the skin is crisp and golden, and the meat<br />

is served blush pink and sliced. You’ll find it<br />

on the menu of almost every restaurant in<br />

Toulouse.<br />

Charcuterie While on the subject of meat,<br />

don’t miss the charcuterie of Toulouse. Local<br />

bars serve your aperitif with cured and cold<br />

meats and pâtés, most of which are local or<br />

market purchases.<br />

Don’t miss Marché Victor Hugo, everywhere<br />

you look there are saucissons and dried<br />

shoulders of jambon hanging from the ceiling<br />

and terrines, rillettes and pâté enshrined in<br />

glass cabinets.<br />

Cheese While wandering those hallowed<br />

aisles of Marché Victor Hugo, the fromageries<br />

will be calling your name! France and its<br />

estimated 1600 types of fromage go hand<br />

in hand. Try Pavé Toulousain, a cube shaped<br />

cows cheese whose edible grey rind resembles<br />

a brick.<br />

Sandwiches. The sublime baguette avec<br />

jambon et beurre served with cornichons<br />

epitomises the rustic simplicity of French<br />

cuisine. In Toulouse delicatessens reach<br />

new heights using a bounty of quality<br />

chorizo, serrano ham and Manchego from<br />

neighbouring Spain, as well as dried duck as a<br />

tribute to its Toulousain roots.<br />

Vegetarian food You might be wondering if<br />

you’ll starve during your visit to Toulouse if you<br />

don’t eat meat. And if you need a break from<br />

the region’s rich treats, no one could blame<br />

you. Rest assured, many restaurants cater for<br />

vegetarians and vegans.<br />

Pastries At last, the dessert course! The act of<br />

eating a sweet pick-me-up is a serious pastime<br />

here. Try Poussin Bleu or Le Pâtisserie Conté<br />

for exquisite éclairs and other impressive<br />

patisserie pleasures!<br />

Chocolatines This is a controversial topic! In<br />

the south of France, pain aux chocolats are<br />

called chocolatines. Keep your eyes open for<br />

chocolatines that are crisp and glossy and<br />

packed with painstakingly folded layers (try Le<br />

Péché Mignon).<br />

Fruit and vegetables After all the pastries,<br />

cheese and meat, you’ll be waddling.<br />

However, Toulouse has options! Throughout<br />

the summer, peaches, apricots and nectarines<br />

adorn market shelves before figs and plums<br />

appear in the autumn.<br />

Toulouse has something for all tastes!<br />

84 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 85


Finding Napoleon<br />

in Paris<br />

State of a teenaged<br />

Napoleon (Valence)<br />

As a teenager, Napoleon was sent to Paris to<br />

train at the École Militaire, which still stands<br />

at the opposite end of the Champs de Mars<br />

from the Eiffel Tower. He left hurriedly just a<br />

year later, having graduated 48th in a class<br />

of 56 and returned to Corsica to help his<br />

family in the aftermath of his father’s death.<br />

At that point no-one – not even he, though<br />

he had a high opinion of himself – had any<br />

idea of the enormous influence he would go<br />

on to have on the city of Paris. Today there<br />

are many places you can visit to piece his<br />

story together says Marion Jones…<br />

Following his military successes in the<br />

1790s, Napoleon was voted Consul for Life<br />

in 1802, and his self-belief reached epic<br />

proportions. His coronation as emperor in<br />

December 1804 in Notre Dame Cathedral<br />

can be seen in a painting by Jacques-<br />

Louis David, commissioned by the emperor<br />

himself, in the Louvre. Napoleon invited the<br />

pope to crown him but decided to show his<br />

superior authority by turning his back on the<br />

pontiff and placing the crown on his own<br />

head and then placing a crown on the head<br />

of his kneeling wife, his beloved Josephine.<br />

The enormous statue of Napoleon in the<br />

middle of Place Vendôme, near the Ritz<br />

Hotel was erected at Napoleon’s behest<br />

to celebrate his 1805 victory at the Battle<br />

of Austerlitz. There is nothing remotely<br />

modest about it. Napoleon stands dressed<br />

as a Roman Emperor atop a 40m high<br />

column. It is decorated with bronze reliefs<br />

portraying scenes from the battle, made<br />

from hundreds of canons captured from the<br />

defeated Russian and Austrian armies. Quite<br />

a message. The whole thing was briefly torn<br />

down in the 1870s, criticised during the Paris<br />

Commune as a ‘symbol of despotism’, but reinstated<br />

just a few years later.<br />

Two more monuments Napoleon<br />

commissioned in his own honour are the Arcs<br />

de Triomphe. The smaller Arc de Triomphe<br />

du Carrousel, built in pink marble in 1806<br />

stands at the Louvre end of the Jardin des<br />

Tuileries. The much larger and better-known<br />

86 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 87


Arc de Triomphe, stands at the end of the<br />

Champs-Élysées. Napoleon promised his<br />

troops at Austerlitz that they would have the<br />

honour of ‘going home beneath triumphal<br />

arches’ and building began when the first<br />

stone was laid on his birthday, August 15th,<br />

1806. But it took decades to be completed<br />

and was only finally inaugurated in 1840 when<br />

Napoleon’s coffin was carried beneath it to<br />

reach his final resting place at Les Invalides.<br />

A visit to the Château de Malmaison, the<br />

country retreat Napoleon bought because<br />

Josephine fell in love with it, gives an insight<br />

into a more personal side of his story. Some<br />

of its rooms are very Napoleonic in style.<br />

The Salle de Conseil (meeting room) is<br />

decorated to resemble a military tent and the<br />

large library houses his desk and some 500<br />

books, which are leather-bound and bear his<br />

monogram, B-P for Bonaparte. Upstairs is<br />

the Arms Room where you can see another<br />

Jacques-Louis David painting, ‘Napoleon<br />

crossing the Alps’, and the Austerlitz table,<br />

commissioned by Napoleon, on which a large<br />

central portrait of him is surrounded by smaller<br />

pictures of the generals who helped him win<br />

the battle.<br />

Chateau de Malmaison<br />

Napoleon’s library Fontainebleau<br />

Place de Vendome<br />

© Marc Bertrand,<br />

Paris Tourist Office<br />

Arc de Triomphe © Jacques Lebar, Paris Tourist Office<br />

Les Invalides © Daniel Thierry, Paris Tourist Office<br />

l’Armée. There are displays of some of his<br />

field equipment, medals, clothes, and one of<br />

his famous bicorn hats. More widely, there<br />

are displays of the weapons and uniforms of<br />

his day. And, connected to the Invalides is<br />

the magnificent Église du Dôme where his<br />

tomb is on display in the middle of a vast<br />

circular domed hall. By the time his body was<br />

returned from exile 19 years after his death,<br />

the Bourbon royal family was back on the<br />

throne, but half a million people still turned<br />

out to line the streets to honour this former<br />

Emperor of France.<br />

In the space beneath his tomb the wall is<br />

decorated with some of his words, expressing<br />

what he saw as his legacy. His Code<br />

Napoleon, which revolutionised the laws of<br />

France did, he said, more good for France<br />

than all the laws which preceded it. His<br />

reign, in his own words, had ‘left well-being<br />

everywhere’. Immodest, yes, but there is no<br />

doubting Napoleon’s lasting legacy to France<br />

and to Paris, where his presence can be seen if<br />

you know where to look.<br />

On the ground floor are the dining room,<br />

where they hosted candlelight dinners for<br />

important visitors from Paris, music room<br />

and billiards room. Upstairs are sumptuously<br />

decorated bedchambers, extensive wardrobes<br />

and dressing rooms - important to Josephine<br />

who once bought 520 pairs of shoes in a<br />

single year.<br />

The Château of Fontainbleau, previously a<br />

royal palace attracted Napoleon as soon as<br />

he became emperor and he had the French<br />

Revolution-damaged castle repaired and<br />

refurbished. There are mementoes ranging<br />

from paintings to pieces of his furniture and his<br />

coronation sword. It was here that Napoleon<br />

signed his abdication in 1814 and made a moving<br />

farewell speech to his Old Guard before leaving<br />

France for exile on the Island of Elba.<br />

It is fitting to end a tour of Napoleon’s Paris<br />

at Les Invalides, home to the Musée de<br />

88 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 89


Fabulous gifts that are perfect for Francophiles<br />

and some great giveaways…<br />

Dreamy French prints and scarfs<br />

Artist Julie has a penchant for Paris. Her watercolours and prints capture<br />

the whimsical allure of French style of the 18th and 19th centuries and<br />

feature icons such as the Eiffel Tower, macarons, ballerinas,<br />

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Art print “Afternoon nap– an<br />

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SomMailier.com is a French Wine Club in the USA. Become a member<br />

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90 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 91


GIVEAWAY<br />

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Perfectly pretty Provence gifts<br />

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GIVEAWAY<br />

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92 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 93


What’s<br />

New?<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> <strong>2022</strong><br />

Les Deux Magots © Paris Tourist Office Photographer Daniel Thierry<br />

There’s plenty going on throughout<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> in France – here’s our pick of<br />

some of the best and new events this<br />

season…<br />

National Events<br />

25 December Christmas Day –<br />

National Holiday<br />

1 January New Year’s Day – National Holiday<br />

2 February – La Chandeleur/pancake day<br />

14 February Valentine’s Day<br />

Major Events<br />

Christmas markets<br />

This year the Christmas markets are back in<br />

full swing in France – full of festive, fabulous<br />

fun. Be aware that as part of the energy<br />

savings plan being encouraged in France<br />

Christmas lights are generally going to be<br />

turned off earlier than usual for instance in<br />

Paris where the Christmas display lights will<br />

be switched off at 11.45 pm instead of the<br />

usual 2am.<br />

Read our ultimate guide to Christmas in<br />

France, <strong>2022</strong><br />

Fete des Dindes, Licques, Pas-de-Calais |<br />

10-11 December <strong>2022</strong><br />

A truly charming festival where turkeys are<br />

celebrated in the little town of Licques (around<br />

30 minutes by car from Calais). There’s a<br />

gastronomic fair with wine tasting and food<br />

for all your Christmas luxuries and on Sunday<br />

morning around 11am, hundreds of turkeys are<br />

released to “rampage” through the streets<br />

accompanied by local brotherhoods and<br />

dignitaries in all their finery!<br />

paysdopale-tourisme.fr<br />

Sarlat Truffle Festival, Dordogne |<br />

14-5 January 2023<br />

Indulge in truffle flavoured gourmet<br />

specialities at the big and festive truffle<br />

market on the middle weekend of January<br />

in the enchanting medieval town of Sarlat.<br />

Music, workshops and a festive atmosphere<br />

make this a brilliantly fun event.<br />

sarlat-tourisme.com<br />

Comic Festival, Angoulême, Poitou-<br />

Charentes | 26-29 January 2023<br />

The 50th edition of the Festival International<br />

de la Bande Dessinée (Comic Festival)<br />

draws huge crowds of fans. Competitions<br />

for amateurs and enthusiasts, meet the<br />

professionals, watch them work and ask<br />

questions. The famous comic museum is an<br />

absolutely must see for all fans of the art.<br />

bdangouleme.com<br />

Nice Carnival | 10 – 26 February 2023<br />

Processions, flower parades and flower<br />

battles, rock, pop, fireworks and giants. Blow<br />

the winter cobwebs away at one of the most<br />

colourful and glamorous of all the French<br />

carnivals. nicecarnaval.com<br />

Major exhibitions<br />

William Morris: Art in Everything, La<br />

Piscine Museum, Roubaix, Hauts-de-<br />

France until 8 January 2023<br />

The world famous museum presents the work<br />

of William Morris (1834-1896) for the first time<br />

in France. Roubaix-lapiscine.com<br />

2023<br />

The 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance car<br />

race will celebrate its 100th anniversary race<br />

in Le Mans, 10-11 June 2023.<br />

Tour de France 2023 will take place from<br />

1-23 July starting in Bilbao in Spain and<br />

ending as always in the Champs-Elysees,<br />

Paris. The riders will pedal right across France<br />

from Bordeaux through Limoges, volcanic Puy<br />

de Dome, Burgundy and the French Alps.<br />

The 2023 Rugby World Cup will be held<br />

in France from 8 September – 28 October<br />

2023. 20 countries will compete in more<br />

than 45 matches hosted in nine French cities<br />

and venues. The opening match will see the<br />

home team “Les Bleus” take on the formidable<br />

“All Blacks” of New Zealand at the Stade de<br />

France, Paris.<br />

94 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 95


Your Photos<br />

Eiffel Tower, Paris.<br />

Did you know that Gustave<br />

Eiffel footed 80% of the tower’s<br />

construction costs? In return a<br />

licence was granted for him to let<br />

it stand for 20 years to recoup his<br />

expenses! Photo: @Rom1G18<br />

Every weekend we invite you to<br />

share your photos on Facebook<br />

and Twitter – it’s a great way for<br />

everyone to “see” real France<br />

and be inspired by real travellers<br />

snapping pics as they go. Every<br />

week there are utterly gorgeous<br />

photos being shared, and here we<br />

showcase just a few of the most<br />

popular. Share your favourite<br />

photos with us and the most ‘liked’<br />

will appear in the next issue of<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Brittany, Côtes d'Armor<br />

The house between the rocks,<br />

Gouffre de Plougrescant is located<br />

on the north coast of Brittany.<br />

Photo: Basia Michalowska<br />

Bormes-les-Mimosas, Provence<br />

A reminder that spring is on the way, the<br />

mimosa flowers in the south of France<br />

from January to the end of March.<br />

Photo Francine Varner<br />

Join us on Facebook and<br />

Twitter to like and share<br />

your favourite photos of<br />

France...<br />

96 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 97 Chamonix


Inspiration for your<br />

travels to France<br />

in 2023<br />

French Alps<br />

Planning or dreaming of a visit to France<br />

– we’ve handpicked the best tours and<br />

the best places to stay…<br />

THE BEST TOURS<br />

CroisiEurope – the best cruises in France<br />

CroisiEurope are the largest cruise operator<br />

in France, and their tours are unbeatable.<br />

Sail 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<br />

and fabulous tours that take you to the heart<br />

of each destination. No stressing, no driving,<br />

no wondering how to fit in all the glorious<br />

must-see places or how to reach the off the<br />

beaten track gems, CroisiEurope’s cruises and<br />

excursions take you to the very best of France<br />

– in style.<br />

croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Gascony<br />

Day trips and tour packages all over<br />

France, plus brilliant shore excursions<br />

Ophorus Tours are a French family run<br />

business with huge experience of running<br />

small group tours all over France as well as<br />

shore excursions. There is a huge choice<br />

of tours from fun and informative guided<br />

walking city tours to very carefully crafted<br />

multi regional packages, wine tasting, cycling<br />

and more. Their aim is to show you France as<br />

they believe it should be shown – authentic,<br />

colourful and friendly.<br />

www.ophorus.com<br />

Battlefield tours and historical travel<br />

experiences<br />

Sophie’s Great War Tours are tailor-made<br />

historical travel experiences. This family-run<br />

specialist tour operator creates exceptional<br />

WWI and WWII battlefields tours across<br />

France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Travel<br />

at your pace and explore the destinations<br />

you really want to get to know, at a time to<br />

suit you. Sophie will research the history and<br />

background of soldiers so that each battlefield<br />

tour is a personal historical experience. Her<br />

team can also include additional experiences<br />

to suit you such as chateau visits in the Loire,<br />

Champagne tastings in Champagne and a<br />

classic car tour in Provence. Every itinerary is<br />

created to be perfect – for you.<br />

sophiesgreatwartours.com<br />

Tours for those who love the authentic<br />

Discover the real southern France – from<br />

captivating Carcassonne to magical<br />

Montpellier, or the best of Provence and the<br />

lavender fields, Normandy, Bordeaux and<br />

Dordogne. On these luxury, small group tours<br />

you’ll get to be a temporary local and indulge<br />

in the best gastronomy, discover the beauty<br />

and culture of France...<br />

www.tripusafrance.com<br />

Outstanding Rhone Valley Wine Tours<br />

The Rhone Valley is the ultimate wine lovers<br />

destination. And there’s no better way to<br />

discover this beautiful area of Provence and<br />

its vineyards than with a three day tour with<br />

a local expert guide. This is a unique chance<br />

to experience the real Provence. You’ll meet<br />

local wine makers, visit the grand domaines<br />

and famous estates. And of course, taste the<br />

very best wines and cuisine to match.<br />

rhonewineholidays.com<br />

Fabulous Food Tours of Dordogne<br />

Unique and utterly scrumptious gastronomic<br />

day tours of Dordogne. You’ll be transported<br />

by 2CV through the glorious Dordogne<br />

landscape to visit the most amazing foodie<br />

destinations and taste local specialities<br />

including truffles, caviar and wine. Visit<br />

castles, breath-takingly pretty villages,<br />

vineyards, churches, manors and mills.<br />

perigourmet.com<br />

Carcassonne © Paul Palau<br />

Year round themed and bespoke small<br />

group tours of Provence<br />

Small group tours and customized travelling to<br />

give you memories to last a lifetime. Discover<br />

the best of Provence: Lavender tours, truffle<br />

hunting, grape harvest, and bespoke tours as<br />

well as chauffeur services for day trips or a lot<br />

longer. Emily Durand’s Private Provence tours<br />

are unique, exclusive and truly fabulous.<br />

yourprivateprovence.com<br />

Gascony, the Basque country, Provence<br />

and southern France<br />

Nourish your soul and unleash your spirit of<br />

adventure in Gascony. You’ll experience the<br />

famous food, wine and Armagnac of the region<br />

and discover where to find the best antique<br />

shops and flea markets, the most beautiful<br />

villages and magnificent chateaux. From one<br />

day to weeklong tours that are customised for<br />

you. There are also tours of Provence, southern<br />

France and the Basque country.<br />

frenchcountryadventures.com<br />

Culture & cookery tours in Provence<br />

Cooking classes with chefs in their homes where<br />

you’ll cook “authentic French dishes, no frou-frou”<br />

says host Martine Bertin-Peterson. You’ll shop<br />

at the enchanting street markets with chefs<br />

and dine at the most scrumptious restaurants in<br />

beautiful towns of Provence on this fully escorted<br />

delicious and cultural trip of a lifetime.<br />

goutetvoyage.com<br />

Tailor made tours and itineraries to suit you<br />

Want to take a trip in France that’s totally<br />

about what you want to see and do. RNI Travel<br />

98 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 99


create bespoke itineraries for visits all over<br />

France including Normandy, Paris, French<br />

Riviera and the wine region of Bordeaux.<br />

They’ll oversee everything for you – book<br />

your flights, hire car and guided tours, they<br />

plan your route based on what you want to<br />

see and do, and they recommend, or book<br />

if you prefer, hotels and restaurants. All the<br />

hard work and uncertainty of where to go<br />

and where to stay is removed. You just have<br />

to relax and enjoy the trip of a lifetime.<br />

RNItravel.com<br />

‘Real’ South of France Tours<br />

Occitanie – formerly Languedoc-Roussillon<br />

and Midi-Pyrenees – is to many the real<br />

south of France. Full of hidden gems and<br />

home to captivating Carcasssonne, the<br />

vineyards of Saint-chinian where some of<br />

the very best wines in France are produced,<br />

the historic town of Perpignan and more.<br />

The Real South of France Tours 6 and 7 day<br />

small group tours take you to the heart of<br />

this area and reveal its innermost, delicious<br />

and fascinating secrets. Discover real<br />

France with ‘Real’ South of France Tours…<br />

realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

SUPERB STAYS<br />

Gorgeous chalets, villas and apartments<br />

in the Alps and beyond<br />

Thinking of spending some winter<br />

wonderland time in the snowy Alps?<br />

OVO Network’s exclusive, handpicked<br />

and frankly gorgeous chalets, villas and<br />

apartments in stunning locations turn a<br />

holiday into a dream. There’s not much that<br />

beats sitting in a hot tub or swimming in<br />

your private heated pool as soft snowflakes<br />

fall silently around you. The Alps are<br />

brilliant way to spend Christmas, see in<br />

the new year and enjoy quality time with<br />

your family, friends and even your dog (pet<br />

friendly chalets await!).<br />

ovonetwork.com<br />

Cognac no. 22 – luxury farmhouse in<br />

Charente-Maritime<br />

A 19th century traditional farmhouse with<br />

a luxurious pool is in a tranquil village<br />

surrounded by vineyards and fields of summer<br />

sunflowers. Close to the Charente River and<br />

the market towns of Rouillac and Matha, this<br />

gorgeous holiday rental is ideally situated for<br />

trips to the historic towns of Cognac, St Jean<br />

d ‘Angely, Saintes and Angoulême and the<br />

Atlantic Coast beaches.<br />

Cognac-no22.com<br />

Stunning B&B near Bergerac, Chateau<br />

Masburel<br />

With honey-toned stone walls and sage-green<br />

shutters, the 18th Chateau de Masburel wine<br />

domaine and B&B, has a timeless, unhurried<br />

feel to it. It’s a working winery producing<br />

award winning wines. Close to Bergerac,<br />

Saint-Emilion and ten minutes from the<br />

bastide town of Sainte-Foy-la-Grande on the<br />

banks of the River Dordogne in the Gironde.<br />

it’s the perfect base to explore the area and<br />

enjoy a relaxing break.<br />

Chateau-masburel.com<br />

Gorgeous gite in a wine making village in<br />

Burgundy<br />

La Maison des Chaumes is a bright and<br />

charming gite in the charming winemaking<br />

village of Villers-la-Faye in the Côte de Nuits.<br />

It’s minutes away from Burgundy’s crown jewel<br />

– historic Beaune, and just up the hill from the<br />

famed vineyards of Nuits-Saint-Georges and<br />

Aloxe-Corton.<br />

lamaisondeschaumes.com<br />

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100 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 101


8<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> Feel Good<br />

Films to Watch and<br />

LEARN FRENCH<br />

Stoke the fire and gather round the TV,<br />

popcorn et chocolat chaud at the ready.<br />

We’ve compiled a list of our favourite<br />

winter feel good films to watch and study<br />

French. We’ll start with our ‘winter warmer’<br />

movies, before listing some Christmas<br />

classics to get you in the festive spirit!<br />

Learning through film is one of the most<br />

effective ways to study a language. Not<br />

only will you learn ‘real’ French vocabulary<br />

in context, you’ll also have great fun as you<br />

immerse yourself in French culture.<br />

<strong>Winter</strong> Warmers<br />

1. Amélie – 2001<br />

Amélie is one of French international<br />

cinema’s biggest successes. Following the<br />

death of Princess Diana, Amélie decides<br />

to help those around her by secretly<br />

orchestrating their lives. She soon realises<br />

she has been neglecting her own interests,<br />

and her quirky would-be lover in the<br />

process.<br />

3. Les Émotifs anonymes<br />

(Romantics Anonymous) – 2010<br />

Angélique, a master chocolatier, and<br />

chocolate factory owner Jean-René, are too<br />

shy to admit their love for each other. The film<br />

follows their awkward journey as their feelings<br />

develop for one another.<br />

4. Intouchables (The Untouchables) – 2011<br />

This comedy drama follows the story of<br />

a Parisian aristocrat and his live-in carer<br />

following a paragliding accident. A touching<br />

story about the bond formed between two<br />

men who would never have usually met!<br />

5. Bienvenue chez les Ch'tis<br />

(Welcome to the Sticks) – 2008<br />

Despite living a comfortable life in the<br />

picturesque Salon-de-Provence, Julie has<br />

been suffering from depression for a long time.<br />

To help his wife feel better, Julie’s postmaster<br />

husband plots a move for the family.<br />

Christmas Classics<br />

6. Le père Noël est une ordur<br />

(Santa Claus Is a Stinker) – 1982<br />

Two workers at a suicide prevention hotline on<br />

Christmas eve get the shock of their lives as a<br />

pregnant woman, her abusive boyfriend and a<br />

transvestite visit their offices.<br />

7. L'apprenti Père Noël<br />

(Santa’s Apprentice) – 2010<br />

Although Santa doesn’t want to retire, rules<br />

dictate that he must find his successor! An<br />

animated Christmas classic, follow the story<br />

of a young, shy boy in Australia who could<br />

become Santa’s next apprentice.<br />

8. Un conte de Noël<br />

(A Christmas Tale) – 2008<br />

A French family is caught in deep Christmas<br />

friction as the matriarch Junon asks her<br />

children and grandchildren if they are eligible<br />

to become her bone marrow donor.<br />

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2. Populaire (Popular) – 2012<br />

Rose applies to be a secretary at an<br />

insurance firm run by Louis. Louis soon<br />

discovers that Rose is an extremely fast<br />

typer, using only two fingers. He urges her<br />

to enter a speed typing competition if she<br />

wants the job, and soon he is training her to<br />

Sète become the fastest typer in the world.<br />

102 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 103


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Le Havre © F. Godard Normandy Tourist Board<br />

The path of<br />

the river SEINE<br />

Joanna Leggett explores the fascinating history of the river Seine and some of its<br />

most magical ports of call…<br />

The River Seine is France’s second largest<br />

river, from Source-Seine to Le Havre is 780<br />

kilometres and with its tributaries, it drains<br />

an area of almost 79,000 square kilometres.<br />

And, of course, it flows through the Île-de<br />

France, the nation’s heartland and major<br />

metropolitan region. Much of the river is<br />

navigable, for the tidal section of the Seine<br />

Maritime is followed by a canalised section<br />

where locks lift river boats up to the level<br />

of the river in Paris, and then it continues<br />

towards Champagne and Burgundy.<br />

The Seine has long had fans – the<br />

Impressionists painted it time and time again.<br />

In fact impressionism was born from a painting<br />

of Le Havre harbour by Monet which he<br />

named ‘Impression, Sunrise’ in 1874. The list<br />

of names is almost a roll call of some of the<br />

greatest in the world, from works by JMW<br />

Turner to Van Gogh, Renoir, Sisley, Monet,<br />

Manet and Renoir. Then there were the Post<br />

Impressionists from Boudin to Matisse. They<br />

portrayed changing seasons, river and port<br />

activities, Seine-side pastimes and places<br />

where artists stayed or sometimes someone<br />

just rowing along the river (as magically<br />

captured by Caillebotte) while perfectly<br />

attired in top hat, cravat, waistcoat and<br />

104 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 105


striped shirt! Then there is Seurat’s ‘Sunday<br />

Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte’<br />

set on an island in the Seine with everyone<br />

formally attired with hats, parasols with<br />

dresses boasting some very impressive bustles.<br />

The Seine actually rises a long, long way<br />

southeast of Paris (it takes a good three hours<br />

flat out on motorways just to get there) in the<br />

commune of Source-Seine northwest of Dijon.<br />

The spring here is just a trickle, however there<br />

is an artificial grotto which includes a statue of<br />

a nymph, dog and naturally for good measure<br />

a dragon! Apparently on the same site are<br />

the buried remains of a Gallo-Roman temple<br />

(of course the Romans were here first!) while<br />

small statues of the ‘Seine Goddess’ and other<br />

votive offerings found here are now housed in<br />

the museum at Dijon. The name of the river<br />

actually comes from the Latin Sëquana, who<br />

was goddess of the river.<br />

As its path meanders seawards, it leaves the<br />

region of Burgundy and enters Champagne<br />

above Troyes while other rivers join along the<br />

way, perhaps the most well-known of these the<br />

Troyes<br />

Rouen<br />

Marne which joins just as it enters Paris!<br />

Troyes is a delightful medieval town awash<br />

with half-timbered buildings, the heart of<br />

the city coincidentally has the characteristic<br />

shape of a Champagne cork. Here there are<br />

narrow streets, grand 16th century mansions<br />

and beautiful churches.<br />

Les Andelys, near Giverny, Normandy<br />

Then the river winds onwards, past woods<br />

around Fontainebleau until it reaches Paris.<br />

Dividing the city in two, in fact it borders 10<br />

of Paris’ 20 arrondissements and is the city’s<br />

chief commercial waterway. People are either<br />

on its Left or Right Bank. There are 37 bridges<br />

in Paris – the oldest being the Pont Neuf. One<br />

of the most popular bridge is the pedestrian<br />

Pont des Arts which was once smothered with<br />

locks attached by trysting lovers – by 2014<br />

these had got so heavy part of the parapet<br />

collapsed so now lovers have to take a selfie<br />

instead, though it’s said if you kiss someone<br />

as you sail under the Pont Neuf – you are<br />

bound to return to Paris! There are floating<br />

restaurants, discos, expensive cafés and all<br />

sorts of wonderful places to explore along the<br />

banks in Paris.<br />

From Paris the river runs seawards in great<br />

loops through Normandy, past châteaux<br />

and Giverny where Claude Monet lived and<br />

gardened. Onwards it flows through a series of<br />

locks to the heart of Normandy and its capital,<br />

Rouen. It was here Joan of Arc met her sad<br />

end, and it’s said that what was left of her<br />

ashes were tipped into the Seine.<br />

The river passes through the ancient and truly<br />

charming town of Honfleur. Seated at a café<br />

106 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 107


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with a glass of pommeau (the apple-based<br />

apéro traditional to Normandy) beside the<br />

Vieux-Bassin lined with ancient townhouses<br />

watching the sun set, is one of those memorable<br />

moments that stay with you forever.<br />

Then it flows under the Pont de Normandie<br />

in Le Havre, one of the longest cable-stayed<br />

bridges the world, high and wide enough to<br />

allow ocean going vessels to pass beneath<br />

to travel onwards. By this time the Seine<br />

has become a wide, mighty confluence and<br />

here it empties out into the Channel, it’s<br />

journey ended.<br />

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and request your free Buying in France digital guide, or call<br />

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mentioned as well as the rest of France at<br />

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108 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 109


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A floating island of sweet meringue in<br />

creamy crème anglaise – French custard!<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

½ litre milk<br />

1 vanilla pod<br />

4 eggs – separate the yolks from the whites<br />

120g sugar<br />

Pinch of salt<br />

METHOD<br />

Prepare the custard first. Split the vanilla pod<br />

in half. Heat with the milk. As soon as the milk<br />

begins to boil, remove the vanilla pods and<br />

take the milk off the heat.<br />

Separately beat the egg yolks and 50 g of<br />

sugar for 5 minutes. Slowly pour in the still hot<br />

milk, whisking constantly. Reheat everything<br />

over a low heat, stirring. As soon as the foam<br />

disappears from the surface, remove from<br />

heat – it’s ready to serve.<br />

For the snow: Whip the egg whites until stiff<br />

and add a pinch of salt. Once the ‘snow’ is<br />

firm, add the remaining 70g of sugar. Whisk<br />

for 1 minute until very stiff.<br />

For soft meringue: In a pan, pour 5 cm of<br />

water. Simmer the water. Make ‘snowballs’ or<br />

‘eggs’ using two tablespoons to mould them.<br />

Place the meringues in the water and be<br />

careful to not let the balls touch each other!<br />

Cook for about one minute, turn them over<br />

and cook for another minute. Remove them<br />

then drain them delicately.<br />

If you want crunchy meringues: place<br />

a lightly oiled mould onto a rack inside a<br />

roasting tin. Pour boiling water to the height<br />

of the rack. Pipe the meringue mix into the<br />

moulds and bake for 10 minutes.<br />

Place the snow on the custard. You can<br />

decorate with caramel, fruit etc.<br />

110 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 111


Hazelnut Praline or<br />

Praliné Noisette<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

300g/10.5oz raw hazelnuts<br />

37.5ml/2.5 tablespoons water<br />

200g/7oz raw/golden caster sugar<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat oven to 160˚C/325˚F.<br />

Prep Time: 15 minutes<br />

Cook Time: 15 minutes<br />

Total Time: 30 minutes<br />

Portions: 25 x 1<br />

Tablespoon portions<br />

A quick and easy very delicious praline<br />

recipe by Kit Smyth. Often used in<br />

patisserie recipes, it’s also great for<br />

making praline shards for decadent<br />

desserts or cake decorations. Use<br />

carefully, as it is strongly flavoured,<br />

and will add a generously nutty flavour<br />

to any dessert.<br />

Line a baking tray/sheet with parchment,<br />

place the nuts on the tray and pop in the oven<br />

for around 10 minutes, mixing them up halfway<br />

through.<br />

When the time is up, and the hazelnuts are<br />

fragrant, place them into a clean tea towel,<br />

and rub vigorously to remove as much of the<br />

skin as possible. The more peeling you can do,<br />

the smoother the paste will be at the end.<br />

In a non-stick saucepan, add the water and<br />

sugar and bring to a simmer to dissolve the<br />

sugar. Keep the liquidised sugar on the heat,<br />

increasing it slightly until the sugar begins to<br />

boil. Keep cooking the sugar until it turns a<br />

deep golden colour, approx. 9-10 minutes.<br />

Prepare a sheet of parchment paper on the<br />

same tray as before, and lightly oil the paper.<br />

Once golden, turn off the heat to the sugar,<br />

and add the peeled nuts, stirring to coat the<br />

nuts in the golden and syrupy sugar. Pour onto<br />

the oiled parchment paper, and leave to cool<br />

and set over several hours, or place into the<br />

fridge to speed up the process to about 10<br />

minutes.<br />

When set, you can break it up into chunks.<br />

To make a praline paste, place into a food<br />

processor. Blitz on low at first to break up the<br />

chunks further and scrape down the sides<br />

if necessary. Then switch to high to form a<br />

powder, a paste will form as the time goes on.<br />

The paste should form after about 2 minutes.<br />

Pour the praline paste into a mason jar, or<br />

similar, or use right away as required. This<br />

praline paste will keep for up to 1 month in<br />

a pantry.<br />

Prep Time: 30 minutes<br />

Cook Time: 10 minutes<br />

Total Time: 40 minutes<br />

Portions: 6<br />

Chestnut Puree or<br />

Purée de marrons<br />

Deliciously creamy chestnut puree is a<br />

firm favourite in France. It features in<br />

lots of desert recipes from rice pudding<br />

to cakes and ice cream and even spread<br />

on toast. And it’s perfect with eclairs<br />

(see page 114). Kit Smyth’s recipe is easy<br />

to make and utterly scrumptious.<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

455gr/1lb chestnuts, pre-prepared. Or<br />

795g/1.75lbs raw whole chestnuts, and skin<br />

them by your preferred method.<br />

200g/7oz sugar<br />

250ml/1 cup water<br />

5ml/1 tsp vanilla essence<br />

METHOD<br />

Place all the ingredients, except vanilla, into<br />

a medium saucepan, place over mediumhigh<br />

heat, and bring to the boil. Simmer for<br />

25-30 minutes, or until most of the liquid has<br />

evaporated and the chestnuts are tender.<br />

Add the vanilla before straining the nuts from<br />

the liquid, keeping it for later, and allow the<br />

chestnuts to cool a little.<br />

Place the semi-cooled chestnuts into a<br />

food processor, and blend first on low, then<br />

increase to higher speeds, until smooth. Whilst<br />

processing, slowly pour the reserved chestnut<br />

and vanilla liquid into the paste, stopping once<br />

the desired consistency is achieved.<br />

Pour into an airtight container, like a mason<br />

jar, and leave to cool fully before storing in the<br />

fridge. Will keep for up to 10 days in the fridge,<br />

or 6 months in the freezer.<br />

112 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 113


Prep Time: 40 minutes<br />

Cook Time: 40 minutes<br />

Total Time: 1 hour<br />

20minutes<br />

Portions: 12<br />

Festive<br />

Éclairs<br />

Éclairs are one of those wonderful<br />

and iconic French pastries that are<br />

deservedly famous around the world.<br />

Popular with a traditional lusciously<br />

thick and creamy custard filling, they<br />

can also be enjoyed with chocolate or<br />

other delicious flavours.<br />

But these èclairs by Kit Smyth are<br />

something else. Never-fail perfectly<br />

crisp choux pastry, a thick crème<br />

patisserie filling with added sweet<br />

chestnut purèe or hazelnut praline (see<br />

pages 112, 113), and a decorative glacé<br />

icing. They’re just what you want for the<br />

festive season!<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

Pastry:<br />

200ml/7floz water, room temperature<br />

90g/3oz butter or margarine<br />

90g/3oz plain/all-purpose flour, sifted<br />

3 eggs, large, beaten<br />

Crème Patisserie:<br />

1 large egg, whole<br />

1 large egg, yolk only<br />

60g/2oz white caster sugar<br />

15g/1 tablespoon cornflour<br />

25g/1.5 tablespoons plain/all-purpose flour, sifted<br />

280ml/ ½ pint milk, room temperature<br />

Vanilla essence<br />

Chestnut puree or hazelnut praline – see recipes<br />

Glacé Icing:<br />

450g/1lb icing sugar/powder<br />

Hot water<br />

Essence: Vanilla, or other favourite flavours<br />

Food dye if you prefer different colours.<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat your oven to 18˚C/350˚F<br />

Choux pastry: Combine the water and butter<br />

in a deep saucepan, bring to the boil. Remove<br />

from the heat and add the flour all at once;<br />

beat until combined and just coming away<br />

from the saucepan walls. Spread out on a<br />

plate to cool.<br />

Once cool, return to the saucepan, and<br />

gradually add in the eggs, beating well<br />

between each addition. The paste should<br />

be free of any lumps, and shiny. It should be<br />

thickish, holding its shape when tested – ‘drop’<br />

a small amount on a plate to check. It will<br />

be difficult to ‘drop’ if too thick and will lose<br />

spread if too runny. If the latter happens, do<br />

not add any more egg. Rather, add a small<br />

amount (1 teaspoon at a time) of plain/AP flour<br />

to thicken.<br />

On a greased and lined baking tray/sheet,<br />

pipe each éclair approximately 7cms or 3<br />

inches, and roughly 1.5cms/ ¾ inch wide;<br />

leaving plenty of space between each baton.<br />

Spritz the sheet with a little water prior to<br />

placing them in the oven. Once on the oven<br />

rack, close the door and increase temperature<br />

to 190˚C/375˚F, and bake for 20-30 minutes,<br />

or until the pastry is golden and crisp.<br />

Crème Patisserie: separate the whole<br />

egg, reserving the white, and mix the yolks<br />

together with the sugar, sift in the flours, and<br />

half the milk.<br />

Warm the rest of the milk until almost boiling,<br />

then add it to the mixture, pouring slowly<br />

and whisking in gently. Transfer the mixture<br />

to a saucepan and heat over a medium heat,<br />

stirring constantly until thickened, remove<br />

from the heat.<br />

Whisk the egg white until stiff and fold into<br />

the custard mixture. Return to the heat and<br />

stir for about 1 minute, then add the vanilla<br />

essence. Remove from the heat, and cover<br />

with a greaseproof paper circle directly onto<br />

the custard and allow to cool.<br />

Once cool, you can divide and use this<br />

mixture as required, adding chestnut puree,<br />

hazelnut praline, or using without further<br />

flavouring. If adding the praline or puree, add<br />

it in tablespoon amounts, until you reach the<br />

flavour level you enjoy best!<br />

Glacé icing: Place the icing/powdered sugar<br />

into a bowl, and carefully add the hot water<br />

whilst stirring constantly. Only add a few drops<br />

of water at a time, as the sugar will dissolve<br />

quickly. Add the vanilla or other essences;<br />

stop adding water when the consistency runs<br />

evenly and coats the back of a spoon.<br />

Assembly: to build your èclairs, you can cut<br />

the choux pastry almost in half lengthways<br />

before piping some crème patisserie into it, or<br />

you can pipe the mix in with a long-nosed flute<br />

pipe – common for filling doughnuts, etc.<br />

Once filled, carefully dip the top of the èclair<br />

into the icing, or spoon the icing over the top<br />

to coat each pastry. Allow the icing to set<br />

before serving – or it gets very messy!<br />

Festive note: You can use different food<br />

dyes or flavourings to enhance your<br />

icings. For example, a ‘red’ Christmas<br />

pudding flavoured icing with traditional<br />

crème patisserie filling, or verdant green<br />

zigzags against plain white icing for a bold<br />

statement with a praline filling.<br />

114 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 115


Mushroom, Spinach,<br />

& Goat Cheese Wreath<br />

INGREDIENTS<br />

1 lb. (500 g) assorted mushrooms<br />

Extra-virgin olive oil<br />

1 yellow onion, finely chopped<br />

1 clove garlic, finely chopped<br />

7 oz. (200 g) baby spinach, chopped<br />

1 tsp cumin seeds<br />

7 oz. (200 g) fresh goat cheese, crumbled<br />

Finely grated zest of 2 lemons,<br />

preferably organic<br />

Scant 1 cup (4½ oz./125 g) pine nuts<br />

1 small handful dried cranberries (optional)<br />

2 sheets puff pastry, measuring about<br />

8 × 12 in. (20 × 30 cm), preferably all-butter<br />

3½ tbsp (50 ml) whole milk<br />

Salt and freshly ground pepper<br />

4. Fold the long sides over the filling to<br />

form logs, pressing the pastry edges<br />

together to seal. Close the ends, then<br />

turn the logs over so the seams are<br />

underneath. Very carefully shape the<br />

two logs into a wreath. Relax, the<br />

difficult part is done!<br />

5. Cut out leaves or flowers from the<br />

second pastry sheet. Brush them with a<br />

little water and press them gently onto<br />

the wreath. This also allows you to hide<br />

the joins where the two logs meet.<br />

6. Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C/Gas<br />

Mark 5). Whisk the milk with 1 tbsp olive<br />

oil and brush all over the wreath. Bake<br />

for 35–40 minutes, until the pastry<br />

is puffed and golden brown. Let the<br />

wreath cool for several minutes on the<br />

baking sheet, then carefully slide it onto<br />

a large serving plate.<br />

Extracted from My Art of Entertaining: Recipes and<br />

Tips from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen by Héloïse Brion<br />

(Flammarion, <strong>2022</strong>).<br />

Photography © Christophe Roué <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

METHOD<br />

1. Clean and thinly slice the mushrooms.<br />

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet, add the<br />

onion, garlic, and a pinch of salt, and cook<br />

over medium heat until softened. Add the<br />

mushrooms and cook until golden.<br />

Serves 6<br />

ACTIVE TIME: 45 minutes<br />

COOLING TIME:<br />

20-25 minutes<br />

COOKING TIME: 1¼ hours<br />

2. Stir in the spinach and cumin seeds,<br />

followed by the goat cheese, lemon zest,<br />

pine nuts, and dried cranberries, if using.<br />

Season with salt and pepper. Remove from<br />

the heat and let cool for 15–20 minutes.<br />

3. Line a baking sheet with parchment<br />

paper. Cut one puff pastry sheet in half<br />

lengthwise. Place the halves side by side on<br />

the baking sheet and cover each one with<br />

half the mushroom mixture, leaving a 1½-in.<br />

(4-cm) border at each end and a 1¼-in.<br />

(3-cm) border along each side.<br />

116 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 117


Last<br />

Word<br />

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE YOU CAN TRUST<br />

chalet villa château farmhouse apartment vineyard gîte cottage coast country city<br />

If you were to visit my little village on a freezing <strong>Winter</strong>’s day you might well be<br />

forgiven for thinking it had long ago been abandoned. Sitting in a dip in the middle<br />

of the Seven Valleys of Pas de Calais, northern France, this small hamlet of around<br />

170 people battens down the hatches when the chill weather arrives. Shutters are<br />

closed tight on windows and doors to keep out the icy wind that swooshes down the<br />

hills and rolls around the houses. But if you look just a little closer, you’ll spot puffs of<br />

smoke from wood stoves, hanging in the frozen air above the roof tops.<br />

And if you were to come into my house, you would find a hive of activity. This year<br />

we have a guest. Charlie the house hedgehog. We found him in the chicken pen,<br />

very young and very skinny. He missed his chance to hibernate as he should have<br />

done so now he has a maid with room changes and meals twice a day. Then there<br />

are the cats – Fat Cat, Loulou, Shadow, Tigger-the-cat-who-will-always-be-a-kitten,<br />

Winston and Mimi the Marmalade Moggy, Little Socks and Big Socks, a motley crew<br />

of strays of different temperaments who mainly get along but occasionally fall out<br />

like any family. And finally, we have Ronnie and Reggie the twins. Identical Labrador<br />

puppies who arrived as terrified creatures after being locked in a barn 24/7 – now<br />

boisterous and naughty and much loved.<br />

Often our neighbour Jean-Claude pops in to share the gossip, which though it<br />

may be of no interest whatsoever to the sort of newspaper that likes to publish<br />

sensationalised stories, to an ex-Londoner it is an endless source of fascination.<br />

Recently he arrived, pink faced with excitement to tell me that he had heard a<br />

rumour that a big film producer has decided to make a film about the French royal<br />

family at the height of Versailles’ glory – and that the Seven Valleys will be one of<br />

the main locations. “They’re looking for locals to be in the film” he said. “You could<br />

play a mute peasant, as soon as you talk they’ll know you’re not French! I could most<br />

certainly play the part of the sun king Louis XIV” and he patted his ample stomach<br />

and smoothed a whisp of curly hair that had escaped from under his ever present<br />

cap and turned his head slightly to show his best angle.<br />

“More like Burger King” said his wife Bernadette when I told her of his regal ambitions.<br />

<strong>Winter</strong>s here are about good friends, good food, and sharing the good things that<br />

make you smile, even if the village does appear to be deserted when you first see it!<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<br />

EXCLUSIVE<br />

Fairytale Setting<br />

Creuse €318,000<br />

Ref: A06120 - Peaceful 8 bedroom property<br />

comprising 1 house and 2 gîtes.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

EXCLUSIVE<br />

Country Living<br />

Morbihan €219,350<br />

Ref: A15421 - 3 Bedroom country house<br />

with gardens and room for a granny annexe.<br />

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

EXCLUSIVE<br />

Great Location!<br />

Vienne €149,000<br />

Ref: A14369 - 4 Bedroom property with<br />

garden and barn, in a hamlet near amenities.<br />

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Gers €320,000<br />

Ref: A16923 - Lovely 4 bedroom property<br />

set in a pretty village, with over 500m² of land.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Puy-de-Dôme €109,000<br />

Ref: A16485 - 2 Bedroom house with a small<br />

garden, in a quiet hamlet close to amenities.<br />

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Dordogne €203,300<br />

Ref: A14688 - 4 Bedroom family house with<br />

gîte, in a dynamic village with amenities.<br />

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

EXCLUSIVE<br />

Income Potential<br />

Haute-Savoie €798,000<br />

Ref: A15172 - 4 Bedroom house with established<br />

cattery business, Thorens-Glières.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

EXCLUSIVE<br />

Rare Find!<br />

Lot-et-Garonne €249,000<br />

Ref: A16419 - Exceptional 3 bedroom village<br />

house with garden, in the heart of Gascony.<br />

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

EXCLUSIVE<br />

Stunning Views<br />

Orne €194,400<br />

Ref: A16536 - 3 Bedroom stone house with<br />

mature gardens and countryside views.<br />

8% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Start your property search today!<br />

+33 (0)5 53 60 84 88 leggettfrance.com info@leggett.fr<br />

The Good Life France | 119


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