Brimming with fabulous features combined with stunning photographs – inspiring, entertaining and informative destination features - Provence, Loire Valley, Normandy, Lyon, Brittany, Alsace and more. Delicious recipes, culture and history, what's new, the best tours and much, much more...

Brimming with fabulous features combined with stunning photographs – inspiring, entertaining and informative destination features - Provence, Loire Valley, Normandy, Lyon, Brittany, Alsace and more. Delicious recipes, culture and history, what's new, the best tours and much, much more...


Create successful ePaper yourself

Turn your PDF publications into a flip-book with our unique Google optimized e-Paper software.

FREE<br />

The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 33<br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

VA VA VOOM<br />

to Vaucluse<br />

Nature holds a party in<br />

picturesque Provence<br />

Slow travel in the<br />

south of France<br />

Discover sun-kissed<br />

gems – by barge!<br />

A palace built<br />

of pebbles<br />

One of the most extraordinary<br />

buildings in France<br />

Magazine<br />

LYON’S world<br />

beating grub<br />

And heavenly wines<br />

Alsace,<br />

Normandy,<br />

Brittany,<br />

Charente<br />

and more…<br />

Guides, tips and gorgeous<br />

photos Riviera<br />

Delicious recipes<br />

to bring a taste of<br />

France to your home<br />

128 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos

Bienvenue<br />

chalet villa château farmhouse apartment vineyard gîte cottage coast country city<br />


Magnificent Mansion<br />

Orne €291,500<br />

Ref: A16253 - Stunning 6 bedroom mansion<br />

with valley views of Lonlay L’abbaye.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />


Canal du Midi Views<br />

Aude €275,000<br />

Ref: A13918 - Enchanting 3 bedroom<br />

village house with wonderful views.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />


Stunning Location<br />

Lot €299,600<br />

Ref: A11593 - Beautiful house on the edge<br />

of the Quercy regional park.<br />

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Our latest properties for sale across France<br />

Creuse €386,900<br />

Ref: A16844 - Exceptional 5 bedroom<br />

house, renovated to a high standard.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Haute-Vienne €339,000<br />

Ref: A13979 - Delightful 6 bedroom<br />

detached family home set on 7.4 acres.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Savoie €575,000<br />

Ref: A14694 - Ski-in/ski-out apartment in<br />

a superb location in the village of Le Praz.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />


Paris in 30 minutes<br />

Yvelines €983,000<br />

Ref: A18532 - Characterful 4/5<br />

bedroom home with granny flat.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />


Great Potential<br />

Charente €119,200<br />

Ref: A13010 - Two small houses with outbuildings<br />

and lovely walled garden.<br />

12% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />


Dordogne River<br />

Dordogne €424,000<br />

Ref: A15483 - Renovated 3 bedroom<br />

house and garden with lovely river views.<br />

6% 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 />

Information on the risks to which these properties are exposed is available on the Geohazards website:<br />

www.georisques .gouv.fr<br />

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

Spring <strong>2023</strong> issue.<br />

This issue is simply sizzling! As always, it’s chock full of fabulous<br />

features and fantastic photos.<br />

It never ceases to amaze me just how rich the history of<br />

France is – and even more so, just how many traces of the<br />

past remain, preserved in the many historic buildings in every<br />

town and village. In this issue we’ll delve into the past of some<br />

of the great chateaux of the Loire Valley – unbelievably pretty<br />

Ussé (think Sleeping Beauty), Villandry, and the royal castles<br />

of Loches and Chinon where Joan of Arc changed the course<br />

of France’s destiny. We’ll also plunge into Plantagenet history,<br />

and we’ll explore the extraordinary story of a postman who<br />

built a palace from pebbles with his bare hands.<br />

France also has an incredibly diverse landscape – we head<br />

south and explore beauties like gorgeous Sète, Aigues Mortes,<br />

Arles and more. Then north to follow the historic wine route of<br />

Alsace, back to the south to fall in love with glorious Vaucluse<br />

in Provence, where nature has a party in the spring. And we<br />

check out picturesque Perche in Normandy, explore Lyon and<br />

its surroundings, beautiful Brittany and charming les Charentes<br />

– Charente and Charente-Maritime.<br />

Foodies will love the history of St Honoré – the patron saint of<br />

bakers – and also a scrumptious cake. And we’re sharing some<br />

absolutely mouth-watering recipes so you can enjoy a taste of<br />

France at home.<br />

And there’s heaps more – from useful guides to top tours and<br />

what’s new in France.<br />

So, dive into this issue, and don’t forget to subscribe if you’re<br />

not already. The magazine is free (see page 4 to subscribe) so<br />

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

I wish you a very happy spring.<br />

Bisous from my little corner of France<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh<br />

Editor<br />

Follow us on Twitter,<br />

Instagram & Facebook<br />

The Good Life France | 3

To Subscribe to<br />




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

Contributors<br />

24<br />


The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 33 Spring <strong>2023</strong><br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />


8 Oh la Loire!<br />

Fairy tale castles, glorious<br />

vineyards and mouth-watering<br />

gastronomy.<br />

16 Slow Travel in the south of<br />

France<br />

Exploring the most beautiful<br />

villages and towns via the<br />

lagoons and canals of southern<br />

France<br />

Gillian Thornton is an<br />

award-winning travel<br />

writer and member<br />

of the British Guild<br />

of Travel Writers,<br />

specialising in French<br />

destinations and<br />

lifestyle. Her favourite<br />

place? ‘Usually where I<br />

have just been!’<br />

Ally Mitchell is a<br />

blogger and freelance<br />

writer, specialising in<br />

food and recipes. Ally<br />

left the UK to live in<br />

Toulouse in 2021 and<br />

now writes about her<br />

new life in France on<br />

her food blog<br />

NigellaEatsEverything<br />

Jeremy Flint is<br />

an award-winning<br />

photographer<br />

(Association of<br />

Photographers<br />

Discovery Award<br />

Winner, National<br />

Geographic Traveller<br />

Grand Prize Winner,<br />

five-times finalist<br />

Travel Photographer<br />

of the Year) and writer<br />

specialising in travel,<br />

landscape and location<br />

photography.<br />

Natasha Blair is<br />

a member of the<br />

British Guild of Travel<br />

Writers. She became<br />

a Francophile after<br />

studying French<br />

Civilisation for<br />

Foreigners at the<br />

Sorbonne University in<br />

Paris. When possible,<br />

she loves to travel<br />

with her pet passport<br />

carrying dog, Poppy, a<br />

Coton du Tuleur.<br />

Marianne Furnes is a<br />

photographer who lives<br />

in Kristiansand, Norway<br />

where she works as a<br />

patient coordinator at a<br />

Childrens Hospital. Her<br />

stunning photos can be<br />

found on her Instagram<br />

page My French Map<br />

48<br />

16<br />

24 Va va voom to Vaucluse in the<br />

spring<br />

Discover an intoxicating land<br />

of extravagant beauty where<br />

nature holds a party in the<br />

spring.<br />

42 Lyon’s world beating grub<br />

and heavenly wines<br />

Gillian Thornton combines town<br />

and country on a short break to<br />

Lyon and the Beaujolais.<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Front Cover: Villefranche-sur-Mer by our guest photographer<br />

Marianne Furnes, Instagram<br />

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

Editorial assistant: Trudy Watkins<br />

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

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

Digital support: websitesthatwork.com<br />

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

ISSN 2754-6799 Issue 33 Spring <strong>2023</strong>, released March <strong>2023</strong><br />

48 Hidden Gem: A perfectly<br />

ideal Palace<br />

A palace built by a postman<br />

from stones collected on<br />

his rounds, one of the most<br />

extraordinary buildings in<br />

France.<br />


30 Pottering around the Perche<br />

Nestled in Normandy’s deep<br />

south, the Perche Regional<br />

Nature Park offers tranquil<br />

forests and tiny hamlets.<br />

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

36<br />

36 Fairy tale pretty Alsace<br />

A guide to the best villages,<br />

vineyards and castles of Alsace<br />

by award winning photographer<br />

Jeremy Flint.<br />

60 Taste of France: St Honoré<br />

Ally Mitchell investigates the<br />

legend of Saint Honoré and his<br />

importance to the bakers of<br />

France…<br />

65 The spiritual side of the south<br />

of France<br />

A tour that explores the sacred<br />

side of southern France.<br />

70 Plunge into Plantagenet<br />

history<br />

Gillian Thornton follows the<br />

English kings through Anjou and<br />

Normandy.<br />

76 Adventure Sailing holiday<br />

in France<br />

QBE Adventure sailing holidays<br />

for teenagers around the coast<br />

of Brittany aren’t ordinary – they<br />

are life changing experiences…<br />

80 Spotlight on L’Étang de Thau<br />

Natasha Blair explores the pretty<br />

villages strung around a lagoon in<br />

the south of France.<br />


54 Southern France – a land of<br />

enchantment<br />

Photographer Marianne Furnes<br />

captures the magic of Provence.<br />

86 Your photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our<br />

Facebook page.<br />

106<br />

92 Tours de France<br />

The very best of France for your<br />

tours and holidays.<br />

123 A sip of Alsace<br />

Wine expert Laurent Yung<br />

explores the home of the oldest<br />

wine route in France.<br />

126 Last word<br />

Life in rural France.<br />

GUIDES<br />

98 French property and<br />

lifestyle show<br />

A must for anyone dreaming or<br />

planning to buy a property in, or<br />

move to, France. .<br />

102 Brittany – Little Britain<br />

Joanna Leggett explores the<br />

culture, history and lifestyle of<br />

Brittany.<br />

106 The laid-back charms of<br />

Les Charentes<br />

Discover a land of endless<br />

beaches and glorious countryside<br />

in southwest France.<br />


115 Pears in puff pastry<br />

An easy to make but with plenty<br />

of wow factor dessert.<br />

116 Frosted pistachio cake<br />

Deliciously sweet and oh so<br />

pretty, by Héloïse Brion,<br />

Miss Maggie’s Kitchen.<br />

118 Jacques's beef bourguignon<br />

Rich and robust beef stew by<br />

Héloïse Brion, Miss Maggie’s<br />

Kitchen.<br />

120 Braised Ham<br />

Recipe for honey-glazed ham by<br />

Ferrandi Paris.<br />

54<br />


88 What’s New<br />

All the news and events you need<br />

for your next trip to France.<br />

116<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

Janine Marsh visits two great Loire Valley cities, home to royal fortresses – Loches<br />

and Chinon, stopping off en route to discover fairy tale castles and indulge in the<br />

gargantuan gastronomic riches of the region…<br />

Oh la<br />

LOIRE<br />

2<br />

There is an area of the Loire Valley known as<br />

Touraine, one of the traditional provinces of<br />

France whose capital was Tours. During the<br />

political reorganization of French territory<br />

in 1790, Touraine was divided between the<br />

departments of Indre-et-Loire, Loir-et-Cher,<br />

Indre and Vienne. It’s a land of castles,<br />

picturesque villages, historic towns and a<br />

tapestry-like landscape of vineyards, forests,<br />

apple and pear orchards and fields of flowers.<br />

Touraine is home to the royal castles of<br />

Chinon and Loches. An hour apart by<br />

car on a road that was commissioned by<br />

Napoleon Bonaparte, the route between<br />

them is peppered with chateaux and<br />

detour-worthy sites…<br />

Chinon<br />

Chinon has been fought over, conquered and<br />

besieged. Its hilltop fortress has been lived in by<br />

Kings and queens through the ages including<br />

Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, the Elizabeth<br />

Taylor and Richard Burton of the 12th century –<br />

great when in love with each other, destructive<br />

when not. They spent Christmas 1172 there with<br />

their son Richard the Lionheart before it all<br />

went very wrong for this rather dysfunctional<br />

family and they fell out and went to war with<br />

each other. Then Henry imprisoned Eleanor<br />

in Chinon. They never made up and had one<br />

of the messiest separations in history. Henry II<br />

died at Chinon in 1189.<br />

240 years later in February 1429, a 17-yearold<br />

peasant girl called Joan from Lorraine in<br />

northeast France, arrived at the great castle<br />

of Chinon and changed the course of French<br />

history. The Dauphin (son of the deceased<br />

King) was staying there, out of the way of<br />

the English who had taken much of France<br />

including nearby Orléans. Joan persuaded him<br />

to let her lead the French army against the foe<br />

and her victory then led her to Loches which<br />

we’ll come to in a minute.<br />

Chinon<br />

Chinon © Peter Jones<br />

Loches Castle<br />

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

Chinon Castle<br />

Chinon’s castle is powerful looking, built for<br />

defence, long before the days when the Loire<br />

Valley became the playground of the royals<br />

and castles were built for beauty and comfort.<br />

The castle is so high up that you can actually<br />

take a lift to the top.<br />

The history of this grand castle, though it is<br />

now a great sprawling ruin, is palpable even<br />

though all that remains of the great hall where<br />

Joan of Arc made her fiery speech is the<br />

fireplace. The rest of the room was dismantled<br />

alongside much of the castle by Cardinal<br />

Richelieu in the 17th century. He had the stone<br />

transported to create the town of Richelieu<br />

20km away.<br />

The cobbled streets are lined with ancient<br />

houses. This is where the great monk,<br />

philosopher, physician, and writer Rabelais<br />

lived, born it is said on the road just outside<br />

Chinon. He wrote coarse, satirical novels,<br />

his most famous being about two giants with<br />

huge appetites Gargantua (from which we get<br />

the word gargantuan) and Pantagruel, whose<br />

character enjoys wine in Chinon’s former<br />

Roman stone quarries turned cellars.<br />

Place Jeanne d’Arc hosts a twice weekly<br />

market (Thursday/Sunday) and is one of<br />

the best in the region, with stalls brimming<br />

with local produce. It’s the perfect place to<br />

taste the local goat cheese Sainte-Maure de<br />

Touraine, made nearby in the village of the<br />

Chateau d'Usse © Jean-Christophe Coutand<br />

same name. Don’t miss Rue Voltaire which has<br />

the prettiest houses, and pop into the plentiful<br />

boutiques and gourmet shops to stock up on<br />

specialities like marmalade of Touraine, wine<br />

and red wine jam.<br />

Dine at: Les Années 30 in an old mansion<br />

house, 78 rue Haute-Saint-Maurice.<br />

Three must-see castles between Chinon and Loches<br />

Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau © Carmen Pippenger<br />

Château d’Ussé: A stone’s throw from<br />

the river Indre, sitting atop a ridge, this<br />

unbelievably pretty castle is part renaissance,<br />

part Gothic – totally fairy tale. Teeming<br />

with towers and turrets of white tufa stone,<br />

spanning architectural styles from the 1400s<br />

to the 1600s, view it from the bridge across<br />

the river and you’ll think you’ve dreamed<br />

yourself straight into a Sleeping Beauty scene.<br />

So it may come as no surprise to discover<br />

that Charles Perrault (1628-1703), the great<br />

French writer of fairy tales, used this castle as<br />

the setting for his tale la Belle au bois dormant<br />

– Sleeping Beauty.<br />

The 17th century Mansard staircase is<br />

stunning and the rooms are beautifully<br />

decorated including a ‘royal’ bedroom.<br />

Prepared for King Louis XVI it is dominated<br />

by a voluptuous 4-poster bed though alas –<br />

the King never arrived.<br />

Head up into the attic for a raft of rooms<br />

presenting a sleeping beauty scenario<br />

featuring the Wicked Queen, Aurora, her<br />

prince and a whole host of animated fairy<br />

tale favourites. From the top of the castle<br />

the views over the beautiful terraced gardens<br />

below are outstanding.<br />

The Château of Azay-le-Rideau is a little<br />

gem of a castle. I’ve been to a lot of castles,<br />

many are majestic and magnificent but cold<br />

and draughty, and you certainly wouldn’t want<br />

to be lumbered with heating them, but this is a<br />

castle you can imagine living in. Human-sized,<br />

charming and enchanting. Read more about<br />

Azay-le-Rideau here.<br />

A stone’s throw from Azay is the town of<br />

Saché, where the great French writer Balzac,<br />

who was born in Tours, lived in a chateau<br />

belonging to his mother’s lover which is now<br />

a museum. Several of his novels are set in the<br />

Loire Valley “I love it,” he wrote of Touraine,<br />

“not as one loves the cradle of his childhood,<br />

nor as one loves an oasis in the desert; I love it<br />

as an artist loves art.”<br />

Dine at: Follow in Balzac’s footsteps and have<br />

dinner at his favourite restaurant L’Auberge du<br />

12ème Siècle. If only the walls could talk…<br />

1 Rue du Château<br />

Stay at: The utterly charming Hotel de<br />

Biencourt in Azay-le-Rideau<br />

Chateau de Villandry<br />

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

workshops and wine caves, and in the village<br />

of Rivarennes you can taste the famous<br />

local Poire tapée – dried and flattened pear.<br />

In spring don’t miss the beautiful village<br />

of Crissay-sur-Manse and the Vallée de la<br />

Manse, famous for its host of golden daffodils.<br />

This area is so rich in history you come across<br />

one gem after another.<br />

to go to Reims to be crowned King Charles<br />

VII, a defining moment in French history. His<br />

mistress, the beautiful Agnes Sorel died at<br />

Loches aged just 28, and her alabaster tomb<br />

in the castle is exquisite.<br />

At Loches the nasty King Louis XI, son of<br />

Charles VII, hung small iron cages from the<br />

ceiling which he would lock up for years those<br />

who displeased him. The overflow of prisoners<br />

ended up in the dungeons including Ludovica<br />

Sforza, Duke of Milan and one time patron of<br />

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived the last years<br />

of his life not far away in Amboise, a guest of<br />

Francois 1er.<br />

Montrésor © Leonard-de-Serres<br />

Château de Villandry has gorgeous gardens<br />

that are guaranteed to give you garden<br />

envy. Explore a living tapestry of plants and<br />

flowers, but don’t miss a visit inside the castle<br />

which is also utterly glorious. Still lived in,<br />

it’s sumptuously furnished and beautifully<br />

decorated. The castle shop is brilliant, full<br />

of superb souvenirs and packets of seeds<br />

grown on site so that you can take a little of<br />

Villandry’s magic home with you.<br />

Top tip: Lunch at EmmaGine, in nearby<br />

Berthenay which serves local and seasonal<br />

dishes, flavoured with edible aromatic plants<br />

– the food is heavenly. Take aways, lunch,<br />

dinner, events, a lovely restaurant and pretty<br />

terrace garden.<br />

Eemagine-leboutdeumonde.fr<br />

What to see and do nearby:<br />

Have a picnic in the forest of Chinon or<br />

wander the pretty village of Saint-Benoît-la-<br />

Forêt where Louis XI kept his falcons.<br />

Take a detour along the route de Trogladytes.<br />

The tufa stone that was dug out to create<br />

castles, abbeys and mansions left behind a<br />

labyrinth of underground passages, some<br />

of them have been turned into homes,<br />

Beaulieu-sur-Loches<br />

Loches<br />

Strangely, the Royal City of Loches which<br />

sits on the bank of the River Indre, isn’t at<br />

the top of Loire Valley must-sees – and<br />

yet it is utterly enchanting. Most people<br />

are swept off their feet by the Renaissance<br />

glories that pepper the Loire Valley such as<br />

Chambord and Chenonceau, so the older<br />

Chinon and Loches tend to be overlooked.<br />

Loches Hotel de la Ville<br />

Montrésor<br />

An imposing 1000-year-old castle is perched<br />

atop a hill dominating the pale stone medieval<br />

town spread at its feet. There are no modern<br />

buildings here, it really is pickled in the past,<br />

even the town hall is in a 500-year-old<br />

building that looks like a castle.<br />

It was here, in the great hall of Loches Castle,<br />

that, after her victory against the English at<br />

Orleans, Joan of Arc persuaded the Dauphin<br />

The upper town is reached by a chestthumping<br />

walk up a hill but it’s worth it. It’s<br />

a town for wandering, with sloping cobbled<br />

streets, walled gateways and elegant squares.<br />

Wednesdays and Saturdays are market days.<br />

Don’t miss: The Lansyer Museum, former<br />

home of artist Emmanuel Lansyer (1835-1893,<br />

considered to be one of the best landscape<br />

painters of his time. The museum feels as<br />

though he still lives there, and presents many<br />

of his paintings. There are great views over<br />

the city and the Royal Gate Terrace from the<br />

romantic gardens.<br />

What to see nearby: Nip to neighbouring<br />

Beaulieu-les-Loches to explore the tiny town<br />

which was once more important than Loches.<br />

Home to the 11th century Holy Trinity Abbey,<br />

now the town hall. You can reach the village<br />

by bike or on foot, via the Prairies du Roy<br />

(King’s meadow), an eco-tourism site. It’s an<br />

enchanting village where you’ll spot Maison<br />

Agnes Sorel and the gorgeous allotment<br />

gardens kept by the locals.<br />

Vineyards are being reintroduced to the area<br />

around Loches - at Montrésor for instance,<br />

a plus beaux village de France. This little<br />

gem has an ivy-covered castle with gorgeous<br />

gardens. In July and August as dusk falls,<br />

wander along the river to enjoy the free light<br />

show – the Nuits Solaires.<br />

Smell the roses at the lovely village of<br />

Chedigny near Loches, famous for its display.<br />

12 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 13

Loire Brakes<br />

Loire Brakes<br />

Slow Down And Enjoy The View<br />

Tour the beautiful Loire Valley at your own pace with a guided e-bike holiday<br />

loirebrakes.com<br />

Read more about it.<br />

Dine out: Arbores et Sens. Pass through a<br />

bijou terrace with a magnificent wisteria<br />

canopy to a stunning restaurant with<br />

a tree in the middle. As you listen to<br />

birdsong, feast on tiny amuse bouches<br />

like works of art, and seriously, I mean<br />

seriously, delicious food. Refined but not<br />

stuffy, very talented chef and local boy<br />

Clément Dumont was awarded a Michelin<br />

Star in March <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Locals love: Restaurant Les Racines dans<br />

les assiettes, this is where the locals go<br />

if they want a slap-up meal and a good<br />

glass of wine. 12 Place de l’Hotel de Ville.<br />

Aperitifs at: Terrace bar of the Best<br />

Western Hotel, the former Palais de<br />

Justice, from where you have a stunning<br />

view over the royal city.<br />

INFO<br />

Loches can be reached by train from Tours<br />

(one hour). Chinon can be reached from<br />

Tours by train in around 50 minutes. Tours<br />

is easily reached from Paris by train (from<br />

one hour).<br />

Take a guided tour of the area by e-bike<br />

with Loire Valley Brakes to discover off the<br />

beaten track gems and have a slow travel<br />

experience that takes you to the heart of the<br />

Loire. Loirebrakes.com<br />

Moving to France, made easy<br />

Relocating to a new country can be frustrating and<br />

sometimes stressful, especially in a different language<br />


French Connections HCB is your one-stop administration partner in France.<br />




...and a whole host of other support services.<br />




If you need on-going support<br />

having already moved to France,<br />

our monthly subscription service<br />

could be just what you need.<br />

For just 89€ per month, it<br />

will save you time and limit<br />

frustration while you enjoy your<br />

life in France.<br />

Contact us today for more<br />

information.<br />

Stay at: Hotel Le George in the centre<br />

of town. Beautifully decorated big rooms,<br />

there was a huge fireplace in my room.<br />

legeorge.com<br />

Find details of events, accommodation,<br />

what to see and where to go at:<br />

touraineloirevalley.co.uk<br />




info@frenchconnectionshcb.com<br />

+33 1 85 65 74 98<br />

frenchconnectionshcb.com<br />

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


at its very best in the<br />

south of France<br />

Janine Marsh explores lagoons and<br />

canals and falls head over heels for<br />

barge travel…<br />

The French have a word for those who like to<br />

stroll without a goal other than to enjoy the<br />

adventure and unexpected joys and beauty<br />

encountered en route – to flâner. I’m not sure<br />

there is a word for wandering by barge, but I<br />

can tell you that the experience of travelling<br />

slowly on the Rhone Canal in the sun-kissed<br />

south of France is one you’ll never forget<br />

During my trip I would step back in time<br />

some 2,500 years, encounter extraordinary<br />

wildlife, visit some of the most beautiful<br />

towns and villages I’ve ever seen, make<br />

new friends and explore the heritage,<br />

culture, gastronomy and wine of southern<br />

France. And I, like the rest of the guests on<br />

CroisiEurope’s MS Anne Marie barge, would<br />

be thoroughly spoiled, utterly pampered and<br />

totally enthralled by the entire experience.<br />

Barging on an<br />

extraordinary waterway<br />

Sète was the starting point for our journey<br />

– a sunny, vibrant city that sits between the<br />

Mediterranean Sea and the Etang de Thau,<br />

a biodiverse saltwater lagoon (you can read<br />

more about Sète and the local area on page<br />

80). Fresh fish is sold along the quays and<br />

oyster tasting is de rigeur – washed down with<br />

a glass of local Picpoul, a very old French<br />

wine, made in the Languedoc for at least 400<br />

years. There’s even a museum dedicated to<br />

oysters and those who fish for them, reached<br />

by a mulberry tree lined avenue that’s<br />

brimming with cafes and bistros, overlooking<br />

the sparkling, azure blue lagoon.<br />

By the end of the first night on board, all the<br />

guests were chatting as if friends, rather than<br />

strangers who met just a few hours before. A<br />

mix of Swiss, American, British, Norwegian,<br />

Belgian and French, though everyone spoke<br />

English including the staff who are brilliant,<br />

Sète<br />

consummate professionals. The bedrooms are<br />

comfy, charming and air conditioned, the food<br />

and wine is amazing, bikes are provided and<br />

there’s a hot tub on deck.<br />

Our journey from Sète to Arles took us along<br />

the famous Canal du Rhône – a perfectly<br />

tranquil waterway that runs through the<br />

middle of a lagoon, it looks like a channel<br />

carved from the sea. It’s extraordinary,<br />

beautiful, otherworldly even. At times we<br />

were followed by shoals of fish sparkling in the<br />

crystal clear blue green water and watched by<br />

flocks of pale pink flamingos. Cyclists passed<br />

by on the paths that run alongside the canal<br />

peppered with herbs and plants that thrive<br />

in the salty sea air and hot sun whose scent<br />

16 | The Good Life France Pink sea Aigues Mortes<br />

The Good Life France | 17

carries onto the deck. Oysters cling to the<br />

walls and seabirds float on the calm surface<br />

waiting for fish to pop up. Relaxing on deck<br />

with a book, watching the wildlife, listening<br />

to the gentle lapping of the water in between<br />

stopping at some of the most beautiful and<br />

fascinating places in southern France – well it<br />

doesn’t get much better.<br />

Brutal but brilliant<br />

At Palavas-les-Flots we joined holiday makers<br />

and locals for a dip in the Med. It’s an unusual<br />

town, established as a customs fort and a<br />

fishing village late in the 18th century. Its<br />

fortunes changed in the 1950s when President<br />

Charles de Gaulle decreed holidays should<br />

be available for all people in France and had<br />

several purpose-built resorts created along the<br />

south coast – including here.<br />

Arles Roman Arena<br />

Stes Maries<br />

“Brutalism” is what they call the architectural<br />

style of the concrete apartment blocks that<br />

were rather hurriedly slung up. But no one<br />

cares, you don’t come here to sit indoors,<br />

the silk soft sandy beaches are endless, and<br />

the water is warm. A woman walked along<br />

the beach selling sticky, sweet donuts like<br />

something out of a 1960s French film and I<br />

half expected Brigitte Bardot to come trotting<br />

along. Sunbathers were stretched out in rows,<br />

and one of the Norwegian ladies from the<br />

barge whispered to me “I’m an undertaker and<br />

looking at all these bodies lying on the beach<br />

makes me want to tie a label to their toes”<br />

which made all of us laugh out loud. Old folk<br />

were sat sensibly under colourful parasols, the<br />

sea was full of people swimming and splashing,<br />

seagulls hovered overhead ready to swoop on<br />

anything that looked like it might taste good,<br />

little kids made sandcastles, it was easy to see<br />

why this place is popular despite the brutalist<br />

blocks.<br />

The Camargue<br />

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is the capital of the<br />

Camargue. It’s the highest point in the area<br />

Palavas les Flots<br />

at just 3m above sea level. 80% of the land<br />

is less than 1m above sea level and so lots of<br />

dikes and dams have been built to prevent<br />

flooding and the salt water of the Rhône<br />

flows into the canals that cross the land. It’s a<br />

fertile area, rice is grown in the marshy lands<br />

which helps to combat the salinity in the soil<br />

which in turn helps the vineyards to flourish.<br />

Everywhere there are vast fields of sunflowers,<br />

grain and vegetables.<br />

Arles<br />

The town of Saintes-Maries is all about the<br />

yellow-stone church in the centre in which<br />

resides a famous statue. Legend has it that<br />

some disciples of Jesus, including Mary<br />

Jacobi and Mary Salome and a servant<br />

called Sarah, fled Palestine in a boat and<br />

landed on the beach here. They are said to<br />

have been buried in the crypt and the town<br />

has become a place of pilgrimage for gypsies<br />

whose patron saint is Sarah. The statue of her<br />

Arles<br />

in the crypt is covered in sparkly cloaks placed<br />

there by worshippers. It’s a festive and very<br />

colourful place.<br />

We stopped off at a ranch nearby to meet<br />

some of the famous black bulls and white<br />

horses of the Camargue and the guardians,<br />

like French cowboys and cowgirls, who herd<br />

them. Read more about the Camargue<br />

here. We stopped off at a ranch nearby to<br />

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

Aigues Morte<br />

meet some of the famous black bulls and<br />

white horses of the Camargue and the<br />

guardians, like French cowboys and cowgirls,<br />

who herd them.<br />

It was built in 1240 on the orders of Louis IX, a<br />

strange choice you might think since its name<br />

literally translates to “dead waters”, derived<br />

from the tidal salt flats on which the town sits.<br />

But it was an ideal position for trade in the south<br />

of France. It’s a perfectly preserved, pickled in<br />

the past Provençal town, with 10 gates and 14<br />

towers, and in its heyday, it was a major port,<br />

though it’s now marooned three miles from<br />

the sea. The flower-filled streets spread out<br />

around a central plane tree filled square in the<br />

middle of which is a statue of King Louis atop<br />

a fountain in which children play. Not only is it<br />

a beautiful little town, it’s on the edge of the<br />

famous pink salt lakes which feature the largest<br />

colony of flamingos in Europe.<br />

We hopped aboard a little tourist train for a<br />

guided tour of the lakes and the salt museum.<br />

The sight of miles and miles of pink sea and in<br />

the background, shimmering like a mirage, the<br />

walled town of Aigues Mortes is astounding.<br />

You almost feel as if you’re on another planet.<br />

Mountains of salt are harvested here, just as it<br />

has been since the days of antiquity.<br />

It’s a tall order to live up to that visit but Saint-<br />

Guilhem-le-Desert, another bucket lister for<br />

A bucket list of southern<br />

France<br />

This trip ticked off several bucket list<br />

destinations for me – the first being Aigues-<br />

Mortes. We moored up under the shade<br />

of a tree, a stone’s throw from the great<br />

arched entrance to the walled city. Medieval<br />

Aigues-Mortes is surrounded by 11m high<br />

ramparts, dominated by the 33m high Tour<br />

de Constance from which you can spot<br />

Nimes – 40 km away and criss crossed by<br />

winding cobbled streets lined with boutiques,<br />

restaurants and ancient houses.<br />

Canal du Rhone a Sète<br />

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


Europe’s largest river cruise operator,<br />

successfully welcoming UK clients since 2003.<br />

me, stepped up to the plate. Officially one of<br />

the prettiest villages in France, it is tranquil<br />

even in peak summer months as it’s rather<br />

off the beaten track. Read more about Saint-<br />

Guilhem-le-Desert here.<br />

And finally, another bucket list destination<br />

– Arles. The ancient city is nothing short<br />

of magnificent. Romans remains, ancient<br />

churches, winding cobbled streets, art<br />

galleries, street theatre, incredible restaurants.<br />

Van Gogh’s vision of Arles is evident, the<br />

scenes he painted here including Café Terrace<br />

at Night and Starry Night Over the Rhône, are<br />

marked with information boards in the town.<br />

And the hospital where he was admitted after<br />

cutting off his ear is now a lively and bustling<br />

cultural hub, lined with small boutiques and<br />

restaurants set around a colourful inner<br />

courtyard. I’d been told that everyone who<br />

sees Arles falls in love with it – and I did too.<br />

(Read more about Arles here)<br />

On our last night, as the sun set over Arles,<br />

its golden rays sparkling on the water, a<br />

singer/guitarist arrived to perform for us on<br />

deck. His voice carried across the water<br />

and passers-by stopped to sit and listen to<br />

the impromptu concert. I couldn’t st Guilhem help le Desert but<br />

feel what a privilege it was to be there, it<br />

was more than a holiday, I made friends,<br />

explored the most beautiful corners of<br />

France, and was thoroughly spoiled by<br />

Hans, the super host, and his daily cocktails<br />

and the chef’s fabulous meals.<br />

Find out more and book your trip at:<br />

croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Europe’s largest river<br />

cruise line<br />



47 years’ experience<br />

and more than 50 ships<br />

The Meandering Seine<br />

From Honfleur to Paris<br />

PARIS<br />

6-Night Fly-Cruise from £ 960 per person<br />

Superb<br />

French cuisine<br />

Bordeaux: Land of Chateaux and Claret<br />

along the Gironde and Dordogne rivers<br />


6-Night Fly-Cruise from £ 1 292 per person<br />

For our full range of fantastic special offers visit our website<br />

www.croisieurope.co.uk<br />

INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS: Tel. 01756 691 269 • sales@croisieurope.co.uk<br />

IM067100025. (1) On majority of departures on French rivers. Non-contractual photos - Copyrights: Paul Hilbert, Shutterstock.<br />

All prices and offers are based on two adults sharing a cabin, are correct at time of going to press, subject to availability, apply to new bookings only, cannot be applied retrospectively and can be withdrawn<br />

at any time. Terms and conditions apply. All the flight-inclusive holidays are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check<br />

to ensure that everything you booked (flights, cruise, hotels and other services) is listed on it. CroisiEurope UK Ltd partners with Blue Water Holidays Ltd for ATOL protection. Blue Water Holidays is a company<br />

registered in England and Wales, number 4085664. Registered Office: Bowers Wharf, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 2PD.<br />

All inclusive for drinks<br />

onboard (1)<br />

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

© Alain-Hocquel VPA<br />

The Great outdoors<br />

Spring in Provence brings the promise of warm,<br />

sunny days and it’s the perfect time to get out<br />

and about and enjoy the countryside. There<br />

are two major nature parks - Mont Ventoux<br />

Regional Park and the Luberon Regional<br />

Natural Park which is spread over 185,000<br />

hectares and includes 51 villages in Vaucluse.<br />

Go cycling or hiking through the vineyards,<br />

from the pebbly ground of Châteauneuf-du-<br />

Pape to the limestone foothills of Ventoux and<br />

the clay soil of the Luberon plain, to discover<br />

the Syrah, Mourvèdre, Cinsault, Clairette, and<br />

Bourboulenc grapes that make the wine so<br />

special here.<br />

Chateauneuf-du-Pape was where the popes<br />

who once lived in the historic city of Avignon in<br />

the 14th century, spent their summer holidays.<br />

They loved the wines grown here and today<br />

some of the most renowned wines in the world<br />

come from this little village and its surroundings.<br />

Visitors are spoiled for wine tastings in<br />

Chateauneuf-du-Pape including at the newly<br />

opened Vinothèque, the official wine outlet<br />

and showroom, and even at the Musée du Vin<br />

Brotte where you can discover all about the<br />

history of the wine. You can also try chocolate<br />

VA VA VOOM to<br />

Vaucluse in the spring…<br />

When spring arrives, the villages and countryside of Vaucluse in Provence burst<br />

into life. Fields of crimson poppies sit alongside orchards full of blossoming apricot,<br />

cherry and olive trees. Head to one of the many beautiful villages to find your<br />

perfect place to sit and watch the world go by from a terraced café. Visit colourful<br />

markets brimming with fabulous local produce. Get up early to watch the sun rise<br />

over the majestic Palace of the Popes in Avignon, and sip aperitifs under the stars.<br />

Vaucluse is an intoxicating land of extravagant natural beauty and in the spring,<br />

nature has a party on its lands!<br />

Flassan © A Hocquel, VPA<br />

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

Dreamy photogenic landscape scenery is<br />

not rare in Vaucluse, but I guarantee that<br />

the dazzling sight of the soft sun lighting<br />

up a carpet of crimson poppies in April and<br />

May will make you gasp. One of the prettiest<br />

places for poppy-watching is at the village of<br />

Lacoste which looks out towards Bonnieux<br />

and the Luberon Valley or near Carpentras,<br />

between the fortified village of Caromb and<br />

Le Barroux, one of the most beautiful villages<br />

in Provence. Also, the poppy fields are glorious<br />

between Bedoin and Crillon-le-Brave - where<br />

you can indulge in what has to be one of the<br />

best Sunday brunches in France at the 5-star<br />

Hotel Crillon-le-Brave.<br />

Chateauneuf-du-pape<br />

As wild birds trill out their welcome to spring<br />

and blossom scents the air, you feel the<br />

countryside bursting into vibrant life all around<br />

you and as feel-good factors go, this is pretty<br />

unbeatable and unbeatably pretty. (Outdoor<br />

activities in Vaucluse)<br />

Fontaine de Vaucluse © Julie Whitmarsh<br />

and wine pairing at the Maison Bouachon, and<br />

a tasting and informative session at Ecole des<br />

Vins Mouriesse, a renowned wine school. And<br />

if you happen to be there at the end of March<br />

you can enjoy the largest Châteauneufdu-Pape<br />

wine tasting event. The Printemps<br />

de Châteauneuf-du-Pape features more<br />

than 100 wine growers from the prestigious<br />

appellation, and a Slow Food market is set up<br />

outside for everyone to sit around large tables<br />

with a glass of Châteauneuf and a bite to eat.<br />

There’s no wine snobbery here, just passionate<br />

wine makers, keen to share their passion for<br />

the grape. (Vineyard visits in Vaucluse).<br />

The vineyards sit alongside apricot and<br />

cherry orchards that in early spring are<br />

blossoming and by late spring are fruiting.<br />

Enjoy a picnic with producers and stop off<br />

at little hilltop villages for an al fresco break<br />

at a welcoming café or restaurant. Spring<br />

brings abundance and the markets are full<br />

of fresh produce - luscious strawberries,<br />

sweet cherries, juicy apricots, artichokes<br />

and herbs, cheeses and brightly coloured<br />

baskets. Every village has a market, and<br />

they are the perfect place to taste<br />

artisan chocolate, meet a goat’s cheese<br />

maker, quaff local wines, and enjoy sweet<br />

lavender honey and local olive oil made at<br />

an authentic mill.<br />

Why not take a cookery lesson using herbs<br />

that you’ve picked, and produce you bought<br />

at the market. And don’t forget to sit out<br />

under the clear night skies and watch for<br />

shooting stars as you enjoy a gourmet break.<br />

The taste of Vaucluse is unforgettable…<br />

Gorgeous spring Gardens<br />

The Vaucluse is teeming with gorgeous<br />

gardens you can visit. One of the most<br />

beautiful is Le Pavillon de Galon on the edge<br />

of Cucuron – if you’ve seen the film “A Good<br />

Year”, you’ll recognise this village! With its<br />

landscape lapping at the foot of the Luberon,<br />

Le Pavillon de Galon is a magnificent<br />

garden brimming with Mediterranean plants,<br />

vineyards, fig and cherry trees, lavender,<br />

an olive grove and more – it’s a snapshot<br />

of Provence’s natural bounty. (Visit upon<br />

reservation).<br />

In Avignon the garden of the Palace of the<br />

Popes is a secluded secret of the city. Fully<br />

restored in 2020, there are deckchairs for<br />

relaxing in the wonderfully landscaped areas<br />

including the Benedict XII Garden and the<br />

Papal Garden. The popes had direct access<br />

to the gardens from their chambers and today<br />

the gardens feature plants that were popular<br />

at the time of the Popes as well as a replica of<br />

an ancient fountain surrounded by flowering<br />

meadows in the spring. One of the best ways<br />

to visit is to get up early to watch the sun rise<br />

over the Palace of the Popes, enjoy a leisurely<br />

coffee and croissant as you watch the city<br />

come to life, wander the Papal gardens, and<br />

then go island hopping!<br />

The Ile de la Barthelasse is the biggest river<br />

island in France and is like a huge garden<br />

in itself! Take a free, 5-minute ferry service<br />

to the island from near the famous Pont<br />

d’Avignon, a stone’s throw from the Papal<br />

garden. From the island there are beautiful<br />

26 | The Good Life France Villedieu © Erica de Roos<br />

The Good Life France | 27

Palais des Papes<br />

Pont d'Avignon looking over Ile de la Barthelasse<br />

views of the famous bridge, the palace and<br />

the city walls. You can buy local produce<br />

at the Ferme de la Reboule and have lunch<br />

beside the water at Le Bercail restaurant.<br />

Wander or cycle the plane tree shaded paths<br />

that wind between apple trees and cherry<br />

orchards and stop at the Manguin Distillery<br />

where they make pastis and pear brandy.<br />

Don’t miss the Rose des Arts rose garden in<br />

nearby Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. In May and June,<br />

3,500 bushes of pink Centifolia Baptistine<br />

roses burst into bloom and fill the air with<br />

their perfume. In the 18th century this grand<br />

rose became a favourite for use in the gloves<br />

made for the rich and the royals of Europe<br />

including Queen Marie Antoinette. The petals<br />

in this gorgeous garden are harvested to make<br />

perfume, rose coulis to add to Champagne,<br />

rose flavoured chocolates and syrups.<br />

One more unmissable garden is near the town<br />

Pavillon de Gallon © Georges Levecque<br />

of Orange which is famous for its incredible<br />

Roman remains. Here you will find the Harmas<br />

de Jean Henri Fabre garden. Fabre was a<br />

multi-talented man – a scientist, collector,<br />

painter and writer (1823-1915), as well as<br />

passionate about nature. He deliberately left<br />

his garden in Sérignan-du-Comtat as fallow<br />

land to attract as many insects as possible.<br />

Every spring the Festival of Rare Plants &<br />

Natural Gardens is held in the town, with<br />

nursery owners, landscape gardeners and<br />

artisans from all over France taking part in this<br />

event which is perfect for anyone interested in<br />

nature and protecting it.<br />

Spring in Provence is a little bit of<br />

heaven on earth…<br />

Find details of all the markets, gardens,<br />

and gorgeous places to visit in Vaucluse at:<br />

provenceguide.com<br />

28 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 29<br />


Nestled in Normandy’s deep south, the Perche Regional Nature Park offers tranquil<br />

forests, bijou communities, and some seriously impressive horsepower. Gillian<br />

Thornton steps down a gear.<br />

Pottering<br />

round the PERCHE<br />

Ask me to describe my perfect destination<br />

for a spot of rest and relaxation and I’ll<br />

usually plump for rolling countryside, historic<br />

villages, and cosy restaurants. Add in a few<br />

independent shops or markets for some gentle<br />

retail therapy and you’ve almost ticked all my<br />

boxes. Only thing missing would be some kind<br />

of animal content, preferably with an activity<br />

attached.<br />

So as I jolt happily down a woodland track in<br />

a horse-drawn open carriage, I have to say<br />

that the Perche Regional Natural Park (PNR)<br />

offers everything I need for the perfect chillout<br />

break. Located in the south-east corner<br />

of Normandy, the Perche is just 140km from<br />

Paris, making it a popular weekend destination<br />

for city dwellers as well as for cross-Channel<br />

visitors.<br />

Most of the park lies within the department<br />

of Orne, spilling over into the Centre region<br />

east of Nogent-le-Rotrou, and its protected<br />

status covers both natural scenery and built<br />

landscape, heritage sites and rural traditions.<br />

Amongst those traditions is the Percheron<br />

heavy horse, believed to date back to the 11th<br />

century when Rotrou, Count of the Perche,<br />

brought Arabian stallions back from the First<br />

Crusade and crossed them with local heavy<br />

horses.<br />

Usually grey, but occasionally black,<br />

Percherons are good-natured, gentle, and<br />

ideally suited to working the forests and small<br />

hedge-lined fields or bocage of southern<br />

Normandy. Once a common sight on farms<br />

throughout the area, their numbers declined<br />

sharply as agriculture became increasingly<br />

mechanised between the wars. But now,<br />

thanks to a group of dedicated enthusiasts,<br />

breeding is steadily on the up.<br />

Since the early 1990s, Percheron stallions<br />

imported from America have been bred with<br />

French mares to produce two main types – a<br />

30 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 31<br />

Photo by Dawne Polis, redbubble.com

draught horse used for farming and hauling<br />

timber, and a lighter animal used for riding,<br />

driving and competitions. As someone who<br />

has ridden all my life but rarely experienced<br />

carriage driving, I booked a two-hour<br />

excursion from the Ferme de l’Absoudière in<br />

Cordon for a taste of traditional horsepower.<br />

And what power! Seated up beside the driver, I<br />

watch two sets of powerful hindquarters sway<br />

rhythmically to the sound of jangling harness<br />

as we trot down country lanes and forest<br />

tracks. It’s a magical if slightly bumpy way to<br />

travel!<br />

But horsepower is just one way to explore the<br />

Perche. There’s a wealth of inspiration at the<br />

Maison du Parc, administrative centre and<br />

visitor facility for the Regional Nature Park<br />

which stands in the grounds of the Manoir du<br />

Courboyer, a 15th century turreted manor<br />

house a short drive from Cordon at Nocé.<br />

Meet other local livestock breeds, buy artisan<br />

products, and sample regional farm produce<br />

such as cider, honey and cheese.<br />

This rural corner of Normandy is bisected by<br />

the GR22 and GR35, two Grande Randonnée<br />

long distance hiking trails, as well as the<br />

Chemin de Chartres leading to Mont-Saint-<br />

Michel. Or try the 220km Tour des Collines du<br />

Perche which splits neatly into eight segments<br />

for walkers and four for cycle tourists. Too<br />

energetic? Then follow one of nine tranquil<br />

driving routes that include Forests and Abbeys,<br />

Chateaux and Lakes, and Valleys and Mills.<br />

The Perche may be a rural area of farmland<br />

and forest, but it also boasts a long industrial<br />

heritage. The woods provided charcoal, the<br />

rivers powered mills and foundries, and the<br />

ground yielded raw materials of iron and clay.<br />

Watch out for the label Savoir-faire du Parc<br />

Naturel Régional du Perche to identify crafts<br />

people still using local materials.<br />

Nothing in the Perche proves to be much<br />

more than an hour from my base at the<br />

delightful Hôtel du Tribunal at Mortagne-au-<br />

Perche, a buzzing market town of just 4,500<br />

inhabitants that was once the administrative<br />

centre for the Counts of Perche. Today the<br />

Manoir Courboyer<br />

Belleme in the Perche PNR<br />

medieval rampart walls have mostly gone<br />

but the historic streets are still dotted with<br />

fine buildings, not to mention 27 sundials.<br />

Follow the numbered panels on the Circuit du<br />

Patrimoine and prepare for some surprises.<br />

The modern medical facility, for instance,<br />

has retained the exquisite cloister of a 16th<br />

century convent. Take in the wooden roof<br />

timbers shaped like an upturned boat before<br />

heading inside the vast painted chapel. Enjoy<br />

the panoramic countryside views from the<br />

public gardens behind the Town Hall and<br />

maybe sample the town’s signature foodie<br />

treat – black pudding. Every producer has<br />

his own secret recipe. The Saturday morning<br />

market is also loaded with local foodie<br />

temptation, an atmospheric way to absorb the<br />

area’s gastronomic traditions.<br />

The Perche forests are full of impressive<br />

giant trees – particularly oak and beech - but<br />

equally arresting are the lofty twin towers of<br />

the Chappelle de Montligeon, built between<br />

1896 and 1911 by parish priest Abbé Buguet.<br />

His aim was to deliver souls left in purgatory<br />

and promote social justice and whilst the<br />

basilica is today a place of pilgrimage, it is<br />

also a business centre based on the printing<br />

works that he founded. Pop inside to admire<br />

the stained-glass windows.<br />

Local commerce is largely small scale.<br />

Expect small, artisan businesses such as<br />

antique dealers and galleries, bookshops,<br />

woodworkers, and furniture restorers, not<br />

to mention family-run restaurants and tea<br />

rooms. Outside Mortagne-au-Perche, I find<br />

Chez Nous Campagne, where Cécile Schmitt<br />

combines a boutique selling interior décor<br />

items with a tearoom and gîte business, all in<br />

one tempting package.<br />

And there is more retail temptation in<br />

Bellême, former capital of the Perche, and in<br />

nearby La Perrière. Both have been labelled<br />

Petites Cités de Caractère by the Orne<br />

department along with Longny-au-Perche.<br />

Gifts to take home? Try La Savonnerie de La<br />

Chappelle in Bellême for soaps, candles, and<br />

a whole lot more, and don’t miss Chocolaterie<br />

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

Basilica at Montligeon<br />

Belleme<br />

Bataille, where artisan chocolate-maker<br />

Christophe Henninger creates seasonal<br />

chocolates for every occasion. In La Perrière,<br />

browse for local produce, antiques, and dried<br />

flowers at Monteloup, a stylish boutique with<br />

three chambre d’hôte bedrooms upstairs run by<br />

antique dealer Jérôme and expert florist Gil.<br />

Largest town in the Perche is Nogent-le-Rotrou,<br />

just over the regional border in the department<br />

of Eure-et-Loir. Classified amongst Michelin’s<br />

100 Plus Beaux Détours de France, this historic<br />

community of fewer than 10,000 people stands<br />

in the Huisne valley, dominated by Saint-Jean<br />

Castle which was once home to – you guessed<br />

it – the Counts of Perche. Stroll through the<br />

reconstructed medieval and Renaissance<br />

gardens around the castle and Bellême’s Belle<br />

Epoque public gardens, just two of many floral<br />

plots that welcome visitors throughout the Perche.<br />

Head east from Nogent to visit Thiron-<br />

Gardais, home to Thiron Abbey. Founded in<br />

the 12th century, the buildings were largely<br />

destroyed after the Revolution but the abbey<br />

itself still acts as the parish church and access<br />

to the thematic gardens is free. Or head west,<br />

back towards Bellême to visit the Ecomusée<br />

du Perche within the ancient walls of the 11th<br />

century priory of Sainte-Gauburge at Saint-<br />

Cyr-la-Rosière.<br />

Whichever way you turn, the Perche is a<br />

delight for anyone who wants to step down a<br />

gear and relax amongst tranquil countryside<br />

and atmospheric villages. A breath of fresh air<br />

whichever way you look at it!<br />

Useful websites:<br />

normandie-tourisme.fr<br />

parc-naturel-perche.fr/en<br />

ornetourisme.com<br />

hotel-tribunal.fr<br />

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

The north-eastern French region of Alsace<br />

is a place of scenic splendour and historical<br />

wonder with picturesque small towns, colourful<br />

half-timbered houses and vineyards carpeting<br />

the landscape. Away from the conventional<br />

travel routes of Paris, Provence and the Côte<br />

d’Azur, this cultural corner is less than 6<br />

hour’s drive from Calais and one of the most<br />

beautiful and undiscovered places in France.<br />

Alsace borders Germany and Switzerland,<br />

and lies on the west bank of the river Rhine,<br />

between the rhine and the Vosges mountains<br />

with Lorraine and Franche Comté to the west.<br />

There are many wonderful locations to visit<br />

in Alsace, this guide highlights the most<br />

impressive sights to see and capture on camera<br />

within the region.<br />

Fairy-tale<br />

pretty ALSACE<br />

A guide to the best villages, vineyards and castles of Alsace by award winning<br />

photographer Jeremy Flint.<br />

Riquewihr<br />

Strasbourg Cathedral<br />

Alsace Wine Route<br />

A tour along the Route des Vins d’Alsace<br />

(Alsace wine route) that spans the wine<br />

growing area over 170km and five regions<br />

from near Strasbourg in the north to just south<br />

of Colmar uncovers some of the best things<br />

to discover in the area. This classic Alsatian<br />

wine route is one of France’s oldest and most<br />

popular drives that traverses the heart of the<br />

region. The journey takes you through a multicoloured<br />

landscape of luxurious green vines,<br />

perched castles, pleasant mountains, and<br />

attractive villages where you can savour, swirl<br />

and purchase aromatic Alsace vintages at one<br />

of the many roadside wine cellars.<br />

Strasbourg<br />

Alsace comprises a mix of French and<br />

German heritage reflecting each country’s<br />

control of the area over the centuries. The<br />

wonderful blend of French and German<br />

culture is evident in the fairy-tale towns and<br />

villages that line the route with their halftimbered<br />

houses and cobblestone streets. Set<br />

on the Rhine, Strasbourg is one of the finest<br />

medieval towns in Northeast France and one<br />

of the most photogenic places you can visit<br />

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

The highlight of Hunawihr is its fortified<br />

church Saint-Jacques-le-Majeur which sits<br />

amongst vineyards on a hillside at the edge<br />

of the village. After witnessing this fantastic<br />

sight, head into the walled hamlet to see the<br />

Schickardt House, the Renaissance Town Hall<br />

and the Fountain of St. Hune. Last but not<br />

least, visit the cellars of this well-established<br />

wine-producing village to sample the<br />

exceptional liquor. Hunawihr is also home to a<br />

stork re-introduction centre so keep your eyes<br />

peeled and you will likely spot storks in nature.<br />

Riquewihr<br />

in Alsace. With its historical monuments and<br />

striking architecture, the city’s finest building<br />

Notre-Dame Cathedral should be top of your<br />

list. Don’t miss Strasbourg’s historic centre<br />

the Grande Île (large island), a UNESCO<br />

World Heritage site where you can stroll<br />

through atmospheric alleyways and admire<br />

elegant buildings and historic churches before<br />

enjoying the café-filled squares.<br />

Riquewihr<br />

with the region including the local Kirchberg<br />

de Ribeauvillé, Osterberg and Geisberg.<br />

Hunawihr<br />

Whilst each village is full of unique and<br />

colourful buildings combined with traditional<br />

character, Hunawihr is no exception, situated<br />

a mere 2km from Ribeauvillé and Riquewihr.<br />

Château du Haut-<br />

Koenigsbourg<br />

An alternative castle worth visiting, located<br />

in the Orschwiller commune, 10 minutes from<br />

Ribeauvillé is the medieval Château du Haut-<br />

Koenigsbourg that sits 757 metres above the<br />

Alsace plains. You can explore the furnished<br />

fortress and discover its medieval weapon<br />

collections before scaling to the summit of<br />

the bastion for fantastic views over the Vosges<br />

mountains and the Black Forest beyond.<br />

Ribeauvillé<br />

South of Strasbourg, Ribeauvillé and Riquewihr<br />

are two of the most beautiful villages in France<br />

and are situated relatively close to each<br />

other. Ribeauvillé is a Route des Vins must,<br />

encompassed by vineyards and mountains.<br />

Its impressive buildings and fortified castles<br />

are the main draw including the 18th century<br />

Hôtel de Ville (town hall) and its prestigious<br />

collection of silver goblets besides the wellmaintained<br />

Tour des Bouchers (Butchers’<br />

tower). Perched high on a mountainside<br />

overlooking the medieval village, Saint Ulrich<br />

Castle stands proud as the oldest and bestpreserved<br />

castle of its kind, surrounded by an<br />

endless forested landscape.<br />

Ribeauvillé Saint Ulrich Castle<br />

Riquewihr<br />

Taking a historic walk through the elegant<br />

Medieval ramparts, hidden courtyards and<br />

brightly coloured architecture is a great way<br />

to explore the enchanting village of Riquewihr.<br />

Venture onto the neighbouring hills to get a real<br />

sense of Riquewihr’s chocolate box lid pretty<br />

looks, and to appreciate its peaceful nature.<br />

For centuries, the vineyards of Riquewihr and<br />

Ribeauvillé have produced some of the most<br />

incredible wines of Alsace and the world. Wine<br />

lovers will adore the fresh and full-bodied<br />

Grand Cru appellation varieties, synonymous<br />

Hunawihr<br />

38 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 39

Saint-Hippolyte<br />

At the foot of the Haut Koenigsbourg, Saint-<br />

Hippolyte is a wonderfully traditional village<br />

with timbered houses and quintessential<br />

Alsatian architecture. The 14th century<br />

parish church was modified in the 15th<br />

century by having a belltower added to it<br />

in 1822, making it an extremely photogenic<br />

church and an incredible piece of Italian<br />

gothic architecture. Within the village’s old<br />

medieval walls, you will see the Tour des<br />

Cigognes (Stork’s tower) topped with nesting<br />

stalks, the town hall and a fountain, dating<br />

back to 1555, that adorns the square.<br />

Massif des Vosges –<br />

Vosges mountains<br />

To the west of Colmar, the enchanting<br />

forests and softly rounded pastures of<br />

the Vosges Mountain range are often<br />

cloaked in mist and make a great subject<br />

for photography at any time of the year.<br />

With secluded lakes and refreshing<br />

views, the mountain range is a fantastic<br />

adventure playground offering a great<br />

base for walking adventures and mountainbiking<br />

where you can experience varied<br />

landscapes and summit nature trails.<br />

Colmar<br />

Colmar<br />

The beautiful town of Colmar makes for a<br />

great day trip along the Alsace wine route. It’s<br />

well-preserved old town, plentiful architectural<br />

landmarks and winding canals offer excellent<br />

opportunities for photography. Take a stroll<br />

along the Grand Rue (high street) for shots of<br />

rainbow-coloured houses and explore Petite<br />

Venise (the Little Venice quarter) on foot or by<br />

rowing boat for its narrow street and charming<br />

canal views.<br />

Driving the Route des Crêtes, an 89 km<br />

road in the Vosges Mountains that passes<br />

through the Parc Naturel Régional des<br />

Ballons des Vosges ensures idyllic views.<br />

Hike up to the peak of Grand Ballon, the<br />

highest point in the region at 1424 metres<br />

for breath-taking panoramas.<br />

Wherever you choose to visit in Alsace,<br />

you will not be disappointed with its scenic<br />

splendour, architectural delights, and<br />

wonderful half-timbered houses.<br />

40 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 41

Gillian Thornton combines town and country on a short break to Lyon and<br />

the Beaujolais<br />

‘Now stir the mushrooms into the spelt<br />

mixture…’ Chef Sébastien Mathieu hands me<br />

a bowl of fresh girolles, painstakingly diced<br />

earlier by my own fair hand, and I add them to<br />

the fragrant risotto. An irresistible aroma wafts<br />

up from the simmering pan.<br />

Magical things happen when you book a<br />

cookery lesson at the Institut Paul Bocuse in<br />

the heart of historic Lyon. Over the last two<br />

hours, our little band of six eager students has<br />

chopped vegetables, made garnishes, and<br />

generally hung on to Sébastien’s every word as<br />

we watch him prepare our dinner, all the time<br />

passing on techniques perfected in some of<br />

the world’s best kitchens.<br />


grub and<br />

heavenly wines<br />

France’s “capital of<br />

gastronomy”<br />

Lyon has long been acknowledged as the<br />

capital of French gastronomy, largely thanks<br />

to the presence of legendary chef Paul<br />

Bocuse. The great man died in 2018 but his<br />

influence lives on through his restaurants<br />

and through the city’s indoor food market,<br />

renamed the Halles Paul Bocuse in his honour.<br />

Don’t miss the twin temptations of top quality<br />

food stalls and informal eateries such as Les<br />

Bouchons Lyonnais where locals love to shop<br />

and eat.<br />

Heritage fans have always loved this<br />

UNESCO-listed city for the fabulous<br />

Renaissance architecture of Vieux Lyon,<br />

the wealth of first-class museums, and the<br />

twin Roman theatres overlooking its two<br />

rivers, the Rhône and Saône. But now there<br />

are even more delicious reasons to visit this<br />

atmospheric city.<br />

Lyon lies at the heart of the Vallée de la<br />

Gastronomie, a major tourism initiative that<br />

promotes the huge range of regional wines,<br />

produce and cuisine found between Dijon and<br />

Dole in the north, and Marseille and Cassis on<br />

Gillian works under Sebastien's watchful eye<br />

Paul Bocuse mural outside Les Halles Paul Bocuse<br />

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

the Mediterranean coast. Think picnics in the<br />

vineyards or a visit to a truffle market; eating<br />

at chef’s table or tasting with a wine producer.<br />

The range of foodie activities on offer is<br />

growing all the time and bookable via local<br />

tourism websites.<br />

morning, I strolled the picturesque streets of<br />

Oingt in the ‘golden stones’ area of southern<br />

Beaujolais. For panoramic views of the<br />

vineyards and village, classified amongst the<br />

Plus Beaux Villages de France, climb to the<br />

flat roof of the bell tower before sitting down<br />

to authentic local fare at La Table du Donjon.<br />

The flavours of Beaujolais<br />

I took a short break to combine the foodie<br />

delights of Lyon with the liquid pleasures of<br />

the Beaujolais, starting my adventure in the<br />

vineyards of Château de Juliénas, around<br />

an hour’s drive north of Lyon. Here Thierry<br />

Condomine is the fifth generation of his<br />

family to grow vines on these gentle slopes<br />

and transform them into AOC Juliénas<br />

within the 18th century stone buildings of his<br />

atmospheric winery.<br />

With so many different rocks influencing the<br />

terroir and taste of the wines here, Beaujolais<br />

is proud to be the first wine region awarded<br />

Global Geopark status by UNESCO. Book a<br />

two-hour tour on Thierry’s Wine Tasting Truck<br />

and you get the unique experience of riding<br />

in a 1964 VW Combi and tasting wines in<br />

the exact spot where the grapes were grown,<br />

accompanied by cheese and charcuterie.<br />

Many a local dish is enhanced not just by<br />

a glass of appropriate wine, but also by<br />

the produce of the Huilerie Beaujolaise in<br />

Beaujeu, medieval capital of the Beaujolais.<br />

Sample their twelve virgin fruit oils and nine<br />

fruit vinegars before making your choice from<br />

their well-stocked shop.<br />

Wine Tasting Truck in the Julienas vineyards<br />

The golden stones of Oingt<br />

Living it up in Lyon<br />

Lunch over, I set off for Lyon, checking in at<br />

the Hotel de Verdun, a surprisingly tranquil<br />

small hotel between Perrache Station and<br />

the vast square of Place Bellecour, home<br />

to the Institut Paul Bocuse, location for the<br />

evening cookery lesson. But first there was<br />

time to explore the grand 19th century basilica<br />

of Notre Dame de Fourvière, the adjacent<br />

Roman theatres, and the narrow streets of<br />

Vieux Lyon.<br />

By the time I donned my navy monogrammed<br />

apron at the Ecole de Cuisine Gourmets, I<br />

had worked up an appetite. On our menu<br />

was Braised Endives with sour carrot juice,<br />

pomelos and hazelnut crumble, followed by<br />

Veal Scallop with porcini mushrooms, spelt<br />

risotto and siphon comté – a delicate foam<br />

flavoured with comté cheese and applied<br />

through a siphon. Who knew?<br />

Happy to watch Sébastien tackle the tricky<br />

bits, we merrily diced and decorated as<br />

instructed before sitting down to share<br />

the fruits of our labours, plus a delicious<br />

dessert that our English-speaking Chef had<br />

thoughtfully prepared earlier.<br />

Some flavours are unmistakeable; others are<br />

not as easy to discern as you might think. Test<br />

your palate on the Sensory Wine Trail, a fun<br />

activity at Chateau de Pizay, a 4-star hotel<br />

and spa in the middle of its own vineyards at<br />

Belleville-en-Beaujolais.<br />

After all this hard work, I relaxed over local<br />

food and wine at Hotel Villa Alexandre, a<br />

delightful 18th century country house turned<br />

boutique hotel at Régnie-Durette near<br />

Beujeu. And after a blissful night’s sleep, next<br />

Next day, I tackled a very different kind of<br />

creative gastronomic experience, the chance<br />

to blend my own bottle of wine at Chai Saint<br />

Olive in the city centre, one of a growing<br />

number of urban wineries around France.<br />

Here I blended different proportions of local<br />

grape varieties until I eventually arrived at<br />

something pleasing to my palate, a bottle<br />

I proudly labelled Clos de Gillian for a very<br />

personal souvenir.<br />

No food tour of Lyon would be complete<br />

44 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 45

without sampling the traditional fare of a<br />

Lyonnais bouchon. Food can be hearty but I<br />

enjoyed a light lunch of delicate fish quenelles<br />

at Daniel & Denise Saint-Jean, awarded<br />

Bib Gourmand status by Michelin. Foodies<br />

should also explore the restaurants and bars<br />

of the Hôtel-Dieu, a 17th century hospital<br />

overlooking the Rhône, now repurposed as a<br />

dining and entertainment complex. This elegant<br />

building is also home to the newly revamped<br />

Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie, an<br />

interactive food discovery centre.<br />

So, back home have I made the smooth carrot<br />

sauce delicately flavoured with ginger? Or<br />

the mushroom sabayon that added a definite<br />

je-ne-sais-quoi to the spelt risotto? Well let’s<br />

just say not yet. But I have perfected a neat<br />

technique for slicing onions without crying,<br />

and when I don that Paul Bocuse apron,<br />

even my cheese on toast seems worthy of a<br />

Michelin star!<br />

Fact File<br />

Lyon and the Beaujolais both lie within the<br />

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region<br />

auvergnerhonealpes-tourisme.com.<br />

Further inspiration from<br />

valleedelagastronomie.com .<br />

Beaujolais<br />

Tourism: destination-beaujolais.com<br />

Foodie activities: chateaudejulienas.com;<br />

huilerie-beaujolaise.fr;<br />

chateau-pizay.com<br />

Eating out: latabledudonjon.fr<br />

Sleeping over: hotelvilla-alexandre.fr<br />

There’s a real buzz to Lyon by night, especially<br />

on board the Wagon Bar, a bus turned mobile<br />

restaurant where guests relax on the upper<br />

deck over a 5-course gastronomic dinner as<br />

they are driven over illuminated bridges and<br />

past floodlit monuments, through buzzing<br />

squares and past lavishly painted walls. A<br />

fitting finale to any city break.<br />

Fourviere basilica, Lyon<br />

Lyon<br />

Tourism: lyon-france.com<br />

Foodie activities:<br />

ecoledecuisine.institutpaulbocuse.com;<br />

chaisaintolive.com;<br />

lewagonbar.com<br />

Eating out:<br />

danieletdenise.fr;<br />

garconsboucherslyon.com<br />

Sleeping over: hoteldeverdun1882.com<br />

46 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 47

© L Pascale, La Drome Tourisme<br />

A PALACE<br />

built from pebbles<br />

by a postman<br />

The Palais Ideale is one of the most extraordinary<br />

buildings in France says Janine Marsh<br />

Passing through a modern ticket office<br />

building on an unassuming street in a tiny town<br />

in a rather hidden part of southern France, I<br />

came face to face with a dream.<br />

Hauterives in the Drôme department,<br />

Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, is hardly known<br />

outside of France. There are around 2000<br />

inhabitants, served by a friendly bar and a<br />

couple of restaurants, a cosy bakery, a few<br />

shops, B&Bs and a camp site. It’s a typically<br />

French country town – tranquil, sleepy even<br />

for the most part. But Hauterives has an<br />

extraordinary secret. Drive through the town<br />

and you may miss it. Swerve to a side street<br />

near the boulangerie, a stone’s throw from<br />

the charming Le Relais hotel (which had<br />

you passed you would be wondering why a<br />

little town like this needed one) and you will<br />

discover something quite extraordinary.<br />

48 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 49

ecame an obsession. He took to wheeling a<br />

wooden barrow on his rounds so that he could<br />

collect larger stones and more of them.<br />

At the age of 43, he started his project.<br />

A palace, built by hand from pebbles collected<br />

by a postman as he performed his delivery<br />

rounds.<br />

A man with a mission<br />

Ferdinand Cheval was a man with a mission<br />

though it didn’t come to him until quite late<br />

in life.<br />

Born in 1836 in Drôme, unlike many of his<br />

contemporaries in this poor area of France, he<br />

went to school and learned to read and write.<br />

In 1830 the postal collection and delivery<br />

system began in France and Cheval became<br />

a postman. He had a long round which he<br />

covered on foot – between 32-40km each day<br />

(20-25 miles). As he walked, he daydreamed.<br />

He had never travelled the world, but he<br />

“saw” it through illustrated magazines that<br />

were popular in those days. In the early 1870s<br />

postcards became popular and Cheval would<br />

deliver them, looking at the extraordinary<br />

views from around the world – the pyramids of<br />

Egypt, the Swiss Alps, Mosques and temples –<br />

images of far-flung lands he could never hope<br />

to see for himself, and they simply fuelled his<br />

dream even more.<br />

One day in 1879, Cheval tripped on a stone<br />

while walking on his rounds. He popped it in<br />

his pocket and took it home. He later said that<br />

the thought occurred to him then “if nature<br />

is the sculptor, I will be the architect.” The<br />

pebble kickstarted a dream – he decided to<br />

build his own palace, a fairy tale palace.<br />

Soon he began filling his pockets with pebbles<br />

as he walked his long rounds delivering post. It<br />

Cheval's woodenbarrow in which he collected stones<br />

He had no building experience. He had never<br />

studied architecture. But for the next 33 years<br />

he toiled and learned as he went. Mixing<br />

limestone to bind the stones, sometimes<br />

using pieces of iron to give strength to the<br />

structure. His nephew who lived in Marseille<br />

sent seashells that he collected – great bags<br />

of shells posted to the postman. Cheval<br />

worked them into his designs. He made many<br />

drawings and though most have been lost,<br />

some do remain and are shown in the museum<br />

next to the palace.<br />

He worked at night by candlelight after he’d<br />

finished a day’s work.<br />

And he built a palace.<br />

33 years, 10,000 days, 93,000 hours – one<br />

man. “I wanted to prove what the will can do”<br />

he later said.<br />

A palace like no other<br />

It is an astounding example of naïve art<br />

architecture. It features giants and animals,<br />

fountains and strange figures, some parts look<br />

almost Gothic cathedral, some parts resemble<br />

Aztec temples. It is a mishmash of styles but<br />

wholly unique. I climbed the different levels,<br />

followed dark passages inside where every inch<br />

is covered with sculptures, art and messages.<br />

I walked around it several times, each time<br />

noticing something I hadn’t seen before.<br />

The local people thought him crazy, but nothing<br />

deterred him. News of the postman’s palace<br />

of pebbles spread and in 1905 he opened it to<br />

the public. A few newspapers wrote about him<br />

and his “ideale palais”. By 1907 visitors from<br />

the USA were making the journey to Hauterives<br />

to see for their own eyes what one man could<br />

achieve with his bare hands and several tons of<br />

pebbles. I wondered how a man with such an<br />

obsession fared in his personal life. “He married<br />

twice” said our guide, “widowed in 1873, his<br />

© L Pascale, La Drome Tourisme<br />

50 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 51

Cheval tomb<br />

second wife was wealthy and helped to fund his<br />

project. Both his wives were fully supportive of<br />

his ambitions.”<br />

Artists and celebrities visited and were<br />

amazed by the sight of the emerging<br />

architecture – naïve for sure, but astonishing<br />

and unique. Picasso created 13 drawings as<br />

a tribute and Salvador Dali was inspired to<br />

create a pavilion in homage.<br />

He became famous in his lifetime. Now he –<br />

always looking proud – and his Ideal Palace<br />

featured on the postcards he so loved. When<br />

someone took photos of his creation to sell as<br />

postcards without his permission, he took out<br />

a court case and created the first copyright in<br />

France.<br />

Cheval became famous in his lifetime. Now he<br />

– always looking proud - and his Ideal Palace<br />

featured on the postcards he so loved. When<br />

someone took photos of his creation to sell as<br />

postcards without his permission, he took out<br />

a court case and created the first copyright in<br />

France.<br />

26 metres long (85 feet) by 12 metres wide (40<br />

feet), it was the culmination of a wild dream, an<br />

obsession and a lifetime’s work by night.<br />

The Palais Ideale of Postman Cheval is one of<br />

the wonders of France.<br />

With the job completed in 1912, Cheval, now<br />

aged 76, started building his own tomb in the<br />

local churchyard. He finished it aged 83, and<br />

died the year after in 1924. Built in the same<br />

style as his palace, and towering over the<br />

cemetery, it is a fitting resting place for this<br />

most remarkable artist.<br />

© L Pascale, La Drome Tourisme<br />

How to get there.<br />

By car is easiest but if you go by public<br />

transport, the nearest train stations are<br />

in Romans-sur-Isère or Saint Vallier-sur-<br />

Rhône. From both stations taxi services<br />

are available as well as buses which take<br />

around 30 minutes. Find more details of<br />

how to visit, opening times etc:<br />

www.facteurcheval.com<br />


A Unique, Champagne Themed<br />

19th century Townhouse in the centre of<br />

historic Condom, Gers, Southwest France.<br />

Offering a Luxury Boutique B&B,<br />

• full house rental<br />

• writing and mobile photography retreats<br />

• upmarket Hen do’s/girly getaways.<br />

All with a welcome glass of bubbly.<br />

champagnehouse.fr<br />

52 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 53

Spotlight<br />

on<br />

southern<br />

France<br />

A land of<br />

charm and<br />

enchantment<br />

Words by Janine Marsh;<br />

Photos by Marianne Furnes<br />

The south of France has long attracted artists<br />

and visitors who fall in love with the incredible<br />

light, the charm of the locals and their singing<br />

accents, the culture and history of this<br />

picturesque part of southern France, fields of<br />

fragrant lavender and glorious countryside,<br />

authentic and rustic seaside villages…<br />

Villefranche-sur-Mer<br />

‘When I see Villefranche, I see my youth<br />

again. Pray Heaven it may never change’…<br />

French poet Jean Cocteau on Villefranchesur-Mer<br />

The 700-year-old traditional fishing village<br />

is home to around 5000 inhabitants but<br />

welcomes about a million tourists every<br />

year (thanks to the large cruise ships which<br />

drop anchor just at the entrance of the bay).<br />

Nevertheless, the village has managed to<br />

retain its authentic and charming nature,<br />

winding medieval streets and ochre, pink<br />

and yellow houses topped with orange tiled<br />

roofs. From the hills, those who climb have a<br />

splendid view of Cap-Ferrat, and from some<br />

spots even the Cap de Nice.<br />

Just as Picasso, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard<br />

Burton and Henry Ford discovered, it is the<br />

perfect place to have a drink at the end of a<br />

beautiful day, while you soak up the view of<br />

the stunning sunsets.<br />

Nice<br />

Words don’t do justice to the charms of Nice.<br />

You have to see the palm trees gently swaying<br />

from the light sea breeze under the azure sky<br />

and taste the salt in the air. Walk down the<br />

chequered paths of Place Masséna and along<br />

the narrow wiggly streets of the old town, lined<br />

with bright terracotta-coloured building.<br />

Wander the Promenade des Anglais that<br />

winds around the Bay of Angels, lapped by the<br />

unbelievably turquoise sea, glittering from the<br />

rays of the warm sun. Listen to the clanking<br />

anchors of yachts in the harbour and explore<br />

54 | The Good Life France Villefranche-sur-Mer<br />

The Good Life France | 55

Nice<br />

the Cours Saleya with its daily market and<br />

stands selling local Socca and Pissaladière<br />

and smell the olive oil, sea salt and smoke waft<br />

around you. Nice is a city that assails your<br />

senses and fills you with the joy of life.<br />

Uzès<br />

In Uzès, rich Mediterranean skies slowly bake<br />

a rocky green landscape and olive trees<br />

grasp the leafy fingers of the mulberry trees<br />

to provide welcome shade in a medieval town<br />

square. It’s a place where pale limestone<br />

houses gently glow and where history and<br />

ancient architecture walk hand in hand<br />

under the watchful eye of three feudal towers<br />

and the ancestral home and chateau of<br />

the town’s Duke. Be lured into its narrow,<br />

medieval streets, rest beneath its heavy<br />

canopy of thick leaved plane trees and cool<br />

stone arches, and be seduced by its charm<br />

that leaves you breathless.<br />

Antibes<br />

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

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

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

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

Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway all fell in<br />

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

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

hundred years after they partied here in<br />

Nice<br />

the roaring twenties. Take a dip in the sea.<br />

Wander the old district where the scent of<br />

orange blossom, lavender and jasmine fills the<br />

air. Narrow winding roads with ornamental<br />

cobbles that lead you past tall old houses<br />

dripping with bright pink bougainvillea. It is a<br />

true treasure of the French Riviera.<br />

Read more about Antibes<br />

Aix-en-Provence<br />

“When the Good Lord begins to doubt<br />

the world, he remembers that he created<br />

Provence” – Frederic Mistral<br />

Aix will have you believing that dreams are<br />

real – it really is that lovely. The hometown of<br />

Paul Cézanne has some of the most glorious<br />

architecture of southern France, wander<br />

the Cours Mirabeau, shop at the market for<br />

homemade jam, exotic spices, sunflowers,<br />

organic honeys, juicy fruits, soothing<br />

lavender and local arts & crafts – all of this<br />

whilst gaping at the pastel-coloured buildings.<br />

Aix will steal your heart.<br />

Read more about Aix-en-Provence<br />

Antibes<br />

Saint-Remy-de-Provence<br />

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence<br />

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, or as the locals say,<br />

Saint-Rémy, is located at the base of very<br />

long and jagged limestone deposits. With a bit<br />

of imagination, they look like dragon teeth!<br />

The town is laid out in a circle with plane tree<br />

shaded squares with tinkling fountains and<br />

cobbled streets lined with ancient buildings.<br />

Just above the town centre is the perfect<br />

viewpoint for lovers of Van Gogh’s paintings.<br />

Many of his most well-known artworks were<br />

created during the time he spent in the asylum<br />

at Saint-Rémy. Have you ever noticed the<br />

steeple in Starry Night? Remember his series<br />

of olive trees and the jagged mountains in<br />

the background? The sensory world of Van<br />

Gogh surrounds you in this magical spot above<br />

Saint-Rémy.<br />

Sault, Vaucluse<br />

There are few more breath-taking sights<br />

than fields of lavender in bloom and from the<br />

village of Sault, perched atop a rocky outcrop,<br />

the views are marvellous. Situated between<br />

Uzes<br />

56 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 57

Menton<br />

Sault<br />

Menton<br />

the mountains of Lure, Luberon and Mont<br />

Ventoux – the area is famous for its picturepostcard-pretty<br />

lavender fields, forests and<br />

plains where goats and sheep wander. Visit<br />

on a Wednesday morning for the vibrant<br />

market and wander the pretty medieval<br />

streets for an eyeful of charm.<br />

Sault<br />

Menton<br />

Menton is said to be the warmest town on<br />

the French Riviera with around 316 days of<br />

sunshine a year! During the time of the Belle<br />

Epoque, royals from around Europe flocked<br />

to the town and luxury hotels and villas<br />

were built in the magical setting. Stroll the<br />

steep narrow streets which cascade down<br />

to the sea. Sit in shaded squares and watch<br />

the world go by, beguiled by this corner of<br />

captivating charm.<br />

58 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 59

Let Them EAT CAKE:<br />

Celebrating<br />

St Honoré<br />

Ally Mitchell investigates the legend of<br />

Saint Honoré and his importance to the<br />

bakers of France…<br />

As a Brit, my appreciation of saint days<br />

extends to our patron saints of which there are<br />

four, one for each country within the United<br />

Kingdom. Beyond them and St Valentine,<br />

however, there are few saints recorded on<br />

my calendar. France, on the other hand, has<br />

filled in the blanks – here, they have helpfully<br />

pointed out there is a saint allocated to<br />

every day of the year. Many slide right past<br />

on the conveyer belt of days, yet some are<br />

celebrated including St Catherine, the saint<br />

of unmarried women, in November, and St<br />

Honoré, the saint of bakers, in May, both<br />

worthy of a good celebration (maybe they<br />

should be combined? What a good kneesup<br />

that would be). St Honoré even had a<br />

spectacular cake made in his honour, one<br />

which is now sold in boulangeries around<br />

France. Pretty good going for a young<br />

unassuming bishop from Amiens. So, to<br />

celebrate St Honoré on the 16th May, here’s<br />

his tale and how he became the saint of<br />

boulangers, pâtissiers and meuniers, three<br />

professions you might not expect would<br />

require a patron.<br />

Honoré was born in Port-le-Grand, Picardy,<br />

in the sixth century to a noble family, yet<br />

not a lot has been recorded about his life<br />

until he was offered the role of the eighth<br />

bishop of Amiens. Even though he resisted<br />

the offer, believing himself to be unworthy,<br />

according to legend, at that exact moment,<br />

a ray a divine light shone down on him. His<br />

beloved nursemaid didn’t believe he could<br />

have been honoured with such a position. She<br />

swore she would accept it only if her bread<br />

peel grew roots and transformed into a tree.<br />

Incidentally, she was baking bread at the<br />

time, and placing the end of the peel on the<br />

floor, it suddenly morphed into a mulberry<br />

tree. Ten centuries later, the tree was still<br />

standing and deemed miraculous.<br />

This wasn’t the only miracle allegedly conjured<br />

by Honoré, nor his only connection to bread<br />

60 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 61

and baking. Natural disasters were somehow<br />

avoided, saving the crops and consequently<br />

the work of millers and bakers, and St Honoré<br />

was credited with these miracles. After his<br />

death in around 600AD, drought loomed and<br />

his relics were appealed to, and even carried<br />

in a procession around the city walls. Before<br />

long, the rain swiftly came.<br />

His post-humous reputation continued to grow<br />

and in 1202, a baker wished to build a chapel<br />

in his honour and donated some local land to<br />

the city of Paris. This chapel was extended in<br />

1579 and bequeathed its name to Rue Saint-<br />

Honoré which extends to Rue Faubourg Saint-<br />

Honoré from the 1st to the 8th arrondissement.<br />

Streets aren’t the only locations bestowed with<br />

his eponym as there is also the Saint-Honoré<br />

market and the now missing Saint-Honoré<br />

gate on the west of the city. The Saint-Honoré<br />

chapel has since been replaced by the<br />

departments of The Ministry of Culture.<br />

In Paris in 1400, the guild of bakers was<br />

established in the church of St Honoratus<br />

and dedicated the day of his feast to the 16th<br />

May. Even royalty jumped on board – in 1659,<br />

Louis XIV decreed that the feast of St Honoré<br />

must be observed by every baker annually and<br />

donations must be given in his name. Both<br />

financial and edible donations were accepted.<br />

You may be wondering why bakers, pastry<br />

makers and millers all needed a patron saint.<br />

These professions have always been gruelling,<br />

but none more so than during the medieval<br />

times when the workers suffered from various<br />

breathing and skin aliments due to the flour<br />

particles filling their lungs and pores. They also<br />

had bad reputations for selling under-weight<br />

bread or using bad grain. For these practices,<br />

they were punished with a contraption called<br />

the ‘baker’s gallows’ where they’d be forced<br />

into a basket, hoisted up to 40 feet in the air,<br />

then dropped in mud.<br />

And what about this cake? Even by the 19th<br />

century, bakers and pastry chefs were still<br />

honouring St Honoré and now they put their<br />

professional skills into action by baking him<br />

a showstopper of confectionary. In 1847, the<br />

Chiboust boulangerie on – where else? – the<br />

Rue Saint-Honoré, created a ring-shaped<br />

brioche filled with a finicky filling of crème<br />

patisserie lightened with Italian meringue.<br />

This cream, which became known as crème<br />

Chiboust and even has its own Facebook<br />

page, is applied with a special St Honoré<br />

nozzle to form the pastry’s iconic petals of<br />

cream. Eventually, the brioche was replaced<br />

with puff pastry and topped with a circle of<br />

cream choux buns dipped in caramel. It’s no<br />

wonder that this is the patisserie of choice<br />

for St Honoré; all its elements demonstrate<br />

essential baking and pâtissier skills.<br />

Celebrate St Honoré on the 16th May at Les<br />

Fetes du Pain where there will be competitions<br />

(including the Best French Traditional<br />

Baguette), demonstrations and tastings taking<br />

place in front of Notre-Dame in Paris, or by<br />

picking up a St Honoré cake from your local<br />

boulangerie (or make one at home if you<br />

have several hours to spare). Visit Amiens<br />

Cathedral, a UNESCO heritage site, which<br />

dates back to the 13th century - St Honoré is<br />

tributed with the eponymous south portal.<br />


Relax. Replenish. Revive.<br />

Kick back and relax in a Cotswold Eco Tub<br />

Delivered all over France<br />

hottubsinfrance.com<br />


SUR CÉLÉ<br />

An enchanting luxurious riverside retreat in the beautiful Célé Valley<br />

Experience la France Profonde<br />

www.lemoulinsurcele.com<br />

62 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 63

UK - France<br />

Set sail to<br />

France with<br />

DFDS<br />

• Dover - Calais or Dunkirk crossings<br />

from just £78<br />

• Newhaven – Dieppe crossings<br />

from just £54<br />

• Visit beautiful villages,<br />

towns and cities!<br />

• Duty Free - save up to 50%<br />

vs UK high street<br />

The spiritual side of<br />

Basilique Saint Maximin<br />

the South of France…<br />

BOOK NOW!<br />

www.dfds.com<br />

Prices subject to specific promotional period and subject to<br />

availability. Latest prices on our website. Bookings and travel period<br />

valid until 10 December <strong>2023</strong>. Prices correct at times of printing.<br />

France has a long and rich history with a<br />

past that is full of legends and tales, some<br />

so old and lost in the mists of time that it’s<br />

often impossible to confirm fact from fiction.<br />

One of the most enduring tales of southern<br />

France involves the story of Mary Magdalene,<br />

a disciple of Jesus who it is said took refuge<br />

in France after his death. A new tour seeks<br />

to discover more about the saint whilst<br />

also discovering the most beautiful parts of<br />

southern France…<br />

Long, long ago stories began to circulate in<br />

France and beyond that following the death<br />

of Jesus, his disciples dispersed, and some<br />

said that France became a haven for some<br />

of them. The details have been lost in time,<br />

but generally the legend is that three women<br />

named Mary, or sometimes two women<br />

named Mary, along with Martha, Lazarus and<br />

a servant named Sarah had been set adrift<br />

in an open boat from Palestine after Christ’s<br />

death. They arrived in the south of France and<br />

landed either at Marseille or Saintes-Mariesde-la-Mer.<br />

The Marys were said to be Mary<br />

Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary Jacobi.<br />

The Divine Destination Collection<br />

tours aim to create life-changing travel<br />

adventures, combined with wellness, luxury<br />

accommodation, great food and wine,<br />

plus uncover the magic and spirituality of<br />

a destination. They run tours all over the<br />

world and in June <strong>2023</strong> they will head to the<br />

south of France to follow the path of Mary<br />

Magdalene’s journey. She became a muchrevered<br />

saint in France with many churches<br />

dedicated to her. The unique trip isn’t about<br />

64 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 65

Vineyard near Carcassonne © J-Laurens<br />

views, it’s a goosebump, memorable moment<br />

as you learn about the mysteries and history of<br />

this ancient place.<br />

Carcassonne is surrounded by beautiful<br />

villages and tiny hamlets like Rennes-le-<br />

Chateau and Alet-les-Bains, Rennes-les-<br />

Baines and Cathar Castles. So many of the<br />

local sites are off the beaten track, authentic<br />

and missed by most visitors. You’ll visit<br />

private gardens, enjoy a live piano recital at<br />

a castle and get to learn more about Mary<br />

Magdalene and her journey in the area.<br />

Carcassonne<br />

Mary Magdalene as a religious figure but as<br />

an archetype of the divine feminine. And as<br />

you explore her story, you’ll also be immersed<br />

in the beauty of France.<br />

Carcassonne<br />

The journey starts in UNESCO-listed<br />

Carcassonne where you’ll stay at the famed<br />

Hotel de la Cité. The ground floor of the<br />

hotel is a listed historic monument and if you<br />

leaf through the guest book you’ll find the<br />

signatures of Winston Churchill, Princess Grace<br />

of Monaco and Colette, the great French<br />

writer. The hotel is seriously special and very<br />

luxurious. As you sip the local sparkling wine on<br />

the terrace of the hotel and watch the sun set<br />

over the citadel while soaking up the stunning<br />

66 | The Good Life France Carcassonne<br />

The Good Life France | 67

Aix-en-Provence<br />

Aix, as the locals call it, is one of those places<br />

that steals your heart. It is an elegantly<br />

cultured city, mellow and laid back, sunkissed<br />

and sensuous. One of its most beautiful<br />

hotels is the 18th century mansion, 5* Le<br />

Pigonnet which has gorgeous gardens with<br />

20 fountains, a grand pool, and glorious<br />

rooms – fit for nobility, and your second<br />

home on this tour. It’s a stone’s throw from<br />

the famous and picturesque Cours Mirabeau<br />

main thoroughfare which splits the city<br />

into two halves, the Renaissance side and<br />

the Medieval side, the Champs-Elysées of<br />

southern France, lined with glorious mansions,<br />

café terraces, galleries and boutiques. On<br />

Saturdays a lively market spreads along its<br />

cobbles tempting you to fill your case with<br />

souvenirs. This is the former home of artist<br />

Cézanne and traces of him are everywhere, in<br />

the museums, and at his former atelier a short<br />

walk from the city centre. Smocks, hats and<br />

still-life props, recognisable from his paintings,<br />

clutter the place where Cézanne captured his<br />

obsession with Mont Sainte-Victoire<br />

mountain on canvas, and completed his last<br />

Grandes Baigneuses.<br />

From Aix it’s a short journey to Saint-Maximinla-Sainte-Baume<br />

and the Basilica of Saint<br />

Mary Magdalene. It’s said that she was buried<br />

here in the 1st century though the earliest<br />

part of the church, the crypt, dates to the 4th<br />

century and is famous for being said to hold<br />

the skull of Mary. A grotto nearby is where the<br />

saint is said to have meditated. Surrounded by<br />

glorious countryside, castles, monasteries and<br />

vineyards, this is a very special, not well-known<br />

part of southern France.<br />

Along the route you’ll have the chance to<br />

meet “Mary experts”, trace the path of Mary<br />

Magdalene or simply relax and enjoy this<br />

luxurious adventure.<br />

From the ancient marble-paved streets<br />

of the Bastide of Saint-Louis, the lower<br />

town of Carcassonne, and the upper towns<br />

cobbled streets, to the winding lanes of<br />

Aix, the countryside of southern France,<br />

Cezanne<br />

Carcassonne<br />

its monuments, castles and churches, and<br />

its spiritual places, this is a unique tour that<br />

reveals a little-known and extraordinary side<br />

to France. This small group tour (limited to<br />

22 maximum) will be hosted by Deb Niven<br />

and Allison Frame who have decades of travel<br />

industry experience between them. You’ll<br />

enjoy fine dining, private unique venues, visits<br />

to wineries and the finest hotels.<br />

Find out more about this unique and seriously<br />

special tour (suitable for couples, friends, solo)<br />

at: divinedestinationcollection.com<br />

The Sacred South of France<br />

June 5-12, <strong>2023</strong><br />




Magical, immersive and uncommon moments...<br />

where luxury, adventure and spirituality meet<br />

www.divinedestinationcollection.com<br />

68 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 69

Tracking the<br />


Page 78<br />

Le Mans<br />

cathedral<br />

Alone with the<br />

Plantagenets<br />

Cite Plantagenet,<br />

Le Mans<br />

Gillian Thornton follows the English kings<br />

through Anjou and Normandy<br />

Royal dynasties are often complicated, but<br />

none more so than the early Plantagenet kings<br />

who dominated France and England in the<br />

12th and 13th centuries. Arranged marriages<br />

here. Betrayals and treachery there. This was<br />

the soap opera that just kept on giving.<br />

It all began in Le Mans with Geoffrey, Count<br />

of Anjou and Maine, who tucked a sprig of<br />

broom, or genet, in his hat after hunting,<br />

thus earning himself the name of Geoffrey<br />

Plantagenet. In 1128, he married Matilda -<br />

granddaughter of William the Conqueror,<br />

Duke of Normandy and King of England – who<br />

gave Geoffrey the Duchy of Normandy as her<br />

dowry. But it was his son Henry and grandsons<br />

Richard and John who really put the family on<br />

the political map.<br />

I love discovering the shared history of<br />

England and France but especially since my<br />

husband discovered a distant Plantagenet<br />

connection in his family tree. You don’t need<br />

any royal relatives, however, to enjoy visiting<br />

heritage sites associated with this colourful<br />

cast of characters.<br />

The Angevin heartland<br />

Best place to start any Plantagenet tour is in<br />

the historic province of Anjou, today part of<br />

Pays de la Loire. Geoffrey was born in<br />

Le Mans in 1113, baptised in its soaring Gothic<br />

cathedral, and married to Matilda in the<br />

Palace of the Counts of Maine, now the city’s<br />

Town Hall.<br />

The cathedral itself is a stunner, standing<br />

at the heart of the historic quarter or Cité<br />

Plantagenet. Wander the cobbled streets<br />

today past colourful half-timbered facades<br />

and it’s easy to imagine life in the Plantagenet<br />

era; harder though to grasp that the<br />

substantial Roman ramparts were already<br />

800 years old when Geoffrey lived here and<br />

are largely still standing.<br />

lemans-tourisme.com<br />

70 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 71

Abbaye de l'Epau<br />

Despite fighting for his wife’s right to the<br />

English throne, Geoffrey never gained a<br />

crown for himself. But his first son Henry, born<br />

in 1133, would become Henry II of England<br />

and add vast lands to the family portfolio by<br />

marrying Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, former<br />

Queen of France from her dissolved marriage<br />

to Louis VI.<br />

You can spend hours in Le Mans but do take in<br />

the Royal Abbey of Epau just outside the city,<br />

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

to discover the story of Bérengère de Navarre<br />

who married Henry II’s son Richard, known as<br />

the Lionheart or Coeur de Lion, in 1191. Largely<br />

forgotten after Richard’s death in 1199, the<br />

widowed Queen of England returned to the<br />

family palace in Le Mans before founding<br />

Epau Abbey in 1229 as her last resting place.<br />

Today, Epau is both a heritage site and<br />

a cultural centre for the department of<br />

Sarthe with an extensive permaculture<br />

vegetable garden that supplies the abbey<br />

café. Berengère died in 1230 but lives on<br />

here through a recumbent stone effigy. The<br />

whereabouts of her bones however is still<br />

under investigation; read the fascinating<br />

archaeological story on panels beside her<br />

likeness. sarthetourism.com<br />

Whilst Richard’s widow rests in royal solitude<br />

at Epau, her parents in law are elsewhere.<br />

Henry II and his feisty wife Eleanor fell out<br />

big time when she sided with sons Richard<br />

and John against him over division of the<br />

Plantagenet lands. Henry had her imprisoned<br />

Chinon castle<br />

for 16 years and after his death, Eleanor<br />

retired to the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud<br />

close to Saumur in the Loire Valley. Here she<br />

commissioned painted stone effigies not just<br />

of herself, but also Henry and her favourite<br />

son Richard who both predeceased her.<br />

She certainly had the last laugh, ordering that<br />

her own likeness stand higher than the others<br />

and be depicted with a book as a blatant<br />

symbol of her superior intellect. The figures<br />

were moved in times of religious unrest but<br />

today stand in splendid isolation beneath<br />

the lofty roof timbers of the main abbey<br />

church. Completing the quartet is Isabelle<br />

of Angoulême, wife of Eleanor’s younger son<br />

John. As King John – of Magna Carta fame<br />

– he chose Worcester Cathedral in England<br />

for his last resting place, but his son Henry III<br />

brought Isabelle to the Plantagenet necropolis<br />

in 1254.<br />

Fontevraud’s extensive walled complex was<br />

converted to a prison under Napoleon, but<br />

has been sympathetically transformed into<br />

the Regional Arts and Culture Centre for Pays<br />

de la Loire. Wander the historic buildings,<br />

visit the Museum of Modern Art, and enjoy<br />

eclectic outdoor art installations. Best of all,<br />

stay overnight at Fontevraud l’Hôtel and you<br />

can explore freely after dark and enjoy the<br />

Chinon<br />

spotlit Plantagenets and illuminated buildings<br />

in solitude. An unforgettable experience.<br />

Advance bookings are strongly recommended<br />

for the Michelin-starred restaurant in the hotel<br />

cloister. fontevraud.fr<br />

From Touraine to<br />

Normandy<br />

Henry II of England spent much of his time on<br />

the road across his vast Plantagenet Empire<br />

which stretched from the Scottish Borders<br />

down the length of western France to the<br />

Pyrenees and across the Auvergne. In 1189<br />

Henry died from an infection at the Château<br />

de Chinon which today is part of the Loire<br />

Valley’s Touraine region and whilst much of<br />

this strategic hilltop fortress is in ruins, the<br />

exhibition in the former Plantagenet Hall<br />

includes a handy silent film that neatly wraps<br />

up the family squabbles. forteressechinon.fr<br />

From Chinon, I headed north into Normandy,<br />

a region also rich in Plantagenet sites.<br />

Richard the Lionheart spent much of his reign<br />

fighting the crusades in the Middle East,<br />

but the border with France was a constant<br />

worry too. Ruins don’t come much more<br />

atmospheric than the Château-Gaillard at<br />

72 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 73

The Seine from Chateau Gaillard<br />

Les Andeleys, commissioned by Richard on<br />

a rocky promontory high above the Seine<br />

east of Rouen. Wear flat, non-slip shoes to<br />

climb the uneven path to the inner courtyard<br />

for sweeping views over river cliffs and plain.<br />

nouvelle-normandie-tourisme.com<br />

Richard’s death in 1199 was something of an<br />

anti-climax for such a seasoned fighter, the<br />

result of an infected arrow wound in southwest<br />

France. But whilst his body was buried at<br />

Fontrevraud, his heart lies in Rouen Cathedral,<br />

a common practice in the Middle Ages to<br />

spread the opportunities for local income from<br />

pilgrims. An effigy of the warrior king lies in<br />

the spectacular Gothic cathedral, famously<br />

painted by Claude Monet more than 30 times.<br />

visiterouen.com<br />

Less obvious but equally interesting for a<br />

Plantagenet hunter is Avranches, close to the<br />

Normandy coast. Excommunicated by the<br />

Pope for instigating the murder of Thomas<br />

Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, Henry II<br />

met here in 1172 with delegates of the Pope<br />

to seek absolution. The crumbling cathedral<br />

was demolished in 1794, but the site of the<br />

meeting is now a hilltop green space with<br />

distant views of Mont St Michel, the place of<br />

penance marked by a stone pillar and plaque.<br />

Just ask any local for directions to Place<br />

Becket. normandie-tourisme.fr<br />

King John died in 1216, but the Plantagenet<br />

Rouen Cathedral through 'Monet's window'<br />

Chateau Gaillard<br />

dynasty was to carry on for another 300<br />

years until Richard III died on Bosworth Field<br />

in 1485, overthrown by the next dysfunctional<br />

dynasty, the Tudors. But none of the<br />

Plantagenets who followed John would have<br />

the same influence across two countries as<br />

those first three kings.<br />

Henry II had built up the empire; Richard<br />

fought hard to maintain it; and John –<br />

nicknamed Lackland or Jean sans Terre –<br />

managed to lose most of the French lands<br />

to Philip II of France. But their ambition<br />

and animosity have ensured that 900 years<br />

later, we are still fascinated by those early<br />

Plantagenet monarchs and the sites they left<br />

behind - quite some legacy!<br />

Exceptional arts and<br />

crafts made in Provence<br />

L'AUGUSTE Provence<br />

create a unique artisanal<br />

collection of bags and<br />

accessories from exclusive<br />

watercolors to bring a little<br />

Provencal style into your<br />

life wherever you are.<br />

laugusteprovence.com<br />

74 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 75

Adventure Sailing in<br />

Brittany for Teens<br />

QBE adventure sailing holidays for teenagers along the Breton coast aren’t ordinary<br />

– they are life-changing experiences…<br />

Jessica Anderson and her husband are both healthcare professionals who live in Montana<br />

(USA), near Yellowstone National Park. Nichola Waygood is an artist in Edinburgh. And<br />

Francesco Stella is a successful businessman in Milan. Different countries, different vocations,<br />

different circumstances. But they all share one thing in common: in 2022 they all elected to<br />

send their teenage son or daughter sailing with Will Sutherland in Brittany, one of France’s<br />

premiere sailing areas and a world away from home.<br />

The Captain and his crew<br />

QBE director Will Sutherland is an experienced<br />

sailor and inspiring mentor who has taught<br />

outdoor and life skills his entire professional<br />

life. QBE, the company he founded more<br />

than 30 years ago, stands for “Qualified By<br />

Experience,” and that is the philosophy at the<br />

heart of his singular maritime expeditions.<br />

These are no ordinary holidays – they are<br />

extraordinary adventures on the waves, where<br />

friendships are formed and lives are changed<br />

as sailors are made, with or without any<br />

previous yachting experience.<br />

It’s an opportunity for teenagers to expand<br />

their horizons while interacting with a team of<br />

peers to undertake challenging tasks in a safe<br />

but unfamiliar environment. And it all takes<br />

place on two gaff-rig sailing vessels that are<br />

based in the historic port of Saint-Malo.<br />

Crews live aboard for two to three weeks and<br />

sail the boats for up to 1,000 nautical miles,<br />

visiting the Channel Islands and journeying<br />

around the Breton peninsula. Learning to sail<br />

is the main aim, but it’s much more than just a<br />

sailing course. All the teamwork skills learned<br />

by living and working together – leadership,<br />

decision-making, personal communication,<br />

confrontation management, planning and<br />

managing – are transferable ashore.<br />

“The transformations in self-confidence and<br />

self-knowledge are often remarkable. Quite<br />

often it can be a bit of a culture shock being<br />

in France, on a traditionally rigged boat and<br />

in charge of their own destinies,” says Will.<br />

“But at the same time, the kids are having a<br />

lot of fun on a memorable holiday. They make<br />

friends for life over a few weeks, and they<br />

go home knowing that they have achieved<br />

something to be proud of.”<br />

Sailing since he was six years old, British-born<br />

Will taught yachting in Antibes, spent seven<br />

years coaching a high school J24 racing<br />

team at Cowes Week and taught at the Royal<br />

Yachting Association Sea Schools in the UK.<br />

He was also a teacher and expeditions master<br />

at Aiglon College, in Switzerland, famous<br />

76 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 77

for its ambitious expeditionary-learning<br />

programme. That extensive experience makes<br />

him uniquely qualified to lead QBE’s sailing<br />

holidays. He and his professional team teach<br />

the student crews to do everything (instruction<br />

is primarily in English, though the team also<br />

speak French). They take most of the decisions<br />

whilst ensuring safety at all times and giving<br />

the teenagers every opportunity to tackle<br />

the responsibilities entailed in sailing 46-foot<br />

yachts. The sailing school has been going for<br />

more than 30 years, and QBE’s team have<br />

enjoyed tremendous success in teaching,<br />

coaching and mentoring.<br />

“Mixed crews work best for getting the most<br />

out of the experience,” says Will. “Every<br />

individual counts, everyone is a significant<br />

participant. If the crews don’t manage to<br />

work together, the boats do not sail well. And<br />

because we have identical boats, there is<br />

always a bit of competition and a desire to be<br />

out in front.”<br />

The boats<br />

The yachts are head-turning replicas of<br />

Alouette, a 19th-century French pilot cutter.<br />

The crew must take on board that these<br />

classic yachts require teamwork and effort<br />

to sail, and from that comes a sense of<br />

achievement. In fact, they’re the perfect boats<br />

to teach teens the skill and art of sailing – big<br />

enough to be very seaworthy but small enough<br />

for novice sailors to learn the ropes quickly.<br />

It’s fun<br />

A QBE expedition is a fantastically fun<br />

holiday: Crew members not only enjoy the<br />

thrill of coastal sailing, but they also get to<br />

observe millions of stars visible in clear night<br />

skies and discover a surprising variety of<br />

wildlife, including bottlenose dolphins, seals,<br />

and a vast number of seabirds. The boats<br />

routinely call at little-known ports that are<br />

steeped in history and regional culture. There<br />

are also visits to historic sites, museums, and<br />

cultural events. And everyone enjoys sampling<br />

the local taste sensations, including Brittany’s<br />

favourite – crêpes.<br />

This is an exceptional adventure where those<br />

who sail these extraordinary boats create<br />

memories that last a lifetime.<br />

Jessica Anderson’s son was so taken with<br />

his QBE experience that he’s coming back<br />

again this season – in both July and August!<br />

“It was more than an amazing adventure,” he<br />

enthuses, “it was a life-changing experience.”<br />

Find out more about QBE’s<br />

holidays for teenagers in June, July,<br />

and August, and also for adults (on<br />

application), at elsleaders.com<br />

78 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 79


L’Étang de Thau<br />

Sete at sunset<br />

Water jousting sete<br />

The Archipel de Thau lagoon is a bit of a<br />

secret place in southern France. Around<br />

20km long, and separated from the<br />

Mediterranean by a sandbank, the L’Étang<br />

de Thau as it’s also called, is the largest salt<br />

lake in the Occitanie region, and a breeding<br />

ground for oysters and mussels. Bordering the<br />

lake are pretty villages surrounded by lush<br />

vineyards. From the commune of Agde to the<br />

town of Sète, on the Mediterranean side there<br />

are miles and miles of wide sandy beaches<br />

known as Marseillan Plage.<br />

Rising out of the sea, and the dominant<br />

landmark of the lagoon, is the hill of Mont<br />

Saint-Clair with, at its base, Sète, known as<br />

the Venice of the region thanks to its canals<br />

and busy port. This lively town has a plethora<br />

of restaurants all around the port and almost<br />

all serve freshly caught fish. Dishes reflect a<br />

strong Italian influence due to the immigrant<br />

workers who helped create the canals in the<br />

17th century.<br />

Sète is a cruise destination as well as<br />

France’s leading port for blue fish, sardines,<br />

anchovies and tuna. During the summer<br />

months, the banks of the main canal are<br />

filled with spectators watching water<br />

jousting, a form of entertainment dating<br />

back to the town’s inception in 1666.<br />

Teams dressed in white, board long boats<br />

and compete against each other to topple<br />

their adversary’s jouster with a 2.8m<br />

long wooden lance! In July, the open-air<br />

theatre with its enchanting backdrop of the<br />

Mediterranean, hosts a Jazz Festival that<br />

attracts top name artists.<br />

Natasha Blair explores the pretty villages strung around a lagoon<br />

in the south of France<br />

80 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 81

Abbey of Valmagne<br />

The Good Life France podcast<br />

Everything you want to know about<br />

France and more...<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

Around the lagoon are little villages, each with its own charms.<br />

Pretty villages<br />

At Balaruc-les-Bains the Antique<br />

Mediterranean Garden is well worth a visit,<br />

laid out as it would have been in Roman times.<br />

Discover the agriculture and horticulture<br />

of the Mediterranean, and the diverse use<br />

of flowers and plants in medicine, cooking,<br />

and cosmetics. The village is known for its<br />

therapeutic thermal waters.<br />

At Bouzigues the secrets of the fishermen<br />

of L’Etang as well as oyster cultivation are<br />

explained at the Museum of Ethnographique.<br />

And at the 12th century Abbey of Valmagne<br />

you can take a wine tasting. Its architecture<br />

is based on the great cathedrals of Northern<br />

France. Original paintings are displayed on<br />

the stone walls of the cloisters, and there are<br />

regular exhibitions. Converted into a wine<br />

storehouse after the French Revolution, and<br />

thanks to its vineyards, it is known as the<br />

wine cathedral.<br />

Marseillan<br />

Make your way to Marseillan and en route you<br />

may spot pink flamingos in the shallow waters<br />

of the lagoon. Marseillan Port is a preserved<br />

heritage site with pretty cafés bordering the<br />

inlet. The town is the home of Noilly Prat<br />

vermouth, a favourite ingredient of James<br />

Bond for his famous “shaken not stirred” Dry<br />

Martini! Its history can be traced back to<br />

1813, and a visit to the Noilly Prat museum will<br />

reveal many secrets including the spices and<br />

herbs in the ingredients list. Tours end with a<br />

tasting – perfect.<br />

82 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 83

'Real' South of France Tours<br />






realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

Marseillan<br />

Étang de Thau with its delicious Tarboureich oysters © Cheryl Avery<br />

Marseillan’s market takes place on Tuesday morning and its arrival turns the village from a quiet,<br />

sleepy town into a vibrant place. In a row of shacks where the boats come to off-load their<br />

catch from the Etang, you’ll find La Cabane Brasucade, a tiny family run eaterie facing onto<br />

the lagoon. Here, they marinate the oysters and mussels which are grown just offshore - you<br />

can’t miss the sight of row upon row of what look like huts on stilts in the lagoon. The freshly<br />

harvested, marinated molluscs are cooked over an open fire. Served with the local wine, such as<br />

Picpoul de Pinet, this is one of life’s finest pleasures!<br />

There are numerous water sports including kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing and<br />

kitesurfing. Bicycle paths are everywhere, including the 18 miles of Marseillan Plage. Beaches<br />

offer somewhere to relax, play and eat with numerous restaurants and bars.<br />

There are also many walking paths in the area, some circumnavigating vineyards where you<br />

can enjoy tastings. This is an area of small, independent wine growers and often, it’s a matter of<br />

ringing a bell at the front door to access the tasting room.<br />

This little part of paradise is authentic and irresistibly pretty, a well-kept secret to fall<br />

in love with.<br />

archipel-thau.com<br />

84 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 85

Your Photos<br />

Vaison-la-Romaine, lies at<br />

the foot of the Denetelles<br />

de Montmirail mountains in<br />

Provence. An ancient town once<br />

inhabited by the Romans, it was<br />

called Vaison until 1924 when it<br />

was renamed. The La Romaine<br />

part of the name is in homage<br />

to the number of Roman ruins<br />

uncovered in the early 20th<br />

century.<br />

Photo: Vok Stan<br />

Find out more: Vaison-la-Romaine<br />

Every weekend we invite<br />

you to share your photos on<br />

Facebook and Twitter – it’s<br />

a great way for everyone<br />

to “see” real France and be<br />

inspired by real travellers<br />

snapping pics as they<br />

go. Every week there are<br />

utterly gorgeous photos<br />

being shared, and here we<br />

showcase just a few of the<br />

most popular. Share your<br />

favourite photos with us and<br />

the most ‘liked’ will appear<br />

in the next issue of The Good<br />

Life France Magazine<br />

Paris at dusk<br />

Photo @parisvisites<br />

Guide to visiting<br />

Paris in the spring<br />

Saint-Malo, Brittany<br />

Photo: Nick Hall Fine Arts photographer<br />

Find out more about: Saint-Malo<br />

Join us on Facebook and<br />

Twitter to like and share<br />

your favourite photos of<br />

France...<br />

86 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 87

What’s<br />

ON?Spring <strong>2023</strong><br />

National Events<br />

There’s plenty going<br />

on throughout<br />

Spring in France –<br />

here’s our pick of<br />

some of the best<br />

and new events this<br />

season…<br />

Les Journées Européennes des Métiers d’Art<br />

European Days of Crafts: 22 March – 7 April, a<br />

chance for the public to meet artisans as 5000<br />

events take place across France. Workshops,<br />

exhibitions and demonstrations of skill plus<br />

tours. institut-metiersdart.org/<br />

Chartres en Lumières<br />

April <strong>2023</strong> to January 2024, the city of<br />

Chartres (Eure-et-Loire) puts on the most<br />

amazing light show with its annual festival of<br />

light. Take a guided visit, or simply wander<br />

this ancient city on foot. Make sure you visit<br />

the famous Cathedral while you’re there.<br />

chartresenlumieres.com/fr/<br />

Poisson d’Avril<br />

1st April is le poisson d’avril in France, (April<br />

Fish Day). You’ll see fish-shaped chocolates<br />

and pastries in shops across France. It’s<br />

traditional to stick paper cut-out fish onto<br />

people’s backs and not let them know. The<br />

idea is for them to walk around unaware all<br />

day, entertaining onlookers. The origins of le<br />

poisson d’avril are not clear but it’s believed to<br />

go back to a tradition of giving fish as a gift to<br />

celebrate the beginning of Easter and the<br />

end of Lent.<br />

European Museum Night – May 13<br />

Museums and monuments all over France<br />

will be open free of charge for most of the<br />

evening and many offer workshops, guided<br />

tours, musical performances and more. Not<br />

to be missed!<br />

nuitdesmusees.culture.gouv.fr/en/<br />

Major Events<br />

Mont-Saint-Michel Normandy celebrates its<br />

1000th anniversary in <strong>2023</strong>. Construction of<br />

the Romanesque nave of the Mont-St-Michel<br />

Abbey began in 1023. We’ll be bringing you<br />

more on this UNESCO-listed wonder of the<br />

world in the summer issue of the magazine.<br />

The Palace of Versailles celebrates its 400th<br />

Anniversary this year. Wishing to show all of<br />

Europe the magnificence of his reign, in 1661<br />

Louis XIV transformed his father’s modest<br />

castle into one of the most beautiful buildings<br />

in the world. He installed the Court there in<br />

1682 and his successors lived there until the<br />

French Revolution. It became a museum in<br />

1837. There will be several exhibitions through<br />

the year to celebrate this important milestone.<br />

Le Mans celebrates its 100th anniversary of<br />

the 24 Hours endurance race. The origins of<br />

the 24 Hours of Le Mans go back to 1906,<br />

when the Sarthe region won a public bid from<br />

the Automobile Club de France (ACF) to<br />

organize a Grand Prix. It was a huge success<br />

and sparked off the idea to hold an annual<br />

race. On May 26, 1923, 33 cars took to the<br />

track for the first edition of the 24-hour Speed<br />

and Endurance Grand Prix/Rudge-Withworth<br />

Cup. Since then, it has attracted daredevil<br />

racers from around the world including<br />

Hollywood legends Steve McQueen and Paul<br />

Newman.<br />

Bayonne/Nouvelle Aquitaine:<br />

The Bayonne Ham Fair –<br />

April 6-9<br />

Bayonne Ham Fair<br />

is one of Bayonne’s<br />

smaller festivals<br />

and brings together<br />

more than 200,000<br />

people, mainly young<br />

and old, around<br />

the river Nive, the<br />

Market and the<br />

quays of Bayonne.<br />

foireaujambon.fr/<br />

88 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 89

Dordogne/Nouvelle Aquitaine – Dordogne’s<br />

“Chateau en Fête” – 15 April – 1 May<br />

Sumptuous castles, manors and manor houses<br />

open their doors and present exhibitions,<br />

shows, sound and light shows, concerts,<br />

banquets, candlelit dinners and guided tours<br />

by the owner. chateauxenfete.com<br />

Across France – Rendez-Vous aux<br />

Jardins garden festival – June 2-4<br />

Each year, more than 2,200 parks and<br />

gardens - both public and private open their<br />

doors and offer activities and meetings<br />

with owners and professionals (botanists,<br />

gardeners, landscapers) plus guided tours,<br />

sensory or naturalistic walks, demonstrations<br />

of know-how, garden tours, musical walks,<br />

games/competitions, theatrical events, etc.<br />

Theme for <strong>2023</strong>: “Music in the Garden”<br />

rendezvousauxjardins.culture.gouv.fr/en<br />

Rouen/Normandie – Armada of Tall Ships –<br />

June 8-18<br />

Fifty<br />

magnificent<br />

tall ships, the<br />

world’s largest<br />

gathering,<br />

along with<br />

military boats<br />

and submarines<br />

from all over<br />

the world, manned by 7000 French and<br />

foreign sailors, will line Rouen’s quaysides for<br />

ten days of celebrations. The event finishes<br />

with a superb parade along the River Seine,<br />

towards the estuary between Honfleur and Le<br />

Havre. The Rouen Armada is the only event of<br />

its kind in France and is held every four years.<br />

armada.org/<br />

Across France – Fête de la Musique –<br />

June 21<br />

June 21, the day of the summer solstice<br />

is Fête de la musique day, a major free<br />

festival celebrating music in all its forms<br />

in streets across France. Thousands of<br />

concerts featuring bands, harmonies, choirs,<br />

orchestras, “big band” or rock groups.<br />

fetedelamusique.culture.gouv.fr<br />

Vienne/Auvergne-Rhone-Alps – Jazz à<br />

Viennes – 28 June 28 - 12July<br />

Created 40 years ago, the Festival Jazz<br />

à Vienne is held during the first two weeks<br />

of July. Every year over 200,000 festivalgoers<br />

flock to see more than 100 artists.<br />

jazzavienne.com/en<br />

Across France – Tour de France – July 1-23<br />

The world’s largest bike race covers a<br />

whopping 3,500km through the most<br />

beautiful landscapes of France. This year<br />

kicks off in Bilbao in the Basque Country and<br />

finishes on the Champs-Elysées in Paris.<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 />

90 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 91

INSPIRATION for your TRAVELS to France<br />

in Spring and Summer <strong>2023</strong><br />

If you’re planning a visit to France<br />

– we’ve handpicked the best tours<br />

and the best places to stay…<br />


‘Real’ South of France Tours<br />

Occitanie – formerly Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrenees – is to many the real south of<br />

France. It’s a land of hidden gems and historic giants like Carcassonne, and of lush vineyards<br />

where some of the very best wines in France are produced. Take a 7-day small group guided<br />

tour, or a bespoke tour that suits your wish list, and to discover the heart of this area and its<br />

innermost, delicious and fascinating secrets. Discover real France with ‘Real’ South of<br />

France Tours… realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

Day trips and tour packages all over France, plus brilliant shore excursions<br />

Ophorus Tours are a French family run business with a huge choice of tours from fun and<br />

informative guided walking city tours to very carefully crafted multi regional packages, wine<br />

tasting, cycling and themed tours all over France as well as day trips from Paris. Their aim<br />

is to show you France as they believe it should be shown – authentic, colourful and friendly.<br />

ophorus.com<br />

92 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 93

Battlefield tours and historical travel<br />

experiences<br />

Tailor-made historical travel experiences<br />

by a family-run specialist tour operator<br />

creates exceptional WWI and WWII<br />

battlefields tours across France, Belgium<br />

and the Netherlands. Sophie will research<br />

the history and background of soldiers so<br />

that each battlefield tour is a personal<br />

historical experience. Add on experiences<br />

to suit you such as chateau visits in the<br />

Loire, Champagne tastings in Champagne<br />

or a classic car tour in Provence. Every<br />

itinerary is created to be perfect – for you.<br />

sophiesgreatwartours.com<br />

Tours for those who love the authentic<br />

Discover southern France - from captivating<br />

Carcassonne to magical Montpellier, or the<br />

best of Provence and the lavender fields,<br />

Normandy, Bordeaux and Dordogne. On<br />

these luxury, small group tours you’ll get to<br />

be a temporary local and indulge in the best<br />

gastronomy, discover the beauty and culture<br />

of France... tripusafrance.com<br />

CroisiEurope – the very best cruises<br />

in France<br />

CroisiEurope are the largest cruise operator<br />

in France, and their tours are unbeatable.<br />

Sail France’s rivers and canals and the<br />

Mediterranean Sea. Discover the culture,<br />

gastronomy and cultural wealth of France.<br />

Enjoy all-inclusive life onboard with the<br />

finest food and wines and fabulous tours that<br />

take you to the heart of each destination.<br />

No stressing, no driving, no wondering how<br />

to fit in all the glorious must-see places or<br />

how to reach the off the beaten track gems,<br />

CroisiEurope’s cruises and excursions take<br />

you to the very heart of France – in style.<br />

If you’re in Paris, there are a fabulous range<br />

of cruises (from 2 days to 7 days) which<br />

depart from Paris (near the Eiffel Tower)<br />

and take in the city sights, plus Seine River<br />

beauties in Normandy including Honfleur,<br />

Rouen and Giverny where you’ll visit Claude<br />

Monet’s house and garden, plus there is<br />

a fabulous French Impressionism cruise<br />

taking in the artists’ favourite haunts, visiting<br />

castles, authentic little villages, historic sites<br />

and fabulous museums. Utterly irresistible…<br />

croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Immersive French courses in France<br />

10-day French immersion stays in Burgundy<br />

that will have you learning French in a<br />

fabulous and fun way. Stay in a gorgeous<br />

luxury chateau, experience the real French<br />

way of life, culture and gastronomy. Cooking<br />

lessons, wine tasting and guided tours by<br />

experts alongside lessons tailored to your<br />

level with friendly, qualified teachers make<br />

this a truly outstanding experience.<br />

lapont.com<br />

Year round themed and bespoke small<br />

group tours of Provence<br />

Small group tours and customized travelling<br />

to give you memories to last a lifetime.<br />

Discover the best of Provence: Lavender tours<br />

(there’s still room on the lavender and culture<br />

tour), truffle, grape harvest, and bespoke<br />

tours as well as chauffeur services for day<br />

trips or a lot longer. Emily Durand’s Private<br />

Provence tours are unique, exclusive and truly<br />

fabulous. yourprivateprovence.com<br />

Gascony, the Basque country, Provence<br />

and southern France<br />

Nourish your soul and unleash your spirit of<br />

adventure on tours that feature the famous<br />

food, wine and Armagnac of Gascony, and<br />

discover where to find the best antique<br />

shops and flea markets, the most beautiful<br />

villages and magnificent chateaux. From<br />

one day to week-long tours that are<br />

customised for you. Plus tours of Provence,<br />

southern France and the Basque country.<br />

frenchcountryadventures.com<br />

94 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 95

Culture & cookery tours in Provence<br />

Cooking classes with chefs in their homes<br />

where you’ll cook authentic French dishes.<br />

Shop at the enchanting street markets with<br />

chefs and dine at the most scrumptious<br />

restaurants in beautiful towns of Provence on<br />

this fully escorted delicious and cultural trip of<br />

a lifetime. goutetvoyage.com<br />

on two wheels… Loire Brakes guided tours<br />

are relaxing (e-bikes provided), you’ll stay in<br />

a fabulously renovated comfortable and cosy<br />

farmhouse and visit the very best of the Loire<br />

Valley with local guides Denise and Kevin. A<br />

superb slow travel experience for those who<br />

like to discover real France and enjoy the most<br />

fabulous food and wines… loirebrakes.com<br />

Tailor made tours and itineraries to suit you<br />

Bespoke itineraries for visits all over France<br />

including Normandy, Paris, the French<br />

Riviera and Bordeaux. Your route is planned<br />

based on what you want to see and do, with<br />

recommendations (confirmed bookings if<br />

you prefer) for your dream hotel, apartment,<br />

villa as well as restaurants, guided tours and<br />

attractions. All the hard work and uncertainty<br />

of where to go and where to stay is removed.<br />

You just have to relax and enjoy the trip of a<br />

lifetime. RNItravel.com<br />

Cognac No. 22<br />


Cognac no. 22 – luxury farmhouse in<br />

Charente-Maritime<br />

In a charming village, surrounded by fields<br />

of golden sunflowers, lush green vineyards<br />

and truffle forests, Gite No. 22, a beautifully<br />

restored 19th century traditional farmhouse<br />

with a luxurious heated pool, is utterly<br />

lovely. Ideally situated for the historic towns<br />

of Cognac, St Jean d 'Angely, Saintes,<br />

Angoulême and the Atlantic Coast beaches<br />

– if you can tear yourself away from the<br />

Moulin sur Célé<br />

irresistible local delights. Quintessentially<br />

French markets, traffic free cycle routes<br />

(with bikes provided for guests), cosy cafés,<br />

delicious bistros, distillery visits (this is Cognac<br />

country after all), glorious countryside – what<br />

are you waiting for… Cognac-no22.com<br />

The ultimate getaway in the most beautiful<br />

part of France<br />

In the Lot region, southwest France you will<br />

find a magical place – the Moulin sur Célé,<br />

a spectacularly restored 14th century water<br />

Champagne House, Gers<br />

mill in 25 acres of glorious countryside in the<br />

Célé Valley, one of the most beautiful parts of<br />

France. The restored Miller’s House and The<br />

Tower, with gorgeous gardens and pool offer<br />

luxurious relaxation at its best. Surrounded<br />

by landscapes of hypnotic beauty, activities<br />

galore, pickled in the past postcard-pretty<br />

villages and close to historic Cahors, famous<br />

for its marvellous Malbec wine and world class<br />

gastronomy. France at its very best and most<br />

authentic. Lemoulinsurcele.com<br />

Pinch-yourself-pretty luxury boutique<br />

B&B in the Gers<br />

We love this stunningly restored mansion<br />

house, now a Champagne themed elegant<br />

luxury boutique B&B, or full house rental in<br />

the heart of historic Condom in glorious Gers.<br />

Champagne House also hosts writing and<br />

photography retreats plus themed stays. This<br />

is the perfect base for touring the area with<br />

its endless sunflower meadows, vineyards,<br />

chateaux and magnificent fortified towns. And<br />

of course, a glass of bubbly will be served with<br />

a warm welcome. Champagnehouse.fr<br />

Loire Valley Tours – the very best way<br />

to travel<br />

Surely the best way to visit the castles,<br />

vineyards, pretty little villages, historic towns<br />

and gorgeous gardens of the Loire Valley is<br />

Gorgeous chalets, villas and apartments in<br />

the Alps and beyond<br />

The French Alps are a fabulous place to visit<br />

outside year-round. Unbelievably beautiful,<br />

a rich natural playground with flower-filled<br />

meadows in spring and summer with a<br />

backdrop of snow-tipped mountains. OVO<br />

Network’s exclusive, handpicked and frankly<br />

gorgeous chalets, villas and apartments in<br />

stunning locations turn a holiday into a dream<br />

– you won’t want to leave… ovonetwork.com<br />

Sweet gite in a wine making village<br />

in Burgundy<br />

La Maison des Chaumes is a charming gite<br />

in the winemaking village of Villers-la-Faye<br />

in the Côte de Nuits. It’s minutes away from<br />

Burgundy’s crown jewel - historic Beaune,<br />

and just up the hill from the famed vineyards<br />

of Nuits-Saint-Georges and Aloxe-Corton.<br />

lamaisondeschaumes.com<br />

Majestic B&B near Bergerac,<br />

Chateau Masburel<br />

With honey-toned stone walls and sagegreen<br />

shutters, the 18th century Chateau de<br />

Masburel wine domain and award-winning<br />

B&B, and gorgeous gite opening this year, has<br />

a timeless, unhurried feel to it. It’s a working<br />

winery producing award winning wines. Close<br />

to Bergerac, Saint-Emilion and ten minutes<br />

from the bastide town of Sainte-Foy-la-<br />

Grande on the banks of the River Dordogne<br />

in the Gironde. it’s the perfect base to explore<br />

the area and enjoy a delicious and relaxing<br />

break. Chateau-masburel.com<br />

96 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 97

French property and<br />

lifestyle show <strong>2023</strong><br />

The Good Life France is proud to be a partner<br />

along with some of the most trusted names<br />

in French property and lifestyle services –<br />

Currencies Direct, Prestige Property Services,<br />

Northern Cross Wealth Management and LBS<br />

French administration specialists.<br />

On hand will be specialists in French property<br />

and lifestyle, it’s the perfect place to meet<br />

the experts in one place – at the Radisson Blu<br />

Hotel, Derby on 29 and 30 April <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Meet the experts<br />

Longing for a dose of southern French<br />

sunshine, a more laid-back way of life,<br />

a holiday home, a new life or a relaxed<br />

retirement? Then come and explore the<br />

possibilities of moving to France and get<br />

expert help and advice. Property agents<br />



Prestige French<br />

Property and<br />

Lifestyle Show <strong>2023</strong><br />

Don’t miss the French property and lifestyles show in the north of England. Taking<br />

place over the weekend of 29 and 30 April it is an absolute must-do for anyone<br />

dreaming or planning to buy a property in France or move to France.<br />

And we’ve got 300 tickets to give away for free – click here to get your free ticket.<br />


BUYER’S AGENT FRANCE is a bespoke concept, created to meet the specific needs<br />

of the discerning international buyer wishing to acquire luxury French property<br />

buyersagentfrance.com<br />

98 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 99

Prestige French Property<br />

& Lifestyle Show <strong>2023</strong><br />

French Properties for sale<br />

Holiday rentals throughout France<br />

Employment opportunities<br />

Visa requirements<br />

Currency exchange<br />

300<br />

FREE tickets<br />

give away<br />

Free buyers pack for buying in France<br />

Other professional services<br />

(Banking, insurance, Investments etc)<br />

are on hand to inspire with a huge range<br />

of properties available from chateaux<br />

(aren’t we all just dreaming of escaping to<br />

the chateau?!), gorgeous village houses,<br />

properties with land, and bargain doer-uppers<br />

for those keen diy-ers.<br />

French property is surprisingly affordable,<br />

we’ve even seen properties that cost less than<br />

a year’s rent for a 3-bed house in Nottingham.<br />

Post-Brexit, it’s absolutely doable to<br />

move to France, albeit with a few more<br />

administrative requirements. You’ll find all<br />

the experts you need at the French Property<br />

and Lifestyle show to help you negotiate<br />

the buying process, paperwork, and visas.<br />

Yes, you do need a visa now to go to France<br />

for longer than three months out of six, but<br />

once you know how it all works, you’ll find<br />

it’s an administrative process – and there’s<br />

plenty of support and help on hand. And<br />

for those looking to work in France, experts<br />

will be available to talk about employment<br />

opportunities. With optic fibre roll out right<br />

across France – working from home on the<br />

internet has never been easier!<br />

If you’re dreaming of buying a property or<br />

moving to France don’t miss this show.<br />

And if you’re longing for a holiday in France or<br />

want to rent while you search or wait to move<br />

into your dream home – that’s taken care of<br />

too, with holiday rentals throughout France<br />

being showcased at the show.<br />

Walking to the boulangerie for your early<br />

morning coffee, shopping at the market for<br />

local seasonal produce, sitting at a café<br />

watching the world go by – it’s a way of life in<br />

France, and it could be your life.<br />

Get your free tickets exclusively from The Good<br />

Life France: click here, choose date and when<br />

you get to the ticket section- choose the option<br />

The Good Life France to get your free tickets.<br />

Find out more at<br />

prestigepropertynetwork.com<br />

Find out more at<br />

prestigepropertynetwork.com<br />

WHERE<br />

Radisson Blu Derby DE74 2TZ<br />

WHEN<br />

29th & 30th April <strong>2023</strong> 10am – 5pm<br />


authorised financial servcies provider<br />

100 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 101 Chamonix

Ille-et-Vilaine, and Morbihan. But they all<br />

share common traits – access to the coast as<br />

well as to the countryside, plus a laid-back<br />

lifestyle.<br />


Little Britain<br />

You're never far from the sea in Brittany in<br />

the west of France. Small bays, inlets, rocky<br />

outcrops and sandy beaches surround this<br />

luscious and beautiful country which has<br />

inspired generations of artists.<br />

This ancient land boasts menhirs and all sorts<br />

of pre-historic remains, their meanings lost in<br />

the mists of time. As with any ancient land<br />

imbued with myths and legends, it boasts its<br />

own language. Breton (Brezhoneg) is related<br />

closely to Cornish and more distantly Welsh.<br />

Brittany is made up of four quite distinct<br />

departments: Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère,<br />

A potted history of<br />

Brittany<br />

Once called Armorica, following the fall of the<br />

Roman Empire it was peopled by migrating<br />

waves of Britons in the 4th and 5th centuries.<br />

They gave this beautiful land the name 'Little<br />

Britain.’ Later the Duchy of Brittany had its<br />

embassy in London on Little Britain street! In<br />

time it became known simply as Brittany.<br />

Those early Bretons brought with them their<br />

own customs, language and knowledge<br />

of seafaring. And though the tribes were<br />

many, and divided, they had a common<br />

enemy – France! Several battles resolved<br />

the issue and the French king, Charles the<br />

Bald recognised independent Brittany as<br />

a Duchy. Brittany governed itself for the<br />

next 600 years – it took a marriage for it to<br />

become part of France. Anne of Brittany was<br />

the last independent ruler. She was married<br />

to Charles VIII of France (not willingly) and<br />

when he died (childless) in 1498, she married<br />

his successor Louis XII, in 1499. They had<br />

two daughters and under the terms of their<br />

marriage contract when her daughter Claude<br />

married Francis of Angoulême – who became<br />

Francis I – Brittany was eventually subsumed<br />

into greater France in 1532, though the<br />

Bretons still maintained some autonomy. It<br />

took the French Revolution to finally change<br />

this by abolishing feudal privilege.<br />

Brittany has a unique<br />

culture<br />

The Breton language is making a resurgence<br />

and cultural activities abound throughout the<br />

region with all sorts of festivals year-round<br />

to celebrate Breton culture. The Festival of<br />

Brittany showcases Breton culture with more<br />

102 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 103

Our latest properties for sale in Brittany<br />

chalet villa château farmhouse apartment vineyard gîte cottage coast country city<br />

Kerlouan<br />


Country Living<br />

Finistère €179,280<br />

Ref: A18521 - A delightful 3 bedroom<br />

home 10 min from Carhaix-Plouguer.<br />

8% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Morbihan €318,000<br />

Ref: A15720 - Beautiful 3 bedroom<br />

restored farmhouse, in a quiet hamlet.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />


Income Potential<br />

Côtes-d’Armor €128,620<br />

Ref: A18133 - 2 Bedroom village house,<br />

close to amenities in Mael Carhaix.<br />

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Locronan<br />

than 300 events. The black and white striped<br />

Breton flag flies proudly at these events and<br />

throughout the region.<br />

Brittany has its own delicious gastronomy –<br />

galettes (buckwheat pancakes) and Breton<br />

desserts. Fleur de sel harvested below the<br />

ancient walled town of Guérande is used to<br />

flavour everything. Surely Brittany has the best<br />

seafood in all France with briny oysters, fleshy<br />

lobsters and St Jacques scallops. Local tipples<br />

include pommeau and cider, and a mead type<br />

apéritif called chouchen, there’s even whisky<br />

made from buckwheat!<br />

Property in Brittany<br />

When it comes to property searches in<br />

Brittany, the closer you are to the sea means<br />

the bigger the budget required. Head inland<br />

for captivating countryside and plenty of<br />

properties for sale at affordable prices.<br />

Breton villages tend to be small, stone houses<br />

featuring whitewashed walls, glittering granite<br />

and marine blue shutters, are typical of the<br />

region. Fishing ports tend to be small and<br />

picturesque with white-washed granite houses.<br />

Finistère the furthest west department of<br />

104 | The Good Life France<br />

Brittany is slightly cooler than Morbihan in<br />

the south which is noticeably warmer with<br />

lovely warm summers due to its Atlantic<br />

microclimate. Ille-et-Villaine is home to<br />

Brittany’s capital, Rennes and is more<br />

urbanised than the other departments, while<br />

Côtes-d'Armor is more rugged.<br />

Off the rocky coastline are many islands.<br />

The Golfe de Morbihan is said to have an<br />

island for every day of the year. Belle-Île, the<br />

largest island in Brittany, boasts its own microclimate,<br />

and property here is much soughtafter<br />

– and pricey!<br />

Brittany has great transport options – several<br />

easy to access ferry ports and airports in<br />

St Malo, Brest and Rennes.<br />

Brittany has its own distinctive character<br />

– beautiful historic small cities with halftimbered<br />

properties, charming small villages<br />

and magnificent coastline with numerous<br />

sandy beaches, and a great variety of places<br />

to live.<br />

Joanna Leggett is marketing director at<br />

Leggett Immobilier – you can view their full<br />

portfolio of properties for sale in France at<br />

leggettfrance.com<br />


Stone Longère<br />

Morbihan €125,000<br />

Ref: A04769 - Attractive 3 bedroom<br />

longère with garden and a gîte to renovate.<br />

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />


River Cottage<br />

Ille-et-Vilaine €145,000<br />

Ref: A14680 - Detached 2 bedroom<br />

cottage with river pontoon and mooring!<br />

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Finistère €402,800<br />

Ref: A18367 - Imposing 6 bedroom house<br />

a stone’s throw from the beach.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Finistère €246,100<br />

Ref: A16647 - 4 Bedroom property on<br />

the banks of the Nantes/Brest Canal.<br />

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />


Historic Home<br />

Morbihan €418,700<br />

Ref: A16085 - Stunning 14th century 5<br />

bedroom manoir with gîte potential.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />


Close to the coast<br />

Côtes-d’Armor €246,100<br />

Ref: A17007 - 5 Bedroom property with a<br />

huge workshop for professional use.<br />

7% 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 />

Information on the risks to which these properties are exposed is available on the Geohazards website:<br />

www.georisques .gouv.fr<br />

The Good Life France | 105

This sunny part of southwestern France is a land of endless beaches and glorious<br />

countryside. Janine Marsh explores what life is like in the two departments of<br />

Les Charentes – Charente-Maritime and Charente…<br />

Cognac, Monica Moriyasu<br />

Charente-Maritime<br />

In Charente-Maritime there are 18 famous<br />

seaside resorts including lively Les Sables<br />

d’Olonne and family-friendly Saint-Jeande-Monts.<br />

When you’re not enjoying a<br />

dip in the gulf-streamed warm sea there’s<br />

plenty to do from cycling to hanging out at<br />

the eye-poppingly excellent multi award<br />

winning Puy du Fou theme park with shows<br />

featuring historic periods of France including<br />

the Romans and Vikings. You can go island<br />

hopping, slurp on the freshest mussels and<br />

sea food washed down with scrumptious<br />

local wines, and enjoy a laidback lifestyle.<br />

With access to three airports, and fast TGV<br />

trains to Paris, the department is popular for<br />

its fine sandy beaches, beautiful countryside,<br />

slow pace of life, year-round mild climate<br />

and superb gastronomy including locally<br />

grown oysters.<br />

The capital of the department is La Rochelle,<br />

a bustling coastal town and centre of marine<br />

commerce. It has beaches, a pretty harbour<br />

surrounded by cafés and stalls, medieval<br />

covered arcades and cobbled narrow streets.<br />

Most of the available property tends to be<br />

apartment style new builds.<br />

Picturesque Ile de Ré just off La Rochelle,<br />

adored by Parisians, and reached via a toll<br />

bridge, is so in demand that new builds are<br />

all but banned and property costs more than<br />

twice the price of mainland property.<br />

If you yearn for seaside living but don’t fancy<br />

forking out a fortune on the Ile de Ré, try Ile<br />

d’Oléron, France’s second largest island after<br />

Corsica but strangely, little known to overseas<br />

The laid back charms of<br />


Ile De Re © Fred Tassart<br />

106 | The Good Life France La Rochelle<br />

The Good Life France | 107



Door-to-door moving<br />

between the UK and France<br />

Saintes<br />

enquiries@provencemovers.com • www.provencemovers.com<br />

visitors. Up and coming, charming and<br />

uncommercial, Oléron is not that much further<br />

from La Rochelle than the swanky Ile de Ré,<br />

but it’s a lot less crowded and the bridge that<br />

connects it to the mainland is toll free.<br />

Head 30-40 minutes inland or round the<br />

coast and you’ll find your budget will go much<br />

further. Fouras, overlooking Fort Boyard, is a<br />

charming coastal town with sandy beaches,<br />

a castle, super covered market and a bustling<br />

little town. Beach lovers will enjoy Point<br />

d’Espagnole on the Côte Sauvage, south of<br />

Rochefort. La Tremblade is a well-kept secret<br />

with great beaches backed by sand dunes and<br />

pine forests. Rochefort is a lively town with<br />

beautiful buildings, a great range of shops and<br />

restaurants and plenty going on year-round.<br />

Purpose built in the 17th century to house<br />

military dockyards, the town’s Corderie Royale<br />

(royal rope factory) is famous. Further inland,<br />

Port d’Envaux, once a strategic commercial<br />

port, is now a vibrant village on the banks of<br />

the River Charente with a river beach and<br />

water activities galore.<br />

Ile d'Oleron © Alison BOISSARD<br />

Moving to France<br />

Financial Planning for Expats<br />

Planning a U.S. Return<br />

Financial planning services<br />

for US expats in France,<br />

wherever you are on your<br />

international journey…<br />

sanderlingexpat.com<br />

108 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 109

fabulously easy.<br />

On the Ile de Ré the donkeys wear trousers! A tradition that goes back to the<br />

days when the island was plagued by insects. Though not a problem now, the<br />

trousers remain!<br />

Insurance services for English speakers in France<br />

If you seek city life within easy distance of<br />

the sea, Saint Jean-d’Angély, named after<br />

Jean the Baptist, legend has it his skull was<br />

once kept in the abbey, is a quintessential<br />

French town. And historic Saintes, a Ville<br />

d’Art et Histoire, boasts some of the finest<br />

Roman ruins in France and is on the pilgrim<br />

Route de Santiago de Compostela. It’s<br />

famous in France for its annual classical<br />

music festival held at the monumental 11th<br />

century Abbey aux Dames. Saintes has<br />

excellent facilities, is surrounded by glorious<br />

countryside and is less than an hour from<br />

the coast.<br />

With around 470 communes – including<br />

cities, villages and seaside Charente-<br />

Maritime has lots to offer.<br />

Charente<br />

Charente, named after the Charente River, is<br />

a place of forests and hills and lush vineyards<br />

where Cognac is produced, the department’s<br />

most famous product.<br />

Charente is served by excellent motorways<br />

with easy access from the ports of Brittany<br />

and Normandy and around 7 hours’ drive<br />

from the port of Calais. Closest airport<br />

Angouleme<br />

La Rochelle offers flights to the UK and<br />

Europe, as do Bordeaux-Merignac and<br />

Poitiers airports a little further afield. From<br />

Angoulême you can reach Paris by train in<br />

just 1.5 hours.<br />

Vineyards are sprinkled across the region<br />

with the most prestigious being in Grand<br />

Champagne (no relation to Champagne<br />

further north), a member of the European<br />

Cittaslow movement where quality of<br />

life takes precedence. Though not as<br />

celebrated as Bordeaux, Charente’s vines<br />

produce fine wines and local favourite,<br />

Pineau des Charentes, a fortified wine<br />

drunk as an aperitif.<br />

There’s a good choice of both town and<br />

country living with three main districts.<br />

The biggest is Angoulême, the capital<br />

(population circa 42,000) which borders<br />

Dordogne and is famous for its International<br />

Comics Festival. It’s easy to get around and<br />

has a great range of shops, restaurants and<br />

bars, as well as cultural venues.<br />

The second biggest district – Cognac, is<br />

popular with tourists due to the famous<br />

drink. But there’s more to it than eau-devie,<br />

with a thriving centre and plenty of<br />

shops and restaurants.<br />

Speak to a dedicated English-speaking Broker who’s<br />

also a French native speaker so to avoid the pitfalls and<br />

headaches of the French system.<br />

Medical Insurance<br />

Home Insurance<br />

Car Insurance<br />

Visa Insurance<br />

and more<br />

We work with more than 30 insurers and many more<br />

providers so we are always able to find the best and most<br />

affordable solution for your situation.<br />

We’ve got you covered.<br />

33 (0)5 35 65 50 50<br />

hello@fabfrenchinsurance.com<br />

www.fabfrenchinsurance.com<br />

110 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 111

Finally, Confolens, which borders Limousin,<br />

is a sleepy medieval town in a largely rural<br />

district, with a growing tourist market.<br />

In Charente, you’re never far from the<br />

countryside, and with 404 communes in<br />

the department – there’s a lot of choice.<br />

Charentaise style houses and traditional stone<br />

properties are sought after.<br />

Small towns such as Ruffec in the north of the<br />

department are popular. The classic French<br />

market town has a good choice of shops and<br />

restaurants plus a train service to Bordeaux<br />

and Paris. Aubeterre-sur-Dronne in the south<br />

of the department is another favourite with<br />

expats, officially one of the most beautiful<br />

villages in France. The prices are slightly<br />

higher here and if summer crowds are not your<br />

thing, then this one probably isn’t for you.<br />

Life in Charente is laid back and outdoorsy<br />

thanks to the great weather. It’s an area<br />

where you can enjoy a tranquil rural lifestyle<br />

but with access to the facilities of a town,<br />

year-round activities and close to the Atlantic<br />

coast beaches.<br />

Charente and Charente-Maritime have<br />

become more popular with both French and<br />

overseas buyers over the last few years, thanks<br />

to wide-open spaces, a gentle pace of life,<br />

great beaches and beautiful countryside,<br />

lots of sunny days, excellent local produce,<br />

proximity to Bordeaux and Dordogne plus<br />

great transport links…<br />

Aubeterre sur Dronne © Catherine Bon<br />

112 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 113

Your one stop shop for the finest quality<br />

food from Britain and Ireland.<br />

Photography © Christophe Roué 2022<br />

PEARS in<br />

Puff Pastry<br />

Serves 4<br />

Active Time: 20–25 minutes<br />

Cooking Time: 25 minutes<br />



Quality Fresh Beef, Pork and Lamb, Cheeses, Clotted Cream,<br />

Fresh Cream, Pies, Sausages, Bacon, Pudding, Tea & Coffee, Sauces,<br />

Crisps & Chocolate, plus Vegetarian and Vegan products<br />

Free home delivery France, Belgium & Luxembourg<br />

baconbythebox.com<br />


2 ripe but firm pears<br />

1 tsp lemon juice<br />

2 tsp brown sugar<br />

Ground cinnamon (optional)<br />

3 tbsp jam, such as apricot, fig, or<br />

Mirabelle plum<br />

1 sheet puff pastry, preferably all-butter<br />

Granulated sugar (optional)<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C/<br />

Gas Mark 5).<br />

Wash the pears and cut them in half<br />

lengthwise. Brush the cut sides with a little<br />

lemon juice, then sprinkle with the brown sugar<br />

and a little ground cinnamon, if you wish.<br />

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and<br />

place the pears, cut side down, on it. Spoon a<br />

little jam onto the rounded side of each pear.<br />

Roll out the puff pastry to a thickness of about<br />

¼ in. (5 mm) and lay it over the pear halves.<br />

Using a sharp knife, cut the pastry around<br />

each half, so it is completely covered with a<br />

pastry shell. You can use the dough trimmings<br />

to cut out fun shapes, such as small branches<br />

and leaves, to decorate the shells. Brush the<br />

shapes with a little water and press them<br />

gently onto the pastry shells to attach them.<br />

Cut 2 small slits in each pastry shell to let<br />

steam escape. Sprinkle them with cinnamon<br />

and granulated sugar, if you wish. Bake for<br />

20–25 minutes, until the pastry is golden<br />

brown.<br />

Let cool for 1–2 minutes, then carefully turn<br />

each pear half over. Serve warm or at room<br />

temperature.<br />

KITCHEN NOTES: The pears<br />

can be served with a scoop of<br />

ice cream, granola, or chocolate<br />

chips.<br />

You can also make this recipe<br />

using other fruits, such as apples,<br />

peaches, or apricots—the choice<br />

is yours.<br />

Extracted from My Art of Entertaining: Recipes and<br />

Tips from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen by Héloïse Brion<br />

(Flammarion, 2022).<br />

114 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 115

Frosted<br />

Pistachio Cake<br />

Serves 10<br />

Active Time: 25–30 minutes<br />

Cooking Time: 40–45 minutes<br />

Cooling Time: 25–30 minutes<br />

Chilling Time: 15 minutes<br />


For the cake<br />

Butter and flour, for greasing<br />

2 cups (9 oz./250 g) shelled pistachios<br />

2¼ cups (10 oz./280 g) all-purpose flour<br />

1 scant tbsp (11 g) baking powder<br />

2 pinches baking soda<br />

1 generous pinch fleur de sel<br />

1½ sticks (6 oz./180 g) unsalted butter, diced,<br />

at room temperature<br />

¾ cup (5 oz./150 g) superfine sugar<br />

2⁄3 cup (5¼ oz./150 g) brown sugar<br />

4 egg whites<br />

½ cup (4¼ oz./120 g) crème fraîche<br />

1 tsp bitter almond extract<br />

Scant 1 cup (240 ml) low-fat milk<br />

For the frosting and decoration<br />

1 cup (9 oz./250 g) cream cheese, at room<br />

temperature<br />

7 tbsp (4 oz./110 g) unsalted butter, diced, at<br />

room temperature<br />

3 cups (14 oz./400 g) confectioners’ sugar<br />

Shelled pistachios, roughly chopped<br />

Assorted berries and fresh herbs<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C/Gas<br />

Mark 4). Grease a 9½-in. (24-cm) springform<br />

pan with butter and dust with flour.<br />

Pulse the pistachios into fine crumbs using a<br />

food processor. Place in a mixing bowl and stir<br />

in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and<br />

fleur de sel until combined.<br />

In a separate large bowl, beat together the<br />

butter, superfine sugar, and brown sugar.<br />

Using an electric beater, whisk in the egg<br />

whites one at a time, then whisk at high speed<br />

for 2–3 minutes until light and creamy. Stir<br />

in the crème fraîche and almond extract.<br />

Gradually fold in the dry ingredients. Stir in<br />

the milk.<br />

Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake for 40–45<br />

minutes, or until the tip of a knife inserted<br />

into the center comes out clean. Let cool for<br />

about 10 minutes before removing from the<br />

pan. Transfer to a serving plate and let cool for<br />

15–20 minutes.<br />

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. Stir together<br />

the cream cheese and butter until smooth,<br />

then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar.<br />

Chill for about 15 minutes.<br />

Spread a thick layer of frosting over the top<br />

of the cake and decorate as you wish with<br />

pistachios, berries, and herbs.<br />

Photography © Christophe Roué 2022<br />

Extracted from My Art of Entertaining: Recipes and<br />

Tips from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen by Héloïse Brion<br />

(Flammarion, 2022).<br />

116 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 117


Beef Bourguignon<br />

Serves 6–8<br />

Active Time: 25 minutes<br />

Cooking Time: About 3½ hours<br />


4–5 tbsp canola oil<br />

3 lb. (1.5 kg) stewing beef, cut into 2-in. (5-cm)<br />

cubes<br />

10½ oz. (300 g) smoked bacon, cut into<br />

lardons<br />

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped<br />

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped<br />

1 bottle red wine (Chianti or Bordeaux)<br />

3 tbsp tomato paste<br />

2 cups (500 ml) beef stock<br />

2 bay leaves<br />

4 sprigs fresh thyme<br />

1½ tbsp unsalted butter, divided<br />

14 oz. (400 g) pearl onions, peeled (and<br />

halved, if large)<br />

14 oz. (400 g) assorted mushrooms (button,<br />

girolle, chanterelle, etc.)<br />

3 carrots, peeled and sliced thinly crosswise<br />

2 tbsp all-purpose flour (optional)<br />

Salt and freshly ground pepper<br />

Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C/Gas<br />

Mark 2). Place the covered pot in the oven<br />

and cook for 2½ hours.<br />

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large<br />

skillet, add the pearl onions, and sauté over<br />

medium heat until browned. In a separate<br />

skillet, melt the remaining butter, add the<br />

mushrooms, and sauté over medium heat until<br />

browned. Set aside.<br />

Remove the pot from the oven and add the<br />

sliced carrots, pearl onions, and mushrooms.<br />

Let simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes,<br />

until the beef and vegetables are tender. Taste<br />

and adjust the seasoning, if necessary.<br />

If you wish to thicken the sauce, place the<br />

flour in a bowl and whisk in about 1 tablespoon<br />

cold water using a fork until smooth. Gradually<br />

whisk in 3 tablespoons of the sauce from the<br />

pot, then pour this mixture into the pot and stir<br />

until the sauce slowly thickens.<br />

METHOD<br />

Heat half the oil in a large Dutch oven (lidded<br />

cooking pot) and sear the beef cubes in<br />

batches over high heat, removing them as<br />

they brown and adding more oil as necessary.<br />

When all the meat has browned, place it all<br />

back in the pot. Add the bacon and onion, and<br />

cook for 3–4 minutes over medium heat. Stir<br />

in the garlic, wine, tomato paste, beef stock,<br />

bay leaves, and thyme and bring to a simmer,<br />

scraping the bottom of the pot to incorporate<br />

any meat juices sticking to it. Cover and let<br />

simmer for 15 minutes.<br />

Extracted from My Art of Entertaining: Recipes and<br />

Tips from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen by Héloïse Brion<br />

(Flammarion, 2022).<br />

Photography © Christophe Roué 2022.<br />

118 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 119

Braised Ham<br />


Serves 4<br />

Active time: 10 minutes<br />

Cooking time: 3 hours 20 minutes<br />

Storage: 4 days in the refrigerator<br />


Thin-bladed knife<br />


Braised ham<br />

6½-lb. (3-kg) ham, preferably milk-fed<br />

Coarse grey sea salt, as needed<br />

Freshly ground pepper<br />

Olive oil<br />

Glaze<br />

Scant ½ cup (5 oz./150 g) acacia honey<br />

3 tbsp (1¾ oz./50 g) butter<br />

2 tsp (10 ml) soy sauce<br />

METHOD<br />

Preparing the braised ham<br />

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C/Gas<br />

Mark 6). Using the thin-bladed knife, score the<br />

ham skin in a criss-cross pattern, then pierce<br />

all over. Rub the outside with coarse grey sea<br />

salt, pressing it into the scored pattern. Season<br />

with pepper and place in a baking dish. Drizzle<br />

with a little olive oil and bake for 40 minutes,<br />

then cover with aluminium foil and continue to<br />

bake for 1 hour. Lower the oven temperature<br />

to 290°F (145°C/Gas Mark 1) and bake for an<br />

additional 1 hour.<br />

Glazing the ham<br />

Warm the honey, butter, and soy sauce<br />

in a saucepan until liquefied. Remove the<br />

ham from the oven and increase the oven<br />

temperature to 350°F (180°C/Gas Mark 4).<br />

When the oven reaches this temperature,<br />

brush the glaze over the ham and bake for 12<br />

minutes. Repeat this process twice more until<br />

the ham is glossy and golden brown, and the<br />

meat comes away easily from the bone.<br />

Extracted from My Art of Entertaining: Recipes and<br />

Tips from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen by Héloïse Brion<br />

(Flammarion, 2022).<br />

Photography © Christophe Roué 2022.<br />

120 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 121

Beacon Global Wealth Management<br />

Standing out, amongst the best<br />

UK and French financial advice<br />

Tax and investment advice<br />

Inheritance advice<br />

Reviewing pension arrangements<br />

It’s simple...<br />

We care about you and your money<br />

Our vision is to build a long term strategy<br />

to take care of your financial requirements<br />

for your life in France.<br />

French wine expert<br />

A sip of ALSACE<br />

Please contact<br />

Our UK office 0044 33 3241 6966<br />

enquiries@bgwealthmanagement.net<br />

beaconglobalwealth.com<br />

Alsace is home to the oldest tourist<br />

wine route in France – testament to<br />

the superb wines that have long been<br />

produced here says Laurent Yung of<br />

SomMailier French Wine Club…<br />

Alsace, in north-eastern France on the border<br />

with Germany, has a dual personality. It’s<br />

resolutely French and yet the people speak<br />

with a faint German accent. The names of<br />

the villages are German in origin. And, the<br />

food, whilst undeniably French, has a rather<br />

Teutonic flavour, just think of choucroute<br />

(sauerkraut) and those hearty, meaty stews.<br />

This is because the area was fought over by<br />

France and Germany for centuries, and it<br />

switched its nationality 7 times! Germany<br />

ceded the region to France after WWII and<br />

the Treaty of Versailles.<br />

122 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 123

The Wines of Alsace<br />

The wines too are without doubt French but<br />

have more than a touch of German influence<br />

about them – noticeably the grape varieties<br />

used and the ubiquitous Germanic script<br />

on many of the labels. In addition, they use<br />

the German way of naming and ranking<br />

their wines and regions. Stylistically though,<br />

they are very different from those of the<br />

Rhine and Mosel, being weightier and more<br />

concentrated.<br />

The Alsace plain is a wide band of land on<br />

either side of the Rhine river. Rich in alluvial<br />

deposits, it was formed at least five million<br />

years ago when the Vosges-Black Forest<br />

Massif collapsed. Its vineyards are located on<br />

the edge of the plain, along the Vosges fault.<br />

The Romans planted vines here more than<br />

2000 years ago.<br />

Three main groups of terroirs live side by side.<br />

The first – the most sloping – has soil that is<br />

granitic and sandy, filtering and acidic. The<br />

second boasts well-drained hills that are<br />

calcareous or marly at altitudes of between<br />

200 and 300m. This is where the Grands<br />

Crus – of which there are 51 from 7 grape<br />

varieties - are to be found, wines with amazing<br />

personality. The third group is formed by big<br />

alluvial terraces of pebbles, sand and gravel.<br />

The special terroir of climate, slope and<br />

soil combine to produce some of France’s<br />

most aromatic white wines – Riesling,<br />

Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat<br />

are considered the finest grape varieties in<br />

Alsace, and the superb sparkling Cremant<br />

d’Alsace.<br />

The Alsace wine route<br />

Riquewihr<br />

The Alsace wine route winds its way between<br />

wonky half-timbered villages that look like<br />

they’ve fallen out of a set of a grand German<br />

opera or maybe a Walt Disney movie.<br />

Picturesque villages full of lopsided buildings,<br />

fairy tale castles and towers that look like<br />

Rapunzel once lived there are plentiful along<br />

the 170km historic wine route which runs<br />

from Marlenheim in the north (20km from<br />

Strasbourg) to Thann in the south. Vineyards<br />

lap right up to the walls of castles and to the<br />

edge of flowery villages, several of which are<br />

classified ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’ (the<br />

most beautiful villages in France), as you pass<br />

by the sunny hillsides.<br />

In Eguisheim, officially one of the most<br />

beautiful villages in France, the medieval<br />

streets wind wing in a helter-skelter effect<br />

around a castle. Bergheim, AKA ‘capital’ of<br />

Gewurtztraminer is filled with half-timbered<br />

15th century houses. Riquewihr where the<br />

many vaulted cellars offer several varieties of<br />

wine. The villages are surrounded by walking<br />

trails, and you can crisscross the hills by bike,<br />

as the cycle route of the Alsace vineyards runs<br />

parallel with the road. And in Kaysersberg,<br />

voted favourite village of the French in 2021,<br />

explore the narrow, cobbled streets lined with<br />

half-timbered buildings.<br />

If you stand at the top of one of the Grand<br />

Cru vineyards high up in the Vosges<br />

mountains, you begin to get a clue as to<br />

why this area is so very special. The view<br />

across the Rhine Rift Valley into Germany<br />

is magnificent on a clear day. The best<br />

vineyards nestle high up, facing the sun and<br />

protected from the westerly winds by the<br />

Vosges. These mountains also create a rain<br />

shadow effect which is why Colmar is the<br />

driest town in France after Perpignan deep<br />

down south near the Spanish border.<br />

Along the way enjoy delicious wines and<br />

wind down in a winstub, a traditional<br />

style bistro and savour local dishes like<br />

flammekueche (Alsatian pizza), coq au<br />

Riesling, spaetzle, sauerkraut and Munster,<br />

the king of Alsatian cheeses.<br />

Enjoy the finest wines of France from<br />

SomMailier.com USA and get 10% off<br />

using the code TGLF<strong>2023</strong><br />

124 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 125

Last<br />

Word<br />

Seasons come and go, and each has its own charms, but spring has a special place<br />

in my heart, especially here in the countryside of northern France where I notice the<br />

seasonal changes a bit more than when I lived in a city.<br />

My neighbours start to emerge from homes that have had shutters closed to keep<br />

out the winter gales. The bare branches of trees start to turn green, gardens fill with<br />

daffodils, then bluebells, tulips, and soon roses. Pierre the farmer’s dog Villaine, a<br />

rather rotund Labrador, patrols the streets accompanied by Madame Bernadette’s<br />

yappy Jack Russell D’Artagnan and on those spring days when the sun feels almost<br />

summery, the pair of them lay on the boules pitch on the village green, lazily<br />

watching tractors go by. And there are plenty of those!<br />

This is farming country, and most of the people here work in the agricultural<br />

industries. It’s not an easy life, nor well paid but farmers have a love and respect for<br />

the soil and the land, terroir they call it, is in the soul of those who live here. I confess,<br />

when I first arrived, I didn’t get it like I do now. I fell head over heels for a hovel of a<br />

farmhouse. And sure, the countryside is glorious. But it’s much more than that. There<br />

is a whole ecosystem in this little village, wild birds, moles, polecats, wild pigs, deer,<br />

pheasant, bees, and so much diverse wildlife alongside meadows of wildflowers,<br />

living hedges that co-exist with fields worked by farmers and pastures fall of cows<br />

and goats not to mention the people that live here.<br />

From day one after we made this little village our forever home, Jean-Claude<br />

became my mentor, teaching me how to work with the weather and the land and<br />

Claudette, his now 90-year-old mother-in-law, taught me how to cook what I grow<br />

and work with what the seasons bring. I was a city slicker then, direct from London,<br />

clueless. But living close to the land as we do here teaches you respect for what it<br />

gives as well as for community, sharing and friendship.<br />

And in spring, when we emerge, groundhog like from our homes to catch up with<br />

each other, share seeds and recipes, help the farmers if they need it – those of us<br />

who are young enough at least! – I know that I too have this place deeply embedded<br />

in my soul.<br />

As Claudette says, and she is the wisest woman in the village, spring is like nature’s<br />

birthday party – and we’re all invited.<br />

Happy spring!<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh lives in France with her husband and around 60 animals. Her books My Good Life<br />

in France, My Four Seasons in France and Toujours la France are available at Amazon and all<br />

good book shops. Her new book How to be French will be published in September <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Buying<br />

in France?<br />

Discover how to save time &<br />

money on your currency transfers.<br />

Excellent exchange rates<br />

No transfer fees<br />

Personal account manager<br />

Multiple transfer options<br />

Regular currency updates<br />

Award winning service<br />

Email: calum.h@currenciesdirect.com or register for free<br />

and request your free Buying in France digital guide, or call<br />

+44-207 847 9446 and quote “Good Life France”<br />

© Currencies Direct Ltd, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5AA, United Kingdom. Registered in England & Wales, No.: 03041197. Currencies Direct Ltd is authorised<br />

by the Financial Conduct Authority as an Electronic Money Institution under the Electronic Money Regulations 2011. Our FCA Firm Reference number is 900669.<br />

Our EU services are provided by Currencies Direct Spain.<br />

© Currencies Direct Spain, E.D.E., S.L., Avenida del Mediterráneo, 341, 04638 Mojácar, Almería, Spain. Registered in the Commercial Registry of Almería under the Spanish tax<br />

ID number B04897930. Currencies Direct Spain, E.D.E., S.L. is authorised by the Bank of Spain as an Electronic Money Institution under Law 21/2011 of 26 July and Royal Decree<br />

778/2012 of 4 May. Our registration number with the Bank of Spain is 6716.<br />

Register here<br />

UK18844EN<br />

126 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 127


JOIN US ON:<br />

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for a ray of sunshine from<br />

France – just click the website link below<br />


Hooray! Your file is uploaded and ready to be published.

Saved successfully!

Ooh no, something went wrong!