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SPRING 2023

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...

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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 />

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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 GOOD LIFE FRANCE MAGAZINE<br />

CLICK HERE<br />

SUBSCRIBE<br />

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

Contributors<br />

24<br />

CONTENTS<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

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

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

ON THE COVER<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 />

DISCOVER<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 />

PHOTO SPECIALS<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 />

BON APPÉTIT<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 />

REGULARS<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 />

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


SLOW TRAVEL<br />

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


UNIQUE FRENCH RIVER CRUISES<br />

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 />

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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 />

©LezBroz


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 />

WORLD BEATING<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 />

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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 />

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62 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 63


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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 />

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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 />

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From the ancient marble-paved streets<br />

of the Bastide of Saint-Louis, the lower<br />

town of Carcassonne, and the upper towns<br />

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Aix, the countryside of southern France,<br />

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68 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 69


Tracking the<br />

PLANTAGENETS<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 />

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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 />

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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


SPOTLIGHT ON<br />

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 />

EXPERIENCE THE<br />

AMAZING CULTURE,<br />

HISTORY, FOOD<br />

AND WINE IN<br />

THE REAL SOUTH OF FRANCE<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 />

THE BEST TOURS<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 />

SUPERB STAYS<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 />

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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 />

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Don’t miss the French property and lifestyles show in the north of England. Taking<br />

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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 />

AN EXCLUSIVE & CONFIDENTIAL BUYING SERVICE TO ACQUIRE YOUR LUXURY FRENCH PROPERTY<br />

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buyersagentfrance.com<br />

98 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 99


Prestige French Property<br />

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Other professional services<br />

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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 />

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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 />

BRITTANY:<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 />

EXCLUSIVE<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 />

EXCLUSIVE<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 />

EXCLUSIVE<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 />

EXCLUSIVE<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 />

EXCLUSIVE<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 />

EXCLUSIVE<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 />

LES CHARENTES<br />

Ile De Re © Fred Tassart<br />

106 | The Good Life France La Rochelle<br />

The Good Life France | 107


A FEW BOXES OR<br />

A WHOLE HOUSE FULL<br />

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 />

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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 />

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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 />

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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 />

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INGREDIENTS<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 />

INGREDIENTS<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


JACQUES’S<br />

Beef Bourguignon<br />

Serves 6–8<br />

Active Time: 25 minutes<br />

Cooking Time: About 3½ hours<br />

INGREDIENTS<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 />

JAMBON BRAISÉ<br />

Serves 4<br />

Active time: 10 minutes<br />

Cooking time: 3 hours 20 minutes<br />

Storage: 4 days in the refrigerator<br />

EQUIPMENT<br />

Thin-bladed knife<br />

INGREDIENTS<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


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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 />

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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 />

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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 />

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