Packed with fabulous features and fantastic photos, inspiring, entertaining and informative guides, mouth-watering recipes from top chefs, history, culture and much much more. Discover Belle Epoque Paris, picturesque Provence, and captivating Cassis. Fabulous destinations in the north and the south of France, what's on, what's new and what to cook for a taste of France! Bringing France to you - wherever you are.

Packed with fabulous features and fantastic photos, inspiring, entertaining and informative guides, mouth-watering recipes from top chefs, history, culture and much much more. Discover Belle Epoque Paris, picturesque Provence, and captivating Cassis. Fabulous destinations in the north and the south of France, what's on, what's new and what to cook for a taste of France! Bringing France to you - wherever you are.


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The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 36<br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

<strong>WINTER</strong><br />

in Provence<br />

It’s a great time to visit –<br />

delicious, sparkling<br />

and festive!<br />

Magazine<br />

Le Weekend<br />

in Cassis<br />

One of the most<br />

beautiful seaside<br />

towns in France<br />


Galettes des<br />

Rois cakes<br />

Arc 1950<br />

celebrates 20 years<br />

Spotlight on<br />

Nantes<br />

Delicious recipes<br />

Bringing you an irresistible<br />

taste of France – including<br />

lip-smacking garlic soup,<br />

scrumptious baked<br />

Mont d’Or cheese & more…<br />

140 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos

Bienvenue<br />

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

Close to Beaches<br />

Côtes-d’Armor €410,220<br />

Ref: A25257 - Superb 4-bedroom property<br />

with 1662 m² landscaped garden.<br />

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

Energy class: D Climate class: C<br />


Peaceful Location<br />

Lot-et-Garonne €495,000<br />

Ref: A21980 - 8-bedroom property with<br />

two independent guesthouses and land.<br />

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

Energy class: E Climate class: D<br />


Carcassonne<br />

Aude €345,000<br />

Ref: A25210 - Amazing 4-bedroom house<br />

with swimming pool and views.<br />

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

DPE: In progress<br />

Our latest properties for sale in France<br />

19th Century Château<br />

Indre-et-Loire €1,627,500<br />

Ref: A23069 - Renovated 5-bedroom<br />

château with park, lake and outbuildings.<br />

5% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Energy class: D Climate class: D<br />


Artistic Nature<br />

Orne €150,000<br />

Ref: A25318 - Pretty 1-bedroom cottage<br />

with beautiful walled garden and view.<br />

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

Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />


Dream Home<br />

Lot-et-Garonne €539,999<br />

Ref: A25090 - Enchanting 3-bedroom<br />

property with dovecote, on 4 hectares.<br />

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

Energy class: D Climate class: D<br />

Country Charm<br />

Charente €207,000<br />

Ref: A23643 - 3-bedroom home with<br />

private courtyard garden and workshop.<br />

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

Energy class: E Climate class: E<br />


Recently Reduced<br />

Vienne €147,150<br />

Ref: A13203 - 4-bedroom village house,<br />

ideal for B&B or multi-generational living.<br />

9% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Energy class: E Climate class: B<br />

Authentic Charm<br />

Dordogne €260,000<br />

Ref: A25162 - Charming 4-bedroom<br />

character property set in a small hamlet.<br />

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

Energy class: F Climate class: B<br />

Start your property search today!<br />

+33 (0)5 53 60 84 88 · leggettfrance.com · info@leggett.fr<br />

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

www.georisques .gouv.fr<br />

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

I’m over the moon to share this bumper winter issue with you,<br />

it’s filled to the brim with fabulous features and wonderful<br />

photos to inspire, inform and entertain - places to go, culture<br />

and history, scrumptious recipes, guides and much, much<br />

more.<br />

Discover Provence in the winter, uncrowded, sparkling and<br />

absolutely delicious. Head to Paris to find the traces of the<br />

Belle Epoque – the beautiful era - and its beautiful legacy.<br />

Dive beneath the Cathedral of Notre-Dame to discover the<br />

remains of the Roman city of Lutetia. Fall head over heels<br />

for Cassis, an absolute jewel of the French Riviera, and<br />

follow in the footsteps of the artist Cezanne in captivating<br />

Aix-en-Provence.<br />

Explore the Loire Valley by paddle boat, head to Nantes to<br />

meet a giant elephant and to Calais in the north to ride a<br />

dragon! Explore the finest oyster producing town in Brittany,<br />

take a bike ride in Normandy, and meet the last scourtinerie<br />

in France – a specialist mat-maker. Discover the spectacular<br />

ski resort of Les Arc 1950 and find out the incredible history of<br />

Bordeaux’s oldest wine house.<br />

Come with us to historic Tarn-et-Garonne and gorgeous Gers.<br />

Discover the gastronomic delights of northern France. Visit<br />

medieval Guérande and discover the charms of the French<br />

Riviera’s hotspots.<br />

Plus there are some superb recipes from the crème de la<br />

crème of the French food world, and we look at the history of<br />

Galette des Rois – pastries fit for a king.<br />

And now – it’s time to enjoy this magazine which is totally<br />

free to read, and subscribe to, just hop on to page 4 and sign<br />

up! And please do share this issue with your friends – that’s<br />

free too.<br />

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

Bisous from my little corner in rural northern France,<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh<br />

Editor<br />

Follow us on Twitter,<br />

Instagram & Facebook<br />

The Good Life France | 3

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The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 36 Winter <strong>2023</strong><br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

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

Contributors<br />

20<br />

8<br />


8 Winter wonderland Provence<br />

It’s a great time to visit –<br />

delicious, sparkling, and festive!<br />

26 Le Weekend in Cassis<br />

The year-round seaside charmer<br />

you’ll fall in love with.<br />

Gillian Thornton is an award-winning<br />

travel writer and member of the British<br />

Guild of Travel Writers, specialising in<br />

French destinations and lifestyle. Her<br />

favourite place? ‘Usually where I have<br />

just been!’<br />

Amy McPherson is a London based<br />

travel writer whose work has been<br />

featured in many international<br />

publications. When not on assignment,<br />

she loves to ride her bike, go<br />

running along the river Thames,<br />

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

footprintsandmemories.com<br />

Ally Mitchell is a blogger and<br />

freelance writer, specialising in food<br />

and recipes. Ally left the UK to live in<br />

Toulouse in 2021 and now writes about<br />

her new life in France on her food blog<br />

NigellaEatsEverything<br />

Amy Bizzarri is a Chicago-based<br />

freelance writer focused on food and<br />

travel. She's also the author of four<br />

Chicago history-focused books, and<br />

Iconic Hollywood Dishes, Desserts and<br />

Drinks (American Palate) a dive into<br />

Hollywood food history. Plus she’s a<br />

WSET-trained sommelier.<br />

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning<br />

photographer (Association of<br />

Photographers Discovery Award<br />

Winner, National Geographic Traveller<br />

Grand Prize Winner, five-times finalist<br />

Travel Photographer of the Year) and<br />

writer specialising in travel, landscape<br />

and location photography.<br />

Christine McKenzie is a Franco-<br />

British journalist who writes in both<br />

English and French. Her stories<br />

have been published in anglophone<br />

and francophone media. Married<br />

to a Frenchman and mother of<br />

four, she settled 30 years ago near<br />

Fontainebleau.<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Front Cover: Cassis, southern France<br />

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

Editorial assistant: Trudy Watkins<br />

Press enquiries: editor@thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

Advertising: sales@thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

Digital support: websitesthatwork.com<br />

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

ISSN 2754-6799 Issue 36 Winter <strong>2023</strong><br />

Marian Jones is a Paris lover,<br />

Francophile and freelance writer,<br />

specialising in the spots where<br />

travel meets history. She likes to visit<br />

somewhere fascinating, dig into its past<br />

and share the stories she uncovers. She<br />

also runs the travel podcast<br />

City Breaks.<br />

Podcast<br />

Want more France?<br />

Subscribe to The<br />

Good Life France<br />

weekly newsletter for<br />

fabulous features,<br />

recipes and more.<br />


86<br />

40 Spotlight on Nantes<br />

Giant elephants and the<br />

unexpected in the arty city.<br />

86 History of Galettes des<br />

Rois cakes<br />

Pastries fit for a King.<br />

102 Arc 1950<br />

The family-friendly ski resort<br />

celebrates 20 years of mountain<br />

magic.<br />


20 Discover the Belle Epoque<br />

in Paris<br />

The dazzling legacy of the<br />

‘beautiful era’.<br />

30 Culinary treasures of<br />

Pas-de-Calais<br />

The northern French foodie<br />

scene is off-the-scale delicious.<br />

46 The Roman legacy of<br />

Notre-Dame<br />

Beneath the Paris Cathedral lie<br />

the remains of the Roman city of<br />

Lutetia.<br />

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

50 The last scourtinerie in France<br />

Discover the tradition of matmaking<br />

in southern France.<br />

54 Véloscénie – Normandy<br />

Cycling part of the Paris to<br />

Mont-Saint-Michel bike route.<br />


114 What’s New<br />

All the news and events you need<br />

for your next trip to France.<br />

119 French Lesson<br />

The art of French greetings.<br />

60 The world’s your oyster<br />

Oyster production on Brittany’s<br />

Emerald Coast.<br />

122<br />

138 Last word<br />

Life in Rural France – the joy of art<br />

de vivre.<br />

80<br />

64<br />

90<br />

64 Finding Cézanne in<br />

Aix-en-Provence<br />

Tracing the footsteps of the<br />

artist in his hometown.<br />

68 Guérande, Pays de la Loire<br />

The medieval town where salt<br />

reigns.<br />

74 Tarn-et-Garonne<br />

A scenic tour into the heart of<br />

Occitanie.<br />

80 Chateaux, Bateaux &<br />

Gateaux – oh my!<br />

Discovering the Loire on a<br />

paddle boat cruise.<br />

90 Beasts, beaches and bistros<br />

Meet a dragon on the beach<br />

and indulge in the lip-smacking<br />

cuisine of Calais.<br />

136<br />

126<br />

GUIDES<br />

122 Riviera Hotspots<br />

Dreaming of a new life in the sun?<br />

Check out the hotspots on the<br />

sunny French Riviera…<br />

126 Spotlight on the Gers<br />

Gorgeous Gers is a rural paradise.<br />


131 Garlic soup<br />

A look at the life of one of<br />

France’s greatest culinary artists.<br />

132 Baked Mont d’Or<br />

This classic cheese dish is<br />

absolutely scrumptious.<br />

134 Pot au Feu<br />

France’s favourite comfort food.<br />

98 Bordeaux’s oldest wine house<br />

The incredible history of<br />

Château Magnol.<br />

136 Bitter almond crème brûlée<br />

A new take on the classic French<br />

dessert<br />

106 Best Tours of France<br />

The very best of France for your<br />

tours and holidays.<br />


112 Your photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our Facebook<br />

page.<br />

4 Subscribe to The Good Life<br />

France Magazine<br />

Everything you want to know<br />

about France and more -<br />

subscription is totally free.<br />

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

travelling. Plus, Provence is mouth-wateringly<br />

delicious at this time of the year – it’s truffle<br />

season after all. And if you go from mid-<br />

November to the end of December – Provence<br />

puts on its festive finery, whilst from January to<br />

March, there’s plenty to do including festivals,<br />

concerts and cultural events. So head to<br />

Vaucluse and discover a Provencal winter<br />

wonderland…<br />

Winter flavours – eat,<br />

drink and be merry<br />

Truffles at Richerenches market<br />

Photo © Alain Hocquel Vaucluse Tourism<br />

Winter in PROVENCE<br />

The Winter months are a great time to visit Vaucluse in the heart of Provence. It’s<br />

the perfect season to chill, eat, drink and be merry says Janine Marsh…<br />

Most of us think of Provence as a Summer<br />

sunshine destination, never-ending fields<br />

of lavender, sun-kissed hilltop villages and<br />

vibrant street markets. Spring and Autumn are<br />

also a popular time for tourists. But for me,<br />

Winter is the best time to visit. For a start it’s<br />

uncrowded, you’ll largely have it to yourself<br />

along with the locals. It’s tranquil, blissful,<br />

and the scenery is gorgeous. It’s not a huge<br />

department so, just brimming with things to<br />

do, you can experience a lot without too much<br />

Truffle seller<br />

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

The cooler months are perfect to enjoy the<br />

flavours of Provence from daube, a winesteeped<br />

beef stew to sauteed wild mushrooms<br />

and vegetable soup flavoured with herbs<br />

preserved from the summer months. Not to<br />

mention delicious desserts including oreilletes,<br />

wafer thin, orange flower flavoured, deep fried<br />

cakes, nougat and crystallised fruit. But nothing<br />

says Provence in Winter quite like truffles.<br />

exquisite Provencal specialties. Generations of<br />

truffle growers come here every year and the<br />

market attracts visitors from all over the world.<br />

It’s not easy to describe the earthy aroma that<br />

assails your nostrils – like being at the bottom<br />

of a big hole in a forest that’s been covered<br />

for a hundred years, but in a good way! And<br />

if you’re tempted to take home a truffle, you<br />

can expect to pay from €300-1300 per kilo<br />

(though a single truffle is a lot less – from €12<br />

at the market) depending on quality. Find out<br />

more: grignanvalreas-tourism.co.uk<br />

If you want to store your truffles in olive oil,<br />

then pop to nearby Puyméras where the Vieux<br />

Moulin Farnoux is the last mill left in Vaucluse<br />

still using traditional production methods.<br />

Take a tour and tasting of the mill and it will<br />

become immediately clear why chefs clamour<br />

for the pure, simple cold-pressed ‘liquid gold’<br />

produced here.<br />

'Liquid gold', olive oil at Vieux Moulin Farnoux<br />

It’s thirsty work eating all this delicious food so<br />

next I recommend you head to Gigondas for<br />

a visit to the cellars of Pierre Amadieu and of<br />

course a tasting of robust reds, crisp whites and<br />

soft rosés. This lovely town was founded as a<br />

recreational site for the soldiers of the Roman<br />

Empire’s Second Legion, and legend has it that<br />

it was they who first planted the vines here.<br />

Oreilletes<br />

Vaucluse is the top producer of black<br />

truffles in France. There are truffle hubs in<br />

Carpentras, Ménerbes and the historic town<br />

of Richerenches where this year the Truffle<br />

Harvest Proclamation – which marks the<br />

official opening of the truffle season - takes<br />

place on 2nd December. The Truffle market of<br />

medieval Richerenches has been held for 100<br />

years. It takes place each Saturday morning<br />

from November to March. And in January<br />

there’s a Truffle Mass in the 12th century<br />

church, dedicated to the Black Diamond, in<br />

which local truffle producers place a very good<br />

truffle in the collection tray as an offering.<br />

If you think this all sounds rather truffleicious<br />

– you’re not wrong. On a rather breezy<br />

Saturday morning with the Mistral wind<br />

accompanying me along Richerenche’s<br />

appropriately named Cours du Mistral, I ogled<br />

stalls piled with truffles, truffle flavoured oils,<br />

cheeses, mustards and vinegars alongside<br />

Christian Merin, truffle hunter<br />

After warming up with a bowl of truffle<br />

flavoured eggs (of course) at the cosy and<br />

delicious L’Escaspade restaurant I headed off<br />

to Valréas (8km from Richereches), to go find<br />

my own buried treasure with truffle grower<br />

Christian Merin and his friendly snuffling,<br />

truffle-hunting dogs Prune and Prisca.<br />

Prisca dashed from tree to tree sniffing and<br />

sometimes digging before dropping a truffle<br />

at Christian’s feet – at least most of the time,<br />

at one point she couldn’t resist a nibble and<br />

gulped down a small one!<br />

pepiniere-christian-merin.com<br />

A Taste of Provence. © Exquisite, all-inclusive, small group tours.<br />

“If you have ever<br />

considered culinary<br />

tourism, Goût et Voyage<br />

will be the trip of your<br />

dreams. Excellence<br />

at every turn!”<br />

DS, NY<br />

www.goutetvoyage.com<br />

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

Santons means little saints, but these days the<br />

little figurines are just as likely to be celebrities<br />

or Santons famous ready for figures. painting, like In a Provence, tiny Terracotta army the cultural<br />

history of Santons goes back to St Francis<br />

of Assisi who in 1213 created the first living<br />

nativity scene. Over time this custom evolved<br />

into nativity crèches with large figurines,<br />

sometimes based on real people, apparently<br />

King Louis XIV had several scale models of<br />

himself included in the Versailles crib.<br />

Crillon le Brave cheese<br />

Crown your epicurean journey by indulging<br />

in what is quite possibly the best brunch in<br />

France, or at least in the top three. At the<br />

hotel Crillon-le-Brave in Crillon-le-Brave,<br />

they really know how to spoil you. Brunch<br />

(Sundays) here is not cheap and nor should it<br />

be – you’ll be tempted by an enormous choice<br />

of lip-smacking dishes from oysters to mouthwatering<br />

cakes, while you enjoy exquisite<br />

views over the Provence landscape. Heavenly.<br />

And irresistible.<br />

Discover the truffle route in Vaucluse:<br />

provenceguide.co.uk/truffleroute<br />

Wintry wonderlands<br />

Vaucluse has 7 listed “Most Beautiful Villages<br />

in France” - Gordes, Roussillon, Ménerbes,<br />

Ansouis, Lourmarin, Venasque and Séguret –<br />

every one of them is worth a visit any time of<br />

the year, but in Winter, Seguret has a special<br />

place in my heart thanks to its incredible<br />

Santon display and a living nativity scene<br />

every Christmas Eve which gives the village<br />

the nickname ‘Bethlehem of Provence’. It’s<br />

also where you’ll find the workshop of santonmaker<br />

Denis Voeux – an absolute must-visit.<br />

Santon<br />

Denis Voeux studio<br />

Denis Voeux in his workshop<br />

Entire villages at the Carpentras santon display<br />

When anything to do with religion was banned<br />

during the French Revolution, people started<br />

making santons in secret at home.<br />

In a workshop reminiscent of Cézanne’s studio<br />

in Aix-en-Provence (see page 62), Denis<br />

Voeux creates santons based on real people.<br />

He learned his craft from famous santonnier<br />

Robert Canut by watching him work and then<br />

practicing alone for years. He made his first<br />

santon in honour of his first child some three<br />

decades ago, and he made it in the likeness of<br />

his then 101-year-old grandfather, “he placed<br />

the first clay in his own mould, it meant so<br />

much to me” says Denis. Visit Seguret and<br />

you’re likely to recognise some of the locals<br />

who feature in his santon world. “People<br />

from around here don’t travel far, but their<br />

characters travel all around the world” he<br />

laughs. “My job as a santonnier is to bring the<br />

figure to life. The santon has a soul.” Every<br />

one of his handmade, hand-painted santons is<br />

unique.<br />

You can find out more, book a visit or buy a<br />

santon at: les3souquets.fr<br />

And if you love santons, then you really<br />

need to pop Carpentras on your must-visit<br />

list. In the tourist office is an immense crib,<br />

a whole world of santons, which every year<br />

has a new theme. With its fabulous market,<br />

historic streets, museums, and fun street<br />

performances from mid-December to early<br />

January (Noël Insolites), Carpentras is as<br />

uplifting as it is interesting. Noelinsoltes.fr<br />

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

Vaison<br />

For a lovely light display, it’s hard to think of<br />

anywhere prettier than Vaison-la-Romaine,<br />

around 10km from Seguret. Head to the upper<br />

town at dusk to see the lights twinkle over the<br />

tranquil cobblestone streets and then wander<br />

down to the main town via the Roman bridge<br />

and head to Patisserie/chocolaterie Gilles<br />

Peyrerol for a hot chocolate and a hedonistic<br />

foot-long croissant filled with caramel and<br />

chocolate.<br />

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14 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 15<br />

CALENDAR AD.indd 3 08/11/<strong>2023</strong> 10:04

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue makes for a<br />

fabulous winter visit. There are<br />

literally hundreds of antique<br />

shops to browse in this pretty,<br />

historic town, plus superb<br />

restaurants. The late great<br />

British TV personality, chef and<br />

‘gastronaut’ Keith Floyd had a<br />

restaurant here in the 70’s, lured<br />

by the charm of the town and<br />

the magnificent local produce<br />

– and wine. I couldn’t resist<br />

taking a morning workshop to<br />

make my own glass bauble at<br />

L’As du Verre with glassmaker<br />

Guillaume Roux, whose shop is<br />

brimming with gorgeous glass<br />

things! And at Filaventure, the<br />

family-run Brun de Vian Tiran<br />

wool mill of which has been in<br />

the town for more than 200<br />

years, you’ll find the most<br />

divine rugs, shawls, scarves,<br />

throws and all things woollen:<br />

lafilaventure.com<br />

Glass marker Isle sur la Sorgue<br />

And for more fabulous shopping, culture and<br />

fabulous food, head to Avignon, the capital<br />

of Vaucluse which has a fabulous market<br />

and some superb stores including Le Nid,<br />

for all things made-in-France for the home,<br />

fabulous crafts at Les artisans de la rue des<br />

Fourbisseurs, and treats from Chocolaterie<br />

artisanale Aline Géhant. And while you’re in<br />

this ancient city with its monumental 14th<br />

century Palace of the Popes, don’t miss the<br />

chance to treat yourself to a meal at the<br />

captivating and cosy Le Violette.<br />


Enjoy the off-season charm of Vaucluse and<br />

end or start the year in Provencal style with a<br />

sprinkle of sparkle.<br />

Discover heaps to see and do, places to stay,<br />

restaurants and lots more at<br />

provenceguide.co.uk<br />

The Winter climate in<br />

Vaucluse<br />

Avignon Le Violette<br />

Winter officially starts around December<br />

21, the date of the Winter Solstice in the<br />

western hemisphere and lasts until Spring,<br />

usually around March 21. The season is<br />

generally mild, but the winds can be very<br />

chilly, ferocious even, on days when the<br />

Mistral blows – but the good thing is, this<br />

huffy-puffy wind whips the clouds from<br />

the sky allowing the sun to shine through.<br />

Snow is rare (not more than 3 days a year)<br />

and usually over quite rapidly – except<br />

at the top of the majestic Mont Ventoux<br />

Mountain.<br />

Sorgue<br />

Crillon le Brave<br />

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

Is everything open in<br />

winter in Vaucluse?<br />

Generally, you’ll find that things are open as<br />

usual. Villages follow their regular routines<br />

with markets and shops open, but some<br />

villages may have fewer weekly markets<br />

than in summer. Museums and some<br />

restaurants may have reduced opening<br />

times, so check in advance. Most vineyards<br />

are open for wine tastings and tours as<br />

always. There’s plenty going on from<br />

Christmas markets to festivals, including<br />

concerts at Lourmarin Castle, and the major<br />

Equestrian festival, Cheval Passion, and<br />

dance festival Les Hivernales, in Avignon.<br />

Find all events here: provenceguide.co.uk<br />

Accommodation is always available, smaller<br />

places may close in Winter but there are<br />

some fabulous hotels that are far cheaper<br />

this time of the year, the perfect excuse to<br />

push the boat out.<br />

Richerenches town<br />

Hotel les Florets<br />

Three fabulous winter<br />

stays:<br />

In a truly gorgeous location at the foot of<br />

the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains in<br />

Gigondas, Hotel Les Florets is full of charm<br />

and has a superb restaurant featuring the<br />

best of local produce – be warned, you<br />

may never want to leave!<br />

The Grand Hotel Henri in Sorgue is<br />

utterly lovely. Experience the epitome of<br />

French art de vivre, and let yourself be<br />

cosseted at this luxurious hotel which has<br />

a fantastic restaurant.<br />

Hotel de Cambis, a stunning boutique hotel<br />

in a 18th century mansion house in the<br />

heart of Avignon, has a fabulous wine bar<br />

and hosts wine tasting events throughout<br />

the winter.<br />

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

Wandering<br />

through<br />

Belle Époque<br />

Paris<br />

Close your eyes and think of Paris: the Tour Eiffel standing tall over the whole city,<br />

the exuberant façade of La Samaritaine, the iconic metro entrances with their dark<br />

green wrought-iron railings and retro lamps. They all date from the Belle Époque,<br />

which literally means the beautiful era, a 40-year period of fizzing excitement and<br />

innovation which has marked the city ever since. And if you know where to look, you<br />

can find many more traces of this iconic period in Paris today says Marian Jones.<br />

The Belle Époque<br />

When World War One broke out, Parisians<br />

knew it was the end of an era. For 40 years,<br />

since the end of the Franco-Prussian War in<br />

1871, life had been good. People had crowded<br />

into the shops and cafés of the Grands<br />

Boulevards created by Haussmann. Advances<br />

in technology saw the metro – opened in<br />

1900 – replace horse-drawn carriages.<br />

And creativity was everywhere, in the art of<br />

Matisse and Toulouse-Lautrec, in the newly<br />

opened cinemas and in the city’s cabarets and<br />

dance halls. It really was a Belle Époque.<br />

The Eiffel Tower, the tallest structure in<br />

the world at the time, was designed to<br />

impress with the very latest in engineering.<br />

500 workers assembled 18,000 carefully<br />

numbered pieces to create a daring beauty<br />

which towered over the city and announced<br />

to the world that a new era had arrived. (Eiffel<br />

Tower podcast). The Gare d’Orsay, opened<br />

in 1900, was the first station in the world built<br />

for electric trains, another signal that Paris<br />

was in the forefront of progress. Visiting the<br />

Musée d’Orsay today, you can still see traces<br />

of the building’s heritage, for example in the<br />

beautiful Art Nouveau station clock which<br />

dominates the restaurant.<br />

Art Nouveau<br />

Art Nouveau architecture is found all over<br />

Paris today. As new metro stations opened<br />

in the early 1900s, many of their entrances<br />

were designed in Hector Guimard’s iconic<br />

style, with elegant cast-iron railings,<br />

sometimes roofed over by decorative<br />

iron and glass canopies. Art Nouveau first<br />

Avenue Rapp<br />

20 © Wazim | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 21

appeared in about 1890, featuring curved<br />

designs, often inspired by nature. You can<br />

find it on the façade of La Samaritaine and<br />

in Belle Époque era restaurants, and at<br />

29 Avenue Rapp, a stone’s throw from the<br />

Eiffel Tower is one of the most impressive art<br />

nouveau doors ever created.<br />

A good example is Le Boullion Julien in the<br />

Rue du Faubourg St-Denis, a monument<br />

historique where a mahogany bar and tables<br />

sit under a glass canopied ceiling and huge<br />

mirrors line the walls. The decorations include<br />

brass fittings, intricate plaster mouldings and<br />

designs featuring peacocks, flowers and – on<br />

the ceiling! – herons. Many of the Bouillon<br />

restaurants which opened in the 19th century<br />

to offer quality food at affordable prices, can<br />

still be visited today, a chance to go back in<br />

time and enjoy impeccable waiter service in<br />

art nouveau surroundings.<br />

The city’s grandest Belle Époque restaurant<br />

is Le Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon, which<br />

opened in 1901 as a station buffet. Its<br />

extravagant décor, designed to attract<br />

well-to-do customers wanting to dine<br />

before travelling south for the summer, was<br />

art nouveau taken to the very dizziest of<br />

heights. The golden ceiling is punctuated<br />

by chandeliers, the walls are covered in<br />

paintings. The tables are impeccably laid with<br />

the crispest of white tablecloths, the heaviest<br />

of proper cutlery and the shiniest of glasses.<br />

The very finest brasserie cuisine is served<br />

and if you find the prices a little higher than<br />

elsewhere, remind yourself that you are in a<br />

restaurant where Brigitte Bardot and Jean<br />

Cocteau chose to treat themselves.<br />

If you want to wander an area of Paris and<br />

find the Belle Époque today, then here are<br />

three ideas.<br />

A Belle Époque<br />

Grand Vista<br />

Stroll across the Alexandre III bridge, from the<br />

left bank towards the Grand Palais and the<br />

Petit Palais. The bridge was built in 1900, its<br />

single elegant arch a technical triumph and its<br />

elaborate decorations fully Belle Époque in their<br />

exuberance: pairs of stately street-lamps line<br />

it, the decorations include dozens of carvings<br />

and gold-plated statues. And the vista is Belle<br />

Époque too, for it was built for the Universal<br />

Alexandre III bridge<br />

Exhibition of 1900 to lead visitors across the<br />

Seine to two new exhibition halls which would<br />

showcase the latest in art and design, namely<br />

the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.<br />

The Grand Palais was another feat of<br />

engineering. The vast, elegant domed roof is<br />

supported by an iron and steel frame which<br />

looks light and airy, but in fact contains more<br />

metal than the Eiffel Tower! Normally used for<br />

large scale exhibitions, it is currently closed<br />

for renovation and not due to reopen until<br />

2024. But the Petit Palais, which houses the<br />

City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts, is open as<br />

usual and entry to the permanent exhibition is<br />

free, meaning it’s easy to have a look around<br />

the beautiful interior with its spiral staircases<br />

and curved iron railings, stained glass<br />

windows and ceiling murals. Its café, where a<br />

columned patio curves around a little garden,<br />

is always worth a visit.<br />

Le Boullion Julien<br />

Cafe of the Petit Palais<br />

22 | The Good Life France Train Bleu<br />

The Good Life France | 23

Dome, Printemps department store 2 © Paris Tourist Office David Lefranc<br />

Shopping à la Belle<br />

Époque<br />

Wander the area around the Opéra. The<br />

Opéra Garnier itself, opened in 1875, harks<br />

back to the grandeur of the 2nd Empire, but<br />

the ‘Grands Boulevards’ with their exclusive<br />

cafes and shops were very much at the centre<br />

of Belle Époque excitement. It was here, in<br />

Boulevard des Capucines in 1895, that the<br />

public first paid to see the films of the Lumière<br />

Brothers – the beginnings of cinema in Paris<br />

– and grand new department stores were<br />

springing up, two of which you can still visit<br />

today.<br />

glass canopy at the 6th floor restaurant,<br />

the Bleue Coupole. The interior of the<br />

Galéries Lafayette, which originally opened<br />

in 1895, is very Belle Époque, especially the<br />

glorious central dome, visible from every<br />

floor, an exquisite 1000 square metres of art<br />

nouveau stained- glass. On the 2nd floor,<br />

there is a walkway out into the central space<br />

underneath the dome, so you can admire it.<br />

And – better still! – there’s a café with a ‘Vue<br />

sur Coupole’, perched on the side of the shop<br />

where you can enjoy classy little sandwiches<br />

and cakes while taking it all in. This chance<br />

for ‘un snacking raffiné, (a refined snack) is so<br />

popular, that you are asked to stay no longer<br />

than an hour!<br />

Don’t forget Montmartre<br />

The entrance to the Abbesses metro station<br />

is one of the city’s best kept examples of<br />

art nouveau. Its spectacular glazed canopy<br />

and elegant dark green wrought-iron railings<br />

sing Belle Époque, as do the surrounding<br />

old-fashioned street-lamps. Montmartre<br />

was very lively then too, a place where<br />

artists and musicians gathered in the cafes<br />

Loire Brakes<br />

Le Moulin Rouge © Paris Tourist Office Jacques Lebar<br />

At Printemps in Boulevard Haussmann,<br />

you can catch a little of the atmosphere by<br />

eating under a huge and beautiful stainedand<br />

revellers flocked to dance halls and<br />

cabarets like Le Chat Noir, the Moulin<br />

Rouge and the Follies Bergères.<br />

Across the road from the station is one of<br />

the city’s few art nouveau churches, St Jean<br />

de Montmartre. It too was built at the turn<br />

of the century, using the newest techniques.<br />

Abbot Sobaux wanted his church to suit<br />

the new, industrial era, so he approved its<br />

structure of reinforced concrete with a<br />

red brick façade, meaning locals refer to it<br />

affectionately as Notre Dame des Briques.<br />

Inside, the décor is very art nouveau:<br />

patterned brick, relieved by ceramics in<br />

bronze, blue and gold.<br />

The Musée de Montmarte covers a wide<br />

span of the area’s history, and you can learn<br />

lots about the Belle Époque there. There are<br />

early photographs of the Moulin Rouge and<br />

its well-known dancers, including La Goulue.<br />

There’s a whole collection of period posters<br />

for venues like Le Chat Noir, by Toulouse-<br />

Lautrec and others, and a section on the<br />

new – for the time! –shadow puppet shows,<br />

produced, for example in 1896 at the Boîte à<br />

Musique on the Boulevard de Clichy.<br />

Any of these strolls will take you back to the<br />

Belle Époque, as indeed will just keeping your<br />

eyes open as you wander the streets of Paris.<br />

Entrance by Hector Guimard (1867–1942)<br />

Luxury guided tours in the Loire Valley<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 />

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

Le weekend<br />

in CASSIS<br />

Cassis is a year-round charmer with its café-bordered quays on the edge of the<br />

Mediterranean Sea, and 300 days of sunshine a year says Janine Marsh.<br />

What to see and do<br />

Cassis, a seaside town on the coast of the<br />

Mediterranean is brimming with charm, the<br />

town boasts a port lined with colourful cafés,<br />

restaurants, and shops set in an outstanding<br />

area of natural beauty. It’s a perfect weekend<br />

destination – the fast train from Paris takes just<br />

3 hours 48 minutes, and Marseille is just 25km<br />

away (30 minutes by train) – and a world apart.<br />

Wherever you are in Cassis you’ll see Cap<br />

Canaille, one of the highest cliffs in Europe,<br />

and according to King Louis XIV, the most<br />

beautiful in France. Hike, cycle, or drive to<br />

the crest of Cap Canaille and follow the pinetree<br />

perfumed Routes des Crêtes (ridges) for<br />

a spectacular view over the sea, Cassis and<br />

the Calanques, limestone cliffs that grace this<br />

part of the Mediterranean. You can hike to the<br />

Calanques and find a cove to swim or while<br />

away the day. Or take a boat ride – it’s best<br />

to go in the morning when the light is better,<br />

and watch the fish follow the boat, playfully<br />

flitting around the buoys that dot their kingdom.<br />

Somehow trees, flowers and fauna find a way to<br />

sprout from the crusty rocks, their jagged edges<br />

softened by the sea’s pounding over millennia.<br />

A vibrant market is held on Wednesday and<br />

Friday morning with a great range of goods<br />

from charcuterie and cheeses to chic shoes.<br />

And there are plenty of art galleries, shops<br />

and boutiques – including a perfumery where<br />

you can take a workshop and make your own<br />

perfume. This is the perfect place to stroll –<br />

and eat!<br />

There are restaurants galore serving the<br />

freshest fish, authentic bouillabaisse, seasonal,<br />

classic, gourmet, gastronomic dishes. There<br />

are café’s where they serve rouille, a garlicky<br />

paste to spread over crunchy bread squares<br />

and little bowls of olive oil to pour over your<br />

fish. Pair everything with a glass of wine from<br />

one of Cassis’ wine domains – local wines<br />

are served in all of the town’s port-based<br />

restaurants.<br />

Brunch: Les Roches Blanches – this is one<br />

of the best brunches in all of France – a<br />

smorgasbord of pleasure.<br />

Lunch/Dinner: Anywhere round the port, or<br />

head into the warren of narrow streets around<br />

for less touristy, more local options.<br />

Aperitifs: Locals love Le Franc, La Marine,<br />

Monsieur Brun in the port area, or the bar at<br />

Roches Blanches.<br />

Activities include swimming, diving, yearround<br />

snorkelling, sailing, tennis, windsurfing,<br />

Cassis port<br />

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

Room with a view Les Roches Blanches<br />

jet-skiing, and horseback riding. And for<br />

something less active – wine tasting. There are<br />

12 wine domains in Cassis producing sunshinefilled,<br />

delicious whites and roses.<br />

There’s a small museum with a collection of<br />

paintings and Roman artifacts. Unsurprisingly,<br />

painters have long flocked to capture the<br />

beauty of Cassis. This photogenic little former<br />

fishing village is Instagram-worthy at every<br />

turn, making artists of visitors.<br />

Les Roches Blanches<br />

Calanques<br />

Everyone should have the chance to stay at<br />

the 5 Star Hotel Les Roches Blanches if only<br />

for one night. This former 19th century private<br />

mansion is where Winston Churchill played,<br />

and Edith Piaf relaxed. It’s the sort of French<br />

paradise you see in films but don’t believe<br />

somewhere this special could really exist. It<br />

does. From the pool on the terrace of my<br />

room overlooking Cap Canaille which glowed<br />

the colour of toasted apricots as the sun set,<br />

I watched sailing boats go by in a sea that<br />

seemed to turn every colour of blue, fringed by<br />

the white rocks below which give the hotel its<br />

name. I can honestly say that at the moment<br />

I had nothing in my head except how utterly<br />

beautiful and relaxing this place is. Rumour<br />

has it that the owner of the stunning Chateau<br />

of Cassis stays at Les Roches Blanches so he<br />

can have a fabulous view of his own castle!<br />

There are four restaurants, all of them<br />

absolutely fabulous. The food is stupendous.<br />

The bar and the spa are superb. The hotel is<br />

super luxurious, but not at all stuffy.<br />

I might have shed a tear when I had to leave.<br />

Details: roches-blanches-cassis.com/en<br />

How to get there<br />

From the train station it’s a long walk into<br />

town (just under 2 miles), or you can take a<br />

taxi, or bus which run on the hour until 7pm.<br />

Find more details of activities and events at<br />

the Tourist office, located on the port:<br />

ot-cassis.com<br />

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

The culinary treasures<br />

of northern France<br />

but you’ll still be able to get breakfast. From<br />

4.30am – 4.30pm La Chatillon restaurant,<br />

an institution in Bourgogne, serves fishermen<br />

and anyone else who loves great food – their<br />

seafood is superb.<br />

Fish fit for a Queen<br />

Journey along the beautiful coastal roads of<br />

the Opal Coast and you’ll pass by authentic<br />

fishing villages where traditional little wooden<br />

boats are parked outside houses and fishermen<br />

sell their catch direct from their garages.<br />

Don’t miss Boulogne’s fabulous fish market<br />

where artisans (local fish) and commercants<br />

(fish from further afield) put on a colourful<br />

display of fish from scallops and sardines<br />

to spider crab and sea bream. At Solutions<br />

Fish Market stall the seller tells me “I’ve won<br />

17 awards for quality of fish, I even had a<br />

message from Queen Elizabeth II about my<br />

award as a supplier to the royal table - the first<br />

French fisherman to win such an award from<br />

the Queen.”<br />

Solution fish/seafood<br />

Cap Blanc Nez©lescoflocs<br />

Come to Pas-de-Calais in the Hauts-de-France region and you’ll discover an area<br />

of ancient history and rich culture, fringed by the glorious Opal Coast and brimming<br />

with historic villages and quaint hamlets which pepper the bucolic countryside. But<br />

what I love most about this friendly region – is its gastronomy says Janine Marsh.<br />

The gastronomy of Pas-de-Calais is unique.<br />

Its flavours come from the rich natural bounty<br />

of its fertile land and sea. It takes a pinch<br />

of influence from its Flemish past. And it’s<br />

seasoned by – well the seasons, in the far tip<br />

of northern France, it’s the rain and temperate<br />

climate that makes this area the vegetable<br />

garden of France. Come here with stretchy<br />

trousers and a healthy appetite because<br />

you’re going to be feasting like a lord…<br />

La Mer<br />

Pas-de-Calais is home to France’s biggest<br />

fish port – Boulogne-sur-Mer and restaurants<br />

in the region serve a wide range of the<br />

freshest fish from lobsters and mussels to<br />

langoustine and herring. Each morning,<br />

after a 5am auction, fish is delivered all over<br />

northern France and to the famous food<br />

market at Rungis in Paris. It might be early,<br />

The King of fish<br />

If you like your fish smoked, you’re in for a<br />

treat here. 100 years ago there were dozens<br />

of fish smokers in the town, now there are just<br />

four including Accary, famous for their smoked<br />

herring – AKA the king of the fish in this part of<br />

the world.<br />

This artisan producer consists of just 5 people<br />

who clean, cut, salt, smoke and pack the fresh<br />

fish delivered daily – a process that takes<br />

just 24 hours for herring, and a little longer<br />

for salmon. Smoked in huge stone chimneys<br />

called ‘corresses’ using oak and beechwood<br />

shavings, they’ve been working this way for<br />

almost 80 years and have won numerous<br />

awards including a coveted EPV and red label.<br />

The ashes are removed weekly and used by<br />

a local soap producer, any fish waste is used<br />

in cosmetics and animal food production.<br />

Nothing is wasted.<br />

30 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 31

Exquisite food at La Liégeoise restaurant<br />

Accary<br />

You won’t find Accary fish in supermarket<br />

only in good fish shops and gourmet shops,<br />

or go direct to their smokery and ring the bell<br />

– you’ll get a warm welcome. “We have a lot<br />

of happy customers” says Ludovic Sodorge,<br />

“even the gendarmes come here for their fish!”<br />

accarysalaisons.fr<br />

It would be a sin to go to the Opal Coast<br />

and not eat well. At the Atlantic-Delpierre<br />

Hotel in Wimereux, a lovely seaside resort<br />

that’s renowned for its colourful Belle Epoque<br />

villas, push the boat out at Michelin-starred<br />

restaurant La Liégeoise. Chef Benjamin<br />

Delpierre weaves magic in the kitchen to<br />

create an exquisite menu that includes<br />

oysters with candied lemon marmalade,<br />

seaweed butter and a scrumptious peanut<br />

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

Hotel Atlantic<br />

and chocolate dessert that I still dream of! On<br />

the first floor, La Liégeoise has stunning views<br />

over the sea, perfect for the extraordinary<br />

sunsets that the Opal Coast is known for. On<br />

the ground floor is Brasserie L’Aloze which also<br />

has a great menu – the smoked salmon with<br />

matcha tea waffle and carrot, ginger and yuzu<br />

cream is memorable.<br />

Details: Reserve a room and table at Hotel<br />

Atlantic-Delpierre. All rooms face the<br />

sea, there’s a well-being spa and tranquil<br />

atmosphere - this hotel is a relaxing hideaway<br />

and a luxurious little gem.<br />

La Terre<br />

Over the last decade or so, chefs have flocked<br />

to create restaurants here, especially those<br />

who love to work with seasonal, organic and<br />

local produce. They’re lured by the tasty<br />

treasures, the quality and range of ingredients<br />

on offer, from saffron grown on the coast to<br />

the excellent cereal which (in my opinion,<br />

and I am a bit of a cake expert!) makes for<br />

the best bread and cakes in France, as well<br />

as vegetables grown in the historic marsh<br />

area of Saint-Omer. Covering an area smaller<br />

than New York City, the agricultural output<br />

of Pas-de-Calais is astonishing with premium<br />

production of many vegetables including sugar<br />

beet, chicory for coffee and beer, and endives<br />

as well as sustainable animal farming.<br />

Those chefs have brought with them diverse<br />

food heritages from France and all around<br />

the world. Chef Christophe Dufossé is one<br />

of them. Born in Calais, he moved to Metz in<br />

Lorraine, northeast France before deciding<br />

to come back to the region. Searching for<br />

the perfect place to open his restaurant he<br />

knew that he had found it when he stayed at<br />

the Hotel Chateau de Beaulieu in Busnes,<br />

formerly run by 3 Michelin starred chef<br />

Mark Meurin who was contemplating<br />

retirement. Since 2021, Chef Dufosse and<br />

wife Delphine have breathed new life into<br />

the 17th century chateau, creating a spa<br />

area, and expanding the 5-star hotel rooms<br />

and restaurant space. They’ve also cultivated<br />

part of the enormous estate which now<br />

boasts beautiful potagers and orchards<br />

which provide at least 50% of the fruit and<br />

vegetables used in the kitchen. Their<br />

efforts have won them a rare Michelin<br />

Green Star, awarded to chefs who are<br />

leaders and innovators in the field of<br />

sustainable gastronomy.<br />

Chef Christophe Dufossé in the orchard<br />

There is a small farm for<br />

rescue animals at the chateau,<br />

including Étoile the black<br />

sheep, a gift to Chef Dufossé<br />

from his wife when he received<br />

his second Michelin Star<br />

Saint-Omer, historic marshlands where vegetables have been grown for hundreds of years<br />

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

Chef Dufosse’s team includes 28 chefs -<br />

expert patissiers, chocolatiers, glaciers,<br />

charcutiers, boulangiers and sweet makers.<br />

He works with around 40 local producers,<br />

fishermen, market gardeners and farmers.<br />

In his 2 Michelin-starred restaurant<br />

gastronomique and brasserie Cote Jardin,<br />

you’ll feast on the most mouth-watering of<br />

dishes, this is more than lunch or dinner, it’s an<br />

epic-urean experience. And whatever you do<br />

– leave room for dessert, resistance is simply<br />

futile. www.lechateaudebeaulieu.fr<br />

Chateau de Beaulieu and Restaurant Gastronomique Christophe Dufossé – Gastronomic restaurant<br />

From the UK, DFDS offers up to 30 daily<br />

sailings on its Dover to Calais service and up<br />

to 24 daily sailings from Dover to Dunkirk.<br />

Rest and relax in the exclusive Premium<br />

Lounge where you can enjoy complimentary<br />

hot and cold drinks, sandwiches, and snack.<br />

Add Priority Boarding to be one of the first to<br />

board and disembark the ferry. Browse DFDS’<br />

duty-free shops onboard and at the ports<br />

and save up to 50 per cent off UK high-street<br />

prices on some of your favourite brands.<br />

For more information and to book your next<br />

trip with DFDS, visit dfds.com<br />

LaPont French Immersion in Burgundy<br />

Language Culture Gastronomy<br />

Chateau de Beaulieu, garden and barbecue area<br />

• Learn French in France<br />

• Stay in the château domain<br />

• Private cultural tours<br />

• Small groups<br />

lapont.com<br />

36 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 37

3 places to experience a taste<br />

of Pas-de-Calais<br />

Head to Houlle to try the world’s best genièvre (genever),<br />

a local speciality that’s like a Dutch gin. The Distillerie<br />

Genièvre de Houlle is home to the oldest grain distillery<br />

in use in France – making small batches of this hairs-onyour-chest<br />

drink since 1812.<br />

Cheese heads will love the artisan-made regional<br />

frommages of the Frères Bernard at Wierre Effroy. You can<br />

watch the cheeses being made, including mouth-watering<br />

Mimolette – then scoff them without moderation!<br />

Try the divine beer at the ancient Abbey de Clairmarais,<br />

Saint-Omer, where beer has been made for centuries.<br />

Find loads more to see and do in Pas-de-Calais at:<br />

visitpasdecalais.com<br />

Mimolette<br />

Laurent Delafosse has revived the ancient art<br />

of brewing beer at the Abbey of Clairmarais<br />

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

pachyderm as it lumbers past a giant threetier<br />

carousel of sea creatures – a tribute to<br />

Jules Verne, author of Twenty Thousand<br />

Leagues under the Sea. The elephant waves<br />

its trunk from side to side, and I duck behind<br />

the assembled crowd to avoid a hefty spray<br />

of water. It is, for adults as well as children, all<br />

huge fun.<br />

I’ve only been here a few hours, but already<br />

I’ve learnt that Nantes is a city of surprises.<br />

Once a throbbing centre of shipyards, sugar<br />

refineries, and biscuit factories, Nantes saw its<br />

economy crumble in 1987 with the closure of<br />

the shipyards and other related industries.<br />

But today France’s sixth largest city is famous<br />

for reinventing itself with a unique USP as an<br />

arts and culture city. And much of it is free<br />

to enjoy. Nantes wears its art on its sleeve<br />

with a permanent collection of 128 artworks<br />

in public spaces from the city centre along<br />

the Loire estuary and through the nearby<br />

Muscadet vineyards, not to mention its rich<br />

museum collections.<br />

Passage Pommeraye<br />

NANTES<br />

for<br />


Expect the unexpected in<br />

the hometown of author<br />

Jules Verne. Gillian<br />

Thornton enjoyed a<br />

voyage of discovery on<br />

her first visit to Nantes.<br />

I hear the animal long before I see it. A loud<br />

bellowing sound that echoes through the<br />

rafters of the old industrial buildings beside the<br />

river Loire. Far from running away, the family<br />

in front of me start running towards the noise<br />

and I find myself running with them. After<br />

all, nobody wants to miss the famous Grand<br />

Elephant of Nantes in motion.<br />

We catch up with the huge mechanical<br />

So how much can you pack into a short<br />

break? The city is served by 23 daily TGV<br />

trains from Paris, but I arrive by car on a<br />

touring holiday, leaving my vehicle in a<br />

secure public car park just five minutes’ walk<br />

from the Hotel Voltaire Opera. This 3-star<br />

boutique hotel in a 19th century town house<br />

stands in the elegant Graslin district, close to<br />

the Passage Pommeraye, a glorious period<br />

shopping arcade on three levels.<br />

40 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 41

The local tram system is regular and reliable,<br />

but the city centre is very walkable too. Buy a<br />

Pass Nantes for free access to public transport<br />

as well as a wealth of must-see sites for 24, 48<br />

or 72 hours.<br />

Day One<br />

First thing I do is pick up the Green Line in the<br />

city centre. Not a bus or tram network but a<br />

coloured line painted on the pavement to link<br />

the eclectic mix of artworks that make up The<br />

Permanent Voyage. Every summer since 2012,<br />

this trail is supplemented in July and August<br />

by Le Voyage à Nantes, a temporary outdoor<br />

exhibition of new artworks.<br />

There is something here for everyone. A suited<br />

gentleman stepping sideways off a plinth;<br />

a green urban jungle in a once rundown<br />

courtyard; and a stone beaver on ancient<br />

masonry. Look out for almost 30 quirky shop<br />

signs and a line of concentric riverside rings<br />

that frame the cityscape. Every bend in the<br />

trail reveals a new surprise.<br />

Urban jungle on the Green Line<br />

Anne<br />

Memorial to the Abolition of Slavery, the only<br />

one of its kind in Europe.<br />

I’m drawn also to the section on – big<br />

contrast here – biscuits! Who knew that<br />

Nantes is the home of the beloved Petit<br />

Beurre and the LU biscuit brand, once<br />

manufactured in a flamboyant quayside<br />

factory that has since been repurposed as<br />

the Lieu Unique cultural centre?<br />

From the castle, I stroll through the lush<br />

Botanic Garden, where I can’t resist a Kodak<br />

moment beneath a giant park bench, and<br />

enjoy the indoor highlights of the Arts Museum,<br />

before walking back through the elegant<br />

pedestrian shopping streets ready for dinner.<br />


• Homestay at your certified private tutor’s residence<br />

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Tailor-made courses, guided conversations, French life<br />

slimmersion-france.com<br />

Capital of the Loire-Atlantique department,<br />

Nantes has come under the Pays de la Loire<br />

region since 1941, but before that was part of<br />

Brittany. In the heart of the city’s medieval<br />

quarter stands the imposing Castle of the<br />

Dukes of Brittany, started in the 15th century<br />

under Francois II, last duke of an independent<br />

Brittany, and continued under his daughter<br />

Anne, twice Queen of France.<br />

Today it makes an atmospheric home for the<br />

city’s excellent History Museum, which covers<br />

four major themes including the castle itself,<br />

two World Wars, and the city’s industrial past.<br />

I’m particularly impressed by the section on<br />

colonial economy and Nantes’ role in the<br />

Atlantic slave trade. The city confronts this<br />

period of its history full on, as can also be<br />

seen on Quai de la Fosse in the underground<br />

La Cigale<br />

I’m booked in at La Cigale, in the<br />

Cambronne district, a stunning Art Nouveau<br />

brasserie opposite the Opera house and<br />

a city institution since 1895 with its giltframed<br />

mirrors and plush décor. Expect<br />

42 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 43

Statue of General Cambronne outside La Cigale<br />

smiling bilingual staff in traditional black<br />

and white uniforms and classic brasserie<br />

fare in a buzzing environment. A worthy<br />

listing in the excellent free gastro guide,<br />

Les Tables de Nantes.<br />

Day two<br />

I start my second day on the west side of town<br />

in the village atmosphere of the Chantenay<br />

Quarter, once a working-class district of<br />

shipyards and factories, and now undergoing<br />

an urban makeover with kitchen gardens<br />

and artworks. On the left bank opposite<br />

lies Trentemoult, accessible by shuttle boat<br />

from the Gare Maritime. Once a village of<br />

fishermen and sailors, this cute community is<br />

now popular for its bright facades, street art<br />

and guinguette taverns.<br />

From the town centre however, you only need<br />

cross a bridge to reach the Ile de Nantes and<br />

the 13-hectare Parc des Chantiers, a former<br />

shipyard that has been gradually transformed<br />

since 2007 into a place where locals come<br />

to relax and play. Artworks are everywhere<br />

as you follow the Green Line through the<br />

Creative Campus, and past the 300-seat<br />

Cantine du Voyage, a riverside summer eatery<br />

made of removable greenhouses.<br />

But the big draw amongst the restored<br />

slipways is Les Machines de L’Ile, mechanical<br />

creatures inspired by Jules Verne, Leonardo<br />

Da Vinci, and by the industrial history<br />

of Nantes. I love the giant spider, the<br />

chameleon, and the sloth in the live show<br />

Galerie, but the biggest draw here is the<br />

Grand Elephant, 12 metres high and carrying<br />

50 passengers for a 30-minute ride. Truly a<br />

once-in-a-lifetime experience.<br />

And don’t miss a ride on the Carrousel<br />

des Mondes Marins, Jules Verne moved to<br />

Paris and later to Amiens, but always found<br />

inspiration in Nantes and wrote Twenty<br />

Thousand Leagues Under the Seas during<br />

regular return visits.<br />

More major projects are already on the<br />

cards. The reopening of the cathedral, closed<br />

since 2020 following a fire. A makeover for<br />

the Archaeological Museum. And a new<br />

centre on the Chantenay quayside dedicated<br />

to Jules Verne.<br />

I finish my city stay with a gastronomic treat at<br />

Pickles, a cosy restaurant run by English chef<br />

Dominic Quirke in a quiet street close to the<br />

city centre. Menus are changed every three<br />

weeks, always with the aim of reducing our<br />

meat and fish consumption. The ingredients<br />

aren’t fancy but the sublime way in which this<br />

former IT expert blends local produce together<br />

is a holiday memory to savour.<br />

‘I’ve been here ten years and now other chefs<br />

are staring to do something similar, so I’m<br />

constantly looking for ways to offer something<br />

new,’ Dominic tells me with the air of one who<br />

quietly relishes the challenge. It’s a philosophy<br />

that seems to perfectly reflect the spirit of this<br />

enchanting city. Who knows what I’ll find on<br />

my next visit?<br />

levoyageanantes.fr<br />

hotelvoltaireoperanantes.com<br />

lacigale.com<br />

pickles-restaurant.com<br />

Cottages and Classics<br />





Creative Campus<br />

Lyn & Graham Peek Tel No: 0033 5 46 33 36 09 | La Rose des Vents, La Tacherie, 17160 Mons, France<br />

www.cottagesandclassics.com | Email:cottagesandclassics@orange.fr | Members of MSCC and AMOC<br />

44 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 45

Notre-Dame before the fire<br />

From Lutetia to Paris<br />

The Roman ruins beneath the<br />

Cathedral of Notre Dame<br />

Christina Mackenzie explores the ground beneath<br />

Paris to discover the city’s ancient past<br />

Few people walking on the square in front of<br />

Notre Dame are aware that right beneath<br />

their feet lie the ancient remains of the city –<br />

in Europe’s biggest archaeological crypt.<br />

The entrance is down a discreet staircase<br />

in the northwest corner of the square. You<br />

might think it leads to the car park! Look for<br />

a pillar with “Crypte du Parvis” engraved on<br />

it. The cool air, dim light and quiet ambiance<br />

are a strong contrast to the generally busy<br />

square that lures tourists to witness one of<br />

the most beautiful churches ever built.<br />

But in this museum, you’re unlikely to have<br />

to jostle. There were just 125,000 visitors<br />

in 2022, an average of around 400 a day,<br />

possibly because it’s confusingly called the<br />

“Crypte”, which one generally associates<br />

with a stone chamber under a church which<br />

contains religious relics. The museum’s<br />

official name is the Crypte archéologique<br />

de l’île de la Cité… perhaps it would draw<br />

more visitors if it were just simply called the<br />

“Musée archéologique de Paris”!<br />

The ancient vestiges, hidden for centuries<br />

under the square, were discovered by<br />

accident in 1964 during excavations during<br />

works to build an underground carpark. When<br />

it became clear that these archaeological<br />

remains from the Romans to the 19th century<br />

provided a unique timeline to understanding<br />

the city’s urban and archaeological<br />

development, plans for the carpark were<br />

modified and archaeological excavation<br />

continued for a further eight years.<br />

Once you’ve paid your entrance fee and<br />

your eyes have adjusted to the quiet light,<br />

you’ll walk along raised pathways, looking<br />

down on 2,000 years of history. Tactile,<br />

animated displays, in French and English,<br />

help visitors understand what it is they’re<br />

looking at.<br />

Right in the centre are the remains of the bath<br />

house where inhabitants of the Gallo-Roman<br />

town of Lutetia, as Paris was known then<br />

(meaning ‘place near a swamp’), could come<br />

and relax, catch up on the latest news and<br />

exchange gossip.<br />

Today’s visitors can follow the same path the<br />

bathers would have taken. You can see the<br />

remains of the changing room with its bench<br />

still intact. Somebody lost some of their coins<br />

in this changing room. As coins were only used<br />

for about 20 years, archaeologists assume<br />

that this money, found between two paving<br />

stones in 2012, gives an accurate indication of<br />

when these baths were last used: at the end of<br />

4AD or in early 5AD.<br />

The baths had underfloor heating (who<br />

thought this was a modern invention?) and<br />

you can see the small columns of stones that<br />

held the floor up so the heat could spread<br />

underneath. You go through the cold room,<br />

the hot room, the sauna, then back through<br />

the cold room.<br />

The oldest vestiges visible are those of the<br />

city’s very first port, built at the beginning<br />

of 1AD just after the Romans colonised the<br />

Gaullish settlement. Obviously the Romans<br />

46 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 47

An Overall view of the Medieval section<br />

wanted to be able to trade from here with the<br />

rest of their empire so the first thing to do was<br />

to build a port. As is very well explained, the<br />

Seine river was untamed back then, so it was<br />

spread much wider than today.<br />

Right above the remains of the quay are<br />

those of the rampart built along the same<br />

axis three centuries later between 308 and<br />

360 AD. The rampart went around the Île<br />

de la Cité with a main road that ran northsouth.<br />

The rampart was built using large<br />

stones that have segments of inscriptions<br />

on them, so it’s believed that they were<br />

taken from official monuments of Lutetia or<br />

from seating in the theatre where important<br />

families had permanently reserved seats with<br />

Overall view of the Roman baths<br />

their names on. You can see remains of the<br />

theatre, the Arènes de Lutèce, which had a<br />

seating capacity of 15,944, and is the only<br />

other Roman vestige visible in Paris, on the rue<br />

Monge in the 5th arrondissement.<br />

From the Medieval period there are the walls<br />

of 14th and 15th century cellars of the homes<br />

built along the rue Neuve Notre Dame, and<br />

the basement of the former chapel of the<br />

Hôtel-Dieu hospital. Don’t look for this 76m<br />

long street. It disappeared in 1874 but when<br />

you emerge from this museum, have a look<br />

at the markings on the square. They will show<br />

you where this street used to be.<br />

The 18th century is represented by the<br />

foundations of the Foundling Hospital, the<br />

Hospice des Enfants-<br />

Trouvés, built in 1746<br />

on the rue Neuve Notre<br />

Dame and demolished<br />

in 1874 to widen the<br />

square in front of the<br />

cathedral. The 19th<br />

century is represented,<br />

rather unglamorously,<br />

by traces of sewers.<br />

The museum is open<br />

Tuesdays-Sundays, as<br />

well as some major<br />

public holidays. For<br />

more details check out<br />

the website:<br />

crypte.paris.fr<br />

Rue Neuve de Notre Dame,<br />

city map 1550<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 />

48 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 49

The last Scourtinerie<br />

in France<br />

In Nyons, in the Drome department,<br />

south of France, you can witness a<br />

timeless Provençal tradition, the<br />

ancient craft of weaving ‘scourtins’ -<br />

round filter mats that are made from<br />

natural coconut fibres. Jeremy Flint<br />

visits a workshop where the old matmaking<br />

customs are treasured.<br />

Walking into the Scourtinerie workshop on<br />

the banks of the river Eygues, I felt as if I had<br />

stepped back in time. The sight of age-old<br />

machinery and the rattling of steel spindles<br />

ringing loud was mesmerising as coloured<br />

fabric spun in a frenzied state, becoming<br />

increasingly entangled as the threads took<br />

shape, weaving the weft to create circles.<br />

The Fert family established La Scourtinerie<br />

in 1882 to make traditional scourtins, a<br />

circular filter that’s used for filtration in<br />

the extraction of olive oil and wine from<br />

presses. They already owned a successful<br />

woollen weaving firm, and after coming<br />

up with the idea to make scourtins,<br />

Ferdinand Fert invented and patented the<br />

first circular weaving machine in 1892. It<br />

was an incredible feat of engineering. He<br />

also introduced coconut fibres into French<br />

weaving. Such is the strength and quality<br />

of the fibres, they have been used by<br />

generations of Fert family scourtin makers<br />

for the last 140 years.<br />

Business was good until the ravaging frosts<br />

of 1956 destroyed the olive trees. Orders<br />

for scourtins reduced drastically, and for a<br />

while the company looked like it would have<br />

to close. But when the family realised that<br />

people used the old scourtins for doormats,<br />

George and Alain Fert, Ferdinand’s son and<br />

grandson who clearly inherited his gift for<br />

innovation, had the genius idea to transform<br />

scourtins into mats.<br />

As competitor businesses closed over<br />

the years, the company became the last<br />

Scourtinerie in France. Today, they still<br />

make traditional scourtins used as filters for<br />

olive oil, cider, fruit and wine presses, and<br />

they also make decorative scourtins used as<br />

table mats, place mats, door mats, carpets<br />

and rugs. This diversified product range is<br />

available in 25 different colours and many<br />

sizes, and you won’t find anything like these<br />

unique artisanal pieces made anywhere else<br />

in France.<br />

Now Sophie Villeneuve-Fert, the founder’s<br />

great-great granddaughter, the 5th<br />

generation of the family to weave scourtins,<br />

is ensuring the continuity of this fascinating<br />

craft, whilst continuing the company’s<br />

incredible legacy.<br />

Sophie is passionate about her role in<br />

this family business. “The craft of La<br />

Scourtinerie allows me to have direct<br />

interactions with our customers, and I<br />

Sophie with bobbins of dyed yarn fibre<br />

50 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 51

'Real' South of France Tours<br />

find great joy in the creativity involved in<br />

our products” she says. “It feels incredibly<br />

authentic and I take immense pride in our<br />

family’s legacy. La Scourtinerie has been in<br />

existence for 140 years, and I am determined<br />

to carry it forward with me and future<br />

generations”.<br />

She explains how the process of making<br />

scourtins involves several steps. The Coconut<br />

fibre is imported mainly from India in the form<br />

of hanks of yarn, and is the primary material<br />

used to make scourtins. It’s dyed (if required)<br />

and then wound onto bobbins, which are fed<br />

into the scourtin-making machines. Next,<br />

needles are placed in the mould of the<br />

scourtin-making machine which act as guides<br />

for the weaving process.<br />

In the workshop, 4 scourtiniers weave and<br />

hand-finish the scourtins, which are shipped<br />

all over the world. The firm continues to<br />

innovate, for instance introducing ecofriendly<br />

natural dyes, increasing the product<br />

range and collaborating with companies<br />

like Parfumeries Fragonard, to combine the<br />

artistry and uniqueness of scourtins which has<br />

seen the company receive a “Living Heritage<br />

Company” award in recognition of the<br />

exceptional skills of the weavers.<br />

Visit can be organised in advance at<br />

scourtinerie.com<br />






realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

Don’t let French administration<br />

hold you back!<br />

If you’ve always dreamed of making the move to France but don’t<br />

know where to start, we’re here to help.<br />

Our friendly English-speaking team at French Connections HCB<br />

offers a support service in every aspect of French administration,<br />

visa applications, setting up a business, car registration,<br />

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and much more.<br />

For help simply visit<br />

frenchconnectionshcb.com or<br />

call us on +33 1 85 65 74 98<br />

to get started.<br />

52 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 53

The cycle route that runs from Paris to Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy is wheely<br />

superb says Amy MacPherson…<br />

On your BIKE!<br />

In Normandy<br />

Just an hour from Paris by train, brought me<br />

to the heart of the Perche Regional Nature<br />

Park in Normandy where I planned to cycle<br />

part of the Veloscenic route, la Véloscénie in<br />

French. This 450KM cycle route runs between<br />

Paris and Mont Saint-Michel, winding its way<br />

through three nature parks and five UNESCO<br />

listed heritage sites. Along the journey you dip<br />

in and out of towns and villages that seem to<br />

step back in time, and it’s a great way to slow<br />

down and soak up a gentler pace of life, and<br />

to taste the flavours of the countryside.<br />

There are around 20 points along the route<br />

where you can hire bikes, and we started our<br />

journey at the station of Nogent-le-Rotrou,<br />

taking the relaxed option of e-bikes.<br />

The Fabulous Greenway<br />

It’s so quiet I couldn’t help thinking. The<br />

gentle silence was almost tangible. I was<br />

pedalling along a stretch of cycle way, the<br />

wheels of my bike whirring softly on the<br />

earthen path lined by trees that were just<br />

sprouting their crisp Spring greens. The only<br />

sound was from the serenading songbirds<br />

darting in and out of low bushes.<br />

The majority of the Veloscenic route within<br />

the Perche Regional Nature Park is trafficfree<br />

greenway, built on a stretch of disused<br />

railway line. From steel bridges to old station<br />

houses that are now either private homes or<br />

restaurants along the way, parts of the rail<br />

heritage decorated our passage.<br />

From Nogent-le-Rotrou, it is an easy ride to<br />

the small village of Rémalard-en-Perche, a<br />

place of narrow roads lined with stone houses<br />

sporting pastel-coloured shutters. The Huisne<br />

river trickles gently by, nurturing the farms and<br />

the landscape of the Perche.<br />

Other than the forgotten villages and hamlets,<br />

this stretch of the cycle way has no significant<br />

landmarks to speak of. However, that is the<br />

beauty of such expeditions. There is a surprise<br />

every corner, whether it be an ancient church<br />

or a set of ruins. And as ever in France, always<br />

a lovely little place to eat.<br />

Regional specialties and<br />

community cafés<br />

Our arrival in Rémalard-en-Perche gave us a<br />

chance to stop and fuel for lunch. Right by the<br />

54 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 55

En Gare<br />

cider tasting<br />

cycle way, the old train station house is now<br />

a small restaurant suitably named En Gare. A<br />

photograph of the station building in the late<br />

19th century shows the railway tracks that<br />

ran past doorstep, and the building itself has<br />

hardly altered except for fresh paint and the<br />

modernised interior.<br />

The menu of fresh tomato salad, duck filet<br />

and pain perdu, perfectly filled the gap after<br />

a morning’s exercise and set us up to continue<br />

along the gentle cycle path, losing ourselves<br />

among the greenery.<br />

“You know, in the Orne department, we really<br />

love cyclists,” said our guide Perrine Peigney.<br />

“The Véloscénie isn’t just popular with visitors,<br />

Parisians come here because it’s so close to<br />

the city, but local people love it too and many<br />

of them really enjoy this relaxing ride. There<br />

are so many other great cycle routes in the<br />

department, and there are many businesses<br />

that are great supporters of cycling tourists.”<br />

We stopped for a coffee break in the town of<br />

Courgeon, where Café de la Place is run by<br />

Denis Hurtaud and his son, who were inspired<br />

to move here from La Rochelle after a holiday<br />

cycling the Veloscenic route. They were so in<br />

love with the cycle route and the landscape that<br />

they decided to create this café as a community<br />

hub and welcome cyclists passing through.<br />

“My next project is to provide camping<br />

accommodation for the cyclists on the<br />

Véloscénie,” said Denis, as we enjoyed coffee<br />

under an old linden tree. “They can rest for the<br />

night, have a shower, have something to eat.<br />

It’ll be fully tailored for cyclists.”<br />

After this quick break, it was time to make the<br />

most of the fact that we were in Normandy -<br />

and you cannot have a holiday in Normandy<br />

without trying cider.<br />

Cidres du Perche<br />

After a brief return to the greenway, we turned<br />

off-piste to cycle through an orchard of apples<br />

and pears to reach the tasting room of cider<br />

producer La Maison Ferré.<br />

Grégoire Ferré is passionate about the cider<br />

business he started 20 years ago. A tour of<br />

the organic farm revealed that he is not just<br />

about producing cider, but he is ardent about<br />

understanding cider from the ground up –<br />

from the soil to the breed of apples and pears,<br />

and how to keep the health of the trees and<br />

hence the quality of the fruits.<br />

56 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 57

There is however, another reason why cider<br />

is special here. The AOC label of Cidres du<br />

Perche is a newly created national recognition<br />

on this deliciously bubbly cider that is<br />

considered the champagne of the cider world.<br />

And it truly is good. Take it from someone who<br />

doesn’t normally like cider!<br />

Boudin de Mortagne-au-<br />

Perche<br />

We spent the night in the historic town of<br />

Mortagne-au-Perche, at Hôtel du Tribunal,<br />

one of France’s Accueil Velo (Cyclists<br />

Welcome) accommodation.<br />

When it comes to supporting cyclists, the<br />

French do it so well. These cyclist friendly<br />

hotels don’t just “welcome” a cyclist. There are<br />

tools if you need to do a little maintenance,<br />

as well as secure bike parking that isn’t just<br />

an empty room with a door. The excellent<br />

breakfast buffet is more than the usual bread,<br />

butter, and coffee, they know that cyclists will<br />

require a whole day of fuel.<br />

The next day, we took time to visit this beautiful<br />

town, home to the beautiful church of Notre-<br />

Dame, with its atmospheric cloisters and a<br />

wonderfully preserved medieval centre, but it<br />

is the Boudin, the black pudding of Mortagne<br />

that is king. So much so, that this delicacy<br />

is given its own annual festival, the Foire au<br />

Boudin de Mortagne, held every Spring.<br />

Popping into the local butchers we each<br />

bagged a portion of the black pudding,<br />

surprisingly portable for cycling adventures<br />

(and full of protein and fats needed for<br />

energy)! On the lovely town square there is<br />

also a small ice cream parlour and a great<br />

delicatessen for more peckish delights.<br />

I mean, what good is a cycling holiday if you<br />

can’t eat your way through it?<br />

A quick taster for<br />

next time<br />

After another day through greenways and<br />

country roads, we ended the journey at<br />

Alençon, a lovely town with a history of lace<br />

making. We left our trusty bikes and took<br />

the train back to Paris. This two-day taster<br />

of an adventure left me dreaming of a twoweek<br />

trip. To cycle all the way from Paris,<br />

to eventually roll towards the coast with the<br />

silhouette of Mont Saint-Michel to welcome<br />

me. Oh the dream! I’ll be back…<br />

veloscenic.com<br />

en.normandie-tourisme.fr<br />

Hotel tip: Amy stayed overnight in Paris at<br />

the 25 Hours Hotel Paris Gare du Nord. This<br />

colourful hotel has all the fun elements of a<br />

couple of days in Paris, before or after your<br />

Veloscenic adventure! Have we mentioned<br />

free mini bar?<br />

Alençon<br />


Relax. Replenish. Revive.<br />

Kick back and relax in a Cotswold Eco Tub<br />

fabulously easy.<br />

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58 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 59

The world’s your<br />

OYSTER<br />

On the Emerald Coast, within the curved bay of Mont Saint-Michel, east of St-Malo,<br />

magnificent oyster beds stretch for miles around the coastline and picturesque<br />

fishing port of Cancale in Brittany. It’s one of the best places in France to enjoy<br />

oysters says Jeremy Flint.<br />

2000 years ago the Romans who came to<br />

France were fond of French oysters and small<br />

fishing communities began on the shores of<br />

the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel to fish the wild<br />

oyster beds. King Louis XIV had oysters from<br />

Cancale delivered to Versailles – it’s said he<br />

would regularly eat six dozen before his main<br />

meal and some claim he would eat up to 300<br />

in one sitting.<br />

Today cultivated beds cover 400 hectares<br />

of the Bay of Cancale, protected from the<br />

prevailing westerly winds, and rocked by<br />

some of the largest and strongest tides in<br />

the world. 50 oyster farms and around 500<br />

permanent staff farm a whopping 25,000 tons<br />

of oysters per year.<br />

The family run La Ferme Marine oyster farm<br />

has been cultivating the delights of the ocean<br />

for decades along Cancale’s captivating<br />

coastline. They specialise in producing two<br />

types of oysters, Japanese and flat. Flat<br />

oysters were traditionally harvested by hand<br />

at sea and are now dredged before being<br />

cultivated. Japanese oysters are more cupped<br />

in shape. Straight from the Pacific, they adapt<br />

to any type of environment.<br />

The richness and diversity of the marine fauna<br />

and flora ecosystem play a crucial role in the<br />

breeding of the oyster in the Bay of Cancale.<br />

The quality of the sea water and plankton<br />

are the most important factors in making the<br />

taste of oysters stand out. Rearing an oyster<br />

is hard work and requires a unique know-how<br />

and a significant amount of time. It takes<br />

about three years for an oyster to grow and<br />

ready to eat.<br />

Sacks of oysters are placed on raised racks<br />

80cm above the seabed and regularly turned<br />

over at low tide during the three to four years<br />

of growth. This reshuffling prevents them<br />

from sticking to each other. Oyster farmers,<br />

kitted out in waders, work with the tides as<br />

they work the oyster beds and watch over<br />

these small marine pearls. At their prime,<br />

the oysters are harvested in rhythm with<br />

the tides. When the bags are detached and<br />

delivered directly from the seabed to the<br />

60 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 61

workshop they are separated, washed, and<br />

sorted by size. The grade varies from 0-5 for<br />

the hollow ones, so the smaller the number,<br />

the bigger the oyster.<br />

The breeding expertise of the oyster farmers<br />

of Cancale have earned this area a UNESCO<br />

award for Intangible Cultural Heritage and<br />

many consider it to be the capital of oyster<br />

fishing in France. You’ll find that every<br />

restaurant in Cancale serves these succulent<br />

molluscs, and there’s an oyster market by the<br />

lighthouse where you can buy shucked oysters<br />

and sit on the sea wall slurping them.<br />

Historically, oysters were cooked but are now<br />

largely consumed raw, and are renowned for<br />

their supposed aphrodisiac properties. Legend<br />

has it that the famous lover, Casanova ate<br />

50 raw oysters for breakfast each day! The<br />

French are the biggest consumers of oysters in<br />

Europe gobbling almost 150 tons per year.<br />

Oysters are<br />

traditionally served<br />

with slices of lemon, a<br />

mignonette sauce and<br />

plenty of bread and<br />

butter (salted is best).<br />

The coastal route<br />

from Cancale is a<br />

glorious place for a<br />

walk, visit the nature<br />

reserve of Pointe du Grouin and soak in the<br />

fantastic ocean views before feasting your<br />

eyes on the magnificent Mont Saint-Michel<br />

jutting out of the sea.<br />

To find out more about La Ferme Marine<br />

oyster farm and arrange a tour, visit:<br />

ferme-marine.com<br />

Mignonette Sauce<br />

2 tbsps finely chopped shallots<br />

2 tbsps red wine vinegar<br />

1 tbsp water<br />

Pinch of salt<br />

Stir all together, leave for 30 mins.<br />

Keeps for 2-3 days.<br />

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

Finding CÉZANNE in<br />

Aix-en-Provence<br />

Janine Marsh traces the footsteps<br />

of the painter in his hometown.<br />

I can’t help thinking how strange it is to be<br />

walking through a residential part of Aixen-Provence,<br />

past local corner shops and<br />

apartment blocks– at the same time knowing<br />

that I’m just minutes from the studio of Paul<br />

Cézanne, set in a street where you’d miss it if<br />

you didn’t know it was there.<br />

I’ve long loved Cézanne’s art, as a kid, one<br />

Christmas I asked for a book of art about<br />

the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists<br />

of which Cézanne was a leading light. My<br />

favourite painting was The Card Players I<br />

felt like I could smell the pipe smoke and<br />

hear them laying the cards and sighing<br />

at their luck. Years later when I saw the<br />

painting for real in Paris’ Musée d’Orsay, it<br />

surpassed my expectations, a whole story<br />

played out in a painting.<br />

Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence<br />

on January 19, 1839, and memories of the<br />

great artist are everywhere but it’s in his studio<br />

where you feel his presence the most. He<br />

worked here for four years before his death.<br />

There are tranquil gardens, birds singing,<br />

burned orange shutters and pale blue window<br />

frames on pale mustard walls – so Provence,<br />

and recognisable colours from his paintings.<br />

On a hot midsummer’s day, the sunlight plays<br />

a dappled tune through the wilting leaves<br />

of the tall trees, and it’s easy to imagine the<br />

painter arriving first thing in the morning which<br />

was his habit, setting off at 6am and walking<br />

around 20 minutes from his apartment as 23<br />

rue Boulegon in the town as I had just done.<br />

He would collect his brushes, paints and easel<br />

from the studio (they are still there) and head<br />

off into the countryside to paint. Around 11am<br />

he walked back home for lunch, returning in<br />

the afternoon to carry on painting.<br />

The studio was built to his own specifications,<br />

each room conformed to his specific<br />

requirements. Big windows, blinds to mute the<br />

shade on the south side, open on the north side<br />

where the light was shaded. Everything is as it<br />

was, though the original floor has been cleaned<br />

of its multiple paint stains. In one corner of<br />

the studio, you can see where he had to cut a<br />

64 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 65

Buying<br />

in France?<br />

Card Players, Musee d'Orsay<br />

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money on your currency transfers.<br />

hole in the wall, the only way to get his largest<br />

painting, Grandes Baigneuses, out.<br />

Cézanne was classically trained, and his<br />

early paintings show he was a superb painter,<br />

especially of biblical scenes, he could<br />

certainly do art the accepted way in those<br />

days – but that wasn’t his way. For him it was<br />

about harmony in shapes, texture and colour.<br />

He was obsessed with painting the nature<br />

of Provence and Mont Sainte-Victoire, the<br />

mountain that dominates the landscape of<br />

Aix, and he obsessively organised objects for<br />

his still life paintings.<br />

His art wasn’t always appreciated. When<br />

Cézanne exhibited two paintings at the first<br />

Impressionist Exhibition in 1874, a critic wrote<br />

that he was “a bit of a madman, afflicted with<br />

painting delirium tremens…” It wasn’t until the<br />

last ten years of his life that his work began<br />

to be appreciated, and he would certainly be<br />

shocked to find that one of his paintings of<br />

Mont Saint-Victoire sold in New York for $138<br />

million in 2022.<br />

By all accounts he was a difficult man. Emile<br />

Zola his friend since childhood, said of him<br />

that though he had the makings of a great<br />

painter “he will never have the genius to<br />

become one. The least obstacle makes him<br />

despair.” He painted with an intensity that was<br />

unusual, would fly into rages, and destroy his<br />

work. Struggling to achieve the recognition he<br />

craved, he would tell younger painters “I am a<br />

painter of your generation, not of mine.”<br />

But here in the studio there is an air of peace.<br />

You can see the objects he painted, still<br />

grouped together, the bottles, the skulls (noone<br />

knows who they belonged to – but they<br />

are real), his smock and hat, brushes and<br />

easels, just as if he were still there.<br />

Cezanne-en-provence.com<br />

Follow up with a tour of the Cézanne family<br />

home in Aix, Jas de Bouffan, the Bibémus<br />

quarries, pine forests and fields of the area<br />

that provided inspiration for his art. Book tours<br />

at Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office.<br />

At the Musée Granet you can see several<br />

original works of Cézanne.<br />

Cézanne died at his apartment in rue<br />

Boulegon on October 23, 1906, from pleurisy<br />

said to be brought on by painting outside in<br />

at storm. Visit his final resting place in Saint-<br />

Pierre Cemetery.<br />

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66 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 67


Salt production<br />

is one of France’s<br />

oldest and most<br />

traditional<br />

industries.<br />

Gillian Thornton<br />

visits Guérande in<br />

Pays de la Loire.<br />

Guerande salt pans at Terre de Sel, Pradel<br />

Pitch up at any one of Guérande’s four town<br />

gates and there’s no question that you’ve arrived<br />

somewhere rather special. With 1300 metres<br />

of unbroken ramparts and six imposing towers,<br />

the city walls are some of the best preserved in<br />

France and the most complete in Brittany.<br />

The masonry looks pretty impressive now<br />

in the 21st century, an age when we are all<br />

used to big builds, so imagine the impact that<br />

Guérande would have had in the mid-14th<br />

century when the walls were commissioned<br />

by Jean de Montfort during the Breton War<br />

of Succession. This was clearly a town that<br />

meant business.<br />

And the main business of this strategic<br />

community built on high ground near the<br />

Atlantic coast was salt. Today Guérande is<br />

part of the Pays de la Loire region, but until<br />

1941 it was part of Brittany, and Brittany in the<br />

14th century was an independent and powerful<br />

Duchy. Only in 1532 did it become part of<br />

France with the marriage of Anne de Bretagne<br />

and Charles VIII.<br />

Guérande controlled the salt marshes and<br />

with them a commodity as important to<br />

medieval daily life as refrigerators are to<br />

us today, the prime means of preserving<br />

food stocks. By the end of the 14th century,<br />

Guérande was the second-largest town<br />

in Brittany after Nantes with some 4,000<br />

inhabitants and some 500 years later, I can<br />

still sense the power contained within these<br />

solid ramparts as I step through Porte Saint-<br />

Michel into another world.<br />

A visit to Guérande divides neatly into<br />

two halves. The walled town with its halftimbered<br />

buildings and historic streets,<br />

retail temptations and restaurants. And the<br />

extensive salt marshes fed by a narrow inlet<br />

from the Atlantic Ocean at Le Croisic. The<br />

two are inextricably linked, so be sure to see<br />

them both.<br />

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

Guérande’s ramparts were classified as a<br />

Historic Monument in 1877 and today the<br />

town is also part of the Villes & Pays d’Art et<br />

d’Histoire network. Stop off at the Château-<br />

Musée inside the Porte Saint-Michel, which<br />

has served over the centuries as ducal<br />

lodgings, prison and Town Hall. The only site<br />

open to the public inside the wall itself, this<br />

medieval gem also provides access to more<br />

than a third of the rampart walk where you<br />

can peep over chimneys and rooftops into<br />

hidden gardens and cobbled alleys.<br />

Then just wander – it’s impossible to get<br />

lost. The walled town is divided roughly into<br />

quarters by two main streets that intersect<br />

outside Saint-Aubin Collegiate Church,<br />

its slate-clad spire visible from all around.<br />

History unfolds at every corner if you keep<br />

your eyes open. The outside pulpit beside<br />

the main door of the church. The ancient<br />

buildings around Place du Pillori. And the<br />

walled Manoir de la Prévôté, home to the<br />

medieval Provost, highest ranking dignitary<br />

among the canons of the collegiate church.<br />

After a succulent salad on the terrace outside<br />

Gout’Thé, a delightful tea room and small<br />

shop in Rue de Saillé, I head outside the<br />

city walls to Pradel on the edge of the salt<br />

marshes and the Terre de Sel visitor centre<br />

to discover how traditional methods of salt<br />

production are still in use today. Open daily<br />

throughout the year, this excellent facility<br />

includes an exhibition and well-stocked<br />

shop, and is the departure point for guided<br />

walking tours of the salt pans (advance online<br />

booking strongly advised).<br />

Generations of salters or paludiers, have<br />

shaped and managed the landscape here for<br />

almost 1500 years and in 1991, Guérande salt<br />

was awarded the prestigious Label Rouge. In<br />

winter and spring, the marshes are quiet as<br />

salters carry out maintenance ready for peak<br />

production season. Our English-speaking<br />

guide explains to our small group how the<br />

salters fill their reservoirs by opening sluice<br />

gates on the main canal to admit the strong<br />

spring tides. The water then runs into a series<br />

Porte Saint Michel, Guerande<br />

Guerande salt lakes<br />

Place du Pillori, Guerande<br />

of shallow pools and eventually evaporates<br />

from the effect of wind and sun, causing the<br />

salt to crystallise.<br />

The result is two different kinds of salt,<br />

painstakingly removed by hand using longhandled<br />

implements. The coarse grey salt<br />

(Gros Sel), rich in minerals, is scraped daily<br />

from the bottom of the pools, whilst the<br />

fine white Fleur de Sel is collected from the<br />

surface of the brine. As a general rule, use<br />

Gros Sel in cooking and Fleur de Sel at the<br />

table for that extra special salty tang. Mash<br />

potato and fries just aren’t the same without<br />

it, so I take the opportunity to stock up –<br />

slow food at its most pedestrian.<br />

Salt production is a highly skilled operation<br />

and Terre de Sel is run as a co-operative,<br />

many salt pans passed down through<br />

generations of the same family. But a<br />

significant number of new paludiers are<br />

being attracted to this ancient way of life<br />

in a peaceful, natural environment that is<br />

home to more than 180 species of bird.<br />

I stay overnight at the charming Moulin<br />

de Beaulieu, a three-storey, one bedroom<br />

windmill just outside the ramparts<br />

(unsuitable though for anyone with mobility<br />

issues). And for dinner, enjoy an al fresco<br />

meal at Burger et Sarrasin beside the<br />

cathedral, a delicious Breton take on the<br />

humble burger using local produce and<br />

with a choice of special bread containing<br />

sarrasin or buckwheat.<br />

Next morning, I potter along the coast<br />

to La Turballe, a major centre for sardine<br />

canneries until 1989 and still France’s 10th<br />

biggest fishing port. Take a guided tour from<br />

the Maison de la Pêche museum to visit the<br />

fish auction rooms on the quayside; step<br />

on board a 1960s sardine boat, Au Gré<br />

des Vents; and learn about France’s first<br />

offshore wind farm, the Parc Eolien en mer<br />

de Saint-Nazaire.<br />

I also explore nearby Piriac-sur-Mer,<br />

designated a Petite Cité de Caractère of<br />

Loire-Atlantique, where granite houses<br />

face onto narrow flower-fringed streets<br />

70 | The Good Life France Au Gre des Vents, La Turballe<br />

Outside pulpit, Collegiate Church<br />

The Good Life France | 71

French immersion courses<br />

Learn French - naturally<br />

and experience the culture of France from the beaches of<br />

Normandy to the heart of Paris<br />

Gout'The, Rue de Saille<br />

behind a tranquil marina. Head the other way<br />

and you’re just a short drive from the stylish<br />

seaside resort of La Baule and the tranquil<br />

wetland of La Brière Regional Natural Park,<br />

both well worth a stopover. Join me there in<br />

the Spring issue of the magazine to see why…<br />

Tourist information from<br />

labaule-guerande.com<br />

Charente-Maritime – Poitou 'Ane en culottes'<br />

Aigues-Mortes<br />

Hear French,<br />

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Speak French!<br />

xpfrance.net<br />

More French salt towns<br />

Aigues-Mortes, Gard<br />

A medieval walled city on the Canal du Rhône<br />

à Sète on the west side of the Camargue. Visit<br />

the salt pans on board Le Petit Train, on a<br />

guided walking tour, or by bicycle, or just take<br />

in the view from the ramparts.<br />

Saliés de Béarn, Pyrénées-Atlantiques<br />

Not salt from the sea, but a salty spring<br />

discovered in the Middle Ages. Take a tour of<br />

the Salines production facility and shop; book<br />

a wellbeing cure at the thermal spa; and enjoy<br />

pretty canals and half-timbered houses<br />

Ile de Ré, Charente-Maritime<br />

Production methods have hardly changed<br />

since the Middle Ages on this low-level<br />

island off La Rochelle. Look out for ‘Les Anes<br />

en Culottes’ donkeys in protective striped<br />

‘trousers’ that once worked the salt pans.<br />

Salins-les-Bains, Jura<br />

Salt was extracted here from underground<br />

salt water from the 8th century until 1962.<br />

Visit the restored Great Saltworks and the<br />

nearby UNESCO-listed Royal Saltworks at<br />

Arc-et-Senans.<br />

72 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 73

Spotlight on<br />


Montauban<br />

Place Nationale<br />

Starting in the tranquil department of Tarn et Garonne, Gillian Thornton<br />

takes a scenic tour into the heart of Occitanie<br />

Day or night, whatever the weather,<br />

Montauban’s Place Nationale is a magical<br />

spot to wind down a gear or three at a café<br />

table. Centre of local life since medieval<br />

times, this bijou square is surrounded by red<br />

brick properties, built after the old wooden<br />

buildings were gutted by fire in the 17th<br />

century. Nearly 400 years later, the double<br />

arcades and harmonious facades simply ooze<br />

symmetry and wellbeing.<br />

Whenever I make a welcome return to<br />

Montauban, Place Nationale is always my<br />

first port of call. So I’m thrilled this time to find<br />

that the square is now even more enchanting,<br />

thanks to the installation of a water mirror that<br />

zings periodically to life with dancing water<br />

jets and swirls of coloured illuminations.<br />

The largest town of Tarn-et-Garonne,<br />

Montauban lies north of Toulouse in the west<br />

of the Occitanie region. But Montauban is<br />

large only in relation to the rest of this rural<br />

department. Bisected by the river Tarn, this<br />

enchanting town numbers barely 30,000<br />

inhabitants but still carries the prestigious<br />

label of Art & History Town in recognition of its<br />

rich heritage and outstanding art collections.<br />

Many visitors arrive in Tarn et Garonne by<br />

car, bent on discovering a landscape that<br />

includes steep gorges, rolling farmland, and<br />

peaceful waterways. Not just the Tarn and<br />

Moissac<br />

Garonne either. Both the Aveyron and the<br />

Canal Latéral la Garonne join the Tarn at<br />

UNESCO-listed Moissac with its decorated<br />

abbey cloister. For hikers and bikers, the<br />

department offers a wide choice of marked<br />

trails but there are slow tourism activities to<br />

suit everyone. I have been horse riding on the<br />

cliffs above the Aveyron; explored at water<br />

level by kayak; and revelled in a level pedal<br />

beneath towpath trees.<br />

74 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 75

Ancient grain hall, Auvillar<br />

Musee Ingres Bourdelle, Montauban<br />

Saint Antonin Noble Val<br />

And if you don’t want to drive or just want a<br />

more planet-friendly holiday, Montauban is less<br />

than an hour from Toulouse by train on the Lot<br />

and Dordogne Line. Stay on the train line to<br />

visit the white limestone houses of Caussade,<br />

capital of the French hat-making industry in<br />

the Quercy Blanc area of Tarn et Garonne. Or<br />

pick up the Canal des Deux Mers Line to visit<br />

Moissac. Plan your route and buy tickets at<br />

Occitanie Rail Tour.<br />

I love Moissac, where society guests danced at<br />

riverside guinguettes in the 1930s during their<br />

grape juice ‘cure’; the atmospheric market town<br />

of St Antonin Noble Val on the banks of the<br />

Aveyron; and the medieval villages of Auvillar<br />

and Bruniquel, both classified amongst France’s<br />

Most Beautiful Villages. But on this trip I’m<br />

catching up on some recent attractions in and<br />

around Montauban before I head north to the<br />

Lot Valley and back to Toulouse.<br />

For a central but quiet hotel in the heart of<br />

town, the Hotel du Commerce ticks all my<br />

boxes. Situated on a landscaped pedestrian<br />

square, this good-value hotel is overlooked<br />

by the white façade of the Cathedral.<br />

Currently closed for restoration, this Baroque<br />

extravaganza was commissioned by Roman<br />

Catholic king Louis XIV as a show of power<br />

Bourdelle bronze of Sapho outside the Theatre<br />

after the Protestant town refused to yield to<br />

his father, Louis XIII in the siege of 1621.<br />

After an al fresco bistro dinner at Chez<br />

Olympe beside the water mirror, my first stop<br />

next day is the Ingres Bourdelle Museum<br />

opened in December 2019 after major<br />

refurbishment. This former Bishop’s Palace<br />

stands on the remains of a riverside fortress<br />

begun in 1360 during the Hundred Years War<br />

by England’s ‘Black Prince’. Unfinished after<br />

French forces regained the town nine years<br />

later, the medieval hall is now an atmospheric<br />

venue for temporary art exhibitions.<br />

But the main focus of the collection is the<br />

work of Montauban’s two famous artistic<br />

sons, neo-classical painter Jean-Auguste-<br />

Dominque Ingres – born here in 1780 – and<br />

19 th century sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, born<br />

1861. Originally a museum dedicated to<br />

Ingres alone - who left 44 paintings and 4500<br />

drawings to his hometown – this enchanting<br />

museum houses the largest collection of his<br />

work, as well as the second largest Bourdelle<br />

collection after the Bourdelle Museum in<br />

Paris. I wander from one elegant room to<br />

another, lingering over a portrait of the young<br />

Ingres against a backdrop of décor designed<br />

by his father – himself a jobbing artist and<br />

stonemason – and stopping to admire his<br />

personal collection of antiquities portrayed in<br />

his pictures.<br />

Beyond the museum walls, look out for<br />

dramatic Bourdelle bronzes as you walk<br />

beneath the red brick facades with their pale<br />

Beaulieu Abbey<br />

blue shutters. The monumental war memorial<br />

overlooking the Pont Vieux; a pensive statue<br />

of Ulysses’ wife Penelope outside the Tourist<br />

Office; and Greek poetess Sapho who stands<br />

opposite the theatre dedicated to local<br />

heroine Olympe de Gouges. Playwright and<br />

political activist, Olympe was executed in the<br />

Revolution for her feminist writings.<br />

Next morning, I discover a very different<br />

kind of art at the Abbey of Beaulieu-en-<br />

Rouergue, tucked away up a country road<br />

near St Antonin Noble Val. Second only in<br />

importance to the Pompidou Centre in Paris,<br />

76 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 77


SUR CÉLÉ<br />

Montauban, Place Nationale<br />

Montauban Cathedral<br />

this newly restored heritage building houses a<br />

collection of modern art from after the Great<br />

War, amassed by husband and wife collectors<br />

Geneviève Bonnefoi and Pierre Brache.<br />

As with the Musée Ingres-Bourdelle, Beaulieu<br />

Abbey is another example of the French<br />

talent for turning heritage buildings into<br />

art museums. Now owned by Monuments<br />

Nationaux, it reopened in 2021 after a fouryear<br />

restoration programme that includes<br />

a cavernous Cistercian chapel flooded with<br />

natural light. Art journalist Geneviève and<br />

gallery owner Pierre bought works by relatively<br />

unknown artists and continued to support<br />

their careers, amassing a collection of more<br />

than 4,000 modern paintings, drawings and<br />

sculptures. Enjoy the changing display, then<br />

relax outside in the rose garden, still fragrant<br />

during my October visit.<br />

After an al fresco lunch on the terrace of Chez<br />

Ernest on the outskirts of Montauban, popular<br />

for its wood-fire grills and traditional local<br />

fare, I drive south-west out of town to visit the<br />

department’s most unusual tourist attraction.<br />

In 1856, the Canal Lateral à la Garonne was<br />

constructed between Toulouse and Bordeaux<br />

to link with the Canal du Midi from Toulouse to<br />

Sète, thus creating the Canal des Deux Mers.<br />

But in the 1970s, locks were extended by 10<br />

metres to accommodate larger cargo barges,<br />

a problem at Montech where five locks occur<br />

in just over 2.5km on the Garonne canal.<br />

Enter engineer Jean Aubert who designed<br />

The Pente d’Eau de Montech, an ingenious<br />

solution using two railway locomotives to push<br />

a volume of water uphill, thus enabling a boat<br />

to float up the water slope. Built in 1973, it<br />

was last used in 1993 but has now reopened<br />

as a free immersive museum that makes a<br />

fascinating stop on a walk or bike ride along<br />

the Voie Verte or Green Way towpath. Pick<br />

up the free leaflet from the waterside Tourist<br />

Office to follow the self-guided town trail.<br />

Back in Montauban, I have time for a last<br />

lunch beneath the arcades of Place Nationale<br />

at Les 5 Bouchons, a great-value small<br />

restaurant listed in the Michelin Guide. Then I<br />

turn north to continue my circular trip through<br />

Cahors, Figeac and back to Toulouse.<br />

Discover the lovely Lot Valley in the next issue<br />

– subscribe here – for free!<br />

Find out more about Tarn-et-Garonne at:<br />

tourisme-tarnetgaronne.fr/en<br />

Pente d'Eau, Montech<br />












(+33) 6 42 50 04 31<br />

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An enchanting luxurious riverside retreat in the beautiful Célé Valley<br />

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78 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 79

Bateaux,<br />

Janine Marsh takes a paddle boat cruise of the River Loire to the heart of the Valley<br />

of the Kings – and beyond…<br />

chateaux,<br />

and gateaux<br />

– oh my!<br />

MS-Loire-Princesse-Loire-profil04-CroisiEurope©Goetten<br />

My cruise of the Loire River was awash<br />

with adventures - from riding a humongous<br />

mechanical elephant packed with other<br />

amazed joyriders, witnessing the birth of a<br />

colossal cruise ship, treading in the footsteps<br />

of French Kings and Queens, dining in the<br />

stables of a 16 th century chateau, and going<br />

gaga for a historic cake, and more. Much<br />

more. All in the space of a few days.<br />

Bateaux<br />

CroisiEurope’s paddle ship MS Loire Princesse<br />

is one of a handful of boats able to cruise the<br />

Loire River, the last wild river in Europe and<br />

the least navigable of all France’s major rivers.<br />

The 48-cabin, 500 horsepower ship was built<br />

specifically to operate on the Loire River at<br />

France’s prestigious Saint-Nazaire shipyard,<br />

our first stop on a week-long cruise. You may<br />

not think it sounds like fun, but it was the<br />

surprise destination of the trip for me.<br />

The shipyard workshops at St Nazaire on the<br />

outskirts of Nantes were established in 1861<br />

when Scottish engineer John Scott arrived<br />

to teach the construction of steel hulls. Now<br />

there are 3000 employees and 3000 subcontractors<br />

working on an area that covers<br />

more than 100 acres. It’s one of the largest<br />

shipyards in the world. And we’re talking BIG<br />

ships. The Queen Mary 2 was built here as<br />

well as The Wonder of the Seas – the world’s<br />

biggest cruise ship. This is where they build<br />

aircraft carriers for the French Navy, and<br />

they are currently building a cruise ship that<br />

will be bigger than The wonder of the Seas,<br />

capable of carrying 9,500 passengers and<br />

multiple stories high. The logistics and sight<br />

of ships being born is mesmerising as vast<br />

cranes, robots and a workforce of experts<br />

bring boats to life.<br />

Close by, the Museum Escal'Atlantic, in a<br />

former German World War II submarine pen,<br />

presents a fascinating exhibition about the<br />

history of steamships and boat building which<br />

includes immersive experiences like being on<br />

the deck of an ocean liner ‘watching’ polar<br />

bears float by on glaciers alongside frolicking<br />

dolphins, plus you’ll exit the museum by a<br />

boat lowered into the water – yes really!<br />

80 | The Good Life France Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau © Debbie Spence<br />

The Good Life France | 81

Erdre meanders past beautiful countryside<br />

peppered with mansions and castles, a<br />

tranquil side to the vibrant city. You can read<br />

more about Nantes on page 40<br />

River Erdre<br />

Nante<br />

Clisson<br />

Back on board our own boat, my table group<br />

(the crew offer to sort tables by language<br />

spoken), had bonded straight away, after the<br />

first night we felt like old friends. A sprightly<br />

couple in their 80’s - Reg and Di from Kent,<br />

UK, Brits Jane and Ian who have a holiday<br />

home in Normandy, and Geri, an Australian<br />

whose daughter lives in France. There was<br />

also a group from Spain who loved to dance<br />

and gave us Samba lessons, while the French<br />

passengers taught us Le Rock (what the<br />

French call Rock and Roll)!<br />

The cruise can be as active or chilled as you<br />

like. Relaxing on the long sun deck watching<br />

glorious scenery pass by with a book, while<br />

listening to the paddle wheels slosh the water<br />

round in a heartbeat-like rhythm as we sailed,<br />

was blissful.<br />

Gateaux<br />

The tour starts and ends in Nantes and no visit<br />

to this historic city is complete without a ride<br />

on the 12m high, eye-blinking, water-spraying<br />

mechanical elephant from The Machines of<br />

the Isle of Nantes. This city has culture galore,<br />

historic districts and is worthy of more than a<br />

day. It also has another glorious river running<br />

through it. Smaller than the Loire, the gentle<br />

But as a cake monster, I was bowled over<br />

by the city’s famous cake – gateau Nantais.<br />

Featuring rum and almonds, it’s a fairly simple<br />

sponge with rum flavoured icing, and utterly<br />

delicious. It was made famous throughout<br />

France by the local Lu biscuit factory and<br />

there’s even an annual contest among chefs<br />

and keen cooks for the best gateau Nantais.<br />

Nothing beats a slice of this cake with a glass<br />

of wine. And since we toured the Muscadet<br />

wine route and did a chateau-domaine wine<br />

tasting of the soft, sweet Muscadet, it seemed<br />

churlish not to marry them up! Gateau Nantais<br />

is now one of my favourite cakes (you can find<br />

a recipe here).<br />

There are daily excursions and stops at ports<br />

like historic Ancenis and charming Chalonnessur-Loire<br />

with plenty of opportunity to get off<br />

and wander, cycle or play petanque.<br />

We visited the enchanting town of Clisson in the<br />

heart of Muscadet wine country, the sound of<br />

music filled the air as a small orchestra played<br />

outside the Romanesque church. There is a<br />

ruined castle, medieval market halls, and streets<br />

festooned with colourful bunting and many<br />

buildings have an Italian influence after the town<br />

was rebuilt in the 18th century with the help of<br />

architect Lemot of Lyon, after it was partially<br />

destroyed during the Vendéen wars. All set<br />

around a picturesque, lily-filled lake – gorgeous.<br />

You’ll eat incredibly well on any CroisiEurope<br />

cruise, and the Loire Princesse is no exception.<br />

“This is living” said Di with a grin on her face<br />

as we tucked into our daily four-course lunch<br />

“We normally only have a sandwich; this is<br />

what proper holidays are all about.”<br />

Chateaux<br />

This being the Loire Valley – chateaux are of<br />

course de rigeur. Included on the tour are visits<br />

to the exquisite Azay-le-Rideau, Ussé AKA the<br />

Villandry<br />

Usse castle<br />

82 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 83

Angers Chateau D'Angers © JD Billaud<br />

Sleeping Beauty castle, and Villandry which has<br />

the most gorgeous gardens. They are three of<br />

the most captivating and beautiful chateaux of<br />

the region. A historian gave a lecture on board<br />

about the chateaux of the Loire, so we visited<br />

armed with facts and anecdotes, and the icing<br />

on the cake was an included a gastronomic<br />

lunch in the historic stables of Villandry, now a<br />

stunning private restaurant area.<br />

Plus, there are optional excursions to the<br />

Chateau of Brissac, the tallest castle in<br />

France at a whopping seven stories high. Or<br />

to the Chateau of Angers, which houses one<br />

of the most incredible tapestries in the world,<br />

possibly second only to the Bayeux Tapestry.<br />



Europe’s largest river cruise operator<br />

Tapestry at the Chateau of Angers<br />

MS Loire Princesse © Michel Friz<br />

All aboard<br />

From the minute you step on the boat, you<br />

don’t have to worry about a thing.<br />

Everything is taken care of by the friendly<br />

crew who all speak English and French. There’s<br />

no worrying about having to drive, make a<br />

train connection, or travel delays. There’s no<br />

queuing to get into major sites to get tickets.<br />

All you have to do is relax, enjoy the fabulous<br />

food and wine, get to see the best of France,<br />

and have a brilliant cruise.<br />

What’s included<br />

When you book this CroisiEurope cruise<br />

food and drinks are included - from the fine<br />

wines, cocktails, and spirits (except for a few<br />

drinks like Champagne and Armagnac) to<br />

the gourmet meals cooked by the fabulous<br />

onboard chef. The company prides itself on<br />

providing the best of French fare, using local<br />

and seasonal products where possible, baking<br />

onboard and generally spoiling guests rotten.<br />

WiFi, some of the excursions, transport, daily<br />

cocktail – all included.<br />

The six-day The Loire Valley cruise operates<br />

between April and October 2024. Call<br />

CroisiEurope on 01756 691269 or visit<br />

croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Europe’s largest river<br />

cruise line<br />



Bordeaux<br />

Land of Chateaux and Claret<br />


6-Night Fly-Cruise package (2)<br />

2024 Departures:<br />

April - October<br />

47 years’ experience<br />

and more than 50 ships<br />

The Saône<br />

and the Rhône<br />

7-Night Fly-Cruise package (3)<br />

2024 Departures:<br />

April - October<br />

Superb<br />

French cuisine<br />

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

The Loire<br />

a Royal Legacy<br />


5-Night Fly-Cruise package (4)<br />

2024 Departures:<br />

April - October<br />

For our full range of special offers visit our website: www.croisieurope.co.uk<br />

(1) On majority of departures on French rivers. (2) Flights based on LGW-BOD with Easyjet and private airport-ship transfers. (3) Flights based on LGW-LYS with Easyjet and private return airport-ship transfers. (4) Flights<br />

based on LGW-NTE with Easyjet and private airport-ship transfers.<br />

All the flight-inclusive holidays are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, cruise, hotels<br />

and other services) is listed on it. CroisiEurope UK Ltd partners with Blue Water Holidays Ltd for ATOL protection. Blue Water Holidays is a company registered in England and Wales, number 4085664. Registered Office: Bowers<br />

Wharf, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 2PD. - IM067100025. Non-contractual photos - Copyrights: Alexandre Sattler, Shutterstock.<br />

LYON<br />

All inclusive for drinks<br />

onboard (1)<br />


84 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 85

A Pastry<br />

fit for a<br />

KING<br />

The French need little encouragement<br />

to slather their food with butter and<br />

cheese, especially in winter. Cassoulet,<br />

tartiflette, potatoes swimming in<br />

melted butter, cheesy gratins, and<br />

rich meat stews are wintry favourites.<br />

However, if there is one dish that<br />

captures the sentiment of winter<br />

in France, it would be the galette<br />

des rois – the ‘cake of kings’. A crisp<br />

and golden masterpiece of pastry,<br />

it is the most regal of all pâtisserie<br />

concoctions thanks to a golden paper<br />

crown traditionally perched on top.<br />

The galette des rois is exclusively<br />

winter food, and that’s not just due to<br />

the copious amounts of butter folded<br />

into that flaky pastry. The ‘kings’ (‘rois’)<br />

of the title comes from the three kings<br />

visiting baby Jesus at the beginning<br />

of January – also known as Epiphany<br />

in the Christian calendar. After<br />

Christmas and New Year when you’re<br />

full to bursting with oysters and foie<br />

gras, the beginning of the year can<br />

feel somewhat lacklustre. Galettes des<br />

rois are the ideal post-Christmas treat<br />

and eating them is popular through the whole<br />

of January.<br />

There are two types of Galettes des rois.<br />

Particularly in the north of France they are big<br />

flat pies made with flaky pastry and filled with<br />

creamy almond paste or frangipane enriched<br />

with crème pâtissiere. They are also known<br />

and sold as pithiviers during the rest of the<br />

year, so don’t worry if you miss out in winter,<br />

the party can be rescheduled. However, it’s<br />

only in winter that these plate-sized pastries<br />

are given the title of the cake of kings and<br />

sport a crown.<br />

In the south, particularly in Provence, the<br />

dessert is more festive-looking and made from<br />

brioche. This is topped with sticky candied<br />

fruits and pearl sugar and filled with cream<br />

flavoured with orange blossom. It’s called<br />

the ‘brioche des rois’, or ‘coca’ in the original<br />

Occitan language.<br />

The name ‘galette’ is not limited to this flaky<br />

pithivier – it’s a catch-all term that means<br />

something flat and round such as galettes de<br />

sarrasin, the iconic buckwheat crêpes from<br />

the Brittany.<br />

Even though they are traditionally consumed<br />

on or around January 6th, boulangeries start<br />

selling galettes des rois as soon as winter<br />

begins. Sun-shaped thanks to its association<br />

with the winter solstice, it’s the must-eat<br />

dessert of the season. Traditionally eaten for<br />

more 700 years, the galette des rois is part of<br />

the French culinary landscape just as much as<br />

the baguette. During the French Revolution,<br />

kings cakes were called Gâteau de l’egalité,<br />

the cake of equality as anything with a royal<br />

connotation being frowned upon.<br />

There is a unique tradition associated with<br />

this dessert. Hidden inside every galette des<br />

rois is a small charm, a fève. The origin of<br />

the cake may go back as far as the Roman<br />

86 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 87

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

times when worshippers of the God Saturn<br />

ate together for one day a year – be they<br />

slave or master. In the 14th century monks in<br />

Besancon, Lorraine, eastern France appointed<br />

their leader by putting a gold coin in a loaf of<br />

bread, he who got the coin won the job. Over<br />

time the bread became brioche or galette<br />

with a bean and the wider French population<br />

adopted the cakes as an annual treat. Little<br />

porcelain figures of Jesus then replaced the<br />

bean, though during the French Revolution<br />

they were not permitted and a Phrygian cap,<br />

a symbol of freedom, was popular. These days<br />

porcelain and plastic charms feature not just<br />

religious figures but animals, shoes, handbags,<br />

and celebrities of all kinds from Lady Gaga to<br />

Bart Simpson. They’re popular as collectors’<br />

items too – a 16-year-old girl from Dordogne<br />

recently featured in a newspaper with her<br />

collection of 10,000 fèves!<br />

When it’s time to get stuck into the cake, the<br />

whole family gathers around the table, and<br />

the youngest member hides underneath and<br />

chooses who receives which slice thereby<br />

ensuring there is no favouritism! This is called<br />

the ‘tirage des rois’ – the drawing of kings. The<br />

person who gets the charm (and you need to<br />

be careful not to choke on it or break a tooth),<br />

becomes le roi or la reine for the day and<br />

wears the paper crown.<br />

However there is one person who is not<br />

allowed to take part in the ceremony. The<br />

President of France is prohibited from eating<br />

a galette des rois with a fève inside. According<br />

to rules made during the French Revolution,<br />

the country can have a president but no king!<br />

Maybe the galette des rois’ endurance of 700<br />

merry years, no matter how buttery, rich and<br />

delicious it is, is simply because it’s an excuse<br />

to be a king for just one day.<br />

Want to make a traditional northern Frenchstyle<br />

galette des rois at home – click here<br />

for a delicious recipe on the Good Life<br />

France website: thegoodlifefrance/<br />

recipegalettedesrois<br />

88 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 89

Rodin's Burghers of Calais<br />

dining restaurants to seafood sensations, cosy<br />

little cafés and delicious bistros. And. There be<br />

dragons here. The colossal passenger-carrying<br />

Calais dragon is a jaw-dropping sight, creating<br />

one of the strangest and most captivating free<br />

street art performances in Europe…<br />

Bewitching beasties,<br />

boulangeries and<br />

bistros of CALAIS<br />

Meet a dragon on the beach and indulge<br />

in the lip-smacking cuisine of Calais, the<br />

port city at the tip of northern France.<br />

Janine Marsh finds a land of surprises…<br />

Calais is the perfect destination for a<br />

weekend, day trip or city break. There’s plenty<br />

to do and see from museums to memorial<br />

sites. The city beach, Calais la Plage (Calais<br />

by the sea) has had a massive makeover and is<br />

now one of the finest seaside destinations on<br />

the already gorgeous Opal Coast of northern<br />

France. The food is fabulous – from refined<br />

The Calais Dragon<br />

Barely a stone’s throw from Auguste Rodin’s<br />

monumental sculpture – the Burghers of<br />

Calais, depicting the surrendering of the keys<br />

of the besieged city of Calais to the English<br />

King Edward III in 1347, which resides outside<br />

the city’s town hall with its UNESCO-listed<br />

75m belfry - lives a dragon. His glass fronted<br />

lair looks over the English Channel towards the<br />

White Cliffs of Dover, which are visible from<br />

this stretch of the coast on a clear day. And<br />

daily he roams the seafront.<br />

The dragon is a mesmerising sight. At a<br />

whopping 82 feet long and 40 feet high, you<br />

certainly can’t miss him. He breathes fire. He<br />

spits dragon snot, sneezes, snorts and swings<br />

his tail. He bats his eye lids and roars. He<br />

flaps his 57 feet long wings. And he carries<br />

up to 50 passengers on a magical journey,<br />

guided by ‘machinists.’ Designed by François<br />

Delarozière, the genius behind the Machines<br />

de l’ile de Nantes, the Dragon of Calais is<br />

the most imposing of the company’s famous<br />

mechanical menagerie to date. Unforgettably,<br />

incredibly weird and wonderful.<br />

And he’s not alone. A 13 feet long iguana lives<br />

close by. And there are plans for these two<br />

90 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 91

Calais LA Plage 6 © Fred Collier<br />

Calais old port<br />

mechanical marvels to be joined by a gang<br />

of lizards who will carry passengers to and<br />

from iconic sites in this surprising city – quite<br />

possibly the weirdest public transport system<br />

in the world and definitely one of the most<br />

street art rich cities in Europe!<br />

Book online for your ride on the dragon<br />

at: compagniedudragon.com/en<br />

Indulge …<br />

Ogling and riding dragons is hungry work.<br />

Luckily Calais is brimming with tempting<br />

bistros, boulangeries and patisseries.<br />

There’s one cake you must try when you go to<br />

Calais – Le Calais! Almost every cake shop<br />

sells them, a meringue, almond and coffee<br />

buttercream concoction and in Les Attaques,<br />

a village on the outskirts of Calais you’ll find<br />

Boulangerie Dejonghe Pére et fils, two-time<br />

winners of the best Le Calais cake contest!<br />

Another speciality is the rond de St Nicolas<br />

– though you’ll only see that in shops in<br />

Le Welsh<br />

November and December as it’s a traditional<br />

Christmas biscuit with a white icing top<br />

decorated with a pink N.<br />

Fancy something a bit more robust? It would<br />

be churlish of cheese lovers not to indulge in<br />

a local speciality – Le Welsh. And if you’re<br />

thinking that doesn’t sound very French –<br />

you’re right! It’s said to have been created in<br />

1544 by a Welsh garrison of King Henry VIII’s<br />

92 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 93

5<br />

great restaurants in Calais<br />

I know, I know – a lot of choice but all of these restaurants offer utterly mouth-watering<br />

dishes, and everyone one of them has a less then €30 menu of 2 dishes or more.<br />

army. Besieging the city of Boulogne, they<br />

were installed on Mont Lambert overlooking<br />

the town and after three months of resistance,<br />

their supplies ran low. Down to some wedges<br />

of Somerset cow’s cheese, they came up with<br />

the idea to melt the cheese, mix it with beer<br />

and pour it over stale bread. To this day it’s a<br />

favourite dish in the north of France!<br />

You could also pop to the Dragon’s<br />

restaurant next to his lair. Enjoy breakfast,<br />

lunch and aperitifs (including cocktails<br />

such as the Dragon des Mers which packs a<br />

Tequila Punch, and Dragon des Airs, a fruity<br />

alcohol free delight), at L’Antre du Dragon,<br />

restaurant, café, bar. It’s also the perfect<br />

place for Sunday brunch.<br />

And for those who want a taste of exquisite<br />

French cuisine – you’ll find a huge choice of<br />

quality restaurants and gourmet food shops.<br />

Over the last decade, more and more chefs<br />

have been finding renewed passion and<br />

energy for local produce, and the rejuvenation<br />

of the town has seen a plethora of new<br />

restaurants open.<br />

For a gastronomic meal, head to Restaurant<br />

Le Channel at 3 Boulevard de la Résistance,<br />

This part of Calais has a bit of a fishing<br />

village vibe with small boats bobbing in the<br />

old harbour, but you can still see the huge<br />

ferries float majestically by, shuttling millions<br />

of passengers each year between Calais<br />

and Dover. Run by the Crespo family, Le<br />

Channel has been a favourite with locals and<br />

savvy Brits for some 40 years, in fact I know<br />

regular visitors who time their trips to stop for<br />

lunch or dinner there. The oysters and locally<br />

caught fresh fish dishes are legendary, whilst<br />

gastronomes swoon over the sweet cart,<br />

everything made by the onsite patisserie chef,<br />

and the cheese cloche has been known to<br />

make some sigh out loud with happiness.<br />

At Le Grand Bleu chef Matthieu Colin has<br />

been making waves with his inventive freshoff-the-boat<br />

fish dishes and a meaty festival of<br />

flavours. Everything served is entirely homemade<br />

from bread to ice cream.<br />

For something with a traditional French feel<br />

L’Histoire Ancienne in Rue<br />

Royale (one of the best<br />

shopping streets in town for<br />

foodies) is scrumptious. Chef<br />

Patrick Comtale’s menu<br />

packs a lip-smacking punch –<br />

with dishes like farmer’s pork<br />

marinated Picon beer with<br />

devil’s sauce!<br />

Aquar’Aile, this restaurant has<br />

fabulous, panoramic views<br />

over the Channel and classic<br />

French dishes including<br />

superb oysters, and a daily<br />

vegetarian dish.<br />

Au Côte d’Argent, 1 Digue<br />

Gaston Berthe, is close to<br />

the dragon’s lair. With its light airy seaside<br />

vibe and gasp-worthy presentation (seafood<br />

lovers will definitely want the assiette<br />

de fruits de mer) and a great range of<br />

vegetarian dishes.<br />

Le Channel - Les Grandes Tables restaurant<br />

is within the Calais theatre<br />

Yours truly at the sweet<br />

trolley Le Channel complex. Using local,<br />

restaurant<br />

organic and seasonal<br />

products, the décor has<br />

a post-industrial vibe.<br />

There’s also a bistro with<br />

features designed by none<br />

other than the Calais<br />

dragon’s creator François<br />

Delarozière!<br />

This historic city really is full<br />

of surprises – and it’s utterly<br />

delicious!<br />

Discover heaps more to see<br />

and do in Calais and the<br />

Opal Coast:<br />

calais-cotedopale.co.uk<br />

94 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 95

Calais town hall<br />

Musee des Beaux Arts<br />

5 must-sees<br />

in Calais<br />

La Cite De La Dentelle Et De La Mode De<br />

Calais – a museum dedicated to fashion<br />

and the famous lace produced in the area.<br />

Allow at least two hours to discover the vast<br />

galleries.<br />

Visit the town hall Calais Town Hall, a<br />

flamboyant and outstanding example of<br />

Flemish architecture. Visit the room where<br />

President Charles de Gaulle married Calaisian<br />

Yvonne Vendroux in 1921.<br />

From the top of the 75m Belfry attached to<br />

the Town Hall, you’ll have fabulous views over<br />

Calais and the English Channel.<br />

Got some stamina left? Climb the 271 steps of<br />

Calais lighthouse for more stunning views.<br />

The Calais Musée des Beaux Arts has a<br />

permanent exhibition dedicated to Rodin<br />

as well as a collection of paintings, art and<br />

local heritage.<br />

96 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 97

Amy Bizzarri explores the incredible history behind one of Bordeaux’s most storied<br />

wine estates.<br />

Château Magnol features all the elements of<br />

the classic French Château: Winding corridors<br />

lead to elegantly appointed chambers.<br />

Museum-worthy paintings. Vases brim with<br />

fragrant blooms plucked from the garden.<br />

In the kitchen, a chef chops herbs plucked<br />

from beds just outside the window. A long<br />

dining room table set with silver and the<br />

finest china invites long, drawn-out meals and<br />

conversation. A roaring fireplace creates the<br />

perfect, cozy ambiance for dessert cordials.<br />

A vast cellar is stocked with bottles waiting<br />

anxiously to be uncorked.<br />

Adorned with wisteria and trellised red roses<br />

and surrounded by endless vineyards, the 18thcentury<br />

estate, home of Barton & Guestier,<br />

the oldest wine house still in operation in<br />

Bordeaux, exudes elegance.<br />

The Barton & Guestier story begins over<br />

300 years ago, in 1722, when Irishman<br />

Thomas Barton (1695–1780) left his home<br />

in Curraghmore, County Fermanagh, and<br />

settled in Bordeaux, determined to found<br />

a wine estate of his very own. By 1725, he<br />

was sending barrels and bottles of the finest<br />

Bordeaux wines via the high seas to his wineloving<br />

customers in Northern Europe, having<br />

earned the nickname “French Tom” as the<br />

port city's go-to merchant.<br />

The business remained in the Barton family<br />

until French Tom’s grandson, Hugo Barton,<br />

teamed up with Frenchman Daniel Guestier in<br />

the late 1700s.<br />

Together, Barton and Guestier sourced wines<br />

from the best vineyards in Bordeaux, aged<br />

them in their cellars, and then loaded them<br />

onto ships that sailed off along the Garonne<br />

River and across the ocean.<br />

Ahead of his times, ever-entrepreneurial<br />

Guestier opened a trade office in Baltimore,<br />

Maryland. And none other than U.S. President<br />

Thomas Jefferson, who once declared, «Good<br />

wine is a necessity of life for me,» was among<br />

the duo’s first clients.<br />

Jefferson had joined John Adams and Benjamin<br />

Franklin in Paris in 1784, where he eventually<br />

succeeded Franklin as Minister to France (1785-<br />

1789) before becoming Secretary of State.<br />

Like most early Americans, before his stint in<br />

France, he indulged in sweet, heavy wines from<br />

the Iberian peninsula. His tastes changed after<br />

he toured Bordeaux and indulged in France’s<br />

finest vintages. “The taste of this country was<br />

artificially created by our long restraint under<br />

the English government to the strong wines<br />

of Portugal and Spain,” he later remarked on<br />

America’s penchant for Madeira and port.<br />


oldest wine house<br />

Amy Bizzarri explores the incredible history behind one of<br />

Bordeaux’s most storied wine estates.<br />

98 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 99

Upon his return to Virginia in 1795, he placed<br />

an order for 250 bottles of Bordeaux, 120<br />

bottles of Sauternes, 60 bottles of Frontignan,<br />

and 60 bottles of white Hermitage. The cellar<br />

of his Monticello home brimmed with the<br />

finest of Bordeaux wines.<br />

During his presidency, Jefferson was a wine<br />

connoisseur par excellence, hosting three winefueled<br />

dinner parties in the White House each<br />

week. He was also the first president to equip<br />

the White House with an adequate wine cellar.<br />

Of his $25,000 annual salary, he spent $3,200<br />

on wine alone during his first year in office.<br />

Though he was well into his retirement in 1818,<br />

Jefferson was alarmed and took immediate<br />

action when some members of the federal<br />

government suggested a higher tariff on<br />

wine imports, noting in a letter to Treasury<br />

Secretary William H. Crawford, “I think it a<br />

great error to consider a heavy tax on wines<br />

as a tax on luxury. On the contrary, it is a tax<br />

on the health of our citizens. It is a legislative<br />

direction that none but the richest of them<br />

shall be permitted to drink wine….”<br />

Built at the beginning of the 1700’s, the<br />

château Magnol in Blanquefort, just a few<br />

kilometers from the heart of Bordeaux city,<br />

was inspired by an ancient Gallo-Roman villa.<br />

Situated in the Haut-Médoc appellation, it’s<br />

surrounded by 30 hectares of Haute Valeur<br />

Environnementale vineyards. (HVE is a French<br />

agricultural certification that recognizes a<br />

commitment to protecting and enriching the<br />

environment through responsible, conservationminded<br />

practices). Its magnificent underground<br />

cellar houses an extraordinary collection of<br />

almost 20,000 bottles.<br />

The underground cellar, however, conceals a<br />

dark history.<br />

During the Second World War, when German<br />

troops reached Bordeaux on June 28, 1940,<br />

they took over the Château and made it the<br />

headquarters of their naval operations (an<br />

occupation that would last until August 1944).<br />

The wine cellar served as their bunker.<br />

In 1942, Winston Churchill launched<br />

Operation Frankton, described by British<br />

Admiral Louis Mountbatten as a “brilliant<br />

little operation carried through with great<br />

determinism and courage...”. On December 7,<br />

13 Royal Marines planned to paddle nearly 70<br />

miles up the Gironde Estuary in 6 collapsible<br />

canvas kayaks to the port of Bordeaux. Just<br />

two kayaks made it all the way, where they<br />

attached mines to Japan-bound German ships<br />

loaded with arms.<br />

Only two of the soldiers survived. One brave<br />

Royal Marine was executed at the Château.<br />

A small memorial adjacent to the bunker<br />

stands in his honor, and an annual ceremony<br />

celebrates his valiant efforts. The tale of<br />

Operation Frankton featured in the 1955 film<br />

The Cockleshell Heroes.<br />

Today, sommeliers from around the world<br />

visit Château Magnol’s B&G Food & Wine<br />

Academy to learn about the French AOC<br />

system and wine tasting techniques under<br />

the supervision of Master Sommelier<br />

Omar Barbosa.<br />

Photo credit: Bill of lading for casks of wine shipped by United States Consul<br />

from Lisbon, Portugal, William Jarvis to President Thomas Jefferson. Cases<br />

of wine shipped to Alexandria, Virginia. The bill of lading accompanies a<br />

letter between the frequent correspondents Jarvis and Jefferson. The Thomas<br />

Jefferson Papers, Series 1, General Correspondence, The Library of Congress,<br />

Washington, D.C.<br />

100 | The Good Life France 101 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 101

Discover a snowy Paradise and familyfriendly<br />

ski resort in the heart of the<br />

French Alps says Janine Marsh.<br />

When the first stone was laid to create a<br />

new resort in the heart of the French Alps<br />

Paradiski area, the world’s second largest ski<br />

area, Arc 1950 was way ahead of its time.<br />

The pioneering, innovative concept of a<br />

pedestrianised ski resort, entirely ski-in-skiout,<br />

with harmonised architecture in an area<br />

chosen to limit its impact on the local nature<br />

but giving access to 425km of slopes, was<br />

considered cutting edge. As it reaches its<br />

20th anniversary, Arc 1950 in Savoie is now<br />

considered to be one of the most stunning ski<br />

villages in the world, and a ground-breaking<br />

model that’s inspired a slew of ski resorts.<br />

High altitude, snow sure<br />

Les rennes du Père Noël © Prestige Photos<br />

Arc 1950 is a standout ski resort for all<br />

powder hounds. The ‘1950’ represents the<br />

resort’s height of metres above sea level<br />

making it one of the highest ski villages in<br />

Europe. And that kind of altitude means<br />

snow cover at resort level is the norm from<br />

the start of the season in early December<br />

right through to the end of April. The slopes<br />

rise to 3250 metres above sea level, with<br />

permanently snow-covered peaks, and to<br />

make sure there’s plenty of quality snow,<br />

there’s an extensive snowmaking network<br />

in place.<br />

ARC 1950<br />

celebrates<br />

20 years of<br />

mountain<br />

magic<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

You’ll find a vast range of winter activities from<br />

skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing,<br />

heli-skiing, husky-riding, snow parks, toboggan<br />

runs and much more.<br />

The pretty, low-rise village facing majestic<br />

Mont Blanc, wraps around a central, carfree<br />

plaza, with an off-shoot of the Baptiste<br />

Giabiconi blue piste running right through<br />

the middle. As a result, it offers almost<br />

instant access to the snow from every one<br />

of its eight ski in/out residences – all of<br />

which have a 5-Star rating. You can start<br />

skiing as soon as you’ve snapped your boot<br />

buckles shut!<br />

102 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 103

Family friendly<br />

The ski-in-ski-out residences are connected by<br />

path and piste in the car-free resort, creating<br />

a safe environment for families to walk in the<br />

snowy village streets. Two ski schools mean<br />

that all levels and ages are catered for. There’s<br />

free year-round entertainment for the whole<br />

family. In winter enjoy the ski shows, cookery<br />

workshops, concerts, illuminations and more.<br />

In summer there are organised games, tennis,<br />

workshops, shows, concerts and more. And at<br />

Christmas there’s a magical parade, fireworks,<br />

music, concerts, singing and dancing, the<br />

perfect way to end the year.<br />

For Arc 1950’s 20th birthday there will be<br />

even more entertainment including snow<br />

sculpture workshops, and the introduction of<br />

a biathlon and scooter race on the snow.<br />

At this resort the service is a notch above<br />

the usual. They don’t just sort out rental<br />

equipment and ski passes, they can provide<br />

help with babysitters, children’s clubs and<br />

activities for hard-to-please teens. You can<br />

order shopping in advance, (there are plenty<br />

of shops), and have it delivered to your<br />

apartment, and even put away in the fridge –<br />

ready for your arrival and a brilliantly relaxing<br />

holiday right from the start.<br />

Art de vivre and<br />

fabulous food<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

Cariboo's club © Andy Parant<br />

pool, outdoor heated pool, hammam, sauna,<br />

Jacuzzi, even a thalassotherapy spa, this<br />

luxury resort offers the perfect way to unwind,<br />

relax and rejuvenate – and all of the eight<br />

residences in Arc have wellness areas and<br />

sports amenities worthy of one of France’s top<br />

luxury mountain resorts.<br />

Eco conscious<br />

Arc 1950’s eco credentials go way beyond<br />

the car-free approach. Quiet zones have<br />

been created to protect birds. The resort also<br />

practices recycling, and they are planning<br />

a composting project. Plus the resort holds<br />

a ‘Flocon Vert’ green label awarded for<br />

proactive sustainable development.<br />

And if you want to eat out, you’ll find there<br />

are lots of lovely cafés and restaurants which<br />

are all ski to the door. Sit on a sunny terrace<br />

and soak up the glorious sights, chill in front<br />

of a crackling log fire, tuck into mountain<br />

specialities - the local favourite “Le Chausson<br />

du Boulanger” (a sort of Savoyard pie, made<br />

with cabbage, sour cream, Beaufort cheese<br />

and sausage) is a must. Although, you may<br />

never fit into your salopettes again!<br />

There’s an authentic ‘village’ feel to Arc<br />

1950 which gives it real charm, alongside<br />

loads of fantastic facilities. Indoor swimming<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

© Andy Parant<br />

Easy access by train,<br />

plane or car<br />

If you arrive by car, you can leave it in the<br />

underground car park and from here there is<br />

direct access to your accommodation. The<br />

nearest airport is Chambery, but Geneva,<br />

Lyon and Grenoble are also good choices.<br />

For those arriving in Bourg Saint Maurice by<br />

train and funicular railway, free shuttle buses<br />

run to Arc 1950.<br />

Details: arc1950.com<br />

104 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 105

Provence Flassan<br />

Day trips and tour packages all over<br />

France, plus brilliant shore excursions<br />

Ophorus Tours are a French family run<br />

business with a huge choice of tours from fun<br />

and informative guided walking city tours to<br />

very carefully crafted multi regional packages,<br />

wine tasting, cycling and themed tours all over<br />

France as well as day trips from Paris. Their<br />

aim is to show you France as they believe it<br />

should be shown – authentic, colourful and<br />

friendly. ophorus.com<br />

food and wines and fabulous excursions that<br />

transport you to the heart of France. There’s<br />

no worrying about having to drive, make a<br />

train connection or travel delays. There’s no<br />

queuing for tickets to major sites. All you have<br />

to do is relax, enjoy the wonderful gastronomy,<br />

and get to see the best of France – in style.<br />

There are a fabulous range of cruises in<br />

France by barge and boat (even a paddle<br />

ship on the Loire), including Paris, (from 2<br />

days to 7 days, departure point near the<br />

Eiffel Tower) that take in the city sights.<br />

Also starting from Paris are several cruises<br />

including to Normandy - Honfleur, Rouen and<br />

Giverny where you’ll visit Claude Monet’s<br />

house and garden; a romantic sites cruise,<br />

taking in castles, authentic medieval villages,<br />

historic sites and fabulous museums; French<br />

Impressionism cruise taking in the artists’<br />

favourite haunts; and Oise Valley cruise.<br />

Utterly irresistible… croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Paris © Wazim<br />

Inspiration for your<br />

travels to France in 2024<br />

If you’re planning a visit to France – we’ve handpicked the best tours with the most<br />

scrumptious food and wine, tours that let you experience France like a local and that<br />

will give you cherished memories to last a lifetime…<br />

Tours for those who love the authentic<br />

Discover southern France - from captivating<br />

Carcassonne to magical Montpellier and the<br />

postcard-pretty blooming lovely lavender<br />

fields of Provence, as well as Normandy,<br />

Bordeaux and Dordogne. On these luxury,<br />

small group tours you’ll get to experience<br />

France like a local, indulge in the best<br />

gastronomy and wine, and discover the beauty<br />

and culture of France... tripusafrance.com<br />

Battlefield tours and historical<br />

travel experiences<br />

Tailor-made historical travel experiences by<br />

a family-run specialist tour operator creates<br />

exceptional WWI and WWII battlefields tours<br />

across France, Belgium and the Netherlands.<br />

Sophie’s Great War Tours 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 designed to be perfect – for you.<br />

sophiesgreatwartours.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 finest<br />

Monet Giverny August Lynn Michaela<br />

Culture & cookery tours in Provence<br />

Cooking classes with chefs in their homes<br />

where you’ll cook authentic French dishes.<br />

Shop at enchanting street markets with chefs,<br />

and dine at the most scrumptious restaurants<br />

in beautiful towns of Provence on this fully<br />

escorted, small group delicious and cultural<br />

trip of a lifetime. goutetvoyage.com<br />

Immersion courses in the most beautiful<br />

places in France<br />

SL Immersion offer French immersion courses<br />

in several areas. There are tailor-made lessons<br />

to suit each guest, you’ll stay in the home of a<br />

fully qualified and experienced tutor, and learn<br />

106 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 107

eal French the way it’s spoken in France.<br />

You’ll quickly improve your French, and you’ll<br />

also have an unforgettable cultural experience<br />

with activities, cooking classes, sightseeing,<br />

wine tasting etc. slimmersion-france.com<br />

Loire Valley Bike Tours – the very best way<br />

to travel<br />

One of the best ways to visit the castles,<br />

vineyards, pretty little villages, historic towns<br />

and gorgeous gardens of the Loire Valley is<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 wine. loirebrakes.com<br />

Cycling holiday Loire Valley<br />

‘Real’ South of France Tours<br />

Occitanie – formerly Languedoc-Roussillon<br />

and Midi-Pyrenees – is to many the real<br />

south of France. It’s a land of hidden gems,<br />

postcard-pretty villages, historic giants like<br />

Carcassonne, and of lush vineyards where<br />

some of the very best wines in France are<br />

produced (tastings are included on the tours!).<br />

Take a 7-day, fully inclusive, small group<br />

guided tour, stay in an award-winning B&B,<br />

dine at hand-picked restaurants and discover<br />

the heart of this area and its innermost,<br />

delicious and fascinating secrets. Discover<br />

real France with ‘Real’ South of France Tours.<br />

realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

Carcassonne real south of france<br />

Immersive French courses in Burgundy<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 level<br />

with friendly, qualified teachers make this a<br />

truly outstanding experience. lapont.com<br />

Year round themed and bespoke small<br />

group tours of Provence<br />

Small group tours and customized travelling to<br />

give you memories to last a lifetime. Discover<br />

the best of Provence: Lavender tours (there’s<br />

still room on the lavender and culture tour),<br />

truffle, grape harvest, and bespoke tours as<br />

well as chauffeur services for day trips or a<br />

lot longer. Emily Durand’s Private Provence<br />

tours are unique, exclusive and truly fabulous.<br />

yourprivateprovence.com<br />

Luxury tours of Gascony, the Basque<br />

country, Provence 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 />

Luxury Holidays Cottages**** and Classic<br />

Car Tours, SW France<br />

Cottages & Classics offer a range of options<br />

for holidays in a former 19th century Cognac<br />

Domaine in SW France. Choose from luxury<br />

self-catering holiday cottages, B&B mini<br />

breaks or bespoke, escorted fully catered<br />

tours for small groups of 4-12 guests. The<br />

“Cottages & Classics Experience” also<br />

includes the use of a 4 seater Morgan, perfect<br />

for touring the beautiful Charente & Charente<br />

Maritime regions through rolling vineyards, the<br />

historic towns of Cognac & Angouleme, the<br />

Atlantic beaches, La Rochelle and beautiful<br />

Ile de Ré. cottagesandclassics.com<br />

Gascony<br />

Cottages and Classics<br />

The best places to stay<br />

Where you stay is as important as where<br />

you go, so if you’re dreaming of a chateau<br />

stay, a gorgeous gite or a stunning B&B, here<br />

are some of the best, most welcoming and<br />

charming places to stay in France…<br />

Moulin sur Célé<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 />

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 />

108 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 109

gastronomy. France at its very best and most<br />

authentic. Lemoulinsurcele.com<br />

Champagne House<br />

Pinch-yourself-pretty luxury boutique B&B<br />

in the Gers<br />

Stunningly restored mansion house, now a<br />

Champagne themed elegant luxury boutique<br />

B&B, or full house rental in the heart of historic<br />

Condom in glorious Gers. Champagne House<br />

also hosts writing and French language<br />

retreats plus themed stays. This is the<br />

perfect base for touring the area with its<br />

endless vineyards, chateaux and magnificent<br />

fortified towns. And of course, a glass of<br />

bubbly will be served with a warm welcome.<br />

Champagnehouse.fr<br />

La Maison des Chaumes<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 />

Chateau Masburel<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 lovely.<br />

Ideally situated for the historic towns of<br />

Cognac, St Jean d ‘Angely, Saintes and the<br />

Atlantic Coast beaches. Quintessentially<br />

French markets, traffic free cycle routes (bikes<br />

provided for guests), delicious bistros, distillery<br />

visits, glorious countryside – what are you<br />

waiting for? Cognac-no22.com<br />

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110 | The Good Life France Cognac No. 22<br />

The Good Life France | 111

Your Photos<br />

Saint-Remy de Provence,<br />

Emily Durand<br />

Bistros, boutiques and<br />

beautiful streets make<br />

Saint-Remy-de-Provence<br />

alluringly lovely. It’s a<br />

town that’s rich in history,<br />

with Roman remains and<br />

close to the Saint-Paul-de-<br />

Mausole sanatorium where<br />

Van Gogh lived for a year.<br />

Read about Saint-Remyde-Provence<br />

Every weekend we invite you to share<br />

your photos on Facebook and X (formerly<br />

Twitter) – it’s a great way for everyone to<br />

“see” real France and be inspired by real<br />

travellers snapping pics as they go. Every<br />

week there are utterly gorgeous photos<br />

being shared, and here we showcase just<br />

a few of the most popular. Share your<br />

favourite photos with us and the most<br />

‘liked’ will appear in the next issue of The<br />

Good Life France Magazine.<br />

Bormes-les-Mimosas, Ron-Jo Warren<br />

The colourful and flower filled little town on the<br />

edge of the French Riviera is a year-round delight,<br />

surrounded by glorious countryside<br />

Discover three lovely villages on the<br />

French Riviera<br />

Annecy, Garry Deane<br />

The Venice of the French Alps, a medieval town<br />

crisscrossed by narrow canals, on the edge of a<br />

pure blue lake with a mountain backdrop – what’s<br />

not to love…<br />

Read our ultimate guide to Annecy<br />

Join us on Facebook<br />

and X to like and share<br />

your favourite photos<br />

of France...<br />

112 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 113

What’s<br />

NEW<br />

winter <strong>2023</strong>-2024<br />

The winter season in France is<br />

buzzing with festive sparkle as<br />

Christmas markets are held cross<br />

the whole country from the end<br />

of November to early January In<br />

February and March it’s carnival<br />

season– plus there’s plenty more<br />

going on!<br />

Here are just a few of the major<br />

events this winter:<br />

Calais: 2-4 February 2024. Pas de<br />

Calais Wine and Food Fair. A weekend<br />

extravaganza at the Forum Gambetta.<br />

Wine producers from all over France<br />

converge to present their wares supported<br />

by regional food producers. Get free tickets<br />

and a personal tasting glass here:<br />

salon-des-vignerons.com<br />

Alpes Maritimes: Provence-Alpes-Côte<br />

d’Azur Mimosa Festival 8-12 February<br />

<strong>2023</strong>. Spring is in the air and in Mandelieu-<br />

La-Napoule millions of sweet-smelling<br />

Mimosa flowers, known as “yellow suns”,<br />

bloom. Parades, processions, singing and<br />

dancing, this joyous event signals the end of<br />

winter in the south of France.<br />

Mandelieu-tourisme.com<br />

Nice carnival<br />

Christmas markets and events<br />

Discover loads of information about the Christmas markets, Christmas lights, festive food<br />

and events in France in our Ultimate Guide to Christmas in France on The Good Life France<br />

website: thegoodlifefrance.com/ultimateguidetochristmasinfrance<br />

Enjoy our podcast on Christmas in France!<br />

Picardy: Parc Asterix theme park (35km north of Paris) opens from 23 December – 7 January<br />

<strong>2023</strong> and puts on a Christmas show including circus acts, illusion, and Santa’s Village. Find out<br />

more: parcasterix.fr/en<br />

Lyon: Festival of Lights From 10-12<br />

December, the people of Lyon will, as they<br />

have since 1852, light candles and put them<br />

in the windows of their homes and the city<br />

puts on a spectacular light show. It all started<br />

when the residents of Lyon placed candles<br />

in coloured glasses on their windowsills<br />

to celebrate the installation of a statue<br />

of the Virgin Mary on the Fourvière Hill.<br />

fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/en<br />

Dordogne: Sarlat Truffle Festival, A big<br />

truffle market tales place mid-January<br />

in the enchanting medieval town of<br />

Sarlat, Dordogne. Expect to indulge in<br />

truffle flavoured gourmet specialities,<br />

music and festivities including<br />

workshops. And take home a couple of<br />

truffles, you can get them at a good<br />

price at the market. Details:<br />

sarlat-tourisme.com<br />

Borme les Mimosas Francine Varner<br />

Nice: Nice Carnival 17 Feb-3 Mar, 2024. Processions, flower parades and flower<br />

battles, rock, pop, fireworks, and giants. Over a million people flock to Nice to join<br />

in the fun heralding the start of spring. One of the most glamorous of all the French<br />

carnivals. nicecarnaval.com<br />

114 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 115

Jessica Viel - Loire Valley<br />

Helena Hermanns - Paris/Île-de-France<br />

Emma Horsfall - Alpes<br />

Start a<br />

new career<br />

as an<br />

independent<br />

sales agent<br />

Joanna Dalet<br />

Midi-Pyrénées<br />

Andrew Guck - Occitanie<br />

Scan for more information<br />

Menton Lemon Festival , Ville de Menton<br />

Menton: Provence-Alpes-Côte<br />

d’Azur, Lemon Festival of Menton 17 Feb<br />

– 3 Mar, 2024. This amazing fruity festival<br />

features immense structures built with<br />

thousands of lemons and oranges. It’s one<br />

of the most popular festivals in the region<br />

and attracts many thousands of visitors<br />

from all over the world. fete-du-citron.com<br />

2024<br />

Spring starts 20 March, 2024 – don’t miss<br />

the spring issue of The Good Life France<br />

Magazine – subscribe here for free!<br />


Anne-Sophie and Nynke<br />

Nouvelle-Aquitaine<br />

Join our team in France and become part of a<br />

company unique in it’s field!<br />

If you would like the freedom to grow a successful business supported<br />

by an award winning team, please contact our recruitment department:<br />

www.leggettfrance.com<br />

Brad and Simon<br />

Bordeaux<br />

Declan McCann - Brittany<br />

+33 (0)5 53 60 82 77 recruitment@leggett.fr<br />

Paris carousel christmas<br />

116 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 117

French Lesson:<br />

Tu – or Vous?<br />

Financial Advice<br />

for Expats in<br />

France<br />

When it comes to learning French, one of the questions that comes up over and over<br />

is – how do you know whether to say tu, or vous? Manon Dewitte of French Coffee<br />

Break explains…<br />

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in the UK or the U.S., or are starting fresh<br />

in France, Beacon Global Wealth<br />

Management will guide you through the<br />

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Our team of experienced financial<br />

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We’re here to help you make informed<br />

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For more information on the services we<br />

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Although tu and vous both mean you – they’re<br />

to be used in different situations.<br />

Tu – is for informal situations – like when<br />

you’re talking to friends or family – but not all<br />

family! For instance when talking to your inlaws<br />

it’s common to use vous.<br />

If you use ‘tu’ in the wrong circumstances<br />

– it can easily be taken as you being a bit<br />

disrespectful.<br />

Use ‘vous’ instead of ‘tu’ and that too can<br />

seem wrong – maybe unfriendly.<br />

Vouvoyer: To talk using ‘vous’ is called to<br />

vouvoyer in French. It’s for when you’re having<br />

a formal conversation, or talking to people you<br />

don’t know, teachers, older people or those in<br />

authority.<br />

Tutoyer: Talk using ‘tu’ is tutoyer in French. If<br />

you met someone for the first time and used<br />

‘vous’ you can move onto ‘tu’ infact you can<br />

even suggest ‘shall we tutoyer’ if you’re not<br />

sure!<br />

Tu is for friends, family (except occasionally<br />

when talking to elders, some families practice<br />

vous), when you’re talking to children, and<br />

colleagues.<br />

So how do you know which to use?<br />

118 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 119

It’s always best to play it safe if you’re not sure<br />

and use ‘vous’. The person you’re talking to<br />

can always say ‘let’s tutoyer, let’s use tu’ (Tu<br />

peux me tutoyer ! Tutoie-moi !) Or you can ask<br />

them – shall we use tu/Can I say tu to you?<br />

(On se tutoie ? Je peux te tutoyer ?)<br />

You shouldn’t mix tu and vous in the same<br />

sentence. So for instance if you ask someone<br />

for help, and use the expression for please,<br />

keep to informal or formal.<br />

Excuse-moi, tu peux m’aider, s’il te plaît ?”<br />

or<br />

Excusez-moi, vous pouvez m’aider, s’il vous<br />

plaît ?<br />

Et toi?<br />

And, just for a little frisson of complication –<br />

there’s also ‘toi’! We French are famous for our<br />

grammar rules and they can seem complex,<br />

but once you know how it all works, everything<br />

slots into place.<br />

Take ‘toi’ – which also means you. Like ‘tu’<br />

but in some circumstances we use ‘toi’.<br />

Tu is used as a direct subject for instance<br />

‘comment-vas-tu’ – how are you.<br />

Toi is indirect, and follows a verb or<br />

preposition for instance with, of or for. For<br />

example ‘je voyage avec toi’ (I am travelling<br />

with you). Or commonly when you ask<br />

someone how they are they might say ‘je<br />

vais bien. Et toi?’<br />

Unlike ‘tu’ and ‘vous’, ‘tu’ and ‘toi’ can<br />

appear in the same sentence: Moi, je suis<br />

française et toi, tu es Anglais. Me, I am<br />

French and you, you are English. In French<br />

you use ‘moi’ et ‘toi’ to emphasise the<br />

subject – but it’s not mandatory.<br />

It can take a little practice to get it right, but<br />

practice makes perfect right?!<br />

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120 | The Good Life France<br />

frenchcoffeebreak.com<br />

The Good Life France | 121

Riviera HOTSPOTS<br />

The French Riviera is famous for its sunshine,<br />

Mediterranean lifestyle, fabulous cuisine and<br />

glamorous seaside resorts – and it certainly<br />

lives up to the hype. We asked the local agents<br />

at award winning Leggett Immobillier to tell us<br />

some of their favourite locations.<br />

Villefranche-sur-Mer,<br />

Alpes Maritimes<br />

Four towns make up the ‘Golden Square’ of<br />

the French Riviera: Éze, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat,<br />

Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer,<br />

a town with a ‘lively but discreet atmosphere.<br />

It’s a must-visit destination for well-heeled and<br />

discerning sun lovers says agent Dan Norris.<br />

The horseshoe-shaped bay of Villefranche<br />

is overlooked by private villas nestling<br />

amongst umbrella pine trees on the cliff top.<br />

There are sandy beaches, a pretty port and<br />

cobbled streets leading to the water’s edge.<br />

There’s plenty going on year-round, excellent<br />

restaurants and a terraced café lifestyle even<br />

in winter.<br />

Properties in Villefranche-sur-Mer & the<br />

‘Golden Square’<br />

Gulf of Saint-Tropez, Var<br />

The Gulf of Saint-Tropez features picturesque,<br />

lively villages and vast, wooded beaches,<br />

surrounded by beautiful countryside<br />

and vineyards. “Here you can enjoy the<br />

Champagne lifestyle but also a laid-back,<br />

Mediterranean lifestyle of immense charm all<br />

year round’ says local agent Mark MacAuley.<br />

But it’s not all about the glamour and glitz.<br />

There are towns and villages of immense<br />

charm like Grimaud with its narrow streets<br />

and medieval chateau, Port-Grimaud which is<br />

more contemporary with its canals and bridges<br />

and houses overlooking the water and La<br />

Garde-Freinet with its tinkling fountains, pastelcoloured<br />

houses and beautiful country homes.<br />

Properties in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez<br />

Villefranche sur Mer<br />

Théoule-sur-Mer, Alpes-<br />

Maritimes<br />

On the Bay of Cannes, between the<br />

shimmering sea and the rocky red hills of<br />

the Massif Estérel, Théoule-sur-Mer is an<br />

enchanting coastal village with several<br />

marinas, fabulous beaches shaded by palm<br />

trees and numerous hidden coves. Once a<br />

tranquil fishing port, Théoule is now a lively<br />

village with festivals and weekly markets.<br />

‘Within moments you can shift between<br />

being served chilled rosé on a beach and<br />

mountain biking along well-groomed trails<br />

with spectacular sea and mountain views’, says<br />

agent Robert Nowak.<br />

Properties in Theoule-sur-Mer and<br />

surrounding area<br />

122 | The Good Life France Port Grimaud, Gulf of Saint-Tropez<br />

The Good Life France | 123

Our latest properties for sale in Provence Côte d’Azur<br />

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

Cannes, Alpes-Maritimes<br />

This year-round vibrant city has fantastic<br />

sandy beaches, fabulous restaurants, a<br />

wonderful covered market and great shopping.<br />

Famous for its International Film Festival,<br />

there’s more to the city than glitz and glamour.<br />

Stroll the medieval streets of Le Suquet old<br />

town, enjoy sports activities galore, culture<br />

by the bucket load, and glorious countryside<br />

on the doorstep. ‘From sailing to a game of<br />

petanque, listening to Jazz in a café, or even<br />

techno on the beach, there’s so much to do<br />

here plus the most marvellous sunsets from the<br />

beachfront’ says agent Sandrine Strickland.<br />

Properties in Cannes<br />

Nice, Alpes-Maritimes<br />

Nice is the capital of the French Riviera and<br />

offers big city amenities combined with a<br />

pretty marina, café terraces, the charm of the<br />

Mediterranean lifestyle, vineyards producing<br />

great wines and excellent transport facilities<br />

including an international airport and TGV<br />

train service to Paris. It has a fabulous variety<br />

of quartiers (districts), including the old town<br />

with its cobbled narrow streets, excellent<br />

markets, shops and restaurants. It’s close<br />

enough to the ski resorts that you can ski in<br />

the morning and picnic on the beach in the<br />

sun in the afternoon. ‘With its feet in the water<br />

and its spirit in the mountains, Nice really<br />

does have something for everyone seeking the<br />

idyllic Côte d’Azur lifestyle’ say local agent<br />

Michel Lanari.<br />

Properties in Nice<br />

Hyères, Var<br />

‘Hyères is one of the best-kept secrets on<br />

the French Riviera coast’ says agent Ilia<br />

Pauloo. This quintessential Côte d’Azur<br />

coastal town stands out for its authentic<br />

charm despite being popular as a tourist<br />

destination. There are plenty of cultural<br />

attractions including museums and a popular<br />

jazz festival, world class scuba diving and<br />

three islands including Porquerolles with<br />

its stunning beaches and rolling vineyards.<br />

Hyères is nicknamed the “City of Palm Trees’<br />

and offers the facilities of a large town without<br />

being over-developed.<br />

Properties in and around Hyères<br />

See all properties for sale in the Var<br />

Nice, Cours Saleya Vieux<br />

See all properties for sale in Alpes Maritime<br />

Love At First Sight<br />

Vaucluse €1,495,000<br />

Ref: A24998 - Beautiful 5-bedroom<br />

house with pool and an amazing view.<br />

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

Energy class: C Climate class: A<br />


Room to Expand<br />

Vaucluse €370,000<br />

Ref: A22360 - Super 2-bedroom house<br />

with stunning views and build opportnities.<br />

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

Energy class: B Climate class: A<br />

Cap d’Antibes<br />

Alpes-Maritimes €5,750,000<br />

Ref: A25094 - Exquisite 4-bedroom penthouse<br />

apartment with private rooftop pool.<br />

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

DPE: In progress<br />

Roof Top Views<br />

Vaucluse €315,000<br />

Ref: A25167 - Lovely 2-bedroom house<br />

with roof terrace, in a quiet village.<br />

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

Energy class: E Climate class: B<br />


Provençal Villa<br />

Alpes-Maritimes €795,000<br />

Ref: A22864 - Stunning, spacious 3-<br />

bedroom villa with swimming pool.<br />

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

Energy class: C Climate class: A<br />

Roquebrune Cap Martin<br />

Alpes-Maritimes €3,950,000<br />

Ref: A24621- 6-bedroom 280m² villa<br />

with stunning sea views, pool, garden.<br />

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

Energy class: E Climate class: E<br />

Sitting Pretty<br />

Vaucluse €1,590,000<br />

Ref: 100233 - 6-bedroom farmhouse<br />

with independent apartment and pool.<br />

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

Energy class: D Climate class: C<br />


Luberon Dream<br />

Vaucluse €630,000<br />

Ref: A24970 - 6-bedroom, 3-bathroom,<br />

house with pool and nice garden.<br />

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

Energy class: D Climate class: D<br />


Historic Mill<br />

Alpes-Maritimes €1,149,000<br />

Ref: A14004 - Charming 6-bedroom<br />

property, ideal for bed and breakfast.<br />

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

Energy class: C Climate class: A<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 />

124 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 125

The GERS –<br />

The Gers is a small department in southwest<br />

France. It’s a rural area and, just 60 miles<br />

wide, peppered with perfectly preserved and<br />

pristine medieval towns and brimming with<br />

beautiful villages including 6 Plus Beaux<br />

Villages de France.<br />

As the birthplace of D’Artagnan, Alexandre<br />

Dumas’ hero from The Three Musketeers –<br />

and France’s oldest brandy, Armagnac, Gers,<br />

also known by its ancient name of Gascony,<br />

is steeped in history. The region is home to<br />

a spectacular array of beautiful landscapes,<br />

outdoor activities, castles, historical sites and<br />

the most delicious gastronomy – this is the<br />

authentic France you dream of<br />

The biggest town is the capital, Gers but you<br />

couldn’t call it crowded with a population of<br />

Larresingle, one of the officially prettiest villages in France<br />

la France Profonde<br />

around 22,000. The whole region has less<br />

than 200,000 inhabitants.<br />

The Gers is rich in agriculture, fruit and walnut<br />

production and cattle farming, especially the<br />

big creamy Blonde d’Aquitaine cows. Most<br />

homeowners have a ‘potager’, vegetable<br />

garden, it’s an ideal place for keen gardeners.<br />

Nicknamed “God’s larder” by the locals, daily<br />

markets area a way of life and gastronomy<br />

is an essential element of ‘art-de-vivre’ in the<br />

region. Look out for Ferme auberges that<br />

produce nearly all that they serve at the table.<br />

The hillsides are smothered in vines and the<br />

area is famous for Armagnac. Less wellknown,<br />

excellent wine is also produced here.<br />

The Pyrenees are just two hours by car, great<br />

for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. The<br />

west coast beaches, Basque country, Spain<br />

and the Côte d’Azur are on the doorstep.<br />

Toulouse city can be reached in around 1.5<br />

hours by train from Auch. The seasons are<br />

distinct with winters tending to be cold and<br />

wet in January and February. Generally the<br />

weather is clement year-round - spring sees<br />

an explosion of flower, fauna and birdlife.<br />

The summer is long, fields of sunflowers are<br />

everywhere, and the good weather often lasts<br />

well into September and mellows in October,<br />

and it’s not unusual to be able to eat outside in<br />

the sun in December.<br />

Once popular with retirees, more and more<br />

young people and families are choosing<br />

the Gers for its laid-back way of life plus<br />

excellent internet service for home-working -<br />

this department was one of the first in France<br />

to deploy high speed broadband and fibre<br />

optic networks.<br />

There’s a varied style of property available<br />

including modern, timber-frame and<br />

traditional limestone houses which are always<br />

popular. The average price for an entirely<br />

renovated small village house is around<br />

€150,000 – €200,000. And you can still The first distillation of the Armagnac calls for celebration<br />

126 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 127

Moving to France<br />

© Sue Aran, French Country Adventures<br />

buy properties to renovate starting from less<br />

than €30,000 for a village house. Large<br />

country mansions start from €350,000, and<br />

farmhouses, plus properties with lots of land,<br />

suitable for horse owners are popular. There’s<br />

also the possibility to buy land in this lowpopulation<br />

department.<br />

The Armagnac-producing Tenarèze area is<br />

known as the ‘Golden Triangle and includes<br />

the stunning town of Lectoure, Condom,<br />

Castera Verduzan, Saint Puy, and the<br />

prefecture capital of Auch. Historically,<br />

this area was the wealthiest because of<br />

the Armagnac trade and the lovely honey<br />

coloured limestone houses here reflect the<br />

investment in property. Vic-Fezensac and<br />

Eauze are attractive towns, with many stone<br />

buildings. As you go bit further south towards<br />

the steeper hillsides surrounding Marciac<br />

where the annual and renowned jazz festival<br />

is held, properties tend to be more timberframed<br />

style.<br />

The distances between villages and services<br />

mean that a car is essential as public transport<br />

is not widely available.<br />

In the Gers, it’s easy to feel like you’ve stepped<br />

back in time to a gentler place. You won’t<br />

come across coach loads of tourists. And<br />

you won’t find traffic jams. What you will find<br />

are roads which take you through sweeping<br />

panoramas, undulating fields of sunflowers,<br />

Gers © CDT Tourism<br />

corn and rapeseed. Vineyards laze under the<br />

sun alongside lush grazing pastures dotted<br />

with wildflowers. Hedgerows that are stuffed<br />

with hawthorn, broom and honeysuckle hug<br />

fields and forests. And the cafés and bars are<br />

full of friendly folk, happy to share their little<br />

corner of paradise.<br />

Despite being very rural, The Gers is<br />

accessible with Toulouse or Bordeaux airports<br />

in easy driving distance and TGV high speed<br />

trains can speed you from Agen to Paris in<br />

five hours.<br />

If you long to escape the rat race, then this<br />

idyllic off-the-beaten track, unspoiled region<br />

might be just what you’re looking for.<br />

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128 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 129

French granny’s<br />

garlic soup<br />

Your one stop shop for the finest quality<br />

food from Britain and Ireland.<br />

In northern France, every family has their own version of garlic soup. Handed down through the<br />

generations, the recipe is one that is often made when someone in the family has a cold or flu.<br />

It is delicious, nourishing and according to some scientists, those French grannies who insisted<br />

that this was the best cure for the common cold may have been right. Garlic has antimicrobial<br />

and antiviral properties.<br />



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4 portions<br />


2-3 bulbs of garlic (roughly 40 cloves)<br />

(smoked garlic can be used)<br />

1 leek (white part only)<br />

2 potatoes<br />

1 onion<br />

1.5 litres (3 pints) chicken stock<br />

Liquid cream (half cup/120 m)<br />

Salt and pepper<br />

Butter<br />

Olive oil<br />

METHOD<br />

Cut the tops off the garlic bulbs off, drizzle<br />

with olive oil and roast wrapped in silver<br />

paper for about 50 minutes on gas mark<br />

6/400°F/200°C.<br />

Remove, open the paper, and leave to cool<br />

while you peel and chop the onion, leek, and<br />

potatoes (small cubes).<br />

Melt some butter and olive oil in a pan and<br />

add the thinly sliced onion and leek, and sauté<br />

for about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and the<br />

chicken stock and simmer for 15-20 minutes<br />

until the potatoes are soft. You might like to<br />

add a little more stock if it’s too thick for your<br />

taste. Take the pan off the heat and whisk (or<br />

blend in a mixer).<br />

Season and return to the pan, stir in a drop<br />

of liquid cream, season and serve hot with<br />

croutons or bread.<br />

130 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 131

BAKED<br />

MONT D’OR<br />

and vin jaune<br />

Serves 8<br />

Preparation: 15 minutes<br />

Cooking: 35 minutes<br />


1 baguette<br />

1⁄3 cup (80 ml) olive oil<br />

10 garlic cloves, peeled, shoots removed<br />

1 Mont d’Or cheese<br />

2 ½ cups (600 ml) vin jaune (this wine is sold<br />

exclusively in 620 ml bottles)<br />

Freshly ground black pepper<br />

?<br />

Did You Know?<br />

The Mont d’Or cheese is a specialty of the<br />

Jura region in eastern France, and takes<br />

its name from the highest mountain<br />

there. It is sold in a box made of spruce.<br />

Highly prized vin jaune, or yellow wine,<br />

is produced in the same region from the<br />

Savagnin grape, and is aged for a requisite<br />

time of six years and three months,<br />

during which time it acquires its<br />

characteristic yellow colour.<br />

METHOD<br />

Preheat the oven to 300°F–325°F<br />

(150°C–160°C).<br />

Prepare some croutons: cut the bread,<br />

drizzle with olive oil, and grill in the oven<br />

until light brown.<br />

Rub the croutons with the garlic and set aside.<br />

Cut a hole into the center of the Mont d’Or,<br />

reserving the top, and pour in the amount of<br />

vin jaune you desire, no less than a scant ½<br />

cup (100 ml). Press the pieces of garlic into<br />

the cheese.<br />

Cover the central hole with the reserved piece<br />

of cheese. Place the cheese in its box, wrap<br />

the box in aluminum foil, and bake for about<br />

35 minutes.<br />

Remove as soon as it is melted to your liking.<br />

Give a few grinds of the pepper mill and serve<br />

immediately, to eat with spoons and croutons.<br />

Get top chef<br />

Raymond Blanc’s<br />

top tips for a<br />

festive French<br />

cheeseboard on The<br />

Good Life France<br />

website<br />

Extracted from<br />

The Complete Book of French Cooking by Hubert<br />

Delorme and Vincent Boué (Flammarion, <strong>2023</strong>).<br />

Photo credit: © Clay McLachlan<br />

132 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 133

POT-AU-FEU<br />

Serves 8<br />

Preparation: 35 minutes<br />

Cooking: 2 hours 30 hours<br />


1 lb. (500 g) beef ribs (US) or fore/<br />

thin ribs (UK)<br />

2 lb. (1 kg) beef chuck (US) or chuck and<br />

blade (UK)<br />

1 tablespoon (20 g) kosher salt<br />

1 ¼ lb. (600 g) marrow bones<br />

1 ¼ lb. (600 g) potatoes<br />

1 ¼ lb. (600 g) carrots<br />

1 lb (400 g) zucchini (courgettes)<br />

Fleur de sel<br />

French mustard<br />

Aromatic ingredients<br />

1 large onion<br />

1 carrot<br />

Green leaf of 1 leek<br />

2 cloves<br />

1 bouquet garni<br />

6–8 peppercorns<br />

METHOD<br />

Trim the meat, leaving each piece whole.<br />

Prepare the aromatic ingredients. Peel and<br />

wash the onion and carrot. Wash the leek<br />

green. Cut the vegetables in two and push the<br />

cloves into the onions near the base.<br />

Place the pieces of meat in a large pot, cover<br />

with cold water, and bring to a boil. Remove<br />

the meat immediately and transfer the pieces<br />

to another pot. Cover them with cold water.<br />

Add all the aromatic ingredients and put in<br />

the kosher salt. Bring to a boil, turn down the<br />

heat, and simmer for 2 ½ hours. Thirty minutes<br />

before the time is up, add the marrow bones.<br />

Remove the aromatic ingredients and adjust<br />

the seasoning.<br />

Wash, peel, and rinse the potatoes and<br />

carrots. Wash the zucchini. Shape the<br />

vegetables into regular oval “egg” shapes<br />

weighing about 2–2 ½ oz. (50–60 g) per<br />

piece. Take 4 cups (1 litre) of the cooking liquid<br />

and cook the vegetables in it separately for<br />

just the time required for each.<br />

Serve the vegetables with the meat, and<br />

the broth in a tureen or vegetable dish.<br />

Accompany with fleur de sel and French<br />

mustard in small dishes.<br />

?<br />

Extracted<br />

Did You Know?<br />

This mouclade is a specialty<br />

of the Poitou-Charentes region,<br />

Chef’s Notes<br />

Use other types of meat besides beef, like pork<br />

and veal. You may even try fresh, cured, or<br />

smoked meats. If you opt for this kind of variation,<br />

don’t cook the meats together. Choose your<br />

vegetables according to the seasons.<br />

Every European country has its own version of<br />

this boiled dish. The pot-au-feu, the hearty winter<br />

meal par excellence, is a one-pot dish comprising<br />

of broth, meat, and vegetables; and leftover meat<br />

may be eaten cold, or reheated.<br />

from<br />

The Complete Book of French<br />

Cooking by Hubert Delorme and<br />

Vincent Boué (Flammarion, <strong>2023</strong>).<br />

Photo credit: © Clay McLachlan<br />

134 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 135

Bitter almond<br />

crème brûlée<br />

Serves 8<br />

Preparation: 20 minutes<br />

Chilling: 1 hour<br />

Cooking: 55 minutes<br />


10 egg yolks<br />

Generous 1 cup (225 g) granulated sugar<br />

2 cups (500 ml) milk<br />

2 cups (500 ml) whipping cream, min.<br />

35% fat<br />

1 vanilla bean<br />

A few drops of bitter almond extract<br />

A little brown sugar, for caramelizing<br />

METHOD<br />

In a round-bottomed mixing bowl,<br />

beat the egg yolks and sugar together<br />

energetically until the mixture thickens<br />

and becomes pale. Pour in the milk and<br />

whipping cream. Whisk together and add<br />

the seeds from the vanilla bean. Flavor<br />

with the bitter almond extract.<br />

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for about<br />

1 hour.<br />

Preheat the oven to 200°F (100°C).<br />

Strain the liquid through a chinois and pour<br />

it into eight small crème brûlée dishes or<br />

ramekins. Bake for 45–50 minutes. Test for<br />

doneness: the tip of a knife should come<br />

out clean.<br />

Allow the crèmes to cool. Just before<br />

serving them, set your oven to broil. Sprinkle<br />

the top of each one with brown sugar.<br />

Caramelize them briefly in the oven, or use<br />

a caramelizing iron, and serve.<br />

Extracted from<br />

The Complete Book of French Cooking by Hubert Delorme<br />

and Vincent Boué (Flammarion, <strong>2023</strong>).<br />

Photo credit: © Clay McLachlan<br />

136 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 137

138 | The Good Life France<br />

Last<br />

Word<br />

When my son Harry asked me a while back if, after living in<br />

France for several years, I now felt French, or did I still feel<br />

British, I had to think about it. When I first came to France, there<br />

is no doubt, I was a Brit living in France, and to some extent I still<br />

am. But I am also not entirely British anymore. I am a hybrid –<br />

neither 100% British, nor 100% French.<br />

For me, it isn’t just a question of whether you hold a French<br />

passport, or you were born in France. Of course that does<br />

make you French, or at least a French citizen. But it’s not the<br />

whole story.<br />

Being French is also about a lifestyle. It’s having the opportunity<br />

to go to the markets regularly to buy local seasonal vegetables.<br />

It’s queuing at your favourite local boulangerie for a justbaked<br />

crispy baguette or buttery soft croissants. And it’s<br />

sitting at a café nursing a tiny cup of coffee and watching the<br />

world go by without feeling as if you have to dash off and do<br />

something else. Being French means practicing art de vivre –<br />

the art of living well. Admiring a platter of cheese, made more<br />

beautiful by the addition of flowers and leaves that represent<br />

the season. Lingering over a long lunch with friends; pure<br />

white napkins; beer served in gorgeous glasses; appreciating<br />

a simple but beautiful vase of flowers; admiring<br />

a beautifully designed wine bottle label. Art de<br />

vivre is appreciating and making an effort with<br />

the seemingly ordinary things of everyday life and<br />

turning them into memorable moments.<br />

What makes you French is also a whole lot more.<br />

Far too much to write here but for me art de vivre<br />

is one of the key things of French-ness! And we<br />

can all feel a bit French if we practice a little art<br />

de vivre and relish the moment!<br />

Janine Marsh is Author of How to be French:<br />

Eat, dress, travel and love la vie Française -<br />

available on Amazon, all online bookshops and<br />

in bookstores in high streets everywhere.<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh lives in France with her husband and around 60 animals. Her books My Good Life in France,<br />

My Four Seasons in France and Toujours la France are available at Amazon and all good book shops.<br />

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The Good Life France | 139


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