Spring 2024

Brimming with fascinating and fabulous features plus fantastic photos, inspiring, informative and entertaining guides, scrumptious recipes from top chefs, history, culture and much, much more. Discover the gorgeous Gulf of St-Tropez, the luminous Opal Coast in the north, pickled-in-the-past Sarlat, Beaujolais, medieval Mirepoix, The Lot, lovely Bergerac, the Oise Valley, the Loire Valley, Champagne, Brittany, Paris & more.... bringing France to you - wherever you are.

Brimming with fascinating and fabulous features plus fantastic photos, inspiring, informative and entertaining guides, scrumptious recipes from top chefs, history, culture and much, much more. Discover the gorgeous Gulf of St-Tropez, the luminous Opal Coast in the north, pickled-in-the-past Sarlat, Beaujolais, medieval Mirepoix, The Lot, lovely Bergerac, the Oise Valley, the Loire Valley, Champagne, Brittany, Paris & more.... bringing France to you - wherever you are.


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The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 37<br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

The Gulf of<br />

Saint-Tropez<br />

Picturesque villages<br />

and naturally beautiful<br />

The charms of<br />

Sarlat<br />

Hidden<br />

France<br />

The treasures of the<br />

north, Bergerac and<br />

Beaujolais<br />

Pickled in the past<br />

Cahors,<br />

the Lot<br />

Spotlight on<br />

Medieval Mirepoix<br />

Magazine<br />

Delicious<br />

recipes<br />

Bringing you an<br />

irresistible taste of<br />

France – including<br />

mouth-watering<br />

raspberry tart, updated<br />

croque monsieur & more…<br />

144 pages<br />

of inspirational features and gorgeous photos

chalet villa château farmhouse apartment vineyard gîte c o tt a g e coast country city<br />


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Fairytale Château<br />

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Savoie €8,650,000<br />

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The Leggett famil y<br />

wel comes you !<br />

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

I’m totally thrilled to share this stunning <strong>Spring</strong> issue with you – it’s<br />

absolutely brimming with fabulous features and ideas for your<br />

travels – gourmet adventures, seaside glamour and the secret<br />

and less well-known parts of authentic France. Plus a big dollop<br />

of culture and history, mouth-watering recipes, guides and much,<br />

much more.<br />

We cross France from the sun-kissed shores of the south and the<br />

gorgeous pinch-yourself-it’s-so-pretty Gulf of Saint-Tropez to the<br />

luminous Opal Coast in Pas-de-Calais in the far north.<br />

Discover the charms of the Chateau-rich Valley of the Oise in<br />

Picardy and follow in Vincent Van Gogh’s footsteps. Head to<br />

Champagne to find out all about the bubbles; and explore the<br />

roof tops of Paris. Visit pickled-in-the-past Sarlat in Dordogne, the<br />

pastoral beauty of wine giant Beaujolais, captivating Cahors in the<br />

Lot Valley, and glorious medieval Mirepoix in the Midi-Pyrenees.<br />

Come with us to the Pays de la Loire to discover protected<br />

wetlands and salt marshes; and to ancient Bergerac, a land of<br />

vineyards and castles. In Brittany we explore Quiberon with its<br />

secluded harbours, superb coastline and megalithic menhirs,<br />

monuments of a long gone past.<br />

We seek out the hidden gems of France, the historic Seven Valleys<br />

in northern France, coveted and fought over for centuries leaving<br />

an extraordinary medieval footprint. Head to a little town near<br />

Paris, where the most successful French 19th century artist you<br />

never heard of, Rosa Bonheur lived in a beautiful castle; and follow<br />

the Via Rhona, one of France’s newest cycle routes.<br />

From the French culinary world, top chefs share their favourite<br />

dishes from the classic Croque Monsieur revisited to a most<br />

delicious raspberry tart – resistance is futile!<br />

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

to read, and subscribe to, just hop on to page 4 and sign up! And<br />

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

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

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

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh<br />

Editor<br />

Bienvenue<br />

Follow us on Twitter,<br />

Instagram & Facebook<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: www.georisques.gouv.fr<br />

The Good Life France | 3

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The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 37 <strong>Spring</strong> <strong>2024</strong><br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

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

Contributors<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 just<br />

been!’<br />

Jeremy Flint is an award-winning<br />

photographer (Association of Photographers<br />

Discovery Award Winner, National<br />

Geographic Traveller Grand Prize Winner,<br />

five-times finalist Travel Photographer of<br />

the Year) and writer specialising in travel,<br />

landscape and location photography.<br />

Love France?<br />

Subscribe to our lively and fun<br />

podcast – everything you want<br />

to know about France and<br />

more – click the button:<br />


Podcast<br />

24<br />

8<br />


8 The gorgeous Gulf of Saint-Tropez<br />

Naturally beautiful – spectacular<br />

hilltop villages & exquisite seaside<br />

towns.<br />

18 The Opal Coast, northern France<br />

Luminous beaches, enticing<br />

seaside villages and oodles<br />

of charm.<br />

102 Pickled-in-the-past Sarlat<br />

What to see and do in and around<br />

the ancient jewel of Dordogne.<br />

82 Beaujolais<br />

There’s nothing nouveau about<br />

Beaujolais, this ancient winegrowing<br />

area is truly stunning.<br />

Amy McPherson is a London based travel<br />

writer whose work has been featured<br />

in many international publications.<br />

When not on assignment, she loves to<br />

ride her bike, go running along the river<br />

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

footprintsandmemories.com<br />

Christine McKenzie is a Franco-British<br />

journalist who writes in both English and<br />

French. Her stories have been published<br />

in anglophone and francophone media.<br />

Married to a Frenchman and mother<br />

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

Fontainebleau.<br />

Want more France?<br />

Subscribe to The Good Life<br />

France weekly newsletter for<br />

fabulous features, recipes and<br />

more.<br />


90 Cahors, the Lot<br />

A land of historic wow factor and<br />

breath-taking landscapes In the<br />

heart of Occitanie.<br />

62 Medieval Mirepoix<br />

Meet the mind-bogglingly pretty<br />

age-old town with a marvellous<br />

market.<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Front Cover: Cogolin, Golfe-de-Saint-Tropez ©lezbroz<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 37 <strong>Spring</strong> <strong>2024</strong><br />

62<br />


24 The Oise Valley, Picardy<br />

Cruise the gentle Oise river,<br />

peppered with exquisite chateaux,<br />

and follow in Van Gogh’s<br />

footsteps.<br />

32 Aÿ get a kick from Champagne<br />

Discover where and how some of<br />

the finest Champagne in the world<br />

is made.<br />

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

38 Le Weekend in … Calais<br />

Great for families, historic,<br />

arty and cultural – Calais is a<br />

perfect weekend destination.<br />


110 What’s New<br />

All the news and events you need<br />

for your next trip to France.<br />

44 Quiberon & Carnac, Brittany<br />

Sun, sea, sand and megalithic<br />

menhirs, monuments to the<br />

past, what’s not to love?!<br />

142 Last word<br />

Life in Rural France – the region<br />

where the people have sunshine in<br />

their hearts.<br />

50<br />

44<br />

72<br />

50 Paris rooftops<br />

How humble tin roofs<br />

transformed the skyline of the<br />

City of Light.<br />

56 Medieval Escapades in<br />

northern France<br />

Little known and unspoiled, the<br />

Seven Valleys is brimming with<br />

heritage sites.<br />

66 La Baule & La Brière, Pays de<br />

la Loire<br />

These watery neighbours are<br />

worlds apart, one a stylish<br />

seaside resort, the other a<br />

protected wetland area.<br />

72 Bergerac<br />

Vineyards, quirky museums,<br />

enchanting chateaux - and<br />

the true story of Cyrano de<br />

Bergerac.<br />

78 Rosa Bonheur, Chateau de By<br />

The most famous artist of<br />

the 19th century, not Monet<br />

or Manet – Rosa Bonheur,<br />

rediscovered.<br />

96 Via Rhona<br />

Cycling one of France’s newest<br />

routes which runs from the Alps<br />

to the Mediterranean.<br />


108 Your photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our<br />

Facebook page.<br />

110<br />

140<br />

124<br />

GUIDES<br />

114 Spotlight on the Loire Valley<br />

Dreaming of a new life in France?<br />

The Loire Valley is a great place<br />

to live.<br />

120 Cross-Channel connections<br />

Dave Pegg of folk-rock band<br />

Fairport Convention, talks about<br />

life in Brittany.<br />

124 Why Pas-de-Calais is a great<br />

place to live<br />

Most people stumble upon this<br />

outpost of the far north and are<br />

surprised at how lovely it is.<br />

132 How to market your gite<br />

Top tips to help your gite dreams<br />

come true.<br />


135 Croque Monsieur revisited<br />

A new take on an old classic –<br />

mouth-wateringly moreish!<br />

136 Provencal shoulder of lamb<br />

The perfect <strong>Spring</strong> dish with a<br />

scrumptious vegetable tian.<br />

138 Chicken in tarragon sauce<br />

A deliciously herby dish from the<br />

French Cooking Academy.<br />

140 Raspberry & chocolate<br />

ganache tart<br />

Seriously irresistible – a fruity taste<br />

of France.<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

The gorgeous<br />

Janine Marsh explores a secret part of<br />

the French Riviera…<br />

Gulf of<br />


“Once upon a time there was a jewel nestling<br />

between Provence and the Côte d’Azur…”<br />

began an email I got from a friend. Who can<br />

resist an introduction like that? Certainly not<br />

me! So, I headed to the Golfe de St-Tropez,<br />

and found a little piece of French heaven.<br />

The Golfe de Saint-Tropez is bijou, stretching<br />

30km from north to south, and 26km from<br />

east to west, consisting of 12 Provencal villages<br />

and seaside resorts: Cavalaire-sur-Mer,<br />

Cogolin, Grimaud, Gassin, La Croix Valmer,<br />

La Garde-Freinet, La Mole, Le Plan de la Tour,<br />

Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer, Ramatuelle, Sainte-<br />

Maxime and Saint-Tropez.<br />

Saint-Tropez is of course world-famous thanks<br />

to its most well-known resident Brigitte<br />

Bardot, but if your only goal is to visit this<br />

lovely town, you’ll miss out on so much more.<br />

Head for the hills to explore exquisite, pickledin-the-past<br />

perched villages, vineyards,<br />

and captivating coastal towns lapped by<br />

the Mediterranean Sea where dolphins<br />

frolic. Discover a land where the coast and<br />

countryside are inextricably linked and where<br />

the locals work in harmony with nature to<br />

preserve and protect this most beautiful,<br />

unspoiled and authentic part of France.<br />

Ramatuelle © E. Bertrand<br />

When to go<br />

The best time to visit may surprise you, it’s not<br />

during the summer months - though they are<br />

lovely, but instead spring and autumn when<br />

the weather is lovely, everything is open, the<br />

sea is warm enough to swim in and the natural<br />

beauty of the area takes precedence. Or even<br />

in winter with average sunshine 7 hours per<br />

day, and the sight of blooming wildflowers,<br />

including lavender and fresias, lifts your soul.<br />

Visit the vineyards and enjoy wine tastings,<br />

meet the locals who work with and preserve<br />

nature, eat like a lord, and enjoy being<br />

welcomed as a guest not a visitor.<br />

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

The Villages<br />

If, like me, your idea of an authentic<br />

French village is the sight of ancient<br />

trunk-twisted olive trees, plane tree-lined<br />

squares, medieval fountains, sun-kissed<br />

old stone houses mellowed by the passing<br />

centuries, delicate bell towers, and azure<br />

blue skies, then the Golfe de Saint-Tropez<br />

is your kind of place too…<br />

Saint-Tropez<br />

The former tranquil fishing village can get<br />

busy as there is only one main road that<br />

winds around the bay, so leave the car<br />

behind and take a boat (Bateaux Verts),<br />

from either Sainte-Maxime, Marines de<br />

Cogolin, or Port Grimaud. The journey<br />

takes around 15-20 minutes, no traffic<br />

jams and no parking needed!<br />

Wander Saint-Tropez’ pretty streets, ogle<br />

the super yachts, visit the town’s iconic<br />

tower and best of all, discover the local<br />

history through its food on a Gourmet<br />

tour with Beyond the wine. Follow in the<br />

footsteps of your guide Sonia, a specialist<br />

in local produce, to discover the delicious<br />

surprises she has selected for you. At the<br />

market, piles of vegetables and fruit look<br />

like still life paintings. The smell of truffled<br />

Brie, and of 36-month-old goat cheese<br />

made by writer, poet and legendary<br />

farmer Loïc de Saleneuve, and of garlic<br />

infused olives, chestnut spread and<br />

nougat, assails your senses.<br />

You can’t visit Saint-Tropez and not eat a<br />

Tarte Tropézienne and the tour includes a<br />

stop at the mythical patisserie where the<br />

cake was born and where Tartes of every<br />

size and flavour are displayed like jewels<br />

in a cabinet. Enjoy with a glass of local<br />

pale rosé. Resistance is futile.<br />

Want a culture fix? There are several<br />

museums including the lovely<br />

Annonciade, a former 16th century<br />

chapel where artist Paul Signac lived.<br />

Arriving in 1892, and mesmerised by the<br />

Saint-Tropez © S. Oliver visitgolfe.com<br />

Loïc de Saleneuve, goat cheese farmer extraordinaire<br />

Sainte-Maxime © S. Oliver visitgolfe.com<br />

© Tarte Tropezienne B&B Maison du Prince, Grimaud<br />

landscape, he encouraged other artists,<br />

including Henri Matisse, to join him here and<br />

you can see many of their paintings in the<br />

museum. Don’t miss a visit to the fun and<br />

fascinating Musée cinéma et gendarmerie.<br />

Sainte-Maxime<br />

Once a quiet fishing village, its fortunes<br />

changed when the railway line arrived in<br />

the 1800s creating what was known as<br />

the Route des Pignes, the Route of the<br />

Pines, named after the umbrella pine trees<br />

that grow in profusion here. Inspired by<br />

the success of Nice in attracting hordes<br />

of tourists, Ste-Maxime developed its<br />

tourism offer with a casino and holiday<br />

apartments. The railway line is now gone.<br />

Destroyed during WWII, it was considered<br />

too expensive to repair and replace but<br />

Ste-Maxime remains one of the biggest<br />

and most bustling towns in the area with<br />

year-round festivals, fetes and fairs. Take<br />

a guided tour to discover the history and<br />

architecture of Sainte-Maxime from the<br />

Tour Carrée built by monks, to the façade<br />

of the Palais des Sirènes to the palatial<br />

former home Léon Gaumont, pioneer of<br />

the motion picture industry in France.<br />

Ramatuelle<br />

Perched on a hill, the whole village of<br />

Ramatuelle, a former Roman outpost, is<br />

a listed historic monument. It’s a sleepy<br />

little village that’s full of surprises. In Place<br />

du Chateau there is no chateau, but<br />

ancient houses lean against each other<br />

for support, there are secret passages,<br />

cosy cafés and an innovative free tourist<br />

app that takes you on a treasure hunt.<br />

Like everywhere in this area, people are<br />

acutely eco-aware; cooking oil fuels the<br />

lawnmowers, and the council is creating<br />

a rain harvest system underground to<br />

water the plants. “It’s about sharing” says<br />

Bruno Caïetti from the tourist office “for<br />

everyone here, share and sustain - it’s a<br />

win/win”.<br />

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

Grimaud<br />

Winding roads and ancient staircases lead you<br />

to the top of a mountain where the ruins of<br />

an 11 th century, Grimadi-family owned (after<br />

whom the town is named) castle seem to<br />

spring straight from earth. Ponder 1000 years<br />

of history as you listen to wild nightingales sing<br />

and gaze out over the landscape and hilltop<br />

towns. The cobbled streets are awash with<br />

colour from plants and flowers that climb the<br />

walls and around the doors and windows of<br />

the old buildings while the ancient church bells<br />

ring, reminding us that time is passing despite<br />

the feeling it has stood still for centuries here.<br />

Grimaud © E. Bertrand<br />

Visit the local area by 2cv or Mehari<br />

with Deuch›moiselles run by Coglin-based<br />

Virginie Iafolla. I travelled in a 2CV named<br />

Brigitte, there’s also Jack (named after<br />

Virginie’s Jack Russell), and Camille named<br />

after her grandma “they’re a bit like children<br />

to me” she laughs. As we pootled and tooted<br />

tree-lined roads, everyone turned to smile -<br />

these cars bring out the happy in everyone.<br />

Lunch: La Halle de Grimaud: a small covered<br />

market, with fresh cooked street food and<br />

sandwiches make this a favourite with the<br />

locals, it feels like you’re taking a holiday when<br />

you eat lunch here!<br />

Cavalaire © lezbroz<br />

Cogolin, Virginie des Deuch'moiselles<br />

Le Petit Jacques<br />

Dinner: Le Petit Jacques, Grimaud. Recently<br />

re-opened under the new ownership of a<br />

young couple, you’ll find a warm welcome,<br />

excellent local, seasonal dishes cooked by<br />

Canadian chef Francis and an excellent wine<br />

list chosen by his partner Susanne. Everything<br />

is homemade, from the bread and sauces to<br />

the brioche and vanilla ice cream.<br />

Stay: B&B La Maison du Prince, in the rue<br />

du Knights Templier, Grimaud – named for<br />

the band of crusading knights who guarded<br />

this part of the coast in the 12 th century.<br />

Match a historic village house with a touch of<br />

interior design and you have a truly charming<br />

chambre d’hôtes. Owner and host Patrice<br />

Favière dreamed of having a small home<br />

Grimaud after a career in Paris, but fell hook,<br />

line and sinker for this B&B where the young<br />

Prince Rainier of Monaco often stayed when<br />

it was his childhood friend’s home. Featuring<br />

a superb collection of artworks, kitsch flea<br />

market finds and Prince Rainier memorabilia,<br />

and boasting the comfiest of beds, Maison du<br />

Prince is a unique and fabulous place to stay.<br />

Seaside Ambiance<br />

Thirty-eight beaches, secret coves, bustling<br />

ports and shining marinas, with calm and<br />

sparkling waters, coastal paths and glorious<br />

seaside towns…<br />

Pampelonne<br />

If you go looking for the beach where a<br />

nubile BB steamed up the camera lens in the<br />

1956 movie ‘And God Created Woman’, in<br />

St-Tropez as many do, you won’t find it, but it’s<br />

not far away. The Bay of Pampelonne is made<br />

up of several small coves and bays which<br />

together form Ramatuelle beach. The 4.5km<br />

of beaches are a paradise for swimming<br />

and sun-bathing. This coastline also stood<br />

in for French Polynesia in the early days of<br />

film - it’s easy to see why with soft silky sand,<br />

and greenish-blue blue waves split by soft<br />

whitecaps. But there’s more to this place.<br />

For the last 30 years there has been a big<br />

effort to return the area to its natural state<br />

with dune protective measures. 90,000 native<br />

plants were dug up and conserved for several<br />

years to keep them safe but are now replanted<br />

and thriving, helping to stop erosion. The<br />

restaurants which once sprawled on the beach<br />

have been moved back slightly to enlarge the<br />

beach area and protect the precious sand.<br />

And small dune areas created to protect<br />

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

wildlife and the environment now enhance the<br />

beaches. It’s an astonishing success story, the<br />

first conservation programme of its kind, and<br />

other countries are now studying the results<br />

to learn how to keep more areas safe and<br />

preserved for the future.<br />

Lagoon city – Port Grimaud<br />

Built in the 1960s by visionary architect<br />

François Spoerry on former marshland, the<br />

‘lagoon city’ of some 2,500 villas, is mindbogglingly<br />

pretty. Provence meets Venice. I<br />

was speechless at the unique architecture with<br />

buildings in every shade of pastel. Crossed<br />

by numerous canals, the alleys and squares<br />

are connected by small bridges and almost<br />

every home has a private boat mooring. You<br />

can get lost in its maze of narrow streets<br />

punctuated by bridges, but a short canal tour<br />

by boat Coche d’eau is the best way to truly<br />

appreciate this unique and incredible village<br />

on the sea.<br />

Lunch: L’Orangerie beach restaurant open<br />

year-round overlooking the beach, a great<br />

holiday atmosphere, delicious menu (linguini<br />

vongole is the most popular with the locals<br />

says owner Fabien) and perfect for watching<br />

the sunset.<br />

Port Grimaud © S. Oliver visitgolfe.com<br />

Pampelonne beach orangerie<br />

Domaine du Rayol S. Oliver visitgolfe.com<br />

nodded, enthralled by his natural story telling.<br />

“Well in the old days, the fishermen had too<br />

much fish, they couldn’t sell the ugly fish…” I’ll<br />

leave him to tell you the rest when you visit!<br />

Stay: Hotel Les Terrasses du Bailli 3* in<br />

Rayol-Canadel. Rooms have terraces with<br />

sun loungers overlooking the Med. The<br />

beaches are just minutes away on foot, a<br />

honeypot of a hotel in a tranquil location<br />

with access to private pool and beach, spa<br />

facilities and restaurant.<br />

Natural Beauty<br />

André Del Monte<br />

Dinner: Le Maurin des Maures restaurant<br />

Proprietor and chef André Del Monte,<br />

affectionately known to his customer as Dédé,<br />

is nicknamed the ‘King of the Bouillabaise.’<br />

It’s been his signature dish for some 40<br />

years at the restaurant which overlooks<br />

the Bay of Rayol and where the walls are<br />

Hotel Terrasses du Bailli © heurebleue.studio<br />

lined with photos of happy diners including<br />

French presidents and Hollywood celebs. “I<br />

make bouillabaise like you make at home,<br />

traditional. Cooking it is easy, cleaning the fish<br />

is hard. It’s all about the quality of products.<br />

My hands are stained red with saffron when I<br />

prepare it… I mix the fish with onions, garlic,<br />

tomato, potato and a few more things. I<br />

prepare it the day before to give it time for the<br />

flavours to infuse and give it a stronger taste.<br />

It’s a sharing meal, even after so long making<br />

it, I still have it at home, I love it” he grinned.<br />

“You want to know the story of bouillabaise?” I<br />

The Gulf of Saint-Tropez may be small, but<br />

the landscape is incredibly diverse. From the<br />

beaches to the Massif des Maures, one of the<br />

oldest masses on earth, a strikingly vivid chain<br />

of primeval rocks in hues of grey, red and<br />

violet, covered in chestnut and cork forests.<br />

The Corsica-like garrigue, an undergrowth<br />

of aromatic herbs, fauna and flora scents<br />

the air. There are around 40 wineries where<br />

the sun-blessed grapes produce the most<br />

elegant roses, whites and reds. This is a place<br />

for hiking, cycling, horse riding, visiting the<br />

botanical gardens, and enjoying the region’s<br />

amazing nature activities.<br />

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

Maison Foncin S. Oliver visitgolfe.com<br />

Villa Foncin and House of<br />

Nature, Cavalaire<br />

The brand-new House of Nature opens mid-<br />

June <strong>2024</strong> with exhibitions and a focus on<br />

protecting the environment, saving water,<br />

and making the most of what you grow. From<br />

the centre’s garden, take a ten-minute walk<br />

through shady forest to the Villa Foncin, the<br />

lavishly built mansion of Pierre Foncin (1841-<br />

1916). French cartographer and founding<br />

member of the Alliance Française. Set atop a<br />

cliff in an area of outstanding natural beauty,<br />

every window frames a view that looks like a<br />

painting, overlooking the Golden Isles, like<br />

gardens in the surrounding sea.<br />

Domaine du Rayol<br />

Almost hidden away down a side street, the<br />

Mediterranean gardens of the Domaine<br />

du Rayol transport you to another world<br />

where pathways squiggle their way through<br />

bamboo tunnels, past waterfalls and along<br />

small cliffs. You’ll encounter palm trees from<br />

New Zealand, a dense profusion of trees and<br />

plants from around the world from mimosa<br />

whose scent wafts lazily in the winter months<br />

to a prickly cactus collection and giant Birdof<br />

Paradise plants whose flowers weigh a<br />

whopping 2 kilos. Created by ground-breaking<br />

gardener Gilles Clément who’s pioneering<br />

‘work with, not against nature’ ethos has had<br />

wide influence, you’ll encounter a heady mix<br />

of colour and sultry perfumes year-round,<br />

Domaine Up Ultimate Provence, La Garde-Freinet<br />

framed by magnificent views over the lapiscoloured<br />

Med. Head-spinningly beautiful,<br />

this is a place to simply wander or discover its<br />

secrets with a guided tour (French & English<br />

language).<br />

Stay: Domaine Up in La Garde-Freinet, an<br />

exceptional hotel in an exquisite location in<br />

the heart of a vineyard surrounded by forest.<br />

New-wave Provencal accommodation with<br />

old school glamour, deeply restful, luxurious<br />

rooms with private terraces, a gleaming<br />

spa, massages on top, gorgeous gardens<br />

and a sports area including a glass-walled<br />

badminton court overlooking the vines. The<br />

seriously sleek bar offers tastings of the<br />

estates own fabulous wines. Leave room in<br />

your sightseeing itinerary to float in the pool<br />

and soak up the ambiance of this little bit of<br />

Provencal paradise.<br />

Lunch: The elegant Café des Jardiniers<br />

at Domaine du Rayol is open to all garden<br />

visitors. You can’t reserve in advance, and it’s<br />

super popular, so get there early and enjoy a<br />

seasonal menu and a great choice of cocktails<br />

and wine.<br />

Dinner: Domaine UP – foodie heaven,<br />

superb fine dining, cocktails on the roof<br />

terrace watching the sun set, or on the<br />

pétanque pitch.<br />

Discover the area and heaps to see and do<br />

at: www.visitgolfe.com<br />

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

The Opal Coast<br />

hotels, where you feel more like a friend<br />

than a guest. There are beaches of great<br />

boulders reminiscent of the Giant’s<br />

Causeway in Ireland, and beaches where<br />

the white silky sand lures you to sit and<br />

drink in the wide-open horizon all the way<br />

to the White Cliffs of Dover. Seals frolic<br />

along the coast, and now and then, when<br />

the tides are out, an ancient shipwreck<br />

makes its appearance. And everywhere<br />

there are traces of the area’s long history,<br />

bases from which would-be-conquerors<br />

tried for centuries to invade England.<br />

This is a place to relax, enjoy the<br />

delicious food, friendly hospitality and<br />

take your time. Explore the treasures of<br />

this rather secret and surprisingly diverse<br />

part of France that’s hardly known<br />

outside of the region.<br />

Berck-sur-Mer<br />

In the department of Pas-de-Calais, between<br />

the great port town of Calais and the seaside<br />

town of Berck-sur-Mer lies the Opal Coast.<br />

Around 50 miles of glorious beaches, vast<br />

sand dunes, pine forests and soaring cliffs,<br />

peppered with authentic fishing villages, Belle<br />

Epoque seaside towns, monuments, memorials<br />

and museums. Janine Marsh explores the<br />

rather secret coastal jewel of northern France.<br />

At the start of 20th century, painter Édouard<br />

Lévêque came up with the name Côte<br />

d’Opale, the Opal Coast, inspired by the<br />

luminous light and the ever-changing colours<br />

of the coastline. “It has opal, a precious milkycoloured<br />

stone that shimmers with alternating<br />

tones of green and red” he declared. The<br />

name stuck.<br />

The route of the Opal Coast reveals<br />

enchanting treasures, a land of yesteryear<br />

with farming hamlets, little fishing villages,<br />

charming village inns and welcoming<br />

restaurants, Belle Epoque and art deco<br />

hotels, manor houses converted into small<br />

Berck-sur-Mer<br />

White Cliffs of Dover visible from the Opal Coast<br />

Local chocolate maker Beussent<br />

In 1861, when this beach resort was already<br />

the haunt of artists like Renoir, Manet and<br />

Boudin, a local woman who had lost her<br />

husband and four children took in some very<br />

sick children for a recuperative holiday. The<br />

very iodized climate revitalised them and<br />

Berck became famous for its rejuvenating<br />

air. 12km of breezy beaches, perfect for the<br />

annual International Kite Festival (April),<br />

and for seals! There’s a large colony here<br />

who seem to love to entertain onlookers, by<br />

basking on the sand, frolicking in the waves<br />

and singing loudly!<br />

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

this traditional seaside resort plus a unique<br />

century-old sweet shop, Succès Berckois<br />

where you can watch them make their<br />

famous boiled sweets in-store!<br />

Nip to the town of Merlimont next door and<br />

indulge at restaurant “Sur Mer” owned by<br />

Alexandre Gauthier, the 2-star Michelin<br />

chef of La Grenouillère (Montreuil-sur-Mer).<br />

Overlooking the sea, and a big hit with the<br />

locals the menu includes fish and chips and<br />

mouth-watering minute-cooked mussel.<br />

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

Le Touquet Paris-Plage<br />

The “Monaco of the North” as it’s been<br />

dubbed, was, at the start of the 20th century,<br />

the place where the rich, famous and infamous<br />

holidayed, from Kings, Queens and Maharajas<br />

to Winston Churchill. Cole Porter wrote<br />

“Anything Goes” here, and the town’s casino<br />

inspired Ian Fleming to write Casino Royale.<br />

They stayed at the swankiest hotels, like the<br />

Westminster which is still there, or The Royal<br />

Picardy which was the biggest hotel the world<br />

had ever seen, 120 lounges, 500 bedrooms<br />

and 50 apartments of up to 10 rooms, each<br />

with their own swimming pool (it was largely<br />

destroyed during WWII). Much loved by<br />

Parisians, Le Touquet’s grandeur is faded but<br />

the traces of its glitzy and glamorous past are<br />

evident, and with 365 days of sporting and<br />

cultural events, exhibitions and fairs every year<br />

– there’s always plenty to see and do.<br />

Hardelot<br />

The endless pristine sandy beaches of<br />

Hardelot, where aviation legend Louis Bleriot<br />

perfected his flying skills, are never packed.<br />

Great for families (‘Kid’ resort classification),<br />

sports galore from canoeing and sand<br />

yachting to horse-riding and an excellent golf<br />

course. There’s also a chateau, once owned<br />

by English linoleum magnate Sir John Hare in<br />

the mid 1800’s (he refashioned it in a pseudo-<br />

Gothic style), and the rooms are sumptuously<br />

decorated. His neighbour in nearby Condette,<br />

Charles Dickens, one of the greatest writers<br />

of his era, was a frequent visitor. There’s also<br />

a Shakespearian style theatre which the<br />

late Queen Elizabeth II said was “amazing”.<br />

The tranquil seaside town has plenty of little<br />

boutiques and restaurants, an artisan biscuit<br />

workshop, delicious ice cream parlours and<br />

vast mansion houses.<br />

Art Deco market, Le Touquet<br />

Wimereux<br />

Cap Blanc Nez ©Yannick Cadart<br />

Colonne de la Grande Armée<br />

©Bastien Pradeau-Pas-de-Calais Tourisme<br />

Hardelot-plage ©A.Chaput Pas-de-Calais Tourisme<br />

Norman villas of the Belle Epoque era.<br />

Napoleon Bonaparte developed the town<br />

intended as a port for his Grand Army to<br />

invade England. Now it attracts beach lovers<br />

and food lovers – the Art Deco Atlantic hotel<br />

with its superb bistro and Michelin starred<br />

restaurant is a big lure. Canadian John<br />

McCrae died here in 1918 and is buried in<br />

the town cemetery. McCrae, the author of<br />

the haunting poem “In Flanders Field,” is<br />

honoured on Armistice Day, 11th November<br />

when children in local schools light candles in<br />

his memory and read his poem out loud.<br />

A few kilometres away, Wissant’s beach has<br />

long been popular with the locals including<br />

President Charles de Gaulle (dressed in suit<br />

and tie to sit on the beach) and his family (his<br />

wife Yvonne was from nearby Calais).<br />

The Opal Coast Cliffs<br />

At Audinghem discover the Jurassic Era Cap<br />

Gris-Nez – Grey Nose Cliff, the closest point<br />

on the French Coast to England. Just 19 miles<br />

from Dover and a landmark for cross-Channel<br />

swimmers to aim for.<br />

Wimereux and Wissant<br />

Wimereux, just a few kilometres from the<br />

great city of Boulogne-sur-Mer is an unusual<br />

town with its whimsical, colourful Anglo-<br />

Le Touquet<br />

Just a few kilometres away, the tiny village<br />

of Escalles by the cliff known as Cap Blanc-<br />

Nez – White Nose Cliff, has outstanding views<br />

across the countryside, the coast and the<br />

English Channel, especially at sunset.<br />

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

The site of les Deux Caps and the surrounding<br />

area are listed as a Grande Site de France<br />

due to the amazing wealth of landscapes,<br />

habitats and coastal villages.<br />

If you love the great outdoors, nature and<br />

glorious fresh air, stunning beaches, cosy inns<br />

where you’ll be warmly welcomed and served<br />

mouth-watering seasonal and the freshest of<br />

seafood dishes, authentic and historic villages,<br />

hiking, mountain biking, sailing and horseriding,<br />

fields of crimson poppies in spring and<br />

swathes of golden rapeseed in summer – you’ll<br />

fall head over heels for the Opal Coast…<br />

Discover restaurants, accommodation and<br />

what to see and do on the Opal Coast:<br />

calais-cotedopale.co.uk<br />

10 must-sees along<br />

the Opal Coast<br />

Stunning Bay of the Canche near Le Touquet.<br />

Slack dunes – the longest stretch of dunes in<br />

the Pas-de-Calais department.<br />

Nausicaa – the largest aquarium in Europe,<br />

at Boulogne-sur-Mer.<br />

Atlantic Wall Museum, Batterie Todt, near<br />

Cap Griz-Nez.<br />

Cycle the Vélomaritime route which runs<br />

from Dunkerque on the Belgian border to<br />

Roscoff in Brittany via the Opal Coast (bike<br />

hire available from Opale Velo from halfday<br />

to a year).<br />

The historic port city of Boulogne-sur-Mer.<br />

Watch the fishermen pull their traditional<br />

wooden boats, flobarts, up on the beach and<br />

buy your fresh fish direct.<br />

Napoleon’s Column on the site where the<br />

French General planned to invade England<br />

and awarded the first Legion d’Honneur<br />

medals.<br />

Visit Les 2 Caps craft brewery at Tardinghen.<br />

Ride a dragon in Calais.<br />

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

Domaine de Chantilly © Jerome Houyvet<br />

River cruise of France<br />

– Paris to Picardy<br />

Daily cocktail on board!<br />

Strawberries and Chantilly cream at the Chateau de Chantilly<br />

“You are now a squire of the Brotherhood of<br />

the Knights of Whippers of Chantilly Cream”<br />

said the red-haired, bespectacled knight<br />

beaming at me. It’s certainly not something<br />

you hear every day.<br />

I was on board the MS Raymonde, a hotel<br />

barge in the fleet of the French family-owned<br />

CroisiEurope company, on the Oise River<br />

in Picardy, close to the exquisite Chateau<br />

of Chantilly which we’d toured earlier in the<br />

day as part of a week-long cruise of the Oise<br />

Valley visiting historic towns, castles and<br />

pretty villages.<br />

The knight of the Confrérie des Chevaliers<br />

Fouetteurs de Crème Chantilly - real name<br />

Corinne (she works in a local restaurant), had<br />

joined us to demonstrate how to make the<br />

famous Chantilly cream which is said to have<br />

been invented at the chateau. When she asked<br />

for volunteers, I was in, I mean, how hard can<br />

it be to whip cream? Actually, if you do it<br />

properly, it takes about 10 minutes of good<br />

hard whipping! I was rewarded with a bowl of<br />

delicious vanilla-flavoured cream, whipped to<br />

puffed up peaks of perfection, which passed<br />

the hold it over-your-head-upside-down<br />

test and gained me my Squire status in the<br />

Knighthood - I have a certificate to prove it!<br />

It’s just one of the fun and fabulous organised<br />

events on a week-long cruise of the Oise<br />

Valley that is full of surprises – culture, history,<br />

beautiful villages, ancient sites, and delicious,<br />

truly delicious, food and wines.<br />

My rendezvous point was in Paris, in the<br />

shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and you’ll either<br />

embark there or be transported by private<br />

minibus to Noyon in Picardy, to board the<br />

specially built barge which will be your home<br />

for 7 days. Carrying just 22 passengers<br />

maximum, and with 6 staff, there’s plenty of<br />

room and two sun decks to enjoy, as well as a<br />

hot tub and bikes for cycling along the tranquil<br />

tow paths.<br />

The barge hotel cruises between Paris<br />

and Pont-l’Évêque in Noyon where French<br />

Protestant reformer John Calvin was born in<br />

1509 and takes in some of the most famous<br />

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

sites of France including the Chateau of<br />

Malmaison, one time love nest of Napoleon<br />

Bonaparte and his Empress Josephine, and<br />

Auvers-sur-Oise where Van Gogh lived and<br />

painted prolifically for the last months of his life.<br />

From the very first moment you board the boat<br />

to be greeted with a glass of fizz, you feel as<br />

though you’re part of the boat ‘family.’ Our<br />

group included Brits, Americans, and Frenchspeaking<br />

Canadians, but within hours we were<br />

bonded, and at the end we all hugged when<br />

we said goodbye feeling like we were leaving<br />

friends behind.<br />

I’m no stranger to CroisiEurope, I’ve taken<br />

several cruises in France and I have loved<br />

every one of them. I’ve been with my husband,<br />

with friends and solo (they are great for solo<br />

travellers by the way). All of the cruises are<br />

low in guest numbers, high on customer<br />

services and they always share common<br />

traits. Amazing food. Fabulous wines. Friendly,<br />

welcoming crew who all speak English and<br />

French. And tours with guides (in English and<br />

French), that will take in a mix of big-ticket<br />

attractions, major castles for instance, plus<br />

places that are less well-known, authentic and<br />

a little off the beaten track. Such as Noyon.<br />

It was dark when we left the boat after dinner<br />

to go to the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in<br />

Noyon. Pasquale the minibus driver dropped<br />

us off with a guide and we entered the candle<br />

lit abbey, especially opened for our group.<br />

Auvers-sur-Oise<br />

Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Noyon<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 />

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

Compiègne<br />

Chateau de Compiegne<br />

Built 1130-1150 (13 years before Notre-Dame<br />

in Paris was begun), it is the 5th church<br />

to be built on the site where the Emperor<br />

Charlemagne was crowned King of the Franks<br />

in 768; Hugh Capet, founder of the Capetian<br />

Dynasty was also crowned here (968). Next<br />

door is Calvin’s former home, now the local<br />

library with a small museum dedicated to him.<br />

There’s no sailing at night, you cruise the<br />

winding waterways most mornings, with<br />

excursions in the afternoons, which the next<br />

day brought us to Compiègne.<br />

It’s a vibrant town and its medieval streets are<br />

lined with half-timbered houses, shops, and<br />

restaurants. There are several museums, and<br />

a library in the former medieval cloisters. Joan<br />

of Arc came here, and finding her way barred<br />

by the Governor who feared her presence<br />

would endanger his town, she was taken<br />

prisoner by the Burgundian forces (English<br />

allies), on 14 May 1430. It’s said that Joan<br />

prayed in the town’s 13th century church of<br />

St Jacques. It’s richly decorated and has a<br />

reliquaries room full of bones and bits.<br />

The vast Royal Chateau of Compiègne, one<br />

of the biggest in France, is a wonderfully<br />

preserved time capsule. Napoleon Bonaparte<br />

spent much time here, but not having the<br />

funds to revamp it, he left most of it as it was<br />

when the Bourbon Kings were on the throne,<br />

and it remains just as it was. Filled with<br />

furniture, tapestries, and artworks, it sits in the<br />

heart of the town and on the edge of the great<br />

forest of Compiègne, one of the largest forests<br />

of France.<br />

Close by, the Armistice museum is home to<br />

a replica of the railway dining coach which<br />

became a makeshift conference room in<br />

which the Armistice ending World War I<br />

was signed at 05.00 11 November 1918. It<br />

makes for a moving visit. Read more about<br />

Compiègne here.<br />

The next day we headed to Chantilly to visit<br />

one of the most beautiful castles in all of<br />

France. Oozing with history, home to one of<br />

the greatest collections of artworks in the<br />

world, sumptuously decorated, gorgeous<br />

Chateau de Chantilly<br />

Last resting place of Vincent Van Gogh and his<br />

beloved brother Theo, Auvers-sur-Oise<br />

Tour the beautiful Loire Valley at your own pace<br />

with a guided e-bike holiday<br />

Slow Down And Enjoy The View<br />

www.loirebrakes.com<br />

gardens which cover a whopping 115 hectares<br />

and include a hamlet that is said to have<br />

inspired Marie-Antoinette to build her own<br />

hamlet at Versailles, plus chateau-like<br />

stables. And the place where yours truly<br />

became a Square of the Knighthood of the<br />

Chantilly Cream Whippers! Read more about<br />

Chantilly here.<br />

Sailing on, accompanied by herons, swans and<br />

ducks sharing the glorious countryside with<br />

us, we arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise, the town in<br />

which Vincent Van Gogh lived his last weeks.<br />

We docked a stone’s throw from the famous<br />

church that Van Gogh painted. He was here<br />

for just 70 days and in that time, he created<br />

in a frenzy - 76 paintings of local sites and<br />

people. I couldn’t help but think it was almost<br />

as if he knew his time was up or was planning<br />

to ensure it.<br />

After a walk to visit his grave, poignantly<br />

next to his beloved brother’s last resting<br />

place, we took a guided tour of the town<br />

following in the footsteps of Van Gogh and<br />

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

other artists who were captivated by the<br />

beauty of this area including Cezanne and<br />

Pissarro. Van Gogh worked nonstop, painting<br />

the farmhouses, and winding roads to the<br />

fields and he would probably recognise<br />

the landscape, the town, and the lovinglyrestored<br />

garret where he lived above the<br />

Auberge Rouge. We ended with a visit to the<br />

Absinthe Museum – and of course a tasting<br />

of the ‘Green Fairy’, one of Van Gogh’s<br />

favourite tipples.<br />

Continuing the arty theme in Pointoise down<br />

river, we followed the Impressionist Trail<br />

with a guide who showed us the sites that<br />

featured in works by many artists including<br />

Paul Gaugin. Housed in a 19th century<br />

mansion, the Pissarro Museum features some<br />

of Camille Pissarro’s works plus those by his<br />

five sons and the Impressionists who were<br />

influenced by him.<br />

Then it was on to the glorious Chateau of<br />

Malmaison, where Josephine Bonaparte<br />

loved to grow roses and where after her<br />

divorce from Napoleon, she continued to<br />

live. Beautifully decorated and furnished<br />

in Empire style, it has an intimate feel to it<br />

though it’s barely ten miles from Paris.<br />

Sailing down the River Seine, sipping<br />

sparkling wine as you admire some of the<br />

most famous and legendary landmarks - the<br />

twinkling Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty<br />

looking out from an island to its big sister in<br />

New York, the historic buildings and iconic<br />

sites is a feeling that’s uniquely special. It’s a<br />

cruise where you’ll make priceless memories<br />

to cherish forever.<br />

Tasting at the absinthe museum, Auvers-sur-Oise<br />


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All inclusive for drinks<br />

onboard (1)<br />

Market day in Pontoise<br />

Pontoise<br />

This captivating cruise runs from April to<br />

October: croisieurope.co.uk/destination/<br />

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Discover all of the fabulous CroisiEurope<br />

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30 | The Good Life France photos - Copyrights: Alexandre Sattler, Shutterstock.<br />

The Good Life France | 31<br />


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Aÿ get a kick<br />

from Champagne<br />

The Champagne hillsides, houses and cellars are UNESCO listed in<br />

recognition of their heritage. The historic vineyards of Hautvillers, where monk<br />

Dom Perignon lived and worked, the area of Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, Saint-<br />

Nicaise Hill in Reims, the Avenue de Champagne and Fort Chabrol in Epernay.<br />

Sign at Pressoria<br />

East of Paris lies the region of Champagne –<br />

known around the world for its effervescent<br />

wine. The most well-known vineyards are in<br />

the Marne department, also home to the<br />

two major cities of Champagne: Reims and<br />

Epernay. Both sit above hundreds of miles<br />

of cellars in which several million bottles of<br />

Champagne lie waiting to be released and<br />

enjoyed by a legion of fans. And around these<br />

two Champagne cities is glorious countryside,<br />

peppered with farms, unspoiled villages<br />

and precious vineyards, where the soul of<br />

Champagne resides says Janine Marsh.<br />

Aÿ, pronounced like ‘eye’, is the third most<br />

important Champagne wine town in the<br />

Marne. As far back as Gallo-Roman times,<br />

the Romans arrived in 57 BC, it was already<br />

well known for its wine. King Henri IV (1353-<br />

1610) called himself “Sire d’Aÿ” and legend<br />

has it that he kept a wine press in a house<br />

behind the medieval church of St Brice. A<br />

stone’s throw from the church is Pressoria<br />

– not a museum says the director Victor<br />

Canchon, “it’s a sensory journey to the heart<br />

of Champagne.” And it’s a fabulous place to<br />

start your discovery of Champagne.<br />

No dry exhibition this, quite literally – as it<br />

ends with a delicious tasting. Pressoria is<br />

housed on the site of a former Pommery<br />

Champagne pressing centre. It’s innovative<br />

and interactive, fun and fascinating, and great<br />

for the whole family. A visit here gives you a<br />

marvellous overview of Champagne from the<br />

land to the bottle. 10 rooms are dedicated to<br />

all things Champagne. Animated vines snake<br />

across the floor at your feet, bubbles follow<br />

your hands as you run them over the walls; it<br />

really is a sensory visit as you taste, touch, see,<br />

listen and smell the magic of Champagne.<br />

You can easily spend two hours here. Details:<br />

pressoria.com/en<br />

And there’s no better place to continue your<br />

Champagne voyage of discovery than this<br />

exquisite part of the region. There are many<br />

producers and growers in the hills around<br />

and if you can’t make up your mind which<br />

to choose – the Champagne Tour Co can<br />

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

Dine at<br />

Restaurant Calsis next to Pressoria is a must.<br />

Big windows overlook hilly vineyards, and<br />

it’s always packed with locals enjoying the<br />

excellent 3 or 6 course menus, with of<br />

course Champagne.<br />

Stay at<br />

help with setting up tours, meetings and<br />

transport in very posh cars! Very few of the<br />

big Champagne houses grow all their own<br />

grapes; some grow none. They mainly depend<br />

on the 16,000 individual growers in the<br />

region. Of the growers, just 4,700 actually<br />

produce Champagne and two of the best<br />

are Champagne Lallemont-Massonnot in<br />

Coulommes-la-Montagne and Champagne<br />

Delavenne in the aptly named village of<br />

Bouzy.<br />

At Champagne Lallemont-Massonnot, you<br />

can take a superb tour that takes you from the<br />

vineyard to the pressing room, past the tanks<br />

and into the bottling room. It’s a backstage<br />

tour and tells the human story of Champagne<br />

production. Plus, you’ll taste some of the<br />

finest Champagne ever made, created by 5th<br />

generation Champagne makers Xavier and<br />

Marie Lallement.<br />

Pressoria – bubbles follow your<br />

hands on the wall<br />

Calsis<br />

Domaine du Chateau in Chigny-les-Roses<br />

near Pressoria. This is no ordinary hotel, it’s a<br />

little piece of Paradise, elegant, luxurious and<br />

exquisite. The little chateau is so discreetly<br />

marked you may miss the sign as I did, but<br />

everyone in the village knows it. I arrived<br />

under a star-filled sky and the big wood fire<br />

was crackling in the cosy salon. There are<br />

four rooms and each of them is very different.<br />

One is a suite really with a library/sitting room<br />

that reminded me of the film “My Fair Lady”<br />

and has its own wood fire. My room had a<br />

huge terrace overlooking the vineyards and a<br />

bathroom with a spiral staircase that wouldn’t<br />

look out of place in a Harry Potter scene.<br />

There’s also a treehouse you can stay in, plus a<br />

pool and spa area.<br />

Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to<br />

experience chef Damien Litaudon’s exquisite<br />

dishes. Seriously, seriously special, Michelin<br />

level without the theatrics, innovative,<br />

impeccable and very, very delicious. Every<br />

course is paired with one of the Domaine’s<br />

own superb Palmer & Co. champagnes. One<br />

of the best meals I’ve ever had.<br />

Jean-Christophe Delavenne of Champagne<br />

Delavenne learned about making Champagne<br />

from his grandfather and father, and he is<br />

passionate about respecting the land, organic<br />

and natural production. Just one sip of one of<br />

the outstanding Champagne he makes will tell<br />

you all you need to know – astonishingly good,<br />

it tastes like heaven.<br />

Marie and Xavier Lallemont<br />

Domaine du Chateau, appetisers Montagne de Rheims Champagne country © Deposit photos 86072708<br />

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

How Champagne is made<br />

Champagne is made from three grapes, chardonnay - a<br />

white grape, pinot noir and pinot meunier – red grapes.<br />

The harvest is anytime from the end of August to early<br />

October depending on weather conditions, though cellars<br />

are open all year.<br />

To start with, Champagne is made like any wine, the<br />

grapes are pressed, the juice is stored and undergoes<br />

fermentation which changes it into wine. Next comes the<br />

blending stage to make different types of Champagne.<br />

For a non vintage champagne, wines stored from all over<br />

the region in earlier years, are added to get the taste<br />

required. After blending, liqueur de tirage, a blend of<br />

sugar and yeast that starts the second fermentation, is<br />

added, and the wine is bottled with a temporary metal<br />

cap. In the old days, a lid would be tied on with string!<br />

Scientists at Vienna University<br />

of Technology recently<br />

discovered, in testing the speed<br />

of a cork from Champagne,<br />

that a supersonic shock wave<br />

forms as the gas escapes the<br />

champagne bottle, reaching<br />

speeds of over 1.5 times the<br />

speed of sound!<br />

The carbon dioxide produced in this second fermentation remains in suspension in the wine.<br />

Sediment is also produced from the dead yeast cells. To get rid of it, the bottles are placed in<br />

racks, head down, so the sediment can drift down to the neck. Each day the bottles are given a<br />

slight twist, called riddling, to shake the sediment down. It used to be done by hand and a good<br />

riddler can turn 25,000 bottles a day, though these days it’s largely done by machine.<br />

Then the bottle neck is dipped into a brine solution to freeze it, the cap is removed and the<br />

sediment along with a bit of frozen wine is forced out by the carbon dioxide, to be replaced<br />

with a drop of wine and sugar, called a dosage. Then the bottle is sealed with a cork, and laid<br />

down to rest from one to three years on average, up to ten years for the best Champagnes.<br />

Recent studies claim<br />

that there are around<br />

1 million bubbles<br />

in a single glass of<br />

Champagne.<br />

What’s on the label:<br />

Grand Cru and Premier Cru denotes vineyards in<br />

villages where the grapes are considered superior.<br />

Cuvée (or premier taille) – basically the first pressing<br />

of the grapes which is considered the best, specifically<br />

it refers to the first 2,050 litres of grape juice pressed<br />

from 4000kg of grapes. Deuxieme taille refers to the<br />

next 500 litres pressed.<br />

Brut, sec and doux – refers to the sugar dosage<br />

Brut is made from all three grapes, extra brut is slightly<br />

sweeter, brut nature or brut zero is a dry Champagne with a<br />

very low sugar content<br />

Sec is a semi-sweet Champagne, demi-sec has a little more<br />

sweetness, extra-sec is sweeter than Brut but still considered dry.<br />

Doux is the sweetest of the champagnes.<br />

Rosé Champagne is a blend of white and red grapes whose skins are left on<br />

longer to add colour.<br />

36 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 37

For millions of Brits, Calais is their first<br />

introduction to France, maybe to Europe.<br />

Arriving at the port of Calais, those millions,<br />

by and large, point their cars south, unaware<br />

of the historic town they miss, oblivious to<br />

its treasures and charms. But Calais is well<br />

worth stopping for says Janine Marsh who<br />

lives nearby.<br />

Calais is an ideal day trip or weekend<br />

destination, and absolutely worth a detour<br />

on your way to or from the UK. Perfect for a<br />

spot of shopping and stocking up on French<br />

wine and goods. And it’s ideal for kids - with<br />

a resident dragon, stunning beach, plus a<br />

chance to practice their French language<br />

skills. History and culture lovers will find lots<br />

to keep them happy and food lovers will<br />

be over the moon with the cosy bistros and<br />

seafood restaurants. Here’s why I think Calais<br />

should be on your bucket list.<br />

Discover<br />

CALAIS<br />

Calais old harbour<br />

Calais Dragon © Fred Collier<br />

Family Friendly<br />

Seaside fun: The seafront of Calais has, like<br />

the town, undergone a major redevelopment.<br />

A new promenade, new restaurants and<br />

bars, ice cream and snack kiosks, skate park,<br />

free fitness areas, exercise bikes, basketball<br />

courts and playgrounds. If you remember<br />

Calais as a rather old-fashioned resort,<br />

you’re in for a surprise. Calais beach has<br />

been completely revamped, and its silkily<br />

soft sandy beaches are pristine. And there’s<br />

plenty of free parking.<br />

Meet a dragon: Calais is home to a dragon.<br />

Yes really. The seafront of the city is a unique<br />

playground for a winged, fire-breathing,<br />

winking, sneezing 82 feet long friendly<br />

dragon! It doesn’t matter how old you are,<br />

you can’t help but be amazed at the sight of<br />

him as he carries up to 50 passengers on his<br />

back and takes them on what has to be one<br />

of the most unusual city tours in the world.<br />

Reach for the sky: The 271 steps of the Calais<br />

lighthouse are worth the effort for stupendous<br />

360° panoramic views over Calais and the<br />

English Channel. This local landmark has<br />

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

een in service for almost 200 years in what’s<br />

known as the Fishermen's area, called Kaleis in<br />

the 12th century.<br />

Take a cruise: On weekends take a cruise on<br />

the Calais Canal (details at the tourist office).<br />

History & Culture<br />

The destiny of Calais has been influenced<br />

by its proximity to England, just 38km across<br />

the Channel. When Edward III of England<br />

invaded France in 1337, the event started the<br />

Hundred Years War. And in 1347, Calais fell<br />

under English rule following an 8-month long<br />

siege, at the end of which, 6 burghers (leading<br />

citizens) offered their lives to save the rest<br />

of the townspeople. The English King spared<br />

them, and they are honoured in a magnificent<br />

larger-than-life sculpture by August Rodin<br />

outside the town’s historic town hall, where<br />

General Charles de Gaulle married Yvonne<br />

Vendroux, daughter of a local biscuit<br />

manufacturer. Calais didn’t become French<br />

again until 1558. For a bird’s eye view over<br />

the town, head to the top of the UNESCOlisted<br />

Belfry attached to the town hall, which<br />

is considered to be one of the most beautiful<br />

in France with its neo-Flemish façade and Art<br />

Deco-stained glass windows and decor.<br />

Calais Lighthouse © Office de Tourisme Calais Cote d'Opale<br />

Rodin's Burghers of Calais<br />

forces during WWII as a defence against an<br />

anticipated Allied invasion. In the Park St<br />

Pierre, in front of the town hall is a rather<br />

hidden, very interesting museum, Musée<br />

Mémoire, housed inside a bunker complete<br />

with 21 rooms of exhibits telling the history<br />

of Calais (73% of the old Calais district was<br />

destroyed) during WWII.<br />

The City of Lace and Fashion museum has<br />

a huge and fascinating collection of textiles<br />

and costumes reflecting the city’s position as<br />

the centre of the French lace making industry<br />

since the early 1800s. There are regular<br />

temporary exhibitions and a superb shop.<br />

Foodies<br />

Feeling peckish? You’re in the right place!<br />

There’s a huge choice of restaurants in Calais,<br />

from refined dining to cosy cafes and you’ll<br />

find a super list on the tourist office website<br />

(see bottom of the post).<br />

A short walk away, the Fine Arts Museum. It<br />

has a fine collection including a permanent<br />

Rodin exhibition which has been recently<br />

renovated in collaboration with the Rodin<br />

Museum of Paris.<br />

Only a few traces of Calais’ medieval past<br />

have survived including the 13th century Tour<br />

du Guet, the Watch Tower in Place d’Armes<br />

which in the 19th century was used as a<br />

telegraph station. It was from here that news<br />

of the death of Napoleon was transmitted to<br />

Paris. There is a ring of forts created to protect<br />

the city dating from the 14th century to the<br />

16th century Citadel built on the site of a<br />

medieval castle. In the 17th century King Louis<br />

XIV’s military engineer Vauban undertook a<br />

revamp of these fortifications. More recently<br />

the Atlantic Wall was constructed by German<br />

Calais Town Hall<br />

Calais Town Hall<br />

40 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 41

Just a few of my favourites include<br />

Aquar’aile which has magnificent panoramic<br />

sea views and a superb menu including<br />

succulent oysters and a scrumptious fruit<br />

de mer platter, leave room for a dessert or<br />

two – it’s hard to choose just one! Au Côte<br />

d’Argent has great views to the coast from<br />

where you can watch the Calais dragon pass<br />

by. With a light and airy dining room, and in<br />

the summer, a brilliant barbeque area and<br />

sunny terrace, the menu is just so tempting<br />

(from €28 for three courses – it’s a steal),<br />

and the food is superb. Enjoy a gastronomic<br />

feast at Le Grand Bleu in the port of Calais.<br />

Classic meets innovative here, hot-dog au<br />

boudin de St Jacques with spicy shrimps is<br />

absolutely irresistible!<br />

Feast on the atmosphere as well as the food<br />

at Les Grandes Tables du Channel at Calais’s<br />

National Theatre. With a restaurant serving<br />

modern classic dishes, (the 5-course menu<br />

de extraordinaire at just €42 really lives<br />

up to its name) and a cosy bistro serving<br />

local favourites in theatrically decorated<br />

surroundings, this is one of the best kept<br />

secrets of Calais and foodies will adore it.<br />

Calais beach © Fred Collier<br />

Street markets are held in place d’Armes on<br />

Wednesdays and Saturdays and at place<br />

Crevecoeur on Thursday and Saturday<br />

mornings.<br />

There’s a really helpful tourist office in the<br />

town, by the station, and you can visit the<br />

tourist office website for lots of details for<br />

what to see and do: calais-cotedopale.co.uk<br />

Meet our mechanical marvels and book your tickets on<br />

compagniedudragon.com<br />

42 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 43<br />

Photo : Kleec Photographie<br />

Travel aboard the magnificent<br />

Calais Dragon

WETLAND Wonders<br />

Gillian Thornton explores a stylish seaside resort and its wetland neighbour in<br />

Pays de la Loire.<br />

Beach resorts can get pretty crowded on<br />

a summer Saturday, but head down to the<br />

waterfront at La Baule and there’s plenty<br />

of space for everyone. Tucked into a curve<br />

of the coastline just north of the Loire<br />

estuary, La Baule-Escoublac – to give the<br />

town its full name – boasts a glorious arc of<br />

golden sand stretching for nine seductive<br />

kilometres between the headlands of Le<br />

Pouliguen and Pornichet.<br />

Turn your back on the sea however and just a<br />

few miles inland lies a very different watery<br />

landscape. The Parc Naturel Régional de la<br />

Brière is France’s second largest wetland area<br />

after the Camargue, bordered by the river<br />

Loire and the shipyards of Saint-Nazaire to<br />

the south, the Vilaine river and Brittany to<br />

the north. Stay in La Baule and you can enjoy<br />

a wide range of aquatic activities in, on and<br />

beside the water.<br />

I arrive by car from the walled town and salt<br />

marshes of neighbouring Guérande – catch<br />

up on my trip in our last issue. Barely 6 km<br />

apart, they make a dramatic contrast. One a<br />

medieval city with lofty ramparts and towers;<br />

the other, a modern resort of low-rise buildings<br />

and seaside villas. And what villas!<br />

Today’s resort grew out of the humble village of<br />

Escoublac which holds the dubious distinction<br />

of having to move inland to escape the<br />

onslaught of sand blown in from the dunes.<br />

In 1779, this once coastal community shifted<br />

Le Croisic<br />

away from the shore, but gradually the dunes<br />

were stabilised with planting schemes and in the<br />

1830s, tourists began to trickle in from Saint-<br />

Nazaire to nearby Pornichet and Le Croisic.<br />

Fast forward to the 1880s, the arrival of the<br />

railway and a growing fashion for sea bathing.<br />

Two Parisian entrepreneurs involved with<br />

the railway – Jules-Joseph Hennecart and<br />

Edouard Darlu – quickly saw the potential of<br />

Escoublac as a new holiday resort. So they<br />

bought up 40 hectares of dunes at La Bôle,<br />

enlisted the help of local businessmen, and laid<br />

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

a broad avenue from the station to the sea.<br />

Renamed Avenue du Général de Gaulle in<br />

1945, it is now one of the town’s main streets<br />

for shopping and restaurants.<br />

More amenities followed and soon wealthy<br />

buyers were investing in plots to build their<br />

own holiday villas. In 1896, the resort was<br />

renamed La Baule and despite the dips in<br />

fortunes created by two World Wars, the<br />

town has grown steadily to be one of the most<br />

popular resorts on the Atlantic Coast.<br />

La Baule’s sea front villas were sadly<br />

redeveloped during the post-war years in<br />

what can only be seen now as a tragedy of<br />

urban planning. Great if you want a holiday<br />

apartment with your feet in the ocean, but<br />

completely lacking in atmosphere. Go behind<br />

the bland sea front architecture however and<br />

you immediately step back a century.<br />

Today there are few nicer urban strolls than<br />

meandering along La Baule’s pine-scented<br />

Allées and Avenues to peer through garden<br />

gates and over ornamental walls at the<br />

eclectic mix of flamboyant properties, 15<br />

of them given protected status for their<br />

exceptional architecture. Each villa is different<br />

in style, from half-timbered ‘Anglo-Normand’<br />

mansions to Art Deco splendour and medieval<br />

fantasies. And each one has a name, often<br />

in Breton, La Baule originally being part of<br />

Brittany rather than Pays de la Loire.<br />

I stop first outside Villa Symbol, built in 1881<br />

in Anglo-Normand style and the private<br />

home of architect Georges Lafont. An eyecatching<br />

combination of stone and timber,<br />

curved roof lines and embellished spire, it<br />

was the first grand villa that visitors would see<br />

as they came out from the station, a great<br />

advertisement for the 250 properties that<br />

Lafont would go on to design in the town.<br />

Close by, I come across Coq de Roche, a<br />

classic example of Art Deco style with its<br />

whitewashed facades and red shutters, flat<br />

roof and metal balconies. La Baule’s many<br />

thousands of trees are also protected, but<br />

only a handful of properties can boast their<br />

original gardens and, as at Villa Saint-Charles,<br />

Le Croisic<br />

Pierre Bouguer, Le Croisic<br />

M Restaurant - former butcher and baker shops<br />

an outdoor gallery where 19 th century visitors<br />

would sit to inhale the clean air, often to<br />

recover from TB.<br />

I soak up the period atmosphere at Hôtel<br />

Saint-Christophe, a 4-star hotel composed<br />

of four individual villas dating from the early<br />

1900s. Just a short walk from the beach and<br />

boutiques, it’s a great place to sample the<br />

good life with individually designed bedrooms<br />

and stylish public rooms. After an aperitif in<br />

the hotel’s shady garden, I stroll to Place du<br />

Maréchal Leclerc for dinner in the garden<br />

of Le M. This popular bistro takes its name<br />

from the shape of the two steep roofs of<br />

what were once adjoining shops. Across the<br />

square stands St Anne’s Chapel, the first<br />

public building erected in La Baule. Now an<br />

exhibition centre, it was commissioned by<br />

M Hennecart, a deeply religious man whose<br />

widow was so incensed at the opening of a<br />

casino that she left La Baule, never to return.<br />

I walk home along the sea front as the sun<br />

sinks over the calm ocean and watch families,<br />

friends and even horse riders make the most<br />

of a balmy evening on the beach. And after<br />

a blissfully quiet night, I head west out of La<br />

Baule next morning for the short drive along<br />

the south side of the Guérande salt pans. Time<br />

to spare? Hire an electric bike instead from Le<br />

Pouliguen Bikevasion to visit Le Croisic, Batzsur-Mer<br />

and maybe the Grand Blockhaus<br />

Museum, a World War II bunker that tells the<br />

story of the Saint-Nazaire Pocket.<br />

Now designated a Petite Cité de Caractère<br />

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

Croisic stands on the headland where the<br />

ocean flows through a narrow gap into<br />

the salt marshes. Enjoy a drink beside the<br />

marina or at a café table in the pretty town<br />

centre; visit the Océarium sea life centre;<br />

and pay homage to the seafront statue<br />

of Pierre Bouguer, 18 th century scientist,<br />

mathematician and astronomer.<br />

Swapping salt water for fresh, I turn the car<br />

inland to explore the Brière Regional Natural<br />

Park or PNR. Nicknamed the Pays Noir<br />

or Black Country because of its rich peat<br />

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



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Fine Art Photographer<br />

Guided Photography Day Tours<br />

and Workshops<br />

Customized photo sessions to capture<br />

your special moments in Provence<br />

rainastinsonphotography.com<br />

Villa Symbol, 1881, La Baule<br />

Kerhinet<br />

reserves, this freshwater marshland is bisected<br />

by 140 km of canals navigable by flatbottomed<br />

boat. Peat is no longer harvested,<br />

but the marsh is used for livestock, hunting and<br />

fishing. Find out more about the flora, fauna<br />

and traditional way of life in the showpiece<br />

hamlet of Kerhinet near Saint-Lyphard, its<br />

single street fringed by thatched cottages<br />

housing craft businesses and displays.<br />

Then take a short drive to the cluster of<br />

cottages that make up the tiny Port de Bréca,<br />

departure point for discovery trips by boat<br />

or on board a horse-drawn wagon. If you’re<br />

feeling energetic, hire a rowing boat, but I<br />

can recommend the guided tour from L’Arche<br />

Briéronne with a knowledgeable local guide<br />

who will punt you through the canals whilst<br />

explaining the fragile ecosystem of this<br />

magical wetland.<br />

Beyond the marsh, the cranes of Saint-<br />

Nazaire’s busy shipyards are clearly visible on<br />

the horizon, but here at water level, life moves<br />

at a gentle pace, much as it has for centuries.<br />

La Baule … La Brière … two very different<br />

water worlds that combine to make a unique<br />

and addictive double-act.<br />

Tourist information from<br />

labaule-guerande.com<br />

Horse and carriage in<br />

village of Bréca, Brière<br />

Regional Natural Park<br />

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to their YouTube channel to catch every nailbiting<br />

and heartwarming<br />

scan to watch<br />

moment. Tune in for a<br />

new video every Sunday.<br />

www.youtube.com/@growinginfrance<br />

48 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 49

Paris’ legendary<br />

zinc rooftops<br />

Paris’ legendary zinc<br />

rooftops<br />

Have you ever looked at a photo of Paris and<br />

wondered why so many of the rooftops look so<br />

good despite the age of the buildings? It’s all<br />

down to zinc, a humble metal that was chosen<br />

as the roof topping of the ‘modern’ buildings<br />

of 19 th century Paris says Sue Aran.<br />

Much that we love and hold dear about the<br />

City of Light today, we owe to the singular<br />

brilliance of Georges Eugène “Baron”<br />

Haussmann. In 1853, when he began the<br />

renovation of Paris at the command of<br />

Emperor Napoleon III, he was unaware of the<br />

enormous cultural impact his reconfiguration<br />

of the city would have. As a former architect, I<br />

find his vision inspiring and extraordinary. Not<br />

only was he prescient about humanizing the<br />

scale of the city, but he also knew instinctively<br />

that in a grand, large-scale design, rhythm<br />

and harmony of materials were essential.<br />

The beautiful, iconic zinc rooftops of Paris,<br />

which practically all Haussmann buildings are<br />

covered by — and the workers who create<br />

them — were even considered for UNESCO’s<br />

list of French Intangible Cultural Heritage.<br />

Paris’s zinc roofs are thanks to the work of<br />

cleric Jean-Jacques Dony (1759-1819) of<br />

Liège, a part of France at that time though<br />

now it is part of Belgium. Dony was fascinated<br />

by chemistry and by his early 20s, he had<br />

his own laboratory. He spent 25 years<br />

researching the smelting of zinc which is<br />

present in the earth, air and water. It is nontoxic,<br />

a trace element that is indispensable<br />

for all living organisms, a fundamental part<br />

of the metabolic processes of plants, animals<br />

and humans. In the human body, over 300<br />

enzymes require zinc for proper functioning.<br />

Although zinc compounds had been used<br />

for at least 2,500 years in the production<br />

of brass, zinc wasn’t recognized as a<br />

distinct element until 1668, when a Flemish<br />

metallurgist, P. Moras de Respour, pioneered<br />

the extraction of metallic zinc from zinc oxide.<br />

As far as Europe was concerned however,<br />

Paris © Shayna Stillman<br />

View from the Arc de Triomphe © Grace Marshall<br />

zinc was discovered by the German chemist<br />

Andreas Marggraf in 1746, who was the first to<br />

distinguish it as a new metal.<br />

While chemists tried to handle zinc (formerly<br />

known as Indian Tin) it was Dony who<br />

discovered and patented a procedure for<br />

processing and refining sheet zinc, today<br />

50 Romain | The Gandré, Good Life Instagram: France@ rom_buff)<br />

The Good Life France | 51

Postcard of Paris circa 1880 – the rooftops look as they do today<br />

the fourth most commonly used metal in the<br />

world. In 1805, Emperor Napoléon granted<br />

him a monopoly for the exploitation of the zinc<br />

mines of Moresnet, 50 kilometers east of Liège,<br />

on condition that he pay an annual royalty<br />

of 40,500 francs (approximately €15,000<br />

today). Dony showed his gratitude to Napoleon<br />

by presenting him with a zinc-lined bath.<br />

Napoleon was so thrilled by its light weight<br />

and utility that he took it on his subsequent<br />

campaigns, including his invasion of Russia in<br />

1812. The bath can still be seen at the Maison<br />

de la Metallurgie et de l’Industrie in Liège.<br />

But by 1813, Dony found himself unable to<br />

pay the annual royalty and was forced to<br />

sell his patent and mining rights. He died in<br />

poverty in 1819. However, the company he<br />

founded grew and prospered to become the<br />

largest zinc-producing company in the world.<br />

In 1837, the Société des Mines et Fonderies<br />

de Zinc de la Vieille Montagne was created.<br />

The new industrial uses of zinc with its<br />

undeniable properties of flexibility, durability<br />

and resistance to corrosion, arrived just when<br />

Haussmann began transforming the city.<br />

At that time, most Parisian roofs were made<br />

of either wood, tile, or slate. New construction<br />

on such a massive scale called for a faster<br />

and more economical roofing material. Zinc<br />

sheets were substantially lighter and easier<br />

to install, and they protected buildings from<br />

water damage. Zinc roofing could be used to<br />

create curved shapes or sharply angled roofs,<br />

allowing for more elaborate designs to suit the<br />

aesthetics of the 19th century Belle Epoque,<br />

including the creation of attic rooms, which<br />

are highly sought-after living spaces today.<br />

The exposed zinc rooftops, which still cover<br />

85 percent of the iconic Parisian skyline owe<br />

their beautiful patina to a natural process of<br />

weathering, the softening of the colour belies<br />

its durability and strength. The specialist<br />

knowledge of around 500 Parisian couvreurszingueurs,<br />

zinc roofers, who work year-round<br />

to build, maintain, and repair the zinc-covered<br />

roofs of Paris is essential to the continuation<br />

of the zinc roofs. You’ll often spot them<br />

perched on scaffolding preserving the iconic<br />

roofs of Paris.<br />

Sue Aran is a writer, photographer, and<br />

tour guide living in the Gers department<br />

of southwest France. She is the owner<br />

of French Country Adventures, which<br />

provides personally-guided, small-group, slow<br />

travel tours into Gascony, the Pays Basque,<br />

Provence and beyond.<br />

52 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 53

Le Zinc – a French<br />

favourite<br />

Classic bars of France<br />

Zinc didn’t just cover rooftops – it also<br />

covered bars! From the 1800s, galvanised<br />

zinc countertops were a standard feature<br />

of French bars and cafés. In fact, they were<br />

so popular that the term Le Zinc came<br />

into use to describe bistros and cafés. The<br />

expression “rendezvous au zinc” meaning<br />

let’s meet at the bar is still in use today!<br />

Emile Zola wrote in “The Belly of Paris”<br />

published 1873: “In particular was the<br />

counter… sumptuous, with its broad<br />

expanse of silver polished bright. The<br />

covering zinc overhung the red and white<br />

marble base with a deep wavy border,<br />

thus overlaying it with a silky sheen, a cloth of metal, like a high altar spread with its<br />

embroideries.”<br />

Zinc countertop at the Train Bleu restaurant, Gare de Lyon, Paris<br />

During World War II, some of the metal tops were appropriated, nevertheless plenty<br />

survived and can still be seen all over France. There’s not much to beat sitting on a stall at<br />

local zinc bar with a glass of wine, imagining the people that have been here before you,<br />

perhaps with a glass of absinthe, the drink of choice in the late 1800s<br />

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Jardinieres, baths, jugs and more<br />

Zinc proved to be such a versatile metal<br />

that it was used to make galvanised<br />

bathtubs, watering cans, jugs,<br />

buckets, decorative window surrounds,<br />

Jardinieres, wash tubs, tabletops and<br />

buckets galore and they’re commonly<br />

found at flea markets all over France.<br />

Zinc treasures at a flea market, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais<br />

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54 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 55

Secret France:<br />

Medieval escapades<br />

in the SEVEN<br />


Deep in the glorious countryside of Pas-de-<br />

Calais, in the far north of France, history has<br />

played its hand over and over. Janine Marsh<br />

explores the medieval past of this secret part<br />

of northern France.<br />

The lush green valleys of Pas-de-Calais are<br />

crossed by rivers and streams, woods and<br />

forests, ancient turf bogs and osier beds where<br />

willow is grown and coppiced. This is a place<br />

shaped by battle, ruled at times by the English,<br />

Spanish, Austrian and French, and it’s an area<br />

which offers visitors a glimpse into centuries<br />

past, as well as offering a taste of the tranquil<br />

French way of life.<br />

Although a small area it is very diverse, in<br />

places flat, in others quite mountainous. Once<br />

you turn off the main roads that cut through<br />

the countryside you will find yourself in an<br />

altogether different world. The undulating<br />

wooded valleys and the traditional rural<br />

architecture of the “fermettes”, long low<br />

farmhouses, are truly lovely, especially in<br />

spring when carpets of wood anemones and<br />

bluebells cover the ground of the forests. And<br />

along the banks of the rivers, towns, villages<br />

and buildings have sprung up over centuries,<br />

all with stories to tell.<br />

English army led by King Henry V coming<br />

up against a French army with many more<br />

men, more food and more energy. But the<br />

unthinkable happened, the English with their<br />

formidable archers, won the day. The French<br />

dead numbered some 6000 versus a few<br />

hundred English lost (read more about this<br />

historic battle here). Among the French dead<br />

were hundreds of knights, the majority from<br />

the north, Pas-de-Calais, Normandy, and<br />

Picardy. Many were buried in the grounds<br />

of local churches – 27 of them known to be<br />

at the nearby Abbey of Auchy-lès-Hesdin<br />

including Gallois de Fougières, the first<br />

gendarme to die in combat.<br />

Azincourt 1415<br />

Several battles shaped the early history of<br />

Pas-de-Calais, and one of the most famous<br />

took place in Azincourt on October 25, 1415.<br />

Picture a weary, hungry, and disease-ridden<br />

Azincourt Centre<br />

Discover all about the battle, the knights,<br />

the local people and the life and times at<br />

the Centre Azincourt 1415 where immersive<br />

scenography brings history to life. Delve into<br />

the contents of a medieval soldier’s bag, feel<br />

56 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 57

Montreuil-sur-Mer<br />

the weight of a knight’s sword, have a go at<br />

reloading a crossbow, read poems of the day,<br />

listen to music of the Middle Ages, and get an<br />

understanding of the conflict and what led to<br />

it at this fascinating museum.<br />

The battle took place at nearby Tramecourt,<br />

just down the road from the centre. Now<br />

a charming, preserved village, a majestic<br />

avenue of century-old lime trees leads to the<br />

castle of the Marquis de Tramecourt and the<br />

church, where members of the family lost to<br />

the battle are buried.<br />

Open year-round: azincourt1415.com<br />

Montreuil-sur-Mer<br />

The walled upper town of Montreuil-sur-<br />

Mer perched on a plateau overlooking the<br />

Canche Valley sounds like it’s on the nearby<br />

Opal Coast (mer meaning sea), but in fact it’s<br />

landlocked. In the Middle Ages though, it was<br />

a thriving port town. Then the river Canche<br />

which flowed at its base was navigable all the<br />

way to the sea, now about 10km away. The<br />

city was prosperous, much coveted and fought<br />

Fressin chateau © Ronald Piclin<br />

over by amongst others, Plantagenet Kings,<br />

Burgundians, Spanish and English King Henry<br />

VIII whose troops ran amok here in 1537.<br />

The remains of the past are evident in the<br />

town’s labyrinth of narrow cobbled streets,<br />

ancient houses, the 12 th century Church of St<br />

Saulve with its flamboyant-Gothic chapel, the<br />

neo-gothic Chapelle de l’Hôtel-Dieu, founded<br />

in 1200 and reconstructed in 1875 by Clovis<br />

Normand, a pupil of Violet le Duc, and, at<br />

the citadel with its chateau remains, parts of<br />

which go back to the 13th Century. Inside the<br />

porch entrance of the chateau are the Coats<br />

of Arms of local knights who rode out from<br />

here to die fighting against Henry V and his<br />

army at Agincourt.<br />

Enjoy the many bars and restaurants in the<br />

town, including the Hauts de France, built<br />

in 1537. And if you want more history, head<br />

to the base of the town and explore the vast<br />

Chartreuse de Neuville, a charterhouse<br />

Fressin church<br />

Vieil Hesdin<br />

founded in 1323. Now open to the public,<br />

it’s an extraordinary building with a<br />

fascinating history, glorious gardens and<br />

hosts concerts and exhibitions regularly.<br />

destinationmontreuilloisencotedopale.com<br />

Chateau de Fressin<br />

The Chateau of Fressin was built in the early<br />

1400s by Jean de Crequy, advisor to Philip<br />

the Good, Duke of Burgundy. The chateau<br />

was dismantled by Louis XIV in the 17th<br />

century, but the remains are an impressive<br />

reminder of its former glory and importance.<br />

In the grounds of the ancient flamboyant-<br />

Gothic style church of Saint Martin in the<br />

lovely little village of Fressin, are the graves<br />

of several knights who died at Azincourt<br />

along with the entrails of King Henry V’s<br />

uncle, Edward, Duke of York. A band of<br />

French knights mistakenly thought they<br />

had killed the English King and rejoiced,<br />

causing huge confusion. The Duke’s bones<br />

were taken back to England. Also interred in<br />

the church is Jean IV of Crequy whose wife<br />

Jeanne commissioned the chapel in 1425.<br />

Visit the castle and its pretty gardens<br />

(April to September) where events are<br />

regularly held.<br />

Vieil-Hesdin<br />

Little remains of the once flourishing town<br />

of Vieil-Hesdin, made prosperous thanks to<br />

the wool processing industry that developed<br />

here in the 11th century. It was surrounded by<br />

ramparts and ditches around an impressive<br />

castle, one-time base of Burgundian John the<br />

Fearless, father of Philip the Good, and here<br />

he manufactured his weapons and painted<br />

his pennants. The gardens of the castle were<br />

once legendary, filled with exotic beasts,<br />

a glass chapel, and medieval automatons.<br />

But in 1533, Charles V of Spain ordered its<br />

destruction, and he then built a new Hesdin<br />

just 6km away with a palace for his sister<br />

Marie of Hungary. Now the town hall, the<br />

58 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 59

Spanish coat of arms is still engraved above<br />

the door.<br />

There are still a few remains of the pleasure<br />

palace that was once here, and you can<br />

discover more about the town’s history at<br />

the Vieil Hesdin Historic Site. Open April –<br />

September<br />

Donjon de Bours<br />

The tranquil village of Bours is home to<br />

a 14th century medieval castle, a rare<br />

example of a knight’s residence in northern<br />

France. You can take a guided tour of the<br />

Donjon de Bours and discover the life of<br />

a medieval lord, and the history of this<br />

remarkable building which was fought over<br />

by King Francis 1 of France and Holy Roman<br />

Emperor Charles V in the early 1500s. Visit<br />

a local boulangerie and you may see a cake<br />

named in the latter’s honour – the digit de<br />

Charles V, a long cream and jam filled bun<br />

representing the Emperor’s gout-ridden<br />

finger (it tastes much better than it sounds!).<br />

Open year-round<br />

Hesdin<br />

Donjon de Bours © Jean Pierre Johannes<br />

Commanderie du Bois-<br />

Saint-Jean, Wamin<br />

Close to Auchy-les-Hesdin are the<br />

remarkably preserved buildings of the<br />

Commandery of the Order of the Knights<br />

Hospitallers of Saint John of Jerusalem.<br />

Founded in the 12th century by Philip of<br />

Alsace, it is next to the former park of<br />

the Dukes of Burgundy. You can visit the<br />

building, a stunning architectural example<br />

of the Middle Ages, and take a stroll in the<br />

glorious countryside around. Open<br />

July/August.<br />

You can purchase a Medieval Network<br />

passport at local tourist offices for reduced<br />

rates to all the places mentioned and<br />

find out more on Escapades Medievales<br />

Facebook page<br />

Commanderie<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 />

60 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 61


Mirepoix<br />

Medieval jewel of the Midi-Pyrénées<br />

Mirepoix<br />

Say ‘Mirepoix’ and if onions, celery and<br />

carrots are the first thing that springs to<br />

mind, it shows you know your way around<br />

the kitchen. And in a roundabout way<br />

(see below) the mirepoix you dice comes<br />

from this charming medieval market town<br />

located on the river Hers in the Ariège at the<br />

crossroads of Toulouse, Carcassonne and<br />

Foix, in the heart of Cathar country. Dana<br />

Facaros explains…<br />

With 600 members of the heretical Cathar<br />

sect and a Cathar lord, Pierre-Roger de<br />

Mirepoix, the town was an early target of<br />

the Albigensian Crusade to eliminate them<br />

all. Simon de Montfort captured Mirepoix<br />

in 1209 and bestowed it on his right-hand<br />

man, Guy de Lévis. The Lévis would rule<br />

Mirepoix until the French Revolution, while<br />

Pierre-Roger de Mirepoix went on to lead<br />

the Cathar garrison in the lofty citadel of<br />

Monségur. Here 225 Cathars were besieged<br />

by the crusaders until they were starved out<br />

in 1244. All preferred to be burned at the<br />

stake rather than convert to Catholicism.<br />

‘Mirepoix’ comes from Mira Peis (‘see the<br />

fish’ in old Occitan), hence the golden fish<br />

on the town’s coat of arms. Originally the<br />

Mirapiciens looked at the fish from the right<br />

bank of the river Hers, until a flooded dam<br />

swept Mirepoix away in 1279, leaving only<br />

its castle, the Château de Terride. Jean de<br />

Lévi built a replacement town higher up on<br />

the left bank and created, bastide-style, a<br />

rectangular grid of streets around a market<br />

square, with a church off to the side. The<br />

Lévis rebuilt it after the Black Prince sacked it<br />

in 1355 in the Hundred Years’ War. A decade<br />

later English mercenaries, the Routiers burned<br />

it down again.<br />

A bit after the fact, Mirepoix was fortified: one<br />

gate, the Porte d’Aval, is still intact.<br />

But karma was done with Mirepoix, leaving<br />

it one of the most beautiful (and biggest)<br />

market squares in all Occitanie: the colourful,<br />

112m by 55m Place des Couverts, lined with<br />

wood pillared porticoes where merchants<br />

could trade in all weathers. “The unique<br />

half-timber framed houses around the<br />

marketplace, naturally create a shopping<br />

and restaurant arcade,” say locals Mark and<br />

Kay Wilson of Real South of France Tours.<br />

“And there are amazing wooden gargoyles<br />

along some of the frontages.”<br />

The best gargoyles and carvings (103 of them!)<br />

adorn the ends of the beams of the Maison des<br />

Consuls, once seat of the local magistrates.<br />

© Stephane Meurisse Ariege Pyrenees Tourism<br />

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

Because of its key location, Mirepoix has<br />

always been an important market town, and<br />

Place des Couverts is the perfect stage for<br />

Mirepoix’s massive Monday morning market<br />

as well as for festivals, including the Swing<br />

à Mirepoix jazz on Easter weekend and the<br />

themed Fête de la Pomme in October. The<br />

local apple artists love a challenge: bulls<br />

made of apples? Musical instruments? Tintin?<br />

No problem!<br />

Looming over all is the 58m tower of the<br />

church of Saint-Maurice. The Lévis began it<br />

in 1298, but in 1317 when the pope elevated<br />

Mirepoix to a bishopric (part of the Church’s<br />

scheme to keep a close eye on heresy danger<br />

zones), they went a bit mad and carried on<br />

building for the next six centuries. The nave<br />

is a tour de force of southern Gothic, where<br />

width rather than height was a thing: its 22.2m<br />

single span nave is surpassed only by Girona’s<br />

Cathedral (22.98m).<br />

Walk along Avenue de Pont to see Mirepoix’s<br />

other monument historique: an 800-year-old<br />

holm oak, last survivor of the forest chopped<br />

down to re-build the 13 th century town.<br />

Even older is the remarkable three storey<br />

Église Rupestre de Vals, 12km west of<br />

Mirepoix. Partially built into the rock, a holy<br />

site since the Bronze Age and once a temple<br />

to a Celtic god, its mid-level is decorated 12 th<br />

century Catalan frescoes. There’s no place in<br />

France like it.<br />

Mirepoix © Stephane Meurisse Ariege Pyreness Tourism<br />

'Real' South of France Tours<br />






realsouthoffrancetours.fr<br />

And the Mirepoix?<br />

One of the last dukes, Gaston Pierre de<br />

Lévis-Mirepoix (1699-1757) despite being<br />

“an incompetent and mediocre individual...<br />

who owed his vast fortune to the affection<br />

Louis XV felt toward his wife,” had a chef<br />

who invented a sauce and named it after his<br />

boss. The original version included wine and<br />

meats, but over the decades mirepoix simply<br />

came to mean the diced carrots, onions<br />

and celery that you sauté to start dozens of<br />

sauces, soups and stews.<br />

Dana Facaros has lived in France for over<br />

30 years. She is the creator of French<br />

Food Decoder app: everything you want to<br />

know about French food, and co-author of<br />

the Bradt guide to Gascony & the Pyrenees.<br />

Find out more about Mirepoix at:<br />

ariegepyrenees.com<br />

64 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 65

On the<br />


Gillian Thornton explores the shoreline around Brittany’s Baie de Quiberon.<br />

Cote Sauvage, Quiberon peninsula<br />

liberally sprinkled across Brittany but nowhere<br />

is there anything to rival Les Alignements at<br />

Carnac, a short hop inland from the seashore.<br />

Think menhirs. Lots and lots of menhirs. To<br />

save you counting, there are more than 3000<br />

of these ancient monuments, the majority<br />

grouped in four clusters of serried lines that<br />

stretch for 4 km and cover 40 hectares.<br />

Impressive from any angle.<br />

Standing stones<br />

Saint-Pierre Quiberon<br />

For an area that takes up a relatively modest<br />

stretch of Brittany’s south coast, the Baie<br />

de Quiberon boasts some pretty powerful<br />

statistics. As the seagull flies, it’s barely 30 km<br />

from the mouth of the Etel river in the west to<br />

Pointe Kerpenhir in the east, but the shoreline<br />

of this captivating area stretches for an<br />

impressive 360 km around inlets and islands,<br />

river banks and ocean shores.<br />

Numbering just 24 communes, the Baie de<br />

Quiberon boasts 50 sandy beaches, 25 km<br />

of dunes, and 15 km of wild sea coast, whilst<br />

inland, its lush, wooded interior is crisscrossed<br />

by cycle tracks, walking trails and<br />

bridleways. An outdoor playground, whatever<br />

your chosen activity.<br />

But there’s another side to this idyllic corner<br />

of the Morbihan. Prehistoric monuments are<br />

Auray Morbihan<br />

I bag my first menhirs during a guided tour by<br />

e-bike from Carnac where I collect my two<br />

wheels from bike hire company A Bicyclette<br />

and meet up with genial guide Alexandre<br />

from Mobilboard. Following dedicated cycle<br />

tracks and the occasional quiet lane, we<br />

make regular stops along the five sandy<br />

beaches of stylish Carnac-Plage and on<br />

around the headland to the smart marina at<br />

La Trinité-sur-Mer.<br />

Then we loop inland and follow an off-road<br />

track into sun-dappled woodland where a<br />

line of menhirs borders the path at regular<br />

intervals. It’s surprisingly humbling to touch<br />

stones older than Stonehenge that were put<br />

here by Neolithic settlers some 6,000 years<br />

66 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 67

or many people at different times? Theories<br />

and legends abound.<br />

A public footpath runs around the perimeter<br />

fence or you can join a motorised tour of<br />

the complete site, but the only way you<br />

can walk amongst the Ménec alignments is<br />

on one of the excellent pre-booked tours.<br />

One theory we learn is that the stones were<br />

placed here as a warning to invaders from<br />

the sea, in an era when the shoreline was<br />

closer than it is now. But secretly, I hope we<br />

never find out and the megaliths keep their<br />

air of mystery.<br />

Megaliths, La Trinite sur Mer<br />

Menec alignments, Carnac<br />

ago. And to come across a single giant stone<br />

in the trees, the 6-metre Géant de Manio,<br />

near the Kerlescan alignments. But there’s<br />

more to come. From the top of a restored<br />

windmill beyond the wood, we enjoy a highlevel<br />

view over the 1029 menhirs of the<br />

Kermario alignments, before finishing our<br />

tour at Saint-Michel Chapel, perched on an<br />

ancient burial mound 12 metres high.<br />

I’m staying over in Carnac at Hôtel La Licorne<br />

a short walk from the chic boutiques and<br />

bustling restaurants of the town centre, where<br />

I soak up the atmosphere and mull over my<br />

day from a terrace table at La Sultana.<br />

Next morning, I head to the Maison des<br />

Megalithes beside the Ménec alignments<br />

for an overview of these enigmatic stones,<br />

currently part of an application for UNESCO<br />

World Heritage status that includes Brittany’s<br />

wider prehistoric monuments. Carnac still<br />

poses a wealth of unanswered questions. What<br />

were the stones actually for? Were they put<br />

here by one group of people at the same time<br />

Water all around<br />

Next day, I enjoy a tranquil walk from<br />

La Licorne through country lanes to<br />

the headland overlooking the Quiberon<br />

Peninsula. Named after the seaside town at<br />

its tip, the Presqu’Ile de Quiberon is pretty<br />

impressive as peninsulas go, so narrow at one<br />

point that you can see both sides at once.<br />

Cottages and Classics<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 />

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

Etel river cruise<br />

Oyster beds looking towards Quiberon peninsula<br />

Atlantic sunset from Hotel des Deux Mers<br />

South of Penthièvre, it fattens out sufficiently<br />

to accommodate holiday homes, walking<br />

trails and quiet beaches, as well as a<br />

peak-season railway, Le Tire Bouchon or<br />

‘corkscrew’, which avoids the single road<br />

leading to Quiberon and all points seawards.<br />

Activity cranks up considerably in this upbeat<br />

little seaside town in summer as passengers<br />

flock to ferries for the popular holiday<br />

island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer and its smaller<br />

neighbours, Houat and Hoedic.<br />

I want to enjoy the wilder Côte Sauvage on<br />

the Atlantic side of the peninsula so I stay at<br />

the charming Hôtel des Deux Mers nestled<br />

in pine trees at Saint-Pierre-Quiberon. After<br />

a relaxed evening at Les Canailles, a barguingette<br />

in the village centre, I watch the<br />

sun set over the ocean and next morning walk<br />

the tide-washed sand before breakfast. An<br />

enchanting way to start and finish any day.<br />

In glorious summer sunshine, I could easily<br />

spend a few days exploring the area. The<br />

medieval town of Auray and the nearby<br />

river port of Saint-Goustan; Europe’s largest<br />

menhir at Locmariaquer beside the Golfe<br />

du Morbihan; and the ‘wild dunes’ from<br />

Gâvres to Quiberon, largest natural area on<br />

the Breton coast and classified Grand Site<br />

de France.<br />

But with limited time, I choose to explore the<br />

liquid thoroughfare that divides the Baie de<br />

Quiberon from Lorient to the west. Technically<br />

it’s a ria – or drowned river bed – stretching<br />

inland for 22 km but locals refer to the<br />

Etel river. Pick up one of the regular cruise<br />

excursions with Navix from the fishing port<br />

of Etel to see historic waterside communities<br />

such as Saint-Cado and experience tranquil<br />

creeks, salt marshes, and dramatic currents.<br />

A different kind of magic in an area already<br />

infused with myth and mystery.<br />

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70 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 71

Cyrano de Bergerac statue in the town centre<br />

© Pays de Bergerac Tourisme<br />

BERGERAC –<br />

secret Dordogne<br />

Even if you can’t pinpoint it on a map, the<br />

town of Bergerac will almost certainly sound<br />

familiar. Standing amongst the vineyards of<br />

south-west France, this bustling community of<br />

around 27,000 people is the second largest<br />

town in the department of Dordogne after<br />

Perigueux. But Bergerac’s biggest claim to<br />

fame is through a man with only a distant<br />

connection to the town.<br />

Parisian by birth, 17 th century novelist and<br />

playwright Hercule Savinien de Cyrano grew<br />

up on a family estate outside Paris, given<br />

to its original owner by King Charles VI for<br />

his contribution in capturing Bergerac from<br />

the English. So, when young Hercule joined<br />

the Gascon Musketeers, he bracketed ‘de<br />

Bergerac’ to his family name as something of<br />

a personal statement. After a brief military<br />

career, Cyrano de Bergerac led a short but<br />

colourful life as part of the libertine movement<br />

of literature, dying in an accident in Paris in<br />

1655 aged just 36.<br />

And there the story might have ended, had it<br />

not been for a play written nearly 250 years<br />

later. In 1897, Edmond Rostand created a<br />

work of fiction loosely based on Cyrano, but<br />

portraying him as a gifted Gascon poet with a<br />

very large nose, who secretly loves his cousin<br />

© Pays de Bergerac Tourisme<br />

Roxane but believes he is unattractive to<br />

women. The story of how Cyrano woos her<br />

with his poetry on behalf of a friend has<br />

been acted out on stage, television and<br />

cinema screens ever since. And today you<br />

can admire his facial physique in two statues<br />

that grace the Art & History town that<br />

shares his name.<br />

Bergerac’s historic quarter is a pleasant<br />

place to while away a few hours with its<br />

ancient streets and bustling marketplace.<br />

Or maybe take a boat trip in a traditional<br />

Dordogne barge or gabarre. First-time<br />

visitors are also surprised to find France’s<br />

only Tobacco Museum, a discovery centre for a<br />

plant once widely grown in the area.<br />

But the surrounding area is packed with interest<br />

too, from heritage towns to lush countryside,<br />

riverside walks to some of France’s Most<br />

Beautiful Villages. And if you have even a<br />

passing interest in wine, you can soak up the<br />

vineyard atmosphere first hand with a stay at<br />

Chateau Masburel, west of Bergerac near the<br />

village of Fougueyrolles.<br />

Bergerac lies in the area known as Purple<br />

Périgord, a land of vineyards that morphs into<br />

the Bordeaux region. Successive owners at<br />

Chateau Masburel have produced wine here<br />

since 1740 when both chateau and vineyard<br />

were planted by a Consul to King Louis XV. Over<br />

the centuries, the vineyard became established<br />

within the Montravel appellation, whose chief<br />

function is to produce the top Bergerac wines<br />

grand crus. Exclusively producing both sweet<br />

and dry white wines until 200l, Montravel also<br />

now includes excellent red vintages.<br />

Today the vines at Chateau Masburel are in<br />

the capable hands of Chris Walker and Irma<br />

Lazickiene who also welcome guests to their<br />

72 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 73

Chateau de Masburel<br />

four themed bedrooms, each with en-suite<br />

and vineyard views, as well as to the Tapestry<br />

Gîte, separate from the main chateau with<br />

two luxury bedrooms. Stay on site and you<br />

can tour the 19 hectares of vineyards, taste<br />

the vintages and buy from the vineyard shop at<br />

your leisure.<br />

Whether you love wine, history, or just the<br />

irresistible pull of ancient stones, Chateau<br />

Masburel makes a great base for a holiday in<br />

the Dordogne and surrounding area. Take a<br />

40-minute drive west to Saint-Emilion, another<br />

iconic name known across the wine-drinking<br />

world. This enchanting town tumbles down<br />

a steep hillside in a maze of historic streets.<br />

Don’t miss the monolithic church hewn out of<br />

the rock in the 12 th century, the Romanesque<br />

keep, or the Cordeliers cloister. And don’t<br />

leave without tasting the town’s signature<br />

macaroons made with ground almonds. Oh,<br />

and the famous red wine of course!<br />

If you can’t resist a historic village, there are<br />

three within 90 minutes of Masburel that are<br />

classified amongst Les Plus Beaux Villages de<br />

France. Closest is Monpazier, just over an hour<br />

to the south. Founded in 1284 by King Edward<br />

I of England, this medieval fortified town still<br />

retains its arcaded central square and original<br />

grid street pattern.<br />

Nearby Belvès dominates the verdant valley<br />

of the Nauze river and offers panoramic views<br />

over the Périgord Noir region. Besieged seven<br />

times by English soldiers during the Hundred<br />

Years War and by Protestant forces in the<br />

Wars of religion, Belvès still boasts troglodyte<br />

cave dwellings and fine buildings from the<br />

Middle Ages and Renaissance.<br />

Also listed amongst Les Plus Beaux Villages<br />

is Limeuil at the junction of the Dordogne<br />

and Vézère rivers, once a trading centre that<br />

bustled with the comings and goings of barges<br />

and boatmen. Walk up to the panoramic<br />

themed gardens of the castle park and don’t<br />

miss the frescoes at Chapelle Saint-Martin,<br />

one of the most beautiful Romanesque<br />

chapels in the Périgord.<br />

Chief town of the Dordogne department and<br />

capital of the White Périgord, Périgueux is<br />

Chris Walker and Irma Lazickiene<br />

Discover France Like Never Before<br />

I N D U L G E I N T H E<br />

E X T R A O R D I N A R Y<br />

g l o b a l t r a v e l m o m e n t s . c o m<br />


74 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 75

© Pays de Bergerac Tourisme<br />

around an hour’s drive north of the Masburel<br />

domaine and a definite must-do. Dominating<br />

the town is the UNESCO-listed cathedral of St<br />

Front, embellished with domes and minarets,<br />

and restored in the 19 th century by Paul Abadie<br />

who later used it as a model for the Sacré<br />

Coeur in Montmartre. Today Saint-Front is still<br />

an important stopping point on the pilgrims’<br />

route to Santiago de Compostela.<br />

The town retains many timber-framed houses<br />

and fortified properties from the Middle Ages<br />

and the historic centre includes a cobbled<br />

artisan district that is home to bookbinders,<br />

blacksmiths and many other traditional trades.<br />

But visitors can step back even further in time<br />

at Vesunna, the remains of a large Gallo-<br />

Roman villa right in the heart of town, that are<br />

now protected by a glass building designed by<br />

architect Jean-Nouvel.<br />

And if Périgueux whets your appetite for an<br />

urban fix, head off in the other direction to<br />

Bordeaux, a journey of less than 90 minutes<br />

whether you drive or take the train. Highlights<br />

include a vast water mirror reflecting elegant<br />

facades and changing skies; Cité du Vin, an<br />

Bergerac<br />

interactive centre showcasing wines from<br />

across the world; and a wealth of restaurants,<br />

boutiques and museums.<br />

But the lure of the vineyards and valleys,<br />

the water and woodland of Dordogne<br />

will eventually pull you back out to the<br />

countryside. And what better way to end a<br />

day of discovery than with a glass of Bergerac<br />

wine and a view of the vineyards? Santé!<br />

Find more info at: Chateau-masburel.com;<br />

pays-bergerac-tourisme.com/en<br />

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76 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 77

Rosa Bonheur - an<br />

artist remembered<br />

If you were to ask who the most famous, highly<br />

paid artist of the 19th century was in France,<br />

the names Ingres, Manet, Monet, Renoir,<br />

Degas, Cézanne and Van Gogh would most<br />

likely be cited by most people. And they’d all<br />

be wrong. It was a female animal portraitist,<br />

Rosa Bonheur who held the no. 1 position.<br />

However, she fell into complete oblivion in the<br />

20th century. Christina Mackenzie explores<br />

Rosa Bonheur’s extraordinary story – and how<br />

her art is being found by a new audience…<br />

Rosa Bonheur’s resuscitation as an artist over<br />

the past five years is entirely due to Katherine<br />

Brault and her family, who have single-handedly<br />

put the forgotten painter firmly back in the<br />

limelight. They didn’t set out to do so, but Brault,<br />

who had not heard of the artist previously,<br />

stumbled across Bonheur’s former home, the<br />

Château de By, whilst house-hunting in the<br />

Seine-et-Marne department. Returning Bonheur<br />

to her deserved place amongst the 19th century’s<br />

greatest artists has become her life’s work.<br />

The Château de By sits upstream from Paris<br />

atop the banks of the river Seine in the small<br />

town of Thomery. Thanks to Brault and her<br />

daughters, the château is now not only the<br />

Brault family home and the Rosa Bonheur<br />

museum, but also a very nice tea-room and<br />

guesthouse.<br />

Brault, nominated as one of the 100 Women<br />

of Culture 2022, is a native of Fontainebleau,<br />

some seven kilometres west of Thomery.<br />

In 2014, after working in communications,<br />

gastronomy, and coaching visual artists, Brault<br />

decided to return to her hometown in the<br />

wake of a divorce and establish “a cosy, multifunctional<br />

guest-house in a large 18th century<br />

house.” No such house was on the market, so<br />

an estate agent suggested she encompass<br />

78 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 79

The very large painting<br />

hangs in the Metropolitan<br />

Museum of Art in New York<br />

while a smaller version<br />

is held by the National<br />

Gallery in London.<br />

When the animals died,<br />

Bonheur had them stuffed<br />

and mounted so they stayed<br />

with her on the walls from<br />

where they still glassily stare<br />

down at visitors!<br />

the 19th century and visit the Château de<br />

By which had been on the market with all its<br />

contents for 10 years.<br />

“It was way too expensive for me: €3.5<br />

million! My budget was €1.5 million,” Brault<br />

laughs. But the estate agent told her the sale<br />

price was “widely negotiable” and then left her<br />

alone to wander around the property for three<br />

hours. Despite the dust and cobwebs she fell<br />

in love with it. In the artist’s studio, she recalls<br />

finding herself “in front of the large portrait of<br />

Rosa Bonheur and having the impression she<br />

was laughing at me, as if to say ‘Ha! Here you<br />

are at last!’”<br />

The studio was almost exactly as it was in<br />

1899 when Bonheur died. The château’s<br />

two owners, brothers, only came for a few<br />

weekends and holidays to undertake repairs<br />

and do a bit of maintenance. The house had<br />

cost them their marriages and vast sums of<br />

money. They were so delighted that Brault<br />

was interested that they reduced the price by<br />

€1 million!<br />

Brault struggled for three years seeking<br />

subsidies, bank loans and partners for the<br />

rest of the money. Eventually she was able to<br />

buy everything except the items exhibited in<br />

the house. She paid rent for them to the two<br />

brothers for three years until an arrangement<br />

was reached with the Seine-et-Marne<br />

department who bought them for €400,000.<br />

The museum opened on June 1, 2018.<br />

Brault’s hard work and tenacity resulted in her<br />

wining funding from the Loto du Patrimoine, a<br />

project managed by French journalist Stéphane<br />

Bern. On 20 Sept. 2019, President Emmanuel<br />

Macron and his wife Brigitte (wearing trousers<br />

in honour of Bonheur’s special dispensation<br />

necessary in the 19th century to allow her<br />

to wear them in public instead of a dress!),<br />

accompanied by Bern, came to the château<br />

with a cheque for €500,000. The award<br />

enabled Brault to repair parts of the roof, the<br />

facade of Bonheur’s studio, various beams, the<br />

dovecote on the roof and the winter garden<br />

whose structure was designed by none other<br />

than Gustave Eiffel!<br />

Meanwhile the attics full of notebooks,<br />

sketches, animal skins and spiders are slowly<br />

revealing their secrets. Amongst the most<br />

significant was a large canvas rolled up in the<br />

dust which turned out to be the first version of<br />

Bonheur’s most famous work “The Horse Fair”.<br />

Marie-Rosalie Bonheur was<br />

born on 16 March 1822,<br />

in Bordeaux to Sophie<br />

Dublan de Lahet (known<br />

as Marquis) and Raymond<br />

Bonheur, an artist. The<br />

eldest and most talented of four siblings who all<br />

became artists (Auguste and Juliette, painters,<br />

and Isidore, a sculptor), she was taught by her<br />

father. But when she was 10, he joined the<br />

Saint-Simoniens movement (a sort of utopian<br />

socialism, a movement which influenced Karl<br />

Marx), leaving his family penniless. Sophie died<br />

of exhaustion in 1833 aged just 36. She was<br />

buried in the paupers’ grave in Montmartre<br />

cemetery. Her death had a considerable<br />

influence on the life of her daughter, whom she<br />

affectionately called Rosa.<br />

Bonheur was convinced animals have a soul.<br />

She studied animal anatomy by attending<br />

cattle fairs and visiting slaughterhouses. But<br />

her presence amongst cattle drovers and<br />

butchers led to much ribaldry and vulgarity<br />

so she asked for a special permit to wear<br />

trousers. The French law forbidding women<br />

from wearing trousers was only lifted in 2013,<br />

even if nobody had abided by it for years!<br />

Brault has not found “a single pair of trousers”<br />

amongst Bonheur’s things in the Château, but<br />

has found countless dresses and skirts.<br />

Bonheur was able to live very comfortably<br />

from her earnings as an artist. She bought the<br />

Château de By, which borders Fontainebleau<br />

forest, with the proceeds from just one sale:<br />

40,000 francs (€80,000) for “The Horse<br />

Fair” which sold again during her lifetime<br />

for 208,000 francs the equivalent today of<br />

€416,000!<br />

Bonheur turned the Chateau into quite the zoo,<br />

keeping a wide range of animals from sheep<br />

and eagles to a couple of lions and a parrot.<br />

Another of Bonheur’s<br />

precious possessions still<br />

in the Château is an outfit<br />

gifted to her by Buffalo Bill<br />

who spent six months in<br />

Paris in 1889 with his Wild<br />

West show at the World Fair. Bonheur wanted<br />

to meet him so he could tell her how to train<br />

the two Mustang horses she’d been given by a<br />

wealthy American, and to introduce her to his<br />

bisons. She spoke no English, so an interpreter<br />

was found - Anna Klumpke, a 33-yearold<br />

American portraitist who lived in Paris.<br />

Following their meeting, the two women kept<br />

in touch and in 1898 at the age of 76, Bonheur<br />

agreed to let Klumpke paint her portrait.<br />

Klumpke temporarily moved to the château to<br />

work on the portrait and ended up also writing<br />

Bonheur’s memoirs.<br />

Bonheur died May 25, 1899. Klumpke inherited<br />

everything and left Bonheur’s studio as it was.<br />

Even the cigarette butts are still there!<br />

The Brault family are restoring the Château de<br />

By in such a way that were Rosa Bonheur to<br />

return she would find her paints, paintbrushes,<br />

and apron almost exactly where she left them<br />

124 years ago.<br />

You can book a guided tour of the Museum<br />

Rosa Bonheur at: chateau-rosa-bonheur.fr<br />

80 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 81

Beautiful, bucolic,<br />

vine-blessed<br />


North of Lyon and south of Burgundy lies<br />

Beaujolais, an area whose name everyone<br />

knows but very few have visited. A secret<br />

place of hills and vineyards, of ancient gold<br />

stone-coloured villages where the local<br />

bistro serving the sort of grub that warms the<br />

cockles of your heart is at the centre of daily<br />

life, and where Romanesque style churches<br />

and majestic castles dot the landscape.<br />

Famous the world over for its Beaujolais<br />

Nouveau wine, it’s a part of France that the<br />

French know about, and the rest of us don’t –<br />

but should, says Janine Marsh.<br />

Beaujolais, in the Rhone-Alpes region, is<br />

around 34 miles long and 9 miles wide at its<br />

widest point and almost half of it is covered<br />

in vines. Much of the rest is either pasture or<br />

forest, a land of hills packed tightly together<br />

giving it the nickname “little Switzerland”<br />

for its alpine feel. It is almost a secret place,<br />

unspoiled and uncrowded.<br />

The young world-famous Beaujolais<br />

Nouveau is just one small part of the local<br />

wine story - vines were planted here long<br />

before the Romans arrived. And one of the<br />

most fascinating places to find out more, is<br />

the wine theme park Hameau Duboeuf at<br />

Romanèche-Thorins. Yes, you read that right.<br />

A theme park dedicated to wine. And if you<br />

think that doesn’t sound like fun – you could<br />

not be more wrong. It’s unique, fascinating<br />

and fun for all the family. It was created by<br />

Georges Duboeuf, the greatest wine merchant<br />

in Beaujolais, possibly in France and the man<br />

who put Beaujolais Nouveau on the world’s<br />

wine map. Released on the third Thursday<br />

of November each year, it might make a big<br />

splash, but it’s not what Beaujolais is all about.<br />

The non-nouveau wines are nothing like their<br />

younger family member, they range from soft<br />

and fresh to rich, robust and magnificent.<br />

Hameau Duboeuf is no ordinary theme park.<br />

A friend had told me that he stumbled across<br />

this place, “we arrived at 9am. I thought I’d<br />

be there an hour, I’m not really into wine<br />

museums - we were still there at 6pm. It’s that<br />

good.” Well, he’s not wrong and in fact it’s<br />

even better now following the opening in 2023<br />

© Inter Beaujolais, Floriane Tanneur<br />

The train carriage of Napoleon III, Hameau Duboeuf<br />

82 Château | The de Good Jarnioux Life © France François De Clavière<br />

The Good Life France | 83

Route des Vins Photo © Etienne Ramousse, Destination Beaujolais<br />

of a new exhibition in the old train station<br />

opposite. Having acquired a coach belonging<br />

to the Emperor Napoleon III (born 1808, died<br />

1873) the theme park management reimagined<br />

the 1855 meeting of Queen Victoria of Great<br />

Britain and Napoleon III of France at the famed<br />

Entente Cordiale meeting. But in the Hameau<br />

Duboeuf scenario, it features an enchanting<br />

train journey where of course everyone drinks<br />

Beaujolais wine! In the ancient ticket office,<br />

a costumed station master leads you through<br />

a curtained entrance to see the train and<br />

experience … well to be honest it’s hard to<br />

find the words to describe it – a musical, visual<br />

extravaganza that recalls the famous meeting<br />

with a spectacular sound and light show that<br />

features fireworks and singing statues. It’s a bit<br />

like stepping into the wardrobe of Narnia and<br />

finding yourself in an enchanted world.<br />

I promise you won’t have been to any wine<br />

museum quite like this. There is a vast collection<br />

of wine paraphernalia going back centuries.<br />

Mannequins are based on real people. There<br />

are films, music, interactive displays – I loved<br />

the simulated ride over the vineyards in the<br />

company of bumble bees, quite bonkers but it<br />

leaves you grinning. There’s a superb restaurant,<br />

gardens and mini-golf. And a fabulous wine<br />

Tasting bar and restaurant at Hameau Duboeuf<br />

tasting area that looks like a Belle Époque train<br />

station. I tried several wines as I listened to<br />

the knowledgeable sommeliers talk about the<br />

Gamay grape that’s prominent in Beaujolais,<br />

and how the wine is matured in barrels which<br />

are then sold on to Cognac and whisky makers.<br />

For a quite different wine tasting, head to<br />

nearby Maison Jean Loron where they’ve<br />

been making wine since 1771. Book a<br />

wine tasting tour in English at least 24h<br />

in advance, and you will dive deep into<br />

the process of wine making. 6 oenologists<br />

blend and analyse wines on site, and if<br />

you’re really into wine, you can do a private<br />

workshop with them. In the ancient cellar<br />

are 40 vintages, and you can taste wine<br />

direct from the barrel. Sophie the guide, is<br />

a fountain of knowledge and answered my<br />

many questions with patience: ‘why does this<br />

taste peppery?” – the barrels! ‘What should<br />

I drink with chocolate?’ Sweet red wine. All<br />

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84 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 85

Beaujonomie at Bistrot Beaujolais in Theizé<br />

Secret courtyard in Villefrhance-sur-Saone<br />

By this stage<br />

I was a total<br />

Beaujolais<br />

fan, blown<br />

away by the<br />

soft reds,<br />

the delicious<br />

whites, the<br />

rare rosés.<br />

94% of<br />

the wine<br />

produced in<br />

Beaujolais<br />

is red, 4%<br />

white wine<br />

2% rose.<br />

The area<br />

is also<br />

famous for<br />

lemonade,<br />

chestnut<br />

liqueur,<br />

and orange<br />

liqueur.<br />

Travel the<br />

140km Beaujolais wine route and you’ll enjoy<br />

some of the finest wines ever made including<br />

10 crus (high quality), the most spectacular<br />

scenery, welcoming villages and sensational<br />

food.<br />

Beaujolais sits on the Vallée de la<br />

Gastronomie, a 640km foodie route from<br />

the north to the south of France. Pretty much<br />

every village in Beaujolais boasts a bistro<br />

where you’ll be fed like a lord, and where it<br />

feels like everything is cooked in wine – from<br />

poultry to peas and pears! The locals call their<br />

delicious cuisine ‘beaujonomie.’<br />

I loved Bistro Beaujolais in the charming<br />

village of Theizé, a warm welcome is assured,<br />

along with a fabulous glass of wine and gutbusting<br />

dishes that make your soul soar.<br />

Peppered with beautifully preserved medieval<br />

chateaux and churches the Pays Beaujolais<br />

countryside is green and rolling, dotted with<br />

perched villages. To the south, the area is<br />

known as Pierres Dorées (golden stone),<br />

86 | The Good Life France 87 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 87

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reflecting the use of local ferrous stone in 39<br />

villages, it turns from pale gold at dawn to a<br />

rich apricot colour as the sun dips. Don’t miss<br />

a visit to Oignt, officially one of the prettiest<br />

villages in France with narrow cobbled<br />

streets dripping with flowers, dozens of artists<br />

workshops, cosy bars, beautiful houses, and<br />

a stonking view over the countryside. There’s<br />

also a fascinating music museum filled with<br />

music boxes and hurdy gurdies – a sort of 19th<br />

century juke box, including the coin-operated<br />

type that was in almost every French train<br />

station by the late 1800s!<br />

Bustling Villefranche-sur-Saône, the<br />

administrative capital of Beaujolais, is home<br />

to one of France’s oldest markets held since<br />

the 12th century (Mondays). Take a guided<br />

tour, or an interactive audio guide and map<br />

from the tourist office which you’ll find nestled<br />

in an ancient courtyard, and mooch along rue<br />

Nationale finding secret buttons you can push<br />

to enter into private courtyards to see the<br />

ancient mansions.<br />

Wherever you go, you’ll discover more gems,<br />

Beaujeu, the historic capital of Beaujolais,<br />

Vaux-en-Beaujolais, the inspiration for Gabriel<br />

Theizé<br />

Chevallier’s famous novel Clochemerle, and<br />

Chateau de la Chaize, built by the brother<br />

of Louis XIV’s Confessor, home to the largest<br />

vaulted wine caves in the region. In Beaujolais<br />

it always goes back to the wine, just as it has<br />

for hundreds of years.<br />

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88 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 89

Pickled in the past<br />

CAHORS<br />

is full of charm<br />

Gillian Thornton visits Cahors in the Lot Valley on her trip through the<br />

heart of Occitanie<br />

Any walker who follows one of the French<br />

pilgrim trails to Santiago de Compostela in<br />

Spain is guaranteed a heady mix of natural<br />

landscapes and beautiful buildings. But few<br />

can compete with the Pont Valentré that<br />

spans the river Lot at Cahors.<br />

A major landmark on the Via Podensis from<br />

Le Puy-en-Velay in Auvergne, this medieval<br />

bridge with its three defensive towers is a<br />

wow from any angle, but especially when<br />

reflected in still blue water. Open to traffic<br />

until 1983, Pont Valentré is now purely<br />

pedestrian and wherever I stand, I simply<br />

can’t resist another photo.<br />

North-west of Toulouse in the Occitanie region<br />

of South-West France, Cahors is the principal<br />

town of the Lot department, surrounded on<br />

three sides by steep hills and nestled inside<br />

one of the many tight meanders carved out of<br />

the landscape over the centuries.<br />

The native Gauls worshipped Divona, goddess<br />

of underground water, at a gushing spring<br />

here beside the Lot – a site now known as<br />

the Fontaine des Chartreux – but it was the<br />

Romans who founded the town of Divona<br />

within the meander where three roads met.<br />

Arrive by road today and Cahors is an ideal<br />

base for exploring the beautiful Lot Valley. Or<br />

take the train from Toulouse in less than 90<br />

minutes, just one of many route options on<br />

the Occitanie Rail Tour. Whatever your mode<br />

of transport, the family-run Hotel Terminus<br />

Oldest house in Cahors, 12th century<br />

90 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 91

is well situated opposite the station and just<br />

ten minutes’ walk from the historic old town.<br />

Expect Art Nouveau stained glass, traditional<br />

atmosphere, and seasonal dishes in the<br />

Bistro 1911.<br />

I start by picking up a free map at the Tourist<br />

Office in Place Mitterand, separated from<br />

the historic Old Town by Boulevard Léon<br />

Gambetta, a broad thoroughfare on the line<br />

of the medieval ramparts. Gambetta’s father<br />

ran a grocery shop beside the Cathedral<br />

and young Léon, born in 1838, went on to<br />

become a lawyer and republican politician<br />

who played a prominent role in the Third<br />

Republic from 1870.<br />

Next door to the Tourist Office, the Cahors<br />

Malbec Lounge is the go-to spot for<br />

understanding the Lot Valley’s famous wines.<br />

Not just red, I discover, but white, rose and<br />

sparkling too, served here in traditional local<br />

glasses that incorporate a ring of glass in the<br />

stem. Choose from four tasting options from 6<br />

to 16 euros per person.<br />

Guilhem, my wine guide, explains that of the<br />

70 domaines and 180 wine makers within<br />

Appelation Lot, 80% are independent, the<br />

others part of a co-operative. And whilst the<br />

grapes are mostly Malbec, blends can include<br />

up to 30% of other local varieties. The Malbec<br />

Lounge showcases up to six domaines each<br />

week to help visitors find their favourite and<br />

maybe book a vineyard visit.<br />

Tasting over, I turn my back on the Old Town for<br />

a while and head west for the short walk across<br />

the isthmus to Pont Valentré, built – very slowly<br />

– in the 13 th Century close to the Fontaine<br />

des Chartreux. With its six arches and three<br />

imposing towers, this unique medieval bridge<br />

is listed by UNESCO as part of the Routes of<br />

Santiago de Compostela in France.<br />

On a small grassy bank beside the first tower,<br />

I’m surprised to find rows of vines that turn<br />

out to be more than just an advertisement<br />

for the area’s liquid treasure. ‘The Garden of<br />

Inebriation’ is the start of the town’s Secret<br />

Gardens itinerary, a self-guided trail of 21<br />

themed plots that are an intrinsic part of<br />

Cathedral, Cahors<br />

Le Jardin Mauresque– Moorish 'Secret Garden<br />

Henri Martin/ Vignes en automne © City of Cahors, A Laoudouar<br />

Henri Martin/ La Bastide © City of Cahors, A Laoudouar<br />

local life. Launched in 2002, they gained<br />

Remarkable Garden status in 2006 and are<br />

maintained on eco-friendly principles. Organic<br />

matter is recycled; beds regularly mulched;<br />

and plants chosen for their suitability to<br />

climate and soil. Pick up the free annotated<br />

trail guide.<br />

After the fall of the Roman Empire, Divona<br />

retreated to land on the eastern side of the<br />

isthmus. Enclosed with a ditch and ramparts<br />

in the 7 th century, the town grew steadily in<br />

importance thanks to its road and river trade<br />

links, attracting merchants, bankers and<br />

medieval entrepreneurs. Stroll today through<br />

the heart of the historic town and you can<br />

still see their imposing houses with arcades<br />

for shops and workshops at street level and<br />

elegant windows above, the accolade of oldest<br />

property in town going to the half-timbered<br />

corner house at 12 Rue de la Daurade.<br />

The nearby Cathedral of St Stephen boasts<br />

two of the largest cupolas in south-west<br />

France and an ornate carved tympanum as<br />

well as vestiges of medieval wall paintings.<br />

And I find several Secret Gardens nearby<br />

including a colourful Moorish Garden with its<br />

bright mosaics and running water; the raised<br />

beds of the Monks’ Kitchen Garden; and<br />

the Flower Garden providing altar flowers<br />

for the Cathedral. For an allergy-friendly<br />

restaurant with a different menu every day, try<br />

Restaurant Marie Colline nearby.<br />

I have another treat in store before leaving<br />

Cahors. Crossing back across Boulevard<br />

Gambetta, I come to the Henri Martin<br />

Museum, reopened in May 2022 in the former<br />

Bishop’s palace after major refurbishment.<br />

This unmissable museum is dedicated to the<br />

celebrated post-Impressionist painter, born in<br />

1860 in Toulouse and a lifelong lover of the Lot<br />

countryside. In 1900, Henri Martin bought the<br />

Domaine de Marquayrol, 23 km from Cahors<br />

where he spent five months every summer<br />

painting local scenes.<br />

The new-look museum brings together on<br />

three floors an eclectic range of exhibits<br />

acquired by the City of Cahors including<br />

92 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 93


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Saint cirq-Lapopie<br />

archaeological finds, work by artists from the<br />

Quercy region, and a collection based around<br />

Léon Gambetta. But pride of place goes<br />

to Martin himself. Visitors to Toulouse may<br />

already know his huge wall paintings inside the<br />

Capitole building, but this enchanting museum<br />

boasts the largest public collection of his<br />

works, amongst them scenes of Cahors and<br />

the Lot Valley.<br />

Inspired by Martin’s paintings, I need no<br />

further excuse to head east along the river<br />

for a welcome return to one of his favourite<br />

subjects. St Cirq Lapopie is classified amongst<br />

France’s Most Beautiful Villages, named after<br />

the child martyr Saint Cyr and one of the<br />

three feudal families who administered the<br />

village. No car? Catch the bus linking Cahors<br />

with Figeac and walk up to the village perched<br />

high above the Lot.<br />

St-Cirq-Lapopie buzzes by day with visitors<br />

come to browse the small galleries, eat at the<br />

restaurants, and just soak up the medieval<br />

atmosphere of houses from the 13 th to 15 th<br />

Centuries. But only a couple of dozen people<br />

live permanently in the steep cobbled streets<br />

that lead to the ruined hilltop chateau. Book a<br />

room and you can have the village to yourself.<br />

Maison Lapopie, foreground left, at St Cirq Lapopie<br />

I dine on delicious confit duck leg at the<br />

Gourmet Quercynois, rightly popular for its<br />

authentic regional cuisine, and stay in a huge<br />

room with valley views at Maison Lapopie, a<br />

delightful B&B that offers tranquillity in the<br />

extreme. The owners live off site, so your key<br />

awaits you in the door and breakfast arrives<br />

in a picnic basket to enjoy at your private<br />

window table.<br />

Next morning, I take a quiet stroll through<br />

deserted streets before heading back down to<br />

river level for a tranquil towpath walk towards<br />

Bouziès, departure point for seasonal river<br />

cruises. Then I’m back on the road for the<br />

scenic drive to Figeac and a journey back to<br />

ancient Egypt … join me there in our next issue.<br />


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94 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 95

ViaRhôna:<br />

From the<br />

Alpes to the<br />

Mediterranean<br />

© Beegoo/Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Tourisme<br />

For some, going on a journey is not just about<br />

reaching the destination. It’s about enjoying<br />

the process of the journey, the discovery of<br />

the surroundings which we find ourselves in as<br />

we move towards the destination says Amy<br />

Macpherson as she traces the path of the<br />

Rhône river through the villages and towns<br />

that line its banks, from the Alps to the sea.<br />

My journey followed the route of the<br />

ViaRhôna, one of France’s newest, still<br />

developing cycle routes which, when<br />

completed, will take explorers on a slow<br />

journey of 505 miles (813 km). The entire<br />

trip would normally take around two weeks,<br />

it was time I didn’t have. So I began at a<br />

halfway point, from the town of Vienne whose<br />

history stretches back to the Celtic period in<br />

5BC, before becoming the ancient capital of<br />

Roman Gaul, and where the mighty Empire<br />

built two amphitheatres and a forum. Today<br />

Vienne is a vibrant city which hosts one of the<br />

most popular jazz festivals in France.<br />

Before I set off, I needed supplies, bikepacking<br />

is hungry work. Vienne has a plethora<br />

of delicious bakeries and chocolateries. Try<br />

the galet du Rhône at Panel chocolaterie,<br />

a local favourite for almost a century, the<br />

hazelnut, praline and almond concoction in a<br />

nougatine shell, dipped in rich chocolate and<br />

smothered in dark chocolate powder is utterly<br />

scrumptious. And La Fromagerie Viennoise<br />

stocks delicious cheeses, perfect paired<br />

with a crispy baguette. While you’re in the<br />

city, don’t miss a visit to the Roman Temple<br />

of Augustus and the Gallo-Roman ruins at<br />

Jardin de Cybèle.<br />

Chestnut products at the market<br />

© Max-Coquard-Bestjobers Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Tourism<br />

96 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 97

The might Rhone River changes as it flows from the alpes to the sea<br />

Vineyards and ruins on the hill in Tournon sur Rhone<br />

Vineyards and farmlands dot this stretch of<br />

the ViaRhôna, and the entire way was lined<br />

with apricot trees full of lusciously ripened<br />

fruits. Arriving in Tournon-sur-Rhône in time<br />

for lunch, I stopped off at the La Péniche<br />

Slow Food Café on a barge. It is so easy to<br />

simply while away the hours gazing at the river<br />

from the café, but there’s lots to see and do<br />

in nearby Tournon St Jean. You can hop on a<br />

historic train – steam or diesel with your bike<br />

and see the stunning countryside – the Doux<br />

Valley and its gorges. Or take the market train<br />

which stops off at some of the best markets<br />

in Ardèche, fill your basket with fresh fruit,<br />

chestnuts, the local Picodon goats’ cheese<br />

and more.<br />

Le Mastrou steam train which runs between Tournon and Lamastre<br />

On a bright and sunny late <strong>Spring</strong> morning,<br />

I peddled across the river onto the official<br />

ViaRhôna path, leaving the traffic and the<br />

sounds of Vienne behind me. The fully sign<br />

posted and traffic-free greenway follows the<br />

route of the Rhône River flowing alongside.<br />

To the right is the Pilat regional nature park,<br />

treating riders to a soundtrack of birdsongs<br />

and cricket chirps among the trees that<br />

provide shade.<br />

Other than occasional cyclists or walkers,<br />

I was mostly alone. I watched the Rhône<br />

change as the light of the day moved from<br />

east to west, and by the time I reached<br />

my destination for the day, having already<br />

stopped briefly in between for a quick lunch<br />

break, the river was like a sheet of dark silvery<br />

steel. That night, I stayed in a lovely Gite in the<br />

village of Sablons and was treated to a warm<br />

welcome and a hearty home cooked feast.<br />

The Rhône is the only major river system that<br />

flows from the glacier source near Geneva,<br />

all the way to the mouth of the river at the<br />

Mediterranean Sea. Its mood changes with<br />

the environment. The next day, as I woke to<br />

the light of the morning and pushed out onto<br />

the greenway to continue after breakfast,<br />

the river had also awoken to a shade of pine<br />

green, slowly shedding its Alpine milky-blue<br />

character as it flows towards the warmer<br />

southern climate.<br />

Montelimar Photo/ G.Reynard Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Tourism<br />

Pedal across the bridge to the Tain<br />

L'Hermitage side of the river and make a<br />

beeline for the Cité du Chocolat ValRhôna<br />

museum and shop. And squeeze in a visit to<br />

the Côtes du Rhône vineyards which reach<br />

down to town’s streets. Row after row of<br />

carefully positioned Syrah, Marsannes and<br />

Roussanes vines, supported by dry stone<br />

terraces, blanket the hills that flank the river.<br />

You can hike, bike or segway your way around<br />

the vineyards or take the little tourist train up<br />

to the top for some fantastic views. Make time<br />

for a wine tasting at Maison M. Chapoutier,<br />

their 2020 Chante-Alouette white is<br />

particularly excellent!<br />

Onwards and southwards I rode, towards the<br />

sunny city of Valence, where I stayed in the<br />

cyclist friendly Hôtel Les Négociants where I<br />

was greeted like an old friend. I stayed just one<br />

night in each place I visited but, you may be<br />

tempted to linger longer. Valence’s charming<br />

gardens and buildings with history carved into<br />

their walls, its wonderful museum and fabulous<br />

wine shops will tempt you to stay, but for me it<br />

was time to set off again after a quick visit.<br />

The terrain starts to become wilder from<br />

this part, the paved greenways occasionally<br />

become compact dirt tracks. It is an uplifting<br />

journey, with sweeping views of the mighty<br />

Rhône which by now is wider and wilder,<br />

breaking off into short tributaries.<br />

Valence<br />

98 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 99

The Himalayan footbridge -la Passerelle de Rochemaure-<br />

In between bigger cities like Lyon, Valence<br />

and Avignon, there are multiple beautifully<br />

preserved historic villages that are hardly<br />

known to visitors. As I followed the itinerary, I<br />

passed the pickled-in-the-past Pouzin, pretty<br />

Baix and Montélimar, famous for its nougat.<br />

At the cute little commune of Rochemaure<br />

the route crosses the curious Himalayan-style<br />

footbridge (la Passerelle de Rochemaure).<br />

And in the evening, I reached Viviers, a quiet<br />

medieval village, and the perfect place to<br />

spend the night.<br />

Of course, even in the most well-planned<br />

journeys through the most beautiful places,<br />

there are sometimes imperfections. The<br />

next day, my final day of cycling, it rained.<br />

I contemplated the train station about five<br />

minutes ride away. I could ‘cheat’ and take<br />

the train to Avignon in Provence, my final<br />

destination. Bikes can be taken on regional<br />

French trains for free, making it easy to plan<br />

for days like this on a cycle tour. On the other<br />

hand, I was curious. I had followed the river<br />

thus far, watched it twist and change, enjoyed<br />

witnessing the life along its banks. So, with my<br />

wet weather gear on, I pushed on..<br />

And it turned out to be a great choice. Rain<br />

makes it harder to see the sights, but it brings<br />

Viviers<br />

out the fragrances of the earth. Between sleepy<br />

Lapalud and Caderousse are fields of lavender<br />

and sunflowers, their scent perfumed the air,<br />

making me forget that I was cycling in the rain.<br />

Instead, I found myself humming all the way to<br />

the Papal City, entering via the newly opened<br />

Île de la Barthelasse, a grand entrance to the<br />

end of my trip.<br />

The ViaRhôna itinerary has so many villages<br />

and towns to visit along the way, but the<br />

real highlight may be the simple pleasure of<br />

cycling alongside the majestic Rhône, through<br />

the tranquil and idyllic countryside - the joy of<br />

a true journey.<br />

Visit en.viarhona.com for further information<br />

including where to rent a bike (there are<br />

several companies along the route, cyclefriendly<br />

accommodation and heaps more.<br />

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100 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 101

Jeremy Flint visits Sarlat-la-Canéda in Dordogne and highlights the best things to<br />

see and do in the area.<br />

Sarlat © Pat Bruce<br />

Sarlat-la-Canéda –<br />

and around<br />

Sarlat © Maureen Shay Martinez<br />

The old town of Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the<br />

heart of the Périgord Noir in Southeast<br />

Dordogne, dates to Gallo-Roman times at<br />

least. But it underwent a period of growth<br />

during the Middle Ages, developing around<br />

the Cathedral Saint-Sacerdos, which is<br />

mentioned in records as early as the year<br />

1081. Today, Sarlat is one of the most beautiful<br />

preserved medieval complexes in Europe<br />

with an exceptional heritage and wealth of<br />

architectural wonders. The best way to explore<br />

the town is on foot. The 13 th century Manoir<br />

de Gisson with its elegant tower, mullioned<br />

windows, and decorative period furnishings<br />

is a good starting point. Inside you’ll discover<br />

how the bourgeoisie lived.<br />

Next, head to the Place du Marché aux Oies,<br />

where a traditional goose market used to be<br />

held, remembered in the emblematic bronze<br />

sculpture of three life-sized geese. Stroll<br />

Sarlat’s charming, cobbled streets, past inner<br />

courtyards and through picturesque squares<br />

to the Lanterne des Morts, an unusual bulletshaped<br />

stone structure. And don’t miss the<br />

Sarlat<br />

monumental Cathédrale Saint-Sacerdos,<br />

redeveloped over the centuries combining<br />

Roman and Gothic styles. It is now a listed<br />

monument and still a working church.<br />

As a regional gastronomic hub, Sarlat’s twice<br />

weekly markets (Wednesday and Saturday<br />

mornings) have served shoppers since the<br />

Middle Ages. Soak up the aromas of the<br />

product filled stalls where local seasonal<br />

delicacies like strawberries, walnuts and<br />

truffles are abundant. Visit the covered<br />

market in the former 12th century Church of<br />

Sante-Marie for yet more delicious produce.<br />

The streets are lined with fantastic<br />

restaurants, trendy bistros, traditional cafés<br />

and farmhouse inns. You will be spoiled for<br />

choice when it comes to amazing food and<br />

mouth-watering specialities such as foie<br />

gras, duck, goose and truffle. I couldn’t<br />

resist the daily lunch menu and authentic<br />

cuisine at La Couleuvrine restaurant which<br />

has been in the same family for three<br />

generations.<br />

102 | The Good Life France<br />

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What to see nearby<br />

Lascaux IV Cave<br />

30 minutes north of Sarlat in Montignac<br />

in the Vézère Valley, lies the Lascaux IV<br />

decorated cave. Entering feels like going back<br />

to prehistoric times - the paintings are breathtaking.<br />

The cave is a complete replica of a<br />

nearby original cave which was discovered<br />

in 1940 but is now closed for its protection.<br />

Lascaux IV showcases the complexity of<br />

the painted art of our ancestors who used<br />

pigments of powder from crushed stones<br />

mixed with water to create the spectacular<br />

paintings of animals. Enjoy a guided tour of<br />

the cave, the interactive digital exhibition<br />

and museum to learn how the complex<br />

multicoloured frescoes evolved. Take a break<br />

and enjoy delicious traditional cuisine at La<br />

Parenthèse, a stone’s throw from the cave.<br />

Marqueyssac Gardens<br />

Three centuries of gardening passion have<br />

made the Marqueyssac Gardens one of<br />

the most spectacular sites in Perigord<br />

Noir. There are more than 150,000 handpruned<br />

boxwoods and 6km of trails offering<br />

spectacular viewpoints. A superb early 19th<br />

Century stone-tiled chateau sits in the heart<br />

of the gardens. Stroll the pathways and<br />

be wowed by magnificent views over the<br />

Dordogne valley, as you gaze upon centuries<br />

of history, hilltop castles, landscapes and<br />

villages located on either side of one of<br />

Europe’s most beautiful rivers. Visitors can<br />

enjoy the gardens every day of the year and<br />

even take part in rock climbing adventures<br />

along the rugged 200-metre-long ‘Via<br />

Ferrata’ during the summer.<br />

Lascaux IV<br />

Domme - Templar carvings<br />

Templars carvings are, still visible today. Enjoy<br />

panoramic views from the terraced belvedere<br />

over the Dordogne valley, visit the wonderful,<br />

natural, underground cave, a hidden gem full<br />

of stalactites (once a shelter for prehistoric<br />

people) and stop by the Cellier du Périgord to<br />

take home their gourmet baskets of the best<br />

local delicacies!<br />

Château des Milandes<br />

The 15th century Château des Milandes in<br />

Castelnaud-la-Chapelle was built by François<br />

de Caumont, Lord of Castelnaud in 1489<br />

to please his wife, Claude de Cardaillac. It<br />

has splendid architectural features such as<br />

turrets, a winding staircase and gargoyles. The<br />

castle was once home to Josephine Baker, the<br />

singer and actress who became a civil rights<br />

activist and heroine of World War II. Displays<br />

and an audio guided tour of the castle tell her<br />

extraordinary life story. Explore the exquisite<br />

chapel and attractive gardens and watch the<br />

fascinating bird of prey display overlooking<br />

the Dordogne valley. Take a break at the<br />

nearby delicious La Brasserie des Milandes.<br />

Domme<br />

Officially one of the “Most Beautiful Villages<br />

of France”, Domme was founded in 1281.<br />

Perched on a protected cliff, the village has<br />

a unique architectural heritage including<br />

its ramparts and the Porte des Tours (Gate<br />

of the Towers) in which imprisoned Knights<br />

Marquessac<br />

Chateau des milandes Lucy spring<br />

104 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 105





Brittany, Anjou, Charente, Lot,<br />

Aquitaine, Midi, Camargue,<br />

Loire Valley, Burgundy,<br />

Franche-Comté, Alsace<br />

Rocamadour<br />

Rocamadour<br />

No trip to the Dordogne Valley would be<br />

complete without a visit to Rocamadour,<br />

an enchanting medieval village, nestled in<br />

the Alzou Gorges in the Lot department.<br />

Located an hour east of Sarlat, Rocamadour<br />

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

villages in France. A place of pilgrimage and<br />

history with a 14th century chateau, chapels<br />

and churches, this captivating cliff top village<br />

is not to be missed.<br />

La Gare – Espace Robert Doisneau<br />

Since the remarkable Gare Robert Doisneau<br />

exhibition space opened its doors in 2018, it<br />

has welcomed over 60,000 visitors to view<br />

the photograher’s wonderful collection of<br />

images capturing the spirit of Dordogne. The<br />

galleries, in the former Carlux Train Station,<br />

display Doisneau’s photos of the region taked<br />

on holidays and working trips.<br />

Stay at: Domaine de Rochebois makes<br />

a great base to explore Sarlat and the<br />

surrounding area. Just 6km from Sarlat, the<br />

refined and friendly 5-star luxury hotel in a<br />

Sarlat market<br />

19 th century manor house is in an exceptional<br />

countryside setting and has a golf course, spa<br />

and pool, stunning 360-degree views from the<br />

panoramic terrace, and two restaurants.<br />

Find more information about Sarlat-la-<br />

Canéda and the Dordogne Valley at:<br />

Dordogne-perigord-tourism.fr<br />

Embark on a Timeless Journey:<br />

Discover the Soul of the Loire Valley<br />

Unveil the secrets of ancient châteaux<br />

and savor the enchanting landscapes<br />

with our expertly guided tours<br />

02392 401320 www.boat-renting-nicols.co.uk<br />

loirevalleychateautours.com/tours<br />

106 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 107

Your Photos<br />

Every weekend we invite you to share your<br />

photos on Facebook and X (formerly Twitter)<br />

– it’s a great way for everyone to “see” real<br />

France and be inspired by real travellers<br />

snapping pics as they go. Every week<br />

there are utterly gorgeous photos being<br />

shared, and here we showcase just a few<br />

of the most popular. Share your favourite<br />

photos with us and your photo may appear<br />

in the next issue of The Good Life France<br />

Magazine!<br />

Join us on Facebook<br />

and X to like and share<br />

your favourite photos<br />

of France...<br />

Claude Monet’s Garden, Giverny, Normandy by<br />

Daniela Perria Rickey<br />

Monet’s use of bright green paint, and lots of pink<br />

flowers is world famous long after he has gone.<br />

Find out more about Monet’s garden and take a<br />

free virtual tour (link in post):<br />

Monet’s Garden, Normandy<br />

Dinan, Brittany by Maureen Shay Martinez<br />

Wisteria flowers festooning ancient cobbled streets<br />

in Dinan in spring – just glorious!<br />

Discover: The best things to do in Dinan<br />

Saint-Remy-de-Provence, by Zied Diaries<br />

The French have perfected the art of window dressing – could you walk past this shop? Check out our<br />

picture-perfect <strong>Spring</strong> in Provence article<br />

108 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 109

What’s<br />

NEW<br />

spring <strong>2024</strong><br />

the Modern Games (1900 and 1924). The<br />

majority of events will take place across<br />

the heart of the city with iconic landmarks<br />

– from the Eiffel Tower to the Place de la<br />

Concorde - being transformed into sporting<br />

arenas. Some events - like football - will<br />

take place in stadiums around France<br />

including Lille, Lyon, and Bordeaux. Note<br />

that travel in Paris during this time will<br />

be affected, and hotels, restaurants etc<br />

are likely to be super busy. Find out more:<br />

paris<strong>2024</strong>.org/en<br />

<strong>2024</strong> promises to be a bumper year<br />

for major events from the Paris<br />

Olympics to the re-opening of the<br />

Cathedral of Notre-Dame…<br />

Major EVENTS <strong>Spring</strong> <strong>2024</strong><br />

Nuits des Musées 18 May <strong>2024</strong><br />

All over France on a weekend in mid-<br />

May on the Nuits des Musées – hundreds<br />

of museums, churches and Government<br />

offices open their doors to the public and<br />

offer free entry from nightfall until 1.00 a.m.<br />

Many of them put on special exhibitions<br />

and demonstrations in this unique annual<br />

event. Why not enjoy a magical moonlit<br />

museum tour!<br />

Our Festivals of France podcast covers<br />

some of the biggest, best and quirkiest<br />

events in France – from pig squealing<br />

contests to giant strawberry tarts,<br />

and giants!<br />

Tour de France <strong>2024</strong><br />

29 June – 21 July <strong>2024</strong><br />

For the first time in the race’s history the<br />

Tour de France won’t be finishing in Paris as<br />

the city will be preparing for the Olympic<br />

Games. For <strong>2024</strong> the route embarks from<br />

Florence, Italy, on June 29 and features<br />

four high altitude panoramic finishes as the<br />

Nuits des Musées<br />

Nice, where the Tour de France will end, July <strong>2024</strong> © Juliet V Simpson<br />

race crosses the Alps twice, races through<br />

the south of France including Nimes,<br />

Gruissan and Pau, Burgundy, the Loire<br />

Valley and Champagne before ending with<br />

a dazzling Monaco to Nice time-trial!<br />

Paris Olympic Games<br />

26 July – 11 August <strong>2024</strong><br />

More than a million visitors are expected<br />

to attend the Olympic Games in France!<br />

It’s the third time that Paris has hosted<br />

Major Anniversaries<br />

150 years of Impressionism<br />

<strong>2024</strong> is the 150th anniversary of<br />

Impressionism and there will be exhibitions<br />

and events in Normandy, Paris, Ile-de-<br />

France and Hauts-de-France.<br />

The Eiffel Tower celebrates 135 years<br />

She was only supposed to be there for<br />

20 years – but this grand old dame is now<br />

one of the most popular monuments in the<br />

world and has stood for 135 years wowing<br />

millions. (Have a listen to our Eiffel Tower<br />

podcast to discover some of its most<br />

fascinating secrets).<br />

80th anniversary of the D-Day Landings<br />

There will be events throughout May-August<br />

<strong>2024</strong> in Normandy and in Pas-de-Calais.<br />

At La Coupole Historic Centre and 3D<br />

planetarium near Saint-Omer, there will be<br />

an exhibition dedicated to the liberation of<br />

the region which will run from June <strong>2024</strong> –<br />

June 2025 calais-cotedopale.co.uk<br />

Regional Events<br />

International Kite Festival 20-28 April,<br />

Berck-sur-Mer, Pas de Calais<br />

10 days of kite flying on the beach of Bercksur-Mer<br />

on the glorious Opal Coast. This is<br />

110 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 111

no ordinary kite festival – be prepared to be<br />

totally wowed by the sight of hundreds of<br />

kites, from ginormous to weird.<br />

calais-cotedopale.co.uk<br />

Amiens Rederie 21 April <strong>2024</strong>, Picardy<br />

The second biggest flea market event<br />

in France (Lille Braderie in September<br />

is the biggest). Thousands flock to the<br />

flea market in the shadow of the famous<br />

Cathedral of Amiens. It’s a great day out<br />

and you may just find the bargain of the<br />

year if you go early in the morning! Details:<br />

somme-tourisme.com<br />

spring sun as the movie elite head to the<br />

south of France.<br />

Roland Garros French Open<br />

20 May – 9 June<br />

Stars of the tennis world descend on Paris<br />

to take part in the French Open, one of the<br />

four Grand Slam events of the year<br />

Bordeaux Wine Festival 27-30 June<br />

Celebrate the legendary wines of Bordeaux<br />

at this feel good, fun festival along the<br />

banks of the River Garonne in the centre of<br />

the city. Tall ships in<br />

port, music and great<br />

street food make this<br />

more than a great<br />

wine tasting event.<br />

Chateau de Chaumont, Loire Valley, host of the International Garden Festival<br />

International Garden Festival 24 April –<br />

3 November <strong>2024</strong>, Loire Valley<br />

All over France gorgeous gardens will<br />

burst into bloom but if you’re seriously into<br />

glorious green-fingered beauty head to<br />

the International Garden Festival at the<br />

Chateau de Chaumont, Loire Valley. Kew<br />

Gardens meets Chelsea Flower show with<br />

a lot of French flair. Stunning permanent<br />

gardens, contemporary art exhibitions, a<br />

beautiful, historic chateau and each April,<br />

the opening of the International Garden<br />

Festival. www.domaine-chaumont. fr/en<br />

Chopin Festival<br />

Paris 1 June – 1 July<br />

If you’re in Paris in<br />

June, head to the<br />

Parc de Bagatelle<br />

for a Chopin concert<br />

in the Orangerie – a<br />

true Paris experience.<br />

Frederic-chopin.com<br />

And finally, a little further ahead, the<br />

reopening of the Cathedral of Notre Dame<br />

is still on track for December 8, <strong>2024</strong>.<br />

Cannes Film Festival 14-25 May<br />

11 days of glitz and glamour under the warm<br />

Bordeaux Fete du Vin<br />

112 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 113


on the<br />

Loire Valley<br />

Chambord<br />

Amboise<br />

Enchanting castles, world-class vineyards,<br />

historic cities, picturesque villages and<br />

outdoor activities galore, with properties to<br />

suit all budgets – the Loire Valley is a great<br />

place to live.<br />

Much of the Loire Valley is listed as a<br />

UNESCO World Heritage site for its ‘living<br />

cultural landscapes.’ The area straddles the<br />

departments of Loiret, Loire-et-Cher, Indreet-Loire<br />

(formerly Touraine) in the Centre<br />

region plus Maine-et-Loire (formerly Anjou) in<br />

the Pays de la Loire region. The largest city in<br />

the Loire Valley is Tours, famous for its historic<br />

architecture and for Place Plumereau, voted<br />

by the French as their favourite square in<br />

France to enjoy an aperitif.<br />

There are excellent transport train services,<br />

the TGV high speed train service connects you<br />

to Tours in a little under an hour from Paris.<br />

Motorway connections are excellent, the ferry<br />

port of Caen is just three hours away by car.<br />

114 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 115

Chedigny, villages of roses<br />

Tours airport has regular flights to the UK, plus<br />

there are airports within easy distance – in<br />

Paris, Limoges and Nantes.<br />

There is a huge choice of towns and villages<br />

in the Loire, from big and bustling, to small<br />

and tranquil, and property is available to suit<br />

a range of budgets. Property prices (excluding<br />

chateaux) are in the mid-range, with for<br />

instance, older houses selling for an average of<br />

€260,000 (Notaires de France 2022).<br />

This is an area that’s great for families, young<br />

people, retirees and second home/holiday<br />

home buyers. Overall, the area has more<br />

sunshine than Paris with around 1750 hours of<br />

sun per year. Outdoor lovers will find plenty<br />

to do. The Loire River, France’s last wild and<br />

longest river which runs for some 630 miles<br />

from the Ardèche region in the southeast to<br />

the Atlantic near the port of Saint Nazaire on<br />

the west coast, flows through the Loire Valley<br />

keeping the land lush and fertile - giving the<br />

area the nickname ‘the Garden of France.’ Its<br />

flat banks are ideal for cyclists and the area<br />

has more than 1000km of bike paths.<br />

There are numerous hiking trails including<br />

the GR3, the oldest long-distance walking<br />

path in France; and at the château of<br />

Chambord, there are 20km of paths and<br />

tracks to enjoy in the largest enclosed forest<br />

park in Europe. Water babies will love the<br />

range of sports on offer from canoeing to<br />

swimming. It’s an area that’s rich in culture<br />

with more than 100 libraries, music schools,<br />

shows, festivals, and many year-round<br />

events.<br />

“There’s a real mix of well-known and less<br />

well-known towns” says Charlotte Field,<br />

Area Coordinator for the Loire Valley at<br />

Leggett Immobilier. “Vouvray for instance,<br />

famous for its sparkling wines. Blois, whose<br />

château hosts a spectacular Son et Lumière<br />

show every night during the summer.<br />

Orléans, capital of the Kingdom of France<br />

in the early Middle Ages, famous for its Joan<br />












(+33) 6 42 50 04 31<br />

www.poolsdirect.online<br />

contact@poolsdirect.online<br />

www.facebook.com/poolsdirect<br />

S I R E T : 9 0 4 9 5 3 9 5 7 0 0 0 1 9<br />

The Good Life<br />

France podcast<br />

Everything you want to know about<br />

France and more...<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

116 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 117

Chateaux such as Chenonceau, Chambord,<br />

Cheverny, Amboise, Blois and Chaumont with<br />

its annual international garden festival.”<br />

Our latest properties for sale in Pays de la Loire and Centre<br />

of Arc history and the siege of Orléans. And<br />

Sancerre, home to 2800 hectares of wine –<br />

producing grapes in stunning countryside and<br />

voted favourite village of the French in 2021”.<br />

“And if you’re keen on a riverside property<br />

there is a lot of choice” advises Charlotte.<br />

“Saumur for example, the equestrian capital of<br />

France; Candes St Martin, at the confluence<br />

of the Loire and the Vienne and which hosts<br />

one the best local antiques fairs.”<br />

East of Tours<br />

Loches<br />

If you’re looking to live close to those<br />

magnificent castles, head east advises local<br />

Leggett agent Nicola Bobeldijk. “Around St<br />

Aignan sur Cher for instance, which is home<br />

to the Beauval zoo, famous for its panda<br />

population, you’ll find many small villages<br />

with interesting properties. And Montrichard<br />

and its surroundings are also popular as both<br />

towns are close to some of the best-known<br />

West of Tours<br />

Head west say local Agents Ali and David<br />

Kimber-Bates for stunning countryside and<br />

fabulous vineyards as well as iconic towns and<br />

châteaux. The couple bought a house in Indreet-Loire<br />

some 20 years ago in the 17th century<br />

walled town of Richelieu, created as a “cité<br />

idéale” (a model town) on the orders of the<br />

infamous Cardinal from whom the town takes<br />

its name. “We bought a renovation project<br />

as a holiday home but loved the good life in<br />

France so much we decided to move over fulltime<br />

in 2017” says Ali.<br />

With a population of about 1,700 people,<br />

Richelieu is just a 20-minute drive from the<br />

medieval town of Chinon and its world-famous<br />

castle on the banks of the Vienne river.<br />

Denise and Kevin Belchambers bought a<br />

holiday home in a small village near Chinon<br />

in 2003 and fell in love with the lifestyle.<br />

They eventually moved here full time and<br />

set up Loire Brakes, e-bike guided tours of<br />

the Loire Valley. “When we first moved to<br />

the Loire Valley from the UK, it was hard to<br />

choose what to see first – there is just so much<br />

beauty, not to mention the street markets,<br />

the wines and the fabulous gastronomy. And<br />

it’s not just that the area is wonderful” says<br />

Denise. “We’ve made so many friends here,<br />

our neighbours are fabulous, sharing with<br />

us the culture, traditions and history of the<br />

area.” With a relaxed pace of life, dazzling<br />

landscape, wine and castles – the Loire offers<br />

a superb lifestyle.<br />

See all of Leggett Immobilier’s properties for<br />

sale in the Loire Valley<br />


Loire Beauty<br />

Maine-et-Loire €409,000<br />

Ref: A21186 - Lovely 4-bedroom character<br />

property with pool and mature gardens.<br />

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

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

17th Century Charm<br />

Mayenne €82,400<br />

Ref: A27100 - Pretty 1-bedroom stone cottage<br />

with garden and barn. Ideal holiday home!<br />

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

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

B&B Business<br />

Loir-et-Cher €339,200<br />

Ref: A25912 -Charming 6-bedroom Napoleonic<br />

house dating from 1880, in the Braye valley.<br />

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

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

Lovely Longère<br />

Maine-et-Loire €379,000<br />

Ref: A23877 - Stunning 4-bedroom historical<br />

riverside longère close to Saumur.<br />

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

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

Château Chic<br />

Maine-et-Loire €294,999<br />

Ref: A26820 - Spectacular apartment within a<br />

stunning château, with grounds and pool.<br />

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

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

Little Gem<br />

Indre €77,900<br />

Ref: A19418 - Excellent semi-detached 3-bedroom<br />

house in a charming village.<br />

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

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

True Elegance<br />

Vendée €579,000<br />

Ref: A09897 - Charming 8-bedroom home<br />

with heated pool and outbuildings on 4000 m².<br />

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

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

Anjou Vineyards<br />

Maine-et-Loire €787,500<br />

Ref: A26942 - 6-bedroom maison de maître<br />

with gîte, heated pool and outbuildings.<br />

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

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

Rural Retreat<br />

Eure-et-Loir €450,000<br />

Ref: A19575 - Attractive 5-bedroom farmhouse<br />

with outbuildings and 1½ acres.<br />

3% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

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

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

Change<br />

your<br />

outlook<br />

We are recruiting<br />

independent<br />

sales agents<br />

across France<br />

+33 (0)5 53 60 82 77<br />

recruitment@leggett.fr<br />

Information on the risks to which these properties are exposed is available on the Geohazards website: www.georisques.gouv.fr<br />

118 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 119

Cross-Channel<br />

Connections<br />

Gillian Thornton chats<br />

to Fairport Convention<br />

member Dave Pegg, a<br />

musical Brit in Brittany...<br />

Port Louis<br />

great fiddle player – and Fairport member –<br />

Dave Swarbrick to play with him at the Royal<br />

Albert Hall. Beside them was Breton musician<br />

Dan ArBraz, who so impressed the Fairports<br />

that they recruited him on the spot.<br />

‘Dan rented the next cottage to me in<br />

Cropredy and says it was me who taught him<br />

English, unfortunately with a Birmingham<br />

accent,’ laughs Peggy as he is affectionately<br />

known to family, friends and fans. ‘When Dan<br />

returned to Brittany, we visited him on holiday<br />

and soon fell in love with the region and its<br />

musical traditions.’<br />

For 15 years, Peggy owned a holiday house<br />

at Penthièvre on the narrowest part of the<br />

Quiberon peninsula. He loved pottering<br />

round the tranquil Baie de Quiberon to the<br />

east in his catamaran and walking beside the<br />

Côte Sauvage on the wilder western shore,<br />

but eventually the summer traffic down this<br />

slim finger of France became too much. So<br />

in 2005, Peggy and his partner Ellen began<br />

house hunting.<br />

Dave Pegg (Peggy)<br />

Every summer in the middle of August, the<br />

black and white flag of Brittany flutters<br />

for three days over a field in the English<br />

countryside. Beneath it stands a comfortable<br />

campervan belonging to Dave Pegg, bass<br />

guitarist with legendary folk rock band<br />

Fairport Convention, and around it, the annual<br />

music festival that is Fairport’s Cropredy<br />

Convention.<br />

Launched nearly 40 years ago, initially as<br />

a fundraiser for Cropredy village church,<br />

this relaxed festival has always welcomed<br />

an eclectic mix of artistes from 10CC to<br />

Nile Rodgers, Ralph McTell to Robert Plant,<br />

with opening and closing sets always by the<br />

Fairports themselves.<br />

So why the Breton flag? Nothing, it seems, to<br />

do with the band’s 1969 hit single, Si Tu Dois<br />

Partir, a French language version of the Bob<br />

Dylan classic, If You Gotta Go. The Brittany<br />

effect began in the mid-70s when celebrated<br />

Breton harpist Alan Stivell invited the late,<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 />

healthcare, buying and renovating a property,<br />

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 />

120 | The Good Life France Cote Sauvage, Ponthievre<br />

The Good Life France | 121

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 />

Sunset Quiberon<br />

I’ve enjoyed many a glass of French wine<br />

beneath that backstage festival flag in rural<br />

Oxfordshire and heard French conversations<br />

around the picnic table from guests such as<br />

Dan ArBraz and Anglo-French folk band The<br />

Churchfitters. So it’s a real treat to finally<br />

meet Peggy on home ground in the Breton<br />

department of Morbihan.<br />

Today he and Ellen divide their time between<br />

Oxfordshire and a traditional 18 th century<br />

longhouse with lashings of period charm<br />

complemented by a bright modern extension<br />

and secluded garden. Barely half an hour<br />

from his former seaside home, Peggy’s inland<br />

pad stands in a farming hamlet so small that<br />

the address begins simply ‘Lieu dit …’ (known<br />

as). Head west for the bustling port of Lorient<br />

and east to the tranquil Ria d’Etel, a drowned<br />

riverbed with picturesque inlets and historic<br />

villages.<br />

many of whom had never met each other.<br />

Today, it’s an annual ticketed event with food<br />

and live music in the true spirit of Breton<br />

musical events or ‘festnoz’.<br />

‘I’ve always loved the way that traditional<br />

music is part of everyday life in Brittany,’ says<br />

Peggy. ‘Kids start playing in a bagad – or<br />

pipe band – from an early age, and the music<br />

evolves as they introduce contemporary<br />

instruments like bass guitars.<br />

‘There’s nothing like a Breton music festival<br />

and there’s a great one in Lorient every<br />

August, but sadly it’s the same weekend as<br />

Cropredy. So I bring a bit of Brittany back to<br />

Oxfordshire with me!’<br />

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‘And we’re still close to incredible beaches like<br />

the huge arc of golden sand that stretches<br />

from Port Louis and Gâvres to the Quiberon<br />

peninsula,’ says Peggy, who happily admits to<br />

being a huge fan of Breton seafood.<br />

One of the first thing they did on arrival was<br />

organise an apéro for their new neighbours,<br />

Ria d'Etel<br />

122 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 123


Pas-de-Calais<br />

The closest French department to Britain, but<br />

worlds away in atmosphere, Pas-de-Calais<br />

offers multiple good reasons for a property<br />

purchase says Gillian Thornton.<br />

Think about buying property in France and<br />

you’ll probably find yourself dreaming of<br />

a Mediterranean villa, an Alpine chalet, or<br />

maybe a stone farmhouse in the vineyards.<br />

But let me plant another idea. If you’re not<br />

a fan of extreme temperatures, prefer the<br />

seaside to snowy slopes, and relish a relaxed<br />

blend of countryside and culture, take a look<br />

at Pas-de-Calais.<br />

Closest French department to Britain, the<br />

port of Calais is barely 20 miles (33km) from<br />

the south coast of England, easily accessed<br />

by ferry or road and rail tunnel. Arriving from<br />

further afield? There are excellent rail links to<br />

Paris and London from Lille, just across the<br />

departmental border in the Nord, as well as a<br />

good network of provincial train lines and fast<br />

roads leading to Belgium, the Netherlands and<br />

all points French.<br />

Whatever indoor or outdoor activity you’re<br />

into, with the exception of mountain sports,<br />

you’ll almost certainly find it here. And forget<br />

any preconceptions about the industrial north.<br />

Many first-time visitors are surprised to find<br />

large areas of rural landscape punctuated<br />

with small villages and hamlets, as well as a<br />

variety of heritage towns, each with its own<br />

USP. Rural without being remote. Expect wide<br />

sandy beaches and a rolling farmland, lush<br />

river valleys and tranquil woodland. Even the<br />

former coal mining area in the east of the<br />

department is now full of green spaces and<br />

repurposed industrial sites.<br />

Beside the Opal Coast<br />

Dubbed the Côte d’Opale for its opalescent<br />

light, the coastline of Pas-de-Calais begins<br />

just north of Calais and undulates southwards<br />

for some 120km to Berck-Plage near the<br />

estuary of Authie river. Far more than just a<br />

transit town, Calais is well worth a stopover<br />

to visit the Cité de la Dentelle et de la Mode,<br />

the Lace and Fashion Museum that celebrates<br />

the town’s signature craft. Enjoy a ride on the<br />

extraordinary mechanical Dragon and take<br />

the lift to the viewing gallery on the Town Hall<br />

bell tower, high above Rodin’s famous statue<br />

of The Burghers of Calais.<br />

Berck-Plage<br />

124 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 125

Le Touquet’s Art Deco market<br />

South of Calais, the coast road winds past the<br />

emblematic twin headlands of Cap Blanc-Nez<br />

and Cap Gris-Nez – jointly awarded Grand<br />

Site de France status – and through the fishing<br />

villages of Audresselles and Ambleteuse. If you<br />

like hiking or biking, cliff walks or sand dunes,<br />

stop at the Maison du Site des Deux Caps<br />

for inspiration, bike hire and local produce.<br />

Stroll the promenade at Wimereux in front of<br />

colourful Belle Epoque villas and in Boulognesur-Mer,<br />

meet a wealth of deep-sea creatures<br />

at the renowned Nausicaa sea life centre.<br />

Despite having the sea in common, the fishing<br />

port of Boulogne-sur-Mer couldn’t be more<br />

different from its near neighbour, Le Touquet-<br />

Paris Plage. Buy a home near the coast here<br />

and you have a heritage town with a fascinating<br />

hilltop museum and bustling quayside fish<br />

market on one hand; a chic seaside resort<br />

with flamboyant Art Deco properties and<br />

outstanding sports facilities on the other. Love<br />

a wide-open sandy beach? Le Touquet and<br />

neighbouring Hardelot have two of the best.<br />

Go sand-yachting, sailing, or maybe enjoy an<br />

exhilarating excursion on horseback.<br />

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Saint-Omer<br />

Countryside delights<br />

A large area of the Pas-de-Calais shoreline<br />

forms the western boundary of the Regional<br />

Natural Park of the Opal Coast Headlands<br />

and Marshes – le PNR des Caps et Marais<br />

d’Opale. Turn your back on the sea and the<br />

PNR rolls inland with vast fields of cereals<br />

eventually giving way to the Art & History<br />

Town of Saint-Omer.<br />

The Marais Audomarois on the edge of Saint-<br />

Omer is a tranquil area guaranteed to soothe<br />

both body and soul, whether you choose<br />

to explore on foot or take a guided boat<br />

excursion from the Maison du Marais visitor<br />

centre. A UNESCO-listed Biosphere renowned<br />

for its market gardening, it is rich in rich in<br />

flora, fauna and a traditional way of life. Don’t<br />

be surprised to see the postman delivering by<br />

boat to a handful of island homes.<br />


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126 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 127

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Montreuil-sur-Mer<br />

Nestled up against the border with Belgium,<br />

the area around Saint-Omer has a distinct<br />

Flemish feel in its architecture, customs<br />

and cuisine, which includes many recipes<br />

using locally brewed beer. It’s more than<br />

a century since the end of the Great War<br />

in 1918, but the sacrifices of a generation<br />

are remembered here at cemeteries small<br />

and large, representing the fallen of many<br />

nations in some of the most intense fighting<br />

of the conflict.<br />

From Saint-Omer, it’s barely 50km to Hesdin,<br />

a historic market town on the southern<br />

boundary of the department in the heart of<br />

the Vallées d’Opale. A peaceful agricultural<br />

area bisected by seven river valleys, its many<br />

small hamlets include Azincourt, scene of the<br />

Battle of Agincourt in 1415 and home to an<br />

interactive museum.<br />

Flowing through the Vallées d’Opale to Le<br />

Touquet, the Canche river passes beneath the<br />

fortified hilltop town of Montreuil-sur-Mer,<br />

renowned for its food shops and restaurants<br />

as well as a substantial citadel, rampart walks<br />

and cobbled streets.<br />

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128 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 129

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Around Louvre-Lens<br />

Furthest away from the Channel coast,<br />

the eastern area of Pas-de-Calais around<br />

Béthune, Arras and Lens offers a wide range<br />

of heritage sites and cultural attractions,<br />

including one of France’s leading art<br />

museums, Louvre-Lens. With more than 200<br />

works taken from the Louvre in Paris, this<br />

purpose-built gallery stands at the heart of<br />

the former mining basin at Lens, classified<br />

as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here<br />

pitheads and slagheaps have been given<br />

new life as museums, sports facilities and<br />

community hubs in an outstanding example of<br />

industrial regeneration.<br />

Also recognised by UNESCO are the belfries<br />

of Béthune, Arras and Douai, listed amongst<br />

23 bell towers across Northern France and<br />

Belgium and regarded as symbols of local<br />

freedom since the Middle Ages. Like a mix<br />

of architectural styles? Then look out for Art<br />

Deco treasures such as Lens railway station;<br />

the swimming pool at Bruay-la-Buissière; and<br />

the flamboyant houses around Béthune.<br />

Buy property near Arras and shopping will<br />

take on a whole new perspective as you<br />

browse the stalls in the two vast market<br />

squares. Grand’Place and Place des Héros.<br />

Fringed with arcades and Flemish gables, they<br />

were painstakingly rebuilt in Baroque style<br />

after the devastation of World War I. Take time<br />

to reflect too amongst the sobering beauty<br />

of Great War cemeteries and memorials that<br />

honour the sacrifices of many nations here on<br />

the Western Front.<br />

Wherever you choose to buy in this<br />

cosmopolitan corner of Northern France, you<br />

are never short of places to go and things<br />

to do, all within easy reach. Now isn’t that a<br />

location worth thinking about?<br />

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130 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 131

TOP TIPS for running<br />

a gite in France<br />

properly, navigate the many<br />

holiday home portals (and try<br />

to weed out which ones are<br />

scams or simply don’t deliver<br />

what they promise), or if you’re<br />

not around full time then you<br />

could consider getting help from<br />

a reputable and trustworthy<br />

company that takes away the hard work<br />

and ensures you maximise your bookings/<br />

income, plus help with the nitty gritty of<br />

maintaining a tip top gite. PPS Europe have<br />

been helping holiday homeowners in France<br />

to market and manage their gites for more<br />

than a decade. They cut out the hassle and<br />

stress of updating rental sites, keyholding,<br />

managing calendars and guest turnovers.<br />

“It’s not just about keeping the calendar full,<br />

it’s about making sure your guests have an<br />

exceptional experience” says Sue O’Grady<br />

of PPS Europe.<br />

PPS Europe help with every aspect of<br />

the gite rental business from ensuring the<br />

pricing is right to helping to<br />

source a property manager.<br />

They take care of listing gites<br />

on sites that give the best<br />

return including booking.<br />

com and VRBO. They’ll<br />

administer bookings, manage<br />

payment with several<br />

methods available, and take care of the<br />

Taxe de Séjour (Tourist Tax) mandatory<br />

in most parts of France and paid to the<br />

local treasury. Any issues are taken care<br />

of from dealing with local authorities<br />

to technical problems with the phone/<br />

internet provider. Guests have a contact<br />

when needed. Reviews are uploaded to<br />

relevant sites. And the gite changeover is<br />

managed seamlessly for your next happy<br />

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booking reports and timely payment.<br />

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or maybe you see it as a way of owning your<br />

own little piece of the wonderful patchwork<br />

that makes up this beautifully diverse country<br />

and making it pay for itself.<br />

Running a gite isn’t all fun though, and one of<br />

the key hassles is the work involved in renting<br />

it out. Yes, France is the most popular country<br />

in the world when it comes to visitors, and<br />

they all need somewhere to stay. But that<br />

doesn’t mean the bookings come in all on<br />

their own. You need to work at it. It’s essential<br />

to keep the gite guest-ready, spotlessly clean<br />

and everything in good working order, the<br />

garden looking its best, and someone locally<br />

who can react promptly and efficiently to a<br />

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132 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 133

Croque-monsieur<br />

revisité<br />

Your one stop shop for the finest quality<br />

food from Britain and Ireland.<br />

Makes 6<br />

Active time: 30 minutes<br />

Cooking time: 15–20 minutes<br />

Storage: Up to 24 hours<br />


Mustard butter<br />

1½ sticks (6 oz./180 g) butter, softened<br />

4 tsp (20 g) whole grain Mustard<br />

Emmentaler spread<br />

3½ cups (14 oz./400 g) grated Emmentaler<br />

cheese<br />

Scant 1 cup (200 g/200 ml) heavy cream,<br />

min. 35% fat<br />

Croque-monsieurs<br />

6 slices white sourdough bread<br />

6 slices ham (jambon blanc)<br />

METHOD<br />

Preparing the mustard butter<br />

Place the butter and mustard in a bowl and<br />

stir until well blended.<br />

Preparing the Emmentaler spread<br />

Place the cheese and cream in a bowl and stir<br />

until well blended.<br />



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Extracted from French Boulangerie:<br />

Recipes and Techniques from the Ferrandi<br />

School of Culinary Arts by FERRANDI<br />

Paris (Flammarion, <strong>2024</strong>).<br />

ALL PHOTOS ©Rina Nurra.<br />

Assembling and baking the croquemonsieurs<br />

Preheat the oven to 450°F (240°C/Gas<br />

Mark 8). Using a palette knife, spread an even<br />

layer of mustard butter over one side of each<br />

bread slice. Place butter side up on a baking<br />

sheet lined with parchment paper and toast in<br />

the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and reduce<br />

the oven temperature to 350°F (180°C/Gas<br />

Mark 4). Place a slice of ham on each slice of<br />

bread and top with Emmentaler spread. Bake<br />

for 15–20 minutes at 350°F (180°C/Gas<br />

Mark 4) until golden brown.<br />

134 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 135


shoulder of lamb<br />

and vegetable tian<br />


1 shoulder of lamb<br />

3 cloves garlic, unpeeled<br />

3 ½ tablespoons (50 ml) olive oil<br />

Salt, freshly ground pepper<br />

Vegetable tian<br />

2 large onions<br />

2 tomatoes<br />

1 zucchini (courgette)<br />

1 eggplant (aubergine)<br />

3 ½ tablespoons (50 ml) olive oil<br />

A scattering of herbes de Provence<br />

A few sprigs of basil<br />

Salt, freshly ground pepper<br />

Pistou<br />

4 garlic cloves, peeled, shoots removed<br />

½ bunch basil<br />

3 ½ tablespoons (50 ml) olive oil<br />

Juice of 1 lemon<br />

?<br />

METHOD<br />

Bone the shoulder.<br />

Prepare the pistou. Crush the garlic cloves<br />

with the basil leaves using a pestle and<br />

mortar. Drizzle the olive oil in as you crush<br />

and then thin with the lemon juice.<br />

Brush the cavity with the pistou and season<br />

with salt and pepper. Roll the shoulder up and<br />

tie with twine. Baste it with oil and season<br />

with salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes,<br />

then lower the temperature to 350°F<br />

(170°C). Add the garlic cloves and cook for<br />

an additional 45 minutes. Remove the lamb<br />

from the baking dish, wrap it in aluminum<br />

foil, and keep warm. You will need to have<br />

the oven at the same temperature for the<br />

vegetable tian.<br />

Peel and wash the onions and wash all other<br />

the vegetables. Cut them into disks 1⁄8 in.<br />

(2–3 mm) thick. Oil a baking dish. Arrange<br />

the vegetable slices—tomatoes, zucchini,<br />

onions, and eggplant—vertically in rows. It’s<br />

best to alternate all the vegetables in each<br />

row, rather than placing one vegetable in<br />

each row. Scatter with herbes de Provence,<br />

tuck in a few sprigs of basil, drizzle over<br />

a little olive oil, and season with salt and<br />

pepper. Cook the vegetables for 30 minutes<br />

until soft, allowing them to stew a little in<br />

their own liquid.<br />

Heat the plates<br />

before serving<br />

and cut up the<br />

meat as it is<br />

required.<br />

SERVES 5<br />

Preparation: 50 minutes<br />

Cooking: 55 minutes<br />

Did You Know?<br />

A tian is a Provençal earthenware baking<br />

dish used to make gratins. It has given<br />

its name to this assortment of typically<br />

southern vegetables, cooked to a confit<br />

texture, that accompany the lamb flavored<br />

with olive oil and basil, other typical<br />

ingredients of the region.<br />

Extracted from<br />

The Complete Book of French<br />

Cooking by Hubert Delorme and<br />

Vincent Boué (Flammarion, 2023).<br />

Photo credit: © Clay McLachlan<br />

136 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 137


Serves 4<br />

¾ cup (200 ml) good-quality premade<br />

brown stock<br />

1 bunch fresh tarragon (stalks and leaves)<br />

6 chicken pieces of your choice (thighs, breast<br />

or legs)<br />

Salt and pepper, to season<br />

2 tbsp (15 g) flour<br />

1 tbsp (15 ml) cooking oil<br />

1 carrot, roughly diced<br />

1 shallot, roughly diced<br />

1 celery rib, finely sliced<br />

2 tbsp (30 g) unsalted butter<br />

3 tbsp (45 ml) cognac<br />

¾ cup (200 ml) dry white wine<br />

¾ cup (200 ml) heavy cream<br />

METHOD<br />

In the Dutch oven, heat the oil over mediumhigh<br />

heat and sear the chicken pieces for<br />

5 minutes on each side, until golden brown<br />

(cooking in batches, if needed). When cooked,<br />

transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside,<br />

covered.<br />

Lower the heat to medium, add the carrot,<br />

shallot, celery and butter, and cook for 1<br />

minute, stirring well to avoid burning the<br />

ingredients. Pour in the cognac and scrape the<br />

bottom of the pan to detach the caramelized<br />

juices before stirring in the wine. Reduce until<br />

roughly 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of liquid remain.<br />

Slide the chicken back into the pot, along<br />

with any residual cooking juices, and adjust<br />

the heat to low. Bury the bunch of tarragon<br />

stalks under the chicken and pour in the stock<br />

along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Simmer,<br />

covered, for 35 minutes. Remove the chicken<br />

breasts after 15 minutes of cooking and set<br />

aside covered with foil. After 35 minutes,<br />

discard the tarragon stalks and scoop out<br />

the rest of the chicken to sit with the resting<br />

chicken breasts.<br />

To make the sauce, add the cream to the<br />

pot and bring to a boil over high heat, then<br />

lower the heat slightly and let the sauce<br />

bubble away for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the<br />

consistency thickens enough to coat the back<br />

of the spoon.<br />

Adjust the heat to low, and stir in a small<br />

handful of the tarragon leaves. Return the<br />

chicken to the pot, gently turning the pieces<br />

to coat in the sauce. Simmer, covered, for 5<br />

minutes before serving divided among dinner<br />

plates with a generous ladleful of sauce and a<br />

pinch of extra tarragon leaves.<br />

Braised Chicken in<br />

Tarragon Sauce<br />

Reprinted with permission from French<br />

Cooking Academy by Stephane Nguyen<br />

with Kate Blenkiron. Page Street<br />

Publishing Co. 2023.<br />

Photo credit: Kate Blenkiron<br />

Mise en place<br />

You will need a Dutch oven or cast-iron pot.<br />

Bring the stock to a light boil and set aside.<br />

Strip and reserve the leaves from the tarragon<br />

and tie the stalks into a bunch with kitchen<br />

twine. Season the chicken with salt and<br />

pepper and dust lightly with the flour.<br />

138 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 139

Raspberry<br />

ganache tart<br />

SERVES 8<br />

Preparation: 45 minutes<br />

Resting: 20 minutes<br />

Cooking: 40 minutes<br />

Chilling: 2–3 hours<br />


Creamed sweet short pastry<br />

1 stick (125 g) unsalted butter, softened<br />

½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar<br />

1 egg<br />

2 ¾ cups (250 g) cake flour<br />

1 teaspoon (5 ml) salt<br />

Ganache cream<br />

½ lb. (225 g) raspberries, divided<br />

¼ cup (50 g) granulated sugar<br />

2 oz. (50 g) glucose<br />

1 2⁄3 cups (400 ml) whipping cream, min. 30%<br />

fat<br />

7 tablespoons (100 g) unsalted butter<br />

Scant 1⁄3 cup (70 ml) raspberry brandy or eaude-vie<br />

1 ¾ lb. (750 g) dark chocolate, 64% cacao,<br />

chopped<br />

Special equipment: a copper saucepan<br />

METHOD<br />

Prepare the creamed sweet short pastry.<br />

Place the butter, sugar, and egg in the bowl<br />

of a food processor and cream together<br />

until smooth. Sift the flour and add it with<br />

the salt to process for 1–2 minutes further,<br />

until smooth. Remove from the bowl. Press<br />

down the dough with the palm of your<br />

hand, pushing it away from you, until the<br />

ingredients are thoroughly blended. Chill,<br />

covered, for 20 minutes.<br />

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).<br />

Roll out the dough very thinly (about 1⁄8 in./3 mm)<br />

to form a disk. Use your rolling pin to transfer<br />

it from the working surface to the baking<br />

pan or circle: drape it round the pin and then<br />

unroll it over the tart mold. Make decorative<br />

patterns around the edge. Prick the dough<br />

with a fork, line it with parchment paper, and<br />

fill with baking beans. Blind-bake for 20–25<br />

minutes and allow to cool.<br />

In a copper saucepan, cook 3 ½ oz.<br />

(100 g) of the raspberries with the sugar and<br />

glucose. Bring to a boil and leave to simmer<br />

for a few minutes. Add the cream and butter<br />

and bring to a boil again.<br />

Remove from the heat and incorporate the<br />

raspberry brandy or eau-de-vie and the<br />

chopped chocolate. Mix until thoroughly<br />

blended. Strain through a fine mesh sieve<br />

and pour the ganache into the cooled<br />

tart shell. Leave in the refrigerator until<br />

set, about 2–3 hours.<br />

Garnish with the<br />

remaining raspberries<br />

and serve.<br />

Extracted from<br />

The Complete<br />

Book of French Cooking<br />

by Hubert Delorme and Vincent<br />

Boué (Flammarion, 2023).<br />

Photo credit: © Clay McLachlan<br />

140 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 141

Last<br />

Word<br />

In France they say of those of us who live in the far north of France, ‘they<br />

might not have the sunshine on their heads, but they have it in their hearts.’<br />

It’s true we are not as sun-kissed as our southern neighbours, but (and despite<br />

a particularly wet winter this year) it doesn’t rain half as much as people think<br />

it does.<br />

Writer Somerset Maughan once described the French Riviera as a “sunny<br />

spot for shady people”, you could say of Pas-de-Calais, that it’s a shady<br />

spot for sunny people.<br />

Any excuse to celebrate is considered a very good idea here. So when my<br />

neighbour Jean-Claude, a man who rarely needs a reason to enjoy a glass<br />

of wine or a plate of andouillette (extremely pungent sausages made with<br />

offal, much-loved by the French, not understood by anyone else), decided<br />

that he would honour the 60th birthday of his long-suffering wife Bernadette<br />

with something special we knew it would be memorable. “A secret party in<br />

the town hall salle des fetes” he said. It doesn’t sound like much, but in these<br />

parts, people are potty about parties, and a lot of effort goes into making<br />

sure the food is fabulous, the wine is worthy, and the music brings out the<br />

dancer in all of us. The birthday girl pretended she knew nothing about the<br />

special day, though you can’t keep a big secret in a small village.<br />

Came the day and almost the entire village turned up bearing bottles of<br />

wine, crates of beer and delicious dishes. A long table was crammed with the<br />

most delectable home-made pies and pastries, mouth-watering tarts and<br />

cakes, a basket of crisp baguettes and trays of smelly, sweaty and succulent<br />

cheeses. And in the centre, an enormous celebration croquembouche cake,<br />

a tower of profiteroles bound by an intricate embroidery of molten sugar<br />

topped with a love heart shaped pink macaron, made by Jean-Claude with<br />

help from Bernadette’s mother Claudette, the best cook in the village.<br />

The DJ played the songs of the late, great but still much-loved Johnny<br />

Hallyday, AKA the French Elvis, and upbeat songs that make the feet tap<br />

long before they reach the dance floor. Abba’s Dancing Queen echoed<br />

around the lush green Valleys battling with the gurgling of raging rain and<br />

the rumbling, roaring wind.<br />

And the sound of laughter of people with sunshine in their hearts<br />

was priceless.<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh is Author of My Good Life in France; My Four Seasons in France; Toujours La France,<br />

and How to be French: Eat, dress, travel and love la vie Française –<br />

available on Amazon, all online bookshops and in bookstores in high streets everywhere.<br />

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