Archive for France

Awaken to Uzes Markets!

Posted in French Affair, South of France with tags , , , , , on April 15, 2015 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

We are smack bang in the middle of Uzes and it’s a Saturday under a glorious South of France sun. If we had been here in this very same spot at the Place aux Herbes last January, we would have been among a buzzing throng of truffle loving fans arriving to witness the deluge of soil dropped from on high and jammed with a thousand truffles to be snorted out by local pigs and then cooked up into a massive communal omelette.

As a natural foodie, I’ll admit that it would have been an exquisite adventure into gastronomy. Curiosity set aside though for today we are very content surrounded by the vibrant warm colours of local artisans- ceramists, sculptors and painters and we listen to the wise whisperings of ham preservers and nougat makers, bee keepers and Monastery winemakers. We smell roasting chickens as they swirl in synchronised precision over hot coals and the aroma of paella and fresh, warm nuts cut through the morning light.

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Well, we missed the truffle weekend but  I can do without the truffles today.

Make sure you visit Uzes markets when you’re in the south of France. Put it on your list for either Wednesday or Saturday. It’s a great place to be when you’re not truffle hunting!

Best wishes, Therese

Copyright@2015Therese Waddell

Awaken to Provence Food

Posted in French Affair, French Travel, South of France with tags , , , , , on March 24, 2014 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour fellow foodies,

The perfect setting- Provence, south of France. The perfect scenario- lunchtime. Think dappled shade, fresh, local produce, oozy cheeses, plump strawberries, braised herby abundance, fruity wines, friends, laughter, love. It doesn’t get any better than this…

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P.S I’m now on the lookout for a stone cottage my friends… blue shutters, garden. You know what I mean.

I’d love to hear from you if you know anyone selling a piece of heaven! xx

Best Wishes,

Therese Waddell

copyright@2014 Therese Waddell

Awaken to Cassis, France

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Cafes, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , on August 22, 2013 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

Head to the south of France to Cassis and yes, you’re still in Provence, but gone is your mindset of hills in rolling green pastures and fruit orchards, now replaced with a glassy canvas and the prettiest fishing port you will ever see… Image

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Cassis and its sun kissed fishing cove at the base of a medieval castle, is lined with old stone homes but there’s a fresh new look in pastel shades of pink, apricot and blue which adds to the casualness and a much less pretentious atmosphere compared to its glamorous St Tropez neighbour.

Cassis is a mecca for seafood restaurants lining a fishing port and it’s no luck that they are thriving with crawling tourists from all over France and abroad. Indeed, many a French traveller are drawn to the sunshine and great food here as well.

Tourists arrive (even Aussie ones) in miniature open train carriages from the mountain above (as cars cannot descend down its narrow road) packed like sardines wearing hats and goggled in cool black.

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This is a small French town with a big appetite. My french awakening to Cassis came about over a lazy lunch in the sun, rubbing shoulders with ordinary folks while tucking into the worlds best seafood. I look around and there are numerous platters of coral pink prawn tails, radiant lobsters and piles of muscle shells shimmering iridescent blue in pots under their own watery soup of hot bouillabaisse. Steam from a large bowl of Moules frites (muscles and chips- a local dish) reaches my nose in seconds. This is fresh seafood heaven with sea life jumping out of the water and onto the plate!

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Sweating Cassis chefs like most of those through Provence, respect quality of produce and carefully select the best to go into mouths gaping like the wheeling seagulls above with the same anticipation. There is strong local competition that only makes it better for customers like you and I. Market days are Wednesday and Friday and expect fabulous produce like homemade tapenades, tomatoes, olives and other salad ingredients.Image

You will be well fed in Cassis no doubt and life is good and unhurried here. You can’t help but relax under a Provencal sun on the water’s edge.

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There are also no nasty pirates here in this sailor’s landmark and only jovial ones remain, all seemingly related by paradise and its crosshatch of ropes and tangled coils of nautical paraphernalia. The entire port seems to interconnect with reflections and it’s easy to wander off mesmerized by everything in such strong light, if it weren’t for the sound of the crack of rope every now and again and the rubbing squeal of boat hulls sliding against their moorings.

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Hop on board any of the tour boats strung together at the port of Cassis like I did.Image

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A ticket of about 15 euros will do the trick for a beautiful 45 minute cruise out into the salty Mediterranean…

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towards the inner world of watery inlets of the limestone Calanques…

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These famous Calanques are about 120million years old and hold a treasure trove of beautiful nooks and crannies to investigate…

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photograph or climb…

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As the mood allows, you may be taken to any number of hidden gems such as local beaches…Image

or water caves or even sometimes given the opportunity to dive from the back of the boat into sea green splendour. It happens.

The area around Cassis is magnificent and unspoilt.  Any number of water sports like yachting…

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kyaking…Image

and diving in underwater caves…Imagecould keep you entertained all day. All week perhaps. Activities are happily arranged at the Office de Tourism on the pier, even for camping and climbing…

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or hiking the trails of Cape Canaille or the National Park all in the search for spectacular panoramic views of the Mediterranean. You don’t have to go far. For a full panorama of the Port of Cassis, check out this:-

http://www.ot-cassis.com/en/le-port.html

Cassis is only a half an hour from Marseille airport. No time at all to get to Paradise.

AuRevoir,

Best wishes, Therese

copyright@2013 Therese Waddell

Awaken to Gourdon in Provence.

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Cafes, French Gardens, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2013 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

Today you’re going to a little village in the south of France  but first of all, I’d like to make it quite clear from the start that there are two villages by the name of ‘Gourdon’ in France and I’m writing about Gourdon located in the Alps-Maritime region of Provincial France (not the town of Gourdon in the southwestern Lot.) Secondly my friends, I want to make it just as clear that YOU’RE GONNA LOVE IT when you get here!

If there was ever a place that belonged in a book of classic European fairytales, it would be this tiny village of Gourdon. Nestled precariously like a hawk’s nest on a cliff face high overhead…

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Gourdon is custodian to the Vallee du Loup-with its gorges and canyons, forests and Loup River that snakes its way to the Mediterranean while the birds soar in circles over farmsteads in the greenest valley I could ever imagine.

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To get to Gourdon is an adventure in itself. Choose your driver and your means of transport well, for if you take the road, be aware that it zig zags sharply without relief for quite some time and for some part of the journey you may well trigger a small rock avalanche which begins collapsing beneath your vehicle and propelling debris into the airy depths below. This way will bring you to the Northern entry of the castle.

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The alternative is to hike along the skinny spaghetti trail winding up and around the mountain to the castle from almost a thousand meters below. The old mule track, ‘Chemin du Paradis’ is steep and stony and was the only way of hard core artisan and construction workers centuries earlier lugging stone to build the castle in the eleventh century. This way is not for the faint hearted.

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Your choice maybe raises a question as to how you approach life itself.

If Pinocchio were French, he would drunkenly tumble over Gourdon’s cobblestones and vaulted lanes, pass inner courtyards of provincial stone houses with their fountains…

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sun dials and gargoyles and other eccentricities…

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and then perhaps he would hop-step his loose way toward the warm aroma of bread ovens and medicinal herb shops reeling lavender, hyssop and comfrey. Copper distillation equipment of some Medieval alchemist making perfume breathes fragrant history into shopfronts…

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Pinocchio would gaze upon the infinite antique bottles and drooping chandeliers of philosophers come glassmakers…DSC_0222

and once inside, he would be mesmerised by glittering crystal glassware in electric colours as the afternoon sun works its magic.

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Pinocchio would be smiling no doubt. Just like Le Notre, the landscape gardener of the Palace of Versaille, when he completed his new  project in Gourdon and thoughtfully created its magnificent Chateau gardens.

Gourdon is exactly what you want in a fairytale. Hot pink shots of mountain rhododendrons and teeny erigeron daisies popping out everywhere…

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and very friendly locals and a close knit community spirit of shopkeepers selling joy in Florentines, soaps, perfumery and art. (When the baker asked me to marry him, I told him I had five children. He cheekily replied, ” De rien. J’ai six.” (no matter, I have six!).

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Breathing in Gourdon’s air is cool and fresh, as you would expect from such a dizzy altitude…

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but the sunlight is strong here and paints Gourdon with a warmth overlooking a sweeping panoramic view of the Cote D’zure from Beaulieu to Cannes.

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If you bother to look hard enough across the horizon, pass today’s hang gliders at eye level, you may even see Corsica on a really clear day but you’ll be forgiven if you don’t even try, as by now you will have decided to join the others dabbling in hand made ice creams or at The Salon de The’

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on a rocky outcrop. Or, more casually,  decide to have a cold beer on the very popular terrace in front of the old church… A splendid idea as you watch the sun go down.

Truth be known- Fairytales have a very happy ending in Gourdon.

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Getting there: Gourdon is about 37km from Nice Airport by car and 14km from Grasse. Local tour companies will get you there very inexpensively. Enjoy and tell us of your experiences here.

Au revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2013 Therese Waddell

Awaken to Death in Revel

Posted in Food and Recipes, French Affair, French Travel, South of France, South West of France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 27, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friend,

It’s my birthday week and it somehow turns my thoughts to life and death and the space in between. From year to year, this space is filled with every gammet of human emotion as well as our  dreams and biggest challenges. We all want this space to be magnificent. I hope it is for you right now.

Thinking about the cycle of life and death led me to thoughts of near death experiences. Those times when we experience a hint of impending finality here on earth and then perhaps something much more.

Have you ever had a near death experience? I mean a profound wake up call to impending death. I’ve read that these experiences are often documented with scientific and even religious significance but I’ve never heard of one that was connected to the taste buds…until mine.

Did you know that the French hold the honour of organising the world’s first ‘Near Death Experience Conference’? Yes, over 1500 delegates including doctors, patients and researchers gathered near the port of Marseille on this single day in 2006. I wasn’t present if that’s what you’re thinking.

A near death experience for me happened while holidaying in the beautiful south west of France in the village of Revel. I was left with one almighty aftertaste if you allow me to explain.

I had great recommendations of a fabulous Saturday market in Revel and I knew it was a lovely village to visit. Beautiful and interesting, it will keep you and yours happy for weeks and more as you wander around among the other nine thousand or so locals with plenty to see and do. But the main incentive for me this time was the hunt to find the perfect cake shop.

It was the divine trio of pizza, boulangerie and patisserie housed under the name of ‘Panetiere’ at 24 Boulevarde de la Republique in Revel which really caught my attention and as many of you will attest, finding the perfect cake is no easy feat. I’ve known maruding cake snufflers who go to great lengths to sniff out the best of cakes or pizzas  for that matter, like some truffle hunting pig and who do not fully exhale until they find their divine sweet or savoury treasure.

My dearest friend who masks sometimes as a formula 1 Driver, did just that. She had found Panetiere- PERFECTION in pizzas, breads and cakes. The Father, Son and Holy Ghost of pastry perfection across the entire south west of France and my french awakening could never ignore any great french culinary skills in pastry making! How could you?

Don’t get me wrong now. It’s not fancy in terms of Paris displays but it does offer divine little cakes and savoury morsels and marvellous pizzas. Rustic alluring pizzas at that. So divine in fact that their triggering of a single salivary gland has potentially high risk factors and I’m not talking about whispers of widening hips and calorific content!

So, here’s the patisserie…It doesn’t look much from the outside except that by now the wafting warm aromas of sweet pastry grew its beautiful tendrils in our direction…

and yes, yes, you will notice I’ve taken the photo from the middle of the road. I underestimated how long it would take to get to the other side and the pace at which the cars came speeding around the corner. Stupid I know. Patisseries and pizza parlours have that effect on me. I can’t help it… I think it’s genetic.

A car swerved to miss me and sprayed my legs with a sudden petrol gust in its momentum. I stood there motionless and of course, in shock. For an instant I felt a bright light. I can’t say how long I stood there. It wasn’t long enough to meet any dead relatives, but I felt transfixed to a bright light  in the patisserie window across the road.

About ten minutes later, on a bench around the corner, I asked myself,

“Was it worth it-the photograph? Sadly, No.

The pear tarte ? OH YEEES!”

For you too when you get to Revel, choose a little spot in the sun  to spoil yourself or find our park bench on Avenue Charles de Gaule around the corner from the shop. It will be the one covered with a few scattered crumbs!

I don’t remember what happened after that euphoric consumption. All I knew was that I had the aftertaste of near death in my mouth and I remained speechless for quite some time which is a shock to some. However, it didn’t stop our eating.

Jean Jacques Charbonnier, one of the French scientists who was present at the NDE Conference, claimed that his patients who had undergone near death experiences, actually felt that it was a positive thing and felt less attached to material things. I couldn’t agree more with the positivity but can one count a pear tart as a ‘material’ thing?

I would consider it ethereal. With a still warm, lightly aromatic poached French pear held in gossamer pastry, I knew why it tasted so sublime, so… heavenly. A gift from God, non?

Travel for miles for your pear tarte or your chocolate ganache if that’s your taste or you may not live to regret it.

Remember the Arbois chocolate hunt don’t you? https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/05/29/awaken-to-hirsingers-french-chocolate-in-arbois/

Life is too short. Death will come. Fill the space between with something magnificent.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese

 

Copyright@Therese Waddell 2011

Awaken to Evenings in Cult (70150), France

Posted in East of France, French Affair, French Gardens, French Travel with tags , , , , , , , on July 1, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour everyone,

How are we? It’s Friday here and the beginning of school holidays. It’s that fabulous evening when you breathe out real slowly and stop running on work time and kiss goodbye our “Groundhog Days” of  routine and minute snatching. For one solid evening we choose to run on empty-a sublime emptiness where new dreams are given enough room to unveil themselves and curl open in the back crevice of your brain. Ever feel like that yourself?

I start to imagine things I want to do and things which bring me great inspiration on these evenings. Strangely enough there springs to mind one beautiful evening in the miniscule French village of Cult, (with a grand total of 218 inhabitants), where I felt the same thing as this one- thinking about the possibilities. Thinking BIG.

Let me show you. I thought you might appreciate some snaps of my french awakening that particular evening when the earth stood still- as it should from time to time.

Perhaps they might trigger a few pulses of good intentions. As for me this evening, a new quilting project is brewing away to celebrate the holidays. (Good enough reason for now anyway). For you, if you’re maybe sitting miles across the planet and who are not on holidays, I hope you manage to snatch a few inspirational moments over the weekend.

Have a good one.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese

 

Awaken to Limoux, France

Posted in French Cafes, French Music, French Travel, South of France with tags , , , , , , , , on May 4, 2011 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

With all this recent quilt talk I seem to have put aside the real treasures in life, such as the little French village of Limoux. So we’re going there today if you’re not doing anything else in particular.

Limoux is located in the south of France- nestled in the beautiful Langedoc Rouissillon area on the river Aude, about twenty miles from Carcassone. You will recall this beautiful walled city in

https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/08/31/awakening-to-carcassone-france/

From Carcassone it’s a quick train trip through some of France’s most beautiful countryside so why not travel by train and enjoy the breath taking scenery?

Now Limoux  does not have the imposing fortifications and heavy structured double walls of its neighbouring Carcassone, but it remains tough and resilient enough ( like some of us) as you would expect being located smack bang in the heart of  Cathar fighting territory. Home to toughened inhabitants like the brawny hard as nails rugby team for instance who take great pride in being affectionately known as the ‘Limoux Grizzlies’!

Even the tough know how to celebrate though and you can see Limoux in its true playful form during France’s longest Carnivale -the Limoux Carnival which lasts for three solid months of the year. This is when everyone (big and small) gets into party mode, dancing and singing and generally parading around in a eclectic mixture of medieval and modern garb. Check out the lengths that some Limoux entertainers go to as these glamorous and creative costumes are worthy of any opera house you’ll agree.

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Limoux residents have been doing this for centuries, but over time they’ve forgotten why they party for this long during the Winter months and that’s the real beauty of it all. The confetti throwing parade enters the main square and weaves its way in and out of shops and cafes, led by a wand carrying pierrot (or clown) and accompanying musicians, all set to involve onlookers and entertain all. Good ol’ fashion fun is contagious. Take a look..  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3gWMO8Il7k&feature=related

Fun is definately a memory worth keeping so if you land in Limoux on some cold Wintry day, anytime from January to Easter, you’l be in for a real treat. Be warned though, wear your party dress!

Yes, Limoux and its surrounds  has its own unique appeal worthy of any tourist or local alike. In the south, Limoux’s valley is enriched with forests. It offers plenty of walking and cycling trails, skiing, horseback riding, canoe, rent a houseboat and so on. Further south, a town called Esperanza has not only a great Sunday market but a quirky hat museum known as the Musee de la Chapellerie. It was Europe’s largest producer of felt hats in the whole of Europe and it’s modern website is found at:

http://www.audecathare.fr/musee/musee_chapellerie.htm

One and half hours further south from here, you’ve hit Barcelona! There’s a lot to see and do around Limoux. My French awakening discovered that the oldest production of French bubbly originated in 1531 in the bowels of the stony Benedictine Abbey of St Hilaire just outside Limoux…

A visit to the Abbey is a must. Their sparkling wine (lovingly known as ‘Blanquette de Limoux’) was produced way before champagne in Burgandy and was actually rediscovered by President Thomas Jefferson in 1794, who was so taken with the bubbly (as one does) that he kept his cellar stocked with Blanquette for years later. Obviously a great French wine connoisseur, he alone was charged with the responsibility of selecting these French wines for the White House at the request of George Washington!

Today you can douse yourself with Blanquette de Limoux for only $14 per bottle- a fraction of the cost of the champagne houses of Burgandy which you may recall here… https://myfrenchawakening.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/awaken-to-french-champagne/

Arhh Limoux, you’re sounding better all the time, don’t you think?

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese

copyright@2011 Therese Waddell