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Our Cheese this month is Mimolette with a meal at the Ledoyen !

I’m really sorry but I can’t see the connection between Margareth, her hundreds and thousands dress and an round orange cheese. But perhaps I am missing something on the cheese board . . . 

A_Cheese_Aug14Mimolette is a cheese traditionally produced around Lille. In France, it is also known as Boule de Lille after its city of origin, or vieux Hollande for being made after the tradition of Edam cheese, not after Monsieur Le President when he is worn out. 

Like most french cheeses it has a tradition that goes back a few decades. It was originally made by the request of Louis XIV, who – in the context of Jean-Baptiste Colbert’s mercantilistic policies – was looking for a native French product to replace the then very popular Edam. To differentiate it from Edam, however, he had it coloured orange.

A cow’s-milk cheese, it normally weighs about 2 kg (approximately 4.5 pounds). Its name comes from the French word molle, meaning “soft”. This refers to the softness of the crust when young – with age it becomes harder. It has a grey crust and orangish flesh. The orange colour comes from a natural colorant, annatto. The cheese has a similar appearance to a cantaloupe melon.

The greyish crust of aged Mimolette is the result of cheese mites intentionally introduced to add flavor by their action on the surface of the cheese.

Mimolette can be consumed at different stages of aging. When younger, its taste resembles that of Parmesan. Many appreciate it most when “extra-old” (extra-vieille). At that point, it can become rather hard to chew, and the flesh takes a hazelnut-like flavour.

Ledoyen Restaurant is housed in a neo-Classical pavilion located within the gardens of the Champs-Élysées. It’s a superb setting, luxurious decor and a remarkable dining experience. Christian Le Squer champions cuisine that is unpretentious yet cooked to perfection. An incomparable and intense pleasure for the senses and so expensive that it’d make your tear ducts dry out just glancing at Le Menu.
People do eat there, so it’s best is we print a write up from a guest who gave this three start Michelin a five star thumbs up:
“For my 600th Yelp review, I’ve chosen Ledoyen because it became one of my most memorable haute cuisine experiences. This is exactly the kind of restaurant I expect from 3 Michelin starred restaurant. If you want to indulge yourself in an ultimate frou frou and decadent dining experience, Ledoyen would be a great choice. I suggest to go for lunch because you’ll save a lot of €€€. This is one of the oldest restaurants in Paris and some of the notable patrons include Napoleon, Danton, Monet and Degas. The gorgeous neo-classical architecture provides a stunning setting, with note-worthy ornate ceiling decorations and a beautiful view of the garden outside. I really loved the old world atmosphere, it’s hard to beat this level of perfection.The service is impeccable and extremely formal. Make sure you are dressed to the nines or otherwise you will feel so out of place. I’m so glad there was a Japanese-speaking waitress who translated the menu for me because there is no English version…. Only in French!!The food presentation was so beautiful and creative, the interesting texture and the tasty flavors were such pleasures to my senses. The ginger bubble appetizer was particularly interesting with such burst of flavor. This is a great example of well executed molecular gastronomy , in which unique artsy appearance equals the quality of the taste. Mushroom pizza was also off the hook, I loved it! Green sea urchin mixed with shaved ice and cheese was refreshing and had a surprisingly simple flavor . For the main dish I ordered seafood (lobster, shrimp, scallop & fish) served with rich scrumptious brown sauce. It was so delicious that I could say it was one of the best seafood dishes I’ve eaten. The other option for the main dish was pork but it wasn’t as good as the seafood.After the main dish, the waitress brought a cart filled with almost 20 different kinds of expensive cheese so I tried like 7 cheese and that alone was a great bonus! And the dessert was also another highlight, the meringue with rose and lychee dissolved in my mouth and satisfied my taste buds with such fresh flavor!

I spent about €130 per person for lunch but I think this is such a great value!! Everything was phenomenal, this is my top 5 meals I had in my life!”

Voila, and so you have it dear reader . . . Let me know what you think of it  please ! . . .


An Impossible Banquet, Four Masterpieces by Jan van Huysum at Dulwich Picture Gallery until 28th September



Dear Mon Oc,

I hope you are enjoying this wonderful summer, I’ve certainly spent as much time as possible in our grounds and in nearby Dulwich Park. But there is plenty of opportunity to celebrate summer in the Gallery too with our new display of works by Dutch flower painter Jan Van Huysum. He depicts his sumptuous fruits and flowers in amazing detail and no matter how many times I look at them, there’s always something new to see.

Whether you’re a budding botanist or not you’re sure learn more in the booklet that accompanies the display with numbered diagrams to help you identify exactly what you can see.

This display is also a rare chance to see these works together in one room, illustrating his stylistic development.

So take a break from the sun and come and examine these beautiful paintings for yourself!

Henrietta Ward, Curatorial Fellow, Dulwich Picture Gallery

Colourful gifts, prints, books and homeware to accompany this beautiful display. Available online or from the Gallery shop.

Colourful gifts, prints, books and homeware to accompany this beautiful display. Available online or from the Gallery shop.

Finding, Buying & Improving a Period House – No.3

To Survey, or not to Survey?     continued . . .

There is a commonly held view that if a property has stood for over a hundred years, then it will last for many more.

This is not true, even a mountain is constantly being eroded and changed by the weather so a man made building is even more susceptible if it has/is not properly constructed and maintained.

Water is the enemy of buildings, it can be controlled and managed but if it is allowed to enter parts where it should not go, significant damage sometimes initially unapparent to an untrained eye can be caused.

A building does not remain completely motionless; it expands, contracts and settles much as we breathe. This movement can be managed, it can be unthreatening to the structure or it can pose a significant problem.

image004This tower is several centuries old; a surveyor will be able to tell you whether or not the cracks pose a risk. The stabilisation work that has been done here is very well concealed but evident to the trained eye.

As surveyors, we are sadly frequently called in by clients who have bought a property that “looked OK” but down the line started to display major problems that had been concealed, appeared minor or even went unnoticed. Sometimes this can be resolved financially for them by the courts but it is a long drawn out and expensive process that takes its toll on their enjoyment and peace of mind.

If restoration, improvement and/or extension is planned; it may not be apparent what is and is not possible to achieve, the best methods to use and sometimes alternative suggestions can be seen by fresh eyes.

 What the surveyor’s report should tell you should be answers to the questions that you need to ask before you decide how much to pay for the property or even whether or not to buy it.

  • Are there any significant defects?
  • What has caused the problems?
  • What should be done to remedy them?
  • How much will the remedy cost?
  • Is it possible to do the improvements that I plan?
  • Is my budget adequate for my plans?

It is better to give the surveyor an idea of your budget than to ask how much it will cost, because there is a great variation in the quality and price of materials especially with regard to bathrooms and kitchens. Sometimes suggestions can be made to structure and stage the works in line with your pocket.

The surveyor is unlikely to tell you not to purchase a property. The vast majority of problems can be resolved at a cost. Whether or not the cost is possible for you or you are up for the time required and hassle of the project is your decision.

The surveyor will normally offer you advice on how to maintain your property after purchase. The methods of building construction in France can be completely different to what you know from the UK, especially in the South where the climate is very different. Just because a property has been recently restored does not mean that you can sit back and do nothing for several years. Older properties need regular annual maintenance to protect the fabric and to keep out the enemy – water.

The surveyor will also usually check that the boundaries appear to correspond with the land registry plan (cadastre) and report to you on possible easements and rights of passage (servitudes) to enable you to seek clarification from the notaire or your own lawyer. It is sound advice to seek clarification of the legal status of the property; it does not hurt to ask questions to ensure that everything is as it should be.

You will be comforted and re-assured by the surveyor’s professional indemnity insurance (responsibilté civile professionelle) in that, if a defect that should have been seen and reported to you was not, the insurer will recompense you for your financial loss. This is usually valid for five years from the date of the report. As with most insurances, the surveyor will be responsible for an excess (franchise) and the annual premium will rise dramatically after a claim, so you can be assured that great vigilance and care will be taken during the inspection.

The surveyor’s fee will probably be a small percentage of your overall expenditure and the report should enable you to negotiate a price that takes any essential repairs into account. If there are problems found, you will not have any nasty shocks and if there are none you can sleep easy.

The answer therefore is up to you.

If you would seek the comfort and re-assurance of a survey on your UK property, then you should also do so in France. If you are happy to take a risk and trust to luck, then so be it.

JOHN MARSHALL – Chartered Valuation Surveyor § Building Pathologist

This article was originally published in French Property News.

In the garden – August

Hesperaloe parviflora

Hesperaloe parviflora

At the time of writing these notes we have had an exceptionally warm, sunny June and many people are predicting

Dasylirion leiophyllum

Dasylirion leiophyllum

worse drought than usual for the summer of 2014.  Plants have various strategies for resisting heat and drought and one of the most effective is being succulent, in other words parts of the plant (both leaves and stems) are adapted to store water to enable them to survive drought.  One of the most popular groups of succulents (plantes graisse in French) are the agavaceae, we frequently see the large blue agave (Agave americana) and the popular Yucca gloriosa which can form very large plants and are also very spiny and are therefore only suitable in certain situations.  But, there are many other plants in this family which are much smaller and better adapted for smaller gardens or container growing, Agave victoria-reginae or Agave filifera for example.  There are also many which have very attractive architectural forms such as Nolinas or Dasylirions and it is worth noting also that Nolinas, Beschornerias and Hesperaloes are not particularly spiny.  Groupings of plants like these will provide all year round interest by virtue of

Beschorneria Septentrionalis

Beschorneria Septentrionalis

their forms and for additional summer interest they can be interplanted with ground cover succulents such as

Agave victoria reginae

Agave victoria reginae

Delosperma cooperi or drought tolerant perennials like Epilobium Western Hills.  We have been testing a number of different agavaceae at La Petite Pépinière for several years now and you are most welcome to visit to observe the various forms.  Other places to observe these types of plants include the Jardin Exotique at Ponteilla , the Jardin Botanique at Feuilla    and also at Les Epines de Lespinet



August is a month during which gardens are often resting and plants can look a bit jaded.  Watering and weeding where and when necessary will continue to be ongoing tasks, remember that watering a flower bed the evening before weeding will usually make the job easier.  Containers and hanging baskets may need watering daily during the very hot period but if you are watering your garden remember that a deep soaking once a week or fortnight is much more effective than frequent sprinkling.

During August think about the following: 

  • Towards the end of the month start to divide perennials such as iris and day lilies (Hemerocallis) which will not flower again this year 
  • Continue deadheading perennials which will repeat flower such as Coreopsis, Gaillardias and Rudbeckia to encourage a second flowering.  Cut back hardy geraniums to encourage new growth.
  • Collect seeds from annuals such as Cosmos and Californian poppies, you can sow these  next spring
  • Clip back lavenders once they have finished flowering, but never into old wood
  • Prune wisteria – leave any long stems that you want to encourage to extend the framework of the plant, cut back completely any stems which are totally unwanted and cut back all other stems to two or three buds on each stem
  • Clear fallen leaves affected by blackspot from around roses
  • Prune roses which aren’t repeat flowering once all flowers have finished

 At La Petite Pépinière we shall be offering  our two day gardening course,

Agave parryii

Agave parryii

An Introduction to Gardening in Summer Dry Climates  on Tuesday 14th October (11am – 1, 2 – 5pm) and Wednesday 15th October  (10am – 12.30, 1.30 – 4pm)  This  two day course is aimed at those relatively new to gardening in the Languedoc and will focus on providing information and promoting discussion in a relaxed and informal atmosphere which will help those interested in creating interesting, easy to maintain and colourful ornamental gardens in our summer dry climate.  We will consider the nature of the local climate, the physical problems associated with gardening here (heat, drought, cold, wind, soil) and how to cope with them; recognising plants which are suited to this climate; buying plants; planting techniques and maintenance.  We shall also look at design basics and planting schemes, succession – planting for year round interest and plants for particular situations.  Appropriate resources and useful French/English vocabulary will also be included as well as a guided tour of the garden here to illustrate points made. 

For further information contact Gill Pound at La Petite Pépinière de Caunes (shrubs and perennials, ornamental grasses, unusual plants and plants for dry climates, garden advice and consultation), 21, Avenue de la Montagne Noire, 11160, Caunes-Minervois.

Tel: 04 68 78 43 81, email

Agave filifera

Agave filifera

Open the second weekend of every month ie the 8th, 9th & 10th August, the 12th, 11th & 13th September, the 10th, 11th & 12th October and 7th, 8th & 9th November from 10am to 6pm each day and also by appointment – just phone or email to fix another time.

Diary of a Vineyard – July 2014

64_Rives_Blanques_Oct13Ouf! as they say in French. It’s all fireworks and brimstone this month:  there’s the 4th of July and there is the Quatorze de Juillet.  

And then there is also a catastrophe of cataclysmic proportions as hail sweeps over vast tracts of the Minervois,  Cabardes,  Malepere and Carcassonne, wiping out between 20% – 100% of 15,000 ha of vines. That’s very close to home – and knowing the same could easily happen to us brings it even closer to home.   The Minister of Agriculture comes to see the desolation with his own eyes.  A number of winegrowers are uninsured, wiped out.  And not just for this year, but for next year as well, as a result. Nobody has ever seen anything like it. We thank our lucky stars to be unaffected by this randomly distributed misery.  Because that’s what it is: luck.  Luck separated by just a few hundred meters.


Friday 4 July
Red Letter Day

KLMwindow-300x199And our lucky stars are spangling bright. Today goes down in the annals of Rives-Blanques as the very best ever. First we hear that our chardonnay-chenin ‘everyday’ wine has again been awarded the gold medal of the Pays d’Oc competition, the Ambassadress Collection. It will be sent around the world to represent the quality of Languedoc’s wines. Quite an honour for a wine we like to call our “basic beauty”.

Then we hear that the SAQ Monopoly in Quebec has placed a large order for our top chardonnay – the first time ever! That alone is reason enough to celebrate. Canada here we come!!

Then … the KLM buyer calls us and says, “The panel tasted your Le Limoux yesterday. It was awful”

A heart-stopping, horrible, horrified,  horrifying  pause follows. Then he roars with laughter.

“Ha! I got you there! No, of course, it was wonderful!”

BRILLIANT!! We forgive him his sense of humour. That puts our blend Le Limoux into the World Business Class of KLM on their transcontinental flights. More than brilliant. Just absolutely, incredibly, amazingly fabulous.

And the day holds even more in store, but it’s too much even for a diary which nobody reads …

So we finish it off by watching Don Giovanni in an open air amphitheatre in the heart of the old medieval city of Carcassonne, and the stars spangle very very brightly overhead.

Monday July 7

USAsilver-150x150The two silver medals from the Best French Wines for the USA in Miami come as a bit of a let-down.  Where are the fireworks?

Friday  11 July

“Saute! Saute!”  Eric shouts at Jan-Ailbe.

But above the roar of the old tractor, he only hears what sounds like “Stop! Stop!”.

He’s trying with all his might to stop.

But the tractor, a 50+-year old veteran called an International Harvester for reasons not entirely clear to me, is a tractor that goes on and on when all else stops.   It is a tractor that out-tractors our brand-new Ferrari-red computer-driven state-of-the-art Cases number.  The trouble is,  the unstoppable tractor is not stopping.  In fact, it is cutting a sure, certain, unwavering  path down the slippery slope towards the steep drop at the end of the Cépie field.

More frantic “Saute! Saute!” from Eric, and more fruitless pumping of the break from Jan-Ailbe.

Finally, he disentangles his 6’7″ frame from the cramped cabin and jumps for his life.

Tuesday 15 July
Tuesday Tour Talk & Tasting 

TTTT3-300x225Our Tuesday Tour Talk & Tasting visitors come on the dot of 10h30.  There are a couple of Belgians, some Dutch people, and a number of Britons.  We have advertised the fact that we speak Chinese  (and Spanish and Portuguese) but fortunately that has not been put to the test yet.  Certainly the ‘talk’ bit of the Tuesday Tour Talk & Tasting would be a lot less free ranging.  Right now we’ve been banging on about biodiversity (in English), something that resonates with the Panman accompanying today’s tour into the vineyard (the Panman who speaks Chinese wouldn’t know what a boar is in Mandarin any way.)   We stop at the field where the chardonnay for Odyssée grows, and biodiversity flies in.  A White Admiral, a Swallowtail and a Blue Something steal the scene.  The scene is difficult to steal at the best of times, but there are a couple of avid amateur butterfly-ists in the group.  For them, the view pales  in comparison.

Wednesday 16 July

Our 25-year old forklift lifts its last and is replaced by a nifty metallic silver job with power steering and a bleeper that bleeps when it reverses.  Both Jan’s are thrilled.  It’s a battered up, fairly beaten second-hand affair, but to look at them you’d think Christmas had come.

Monday 21 July

Two Dutch stewardesses with two friends and a gaggle of children, one English doctor with son and son’s girlfriend, three Swedes, and a single, solitary Frenchwoman all turn up in the tasting room at the same time.  Polyglot party-time; no work gets done.

Carol Panman

N is for New Girl – and with it a Guide to the French Education System

C’est la rentrée. As I write, parents everywhere are breathing a monumental sigh of relief that the summer (lovely as it is!) is over and they can finally hand daytime responsibility for their little darlings/monsters back to teachers. It’s been a particularly big week for the Sayers household as our eldest – Rosie – has started maternelle (infant school) for the first time, and so we start along the long road that is the French education system (see below for the lowdown).

Day one went well – no tears from our new girl (a few sentimental ones out of sight from her mum !) although there were some tiny tots sobbing their little socks off in her class. The new intake is made up largely of those born in 2005, of which Rosie (age 3 and 9 months) is one of the oldest. However, parents here clamour to get their children in as young as possible so some of Rosie’s classmates are not yet 3. It’s not surprising that they’re not too chipper about being packed off for an 8 hour stint with complete strangers !

I say day one went well, but I’ve omitted to mention our spectacular arrival at the entrance to school. Just in case speaking English with each other wasn’t attracting enough attention, I decided to ensure that everyone knows who we are by performing the mother of all falls up the steps. I went flying, Joe (age 18 months) in my arms, and we both fell with a sickening thwack of his head (and, less importantly, my knees) on to the very solid tiled floor. Understandably, he didn’t take too kindly to this and proceeded to let everyone know of his discomfort – loudly. Cue for a gaggle of French mums to gather round and regale me with advice on how best to treat the bumped head. I suspect I am now unofficially known as “that English woman who throws children around”.

It’s a long old school day here. We have to have Rosie at school by 8.30am –a real challenge for us as a family, accustomed as we are to getting out of bed relatively late and enjoying a leisurely breakfast, and not helped by Rosie’s daily dilly dally over what to wear – few French schools have uniforms. There is a rather complicated schedule of activities posted on the wall of the classroom for parents to see, but if Rosie is to believed, she mainly spends her time skipping !

There is a canteen for lunch which produces a gourmet style menu of daily 3 course meals which wouldn’t look out of place in a Jamie Oliver establishment, but many of Rosie’s class go home for lunch. A two hour lunchtime window sounds a lot but let me tell you that there is little slack in the schedule once you’ve walked home at 3 year old pace, cooked lunch (we have embraced the hot-meal-at-lunchtime ethos of the French in order to fit in!) and walked back to school.

After lunch it’s siesta time, obligatory for the “Petite Section”. The school has a room dedicated to sleeping and laid out with 30 miniature beds which makes a touching little tableau. How the teachers succeed in getting 30 wriggling 3 year olds to sleep at the same time is beyond my comprehension – I couldn’t manage it with one – but they do, on a daily basis. Mind you, I fully understand the awe inspired in the children by la maîtresse – I’m terrified of her myself having been the victim of her disdain for a number of serious parental misdemeanours including providing the wrong-sized photographs and turning up at the wrong door after lunch – this is a different entrance from the one used at the beginning and end of the day, but, of course, no-one thought to tell me and the other novice parents this.

Post-siesta and it’s time for goûter – the afternoon snack (sleeping and eating – that’s my kind of afternoon !). She who must be obeyed has drawn up a rota for us parents, who will take it in turns to provide a week’s worth of goûter – that’s four days worth (in case you’re uninitiated, there’s no infant or primary school on Wednesdays in France) of afternoon snacks for 30 children – no sweet stuff allowed ! I’m already in blind panic about my week and what I’m going to produce, especially with French preconceptions about English cuisine to overcome. Suggestions on a postcard please….

The afternoon apparently involves more skipping, with perhaps a bit of painting or a story thrown in and then kicking out time is 4.30pm. It’s vaguely concerning that three year olds have a longer day than many French civil servants! All the parents line up obediently at the door which opens a crack while the maîtresse pops her head out and then summons the relevant child from their desk. Woe betide those who spot a parent and in their excitement, make a run for the door out of turn. Many try, but few succeed. That icy stare alone is enough to put them back in their place ! That reminds me, it’s nearly 4.30pm and I need to get my skates on – I don’t dare be late.

The lowdown on the French education system:

Maternelle (Infant school)

Age Grade Abbreviation
3-4 Petite Section PS
4-5 Moyenne Section MS
5-6 Grande Section GS

Primaire (Primary school)

Age Grade Abbreviation
6-7 Cours Preparatoire CP/11ème
7-8 Cours élémentaire première année CE1/10ème
8-9 Cours élémentaire deuxième année CE2/9ème
9-10 Cours moyen première année CM1/8ème
10-11 Cours moyen deuxième année CM2/7ième

Secondaire (Secondary school) –

Collège for the first four years and lycée for the last three

Age Grade Abbreviation
11-12 Sixième 6ème
12-13 Cinqième 5ème
13-14 Quatrième 4ème
14-15 Troisième 3ème
15-16 Seconde 2nde
16-17 Première 1ere
17-18 Terminale Term or Tle

This article first appeared in French Property News magazine. Please note that some of the information contained may be out of date. (including Rosie’s age!)

Louise Sayers

We all saw the cyclists on TV, but how many if us missed this little chap who’s been with us all the while ?


When is a Regional Capital not going to be a Regional Capital? When it becomes a mere City . . .

A Capital battle for French Cities . . .

The map of France was set to be redrawn today, with MPs likely to approve a 13-region model proposed last week. But that will start a whole new debate – where will the new “super-regions” base their capital?

As reported, MPs last week accepted a new-look France, which cut the number of regions from the current 22. They were due to vote through the plans today.

The proposals unite Poitou-Charentes with Limousin and Aquitaine, as well as Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Picardy – despite resistance from some representatives of the regions concerned – but the question of where the political and administrative centre of each new region remains unanswered.

There is more at stake than simply the prestige of being the primary city in one of France’s new “super-regions”. There is an economic impact.

“The choice of capital has a significant impact in terms of jobs,” decentralisation expert Patrick Le Lidec told FranceTV info.

He explained that “capital status” would bring “administrative jobs because of the implementation of regional council services,” and would also have a knock-on effect on businesses such as hotels and restaurants.

Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve has tried to reassure MPs worried that their home towns will lose capital status.

He said reform, “does not mean that there will be administrative territorial deserts where there are currently regional capitals.

He suggested that some administrative services may be moved away from the regional capitals of the new “super-regions”.

Mr Le Lidec agreed: “One can imagine, for example, the Regional Directorate of the Environment, Planning and Housing (DREAL) would not be based in the regional capital.”

But he warned of the potentially expensive dangers inherent in appeasing cities that lose their regional capital status, saying there is a risk of “losing part or all of the desired economies of territorial reform”.

The decision on regional capitals can only be made once make-up of the regions are confirmed.

Mr Le Lidac argues that France’s major metropolises – such as Toulouse, Lille, Strasbourg and Rouen – have prior claims to become capitals of larger regions, but the new-look map could throw up a number of key local disputes.

Assuming Midi-Pyrenees does merge with Languedoc-Roussillon, ancient Cathar rivalries could re-emerge, argues regional newspaper La Depeche, as Toulouse and Montpellier vie for regional capital status.

L1060447Toulouse is the larger city, but neither the regional president of Languedoc Roussillon nor the mayor of Montpellier are shutterstock_91666832prepared to give up without a fight.

Meanwhile, a union of Alsace-Lorraine-Champagne-Ardenne has caused concern in the corridors of power in Strasbourg, according to the local edition of Rue89.

Its status as regional capital seemed assured under original plans which merged Alsace and Lorraine, but the addition of Champagne-Ardenne has raised the possibility that Metz could become the primary city in the new-look region.

Concerns are also being raised in Normandy, where ancient Rouen could be challenged by Caen – and the mayor of Le Havre has even suggested his city as an alternative.

There are three possibilities in a new-look Burgundy and Franche-Comté region, too. The two current regions have been happy to merge, but a choice between Dijon and Besançon may be a sticking point. This is why the UMP mayor of Dole has put his city – an ancient regional capital in its own right – as “a third way”.

with thanks to The Connexion, Jul 23



Son en Lumières en France & Light Shows

Pierre-Jean Durieu /

The annual Festival of Lights takes place in Lyon every December / Pierre-Jean Durieu /


Son en Lumières

Court Séjour valable aux dates de spectacle : du 22 au 24 août et du 29 au 31 août 2014



Son et Lumière

Until 21 September

Huge silhouettes projected on to the façade of the Château Royal de Blois in the Loire Valley conjure up tales of chivalry, love and drama at this residence of French kings. The narration is spoken by leading French actors and an audio guide is available in English.

Tel: (Fr) 2 54 90 33 33



Chartres en Lumières

Until 12 October

The soaring Gothic cathedral in Chartres becomes even more mesmerising when multicoloured lights dance around its intricately carved façade to an orchestral accompaniment. Nearly 30 buildings and squares in the town are also lit up.

Tel: (Fr) 2 37 23 40 00



Carrières de Lumières

Until 4 January 2015

The immense interiors of a disused limestone quarry are used to display
famous art on a monumental scale.
This year’s show celebrates the works of three Viennese artists, including Gustav Klimt – best-known for his gilded masterpiece The Kiss.

Tel: (Fr) 4 90 54 55 56



La Cinéscénie

7 June to 13 September

The historical theme park Puy du Fou employs a cast of more than 1,000 actors, dancers and horsemen for its night-time extravaganza, held on a huge outdoor stage beside the castle moat. Expect fireworks, light shows and lasers.

Tel: (Fr) 8 20 09 10 10



Des Flammes à la Lumières

20 June to 26 July

The centenary in 2014 of the outbreak of World War I makes it a particularly poignant time to watch a re-enactment of the 
Battle of Verdun and its aftermath, using 250 actors, 900 costumes, 1,000 projectors and an array of special effects.

Tel: (Fr) 3 29 84 50 00



La Nuit des Chimères

2 July to 1 September

As dusk settles on the medieval quarter of 
Le Mans, the buildings and cobbled streets are turned into giant projection screens (pictured) to recount the history of the Plantagenet dynasty, which came from the town and ruled England for three centuries.

Tel: (Fr) 2 43 28 17 22



Les Luminessences

11 August to 11 October

In the courtyard of the Palais des Papes, spectators learn about the papacy’s residence in Avignon in a light and video show that projects 3D images on to the walls, backed up by music and narration.

Tel: (Fr) 4 32 74 32 74


with thanks to France Magazine

For your August reading . . .

Swallows & Robins – The Guests In My Garden

by Susie Kelly


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When the chance to transform two old barns into holiday cottages presents itself, Susie grasps the opportunity, all she has to do is find the right builders for the job and make sure the works completed before the first guests arrive.
In this entertaining, funny and sometimes sad book, we have the opportunity to meets a wide variety of her friends, acquaintances and guests who arrive from around the world and come from all walks of life.  From Tristram the blond Apollo to Ivy, her cleaner, every characters description and antics add to the readers’ enjoyment of this entertaining book.
Through her guests’ travels, we are able to explore some of the beautiful French countryside, its heritage and traditions whilst also being treated to a glimpse of what life really is like in rural France.


by Alan Brenham

Just Released – A gripping crime thriller written by award winning Author Alan Brenham.

In Temple, Texas, Police Detective Matt Brady, assisted by FBI Special Agent Steve Casani, is investigating the disappearances of five beautiful women. Desperate, with no leads and the number of missing women growing at an alarming pace, Matt is desperate for answers.

Everyone knows that the person we become in life can be affected in a moment, by a word, or circumstance. The paths we take as a result and their consequences are sometimes, only discovered after the passing of time. These life-changing moments or words, for some people are stamped in their mind forever, silently festering and waiting to emerge, bringing back memories, which cloud the present.

This book is even more enjoyable because, whilst writing it, the author has been able to draw from his wealth and variety of personal experience in police and law, among which is his time as a Temple patrol officer and, Assistant General Counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

A brilliantly written compelling thriller, action packed, clever and with twists and turns which are guaranteed to keep the reader guessing until the very end.

Another spring

by John Needham




New Release.

This book is a collection of short stories, each possessing different themes, but all written in the style of writing that lovers of John Needham’s other books will recognise.

John writes from experience, hindsight and observation. These stories are poignant, reflective, heartrending and celebratory, they will make you laugh, smile, think and reflect.

If you are a fan of fly on the wall stories or memoirs, you will love the way that his pen dips into the past as he captures the essence of life then, and the innocence of bygone days, in the first two of his short stories which are called Awakening and Skeggy Day Out.

Tantalisingly, Baby Blues is a taster for his next novel The One of Us. As two couples explore their thoughts and feelings whilst deciding whether they are going to adopt.

Of course everyone has fallen in love. Dream, Dream, Dream, takes its title from the famous song as one man reflects on life and love in the 50’s.

Whilst in the final story a writer shares a little of himself in Another Spring…

Even though two of the stories are modified extracts from the author’s novels Convergence and Forebears, the others are new, and I am confident in saying that fans of John’s writing will not be disappointed in this new book.

Diary of a single parent abroad

by Jill Pennington

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I have to say first off that I loved this book.
I don’t honestly know whether it’s because I am English living in France or because I can relate to some of the situations Jill has had to deal with, or just because it is a really good story brilliantly told.
From a mother who enjoys renovating in the UK, to a single parent managing to settle her children and herself in a foreign land whilst coping with a tricky marriage split between two countries, I found her adventures entertaining and her portrayal of them no holds barred.
As the book progresses she gives a realistic glimpse of what it is really like to live in a different country than your homeland, especially when they speak a different language and really cannot understand you. Many books on renovating abroad are written as if money is no object and it is refreshing to read an account of what it is really like when you don’t have a lot of money yet still love where you have made your home. I also loved the way she so honestly describes how friendly the local neighbours can be in small communities, willing to offer help and support after they get to know you.
A really good story and I hope we get to hear more of Jill’s adventures.


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