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October 2018
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Best value MAPS of FRANCE, and keeping the children amused

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What Do You Do When You Just Can’t Thank People Enough?

by Susan Keefe

Normally, when it comes to my family, I am a very private person on the internet, however in this case I am making an exception.

Last May my beloved dad died of cancer. It was undetected despite two years of monthly hospital stays with serious heart and lung problems. It wasn’t until he complained (and he wasn’t one to complain) of really bad headaches whilst in hospital, that they carried out the neck scan which showed the tell-tale lump. Then they realised that it was, in his words “All over my body, in my bones, and it’s incurable.”

The palliative care team at the hospital were brilliant and in three days he was home. This is where I first met the MacMillan nurses. I cannot praise them enough. During the week it took my dad to die each one was extremely sensitive and caring, ensuring that he was comfortable and had everything he needed. From day one, each nurse when entering the house seemed to be like family, they were friendly yet efficient, answered our questions, guided us in what to expect, hugged us, and cried with us, whatever we needed, they seemed to instinctively know.

Then, the day after he died, they created a memory which will stay in my heart forever. As we sat in the other room they prepared my dad, as they were doing it, they talked to him as if he was still alive, “Sorry Ted we’ve just got to do this…” “We’re just going to have to move you over here…” Then they even gave him a wet shave because they knew from earlier in the week that he preferred it.

How can you repay such caring and sensitive people? I didn’t know, then I saw on the MacMillan website the South Coast Mighty Hike. It was a something I felt compelled to do, even though, at 26 miles, it is going to be very challenging to get physically fit enough for it. I will do it for dad, and my daughter is walking it too in honour of her lovely granddad.

If you feel you can support me by donating, any amount, every penny counts as they say, please click on this link or the button below  , , , ,

[it’s always difficult to know who and what to support these days. This is a really worthy organisation. We all have been touched by cancer so this is a real  opportunity to help the people who help so well. Ed]

Winter and Summer Skiing at the French Alps’ New Highest Hotel

The highest hotel in the French Alps, with the highest residences in Europe is currently under construction in Val d’Isère. Set to be completed in time for the ski season at the end of 2018, the development is one of many happening in this world famous resort.

“Val d’Isère is arguably undergoing the most amount of change of any resort in the French Alps.” believes Charles Antoine Sialelli French Alps Adviser, Athena Advisers

When completed Le Refuge de Solaise will boast 19 rooms, 3 apartments and a 14-bed dormitory. Perched a whole 800 metres higher than the town centre, the hotel’s guests will be the first to hit the piste (or off-piste) in the morning and will enjoy five hours more sun than the rest of the resort, as well as breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and village below.

In addition to this, the resort’s biggest development to date, Le Coin de Val, is still on course. The 15,000 sqm space will include two 4* hotels, residences (including around 900 beds) and commercial spaces, all of which will greatly improve the aesthetics of this part of the resort.

After an incredible season with a seemingly never ending supply of fresh snow, summer skiing has proved popular this year. Having reopened the pistes in June, skiing carried on until mid July, with neighbouring Tignes’ Grande Motte glacier open until Sunday 5th August. Wow !!!

Forget the beach – it’s time to relax by the river!

By Louise Taylor

There’s nothing quite like a quick dip for the ultimate refreshment from the sultry summer heat. However, you don’t have to take on the crowds lining France’s beaches in order to enjoy cooling off in the water.

FrenchEntrée have a selection of superb riverside properties to keep you cool this summer. Riverside living comes with a host of benefits, from increased opportunities for keeping fit to a reduction in stress levels. Are you ready to take the plunge? Then here are two fabulous properties that are perfect for long, lazy days of messing about on the river.

Restored riverside chateau between Sarlat and Souillac: 609,000€

This restored riverside chateauis set in verdant parkland. Close to the Dordogne valley, it boasts some exceptional original and characterful features from the 15th century building. The property exudes a sense of majesty, from its vast stone spiral staircase, grand fireplaces and beamed ceilings to its welcoming library and handy wine cellar.

Spacious apartment in converted monastery: 199,000€

This exceptional two-bedroom apartmentin a converted monastery is perfectly located for those who enjoy riverside walks, painting, fishing and boating. The apartment is finished to a high standard, with on-site facilities including a large, heated swimming pool, pretty gardens and river access with jetty. The idyllic setting in one of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ brings with it a wonderful sense of serenity.

What actually is Jet lag?

Jet lag is the disturbance to sleep patterns produced by travelling across several times zones when flying East or West. It is usually worse when you fly East (towards the Middle East, China and Japan or returning to France or the UK from a stay in the USA) as the body finds it harder to accept a shorter day (in effect requiring you to go to bed early and sleep) than a longer day (requiring you to stay up longer and then sleep).

Jet lag is associated with a feeling of tiredness, confusion and lethargy. The most common problem is an inability to sleep at night in the new time zone. Sufferers will find it difficult to fall to sleep at the required time and despite only a small amount of sleep sufferers will often wake up very early at what would have been the normal waking time in their normal time zone.

If you take medicines at the same time each day, such as the oral contraceptive pill or insulin, you should discuss this with your pharmacist to ensure you do not miss doses or take too much.

What are the causes of jet lag?

Your body has a natural body clock that dictates the daily pattern of waking and sleep. This pattern is called the circadian rhythm and is set to your local time zone by the hours of light and dark you experience. This circadian rhythm affects when you feel awake and tired, but also when you feel hungry, your body temperature and blood pressure and even when you go to the toilet.

When you travel across time zones it takes a while for your body clock to adjust, and so it may be making you feel wide awake when it’s bedtime in the new time zone or very tired when you should be raring to go. This can be a serious problem on business trips but also can spoil the first few days of a holiday that has cost you a fortune!

Treatments for jet lag

Most people find that symptoms of jet lag will gradually reduce over 2-3 days and the symptoms are not a serious health problem but can be rather disruptive and very inconvenient. You can help your body adjust by adopting the correct times for eating and sleeping in the new time zone as soon as possible. This may mean really trying to stay up when you first arrive. Spending time outside may also help as natural light will influence your body clock to adapt more quickly. Avoiding dehydration is also important to reduce jet lag.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that can help to ease jet lag by “resetting” the body clock. Melatonin is naturally released by the body in the evening when it gets dark to let your body know it’s time to sleep, and production is reduced in response to light to help you wake up. It can be used to help jet lag by helping you to sleep at the appropriate time for the new time zone.

Lorry Parks, Toilet Rolls and the Romans

By Richard Pickering Head of Futures Strategy at Cushman & Wakefield                             A personal view of the business and role of property in new Europe

Trucks and tractors  A report by Sky News this week reveals how local authorities across the UK are preparing for our exit from the European Union, each putting a nuanced view of how Brexit will manifest itself in their region. The report reveals that both Dover and Kent councils have made plans for a 13-mile lorry park just off the M20, which could be in place for years to come, (a significant opportunity for greasy spoon pop-up operators?).

Meanwhile, the Shetland Islands have expressed concerns about falling agricultural land prices, estimating that 86% of sheep farms in their region will become loss making after Brexit. The ante has upped in recent weeks, as the previously-unlikely prospect of a no deal exit is, to use Jeremy Hunt’s words, ‘increasing by the day’.

It is the shifting sands and uncertainty, rather than a specific outcome of the Brexit negotiations that is causing the most difficulty for local authorities. With delivery of some public services needing to be planned well in advance, and with seven months to go until a potential no deal exit, this is looking to be an increasingly challenging task.

Reading the market  The proportion of online sales to total sales in the UK is currently around 18%. However, this average figure disguises significant variations within the various product categories. Online grocery sales remain stubbornly low at 6%, whereas the majority of music sales are now online. Why is this? For information goods (music, video, e-books etc) the product can be trialled instantly from the comfort of your living room, can be easily found and reviewed at one of the mega-marketplaces (App store, Amazon) and is delivered in seconds. Hence, for these products online purchases are quicker, easier and cheaper than in store, and therefore more compelling.

Why then is the city of Beijing proposing to spend $15m on subsidising rent for bookstores? It has a vision for 200 24-hour bookstores in the city located in ‘densely populated residential areas and near scenic sites’. The stated reason is to support public reading and to play the role of public libraries. The stores also typically incorporate coffee shops, host lectures and run classes.

Would the UK also see this as a key part of urban infrastructure that should not be allowed to fail? As both libraries and bookstores continue to close, the combination of the two, coupled with a service offering seems logical, and one which might sustain each of them longer than their current trajectories.

Day and night  Have you ever wondered why most high street shops are open in the daytime (when most of us are at work) and closed in the evening (when surely more of us have free time)? It has always struck me as odd. Availability and cost of labour presumably play a part, as does convention. If so, as automation takes hold, could we see this change?

Shopping is not the only activity that is more convenient after hours; so is going to the doctors. Most of us will pick an early or late appointment if possible to minimise disruption of the working day; however, a recent analysis by the BBC shows that over 5 million people are still unable to see a GP out of working hours. The consequences for commercial real estate of us all lining up our activities within the same 8-hour block is that property is largely unused for two thirds of the day.

The challenge to using the same space around the clock for different uses is that businesses have equipment and stock to store out-of-hours that would be incompatible with a shared user. However, as shops start to stock less products in store, business services are digitised and move into the cloud, and fixed desk settings become less popular, space becomes more flexible and might present new opportunities. Could for instance office meeting rooms be used as out-of-hour GP consultation rooms?

Snacks, cigarettes and holy water  The automation of retailing might be perceived as a relatively modern invention. The shift from cashiers to self swipe checkouts has happened very quickly, with the number of self-service tills almost doubling globally over the past 5 years. Amazon’s Go concept is the next evolution of this, dispensing with the till entirely in favour of a single RFID enabled check-out at the door. However, of course automated retailing is not new; we have been doing it since the 1880s in the form of vending machines (and technically since the first century AD when Heron of Alexandria developed a coin-operated holy water dispenser).

The challenge since then has been one of vision, with vending machines typically reserved for snacks and cigarettes.

However, a new breed of vending is much more ambitious. An example of this is a new machine at San Francisco International Airport, which dispenses Uniqlo vests and jackets. They clearly know their target audience of VC and coders. But herein is a benefit of small scale vending – the ability to hit niche or well-known customer segments with targeted offerings. If this works in airports, why wouldn’t it work in office campuses, where there is ample employee data to support stocking decisions, and where the vending machine footprint might be otherwise unused?

Everything must go  As a company that is in the business of finding new premises for occupiers and selling their buildings, a by-product of our service is the collection of miscellanea left over once the building is vacated. The deal to relocate the US Richard to ‘off-location’ Nine Elms, has been catalytic on the development that has followed, and has provided a robust and secure new home for the US Department of State. As to what’s left behind at Grosvenor Square, the US had a clearance sale. This included thousands of loo rolls, a circular saw, and a black Volvo S80. Quite why the loo rolls won’t be needed in the new home is not immediately clear, and there may be a question as to whether a tariff duty will now apply to the importation of the Volvo. However, if you were hoping to become the new owner of the large golden eagle on the roof, I’m sorry, that’s stays put as a condition of the planning consent.

Roman Roads  The pace of change is some areas of life is dizzying. However, we can perhaps take some reassurance from the glacial pace of change in others. One such area is our road network. A recent study by Danish researchers showed ‘a remarkable degree of persistence in road density over time and space’, dating back to the Roman era. They found that ‘ancient roads predict modern roads as well as prosperity’. Essentially our modern road network and the economies that have emerged around it was determined some 2,000 years ago.

When making the business case for infrastructure investment, long time horizons are typically adopted for payback. These take account of regeneration benefits that typically take a long time to crystallise, but are significant when they do, and secondly the lower cost of capital typically associated with public expenditure. However, in light of this evidence, even a 25-year horizon seems far too short to capture the possible millennia of resulting benefits.

Changing transport modes have been shown to break this causality. For instance, in post-Roman northern Africa, following a period of reversion to pedestrian non-wheeled transport, the infrastructure was not rebuilt around the former Roman system and cities shifted. Following this logic, new modes such as AVs, and potentially flying vehicles, could have significant redistributive effects on our cities and geographic wealth concentrations looking forwards.

By Lesley Williams     republished from Cicerone13 July 2018 

I’ve never been a strong cyclist, but until recently I’ve always enjoyed cycling. Now I simply love it! This is not just an isolated remark overheard in a pub, it’s a growing phenomenon, and cyclists who scorn e-bike riders should pause to consider the motives behind the choice made by their e-powered friends.

In early April this year I became one of those cyclists who has a little help. Let me explain…

Cycling with Jonathan in and around Cumbria and the Dales has always been a lonely affair. Whichever way we turn, it’s uphill from our house, and within just a few minutes Jonathan would be a fair distance in front, leaving me to have much of ‘our’ evening or weekend bike ride in solitude. Occasionally we have time for day rides, and we have also completed some short cycle tours – the C2C and Coast and Castles, and each time it has been the same story, as soon as the incline ramps up to over 5 or 6%, I simply can’t keep up, while Jonathan then has to wait and get colder/wetter/sunburnt while he waits for me at the top of any long hill.

Important things about E-bikes and their riders

  1. There are different types of e-bikes

You can get an e-bike in just about any form you can think of – mountain bikes, touring bikes, urban/hybrid and folding bikes and even road bikes (often with small, heavily disguised batteries!). The common factors are that they will all be a little heavier than their non-powered counterparts, they will all provide assistance when turned on and when the rider turns the pedals, they have a legal top assisted speed of 25km and they will all have some sort of computer. So there’s a wide choice available, both in type of bike and in price, but with a general starting price close to £1000 it’s important to choose what’s right for you and your style of riding, and like all good things, usually best to buy the best you can afford.

2. Hills

There is no denying that the steeper the hill, the harder you have to work. Even pro cyclists will tell you that steep hills raise their heart rate and their breathing becomes more laboured. There’s also no denying that riding an e-bike uphill helps with both these things. It helps a lot, even in ‘economy’ mode as, although you are working (sometimes quite hard in ‘economy’), it takes the top nasty edge off the experience, and you arrive at the top of a hill able to breathe and with a healthily raised heart rate, but knowing that your legs have had a bit of a workout. Click it into ‘sport’ or ‘turbo’, and you have a whole different experience, but it really saps battery power!

If you’ve ever had to stop while cycling up a steep hill you will know how incredibly difficult it is to re-start. Some of the tiny Dales and Lake District roads have gates across, and remounting a bike on a steep gradient can be really difficult. With an e-bike it’s easy to stop and start.

3. How much help

Most e-bikes provide a range of power levels, and many also have a number of gears, the idea being that you select the appropriate gear for the terrain as you would with a normal bike, and then boost yourself as much as you need with the engine. This works really well, and the transition through gears and power modes is seamless, particularly with the higher-priced bikes. The only problems come when you’re on prolonged alpine climbs at over 7% and for 30 km or more, as I found out this summer. Steep gradients over long distances meant that my bike computer was predicting under 40 km range in ‘economy’ and less than 20 km in the next setting, so I had no option but to use ‘economy’ for the huge climbs such as on the Galibier, Izoard and Bonette. Believe me, you are definitely working hard, but it always felt in control and I never felt I needed to stop.

4. Features

  • E-bikes are heavier, and if you run out of battery can be much more demanding to cycle than an ordinary bike, so the simple answer is don’t run out of battery power.
  • They are very strongly constructed, and will look after you well, particularly for example in urban conditions where you and your bike are more vulnerable.
  • The computer mounted on the handlebars will give you constant information about the status of the battery, your speed, distance covered, average speed, top speed, the time…
  • Most e-bikes come very well equipped with a number of extras as standard. My bike is specifically for touring, with a good size battery, and came with a rear luggage rack, front shocks, a kick-stand, disc brakes and front and rear lights – which you can turn on and off with one switch on the computer, a feature that became very useful when passing through numerous alpine tunnels!
  • In general the ride position for most e-bikes is more upright, providing good visibility.
  • Handlebars tend to be straight and wide, similar to those on a mountain bike, providing greater stability when cornering and balancing – something we noticed was useful on long alpine descents, when I became the more confident rider!
  • 5. BenefitsFor a couple of years, every bike ride in hilly Cumbria had resulted in renewed problems with my hypermobile left hip. I was becoming less and less enthusiastic about going out for a ride. The more upright riding position, combined with the motor assistance when needed on hills has had a dramatic effect. Firstly I no longer think twice about the hills, as they are all possible, even the insane 20% hills sometimes found in the Lakes and Dales. Also I have had no further problems with my hips since getting my e-bike.It may not be just joint mobility that drives people towards getting an e-bike. People of a certain age, or those with heart or breathing difficulties are now able to start, or continue to enjoy cycling, while benefiting from being outside and getting a good level of exercise, but at a level of exertion that is right and safe for them.

    Surely it is better to be cycling on an e-bike than not cycling at all!

    There are other benefits too. Stopping and starting on hills is so much easier on an e-bike. On our recent alpine tour I would stop quite frequently to take photographs while on the climbs, something that most riders didn’t want to do as their rhythm would have been broken. I would certainly have regretted not having photographs on different stages of each day, as otherwise we would have returned with just a selection of ‘col summit’ selfies, which would have been very boring!

E-bikes build confidence, as the wide tyres, wide handlebars, ride position and general sturdiness of them provide great balance and stability.

Having an e-bike allows you to broaden your horizons and increase your endurance. I know I would not have been able to ride with Jonathan on the Route des Grandes Alpes with my normal bike. I’m not strong enough, and it would have been misery for us both, lengthening the days and leading to who-knows-what in the way of injuries. My e-bike allowed me to not just complete what many cyclists only dream about, but to REALLY enjoy it. I also do much more cycling now. Since early April I have ridden nearly every day and have just booked the bike in for its 2000 km service, which isn’t too bad for just three months of cycling, something that has even impressed the guys at BikeTreks!

In conclusion

If you’re healthy and young, then there is every reason to only consider riding a real bike, as it will give you immense satisfaction that you have tackled great distances and hills under your own power. However for many, the advent of the e-bike has opened up possibilities for activity and adventure that they would otherwise never be able to achieve and enjoy. So please, if you’re a ‘real’ cyclist, don’t mock the e-bike riders, as you may well not know any of the story as to why they choose or need the extra help.

Welcome to Cicerone   Walkers, cyclists, trekkers and mountaineers have trusted Cicerone for nearly fifty years to ensure they have a great time on the hill, trek, walk or ride. Our expert and passionate team of authors, editors and designers work together to produce inspirational and detailed guidebooks, ebooks and routes to the world’s best walks and treks, mountains and cycle routes. Search the site to find ideas, resources and guides for your next adventure.  

Cicerone is the place where you can choose and buy your guidebooks. You can also find further information about every book – the contents, maps, photos and video, as well as updates, reviews, a sample route, and GPX files (if available).  All guides are sorted by the region covered and the main activity in the guide, and can be accessed from the shop or the menu button.

Lesley Williams  Lesley is the Marketing Director and co-owner of Cicerone, and has a Diploma in Marketing. A geographer at heart and in practice, she is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Colonnes Moresques and Morris Columns

. . . from urinals, to poster sites, back to urinals, to tool sheds, to phone booths and back to poster sites . . .

By  Pierre 


The Morris column(colonne Morris in French)is a tall and elegant dark green advertising column. Placed at regular intervals on the Paris pavement, the cylindrical structure has been an iconic element of Parisian street furniture for generations.

While researching the topic, I found out that the Morris column first appeared in Paris in 1868. Today Morris columns are found in almost every French town and even in other parts of the world such as in San Francisco!

Due to the rapid development of theatres, music halls, cabarets . . . advertising posters were found everywhere: on the walls of buildings, on fences, on trees, and particularly on the colonnes moresquesor colonnes rambuteau(urinals inside a hollow pillar). The exterior walls of the urinal columns were consequentially and conveniently covered with these advertising posters.

Most photos and paintings of Paris streets from around 1865 show the colonne moresquewith these advertising posters.

The birth of the Morris column 

On the 1st August 1868, French printer Gabriel Morris and his son Richard won the competition launched by the City for the concession of exclusive advertising space. They noticed that the urine smell strongly repelled the passers-by (I guess many would have said the same!). Anyway they thought it through and suggested to separate the urinals from the advertising space. They took inspiration from the Berlin pillar to design their advertising column that now bears their name.

The column would be dedicated to advertising purposes and the urinals would be housed in pissoirs or as they were called vespasiennes.  [Vespasiennes derived their name from the Roman Emperor Vespasienne who introduced a tax on public urination. Which brings me to wonder if the Parisians abbreviated them to “Vés-Pas” – or pronounced it as “spé” – which in turn was abbreviated to the “vécé” . Which to me makes more sense than asking for “double vé cé” ??? Comments please Ed.] 

The separation of advertising and relieving oneself was the start of a new revolution in the streets of Paris where the Morris column had to be harmonious with the urban environment in compliance with the urban work developed by Baron Haussmann. Elegantly tall but slim the cast iron structure was painted in a dark green colour so as to blend in with the city’s tree-lined boulevards. The circular billboard terminated in a pointed dome similar to that of the Wallace fountain. The dome is set on a hexagonal awning, decorated with scales and acanthus leaves. It gives a definite oriental look to the structure.

Between 1868 and 1870, no less than 451 “first generation” Morris columns were placed in service in Paris. The “second generation” of Morris columns was perfected by architect Gabriel Davioud.  A round strip was added under the awning with the words “Spectacles” and “Théâtre”. The words are separated by a medallion representing a boat, a reference to Paris’ motto “Fluctuat nec mergitur“. [Tossed by the waves but doesn’t flounder]

Today the columns mainly promote movies. Originally the hollow pillar was useful for lamplighters who stored their equipment in a closet designed inside. When gas lighting disappeared the empty space was used for different purposes: to store materials and tools for street maintenance. In 1991 JC Decaux transformed them back to public toilets ‘sanisettes’(perhaps a nod to the colonne mauresque ?!).

Until recently the interior of some columns were equipped with telephone booths. But with the general use of mobile phones, this use disappeared a decade ago.

Unfortunately you won’t find the first generation of Morris columns in the streets of Paris today but the Morris column is now an integral part of the street furniture in Paris. It is considered as a symbolic Parisian decorative element and has been featured in many paintings and novels of the Belle Epoque era. Now the Morris columns are lit at night and rotate.

Over the last decade, the City of Paris has been replacing the Morris column with a more modern version known as the Wilmotte column. Not all Parisians were happy with this decision and it aroused considerable controversy.

AUTHOR PIERRE Website Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management. RELATED POSTS

…Copyright © French Moments Ltd unless otherwise stated. Read more at .

If you’re new here, you may be interested in downloading the guide “20 Amazing Offbeat Places in Paris”. Click here to get your free copy now!

The Devil

By Nick Inman

The Devil (aka Satan or Lucifer) is to be seen everywhere in France. He was the nightmare visitor of the middle ages, often felt or smelt but never seen, and he lingers on in Romanesque stone carvings and frescoes of the Last Judgement. He also pops up in some surprising places such as the holy water stoup at the entrance to Rennes-le-Chateau church.

He is easy to recognise in art by his familiar appearance – horns, tail, fangs, cloven hoof, trident and the smell of sulphur – but these are, of course, all the product of human imaginings and owe more to pagan rather than Christian iconography.

The devil is not all bad if we look at him psychologically and symbolically. He serves an important purpose. He personifies selfishness, vice, injustice, subterfuge and corruption giving us a clear way of thinking about the undesirable, “negative” aspects of human existence.

The devil is really the bringer of awareness with the danger that entails. He tempts but another word for temptation is choice or freewill: to ignore the word of God in the Bible as presented in the teachings of the church and do what you want for your own reasons. The devil could be said to be the voice of intuition rather than obedience; of dissent rather than orthodoxy. Lucifer means “the carrier of light” although this can be taken to mean the light of night that reveals hidden knowledge

Curiously, the devil is not always destructive; he is ingenious and he can do the impossible. In this he is almost to be admire. In particular, he is good at building bridges. There are thought to be around fifty “devil’s bridges” around France, even if they are officially called something else. Sometimes the reason for the name is obvious: the bridge looks as if defies gravity and only some supernatural charm could keep it in place.

Usually there is a legend attached to the building of the bridge following a standard narrative pattern. The devil agrees to build a bridge in a single night on condition that he can have the first soul to cross it. The people of the village, who have agreed to this pact, fool the devil out of his reward: either they make a cock crow before daybreak or they drive a mule across the bridge before any person crosses it.

Among the visually appealing “devil’s bridges” are Gensac in Haute-Garonne (south of Toulouse) which looks as if it defies gravity through supernatural charm – and Montolieu south of Foix in the Ariege.

Extract from Mystical France by Nick Inman – Travel guides to France & Spain

Published by Findhorn Press/Inner Traditions

Available from Amazon:

Immerse yourself in the heart of the Middle Ages

Visit a 21st-century medieval adventure

In the heart of France, in northern Burgundy, a team of fifty master-builders have taken on an extraordinary challenge: building a castle using medieval techniques and materials.

In the heart of Guédelon forest, in an abandoned quarry, a team of master-builders is building a 13th-century castle from scratch. Quarrymen, stonemasons, carpenter-joiners, woodcutters, clay puddlers, potters, dyers, blacksmiths, tilers, carters and rope maker are working together to revive heritage craft skills and to shed light on the world of medieval construction.

All materials are sourced locally and no electricity, gas or steam engines are used. Just donkeys and man-power. The only concession to the C21st is the steel capped boots and goggles that the stone masons wear. All clothing is middle ages, as is the way of life.

It’s sited here, in a quarry, in a forest, and near a lake so all the raw materials are at hand. They’ve even built their own mill on the lake so they can grind their own corn to make the bread that you will eat.

It’s an amazing visit to see how a castle was built. Over the last 35 years 70 employees with very many volunteers have got this far. The last 3 years have seen a couple of towers and walls built – no mean feat. Only another 30 years to go . . .

The fruits of their labour that can be seen this year . . .

It’s unique experiment in the world, nothing like this has been attempted before. This season carpenters will lift one by one 265 pieces of oak that will form the pepper frame in the tower of the chapel. Each is more than 16 meters long. For the first time, a tower of Guédelon will be wearing it’s ‘hat’!

The quarrymen, stonecutters and masons will continue the finishing of the door between two towers which constitutes the main access of the castle.

In 2018, the workers of Guédelon open a new file of experimental archeology to answer the many technical questions that visitors have : how was a window closed in a castle in the Middle Ages? with interior shutters? outside? with glass? or just cobwebs ?

When you visit, stay and break bread with the workers

In agreement with our the local producers who are, for the most part organic, we have 2 cafe/restaurants ‘the Bread on the Board’ and the ‘Mistembec’ Here we offer good, simple and healthy cooking accompanying the bread that’s baked on the spot.

Set in over 7 hectares of woodland, the world of Guédelon is made up of three large areas:

  • the castle and building crafts
  • the village with the tile makers’, house of colours,  stables and animals
  • the forest and mill

Explore the eleven different trades on the construction site, the castle and the hydraulic water mill. Watch the craftsmen and women at work; take time to talk with them and discuss their work.

It’s that time of year again… GRAPE STOMP! 

Take a tour of a Provençal farm, learn how grapes are cultivated and how wine is made, PLUS stomp grapes in enormous antique oak barrels that are waist-high, roomy enough for 4+ people, and have a view of Mount Sainte Victoire.

You’ll learn the difference between harvesting wine grapes and table grapes, then we’ll put on some Edith Piaf and dance in the barrels on top of our harvest! Grape stomps are followed by platters of cheese, pâté, charcuterie, red wine, rosé, and a tasting of our farm’s olive oil and truffle oil (plus learning a French drinking song!).

It’s an authentic French experience that’s full of laughter, fun for all ages and makes memorable vacation photos that you’ll cherish long after your toes are no longer sticky.

DETAILS: Grape stomp, cheese and charcuterie buffet, all you care to drink of Les Pastras rosé and red wine, olive oil and truffle oil tasting: 60€ per person (40€ for children). Minimum of 2 people.

Weekday tours at 10am. Please book at least one week in advance.
Grape stomp season: September 1 – September 30  Weather permitting !!!

Please contact us for more information or to schedule your tour.                           

Johann & Lisa Pepin