Living Between Two Worlds

Florence Melin is a French woman who has lived in the United States for half her life, and also visits France every year. We met through a mutual friend and had a very interesting conversation, as I’m a little bit the opposite of her: an American who lives part-time in France.

I really appreciated Florence’s thoughts on how the US compares to France. She is able to see the good points of each country, along with the occasional frustrations. I could relate when she said there are some things you can never really understand about your new country, like events from childhood and are part of the collective cultural memory.

You can read about how Florence sees the two countries in My French Life!

The French Breakout Star of the Olympics?

The Olympic Games are the biggest sporting event in the world, and they are coming to Paris. The Games always create breakout stars, athletes who go from relative obscurity to worldwide fame overnight. Who will be the new star for France, host of this year’s games?

Some possibilities are gymnast Mélanie de Jesus Santos, mountain biker Pauline Ferrand-Prévot, and judo champion Clarisse Agbegnenou. All are favored to win medals in Paris.

Another is an incredibly fast swimmer, Léon Marchand. He’s been breaking world records right and left and is known for his “lion’s mentality.” Might he be the French Face of these Olympics?

Learn more about Léon Marchand at Frenchly!

The Transhumance, Part of the World’s Cultural Heritage

For thousands of years, shepherds have moved their flocks seasonally in search of better grazing—a process known in French as la transhumance. Recently, UNESCO inscribed the European transhumance as a part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This was the result of years of effort, led by France and Spain, and it recognized the important role that the transhumance plays in Europe.

What is a transhumance like and why is it important? And did sheep really march down the Champs-Elysées in Paris??

Read all about it in France Today!

The Best Beaches in Marseille

No trip to Provence is complete without a stop in Marseille, one of France’s largest cities and a major port. It has long been a point of entry for immigrants, making for a rich and varied local culture.

Marseille is the home of some of France’s most important churches and museums, and has tempting food establishments around every corner. And don’t forget the views! Gazing out at the Château d’If, perched on its little island surrounded by the sparkling blue sea, is nothing short of spectacular.

One of the downsides of Marseille is that it can be oppressively hot in the summer. Luckily, its long coastline means that Marseille has plenty of beaches, several close to the city center. Most are free and have services like bathrooms and first-aid stations, as well as lifeguards on duty during the summer months.

Read all about the beaches of Marseille in Frenchly!

Cooking in Provence with Jane Satow

Jane Satow is an American who has lived in France for 20 years. She has built a sterling reputation as a private chef (TV personality Stephen Colbert is a client) and runs cooking classes for small groups. These are held in a charming old building with a professional kitchen, in the center of St-Rémy.

Jane recently invited Val and me to join one of her cooking classes and it was a real treat. We started by shopping in St-Rémy’s weekly market, then moved to Jane’s kitchen where she put us to work. It was a lot of fun–learning recipes and cooking tips from Jane, chatting with our classmates, and enjoying an apéro on her sunny terrace before digging into our meal. Highly recommended!

Read all about our cooking adventure at Perfectly Provence!

A Taste of the South

One of the glories of France is its cuisine, and each region has its own delicious specialties. Along the country’s Mediterranean coast, you’ll find three culinary cousins to tantalize your tastebuds. They are made from the same ingredients, but in very different ways.

Panisse, cade, and socca are found from Marseille to the Italian border, and they share a common ancestor: Italy’s farinata. Centuries ago, Italian workers from Liguria brought this poor man’s dish with them as they labored in France.

The key ingredient is chickpea flour, which is common in the area because it thrives in dry climates and poor soil. Popular among the poor because it was cheap, today chickpea flour has gained new popularity because it is not only delicious and nutritious, but also gluten-free. And easy to make!

Learn about these three French specialties at The Good Life France!

A French Controversy: Who Will Sing at the Paris Olympics?

Rumors surfaced recently that French President Emmanuel Macron had invited Aya Nakamura to sing at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics. A firestorm immediately erupted, and it has not died down yet.

The French-Malian Nakamura is by far the most popular French-language singer performing today. Her songs have been streamed billions of times, she has 25 Top Ten singles in France and has won multiple musical awards. Lancôme, part of French luxury house L’Oréal, recently named her its new World Ambassador.

So, why the controversy? Well, it’s complicated.

Read all about it in My French Life!

 

 

Favorite Picnic Spots in Provence

Val and I live part of the year in St-Rémy, a little town at the base of the Alpilles Mountains. One of our favorite things to do is taking a picnic lunch as we explore Provence’s beautiful little nooks and crannies. Over the years, we’ve discovered many lovely places to eat outside, and nothing is better than picnicking with our friends…and our dog Mica, of course.

I’ve written an article about seven of our favorite spots, like the one on the shores of a lake created by the Romans. And the one with the best view of Avignon. And my favorite, the one so high up you look down on the hilltop village of Bonnieux, with a fabulous view of the Luberon Valley.

Read all about them at Perfectly Provence!

Northern Rhône Valley Wine Guide

I’m sometimes asked about my favorite wines, and there are a lot of them, but I always come back to France’s Rhône Valley. It’s long and skinny, going from Lyon almost to the Mediterranean Sea, and it has wonderful wines at all price points.

I’ve written a couple of guides to these wines, nothing too complicated or wine geeky, just some basic information that might be helpful to someone interested in learning more. This first guide is to the northern Rhône, because the wines are different in the northern and southern parts of this long region.

Read about some of my favorite wines in The Wine Scribes!

An American Pastry Chef in Versailles

Molly Wilkinson is a talented and popular pâstissière in Versailles, a graduate of the famous Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. She has trained bakers around the world and been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. But how did someone from Texas become an expert in French pastry, living just steps away from the most famous château in France?

Molly always wanted to be a baker but didn’t pursue her passion until her late 20s. Discovering that the world-famous Le Cordon Bleu was much less expensive than American pastry schools, she headed off to Paris, armed only with a basic French vocabulary. There, she trained for a year, learning the intricacies of French specialties like Mille Feuille and Saint-Honoré cake.

Armed with her diploma, Molly worked first as the pastry chef at a château, then at a French cooking school. One of her colleagues praised her talent as a teacher, inspiring her to host her own baking courses. All was going swimmingly until Covid hit, and France shut down.

But ever resourceful, Molly began teaching courses online. Her timing was perfect, as people around the world were stuck at home, looking for something to do. Why not learn how to make French pastries? Molly’s business boomed.

Molly’s focus is on making French pastry simple—in fact, it’s the title of her cookbook, French Pastry Made Simple. As she says, “My style is all about making French pastry easy and accessible. I teach using the tools you’ll find in a typical home kitchen, along with ingredients that are easy to buy.

“I’m like my students, because I started out making cookies and cakes and pies, so I can relate to them and encourage them to try something different. And I make sure that my recipes aren’t overly complicated, but still taste really great.”

You can read more about Molly at France Today, but the article is behind their paywall (it’s a great magazine, you might consider subscribing!) Or you can learn more about Molly and her classes at her excellent website here.