François Mitterrand was in trouble. Elected president two years earlier on the promise of a “French road to socialism,” things had not gone as planned. Perhaps he had gone too far, too fast, but within a year the French franc had collapsed and he was forced to make a U-turn. Then came an austerity program, and his popularity plunged.
Mitterrand decided to do what many unpopular politicians do: go on a foreign junket. He could strut about the world stage, show presidential leadership, and generally try to change the subject.
He picked neighboring Switzerland as his destination. It would be the first state visit by a French president in nearly 75 years—a nice way to capture headlines. And Switzerland being such a calm and safe country, what could possibly go wrong?
Enter absinthe, the drink nicknamed “the green fairy” that had long been banned, blamed for making people like Vincent van Gogh go insane. Find out how this illegal drink was at the center of an international scandal in calm little Switzerland.
Read all about it in The Good Life France!
France has a long and rich literary tradition, and the country has won more Nobel Prizes in Literature than any other. But that doesn’t mean that all French books are stuffy and boring–there are plenty of ripping good reads coming out of France!
But where do you find them? One good place to start is by looking at the winners of France’s literary awards. Many of these winners later get translated into English and are widely available. I’ve read a number of these books and really enjoyed them.
There are six big French literary prizes and they’ve all just been awarded. I’ve written an article describing them, to give you an idea what they are all about. If you want to skip the article, here’s on thing to remember: the Goncourt Prize. It’s the biggest of the Big Six awards and the books that win this are almost always great.
Read all about it in My French Life!
I’d like to pass along a special offer than might be of interest to you or someone you know.
Bonjour Paris is THE website for all things Paris. It has more than 5,000 articles on restaurants, museums, hotels, history, and more, with new articles every week. I especially like the Bonjour Paris Live lectures and tours of lesser-known corners of Paris.
Bonjour Paris is currently offering a “Friends and Family” subscription discount, and as one of their writers I get to pass it along to you. Here you go!
Happy Holidays and Joyeux Fêtes!
If you are considering a trip to France but are gluten-intolerant, or are traveling with someone who is, fear not! France isn’t hard to navigate—I have celiac disease and live in Provence part of the year. Let me tell you what I’ve learned.
I’ve previously written about gluten-free (GF) dining in France, now I’ll tell you what it’s like to shop here. Many of the products you’ll find in grocery stores are similar in quality to those found in American grocery stores, while others are frankly better.
One of my favorites is the roll-out crusts you can get in many grocery stores. You roll them out, put on your topping (Val makes awesome tarts), and bake. And they have gluten-free versions! I wish they would export those.
Read all about it in Frenchly!
In 1991, Henri Cosquer made a remarkable discovery: he found a grotto filled with prehistoric paintings. Even more remarkable is that the cave is only accessible via an underwater passageway.
Cosquer was a professional diver, leading underwater tours near Marseille. He also dove for pleasure, exploring the nooks and crannies of the rugged coastline.
One day, Cosquer noticed a narrow underwater passageway. Intrigued, he followed it and found himself in a labyrinth of tunnels going here and there. Over multiple dives, he followed these tunnels until, one day, he surfaced inside a cave filled with prehistoric paintings.
This has now been recreated so you can visit it (no swimming required, thankfully.) The French are brilliant at this, having previously recreated the caves at Lascaux and Chauvet. It’s a must-see sight in Marseille, and is an easy walk from the Old Port area.
Read all about it in Perfectly Provence!
Have you ever dreamed of living abroad, sipping a glass of wine in a charming café, or maybe on a sandy beach?
It sounds appealing, but it’s hard to pick up stakes and move to a foreign land. Who wants to leave their friends and family behind? And what about doctors and dentists and all that?
One way to have the best of both worlds is to live abroad just part of the time, becoming a part-time expat. That’s what Val and I do, and recently International Living Magazine convened a panel of part-time expats to discuss their experiences.
I was honored to be one of the panelists, along with others who make their overseas homes in Mexico, Panama, and Costa Rica. If you’d like to hear what we had to say, just follow this link.
A good book on your bedside table can offer refuge like none other. Whether you need to unwind for 30 minutes while your baby naps; you need to dream someone else’s dreams before bed; or you wake in the middle of the night and need to while away the wee hours; here are eight books you can lean on.
I was one of the Frenchly writers who was asked to contribute their favorites–both old and new–for you to consider for yourself or someone special in your life while colder weather descends.
Read all about it at Frenchly!
15 years ago, Christian Detaux had finished his long career in the automotive industry and was itching to go back to his first love: art. As a young man, he had planned to pursue a career as an artist, enrolling in the prestigious Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. But then life intervened: he needed to work to support his family, and his artistic dreams were deferred.
But now Detaux could revisit those long ago dreams, and he looked for ways to begin. He liked to work with his hands and wanted to try carving stone, like the classical sculptors. He found a soft material to begin with, aerated concrete, and picked a model that would sit still as long as he needed: one of his shoes. His first try was a success.
From there it was on to harder stone, including the fabled Carrera marble. But Detaux wasn’t content with just stone. He wanted to expand his artistic capabilities, so he moved on to acrylic and then steel, creating larger and larger pieces. A full-sized horse? A 7-foot-tall Don Quixote? Yes!
Read all about this amazing artistic journey in Perfectly Provence!
Val and I live part of the year in St-Rèmy-de-Provence, a charming town between Marseille and Avignon. I’ve written a guidebook about the area, An Insider’s Guide to Provence, where I share some of our favorite things to see and do. Now I’ve put together a series of articles I call Secrets of St-Rémy, based on that book
Provence is a wine lover’s paradise, and wine has been made here for thousands of years. You can get any color you’d like—red, white, or pink—because what’s a French meal without wine?
I love Provence’s wines, especially those from around St-Rémy. After some (ahem) deep research, I’ve made a list of my favorite wineries, all of which have friendly tasting rooms with English-speaking staff. Be sure to drop by one the next time you are in the area!
Read all about them in My French Life!