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Paris, Pouzauges and Provence prove positively perfect places

Only started writing about this trip after a week in the peace and quiet of our little village of Pouzauges in the west of France. We had already been to Paris then through Brittany the prior week, so now it was time to regroup before heading to France's southeast corner for the final leg of this French journey.

Sitting on the daybed in our large second floor townhouse bedroom overlooking our terrace and the street outside leading down to Pouzauges' main market square, the only sound that could be heard was the ringing of bells. These were not the bells that tell you what time it is every 15 minutes which is one of many village joys, they continued on which can only mean one thing, mass is about to start. So when in Pouzauges you do what the locals (well on a Thursday what only 20 or so older folk) do...go to church, then to the mid week market in the mairie, timed nicely on mass day to pick up some local produce for lunch to then eat on your terrace in the sun at midday - chevre chaud salade avec noisette aujourd'hui.

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While dining on our deck is divine (as is eating at the local pizza place/creperie and from the boulangerie etc), the best is visiting our French friends at their place near Pouzauges' old (vieux), other 12th century church (now museum displaying its ancient frescos). Again we were priviliged to be invited to dinner at theirs. As always, they make some incredible gourmet delights that come straight from their backyard. This time: quiche aux tomates et harricott verte (avec vin de pays) - merci beaucoup nos amis, encore!

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Prior to Pouzauges where we also did the usual walk around the village up to the old chateau and down to the lake, our French trip this time began with a 2 day stop in Paris. Here we also walked a bit to stave off jetlag - from our hotel near the Arc de Triomphe with its Paris rooftop views, to the Grand et Petit Palais and along the Seine to the Musee de Orsay. We also took an early dinner cruise along the Seine.

When at the Petit Palais, we went across the courtyard to have afternoon tea at its surprisingly reasonably priced cafe which give you one of the most secluded spots to eat on the Champs Elysees. We also ate at the 100+ years old Le Bouillon Chartier in the 9th with its reasonably priced traditional food as well as having a pre-theatre aperitif at a bistrot in Gallerie Vivienne before seeing another Moliere play, Les Fourberies de Scapin, in Salle Richelieu at the Comedie Francaise next door to the Palais Royal.

Of course since it was a Wednesday we were in Paris (or maybe it was carefully panned that way?) had to go to the Pont de la Alma markets, always so colourful. Purchased some white roses to commemorate Di's death and placed them under what has again become her gold flame memorial at the Place de la Alma.  

From Paris, we drove to Rennes, the capital of Brittany where we stayed in on the 5th floor of a 15th century timber B&B, going out that evening to enjoy a Breton crepe and cider in the square in front of St Anne's cathedral. A short drive away we stumble upon Mont Saint Michel. It appears very quickly on the horizon across golden fields. Was looking forward to going as had not been there since the bridge was installed, over which we were planning to drive as previously done with the causeway. However, shuttle buses are the only vehicles that can go on the bridge - so if you do not want to walk a long way, these are your only alternative (other than smelly horse drawn carts) unfortunately and parking a km away for 11 euro. After this initial frustration, the island once again did not disappoint. It was special as always, even found the little turret on the stoney beach that you see pictures of but we did not discover last visit.

Nearby St Malo is a great walled town with plenty of good cobblestoned street shopping and food. We were recommended the only creperie in the wall by a local and it was fantastic with views over the water. St Jacques scallops in garlic butter crepes and a rose hard to beat anywhere let alone in such a spot. Similarly we ate lunch overlooking the bay at Mt St Michel in a traditional restaurant within its ramparts.

The coast of Brittany is magic - see just some of the amazing photos it enabled the artistic creation of:

Dinan is a must see if you are in this area of Brittany. Just a little inland from the coast, its attractive lower port town with plenty of restaurants and bars sits on the Rance river and its quaint upper walled town with narrow cobblestoned streets. It is one of the best preserved small towns in Brittany with 3km of ramparts and lots of half-timbered and grey stoned houses plus art galleries and other nice shops. 

Our transfer point from the northwest to southeast of France was Nantes which is always good for shopping and eating (below Passage Pommeraye, lunch for Chez Maman, a cafe gourmand at La Cigalle).

From the Marseille airport, we went straight to our apartment in L'Isle sur la Sorgue in readiness for the Sunday markets followed by lunch on our balcony (supplied by local market producers) then jazz at the cafe/bar in the square below our apartment.

On Monday we made our way west around the region firstly to St Remy  and the Van Gogh museum in the sanitorium with its the lavendar fields where he spend much time and did many paintings including Starry night and his famous room there. Then we went to Arles for lunch to eat outside Van Gogh's Cafe Nuit.  

For the first time, we visited the magnificant Pont du Gard before heading up Mont Ventoux hoping to get a good view on what was a sunny day everywhere else, except for the little cloud on top of its peak which meant that at the summit all that could be seen was cloud. Given this, taking pictures other than of the sign was impossible not just because of the cloud but the wind which was blowing cyclists off their bikes, but that is name of the mountain and what it is known for ie the wind/'vent' in French, so was really apt.

Our last stop in France was Menton, the colourful seaside village very close to the border of Italy. Love the beach, the buildings, the shopping, the food, the hills behind...really everything - a perfect end to the trip.

Well that was yet another France trip, only thing now is to plan the next one...mmm, Tour de France goes through our village of Pouzauges in its Vendee start in 2018, so a European summer vacation next year?

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