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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Médiéval Château de Castelnou

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I recently visited this 10th-century castle, built around 988-990, to serve as a military center and principal town of the Vicomte of Vallespir.  Castelnou castle is the best example of a medieval fortress  existing in the Roussillon region and was built in the shape of an irregular pentagon, in which two of the sides join at right angles.  Inside the castle, its history and way of life in the Middle Ages is exhibited through a medieval ambiance with tapestries, statues, and armor.

The chateau is also a producer of AOC wines, with its vineyards full of mediterranean vines:  grenache noir, syrah, mourvèdre, old carignan, and muscat.  The grapes are harvested by hand and made into high-quality wines: “Rivesaltes Ambré Hors d’Age,” “Côtes du Roussillon Rouge et Rosé,” and “Muscat de Rivesaltes.”  I sampled only one of the reds, which was too dry for my taste, so passed on trying more or buying any.

Just below the castle, the medieval town of Castelnou, with its art galleries and souvenir shops woven along the quaint, cobblestone streets, has been rated as one of the most beautiful villages in France.














carved tree trunk




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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Paris - An Unplanned Post

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In reading emails this morning, I came across this adorable video on "tongue in cheek" and so, decided to postpone my planned post for this one. I hope it puts a smile on your face, as well - made me "homesick" for Paris.

Let's all strike a pose !

Paris Video

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Monday, January 28, 2013

Fontainebleau & Hotel Recommendation

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I recently stayed at the 4-star hotel, Aigle Noir, due to a off-season, reduced rate and its great location across the street from the Chateau de Fontainebleau. When I checked in, my designated room was not yet ready; however, the very friendly young man at the front desk offered to upgrade my reservation to a suite (at no extra charge). Why not? I really just expected a larger room at any rate (pardon the pun). I also noticed the charming lounge with a fireplace, just off the lobby and mentally noted to have a drink there later that evening.

The “suite” was indeed “sweet” and comprised two full bathrooms, very large bedroom with table/sitting area and desk, a separate living room, and a complimentary beverage area along the corridor – Wow – I was impressed!

First important test, though, was connecting to Internet via the hotel’s free wifi: my netbook connected fine to wifi but “no Internet access.” So, I took my netbook to the lobby to ask for help (ok, really to complain). Fabian, the same young Frenchman at the reception desk, kindly spent about 20 minutes checking out my netbook settings, etc. (all in English) to solve the access problem, while chatting and with my translating in French (although he understood a little computer English) Eh, voila! OK, now I was doubly impressed – the customer service was great.

Although I only stayed one night here, Aigle Noir provided royal service and was well worth splurging a little — after all I was just across from a royal chateau!
Lobby


Receptionist Fabian


Hotel Lounge

Suite corridor



Fontainebleau


Caleche



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Sunday, January 27, 2013

“De l’absurde au ridicule” – From the absurd to the ridiculous!




In my previous article about new anti-drunk driving laws in France, here is the latest, updated news:

"The government has delayed the full introduction of the controversial breath-test law, which would have penalized them for not carrying an unused kit in their vehicle. Interior Minister Manuel Valls has postponed “sine die” – indefinitely – the start of €11 fines for not carrying the tests. He had already delayed the start from November 1, 2012, until March 1, 2013, due to problems in supply and doubts about their effectiveness."

(Source: The Connexion)


Friday, January 25, 2013

News About "Solitary Desire"




A little earlier than I expected, so pleasantly surprised that my book is now available in paperback format, as well as an ebook.  So, non e-readers, please check it out on this link:  amazon.com

Comment:
"A story of a woman in love with all things French, who accomplishes her dreams through hard work and determination - driven by the overwhelming desire to be who and where she was meant to be.  Inspirational and engaging - the perfect read for those who wish to pursue their own life dreams." (Maria D'Marco, Professional Editor)

Book Trailer Video:
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

“African Queen” – Not the movie!

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There are many beautiful,  port towns along the French Riviera, and Beaulieu is one of them – situated between Nice and Eze">EzeEze-sur-Mer (not to be confused with Eze village).

(EZE VILLAGE video)


I recently had lunch there at the well-known restaurant, African Queen. The juxtaposing views are breathtaking, with mountains on one side and the port on the other, as I entered the restaurant. The meal and service were good at this upscale restaurant; my only complaint being that the bottles of water (both flat and fizzy) that they automatically brought to the table was a Swedish brand that was 8 Euro a bottle!  My fault for not looking at a water menu, but never thought it would be this over-priced – lesson learned!

tableinterior

dessertsmountains

interior2
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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Skiing (sort of) at Auron



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Only having skied three times in my life, I accompanied my French husband and friends to Auron, a well-known ski resort about 1-1/2 hrs. from Nice, BUT only to have a coffee, read, and relax while they hit the slopes.  The first problem was the windy roads, with all the switchbacks and turns, which made me nauseated.  It was a nice, sunny day, as I wandered about there being enough snow to ski, judging from what I was seeing on the way there; secretly thrilled, since I don’t like being cold.

As I sipped my coffee, ate croissants, watched the lessons on the baby/bunny slope just outside the warm, restaurant window, and read my Kindle, I was enjoying a great Sunday morning. During lunch, for some reason – call me crazy – I thought it might be fun to take a skiing lesson, not to mention learning skiing French vocabulary. Funny, I never stopped to think that not verbally  understanding something might compromise my physical ability during the lesson…such as, knowing the words for the *downhill and *uphill ski?!

Nothing like having a Frenchman put on your ski boots, since I couldn’t manage it myself, and then only remembering how to snowplow my way over to the baby slope lesson area to wait for Olivier, my French instructor.  I had taken a lesson in English in Taos, NM, years before, from (Frenchman) Andre, but now this would be a REAL French skiing lesson – I was nervous and afraid and that was the first thing I mentioned to Olivier, well…after “Bonjour.”

Lo and behold, by the end of the hour, I was skiing still mostly in snowplow formation, but also a little “en parallel” in between the turns – maybe it was the orange netting barrier and the little kids skiing by me that gave me a boost of confidence to put my skis in another shape other than a “V.”  Olivier said I was good enough to ski on the beginner slope, and all I needed was confidence (Le secret de faire du ski est la confidence!)  Yep, “confidence” is the same word in English and French!  My husband and friends had finished and were watching my lesson, got bored, and decided to go have a drink; I joined them in toasting my skiing triumph – OUI, even with skiing beside the 4-5 year olds on the *”Piou Piou” baby slope, but just a little in parallel !

* downhill ski = ski aval / uphill ski = ski amont / piou-piou = cry of a baby (chicken) peep


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IMG_0009Restaurant window view




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Saturday, January 19, 2013

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Book Trailer Video: “Solitary Desire”

I hope you watch and enjoy this short, promotional video made to whet your appetite in anticipation of reading the book – all comments welcome!

The book has launched and is now available here!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Château Hotel Restaurant – Unique & Unbelievable Beauty!




I recently discovered a "hidden gem": an amazing five-carat luxury hotel restaurant in a medieval village, with magnificent views to match. If that's not enough, the building dates from the 13th century and exudes history and art, keeping its heritage evident amidst the upscale decor.

I wanted to know more about this beauty and recently interviewed the General Manager, Frida, a friendly Swedish woman who first came to Nice at age 19 and was "taken with France." With a background in the hotel and restaurant business, in both Sweden and Nice, in an events business in the U.K., and having an International Business degree from the U.K., Frida is well equipped to run this luxury hotel and restaurant, "Château Le Cagnard." Now fully renovated to a high standard, the reputable hotel re-opened in October, 2012.

24/7: Obviously history and art have a major influence on the hotel - how has this aspect been preserved during the renovation?

LC: The hotel has been updated and refreshed to maintain its romance and charm, as well as to enhance the artistic aspects, such as the "Salle des Gardes" - the dining area where knights once dined - with its unique elephant frescoes painted in 1928 by Emile Wéry that I restored. Instead of room numbers, our 26 suites and rooms are now named after a local artist, to add a touch of personal artistic romance with a trompe l'oeil, not to mention the 200 hand-painted roof panels in the restaurant with the ceiling that opens up to the Mediterranean sky.

24/7: What in particular attracts your clientele to your hotel in this small, medieval village?

LC: I think it's the hotel's uniqueness, attention to details, and its charm, with an overall concept of being a great get-away, but yet centrally located to Nice. We also have a lot of activities at the hotel: language courses, wine and champagne tastings, cooking school (all by request, for the moment) to provide guests with a chance to experience France in one location. We are open seven days a week, all year round too.

24/7: What nationalities have you welcomed into your hotel?

LC: Our clientele, due to our hotel's long established reputation, are multi-national, coming from Mexico, Canada, Japan, Germany, U.S., and the U.K. Since there is a large Scandinavian sector who live in the village, they generally frequent the restaurant.

24/7: How do you decide on special promotions and publicity campaigns?

LC: I collaborate with the chef, Stéphane, for what would attract foreigners because we are selling a unique experience and feel for our clients, in keeping our high standards of excellence. Yes, the three-night stay for the price of two, and market shopping with the chef with the meal then served on the terrace, has proved to be popular promotional package and is a perfect gift idea too.

24/7: Do you distribute guest surveys?

LC: Yes, we provide a paper format and have a reception area guest book, as well as social media sites for guests to provide comments.
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Frida then gave me a personal tour, showing me a couple rooms and suites - the overall beauty of the antique decor juxtaposing the modern amenities, with each room having a French-style trompe l'oeil wall painting left me virtually speechless (good that this part took place after the interview!) -- self explanatory when you see the below photos.




Chef Stephane & Manager Frida





Open paneled roof








(All photos provided by Le Cagnard, except for 2nd & 3rd photo)


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Scarf-Foulard-Echarpe-Châle: A Fashion Statement


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A scarf is such an iconic, French fashion accessory, for women in all seasons & for men in winter. Have fun feeling “French” when you next wear a scarf, and enjoy trying all these different styles!

How many do you already know how to do?

Note: French men generally wear the European Loop and Basic Loop style.


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Monday, January 14, 2013

What’s Your Dream?

Book Cover
Can a dream really come true?
OR
Is a desire just a solitary dream?

The author takes us along on “one woman’s journey,” as she narrates life events that spin and weave an emotional tapestry, with threads of adolescent imagination and adult life situations. A true story of twists and turns of events that forged her path and the courage to follow it.

Book launch – coming soon to an e-reader near you!

(WHAT’S YOUR DREAM ?)


Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Authentic Italian Cooking Class


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Created and sponsored by Silvia from “beataMente,” meaning blissful mind: a cultural association representing the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, providing activities, tours, tasting classes, and much more, “aiming to share knowledge and human experiences through the spirit of community and conviviality.”

I recently attended their first, small group cooking class, given by Paola Ricchi, a “spirited chef” from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Born in Bologna, Paola loves to cook and share traditional recipes from her area: today’s recipe was “Tagliatelle Bolognese,” with everyone getting their hands involved in making the tagliatelle pasta from scratch!

First, we learned how to make the egg & flour pasta, the correct way to knead it to just the right elasticity, the rolling method, repeated to get just the right thickness, the rolling pin method in preparation for slicing, and finally the un-raveling of the pasta to make the ribbons of tagliatelle. In the meantime, the sauce was simmering, as we tasted “Lambrusco,” a refreshing, red sparkling wine, as an aperitif. In keeping with the region, a delicious Emilia-Romagna dessert was also served, called “English Cream” – oops, it was so delicious that I ate it before thinking to take a photo!

Held at the lovely apartment of friends, Cristina and Don, in support of the “slow food” movement in Italy, we all shared laughter, lighthearted fun, and a luscious experience. BUON APPETITO!

For more information:
beataMente
email: info@beatamente.it

(website currently under construction)




Chef Paola
Me with Paola





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