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  • New! Win a week at a gorgeous Provencal Mas

    The beautiful Provencal farmhouse Mas de l’Hermitage is the exciting destination for the winner of our latest competition. We’ve teamed up with FrenchEntree magazine to offer you the chance to win a week’s stay at this place of luxurious calm close to the Alpilles Hills, the Mediterranean sea and the heritage city of Arles.

    At the Mas owners Tony Spit and Bernard Balet  have created three stylish apartments, each with its own private terrace, and all set in a spacious garden with a large swimming pool and fresh herbs and vegetables for your barbecue.

    The winning couple will stay in La Camargue, a spacious duplex apartment with fabulous views. Click on the link below to take a look at this lovely property (ID 103659). If you can’t wait for the competition, you can always book your own stay !

    Nearby is the medieval village of Les Baux and in Arles is the recently opened Van Gogh Foundation. Visit the magnificent Roman Pont de Gard and enjoy picnics or canoeing. Don’t miss the wild lands of the Camargue with its flamingoes, white horses and beaches – or the colourful Provencal markets with their food, flowers and fabrics.

    To enter the competition see the latest issue of FrenchEntree magazine – or you can enter online in the magazine’s Competitions section.

  • A Recipe from the French Riviera

    [caption id="attachment_1694" align="aligncenter" width="400" caption="Summer Vegetable Tian from Provence"]Summer Vegetable Tian from Provence[/caption]

    Summer is on it's way and France is getting busier with tourists from all over the globe.  June is a lovely month for visiting France as it is getting warmer and is not yet heaving with tourists so you will have a more relaxed time wherever your destination.

    The French markets will be full of the most wonderful fresh fruit and vegetables, fine cheeses and delicious local specialities. What better time to stock up with some of these fresh produce if you are self catering or just wanting to make a wonderful picnic lunch.

    One of my absolute favourite destinations is the French Riviera! Well who can blame me - it is so fantastic and the weather glorious at this time of year. It is so splendid with it's history and culture and it is well known as being the destination for the rich and famous. However, it is also a place for the not so rich and famous!

    Our destination is usually the city of Nice as it is so convenient for us to fly to Nice airport and within minutes we are in the heart of the city. You can take a taxi from the airport or a bus ride which is what we prefer as it is so inexpensive and takes only ten minutes into Nice.

    There are plenty of self catering apartments or villas to rent whether you want to remain in Nice itself or if you prefer to be in the mountains or quieter villages that surround Nice. You will find some beautiful properties here at www.frenchconnections.co.uk at very reasonable prices for a fantastic holiday.

    This is our preferred way of holidaying here as we like to relax and do much as the locals do - eating in the local cafes and bistros and shopping in the local markets. Of course shopping in the city itself is a  total pleasure especially for women that is! I love to browse the fashion boutiques and shoe shops.  Everywhere is bustling with activity yet is warm and friendly.

    The best place of all in my opinion is the old town of Nice or Vieux Nice as it is known locally. Here the narrow streets are a colourful display of picturesque houses, boutiques, bistro cafes and small restaurants. I never tire of this lovely old town and walk here every day when we are holidaying in Nice.

    Nice was once a part of Italy and this can be seen in the warm yellow tones of the brick work in this area.  The food also has the Italian influence as can be seen with the local pasta dishes and the speciality pissaladière. The aromatic perfume of the Provencal herbs waft through the air as you walk down these narrow streets. The herbs are sold in the small shops along with many different spices and of course the  large juicy black and green Provencal olives. They are fantastic for a light lunch.

    Whilst shopping or browsing you can stop for a cool drink and a snack. There are so many wonderful places to eat but our favourite snack is the local socca (a local speciality which is like a pancake made with corn) washed down with a pastis. Wonderful.

    For a  more substantial meal in the evening the local restaurants here are fantastic. The owners are usually on hand, sometimes they are the cooks! The food is so inexpensive yet the quality fabulous.

    Although many things are now a little more expensive in France than they were a few years ago, you can still buy good quality foods on a budget. You don't have to eat in the most expensive restaurants or hotels. The local produce can be bought here and they have a good butchers, bread shops and an excellent fish market. There are also some small supermarkets where you can buy most things you need. Wine is cheap and you have an excellent choice.

    The Flower market at Cours Saleya is truly amazing and you will find fresh and dried flowers as well as tons of fresh fruit and vegetables  all brought to Nice by the neighbouring flower and gardening marketers. Other produce such as fresh herbs and spices, sweets and candies are all delicious and you can find most things you need for a wonderful picnic.

    This market area changes  on a Monday to brocante market ( bric-a-brac) furniture  and fabulous  linens. This is one market I never miss when in Nice!

    A walk up to the Calline du Chateau is pleasant and you can take a picnic lunch of French baguettes, cheese, pate and wine. This can all be bought in the old town. If you are less energetic (especially when it's a hot day) there is a lift at the bottom which takes you directly to the top. The castle is now a ruin but the views of Nice from here are breathtaking and it is well worth the effort.

    If you do visit Nice in June, you can enjoy seeing the Fete de la Mer. This takes place every year as the fishermen of Nice celebrate St. Peter's Day. The festival begins with Mass in the Gesu Church and is then followed with a procession to Les Ponchettes beach which is in front of the Old Town. Once here the fishermen burn a boat in honour of their patron saint.

    A walk along the famous Promenade des Anglais is a beautiful setting although there is no sandy beach as it is mostly covered in pebbles and not good for sitting! It's name was taken from the wealthy British residents who built it in the early nineteenth century. Of course the British just loved the climate! Queen Victoria came here to holiday and gave it a seal of approval. You may find the promenade  quite noisy with the passing traffic especially the noise from the motor bikes!  However it is the place to see and be seen. There are many restaurants along the way to stop and have a cool drink or a meal. Try to take in at least one night time view of this beautiful promenade as it is so romantic. However, never be tempted to sleep here at night as it is not the safest place to be.

    About midway along the promenade you will find the famous Negresco hotel which is very imposing  and has a large plastic statue standing outside the from door. It's different and in my opinion is beautiful and full of unique character.

    If you enjoy museums there are several in Nice which are well worth visiting including the Musee Chagnall; Musee Matiss; Musee et site archeologiques de Cimiez with ruins of a Roman settlement; Musee d'art Moderne et d'Contemporain; Musee des Beaux - Arts.

    One of the really great things about Nice is that it is ideally situated for visiting nearby towns and villages as the train service runs along the coastline along the French Riviera into Italy. So if you want a change of scenery it will only be a short train's ride away from the city. You can take a day trip to Antibes, Menton, or even to Cannes. This is another reason for visiting this beautiful city - you don't need a car!

    Most self catering places have the basic kitchen equipment and you can easily create a simple and easy meal using fresh local produce.

    The recipe this month is for a colourful and flavourful Summer Vegetable Tian. It is an easy recipe to make if you are self catering and is great for making good use of the local vegetable produce. It is a typical provencal recipe which is usually baked in a red clay baking dish called a tian but nowadays the contents themselves are often called a tian.

    You can of course use any oven proof dish you have to hand as it will taste just as good.

    Summer Vegetable Tian (Tian de Lieùme d'estiéu).Serves Four

    Ingredients

    1 large eggplant (aubergine)
    2 zucchini (corgettes)
    3 medium sized potatoes (no need to peel them!)
    3 ripe tomatoes
    2 onions
    1 teaspoon of provencal mixed herbs
    Olive oil
    Salt and black pepper

    Method

    Wash your vegetables.
    Cut the vegetables into thin slices (use a mandoline if you have one handy as it will slice very thinly).
    Sprinkle a little olive oil into the bottom of your tian (or large oven proof dish)
    Begin layering the vegetables in the tian starting with the onions, potatoes, eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes.
    Sprinkle each layer with a little salt and black pepper and a pinch of provencal herbs.
    Finish the top layer with tomatoes and sprinkle a little  olive oil over the top.

    Place in a hot oven and bake for about forty minutes.

    This is usually eaten hot and served with beef or lamb but can also be served cold.

    Try it sprinkled with parmesan and serve with pasta. Delicious.

  • Discover the glorious Gard this summer

    If you love to take a sunshine holiday that offers relaxing by the pool or on the beach and a whole lot more besides, then the Gard just might be your perfect destination for the summer. It’s our featured region of France this month and has culture, excitement and activities to keep all ages happy. I first discovered the Gard when driving through France from Toulon to Normandy. It’s officially a part of Languedoc-Roussillon but also lies next to Provence, and I was enchanted by the palm trees and pink-washed buildings so evocative of the Mediterranean.

    In the elegant town of Uzès, the colours break out into a stunning display as you wander narrow medieval streets and come across squares with stalls selling luscious tomatoes or local crafts. In Nimes you can discover the amazing aqueduct of the Pont du Gard and the Roman arena – and even catch a bull fight.

    In the north, the Gard takes in part of the Cévennes National Park. Here, winding roads climb upward through a majestic display of rocks and sky in the subtlest, ever-changing shades until, with awe and wonder, you reach what feels like the roof of the world. Deep, dramatic gorges provide a canoeing and kayaking playground and this is fantastic country for cycling, climbing and horse riding.

     

  • Enjoy sun and sea in the Alpes-Maritimes in Provence

    The Alpes-Maritime region in the South of France lies between dramatic Provencal mountains and the azure coastline of the Mediterranean. This is home to the French Riviera, with all its associations of glamour, but there are lots of options for holidays here – and they need not break the bank! Anyone who wants to be at the heart of things in Nice, Cannes or Antibes can rent a self-catering apartment with sea view and balcony for less than you might think.

  • Eze in Provence - Photo Friday - 11 Dec 2009

    Welcome to Photo Friday. From here on in, I hope to share some of my favourite French photos with you each Friday and give you a taste of places you too may enjoy.[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Eze, Provence (click for larger image)"]Eze, Provence[/caption] Welcome to Photo Friday. From here on in, I hope to share some of my favourite French photos  with you each Friday and give you a taste of places you too may enjoy.  To kick off, here is one of my most favourite spots, Eze (pronounced ‘ease’) in the Alpes-Maritimes.  Visit this page each week and I hope you will be inspired by some of the places I have lined up for you. If you have a favourite photo you have taken by all means send it in with a short description and we will include these also. The first photo is of the view from the village of  Eze. I love Eze,  It's just along the cost from Nice, set on top of a hill and has spectacular views over the coastline of the French Riviera. This is a view from the tropical gardens at the top of the village. On a clear day you can even see Corsica. Eze has preserved its unique medieval appearance with tiny streets and ancient buildings.
  • Marseille - Photo Friday 2 July 2010

    Marseille's location on the Mediterranean Sea has meant it has always been an important port. The old port is a particularly attractive place to visit.

  • Mediterranean Olive Bread

    Many people will have heard of Peter Mayle’s book ‘A Year in Provence’ and many will have read it and longed to escape the hustle and bustle of busy city life for a more relaxed and laid back lifestyle in rural France. In fact many people from the United Kingdom were actually influenced by Mayles’ book and the film which followed it. I know that I was influenced by it and longed for this relaxed way of life. I was a mental health nurse and my French language skills were not up to the standard which would be necessary for assessing anyone with a health problem in France so it was out of the question at that time. But we have spent many wonderful holidays in the South of France and have had some enjoyable experiences along the way.

    Mayle had moved to live in Menerbes, a rural area in the south west of Provence and he intended to write a novel once he had settled. Indeed he loved it so much that he found he had no time to sit and write when he first moved there. He became intrigued with life in Provence and was constantly distracted with the curiosities of daily living such as the education he received from the local plumber, the farmer who lived next door, not to mention the mushroom hunter and as a result, his novel was left on the back burner.

    However, eventually it was these very same curiosities that Mayle wrote about in his book and as a result, aspired many Brits to seek the same idyllic lifestyle in Provence for themselves. Many people eventually bought second homes out there – and who can blame them – long warm summers with a relaxed lifestyle – good for the soul as well as the sun tan.

    Peter Mayle, now in his seventies still lives in Provence although not in the same farmhouse and his books continue to sell – many people loving the idea of a French rural lifestyle, an escape even if they cannot move there in reality.

    Another of my favourite books is ‘The Olive Farm’ a memoir of life, love and olive oil in the South of France by Carol Drinkwater. It is in fact a love story – one of romance between Carol Drinkwater and Michel, a television producer who fall in love with an abandoned Provencal olive farm called Appassionata. Even the name of the olive farm sounds so romantic. But it was not quite as romantic as it appeared once the couple began to work on the old farmhouse. Yes, this was Provence and things do not go quite as expected – the lifestyle is slow and lazy – sometimes lazy being the operative word!

    Yet they survived and after a long battle trying to make the farmhouse habitable and Carol desperately trying to bring the olive trees back to life again, they managed to produce the finest extra-virgin olive oil from their land.

    Of course, when word got around that one can have a wonderfully relaxed way of life in Provence, the cost of the properties began to rise. It is still a wonderful place to live and to have a second home there but not as easy as it once was.

    However, what many people do not realise is that the region bordering Provence to the north is just as beautiful and at present, remains as Provence was a few decades ago. It is an area of outstanding beauty, of wonderful scenery, charming villages and fabulous cuisine. This is of course the Drome region and if you are in need of somewhere relaxed and breathtakingly beautiful, you should not overlook the opportunity to visit this area and embrace all that it has to offer.

    There are numerous activities to please all the family in this area including horse riding, walking, rock climbing, paragliding and hiking. You will never be bored and if it is just a ‘get away from it all’ type of holiday you are seeking, this may be the very place you have been searching for.

    It has fields of lavender, olive groves and vineyards of the Cote du Rhone region. Can you imagine the sight and smells of these glorious lavender fields; they captivate everyone who sees them. If you love olives, it is a paradise for you as I’m sure you will want to taste the produce for yourself while you are there.

    Two of the most famous towns in the Drome are Montelimar which is famous for its nougat – a traditional confectionary made with honey and almonds; and Nyons, famous for its olive groves, of olives and extra virgin olive oil. You will also find a lavender distillery in Nyons where you can purchase many lavender products as well as learn all about the wonder of this gorgeous plant. Other produce also absolutely wonderful from the area around Nyons are the black truffles, apricots, honey, oranges and limes.

    Of course these are what I like most – anything to do with French food, so wandering around the villages and markets is a favourite pastime for me. The scents which fill the air are intoxicating – especially when mixed with the scents of French herbs – it is heaven sent!

    The olive tree provides one of the staple ingredients of the south of France. The olive tree was introduced into France by the Greeks as the trees thrive in the clay soils and the long sunny days and a dry climate (much the same as I would do, I’m sure!).

    In the Nyons area many different olives are grown, green ones and black ones. Green ones marinated in herbs are usually the Picholine olives whilst the nicoise olives are black and are found in the salad called salade nicoise. They are all wonderful and worthy of appreciation.

    For my recipe this month it has to be a recipe using olives and olive oil! If you do decide to visit the Drome area you will be able to sample much of the local cuisine but for those of you who are not able to travel just yet, or who would like a taste of the traditional cuisine anyway, I have found an old recipe for a really tasty olive bread. It can be used as an hors d oeuvres or as a main meal, whatever you want. Either way it is a delicious recipe and best of all it can be made in advance and put in the freezer until you want to use it.

    All you will need for this recipe is a bread tin and a large mixing bowl.

    Mediterranean Olive Bread

    Ingredients

    • 250grams/8oz or 2cups plus 2 tablespoons plain flour
    • 4 beaten eggs
    • 150grams/6oz pitted olives
    • 200grams/8oz chopped cooked ham
    • 150grams/6oz chopped, cooked lardons of bacon
    • 150grams/6oz/1 1/2 cups grated hard cheese
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
    • 1 glass/1/2 cup white wine
    • 1 glass/1/2 cup of olive oil
    • Black pepper to taste

    Method

    • Sieve the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl.
    • Add the eggs, the white wine and the olive oil.
    • Add in progressions, the chopped ham, the bacon and the olives, the grated cheese and the black pepper.
    • Pour the mixture into the prepared bread tin.(The tin should be greased and lined with greaseproof paper). If you leave enough paper at the sides you can lift your cake out of the tin more easily.
    • Place in a moderately hot oven for about an hour until a skewer or long needle comes out clean when you test it.
    • Remove from the oven and let it cool before lifting it out of the bread tin.

    You can serve it warm or allow to cool. For me it is really good served cold as an hors d'oeuvres with a glass of Pastis - a local aniseed drink usually mixed with water until it becomes cloudy. Pastis is usually served as an aperitif.

     This recipe was given to me when staying in the south of France but you will often see other olive bread recipes include herbs in their list of ingredients. It is up to you to try them all, a matter of personal preference but either way they will all be good.

    Bon Appétit

  • Menerbes, the village made famous by Peter Mayle - Photo Friday 3 December 2010

    Menerbes is probably one of the most famous villages in France after Peter Mayle wrote about his time spent there.

  • Provence-Alpes-Cote D'Azur is perfect for year-round holidays

    Provence

    Provence is a fascinating land, celebrated for its excellent climate, breathtaking scenery, fine beaches, suberb food and fashionable resorts. There really are few places in Europe that can compete with its romantic ambience and allure, with that special combination of glamorous places, beautiful people and rich cultural heritage.

  • Special Offers on Family Camping Holidays this Summer

    Whether you’re plotting a trip to Provence, The Riviera or Roussillon, Eurocamp has over 100 locations throughout France to choose from! This limited-time offer includes up to

    Whether you’re plotting a trip to Provence, The Riviera or Roussillon, Eurocamp has over 100 locations throughout France to choose from! This limited-time offer includes up to three additional nights for your stay - absolutely free of charge. You could relax for longer by the pool, enjoy more time exploring the local area, or just lay back and enjoy the warm summer evenings.

    If you’re planning a longer family holiday in France, Eurocamp also offers a fantastic deal which allows 7 additional nights free of charge when booking a 14 night holiday before 14th July 2011 or after 29th August 2011. If you want more time to relax and discover all that France has to offer then this is the ideal choice for you.

    And don’t forget to check out French Connection’s own range of special offers and last-minute deals for a memorable family holiday this year.