Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Champagne – A Guest Post


Please ‘welcome’ my guest blogger & “a votre santé/cheers”!

Carlo Pandian, is an Italian expat living in London and passionate about wine and gardening. He loves buying Champagnes at his favourite shop in London, Roberson Wine and periodically travels also in France, Spain and Italy for his love of their grapes and foods.

Guiding You Through the World of Champagne
Imagine you are attending a soiree surrounded by people you want to impress either for personal reasons or for career aspirations and the conversation turns to Champagne and Sparkling Wines. Would you be prepared? Would you know what to say? Or would you put your proverbial foot in your mouth? Well, never fear as we have put together a brief guide on the real differences between the so-called sparkling wines and the one and only Champagne. Cheers!

A Question of Direction
The first real difference between these two highly contested alcoholic drinks is where they are produced. Champagne can only be called Champagne if it is produced in the north eastern region of France which is actually called Champagne or in French, la ‘region champenoise.’ It is here that Champagne was first created in 1844 when it was accidentally produced when experimenting and the exploding bottles and flying corks were brought to a quick halt by a man called Jacquesson. He came up with the idea of a muselet to prevent the corks from being jettisoned into the air. First come first served as they say, the term ‘Champagne’ is a legally binding one which first made into the legal books as early as 1891 as being the name given to sparkling wines just produced in this French region and the terms still hold today. So, if somebody at your gala evening hands you a sparkling wine from Australia and they call it Champagne, then you should be able to show off your knowledge. That’ll be one point to you.

A Question of Taste
Champagne can only be made using three grape varieties and these are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. You will see that some Champagnes, notably Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noirs, are only produced using the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier respectively. Other Champagnes use a blend of three grape varietals. So, remember the golden rule of three here, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Leave the Merlot’s and Grigio’s for another wine conversation.

A Question of Production
All good products have their very own ‘secret recipes’ and Champagne is no different in this respect, although nowadays, it is not all that secret. The production method used to create the Champagne is called ‘La mèthode champenoise.’ After the first fermentation, a second fermentation takes place by adding several grams of yeast or rock salt. It is then left an average of one and half years to let all the flavours come out. Some Champagnes are said to mature for three years to become the taste people have been accustomed to drinking at swish soirees. The care to detail after these three years is fine tuned even more when the bottles are manually or mechanically turned so that the fermentation settles in the neck of the bottle and not in the main contents.

A Question of Marketing
Look at a Champagne label and you can see the prestige of what you are about to drink. Traditionally, the labels themselves will commemorate a certain event such as in the past, historic battles, legendary monarchs and ideas of romance and love. Today, the same label inspires people to open the bottles for prestigious events such as christenings, job promotions or if you are lucky enough, the launching of your very own boat.

A big MERCI to  Carlo for his article about my favorite aperitif.  See photos here for a food/wine festival, where I visited several champagne vendors there – indeed, golden memories!


Photo credit:  24/7 in France

Monday, April 29, 2013

Chez Freddy


Anyone that has been to Nice knows that the Cours Saleya is the heart of Old Nice and is host to the daily food and flower market, except for Monday’s antique market. Being a highly touristic area, the restaurants, situated along each side of this corridor, compete for customers, as they try to verbally lure you into theirs.

I hadn’t eaten seafood in a while, so decided to try “Chez Freddy,” with their fish and seafood specialties and stacked platters on display outside the restaurant to visually lure customers.  It was a Wednesday evening, off season but during carnaval time, so busy enough; reservations are probably a good idea during tourist season and/or weekends. I was seated in the tented/enclosed terrace, which had gas heaters on, although it was still a little chilly – not enough to move though.

Here’s what I saw & experienced:

The lobster I ordered was delicious, served with flavored rice (can’t figure out what it was but was outstanding!), and ratatouille. I also had a starter of Farcis Niçois, a specialty in Nice (stuffed vegetables).

I felt one waiter was a little aggressive, in verbally trying to get extra food courses ordered, and the service felt rushed, as if they were trying to have a higher rate of customer turnover.  I asked for melted butter, after my lobster was served, and it was never brought to the table (didn’t really need it after all, so I didn’t ask again). I did take a peak at the dessert menu (link also to view full menu), but decided to resist!

Would I go back?  Yes, as the seafood is their specialty and the lobster was good. Alternatively, you can order from the fixed price menu for a better price point. Just don’t be intimidated if you get a “pushy” waiter!

Olive Oil speciality in Nice (photo below)



Sunday, April 28, 2013

To Each His/Her Own…Dream !



Book Cover
Solitary Desire – One Woman’s Journey to France“  featured as Spotlight Blitz Book Tour on Buy The Book Tours site, as well as on their tour partners/hosts’ sites.

A true story of living one’s life dream!
4.6/5.0 in reviews

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

New Language Law = FR-exting?


The following is in followup to my previous post about French language laws, in order to prevent the increasing intrusion of English-isms.

There was an article in the Le Figaro (online version) concerning text messaging (sending and receiving SMS) within France;  it refers to the use of all languages other than French when texting.

“As of Friday, April 5th, the new law dictates that a maximum of 12% of all SMS traffic within the French telecommunications system in foreign languages will be allowed (Loi 2872bis, Décret 842a, 18 Mars 2013, Loi concernant l’utilisation des langues étrangères dans les télécommunications).  Apparently, expressions such as ‘le weekend’, ‘le parking’, ‘bye bye’, ‘email’ and ‘ciao,’ that have become firmly implanted in the French vocabulary, are targeted.  In addition, for ‘email’ the French equivalent ‘courriel’ is now expected.

The most worrying part of the new law is the fact that once daily quotas are full, texts in entirely (or partly) foreign language and even using a single non-French word will be blocked.

A member of the French parliament has followed this up by proposing that all websites based in France must now contain a minimum of 33.3% French language content! Plus, all foreign language sites must offer the possibility of full availability in French.  He has also suggested that chat rooms and other facilities have limits similar to the mobile telephone regulations. It remains to be seen if this becomes law as well.”

En principe, I understand the desire to maintain French heritage and culture, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out en réalité!

(Source: Le Figaro)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Paelle Specialist


I was invited by friends to go to a restaurant that specializes in Paëlla - not really my favorite dish, but since it is the restaurant's specialty, I figured why not - On y va!

Oui, it was wonderful - decorated with sausage, chicken, and shrimp - loaded with flavors and a very hearty meal, of course, accompanied by a delicious, and equally hearty, red wine (which I was too busy tasting it to take a photo - oups!)

IMG_0033 IMG_0030


Gardens of Versailles


I visit the Château de Versailles every time I travel to Paris - both destinations are close to my heart, and as a long-standing member of Les Amis de Versailles, I also "own" a tree in the Trianon Gardens. The newly decorated RER train (photos here) provides a beautiful first glance for newcomers to the castle.

The Gardens of Versailles occupy part of what was once the Domaine royal de Versailles, the Château of Versailles. The gardens cover some 1760 acres/800 hectares (see below statistics)


Size: 800 ha.
Number of trees: 200,000
Flowers planted annually: 210,000
Number of fountains: 50
Number of jets of water: 620
Surface area of the Grand Canal: 23 ha.
Perimeter of the Grand Canal: 5.57 km
Amount of piping to feed the fountains: 35 km.
Amount of water consumed by the fountains
during the ‘‘Grandes Eaux’’:
3,600 m3
Source: Wikipedia/Official site of the Château de Versailles

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Springtime Poem / Un poème de printemps


“Le temps a laissé son manteau” de Charles d’Orléans (1391-1465)
(in French & English)

A tribute to Spring that has finally sprung here on the French Riviera!

Charles d’Orleans, known for his poetry created during his 25 years of captivity in England during the war in 1419. He returned to France in 1448 and was the father to (the future king) Louis XII. Below is one of his most well-known poems.

Le temps a laissé son manteau.
De vent, de froidure et de pluie,
Et s’est vêtu de broderie,
De soleil luisant, clair et beau.

Il n’y a bête, ni oiseau
Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crie :
Le temps a laissé son manteau.

Rivière, fontaine et ruisseau
Portent en livrée jolie,
Gouttes d’argent d’orfèvrerie,
Chacun s’habille de nouveau,
Le temps a laissé son manteau.


The season removed its coat
Of wind, cold an drain,
And put on embroidery,
Gleaming sunshine, bright and beautiful.

There is neither animal nor bird
That doesn’t tell in it’s own tongue:
The season removed its coat.

Rivers, fountains and brooks
Wear, as handsome garments,
Silver drops of goldsmith’s work,
Everyone puts on new clothing,
The season removed its coat.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Carpe Diem in Old Nice!


carpe diem card
Seize the
DayEvening!  And that’s exactly what I did — at a newly discovered, charming restaurant in the Old Town of Nice, called “Carpe Diem.”  What a find!

The food was delicious; service was professional, courteous, and friendly; decoration warm and charming – it was all positive!  There were 24 seats in the section where I was seated,  with an adjoining room with more seating that can also accommodate events and weddings.

The restaurant has been open for about a year and is open for business every evening at 7pm (except Wednesday) and is open for lunch on Sunday.  This is definitely worth going back to,  so if you check it out, please mention my blog — Bon Appetit!

(This is a personal recommendation, not a paid advertisement.)

Hover over photo to see the caption:


Antibes Yacht Show


The Antibes Yacht Show, starting April 18th,  is the only brokerage and charter show, held at the beginning of the season, in the Mediterranean open to the public.

In 2012, the show welcomed 13,380 visitors from all around the world, with the top 10 nationalities being France, United Kingdom, Italy, U.S.A, Monaco, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Antibes, about 20 minutes outside of Nice, is the biggest pleasure marina in Europe. I spent a “duvet day” strolling through this charming town last summer and frequently stroll along its sandy beaches.  

Of course, I have also attended the annual yacht show – enjoying people & boat watching and seeing how the other half live!


Link to view Antibe Yacht Show Promo Video 2013





In front of the Bastion St Jaume


April 18th to 21st 2013


Thursday to Saturday 10h00 – 19h00  /   Sunday  10h00 – 18h00


20 EURO per personFree Entrance for children under 15pre-register online:


(see map)

Port VaubanFree Antibes Parking (Opposite Fort Carré – Opposite BP Station & Parking Ponteil) QPARK  (Post Office – Poirier & Frères Olivier) QPARK preferential prices :Get a complimentary hour for daily parking (info at the organisation of the show)4 days Pass  30€ -  7 days pass 45€


(see map for arrival and departure

Bus ShuttleFree shuttle service by bus from all the parking areas listed on the map to the AYS.Boat ShuttleFree shuttle service by bus from all the parking areas listed on the map to the AYS.


The Restaurant is on the IYCA.The Snack is in the Bastion St Jaume
Credit/Source:  Antibes Yacht Show website

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The name’s Bond…..James Bond!


Supercars and luxury toys

It’s a world of jaw-dropping supercars and captivating luxury gadgets, where the wealthy mingle with the curious, and multi-million euro cheques are signed amid the revving of V8 engines. It is Top Marques Monaco and it is celebrating a 10-year milestone this April.

Top Marques will feature six new car releases
So what is planned for such an important anniversary of the most exclusive car show in the world? Well, the Principality will play host to no less than six new car launches this year. It is an unprecedented honour and one Steven Saltzman, Top Marques Director, is particularly proud of given that the companies could have chosen to launch their cars in Geneva one month earlier.

In addition, AugustaWestland will be launching its official James Bond helicopter – a VIP 007 version worth three million euros. “The inside is designed by Karl Lagerfeld and it’s all tricked out to be a special edition,” reveals Saltzman. “When you get in you automatically hear the James Bond theme song and it has a special design that is only available on this model.”

Interested parties will have the opportunity to be Bond for a short while thanks to a fly before you buy philosophy. In fact, the show’s motto: ‘See it, drive it, buy it’ applies to most luxury products on show. A section of the port will be privatised and up to 40 cars on show in a pit area that simply oozes speed, action and pure class. “It’s the fourth year we’ve been doing this and it’s just perfect because you get to try the car on a Formula 1 closed circuit,” adds the director.

Is it an effective tool in convincing people to instantly sign on the dotted line? “We estimate that there were about 200 million euros worth of sales last year, so the cars are there to buy, it’s a selling show,” says Saltzman.

If you’re not in the market for a supercar, there’s a 3D racecar simulator that can also give you some cheap thrills. But the show isn’t just about cars. There’s everything from a 302-carat diamond to motorised surfboards and limited edition watches – luxury gadgets, Saltzman calls them, to keep one person entertained while the other is transfixed by cars.

According to the organisers, between 30,000 and 35,000 people visit Top Marques every year, and 2,500 of those individuals are very wealthy. “They come with their cheque books,” says Saltzman, “and 60 per cent come from this area or within three hours drive.”

The 10th edition will take place on 18th to 21st April in the award-winning Grimaldi Forum. 

Credit: Cassandra Tanti for the Riviera Times

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Supermarché – Hypermarché – Marché ?


Is the open-air and covered market disappearing in France?

One would think so, from the large prominent supermarkets like Auchan, Carrefour, and Leclerc, but not to worry! There’s the open market in Cours Saleya and at Malaussena in Nice. Cagnes-sur-Mer, just outside of Nice, has rebuilt and opened a new covered market, with all the relevant fanfare - Bon marché!

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Whole Lot of Shaking Going On


Force 4 quake near Cuneo:

Several earth tremors were felt on the Cote d’Azur this past weekend, with six earth tremors Saturday night and in the early hours of Sunday morning (April 6 & 7)

The strongest registered 4.0 on the Richter scale at 05.13 Sunday morning with an epicentre just over the border from the Mercantour Park near Cuneo in Italy’s Piedmont region. The depth of the tremor was 10km and it was felt strongly in the Isola 2000 ski-resort. A 4.0 quake is regarded as ‘moderate but important’. Another tremor lasting 15 seconds and of 3.5 magnitude was registered near Annecy in the Haute Alpes at 22.49 on Sat 06 Apr 13.

Residents took to the streets in panic and flooded emergency services with calls. No damage has been reported.

Source/Credit: Riviera

Glad I was out of town and, of course, that no damage and no injuries occurred!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Eurostar launches new services to southern France


Eurostar is launching a new direct service from London and Avignon to three popular holiday destinations in the South of France – Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.

The new weekly spring service, which complements Eurostar’s existing Avignon services, is perfect for travellers looking to secure an early summer getaway.

The service will be offered for a trial period during May and June 2013 and tickets will go on sale on the December 11th 2012 alongside tickets for Eurostar’s existing weekly summer services to Avignon.
Passengers who choose the new Lyon – Provence service for travel from May 4th to the June 29th 2013 will enjoy a direct journey from London St Pancras International or Ashford International to Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, travelling non-stop through the magnificent French countryside.
On the return leg, they will disembark in Lille Europe to complete the necessary security and passport checks required for transit through the Channel Tunnel before re-boarding a dedicated Eurostar service to the UK.

Nick Mercer, commercial director for Eurostar commented: “Our direct Avignon summer services grow in popularity year on year and our customers tell us they’d like to see it extended to offer even more choice of holiday destinations.

“We are committed to listening to their feedback, which is why we’re testing this new service to Lyon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, three of the most popular destinations in the South of France.
“By trialling this new service for future years, and by opening sales to our existing annual summer Avignon services earlier than usual, we are giving customers even more flexibility and choice when planning their trips to the south of France next year.

“Journeys with Eurostar avoid the summer scramble at the airports and we encourage passengers to book early to avoid disappointment.”

Source:  Breaking Travel News

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Book Trailer Video Link


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.
(As written by a professional copywriter & editor)

Date Published: January 19, 2013

Genre:   Non-fiction memoir/Travelogue

Formats Available:  E-book and Paperback

Customer Reviews:   View here

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Go, You Go, Oui-go !


Provence & Côte d’Azur: The notoriously pricy TGV introduces Ouigo – a low cost alternative to compete with low-cost airlines

French railway giant SNCF has entered the budget travel market, promising high speed travel between Provence and Paris for as little as 10 euros. The all-new TGV Ouigo mimics that of most no-frills services – bag limits, no refunds and no meal options.
A trip on the famously fast TGV could now cost as little as 10 euros

“This new offer is for the four million French people who live outside Paris and who are more inclined to take their car rather than the train,” said the president of the SNCF, Guillaume Pepy, while presenting the TGV Ouigo service in Marne la Vallée in east Paris.

The first budget trains will depart from Marne on 2nd April, before reaching Marseille and Montpellier via Lyon Saint Exupéry. A total of three round-trip journeys will take place each weekday and five journeys will be available on weekends. By cutting the option of first class travel, each train will have the capacity to carry 1,268 passengers per week – 20 per cent more than an ordinary TGV train.

And class division is not the only luxury to be sacrificed for efficiency. No buffet service will be available and passengers will not be allowed to lug unlimited amounts of baggage aboard the train. They will be entitled to one free suitcase and one piece of hand luggage, but any extra will cost five euros. Clients in need of a powerpoint will also have to cough up two euros. But the general director of SNCF Voyages, Barbara Dalibard, explains that the money has to come from somewhere. “We have to diminish our production costs by 30 per cent,” she said to the AFP.

There is also no room for disorganisation on the TGV Ouigo – passengers will have to make their bookings at least four hours before travel. “To speed up boarding and guarantee comfort,” they must also arrive at the station at least 30 minutes early. For the association of railway passengers AVUC, these issues are not being addressed by the company. “The SNCF only seems to be communicating the price of travel, but it eludes the subject of inconvenience. For example, it will be impossible to get a refund, even for good reasons,” explained an anonymous spokesperson to the AFP.

But for frequent travellers and families on a budget, the benefits appear to outweigh the costs. Tariffs for children are fixed at a meagre 10 euros, while a 20 euro ‘mini-group’ fare is available for four to eight passengers travelling together.

The general price of a TGV Ouigo train ticket will cost between 10 and 85 euros – while ordinary TGV fares from the south of France to Paris often exceed 100 euros. With Air France and easyJet offering budget airfares, SNCF have been forced to crank down its costs.

The federation of transport users (FNAUT) is hoping that the offer will ultimately expand to provide a similar service with intercity trains. Ouigo passengers headed to Paris will have to take a bus or train from Marne in the eastern part of the city to reach their final destination, while Marseille is the only Azurean city to welcome the service.

But despite its limitations, the TVG Ouigo is a breakthrough in railway transport. “Accessible high speed trains correspond to a new SNCF committment to provide travel for all,” said the SNCF president. The first 400,000 tickets on sale each year will cost 10 euros, while the next million will cost 25 euros.

TGV Ouigo website.

Credit: Isabelle Younane in The Riviera Times

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Seedling: A 12-year Wait


After the terrible storm of December, 1999 that destroyed thousands of trees at the Chateau de Versailles, they created an Adopt-a-Tree program, where you could sponsor the planting of a replacement tree/sapling. Of course, I participated and was sent an official certificate with a map drawing with the location of “my” tree noted with a red asterisk. I felt proud, like a new mother.

During several vacations to Paris, I wanted to find the (my) tree, but without success: that area was barricaded and not accessible, that area was still being planted/in works: I walked as far as I could go to verify that this information was indeed correct. I just wanted a glimpse, but I was too far away from the screened-off areas.

During my recent trip, I was determined to find my tree and with map in hand, walked around the perimeter of the chateau to the designated area. It was chilly, overcast, and threatening to rain. The interior area was still not accessible, but the net barricade had been removed – I could get a clear view! Luckily my tree had been planted in the far outside corner, so I could see it clearly from the path – I was about 20 feet away from “my baby.”

Showing sponsors for the works done at the chateau