“Une Recette de Famille” – A Family Recipe

I recently went to a French family dinner, which has always been delicious, and this time was no different. The French classic “Ratatouille” was served – I usually think of this dish as just a pile of mushy vegetables (sort of like canned mixed vegetables in the U.S.).  But, this WAS different:  très colorful and exploding with flavor.

I was lovingly given the ratatouille recipe, including the secret of how it gets so savoureuse (flavorful).  It takes some preparation and patience, but it’s worth it in the end – Enjoy! (link to the recipe in English after photos)



Vin rouge

Fraises avec chantilly


Unique Art Exhibit in Nice

A friend of mine is the artist behind this upcoming “vernissage” of “oil paintings merging powerful women’s faces from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga.”   The exhibit is being held just behind Nice’s Port, with proceeds going to the charity,  Womenkind.   Let’s all support the arts and the power of women !

Monaco: A Fun Quiz

Everyone has heard of Monaco, of course, with its Grand Prix, Princess Grace, and its reputation for a lush lifestyle. But, what do you really know about Monaco?

Quiz yourself here (multiple choice trivia quiz)


Quest for a Sandy Beach near Nice

After my recent visit to La Grande Motte, I wanted to stroll again on a sandy beach around Nice (It’s no secret that I don’t care for the rocky beaches in Nice). So, I went to “la plage” in Antibes, about 17 kms/10 miles away. It was crowded, being vacation time, but still, I was able to walk along the water’s edge. The sea was warm, and I watched children playing in the sand and building castles. It felt wonderful to have my feet in the sand again – a sort of natural foot massage and exfoliation all in one! I will definitely be going back, from time to time, to enjoy this area and its relaxing ambiance.

I took in the view of the ramparts in Old Antibes and decided to have lunch in Old Antibes on my way back to Nice. The ‘formule’ (menu special) at “La Daurade” restaurant was a starter, main course, and dessert for 17€. I ordered a salad, grilled chicken, and ice cream, which was refreshing on a hot summer day. It was a nice, light lunch to end a great sandy-beach day – I even left my footprints in the sand!

St. Paul de Vence: Participate in “La Vendange”

A local grape harvest, in which you can voluntarily participate as a way to experience French culture and comraderie, has been reported in the following Riviera Times article.

“Let the harvest begin! Ever fancied a go at grape picking? If so, the domaine of Saint Paul de Vence is allowing one and all to come and enjoy the age old activity of harvesting grapes next week. The event, held on 24th September, is a perfect opportunity to experience the long established tradition in the stunning grounds of the vineyard. The activity isn’t for the faint hearted, but is a great way to enjoy the French countryside. After a day of picking in the vineyard a glass of wine will be well earned.

Early in the morning at 7.30am, eager pickers are welcome to gather at the ‘ramparts ouest’ in the domaine’s grounds where they will be taught about the grape picking process before the real work begins. From 7.45am onwards, volunteers will be let loose on the steep hillside vineyards of Saint Paul de Vence to help harvest during a challenging but fun annual event.

Lunch will be provided in the afternoon before another session of harvesting the grapes that will soon be transformed into delicious wine.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to enjoy a day of grape picking in the picturesque surroundings of the Domaine Saint Paul de Vence, then all you have to do is turn up wearing suitable clothing, some sturdy shoes, and carrying some (gardening) gloves. For any queries about the day do not hesitate to call the domaine on 06 09 28 26 59.

Don’t forget that the day could be long and the weather may be hot so bring lots of water and wear plenty of sun cream!”

Note: Clothes will most likely become grape stained; bring garden clippers if you have them.

Fete de la Gastronomie -Terroirs: Creativity & Tradition

Official website photo

On the first day of autumn, France devotes an entire day to celebrate gastronomy. La Fête de la Gastronomie marks its second year on September 22, 2012, celebrating terroirs, highlighting the traditions and creativity infused into French gastronomy through exceptional events all around the country (see link to search for an event).

The now annual fest was initiated for the first time in 2011 by former Secretary of State for Tourism Frédéric Lefebvre, who created the event as a way to showcase the great diversity of French cuisine within the nation. The festival follows UNESCO’s addition of the French gastronomic meal to their prestigious list of World Intangible Heritages, honoring the conviviality surrounding customary French meals. Inspired by the format of the successful Fête de la Musique, when open-air music fills streets all around France, la Fête de la Gastronomie aims to create a convivial and warm atmosphere that brings people together through the culinary arts.

This year’s events include free food samples at stores all around France, exceptional markets, live cooking demonstrations, and special discounts at restaurants. In Burgundy and Paris, lavish picnics will be held in various locations ranging from vineyards to open-air cafes, serving food prepared by famous chefs and wine by local growers. New this year is the launch of an amateur cooking competition, bringing together hundreds of chefs to showcase their creativity. Regional competitions will be held at various Relais & Chateaux properties as well as cooking schools around the country, where contestants will prepare dishes using a predetermined selection of local produce.

Source: France Government Tourist Office Press Release

Walking Down Memory Lane in ‘La Grande Motte’

My connection to this touristy, summer getaway spot popular with French families, goes back to 2002. The town is recognizable and known for: its asymmetrically designed buildings, giving La Grande Motte a futuristic look; its sandy beaches; boat/yacht; golf; and port.

During my recent trip to Montpellier, I decided to go down memory lane and visit my old stomping ground in La Grande Motte – to be honest, I just wanted/needed to put my feet in sand! I had owned an apartment about 50 meters from the beach (en première ligne), with sea views from both the living room and master bedroom. Every morning, I would walk, with my dog, along the shore and then, wash our feet and paws before exiting the beach to buy the breakfast croissants and baguette. It is one of my fondest memories of spending summers there, and what I miss most living in Nice with its pebbly beaches.

There are many great memories, of course, one being that I saw the Gypsy Kings performing impromptu at one of the restaurants near my apartment(video below). Life goes on, but it would have been nice if I could have kept this vacation property, outside of Nice.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Aging: Cultural or Individual?

It seems to me that the French age more gracefully and are less obsessed about it, although a lot of beauty and anti-wrinkle creams are French-brand commodities and big business! So, after I read the below article (sent to me in an email by a friend), I wondered if Ms. Ephron’s viewpoints were a more American-culture concept, or the exception? Comments appreciated!

Following is an excerpt (albeit long) from a poignant article written by Nora Ephron, who died recently at age 71. She was the award-winning screenwriter whose credits include When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless In Seattle. In recent years, she also wrote two books of witty and poignant essays about aging. Here, she faces her own mortality.

‘The honest truth is that it’s sad to be over 60,’ said Nora Ephron. When I turned 60, I had a big birthday party in Las Vegas , which happens to be one of my top five places. We spent the weekend eating and drinking and gambling and having fun. We all made some money and screamed and yelled and I went to bed deliriously happy. The spell lasted for several days, and as a result, I managed to avoid thinking about what it all meant.

Denial has been a way of life for me for many years. I actually believe in denial. It seemed to me that the only way to deal with a birthday of this sort was to do everything possible to push it from my mind.

Nothing else about me is better than it was at 50, or 40, or 30, but I definitely have the best haircut I’ve ever had, I like my new apartment, and, as the expression goes, consider the alternative.

I have been 60 for four years now, and by the time you read this I will probably have been 60 for five. I survived turning 60, I was not thrilled to turn 61, I was less thrilled to turn 62, I didn’t much like being 63, I loathed being 64, and I will hate being 65. I don’t let on about such things in person; in person, I am cheerful and Pollyanna-ish. But the honest truth is that it’s sad to be over 60.

The long shadows are everywhere friends dying and battling illness. A miasma of melancholy hangs there, forcing you to deal with the fact that your life, however happy and successful, has been full of disappointments and mistakes, little ones and big ones. There are dreams that are never quite going to come true, ambitions that will never quite be realised. There are, in short, regrets.

Edith Piaf was famous for singing a song called ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’. It’s a good song. I know what she meant. I can get into it; I can make a case that I regret nothing. After all, most of my mistakes turned out to be things I survived, or turned into funny stories, or, on occasion, even made money from. But the truth is that je regrette beaucoup.

Why do people say it’s better to be older than to be younger? It’s not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you’re constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday. Even if you’re in great shape, you can’t chop an onion the way you used to and you can’t ride a bicycle several miles without becoming a candidate for traction. If you work, you’re surrounded by young people who are plugged into the marketplace, the demographic, the zeitgeist; they want your job and someday soon they’re going to get it. If you’re fortunate enough to be in a sexual relationship, you’re not going to have the sex you once had.

Plus, you can’t wear a bikini. Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was 26. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re 34.

A magazine editor called me the other day, an editor who, like me, is over 60. Her magazine was going to do an issue on Age, and she wanted me to write something for it. We began to talk about the subject, and she said, ‘You know what drives me nuts? Why do women our age say, “In my day…”? This is our day.’

But it isn’t our day. It’s their day. We’re just hanging on. We can’t wear tank tops, we have no idea who 50 Cent is, and we don’t know how to use almost any of the functions on our mobile phones. If we hit the wrong button on the remote control and the television screen turns to snow, we have no idea how to get the television set back to where it was in the first place. (This is the true nightmare of the empty nest: your children are gone, and they were the only people in the house who knew how to use the remote control.) Technology is a b***h. I can no longer even work out how to get the buttons on the car radio to play my favourite stations. The gears on my bicycle mystify me. On my bicycle!
And thank God no one has given me a digital wristwatch. In fact, if any of my friends are reading this, please don’t ever give me a digital anything.

Just the other day I went shopping at a store in Los Angeles that happens to stock jeans that actually come all the way up to my waist, and I was stunned to discover that the customer just before me was Nancy Reagan. That’s how old I am: Nancy Reagan and I shop in the same store.

Anyway, I said to this editor, ‘You’re wrong, you are so wrong, this is not our day, this is their day.’ But she was undaunted. She said to me, ‘Well then, I have another idea: Why don’t you write about Age Shame?’ I said to her, ‘Get someone who is only 50 to write about Age Shame. I am way past Age Shame, if I ever had it. I’m just happy to be here at all.’

We are a generation that has learned to believe we can do something about almost everything. We are active hell, we are proactive. We are positive thinkers. We have the power. We will take any suggestion seriously. If a pill will help, we will take it. If being in the Zone will help, we will enter the Zone. When we hear about the latest ludicrously expensive face cream that is alleged to turn back the clock, we will go out and buy it even though we know that the last five face creams we fell for were completely ineffectual. We will do crossword puzzles to ward off Alzheimer’s and eat six almonds a day to ward off cancer; we will scan ourselves to find whatever can be nipped in the bud.

We are in control. Behind the wheel. On the cutting edge. We make lists. We seek out the options. We surf the net. But there are some things that are absolutely, definitively, entirely uncontrollable.

I am dancing around the D word, but I don’t mean to be coy. When you cross into your 60s, your odds of dying or of merely getting horribly sick on the way to dying spike. Death is a sniper. It strikes people you love, people you like, people you know, it’s everywhere. You could be next. But then you turn out not to be. But then again you could be. And meanwhile, your friends die, and you’re left not just bereft, not just grieving, not just guilty, but utterly helpless. There is nothing you can do. Nothing. Everybody dies.

Here are some questions I am constantly fretting over: Do you splurge or do you hoard? Do you live every day as if it’s your last, or do you save your money on the chance you’ll live 20 more years? Is life too short, or is it going to be too long? Do you work as hard as you can, or do you slow down to smell the roses? And where do carbohydrates fit into all this? Are we really going to have to spend our last years avoiding bread, especially now that bread is so unbelievably delicious? And what about chocolate?

A few months before they found the lump on her tongue, Judy and I went out to lunch to celebrate a friend’s birthday. It had been a difficult year: barely a week had passed without some terrible news about someone’s health.

‘Death doesn’t really feel eventual or inevitable. It still feels…avoidable somehow,’ said Judy. I said at lunch, what are we going to do about this? Shouldn’t we talk about this? This is what our lives have become. Death is everywhere. How do we deal with it? Our birthday friend said, oh, please, let’s not be morbid. Yes. Let’s not be morbid. Let’s not.

On the other hand, I meant to have a conversation with Judy about death. Before either of us was sick or dying. I meant to have one of those straightforward conversations where you discuss What You Want in the eventuality well, I say ‘the eventuality’, but that’s one of the oddest things about this whole subject. Death doesn’t really feel eventual or inevitable. It still feels . . . avoidable somehow. But it’s not. We know in one part of our brains that we are all going to die, but on some level we don’t quite believe it. But I meant to have that conversation with Judy, so that when the inevitable happened we would know what our intentions were, so that we could help each other die in whatever way we wanted to die. And what difference would it have made if we’d had that conversation? Before you get sick, you have absolutely no idea of how you’re going to feel once you do. You can imagine you’ll be brave, but it’s just as possible you’ll be terrified. You can hope that you’ll find a way to accept death, but you could just as easily end up raging against it.

And meanwhile, here we are. What is to be done? I don’t know. I hope that’s clear. In a few minutes I will have finished writing this piece, and I will go back to life itself. Squirrels have made a hole in the roof, and we don’t quite know what to do about it. Soon it will rain; we should probably take the cushions inside. I need more bath oil.

And that reminds me to say something about bath oil. I use this bath oil I happen to love. It’s called Dr Hauschka’s lemon bath. It costs about £15 a bottle, which is enough for about two weeks of baths if you follow the instructions. The instructions say one capful per bath. But a capful gets you nowhere. A capful is not enough. I have known this for a long time.

But if the events of the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that I’m going to feel like an idiot if I die tomorrow and I skimped on bath oil today. So I use quite a lot of bath oil. More than you could ever imagine. After I take a bath, my bathtub is as dangerous as an oil slick. But thanks to the bath oil, I’m as smooth as silk. I am going out to buy more, right now. Goodbye.”  ###

Your thoughts ??

Monaco: Diamonds & Crystal

The upcoming Monaco Yacht Show, will be held September 19-22 at Port Hercule. Monaco CityOut has announced this gala event will feature over 500 of the world’s leading superyacht companies – top designers, brokers and suppliers – will be once more showing off their wares, including 100 superyachts and megayachts of 25 to 90 meters in length, as well as premiering a total of forty new builds. Among

Monaco CityOut photo

the featured beauties will be “Diamonds are Forever”, a 61m megayacht from Benetti, named by her James-Bond-loving owner.

Monaco CityOut photo

Reportedly, “Bacarrat” will be launching their latest exclusive line at the “Upper Deck Lounge,” a reception complex exclusively reserved for prestigious visitors to the 22nd Monaco Yacht Show.

You can enjoy vicariously last year’s yacht show through the below video:

Source: MonacoCityOut

Adverbs in French: A Verbal Exercise

Try your hand (or should I say, mouth?) at saying the following phrases with adverbs (answers below):

1. Did you eat too much?

2. I saw him yesterday.

3. I got up early.

4. We have already eaten.

5. I misunderstood.

6. He always orders (has) dessert.

7. She speaks too fast.

8. He already knows.

9. I completely forgot.

10. I like to sleep late.

1.  Est-ce que tu as trop mangé? or As-tu trop mangé? 2.  Je l’ai vu hier.  3.  Je me suis levé(e) tôt.  4. Nous avons déjà mangé.  5. J’ai mal compris. 6. Il commande toujours du dessert. or Il prend …  7. Elle parle trop vite. 8. Il le sait déjà. 9. J’ai complètement oublié. 10. J’aime dormir tard.