has been published since 1997 -- originally created to
independent travelers to plan their own visits to France -- as a
illustrated print newsletter sold only by subscription.
FRANCE On Your Own is transformed. Our goals have not
we have opted to provide an online version ~
series of web pages. The online format allows us
include graphics, color photos, live links to other useful web
on occasion, our trademark original pen and ink illustrations.
we are offering our newsletter FREE to
print issues are still available. They cover most regions
France, have fascinating articles by people who live in or visit France
offer travel and transportation advice and tips, provide cultural
and so much more. To see a summary list of all past newsletters or
order one or more back issues, just click above on the Archives
of each year,
we will provide links to that year's four issues
also on our Archives
page. But to receive current newsletters containing
information, please do
take a few minutes to read the excerpts below
past issues of FRANCE On Your Own that we
will be of interest to you.
scroll down the page to read examples of newsletters past.
excerpt from our feature on the PREHISTORIC
cave artwork was only discovered in the mid-nineteenth century, which
hard to believe since it existed from 40,000 to 10,000 BC during the
Paleolithic period, also called the Reindeer Age. The best of
paintings were done by those who became known as the Magdalenians ~
who flourished in the Pyrénées region of Europe from
BC to 10,0000 BC. The Magdalenian creations have been around for
two-thirds of the time humans have created art!
is always of value to know of one's origins. People prepare
their genealogy to discover who their ancestors were and from whence
what about our common ancestors, Cro-Magnon man and woman, those very
are known as "early man"? Perhaps one way to find out what they were
through their creativity ~ the artwork they left for us in the
caves of southwestern France
artwork that tells the story of their lives, their conquests, their
bread and their spirituality.
we will visit some very interesting sites.
about the Magdalenians: They were named for a site in
on the Vézère River. They were Homosapiens ~
~ and very
today's humans. They were intelligent people who had many tools
During the last Ice Age, a drop in temperature of 4 to 5 degrees was
to alter the plant and
life upon which these people depended. In the
River valley, home to
sites than anywhere else in France, this cooling caused the
wooly rhinos, the musk ox, and reindeer, among others.
a primary source of food in the Périgord of Magdalenian
cave art was finally accepted by both anthropologists and art
as significant and authentic. As the 20th century drew to a
Europe boasted 277 authenticated sites, 142 of which are in France,
others in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Germany and the Balkans. The
work itself is extremely fragile, and once a cave is exposed, not
only to the outside air after being 'opened', but to humankind, the art
begins to deteriorate very quickly. One example of this is the
at Bédeilhac in the Pyrénées whose art vanished
deterioration within six months of opening to the public during World
installed in most caves today permits people to visit with less risk to
the art work, and even with that advantage, some are open for only
amounts of time to small groups of people, similar to the restrictions
placed on visitors to Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Ancient art
work can disappear so quickly, so every effort must be made to protect
drawings were done by hands forming designs in soft clay, and this
to engraving with sharp tools. Some of these drawings were on the
floors of caves and have long since disappeared under the feet of
Then pigments were discovered, and painting was done on cave walls
incorporating the shape of the rock face itself to depict animals, the
most common subjects of this art form. Red, iron oxide, black,
and yellow were the available pigments, while white was used
These warm hues, aglow in the caves by just enough light for
to see the amazing work of our ancestors, are etched forever in one's
after a visit to one of France's prehistoric wonders.
important to know that caves were not the homes of early man,
were most likely places of spirituality.
peoples of the stone age created art work outside the caves, those did
not last very long. They soon discovered that the caves would
their creations ~ littledid
they know for how long!
from Discover Select Paris Suburb Treasures
go first to Vincennes,
eastern end-station of Métro line N° 1; the trip from
Paris will cost you a single Métro ticket and about a 20-minute
century: for almost a millennium-and-a-half, and although often
France’s Kings had headquartered on Paris’ Ile de La Cité in the
royal palace whose vestiges you can still visit at the Conciergerie.
the irreparable happened: in 1358, during the Hundred Years’
War, King Jean Le Bon (John the Good) was captured by the English and
in London. His 20-year-old son, Charles, became régent (acting
and found himself in a face-off with the Parisian townspeople, who
– before the young man – certain of John the Good's supporters.
the new king-to-be, Charles V, fled the Conciergerie and went east,
he created at the city's boundary – protected by moats from both
external and city enemies – La Bastille. Even there, he didn't
safe and decided to move still further eastward, to the royal
lodge at Vincennes where he had been born in 1338.
to reside there and also make it the seat of his government and
– a kind of second French capital! This required a complete
revamping whose extraordinary monumental result you can visit still
Check out, for instance, the castle keep, some 50 meters
Charles V died at Vincennes in 1380, but the castle's story didn't end
then. . .
excerpt from one of our issues featuring Provence
newsletters have color photos and live links to useful travel sites as
(13) is clearly the 'mouth of the Rhône' River, and here lie the
marshlands between the Grand Rhône and Petit Rhône known as
the Camargue. Monitored closely to protect its fragile
balance, this wild land still has it herds of black bulls, but the only
'wild' white horses left are those who escaped nearby ranches.
heart of the Camargue is les
Saintes Marie-de-la-Mer, a town named for Mary Magdeleine, Mary
Jacobe (sister of the Virgin Mary) and St Martha who, it is believed,
there from Bethany in 18 AD by boat. Today is the gathering place
for the annual gypsy pilgrimage.
the bustling port city founded by the Greeks, is nearby. A mile
the coast from the city is Château
d'If, open to visitors who want to see the prison made famous
Alexandre Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo. Nostradamus'
the fine town of St-Rémy-de-Provence,
offers antiques shops, restaurants and tree-lined streets, and just
of St-Rémy are the Roman ruins at Glanum. A great
to stop, shop and explore is Les
Baux de Provence; visitors can enjoy the older town in
and the newer town below with its narrow curved streets, ancient
and tourist throngs. Finally is the little fishing village of Cassis
~ the coastline known as the Calanques (inlets and rugged
stretches from here to Marseille and is an area rich in wildlife with
900 species of plants, some of which are protected.
is from our special feature on the Wine Route of Burgundy
in gold and ruby: If there is one town that can be summed up in
harmonious blend of two colors, that town is Beaune. Gold and
are the characteristic shimmering colors of the great wines of Burgundy
of which Beaune is the undisputed capital.” Those words
may sound somewhat subjective, as well they should - they
from the Burgundy tourist office. We have visited Beaune, and our
opinion is more objective. It’s a wonderful town!
for its narrow streets and bustling squares and the Hôtel Dieu,
museum created from a charity hospital (in operation until 1971)
in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, the king’s chancellor, who came into great
He and his wife decided to establish an almshouse and hospital for the
city’s poor. The quotations of the time from Nicolas and later
Louis XI are worth repeating. Nicolas wrote, “I set aside all
cares and consider nothing but my salvation, wishing by a happy
transaction to exchange for heavenly riches those earthly ones bestowed
upon me by God's favor, so to make transient riches eternal." Sounds
quite generous and humble! However, Louis XI saw it differently,
as there was always some question as to how Rolin acquired his enormous
wealth. Louis said, "It's only right that he who made so many
destitute in his life should build them an almshouse before he died."
visitors can explore
this remarkable place. The beds lined up along the walls in the
ward, each with a bedside chair and a small place for one’s meager
the magnificent sculpture of Christ carved from one huge piece of wood,
the apothecary of the nuns who served the poor, and the architecture
are all notable. And, no doubt, most photographed is the
else that remains today. He needed to raise maintenance funds
his wife’s dowry ran dry, and encouraged local vintners to donate
- vineyards, to be exact. The hospice, now still
240 elderly people in Beaune, owns 2000 acres of vines. The
annual wine auction, until recently held in the Hôtel Dieu, now
place in the market hall. Tastings are offered in the hospice on that
is the focal point
of Trois Glorieuses, the three-day November wine
But, Beaune also offers visitors good museums, from the Musée
des Beaux Arts with a collection of works of Picasso, Chagall and
Flemish and Dutch paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries, to the Musée
du Vin de Bourgogne housed in the former 15th century mansion of
Dukes of Burgundy, where tours are given. Visit the museum’s 14th
wine cellars to see ancient presses and vats, and get a real lesson in
historic wine-making implements, methods and the soils of the
vineyards. Don’t miss the Jean Lurçat Aubusson tapestry
in the main room of the mansion.
. . and from a past December newsletter
RECOMMENDATIONS ~ PARIS
want these restaurants to become too popular because we'll
difficulty getting a table for dinner, but we feel we must pass along
tips for great dining experiences at a reasonable cost when you next
Paris. They are all in our favorite neighborhood, the 7th arrondissement.
- Le Bistrot
du 7, 56 bd. de la Tour Maubourg (phone 01.45.51.93.08) Lovely menu
selection, good service, quiet residential neighborhood. Our latest
- Bistro de Breteuil,
3, place de Breteuil (phone: 01.45.67.07.27) Crowded and bustling, but
somehow not noisy, very accommodating staff. Discovered in
because a friend in Paris suggested meeting him there. Quite
priced with good food.
excerpt is from Limoges: Where Works of Art
by Maribeth Clemente
where the most prized cattle of France graze, Limoges is a city steeped
in a long tradition of arts and crafts. Along with its outlying area,
is most certainly the focal point of a visit to this delightfully rural
region known as the Limousin, located in central France.
Limoges is, of course,
synonymous with china of the finest quality. Although many people
think of it as a brand name, in fact Limoges is to china what Bordeaux
is to wine.
white kaolin clay
of the region made this the ideal place for porcelain makers to set up
shop more than 250 years ago. Prior to that, the French used faience
their tableware, a far less refined ceramic than porcelain. With
to far-away lands — primarily the Orient — the French were introduced
the rare qualities of china, which soon became the envy of French
The oldest porcelain maker of Limoges is the Ancienne Manufacture
founded in 1737, originally as a manufactory exclusively devoted to
production for the king and his court. The Manufacture is in full
today, and although it is still producing ultra-luxurious creations fit
for a king’s table (or an Arab prince’s!), it is also one of the best
to go for those beloved little Limoges boxes (astonishingly well-priced
set out shopping,
though, try to schedule a visit to the Musée National de la
Adrien-Dubouché, a fascinating museum that features
examples of ceramics from all over the world and across the centuries.
Here you will be able to distinguish the extreme whiteness and
translucence of Limoges china, qualities that have earned it remarkable
prestige and a reputation for value over more than two centuries.
Your educational tour may continue at Haviland where part of its museum
pays tribute to table settings created for famous places and people
Maxim’s restaurant in Paris, the Empress Eugénie and an
number of American presidents. Bernardaud recently opened an exciting
complex that occupies part of their original manufactory.
living museum, you
can participate in any number of activities, including taking a guided
tour of the works or actually delving into the creation of la
(great for kids!). A variety of temporary exhibitions also serve to
and entertain, but, as in the case chez Haviland, you might
most consumed with their terrific factory discount shopping.
taste of one of our Regional Features, this one on the Auvergne
Central is a large,
diverse granite plateau infused with spectacular beauty, often called
France profonde” — the rugged heartland of the country. The
Massif encompasses nine départements, four of which make up
The others are the three of the Limousin, and the départements
Lozère in Languedoc and Aveyron in the
With few large cities, this part of France is a “must see”
on anyone’s itinerary to experience the beauty
of its valleys and mountains, castles, lush forests,
Romanesque churches, charming villages, delicious regional
cuisine, and wonderful local people.
special, as we
recently discovered. The highest peaks of the Massif are in
a rich land of green pastures and gentle foothills. Hiking,
and boating are popular pastimes. In the winter months,
skiing is very popular, but, because the local mountains are not
extremely high or always covered in snow, there is less downhill
skiing. It is an ideal destination for lovers of the
but certainly not limited to those pursuits.
the area castles
exist that are open to the public for visits. We have counted 45,
only seven of which offer bed and breakfast accommodations or dining
The majority have historic tours, museums, expositions, son et
des Volcans d’Auvergne lies west of Clermont-Ferrand in the
— a region of extinct volcanoes — and is one of many areas
within Auvergne that are protected from incursion by any kind of
The area is still not overrun by tourists, and the local inhabitants
happy with the level of activity as it is today.
of a visit to
this region, aside from the lovely open roads and lack of crowds, is
prices are still so reasonable. The available inns are
in quality, as well, which makes it even more desirable.
delight of the Auvergne:
cheese! Saint-Nectaire, named for the Puy-de-Dôme
is made from milk of Salers cows feeding on volcanic pastures and is
in old wine cellars. A creamy cheese, it is one of
fine cheeses from Auvergne. Others include cows’
such as Cantal and Bleu d’Auvergne, ewe
such as Brebis du Lavort, and the goat cheeses Chevreton du
and Briquette du Forez , among others.
sampling of our featured French Wine Report
the Best of White Bordeaux
by Panos Kakaviatos
the color that
comes to mind when one thinks of Bordeaux, but French wine journalists
will gather January 22 in Paris to taste and judge the already
2001 vintage of one of the finest white wines in Bordeaux:
sweet white Bordeaux
variety, 2001 featured ideal weather conditions which allowed for the
mold called botrytis cinerea to concentrate grape juices just
Harvesters had a field day at Château Raymond-Lafon, one of the
Sauternes producers, which will be the appellation standard bearer at
Paris tasting this month.
2001, we were able
to pick our maximum yield, which will result in about 30,000 bottles, “
says Charles Henri Meslier, the château’s wine maker.
includes some 6000 acres of vines in what is, arguably, the most
of the Bordeaux appellations: gently rolling hills, foggy mist
the nearby Cerons stream, and a charmingly small and authentic
50 acres are preciously located right near the world famous
d’Yquem. Pierre Meslier used to make wine for d’Yquem from 1961
his retirement in 1990; he bought Raymond–Lafon in 1972, and he
his family have ever since been responsible for making Sauternes wines
approaching the quality of d’Yquem, at about one-third its price,
to American wine critic Robert Parker. French critics also laud
quality of this Sauternes, and the Swedish government selected
for its Nobel Peace Prize dinner in 2000.
. . and this is about special cities of France
said that the
best preserved and largest collection of Roman ruins can be found in
In the south there are many examples, but our utmost favorite is Arles
in the Bouches-de-Rhône — not just for its Roman ruins, but
because this is an inviting and pleasant city. You may be
to learn that Arles is the largest city in France with
surface area of 758 square kilometers and surrounded by the
exceptional beauty of the Rhône River, the Crau plains, les
Alpilles and the wild Camargue. (Do plan a visit to the Camargue!)
was a bustling metropolis and a symbol of ardent Christianity.
is seen in the Roman arena completed in 70 AD, said to have seated
spectators. Two of its original three tiers still stand, and
it is the site of bull fights (the bulls are spared), concerts and
functions. A Museum of Christian Art can also be found in Arles,
tying it again to its strong Christian origins. Antiquities from
the Greek and Roman era can be seen at l’Eglise St-Trophime, a
church, now a museum, displaying Greek and Roman statues and
as well as a statue of Augustus Caesar. Also worth visiting
need to drive) is the Alyscamps (Elysian Fields) burial grounds
of Arles used until the twelfth century.
Arles be sure to visit
the Roman Theatre on rue Porte de Laure, used today for the Arles
It may be best recognized for its two remaining columns known as “the
widows” which stand like sentinels.
Mistral, the French
poet, owned a 16th century Gothic house in Arles which today is the Musée
d’Arlatan, home to artifacts, costumes, furniture and the
of daily life in the Pays d’Arles, something he found fascinating and a
collection which he established with the money from his Nobel Prize in
famous resident was
Vincent Van Gogh, who was in the city two short years (1888-1889)
the townspeople and local buildings. Considered eccentric,
he was not well liked by the people in town. He committed himself
to a sanitarium in nearby St-Rémy-de-Provence. . . In
there is a cultural center, Espace Van Gogh, formerly the
where he received treatment in 1889, dedicated to his life and work.
location, history and
charm have ensured its status as a prominent and much-loved tourist
and it has avoided modern-day industrialization. With a
just over 51,000, Arles has a small-town feeling as it is explored on
Winding narrow streets, red-roofed buildings, and, in the air, the
scent of someone cooking with garlic — add to this a good
and it is almost too good to be true!
leave, be sure
to cross the Rhône on Pont de Trinquetaille, turn right
St-Pierre and go as far as the cemetery. Stop there and look
back across the river for a wide-angled view of this gem of a
Excerpt from the French Wine Report
by Panos Kakaviatos
dinner at Chateau Mouton Rothschild "
1,800 guests came to Château Mouton Rothschild – including
Chirac, wife of French President Jacques Chirac, and Claude Pompidou,
of late French president Georges Pompidou – to enjoy a festive dinner
known as the Fête de la Fleur, on the last day of Vinexpo.
tenor, Placido Domingo, sang live on stage, surprising
with operatic songs over a sumptuous feast featuring the mythical 1982
vintage of Mouton Rothschild among other fine wines.
in tables of twelve under a colorfully lit and immense tent-like metal
structure, guests were treated to an ambiance resembling the Cannes
festival, with noted cinema stars such as actress Catherine Deneuve and
actor Jean-Claude Brialy turning up for the party held by Mouton
owner Baroness Philippine de Rothschild, herself a former actress.
du Bontemps, a brotherhood grouping Médoc, Graves, Barsac
Sauternes, has organized the Fête de la Fleur annually
Bordeaux since 1952 to celebrate the vine flowering in anticipation of
the autumn harvest -- but the party also marked two special
the dinner, a short film about Mouton Rothschild’s history was screened
to mark both the 150th anniversary that Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild
the family's English branch bought Château Brane Mouton
renamed the vineyard located in the heart of the Médoc, as well
as the 30th anniversary that Château Mouton Rothschild was
as one of the top five “premier cru” wines in an otherwise rigid 1855
of top Bordeaux wines.
film, the Baroness asked guests to turn their menu to the page
words to a song called “the hymn of Mouton,” announcing that the double
anniversary was the perfect occasion to sing that song.
who will sing it?” she asked rhetorically.
diners – at least at my table – fought tooth and nail for every last
of the 1982 Mouton Rothschild, a perfect 100 points on the Robert
scale, lush red curtains behind the Baroness rose and Placido Domingo,
who had just flown in that afternoon from London, burst into song.
property of Panos Kakaviatos 2003-2006. All rights reserved.]
time to time we 'travel' with our readers to some of the Most
Villages of France
excerpt is about a wonderful village in Burgundy's Côte d'Or département.
the film “Chocolat”?
If you did, then you have already paid a visit to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain,
for that is where the movie was filmed.
town, about 170 miles south of Paris, does not possess a chocolaterie
or, as Juliette Binoche portrayed in the movie, a chocolatière.
It is, instead, a town famous for the manufacture of anise sweets and dragée
(sugared almonds) - and has been since the ninth century!
village population is a mere 400, but it gained fame from Miramax’s
in 2000. If you are driving along the D905 north from Vitteaux
the way to the Fontenay Abbey) and come upon the tiny D9 on your right
before approaching Venarey-les-Laumes, make the turn. You will
up in one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France.
adding it to your
list of villages you've visited from Les Plus Beaux Villages de
you will enjoy its cobbled narrow and winding streets, the peace and
of a village with a small but devoted population, and perhaps a glass
wine at Renée Meugnot’s family “Café Trop Chaud”, only
on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. It may have been
café that convinced the movie’s director to use Flavigny as the
setting for Chocolat, for it is the first place he visited when
he arrived in town.
to spend the night
in town, you might try the Hôtel le Relais de Flavigny
owned and operated by Monsieur Guillier. The phone from outside
B&B with two
rooms that comes highly recommended by travelers is the Couvent Des
- your hostess is Judith Lemoine. The contact phone for
from outside France is: 220.127.116.11.24.92). Visit her web
will be well worth your time. Its mayor, Gérard Foutheneu,
says that Flavigny is “frozen in time”.
of Marc Troubat, a resident of Flavigny sur Ozerain. All rights
of our newsletter will know that we give a great deal
coverage to Paris ~ articles written by those who know the city well.
is an excerpt of just one of those:
Markets of Paris Capture
the 'Spirit of the Village'
is no better way to breathe the spirit of Paris than to do as Parisians
do, and visit its lively street markets to find the 'spirit of the
Paris has all sorts of street markets: from permanent markets to roving
markets served by truck farmers; from organic markets to specialty
and, of course, all-purpose flea markets.
my teeth, so to speak, on one of the city's food markets, which enticed
me with fresh produce, fish and meats, as well as delicious pastries
breads. But one shouldn't forget the specialty markets, whose
run the gamut: old posters, perfumes, honey, exotic birds, paper
absinthe glasses, kitchen linens, cheese, wine, and fashion.
one could build an entire visit around these markets – each of them, to
borrow the words of the French writer Honoré de Balzac, "an
place, an unknown retreat."
the Paris street market scene on the rue Mouffetard, one of the city's
oldest market streets, a narrow lane framed, like a living painting, by
architecture dating back to the seventeenth century. Nearby is
des Plantes, or Plant Gardens, where King Louis XIII's doctors
a royal medicinal herb garden in 1626 and which today, with its zoo and
alpine garden, offer pleasant diversions during an afternoon
the Romans inhabited Paris, which they called Lutètia, the rue
was a principal thoroughfare. They built the nearby Arènes
Lutèce, a 15,000-seat amphitheater for performances and, as
expected, gladiator fights.
morning out, the number 27 bus dropped me off at a little square
by the fifteenth-century Church of St. Medard. There, fruit and
stalls marked the beginning of the market. But before I jumped
the market, I spied La Flute St. Medard, a quaint little pastry
shop with lovely, fresh pastries in the window. What a lucky
It was morning, and since I hadn't eaten a thing for breakfast yet, I
inside. The bell clanged as I opened the door. It felt nice and warm, a
welcome change from winter's cold.
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