Please Enjoy my FRENCH Travel Books – All on Kindle

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

As they say ‘It makes it all worthwhile’. Merci

Enjoy our travels to Paris and south through France

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Author – Everything from Him is Excellent

Reviewed in the United States on September 3, 2020 Verified Purchase

This author writes what we need right now. His books are an escape for anyone who loves travel but hasn’t been able to travel much do to the government panic.

When the fear is over I’ll be traveling again and will use his books to inspire my destinations.

The stunning setting of Suzette Provence with the Dentelles de Montmirail
Tuileries Gardens Paris France – French travel books
View from the village of Bonnieux Provence over the Luberon

Paris, Provence, Burgundy and Languedoc all feature in my French Travel Books. Please enjoy my recollections of our travels to France over many years. The people and places we found were unforgettable and as always I place a strong emphasis on the food and wine of the regions. Come with me and be inspired to travel when we can all do so again safely. Let me take you on an escape to Provence or Paris and other regions of France with my French travel books.

St Paul de Vence a beautiful French perched village

St Paul de Vence is felt by many to be the loveliest of the perched villages in the south of France. Perhaps, but I do love Bonnieux! St Paul de Vence, an attractive, compact village became a magnet for artists and art lovers in the 1920’s, when a group of impressionist painters rediscovered this sleeping neglected village. Still, today it is very much a place that thrives on its artistic connections. Please take care of your wallet, unpriced art is displayed that way for a reason, so if you afraid to ask don’t go in. Even if you are not prepared to buy there is some stunning art on display and the village itself could be considered one whole work of art.

St Paul de Vence in the South of France – the famous fountain

The photo above was taken on our last visit to the village around 2014. Recently I was watching a BBC documentary about a painting by Sir Winston Churchill of this very scene. The object of the programme was to prove the authenticity of the painting and this they achieved to about 99% satisfaction of the experts. What was interesting was that it was established for certain that Churchill did paint from this very spot and was friends with the artist owner of the studio in this square. It was fascinating to lose yourself in the history of a place you knew well and will no doubt add to the enjoyment of our next visit.

Today the village is not only home to a large artist community but a favoured place of celebrities that have homes here. You may not see any but the locals will provide some names.

The village can be exceptionally busy but we have never found it overwhelmingly so. There are plenty of places to wander away from the main street and the views from the top of the village are spectacular. As in most villages in the South of France you can with care eat very well but also there are one or two tourist traps to avoid. On our last visit we had a lovely baguette and fruit tart for alight lunch by the village walls. Perfect.

Artist studio in a shady quiet square in St Paul de Vence

St Paul de Vence is one of the Cote d’Azur’s most famous and beatuful treasures, and one you should definitely visit.

Paris & France – Travel now

Chocolat filmed in the quietest location village in Burgundy

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain - L'Ange Souriant Chambres D'Hotes
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – L’Ange Souriant Chambres D’Hotes

Chocolat

This destination is one of our favourites – Northern Burgundy. It is a much neglected part of France from a tourist standpoint. To the north is Champagne with its landscape of gently rolling vine covered hillsides. The towns of Champagne are steeped in wine making history and the money coming into the area keeps it looking expensively maintained. It is an area that will always delight but just to the south is a less travelled region that is more warts and all in its presentation. The towns are just that little more untouched and authentic, the countryside rural and pure, not quite manicured to within an inch of its life as in Champagne. It is a region that produces fine wine, wine that other than Chablis rarely reached the supermarkets of the UK. These wines are well worth finding when your car has an empty boot. They are astonishingly good value.

We are going to start this leg of our road trip in a small village in the French department of Côte-d’Or, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. When you are asked to name one or two films set in France then the usual suspects come to mind. ‘A Good Year’, ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’. If I ever asked the female friends of my wife then they always seemed to come up with ‘Chocolat’, the film based on the novel by English Author Joanne Harris. Starring Johnny Depp, Juliet Binoche and Judi Dench it was a popular addition to the genre. I have to say at the time of our travels I had never seen it of knew anything of the storyline. I certainly was not aware of the film location in France. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain is the setting for Chocolat and that is the village where our bed and breakfast accommodation is located. Somebody told me that film fact by the way, because you would not be aware of it when you are staying there. This rural village is just that and resolutely determined to stay one. There are no indications that it has a claim to fame, no signposts designating the places featured in the film. Certainly, there are no souvenir shops. I doubt you could even buy a bar of Chocolat. This would never be allowed to pass in England. If even an advert is filmed in the smallest of towns or villages in England they would certainly make sure you knew about it. You are absolutely not going to get the T-Shirt in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

I cannot say I am disappointed at that. I like my locations in France to stand on their own, keeping their individual charm. Flavigny does not disappoint on first view of the village from the Northern approach road. It looks the quintessential Plus Belle Village de France as you take it in from a distance. I pull the car over on the rise with the village beyond emerging out of the lush green countryside. The dominant feature as is the case in most French villages, however small, is the church spire. Abbaye Saint Joseph de Clairval is a particular stand out example and I should have realized, features in the film. It is a promising first impression.

Entering the village, we make our way slowly along the main street and cannot miss our clearly signed accommodation – L’Ange Souriant on Rue Voltaire. I am writing this in Covid lockdown times and of course most things are closed anyway but I suspect that this establishment is no longer trading which is a shame. It would be one of the most enjoyable places we stayed at in France, despite its modest pretentions. As I have mentioned this an extremely famous village, Hollywood superstar famous. Strangely no one seems to have told it. From entering the village, we have not encountered a soul. The first person we see is our host and then again that is not straight away by any means. She is not around when we arrive, so we have to wait, explore a few side streets winding around the property. Disturbing the slumbers of a couple of cats is the best we can achieve in bonding with the locals. Finally, the lady we are waiting for comes around the corner with her three young children. The school run accomplished she warmly greets us and apologises for not being here for our arrival. She sets the tone for our visit, and we are immediately part of the family.

Her home follows the usual style of furnishing in rural France. In our bedroom large solid chunky furniture dominates our space. Throughout Burgundy and other parts of France it seems that furniture is handed down from generation to generation. Dark wood fixtures may be well out of fashion in England but not here in France and it is always oversized. It is an extremely clean and well cared for space though and the overall atmosphere is homely and generous. Having unpacked we are welcomed into the family space, the owners three children doing their homework. As always in France little excuse is needed to offer a guest a glass of wine and our delightful host continues that tradition with a lovely light Burgundy.

Soon it is time to go in search of food, a typical Burgundy auberge perhaps in another picture-perfect village. We head out through the village gates and into the expanse of countryside beyond. The light is already gently fading with the sun just obscured by the cloud on the horizon. It is a gorgeous view and completely tranquil. As we drive down the narrow lanes and pass-through various villages it becomes readily apparent just how tranquil it actually is. Apart from the odd cat and assorted cattle in a field there is no other sign of life. Despite it being dusk very few lights are flickering in the villages and although there may be an auberge sign or two gently swaying in the breeze the attached restaurants are resolutely closed. So too are any village shops. Except one that we eventually stumble upon after driving around for around an hour. Our French evening meal feast is a couple of slightly past their best chocolate croissants and a bar of chocolate all washed down with a cheeky little half bottle of sauvignon blanc of dubious parentage. Still, being able to gorge on this feast back at the village sat by the church in the deserted town square, peace all around, it is not a bad end to the day.

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – A quiet corner of Northern Burgundy

We explore a little more on the following morning, but Flavigny is just a pleasant, quiet Burgundian village. There is no ‘Chocolat’ tourist trail, no souvenir shops where you can buy your ‘Chocolat’ Chocolate. It is a village were the local life goes on at its slow unconcerned pace. We saw a man tinkering with a car down a side street at what I presume passes as the local garage. An old lady wanders across the church square to talk to a neighbour. That is about it really. The French do not really do celebrity transformations of their villages and that is the same story throughout Burgundy and much of France. As you tour the Burgundian countryside you pass through so many lovely villages, many are incredibly famous throughout the world. The wine villages around Beaune such as Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Gevry Chambertain, Vosne-Romanie and so on are names to conjure with. However, when you arrive at these villages there will be just a simple village sign as there is on entering any village in France. These villages have remained small and undeveloped and if you are expecting any sort of fanfare announcing their important status then you will be disappointed. In fact if anything they discourage any additional attention. I for one am happy with that and the countryside of Burgundy remains very unspoilt and is much as it has always been. The only drawback is that because they do not overly put themselves out for the hungry tourist you can find even in summer if a restaurant only opens Wednesday to Sunday, lunch only, then those are the hours and even if there are coachloads of ready customers those hours will not change. Bring a sandwich!

Cycle by the riverside in Noyers Burgundy France

Flavigny does have its charm even if you are a disappointed ‘Chocolat’ tourist, which I am not. The old walls and gateways to the village are well worth seeking out as is the area around the church. Its charm as a filming location is obvious and although a stroll around the village will be uneventful you will encounter one or two villagers and the welcome is friendly. At the entrance to the village is the one claim to fame that the villagers will acknowledge with genuine pride – the Anise of Flavigny shop and manufacturers. It is in the Benedictine Abbey in Flavigny that this tasty little treat has been made since 1591. Always produced according to the same ancient recipe, each individual aniseed is still patiently coated in thin layers of a secret delicately flavoured syrup. To the villagers sharing a sweet with a hidden aniseed at its heart is symbolic of love itself. Having a pedigree going back through more than four centuries of history, this is one of the oldest brands in France. They do last a long time so a couple of their attractive tins for the winter are a welcome addition to any store cupboard or the car glove box. One thing however, even in this shop, you are not going to find and that is a bar of Chocolat Chocolate or a Aniseed Chocolat here in Flavigny. There are no souvenirs to be had of the film location. All the better for it really, we enjoyed the quiet and to wander round the village with my camera was a photographer’s dream – no cars, no people.

Our stay at our chambres d’hôtes here in Flavigny was extremely pleasant and we bid adieu to our host and her charming children following another copious breakfast. At least this was a regular source of food for at least one of our daily meals here in rural Northern Burgundy. Flavigny is a charming village but please bring a packed lunch if you are not coming in July or August.

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Paris & France – Travel now

In search of Hemingway and Midnight in Paris

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

La Maison de Verlaine Restaurant Latin Quarter Paris

One of the most evocative books about Paris could be considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’. If ever I need inspiration to write about Paris or to make plans for another visit then that is the book that clinches my mood and motivation. It works every time for me even though you do have to take some of his Paris memoir writing with a reasonable sized pinch of salt. He paints such insightful but sometimes harshly unsympathetic portraits of the characters from the era, the writers and artists that dominated ‘20s Paris. Describing the life and ambiance of the city at that time period so well – he constructs a painting in words. His portrait of F Scott Fitzgerald made me laugh, cry and wince at the astonishingly eccentric tales he recalled. Yet it is a book that has such a depth of sadness too. Like my taste in music it appeals to my melancholic side – as my daughter says; ‘the sadder the better’. Certainly there is a sadness surrounding the future aftermath of Fitzgerald and Zelda’s tragically short lives spiralling downhill shortly after these events. It is though the final chapter of a book that was written just before Hemingway’s lonely death nearly forty years detached in time from the events in the book that conveys his deep regret. He threw away the happiness of his life in Paris with his first wife Hadley and their young son. There is not always something better around the corner, often what we already have is all we need for our contentment. It is a book that can be a Parisian guide but today we have something more visual based on his work.
The Woody Allen film ‘Midnight in Paris’ is themed on Hemingway’s book as any cursory read of it will establish. Really though it is a film that does more for the Paris tourist board than any amount of advertising. It is a love letter to a great city. The film recreates the times of the 20’s that Hemingway so eloquently describes, an era that the film’s main character Gil adores as he is bewilderingly entranced to be transported back to that time. Adriana, his new muse, prefers La Belle Époque but he cannot understand wanting anything more than to be experiencing the lively writing and arts scene of Paris in the 20’s. I am with him on that, but really all the book and the movie do is to convince you that Paris is the finest city in the world. When I arrive at the Gard Du Nord on the Eurostar from London then my current era waiting outside the station is just fine by me. The filming locations for ‘Midnight in Paris’ are well documented and in fact Hemingway makes a fine job of that. So if you want to follow them all it is easy to do in our smartphone era. I will take you through on a mixed journey, some of the places in the film that I love. Also bring in some parts of Paris that historically are so very interesting and should be part of your visit. If your time in Paris is all fine dining then you are missing out on a broader experience.
If you are going to start on a history and writing tour of Paris then I suggest it begins on the steps of the church of St Etienne du Mont, Place Sainte-Geneviève, 75005. The actual steps used in the film where Gil waits for the time travelling car and his famous hosts are just around to the side of the church. From here they look down Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève, the road up which the car approaches. It is a supremely evocative location and it is worth taking the time to search out on the internet a photo taken on 22nd August 1944 of armed resistants just coming down from the area of the steps at the height of the struggle to liberate Paris from the German occupiers. Historical fact and fiction can be found being enacted side by side on the streets of Paris and in your imagination. If you go back around to the front of the church onto Rue Clovis and head towards the Latin Quarter by turning right onto Rue Descartes you will come to a small but perfectly formed restaurant – La Maison de Verlaine. The clue is in the title but it was not a happy place when Verlaine died there in a miserable state as a result of his alcoholism. It is also a building where Hemingway rented a small attic room and took himself off to write in peace and seclusion. There is a delightful story in his book about the goatherd taking his flock every day past Hemingway’s building and milking the goats to order as the locals emerged with their containers. It is certainly an evocative street. We have eaten on the terrace at this restaurant of an evening and the food is excellent. The location is pure Paris left bank so don’t let me stop you going. Just a little farther up is Place Contrescarpe which again features in Hemingway’s life and times in Paris. This is a place where he describes almost with affection the bar humming with the pungent smell of bodies and drunkenness. It is a vivid portrait you can almost sense the reality of from the page.

Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève – view from the Church steps facing the view of the vintage car coming up the street in Midnight in Paris

I hope to convey just what these people meant to us and how Paris bound all the best of memories together but it is a slower process. As I said Paris is throwing up too many ideas and I think it will produce two books rather than one. Just adding my love of its history to the book gave me a challenge to fit it all in. I have a passion for the time of the occupation, perhaps because I know that I would have been personally caught up in all its horror had I been living in Paris back then. I find it fascinating and hope to convey that a consideration of those events should not be overlooked by the visitor. No, Paris unlike Provence cannot be based around wonderful long lunches, it needs more effort for a visitor to get full value from a visit. I loved the writing and research for this book but despite Hemingway dwarfing me as a writer I do possess something he relinquished – I can write of Paris without any regrets.

Les Deux Magots Cafe at the heart of St Germain Paris – along with Le Café de Flore  was a frequent haunt of Hemingway and other writers
Come to Paris with my Dream of Paris Memoir
The start of our French adventure
Paris & France – Travel now

A NEW French Journey by Photography – Take a tour

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Abbesses Metro station Paris France

All the photography was taken by myself on our visits to Paris and the French regions. I hope you enjoy them and please look up my stories of our travels on Amazon.

My next book will be a tour around France starting in Normandy. I hope you will come with me and be inspired to travel a similar path. I hope to complete this by winter just in time to make plans for next summer.

Paris & France – Travel now

Neal is an established and extensively published French Travel writer with an aim is to impart his passion for France to his readers. Neal has travelled extensively in France with his family and friends and acted as ‘tour’ guide to others over the years.
Neal lived and worked in Lancashire, England and found the joy of travel later in life after a conservative travel upbringing that stretched only as far as stopping the car falling into the sea at the English coastline.
He now lives in Somerset close to his granddaughter and family and on the wonderful South West coastline that we enjoy so much. Neal loves the English game of Cricket, which he plans to write about soon, golf, soccer and photography. He has a great love of History and that is reflected in his writing.

Photography for my FRENCH WINE UNCORKED book

PLEASE ENJOY MY TRAVEL BOOKS-COPY AND PASTE FOR YOUR COUNTRY SUPPLIER: http://getbook.at/FrenchTravel

I have spent this enforced spare time in editing my new book on Amazon – OUT NOW on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited Worldwide (also in print)-FRENCH WINE UNCORKED. I have created a selection of photography of the people and places we encountered in our journey through the vineyards and cellars of France. Please enjoy the photography and I hope to inspire you to visit as soon as it is possible again – for now we still have our imagination and memories and no doubt a warm welcome awaits us in the future

GO TO : PHOTOGRAPHY FOR WINE

Chateau Val Joanis Pertuis Provence – THe finest southern reds and more
The stunning setting of Suzette Provence with the Dentelles de Montmirail
Paris & France – Travel now

TRAVEL BLOG More NEW Stories Please Enjoy these short memoirs and more

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

My passion is writing about travel and particularly French travel. I have traveled extensively in France and wine and food has always featured on my travels and now in my books. My friends always await our return from France with the latest new finds from the vineyards and I was more than happy to keep sampling. I am from Lancashire in the north of England but have now relocated to Somerset (nearer to France) and able to enjoy devoting my time to writing and new discoveries.
France came late to me as a destination, in fact so conservative was my travel upbringing that it was a long time before I even ventured to Cornwall. My travel plans always ended before the car reached the sea. I have more than made up for the slow start and have enjoyed helping many others with their travel plans to France and especially to Paris and Provence.
I have written a series of four books on France – All are now on Amazon
The experiences are varied and many and please come with me as I retell the stories and my footsteps are there to follow.
I am also writing about ancestry and genealogy and my first book about our incredible family story themed around war and the military is now on Amazon – A BULLET FOR LIFE.
I love the English game of cricket, golf, soccer, photography, walking and cooking. Oh, and travel of course

SEE FULL SELECTION ON BLOG PAGE

Place Contrascarpe Paris France – an interesting spot on the left bank – Hemingway country

In search of Hemingway – Midnight in Paris & Restaurant La Maison de Verlaine

One of the most evocative books about Paris could be considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’. If ever I need inspiration to write about Paris or to make plans for another visit then that is the book that clinches my mood and motivation. It works every time for me even though you do have to take some of his Paris memoir writing with a large pinch of salt.

Continue reading ……

Springsteen, French Travels, Cricket and Brief Encounters

I note that recently ‘The Boss’ was 71. I have seen Springsteen many times over the years and had the pleasure of meeting him on one occasion. It made me recall the number of times I have met well known people on my travels – right place, right time. Hope you enjoy this recollection centered around my favourite sport, the mysterious English game of Cricket.

Continue Reading…

Rows of crosses give a moving and stark reminder of the events of D-Day at the American Cemetery Omaha Beach

D-Day 6th June 1944 and a poignant visit to Normandy

I confess that I have a love of history and especially in the period of time in France that covers the occupation and the D-Day landings. It is not my intention to go over all that the story encompasses. That has been well told many times by far better historians and been reviewed extensively quite recently with the fascination of the 75th anniversary of the landings. All my writings are done with a desire to inspire you to visit the places we have loved over the years. What I hope to achieve is to convey a sense of the atmosphere to you and the way these sites have an impact on us as visitors. Continue Reading..

Paris & France – Travel now
Hoghton Cricket Club Lancashire
A favorite wine bar in Banon from our French travels

Wine Bar Les Vins au Vert Banon Provence France

Lower down from the market square of Banon village we had previously walked past a small wine bar, Les Vins Au Vert, opposite the tabac. We decided to check it out because it had seemed to hint that there was food to be had for lunch as well as a glass of wine. It turned out that we would be very happy that we had made this choice as the service was warm and friendly and prompt. Continue Reading…

Chocolat filmed in the quietest location village in Burgundy

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain - L'Ange Souriant Chambres D'Hotes
Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – L’Ange Souriant Chambres D’Hotes

Chocolat

This destination is one of our favourites – Northern Burgundy. It is a much neglected part of France from a tourist standpoint. To the north is Champagne with its landscape of gently rolling vine covered hillsides. The towns of Champagne are steeped in wine making history and the money coming into the area keeps it looking expensively maintained. It is an area that will always delight but just to the south is a less travelled region that is more warts and all in its presentation. The towns are just that little more untouched and authentic, the countryside rural and pure, not quite manicured to within an inch of its life as in Champagne. It is a region that produces fine wine, wine that other than Chablis rarely reached the supermarkets of the UK. These wines are well worth finding when your car has an empty boot. They are astonishingly good value.

We are going to start this leg of our road trip in a small village in the French department of Côte-d’Or, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté. When you are asked to name one or two films set in France then the usual suspects come to mind. ‘A Good Year’, ‘Midnight in Paris’, ‘Mr Bean’s Holiday’. If I ever asked the female friends of my wife then they always seemed to come up with ‘Chocolat’, the film based on the novel by English Author Joanne Harris. Starring Johnny Depp, Juliet Binoche and Judi Dench it was a popular addition to the genre. I have to say at the time of our travels I had never seen it of knew anything of the storyline. I certainly was not aware of the film location in France. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain is the setting for Chocolat and that is the village where our bed and breakfast accommodation is located. Somebody told me that film fact by the way, because you would not be aware of it when you are staying there. This rural village is just that and resolutely determined to stay one. There are no indications that it has a claim to fame, no signposts designating the places featured in the film. Certainly, there are no souvenir shops. I doubt you could even buy a bar of Chocolat. This would never be allowed to pass in England. If even an advert is filmed in the smallest of towns or villages in England they would certainly make sure you knew about it. You are absolutely not going to get the T-Shirt in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.

I cannot say I am disappointed at that. I like my locations in France to stand on their own, keeping their individual charm. Flavigny does not disappoint on first view of the village from the Northern approach road. It looks the quintessential Plus Belle Village de France as you take it in from a distance. I pull the car over on the rise with the village beyond emerging out of the lush green countryside. The dominant feature as is the case in most French villages, however small, is the church spire. Abbaye Saint Joseph de Clairval is a particular stand out example and I should have realized, features in the film. It is a promising first impression.

Entering the village, we make our way slowly along the main street and cannot miss our clearly signed accommodation – L’Ange Souriant on Rue Voltaire. I am writing this in Covid lockdown times and of course most things are closed anyway but I suspect that this establishment is no longer trading which is a shame. It would be one of the most enjoyable places we stayed at in France, despite its modest pretentions. As I have mentioned this an extremely famous village, Hollywood superstar famous. Strangely no one seems to have told it. From entering the village, we have not encountered a soul. The first person we see is our host and then again that is not straight away by any means. She is not around when we arrive, so we have to wait, explore a few side streets winding around the property. Disturbing the slumbers of a couple of cats is the best we can achieve in bonding with the locals. Finally, the lady we are waiting for comes around the corner with her three young children. The school run accomplished she warmly greets us and apologises for not being here for our arrival. She sets the tone for our visit, and we are immediately part of the family.

Her home follows the usual style of furnishing in rural France. In our bedroom large solid chunky furniture dominates our space. Throughout Burgundy and other parts of France it seems that furniture is handed down from generation to generation. Dark wood fixtures may be well out of fashion in England but not here in France and it is always oversized. It is an extremely clean and well cared for space though and the overall atmosphere is homely and generous. Having unpacked we are welcomed into the family space, the owners three children doing their homework. As always in France little excuse is needed to offer a guest a glass of wine and our delightful host continues that tradition with a lovely light Burgundy.

Soon it is time to go in search of food, a typical Burgundy auberge perhaps in another picture-perfect village. We head out through the village gates and into the expanse of countryside beyond. The light is already gently fading with the sun just obscured by the cloud on the horizon. It is a gorgeous view and completely tranquil. As we drive down the narrow lanes and pass-through various villages it becomes readily apparent just how tranquil it actually is. Apart from the odd cat and assorted cattle in a field there is no other sign of life. Despite it being dusk very few lights are flickering in the villages and although there may be an auberge sign or two gently swaying in the breeze the attached restaurants are resolutely closed. So too are any village shops. Except one that we eventually stumble upon after driving around for around an hour. Our French evening meal feast is a couple of slightly past their best chocolate croissants and a bar of chocolate all washed down with a cheeky little half bottle of sauvignon blanc of dubious parentage. Still, being able to gorge on this feast back at the village sat by the church in the deserted town square, peace all around, it is not a bad end to the day.

Flavigny-sur-Ozerain – A quiet corner of Northern Burgundy

We explore a little more on the following morning, but Flavigny is just a pleasant, quiet Burgundian village. There is no ‘Chocolat’ tourist trail, no souvenir shops where you can buy your ‘Chocolat’ Chocolate. It is a village were the local life goes on at its slow unconcerned pace. We saw a man tinkering with a car down a side street at what I presume passes as the local garage. An old lady wanders across the church square to talk to a neighbour. That is about it really. The French do not really do celebrity transformations of their villages and that is the same story throughout Burgundy and much of France. As you tour the Burgundian countryside you pass through so many lovely villages, many are incredibly famous throughout the world. The wine villages around Beaune such as Pommard, Aloxe-Corton, Gevry Chambertain, Vosne-Romanie and so on are names to conjure with. However, when you arrive at these villages there will be just a simple village sign as there is on entering any village in France. These villages have remained small and undeveloped and if you are expecting any sort of fanfare announcing their important status then you will be disappointed. In fact if anything they discourage any additional attention. I for one am happy with that and the countryside of Burgundy remains very unspoilt and is much as it has always been. The only drawback is that because they do not overly put themselves out for the hungry tourist you can find even in summer if a restaurant only opens Wednesday to Sunday, lunch only, then those are the hours and even if there are coachloads of ready customers those hours will not change. Bring a sandwich!

Cycle by the riverside in Noyers Burgundy France

Flavigny does have its charm even if you are a disappointed ‘Chocolat’ tourist, which I am not. The old walls and gateways to the village are well worth seeking out as is the area around the church. Its charm as a filming location is obvious and although a stroll around the village will be uneventful you will encounter one or two villagers and the welcome is friendly. At the entrance to the village is the one claim to fame that the villagers will acknowledge with genuine pride – the Anise of Flavigny shop and manufacturers. It is in the Benedictine Abbey in Flavigny that this tasty little treat has been made since 1591. Always produced according to the same ancient recipe, each individual aniseed is still patiently coated in thin layers of a secret delicately flavoured syrup. To the villagers sharing a sweet with a hidden aniseed at its heart is symbolic of love itself. Having a pedigree going back through more than four centuries of history, this is one of the oldest brands in France. They do last a long time so a couple of their attractive tins for the winter are a welcome addition to any store cupboard or the car glove box. One thing however, even in this shop, you are not going to find and that is a bar of Chocolat Chocolate or a Aniseed Chocolat here in Flavigny. There are no souvenirs to be had of the film location. All the better for it really, we enjoyed the quiet and to wander round the village with my camera was a photographer’s dream – no cars, no people.

Our stay at our chambres d’hôtes here in Flavigny was extremely pleasant and we bid adieu to our host and her charming children following another copious breakfast. At least this was a regular source of food for at least one of our daily meals here in rural Northern Burgundy. Flavigny is a charming village but please bring a packed lunch if you are not coming in July or August.

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Paris & France – Travel now

In search of Hemingway and Midnight in Paris

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

La Maison de Verlaine Restaurant Latin Quarter Paris

One of the most evocative books about Paris could be considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s ‘A Moveable Feast’. If ever I need inspiration to write about Paris or to make plans for another visit then that is the book that clinches my mood and motivation. It works every time for me even though you do have to take some of his Paris memoir writing with a reasonable sized pinch of salt. He paints such insightful but sometimes harshly unsympathetic portraits of the characters from the era, the writers and artists that dominated ‘20s Paris. Describing the life and ambiance of the city at that time period so well – he constructs a painting in words. His portrait of F Scott Fitzgerald made me laugh, cry and wince at the astonishingly eccentric tales he recalled. Yet it is a book that has such a depth of sadness too. Like my taste in music it appeals to my melancholic side – as my daughter says; ‘the sadder the better’. Certainly there is a sadness surrounding the future aftermath of Fitzgerald and Zelda’s tragically short lives spiralling downhill shortly after these events. It is though the final chapter of a book that was written just before Hemingway’s lonely death nearly forty years detached in time from the events in the book that conveys his deep regret. He threw away the happiness of his life in Paris with his first wife Hadley and their young son. There is not always something better around the corner, often what we already have is all we need for our contentment. It is a book that can be a Parisian guide but today we have something more visual based on his work.
The Woody Allen film ‘Midnight in Paris’ is themed on Hemingway’s book as any cursory read of it will establish. Really though it is a film that does more for the Paris tourist board than any amount of advertising. It is a love letter to a great city. The film recreates the times of the 20’s that Hemingway so eloquently describes, an era that the film’s main character Gil adores as he is bewilderingly entranced to be transported back to that time. Adriana, his new muse, prefers La Belle Époque but he cannot understand wanting anything more than to be experiencing the lively writing and arts scene of Paris in the 20’s. I am with him on that, but really all the book and the movie do is to convince you that Paris is the finest city in the world. When I arrive at the Gard Du Nord on the Eurostar from London then my current era waiting outside the station is just fine by me. The filming locations for ‘Midnight in Paris’ are well documented and in fact Hemingway makes a fine job of that. So if you want to follow them all it is easy to do in our smartphone era. I will take you through on a mixed journey, some of the places in the film that I love. Also bring in some parts of Paris that historically are so very interesting and should be part of your visit. If your time in Paris is all fine dining then you are missing out on a broader experience.
If you are going to start on a history and writing tour of Paris then I suggest it begins on the steps of the church of St Etienne du Mont, Place Sainte-Geneviève, 75005. The actual steps used in the film where Gil waits for the time travelling car and his famous hosts are just around to the side of the church. From here they look down Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève, the road up which the car approaches. It is a supremely evocative location and it is worth taking the time to search out on the internet a photo taken on 22nd August 1944 of armed resistants just coming down from the area of the steps at the height of the struggle to liberate Paris from the German occupiers. Historical fact and fiction can be found being enacted side by side on the streets of Paris and in your imagination. If you go back around to the front of the church onto Rue Clovis and head towards the Latin Quarter by turning right onto Rue Descartes you will come to a small but perfectly formed restaurant – La Maison de Verlaine. The clue is in the title but it was not a happy place when Verlaine died there in a miserable state as a result of his alcoholism. It is also a building where Hemingway rented a small attic room and took himself off to write in peace and seclusion. There is a delightful story in his book about the goatherd taking his flock every day past Hemingway’s building and milking the goats to order as the locals emerged with their containers. It is certainly an evocative street. We have eaten on the terrace at this restaurant of an evening and the food is excellent. The location is pure Paris left bank so don’t let me stop you going. Just a little farther up is Place Contrescarpe which again features in Hemingway’s life and times in Paris. This is a place where he describes almost with affection the bar humming with the pungent smell of bodies and drunkenness. It is a vivid portrait you can almost sense the reality of from the page.

Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève – view from the Church steps facing the view of the vintage car coming up the street in Midnight in Paris

I hope to convey just what these people meant to us and how Paris bound all the best of memories together but it is a slower process. As I said Paris is throwing up too many ideas and I think it will produce two books rather than one. Just adding my love of its history to the book gave me a challenge to fit it all in. I have a passion for the time of the occupation, perhaps because I know that I would have been personally caught up in all its horror had I been living in Paris back then. I find it fascinating and hope to convey that a consideration of those events should not be overlooked by the visitor. No, Paris unlike Provence cannot be based around wonderful long lunches, it needs more effort for a visitor to get full value from a visit. I loved the writing and research for this book but despite Hemingway dwarfing me as a writer I do possess something he relinquished – I can write of Paris without any regrets.

Les Deux Magots Cafe at the heart of St Germain Paris – along with Le Café de Flore  was a frequent haunt of Hemingway and other writers
Come to Paris with my Dream of Paris Memoir
The start of our French adventure
Paris & France – Travel now

Some Arty Photoshop Photography for a change

A bit of fun this week with Photoshop – Hope you enjoy them – Come to France anyway

Please enjoy my Travel books – LINK TO YOUR COUNTRY : https://bit.ly/bookneal

Le Consulat Restaurant Montmartre Paris
Boulangerie in the Marais District of Paris
Cycle by the riverside in Noyers Burgundy France
Sherlock Holmes Pub in Charing Cross London
Red Arrows over Uphill Somerset England
Paris & France – Travel now
%d bloggers like this: