Feature Article #1

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Thanks for resting your eyeballs here for a moment.(They are resting, right?) If you rest them a little longer, you may learn some interesting,(hopefully)entertaining, and, yes, ocassionally BIZARRE things about FRENCH COUNTRY LIFE (more…)

| January 27th, 2017 | Continued

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French Travel Confidental




This French Country Travel Life Vacation Confidental is where I reveal the down side of being DA BG.  Yes, Virginia, there IS  a negative smiley face in my otherwise blissful existence. A subtle frown that creases the face of carefree revelry.

Like a wine that is almost perfect, My French Life has a touch of tannin. The bitter flavor of (ugh) responsibility. Which means that the French Cycling Gourmet is NEVER on a carefree holiday. Because dear reader, he’s always thinking of you.  Thinking of how much you would enjoy what he is enjoying. And is therefore obliged to hip you to whatever trip he happens to be on.

bicyclegourmetThis one is to a region of la Belle France that doesn’t get a lot of press. And for me, and the folks who dwell herein, that’s jus’ fine.

It is above the too famed Provence, and borders the Haute Alps and the Alps Maritime. Folks, meet la Drome Provencal. The southernmost part of la Drome proper. (my non altzheimer readers may recall THIS POST)

Like it’s southern neighbour, la Drome Provencal has an equally agreeable climate. Allowing it to produce wine, fruits and herbs in massive quantities. Sharing a big slice of Mt. Ventoux, means that it’s some serious sport candy for cyclists of the lyra clad “speed thrills” variety. (my cycling opposites, as you are no doubt well aware.)

Other than the ubiquitous tourism, Lavender and herbs are La Drome Provencal’s main exports.

What rattles my cage about this region is that it’s “the road less travelled”, (with virtually the same climate as the road too often travelled) there’s NO industry, (so, no pollution) and, with more villages than cities, plus mountains all around, you can get lost here.

With your camera, bien sur.








What are ya thinkin’?

Live French Saints – Part Four




Authors note: If this is your first time on this page, checking out Parts One,Two and Three of this engrossing narrative might be instructive. (but, no promises!)


By now, you’re probably getting the impression, as I was, that the Toussaint’s life was totally sunshine and blue skies. Not. Remember that old rant: “Into each life a little rain must fall?

A big raindrop – particularly for Marie Andre – were her two daughters. They were seriously squabbling over the inheritance of their late Pere. (Marie Andre’s first husband.) The sunny sky here was their children. Making Bernard and Marie Andre grandparents. The doting happy kind. As most are.

The other raindrop actually had a cloud with a silver lining. Marie Andre’s Mother. Who lived with them. While she had  her own suite and “did her own thing” she was definitely part of the household. And seriously engrossed in Italian. Not for a voyage. But just because it interested her.

Ok, so far so good. So – where’s the raindrop? Her health. Not the best. Which pushed a desired move to southern( more sunny )climes to the bottom of the “to do” list.

Then there was the garden. Of course, a pleasure, like most gardens. And like most gardens – a lot of work. For Marie Andre and Bernard, REALLY a lot of work.

Here’s why: Back of house. Patio (bien sur) below it sucessive rows of flora and fauna descending to a (more or less) level expanse of grass. Beyond the grass, bush and forest. So not only flowers and herbs to be nurtured. But grass to be cut and bushes to be trimmed. (Can you say: ACTIVE backache?)

These “raindrops” didn’t seriously dampen the spirits of Bernard and Marie Andre. They continued to greet each day with a smile. A joke. And unfailing appreciation for their good fortune.

A particularly fortunate moment for me was the day I accompanied Bernard to an “Old Rabbits Skins” rehearsal. (his band, remember?) He’d brought along the blue Les Paul Special for me. As it was ordained that I absolutely MUST “jam” with the “rockers of a certain age.” While, in all modesty, I do have a few “pas mal” moves on the acoustic guitar, I hadn’t hung one of the electric variety from my shoulders for many, many years.

Oh never mind! Of course no excuses would be accepted. The quandry was the usual one. What would we jam “on?” Since I was familiar with but couldn’t really contribute anything worthwhile to their  50’s “Rock Nuggets” – I suggested “the Blues.” A classic “fail safe” when musicians groove for the first time , as it has only three basic chord changes.

The first, and only Blues number that ever interested me enough to learn (part of) it was: “Hideaway” by Freddy King. (Brother of you-know-who!)

“The skins “(as do all guiartists) knew this tune. So, I managed to make it through, relatively unscathed. And, possibly add some “street cred” to Bernard’s rep.

Alas, alack, and gosh darn it – After 6 days of incredible hospitality ,great adventures, and not a few fine photos, it was time for the exotic stranger from the far away lands to do his “Willy Nelson.” (“On the road again….gee it’s great to be…”)

In spite of our warm connection, I don’t get many emails from them. But, each time I phone, the reception is the same. Plus 10. The number one question being: “When are you coming back?”

While I don’t know for sure, I would be suprised if Bernard and Marie Andre are not still kidnapping strangers and zapping them with their saintly vibe.

Happily, I was one.


What are ya thinkin’?

Live French Saints – Part Three


Ruined Beauty - Limited Edition Photographic Art by Christopher Strong



Authors Note : Although I can’t promisePART ONE  and/or TWO  could add to your enjoyment/interest/understanding of  this missive.


While DA BG’S “raison d’etre is always to film his memorable meetings with marvellous people(like the Toussaints) – this voyage he was also on a photographic mission. The subject: Ruined Chateaus.

When this become common knowledge, Marie-Andre offered to tour me around the ones she knew. Several of which were not on my pre-tour research radar.

And so, since Bernard was off to play golf(active retirement, remember?) I was willingly kidnapped.( After all, how can you refuse your hostess?)

What impressed me most that day were not the chateaus.  But the attitude of Marie Andre. She was never bored or fidgety while I trolled for photo opps.  Happily doing her own thing, enjoying the scenery AND pointing out possible points of view overlooked by the exotic stranger from the far away lands. Contrast this to one of my ex -girlfriends who always brought a book along on our wilderness walks!

After several marvy Chateau gems, Marie Andre suggested lunch. (my arm twisted again!) Happily our “petite resto” had an outdoor terrace.  The deserted kind.  Perfect for  a weary, hungry photographic team.

On the route home, we scooped up some REALLY fresh butter and milk from a local farmer. One of the great joys of country life. Food treated with respect – not chemicals. (interesting concept -wot?)

The fact that Marie Andre’s enthusiasum for my “pile of ancient stones” project had not waned, came when I discovered what appeared on the internet to be the Mother of all ruined chateaus. It was a decent train ride away. Outside of a major city. When I announced my intention  to add this jewel to my photographic crown, Marie Andre ‘phoned a pal in that town, who then offered to treat me to a resturant meal and, more importantly, a bed. High Cotton! No long train ride TWICE on the day!

That was the good news. The bad, was the Chateau. It was a total LLLLLLLOSER! Bearing almost NO resemblance to it’s internet counterpart. And to add insult to photographic injury, surrounded by a high wire fence. WHY? Who would want to go on anyway?

But that wasn’t the worst of the bad. The worst was that I would have to, and did do the long train ride twice on the same day. Because my hostess -to -be was not off work until 7pm, and it was now barely noon. With (now) no other reason to be here, and facing 6 hours of nothing, I decided to return to villa Toussaint.

Bad decision. I never met my gracious hostess-to-be. Who that night, dined alone.

As Mr. Sinatra warbled : “Regrets…..I’ve had a few.”

Part Four -Next Time.


What are ya thinkin’?