Living here in North Yorkshire I have a pretty fixed idea of what it is like to visit an abbey. We are spoiled for impressive stone ruins set in beautiful open green landscapes. Two of the nation’s stunners – Fountains Abbey and Bolton Abbey – are less than 30 minutes drive from Harrogate. Fontevraud Abbey Heritage I wish that I had cleared my head completely of these pre-conceived notions before visiting Fontevraud Abbey in the Loire Valley. It was a bit of a culture shock. Bear in mind, the French didn’t have Henry VIII so abbey ruins are not…

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Last week I announced that our family is travelling to see a total eclipse of the sun in the USA. On Monday 21st August 2017 millions of people in parts of the USA will see the phenomenon. The eclipse will make landfall in a narrow strip from the Pacific northwest all the way to the Atlantic coast in South Carolina. We’ve been dreaming of seeing this total eclipse ever since we saw one in the Champagne region of France in 1999. I wrote my story in Views of a Total Solar Eclipse from France but I’ve also asked friends who…

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If you want to visit a French Chateau then you can’t go wrong with a visit to The Loire Valley, where there are plenty. Villandry is one famous Loire valley chateau. It is known for its extraordinary gardens which are laid out in the French Renaissance style. The gardens were recreated and restored by the current owners, mainly based on historical records. They are truly stunning, and extensive. It took us a long time to get around the grounds and view it from many interesting angles. Visiting Villandry Most visitors start with the chateau itself and its grand interiors and…

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   I’ve written an usual shopping list today. My husband is stranded in France this morning. Just for a few hours. His flight home has been cancelled because of bad weather so he’s coming on a later flight. Every time he goes on a business trip to Europe the timing is incredibly tight and we are lucky if he comes home with a souvenir fridge magnet, purchased in the airport. So when I heard he had a few hours of waiting around this morning I begged him to pop to the supermarket! I don’t know if he will but here’s…

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Traditional French crêpes are something we have all heard of and perhaps tried.  It’s not like an English pancake on shrove Tuesday although it is thin and sweet. Less well-known is the savoury Breton galette which looks similar but darker with a totally different flavour. It has toppings like egg and ham. That’s a basic description but how are traditional Breton galettes and crepes made? A farmhouse cookery demonstration Whilst on holiday in Finisterre last year our hostess Monique, a farmer in Brittany, gave us a fabulous demonstration of Breton crêpes and galette making. Monique prides herself on her traditional skills and many of…

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