There are so many gorgeous places in France, it’s hard for us to see all of them – especially if we keep returning to one place. We can’t help it. We find ourselves going back often to Annecy and its surrounding areas. We sat by the lake and I turned on my camera to capture the moment.
“A Spanish company called Turtle Airships is working on plans to build a luxurious solar-powered blimp which can take passengers from New York to Paris.
Perhaps the only thing cooler than being powered by lightweight photovoltaic cells, this airship is also designed to rest on land or water.
The first blimp prototype will be propelled in two nontraditional ways. The outside of the ship will be covered with Cadmium-Indium-Germanium (CIG) photovoltaic cells, picked for their their light weight. The cells should generate enough power to move the blimp at around 40 mph in average conditions, or at around 70 horsepower. Meanwhile, a diesel drivetrain will generate the rest of the power, and ideally the designers will look to an adapted hybrid electric model for that. And because blimps fly at low altitudes, they don’t have to deal with problems that plague diesel engines at elevations over 30,000 ft.
The only thing currently keeping this visionary project from flying is…”
In Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s most recent TED Talk, he discusses his three most recent projects on humanity and our habitat. You’ll be glued to the aerial photographs in his series “Earth from Above,” personal interviews from around the globe featured in his web project “6 billion Others,” and his soon-to-be-released free movie, “Home (produced by Luc Besson),” which documents human impact on the environment through breathtaking video. Home’s global premiere is tomorrow, June 5, which is World Environment Day.
Not that you need another reason to love Paris, but I thought this would be an important addition to the list. Track athlete, Romain Mesnil, for some reason, decided to run naked in the streets of Paris with his … pole. Honestly, we don’t mind. If he needs some publicity, he should have it. Watch the video.
Can you tell? There’s not a whole lot of excitement goin’ on chez nous these days. Anyway, the little guy from the other day is back. Actually, I think this might be a different one. It’s hard to tell; they all look pretty much the same (sorry, squirrels!). The walnuts have made the French squirrel news because I saw four squirrels around our house yesterday. That, I think, is a bit too much.
Although there are many ways to explore the Camargue, France’s sprawling area of protected marshland, my personal recommendation would be to see it on horseback. That is, if you’re up for that kind of thing.
Because the Camargue is designated as a botanical and zoological nature reserve, it seems fitting to try to see it all the while respecting nature and the wildlife all around. I love riding and I’d been wanting to go horseback riding for ages, so this was the perfect opportunity, and for me, the perfect way to see the Camargue. If riding on a big animal’s back is not your cup of tea, you have many options: jeep safaris, organized tours, and my second choice for seeing the area, bicycling. With many areas of the Camargue being off-limits to motorized traffic plus the advantage of such a flat terrain, you’re good on bike. Hills will NOT be a problem. Hiking’s also a good choice but you must be in enormously great shape to cover a lot of ground, and to run away from charging wild bulls. Just kidding.
photo from Les Arnelles
Looking for places to rent a horse to ride will not be a problem; they are everywhere. Just check out the place and owners a bit and examine the health of the horses. We visited three places before choosing Les Arnelles. The people working there were great, the horses were well taken care of, and since we had specific areas we wanted to see, they let us customize our ride.
If you plan on taking photos on horseback, I’d recommend bringing a small camera that you can use easily with one hand. I made the mistake of bringing my large camera, which is a little too clunky and heavy to use with one hand (carrying reins in the other hand), which is why I took very few pictures. Also, along the way, I lost my lens cover while we’d been galloping for a stretch. Doh!
NOTE: Don’t forget the mosquito repellent! Also try to bring some binoculars.
13460 Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer France
Tel: +33 (0)603 892 379 | +33 (0)686 601 515 | +33 (0)490 978 286
Website: Les Arnelles
WWF France (World Wildlife Fund) is turning 35 years old. Remembering their 35 years of struggle to save natural habitats and wildlife, and their 35 years of helping to protect biodiversity, the WWF is taking their icon/mascot, the panda, as a theme to “celebrate” these 35 years of combating the disappearance of pandas and thousands of other species of animals in danger. There are only 1600 pandas left on earth because Man has accelerated their extinction. The exhibit of 1600 pandas at the Trocadero is a call to action for each person to do their part in helping to reverse the deterioration of our natural environment.
1600 Pandas – WWF
October 18, 2008
10am – 5pm
Before we get into Pink Flamingos, the non-John Waters and non-plastic-lawn-decor-in-Florida versions, let’s talk about the Camargue.
The Camargue is a vast, triangle-shaped stretch of isolated roads, fresh and salt water ponds, salt flats, rice paddies, tall reeds, and nationally protected plains in the south of France (below Arles) – about 360 square kilometers / 930 square miles between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the River Rhône delta. Approximately a third of the Camargue is either lakes or marshland, with the central portion of the Camargue being a protected haven for wild birds. The area is home to over 400 different species of birds. It’s also the main habitat for the famous Toro Camargue (The Camargue Black Bulls) and Le Camargue (White Mane gray horses called Camargue Horses in English), but by far, there’s only one species of birds that steals the main stage here: the pink flamingo. People from all over the world flock to France just to see them.
Camargue’s pink “greater” flamingo, the “Phoenicopterus Roseus” officially, is the largest species of flamingo. Their plumage is pinkish white with black and crimson wings and their unusually shaped pink and black beak acts as a sieve designed to separate mud from food. They honk rather ungracefully and sound similar to the honks of geese. They are very sociable animals and fly in large flocks, and will not breed unless there are huge numbers of flamingos around them, which finally leads to the point of this post!
The best time to see flamingos according to experts is during their reproduction process. Oui, mating season! When is that? In the Camargue, it is recommended to see the flamingos during the winter months, any time between November and March. However, THE most ideal time to visit is actually in January and February according to the Parc Ornithologigue, (where we saw the flamingos) just 4 kilometers from the center of Saintes Maries. 10,000 flamingo couples gather around to do their thing. This is apparently amazing to see, from what we hear if not for watching an incredible amount of flamingos in one place at the same time, but also for a peeping tom chance to become a voyeur to witness their sexual activities en masse. Another great opportunity is to watch the pink flamingos take off in flight, all together. This happens at sunset. So, ultimately, the very best time to see the flamingos in the Camargue is in January or February when the sun sets. You can easily spend a few hours at the Parc Ornithologigue beforehand. Just make sure to time it right.
The non-breeding flamingos hang out in the Camargue a good part of the year so you will be sure to see some during most of the year, but their numbers will vary depending on what time of year you visit. Go during sun set!
A Last IMPORTANT NOTE: The Camargue is also home to some seriously vicious mosquitos. They are gargantuan and relentlessly evil. So please be prepared to use repellent. Lots of it. Everywhere. Even if you are wearing thick clothing, they will bite you through jeans. If you happen to forget yours, you can ask the people at the entrance for repellent. They will kindly let you use theirs for free.
Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau
13460 Saintes Maries de la Mer
Tél : 04 90 97 82 62
Admission: 7 €, 4 € (10 year-olds and under)
Open all year. Hours: Vary so please contact them for hours.
“Network operator Orange will rate the environmental impact of the fixed-line and mobile phones it sells, it said Friday.
The company will publish eco-ratings for the first 30 products on its French Web-site in mid-October and will extend it to all the products it sells next year, it said.
Orange is the brand used by France Télécom for its mobile phone and Internet access activities in France, the U.K. and other European countries. Orange is the exclusive service provider for Apple’s iPhone in France; it also provides iPhone service in Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Liechtenstein, Romania, and Slovakia.
Orange’s ratings initially concern its French stores and networks, and are based on five indicators, compiled by the company BIO Intelligence Service:
* CO2 assessment, a measure of the greenhouse gas emissions caused by the phone’s manufacture and use;
* Energy efficiency, a gauge of the phone’s power consumption and of any features that allow consumption to be reduced;
* Resource preservation, a broad rating of whether the materials used to make the product are nonrenewable or whether, like the gold and tantalum used in electrical connections and capacitors, they come from what Orange describes as “sensitive economic or social environments”;
* Limitation of dangerous substances, a measure of whether the phone avoids the use of toxic chemicals—although the most dangerous of these are already prohibited by European Union law;
* Waste reduction, a rating of whether the device can be repaired and whether it or its packaging can be recycled.
Orange’s program, developed in conjunction with environmental group WWF, could give the French government some food for thought.
After the success of an eco-tax to penalize buyers of polluting vehicles and reward purchasers of vehicles with lower CO2 emissions, the government had talked of extending the measures to other products. Those plans were postponed last month because, the government said, there were no clear environmental criteria for products other than cars.
In France mobile phones—and most other electrical and electronic goods—are already subject to a special tax called “eco-participation,” intended to fund recycling of the products at the end of their lives. Although the current eco-tax on mobile phones differs from that for, say, photocopiers, it’s the same for all models of phone, and at just €0.01 (US$.01), is nowhere near enough to influence customers to choose more environmentally friendly products.”
The dish, Moules Frites (mussels and fries), is practically an institution in France, which should be reason enough to sample some while you’re here, best eaten near the sea of course. These are from a brasserie called Le Belvedere in the southern seaside town, Saintes-Maries de la Mer, which is considered the capital of the Camargue.
We had a nice view of the beach and sea, sitting outside in the warmth of the provencale sun, munching on our moules and perfectly fried fries. (The restaurant had friendly service and reasonable prices, too.) What a great way to forget about the global financial deterioration spreading quickly around world…
21 Avenue de la plage
13460 Saintes-Maries de la mer France
Tèl : 04.90.97.92.87
We heart Apple season (well I guess we heart all seasons) where we live and this wheelbarrow is about the third one of apples we’ve harvested in the last month or so – from only one tree. By the way, if we didn’t live here in the countryside I probably wouldn’t even be familiar with the French word for wheelbarrow, which is une brouette, just in case you were wondering. My city dwelling family members in the U.S. tease me about this to no end (because I used to be such a die-hard city person), and they sometimes tell people that I am a farmer now. I’m not but I’m actually fine with that.
So many people just leave their apples to drop off and rot on the ground, I mean hundreds upon hundreds of precious, yummy pesticide-free apples, which makes no sense to me but whatever. We can never have enough apples; bring ’em on, we say.
So far, I’ve only made pectin (with the greener ones), apple compote, and lots of apple (plus other fruit and veggie) juice, but I really would like to try to make some chaussons aux pommes (French apple turnovers) and some tartes aux pommes (apple tarts/pies). You know, do something French with these apples, since they’re French afterall. Maybe I’ll try making something this weekend if I’m not too lazy.
Tired of the constant criticism aimed at the wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon region, specifically that the wines were “crap,” an independent vintner responded with a revolutionary and rebellious idea and created, “Le vin de merde” (Shit wine). The wine label will be hard to miss if you ever see it on a shelf because there’s a big fat fly on it as if it were sitting on a pile of poo. Brilliant and funny publicity stunt. The wine, however, is supposedly not crappy at all. Would make a fun dinner party gift.
This time the uranium leak is in Pierrelatte, which actually shares the same nuclear power facilities as Tricastin, where the last two leaks were found, but the media has been suspiciously removing “Tricastin” from this news and are making people think that Pierrelatte is not in the same place. Well, it IS in the same place.
Tricastin and Pierrelatte are villages next to each other and they share the same nuclear power site, referred to as “Tricastin-Pierrelatte.” Pierrelatte happens to be in the Drome department and Tricastin is in the Vaucluse department but they are literally “across the street” from each other. Areva, the company responsible for the nuclear power plants, is the very same company responsible for all of the other uranium leaks in the area, and again is saying that it is a “small” leak and therefore of little consequence.” YEA RIGHT. article (in French)
Before the weather gets too chilly, I thought I’d mention the village of Cap d’Agde, where being butt naked is obligatory. If interested, you’ll still have time to enjoy the sun à poil (in your birthday suit).
The village of Cap d’Agde, also called, “The Naked City,” is a seaside port and resort along the Mediterranean not far from the cities of Carcassone, Nimes and Montpellier. (in the Hérault department, in the région of Languedoc-Roussillon). It is supposedly the world’s largest naturist village. “Naturism,” which many people call nudism, is legal so it isn’t uncommon to see families walking around naked in supermarkets, shops, banks, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, camp sites, etc. The beach in Cap d’Agde, which extends across 3 kilometers of beach, enforces a “nudity mandatory” policy, which means you MUST be nude there. I’m not sure what happens if you have any clothes on. Do the police rip them off of you? Are you arrested for wearing a sock? What happens in the COLD winter?
So anyway, this is a place where you can literally let it all hang out, perfect for an even tan with no bathing suit lines. Definitely not for everybody, and for the most part, it’s really no big deal – But don’t be led to think it’s entirely a wholesome place to vacation with the kids. Cap d’Agde is a lot of things.
While it IS perfectly okay to vacation here with kids, the place fulfills a whole spectrum of expectations, primarily regarding sexual satisfaction. For example, during the day families and kids are at the beach to have fun in the sun, but at the same time, others may be scouting the territory to find potential sexual partners for the evening or couples will be looking for other couples to switch partners with. Say, you’re invited to a party one night in the village. It would very a rare occasion if that party didn’t involve gratuitous non-committal sex with multiple partners. In other words, it has some innocence but on the other hand, anything goes. So with all the swingers clubs scattered amidst the family shops and restaurants, and the people, voyeurs and all (yes there are naked voyeurs here), it all seems pretty relaxed. For some reason these two incongruous communities: happy family fun and the old school naturists, and the sex motivated swingers with pierced genitals, work harmoniously side by side.
“Paris Mushrooms, it’s when they’re in your mouth that they’re the happiest.”
Aside from this ad promoting Champignons de Paris (button mushrooms) in France being very, very cute, I’m wondering why the mushroom industry (if there’s a mushroom industry) needs to advertise in the first place. Is there an overproduction of mushrooms? I rarely see ads for other veggies like cucumbers or celery or artichokes or for any veggies, ever; really, this is strange to me. Is there a silent mushroom consumption grève (strike) or something? … So much so that mushroom farmers need a push from ads?
Just a couple of weeks ago, our neighbors asked us if we had any extra mushrooms they could borrow because they couldn’t find any anywhere near our neighborhood. My sweetie, being even more of a conspiracy theorist than I am (yea, I know! unbelievable but true!), suggested that the radioactive leaks lately have been compromising the mushrooms, which perhaps were then removed from the market. Apparently, mushrooms excessively absorb radiation, which is an enormous help to people around…unless they eat those mushrooms…
“A herpes virus is killing young oysters in France because they have spent too much energy developing their sexual organs rather than their natural defenses, an oyster crisis team has found.
Scientists have spent weeks investigating a mysterious surge in mortality among the mollusks that the French love to devour with lemon and white wine.
France’s main marine research institute, Ifremer, set up the crisis team on July 3 and its members have been working flat out to understand why 40 to 100 percent of oysters aged 12 to 18 months were dying in all but one of France’s breeding areas.
An Ifremer spokeswoman said on Monday the team had established that a virus called Oyster Herpesvirus type 1, or OsHV-1, was killing young oysters, helped by unfavorable weather conditions that had weakened the mollusks.
“We had a warm winter followed by a rainy spring, which caused high levels of planktonic plant life to develop,” spokeswoman Johanna Martin said.
“This meant that the oysters were particularly well fed and spent a lot of energy developing their sexual organs to the detriment of their natural reserves, leaving them vulnerable to OsHV-1,” she said.
There is no cure for OsHV-1.
Ifremer is continuing its investigations and admits that other factors could be contributing, such as toxic seaweed or Vibrio Splendidus, another virus present in France this year.
France produces about 110,000 tonnes of oysters a year, according to Ifremer data. It is the world’s fourth biggest producer after China, which alone accounts for 83 percent of world production, followed by Korea and Japan.
All of France’s oyster breeding areas, of which 90 percent are on the western coast, are affected by high mortality rates except one area at Arcachon in the southwest. Scientists do not know why Arcachon oysters have been spared.”
A so-called NEW uranium leak near Avignon was reported just a week ago, and now there’s yet another nuclear power plant that is leaking. This time it’s at a plant that is actually not very far from the other leaking plant – in Romans-sur-Isere, both managed by the unscrupulous, Areva. The suits are saying AS USUAL, that this leak is not dangerous to humans and can not harm the environment. I’d like to ask, will they drink the water?
Does this remind anyone of various past events assessed by other evil corporations? Remember how the tobacco industry said that there is absolutely no link between smoking and cancer? I saw the excellent French documentary (Tabac, le grand conspiration) on the tobacco industry just the other night on TV showing old cigarette commercials: “Cigarettes are good for you!” “Cigarettes make you feel better!” “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette.” “Cigarettes have absolutely no effect on your health!” Please. How could companies get away with this type of criminal activity? How can they continue to do so even today? Easily.
Also remember, they claimed that ASBESTOS was perfectly SAFE! Tell that to all the millions of people who died from asbesto poisoning or mesothelioma, who are now dying of cancer from it.
There aren’t just two power plants in France that are leaking, and those aren’t new leaks. (France 2 interview with Roland Desbordes explains) Additionally, there are a lot more leaking hazardous materials into the environment and drinking water, and have been doing so for a while now.
With the nuclear power plant companies claiming that “all is well and there’s no need to be concerned about the uranium that has leaked into the environment. This is a MINOR event and humans are totally safe from this! There’s no impact!” – and on the other side with scientists declaring that these leaks are hazardous and certainly NOT safe for humans and the environment. Who would YOU believe?
My point: If you’re traveling in these areas or anything near a nuclear power plant, simply be aware of the risks. Check the CRIIRAD site, which is the Independent Commission For Radioactivity Research and Information. (In French)
Nature et Decouverte, a French equivalent of The Nature Company, sure knows how to get your attention. While we were waiting at the cash register, we laughed at this book, displayed right at the entrance of the store. The book is called, Comment chier dans les bois, which means, “How to Shit in the Woods.” Yeah, we were tempted to get it but realized we already know how to do so.
Actually, it’s a book pour une approche environnementale d’un art perdu. that takes an environmental approach to a lost art.
Makes me wonder about how many are sold based on shock value.
Dad-in-law showed me this pretty flowery tomato thing growing in their garden in the north of France but I kept forgetting what it was called so I repeatedly asked him about it. “Just think of the sexually transmitted disease, Syphilis, because that rhymes with Physialis, sort of.”
Rather an unpleasant association, but I guess it works. In the English speaking world, this delicate and beautiful plant is known as Physalis, Chinese Lantern, Strawberry Tomato, Winter Cherry, Bladder Cherry or Cape Gooseberry, and is a relative of the tomatillo in the Solanaceae family.
They are so delicate with a paper-like shell that really does resemble a Japanese or Chinese lantern. Add them to flower arrangements as well as desserts and meals for an artistic and exotic visual impact.
They have a unique flavor. Maybe it’s because I expect them to taste like tomatoes, I’m not sure, but they are a teeny tiny bit like cherry tomatoes and plums with a hint of pineapple and a strange unidentifiable aftertaste.
Note: The unripe Physialis is poisonous, so please avoid those. However, the ripe fruit can sometimes cause intestinal distress so please consume in small quantities…like one or two in a sitting.
While strolling through the largest garden of more varieties of bamboo than you ever knew existed (about 40), you would imagine that you’ve found yourself in a far eastern land, a place surrounded by exotic flowers and plants (impossible to pronounce), hearing only the waft of a gentle breeze combing through the long stalks in a bamboo forest.
The zen-like ambiance of this unexpected garden has actually placed you in the Mediterranean climate of the south of France, not far from the town of Alès and two kilometers (just over one mile) north of Anduze. There are 34 hectares devoted to the cultivation of bamboo and other exotic plants from the Asia.
We’ve been wanting to see La Bambouseraie for long time now, so while we were south we decided to take a drive (about an hour) from our temporary home base in Saint Laurent des Arbres.
To satisfy the thirsty bamboo, more than five kilometers (3 miles) of irrigation canals are discretely blended into the landscape. With the sunny climate, ideal soil and a dependable supply of water, the bamboo can grow more than a meter (3 feet) a day.
La Bambouseraie de Prafrance was founded in 1855, and is the very first giant bamboo forest in Europe. Eugène Mazel, a native of the Cévennes who made his fortune by importing spices, began his bamboo collection while traveling through the French colonies of the Far East. After purchasing the domaine of Prafrance from its owner, Anne de Galière, he began to build his dream bamboo garden on the property. It now features water gardens, sequoia trees from California, traditional projects (Japanese garden, Laotian village), a garden labyrinth, a greenhouse and a nursery.
Oh! and some dwarf Vietnamese pigs. They look pretty humungous to me, though.
The Japanese Zen garden is relatively new to the park (2001) designed very true to Japanese style. The sculpting of the landscape took inspiration from the year it was founded, which was the Year of the Dragon. The Japanese garden’s form is dependent on the body of water it surrounds, so you’ll see the water wind through the garden like a dragon, both existing in harmony with each other. Note that “dragon” is an anagram of Gardon, the nearest river…