Sunday, November 10, 2019

You're Invited: Thanksgiving in France 2019

Because I totally live to please you, once again I've rounded up a great selection of American Thanksgiving celebrations here in the South of France and in Paris. Who attends these gala soirées? Local expats of course, but also hungry French folks and other Europeans, travelers, house guests...whomever! With a couple exceptions, all nationalities are wanted and welcome! 

Over the years, many of my French friends have told me they love the idea of celebrating this American meet new people, to sample unusual foods, to learn the history and traditions. At a friend's Thanksgiving in Provence a few years back, one French guest told me he loved how the various dishes were served all at once, all on one plate, rather than in courses. Another said he was looking forward to his first taste of cranberry sauce, which he called red fruits jam

While the literal translation is Action de Grâce, most French people just call it Thanksgiving...except for my friend Philippe who refers to it as Merci Donnant, which he says "means absolutely nothing at all." 

I’ve only listed the Thanksgivings that still had space available, as of today. Book soon because most have limited capacity and fill up. For a Thanksgiving meal on Nov. 30 at the American Church in Paris--the first American church established outside the United States, with roots back to 1814--seats will be opened up to non parishioners after Nov. 17 but there's a special service on Thanksgiving Day, open to all. 

Also in Paris, there's a Thanksgiving cooking class, with lunch or dinner, that sounds like great fun.

For those of you hosting your own Thanksgiving or sharing in the food prep, I've provided three sources for traditional ingredients. When it comes to the big juicy bird, the Paris shop called The Real McCoy sells them both fresh and already roasted; more info about that is below.

If you're hosting or know of a Thanksgiving celebration in the South of France that's not listed here, email me the info ( and I'll happily add it. 

And finally, a very heartfelt thank you to all of you: for reading and supporting my blog...for sharing it with your friends....for commenting on the stories you particularly enjoy. I wish you all the most joyous and delicious Merci Donnant, wherever you plan to spend it!


The American Club of the Riviera's Thanksgiving is a gala, annual affair...large, elegant and extremely popular. This year it's in the Salon Belle Epoque at the Hotel Hermitage in Monte Carlo on Thursday Nov. 28, starting with a 12:30 Champagne reception, followed by a luncheon feast of butternut squash veloute, stuffed turkey, sweet potatoes, sweet corn, grilled veggies and apple and pumpkin pies.  All nationalities are welcome but book quickly as this event always sells out; 150 people are expected and it's first come, first served with priority going to members and their families. Last call for reservation payments is Nov 19. All the info is on the ACR website here. Questions?

MonacoUSA will host its annual Thanksgiving dinner at StarsNBars (Monaco) on Thursday Nov. 28  starting at 7 pm. Seating is family style at communal tables in the main restaurant. The menu: Stuffed turkey with cranberry sauce, peas, creamed onions, sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and cornbread. Desserts will be apple tart, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and brownies. Also included: a glass of wine, beer or soft drink, bottled water and espresso.  Cost: 40€ adults, 25€ kids.  Space is limited, you must reserve through MonacoUSA at  and payment in advance is required; no payment at the door and no walk-ins allowed, sorry! All details are on Facebook here.

The MonacoUSA party (just above) is open to everyone but for those who don’t want to join the group, the all-you can-eat Thanksgiving buffet will be available at StarsNBars starting at 7 pm. Cost is 38€ for adults and 20€ for kids, excluding drinks. The restaurant will also be serving its regular menu that evening. Turkey will be served as the plat du jour at lunch, starting at noon, for 21€ (with a drink and dessert) or 15€ (main course only). To book: + 377 9797 9595. Questions:

The Riviera Chapter of Democrats Abroad invites you to a festive Thanksgiving pot luck at Holy Trinity Church Hall, at 11 rue de la Buffa in Nice, on Nov. 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. It’s open to members, Americans in the region and accompanying guests. Seats are limited and they’re filling up quickly so RSVP soon!  DA will provide the turkey and asks all guests to bring a prepared salad, vegetable or dessert to be shared. (Sorry, no cooking facilities available on-site). The closest parking is Palais de la Méditerranée or Grimaldi and there are several bus stops in walking distance. For a map and details, click here. For more info, to RSVP or questions: *NOTE THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT, SORRY!


Once again, the Anglo-American Group of Provence welcomes the community to its annual family-oriented  Thanksgiving in Aix "with a spirit of appreciation for all that we share."  The dinner is Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4 pm (aperitif) and 5 pm (dinner) at Restaurant Le Verguetier, 7 chemin d'Eguilles in Celony (Aix), across from the Maison de Ste-Victoire. They'll have all the traditional foods: turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. Cost: 20€ for members, 10€ for their children under 12; 36€ for guests and 18€ for their children under 12. This includes aperitif, the meal with dessert, wine and coffee. To reserve, send a check payable to AAGP to Michel Parisot, 5 rue Emmanuel Brunet, 13080 Luynes.  Please make sure to specify the number of adults and kids (with ages). Reservations will be made upon receipt of your check, which must be received by Nov. 18. Questions? or 06 37 83 80 45.

Once again the Avignon Chapter of Democrats Abroad will celebrate Thanksgiving with a family-style pot luck at the Cavaillon home of Joan and Charlie Jarowski. The party’s scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 24, from 1 pm to 5 pm. Expect turkey of course but also baked ham, leg of lamb, sausages and all the typical sides including an Impeachment Pie for dessert. Guests are asked to make a small financial contribution and also to bring a starter, side, dessert or drinks to share. *NOTE THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT WITH NO WAIT LIST.

At the restaurant L'Epicerie de Cecile in Beaucaire, chef/owner Cécile Guillo is all fired up to host her annual Thanksgiving fête, at lunch and dinner, on Saturday Nov. 30. Seating is communal at large tables for 12. Expect to pay 25 to 30€ per person (with a couple glasses of wine) and there will be live music in the evening. Cecile is also happy to offer her traditional Thanksgiving meal on the day itself (Thursday Nov. 28) but only for groups of 10 or more.  To reserve: 07 85 40 38 20. The restaurant has no website but they’re on Facebook here. Questions?

Near Forcalquier, the restaurant Le Bistrot de Pierrerue in Pierrerue celebrates its annual Thanksgiving on Friday Nov. 29 and Sat Nov. 30 at 8 pm. On the menu: an amuse bouche, brined and roasted turkey with dressing (made from bio sausage and chestnuts), homemade gravy and cranberry chutney, mashed potatoes, roasted local Brussels sprouts,  pumpkin pie and chocolate pumpkin-seed torte with vanilla ice cream. Price is 25€ per person, without drinks. To book: 04 92 75 33 00,

Once again my friend Jon Chiri, an American chef with 20+ years experience working in Provence, will offer a Thanksgiving lunch at Cuisine Centr'Halles, his cafe and cooking school at Les Halles, the wonderful indoor food market in Avignon. On Thursday Nov. 28, Jon invites you to join his family for a special holiday lunch from 11:30 am to 2:15 pm. (The market officially closes at 2:15 pm so be sure to seated by 1:30 pm latest.) The Thanksgiving Plat du Jour (turkey with Jon's version of accoutrements) will be 24€ ...or 30€ with pumpkin pie. Wine and soft drinks are extra. To reserve:, 06 46 89 85 33.

Biocoop - La Coumpagnie in Aix (840 ave. du Camp de Menthe ) will host two Thanksgivings on Thursday Nov. 28: a lunch at the store and a dinner at the restaurant BioChef, near the center of Aix. The lunch, owner Rick Harrison says, ''is mostly for our curious French clientele and always our biggest lunch turnout of the year!" It’s 18.50per person and reservations are not necessary.  Then comes the main event: a dinner starting at 7:30 pm. at BioChef (4 rue Pierre de Coubertin, 13100 Aix). "We have a wide diversity of Americans, French and English people excited to attend," Rick says. "The meal will be 100% organic, 0% GMOs and 100% homemade from American family recipes.” The evening starts with spiced wine and appetizers, followed by turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole (with cream of mushroom soup...yes!), pumpkin and pecan pies and a classic cheesecake. Prices are 29€ adults and 19€ kids under 12; wine and beer are available for purchase. Reservations are required for dinner; reserve soon as there’s less availability than last year, due to the change in venue. To reserve: 06 81 34 85 74, 

On Friday Nov. 29, Cyril Giordano, chef/owner of the restaurant BioChef in Aix (see listing just above) will present his own Thanksgiving dinner. Like the one the previous night, it will be 100% organic but this will be quite a bit more gastronomic. It’s 37€ per person (kids or adults); drinks are extra. Seating starts at 8 pm and reservations are required: 04 42 93 26 05. BioChef is at 4 rue Pierre de Coubertin, 13100 Aix.  


Celebrations Hosted by Clubs

The American University Clubs of France (which promotes networking, cultural and business-related events for all American University alumni in France), invites you to their traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Tuesday, Nov 26 at 7 pm at the Ecole Militaire. Founded in 1750 by Louis XVI for the training of military officers, the Ecole Militaire is an important heritage site that’s normally closed to the public so this is rare opportunity to enjoy exclusive access. A four-course meal will be served, starting with an aperitif and ending with pecan pie. Wine and soft drinks are included. Price: 59 for AUC member; 69 non members. Registration is limited so be sure to reserve soon, by clicking here before Nov. 12; registration closes after that date. For security purposes, you’ll be asked to provide official ID to enter the building. Questions?
The American Club of Paris will hold its annual Thanksgiving at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature (Paris 3ème) on Friday Nov. 29 at 7:30 pmThis private hunting and nature museum in the heart of the Marais has been described by Smithsonian Magazine as "one of the most rewarding and inventive in Paris." The evening includes pre-dinner Champagne (accompanied by Lionel Patrix at the piano), an elegant Thanksgiving dinner and after-dinner drinks in the bar. The dress code is evening attire/black tie optional and roughly 50 people are expected. Members 150€; non-members and guests 175€. All the info and registration is hereQuestions? contact@americanclubparis.org01 47 23 64 36.
There seem to be more and more Thanksgiving celebrations in Paris restaurants each year, ranging from the very-casual one at the Hard Rock Cafe  (Nov. 28 at lunch and dinner; reserve here or call 01 53 24 60 00) to the very-posh one at Ralph's in Ralph Lauren's elaborately appointed store on the Blvd. St.-Germain (dinner Nov 28, with a set menu at 135€). Reservation by email only please: Questions? 01 44 77  76 00.

On Thursday, Nov. 28, chef Fabienne Eymard of the Michelin-starred Parisian bistro Benoit invites you for free-range turkey stuffed with wild mushrooms, cranberry and gravy (46€). Details and reservations are here. restaurant.benoit@ducasse-paris.com01 42 72 25 76.

This year, the restaurant Sunday in Soho (at 7 rue Saint Marc, will offer Thanksgiving for three nights (Nov. 28, 29, 30), with two seatings per night. The 55€ adult price includes appetizers, the Thanksgiving feast, desserts and one glass of Champagne or the house cocktail. Kids prices upon request. Reservations are online only, here.

Not what you’re looking for? Thanksgiving is also being celebrated at Joe Allen, Verjus, Harry’s Bar, Breakfast in America, Ô Chateau and Treize au Jardin

A Paris Church

At the American Church in Paris (65 quai d’Orsay), Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Saturday Nov. 30 at 5:30 pm. A traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings is 20€ for adults, 15 € for kids. The event is currently open to parishioners only, but any remaining tickets will be available to the general public sometime after Sunday Nov. 17 on a first-come, first-served basis, at the church and possibly online. Also, a special Thanksgiving service will be held Nov. 28 at 12:15, with music, a speaker and a reception afterwards. For more info:, 01 40 62 05 00.

Cooking Class with Lunch or Dinner

La Cuisine Paris is once again offering their popular Thanksgiving Cooking Class; in fact this year they’re hosting two! On Thursday Nov. 28 you can choose between a lunchtime or evening class and enjoy the festivities! Find out more and snap up a space here. Info: contact@lacuisineparis.com01 40 51 78 18.

SUPPLIES sells lots of things you’ll likely need to prepare your holiday feast: cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin, cornbread mix, gravy, corn syrup and more. They also have ingredients and treats for other holidays, too, such as eggnog and candy canes. They are 100% online and will deliver pretty much anywhere in the world.  The company uses various couriers but plan to order by Nov. 14 to get your goodies sent to you anywhere in France  in time. Specific Thanksgiving foods are on a special page, 05 34 50 47 36.

The Franco-American owners of My Little America, Todd and Anthony, hail from Ohio and Brittany and launched their mail-order business to make it possible for Americans to find their favorite foods easily, wherever they might live....and to help French people discover these new products. Today they import a wide range of American foods and ship them throughout France and Europe. For Thanksgiving, they sell cranberry sauce (whole berry and jellied), stuffing mix, turkey gravy, corn muffin mix, corn syrup (light and dark), graham crackers, canned pumpkin, cut sweet potatoes and more. See their Thanksgiving selection here. Their special items for Christmas are already available online too. Plus they sell classics such as Kraft Mac & Cheese, Toll-House Chocolate Chips, A-1 Steak Sauce, Jif Peanut Butter, A&W Root Beer and more. Questions:

The Real McCoy is the Parisian go-to for American foods, particularly at holiday time.  In their shop (no mail order) they’re selling fresh farm-bred turkeys...or they’ll even roast and package it for you with stuffing and roasting juices. (Be sure to order at least a few days ahead.) Their roast turkeys average 4 to 7 kilos each; they request a 30€ deposit and then charge 11.50€ per kilo. The Real McCoy also sells pecan and pumpkin pies, cheesecakes and a wide selection of Thanksgiving products such as fresh cranberries and canned cranberry sauce, turkey gravy, stuffing mix, cornbread mix, pie crusts and fillings, yams, turkey bags, basters and more. They’re located at:  194 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, 01 45 56 00 00, No website but find them on Facebook here

Above: The much-loved, often-parodied painting is Norman Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" from 1942. Everyone in it was a Rockwell family member or friend; they were photographed individually and painted into the scene. Learn more about the painting and artist here

Monday, October 28, 2019

Apply Now! The Prize is Provence...

If you've ever dreamed of pursuing your artistic, literary or other creative passion in Provence but found the experience beyond reach, here are a few marvelous opportunities that might just change your life. I found three organizations that are currently offering fellowships or prizes which will let a few lucky folks stay and work in Provence, in a fabulous setting with like-minded creatives, at little or no cost. Make sure to check the application dates; one deadline is as soon as November 4. Note: In addition to what you'll see below, due to a last-minute cancellation there's also a free three-week residency open starting Friday Nov 1; contact info for Nicky Ginsberg appears below. Good luck and you're welcome!

A Scholarship from Workshops in France

Workshops in France is offering a scholarship to a young or deserving artist who would like to paint in France next year but wouldn't be able to without financial help.

The scholarship can be used for a premier painting workshop or art retreat. It includes instruction where applicable, food and accommodation. Airfare is not included. The company will select the workshop or retreat based upon availability; it's valued at between $4000 and $5000 USD.

The scholarship is open to all nationalities and ages but anyone younger than 18 would need to be accompanied by a paying adult. 

According to artist Julie Snyder, programs director at Workshops in France, the winner will not necessarily be chosen on merit but will be someone deserving who's "actively pursuing art goals" and whose attendance would change and boost their artistic growth.

"We're looking for the right recipient, young or mature, whose career would be positively influenced by attending a workshop," Julie says. "We understand the advantage and inspiration that comes from mentoring and instruction when working side-by-side with other artists. If I had had this opportunity when I was younger, my life wouldn't have gone completely sideways and I'd have found the road to my true purpose a lot smoother." 

For more info and the application, click here. The deadline is November 4, 2019.

The Brown Foundation Fellows Program 
at the Dora Maar House

The Brown Foundation Fellows Program, based at the Dora Maar House in Ménerbes, France, offers residencies of one to three months for mid-career professionals with established reputations in the arts and humanities, to concentrate on their fields of expertise. The fellowship includes round-trip travel expenses, a private bedroom and bath in this historic hilltop home, a study or studio in which to work and a grant based on the length of your stay. 

This 18th-century town house was purchased in 1944 by Pablo Picasso for Dora Maar, the artist and Surrealist photographer who was his companion and muse in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Maar (1907–1997) owned the house until her death, after which a resident of both Houston and Ménerbes bought and renovated the house to transform it into a retreat for writers, scholars, and artists.

Applications are now being accepted for fellowships beginning July 1, 2020 or after and ending no later than November 30, 2020. Applications are due by February 15, 2020. If you're unable to pursue those dates, more fellowships will be offered in Spring 2021, with an application deadline in October, 2020. Applications are accepted online only and all the info is here.

Opportunities at NG Art Creative Residency

NG Art Creative Residency is once again offering free art residencies in Provence to a few lucky artists or other creative types. There are two and three-week prize placements, designed to "discover and celebrate emerging and established creative talents from a variety of disciplines." 

The artists' retreat is also looking for someone to do a four-month internship. Here are the details on everything.

The Stanley Quek Art Prize, is a contemporary art award for international emerging and established artists. This is a wonderful opportunity to win a three-week stay (in February, 2020) at Mas des Pelerins, in the charming and historic Provence village of EygalièresThe prize includes board and lodging, mentorship and residency-related outings, valued at up to €2,000.

The winner will have access to a large studio space and four hectares of natural plein air beauty to ignite his or her imagination. You'll explore the region, learn the native tongue (good luck!), try your hand at traditional Provencal cooking plus engage with fellow creatives and the local artistic community at evening soirées and special events. In addition to "being immersed in the cultural and historical landscape of Provence," the winner will enjoy mentoring and guidance from NG Art Creative Residency founder/director Nicky Ginsberg and benefit from her wide experience and intimate knowledge of the commercial art world.

The winner will also have the opportunity to exhibit his or her work in the 12th-century Eglise St. Laurent Eygalières, for a three-week exhibition in May 2020. The application deadline is November 18, 2019 .

A similar prize, this one called the Parker Harris Art Prize, is a two-week residency (funded by NG Art) that also takes place in February 2020. The deadline for this prize will be announced soon, on Instagram and the NG Art website.

Additional two-week prize placements are also being offered for spring, 2020.  Like the prizes above, the two-week opportunity includes board and lodging, mentoring and residency-related outings. This is open to artists, writers, poets, musicians, performers, filmmakers, photographers, academic scholars and other creatives "who seek to enrich their process, embark on imaginative endeavors and immerse themselves in an environment of reflection and creative freedom."

For those who don't win free residencies, there are paid opportunities as well. "Our pride and joy is to facilitate opportunities for all creatives and offer them every possible international opportunity," Nicky says.

To be considered for any of the prizes above, please email Nicky to request an info package:

Finally, the retreat is seeking an intern for a period of four months between February and May 2020. You'll work five days a week in return for airfare to France, full board, lodging and an opportunity to work and collaborate with artists, to expand your network and immerse yourself in European culture.  You would be responsible for all administrative tasks associated with the residency and work to ensure the smooth operation of the program. The role also involves marketing, social media and PR; liaising with international creatives, media, galleries and institutions; and project development and research. You'll also help with the organization and installation of an exhibit featuring the work of Nicole Kelly and Alan Jones (Sydney, Australia) in Eygalières, in April 2020.

To apply for the internship, email Nicky at and supply relevant experience, biographical details and a CV. Be sure to illustrate why this position would benefit  you and what you could offer to support the residency. 

Photos: (1) Photo courtesy of Workshops in France. (2) Guests from  the Workshops in France "Glorious Provence" trip (Sept 2018) came from from the Philippines, Australia, Scotland, Canada and USA. (3) A 10-day retreat near Aix in 2020 is designed to take advantage of lavender in full bloom. (4) The painting "Robert" by Susan Lyon, who will teach a Masterclass at the gorgeous Moulin de la Roque in Provence May 24 to June 2, 2020. (5) The village of Menerbes in the Luberon (photo by Patrick Bombaert via (6) The Dora Maar House where you'll live and work if you win a place in the Brown Foundation Fellows Program. (7) Artist Marie Ducaté from Marseille, at Dora Maar in summer 2013. Marie works works in paint, ceramics and other mediums. (8) American dancer Daniel Gwirtzman was a fellow at Dora Maar in 2016 and blogged about it here (9) "I taught dance to Menerbes and its neighbors!" Daniel writes. "Terrific turnout. Nothing like this has happened prior in the Salle des Fetes or in Menerbes." The event made the popular regional newspaper La Provence. (10) Mas des Pelerins in Eygalieres is home to the NG Art Creative Residency. (11) Meals at Mas des Pelerins are inspired by traditional Provencal gastronomy based on local, seasonal ingredients. (12) A collage by Australian artist Cathy Shugg, a former resident at Mas des Pelerins.

Friday, October 11, 2019

My Wild and Precious Friend

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
         --From “The Summer Day“ by Mary Oliver (1935 - 2019)

One of the many things I've loved about living in Provence is how it attracts a steady stream of fascinating, accomplished people from all over the world. If you're here for any reasonable amount of time and open to it, you can have the most-wonderful experiences with a whole gamut of humans, with experiences vastly different from your own.

Susie Rheault and her husband Gil Williams are a perfect example. I have no idea how we first met but we bonded instantly. With their kids grown and having families of their own, Susie (now 70) and Gil (81) were splitting their time between Boston, Martha's Vineyard, Provence and Africa. Susie was still working and Gil was theoretically retired (his field was organizational development after many years as an elementary school principal), and together they were involved  in various projects on three continents.

Besides their gentle warmth and general adorableness, one of the many things that drew me to Susie and Gil was their devotion to do-gooding. They seemed to be continuously nurturing a large group of people including friends, family, clients, neighbors, colleagues and more. But the thing that really got me were the stories they told about Tanzania and the work they were doing there with extremely vulnerable children.

The short version is, they had found a small "desperately grim" orphanage that needed help...and they had jumped in.  

If you want the longer version you're in luck because Susie tells the whole remarkable story in her just-published book, My Wild and Precious Life: A Memoir of Africa (Bush Baby Press, September 2019).

psychologist with a specialization in organizational development, Susie has spent her 30-plus year career working globally, with senior execs across the private and public sectors. Since 2007, she'd been a Special Advisor for the Clinton Foundation Health Access Initiative supporting field offices in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland. In each of these countries, she trained local staff to accelerate HIV testing and treatment using a grassroots team-based approach.

The years Susie spent working in sub-Saharan Africa with the Clinton Foundation had made her even more hungry to help others. She had been longing for a long-term project, something where she could see real sustainable results over time.

"I started in Africa in '07," she recalls in a podcast here. "I worked for the Clinton Foundation off and on for the next five years. I'd bounce back and forth on these trips that were pretty exhausting, on flights of 16 hours or so. The more I traveled to other countries, the more I missed Gil who was keeping the home fires burning. And I was...tired of trying to learn a different African language with each visit. I started to say to myself, what if we could find a smaller project where they need us, where we could stay put and see what noodles stick on the wall?"

And then one day in tiny, rural Nshupu, Tanzania, she and Gil stumbled on the Precious Orphan's Childrens Home: two small, very-spare concrete buildings that was home to nine kids, all of whom had been orphaned or abandoned. "There were no toys, no books, no blankets," Susie remembers, "nothing except these kids bouncing around on a bunk bed. We were just stunned. We couldn't believe they were as animated as they were, living under such dire circumstances. There were dirt floors...there was no running water...nothing!"

A local school teacher named William Modest had started the orphanage after having watched his own mother die of AIDS when he was a teen. He and his wife Sarah--also a teacher--were running it single handedly, having given up their other jobs. "All they had for funds were handouts from the local church," Susie continues, "which meant a bag of maize every so often but nothing like a predictable meal plan."  Susie and Gil formed an alliance with William and Sarah in 2011 and launched the Precious Project.

What's been accomplished there in just eight years is astounding and deeply inspiring. "Precious" has grown to include a new home for 21 children, a 10-room primary school, am elementary school with 350 students, a working organic farm, a library, a community/dining hall, a dorm and two women's empowerment groups.

Today William and Sarah manage day-to-day operations, Susie and Gil handle strategic development and a board of directors provides wide-ranging expertise. A dedicated group of roughly 45 employees includes five education administrators, 12 teachers, cooks, childcare providers, bus drivers, a gardener, a librarian, volunteers, "mamas" and more.

It was an uphill battle, to say the least. "We had never run an orphanage, we didn't speak Swahili, and we had never done any fund-raising," Susie says. "But we jumped in with both feet. I was convinced that somehow my experience crisscrossing the continent would inoculate us from making the most egregious mistakes, but of course that wasn't true. It's been a roller coaster of hope and hard learnings! We would be mildly euphoric with a sense of renewed purpose but then, time and again, regularly humbled by the undertow of desperation that poverty engenders."

While it continues as an orphanage, the key focus at the Precious Project is now education. "We see that as highly important work in the world," Susie says, "and it's making a huge difference in the lives of these children, the leaders of tomorrow."

Today Susie and Gil live half the year in Africa, where they work closely with William and Sarah. The rest of the year they're back in Boston with occasional visits to Provence, although having sold their home in St. Remy, they're around much less than they used to be. From what I can tell though, the couple could not be happier.

"It's never too late to live a life of purpose," Susie proclaims. "It's never too late to have adventures and stretch yourself. People who have a deep sense of purpose live longer and live better. This, I guess, is the third chapter of my life and it's been the most deeply rewarding. This is definitely my life's calling.

"Each time we return to Tanzania," she continues, "we see the children we have cared for since 2011 sprouting up and becoming extraordinary people. It's so deeply gratifying...everyone deserves a chance!"

My Wild and Precious Life is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. A portion of proceeds goes to the Precious Project.

To learn more about the Precious Project and donate in any amount, click here.

You can also follow Precious on Facebook, see their videos on YouTube and listen to Susie being interviewed here.

To connect with Susie, reach out on LinkedIn or email her directly:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Two-for-One French Meal Deals

Booking opened today for the 10th annual Tous au Restaurant promotion, in which restaurants across France offer special "buy one, get one free" multi-course menus at lunch or dinner or both. Tous au Restaurant runs Sept 30 to Oct 13 and roughly 1000 restaurants are signed up. What a great opportunity to sample restaurants you’ve been wanting to try...or to plan a foodie road trip...or to make like a big shot and treat your friends to a fancy meal! 

Launched in 2010 by superstar chef Alain Ducasse, it's meant to encourage people to eat out more often: in mom-and-pop bistros, in top Michelin-starred restaurants and everything in between. Last year roughly 250,000 people reserved tables in close to 1800 restaurants. Organizers say the two-week festival is designed not as a money-maker—many restaurants just break even--but to get people out and about, discovering new chefs, neighborhoods, cuisines and more. 

So what's the deal? Book online and order the special Tous au Restaurant menu and a second person at the table enjoys the same menu free. (Pas mal!, as the French would say, when something is very good indeed.) The restaurants choose what meals to offer, on which days and times. In some cases there's no choice; you eat what the chef is serving. In many cases however, you have multiple choices for each course. Restaurant ratings come from the French restaurant-booking site La Fourchette, the major sponsor. 

A small caveat: the Tous au Restaurant site just went live this morning (10 am France time) and isn't quite up to speed. For example, if you choose Provence or Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur from the drop down menu, you get just eight or nine restaurant choices. But if you choose one city--Marseille, for example--you see 28. Hopefully the kinks will be worked out soon so be sure to check back. Also, restaurants are still being added and will be, probably right up to Sept 30. That said, the most-popular places and times sell out quickly so book early and book often!

To get started, click here and click the red box Je Réserve. Start typing your city and choose the correct one from the drop down. (In Paris you can search by arrondisement or see a complete list.) Find the restaurant you want, review the special menu and then click "
Réserver avec cette offre." You'll be asked to pick your day, time and party size...and then be taken to another page to input your contact info and special requests. I assume they follow up with a confirmation email. The site is only in French but it's fairly easy to figure out; it also works pretty well if you have your web translator on although that leads to some cute names such as "The Plug of the Transplants" (Le Bouchon des Greffes in Nimes) and "Craftsman of the Marsh Truffle" (Artisan de la Truffe in the Marais neighborhood of Paris).

Reservations are online only. If you book and need to cancel, you can do that through the site as well. Cancellation policies vary but are clearly stated. Can't wait to hear where you ate and what you loved. Bon Appétit!

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Heritage Days are Sept 21 & 22

It's that time again: The 36th annual Journées du Patrimoine (Heritage Days) takes place Saturday and Sunday, September 21 and 22, in cities and villages all over France. The program was launched by the French Ministry of Culture in 1984 and has since spread all over Europe (officially it's now called European Heritage Days). This year the theme is "Arts & Entertainment" and 17,000 sites in France are participating, with 26,000 events. It's one the biggest events in France and one of my favorite weekends of the year.

The idea is that a wide range of historic monuments, religious sites, estates, gardens,  domaines, workshops, galleries, ateliers, factories and more are open for special visits, including many that are normally closed to the public. Most sites are offering free entry and will have a guide on hand; some are hosting special tours and events (mostly in French). Some may require you to sign up in advance...but for the most part, you just show up. 

The main website is here (or in English here) but you'll fare much better with the department-by-department listings here. Or, check in with the Tourist Office or the tourism website of the village, city or region you want to visit. For example, as of today the department-listings page mentions just six participating sites in my village of St. Remy (in Department #13, the Bouches-du-Rhone) but every year the village publishes its own terrific guide and this year it lists 22 participating sites. You can see them all, with the map, here. If you prefer a printed copy,  you can pick one up at the St. Remy Tourist Office or at most of the participating sites.

Here are programs for AvignonAix, ArlesMarseille and Nice. But don't forget about tiny villages, many of which offer fantastic tours, visits and programs as well.  

The best idea is to choose the village you wish to explore, pick up or download their schedule as early as possible and map your route, because some events happen only at certain times. Some villages have events on Friday Sept 20 as well.

To get you started, here are the listings for the six departments of PACA (Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur): Alpes-de-Haute-ProvenceAlpes-MaritimesBouches du Rhone, the Hautes-Alpes, the Var and the Vaucluse. And here's the Gard (which is not technically in Provence but never mind). For an amazing list of what you can see and do in Paris, click here.

And here's a list of local and regional Tourist Offices in Provence and on the Cote d'Azur, all of whom should have info on their own sites and events.

Vive le Patrimoine de France!

Photos: Get out there and explore! A few of the thousands of sites offering Patrimoine events include The Unterlinden Museum in Colmar (Alsace), The Confectionery Factory Roy René and Museum of Calisson outside Aix, the fantastical houses of Jacques-Emile Lecaron in Clamart, the Théâtre Antique d'Orange, La Cite Radieuse by Le Corbusier in Marseille, the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild on the Cap Ferrat, the Roman Amphitheatre in Arles, the Frank Gehry-designed Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris, the Jewish Cemetery in St. Remy, the Maison du Riz in the Camargue, the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh in Arles, the Heliport of Paris, The Château Raspail in Gigondas and the Palace of Versailles.  At the bottom, this year's poster.


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