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Archive for the ‘French news’

French tennisplayer Amelie Mauresmo retires

December 03, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: French news, Sports, Women No Comments →

Thirty-year-old Amélie Mauresmo announced this morning she is officially putting an end to her tennis career. Some tears were shed by the most famous French tennis star when she made the announcement at a press conference.

mauresmo2 mauresmo amelie mauresmo

Tennis became her passion while watching French tennis player Yannick Noah when she was only 4. She became a professional player in the mid-90s . Her biggest wins were Wimbledon and the Australian Open in 2006.  Her only regret :  not winning the French open ever!

She will also be remembered as the first French athlete to reveal her homosexuality while still on the courts.

No more business for Lacroix

December 01, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Art, Cultural tours to France, French news, Paris, Provence No Comments →

Designer Christian Lacroix was born in 1951 in Arles, Provence, and his fashion shows and collections were often inspired by Camargue colors, gypsies and corridas.


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He opened his own fashion design business in 1987, sponsored by French luxury company Louis Vuiton Moet Hennessy. He became internationally successful right away, and later diversified his business by creating a line of perfume, linen, table ware and accessories. He even participated in designing of the interior of the Mediterranean TGV.

However , financial difficulties appeared in 2005, and today, the company was officially closed when no potential buyer showed up to make an offer to buy the famous brand name.

Is Spiderman French?

September 01, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: French news, Sports, Worldwide No Comments →

Spiderman is the nickname given to French climber Alain Robert who has illegally accomplished a new challenge today: he climbed the once tallest building in Asia, the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

I was twice on the bridge that links the 2 towers, and of course , I had taken the elevator to get there! let me tell you that it is very high and scary to be there! So hats off to the  47-year-old man who climbed the 88-storey  452-meter- high building, in one hour and forty five minutes. He had already attempted twice this ascent, but he only succeeded today, started at the crack of dawn, in foggy weather.

Urban climbing is Robert’s specialty and he has climbed 80 famous skysrapers without any gear or protection but only using his hands and feet. As always, he was later arrested by the local police.


Lance Armstrong’s last Tour de France?

July 22, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Customs and Traditions, French news, Sports, Worldwide No Comments →

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Lance Armstrong, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, is about to turn 38, and this may be his last entry in the Tour de France.

When he signed up for this year race, he wanted to make a point and show the world that all the past allegations about drug use were not founded. And he is about to prove himself right, as he is currently ranking #4 in the race that is to end on Sunday in Paris.

Lance was born in Texas in 1971, and his last name was first Gunderson. He then took his mother’s second husband’s name. His first sport of choice was triathlon, but it became clear that cycling was his strength. He then participated in many international events: the 1992 Summer Olympics, the Tour of Ireland, the World Road Race Championship and finally, his first stage win at the Tour de France in 1993. In 1996, he was diagnosed with cancer and had to drop out of the Tour, on the 7 th stage. He only came back to cycling in 1998 and then won the Tour seven times in a row, from 1999 to 2005.

He has now 4 children, 3 from his first wife whom he divorced in 2003. After dating  singer Sheryl Crow, and then actress Kate Hudson,  Lance met Anna Hansen with whom he had a son in June 2009.

On Friday 24th, the 21th stage of the Tour de France will pass through La Côte Saint André, Valérie’ s village and my “headquarters” when I am in France, for my tours in the French Alps . So I hope you can get a pick at the village and the area when they go through.

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For information about our tours in the French Alps (painting tours, cultural tours and women-only tours), check

The French Riviera celebrates its 62nd Cannes Festival

April 26, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Art, Cultural tours to France, Customs and Traditions, French news, Provence, Worldwide No Comments →

          cannes     palme d'or     croisette

                                                                               Views of Cannes and Festival Award

From May 13 to 24, international film stars will take over the glamorous Mediterranean resort  where they will meet in the prestigious Palais du Festival but mainly in lavish parties in the luxurious hotels .

It all started in 1946, and the first selection included Billy Wilder’s “Lost Weekend”, David Lean’s “Brief Encounter”, Roberto Rossellini’s “Rome Open City”, George Cukor’s “Gaslight”, Walt Disney’s “Make Mine Music”, Alfred Hitchcock’s “Notorious”, and Jean Cocteau’s “Beauty and the Beast”.

This year’s  jury will be headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert, only the 4th woman to hold the presidency for over 6 decades.

                                                huppert cannes

                                           Isabelle Huppert holding the Cannes Festival Palm Award

Here is the official selection of the movies in competition:

  • “A prophet”, France, Jacques Audiard
  • “Agora”, Spain, Alejandro Amenabar
  • “Antichrist”, Sweden/ Denmark/ France / Italy, Lars Von Trier
  • “Bright Stars”, Australia, Jane Campion
  • “Broken Embrace”, Spain, Pedro Almodovar
  • “Enter the void”, France, Gaspar Noe
  • “Face”, France/ Taiwan/ Netherlands/  Belgium, Tsai Ming-liang
  • “Fishtank”, UK/ Netherlands, Andrea Arnold
  • “In the beginning”, France, Xavier Giannoli
  • “Inglorious Basterds”, USA, Quentin Tarantino
  • “Kinatay”, Philippines, Brillante Mendoza
  • “Les herbes folles”, France/ Italy, Alain Resnais
  • “Looking for Eric”, UK/ France/ Belgium/ Italy, Ken Loach
  • “Maps of the sound of Tokyo”, Spain, Isabel Coixet
  • “Spring Fever”, China/ France, Lou Ye
  • “Taking Woodstock”, USA, Ang Lee
  • “The times that remains”, Israel/ France/ Belgium/ Italy, Elia Suleiman
  • “The whit ribbon”, Germany/ Austria/ France, Michael Haneke
  • “Thirst”, South Korea, Park Chan-Wook
  • “Vengeance”, Hong Kong France/ USA, Johnnie To
  • “Vincere’, Italy / France, Marco Bellochio

Pixar 3-D movie UP will open the festival on May 13th, an unusual event as it will be the first time an animated movie will be shown for the opening. The results will be anounced in the evening of May 24th.

Video introducing the 2009 festival/ Film samples /In French with some English

Who are the celebrities hiding in Provence?

March 23, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, French news, Provence No Comments →

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The French Riviera has always been  a magnet  for American stars  coming either to   the Cannes film festival or to luxry resorts like Nice or Monaco, but  Provence only  attracted European artists and  painters before the 1950s. It was only in the 1980s that  British and American stars moved to the heart of Provence: le Luberon.

In 1988, Peter Mayle, in his delicious book  “A year in Provence”  started to  praise this authentic rural area, rolling between Avignon and Apt, where he had bought his famous house in Menerbes; he unfortunately had to sell it because of nosy fans driving up his alley any time of the day or of the night. He still owns a house in the area but he prefers not to disclose the location

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John Malkocich has   a summer house  in Bonnieux, a village just 5 miles from Ménerbes, where he grows his own wine.

John Illsley, the guitarist of Dire Straits, picked a more southern place, in Les Baux, south of Saint Remy de Provence. The village houses are nested in the rock cliffs in a troglodyte way; at the top of the village , a medieval castle offers the greatest view on the Alpille and Camargue towards the Mediterranean Sea.

As for Tony and Ridley Scott, they have owned a house for over 10 years in the same area, and they hosted Brad and Angelina last year, when they were cruising the area in search of the perfect hiding nest.

Indeed Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt have bought a 44 million  euros estate, Chateau de Miraval with  a AOC Côte-de-Provence vineyard, near Brignolles.  They often fly their private helicopter to reach the close-by French Riviera when they feel like seing their friend Bono or  in Cap-ferrat or Saint Tropez. Beside the vineyards,  13 different types of olive trees are grown on the property, amidst a forest and a lake.

So why do they pick France? Most American stars do not only come for the charms of the French countryside; they are attracted by stricter French laws protecting their private lives.

Useful links to click on:

  • Tour in Provence with French Escapade : stay in a charming villa in the heart of Luberon, near Ménerbes and Bonnieux ! Daily visits in small groups of 8 to Les Baux, Saint Remy, Avignon, Camargue, Gordes, Roussillon, L’Isle sur la Sorgues ; product tasting: wine, chocolate, olive oil, … Last minute offer on June 20-27 trip: 50% off. Check the “dates and rates” page.

Will Annecy host the 2018 Winter Olympics?

March 20, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, Customs and Traditions, French news, Sports No Comments →


Yes, for sure, it will be Annecy that will be the French candidate city for the 2018 Winter Olympics. It was decided on Wednesday, March 18th.

There were 4 to compete for the nomination: Nice, Grenoble, Pelvoux and Annecy. All of them located in the French Alps.

Annecy is an amazing city nested in the heart of the Alps, by a very romantic lake, and has wonderfully preserved its old town with meandering canals and a hilltop  medieval castle. Nicknamed the Venice of the Alps , its charms are endless, especially on market days when farmers come down from  surrounding villages to sell their huge wheels of cheese or flavoured salami.


The Winter Olympics were organized for the first time ever in Chamonix,France, in 1924. Grenoble was the second French city in the Alps to get that honour in 1968, and Albertville  was the last  in 1992.

But we will have to wait until July 2011 to find out if Annecy is selected by the international Olympic committee, which is to meet in Durban, South Africa. France will have to face tough competitors such as  Munich (Germany) and Pyeongchang (South Korea).

Meanwhile, you can always enjoy a French Escapade in the French Alps to discover the traditions and culture of this Alpine part of France, and visit Annecy and Chamonix (see La Belle France tours on

Useful links (click title to access site):

Videos related to this post (click on title):

Pictures by French Escapade or guests (Cheese by Jan Hagan)

Top restaurants in France : New Stars in 2009 Michelin Guide

March 08, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: "How to" Tips, Customs and Traditions, Food and Recipe, French news, Paris No Comments →


This year was a very special year for the new Michelin guide, as it was its 100th edition. The first one was issued in 1900 (no issues during the 2 World Wars and in 1921) as a promotional brochure for the Michelin tires) and it is therefore the oldest European gastronomy guide. In the first editions it only mentioned addresses of car mechanics. The first restaurants  only appeared in 1920. It is now a prestigious hotel and restaurant guide covering over 20 countries and published in several languages. Over 30 millions guides were sold over all. Many city guides are now also published, Tokyo being the city with the most starred restaurants.

This year’s  edition can also be purchased in a collector box or on your i-Phone. This year’s edition only added one  new 3-star restaurant among the 548 happy few to receive stars, and of course, others have lost the prestigious award.


Too much pressure?

Many chefs have recently quit the painful race   because of  overwhelming  pressure. Celebrated chef Marc Veyrat who received 3 stars for his restaurant “l’Auberge de l’Eridan” by the Annecy lake in Veyrier-du-Lac (French Alps), declined his nomination this year. A few months ago, chef Olivier Roellinger even closed his 3-star restaurant, “Maison de Bricourt” in Cancale, Brittany. These are just a few examples that show the infernal moral and physical tension bearing on these top professionals whose business highly depends on the red  guide to succeed or not. When chef Bernard Loiseau committed suicide in 2003, some said it could be related to the rumour that he was about to lose one of his 3 stars.

Another criticism consists in tagging the guide of conservatism and of favoring traditional cuisine. For the fans of the guide, however, the biggest problems will be to manage to make a reservation in one of these starred restaurants. Indeed, the 548 awarded establishments attract gourmet clients from all over the world and are difficult to access.



Our selection among the new establishments in the 2009 edition:

*** star restaurants = 26 restaurants in this category (only  1  new one)

  • Chef Eric Frechon , “Le Bristol”, Paris 8eme.

** star restaurants: 73 restaurants (9 new ones)

* star restaurant:   449 restaurants (63 new ones )

+ 527 bib gourmands = good value for money (meals under $45).

Clickable useful links:



The winners: Eric Frechon, Gordon Ramsay and the Auberge Basque team.

World Ski Championship in Val d’Isere

February 04, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: Cultural tours to France, French news, Sports 1 Comment →

It all started on Monday, Feb.2, with the opening ceremony, and will last until Feb. 15, after a total of 11 events: downhill, super G, giant slaloms and slaloms and super combined, all in men and women categories, plus the Nations Cup race.

The first World championship took place in Mürren, Switzerland in 1931. France will host the event for the third time , after Chamonix in 1937 and 1962. This event is held every 2 years and is the major event on the FIS calendar.

From January to March, several places will held skiing events for the World championships, but Val d’Isere has been the chosen location for Alpine skiing. Snowboarding will take place in Korea, Nordic skiing in the Czech Republic and freestyle in Japan.

This year is a very special one as it is the last big event before the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Bode Miller is the US favourite and the most famous man in the race, but a total of 17 American athletes will attend.

The 2009 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships Team for the USA:

Jimmy Cochran (05/29/81, Keene, NH) * **
Erik Fisher (03/21/85, Middleton, ID)
Tim Jitloff (01/11/85, Reno, NV) *
Ted Ligety (08/31/84, Park City, UT) * **
Bode Miller (10/12/77, Franconia, NH) * **
Steven Nyman (02/12/82, Provo, UT) * **
Marco Sullivan (04/27/80, Squaw Valley, CA) * **
Andrew Weibrecht (02/10/86, Lake Placid, NY)
Jake Zamansky (06/26/81, Park City, UT)
Stacey Cook (07/03/84, Mammoth, CA)* **
Hailey Duke (09/17/85, Boise, ID)
Julia Mancuso (03/09/84, Olympic Valley, CA) * **
Chelsea Marshall (08/14/86, Pittsfield, VT)
Megan McJames (09/24/87, Park City, UT)
Sarah Schleper (02/19/79, Vail, CO) * **
Resi Stiegler (11/14/85, Jackson Hole, WY)* **
Lindsey Vonn (10/18/84, Vail, CO) * **
* Past World Championships Team member
** Past Olympian

Watch out for the Belgian team though … :) !!!!!! Just kidding. There is no Belgian team , of course!

For more details, visit the official website of the World Ski Championships of Val d’Isere

For traveling  in France, visit

On our Belle France trip, you spend one day in Chamonix and at the Sea of Ice glacier (you actually walk inside the glacier)

Vendee Globe race: 2 months later, only 12 out of 30 left and still a long way till the finish line!

January 15, 2009 By: jgrandchamps Category: French news, Sports, Women, Worldwide No Comments →

Here is some update from the Vendée Globe sailing race. As I mentioned it in my post of november 16, this race is the toughest of all. Alone, no assistance possible and no stop around the world !

They were 30 to join the race 67 days ago: 28 men and 2 women. Today only 12 are still in : 9 men and 2 women. The leader, Michel Desjoyeaux, has long passed Cape Horn and is now sailing north along the bazilian coast.

The second half of the group is passing Cape Horn  right now and about to experience a big storm with strong gusts.

A special salute  to the 2 female competitors, Dee Caffari and Samantha Davies, ranking 8 and 4 so far, still in the race when 18 men have abandoned.

 Samantha Davies, 34, Britain /1st Vendée Globe entry / Boat: roxy

Here is an exerpt from Dee’s website on her latest race conditions:

Dee and Aviva have now made their way through the first of the anticipated violent storms as they continue their journey towards Cape Horn.

Dee has spent a nightmare twenty four hour period in winds gusting between 50 to 65 knots.”   to be continued at

 Dee Caffari, 35, Britain / 1st Vendée globe entry /Boat: Aviva

You can also view videos from Dee and other skippers live from their boat on the following page:

As for the virtual race, over 200,000 people joined the race. My French Escapade boat is ranking 98, 159 !!!!

For complete detailed information, visit

Can we have an Obama in France?

November 06, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: French Politics, French news 2 Comments →

I am still in France till tomorrow. Like French people, I have been following the election results on TV. I was amazed to see that every French channel was following the election. It sounded a bigger deal than when French president Sarkozy was elected.

89% of the French population supported Obama. It was the same in Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium,…almost all over.

Barrack Obama ’s election is a big deal not only for the Americans, but for the French too. It raised the following question: “Can an Obama be elected in France as well”? The answer is NO.

This is very sad but it is true. The French government is still racially biased, even more than the French population. Sociologist El Jamine Soum has been interviewed on France 2 today and his answer was clear. There is still a lot of discrimination in French Politics, in the right as well as in the left parties. The motto:”Liberty, Egality, Fraternity” is  still far from being true.

Hopefully this new election will be a model for France and other countries. I have been American for 2 years now (before I was Belgian) and I can say that today, I am proud of my new country.

New controversy about Sarkozy Wedding

September 17, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: French Politics, French news No Comments →


Jean Sarkozy, the son of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, has not only followed in his father’s footsteps by embarking on a career in politics, but also by walking down the aisle in 2008.

After a two-month engagement, Jean Sarkozy, married his childhood sweetheart, Jessica Saubon, on Sept 10, 2008. The young couple exchanged vows in a small civil ceremony in Neuilly-sur-Seine, the posh Paris suburb. So privé was the wedding that guests were informed of the event only by text message. Apparently, President “Bling-Bling” Sarko (who married his current wife, former model and singer Carla Bruni, within four months of their introduction), didn’t plan the modest nuptials.  

Alas, the celebrations may have been tarnished as news of the wedding resurrected talk of cartoonist Maurice Sinet, 79, who was fired in July from Charlie Hebdo, the Paris political saritirical weekly, for a remark he made in his column about Jean and Jessica that critics — and later the publication — deemed anti-Semitic.

Saubon, heiress to the Darty family fortune, is Jewish. When the young couple announced their engagement this summer, rumors began to circulate that Jean was planning to convert to Judaism. Though young Mr. Sarkozy, a Catholic, has Jewish roots (Nicolas Sarkozy’s grandfather was Jewish), he and his family made haste to dispel the myth. Sinet, however, used it as fodder for his column and took a shot at Jean:

“[He] has just said that he wants to convert to Judaism before marrying his fiancée, a Jew and heiress of the founders of Darty. He will go far in this life, the little one!”

Charlie Hebdo’s editor, Phillipe Val, initially asked Sinet to apologize and retract the statement, which suggested that by converting Jean was elevating his financial status, an idea that smacks of the old stereotype about Jews and money. Read more at

What is the Europe’s culture capital for 2013?

September 16, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: French news No Comments →

The ancient Mediterranean sea port of Marseilles – today a bustling city of over 1 million inhabitants – has won the race to become the European Capital of Culture in 2013, beating fellow French rivals Bordeaux, Lyon and Toulouse.

A historic city and major international port, Marseilles successfully showcased its Mediterranean routes, positioning itself as a bridge between Europe and the South.

Backed by neighboring towns in the Provence region, Marseilles presented an ambitious package featuring 74 artistic projects for a budget of 98 billion euros. The program includes an eagerly awaited exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of the famous writer Albert Camus.

You may want to visit this exciting city before meeting us in Avignon for a cooking tour or a cultural tour in Provence with French Escapade.

Who will get the French Legion of Honor on Bastille Day?

July 07, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: French news No Comments →

Ingrid Betancourt, a politician with dual French-Colombian citizenship, was released last week in a Colombian military operation after she was held captive for six years in the jungle by FARC guerrillas. She is a Colombian-French politician, former senator and anti-corruption activist who was campaigning for Colombia’s presidency when she was captured in 2002.

In France, supporters had held vigils for years to urge her release. Even two French presidents, Chirac and Sarkozy, championed her cause. Her liberation has brought a lot of joy towards France. She came to France, where she grew up and her children live,  soon after her release.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s office announced today that Betancourt will receive the Legion of Honor award at a Bastille Day ceremony July 14. She will speak at the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, on Wednesday.

I am thrilled for her and also for the 14 other hostages (three Americans and 11 Colombian policemen and soldiers) who were released at the same time.

Controversy over Academy Award

March 21, 2008 By: jgrandchamps Category: French news No Comments →

Her portray of Edith Piaf in La Vie en Rose (amusingly the “English” translation for the French title “La Môme”) was internationally acclaimed. I agreed she did an amazing job, even though I must admit she was overacting. Depecting the French singer as a drug-addict and an alcoholic was no exageration, but constantly playing her as a hysterical maniac was not reflecting the woman I saw in many different interviews.
However, the critics did not have too much time  to discuss whether she was deserving the award or not; a controversy came up right away about an interview she gave in February 2007, in which she expressed  her disbelief in the terrorist attacks of September 11. Of course, her lawyer is blaming the journalists for taking her comments out of context, but the interview was filmed and she couldn’t deny it.
Well ! We already knew  one can be an excellent actress, and yet a stupid person! The movie La Vie en Rose also received an award for Best Make Up, and the award for Best Live Action Short Movie was given to a French creation “Le Mozart des Pickpockets”.
Marion Cotillard is the third French actress to receive the Academy Award for Best Actress. The first was Claudette Colbert in 1934 for It happened one night, then it was Simone Signoret in 1959 for Room at the top. As for Juliette Binoche, she received an award for Best Supporting Actress in The English Patient in 1996; she was only nominated in 2000 for leading Actress in Chocolate.
My only regret is for Persepolis. I know Ratatouille was cute and so on… but Persepolis was such a deep, meaningful animated movie! I wish it would have got the award!!! But the real award always come from the audience. So if you have the opportunity, please watch Persepolis… in French, with the voices of Chiara Mastroiani and Catherine Deneuve!