Dear Friends and Family,

It is now Wednesday night here. I looked on USA today to find out about Super Tuesday. France is fascinated by the elections in the US. I asked a young woman today who they favored and she said Hillary. Their president just married Carla Bruni last weekend—a former model and singer. Politics!

I have been pampered here like I’ve never been pampered before. It really is like I’m Cinderella and when I’m on an assignment, it is all coaches and footmen and when I’m not, it is pumpkins and well, you get the idea. The bus rides in Ireland were on my own dime. The suites in the hotels are not.

These spas are amazing. Today, I was painted with hot algae and then wrapped like a burrito to rest for 1/2 hour. Yesterday, I had the same treatment with grape seed oil. They call the treatments ‘soins’ which translates to ‘care’. So you are cared for. There is no ‘hiking at dawn up a mountain’. There is a gym—a new addition since my last visit–but no one talks about it. It is just there if you want to go.

But the soins are these wraps, or a ‘massage sous affusion’ which I had as my last soin today. A guy was massaging me with oil while warm sea water showers came down. Blissful. I also had a bath where a woman massaged me with water—kind of like a hose—the pressure is good for your muscles and circulation, getting rid of cellulite, etc.

I interviewed the chef here today, all in French. He spoke like a house on fire and I did my best, but a bit of it went over my head. I think I have enough for a good article, though. He said the word ‘plaisir’ pleasure, over 10 times in an hour.

He has just written a cookbook called ‘La Cuisine de Bien-Etre’. ‘The Cuisine of Well-Being’. He cooks lighter than the old fashioned French way, but without sacrificing the flavor. In fact, he was talking about how the fresh fish, caught each morning here, tastes better without all the heavy sauces. He even has a recipe for Creme Brulee, which is normally all cream, egg yolks and sugar, which is light. I tried it and it is amazing. I’m hoping to sell the article to Cooking Light magazine.

I also visited a chocolatier today who is world known for his chocolates. I got to go into the kitchen and take a lot of photos of this cake they make which takes 2 days to do. Ava would have loved it–they had those things to mix eggs that were giant. She loves it when we bake and she gets to use that. I took photos, but can’t send till this Internet glitch gets fixed. I also got to lick a spoon with this divine chocolate concoction on it.

I also got another assignment from Golf for Women. There’s a castle near here that is unreal it is so gorgeous. She wants to include it in a round-up article about golf at castles. So I’m going to visit tomorrow for the day. That means I can come back and stay there! Such luck! It is called Le Domaine de La Bretesche” and is a 4-star Relais et Chateaux, the restaurant is a one star Michelin, the golf course (18 hole) is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world, set in a park of 200 hectares. The spa offers ‘soins’ treatments for ‘forme et beaute’—health and beauty. I’m excited to see it and will just have to come back to stay there…

I just had dinner at a table with the manager of the hotel, the dietician who helps create some of the menus and a group of other guests. They all spoke so rapidly that I missed a lot of it. The food was delicious but very light. The whole dinner, 4 courses, was only 400 calories. It seemed like it was a lot of air—mousse of carrots, that kind of thing. But it tasted good! The French also speak very softly sometimes and that makes it hard for me to figure out what they’re saying. I’m okay one on one, but in groups, it is hard.

This afternoon, before I interviewed the chef and after I had a tour of the town and lunch with someone from the tourism office, I had about 1/2 hour and jumped on one of the bicycles here at the hotel. It was a spectacular day—sunny and clear. Yesterday it stormed, so today was a blessing. I rode along the promenade along the beach and I swear, I felt about 8 years old when I first learned to ride a bike. I could feel that thrill of moving through space, with the wind in my hair, gliding along, so much faster and so much more fun than walking.

And of course, here, no helmet, just like when I was a kid. I did notice that my belly jiggled some and I didn’t have that when I was 8. But all in all, it was a sweet time and it was over too fast. I hope to cram in a few more minutes again before I leave.

Time to sleep in that yummy bed again. Tomorrow I have to decide whether to leave here on Friday or Saturday. The truffle hunt starts Saturday evening. I need to take the train to Toulouse, which will take about 7 hours. I was going to do to Toulouse on Friday, but it is sooo fun here, I might stay another day. I could use some time to get some of this writing done and also to go back on that bike, swim in the warm pool, etc. We’ll see.

Hugs to all of you. It’s good to be here and I also think of home a lot and many of you are in those thoughts.

Till soon, A bientot,

Diane

'Traveling in Europe' 2008

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