The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

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The Veggie Box and the Fruit Tart

Posted by on in Food & drink

We've had a go at growing our own vegetables at Lou Messugo but failed rather miserably.  We just never got the hang of the hot weather and dry summers.  Somehow the amount we had to water the plants seemed to outweigh any financial savings in growing our own.  But that didn't stop us from wanting the freshest, most locally produced veg possible.  Enter the veggie box.

       veggie box 1

A couple of years ago I signed up to AMAP, a nationwide locally-based association for vegetable production and distribution - a vegetable box scheme.  In a nutshell, you pay an annual subscription and are contracted into receiving a box of locally produced fruit and veg once a week for a year. You have no choice in what you receive, but it is all grown on a local farm, often organically or biodynamically.  By committing to the scheme you support a local independent farm, cut out the middleman, encourage biodiversity, reduce your carbon footprint and receive the freshest seasonal ingredients.

The history of AMAP (Association pour le maintien d'une agriculture paysanne) started in Japan when a group of mothers concerned at how industrialised agriculture was becoming back in 1965 created the first Teikei (meaning collaboration/cooperation in Japanese).  Around the same time community farms called Food Guilds in Switzerland were also developing direct partnerships with consumers.  In 1985 an American farmer introduced this concept to her community in Massachusettes having studied the Swiss Food Guilds. This became the first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  The idea rapidly took hold in the USA and spread to Canada.  The first AMAP began in the early 1990s.

       fruit bowls

Now while I fully believe in the principles of AMAP it was the unrelenting reality of the winter "cabbage" box that broke me.  We started out thinking that the lack of choice would be good for us; would open up our horizons and introduce us to vegetables we wouldn't normally think of buying. But there's only so much swiss chard and cabbage any one family can take.  Summer in Provence wasn't a problem - the sweetest, juiciest tomotoes in abundance, courgettes, aubergines, all sorts of beans, peppers, melons, herbs and salads...all delicious.  And then there was winter.  Week after week of swiss chard, cabbage and turnips. Rarely a carrot, barely a potato, never a pumpkin.  It all depends on the farm you're signed up to and we seemed to have lucked out with champion chard growers. My boys are good eaters but never-endng supplies of chard and cabbage was one step too far.  I ended up having to supplement the box with broccoli and beans and other things they'd eat.  This meant there was waste in the box and the economics of the whole venture got out of hand.  AMAP is not cheap. It's not meant to be cheap, rather good quality for the price, and fair.  By buying in extra veg we found we were exploding our weekly food bills.

       veggie box 2

So sadly that was the end of our venture with AMAP.  Back to regular fruit and vegetable buying at the local market and supermarket.  Local market doesn't always mean local produce, and certainly doesn't necessarily guarantee picked that day, though of course you can find good trustworthy suppliers this way. And then one day earlier this summer up popped these brightly coloured pretty photos of luscious fruit and veg on my newsfeed on Facebook.  Who could resist finding out more? It turned out they were veggie boxes from a local farm, delivered to the office of a friend, Chris, who organised distribution amongst staff and friends (and took the tempting photos!)  The beauty of this scheme is that there is no annual subscription and no obligation to buy each week; only when you want.  So far we've been very impressed. The selection and variety has been better than the AMAP box, though of course we are yet to test a winter. If however, they produce vast amounts of turnip and chard we will just take a break.  

       fruit tart

Last week we ended up with a glut of juicy ripe plums and pears and the two biggest eaters in the family were away for several days.  This gave me the perfect opportunity to throw together a totally improvised pear and plum tart.  It was damn fine if I do say so myself!  And if this is what extra fruit means in this household from now on, I'm happy with that.

Do you/would you/have you ever subscribed to a scheme like AMAP?  Where do you get your fruit and vegetables from?  I'd love to hear from you.


Linking up to Foodie Tuesday and Tasty Tuesdays.  Why not pop over for a selection of delicious recipes and food inspired articles. 




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Yoga on the Côte d'Azur

Posted by on in Activities

     Faye Villalba Yoga 07

Continuing with my series on friends who run businesses worthy of everyone knowing about, today I'm going to tell you about yoga instructor Faye Villalba.  Faye lives in the gorgeous back country behind Cannes and works across the Côte d'Azur.  I recently had the pleasure of chatting to her about her business.

To a lay person like me you're a yoga teacher but I realise there are plenty of different types of yoga. Tell us a bit about your style. 

The style of yoga that I practice and teach is inspired by my original training in the Iyengar school, coupled with the teachings of Vanda Scaravelli and her innovative and intuitive approach to yoga, which focuses on the proper alignment and "awakening" of the spine.

     Faye Villalba Yoga 02

How long have you been on the Côte d'Azur?  What brought you to this area and why yoga?

Having worked in the film business for nearly 25 years I came to film in Monaco in 1996 and fell in love with the area, but more importantly with my future husband! We both started practicing yoga some 4 years later whilst going through a painful period in our lives, battling with the frustration of infertility and numerous highly stressful cycles of IVF. My yoga practice had such a profound effect on me - both physically and psychologically - that I felt a passionate desire to share its extraordinary benefits with others and this is what drew me to teaching 8 years ago.

     Faye Villalba Yoga 05

What do you like best about what you do?  

Teaching brings me great joy; I humbly watch as women whose arms ached from just hanging out the washing regain strength and flexibility. As stressed-out men clear their minds and find enough calm to balance on one leg. As those lacking in confidence find it within themselves to lift their legs into a headstand. My students are a constant source of inspiration and positive energy as I watch them becoming stronger, more supple, calmer and more mindful.

     Faye Villalba Yoga 06

Where do you practice?  

As well as private lessons in people's homes and at a large company in Sophia Antipolis, I teach several group classes at different studios based in Antibes, Roquefort les Pins, Valbonne and Magagnosc. Because there are so many different styles of yoga and teaching practices, it's extremely important to find the right teacher for you (I compare it to finding the right psychotherapist!) and with this in mind I always offer one trial group class free of charge. For any new students who mention this blog when they first contact me I'd love to offer an additional incentive of 10% off all group classes for their first month of practice.

                         Faye Villalba Yoga 03

Thanks for answering my questions Faye, and for the very generous discount for my readers!  How can people get in touch?

If you'd like to contact Faye you can find her through Facebook or her website.  Whether you're resident in the area or just visiting and want to keep up your yoga, get in touch with Faye and organise a session. Group classes are in English though she can do personalised sessions in French and Spanish too.  Don't you think this would be a great thing to do while on holiday at Lou Messugo?

                         Faye Villalba Yoga 04

Do you do yoga?  Would you like to spend an active holiday or retreat in the south of France practicing yoga? (I know just the place to stay!)  What do you think?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

Last modified on

Silent Sunday - 14 September 2014

Posted by on in Lou Messugo

 Fly board Nice





Last modified on

September Mediterranean Garden - no signs of Autumn!

Posted by on in Lou Messugo

After a month or so of no rain and unseasonably hot temperatures it finally rained yesterday refreshing a very dry and dusty garden.  This morning I took the time to wander around capturing what is left of our summer garden.  It's amazing how rarely I actually pay attention to the detail in the garden, very much taking it for granted.  Looking at it as a whole it looks blowsy, a little out of control and well on the way to being finished for the year.  But then looking at it closely I found plenty of life, little splashes of colour and interesting shapes.   

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We have cut back almost all the lavender on our 100+ bushes but a few sprigs cling to life.  I'm always a little sad when it's time to do this as it means summer's coming to an end.  It also means no more gorgeously perfumed evenings when the lavender fills the air, though the actual process of cutting it releases the oil and the smell is heavenly.  The trimmed bushes have their own beauty and look tidy but I do so love it when they are in bloom.

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There is still a fair amount of oleander in flower and a few sprigs of ceanothus out for a second time this year.  First time round in April, they were much darker in colour and the bush was groaning in flowers.  Now they are pale and sparse, but pretty none the less.  I imagine this must be to do with the amount of water they've been getting but not being a technical gardener this is just a guess.  To see what the ceanothus looked like in April, click here.

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Thanks to the lovely Mediterranean climate we have agaves, aloe vera, grasses and a palm tree which create some striking architectural shapes.   We also grow plenty of succulents, some of which produce crazy triffid-like flowers.

                  garden Lou Messugo 04

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The dry stone wall which holds up our lavender bank always looks lovely in the morning light.  It seems to glow with warmth and makes a lovely backdrop for the few late summer flowers growing by it.  Aren't the shadows created by the witches fingers great?

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Many of the flowers have finished leaving interesting seed pods, this is particularly so with some of the crazy weeds we get.  The plant with pink and green berries is one such example.  If anyone can identify it I'd be very happy.  It's an annual self-seeded plant which grows to about 2-2.5 metres high and birds love the fruit. Unfortunately it makes very dark staining poo which they then proceed to release on the tiles of the pool, creating nasty stains!

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One plant which finally seems to have established itself this year is our lovely little bougainvilIea.  It's still only small but we have visions of it climbing over the pool railings and tumbling down in tropical splendour. Let's hope it survives another winter!

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In contrast to the delicate bougainvillea one plant that thrives in the garden at Lou Messugo is rosemary. The bushes surrounding the door to the gîte have to be cut back severely on a regular basis or they'd take over.  There's certainly no shortage of herbs for our guests to use!

garden Lou Messugo 22

I hope you've enjoyed your tour of our September garden.  As you can see there are no signs of autumn here yet, we still have a few weeks of summer left.  What's happening in your garden right now? 


This post is linked up with How does your garden grow hosted by Manneskjur where you can find plenty more garden inspiration and gorgeous garden photography.



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 Living in France


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