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Out of the pan into the pan-demic

The sun shines through my window overlooking views of the picturesque medieval town of Fontenay-le-Comte. The warm weather of the summer recently passed and is replaced by a crisp autumn sky. I’ve been here one month now and, on my way to fully integrating myself in the ‘vie français’. Let me introduce myself; my name is Liam, I am 28 years old and, like many of us, have taken the somewhat brave decision to leave my native land, family and friends, job security, house, and pub, in favour of new life in the Vendée. After completing my degree and PGCE in music I joined the teaching profession and taught in secondary schools in Buckinghamshire. I ran choirs, rang bells, joined a band, whilst keeping the thought of moving to France in the back of mind for a later date. Fast forward to the 23rd June 2016: 52% of the country …

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What makes the Vendée Globe the world’s most extreme Yacht Race

Founded by experienced French yachtsman Philippe Jeantot in 1989, the Vendée Globe is the only solo, non-stop, and without assistance sailing race round the world. It takes place every four years, begins and ends in les Sables d’Olonne and takes around two to three months. In 2017 skipper Armel LeCléac’h finished the race in 74 days 3 hours and 35 minutes, a new record. The 9th edition of this unique and challenging sporting event departs from the Vendée shores on November 8th 2020. What is Vendée Globe? In theory, the interpretation of the Vendée Globe is simple. It is a solo, non-stop, without assistance sailing race in which the skippers circumvent the globe. That’s 40 075 kilometers (21 638 miles) in a sailboat measuring 18.28m or 60ft long, the most powerful in the world. In theory.  Reality is much more complicated. On a personal level, the skippers spend months alone on …

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COVID-19 Vendée

We cannot pass a day without the Covid-19 situation getting worse. Yet it seems that there are still people who do not take it seriously. On Wednesday 14 October, President Macron announced new measures. For example, the number of people with whom we can meet was reduced to 6. New measures were also announced in the Vendée Prefecture on 16 October. Situational map, testing locations, and other statistics Click here Vendée department situation: Corona virus statistics in Vendée – Situation report from 20 oct. (source) 2648 active confirmed cases  (+ 314 from Oct 13th) 33 Current hospitalizations 10 currently in intensive care 333 total have healed 46 people have died The Pays de la Loire region has activated a new telephone number (toll-free) 0 800 100 200 and email address  actioneco-coronavirus@paysdelaloire.fr LE PUY DU FOU: read their Covid-19 press release and Guest FAQ here. Leisure and culture: access to beaches, …

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Chicken Chili with Mogettes

Whilst I’m a very selective fan of the slow cooker, there are some meals that just demand to be prepared that way. This chicken chili is definitely one of them, but I would never cook a lovely Texas Chili Con Carne or Spaghetti sauce in a slow cooker. They demand a thickness that this chicken chili doesn’t really need. So, as the fall/winter season knocks on the kitchen door, this is definitely an easy favorite in our family. The original recipe is not mine, but I have adapted it e.g. to include our Vendéen mogettes, and I have also devised a vegetarian version which I’ll share at a later date. Note: I made this while on holiday, and shopping for ingredients locally, I was lucky to find canned black beans – otherwise I would have made dry black beans first and then rinsed them. The mogettes I had with me …

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Castles to see in the Vendée

Not all châteaux in the Vendée are open to the public. In fact, most are privately owned, sometimes with holiday accommodations available. The selection of twenty Vendéen castles in this article represent those accessible to view in high-season or year-round, or those which are open for sightseeing, reenactment spectacles, medieval festivals, and adventure parks. Is the Vendée paved with castles? – Yes and no. From medieval, to renaissance or neo-renaissance-style castles, and even some art-nouveau style ones, the number of chateaux in the Vendée is quite astounding. But most of them are private residences tucked away in sleepy villages or seemingly endless forests. You may run into them quite randomly or look for them in the 3rd weekend of September each year, when many have events or an open house in light of the European Heritage days (Journées Patrimoine) It’s all about the medieval – If you know just a …

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Carnitas

Tender deliciousness the whole family will love! I’m not sure in how deeply Europeans are familiar with Mexican food. What I mean is, homecooked, not from a pre-packaged, processed starter-kit you can find at the grocery store. Having spent a lot of time in Mexico, and having had a lot of Mexican immigrants touch my life at one point or another, and having eaten anywhere from Mexican ‘hole in the wall’ takeaways, to Mexican restaurants where live-Mariachi bands perform Johnny Cash at your table, to Mexican cuisine restaurants with a star chef at the helm… both my husband and I are quite unanimous that Mexican food is the best food in the world. It’s possibly also the most time-consuming to make from scratch. Since living in France and learning to make it myself, I’ve also come to the conclusion that appreciating the food and loving the people you’re cooking for …

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Butternut pumpkin soup

The sweetness of autumn I do love autumn, don’t you? When the leaves on the trees have turned their darkest green and there is a little sensation of coolness on the morning breeze and the air smells just a little more earthy you know it’s time. Time to run a hand over a woolen jumper, time for boots, time for a cozy fire. Time for different pops of color for different flavors in the kitchen. Time to fall in love with a new season! Let’s head to my kitchen for the king of color … Butternut Pumpkin or Butternut Squash soup! Ingredients and preparation For 4- 8 people (I cook leftovers or prep a next batch for the freezer) 1 large butternut – cubed (set half aside) 1 large onions – roughly chopped (frozen also works) 3 cloves of garlic (or as you wish) – minced 4 celery stalks with …

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Carbonara-Alfredo fusion… with a French twist!

Of legend, World War II & Hollywood In order to tell you how I came up with this dish, I have a confession to make. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten ‘Fettuccini Alfredo’ (a staple on many Italian-American restaurant menus) on one hand, and truly enjoyed it maybe twice. The same is true for Carbonara. The best Carbonara I’ve ever had was in Nantes, on a balmy Friday night outside on a terrace, and the only reason I know it was the best is because that night I had a taste from my husband’s plate. He loves Carbonara. I seldom order it. I’ve never seen him order Fettucini Alfredo. But we do love cream sauces. So, when he asked me one day to make Carbonara, I came up with this recipe quite on a whim. I won’t lie. It is scrumptious. One might say sinful. Writing up …

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Fishing in the Vendée

Introduction Once tourism season is over in the Vendée and holiday makers have returned home, the hotspots for fishing revert back to the tranquil retreats fishermen love. Hotspots for sea fishing include the beaches in La Faute-sur-Mer, L’Aiguillon-sur-Mer, and Les Sables d’Olonne. Where the Lay river meets the ocean, a sandy beach with a bridge over the river is an inviting spot from which to cast a line. Further north there are smaller, rocky beaches, near La Chaume. And Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie is not only famous for its generous sardines catches, the estuary where the river Vie river meets the ocean is also an attractive area for fishermen. If it’s a muddier beach you’re looking for, great fishing can be found near Bourgneuf-en-Retz as well as Beauvoir-sur-Mer. Two top lakes in the Vendée – Lac de Mervent (near Mervent, surrounded by beautiful forest) and  Lac de Rochereau (Monsireigne) – can be fished …

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Journées du Patrimoine 2020: list of places to see in the Vendée

Welcome to the European Heritage days of 2020! The 3rd weekend of September ranks among the best weekends of the year for us! We challenge ourselves with a spring around our lovely Département du Vendée for the opportunity to visit well-known historical locations and monuments as well as sites that are rarely open to the public, for free or at a reduced rate. Join us for a list of options this year. Historically, how did the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage days begin? The French Ministry of Culture began the event  La Journée Portes Ouvertes in 1984. In the following year, at the 2nd European Conference of Ministers responsible for Architectural Heritage, the French Minister of Culture proposed that the project be internationalised under the European council. The Netherlands joined with their own Open Monumentendag in 1987, followed by Sweden and Ireland in 1989, and Belgium and Scotland in 1990. In 1991 …

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Daytrip to Citadelle de Brouage

Founded at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean in 1555 as Jacopolis sur Brouage, this village went from being widely known for its salt trade to being strategically important in the conflict between Catholics and Protestants, to being fortified and becoming a Naval port, and later a prison fort. Today, the fortified village is surrounded by marshland and oyster farms, and in 2017 achieved status as one of France’s famed ‘Plus Beaux Villages de France’. Located just 35km south of La Rochelle, we recommend le Citadelle de Brouage for a daytrip from the Vendée! Year-round! Star of the Marais-Charentais – The road leading to the star fortress situated between Rochefort and Île d’Oléron twists and turns through a low lying, windswept landscape covered in grasses that must be as beautifully green in spring as they are golden in late-summer. Located further north than Montreal in Canada, south-west France enjoys a …

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Where Vendéens can see Le Tour de France September 2020

Are you excited? WE ARE! At inthevendee.com we are fervent ‘course’ fanatics from the winter cyclo-cross season to the Classic Road Races to the big tours. Of course, nothing is as fantabulous as Le Tour and everything that surrounds moving this massive production across the streets of France. And yes, we know that’s not a word… but it’s a word at hour house when it comes to everything cycling. So, we will be gathering all possible information we can find because we want you and your guests to experience the circus that is Le Tour de France as well. Can you feel our enthusiasm? Yes? Good. Find updates here up to Monday 7th September. Because on the 8th and the 9th, we will be out of office! Dear readers, cyclists, caravan… the whole circus… See you somewhere along the route! See maps and local details below for stage 10 on …

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Vineyards and wine tasting in the Vendée

Since Roman times there have been attempts at growing grapes and making wine in the Vendée, but it wasn’t until medieval times that the activity became successful. The monks of the many abbeys around here didn’t only manage to turn the ocean into fertile land while creating the Marais, they also had a hand in the proper cultivation of grapes. Historically we owe the production of good wine to them and to the Cardinal Richelieu who In the XVIIth  century donated wine lands to the farmers of Luçon. Another reason for successful viticulture in the Vendée is the region’s temperate oceanic climate, with mild, wet winters and cooler summers. The oceanic climate is warmer than the continental climate but less warm than the Mediterranean climate. Vendee vineyards listed by region 1. Brem sur Mer vineyards CAVE PAJOT LAURENT *AOC. AOC Fief Vendeens Monday to Friday 11:00 – 12:30, 17:00 – 19:00 Saturday …

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Le Tour 2020 postponed until August!

Vendéens have another opportunity to experience Le Tour de France in 2020. Due to the corona-virus pandemic, the most beloved sporting event in the world had to be postponed to August 2020. Le Grand Depart is scheduled for August 29th in Nice. Le Tour is set to arrive in Paris on September 20th, 2020.  UPDATE RESCHEDULED TOUR – see below schedule and map: Stage 10 on 08/09/2020: from Ile d’Oleron via the Marais and La Rochelle to Ile de Re (St. Martin de Re)  Stage 11 on 09/09/2020: from Chatelaillon-Plage to Poitiers Dear readers, cyclists, caravan… the whole circus… See you somewhere along the route! Having just watched the live presentation of the Tour de France 2020 with all its stages, we at inthevendee.com are excited! How wonderful it is to live in a place where every year we have the opportunity to travel to the spectacle that is Le …

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Another drought! Prefecture decree ceasing unnecessary use of water in the Vendée

Summer 2020: The department has issued another decree to limit or prohibit all unnecessary use of water from August 10th due to severe drought. A drought is ‘a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, leading to a shortage of water.’ Alert through 31st October.  EFFECTIVE as of Monday, August 10, 2020 at 8 a.m. Prefectorial decree n°20-DDTM85-494 of 7 August 2020 on the provisional limitation or prohibition of water withdrawals and uses in the Vendée department SOURCE: http://propluvia.developpement-durable.gouv.fr SOURCE: http://propluvia.developpement-durable.gouv.fr Carte Départementale des Arrêtés (Vendée) au 10/08/2020 (arrêtés publiés le 09/08/2020 minuit ) au 31/10/2020 Crise: zones of alert in the Vendée Maines, Sèvre Nantaise, Marais Breton, Boulogne, Vie et Jaunay, Côtiers Vendéens, Autizes superficie Read the OFFICIAL VENDEE DECREE Drought or not, the birds and the bees need our help! Honey bees use water to make honey and to cool the hive. Some tips to help our friends through …

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Medieval Festivals 2020

Reminiscent of the big Renaissance Fairs or the all immersive Feasts of the Hunter’s Moon in other countries like the United Kingdom or the United States, Vendeen Medieval Festivals take you right into the heart of life in the Middle Ages with authentic food, entertainment and artist markets. Fun for the entire family! All Medieval festivals and events in the Vendée 2020 – TO BE UPDATED AS INFO AS INFO BECOMES AVAILABLE CHÂTEAU DES ESSARTS       POSTPONED TO 2021      Open BY RESERVATION ONLY      ADVENTURE AND STORY TELLING WALKS  IN JULY AND AUGUST (from 14h00 – 19h00) ; AND on Wednesday and Sunday in SEPTEMBER      Directions CHÂTEAU DE TALMONT    MESSAGE FROM THE CHATEAU    From Monday 06 July 2020 to  Friday 28 August 2020: Following the health crisis, linked to Covid-19, all the chivalry, falconry and nocturnal shows as well as the medieval …

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Our Facebook group’s recommendations for great places to eat in the Vendée

Our Facebook group consists hundreds of member… locals, expats of all nationalities who live here permanently, people who own a holiday home or second home, and tourists. We all have our favourite places to put our feet under the table and tuck in to a nice meal and/or have a cocktail with family and friends, or just for a bit of romance. We have pooled together their recommendations in various areas of the Vendée.  Not to show favoritism, we have listed them alphabetically by name, so if you happen to be in the neighbourhood, you’ll know exactly where to go for a meal recommended by your Vendéen friends! All tastes – all budgets. Listed alphabetically Ateapick – Fontenay-le-Comte 85200// tapas, burgers, cocktails, small but varied menu €€ – play a game of boules  24 rue Louis Auber Zone Saint Médard Some vegetarian options +33251539433 Website Map + reviews Brasserie La …

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Photography tips part 2: Social Media

Imagery can cause an instant click in the web-user’s mind.  There are simple things you can do to raise the visual impact of your business representation on social media. Following the steps of our basic tips and tricks will take your various online shop windows from amateur, to professional, in just a few simple steps! Let’s recap from Photography tip# 1 First, let’s recap! As mentioned in our ebook “23 Effective Marketing Strategies for your Hospitality Business” (we’re giving it away, just let us know you want it!), visually striking content is part of the psychology of the Internet. Along with interesting written content, it a driving force of what keeps us searching and clicking. So, ask yourself, compared to the images you pursue online, the images that make you feel an emotion, how does your own social media feed hold up? Are you giving the user what you yourself …

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Photography Tips 3: how to prepare images for the Internet

Following our articles about Food Photography and Social Media photography this third and final photography tip focuses on how to optimize your images for the Web.  While this tip is for the more advanced user, we encourage you to explore the techniques described here. But we’ll certainly include tips and tools to take an easier route for (almost) the same result: beautifully cropped and optimized images that are accepted by social media entities and look great on your website with minimum loading time. Good photography is a powerful business tool. It’s also FREE! In our image driven online world, memorable photographs are essential. Image optimization explained In offset printing (on paper), the image used is of the highest possible quality, usually saved as a PNG, short for Portable Network Graphics, a file type that allows for a full range of color and better compression for the purpose of printing. The …

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The Sanctuary of La Salette and its remarkable architecture

From the banks of the river la Petite Meine rises a very steep hill covered with lush foliage, wildflowers, and exotic species of trees. This beautiful environment in the middle of nowhere in the Vendeen countryside is home to a monument of remarkable architecture; a place of pilgrimage that draws a crowd each first Sunday of September but is a quiet spot of tranquility and reflection the rest of year: the Sanctuary of La Salette at La Rabateliere. It is a grouping of religious buildings commemorating  the apparition of the Virgin Mary to two children in the French Alps anno 1846. History and location  – The sanctuary was built in 1887 at the initiative of Abbot Hillairet, then parish priest of the small village La Rabatelière. The land belonged to the Count of La Poëze who then owned and lived in Château de La Rabatelière (which is today a bed …

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Vouvant, Painters’ Village in the Vendée

Resting snugly in the arms of the Mère river at the edge of the largest oak tree forest in France lies one of the most beautiful villages of France. Vouvant, whose narrow streets demand a languid stroll in admiration of ancient architecture and a colorful plethora of flowers, seems to have been kissed by the gentle lips of history and tended by the loving care of faeries. A lovely drive toward the south-east corner of the Vendéen countryside will quickly point in its direction. Accept the challenge of discovery and you will quickly understand why Vouvant is lovingly referred to as the painter’s village. An introduction – The beginnings of Vouvant are somewhat mystical according to legend. The tale goes that the original castle here was created in just one night by the fairy Mélusine as a gift to the village. Of this castle only the donjon that dominates its …

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Market Days in the Vendée

Markets in France are typically held in the mornings from 8h00 to 13h00. They are usually up-and-running by 9h00. Do check village websites for cancellations, though these are not always announced. Summer Courgettes, asparagus, tomatoes, beans, apples, spinach, peppers, apricots, blackberries, cherries, currants, carrots, lettuces, radishes, raspberries, MELONS, aubergines. For a summary of markets in the Vendée, please keep scrolling. The markets highlighted here are organised in or around the Vendée. They are worth your time due to their seize, focus, or interesting location to perfectly combine shopping and sightseeing. Keep scrolling for our comprehensive list of markets. Covid-19 update: our market list dates from 2020 before coronavirus. Please check local websites and facebook pages for protocols or cancellations. inthevendee.com is not responsible for cancellations.  Niort Niort, with its narrow streets and remaining medieval half-timber structures, is located on the Vendéen and Deux-Sèvres border. While shops, cafés and restaurants are …

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The days to avoid driving in France summer 2020

France is the most popular travel destination in Europe with under normal circumstances over eighty-one-million worldwide visitors per year, but it is unclear how the Covid-19 pandemic will affect traffic on French motorways in 2020. France typically sees top traffic every July and August weekend. However, the outer European borders of countries where the virus-related health situation is not under control, remain closed. Travelers’ fears of contracting the disease abroad will also have an adverse affect on travel to or through France. This year, however, French natives may decide to vacation in-country, choosing a driving holiday over flying which may balance things out again. Additionally, the extra measures put in place at borders to control and to trace the spread of the disease, may put people off traveling. It’s also important to note new peeks of Corona virus in certain areas such as Catalonia in Spain, with governments (e.g. Belgium) …

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The Legend of the Fairy Mélusine

Château de Lusignan  (Vienne) was the ancestral seat of the House of Lusignan, the Lords of Poitou, who commanded great respect in the First Crusade. The castle was so large that in the 12th century a legend developed as to its beginnings. It was speculated that its founder must have had the help of a fairy, a fairy who took on the guise of the shape-shifting water spirit Mélusine said to have built the castle and its church for her husband Raymondin by using her mystical gifts. The reputation of the Lusignans was larger than life. So much so that between 1392 and 1394 the author Jean d’Arras recorded the folktale in a book entitled Le Roman de Melusine. It was the first of many literary versions that would be recorded through the centuries, as the folkloric tale seeped into the very fabric of history. The Legend One evening in the …

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Choosing a Kiss. A memoir of racism in the life of a naïve immigrant

Since the murder of George Floyd, I have been painfully aware that blacking out my profile against racism is easy. Finding words to help in the fight, not so much. But give me a minute, I have a life-story to tell. I remember well the first Algerian family that moved into my grandmother’s neighborhood in the city. I must have been around 10 or 11 and could not understand why everybody called them “Turks”. They were not from Turkey. They were Algerian. The blanket term to cover all Middle Eastern and African families that moved in after the EU opened its borders was my earliest confrontation with racism. Born in ’69, I grew up quite sheltered in the Flanders countryside. I was a shy kid, but also curious. While the people … ‘some people’ … around me grumbled and spat about the influx of migrants in our little country, I …

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Surprises from the garden: lettuce soup

I love a good salad. A big one. My mother calls it rabbit food these days though when I was a child there was always so much of it in our vegetable garden that we shared it with the neighbourhood throughout the season, and I remember plenty of it on my plate too. I love lettuce! Fresh. Crisp yet buttery soft. Green. But until recently I had no idea you could also cook with it. That is, endive is a lettuce I cook with all the time as well as serve stuffed for a fancy apero. But plain, green lettuce? I didn’t know! So, today is the day. This morning I deemed it time to pick the lettuce we had growing in planters in our concrete garden and for the first time ever, I’ll be turning it into lettuce soup. Dear friends who make this all the time kindly shared …

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Île d’Yeu, beautiful island of the Vendée

If you’ve ever dreamed of visiting the Greek Islands but haven’t been able to realise that dream, the Vendée has a wonderful surprise in store for you. Île d’Yeu, a small island located 32km (19mi) from the coast in the Atlantic ocean, has no shortage of whitewashed homes with colourful shutters and tropical flora set in three tiny villages, little ports tucked away along the wild coastline, and sprawling beaches that invite to spread a towel in the sand. And that’s just the beginning. If exploring in an idyllic setting is your thing, Île d’Yeu is ideal for a vacation, a weekend getaway, or a day-trip in the Vendée. Island of natural beauty, rich history and folklore – The Vendée is known for its beautiful coast as well as a rolling countryside painted in innumerable shades of green. But its islands off the French Atlantic coast have their own unique …

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These Atlantic Coast beaches in the Vendée are open for Social Distancing

With its abundance of thriving wildlife, tropical flora, windmills and ancient history, old customs, and outdoor activities, the Atlantic coastline of the Vendée must be one of France’s best kept secrets. We miss our temporary residents and visitors terribly and can’t wait for you to return, but for now the locals are surely not unhappy to have the endlessly golden Vendée beaches all to themselves for just a little while. Superb vacationing year-round –  The western border of the Vendée is comprised of more than 200 kilometers (120 miles) of unspoilt coastline with 160 km of golden sandy beaches that are as inviting for summer reading as they are for invigorating winter walks. In addition, each of the nearby islands supplies its own history and charm. Located in the Bay of Biscay is Noirmoutier, accessible at low tide via the famous Passage du Gois causeway. Île d’Yeu, situated around 32 km …

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Asparagus for breakfast, lunch & dinner

Before I share these simple meals there are three things you should know about me: I love an elaborate breakfast, try to limit my meat intake and [un]fortunately I’m the only one in the house who loves asparagus! Which means I don’t buy them often and when I do, I feel compelled to make the most of them. Read through the entire article to see how. Being Flemish, I must say that Asparagus à la Flamande is one of my favourite appetizers ever, so simple and with a surprising burst of flavour. My grandmother-of-the-heart was crazy about the ‘white gold’ of the Belgian soil and prepared them every which way possible while asparagus were in season, but her favourite was Cream of Asparagus Soup which means I always have to make my own version of it in her honour. But as mentioned I do love an elaborate breakfast, especially on a …

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Vendéen private chauffeur goes the (social) distance

We have invited a few Vendéen small business owners to discuss how they are coping with the pandemic. In this installment, please allow us to introduce you to Anne, private driver and proprietor of Melkhior, who has used recent weeks to work on building passenger confidence post-quarantine. Hello! I am Anne, a professional driver in my company Melkhior. I offer private chauffeur services in a seven-passenger van equipped with leather seats, USB socks and Wi-Fi on board. The service is quite simple. We accept reservations by phone, text or email and provide a quote that determines the cost in advance. A typical workday means working with companies and individuals traveling any distance for tours, airport transfers (Nantes, Paris, La Rochelle), accompanying them on business or to touristic sites. From the start of tourist season, I transport many British, Irish, and Dutch passengers as well.  More recently, in March, I was being hired …