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The picturesque town of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert is an important vacation destination for visitors interested in culture, but few bother to stop in the town of Aniane, on the other side of the Hérault river. However Saint-Guilhem would never have existed if it weren’t for Aniane, as it was here that a Languedoc nobleman named Wittiza, the son of the Count of Maguelone, settled in 782. 

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Occupying an exceptional place in automobile culture and French history since 1948, the iconic Citroën 2CV (deux chevaux or deux chevaux-vapeur – literally "two steam horses") celebrates its 70th anniversary this year.

However its story goes back much further. In 1934, Michelin took over the bankrupt Citroën company, and immediately commissioned a survey to help motorise France’s large rural population, who could not afford cars and still used horses and carts. Citroën used the survey results to develop a low-priced, rugged "umbrella on four wheels" that would enable four people to transport 50 kg of farm goods to market at 50 km/h, if necessary across muddy, unpaved roads – including driving eggs across a freshly ploughed field without breaking any!

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It’s a relatively daunting experience becoming a mother, so much responsibility and so many opportunities to mess up, but when you add moving countries and cultures into the mix, things get that bit more interesting. In the last two years I have been pregnant twice and lived in three different countries - Hong Kong (China), England and France, all offering their fair share of ups and downs.

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At first glance, Ian Berry’s works look like blue-toned photos or paintings, especially if you see them online or in print. However it’s only when you look closer that you realise that these oeuvres are made up of myriad pieces and shades of denim – hundreds and thousands of tiny fragments of denim jeans, painstakingly cut up and glued into place to form incredibly detailed works of art.

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We’ve said goodbye to the sound of the cicada and chilled rosés (or chilled reds for the fashionistas), and our thoughts now turn to that glass of comforting red. Yes, les vendanges are well under way, and the moment towards which all vignerons have been working hard all year whilst praying to nature to ensure the best results possible - either qualitative or quantitative, depending on which side of the fence you sit - is finally here.

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Annette has been living and working in Hérault since 2008. She has been creative all her life, holding her first art exhibition in 1995 and undertaking dozens of commissions since. One of her paintings was selected to represent a National Park, but sales have never been her primary focus.

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Once we are no longer accountable uniquely to ourselves, living as expats forces us to examine our choice not only to live abroad, but also raise a family outside our culture of origin. Even long after a host country becomes "home", you routinely debate seemingly small things (especially if you share different cultural foundations with your partner), like the necessity for Marmite, the relevance of punctuality, or which day marks the beginning of the week.

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Finally summer is here and the smell of the grillade wafting through our little village over the weekend has triggered an annual event that I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing — the moment our taste buds cry out for chilled crisp whites and a plethora of pinks. The big ballsy reds that we so readily quaff at any other time of the year now make as much sense as hot soup in the Seychelles!

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In the midst of the Goudargues countryside, on the winding road to Verfeuil, aspiring horse riders can stumble into a scene right out of a Western at Vano Stables, owned by a friendly Belgian couple, Christine and Philippe Van Hauw (pronounced "Vano"). While Christine and her granddaughter Adélie are competition-level reining riders and compete all over Europe with their finely bred horses, at home the stables and modern equestrian centre play host to the Gard’s very own El Charro, or traditional Mexican cowboy or horseman, Carlos Barrera.

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You may not be too familiar with Saint-Gilles-du-Gard, but this small town — 20 km from Nîmes and with a population of 13,500 — is celebrating this summer, with activities including the 20th anniversary of the inclusion of its Abbatiale, or abbey church, as part of the UNESCO World Heritage-designated Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James), the completion of the Abbatiale’s renovation, new tourism initiatives and a series of festivals and concerts.

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While history has not retained many names of the hundreds of Protestant women persecuted in France after Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Marie Durand is one exception. She was born on 15 July, 1711 in the little town of Le Bouschet-de-Pranles in the Ardèche region, near Viviers. Her family were Protestants, but they had been forced to convert to Catholicism, but after the death of Louis XIV, young Protestants, including Marie and her brother Pierre (1700-1732), refused to accept forced conversions.

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Robin Hicks, who lived near Pézenas for 12 years, looks back on his time in France and explains how he felt as he slowly settled into the country, although he confesses a little more time on verbs and tenses would have made it easier.
For all that, he did manage to create the Cassan Cracker Fair, edit a local monthly paper named Blablablah and report for a number of papers, plus working with Béziers airport to promote the area to the British press. He returned to the UK in 2002 after 12 years in France, and here he gives us his thoughts on belonging, his struggles with the French language, secrets of the "international press" and the mysteries of wine tasting sessions.

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I was born in Paris, grew up in Toulouse, spent months in America, went to college in Normandy, gave birth to my son in the Corsican mountains and have been living in Nîmes for 10 years now. I’ve moved 12 times since the age of 18, and quickly felt at home in every single place I’ve lived in, but for many years have wondered “Do I belong here?”

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One day when I was living in London as a struggling musician, I came across an ad looking for a French wine specialist. While far from being a “specialist”, I informed the gentleman during the interview that I spoke fluent French and consumed large quantities of wine. This, along with the in-house Wine & Spirit Education Trust training programme offered by the company, was apparently enough for me to find myself working in the Clapham branch of Oddbins wine merchants.

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The Carrières de Lumières, or Quarries of Light, is a magical space in a vast cave- like quarry at the base of the hilltop village of Les-Baux-de-Provence. In the cool darkness, 100 video projectors and 27 speakers choreograph 2,000 images over an area of 23,000 sq m, including the walls, ceiling and floor. The sound-and-light show changes annually, and is one of Provence’s most popular sites, attracting roughly 2.5 million visitors since opening in 2012.

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In the early 1960s, my first professional gig was with Liverpool group The Crescents at Derby Town Hall, playing the hits of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, The Yardbirds and Spencer Davis. Now 50 years later I still play much the same repertoire in the Gard- Lozère, with my Anglo-French group Rhythm ‘n’ Booze — me on vocals and guitar, Jack Bee (ex-Glory Hogs) on drums and Jérôme Le Grand (ex-Emma Royd’s Painmakers) on bass guitar.

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There is a special place in my heart reserved for the trailing spouse, regardless of the duration of the stay, whether they work inside or outside the house, their nationality, gender, or if they have children or not.

To uproot your life and follow your partner, whose education, career or even family brings you to a foreign land for a known or unknown duration of time, takes a lot of guts, patience and creativity.

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On Saturday 19 May, the leafy Château du Fraissinet on the edge of the Cévennes will be garlanded with bunting and balloons in honour of Harry and Meghan’s big day. We are holding a charity Garden Party to celebrate the Royal Wedding, with all proceeds going to the Nepal Remote Villages Trust. It was set up by Chris and I on our return from a wonderful trek in the Annapurna region in 2014.

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