Alec Harvey Guest Post: Thoughts on France

Alec HarveyFeatures Editor for The Birmingham News, has been kind enough to submit Le Stuff”s very first Guest Post.  For those of you who are regular Le Stuff readers, you may remember I posted a story in July about the, um, transmission problems Alec encountered early on during a Spring 2007 trip to France.  I really do hate to mention it again, but honestly it’s just too difficult for me to let it go.

So thanks Alec for your contribution, and I very much look forward to our next adventure.  I encourage everyone to pick up a copy of The Birmingham News, one of the nation’s most respected newspapers, and to check out City Scene, found in the Entertainment section every Friday.  There’s no better way for hipsters like you and me to get a handle on the goings on in The Magic City.  Finally, “Alec Harvey’s blog and column” (does this guy ever sleep?) can be read at


Le Stuff


Two years ago, I fell in love with France .

I had visited Paris the summer after I graduated from college, and I probably fell in love then, too, but the nearly 25 years that had passed had dimmed that affection. What remained were memories of good food and a little too much good wine, but not much about the people and places I encountered.

This time, I don’t expect the love affair to end.  Visiting the countryside of France is much different from the hustle and bustle of one of the world’s greatest cities.  The villages have a quaintness that Paris can never duplicate, and their charm – and that of the people that inhabit them – is not likely to fade.

If you’re planning a trip to the South of France – and I hope you are – you’ll find a lot of useful information throughout Le Stuff, the blog you’re reading now.  My trip was pre-Le Stuff, though under the helpful guidance of its founder, Dirk Dominick, whose wedding I attended.  But Dirk didn’t tell me everything I  needed to know.  There were a few things I had to find out on my own.

Here are 5 things to keep in mind if you’re visiting the area of Le Bar sur Loup:

1. Plan your meals well
Though I made up for it later, the first two nights in France , I did not eat. Le Bar sur Loup and its neighbor Tourrettes have many things going for them, but late-night dining isn’t one of them.  After 8 p.m. or so, all bets are off, so make sure you’re well sated before then.

2. Smart Cars aren’t that smart
Dirk has already regaled you with the ill-fated story of my struggle with a manual transmission, but it bares reiteration:  the Smart Car is economical and sporty (in a foreign sort of way), but it will not drive itself.  If you haven’t driven a stick shift in a quarter of a century, go for the automatic.

3. Nothing ventured, nothing gained
Though I enjoyed the company I kept in France , one of my favorite days was when I struck out on my own.  The area surrounding Le Bar sur Loup is quaint and picturesque, and I hopped in my car one morning around 7 and didn’t stop until about 4 p.m.  Along the way, I saw some of the back roads of the French countryside, met some extremely helpful natives, and marveled at the beauty of villages such as Gourdon, Tourrettes sur Loup, Greolieres and Coursegoules.


4. A little bit of French will get you a long way
Forget what you hear about the French being snobs when it comes to those who don’t speak their language. During a week in cities big and small, there were few language problems.  Most will appreciate it if you attempt to speak the language – and they’ll give you a lot of help when you get stumped.

5. Take some day trips
If you’re based in Le Bar sur Loup, you’ve got multiple options when it comes to road trips.
Tourrettes sur Loup is 10 minutes away, but larger destinations, including Nice, Cannes, Monaco and some beautiful Italian cities, are an easy day trip.

Alec Harvey

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