The Independent Traveler's Newsletter                                          PAGE FOUR

Saint-Paul-de-Vence continued . . .

*La Couleur Pourpre –  a small, charming and intimate place owned and operated by two delightful French brothers.  Located on the west side of the village, the food is simple, Provençal and moderately priced.  And,  the brothers will help translate the menu!

*Au Coeur de Provence –  nestled in the heart of the village, this unique concept of a restaurant combines dining out with dining in.  The food is simple and hearty and the atmosphere is how you picture an authentic kitchen in a rustic farmhouse in the south of France.  Not fancy but fun.  Best of all, you might even have some Euros leftover to purchase one of the books or various local knickknacks for sale in the restaurant.

*La Cocarde –  also nestled in the village, this gem is Provence personified.  From the Provençal tablecloths to the authentic regional foods and wine, this was a delightful meal. 

Once fortified with the foods of the Côte D’Azur, it is time to set out and explore the many offerings of Saint-Paul-de-Vence.  Art is the essence of this village and there is much of it to see.  Set on a wooded cliff at the top of the town is the Foundation Maeght, a must see.  Founded in 1964 by art dealer Aime Maeght, this is no ordinary art museum.  Rather, it is an art foundation/museum established by artists for artists and,  therefore, has a different feel to it than most museums.  It is filled with an extraordinary collection of contemporary artworks of the most important artists of the last 50 years, including Chagall, Giacometti, Miro, Braque, Calder, and Bonnard.  In addition to its meandering and stunning sculpture garden, the gallery houses a substantial art resource center and library, which boasts over 30,000 books on contemporary art and a theater which shows movies daily at 3:00 PM highlighting the lives of the artists represented within. 

The Foundation is only the start.  The village itself is home to over 70 modern art galleries, all housed in century old structures.  The buildings themselves are, at times, as interesting as the art they showcase.  You will also be able to visit some workshops as a good number of the working craftsmen live and work above their shops.  Plan on spending at least several days wandering through the picturesque, cobblestoned streets, exploring the vast collection of Provençal art and local wares. 
Copyright 1997-2004 Cold Spring Press
There is much history to devour in Saint-Paul,  and the best way to learn about the village is to treat yourself to a personalized guided one-hour, walking tour.  It will cost about $8 per person for an hour,  and it includes admission to the Museum of Local History.  Arrangements can be made at the Tourist Office, located at 2 Rue Grande, immediately beyond the northern or Royal Sixteenth Century gate, also known as the entrance to Saint-Paul.  The guides are all local residents and Franz, our guide, was a fountain of information.  Even if you opt not to do a tour, the Tourist Center is an excellent place to start your journey.  They can provide maps, hotel information and offer local tips.  Tip:  The village gets very crowded early so it is recommended to start your tour as early as 7 AM or 8 AM.  Don’t miss strolling though the town after dark, when it is eerily deserted. 

It is hard to accept that the day is over in Saint-Paul,  as you can never truly feel as if you have seen enough.  But, inevitably, you will need a place for slumber.  Don’t fret if Colombe D’Or  is full or too rich for your budget.  There are plenty of other fine choices.  Saint-Paul offers at least 30 hotels or bed and breakfasts for all budgets.  Le Hameau, ( once an ancient working farm, is now a charming, intimate hotel, located just steps away from the entrance to the village.  Marc Chagall once stayed there,  and the view from of the village from room #10 is all the reason you will need to return!  Parking is generally a problem as there are no cars permitted in the ancient part of the village,  so the fact that this hotel has private parking is a plus.  The rooms are all unique and luxurious and include modern conveniences such as air conditioning, direct dial phone service, security safe and mini-bar. Room rates ($90-150) include use of the pool and Jacuzzi and a continental breakfast served either in your room or in the lovely rose garden overlooking the orange grove.  Without a doubt, the fresh-from-the-oven croissants at Le Hameau are some of the best in France!  And the homemade marmalade from the grove isn't bad either! 

With over 2,500,000 visitors per year, Saint-Paul may be the only ancient village with bus parking.  Nonetheless, after a visit to this medieval gem, there is no doubt why it is often called “Le plus beau village du monde”  -- the most beautiful village in the world! 

Some tips: 
*Bring measurements for both tablecloths and wall spaces for artwork.  You will want to buy everything!
*Bring a French dictionary or a working knowledge of the language.
*Bring comfortable shoes.  This is a hilly town with lots of climbing.
*For a more complete listing of hotels, dining options, shopping and more, visit

Janice Telstar and her husband live in Pennsylvania where she works at promoting the city of Philadelphia
and he is a visual artist.  Traveling is their passion, especially to France.  Their soon to be on line web site, 
'Shared Secrets', will offer travelers the opportunity have their photos, postcards, currency, coins, tickets and 
vacation memorabilia made into beautiful and unique collages --  keepsakes to be treasured for years to come. 
 Keep an eye out for Shared Secrets, coming soon, at
To contact Janice prior to that time, send her an Email to

Your French Driver's License

                                                                                                                                  by Jeff Steiner

So, you are considering taking up residency in France.  Amid all the bureaucracy you are bound
to encounter, the following article will give you some insight into obtaining your French driver's license.

Your American driver's license is exchangeable for a French license if it is from one of the following states: Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Kentucky (Please note this list can change at any time!). If you think I missed a state, then call your local Préfecture or sous Préfecture or French embassy/consulate. They will tell you if your license is exchangeable. If you do have a license from one of the states listed, you have one year from the date you entered France (the date stamped on your passport or Carte de Séjour) to make the exchange. If you wait more than a year, all is lost; you will have to obtain a French driving license ‘from scratch’ -- a difficult process.  Starting from scratch is expensive and a nuisance. This is the process: 

First, find a driving school - not an easy course in and of itself, because so many go out of business.  I went with L’Ecole de Conduite Française (ECF), a chain, to obtain my license, and it was fortunate that I did.  The other independently owned school I looked at went out of business. There are some schools in Paris that teach classes in English but they are more expensive.  When you sign-up with your driving school you will pay a flat fee for the written test, which in my case was about $220 US.  Then you pay by the lesson -- $35 US per lesson --  for the practical.

Next is the written test, made up of forty multiple choice questions.  You have thirty seconds to answer each and must answer 35 or more correctly to pass.  What I found the most difficult about the written test, was that more than one answer could be correct on some of the multiple choice questions.  This along with the fact that some questions are in two parts makes the written test in reality more than forty questions.

Your driving school will give you a textbook for the written test that explains, if that is possible, the French driving code.  All of your in-class preparation for the written test consists of taking a practice test and then going over the test question by question with the instructor. The practice tests have the same type questions, but more difficult, than the actual test. The time constraints are the same. 

I spent a little over a month getting ready for the written test.  I was not working and went to the school almost every day which had self-teaching CD ROMs available during the day and classes at night.  Some schools have classes throughout the day with no CD ROMs.

I was not able to take the written test when I wanted to.  First,  there was a problem getting back my paperwork from the Préfecture.  I was told it would take a month, but because I was outside the norm -- a foreigner --  it took longer.  Then,  when I finally received the test date, the test was canceled because there was the smell of gas in the examination center.  In France, unlike the States, you cannot choose the test location. Your school is given exam dates that it then gives to the students.  Sometimes if demand is great, schools only have dates every few weeks.

If you become frustrated at times with studying for the written test, just remember that the actual test is easier than the practice tests.  A friend of mine, the day before she took the written test, missed fourteen on a practice test, yet she passed when it counted.  It is possible to study on your own for the written test, but no one I know has; but my local Préfecture said I could.   There are plenty of CD-ROMs that teach the written test. 

Then comes the driving test.   If this is the part you think will be the easiest, think again. It took me nine one-hour lessons before I was “ready” for my driving test.  That was with fifteen years of driving experience!  French driving schools make most of their money from driving lessons which cost about $35 each -- so in no time you will have spent a few hundred dollars.

The test lasts twenty minutes.  You may be asked to parallel park, go through a few intersections that are yield right, drive on the highway, just about anything that you might do driving.   Like the written, the driving test is not as difficult as your instructor will make it out to be.   My instructors were very strict; you had to do everything exactly as asked.  For example,  when you change lanes you need to look in your mirror, look over your shoulder, then look in the mirror again.  Also,  you must constantly be looking in your mirrors -- about every ten seconds -- so you know what’s behind you.  Your instructor will nitpick like crazy,  and it will not be nice. 

One major frustration: I was told to forget a lot of what I learned in studying for the written test.  Another frustration to which most French will attest --  no one drives like they are taught in France.

You will spend a few months --  my case three -- to obtain a French driver’s license.  Then you will see on a daily basis drivers running red lights, driving way over the speed limit and committing other infractions.   Enjoy!    
[Jeff Steiner Copyright © 2004]

The above article was contributed by Jeff Steiner, a expatriate American who lives and works in France.
Jeff has a great web site called 'Americans in France'.   Filled with useful volumes of information for the expatriate,
the web site also includes a newsletter, a forum for asking questions or expressing ideas, a handy moving planner, 
information on culture and daily life and lots more.  Do visit at your first opportunity at
And, for those of you who want to be ready for that driving test, click on Driving Study Guide

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