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Friday Feature:

Nathalie Sawinski - Minnesota

I met Nathalie many years ago and she has become a dear friend. She does everything with such style and class! She gives her all to everyone she meets and is a great ambassador. I hope you have a chance to meet her in Minnesota, or at their beautiful vacation home (which you can rent!) in France!

Where did you grow up in France?

I was born in a French Island in the Caribbean Sea called Guadeloupe. My parents were expats and traveled around the world. At the age of 8-9 years old my family came back to France and settled in the South of France in Valence (Département de la Drome). I also spent a few years in Grenoble where I attended the Stendhal International High School and the University of Stendhal. My family, parents and sisters, now live in Montelimar and its surrounding.

What is there to see and do in your area?

There are so many things to see, do and taste in our beautiful region. If you are a lover of history like me, you will enjoy the beautiful garden & Castle of Grignan – A major tourist attraction in the region and one of my favorite Castles. Built at the start of the 12th century, the Château de Grignan is one of the most famous renaissance buildings in the south of France and contains a vast collection of Louis XII furniture and Aubusson tapestries. The tomb of Madame de Sévigné, who wrote many of her famous letters during her stay in the château, is found in the Eglise de St-Saveur. The château was destroyed in 1793, and reconstructed in the early 1900s by Madame Fontaine, the great aunt of our talented friend Jean-Pierre who now lives near us in Minnesota. The castle offers beautiful shows at night in July & August to give you a taste of the 17th Century.

If you are more adventurous, I highly recommend to visit the site of Vallon Pont d'Arc where you will discover the Gorges de l'Ardeche (Ardeche Canyons), either by foot, bike, canoe or kayak, or by raft boat. Whatever your choice is to enter in the heart of this natural reserve you will meet fabulous landscapes created by the water and time. Several routes are possible and professionals are there to help you: I recommend Patou-Bateau for their exceptional hospitality and organization. The best time for an exciting canoe & rafting trip with enough water to take advantage of the rapids is from Easter to the end of May. For a more relaxed trip to take advantage of the beaches and the sun - June through August is best! Plan for one or two days for this memorable adventure! 

What are the regional specialties in your hometown?

Valence is known for its Suisse, a unique and compact shortbread biscuit with small pieces of candied orange peel in the shape of a man which was inspired by the uniform of Pope Pius VI’s Swiss guards. The pope was held prisoner in Valence in 1799 where he died. This is a delicious biscuit to enjoy alone or with your coffee. I wish I could find this in the US! Yum!

Another delicious specialty to taste are the Raviole du Royans or Ravioles de Romans (nearby town), not to be confused with Italian ravioli! The Raviole is a small square of thin pasta made from tender wheat and fresh eggs with a filling of fromage blanc, Comté cheese, eggs and parsley simmered in butter, a specialty dating back to Roman times, when it was known as rissole. I recommend the Raviole pizza, the Raviole salad, and the Raviole au gratin! Yum!

Let’s not forget that Valence sits in the Rhone Valley so there are so many great wines to choose from to perfectly complement your meals and what I just suggested above! Cotes du Rhone, Clairette de Die…and if you travel a little south on the road to Grignan, here is my favorite: The Magnolia wine from Eyguebelle!

Nathalie in Les-Baux-de-Provence

Do you have favorite restaurants you want to share?

Le Clair de la Plume, a top class restaurant (3 Stars Guide Michelin), is one of my favorites and it is located in the adorable and historical village of Grignan, which you can explore for several hours. This restaurant like the village, exudes the charm of centuries past. You will be seated in a real Provencal garden with many plants and the tables are perfectly arranged with view to the Chateau of Grignan which I highly suggested to discover earlier. Service is impeccable and the food always outstanding!

Do you have a favorite family recipe you would like to share?

Ratatouille and Mediterranean Couscous are favorite dishes but you will have to come over for dinner to taste it!

What brought you to the US and what do you do now?

I came in the US when I was 20 years old as a college student. I wanted to travel, learn and improve my English. I met my future American husband skiing in Vail, Co and after a year of long distance dating the old fashion way (without a cell phone), he convinced me to marry him and move to Minnesota (love was really blind for that part :)

My first job was teaching French to elementary to college students, then worked in healthcare for more than ten years. I always loved making a difference in people’s life. I am now a Clinical Massage Therapist helping individuals who are seeking results ranging from complete body relaxation and reduced anxiety to relief of pain caused by stress, exercise, injury, chronic or acute illness. I am Nationally Board Certified and obtained my Associate of Applied Science Degree in Massage Therapy from Northwestern Health Sciences University. I specialize in Therapeutic/clinical (Myofascial release, TrPts Therapy, CFF and deep tissue) for the restoration of soft tissue health and mobility, Relaxation massage, Cancer/Oncology massage, sport massage, pregnancy massage and reflexology.

When you go back to France, what is a “must” for you - see, do or eat!

Our family goes to France every year and when we do we like to enjoy our beautiful XVI Century home the Lys de Rochemaure located in the charming medieval village of Rochemaure in the department of Ardeche just 2 miles away from Montelimar in the department of Drome, Provence. We get the best of both departments and regions with this location! There is so much to do there – check our site at or! My must eat: Salade a la Caillete chaude et fromage chèvre, Ravioles fraiche a la crème, and for dessert glace ardèchoise!

Do you have any other advice or travel tips for Americans going to France?

Yes! If you are planning to travel to the South of France, please visit and explore our great website:

This page will give you my tips for travel to the South of France:

And this page will give you my best suggestions on the things to do, see, and taste in Provence and Ardeche:

Bon Voyage and Welcome to France!

Un grand merci à Nathalie! Thank you so much for all of your insider tips!

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