It’s a place that has inspired artists, musicians, poets and city folks alike. For the past 3 years, I’ve been visiting the South of France every summer in June since that is when the school holidays are in Singapore. There is just so much to see, learn and love about this place – the food, culture, people, scenery and art. I make it a point to explore a different part of this magnificent region every year and being a foodie, I’ve never ever had a bad meal here. You can walk into any cafe/restaurant and find food comparable to any of the finest French restaurants in Singapore for a fraction of the price. Food loving Singaporeans will be able to appreciate that!


The picturesque city of Bergerac in the Dordogne.


This year, I am spending my summer vacation in the Dordogne region in South West of France. It’s my first time here, and despite a long wet spell, the sun shone the very minute we touched down in Barcelona, where we drove for half a day after to our pretty little rental cottage in the small, quiet village of Ste Sabine which straddles Lot and the Dordogne region. It is here that I have signed up for a 2 day soap course  6 months ago at with Melinda Coss who is “something of a grande dame in the soap world” as described by The Guardian. Melinda once owned the biggest handmade soap company in the UK which she has since sold, and now mainly acts as consultant to cosmetic companies and creates product lines for companies who supply high street stores like Harrods, Fortnum & Mason. Luckily, for soap making enthusiasts like myself, she also conducts soap making courses at her rustic farmhouse in the Dordogne and occasionally in London. “



Her classes in July are full, but it was just me this time of the year so I got her full attention which I guess makes me the lucky one cos’ I got to do it all – weighing, mixing, stirring, pouring and yes, washing. Lots of washing! But what a pleasurable 2 days it has been! I got to make 6 batches of beautifully scented, natural soap that I will be lugging back at the end of holidays for gifts and souvenirs.  I love cooking and making things from scratch, and it’s just so incredibly satisfying making them – knowing exactly what you are putting into or onto your body. All those good oils, and moisturising glycerine are retained in natural soap made the cold processed way, unlike commercial soap where all you are left with is a bar of harsh detergent that dries and irritates the skin. So, here’s what I have to show for after my 2 day course. Voila!

















Can you imagine I made all these soap in 2 days? I could set up a stall at a flea market!































Melinda Coss & Maddy Barber

Melinda Coss and I. Lunch was included in the course too and boy did Melinda feed me well with the best that rustic France have to offer!






























The best way to experience the French countryside is to rent a car and drive. Stay in a fully equipped holiday rental property in or near a village, and explore the different medieval towns which are found throughout this gorgeous land. Visit the daily markets that move around from village to village, depending on the day of the week. Pick cherries from trees in June. Walk through fields of sunflowers in July and smell the Lavender in the air during harvest in August. Don’t be intimidated by the language or its people. Let’s just say the Parisians are a different breed altogether and to experience France at it’s best, you got to take a trip to the countryside particularly the South where the sun shines three quarter of the year. Smell, taste, feel, touch, live. More when we move on to Languedoc next week…

A lovely afternoon wandering the towns and cities of South West France.


















La Marotte in Ste Sabine – the lovely 2 bedroom cottage we rented for our first week. Costs between 500 – 800 pounds depending on the season. Absolutely charming! Can you believe that that you could buy one of these for about SGD300,000 ?!

A typical al fresco cafe / bistro where you can enjoy a meal or coffee without ever breaking a sweat! The weather was divine and I could have sat there all day, watching people go by.