Les Amis – ours and Saint-Bernardin’s

If It’s Friday, It Must Be France …

Mon Dieu! It’s a good thing there’s a time difference so I’ll get this post on my blog on Friday somewhere! We had six very special friends – 5 adults and one absolutely adorable two-month old Alice –  for lunch (le déjeuner) today and it did go on, in a very good way, until well into this afternoon!

This morning I dashed off to the market to pick up a few items and to have a fromage (cheese) consultation with my friend Jacques (who has now asked me to use “tu” with him, which means we’re tight … we’re friends … I’m so pleased ). Did I mention he is the model for one of the main characters in the novel I’m currently writing? But I digress …

I  just want to share this one comment of his with you because it demonstrates something that I love about the French and their traditions. He asked if our friends were French or English. When I said they were French, he replied, “Le Brie, c’est obligatoire!” In other words, when serving cheese (always after the meal, NEVER before in France except for little cocktail chunks of cheese which I’ll explain some other time) to your French friends you  MUST include some Brie. Then he chose a Bleue and a Beaufort to go along with that. I’m having quite an education in the art of cheese.

But I have a confession to make (and I don’t intend to tell my good friend Jacques, I hope he doesn’t read this … he did ask for my website … ok, I might have to confess …). We were having such a good time and our friends brought this amazing dessert and I forgot to serve the cheese. I can’t believe it!  After all that! I know Jacques would be as disappointed as I am. Never mind, some dear friends of ours are arriving tomorrow for a week and I’ll serve it to them. They aren’t French but I know they will enjoy it almost as much!

Speaking of friends, last evening my DH and I had tickets to a Bach violin oncert in the 16thC, La Chapelle De St.-Bernardin in the old town of Antibes (where we are living for just two more weeks … wiping tears so I can continue to type …). After all the amazing jazz we heard in July with the Nice Jazz Festival and then our own Jazz À Juan, this would be quite a change.

I often pop into this small church which is built on the site of Roman ruins, as are many buildings here. It’s on my way to the market and I’m in love with the doors. I like to touch them (you’re allowed to)  and think about the people connected to them. They’re 500 years old and the wood is simply beautiful with a colour so intensely rich and warm they almost feel alive. The date, 1581, is carved into them.

If I don’t go into the church, I look at the doors at the end of the narrow alley leading to them every single time I walk by. Did I mention, I love them? I’ve posted about these doors before but will just remind you of the story. In the 1500’s there was a terrible plague in the area. The survivors arranged for these doors to be carved and donated to the church in thanks. Beautiful.

Part of the wonderful story of this little chapel is that it almost didn’t survive the passing of centuries and the change in society’s approach to religion. Like many churches during the French Revolution (1789-1799), the church was taken over and it’s riches plundered. After that the building fell into disrepair and abandonment. In the late 1970’s there was a fire in the building after which a group of local people founded Les Amis de Saint-Bernardin. Through their dedicated efforts the chapel has been restored to it’s former glory. Every detail was carefully researched and returned to it’s original appearance. They were able to uncover and clean one fresco in such condition that it has been left in it’s original state. It’s very moving to view.

The before and after photos of the work accomplished in this project are incredible. When the doors of the church are open anyone may go in at no cost and in fact there is no place to even leave a donation. It was declared an historical monument in 1985.

The concert, performed by renowned Olivier Charlier, was beautiful and the setting simply intensified the experience. Click here to visit his site and actually hear him playing.

I’m certain Les Amis de Saint-Bernardin feel proud and satisfied by their efforts. We stand in awe. It’s wonderful what friends can do.

Have you worked on any special projects with friends of yours? It would be great to hear your experiences.

Have you forgotten to serve something special to your friends when they were over for a meal? Please leave a comment below and tell me I’m not alone!

About Patricia Sands

Family, writing and travel are my passions ... okay, and chocolate ... and I'm seldom without a camera. I write women's fiction and keep in touch with readers by a monthly newsletter that also has giveaways and contests. Come and join us by signing up on the right. See you there!


  1. The french pastries look fabulous and the cheeses are probably creamier and richer than anything I’ve tasted.I have forgotten to serve a planned item a few times. We get so wrapped up in, first, making everthing just right for our guests, and then wrapped up the conversation with great friends. No one notices though, except the hostess. That’s a beautiful little church. I love thinking about the history–who walked there, who sat in this chair, who touched these walls. Wonderful post, Patricia!

    • You’re right, Marcia. Our friends called and said they were so stuffed they wouldn’t have been able to eat the cheese any way! I don’t believe them though … the French always have room for cheese! LOL
      Those church doors are magic. You would love them.

  2. Yum! I love the part of the cheese!

  3. Love these Friday posts. The brie looks wonderful – one of my fav treats. I have never forgotten to serve it (although not above me with a tray of desserts like that…wowzers) but I have actually eaten it before the guests arrived! To my defence, it was a baked brie and the guests were 45 min late – it was eat it or watch it burn. Hubby helped and we never told them the difference. :))
    Love the church pics and the history. I can’t imagine the feeling of being in something so old, restored, and full of rich history! Thank you!!

  4. Gorgeous church Patricia. Wouldn’t it have been a shame if it wasn’t restored? The doors are gorgeous and I can see why you love to go there. So much history, I bet you feel each time you enter.

    Yes, I’ve forgotten to serve things I’ve made for friends and family. It’s a strange feeling when you open the fridge and there it is waiting to be served. You are not alone! LOL!

    I’m going to look and listen to your video, I have a feeling I’ll be blown away.

    • Thanks for dropping by, Kate. The doors of that church are just one of those random spots in life that end up making a big impact. I’m a very secular person but the connection I feel to those doors is powerful.

  5. Ooooooh, j’adore le fromage! That brie is calling to me.

    How lucky are you to get to live in France and find these exquisite little places to visit. I have a thing for doors as well. Love them. And I totally get what you mean about touching them. It’s like the people of years past are still in them, just a little.

    If I close my eyes, I can pretend I’m in that little chapel with you and we’re eating cheese and those desserts. Well, maybe not eating in the chapel, but your post makes me feel like I’m there.

    Congrats on using ‘tu’. That’s a huge compliment to you!

  6. I’ve said this over and over but I must say it again – your Friday posts are fantastic. They bring me a little bit of Europe, which I miss so much every single day in US. Oh, French cheese and pastries. It’s so hard to find the same quality, texture and flavor here. You are so lucky you can experience all of it first hand. I don’t know if you drink wine but I hope you will write about French wine soon 🙂

    I like Jacques already – he must be a remarkable man! I bet he makes a fantastic character for your novel. I’ve made the same mistake a few times – had something special for my friends and forgot to serve it! Fortunately I’ve been forgiven every time, ha,ha.

    The chapel looks so beautiful. Those European churches are amazing with such a rich history and original architecture. We have some architectural pearls in Poland and I make a point to visit quite a few whenever I’m there.

    • Angela, this is why we write, isn’t it? I’m so glad you are enjoying these posts as much as I love writing them. I can’t believe our four months will be over in two more weeks but I have so many photos and so much to share that I will be continuing these Friday posts for quite some time. Even though I am excited to be seeing our family and friends soon, my heart will still be here and hopefully we will return again soon.

      • Patricia, I think your heart will permanently stay in France. Mine is for ever in Europe 🙂
        I’m so looking forward to all of your Friday posts!

        Nous avons toujours revenir là où nos rêves sont (I hope I said this correctly 🙂 )

  7. Pat, please post all the pics you want but not of food. It’s the one thing that makes me envious of your current location. My mouth is watering and I can sense the extra weight on my thighs from my imaginary indulgence.

I love hearing from you ~ thanks for stopping by


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