Birthdays & the Calendar of Saints

Today is my birthday (Becks, not Access Riviera’s), hooray to me!

Today I share my birthday – 27 January – with Saint Angèle……..WHO is Saint Angèle??!!

Saint Angèle de Mérici was born in Desonzano on Lake Garda and was the founder of the company of Saint Ursula in Brescia in the 16th century; she was canonized in 1807.  Why does she matter to MY birthday?

Statue of Saint Angèle (Angela) at the Vatican

Statue of Saint Angèle (Angela) at the Vatican

Well, in France almost every day of the year has a saint’s name assigned to it (some have more than one saint). Traditionally, in France a child would be given the name of the saint on whose day they were born as their first or middle name, so if I had been born here in France all those years ago it was a strong possibility I would have been named Angèle or a deriative such as Angelina.

The Calendar of Saints

The history of the calendar of saints in France dates back to the Bourbon monarchy when the Catholic church controlled the birth registry and all parents of newborn babies had to choose a Christian name from the calendar.

In the late 18th century, the calendar was abolished by French revolutionaries who favored an agricultural calendar based on harvesting, weather and seasons so parents were given free reign with baby names.  The ‘revolutionary’ calendar was short lived because less than 15 years later Napoléon bought back the calendar of saints.

French names

Over the last few centuries, French parents have battled for the right to name their children as they wish however the French authorities remained rigid on the notion ‘children are under the good intention of the state and parents are not to be trusted because they give their children absurd names’.  A few cases of babies being christened as Parfait Cocu (‘Perfect Cuckold’) or Alex Terrieux (‘a l’extérieur’ which translates as outside) confirmed this.  I’m sure the original birth registrars from centuries ago would be turning in their graves at some of the baffling celebrity baby names floating around today!

In the 1960’s, French names were ministerially decreed to also be permitted from regional sources (e.g.Ignatius originating from Basque), hyphenated (e.g. Jean-Christophe) or attributed to mythology (e.g. Apollo or Saturn).

Since 1993 when a High Court ruled parents could name their child anything that would not cause ridicule, the calendar of saints has become less influential especially with the rise of popular television programmes, celebrities and immigration bringing trends or other traditions to France.

Towns and cities also celebrate saints and there are special events that may mark those days such as Fête de la Saint Pierre.

So, next time you think there are a lot of Pierres, Henris, Sophies or Jacques’ around you know why.

If you’re interested in which saint represents your birthday on the calendar of saints, you can find them here:

Happy Birthday Saint Angèle – I shall toast you later with a glass of birthday bubbly!  Santé!






Charity Wine Tasting Night – ANTIBES

A reminder that this Saturday 30 January is the ‘Game of Rhones’ wine tasting event in Antibes in support of the charity, Chances 4 Children.



Remember to bring your business cards so you can network and pop one in the prize draw as we have many exciting prizes to be won including vineyard tours, bottles of wine and massage vouchers! Join us for a fabulous evening in support of a good cause.

Tickets are only 30 euros each which includes two tasting glasses of Côte du Rhone and entry into the prize draw.

Both the wine bar and restaurant will stay open after the event to allow you to continue your night.

What: Game of Rhones Wine Tasting Evening

Where: Nacional – Beef & Wine, 61 place Nationale, 06600 Antibes

When: Saturday 30 January 2016 from 7.30pm – 9.30pm

PRE-SALE TICKETS ARE SELLING FAST! R.S.V.P today via email or limited tickets for €30 available on the door on the night.


3 Under the Radar Art Exhibitions to see right now

Often I see advertising for upcoming exhibitions at the major art museums and galleries in this region, but sometimes the best exhibitions fall under our noses and pass by unnoticed.

Here are 3 Exhibitions that I highly recommend you find time to see – they may not be part of the goliath that reigns in Nice with the MAMAC, Musée des BeauxArts, Musée Matisse or Musée National Marc Chagall but they are just as worthy:

  1. Le Corbusier at the Picasso Museum in Antibes : Le Jeu du Dessin

On until 24 January so get in quick for the final days!

The exhibition is dedicated to his graphic work and the pieces exhibited here were, for the most part, little or never exposed.  These designs all come from the Fondation Le Corbusier, which holds most of the collection, about 6500 works. The collection shows how Le Corbusier in the arts also participated in the modernity of the twentieth century.

Le Corbusier, Musée Picasso

Le Corbusier, Musée Picasso

Musée Picasso’s autumn/winter hours : Open every day except Monday from 10h to 12h and 14h to 18h.

Tickets: full price €6 –  half price €3.

Free entrance for persons with reduced mobility or children under 18 years

2. Salvador Dali at Espace Miramar in Cannes : Aux Frontières du Réel

Until 14 February

Based on a selection of Salvador Dalí prints from the collection of Jean Ferrero, the exhibition offers an approach to real borders that Dalí was able to stretch in his work by blurring lines between dreams and reality.

Dali exhibition, Espace Miramar

Dali exhibition, Espace Miramar

Espace Miramar is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10h to 13h and 14h to 18h.

Tickets: full price €6 –  half price €3. Cannes Pass Expo is a special price where you can see the Dali exhibition here at Espace Miramar and the Chagall exhibition at Malmaison for €8

3. Marc Chagall at La Malmaison in Cannes : Les Couleurs de la Vie

Until 24 April

Featuring more than 200 prints, on loan from the collector Castor Seibel they allow visitors to discover the world of the painter whose mastery of colour combined with the poetic themes of his work are an essential part of the history of engraving of the twentieth century.  Found throughout the exhibits are themes that are dear to him: the mythology around the Bible,  his love for his first wife Bella or Russian landscapes of his native village.

Chagall exhibition, La Malmaison

Chagall exhibition, La Malmaison

Centre d’art La Malmaison is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10h to 13h and 14h to 18h.

Tickets: full price €6 –  half price €3. Cannes Pass Expo is a special price where you can see this exhibition as well as the Dali exhibition at Espace Miramar for €8.


10 Interesting French Riviera Festivals in February + Giveaway!

February is approaching quickly and it brings a number of excellent festivals to the French Riviera ranging from food fairs to flower parades and world class carnivals.

With half term school holidays for Zone B (Alpes Maritimes and the Var) falling on the dates 06 to 22 February, there’s plenty of events on to keep everyone entertained.

Here are Access Riviera’s 10 Recommended February Festivals – plus a Giveaway!:


Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival, is based on the Lunar Calendar – it is celebrated globally and is one of the largest traditional holidays for Chinese.

In 2016, the Year of the Monkey (Red Fire Monkey), Chinese New Year celebrations start on 08 February.

Chinese New Year - yet to make a mark on French Riviera events

Chinese New Year – yet to make a mark on French Riviera events

In France, Paris hosts big Chinese New Year events each year (mainly in the 13th arrondissement, Belleville, Marais and Noisy-le-Grand) and there are more French cities emerging with dedicated events including Lyon.

I was surprised to see there is no specific event for the French Riviera, especially as Chinese travellers are an increasing market here contributing a sizeable amount of shopping revenue to the French economy. Also, French-China business trade is on the rise, seen last year locally at the first China Summit at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

A Chinese festival can only enhance cross-cultural relations – we host Italian food fairs, St Patrick’s Day events, Russian Christmas celebrations etc so perhaps Chinese New Year is next? Every Chinese New Year festival I have been to overseas has been enjoyed by both local residents and tourists – vibrant displays of lanterns, food stalls, crafts, dragon dances, martial arts, fireworks.


February is busy across the French Riviera region with many festivals however I can’t help thinking this is a missed opportunity for Côte d’Azur Tourism? If an event is not put in place in the future Chinese visitors may turn their interest (and euros) elsewhere including Lyon, Paris, London, Barcelona or Stockholm.

Anyhow, here is a round up in this link of Chinese New Year events across France and a restaurant guide of where you are most likely to be able to ring in ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai on the French Riviera.


Pain, Amour et Chocolate (Bread, love and Chocolate) will be held in Antibes on the dates of 12-14 February and 18-21 February 2016. The festival is organised by the Italian Chamber of Commerce from Nice, the Chamber of Métiers et de l’artisanat of Alpes Maritimes and the town of Antibes.

Most items for sale have a bread, love or chocolate theme just in time for St Valentines Day. Expect to find craft stalls, chocolates in every size and shape and artisan breads. I’ve also picked up some delicious Italian cured meats and pastries before in previous years so take a shopping tote with you.

Pain, Amour et Chocolat, Antibes

Pain, Amour et Chocolat, Antibes


It’s a shadow of its large-scale neighbour taking place in nearby Nice, however if you’re not keen on large crowds head to Cagnes-sur-Mer for their free family-friendly carnival on 13 February from 2pm-5pm. Parade, costumed dancers and confetti battle!

2pm – Parade ‘Colours of Asia’ in centre ville

3pm – Brazilian dance performance at place de Gaulle

©Ricardo Maldonado

©Ricardo Maldonado


Nice Carnival (Carnaval de Nice) deserves a place in the world’s top festivals for the sheer scale of production that goes into it.   Nice Carnival will be held from 12 to 28 February 2016.

Colourful parades day and night with super-sized characters, diverse musicians, energetic dancers, flower battles, a Socca Party, fireworks, a Charity lunch event on the ferris wheel. Carnival swim and the LGBQT-friendly Lou Queernaval.

Super sized characters on the floats at previous Nice Carnivals

Super sized characters on the floats at previous Nice Carnivals

Make sure you attend at least one parade – if you can’t make it you can still follow the action via the official Twiiter account @nice_carnaval with hashtag #nicecarnaval or have a look at the Carnival’s Facebook page.

The theme for 2016 is ‘King of Media’ – I’ll be writing a more in depth guide closer to the festival date with information on transport, parking, tickets as well as accessibility tips for people with reduced mobility so stay tuned!

In the meantime, find the programme and ticket information here:

Carnaval de Nice theme: Roi des Medias

Carnaval de Nice theme: Roi des Medias


Menton’s Lemon Festival (Fête du Citron) to be staged this year from 13 February to 02 March 2016 is a unique festival featuring oranges, agrumes and the famous Mentonnais lemons – 145 tons of them!

The festival attracts over 240,000 visitors annually who head to the seaside town of Menton for night time parades, the Garden of Lights display and the awe-inspiring citrus sculptures at the Biovès Gardens.

Amazing citrus sculptures at Fête du Citron

Amazing citrus sculptures at Fête du Citron

I’m impressed by how much the event website has improved – with smartphone apps available, QR codes, social media integration and online booking – it’s a real advancement on the past websites. I also really like the poster design they use each year because it’s always vibrant and inspiring.

The theme this year is ‘Cinecittà’, and I’m looking forward to all the amazing creations. Highly recommended if you live in the region, or visiting!  To find out more about the Lemon Festival, click here: Menton’s Lemon Festival

Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) official poster 2016: Theme 'Cinecittà'

Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) official poster 2016: Theme ‘Cinecittà’

Watch a video of last year’s Lemon Festival display at the Jardins Biovès:


The Combat Naval Fleuri (Naval Battle of the Flowers) is a traditional free festival that presents a colourful display of pointus (traditional fishing boats) covered in flowers, folk music and concerts.

The boats fill Port de la Santé and throw bouquets of mimosa and carnations to the thousands of spectators crowding the quayside in Villefranche sur Mer.

Combat naval fleuri, Villefranche sur Mer

Combat naval fleuri, Villefranche sur Mer

It’s recommended to arrive by train as once you park your car there are many road closures and you’ll find it is stuck there until the end of the parades and festivities!

This year the event is scheduled for Monday 15 February.


The Mimosa Festival (Fête du Mimosa) in Mandelieu from 17 to 24 February 2016 will be bearing the theme ‘Jules Verne’.

Fête du Mimosa 2016, Mandelieu La Napoule. Theme: Jules Verne

Fête du Mimosa 2016, Mandelieu La Napoule. Theme: Jules Verne

The festival is a yellow-hued event with fireworks, performers and the grand flower parade on Sunday 21 February 2016.

Special activities include a guided tour most days to Tanneron with perfume creation in Grasse (prebooking through the Mandelieu Tourist Office, €25 per adult/€22 per child 2-17 years).

For the Fête du Mimosa festival programme and tickets visit this link:

Outside of the Fête du Mimosa, tourists can follow the Route du Mimosa that covers 8 destinations in the Var and Alpes Maritimes including Grasse, Mandelieu, Tanneron, Saint Raphael and Bormes-les-Mimosas. For a map, click this link:

8.  ISOLA 2000

The festival action isn’t limited to the coast – grab your snow gear and make a trip to Isola 2000 on 19 February for the third date of the Ice DJ Festival.

The festival has promised four dates, four DJ’s playing in front of the pistes from 2pm-6pm – entry is free for everyone. 19 February sees DJ Synapson try to warm up the ski set!

ICE DJ Festival, Isola 2000

ICE DJ Festival, Isola 2000


The Festival International des Jeux (26-28 February 2016) is a free family-friendly event held at the Palais des Festivals.

You’ll find a wide variety of activities such as board game competitions (chess, Scrabble etc), video games with game play demonstrations, dance games, race car driving games, card games, figurines and more!

If you have kids into Xbox, Wii, Nintendo, Minecraft, collectors cards, sports games, or puzzles, this is where you should take them.

Festival International des Jeux, Cannes

Festival International des Jeux, Cannes


Head to the village of Tourrettes sur Loup on 27 and 28 February for the traditional festival Fête des Violettes 2016.

Based around the town flower, you can enjoy a themed market, concerts, parades and flower battle. Enjoy the festival then stop by Tom’s on rue Grande – they’re famous for their interesting ice cream flavours but you should try the violette-flavoured ice cream!

Fête des Violettes, Tourrettes sur Loup

Fête des Violettes, Tourrettes sur Loup

Other festivals to see:

VAL D’ALLOS – Mardi Gras on 09 February, and family-friendly Festival Boule de Neige et Ribouldingue from 21-26 February 2016

SAINT RAPHAEL – Town carnival from 14 February 2016 (exact programme yet to be released)


GPSmyCity makes popular apps that feature self-guided city walks in over 470 cities around the world.

To mark Festival February on the French Riviera, Access Riviera is giving away 20 downloads for iOS devices (iPhone and iPad only) for either the Cannes or Nice apps in conjunction with GPSmyCity.

Each one usually costs US$4.99 in the App Store, so here’s your chance to grab some inspiration for walking tours in two of the French Riviera’s most popular destinations!

To win one, simply:

Leave a comment on this blog post or  Facebook page by 10 February 2016 – which one of these 10 festivals above  would you like to go to?

The first 20 answers can then choose whether they prefer Cannes or Nice for their app.

Please note that each promo code is tied to a certain city and, once the promo code is issued, it expires after 28 days, if not used by then.

***NOTE: it is only the promo code that expires, NOT the actual application.  Once downloaded, the application remains valid forever.***

Good luck!

Please share this blog post, thank you



Art, Photography and Wine: Justin Gage Preview

Art, photography and wine are three of my favourite things and they will all combine into one evening on Saturday 23 January at a Fine Art prints preview (vernissage) evening by photographer Justin Gage hosted at La Ga(bi)leria  in Antibes.

La Ga(bi)leria is an organic wine cellar retailing French and foreign wines, Prosecco, Champagne and beer as well as a contemporary art gallery space.

La Ga(bi)leria, 30 avenue Robert Soleau, Antibes - wine cellar & contemporary art gallery

La Ga(bi)leria, 30 avenue Robert Soleau, Antibes – wine cellar & contemporary art gallery

Justin Gage is a respected French Riviera photographer specialising in product, fashion, weddings, families and filming/on set shots.  One of his photos was featured in the Exposure Awards ‘Still Life’ collection that was honoured at a private reception at the Louvre Museum in Paris in July 2015, and he was included as a recommended photographer in Access Riviera’s annual Cannes Film Festival Supplier List fed to Cannes Tourism and Marché du Film (ranked as Page One on Google searches for CFF Suppliers).

Justin Gage - Fine Arts prints Preview evening, Antibes

Justin Gage – Fine Arts prints Preview evening, Antibes

Come in out of the cold, enjoy a glass of wine and browse the collection – all prints are for sale.

Where: La Ga(bi)leria

Address:  30 avenue Robert Soleau, Antibes 06600

Time:  The preview evening welcomes guests from 6.30pm

Wine by the glass (under €3) and nibbles available.

Nearest car parking is on the street, at underground parking at Parking Poirier under Monoprix (5 minutes walk) or Antibes port.  Antibes Train Station is a few minutes’ walk from the gallery.

Web Links:

Exposure Award Still Life Collection Book

FREE tickets to a Travel Show

Last week’s New York Times Travel Show in the Big Apple brought some attention to the beautiful French Riviera region, and I’m hoping it has spurred local tourism for ideas on how to entice global tourists here with a full calendar of vibrant events.

For my UK-based readers, the Destinations Holiday & Travel Show in London is being hosted at the Olympia London from 04-07 February, 2016.

Drop by any day from 10.30am to 5.30pm; kids under 12 years are free.

It has been run for 22 years in conjunction with The Times and The Sunday Times and inspires travellers with over 350 exhibitors and 70 tourism boards offering destination advice, special deals and packages.

There are photography workshops, travel writers forums, Wanderlust Magazine’s Travel Photo of the Year Gallery, street food stalls, Experience the World Stages with cultural displays and free samples as well as a new Adventure Travel section presented by National Geographic.

Nice, France

Nice, France

Get free tickets to the Travel Show!

For my UK-based readers, if you’re interested in attending this Travel Show in London, for two complimentary tickets worth £26, go to click on ‘Book Tickets’ and enter the special code ‘DES1’.  (You will just need to pay £1.50 booking fee).

French Riviera Exhibitors

JW Marriott Cannes

JW Marriott Cannes

Marriott Hotels will be making an appearance (you can find their hotels in Cannes, Juan les Pins, Nice, and Monaco) and another of the show exhibitors, Star Clippers, will offer a package to Monaco F1 Grand Prix 2016.

Star Clippers operates three of the world’s largest and tallest sailing vessels where you can experience sailing on board a true tall ship in a relaxed atmosphere with high standards of service provided by an attentive crew. All three ships have expansive teak decks, swimming pools, informal dining, a convivial Tropical Bar and a comfortable piano bar.

The stunning Star Flyer (115.5 metres)

The stunning Star Flyer (115.5 metres)

8 night cruise & stay aboard Star Flyer including tickets to the 2016 Grand Prix

Depart from the UK to Nice on Saturday 28rd May 2016 – transfer to Cannes

Embark Star Flyer for your sailing adventure

Sunday 29th of May 2016 sail into Monaco harbour for the Monaco F1 Grand Prix final

After an exciting day’s racing, set sail for the rest of your itinerary, visiting; St Marguerita | Bastia | Portoferraio | Figari Beach |Bonifacio | Civitavecchia (Rome)

From €1875 Per Person upwards dependent on Cabin Category.  Must be booked direct with Star Clippers.


The French Riviera is perfect to discover – what are you waiting for?

Disclaimer:  I’m not affiliated or a salesperson for any of these companies, I’m posting this article for information purposes for visitors to the French Riviera.

The Curious Case of Le Pain Maudit

This month’s contribution to #AllAboutFrance blog link up (hosted by Lou Messugo) was inspired by a conversation with a man I bump into often at a cafeteria where I regularly go.

He is an unassuming pleasant man who is brimming with interesting stories and he was the stimulus for another previous post of mine about this undersea city on the French Riviera.

Recently, he asked how my blog was going and I told him I am starting a new category ‘Weekend Wanderlust’ and would be writing about various locations for short getaways including Uzès and the Pont du Gard. He replied ‘Oh there is much to say about the Gard region – have you heard the story about the poisoned bread?’.

A visit to the boulangerie would never be the same again...

A visit to the boulangerie would never be the same again…

Naturally, he expanded on his comment and this resulted in my heightened interest and research on the subject – I hope you enjoy my random topic for this month’s link up, it certainly proves you never know where your next blog topic will come from!


Pont-Saint-Esprit is a town in the Gard département, part of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. The Ardèche River flows into the Rhône, just to the north of the bridge that is the site of a historical crossing, hence the origin of the town’s name.



Pont-Saint-Esprit is famous as the town of origin of Michel Bouvier, a cabinetmaker, who was the ancestor of John Vernou Bouvier III, father of Jacqueline Kennedy. But, perhaps its most intriguing claim to fame is the curious case of Le Pain Maudit (‘cursed bread’).

Le Pain Maudit is the name given to a mass poisoning that occurred in this small town in August 1951, and continues to create speculation, cause confusion and remain a mystery to this day.

Most academic sources and doctors at the time concluded that bread from one of the town’s bakeries, the Roch Briand, had become contaminated by ergot,  a poisonous fungus that occurs naturally on rye and was the source of the poisoning.

Bread in Pont-Saint-Esprit

Bread in Pont-Saint-Esprit

Regardless of the origin, the strange outbreak of insanity put Pont-Saint-Esprit on the map.

What were the effects?

Le Pain Maudit affected nearly five hundred inhabitants, causing the deaths of at least five people, and the suicides of two.

Townspeople were overcome by intense hallucinations that involved being consumed by fire, or beasts or gigantic plants. Though it was believed to be just a single day when the infected bread was eaten, symptoms lasted for a fortnight or more in some people. The worst symptoms appeared after six days and included severe delirium in many cases. Numerous people were taken to the local asylum in strait jackets.

Some reported cases included:

• A postman doing his rounds who was suddenly stricken by nausea and fell off his bike as he experienced wild hallucinations. He later commented that his body felt like it was shrinking and he remembered serpents coiling around his arms.
• Another man believed he was an airplane, before launching out of a second-floor window, breaking his legs.
• A worker tried to drown himself because his stomach was being eaten by snakes.
• A man saw his heart escaping through his feet and begged a doctor to put it back in place.
• An 11-year-old tried to strangle his grandmother.

In 2010, French Channel 3 broadcast ‘The Devil’s Bread’, a film by Bertrand Arthuys which meticulously reconstructs the Pont-Saint-Esprit episode. It relays the madness that seized the village, the suspicions surrounding the bread baker and the interest of certain French officials to cover up certain aspects.

Food sickness throughout France in 1951

In the same year as the poisoning in Pont-Saint-Esprit, there were a number of cases of food-borne illness around France: More than a hundred people in Eure-et-Loir fell ill from eating horsemeat; contaminated powdered milk sickened many children in Metz and three people died from tainted pâté du foie in the Ruhr.

The cost of living in France at the time was considered very high and the quality of many food products, especially bread, remained nearly as bad as during World War II. Even though rationing had ended just a few years earlier, bread was still under tight controls to keep the prices low and the dirigiste nature of distribution meant bakers were assigned to specific millers.

Bread rationing coupons

Bread rationing coupons

As the daily baguette tended to be lousy well after the Liberation, sub-standard flour and off-colour or bad-smelling bread did not necessarily set off the alarms that it would have in more prosperous times.

Poisoning theories

For almost 65 years, the incident has been mostly attributed either to ergot poisoning or mercury poisoning. Some of the main theories for the cause of the poisoning are:

Aspergillus fumigatus

Aspergillus fumigatus is a common airborne fungus and opportunistic human pathogen that produces a psychotic mold, ergot.

A. fumigatus

A. fumigatus

It was widely believed that this toxic fungus produced in grain silos was the potential culprit, though debunkers of this theory argue that the contamination would be more widespread and affected more than just one bakery.

The attribution to ergot poisoning was based almost solely upon the findings of biochemists dispatched to the scene from the nearby Sandoz Chemical Company in Basel, Switzerland**

**Footnote: For more about the link with Sandoz there is a footnote at the end of this article.

Mercury poisoning

Mercury poisoning was included as one hypothesis for the cause of the poisoning due to the use of Panogen and other fungicides used to treat grains and seeds, however it was argued that the symptoms exhibited by victims in Pont-Saint-Esprit were not consistent with this.

Nitrogen trichloride

In 2008, historian Steven Kaplan, the Goldwin Smith Professor of History at Cornell University, published an extensive historical account of the incident. His book Le Pain Maudit insists that neither ergot nor LSD could have been responsible, and.the poisoning might have been caused by nitrogen trichloride used to artificially (and illegally) bleach flour.

Government field trials

In the early 1950’s, biological warfare scientists around the world were experimenting with anthrax, cholera and LSD – government-led operations were put in place at a time of high paranoia and tension about conflict in Korea, Communism and the loss of the U.S. nuclear monopoly.

LSD was administered to CIA employees, doctors, other government agents, and members of the general public in order to study their reactions and obtain theories about psychological deprogramming and mind control. Nearly 6,500 U.S. servicemen were unwittingly subjected to LSD in the 1950s and 1960s.

In 2009, a U.S. journalist, who was investigating the Cold War mind control experiments conducted by the CIA, came across some documents relating to an incident in France that was never explained. He revealed a White House document labelled with the name of 2 French spies, a CIA scientist and the town’s name:


There was another file that referenced:

“Re: Pont-Saint-Esprit and F. Olson Files. SO Span/France Operation file, inclusive Olson. Intel files. Hand carry to Belin – tell him to see to it that these are buried.”

F. Olson is Frank Olson, a lead CIA scientist who, at the time of the Pont-Saint-Esprit incident, led research for the agency into the drug LSD.
Span was a project that fell under the CIA’s biological weapons program, MKUltra. MKUltra conducted experiments on humans without their knowledge and the purpose was to discover the secret of brainwashing. The results were intended to identify and develop drugs and procedures to be used in interrogations and torture, to protect agents or gain control over enemy spies.
Belin is David Belin who was Executive Director of the Rockefeller Commission created by the White House in 1975 to investigate abuses carried out worldwide by the CIA.

The journalist who uncovered these documents alleges that in 1951 the CIA was testing a secret biological warfare weapon: the aerosol dispersion of LSD and they chose Pont-Saint-Esprit as the test location.


After the poisoning broke out, biochemists were sent to the scene from the Sandoz Chemical Company in Basel, Switzerland. Included in the contingent from Sandoz was Dr. Albert Hofmann, the man who had first synthesized LSD in 1938.

Structural formulae of LSD

Structural formulae of LSD

At the time of the Sandoz group’s visit to Pont-Saint-Esprit only a handful of scientists worldwide, estimated to be no more than eight-to-ten, knew of the existence of the man-made drug LSD.

Of perhaps equal, if not greater, importance was that virtually nobody in France in 1951, apart from a select few officials at Sandoz Chemical, was aware that the company had promoted LSD as a potential secret chemical warfare weapon to the U.S. Government.

Their main selling point was that a small amount in a main water supply or sprayed in the air could disorient and render psychotic an entire company of soldiers leaving them harmless and unable to fight.

After Pont-Saint-Esprit , further experiments were conducted in New York in the 1950’s (Operations Big City/Open Air and Mad Hatter) that involved using specially devised aerosol devices filled with LSD on the New York Subway, and the aerosol spraying of chemicals through the exhaust pipe of a car that was driven by CIA and Army scientists around New York City.

To add more mystery to this case, Frank Olson, one of the leading scientists was unknowingly given LSD and meretran by the CIA in 1953 and died under unresolved circumstances.

The Pont-Saint-Esprit documents were filed incorrectly hence their discovery many decades after the incident.

Further investigations around the experiments have been hampered because in 1973, the CIA Director requested destruction of all of its records on MKNAOMI, Project CHATTER, Project Bluebird / Project Artichoke / MKUltra and Project Scan and its work with Fort Detrick’s Special Operations Division (the Maryland unit where biological weapons were tested).

I have my own opinion around Le Pain Maudit, what are your thoughts? It certainly is a curious case!

Sources: All research and republication of text for this article comes from the public domain including Wikipedia, The History Channel,, Hufifngton Post, Business Insider and Telegraph.

Lou Messugo