The SPA Carcassonne

If you are anticipating a post about a pampering, relaxing day at a spa in the magnificent city of Carcassonne, you might be disappointed. On the other hand, if you love dogs and cats you will, hopefully, enjoy this post.

SPA stands for Société Protectrice des Animaux and is the equivalent of the RSPCA. In Carcassone there is also the Dog Rescue Carcassonne. DRC is, basically, the English-speaking interface of the SPA Carcassonne. The main aim of the association is to find homes for the dogs at the SPA Carcassonne.

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The first Sunday of every month, there is an open day at the centre and I couldn’t wait to go! Monsieur FF came too. Although, he is also a dog lover, I think he had visions of me returning with a whole pack of hounds. I don’t blame him. I used to volunteer at a greyhound and lurcher rescue centre and surprise, surprise – we did end up with a dog who became a wonderful addition to our family, joining our Flatcoat Retriever.

The rescue centre is on the outskirts of Carcassonne, not far from the hospital. We were welcomed by a lovely Scottish lady who gave us a tour of the centre. There were dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages. Many are accommodated with another canine companion but not all. Many have had very sad lives up to this time; it really does break your break your heart. However, you cannot underestimate the time and effort that is put into finding the appropriate homes for the dogs. There was a lot of barking but there would be, after all, they all wanted to get our attention.

Not only does the centre care for dogs, there are about two hundred cats as well. As a family, we’ve also had cats, so I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to visit the cat ‘wing’. Wow! So many beautiful cats, every size, shape, colour, fur type…

After the tour, we were able to walk two of the residents. We were so pleased to be able to walk Liquorice and Kalou:

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These signs are attached to every kennel. They give some information about the history and the nature of each dog.

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Black dogs and cats are often overlooked at rescue centres, the world over.

We thoroughly enjoyed our walk around the fields that are behind the centre.

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Obviously, the dogs cannot be let off the lead but it is a wonderful opportunity for them to have some time out of their enclosures.

I was very taken with this male and female Czechoslovakian Wolfdog. It is a breed I have never come across before. The Czechoslovakian Wolfdog was a result of an experimental crossing between a Carpathian Wolf and a German Shepherd dog in 1958. This pair will need to be rehomed together and will need a very special type of home and owner. Here’s link incase you would like to find out more about the breed:

https://www.dogbreedinfo.com/czechoslovakianwolfdog.htm 

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Since our first visit, we have been back and done some more dog walking. Something we hope to be able to do on a regular basis when we are in France.

I would love to foster a dog but it is impossible with our current back and forth to the U.K.  However, I am over the moon that there is the possibility of fostering some kittens. This would mean having some kittens after they have had their first inoculation. They would stay (indoors) with us for three weeks before having their next jab. We’d obviously have to give them lots of attention, strokes and cuddles to help with their socialisation!! Fingers crossed that it works out…

If you have a minute, do look at the rescue’s website:

http://dogrescuecarcassonne.co.uk/

 

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Top Ten French Films..?!

I have always wanted to write a ‘Top Ten Post’…

Being a lover of French films, I thought I could easily put together a Top Ten of my favourite French films. The problem is that there are so many more than ten French films that I have loved. And trying to put them in numerical order is equally challenging.

Instead, here is a list of ten French films closest to my heart – at the moment anyway! I have another list of French films which I haven’t seen – yet!

In no particular order:

paris je

This film is actually made up of a series of eighteen short vignettes, set in different areas of Paris, and with a variety of directors and actors. Some of the short ‘stories’ are more to my taste then others but this is a film that I return to on a regular basis.

amelie

Another charming film set in Paris and, again, one that I have watched countless times.

choristes

This film was made in 2004 and is set in a strict boarding school for ‘challenging’ boys, some time after the second World War. A new music teacher arrives at the school and sets up a choir. It is really a testament to the power of music and singing.

diving bell

This is based on the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby. He was the editor-in-chief of ‘Elle’ magazine and was aged forty three when he suffered a massive stroke. This left him with locked in syndrome. I thought this was a very thought proving and moving film.

etre et

This charming documentary takes place in a small single-class village school over the course of one academic year. A dozen youngsters, aged 4-10, are taught every subject by one teacher. 51GMasUgnIL._AC_UL320_SR226,320_

I love thrillers and I love Juliette Binoche!

au revoir

This was one of the first films I went to see with Monsieur FF before we were married. It’s directed by Louis Malle and is another film set in a boarding school but in 1943, in Nazi  occupied France.  It is a story of childhood and friendship. We found it very moving and you are likely to need some tissues handy if you haven’t watched it yet!

intouchables

I have only recently discovered Omar Sy and I am currently ‘bingeing’ on his films! The focus of this comedy-drama, is on the unlikely friendship which develops between a wealthy quadriplegic (François Cluzet) and his carer (Omar Sy), who has just been released from prison.

homme a l'hauteur

I have reviewed this film in a previous post:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/jean-dujardin-late-to-the-party/

la famille b

This film tells the story of a girl who comes from a deaf family but discovers she has an amazing singing voice. Apparently, there was some criticism over the whole premise of the film and cast but I just watched it at face value without being aware of some of the issues behind the scenes. That’s possibly a failing on my part…

There are so many other films that I could have mentioned in this post. Perhaps another time?

I’d really love to know if you have seen any of these films? If you have, what was your opinion of them? And, of course, can you recommend any more French film to me?

 

 

 

 

 

C’est chic…?!

Well, hello lovely readers! I do hope there are still some folk reading this blog. It seems to have been an awful long time since I wrote my last post. It’s mainly a question of life getting in the way – especially where family is involved.

Anyway, I’ve been planning this post for some time and it’s mainly thanks to one of my favourite bloggers, Catherine https://atypical60.com/ She is a very funny, feisty and opinionated American blogger who happens to have a French husband. She loves France, too and has some interesting thoughts about French style.

Why chic? ‘Chic’ is a word that is bandied about a lot but what does it actually mean? I decided to do some research via the dictionary.

Here’s what I found: ‘elegantly and stylishly fashionable’.
“she looked every inch the chic Frenchwoman

And there’s the rub. Is this a myth, a stereotype or the truth? Chic is an adjective often applied to French women and you only have to look on Pinterest, for example, to see countless boards telling us ‘How to be Parisian’ or ‘How to dress like a French woman’.

 

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But, as someone who has a home in France, I have to tell you that not every French woman is chic. I love people watching and I am on the look out for some local chic French women so that I can take their photo and put them on this blog, assuming they don’t mind! Unfortunately, I haven’t spotted any yet… I think this is because there is not a lot of money in the area where we live and perhaps all the chic people are at work… If we go to the nearest city, Toulouse, there are lots of chic and stylish people around but there are also lots of people who are less so. Toulouse is a university town and has a feeling of affluence, so perhaps this is the reason.

I believe that ‘chicness’ – is there such a word? – varies considerably from town to town, place to place, country to country. I know of Italian, Spanish, Brazilian, Indian (I could go on) women who are incredibly stylish. There are even some in the United Kingdom!! JOKE…

But, I would suggest that there is a classic look that we ascribe to French women; including simple black dress, white tailored shirt, trenchcoat, striped top … Ah, striped tops. We all know of my love of the striped top!

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https://wordpress.com/posts/fancyingfrance.wordpress.com?s=breton+tops

But is this accurate? Anecdotally, when I was working as a primary languages consultant, in the UK, I was observing a French lesson and I heard one of the pupils comment that I must be French because I was wearing a striped top! Vive les stéréotypes!

While looking at the original definition of chic, I decided to look at synonyms for this word. What should appear but ‘stylish’? If you put ‘French style’ into a search engine, page after page are available to tell women how to dress like a French woman. I’m sure this advice is all very helpful should that be your goal but, as far as I am concerned, it is more important to find one’s own style, whatever that may be. I feel I’m going off on a bit of a tangent here…

As a more mature woman, I do get fed up with being told what I can or can’t wear because of my age. Not that I take any notice! A subject for another blog post, perhaps?!

As I’m beginning to ramble and this post risks turning into a dissertation, I’ll finish by saying that there are certain French style ‘icons’ whose style I do admire. These include Coco Chanel, Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Hardy, Juliette Binoche, Ines de la Fressange but there are many other style icons I could name who are not French.

I’d love to know your thoughts about French style and French ‘chicness’ ! Is it a myth, a stereotype, a generalisation or the truth?! Do please share!

 

 

 

Fancying France…the Fringe!

This intriguing  odd title for a blog post, came to me on the train home from Glasgow. It has nothing to do with my actual fringe ( known as ‘bangs’ I believe, in the US! ) which is in dire need of a trim, but everything to do with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I don’t have a bucket list. Do you? But there are many places I haven’t visited and activities I haven’t tried…yet. Going to the EFF was one of these. As a Brit, I am ashamed to say that I have never been to Scotland until this week. Mr FF was playing hockey in a ten day tournament and it was a great opportunity to watch him play. What I  really mean is that it was a great opportunity to visit Glasgow and Edinburgh, especially as the Fringe Festival was taking place!

We stayed in a modern and well equipped Airbnb flat in a part of Glasgow called Glasgow Green.

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This was a very convenient area, well located for the city centre and the hockey venue!

As we had limited time, we decided to take advantage of an open-top, hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

http://www.citysightseeingglasgow.co.uk/

I think this is a brilliant way to get to know a new city. We hopped off to visit Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis. IMG_0144

The Necropolis may seem a strange place to visit but this vast multi-faith cemetery, modelled on the Père-Lachaise graveyard in Paris, has amazing  views over the city of Glasgow, as well as being very interesting in its own right.

The photo below is from the website of the Friends of the Necropolis. Here is the link to their website in case you would like to find out more.

http://www.glasgownecropolis.org/

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And then there was Edinburgh!  But where to start? It was the seventieth anniversary of the Fringe. The atmosphere was amazing. So many people; different ages, different races, different styles but all set on enjoying themselves and everything that the festival had to offer.

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Our strategy (?!) was to try to experience events across the art forms. We started with political stand up, went on to a female a Capella group and then to Shakespeare,  enjoying an abridged version of a Comedy of Errors. This was followed by a brilliant comedy drama set in an evening class. Our final choice was an experimental dance performance; probably my least favourite show. On top of this were all the street performers – fire eaters, musicians, dancers et al.

It was totally brilliant to have experienced the Fringe Festival, even if was for such a brief visit. I really hope we’ll go again but next time we’ll plan a bit more with what we want to see and aim to book some events in advance.

Do you have a bucket or an unbucket list? Have you been to Glasgow or the Edinburgh Fringe? I’d love to know!

 

Encore…le Canal du Midi

AllAboutFranceThe inspiration for this post, came to me while walking beside the Wey Navigation Canal, last week. It was a circular walk starting and finishing at Guildford via Farncombe Boat House. It’s a great walk, probably about 10 miles, with an optional stop for tea and homemade cake, at the boathouse. Very delicious cake as well!

Here are some photos I took on the walk:

 

I was walking with a former teaching colleague and updating her on our French home in Castelnaudary. As I’ve said too so many times, I love the Canal du Midi and one of the reasons we bought our house is because it backs on to the Canal.

Here are a variety of photos of the Canal du Midi I have taken around Castelnaudary:

 

I am always amazed that the 150 mile (240 km) long canal was actually constructed during the reign of Louis XIV. I find it incredible that such a feat of engineering could have been undertaken at this time.

The construction lasted from 1666 to 1681 and it was Pierre-Paul Riquet who designed and built the canal to transport wheat, wine and textiles. It took 12,000 workers and, apparently, a large part of them were women. It opened on May 15th 1681.

The Canal du Midi became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Here is the ‘Justification for Inscription’ by UNESCO.

The Committee decided to inscribe the nominated property on the basis of cultural criteria (i), (ii), (iv) and (vi) considering that the site is of outstanding universal value being one of the greatest engineering achievements of the Modern Age, providing the model for the flowering of technology that led directly to the Industrial Revolution and the modern technological age. Additionally, it combines with its technological innovation a concern for high aesthetic architectural and landscape design that has few parallels. The Committee endorsed the inscription of this property as the Canal du Midi clearly is an exceptional example of a designed landscape.’

I also found this clip about the Canal produced by UNESCO


Have you ever visited the Canal du Midi? Perhaps you’ve rented a boat and travelled down the Canal? Or maybe you’ve cycled beside it? I’d love to know!

I’m sharing this post with #AllAboutFrance. This is the place to find lots of interesting blog posts which all have a French focus.

Tea and cakes

Sounds very English? Or maybe I should say British? Perhaps not particularly French, either way?

I love tea! Earl Grey or peppermint ( or is that really an infusion?) but, above all, my tea tipple of preference, is good old ‘Builder’s tea’. There are no food or drink items I take to our French home, except for tea bags; not just any brand. For me, it has to be Yorkshire tea bags.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love strong, black coffee, too. We always stock up for our return to the UK. However, I think there is nothing more comforting, thirst quenching and delightful than a cup of tea.

I’ve written of my need for tea before:

Shock, horror, shame…

And the cake?

 

These are some of the cakes sampled by my nieces while staying in Castelnaudary, last week. They don’t drink tea but they certainly appreciated the patisseries!

My sister tried a cake that I had never come across before: un Paris Brest.

 

It is made of choux pastry and a praline flavoured cream. For my taste, it has too much cream but in case you fancy making some, here’s Mary Berry’s recipe from the Great British Bake Off:

http://thegreatbritishbakeoff.co.uk/marys-paris-brest/

Do you have a favourite tea and cake? I’d love to know…

Fragrance…

…Or is it Perfume?

I love perfume. I have for as long as I can remember. A spritz of perfume can cheer me up, transport me somewhere else and bring back happy memories. It’s part of my identity.

Do you have a signature perfume? What do I mean by this? My closest friend has a perfume that she always wears. Wherever I am, if I get a whiff of this scent it makes me think of my friend. For me that’s a signature perfume. I don’t have a true signature perfume – yet.

My earliest perfume memory is Aqua Manda which was around in my teenage years.   I remember it as spicey and oriental. While ‘researching’ this post, I discovered – to my surprise – that Aqua Manda is available again, mainly on line.IMG_0133

The next perfume that really struck a chord with me was ‘Biba’. How I loved this perfume! I was lucky enough to work in the large Biba store, as a temporary retail assistant, when I was a student. I was so disappointed when this perfume was no longer made. Interestingly, there are several Pinterest boards which are dedicated to the Biba brand.

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I then experimented with several different perfumes including: Obsession, Opium and Poison. The names say it all! I loved them all but lots of people didn’t as they found them overpowering, heady and heavy. My students used to say that they knew if I’d recently walked down the school corridor!

IMG_0135For a long time, Oscar de la Rente was my go-to perfume but currently it’s La Vie est Belle. How long will this one last?

To me, France and Perfume are synonymous. Think of Chanel No 5, for example. An iconic French perfume. There are so many other famous French perfumes that you might fall asleep if I mention them all!

And, what about perfume for men? My youngest son has already discovered his signature fragrance; Bleu de Chanel. A great choice, in my opinion. As he’s twenty, this might change, of course.

I have never visited – yet – Grasse. This town, in the South of France, is famous for its perfume industry. I’ll add it to my list!

One of the most interesting and unusual books I have read is ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’. The author is Patrick Süskind. Set in eighteenth century France, it tells the story of Jean – Baptiste Grenouille. It’s a dark, disturbing read but certainly original.

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The book was made into a film, starring Ben Whishaw. It’s not for the faint hearted and received very mixed reviews but I found it to be a compelling if challenging watch.

This post seems to have rambled on quite a lot already and there’s so much more I could say about perfume but what I’d really like to know is whether you have a favourite or signature fragrance. Or perhaps there’s a perfume that you really can’t stand. Either way I’d love to know!