What animal is this?

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Is it an otter, a beaver, a giant rat or something else?

Well done, if you said ‘coypu’ or ‘ragondin’!

Neither of these possibilities were actually on my radar until I saw them swimming in the Canal du Midi. I thought they looked quite cute. However, further research would suggest that for many people this is not the case.

Coypu are native to South America and were originally introduced to France and the UK for their fur. They have webbed rear feet and orange coloured front teeth.

They are  semi aquatic rodents who  feast on vegetation and burrow into river banks. Both these actions can cause serious damage to the environment.  They also carry leptospirosis. These are just some of the reasons they are viewed as pests.

There are a variety of ways in which these animals can be culled but I won’t go into the various methods in this post.

I have never seen it on any menus but my research came across several possible recipes for ragondin. These included pâté and stew… Not sure myself.

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This is a photo of a local coypu I took recently. This coypu was alongside the Canal du Midi towpath and very close to the port in Castelnaudary. He – or she – didn’t seem at all perturbed by the passerbys on foot or boat.

Have you seen a ragondin/coypu? What do you think about them: a pest or cute? I’d love to know.

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It only took a year …

To get to visit the workshop-gallery of an artist whose work we have admired from our first stay in Castelnaudary. His name is Jean Luc Lafitte but his artistic name is Lu.

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Art is subjective, as is taste. We first saw Lu’s work in our favourite restaurant. As we go there most weeks, we have had plenty of opportunity to look at his work. They are the sort of canvases in which people see different things. They are also have texture. I always want to touch them. This is because the paint is applied with a spatula, trowel or whatever else might come to hand.

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The gallery is in a village on the way to Carcassonne. Jean Luc recently  moved into his new premises and is still at the organisation stage, as you can see from my photos! He is a larger than life character. We took to him immediately. He runs workshops too, including some for children with special needs and adults with disabilities.

 

It took us ages to decide which canvas to purchase. And here it is!

The photo and lighting don’t really do it justice. Neither does having it propped up on the radiator. It looks much more effective on the wall! Can you spot the unicorn?! That’s one of the shapes I can see…

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We bought it back to the UK and whenever we look at it, we have a reminder of our French home. It’s certainly very different from our more traditional Canal du Midi photograph or Eric Ravilious print.

I am linking up with the very brilliant #AllAboutFrance. If you want to read a wide variety of posts, all with a French theme, do have a look here!

Les Jaffa Cakes!

Are you a fan of the Great British Bake Off? Even if you don’t live in the UK, this popular television programme has been sold all around the world. So, it’s quite possible that some of you will have seen a version of this much loved show. Do share if you have!

There was some controversy recently when the production company that make the Bake Off sold the programme to Channel 4. Previously, it had been shown on the BBC. There was a huge outcry, especially as three of the (mainly much loved) four presenters/judges were going to be replaced.

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At this point, I must confess, I was one of the doubters! How would it ever be the same, I wondered.  This didn’t stop me viewing  the first episode on Channel 4 and from then on I was hooked!

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Courtesy of Channel 4 Facebook

I first saw the French version of GBBO, a couple of years ago. I found it fascinating and wrote a post about what I had seen. A post that proved to be very popular!

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https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/le-meilleur-ptissier-or-the-great-british-bake-off-french--bake-off-french-style/  

I was delighted to catch up with the latest season of ‘French Bake Off’ recently. I had, inadvertently, tuned in for biscuit week. I love a cup of tea, preferably accompanied by a biscuit. I never really associate biscuits with France. In my head, it’s all about their cakes.

What intrigued me this week was the ‘Technical Challenge’ . The contestants were asked to make 36 Jaffa Cakes. My first thought was: why? I’m not a fan of Jaffa cakes, although you may well tell me that you love them. Plain Chocolate Digestives are another matter…

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As you may be able to guess, the poor bakers had never seen, nor heard of, a Jaffa Cake. One might ask – should they have? Nevertheless, it made for very entertaining viewing. The whole episode lasts for two hours, so I have tried to find the section in which the Jaffa Cakes are judged. It is in French but it is very clear from the expressions of the judges what they think of the various attempts to make a Jaffa Cake!

https://www.rtl.be/tv/rtltvi/replay/06-11-2017-le-jaffa-cake-degustation

I’d love to know if any of my readers saw this episode! Are you a Jaffa Cake fan? And are they cakes or biscuits?…

 

 

An unplanned visit…

You might be wondering where I went. Could it be to an undiscovered Cathar Castle, a fabulous wine domaine for some tasting or a Michelin starred restaurant?

Infact, it was to the vet. This was a first for me. I have never been to a French vet before. Our foster cat had a sore paw and, after contacting the lovely Moira from the SPA, it was felt that we should hot foot (!) it to the vet, in Carcassonne.

This particular veterinary surgery is linked to the SPA and treats their animals when needed. I was so impressed with the set up of the surgery and, dare I say, with the rather lovely vet who had, in my opinion, the kindest eyes…Strangely enough this wasn’t noticed by my husband!

As we suspected, our foster cat had an infection in her paw. She was given an antibiotic injection, plus a follow up course of liquid antibiotics and an antiseptic spray for her poorly pad.

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I am pleased to report that she is already on the mend. However, I had forgotten how difficult it is to give medicine to cats. I think we are now regarded as the ‘spawn of the devil’!

Fortunately, she is a very laid back cat and holds no grudges.

I also need to point out that if you foster a cat for the SPA, all bills from the vet are covered #prettyamazing

As you can see, Mischka is back to assisting with my blog …

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French foster cat has landed…!

I have written before of my love of dogs and about my volunteer dog walking at the Carcassonne SPA. On reflection, there are very few animals that I dislike. I have had cats in the past, although I would probably describe myself as more of a ‘doggy person’ if pushed!

Last week, there was an emergency situation, at the rescue centre, which resulted in me returning with an unexpected kitten and everything she might need: travel basket, bed, litter, litter tray, food and toys.

We have even had the honour of naming her. My husband came up with ‘Mishka’. After some research, he discovered that in Hindi this means ‘gift of love’.

She has had her first vaccination and we will be looking after her until it is time for her second one. Then, she will be ready to be adopted by her long term family.

I’d forgotten how much time can be spent stroking, cuddling, entertaining  (or as I prefer to say ‘socialising’ ) a kitten! I’m convinced that Mischka thinks she’s a dog, as she follows us around the house.

Friends and family have expressed their concern about how I will feel when it is time for her to leave. However, as I have known, from the outset, it’s a fostering situation, I’m prepared. I think…

As we are still dividing our time between the UK and France, it really is the best solution.

And I’m sure there might be more kittens, cats or even puppies, on the horizon!

 

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder….

Do you agree?

This phrase was the focus of a recent lesson with my advanced English conversation class. We had been talking about stereotypes and cultural similarities and differences.

The well-known expression, has been accredited to Plato and Shakespeare, amongst others, but it was Margaret Wolfe Hungerford who is widely acknowledged as coining the saying in its current form.

Not long ago, this YouTube clip popped up on my Facebook feed, thanks to Diane who writes this great blog:

https://ouiinfrance.com

This clip showcases 100 years of beauty in France. Which was your favourite clip? I found it difficult to select only one but if you forced me, maybe the 1920s…most of them have their merits.

There are also lots of stereotypes around French beauty. You only need to search the internet to find all kinds of information about how to look like a French woman. Red lips? A bob haircut? Tousled Hair? How would you describe French beauty? In my opinion, French women wear less make up (huge generalisation?!) or maybe they are experts at applying a natural make up which, as we know, takes ages to apply!!!

So, back to my class. We concluded that beauty is very much based on culture. I was reminded of a previous post I wrote:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/french-women-dont-have-facelifts-beauty-standards-around-the-world/

I included a video clip of journalist Esther Honig. She sent her photo around the world and asked for it to be retouched according to the beauty standards of a range of countries. The results are fascinating. Clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, according to their culture.

I’d love to know your thoughts. I had some fantastic responses to my post on ‘French chic’. I’m sure you’ll have opinions on beauty!

 

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/

Happily, since I first wrote this post, Kalou has been rehomed.

I am linking this post with #AllAboutFrance.

Do have a look if you want to read lots of interesting posts connected with France.