What a fascinating word! It is also written as Oudh.

How should it be pronounced? I’ve tried to find a YouTube clip or an audio file from an online dictionary so that I could share an accurate example of the pronunciation. There were so many variations that I couldn’t find just one!

I pronounce it as ‘ood’ but I’ve also heard other people say ‘owd’. Some people replace the d with a t sound.  There’s also the Arabic pronunciation.

What is oud and why am I rambling about it?!  I’ve written before about my love of perfume


and about French perfume commercials:


and I’ve recently discovered that I’m very attracted to oud based fragrances.

I’ve always been a fan of intense perfumes like Poison and Opium. Lately, I’ve found myself drawn to more ‘masculine’ perfumes. I was given some Molton Brown toiletries and was surprised how much I liked their shower gels which are marketed for men, the woody and spicy ones.

But what is oud? It is derived from the agar tree which is said to have originated in India and grows throughout Southeast Asia. When the tree is infected by a particular mould, it reacts by producing a fragrant resin which is the source of oud. It is an extremely expensive ingredient and is sometimes called liquid gold. Having looked at the price of some of the oud perfumes, I can see why!


Oud based fragrance can be described as warm, woody, smoky and potent. My favourite review described the scent as not being for the faint hearted!!

Rose is often matched with oud and this leads me to my latest purchase.


This I bought in Marks and Spencer for twenty two pounds. As I had some vouchers to use no actual cash was involved. I’d tested this on a previous occasion and I just liked the fact that it was so different. When I first put it on, it’s very ‘heady’ but it changes to a warm and original aroma which is surprisingly long lasting. A little goes a long way. I haven’t had any feedback from friends of family, yet…

Strangely enough, it turns out that this week is National Fragrance Week. I had no idea when I started this post.

If you’ve tried any oud based perfumes I’d love to know!




Ce n’est pas Le Pont Des Arts…


This is a photo I took during my recent holiday in Gran Canaria. Engraved padlocks had been attached to this wire fence which runs along the beach side promenade. The sea was much bluer than it looks in this shot!

Seeeing the padlocks reminded me of the Pont Des Arts, in Paris which is sometimes known as the ‘Bridge of Lovers’. Have you ever been there?

There are many stunning bridges in Paris but this one had a specific romantic meaning for lots of people. Many couples would buy a padlock, engrave it with their names, the date and a short, romantic message. They would then attach it to the bridge and throw the key into the Seine. I must admit this is something I have never done but I have noticed that inscribed padlocks are now appearing all over the place.



As today is Valentine’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to tell you more about the Pont des Arts. This bridge connects the Louvre to the Institut de France and is pedestrianised. It’s an iron bridge that became famous for the thousands of padlocks that were attached to the structure. The first love locks started appearing in 2008 but the trend spread very quickly and by 2014 there were about 45 tonnes of padlocks weighing down the bridge. This put a massive strain on the bridge’s infrastructure and eventually one of the railings collapsed.



By this time, Parisians had fallen out of love with what was perceived by many locals as a tacky tourist attraction. The authorities were equally concerned about the safety of the bridge and on June 1st 2015 all the padlocks were removed. It has been estimated that over one million padlocks were taken away. The railings have now been replaced with glass panels.

Have you seen lovelocks either in Paris or elsewhere? Do you think they’re a romantic symbol or a bit of an eyesore? I’d love to know! Happy Valentine’s Day !

I am linking with #AllAboutFrance. Do go and have a look if you want to discover lots of interesting blog posts which all have a French theme!


Bérets…do you?

Like them? Wear them? Associate them with The French? It was this headline that caught my eye:

‘Berets, Unapologetically French And Unapologetically Chic’ (Elle UK).

No surprises there, with the inclusion of the words French and Chic!

I’ve written before about stereotypes associated with France and the French, including wearing striped Breton tops, carrying baguettes and, of course, wearing berets. Over the years, I’ve seen very few French people wearing berets ( although I have seen plenty of striped tops and baguette carriers!!) and on those occasions I have they’ve tended to be sported by older gentlemen!

Bérets have been around  for a very long time. Depending on which source you read, the béret can be accredited to Noah or the ancient Greeks but the ‘modern’ beret is said to have originated in the Basque region.

I asked my youngest son what he associated with the word ‘béret’. He came up with worn by ‘the military and pretentious artists (!).’

He’s probably right up to a point. Picasso, Marlène Dietrich, Faye Dunaway and so many other painters, actors, singers have been pictured wearing berets. Whether this makes them pretentious, I have no idea! There are many other celebrated beret wearers.  Too many to mention in one blog post!

The beret has also been used to symbolise revolution; as worn by Che Guevara for example.

My first encounter with a béret was as part of my Brownie uniform. Haha! Luckily, I don’t have any photos of me wearing, what I considered to be the most hideous outfit. For someone with olive skin, a brown dress, accessoried with touches of yellow, did me no favours at all!


I managed to find this image on Pinterest. It is almost an exact replica of my Brownie uniform. I believe that the Brownie uniform is much more practical now.

What about bérets as a fashion item? I must have been scarred by my Brownie Uniform Beret as I have never worn one since I was eleven. Apparently bérets are back in fashion. I know for some people they have never gone away. Penny, who writes the blog:


wears a beret (and other hats!) with aplomb. Do have a look!

I’m actually thinking that I might be brave and try a beret. I’m sure I’ll be able to find one in  charity (thrift) shop. I’ve found a video that might help me with styling my béret:

Sadly, there is only one historic beret factory left in France: Laulhère. The Laulhère company has become something of a French institution… It’s the last remaining  factory producing distinct and 100% homegrown French berets, which it’s been doing for 200 years. Having survived the threat of bankruptcy, the company is now growing and its berets are even worn by princesses and movie stars.

I’m looking forward to hearing from all those beret wearers out there!


French Perfume Commercials – oui ou non?

Has anyone else noticed the weird and, not necessarily, wonderful perfume adverts that abound on television at this time of year?

I’ve written before of my love of fragrance:


but this love doesn’t always extend to some of the bizarre perfume commercials that are all over our screens at Christmas.

By the very nature of perfume, it is difficult to convey its essence without actually smelling it! I have read  descriptions of perfumes which describe them beautifully but when you actually get to try them they may not live up to expectations.

French perfume adverts are particularly ‘over the top’ in my opinion. Although it’s not only the French ones. Gucci Bloom, I’m talking about you!

Many of these fragrance commercials feature celebrities. My favourite perfume, of the moment, is ‘La Vie est Belle’. Julia Roberts is the star of the advert for this fragrance which is set in Paris. Neither of these facts have any effect on my perfume choice. I actually sniffed the fragrance on someone else, liked it and decided to see if it would work for me. My ‘research’ (looking on Debenhams website) tells me that the ‘stunning glass bottle’ , which contains the perfume, represents the shape of Julia Roberts mouth. Really?? I had no idea.

Another perfume commercial, also shot in Paris, is Coco Mademoiselle which stars Keira Knightly. It involves her riding on a motorbike through the empty streets of Paris – that must be a first! I mean empty Parisian streets, of course! Without getting into too much deep analysis, I imagine that KK is representing a strong, powerful, independent and beautiful woman. Is the inference that if we buy this perfume, we are demonstrating our similar characteristics? Or am I overthinking this?!

Finally, I’m singling out the latest Jean Paul Gaultier perfume: Scandal. This is a relatively recent advert which – guess what! – is located in Paris. The story, behind this commercial, is of Madame la Ministre. She works for the government during the day and parties (or worse?!) in Pigalle at night. My research tells me that this perfume ‘embodies day and night’ and that the star of this commercial is a Hungarian model. I have yet to try this.

There are so many other perfume adverts I could have included but three are probably enough for one blog post!

What do you think? Do perfume commercials encourage you to try or buy? I’d love to know…


What animal is this?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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…


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.



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!

GBB 4.htm

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!



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…


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!


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?…