La rentrée

September has always been a significant month for me. I think this is because my career has been based in education. I see September, and the start of the new academic year, as an opportunity for a fresh start. I used to look forward to a new timetable, new classes and new stationery! As a pupil, a student and a teacher, I always loved getting new pens, folders and pencil cases. I still enjoy going into Paperchase now!

This September has meant a return to Castelnaudary after two months in the UK, catching up with friends and family. Our French house hasn’t been empty, our eldest son and seven friends spent a week there, before travelling on to Barcelona. It was an international gathering as there were four English guys and four Brazilian girls!

Then our youngest son and five friends were the next to have a holiday here. As they are all students, it was great for them to be able to have a break in the sun without breaking the bank! They were able to relax and enjoy the pool and, by the look of our cellar, have the odd bottle of wine … or six!

As a result, we have also ‘inherited’ a rather nice barbecue and an interesting selection of inflatables, plus a variety of footballs, basketballs and rugby balls!

When we returned to Castelnaudary, we found our garden had morphed – yet again – into a field! Truly, I’m not complaining, although it might sound like it. It’s just one of those things that happens when you are lucky enough to have a second home. When we left our home in the UK, our garden was looking so tidy and well cared for. We were even complimented by our neighbours! Yet, we know, by the time we get back, it will be back to square one. Still, gardening is a brilliant form of exercise…

We’ve had some gorgeous weather since we returned. Look at those blue skies!

img_0154

img_0155

You can just catch a glimpse of the pool. The water temperature is a very pleasant 25 degrees! The shrubs in the foreground are oleanders. I was delighted that they survived being hacked pruned by Mr FF.

img_0153

 

One of the first things I like to do, on our return, is check the Canal du Midi is still at the end of our garden and then visit the port. This rather moody looking shot, was taken while eating breakfast outside a new boulangerie that has recently opened. The colour is really quite odd and, yet, I like it!
img_0152
Of course, la rentrée is really all about the return after the long, summer holidays. This could be a return to school, university or even work. In my case, I was delighted to return to teaching my English conversation classes. These take place in the rather grand (from the outside) Palais de Justice.

tribunal

I often think that September is the perfect time for me to make some blogging resolutions. I’ve been meaning to update my blog for some time. I need to update my profile and photo. However, my main aim is to change to a self-hosted blog and I think it’s time I changed the appearance of my blog, too. Watch this space!

 

 

 

Advertisements

La fête du cassoulet

Last weekend was the annual ‘fête du cassoulet’, in Castelnaudary. This year, we weren’t able to go as we were back in the UK, avoiding the heat – haha! Epic fail…

F449583A-ECB0-4C41-86BC-45D542C66EA8

Castelnaudary is known as the capital of cassoulet and credited with inventing this dish. However, Toulouse and Carcassonne may well dispute this fact! I’ve written previously about this French style ‘sausage and beans’

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2015/11/03/cassoulet-or-sausage-and-beans-french-style/

The cassoulet festival takes place during the last weekend of August. Not the ideal time for eating a hearty casserole containing duck, goose, sausage and beans, in my opinion! I do love a cassoulet, and cook them myself, I just prefer eating this dish when it’s cold and I need comfort food.

la-belle-epoque

We have attended the fête du cassoulet before and it was great fun! The sleepy, little town of Castelnaudary really comes alive. Of course, it’s full on holiday season and the Canal du Midi is awash with tourists.

The festival is organised by the ‘Grand Confrérie du Cassoulet de Castelnaudary’. Confrérie translates as ‘Brotherhood’ but probably equates more with a guild. The Castelnaudary Cassoulet Brotherhood was founded in 1970 to protect the quality and standard of cassoulet.  I hasten to add that there are also women in this Brotherhood! They all wear special robes and a hat which is shaped like a ‘cassole’, the dish in which Cassoulet is cooked and served. They even have a hymn to praise cassoulet which is sung in the local Occitan language.

BB5AEFF1-0C18-497C-9987-36580BCE9808

This is a screenshot of their website. Do go and have a look if you want to find out more and even listen to the Cassoulet hymn!

Although we didn’t make it to the ‘fête’ this year, we were able to glimpse the essence of the celebrations through this video:

Have you ever eaten Cassoulet?

If you do happen to be anywhere near Castelnaudary, next summer, I recommend that you go along to celebrate the twentieth Fête du Cassoulet!

 

Encore…Barcelona

Our trip to Barcelona was relatively short; five days, four nights. Could we have stayed longer? Definitely. Would we go back? Of course!

We researched quite carefully in which area of the city we wanted to stay. We booked last minute so our choices were limited. Initially, we had wanted to stay in an AirBnB but, as it turned out, we ended up in a hotel. The location was important to us and so we decided to choose Gracia.

Until the 1800s Gracia was actually a separate town until it was subsumed by Barcelona and it definitely has the atmosphere of a village. There are plenty of local people, of all types and ages, and we loved wandering through the narrow streets and leafy squares.

6CE36706-658B-4B72-903F-839945FC284B

Vila de Gràcia

It feels safe and there are a wide range of cafés and restaurants to try. There are lots of interesting, individual shops and I would be more than happy to stay there again.

As well as Gaudí, another famous son of Barcelona is the artist Joan Miró. We decided to visit his foundation which is located in Montjuïc Park. We took the funicular which is the fast way up! What struck me most, as we wandered around the exhibits, was the variety. There were paintings, collages, tapestries, ceramics and more. I was so intrigued by Joan Miró’s work, I didn’t take any photos.

86F4B9B2-3E1C-4414-9FDC-D16219ABA0AF

Exterior of the Foundation


D0570F38-BBA3-4AFA-AE1D-6938F2110CFB

On the roof terrace


40BE377D-C923-45F4-A48B-E1EFB1FAFF6E

6F106972-94BA-4D97-8003-1DA99A7ABC24

With stunning views across to Barcelona

We very briefly visited the beach when we hopped off the sightseeing bus but it was mainly so get a snack! We only managed to catch a glimpse of Port Vell  and the yachts that were moored there. It looked as if it would be worth further investigation when we return to Barcelona.

The one thing I haven’t mentioned is food and drink in Barcelona. We did have tapas, of course, and my particular favourites: patas bravas, tortilla, bombas.

Pan con tomate is a ‘must-have’, Catalan speciality, el pa amb tomàquet!” (bread rubbed with tomato). It is exactly what it says; toasted bread rubbed with garlic, tomato and a drizzle of oil. Tasty!

I can also recommend white sangria! This was another new experience for me and I found it delicious. There are many variations and ‘recipes’ that can be found on the internet. I had intended to take a photo of our jug of white sangria but I was so busy enjoying the flavour that I got distracted!

One final and very random thought after my visit; how people love their dogs in Barcelona! The two most popular breeds appeared to be greyhounds and golden retrievers. But the greatest surprise was the lack of dog poop on the streets. In fact, I didn’t see any. A vast difference to France.

After my first post on Barcelona, many readers commented on their own visits to this exciting city. Others have Barcelona on their bucket list. Either way, I’d love to read your thoughts!

Lurking in my cupboard…

I’m talking about one of the cupboards, in our kitchen, in France.

I was surprised to find this:

D8635FDA-CAC6-4CD2-ABFE-0D579BD60A0D

Possibly not the most glamorous piece of kitchen equipment I have ever seen. A Moulinex and not modern by any stretch of the imagination. But do you know what it is?

93B6BC5E-2D8B-4AE3-BFC8-35775948FC93.jpeg

I think in modern terminology this is called a citrus juicer but, as you can see from the photo, this piece of equipment is far from modern!

5DB10587-AD2B-45B4-8498-DD87CC1FB89C


It does produce excellent fresh orange juice and it very easy to clean. Always a bonus, I reckon.

My family tease me about my love for a gadget. This is true. In the past, I have had a juicer and, more recently, I bought one of these all singing, all dancing ‘nutrient extractors’. I made smoothies and juices and a lot of mess. Some were lovely, some made me feel like vomiting. Apologies if you are of a sensitive nature. I know I should worship at the altar of kale but it just doesn’t do it for me.

My nutrient extractor is languishing in the UK. I’m sure I’ll pass it on to a family member or friend as soon as I can find someone who would like it.

88f35fcb-8ac9-4810-bab6-147cc6fe2da6.jpeg

I also found these bits and pieces…  My research – via EBay – tells me that I might have the remains of a Charlotte 3 or 4.

Are you a fan of gadgets? Do you have a favourite? I’d be interested to know!

Ce n’est pas Le Pont Des Arts…

9B816C12-980A-4FCD-9E5D-3DF9FBDC8470

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.

65139E1A-B3C9-4335-8808-2BC910869024

Pixels.com

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.

B7CBE6BD-B7E7-4BB9-BB2F-B53C15A965D1

Pexels.com

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!

 

Happy National Croissant Day!

I couldn’t miss the opportunity to wish you ‘Happy National Croissant Day’! January 30th is International Croissant Day. This is a new celebration for me. One which comes from the States, apparently.

Although, to be honest, I’m more than happy to celebrate croissants every day. Especially if they happen to be almond croissants!

8F046BB1-1965-4548-B1BB-2D6423BD1F2D

The croissant was originally created in Austria. The shape is based on a crescent moon which features on the Turkish flag. Why? Travel back to 1683 when the Ottoman Empire laid siege to Austria. The Turks decided to tunnel beneath the city walls.The Viennese bakers who were working in the basement, heard the sound of digging and alerted the army who defeated the Turks. In celebration, they baked their bread in the shape of a crescent moon—the symbol of the Ottoman Empire – and created the Kipferl. This croissant arrived in France in 1770. Marie Antoinette, who was Austrian, was feeling homesick. The French bakers decided to make her favourite pastry which became known as the “croissant”.

Of course, it’s difficult to know exactly how much of this is fact and how much is fiction!

Are you a croissant lover? Do you have a favourite croissant? Savoury, perhaps? Or are you a purist who prefers a classic, butter croissant? Are you a dunker? I’m definitely not!

 

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.

GBB

BBC

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!

1891527-le-meilleur-patissier-max1024x768

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…

CED75FF9-6297-4515-8927-27521204A7EB

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?…