Fancying France: looking ahead

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Photo by Myriams-Fotos. Pixabay

Happy New Year! Bonne Année!

I don’t make New Year resolutions. Do you? But I do have some plans for my blog. Before moving forward, I thought it might be interesting to look back over the last year of Fancying France.

Just to clarify, I am not a professional blogger – as you may be able to tell! I’ve always enjoyed writing and this blog fulfills my creative side. This blog is not my business, it is written purely for pleasure – mine! Although I have to admit that nothing thrills me more than knowing that someone else has taken the time to read my ramblings. A mega thanks, too, for all the comments I have received. This is one of the most delightful aspects of blogging, connecting with other people, all over the world.

Top three posts of 2017: in reverse order!

dog rescue

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  • C’est chic…?!

https://wordpress.com/post/fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2717

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This post has had many more views than any other I have ever written, since I began this blog. Interesting!

Blogging plans for 2018?  I must update my ‘about’ page. This was written when my dream was to have a home in France and now we do! I really should get a new (better) profile photo too.

I tweet and pin! What next? I’m thinking Instagram. After all, it’s important to keep learning and trying new blog related things. Do you have any recommendations?

Currently, I’m starting each morning with a cup of warm water and lemon and trying to drink more water but I’ve had these intentions so many times before that I’m purposely not calling them resolutions!

I’d love to know any NY resolutions you may have, blog related or otherwise.

 

 

 

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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:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2017/08/01/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?

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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.

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!