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!

 

 

 

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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!

 

Dogless in France

I love France. I love dogs. I was brought up with dogs.

Our sons were brought up with dogs.

These are last two family dogs: Cassie, our beautiful Flatcoat Retriever and Brillo, our rescue lurcher.

However, we are currently dogless. This is for lots of reasons; we are virtually empty nesters, we spend a lot of time travelling between SW France and SE England and we are only too aware of the responsibility in taking on another dog…or two!

To fill the gap we decided to become #Trusted Housesitters. This is an organisation which ‘connects home and pet owners with trustworthy animal lovers who sit for free.’ I quote! I can thoroughly recommend Trusted Housesitters should you want to travel and look after animals. Equally, if you have pets and don’t want to put them in kennels, this could be ideal. Here’s the link to their website:

https://www.trustedhousesitters.com/how-it-works/

Our first sit was for two beautiful young Border Collies and our second! In fact we’ve stayed friends with the owners of the collies and we still meet up for walks and meals.

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Next, we looked after a gorgeous labradoodle, two budgies and a geriatric rabbit!

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We’ve also looked after my sister’s Blue Heeler puppy, a friend’s long haired, white, German Shepherd and the young cats which belong to my son and his girlfriend.

This has helped to fill the dog shaped hole in our lives…to some extent…!

However, I have discovered that there is a dog rescue centre, in Carcassone,  where I can volunteer:

http://dogrescuecarcassonne.co.uk/

I have volunteered at a rescue centre, previously.  And, yes, we did end up with a rescue dog! He lived with us until he was sixteen.

This post was originally intended to be about breeds of dogs originating from France but I appear to have sidetracked myself!

Here are two other dog related posts I wrote  earlier:

This one is about dog poo! Yes, really! Or rather the lack of picking up that is generally done in France:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2016/05/27/i-need-to-talk-about-dog-poo/

And this one is about the naming of dogs in France:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2016/04/23/naming-dogs-french-style/

I still like to think a dog(s) is out there for us somewhere!

Are you a dog lover? Do you travel with your dog?

 

 

 

 

 

Tiles, the tip and trailers

…and probably too much alliteration!

Back in the UK and feeling sad about all the hideous events that have taken place here recently. I take comfort in family, friends and the mundane…

…Such as the repairs to the roof on our house in Castelnaudary. The work  began a couple of weeks ago; just in time for the heatwave.

Our roofers began work before seven each morning, in an attempt to avoid the main heat of the day, and we made sure there were plenty of cold drinks available.  One of their main tasks was to replace all the broken and cracked tiles, then clean the whole roof and secure all the tiles properly.

Here’s a finished section:

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It looks so light and clean!

We also seem to be visiting the local tip on a fairly regular basis – we know how to have fun! My husband more than me. When I do go, it’s always interesting to observe the comings and goings. Our tip is run by a very petite and highly efficient woman. This is vital to avoid trailer rage!

Apologies for the rather ‘less than exciting’ photos which were taken from the car, on my phone. At least the sky is a beautiful blue!

Trailers…I have never seen as many trailers as I have in our local area. Is it because we are relatively rural? Or is it related to the French love of camping? Perhaps someone can enlighten me?!

 

 

Jean Dujardin … late to the party?,

Me, that is, not him, obviously.

At this point, I must ‘fess up that I have never seen ‘The Artist’ (for which he won an Oscar) nor ‘The Monuments Men’.

 

 

But I have seen ‘Un homme à la hauteur’

homme a l'hauteur

Or ‘Up for Love’ as it is called in English. Some of the English reviews of this film were less than enthusiastic, especially about the special effects used to ‘shorten’ Jean Dujardin. The implication being that it would have been better to cast an actor who is genuinely small. Nevertheless , I thought it was a really charming film. Perhaps I’m just a real romantic at heart or easily pleased! But Jean’s smile… well, what can I say? And those eyes… I think you get the idea!

I really enjoyed the soundtrack, too. It introduced me to the music of Emilie Gassin which I didn’t know before.

Have you seen this film and are you a Jean Dujardin fan? It would be really interesting to know!

I am linking this post to #All About France. A great place to discover lots of interesting blogs with a focus on France.