Leading a double life

This might sound more interesting than it actually is in reality. I’m not a secret spy, nor do I have a second Mr FancyingFrance tucked away somewhere!

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I am a Gemini so that might have something to do with any duality I may have, if I was totally convinced by signs of the zodiac.

On the other hand, I am lucky enough to have two homes and divide my time between S.E. England and S.W. France. I do consider our French house to be a second home rather than purely a holiday house but there are distinct positives and  challenges to maintaining and travelling between properties.

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Our French house

I’m also mindful of the fact that there are people who don’t have a home at all and that I was fortunate to have inheritances which financed the French property. Although it is never truly fortunate when a family member or friend is no longer with us.

What’s it like to lead a double life?

  • It means travelling quite a lot. Sometimes by car, sometimes by plane. If we fly it’s between  Toulouse and Gatwick. I’ve become a truly light flier as I don’t have to transport any toiletries or clothes as I have some in each place. If we drive, we allow two days and have a found the ideal hotel, for a one night stop over, outside Tours.
  • It involves adapting to a different pace of life, according to where I am.  In France, I feel more as if I’m on holiday. I don’t rush around as much as I do in the UK as I don’t have the same extensive network of family and friends.
  • It necessitates switching between languages. I believe this is very good for my aging brain! There was a time when my French was fluent. I even used to dream in French! This isn’t the case anymore but I’m working on it.
  • It entails adapting to cultural differences in terms of food, shopping, etiquette and more besides. We eat out more frequently in France and always buy food from the local market.
  • It results in us modifying our behaviour. In France, I am even more polite. I do have a bee in my bonnet about saying please, thank you, holding doors open for people and so forth. I have been told that I am too polite. How is that even possible?! When I meet people in France, we always shake hands or kiss on the cheek, depending on how well I know them. When I go into a shop, I always say ‘Bonjour Monsieur, Madame,’ etc. This is the norm. I wrote about the ‘kissing dilemma’ here: https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2015/07/08/faire-la-bise-to-kiss-or-not-to-kiss/

These are just some of the aspects of my double life. I’ve read somewhere that everyone leads a double life to some extent, that we all have a public and personal persona. This was certainly the case when I was a teacher!

Do you lead any kind of a double life? I’d love to know!

 

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Ghost signs

Are you familiar with ghost signs? I only recently became aware of this  phenomenon when a friend posted some photos of local ghost signs, on Facebook. From then on, I was hooked.

What is a ghost sign? I searched for a definition and I concluded that it is basically the remains – usually faded – of a painted advertising sign on a building.

If you want to find out everything there is to know about ghost signs, I would recommend the brilliant website:

www.ghostsigns.co.uk

Mr Ghostsigns (blogger Sam Roberts) also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You might be wondering where is the French link?

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Well, I’m now on the hunt for ghost signs in France. Here is one in Castelnaudary.

I have seen others but they’ve either been when I’m driving or when I would have to stand in the middle of a busy road to get a decent shot. I’m now a woman on a mission, so watch this space!

In the meantime, here is an interesting sign I spotted in Toulouse. As it is not painted, I’m not sure if it counts as a ghost sign but I like it anyway.

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Here’s a similar one which is on the wall of a former flour mill.

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I’m still not one hundred percent sure how to translate ‘ghost signs’ into French. Are they ‘les murs peints publicitaires’ or ‘les publicités peintes’? I’m hoping someone out there might be able to enlighten me.

My hunt for ghost signs will continue. Does anyone else find them fascinating? I’d love to know!

3 enchanting places to visit in Occitanie…

You may well be thinking ‘why only three?’ In fact, I could be easily writing about thirty three enchanting places to visit in Occitanie, if not many, many more. But I’ve decided on three because our eldest son and his girlfriend came to stay for a few days, recently, and these were places we visited with them.

First some history! Occitanie, the administrative region, was created on 1st January 2016 from the former regions of Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées.

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Graphic from Pinterest

This large area has it all – varied landscapes, fascinating architecture, interesting culture, stunning sights and of course, sunshine!  Festivals, markets, gastronomic delights…shall I go on? In that case: the Pyrénées, the Canal du Midi, Mediterranean beaches… I’m beginning to sound like a walking tourist board but I’m obviously biased because this is the area we chose to buy our house!

The first must see place is Toulouse. We have visited several times and I only wish I had got to know Toulouse sooner. It really is the most fantastic city and is often referred to as ‘La Ville Rose’ (The Pink City) because of the colour of the bricks that are used in many of the buildings.

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I would certainly recommend Toulouse for a long weekend or a city break. Whatever your tastes, there is something for everybody: retail therapy, culture, history, art, cafés and so much more. I love walking and there are several self guided walks one can enjoy around the city. All you need is a good map (available from the tourist office) or leaflet. The leaflet we used last year cost about 1 Euro with a choice of five varied walks. We managed three of them; one focused on the historic centre of Toulouse, another took us to the green areas of Toulouse, including a section of the Canal du Midi, as well as several beautiful public gardens and, last but not least, possibly my favourite, along the banks of the Garonne, from one side to the other.

More on Toulouse in the future.

My second enchanting place to visit, in Occitanie, is Carcassonne. In particular, la Cité. We first visited a few years ago, in August. Big mistake! It was unbelievably hot within the city walls and unbelievably crowded.

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However, when we visited with our son and his girlfriend everything was perfect! The first view of the citadel is breath taking. It resembles a fairy tale castle and it is rumoured that it was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.  In reality, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage in 1997.

There has been a settlement where the Cité now stands since before Roman times and it has certainly suffered through the ages. It has been besieged, burnt and neglected. Although you wouldn’t think so when you see it now. This is because it was restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the nineteenth century. Some people are of the opinion that he ‘over restored’ the citadel, as several of the features he included, such as the pointed roofs on the towers and arrow-slits would not have been there originally. You will have to visit and decide for yourself!

In the meantime, do have a look at this video which was put together by Crème de Languedoc

My third enchanting place is possibly overusing the adjective ‘enchanting’ but I still feel the need to include it – Castelnaudary! My son and his girlfriend had no choice but to visit this small town because this is where we have our home. Obviously I am biased but it was standing looking at the views over the Canal du Midi, towards the port, that really enchanted me in the first place.

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Have you ever visited this part of France or any of these places? If you had to name three enchanting places that you have ever visited, anywhere in the world, which would they be? I’d love to know!

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!

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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.

 

 

 

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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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!

 

 

 

An Indian … in Toulouse!

I do love Indian food, either as a take-away or in a restaurant. In the UK , I think it’s fair to say that we do love our Indian grub! However, I can’t remember ever having eaten in an Indian restaurant, in France. To be honest, it would never occur to me! On the other hand, I love North African food and when I was living in France, I used to eat it regularly.

Vegetarian food is another love of mine but I have yet to discover a vegetarian restaurant in Castelnaudary! So, when my husband met me at Toulouse airport last week and told me were going to eat at an Indian Vegetarian restaurant, in the city, I was very surprised.

The restaurant in question is called ‘Manger autrement’ and here’s the link to their website:  http://www.manger-autrement.com/  just in case you ever happen to find yourself in Toulouse and longing to have an Indian vegetarian meal!

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This is the meal I had; a thali. This is made up of a selection of dishes and is served on a round metal or steel platter. Each dish was served in a small bowl called a katori. They included rice, dahl (a lentil based dish) mushrooms and mixed vegetables. This was accompanied by a chapati ( a type of flatbread) . I have to say this was probably the best chapati I have ever eaten!

Overall, I enjoyed our meal. It certainly was a different experience! My only – slight – criticism would be that I found a couple of the dishes to be slightly bland for my taste buds. This could be because I usually go for the more spicy curries. Controversially, dare I suggest that the spicing may have been adapted for a French palate…?

Have you ever been to an Indian restaurant in France? I’d love to know!

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