One Bad Apple

I wanted to share this thoughtful and beautifully written post, at this sad time…

Taste of France

IMG_5518It seems impossible to ignore the sad events that came to my beloved town.

They are uncharacteristic. As I have remarked before, this is a small, sleepy town where young children and old ladies walk around on their own with no problems. It’s not as gentrified and Disneyfied as the villages of Provence that attract droves of tourists and where real estate is now out of reach for people with modest salaries, like teachers. Carcassonne, and the region around it, remains modestly rooted in the past.IMG_5824On Friday, I was in Trèbes. Not in the supermarket, though we shop there often. But I was in the crowd on the corner, as close as the gendarmes would allow. Many of the people gathered were immigrants. The older people were livid that a young delinquent was bringing unflattering attention to their community. They had businesses. They loved France.IMG_4637Later, I…

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3 recent reads and 3 French series

I love reading. I always have. I think reading is one of life’s greatest pleasures. However, I’m very lazy about reading in French. I love to speak French, listen to French and even write in French but I don’t sit and read a French novel anymore. I think that might be because I studied French literature at A level and then as part of my degree. Or is that just an excuse?!

There are three books I have enjoyed recently. My favourite is ‘Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine’. This is the first novel written by Gail Honeyman. I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved this book. It made me laugh but also brought a tear to my eye. I found it original and beautifully written and I haven’t come across anyone who hasn’t enjoyed it – yet!

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The second book is ‘The Trouble with Goats and Sheep’ by Joanna Cannon. This is also a debut novel and takes place in the summer of 76; one I remember well. It is in part a thriller, in part a story of coming of age but also about the nature of friendships. This book appears to divide opinion, according to the reviews I have read, but it is one I definitely enjoyed.

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My final recent read was ‘Swing Time’ by Zadie Smith. I have read, and enjoyed, her books previously. This book focuses initially on the friendship between two mixed race school girls, in NW London, in the 1980s. The themes of race, class and gender are visited and overall, it is very well written. However, although the book started really promisingly, I struggled to get to the end – although I did! Again, reviews and opinions are divided on this novel.
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I might have been lazy about reading in French but this hasn’t been the case with watching French television series! Have you ever watched Spiral, or Engrenages, as it is known in French? There have been six series and they were shown, in the UK, on BBC4 on a Saturday night. It is a gritty police drama which takes place in the Parisian suburbs. The main characters are complex and flawed and the acting is fantastic. We are also offered an interesting insight into the French judical system and the way it works. Although some of the action is a bit gruesome, I found Spiral to be totally addictive and I cannot recommend it enough.

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My next two series are part of Walter Presents which is showcased on Channel 4 and All4. Walter selects a range of foreign language dramas, not just French. If you enjoy ‘Scandi noir’, I’m sure you’ll be able to find something to watch.

The first series I’m going to talk about is called ‘Vanished by the Lake’ (Le mystère du lac). It was filmed in the very beautiful Var region and is centred on the return of a woman detective, to her home town, to care for her mother. The day of her arrival, a neighbour’s teenage daughter disappears. The circumstances are similar to the disappearance of the detective’s two closest friends when they were teenagers.

No where near as gripping as Spiral but an engaging watch, nevertheless.

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My second series from Walter presents is Dead Beautiful (Les Dames) and stars Thierry Goddard (who was outstanding as Gilou in Spiral) playing a Parisian detective, Martin – bit of a theme going here! He is on the hunt for a particularly nasty murderer who targets women and uses a crossbow. Alongside the crimes, we get an insight into Martin’s complex love life – how very French!

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Quite a long post from me, this time. Congratulations on making it to the end! I’d love to know what you’re been watching and reading.

Oud

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

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

and about French perfume commercials:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2017/12/20/french-perfume-commercials-oui-ou-non/

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!

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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.

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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!

 

 

What am I…?



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A mother, wife, sister, friend, teacher and a blogger.

And this is just for starters! I could extend this list, of course, but you might just be wondering what it was that prompted this philosophical train of thought in the first place. It was, in fact, an online quiz which asked “ what kind of blogger are you?”

You may well be thinking that I should already know the answer to that question! However,  participating in the quiz did lead me to reflect on blogging, in general.

I do love blogging and I love reading other blogs, as well. I have my favourite blogs, those blogs to which I return again and again. These blogs cover a variety of themes but they also share a commonality. They are all beautifully written and with humour. Essentially, they don’t take themselves too seriously.

The focus of my blog may be on France but I enjoy reading blogs about fashion and beauty, food, animals, travel, health and fitness, homes and gardens and much, much more besides.

I am definitely not a professional blogger! These are bloggers who make money from their blogs. Blogging is their occupation, their income. They put in the time and effort to make this happen. Good luck to them!

In an earlier post:

https://fancyingfrance.wordpress.com/2018/01/04/fancying-france-looking-ahead/

I explained why I blog and I had some very interesting responses.

And, just in case you were wondering, here is the result of the quiz I mentioned at the start of this post:

You are a:

Lifestyle Blogger
You live life to its fullest with wisdom, grace, and charm. People look up to you as an example. You know a little bit about everything and are always willing to help others out. You seldom lose your cool and always stay in control.

Hahaha 😂

Your turn now! What are you?

 

Ce n’est pas Le Pont Des Arts…

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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!

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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:

http://frugalfashionshopper.co.uk/french-style-and-two–berets/

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!