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!

Advertisements

Wind…

Our French house is in the Aude. Aude is one of the windiest regions in France. Some say the windiest. We didn’t know this at the time we bought our house. Maybe all the windmills should have given us a clue! If we had known about the winds would we have changed our minds? I don’t think so.

Depending on what you read, you will be told that the Aude has about 300 days of wind a year. This is because the region is affected by an amazing variety of winds from all points of the compass.

Winds, in France, are given names. The most famous one is the Mistral. This particular wind doesn’t affect us, it is more prevalent in Provence.

However, the wind that dominates the most, in our area, is called the Tramontane. It blows from the north-west and is a powerful, cold wind. It channels through the narrow corridor between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central. It is created when high pressure from the Atlantic meets the low pressure of the Mediterranean. (I knew my geography ‘O’ level  would come in useful one day!)

The Marin is another prevailing wind which blows from the south-east  and the Mediterranean. The clue is in the name. It brings damp and wet conditions.

My research has led me to discover another wind called the Cers. It is dry and cold in the winter but hot and dry in the summer. It is created by the cool, damp air of the Atlantic being forced down from Toulouse as it heads for the sea. I could be wrong but having typed this, it’s sounding remarkably like the Tramontane… Maybe someone will enlighten me!

The Sirocco – the wind, not the car – blows from the south and brings hot, dry and dusty air from Africa. This wind can leave a fine layer of sand in its wake. This has been carried from the Sahara.

The impact of the winds is evident in our local town. Castelnaudary once had numerous windmills. In the seventeenth century there were 32 windmills in the town. After the Canal du Midi was constructed there was a growth in the number of flour mills. Castelnaudary, being the main port between Toulouse and Sete, exported wheat and flour. One can still see evidence of this as one walks around the town. The most ‘famous’ windmill is ‘Le moulin du Caugerel which has been fully restored.

C0E96930-F400-4AF0-98F5-C7628F82F5F3

Castelnaudary-tourisme

You can see others that have fallen into disrepair.

 

 

Or have been converted into homes.

 

 

Aude is now an important centre for wind produced energy using wind turbines.

3E9F23C6-3EA4-4289-A826-45CE663568FC

pexels.com

I’ve got used to the wind – mostly. It’s useful when you want to dry clothes quickly and can help to fan the air when it’s blistering hot.

Rumour has it that the wind can affect people and animals in many strange ways, similar to the impact of the moon.  This may or may not be the case but as a former teacher, I do remember our pupils would always be very excitable, noisy and jumpy  on a windy day! A bit like horses, really.

Red squirrels and Hoopoes

There are many things I love about our garden in France. I like the informality, the trees, the light, the birds and the wildlife.

I particularly love the red squirrels. I still get overly excited every time I see one. I have seen red squirrels before, both in France and on Brownsea Island, in the UK. However, this just doesn’t compare with having them in your own garden. They are delightful. It’s  so entertaining watching them chase each either round the tree trunks or stood stock still holding a nut in their paws.

My attempts at capturing them in a photo have failed, so far. This one is from pixabay.com

1505EA00-7CFB-4022-9976-0A3CA5B8115C

In the UK we have many grey squirrels, or ‘tree rats’ as one friend likes to call them. She is not a fan! They seem like giants compared to the ones I see here in France which are so much more delicate. Luckily, the red squirrel is protected in France, although there is a fear that the greys may head this way, via Switzerland. They were brought to Italy  in the sixties from the States, as a novelty. Let’s hope they don’t!

We are in Aude but in nearby Hérault, two squirrel bridges have been constructed from rope. These are known as ‘ecuroducs’ and enable red squirrels to cross two major roads in safety.

As a child, I can remember reading ‘Squirrel Nutkin’ by Beatrix Potter. Later I read it to my siblings and later still to my sons. I wonder if that has anything to do with my affection for red squirrels…

the-tale-of-squirrel-nutkin-beatrix-potter-peter-rabbit-library-book-2-dust-cover-1995-2269-p[ekm]299x397[ekm]

I am equally thrilled when I see a Hoopoe bird (huppe in French). The hoopoe is a very striking bird to look at.  It has a beautiful and unusual crest on its head. It makes me think of it as the punk of the bird world! It is about the size of a Thrush, with a long, pointed bill.

Again, I have attempted several photos but none of them do justice to this gorgeous bird . Here is another one via pixabay.com:

31118A8B-D69E-4431-BFDB-87994C26AA4E.jpeg

Previously, I have seen hoopoes in other parts of France and also in Gran Canaria. However, nothing compares with seeing them foraging around our garden. One extremely stormy day, we even had a thoroughly soaked Hoopoe chick sheltering on our kitchen window sill. We were delighted when its parent continued to feed it until the storm had abated and the chick had dried out and was able to fly away.

In the UK, I get a thrill from other wildlife and birds that appear in our garden; woodpeckers, a buzzard, bats and goldfinches, for example. Wherever you live, what do enjoy seeing most in your garden?

 

 

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?

DE0AD779-E0BC-4CE1-8DB6-AB0452028F3E

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.

BB395C80-F2A0-402C-9466-26668435AE9B

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

8F366FEE-51BD-49D1-B4E4-840BAA863B07.jpeg

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.

13regions

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.

594A8995-0A0B-491D-A450-8099B607DEE2

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.

CB011267-96D6-4451-A516-F07BD9C9E6D7

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.

08338530-83C5-46D0-B342-FB02234082CF

IMG_0056

572C60E0-2E8F-4F41-B9D4-DFFA039F493D

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!

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!

F4186199-5B76-424B-BCB2-B6B76124A7BD

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!

Fancying France: looking ahead

FECC1195-41C3-4D6B-A396-F2E41EF6B558

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

IMG_0168

  • C’est chic…?!

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

blog

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.