Monday market, Castelnaudary.

I love wandering around a French market. I always have! You might be wondering why? To me French markets are a symbol of  French life and tradition. Not to mention that they are colourful, lively and full of tempting goods and interesting characters.

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Photo by Dennis Dude: freeimages.com

Our local market takes place on a Monday morning and I would say it’s fairly typical of a small French town market. It has local produce as well as products bought in from further afield. You can buy fruit, veg, wine, cheese, meat, bread, eggs and many other food items.

You can see, in the photo below, that the school holidays have already begun in France!

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There are also stalls selling clothes, shoes, belts and other accessories. Not forgetting tools, kitchen items and baskets. Here is the basket I bought a couple of years ago. I mainly use it for transporting all the materials I need for my English lessons but I do take it to the market as well.

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Markets are not necessarily cheaper than supermarkets and you are likely to pay extra for quality and freshness but you can’t put a price on the atmosphere!

When I first visited the market in Castelnaudary, I was overwhelmed by the choice. Although I knew it would be a useful indication to look out for the stalls that have queues.

Luckily one of my English students, who is very much a local resident and has been for many years, offered to give me an insiders guide to the market. We met up bright and early and she introduced me to the stalls that offered the best local produce (in her opinion!) and also to some of the stall holders. Very useful!img_0174.jpeg

The stall pictured below has local produce. One of the clues is in the sign. Castelnaudary is in the Aude department of the Occitanie region. This was formerly known as Languedoc Roussillon. This area is well known for its link to the Cathars. I am fascinated by the history of the Cathars. Perhaps a future blog post?

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The stall above only sold two products: apricots and nectarines. It was very popular and had a long queue. As Brits, we are stereotypically known for our queuing abilities. I have to confess that I find it hard to accept the inability of some nationalities to queue ‘properly’!!

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I was most impressed by the person in front of me. She took out her brown paper bags for reuse.

The original market was, and still is, held in the Place de Verdun. It has recently been renovated but remains a shady square edged with shops and cafés .  This is just one part of the market which extends into the Place de La République.

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The square and surrounding streets also have  some interesting and decorative 18th – 19th century grand townhouses. Not in these photos, however!

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As we walked from Place Verdun, we looked up to see these colourful kites.

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To make the most of the market, we had got up early and going from stall to stall is hungry work. We decided a pain aux raisins and a strong coffee was needed.

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It was now time to make our final purchases, a jar of honey and a rotisserie chicken.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed a brief glimpse of our local market.

Espadrilles

I probably bought my first pair of espadrilles when I was a student in France. This was partly because I thought they would make me look more French and also because they were cheap! I have been wearing them ever since. Not the same pair!!

My latest espadrilles were purchased very recently. They have a wedge heel and they are very comfortable. There was a time when I wore ‘Killer heels’ but those days are long gone. I liked this style so much that I bought two pairs, one navy and one black!

79C043DD-7AA2-4725-81EA-63DD6D8FB94CEspadrilles have been around for centuries. They can be traced back to the 13th century to the Occitane and Catalan areas of France and Spain. Apparently, the name of the shoe is derived from the word ‘esperato’. This is the type of plant that was used to make the very recognisable espadrille sole.

Known for their practicality, espadrilles were worn by soldiers, workers and priests, amongst others.

When we were in Perpignan recently, we visited an exhibition which focused on the Sardana, the Catalan national dance. We saw photos of the dancers wearing espadrilles with ribbon ties.

Espadrilles did not stray far from their place of origin, in the Basque country, until the 19th Century when they started to be sold, in much larger quantities, in the French city of Mauléon. At this time, the shoes were hand-made by inhabitants of local villages and collected door-to-door.

Between 1850 and 1880 the method of production progressed from traditional to pre-industrial. From 1880 onwards espadrilles were manufactured in factories using machinery that was adapted over time.

Even today Mauléon is a hub of the espadrille industry, although not as big as it once was. If you are ever in Mauléon you can always visit their factory and shop if you want to buy some authentic espadrilles. If you have a look at the clip at the end of this post, you can find out more.

Another famous producer of espadrilles is the Spanish manufacturer Castañer. This company was founded in 1927. But it was a meeting with Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s, at a Parisian trade show, that lead to the creation of the first wedge espadrille. The pair below are from the current Castañer range and are in the sale at 156 euros. Bit out of my price range but they are fun!
021182-4145-1Espadrilles are worn by women, men and children. Salvador Dali often worn a pair of black ones with laces. He isn’t the only ‘celebrity’ to wear them, of course. Rita Hayworth, Lauren Bacall, Don Johnson (star of the original Miami Vice) are just a few of the stars who have sported espadrilles across the years.

Are you a fan of espadrilles? Or perhaps you don’t find them comfortable or stylish? I’d love to know!

 

French doors but why are they French?!

This was the question that I was asked by one of my closest friends. (You know who you are!) Unfortunately, I didn’t know the answer. Time for some research.

To me, French doors are full length doors, usually with small panes of glass, which open directly from an indoor room into a garden. Nowadays, we are more likely to talk about patio doors.

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I looked up the dictionary definition. According to the Cambridge English dictionary, French doors are ‘a pair of  glass doors usually opening from the back of a house into  its garden’.

The Collins dictionary says this ‘a pair of casement windows extending to floor level and opening onto a balcony, garden, etc.’

Neither tell me why French doors are called French.

However, my research tells me that the origin of French doors can be traced back to the 16th – 17th Century and the influence of Italian Renaissance design. As this was prior to electricity, light in houses was very important or, more importantly, lack of light! Therefore, a window like door with full length glass panes would let in more light.

French doors actually started as floor length windows that led on to small balconies, usually on the upper stories of homes.
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Over time, these doors were to be found on the ground floor where they are still popular today.

Does these mean that French doors are actually Italian?!

In our French home, we have a total of 5 sets of French doors. I love them because they let in so much light and air. In the photo below, three sets can be spotted.

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Are you a fan of French doors or do you prefer modern patio or bifold doors? I’d love to know.

36 hours in Perpignan – worth the visit?

Absolutely!

But what I’d like to know is if you have a list of places you want to visit?  Maybe in your home country or further afield? In the UK, for example, I have never visited the Lake District (I am ashamed to say!) yet. Further afield, India would be top of my list.  Here, in France, my wish list of places to visit seems to get longer by the minute. This brings me to Perpignan.

I have wanted to visit Perpignan for ever. It was even one of my choices when I did a teacher exchange. Therefore, I was delighted when we actually spent some time there, recently. We took the train from Carcassonne which goes all the way to Barcelona. It’s a fabulous journey and only takes an hour as it is direct.

Perpignan station is famous for its links with Dali.  He claimed that he was inspired simply by sitting in the station’s lobby. In 1963, Dali said that Perpignan  station was ‘the centre’ of the world. He later created a painting entitled ‘La Gare de Perpignan’  which hangs in the Ludwig Museum in Cologne.

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Leaving the station, we decided to head into Perpignan for a coffee and croissant and as we wandered into the city centre (about 15 minutes walk) we walked past the statue of Dali ‘en Levitation’. He is seated on a high red chair, outside FNAC, on the Place de Catalogne and facing towards the train station. The FNAC shop is located inside the original ‘Dames de France’ building which was opened in 1910.

I’m a fan of ‘hop-on, hop-off’ buses when arriving in a new city for a short visit. These aren’t available in Perpignan. We did the next best thing and caught ‘Le petit train’. The journey lasts for about 50 minutes and takes you around 34 of the main sites. Mr FF doesn’t share my enthusiasm for these ‘little trains’ but he had to admit that this was an excellent introduction to Perpignan.

After the train, we dropped our bags at our hotel. We often stay in Airbnb’s but, on this occasion, had opted for a hotel as we would be there for only one night. Location was important, as we would be doing a lot of walking! Our  hotel ‘Campanile Perpignan Centre’ was situated opposite a lovely park: le square Bir Hakeim.

Our room overlooked the old city walls.

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There was so much to discover and only limited time. This is what we manged to see:

  • Le Castillet 

This is a distinctive red brick tower and the only remaining one of the old town walls. It was built in 1368 to repel invaders and serve as a gate into the city. It was turned into a prison in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Casa Pairal Museum is located in the Castillet. The highlight, for me, was the views from the top of the monument. There are 142 stone steps to get to the top but it’s definitely worth the effort!

  • Le cinema Castillet

This is round the corner from Le Castillet and was completed in 1911. I loved the art nouveau style and this cinema is said to be one of the oldest and most beautiful in France.

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  • Le Palais des Rois de Majorque 

This magnificent 13th century palace was built as a residence for Jaume 11 of Mallorca. Perpignan has strong Catalan roots having belonged to Spain for long periods of its history. It only became French in 1642. Street names in Perpignan are written in French and Catalan.

To reach this impressive palace, there are  zig zagging steps until you reach the beautiful gardens. Here there are breath taking views of the Pic du Canigou. The day we went, entrance was free. I don’t know why. I believe it normally costs 4 euros; well worth it. We opted for the self-guided tour and there is plenty to see.

  • Cathedrale St-Jean Baptiste

On the day we visited, there was a small, family service taking place but we were still able to appreciate the nave, side chapels and stained glass. The foundations were laid in 1324 but it was elevated to cathedral status in 1601. The style is Gothic and the dimensions are impressive.

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There are many beautiful squares in Perpignan where you can people watch and enjoy a coffee, beer and a snack. We were there on a beautiful, warm sunny day. Perfect!

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This brings me on to food. There is no shortage of restaurants in Perpignan. As we were only there for one night, it was quite difficult to chose! In the end, we decided on Casa Santa which is known for being the city’s best Catalan restaurant. It was established in 1846 and is very popular. The inside is best described as ‘intimate’ as there isn’t much space between the tables. We didn’t mind as the food was extremely good! I was enjoying my meal so much that I forgot to take any photos. Here’s one from the restaurant’s Facebook page. I’m sure they won’t mind as I’m singing their praises!

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I’ll finish with a selection of photos which I hope will give you a further flavour of Perpignan. We certainly didn’t manage to see and do everything and we will definitely go back as we enjoyed the city so much!

Have you visited Perpignan? What did you think? I’d love to know!

 

Lou Messugo

Happy St Honoré Day!

Today is the 16th May and something I was reading recently drew my attention to the fact that this means it is St. Honoré Day.

Almost every day in the French calendar has a saint allocated to it. Some days even have more than one.

You might be wondering what is so special about St Honoré? In a nutshell (mixed metaphor alert!) he is the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. He was born in Amiens, N France, where he later became Bishop in the 6th Century.

After St Honoré died, processions were held in his honour and, according to legend, water shortages and floods ceased. This resulted in excellent wheat crops and henceforth he became the ‘favourite’ of all bakers!

In the 17th century, he was made the patron saint of bakers and pastry chefs. In pictures, he is often seen with a baker’s peel (a flat, shovel-like tool used by bakers to slide loaves of bread, pastries etc in and out of an oven) and loaves of bread.

You may have heard of a ‘Gâteau St Honoré’. This is most likely if you are a fan of ‘The Great British Bake Off’, as it was a featured showstopper bake in one of the series! This cake was invented, in Paris, in the 19th century. It is a ring shaped pastry which is filled with Chiboust cream (crème pâtissière and Italian meringue) and topped with small cream puffs glazed with caramel. To finish more whipped cream is used to decorate.

Ugh! I’m sorry but this is not my kind of cake. It is far too sweet and I don’t like cream. Although I do appreciate that it’s a special occasion cake and takes a lot of skill.

I’m more of a ‘tarte au citron’ person.

Have you ever tasted a ‘Gâteau St Honoré’ or even made one?

If you’re tempted – you’re a braver and more accomplished baker than I am – here’s a video that may inspire you.

 

 

Sunshine Blogger …

…Award! 

I’ve been nominated. I can’t tell you how surprised – and delighted – I am.

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Enzo Martinelli who blogs at https://enzomartinelli.wordpress.com/ nominated me. I would recommend his blog and not just because of his nomination – haha! His blog is called ‘Travel, good food, arts and more’ and, as well as blogging on a variety of topics, Enzo is multi-lingual. Do have a look!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is peer recognition for bloggers that inspire positivity and joy. What a lovely thing!

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. Answer the questions given by the blogger who nominated you.
  3. Nominate other blogs for the award and ask them some questions.
  4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award Logo on your blog.

Here are the questions from Enzo:

  1. What do you enjoy most in blogging?
  2. What has been your most successful blog post and why do you think it was such a success?
  3. What was your happiest moment in life so far?
  4. What is your little wish you would like to come through the soonest?
  5. A day on the beach or a day exploring a city?
  6. Where would you like to travel next?
  7. What is your favourite season and why?
  8. Eating what food brings to you some happy memories about your childhood?
  9. Who is your favourite historical character and why?
  10. What is the piece of music that brings back to you happy memories?
  11. If you could go back in time when would you like to live?

Here are my answers:

  1. I love the writing process and connecting with other bloggers.
  2. My most successful blog post was ‘C’est chic?’ I wrote about the stereotypical French woman. This post certainly received the most views and provoked a lot of  comments! https://fancyingfrance.com/2017/09/26/cest-chic/
  3. The births of my boys!
  4. Getting another dog … or two
  5. Exploring a city
  6. India
  7. Spring. I love to see nature springing (!) into life
  8. Steak and Kidney Pie
  9. Difficult to answer because there are so many. I’ll go for Emmeline Pankhurst
  10. Again, so many but probably ‘Maggie May’ Rod Stewart
  11. I’m quite happy to stay where I am, thanks!

Now comes the difficult part! Nominate other bloggers and ask them some questions. (Depending on where you look, the rules say up to 11  bloggers). I recently wrote a post ‘5 Brilliant Blogs’. https://fancyingfrance.com/2019/04/11/5-brilliant-blogs/  Now, in theory, I should just be able to nominate all these lovely bloggers. However, some of them have already been nominated – quite rightly, too!

Here are my nominations:

And here are my questions:

  1. How did you come up with the name of your blog?
  2. Why did you start blogging?
  3. What do you like most about blogging?
  4. Do you have any advice for new bloggers?
  5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
  6. Dogs or cats?
  7. Tea or Coffee?
  8. What does your family think about your blogging habit?

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I hope you have enjoyed this post and that it will enable you to discover some fabulous blogs. I’m always open to suggestions for other blogs I should read!