Doors and more

I was having a look through my photos, especially those taken since we bought our house in France. I have quite a collection of photos of doors and door knockers. Why you might ask?  I think it is probably because when I am here, I take more time to look at my surroundings and appreciate the smaller details.

 

This is one of the first photos I took in Castelnaudary.  

We were staying in a rented house and getting to know the area.

I was fascinated by this old house, the imposing front door and the amazing statues.

 

This door is less ancient and not as visually striking as the previous front door …

 

…but it’s ours!

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This is the door to the local lock-keepers house, on the Canal du Midi.

Another ancient and imposing door in the old town in Castelnaudary.

Take a look at the door knocker!

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This door belongs to another old house in Castelnaudary. It stands alongside the Canal du Midi port.

You may have noticed a similarity among the door knockers. The first one, in the photo below, was taken in Barcelona, the rest in France. They all represent ‘la main de Fatima’ or ‘Fatima’s hand’. Fatima was the daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. Door knockers shaped like her hand were believed to protect the inhabitants from the ‘Evil Eye’. Originally, they also indicated that someone of the Muslim faith lived in the house. The traditional design of the Fatima’s hand door knocker may have the added detail of a a ring, lace cuff or a bracelet. I really like them!

With thanks to one of my favourite bloggers: francetaste who inspired this post!

Bohemian Rhapsody

Last week I went, with Mr FF, to see the Queen biopic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’. We are currently in the UK and as it’s quite unusual to find a film that we both want to see, we thought we would seize the moment! I must confess this is mainly down to me, as I have quite a specific taste in films, whereas the other half is much more open minded. 

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I was a student in the 70s and Queen’s music was a backdrop to my studies. I must confess that originally I wasn’t a huge fan of their music. I preferred Deep Purple, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, to name a few, but I soon began to appreciate Queen’s music a lot more.

When my sons were young, Queen was the background music on long car journeys, particularly when we drove to France. To this day, they still remember most of the lyrics to Queen’s greatest hits! 

I already knew that the film had been years in the making and that there had been lots of production problems. The original actor selected to play Freddie Mercury, Sacha Baron Cohen, left the film after ‘creative differences’ with Brian May – allegedly. 

I was also aware that the film had been panned by the critics, although loved by film audiences. It is a two hour celebration of Queen, their music and the phenomenon known as Freddie Mercury. I cannot put into words how much I enjoyed this film. Rami Malek who plays Freddie was amazing in capturing the essence of Freddie. I was also blown away by Gwilym Lee who plays Brian May. I would never have guessed that he had played John Barnaby’s sidekick in Midsomer Murders.

My one recommendation would be to take some tissues! I wasn’t expecting to feel as moved as I did, on many different levels.

I don’t have many regrets but I do have one in relation to Queen. I was invited to see Queen perform at Wembley. I said ‘no’. What could I have been thinking?!

Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? What did you think? Are you a Queen fan? I’d love to know…

And here’s the original Bohemian Rhapsody video; so original and mind blowing…

Food waste: UK versus France

The short video below caught my eye. It worries me how much food is wasted, in the UK and elsewhere, of course. I try to ensure that at home, we waste as little food as possible. I also try to be mindful when I shop and in the way I cook.

I find it shocking that surplus food is destroyed by supermarkets, rather than being donated.

France was the first country to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they must donate it to charities or food banks. A ‘no brainer’ in my opinion.

It is the western world that wastes the most food. Unsurprisingly, as they are perishable, fruit and vegetables are the most likely to be wasted. However, there is plenty of help out there if searching for ideas for avoiding food waste, including recipes: https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Here’s the link to the video just in case there is any problem with playing the one above:

https://youtu.be/78SKLw9KaB0

How do you deal with food waste? Do you have any useful tips to share? I’d love to know.

God save the Cakes!

This is the intriguing title of Episode 4, Season 7, of ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’. This is the French version of the ‘Great British Bake-off’.

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Although I have watched and blogged about ‘Le Meilleur Pâtissier’ before, I haven’t been watching this current series. It was the title and the trailer for this particular episode that caught my eye. If you have been watching this year’s Great British Bake Off, you may remember pâtisserie week. I guess ‘God Save the Cakes’ is the French equivalent.

The format is much the same, as in the UK, with a signature bake, a technical challenge and a showstopper. The French bakers had to make apple pies, a royal trifle and a cake that represented one of the Queen’s hats.

The French version of apple pie was unlike any apple pie I have ever seen and was designed by Cyril Lignac. Unfortunately, I have been unable to download a picture of Cyril’s apple pies, although you could always Google them. Instead, here’s a photo of Cyril! 35B8DCDB-F542-4691-806E-1DC86C8239F5
The technical challenge was to make a ‘Royal Trifle’. I enjoy a traditional trifle but a royal trifle was new to me. The challenge was set by Mercotte, a French version of Mary Berry, and a food blogger, critic and cook, in her own right. Her website has some lovely recipes. It is ‘La cuisine de Mercotte’ at Mercotte.fr  

Below is Mercotte’s Royal Trifle. Mnnnnn… Someone on the programme did liken it to a jellyfish! The recipe is available on her website.

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The final challenge was to make a cake to represent one of the Queen’s hats. Here are some examples of the finished cakes which were baked by the contestants. They look pretty impressive.

Are you a Bake Off fan? Perhaps you’ve seen a different version? I’d love to know!

10 ways to be (really??) elegant…

As some of you know, I am always interested in the notion of elegance, style and ‘chicness!’ The most popular post, on my blog, ‘C’est chic?‘explored the stereotype of the typical, chic French woman.

I have also written, in more detail, about elegance.

You can imagine, therefore, how my attention was caught by this:

‘100 ways to be elegant’

I  was glancing at Pinterest when I first came across this list. If you put the heading into any search engine it should take you to the original post, if you have time/can be bothered to/would like to read all 100 ways! As I scanned this list, I selected ten suggestions for being elegant that stood out for me. Please read with (a large pinch of salt) a smile…

1. Learn French

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2. Wear a trench coat

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3. Learn how to wear a scarf

4. Have one signature perfume

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5. Wear pearls

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6. Be well travelled

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7. Wear lovely hats

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8. Don’t ever lose your ‘joie de vivre’

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9. Learn how to open a bottle of champagne

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10. Say please and thank you

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What do you think of my list? If you have looked at the 100 suggestions, I’d love to know what you think of those, too!

6 delights to experience in Castres

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Castres is a large town in the Tarn department which is part of Occitanie. It is about 48 kilometres from Castelnaudary where we have our house.

We are fortunate that there are so many interesting and attractive towns and villages in the vicinity. The only problem is finding the time to see them all!

Castres is not as well known as some other places and is probably not on the main tourist route. We knew that it would take under an hour to drive there and after wasting time on the internet some research decided that it would be worth a visit.

You can see from the first photo that we had amazing weather. Look at the colour of the sky! It was the last Friday in September but the temperature was at least 30 degrees.

When we came out of the underground car park, our first view was of the River Agout which flows through the centre of Castres.

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I was delighted to spot one of the Miredames boats that will take you on a 45 minute trip (1)  down the Agout, as I had set my heart on experiencing a ‘voyage’ in one of these. These boats were traditionally used to transport people and goods. They were built to be able to cope with the very shallow waters.

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Imagine my disappointment when I came across this note; there were to be no boats trips at all. A tree was blocking the river… Best laid plans and all that.

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Instead we strolled around Castres and admired these stunning houses (2). They originally belonged to the textile dyers who needed the water for their trade.

Our arrival in Castres coincided with the end of the market – unintentionally! This is held in the town square ‘Place Jean-Jaures’ (3) and takes place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Apparently, an excellent Christmas market is also held here.

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As it was such a hot day, we took the opportunity to sit a while and enjoy a cold Belgian beer! This was a new beer to me but the name of the brewery – ‘Sudden Death’ was as appealing as the taste!

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We continued our wanderings beneath these pink umbrellas which were there to mark Breast Cancer Awareness month.

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Heading for the Goya Museum (4) our walk took us through Le jardin de l’Evêché (5). This was designed by André Le Nôtre who was the principal landscape gardener of Louis X1Vth and who designed the gardens at Versailles. We lingered a while by the fountain, in the garden. Can you spot the rainbow? The Goya Museum is in the background. You can probably spot the theatre, too.

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The rest of our time was spent wandering around the old town and through the medieval streets. We  visited the Church of Saint-Benoit (6) which was built in the 17th century and was originally a cathedral. The Church interior is undoubtedly Baroque with soaring marble columns and high windows. It was built on the site of a Benedictine abbey-church founded in the ninth century. I forgot to take any photos of the church but here’s a selection I took while strolling through the narrow streets of the old town.

I do hope you enjoyed the mini-tour of Castres! Have you ever visited this small town? Do you have recommendations for other places we should visit in the local area? I’d love to read your comments.

Les parapluies de Carcassonne

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Our visitors mainly fly into Toulouse for a variety of reasons. One or two opt for Carcassonne. Last week, a friend came to stay for a return visit. Previously, we’d taken him to the walled Cité, so this time we planned to visit the lower town or Bastide. We had just enough time, after lunch in a local restaurant, before he had to be at the airport. Perfect!

I was particularly pleased that we would be playing tourist, as I would finally get the chance to see ‘Les parapluies de Carcassonne’; rather late to the party on this one!

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There are about 3,000 umbrellas which stretch for roughly half a mile, along the length of the pedestrianised streets. They are part of the Umbrella Sky Project which was began in Águeda, Portugal, in 2012.  The concept and design came from Patricia Cunha, the Portuguese artist who was born and lives in Agueda.

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I have read that the idea behind the project was to make people smile. Well, it certainly worked for me. I didn’t imagine that walking under coloured umbrellas could make me feel so happy!

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There have been many Umbrella Sky installations in other French cities and world wide. Have you ever come across one and, if so, what did you think of it? I’d love to know!