Joyeuses Pâques! Happy Easter!

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A very short post, today, just to say  ‘Joyeuses Pâques’ or ‘Happy Easter!’ wherever you may be.

This is a photo I took last weekend in Perpignan. I thought the display in this shop window was delightful.

No wonder that French people call window shopping: ‘le lèche-vitrine.’ This equates with ‘lick a shop window’.  In this case, never was a phrase more appropriate!

 

 

6 highlights from my trip to Cape Town

Cape Town exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Initially, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the city, its geography, geology and landscape. My eye was constantly drawn to Table Mountain and the ocean.

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It is actually difficult  to select my highlights when there were so many! Therefore, in no particular order:

Watching the sunset over Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. Incredible! I’m not great with heights, so I was little apprehensive about the cable car trip but it was absolutely fine and I’m so glad I did it. We were very fortunate in having a very good friend, and local resident, to accompany and advise us! His wealth of knowledge meant that we avoided all the long queues to go up the mountain.

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A free Historic City Walking Tour which our friend also organised for us. It was brilliant in terms of understanding what has made Cape Town the city it is. Our guide, who was absolutely wonderful , was one of several who are not paid and only work for tips. He clearly loved Cape Town and did not flinch when talking about slavery, apartheid and the effects of colonialism. Here are some of the photos I took during the walking tour:

If you click on each photo, the caption should appear!

In a similar vein, our visit to Robben Island was outstanding. I think it is an essential destination if you want to learn about and understand some of South Africa’s complex history. It is the symbol of ‘the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice’.

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Robben Island has housed a leper colony, been a military base, a whaling station and a prison which held convicts and political prisoners. Of course, it is most famous for having Nelson Mandela as a prisoner for eighteen years.

To get there, you catch a ferry from the V&A Waterfront. We booked out tickets on line which meant we avoided all the long queues. The weather was very favourable when we went and the sea calm, so we got there in about thirty minutes. When you arrive on the island, you are transported by buses to visit the main sites. One of the stops was at the limestone quarry where Mandela and fellow prisoners had to carry out hard labour. Each bus has a guide and our one was very entertaining and informative.

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The tour ended with a visit to the maximum security prison and was led by a former political prisoner. Their personal experience is very moving and impactful. As was the visit to Mandela’s cell which remains as it was when he was imprisoned there.

 Bo-Kaap is known for its bright, colourful houses and is the cultural home of Cape Town’s Muslim community. We decided to do another Free Walking Tour as we had enjoyed the first one so much. This enabled us to learn about the history, culture, architecture, traditions, religion and economics of the area. Here are a selection of the photos I took of some of the very distinctive houses.

The last highlight was a drive from Cape Town to Cape Point returning via Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town. Our friend drove us along the Atlantic Seaboard from Sea Point, through Camps Bay and Hout Bay. These were just some of the scenic places we passed through, there were many more besides. As we were passengers, we were able to truly appreciate the breath-taking views.

We stopped several times, en route, to take in the stunning scenery and, in this case, to take a look at the Shark Spotter. What a job! If he spots sharks, the call goes out and a warning given to people on the beach.

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Cape Point is where the most powerful lighthouse, on the South African coast, can be seen. The sea is  very dangerous here and there are 26 recorded shipwrecks in the area.  We all walked up to see the lighthouse and to enjoy the amazing, panoramic views. Unfortunately, I was so taken with views that I didn’t take any photos! However, Mr FF did record the views but hasn’t downloaded his photos yet. Eventually, I made the descent alone, as our friend and Mr FF took the Flying Dutchman funicular to save their knees!! Just to confuse you, the lighthouse below is not the one I just described but another one we saw en route!

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Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, Cape Point is not the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, although the warm and cold currents mix slightly in the nearby False Bay…The actual point is at Cape Agulhas.

Whenever we were driving, I was amused by the signs warning of Baboons and tortoises on the road. Possibly, because we had a pet tortoise when I was a child. The most baboons we saw were when we stopped for refreshments at Cape Point.

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Finally, I need to talk to you about penguins! In particular, the colony which lives at Boulder’s Beach, between Cape Town and Cape Point. This is one of the few sites where African penguins can be observed at close range, as they wander freely in a protected natural environment.

This has turned out to be quite a lengthy post but it was extremely difficult to select just a few highlights when there were so many.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and I would love to know if you have ever been to Cape Town or South Africa or where your dream destination might be.

Coming up … my highlights outside of Cape Town, including a safari, the Garden Route, Route 62 and the Winelands.

36 hours in Dubai

Dubai has never really featured highly on my list of places I want to visit. However, when the opportunity did arise I felt we should grab it. This was because we were en route for Cape Town to celebrate a special birthday for Mr FF! I am not the biggest fan of flying, so the chance to break our long haul flight was too good to miss. I’ve read and heard so much about Dubai that I thought I should find out about the city for myself.

Our flight was with Emirates on a 380 Airbus. I must say that I was very impressed, both with the food and the in flight entertainment. We arrived in Dubai quite late and caught a taxi to our hotel.

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This is the view from our hotel room balcony. Pretty dramatic?! Our first impressions were of the tall buildings and the lights. Of course, Dubai is home to the tallest building in the world: the Burj Khalifa.

We were pretty tired by this time and decided to settle for room service, so that we could get up early and make the most of the next day.

I’ve blogged about Hop on, Hop Off buses before when we visited Barcelona and Glasgow. I think if you’re spending a relatively short time in a city, they are a great introduction.

There are three possible routes: the city, beach and marina. We only had time for one of these, so we decided to take the city route which would give us some understanding of the history and culture of Dubai.

The tour begins at the Dubai Mall. This is the largest shopping mall, in the world, and has over one thousand shops. It also houses an aquarium and an ice rink!

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If you are a fan of shopping, especially designer brands, Dubai is a tax free haven. Here’s the Wafi shopping mall, photographed from the top of the bus. We didn’t go in but from the outside it looks more like an Egyptian museum.

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As we continued our route, I was surprised to see how much green there was in Dubai.

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As we continued, this building caught my eye:

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We decided to hop off and visit the Dubai Museum and see one of the original parts of the city. Unfortunately, we hadn’t factored in the long, lunchtime closure of the museum. Below you can see some of the original city walls. There was a strange type of heat mist and the sun had gone behind the clouds, so the colours seem rather dull.

For our final stop we opted to visit Dubai Creek. Some people say that this is the real heart of the city. It is a saltwater estuary and when trade with the outside world began, over a century ago, this sheltered inlet was the natural place to develop a trading port. The creek has been widened many times and is nowadays busy with abra – small wooden water taxis – carrying passengers between the souks of Deira on the northeastern bank and the historic district of Bur Dubai on the southwestern bank.

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We started by visiting the souks:

I’ve visited souks in other countries but I found the ones in Dubai were much less intimidating than others I have experienced. Although we were approached by guys trying to persuade us to buy their goods, they weren’t pushy or nasty. We managed to resist purchasing any items – even in the utensils souk!

Our Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour included an hour long ‘cruise’ on a traditional dhow. This is a traditional wooden boat originally used  by fishermen. The boat trip was a very good way to experience both sides of Dubai, the old and the new.

We ended our day by having dinner in a Lebanese restaurant that happened to overlook Dubai’s Dancing Fountains. These are the world’s largest musical foundations and spray up to 150 metres. The display is illuminated and accompanied by music. It was impressive! Here’s a clip I found to give you an idea of the experience.

I was so glad that we had taken the opportunity to sample Dubai.

I’d love to know if you’ve ever been there and what you thought.

Next stop: Cape Town

Top 20 first names in France

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I’ve  always been fascinated by children’s names. As a teacher, learning – and remembering  – the names of your students is extremely important. I have always been interested in the fashion for first names and how this was reflected in my class register. I remember, one year, when I was teaching in London and had a class full of Kylies!

Of course, when it came to naming our two sons, there was another problem. Certain names immediately conjure up memories of naughty boys. I’m being very polite here! We also have a long and unusual surname. In the end, we went for very traditional, ancient names. They are both Biblical names but, to be honest with you, that is coincidental.

When I taught, in France, it was a similar story with certain English names being very popular. However, I was very surprised when Kevin topped the list of most popular boys names, in France. This is how you pronounce it in French!

This is the top 10 girls names in France, at the moment, according to my research in various French magazines and on several websites:

  1. Emma
  2. Louise
  3. Jade
  4. Alice
  5. Mila
  6. Chloé
  7. Inès
  8. Lina
  9. Léa
  10. Léna

And here are the boys:

  1. Gabriel
  2. Louis
  3. Raphaël
  4. Léo
  5. Adam
  6. Jules
  7. Lucas
  8. Maël
  9. Hugo
  10. Liam

I think there are some lovely names, some interesting names and some surprising ones. What do you think? Do you have a favourite first name? I’d love to know!

Sharing with #AllAboutFrance

Lou Messugo

 

Pancake time – La Chandeleur

I love pancakes or crêpes and welcome any opportunity to eat them! So, I’m delighted that today is Pancake Day. If you’re reading this in the UK, this may come as a surprise.  Let me elaborate!

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February 2nd, in France, is ‘La Fête de la Chandeleur.’  The name Chandeleur comes from the Latin ‘candelorum festum’, which means festival of candles and is also known as Candlemas.

Apparently it was Pope Gelasius I who helped to establish the festival of Candlemas and was said to have fed pancakes to the pilgrims who processed, holding candles, to his church.

Candlemas falls 40 days after Christmas and, in the Christian calendar, marks when baby Jesus was first  presented, by Mary, in the Temple at Jerusalem.

However, the festival can be traced back to Roman times when candles were lit to scare away evil spirits in the winter.

In the UK pancake day 2019 will fall on March 5th; more pancakes!

As well as eating pancakes, I enjoy making them! They were always a go-to favourite with my sons and their friends, whether for tea, breakfast or sleep overs. There are many recipes for making pancakes but the one I have always used is by Delia Smith.

https://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/international/european/british/basic-pancakes

Although, I must admit I don’t bother to add melted butter to my batter!

Bon appétit!
Are you a pancake fan? I’m a traditionalist and I love mine with lemon and sugar!

Here we go again…

… was my immediate reaction when a promotion for this book, by Mylène Desclaux, caught my attention.d7b641e7-f264-4ef2-9b21-0e0b85fe78a0

I decided to find out some more. Through the power of the internet, it is now possible to dip inside a book and read a sample before you buy! There has also been a fairly widespread reaction to the book across the media; articles, reviews etc which I have been reading with some interest, cynicism and amusement, depending on who has written them.

However, I must confess that I haven’t read the whole book and it’s unlikely that I will.

In the last few years, we have been told that ‘French women don’t get fat’ and  ‘French women don’t get facelifts’ and that’s just for starters.

Here are some of Mylène’s suggestions for feeling young at 50:

  • never have a birthday party – you don’t want to risk people finding out your real age
  • never wear reading glasses on a date
  • never keep a first name name that reflects your true age

Mylène (and I quote here) writes: ‘My experience has taught me that you should never, EVER, tell people your age… Being however old you are is nothing to be particularly proud of…’

WHAT? I am very proud and glad to be sixty-five. I know (knew) people who are no longer with us and would give anything, I’m sure to be fifty, sixty or just here. Thankfully, there are many writers and bloggers who celebrate age.

I’m afraid this post has turned into a bit of a rant but if you read my blog fairly regularly, you know my opinion of the stereotypical, chic French woman with which we are constantly being presented. I am a Francophile and have some wonderful French women friends who do not all conform to the image with which we are so often presented.

You may be interested in reading the most popular post I have ever written on this topic:

https://fancyingfrance.com/2017/09/26/cest-chic/

Thanks for reading and I’d love to know what you think.

 

 

A quiche by any other name

When I’m in France, I seem to spend a lot of time thinking about food!  But not necessarily quiche . This brings me to the question: What makes the ideal quiche? Perhaps you make your own. Nowadays quiches are everywhere. They can be bought and prepared with every imaginable filling. I’ve even made a crustless quiche. Nevertheless, I am a quiche ‘purist’. I am talking about the original Quiche Lorraine.

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Photo by Mikes Photos on Pexels.com

I spent a year in Metz, a city originally in the administrative region of Lorraine. (Can you see where I’m going with this?) Although quiche is considered a classic French recipe, it originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, and which the French later renamed Lorraine. The word ‘quiche’ is from the German ‘Kuchen’, meaning cake.

The original ‘quiche Lorraine’ was an open tart with a filling of egg, cream and smoked bacon. It was only later that cheese was added. This addition has not been welcomed by everyone and I discovered that there is even a (rather small) Facebook group called “Défense et Promotion de l’Authentique Quiche Lorraine”.  This group defends (although I’m not sure if it’s still active) the name and reputation of the Quiche Lorraine, confirming that the original Quiche Lorraine DOES NOT contain CHEESE…

I’d love to know your position on quiche. Are you also a traditionalist and a lover of ‘quiche Lorraine’ or are you a fan of other fillings?

Here’s a slightly tongue-in-cheek (!) clip showing how to make a quiche, although this French cook does add cheese…