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.

 

 

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!

 

 

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!