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!

 

1st May – La Fête du Travail and La Fête du Muguet

Happy May Day! I don’t often repost posts but here’s one I published previously.

May 1st is a special day in France. It’s a holiday, a day off work.  May Day is also known in France as the Fête du Travail

It is also la Fête du Muguet, when it’s traditional to give loved ones a sprig of lily of the valley, a symbol of spring and of good luck.

The tradition of offering small bunches of Lily of the Valley, le muguet, to friends and family, as a good luck charm, apparently dates back to the Renaissance. Charles IX gave  the flower to the ladies of his court and decreed on May 1st, 1561, that anyone in France can legally sell flowers without a license, on May day, as long as they are a reasonable distance  from the nearest flower shop.

I have also read that  the lily of the valley flowers sprung from Eve’s tears when she was forced to leave the Garden of Eden. Elsewhere it is said that the flower comes from the tears of the Virgin Mary when she cried at the Crucifixion.

The photo below is of some lily of the valley growing in my garden. It looks a bit sad, at the moment! if you would like to see some more stunning photos of lily of the valley, follow the link to my Pinterest board.

https://www.pinterest.com/Junedesilva15/fancying-france/

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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 Amazing Adventures Beyond Cape Town

Having spent a fantastic week with Mr CT , as I shall now call him, (our friend who lives locally) showing us the ropes, it was time to set out on our own. We hired a car and hit the road! Driving in SA is easy for us Brits, as it is on the left hand side! The roads are also incredible – in general – but we were well aware of some of the crime  issues that are car related.  We were cautious and sensible but that didn’t spoil the driving experience.

Our first stop was an overnight stay at the Aquila Private Game Reserve. Before undertaking a Safari in the Western Cape, it is important to understand that it won’t be like staying in one of the iconic South African Game Reserves e.g. the Kruger National Park. However, it will be malaria free. You will still have the opportunity to see the Big 5: Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard but you need to bear in mind that all five of these species were reintroduced to the Western Cape, having been driven to the brink of extinction. Aquila is also home to the Aquila Animal and Rescue Conservation Centre.

Our accommodation was in a ‘luxury cottage’. It had a patio, corner bath and outdoor rock shower, plus fan and feature “coal‟ stove. The latter wasn’t needed. I liked the elephant towel arrangement that welcomed us!

We went out on safari on the afternoon of our arrival and also at six the next morning. Our driver/ranger was brilliant and it was a fantastic experience.  These photos give you an idea of some of the animals we saw, although there were many more besides, including giraffes, hippos and buffalo. These pics were taken with my phone. The ones (still) on the camera are miles better but I’m too impatient to wait for them to be uploaded.

Following this we set off on our next adventure which was to explore the Garden Route. Our first stop was Mossel Bay and our last was Plettenberg Bay. The natural beauty of the Garden Route is outstanding and the coastline is dotted with fantastic beaches. Many of these beaches are excellent for surfing. We didn’t have our wetsuits – haha!

We spent two nights in a lodge overlooking the beautiful lagoon in Knysna.

One of the high spots (literally!) of our stay here was driving to the top of two sandstone cliffs known as the Heads. The views were amazing.

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Soon it was time to go inland and travel along Route 62. We were heading for Oudtshoorn which is also known as the ostrich capital of the world! We drove away from the ocean and beaches and through a very different type of landscape.

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Oudtshoorn is located in the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains. It is an area of surprising contrasts and has its own natural beauty. As we were in the ostrich capital of the world, we had to visit an ostrich farm.

We went to Highgate Ostrich Farm. It started over a hundred years ago. The tour we went on was very informative and hands-on. We now know everything there is to know about ostriches, from their conception to their transformation into ostrich products. We were able to hand feed some of the ostriches and hold a baby ostrich. Ostrich riding does not take place at Highgate (I am pleased to say!) because of the potential injury to the bird. I was so immersed in the tour that I forgot to take photos!

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29km from Oudtshoorn, we visited the amazing Cango Caves. These caves are home to some of the biggest limestone stalagmites in the world. The system of tunnels and chambers run for over 4 km but only about a quarter is open to visitors.

We were taken on a tour of the caves by an informative and amusing guide who demonstrated the cave acoustics by singing! He did have a very beautiful voice.

However, the most surprising element of the whole visit was bumping into someone I had once worked with! I hadn’t seen her for years and I couldn’t help but wonder what are the odds of meeting someone you know, in a cave in South Africa.

A trip to the Western Cape wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the  Winelands. We opted to stay in Franschhoek  which is known as “A corner that is forever France”. This is because about 200 French Huguenots, escaping religious persecution in France between 1688 and 1700, were offered a passage to the Cape and granted land here.

Franschhoek has a wonderful setting, surrounded on three sides by mountains. It has a very laid back, charming atmosphere. It was the ideal place to relax and recuperate at the end of a busy but fantastic trip.

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We also enjoyed eating at two of the many excellent restaurants. After all, Franschhoek is known as the culinary capital of the Cape!

And the wine tasting? We opted for the Leopard’s Leap Estate where we sampled 5 of their delicious wines.

To complete our trip, we returned to Cape Town and enjoyed a final fabulous dinner with Mr CT.

What I’d love to know is if you have ever bumped into someone you know, in an unexpected place; maybe on holiday!

 

 

 

5 Brilliant Blogs

I read a lot of blogs on a variety of topics. One of the reasons for starting this blog was because I was inspired by other blogs.

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This post would be too long if I selected all the blogs I enjoy reading! Therefore, this is just a selection of some my favourites, in no particular order! There will be future posts about other blogs I love, so I hope I haven’t offended anyone by not mentioning them here.

Some of the bloggers  write about life in France, some on fashion, some on food and some on travel. Other blogs I enjoy may not have one specific focus but cover a wide range of topics. The ones, in this post, are all written by women but I also read blogs written by men! Many are written by bloggers who are in a similar age group to me and who tend to have a very positive attitude to the aging process but I like to read blogs written by younger authors, too.

Not all the bloggers I follow are in the UK or France. It’s great to connect with bloggers all over the world. One of the best parts of blogging – for me anyway – is linking with other bloggers.

Barefoot Blogger : inspiring travel over 60.

This is one of the first blogs that inspired me to start blogging. It is written by Deborah who retired from a career in corporate marketing and divorced after 40 years of  marriage. Three years ago, on a whim and following a dream, she moved from South Carolina to Uzès in SW France.

I’ve followed her adventures and attempts to master the French language with fascination. Her blog is truly inspirational!

https://bfblogger.com

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The Frugal Fashion Shopper: charity shop fashion for the stylish woman

 This  blog is written by 72 year old Penny who lives in Brighton. I mention her age because Penny regularly blogs about issues around women and ageing. Penny mainly buys her clothes from charity shops and then styles them in a stunning way. She is a hat lover and is a great believer in colour. I always enjoy reading Penny’s posts which I find interesting, stimulating and generally fabulous! Have a look here:

https://frugalfashionshopper.co.uk/

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Atypical60: A Typical Blog. A Typical Woman. A Typical Take on Life. With an Atypical Twist!

Catherine is a feisty American Blogger with a sharp sense of humour who writes with a blunt honesty. She blogs about all aspects of her daily life as a sixty plus blogger. Her husband happens to be French and Catherine has developed a love of all things French, fostered by regular visits to France. Catherine is a passionate advocate of wigs. She has thinning hair and changes her style of wigs frequently with impressive results. Her blog makes me smile!

https://atypical60.comFC6DAF8B-333E-4446-9FF4-462F9518380C

 

Taste of France:  The beautiful life in the other South of France

This blogger lives near Carcassonne and has a love affair with France and everything French. I love reading this blog because the author is relatively local and writes about an area I know and like. The blog is written with a great deal of detail and each post has a special quality. If you want to know more about the ‘other South of France’ or even discover some luxurious AirBnB apartments, in Carcassonne, do have a look here:

https://francetaste.wordpress.com

The photo below is one I took in Carcassonne

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This is Sixty: All sorts of everything

Eloise writes about what it is like being sixty and so much more besides. You only have to look at her home page to get an idea of the range of different topics that are covered within this blog. These include family, work, leisure, food, poetry and that’s just for starters!

https://thisissixty.blog

I don’t have a photo or gravatar for this blog so here are some spring flowers!

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I hope you have enjoyed reading about these blogs. There will definitely be a future post about some of the other blogs I read and appreciate. Perhaps you have some recommendations for me?!