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/

Lilyofvalley

Joyeuses Pâques! Happy Easter!

FE55054E-EFC3-4562-AF97-8B7D4FE0DA34

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

FB1BBEC6-3D60-4C0A-9B1A-2E9A7AF72A39

freeimages.com

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

 

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.

6 delights to experience in Castres

933512F6-A666-4AE4-94D6-CBDB9D4B5EC5.jpeg

 

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.

22906887-9186-4662-9B4F-E19BD64F093E

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.

3e287bdf-0ba1-49e9-9f08-961d95b320a2-e1538680506537.jpeg

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.

40D64DDA-A134-42E8-B5A0-365C841B3A5BDDCC8372-DAA0-45D2-8107-99CBA53CA695

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.

DA3301F1-31F2-41FB-966B-0D614B377208

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!

0F02BB94-5AB7-4830-80EA-30A75FAFABE5

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

CBBFA448-BE43-4D2F-B326-DCBA187764C994695823-BAF2-479A-A293-8E6A465FAA6BBEFCE2E8-81E5-49EB-B810-C51E06ED76D2

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.

6E9C0188-0C5A-401F-88FE-884459BA29C7

30546549-77A5-44A3-9301-3D0ABF31E217

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

219D70AC-820C-48DE-AEC2-474B4B3C351C

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!

510BEB79-8A05-4CE2-92FA-6DAC863D9E28

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.

478031D1-762A-4566-B89B-FEEB4E97536E

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!

C16EE4E4-027D-44B6-8370-FA82B9B00B8A

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!

La rentrée

September has always been a significant month for me. I think this is because my career has been based in education. I see September, and the start of the new academic year, as an opportunity for a fresh start. I used to look forward to a new timetable, new classes and new stationery! As a pupil, a student and a teacher, I always loved getting new pens, folders and pencil cases. I still enjoy going into Paperchase now!

This September has meant a return to Castelnaudary after two months in the UK, catching up with friends and family. Our French house hasn’t been empty, our eldest son and seven friends spent a week there, before travelling on to Barcelona. It was an international gathering as there were four English guys and four Brazilian girls!

Then our youngest son and five friends were the next to have a holiday here. As they are all students, it was great for them to be able to have a break in the sun without breaking the bank! They were able to relax and enjoy the pool and, by the look of our cellar, have the odd bottle of wine … or six!

As a result, we have also ‘inherited’ a rather nice barbecue and an interesting selection of inflatables, plus a variety of footballs, basketballs and rugby balls!

When we returned to Castelnaudary, we found our garden had morphed – yet again – into a field! Truly, I’m not complaining, although it might sound like it. It’s just one of those things that happens when you are lucky enough to have a second home. When we left our home in the UK, our garden was looking so tidy and well cared for. We were even complimented by our neighbours! Yet, we know, by the time we get back, it will be back to square one. Still, gardening is a brilliant form of exercise…

We’ve had some gorgeous weather since we returned. Look at those blue skies!

img_0154

img_0155

You can just catch a glimpse of the pool. The water temperature is a very pleasant 25 degrees! The shrubs in the foreground are oleanders. I was delighted that they survived being hacked pruned by Mr FF.

img_0153

 

One of the first things I like to do, on our return, is check the Canal du Midi is still at the end of our garden and then visit the port. This rather moody looking shot, was taken while eating breakfast outside a new boulangerie that has recently opened. The colour is really quite odd and, yet, I like it!
img_0152
Of course, la rentrée is really all about the return after the long, summer holidays. This could be a return to school, university or even work. In my case, I was delighted to return to teaching my English conversation classes. These take place in the rather grand (from the outside) Palais de Justice.

tribunal

I often think that September is the perfect time for me to make some blogging resolutions. I’ve been meaning to update my blog for some time. I need to update my profile and photo. However, my main aim is to change to a self-hosted blog and I think it’s time I changed the appearance of my blog, too. Watch this space!