A Nearly Perfect Weekend…

Lyon is one of my favourite cities, not just because it hosts the annual Quais du Polar crime festival. Yet, no matter how often I come here, I never seem to have enough time to visit everything. So I was determined to do two completely new things this ‘weekend of adieus’: see a show in […]

via Nearly Perfect Weekend in Lyon — findingtimetowrite

La Fête du Muguet

La Fête du Muguet, La Fête du Travail, May Day in France is a public holiday to campaign for and celebrate workers rights. It is also an occasion to present  Muguet, lily-of-the-valley, or dog rose flowers to loved ones. Often it is just a single sprig of Muguet with a few leaves. However, some will incorporate a rose or even add several sprigs of Muguet to a much larger arrangement or plant.

How is the day celebrated: People across France give bouquets (or a single sprig) to their loved ones. In some areas, families will get up early to go into the woods to pick the flowers. Labor organizations will sell the flowers on the streets on May 1. Special regulations enable individuals and some groups to sell the flowers on May 1 without complying with retail regulations or paying a tax.

Parades and demonstrations to campaign for the rights of workers are organized by Trade unions and other organizations.  Campaigns for human rights and other pressing and current social issues will be out in number.

May 1 is a public holiday. Businesses will be closed as well as banks, post offices and shops. Other than a high traffic tourist area restaurants and even cafes may close. In the major cities the airport, railway station along with the highways (tolls)  may be open.  There could be disruption to traffic in the heart of large cities especially Paris due to Parades and demonstrations. There could also be limited access to Public transportation so check before setting out. 

On May 1, 1561, King Charles IX of France was presented with Muguet and was so enamoured of the gift that he instituted the tradition of presenting them to the ladies of his court. In 1900 men began presenting them to women as an expression of affection or interest. Today, they are given as a token of affection/appreciation between family members and close friends.

When the eight-hour  working day was made official on 23 April, 1919 the first of May became a public holiday. During World War II, the holiday ceased but was resumed in 1947. One year later, it became known as La Fête du Travail or Labor Day. It is a day used to campaign for and celebrate the rights of workers across the Country.

Don’t forget to click on those photos!

 

  Bisous,

Léa

The Galette des Rois

Modified – Originally posted 29 December 2011

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.” – Julia Child

The Galette des Rois

Galette de Roi
Galette de Roi

Celebrating the Feast of Kings.
At this time of year you will see Galette du Roi (or La Galette des Rois) in all the boulangeries in France. The Galette, which celebrates the biblical three kings, appears in the New Year around Epiphany, or the Feast of the Kings. This is normally celebrated in France on the first Sunday (after the first Saturday) in January. Despite this fact, I did get a whiff of warm from the oven galettes in the shop just a few days ago.  Being on my own, I managed to resist temptation of being forced to eat the entire thing. I have no doubt there will be plenty on offer in the weeks to come. Besides, such a treat demands it be shared with friends.

The typical Galette du Roi of the Indre is made of flaky pastry like a pie and filled with frangipane, an almond cream paste. There are regional variations, and some enterprising bakeries offer a different filling for every day in January. However, if you purchase it in a supermarket or discount store, it will be a factory made pastry with the basic filling. Inside the cake is a very small ceramic figurine called a fève ( a bean, which is what they put in galettes long ago). The person who finds the fève is declared the king (le roi) or the queen (la reine) and gets to wear the paper crown that comes with the galette.

If there is no French pâtisserie where you are, I have included a recipe. Don’t be intimidated by its origin as you can use pre-made puff pastry/phyllo dough and have great results. The photo was taken at the pâtisserie of two delightful and slightly mischievous elves known as Valérie & Nadine.

Valirie et N
Valérie  et Nadine H

Ingredients:

1/2 cup ground almonds
1 stick butter
3 eggs
1/4 cup of sugar
2 sheets puff pastry
powdered sugar

Directions:

Grind almonds in food processor
Beat sugar and butter
add two (2) of the eggs and almonds.
You now have Frangipane!
Butter a flat baking sheet
unfold thawed puff pastries and using a pie pan as a template cut into two circles
Lay one circle on buttered sheet then spread Frangipane in the center
and if you like, place a dried fava bean or ceramic figure in the Frangipane
Using the last egg, beat and paint the edges of the dough
Place the other dough circle on top and seal the edges very tight!
Brush top with egg.
Bake ~ 25-30 min at 375

The galette is quite rich and it will serve 12 people.

Bisous,

Léa

Fête de vin

First band of the evening warming up
First band of the evening warming up

The annual fête de vin or wine festival in Carcassonne is not to be missed. Tourists come specifically for this event and locals come to have a fun evening or two and try the different wines from the areas represented.  The location of this particular festival is located in the center of town, Place carnot. There are cafés one each side of the square but during the hours of the event, they limit what is on offer.

In the photo above, the first band of the evening is warming up their instruments and the crowds. Being France, it isn’t long before the dancing begins. The vendors are setting opening bottles and setting up the dishes they will offer. Each vendor will have foods that are best served with the wines they have for sale. One vendor specialises in desert wines and has several decadent deserts available.  Glasses of wine to try are normal serving size and available for between one and two euros per glass.

Fountain in the center of the square
Fountain in the center of the square

At intervals around the vendors stalls you will find large covered wine barrels that serve as bars or counter space where groups of people can gather around and enjoy their drinks and food. Once the festival gets going it quickly gets crowded and navigating can be a bit challenging but worth it.

The crowds descend
The crowds descend

Some carried a light wrap for the evening but we were fortunate and didn’t need them. The weather was glorious and we sat in the square at Chez Felix, a favourite café. Even with most of the square’s cafés staying open, seating was at a premium so our group of four would take turns looking for a wine and food to try. We each found different wines and foods and sampled and shared. It was a great evening.

A good time was had by all!
A good time was had by all!

Bisous,

Léa

 

 

 

 

Quatorze Juillet 2014

Quatorze juillet is also known as la fête nationale de la France. English speaking countries often refer to this most important day as Bastille Day. The French National Day commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution with the Storming of the Bastille on 14 July  1789, as well as Fête de la Federation which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790. The celebrations will be held in every city, town and village around the Country.

apéritif
apéritif
Get there early and reserve a spot!
Get there early and reserve a spot while the DJ sets up!
À la table
À la table – Vivienne seems to be enjoying herself!
Mangez!
Mangez!

The evening was hosted by the Club de chasseurs (Hunters Club).  No doubt the main item on the menu, sanglier – Wild boar, was hunted down by the members. The sanglier are known to do a lot of damage to the vineyards. The sanglier was presented in a sauce with white beans on the side. The entrée was a small plate of charcuterie (sliced meats) and salad was served after the fresh baugettes were passed around as well as bottles of red and rosé wine and plenty of water.  Afterward more baugettes are passed out as is the cheese course. Ice cream and then a cafe´ rounded off the meal.

Up behind the chateau, the pompiers are busy preparing the feux d’artifice or fireworks. Once the fireworks are finished, tables and chairs are rapidly moved as the large round cement area is cleared for dancing.

No age limits on the dance floor!
No age limits on the dance floor!

 

...

                      ...
Party!
...
…into the wee hours!
Dance,  dance, dance!
Dance, dance, dance!
Amusements in the background
Amusements in the background
Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) or Cotton Candy!
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) or Cotton Candy!
hey Macarena!
hey Macarena!

Thank you for enjoying 14 Juillet with us here in France.

Bisous,

 

 

Léa

Fête Nationale / Bastille Day / quatorze juillet

Arrive early to choose your seat
Arrive early to choose your seat

When it is spoken of in English speaking countries, 14 July is usually called Bastille Day or (French National Day). Here in France, it is La quatorze juillet (14 July) or La Fête Nationale (Formal name). The actual storming of the bastille was 14 July 1889

The medieval fortress and prison in Paris known as the Bastille represented royal authority in the heart of Paris. On the morning of 14 July 1789, the people stormed the building and released the seven prisoners it contained at the time. Yet this action had nothing to do with the number of inmates but the fact that the storming was a symbol of the abuses of the monarchy and was the critical stage which erupted into the French Revolution.

Make reservations?
Make reservations?

There were three events that led up to the revolution. First was the revolt of the nobility, refusal to aid King Louis XVI by withholding taxes, the second was formation of the National Assembly and the third event was the storming of the Bastille and the ensuing Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Grab a beverage and start socialising!
Grab a beverage and start socialising!

The masses formed the National Guard, sporting tricolour or cockades (cocardes) ribbons knotted together of red, blue and white. These cockades and soon the color scheme itself, become symbol of the revolution and continue today as symbol of France itself.

A few are beginning to take their seats...
A few are beginning to take their seats…

While the date for the destruction of the Bastille was indeed 14 July 1789, the date for French National Day was actually 14 July, 1790 to commemorate the 1790 Fête de la Fédération. It is a symbol of the uprising of the modern nation and reconciliation of all French inside the constitutional monarchy which preceded the First Republic during the French Revolution. Celebrations are held all over France.  A largest and oldest military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic, French officials and foreign quests.

A Counsel member chats with the DJ - a band takes over when the meal is finished!
A Counsel member chats with the DJ – a band takes over when the meal is finished!

 

In most cities outside of Paris, there is usually a small ceremony at the monument for those who gave their lives in WWI and WWII. In the evenings there will be fireworks. In our village, the are shot from the ancient castle behind my home.

A great view of the castle and fireworks
A great view of the castle and fireworks

Here in my small village, there will be a meal (repas) attended by all who wish. Each year a different village organization takes charge of preparing the dinner, selling tickets procuring music and everything else that is involved. As the meal comes to a close fireworks are shot from the village chateau. The tables and chairs get moved way back and the dancing goes on well into the morning. Despite the fact that I was, once again, invited to spend the day in Carcassonne where there is the second largest fireworks display outside Paris. However, the evening with my friends and neighbors cannot be matched by a mere firework display. It is one day I truly do not want to be anywhere else.

Henri et Georgette - await their respective spouses
Henri et Georgette – await their respective spouses
Christiane, Serge et Pierrette
Christiane, Serge (the respective spouses and friend) et Puerto
After a great meal, fireworks begin
After a great meal, fireworks begin
And the dancing begins
And the dancing begins
Dance the night away... at least until 5am
Dance the night away… at least until 5am
Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well
Trinkets for the little ones, a few small arcade games as well
Barbe à papa (Papa's beard) AKA Cotton Candy
Barbe à papa (Papa’s beard) AKA Cotton Candy

Seating fills quickly but you can make a reservation by stationing someone from your group or by placing something at one point, tipping forward the chairs you will be using and also with a pen or marker put the name and number of guests you require seating for.  While this may sound simple, the claim is respected and your seats await you.

Chef station
Chef station

Bisous,

Léa

First course: melon with port
First course: melon with port
Everyone is in a festive mood!
Everyone is in a festive mood!
Meals take longer because there is real communication going on!
Meals take longer because there is real communication going on!
Bonsoir!
Bonsoir!
The place to be!
The place to be!
Feux d'artifice
Feux d’artifice!
Our chateau by night!
Our chateau by night!
Dance...
Dance…
Dance, dance, dance! The DJ won't stop for hours...
Dance, dance, dance!
The DJ won’t stop for hours…

Feu de la Saint-Jean/Fête de la Musique

Le feu

The Midsummer day is merely in reference to the period  of time centered upon the summer solstice, but more often refers to specific European celebrations that accompany the actual solstice, or that take place on a day between June 21 and June 24, and the preceding evening. There can be a variation of dates between different cultures. In Estonia, Lativa and Scandinavian cultures, is it the most important holiday of the year with the exception of Christmas.

Before the flames

The French will celebrate the Fête de la Saint-Jean or le feu de la Saint-Jean, with bonfires reminiscent of pagan solstice rituals. The association with Saint-Jean was used when the Catholics adopted the tradition.

In my village, this years festival took place on Saturday June 23. The festivities were launched by a drumming group. Even though there was a DJ for the dancing to follow, the drummers stayed to enjoy the festival and to lead the procession at 11:30 around the village for the lighting of the bonfire. A number of people carried colorful paper lanterns suspended on a pole as we walked about the village.

In some parts of France, the event is called Chavande and also known as Fête de la Musique. In some parts of the world it is known as World Music Day and associated with an event that was launched here in France on 21 June, 1982 and celebrates the gift of music. While music is usually a major component to any celebration here in France, it does not take center stage at this local venue.

Dinner space converts to dance space
Apéritif?
Two members of the Drumming Circle
Two members of the Drumming Circle

The idea of the World Music Day was   conceptualized first in France in 1976 by American musician Joel Cohen who proposed an all-night music celebration to mark the beginning of the summer solstice.
The idea was taken up by French Music and Dance director Maurice Fleuret for Minister of Culture Jack Lang in 1981 and first took place in 1982 in Paris.
Since then, it has become a worldwide phenomenon with over 32 countries worldwide having their own celebrations in their own way, regardless of the season.

           Bisous,

Bon appetit!

Léa