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

Poisson d’Avril – April Fools

All Fools Day is celebrated 1 April each year across much of the world. It is a day of hoaxes, practical jokes and all around good humour.  Many people believe that the holiday originated in France. Few facts are available and you will make up your own mind. Regardless, it is just a bit of silliness and fun in a world with too little silliness and fun.

French Origins of April Fools Day

Although the origins of April Fools is obscure and debated, the most widely accepted explanation actually credits the “holiday” as starting in France. The most popular theory about the origin of April Fool’s Day involves the French calendar reform of the sixteenth century.

The theory goes like this: In 1564 King Charles XIV of France reformed the calendar, moving the start of the year from the end of March to January 1. However, in a time without trains, a reliable post system or the internet, news often traveled slow and the uneducated, lower class people in rural France were the last to hear of and accept the new calendar. Those who failed to keep up with the change or who stubbornly clung to the old calendar system and continued to celebrate the New Year during the week that fell between March 25th and April 1st, had jokes played on them. Pranksters would surreptitiously stick paper fish to their backs. The victims of this prank were thus called Poisson d’Avril, or April Fish—which, to this day, remains the French term for April Fools—and so the tradition was born.

Poisson d'Avril
Poisson d’Avril

Today, those who are fooled on 1 April are called the “Poisson d’Avril or April Fish. It is common especially among school-aged children to place a paper fish on the back of an unsuspecting person. That person is declared a “Poisson d’Avril.

Often you can find a large Poisson on the last page, first section of the morning newspaper or le journal.

Le journal
Le journal – L’INDEPENDANT

Most mornings I read le journal at the local café. Sometimes I buy a copy from le boulanger, Jacques.  This morning he had the lovely, fruity Poisson d’Avril made up in a flakey puff pastry with pastry cream and your choice of apricot (apricot) or fraise (strawberry). He is a lovely man who lives in the village and has several family members working along side him.

Jacques
Jacques
Jacques's son
Jacques’s son

Of course there is always croissants, pain au raisin, baguettes and much more. If other shops are closed you can pick up milk, honey, jam, coffee and more here.

La boulangerie
La boulangerie

While I have you here just outside the bakery, I want to share something that I really love. Outside some businesses are old metal signs that without words, show you exactly what kind of shop it is. Despite the wind today, I have taken a photo of the one outside the bakery. Unfortunately, it is at an angle due to the strong wind. However, I think it is charming and there are a few others still around but you do have to look up for them. Great care in design is taken to tell a story in picture.

Sign for the bakery
Sign for the bakery

I do believe if you look closely you can see the moon over the sleepy village while le boulanger is watching his oven. They are reminiscent of a quieter time and I do love each of them that I have found.

Perhaps when I have collected enough photos of such signs, there will be a blog post on those.

Poisson d’Avril or April Fools!

Bisous,

Léa

Soulosse-Sous-St-Elophe

Hiking/walking suggestions
Hiking/walking suggestions

Nestled in the Lorraine Region is the small village of Soulosse-Sous-St-Elophe. Returning to France from a visit to Holland and Belgium, an overnight stop was needed. Unfortunately, my friend’s son had to return to the village for school to resume. However, if you ever want to find a place with stunning vistas and tranquility, this could be the place you dream of.

The Chambres D’hôtes has stunning views from its rear balcony as well as just down the lane. You could walk the paths or take to the hills. Unfortunately, one night was all we had so it will have to be on my list to visit again.

Despite the fact that we had no reservation and simply took our chances, we had a lovely suite and a grand breakfast which included local cheeses, homemade preserves and fresh breads, croissants, coffee, tea, juices and more.

Since my time there was so short, I will not waste a lot of words attempting to do what the camera will do much better. I shall look forward to stopping by again. Perhaps when I visit the Champagne Regions?

Bisous,

Léa

L’église
L’église
Breathtaking view
Breathtaking view
...
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Invitations to explore are all around
Invitations to explore are all around
...
IMG_2743
IMG_2748
...
The Chambres D’hôtes
The Chambres D’hôtes

IMG_2686

IMG_2776
The Chambres D’hôtes
Petit déjeuner
Petit déjeuner
IMG_2771
It beckons you onward

Music, Fun and Friendship

Le Chant des Corbières
Le Chant des Corbières

France is a rich tapestry and throughout the rich fabric are threads of art and music. While it is the people who inspire me most, they are the ones creating the music, art and more. They are so infused with imagination and the creative spirit, it spills over infecting those who encounter them.

While I have traveled around the country a bit and lived here for over five years, I have yet to find a town or village without at least one choir. My village is one of thirteen within the commune and the largest one.

Do, re, me...
Do, re, me…

There are two choirs here made up from the villages. Each year, our choir commences in October just after the vendange.  The first meeting will be to plan out the year and every second year vote on officers. Naturally there will be a few refreshments. There is a lot of catching up after the summer hiatus. Jacque, le chef, arrives with his guitar and sometimes he will bring other instruments with. We warm up with a few familiar songs then songs we will be learning for the up coming                                                   season are handed out.

Le chef (Director) Jacque
Le chef (Director) Jacque

Choir rehearsal is every Thursday evening. We practice in the old maternelle (pre-school building) or in a larger room upstairs from the foyer.

When I first went to a choir rehearsal here, it was to observe. However, that was not an option. You come, you sing! While I love to sing, my basic motivating factor was to improve my french and get to know more of the people. After that, I was hooked.

Encore en fois!
Encore en fois!

The day these photos were taken, we were not a full company. A number of the group were away or had other commitments due to the approaching holidays.

If you are making plans to travel to France, perhaps you have looked at guides recommending restaurants. Or perhaps you have heard about small restaurants where the locals go. If you can find one, it is worth the visit. The choir adjourned to such a restaurant in a village just 5 k down the road. I had been there previously but not since it had changed owners. However, I was not to be disappointed. The food and the service were excellent and a wonderful time was had by all!

Bisous,

Léa

...
An apéritif
1970, a good year?
1970, a good year?
...
Bon appétit !
Excellent service!
Excellent service!
A toast!
A toast!
And a good time was had by all!
And a good time was had by all!

Holiday and Saturday Market – Carcassonne

Free parking in the center of town, amazing!
Free parking in the center of town, amazing!

The Saturday market is quite crowded as vendors from all around the country join in to sell some of their wares. With my friend Yvonne back in town for a weekend, we were off to the markets where the produce is at its best. Naturally, it would be unthinkable not to stop for a coffee on the way back.

We knew from the moment we arrived that the merchants in town were determined to bring the customers in.  It is not often you are greeted with a gift wrapped parking pay-point!

If ice skating interests you, give it a go! Skates are available for rent and at night there is live music.

Even if you are one of those who completed their shopping early, it can be fun to see what is available and stop for a coffee or one of the many treats on offer.

Bisous,

Léa

Vendors from Alsace with their yummy pretzels
Vendors from Alsace with their yummy pretzels
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For kids of all ages and sizes!
Bargains, bargains and more bargains!
Bargains, bargains and more bargains!
Ice skating anyone?
Ice skating anyone?
You can even by a bed and they deliver!
You can even buy a bed and they deliver!
Produce at Place Carnot
Produce at Place Carnot
There are 12  cafés to choose from in the square
There are 12 cafés to choose from in the square and all are crowded
Saturday market offerings
Saturday market offerings
Spices!
Spices!
Gifts and tasty treats
Gifts and tasty treats
Italian Restaurant on the square
Italian Restaurant on the square – one of many
Hot roasted chestnuts anyone?
Hot roasted chestnuts anyone?

Maison Christina at Rennes-les-Bains

Recently, when a dear friend arrived from California for her annual visit, she wanted to visit one of the local spas. On the way to Alet-les-Bains, we saw a sign for Rennes-les-Bains and since a reservation had not been made we decided to check it out.

The village was enveloped in a stunning setting and we decided to stay the night treating ourselves to a few treatments at the Bains (Baths) and a relaxing evening.

A couple we met said it did not seem to be too crowded yet and we would probably find a room.

While having coffee a few meters from the thermal baths, we noticed a sign for rooms. Good fortune was on our side as we entered Christina’s. While the establishment is small, everything was clean, fresh and most inviting. Christina herself is welcoming and quietly sees that everything is as it should be. Furthermore, her coffee is excellent!

If you find yourself in this part of France, check in with Christina and you can visit her website: www.maisonchristina.eu 

Rita and I enjoyed our visit there very much and will look forward to visiting Rennes and Christina in the future.

Bisous,

Léa

Carnaval de Limoux Part 1

Carnaval
originated in France during the Middle Ages. It proved to be one of the most popular of France’s exports. Mardi Gras continues to be celebrated in France as well as in locations around the world. Despite the fact that the celebrations are used as an excuse for strident conduct, the festivities claim Catholic roots and the church has attempted censure throughout in  past centuries.
There is nowhere in the world where food plays a more important part of any celebration than France and Mardi Gras is no exception. Some of the traditional fare:
Gumbo: made from pork sausage, shrimp, chicken, rice, okra, celery and other vegetables and of course spices. Typical spices are Cajun and a mixture is made from onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, white pepper, paprika and salt. 

Muffuletta Sandwiches: salami, smoked ham garnished with an olive relish are piled onto a roll for simple fare.

A celebratory French meal would not be complete without dessert and Mardi Gras is no time to make an exception: what better way to crown your repast than with, King Cake? part of the traditional meal, the cake, is a twisted bread which has been topped with icing in the time-honored colors of purple, green and gold. traditionally a small baby doll is baked inside.

Milk Punch is the traditional alcoholic beverage associated with Mardi Gras. It is prepared with bourbon, half-and-half and enhanced with sugar, vanilla and nutmeg.
The longest running and earliest fête in the French calendar beings in January and runs into March.
While most village celebrations are held in summer this annual fête takes place for two months beginning in January. It is the longest fête in the French calendar. The festivities are held each weekend.

If it had been anyone but my dear friend Rita, I might have been surprised when she chose February to make her visit from California. But when she said that she wanted to come to France in February.and added that she wanted to experience Limoux’s Mardi Gras festivities it all made sense. Her husband Jerry was a good sport and Limoux turned out to be one of his favorites towns in France.

The earliest written documentation appears to be a decree made in the year of 1604 but it is most likely that it had been evolving since before medieval times. There was an integration with the Christian Lent carnival including the tradition of pierrot.

Bisous,

Léa