Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘France in photos’ Category

This sign hangs outside a Chambres d’Hôte or B&B on the Ile de Ré. What I love most about this is the name:

La Maison du puits sans fond

Roughly translated, that means The House of the Bottomless Well. It sounds like a fairy story waiting to be written. Sadly, when you look up a dictionary definition, the term ‘puits sans fond’ is far less romantically translated into ‘bottomless pit’.

There are also songs called ‘Puits sans fond’.

Here’s one by a group called Vulgaires Machins. I’m not so sure about their name but their Puits sans fond gets 5 stars on You Tube, so here they are:

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

This is a photo of a horse-butcher’s shop in Fontenay-le-Comte. I simply had to take a photo. Monsieur didn’t get it, but he didn’t grow up in a country where eating horse would be like eating the family dog. Kiwis just wouldn’t ever consider it. Because of that, for me, seeing horse butchers is half novelty and half horror. Thank heavens I can’t eat red meat. Now I’ll never have to consider eating Black Beauty’s cousins.

At our Christmas party last year, an Italian colleague explained to us what horse meat tastes like. She thoroughly enjoys eating horse and waxed lyrical about her favourite horse preparation methods. Meanwhile, a strictly ethical vegetarian colleague gagged and had to excuse herself.

If you think eating horse is bad, I suggest you pop across to Epicurienne, where I’m currently discussing the more bizarre items to be found on a Vietnamese menu. Monsieur and I are in Vietnam right now, studiously avoiding the consumption of anything involving monkey, dog or snake meat. Wish us luck! The Vietnamese motto is “if you can catch it,  you can eat it!” Does that include me?

Read Full Post »

Whenever I see a sunflower, I think of Vincent Van Gogh, that mad (not in a good way) Dutch painter whose dauby impressionist works depicting vases of these yellow flowers have a habit of giving the auction world a nervous twitch whenever one comes up for sale. Van Gogh painted the sunflower series when he was living in The Yellow House in Arles, a place he shared for a while with Gauguin, until his obsession with the fellow painter led him to cut off part of his ear and give it to a prostitute for safe-keeping.

The French word for sunflower is ‘tournesol’, which, if you break it down into parts means ‘turn’ (tourne) and ‘sun’ (sol, abbreviated from le soleil). Suddenly I have an image of a field full of sunflowers leaning towards the sun as it moves through the sky.

Until recently, I’ve never had the luck to be in France when the sunflowers are at their best, swaying seas of gold blanketing the French countryside. When Monsieur and I visited the Vendée region recently, there they were: field upon field of sunflowers, in the flesh. Not on a postcard, not in a coffee table book. In. The. Flesh.

Being the odd one in this relationship, I asked Monsieur to drive me to a field of sunflowers so I could take some photos. Being the patient one in the relationship, he obliged. There I was, jumping around in the midst of flowers taller than me, trying to get a picture postcard shot. I didn’t think Monsieur was paying much attention, accustomed as he is to my Unusual Photo Opportunities, but how wrong I was.

When I’d shot my fill of yellow tournesols, Monsieur showed my a photo he’d taken of me in the field. There is my face, sure enough, surrounded by the sunflowers, but the plants shield my body so in fact it looks like I AM a sunflower! That picture is definitely being printed off and sent around, once Monsieur gives me access to it. In the meantime, here is some sunshine to brighten up what is otherwise a grey summer’s day in Londinium.

It was grey and drizzly that day in Vendée, too, but the flowers bravely weathered the weather.

They certainly keep the bees busy. This little drone is nibbling away at that tasty pollen at the centre of the flower. Yumalicious. Let’s make some honey, Honey!

Some of the fleurs look a bit tatty, but their colour glows on.

DID YOU KNOW….

That in Tintin, le Professeur Tournesol in the French language editions is our much loved eccentric Professor Calculus in English? I think we don’t need to be told why they changed the name. Just imagine being called ‘Professor Sunflower’. No one would take your theories seriously.

Read Full Post »

On Epicurienne I have made no secret of my dislike of children’s souvenir tees which say stupid things like “My Mom went to Vegas and all she bought me was this lousy tee-shirt”. (Honestly, people really do waste their money on silly things, but then they’re probably the same people who eat at McDonald’s in the middle of a diet, i.e. they make no sense.) These annoying tees come in teeny sizes indicating that the wearer cannot possibly read yet, let alone enunciate such things (turn away, now, Mensa children, we’re not talking about you). Anyway, when Monsieur and I were in France last week I spotted a French version of these tiny tourist tees:

It says

“My granny brought me back this pretty tee shirt from La Tranche sur Mer”

I have to admit that the design is sweet, and the cursive writing is très Frenchified, so the result isn’t as tacky as the Vegas versions, BUT isn’t it just a bit ironic that in the land that gave us Bonpoint, Petit Bateau, Absorba and other children’s fashion houses producing clothes so sweet they’re capable of converting the most determined child-free couple into the obsessively child-mad overnight, people would want to buy one of these? I remain unconvinced that the French would make their children wear such things. For ages, I’ve been scouring crowds of kids on trips to France for evidence that I might be wrong, but so far, it seems I’m right. Even the French supermarkets’ kids’ clothes have an almost edible quality of cute. The lousy tee-shirts must be intended solely for doof foreigners who think it’s chic to make their child wear a French-language top, even if they don’t know what it means.

On the other hand, I quite like this one, spotted in Grasse earlier this year:

“If you think I’m adorable, you should see my Mum!”

Now that’s what I call a compliment for a hard-working Maman. So much better…

Read Full Post »

Monsieur and I were in Cannes for New Year but soon decided to leave the heaving Croisette for a little trip elsewhere. In our efforts to do just that we drove stop-start through the labyrinthine streets of France’s answer to Tinseltown trying to find a way out. This took a while but a U-turn and a few heart-stopping crossroads later, we finally found ourselves speeding along an autoroute to Grasse, the perfumery centre of France.

This was definitely a destination worthy of our time, although the approach is a little underwhelming. Lego-block apartment buildings climb in batches up the hillside to this famous town, portrayed in all the postcards as a charming olde worlde site filled with flowers and surrounded by fields of lavender. Obviously it would be too much to expect swaying fields of lavender in late December, finding instead at its centre a toboggan slide, caroussel and large, plastic nativity of neon plastic figures nestled in fake snow next to a marquee sporting a farm animal fair with all the braying and quacking that goes with that sort of thing.

A short walk later, the charm of the medieval hill-town became more apparent. There were perfume factories geared to the tourist that could entice a visit, a Longchamps shop filled with their signature bags at unusually competitive prices, narrow coffee bars squeezed like an after-thought between much wider buildings, the expected boutiques, gift shops and galleries, racks of perfumed soaps and a few exclusive-looking places at which to buy foie gras. There’s no doubt about it: Grasse may well be a perfumery town, but a good part of its economic health comes from the tourist. Even on a chilly winter’s day, there were quite a few of us about, snapping away at picturesque views that carry one’s eye as far as the sea.

Turning into an uphill alley, we passed under a frescoed scaffold hoarding between the two sides of the street, and there to my amusement stood an Indian restaurant next to a Vietnamese. Yes, we were ready for lunch but not quite in the mood for ethnic food that we can easily find in London. We walked on.

The sun was warm as we strolled into an airy square, with an oyster stall, florist stand and covered market selling everything from saucissons secs to fake pashminas. Next to the covered market was a restaurant called Café Arnaud, blessed with outdoor tables. As it was quite pleasant in the sun, we decided to take one. We chose, we ordered, we waited. And waited. And waited. And waved down the sole waitress in charge of all the outdoor tables. The waitress said she would chase up our first courses of salad. How long does it take to throw a salad together? 45 minutes apparently. Still, we were happy to be on holiday with Christmas behind us for another year, so waited patiently until, just as we had decided to go elsewhere, the salads arrived. Meanwhile, Mory Kante boomed out of the market marquee and the sun’s strength started to wane.

Monsieur tucked into a generous salade Niçoise, while I enjoyed a Périgourdine, trying to save the piece of foie gras from Monsieur’s fork until I could savour it last. The air was chill, now, and Monsieur’s hands went blue. I also felt the drop in temperature, but wrap myself in layers during winter, no matter how shiny the sun, so it didn’t bother me too much. I was just happy to be outside on a crisp January day.

At a long table next to us, an extended family lunched together, the children wriggling their way through polite eating until they finished and were released from the table, at which point they careened around the square, thoroughly enjoying being kids. In the covered market, people were selecting from fresh produce for their evening meal, as a gypsy-looking woman with a tumble of black hair and pale grey eyes sat down to eat with her husband and their newborn. The square was humming with interest and local life.

Waiting for the bill at The Slow Restaurant gave Monsieur a nasty cold, although we didn’t know it at the time. In the end, we had to venture inside to pay, otherwise we may still be sitting there, waiting, today. So that was Café Arnaud. If you’re ever in Grasse and decide to give it a try, the salade Perigourdine is delicious but I’d recommend you to take your seats inside.

Read Full Post »

 

This beauty shop in La Rochelle stopped me in my tracks because of the painting hanging in its window. Apologies for not being able to lose more of the reflection on the glass, but if you look closely, you’ll see three topless old women smiling back at you. A better advertisement for booking an appointment I cannot think of!

Read Full Post »