Monday 25 November 2013

Talking Hats, Trees and Traditions

Today, 25 November is St Catherine's Day and it's also the date of a famous French tradition which has been held since the Middle Ages, celebrating Catherinettes, the  name for girls of twenty-five years old who were still unmarried by the Feast of St Catherine, the patron saint of single girls.

The Catherinettes would visit church to "cap" St Catherine's statue with a head dress and to pray for a husband.  The young women would create extravagant hats in green or yellow to wear on St Catherine's Day too. Over the years women's status and the importance placed on marriage by a certain age changed so this custom is less popular than in the past.

There are young women who do still take part, including nurses, teachers and hairdressers, often encouraged by their colleagues, like the hairdresser in the clip below.  Her colleagues have secretly made a huge hat for her to wear representing her job and incorporating her love of buying boots and a model of her car.  

Another French tradition that falls on 25 November is " a la Sainte Catherine tout prend racine" or "tout bois prend racine" or in other words, today is a good day for planting trees, bushes and rose bushes in time for next spring.  The snow will fall (it has already this week) covering and protecting the bulbs and saplings during the winter.

It's also said that if it's cold on Saint Catherine's day winter is straight ahead.  "S'il fait froid, l'hiver tout droit."  Well I won't be wearing a chapeau de la Catherinette today but I do have my thermals's cold and the snow will be back soon!!

Do you know of any interesting French sayings and traditions?  Please share in the comments below.

Friday 22 November 2013

With love from Le Morvan to Paris

Photograph By Association Française du Sapin de Noël Naturel

This is the magnicifient 11 metre  high tree that is on its way today from the Morvan National Regional Park in Burgundy to the bright lights of Paris to be proudly displayed at the Elysee Palace. 
The sale and export of Christmas trees is a very important source of revenue for our region.
The sheer scale of the forests here in the Morvan is impressive, acres and acres of trees - spruce, fir, beech, birch and oak.  Tall cathedrals of spruce and pine grow up everywhere but particularly high around Haut Folin, the ski area.  

Forestry is the only real industry in the parc. Many of the coniferous forests are totally commercial, nothing is wasted, from the young saplings that are sold as Christmas trees to the full grown trees sold for timber.

The massive numbers of trees producing vast quantities of oxygen contributes to the Morvan's reputation for having the cleanest air in Europe.  The forests also provide a home for all the wildlife;birds deer and wild boar.

Saulieu, the gateway to the Morvan, holds an annual  Fetes du Sapins to celebrate fir trees. This year on the 14 and 15 December, a big "la Veillee morvandelle" - a typical regional party - is promised.  There will be a craft market, workshops, a show for kids, trees decorated by artists, shows and of, course, wine tasting.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!

Monday 21 October 2013

My French Autumn Weekend

Autumn mists, golden leaves, sunshine, storms and a harvest moon....the change of season in Le Morvan is glorious!

This weekend on a sunny Saturday, I decided to move the geraniums from pride of place on the windowsills to indoors for the winter.  During the week I went bargain hunting with a friend who enjoys poking around brocantes and vide-greniers looking for treasure as much as I do!  Now that the brocanting season is just about over, we found these planters in the "last chance saloon" at Emmaus, the huge charity shop at Etang-sur-Arroux in Saone et Loire.  Only a couple of euros and the planters are covered in some kind of plush, velvety fabric, very 1970's!  The bargain of the day was the fab steamer style deckchair I grabbed for just 4 euros!

It's harvesting and foraging time....the freezer is full of kilos of blackberries and windfall I decided to try a delicious new recipe Blackberry, Apple and Cobnut Crumble cake from Seasonal Baking by Fiona Cairns, published by Weidenfield & Nicholson.  Served warm with creme fraiche it makes a good pudding too. 

The flavour of fresh,  fruit from the hedgerows and the garden, grown naturally is just a joy. 

Yesterday we went with friends to Flavigny sur Ozerain, in the Cote d'Or, it's a member of the Les Plus Beux Villages, special places across France selected for their beauty and charm.  Flavigny oozes history, dating from 719 when a Benedictine abbey was founded there. 

The medieval abbey now houses the factory for Les Anis de Flavigny, small aniseed flavoured sweets, that are made in amazing flavours.  And the other claim to fame is that Chocolat, the Johnny Depp film was partly filmed in Flavigny.  

It's always a favourite place of mine to visit but the reason to go yesterday was the marche de Saint Simon, an annual market full of artisans, foodie delights and vide-grenier bargains.  We ignored the weather forecast of rain and storms and had a very happy time in great company eating from the food stalls, finding the bargains and exploring the town in the warm sunshine.  

Friday 31 May 2013

An "Adoorable" Idea

Here's a clever idea we spotted at Domaine Borgnat, in the village of Escolives-Sainte-Camille near the Nivernais Canal in Yonne, Burgundy. 

An old wooden door has been painted and decorated all over with hens, leaves and flowers.  It's hung on the wall overlooking the terrace where we ate breakfast.

A great idea to make a feature out of a wall and give a new lease of life to a beautiful old door or an old shutter.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

How To Learn A New Language

My friend and fellower blogger Lynn McBride is living and loving the dream....she lives in an apartment in a medieval chateau in Southern Burgundy. After a year of hard work she has just launched a book called How to Learn a NEW Language with a USED Brain

If you are not as lucky as us to be living in France and having the opportunity to immerse yourself in a language and experience French conversation everyday this could be the book for you.

Aimed to help those over college age,  although it is packed full of ideas for anyone wanting to learn any language not just French, it is available as an ebook on
The book is short and sweet;  it includes some surprising reasons why you should be learning a foreign language; a study program you can tailor to your own learning style; resources for language learning, including the latest in online learning; and lots of tips from those who are immersed in language study. The book is for students of any language, any age, at beginner or advanced levels. The cost of the book is $2.99.
Fans of Lynn's Blog...  Southern Fried French will know that she is an American gal from Charleston and she knows how to throw a party...she is a great cook and always includes delicious recipes so... drop by and enjoy a virtual Book Launch Party ....

Monday 27 May 2013

Monday Quote and celebrating French Springtime!


Le Morvan... spring palette
verdant green forests and fields, 
seas of bluebells,
splashes of white, pink, yellow and purple flowers
bold dashes of broom on the hillsides
 and at night
the moon full and bright
against a velvet backdrop scattered with stars
Le Morvan est beau!

Saturday 25 May 2013

Cerisiers en Fleurs

Driving back from Auxerre I was stopped in my tracks by the cerisiers en fleurs, the cherry trees in flower...looking like frothy, pink candy floss covering the hillside. 

Jules Roy, a distinguished French writer who lived at Vezelay for over 20 years, described the cherry trees between Auxerre and Vezelay, as "clouds resembling sailboats, red glints aboard the belly of the Earth, hills play leapfrog, the sky becomes a purple sea....cherry blossom from foam ...thrown everywhere over vineyards." 

Take a look at these gorgeous paintings by artist Georges Hosotte...

....the fluffy cherry blossom and the violet skies...

Living and working from an atelier at Irancy, in Yonne, Burgundy,
Georges Hosotte perfectly captures the landscape surrounding him.  
Vast vistas of rolling hills and valleys, cherry orchards, vineyards and cereal crops. A dramatic contrast to the green, dark forests, steep hills and lakes of Le Morvan.