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Coco Chanel, Fragonard, Grasse: Unmissable Stops on the Great French Luxury Tour

Coco Chanel, Fragonard, Grasse: Unmissable Stops on the Great French Luxury Tour

In 1921 when she set out to create the eponymous Chanel No 5 , Coco Chanel, declared that rather than just another single-flower perfume, she was launching an abundantly variegated scent with an enveloping fragrance like … well … a woman. Thanks to that vision Maison Chanel remains today a supreme ‘symbole de l’élégance française’, […]

Confiserie Florian Readies Sweet Clementines, Bonbons and Recipes for the Confectioners Truce

Confiserie Florian Readies Sweet Clementines, Bonbons and Recipes for the Confectioners Truce

Earlier this month France staged the Journée des Petits Plaisirs, an annual celebration for the sweet-toothed, while over Christmas it fetes La Trêve des Confiseurs, the traditional offering of bonbons that dates from the Trêve de Dieu (Truce of God), imposed on France in 1245 by St. Louis. In a country with more than 600 types […]

A Skeleton in the (Bastille Day) Cupboard or the Fanciful Liberation of the ‘Comte de Lorges’

A Skeleton in the (Bastille Day) Cupboard or the Fanciful Liberation of the ‘Comte de Lorges’

Liberté, egalité, fraternité — the famous clarion calls of the French Revolution will soon be reverberating proudly around the hexagon as France prepares to celebrate La Fête Nationale, its 225th Bastille Day  — but what about the vérité of the historic record?  Here retired British diplomat and writer Keith Evetts recounts a tale of the Storming of the Bastille which throws a somewhat different light on one crucial aspect of the famous events […]

Horses, Bulls, Gypsies and Pink Flamingos at Home in the France’s Wild Camargue

Horses, Bulls, Gypsies and Pink Flamingos at Home in the France’s Wild Camargue

The marshy Camargue in southern France is home to pink flamingos, sprawling lagoons, a bird sanctuary and a sense of time largely standing still. Here Jerry Lanson pays a visit to a region famous for bulls, horses and bird-watching in that order.  Republished with kind permission of the author, from Slowlanefrance. Into the Camargue, Home of France’s Cowboys, Bulls […]

Journey of a Kiwi, her Cook-Book and the 88,000 Donated SMS in Montpellier

Journey of a Kiwi, her Cook-Book and the 88,000 Donated SMS in Montpellier

While Kiwis flourish abundantly in Corse and Aquitaine there’s a special nez to this Kiwi’s recipes nurtured in local terroir then harvested by Montpellier university academic and long-time New Zealand expat, Rachel Panckhurst. Thirty-five years ago Kiwi-born-and-bred Rachel set out from Wellington for an intensive summer course in French at Montpellier University (Hérault). She’s still […]

Pastis in the Sun? Just a Matter of Time

Pastis in the Sun? Just a Matter of Time

The winter solstice over the residents of Florac in the Cevennes look forward to mid-February with particular passion, even though an early evening pastis in the sun still lies some way off.  Roger East describes why the Rocher de Rochefort lacks local love in mid-January. Fast forwarding the calendar is a tempting thought on long winter evenings everywhere. Florac, […]

The Zebra Crossing and the Hesitant Hedgehog

The Zebra Crossing and the Hesitant Hedgehog

For visitors and newcomers to France, the proper approach to zebra crossings can be mysterious, exhilarating, death-defying and probably always confusing. For while in some European countries just standing at a zebra crossing is enough to bring approaching motorists gliding to a halt, in France pedestrians often need to be somewhat more proactive. One has for instance, […]

On the Road in the Gorges du Tarn

On the Road in the Gorges du Tarn

For 500 years scattered settlements in Gorges du Tarn, southern France, punted downstream in flat-bottomed boats for supplies but then came the road. Here Roger East, a writer and walker based in Florac, casts a wintry eye over this magnificent valley. Anyone familiar with these parts in summer might find it hard to credit, but driving the whole length of […]

Is TPP A Full Frontal Assault on Democracy?

Is TPP A Full Frontal Assault on Democracy?

Powerful business lobbies in Brussels appear to have captured the EU technocracy persuading governments to sell the soul of democracy to corporate lawyers and global business interests — even going so far as to stage a takeover and privatisation of the Internet. Brussels has been very quiet about a nearly finalised treaty that reportedly allows big business to […]

War and Peace on Corniche des Cévennes

War and Peace on Corniche des Cévennes

In “Travels with a Donkey” Robert Louis Stevenson put the hardy Cévennes on the trail map of a region that harbours darker history including the persecution of Protestantism. Here Roger East, a writer and walker based in Florac, explores aspects of harsher times. The mild October weather in southern France has got mushroom lovers heading for the […]

The Discreet Charm of Elegant Art Deco Paris

The Discreet Charm of Elegant Art Deco Paris

A stunning exhibition of the work of George Barbier at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, inspired Norman Ball to set off on a Parisian journey through the eyes of this French Art Deco illustrator, whose views on good taste are chronicled in the Gazette du bon ton. Republished from here by kind permission of the […]

Straw Bale Evangelists Building French Homes

Straw Bale Evangelists Building French Homes

No more huffing and puffing, houses of straw are far from fairy tales: in the Vosges, residents will soon be comfortably settled in Europe’s first 8-storey straw bale block untroubled by any Three Piggy wolf at the door. And as Mike Alexander, our roving nature and gardening correspondent, reports below, one enterprising farmer is literally sewing small […]

Making Moonshine is Illegal in France but…

Making Moonshine is Illegal in France but…

Making moonshine is illegal almost everywhere. However in France if you’ve a few orchards of unsold peaches or apricots and can find a licensed itinerant distiller you can still enjoy the  spirit-warming fruits of your labour. But for how much longer?  This was the question that prompted our Grumpy Gardener Mike Alexander to set off recently to […]

France’s Kilogram is Losing Weight

France’s Kilogram is Losing Weight

If you’re a weight watcher here’s the good news, those stubborn kilos on your scales are themselves losing weight so perhaps you won’t need to bother. Dust is affecting this 1889 bar of 90% platinum and 10% iridium that currently provides the definition of the kilo France’s Kilogram Artifact is Losing Weight Specks of dust […]

France and the Roma Go Back a Long Way

France and the Roma Go Back a Long Way

France’s Socialist Interior Minister, Barcelona-born Manuel Valls, has carefully cultivated his image as a tough, no-nonsense figure as keen on clamping down on Islamic extremism as he is on Roma encampments.  However his latest remarks (see here) have drawn a sharp rebuke from Brussels reminding him of French obligations under the EU’s freedom of movement […]

Time to Blok your Mobile?

Time to Blok your Mobile?

Dutchman Dave Hakkens aims to be the man mobile phone manufacturers will either love or hate.  For he has a vision —  a mobile phone designed to last. His Phoneblok (see photo above) is made of detachable ‘bloks’ connected to a base which locks everything together into a solid phone. If a ‘blok’ breaks it is easily […]

On Capricorn and Aoûtat – an Autumn Lament

On Capricorn and Aoûtat – an Autumn Lament

So what do Capricorn and Aoûtat have in common? Not much except both are small, both are pests, and both cause damage in unusual ways. More importantly both recently have been making life tediously uncomfortable for our nature correspondent, Mike Alexander, a tale of autumn lament as he recounts below. While Capricorn are a pest […]

Toulouse, Capital of the October Organ Fe(a)st

Toulouse, Capital of the October Organ Fe(a)st

South-west France, richly endowed with magnificent pipe organs and famous organ builders, celebrates this rich musical heritage each Autumn with a world-renowned international organ festival — Toulouse-les-Orgues. The southwest is the cradle of the great 19th-century organ builders Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and Théodore Puget and a repository for some of their original preserved and restored instruments. Indeed 60 organs in the region […]

August is Time to Go Bats in France

August is Time to Go Bats in France

Over the last weekend in August France and the rest of European Union, celebrate the 17th year of Die Fledermaus — no not the one by Johann Strauss (below) — but the now heavily protected nocturnal insecticide bomb which in France comes in a startling 34 varieties. However this year events scheduled for the Night of […]

Paris: A Maze of Mushroom Caves

Paris: A Maze of Mushroom Caves

Behind the ubiquitous champignon de Paris found in street markets and greengrocers country-wide, lies a fascinating, cavernous and  capital tale, as Norman Ball relates. Republished from here by kind permission of the writer Norman Ball, who is joint publisher of the Parisian Fields blog. Mushrooms, manure, and the secret of French food Posted on August 4, 2013by Parisian Fields Recently, at The Astrolabe Gallery, a print and map store on […]

Aux Armes Help Save the Ecrevisse

Aux Armes Help Save the Ecrevisse

The call is out to all who support local produce for the pan — join the great freshwater crayfish cull. There is no restricted season, all that’s needed is a license and you can enjoy year round Poulet Marengo, one of Napoleon’s favourite dishes, while helping the local eco-system too. For the call to the cull is […]

The Great War Remembered

The Great War Remembered

More than 60 million served and more than 16 million died in World War I as the armies of the Triple Entente –Britain, France and the Russian Empire  joined forces against the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary in a “war to end all wars.”   That fervent hope failed to materialise however —the Great War was not the war […]

On the Trail of le Snail at Fête de l’Escargot

On the Trail of le Snail at Fête de l’Escargot

As escargot connoisseurs gather for this year’s 23rd Fête de l’Escargot in August they may be surprised to learn that 90% of what they are sitting down to enjoy is imported, mainly from Eastern Europe. True snail aficionados may well be only whispering this uncomfortable truth, for they hope that a campaign underway to specify […]

Poulenc, the Nuns and Place de la Nation

Poulenc, the Nuns and Place de la Nation

Francis Poulenc’s opera, Dialogues des Carmélites, written in 1956, depicts the death by guillotine of 16 Carmelite nuns during the Terror in 1794. Hearing haunting excerpts of the opera sent Toronto writer Philippa Campsie along an historic treasure trail searching for the original Compiègne convent.  Republished from here by kind permission of the writer who is joint publisher of the Parisian […]

Mind Exercise? Try A Free Online MOOC

Mind Exercise? Try A Free Online MOOC

Now there is no excuse for being a couch potato when it comes to mind exercise. For anyone with Internet access can enrol on a range of university courses in eight different languages from 82 institutions worldwide and all free. The global teach-in or “massive open online courses (MOOCs)”, is the brainwave of  Artificial-intelligence researchers Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller both from Stanford […]

A WWII Photo Mystery – Dachau to Chicago

A WWII Photo Mystery – Dachau to Chicago

Bruce Sadler is a man on a mission — similar in some ways to that of his late father Paul – and he hopes a treasure trove of 200 photos unearthed in his attic will help. For this pictorial hoard is a cache of never- seen-before World War II images retrieved by his dad, Paul […]

No Buzz this Spring? Time for Plan Bee

No Buzz this Spring? Time for Plan Bee

As the European Union rolls out a two-year moratorium on certain pesticides, beekeepers warn that despite a welcome gesture, the world is approaching a bees or bust moment. For the past decade or more there has been rising global alarm about the unexplained death of bee colonies — a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder […]

Les Halles and The Little Shards of Paris

Les Halles and The Little Shards of Paris

Les Halles in Paris, knocked down in the torpor of summer 41 years ago, was the foodies paradise of the time but how many know of Napoleon’s role in the design of the lost pavilions?  Philippa Campsie and Norman Ball made some surprising discoveries when they visited an exhibition now on in the French capital. Republished […]

Cash-in, Keep Track of Chris the Cuckoo (now Back in Europe this Spring)

Cash-in, Keep Track of Chris the Cuckoo (now Back in Europe this Spring)

In France le coucou — the herald of Spring — is closely associated with the feast of St. Benedict, Annunciation Day, coins jingling (or not) in your pocket and a happy marriage! Wondering how to join those dots …? Well for one and for good measure, readers can satellite track M. Coucou — or rather […]

It’s Save the Frogs Time – Yes Really

It’s Save the Frogs Time – Yes Really

Time to Save the Frogs — or better their legs —  as global culinary demand for these sparks growing concern that Freddie the Frog is headed for extinction. France alone reportedly consumes 4000 tonnes of cuisses de grenouille a year and scientists warn the amphibian trade is causing over-harvesting. The Fifth International Save the Frogs Day is celebrated worldwide […]

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