Thursday, June 13, 2019

Book review of One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake

French Village Diaries book review One More Croissant for the Road Felicity Cloake
One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake

One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake

Felicity is a food writer hooked on cycle touring, so decides to bring together her two passions and plot herself a 21 stage Tour of France (just like the great Tour de France cycle race), but bases her stages on the home towns of some of her favourite French foods. This ticked all the boxes for me; memoir, cycling, cycle touring, France, food and croissants, I honestly can’t think of anything else I need in a book and I couldn’t wait to get reading.

French Village Diaries book review One More Croissant for the Road Felicity Cloake
Inside cover One More Croissant for the Road by Felicity Cloake, illustrations ©Sara Mulvanny

Sometimes camping and travelling alone, sometimes accompanied by friends or family and with the luxury of a real bed to sleep in, this book is a review of meals and the cycle rides or train journeys that join them together. We follow her route from the oysters, moules, omelettes and crepes of Normandy and Brittany, south to the beef of Limoges and hot chocolate of Bayonne before she heads east to indulge in Cassoulet and Provençal fish soup, among other delights. From feasts in Lyon as she heads north to the home of mountain cheeses and choucroute in Alsace, her journey comes to a close as she cycles through Champagne country and makes her way to Paris for a well-researched croissant fest. There is no doubt this book will make you hungry as you read it and even I was surprised at how much I didn't know about the food of France.

A boulangerie croissant has been my weekly treat on a Sunday morning for many years and I too enjoy indulging daily while on a bike tour, but once again Felicity takes it further, scoring her croissants out of ten – why have I never considered this? I also really enjoyed the Pause Café sections, quick bites of useful France-related information conveniently slotted within the chapters and for those of us who enjoy cooking, Felicity includes her recipes for us to try too.

There is rain (lots of rain), steep climbs and erratic opening hours that would challenge even the most ardent Francophile and while her mood is constantly changing and she sheds the odd tear in frustration and disappointment, she robustly takes it all in her stride and never loses her love for France or a good meal. There was more than one occasion that I took my hat off to her with the variety (and quantity) of food she managed to put away, especially the offal-based delights French-born people naturally love, but don’t often get a warm reception from the overseas palate. Even her friends seemed to be able to order and enjoy the obscure.

Every now and then I come across a book that describes one of my dream ideas and this is one of those books. If I’m honest, I was initially a little upset that Felicity has beaten me to it, although I have to admit she probably made a better job of it than I would have done.

One More Croissant for the Road, published by Mudlark, an imprint of HarperColins Publishers is currently available in hardback and ebook versions, links to Amazon can be found below.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bruncliffe weather, The Dales Detective Series


French Village Diaries The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman
The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman

The rain is pouring down once more today, yesterday we had text message alerts to warn of thunder storms (which thankfully didn’t happen) and last week we were battered by the 100km/h hurricane winds of tempête Miguel, yet it is almost the middle of June.

French Village Diaries The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman
The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman

I’ve snatched the odd moment in the garden, pulling up damp soggy weeds and wading through wet grass that sticks to my legs as I check out the cherries, trying their best to ripen in what little sun we’ve had. Always keeping one eye on the steel grey skies threatening rain any moment. Mostly, I’ve been reading. Anything to distract from the weather outside, but in the early hours of last Friday, with the wind rattling the roof tiles and keeping me awake, I’m not sure my choice of book was the best distraction.

French Village Diaries The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman
The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman

I was in Bruncliffe, in the Yorkshire Dales, home to Julia Chapman’s The Dales Detective series where feisty, independent Delilah can’t help but get involved with town bad boy Samson and his new detective business. It was winter in Bruncliffe, the weather was unpredictable; cold, wet and windy, seemingly just like June here in France, although we were at least spared the snow. I had no trouble imagining myself pounding the fells with Delilah and her dog Tolpuddle on their morning run in the rain.

I first came across Julia’s writing when she took us to the heart of the Ariège in the Pyrenees with her Fogas Chronicles. Five novels that told of the goings on of a mountain community, with local politics, romance, cycling and bears all served up with lots of humour and quirky rural French life. I loved them and was quite sad when life took Julia back to the north of the UK and her France series came to an end.

French Village Diaries The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman
The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman

Aside from the weather, I’ve enjoyed my visit to the town of Bruncliffe almost as much as my time in Fogas. It is also a place where everyone knows everyone else’s business, but some have secrets they don’t want shared, and with murders covered up as suicides in book one, unfortunate accidents that aren’t all they seem in book two and a mysterious death from twenty years ago to unravel in book three, there is no shortage of mysterious goings on for Samson to uncover. I’ve combed through the evidence, pointed my finger at the suspects and loved the sparks that fly between Samson and Delilah, as I’ve tried to come up with the answers and discover who did it and why. Despite the grizzly goings on these are cosy mysteries with lots of humour and the characters now feel like friends.

French Village Diaries The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman
Les Detectives du Yorkshire

If you haven’t yet discovered the Dales Detective series, now is your chance as books one and two are currently only 99p each on Kindle UK and book four is available to pre-order on Amazon. Julia will also be doing a Yorkshire bookshop tour to celebrate the publication of Date with Poison later this summer and for those of you who want to practice reading in French, the series has been translated and published here in France and is a ’so British’ best seller. 
 
French Village Diaries The Dales Detective Series Julia Chapman
Yorkshire bookshop tour Julia Chapman Date With Poison

I really hope our weather begins to pick up soon, much as I’ve loved being in the Dales, I don’t need Bruncliffe weather here in France this summer, I need sunshine!



Thursday, June 6, 2019

6th June 2019, D-Day 75

French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
Just one of the 18 Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in Normandy

6th June 2019, D-Day 75 years on

Today marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, or Operation Overlord, a massive 7000 vessel seaborne invasion by the Allied Forces on the beaches of Normandy that marked the beginning of the liberation of Europe and the end of the Second World War.

French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
Pegasus Bridge, Normandy, D-Day remembered 75 years on
Over 150,000 British, American and Canadian troops landed on an 80km stretch of coastline at Utah Beach, Omaha Beach, Gold Beach, Juno Beach and Sword Beach with bicycles, bulldozers, tanks, jeeps and trucks, as well as over 11,000 aircraft to support them. By 11th June over 300,000 troops and 54,000 vehicles had landed in France. This still remains the largest military invasion and even today these are huge numbers to comprehend as are the number of lives lost. 

French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
Landing craft bulldozer as used by my Dad's cousin Cyril, aged 19
In our current troubled political times, with radical nationalism on the rise, never has the message of world peace and unity, remembered with the commemoration of D-Day, seemed so important. In the memory of those who died for our freedom, we must never again let a war on this scale become a possibility.

French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
Memorial in Arromanches, Normandy
With Ed, aged 18, now a similar age to many of the troops who landed on D-Day, watching the footage on the television this morning it feels more poignant than ever before. My Dad’s cousin Cyril was only 19 when he was one of the first to land on Gold Beach on D-Day. He was driving a bulldozer that was used to search for mines and then to help push the landing craft back into the sea, living on the beach for around eight weeks. I cannot imagine the horrific sights he must have seen in that time and certainly don’t want Ed to experience anything like that, ever. Miraculously Cyril survived and spent the rest of the War in France, Belgium and Holland and returned to Normandy many times over the years, with his family, for the commemorations.

French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
German bunker, Normandy D-Day remembered 75 years on

My Granddad Albert, although not part of the D-Day landings, was also in France for about three years during the Second World War, where he served in the Royal Artillery. He would have been 36 years old at the time of the landings and had a wife and young family at home. Details about his time in the War are sketchy, but he was certainly part of the liberation and repatriation teams working in France, Belgium and Germany and we have a very fragile flag that was given to him by a grateful French villager as they passed through – or so the family story goes. 


French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
Inside German bunker, Normandy
We will remember them

French Village Diaries D-Day 75th anniversary 6th June 2019
Ruins of German bunker, Normandy



This post has been linked to Lou Messugo's #AllAboutFrance

Lou Messugo

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Book review of A Vineyard for Two by Laura Bradbury

French Village Diaries book review A Vineyard for Two Laura Bradbury
A Vineyard for Two by Laura Bradbury


A Vineyard for Two by Laura Bradbury

I enjoyed Laura’s ‘Grape’ series of memoirs of love and life in Burgundy, so was rather excited to get my hands on her first novel, A Vineyard for Two, also set in Burgundy where love, life and wine are key players.

We meet Cerise, widowed and with two young sons, who took over the vineyard lease when her husband died. With the expert tuition and guidance from vineyard owner Maxime, Cerise creates a name for herself in the male-dominated wine community.

When Maxime dies suddenly, Cerise’s stable life once more becomes a place of grief, loss and uncertainty. Inheritance in France is tricky, so it is no real surprise to Cerise to find Maxime’s wealthy grandson Clovis, vintner in his own name, has inherited Maxime’s vineyards and property. However, there is an unusual and unexpected clause. Maxime has left the vineyard Cerise rents to her and Clovis 50/50.

Working with Clovis for the grape harvest, Cerise’s first without Maxime’s guidance, would be enough of a challenge for independent Cerise, but her head and her heart are in turmoil. She is convinced the future for her sons depends on her strength and independence, so persuading Clovis to sell his share to her is the only option. However, the chemistry between them is difficult to ignore. Would giving in to passion and indulging in a harvest affair be so wrong? Would it weaken her position?

This book has all the colours, scents and flavours of France, and Burgundy in particular. We follow the ups and downs of the wine harvest, the hard work, the problems and of course the shared meals, parties and social side too. We get to virtually drink in the fine wines and learn that a good wine is like a glimpse into the wine maker’s soul. Wine becomes like an emotion in this book, intense and sensual. Life is full of decisions and compromises, and making the right choices is never easy. The fire and passion kept me turning the pages, but so did the hope, that even in the difficult times all would turn out right in the end.

I do hope we get to return to Cerise’s vineyard in the future. A Vineyard for Two is available in paperback and ebook format from Amazon and links can be found below.




You might also like my reviews of Laura’s memoirs:

Or her Lazy Sunday in France guest post she wrote for French Village Diaries last year.

You can sign up for her newsletter here and find her on Facebook Twitter and Instagram.

Monday, June 3, 2019

World Bicycle Day 3rd June 2019

French Village Diaries World Bicycle Day 3 June 2019 #KTTinyTourer
World Bicycle Day 3rd June 2019

World Bicycle Day 3 June 2019


Today is World Bicycle Day, a United Nations initiative to celebrate the bicycle, which is “a simple, affordable, reliable, clean and environmentally fit sustainable means of transportation”.

The UN website says that the needs of cyclists and pedestrians (who often make up the majority of commuters in cities) continues to be overlooked, despite the many benefits of investing in safer walking and cycling infrastructure. Today is all about encouraging member states to adopt best practices, improve road safety and integrate the bicycle into their sustainable mobility and transport infrastructure, thereby promoting the bicycle among all members of society. You can read more here.

We are lucky in our little bit of rural France. The roads are not busy, there are many marked cycle routes we can follow, from short circular rides to long distance (coast to coast) touring trails. When we venture into our local towns and cities, the cycle lanes are usually a safe distance from the traffic (where possible) and give us priority, i.e. one way for cars, two way for cyclists, thus enabling a free-flowing bike route through town. We need to move away from the car being king, especially in built up areas, and I think cycle routes can only help this mind switch.
 
French Village Diaries World Bicycle Day 3 June 2019 #KTTinyTourer
Katie the Tiny Tourer Brompton in France, Marais Poitevin
So far this year we have been lucky enough to enjoy days out on the super-cycle-friendly Ile de Ré, cycle tour from Bordeaux to Toulouse (both cities being bike friendly despite the traffic) with the route in between being mainly on traffic-free cycle paths following old railway lines or canal towpaths. We have also climbed in the Pyrenees and followed the Atlantic coast route Eurovélo 1. I set myself a challenge to cycle 2019km this year and so far, I’ve reached 1,408km, this is already twice the distance I managed last year.
 
French Village Diaries World Bicycle Day 3 June 2019 #KTTinyTourer
Poppies in the Marais Poitevin
This week I have cycled just over 100km, with Adrian and with friends, both local rides and a little further afield. At this time of year France is a feast for the senses with hedgerows of elderflower, cottages with scented climbing roses and fields of red poppies swaying in the almost ripened wheat, and if we are lucky a deer or two bounding away from our almost silent approach.
 
French Village Diaries World Bicycle Day 3 June 2019 #KTTinyTourer
Marais Poitevin World Bicycle Day 2019
The Marais Poitevin, where we clocked up a warm 44km, was beautiful as always; the warmth of the sun cooled by the welcome shady areas with the river running alongside. The dust flying off the dry paths as we cycled alongside the small, narrow waterways with singing frogs, herons gracefully taking flight and soft-eyed cattle watching our every move, with their accompanying cattle egrets. You really do get to experience more when you are out on your bike, there is always something new to see and I never tire of getting out for a ride.

Whether you are a 5km rider or a 150km rider, I hope you were able to do something to mark World Bicycle Day. This post has been linked to the Lou Messugo #AllAboutFrance

Lou Messugo