Friday, June 26, 2015

Nuits Romanes in Poitou-Charentes


French Village Diaries Nuits Romanes music concerts Poitou-Charentes France
Nuits Romanes Gospel singers open air concert

This weekend sees the opening of the 2015 Nuits Romanes (Roman Nights) summer concert season in Poitou-Charentes. Now in it’s 11th year it was originally the initiative of local Member of Parliament Ségolène Royal to highlight the 800 Romanesque churches and abbeys in Poitou-Charentes, as well as bringing culture and the arts to the people. Many of the Romanesque churches in our region are on the pilgrimage route to Compostela in Spain and although we may not be home to the Pont du Gard or the huge arena in Nimes, we are still one of the top regions in France for Roman architecture.


French Village Diaries Nuits Romanes music concerts Poitou-Charentes France
Nuits Romanes light show on Romanesque church

Advertised widely throughout France, including on the Paris Metro, these free concerts are a great way of highlighting our region and each year many camping car tourists arrive from elsewhere to follow the spectacle around the Poitou-Charentes. In 2014 160,000 spectators enjoyed the music, dance, light and fire shows in villages and towns with Romanesque churches. Even small villages with fewer than five hundred inhabitants can see audiences of around a thousand.



French Village Diaries Nuits Romanes music concerts Poitou-Charentes France
Nuits Romanes fire dancers

This year there will be 170 evening concerts from 26th June to 5th September, all with free entry and providing a perfect way to spend a convivial evening with friends and family while enjoying the beauty of the architecture and the art of the performers. To coincide with the sailing of the replica of the Hermione from Rochefort to America earlier this year, four American groups will be appearing as guests of honour at thirteen of the concerts, performing Cajun, Gospel, Jazz and Soul music. Many of the events will also be holding a local produce market that takes place before the main spectacles begin at 21h00 and I’m hoping that like last year some venues may also offer a small platter of regional produce. The melon, paté, farci, goat cheese and apple juice handed out for free in Couture-d’Argenson was the perfect end to a lovely evening. I would advise taking your own chairs or picnic rugs, although some seating is usually provided if you get there early, and if you want to make a real evening of it, why not bring a picnic and wine too.


French Village Diaries Nuits Romanes music concerts Poitou-Charentes France
Nuits Romanes Poitou-Charentes

These are some of the photos I took last year, but for those with the ability to take really good action shots in the dark don't forget to enter the Nuits Romanes photo competition. Full details on the competition and all the information on the 2015 programme can be found on their website here. You can also follow the Nuits Romanes Facebook page here.



Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Book review of The Lazy Cook by Susie Kelly


My review today is for The Lazy Cook (Book One): Quick and Easy Meatless Meals, Susie Kelly’s latest book that was released this week.

French Village Diaries book review The Lazy Cook Susie KellyIt was great to read something new from Susie as I’m a huge fan of her writing (especially her travel memoirs set in France) and she always makes me laugh. This book, although primarily a cookbook is no exception, as her no-nonsense guide to tasty homemade meals is interspersed with little anecdotes from her foodie recollections and contained more than one ‘snort out loud’ moment.

Susie is a very well traveled lady who has lived and worked in quite a few countries, and obviously enjoyed the local food and cultures while she was there. These experiences and many years of collecting favourite recipes have given her plenty of material for this book, including memories from her early life in Africa, street food in Nairobi, tales from dinner parties, life in France and recipes from her Italian mother-in-law. Susie shares all these and more with her unique sense of humour that never failed to make me smile. As Susie and her husband are vegetarians and as the title suggests, the only thing you won’t find in this book are meat recipes, although she does admit that many of her salad, curry and sauce recipes would work well with meats too. I’m not a vegetarian, but there were so many delicious sounding recipes in this book I never found myself yearning for a meat dish while reading it.

Top of my list of recipes to try are the smoked salmon quiche, as it is a very luxurious sounding recipe and the baked walnut balls as we have two huge walnut trees, so I’m always looking for interesting and different walnut recipes.

I have to admit to being a little disappointed that the measurements given are only in cup sizes as I have so many different sized cups at home I never know which one to use, but give me a gram and I know where I am. Thankfully, like Susie, I’m happiest when experimenting in the kitchen and to have a recipe book that positively encourages me to play with the recipes and quantities to suit my tastes is very refreshing. Susie encourages a relaxed attitude to cooking and therefore this book would be perfect for those people who want to cook something different, but often feel daunted by difficult or complicated methods. 

The Lazy Cook (Book One): Quick and Easy Meatless Meals is available in ebook and paperback format and is published by Blackbird Digital Books who kindly sent me a copy to read and review. Amazon links to The Lazy Cook and Susie’s other books can be found below. You can also read my France et Moi interview with Susie here.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Summer hollyhocks in the Deux Sèvres

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, white

Yesterday was the Summer Solstice, for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, so I thought a wander around the garden would be a nice way to mark this special occasion. The sun has been shining for a whole week so it feels like summer at last and although the sunflowers in the fields are not quite in flower, the hollyhocks in the garden are putting on a great display. 

I love our hollyhocks as every year they self-seed all over our garden, giving us tall spires of vibrant colours. They also decorate the roads all around our village and can be found in the surrounding villages all the way to the coastal resorts of the Charente-Maritime. Here are just some of the colours I found flowering today, in our garden. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Here's to a great summer!


French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, pale yellow

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, white with a hint of pink

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, two pinks

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, dark pink

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, cerise pink

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, deep pink

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, dark purple

French Village Diaries summer hollyhocks Deux Servres Poitou-Charentes France
Summer hollyhocks, almost black








Saturday, June 20, 2015

Book review of 7 Years Bad Sex by Nicky Wells

Today I am taking part in a virtual book promotion event for 7 Years Bad Sex by Nicky Wells via Brook Cottage BooksOne wedding. One curse?  Disaster ever after…


French Village Diaries Brook Cottage Books review promotion 7 Years Bad Sex Nicky Wells
7 Years Bad Sex by Nicky Wells
On a yacht off the coast of St Tropez in the South of France, a young couple, very much in love are getting married in front of all their friends and family before setting off to cruise the Med alone on their honeymoon. Nothing could be more perfect for them. However, mysterious forces seem to collide at a critical point during the celebrations leaving the newlyweds under performing in the bedroom department. It doesn't seem to matter what they try or where they try it, odd things occur to put physical or mental barriers that end up interrupting their intimacy at a critical point. Will they be able to work out what is wrong and more importantly how to put it right?

This is a fun, lively read. Alex and Casey are a likeable couple and I found myself rooting for them and willing things to get better. There is lots of humour and lots of laughs, but let’s face it, it's not really a funny subject and there is a seriousness to their situation when events seem to get the better of them. I really couldn't see where this story was going to end, but there was a surprise or two towards the end of the book that I thought finished things off nicely.

This book is something a bit different for your sunlounger reading this summer, but please note it does contain mildly explicit language.

About the author.
Ultimate rock chick author Nicky Wells writes romance with rock stars—because there’s no better romantic hero than a golden-voiced bad boy with a secret soft heart and a magical stage presence!

French Village Diaries Brook Cottage Books review promotion 7 Years Bad Sex Nicky Wells
Nicky Wells
Nicky’s books offer glitzy, glamorous romance with rock stars—imagine Bridget Jones ROCKS Notting Hill! If you’ve ever had a crush on any kind of celebrity, you’ll connect with Nicky’s heroes and their leading ladies.

Born in Germany, Nicky moved to the United Kingdom in 1993 and currently lives in Lincoln with her husband and their two boys. Nicky loves listening to rock music, dancing, and eating lobsters. When she’s not writing, she’s a wife, mother, occasional knitter, and ad-hoc radio show presenter. Rock on!




Did you know? There’s a single out now by Nicky’s fictional rock band Tuscq come to life! “Love Me Better” is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and many other places. 




French Village Diaries Brook Cottage Books review promotion 7 Years Bad Sex Nicky Wells
Promotion special offer price of 99p

As part of this promotion the ebook is available for only 99p or 99c from Amazon until 24th June, so don’t miss out. Links to Amazon for all of Nicky's books can be found below. Having spotted the Eiffel Tower on the cover, I think I might have to read Sophie's Turn next!

French Village Diaries Brook Cottage Books review promotion 7 Years Bad Sex Nicky Wells



Friday, June 19, 2015

France et Moi with author Susan Herrmann Loomis


Welcome to ‘France et Moi’ where this week, to coincide with the release of her new book In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France I am talking to Susan Herrmann Loomis about what France means to her.

French Village Diaries France et Moi interview Susan Herrmann Loomis In a French KitchenSusan Herrmann Loomis is an award-winning journalist, author, professionally trained chef, and proprietor of a cooking school, On Rue Tatin. She is the author of twelve books, including French Farmhouse Cook Book and her memoir, On Rue Tatin: The Simple Pleasures of Life in a Small French Town , which was named the IACP’s Best Literary Food Book in 2002. She lives with her two children in Louviers, where she moved nearly twenty years ago.

Firstly, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?

Susan: Well, since you mention dog poo (caca de chien), I think the machines that are used to clean this off the streets are quite remarkable, and testament to France's incredible ingenuity. And I'm actually not kidding, but this isn't something that I think about on a daily basis…!  What makes France truly extraordinary is the flavor of its food, the incredibly variety of its landscapes, the sheer numbers of exciting wines available, and the focus most of the French have on food and pleasure, in that order.
Photo by Cathy Arkle

2) What is your first memory of a trip to France?

Susan: The scent of butter in the air.

3) Having lived in France and spoken French for many years do you have any top tips for my readers on how to learn French?

Susan: Live with a French family where small children will laugh at you until you cry, and will shame you into pulling that vocabulary and grammar out of your head. If that isn't of interest, I would honestly suggest an immersion program where you are speaking French with French people all the time. It's tiring, but effective.

4) Where did your love of the region of Normandy begin?

Susan: It began with Camembert and a salad at the home of my friend Edith Leroy (a character in the book). We were seated at a round wooden table in her kitchen, the fire was keeping us warm, the cheese was oozing on the plate and I was in heaven. I couldn't understand everything, but I didn't care.

5) Every region in France has its own culinary specialty; do you have a favourite regional dish?

Susan: Danie Dubois' confit d'oie – goose confit. It is my favorite thing on earth, aside from her duck breast stuffed with foie gras.  But then again, there is the roast chicken with apples, pears, and quinces (see p. 205 of In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France ).

6) Is there any French food you won’t eat?

Susan: I'm not crazy about kidneys.

7) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?

Susan: Slam-dunk. Double espresso with pain au chocolate. Perfection.

8) France has many different cheeses, this is a silly question, but which French cheese are you? Maybe a hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, a creamy and rich Camembert or a salty and serious blue like Roquefort?

Susan: Great, great question, and one I've never thought of. I'm going to choose one of your choices – I am probably a Roquefort, not because I'm salty, I'm actually very sweet. But there is a lot of strength in a Roquefort, and it ends up seducing nearly everyone!

9) Do you think the French have a different attitude to food than other countries and if so, is it a healthier one?

Susan: Oh my, of course they do!  They view food as something delicious and pleasurable, something nutritious and linked to their personal culture and history. Food is important; it is vital; it is fun; it is exciting to the French.

10) Can you describe your perfect French apero for us, including the drink, the nibbles, the location and the company?

Susan: My kitchen or garden (I sound like a snob, but you asked…). The apero of choice is champagne (more snob).  As for nibbles? I LOVE Tapenade with both toasts and crudités – either seasoned with fresh basil from the garden, or thyme flowers, or just lots of garlic.  I also love red bell peppers roasted and moistened with olive oil and seasoned with shards of garlic  - also for toasts.

Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?

Susan: Every day feels like a current project!  I'm newly a Professor of Gastronomy for the semester abroad at Trinity College, and I love it – a blend of history and tasting, walking through the market and watching students' eyes light up at everything; I've got a book idea that I'm working on, but that is all I can say about that!  Otherwise, I've got a stack of recipes I am working on, and one of them involves fresh strawberries, limes, a tiny bit of gelatin, and some balsamic vinegar….

Thanks Susan for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.

Susan’s latest book In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France was released in hardback and ebook format on 16th June. You can read my review here and you can find links to Amazon for some of her books below. You can also find Susan on Facebook, Twitter and read details about her cookery school on her website here.