Saturday, September 26, 2020

European Languages Day with Twinkl

 

French Village Diaries European Languages Day Twinkl
Languages Spoken in France for European Languages Day on Twinkl


Welcome to European Languages Day, celebrated on 26th September since 2001, with the aim to highlight the amazing variety of languages spoken across Europe and to encourage us all to learn another language.

 

I was contacted by Twinkl, an online language learning resource, and asked if I could say a few words about why I think learning languages is beneficial. You can read what I had to say in their article here, which also has some fun French facts, a quiz about European languages and lots of links to help you if you want to improve your French. 

 

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Twinkl in anyway and did not receive any form of payment for this post.

 


Monday, September 21, 2020

Poitiers, terre de vélo (land of the bicycle)

French Village Diaries Poitiers, terre de vélo
Poitiers, by bike

Poitiers, terre de vélo (land of the bicycle)

Following on from yesterday’s Tour de France post, it is obvious that while cycling has always been big in France, the cycling bug seems to be spreading faster around here than a certain virus we’ve all become familiar with. 


French Village Diaries Poitiers, terre de vélo
Poitiers Mag, the town's monthly information publication 

The new Maire of Poitiers, Léonore Moncond’huy, has made it her mission for the town to be known as the “land of the bicycle: for getting around, for exercise and to keep healthy”, stating also that “more than a sport, the bicycle is a spiritual state and a way of life” and I couldn’t agree more. Teaching primary aged children to ride a bicycle is one of her council’s educational priorities, and outside of the sports clubs they want to increase and encourage events, businesses and associations that bring life to the Poitiers cycling community, and she’s already made a great start.

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, terre de vélo
Poitiers from above

Poitiers not only hosted a finish stage of the Tour de France, it held a weekend fête du vélo, where families could experience safe closed road cycling, coinciding with the final stage of the Tour du Poitou-Charentes that finishes in Poitiers every year. There have been a number of new cycle paths introduced all over town, notably linking the town centre to the university campus, a fantastic initiative for a town that welcomes thirty thousand students every September and is always rated as one of the best student towns in France. They have also reintroduced a scheme that offers residents a 25% reduction (capped at 250€) for buying an electric assist bike and bought an additional two hundred electric assist bikes for their hire scheme. Chapeau Poitiers, although this is a trend that can be seen in cities throughout France, including Paris where many of the temporary cycle routes that went in to get the city safely moving after lockdown, have proved their worth and are here to stay.

 

French Village Diaries V93 voie verte Deux-Sèvres
V93 cycle route and the proud sign from the Deux-Sèvres dept

Closer to home we have also seen exciting improvements to cycling infrastructure and evidence of big investment projects aimed at encouraging more people onto bikes and it’s worked. I know we are keen cyclists not afraid to challenge ourselves to ride that extra kilometre, but we are just as happy out for a shorter ride with friends. 


French Village Diaries V93 voie verte Deux-Sèvres
V93 at Brioux-sur-Boutonne

When we first stumbled upon the new V93 voie verte (cycle path) signs, we couldn’t resist following them and were amazed to discover quiet, mostly traffic free paths that took us to places we’ve never seen, despite living here sixteen years. We then took our cycling friends out for a Sunday morning ride, sharing our new route along the Boutonne river between Chef Boutonne and Chérigné. It was a hit with everyone and now they know where it is, they’ve all said they would use it again. Every ride we have done on this new route, (that is so new no online maps exist just yet) we have seen other cyclists out too, which just goes to prove, if the safe cycling infrastructure is there, the cyclists will find it. The more people out on bikes, the better, both for their physical and mental health and for the environment.


French Village Diaries V93 voie verte Deux-Sèvres
V93 at the chapel in Chérigné


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Poitiers, Tour de France

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
Tour de France, Poitiers 9th September 2020, caravane

Poitiers, Tour de France

Today sees the end of the three-week cycling fest that is the Tour de France. Thanks to Covid-19, it is later than usual this year, but it’s been no less spectacular, in fact France has looked resplendent in her late summer colours and I think the only bad weather was in Nice, of all places, on the first day. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Paris this afternoon as I know how unpleasant watching the final in the rain can be. Falling in September rather than July, also meant that I got to watch it on my birthday for the first time, and that was a treat. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
My Tour de France mask from the caravane

From the start, restrictions have been in place to try and eliminate the risk of a Covid-19 cluster breaking out and there were no guarantees that it would make its full three weeks, with all the teams still present, but it did. While the riders have played by the rules, keeping in their safe bubbles and wearing masks for their interviews, sadly some of the roadside fans have let their excitement get the better of them. Their masks slipped, or forgotten, as they carried on as usual; too close to each other and too close to the riders as they shout, cheer and run alongside them. It sometimes made for uncomfortable viewing.

 

We took the opportunity to catch some live action as Le Tour arrived in Poitiers on 9th September. Not wanting the hassle of finding somewhere to park or navigating the closed roads around Ed’s flat where the route was passing, we decided to arrive by bike. A logical idea for two cycling nutcases, except for the fact Poitiers is over eighty kilometres from home and the wind was cruelly blowing directly at us for most of those kilometres. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
A quiet and people-free spot to watch the Tour de France, Poitiers

Having cycled over four thousand kilometres this year and climbed numerous big mountains, many of them Tour de France favourites, recent bike rides have been nothing but a pleasure. The weather has been lovely, yoga has improved my core strength and cycling position, and my legs have powered the pedals with ease. I was looking forward to a day in the saddle, excited to experience the publicity caravane and cheer the pro-riders as they raced by, before catching up with Ed and Pearl for a family pizza night. It didn’t go as expected. Cycling into the wind took so much energy, every pedal stroke was an effort and soon things began to hurt that haven’t hurt for a long time. I was so disappointed with myself, but a restorative flan from a patisserie just outside Poitiers ensured we made it to Route de la Cassette, about twelve kilometres from the finish line, which we thought would make a good viewing point. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
Tour de France publicity caravane, Poitiers

We found ourselves a quiet stretch of road, with a bit of shade, and waited for the caravane to arrive. As is usual for us, we were mostly ignored by those throwing the exciting promo gifts like cycling tops, caps and goodie bags, but we did pick up a few key rings (and I do like a key ring), a packet of sweets and some broken biscuits. Whether the biscuits are already broken, or break on contact when thrown, will probably always remain a mystery. We then settled down for the long wait for the actual race to come through, our tired legs enjoying the break, our sore bottoms not so happy to be sitting on the pavement. 

 

French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
The Tour de France, Route de la Cassette, Poitiers

It was a fast and flat race towards the finish line and all breakaway riders had been caught by the main bunch, which meant we’d cycled 86km into the wind, for no more than a forty-five second blur of coloured lycra zoom past. It was madness, but for the buzz and the atmosphere I would do it all again next year. When we watched the television coverage later that evening, we were so glad we hadn’t tried to watch it nearer to the finish, or on the bridge by Ed’s flat as in both locations the crowds were ridiculously packed together and we wouldn’t have been very comfortable with that. 

 

Well done to Le Tour and all involved for carrying on and coping with a new normal in this weird old year of 2020. It was an exciting race all the way up to the deciding final minutes of yesterday’s time trial, with a variety of teams and riders doing what they do best, pushing their bodies to the limit and proving they’ve got what it takes to win. 


French Village Diaries Poitiers, Tour de France
The Tour de France, Route de la Cassette, Poitiers


Thursday, September 17, 2020

Another birthday, another milestone

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
The birthday girl in the frame

My stomach and head are a whirl of emotions at the moment. It would seem that although I am fitter and (hopefully) healthier than I have ever been, and certainly weigh in at the lightest I’ve been as an adult, time doesn’t stand still. Yesterday I celebrated my 49th birthday and I’m hoping there will be a long, slow twelve months ahead of me before I find myself crashing into the big five-o. 

 

For an unremarkable mid-week day in mid-September, it turned out to be a pretty momentous day. Ed had been home since Saturday, so it was a real bonus to have all of us together on my birthday, that falls at a time of year when activities normally resume after the summer holidays and we are rarely all in the same place. If the best gift a Mum can ask for is a happy, confident child young adult, making his own way in the world, then I got my wish. Yesterday, for the first time, Ed packed his bags, loaded them into his car, gave us both a hug and kiss, and drove off to Poitiers university, alone. No more am I needed for school runs, after-school activity taxi services, or uni drop offs, although I do still hold the franchise on his laundry service. It is now very much up to him how often he comes home and how long he stays for. As much as it is marvellous to see him become his own person, I can’t lie, it felt rather strange to watch him drive away. The house seemed unusually quiet for the first ten minutes or so as Adrian and I both tried to look busy (on Facebook) as we wondered what to do for the rest of my birthday, and indeed, the rest of our lives.

 

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone Niort
Birthday flan in Niort

It didn’t take too long before a bike route had been planned and we set off to our start point in Prahecq, knowing that as Niort town centre was our destination, a patisserie stop should soothe our emotions and refuel us on the mid-point of the thirty kilometre bike ride. We have now cycled (in stages) all 75kms of a brand new cycleway, the V93 that runs close to home as it makes its way through the southern part of the Deux-Sèvres. In Niort it joins the Vélo-Francette that runs from the coast in Normandy to La Rochelle and from the Deux-Sèvres/Charente boarder it heads east towards Limoges. Our plan now is to follow it across the Charente and on towards the Haute-Vienne.

 

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
Sharing the courgette love

Yesterday evening we dined with some of our fantastic friends, who not only put up with our quirky cycling addiction but came up with some amazing birthday gifts too. From the courgette cushion that could only have been designed with me in mind, to the wine glasses that left me speechless and the delicate handmade key ring that has been added to the collection on my bike, I was truly spoiled. 


French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
My new golden leaf key ring

Yes, I do know the key rings add weight to the bike, and tinkle and clink as I cycle along, but I don’t care.

 

French Village Diaries another birthday, another milestone
An original birthday gift

When one friend realised there wasn’t much available in Brompton-themed gift ideas, she only went and hand etched a detailed Brompton bicycle onto four wine glasses, just for me. I am overwhelmed to be surrounded by such talented and great friends. They even managed to raise my spirits with fun, laughter and fine food, so I almost forgot Ed’s departure earlier in the day.

 

Next year’s birthday will have to be quite extraordinary to even get close to this year.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Book review of Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

 
French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

Someday in Paris

 

'An epic, sweeping romance about soulmates and second chances' Holly Miller.

 

'An absolutely unforgettable love story' Mandy Baggot.

 

'A deeply moving, richly evocative story of love, loss and the power of hope' Miranda Dickinson.

 

Finding the one is only the beginning... 

1954. Zara is fifteen the first time she meets Leon. During a power cut in a small French museum, the two spend one short hour in the dark talking about their love for art, Monet and Paris. Neither knows what the other looks like. Both know their lives will never be the same. 

 

1963. In Paris, Leon no longer believes he will ever find the girl he lost that night. After dreaming about him for years, Zara thinks she has already found him. When they meet at an exhibition, they don't recognise each other – yet the way they feel is so familiar... 

 

Over the course of twenty years, Zara and Leon are destined to fall in love again and again. But will they ever find a way to be together? 

'It's about dreams and taking chances. Missed opportunities and mistakes. Loss and sacrifice. But above all, it is about love. The kind of love that survives time, distance... even death. The kind of love I wish for you.' 

 

A magical new love story about star-crossed lovers, perfect for hopeless romantics and fans of One Day and The Notebook

 

French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

My Review

An unusual revelation in the opening chapter, that involved a mysterious cemetery visit, instantly had me hooked. I had no idea where this book would take me, but I knew I had to dive right in.

 

The book then jumps back in time and we meet Leon and Zara when their relationship begins with a chance meeting in a museum library, during a power cut. Despite not seeing each other’s faces and almost forgetting to ask their names, they know they have a connection they can’t let go. They begin writing to each other, pouring out their feelings and thoughts, not knowing if they will ever get the chance to meet in person again. What follows is a love story that keeps us hanging on for decades, that is deeply emotional and gives you all the good, and the bad, that love can throw your way. You get a hint about the unusual dreams and dramas the women in this book experience at the beginning, but nothing quite prepared me for what was to come.

 

Museums, the art world, books and libraries all have their part to play in this novel and this added an extra depth for me, as well as a release from the heavy emotions. I also enjoyed the locations we visited, and the descriptions of Colmar in the Alsace in particular made me want to plan a visit. 

 

This book might not be one to lift your soul in troubled times, but it will certainly pull you in to its rollercoaster ride of emotions and give you a lot to think and ponder on, even when you are not reading it. 

 

Someday in Paris is currently only 99p on kindle UK and you will definitely get your money’s worth from it. 

 

Purchase Links 



Amazon US 

Kobo US 

Apple US 

Barnes & Noble 

Google 

Kobo UK 

Apple UK 

 

French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Olivia Lara Someday in Paris

Author Bio 

OLIVIA LARA was born and raised in Bucharest in a family of booklovers and storytellers. Since university she has worked as a journalist and marketer in Romania, France and the United States. She is currently a marketing executive in San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area with her husband, young daughter and four cats. Someday in Paris is her first novel.

 

Social Media Links  

Twitter 

Facebook 

Instagram 

Author website 

 

French Village Diaries book review Someday in Paris Olivia Lara
Someday in Paris by Olivia Lara

Goodreads Giveaway

Olivia Lara is running a Goodreads giveaway for 50 kindle copies of Someday in Paris. As per Goodreads latest rules, this is open to those in the US only. 


Click here to enter.


What readers are saying about Someday in Paris

'I absolutely adored this book and stayed up late at night to finish it!! I couldn't put it down. This was a truly epic love story' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'Magical, all-encompassing and timeless; an unforgettable romance' NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'Without question 5.0 Exquisite Stars!! There are not enough magical adjectives to describe the beauty of this story!! Someday in Paris moved me beyond words and to quite a few tears' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'Some books leave you a print in your heart which make them difficult to forget ... Emotive, sweet and unforgettable ... The most beautiful book I've read in a while!' NetGalley reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'This is a book for hopeless romantics, for those who dare to dream, and for those who believe in true love everlasting ... I could not put it down' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

 

'This book left me speechless. I haven't read such an amazing story in a long time' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 

'I absolutely loved this book ... The story kept me hanging on and reading late into the night' Goodreads reviewer ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐