Saturday, January 19, 2019

Nuit de la lecture (Reading Night) 2019

French Village Diaries la nuit de la lecture 2019
Nuit de la Lecture 2019

This evening libraries and book shops all over France will be holding events for the 3rd annual book fest that is Nuit de la Lecture or Reading Night.

The idea is to bring together those who work with books and those who read them; not just librarians and bookshops, but also authors, publishers and academic associations. From this afternoon and all through the night, doors will be opened for readers to discover new books, ask questions, exchange ideas and have fun joining in activities.
French Village Diaries la nuit de la lecture 2019
Et Patati et Patata et Pause Café - Chit Chat Café
Sadly, there is nothing going on close enough to home to encourage me to leave the comfort of my favourite reading chair, but I don’t feel I’m missing out as this week I returned to the library where I worked last year, for their monthly book event and that fitted the Nuit de la Lecture theme perfectly. At “Et Patati et Patata et Pause Café”, or Chit Chat Café, a small group of us enjoy an afternoon of book talk, with the added bonus of tea, coffee and biscuits. Everyone is free to talk about any book they have enjoyed and once someone starts on a topic, conversation flows. Although we are mixed Franco/Anglais group, and books and poetry in English have been discussed alongside French ones, the language is all French. This means that it’s not only a fun social event that gives me ideas about what to read, it is also great for my brain to follow the discussions in French, that sometimes have quite complex themes.

If you are looking for some ideas of French themed books to read, here is a list of the most popular books I shared on the blog and on Facebook last year. Amazon kindly let me know how many books have been bought via my associate links – don’t panic, this doesn’t cost you any extra, but they do give me 4p for every £1 spent. I naturally use this money to buy myself more books set in France, that I can then share with you.

In no particular order, here are the French Village Diaries Top Ten most popular books from 2018.

Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy. I consumed every page of this book, always hungry for more and when I finished it, I could have started again. It is so beautifully written you will cry. You can read my full review here.

A Year of Taking Chances by Jennifer Bohnet. A lovely read following a year with two best friends, both determined to change their lives for the better. Sometimes all we need is a little help in getting started and the faith to put our trust in others. You can read my full review here.

In Foreign Fields by Susie Kelly. You know you are going to get a good read from a Susie Kelly book and this one, released in December 2018, is no exception. It is honest, funny and a must read for anyone who thinks moving to rural France will mean enjoying a quiet life. My full review will be on the blog next week.

Death in Provence by Serena Kent. A great fun read that contained all the best bits of life in France, plenty of humour and a mystery to be solved too, all set against the landscape of Provence. You can read my full review here.

The French Adventure by Lucy Coleman. Easy to get into, difficult to put down, with a good mix of characters all adding something to the plot. A perfect summer read, I could have stayed with them long after the sunflowers had faded. You can read my full review here.

Drawing Lessons by Patricia Sands. A book that beautifully describes Provence; the colours and scents of the markets, the history, the wild Camargue and the food. I felt I was there too. You can read my full review here.

Poppy’s Place in the Sun by Lorraine Wilson. I loved this book. There are mysteries to be solved, from unexpected finds in the local chateau to strange behaviour from some of the villagers, but Poppy's dogs prove to be great listeners when she’s not sure who else to turn to. You can read my full review here.

The Beekeepers Promise by Fiona Valpy. Having enjoyed Sea of Memories by Fiona, I was delighted she released a second novel in 2018. Sadly, I haven’t had time to read it yet, but I will!

A Beer in the Loire by Tommy Barnes. This book caught my eye when it was released in September 2018, but it too is still sitting on my kindle patiently waiting its turn to be read.

The Hairy Bikers Mediterranean Adventure. Having enjoyed the TV series that saw Si and Dave biking and cooking around the Mediterranean, I snapped up the kindle version of the cookbook when it was on a price promo. I do still prefer a cookbook in traditional paper format, as flicking through is much easier, but opened on my ipad, I get lovely colourful images as well as some tasty Mediterranean recipes, many of them vegetable focussed, just like our new diet regime. I especially enjoyed their little introductions to each area they visited and recipe they cook.

I hope this has inspired you open a book tonight. Happy reading.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Brittany Ferries Pet Friendly Cabins Baie de Seine

French Village Diaries Brittany Ferries Pet Friendly service Portsmouth La Harve Baie de Seine
Our pet friendly cabin

What do you do to celebrate your beloved dog’s birthday, especially when they have reached the age of 11 (or 65 in doggie years) and had a traumatic time over Christmas – think house sharing with a Jack Russel, dog bites, blood (on Grandma’s beige carpets) and a vet visit? We decided to take Mini on a cruise. Well, the pet friendly cabin of the overnight Brittany Ferries Baie de Seine sailing from Portsmouth to Le Havre, if I’m honest, but it felt like a cruise to me (and Mini). 

When you book Brittany Ferries économie, they go to great lengths to ensure you understand it is a no-frills service, which meant I was pleasantly surprised on boarding that the cabin was more spacious than I was expecting. We didn’t check out the bar or restaurant facilities, but as we boarded at 23h, we had already eaten and my bedtime was fast approaching, despite the excitement of being somewhere new. The cabin was warm, and the bed was comfy, although the unfamiliar sounds (it wasn’t noisy) and movement meant it took me a while to fall asleep, but I slept well once I was asleep.
French Village Diaries Brittany Ferries Pet Friendly service Portsmouth La Harve Baie de Seine
Mini on her bed
Mini was more enthusiastic than some of her four-legged travelling companions; one had to be dragged through from the car deck to the stairwell, where we encountered another one refusing to climb the stairs. Mini was just happy to be with us, even if wearing her muzzle (compulsory in public areas) isn’t her favourite attire. She was also quite at home in the cabin. Her duvet bed fit snuggly under the desk area that gave each bunk a bedside table, meaning she was close to both of us, on her own bedding and tucked into a cosy cubbyhole; all very important touches for a sensitive pooch like Mini.
French Village Diaries Brittany Ferries Pet Friendly service Portsmouth La Harve Baie de Seine
Doggy Goody Bag
She also loved the doggy goody bag that was waiting for her in the cabin. Chews, treats, a travel bowl and poo bags, I think at that point she had realised it must be her birthday. The only thing she wasn’t keen on was the outside walkies area. It was cold and dark, metal surfaced and full of puddles. I can’t really describe how miserable she looked tip-toeing gingerly around, never putting all four paws down and her only mission to pull me back to the door. We might have been looking forward to watching the lights of Portsmouth recede and dawn over Le Havre, but she had other ideas. 

Overall, her birthday cruise was a success for all of us and a very relaxing way to arrive back in France following three weeks in the UK. We really appreciated Brittany Ferries policy to board dog vehicles first, call us back to our cars last and then unload us first when we arrived in Le Havre. Would we book it again? Yes, we are even looking into joining their frequent traveller Club Voyage France scheme.

French Village Diaries Brittany Ferries Pet Friendly service Portsmouth La Harve Baie de Seine
Good Citizen Dog Chart

Monday, January 14, 2019

FRANCE Magazine Sur le Web

French Village Diaries FRANCE Magazine Sur le Web
Sur Le Web FRANCE Magazine January 2019
Blogging can sometimes be a lonely occupation. No matter how much I enjoy writing, there is always that nagging doubt in my mind: is there anyone reading what I write and do they like what they are reading? Facebook seems to share the links to my blog posts less and less, probably because I refuse to pay, and although the odd post I write gets read many thousands of times, not every post is so lucky.

Then there are the days like today, when one email can make all the difference to my mid-winter blues. The team over at FRANCE Magazine picked me as their January 2019 Sur le Web choice of websites that can help broaden your knowledge of France. Not only that, but they also wrote some really lovely things about my recipes, reviews and features. Thank you FRANCE Magazine for putting a smile on my face and a BIG hello to anyone new here.

Such is the power of media, I have already had a few enquiries from authors offering review copies of their books and requesting interview slots. Thanks especially to author Gayle Padgett for sending me a photo of the magazine feature. Her book Passion for Provence: 22 Keys to La Belle Vie will be reviewed here soon.

French Village Diaries FRANCE Magazine Sur le Web
FRANCE Magazine January Sale

To return the love, did you know FRANCE Magazine currently have a great deal on subscriptions? For only £1 per copy you can get a quality France fix delivered to your door every month. What’s not to love about that!

France Magazine

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

French school and public holidays 2019

French Village Diaries school and public holidays 2019
Holidays in France 

Happy New Year. January is here once more and as in previous years, here is my annual reminder of the public holidays, school holidays and other notable dates (and how they are celebrated) in France for 2019. 

Whether you are new to life in France, or just wanting to plan your holiday here in the quiet weeks outside of the French school holidays, I hope you find this blog useful. Please feel free to share this post with your French loving friends and family. 

Public Holidays in France 2019
1st January, New Years Day, jour de l’an
21st April, Easter Sunday, Pâques look out for flying bells (see here).
22nd April, Easter Monday, lundi de Pâques (note there is no Good Friday holiday in France unless you live in Alsace or Moselle areas)
1st May, Fête du Travail
8th May, Victory in Europe DayVictoire 1945
30th May, Ascension Day, Ascension (note in 2019 the schools will not have an extra day off on Friday 31st May for the bridge pont
10th June, Pentecost Monday, lundi de Pentecôte
14th July, Fête Nationale (a Sunday this year)
15th August, Assumption Day, Assomption
1st November, All Saint's DayToussaint
11th November, Armistice DayArmistice 1918 
25th December, Christmas Day, Jour de Noël (note there is no Boxing Day holiday in France on 26th unless you live in Alsace or Moselle areas)

With the exception of the holidays linked to Easter: Easter Monday, Ascension Day and Pentecost Monday, the above dates are the same every year and the holiday is always observed on the actual date rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as the UK would do. Public holidays can therefore fall on weekends; to make up for this it is not uncommon for people to faire le pont (make a bridge) if a holiday falls on a Thursday (Ascension Day and Assumption Day) or a Tuesday, by taking off the Friday or Monday giving themselves a four-day weekend. This will be part of their annual holiday entitlement, or the hours need to be made up, so while most businesses will be open on bridge days, some staff shortages can be expected. It is worth noting that in many areas of rural France, although some opening hours is becoming more common, most shops are likely to be either closed or only open in the mornings on public holidays.

Other dates to note:
6th January, Epiphany, celebrated in France with a Galette des Rois (see here)
9th January, winter sales begin, soldes d’hiver, sales are regulated in France and the winter sales run from 9th January to 19th February
19th January, Reading Night, Nuit de la lecture (see here)
2nd February Candlemas day, Chandeleur, celebrated in France with pancakes (see here)
5th March, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras when carnival time begins in France and pancakes and beignets (similar to doughnuts) are eaten.
31st March, clocks spring forward an hour to Central European Summertime
14th April, Palm Sunday, Rameaux a day where our local boulangeries bake something different (see here)
24th May, Neigbours’ Day, fêtes des voisins
26th May, Mother’s Day, fêtes des mères
16th June, Father’s Day, fêtes des pères
21st June, fête de la musique, world music day, celebrated here with free concerts in towns and villages all over France
26th June, summer sales begin, Soldes d’été, and will run until 6thAugust
6th to 28th July, Le Tour de France
27th October, clocks go back an hour to Central European Time

French Village Diaries school and public holidays 2019
French School Holiday Zones

School Holidays
In France the schools are split into three zones and most of the holidays are staggered so not everyone is trying to hit the ski slopes or beaches at the same time, although be prepared for extra traffic on the roads on all Saturdays during the school holidays, or better still avoid driving on these days.

Here are the dates for 2019:
The winter holiday is from 9th February to 10th March. 
Zone B gets the first two weeks, Zone A the middle two and Zone C the last two.

The spring holiday is from 6th April to 5th May. 
Zone B gets the first two weeks, Zone A the middle two and Zone C the last two weeks.

The summer holiday for all zones is from 6th July until 1st September.

The October holiday for all zones is from 19th October to 3rd November.

The Christmas holiday for all zones is from 21st December to 5th January 2020.

Wherever you visit in France this year, I hope you have a great holiday. If you are planning of driving, you might like to read my popular post that highlights the do’s and don’ts of driving in France (see here).

Monday, December 31, 2018

Au revoir 2018, you've been a blast

Martin O'Neill photography French Village Diaries New Year
Our first ever family photo shoot by Martin O'Neill Photography

Looking back at 2018 I have realised it has been a year of unexpected experiences for me, taking me in directions I’d never dreamed of, and I’ve had a blast. 
French Village Diaries New Year
New Year's Day cycling in London
New Year’s Day saw me cycling around the west London parks, incidentally only a few miles from where I was born (and not somewhere I ever expected to be cycling), riding a hired Brompton bike on a group ride. I was looking forward to lots of new cycling challenges in 2018, but as it turned out cycling and I were rather distant with each other, although I did just about manage my birthday 100km in a day

French Village Diaries New Year Brompton
My new bike

This weekend, I collected my own brand-new Brompton, so 2019 will definitely see more cycling than 2018, then again, 2018 did throw me a few other exciting things to keep me busy.
French Village Diaries New Year
First day at the library
The highlight of my year has to be working in the local library for four months. It was a challenge and took me out of my comfort zone, but it was an amazing experience and a great boost to my confidence. I still miss it and would be back like a shot, if they asked me.

Adrian and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in April, although we still owe ourselves an adventure to truly mark the occasion. Our tenth wedding anniversary was celebrated with a road trip to the south of France and Italy, in Gizmo our Mini Cooper. This became a tradition we continued every few years; marking Adrian’s 30th, then mine and then Gizmo’s 20th birthday. Our passion for touring the back roads of France has not diminished, but these days we prefer two wheels to four. The maps are out, and a 2019 Brompton Tour de France is being planned.
French Village Diaries New Year
Ed's BAC results day
Ed took and passed his BAC exams, with a mention bien and I couldn’t have been prouder. This meant no more lycee; he was now ready to head off to university and independent living. If I thought working at the library was a major lifestyle change, it was nothing to moving Ed into his own apartment in Poitiers. 

French Village Diaries New Year
With Ed in Poitiers

I do miss him, but it has meant I have been able to explore the town a bit more than I’d ever done in the last 14 years and I have plenty of plans to visit again in 2019.

Martin O'Neill photography French Village Diaries New Year
Ed's 18th photo credit Martin O'Neill

Ed celebrated his 18th birthday in October, with a bash in the village bar. Having the bar open again really has brought the community together and events held there, whether monthly music, karaoke and food nights, or private birthday parties are great fun. It was the perfect place to celebrate Ed’s special birthday, even if I still can’t believe my baby is 18!

On a sadder note, 2018 also saw me experiencing the French medical and palliative care system, helping a friend with cancer in her final days. I can’t fault the level of care she received from the HAD hospitalisation à domicile (home hospital care) and although not an experience I want to repeat, I am glad I was able to help and I can now also add planning a funeral in France to my achievements.

2019 is likely to be a year of challenges. For health reasons, we have recently set ourselves goals to reduce our alcohol, salt and meat consumption, something we have been pretty good at so far, even over Christmas, and in 2019 we are determined to use the bikes instead of the car, wherever possible. Brexit will produce challenges, in terms of paperwork and the legalities of living an EU life as non-EU citizens, but 2018 has shown me that the unexpected often pops up and puts play to the planned, and quite often it’s these new directions that life takes you in that give the most.

Happy New Year to you all. Thank you for reading, commenting, liking and sharing my posts. I hope 2019 is a happy and healthy one for you all.