Friday, January 31, 2014

Knowing your alcohol limits

This year I joined the trend and abstained from alcohol for Dry January and was very pleased with my willpower, it really wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I’m sure my internal organs rejoiced in the lack of alcohol, they do say your levels of liver fat, blood glucose and cholesterol can all improve dramatically by abstaining for a month, even in a moderate drinker, which is what I classed myself as.

I’m no angel and have had my moments of excess over the years, but since turning 40 I’ve found I really can’t hold my drink. On the few occasions in the last two years when I have overindulged I’m ashamed to say I have not made it out of bed the following day, at all! Things have changed, but I still enjoy a rosé wine for an apero and often a glass of red while watching TV in the evening. There are of course those evenings when one glass is never enough.

The recommended alcohol limits are 14 units a week for women and 21 units for men, but what is a unit? A little Internet investigation surprised me a bit. One 125ml glass of rosé as I’m preparing dinner and one 125ml glass of red wine while relaxing on the sofa every night of the week adds up to 21 units per week and around 1190 empty calories consumed. I thought I was a moderate drinker, but I was regularly drinking about 7 units too many a week. I will admit to being shocked by this, but thankfully taking a step back this January has made me realise I don’t need to continue these bad habits. It is worth pointing out here that in the UK at least, I have regularly struggled to get served anything smaller than a 175ml glass of wine, which really annoys me and is just wrong. I consider myself to be fairly health conscious and have long given up on the bucket sized wine glass, but I was still unaware how much I was regularly drinking so I’m sure I won’t be the only one. In the same way eating from a smaller plate reduces your food portions, using a smaller glass must help to control what you are drinking.

French Village Diaries Dry January Health Alcohol Units Wine Drinking
My could-almost-be Chardonnay
The thing I enjoy most about my rosé apero is that it’s cool, fruity, refreshing and just perfect for the end of the day. Well I’ve found something else that is cool, fruity, refreshing and 100% alcohol free. Every morning I slice a whole lemon, half a cucumber and grate a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, put everything in a big jug and top it up with water. I leave it in the fridge and by the evening, served in a wine glass, it is the perfect refreshing drink for my apero and my relaxing time on the sofa. With it’s pale colour, hints of citrus and undertones of ginger, it could almost be a Chardonnay! In the summer I’m thinking a handful of fresh mint and fizzy water will jazz it up nicely.

Not being one to waste food I have been freezing the leftover sliced lemons to add to the pot next time I slow cook a whole chicken. The cucumber slices, infused with lemon and ginger, have made a delicious dip when blended with natural yoghurt and also a vivid green smoothie with a couple of kiwis added for sweetness.

Cheers! Here’s to your good health and to a HUGE harvest of cucumbers in the potager this year.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book review of Paris Letters by Janice Macleod


My review for today is Paris Letters by Janice Macleod that will be published by Sourcebooks on 4th February.

French Village Diaries Paris Letters Janice Macleod book review Art competition
In this book Janice takes us with her on a journey, but it is not just her physical journey from Canada/US to Europe, but also her journey of discovering what is important in life. Do possessions and money really make you happy or is it love, friendship and freedom? Janice is a firm believer in it being the latter and I have to agree with her. She isn’t happy with her life, but rather than stick with routine she sets about organising herself to save the funds to travel and paint in Europe. She had a dream and worked hard on a plan to achieve it and by following her ideas you too can take easy steps to changes for the better. It was a truly inspiring read and the first time a ‘life in France memoir’ has had me rummaging through my undies drawer, clearing out my cupboards and dabbing my eyes at the romance she found whilst sitting in a Parisian café. Janice now lives in Paris and has established herself as an artist, sending out beautifully painted Paris Letters to subscribers all over the world every month.

French Village Diaries Paris Letters Janice Macleod book review Art competition
Janice Macleod Paris Letters Art
This book not only entertained me by indulging my inquisitiveness into reading about other people’s lives in France, I also fell in love with Janice’s beautiful art and she inspired me into clearing out five bags of old clothes from my bedroom. As a minimalist trapped in the body of a hoarder, clearing out isn’t easy for me, but does give me great satisfaction when I am able to achieve it. Thank you, thank you and thank you, Janice.

As part of the Paris Letters publication celebrations Janice is running a really fun photo contest: she will turn the winner’s travel photo into a one-of-a-kind watercolour painting! Please click to enlarge the banner below with all the details, but you will have to be quick, the deadline for entries is Tuesday 11th February. This prize is a keepsake, I’ve entered and I hope you do too.

French Village Diaries Paris Letters Janice Macleod book review Art competition

Paris Letters will be available in paperback and ebook format from 4th February and links to Amazon are below. Many thanks to Sourcebooks for my review copy.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Short story workshop

french village diaries january orchard hazelnut catkins france
Beauty in the garden, but nothing to do with today's post

Last Friday I took a big step out of my comfort zone and attended a short story workshop and shared lunch with five other ladies. When the directions on the joining instructions read:

“Leave the town, go over the Roman bridge, turn right, drive through two hamlets, turn right at the crossroads, passing the chateau (which for your information was a proper turreted fairytale castle) and we are around the corner on the right.”

I just knew it was going to be a good day even if the hours drive to get there was misty, wet and miserable. As all good events do, it started with coffee and homemade biscuits before we set to finding out about the person next to us for the introductions. I am quite a shy person, will stay away from large gatherings (of expat women) and will admit I panicked a little when I first arrived. The prospect of having to share something I’d written without hiding behind my blog was quite scary. I needn’t have worried. Everything we created was written together in our group of three and shared together with the other group, creating a relationship, confidence and trust. There were undoubtedly better educated and more well read ladies around the table but it didn’t matter, we all had our own demons that kept the words in our heads from flowing onto the paper. I’m hoping we can continue to work together and support each other.

Working in a small group we formed a team and our ideas flowed, the hour we were given flew by and we were all pleased with the results. I have been given permission from Judy and Jenny (my team mates) to share our exercise with you. The instructions were to produce the first paragraph, the last paragraph and one other paragraph from a short story to be set in the winter, at midday, in a French village. It is not perfect, but I give you Ménage à Trois:

At 160cm, Jean-Jacques was tall for a Frenchman. He’d lived in Ville-dieu all his life. He and Claudette had always planned to travel but somehow the years had caught up with him and now the extent of his wanderings were his daily shuffle from home to the bar for Charlotte’s plat-du-jour. Despite her culinary deficiencies and her poor grasp of the French language, her short skirts, ample bosom and cheery soul were the only bright spots in his lonely days. Wheezing, he pushed the door open and the heat from the fire embraced him, causing the customary dewdrop to form on the end of his cold nose. Charlotte viewed it’s deposit when he bised (kissed) her as an occupational hazard.

On cue, Henri turned his back on the newcomer, plunged his hand into the pocket of his blues to retrieve his tobacco tin and rapped it on the bar to retain Charlotte’s attention.
“Un autre Henri?” Charlotte asked
“Oui, encore” he mumbled through the unlit cigarette screwed into the corner of his mouth. Four rheumy eyes watched her skirt ride up as she reached for the Ricard on the top shelf. At his usual table in the furthest corner of the bar Jean-Jacques coughed his presence and so began their daily tug of war.

Two identical plat-du-jours were duly delivered to each corner of the bar and were devoured in silence. Charlotte always thought it was sad that the two oldest, loneliest men in the village weren’t friends. Having mopped his plate with the last of his baguette Jean-Jacques threw a handful of coins onto the table, belched and left without a word. He hadn’t spoken to Henri since the war. 

Many thanks to Kate and Chris from Verteuil Verse for running the event, Jenny for hosting and along with Judy being a great team. Thanks also to Helen, Carol and Elizabeth for being good listeners. Until next time ladies. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Marie Antoinette Diet by Karen Wheeler

French Village Diaries The Marie Antoinette Diet Karen Wheeler HealthIt is at this time of year that I’m celebrating a soup fest once again – the hazy salad days of summer are long behind us and despite this not being my favourite time of year there is something very comforting about homemade soup. I have long believed soup to be the ace up my sleeve when it comes to comfort eating but not putting on weight and those of you who have been reading for a while will know cake is another daily staple in my diet, especially my Fat Free recipe. I was therefore intrigued by Karen Wheeler’s book The Marie Antoinette Diet where she claims the French queen’s diet of cake and soup can help you to lose weight. To be honest, although I was interested in this book, I didn’t think there was anything I could learn from it. The cake I eat is homemade and low in fat, the soups I make with the ingredients from our garden are healthy and hearty and having lost over 15 kilos since arriving in France, and kept them off for over five years, I was expecting to nod along in agreement and benefit from some of her recipes.

It just goes to show that you are never too old to learn something new. Whilst it was reassuring to read that the expert dietician Dr Mabel Blades BSC RD, who helped Karen with this book, agrees with most of my ideas there are definite improvements I can make to my diet.

I was always a soup for lunch girl, having my main meal in the evening as I struggle to be organized to serve a full meal at lunchtime, but having read this book I have had to rethink my day. Karen and Dr Mabel say serving my soup in the evening will really benefit my digestive system. This is in agreement with the Viva Mayr Diet I read last year. Although they both have their own good (and different) ideas, there are no conflicting opinions between Karen’s book and the Viva Mayr way. With two experts telling me similar things I’ve been given the kick I needed to make positive changes.

This book is clear, easy to read and with lots of ideas for changes you can make without too much hassle. It is not always what you eat, although that does have to be taken into account, but also when you eat and how you cook, especially what fat you use. It goes without saying homemade will always be better than processed foods. Karen also includes some great soup suggestions and delicious cake recipes as well as her tips as to how she fitted the changes into her life.

If you are looking to shed some post-Christmas kilos, but don’t want to feel you are on a diet; The Marie Antoinette Diet: Eat Cake and Still Lose Weight could be the book for you. Originally available in ebook format, since the beginning of January it is also available in paperback. Links to Amazon can be found below.

I was lucky to chat to Karen last year and we discussed a few tips from this book and her life in France. To read more see my France et Moi interview with her.

Karen is also the author of three very readable and moving memoirs of her life in Poitou-Charentes, Tout Sweet, Toute Allure and Tout Soul.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The lady cyclist and her friend the Selle Italia

Disclaimer: It is never my intention to offend, just to amuse and sometimes inform, so I apologise in advance if anyone finds anything in this post unsuitable.

I have never been one for buying the latest must-have brands or indeed any labelled goods and actually find the whole process of shopping quite difficult. I was very lucky to be given some money at Christmas to spend on myself and totally failed to find any girlie clothes whilst in the UK, but I have found some special girlie purchases to enhance my cycling experiences.

French Village Diaries Selle Italia Gel Flow Donna saddle Specialized Women's Sierra helmet Cycling
Selle Italia Gel Flow Donna and Specialized Sierra
In the January sales I treated myself to a new saddle for my road bike, much more useful than a handbag or high heels. Please meet my new best friend Donna the Selle Italia Gel Flow, with attractive pink stitching and the claim that she has been designed specifically for the female form. Let’s be honest ladies, in those regions we are quite different from men. Donna’s biggest asset, as far as I’m concerned, is the bit she is missing, the perfectly placed central cut out that provides relief and protection for my most delicate area. The rest of the saddle is gel filled, supportive and comfortable. The shock absorbers do indeed absorb the shocks from the bumps of uneven road surfaces, something that on my previous saddle would ripple right through me in an unpleasant way. I have yet to give Donna a long distance work out, but all I can say is bring on the kilometres, together I’m sure we can achieve anything. It would be no exaggeration to say that on our first test run my girlie delicates were positively singing with pleasure, or maybe that was just the wind whistling through the gap!

In the same way a good saddle has made a whole lot of difference to my riding experience, so has my new Specialized Women’s Sierra helmet. My previous cycle helmet was bought years ago when I really didn’t know much about good fit. It never tightened enough to grip the sides of my head, but always left a dent in my forehead. My new Specialized Sierra not only fits my head, gripping all around, it is also much more comfortable, leaves no dent and looks more stylish too.

With the super padded cycle shorts I treated myself to last year (see here) I’m now totally kitted up for what I hope will be a great year of road biking. The next step for me will be fitting the pedals that enable my shoes to clip in; I have so far avoided them as I know I will fall off at least once before releasing my feet becomes second nature. With Donna's support I'm ready for any challenge.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Book review of The Foundling Boy by Michel Deon


French Village Diaries Gallic Books The Foundling Boy Michél Déon book review bookworm WednesdayThe Foundling Boy by Michél Déon (translated by Julian Evans) and brought to the English language by Gallic Books, is one of my recent reads and star of this weeks bookworm Wednesday. It is set in France, in the years between the wars and has a really engaging storyline. In the summer of 1919 a newborn baby is left in a basket outside the home of a childless couple in Normandy. They take him in, call him Jean and raise him as their own in their simple but honest ways. The Foundling Boy is the story of Jean’s life, that is both ordinary and fascinating, up to the outbreak of the Second World War.

There is a great cast of very different characters whose lives are intricately linked, lots of secrets and a story that twists, moves and turns in circles as lives are lived in Normandy, the South of France and London. I had my suspicions about Jean’s birth mother from the start, but the more the story moved the less important her identity seemed. A few times we seem to get close to knowing, then off we go again in another direction satisfying Jean’s thirst for adventure, so that finding out the truth doesn’t seem to be as important as it was at the beginning.

This book is different to what I usually read, but I really enjoyed it, especially the passages where the author breaks off the narration to talk directly to the reader. This was different, amusing and perfect for filling in information and adding a bit extra to the extra-ordinary story of Jean’s life. It is a bigger than average paperback book but I got to the end and desperately wanted to continue reading the next part of Jean’s life.

This book was sent to my by Gallic Books to read and review and is available in paperback and ebook format. Links to Amazon can be found below.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

From Zero to Hero by the EITC

My life can become a little stuck in a routine with my days filled with motherly chores, wifely duties, animal care and the various things I volunteer to help with. However, every now and then something completely different pops up quite unexpectedly. Last Thursday was one of those days. I was invited by Ed’s school to accompany some of the children to a theatre performance in English. Yes, French kids, in France, watching a performance in English (by an Irish travelling theatre group) - intrigued? Me too!

'From Zero to Hero' was an action-packed hour of theatre fun, with traditional comic-book capers of super-heroes, sidekicks and villains but with added social media references, first date awkwardness and live music too. I’m sure most of the kids wouldn’t have understood everything that was said, but the animated performance kept their attention and they were at least sat quietly for over an hour listening to English being spoken. I organise a weekly lunchtime English conversation club at the school (which is why I was invited to this little theatre treat) and getting them to be quiet, listen and be brave enough to talk in English are the biggest challenges. 

The EITC
Team Kickass
I spoke to the cast after the show, as I was interested to know how an Irish theatre company came to be performing in English to French children in a small, relatively unknown French town. The idea is brilliant, the French director spent quite a bit of time in Ireland touring in schools and performing in French, so he thought it would be a good idea to tour France with an English cast, bringing the English language to life. This year they have three teams performing two shows and have been on the road in France since October, performing five days a week, in different schools and will do so for seven months. More information on this great initiative can be found on the EITC website and do take a look at their Facebook page too (photos from the EITC Facebook page).

The cast really put a lot into the performance, from setting up, to a pre-performance rehearsal with the children from the school who had volunteered for small speaking parts in the show, followed by an energetic performance and packing it all up afterwards. Making learning a foreign language fun and lively is the way to go and I really wish we could have had something like this when I was at school. Chapeau team Kickass and thanks for a really fun Thursday morning.

Wherever you are in the world, have you or your children benefited from something similar?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Book review of My Grape Escape by Laura Bradbury


french village diaries my grape escape burgundy France Laura Bradbury
My Grape Escape 
My review today is for Laura Bradbury’s My Grape Escape a book with a beautiful cover that really invites you in to experience a slice of Burgundian life.

French Franck and Canadian Laura were newlywed’s on a short break with Franck’s family in the village he grew up in when life threw them an opportunity that they embraced with gusto. This book tells the first part of the story of their life and renovations in Burgundy, France.

Laura is a planner and had meticulously planned her life out, worked hard for a law degree at Oxford and was preparing to continue studying for her MA. Franck is her support, having followed her from France to Oxford and Canada, he was happy if she was happy. However, the plans she had set for herself were making her very stressed and she had forgotten what happiness felt like. They needed an escape plan, somewhere to put down roots, a project they could invest in and hopefully make money from in the future. When they find a dream property close to Franck’s family giving them the perfect investment project and a potential rental business, what could possibly go wrong?

Laura writes a very readable, honest account of their renovation project with great character descriptions of their friends and family members, little snippets of Burgundian life including impromptu aperos, celebrations and delicious descriptions of the local food. I also loved the chemistry between Laura and Franck, she could be anxious, panicky and full of worry, but he was calm, strong and always had great faith in the Virgin Mary who watches over his family and now their new house. Despite being local to the area they still had major issues with unscrupulous people they met along the way and administrative cock-ups that were seriously off the scale. Laura’s writing was open and really made me feel included in what was going on, so much so I felt myself crossing my fingers whilst reading in the hope it would help them meet the deadlines they set themselves.

Thank you Laura for sending me a copy of your book, I am really looking forward to reading the next instalment and maybe one day we can meet for an espresso and square of dark chocolate as it's my daily moment of indulgence too!

Reading this book (available in paperback and ebook format) will virtually take you to the vineyards in eastern France, but should you wish a real escape to Burgundy to enjoy a slice of Laura and Franck’s life you can find out more about their rental properties here. I’m packing my bags; it has been too many years since I visited that area of France.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Merci Monsieur le Maire

Does your Maire (mayor) wish you a personal Happy New Year? Although it would be wrong of me to lead you to believe ours goes around knocking on every door in the village, he does do the next best thing. On a Sunday morning in January, he flings open the doors to the Salle des Fêtes, he lays out the tables with bite sized apero nibbles, he pours those who have left the snugness of their firesides a kir and after a short speech he wishes us well for the forthcoming year.

french village diaries life france aperos New Year Maire
Bite size apero nibbles

french village diaries life france aperos New Year Maire
Monsieur le Maire raises a glass
Our current maire has been in office for the last 13 years and as we have local elections in March of this year his speech included a little résumé of the projects achieved and changes in the village during these years. These have included putting the village on mains drainage, a refurbishment of the salle des fêtes, a brand new build for the Mairie and library, the purchase of a village tractor and municipal van and something he is very proud of, a ten percent increase in village population. There is even talk of our sad little closed up village bar/shop being re-opened again this year, although as this is something we get used to hearing it unfortunately fails to raise excitement as so often it comes to nothing. Fingers crossed this time we will have something to celebrate and somewhere to go to raise a celebratory glass. One thing is certain; with the local elections 2014 will be a year of change in the village.


Merci Monsieur le Maire, for your New Year wishes, for the work you do for the village and for making us feel welcome and included in village life.



Monday, January 6, 2014

Book review and giveaway of Honeymoon in Paris by Juliette Sobanet

Today I am taking part in a virtual book tour and giveaway via France Book Tours for Juliette Sobanet’s latest novel Honeymoon in Paris (A Paris Romance) and I am delighted to have two ebook copies of this book to giveaway anywhere in the world. To enter just email Frenchvillagediaries@gmail.com with Honeymoon in Paris as the email subject before 14th January. Good luck. PLEASE NOTE THIS GIVEAWAY HAS NOW FINISHED

French Village Diaries France Book Tours Honeymoon in Paris Juliette Sobanet review giveawaySynopsis: The sassy heroine of Sleeping with Paris is back! And this time, chocolate-covered French wedding bells are in the air . . .
It’s only been a month since Charlotte Summers reunited with her sexy French boyfriend, Luc Olivier, and he has already made her the proposal of a lifetime: a mad dash to the altar in the fairytale town of Annecy. Without hesitation, Charlotte says au revoir to single life and oui to a lifetime of chocolate in bed with Luc. She’s madly in love, and Luc is clearly the one, so what could possibly go wrong?
 As it turns out, quite a lot . . .
On the heels of their drama-filled nuptials in the French Alps, Luc whisks Charlotte away to Paris for a luxurious honeymoon. But just as they are settling into a sheet-ripping, chocolate-induced haze, a surprise appearance by Luc’s drop-dead gorgeous ex-wife brings the festivities to a halt. Luc never told Charlotte that his ex was a famous French actress, or that she was still in love with him. Add to that Charlotte’s new role as step-mom to Luc’s tantrum-throwing daughter, a humiliating debacle in the French tabloids, and the threat of losing her coveted position at the language school—and Charlotte fears she may have tied the French knot a little too quickly.
Determined to keep her independence and her sanity, Charlotte seeks out a position at Bella magazine’s new France office while working on a sassy guidebook to French marriage. But when Luc’s secret past threatens Charlotte’s career and their future together, Charlotte must take matters into her own hands. Armed with chocolate, French wine, and a few fabulous girlfriends by her side, Charlotte navigates the tricky waters of marriage, secrets, ex-wives, and a demanding career all in a foreign country where she quickly realizes, she never truly learned the rules.

My review
Charlotte Summers, the heroine of the delicious chick lit novel Sleeping with Paris, is back and has been whisked down the aisle and married her Half-Naked French Hottie, Luc. We join them enjoying the life of luxury on honeymoon in Paris before they return to Lyon to take up teaching positions and settle into married life. However all is not the wedded bliss she thought it would be as she begins to discover secrets Luc has kept from her, including the identity of his ex-wife and Mother of his four-year-old daughter. She realises she doesn’t actually know much about Luc’s past and at each turn she seems to bump into high-profile, shady characters Luc is unwilling to discuss with her. Having led her best friends into a scandal and desperate for answers to put things right, she is left to turn detective alone. Has Charlotte just made the biggest mistake of her life? Is her new husband all she thought he was? Is her new life going to be at all how she thought it would be?

Anyone who has read any of Juliette’s other novels will recognise her unique style, her mouth-watering pastry descriptions and fun twists, turns and surprises. There were times when Charlottes over-explaining of her reasons annoyed me a little, but this was just a minor niggle in an otherwise exciting novel that had some nail-biting moments. It was lovely to be back in one of Juliette's novels and yet again she leaves me wanting a visit to Lyon, complete with chocolate croissants, chocolate fondant and chocolates. Although I recommend reading Sleeping with Paris, it isn’t necessary to have read it to enjoy this book.

French Village Diaries France Book Tours Honeymoon in Paris Juliette Sobanet review giveaway
Juliette Sobanet
About the author
Juliette Sobanet earned a B.A. from Georgetown University and an M.A. from New York University in France, living and studying in both Lyon and Paris. She worked as a French professor before turning a new page in her career, penning romantic women’s fiction with a French twist. She is the author of Sleeping with Paris (A Paris Romance) , Kissed in Paris (A Paris Romance) Midnight Train to Paris (A Paris Time Travel Romance) , Dancing with Paris (A Paris Time Travel Romance) , and Honeymoon in Paris (A Paris Romance) . Today she lives in San Diego, where she devotes her time to writing and dreaming about her next trip to France.

You can read my reviews of Sleeping with Paris here, Kissed in Paris here and Dancing with Paris here. Also my France et Moi interview with Juliette here and her guest post for me here

You can also find Juliette at her website here, on Facebook here and on Twitter here.

This book is published by Amazon Publishing/Montlake Romance and is available from Amazon worldwide and the link to Amazon UK is below.


French Village Diaries France Book Tours Honeymoon in Paris Juliette Sobanet review giveaway
http://francebooktours.com/2013/11/25/juliette-sobanet-on-tour-honeymoon-in-paris/


Friday, January 3, 2014

Public, school and your holidays in France 2014

I'm often asked for the dates of the French public and school holidays by friends and family in the UK planning their holidays to France, so I thought this would be a useful January post.

French Village Diaries Special Places in France Cahors school public holidays
Cahors, one of my favourite holiday destinations
Public Holidays 2014
1st January
21st April, Easter Monday, note there is no Good Friday holiday in France.
1st May, Fete du Travail
29th May, Ascension Day
9th June, Pentacost Monday
14th July, Fete National
15th August, Assumption Day
1st November, All Saint's Day
11th November, Armistice Day
25th December, Christmas Day

It is worth noting that in many areas of rural France most shops, supermarkets, petrol stations, garden centres and DIY stores will be either closed or only open in the mornings on pubic holidays. With the exception of the three holidays linked to Easter: Easter Monday, Ascension Day and Pentacost Monday, the above dates are the same every year and the holiday is always observed on the date, never 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 or a Tuesday and take off the Friday or Monday to give themselves a four day weekend. Shops will generally be open however. May 2014 has three holidays all falling on Thursdays, I therefore predict a month where not much will get done!

School Holidays
In France the schools are split into three zones and the holidays are staggered so not everyone is trying to hit the ski slopes or beaches at the same time. Here are the dates for this year:
Winter holiday from 15th February to 16th March. Zone C gets the first two weeks, B the middle two and A the last two.
Spring holiday from 12th April to 11th May. Zone C gets the first two weeks, B the middle two and A the last two.
Summer holiday all zones off from 5th July until the beginning of September.

Your Holidays
Now is the perfect time to book your holiday to France and Special Places in France (see here) has some lovely independently owned properties, whose owners speak English and are waiting to welcome you to France. Happy Holidays.

french villlage diaries special places in france holidays
http://www.specialplacesinfrance.com

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year

french village diaries new year challenges exercise health cat
Poppy the fat cat

If Christmas and New Year were as indulgent for you as they were for us, Poppy and I know exactly how you are feeling. We would both like to loose a kilo or two and are determined to do more exercise this year. Yoga is a favourite for us both and a daily stretch or two is as good for the mind as the body, just like a good dog walk, although Poppy doesn't agree with me on this! My main sporting challenge this year is to get out more on the bike and get fit enough to take on a few more hills and maybe even a mountain or two. We (Ade and I, not Poppy and I) are already planning some great cycle routes, both close to home and in some more exciting terrain.

Poppy's diet started today and she wishes you well if you are also cutting back. For me, I will attempt an alcohol free January and now we are back home from our UK trip my diet will be rich in garden veggie soups. We've only been back a day, but I've made a lovely batch of pumpkin soup, so far, so good and so tasty too.

Thank you all for reading and commenting on our life here in France and we wish you a happy, healthy and peaceful 2014. If you have also set yourself some challenges/goals/resolutions, then good luck, keep positive - you know you can do it!