The French National Sport: Protesting

France is a very athletic nation, but is there a French national sport? There are certainly plenty of contenders.

It could be cycling. Or maybe soccer. And don’t forget pétanque–you get to drink pastis while you play! What could be more French than that?

But no. The real French National Sport is…Protesting. Millions of French people participate! And they love to play dress-up when they do.

You can read the whole article at Frenchly.

Fear the Beard

Photo courtesy of Mike Mozart

Once when I was in France my beard trimmer broke, so I went to buy a new one.

I found the tondeuse I was looking for in the same aisle that had hair dryers and curling irons and things like that.  Except that the beard trimmers were kept in a locked cabinet. What’s up with that, I wondered.

I tracked down a clerk and asked her to unlock the cabinet so I could get the one I wanted, one that only cost about $20.  She took it out but wouldn’t give it to me –

No, no, that would not be secure Monsieur!  Beard trimmers must follow a special security procedure!

Things went downhill from there.

You can read the whole story at My French Life.

Nutella: The Key to French Greatness?

Americans love peanut butter, just as Australians love Vegemite, and Brits love Marmite. We all have our national favorites.

For the French it’s Nutella, that sweet chocolate-hazelnut spread that kids grow up eating at breakfast. So it was shocking when French philosopher Régis Debray attacked Nutella , causing a national uproar. He might as well have gone after motherhood and the 35-hour workweek while he was at it.

Author and professor Mara Goyet responded with an essay explaining the ways in which Nutella is, in fact, at the very heart of French civilization. It’s very insightful and…hilarious!

You can read the full article at Frenchly.

The Five Sons of Carcassonne

One of the most impressive sites in France is Carcassonne, a beautifully preserved medieval fortress and one that is still imposing today.   For anyone who has seen the mighty walls of la Cité, it is easy to understand that it was once considered impregnable.

In the mountains nearby are the Five Sons of Carcassonne, mighty fortresses that once protected the French border with Spain.  They are an easy day trip from Carcassonne and definitely worth a visit.

You can read more about the Five Sons at A French Collection.

Bill Nye the Science Guy Explains the French To You

You might know Bill Nye The Science Guy from his TV shows. He’s kind of goofy and is always explaining things like magnetism and volcanoes and how blood flows through the body. And he’s a big fan of bow ties.

But you wouldn’t think of him as someone who would give you deep insight into the French. That would be the Existentialism Guy or the Postmodernism Guy, not the Science Guy, right?

Wrong.

You can read the full article at Frenchly.

Secrets of St.-Rémy: The Best Place for a Picnic

Just ten minutes from the center of St.-Rémy is a shady picnic spot known only to the locals. It sits along the shores of a lake created thousands of years ago by the Romans.

When hordes of tourists crowd into town, it’s nice to take a break in a quiet spot. So grab some wine and cheese and let’s go!

The Lac du Peiroou is a small reservoir, the result of a dam that spans two rocky outcroppings near the ancient city of Glanum. While the present dam was built a century ago, the original dam dates back to the first century B.C! The Romans put it there to supply water to Glanum and it may have been the first vaulted (curved) dam ever built.

The dam is at the bottom of the V

The lake has a wide, grassy area at one end, with trees that provide welcome shade on a sunny Provençal day. It’s the perfect place to spread out a blanket and enjoy a lazy afternoon. And stocking up for your picnic is easy – you can get everything you need at St.-Rémy’s Jardin des Alpilles. 

Dogs love it, too!

You can splash around in the small beach area to cool off, but don’t try catching any fish – you need a special permit for that.   So just relax, read a book and think about where you are going to have dinner.

 Is that a fish?

 

Getting There

Head south out of St.-Rémy in the direction of Glanum. About half a mile past the Tourist Office make a right turn onto Avenue Antoine de la Salle. There’s a small sign marking the route to Lac du Peiroou but go slowly and look carefully because it’s easy to miss.

After about a quarter of a mile, the road will fork and there won’t be any signs telling you which way to go. But have no fear! Turn left and go about 2/3 of a mile. At this point there will be a little road leading off to the left and you’ll see a small parking lot. The lake is just beyond.

If you drive, be careful along the last stretch because the road is narrow and a bit twisty. You can also bike or walk to the lake but beware – there are some hilly spots that you might want to avoid on a hot day!

What Would You Like to Read?

Hello!

One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence has been out for six months and has been gratifyingly well received.  Thanks to everyone who has read it and an extra-special thanks to those of you who have written a review.  I really appreciate it!

I’m planning to write a second book, continuing the story of the adventures Val and I have been enjoying in France.  Before I do, I would love to get your thoughts.  I have a few questions and would be very grateful if you would let me know what you think.

 

What did you enjoy about One Sip at a Time?

What would you have liked to be different in the book?

What did you expect but not find in the book?

What would you like to see in a second book about our life in France? How would you like it to be different from the first book (if at all)?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.  Or you can email me directly at author@keithvansickle.com.

Thank you!

Keith

The Best Value Wine in France? (and a secret picnic spot)

Just ten minutes from one of France’s most famous sites, the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard, sits the tiny village of Estézargues.  There’s not much there – no charming cafés or famous monuments.  But on the edge of town you can find some astonishingly good wine— wine that you might consider the best value wine in France!

You can read the full article at France Travel Tips.

The Alpilles from the Air

Many of us love the Alpilles, the “little Alps” that rise between the famous Provençal towns of St-Rémy and Les Baux. Their craggy beauty dominates the surrounding landscape. But outside of taking a plane ride, it is impossible to appreciate them from the air.

Until now.

Gilles Lagnel’s new book, Les Alpilles Vues du Ciel, includes over 100 magnificent photos of the Alpilles and their many attractions.

You can read the full article at Perfectly Provence.

 

A Story of Franco-American Friendship

Today is Bastille Day, with presidents Macron and Trump joining together to recognize America’s entry into WWI a century ago. No matter what you think of the politics of these two men, it is heartening to see this recognition of the long friendship between our two countries.

It reminded me of a story from a few years ago, when my wife and I were living in France…

We were walking through town with our dog Lucca when an older gentleman asked what breed he was. We stopped to talk and he quickly figured out from our accents that we are not native French speakers.

“Are you English?” he asked suspiciously. Relations across the English Channel are not always the friendliest.

His frown became a smile when we explained that we are Americans. He shook our hands warmly and thanked us for “saving” France in 1944.

It wasn’t the first time this had happened. It was always gratifying to know that American sacrifices during the war are still remembered and honored.

When someone thanked us for 1944 we always tried to return the favor.

We would express our gratitude for France’s essential support during our war of independence. We would point out that France is America’s oldest ally.

And we would tell them something that even most Americans don’t know.

There are only two portraits in the House of Representatives, one of the centers of American government. These large paintings hold pride of place, flanking the Speaker’s rostrum. On the left is the father of our country, George Washington; on the right, French general Lafayette.

And the painting of Lafayette came first.