Are You a Juilletiste or an Aoûtien?

In France, the prime vacation months are July and August, when school is out and the weather is beautiful. Which raises a question: when should a French person go on vacation?

Traditionally, most people went in August, when factories closed and the country shut down. But as the French economy has evolved and manufacturing has declined, people can now choose which month to go on vacation. And they usually go at the same time every year, which has divided the country into two groups. They even have special names: the juilletistes, who vacation in July (July is juillet in French) and the aoûtiens (for août, or August.)

These two tribes have different characteristics and each views the other with a kind of suspicion, bordering on disdain. Some sociologists claim that the most important social division in France isn’t based on race, gender, religion, or even political affiliation, but by when you take your summer vacation!

I take a look at each tribe in The Good Life France!

Eurovision: Europe’s Greatest Cultural Achievement?

What is Europe’s greatest cultural achievement? Is it the art of Michelangelo? The Magna Carta? French cuisine? For me, there’s no question—it’s the Eurovision Song Contest. For nearly 70 years, singers and bands across the continent have battled for the title of Best Original Song.

What makes Eurovision great? It’s not the music, because most of the songs sound alike. No, it’s the performances, and especially the cheesy ones (some might call them campy.) Who can forget the Bearded Lady? Or the man running inside a giant hamster wheel? Or the bare-chested fellows prancing in their sparkly gold shoulder pads?

Americans are starting to discover Eurovision. The number one movie on Netflix right now is Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams. It’s silly and fun and captures the spirit of Eurovision perfectly.

Eurovision was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus, but the official videos for the finalists have been posted online. I’ve watched them all and picked out the best for you.

Read all about it at MyFrenchLife!

How to Picnic French-Style

The sun is shining, the weather is warm—let’s go on a picnic! We may not be able to travel to France this year, but we can still add some French style to our pique-nique.

I’ve written a short primer on picnicking à la français. What are the basics that no French picnic can be without? What are the three courses of a classic French picnic? And is it ok to take a nap after you’ve eaten? I explain all!

Read all about it in France Today!

Understanding French Culture

France has a distinctive culture, reflecting its long and proud history as a great nation. And it has its quirks–for example, the French kiss each other when other people might hug or shake hands. Their driving habits are different than those other countries. And arguing is one of the country’s national sports.

Want some insights into French culture? Then check out this article in My French Life!

Roman Provence

Provence is famous for its charming hilltop villages, brilliant sunflowers, and fragrant lavender. It is also where you can find some of the best Roman ruins in all of Europe. This is because Provence was once an important part of the Roman Empire. The Romans even gave it its name: “Provence” comes from the original Latin “Provincia Romana.”

If you like beautiful temples, magnificent amphitheaters, and stunning aqueducts as tall as an 18-story building, then Provence is the place for you. Let’s take a look at some of the best of these Roman sites.

Read all about it at The Good Life France!

Bring French Culture into Your Life…Virtually!

Oh, to be in France in the spring! My wife and I live part of the year in St-Rémy-de-Provence but, like a lot of people, have had to cancel our travel plans. Now we are sheltering-in-place and yearning for sunny days in the South of France.

But all is not lost! We are still connected to la belle France virtually and you can be, too. There are plenty of books, movies, and TV shows that can transport you to that magical land. You can whip up dinner a la français and imagine you are in a cozy Paris bistro. And if you’d like to combine tourism with murder mysteries, I’ve got just the show for you.

Check out the resources I’ve put together for you in Perfectly Provence!

A Delightful Trip to Middle-of-Nowhere France

Oh boy, I love books about France and this is one of the best.

France is full of fascinating places to visit, like Paris, Provence, the Riviera, Normandy, and more. There are so many that it’s hard to decide where to go! Well, it just got harder because Janine Marsh’s description of her tiny village in “middle-of-nowhere-France” is so delightful that you’ll want to go there, too. I know I do.

Fifteen years ago, Janine and her husband Mark bought a wreck of a house in the Seven Valleys region of northern France. They didn’t plan to buy a house; they were on a shopping trip from their home in London and stumbled into a real estate office to get out of the rain. The next thing they knew they were looking at a place that cost “less than a Hermes handbag.” They bought it as a bit of a lark, thinking it would make a nice place for vacations and the occasional weekend getaway.

But life had other plans. The little village captured their hearts and soon they packed up and moved to France. The next dozen years were spent refurbishing the house (including a septic tank explosion that earned Janine the nickname Madame Merde), collecting a vast collection of farm animals (including a demented chicken named Ken) and settling into the local community.

Janine and Mark are those rarest of birds, expats who have really become members of a French village. They drink at a local bar that looks like someone’s living room circa 1955. They play charades with their neighbors, where everyone fights to play Johnny Holliday or Edith Piaf. They chat with the bread delivery man—their village is too tiny to support a boulangerie—who occasionally has questions about English (“What means the expression, ‘It sucks?’”)

The best part of the book is the way Janine writes about of her neighbors, a friendly and occasionally eccentric crew who have welcomed Janine and Mark with great warmth. There’s Jean-Claude, who teaches them how to trim hedges and make crow pâté. And Claudette, always ready with a hot cup of coffee and a plate of something tasty. And “Miss Pepperpot,” the tiny lady who occasionally needs help getting wayward cows out of her flowerbed, and offers jars of homemade jam as thanks.

I love Janine’s writing and laughed when she described a young couple falling in love over a shared passion for mushroom hunting (“one fungi led to another…”) And her description of a strong local drink (“Calvados can blow your socks off, and after a couple of hours we were all pretty much sockless.”)

If you are stuck at home and looking for something to brighten your day, think about taking a trip to this delightful corner of France. I just loved this book and I think you will, too.

You can find My Four Seasons in France on Amazon.

France Bans UFOs!

Châteauneuf-du-Pape, just north of where I live in Provence, is famous for its wines. The town’s name means “the pope’s new château” because many centuries ago a summer papal palace was built here. Popes need good wine to drink, so vines were planted, barrels were crafted, and the town’s fame for great wine began.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape is known for more than its wines, though. It’s also known for a law that bans UFOs from taking off, landing, or even flying over the town. How did this strange law come to be? It’s an interesting story of a famous movie, some invaders from outer space (or mass delusion, take your pick) plus a clever mayor with a nose for publicity.

Read all about it in The Good Life France!

What Do the French Think of the Transit Strikes?

France is experiencing its biggest strikes since 1995, with the nation’s transportation system largely shut down, paralyzing the country. The strikes began in December and continued through the holidays, with regular street protests in Paris and other major cities. More “Days of Action” are scheduled, when thousands of protesters will again march in the streets. Getting around Paris has never been harder.

What do the French think of all this? Are they still solidaire with the strikers or are they tired of the hassle? I looked at some recent polls and the answer was surprising.

Read all about it in Frenchly!