Magrets & Mushrooms: French Country Cooking
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
3d ago
Jeanne Strang wrote a classic cookbook, "Goose Fat & Garlic" (1991), about the country recipes of Southwest France. The book includes authentic recipes and insights into rural life in this part of France. I was pleased to see that a follow-up, "Magrets & Mushrooms”, has appeared. This features new recipes but also chronicles the extensive changes in French rural life over more than 30 years. Jeanne witnessed all of this, since she and her husband bought a house in Aveyron in 1961. Together, the two books are the fruits of Jeanne’s extensive research and firsthand experiences. Liberally ..read more
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Cahors Revisited: A Rich Past, a Vibrant Present
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
1w ago
Cahors is one of the most appealing towns in our region. Nestled in a loop of the River Lot, it boasts remnants of Roman buildings, medieval monuments and the famous “black wine” of the area. We renewed our acquaintance with this historic but lively town this week. I revisited the 14th-century Pont Valentré, which, with its devilish legend, is a star attraction. We also explored more of the town’s “secret gardens” in secluded squares and courtyards, linked by a marked trail ..read more
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Tranquil and Atmospheric: La Chartreuse in Villefranche-de-Rouergue
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
2w ago
Happy Easter, joyeuses Pâques to all my readers. This weekend, I paid a visit to the Chartreuse Saint-Sauveur in Villefranche-de-Rouergue, which revealed its rich history and Gothic architecture. The monastery was once a haven of silence for Chartreux monks, who never left once they passed through its portals. La Chartreuse, which is well hidden behind the town’s hospital, claims to have the biggest cloister in France. This massive space impresses with its simplicity and its peacefulness. As ever, though, the small details were particularly notable: the intimate little carvings on the pillars ..read more
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Signs of the Times
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
3w ago
If you’ve ever driven through rural France, you will have noticed the faded advertising murals and shop signs painted on the walls of houses and barns. They evoke the country’s past, publicising drinks such as Suze, Poulain chocolate, motor oil and other products. These "murs réclames" became popular in the 19th and 20th centuries and are works of art in their own right, a far cry from their modern successors. I look at a part of the fabric of French history that will soon have disappeared for ever ..read more
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Spring Sunshine Brings Nature Back to Life
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
1M ago
Spring is arriving in leaps and bounds after what felt like the gloomiest winter we have experienced in our 27 years in France. In the last few days, we have enjoyed springlike sunshine after torrential rain earlier in the week. Time to get outside and tackle the garden jobs that have piled up. Was this winter really as gloomy as we thought? What do the figures that we have kept for 26 years say ..read more
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Four French Women Musicians Who Prevailed Against the Odds
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
1M ago
Today, on International Women’s Day, I celebrate four remarkable French women musicians: Pauline Viardot, a talented pianist turned operatic mezzo-soprano and composer; Emma Calvé, renowned for her role in Bizet’s Carmen and her work for the French war effort during World War I; Lili Boulanger, a musical prodigy who won the Prix de Rome and died tragically young; and Josephine Baker, an American-turned-French singer and dancer who spied for France during World War II and was a civil rights activist. These women overcame considerable odds in what was still very much a man's world ..read more
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An Unusual Leap Year Tradition in France
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
1M ago
You will have noticed that we get an extra day of winter this year, 29th February. While this extends a season that many of us would prefer to be shorter, it’s essential to prevent the dates and the seasons becoming completely out of kilter. In France, there is one particular leap day tradition that began in 1980 and is avidly awaited by readers – a satirical daily newspaper, La Bougie du Sapeur. What’s the difference from other dailies? This one appears only once every four years ..read more
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Every Château Tells a Story #22: Le Château de Graves, Villefranche-de-Rouergue
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
1M ago
I continue my series about local châteaux with a visit to le Château de Graves in Villefranche-de-Rouergue. This is a well-preserved Renaissance château, of which there are surprisingly few in France in such good condition. It seems to have withstood the region’s sporadic turbulence unscathed. I had the place to myself as I wandered around, imagining what it must have been like in its heyday. The merchant who constructed the château had made his fortune trading copper. He was keen to impress his friends with this tangible symbol of his wealth, and probably his rivals, too ..read more
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The Star of Spices: Growing Saffron in Quercy
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
2M ago
Saffron more than deserves its nickname "red gold". Ounce for ounce, it's more expensive than the precious metal and outstrips luxuries such as truffles and caviar in price. It gives a gold hue and a distinctive aromatic taste to many dishes, savoury and sweet. Saffron comes from the dried stigmas of the purple crocus lativus, which has been grown and used in France since the 14th century. Our region is one of the principal growing areas in France, and there's a safranière (saffron farm) not far from us. The young woman who owns it gave a talk recently, when I learned more about this star of s ..read more
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Daring Vanquisher of the Skies: Dieudonné Costes
Life on La Lune
by Vanessa in France
2M ago
Septfonds has a lot of history associated with it. The village was once the centre of the straw hat making industry, founded by the delightfully named Pétronille Cantecor. An internment camp for Spanish refugees was set up there after the fall of Barcelona. Perhaps a lesser-known claim to fame is that Septfonds is the birthplace of the aviator Dieudonnée Costes. The fame of fliers like Charles Lindbergh and Louis Blériot has eclipsed his, and few people have heard of him today. However, he was the first to make the westward crossing of the Atlantic in 1930 against overwhelming odds. The local ..read more
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