I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that le Père Noël was generous to you. How did you get on with the quiz? No cheating, I hope. Without further ado, here are the answers. See how well you did.
I have highlighted the correct answers below in green. In some cases, there was more than one right answer; you were warned. You’ll also find explanations of the answers and links to posts on the blog, where relevant.
1 What was the drink that came to symbolise the Bohemian lifestyle of Belle Epoque Paris?
If you read the blog regularly, you had no excuse for getting this one wrong. One of my more recent posts.
2 Where would you go in France to consult an expert about whether a mushroom is safe to eat?
a) La Mairie
b) La pharmacie
No doubt you might find people at the Mairie or at the local grocer’s store who would know, but pharmacists are trained in the identification of mushrooms.
3 Which château in SW France was used as an arms cache during World War II?
a) Château de Cas
b) Château de Belcastel
c) Château de Najac
The Château de Cas was trashed by German troops when it was suspected that arms were stored there. In fact, they had already been removed. All three castles appear in my châteaux series.
4 What is a diablotin?
a) An imp or goblin
b) A round of bread with a savoury topping
c) A nickname for the guillotine
First trick question. Answers a) and b) are both correct. The edible variety are described in my French Flavours series.
5 What is a canif?
a) A poodle-type breed of dog
b) A type of penknife
c) A flat-bottomed, river-going boat
A canif is a folding pocket-knife. In past times, every countryman had his own knife, which he used at meals and then wiped on a piece of bread before folding it away. The town of Laguiole in Aveyron is reputed for the production of knives, including canifs.
6 Un fleuve is…
a) A river that flows into a lake
b) A river that flows into a sea or ocean
c) A river that is a tributary of another river
7 From which of the following was pastel dye once made in SW France?
a) Isatis tinctoria
b) Crocus sativus
c) Tuber melanosporum
Isatis tinctoria is, of course, the botanical name for woad, known for centuries as a potent blue dye. The pastel trade was once very important to the regional economy. The other two were as well. Crocus sativus supplied saffron, Quercy’s red gold, while Tuber melanosporum is the black truffle, the black diamond of Quercy.
8 Which of the following is a bastide town?
Second trick question. Both a) Villefranche-de-Rouergue and c) Montauban are counted as bastides, the medieval new towns with a large central square and streets in a grid pattern. Montauban was founded in 1144 and therefore predates most of the bastides, which were constructed in the 13th-14th centuries. Montauban is generally counted as one of the first bastides.
9 Which of these is an emblem of the City of Toulouse?
a) A fleur de lys
b) A violet
c) A crocus
Another trick question. The fleur de lys appears on the coat of arms of Toulouse, while the violet was cultivated widely in the area in the 19th century and became an emblem of the city.
10 In what state is someone if they “mange les pissenlits par la racine”?
11 What did a French law of 1962 decree about Christmas?
a) As France is a lay society, Christmas should not be mentioned in official correspondence
b) Every child who posts a letter to le Père Noël will receive a reply
c) Every low-income family should receive a free turkey from the state
The law of 1962 created Père Noël’s secretariat based in Libourne, Gironde. Letters addressed to le Père Noël and posted in a La Post postbox receive a reply from the secretariat of around 60 staff. This was the initiative of Jacques Marette, who was Minister for Posts and Telecommunications at the time. I think I might test this next year.
12 Which French king decreed that 10 days should be removed from a month of December?
a) Henri III
b) Henri IV
c) Louis XIV
When Pope Gregory XIII introduced the Gregorian Calendar in 1582, 10 days had to be shaved off October to get the year back into alignment. Henri III dragged his heels and so 10 days were cut out of December 1582 in France.
13 At Easter, the bells fly to Rome to be blessed by the Pope. What do they contain when they return?
a) Holy water
The Roman Catholic Church has long tried to play down this myth on the basis that children should be more interested in the spiritual side of Easter than in scoffing as much chocolate as they can get hold of.
14 In which French town was the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec born?
Read more about him and the Museum dedicated to him in Albi here.
15 Which celebrated French mathematician was born in SW France?
a) Pierre de Fermat
b) Blaise Pascal
c) René Descartes
Fermat was born in Beaumont-de-Lomagne, one of the garlic capitals of SW France (the other is Lautrec, the centre of pink garlic production).
16 Who invented the hot air balloon?
a) Antoine Lavoisier
b) Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier
c) Pierre and Marie Curie
Watching washing drying by the fire inflate with hot air was apparently the inspiration behind the Montgolfier brothers’ invention.
17 With which SW France town is d’Artagnan in Alexandre Dumas, père’s, novel Les Trois Mousquetaires, associated?
D’Artagnan was associated with a number of places, but Auch, capital of the Gers, has a large statue of him. Little is known of the real d’Artagnan, Charles de Batz de Castelmore, but accounts of his military exploits inspired Dumas’ fictional character.
18 What is the capital of the Occitanie Region of France, formed during the regional reorganisation in 2016?
19 If someone has “des oursins dans la poche”, are they?
b) In a bad mood
Oursins are spiny sea urchins. Certainly a disincentive to getting your wallet out if your pocket is full of them. One of the colloquial French phrases that sometimes defy logic.
20 What is an OVNI?
a) A creature that lays eggs
b) An unidentified flying object
c) A non-governmental organisation
OVNI stands for “objet volant non identifié“. When the world was supposed to end (for the nth time) in December 2012, the only safe place was the village of Bugarach in the Corbières. The hill overlooking the town was supposed to conceal an extra-terrestrials’ base. No doubt they arrived by OVNI.
Now for the time of reckoning. My arithmetic tells me that you could have scored a total of 23 points.
18-23 points – Macronnais. Bravo! Your grasp of French culture is presidential.
12-17 points – Melenchonnais. Pas mal but not in the premier échelon.
6-11 points – Hollandais. Not destined for greatness.
0-5 points – Hamonnais. Back to school.
All tongue in cheek, of course. I hope you enjoyed it.
It only remains for me to wish you une bonne fin d’année. Life on La Lune will be back in 2018 with more about French life for your delectation.
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