Category Archives: History

La Fête des Mères (Mother’s Day) in France: Traditions and Customs

Yesterday was la Fête des Mères (Mother’s Day) in France. The French are very family minded. In restaurants, you often see whole families from babies to grandparents sitting down to Sunday lunch. The children are usually well behaved since they … Continue reading

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Virtual Visits: Discovering the Gorges de l’Aveyron

From tomorrow, we are allowed beyond the 100 km limit without authorisation in France. For the time being, this is the last of the virtual visits, since I hope to start attacking my bucket list of places to see in … Continue reading

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One Should Never Leave Montauban

“On ne devrait jamais quitter Montauban!”, is one of the immortal lines spoken by Lino Ventura in the classic film, Les Tontons Flingeurs (lit. The Gun-Toting Uncles, 1963). Having renounced a life of crime to sell agricultural equipment in Montauban, … Continue reading

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Stones, Bones and Giants’ Thrones: on the Limogne Dolmen Trail

Last weekend, we took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to try out a new walk around Limogne. This small town in the Lot is host to a busy Sunday market and a Friday truffle market in season. It sits … Continue reading

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The Richness of French Rural Heritage: Gariottes and Cazelles

The backbone of the earth is never far beneath the surface here, as we have found to our cost every time we plant a tree or a shrub! The farmers carefully make piles of the stones they plough up, but … Continue reading

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Cornflowers and Poppies: Symbols of World War I

Today is Remembrance Sunday, the closest Sunday to 11th November, the day the Armistice came into force in 1918. Tomorrow is a public holiday in France, and remembrance ceremonies will take place at war memorials throughout the country. Wearing a … Continue reading

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Abandoned Village: Saint-Amans-le-Vieux

Today was a beautiful, if still too dry, autumn day, so the SF and I decided to bestir ourselves and make the most of this fine weather for a walk. “Where shall we go?” We are faced with an embarras … Continue reading

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Cordes-sur-Ciel: Dramatic and Timeless

I’d forgotten what a long way up it is. Seventeen years had obliterated our memory of the steep hike up to the cité of Cordes-sur-Ciel perched on its hilltop, which was long considered inaccessible. But we weren’t going to wimp … Continue reading

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From Monks to Mona Lisa: L’Abbaye de Loc-Dieu

Imagine a place the locals dreaded so much that they named it locus diaboli, the devil’s place. A lonely, remote spot near the major trade route between Rodez and Cahors, with dark woods bristling with bandits lying in wait. And … Continue reading

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Timeless Monument: The Cathedral of Cahors 900 Years On

2019 marks the 900th anniversary of la Cathédrale Saint-Etienne in Cahors. The cathedral is even older than the ill-fated Notre-Dame de Paris. Yesterday, 27th July, was supposed to be the official anniversary, since it was on that day in 1119 … Continue reading

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Noses to the Grindstone? La Meulière de Clayrac near Cordes

Our walking group has recently taken some interesting routes, which have introduced us to the patrimoine (historic heritage) of the region. Some of the sites are quite off the beaten track and we hadn’t come across them before in our … Continue reading

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A Walk Around Caylus

It’s been an eventful 10 days or so. My latest novel is now out, involving quite a lot of last-minute effort. And the Irish Embassy in Paris phoned on Tuesday to say that my citizenship application had been accepted. My … Continue reading

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Saving Face: Some of the Less Obvious Gems in SW France

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I’m following the example of fellow blogger Midi Hideaways, who wrote a recent post about the statuary and carved stone faces on buildings in the towns of the Languedoc. In this post … Continue reading

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Centuries to Build, Hours to Destroy: Notre-Dame de Paris

One of France’s – no, the world’s – best-loved icons, Notre-Dame de Paris, caught fire shortly before 7 pm last night. The flames quickly took hold and, although the fire brigade was quick to react, it was impossible to save … Continue reading

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Tilting at Windmills

One of the things I love about living here is local people’s interest in le petit patrimoine, the vestiges of a rural life that has faded away. Groups of enthusiastic volunteers contribute to their restoration to rescue them from oblivion. … Continue reading

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The Story of the People at La Lune

I’d love to know who lived in our house long ago. Elderly neighbours have always been hazy about this, perhaps because it doesn’t really interest them. This week, at last, I discovered a story about previous occupants.

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The Bells, the Bells: the Magic of Church Bells in Rural France

In Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the loud ringing of the cathedral bells has turned Quasimodo, the bell-ringer, deaf. Some of you will no doubt have seen Charles Laughton hamming it up inimitably in the 1939 film. I … Continue reading

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La Chandeleur: Candles, Customs and Crêpes

Today is la Chandeleur or la fête des chandelles. I had never heard of it before we moved to France, but I had heard of Candlemas – lovely name – which is the British equivalent. To those of you in … Continue reading

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Béret Nice

Along with the Eiffel Tower, the baguette and the Citroën 2CV, the béret has become a (caricatured) symbol of French culture. Thus, it was adopted by people like Ernest Hemingway, who wanted to look French even if they weren’t – … Continue reading

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France’s Flower of the Dead

For a fortnight or so before 1st November (Toussaint; All Saints’ Day) pavements outside French florists’ shops and undertakers, and whole marquees at supermarkets, are heaving with chrysanthemums in pots. But don’t be tempted to offer a pot as a … Continue reading

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Ça Sent la Rose

  Roses must have one of the loveliest scents of all flowers. They have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years and thousands of varieties now exist. Unfortunately, they don’t do well here in our poor soil and they didn’t … Continue reading

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French Flavours: Pounti, Traditional Auvergnat Dish

During our recent visit to Cantal, we had the opportunity to taste again a dish that is traditional to northern Aveyron/southern Cantal: pounti. Before we first visited that area, 25 years ago, I had never come across this dish, not … Continue reading

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Villeneuve d’Aveyron: Ancient Paths and a Historic Gem

What do you think this building is? A small château or fortified house? A barn? All will be revealed below. Autumn is the best time for walking in this area. The days are warm and sunny, it’s usually dry underfoot … Continue reading

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Return to Cahors

I do like Cahors, an ancient city and capital of the Lot Département. Why is it, then, that we visit so infrequently? It’s more appealing than our own Préfecture, Montauban, and it doesn’t take much longer to get there. The … Continue reading

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The Story of Notre-Dame des Grâces

Set at the edge of a grassy plateau overlooking the verdant Bonnette Valley, this little chapel is visible for miles around. It commands a magnificent view of the countryside, with the ancient province of Quercy on one side and the … Continue reading

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La Fête de la Saint-Jean in France

Yesterday marked la Fête de la Saint-Jean, which occurs on 24th June each year, although the festivities normally take place the night before. It’s a not uncommon example of a pagan celebration taken over by the Catholic Church to commemorate … Continue reading

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Every Château Tells a Story #16: le Château de Saint-Michel de Vax

What a boon the internet can be – in small doses. And we’ve had only a small dose of it recently. More about that in a later post. I can find out almost anything, without moving from my computer in … Continue reading

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Buried Treasure at Teysseroles Chapel

I’ve written before about the visit of the departmental archaeologists to Teysseroles, where we are helping to restore the 15th-century chapel. This is a requirement when works are planned at a historic monument, to ensure that nothing of significance is … Continue reading

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A French Country Wedding

                     Weddings were in the air a fortnight ago, with the latest royal event. As is often the case, my historical research appetite was whetted. So let’s go back a century … Continue reading

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Loze: a Tiny Village on the Causse

Sometimes life takes you over. I’ve brought out two books in the space of a month and sung in two concerts, in Gaillac and a tiny hamlet near Puycelsi, in the past 10 days. I’m notorious for trying to do … Continue reading

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