Welcome to 'France et Moi' where I'm talking to author Caro Feely about what France means to her.
Caro is author of Grape Expectations: A Family's Vineyard Adventure in France and also runs an organic vineyard and wine tour company in France with her husband. You can read my review of her book here.
First question, I think France is a special place and it is famed for many things including its cheese, wine and diverse holiday locations plus, dare I say it strikes and dog poo littered streets. What do you think makes France so very unique and ‘French’?
Caro: The wine (of course!) and food and the fascinating history that we see all around us in the buildings 'la patrimoine'.
2) What is your first memory of a trip to France?
Caro: An incredible visit to the Loire Valley where our passion to move to France to grow organic wine truly started. It is the first passage of Grape Expectations (the book and our wines can be viewed and ordered online) and where our dream was born: a beautiful cellar cave in Bourgueil.
3) What is your favourite holiday location in France?
Caro: I can't pick one. Truly memorable holidays include the chateaux and wines of the Loire, the wild atlantic beaches near Arcachon, hiking in the Pyrenees, hiking and canoeing in Languedoc, exploring markets in Provence, winetasting in Alsace and Burgundy not to forget the fabulous canoeing, castles, gardens and wine and food of our local area in the Dordogne that we enjoy for day trips in the long summer holidays. We don't get to holiday much now as our holiday accommodation (www.luxurydordognegites.com) and the wine tours we offer (www.frenchwineadventures.com) keep us here in season and the vines keep us busy all year round.
4) Having lived in France and spoken French for many years do you have any top
tips for my readers on how to learn French?
Caro: Top tip is no English TV: only have the French channels with subtitles in French to help you recognise the sounds, try to read French books rather than english and buy a french newspaper.
5) Do you have any embarrassing language mishaps you are happy to share?
Caro: Definitely the worst was calling a puppy (chiot) a vulgar term for a toilet: shithole (chiotte) at a fancy soiree at a nearby chateau. Close second was asking a neighbouring winegrower how many condoms were in his wine...full story here.
6) Imagine you are sitting outside a French café at 10.00am on a sunny morning watching the world go by, what do you order from the waiter?
Caro: Noisette. I love capucino but it is very hit and miss and this shot of expresso with a dash of frothy milk is always good.
7) Quick poll – English chocolate éclair with whipped cream filling or French éclair au chocolat with crème patisserie filling?
8) What is your favourite regional French dish?
Caro: Magret de canard: duck breast in a wine reduction sauce. For quick wow starters three cheesy favourites are camembert with rosemary baked in its box (with barrel aged semillon), roquefort and fig (with saussignac dessert wine or red if you dont want to start with sweet wine), and goats cheese grilled on large brown mushrooms (with sauvignon blanc). Other wine pairing ideas and recipes can be found here.
9) France has many different cheeses, a silly question, but which French cheese
are you? A hard and mature Tome, a soft, fresh and lively goat cheese, the
creamy and rich Camembert or maybe the salty and serious Roquefort?
Caro: organic fresh goats cheese.
10) Can you explain ‘terroir’?
11) France has some beautiful cities and there are a few that constantly battle to be my favourite, what is your favourite French city and why?
Caro: I prefer the countryside but I do love Bordeaux for its magnificent quay area, wine bars and of course Paris is a city that has so many international icons one cannot pass it by. Both are great cities for walking.
Finally, do you have any current projects you would like to tell my readers about?
Caro: As a writer I am working on the sequel to Grape Expectations. I am motivated and excited about it - getting up at 6am everyday to write for two hours before the demands of work and family consume my day. For the wine tours new projects include Stargazer tours for those who want to know more about the sky and biodynamics (www.FrenchWineAdventures.com). The new vintage wines include a few surprises and new names too. To keep up to date on news readers can subscribe to the newsletter at www.FeelyWines.com or email me at email@example.com.
Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about France and you.
Caro: Thank you for asking me. I love reading French Village Diaries.
You can read my reviews of Caro’s memoirs here:
Vineyard Confessions (previously known as Glass Half Full)