Sunday, January 28, 2018

New Year, New Experiences 2, Yoga and Zumba

French Village Diaries at The French Yoga Garden and ZumbaPoitou
The French Yoga Garden Café who serve a delicious brunch

Following on from part one of my New Year, New Experiences (see here), once back in France, continuing my active start to 2018 was still on my mind and I was keen to get back to our weekly village gym class, even if my legs always ache for a few days afterwards. 

I also discovered The French Yoga Garden run a monthly Yoga Brunch session at the Moulin de Chantegrolle in Charroux, which although not that local, the opportunity to do a Sunday morning yoga class, followed by a delicious home cooked brunch, wasn’t to be missed. When I arrived I discovered the yoga studio was in fact a yurt in the garden, where the sound of running water from the millstream drowned out all modern world noises as we cocooned ourselves in a warm and cosy yoga bubble. It was bliss. I was so in the yoga zone that my inner blogger disappeared and I forgot to take any photos. Thankfully you can see lots on the Retreat in France website here, of the yurt, the café and the accommodation in a converted water mill.

Lucy is my fifth yoga teacher and the fourth I’ve discovered in the last six months, the other three being travelling yogis who come and go, but I’ve noticed a similarity; they all have an aura of calm about them. I’ve decided you can sense a good yoga teacher before the class begins; they are relaxed, happy in the here and now and radiate peace and tranquillity. 

Yoga with Lucy didn't disappoint and yoga in a yurt was another first for me, I know I will be back. Having sampled the poached eggs and fresh pancakes of brunch, I’m also looking forward to the official opening of their café, The French Yoga Garden Café, which I’m sure Ade and I will also make good use of when out on our bikes.

French Village Diaries at The French Yoga Garden and ZumbaPoitou

They say things go in threes and my third new sporty experience has surprisingly turned out to be Zumba. I have quite a few friends who go to a local weekly Zumba class and they have all tried to persuade me to go, one has been trying for about five years. Despite my reservations, I finally gave in and gave it a go. Coordination isn’t my strong point and neither is my sense of rhythm. Give me a yoga pose to hold and I hold it, get me to dance to music and I’m all over the place. I also have a fear of communal sweating, so when I was advised to bring a towel, in case of ‘drips’ (shudder), I nearly didn’t turn up. But, turn up and try my best I did, and good fun it was too. I know it will take me quite a while to learn the dance routines, but I’ve bought a ten-session ticket to prove my commitment and I’ve even coped (so far) with the public sweating.

French Village Diaries at The French Yoga Garden and ZumbaPoitou
ZumbaPoitou Why am I the only one with my arms in the air?

With the weather so far this year being wet, day after day after day, I haven’t been out on my bike since getting back from the UK, dog walks have been hit and miss and the garden is a soggy, muddy mess that I’m avoiding for fear of getting sucked into the mud. It is just as well that I’m keeping active in other ways, but I’m still looking forward to spring and more time spent outdoors. 

My next blog will contain more news, but book related rather than sporty.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

New Year, New Experiences, part one

French Village Diaries 2018 new experiences, Brompton Bike Hire
The cyclist and the London skyline 
It seems hard to believe that January is almost over, but what a month it’s been. 2018 certainly seems to be turning out to be an exciting year of surprises and new experiences for me and with so much going on, I think it will take me about three blog posts to get you up to date with all my news. I’ll start on a sporty note, as to my surprise the year started out cycling, in London of all places.

French Village Diaries 2018 new experiences, Brompton Bike Hire
Adrian and Delilah in London
Unusually for us we spent New Year’s Eve in the UK, so decided an organised club cycle ride on New Year’s Day would be the perfect start to 2018. Adrian recently treated himself to a new bike (N+1) for cycle commuting in the UK, however, it’s not just any bike; it’s a folding bike, a Brompton folding bike. Depending on his work schedule he cycles up to 100km a week on it, sorry, on her, Delilah, and on weekends he’s free to cycle away to his hearts content.

For those of you who don’t know, over 20 years ago Adrian and I met when we were both members of the London and Surrey Mini Owners Club. Our weekends (pre-marriage, Ed and France ) consisted of driving miles in our Mini’s, in convoy with our club mates and having a blast at Mini club events. We still have Ade’s Mini, but moving to France meant turning our back on the club scene. Until now that is. Ade and Delilah have joined the London Brompton Club and are often to be found cycling in London with them, and on New Years Day Ed and I, with two hired Brompton bikes, joined in the fun too.

French Village Diaries 2018 new experiences, Brompton Bike Hire
London Brompton Club in Osterley Park
43kms of fun to be precise, cycling the London parks around Richmond, Isleworth and along the Thames to Hammersmith. I’d forgotten how much fun club camaraderie can be, and you can’t help but be cheered by the smiles the public give you when they realise you’re part of a convoy of quirky looking, cute bikes. The added bonus for me was that it was in the area of London where I was born and spent the first four years of my life. I can’t say I remembered too much, but had a blast on my first Brompton experience, and first time cycling in London too. This is something I never thought I’d do, but with a great network of cycle paths it wasn’t as tricky as I’d been expecting. Being of short stature myself, I rather enjoyed the compactness of Ajax, my nippy little hired Brompton with her low centre of gravity – we were made for each other.

French Village Diaries 2018 new experiences, Brompton Bike Hire
Ajax and I in London Docklands
In fact our UK trip saw us cycling in London twice and proved to be a real trip down memory lane. Not only did we visit west London where I was born, but another cycle adventure took us to the east end and docklands area, where Adrian’s family are from and where he spent school holidays with his Nana. We found the church his parents got married in and also cycled our favourite haunts in the City.

French Village Diaries 2018 new experiences, Brompton Bike Hire
St Pauls
We both commuted to work in the City for many years and I’m sure meeting for lunch every day when we were ‘just friends’ helped to cement our relationship. We have lots of happy memories of those days and revisiting by bike was a great way to start the year we will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

French Village Diaries 2018 new experiences, Brompton Bike Hire
Brompton Bike Hire Reading station
Ed and I signed up to BromptonBike Hire in order to join in the fun, and the individually named bikes we got were in good condition, even if the hire process does seem to have a few technical issues. For example, codes given when reserving a bike online didn’t always open the secure bays where the bikes were collected and deposited back to. Following a text to inform us we’d left a bay open, we had to return, only to find it was securely closed. As if there weren’t enough issues when collecting the bikes, returning them to find a vandalised bay meant another phone call to the (thankfully) helpful helpdesk. Despite the problems we encountered I’m sure Ed and I will hire again when we are in the UK, so we can join Adrian and Delilah on another club ride.

The next blog will see me trying out yoga in a yurt and Zumba. Go me!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Nuit de la Lecture, Reading Night

Our weather today

Today has been wetter than wet, dark and dreary, and with wind thrown in for good measure. It has not been a day to be out and about, although that didn’t stop my French neighbour Pierrette, who took her bike out, despite being in her late 70’s, suffering from a heavy cold and admitting to doing more walking than cycling thanks to flooded paths and gusts of wind.

I’ve been safely indoors, planning what to read as tonight in France it’s #NuitdelaLecture or Reading Night. Bookshops and libraries all over the country are holding evening events where all things book and reading will be celebrated. It’s too yukky for me to venture out, but that doesn’t stop me planning a cosy night in, cocooned from the weather, doing what I love best; reading.

Just one of my bookshelves

In case you too are seeking a shelter from the weather and fancied some reading ideas, here is a list of the most popular books (set in France) I shared here and on my Facebook page last year. Amazon very kindly lets me know how many books have been bought via my associate links – don’t panic, this doesn’t cost you any extra, but they generously give me 4p for every £1 spent, money I invest back into books set in France.

In no particular order, here are the ten most popular books from 2017:

My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh, a memoir about life in rural France, read my review here.

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, a fiction novel set aboard a floating bookshop. I really enjoyed this book, review coming soon.

France in Four Seasons by Karen Wheeler, a collection of snippets of life in France, read my review here.

But You Are in France Madame by Catherine Berry, a memoir about an Australian family trying out life in the Alps, read my review here.

Summer at the Little French Guesthouse by Helen Pollard, a novel set in the Loire Valley, the final book in a superb trilogy, read my review here.

La Vie En Rose by Susie Kelly, snippets of Susie’s life in rural France, read my review here.

Nice Work (If You Can Get It) by Celia Imrie. I really enjoyed her first novel set in the south of France and this one has sat on my to be read pile for far too long. Note to self, move it up the pile.

Late Summer in the Vineyard by Jo Thomas, a novel that I snapped up on an Amazon price deal, but have not yet read.

The Woman Who Met Her Match by Fiona Gibson, another novel waiting to be read.

Pensioners in Paradis by Olga Swan, I follow Olga's blog and really must read this memoir soon.

Tonight I will be reading Peter Mayle’s The Vintage Caper, a novel from the master of memoirs set in France, who we sadly lost this week. I know I’m not the only one to have devoured his memoirs set in Provence, watched the TV series and the film. He inspired many of us to try and find our own little corner of France and quite a few of us to write about our adventures too. Thank you Peter.

Whatever you are currently reading, I hope it's a good read.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

French school and public holiday dates 2018

French school and public holiday dates 2018 French Village Diaries
Pays Basque, one of my favourite French holiday destinations

Happy New Year. January is here once more and as I’ve just posted the deposit cheque for a self-catering holiday in the Basque area of France later in the year, I thought it the perfect time to remind you of the public holidays, school holidays and other notable dates (and how they are celebrated) in France this year.

Whether you are new to life in France, or just wanting to plan your holiday here in the quiet weeks outside of the French school holidays, I hope you find this blog useful. 

Please feel free to share this post with your French loving friends and family.

Public Holidays in France 2018
1st January, New Years Day, jour de l’an
1st April, Easter Sunday, Pâques look out for flying bells (see here)
2nd April, Easter Monday, lundi de Pâques (note there is no Good Friday holiday in France unless you live in Alsace or Moselle areas)
1st May, Fête du Travail
8th May, Victory in Europe Day, Victoire 1945
10th May, Ascension Day, Ascension (note in 2018 the schools will not have an extra day off on Friday 11th May for the bridge pont)
21st May, Pentecost Monday, lundi de Pentecôte
14th July, Fête Nationale (a Saturday this year)
15th August, Assumption Day, Assomption
1st November, AllSaint's Day, Toussaint
11th November, Armistice Day, Armistice 1918 (a Sunday this year)
25th December, Christmas Day, Jour de Noël (note there is no Boxing Day holiday in France on 26th unless you live in Alsace or Moselle areas)

With the exception of the holidays linked to Easter: Easter Monday, Ascension Day and Pentecost Monday, the above dates are the same every year and the holiday is always observed on the actual date rather than being moved to the nearest Monday as the UK would do. Public holidays can therefore fall on weekends; to make up for this it is not uncommon for people to faire le pont (make a bridge) if a holiday falls on a Thursday (Ascension Day and All Saint’s Day) or a Tuesday  (this year: 1st May, 8th May and Christmas Day), by taking off the Friday or Monday giving themselves a four-day weekend. This will be part of their annual holiday entitlement, or the hours need to be made up, so while most businesses will be open on bridge days, some staff shortages can be expected. It is worth noting that in many areas of rural France, although some opening hours is becoming more common, most shops are likely to be either closed or only open in the mornings on public holidays.

Other dates to note:
6th January, Epiphany, celebrated in France with a Galette des Rois (see here)
10th January, winter sales begin, soldes d’hiver, sales are regulated in France and the winter sales run from 10th January to 12th February 2018
2nd February Candlemas day, Chandeleur, celebrated in France with pancakes (see here)
13th February, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras when carnival time begins in France and pancakes and beignets (similar to doughnuts) are eaten.
25th March, clocks spring forward an hour to Central European Summertime
25th March, Palm Sunday, Rameaux a day where our local boulangeries bake something different (see here)
25th May, Neighbours' Day, fêtes des voisins (in 2017 9 million French celebrated, including our village see here)
27th May, Mother’s Day, fêtes des mères
17th June, Father’s Day, fêtes des pères
21st June, fête de la musique, world music day, celebrated here with free concerts in towns and villages all over France
27th June, summer sales begin, Soldes d’été, and will run until 14th August 2018
7th to 29th July, Le Tour de France starts in La Roche-sur-Yon, Vendee and finishes in Paris three weeks later
28th October, clocks go back an hour to Central European Time

French school and public holiday dates 2018 French Village Diaries
School holiday zones in France

School Holidays
In France the schools are split into three zones and most of the holidays are staggered so not everyone is trying to hit the ski slopes or beaches at the same time, although be prepared for extra traffic on the roads on all Saturdays during the school holidays, or better still avoid driving on these days.

Here are the dates for 2018:
The winter holiday is from 10th February to 11th March.
Zone A gets the first two weeks, Zone C the middle two and Zone B the last two.

The spring holiday is from 7th April to 13th May.
Zone A gets the first two weeks, Zone C 14th to 30th April, part of Zone B 21st April to 7th May and the remaining departments of Zone B (Caen, Nantes, Orléans-Tours, Rennes and Rouen) the last two weeks.

The summer holiday for all zones is from 7th July until 3rd September.

The October holiday for all zones is from 20th October to 4th November.

The Christmas holiday for all zones is from 22nd December to 6th January 2019.

Wherever you visit in France this year, I hope you have a great holiday. 

You can also read more about French Holidays and Traditions in the great book by Margo Lestz.