Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Book review of A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire

French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire
A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire

A Crown in Time by Jennifer Macaire

In the far future, a convicted criminal is given a chance at redemption.  
Her mission? To save the crown of France by convincing a young noble not to join the ill-fated Eighth Crusade.
But nothing goes as planned, and Isobel finds herself accompanying a hot-headed youth on his way to fight the infidel in Tunis: a battle Isobel knows is fated to be lost.
From the rainy villages of medieval France, to the scorching desert of Tunis - Isobel faces her destiny and tries to fulfil her duty, knowing she can never return to her time, knowing that a wrong move can doom the future, or doom her to be burned as a witch.
French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire
A Crown in Time Blog Tour

My review

Paying the price for a moment of distraction that had devastating consequences on the lives of two families, Isobel is sent back in time on a mission to right another wrong. She knows from the start this is a one-way trip, with the only option being success, as failure will mean she is erased from time. Hers is a lonely mission with huge responsibility and high stakes. 

Arriving in France at a difficult period in time, Isobel is tasked to persuade the young Jean not to leave his family for an ill-fated crusade in Tunis. With knowledge that stands her out from the crowd, she can’t risk those around her becoming suspicious of her behaviour or singling her out as different, but who can she trust as a friend to help her to fulfil her mission.

One of the first people she meets is Charles, who becomes her loyal companion and helps her settle in to her new life, but things don’t go to plan. The facts she has been given don’t match the reality she finds herself living, and very soon she is swept along with the action, quickly becoming embedded in life on the crusade. Alongside her, we experience the discomfort, hunger, dirt and disease of daily life, and get an insider’s eye on the crusade and life in a royal court. 

Living in a family unit and forming relationships, Isobel must battle with her emotions, both memories from her past (in the future) that never leave her, as well as feelings for those who she is now living amongst. She cannot risk her actions changing history in a different way than the Time Correctors planned. 

I enjoyed following Isobel who showed herself as strong and determined, choosing to hang in rather than quit, but her flaws and mistakes are not overlooked either. If you are looking for something a bit different that seamlessly ties together the future, the past and complex relationships, then this book should tick all these and more.

Purchase links

French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire
Jennifer Macaire A Crown in Time

Author Bio 

Jennifer Macaire is an American living in France. She likes to read, eat chocolate, and plays a mean game of golf. She grew up in upstate New York, Samoa, and the Virgin Islands. She graduated from St Peter and Paul High School in St Thomas and moved to NYC where she modelled for five years for Elite. She went to France and met her husband at the polo club. All that is true. But she mostly likes to make up stories.

French. Village Diaries book review A Crown in Time Jennifer Macaire

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Monday, January 20, 2020

Nuit de la lecture (reading night) 2020

French Village Diaries la Nuit de la lecture 2020
Nuit de la Lecture 2020 Sauzé-Vaussais

La Nuit de la Lecture

For the last few years I have been posting about La Nuit de la Lecture, the annual reading night event created by the French culture minister in 2017 to encourage more people to discover the fun to be had in books. The aim is to bring together readers and professionals, from authors, publishers, book shops and libraries, to share a love of books and reading. 

I usually use La Nuit de la Lecture to post my annual top ten of popular books shared on the blog, a post that will be coming later this week, because today I’d like to share some photos of our local event that took place in Sauzé-Vaussais on Saturday.

Five local libraries collaborated to put together an afternoon of cookery workshops followed by an evening of food, fun, music, poetry and readings.

French Village Diaries la Nuit de la lecture 2020
Preparing the Syrian samosas

The food was an international mix of Syrian, Vietnamese and French. During the workshops a Syrian family, recently arrived in the area, shared some of the flavours of their home and how to prepare them, alongside the French preparing a Vietnamese chicken and rice salad and a retired patisserie chef demonstrating chou buns and eclairs. This part of the day certainly highlighted the positive effect of immigration and integrating new cultures into the community.

French Village Diaries la Nuit de la lecture 2020
French patisserie classics

In the evening, the librarians, both salaried and volunteers, put on a show with the themes of food and sharing taking the spotlight. Before each course was served our appetites were whetted with a food-themed sketch. Readings about oysters and sushi, a humorous tale about couscous, a fable about camembert and a song about banana splits and fruit salad, were just a few of the things that entertained us as we ate the food prepared during the day.

French Village Diaries la Nuit de la lecture 2020
The librarians putting on a show, Nuit de la Lecture 2020

It was obvious to those of us in the audience that everyone involved was having as good a time as we were and proved that working together as a network of local libraries has a lot to offer. Friendships and links between the libraries have been forged and I’m delighted there are plans to continue events like this in the future. 

Maybe next time I will be brave enough to take part and read aloud, in French, in front of an audience. I know the support from my friends was there, but this time it proved a little too much outside of my comfort zone. The venue wasn’t our village library, the audience came from a wider area and the team was made up of lots of people with lots of ideas and opinions. I let myself slide into the shadows rather than seek the spotlight.

Today is Blue Monday, claimed to be the most depressing day of the year, but living in a community that can pull together and put on events like this, even in the depths of winter, certainly helps to cheer the soul and lift the spirit. If you are feeling down today, pick up a book, I’m sure it will help. Here are a few suggestions of books I’ve enjoyed that all have something to make you laugh or will leave you with a nice warm glow of happiness. 

A Springtime to Remember by Lucy Coleman

A fabulous read that takes you to the heart of the gardens at Versailles. There is history, family drama, romance and mystery with a great cast of characters and superbly described setting. I'm reading this at the moment and keep looking for excuses to pick it up and jump back in.


Playing the Martyr by Ian Moore

This book gives us a murder, an investigating judge with an interesting past and a great cast of rural French village characters, including the British expats, the Maire, the councilors, the political undercurrents, the village bar and someone with a score to settle. Ian kept me guessing as the plot evolved and we got some snippets of French history and an expert guide around the beautiful city of Tours.


Susie Kelly box set

It is so difficult to pick my favourite of Susie Kelly’s humorous books on life and travel in France, luckily with this box set, you can have them all.

For more reading ideas you might like my previous posts:

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Feeling awesome on my bike

French Village Diaries feeling awesome on my bike #KTTinyTourer Thames London cycling
Along the Thames with London skyline in the background

Hey Britain, you don’t need Brexit to distance yourself from the EU, take it from me, your overnight road closures for Smart Motorway upgrades are doing a pretty effective job of blocking the access to your major ports. After a return trip using Dover and Portsmouth, to say I’m sick of the sight of road cones is an understatement and the only journey I enjoyed in the ten days was our adventure into London; two days, one night and 107kms – by bike.

French Village Diaries feeling awesome on my bike #KTTinyTourer Thames London cycling
The safe cycle way over Blackfriars Bridge in London

With river towpaths, Quiet Ways and Cycle Super Highways, cycling in London is exhilarating, far easier than I expected and much cheaper than taking the train or the car. Having commuted the 50kms from Woking to London by train for many years, making the journey by bike was awesome. I saw places and buildings up close that I’d only ever seen whiz by through a train window, as well as discovering new corners of London and rediscovering old haunts from my working years there. Making the journey by bike was something I never dreamed I’d ever do but is now up there on my top bike experiences to date.

The irony is that after years of disruptions and millions of pounds invested in upgrading to Smart Motorways (that I’m sure by the time the last stretch is finished the first areas to be completed will be out of date) traffic congestion will still be an issue. The only way to relieve the roads of cars is to make the alternatives more appealing. While many cycleways are well marked and safe, many more are on narrow roads with huge potholes and dangerous drain covers that force the cyclist to weave around them. This is where the investment needs to happen, not on roads exclusively for cars and lorries.

French Village Diaries feeling awesome on my bike #KTTinyTourer Thames London cycling
Along the Thames in London

Sitting in my elevated window seat enjoying breakfast in London and keeping out of the way of the rush hour, it was obvious commuting by bike is popular for both men and women. As Adrian regularly commutes by bike all over the UK, I needed no convincing, but this is a fact that is worth sharing. You can be female, work in an office and arrive by bike.

With the catastrophic bush fires and soaring temperatures in Australia and the extreme rainfall and flooding in parts of France, climate change must now become something we all consider when making our daily choices. It must not just be an item on a political agenda, it is real life and we can all make a difference if we try.

I do appreciate cycling isn’t for everyone, but aiming to make less car journeys, by combining tasks in town with shopping, or car sharing with friends will also help. I’d also like to point out age shouldn’t be an issue as my neighbour Pierrette will soon celebrate her 80th birthday, had a hip replacement last year, but still rides her bike every week and Robert Marchand, who we met whilst cycling in the Ardeche a few years ago, is still riding his bike, and setting records, despite being a mere 108 years old. Awesome!

I’m making 2020 my year of being Awesome and I’d love you to join me. Take it from me, one journey by bike instead of by car will mean you are awesome too.

French Village Diaries feeling awesome on my bike #KTTinyTourer Bollocks to Brexit London cycling
Thanks to the Pimlico Plumbers for their Bollocks to Brexit slogan

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

French Public and School Holidays 2020

French Village Diaries School and Public Holiday Dates 2020
Holidays in France

Happy New Year. January is here once more and this year it is heralding the start of a new decade. As in previous years, here is my annual reminder of the public holidays, school holidays and other notable dates (and how they are celebrated) in France for 2020. 

Public Holidays in France 2020

1st January, New Years Day, jour de l’an
12th April, Easter Sunday, Pâques look out for flying bells (see here).
13th April, Easter Monday, lundi de Pâques (note there is no Good Friday holiday in France unless you live in the Alsace or Moselle areas)
1st May, Fête du Travail
8th May, Victory in Europe DayVictoire 1945
21st May, Ascension Day, Ascension (note in 2020 the schools will have an extra day off on Friday 22nd May for the bridge pont, giving them a nice long weekend) 
1st June, Pentecost Monday, lundi de Pentecôte
14th July, Fête Nationale 
15th August, Assumption Day, Assomption
1st November, All Saint's DayToussaint
11th November, Armistice DayArmistice 1918 
25th December, Christmas Day, Jour de Noël (note there is no Boxing Day holiday in France on 26th unless you live in the 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 (Assumption Day 2020 is a Saturday and All Saint’s Day a Sunday); 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) or a Tuesday (14th July Fête Nationale), 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 opening for some hours on a public holiday is becoming more common, most shops are likely to be either closed or only open in the mornings.
French Village Diaries School and Public Holiday Dates 2020
Le Tour de France 27th June to 19th July 2020

Other dates to note:

6th January, Epiphany, celebrated in France with a Galette des Rois (see here)
8th January, winter sales begin, soldes d’hiver, sales dates are regulated in France and the winter sales this year run from 8th January to 4th February
18th January, Reading Night, Nuit de la lecture (see here)
2nd February Candlemas day, Chandeleur, celebrated in France with pancakes (see here)
25th February, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi-Gras when carnival time begins in France and pancakes and beignets (similar to doughnuts) are eaten.
15th March, round one of the local elections to decide the maire and council for the next six years.
22nd March, round two (and deciding round) of local elections.
29th March, clocks spring forward an hour to Central European Summertime
5th April, Palm Sunday, Rameaux a day where our local boulangeries bake something a little different (see here)
29th May, Neigbours’ Day, fêtes des voisins
7th June, Mother’s Day, fêtes des mères
21st 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
24th June, summer sales begin, Soldes d’été, and will run until 21st July
27th June to 19th July, Le Tour de France. Le Grand Depart for 2020 will be in Nice
25th October, clocks fall back an hour to Central European Time (although this is currently up for debate)
French Village Diaries School and Public Holiday Dates 2020
French School Holiday Zones

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. Live traffic updates can be found on the Bison-Futé website here

Here are the dates for 2020:

The winter holiday is from 8th February to 9th March. 
Zone C gets the first two weeks, Zone B the middle two and Zone A the last two.

The spring holiday is from 4th April to 4th May. 
Zone C gets the first two weeks, Zone B the middle two and Zone A the last two weeks.

The summer holiday for all zones is from 4th July until 1st September.

The October holiday for all zones is from 17th October to 2nd November.

The Christmas holiday for all zones is from 19th December to 4th January 2021.

Whether you are new to life in France, or just wanting to plan your holiday here in the quieter 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. 

Wherever you visit in France this year, I hope you have a great holiday. If you are planning on driving, you might like to read my popular post that highlights the do’s and don’ts of driving in France (see here).