Sunday, January 29, 2023

Waving farewell to a wild January

French Village Diaries waving farewell to a wild January Chef-Boutonne
Coffee and croissants in Chef-Boutonne

Au revoir January

We have reached the last Sunday in January and I’m ready to bid it au revoir. Looking back in my diary I can’t quite believe what we have managed to fit in, although I guess being busy has helped the time pass quickly.


The January weather has treated us a bit of everything. We guessed the ferry crossing to Dieppe was going to be rough when we found a plentiful pile of sick bags in our cabin. It was a cacophony of booms, groans and creaks, rattles, crashes and lurches, but surprisingly calm cocooned in the dark of the cabin. The closer we got to France, the calmer the water and my mind. Back home, we’ve had torrential rain that left fields and ditches flooded and overflowing, hurricane Gérard who blew in with gale force winds of 100km/hour, and a week later, snow heavy enough to settle, although it didn’t hang around for too long. The only thing we have been missing are the cold and crisp days with blue skies and sunshine – our favourite winter days.

French Village Diaries waving farewell to a wild January Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge
Brompton touring in Bristol


This year we are planning some sparkling adventures to celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, but can we succeed in getting away at least once a month for a cycling mini break? The maps are out, our Bromptons are fully loaded, and we plan to use them - with at least one cycle tour every month, whatever the weather, that must include at least one night away and at least one hundred kilometres of pedalling. Having spent three weeks in the UK over Christmas and New Year, we wasted no time in ticking off January’s challenge with a three night, one hundred-and nine-kilometre getaway in Bath and Bristol at the beginning of the month. We were blinded by bright sunlight on our way into Bath, soaked to the skin the following morning, tossed around by a stiff coastal wind in Portishead and cycled up lanes flowing like a river, but I can’t think of a better way to have started the year. It certainly beat what was waiting for us on our return to France.


The French health service is big on screening and now I’m in my (early) fifties, I’m on their lists. Last January it was the mammogram and ultra-sound, followed by a recall, as nothing is ever normal with me. Thankfully in March, after a bit more squishing and poking, I was given the all-clear. Before Dad was diagnosed with liver cancer, he’d had some polyps removed from his colon. Our doctor was adamant that this meant there would be no bowel cancer self-test to post off for me, so I was sent directly to a gastroenterologist and a colonoscopy was booked. Life got a bit hectic towards the latter part of last year, so I rearranged my October appointment, for January. What kind of idiot puts their bowel under scrutiny following three weeks of festive indulging with family? That would be me.


Within a week of returning home, I was following the dullest diet imaginable, avoiding all the foods I was craving, fruits, nuts, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables. It was almost more of a struggle to stomach than the cocktail of laxatives that was dinner the night before the proceedure, almost. I’m delighted to report my colon is in tip-top condition, scoring 9/9 on the Boston Bowel Preparation Scale, and there were no pesky polyps to deal with. I’m now the proud owner of a fab set of colour colon photos too, but I won’t share them here.


French Village Diaries waving farewell to a wild January Poitiers
Ed performing at Chansons d'un Soir, Poitiers


It was a relief to get it over and done with, especially as we’d not met up with Ed and Pearl, or any of our local friends, to reduce the risk of catching covid. Ed came home to cook for us the day of the colonoscopy (isn’t he lovely), and this week we spent an evening with them in Poitiers, watching him perform at a music school event ‘Chansons d’un Soir’. You have no idea how proud I was, watching him playing the guitar and singing, switching effortlessly from French to English and back again.

French Village Diaries waving farewell to a wild January Le Canton Longré
Sunday dinner at Le Canton, Longré


Last weekend we belatedly celebrated Christmas with our friends, dining out at a local restaurant and following that with an afternoon of fun and games. Research suggests that in order to keep our brains active and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, socialising with friends, playing games, reading and writing are just as important as lifestyle choices of regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation. Seeing as we cycled to the lunch, which was delicious and sensibly portioned, I think we ticked all the boxes there.


We have also slipped back into the comforting routine of cycling to Chef-Boutonne for the Saturday morning market. It’s not the vibrant, bustling event of the summer, but the fresh air, rosy cheeks and meeting friends for coffee and croissants makes it the perfect way to start the weekend. 

The sun is shining today, so my fingers are crossed that February will be welcomed in with crisp, clear sunny days to put a smile on my face.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

French public and school holidays 2023

French Village Diaries French public and school holiday dates 2023
French public and school holidays 2023

Here’s to a happy and healthy New Year to you all. 


As has become a tradition for 1st January, here is my annual post with all the French public holidays, school holidays and other notable dates, plus how they are celebrated here in France, for 2023. 


Public Holidays in France 2023

1st January, New Year’s Day, jour de l’an (a Sunday this year)

9th April, Easter SundayPâques

10th 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 DayVictoire 1945 

18th May, Ascension Day, Ascension (note schools will have an extra day off on Friday 19th May for the bridge (pont)

29th May, Pentecost Monday, lundi de Pentecôte

14th July, Fête Nationale

15th August, Assumption Day, Assomption 

1st November, All Saint's Day, Toussaint

11th November, Armistice DayArmistice 1918 (a Saturday 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)

French Village Diaries French public and school holiday dates 2023
Faire le pont


Faire le pont

Except for 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) or a Tuesday, by taking off the Friday or Monday to give themselves a four-day weekend. This leave 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 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 and celebrate

6th January, Epiphany, celebrated in France with a Galette des Rois (see here)

11th January, winter sales begin, soldes d’hiver, sales are regulated in France and the winter sales will run from 11th January to 7th February 

2nd February Candlemas day, Chandeleur, celebrated in France with pancakes (see here)

21st February, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras when carnival time begins in France and pancakes, or beignets (similar to doughnuts) are eaten.

26th March, clocks spring forward an hour to Central European Summer Time

1st April, Poisson d’avril celebrated in France with sticky fish (see here)

2nd April, Palm Sunday, Rameaux a day where our local boulangeries bake something different (see here)

27th May, National Resistance Day, journée nationale de la Résistance

2nd June, Neighbours’ Day, fêtes des voisins, often celebrated in France with shared meals

4th June, Mother’s Day, fêtes des mères

18th June, Father’s Day, fêtes des pères

21st June, world music day, fête de la musique, celebrated with free concerts in towns and villages all over France

28th June, summer sales begin, soldes d’été, and will run until 25th July

1st July to 23rd July, Le Tour de France, with a planned depart in Bilbao, Spain, and a finish on the Champs-Elysées in Paris

23rd July to 30th July, Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift, begins in Clermont-Ferrand and finishes in Pau  

29th October, clocks go back an hour to Central European Time (although the future of this is up for debate)

French Village Diaries French public and school holiday dates 2023
Vacances scolaires 2023


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 2023:

The winter holiday is from 3rd February to 6th March. 

Zone A gets the first two weeks, Zone B the middle two and Zone C the last two.


The spring holiday is from 7th April to 9th May. 

Zone A gets the first two weeks, Zone B the middle two and Zone C the last two weeks.


The summer holiday for all zones is from 7th July until 4th September.


The October holiday for all zones is from 20th October to 6th November.


The Christmas holiday for all zones is from 22nd December to 7th January 2024.


Covid-19 has evolved from something that stopped the world to something we all need to live with. As I write this, overseas travel is pretty much back to normal, although we are still much happier wearing our masks when using public transport. Here is to lots of safe travel adventures in France this year and I hope you find this useful for planning your trip in the quieter weeks outside of the French school holidays.