The Lou Messugo Blog - life in the south of France from a British/Australian TCK's perspective, bringing you French culture, travel on the Côte d'Azur and beyond, expat issues and a little bit of je ne sais quoi all mixed up with a hefty dose of photography.

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Easter in France

Posted by on in French culture

Easter in France is not very different from most countries that celebrate it, the main focus being getting together with family and friends for big meals and chocolate indulgence.  The French love their chocolate, 13,000 tonnes of it is sold every Easter!  But not just any old chocolate, a high percentage is artisanal hand-made chocolate from boulangerie-pâtisseries rather than supermarket mass-produced low quality produce.  Just walking around towns at this time of year is torture for a chocoholic like me who only has to look at a beautifully decorated shop window to put on weight! But looking at it a different way, it's heaven - all that delicious chocolate hand crafted into eggs, bells, fish and bunnies just waiting to be devoured!

     FranceEaster

Luckily for me and my helpless lack of self-control when it comes to temptation, one of the things I appreciate most about Easter in France compared with Britain is the relative lack of commercialisation. In general eggs don't appear in shops until about 2 weeks before Easter, sometimes a little earlier, but not much, and then the selection in supermarkets is good but not overwhelming.  It's in the bakeries where the choice is phenomenal; from all shapes and sizes to all different types of chocolate, garnished or not, prettily decorated, plain (or just plain ugly)... The chocolate is there, but it's not around for so long, hence less temptation.  And it's usually really expensive, another deterrent.

     Easter eggs in France

I mentioned chocolate "eggs, bells, fish and bunnies" and you may well be wondering why bells and fish? In fact Easter rabbits are not traditional here and have only come in as a result of commercialisation and influence of multinational confectionary companies.  Eggs are delivered by flying bells in France.  Bizarre but true!  (You do believe me don't you?)

     cloche de pâques

The story goes back many centuries to a time when the Catholic authorities banned churches from ringing their bells from Maundy Thursday to Easter Sunday.  Legend has it that the bells had flown to Rome to take away the grief of those mourning the death of Christ and would return on Sunday, having been blessed by the Pope. They would be full of chocolate eggs which they dropped from the sky on their way back to their churches. Even today church bells still don't ring between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.  

     easter fish

So that explains the bells, what about the fish?  Chocolate fish are associated with the Poisson d'Avril tradition on the 1st of April when children tape paper fish on the backs of their friends, teachers and any unsuspecting person as a joke.  As Easter changes date every year, it often falls around about the same time as the Poisson d'Avril hence chocolate fish in the shops.  You can read more about April Fool's Day here in a previous post I wrote.

     Easter egg hunt

     Easter egg hunt 2

A typical Easter celebration in France revolves around an egg hunt on Sunday morning after Mass (for those that go to church).  This takes place in the garden or a nearby park, weather permitting. (If you're visiting France at Easter it's worth noting that many Châteaux and other historic buildings put on fabulous hunts in their grounds for a small fee.) Then it's time for a big lunch of several courses, starting with an apéritif, followed by entrée, plat, fromage, salade et dessert.  The plat - main course - is usually roast lamb.  Different regions of France have their own specialities and variations, this is a generalised view.  In my area in the south we also eat a lovely sweet brioche called Mouna that's only available at Easter. Easter Monday is a public holiday leaving everyone time to digest and travel back home.

     Easter  table

I've lived in many countries and incorporate different traditions into our family Easter, ones which aren't common in France.  Amongst other things my children always blow eggs and decorate them with paint, stickers and glitter.  We also dye boiled eggs to eat at breakfast which as far as I know isn't done here. One thing I think is fairly standard no matter where you spend Easter, whether in France, England, Australia, Czech Republic (some of the best Easter traditions in my opinion, fond memories from years living in Prague) to name a few of the places I've called home, is that it's fun, kids love it and we all eat too much!

  home-crafted-eggs

How do you spend Easter?  Is it celebrated where you live?  What are your favourite traditions? Wherever you are, I wish you a very joyeuses pâques.

 

This post is linked to Travel Photo Thursday hosted by Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox

  

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Silent Sunday - 13 April 2014

Posted by on in Silent Sunday

                  Montpellier fun

 

 

                                                         Silent-Sunday

 

 

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Go Garden Grow!

Posted by on in Lou Messugo

We have the most remarkable blue flowering shrub in the garden at Lou Messugo.  It's in full bloom and in its prime right now.  I just had to share it with you.  It's certainly one of the most successful things we've planted here.  It's name is Céanothe in French and Ceanothus or Trewithen Blue in English.

      céanothe3

Four years ago, in May 2010 we planted a small spindly plant about 40 cm high.  Today it's over 2.5 metres high and about 4 metres wide.

      new Céanothe May 2010

See those tiny plants at the end of the arrow? One of them is our Ceanothus

      house view Lou Messugo April 14

Same shot 4 years later, the Ceanothus is not the only thing to have grown

I've tried to show some before and after photos, but the befores weren't easy to find as we had a disaster in 2010 and lost pretty much all our photos of that year.  Tragic!  And a lesson to BACK UP everything numerous times.  They were on an external hard drive which met with an untimely and un-natural death!  

      new gate March 2012

 This is March 2012, not much growth yet

      house view Céanothe Lou Messugo April 2014

Look at it now! April 2014

I've managed to pull a few things out of the archives, though it's extra sad that we lost photos of 2010 as that's when we opened the gîte and really started to get to grips with the garden.  2009 was all about building the house.  2010 was the beginning of the garden; though anyone with a garden will know that it's a never-ending project.  For more photos of our transformation click here

      céanothe5

      céanothe10

      céanothe 1

      céanothe2

      Lou Messugo garden on Instagram

Click on the photo above to find us on Instagram

What do you think of our monster Trewithen Blue?  Do you enjoy watching your garden grow?  I'd love to hear from you.

 

This post is linked with How does your garden grow where you'll find plenty of inspiring blogs about gardens, plants etc.  Pop over and have a look!

 

                                                 badgeHDYGG

 
Tagged in: garden Lou Messugo
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For three days every year in early April the lovely village of Biot (pronounced Bi-otte not Bi-oh as you may think if you know anything about French pronunciation) goes back in time to the 13th century.  The setting couldn't be more perfect as the old centre of Biot is a fortified medieval hill village, perched just a couple of kilometres inland from the Mediterranean sea, commanding sweeping views out to sea one way and over to the mountains the other, creating the perfect backdrop for this historical event.

   Biot templiers 6

Biot has a rich and turbulent past, with historical remains dating from as early as the Roman times. Evidence of olive oil production has been found from the 3rd century though the village really started to flourish in the middle ages.  From the 12th to the beginning of the 14th century the Knights Templar bought up the best land in the area and founded one of the most important religious establishments in the region, located in the old castle, still visible today as the building which separates the Place de l'Eglise and the Place aux Arcades.  It is this period that the annual festival Biot et les Templiers celebrates. However, just to continue a little with the history of Biot, the Knights Templar's dominance didn't last and they were imprisoned and their wealth redistributed on Papal orders in 1307.  By the middle of the 14th century the area was ravaged by the Plague, like most of Provence, and succumbed to bandit warfare.

             Biot templiers 1

The 15th to 18th centuries were dominated by wars with the village ransacked and pillaged several times. However thanks to a rich clay soil, despite its ongoing struggles, Biot became a centre for pottery production between the 16th century and 18th centuries.  By the middle of the 20th century, it once again became famous for its decorative pottery and glasswork, creating a particular bubble glass for which it is now well-known worldwide.

Biot templiers 2So getting back to its yearly medieval fête, the shindig kicks off on the Friday night with a Son et Lumière show, using the village as a back drop for spectacular fireworks.  My photos of this were hopeless so do click through here to have a look at the official ones to get an idea of the scale of the event.

The rest of the weekend is taken up with reenactments of medieval combats, jousting tournaments, fencing and archery set in authentic camps.  There are falconry displays, horse shows, artisans and a giant market full of local and "medieval" produce, such as leather goods, cosmetics, wooden toys and food.  You'll find mistrels playing medieval music and dancers entertaining in the streets as well as farcical theatre and concerts. There are conferences and workshops both for adults and children and it's all free. Kids can play with traditional wooden games and learn fencing or calligraphy (amongst other things). In the evenings there is a parade by torch light with mulled wine and bread cooked in the communal wood oven.  Many people dress up, not just the entertainers but the spectators too, and the Tourist Office rents out costumes for a reasonable rate.

                     Biot templiers 3

         middle age soldiers

Whether you're a history buff or not this is a fun weekend for the whole family in a beautiful location, that doesn't cost a penny.  Biot is 20 minutes from us at Lou Messugo and worthy of a visit even when the festival isn't on.  Have you been?  Or have you been to a similar event?  Do you enjoy this sort of occasion?  I'd love to hear from you.

Biot templiers 4

 

I'm linking this up to Travel Photo Thursday and Oh the places I've been! Click on the links to find more fun travel stories.

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