Joan of Arc – 600th anniversary

The 6th January 2012 marked the 600th anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc and the start of a year of celebrations.

Born in the village of Domrémy in Eastern France Joan led a simple life and claimed to have had her first religious vision at the age of 12 when she was instructed to drive the English out of France. At the age of 16 she was granted permission by the Dauphin Charles to head his army and be equipped for war. Her leadership is considered to have led the French to several important victories in the Hundred Years’ War which paved the way for the coronation of Charles VII. Captured by the Burgundians who transferred her to the English for money, she was put on trial for heresy and was famously burned at the stake in Rouen when she was just 19 years old.

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5 unusual French tourist attractions

If you’re after a camping holiday in France that’s slightly different from the usual French recipe of gourmet food and rolling vineyards, then take inspiration from some of these more unusual Gallic sites.

The Corkscrew Museum, Ménerbes

France is known for being one of the centres of the wine-producing world; however, were it not for the humble corkscrew then few of us could even attempt to open a bottle of the delectable French stuff. The trusty corkscrew is worthy of praise and Yves Rousset-Rouard has duly noted this fact and opened a museum to celebrate the invention of this trusty device. The museum is a must-visit and features over 1,500 different corkscrews, although the shop dedicated to all things corkscrew related is worth a visit on its own. After you’ve swotted up on how to open a bottle of wine, pop next door, to the Domaine de la Citadelle, for their free wine tasting sessions.

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Carnivals in Europe

February is peak carnival time in Europe. With Ash Wednesday marking the start of Lent, Carnival was traditionally seen as the pre-Lenten period when homes had to purge themselves of any rich food and drink in preparation for 6 weeks of abstention and self-denial. The origins of the word carnival are thought to have emerged from the Italian “carne levare” to remove meat. Households would not eat meat during the Lenten period, and as the invention of the freezer was still a few hundred years off they’d have to make sure they’d cooked and eaten it all before Lent started. It was essentially a medieval version of the final festive blowout before the diet starts on 2nd January!

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A taste of France – Moelleux au Chocolat

It’s 10p.m. on February 13th. Is there anybody in the UK who doesn’t know its Valentine’s Day tomorrow? In my own personal efforts to avoid the truckload of guilt placed at my doorstep for not making an overblown romantic gesture to my loved one, I find myself at the front doors of one of the leading supermarkets.

I take my place in the middle of this last minute pilgrimage, surrounded by other like-minded souls. A number of glances are exchanged. Knowing looks, all of them, before the communal stampede to the chocolates and cards.

As it happens I’m in Valentine credit. My girlfriend forgot last year so by my own estimations I can either (a) make slightly less effort than I might normally do, or (b) make a bit more effort to increase the credit in the bank for any potential future absent mindedness.

My guilt at even having had the aforementioned consideration leads me onwards to the home baking section, as I have now consequently decided to have a go at making a chocolate cake. Or as it’s known in a considerably more fancy fashion, ‘Moelleux au chocolat’, or rather more literally ‘Marrowy with chocolate’. Maybe its better placed in our alternative menu?

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Why we celebrate Valentine’s Day

So I thought I’d do a quick bit of research and find out who exactly this St. Valentine chap was and why we celebrate all things love on 14th February. Well, as with many things in life it wasn’t quite that simple. Turns out that it’s not just a straightforward story of a saint who champions romance. The reason that we now celebrate love on Valentine’s day is due to a whole host of theories and legends with a few facts thrown in for good measure.

 

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Château de la Napoule – Côte d’Azur

We came across the small Château de la Napoule quite by accident when driving from Cannes along the coastroad back to our campsite in St. Raphaël. Driving slowly past it looked so pretty that we took the spur of the moment decision to stop – the handily placed carpark a couple of hundred meters ahead and a quick glance in the back confirming that our 2 year old was asleep hastily confirming our decision. With sure handedness that would make any bomb disposal expert proud we transferred the 2 year old to his buggy without waking him up and high fived each other that we could actually do a little bit of sightseeing.

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Are we nearly there yet? Car journeys with children

Car on the open roadThere are definite advantages to packing everything you need in your car, not having to be bothered about airline luggage allowances or liquids in hand luggage and setting off straight from home. But if the thought of being in the car with your children for an extended period fills you more with dread than delight, have a look at some of our tips for easing stress on car journeys:

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What is a camping holiday actually like?

A straw poll of friends and family (excluding my camping industry pals obviously) showed that some of them didn’t actually realise what a modern camping holiday is like. So in an effort to clarify I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts about it.

1)     First of all we’re talking about camping holidays in Europe so the vast majority of the time, the weather is going to be a lot better (if you’re reading this from the UK!). Less of the wringing out of smalls and making a mad dash from tent to toilet block and more of the al fresco dining and glass of wine watching the sun go down.

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My First Holiday Abroad – Pete

As a dedicated Francophile, and in trying to understand the foundations of my admiration for all things French, I have been reminiscing about my first cross channel trip in the summer of ‘86.

I can’t quite remember when my parents first announced that we were going to spend our summer holidays in France. But I can remember using the fading wallpaper by my bed to start counting down the days like our very own summer Christmas. The planning seemed to last forever; maps were studied, routes were planned, and I even began to take something of an interest in GCSE French.

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My First Holiday Abroad – Nicola

Having an Italian grandparent means that I have had something to do with Italy in some shape or form since I was born. But although I heard about Italy all the time the nearest I got to experiencing the country was a monthly trip to the Italian delicatessen with my Gran. In a time when a plate of spaghetti hoops sprinkled with pungent parmesan from a tub was considered to be “foreign” and you had to go to the chemist to get olive oil the Italian deli was a veritable Aladdin’s cave. The overwhelming smell of freshly ground coffee, overladen shelves stacked to the ceiling and the colourful Italian owner are definitely the origins of my passion for Italian food.

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