The Essential Autoroute Playlist

It’s not too long for me to wait until I begin to spend sizeable chunks of my summer traversing the French autoroute network, so allow me (if you will) to indulge myself a little and spend the next few moments reminiscing about some of my favourite cross-channel musical moments. So why not grab a quick glass of rosé, a crusty baguette and a healthy helping of morbier before sitting back and imagining yourself topping up the driver’s tan…

1. Nino Ferrer – La Rua Madureira

Nino Ferrer was a French-Italian singer who shot to fame in the late sixties on the back of a number of bossa-nova inspired singles. The street in the title can be found in the centre of Rio De Janeiro and the lyrics contain other references to the area which inspired the music itself.

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZw8OWbQjaE]

 

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5 Top Tips for driving in France

I’m delighted to be able to introduce a guest post from Michael Smith from Sanef Tolling UK.  Since 2008 Sanef UK have provided télépéage tags for UK residents planning on driving in France, as well as any more information you may need about driving abroad.

Apart from driving on the right hand side of the road, driving in France is largely the same as driving in the UK. In fact, most Brits enjoy driving in France! The roads are looked after privately which tends to mean that they’re not as hard-going on your suspension as their British counterparts!

Once you have acclimatised to being on the wrong side of the road, there are still a few road customs and laws that you should be aware of. Here are five of our most popular tips.

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Top 5 historical attractions in the Vendée

The Vendée on the Atlantic coast of France is a great location for a family camping holiday with miles and miles of sandy beaches, marked footpaths and cycle tracks.But there are also some lovely historical sites to visit in the area, here are a few of our favourites:

The Abbey of Nieul sur l’Autise or Saint Vincent as it’s also known, was founded in 1068, and was granted royal status by Eleanor of Aquitaine (then Queen of France and mother of Richard I of England). The abbey is one of the few remaining monastic churches which still contain a church, cloisters and monastic buildings almost intact, and it houses the only remaining Romanesque quarter in France. During the high season months of July and August there are tours in period costume for children and music events every Friday.

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Pasta pasta pasta!

Spaghetti aglio, olio e peperoncino with a simple dressing of olive oil, garlic and chilli, big fat rigatoni with a chunky tomato and meatballs sauce or penne with olive oil, cherry tomatoes, clams and parsley – I cannot get enough of pasta! I would be shockingly bad at keeping to any form of low carb diet but fortunately I live in Italy so have plenty of opportunity to indulge my cravings. And as my Italian sister-in-law once said when choosing what to eat in a restaurant “well, I’ve not had pasta yet today…”

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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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