Welcome to our Brittany Blog
Wednesday, 10th October 2018
Beneath the Elysee Palace
As part of the European Heritage Weekend, the Elysee Palace, home of French presidents since 1848 opened its doors to the public for just 2 days!
Under President Emmanuel Macron's office and the Elysee's 18th-century golden reception rooms is an underground world where a small battalion of workers makes the whole place tick. They labour out of sight in a maze of austere corridors and narrow rooms with artificial light and grey and beige walls.
Every morning, the basement comes to life when fresh produce, fish and meats are delivered to the kitchen and checked for quality. Most of the food — except items like coffee and chocolate — is sourced in France. The kitchen staff of 28 people, plus apprentices, serves 92,000-95,000 meals per year. They cook daily for Macron and his wife Brigitte and for some Elysee employees, and handle official dinners, big events like receptions at the Chateau of Versailles west of Paris and prepare in-flight meals for the presidential plane. Presidential tastes and menus remain one of the best-kept secrets of the Elysee.
From the kitchen, a dark corridor leads to one of the most protected places of the Elysee: the wine cellar.
A first room presents a selection of classic wines for working lunches and dinners and a selection of aperitif drinks.
The second cellar, much bigger, is protected by a locked door. Higher quality bottles are stocked there and all visitors are banned from entering.
The head sommelier's mission is to select wines that fit with the chef's menu and to buy the finest vintages to replace them: exclusively French, of course.
The multiple underground corridors seem like a labyrinth to outsiders. But the smell of flowers points the way to the florists' rooms.Three people prepare flower table decorations that will then systematically be re-used in other bouquets. The flowers are only displayed when needed for an event, and then immediately go back into cold storage in the Elysee basement.
The flowers are matched to suit the tablecloths and tableware and the flower colours are chosen so that they don't clash with the clothes worn by visiting heads of state. Roses are regularly used but not lilies as they are too fragrant, and not mimosas, because they can provoke allergic reactions.
It is just another world!, but it is fun just to have the tiniest glimpse of what goes on beneath the Elysee Palace.
Tuesday, 2nd October 2018
Butchers are Murderers
I don't think that veganism or vegetarianism will ever catch on in Brittany!
Organic food is still deemed as a bit weird and hippy!. I remember when Iona and Joe were at Primary school the teacher planned to do a series of lessons on the benefits of organic foods and organic farming. Wow, the poor teacher, i don't think she could have possibly imagined the backlash from just the mere suggestion that organic foods are an option. The parents were up in arms, complaints to the mayor...there was only one lesson on organic foods.
But in the larger cities vegans are certainly making their views known, as they have publicly called butchers 'murderers' and 'food terrorists'.
Last Saturday, a day of protests was organised by vegan activist group Boucherie Abolition.
The group describes itself as “anti-speciesist”, which means it is opposed to the idea that human beings are superior to other animals on Earth.
They have branded butchers as “murderers” and “food terrorists”, calling for “zoo-icide” to be criminalised and “shops of the zoo-locaust” to be closed. Some said that "being a butcher is not a real job' and one activist stood outside a butchers shop with a small pig and cradled it like a baby.
One activist said: “We will finally be able to show the real victims. Speciesism is similar to white supremacy and other oppression such as racism. We will leave shops in peace when they leave animals in peace."
In response, one shop customer said: “They are idiots, these vegans. It is ridiculous to want to force people to stop eating meat.” Now, that was definitely a Breton!
Tuesday 4th September
Mobile phones banned in schools
Mobile phones have been banned for primary and middle school pupils in France amid a government drive to improve focus and prevent online bullying.
The government passed a law banning their use during the school day, with exceptions for disabled children and in case of an emergency.
French high schools, which take pupils aged 15 and over, are able to put their own rules in place.
It comes as studies of British adults show up to 70% believe a similar move should be implemented in the UK
Friday, 13th July 2018
Childrens names need approval
In England are the authorities, whoever they may be, allowed to reject the name that you have chosen for your child?
You won't be surprised to learn that in France the 'authorities' can reject the name that you have chosen for your child.
The Brittany regional council of Quimper refused to allow parents to call their child Fañch as the ñ was not recognised in France, BUT they did allow Der'chen as apostrophes are allowed. There must be a very big rule book somewhere
Friday, 6th July 2018
The French get fit.
When we arrived in France fifteen years ago gyms in our part of rural Brittany did not exist. I assumed that the reason was largely due to lack of demand. It didn’t bother me in the slightest as I had ( and now I have!) no intention whatsoever to join a gym!.
Well, I have now discovered that the lack of gyms was not only in rural areas but in towns too. Gyms are a relatively new phenomenon and they are gaining popularity at an alarming rate!. In 2017, France had 5.5 million gym members but it is still trailing behind the UK which has 9.2 million and Germany with the highest gym membership in Europe of 10million members.
However, this gap is closing as more and more gyms open to satisfy the growing demand. One of the reasons that gyms have been slow to gain popularity is that France has a very strong culture of depending on local associations to provide sport and fitness opportunities. French ‘associations’ are basically non profit making clubs. Every small town will have a huge raft of ‘associations’ ranging from Pilates, dance, judo, archery, knitting, sewing, swimming.... the list is endless. Because the ‘associations are non profit making, subscriptions are very reasonable. Joe belongs to a Mountain Biking association and they meet every Saturday afternoon. A years’ subscription is €60.
The capital set up for a gym is expensive so it is tricky for associations, hence the increase in private clubs. A year ago there were just 5 gyms in our closest largest town, Rennes, now there are 25
Friday, 29th June 2018
The French don’t moan or complain, they engage in verbal jousting.
The French have got a bit of a reputation of being a bit stroppy about almost everything really!
I don’t think they are grumbling really, I just think that they like a good discussion, the more heated the better. The French want a better world and they don’t see why this is not possible and they love to debate what their better world would be like.
In fact I think they love to debate everything, except weather and money. Politics and religion are popular discussion areas, which we British steer clearly away from.
French families have the most heated discussions. I have been in the crossfire of several French family arguments about politics. It gets SO heated, they are so passionate, everyone is trying to get their point across. From my viewpoint there seems to be more shouting than listening! But as soon as the subject has been exhausted everything goes back to normal and they talk about the special offers at SuperU or Mme Hoeux arthritis.
Friday, 22nd June 2018
Will the ‘bise’ disappear in France?
A Mayor is refusing to ‘faire la bise’, the daily cheek kiss for colleagues. In the past she has even arrived late for meetings so that she does not have to kiss everyone in the room.
Aude Picard Wolff, mayor of Morette has emailed all of her colleagues to say that she no longer wanted to ‘faire la bise’, but she would rather shake hands with them as men do.
The bise and the handshake are an important part of daily life. Children from 11 start to ‘faire la bise’ between girls and between girls and boys and boys when they meet always shake hands.
But, it may very slowly be changing. Iona said yesterday that if a friend is sitting down when she arrives they may shake hands but if everyone in standing the she will always ‘faire la bise’.