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King Arthur..... Was he French or English ?

King Arthur was a British leader, wasn’t he?… Well, that is what I always thought, now I am not so sure.

We seem to live in the heart of ‘King Arthur world’. Every other street in Guer and Ploërmel are dedicated to the King Arthur legend.

Several episodes of the Arthurian saga take place in the magical Forêt de Brocéliande, which is just ten minutes away! In this forest you will find ‘Merlin’s tomb’, ‘the Valley of no return’ and The Église Sainte-Onenne which is steeped in Arthurian lore – its windows depict many scenes of Arthur’s adventures.

Being very diplomatic, I don’t think King Arthur was either French or English. The legends surrounding King Arthur date back to a time before there was a Britain or a France. Before France was unified, Britain (la Grande Bretagne) and Brittany (la Petite Bretagne) had very close ties. Legends may well have been exchanged, with several episodes of the saga having taken place in the magical and mystical Forêt de Brocéliande.

Mercedes ...... Born In The Côte d’Azur.  So Is It Really French ?

The iconic German car brand, Mercedes was named after the daughter of a businessman who lived in the Côte d’Azur at the beginning of the 20th century.

Emil Jellinek was a successful businessman based in Nice. He was passionate about racing cars. He enjoyed the German Daimler cars but was frustrated with the slow speeds of just 24kph! He demanded speeds of 40kph.

In 1898 Damlier produced the first four cylinder engine car which could produce speeds of 35kph.

Jellinek used his position to advertise and sell these cars to the wealthy residents of Côte d’Azur and it was agreed that these cars would be called Damlier Mercedes after his daughter Mércédès

 

Brittany holiday cottages

A ‘chocolatine’ or ‘pain au chocolat’ ?

The debate continues… is this a chocolatine or a pain au chocolat ?

The most popular word for this pâtisserie viennoises is ‘pain au chocolat’ but the term ‘chocolatine’ is used by a significant number of the French population, particularly in the South of France

Pupils in the south-west town, Montauban have written to President Hollande demanding that he order all dictionaries must include the word chocolatine.

While the odd dictionary already includes it – including the French version of Robert’s English-French dictionary which translates it as ‘chocolate croissant’ – many only include the more common term pain au chocolat.

One lycée student told La Dépêche du Midi: “It’s a word of our region, which includes a lot of people, and there’s no reason why the rest of the country shouldn’t know it. We’re proud to be from the south.”

Another said: “We’re not trying to change everyone’s way of speaking, we just want our way to be recognised, it seems only fair.”

One of the arguments put forward in the letter is that “it’s not bread anyway – it’s puff pastry”. Fair point !

 

Brittany gites

France is Europe’s most fertile country !

The Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (Insee) have confirmed that 785,000 babies were born in 2016 – a fall of 14,000 on the previous year, with the birth rate dropping to an average of 1.93 per woman, compared to 1.96 in 2015 and 2.00 in 2014.

Despite the falling birth rate, France and Ireland remain Europe’s most fertile nations.

The decrease in the birth rate has been linked to a fall in the number of women of child-bearing age in the country since the 1990s.

Despite the fall in the number of births, the population of France grew by 0.4% in the last year. Life expectancy has risen and women can expect to live 85.4 years, and men 79.3.

The population is France is aging, with those aged 65 and over now accounting for 19.2% of the population compared to 16% a decade ago.

The Best Mussels Come From Brittany !

It takes a year to cultivate a mussel. They are born in the Spring and caught on fine horizontal ropes. In June, these fine ropes are transferred to frames until the end of August when they are finally wound in spirals around wooden posts on the shore. Storm netting is put around the spirals to protect the mussels from predators.

The quality of the mussels is dependant on the seawater and mussel producers in the bay of Mont-Saint Michel believe this area produces the very best mussels because the water isn’t polluted, the high tides keep the area clean and the water cool.

So there you have it, for the best ‘Moules et frites’ come to Brittany!..

Brittany Mussels

Talk to a Real French Person

Now, you can talk to a real French person in your own lounge!

The French Number (www.thefrenchnumber.fr) aims to promote France by connecting people from all over the world to real French people.

How better to improve your french or to learn more about France than by to talking to a real French person ?

About 2,500 French people, who are passionate about France have signed up to take calls, with 80% aged between 25 and 40.

Calls are put through a telephone platform to random people until someone answers.

The service was launched in July 2016 and so far there have been 5,000 calls from 80 countries.

France’s tourism development agency soon expects the service to be taking 50,000 calls per month

 

french gites

Oak Barrels.........

Until very recently I hadn’t realised just how important the barrel was, and I am now left wondering if the barrel isn’t more important than the grape?… No, impossible.

The aromas and flavours that the oak gives to the wine, toast, caramel, coffee, toffee or vanilla all depend on the type of barrel, how old it is and how long the wine is left in the barrel.

The oak barrels are fired on the insides. A light firing will impart a ‘toast’ type aroma whereas a heavy firing will impart a ‘caramel’ aroma.

The choice of oak is also important as is the age of the barrel. When the barrel is first used the aroma’s taken up by the wine are more intense than wine placed in a barrel which is three or four years old.

Flavour isn’t the only reason for using barrels. Oak barrels are porous, so the wine gently oxides over time, the older the barrel, the more porous it is and the oxygenation process is increased. This oxygenation process, combined with the oak tannins helps smooth out the texture of the red wine without removing the preservation qualities of the tannins. The skilled wine maker has to decide how long to keep a particular wine in the oak barrel. The age of the barrel, the aromas the barrel can impart and the level of oxygenation all must be considered.

I just hadn’t realised how complicated wine making was, and this only what happens after the wine has been made. I now have a new respect for the wine maker. Clever people.

When I am swigging back my next glass of red, I will try really hard to see if I can detect any toast, caramel, toffee or vanilla. I may just need a second glass, just to be sure…

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