Saturday Market in Sarlat

Sarlat’s population is approximately 10,000 but in summer jumps to around 100,000.  It’s late May and today, I saw two tour buses, strategically parked for attending the weekly Saturday morning market: the main street through town becomes an avenue of vendors, as well as throughout the historic center and its side streets – a true medieval maze of sights, smells, and flavors!

Regional specialties are walnuts, foie gras, strawberries, confit de canard, and a cheese made from goat’s milk, called “cabecou.”

cab_cou

walnuts

Walnuts

crown of flowers

Couronne de fleurs

nutcrackers

Nutcrackers

Piella

Paella

food covers

Incense

incens

Incense

baskets cremerie flowers hats

olives

food covers

Food screens & dream catchers

main square

Place de la Liberte (main square)

main street

Rue de la Republique

street tablecloths

confit de canard

Confit de canard

bread cheese

food stand strawberries

French eating habits: An introduction for your kids

French eating habits are traditionally very healthy, and food is first and foremost a pleasure. Most French children will devour food that children in other countries may never even encounter: Roquefort cheese, mussels, vinaigrette on green salad and vegetable soup. So what’s the secret?

In her book ‘French Kids Eat Everything’ Karen Le Billon describes a scene she experienced in a French restaurant, of a toddler dining with his parents: “He sat patiently as the meal progressed, eyes glazing over until he slumped over and fell asleep while his parents continued their meal undisturbed. When it was time to go, their child was woken up without ceremony. Popping his thumb in his mouth, he placidly allowed himself to be carried out of the restaurant without making a sound.”

French eating habits see French children not only eat what is put in front of them, but they are also taught to treat food and meal times with respect. Food, they learn, is an art form: an object of fulfilment to be shared with others. They will eat wholesome, natural food, try new flavours and participate in discussion at the dinner table. So how do we teach our children to do the same? Here are some tips for introducing your children to French eating habits.

Begin treating meal times as an event

Eat at least one meal a day as a family and treat it as an event to look forward to. Use pretty plates, glasses instead of childish cups and a tablecloth. Karen Le Billon suggests putting in place a meal time ritual where each member of the family recounts their favourite part of the day. Do not allow electronics or toys at the table. Mealtime should be for sharing and discussion and you and your children should have each other’s full attention. Allow your children the fulfilment of participating independently in the meal by letting them set the table and serve their food themselves.

Introduce new foods gradually

Many French people believe in the phase d’opposition, a phase that begins at age two in which children begin to reject new foods. For this reason, they gradually introduce a large amount of new foods throughout the first two years of life. They begin by offering soft, mild food to babies before progressing to stronger flavours and different textures. So, you will more likely find a French baby eating soft Roquefort than cheddar, and beginning with leek purée before moving on to whole vegetables.

If your children dislike vegetables, start them off with a smooth soup of carrots or courgette. You can have fun with the colours, pureeing beets for a pink purée or red pepper for a bright red soup. You may have to serve the soup a few times before they begin to enjoy it. Serve new foods alongside food that your children already like. Pasta can be tossed with spinach, for example.

Let your children see you tasting new foods, too. Take yourself out of your comfort zone and discover new flavours with them! Once your child is enjoying a certain food in one form, you should try serving it in a different way. After they have discovered carrot soup, serve thin slices of steamed carrots as part of the next meal. Do not put pressure on you children to eat new things. French eating habits dictate that everyone must taste, but they aren’t obliged to finish if they dislike something. Forcing a child to eat a particular food will cause a long term aversion to it.

Everybody must eat the same

My French Life™_French eating habits_Child eatingThe menu for meal times should be the same for everyone: this means no alternatives for picky eaters. Do not fuss if your children do not eat at first—this will create anxiety and make the problem worse. You want your children to see eating as normal and a source of pleasure they don’t want to miss out on, not something they do as a favour to you.

Most importantly, you must abide by your own rules: your children cannot be expected to change their eating habits if you are not leading by example, so try to adapt French eating habits yourself.

Reduce unnecessary snacking

Numerous western cultures are prone to offering their children snacks every few hours, but French children eat one big snack a day. This is usually a bowl of fruit, a sandwich or apple compote. The French teach their children that it’s okay to feel a little hungry between meals, and believe that reducing snacking means their children will eat more at meal times, including the vegetables served.

My French Life™_French eating habits_Cherries

It may be hard to get children out of the habit of snacking, and into French eating habits—especially if they are used to eating between every meal. Instead of abolishing snacking completely, you could offer just fruit when your child asks for food. Plan snack-time for mid afternoon; French children have the gouté at around 4pm. Get your children involved in choosing their daily snack: fruit salad one day, banana bread the next. As a treat, they could even have Karen Le Billon’s chocolate stuffed baguette! Everything in moderation is the key.

Include your children in meal prep

You are in charge of the menu in your house, but this does not mean that your children should be denied a choice. Instead of disguising healthy food, encourage children to help you put family meals together. Allow them to choose a type of vegetable for each meal, or a healthy dish from a selection you have given them.

Children can participate in the cooking too. Preparing a meal will give them more of an incentive to eat it, and will teach them where their food comes from and how the different flavours come together. Have your child stir the pot on the stove or chop soft vegetables with a butter knife. Children love to feel included and if you trust them with these jobs, they will begin to see your new ‘food rules’ as a family choice. In this way, French eating habits will become second nature.

Treat food as a pleasure

Healthy food choices are a part of French eating habits, providing a path to enjoyment and health and definitely not as a way to lose weight. Explain this to your children in a way they will understand: “wholesome food will help us grow, strengthen our bones, give us more energy and feel more satisfying.”  Treat food as something to delight in. Eat slowly and discuss the taste and texture of the food you are eating. Suggest that the children take small bites and ask them what they can taste in their cheese, or what the mousse au chocolat feels like on their tongue.

My French Life™_French eating habits_Chocolate mousse and pumpkin sponge cake

French eating habits are such that parents never use food as a punishment, reward or bribe. There are no cookies as an incentive to keep children quiet in the car, and dessert is rarely taken away for bad behaviour. This would undermine the positive aspect that the French teach their children to associate with food.

Credit/Source: Written by Stephanie Williamson for My French Life, May 2016


Dordorgne Dreaming

sunflowersThe Dordogne is France’s third largest department, and as well as numerous picturesque villages, it also boasts an incredible 4,000 chateaux, 10% of all the chateaux in France.  Like many French departments, the Dordogne is named after the river that flows through it. Foie gras, duck and goose are regional specialities.

The department has four distinct territories. In the north you will find ‘Green Périgord’ which derives its namedordogne regions from its many green valleys and woodland, covered with trickling streams, and houses the Périgord-Limousin Regional Natural Park. The major towns in the area are Brantome (the “Venice” of the Dordogne), Nontron and Riberac.  In the center of the department is ‘White Périgord’, so called because of its limestone plateaux. It contains the capital of the Dordogne, Périgueux, with attractive shopping centre and marvellous winding old town.  The ‘Purple Périgord’, in the South West of the department, is named from the area’s grapes, which are put to good use in Bergerac, the capital of this wine producing region. The area was of great strategic significance during the hundred years war, and visitors will find a number of fortified villages, castles and chateaux built by both the English and the French here.  In the south-east you’ll find ‘Black Périgord’, with deep valleys and ancient forests. It contains the towns of Saint-Cyprien and Sarlat-la-Caneda, which are both popular with foreign buyers. It houses numerous prehistoric caves with some 30,000 year old cave paintings.

Sarlatsarlat sign

Sarlat is the capital town of the Perigold Noir – a beautiful area of deep valleys and ancient fortresses, in the South East of the Dordogne. The town is a great example of 14th century France as many of its buildings from this era remain in tact. The nearest airport is Bergerac.

 The area surrounding Sarlat has history reaching back as far as ‘Primitive Man.’ Prehistoric caves with paintings for example have been found and the Vezere Valley is now classified by UNESCO as being a world heritage site.

The town center meanwhile began to makes its mark in the 9th century, eventually developing around a Benedictine abbey built in the 12th century. The wars then struck, and the town suffered greatly due to its position as a frontier region between the kings of France and England. In 1360, Sarlat became English and remained so until 1370 when the Connétable du Guesclin took over.

From the 14th to the 17th centuries, Sarlat was prosperous and displayed this through its architecture; new and grand dwellings were built as symbols of nobility, using Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Sarlat Activities 

Sights to see include:

  • the medieval sector centred around ‘Place de la Liberté’
  • the curious architecture of the St Bernard tower, also known as the ‘Lanterne des Morts’ (Lantern of the Dead)
  • the St Sacerdos Cathedral
  • ‘Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac’
  • the house of Etienne de la Boétie, a great philosopher
  • Château of Castelnaud with its medieval warfare museum
  • Château du Temniac, which overlooks Sarlat

There is a twice-weekly market, overflowing with fresh produce, including local specialities such as foie gras, walnuts, black truffles, wild mushrooms and pork delicacies.  Annual fairs and festivals include: ‘Les marches;’ different types of markets throughout the year, ‘Festival des Jeux de Théâtre,’ mid July to the beginning of August, ‘Festival du Cinéma’ every November, which unites big screen stars, directors and producers, as well as students studying film and ‘Les Hivernales;’ exhibitions of local artists every Christmas.  Cycling, horseriding, swimming, canoeing, fishing, hot air balooning, and golf are also popular activities.

Food and Drink 
A typical ‘Perigordin’ meal consists of: ‘tourin blanchi’ a garlic and onion soup mixed with goose fat and eggs and topped with sorrel, foie gras, a ceps or truffle omelette, goose preserved in fat with sarladaises potatoes, a salad with nut oil, cabécou (goats cheese), walnut cake and a bowl of strawberries.

 

Ten things you definitely didn’t know about Nice

Ten things you definitely didn't know about Nice

Photo: Lee Carson/Flickr

Published: 06 Apr 2016 by Le Local

1. It should really be in Italy   
Nice has only been part of France since 1860, when Italy reluctantly gave her up to repay France for helping defend itself from the Austrians. The Mayor’s office likes to say that ‘Nice chose France’, but the truth is that the famous ‘vote’ was rigged: there were no ‘non’ ballots printed! This mixed heritage gives Nice its fabulous melange of French and Italian, as seen in its architecture, colours, cuisine and lifestyle.
2. The original Nike Town 
During the Greek Empire in 500BC, the hill above the Old Town was named Nike, which is Greek for ‘victory’, making Nice the original Nike-Town. During its multi-century Italian period it was called Nizza, and since becoming French just 150 years ago, it is called Nice. The people of Nice are Niçoise, like the famous salad, and have their own dialect called Nissart.
3. A tourist hub for 400,000 years
Yes, it’s true. An archaeological dig (which is now a museum) on the hill above the Nice Port found that Nice’s earliest tourists arrived almost 400,000 years ago, and were transient cave-dwellers that came to Nice once a year to hunt woolly mammoths. And tourists have hardly stopped flocking (though the mammoths are a lot harder to find).
Riviera view: Photo: Michel Riallant/Flickr
4. The Heroine Laundry Lady of Nice   
In 1506, this town of only 3,000 inhabitants was attacked by a flotilla of 20,000 Franco-Turks. After weeks under siege the town was still hanging on, and the attackers once again tried to scale the walls. With very few soldiers left to mount a defense, washer-woman Catherine Segurane climbed up on the walls herself and tried to beat back the attackers with her laundry bat. Incredibly, her blow killed a warrior, whereupon she impulsively grabbed his flag, lifted her skirt, and made a gesture like she was wiping her behind with it.
The attacking soldiers were humiliated; and the next day, weary and demoralized, the army gave up and Nice was saved. Segurane is considered emblematic of the Nice spirit, and there are small monuments to her throughout the old town including a cannonball from the siege suspended on the corner of rue Droit and rue de la Loge.
5. Secret passageways for Jews
In the Middle Ages, the town’s Jewish community was forced by law to reside on one gated street called Street of the Jews, where they were locked in each night. In response, the non-Jewish townspeople, having lived harmoniously with their Jewish neighbours up to that point, tunneled a network of passageways under the buildings with secret doors back out to the village.
You can still see the Street of the Jews (Carriera de la Juderia, between rue Rossetti and rue de la Loge), but it is now called rue Benoît Bunico, named after the Italian statesman who pushed through the legislation, 200 years later, giving equal rights to Jewish citizens.
6. Famous Brits on the “English” promenade
The Promenade des Anglais takes its name from these uppercrust English (Anglais) tourists, who would promenade along the sea with their parasols… a strange sight to the working-class Niçoise.  Among the celebrated Brits were Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill, and dancer Isadora Duncan, whose dramatic decapitation took place in front of the Hotel Negresco, when her long scarf caught in one of the wheels of her convertible.
Sitting down in Nice. Photo: samtup40/Flickr
7. Lunch with a bang!
In 1860, Sir Thomas Coventry and his easily-distracted wife were living in Nice.  Having become increasing frustrated by his wife’s lack of punctuality in presenting the noonday meal, he approached the Mayor’s office to propose a daily noon cannon shot, like back in his home village in Scotland, and offered to foot the bill.
Some years later, Sir Coventry returned to Scotland and took his little cannon with him, but by that time the locals were so used to their midday alarm that they petitioned the city to carry on the tradition, and it continues today.
8. Elton John calls it home (and he’s not alone)
Modern celebrities include part-time resident Elton John, whose yellow hilltop villa above the Port can be seen from the top of the Chateau. Other notable Riviera Rock Stars include Tina Turner, Keith Richards and Bono… see photos of their digs here.

Story continues below…

Photo: AFP
9. The Monster’s Lair
After the war Nice, like the rest of Europe, was in bad shape. The Old Town was so run-down and poverty stricken that it was referred to as the “Babazouk” or The Monster’s Lair. Even in the 60’s most families in the Old Town didn’t have refrigeration and still bought ice chipped off the ice man’s cart. Laundry was still washed by hand in communal tubs and garbage was dropped from the windows into the rat-infested streets below.
10. The Great Nice Sewer Heist
In the 70s, a man named Spaggiare dug through sewage tunnels for months before robbing the Societe Generale Bank on avenue Jean Medecin of the equivalent of 29 million euros in cash and jewels.
The spectacular heist saw the bankers finally get into their vault, only to find the words: “Without hate, without arms, without violence”. Spaggiare made a “clean” getaway, too (well, as clean as possible considering the sewage”.

The World’s Greatest Scam?

 How a Con Man Sold the Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower in Paris

Eiffel Tower by Tommie Hansen/Flickr

It was 1925 and Victor Lustig was sitting in his Paris hotel room reading a newspaper article about the Eiffel Tower. That gigantic structure had been built for the 1889 Paris World’s Fair and was meant to be dismantled in 1909. But because of its height, it was used as a radio tower and came in very handy for listening in on the Germans during the First World War. Now, however, it was rusting and in need of expensive repairs and maintenance. The article said the State was having difficulty finding the money for its upkeep, and the journalist ended by asking whether it might not be better to just sell it.

Victor’s eyes lit up. That was it! He would sell the Eiffel Tower! Never mind that it didn’t belong to him – that was just a minor detail. He had been looking for his next project and this was perfect.

Victor Lustig was born in what is now the Czech Republic. His family was well-off and he received a good education, learning to speak at least five languages. But Victor’s greatest pleasure was swindling people by using his abundant charm. After his schooling he was arrested for some minor crimes and then he started working on the ships that sailed between New York and Paris.

Victor Lustig

Portrait of Victor Lustig/ Public Domain

By working, I mean scamming people, of course. He would sell them boxes that printed $100 bills. These money-makers would cost between $20,000 and $30,000. He would stock them with a few counterfeit $100 bills which would then very slowly emerge from the box as if they were being printed. Since it took about six hours to “print” one bill, by the time the two or three bills in the box were finished “printing”, Victor was long gone.

However, that game was starting to bore him. He was looking for something new and exciting – and selling the Eiffel Tower was just the ticket. He went right to work. He got some stationery printed that appeared to be from the Department of Post, Telegraph and Telephone, the government department in charge of public buildings. Then he got himself a fake ID. He sent invitations to the top five iron salvage companies in Paris advising them that they had been given the honor of bidding on an important government project. They were invited to a meeting at the Crillon Hotel, which had a reputation as a place where diplomatic and political deals were done. It all looked very official.

On the appointed day, the five company representatives arrived. Victor gave a convincing presentation, reiterating the well-publicized condition of the tower and the problem of maintenance and upkeep costs. Because of this, he said, the government had no choice but to dismantle and sell the tower. However, it was a potentially controversial action and required the utmost discretion. All parties agreed to keep the government’s secret.

Eiffel Tower at night

“Wide-angle Eiffel Tower from the lengthy queue” by Gary Denham/ Flickr

After treating them to lunch, Victor put the five candidates in a limousine and took them to the tower for a look. A crew of workmen happened to be there measuring and assessing the tower for paint and repairs. But that posed no problem for Victor who told his bamboozled band the crew was there to make preparation to dismantle the 7,000 tons of iron. He flashed his fake ID at the entrance and took his group directly in to inspect the merchandise. He told the men time was of the essence and he would expect their bids the next day.

In Victor’s years of scamming people, he had learned to read them pretty well and he had identified his victim almost immediately. He chose André Poisson. Mr. Poisson was unsure of himself but anxious to make his mark in Paris industry. When Mr. Poisson came in for his second meeting, he confessed that his wife had some doubts and he wasn’t sure if he should go ahead with the bid.

Victor decided to put Mr. Poisson at ease by taking him into his confidence. He confessed that he was just an underpaid government employee. He entertained important clients in luxury, but in fact, he needed a bit of extra cash and if Mr. Poisson could add just a bit of extra padding, Victor could guarantee him the contract. Since Mr. Poisson knew that government officials were corrupt and that a con man would never ask for a bribe, he was convinced that all was legit. Mr. Poisson (whose name means “fish” in French) took the bait – he paid the asking price plus the bribe.

construction of the Eiffel Tower

Original construction of the Eiffel Tower/ Public Domain

As soon as Victor got his suitcase full of money, he was on a train to Vienna. There he watched the newspapers every day expecting to see his name and his masterful scam on the front page. He waited and waited, but there was nothing.

When poor Mr. Poisson had gone to the Post, Telegraph and Telephone headquarters with his bill of sale to ask when the tower would be dismantled, they laughed him out of the office. He was so embarrassed about being duped and so afraid of ruining his reputation in the city, that he didn’t mention it to anyone else – not even the police.

When Victor realized what had happened, he headed back to Paris to resell that tower. He sent out five more letters to different salvage companies and repeated the entire process. This time, however, the prospective buyer did a bit more checking, found out it was a scam, and went to the police. Victor escaped just in time but without the proceeds from the second sale.

He went to the United States, where he resumed his counterfeiting activities and selling his money printing boxes. But the law eventually caught up with Victor and he was sent to Alcatraz prison, where he even conned Al Capone.

It’s said he had a postcard of the Eiffel Tower taped on his cell wall with the words “Sold for 100,000 francs” written across it. When Victor died of pneumonia in 1947, his death certificate listed his occupation as “salesman” in tribute to his greatest scam.

Drawing of the Eiffel Tower by Maurice Koechlin Drawing of the Eiffel Tower by Maurice Koechlin with size comparison with other landmarks/ Public Domain