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Georgios Paraskevopoulos

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KALEIDOSCOPE #3: LA FRANCE, Special Guest, Sarah Pritchard
2/29/2008 5:24:30 PM
   Bogdan    Amb. John  Pauline   Georgios
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Tricolour, Anthem, Fleur de Lys

French Public Holidays

1st        January New Year’s Day (Jour de l’An)
23rd      March 2008 Easter (Pâques)

24th      March 2008 Easter Monday (Le lundi de Pâques)

1st        May Labour Day (Fête du Travail)

1st        May 2008 Ascension Day (Ascension)

8th        May Victory Day 1945 (Fête de la Victoire)

11th      May 2008 Pentecost (Pentecôte)

14th      July Bastille Day (Fête Nationale)

15th      August Assumption Day (Assomption)

1st        November All Saints Day (Toussaint)

11th      November Armistice Day 1918 (Armistice)

25th      December Christmas Day (Nöel)


If a public holiday falls on a Thursday or a Tuesday, it is quite common for banks and some shops (or even schools) to faire le pont (i.e. make a long weekend of it, literally make a bridge). So, if a public holiday is due, you have to make sure that you have enough money to last you for a few days, as the banks may be closed for some time!

Before talking about the main national holiday, I’d like to tell you a bit about the area of France where I live, Languedoc.

Its name derives from the ‘alternative French’ spoken in southern France, which was originally distinguished from the ‘northern French’ by the word used for “yes”. Parisian or northern French for ‘yes’ was ‘oil’ which has developed into ‘oui’. In the south they used ‘oc’. So, in the north they used the langue d’oil and in the south Provençal, Catalan and other regional patois all came under the langue d’oc.

Languedoc does not have exact boundaries, but today it is thought to be the central part, west of the Rhône and east of Toulouse, between the southern slopes of the Massif Central and the sea. It also includes the Roussillon or the Pyrenees-Orientales. The departments in the Languedoc Roussillon are Gard, Lozère, Hérault and Aude (where I live). It is the hottest and driest part of France (that’s why I’m here!).

The Languedoc region is known for its red wine, Blanquette, flat sunny coastline of modern resorts and the campsites, wooded mountains and valleys, limestone plateaux and deep gorges, underground caverns and grottos, and little remote hilltop villages, its tragic past of rebellion and persecution, its rugby football and bull-fighting (oh dear on that one!).

I live in a little hilltop village called Plaigne. Our house is a traditional stonebuilt farmhouse of this region, about 300 years old. Its name, “La Borde” tells a French person what the house is like. It is long. Traditionally, bordes have a chimney at the right hand end of the house. This is where the kitchen and living area was. Then, on the ground level or below, were the stables and above those was the hayloft. The children usually slept in the hayloft. Very often at the left hand end of the house was an attached, open fronted barn.  The stone walls are extremely thick.

The bordes were designed to keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter. They have shutters to keep out the cold wind in winter, and the very hot sun, in summer. In the pictures, you can see that nowadays the stables and hayloft are living areas and we converted the barn into a little holiday house.

Now, on to Bastille Day, July 14th

Bastille Day is one of the most festive liberation days in the world.

Claude Monet
© Marianne

Liberty Leading the People
© Delacroix
It is celebrated on 14th July which is the date that marks the storming and destruction of the Bastille, which was the royal prison. That was back in 1789, during the French Revolution. I often wonder why they bothered, quite frankly, but to all Frenchmen this event symbolizes the downfall of the monarchy and the beginning of liberty for the people. (Still is the ‘beginning’ of liberty in my mind. They don’t seem to have advanced that far on the liberty front. But I’m a stranger here, a foreigner and I do love my spot in France, so I will shut up about that, do what one does when in Rome, and enjoy my tranquil patch in Mother Earth’s Garden, with its wonderful views).

Bastille Day celebrations begin on the night before the holiday and last for about 24 hours. In towns and cities bands play patriotic music and the Tricolour waves outside many buildings (even in the little villages). There is music everywhere, in the evening and on into the night, with many grand firework displays. We usually watch the fireworks at Carcassonne or Castelnaudary.

You may recognize Carcassonne, if you saw the film, “Robin Hood Prince of Thieves” with Kevin Costner. Raymonde & Isabelle (my two youngest), love Carcassonne and they love watching this film. They call the film Carcassonne. “Can we watch Carcassonne, Mummy?”
Mummy normally agrees to that request (who can refuse a dose of KC? LOL. Unfortunately, he’s never been at Carcassonne when I’ve been there! Have seen the costume that he wore though, in a tapestry shop and atelier). But I digress!

In our village, on 14th July, we have a lunchtime village picnic. There is great ambiance and we all share in a good time together. The maire usually provides some Blanquette, which is very nice. Yes, very nice. I prefer blanquette to champagne. Far tastier.
Other than Bastille Day, there are many other local festivals in summer. Don’t panic! I’m not going to tell you about them all now. (For a start, I don’t know them all!). I will say that each village in the south has its local fête which goes on during one or two weekends, with village meals, mass, maire’s aperitif, balls (the dancing variety)……..
In June there is a national music celebration where many of France’s singers and chorales sing to their hearts’ content (me included). There are many jazz festivals in towns and villages.

Lastly, I’ll mention the Autumn apple festival in Mirepoix, which is 12 km away from us. Mirepoix is actually in Ariège and therefore not in Languedoc, but it is so close to us, that I thought I’d include it. Mirepoix is filled with statues and structures all made out of apples. It makes a splendid site. Each year, a different theme is chosen.
Cider is served, hot or cold, and there is a huge omelette that you can participate in the eating of.Apple windmill. On that note, leaving you feeling hungry and thirsty, I will leave you. I hope you enjoyed this little slice of France and the French culture.

Angel Cuddles
Sarah Pritchard

Master Arts -Video Clip 

Delacroix                        Versailles                           Voltaire

July 14th 1789 -14 July 2008

France is the first European country which addressed Human Rights in its Declaration of 1789 during the French Revolution.Many of the current European laws about human rights were heavily influenced by the French version.

One big difference though, in 1789 it were only the hommes who received these rights despite women playing important roles during the Revolution.

Click above - Viva La France Dance

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Patricia Bartch

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Re: KALEIDOSCOPE # LA FRANCE, Special Guest, Sarah Pritchard
2/29/2008 5:38:15 PM

What a wonderful story.  Sarah, your town looks charming!!!  You did a great job describing your area of france, the culture, history etc. 

I've done a bit of reading in French history. It's one of my favorite countries to read about.  Thank you for participating in Kalesidoscope and introducing us to your country.

Hugs to you, Pat



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Peter Fogel

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Re: KALEIDOSCOPE # LA FRANCE, Special Guest, Sarah Pritchard
2/29/2008 6:05:15 PM

Hello Georgios,

Great 1st issue.

Hi Sarah, Very nice article. It gives a feel of France that isn't only about Paris which most readers are familiar with.

The area is lovely and I'm not surprised that you fell in love with the area and decided to make it your home.

Enjoy your visit in merry Old England. I bet you're looking forward to returning to your village tough.



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Joyce Parker Hyde

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Re: KALEIDOSCOPE # LA FRANCE, Special Guest, Sarah Pritchard
2/29/2008 6:36:24 PM
Thank you Georgios and team for this wonderful peek into France and Sarah thank you for sharing.
Did you know that if this area wasn't so awful I would likely be a French citizen of La Louisianne'?

At any rate I do remember hooking up with 3 French sailors who thought my friends were kinda cute in our little pleated skirts back in the day who followed us to the science fair!
I don't think thats' what they had in mind - but they didn't speak English and we didn't speak French so when they got off their big boat (ship) and followed us-that's where they wound up- I would have loved to hear what they told their shipmates when they got back!
Viva la France! and merci
Georgios Paraskevopoulos

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Re: KALEIDOSCOPE # LA FRANCE, Special Guest, Sarah Pritchard
3/1/2008 5:56:16 AM
Hello Patricia!

Welcome to France a lá Sarah Pritchard. Thank you for the comments and your feelings to France. Of course his is the first introduction of several articles on France. Sarah prepared this before I took over Kaleidoscope. She is not in her Special home ENGLAND right now but I am sure she will come in as soon as she comes back to France

In Welcome to Kaleidoscope there will be an index with all threads.

Happy Week End
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