Blossoming Kite Festival

I traveled to Washington D.C. at the beginning of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival.  How to know when the festival is to be held?  Apparently, there is one mysterious cherry tree of unknown breed that reliably blossoms 7-10 days before the other cherry trees open their blossoms – for this reason, it is referred to as the “indicator tree.”

The National Mall, site for the annual kite festival, provided some interesting photo ops of the city; the festival includes demonstrations and competitions and  professional kite flyers attempting to show off their talents to music, not knowing in advance what song would be played.  With only the cooperation of a slight breeze, I was amazed that the kites could even take flight (video & photos below).  Maybe, it was just that I am a lousy kite flyer, trying to blame it on the lack of wind!

The festival is a week-long family affair, with parades, hands-on activities, art demonstrations, performances celebrating Spring, blossom sightseeing cruises, blossom bike paths, river rides, and lantern parks to celebrate the cherry trees, a gift from japan in 1912.

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Le Frog – A Typically French Restaurant in Old Nice

Of course, along with snails, tete de veau, and foie gras, frog legs are right up there when one thinks of French food particularities – or should I say, specialities.

Backlit in green (bien sur!)

menu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to admit that I had never tasted frog legs and so, was somewhat apprehensive, yet excited, when this restaurant was chosen for a friends dinner get together.  I also figured that there would be other items on the menu.

frog menu

From our table, we had a lovely view of the local church.

view from table street side tables

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Provençale Rosé wine called “Nuit Blanche” (white night)

Rose wine label
OK, so I didn’t order the frog legs – just in case – but I did sample a taste (how could I not?).  No- it didn’t taste like chicken!  The taste was not strong and game-y as I expected, but was surprisingly a little sweet and quite tasty.

3 course menu

Nicoise plate

Pissaladiere & Salade Nicoise

Beef & gnocchi

Beef & gnocchi

Swiss chard pie dessert

Swiss chard pie dessert

& Voila!

frog entree

Menu Frog entree/appetizer mon

The Menu Frog main course consisted of asian noodles topped with frog legs (like these) and other wok type veggies with frog menu dessert of crème brulée (no photos taken).

It was a leaping-good time and fun evening with new discoveries in food, friends, and comraderie!

 

Traveller’s Guide: French Riviera

“Yes, it’s pricey. Yes, it can be crowded. But this corner of France is still the place to go for a little glitz and glamour,” says Aoife O’Riordain.

This sun-soaked corner of south-eastern France is a quintessential summer playground. For tourism purposes, the universally acknowledged extent of the French Riviera is contained within the Alpes-Maritimes department, stretching from Théoule-sur-Mer in the west via the Principality of Monaco to Menton in the east close to the border with Italy.

Photos and full article HERE

 

Credit: Aoife O’Riordain for www.independent.co.uk

 

The Art of Baroque Dancing

What is baroque dance?

The term is used to refer to ballroom and theatrical dance of France, other Western European countries, and their colonies during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Is baroque dance baroque (that is, highly decorated, ornamented, and so on)?

Well, sometimes. The steps can be highly decorated, curved shapes and paths are often used, and the choreographic thread is sometimes elaborately nonlinear.  But it can also have elements of classical order and symmetry, and even simplicity.

So why is it called baroque dance?

Presumably, partly by analogy with music and other arts of roughly the same period, and partly because it does have baroque elements.

History

The origins of the baroque dance are found in the court at Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV of France in the 1600s. The art of ballet was born under his rule, thanks to his passion for dance. Because of Louis XIV, balls, operas and the baroque dance played a pivotal role in the lifestyle at Versailles.

Baroque dancers at Vaux-le-Vicomte

Baroque dancers

dancing2

Louis XIV

Louis’ connection with the dance was personal. When he took the throne at a young age, according to Labelldanse.com, “his authority was opposed by a faction of nobles in a series of uprisings known as the ‘Frondes'”. After the Second Fronde was conquered, “Cardinal Mazarin (who ruled through the regent, Louis’ mother, Anne of Austria)” directed a ballet called “Le Ballet de la Nuit.” In the la Nuit, Louis danced the main role of the Rising Sun. While Louis acted In character as the sun, he warned that anyone who chose to oppose his power “would soon feel his heat.” This threat was directed towards the nobles, reminding them that their opposition to the royal authority would not be tolerated

Dance as a Weapon

After Louis had felt his power as the Rising Sun character, he employed dance with the mindset of it being used as a weapon of State. Due to his enthusiasm for dance, the establishment of the Academie Royale de la Danse emerged in 1661. From then on, other ballets and operas that were composed by other directors such as J.B. Lully, praised Louis as “the wisest, most powerful and benevolent ruler in Christendom.”

The Baroque Dance Spreads

The form of dancing gathered popularity through parts of Europe, England and Spain. Other ballrooms and operas embraced the court dance forms and began teaching what Louis had created. In 1738, French dancing masters traveled as far as Russia, where Jean-Baptiste Lande established a school that gradually became the school of the Kirov Ballet at the Maryinsky Threater. According to Labelledanse.com, other French dance instructors traveled to the New World where French ballroom dances became popular “in the salons of the governors of New France (Quebec) and later at Colonial assemblies in which George Washington danced the minuet.”

Baroque Dance Evolves

The baroque dance form that was made famous under the Sun King continued to thrive during reigns of Louis XV and Louis XVI. As the French Revolution began in the late 19th century, the dance grew closer to the modern form of dance known as classical ballet.

 

Source: ehow.com

Innovative Creative Cuisine in Vence

I recently lunched en groupe at “Les Bacchanales” restaurant, where the chef creates the week’s menu based on his market finds, sourced from within 250 km. and  from what is currently in season and his unique personal taste – literally & creatively speaking! The restaurant also filters its own still and sparkling water, in an effort to respect the environment.

This particular day’s menu involved three courses, with an unusual choice for the main dish (see menu photo). Was the amusing garden art at the entrance a sign of the creative cuisine to come?!

Personal Assessment:  In my opinion, my main course was somewhat skimpy in portion (would have liked a side of something), especially for the price.  I also thought that the cheese course seemed rationed (read: skimpy) for the number of people being served in our group.

A chacun son gout! (to each his own) 

 

(hover mouse over image for caption)

 

 

 

Name That Cheese

NAME THAT CHEESE: FRENCH FROMAGE QUIZ

Name that Cheese: French Fromage QuizName that Cheese: French Fromage QuizName that Cheese: French Fromage Quiz
1. If you’ve never had a picnic with a simple baguette and a nicely ripened round of this creamy cow’s milk classic from Normandy, well, it’s time to start living! The rind is a little furry with touches of beige and there’s recently been a fashion for baking it.

2. Similar to No. 1, but from a completely different region, this fine fromage is a cow’s milk cheese with an edible white rind and a pale creamy interior which softens as it ripens. An absolute French classic.

3. Not unlike the Dutch Edam in appearance, this unusual cheese is made near Lille. The texture is firm and the interior colour is a strong orange. A whole example of this cheese will come in a squashed ball shape and possess a grey, rough and pitted exterior. Boasting a nutty flavour, this cheese is often served after having been aged for a year or two.

4. A soft cheese which is often distinguished by an orange rind. It is made in the Vosges region of north-eastern France. The texture is creamy, smooth and quite sticky and it can be pungent on the nose.

5. One of France’s oldest cheeses, this is said to date back to the 6th century. It looks similar in outward appearance to Camembert but the consistency is more like a regular cream cheese. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of this Normandy cheese is that it is often produced in the shape of a heart.

6. A goats’ cheese from the Loire Valley, made in the area surrounding the village which provides its name, which was originally served as a snack for the local grape pickers. The texture becomes firmer with age, from medium to hard, but there is always a distinctive nutty flavour. Great on a cheeseboard or grilled with salads.

7. A cow’s milk cheese made in the high hills and mountains of the region of the same name. A round of this cheese can weigh up to 120lbs, so you will buy it in long thin slices. It possesses an aromatic, nutty but also slightly sweet flavour, reminiscent of Gruyere.

8. A soft goats’ cheese with a firm and creamy texture, which is only produced in this region of south-western France and sold in a distinctive cylindrical shape called a bonde. The flavours are mild and creamy, becoming more tangy and nutty as the cheese ages – but it will only age for weeks not months. The unusual name is said to derive from the Arabic for goat.

9. A mild and creamy blue cheese from an area which produces several examples. This one is named after a local town. Shaped like a tall cylinder, it has a mottled grey/brown exterior and a natural thin crust.

10. Named after the mountain region in eastern France, this popular cheese is made from the skimmed cow’s milk and has a lower fat content than many cheeses. The rind is thick and has a grey exterior, whereas its interior is pale cream with small holes. It boasts a sweet and soft taste with earthy tones.

11. Apparently the favourite cheese of the Emperor Charlemagne, this blue cheese made from ewe’s milk has a noble and ancient pedigree. Aging takes place in limestone caves where the mould develops, resulting in a soft creamy texture but a salty and tangy taste.

12. One of only two sheep’s milk cheeses to gain AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status, this cheese comes from the mountainous areas of south-western France near the Spanish border. The crust varies from grey to orange and the interior is semi-hard with a pleasant buttery and nutty taste.

ANSWERS

1. Camembert, 2. Brie, 3. Mimolette, 4. Munster, 5. Neufchatel, 6. Crottin de Chavignol, 7. Comté, 8. Chabichou, 9. Fourme, d’Ambert, 10. Tomme de Savoie, 11. Roquefort, 12. Ossau-Iraty

SCORE GUIDE

10-12: Congratulations, you are a fully paid up turophile! Just remember to eat small portions like the French do!

6-9: Bien fait les fromagistes! You can show off at a party but that fancy restaurant cheese board may catch you out.

3-5: Not so bad, but you could improve your cheese knowledge and/or your geography to score better next time.

0-2: Time to visit France again and make sure to sample some cheese wherever you go. There are over 350 to try!

Credit/Source:  by France Today Editors/France Today.com

30 facts about France

30 facts about FranceHere are some interesting facts that provide general information on France and its population. And if you are already here, test how well you know the French! 

  1. France’s official name is the French Republic (République Française). It became a republic in 1792, after centuries of royal rule, as a result of the French Revolution. The Revolution started with the storming of the Bastille fortress on 14th July 1789, an event that is celebrated every year all over France on Bastille Day
  2. Liberté, égalitié, fraternité meaning ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ (or brotherhood) is the national motto of France. First appearing around the time of the Revolution, it was written into the constitution in 1958 and today you’ll see it on coins, postage stamps and government logos often alongside ‘Marianne’ who symbolises the ‘triumph of the Republic’
  3. France is the largest country in the EU. With an area of 551,000 square km, it’s almost a fifth of the EU’s total area. About a quarter is covered by forest; only Sweden and Finland have more.
  4. France is sometimes called ‘the hexagon’. Because of its six-sided shape, France is sometimes referred to as l’hexagone.
  5. France still retains 15 territories overseas. This includes Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Réunion and Mayotte. Back on the mainland, Metropolitan France (including Corsica) is divided into 22 regions and sub-divided into 96 départements. The country’s colonial past is one reason why there are more than five million people of Arab and African descent living in France.
  6. Some 85 percent of the French population live in urban areas. The vast majority of France’s 65.5 million inhabitants live in urban areas, and Paris, the capital, has 2.2 million inhabitants alone, with metropolitan Paris home to a total of 11.9 million people in 2013, according to the Institut d’Amenagement et d’Urbanisme. France has the second largest population in Europe after Germany, making up 13 percent of the EU.
  7. French is the official language and the first language of 88 percent of the population. However, there are various indigenous regional dialects and languages, such as Alsacian, Basque, Breton, Catalan, Occitan and Flemish. About 1 million French people living near the border with Italy speak Italian.
  8. The 500-year-old Académie Française aims to preserve the French language. It seeks to preserve the French language by attempting to ban – somewhat unsuccessfully – foreign words such as blog, hashtag, parking, email, and weekend.
  9. More than 80 percent of the population are Roman Catholic. Some 5-10 percent are Muslim, 2 percent are Protestant, 1 percent are Jewish – and 4 percent are not affiliated to any religion. Perhaps surprisingly for a predominantly Catholic country, three-quarters of women of childbearing age use contraception.
  10. A French woman is the world’s oldest human. She lived to an incredible 122 years, 164 days, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Jeanne Louise Calment was born on February 21, 1875 (the year before Alexander Graham Bell got his patent for the very first telephone and Custer’s Last Stand) and died on August 4, 1997. Her compatriots generally live long longer than most other nationalities: France is rated sixth in the world for life expectancy at birth: 81.5 years (86 years for women and 79 for men).
  11. France has the second largest economy in the Eurozone. With a GDP of EUR 1.9 trillion (USD 2.613 trillion) according to figures from the World Bank, France’s economy is only second to Germany’s. France is one of the largest exporters of luxury goods in the world, with the top four companies Cartier, Chanel, Hermes and Louis Vuitton alone worth around EUR 30.8 billion. Its main exports are far less glamorous: aircraft, food, chemicals, industrial machinery, iron and steel, electronics, motor vehicles and pharmaceuticals.
  12. In 2013 France sold more electric cars than any other European country. With 8,779 registered vehicles, France sold more than twice as many as Germany and Norway.
  13. The world’s first artificial heart transplant and face transplant both took place in France. The heart transplant occured in December 2013 at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris. The bioprosthetic device, which mimics a real heart’s contractions, is powered by external lithium-ion battery, and is about three times the weight of a real organ. French surgeons were also the first to perform a face transplant in 2005.
  14. France has one of the highest average ages for women having their first child. Good childcare facilities allow 85 per cent of French women to work. However, this high level of employment has had an impact on the average age at which women have their first child. This has increased to 30.1 years, one of the highest amongst the OECD countries.
  15. Yet France has Europe’s second highest birth rate. Giving birth older hasn’t affected fertility rates though: France has Europe’s second highest birth rate (after Ireland) and accounts for more than half of the EU’s natural population increase.
  16. French workers retire younger than in other OECD countries. In 2012, the average age was 59.7 years for men and 60 for women, compared to the OECD averages of 64.2 and 63.3. People can claim a state pension at 62, which is one of the lowest retirement ages in the world.
  17. France legalised same-sex marriage in 2013. When President Françoise Holland signed the bill into law on May 18, 2013, France became the ninth country in Europe and 14th in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Although polls at the time showed that between 55 and 50 percent of French people supported gay marriage, not everyone is happy about it: thousands of people defending the so-called ‘family values’ continue to take to the streets in protest.
  18. Europe’s highest mountain is in the French Alps. Mont Blanc, at 4,810m, takes an arduous 10 to 12 hours to climb to the summit. Alternatively, you can take a leisurely 20-minute trip up on Europe’s highest cable car on the nearby Pic du Midi to get a brilliant view of Mont Blanc.
  19. The Louvre Museum in Paris was the most visited museum in the world in 2012. With an amazing 9.5 million visitors, it received almost the same amount of people as the population of Sweden!
  20. The French have a strong sense of community. In the OECD Better life Survey 2013, 93 per cent of respondents said they knew someone they could rely on in times of need.
  21. At 29,000 km, the French rail network is the second largest in Europe (after Germany) and the ninth biggest in the world. France was one of the first countries in the world to utilise high-speed technology, introducing the TGV high-speed rail in 1981, and today has more than 1,550 km high-speed track. The Tours-Bordeaux high-speed project, due for completion in 2017, will add a further 302km. The first direct high-speed rail link connecting Paris with Barcelona in Spain opened at the end of 2013, with a journey time of under six-and-a-half hours.
  22. French wines can reach soaring prices. In 2013, a limited edition Balthazar – a massive 12-litre bottle – of Chateaux Margaux 2009 produced in the Médoc to the north of Bordeaux, went on sale in Dubai for an eye-watering GBP 122,380.
  23. The French invented the metric system, the decimalised way of counting and weighing, in 1793. The original prototype kilo – Le Grand K – a cylinder made in the 1880s out of platinum and iridium and about the size of a plum, was the only object known to scientists to have a mass of exactly 1kg. Everything else measured in kilograms is defined by Le Grand K. It’s kept locked away under three vacuum-sealed bell jars in a vault in the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France. Duplicate cylinders were sent around the world and every so often they’re compared to the original; but the Le Grand K mysteriously seem to be losing weight. The last time it was weighed, in 1988, it was found to be 0.05 milligrams (less than a grain of sugar) lighter than the copies. Did Le Grand K lose mass – or have the copies gained it? No one knows.
  24. The legal system in France is still largely influenced by Napoleon. French law is still based on the principles set down in Napoleon Bonaparte’s Code Civil back in the 1800s.
  25. The world’s greatest cycle race, the Tour de France, has been around for over 100 years. Every July, cyclists race some 2,000 miles (3,200 km) primarily around France in a series of stages over 23 days, with the fastest cyclist at each stage wearing the famous yellow jersey. In 2014, the Grand Départ will take place in Yorkshire in the UK.
  26. Throughout its history, France has produced some of the world’s most influential writers and thinkers: Descartes and Pascal in the 17th century, Voltaire in the 18th, Baudelaire and Flaubert in the 19th and Sartre and Camus in the 20th. To date, France has won more Noble Prizes for Literature (15) than any other country.
  27. There are over 1000 different types of cheese made in France. The blue/green-veined Roquefort is the oldest variety. Its ripening process, which takes place in natural caves, dates back to the 17th century.
  28. France is the world’s most popular tourist destination.Some 83 million visitors arrived in France in 2012, according to the World Tourism Organisation.
  29. Traditional and modern sports are popular in France. The most popular sports in France are football, rugby, tennis and cycling while older people still enjoy the traditional game ofpétanque or boules (a game played with heavy metal balls) in the town square. Le trotter Français is a type of horseracing where the rider sits in a two-wheeled buggy.
  30. April Fool’s Day in France apparently stems back to the 16th century. If you’re in France on April Fool’s Day, don’t be surprised if children try to stick paper fish onto your back and call you a ‘Poisson d’Avril‘ (April Fish). This April 1st tradition is supposed to have started in the 16th century when King Charles XIV of France changed the calendar and those who continued to celebrate the end of the New Year at the end of March were ridiculed as fools.

 Credit/Source:  Expatica