Thursday, December 27, 2007

Old reflects against new

What is one of Rodez's oldest food shops selling for the holidays?

Farm-raised capons, boar, ready-made dishes...and ostrich steaks which, contrary to what you might believe, could very well come from Aveyron.

In the shop window opposite, the English word "authentic" reflects a different approach to commerce.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Wordless Wednesday 6

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Wishes from France

Merry Christmas to all of my family, friends and readers!

Joyeux Noël à toute ma famille, et à tous mes amis et lecteurs!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Joyeux Anniversaire à La France Profonde

Deux ans déjà!

Let's face it, my timing for starting this blog was not that great. It's a little like those kids who have their birthdays around Christmas -- a lot to handle at a very busy time of year.

But here it is, December 22nd, and I am celebrating La France Profonde's second birthday.

La France Profonde has been a labor of love from the beginning. It is by far my favorite of my three blogs, and I only regret that I don't have more time to devote to it.

Of course, I can hear you saying, if I gave up my other two blogs I could have more time for FP. But each of my blogs fulfills a different purpose and a particular need, and each one has developed its own network of readers, acquaintances and, yes, friends. And I can't imagine giving any of them up.

I started my blogs as an outlet for writing and, quite honestly, as a way to get some writing clips up on the Internet. And my blogs have led, directly or indirectly, to a bit of freelance writing work that has been an enjoyable complement to my teaching job.

But by far the richest return from blogging has been my contacts with other bloggers who have become regular readers...and an important part of my life, which is something that non-bloggers can't seem to understand.

There are the fellow expats, especially Ken, Walt, Katie and Meredith, whom I keep up with regularly and who have provided plenty of comments and support over the past two years.

Then there are the American Francophiles, readers I've picked up more recently and with whom I love to compare notes. Marjory, Randal, Belette, Colleen -- thanks for your faithful comments and I hope my occasional reality checks don't discourage you from your unfailing love for France!

And Ali, I've said it before: I really learned what blogging is all about from you.

There are so many others who drop in from time to time, and that I drop in on. How I love your visits, but also clicking into your little corner of cyberspace!

Finally, you may have noticed that some of the blog's best photos, like this one and this one, are marked "courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau." As you might have suspected, Thierry is my husband, and his job gets him out and about in the aveyronnais countryside -- thus allowing me to share views of la campagne that I wouldn't otherwise have.

Merci à tous et à toutes!

And if you've made it this far, stop by my very favorite post. It didn't elicit that many comments -- no accounting for some people's tastes, especially mine I suppose -- but it gave me shivers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Wordless Wednesday 5

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Aligot Travels Well

After Paris, Toulouse.

Last Saturday, I happened to run into some happy Toulousains lunching on aligot, Aveyron's cheese and potato specialty, as they enjoyed the Christmas market on the Place du Capitole.

At first I wasn't absolutely sure what these Saturday shoppers were savoring, but a quick look around the market stands revealed potatoes and tomme fraîche all dressed up for the holidays:

I had hoped to get a closer look at the aligot operations, but couldn't break through the crowd at the highly popular stand. I guess aligot is a hit wherever it travels.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Big City Vitrines

'Tis the season. And if I were having any trouble getting in an appropriately festive mood, yesterday's day trip to Toulouse solved the problem.

I generally do most of my Christmas shopping in Rodez, but this year I had the chance to spend Saturday in La Ville Rose, and enjoyed soaking up the holiday atmosphere.

I'm pleased to announce that I got a lot of my Christmas shopping done -- which was the main purpose of the trip. But a Christmas shop window trip for blogging purposes would also be a great way to spend the day...

Tempting as the displays in French librairies are, I refrained from buying too many books this year :

And I didn't know candy canes even existed in France! Really, I have to get out a bit more:

A little Southwest sun left me feeling as jaunty as this gal:

Only a little over two weeks until Christmas! Santé!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Going, going...

A little over a year ago, I caught Rodez's historic "Grand Hôtel Broussy" in a good light. I was lucky.

Last week, as I passed by on a damp, grey afternoon, the downtown institution wasn't looking so grand:

In fact, I'm wondering if it will ever be "GRAND" again:

I know. No need to press the panic button. Le Grand Hôtel Broussy is only being remodeled, and I'm sure it needs it.

Yet as I saw traces of its bright red past being tossed unceremoniously out its windows, I felt a wave of personal regret. I would never see it in all its delapidated glory.

Or could I glimpse at the interior, before it was too late?

I walked up toward the dusty lobby entrance, where a narrow door was, miraculously, open.

I dared to step in. The lobby was dirty and dreary, with a few pieces of wooden furniture strewn about. An immense dining or breakfast room lay to my right, bereft of furnishings.

Too quickly, a burly worker stomped down the main staircase. He looked at me. I scurried out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Rodez by dawn

Although I'm often in Rodez around dawn, I'm usually rushing across the Bourran viaduct to get to work after dropping my daughter off at her high school.

Last Sunday, though, I had the unusual opportunity -- yes, I'll call it an opportunity -- to be in Rodez before 7:00 am on a Sunday morning.

It's a very quiet place at that time, and the cathedral looms even when it isn't illuminated:

A surprising number of cars were out and about, perhaps because at least three buses were scooping up passengers for outings, including my daughter's to see an opera in Toulouse.

Only two businesses had opened their doors: one of the town's larger bakeries and a tobacco/press stand.

Not a single café was serving yet -- of course how many Ruthénois really want to be seen in public at 6:45 am on a Sunday morning?

The city was timidly opening an eye; some say it never entirely wakes up on Sunday. Perhaps it deserves a day of rest.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Wordless Wednesday 2

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ten Reasonably Random Things About Me

I've been having some interesting comment exchanges with My Inner French Girl, and she has tagged me for the much-circulated "Ten Random Things About Myself" meme. I generally don't post much personal material on La France Profonde, but the timing of this meme will also allow me to give you a better look at my new winter thumbnail!

1. I'm not a very random person. That's why I immediately organized this list around three main themes: French stuff, food stuff and really random stuff.

2. My first trip to France was to do a semester overseas in Tours. We got a two-week break in November. Most of my friends took off to sunny climates, but I found one taker to go to Denmark, Sweden and Norway.

3. The worst mistake I've ever made in French was to announce that I had cooked something "à poil" instead of "à la poêle." No translation will be provided!

4. After driving for 14 years in the USA with a perfect record, I failed the driving part of my first French driving test...but passed the written.

5. I was the very first person at my current workplace to "brownbag" it for lunch, and I took some flak for it. Now many of my colleagues, both French and anglophone, eat lunch at work. The times they are a changing...even in La France Profonde.

6. I know how to make confit de canard and terrine de foie gras, but don't know how to put them up. They're awfully good "fresh" anyway.

7. The only drinks I truly enjoy are water, coffee, wine and beer.

8. I used to be a college radio DJ at KZSU. This means I had some type of radio license and actually knew how to turn on and shut down a whole radio station.

9. My husband, two daughters and I have all of our birthdays in a two-week period in June. Mine is last, so it usually goes by the wayside.

10. I have gone by a nickname all of my life because my parents made the conscious decision to "officially" give me a regal name but "call me" Betty. It has held. And by the way, in France it's my "Saint's Name Day," or however you translate that. So since I know not much will happen on my birthday, maybe someone will remember ma fête!

Now for the fun part: tagging. It wasn't really clear how many bloggers to tag, so I'm going to go with three...and will be surprised if any of them come up with a list:

The Empathic Rationalist to see if he can blog about something other than politics and philosophy.

Paul from Jeannot's Weblog, in the hopes he won't write a list in computer programming language.

Brandon and Jessica Haskell, ESL teachers in South Korea, whom I found in a totally random way -- you see I can be random if I want to. I opened up Blogger and watched the "recent posts" float by, clicking on everything that looked potentially interesting. It took me 13 minutes to find an appropriate candidate. There is a lot of junk out there!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Musical Memories

I just wrote an especially fun post about musical memories on And So Forth, my "just-for-fun" blog.

I realized afterwards that no French songs made the list...strange.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yves Thuriès and Le Salon du Chocolat 2006

I've always wanted a pink chocolate shoe. And it was one of the many fabulous creations that tempted me at last year's Salon du Chocolat, which was the first event of its kind to be held in Rodez.

This year's edition will be held on Saturday November 24th and it should be a good chance to stock up on end-of-the-year gifts -- chocolates are a traditional cadeau in France, especially among colleagues and business acquaintances.

You will no doubt be able to admire some original creations, such as this saucisson au chocolat:

Don't worry, no pork was included!

Last year, I also got a chance to listen to one of the area's most famous chocolatiers, Yves Thuriès. Thuriès is also famous for his two restaurants in Cordes, Le Grand Ecuyer and Bistrot Tonin'ty, as well as his decidedly upscale cooking magazine.

Who knows how he does it all? Thuriès now has chocolate shops all over France, including one in Rodez -- which I believe is used in the photo on his "Points de vente" page. He has also expanded his chocolate business to England, Canada and Japan.

If this post hasn't satisfied your chocolate photo fix, spend a little time on the Thuriès chocolate site...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Monday, November 05, 2007

Scathing satire

I guess this is supposed to be oh-so-funny, but I must say I think it is just plain nasty!

And no, I'm not British -- but I know a lot of my readers are.

Since the original post, I've learned from the very knowledgeable My Inner French Girl that the article is an extract from a book that has actually been written by a fake "translator" -- British herself (read the comment below.)

I suppose that makes it a little funnier -- I know the British love biting humor/humour.

What do you think?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Sleeping under a thin sheet

September and October were lovely in Aveyron, but November has come in with frosty mornings and chilly evenings.

I wonder if Notre Dame's bell tower is warm enough at night, sleeping under this thin sheet?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween in France: Dead or Alive?

Well, what would you have done if you had had fourteen 14-year-olds celebrating Halloween "American-style" -- whatever that means -- in your French living room and kitchen?

I hid out in my office and started to reflect on the diminishing presence of Halloween in France. Google searches ensued.

Do you know what? Halloween has been around in France for quite a while now. Somehow I still feel like it's vaguely new. But I just happened upon an article from exactly ten years ago commenting on the rather strange arrival of Halloween in France:

"In one of the stranger manifestations of globalization, Halloween fever has abruptly gripped the French, sending pumpkin prices soaring and sorely testing the Gallic ability to pronounce "trick or treat," wrote Roger Cohen on October 31, 1997.

Ten years already! Yet apparently the bewitching party is almost over. Last year on this date, John Stodder reported that "Le Halloween, c'est mort," citing

"The major dailies Le Monde and Le Parisien reported on Tuesday that following some short-lived popularity, the Halloween holiday has been 'pretty much buried.' The reasons seem to be a mixture of falling sales and anti-Americanism. Perchance a smattering of protectionism too. 'Our Halloween sales have been falling by half every year since 2002,' Le Monde quoted toy retailer La Grande Recre as saying."

Flailing perhaps, but not totally dead -- or why would we have a bevy of teenage French girls dancing around our house tonight, or a group of "treek or treetears" who just knocked at our door?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sunday Scribblings: Hospital

I usually post my occasional contributions to Sunday Scribblings over on my catch-all blog, And So Forth.

But I can really deal with this week's prompt, "hospital," only here at La France Profonde. Because I've already done it.

I know it may seem a little lame to write a Sunday Scribble consisting of little more than links to previous posts, but this is just the way it has to be on this subject.

So come with me to my corner of France and discover my definitive Rodez hospital series:

Good-bye, My Hospital

Combarel Hospital, the Old

Combarel Hospital, the Incongruous

Rodez Hospital, the New

(Click here to read more musings on the theme of "hospital.")

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Delicate details

Before I started writing La France Profonde, this sort of architectural detailing would just pass me by.

Now it piques my curiosity: what did this house, duly lined up alongside a number of non-descript dwellings, do to merit such intricate features?

And why the blue and yellow, so out of tune with the general color scheme in "le Bassin," or the Decazeville mining area?

Sometimes I'm tempted to just knock on people's doors and ask them these questions -- while there are still residents around who know the answers! But I'm not sure how warm the welcome would be...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tasting Aveyron in Paris

Last week, I posted about an Aveyron food festival that had gone on in Paris recently. Since I don't always read the local papers -- and I'm duly ashamed of that fact -- I managed to find out more about it by visiting one of my local butchers.

I was standing in line waiting to pick up a few steaks for lunch when I heard one of M. le Boucher's customers ask him "Vous vous êtes bien amusé à Paris?"

My ears pricked up. And, much to everyone's surprise, I started asking questions. It turns out that Alain Ginesty, who runs an excellent boucherie-charcuterie-traîter in Sébazac near Rodez, had been to the festival -- and had indeed had a great time.

He was kind enough to lend me the brochure about the Marché des Pays de l'Aveyron which took place in Paris the weekend of October 5-7. Over 75 local food producers were plying Parisians with Aveyron's fabulous food specialties, such as aligot, fouace and Marcillac wine.

For those of you -- and from your comments I know you are out there -- who haven't yet experienced aligot, know that you can do so in Paris:

These are just two Aveyronnais restaurants in the City of Light, but I'm sure there are many more. Remember, you really haven't lived until you've tasted aligot!

Many thanks to Mr. Alain Ginesty for lending me the brochure about this event!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It is indeed a special place

If you read my blog, you know I think that Aveyron is just about the greatest place in France.But don't just take my word for it....

This week the writer of A Juicy Life shared her experience of cycling through part of Averyron:

"The landscape was so different from where we were and we instantly fell in love. It took us about 2 hours to get there and once we did we knew we definitely stepped up in terms of beauty, the landscape is like a dream....

Our original itinerary was to spend 1 week here and then head back to Spain and spend 1 week in Girona. Well, after 3 days here we have decided to extend our trip here and not spend 1 week in Girona. We have found the area we love...we don't want to leave...

We made some great friends on this trip and the Aveyron and around could be the best place we've yet been."

My parents feel the same way. They have visited quite a bit of France: Paris, the Loire Valley, Provence, Normandy, Dordogne, Alsace...but when asked what their favorite place in France is, their answer is always the same. And it starts with an "A."

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Who cares if you win or lose -- it's how you blog about it!

Rodez by night is a beautiful place. On Saturday, my husband and I went into town to watch the rugby match in a café, but within minutes we were taking photos...

It could be some new form of mental illness: the endless search for the bloggable image.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Aligot takes to Parisian streets

The things you can learn while floating aimlessly around Google alerts...

Apparently, some sort of Aveyron festival was held in Paris last weekend. I couldn't find any official information about it...or let's just say that I didn't feel like floating around Internet for THAT long! But a couple of WordPress bloggers living in Paris apparently spent a "Sunday in the provinces" last weekend, visiting this Aveyron festival and discovering the joys of aligot:

"We noticed that everyone was carrying or eating plastic containers of a yellowy substance that looked like it had the consistency of cream cheese or pudding. Upon further investigation, we learned that it was called aligot, and a jolly old French man in traditional garb told me that it was made from potatoes, cheese, butter, creme fraiche, salt, and pepper - and just as much cheese as there is potatoes."

Their observations remind me that there was once a time when I had never even heard of aligot, Aveyron's trademark potato dish. Now it is just part of life, and especially part of festive meals. And I guess it can even be Parisian street food too...pourquoi pas?

(Image courtesty of, an information-packed site about French.)

PS: As serendipity would have it, within two hours of writing this post, I was speaking to one of my butchers and it turned out he had been at the event. He lent me the official brochure, so more information about this Aveyronnais market in Paris will be on its way in the next few days.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Everything? Absolutely everything?

I'm wondering if the Méjanes building supplies company really had "tout pour la construction."

They seemed to have run out of plaster partway through this project.

Isn't that a good thing?At least the passer-by gets a glimpse of the building's original stone.

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau)

Sunday, October 07, 2007

I was there! (I mean in Rodez, not in Cardiff...)

Due to an unlikely chain of daughter-transportation-related events, mon mari and I ended up watching last night's France-New Zealand rugby match on a big screen set up on the Rodez Place de la Mairie.

Not exactly our Saturday evening outing of choice -- but the game got to be so exciting, we just had to stay on till the bitter end.

And what an end it was! Allez les bleus!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Odd Couple

I may not feel as ill as the man above, but I am absolutely dying to know what the relationship was between a French cooking magazine from the 1970s and pharmaceutical products!

Many of you joined in the fun and tried to guess what type of products were advertised in the issue of the magazine La France à Table that I wrote about last week. Although I got some pretty imaginative suggestions -- I especially liked Loulou's idea of "shotguns for hunting" -- nobody hit the mark with medicine.

What was the link? Digestion would be the obvious connection, and the magazine offered plenty of solutions for diners suffering from those infamous French crises de foie:

Not all of the ads dealt with tummy trouble, though. Any number of maladies were catered to, including depression... well as some vague feminine disorder requiring "brain oxygenisation!"

All of the magazine's one-page advertisements were for medical remedies of some sort; only at the very back could I find a single, tiny ad for a food product.

Strange. Any explanations out there? Maybe from Amerloque, who seems to know so many things?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

A tale of two racisms

I just came across this article from the Gulf Times. I'm sure the same material is floating around elsewhere on Internet.

You said it, brother! "Insidious racism in France..." is an excellent way of putting it.

My daughters have spent hours at school studying American slavery, Rosa Parks and the March on Washington. Laudable topics all, but the French school curriculum somehow doesn't devote much time to the current racial situation in the USA. And I do feel the USA has progressed enormously in racial equality in the past 40 years.

Has France? And, for that matter, where is the subject of "racism in France" in the school curriculum? I must have missed it while I was helping my kids recite the key dates in the American civil rights movement...

Sometimes it's time to look in your own backyard...n'est-ce pas?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Aveyron in the Press

Or just an excuse to repost -- approximately one year later -- one of my favorite photos of the Millau viaduct!

This article, all the way from New Zealand, has a pretty cool photo of it too...

(Photo courtesy of Thierry Jouanneteau.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Fascinating Find

Last week I went to the annual Salon de la Carte Postale in Rodez. I didn't get into pawing through thousands of old postcards -- although I can see why people do. But I did purchase a number of fascinating documents that provide intriguing glimpses into Aveyron over the last decades.

As a food blogger, how could I resist this issue of La France à Table from 1971, featuring the Aveyron department? I had never seen a copy of this magazine, but it seems to be quite a collectors' item.

I tried to find some information about the magazine: its history, how long it was published, how popular it was. But my (quick, I admit) Internet search only came up with numerous efforts to sell back issues...

As so often when I am confronted with printed vestiges of the past, I felt strange and nostalgic reading the magazine's black and white pages. The issue was printed three years after Mai '68, but it appeared so old-fashioned that, had I opened a random page, I would have guessed it was from the forties.

Another intriguing observation: ALL of the ads were for a certain type of product.

Can you guess what?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Every Day's like an Open Door!

The weather has been so absolutely glorious the past few weeks that I have felt like singing on my way to work...

That rhythm of town
Starts calling me down
It's like a message from high above
Oh, oh, oh
Pulling me out to the smiles and the streets that I love
Good morning Bourran
Every day's like an open door!

Okay, this all probably sounds quite silly. But like Baltimore, (now if you haven't seen Hairspray, you must, but in English) Bourran, or the New Rodez, is much maligned. In fact, it seems to be quite fashionable to criticize our little La Défense:

"C'est une horreur!"
"Ils l'ont raté!"
"Moi, je n'y mets jamais les pieds!"

But Bourran is growing. And it is growing on me.