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?