Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Laurels for Hardy*

I've listened to some lovely old Françoise Hardy tunes today as I tried get in the mood to write a piece about the food and drink of the Dordogne (duck and wine on the whole, but you knew that). Anyone looking for a logical link between the two – Hardy and the Dordogne, that is – will have no joy.
I got distracted and had a look at Ms Hardy's excellent website, thinking that perhaps we could feature her somewhere in French Magazine (new issue on sale this Thursday, complete with a free 86-page Traveller in France magazine; Monet's Giverny on the bright pink cover). Anyway, I decided that this is the benchmark for anyone blessed with rare beauty who seeks to age with grace. Swoon...

*Before you ask, this post wasn't created just so I could use this dodgy title.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Sloping off

I was informed by my old mate (and French tourism industry legend in his own lunchtime) Paddy Daly from that fine organisation ABTOF that, according to his members, ski holiday bookings to France are very healthy this year. In the face of seemingly endless rounds of credit crunch doom-mongering, this is great news for anyone in the French holiday business. If you haven't yet booked your winter visit, you'll find plenty of ideas and offers on the site.

I'm undecided about whether or not to hit the slopes this season. For a start, I'm not very good at skiing, and this annoys me greatly. I've only been a couple of times with a group of friends who leave me in their wake, struggling to descend even the simplest of red runs. This winds me up no end, especially as smug five-year-olds whizz past wearing all their fancy outfits.

I am, however, very good at scoffing artery-pillaging tartiflette (pictured) as if, ironically, my very life depended on it, and at indulging in boozy après-ski shenanigans. Actually, sod the skis – these are two very good reasons to book an Alpine jolly NOW.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Reindeers in Normandy

You heard! This is likely to confuse the kids this Christmas.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

I've Loved You (For) So Long

I have just reviewed new cinema release I've Loved You So Long for Issue 70 of French Magazine:

Once every few years, a French film emerges flare-like from the cloying fog of Hollywood PR and big budgets, a film so engrossing and original (Amélie and Hidden spring to mind) that you want to ring all of your friends and tell them to flick Batman the bird and instead turn to arthouse cinema for an “event” outing of equal import, but without the stunts, scraps, hollering and merchandise.

What’s remarkable about I’ve Loved You So Long, however, is that there are no clever and cute editing techniques, or time-bending narratives at work, as with the aforementioned French box-office winners. There’s barely even a plot to speak of, yet the exqusite tension of this exceptional family drama is held through slow revelation, superb use of intermittent music and some exquisite acting by the entire cast. That this film is the debut of writer ClaudePhilippe makes it all the more striking.

Scott Thomas – in what is a surely an Oscar-nominee turn – plays elder sibling Juliette, gaunt and world weary, who emerges from a 15-year hiatus (to disclose why would be churlish here) to stay with her once doting younger sister Léa (Elsa Zylberstein) and her young family.
Oozing frustration, yet showing flashes of wit that make this so much more than a study in self-pity, Juliette’s remoteness at first serves to push away those seeking to understand her. Slowly she must learn to trust and open up, which she does... eventually, explosively. You will not see a more moving and captivating performance this year, or maybe any other.

It's a cracker, as you can tell, but one thing troubles me: the title. Shouldn't it be called I've Loved You For So Long, as it's translated from the French Il y a longtemps que je t'aime? I will bow to your greater linguistic knowledge if you can clear this up for me.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Bag a bargain boating break


Leading French boating holiday specialist Le Boat has savings of up to 20% off August and September boat hire with prices for a one week holiday now starting from only £93pp. Le Boat offer the widest choice of cruising suggestions on the largest and most stylish fleet in Europe. What’s more, no previous boating holiday experience is required.

Cosmopolitan cruising in Alsace
Discover savings of 20% in addition to splendid scenery, pretty medieval villages and a multicultural atmosphere as you cruise the waterways of the Alsace – amazingly taking in three countries – France, Luxembourg and Germany. August and September prices start from £93pp based on five people sharing a Corsair boat.

A sunshine cruise on the Canal du Midi
Choose a cruise on France’s most famous canal following in Rick Stein’s wake. All along the canal you will see pretty restaurants offering delightful regional wines and speciality dishes to entice you to moor up for a relaxing lunch. Save 15% on August and September holidays. Prices start from £108pp based on six people sharing a 3-cabin boat.

A wine lovers break in Burgundy
A cruise on Burgundy’s beautiful waterways takes you through the wealthiest and most gastronomic region of France – a haven for those who appreciate fine wines and excellent cuisine. Save 20% on August and September holidays. Prices start from £130pp based on eight people sharing a 4-cabin boat.

Boating for beginners in the Camargue
For those looking to try a boating holiday for the first time the lock-free Camargue in the sunny south of France is ideal. Mix ancient ports, fishing villages and historic towns with fabulous beach resorts and wonderful wildlife. Save 15% on August and September holidays. Prices start from £103pp based on six people sharing a 3-cabin boat.

No previous boating experience is required as the boats are easy to operate and helpful base staff ensure you are comfortable at the helm before setting off on your holiday. With boats available to sleep from two to twelve people and holidays of one-week or longer are available as well as short-breaks, Le Boat has flexible options to suit every party size and budget.

Comprising the renowned brands Crown Blue Line, Connoisseur and Emerald Star, the Le Boat group has been providing self-drive river and canal holidays for over 40 years. For more information call 0844 463 3577 or visit www.leboat.co.uk

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Poubelle, ma belle

Just back from a fleeting trip to La Rochelle and île de Ré and neither disappointed in themselves, though my memory of them is now somewhat tarnished. I managed to raise a glass to dear old Raymond Rohou and soaked up the history and atmosphere of these Atlantic Coast gems. Particularly impressive was the harbour town of Saint-Martin on île de Ré – it's very pretty.

That my female companion decided I was good for the old poubelle upon our return suggests that either the sea air or the voluminous portions of seafood and wine she found ample room for sent her quite mad.

To cheer me up, I'd love to hear about places in France that you have especially fond memories of.

Meanwhile, the new issue of French Magazine is on sale in a good newsagent near you or by subscription here.

Highlights include guides to Albi, Amiens and the Wellington Quarry in Arras plus a look at Eco-Tourism in France. There's also the chance to win a fabulously indulgent break at Raymond Blanc's Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.