camembert

Which came first, the camembert or the brie?

In the lush, green hills of the Normandy countryside, in the north of France, lies the tiny village of Camembert. Home to around 200 people and a cheese museum, legend tells us that it was here, in 1791, a priest by the name of Abbot Charles-Jean Bonvoust sought refuge whilst on his way to England, to escape the persecution of the new revolutionary government in Paris. Luckily for the priest, he was found by a local fromagère, cheesemaker Marie Harel,…

Images of a Christmas in France

Christmas in France is a wonderful time of the year. Everyone is in a festive spirit when they visit their local marché de Noël, drinking mulled wine or a hot chocolate to warm your hands in the cold, or the snow if you’re lucky. You might be in Paris and peer into the dazzling window displays of Printemps. There’s the traditions of Christmas Eve, the Reveillon, where families attend midnight mass together and take their exquisite seafood dinner late into the night. And don’t forget to listen for the bells of père Noël. Here are some of my favourite images of a French Christmas.

when was marie antoinette queen

The life of Queen Marie Antoinette, Part 1

When Marie-Antoinette arrived in France she was initially adored for her youth, her beauty, her vitality, her generous nature. The old king Louis XV was especially enamoured with his grandson’s new bride. But the palace of Versailles, steeped in courtly rituals and traditions, was not for the faint-hearted. Would she be strong enough to survive life at the palace?

women march on versailles

The women march on Versailles

Take yourself back to the markets of Les Halles, Paris, exactly 231 years ago, and join the women who will march on Versailles. These women were wives and mothers and tired of endlessly waiting in line for bread for their families. They took whatever weapon they could get their hands on, found a spare cannon or two, and marched all the way from Paris to Versailles. Why? To bring Louis XVI, the King, to Paris so that he could fix…

The prettiest street in Paris

Do you think you’ve seen all that Paris has to offer? I’m sure there are many of you who have not yet visited the prettiest street in all of Paris. Paris is full of majestic monuments, stately iron towers, soaring columns and elegant facades. But often its the small things which catch your eye – green ivy dangling over a wrought iron balustrade, an angel carved onto a lintel, a bike resting against a rustic blue door. When you walk…

Bastille day in France

Bastille Day in France

The 14th of July is Bastille Day in France, and it is the best holiday of the year. For me it means a long weekend camping with the kids, fireworks at 11pm when the sun finally goes down, and walks along the coast. But it’s not called Bastille Day if you’re in France. It is the 14 Juillet or just la fête nationale, National Day. So what happened on this day to make it so important in France and to…

A short but buttery history of the croissant

Surely there is nothing more French than a warm, buttery, flaky croissant fresh from the boulangerie, perhaps while savouring a café au lait with a view of the Eiffel Tower. Should you ever find yourself in mid-19th century Paris and craving such luxuries (without the view of the Eiffel Tower, of course), there is only one place to go – Zang’s Viennese Bakery. Wait, I hear you say. Why would a French croissant be made in a Viennese bakery? And…

walking tour paris

A seventeenth century walking tour of Paris

Welcome to Paris everyone. It’s a lovely, sunny day here in the 17th century, just ignore the ever present rumblings of war. I do hope you’re all wearing comfortable shoes, we’ve a lot to see today! Any first time visitors to Paris? All of you? Great to hear, you are going to have a wonderful day. Here are your maps, feel free to draw pictures of the sights as we go along. porte de Saint-Denis So we begin our tour…

An invitation to the world’s first film

Fancy a night out at the movies?  To be the first to ever see a screening of a moving film, you’ll have to be at the Grand Café, Boulevard de Capucines, Paris, 28 December, 1895.  Bring one franc for entry. In 1895 Auguste and Louis Lumière created the Cinématographe, a machine to record moving pictures and project them onto a screen.  They had grown up in the world of imaging; their father Antoine Lumière was a portrait painter and award…

Eiffel Tower

Surprising facts in the history of the Eiffel Tower

“There it is! I see it! I saw it first!” Whenever we drive into Paris, necks are craned, eyes are poised, waiting for that first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower.  Someone always has to be the first to set eyes on it, and there’s tears if you happen to be the second. It is truly a wonderful sight, the Eiffel Tower, standing tall above all of Paris.  It’s easy to become a little blasé about it, “been there, climbed that”,…