History in this part of France Part 10

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At the edge of my village, I have frequently driven past a small stone monument. On it is a plaque dedicated to some French Resistance workers who were shot dead by the Germans during World War II in August 1943.

It is situated by the side of marshy fields, in a windswept and lonesome place… A few of those who were alive at the time are still here in the village, and remember it well.

For this blog in full and more please see http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk/blog/history-in-this-part-of-france-part-10/

History in this par tof France, Part 11

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The little fortified town of nearby Brouage has a claim to fame from several angles.  One of its famous historical figures is Samuel de Champlain (1574 – 1635), the founder of Quebec and “Father of New France”. He was a navigator, a cartographer (he drew out the first accurate map of Canada), a politician, a mathematician and an explorer.

For this blog in full and more please see http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk/blog/history-in-this-part-of-france-part-11/

Extract from my novel, ‘A Call from France

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Extract from “A Call from France” by Catherine Broughton

 

The local Rotary club held their annual écclade there, which was how we met Sergio and Saskia. The campsite was still very much in its nursery stages, but it was nonetheless a good choice of venue for all the local people were interested – including us – in finding out what was happening and, in turn, it created publicity for the campsite, not to mention general bonhomie for the village.

An écclade is a traditional cooking of muscles in the Charente Maritime. The entire coastline is renowned for its seafood – as indeed is any coastline, I guess – muscles and oysters being the staple diet of the local people. An entire culture has evolved around muscles and oysters, accompanied by a whole world of “knowledge” about the type of oyster or muscle, and an entire vocabulary to go with it. For this particular speciality, the muscles are arranged, tier by tier, in a circle on a fireproof – usually a large cast iron platter – dish or even just on the sand. They are carefully balanced, facing inwards (this is important) so that they eventually make a kind of rounded pyramid. All guests must stand in a circle and admire. Pine needles are then placed over them, about two inches thick, and everybody must again admire. Words like “ooh la-la” are uttered. At a given signal (a mystery to this day) the pine needles are set alight. They are allowed to burn (along with furtherooh la-la) for about three minutes and then are brushed away, hopefully onto sand or similar where they will die out. All guests then help themselves to the pine-scented cooked muscles.

This is altogether more complicated than it seems. The muscles are not only too hot to touch but also black with pine ashes, and the ones that were not facing inwards – or which fell to one side during the various ooh la-la-ings – are also filled with black pine ash. After we’d attended two or three of these functions we discovered that vast quantities of kitchen roll are essential for wiping blackened fingers, and vast quantities of chilled white wine for washing down the ash. Even so, we didn’t bother with them again

History in this part of France Part 7- Marie de Mancini

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History in this part of France. Marie de Mancini.

The ancient fortified town of Brouage is a few minutes’ drive from here, and well worth a visit.  It is a famous and interesting town in its own right, loaded with fascinating epochs of history and fine old architecture.  One of its many famous (or infamous!) residents was Marie de Mancini, one-time lover of the French king Louis XIV, nicknamed The Sun King.

Marie de Mancini was Italian, born in Rome in 1639 and died in Pisa 1715.  She was brought to France as a young girl, and was introduced to the French Court by her influential uncle, a French-Italian cardinal close to the King Louis.

Marie and Louis fell in love and, to all intents and purposes, Marie was the first of many of Louis’ passionate love affairs. It seems Marie was also the only one Louis ever truly loved – though this may be the result of French romanticism.  Certainly, the King, barely a year older than Marie, was just at that tender age when love seems to be forever.

We do know that they hoped to marry because these plans were fiercely opposed by the King’s mother, who was the Queen of Austria, and Cardinal Mazarin, as well as the French Court in general.

Louis was instructed to ban Marie from Court, and for a while she lived in La Rochelle, and then moved to Brouage, which was the last place the unhappy lovers ever met.  Convinced that Louis would one day return for her, Marie waited several years in Brouage before finally marrying an Italian prince.  She had three children by him but abandoned both him and the children (ostensibly because he was violent) and return to Italy, where she died.

Marie de Mancini is the subject of Racine’s tragedy “Berenice”, whence came the famous words:

“Vous etes Empereur, Seigneur, mais vous pleurez”.  (You are emperor, sire, yet you cry).

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle, or can be ordered from most major book shops and libraries.  More of her work, to include entertaining blogs and short stories from around the world, on http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk

The Cuckoo

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Ah, the first signs of The End of the Winter – today we heard the cuckoo !

A few cuckoo facts:

– there are many types of cuckoo

– most are beige/brown or blue-grey in colour

– they spend most of the year in Africa and from there travel all over Europe, Asia and Australasia

– the female lays 12-22 eggs, all in different nests, usually nests belonging to the pipit or the reed bunting

– although the cuckoo’s eggs look the same as hers, the mother reed bunting or pipit will chuck out about 20% of the cuckoo’s eggs

– the female cuckoo chooses a nest belonging to the same species of bird that she hatched in

– they get their name from their distinctive call (ie their name is onomatopoeic), though in fact not all cuckoos make the well-known distinctive sound, and also it is anyway only the males

– in the UK the tradition used to be that you phone The Times to tell them when you hear the first cuckoo!

– cuckoo spit has nothing to do with cuckoos – it is from insects

– cuckoo’s favourite food is hairy caterpillars

– there is no record of a cuckoo ever being seen in Iceland or being heard in Africa

Click here for hummingbirds

 

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available on Amazon or Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores or libraries.  Her titles, and more about her and her work, are on http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk

The Cuckoo

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Ah, the first signs of The End of the Winter – today we heard the cuckoo !

A few cuckoo facts:

– there are many types of cuckoo

– most are beige/brown or blue-grey in colour

– they spend most of the year in Africa and from there travel all over Europe, Asia and Australasia

– the female lays 12-22 eggs, all in different nests, usually nests belonging to the pipit or the reed bunting

– although the cuckoo’s eggs look the same as hers, the mother reed bunting or pipit will chuck out about 20% of the cuckoo’s eggs

– the female cuckoo chooses a nest belonging to the same species of bird that she hatched in

– they get their name from their distinctive call (ie their name is onomatopoeic), though in fact not all cuckoos make the well-known distinctive sound, and also it is anyway only the males

– in the UK the tradition used to be that you phone The Times to tell them when you hear the first cuckoo!

– cuckoo spit has nothing to do with cuckoos – it is from insects

– cuckoo’s favourite food is hairy caterpillars

– there is no record of a cuckoo ever being seen in Iceland or being heard in Africa

Click here for hummingbirds

 

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available on Amazon or Kindle, or can be ordered from most leading book stores or libraries.  Her titles, and more about her and her work, are on http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk

History in France Part 6- Rochefort

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Rochefort-sur-Mer was a military town for many hundreds of years and, when we first arrived in France, over 20 years ago, it was a dull grey-and-black-and-brown town, run-down and grotty and smelling of cats and septic tanks. The straight military-style streets arranged like parade grounds criss-crossed between the tall dark buildings and I remember staring aghast at the once-beautiful stonework and commenting that it all needed to be spruced-up.

In the 1990s, however, Rochefort was brought back to life.  The buildings, a bit at a time, were cleaned to reveal exquisite stone work and fine, aligned architecture.  The central place, a scruffy non-entity, was re-paved and planted.  The ineffectual-looking shops and cafes and restaurants pulled thier socks up and the stunning post office building, hitherto a huge grey hulk, was cleaned and repaired …. and Rochefort entered the real world.

Today Rochefort, while absolutely a working town, is an attractive place to visit, with good shops (both in the centre, surrounding the place, or in the zones comerciales on the outskirts), nice restaurants and cafes where you can sit outside and enjoy the sun, and several interesting places to visit.

 Run-down looking house, at one time typical of the town, but boasting (if you look closely) some fine stonework.  This particular house once belonged to Pierre Loti (1850-1923), a French eccentric better known in Istanbul than here.  Although unimposing from the outside, his house is extraordinary on the inside and well worth a visit.

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Transporter bridge built in 1898 over the river Charente.  YOu can still go for a little ride across. Quite fun.  A new bridge, similar to the ones over to the islands of Oleron and Re, was built, opening-up the area to tourism and getting rid of the never-ending traffic jams leading up to a 1950s bridge, now demolished.

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Transporter bridge built in 1898 over the river Charente.  YOu can still go for a little ride across. Quite fun.  A new bridge, similar to the ones over to the islands of Oleron and Re, was built, opening-up the area to tourism and getting rid of the never-ending traffic jams leading up to a 1950s bridge, now demolished.

There is a huge history to Rochefort, of particular interest if you enjoy anything to do with the military, shipping, and associated subjects.

Catherine Broughton is a novelist, a poet and an artist. Her books are available on Amazon and Kindle, or can be ordered from most big book stores.  ”The Man with Green Fingers”, a novel set in Cyprus is her best seller.  More about Catherine, to include her entertaining blogs from around the world, on http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk

For this blog in full please see http://www.turquoisemoon.co.uk/blog/history-in-this-part-of-france-part-6-rochefort/