31 days to love all things French {day thirty-one}

{day thirty-one} 31 days to love all things French


This is it, the final day of my series on how to Frenchify Your Life.

31 days of actually finishing something

I cannot believe I managed to post every day for 31 days. When I first started, I thought I would get really stressed half-way through and give up. I was convinced I would not have enough content to write for such a sustained period. But I did it! I may have neglected my studies to do this (like, a lot) but it feels like such an accomplishment. This is particularly the case because Failing To Complete is one of the things I struggle with the most in my everyday life. I have a tendency to be full of fire and motivation when I begin something but the novelty soon wears off and I often don’t finish what I have started. It happens to me all the time. And yet, here I am on day 31, with 31 posts. I am giving myself license to go ‘yay me!’.

31 days of learning about blogging

I learnt a couple of things about blogging, namely that creating graphics takes FOREVER but should definitely not be neglected, and that if I trusted my gut and stopped nit-picking at my posts, it wouldn’t take me so long to write them.

31 days of… decent posts?

In my introductory post on 1st October, I stated that one of my fears when I started on this venture was that it would turn into an exercise in churning out posts of poor quality and/or low interest and value, just for the sake of writing. I tried to avoid this by planning topics and posts in advance rather than writing every evening for the next day, and considering the amount of research some of the posts required, I dare say it is a good thing I did! I feel I reached my goal of producing good content (I think! I hope?).

31 days of recommendations, just for fun

I forgot to say it in the actual posts, but I was not approached by anyone to review products, nor did I receive monetary rewards by companies or authors for any of the recommendations I made throughout this series. I did it purely because I personally like or use the products and sites mentioned. This said, most of the Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that if you were to go through the links to purchase the stated item, I would receive a small token of money which would go towards supporting the site.

31 days of French things

I hope you enjoyed the various topics I explored around the elusive subject of what it means to be French, and that the recommendations inspired you. We talked about food, education, history, beauty products and French novelists to name but a few, and I had a lot of fun writing some of the more random posts (hello, Napoleon!). Which one was your favourite? As you saw from my post on fashion, the fact that I know nothing about a particular subject will not stop me writing, if anything I will send you out onto the internet towards someone with more expertise. Do you have a burning question about France or French people you wish I had addressed? As ever, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email or the comments section if you want me to write about anything in particular to do with France and the French (or food).

I am now going to take a break for a couple of weeks to catch up on my studies for an assignment deadline on 10th November. I have no big plans beyond that, no big blog announcement of any sort but I aim to continue to write once a week as life allows.

If you missed any of this month’s posts again, I have curated the entire series on one page, which you can find under my main blog headings at the top of every page, or by clicking the graphic below. Thanks for staying with me this month, and happy reading!

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Classic French Recipe: Tarte aux pommes {day thirty}


{day thirty} Classic French Recipe- Tarte aux Pommes

One should never under-estimate the power of a good picture. To conclude my 31 days series, I was all set to make my favourite dessert, a delicious puff pastry filled with frangipane (almond cream) and black cherries. Then I posted a picture of a French Apple Tart I made at the weekend on my personal Facebook page and got so many comments and likes I decided there and then that I would share the recipe here today. There is something very satisfying about this picture, don’t you agree?

French apple tart

The recipe comes from Michel Roux Sr‘s Pastry book, that I mentioned on Day 5.


  • 300 g shortcrust pastry or sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 6 dessert apples (about 850 g) like Cox’s
  • 1 vanilla pod, split lengthways
  • 60g butter
  • 80g caster sugar

cut apple tart


1. The pastry: Roll out the pastry to a round, 3 mm thick, and use to line a lightly buttered 24 cm diameter (3 m deep) loose-bottomed tart tin or flan ring. Pinch up the edges with your index finger and thumb at 1 cm intervals to make a fluted edge a little higher than the rim. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes.

2. Make the apple compote: Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas 6. Peel, core and halve the apples. Place cut-side down on a board and cut into 2 mm thick slices. Put a third of the apples (the outer smaller slices) into a saucepan. Keep the other two-thirds packed together (to stop them discolouring). Add 50 mls water, the vanilla pod and butter to the apples in the pan and cook gently until tender. Take off the heat, discard the vanilla pod and work the apples, using a whisk, to a compote consistency (it should be creamy). Leave to cool.

3. Make the glaze: in a small pan, dissolve the sugar in 40 ml water. Bring to the boil and bubble for 4-5 minutes to make a syrup. Leave to cool.

4. Put it together: Take the pastry base out of the fridge and prick the base lightly with a fork. Pour in the cold apple compote and spread gently with a spoon. Arrange a border of overlapping apple slices around the tart, then arrange another circle inside, with the slices facing the other way. Fill the centre with a little rosette of small slices, trimming to fit as necessary. Bake for about 35 minutes until the pastry and apples are evenly cooked to a light golden colour.

5. Leave the tart to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing the flan ring or tart tin. Brush the top with the glaze, place the tart on a wire rack and leave until just cooled. Transfer to a place and serve cut into slices (with vanilla ice cream).

French apple tart


  • I didn’t have a vanilla pod, so I used a teaspoon of pure vanilla paste, which worked very well.
  • I had problems with the glaze, maybe not enough water, but whatever the reason it hardened as it cooled rather than staying syrupy. I had no choice but to reheat it to brush over the tart and of course, it turned rather gloopy. The tart tasted great, but was not as glossy as it could have been.

slice of apple tart


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Books about France and the French {day twenty-nine}

{day twenty-nine} Books about France and the French

Today, I am just going to recommend a handful of books about France that are more humorous than hard history, but that I enjoyed reading and found accurate enough.

20151023_about the French bookshelf

The Secret Life of France by Lucy Wadham: I love this book; it is dry, astute and well-observed, and covers many interesting topics ranging from attitudes to illness to politics. It should be noted that it is more of a look into Paris and les Parisiens than an all-encompassing view of France. Most French people do not actually live in Paris, and often have quite a different lifestyle to those in the capital, in particular the bourgeois view on casual adultery, which is not actually the norm despite what the media will tell you.

A Year In The Merde by Stephen Clarke is not strictly a book about the French as it is a work of fiction, the first in a series, that tells the story of British expat Paul West’s misadventures in France, trying to set up his business and navigating relationships. It is a good laugh and is very accurate in its observations. It is a good series, although I would say the first two are the strongest. Stephen Clarke also wrote a Talk to the Snail: Ten Commandments for Understanding the French, which is as funny as it is informative, and the suggested phrases to use in conversation are helpful in the way that school lessons never seem to be.

Peter Mayle rose to fame with his autobiographical book A Year in Provence. I have read Bon Appetit!, which is a fun gastronomy trip via the very serious business of French food fairs.

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Napoleon Bonaparte: friend or foe? {day twenty-eight}

{day twenty-eight} Napoleon Bonaparte- friend or foe-400px

When you’re an expat, people always want to ask you questions about things that you have literally never thought about before. That is, unless they just say things like ‘your accent is so cute!’, which may be well-intentioned and meant as a compliment but actually sounds SO patronising. Today’s just a fun post about this one thing that people will ask you when they find out that you are French.

How do French people feel about Napoleon – was he reviled or revered or both? What about Louis XIV?

I tell you what, I have, on the whole, no feelings whatsoever about either Napoleon or Louis XIV. Now, ask me how I feel about the current French president (or the previous one), and I may have a couple of things to say. I am, of course, polite enough to consider the question I have been asked (see, I have learnt something from living in England all this time!) and answer something.

French people don’t have deep emotions in relation to Napoleon I. Everyone knows his Russian campaign was a disaster of his own doing and yes, he lost the war against the British but honestly, no one cares. It is quite remote history, and unlike the Brits who love to remind me how Napoleon lost at Waterloo (yes, really, it’s a thing), honestly, I don’t care; I had no idea that Britain lost against him at Austerlitz either (that’s despite the fact that Napoleon commissioned the Arc de Triomphe following this victory). It’s not remotely relevant to anything and we NEVER think about it.

On the other hand, Napoleon left a positive legacy that lives on today, so it’s difficult to feel hard done by him. Despite his overblown imperial dreams, of which no-one disputes the catastrophic impact, he was an inspired innovator who did a great amount of good for France and Europe. He reformed the education system, which at the time was under the monopoly of the clergy, and pretty much founded modern education by creating a standardized system across the country that was both secular and public and not just open to the aristocracy and the super rich. We also owe him Le Code Civil, which is basically modern French law and was so revolutionary at the time that it was adopted by many other European countries.

Louis XIV, le Roi Soleil – the ‘Sun King’ – admired for his lavish lifestyle, and of course to whom we owe Versailles, is another kettle of fish altogether. He was a despot who despised the poor and ruined the country. He also persecuted the French Huguenots (protestant Christians) by revoking the Edict of Nantes that ensured religious tolerance, leading to massacres and daily persecution to such a degree that they emigrated en masse (up to 400,000 or even 500,000) to England, Northern and Eastern Europe and the US, taking with them their trade expertise. The loss of talent had a significant economic impact on the country. The interesting thing about French history lessons on Louis XIV is that most of the focus is on his personal life and achievements, notably the building work, his grandiosity and his court, his ‘L’Etat, c’est Moi’ (I am the State) but not so much on the impact on his subjects and the country of the drastic hemorrhage of money and talent caused by his hatred of non-Catholics. Sure, the massacres are mentioned but they are largely overshadowed by his ‘great’ successes, which are taught with rose-tinted glasses, or with the kind of objectivity that seems to simply brush over the salient points.

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A Short List of French Films You Should Watch {day twenty-seven}

{day twenty-seven} A Shortlist of French Films

There are lots of intelligent and fun French films out there for you to enjoy, and all these below are in the original French with subtitles.

A couple of French series

The Returned (the original French series called ‘Les Revenants’, not the US remake), in which dead people come back to life in a sleepy alpine village and creep everyone out.

Spiral (Engrenages) is a police series; each season is set around one murder/mystery. I don’t watch it because I find it too depressing but my husband loves it. It’s very French, everybody is a bit shady, which is to say it’s more probable than a lot of other current procedurals.

Classic French Films

My Father’s Glory (La Gloire de mon Père) and its sequel My Mother’s Castle (Le Château de ma mère) are based on Marcel Pagnol’s autobiographical novels, which I have not read, but the films are fabulous and classics in their own right.

Santa Claus Is a Stinker (Le Père Noël est Une Ordure) is a typically French Christmas farce.

The Big Blue (Le Grand Bleu) is all about obsession and the ocean. It was a massive hit in France when it came out.

Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain): it goes without saying that Amelie was a big deal, it’s whimsical and a feel-good movie with lots of wonderful touches (the travelling garden gnome is my favourite).

Life Is A Long Quiet River (La vie est un long fleuve tranquille) is about babies switched at birth and an interesting commentary on social classes.

Cyrano De Bergerac; a classic story of unrequited love and France’s best-known actor Gérard Depardieu.

Jean De Florette / Manon Des Sources are two classic Gérard Depardieu movies set in the French countryside.

French Films popular in France in recent times

Joyeux Noël is a brilliant and affecting WWI story retelling the well-known Christmas front-line 1914 truce between the French, German and Brits.

The Chorus (les Choristes) is about a French boarding school choir in 1949.

Brotherhood Of The Wolf (le Pacte des Loups) is a mystery set in the Gévaudan, where a strange beast is killing people. It’s atmospheric and fun.

La Haine is about life on a French estate. Violent, disturbing and eye-opening.

A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) is a WWII drama featuring Audrey Tautou (of Amelie fame).


Le Dîner De Cons (whatever you do, do not get the US remake Dinner for Schmucks, which is a horrible movie). It’s about idle, rich Parisian bourgeois making fun of the less bright and getting a lesson in humanity in the process.

Les Visiteurs (Les Visiteurs) is a silly comedy about two medieval guys who drink a drugged potion and find themselves transported to the 20th century. It has probably aged terribly in the 20 years since it was first aired but it was fun.

Welcome to the Sticks (Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis) is about a postman who gets relocated by his work to the north of France, which might as well be the middle of the Sahara as far as he’s concerned. It’s about culture shock within France and a rare thing, French people laughing at themselves.

Don’t Look Now – We’re Being Shot At (La Grande Vadrouille) Louis de Funès and Bourvil were both popular comedic actors; this is one of their most famous films. It tells the story of a couple of French men who try to get an English solider whose plane was shot down over Paris during WWII across to the neutral zone. Also the translation of the title is completely ridiculous.

Films about the French

French Kiss: Kevin Kline is obviously not even French but he could have fooled me when I first watched this movie.

Before Sunrise Trilogy: this is the best. Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke are perfect and are typical French and American, the way they express themselves and their relationship captures the difference between two cultures beautifully. The trilogy shows the evolution of their relationship in ‘real time’ (a bit like Richard Linklater’s most recent film Boyhood was filmed over years).

2 Days In Paris: Julie Delpy wrote, directed and starred in this brilliant film that again captures those cultural differences and relationships.

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