The World’s First Paddle Steamers

Denis Papin

Although Denis Papin (from Chitenay in the Centre region) developed and built a prototype steam-powered paddle boat in 1704, it wasn’t until June 1776 that the world’s first paddle steamer proper – the Palmipède*, created by Claude-François-Dorothée, marquis de Jouffroy d’Abbans – was actually launched, and sailed upon the river Doubs. Papin’s engine was based on his 1679 steam digester, the forerunner of the modern autoclave and pressure cooker. ~~~ *Palmipède is a term used to refer to birds with webbed […]

Read More »

France’s Giant Marionettes

  Back in 1979, actor, Jean-Luc Courcoult had an idea which would eventually turn some of the world’s major cities into a stage for his astonishing creations. These days, his company, Royal de Luxe, is internationally-renowned for its giant marionettes and street performances which have, quite literally, become a huge hit with audiences far and wide.   More than three decades ago, Courcoult’s trio decided that instead of their audience coming to watch their performances in Aix-en-Provence, they’d take the […]

Read More »

Blanquette de Limoux

Blanquette de Limoux

For more than a hundred years before Dom Pérignon’s apocryphal serendipitous Champagne incident, Languedoc-Roussillon had been producing its own sparkling wine, Blanquette de Limoux. Although the vineyards just south of Carcassonne date back to around the 5th century BC, it was not until 1531 that the region began to produce its sparkling white wine from Mauzac grapes (which are known locally as Blanquette, hence the name). Or rather, 1531 is the earliest recorded mention of the sparkling wine – it’s […]

Read More »

Post-Revolution Government of France

liberte-egalite-fraternite

Since 1792, there have been ten changes in the way France has governed itself: First republic: September 1792-May 1804 First French empire: Napoléon I: May 1804-April 1814 Napoléon I: June 1815-July 1815 Constitutional monarchy: Louis XVIII: April 1814-March 1815 Constitutional monarchy: Louis XVIII: July 1815-September 1824 Charles X: September 1824-August 1830 Louis-Philippe I: August 1830-February 1848 Second republic: February 1848- December 1852 Second French empire: Napoléon III: December 1852-September 1870 Third republic: September 1870-June 1940 Provisional Government of the French […]

Read More »

The French Declaration of Rights

declaration of man and citizen

The first universal declaration of human rights on the planet is the 1789 French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; however, these rights do not solely apply to French men and women, rather, they extend to all people across the world.

Read More »

The Marseillaise

marseillaise

Most people know that la Marseillaise is the national anthem of France but did you know that it was actually written in Strasbourg, not Marseille? In 1792, after France declared war on Austria, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote one of the most instantly-recognizable of European anthems. It was not however, intended to be the country’s national anthem – in fact, its lyric and original title, Chant de guerre pour l’Armée du Rhin (Battle Hymn of the Army of the Rhine) leave […]

Read More »

Is It Possible To Buy Reasonably-Priced Champagne?

champagne label

Absolutely. There’s no law that says you have to pay hundreds of dollars for good Champagne, and no guarantee that cheaper bottles will be rubbish. The fact is that an increasing number of growers are producing their own excellent bubbly, so why not give them a try? We’ve all heard of micro-breweries, and those among us who’ve sampled their wares generally attest to the superiority of their beverages over their more famous mass-produced counterparts, so why should Champagne be any […]

Read More »

As Popular As The Beatles?

Claude François

Sometimes referred to as the French Elvis Presley (as well as Cloclo), and described as being as popular as The Beatles, Claude François, despite meeting an untimely end in 1978 – aged just 39 – is still as popular today as he was when he was alive. The composer and writer of the original versions of My Way (Comme d’habitude) and My Boy (Parce que je t’aime mon enfant), François’ songs, such as Alexandrie Alexandra, Le lundi au soleil, Magnolias […]

Read More »

La Philharmonie de Paris

La Philharmonie de Paris

Last month saw the opening of a magnificent new concert hall in the City of Light. The architect, Jean Nouvel, says that la Philharmonie is designed to completely immerse its audiences, giving them a, “uniquely intimate listening experience“. The state-of-the-art music venue can seat 3,650 audiophiles, and was originally conceived in 2006. So far, the project has cost €386 million (almost $438m) to build – that’s triple the original estimate! Unlike the majority of concert halls, where the farthest the audience […]

Read More »

River Deep, Mountain High

gorges du verdon

Where Provence and the Alps meet is the Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon). At 15.5 miles long and almost 3,000 feet deep, it’s Europe’s largest canyon. At around 6,700 feet above sea level, the village of Saint-Véran, in the Hautes-Alpes department is the highest municipality in Europe. At its highest point, the village reaches 10,417 feet above sea level. Briançon, also in Hautes-Alpes, is 4,350 feet high, and is Europe’s loftiest town.   And speaking of sea levels, Brittany and […]

Read More »