Provence’s Nativity Cribs

Provence's Nativity Cribs

We’re all used to seeing Nativities decorating our homes, shops, schools, and churches but in Provence, they go one better. Not only do people’s homes have a Nativity but very often, a miniature village to accompany the birth of the baby Jesus as well. These Nativities (crèches), are full of little clay people (santons), which represent not only the Nativity figures but also, in some cases, the entire village too. Common santons are the baker, policeman, butcher… and of course, […]

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Yule Logs – French Style

yule log

You wouldn’t expect the French to use just any old wood for their yule logs, would you? Of course not, and you’d be right not to; in France, traditionally, cherrywood logs are used. Not only that but they are sprinkled with red wine so that the house smells even nicer as the log burns on Christmas Eve. The yule log and candles burn all night to light the way for the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, and a little food […]

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Lei Tretze Dessèrts

les treize desserts

  Lei Tretze Dessèrts is Occitan for the Thirteen Desserts (les treize desserts in French), the final course of le gros souper (the great supper), or le Réveillon, eaten after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. The great supper is a highly symbolic affair: three white tablecloths are used to symbolise the Holy Trinity. Similarly, there are three lighted candles on the table, and three saucers of sprouted wheatgerm, which would have been planted on St Barbe’s day (December 4th). Tradition […]

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Get Your Skates On In Paris This Winter

ice skating in paris 2014

For most of us, I’m sure, ice-skating holds a kind of mystical, childish delight; after all, what can be more magical than rivers, lakes, and ponds becoming so frozen that one can strap a couple of slivers of metal to our feet, and glide as gracefully over the resultant winter ice as the swans do upon the water in the summer? Those of us who grew up on a staple diet of European folk tales, of the Brothers Grimm, of […]

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Père Fouettard and Hans Trapp – Santa’s Little Helpers

St Nicolas et Père Fouettard

Tomorrow, December 6th, is St. Nicolas’ day, which means that tonight, children will be putting out their shoes in the hope that when they wake up in the morning, they will find their footwear filled with candies. Good children, that is.  Naughty children, on the other hand, may find themselves whipped by le Père Fouettard (or Hans Trapp in Alsace & Lorraine) – St Nicolas’ faithful companion as he goes on his rounds on December 6th. While St Nicolas rewards […]

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Christmas Markets In France

Riquewihr Christmas by Philippe Haumesser

Otherwise known as marché de noël, Christmas markets in France are a great excuse for a short winter break. Bringing a magical, fairytale atmosphere to most towns across the country, the Christmas markets also provide an opportunity to buy somewhat more unusual gifts for your loved ones, particularly for food and drinks lovers. Here are three of our favorites: Avignon – until December 31st At Place de l’Horloge in the medieval city of Avignon, Christmas shoppers can not only purchase […]

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Lyon’s Festival of Lights

lyon's festival of lights

Beginning on Friday, Lyon plays host to over 70 light installations, creating a magical seasonal atmosphere along six routes throughout the city. The first Fête des Lumières was held in the city in 1852, when a statue of the Virgin Mary was erected at the top of the Fourvière hill (formerly the site of Trajan’s forum). However, since 1643, the people of Lyon have been placing candles in their windows, and holding candlelit processions through the city and up to […]

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Lingua Franca


Lingua Franca; the language of nobility, and of diplomacy across Europe and the Ottoman Empire, French was the world’s first truly international language until it was replaced in the 20th century by English

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Paris’ Literary Subway Map

literary metro map

Le Métro is such an iconic subway that novelists around the world have featured it in their literary works. Librarian and bibliophile, Bernard Strainchamps, has created this amazing interactive map of stations featured in some of the best classic literature. Hovering over the map below will bring up excerpts from the novels, while clicking on the stations – or the excerpts themselves – will take you to an online repository where you can freely (and legally) download the books to […]

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Experience A Hammam In Paris

paris mosquée hammam

Hammams are something one might more readily associate with Marrakech than Paris but the City of Light can more than hold its own – not least because since Morocco was once a French territory, we have learned a thing or two about these glorious havens of calm. Here are three of the best hammams you’ll find in the capital, all of which include a hot steam room, tepid and cool pools, sloughing area, and relaxation zones, complete with lashings of […]

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