It is almost time for the summer school holidays here in the UK and many of you will be preparing to go away on your summer vacations. If you haven't yet booked anywhere take a look at what there is to offer here on www.frenchconnections.co.uk as there is plenty going on in France at this time of year and you are sure to find something to suit you.
Of course in France it will be the start of their school holidays too, or the L'ete holidays as they are known. This is the two month long summer vacation, like our own, when all schools are closed from the beginning of July to the beginning of September.
July is also the time of year when France celebrates one of it's National Holidays, Bastille Day on July 14th. They celebrate the storming of the Bastille Fortress which took place on July 14th, 1789, signalling the French people's defiance against that virtual one man rule and gave birth to modern France.
On the morning of Bastille Day, festive activities are held on the Avenue des Champs Élysées in the capital city of Paris. The most prominent one, held right in front of the President of France, is the Grand Parade participated in by men and women from various units of the armed forces.
These include those from La Royale (the French Navy), the elite Legion Etrangere (the French Foreign Legion), and the Armee de l'Air (the French Air Force).
Even cadets from military schools and Firefighters from the Brigade des Sapeurs Pompiers de Paris (the Paris Fire Brigade) take part in the military parade. Above the parade route fly military aircraft (such as the Rafale and the Mirage F1). Thousands of people witness the parade as the President reviews the troops.
Elsewhere, there are musical presentations, programs, and such other performances that highlight the French culture. Of course, the celebration is not complete without the usual spectacle - the fireworks display.
For other people, the day is an occasion for simple family gatherings or enjoying the company of friends in excursions or outings. So if you are in France at this time you will be able to be part of these celebrations or at least witness some of the spectacles.
For cycling enthusiasts July 2nd is the start of the famous Tour de France which this year will be the 98th Tour. The first stage begins in the Passage du Gois connecting the continent to the Island of Noirmoutier, in the Vendée and ends on the Champs Elyseés in Paris on 24 July. Cyclists from all around the world take part and it is a very tough race to win.
Just so that you know who is winning as the race comes to it's end down the Champs Élysées at the final stage , the overall race leader wears a yellow jersey. This will be the rider with the best time overall.
Last month I was saying how much I love the South of France and in fact so do the French themselves as during the L'ete holidays this is where many go for their holidays too. So if you are thinking of heading to the south you need to be aware that it may be very busy!
The town of Antibes is one of our favourites and as it is just a short distance along from Nice. It is situated between Nice and Cannes and is an historic town with lots to do and see. It is quieter than Nice but the atmosphere is lovely with lots of small restaurants and shops selling wonderful Provencal gifts etc. I have bought some beautiful gingham table linen from here to give my kitchen a 'French look' and they were very reasonably priced and good quality.
There are many museums including e Picasso Museum where you can see some of his paintings. There is also the Naval and Archeology museum. Antibes is an eclectic mix of old and new and a walk down the narrow streets and ramparts is a must if you visit this lovely old town.
July will be busy in Antibes as it is preparing for the Juan-les-Pins Jazz Festival (Situated west of the town of Antibes) which this year runs from 14th - 21st of July. If you love Jazz this is one festival you don't want to miss.
It's sister city is New Orleans and Jazz players from both New Orleans and local bands have paraded together at this festival. You will see ceramic tiles laid into the pavement with handprints of more than 50 jazz musicians who have played at this festival. It is an atmosphere like nowhere else if you love Jazz.
Here in the UK it is 'Wimbledon Lawn Tennis' time of year. Wimbledon is home to the world famous Lawn Tennis Championships which are held end of June, beginning of July every year since 1877.
That means it's also strawberry time! Yes, Wimbledon is associated with strawberries and cream which has become a kind of signature snack.
So I just love to take some time out and curl up on the sofa to watch the tennis with a lovely bowl of fresh strawberries and cream - oh, so naughty but absolutely delicious.
Legend has it that King George V introduced strawberries and cream to the courtside crowds but according to Audrey Snell, a librarian at the Wimbledon
Lawn Tennis Museum the tradition most likely began around the time of the first Wimbledon tournament in 1877. As strawberries and tennis signalled the arrival of summer here in the Uk it is most likely that this is how it began.
Which ever way it began, it's a wonderful way to celebrate summer and it's a great tradition I'll never tire of.
Whether you are in France or at home at this time, you can still enjoy fresh strawberries with or without the cream. In France strawberries are in season much earlier as of course the summer arrives a little before ours. You will still find an abundance of them in the local markets and can enjoy them with fresh cream, ice-cream or crème fraiche.
So for this months recipe I have chosen another Provencal recipe which can be eaten cold as a starter or a light lunch. And for a really delicious treat, have included some fresh strawberries for a typical Provencal recipe.
Caponata (Aubergines with Olives)
Serves Four People
2 small aubergines
2 green peppers
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 ripe tomatoes
1 stalk of celery
2 cloves of garliv
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon white or red wine vinegar
Salt and black pepper to taste
Cut the aubergines into thick slices and place in a sieve.
Sprinkle them with salt and place a weight on top such as a bowl or plate and leave for half an hour.
Deseed them and cut into thick strips.
Rinse the aubergines under cold water and dry with kitchen paper.
Saute (lightly fry ) the aubergines and peppers in the olive oil for a few minutes.
Remove from pan and keep warm.
Add the tomatoes, celery, garlic and olives to the pan , cover and cook gently for about 15 minutes then season with salt and black pepper.
Add some wine vinegar and a little sugar to give a good flavour (you can taste as you add this for your liking) Return the aubergines and peppers to the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add parsley to garnish.
Serve your Caponata cold as a starter with fresh crusty French bread or toast.
It can be left in the refrigerator for a few days so can be made ahead of time!
Provencal Strawberry Salad with Rosé Wine
1 kg (2.2lbs) of fresh strawberries
1/4 pint(125mls) of Provence Rosé
Prepare about an hour before you serve it.
Wash and hull (remove stalks) your strawberries.
Place in a serving bowl.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Drizzle with the Rosé Wine.
As the strawberries are soaking up the wine, give them a turn now and again.
Add fresh cream or crème fraiche or simply leave as they are.
A simple summer recipe that is just Fabulous!