May is a wonderful month of the year with days getting longer and the warmer weather slowly showing signs of new life in the gardens and countryside around us. I think it is fair to say that most of us feel better when new life is evolving and the promise of longer, warmer days are ahead. France is truly beautiful in May and it is one of the best months to have a well earned holiday if you are lucky enough to get away. With the weather being not too hot and not too cold, it is ideal for a change of scenery and a complete pick-me-up after the long winter months.
Airfares are not yet too expensive and the crowds have not yet arrived so this is another benefit of visiting France in May. If you haven’t yet decided where to go for a holiday you will find a good choice of French hospitality on French Connections and some last minute holidays too.
There are many events taking place in France this month including public holidays. May 1st will be Labour Day or Fête du Travail. This is International Workers’ Day in many countries around the world and there will be many parades to be seen in France for this event.
Then on May 8th it is World War Two Day or WW11 Victory Day known as Fête de la Victoire and like Labour Day, these are fixed dates, even if they fall on a Sunday. The Tricolore, the blue/red/white national flag of France will be flown from every home and public building. Many places will be closed and there will be parades and events taking place.
Religious holidays also occur at this time of year including Ascension Day - Ascension, Whit Sunday or Pentecost – Pentecôte and Whit Monday Pentecôte.
These holidays are part of the traditions in France as in many countries but if you are travelling at this time you will need to know that many places will be closed such as banks and post offices and many roads will be closed for the parades. Having said that it is a splendid time to see and take part in some of the wonderful French culture and cuisine.
May is the time of year for the Cannes Film Festival and this year will be the 65th Festival and will take place from 16th -27th May 2012. It is one of the world’s great film festivals and if you want to have a glimpse of the most famous stars you may want to visit the area at this time.
It will be difficult to find accommodation in Cannes itself at this time if you have not booked well in advance but you can always stay in one of the other towns such as Nice which is only a short distance away. The old port of Antibes is very close too or you could go into the surrounding hills to such beautiful villages such as St. Paul de Vence. This is a good way of avoiding the crowds of the Côte d’Azur but you will have access to all that it offers and only a stone’s throw away.
You will not be able to get in to see the main films at the Festival but there is another way to enjoy yourself – the Cannes Tourist Office will give you the schedule and tickets for the Cinéma de la Plage. This is an outdoor film screen and you could take a picnic and watch films on the beach at Plage Mace. What a lovely way to relax! Or if you prefer you can just simply sit in one of the wonderful little bistros with a café au lait and watching the glamorous world go by.
For tennis enthusiasts there is the French Open Tennis Tournament which takes place in Paris from may 27 – June 10 at the Roland Garros Stadium.
If you can’t get in to see it there is also a huge public live screening of the game outside City Hall in Paris, and you will find that almost every French bar will have the game on the TV!
This is a fabulous way to bond with the French and enjoy the spirit of this wonderful nation. I have fond memories of doing just this watching a rugby game with my husband in a small village pub in the Loire. We enjoyed French beer and good French food with the locals and had a wonderful time.
This time of year we need a change from the hearty meals of the winter months and what could be more inviting than fresh salads and fresh crusty bread.
French salads are seen as an important part of the diet in France. The most common salad is the ‘salade verte’ or the plain green salad which is made most days with either the mid-day or the evening meal.
Lettuce is of course used frequently but they use other greens such as watercress or chicory - known as endive. Lambs lettuce and curly endive or chicories are also popular and young dandelion leaves are used for their vitamin content and bitter sweet taste. So next time you are tempted to spray weed-killer on your dandelions think again – you may wish to keep some of them for your salads!
Mesclun salad is a speciality of Nice in the south of France and at one time it was only found in Nice. However, today it is found in most places and accompanies an assortment of dishes in good restaurants.
Most people have heard of a Salad Nicoise (Salad Nice) but the Mesclun salade is just a fresh green salad made with the Provencal herbs and plants.
It consists of a mixture of young shoots, harvested especially for their delicate flavour such as rocket, watercress, dandelion leaves and oak leaf lettuce. The inhabitants of Nice used to pick their own fresh herbs and plants for this salad and indeed some still do to this day. You too can pick your own especially dandelion leaves when they are young but do make sure that no weed killers have been sprayed on the area!
If you choose this salad in a restaurant these days it is one of the most expensive of salads. It is often included as part of the Hors d oeuvres.
Any combination of fresh young salad leaves such as:
- 1 handful of watercress
- 1 handful of rocket
- 1 handful of parsley
- 1 handful of dandelion leaves
- 1 handful sorrel
- 1 handful oak leaf lettuce
- 1 garlic clove
- Vinaigrette dressing
Wash your fresh salad leaves in cold water and dry them.
Rub the garlic clove around the bowl.
Arrange in a salad bowl.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon wine vinegar
- 2 good pinches of salt
- Black pepper
Put the salt into a bowl together with a little black pepper.
Stir in the vinegar and continue until the salt has dissolved. (This is because salt will not dissolve in oil).
Now add the oil, a little at a time, beating continuously until the dressing is cloudy.
This freshly made French dressing will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. Toss the salad leaves in the vinaigrette dressing just before serving.
It is delicious served with a few slivers of parmesan cheese or pine nuts, walnuts, black olives and if you are lucky enough to purchase some truffles these would be a fabulous addition.
For more ideas for delicous French salads please visit French Recipies to Love