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French Connections

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French Connections will be at The France Show in London 26-28 January 2018 and we have 100 tickets to give away!

We’re one of the leading websites for property rentals in France and we’ll be at the show to share the fabulous gites, B&Bs, chateaux and villas we have on our books for you to rent. And, if you have a property you want to rent outcome and see us, we can help you get bookings for next year.

We also have properties for sale and if you’re dreaming of a new life in France, pop by, we may just be able to help you make that dream come true.

The France Show brings you the best of France - food, wine, property, holiday ideas, travel offers and entertainment - all under one roof. A great French market, cookery demonstrations, tutored wine tastings, language and travel theatre and even a chance to play pétanque! The France Show also hosts the largest French Property Exhibition in the UK, so come along, meet the experts and find your dream home. Our very own Janine Marsh who writes our weekly blog will also be there, she’ll be chatting about France and her bestselling book The Good Life France: in pursuit of the rural dream on the Flavours of France stage each day.

WIN TICKETS TO THE FRANCE SHOW

Just click on the link below to get your free tickets – it’s first come, first served so don’t delay, click away!

The France Show 26-28 January; 10am-5pm Friday and Saturday | 10am-4pm Sunday

Enjoy a great French day out in the heart of London – see you there!

Click here to enter the draw and enter the promotional code XEB56 for tickets to the France show

www.thefranceshow.com/tickets

Alternatively, please copy and paste the URL code below into your internet web browser.

thefranceshow18.eventbrite.co.uk?discount=XEB56

You probably won’t be surprised to know that in the country where gastronomy has been given UNESCO status, so important a part of the national heritage is it, that at times of celebration, food is firmly at the forefront of every festive occasion - especially Christmas. The markets take on a special glow as gourmet food galore is piled onto stalls, stopping you in your tracks at the sight and the scent.

The French celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December with a long, long, long dinner. It’s called a réveillon. The word comes from the French word reveiller (to wake) because it usually goes on way past midnight, so you have to stay awake until the early hours of the next morning!

The meal usually starts with an amuse bouche (literally something that entertains the mouth). Little canapés are served often with Champagne.

Then comes the starter (or even starters) – oysters, shellfish, foie gras or perhaps ‘boudin blanc’, a white sausage made with pork and truffles and served warm, gently browned in a pan of melted butter.

Amazingly this comes before the guests tuck into the main meal, perhaps turkey or capon (a castrated cockerel) or game.

Cheese is served before dessert in France, it’s not an alternative, it’s a course in its own right. A tempting platter is presented, usually a mix of goat and cow cheese, perhaps gooey Camembert, piquant Tomme and herby chevre.

Dessert is often a sweet Christmas log made of chocolate, ice-cream or fruits called a buche de noel. Though if you live in the south of France 13 desserts are a tradition. Yes, really 13 desserts! The desserts represent the last supper of Christ and the 12 apostles and they are laid out symbolically on a table of three tablecloths, with three candles which represent the Trinity. Traditionally the food is set on the table for three days, they are all served at the same time and guests must taste each one.

Wine is chosen to go with each course, and a little Calvados or Cognac rounds off the evening beautifully with a few chocolates if you’ve got room. Then it’s time to relax, sleep off the meal until noon when a hearty lunch of leftovers awaits.

Why not take a break in France over Christmas at one of our fabulous holiday homes and prepare your own French feast in the land of gastronomy - bon appétit! 

 

Every February in Nice, the arrival of spring is heralded with an incredible carnival. It’s a riot of colour, music and dancing - guaranteed to chase the winter blues away…

Kings and parades at the Nice Carnival France

Nice Carnival is one of the oldest in the world, records as far back as 1294 mention that the Count of Provence enjoyed “joyous days of carnival”. In those days it wasn’t an organised event, more like an unruly street party. However, in 1830, the King and Queen of Sardinia visited Nice and the city council organised the first carnival parade in their honour. As the royal couple sat on their balcony, fine Niçois ladies and gentlemen, dressed in their most elegant costumes, went past in their highly decorated carriages.

That parade was a tremendous success not just with the royals but with the locals in Nice and it was decided to make an annual event of it. In succeeding years, when the king wasn’t present, some of the locals created their own King out of straw and placed the figure on the royal balcony and the carriages when past before it. In 1882, they decided the make-believe King should participate in the procession and so began the Nice Carnival as we know it, always presided over by a gigantic, kingly character.

 Each year brings a different king who sets the theme for the entire event. In 2018 the theme is “King of Space”.

Two weeks of fun and mayhem

For more than two weeks there are parades every day and night. There are marching bands, musical groups, fabulous dancers costumed characters and performers from around the world. Floats galore make their way along the carnival route in the centre of town. It’s a joyous event, full of fun, laughter, loud music and confetti – a truly feel good outing.  

In Nice’s Place Massena, it’s beating heart, seating areas are erected for visitors to enjoy great views and watch the amazing floats and street entertainers, some on sky-high stilts. Drums beat, the music is uplifting, there’s lots of noise and lots of laughs, even if you don’t know your neighbours in the seats at the start – you will by the end.

There are also the famous Flower Battles to enjoy during Carnival time. A procession of bloom-covered floats rolls along the Promenade des Anglais, showcasing the huge variety of flowers grown in this region. Each float is manned by beautifully costumed ladies showering the admiring crowd with colourful blossoms – it’s a fabulous sight.

Any thought of winter weather and grey skies is chased away by the usually warm sunshine and deep blue skies.

Nice Carnival 2018 will take place from 17 February to 3 March.

Why not book one of our fabulous holiday rentals in the south of France and banish those winter blues and enjoy a winter break in the sun and a whole of fun at the carnival.

We recommend you book your Nice Carnival tickets in advance, this is one of the most exciting and popular events of the south of France and we don’t want you to be disappointed by not being able to enjoy it.

Tickets via the Nice Tourist Office

French Connections love to make your holiday dreams come true with their tempting range of holiday homes throughout France…

Sarlat (also known as Sarlat-la-Canéda) is in the Perigord Noir area of the Dordogne in the region of Aquitaine. It’s one of those special places which once seen is never forgotten.

This beautiful little town almost looks as if time has stood still. It is a medieval town which developed around a Benedictine abbey and the warren of winding little streets and squares are truly pickled in the past. The yellow stone buildings, many dripping with flowers in the summer months, cobblestone streets and ancient shop signs provide endless photo opportunities.

The reason for Sarlat’s fabulously preserved good looks is due to the fact that for almost two centuries from the 1700’s, a lack of road access meant that hardly anyone went there. So, cut off from the rest of the world, people simply went about their business and nothing much changed.

This is no fusty museum town though, it’s very much alive and thriving. In the summer months it’s become a real tourist magnet – but outside of the peak visiting times, Sarlat reverts to being a rather tranquil but spectacular time warp town.

5 Must sees in Sarlat

Don’t miss the Saturday morning market – it’s got a great atmosphere and fabulous products. In winter there’s a wonderful little truffle market.

Enjoy a wander: It’s a hilly town and once you get off the main drag you’ll find yourself climbing steep steps and meandering down medieval streets until you come to the top of a hill and discover unexpectedly spectacular views over the rooftops of Sarlat.

Take the lift: If being up high doesn’t bother you, take the glass lift you’ll find inside the church of Sainte-Marie in town for a hair-raising ride and a fabulous show-stopping outlook. You have to have the weather on your side to be able to take the lift, it closes in bad weather.

Take a selfie in the Place du Marche aux Oies: This little square is famous for its bronze geese sculptures, surrounded by beautiful houses, it’s a beautiful little oasis.

Wine and dine: There are loads of places to enjoy a glass of wine, a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and watch the world go by. And, as for the restaurants with fresh cooked local food – you’re truly spoiled for choice.

Get inspired to visit Dordogne with our fabulous list of holiday homes in the area – we love to make your holiday dreams come true…

CREDIT: Christophe Hamm, Strasbourg Tourist Office

Pretty much every town in France holds a Christmas market, some are tiny and last a few hours, some are huge and last for several weeks. We take a look at three of our favourite Christmas venues in France 2015, chosen for their fabulous market or in the case of Vaux-le-Vicomte - sheer loveliness.

Strasbourg – AKA the Capital of Christmas

The oldest and one of the largest Christmas markets in France, the Strasbourg Christmas market has been going since the Middle Ages and spreads throughout the city. With more than 300 stalls, this is the place to buy great arts and crafts – glass paintings, marquetry, music boxes, embroidered tablecloths and earthenware pottery. The food stalls will certainly tempt you with spiced bread, kugelhopf cake, berawecka cake, traditional bredle cakes, mulled wine and, of course, foie gras.

Every year, in Place Kléber, a Christmas tree, reputedly the largest in Europe, is decorated with colourful ornaments and shimmering lights. The city is adorned in its most beautiful finery and the houses are richly decorated. At nightfall, the magic comes alive. The windows light up and the streets and squares, all connected by a network of light, give off their different scents amid sparkling decors. The “Carré d’Or” is especially spectacular, such as the rue des Hallebardes, with its magnificent crystal chandeliers.  Throughout December, Strasbourg is the most illuminated city in Europe.

From 24 November to 31 December 2017; for details see the tourist office website: otstrasbourg.fr/en

Champagne Christmas

CREDIT: Carmen Mora, Reims Tourist Office

Champagne is perfect to toast your friends and loved ones at Christmas and Champagne the region is the perfect place to enjoy a traditional Christmas celebration.

The ‘World Nativity Scene Route’ is an astonishing collection of crib scenes of all shapes, sizes, materials, and origin, from hand-knitted scenes to historic hand-carved figures, all with their own unique charm. The cribs are on show throughout December in and around the churches of 46 towns and villages between the coronation city of Reims, Epernay capital of Champagne, Châlons-en-Champagne and the historic town of Fismes.

Many of the towns and villages taking part also have a programme of fabulous Christmas illuminations, festivities and events, such as Christmas markets, exhibitions, and concerts.

The full programme, including the dates and times of the animations, can be found online at www.champagne-ardenne-tourism.co.uk

The Christmas market at Reims is the biggest in the region and amongst the largest in France with 135 chalets offering a range of gourmet products, arts and crafts and creative gift suggestions. What makes this special is that it’s held in the tree-lined, beautifully illuminated and decorated pedestrian streets around Place d’Erlon and offers spectacular views over the city from a Ferris Wheel.

From 23 November to 27 December 2017; more details: www.reims-tourism.com

Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte, Ile de France

CREDIT: Daniel Minca, Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department of France and at Christmas this truly lovely castle becomes a festive wonderland.

Wander along a tree-lined avenue festooned with lights. Inside this beautiful chateau you’ll find fairy tale decorations and beautiful garlands adorning the lights, chimneys and tables – 8000 decorations to be precise! Crackling fires keep you warm and cosy and pyramids of sweets and chocolate bring out the gourmet in you.  In the centre of the Great Hall instead of the usual 8-metre-high tree, there’s even a Ferris Wheel inside the chateau - giving amazing roof top views!

At dusk, the famous gardens, designed by French gardener André le Nôtre, are illuminated and on some nights theatrical events takes place.

From 25 November 2017 to 7 January 2018; check opening times on the website: www.vaux-le-vicomte.com

Enjoy the festive spirit in France – we’ve got loads of fabulous gites, villas and B&Bs, perfect for two, families and friends… 

When it comes to skiing, British holidaymakers head to France more than anywhere else. A choice of fabulous ski destinations is a huge lure plus a massive variety of resorts to suit all tastes and budgets. One of the most economical ways to enjoy a ski holiday is with a self-catering chalet and at French Connections, we’ve got a fabulous array for you to choose from.

Here we take a look at three great resorts and where to stay for a superb ski holiday…

Les Arcs, Savoie

A great choice of slopes makes Les Arcs, part of the Paradiski area, a standout ski resort for all powderhounds. Here you’ll find a vast range of winter activities from skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, heli-skiing, huskie-riding, snow parks, toboggan run and much more. It has a reputation for friendly locals and a traditional feel to the villages in the area.

Where to stay: The 5-bedroom luxurious and gorgeous Chalet des Sangliers on the outskirts of Séez which is part of the town of Bourg Saint Maurice. It’s perfect for friends and family to enjoy a fabulous break. With a traditional wood-fired hot tub and sauna, a well-equipped kitchen for heating up that tartiflette you bought at the market and within walking distance of fabulous Bourg, this is one you’ll absolutely love. Oh and did we mention the stunning views?!

La Clusaz, Haute Savoie

Close to the lovely city of Annecy, La Clusaz is a traditional ski town with great restaurants and bars, quirky shops and stunning scenery. Le Grand Bornand, another stunning alpine town is close by and the smaller Manigod is within easy distance by free shuttle bus.

As a skier, you’ll find everything you could possibly want here – a wide range of pistes that cater to skiers and boarders of all levels. There are friendly towns and fabulous après ski and for those with a sense of adventure how about go-karting on ice!

Where to stay: The lift-linked village of St Jean de Sixt is just 5 minutes from La Clusaz and Le Grand Bornand. It has all the essentials you’d need and is close to the lovely market town of Thones with its fabulous Saturday morning market and excellent gourmet food shops. We love the 2-bedroom Chalet le Meleze which sits on a private estate and is cosy and traditional. The ski bus stops at the gate and it’s just a 5-minute walk to the village for supplies.

Morzine, Haute-Savoie

Renowned for its traditional and lively feel, Morzine, based in the northern edges of the French Alps and close to Lac Leman and Switzerland offers a wide range of shops, bars, and restaurants. Morzine is linked to Les Gets which forms part of the Portes du Soleil circuit, one of the largest ski areas in the world, with 123 resorts and about 650km of marked ski and snowboard runs catering to every possible level and ability.

Where to stay: The gorgeous 5-bedroom Chalet du Chene, a 5-minute drive from Morzine, with a free bus service throughout the day just 300m from the door. This lovely green oak house has a hot tub, games room and its own bar. Beautifully decorated, fabulous views and just a couple of minutes’ walk to the local shops including a boulangerie, fromagerie and everything you need for a truly spectacular ski holiday.

We’ve got a wonderful range of ski chalets for you to stay at – French Connections, making your ski holiday dreams come true…

 

There are special days and national celebrations in France almost every month. Some of them are fixed Public Holidays, some are changeable Public Holidays and some are not holidays at all but treated as special days with friends and loved ones, days when traditions are held, dear. There are eleven public holidays in France every year and several more days that are honoured and celebrated nationally.

Public Holidays in France in 2018

January 1: New Year’s Day

April 2: Easter Monday

May 1: Labor Day / May Day

May 8: WWII Victory Day

May 10: Ascension Day 

May 21: Whit Monday  

July 14: Bastille Day (which this year falls on a Saturday – a perfect excuse to enjoy a weekend in France and join in the fun!)

August 15: Assumption of Mary

November 1: All Saints' Day

November 11:  Armistice Day    

December 25: Christmas Day

Key dates in France in 2018

March 20: March equinox           

March 25: Daylight Saving Time starts    

March 30: Good Friday - Local holiday in Alsace and Moselle

April 1:  Sunday Easter Day          

May 20: Whit Sunday    

June 21: June Solstice   

September 23:  September equinox

October 28: Daylight Saving Time ends  

December 21: December Solstice

Celebratory Days

January 6: Epiphanie: Fête des Rois 

It is a tradition is to serve a special cake called “une galette des rois” which contains a porcelain figurine called a fève. The person who finds the hidden fève in their serving is named king or queen for the day and wears the paper crown sold with the galette.

February 2: La Chandeleur – Candlemas

A day when traditionally crèpes are eaten, a great excuse for a pancake feast!

April 1: Poisson d’Avri l – April Fool’s Day

Practical jokes mark this day for the name Poisson d’Avril is that April 1 marks the opening day of fishing season, which was considered a bit of a joke as very few fish were to be caught so early in the season.

May:  Nuits des Musées – European Night of Museums

All over France thousands of museums open their doors for one night in an exceptional free opening to the public on the Saturday closest to 18 May. Many of the venues put on music, theatre, games, films and cuisine to tempt the public to venture out in the dead of night and enjoy the collection in a way not normally available.

June 21: Fête de la Musique – Music Festival

A celebration of the longest day of the year (first day of summer). Musicians of all sorts, both professional and amateur, line the streets of Paris and cities, towns and villages all over France to entertain enthusiastic crowds until near dawn with the joyous Fête de la Musique.

Mid-September:  Journées Européennes du Patrimoine – European Heritage Days

Hundreds of historical buildings, famous monuments, Government sites and places of interest – some of which are normally closed to the public, open their doors and welcome in visitors

November:  Beaujolais Nouveau – Festival of new wine

The new harvest of Beaujolais wine is celebrated on the third Thursday of November, released at the stroke of midnight!

Enjoy a break in France and treat yourself to one of our fabulous rental properties – we’ve got thousands for you to choose from, making your holiday dreams come true…