Going Round in Circles on the 14th July

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Today I am going round in circles! One train of thought has led to another and then another, but stick with me because it does make sense – sort of! Today is the 14th July; today is La Fête National, the French National holiday, more commonly known as Le quatorze Juillet,  the fourteenth of July.

It is a day that commemorates the storming of the Bastille on 14 July, 1789. The French recognize Bastille Day as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the modern republic that France has become. Celebrations are held throughout France, and the oldest and largest regular military parade in Europe is held on the morning of 14 July, on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

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As it’s a holiday throughout France, it instantly becomes one of my favourite days of the summer! In the larger towns there are huge festivals and parties and even most small villages hold celebrations and let off some fireworks. In our’s we have plenty going on. At 10pm this evening we will all meet outside the Mairie; it will be twilight, that wonderful evening light when we can still see where we are walking but when the encroaching dimness gives everything a magical quality. We will all be given lanterns, so that as it gets darker we will have the light of the candles inside the pretty paper shades to guide us on our march. (The photo below is from last year and I’m so sad Millie won’t be with us tonight, I’ll explain more in a minute!)

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Then we will walk through the old streets,  and leading the way will be the Mayor of the village followed by as many as 200 people. Slowly we will snake our torchlit way down the narrow road where the hollyhocks grow. I’ve walked this route so many times and just for a few short seconds I hope you can now walk it with me.

By now it will be quite dark. We will pass the church which has been standing since the 1100’s, six hundred years before the revolution, it’s almost impossible to imagine.

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We will walk down cobbled lanes and between old stone walls,

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and past doors with stone frames which are probably as old as the church itself

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We will end our half hour tour by the local chateau. Everyone will crowd around, and soon the fireworks will start illuminating the ancient building and lighting up the sky; this part is not good news for Hetty who hates loud noises and it’s even worse news for Bentley at home as he cannot stand fireworks. But the display doesn’t last more than fifteen or twenty minutes, for this is a very small village and our budget is also small. Then it’s time to dance, at the Salle des fêtes where there is a party for all ages, old and young; 9 year-olds dance with 90 year-olds, teenagers mix willingly and happily with their parents, their siblings and their relations. Grandparents more used to a gentile tea dance at 5pm now happily join in under the temporary strobe lighting. The party goes on into the small hours of the morning, miraculously the children will all still be awake!img_6712-1

Most people celebrate with friends and family as it’s a national holiday after all. We have invited friends to dinner before we all head off to collect our lanterns and our neighbour said,  “We’ll bring champagne.”

Ah, champagne; typically thought of the world over as a drink saved for celebrations and reserved for special occasions, I love the fact that in France it is also drunk far more casually where any ‘get together’ becomes a celebration of nothing in particular and is instead an instance of pure friendship, where bubbles seal the relationship. It’s affordable here too; the big names still charge big prices, but the smaller champagne houses, the unknown vineyards, sell theirs for as little as ten euros a bottle and it’s very drinkable.

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I miss not having family close by, I miss not having my parents watch the children growing up, the importance of a hug and sharing so much. Talking of family, we passed these storks yesterday, quite obviously Mother, Father and two nearly full grown chicks, I would imagine it gets quite crowded in their nest at night!

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Which brings me on to godparents, who are normally chosen because they are very good friends; they can play a huge role in our children’s lives and right now our’s are playing a fairly large part. Which in turn brings me back to Millie; she has been off sailing for two and a half weeks with her godmother, a trip that has taken her from the UK, across the English Channel and all the way down the west coast of France; and she’s still not home yet! Hopefully we will see her at the weekend, when they come into the marina in Rochefort and then they will come home with Millie to stay for a couple of days; it’s going to be a big celebration! Although we have spoken most days, I have followed her trip and her life on the waves via photos.

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Our neighbour’s daughter has just flown off to the UK as well; she is staying for two weeks with Gigi’s godmother, a trip I arranged for her so she could improve her English and learn more about the British lifestyle. Yet again a godmother playing an important role.

You see, in between tennis and children and guests and work and school holidays, there’s not a lot of time. Today was always going to be a busy day. So I decided that we had to cut and arrange some flowers from the garden and cook as much as we could the day before.

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Gigi and Hetty and even Jack leapt at the chance to do some baking, they’ve become quite accomplished and of course as with all good jobs there are a certain perks!

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However, just to prove that things aren’t always as perfect as they seem; you know that saying, too many cooks spoil the broth? Well here it was definitely a case of too many cooks spoil the eggs, as all three children argued as to who was going to crack them and I got in the way trying to take photos of them cooking, the bowl got knocked over and three eggs hit the floor.

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The only positive thing being I was actually in the middle of taking photos anyway so I snapped away, the children not quite sure whether to panic or just burst out laughing!

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The cake they baked didn’t make it past afternoon goûter; that’s the problem with having a large family and also some of the kid’s friends who just happened to be here at teatime. Cakes take an hour to make and then ten minutes later there is only the merest hint that they ever existed apart from a few crumbs and some satisfied smiles. So in between writing this and hitting “publish” I am back to cooking. The French are terribly good at serving aperitifs and canapés. It’s the one thing I have noticed time and time again, I know we have to make a bit of an effort tonight!  Roddy has made a tart with some of our yellow courgettes from the garden on a bed of spinach and cheese sauce;  we have a real glut of the yellow ones as we always do at this time of year.

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I made a batch of chocolate meringues this morning, and this evening I shall whip up some cream and add a bowl of fresh local strawberries; simple but delicious. If I can keep the kitchen pixies away from them!IMG_7907

We’re also going to have a selection of salads and freshly dug new potatoes simply boiled with plenty of mint all from the garden. Along with some barbecued chicken and some grilled langoustines. The list goes on, simple food where the pleasure comes from the taste and the pure enjoyment of sharing it with friends. I could go on and on but then we’d never eat this evening because nothing would be ready, there is only so much I can ask the children and Roddy to do!

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As you can see my mind is all over the place today, but I hope you’ve enjoyed going round in circles with me!

89 thoughts on “Going Round in Circles on the 14th July

  • What a beautiful busy life you lead and thank you for sharing it with us, I felt as if I was right there along side you.

  • I”m jealz! Thanks so much for taking us along on your Bastille Day celebration. As many years that I’ve been traveling to France, I’ve never been on BD. Bonaparte hates crowds. My anti-social Frenchman. Oh well–someday!

  • Happy 14th July – do you say that in France? I guess it’s a bit like our 4th July. Lots of red, white and blue too.

    • Of course! doesn’t everything start in the kitchen! actually the smells are divine, the doors are wide open, the children are swimming, my husband, the best chef in the family is cooking, I’m excited, its infectious! Susan x

  • Hi Susan. Our village had fireworks last night and it is very quiet today. My, you are certainly packing a lot in with garden, cooking and everything else! Great pictures and a lovely uplifting posr. Thanks Amanda 🙂

    • Thanks Amanda, I think a lot of villages had fireworks last night. Here, the salle des fêtes is already testing their sound system, music is blaring all the way across the village, it’s a very festive atmosphere and quite infectious, I love it! Did you go to your village fireworks? Did the village do anything else? Always intrigued to know how other places celebrate. susan x

  • I like your emphasis on how much women can do to help our daughters spread their wings. Millie’s trip sounds exciting. Hope she will write about it.
    As for the fete and the food – looks fabulous! Can you please curate my life for me? 🙂

    • Hi Ellen, ha ha I’ll try!!! I think we can do so much to help our children, I couldn’t agree more. I also think it was terribly brave of Millie to go off on an adventure like this at 16, it started with her flying to the UK, the first time she has flown on her own without all of us. It has been an incredible adventure, tomorrow we are joining them on the boat for lunch on the Ile de Ré and then Saturday she comes home. Yes she will write all about it I hope! Susan x

  • Parfaites préparations pour une excellente fête nationale du 14 Juillet, Susan! You’ve become very French! It all sounds delicious and you are going to have a lovely party tonight. Enjoy the ‘bal du village’ and the ‘feu d’artifice’!
    Excellente soirée,
    Françoise

    • Merci beaucoup Francoise, j’adore la vie Francaise! Already the music is firing up in the salle des fêtes, blasting all across the village, it’s quite festive and I love it, but first a great meal with great friends, la vie parfaite! Susan x

  • Oh that tart and the meringues look so yummy. Love the photo of the children giggling over the broken eggs. Have lots of fun tonight. It sounds really wonderful, and thanks for taking the time to share your photos and video. 🙂 xx

    • Thanks so much Anita, the excitement is quite infectious, it really is the most fun evening and a simple meal with friends on a warm summer evening outdoors is the perfect way to start it. Cant wait! Susan x

  • A lovely read. You have captured the sense of occasion and family life so beautifully I look forward to your instalments.

    • Thank you Ellena, It’s a crazy life but a good one and that’s why I love sharing it, without the children and a great husband it wouldn’t all be possible! Have a wonderful end to the week and thank you for taking the time to comment, fantastic to have you following along. Susan x

  • Oh I know you have no intention of making us jealous but my goodness, does it all sound so fabulous! I loved the children’s expressions looking at the eggs on the floor….in our house, it used to be, “Whiskey!” whenever something landed on the floor and our dear old Labrador was thrilled to clean up. I would love to be at the party tonight….I know it will be wonderful ❤

    • Hi Jeanne, of course our dogs just helped to clear up the mess, we tried not to let them have too much! But dogs are very very useful in the kitchen, they are having a fine time today with all the cooking going on, crumbs here and there, no wonder Bentley is on a permanent diet and never gets any thinner! You know that saying, the grass is greener…. because your life looks equally fantastically charming, perhaps we should swap for a couple of weeks! Susan x

  • How lovely! Sounds like quite a delicious feast. I think I need to borrow your children. My problem is that with only two of us, I always end up throwing away half of everything I make as it goes stale. Actually just threw out a batch of olive sablés that I made a few days ago for the blog as they are stale already:(
    Have a very Happy Bastille Day!

    • Thanks Nadia, very simple food and certainly not up to your fabulous standards I am quite sure. It’s a great shame we don’t live closer, even an hour away would be good! My children are wonderful hoovers!!! the olive Sables sound delicious, did you put the recipe on the blog? I have to make them, but as I know the children won’t eat them, not olive fans, I shall make them for Saturday night, when we have the sailing party here! Hope you are having a great day too. Susan x

        • Thanks Nadia, any chance you would have the time to send me the recipe beforehand, I would so love to make them for Saturday, they literally sound delicious and very French which is what I want and something I can make in advance, as I have to go and collect them all off the boat, so need to cook earlier in the day!

  • A yummy post, indeed. One of my granddaughter’s favorite sayings (when she was just 3) is that something looked “scrumptious” — a word that certainly applies to your food photos. And lucky MIllie – hope her sail was everthing she could hope for. As for the rest of you, have a wonderful evening.

    • Hi Mary, I love the word scrumptious, but it always makes me think of the Sound of Music! Millie has had the time of her life, I am so happy for her. She will be in the Ile de Ré, about half an hour away tomorrow and we are going to go and have lunch on the boat with them all, then she comes home on Saturday, such an experience, such an adventure, the first half was wet, windy, rough and hard sailing, the second half has been, sunny, perfect light winds for sailing, stunning island hopping and a perfect holiday! Susan x

  • Just the best post ever!
    A day filled to the brim with happiness and busyness! I can totally relate.
    Treasures!
    Di

    • Thanks so much Di, so happy to have you commenting and so glad you can relate. You are so right, we are all happily busy, all working around together, chatting and sharing getting everything ready, it might be work, but it doesn’t get much better than this and I love having the children so thoroughly involved. The more they can do the happier they are! Susan x

  • Our village also had a big dinner, followed by fireworks last night. Carcassonne is so nearby, with the second-biggest fireworks display after Paris, so no little village wants to compete with that. Indeed, camping cars started claiming places already on the 12th. we are all ready to step out and watch the show at the medieval fortress in a few hours. My fingers are crossed that some photos will turn out.
    BTW, it’s so cute that your daughter is wearing her medal!

    • A lot of places seemed to have fireworks last night, there was a huge display in Rochefort, our nearest big town which is ten minutes away last night. Millie should have a great night watching tonight, she is in the capital of the Ile de Ré on the boat, it should be fun! She won her medal the day before and then wore it to her lesson yesterday to show her coach, I think she slept with it on too!!! x

    • Hi Lily, yes almost everyone goes and I can confirm this year was as spectacular as ever. The procession with lanterns was great fun and the fireworks were fantastic, better than ever! Susan x

  • We have also enjoyed celebrating the 14th of July in the past in France, a night filled with much champagne and joy! Have a lovely evening!

    • Thanks Deborah, I can tell you it was a truly delightful evening, wonderful friends and fabulous fireworks and procession. I love our garden, it is overflowing with a little bit of everything and a lot of weeds, but they are weeds in the right place so they kind of look ok and are allowed to stay!!! Susan x

  • The only time we were in France for le 14 juillet was in Paris, a great parade with the French Air Force jets emitting blue, white, and red smoke trails over the Rue de Rivoli and Champs Élysées; it was a total mob scene! Your smaller town celebrations sound wonderful as an alternative.

    • Hi Judy, I can imagine it was totally crazy, one of those things that is perhaps better to watch on TV. The celebrations here were fantastic. The procession was lovely, a mass of lanterns lighting up the way and the fireworks agains the backdrop of the chateau were excellent, a really fantastic evening, I was proud to be in France. Susan x

    • Thank you Leslie. Too stunned to speak almost after the horrendous events of last night in Nice. We came home from a fabulous celebration to hear of this awful news. What is this world we are living in, where hatred is breeding everywhere. My heart goes out to everyone in Nice. Susan x

      • Stunned, horrified, then sad…and resolved to work harder to discover the causes of such violence and to help eliminate them.

        • Oh Leslie, I quite agree, what can we do though, sometimes I feel so helpless, I wish I could do more, how can someone hate so much? If you know of a way to help then please do let me know. X

  • A lovely post. I have always loved your celebration of Bastille Day. You brought it to life in your wonderful post. My heart goes out to you and your French countrymen on the horrible attack in Nice. This is just beyond reason. Out prayers and thoughts are with you all.

    • Hi Margianne, thank you. The events in Nice were beyond horrific, hatred seems to be breeding everywhere, what a sad mixed up world we live in. It is utterly beyond reason and I am quite at a loss for words. Thank you for your concern and prayers. Susan x

  • So sad to wake up this morning to the dreadful news from Nice and realise that our lives are changing in so many ways for ever; and that for others Bastille Day will never be the same again. Your blog might just be a precious memory for us all in years to come, Susan. Thankfully I know you and your family live faraway from the south coast, but at times like this it does not stop us thinking of others. I hope the world sorts itself out or our children will never experience the good that our planet has to offer.

    I shall go about my business today a little slower, sadder, and think a little more. All of humanity needs to sort this craziness out, or very soon we shall cease to exist and all that will be left of us as a species will be a small unmanned spacecraft called Pioneer 10 that left our solar system in 2003 and is currently hurtling towards Aldebaran, a star it would reach in 2 million years if it had zero relative velocity. We are such small bit-players in time, it seems stupid to waste it squabbling amongst ourselves.

    • Very true words Phil, If only the world could understand, instead of hatred breeding hatred. What a crazy world indeed, I don’t want our children to grow up in fear. The events of last night are beyond horrific, I am too shocked for words.
      Susan x

  • Lovely post as usual! The food looks delicious 🙂 It’s so unfortunate such a beautiful day ended so terribly. I hope you and your family are well.

  • Sharon – we share in your sadness about the events in Nice. We grieve for those who have been directly affected. Every day seems to bring news of some new tragedy, some new hateful act. Your posts are important. They offer a respite and share a lovely and graceful attitude toward life well and thoughtfully lived. I struggle to understand those who seem self-empowered and are determined to take that away. What happened in Nice last night is tragic and hard to comprehend. What happened in Nice last night could happen literally anywhere. Political issues, theosophical issues, transgressions on all sides that run deep are far too complex to address here. We, as a world society, are in a period of transition. My hope, my prayer, my fervent wish is that we will emerge a more civilized people. What I want to say is thank you for continuing to share your life with us. The more we know about each other the better the opportunity we have to understand each other. And the better the opportunity to realize our commonalities far outweigh our differences.

    • Susan – my apologies – I also follow Sharon Santoni, a blogger friend of yours, I believe, and confused your names. You both present insights into certain aspects of life in France, sharing with us the gentleness and beauty that can be found there. We all hope to find an oasis. Thank you for sharing yours.

      • Hi Steven, no apologies needed, Sharon is a good blogging friend, I love reading her blog too, she’s a lovely person. The biggest problem is explaining it all to the children, the craziness around us, because the younger ones ask “why?” And the truth is I don’t know why, I am unable to answer. Susan x

    • Hi Steven, it’s a dreadful world of transition at the moment and I only hope you are right, and we emerge a better world for it, although at the moment that seems almost impossible to imagine. Such senseless acts of hatred are almost incomprehensible. But I know we have to continue to believe in France, to believe in each other, for it’s not just in France, these acts of violence are the world over. I will continue to share our life and I will continue to promote this wonderful country, it’s all I can do. Susan x

      • I’ve always believed it was our responsibility to make and leave things better. I believe that is happening in many areas. Unfortunately we seem to be moving backwards in others. I guess it has always been this way. My wife and I became grandparents for the first time on Christmas Eve 2015. I am fearful of the type of world we are creating for her, and all children. The issues are so complex.

        • I couldn’t agree more, congratulations on your grand daughter. I too am worried about the world our children are growing up in and I pray that we may find world peace and a way forward x

  • So lovely spending the celebrations with you all. Truly wish I was sampling your delicious fare!
    And the flowers….the history….
    Thanks so very much.
    I feel so satisfied that you are doing all ofthe things that should be done in summer with ones children!

  • Yesterday evening, it was reported that the perpetrator of the Nice horror was a person with a history of mental illness who had recently lost his family and his job and that no evidence that his action was inspired by or linked to radical Islamic terrorism had (yet) been discovered. This may have been, that is, the action of a very sick person pushed over the edge by extreme despair and isolation.

  • i had celebrated BD in The Limousin many years ago. I do remember fireworks and bits and pieces of them landing at my feet. Enjoyed every minute of it.
    Sadness for the people affected by the tragic event in Nice. My husband and I have strolled that Promenade many times. We were in St. Remy last November when the attacks occurred in Paris. I will be back in Paris in September, anxious but not fearful.
    Thank you for your lovely blog postings.

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