Category Archives for "French Culture"

In France Mushroom Foraging Can Get You Killed In More Ways Than One


Besides mushroom poisoning, there are more dangers and challenges to mushroom hunting than you think. Learn what they are, which tools you can legally use and which wild mushrooms are the most sought after among French mushroom foragers.

The 3 dangers, trials and tribulations of mushroom hunting in France:

For generations, French people both young and old have been venturing out to their secret spot in the hills, armed with nothing more than hand-held wicker baskets, knives and maybe a flash-light to light the way.

They happily wake up in the wee hours of the morning when it’s still dark outside, to dig in the dirt, turn over old leaves and look between trees and bushes in search of their wild mushroom stash for the year. Foraging usually lasts a whole day and can go on for several days.

Most will find a few edible mushrooms while others will take home a few kilos.

Mushroom hunting also known as mushroom foraging is called “la chasse aux champignons” or “la cueillette de champignons” in French. It’s taken very seriously and is practically a national past time in France.

As picturesque and quaint as mushroom foraging sounds, there are certain dangers and things you need to know before you decide to go mushroom foraging in France.

1. You can get poisoned or die

The first and most obvious danger about mushroom hunting is that you can accidentally pick a poisonous mushroom and die.

Of the 3,000 plus varieties of mushrooms that can be found in France, only a few are edible. The rests are either poisonous and can kill you or make you extremely ill. Poisonous or not, this doesn’t stop the French from taking to the hills to gather mushrooms.

Every year there are over 1,000 cases of mushroom poisoning and 30 to 40 deaths in France.

The deadliest mushroom you need to recognize

The death cap mushroom is also a deadly and poisonous mushroom

If there is just one mushroom you should commit to memory and avoid like the plage it is the “Death Cap” mushroom which has an equally scary name in French. It’s called “le calice de la mort” which means chalice of death.

The death cap is quite possibly the deadliest of all poisonous mushrooms and accounts for 90% of all mushroom poisonings. One single death cap mushroom, can kill an adult.

Other poisonous mushrooms found in France that can kill you include the following:

****These mushrooms may be found on other continents also.

  • Amanita verna, commonly known as the Fool’s mushroom.
  • Amanita virosa, commonly known as the European destroying angel.
  • Cortinarius orellanus, commonly known in English as Fool’s webcap
  • Entoloma lividum, commonly known in English as the livid pinkgill, leaden entoloma, and lead poisoner.
  • Omphalotus olearius, commonly known as the jack-o’-lantern mushroom and to the untrained eye looks a lot like a chanterelle

andre leaning over a poisonous mushroom which gives you hallucinations

A cute little mushroom which will make you hallucinate (get high)

When we went mushroom foraging near a friend’s house in the woods above the city of Cannes, we found a cute little unassuming red mushroom covered with white spots that reminded me of gnomes and fairies.

I wanted to pick it but my friend said that it was a hallucinate. It’s called the fly agaric or fly amanita and some people purposely search for them and eat them just to experience its hallucination powers.

We didn’t pick one but opted to take pictures of ourselves standing over them just so we could prove we saw one up close.

What to do if you think you’ve been poisoned

Symptoms can appear up to 12 hours after you’ve consumed your mushrooms and can last for weeks. If you think you might be poisoned from a wild mushroom, you should seek medical help right away. Go straight to the emergency room, call the nearest antipoison centre or dial 15 (in France). If not treated you could actually DIE!!!!!!

Symptoms of poisoning: The first symptoms of mushroom poisoning are stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea which may last for up to two days followed by an easing of symptoms for 2 or 3 days until the terminal phase which lasts 3 to 5 days. During the last terminal phase, stomach pains, vomiting and diarrhea return – accompanied by jaundice. Coma and or death follows one or two weeks after eating the poisonous death cap mushroom. Death is caused by liver failure, often accompanied by kidney failure. (via source)

Get a book to help you identify edible mushrooms and avoid poisonous ones

It’s wise not to pick or eat a wild mushroom if you can’t identify it and there are countless mushroom foraging books to help you identify poisonous mushrooms from edible ones.

Here is a mushroom picking book which is particularly good: Mushrooming without Fear: The Beginner’s Guide to Collecting Safe and Delicious Mushrooms. It tells you all you need to get started in mushroom foraging and contains colour photographs of the mushrooms with an identification checklist. It goes further into the subject of foraging and talks about mushroom season, handling, storing, and cooking wild mushrooms.

Which edible wild mushrooms should you hunt for in France?

Depending on the region you are in, variety of mushroom will vary. Some favorite edible mushrooms among French mushroom foragers include:

Pied de mouton = which translates to Sheep foot because it kind of looks like a sheep’s foot.
Sanguins = which translates to blood or bloody because the mushroom has a slight reddish tint to it.
Girolles Cèpes = otherwise known in English as Porcini mushrooms
Morilles= called morel mushrooms in English
Chanterelles = same name in English
Oronges= commonly known in English as Caesar’s mushroom and named so because it was a favorite of early rulers of the Roman empire.
Coprin = Shaggy ink cap because it looks like it has ink dripping from its cap.
Pleurote = Oyster mushrooms
Truffle=  Infamously tasty and wildy expensive, finding truffles is like finding gold to a mushroom hunter and just as rare because finding truffles usually involves a trained pig or dog who can smell truffles which are hidden underground and only grow under certain conditions.

pig-truffler: wild mushroom picking

A truffler and his truffle sniffing cochon via Wikipedia

How to ensure the mushrooms you picked are not poisonous

For anyone who wants to make sure that they have not picked poisonous mushrooms, you can take your mushroom haul to one of the local pharmacies in France. All French pharmacists are supposed to be trained experts in identifying deadly and poisonous mushrooms.

2. You might get shot while mushroom foraging

Mushroom picking can be dangerous because it often coincides with hunting season on the same terrain

Not to scare you but another danger for mushroom pickers is that mushroom season can overlap with hunting season and both can share the same type of terrain (via source) .

Every year there are accidental shootings resulting in injury and death. Many are just taking a walk in the forest but at least one or two unlucky mushroom gathers get shot by hunters each year too.

3. You can get thrown in jail or receive a fine of up to 45,0000 Euros

you can get fined heavily or go to jail if you tresspass or pick more than 5KG

For those who still want to forage for wild edible mushrooms despite the risk of getting shot or poisoned, there is always the wrath of the gouvernement if you are not careful.

Where and how many wild mushrooms you are allowed to pick

Picking of wild mushrooms is tolerated in most public forest and national parcs however there are certain rules that you need to adhere to.

According to the French forest code R163-5 e, if you are caught picking more than 5 KG of mushrooms on public forest property, you could face up to 3 years in prison and up to 45,000 Euros in fines.   (source via forest privée Français)

The same is true if you are caught foraging mushrooms on someone else’s property without their permission.

Don’t assume it’s ok to pick mushroom on someone’s property just because there is no fence or signs saying foraging is not permitted. You should always ask the property owners for permission.

There have been reported cases of property owners going a little too far and assaulting trespassers.

Things you need to forage for wild edible mushrooms.

If you’re still up to mushroom foraging despite the dangers and the rules or you know someone who wants to get started mushroom foraging, here are some of the things you’ll need to consider bringing and using.

A wicker basket to gather the mushrooms


Mushrooms should be carried in a wicker basket “panier d’osier”, so that the spores can fall out and new mushrooms can grow for future foragers.

There is something enchanting and old world about picking wild mushrooms in the forest with a charming wicker basket in hand- (called a “panier d’osier” in French).

A mushroom knife

a mushroom knife is a must for mushroom foragingA sharp knife with a curved blade is a must for mushroom hunting especially since it’s frowned upon to use tools of any kind (except for a knife) are when foraging for mushrooms.

Opinel and Laguiole are two French companies which make knives specifically for mushroom hunting.

Opinel no 8 mushroom knife looks similar to a pocket knife because the blade folds into the handle and fits nicely in your pocket. What sets it apart from an ordinary pocket knife is that it has a thin, sharp curved blade with a serrated back which makes it easier to remove the mushroom cuticle (the outer most layer of the skin). It has a beech wood handle with a boar hair brush for easy removal of soil.

Laguiole’s multi-function mushroom knife has 2 blades- a long one and shorter curved one, a corkscrew, bottle and can opener and small brush to remove soil from harvested mushrooms.

Clothing and shoes to protect yourself

mushroom-hunting-woodsClothing is just as important as having a good knife because many of the places you will go to forage for mushrooms are areas where walking through dense ground cover will expose your skin to branches that can poke you, shrubs and thorns that can scratch and scrape you and wet ground that can soak and chill you to the bone.

I suggest wearing long pants such as jeans and a long sleeve shirt. I would also bring some gloves which you can use to push away grass and shrubs as you search for your mushrooms which can keep your hands dry and warm if it is cold or wet. And please don’t forget that you should wear boots or shoes that will keep your feet dry.

A walking stick or wooden staff

a walking staff or stick is useful when mushroom foraging

Mushrooms are often hidden under shrubs, dead leaves, in dense grass and other hidden places so it’s helpful to have a walking staff or stick to gently spread everything that covers the mushrooms without damaging them during your mushroom hunt.

Forget about wild mushroom foraging and just buy your mushrooms


If you’re not up to the challenge of getting poisoned, shot at, chased off someones property or put in jail, than just do what a lot of French people do. Buy your wild mushrooms at the nearest French market or grocery store.  You’ll pay a pretty penny (centime) but it’s worth it.

See also: Sauteed mushrooms with parsley and garlic over pasta

Watch this short video showing what it’s like to forage for mushrooms in France

It will give you an idea of what it’s like to forage for mushrooms in France. They never reveal in the video where they went to forage. It’s a secret and they are taunting the audience with their bountiful pickings. Damn them!!

French tattoos: french pigeon with Eiffel tower

25 Fabulous French Tattoos: ideas for men and women

Known as a country that produces superior wine, wonderful art and mouth-watering food; when it comes to French-themed tattoo inspiration, you‘ll never be short of ideas!

Tattoos that make you think of France

When you think of France what comes to mind?  The Eiffel tower?  A French baguette? Perhaps something less obvious like a sprig of lavender or a painting by Dégas?

Whatever images your mind conjures up when you think of France, they can easily be captured in a French inspired tattoo- and why not? France has been the most popular tourist destination in the world for over 25 years. So whether you’re a Francophile in search of immortalizing your love of France or simply like the look of an Eiffel tower tattoo, here are 25 tremendous French tattoos to inspire you.

1. Map of France Tattoo

Happy Bastille Day!

A post shared by nikki (@nicklesg) on

A cartographers dream tattoo if (s)he loved France. A tattoo of the map of France is not only a fun way to show your love for the country but also your wanderlust heart. It’s not overly obvious like a tattoo of the Eiffel tower- most non Europeans might not even recognize the famous hexagon shape which all Children in France learn at a very young age. But that’s OK because it’s a great conversation starter.

2. French Flag Tattoo

A photo posted by J Eden Storms (@j_ed3n_art79) on

As one of the most recognizable flags on earth, no one will have to guess which country this blue, white and red striped flag belongs to. The number of designs that can be dreamed up to make your ink look individual and distinct are endless.

3. Swallow tattoo

French inspired sparrow tattoo

Although swallow tattoos were originally made popular by British sailors of the past, thanks to famous French fashion designers like Coco Chanel who use the swallow in their designs and the fact that the swallow symbolizes travel, a tattoo of a swallow is perfect for anyone who loves France as well as travelling. Be careful when getting a swallow tattoo because it is often confused with the sparrow.

Coco Chanel French sparrow tattooCoco Chanel  swallow necklace Tattoo Photo source

4 .French perfume tattoo

French inspired Coco Chanel no 5 perfume tattoophoto source of chanel no 5 tattoo via Nyki Bell

Chanel No 5, Guerlain Shalimar, Lanvin, Yves Saint Laurent Parisienne- are just some of the classical French Perfumes that have long been synonymous with wealth, class and of course, elegance! A tattoo of your favorite French perfume or even a generic photo of a perfume bottle is a classy way to elevate your tattoo style.

A photo posted by Dany Linhares (@dany_linhares) on

5. French Lavender Sprig Tattoo

Provence France is known for many things but most recognizable might just be the colour, the texture and the scent of it’s world famous lavender fields.

6. Lily Of The Valley Flower Tattoo: “Muguet”

Lily of the Valley flowers, known as muguet in France, have a very special place in French culture. You’ll find it in everything from perfumes to teas. It has long been customary to offer a sprig or bouquet of Lily of the Valley to friends and loved ones on the 1st of May to celebrate the arrival of spring and the good weather that goes with it.

See also: Why you shouldn’t go to France in May: 6 French holidays explained

7. French Fleur De Lis Tattoo

Fleur de lis, simply means”flower of the lily” and is a lily composed of three petals bound together near their bases. This classical French emblem was first used by French monarchs on their shields. English kings later used the symbol on their coats of arms to emphasize their claims to the throne of France.

8. French coq tattoo aka Gallic Rooster tattoo

Classic French rooster tattoo coq gaulois- gallic rooster tattooCoq tattoo photo source via David Hale

“Le Coq Gaulois” or the “Gallic rooster” is one of the most widely recognized and identifiable symbols of France. It has been used intermittently since medieval times on French engravings and coins and has become the hallmark of French country design. French brands which incorporate the coq in their logo include sports brand giant “le coq sportif” and “Pathé” cinemas in France.

9. French Poodle tattoo

Despite it’s name, French poodles are technically not a French breed however the French were responsible for helping in the development of the breed an boosting their popularity which may be why most people associate them with France.

10. French Bull Dog tattoo

What could be more French than a cute or scary French bulldog tattoo- called a “Bouledogue Français” in French.

11. French painting tattoo

Edgar Dégas and other tattoos inspired from famous French painters

Edgar Dégas ballerina tattoo photo source via Angie Leaf

If you’re into art from Famous French painters like Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Marc Chagall and countless others, there are literally thousands upon thousands of tattoo ideas out there waiting to be discovered. Just crack open an art book for inspiration.

12. Tattoos of famous cartoons and comics in France

Tattoos of famous cartoons in FranceAsterix tattoo photo source from LTW tattoo studio

If you’re into comics and cartoons, you have quite a few to choose from. There’s Astérix et Obilix, Les Aventures de Tintin, Lucky Luke and Les Daltons to name a few. Although many of the classic French cartoons are from Belgium cartoonist, they are nevertheless extremely popular in France and recognizable by all French people. Bet you didn’t know that the Smurfs was also a Belgium creation by the Belgian cartoonist Peyou. They’re called “Les Schtroumpfs” in French.

French Landmarks

France is filled with famous buildings and beautiful structures – all good artists should be able to draw any of these magnificent monuments onto your body in any style and size of your choosing.

13. Paris city skyline tattoo

Paris city skyline tattooParis city skyline tattoo photo source via

Home is where your ink is. If your love for Paris goes beyond any one thing or you just can’t get enough of Paris then a Paris skyline tattoo is an unmistakable way to say it.

14. Eiffel Tower tattoo

Eiffel tower wrist tattooEiffel tower wrist tattoo photo source via Travel Each Day

A photo posted by martin acosta (@grafotats) on

15.Notre Dame church tattoo

Tattoos for budding French chefs

Forget the stuffy clean cut image you have of French chefs. Yes they exist but these days there’s a new breed of tattoo wearing chefs. Tattoos have become a sort of status symbol, almost standard attire in professional kitchens. Just take a look at the famous French chef Ludo Lefebre who is covered in meaningful tattoos- like little badges of memory.

16. Butchers cut tattoo: beef, chicken or pork

A quaint way to express your inner chef is to dawn an antique looking butchers cut tattoo. Take your pick, beef, chicken or pork.

Classic beef cut tattoo idea like the great French chefs

photo source of beef cut tattoo: Juanita Mac Photographer

17. Chef Knife

If you’re a home chefs with mad chopping skills, a knife tattoo might be for you. One popular motif is to tattoo the French culinary phrase “Mise en place”- which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.”  In a professional and even a home kitchen, it’s the preparation of dishes and ingredients before the beginning of service.

French food and wine tattoos

France is the founding country of dozens of famous foods, and is known globally for its production of the perfect wines, brilliant cheeses and scrumptious breakfast pastries. If you’re a foodie then the possibilities are endless when it comes to French cuisine-inspired ink.

18. French macarons

French macaron tattoo

Photo source of French Macaron from The traveling McMahans

The French macaron, not to be confused with coconut macaroons are the delight of France. This sweet meringue-based confection is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling in every flavor you can think of. The color of the macaron always matches the filling- Brown ones are usually chocolate or coffee, red ones are strawberry, blue ones are blueberry and so on. Get a tat in every flavor and in full color to show your love of French confectionery.

19.Red Wine or Champagne tattoo

No explanation needed here. The French consume more wine per capita than any other nation of people- possible designs are endless. Just take a look in a wine magazine for inspiration. If you have a favorite bottle of wine or champagne, why not get a tattoo of that?

A photo posted by Matt King (@tattmattoo) on

20. Croissant Tattoos

A photo posted by Dane Tattoo (@danetattoo) on

21. French baguette tattoo

22. French Cheese

The French produce over 450 different types of cheeses. Pick one- anyone for your next tattoo.

A photo posted by Jade Ellen (@jadee.ellen) on

23. Yummy escargot tattoo (snails)

A pervasive cliché is that the French eat snails called escargot in French. Who doesn’t love escargot floating in butter and garlic?

See also: Weird French foods 

French Inventions

A little-known fact about the French is that they’re responsible for many important inventions and technological advances, including (but not limited to): The hot air balloon, the bicycle and the submarine!

24. French HotAir Ballon & Submarine Tattoo:

A photo posted by sarah-k (@sarahktattoo) on

Two French brothers were the first to successfully attempt the first manned hot-air balloon ascent in 1783.

 Although the French didn’t actually invent the submarine, the French Navy did create the first non human powered sub in 1863 called le Plongeur meaning “the diver”.

25. Bicycle tattoo:

A photo posted by on

Invented in 1864 by Pierre Michaux and Pierre Lallement. What’s more French than a bicycle with a little basket? Not your style? What about a tour de France bike tattoo.

And Much More

French pigeon tattoo with Eiffel tower and baguette

French smoking pigeon with Eiffel tower, wine and bagueette tattoo: created by Shaw Hebrank

The more you delve into French culture, the greater the chance of exposing even more fabulous tattoo ideas. If you’re still short of ideas after looking through the article above, then other French tattoo inspiration is never far away, with books, magazines and French-themed websites available in the thousands just waiting to light your imagination.

Remember though – tattoos are for life. Make sure you’re certain that you want something inked onto your body forever and make sure you take care of your new tattoo as best as possible to ensure it looks beautiful for as long as you live.


Thanks to Authority Tattoo for co-authoring this post with me here at How to live in France
9 fabulous reasons why France is the number one travel destination in the world

9 Spectacular Reasons Why France Is The Worlds Most Popular Tourist Destination In The world

9 fabulous reasons why France is the number one travel destination in the world

According to United Nations World Tourism Organization, France has been the worlds most popular tourist destination for over 25 years. Let’s explore some of the things that make France so popular with tourists.

The reasons for France’s popularity are varied. Many people visit France simply because they consider it to be one of the most beautiful places in the world. Other people visit France for the numerous tourist attractions, cities of cultural interest such as Paris and Strasbourg, the spectacular beaches, the French Alps, the language, the food and so much more. It’s no wonder France has held the number one position for 25 years. Let’s take a closer look at 9 absolutely wonderful things in France that attract part of the 86 million visitors each year.

1. Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris is the number one attraction in France and EuropeSince 1992, Disneyland Paris, originally called Euro Disney resort has been drawing crowds from all over the world. Currently it is the number one tourist attraction in all of France and Europe, even beating out the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. It is also the 16th most popular tourist attraction in the world.  14.8 million people visited Disney Paris in 2015 according to their annual report.

2.The Eiffel Tower

Eiffel tower was build in 1889to be the entrance to the worlds fairOriginally constructed as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, today it is what people think of first when they think of France. Measuring 321 metres tall, the equivalent to 81 stories, the Eiffel tower serves not only as a national monument and major tourist attraction but also as an observation and radio broadcast tower.

It is the second most visited attraction in France after Disneyland Paris but as far as monuments go, it is the most visited-paid monument in the world. In 2015, almost 7 million people ascended this French treasure. Some by elevator others climbed the 1664 steps by foot from bottom to top. (source)

3. The Louvre and art

Louvre in Paris

The Louvre has a long and sorted history. The Louvre which we know today is not only one of the largest museums in the world, housing over 460,000 pieces of art and artifacts, it’s also one of the most visited galleries on the planet. in 2014 alone it received over 9.3 million visitors.

Initially built as a fortress in the late 12th century, it was converted to the the main residence for French kings in the 16th century. Then in 1682, Louis XIV relocated the imperial home to Versailles, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection. 100 years later during the French revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum to display the nation’s masterpieces to the masses.

Some of the more notable treasures housed at the Louvre include La Jaconde known in English as The Mona Lisa. Winged Victory of Samothrace, Vénus de Milo, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People,  Great Sphinx of Tanis , Aphrodite of Milos and the list goes on.

4. Palace Versailles The kings palace

palace of versailles in France draws hoards of tourists every yearTransformed from a humble hunting lodge by Louis XIV into the now familiar Versailles Palace which epitomizes royal elegance. Every year over 3 million people travel to Versailles to see how former French royalty lived. Everywhere you look is an amazing delight. It’s embellished by generations of lavish gardes, landscape, architecture, sculptures, decorations, art and more! Some of the more popular things to see at the palace include the State Apartments, the incredible Hall of Mirrors, the Versailles Gardens and The Trianons.

5. The Tour De France

tour de France vintage poster

For over 100 years since 1903, the tour de France has been attracting spectators from around the world. Not only is the Tour de France the globe’s biggest bike race, it’s also the largest sporting even on the planet. For three weeks during part of June and July, people from all over the globe flock to France to watch bicyclists race some 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles) mostly around France in a collection of phases. In a typical years race, the Tour de France can attract roughly 12 million spectators along the route of the race.

See also: 15 Bizarre Tour De France Facts YOU Didn’t Know But Should

6.French cheese

illustrated map of French cheeses

photoicon.50xpng.pngPhoto source: Vinepair

You’ve heard of Brie, Camembert and Blue cheese? In terms of types of French cheeses, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As master cheese maker, Pierre Androuët once said “Un fromage pour chaque jour“, which simply means “there exists a different cheese for each day.  Officially, France produces roughly 350 to 450 different varieties of cheese. Some say the number is closer to 1,000. Whatever the number, cheese-making in France is an old art: goat cheese goes back to at the very least 500 AD, the blue-veined Roquefort was discussed in documents of an old abbey as very early as 1070, and tough ranch cheeses like Emmental began to show up in the 13th century.

7.The French Alps

French alps tram on Mont Blanc

Europe’s greatest mountain range system is without a doubt the Alps, stretching 1,200 km across eight Alpine countries including France’s French Alps. There is a wide range of winter and summer activities available to visitors in the French Alps which attract roughly 60-80 million visitors each year. Some activities include skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, biking and rock climbing to name a few.

Every year, approximately 30,000 mountain climbers from all over planet set their sites on making the treacherous 2 day, 4,810 metres (15,780 feet) climb up the highest point of the French Alps -Mont Blanc. Climbing Mont Blanc although beautiful is also dangerous claiming the lives of almost 100 people each year making it Europe’s’ deadliest mountain.

For those visitors who would rather not risk their lives, and climber Europe’s most dangerous mountain, there is always the cable car which will take you up to Aiguille du midi where you”ll have a dazzling 360° view over Mont Blanc-the French, Swiss and Italian Alps. Every summer an astounding 5,000 people a day take the cable cars.

8. French food and the French mealtime tradition

French gastronomy granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010 In addition to all the attractions, French food is also a major draw for tourists. The French mealtime tradition, (Gastronomic meal of the French) with all its wine pairing, social rituals, the setting of a beautiful table and associated skills and crafts that the French are renowned for was even granted UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2010 when it was added to the representative list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity”.

9. The French train transportation

French railway considered to be the best in the world makes it easy for tourists

The Gare du Nord railway station in the heart of Paris France handles approximately 190 million passenger per year and is considered to be the busiest station in Europe and the third largest and busiest in the world. With over 29,000 km of railway, visitors to France can easily travel from one end of France to the other quickly without the need for a car making it even more appealing and easy for tourists to visit every corner of France.

This article was co-authored with Linda Evans from and Annie from

Why you should carve turnip jack o lanterns instead of pumpkins for halloween

Don't Carve A Pumpkin For Halloween- Carve A Turnip Jack O'Lantern

Why you should carve turnip jack o lanterns instead of pumpkins for halloween

In remembrance of the original Jack O’lantern, which were NOT carved out of pumpkins, try something so old it’s new. Carve a Turnip Jack O’Lantern for Halloween just like the Irish, Scots and Brits used to before bright orange pumpkins became the norm. Or do as the French do in the Northern parts of France and carve a beet lantern. Read on to learn more about this fun project.

Getting to the root of it. Why carve a turnip?

A few years ago I was searching the internet to see if I could find a pumpkin patch to take my kids to in the south of France. Never found one by the way. They were all located too far from us, mainly outside of Paris. I did however discover something about the tradition of carving pumpkin Jack O’lanterns that was so different, so new to me, I actually didn’t believe it when I first read it.

Original-Irish-JackOlantern** photo-icon.50xpngPhoto source: Irish turnip (rutabaga) lantern on display in Ireland at the National Museum of Ireland- Country life.

The original European Jack-O-lanterns named for the Irish myth , were carved mainly from turnips and other roots such as rutabagas, potatoes or beets and looked truly grotesque and monstrous compared to today’s festive or goofy carved orange pumpkins.

In fact, it wasn’t until the mid 1800’s, when Irish and Scottish immigrants brought their custom of carving lanterns out of roots to the US and Canada where the tradition changed. The newly arrived immigrants discovered North American orange pumpkins were perfect for carving and so began the new custom of carving orange pumpkins which is now popular throughout the world, not just in North America.

The exception is Northern France who carve not turnips and not pumpkins but big sugar beets. 

I decided to give turnip carving a go and created several turnip Jack O’lanterns this Halloween with my daughter. Of course we also carved a pumpkin and made pumpkins seeds.

See also: 10 things you didn’t know about Halloween in France

Advantages of carving  turnip Jack O’lanternsHere is one of the turnips we carve this halloween

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of faith in carving turnips into Jack O’lanterns. I thought they would be more difficult than carving a pumpkin because I kept reading how the Irish and Scots found  pumpkins easy to carve.

To my surprise, it was just as easy if not easier to carve a turnip. In a matter of 15 minutes, my daughter and I had carved several adorably scary turnip Jack O’lanterns. Something you can’t really do with a pumpkin because you have to first gut the pumpkin and then slowly work your knife through the thick skin of the pumpkin to carve it. Both can be very time consuming.

Here are 9 benefits to carving turnips and roots into Jack O’Lanterns instead of pumpkins.

  1. No scooping out messy seeds, no big pumpkin mess
  2. Turnips are smaller and more portable than pumpkins so you can easily use them as actual Jack O’lanterns or hang them from a tree outside.
  3. Turnips are also cheaper so you can afford to make dozens of carved turnips to display around the house, on your windowsills or outside.
  4. You can easily let your kids do a lot of the work because it’s easier for them to scoop than a big heavy pumpkin.
  5. With its reddish white exterior and root like characteristics, turnips look more interesting than a carved pumpkin. Maybe scarier?
  6. Candles tends to flicker more in a turnip because they are less protected than in a pumpkin which makes the turnip look spookier….. But the candle tends do get blown out more easily as a result. (not a positive)
  7. Unlike pumpkins, turnips and various other roots are fairly easy to find almost everywhere all year round. Even in France.
  8. No waste! After you scoop out the innards of the turnips, you can use the guts to make yummy mashed turnips.
  9. You can carve turnips and roots all year round into different things like votive holders unlike pumpkins which only look appropriate during Halloween. (see photos below)

English Heritage wants you to use turnips due to a possible pumpkin shortage

Why you should carve turnip jack o lanterns instead of pumpkins for halloweenphoto-icon.50xpngPhoto source of English Heritage turnip carver and carved turnips

There have been several attempts to revive this almost forgotten tradition of carving turnip Jack O’lanterns. In 2015, a pumpkin shortage led to the English Heritage calling for Brits to rediscover and bring back the original tradition of turnip carving to address reduced supplies of pumpkins caused by wet weather. English Heritage even installed a number of ghoulishly carved turnips at the Dover Castle to inspire you. I don’t think it’s really caught on yet but time will tell.

Tools you need to carve a turnip or other root

turnip carving tools you will need

how to carve and scoop out guts of a turnip to make a jack o'lantern

photo-icon.50xpng Photo source: Diane Gilleland via Makezine.

The tools you need to cut and carve a turnip are pretty similar to a pumpkin.

  • A knife to cut off the top
  • Something to scoop out the guts- a melon baller scoop works way better than a spoon. The edges on a melon baller are sharper.
  • A smaller blade to carve the details of your scary face onto the turnip.
  • A poking tool might come in handy if you want to poke small holes into the sides of the turnip and run string through the holes so you can hang the turnip from a tree or something.

Turnip and root carving inspiration

When it comes to carving you’re turnip, which actually look terrifying when carved, you are limited only by your imagination. Here a few photos to wet your inspiration.


photo-icon.50xpngPhoto source of English Heritage carved turnips

Hang a bunch of turnip Jack O’lanterns in the yard

turnip-lantern-from Martha Stewart

Turnips don’t weigh very much so they can easily be hung from a tree in the backyard or on your front doorstep. Carry them on your trick or treats too.

Carve your turnip upside down with the root tip still attached
scary turnip jack o'lantern upside down

photo source = Mark god of thunder

Carve a rutabagaugly-carved-turnip jack o'lanterns

photo-icon.50xpngPhoto source Munchies.vice

In addition to turnips, rutabagas were also carved into jack O’lanterns. These guys look even scarier than turnips with their brown skin and extruding roots that remind me of mole hairs.


photo-icon.50xpngphoto source = The invisible underground

Make a simple turnip votive all year round

turnip-votive-Martha stewart

photo-icon.50xpngPhoto source Martha Stewart

For a more elegant turnip that you can use all year round, turn that turnip into a tea light holder to put on the dinner table or coffee table.  Martha Stewart says to use varying sizes for the most interesting display and not to leave lit candles unattended. DUH!


Photo source = Lovely Greens

Head over to Lovely greens to learn how to make these cute carved turnip lanterns.

Carve other roots like potatoes

carve-a potato jack o lantern for halloween

photo-icon.50xpngPhoto source = Odyssey

If turnips are not available or you want to try your hand at carving other roots and vegetable like the Irish, Scots and English used to, just walk into your kitchen and take a look in your vegetable drawer. Pull out a potato, a beet, a butternut squash or a rutabaga and start carving away.

The 2 Beet Lantern carving customs in France

carve a beet for halloween like they do in boulonnais france

photo-icon.50xpngphoto source= ville de Longvilliers

A very small percentage of the French population actually get into the spirit of Halloween let alone carve pumpkins. As I mentioned earlier however, certain parts of Norther France have the tradition of carving not pumpkins, not turnips but beets. And not any old beet you find at the supermarket. They carve huge sugar beets which are much larger than your garden variety that you find at the supermarket.

beets of Boulonnais France for la nuit des grimaçantes betteravesSee also: Why the French hate Halloween and how to celebrate it anyways.

Grimacing Beets of Lorraine “les Betteraves Grimaçantes”

beets of Boulonnais France for la nuit des grimaçantes betteraves

photo-icon.50xpngphoto source: B@ch’ Boetz

The children of Lorraine, a historical region in northeast France which borders Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany have a tradition of carving grimacing beet lanterns “les Betteraves Grimaçantes”. They then place the carved beet lanterns on their windowsill.  This night occurs on the eve of “all Saints day” but is not called Halloween. Instead it is called ” nuit des betteraves grimaçantes or Rommelbootzen” which translates to “The night of the grimacing beets”.


photo-icon.50xpngphoto source = Blog d’air

Decorated Beets of Boulonnais during Christmas

festival de Guénel in France and their carved beets
In Boulonnais, a coastal area in northern France near Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer, there is a carved beet lantern festival called “la fête des guénels”.

A Guénels is a carved beet lantern and is the middle aged phonetic spelling for the word Gai Noel.

festival de Guénel in France and their carved beets The custom of of beet carving in this region is centred around the story of Petit Pierre. There are several versions of this story but the gist of the folklore is that Petit Pierre, a very poor boy wanted to make some money for Christmas. So on the eve of Christmas, he carved a face into a beet and placed a candle in it to use as a lantern to illuminate the dark night so he could go door to door asking the bourgeois boulonnais for money. 

The municipality of Boulogne drops truck loads of huge beets in the street. Kids then go around colleting their beets to carve which they will then use to go door to door asking for treats while singing the traditional song called « Ô Guénel » .

Although it sounds a lot like Halloween and trick-or-treating and perhaps is related to the Celtic tradition, it is actually celebrated for Christmas but only in the Boulonnais area of France which has it’s own unique customs and traditions.

There is also a a festival of carved beets called  “la fête des guénels” with a beet carving contest. After the contest, children parade in the streets « défilé des guénels » asking passer-byers for sweets «les  sucreries» while again singing a traditional song called « Ô Guénel » .

festival de Guénel in France and their carved beets

Happy root carving.

Our carved turnip jack o lanterns

MdConalds In France: do French people eat at Mcdonalds?

Do French People Eat AT McDonalds? Fast Food In France!

MdConalds In France: do French people eat at Mcdonalds?

You might be surprised to learn that France, a country and a people known by most of the world for their fancy gourmet food and superior eating habits love their fast food and McDonald’s Big Macs but just how much do they love it compared to the rest of the world?

I don’t know who was more shocked! Me or them?

I could hardly believe that every single one of my (circle of mommy friends in France) took their kids to eat at McDonald’s.

But the kicker was that my French friends were equally shocked to learn that our 5 year old daughter had never eaten at McDonald’s. 

Why we believe French people don’t eat fast food

French kids eat everything bookThe book “French Kids Eat Everything” by American mom and author Karen Le Billon is one of many books which puts ALL French eating habits on a pedestal.

“The book ‘French kids eat everything” is right. They also eat lots of fast food from McDonald’s.

In “French kids eat everything”, Karen not only puts all French eating habits on a pedestal, she also talks about how she cured her kids picky eating by adopting more French eating habits and attitudes.

It’s no wonder the world thinks French people have superior eating habits all of the time. 

Do the French really love Mickey D’s? You bet they do. 

I was naive to think the peer pressure of eating at McDonald’s would not be an issue for our children in France.

Our daughter Catherine’s first foray into fast-food at McDonald’s was when her schoolmate Enzo invited her to one of those all inclusive birthday parties at a McDonald’s near our house. They provide the food and a small cake and then the kids play on those outdoor play structures until it’s time to go home. All for under 10 euros a kid. 

Out of 13 kids invited, Catherine was the only one who didn’t know who Ronald McDonald was or what a happy meal was (pronounced “Appy Mill” in French) but she learned real fast.

Between the toy  and the treats included in the cute little happy meal box, she was hooked before she even took her first bite into the fast food industry.

Everything was undone with that first bite.

She was been invited to several McDonald birthday parties since then and she constantly asks us to take her there but we told her it was only for special events like birthday parties which she begrudgingly accepted.

My then two teenage sons faced similar pressures from their friends who constantly wanted to eat at McDonald’s or Dominos. My eldest son resisted for the first 3 or so years but my middle child caved right away.

I knew I could not do much about this peer pressure and I suppose they would have eventually done the same thing had we lived in the US or Canada. I guess I naively thought that ALL French people were above eating at McDonald’s.

Silly me.

I know better now.

McDonalds far reaching hand knows no borders.

French people still eat better than most North Americans on the whole

20 years ago McDonald’s wasn’t as popular in France as it is today. 20 years from now McDonald’s may be as popular in France as it is in the US today.

I am in no way saying French people ALL have bad eating habits or that they eat like crap. Traditional French eating habits are alive and well however , with the invasion of super mega fast-food chains like McDonalds who have penetrated almost every international market and a generation of youth culture that is more open to Anglo influences , the food landscape is changing.

Mcdonald’s is much more popular in France than the world thinks.

The French are not always this perfect picture of fine dining and gourmet food either. Believe it or not, the French eat a lot of french fries and pizza. I know, shocking isn’t it?

On the flip side, I still think most French people eat better on the whole than most North Americans. The French also do a better job of institutionalizing better eating habits by giving kids excellent meals in school starting with preschool which I talk about in this article about our experience with preschool in France.

My daughter has never been served a revolving menu of pizza, burritos or tacos like my boys were served at their schools in California.  And you certainly do not see McDonald’s or Taco Bell being served at schools in France like it was served in some US High Schools.

Instead you will find things on school menus in France which you might find in a restaurant like Moules et Frites (mussels and fries), baked fish, steamed veggies, blue cheese and yogourt. At Christmas they even had paté. Oh and by the way, children are not offered milk on the school menu. Instead they have good old water.  

How popular is McDonald’s in France compared to the US and the rest of the world

McDonalds Per Capital WorldSee chart detail below. for data collected.

I set out to discover exactly how popular McDonald’s was in the world.

No surprise, the US had the most McDonald outlets in the world. Over 14K as of 2013 while France had only 1,300. Pretty big difference however it’s not a fair comparison.

France is roughly the size of Texas so comparing 14K US outlets in the US which has a population of over 315 Million people vs. 1,300 outlets in France with a population of almost 65 million is not meaningful. 

I needed to figure out how many McDonald outlets there were per capita or in this case per 1,000,0000.

McDonald’s serves roughly 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across 36,538 outlets. Almost half those outlets, 14k are in the US

My suspicions were confirmed. The French loved their McDonald’s.

France had the 5th most McDonald’s per capita in the world. (20 McDonald’s outlets per 1 million people). Maybe not as much as America which had 44 per 1 Million people but considering the US opened its first outlet 30 years before the one in France opened, the French are catching up fast.

The US , Canada and Australia are almost neck and neck with 44, 40 and 39 outlets respectively per capita. Then the number drops by almost half to 23 for Japan and finally 20 MacDo’s (as the French call them) for France until we reach the 10th country which is China. China has a mere 1.5 outlets per 1 Million people. 


Date Opened

First Location

# Of Outlets


Per 1M People




San Bernardino, CA


2013/ 315,583,006







2015 /126,818,019






2,000 +

2014 /1,393,783,836







2015/ 82,562,004





Richmond, BC


2014/ 35,524,732





Créteil / Strasbourg

1,300 +

2015/ 64,982,894



United Kingdom


N. Ireland


2015/ 63,843,856





Yagoona, New South Wales


2013/ 23,630,169





Rio de Janeiro


2013/ 202,033,670



Soviet Union


Pushkin Square, Moscow


2016/ 143,439,832



  How popular is McDonald’s compared to the rest of Europe?

If you look at just Europe, the only other European country which loves McDonald’s more than France is SwedenmcdonaldsMap courtesy of

How we stopped eating fastfood

Fast Food Nation BookBEFORE: They say ignorance is bliss because before I read Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, I was blissfully content with my ignorance concerning McDonald’s and the fast food industry.

I knew intuitively it wasn’t healthy or the best choice in sustenance but it wasn’t compelling enough for me NOT to take my two young sons to McDonald’s once in a while. 

My reasoning was that it was bad to eat fast food but not ‘THAT” bad. Besides, it was cheap, it was fast and it was a treat for the kids- like giving candy to a little kid even though you know it’s not good for them.

AFTER I read Fast Food Nation,  I half wished I hadn’t because that is when my attitude towards fast food changed.

The book not only confirmed many things I suspected or already knew but didn’t want to believe, it also opened my eyes to other horrors I could not have imagined if I tried. It was like reading some kind of bloody horror story.

From animal cruelty to chemical additives in McDonald’s meat. Never mind all the tax shelters and other unethical things going on in the McDonald’s corporate giant. That book was the tipping point in my decision to leave fast food behind me forever- or so I thought.

If you want to convince your kids to STOP EATING McDonald’s read this to them

Chew on this bookMy boys were just seven and six years old in 2003 when I decided we would go cold turkey and quit fast food all together with the exception of an occasional visit to subways which was the lesser of two evils in my mind.

It was difficult for the boys to comprehend why mommy didn’t want to take them to get a happy meal anymore but I stayed strong.

A few years later when they were old enough, I read the kid counterpart of the Fast Food Nation book called “Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Foodto them. I hoped learning certain things about the fast food industry and McDonald’s might shock their little brains and hopefully create a lifelong habit to eat less fast food or NO fast food whatsoever. And it worked for the most part.

My eldest son refused to eat McDonald’s and our daughter who would be born later never knew what she was missing because we never went to McDonald’s. We left the US when she was 3 years old.

All that hard work ended when we moved to France within a year. 

Bureaucracy in France: Our Frustrating Experience At The Prefecture of Montpellier


If you are going to live in France for any length of time, you will undoubtedly become extremely familiar with the world-famous French bureaucracy and red tape that everyone including the French have to endure. If you are an expat living in France like us or an immigrant, than you have the added pleasure of dealing with EXTRA RED TAPE for all your immigration needs. Most of which are handled at one of the many préfectures across France.  Here is our latest annoyance.

We moved from La Garde France to Montpellier this week and like all NON-French people who move from one city to another, we had to register our change of address with our new prefecture in Montpellier which in essence sets in motion the transfer of our dossier / file from our old préfecture in Toulon.

A préfecture is the dreaded bureaucratic office where non-French people like us with visa and immigration issues must go. The préfecture also handles some non immigration issues such as renewing drivers permits or handling a change of address for the title of ones car. There are roughly 100 préfectures in France

This process or changing your address at the préfecture is something you do not want to skip, especially if you plan on renewing your visa after your first year in France because the préfecture uses your physical address to send you correspondence and if you are not there to receive it because you failed to notify them of a change of address … well you won’t be able to renew your visa.

We mistakenly thought this change of address would be an easy affair because we had already been through this 4 years earlier when we moved from Marseille to La Garde but like so many things in France that involve paperwork and immigration matters, we were sorely wrong. As the old saying goes, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Here is an account of our frustrating experience at the prefecture of Montpellier.

Tuesday Ideal FAIL: The plan to reduce our wait time

Today we stood in line at the prefecture of Montpellier for 2 hours. Not terribly long considering we have waited for longer periods. Annoying nevertheless because Blake and I actually thought we were so so smart to arrive at 7:40 a.m., 35 minutes before the prefecture actually opened it’s doors.

A little back story. This was to be our third visit to the préfecture since arriving in Montpellier 13 days prior. Each time we arrived to the préfecture we were faced with long lines that snaked from wall to wall so each time we left instantly because we knew instictually from experience that the line would be at least 3 to 4 hour wait.

In addition to physical visits, Blake and I also tried and failed to make an appointment online using the préfecture’s website. Overall, we had already spent several hours trying to get our address sorted out. By the way, you can check out the booking system at the Montpellier prefectures website here. As of July 2016 it is always full up. I hope they change this system because to put it simply, SUCKS!.

Rather than wait in the existing long line, we decided to try to outsmart everyone and come back early on Thursday (the prefecture is closed on Wednesday) before the prefecture opened. To us, it was better to wait out front in the cool morning breeze for 30 minutes so we could be first in line than to arrive later and be the 100th person waiting in a hot building with irritated people and tired kids. It proved to be a good idea however not good enough.

 Thursday 7:54 a.m.:

Our hearts sank when we arrived at the préfecture on Thursday morning and saw the already long line of people standing around waiting for the préfecture to open at 8:15 am. There had to be about 50 or 60 people already waiting in line ahead of us.

As we stood there queued up waiting for the doors to open, I couldn’t help but feel a little defeated wishing we had come 1 hour earlier instead of just 30 minutes. I looked behind me every so often and saw more people queue up behind us until finally it seemed there were at least another 100 people waiting behind us.

I felt mildly better but not by much.waiting in line at the preficture in Montpellier


8:15 the doors open : Security check and mad dash for the building

At 8:15 the doors to the prefecture officially opened and we slowly inched our way to the front gate where a security officer passed a wand over our bodies and briefly looked in every bag before letting us pass through to the building.

8:25 a.m. : Stand in line again inside the préfecture

I passed through security before Blake and walked briskly to the building trying not to let people pass me up. I didn’t want to lose my place in line because there were people who seemed to be sprinting to get inside. I was determined to not let that happen. I picked up the pace.

Once inside, we had no other choice but to stand in line. There was no option to take a ticket or a number and sit down until your number was called like we had experienced in Toulon or Marseille. So there we stood inching our way forward as the 2 people behind the counter handled each persons questions and requests. Some people moved on quickly while others seemed to take longer.

A man behind me pushing a baby in a stroller got in a heated argument with another man who apparently was trying to cut in the line for some strange reason.

9:45 a.m. It’s our turn

Almost an hour and a half later, it was our turn. As I walked towards the counter where the stressed out French woman sat, I politely smiled and said “bonjour” before asking my question (which is common practice and considered rude if you don’t say it) .

Me: Bonjour!  “how can I set up an appointment to make a change of address for our carte de séjour (this is what our resident card is called). ?

French woman behind counter: You must make an appointment using the website she replied.

Me: I have tried for 13 days to make an appointment using the site but each time I try, I get a message that says there are no more available times for appointments and to try my request again later.

(Below is a screenshot of the prefecture website showing this message)



French woman behind counter: Yes, this is normal. Times slots fill up very fast.  Try checking the site at the beginning of the week when new slots open up.

Me: Instead of making an appointment through the website, since we are here, can we make an appointment through you now?

French woman behind counter: NO!

Me: Can we come early, on any day to change our address?

French woman behind counter: With a slightly annoyed voice says NO! you must use the website.

9:47 a.m.: Defeat

Our hopes of getting an appointment to change our address were crushed in less than 3 minutes at that counter. There seemed to be no other way to make an appointment except on the website which as far as I was concerned was always full up with no available appointment times.

Blake and I begrudgingly left the counter and walked home in a confused state of disbelief feeling like we got bitch slapped yet again by a new French bureaucratic hurdle. 

10:00 a.m.: Try again online to make an appointment

One small consolation after our temporary defeat at the préfecture was that we did not have to drive home in traffic for any length of time. We live in the centre of Montpellier off “La Place De La Comédie”, just a few minutes walk from the préfecture. Previously we would have to drive for 15 minutes and try to find parking.

When we arrived home, after stopping off to get a bricohe au chocolat (Blake’s favourite), I immediately went to the préfecture’s site only to be met with the same stupid message, “no more open spots for new appointments”. This time however, I noticed something that did not make sense before.

In very small print,  there was a message which stated appointments are scheduled only 3 weeks in advance and If the calendar was full that you needed to try again at the beginning of the week.

This must be what the woman at the prefecture was talking about. I needed to logon on Sunday night just before midnight, essentially the beginning of the week and try to nab a spot before everyone else who was desperate for a spot could nab the limited slots up. (below is the screenshot of the message).

message on prefecture website which said appointments are only scheduled only 3 weeks in advance and If the calendar was full that you needed to try again at the beginning of the week.

10:30 a.m.

Still in disbelief that there was no other way to get an appointment, I did a search on Facebook and found that the préfecture of Montpellier had a Facebook page so I decided to go check it out and see if I could discover some secret to getting an appointment.

Instead I saw more frustrated people posting comments. A FB user left a comment confirming what I now knew but shed even more depressing news. She had also had problems getting an appointment and said that users had only 5 minutes, midnight to 12:05 to try to get an appointment before the slots were all taken up. She asked “what does one do if we cannot get an appointment?

Good question.

Unfortunately, the préfecture never answers any comments on their FB page. (below is a screenshot of her message left on the prefecture FB page.)


At this point, I have no idea what we are going to do if we are unable to nab an appointment quick enough on Sunday night. Especially since we have to renew our visas very soon but can’t do it until we transfer our dossier to our new préfecture.

It should be noted that not all prefectures operate the same way. Some take walk ins. Some places you can call and make an appointment and others you can walk in to make an appointment. Some have machines to dispense numbers and some don’t.

So far, we have had to deal with 3 préfectures because we have lived in 3 French cities, Marseille prefecture, Toulon prefecture and now Montpellier prefecture. Montpellier is by far the worst so far mainly because of their defunct appointment system that only allows appointments 3 weeks in advance that fill up fast.

To be continued……….


Well we managed to get an appointment but it was very strange. As the woman at the préfecture instructed us to do, we logged on to their website just before midnight on sunday night. There were three of us trying to make an appointment, me, Blake and one of my sons. Each of us sat in front of the computer pressing the “schedule an appointment” button. Each time we pressed the button, we were greeted with the same message “no more available times”.

Then at one minute past midnight a calendar opened up and we saw about 30 spots on the calendar open up. I quickly selected a time and waited. The little hourglass turned and turned until we got a 503 message. If you are unfamiliar with a 503 error message when viewing a site, it basically means “The server is currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance of the server”. The server was getting overloaded by probably hundreds of people trying to get those 30 spots.

“SHIT, I keep getting a 503 server message” yells my husband from his computer.

“Me too!” yells my son Kieran from his room.

I was determined to get an appointment.

I kept hitting the back button to retry my request until finally it I secured a spot for 3 weeks in future. Woo HOOOOOOOO. Now it was Blake and Kierans turn. After a dozen or so error messages in a row, we were each able to finally secure one appointment each.  It was not 12:30.

It felt as if I was playing a video game and the goal of the game was to compete against 100 people to secure 30 spots but you only have 10 minutes to do so. I had adrenaline coursing through my veins from the experience.

But it wasn’t over yet. To finally secure our appointment, we had to wait for an email and click on a link in the email to confirm the appointment.

After about 2 minutes the email arrived in my inbox and I clicked on the link but then the server timed out again. People were still hitting the system hard trying to get an appointment which was causing the website servers to crash. Eventually all 3 of us confirmed our appointment but it was now 12:45 a.m. A  little over 45 minutes of this nonsense simply to get an appointment to change our address for our visa.

I logged back onto the website at 12:45 to try to book a second appointment but all the available slots were now gone.  Guess we will have to wait till next Sunday at midnight to get a second set of appointments which we need to renew our visas.

Oh well. As the French say. It’s just the way things are done. What can I do about it?

Bonne Journée. Good day to you.

Halloween In France- 10 things you should know

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween In France But Should

Halloween in France: 10 things you didn't know but should

Despite the anti-sentiment surrounding an American style Halloween and the fact that the concept of Halloween is relatively new to France, it is still somewhat celebrated in small pockets throughout France.  Here are a few things you should know before hand which might make your French Halloween more enjoyable.

1-Halloween is considered an American celebration (and that’s not a compliment)

Halloween is seen as yet another imposition of American culture on French customs and traditions right after McDonald’s and Ketchup. This alone is enough to make many French people turn their patriotic nose up at the idea of celebrating or embracing Halloween.

Ironically,  Halloween actually originates from Europe and is thought to be of Celtic origins. In fact, wearing a costume mumming and going door-to-door on certain holidays has existed since the Middle Ages, only people used to perform short plays in exchange for food or drink instead of asking for Candy.

Related: “Why the French hate Halloween”.

2-Many French people see Halloween as too commercial

Another belief which only adds to the anti Halloween sentiment is the belief that this is purely a commercial celebration used to boost the sales of stores and line the pockets of retail store owners with cash.

I believe that these people just don’t understand what or how Halloween is celebrated. They don’t see it as a community based ritual or a great family friendly event where kids and parents get to have fun dressing up as anything they want- go to parties, eat and laugh together.Halloween in France: French people think Halloween is too commercial

If they did, than perhaps they would embrace Halloween as much as they do Christmas, Mothers day and Valentines day. Holidays which are as commercial as Halloween if not more. In fact, I actually find Halloween less commercial than Christmas in France. But hey that’s just me.

3-Halloween is seen as a threat to existing French traditions

The French are fiercely proud about their customs almost to a snobbish fault. Anything or in this case, any celebration which disrupts or takes away from those traditions are often seen as a threat not a treat.

Since Halloween is not a traditional French holidays having first been introduced to France in the 90’s,  it has the unfortunate luck to occur  right in the middle of an extremely big national holiday. “La Toussaint”, known in English as “All Saints”.

November 1st is the official holiday for All Saints Day. On this day people in France honour the dead by placing flowers on loved ones graves and go to special church events. Banks, stores and businesses are all closed on this day.

But all saints is not just a one day event. Children have two weeks off from school beginning mid October up until the 1st of November. I think many anti-halloweeners in France believe Halloween robs the attention away from this French tradition.

4- Very few children go door-to-door trick-or-treating in France

Don’t load up on bags of candy because you’ll be lucky to get any trick-or-treater knocking on your door in France on Halloween.

We have never received more than 3 groups of children knocking on our door on Halloween. I am told there are towns in France where Halloween has taken off but these are the exception and not the rule.

5-Costumes are typically scary and NEVER cute

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

Unlike in North America where anything goes when it come to costumes for Halloween in France what few adults and kids you see dressed up will invariably be dressed up in traditionally scary and ghoulish costumes like vampires, ghosts and skeletons.

Costumes of the less scary genre like kitty’s, princesses and ninja turtles are reserved for the carnival festivals in February.  I really find it strange how so many French people have such a negative view on Halloween but then celebrate carnival by dressing up during Carnival. They have festivals, parades and celebrations around carnival. Most schools even have their own mini parade where everyone gets dressed up. Yes Carnival is not seen as commercial as Halloween.

6-Halloween parties are more typical than trick-or-treaters

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

If you are in France and absolutely want to celebrate Halloween,  here are my thoughts.

Make friends who actually enjoy Halloween. In the 4 plus years we’ve lived in France, we have been lucky enough to have French friends who actually love and celebrate Halloween.

If you are not invited to a Halloween party, throw your own. If you’re not in a position to throw your own than check out local bars, many of which may have Halloween themes and specials.

7- Don’t say trick-or-treat: Instead say this

When a kid comes to the door asking for candy “les bon bons” in France, they don’t say trick or treat.  Instead they ask  you in French if you would like “Candies or a spell” or “Mischief or sweets”.

  • Des bonbons ou un sort ! = Candies or a spell
  • bêtises ou friandises = Mischief or sweets

8- French people can’t pronounce Halloween

There are a few sounds French people have a hard time pronouncing. Similar to How English speakers struggle to make the R and the U sound like in the word “RUE”  It’s not pronounced “ROO”. In French, most French people struggle with the “TH” sound which when said by a French person, usually sounds like the “D” sound. So the word “this” gets pronounced as “dis”.

The second sound French seem to have a hard time pronouncing is the letter “H”. So “Halloween” usually gets pronounced  as “aaa  lo ween”.

9-You can’t find candy corn in France

Halloween in France: Candy corn does not exist in France except at specialty stores ;

If you hate candy corn like I hate it than you’ll be happy to learn that candy corn does NOT exist in France. If you really must buy some, you’ll have to order it online at the “American Market” in France.

10- Go with the flow and find other people who celebrate Halloween in France

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

Despite all the anti-sentiment and French naysayers, French people who understand just how fun Halloween can be, do in fact celebrate it. You just need to know where and how to find them.

If you have kids, you could ask other parents if they plan on celebrating.  You could just wing it like we did this year and go door to door with your kids. Unfortunately, most people did not answer their door and others had no candy. But we still had fun. My two teenage boys went to a Halloween house party and got dressed up as well.

If you make friends, you could luck out like we do every year and have friends who invite you to their Halloween party or you could organize your own halloween party and invite people.

And last but not least, some bars have special themes around Halloween .

To learn more about the origins of ancient and modern Halloween check out this great video from the history channel.

The weird ways Movie titles are changed for the French market

31 Movie Titles With Weird Or Inappropriate French Translations

The weird ways Movie titles are changed for the French market

Instead of translating all Hollywood movie titles to a French movie title, sometimes they are swapped for another “English movie title”. The results can be weird, funny or inappropriate to English speakers. Here are 31 for you to giggle over. Note the excessive use of the word “SEX” in some titles.

Who’s on first? I’m so confused.

Hey Annie.  Have you seen the American film with Ashton Kutcher called “SEX FRIENDS”?  My friend says this whole phrase in French except for the movie title “Sex Friends” which she says in English.

Sex Friends?

I thought the movie sounded like some third rate porno movie but with Ashton in it, how could it be? In any case, I had not seen the movie nor had I heard of it.

Turns out, I had seen it only it was realeased under a diferent, less “sexual” name in the US.  This happens a lot in France.

How are movie titles changed when they are released in France?

When a movie titles get translated into another language, they can sometimes get lost in translation.

Like the 1990 movie “Home Alone” starring Macaulay Culkin whose title was translated into French as “Mommy I Missed My Plane” ( Maman J’ai Raté L’Avion).

What I find even weirder is when a movie title is translated not into a French title for French speaking people but changed into a different English movie title. You would think all titles would be translated into the local Language wouldn’t you? Well they’re not.

Granted, the re-titled English movie title for the French audience is usually short, simple and tend to repeat the same words. For instance the word SEX, CRAZY, TRIP, VERY, and BAD tend to get used quite often in re-titled movies.

The results can be interesting, weird and sometimes inappropriate for English speakers. But hey you be the judge.

Here are just 31 examples of perfectly good movie titles changed into strange, sometimes inappropriate English movie titles for the French movie market.

You won’t believe how many times the word SEX is used to make a new movie title in France.

Yeah sure there is a lot of sex in some movies but there seems to be a lack of ingenuity in coming up with new “English titles” . The word sex gets used just a little too much in my opinion. Why not just re-title the film to a translated version of the English title?

Below are a few examples of the over use of the word sex in Hollywood movie titles for the French audience.

1- No strings attached = Sex Friends

No strings attached = sex friends movie title for French audience
Here is an example of a title where I think adding the word sex to the new title is warranted. The term “no strings attached” is hard to translate to French so it makes sense to change the English title for French speakers to “Sex Friends”. The French understand the word friends and the word sex.

2- What’s your number = Sex list

What's your number = sex list movie title for French audience
Really? Sex list?  It changes the meaning of the entire movie don’t you think?

3- Cruel Intentions= Sexe Intentions

Cruel Intentions = sex intentions movie title for French audience
All I have to say is sex sells.  But I’m pretty sure they didn’t just have sex in this movie.

4-Fired Up = Sea Sex and Fun

Fired Up = Sea Sex and Fun movie title for French audience

I haven’t watched this movie, but really?  Sea, Sex and Fun?  They couldn’t come up with something better than this?

5- Step Up 2 = Sexy Dance 2

Step Up 2 = Sexy Dance 2 movie title for French audience
Here’s another example where the original title is completely understandable to the French audience. It’s like they just want to add the word “SEX” to every title they can.

6-If these walls could talk 2 = Sex revelations

If these walls could talk 2 = Sex revelations movie title for French audience

Really? Sex revelations?  How did we go from “If these walls could talk 2” to “sex revelations”. It’s as if the person who watched this movie and named it only thought about sex. SHEESH!

7- Made In Dagenham = We Want Sex Equality

Made in dagenham = we want sex equality movie title for French audience

This is not an American Hollywood movie, it’s actually a British comedy about car strikes in East London. There was one reference in the movie where the women hold up a sign that say’s “we want sex equality” but the major gist of the movie is about equal pay.

What’s even funnier is in Germany and Italy it was re-titled to “We Want Sex”. They dropped of the “equality” part.

8- The In Crowd = Sex & Manipulations

The In Crowd= Sex manipulations movie title for French audience

Is “The in crowd” the same movie as “Sex manipulations”?  Yup, you bet it is.

9- Wild Things = Sex Crimes

Wild Things = Sex Crimes movie title for French audience

More sex titles. I already know there is going to be sex in the movie. The title “Wild things” gives me a glimpse into what the film might be about. Whereas the French version of the English title makes me think they are having crimes of sex. Meaning is totally lost.

10- Shortcut to Happiness = Sexy Devil

Shortcut to happiness = sexy devil movie title for French audience

This one isn’t so bad but the original title does give the movie more depth. Sexy devil just makes me think of a sex crazed woman.

11-Not Another Teen Movie =  Sex Academy

Not another teen movie = sex academy movie title for French audience

one of the rare occasions where I think the French version of the title is actually better than the American title.

12- Judicial Indiscretion = Sex Conpiration

Judicial indiscretion = sex conspiration movie title for French audience

Two words? Stupid Title- sex conspiration?

13-Bad Biology = Sex Addict

Bad biology = sex addict movie title for French audience

I’ve never seen this movie either but bad biology vs sex addict can’t be the same movie can they? Yes they are.

14- Love, Honour & Obey = Gangsters, Sex & Karaoke

love, honour & obey = gangsers sex & karaoke movie title for French audience

LOL? gangsters sex and karaoke?

15- Euro Trip = Sex Trip

Euro Trip = Sex Trip movie title for French audience
What pops into your mind when you hear the the word “Sex trip”?  I think of a porn movie but that’s me. What’s strange here is the word “Trip” which is used in the original title is not used even though it is very often used in other cases. (see the next example). As if, they just wanted to change it for the sake of changing it to include the word sex.

16-The Hangover = Very Bad Things

The Hangover = Very Bad Trop movie title for French audience

Despite there being an exact translation for the word “hangover” (gueule de bois”, the movie title was changed to “Very bad trip”. My guess is it was changed to this in order to associate it with a 1998 film called “Very Bad Things”. The two movies are not related however the themes are similar. They are both about a bunch of guys who go to Las Vegas before one of them gets married.

I bet the people who rename these films almost renamed this movie “The Sex Trip”. LOL.

17-Date Night = Crazy Night

Date night movie = crazy night movie title for French audience
The literal translation of date night is “rendez-vous amoureux” yet the title which the French know the film “Date Night” by is “Crazy Night”. Crazy is an English word the French understand well.. Look closely at the next movie title which uses the word crazy also.

** French Canadian movie titles for American movies are often but not always different from French titles.  For example, “date night” in Quebec is called “Méchante soirée” which can mean anything from “wicked night” to “nasty night”.

18- Train Wreck = Crazy Amy

Train Wreck =Crazy Amy movie title for French audience
The English term train wreck translated to French is “catastrophe ferroviaire” but you can’t really say someone’s life is a train wreck in French. Instead, the French movie people decided to call this movie “Crazy Amy”. Crazy is an English word the French understand well.

19-American Hustle = American Bluff

American Hustle = American Bluff movie title for French audience
The essence of the word “Hustle” is difficult to translate and convey not only in French but in most language so it only makes sense that another more understandable and meaningful word would be used for the local market. In France’s case, the movie was renamed to “American Bluff”. Bluf is understood by French people.

Here are some other titles that the movie was translated to in other countries

  • Isreal: “American Dream”
  • Argentina: “American Scandal”
  • Portugal: “American Sting”
  • Cina: “United States Cheat Bureau” LOL
  • Spain: The Great American Swindle
  • Turkey: “Trickster”

In Quebec Canada, a French speaking province, American Hustle is given a French title-Arnaque Américaine which means “American scam”.

20- The other Guys = Very Bad Cops

The other guys = Very bad cops movie title for French audience

First their was “very bad trip” now there is “Very bad cops” which was released in the US as “The other guys”.

21- Youth in Revolt = Be Bad

Youth Revolt = Be Bad movie title for French audience
Very bad trip”, “Very bad cops” and now “Be bad“.  The titles are starting to look a little similar non? ”

22- Get him to the Greek = American Trip

Get him to the Greek = American Trip movie title for French audience

Another English movie title that was changed and uses the word “Trip”, just like the movie “Very bad trip” plus it uses the word “American” like the re-titled movie “American bluff”.

23- All Good Things = Love & Secrets

All good things = love & secrets movie title for French audience

Not so bad right? NO use of the word sex or bad but there is the word Love and secrets in the title.

24- Killers = Kiss & Kill

killers = kiss & kill movie title for French audience

25- Coyote Ugly = Coyote Girls

coyote ugly = coyote girls movie title for French audience

Ok, this makes sense.

26- Pitch Perfect = The Hit Girls

Pitch perfect = hit girls movie title for French audience

Hit is a word the french understand and it usually refers to music or movies. Like that was a hit.

27- Jewish Connection = Holy Rollers

Jewish connection = Holy rollers movie title for French audience

This could have been kept as the “Jewish connection”. The French understand these terms and besides, it bears a similar resemblance to the “French connection” which despite being an American film is known in France. The word connection is the same in French also. While “Holy Rollers”, is not really a term MOST French people know. WHY?

28- Cool Runnings = Rasta Rocket

Cool runnings = Rasta Rockett movie title for French audience

No comment.

29- Knight and Day = Night and Day

Knight and Day = Night and Day movie title for French audience

Look closely, the French version of the American movie “Knight and Day” was changed to “Night and Day”. Which doesn’t really have the same meaning but I understand why it was changed. The word Knight is not really a word French people will understand. Night is.

30- Anger Management = Self Control

Anger management= Self control movie title for French audience

The new title “Self Control” actually works well in my opinion. Good job France!

31- Silver Linings = Happiness Therapy

Silver Linings t= Happiness therapy movie title for French audience

Don't be surprised in French people don't know the meaning of RSVP despite it being a French acronym

Why Don’t The French Know The Meaning of RSVP -A French Acronym?

Don't be surprised if French people don't know the meaning of RSVP despite it being a French acronym

RSVP, it’s what you write on an invitation when you want a response from the invited person. Despite being a French acronym-not an English one, French people rarely if ever use the term let alone understand what it means. Discover why and what you should write on a French invitation instead of the letters RSVP.

My confused French Friends: And the story of the invitation

Let me begin by saying that the friends I refer to in this story are French. This is important because the statements below are based on my personal experiences which may be different than other expats living in France.

‘Annie can you design an invitation for my party?’

My friend asked me to create an invitation for her going away party. Her husband’s company was transferring him to Russia and their enire family was making the move for three years. AMAZING OPPORTUNITY!

I happily agreed and came up with a clever idea to make the invitation look like a post card with 5 red Russian nesting dolls-one for each family member including the cat.

Don't be surprised if French people don't know the meaning of RSVP despite it being a French acronym

I think the invitation turned out super cute!

What the hell does RSVP mean?

As I created the invitation in Photoshop, two of my girlfriends looked over my shoulder giving me feedback when needed.  When the invitation was complete, I typed RSVP at the bottom and that’s when I heard one of my friends say  “qu’est ce que c’est ça?” in a high pitched voice which could mean anything from “what is this?” all the way to  “What the hell is that?”. 

RSVP is a French acronym for “Répondez, S’il Vous Plaît” which means “please reply” or “reply if it pleases you”.

I have friends with a wacky sense of humour so at first I thought they were joking. RSVP is after-all an acronym for a French phrase.  Not to mention the fact that SVP which is one letter shy of RSVP is well known and commonly used by ALL French people in written correspondence so why the hell wouldn’t they know what RSVP means.

It quickly became clear that they weren’t joking and had no idea what RSVP meant. Perhaps it’s a regional thing and people in Paris are more knowledgeable about using RSVP but in my small town in the South of France, not one of my French friends had any clue.

How to ask people to RSVP in France

My two friends agreed that I should write “Réponse avant le 30 Septembre” which means “Respond before the 30th of Septembre” at the bottom of the invitation so that is what I did.

I learned that there are multiple ways to ask someone to RSVP in France.

Here are six different ways you can ask someone to RSVP in French. These are all ones I have personally seen on invitations.An example of how to ask for an RSVP in French on a French invitation

  1. Réponse souhaitée = Response wanted
  2. Réponse souhaitée avant le ((date)) = Response wanted before the ((date))
  3. Merci de me confirmer ta présence= Thank you for confirming our presence
  4. Merci de confirmer ta présence le plus tôt possible en contactant au ((tel)) ou ((date))= Thank you for confirming your presence by calling ((phone number)) or ((email ))
  5. Confirmez votre participation avant le ((date))=  Confirm your participation before the ((date))
  6. “Prière de Répondre” = (Somewhat more formal)  Pray do respond

If you had to choose one, I would choose “réponse souhaitée” which seems to be the most popular thing to write on most invitations.

Why isn’t RSVP commonly used in everyday French anymore?

Like all languages, French has evolved and as a result many French words and phrases are either no longer used in modern French or the meaning has changed. RSVP is one of the many old French words or acronyms in this case which has fallen out of popular use by most French people today.

You can see many examples of old French words in the French Canadian language such as:

  • Bébelle: Bébélle comes from thirteenth century old French meaning”children’s toy”. My aunty in Montreal loves to say “Remasse tes bébélles” (pick up your stuff).
  • Barrer: a word used in both France and Quebec but the meaning has changed in France. When I go home to Quebec, I use the verb “barrer” to ask if the door is locked. “Est-ce que la porte est barré?” But in France, one would say “Fermé à clé.  Barrer is normally used in France to indicate something is blocking something else. The one exception is in Vendeé Poitou France where Barrer is still used by some people in the same way it is used in Quebec to indicate a door is locked. This might be due to the fact that many French Canadians, “Quebecois” can trace their lineage back to Poitou France, including me- 7 generations back. I’m just guessing here so if you know differently than please do share.

Why do English speakers use RSVP?

As it happens, I am writing this on the 28th of September which happens to be the anniversary of William the Conqueror of Normandy’s arrival in England in 1066, and after his victory at the Battle of Hastings, the French language merged with what the British were speaking, Saxon and Old Norse.

RSVP, often written R.S.V.P., made its way onto English birthday cards and wedding invitations beginning later in the 11th century – French was considered high fashion among the elite of the English court, and speaking French showed your elite status.

This affinity for all things French continued in England for several hundred years then travelled across the Atlantic where it became fashionable among high society in the United States- using French words showed refinement.

This trend continued until around the 19th century and from this, RSVP and many other French words and phrases made their way into English and stayed.

After diner drink

The French After Dinner Drink Made of Christmas Trees?

chrismtas tree liqueur

A quick post to share with you what I’ve always known -the French can turn anything into an alcoholic drink. In this post, I share my newest discovery and my thoughts on this latest alcohol concoction.
“Christmas Tree liqueur?”

Voulez-vous un digestif Annie? “Would you like an after dinner drink Annie”?

Here’s a little back story:

My Friend Marie and her husband Xavier invited Blake and I to their house for some home-made paella- which seems to be extremely popular here in the south of France, at least amongst our French friends. It’s popularity here in the south is probably a result of it’s proximity to Spain?

The Paella was excellent by the way.


After dinner but before the coffee, Marie offered us a “digestif” (digestive)- a common practice among our circle of friends here in France.  Only instead of offering me the usual faire of digestives, like port or sherry, she offered me a very special type of liqueur which made me do a double take.

A digestif is an alcoholic beverage served after a meal, which in theory aids digestion. Some common digestive include the following… (wiki source)

  • Brandy (Cognac, Armagnac, alembic-made)
  • Eaux de vie (fruit brandies, Schnapps, Calvados) Pomace brandy (grappa)
  • Fortified wines (sherry (usually cream sherry), vermouth, port, and madeira)
  • Liqueurs bitter or sweet (drambuie, amari (such as fernet), herbal liqueur, chartreuse, Grand Marnier, Irish Mist, Kahlua, limoncello, Herbs de Majorca, Unicum)
  • Distilled liquors (ouzo, tequila, whisky or akvavit)
  • Liquor cocktails (Black Russian, Rusty Nail, etc.)

Le Vert Sapin – The Green Fir

After diner drinkThe label on the bottle handed to me had 4 cute little trees which immediately made me think of Christmas trees.

The label read “Le vert sapin” which means the “green Fir”.  And as you know, some Christmas trees are of the fir variety.

The Christmas tree visual along with the word “sapin” made me giggle.

“I was  about to drink a christmas tree as my after diner drink. “oh boy”. FYI, Christmas tree in French is “Sapin de Noel” which literally means “Christmas Fir tree” which is what you and I would simply call in english a “Christmas Tree” without the Fir part.

What does green Fir liqueur taste like?

In a word, this interesting after dinner drink, which is actually made from young pine needles was very sweet and tasted, in a word, Piney?

I didn’t hate it but I didn’t exactly love it either.  Although I really wanted to love it.

How to drink it

According to the vert sapin site.  This liqueurs is best drank as an after-dinner drink served cold or over ice. Its 40° so you can keep it in the freezer. You can also drink this after dinner liqueur hot with hot water and sugar. Or use it in cocktails, for cooking or use a splash of it to sweeten your Absinthe.

Where to find or buy this after dinner drink?

Fir liquor is nothing new. It was invented over 100 years ago by a Frenchman named Armand Guy who wanted to make a local liqueur. The Alps have lots of pine trees and fir trees so I suppose it made sense to turn them into an alcoholic beverage.

These days pine liqueurs and spirits are quite popular, mainly in the Alps which is where “Le Vert Sapin” distilliary has been located for over 4 generations being passed down from father to son.

Don’t count on finding this Fir liqueur at your local grocery store in North America. It’s more of a novelty drink found in swanky bars and off the beaten path places. But if you do happen to find a place that serves it. Definitely give it a try.

If you can’t wait and absolutely must have some now, you can order some at The master of malt store online. 

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