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Top Candy From French Supermarkets To Buy As Souvenirs & Gifts

Top 7 candy souvenirs & gifts you can buy in French supermarkets or online

Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive souvenir from your trip to France, a compact gift that will fit in your luggage or you simply want to buy your friend something sweet from France- candy is a tasty treat that checks all the boxes and will please just about anyone. Here are 7 French favourites which you can buy in any French supermarket or online- perfect for any age and all tastes.

Buying souvenirs and gifts from your travels can be tricky. Even buying a simple souvenir t-shirt involves knowing what size is for who and which colour and design is best.  Touristy gifts can be fun reminders of your travels but let’s face it-once the novelty of that miniature Eiffel tower or shot glass wears off, those souvenirs often get thrown out or left at the bottom of the junk drawer.

Sweet Treats have mass appeal but…..

French treats and confections on the other hand, make thoughtful gifts that you can give to just about anybody and I guarantee it won’t get wasted or thrown out. But not all French treats are well suited for transport in your luggage.

Chocolate melts, famous French macaroons are delicate and pain au chocolate is just not practical to bring back. Even if you did manage to transport them back, would the person you give them to even appreciate the trouble you went through or the taste of those sweet French confections?

Supermarket candy from a foreign country is a great alternative

Pre-packaged candy found in grocery stores are compact and won’t break which makes them great gifts to bring back from your travels. Best of all, candy from the grocery store is usually very affordable so you can afford to bring back something for everyone. You might think supermarket candy is not sophisticated enough or gift worthy but candy from another country, even if only from a foreign grocery store has it’s appeal. Even the average French person purchases their candy at supermarkets.

If you’re not travelling to France but still like the idea of giving candy to that French loving Francophile in your life, you can also buy most of these online and have them shipped directly to your home. I’ve included links to where you can buy them online.

Which supermarket candy should you buy?

Of the hundreds of types of candy you might see in the candy aisle of French food stores, you’ll see familiar brands such as Snickers, Kit Kat and Skittles. Don’t get those- you can get those anywhere. Instead, I’ve put together a list of candies that are 1- French favorites, 2- have a wider appeal: meaning, you could buy one type and give it to your little niece or to your aunty, 3- are inexpensive, 4- fairly durable and easily transportable thanks to it’s packaging and 5) are not readily available in your home country except at a premium price. (this last one assumes you are not from Europe)

1- Les Fraises Tagada (By Haribo)- Strawberry Tagada


If you can bring back just one type of candy from France, LET IT BE a bag one of the most well-known and recognized candy in France: Strawberry flavoured “TAGADA”.

Say the word “TAGADA” in France and 9 out of 10 people will instantly know you are referring to the cute little red dome-shaped candy called “Les Tagada”- a candy created in 1969 by Haribo.

Over 35% of annual candy sales in France is spent on Haribo candy. Just walk down the candy aisle of any grocery store and you’ll always see a multitude of candy produced by Haribo to choose from. It’s no wonder roughly 38 millions pieces of candy made by Haribo are consumed EACH DAY in France.

The French prefer jellied or gummy candy

Although the Haribo brand is not a French brand, there is a French division that oversees candy produced and sold in France and that division created Tagada specifically for the French market and French taste buds. Even the name “TAGADA” is geared towards the French market-which is an old French expression that implies joy or happiness-similar to WHOPP-DEE-DOO or YIP-PEEEEEE.

Supposedly, the candy got it’s iconic name when a Haribo sales manager in France went to a cabaret and heard a song with the phrase “Youpla boum tagada tsoin tsoin” The song that he heard may have been a song by French singer Maurice Chevalier called prosper.

tagada-candy-recipe-bookIf you’re still not convinced that Tagada is popular in France, you have only to look at all books and websites that reference this cult candy. You’ll also find hundreds of dessert recipes online which call for the use of Tagada as one of the ingredients.

tagadas-cake-recipephoto and recipe for this strawberry Tagada cake can be found here (in French)

What does it taste like?

Slightly smaller than a ping-pong and shaped like a cute little red dome, it has a soft marshmallow interior dusted in strawberry flavoured sugar on the outside.  Tagada can be found in other countries such as Germany but they taste slightly different. For instance the Tagada sold in Germany is not as soft as the ones sold in France because the French prefer them softer.  Many brands have tried to create their own version of “les Fraises Tagada” but nothing compares to the original.

2-L’Ours D’Or (By Haribo) –  Golden Bears


Sure you can buy gummi bears anywhere but If you want the original gummi bear than you need to try Haribo Golden Bears.

Make sure you tell the story of how the gummy bear was invented.

Back In 1920, Hans Riegel, a German entrepreneur founded the confectionary company HARIBO in Bonn Germany. 2 years later he invented the first gummy bear which he called “dancing bear”. His inspiration for the now iconic bear shape came to him while watching the trained bears he saw at festivals, annual markets and other celebrations in 19th century Germany.  Later when he began mass producing the fruit gum bears for Europe, he made them smaller and re-branded them as Golden Bears, known in France as “L’Ours D’Or”.

HARIBO is a contraction of the inventors name and city  HAns RIegel BOnn.


What does it taste like?

A tasty gummi bear what else? There are several fruit flavours including: green apple, lemon, orange, raspberry, strawberry and pineapple.

3- Chamallows ( By Haribo)

pronounced [SHAW-MAAH-LOW]


Chamallows is a marshmallow candy produced by Haribo for the French market and like Tagada, it’s a candy which every French person knows by sight and name. The name Chamallows is so engrained in the French culture that it is used interchangeably with the French word for marshmallow which is “gimauvre”- similar to how you might use the brand name “ Kleenex” instead of the word tissue.


What does it taste like?

Chamallows are sold in packages mixed with two colours- pink and white which both taste the same. They are very similar to the classic white marshmallow found throughout North America but they don’t quite taste the same and they are less airy in my opinion.

Packing for transport

This is the only candy on the list which runs the risk of getting squished so you may want to throw this in your carry on bag or purse.

4- Dragibus (by Haribo)

pronounced [DRAH-ZsHYEE-BUS]Haribo Candy Dragibus bag

Another French favourite is Dragibus by Haribo– a chewy marble sized fruity candy that come in packages with seven colours: black, green, red, yellow, orange, blue and pink.

What does it taste like?

haribo candy dragibus2

These chewy jewels contain no gelatin and stick to your teeth as you chew them. There is a  lot of debate over whether the colours correspond to the taste. Some say red is strawberry while others say all the colours taste the same. According to the Haribo website, yes there are different flavours however they don’t correspond to the colours. In other words, you could get a red one that tastes like strawberry or a blue one that tastes like strawberry. Each one is supposed to be a surprise.

Packing for transport

These are fairly rugged candies and travel well.

5-Car en Sac


Some people hate them but if you or someone you know loves liquorice, than these tiny multicoloured pill shaped candies called “Car En Sac” might be the perfect thing to bring back from France.  They come in packages with blue, white, red and green and have a chewy liquorice center (not as chewy as gummy bears) and a semi hard sugar coated exterior making them pretty durable and perfect to throw in your luggage.

Haribo Candy Carensac bag

Packing for transport

Car en Sac candy is a rugged candy which will travel well.

6- Carambar


Carambar, short for “CARAMel en BARre”, is a cult classic in France. It’s one of those nostalgic candies that make many French people reminisce about their childhood.  Created in 1954 by Delespaul-Havez, a French company located in Lille France. Rumour has it that the first Carambar was created by accident when one of the factory machines malfunctioned.

Each 8 Centimetres chewy  bar comes individually wrapped in a yellow and red wrapper and is famous for it’s jokes written on the inside wrapper. There are even whole websites dedicated to Carambar jokes:

What does it taste like?

Although Carambar looks a lot like a Tootsie Roll, Carmbars’ have a more caramel and chocolate taste to them and a softer consistency in my opinion.

Packing for transport

These comes in small bags of 320 grams. The candy itself is pretty hard and won’t melt in hot temperatures but will get slightly soft.


7- Chupa Chups


If you’re not into marshmallows, don’t like gummy or chewy candy than a hard candy like a lollipop might be your best bet. One brand that stands out is Chupa Chups which happens to be the world leader in lollipops. Chupa Chups are instantly recognizable by its famous daisy logo which was created by none other than Salvador Dali. Dali even suggested to Enric Bernat, the Spanish inventor of the Chupa Chups loli, to print the logo on top of the wrapper so that it was always visible.

The name of the brand comes from the Spanish verb chupar, meaning “to suck”.


What does it taste like?

More than four billion Chupa Chups are produced every year in more than 50 flavours tailored to the tastes of more than 160 countries.

Try the crème brulé, banana milk and caramel flavours but orange and apple are by far the most popular.

Supermarkets in France

There are loads of other candies you can purchase at French supermarkets. In fact, there are loads of other supermarket goodies you can buy and bring home as souvenirs or gifts. More on that in another post.

Supermarkets are fairly easy to find in France which makes them a convenient place to buy some pretty interesting but inexpensive gifts, even at the last-minute. Here are the names of a few of the major supermarkets.

MonoPrix [pronounced: MOE-NO-PREE] (Mono prix are usually located in cities or bigger towns. They will can carry food and household items including clothing.)

Intermarché [pronounced: INTER-MAR-SHAY]

Carrefour [pronounced: CAR-FOOR] (Carrefours can be huge and can carry food as well as clothes, paint, school supplies and more).

LIDL [pronounced: LI-DUHL]  (This is a kind of discount grocery store and are usually pretty small.

LECLERC [pronounced: LUH-CLAIR]


Hyper-U [pronounced: EE-PAIR-U]

Auchan [pronounced: OH-SHYAN]

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!!

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. 

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. 

French charcuterie plate ideas- 8 types of cured meats to try

French Charcuterie Plate Ideas- 8 Cured Meats To Serve

French charcuterie plate ideas- 8 types of cured meats to try

Want to throw a little cocktail party and offer a “charcuterie plate” like they do in France (A french appetizer of dried cured meats)?  Here are 8 cured meats explained by Jesk, a world traveller who knows a thing or two about cured meats called “les saucissons” in French.

French cuisine is considered by many to be the best in the world, and at the very least, the world owes French culture a debt of gratitude regarding its many excellent and noteworthy methods of food preparation, its excellent wines, and its many fine cheeses. Food and drink in France are national obsessions, which means, if something is routinely considered worth eating by the French, you can be certain it’s worth eating by the rest of us.

Such is the case with the cured meats, or charcuterie, regularly consumed throughout France. If you’re a world traveller or future expat looking to move to or visit France- sometimes referred to as L’hexagone by French people because it is shaped like a hexagon, here are eight cured meats you’re sure to fall in love with; some of which are made in France and some of which are made in neighboring European countries.

1. Jambon de Bayonne

The most famous of all French hams, jambon de bayonne is air-dried and salted and traditionally made near the Pyrenees. Only eight distinct breeds of pig are used in jambon de bayonne production, and the regulations concerning diet, care, transport, slaughter, fat content, and the like are all very specific.

Each ham is cured a minimum of seven months, with the majority being aged closer to nine months or even 10. The ham has just a hint of sweetness and almost no salt in flavor, and while it’s possible to get it in other places around the world, booking a flight to France online at a site like is the only way you can be guaranteed to taste it at its best.

Jambon de Bayonne: a popular cured meat eaten in France

2. Prosciutto

Arguably the most famous of Italy’s cured meats, prosciutto is made from the back leg of a pig or boar. The leg is cured whole in a process that can take anywhere from nine months to two years. In France, as in Italy, it’s served as part of an antipasto, in sandwiches, atop pizzas, and as the star player in simple pasta dishes.

3. Coppa

A traditional, Old World-style cured meat, this Italian ham is so similar in taste to prosciutto that you can swap the two in and out for one another in recipes without most people ever noticing. Made from the pig’s shoulder or neck — as opposed to the back leg — and cured whole, coppa is also called capicolla or capocollo.

coppa: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France

4. Speck

Cut from the pig’s hindquarters in much the same way as prosciutto, speck is cured with a different batch of spices than it’s more famous counterpart, which actually gives it a more robust flavor. Bay leaves, nutmeg, juniper berries, garlic, and the like are all used in the cure, and once it’s finished, the speck is cold smoked, which increases its flavor even more. Speck is fantastic in pasta or on bread.Speck: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France

5. Saucisson Sec

This thick, French sausage is dry-cured, and while it’s typically made of pork, it can also be made from pork and a mixture of other meats. Similar to North America’s summer sausage or Italy’s dry-cured salamis, the recipe typically calls for a mix of lean meat, back fat, salt, spices such as peppers and garlic, sugar, fermenting bacteria, fruits, nuts, nitrites, and even wine or cheese.

saucisson sec: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France

6. Bresaola

Unlike the vast majority of cured meats consumed in France, bresaola is made from beef instead of pork. Made from salted and air-dried top round, bresaola is cured for a few months to produce a soft and tender charcuterie that tastes best just slightly cooler than room temperature. Slice it thin and drizzle it with lemon juice and olive oil, or pair it with an aged, hard cheese and baguette.

Bresaola: saucisson sec: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France

7. Lomo

A popular Spanish cured meat, lomo is made from dry-cured pork tenderloin, and the result is pillowy soft and rich in flavor. Lomo can be had in a number of distinctive flavors, which result, not from the curing process, but rather from the breed of pig used. Lower in fat than many charcuterie options, eat it with your favorite Spanish cheese.

Lomo-saucisson: A popular type of cured meat eaten in France

So, hop a flight to France, and be prepared to enjoy a bevy of excellent cured meats from all over Europe.

This was a guest post by Jeska, a North American traveller who is dedicated to seeking and exploring her very own continent to find all the hidden treasures it has to offer.

national crepe day in france

Forget Groundhog Day! Let’s Eat Crepes All Day And Celebrate National Crepe day in France!


It’s true, while the US and Canada are waiting for the groundhog to poke its cute little head out of it’s hol on the 2nd of February,  the French are gorging themselves on crepes. Can you imagine?  A whole day dedicated to eating scrumptious crepes?  It just doesn’t get anymore cliché than that.But why is there a whole day dedicated to eating crepes and what do you do on this day? Here is a little introduction explaining everything you need to know about this day including a simple crepe recipe you can make at home. Bon appétit!

 What Is this crepe day called in French?

First lets get the pronunciation right. Crepe is not pronounced like the word  “CRAP”. You don’t say “Deux Crap S’il vous plait”!

The English Way: If you are saying crêpe in English, I suppose you would pronounce it like the word “crape”.

The French Way: If you want to say the word crêpe like a French person would say it then you should pronounce it like the word “beg” or “wet”. Phonetically it is pronounced like this…


Say it! K-R-E-P…………K-R-E-P…………….K-R-E-P…………………

Perfect. Now you sound like a real French person.

What is this crepe day?

To English speakers, this crepe eating day is called National crepe day, not to be confused with pancake day which falls on the 26th of September while crepe day is on the 2nd of February.

In France and to French speakers, this day is called La Chandeleur. The word Chandeleur does not mean crepe day at all. It comes from the word chandelle which means candle in French. If you are Christian than you know the day as Candlemas.

Candlemas celebrates three occasions according to the Christian belief:

  1. The presentation of Jesus Christ
  2. Jesus’ first entry into the temple
  3. The purification of the Virgin Mary’s ( in Catholic churches).

Many Christians consider Jesus as the “light of the world” and for many centuries it was tradition for clergymen to bless candles, light them in churches and distribute them to people.

This act apparently marked the milestone in the winter weather and that day was important. There were even songs dedicated to this day. More on that in a minute.

You should read about another holiday called L’épiphane where you eat a fluffy brioche like cake and can become king for a day.

The interesting link between crepe day and ground hog day

Now you know that national crepe day is actually called la chandeleur in French or Candlemas in English. But did you know that crepe day which falls on the 2nd of February, is also the same day as ground hog day?

The two don’t sound like they are related but they actually are. The groundhog tradition actually stems from and shares some of the same weather folklore or beliefs which are associated with Candlemas Day and the days of early Christians in Europe.

Here is an English song which talks about what the weather will be like

If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.

The groundhog day tradition sound pretty similar doen’t it.

If on the 2nd of February (Groundhog Day in the United States and Canada) the groundhog sees its shadow, this means thirty days of winter still remain and it goes back into its hole. If the ground hog DOES NOT see it’s shadow than spring is right around the corner.

In many other areas, the groundhog is replaced a bear.

For instance, in parts of France, if the bear come out of his cave and sees that the sky is clear, it goes back to its cave to sleep for another 40 days or 6 weeks because it knows that the clear sky is only temporary. In other parts of France it is the wolf or otter while in Ireland it is the hedgehog.

If la chandeleur is a religious holiday of lights, then why eat crèpes on this day?

we made a crepe cake with alternating layers of nutella and crepes

There is conflicting information as to when and why people started eating crepes as part of la chandeleur but every source I found agrees that eating crepes as part of the original tradition of celebrating la chandeleur. Eating crepes came much much later.

Most sources say that in France, the crepes round shape and colour symbolize the sun and the return of the light which ties in with the tradition of celebrating this holiday of lights.  Now that crepes are part of the tradition, most people still call this tradition la chandeleur. Althoug I have heard of people calling it “le jour de crepe”, (crepe day).

The tradition and flipping crepes

Traditionally, you are supposed to flip a crepe in a pan with your right hand while holding a coin in your left hand. The belief is that if you successfully flip the pancake while holding the coin, you will have enough money or be prosperous until the next chandeleur.

Even my aunt in Montreal used to do this so the holiday is not limited to France but even to some older people living in Montreal who carry on the tradition.


  • Jour de la marmotte =Ground hog day
  • crepe “K-R-E-P= A thin French pancake
  • La Chandeleur = Candlemas.
  • Le jour de crepe = Crepe Day

Do the French eat crepes a lot?


Yes, the French eat crepes quite a bit. Not just on la chandeleur/crepe day. In fact, most of my friends eat it a few times a month, but Sunday seems to be the most popular day to eat it. Crepes are also not like pancakes at all. They are super thin, not fluffy at all.

French people DO NOT PUT SYRUP on their crepes. I repeat, they DO NOT put syrup on their crepes. EVER.

You don’t have to wait to eat crepes on crepe day, you can usually find them throughout france on little street corners or at markets or carnivals. And they are super yummy. Here is a recipe you can use to make crepes. There is also a video below you can watch.


Makes approximately 8 large or 12 small crèpes

2 cups white flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 dash of salt
2 eggs lightly beaten
1+ 2/3 cups milk
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon melted  butter AND a little  extra butter for frying


Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.Mix the eggs, milk and water in another bowl.Slowly pour the liquid into the dry mixture while whisking; this makes the batter smoother. And finally, stir in the melted butter.The batter should be extremely runny /watery, this is how the crèpes get so thin.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.Heat a crèpe pan or deep, non-stick pan, greased with a little butter. Pour in enough batter to coat the bottom of the pan, tilt the pan left right and every which way to get the batter to spread out thinly across the pan. The thinner the better. Cook over medium heat until the crèpe comes away from the rim, about one minute or until the crèpe is golden brown.Use a spatula or crepe knife to flip the crèpe over. Stack the crèpes on a plate or cover with aluminium to keep warm.

Serve with Nutella, sugar and lemon, strawberry confiture or whatever else you want then fold into a delicious treat.

Here is a video (in French) showing you how to make crepes at home

It is in French but, the measurements are subtitles and the important thing is to notice the pan and the method he uses to make his crepes.

King Cake

How To Be King For A Day In France By Eating King Cake On January 6th

One of the charming things about France is all the different holidays, traditions and customs. Just when you think one is over, another one pops its festive head up. January 6th, Epiphany is one of those days. It’s the one day you can become King for a day. Well sort of.


What is Epiphany day: Symbolic Meaning

Exactly 12 days after Christmas on January 6; people across France celebrate Epiphany day. The French have been celebrating Epiphany, since the fourteenth century. It celebrates the Three Wise Men who arrived in Bethlehem bearing gifts for baby Jesus.

Ties to Mardi Gras: If you are not familiar with epiphany, you most certainly must be familiar with Mardi Gras and Carnival! Epiphany also marks the first day of Carnival and a series of parties in Louisiana that eventually lead to Mardi Gras, ( Fat Tuesday). The last hurrah before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

How To Celebrate: And Become King For A Day In France.

On Epiphany, young school children learn about the history behind epiphany day at school and the shelves of every single Boulanger in France are lined with rows of “gallette des rois” (King Cake).

Galette des rois is flattish puff pasty cake usually filled with apple or frangipane, a cream made from sweet almonds, butter, eggs and sugar. Hidden Inside each King cake is a small figurine called a fève which literally means bean in French. Originally an actual bean was put in the cakes, but around the 1870’s, it was replaced by porcelain figurines and more recently sometimes by plastic toys.

In Montreal there are still bakers that actually put beans in their king cake. I think bakers in Louisiana put a small baby, representing the Christ Child, in the cake.

percelain figurines we found in our king cake in France

The tradition is simple and quick. You cut slices of the cake and hand them out at a small get together or with your family. Whoever finds the figurine in their slice becomes King for a day and will have to buy and offer the next cake. There are some special things that make this tradition charming.

  • A paper crown is always included with the cake to crown the “king” or “Queen” who finds the fève in their piece of cake.
  • If there are children, it is tradition that the youngest be placed under the table and randomly says who gets the next slice. This is the part that the kids love the most and it’s also a way to ensure that the slices are handed out randomly.

In the south of France where we live, there is a second type of king cake called gâteau des Rois (also means king cake) or couronne des Rois ( which means kings crown).This second type is similar in texture and shape to the King cake found in Louisiana.

Instead of puff pastry, the cake is a brioche which is more bread or cake like. It is also not filled with frangipane. Instead it’s topped with candied fruit and white sugar to make it look like an actual crown with jewels.

This king cake is from the south of France.

And that is how you become King (or Queen) for a day in France.

You don’t need to come to France to be King for a day. You can make King cake yourself, Louisiana style.

So did you know about Epiphany and or its tie to Carnival and Mardi Gras?

Stay tuned for the next tradition coming soon; National Crepe Day: everything you wanted to know about this very French tradition including how to make crepes at home

Weird French Food For New Years Eve! Can you stomack it?

new years eve French style. do you dare try their foods?

If you plan on being in France on New Years eve and are invited to a New years dinner (dîner de la Saint Sylvestre) or new years eve party where food is served than you better prepare yourself for certain things, particularly the weird French food.

In France, New Years Eve, known as La Saint-Sylvestre or réveillon de l’an,  is celebrated in a variety of ways. Some people like to organize costume parties with dancing while others like to have a quiet evening doing nothing more than snuggling up in front of the T.V.

More often than not, the vast majority of French choose to celebrate new years eve with a feast called le Reveillon, with friends and family. Be prepared because if you are ever invited to a French New Years Eve gathering with food, you will no doubt see at least one of the food items listed below which some people say is weird French food.


Weird french new years eve foods: raw oysters

I hope you like oysters (les huitres – “lay zueetr”),  because every year about 80 thousand tonnes of oysters are consumed in France during the festivities of the new year. Every year since being in France, we have eaten oysters during the new year. We often eat it at Christmas too. They say it’s an aphrodisiac.

FOIE GRAS (fwa gra):

Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feeding
Weird french new years eve foods: foie gras force feedingFoie Gras which literally means “fat liver” is defined by French law as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force feeding with a feeding tube.

Despite the controversy set around the method of producing foie gras by force feeding, which most animal activist say is torture for the animals, Foie gras is gleefully gobbled up by both French children and adults across France all year round especially during Christmas and New Years.

So wide spread is foie gras, you will never have a hard time finding it at a food store in France. It’s even served to children at school for their end of year Christmas meal. At least it is at my children’s schools


Weird french new years eve foods: raw sea urchin and crustacean

If you are really lucky, your host spared no expense and in addition to oysters, he or she put out a platter of a variety of shell fish and crustacean over ice.

If you see prawns (Gambas) on the platter, don’t be surprised to see the heads, eyes and antennae still attached to prawns. Optional; grab one and pinch off the head before sucking down the juices if you dare.

You might also find raw cockles, mussels and even raw sea urchin. I will admit I had a hard time eating raw mussels despite the fact that I lived in Japan for years and enjoy sushi.



You knew it was coming; snails, a French delicacy rarely served outside of French cuisine.

More than half of all the sales of escargots in France (notably with butter and parsley) is sold around the end of the year. And contrary to belief, not all French people eat escargot. Typically the French that do eat them, rarely do so outside of special dinners or holidays. I often see escargot sold in bags in the frozen food section at my local grocery store where I live in France. Despite the fact that I do enjoy escargot, I can’t bring myself to actually cooking it.

SAUMON FUMÉ (smoked salmon):

If you can’t stand the thought of eating escargot, raw oysters or mussels than you might want to stick to the smoked salmon dishes (Saumon Fumé); almost always served cold. I actually enjoy it on petite canapés with chives and crème fraîche


And finally, if you hate raw oysters and can’t stand smoked salmon, at least you know you will have the pleasure of drinking Champagne. France is after all the birth place of Champagne.

If by chance you don’t see the words Champagne printed on the label of bubbly you happen to be drinking but instead see the words “CREMANT”, don’t worry. Crémant is actually sparkling wine which is just like champagne.

Real Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France.  In 1891, the French made it illegal for any vineyard not in the Champagne region to make a drink called “champagne” so although a vineyard may use the same techniques to produce their bubbly beverage, unless they are physically located in the champagne region of France, they cannot legally call their drink Champagne. Boo.


Finally, these are not really big deals, rather here are little things you should be aware of.

DO: Kiss under the mistletoe?

At midnight after the countdown, everyone cries “Bonne Année”! (happy new year) and everyone, AND I MEAN E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E kisses one another (see my article on French kissing).

While you are kissing everyone, if you happen to see mistletoe (gui pronounced Gee) hanging than be prepared to kiss someone.  That’s right, this tradition which most of us know to happen during Christmas actually happens On New Years Eve in France. Bizarre non not to the French?

DON’T: say Happy New Year until….

Unlike in the United States and Canada, French people DO NOT wish one another Happy New years in advance before the new year. Instead, in the weeks and days leading up to New Years people say……………

”Bonnes fêtes de fin dannée” which literally means “Happy end of year celebrations” but idiomatically it means Happy holidays.

It’s only on the day of or after the 1st of January that you actually say “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year).

MISCONCEPTION: The French don’t eat Crepes on new years.

I have seen several articles plastered across the web that say French people in France eat crepes (very thin pancakes) for new years. This just is not true.

Yes the French eat crepes and can eat them all year round and yes there is a special day where the French celebrate and eat crepes but New years eve is not one of them.

See my article about crepe day (Chandeleur) which occurs on the 2nd of February. (Link coming soon).

Bonne Année everyone.

We had a quiet new years eve feast with friends and ate at least some of the things I listed in this article. Hiccup!

What would you do if you had to eat one of the things on this list that you did not like?

Saint Patricks day in france

Where And How To Celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day In France

saint Patricks day in france

St Patrick’s Day is nowhere near as popular in France as it is in the US and Canada. In most regions of France it isn’t really noticed let alone celebrated- unless of course you know where to go. Whether you want to find a pub to drink a pint of Guinness beer or listen to some Irish tunes and do the Irish jig, here are a few places you can go to celebrate this iconic day in France.

How to celebrate St Patrick’s Day in France

When I was a kid, if you didn’t wear something green on Saint Patrick’s day, the other kids would pinch you. It wasn’t much of a celebration but I was aware of the day and that’s just what we did.

As I got older, I still put on something green for St. Patrick day but I also added drinking beer at local bars and pubs with friends to my repertoire of Irish festivities. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t of Irish descent, you just did it to hang with your friends. Chances are if you’re reading this,  you might have had a similar experience.

When I moved to France, simply finding an Irish pub with the Irish spirit was a challenge but a good time can still be had if you look in the right places.

Saint Patrick’s Day in France

If you find yourself in a smallish French town or a less touristy part of France on March 17, the day will pass without anyone batting an eye. Most French people will walk around clueless to the fact that it’s St Patrick’s day. **GASP**

You won’t find corned beef stocked up at the supermarket or 4 leaf clovers decorated here and there. And if you see anyone wearing green on this day, it will be purely coincidental.

If however you head over to one of the bigger cities or cities which attract more tourists, your options to celebrate will multiply a thousand fold. Here are a few cities throughout France where you can have a pint and embrace the Irish spirit with other Irish loving lads and lasses in France.

See also: Why the French hate Halloween


If you want a more authentic Irish ambiance, well as much as you can get in France, than head over to Brittany to a city called Rennes. Rennes is pretty festive throughout the year but it really comes alive around rue Saint-Michel, aka “rue de la soif” where you will find a number of bars all waiting for you to celebrate St Patrick’s with them. Coincidentally “rue de la soif” translates to “street of the thirsty”

Address : rue Saint-Michel, 35000, Rennes.

Places to celebrate celebrate St. Patrick’s day in Paris

If you want hordes of pub options for St Patrick’s day than you’ll have to head over to the tourist Mecca of the world- Paris, where you will find heaps of things to do in comparison to other towns and cities in France.


Before you go pub hopping, check out the Irish cultural centre of Paris. On their site you’ll find a calendar of events which you can use to find all sorts of cultural things to do not only for Saint Patrick’s day but all year round. Art exhibitions, concerts, dancers and more.

There are a tonne of Irish pubs in Paris to choose from. Here are a few worth a visit.

Le Coolin, Paris

Kitty O’Shea’s Le Pub Irlandais, Paris

Connolly’s Corner, Paris

Corcoran’s Paris

Guiness Tavern du côté de Chatelet, O `Sullivan à Montmartre, Taverne de Cluny in the 5th arrondissement, Celtic Corner Pub in the 15th arrondissement, Obrien’s near the Eiffel Tower, Shannon Pub, The pure malt and I could go on.

Irish Pubs in other cities throughout FranceWhere to celebrate St Patricks Day in France

If you’re not in Paris on St Patty’s or can’t travel that far, all is not lost. You an still find a few Irish pub in towns across France. It’s a good excuse to explore other regions of France if you haven’t already done so.


The Hop Store Irish Pub


The Connemara, Le Molly Malone’s, The Blarney Stone, The Frog & Rosbif


L’After Hours, Tir Na Nog


The Galway Inn, Le Tonneau de Bière


The Smoking dog, Kelly’s Irish pub, The Antidote Pub

The Sherlock Holmes, Le Connemara, Frog & Rosbif


O’Brady’s on avenue de Mazargues, The Shamrock




Brady’s Irish Pub


Le Shannon Pub56


London Town, Le Mulligans, De Danu

Find an Irish pub near you in France

If you won’t be near any of the larger cities listed above, you can do your own search and find a pub nearer to your location using an internet search engine. I can’t guarantee big crowds and you may be disappointing by the lack of Irish spirit but it’s worth a try and better than nothing.

Try typing these search terms in the search engine.

  • “un pub Irlandais + name of your French town”
  • “ou fêter St Patricks + name of your french town”

Go to Disneyland Paris and Disney Village for St Patrick’s Day

celebrate saint patrick's day in France at Disneyland Paris

As cheesy as it sounds, you could go to Disneyland Paris on the 17th of March to celebrate Saint Patrick’s day. There are usually Irish dancers, a meet and greet with Mickey and Minnie in Irish costumes, musicians, free make-up, fireworks and loads of other things to get you in the mood. The is also decked out in Green.

Go and celebrate

Just because you’re in France doesn’t mean you have to forgo other traditions or holidays you are used to celebrating. Don’t let some Francophile snob shame you for wanting to either.

I’ve heard too many people say “you’re in France, you should just do “FRENCH” things.” Bull crap! That’s just too narrow-minded for my taste. There are French people that celebrate other customs and it’s all right if you do too. Besides, it’s fun to see how other cultures celebrate something you’re used to celebrating a certain way.

Oh yes, and you can proudly wear green on this day too. I always have my green blazer handy for St Patty’s day.

saint patricks day green jacket

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