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As you get to know French culture better, you might wonder what the customs and history of French Valentine’s Day are. Actually, you might be surprised to find out that Valentine’s Day might possibly have started in France.

To some it will be no surprise that a country regarded as one of the most romantic in the world (France) should have invented Valentine’s Day. On the other hand, the history of the holiday is not clear enough to say with certainty that the holiday originated in France.

History of French Valentine’s Day
There are two reasons why many people link Valentine’s Day with France. One is that it was commonly known, in both England and France, that birds and other animals paired off and mated ‘in the middle of February’. Coincidence? Most likely not, since February 14 is exactly the middle of February. It is thought that people began celebrating this as the special day for lovers because of this association with ‘love’ in nature.

In addition, a Frenchman, the Duke of Orléans, is thought to have written the first love letters that later became Valentine’s Day cards. The Duke of Orléans, Charles, was captured in 1415 and taken as a prisoner to London; while imprisoned in the Tower, he is thought to have written love letters to his wife back in France. These are thought to be what became cartes d’amitiés, now known as French Valentine’s Day cards.

St-Valentin, France
In France, in the department of Indre (Central France), there is a village called St-Valentin. Although nobody really knows anymore who St. Valentine was historically, there’s no doubt that the village of St-Valentin has capitalized on its name and marketed itself as le village des amoureux! Of course, with a name like that, one can’t help but make the association.

Create a Valentines Day à la française
Looking for a new way to celebrate Valentine’s Day? Create a French theme for your special day and surprise your loved one with a French evening. Use the opportunity to try out a delicious French dessert, serve French bread and cheese between the dinner and your delectable dessert, and have some romantic French music playing in the background all evening. Don’t forget to set the table in a French way, which is to say that the table should look like art: complete with a tablecloth, cloth napkins, a tasteful centerpiece, and an array of cutlery and glasses suitable for each course you will serve. Your valentine will never forget the year you made the most romantic day of the year even more romantic!

Have a great day with your loved one!

 

 

Camus' gravestone at his resting place - Pourmarin cemetery

Camus’ gravestone at his resting place – Pourmarin cemetery

“There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide.”
—Albert Camus

Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondavi, French Algeria. Camus became known for his political journalism, novels and essays during the 1940s. His best-known works, including The Stranger (1942) and The Plague (1947), are examples of absurdism. Camus won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957 and died on January 4, 1960, in Burgundy, France.

View from the Lourmarin cemetery

View from the Lourmarin cemetery

Early Life

Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondavi, French Algeria. His pied-noir family had little money. Camus’s father died in combat during World War I, after which Camus lived with his mother, who was partially deaf, in a low-income section of Algiers.

Camus did well in school and was admitted to the University of Algiers, where he studied philosophy and played goalie for the soccer team. He quit the team following a bout of tuberculosis in 1930, thereafter focusing on academic study. By 1936, he had obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in philosophy.

Political Engagement

Camus became political during his student years, joining first the Communist Party and then the Algerian People’s Party. As a champion of individual rights, he opposed French colonization and argued for the empowerment of Algerians in politics and labor. Camus would later be associated with the French anarchist movement.

At the beginning of World War II, Camus joined the French Resistance in order to help liberate Paris from the Nazi occupation; he met Jean-Paul Sartre during his period of military service. Like Sartre, Camus wrote and published political commentary on the conflict throughout its duration. In 1945, he was one of the few Allied journalists to condemn the American use of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. He was also an outspoken critic of communist theory, eventually leading to a rift with Sartre.

Decorative grave in the Lourmarin cemetery

Decorative grave in the Lourmarin cemetery

Literary Career

The dominant philosophical contribution of Camus’s work is absurdism. While he is often associated with existentialism, he rejected the label, expressing surprise that he would be viewed as a philosophical ally of Sartre. Elements of absurdism and existentialism are present in Camus’s most celebrated writing. The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) elucidates his theory of the absurd most directly. The protagonists of The Stranger (1942) and The Plague (1947) must also confront the absurdity of social and cultural orthodoxies, with dire results.

As an Algerian, Camus brought a fresh, outsider perspective to French literature of the period—related to but distinct from the metropolitan literature of Paris. In addition to novels, he wrote and adapted plays, and was active in the theater during the 1940s and ’50s. His later literary works include The Fall (1956) and Exile and the Kingdom (1957).

The Chateau at Lourmarin

The Chateau at Lourmarin

Nobel Prize and Death

Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. He died on January 4, 1960, in Burgundy, France.

Personal Life

Camus married and divorced twice as a young man, stating his disapproval of the institution of marriage throughout.

Credit: Camus’ precis biography reproduced here – from www.biography.com

 

Some photographic evidence of the treasure hoard we found in Sorgues.

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Modern supermarket style merchandising is not one of the owner’s strengths

 

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There are two sheds like this!

 

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In situ in Sorgues

In situ in Sorgues

One of the – many – delights of exploring the backwaters of Provence and dipping into some really ugly industrial zones, is that you can ofiten find some hidden treasures. Steep rentals chase many antique collectors/vendors away from the main tourist hubs into these overgrown and desolate yards where the bigger dealers come to ferret out bargains and sell them on for exhorbitant sums.

We had to go into one such backwater, near Sorgues (not to be confused at any time with its most illustrious namesake L’Isle sur la Sorgue), to a hardware merchant’s warehouse to collect a knock down wendy house (more about that later!!). Naturally, Madame’s radar was on high alert and we came across Antiquités des Oliviers.

We knew it was something special when we saw the vintage Fiats in the parking lot along with a very old lorry; statues and other bric a brac outside two huge sheds.

Right in the middle , we found something that had been a target for some time – a metal swing bench for the garden; a balançoire.

Ensconced in our garden looking over to Mont Ventoux.

Ensconced in our garden looking over to Mont Ventoux.

Business is slow……. we purchased the bench at 12h00, at 14h30 t was installed in our garden some 35km away!

 

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Boule in full swing on the Ménerbes bouledrome.

Boule in full swing on the Ménerbes bouledrome.

The mild winter we are experiencing in Provence this year has meant that the locals have dusted off their boule (or pétanque) packs early. Boule is a very serious game, played most Saturdays in all the villages and towns. A thriving Association de Boule makes sure that competitions are held throughout France. In our local department, Vaucluse, the Ménerbes’ ladies team are the champions, and the men…. let’s just say that they’re very enthusiastic and try hard.

All Saturday morning, local farmers arrive with a procession of tractors, scrapers and wood poles to lay out the playing surfaces and make sure that everything is perfect. Then, the pastis arrives by the case load, the small portable clubhouse is opened up and the all-important schedule of play is pinned up on the notice board and the games begin!

If you’re ever thinking of joining in, and the locals will welcome it, make sure that your boules are branded Obut. Nothing less than the best, please.

As early as the 6th century BC the ancient Greeks are recorded to have played a game of tossing coins, then flat stones, and later stone balls, called spheristics, trying to have them go as far as possible. The ancient Romans modified the game by adding a target that had to be approached as closely as possible. This Roman variation was brought to Provence by Roman soldiers and sailors. A Roman sepulchre in Florence shows people playing this game, stooping down to measure the points.

After the Romans, the stone balls were replaced by wooden balls. In the Middle Ages, Erasmus referred to the game as globurum, but it became commonly known as boules (i.e. ‘balls’), and it was played throughout Europe. King Henry III of England banned the playing of the game by his archers — he wanted them to be practicing archery, not playing boules. In the 14th century, Charles IV and Charles V of France forbade the sport to commoners; only in the 17th century was the ban lifted.

By the 19th century, in England the game had become “bowls” or “lawn bowling”. In France it was known as boules and was played throughout the country. The French artist Meissonnier made two paintings showing people playing the game, and Honoré de Balzac described a match in La Comédie Humaine.

In the South of France the game evolved into jeu provençal (or boule lyonnaise), similar to today’s pétanque, except that the playing area was longer and players ran three steps before throwing the ball. The game was played in villages all over Provence, usually on squares of land in the shade of plane trees. Matches of jeu provençal around the start of the 20th century are memorably described in the memoirs of novelist Marcel Pagnol.
According to a document in the Musée Ciotaden in La Ciotat signed by Ernest Pitiot, pétanque in its present form was first played in 1910 in what is now called the Jules Lenoir Boulodrome in the town of La Ciotat near Marseilles. It was invented by Ernest Pitiot, a local café owner, to accommodate a French jeu provençal player named Jules Lenoir, whose rheumatism prevented him from running before he threw the ball. In the new game, the length of the pitch or field was reduced by roughly half, and a player no longer engaged in a run-up while throwing a ball—he stood, stationary, in a circle.

The first pétanque tournament with the new rules was organized in 1910 by the brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot, proprietors of the café at La Ciotat. After that the game spread quickly and soon became the most popular form of boules in France.

 

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Young Mr. Worm

Young Mr. Worm – or in French, monsieur Ver

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