The fastest January ever!
Bonjour les amis,
I am typing this on Sunday January 29.
Nom d’un chien. Holy Molly. January just flew by!
I’ve stayed put all month in anticipation of the upcoming touring season in the spring. There’s enough to do here in Tours, teaching French conversation classes online, sharing stories weekly on social media, interacting with community members and working on several projets a couple of which got completed earlier this month.
France with Véro patrons provided great feedback on the program I launched in the spring of 2020. With 500 Club Members, the Patreon program remains the lifeline of this small business. Patrons generously took the time to fill in a survey and told me what they liked best about the content I create and what directions I could follow in the next few months.
In return, they got a chance to enter the first annual France with Vero Give Away. The winner was gifted a cute set of Paris-themed stationery from a favorite boutique.
A few days later, all patrons found in their inbox a new reward: a 20-page PDF listing all my favorite places to stay and places to eat in Tours and tips to travel around the Loire Valley. This document will be updated thanks to their feedback. It’s a lot more than a generic list in a guidebook. These are essential travel tips from a local (moi!) who shares why Tours is an excellent gateway to the popular Loire Valley (and a great place to be in its own right.) Get your copy of the PDF by joining on Patreon.
What the French look forward to in January
Let’s face it: In January, we all need reasons to smile when “la grisaille” (grey skies) and winter temperatures hit this country for days on end.
Fear not. France has you covered. Cue in la Galette des Rois (King’s Cake) a delicious treat that comes with a fun and convivial tradition. Like most French people, I’ve enjoyed a slice or “Galette” (or two) in January. I picked up another one in lovely Azay-le-Rideau earlier today after exploring a local brocante and visiting my favorite château in the Loire Valley. Wise move. In just a few days, there will be no more galettes on boulangerie shelves.
Another reason to like January: “les Soldes” (the bi-annual official sale.) Since most retail businesses partake (except Louis Vuitton allegedly and they are very proud of it) most boutiques you step in will be offering discounts. What you do want to look for are signs announcing “première démarque” (the first round of additional markdowns) or “ultime démarque” (the last round.) By that time, unless you wear out-of-the-ordinary sizes all the best items will be gone. The winter sale ends on February 7 in most French regions this year.
By next month the French government (that still sets the official sale dates) will reveal how successful the season has been for businesses. A given: Most will say sales were disappointing. C’est la crise. It always seems to be la crise...
Photo: The delicious galette des rois I enjoyed this afternoon. It tasted even better because the Château of Azay-le-Rideau loomed in the distance.
New this month: C’est la grève !
January was not all galettes des rois and successful shopping trips to the mall.
Planning a trip to France? I don’t want to alarm you too much, but strike season is back on.
The French government is pushing once again an unpopular reform of the complex (and somewhat antiquated) French retirement system. This article details what’s at stake. Understand two things about the French:
1. According to polls, most people oppose the reform as it is currently laid out. Many are willing to fight for what they consider “des acquis sociaux” (workers’ rights earned over time, often through social unrest and/or negotiation, at the core of the social contract between the government and the people.)
2. Pointing out that people retire much later than the French in other countries won’t help. The French often consider practices in those countries to be uncivilized and unfair. They will point out many people from said countries flock to France every year to enjoy an (idealized?) French lifestyle — working to live vs living to work, etc, etc.
What does this mean to you as a traveler?
Potential disruptions in your travel plans, especially when transportation is concerned. Plan ahead. Have a Plan B (Taxis can be booked ahead of time. So can car rentals.)
Fortunately, strikes have to be announced no later than 5 days before the scheduled event in most cases. Look up upcoming strikes by region or sector on this site.
Traveling by train? Find updates about your train (have that train number ready!) in real time on this site.
Keep your fingers crossed and everything should be (mostly) fine. The next national strike is scheduled on January 31st. The next SNCF (rail) strike on February 8 and 9. It’s safe to say there will be more social unrest until summer.
Photo: La Parisienne. She walks. A lot. Especially during strikes. By the way, did you catch the photo essay I dedicated to her recently?
Things you may have missed…
How important is it to blend in while traveling? This photo essay received so many comments on Facebook! I did my best to reply to most. If you enjoy people watching especially in Paris, you’ll like the story.
Earlier this month, I chatted with my friend Anne Pillsbury, a certified life and career coach, about navigating life transitions and creating fulfilling new chapters in her new Live series “Pivoting on Purpose.”
A few hours ago, I live streamed on Instagram and shared two purchases from a popular brocante in Azay-le-Rideau. The replay is here.
Photo: A new friend from the brocante joins Véro’s Animal World…
Oui, it’s a fact, January flew by.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be in Paris and hope you join me on new adventures in the French capital.
There may be another fun road trip before that… A suivre. Wait and see.
Until then, I’ll continue sharing slices of my French life with you on Facebook and Instagram.
Should you feel the need for an instant “France fix” head to the France with Vero YouTube channel, of course.
Au revoir, Janvier. Bring it on, February!
After la galette des rois, time to switch to crêpes, sweet or savory, traditionally enjoyed for la Chandeleur (celebrated on February 2 this year.) We will keep our fingers crossed spring arrives soon and brings warmer, sunnier weather.
In France all good stories end around a table (ask Gaulish icons Asterix and Obelix.)
I am ahead of the game and sampled delicious crêpes on Friday.
Photo 1: Galette bretonne (savory crêpe) Goat cheese, stewed onions, honey, crème fraiche.
Photo 2: Dessert crêpe. Salted butter caramel.
Photo 3: Petit déj'(euner) this morning.
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