Friday, 17 June 2011

Fête de la Musique - 21st June

The Fête de la Musique is now one of France's main cultural events and takes place on the day of the Summer Solstice, the longest day, the 21st June.

It was launched on June 21, 1982 and is a gathering of professional and amateur musicians and singers, playing rock, jazz, classical and traditional music. The musicians are asked to play for free, and all the concerts are free for the public.

The spirit of the Fête is to play in the open air such as in streets and parks or in public buildings. The Fête de la Musique has also encouraged some of the major musical institutions such as orchestras, operas and choirs to perform outside their usual locations.

It has now been exported to over 100 different countries all over the world, including the UK, where the Alliance Francaise co-ordinates many of the events.

Now for 2011, you can download for free an Android or iPhone app to find out what's going on in your area.

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Saturday, 11 June 2011

The Le Mans 24 hr race

The Le Mans 24 Hour Race starts today, 11th June at 14.00 hrs and runs through to tomorrow at the same time. The race itself is on roads which are normally open to the public.

The cars are driven continuously through day and night by a rota of three drivers. The cars themselves actually cover more distance in the one race than a Formula 1 car does in its lifetime ! The cars can reach a speed down the straight of 20 mph faster than a Formula 1 car and yet are 40% more fuel efficient.

Watch out for Alan McNish, the Scottish driver who has won previously in 1998 and 2008.  He is driving for Team Audi and their main competitors are Team Porsche.

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Friday, 10 June 2011

Spectators's Guide to the Tour de France

If you are lucky enough to be camping near the Tour de France cycle race route this year then here are some handy tips to help you sound like a knowledgable follower of Cycling !

We went along to watch the race two years ago as it left the small town of Auray in Brittany at the beginning of a stage (or etape as its called in French) and we had a great day out.

This year the Tour runs from Saturday July 2rd to Sunday July 24th 2011, it will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,430.5 kilometres. The route varies each year but always includes some short flat sprint sections and some mountainous sections before culminating in Paris with a sprint. This year the "Grand Start" is in the Vendee and then it continues through Brittany, Normandy and Central France before heading south to the Pyrenees then across to the Alps before heading back for a final finish in Paris.

If you are able to catch the tour then go along to watch about two hours before when you will catch the "Caravane" which is a series of mad looking vehicles and characters who throw lots of freebies to the crowd - great fun !"

Then the race itself will flash past - we nearly missed it after all the waiting !  Either our watches were wrong or they set off two minutes early.

Watch out for the following jerseys - they all have a meaning !
The YELLOW Jersey is awarded to the overall leader of the race.

The GREEN Jersey is the next most prestigious and is given to the leader of the sprint sections.

The red POLKA-DOT Jersey is awarded to the rider who earns most of the points on the mountainous sections of the race. The wearer of the jersey is known as the "King of the Mountains". Scotland's Robert Millar was King of the Mountains in 1984.
The WHITE Jersey is the newest of the jerseys and was introduced in 1975. It is given to the best young rider (i.e. under 25).
To impress your friends and family as you are spectating, why not casually mention some of the more famous recent winners of the race !  These include 7 times winner and surely you must have heard of him, Lance Armstrong from USA who won between 1999 to 2005.

Then there was five time winner Miguel Indurain from Spain who won between 1991 and 1995

There were two recent major French winners, Jacques Anquetil, who won five time, in 1957 and from 1961 to 1964 and Bernard Hinault who won five times in 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985
And there was 5 times winner Eddy Merckx from Belgium who won between 1969 to 1972 and in 1974.

Some possible British and Irish competitors who may be competing and who you can look out for are :
  • Mark Cavendish, from the Isle of Man (I think he is in blue in the photograph above),
  • Bradley Wiggins, the three time Olympic Champion,
  • David Millar, a Scot who is one of only four British competitors to have worn the yellow jersey (the others were Tom Simpson, Sean Yates and Chris Boardman),
  • Geraint Thomas, who has been an Olympic Team pursuit champion, and,
  • Nicolas Roche, son of the Irish 1987 winner Stephen Roche 
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Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Farmers' Rescue Mission to Drought Hit Region of Deux-Sevres in France

France has had drought or "la secheresse" affecting a large number of regions for a few months now. Today, Farmers from Beam in the Pyrenées-Atlantique departement which has not been so affected, have driven 200 km on a rescue mission to take hay (in French its called "paille") to farmers in Deux-Sevres (a département to the East of the Vendée) to feed their animals as the crops have just not grown in the dry weather that has hit that region.

It has been a week of unexpected weather with rain and thunder through most of France, but this has not made much impact on the very dry crops in certain regions. 

And further misery has hit farmers in an area of South East France who reported hailstones which have broken greenhouses and damaged the skins on ripe fruit crops such as peaches, cherries and pears, ruining whole harvests.

In a bid to predict what the weather might do for the next month, and whether it will suit holidaymakers and/or farmers then we can remember an old French saying about today's (8th June) Saint's day, St Médard's day"S'il pleut le jour de Saint-Médard, Il pleut quarante jours plus tard.". The saying translates as "If it rains on St. Médard, it rains for forty days after". The same would apply if it is sunny on St Médard's. So here's hoping for some better weather !

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Update on French Drought Situation

The latest update on the drought situation in France is that there is talk that some Nuclear Reactors may have to shut down temporarily as there is just not enough water available in the rivers to pump through them to cool them down. So this may lead to electricity and power shortages. Lets hope this situation improves soon.

It is pretty drastic - too little rain in France and South East of England with France reporting the hottest Spring for 100 years. Meanwhile its apparently snowed in some Alpine ski resorts with Tignes having the heaviest snowfall since November with 0.8m falling on the 1st June !  Bizarre ! And here in Scotland we've had more rain than usual - as usual !

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