la Vie Quotidienne
It’s that time of year...Valentine's Day with roses, champagne and chocolates is a relatively new
marketing phenomenon in France. Imagine our surprise when we found
out that the relics of Saint Valentine reside right here in our own
region of France, at the collégiale in Roquemaure. Sound
like a scam? How on earth did Italian Saint Valentine end up in this
little French town on the Rhône river?
phylloxera epidemic of the 1860s caused widespread destruction of
vineyards across France. Roquemaure, one of the most important
wine ports on the Rhône, was deeply affected both economically and
spiritually by this scourge. The town’s richest citizen decided to
raise the townfolks’ spirits, so he went to Rome and purchased the
relics of Saint Valentine, bringing them back with great ceremony. The
remains now reside here, and are brought out each year to celebrate the
saint’s day. On the weekend nearest February 14, the
town of Roquemaure celebrates la Festo di Pouton (in Provençal), la Fête des
Amoureux (in French), St. Valentine’s Day, whatever you wish to
call it. The townspeople dress up in 19th
century garb, make merry, and reconstruct the 1868 arrival of the relics
of Saint Valentine there.
So off we went
this chilly morning of February 14 to inspect the festivities. The town was
quiet, but there were signs of preparation underway. We tried to enter
the collégiale to see Saint Valentine's chalice, but
the church was locked tight
as a drum...wouldn't be open until this weekend for the grand
festivities. Dommage. But we managed to make hay with a lovely
lunch then a stop at the local cave cooperative, aptly named the Cellier
de Saint Valentin, where we filled our cubies with some delicious Lirac,
both red and white. Et voilà! Happy Valentine’s Day to all.
Bon Lirac, bon vin
at the Cellier St. Valentin!
The village of Roquemaure parades out
the relics of Saint Valentine every year.
Otherwise the remains are
locked up in the
local church...huis clos!
You sit down in a restaurant, make your choices, and
then the waiter asks: “De l’eau minérale? Gazeuse ou plat? En
bouteille? En carafe?” The waters start swirling. Too many
choices! Should you buy the bottled stuff or just take your water from
the faucet? If you choose bottled, should it be sparkling or still?
have been drinking water from springs for centuries. The Romans promoted
the curative qualities of spring waters, and as they crossed Gaul, they
discovered many of the same sources and springs that are still in use
today, including Vichy and St. Yorré near Allier in central France. The
choices among brands and composition is almost mind-boggling, nearly as
mind-boggling as choosing a wine or a loaf of bread (subjects which
we’ll try to tackle in another edition).
Drinking water in France is deemed quite safe
these days, having to pass more than 60 different tests, but there are
questions about whether pesticides are detected by these tests. We
decided to do just a little bit of research to find out how to
distinguish these eaux minérales.
First, still vs. sparkling: the choice is a matter of taste
rather than benefit. Neither is better or worse for you. The more north
in Europe one goes, the more sparkling water is preferred. As an
example, sparkling water usage averages 27% (vs. still), but Germans
prefer it at a rate of 97%, the French at 13%, and the US at 16%.
curative or not? In France, true mineral water from underground springs
(vs. spring water, eau de source) is much more highly
regulated and may be promoted as beneficial to health. In the EU those
rules are much the same although a bit less strict (so far). In the US
no bottled water can be promoted as curative or beneficial in any way.
what to look for in content? French bottled waters are much higher in
mineral content than those in the US, at least according to our
quick survey of labels. Click here if you'd like to take a look at what
we found. If you want even more, the website www.mineralwaters.org
has an extensive comparative listing of hundreds of brands of waters.
General consensus is that calcium, magnesium and potassium are more
desirable; sulfates, nitrates and silica are less desirable...but all
depends on your own health situation. Other than that, you’re on your
Fourth, who drinks what? Italians lead Europeans in per capita
bottled water consumption at 155 liters per year, about 45/55% still vs.
sparkling, followed by the Belgians at 123 liters per year. French
consumption is in the middle range at 112 liters per person per year. US
figures are harder to come by, but the Beverage Marketing Group
maintains that Americans have nearly tripled their consumption of still
bottled water in the past ten years…a great marketing story in
Conclusions? Bottled vs. tap, check your local
water supply. The French tend to choose water in a carafe, unless at a
grand restaurant, but drink bottled water at home. Our preferences? As
above, but when buying bottled, we prefer Badoit for sparkling, Volvic
for still water, tapwater (eau de robinet) in a pinch!
Which brands have the most of what
among the bottled waters of France?
out more in our quick mini-survey.
For complete information, visit
Six Nations Rugby 2003:
Allez les Bleus!
|Sat, Feb 15
|Sun, Feb 23
|Sat, Mar 8
|Sun, Mar 23
|Sat, Mar 29
fair that ends well
Tout va bien
qui finit bien
On Saturday afternoon, February 15, France plays England at
Twickenham in the first match of this year's Six Nations Rugby
Tournament. It's a shame: The tournament is effectively over after this
game, because whoever wins it will win the tourney. So the bookies say.
We say: Allez, France!
We’ll have a report on the match toute de suite.
down in Federal 3, the fifth level out of eleven French rugby levels,
our hometown team, Uzès, is in truly terrible shape this year. The
Dukes lost many of their best players for one reason or another and
they’ve won only two of 14 games so far. They’re thus in last place,
heading for demotion to a lower league. On Sunday February 9th we saw
them win their second game, at home against a very weak opponent. Here's
how real French home cooking works:
After dominating the whole game (but having missed a bunch of
easy penalty kicks), Uzès had a slim lead and was threatening with
about five minutes to go. But a lazy lateral pass was intercepted by an
opponent who streaked 100 meters for a try, putting the visitors in the
lead by one point. Again there are about five minutes to go…there is
no scoreboard clock at the Uzès field, the ref keeps the time…FIFTEEN
MINUTES LATER (!) Uzès scored on a dropkick and the ref signaled the
kick as good and the game as over at the same time. Oh the fury of the
visitors! We were rolling around laughing, as were most of the Uzès
supporters. Apparently the league's plan is to not allow Uzès to be
demoted no matter how bad they are…all’s fair in rugby, love and
We’ve always been drawn to those vivid, vintage
French posters, awash in color, style and images of another era.
In the mid 1800s posters (les affiches) became an
important medium as mass printing and increased urban population density
spurred advertising to new heights. As early as the late 1800s, posters
had already moved into the collectables realm in France, with the
poster’s first international exposition in Paris in 1884. The Belle
Epoque was its most glorious era, featuring the creative richness of art
nouveau style as well as the works of Toulouse-Lautrec, Bonnard,
Vuillard and Jules Chéret, considered the father of affichage.
Between the world wars the poster evolved into a more synthetic rather
than artistic medium, but the product still pleases the eye as evidenced
in its continued collectability. Today some posters are auctioned for up
to five digits (that would be euros as well as dollars!).
Art nouveau from Jules Chéret, père
Vintage travel posters
are vivid, vife,
including this one by Roger Broders
Once you start looking more closely at vintage posters from any
era, you realize that their creators were artists in their own right. Chéret,
Mucha, Villemot, Broders, Duval, Cassandre: most of the names
aren’t familiar, but their works certainly are. Whether they’re
promoting the glories of theatre, opera, hotels, tourism, railroads,
tobacco, food, drink…these works are charming reminders of a bygone
You can collect originals at varying rates from
dealers or auction, or you can buy reproductions at reasonable prices, as you prefer. What a lovely way to color a room
and add a sense of another time and place.
Why not take a minute to
visit our poster gallery for a further look at some vintage
pieces…it’ll lift your spirits and brighten your day.
More soon...keep in touch!
Want to see previous editions of Armchair Uzès? Click
here for a directory...
For the Armchair Photo Gallery, click here...