Friday’s French – acte de naissance, extrait d’acte de naissance, copie intégrale, birth certificate, entry of birth

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In my work as a sworn translator in France, the document I am asked to translate and certify the most often is the birth certificate.

In France, it comes by various names: acte de naissance, extrait d’acte de naissance, copie intégrale, extrait avec filiation, extrait sans filiation.

So first, what is an acte de naissance and why is it called an acte? An acte in French is a written document established according to certain rules. In this case, it is the official document written up by the officier de l’état civil (registration officer) in a register kept for this purpose following a declaration of birth. It corresponds to the British “entry of birth”.

Acte de naissance

An acte de naissance is thus called an “entry of birth” in the UK.

So an acte de naissance is an entry in a register. When you ask for a copy of what is written in a birth register in France, i.e. a birth certificate, you have three choices:

Acte de Naissance Copie Intégrale (or copie intégrale avec filiation) reproduces all the information in the birth register, including the following:
– surname, given names, sex, date and place of birth of the person concerned
– surname, given names, date and place of birth of the parents

It can also have the following information, called mentions marginals (or endorsements) which makes it different from a regular British, American, or Australian birth certificate:

– Mention of marriage, divorce, legal separation, decease,
– Mention of French nationality (registered declaration, loss, reinstatement, naturalisation)
– Mention of the first issue of a French nationality certificate.

It is because of these endorsements that the French authorities always ask for a birth certificate of less than three months as it provides a record of a person’s civil status throughout their life. Since most of the English-speaking countries do not endorse their certificates, the date of issue of the certificate makes no difference. I used exactly the same birth certificate and its translation for all my resident visas, 2 marriages, 1 divorce and 1 naturalisation.

Extrait d’acte de naissance avec filiation

This is a summary of the information in the birth register:

– surname, given names, sex, date and place of birth of the person concerned
– surname, given names, date and place of birth of the parents
– mentions marginales if they exist

Extrait d’acte de naissance sans filiation

This is a summary of the information in the birth register:

– surname, given names, sex, date and place of birth of the person concerned
– mentions marginales if they exist

In Great Britain, the most common type of birth certificate is called “Certified copy of an entry” and provides the following information:

– NHS number (in the more recent ones)
– name, surname and sex of the person concerned
– year, date and place of birth
– names, surnames, dates and places of birth and occupation of the mother and father
– name of the informant

Its format and other details, however, vary according to the place and year of birth.

There is also a shorter version called a “Certificate of Birth” which only has the person’s given names and surname, sex, date and place of birth, corresponding to the French “extrait d’acte de naissance sans filiation”. IT IS NOT VALID WHEN APPLYING FOR FRENCH NATIONALITY, for example.

In the United States, birth certificates are county-issued documents and not standardised within a state.

In North Carolina and Utah, there is a “Certificate of Live Birth” and a “Standard Certificate of Birth” both containing the following information, with the Certificate of Live Birth being more complete:

– name, surname and sex of the person concerned
– year, date and place of birth
– names, surnames, dates and places of birth and occupation of the mother and father

Florida has a “Certification of Birth” with

– child’s name, date and county of birth and sex
– names of mother and father (but not their birth dates)

South Africa issues a document called a “Birth Certificate

– ID number
– name, surname and gender of the person concerned
– year, dates and places of birth and ID n° of the mother and father
– endorsements

Australia has different certificates for different states and years of birth, although the information is more or less the same. The document is usually called a birth certificate (sometimes just “Birth”).

– Child (given names, surname/family name, sex, year, date and place of birth)
– Mother and Father (given names, surname/family name, age, birthplace and occupation)
– Name of informant
– Witnesses at birth
– Previous Children of Relationship; Informant/s (name, address);
– Registration Officer (name, date)

There are a few idiosyncrasies. More recent ACT birth certificates use the term “Personal furnishing particulars” to describe what previously concerned the informant. In Victoria, there is a section called “Endorsements” which is Queensland is called “Notes”. Both the ACT and Victoria include the marriage of the parents. Examples per state can be found on

In Canada, it is called a Birth Certificate or Certificate of Birth and comes in two forms: short or long.

The short form gives the following information:

  • last name
  • given name(s)
  • date of birth
  • certificate number
  • birthplace
  • sex
  • date of registration
  • registration number, and
  • date issued

The long form  is a certified copy of the birth registration so contains details about
the parents, informants, witnesses, etc. depending on the state.

In Ontario it comes in a bilingual version called Birth Certificate/Certificat de Naissance.

In Quebec, it is called a certificat, copie d’acte ou attestation de naissance (birth certificate or a copy of an act of birth in English) and can be obtained in either English or French but not a bilingual version. The birth certificate is the short form and the copy of an act of birth is the long form.

So, to answer the question “What is a copie intégrale”?, it is a birth certificate that provides the following minimum information:

– given names, surname and sex of the person concerned
– year, date, hour and place of birth
– names, surnames, dates and places of birth of the parents

In the UK, it is called a “Certified copy of an entry of birth”.

In Australia and Africa, it is called a “Birth Certificate” or “Certificate of Birth”.

In the US, it goes by various names, usually containing the expression “Certificate of Birth”.

In English-speaking Canada, it is a long form birth certificate and in Quebec, a copy of an act of birth.

In France, birth certificates are issued free of charge (in a multilingual version if requested) to:

– The person concerned by the certificate, their legal representative or spouse,
– An ascendant of the person concerned (parent, grandparent),
– A descendant of the person concerned (child, grandchild),
– Or a professional authorised to do so by law (lawyer for their client, for example).
– To any person provided the entry is more than 75 years old or the person has been dead for more than 25 years.

They are obtained from the townhall of the person’s birth, either in person, by post (include a stamped addressed envelope) or on-line.

Posted in French language, Sworn translation | Tagged | 5 Comments

The Akubra Saviour

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We’ve just arrived in Malta for a week of sun and exploring. It is 1°C when we leave Blois at 5.20 am and 15°C when we arrive in Valetta at 1 pm. After checking out our rental apartment, Marina View, with its stunning view of Vittoriosa across the other side of the Marina, we have an excellent meal at the Enchanté Restaurant on the waterside.

After lunch we walk down the other side of marina and over the footbridge to Vittoriosa. It’s quite windy and my trusty Australian Akubra Traveller* hat blows off my head and into the marina. Oh no!

We watch as it makes its way down the marina, hoping it won’t sink. I see a man with a little boat who ferries people across to the other side so I go down to see if he can save my hat.

He very nicely manoeuvres under the rope with his passengers on board until he is close enough to swoop down and retrieve the hat.  When he hands it up to me I tell him it’s an Australian hat. “From Sydney?”, he asks. “I’ve been to Sydney!”

The hat stands up surprisingly well to its dunking but I get sick of carrying a soppy hat after a while and strap it to the back of Jean Michel’s back pack. I won’t be wearing it near the marina again!

Posted in Accommodation, Malta, Mat, Sightseeing | Tagged , | 9 Comments

Friday’s French – place, endroit, lieu

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Place sounds like is would be an easy word to translate from French to English and vice-versa. Well, it isn’t. Only rarely does it mean the same thing in both languages.

C’est mon endroit (OR lieu) préféré pour faire un arrêt en vélo en bord de Loire – It’s my favourite place for a bike stop along the Loire.

I can think of a couple of situations where the meaning is the same:

Si tu remets chaque chose à sa place, il y aura moins de bazar. – If you put everything back in its place, there will be less mess.

Ce parking a 600 places. – This parking lot has 600 places.

La musique tient une grande place dans sa vie.  – Music occupies an important place in his life.

But when it comes to using place in English to mean a physical spot, we no longer use place in French, but endroit.

This is an ideal place for a picnic – C’est un endroit ideal pour un pique-nique.

His coat is worn in several places – Son manteaux est usé à plusieurs endroits.

I put it in the same place – Je l’ai mis au même endroit.

BUT I put it back in its place – Je l’ai remis à sa place. Place here means where it belongs and not a specific physical location.

The word place in French can have all sorts of meanings in English.

Ce meuble prend trop de place. – This piece of furniture takes up too much room. (Note how neat the word meuble is. It literally means anything that is not fixed in place. In English, we would be more likely to say the name of the piece of furniture such as table or chair or sideboard).

Ce village a une jolie petite place. – This village has a pretty little square.

But place du marché can be either marketplace or market square.

And what if the place isn’t a square, but another shape? Sometimes we can use esplanade or piazza. You may have some other suggestions.

When place in French means an individual place in a car or an auditorium, we used seat in English.

J’ai une voiture de cinq places. – I have a five-seater car.

Ils ont un cinéma de 400 places – They have a cinema that seats 400 people or with a seating capacity of 400.

Place can also mean a job in a company.

Elle avait une bonne place mais elle a quitté la société. – She had a good job but she left the company.

Sometimes we don’t even use a noun in English:

Je ne me sentais pas à ma place dans cette soirée. – I didn’t feel comfortable at the party.

The same applies in French:

I’m not fussy. Any place will do – Je ne suis pas difficile. N’importe où fera l’affaire.

Surprisingly, place in English is sometimes rendered by part in French:

It must be some place in the house – Il doit être quelque part dans la maison.

I couldn’t find it any place – Je ne l’ai trouvé nulle part.

It must be some place else – Il doit être quelque part ailleurs.

Another word commonly used in French when we use place in English is lieu.

It’s my place of birth – C’est mon lieu de naissance.

It’s a place of pilgrimage. – C’est un lieu de pèlerinage.

The accident occurred in the workplace. –  L’accident est arrivé sur le lieu de travail.

I put it in a safe place – Je l’ai mis en lieu sûr.

So, what, you may ask, is the difference between lieu and endroit? Sometimes they are interchangeable:

This is an ideal place for a picnic – C’est un endroit idéal pour un pique-nique OR C’est un lieu idéal pour un pique-nique.

It’s my favourite stopping place. – C’est mon endroit OR lieu préféré pour m’arrêter. 

But you wouldn’t say:

His coat is worn in several places – Son manteaux est usé à plusieurs lieux. You have to use endroit.

Le lieu de rendez-vous n’est pas fixé. – The meeting place hasn’t been fixed. You wouldn’t say l’endroit de rendez-vous.

A lieu is a place where something is located physically. It comes from the Latin locus meaning location.

However, endroit comes from old French exactement. You could say it means in exactly that place.

Il se gare toujours au même endroit – He always parks in the same place/spot = in that exact same place.

Vous l’avez touché à l’endroit sensible – You trod on his corns = You got him exactly where it hurts.

And now, let’s have some suggestions from our readers!

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Happy New Year 2018

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It’s nearly mid-January and I have only just found the time to write this new year post. Even though we have up until the end of January in France to do so, it’s still better to wish people a happy new year within the first week of the month. But lack of time is the story of my life at the present. Working full-time as a freelance technical and legal translator (I am now certified with the courts as well), looking after a large house and garden, cycling in the warmer months and hiking in the winter seem to take up  most of my time.

Jean Michel with his sons on the left and my son and daughter on the right

After a delightful Christmas with all our children – my son from Boston, my daughter from New York and Jean-Michel’s sons from Brest and  Limoges – in addition to my brother,wife and three sons, from Sydney, we welcomed in the New Year in front of a blazing fire, with warm thoughts for all our family and friends.

The cathedral in Angoulême

Travel-wise, 2017 was not quite as exciting as 2016 when we spent three months away altogether. However, we had a welcome short break and change of scenery in Angoulême at the beginning of February, followed by a most enjoyable week in Cyprus at the end of March with warm days and blue skies. We particularly liked the northern, Turkish part of the island with its wonderful painted monasteries.

Kykkos Monastery in northern Cyprus

We came home to spring, always the best time of the year in the Loire Valley. In April we had a fun day in a vintage car traffic jam in Blois with our friends Susan and Simon who take visitors on tours of the Loire Valley in their 1953 Citroën Traction Avant. I checked out family photos of my baptism so we could dress the part.

Jean Michel and I dressed for the part

The end of April took us to the Médoc (a four-hour drive south) for another long weekend where we combined cycling with wine-tasting and a breath of sea air. Living in the centre of France means that we are well-placed for this type of excursion.

With our power bikes on the banks of the Loire

In May, we finally made the decision to invest in electrically-powered bikes for two reasons – to save our ageing knees and to free us from restrictions related to the lie of the land. Our plan was to go to Romania in June, a country we have avoided up until then due to its very hilly countryside. We were not disappointed. Jean Michel applied his usual thoroughness to choosing the right bikes for our needs and we can now go quite effortlessly up amazingly steep hills. In fact, I’m more worried going down but our disk brakes are reassuring.

Said to be the oldest grape vine in the world – in Maribor, Slovenia

So, on 1st June, we left Blois with our bikes on the back of the car for a holiday that took us to Lake Iseo in the north of Italy, Maribor in Slovenia, where we tested our ability to scale new heights on our bikes, Eger in Hungary where we nearly got washed away in a freak flood, then Sighisoara in Romania, home of Dracula and sister city to Blois, which we used as centre to visit the fortified churches of Viscri and Biertan.

Sighisoara, home of Dracula and sister city of Blois

Suceava was the next port of call from which we cycled to many very beautiful painted churches, reminding us of our visit to Northern Cyprus. In Marmures, we stayed with a Romanian family where the head of the house spoke French and we learnt a lot about this still very backward part of the country with its beautiful wooden churches and friendly people.

The wonderful town of Cesky Krumlov in Czech Republic

We then started on the road back to France, via Levoca in Hungary, then the absolutely enchanting village of Czesky Krumlov in Czech Republic where our hotel had a garden overlooking the castle, the perfect place for a picnic in the evening twilight after a hard day’s riding. We then stayed in Slavonice before crossing into Germany and discovering Burghausen with its marvellous hillside castle. It was good to be back in a country where I could at least read the signs!

Sigmaringen on the Danube in Germany, near its source

To end our journey, we decided to return to our beloved Danube using the little village of Herbertingen as our base. Taking the train and cycling, we went as far as the source of the Danube at Donaueschingen.

View of Lake Iseo from the top of the hill

By the 28th June the weather was starting to deteriorate so we changed our initial plan to spend a couple of days in the Black Forest and went to Orta San Giulio in Italy instead where rain and shine alternated enough to let us ride around Lake Orta and up to the sanctuary of Madonna del Sasso, at an altitude of 700 metres! Once again, our power bikes proved their worth. We arrived home via Lyon on 2nd July, having been in eight coutries and covered 5,000 kilometers.

The church of Souvigny on one of our local bike rides

In July Jean Michel went walking in the Jura Mountains for 9 days with his sons while I stayed home and worked, looking forward to my retirement in June 2020 more than ever! I did discover a bike route into Blois that avoids the main road though. We then cycled as much as we could during the weekend and evenings until the weather turned too cold.

The blue mosque in Istanbul

September took us for a week to Istanbul which we loved. We rented an apartment just next to Galacta Tower which proved to be the perfect location. It had a quiet little balcony and small garden which provided well-earned rest after a day out in the busy streets of Istanbul. We often set out quite early to visit the sites to avoid the crowds.

Our wisteria in spring

On the home front, our automatic watering system is up and running but we don’t quite have a mini Giverny as initially planned, mainly due to our clayey soil, but we are learning as we go.

View from the garden of our new rental apartment in the historical part of Blois

Renovation of the studio flat I bought last year is making progress at last and should be ready for holiday accommodation this summer. We plan to offer an 18th century decorative experience with all modern conveniences. It is ideally located in the most historical part of Blois known as Puits Chatel and even has a little shared garden.

Typical house in the historical quarter of Blois near the rental apartment

I’m still keeping up with my daily photo on Loire Daily Photo even though Aussie in France is vitually at a standstill but I hope to be able to post more in the future, especially when I retire!

Posted in Architecture, Art, Blogging, Closerie Falaiseau, Cycling, Cyprus, Eastern Europe, Flowers & gardens, Hungary, Loire Valley, Romania, Slovenia, Travelling | Tagged | 12 Comments

Friday’s French – courant, current, actuel, actual

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These are more of those look-alike words that the French call faux-amis.

Ce type de papier peint était très courant au 18ème siècle en France – This type of wallpaper was very common in France in the 18th century

We’ll start with courant which has a few different meanings. We’re only going to look at adjectives here.

Les dépenses courantes d’une maison, for example, are ordinary or everyday expenses. Un mot courant is a standard or ordinary word.

Une pratique courante is standard practice and un travail courant is routine work.

Le recours aux intermittents est une pratique courante des chaînes de télévision – Employing contract workers is standard practice in television.

It can also mean common – Ce genre d’incident est très courant ici : This kind of incident is very common here or This kind of thing is a common occurrence here.

Its English look-alike, “current”, has a different meaning.

Le cours actuel du dollar est plus élevé qu’au mois de mai : The current exchange rate of the dollar is higher than it was in May.

Currents events are évènements actuels or, more commonly, l’actualité which is invariable except when used to mean the news on TV or radio which are called les actualités. Je l’ai entendu aux actualités ce soir : I heard it on the news tonight. Les dix sujets d’actualité les plus recherchés sur Yahoo! en 2016, en France, sont le Bréxit, les attentats, les Panama Papers et le crash d’Egyptair : Yahoo!’s top ten searches and news stories in 2016 in France were Brexit, the terrorist attacks, the Panama Papers and the Egyptair plane crash.

The current month is le mois en cours while her current boyfriend is son petit ami du moment. I always think the expression petit ami or petite amie is very amusing. Translated literally, its gives “her little friend” which we would only use in English to describe a child. Copain or copine can also be used to mean boyfriend or girlfriend unless of the same sex in which case it means buddy. If a boy says C’est nouvelle copine, it means he has a new girlfriend. If he says J’ai un nouveau copain, it means he has a new buddy. However if he says, speaking about a particular girl, C’est une copine, c’est tout, then it means she’s just a buddy. Sort of confusing, I know, but it’s all about context.

Another meaning of the English word current revolves around the idea of being widely accepted or used. This can be translated in various ways in French, depending on the circumstances, and can include courant. Otherwise, commun or en cours. A current account is a compte courant, that is, an ordinary account.

There is a current idea that up to 30% of the warming last century was due to solar effects – Selon une idée courante, jusqu’à 30% du réchauffement planétaire le siècle dernier est dû aux effets solaires.

To go back to actuel, it also means at the present time, which gives expressions such as à l’heure actuelle (at present, at the moment), à l’époque actuelle (nowadays, in this day and age), le monde actuel (the world today, the present-day world) and even l’actuel Premier minister (the current Prime Minister).

So if actuel more or less corresponds to current or present, what does actual correspond to?  It’s most common meaning is real, that is, which something that exists, or is happening at the present time.

There is no actual contract : il n’y a pas vraiment de contrat.

An actual fact is un fait réel, actual size is grandeur nature (as in real life) or taille réelle (a specific measurement).

There is another slightly different meaning: the actual film doesn’t start until 8.55 – le film ne commence qu’à 20 h 55. This is the actual house (as opposed to the barn and garage): Voici la maison elle-même or if it’s something that has been mentioned previously, Voici la maison en question.

In actual fact corresponds more or less to en fait, which is not the same as in fact. You can tell me why after studying the following sentences.

In actual fact, I don’t like strawberries, but I eat them to be polite. En fait, je n’aime pas les fraises mais je les mange pour être polie.

He’s annoying, in fact, he’s very annoying indeed. Il est embêtant, il est même très embêtant.

Posted in French language | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

Roses, Chambord Gardens and a Birthday

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I think I should begin with an explanation about why I haven’t posted since the begininng of June! It’s very simple – lack of time! I used to post every day when on holidays but realised that Jean Michel had ended up writing the travel diary by himself and our evenings were completely tied up as a result. When we’re at home and I’ve been translating all day, I don’t really feel up to writing blog posts. I do, however, keep up my Loire Daily Photo blog (almost daily). The good news is that, I have had some time this week to write a post for Aussie in France so here we go. 

Le Clos aux Roses, aptly named

Birthdays and anniversaries are always a good excuse to discover new restaurants, but by October, a lot of places have closed for the season. With the ever-helpful advice of my friend Susan from Days on the Claire, we choose Le Clos aux Roses in the beautiful little village of Chedigny in Touraine. We drove through it recently and discovered it is famous for its roses. A rose festival is held there in May on Mothers’ Day every year. We book a table for lunchtime on Wednesday as it is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

A typical rose-covered cottage in Chedigny

The weather is spectacular, especially for October, and we arrive in Chedigny around 11.45 am, which is plenty of time to wander around the little village admiring the little cottages and gardens. There are still flowers in front of the church and more roses than I would have thought at this time of the year. It must be truly magical in May and June.

The garden next to the church in Chedigny

The restaurant is quite empty to start off with but gradually fills up while we are there. With a set lunch menu at 12 euro 30, I’m not surprised it’s popular. We choose the Discovery menu at 40 euro each. It includes an amuse-bouche with our vouvray, a starter, a fish dish, a meat dish and a dessert. We decide on local wines by the class so that we can pair.

Our écrevisses

Jean Michel has a vol au vent de ris de veau et langoustines, while I have the foie gras. Then we both have the écrevisses followed by duck served with fresh vegetables from the chef’s garden. Jean Michel has a mint and blackcurrant Norwegian omelette while I have a chocolate dessert. We enjoy everything except the desserts which are a little disappointing.

Inside Le Clos aux Roses with Armelle Kraus, the chef, serving.

The service is friendly and relaxed, with monsieur waiting on table and madame in the kitchen, helping in the dining room from time to time. Armelle Kraus is an up and coming chef from the Ecole Supérieure de Cuisine Française Grégoire Ferrandi in Paris. Her creations are based “on a deep respect for nature and the magic of tradition”.  We will be going back there in May when the roses are out (but not during the festival weekend when it is very chaotic, we are told).

Château de Montpoupon

We then head for Château de Chambord, which isn’t exactly next door (over an hour away) but the countryside is lovely and takes us past Montpoupon Castle, Montrichard and Fougères Castle! We marvel at the fact that we are in close proximity to so many beautiful architectural masterpieces.

Château de Fougères

At Chambord, we park and go to get our free passes. From mid-September to mid-October, entrance to the castle is free this year for people living in the area. We tried on Sunday but the queues were so long that we bought an ice-cream instead, walked along the canal and went home! I love the fact that the locals like to visit their castle. It’s the only one in the Loire Valley whose grounds are open free of charge to everyone all year round. We often cycle there in the summer just to have an ice-cream with a view!

Château de Chambord from the back façade. The gardens are on the other side.

However, we have not yet seen the newly-restored 18th century formal French gardens which only opened this year. We start with the rooftop terrace with its famous chimneys so that we can see the gardens below, by far the best view. We walk right around the terrace so we can view the surrounding countryside from every side then complete the visit by wandering around the gardens themselves. However, it is still early days yet and they are not nearly as impressive when you’re at eye level.

Château de Chambord taken from the gardens

I thought we had visited all the rooms in the castle itself, but additional wings have been opened since our last visit. None of the furniture and furnishings originally come from the castle which was a hunting lodge and completely empty most of the year. When François I came to visit, he brought everything with him. I like the “18th century’s apartements” best (that is not a spelling mistake on my part – it’s what the sign says!).

The canal along the side of Chambord taken from the roof

We also take a look at the newly-restored kitchens before we leave but they are not of any particular interest.

One of the rooms in the 18th century wing

The way out is through the very large shop, something I usually avoid, but today I find four tapestry cushion covers for our new sofa which are just the perfect colour and design!

Le Clos aux Roses
2 rue du Lavoir
37310 Chédigny
Wednesday to Sunday noon included.
Closed Sunday evening.
02 47 92 20 29

Posted in Flowers & gardens, Loire Valley, Loire Valley châteaux, Restaurants | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Cycling in Slovenia – our power bikes pass the test!

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We’re in Malibor in the north of Slovenia, a country known for its hills. We ask for a bike map from the tourist office and study it. In Malibor, there are cycle paths everywhere so we assume that outside the town, the bike circuits will be well indicated. We choose n°3 north of the city, which goes through vineyards and forests and is 31 k with a total gradient of 390 m.

We get as far as Kanmica without any problem but there, the bike paths disappear. Next to the church, we find a board with a bike map but our circuit is not on it. Oh well, we’ll just head for Saint Urban, the first stop. We start on a busy road but soon take a left turn up a quite a steep road. So far, so good. Our new electrically-assisted bikes* are doing well.

However the road keeps going up. Surely this can’t be the circuit indicated? You would have to be a really experienced and extremely fit cyclist to get up here! We’re a bit puffed and our leg muscles a little strained when we reach a bench off to the left of the road. We drink a half a litre of water each, take photos and study google maps on my iPhone to check we’re on the right route. However, there doesn’t seem to be any other road. As we leave, we look over to the right and see our church in the distanace, still much higher up.

Eventually, just before we mount the last steep hill to the church, we see a sign indicating  circuits 1 and 3. This must be the right route after all. The last stretch is extremely steep, probably about 40%. Jean Michel makes it up, but I have to get off halfway because I haven’t change into lowest gear (I’m still in 3 out of 9), even though I am in power mode. I use the “assisted walking” feature to push the bike up the rest of the way as it is pretty heavy.

The view from the top is absolutely stunning. Jean Michel is jubilant that our bikes have got us up such a steep slope (well, his anyway). I eventually get my breath back and drink another ½ litre of water. I take a photo from the window frame especially provided for visitors!

As we go back down the slope, I have my heart in my mouth, it’s so steep. I’ve never done this before. However, when we turn off to the left towards our next destination, Gaj Nad Mariborom, the slope is less frightening. We coast down for a while through forestland then up another hill, that is not nearly as bad, to the church in Gaj Nad Mariborom.

From then until we are back in Kanmica, it’s plain sailing, all downhill. Our bikes have excellent disc brakes so we don’t have to worry about overheating. I have also learnt very recently, to my great embarrassment, particularly considering how many years we have been cycling, that I don’t have to press both brakes on the handlebars at once. Just pressing the right brake (back wheel) makes turning and going down hills much easier. My only excuse is that the only bike I rode as a teenager had back-pedal brakes and when I first rode a bike with handlebar brakes, no one thought to explain about the two different brakes.

After Kanmica, we cycle for a couple of kilometers on the bike path along the main road and then join the bike path along the Drava River which we didn’t manage to access yesterday. We go past two timber rafts and learn about the annual timber rafting event in Moribor, one of its most well-known festivals.

We then ride past what is claimed to be the world’s oldest vine, planted 400 years ago.

We end up at the wine bar at the Water Tower, one of the city’s best-known monuments originally called the Gunpower Tower and built in 1555 as part of the city’s fortifications. However, it’s a fast day, so we just have tea as we watch the swans glide down the river.

After crossing the Drava via the footbridge and taking the same photos as the ones on all the tourist brochures, we go up a very steep path to join the roadthat takes us back to our hotel four kilometres away, on the edge of town.

We vote this is one of our best rides ever, along with the S-bend in Austria and other parts of the Danube in Germany. Now we’re ready for the hills of Romania!

*Kalkhof power bikes, with a torque of 70 kN/m. There are 9 gears and 3 settings: “eco”, “sport” and “power”. The battery has an autonomy of 70 to 120 km depending on how often you use the “sport” and “power” settings. The battery is removable and takes about 8 hours to charge when empty. Price: 2500 euro.

Posted in Cycling, Sightseeing, Slovenia | Tagged | 7 Comments

Cycling from Breschia to Lake Iseo

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We are on our way from Blois to Romania and Jean Michel has chosen Lake Iseo as our first stopover. We’ve booked an apartment for two nights in Cazzago San Martino 2 km from the Turin-Trieste motorway. By 5 pm, we are on our bikes and ready to begin our holiday.

The scenery is delightful as we wind our way along small country roads through the vineyards of the Francia Corta region. This is our first “real” ride with our new electrically-assisted bikes and we are more than convinced! The itinerary is graded as “easy, family” but the Italians are used to hills and bad roads I guess. I would hardly think that loose gravel, occasional main roads and quite steep descents are suitable for children. With our power bikes though, it’s a breeze!

We join the bike itinerary at Monterotondo where there is a local fête in full swing. Throughout the evening we hear a lot of music and later learn it is Italy’s national day, festa della Repubblica.

A dirt path takes us through a natural peat bog reserve and we glimpse tiny lakes surrounded by vineyards and cane fields. We meet many other cyclists and joggers.

The next village is Cremignane and we have our first view of the lake, followed by a quiet road to Clusane sul Lago. We are attracted by a lakeside restaurant called Rosmundo. It’s still early so we book for 7.30 pm which will give us time to reach the end of the itinerary at Paratico. The last 5 K are not very interesting. The bike path runs along one side of the main road.

We arrive back at the restaurant in plenty of time, ready to sample the local specialities. Jean Michel has fried fish from the lake while I have an excellent scallopina al limone. We have a carafe of frizzante and I finish off with tiramisu.

It’s 8.30 pm by now and we have a 15 K ride home. We have the bike paths to ourselves now and the light over the little lakes is lovely.

After Monterotondo, we have a a bit of trouble finding our way back to our apartment and it’s nearly dark when we get back at 9.45 pm. We’ve done a round trip of 43 K which we could never have done with our previous bikes.

Next morning, the sky is clear and blue and we set out for Breschia at 10 am. Once again we join the itinerary at Monterotondo and head in the opposite direction. The castle of Dosso rises majestically from the surrounding vineyards.

We have a cappuccino break in Paderno Franciacorta along with the locals. Jean Michel reads the Brescia Times in Italian, seated in front of a poster of the Empire State Building while drinking a cappuccino and eating a pain aux raisins. It’s 11 am and a group of men are already drinking Campari.

We pass a square with a mediaeval castle and an angel of mercy. A local comes up to talk to us (in Italian) and tells us Breschia is 13 k away. It’s getting hotter by the minute. We have trouble finding our way out of town – the bike signs are not very visible – but ask some cyclists who reassure us we are in the right direction. All we usually get is that little green squiggle on the signpost below. This is the only time we see one that shows distances.

At Rodengo-Saiano, we stop to visit San Nicola’s but it’s already closed for lunch. We will stop on the way back. The bike sign says that Breschia is 9.70 k away. In fact it is 12 K. We pass through Gussago and see a beautiful private home with stunning frescoes.

It’s the end of the Saturday market in Breschia. It’s also steaming  hot and we are thirsty and hungry as it’s nearly 1.30 pm. We find a rstaurant in a shady street off Piazza Paolo VI and sit down without even looking at the menu. It turns out to be a “bistrot” with salads and pasta. It’s called Dei Notte di Calabria. We order pasta al ragù and a glass of chardonnay. Jean Michel goes into mild depression when he sees the small plate of pasta (what did he expect for 8 euro?) but I reassure him that he can order something else if he’s still hungry. We then order focaccia stuffed with steak tartare and patatine which I can’t finish but Jean Michel is looking happy again. We have a cold glass of rosato to go with it.

In the meantime, the piazza has filled up with people obviously dressed for a wedding. At first we think they are Jewish but more turn up and the Catholic church is chock-a-block by the time we visit. It’s an interesting piazza, with a round Romanesque church from the 12th century over an 8th century crypt, next to a 17th century Baroque cathedral and a typical Lombardian palazzo and tower.

Next is piazza della Loggia, with its 15th century Venetian palace and monumental clock.

After visiting the vestiges of a Roman forum, it’s 3.30 pm and 34°C so we decide that the World Heritage monastery of Santa Giulia will have to wait for another time. We still have a 2-hour ride home.


This time, having finished all our water, we stop for a cold Coke at another bar in Paderno Franciacorte. We are next to a group of 4 teenage boys. It’s very amusing to listen to their antics in a language we can’t understand.

By the time we get back to our apartment after stopping on the way to buy fruit, vegetables, cheese and yoghurt for an at-home dinner, it’s 6 pm and we have clocked up 65 K. Our total riding time is 4 hours which means an average of 16 K which is pretty good going and certainly better than the 12 K we did with our other bikes.

We can highly recommend the Breschia–Paratico bike itinerary for its great variety, lovely scenery and interesting architecture. However, I would not say it’s easy riding! The instructions given by the website are essential if you are to find your way. Our choice of Apartamento Franciacorte in Cazzago San Martino, found on, was excellent. It was very comfortable and the owner was friendly and helpful. At 180 euro for two nights, it was very good value for money.

Posted in Accommodation, Architecture, Cycling, Italy | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Friday’s French – propre, clean, own, proper

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I was talking to my Australian friend Susan from Days on the Claise recently and she mentioned the different meanings of propre in French. It does seems strange that the same word should mean both “clean” and “own”. My trusty Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Française has come to the rescue.

Les ustensiles propres à notre cheminée renaissance sont désormais propres – The utensils bought especially for our Renaissance fireplace are now clean.

Propre meaning “own” is derived from the Latin proprius “which only belongs to oneself, which cannot be shared with others”. So, it is the equivalent of “own” in English:

J’ai ma propre voiture – I have my own car.

Elle l’a vu de ses propres yeux – She saw it with her own eyes.

A similar meaning, but expressed differently in English, is illustrated by the following sentences:

C’est un trait qui lui est propre – it’s a trait that is peculier to him; it’s distinctive/specific characteristic of his.

Les coutumes propres à certaines régions – The customers characteristic of certain regions.

Another close meaning has given a similar word in English – proper:

C’est vraiment le mot propre – It really is the right/proper word.

This leads to the idea of “appropriate” which is also clearly a derivative in both languages:

Ce n’est pas un lieu propre à la conversation – It isn’t a suitable/appropriate place for talking.

Still with the same origin of meaning but slightly different is the following:

Un poste propre à lui apporter des satisfactions – A job like to bring him satisfaction

Un sport propre à développer les muscles des jambes – A sport that will develop the leg muscles.

Another expression is en propre or en nom propre as illustrated in the following sentences:

Avoir un bien en propre – To be the sole owner of a property.

Whence the word propriété ou property in English.

So what about the other meaning of  propre – “clean”? Where does it come in?

Believe it or not, the origin is the same! From the Old French, propre, meaning “worthy of a person, worthy of oneself” which is sort of based on the idea of “which only belongs to oneself”, it came to mean “well-organised, careful, elegant” (around 1280) until it finally became established in the 17th century as meaning “of accepted or decent appearance”, i.e. appropriate.

However, it was not until the middle of the 19th century that a personne propre was applied to someone who washed carefully and practised modern hygiene.

Propre, however, is not appropriate for all situations in which we would use “clean” in English. Can you provide some examples?

I’m contributing this post to Lou Messugo’s All ABout France linky. For other posts about France, click here.

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Famagusta – Cyprus

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Famagusta on the east coast of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, was the first stop on our one-week self-driven tour. In mediaeval times (particularly under the maritime republics of Genoa and Venice), Famagusta was the country’s largest port city, trading with the ports of the Levant. In Turkish it is also called Gazimagusa which can be a little confusing. The old city is entirely surrounded by walls.  The town has a very interesting and colourful history. Unfortunately, during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Famagusta was bombed causing the entire Greek Cypriot population to flee into the surrounding fields. They have never returned. Many of the original Catholic and Greek orthodox churches have been turned into mosques.

Our first view of Famagusta citadel, outside the walls.

The Lala Mustafa Pasha Mosque, originally known as the Cathedral of Saint Nicholas built in the 14th century

The entrance to the Palazzo del Provveditore, the Venetian palace of the governor, built on the site of the former Lusignan royal palace

Bougainvillea on the other side of the Palazzo del Provveditore

Church of Sts. Peter and Paul (1359) was converted into a mosque in 1571 and renamed as the Sinan Pasha Mosque

One of the few remaining traditional Turkish homes

A door indicative of past splendour

It’s amazing to see how many churches there are in such a small town

The walls of the citadel

The modern mosque outside the citadel which woke us up at 5.17 am every morning!

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Posted in Architecture, Cyprus, Travel photos | Tagged | 4 Comments