Pétanque – a national sport

by Steve Martindale

The modern game of pétanque traces its creation to a moment in 1907 in La Ciotat, Provence when a local player, Jules Lenoir, did what can only be described as the opposite of a ‘William Webb-Ellis’ and picked up the boule and stood still.

The ancient Greeks played a game with flat coins and later flat stones, which involved throwing an object as far as possible. This game was refined by the Romans to include a target object. The Romans then brought the game to Provence, where the stones were eventually replaced with wooden balls and gave birth to a number of similar games, collectively referred to as boules. The most popular format of the game at the turn of the last century was Jeu Provençal, where the playing area was larger and players ran three steps before throwing their ball.

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Madame Guillotine – the terror of France

by Steve Martindale

The guillotine is an iconic execution device that made its name (and indeed, took its name) during the French Revolution. In reality, beheading machines had already been around for centuries. The ‘Halifax Gibbet’ and the ‘Scottish Maiden’ are well-documented devices that date back as far as 1286. These machines were not as precise and efficient as the guillotine and whilst the Halifax Gibbet is documented as having performed a total of 53 executions, the guillotine regularly performed that many a day in Paris alone.

In pre-revolutionary France, executions were public, lengthy and often gruesome affairs. Common methods of execution included hanging or burning at the stake. You could also find yourself bound to four oxen that were then driven in four different directions, effectively tearing you into quarters. In the most extreme version of this type of execution, you would first be tortured in public in a practice known as being ‘hung, drawn and then quartered’. If you were rich, you could buy your way to a manual beheading – a death that was usually reserved for the upper classes.

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Jeans from Genoa

by Steve Martindale

Almost everyone will have owned a pair of jeans in their life, and everyone knows jeans are made of denim, but what are the origins of these words? As you may have guessed from their inclusion on this site, both are French!

The words ‘jeans’ comes from the French ‘bleu de Gênes’, or blue of Genoa, referring to the blue material originating in the Italian city from which the trousers were made.

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So who really did invent the French fry?

Bugle Editor, Steve Martindale, looks at the origins of the humble chip. As a proud Belgian resident for 6 years, but now raising a family in France, his loyalties are torn on the topic of who exactly did invent the French Fry…

Sprinkled with salt, dunked in ketchup, soaked in vinegar, covered with gravy or dipped in mayonnaise, everyone has their own specific way of enjoying the humble, crisp strips of fried tuber known the world over as French fries!

The origin of the fried potato, or chip to the British, is a matter of dispute among experts; both France and Belgium – where they are the national dish – have laid claim to the invention of fries, but until now there has been no definitive answer.

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The French Legion of Honour

by Steve Martindale

The Legion of Honour (Légion d’honneur or Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur) is the highest honour that can be bestowed upon someone in France. The order’s motto is Honneur et Patrie (Honour and Fatherland), and its seat is the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur on the left bank of the River Seine in Paris.

The order was established in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte as an institution that was open to all men, although initially only Frenchmen, who had either acted bravely on the battlefield or had served civil France in some exemplary way.

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The Wines of Bergerac – Sparkling wine

by Martin Walker

Spring is almost here and a glass of sparkling wine is an excellent way to welcome its coming. But which one? The best way to find out is to recruit the wisdom of friends and fellow-imbibers and there are few happier ways than to organize a blind tasting.

Most countries now make sparkling wine so we are no longer locked into the overpriced and over-hyped grip of champagne, a region which threatens to produce more champers than it can justify. In 1850, the Champagne region produced 20 million bottles a year. By the 1960s they were approaching ten times that output.

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