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The British in Aquitaine

The story of the British in Aquitaine* goes back to the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry of Anjou in 1152.  Henry then became King of England In 1154 (bringing, incidentally, the Plantagenet 3 lions to the English coat of arms).

Aquitaine then remained English until the end of the Hundred Years War in 1453.  During the three hundred years the region was ruled by the Kings of England links between Aquitaine and England were strengthened, with large quantities of wine produced in southwestern France being exported to London, Southampton, and other English ports.  The importance of the wine trade can be recognized in the fact that English warships of this period were measured by the quantity of wine they could carry. 

The Battle of Castillon in July 1453 was the last battle fought between the French and the English during the Hundred Years War. This was the first battle in European history where cannons were the deciding factor. After the French capture of Bordeaux in 1451, the Hundred Years' War seemed at an end. However, after three hundred years of English rule, the citizens of Bordeaux considered themselves English and sent messengers to Henry V1 of England demanding he recapture the province. On October 17th, 1452, John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, landed near Bordeaux with a force of 3,000 men-at-arms and archers. The citizens of Bordeaux, who then gleefully opened the gates to the English, ejected the French garrison. Most of Gascony followed Bordeaux's example and welcomed the English home. 

The French regard the Hundred Years War as a far more significant part of their national history than do the English. Some consider this war as more of a series of French provincial battles with England acting as a province, or a group of provinces, within the Anglo-French unit. The war was fought largely in France, and much of the physical evidence in castles and walled towns still stand today as reminders. 


It should be known that the long English domination of 300 years brought with it neither misery, nor oppression. On the contrary the kings of England granted autonomy and introduced liberal charters to the communes. The links where very close between Aquitaine and the English crown.   In fact the English landlords were generally more popular than the French as they were not so available to collect taxes.

Aquitaine retained its independent outlook being a stronghold for the Huguenots or Protestants during the 16th and 17th centuries

The profound cultural and economic ties of the southwest of France to England beginning with the occupation and reinforced during the religious wars, persist today, as evidenced by the numerous English people who have settled in this region.   It started with British retirees during the 70s and 80s buying up and converting abandoned farmhouses.  It was at this time that many of the French were migrating to the cities and selling off the farmhouses very cheaply by British standards.  Now there is a second wave of British sometimes second generation who live and work out here.  There are many thousands of us and we are on the whole very welcomed by the locals who appreciate the amount of wealth we invest in the area.

 

*Aquitaine is the Region made up of the departments of Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne and Pyrénées-Atlantiques. 



Christmas in France

Christmas in France

 


 Christmas in France appears to be very different to Christmas in the UK .

For starters the French (I can only speak for the those in the countryside around here) are not really into Christmas shopping like we are at home. There isn't the same build up and certainly not the same spending. I admit this is a huge generalisation and there are bound to be exceptions but this is the way we experienced it this year.

 

No doubt it is a good thing that Christmas is less commercialised and there is less hype but if you are a market trader it is a bit more challenging.

We attended 7 full day Christmas markets. Some organised by UK expats and some by the locals. Our experiences were very varied.

The Dordogne Ladies Club was very good. Organised and attended by many Brits. The atmosphere was very Christmassy despite the balmy weather. We just sold the scarves and the net scarves were a big success.

 

 The Monteton Christmas Fair was put on by Cancer Support France. A British charity over here that is similar to Macmillan. This was also really good with a lot of British customers. The publicity was excellent. The carol singers were superb and the food was wonderful.

The Christmas market in Brantôme was very different. Organised by the parents of the school its focus was pony rides for the children and Santa who arrived at 4pm to give out presents. We did well on our regular lines of jewellery and incense but it was clear the customers were buying more for themselves than for others.

Lalinde, a beautiful market town on the Dordogne river.   Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. The net scarves were really popular but again, like Brantôme it was very much people buying for themselves.

 

We finished off at the Duras and Eymet markets which are in areas semi-populated by the British. These were both well attended and well publicised and had more Christmas shoppers.

 The markets were all very "artisanal" with a lot of homemade craft items, pottery, beautiful jewellery and great chrissmassy food.

 

 Despite the cultural differences and also the financial slow down, we were very pleased with our experiences on the Christmas markets and had a great time making new friends and contacts.

So why does every town and village here have a Christmas market?

I think France - or this part of France - is in transition. Traditionally New Year is the main celebration here with Christmas being a time to eat well and give something to the children. However, like most of Western Europe, France is also influenced by attitudes from the US and so life is slowly getting more commercialized.

 Ginny

 

 

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