24 décembre 2020

Joyeux Noël et bonne année 2021


Chers amis du Cercle français de Belfast,

Nous vous souhaitons à toutes et à tous,

Joyeux Noël, bonne année et bonne santé pour 2021.

Le comité du cercle.

07 décembre 2020

Upcoming talk on Louis PASTEUR

 Zoom talk on Wednesday 9 December by Leeann McKEE on Louis PASTEUR.  us

Pasteurisation of milk, and of course wine, the discovery of optical isomers, vaccines for rabies and anthrax - all of these were discoveries by Louis Pasteur. He was a polymath in the fields of medicine, chemistry and bacteriology. Was he however a fraud? Let's look at the major works of the "Father of Microbiology" with the hindsight of his recently discovered laboratory handbooks and find out more about this complex genius. 

Remember you will need to have joined our mailing list via cfbelfast@gmail.com in order to subscribe to the Zoom call.*

Looking forward to seeing you there!

How about a visit to Versailles?

Allison sent the link below describing it as “A ‘sight & sound experience’ – 6 episodes available in French and English”.

Believe me it is all that and more. Simply wonderful. Enjoy ….

Expodcast : Centre de musique baroque de Versailles (cmbv.fr)

À bientôt,


*In order to comply with the requirements of data protection regulations and out of respect for the privacy of our attendees you are requested not to take photographs nor make video or audio recordings during any of our Zoom meetings. And just to assure you that if you do sign up to our distribution list, Cercle Français de Belfast will never share your details with any other party.

 soin de vous et de vos proches,

À bientôt, Philip

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08 novembre 2020

CfB November talk. Haussmann et Paris embellie

Chers Amis,

This month's event is …. 

Topic: Haussmann et Paris embellie

with: Hélène Guillet and Philip McGrory

Hélène et Philip vous emmènent dans le Paris de Napoléon III avec les grands travaux du Baron Haussmann pour l’embellissement de Paris. 

Hélène and Philip take you back to the Paris of Napoleon III with the large-scale transformation of the city under the design of Baron Haussmann. 

This presentation will take the form of a video to be available on the Cercle Français de Belfast's private YouTube Channel. Watch out for an email arriving in your inbox on Wednesday 11th November containing a link to the video.

Prenez soin de vous et de vos proches,

À bientôt, Philip

21 octobre 2020

Zooming Bonjour tristesse

Le Petit Robert dictionary includes the verb zoomer and defines it as rapprocher le sujet grâce au zoom.  Elaine BELL certainly brought her subject, Françoise Sagan's Bonjour tristesse, closer as she hosted her third Cercle de Lecture using the Zoom online meeting platform.

Elaine's annotated school copy of Bonjour tristesse

Logging into the Cercle's virtual waiting room it was immediately apparent that Elaine's talk had attracted a substantial number of participants.  Philip had previously emailed members with her notes so we were able to see the themes she intended to address in our bookclub discussion.

Now a practised hand for Zoom meetings Philip reminded us of some basic protocols, not least using the mute facility and the raising of a hand should those taking part wish to make a point or pose a question. Another tip was to use gallery view and clicking on that it was pleasing to see 25 people had joined the meeting.


Referring the reading group to her notes and speaking in French and English, Elaine conducted a lively exploration of the text and was adept at sounding out the views of the attendees.  The exchanges were certainly animated and one comment received after the session commended the very high level of preparation and discussion.  It was interesting to hear participants linking some of the novel's themes to other books and authors they had read.  F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby was one such parallel and mention was also made of D.H. Lawrence. 

Bonjour tristesse had also been made into a film using locations identified in the book and one of our members mentioned that he had walked several times past David Niven's house on one of those promontories east of Nice.

Other members commented on the experience of re-reading a text that they had first encountered at school.   Indeed, Elaine proudly showed her copy, kept from her days as an écolière, which was liberally annotated with key points, marginal notes and vocabulary items.

The Zoom discussion format worked well and it was fascinating to see and hear members engaging with one another. When the microphones are unmuted and a person speaks that person becomes the current contributor and Zoom illuminates their screen. That makes it possible for members to see their interlocutors up close and with their name below their picture.  As there were many new faces (and names) at the meeting that's a particular benefit of the online format.

It would be great to have CfB book club sessions more often and if members have suggestions for suitable titles, especially where the French book is available with English translation and possibly a film tie-in, please do let us know.

Meantime, un très grand merci to Elaine and Philip for another very successful meeting; and of course to everyone who took part.  It was a most enjoyable evening.  See you next time.

Bonne Lecture !

19 septembre 2020

Cercle de lecture : Bonjour Tristesse

 Chers Amis,

A little reminder that the book to read for our next event, our Cercle de lecture, on 14 octobre is ..

Françoise SAGAN’s Bonjour Tristesse.

French edition … available from sellers such as Amazon.co.uk and AbeBooks.co.uk

English edition … available on ebay.co.uk and from other sources.

A DVD of the film of the book “Bonjour Tristesse” staring Jean Seeberg, David Niven and Deborah Kerr is also widely available online.

Further information will follow later.

Prenez soin de vous et de vos proches,

À bientôt, Philip

22 août 2020

24 hours in Saint-Émilion

The plan to spend a night in the medieval town of Saint-Émilion was uncorked some years back. Nearly two decades ago we had been in the town and purchased a special bottle from the 1981 vintage of Château Franc-Pourret to commemorate our wedding year.

The idea, still not realised, was to crack it open at a special anniversary. It was on checking its current status for drinkability that we noted that the Château offered the opportunity to stay in the heart of the vignoble in highly rated chambre d'hôte accommodation. 

The plan developed its aroma when last September, we arranged to spend a few weeks in France starting in Bordeaux before moving in stages up to Paris.

What about the Château? Did available dates match? Could we dine there?
And importantly would we be able to bring the bottle back to its birthplace?

Contact with Madame OUZOULIAS, Catherine, was simplicity itself.  Demand was always high and yes, she had a room available for one night only – a Sunday; she offered a sumptuous breakfast but no evening meals; and while she liked the idea, she counselled against coming with the bottle of wine thinking that perhaps we had missed its apogée and might enjoy it better at home where it was already well rested! The date matched, no deposit was required and of course we booked!

Trains from Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion are fairly frequent and it's a short journey but last summer there were major works underway at our destination, so we got out at Libourne and made the rest of the journey by coach. The station at 1,5 km is some distance out of the town, a good 20-minute walk, although you can phone a taxi or tuk-tuk service. Catherine, however, had arranged to collect us at the station and bring us to the estate.

Château Franc-Pourret was an elegant delight and we felt instantly at home. There waiting for us were a couple of half bottles of the property’s wines and one of them was a little relative of the bottle back home! We would toast our arrival later that evening but meantime there was some exploring to be done.

Catherine suggested that we make our way into the town by strolling through the vines. Our route brought us out near the imposing Tour du Roy and from there we made our way to the unforgettable 12th century Église Monolithe commanding its lovely paved square. 

The association with Émilion started a little earlier though when in the 8th century he left his native Brittany, became a monk and ended in Ascumbas, the ancient and former name of the area. There he lived in a cave and joined by others formed a religious community. After his death in 787, a village was built in his honour and 12 centuries later the town of Saint-Émilion, its vineyards and religious sites have become a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

We had been in this square often before and thought we would savour the memories over a glass of pastis. After all, it was a hot afternoon. Suitably refreshed, we decided we should find somewhere for an evening meal before heading back to Franc-Pourret. Although many restaurants were closed there was plenty of choice and we opted for Chai Pascal.  Calling in, the patronne advised that they wouldn't be serving until 7pm and suggested we book a table. Done. That gave us an hour or more, so still plenty of time to sightsee.

On our rambles, and not far from the Place de L'Église Monolithe we spotted a sign for a wine merchant - The Wine Buff Experience with Paddy O’Flynn.

While we were looking at the sign a smiling woman, Pilar, asked us if we were Irish and invited us in to meet Paddy. We were treated to a tour of the tasting room, which seemed like a monolith itself carved out of limestone. It was wonderfully cool.

A taste of Saint-Émilion? Of course. And then a lovely chat with Paddy and Pilar about wines from the region. We arranged to call back the next day and avail of their ordering service.

The meal at Chai Pascal was delicious and we could have sat on, but we had decided to walk it back and night was falling. Not through vineyards at this hour but along the road, using the light from our mobiles to alert passing motorists of our presence. What a lovely feeling to be in wine country at night-time. Yes, that half bottle of Franc-Pourret was waiting. 

Breakfast next morning was a treat, living up to its reputation. A bowl of greengage - reine-claude plums - baked in a crust, an array of cereals, juices, fruits, croissants, homemade jams, organic yoghurt and coffee. Magnificent.

Our bus connection for the train back to Bordeaux was not until 5pm so we still had a day in Saint-Émilion. Catherine suggested we look around the estate and when our bags were packed, she would store them in her car in the shade. Then later she would come to collect us in town and take us back to the station. We readily agreed and picked as our rendezvous point the car park at the Collegiate Church. This time the stroll through the vines took a different route. Passing château after château it was like walking through a wine list and we arrived directly at our appointed rendezvous spot. Time to appreciate this lovely church and its cloister and learn a little more about Émilion. Quiet. 

Then out again to the town now busy with newly arrived day trippers all making their way to the square. We spotted a shop selling macarons. 

This gourmet tradition dates back to the late 1600s when the sisters of the town’s Ursuline convent confected the recipe from sweet and bitter almonds, sugar and egg whites. We bought some boxes to offer as gifts.

Another walk around the town, stopping at various points and just soaking it all in. The town has been modernised much over the years and grand hotels now bring a more international style to the spaces they occupy. Still, that medieval heart beats strong.

A light lunch? Why not? Une omelette complète filled with cheese, ham and mushroom, aided and abetted with crusty bread and helped on its way with a glass of rosé chilled to perfection.

Back to the Wine Buff, sample some wines and place an order. That's a whole other story but suffice to say that momentous events in our household are accompanied by a bottle taken from the stock ordered that day. And we are still in touch with Paddy and Pilar through social media.

Where had the day gone? Time to move and await our pickup with Catherine. We went back to the Collegiate Church where we had agreed to meet. She arrived spot on time and took us back to the station. She seemed pleased with the box of macarons as we offered our thanks and goodbyes. We would think of her often and Château Franc-Pourret will be an abiding memory.

And there is of course that bottle that remains from 1981 to be opened… sometime.

We also brought home a couple of its half-sized relations. No longer a Saint-Émilion alone in its cave.

It's got plenty of company!


More information

02 août 2020

Programme d'activités 2020-21

Chères amies, Chers amis,

I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well in these uncertain times. Many of us are enjoying the chance to finally be reunited with friends, as life returns to some sort of normality. The Cercle français de Belfast is delighted to be reopening its doors – albeit virtually – to bring you a new programme year with no fewer than fifteen talks and interactive events.

We’ll resume our physical meetings as soon as we’re sure it’s completely safe to do so. Until then, our talks and events will be held online, meaning you don’t even need to leave the comfort of your own home. All you need is the Internet, along with a computer, smartphone or tablet. This programme contains further information on how to participate in our meetings. If you’re still unsure about how to get connected, we’ll be only too happy to help.

I’m sure you’ll agree that this year’s programme has something for anyone who has an interest in French language and culture. Join us to hear and talk about French history, literature, culture, music, food, current affairs and much, much more. Keep an eye out for extra events we’ll be adding throughout the year, as well as details of our Extraordinary General Meeting.

On 9 September 2020, you’re warmly invited to Large soif, our online soirée d’accueil. This first event of the year is always free and open to all. Pour yourself a glass of your favourite tipple, chat with friends old and new, and find out more about the Cercle français de Belfast. I can’t wait to see you there!

Don’t forget to sign up for our monthly update and to follow us on social media. In the meantime, and on behalf of all the Cercle français de Belfast Committee members, I’d like to thank you for your continued support and friendship.



Présidente, Cercle français de Belfast

22 juillet 2020

Quelles nouvelles ? juillet 2020

Dear all,
I do hope all's still well.
If anyone might be interested in what the Champs-Elysées was looking like yesterday...

This is the open-air terrace of the brasserie L'Alsace. I'm with a Canadian friend, Jill.
(Most of the year she lives in London but has a little flat in Paris too. She managed to escape!)

The semi-tropical plant enclosure is for people who didn't get away on a foreign holiday to
take photos of themselves inside (as if they're in an exotic location)!

You'll note the automatic hand sanitizer dispenser outside the 'tropical enclosure'...

Something extra...

The note, pinned to our building's front door, invites us to rent out our apartment to a film production company. There always seem to be films being made in and around Paris.

I applied to be an 'extra' once in a production by Les Frères Dardenne; the directors
changed the filming dates, and it fell through.

Very best,

John was one of the founder members of the original Alliance Française de Belfast, now the Cercle français. Although living and working in Paris he keeps in close touch with the cercle and we are delighted to hear his news and updates on life in France. 

03 juillet 2020

La Fête Nationale 2020

Chers Amis,

How will you celebrate le quatorze juillet this year?

One way could be to join us in an online celebration.

The idea is simple. With the nasty Covid-19 virus being around many of us have been unable to visit France this year. We would like you to share three things with us …

1 What you are missing most about France.

2 What you are most looking forward to doing when next you can travel there.

3 What piece of music most reminds you of France.

The plan is that your thoughts and choice of music will be combined into a short programme to be broadcast on the Cercle Français de Belfast's YouTube channel on14th July. A sort of 'Desert Island Discs' if you like as we gently recover from isolation.

Please send your 'requests' by Friday 10th July either ...

… by email to cfbelfast@gmail.com in which case your words (in English or French) will be read for you before playing your choice of music.


You might like to make a short audio/video recording and send it using WeTransfer (https://wetransfer.com/to cfbelfast@gmail.com. Your recording and choice of music will be included in the programme.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Prenez soin de vous et de vos proches,

À bientôt,


01 juillet 2020

Hexagonal discs

What music from L'Hexagone are you listening to these days? Maybe you're not listening on record or cd and prefer to stream your music.  Is it one of the classics or something more modern? 

Please let us know! You can post your comments below.

14 juin 2020

Quelles nouvelles ? juin 2020

Dear All,

Some more for you...

President Macron has just announced on TV that all of mainland France and Corsica is now fully open from tomorrow on - all restaurants, cafés, etc.!

School will be compulsory for all from mid-June.

Flights between EU countries will likewise begin again. Flights to and from non-EU countries, so long as these latter are "safe", will recommence on 1st July.

France has joined with three other EU countries to buy several billion doses of an anti-Covid vaccine in development from Astra-Zeneca.

Photos taken yesterday in my local supermarket and the street.

Bises amicales à vous tous,

John Crothers

John was one of the founder members of the original Alliance Française de Belfast, now the Cercle français. Although living and working in Paris he keeps in close touch with the cercle and we are delighted to hear his news and updates on life in France. 

15 mai 2020

Quelles nouvelles ? mai 2020 Venturing out

Quelles nouvelles ?

In this occasional note from Paris where he lives, Cercle member John Crothers has been in touch to share some observations about his first métro journey in over two months in the City of Lights.  

thought the idea of "fashion masks" would take hold - here it is in evidence today, in a boutique window in St-Germain-des-Prés!

My first time to venture out into central Paris by métro for over two months - everyone respecting seat instructions; very few people on platforms when I travelled at 12 noon; everyone wearing masks - of varying types; finally, a maximum of four people or so in each carriage. 

At Montparnasse, all the RATP staff were wearing visors as well as face masks!
I have a feeling that this is far better than what's happening in the Tube in London... 

My hairdresser strongly agreed with me the other day when I said, "French people like to think of themselves as undisciplined - it's almost a point of honour to proclaim yourself 'Mediterranean'. 
But, when it comes to the bit, they're extremely well disciplined, in fact!"

Take care of yourselves,

John was one of the founder members of the original Alliance Française de Belfast, now the Cercle français. Although living and working in Paris he keeps in close touch with the cercle and we are delighted to hear his news and updates on life in France. 

04 mai 2020

Bulletin mensuel : mai 2020

I hope that you are keeping well. These difficult times have affected us all in different ways but one thing we share is the tremendous debt we owe to the brave men and women on the front line who help keep us safe.
This month's bulletin is longer than usual with news of a new departure for the Cercle and lots of ideas for keeping in touch with France and all things French.
Votre cercle virtuel
Next week we will be launching our first ever virtual talk online. Watch out for an email arriving in your mailbox on Monday next (4th May) giving full information.


French-linked websites

Today some committee members share a few of their favourite French-linked websites they have enjoyed over the last month.

Elaine recommends
MyFrenchFilm Festival
Happily the festival has just announced an extension of its StayAtHome edition to 25 May. As well as continued access to shorts the extension now includes selected feature films.
One of the shorts is a great animation 'Kiki of Montparnasse'.

Jonathan enjoys reading and recommends:
Lire en ligne (Read online) is a phenomenal resource that can be utilised to read on your tablet / computer les œuvres of the most famous French authors, playwrights, philosophers and poets including Balzac, Dumas, Hugo, Maupassant, Pascal, Rimbaud and Rousseau to name but a few. Also included are the works of Andersen, Darwin, Kipling, Nietzsche, Shakespeare, Twain and Wilde and many more - all in French!
Suffering from eye strain? Then just switch on the bluetooth speaker that sits on your mantelpiece / windowsill and listen to their selected works - all in the beauty of the French-spoken word.
Cost: FREE

Take Google's virtual tours of nearly all your favourite French museums to see the works of the painters and sculptors who influenced the world. The list is endless - simply type your request in the search bar.
Cost: FREE

Jonathan also reminds you of our own online presence at ...
Cercle français de Belfast's eponymous blog for French-linked happenings in Belfast
Cost: FREE

And pick up on what's happening in the French-themed world via our very own twitter feed 
Cost: FREE

Henry has produced a Playlist just for us and posted it on both Spotify and Deezer. He writes ...
Here is a playlist of well known French songs for the month of May. It is to get you into the gallic mood of a holiday in France and as you listen you can pretend you are listening to the radio as you speed down the Autoroute du Soleil towards Provence. 
We have given you the links for both Spotify and its French equivalent Deezer which is currently free to download. 

One feature of Deezer not found on Spotify and helpful to those of us still learning French is the little microphone beside the song on the playlist. Click on this and the lyrics come up on your screen rolling with the words sung. This is helpful when trying to make out that lyric and a painless way of improving your French. 

Deezer is different to Spotify in that it has a more French feel to its music choices , and podcasts. 
I personally find the searches on Deezer more " clunky" and less intuitive than Spotify but that may be because we all know and understand better the systems we use most.
This may be a virtue in that it sends you sometimes to somewhere exciting and new, where you can find new music which turns it all into an adventure.

Try both and compare. In order to play you will need to download one or other of the systems to your phone, tablet or computer. If you sign up for the three month free trial of Deezer premium and then shortly after cancel your subscription you still get the free three months. Deezer is also better for learning French with short bite-sized topical lessons again for free.
Happy listening.

CHRIS recommends this couple of sites:

This is a very powerful site, developed by AF and the Institut Français and there is plenty there for hour upon hour of browsing. I've used it before and although it is usually a subscription service it is being offered free just now.  Still need to register but that takes only a few minutes and access is immediate. Navigation with a choice of French or English is very easy. Great material to choose from.

Institut national de l'audiovisuel
This is a great source of audiovisual material. If you have a favourite French personality, actor, poet, singer, writer for example then a simple search of the INA archive is a fruitful source of video and audio recordings. The premium streaming service, Ina Madelen, is only 3€ a month and at present the first 3 months is free. I have already signed up for that. You need to register your card details but you can cancel anytime. As its publicité states : Vous allez voir, madelen va vous surprendre

Member Kevin O'Neill has been in touch to suggest some information on Alsace. 
His own anticipated holiday there this summer has been postponed but he has shared this short video of Le Château du Hohlandsbourg a place that he would like to have visited:

As for myself I have enjoyed exploring Alliance Française Dublin's 'Cultural Activities Online' page at …

The following sections are free ...

Virtual Tours of French Museums, French Concerts and Shows on Youtube
Visit French Landmarks with Google, Explore Science in French
Cooking with a French twist and Short Films in French

So why not ... visit the Musée d'Orsay; see Serge Gainsbourg in concert; stroll Mont Saint-Michel; stand Sur les épaules de Darwin; check out a recipe for Tarte tatin or watch a Trip to the Moon?

Now, for your good selves ...
Have you discovered interesting French-linked websites? We would love to hear about them. If you email links to cfbelfast@gmail.com we could included them in future emails.
Prenez soin de vous et de vos proches,
À bientôt, Philip