mardi 31 mars 2015

Balades gourmandes près de Toulouse / Yummy journey near Toulouse

Entre nos deux voyages à Toulouse en Septembre et en Mars, nous avons eu l'occasion de tester quelques restaurants aussi bien à Toulouse que un peu plus loin. Venez découvrir ces adresses gourmandes!
Between our two travels to Toulouse last September and this March, we had the great pleasure to test some restaurants either in Toulouse and in the surrounding area. Come with me to discover some yummy adresses!



Samatan, Gers.

Son marché de producteurs locaux, dont les fameux produits issus de la volaille (canard, oie, poulet...), est le premier marché au gras du Gers et même de France.
Its local producters market, reknown for its poultry products (duck, goose, chicken...), is the first market in the Gers and in France for the "gras" (litteraly the "fat", or more specifically the "foie gras").


Deux restaurants à mentionner:
Two restaurants worth the mention:

 Le restaurant Les Rivages, dans le club de vacances au bord du lac. C'est là où nous avons mangé car l'autre restaurant était complet. Et nous avons eu de la chance car c'était leur jour de réouverture!
Pour aller manger avec des enfants et profiter du lac, par beau temps, c'est un bon rapport qualité/prix. Buffet d'entrées et de desserts à volonté et plat du jour (viande ou poisson) pour 14,50€ le midi, c'est tout à fait raisonnable. Il y a d'autres menus plus gastronomiques également... Lorsque la belle saison est là, il y a encore plus de choix au niveau des buffets.
Gabriel a choisi les aiguillettes de canard dans le menu enfant (8,50€), mais j'ai dû les manger car ce qu'il préfère dans le canard c'est en fait le confit. Il a bon goût, n'est-ce pas? (et ce n'est pas maman qui va se plaindre, j'aime les aiguillettes de canard!)
Sophie étant une picoreuse en ce moment, le serveur ne l'a même pas comptée. Bon, j'avoue qu'elle a quand même englouti toute une part de tarte aux abricots que sa grand-mère avait été cherchée au buffet des desserts...
The restaurant Les Rivages, in the holidays club on the lake shore. It's where we have eaten because the other restaurant was full. And we were very lucky because it was the first day of the reopening for the season! To eat with kids and enjoy the lake, when the weather is fine, it's a good deal quality/price. Buffet of starters and buffet of desserts in a "all you can eat" fashion, and daily main dishes (meat or fish) for 14,50€ at lunch, it's rather moderate. There are also more gastronomic menus. I have been told that during high season, the choice of dishes is bigger.
Gabriel chose the "aiguillettes de canard" (a part of duck) in the kid menu (8,50€ for starters, main dish, dessert and drink), but I had to eat it. Seems that my son prefers the "confit de canard". He has good tastes, doesn't he? (and Mommy was happy to enjoyed his dish!)
Sophie eats like a hen these days, so the waiter didn't even count her for the menu. Well, I have to confess she had nonetheless eaten a whole part of apricot pie her grand-mother brought back from the buffet table...




Le second restaurant à Samatan est un repère pour gastronomes: Au Canard Gourmand fait partie des Logis de France . Vous pouvez y manger mais également y dormir. La carte est mise à jour au quotidien, avec des plats cuisinés uniquement avec des produits frais. Un conseil: réservez en avance! Arrivés à 12h30, il n'y avait plus une seule table de libre, un lundi midi!
The second restaurant in Samatan is a landmark for all the gourmets: Au Canard Gourmand is part of the Logis de France. You can eat there and also sleep in one of the lovely bedrooms. The menu is updated everyday, with a cooking made only with fresh products. Tip: you have to reserve as soon as possible! We went on a whim around noon and half, and no tables were available, a monday!


Labarthe sur Lèze
Restaurant La Rose des Vents, sa cuisine gastronomique et de produits frais m'a charmé. Les propriétaires sont également accueillants, et adorables avec les enfants. Très envie d'y retourner la prochaine fois qu'on va voir mon beau-frère.
The restaurant La Rose des Vents with its gastronomic cookings and fresh products put a spell on me. The owners make you feel welcomed and they are SO nice with children. I'm eager to go again next time we visit my brother-in-law.

Pâté de campagne maison au foie gras mi-cuit. J'ai commencé à le manger avec entrain quand je me suis rappelé que je devais le prendre en photo. C'était tellement difficile de m'arrêter avant d'avoir fini de déguster cette petite merveille!
Farmhouse pâté with foie gras half-cooked. I started to devour it and then I remembered I had to take a picture. It was so difficult to stop before savouring all of this wonder!

Blanquette de veau aux légumes anciens: crosnes, poireaux, mini-carotte, radis, asperges, panais... Ma belle-mère a trouvé le plat très bien cuit et les légumes parfait pour un accompagnement.
Veal blanquette with ancient vegetables: crosnes, leak, mini-carrots, radish, asparagus, parsnip... My mother in-law thought this dish was very well cooked and the vegetables perfect as a side dish.

La gourmande que je suis s'est fait plaisir!
Burger de canard au fromage de chèvre, avec pommes frites maison et tomates cuites.
The "gourmand" I am had great pleasure with this burger "minced duck with goat cheese", served with home made french fries and cooked tomatoes.

Je n'ai pas photographié tous les plats qui ont été commandé par la famille (8 personnes à table), trop concentrée sur mon assiette et sur ma fille qui préférait aller découvrir ce qui se passait près des cuisines (aïe!), mais tout le monde s'est régalé. Une adresse à découvrir sans attendre!
I didn't take the photos of all the dishes ordered by our family (8 people around the table), too concentrated on my plate and my daughter who was curious by the how and why of the kitchen (aïe!), but just so you know, we had all a delicious time. It's an adress worth the detour!


Toulouse

Le Bar Lounge - Restaurant Evangelina, situé à deux pas du quartier Compans Caffarelli et de la Business School of Toulouse, est une table à découvrir. Je ne le conseille pas pour les déjeuners de famille de plus de 6 personnes, car l'espace est très "vivant" et la grande table à laquelle nous étions placé ne permettait pas de pouvoir bien s'entendre les uns les autres. Toutefois, entre amis, entre collègues, pour un repas d'affaires ou en couple, c'est une table des plus appropriées. Les propositions du jour sont particulièrement alléchantes et variées, et la carte réserve quelques surprises bien sympathiques.
The Lounge bar - restaurant Evangelina, situated accross the street from the Business School of Toulouse and the Compans Caffarelli district, is a place to discover. I don't recommend it for a big family lunch, because the room is lively and the long table we were sitting around was not great for talking. However, with friends, colleagues, for a business meal or a yummy getaway with your lover, it's perfect. The chief's specials are mouth-watering and divers, and the menu hold some tasty surprises.

Raviole tomate et mozzarella, crème de basilic, copeaux de Serrano et parmesan.
Ravioli tomato and mozzarella, basil cream, Serrano and parmesan chips.

Copieuse salade César pour mon beau-père.
Hearty Ceasar salad for my father in-law.

Oeuf poché avec légumes et crevettes. (une des entrées du jour) Désolée je ne me souviens plus exactement de l'intitulé du plat.
Poached egg with vegetables and shrimps (one of the special starters). Sorry can't remember the exact name of the recipe.

Demi-magret grillé, jus de canard.
Grilled half-magret with duck juice.

Dorade que ma belle-mère a fort apprécié.
Sea bream, my mother in-law rather appreciated it.
Pastillas de canard: délicieuses! Et portion généreuse: une pastillas + une demie! J'ai fini aussi celle de mon fils pour qui cela faisait un peu trop. Mais il était très content de découvrir une autre façon de cuisiner le canard. 
Duck pastillas: delicious! And it was a generous plate: one pastillas + a half one! I had also to finish a bit of my son's, it was a bit too much for him. But he was really happy to try another way of cooking duck.

Moelleux (avec coeur fondant!) au chocolat et sa glace vanille. Assiettes des enfants terminées en quelques cuillerées!
Chocolate fondant and vanilla ice cream. The children's plates were finished in a few spoonfuls!

Crème brûlée. La portion semble petite mais en fait c'est parait pour finir le repas après des plats aussi gourmands.
Crème brûlée. The portion seems small but in fact it was perfect to finish after these delicious dishes.

Alors? Une petit envie de repas du Sud-Ouest maintenant? Peut-être avez-vous un restaurant qui cuisine ce type de recettes près de chez vous? Si ce n'est pas le cas, il est temps de prévoir un petit séjour en Midi-Pyrénées!
So? Do you have the urge of a South-West meal yet? Perhaps you can find a restaurant cooking these type of recipes in your area? If not, it's time to plan a travel in Midi-Pyrénées!


Lou Messugo

mardi 24 mars 2015

Hildegarde von Bingen [Women's History Month]



Briefmarke: Hildegard von Bingen (Nonne, Mystikerin)
Image: Briefmarken-Bilder.de

Elle était musicienne et peintre, abbesse et prophétesse, médecin et scientifique, linguiste et femme politique même. J'ai le grand plaisir et honneur de vous parler aujourd'hui de l'une des figures féminines de l'époque médiévale qui a le plus marqué son temps... et qui inspire de nos jours encore nombre d'entre nous!
She was a musician and a painter, abbess and prophetess, doctor/healer and scientist, linguist and even political woman. I have the great pleasure and honor today to talk to you about one of the most reknown feminine figure of the Middle Age... and who even nowadays inspire many people!

HILDEGARDE VON BINGEN


Sa vie est plutôt bien connue et ses oeuvres l'ont élevées au rang de Docteur de l'Eglise Catholique. Je vous résume ici rapidement sa biographie (sources multiples, dont wikipedia).
Her life is relatively well known and her works made her a Doctor of the Catholic Church. I will here quickly resume her biography (multiple sources, like this article).

Née en 1098 à Bermersheim vor der Höhe (Hesse rhénane) d'une famille de notables du Palatinat, ses parents l'envoient très tôt au couvent des bénédictines de Disibodenberg (à 8 ans) car elle faisait preuve d'une grande maturité spirituelle et même de visions. Ce fait restera tout de même secret la moitié de sa vie.
Born in 1098 in Bemersheim vor der Höhe (Rhein Hessen) in a notable family of the Palatinat, her parents sent her very soon in the benedictine closter of Disibodenberg (at 8 years old) because she was very mature on a spiritual level and had visions. This fact stayed secret for half of her life.

Elle prend le voile vers 14 ou 15 ans et devient abbesse à 38 ans.Cinq ans plus tard, dans une vision, elle reçoit l'ordre de Dieu de consigner par écrit toutes les visions qu'elle a reçu et recevra. Ce qui ne fut pas chose évidente pour elle. Ses doutes la feront tomber malade et son obéissance la guérira. De même lorsqu'elle voudra fonder un couvent indépendant après une révélation (celui de Disibodenberg étant double et les moniales sous la dépendance de l'abbé), le refus de l'abbé la plongera dans un état proche de la catatonie. Lorsque celui-ci viendra pour la faire sortir de son lit (peut-être croyait-il qu'elle jouait la comédie... elle était une femme avec un caractère fort!), il se rendra compte de son état de santé et accordera enfin son autorisation de créer un nouveau couvent, ce qui la fit guérir rapidement.
She took the veil at age 14 or 15 and became the abbess at 38 years old. Five years later, in a vision, she recieved the mission from God to record all her visions she had already received and will receive in the future. And it was not an easy feat for her. She became ill with all her doubts and her obedience to the instruction of God healed her. The same will happen when after another revelation she wanted to found a new closter (the one of Disibodenberg was a double closter and the nuns were under the supervision of a abbot), and the abbot's refusal sent her into a near catatonic state. When he came to raised her from her bed (perhaps he thought she was just "playing" the illness... she had a strong personnality after all!), he saw for himself that she was not faking and granted her the right to create a new closter only for women. That healed her quickly.

Hildegarde von Bingen, peinture de Janet Goodchild (source)

Elle n'alla pas loin, juste à quelques kilomètres, pour fonder avec une vingtaine de nonnes le couvent de Rupertsberg à Bingen, en 1150. En 1165, son rayonnement est tel qu'elle doit créer un deuxième couvent, à Eibingen de l'autre côté du Rhin, dans les bâtiments d'un ancien couvent augustin qu'elle fera rénover. Elle finira ses jours à Rupertsberg le 1 septembre 1197, après avoir écrit de nombreux traités et avoir conseillé de grandes figures politiques de l'époque.
She didn't go far to build the closter of Rupertsberg in Bingen in 1150. And in 1165, her radiance was such that she founded a second monastery in Eibigen, on the other side of the Rhein, in an old building that was once an augustin closter and that she renoved. She finished her life in Rupertsberg the 1st September 1197, after having written many books and advised several great figures of her time.


La femme spirituelle: prophéties pour son temps et pour le nôtre.
The spiritual woman: prophecies for her time and ours.
Elle a été reconnue le 7 octobre 2012 "Docteur de l'Eglise" par le pape Benoît XVI, et même si il n'y avait pas eu de canonisation en "bonne et dûe forme" (elle a été par contre béatifiée), son nom avait été ajouté au martyrologe romain et avait été reconnue formellement "Sainte" en mai 2012. 
The 7th october of 2012, she has been named as "Doctor of the Church" by the Pope Benedict XVI and even if her canonization wasn't done in due form (she was however counted as a Blessed one), her name had been written in the roman martyrologue and she has been recognized at "Saint" in May 2012.

Non seulement Hildegarde était une grande connaisseuse des textes bibliques, mais elle possédait également un don de prophétie qui fut reconnu de son vivant, notamment par le Pape Eugène II lors du synode de Trèves (entre la fin 1147 et le début 1148).
Not only Hildegarde had a great knowledge of the biblical texts, but she also possessed a prophetic gift that has been acknowledged in her lifetime, in particular by the Pope Eugene II during the synode of Trèves (held between the end of 1147 and the beginning of 1148).

Comme indiqué ci-dessus, elle avait des visions dès son plus jeune âge. De 1141 à 1151, elle consigne à l'aide de son confesseur et scribe, le moine Volmar, ce qu'elle nommera le Scivias seu Visionnes. C'est son premier recueil de visions (26 en tout, 600 pages imprimées et plus de 150 000 mots), les deux suivants étant le Liber vitae meritorum et De operatione dei, également connu sous le nom Liber divinorum operum. 
As told above, she had visions from a young age. Between 1141 and 1151, she recorded with the help of her confessor and scribe, the monk Volmar, what she will called the Scivias seu Visionnes. It's her first collection of visions (26 visions, 600 written pages and more than 150 000 words), the two next being the Liber vitae meritorum and the De operatione dei, also known as the Liber divinorum operum.



From: Amazon.com

De nombreux théologiens et chercheurs se sont penché sur ces textes. Voici le résumé du livre de Pierre Dumoulin, Hildegarde de Bingen. Prophète et docteur pour le troisième millénaire, qui étudie principalement les oeuvres mystiques de la Sainte.
Many theologians and researchers have studied her texts. Here is the translation (I did it, and I hope it fits the level of the original writing) of the resume for the book Hildegarde de Bingen. Prophète et docteur pour le troisième millénaire, written by Pierre Dumoulin and focused on the mystical works of the Saint.
Hildegarde élabore une anthropologie novatrice, veut guider les âmes et régénérer l’esprit. Son génie est de proposer une conception intégrale de la personne : « Le corps est l’atelier de l’âme où l’esprit vient faire ses gammes ». Ses trois livres de visions nous introduisent dans une sagesse chrétienne. Le premier indique la voie, le second donne les moyens, le troisième décrit le but à atteindre : une harmonie de l’univers renouvelée grâce à la transformation intérieure de l’homme. Toute la richesse de l’Occident chrétien est ici synthétisée.
Hildegarde  designs an innovative anthropology, wants to sheperd the soul and regerenate the spirit. Her genius comes from proposing an integral conception of the person: "The body is the workshop of the soul where the spirit comes to make his scales". Her three books of visions introduce us in a christian wisdom. The first show the way, the second give the means, the third describes the goal to achieve: an harmony of the universe, renewed through the inner transformation of the man. All the richness of the Christian Occident is here synthetized.


Le Riesencodex conservé à la bibliothèque régionale de Hesse, à Wiesbaden, regroupe la majorité de ses écrits, exceptés ceux médicaux.
The Riesencodex is preserved at the Hessen regional library, in Wiesbaden, and gather most of her writings, but not her medical ones.

Rupertsberger Riesenkodex


La femme de sciences: soigner le corps et l'esprit.
The woman of science: healing the body and the spirit.
L'épouse de mon père est pharmacienne et spécialisée dans les remèdes naturels. Hildegarde von Bingen est une de ses personnalités préférées. Ses écrits sont très modernes pour le XIIe siècle (diagnostics, traitements, hygiène - eau bouillie pour prévenir les infections par exemple), tout en reprenant des traditions antiques (propriétés des minéraux). Elle combinait le traitement physique de la maladie avec des méthodes holistiques centrées sur une guérison spirituelle. Pour elle, le macrocosme et le microcosme sont inextricablement liés.
My step-mother is pharmacist and specialized in natural cures. Hildegarde von Bingen is one of her favorite character. Her texts are rather modern for the 12th Century (diagnostics, cures, hygiene -boiled water to prevent the infections for example), while reclaiming the antic traditions (mineral properties). She mixed the physical treatements of the illness with holistic methods centered on a spiritual healing. For Hildegarde, the macrocosme and the microcosme were inextricably linked.


Les deux ouvrages Physica et Causae et Curae sont traduits dans plusieurs langues et passionnent depuis une trentaine d'années les personnes qui recherchent une approche plus "naturelle" de la médecine. Avec l'intérêt renouvelé pour ses écrits depuis les années 80, des praticiens se sont orientés vers une redécouverte de ses méthodes. Il existe même un Institut Hildegardien qui transmet lors de formations les enseignements médicaux de Hildegarde.
The two books Physica and Causae et Curae are translated in several languages and fascinate for more than thirty years people looking for a more natural approach in medecine. With the renewed interest in her works since the eighties, practicionners have turned toward a rediscovery of her methods. Some Institutes have been created to train in the medical teachings and applications of Hildegarde's studies.



La femme de lettres: 
The woman of letters:
Elle a construit une nouvelle langue, la Langua Ignota (langue inconnue) qui semble-t-il n'a été parlé que par Hildegarde elle-même. Voici une planche des 23 lettres la composant:
She constructed a new language, the Langua Ignota (the unknown language) that seems to have been only spoken by Hildegarde herself. Here are the 23 letters composing it:


De plus, elle a eu une correspondante abondante avec des personnalités telles que Bernard de Clairvaux, le pape Eugène III, l'abbé Suger, ou encore l'empereur Frédéric I Barberousse.
She also had a long and fructious correspondence with many personalities like Bernard of Clairvaux, the Pope Eugene III, Abbot Suger or even the emperor Frederik I Barbarossa.


L'artiste: 
The artist:
Les enluminures de ses trois recueils de visions auraient été réalisées par elle-même ou du moins leur production dirigée par ses soins. Il y en a 35 dans le Scivias et elles sont les plus connues de celles contenues dans ses oeuvres.
The illuminations of the three records of visions could have been made by her or at least she managed their production. There are 35 illuminations in the Scivias and they are most famous from her works.


Léonard de Vinci n'était pas le premier à reconnaître les proportions du corps humain...
Leonardo da Vinci was not the first to recognize the human body proportions...
Elle fut également une compositrice de musique sacrée. 70 compositions sont regroupées dans le Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum (Symphonie de l'harmonie des révélations célestes) et le drame liturgique Ordo Virtutum (Le jeu des vertus) comporte 82 mélodies.
She was also a sacred music composer. 70 compositions are regrouped in the Symphonia armoniae celestium revelationum (Symphony of the harmony of the celestial revelations) and the liturgic drama Ordo Virtutum (Play of the Virtues) has 82 melodies.

Spiritus Sanctus, the second Antiphone and Psalm 110/111 from the vesper of Hildegard von Bingen.

Veni Creator Spiritus

O Magna Pater / Ave, Maria, o auctrix vitae



Comme vous le voyez, Hildegarde était une femme aux multiples talents, et qui refusait le carcan patriarcal quand celui-ci lui empêchait de suivre les murmures de l'Esprit Saint. A son époque, les femmes n'étaient pas invitées à parler en public, surtout de sujets théologiques. Cela ne l'empêcha pas de conduire quatre tournées de prêches en Allemagne dès 1160 jusqu'en 1171 (elle avait alors 73 ans!).
As you can see, Hildegarde was a multi-talented woman, who refused the patriarcal oder when it impeded her to folow the Holy Ghost's whisperings. In her era, women couldn't speak in public, especially on theological topics. It didn't prevent her to tour four times Germany to preach from the year 1160 to 1171 (she was 73 years old!)

Se décrivant comme une femme non-éduquée (elle n'avait pas été formellement instruite dans les sept arts libéraux) et incapable d'exégèse des textes, et appuyant sur son état de membre du "sexe faible", elle mettait ainsi en avant le côté mystique de ses visions et prêches. Ce qui lui permettait en fait de pouvoir parler à une époque et un lieu où ce n'était pas possible aux femmes. Elle s'opposait fermement à la corruption et aux pratiques de l'Eglise qu'elle réprouvait (la simonie par exemple).
Describing herself as an uneducated woman (she was never instructed per say in the seven liberal arts) and unable to do exegesis of the Scriptures, and pointing her statu of member of the "weaker sex" too, she put forward the mystical aspect of her visions and preaches. Which enabled her, in fact, to speak more freely in a time and space where it was deemed inappropriate for a woman. She was against the corruption and all the practices in the Church she deemed unworthy (like the simony).



Activités avec des enfants et des adolescents:
Activities with children and teenagers:

* Sur Pinterest et sur le web en général vous pouvez trouver de nombreux liens sur Hildegarde. Retrouvez les enluminures de ses oeuvres et montrez-les à vos enfants/élèves. Les explications de ces peintures sont nombreuses.
On Pinterest and on internet, you can find many links about Hildegarde of Bingen. Find the illuminations of her works and show them to your students/children. Informations about these paintings are numerous.

* Ecouter des musiques du Moyen-Âge. La plupart étaient chantées a capella et en latin. Bien différentes des musiques sacrées de la période baroque ou les cantiques plus contemporains!
Listen to medieval musics. Most of them were sung in latin and a capella. Quite different as the sacred musics of the baroque era or the more contemporary hymns!

* Etudier la vie d'un couvent médiéval. Qu'y faisaient les moines et moniales chaque jour?
Study the life in a monastery in the Middle-Age. What did the nuns and monks do of their days?


Je vous invite aussi à visiter le site du couvent de Eibingen  (il y a une traduction en français!) qui est toujours actif, avec 55 nonnes. En fait il a été reconstruit au début du XXe siècle. Celui de Rupertsberg n'a pas connu le même sort et seules quelques ruines seront visibles des promeneurs...
I invite you also to visit the website of the Eibingen closter (there's an English translation!) which is still active, with 55 nuns. It has been rebuilt at the beginning of the 20th century. The one in Rupertsberg didn't have that luck and only some ruins remain...




Comme les sites où a vécu Hildegarde ne sont pas loin de chez moi, je vais essayer de jouer de mon charme et proposer un petit voyage dans la région d'Hildegarde à mon mari pour la Pentecôte. Je vous tiendrai au courant de mon succès (échec impossible!)
As the places where Hildegarde has lived are not very far away from my town, I will gather and use my charm and propose to my husband a short travel in this region for the Pentecost holidays. I will tell you about my success later (failure impossible!)



***


This post is part of the Women's History Month Series with the Multicultural Kid Blogs community. You can find the list of all the other posts, on the 

vendredi 13 mars 2015

How to enjoy your stop on a French highway rest/service area?

I have written this post for all of those who want to have a nice and safe travel on the French highways. As it was first written in French for the blog de fil en tartine, I have added below a few tips for foreigners visiting my beautiful country.




The majority of the French highways (noted "A" and then the number of the road) have rest area scattered on their course. Some are called "rest areas" and possess just a few trash cans, some tables and benchs and of course toilets (roughly each 15 km). Others, bigger and with multiple services, can be found each 40 / 50 km and are called "service areas".
When you click on this link (stay on that page, don't try the english version, because the map doesn't exist in this language), you can see all the places you will encounter during your drive on the French highways. That's a tip you will love to use to prepare your road plan, with the meal rests or gas station stops... even more when there are kids in the car!



Playgrounds for children, inside or outside:
Speaking about children, a great number of rest areas provide games for them. You can find slides and rocking animals, swings... or inside the service areas' buildings you will have games, TV spots, etc.
And during the summer holidays (July and August), animations are held along the road to the touristic places and the beaches (for example: A6, A7, A9, A10 or A16, etc), as you can see here for the Vinci highways.
Remember to fix a time for the departure or you will have to stay the whole morning / afternoon (highlight the right word).








The toilets and the "Baby corner":
It's the most important place in a rest area. It's for it we crash stop because the son can't anymore refrain from peeing in his auto-sit, or the baby has poisoned the air in the car with what is now in his diaper, or even when Mom must REALLY do something about her "monthly girl things". And when it's not meeting our expectations, it can quickly become a living nightmare.
Usually, the toilets are cleaner and you feel more welcomed in the service areas than in the simple rest areas. However, I have already been surprized, in the good way, by toilets lost in the middle of nowhere and that are equiped with a self-cleaning system and all the necessary to go back on the holidays road, lightened and with soap smelling hands (and not hydroalcoholic gel).  


Three tips for when we stop to go to toilets in a small rest area:
- Take paper roll or tissues with you. You never know when you will find an empty roll holder...
- The disinfectant for the hands have to be easily reachable in the car (even better: put it in your pocket, so that you can have it as soon as you go out of the toilets)
- Leave your coat/jacket in the car, even if it's freezing outside. There are mostly no hooks on the doors of the toilets and the state of the floor don't allow us to put them down. You will already be busy with the trouser falling near the water puddle and your buttocks hanging in the air... (because NO, you don't put this part of your anatomy on the toilet seat! Only if you have no conception of hygiene, of course...)


It has to be noted that since I use French highways (since childhood), I have noticed a certain improvement in the cleanliness of the toilets. It's mostly due to new systems for cleaning, but also the  motorway network managers' realization that they have to do something...

Tell the other customers and the cleaning team when a toilet is "dirty" by sliding the window on pas propre (= not clean).

Most Babys corner in the service areas include: a change room with sink, trash can, changing table/matress, and electric outlet. Some have also a nursing room (I have seen it in one place but can't remember where). It's too rare and I hope it will be developed because a comfy armchair is way more pleasant that a piece of concrete bench...
However, you will easily find a microwave to warm up the baby food (also sold at the convenient store three feet away, if forgotten...) And in the eventuality of a "out of order" engine or a long waiting queue, ask nicely one of the cafeteria employee: whenever I have asked them, they were always benevolent and brought back the food warmed up just like needed. And sometimes, with a plate and a spoon (must be left on the empty trays... not taken out!) 
Of course, if you don't speak French and the person in front of you is not talented with languages, use your best smile, and show him / her the food jar/plate. Don't forget to say please and thank you, in English or whatever language you speak. These words are "understood" when used at the right times. But if you want to embrace the French spirit it will be "S'il vous plait" (please) and "Merci beaucoup" (thank you very much).


Shops and restaurants:
You're a tad hungry, you can't track down where the heck the road map has gone, the camera needs new batteries? Don't panic, the shops at the service areas should have all that...

... and everything you didn't envisage to buy. Like a book or magazine for your daughter, a poster about medieval castles or european geography for the son or even madeleines "pur beurre" for Mister-I-am-the-driver-who-likes-the-cookies-that-are-in-the-car-but-wants-something-else-for-a-change... The choice is large, so be careful with your wallet! The prices are higher than in a supermarket.


Restaurants and bakeries are owned by food chains. For example (not an exhaustive list): La Brioche Dorée, Paul, Pomme de Pain, Mc Donald, El Rancho, CourtePaille, AutoGrill, L'Arche, etc. According to your budget and tastes, you will savor a panini with salmon, a croissant, a steack with french fries, a full menu in a cafeteria or ready to eat pastas (remember, free microwaves to use. Just check if it is operational before buying the pastas). Of course, it's the option "no picnic". 

When the weather permits it, the picnic basket can be appropriate and enjoyed by the whole family. However, beware of rainy days, freezing temperatures or heat waves. One, having lunch on a bench outside or scrammed in the car is not comfortable or relaxing in these weathers. And two, because on very sunny days, the meal could become harmful: cheeses, creams, delicatessen (etc) that can hide a future bacteria infection, warm fruit juices leading to stomach aches... Well, if you are the owner of THE cooler bag that resists several hours of road trip under the heat, spread out the cloth on the grass and put some sun cream on your arms and face!
Otherwise, don't risk a food poisoning (I have tested, not cool for the start of the holidays), and stop at least one hour to nibble a sandwich or a salad you will buy at the service shop. It will be more expensive but less risky for your health and you will be protected against the bad weather. Bonus: more place in the car without all the picnic stuffs!

Nota bene: srevice areas are open 24h/24. For those who love to travel during the night, they are illuminated outside and you can drink a hot chocolate or eat a breakfast after hours of driving, and that's not a luxury! Rest areas are to be avoided during the wee hours of the night (10pm to 6am). Stories about robberies, carjacking, rapes and other news items are sadly not fictional. Ok, it's not every night in every rest area, but when you have kids sleeping in the back seats, chose the safety and hold on your bladder a bit longer.


Gas stations, to avoid being out of gas: 
More expensive near the highways, filling up at a gas station will often be unavoidable before reaching your destination. On the website I quoted at the beginning of this post, it's easy to locate the gas stations you will encounter on your journey. Most of them propose, besides gasoline and diesel, recharge terminal for electric or gas cars. You can also control your tires pressure, which is important when your car is loaded or the weather is "summer hot".


Space to walk and have a bit of fresh air: 

Combe du Tréboulou, on the highway A20

Don't forget to stop 20 minutes every 2 hours for a must needed walk! And when we have children, we can't escape these rests (only but: when they're napping). So spot before your travel the rest area that have panoramic point of view or spaces for lounging, or even better the "villages étapes"  on the free motorways and national roads (villages where you have touristic attraction, restaurants, service shops, etc) and have a bit of adventures! Don't we say that what is important is not the destination but the travel?

Panoramic overview, rest area "Marvejols", A75 in the Massif Central.

Have a nice travel on our French roads!

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This post is part of the MKB Global Pick of the day. 
You can follow all the daily picks with the hashtag #mkbglobalpick !



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