April Fool’s Day today in the UK. But here in France it is April Fish day!!
The following comes from: http://www.frenchmoments.eu/april-fools-day-traditions-in-france-le-1er-avril/ and is her copyright and a really good site:)
“Here in France there is a tradition of “Poisson d’Avril” is followed by all French children on 1 April. Paper fish are used to play an April Fools trick, involving sticking a paper fish onto the back of as many adults as possible, then running away yelling “Poisson d’Avril” (April Fish!)
On the 1st of April, everyone has to pay attention to avoid being the victim of practical jokes and general foolishness. It is the ideal day for children (and grown-ups alike!) to tell funny jokes to those around them, including family members, friends, teachers, neighbours, colleagues at work, etc.
In France, April Fools’ Day is known for the “poisson d’avril” (April Fish) which dates back to 1564. The origin of the April Fish in France is quite obscure, maybe it was reminescent of the ichtus used by Christians in the Roman era.
According to popular beliefs, the New Year used to start on the 1st April up to the mid-sixteenth century. But as King of France, Charles IX wanted the year to start on the 1st January, he made a swift change to the French calendar and made it official on the Edict of Roussillon.
Legend has it that some people were not at all happy with this enforced law for many reasons, and continued to celebrate the new year in their own way around the 1st April. The people who embraced the new calendar started to mock the reluctant ones and gave them false presents and played tricks on them.
During that time, the 1st April coincided with the end of Lent when the Church forbade Christians to eat meat. Fish was tolerated and was often used in the offering of gifts for the New Year.
When the jokes started to become more common, false fish were often used to trick the victim. There lies the legendary origin of April Fish, stuck on the back of the fools, those who did not accept the changing times or who saw the world through their own eyes only.”
Today was a really early start so that we could get to the Musee D’Orsay before the crowds. We arrived at 9.10 a.m. to find a queue of enthusiastic Spanish teenagers standing waiting, despite the cold wind they seemed eager and full of energy! Although the museum opened at 9.30 they only let a few people in and then there seemed to be some kind of problem because the rest of us were kept waiting for another half hour. Eventually, frozen through, we got in and bought our passes. After that our first thought was ‘hot chocolate’ so we made our way up to the cafe on the top floor. It is near the Impressionist galleries and therefore is often very crowded but today we were early enough that we were the only ones there.
It is also situated behind the Old Station clock:
It is quite dramatic to stand there and look up and see and hear the hands clicking on for each minute passing: makes me think of Big Ben.
And one can stand there and look out over Paris, way over to Sacre Coeur,
and of course to the Seine and the Tuileries just outside.
We spent a happy time re-acquainting ourselves with some of our favourite pictures. I got a shock when I went to look again at the Monets: stupidly I had become rather blase about them, thinking they were so popular, and therefore not necessarily of the first rank. But of course when you are actually faced with the actual paint, the brightness and vivacity blasts you into kingdom come. No reproduction can do justice to the life coming off the real thing. We left, feeling very envigorated and with the creative juices running over, full of colour and movement.
Our plan was to go to the St. Martin canal area, over past Republique: L had read about a gluten free bakery and patisserie over there and we thought we would give it the once over. So a bus to Bastille and a change of bus to Republique, then a ten minute walk to the canal. One of the scenes in ‘Engrenages’ was set right beside this bridge:
By this stage we were ravenous. Breakfast had been at 7. 0 am and it was now 1.0 pm: we found a small, bustling, organic, Cambodian Bistro (opposite an old plague hospital I had visited on another trip) and ordered, the same for us both. Plain rice with lemon beef and loads and loads of veggies. It was wonderful:)
They were doing a roaring trade with a young student clientele, with take-aways flying out through the doors as cars pulled up outside to collect orders. There was far too much to eat, so we both had a ‘doggy-bag’ which did L for her supper and me for my supper and breakfast the next day!
A few doors down the road and we found the gluten free bakery: it is called Helmut Newcake, a very odd name.
But, to be able to walk into a shop and be faced with a choice of the most wonderfully delicious looking patisserie was a thing to dream of. It took quite a while to make a selection to carry home in the box. The whole shop was dedicated to nothing except gluten free baking. I had gone to heaven:) The shop had been packed and things were selling fast, even so, the top of the counter was full of bread, rolls and large cakes, and the cabinet still had some smaller ones in.
I chose three rolls:
and four cakes:
Then I took L to see the old hospital which has lovely grounds and was built when plague victims were being hurried out of Paris. But the gates were closed and padlocked and so no visitors could just walk in and look around now. Such a shame. So we wandered up and down the canal instead: it is definitely an up-and-coming part of Paris.
There is just the faintest tinge of green developing on some of the trees. When we had walked our fill we retraced our steps back to home: I must admit to being rather chuffed when a French lady asked me for directions and I could help her:)
So home, where we picked up our travel plans and headed off to the SCNF offices to book our rail tickets. However, it was late in the day and people had come out of work and were piling in to make their own travel plans. After waiting for a few minutes we realised we were going to be hours so left, deciding to return during work hours when it might be less crowded. L went to do some souvenir shopping and I went off to take photos of Easter decorations and chocolate in various windows and to buy some things to make our Easter Branch for the flat.
I had one of my rolls with supper but it was most disappointing: not a yeast bake but a cake type texture, tasting of bicarbonate of soda. Such a shame, because they look so good. Nothing like the loaf I bought at the market on Sunday. But I ate half of one of the cakes for dessert, and that was heavenly! Over the next week I gradually ate my way through them all, and without exception they were divine. Ah well, live and learn.
As the day progressed I was feeling more and more ill and getting quite embarrassed about my cough, with a banging headache, so finally I gave in and took more anti-migraine pills and went to bed early.