Interesting Facts About France

Part 3   Facts 41 - 60

41.  Le Moulin Rouge (meaning- The Red Mill) is a very famous cabaret club in Paris.  It is situated in the Montmartre area of Paris on a road called le boulevard de Clichy.    It was opened in 1889 - the same year as the opening of the Eiffel Tower!  It is recognised by an imitation, red windmill on its roof.

Image by Lola Delabays

42 Le cancan is a very energetic and acrobatic dance that first appeared in Parisian ballrooms in the 1830s.  It is performed by dancers who have to kick their legs high, perform cartwheels and the splits.  They squeal and screech whilst they dance.

The word cancan means 'scandalous gossip'.  The original name for the dance was le chahut - meaning: the uproar / the racket.

Painting below by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: La Troupe de Mlle. Eglantine, 1896. 



43 The two most famous cancan dancers were Jane Avril and La Goulue.  They were regular performers at Le Moulin Rouge.

Below (left) is a photo of La Goulue.  Her real name was Louise Weber and she lived from 1866 to 1929.
Below (right) is a photo of Jane Avril.  Her real name was Jeanne Louise Beaudon and she lived from 1868 till 1943. 


The most famous piece of music that is used to accompany the dancing of the cancan was composed by Jacques Offenbach in 1858.

It is called le Galop Infernal and it is from his operetta Orphée aux Enfers - Orpheus in the Underworld.

Click to listen.

Jane Avril.jpg

44 The famous artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec painted the two famous dancers. In fact, he painted many pictures of life at Le Moulin Rouge.  His paintings are printed as posters that everyone recognises!

45 A very famous singer from Paris was Edith Piaf.   She was very small and usually performed wearing a black dress.  It was said that she looked like a little sparrow, so she was given the nickname la Môme Piaf which means 'little sparrow' in Parisian slang. 

Her real name was Edith Gassion and she was born in 1915.  She died in 1963.  She sang in Parisian nightclubs, including Le Moulin Rouge. 
Go to the Vintage French Music Zone.


Image from Wikipedia, source  
Copyright holder United Press International/Bettman Newsphotos.

46  Le Tour de France is the most famous cycling race in the world.  It is held every year over a three-week period and began in 1903.  At first, the race was planned to last for five weeks, but this was considered too demanding for the cyclists.

The race takes place in stages and is for teams.  Every day, a member of each team rides for a stage.  The speed and performance of each cyclist's stage is recorded.  At the end of the three-week period, all of the individual results are calculated to decide which team is the winner.  The stages take place in France and neighbouring countries. 

47  Le Tournoi de Roland-Garros is a famous French tennis championship known as The French Open.  It takes place each year on a clay court - un court sur terre battue - in the stadium called le Stade de Roland-Garros.  The current champion is Novak Djokovik.  The Spanish player Rafael Nadal has won this tournament thirteen times!


The stadium and tournament are named in honour of the great French pilot called Roland Garros who was killed in combat during the First World War in 1918.  He also has an airport named after him on the French island of La Réunion!  It is called l'Aéroport de La Réunion Roland-Garros.

48  Le Réveillon de Noël is Christmas Eve dinner.  On the night of 24 December, French families eat a big, special meal to celebrate the very beginning of Christmas Day. 

The Christmas stocking is called the Christmas shoe in French - le soulier de Noël.  French children place their shoes by the fireplace in readiness for le Père Noël (Father Christmas).  

The French way to say Christmas tree is actually the Christmas fir treele sapin de Noël.

Many French children (especially in north-east France) also celebrate the arrival of Saint Nicholas on 6 December.  The saint leaves gifts for children on the morning of 6 December but he is accompanied by a scary companion who carries a whip.  He is called le Père Fouettard.  There are street processions where both Saint Nicolas and le Père Fouettard participate.



Photos:-  1. Saint Nicolas and his scary companion

2.  The traditional gingerbread that is eaten on 6 December.  The biscuits are in the shape of the saint.



49  On 6 January, a special cake is eaten.  It is called la galette des Rois (the Kings' Cake) and it is to celebrate the arrival of the Three Kings (les Rois Mages) at the stable in Bethlehem after they followed the star to find the Baby Jesus (l'Enfant Jésus).  This occasion is called  l'Épiphanie.

Inside the cake, a trinket (une fève) is hidden.  On the 6 January parties take place in France and the cake is served.  The lucky person who receives the trinket becomes the 'king' or 'queen' of the party.

Read more about Christmas in France.