In October, the excitement for cosy weather and autumnal walks reaches its peak and in December, Christmas is basically around the corner. November is also kind of … there. But what is there to do with it? By the time it comes around, we are fed up with autumnal rains, the dark and shorter days are not as cosy as we had imagined them to be. Being cuddled up at home with a cup of tea is fun, but nature played a cruel trick on us and reserved hibernation for the cute, fluffy mammals. Some of us have to go to work or school. Not so much fun.
But so many things do actually happen in November. This glorious month boasts many important historic events that remain relevant until present times, inviting us to think back and remember – hence the motto of this month’s newsletter. And since this is a space for all things français, we had a look at things that were most culturally important to France and its inhabitants. A quick Google search will, however, will enlighten you about all of them.
On November 1st, western Christianity celebrates All Saints Day (know in French as La Toussaint) commemorating all Saints, known and unknown. In modern terms, that means we get a public holiday in France – enough reason to pop the bottles, even in a non-religious context. And with November 11, another public holiday in France is heading our way. The Armistice between the Allied and Central Powers was signed, ending World War I.
November 14th seems like a great day to travel, as history has proven. On November 14, 1889, newspaper reporter Nellie Bly set out to beat the record of imaginary hero Phileas Fog, who travelled around the world in 80 days in a novel by Jules Verne. She returned to New York 72 days later. Sorry, Phileas! What’s more, on November 14, 1994, the first passengers ever travelled on the first train linking London, Brussels and Paris. If you’ve been planning a trip somewhere, the 14th of November seems like a great day to do so.
For those of you more into early modern French history, a great intrigue took place on November 19, 1703. A prisoner of Louis XIV in the Bastille mysteriously named the ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ died. Some claim it may have been Count Matthioli, a persona that double-crossed good old Louis. Others are convinced it might have even been Louis’ own brother. Scandaleux, n’est-ce pas? Alexandre Dumas even wrote a novel about this fated incident. Another cool 18th-century event is the very first hot air balloon flight over Paris that took place on November 21, 1783. It lasted about 25 minutes and carried Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis Francois Laurent d’Arlandes, who might have the longest French names we have ever come across.
Lastly, November gifted us with a fair amount of important people that shaped the course of history. Marie Curie, Claude Monet, French sculpture Auguste Rodin and our favourite philosophe Voltaire were all born in November. So was Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the first practical photographic process that produced lasting pictures, and probably the reason why we can all take that cute mirror selfie on Instagram today. Finally, to finish off this historic revisit in order to prove just how cool November actually is, Charles de Gaulle was not only born in November but also appointed the president of the French provisional government in 1945.
So, perhaps short and dark days might not be too bad after all. Whilst we do have to bear the rain and cold to get to work or school, we can look forward to snuggling up on the sofa in the evenings and reading more about the fascinating things that have happened in the eleventh month.