The Gallic rooster is a mascot familiar to many, especially to the followers of team sports such as rugby or football. But why a rooster?

The answer is not quite clear, but it seems to revolve around a debate on the etymology of the name of Gaul. Some argue that ‘Gaul’ takes its root from the Greek Galatai or Galatae (milk-white, in an alleged reference to the Gauls’ skin), others defend that it stems from the Germanic term walha (foreigner, Romanized person), while another group supports that the Romans simply called this land Gallia or Galli.

If we accept the Latin origin, the idea of the Gallic rooster would come from a pun with the word gallus, i.e. rooster. The debate then continues as to whether the Romans used the pun to make fun of the Gauls, making an analogy with the loud and proud bird that did not compare to the Roman eagle, or whether the Gauls themselves thought of the pun and adopted the domestic animal as their emblem when the Roman Empire lost Gaul to the Franks in the late 5th century.

Bertie by Penelope TimmisPainting: Bertie by Penelope Timmis (


A Fading Jewel on the Emerald Coast

Rothéneuf, a village near St Malo in Brittany, France, is among those enigmatic coastal spots where the well-polished boulders have given way to a transfixed colony of people and animals.

From 1894 to 1910, abbé Fouré, a local priest who became partly paralysed and deaf at the age of 30, sculpted the rocks into a semi chaos reminiscent of Easter Island silhouettes, fallen gargoyles and bas-relief. Mostly inspired by the news, he portrayed real people, some of whom are famous. (Jacques Cartier, who was born at Rothéneuf, is thought to be represented twice on the site.) A few animals and strange creatures also appear in places.

The monumental and extravagant display evokes a creative delirium, mixing the fun and fantastic of the setting and odd creatures with an element of meditation with the motionless characters forever contemplating the sea.

Over a century later, the ebb and flow of 40,000 pairs of feet a year have added to the erosion of this once colourful crowd to the point of endangering the art work’s existence. The association Les Amis de l’œuvre de l’abbé Fouré was founded in 2010 to campaign for the preservation of the site.

(The 8th June is World Oceans’ Day.)


Bye Bye, Street Art!

Is this a new trend? In the past three weeks, it has been announced that three sites, derelict buildings famous as street art havens, are to be destroyed or sold on.

The owner of 5Pointz in New York, David Wolkoff, has decided that his site will disappear and reincarnate into a 47-storey skyscraper of apartments. Meanwhile, in Pantin near Paris, the bâtiment des douanes will be revamped in 2013 by BETC, a French advertising agency. And last week, the famous Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin, acquired in 2007 by HSH Nordbank, was permanently evacuated in order to be sold on (more photos of Tacheles here).

The punk, the funky and the colours of free expression are all set to vanish to make way for the trendy, the expensive and the more conventional. Stoke Croft in Bristol, beware! Investors are on the move…

Photos: compleattraveller,, lesphotosdestephaniem,,, bristolculture

Art for Ecology and Economy

Estuaire is a threefold biennale on the Loire estuary, between the city of Nantes and St Nazaire on the Atlantic coast of France. In 2007, 2009 and 2012, artists from around the world have dotted the river banks with their work, some of which will stay permanently. One such piece is Serpent de l’océan by Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping, a skeleton snake on the edge of the sea to be colonised by marine life at high tide and visible at low tide.

The estuary is known as an industrial area with a long history of shipbuilding. There are, however, large unexploited spaces, mostly marshes, where nature has remained intact. By taking art outdoors, Estuaire not only makes art accessible to all, it also encourages people to visit the area, has prompted the creation of cycle paths for eco-friendly access, and has brought a few small businesses such as crêperies and hostels.

Thanks to this contemporary art project, the area, which was previously perceived as dull and devoid of public interest, is now enjoying a novel wave of curiosity, a feeling of community and a developing economy, all revolving around a love of nature and sustainability.

This is a rare instance of wild land being used in a profitable manner with respect for the environment in mind. It has already raised interest from other European cities that may consider following suit. Meanwhile, Voyage à Nantes, the city’s next art project, will attempt to maintain the creative momentum.

Serpent de l'océan by Huang Yong Ping

Photo: AFP / Getty Images

London, the 6th French City

Contrary to the well-outdated French-British feuds that some like to cling on to, I realised 15 years ago that, despite having left France, I could not escape the French. The French presidential election results also revealed that there were currently  just over 1 million French citizens living abroad.

This week, the BBC has reported that many from the new French generation seem quite happy to call the UK home, more than any generation before. The French Consulate in London estimates that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 French expatriates in London alone, more than in Nantes or Bordeaux, so it could be dubbed “the 6th French city”. Some of the main reasons are the difficulties of employment and the social tensions in l’Hexagone.

Read more…