Life on La Lune French Christmas Quiz 2020: the Answers

I hope you managed to spend a good Christmas. And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: the answers to the Life on La Lune French Christmas Quiz 2020. Answers below plus explanations and links to relevant posts on the blog. (Arguing with the judge is not allowed.)

Award yourself one point for each correct answer.

1 What is a cornet de Murat?

a) A type of French horn

b) A cocked hat

c) A biscuity cone-shaped confection

The town of Murat in Cantal is noted for its cornets, which look like ice-cream cones but are more biscuity in texture. They are usually filled with crème Chantilly.

A virtual visit to Cantal

2 What is a bastide?

a) A person of dubious parentage

b) A medieval new town in a grid pattern

c) A pungent cheese

Bastides were constructed throughout Southwest France during the 150 years after 1229. Their aim was to provide centres of population and stimulate economic growth. They were built on a grid pattern with a large central square.

Bastides: Medieval New Towns

3 What would you do with a bûche cendrée?

a) Eat it

b) Wear it

c) Burn it on the fire

Une bûche cendrée is a cylindrical goat cheese, like a log, rolled in ashes. This has several advantages: to keep flies away; to prevent the cheeses sticking together when stored; to help the cheese drain; and to aid the development of a homogeneous crust and good bacteria.

Cheese Etiquette

4 Which bridge is reputed to have been completed with the Devil’s help?

a) Le Pont Valentré (Cahors)

b) Le Pont d’Avignon

c) Le Pont Neuf (Paris)

The Pont Valentré in Cahors has three towers. The legend goes that the bridge was taking too long to complete, so the architect made a pact with the Devil to get it finished quickly. However, the architect didn’t keep his side of the bargain, so the Devil took revenge by breaking off the top stone of the middle tower each time it was repaired.

More of Cahors

5 Which instrument did the painter Ingres, born in Montauban, play in the Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse?

a) The flute

b) The tuba

c) The violin

Ingres was a very accomplished violinist as well as a painter. The phrase ‘Avoir un violon d’Ingres’ means to have a second accomplishment in addition to one’s main profession or interest.

One Should Never Leave Montauban

6 In which classic French film were the lines, “On ne devrait jamais quitter Montauban” (one should never leave Montauban) spoken?

a) Jules et Jim

b) Les Tontons Flingeurs

c) Un Homme et Une Femme

Sticking with Montauban in this question: Lino Ventura uttered this line in Les Tontons Flingeurs (1963). His character leaves Montauban for Paris to take over the shady business of a former associate. A move he comes to regret, hence the line. There’s no evidence that any of the film was shot in Montauban, or that Ventura himself ever went there, but Montauban presumably epitomised provincial France.

One Should Never Leave Montauban

7 Which French queen started a fashion by wearing a bunch of flowers in her cleavage?

a) Marguerite de Valois

b) Marie de’ Medici

c) Marie-Thérèse of Austria

Marguerite de Valois (1553-1615) was married to Henri of Navarre (later Henri IV of France) as an attempt to reconcile Protestant Huguenots and Catholics. She had a reputation for loose morals. Legend has it that while entertaining a lover in the Château de Carlat in Cantal, la Reine Margot was surprised by the occupants returning from hunting. In her haste to dress, she put on her bodice back to front and stuffed a bunch of flowers down her décolletage to hide it, thus starting a new fashion. We have seen a group of dancers in Cantal recreating the old rural dances. Each woman had a bouquet of flowers attached to the front of her dress.

Cantal le Beau

8 Which is the largest French island?

a) Corsica

b) La Réunion

c) Guadeloupe

Corsica is the biggest, with a surface area of 8,722 km². La Réunion’s surface area is 2,512 km² and Guadeloupe’s 1,628 km².

9 Which ingredient gives Roquefort cheese its blue-green veins?

a) Parsley

b) Powdered mouldy bread

c) Vegetable dye

It is indeed powdered mouldy bread. You can read more about the manufacturing process of Roquefort in this account of a visit we made to the town of Roquefort some time ago.

10 What is la poudre de Perlimpinpin?

a) A lead-based face powder used in the 16th and 17th centuries

b) Powdered sugar used in confectionery

c) Snake oil

The equivalent in English of this expression is ‘snake oil’, i.e. a remedy whose beneficial effects are vaunted, but which is in fact useless (or worse), or ‘fairy dust’ (illusory). Emmanuel Macron famously used the phrase during his debate with Marine Le Pen during the presidential election campaign of 2017, when he asserted that the measures she proposed to counter terrorism were la poudre de Perlimpinpin. The origins of the word Perlimpinpin are 17th century, but the etymology is unknown.

11 From which plant is the blue dye pastel manufactured?

a) Allium sativum

b) Crocus sativus

c) Isatis tinctoria

Isatis tinctoria is the woad plant, from which the blue dye pastel has been obtained for centuries. Southwest France, Toulouse and Albi in particular, was a centre of production until cheaper and easier sources were found. Allium sativum is garlic; crocus sativus is the crocus plant, from whose flowers saffron is harvested.

Getting the blues: the pastel trade in Southwest France

12 What is one of the main ingredients of the Auvergne pâté pounti?

a) Prunes

b) Truffles

c) Tripe

Prunes (pruneaux) are a major ingredient of this pâté. It’s very good.

French Flavours: Pounti, Traditional Auvergnat Dish

13 What was mined extensively in the Quercy region during the late 19th century?

a) Coal

b) Phosphates

c) Silver

Coal was mined in various places in Quercy, and silver was mined in the Aveyron around Villefranche-de-Rouergue, but phosphates (used as fertiliser) were discovered in large quantities in Quercy in the 19th century. For a short time, these mineral deposits were exploited, but discoveries of larger and more easily extracted deposits elsewhere spelled the end of the Quercy industry. This ‘gold rush’ lasted only about 20 years.

Hidden Treasure in Quercy

14 For which industry was la Forêt de Grésigne once noted?

a) Glass blowing

b) Iron smelting

c) Pottery making

This extensive forest was once a centre for the production of glass with hues ranging from blue-green to violet. The glass-blowers used the local sandstone and heated their kilns with wood from the forest.

Wonderful woodland: la Forêt de Grésigne

15 Which French politician is currently on trial for corruption?

a) François Fillon

b) François Hollande

c) Nicolas Sarkozy

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy was accused of trying to bribe a judge with a desirable retirement job in exchange for inside information on an inquiry into his campaign finances. In fact, the hearings were completed on 9th December, but the tribunal’s deliberations now follow. The verdict is not expected until 1st March 2021.

Former prime minister François Fillon was tried in 2020 for allegations that members of his immediate family were given paid jobs that involved no or very little actual work. His 2017 presidential campaign was halted by the revelations. Fillon was convicted in June and is appealing against the verdict.

François Hollande is not on trial.

16 What is the drink Suze made from?

a) Gentian roots

b) Juniper berries

c) Plums

Suze is one of a number of branded alcoholic drinks made from a mixture of yellow gentian roots, white wine and herbs.

Blithe Spirits: Quirky French Apéritifs

17 If someone noie le poisson (drowns the fish), do they:

a) Bury the hatchet

b) Confuse someone deliberately

c) Make a big mistake

The phrase means to create confusion to divert someone from a thorny or incriminating subject. In English, one might say, “Muddy the waters”. The modern sense refers to a fishing practice where the fish, once landed, is alternately placed in and out of water to tire it out.

18 What is a marcassin?

a) A type of soft shoe worn in medieval times

b) A pastry filled with nuts and raisins

c) A young wild boar

Wild Boar

19 How many children did a family have to raise (in a proper moral environment) to qualify for the gold Médaille de la Famille Française?

a) Eight

b) Four

c) Six

The medal was instituted in 1920 to reward families that raised many children after the ravages of World War I and Spanish flu and inculcated proper moral values in their children. The gold medal was awarded for eight or more children.

La Fête des Mères (Mother’s Day) in France: Traditions and Customs

20 Which French novelist wrote La Reine Margot [of local fame in this area, since she spent one night in the Château de Saint-Projet during her flight from her brother, Henri III]?

a) Alexandre Dumas

b) Victor Hugo

c) Jules Verne

I mentioned la Reine Margot (Marguerite de Valois) in the answer to Question 7 above. She had to flee from her brother, Henri III, in September 1585 after trying to engineer a coup d’état against him.

The Secret of le Château de la Reine Margot

You could have scored 20 points in all. How did you do?

16 – 20 Expert (The SF informs me he scored 17/20 without cheating. Okay, he does have a certain advantage, but I can certify that I didn’t give him any help. He has obviously been reading my posts assiduously. 🙂 )

11 – 15 Compétent

6 – 10 Pourrait faire mieux

0 – 5 Rien à dire

I hope you enjoyed it. Life on La Lune will be back in the New Year. In the meantime, I’ll wish you

Bonne fin d’année

Pont Valentré, completed with supernatural help

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2020. All rights reserved.


  1. thanks for the quiz and Bonne Annee! We got 14/20 without any cheating whatsoever, we only definitely knew 4 or 5 and the rest was down to lucky guesses!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for those answers Vanesa from which checking against my own effort has produced what I can only describe as a dismal result!

    Warm wishes Norman

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for doing it, despite the result! If it’s any consolation, a lot of the questions concern things specific to our region, although many of them are described on the blog. Bonne année 2021.


    • Bonne année et surtout bonne santé en 2021. Il faut dire que la plupart des questions posées s’agissent de notre région et des sujets traités sur le blog. 🙂


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