Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fab Networks

Running a small business can be lonely business. One has to be an expert at all kinds of things ; marketing, sales, admin, organising, planning, cleaning, all things IT, accounting, taxation, customer service, advertising, PR, law AND be better than one's competitors while keeping one's head above water as well concentrating on the actual business at hand.
Running a business in another country where the rules are different, the people speak the wrong language, where bureaucracy can reduce grown men to tears and the law changes every five seconds, can throw up altogether new challenges.
Being a part of a Business Network can make your life a little easier ... The local Network for all expats and nationalities in the region is called FAB Networks (French Anglo Business) and they meet about once a month to co-work, network and organise events. There are over 20 different nationalities in the Network and everyone brings something to the table.
If you have a small business in the Pyrenees Orientales or are thinking of setting up one, it would be an ideal network for you.
The next meeting of FAB Networks is on this Monday 5th March from 12h to 14h in ESPI on Quai Vauban in Perpignan. This lunch and learn date hosted by Anna Walmsey of AW Consulting will focus on social media and how all small businesses can benefit.
Lunch will be 10euros and people are advised to bring their laptops.
You can register here 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The National Front

The Presidential Race is well under way here in France with the three main parties gearing up for battle - we have Sarko's band , UMP ( Union for a Popular Movement), the PS ( Socialist Party) and the third runners, the FN (National Front).
Marine Le Pen is the lady at the forefront of the FN, the daughter of founder Jean Marie Le Pen, a man not shy of controversy...
Some of the Far Right policies of the FN:

  • Zero Tolerance for Law and Order and a Referendum to bring back the death penalty
  • Strong Opposition to Immigration, particularly Muslim Immigration. In the 1995 elections, Le Pen proposed to send 3 million Muslims back to where they came from
  • Re-instate the Frank and drop the euro
  • Reinstate custom borders
  • Deportation of unemployed immigrants
One needs the backing of 500 mayors to run for the French presidential elections. The FN have not been able to obtain the support of any mayor in the Pyrenees Orientales, where we live. 
Perhaps , they need to change their nick name to obtain a few more votes .. after all, would you vote for FN or as it is affectionately known as "FANNY"??
Vote for FANNY, eh? Catchy! 
See article here in the local L'Independent ( in French)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spain, A Perfect Day Out with the kids

We wore clothes to match the decor!
Spain is only a half an hours drive from where we live and I don't know if it's because we come from Ireland, an island, that it feels so exciting and different when we cross the border into another country. At the péage ( toll booths) we get all giggly with our Holas and Gracias, the sign posts are different, the terrain changes, the people are so friendly and relaxed, the dress sense is much more décontracté and the children get a huge welcome wherever we go. A day in Spain feels like a mini break, a real holiday and feels completely different to La France.
Off we headed with les enfants to one of the nearest beaches to us on the Costa Brava on Sunday, about 40 minutes from our house in Cabestany. Llanca is a small little fishing/tourist village with a lovely marina and a beautiful sheltered little beach where we found a fab restaurant literally with it's toes in the water.
Our private beach

While the kids cantered and foraged around the beach, we enjoyed melt in the mouth calamari and fresh urchins straight from the sea. We opted for the paella ( well, when in Spain 'n all that...) which was the best paella I've ever eaten with generous amounts of shellfish, plump mussels, scallops and clams and interestingly , artichokes. As I'm off the booze for lent ( don't ask!) , Mr Getrealfrance had half a bottle of Godeval which he oohed and ahed over. The kids licked their plates clean and with coffees and desserts for the kids, the bill came to 70euros. Excellent.

A walk along the cliffs to discover private little beaches which we had all to ourselves finished off a perfect day. We'll be back!
A boat called after Granny Nora!

The restaurant  : Le Blau Grifeu, Platja Grifeu, Llanca, Tel: 972 380 718

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Love is on the air waves

Shakira, with her rendition of French Francis Cabrel's love song is every DJ's favourite song at the moment and one cannot turn on the radio without hearing Shakira's distinctive voice belting out this old French classic. I think she does a fine job of it and love the live version.
The lyrics of the song are quite beautiful, even if you don't understand French, but here's a quick translation ( please correct any mistakes if you know better ). It's a great way to learn French as well ..

Moi je n'étais rien (Me, I used to be nothing)
Mais voila qu'aujourd'hui (But look how today)
Je suis le gardien (I am the keeper)
Du sommeil de ses nuits (of the sleep/dreams of her nights)
Je l'aime a mourir (I love her to death)

Vous pouvez détruire (You could destroy)
Tout ce qui vous plaira (Anything you want)
Elle n'aura qu' ouvrir (But she would only have to open)
L'espace de ses bras (The space between her arms)
Pour tout reconstruire x2 (to rebuild it all)
Je l'aime a mourir (I love her to death)

Elle a gommé les chiffres (She erased the numbers)
Des horloges du quartier (Of every clock around)
Elle a fait de ma vie (She made of my life)
Des cocottes en papier (Little pieces of papers)
Des éclats de rires (and bursts of laughter)
Elle a bati des ponts (She built bridges)
Entre nous et le ciel (between us and the sky)
Et nous les traversons (and we would traverse them)
A chaque fois qu'elle (each time that she)
Ne veut pas dormir x2 (didnt want to sleep)
Je l'aime a mourir (I love her to death)

Elle a du faire toutes les guerres (she must've had to fight all her battles)
Pour être si forte aujourd'hui (to be as strong as she is today)
Elle a du faire toutes les guerres (she must've faught all the battles)
De la vie, et l'amour aussi (of life, and love too)

Here she is , looking and sounding like an angel

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Obligatory Breathalyser

If you're travelling by car to France this year, don't forget to furnish yourself with a breathalyer which you must by law have in your car from July 1st, 2012. If you are found without an "alcootest" or an " éthylotest " , you will face an on the spot fine of 11 euros...
Road deaths have halved in France over the past decade and are now around 4000 per annum. Sarko aims to get this number under 3000 with this new legislation. France is the first nation in the world to make breathalysers mandatory and if it is a success, the law will be introduced throughout Europe.
How effective they will be is anyone's guess but they will certainly be a good money spinner, for the trésor public and the manufacturers of the alccootests, which are going to cost about 2euros a blow.
I've seen a big change in people's attitude to drink driving in the 10 years I've been here .. Everyone, without exception, drank and drove in the early noughties. Now, taxis seem to be more available ( although extortionate in price, a 4 km night taxi drive from Perpignan to Cabestany can cost up to 20euros), people nominate a designated driver ( who will only drink wine!) and in general, people are more careful. Still, drink driving is a huge problem in France, where drinking wine, is not really considered "drinking" and most motorists would be well over the limit after a normal lunch of apero and wine with their food.
At a family lunch party this weekend, the french inlaws knocked back several whiskeys and several wines, followed by Irish coffees and then they all merrily hopped into their cars and drove home without a thought..
Would an alcootest have stopped them? 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Sarkozy - Let the Race Begin!

Sarkozy finally threw his hat in the ring this week and has officially announced his candidature for the presidential election in April this year. And so the race begins.
Sarko has been president of France since 2007 when he beat lefty Segolene Royale. Since then, he has just about managed to keep his head above water, through "la crise", riots, international incidents, and a public that will take to the streets to strike with any whisper of change ( longer working week/ earlier retirement age, etc). It has not been an easy ride. He faces a battle over the next three months with his usual conservative vote worried about issues regarding immigration and employment. 
10 things you may not know about Sarkozy:
  1. As a child, he was abandoned by his father and hence spent much of his childhood at his grandfather's home. His parents are Greek and Hungarian.
  2. He used to feel inferior to the wealthier and taller classmates at school. " What made me who I am now is the sum of all the humiliations suffered during childhood" 
  3. He has 121 cars at his disposal in the Elysee Palace and spends over 10,000euros a day on food
  4. He married ex super model Carla Bruni after a brief two month romance
  5. He is twice divorced and has 4 children
  6. As the French President, one of his first actions was to give himself a pay rise: his yearly salary went from €101,000 to €240,000
  7. He measures up at 165 cm (5 ft 5 in) and frequently wears platforms when meeting with tall leaders, eg Obama
  8. He famously told a hustler in a crowd to "casse toi, pauvre con" (f off, you loser - loose translation) in the run up to the last elections.
  9. He appeared drunk in public after a meeting with Russian president Putin
  10. He is currently trailing 10 points behind in the polls behind the socialist candidate Francois Hollande

An interesting few weeks ahead as the battle commences .. we don't have the right to vote in the presidential elections though, tant pis!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Best Guinness in Perpignan

Last night I did something I haven't done for a long time.
I had four pints of creamy guinness in a packed pub listening to Irish music with some good buddies.
Great music, real sweaty pub atmosphere, pints for €4.50 ( a bargain in France) and even a bit of Irish dancing by mé féin ( cringe). The South of France just became an even better place to live!
Irish, French and Polish Biddies

Without a doubt, the best guinness in Perpignan , Good luck agus Go n'éirí an t-ádh le O'flahertys Irish pub in Perpignan.
....And well done to Stephen on his debut performance.. Just don't forget us when you're rich and famous!

Monday, February 13, 2012

France's Band Aid

Over 60 of France's most famous artists have come together to make a single under the umbrella of Collectif Paris Africa, giving their time and all the proceeds to Unicef and in particular the children of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya , where children are at greatest risk.
It's sitting at Number 10 in the charts here in France at the moment and is getting alot of air play. Catchy and a worthy cause to boot ; Chapeaux ( Hats off ) to the Ricochets :

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Artist

A fantastically daring silent movie starring Jean DuJardin and Bérénice Bejo, I really enjoyed this over the weekend. Before going to the movie, I thought it was going to be hard work, arty, for the sale of arty but I was quickly swept away by the brilliant acting and excellent score with references to Singing in the Rain and A Star is Born.
Jean DuJardin is famous in France but has never broken into the International scene, mainly because he can't speak English. In fact , he had only two words to say in the film and in my opinion he fluffed them with his heavily accented French 'Wiz Pleasure" grande finalé..

Handsome and hardworking, he came to the French public's attention first with "un gars/une fille" circa 2000, a skit between a young couple and has risen through the french ranks since then with numerous other films and programmes. It is The Artist which has pushed him into the International spot light though and he is a strong favourite for the Oscar this year.
A little spanner in the works however which might thwart his Oscar winning chances , is his starring role in Les Infidèles , a raunchy movie about two lads who like to cheat on their wives regularly. The posters advertising the movie are a little  risqué, to say the least,  and the advertising authorities have ordered that they be taken down ( even though they were splashed all around the cinema in Perpignan this weekend) due to the number of complaints they have received. Bad timing for this French rising star?
What do you think?
I'm going into a meeting

Friday, February 10, 2012

Wine tasting with a difference

Domaine Treloar run a very enjoyable wine club once a month in their winery in Trouillas.
Normally, there is a theme, like a region or a grape variety and we all bring a bottle of Collioure or a Sauvignon Blanc, or whatever has been chosen. The wines are all pooled together and we taste all the wines. The rules are that no-one expresses an opinion until we have all tasted and tested each particular wine. It usually starts off timidly with people shyly expressing their opinions and by the end of the night, everyone is clambering to be heard after a few glasses of vino.
Last night, they tried a different formula .. they provided 6 mystery wines and we had to associate the wines with images. It's a brilliant ice breaker idea and instantly got everyone talking and thinking about wine from a completely different perspective.
There were some very interesting and funny comments ; some wines tasted of dirty beards and cats piss. Others were sweet and Christmas cake-like, some wines were missing something like the headless statue, others sharp like a pierced nipple. What it did was bring everyone down to the same level and there was no wine snobbery involved which can be intimidating for wine tasting amateurs like myself.
They will be trying out this new tasting technique at Vinisud, "the flagship wine event for Mediterranean wines and spirits" in Montpellier 20 - 22 February. An event not to be missed.
A name for this method of wine tasting has yet to be dreamt up ... "Vino pour L'Image" peut être?

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Jameson Whisky - the ad in France

Heard this on French radio today, the jist of it is that Jameson whisky is 'plus doux' and 'plus moelleux' as it has been distilled three times and therefore it tastes and "sounds" smoother.
I think I'm going to apply to Jameson for the job... surely they could have found an Irish person to do this ad???
Jameson and I go back a long way, in fact, as it was my Granny's favourite drink : a Jameson and Red ( Lemonade) on the rocks and many a sneaky sip would be taken when she left the room .. I'm no whisky connoisseur but if I'm going to drink a whisky, it would have to be a Jameson. There is always a bottle in our drinks cabinet as most visitors from Ireland will arrive with a bottle under their arm. An Irish coffee is not an Irish coffee without jameson and a hot whisky, pareil.
So, go on,go on, go on, gissus a job, will ya? Hic!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Arrogant Frog

Yes, there is actually a wine called Arrogant Frog , made right here in the Languedoc Roussillon, by a French man with an ironic sense of humour and a keen opportunistic streak. Jean Claude Mas, from a little village near Pézenas, realised that France had a gros problème marketing it's wine outside of France  .. Wine drinkers all over the world had started to identify which grape varieties they preferred and purchasing a bottle of French wine can be like a game of russian roulette .. unless you are educated enough to know the terroirs of each region, you may indeed make the wrong choice. So, *light bulb moment* Mas decided to make wine to suit the market .. a jaunty label, a simple wine, the grape variety clearly displayed and with a nice price tag to boot.
Targetting the Australian market, where he has made a serious impact, Mas also exports to 40 other countries and to support the demand, he sources wine from other wine growers, supplementing the production from his 100 hectare vineyard.
Easy to drink wines which aren't heavy on the pocket with a quirky Arrogant Frog label .. Everything a traditional bottle of French wine aint .... Maybe we should send a bottle of Arrogant Frog to French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, who claimed this weekend that:"All civilisations are not equal" and “Those which defend liberty, equality and fraternity, seem to us superior to those who accept tyranny, the subservience of women, social and ethnic hatred,” Chin Chin Monsieur Guéant!

Another French wine label, worth a mention! Thanks Fly in the Web !! 

Sunday, February 05, 2012

French Humour

Theodore Zeldin once said that nothing separates people more than their sense of humour and one thing's for sure is that the French sense of humour is completely different to ours. What I think is hysterically funny can be met with a blank stare or what they think is off the Richter scale of Humour, is just not in the least bit amusing to me. Jokes never translate from one language to another as there is usually a play on words or a cultural reference that we would never get as we haven't grown up in the same country and don't have the same cultural and social history. Many's the time I've felt I needed to explain some witty remark as it drops like the proverbial lead balloon. Boom Booooooooooommmmmmm...
Unlike the Irish, The French will never ever take the piss out of themselves .. they like to take the piss out of others .. other nationalities, other accents ( I know all about this!!!) or anyone who is "different" to them. They like to joke about sex and bodily functions, anything slapstick also cracks them up. I could tell the wittiest, funniest joke ever and it would be met with a shrug, but if I fall off the chair, why that is just priceless!!!! Boom Boom!!
That is why perhaps Rémi Gaillard is so popular , he's a guy from Montpellier who is hugely popular in France with his video gags. Some of his most famous pranks were 

  • Stealing someone's lottery ticket and appearing to have won;
  • Dressing as a chicken and laying flowers in front of roasting chickens
  • Dressing up as a kangaroo and pushing people into a lake
  • Pretending to be a well known soccer player and meeting the president of France
  • Dressing up a giant spider and frightening the living bejasus out of people...

He is one of the biggest stars of Youtube and is a cult figure in France. HE is funny! See his latest escapade here:


Cold Day on the Med

 As the kids were getting cabin fever after being indoors for the last couple of days, we wrapped up and headed off to the beach for a bit of fresh air.
We found the lake between Canet and St Cyprien totally frozen over - unreal!

 With snow and heavy frost forecast, the department has been placed on Vigilance Orange .. there will be no school transport tomorrow , although the schools will be open, thank God!
 Mr Getrealfrance standing on the frozen lake. It's snowing now here in the Pyrénées Orientales but not sticking for the moment
We only saw this sign on the way out! Oops!! Now where are those skating boots!!!

Thursday, February 02, 2012

A warm welcome on a cold day

I've said it before and I'll say it again, it really does pay to dress up in this country. The French are so very impressed by how you present yourself , what you wear and how you wear it, more than in any other country I've lived in. Doors are opened, drinks are poured, restaurant tables found, bank loans given, marriage proposals made ; when your hair is styled, you're smelling of perfume and you're dressed to kill...
Such was the case at our first Ladies Who Lunch date at Loft Café in Perpignan today. Owner/manager Jean Michel welcomed us with open arms as we swished into his new restaurant on 2, rue Fontfroide  66000 Perpignan, just opposite the Cathedral. 
We had a lovely meal entre filles and enjoyed very attentive service from all the staff. Apart from the fact that all the girls were looking pretty hot ( if I may say so myself) the free drinks may have been due to the fact that we were eating with restaurant reviewer Louise Sayers of Med and Mountain properties, a dedicated foodie who is just about to launch her own food blog.
The restaurant itself is very modern and contemporary, smooth clean lines with splashy art on the walls - it was very quiet today, perhaps something to do with the arctic conditions dehors but apparently they do a brisk evening trade and double as a music bar/restaurant on Thursday evenings. 
The food was very nice, the plats du jour were parillade de poissons and poulet à la diable - I opted for the chicken which was good, served on a bed of mashed spuds with spinach on the side. The fish also went down a treat for those who ordered it, apart from the fact that the chef in general was a bit heavy handed with the olive oil .. Louise ordered pizza from the café menu ( they have a more sophisticated menu in the evenings) .. all our plates were cleaned, washed down with some wine ( Dom Brial white and a rosé from Mas Camps)
Desserts of brownies and café finished off a very pleasant meal. 
Parillade de poissons
The bill came to just over 100euros for the 6 of us, bearing in the mind we didn't pay for the wine or the complimentary digestives ( rivesaltes ambré and grenat).
Will definitely go back and the jazz nights sound like a great addition to the Perpignan scene with an interesting line up for the next few weeks .... 
Must remember to dress up too!!!

French Ads Part VI

Surprising? Not sure what the message is with this ad?

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Lunch in the City

The first Ladies Who Lunch gig is on today at Loft Café in Perpignan centre at 2, rue Fontfroide, 66000 Perpignan ( just opposite the Cathedral). The idea is that a bunch of us gals go out once a month, entre filles, and make a lunch date of it, dressing up and putting on the glad rags. We all love our food and we'll give an honest to goodness review afterwards on the food, ambience, service etc. 
All ladies are welcome ...
Tomorrow's dress code is Sex in the City , photos and review to follow...

Lost in Translation

As seen in a restaurant over the border in Spain : The Backside Garden, snigger snigger

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Food Porn

Another brilliant soirée was had with Georges Guilhot at Maison Guilhot last night as we were treated to a fantastic evening of wine and food pairing. Bruno Leger, of Lycée Leon Blum matched his exquisite food pairings to the wines of Domaine des Trois Orris.
Georges and Bruno had spent an afternoon with proprietor Joep Gralar, getting to know the man, his terroir and his wines to which they married an amazing line up of perfectly matched savours..
7 courses of pure food and wine heaven. I'll let the photos speak for themselves, but the highlights for me were the bulots ( sea snails) with lemon mayonnaise and the delicious beef from La Maissanaise, one of the only beef producers in the PO, which was served simply in small morceaux, with some shavings of artisnal chocolate. 
To Die for.
Les Bulots matched to a Vin De Table Trois Orris La Gracia

The delicious beef topped with shavings of chocolate with a 2005 CDR

Mini casserole of queue de boeuf on a purée of celery, potatoes and leeks

The cheese course, Xs and Os

The Dessert ; Organic Orange confit with trinidad vanilla infused cream avec gateau

Circa 2am...

The colourful range from Domaine des Trois Orris

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