Thursday, September 27, 2012

Youngest Ever Wine Tour

In another life at TheFrenchTourCo, I used to drive tourists around in my blue bus and conduct wine tours. They were fun, but not half as much fun as visiting the local wine co-op with this gang of 5 year olds from my son's class.
Don't worry, there was no wine tasting, only virgin grapes were sampled!
Watching the grapes being de stemmed
Here they come, the last of the Carignan grapes of this years harvest

Stainless steel tanks, Cabestany Co-op wine
Farmer weighs in 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Co-working in France

Article as it appears in Le Forty Six

It’s the new craze that is sweeping across the world and becoming very popular in France, particularly with the expat community but what is co-working, co-lunching and Jelly all about?

Co-working started in San Francisco in 2005 , where a guy called Neuberg set up a group of independent workers who could come together to a work space and work together , usually online, yet independently. The idea being that you wouldn’t feel lonely hammering away on your computer in your own home or workspace. It is huge in the states where some of the larger cities have developed busy open work spaces where people can come together and do their work in a friendly office type environment.

The expat community is a perfect group for co-working as a lot of expats work independently on their own and can feel isolated. Add to that the fact that they are not in their native country and don’t have the support system and local knowledge that the locals may have.
Anna Walmsey, a freelance business consultant, living near Perpignan has organized a few co-working events in the Pyrenees Orientales which have been very well supported.
I really felt the need to be in a work colleague environment from time to time, to brainstorm and share ideas on a projects and needed to find a way of getting out the house and bounce my ideas with others as a self-employed freelance. I first came across the Jelly co-working concept through social media thanks to Annette Morris. Jelly free is a concept that Annette brought to France in March 2011 which is growing from strength to strength.

Jelly is a casual working event. It takes place in over a hundred cities where people come together (in a person's home, a coffee shop, or an office) to work for the day. Here in the Pyrenees Orientales we tend to organise it in a Salon de Thè or similar where there is free wifi connection and somewhere to sit, and interesting people to talk to, collaborate with, and bounce ideas off. Jelly differs from networking in that the aim is not to find new clients, pitch your business or to sell.”

Anyone can set up a Jelly and Annette ( or as I call her, the Jelly babe!) would be more than happy to help anybody get started who would be interested in hosting a Jelly co-working event.

For more information, you can contact : or call 09 66 03 03 03

Monday, September 24, 2012

Girlfriends Rock!

Blue Buns for The Baby Shower
When I was thirty years old, we lived in Sunny Sydney and Mr Getrealfrance threw a surprise birthday party for me.He whisked me off for my birthday dinner and while we were enjoying my birthday meal ( at the Bondi Tratt - wonder is it still there now?), my buddies festooned the apartment with balloons and decorations and when we returned, our pad was bursting with well wishers and we partied until the wee hours.
I'm just past 40 now and apart from a few facebook chats, we are not in contact with anyone from that 30th bash.
That's just the bleedin' trouble with expat friends. Either They Leave or You Leave.
We now live in the South of France and apart from some fab French acquaintances, the majority of our friends are now expats. Why does one go to live in another country and seek out fellow expats to hang out with, you may ask? The reason, for me, is that I have found that French women don't really do the girlfriend thing.
You will never see a gang of French women out in Perpignan, giggling together, letting their hair down and enjoying each others company. Couples socialise together on their own. Couples who have known each other since La Maternelle hang out and look uber cool, sucking cigarettes, wearing black and trying ever so hard not to crack a smile.
So, how do the French survive without girlfriends? Who is going to tell them they have camel toe ( look it up!), that their eyebrows needs plucking, that their bum does look too big in those jeans and that their hair needs colouring (thanks girls!)
Who to go shopping with? Who to bitch to? Who to have a knicker wetting laugh with? Who to call on when the chips are down? Who to cry with over a soppy movie? Who to get rat arsed with when the sheet hits the fan? Who to just listen when you want someone to just listen and not come up with a practical solution? Who? Who? Who?
Last night, my gang of expat girlfriends got together for a baby shower. Everyone pulled together to make food, cakes and pressies. The craic was mighty and it made me think of all those French women who really do miss out. Yep, I'll take my chances with my Expat Buddies, even if they will inevitably leave me one day....

Girlfriends rock! Vivent les Copines!!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sticky Out Ears

Ears looking at you kid!

My name is Karen O'Reilly and I've got sticky out ears ... there, I've said it, I feel much better now that you know that about me!
After my two children were born,  the first thing I looked at ( after ascertaining the sex and that they had 10 fingers and toes ), was their ears. Were they blessed with their Father's normal sized, sticky in ears or burdened with a lifetime of jokes and mockery with jug handles like mine. Luckily , the two had normal petite ears ( thank you Mr Getrealfrance) and we didn't have to send them back ( joke)
Here in the deep South of France, appearances mean everything. A neighbour of ours who is diabetic and often has to go for complicated procedures under general anesthetic had sticky out ears and so his Mama and Papa sent him off to get them pinned back! He's 9. I was, frankly, shocked that they would put him through this but when you think about it, for a kid who is being constantly mocked and taunted, it could be a real blessing. Ostoplasty ( or cosmetic ear pinning) is the most popular cosmetic surgery for kids under 18 in France.
Obama was bullied as a kid for having Big Ears - what about the "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger?" theory though?
Would I have been prepared to put my children under General Anesthetic so they would conform to beauty norms and rid them of their O'Reilly ears? 
Would you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Best Restaurant in Perpignan?

Some good friends of ours treated us to a most memorable meal on Saturday night at Le Garriane. If you haven't eaten in this restaurant, which is regarded by local French foodies, as the best in Perpignan, you should do so without delay!!

Garry, from Sydney and Ariane, from Nice, run this modest looking restaurant near the train station in downtown Perpignan. They met in England where they were both working and moved to France in search of a restaurant to call their own. Ariane has some local family connections and on moving here , they opened their restaurant and have been feeding the foodies in what must be Perpignan's best kept secret since.
They both work over 100 hours a week, and do everything themselves, from sourcing the fresh produce to dreaming up their imaginative menus to washing the dishes and cleaning the floors.
The decor here is low key and understated ( think 80's french style) but the it is the food that is the star of the show and that's how it should be anyway..
In the evenings, they offer a menu découverte , a discovery menu of nine delightful courses. Here's what we had .. read it and salivate!

  • Anchovies with citron and lime mayonnaise and parsley purée
  • Courgette, stuffed with mussells, tomatoes, fennel and lemongrass
  • Foie gras fait à la maison
  • Sword fish, confit of peppers and a dash of squid ink
  • Veal on a bed of aubergine purée, with cannelloni beans and a lemon parsley sauce
  • Cheese with orange and tomato confit
  • Chocolate slab with mint sorbet
  • Strawberry and lemon sorbet with balsamic vinegar
  • Coffee

And all this for the princely sum of 35euros. Unreal value.

Le Garriane
15 rue Valette
66000 Perpignan
Tel : 0468670744
Open for lunch : Wed,Thur,Fri
Evening : Wed,Thur, Fri, Sat
The restaurant only has 20 covers so booking in advance is advisable

Friday, September 14, 2012

Vive La Difference!

This week’s Irish joke which has gone viral is ..

You know you're Irish when:
  1. You can't wait for the other guy to stop talking so you can start talking
  2. You show your love for friends and family by insulting them
  3. I will my arse
  4. You touch the electric fence for the craic
  5. The best reason to do something is for the craic
  6. Nobody can go a day without saying 'Jaysus'
  7. Flat coke or 7up heals all illnesses
  8. You don't know the words but that doesn't stop you from singing
  9. The word 'like' goes in every sentence 
  10. You end all telephone calls with "Right, bye, bye, bye, bye"
How about les Francais?
You know you're French when:
  1. You don't make small talk and you could not be bothered to talk to strangers
  2. You are polite to your family ( the ones you haven't fallen out with over inheritance issues/divorce) and may even still vous voyer your parents
  3. Non means no, and sometimes yes means no, and a shrug means no too. 
  4. You have never experienced "the craic"
  5. The best reason to do something is so that you will look smarter/better/thinner
  6. No-one can go a day without saying 'merde'
  7. You are a hypochondriac and take a myriad of medicaments
  8. You have never partaken in a sing song and never will. The thought of same brings you out in a sweat
  9. The word 'quoi' goes in every sentence
  10. You end all telephone calls with "Je t"embrasse très très fort, bisous", hang up and have a bitch about the person
Can you think of any others?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Bucket List

Over the holidays in Ireland, I hooked up with my college buddies - Every year us 5 girls try to meet up somewhere in Europe. It's funny, it's been 20 years since we were in college ( yikes!) but sitting in a bar, looking around at the same faces, we might as well be back there, in our favourite pub, The Rogue,  giggling girls with our whole lives in front of us.
We've gone down different paths, some of us have got married, some have had children ( 2 out of the 5 have had sets of twins, what are the chances of that?), some have high flying careers and some of us are living in France wondering what they will do next ( ahem)
As one of us was turning 40 and having a mini mid life crisis, we all decided to put together our bucket list, you know, things to do before you kick the bucket, but in our case, we put an age deadline of 45 for us as none of us are planning on bucket kicking any day soon..
My Bucket List ( you had to think of 3 things) is:
  1. Buy a sailboat ( even a teeny weeny one) and learn how to sail with the kids
  2. Write and publish a book
  3. Get off the proverbial fence
What would be on your bucket list for the next 4 to 5 years??

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Things I Love About France - La Cantine

The canteen at school in France is something else, it has to be said. From the age of 2, the little scholars enjoy a 2 hour break to eat their 4 course lunch. The food is fresh, inventive and different every day of the year.
Today's menu, which is posted on the classroom door every day and published in the newspaper, so you don't cook the same thing in the evening for the little chéries I suppose, caught my eye, as it is bio (organic).

Starter : Salad of Tomatoes and Surimi
Main : Chicken Tajine with seasonal vegetables
Cheese plate
Fruit of the season

Bon Appetit les enfants!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

François Hollande, what is he up to?

In most jobs, a new employee would have to partake in a trial period; usually three to six months, to prove that they are capable for the task they have been employed for and that their CV wasn't a complete work of fiction. For someone who has never ever worked in the field ( i.e. the new President Hollande), I am sure their employers would be watching very closely to ascertain whether the candidate was the right fit
What a pity , this does not apply to the President of France, as no matter how low he plummets in the polls, "Mr Normal" still has another 4 and 3/4 years to do effectively whatever he wants, what he, as a champagne socialist, believes is right for the Republic of France. His employers, i.e.  the voting public ( those of us who can vote!) can only look on as their new boy runs amuck.
Mr Hollande addressed the nation on TF1 tonight and explained to them what his 'concrete' plans are, because for the most part, people are wondering, what the hell is Flamby up to, with no direction, no leadership or no communication being forthcoming from the head of state so far...
SO what's he going to do to dig the country out of the merde? A quick summary of his droning speech:

  • Firstly, it's going to take 2 years at least before we will see any changes..."Je ne vais pas faire en quatre mois ce que les autres n'ont pas fait en cinq ou dix ans."
  • Unemployment will go down in 1 year ( although he didn't say how).
  • Taxes will go up by 20 billion in 2012. Half of this will come from enterprise.  
  • The famous 75% tax on high earners will be implemented , the one that is seeing the wealthy flocking from France as I type...
  • He stated "J'ai demandé une présidence qui soit exemplaire, simple, proche mais en même temps, je suis pour une présidence d'action et de mouvement." Not exactly "light your fire" stuff?? Would you get in front of your employers at the end of your trial period with such an unconvincing resumé?

The poll in Le Parisien " Were you convinced by Hollande's speech" is currently running at a resounding 78% NO.
The people of France are not happy, and amazingly, no-one seems to have voted for him now either .. what a pity they can't just fire him. 

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Hey Baby, I think I want to PACs you?!

After being hounded by our notaire who is also a good friend to get our "sheet" together and get PACsed in France, we have set a date and shall soon become legally bound to each other in a civil partnership. The whole "ceremony" will take  about 15 minutes in front of a judge in the tribunal d'instance in Perpignan ( providing I can get all the paperwork together before then, that is!) and afterwards we shall have the same status as any other Mr and Mrs en France.
If we don't get PACsed and one of us pops our clogs, the survivor will have to pay loads and loadsa money to the government in taxes and as we have already paid loads and loadsa money into the French coffers, this is kinda something we want to avoid, like..
So now, I have a list , two pages long of all the paperwork required ; attestations, birth certs ( less than 3 months old AND translated, FFS!!!), certificats de coutumes ( whatever that is?), a medical, 2 pints of blood and a cert saying we're not bonkers ( may be difficult to attain for Mr Getrealfrance, in fairness). Phew, I'm flippin exhausted just looking at it.
Of course, Mr Getrealfrance will just turn up on the day and sign on the dotted line and wonder what all the fuss was about!!
The PACs status was introduced in 1999 in France, mainly to help same sex unions legimitise their partnerships ( Gay marriage is still illegal in France, see here). However, interestingly, only 6% of PACs since then have been same sex unions with two out of every three "marriages" now opting for the PACs route. Also, only 15% of PACs relationships are annulled whilst the divorce rate for traditional marriage in France is over 50%.
Anyway, on to more important matters, a gals gotta have a nice dress for her Pacsy Party, so here's what I've picked out, what do you think, any suggestions, les filles?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Lemon Meringue Cup Cakes

Here's the recipe for the lemon meringue cup cakes I posted yesterday. If I can make them, anyone can, and they looked very pretty, if I may say so myself.
My cupcake recipe is handed down from MamaBrougham, my Granny who was a dab hand in the kitchen. Simple, she used to say, wiping down her flour dusted apron : 4, 4 , 6 and 2.
4 ounces of sugar
4 ounces of butter
6 ounces of self raising flour
2 eggs
And For this recipe add the juice of a lemon
Make your cupcakes as usual and then your meringue mixture:
2 egg whites
100 grams of sugar
Whip up the egg whites until stiff, then gradually add the sugar
Place the meringue mixture on the cupcake and stipple with a fork
Ready for a grilling

Put under a hot grill for about a minute and sprinkle with the zest of the lemon.
We brought them along to a dinner party last night and the French were suitably impressed. In fact , the French are always impressed with a spot of baking, they rarely bake themselves, then why would you , with a patisserie on every corner?
Photos please if you attempt la recette!
Bon Aps from a wannabee domestic goddess xx
Kids gave them the thumbs up!

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Releasing my Inner (Domestic) Goddess

Inspired by Louise Sayers who writes a lovely food blog here and Tanya from Pommedejour, who took over my kitchen chez moi yesterday and whipped up some delicious creations, I let my inner Goddess loose today and made some lemon meringue cup cakes.
I'm bringing them to a French dinner party tonight, let's hope they pass muster!!
Bonne Soirée tout le monde! 

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