Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Port Vendres - an afternoon's delight

The lovely Port Vendres is often overshadowed by its glam and glitzy neighbour, Collioure, but, for me, is far more attractive, with some serious fish restaurants, the wonderful criée where you can buy your fish fresh from the fisherman, it's meandering cobblestone streets, the fantastic Saturday markets  .. Port Vendres , in contrast to Collioure, feels like a real working town, with real people going about their real daily lives.
Cap Béar and the road navigating it's way South along the rocky coastline and leading to the most beautiful little coves and private beaches is a well kept secret that even most locals don't know about.
Shhhhhhh, Just don't tell anyone else, ok?? 
We spent a wonderful afternoon hugging the coastline in our friend's boat - a real taste of summer here today... Bring It On!!!!

Pre sail excitement

calm march waters

les filles!

Collioure in the distance - wish I had a good camera!

The much painted quai du fanal

An artists delight
If you're looking for accommodation in the area, you will not find a nicer house than my sisters house nestled in the vineyards, overlooking the med . Click here for more details ....

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Why French Mummies do it best??

After spending the weekend next door in Spain with some Irish friends, they, as Mothers were intrigued to know what was my opinion on all these articles and books regarding the fact that French Mummies do it better. Books like Pamela Druckerman's "French Kids Don't Throw Food" and the spate of articles in all the broadsheets that this has spurned has "normal" Irish Mammies wondering what they are doing wrong.
Pamela Druckerman, an American Mom, who, while on holidays in France noted that while her child was firing chips around the place, the equivalent French child was sitting pretty, eating the food quietly and the parents were enjoying their time out in the restaurant. So what did she do about it? She wrote a book on the subject.
Her main conclusions were that:
French children were far more behaved, not only at the dinner table, but also their sleep patterns and manners were much better
French parents do not lose sight of themselves and lose their identity , just because they have children
Life as "le couple" does not change and is just as important après les enfants
So How Do They Do It according to "the expert" Druckerman?
Druckerman maintains that they set standards and very rigorous rules for their children in certain aspects of their lives, like eating, what they wear, bedtime, sleep patterns etc
They don't snack
They spend guilt free time away from their children from an early age
So How Do They Really Do it?
From my experience, I find French parents to be extremely strict. The most obedient child is chastised for doing the slightest teeniest thing wrong. "J'ai dit NON" "NON" "ARRETE DE FAIRE CA" are common refrains wherever one goes; the supermarket, the beach , the restaurant. "NON NON NON"
French children should always look and smell pretty. You do not get your clothes dirty and you are always impeccably turned out. From age zero. This can be a toughie if you are 2 years old and eating an icecream on the beach. Cue "J'ai dit NON" "NON NON NON"
French children are not allowed have a character. The amount of time my neighbours have commented to me " An beh, oui, Elle a du caractère eh?" "Oh bah dis donc, il a du caractere" whilst shaking their heads sadly as if he/she had just contacted leprosy..
French parents, en general, never see their children. School starts at 08h30 until 17h00, with an optional child minding facility until 18h30. Many of the kids in my neighbourhood are at school from 08h30 to 18h30. Wednesday is their day off to do their activities but alot of them go the centre de loisirs for the day. Ditto for the holidays .. So , if you think that French kids are well behaved, you should really give credit to the educational system ...
French parents like to slap their children. Yes, it is true. Only last week, I was waiting for an appointment outside a building when a mother came walking down the street, chasing her little boy and belting him hard. He was terrified. I screamed at her to stop and pretended to be calling the gendarmes. She laughed at me while her little boy cowered beside her. I've witnessed this many times and also parents casually slapping or pinching their kids when we are invited to their house. Respectable people walloping their kids cos they won't sit down for hours to eat their 5 course meal. Charming.
One very very rarely sees a French parent having fun and letting their hair down with their kids. Birthday parties are usually at Play Date centres so the Mommies don't have to get down and dirty with the kids. If the party is on in the house, the beautiful Mommy will feed them up with e-laden sweets and let them run amuck in the house. God forbid she should make a fool of herself playing musical statues or pass the parcel... our kids parties are talked about all year!!! So, French parents are not really "friends" with their kids.. another "good thing" apparently according to Drucker
So yes, our kids have personality and yes, sometimes their food falls on the floor and yes we do like to have fun with them. At the end of the day, the proof is in the pudding, I say and how they will turn out as young adults ... I'd prefer mine to have personality, a sense of humour and be able to speak their own mind confidently, even if they don't eat their broccoli and green beans....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Buying your wedding wine in the Roussillon region

Down through the years, we've known quite a few people who have bought wine in bulk here to bring back to Ireland or the UK. It makes sense, if you have driven down here and have some room in your car, to stock up on some of the fine wines that the region has to offer.
When we were conducting wine tours in this region, Suzanne and I had an idea to bring good quality Roussillon wines to Ireland where we found the quality of french wines, in a certain price bracket, to be, well ... shite really. We represented 5 of our favourite vineyards at a wine expo in Dublin. The who's who of the Irish wine trade were there as well as all the well respected wine journalists. The merchants circled our table like sharks .. who were these newbies, this fresh meat? They tasted our wines and declared them indeed quite fine ... but they only wanted to talk to us if our wines were less than €2 a bottle!!!!!
As we were representing independent small vineyards, there was no way they could produce wine at this price .. the bottle, label and cork would nearly cost this much for heavens sake!
So.... most of the french wine you drink in Ireland in the lower end of the market is the stuff you buy in France for less than € plonk.
The wine journalists, par contre, loved us and they all wrote articles about the fantastic wines we had brought from the Roussillon...
Tomas Clancy "At a gathering of French winemakers at Sopexa’s autumn French Wine Fair in Dublin earlier this month, it was two sisters from Limerick who stole the show when they unveiled a number of intriguing wines"
"The pick of the bunch was the Domaine Treloar, Three Peaks Cotes du Roussillon 2006 (91) which is an astoundingly intense and savoury grenache, syrah and mourvedre blend that would shame many a Chateauneuf-du-Pape."
So my advice is, if you like good quality French wine, to stock up if you can when you are here...

Some points to ponder if you're buying for a wedding or an event:

  • You are allowed to bring 120 bottles of wine per person into Ireland for personal use without paying any additional taxes. However, if you have your wedding cert with you , and can prove that your purchases are for private consumption, you can bring as much wine as you like 
  • The wedding experts recommend that a half a bottle per person at a wedding should be enough - however, if it is an Irish wedding : double that!!!! Always buy a little more than you anticipate - well, it won't go to waste afterwards, will it?
  • Do taste alot of wines - good advice is to opt for middle of the road wines - nothing too adventurous or wacky. Good fun to have a blind wine tasting with some friends
  • Look at your menu and decide what wines will go with what you have chosen to eat
  • Get advice from the experts - meet the winemakers, vineyard owners or cavistes who will be very happy to help
  • After the food for your wedding, the drinks will probably be the other big expense - it's worthwhile to spend a little time to get it right
  • Negotiate the corkage with your hotel 

Chin Chin - Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Expat kids

My kids have an identity crisis. They don't know whether they are French, Anglais, Irish or Catalan. The two of them were born here in France and are soon to be celebrating their 7th and 5th birthdays ( yikes, how the hell did that happen?). They are Irish (even though they were born here, they do not have French nationality as both their parents are Irish) and speak English with a heavy Irish accent and French with a Catalan one. The school calls them "les Anglais" and compounding the problem is that we mix with an ex pat crowd that are mostly from the UK, confusing them even further.
They know to shout for Ireland when we are playing France in rugby, but I've caught them more than once saying "je suis Anglais" to French people. They have never been to a Paddys Day parade, they have never seen hurling or Gaelic football, they don't know any Irish songs or dancing and horror of horrors, they don't even go to a Catholic school.
They realise they are somehow different to their English ex pat friends but couldn't understand why they were not allowed have the union jack painted on their faces for the Royal wedding last year ( My Grandmother would certainly have turned in her grave)
We go back to the Ole Sod as often as we can and the Mammy does send over books about Irish legends and the like, but really it isn't enough to make them into little cailíni agus buachailli..
My Great Grandfather was one of the leading forces in the Gaelic league, an association set up in éire to promote the Irish language in the late 19th century. A múinteoir taistil ( travelling teacher) , he went from school to school re-introducing Irish to the youth of Ireland at the time. It really hit me this Paddys Day as I tried to speak a  cúpla focail  (a few words in Irish) that my Irish needs a lot of work! The shame!
So, I'm thinking about setting up an Irish Club - one where we can meet and do Irish dancing and singing, cook up some Irish food, cheer on Irish sport, watch some Irish movies and above all, have some Irish craic. I suppose what I'm saying is that I want my children to be quintessentially Irish and not French ...Ní Fraincis go háirithe! Is it too late, am I dreaming?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Collioure - an artists paradise

Collioure is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful villages in France. It's beautiful cobblestoned streets, for the most part unchanged for 100s of years due to their narrowness and steepness are lined with the quaintest of houses, with brightly painted shutters and doors. The pretty town wraps it's arms around the cutest bay and for a backdrop it has rolling hills planted with vineyards . Picture perfect!
It, has, for centuries, been a haven for artists who still flock here to capture the light fantastic and stunning harbour. Matisse, Picasso, Durain among many others have fallen under the charm of Collioure; the turqouise blues of the med, the dazzling light from the blue skies and sunshine and of course, the most painted clock tower in the world.
It's also a photographers dream as even the most amateur photographer cannot take a bad photo in this town. Just point your camera, click et voilà, you've got yourself your own work of art.
Best to be visited off season, Collioure never fails to impress. A must see if you are visiting the region.

If you're looking for accommodation in the Collioure area, my sister has the most magical house in nearby Port Vendres. The house is situated in the vineyards with med views and no neighbours...
Book here

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Article in Limerick Leader

Making a French Connection
With an estimated 16000 Irish people living in France and many many more with holiday homes there, La Belle France remains a strong attraction for the Irish. With the current economic climate in Ireland, quite a few Irish people are looking to move elsewhere, and France, with her good climate, accessibility and wonderful lifestyle ticks the boxes for many.
Karen O’Reilly moved to France 10 years ago after falling in love with the Languedoc Roussillon on a skiing visit to her sister , Suzanne, who was already living there.
“After training as an accountant with BDO Simpson Xavier in Limerick, I spent 4 fantastic years in Australia as the head accountant for Estée Lauder in Sydney.  I got a taste of the good weather and the lifestyle that matched it and so when I came back to “settle down” in Limerick, I found it difficult. I managed to get a great job in Pat Keogh’s as Financial Controller which I really enjoyed but the travel bug had caught and after a skiing weekend visiting my sister Suzanne in Perpignan in the South of France,  I was hooked.
The ski slopes are only a half an hour from Perpignan and so we spent a couple of fantastic days skiing and then exploring the town, eating outside in tee shirts, sunbathing on nearby beaches ( in January!) walking in the mountains, going to the fab restaurants and trying out the local wines.  Suzanne was just about to set up her own business in property and needed a partner so I didn’t need to be asked twice. I went back to Ireland , handed in my notice, dusted off my backpack and headed back to France.
With no kids at the time, it was an easy move and I literally hit the ground running, starting work the very afternoon I arrived. We ran a very successful property company for 7 years called Bidsinfrance and were insanely busy. The market began to dry up in 2008 and so we set up a private tour company TheFrenchTourCo but alas, French bureaucracy decided to shut it down. At the moment, I am involved in other projects while my partner, Brian Harrington, also from Limerick, runs his thriving building business with a French and expat clientele.”
“Brian could not even say “bonjour” when he arrived in France and being a rather sociable chap, this really bothered him. He went to Perpignan university and did an intensive 6 month course and is now practically fluent. I had a fairly good command of French coming here so it was relatively easier for me on that front. We made a conscious effort to get to know French people and never subscribed to SKY for the irish channels and so were forced to watch French tv which was good for us. Now, our friends are half and half, half French and half expat.”
10 years and 2 children later, France has been good to us. It hasn’t been without it’s ups and downs though .. Having our children has certainly been a very positive experience here and the treatment was second to none. The hospital was like a five star hotel, with a fold out bed for one’s partner if they wanted to stay with you ( Brian stayed with me every night in the clinic), the food was superbe ( rabbit in mustard sauce with all the trimmings stands out) and I lounged in a spacious room with a lovely en suite to myself.
While pregnant, I met my gyno every month and the pregnancy was monitored very closely. My second born was a natural breach birth with no complications. France does have the best health care in the world according to the World Health Organisation  - another very good reason to live here.
The kids are now 7 and 5 and both go to local French public schools. The schools are completely different here – they start school at 8h30 and finish at 17h00. Practically, it is brilliant for working parents as I could leave my kids in school from 08h00 to 18h30 every day as they offer child minding facilities around the actual school hours. Free of Charge.  There are canteen facilities in every school and because you are in France, you get a two hour lunch break. The kids ( they start la maternelle or pre school at age 2) all have a four course lunch, with starters, mains, fruit or cheese and dessert.  The kids are exposed to all kinds of different foods which is brilliant for them and they have themed days where they do Indian food or Irish food etc. The menus are printed on the local paper so you can see what they are having every day.. food is très important here in France!!
France is a great country and where we are living is particularly lovely as we have the best climate with over 320 days of sunshine, we have the beaches on our doorstep, the ski slopes a short drive, lovely villages and fine wines … but it isn’t perfect.
If you are thinking of making the move here, you should bear in mind that the average wage PER HOUSEHOLD in the Pyrenees Orientales where I live is 18000euros ( Source INSEE) per annum. You are not going to get rich in France!!
The taxes are very high here as are the social charges. At the height of the property boom when we were earning good money, we were paying 75% of our income in taxes.
So you’re not going to make a fortune in France but the sun is shining, the sky is blue, I swim in a public outdoor pool every week, the local markets are amazing, my kids are happy, the beaches are close by and I am blessed to be living in one of the most beautiful places in the world ( and the wine is cheap!)
The great thing is we can be back in Ireland in two hours as well .. we probably see more of our family living here than if we were living in Ireland as they visit us and stay with us for a couple of weeks at a time. We do miss Ireland from time to time especially our extended family and “the craic” but it is over 14 years since I’ve lived in Ireland so we probably have a rose tinted nostalgic view of the ole sod.
All in all, La vie est belle here in France..

DO's and DON'T
DO ...
  • Learn the Lingo. There will be no opportunities here for you unless you speak some French. Your life will be much more enhanced as well if you can make friends with your neighbours, chat with the shopkeepers and more importantly, order a glass of wine!!!
  • Be prepared to live on less money. Unless you have another income source like a big fat pension or one of you is planning to commute to Ireland, your monthly income is going to fall sharply
  • Have an open mind, things are done differently in France and not at the same speed that you are used to. Lunch is a two to three hour affair and nobody is in a rush here!
  • Your homework. If you are buying a business ( many expats run B&Bs or gites here), estimate your income then halve it, then  estimate your expenses and double them!
  • Find out if you are eligible to health care in France
  • Research the area you are moving to. No point in going to Brittany if you are seeking sunshine and a lovely climate!! The climate in Paris is not very different to that of Ireland either!
  • Realistically weigh up the pros and cons and ask yourself why are you really moving to France..

  • Think that setting up a business will be easy. It won’t. For the most part, your qualifications will not be accepted in France. My international accountancy qualifications were not recognised here. In fact, they originally refused to accept my leaving cert until I fought tooth and nail to get them recognised.
  • Rush in to anything. Give yourself a year or two to decide whether you really want to move here. Rent out your property in Ireland and rent a place in France. Don’t do anything drastic like selling your house in Ireland and buying a place in France. Call it a “year out” and then there will be no shame if you decide to head back to Ireland
  • Try to make France a mini Ireland by hooking up with Irish TV and hanging out with Irish people in the local Fake-Irish pub. Try to go native and immerse yourself in the culture and people. Allez, you know you’ll look good wearing a beret with a baguette tucked under your arm!
  • Hesitate once you have made the decision. Go for it and Bonne Chance! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Recipe for Paddys Day

This recipe comes from Joanne from The Citrus Restaurant where we shall be celebrating St Patricks Day tonight. A simple and satisfying stew to be tried asap chez nous...
Beef & Guinness Stew
1kg cubed beef ( bourguignon)
50cl guinness
beef stock
1 onion
300g carrots
Potato ( optional)
A little flour
Marinate the beef in the guinness over night with the seasoning. Drain, reserving the marinade.
Heat the oil, add the chopped onions, garlic & beef. Colour.Add flour.
Add the guinness marinade & beef stock. Cook slowly for an hour. Add the vegetables ( the starch from the potato help thicken the sauce)
Cook for a further 30 mins & serve with pan-fried cabbage & mashed potatoes
Bon Appetit!

Ex Pat Lives - The Citrus

Joanne and Chris in their restaurant , The Citrus
Cabestany, a suburb of Perpignan, where I live in France, has a population of approx 10,000 souls and had everything you can imagine in the way of facilities ; Excellent schools, a thriving cultural centre, a fantastic new gym, a well stocked wine cave ( very important!), a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker ... but no restaurant!!! There were a couple of bars in the centre ville where all the crusty losers hung out but nowhere to go for a nice bite to eat locally.
So you can imagine our delight when a new restaurant opened up a stone's throw from our house ... and our surprise to find an Irish woman at the helm.
Joanne Lucey from Malahide in Dublin came to to France to learn the language .. she had background school French but wanted to live here for a year to improve it. Within the first few months here, she met her future husband Chris ( originally from Bordeaux)  and so her years stay in the country turned into 2, then 3....then 20 !!! After passing the 'casting' in Dublin for Disneyland Paris , She was hired as a 'demi-chef de partie' in the kitchens of the Disneyland hotel.
She progressed her way up through the ranks to become one of the few female Disney sous chefs in the resort hotels.

"In August 2009 we took a 2 year leave of absence from Disney to allow us to set up our own business. We originally left Paris for a project in Nimes. We were there for 10 months, but the project fell through & so we continued our research. Within that time we had begun to appreciate the southern lifestyle ( not to mention the weather) & so continued to look in the area. Not finding what we wanted, and without any particular attachment to Nimes, we continued looking further & further down along the coast until we came across an ad for a restaurant to rent in Cabestany.... " they moved to Saint Nazaire with their son Corey and the rest is history...
October 2010 saw the opening of The Citrus restaurant (much to our delight!). She is  the chef and Chris is front of house.
"Its a buffet restaurant with the starters & desserts à la carte. We don't have a set menu. The dishes change from day to day for all of the courses, depending on the market and the season (as all of our produce is fresh & home-made) The only concept that remains unchanged is the hot buffet which always has 2 meat dishes, fresh fish & 4 garnishes - potatoe, veg, rice, pasta. We always have a home-made bread ( soda bread, corn bread, wholemeal....) which can also be ordered for take-away along with a selection of tarts & salads." enthuses Dublin born Joanne
For those who don't like buffets ( I'm not a huge fan myself), this really is a 5 star buffet and well worth the visit and after indulging in a few tasty lunches there, I can vouch for it's freshness and quality. In the long hot summer months they offer a self service salad bar & a large salad of the day which really is delicious, served out on their sunny terrace with some homemade lemonade. Nom nom nom.. They also do a fab brunch on Sunday mornings with the full Monty ; bacon, sausages, eggs etc - A very new concept for the Catalans, that is going down extremely well..
"After opening we advertised in several different guide books & tourist books,but the word of mouth has proved itself to be the best publicity so far" says Joanne
A lovely addition to the PO lunch scene, you can be assured a very warm welcome at the Citrus. We are all going there for Paddy's night ( booked out) where she has a mouth watering Irish menu lined up for us. You can also book the venue for private functions.

4 route de Perpignan
Tel : 0468631690

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Heavenly Walk - Le Racou to Collioure

The kids go the canteen on Thursdays and I have a "me" day usually spent with some of my girlfriends doing what we do best, ie eating, shopping and occasionally drinking the odd glass of rosé. Today, we headed off for the most glorious walk along the coastline of the Cote Vermeille.
The walk starts at Le Racou , one of my favourite spots in the PO. It's got a real hippy feel to it, with laid back restaurants and bars, some cute little knick knack shops and the the most adorable beach shacks you have ever seen , right on the edge of the stony beach.
We drove to the most Southern end of Racou and parked up, following the pathway as it dipped and ducked though turquoise bays and picturesque coves. The walk took about an hour and a half , landing us in Collioure, " the jewel in the crown" of our department. Walking into Collioure is like walking in to a fairy tale, with its brightly coloured houses, it's stunning clock tower and the azure blues of the sea. Much nicer to visit at this time of the year as well with fewer tourists around.
After a satisfying picnic on the beach, we headed back along our way , oohing and aahing at every turn. A must do when you visit the area. As my Uncle Terence would say "It's great to be alive"
Note : this walk would not be suitable for young kids as it's quite dangerous with steep cliffs.

Private little beaches, perfect for picnics

Stunning scenery with beaches to ourselves

Very inviting but a bit early for swimming

The most photographed clock tower in the world?

The Big Blue

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Globalisation of the baguette

Lidl are the biggest "discount alimentaire" store in France and are very proliferate in the Pyrenees Orientales with 19 stores. When you consider that the population of the PO is only 450,000 people, the German discount store has a firm grip on the short and curlies of the "hard discount" market here.
I'm a fan of Lidl, for a once a month shop, to stock up, and for pasta, toilet roll, tins of tomatoes, nuts, dried fruits and toiletries, you can't beat it for price. They also do the tastiest ice cream, some really nice Italian cold meats, a selection of good cheeses and their cleaning products are ace.
I do have a problem with their 29cent baguettes though - no independent bakery can compete with this cut throat price for crying out loud, with the average price being about 80cents for a baguette in the local corner shop.
Not all the Lidls sell 'Votre pain frais quotidien cuit sur place', but those that do are situated near towns like the ones near Canet village and Port Vendres for example. So bread buyers saunter into a German store to purchase their traditional french bread .. with baguettes under one arm, they probably pick up a few other essentials under the other arm and off they trot, saving themselves an average of 50cents per baguette. Quickly doing the sums ( I am an accountant , after all!!), an average french household consumes 2 baguettes per day, so a saving of 7euros per week, 350euros per year, not to be snuffed at...
Meanwhile, your local baker gets squeezed out of the market and the little ole lady who used to home bake her lovely chocolate cakes and friandises alongside her trusty baguette becomes a distant memory. Two bakeries have closed down in Port Vendres since Lidl began their loss leader tactics.
The little guy has come out in some towns to protest against the German giants but it's a free market, with no price fixing and unfortunately with the economics in the PO; a low average wage and an aging population, this means that the bread loving public are flocking to their local Lidl.
It's a sad day for France when the local small artisan is forced out of the market by the greedy globalisation of "les grandes surfaces"
C'mon guys, leave the poor little boulangerie alone! In this case, L'idéal ce n'est pas Lidl!!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Les Devoirs - Homework in France

We are learning about the french education system as we go along, and with one daughter in école primaire, we're getting a taste of what 'bigschool' will be like for our kids going forward.
Their school day is long - my 6 year old starts at 8h20 and finishes at 17h00. There is the option to drop your kids into school at 07h30 with child minding facilities until 19h00 in the evening. Blooming fantastic for all working parents and makes perfect sense really rather than paying an arm and a leg for childcare as is the case in Ireland. 
So, she finishes at 17h00 and comes home to start "Les Devoirs" ie The Homework (cue psycho music). She's pretty tired after her long day and then has to face into at least an hours homework, most of it learning stuff off by rote and dictation. Flipping nightmare.
Clair, a translator and web copywriter who lives in Normandy, has a 7 year old in CE1 ( second class ) :  "He works really hard at school but is tired when he gets home and really doesn't want to do it - and nor do I really! He gets maths and spellings to learn for the next day - his worst nightmare despite him being very bright!"
Every single thing they do is marked and ranked within the class, including their Physical Education. It's all to do with your moyen ( average mark) and you must have a decent moyen to pass into the next year. Redoubling ( staying back a year) is common and not frowned upon.
They do dictée ( dictation) from age 6 right through to age 16!!! Dictée at age 16!
Your handwriting must be attaché ( joined ), even at aged 6 and there is only one way to write ( everyone in France has the same handwriting) . If your writing is too large, it is WRONG. Marks (out of 20) are taken off for every little mistake. 
Now , some might argue that dictée is a good thing , particularly in this day and age where ppl cn only spk n txt spik, YKWIM? - Writing and spelling properly is très important and I agree. Yet there should also be some room for creativity and free expression as well.
400 people turned up this week in Perpignan at the Palace des Expositions for a dictée in Catalan, just for the fun of it. A text was especially written for them by Joan Tocabens, a famous Catalan author from Perthus and their results will be posted on the 4th April at the théâtre de l’Archipel.
I can think of better ways to spend my Sunday afternoon !!! The French, will we ever understand them and will they ever understand us????
PS : Please feel free to correct any spelling mistakes!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sock it to me Baby!

With winds of over 100kms forecast for the South of France today, you may need to invest in one of these :

(Promotional poster for a movie showing in Cabestany, where I live, for International Women's week.) Snigger snigger

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

French Blunders

Arriving in France 10 years ago, with pretty basic French and wet behind my ears, I literally hit the ground running and started working with my sister the very day I arrived in Perpignan's fair city.
I was the lucky sister, as Suzanne had already done all the ground work, bought a property for herself and established a social scene and had started up our business so I just slotted in with her.
Many nights were spent out with her friends with rapid fire french flying while I just sat there, the mute smiling tall one, trying to look interested, nodding here and there, laughing when everyone else laughed, dodging questions with very vague answers ... If you've been there, you'll know how awkward this feels.
The amount of mistakes I made at this time could fill a book, here are a few classics :
While waiting in the queue in Galerie Lafayette ( equivalent of Brown Thomas) I asked a blue rinser "vous etes dans le cul?" Are you in the arse? Rather than "vous faites la queue" Are you in the queue?
How many times did I say "Je suis chaude" I'm hot for it! ,rather than "J'ai chaude" I'm hot ( temperature) during my first long hot summer?
"Je suis plein" does not mean I am full, it means I am pregnant, but usually used for animals.. another gaffe I made regularly until corrected..
There was the time my visiting friend from Ireland asked for an "assiette de chomage" after a meal ( a plate of unemployment)
And the day, on the phone to a client after a long day of exhausting French and English verbal gymnastics, I wished him 'a nice shite' instead of nice flight!!

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Ex Pat Lives - Pomme de Jour

So, you've decided to move to France and are taking the plunge. What are you going to do when you land on froggy soil? What do all the expats that live in France do?
We have a motley crew in our gang of ex-pat buddies ; a winemaker, an estate agent, a cleaner, a marketing consultant, a couple of gite owners, a nurse, a restaurant owner, a handyman, a few retirees and some who commute to the UK to continue their careers there.
Tanya , originally from Greenwich in SouthEast London has been living in Perpignan for 8 years now. They were persuaded by their French friends to move over after spending quite a few happy holidays here.Initially,they wanted a holiday home but decided to go the whole hog in order to change their lives drastically and slow down their children's childhood.
"We already had French friends from the region and, in that respect we were very lucky as we had so much help when we first arrived. It was all very overwhelming to begin with, we had 3 lively girls and a small baby so I shall always be grateful for the help we received with paperwork, schools, doctors etc." notes the glamorous Tanya
Tanya's been a busy woman since she got here with four girls to looks after ...
"They were 10, 8, 4 and 6 weeks when we moved here so I have been busy bringing them up. I have since sadly separated  from my husband, moved house, worked in a bricks and mortar boutique in Perpignan, ran a children's vintage website and am always a regular at the vide greniers and flea markets."
She now runs the most fabulous orginal online vintage shop, Pomme de Jour, stuffed with vintage gems that she finds at vide greniers ( like car boot sales) flea markets and second hand stores.
"I share my time between running my home with my 4 lively girls and all that it entails to working on my online sites and searching for vintage items. Vintage has been a passion for me since I found my first piece of vintage fabric in the late 1980s.
I source my products from all over France and sometimes overseas.
My bestsellers are easily my vintage fabrics, I have a vast supply and always have a fresh new stock and I have many repeat customers who come back knowing they can find what they like. I sell a lot of vintage wallpapers. Customers use them in crafting or just to make a feature wall in their homes. After that my French kitchenalia, cups, bowls etc sell well."

She loves her life here, combining her passion with her job .. the only thing she misses about England are creme eggs!!
"I am at my happiest rummaging through boxes at Vide Greniers with my little help (Dulcie 8) by my side, even better if the sun is shining as it quite often is here. Creating in my craft room with vintage books I find and making my home beautiful with vintage finds. I couldn't think of a better job."
Feast your eyes on her gorgeous treasure chest of vintage goodies on line here on her websiteebay or etsy . I can guarantee that you won't find anything "made in china"!
Her Mad March Sale is on now.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Cancer Support France

Some people are just brilliant. 
The people who make up Cancer Support France are brilliant - they voluntarily provide a support service to English speaking people who are affected by cancer. With a website and an active forum, they offer advice and counselling for people and families providing linguistic, emotional or practical help to those who need it.
Cancer Support France was formed in October 2002 following the experience of breast cancer and its treatment of its founder Linda Shepherd. The cancer was discovered shortly after settling in the Poitou-Charentes.
Radiotherapy proved to be the most difficult period, and during a psychologically disturbed time, Linda realised how fortunate she was to be able to speak some French as the only support services available to her were in French.
She recognised the additional stress placed on a patient who has no or very limited French skills on top of a potentially life-threatening disease, and decided to explore the possibilities of creating a support group.
"I handled the initial surgery quite well, but I had a very difficult time during my subsequent treatment. Fortunately my specialists recognised psychological reactions, and made sure I had the support I needed. It was a good job I could speak some French, as a lot of consultations and all my emotional care had to be given in French. This made me think how lucky I was and how difficult it must be for someone to cope in a similar situation but without the language." The experience prompted her to set up CSF
In the PO, CSF is run by Penny Parkinson, who does a formidable job. She organises "drop in" days where you can "drop in" every first and third Wed of the month at Pablo's Bar, Place Picasso, Céret. Next Wednesday, 7th March , you can meet Ruth and Nathalie from Elements beauty where they will demonstrate reflexology.
Whether it is for a chat, for information, to share stories, or just for a cuppa.........anyone affected in whatever way by cancer, either recently or in the past, and anyone interested in finding out more about CSF is welcome to drop in at any time..
There is also a drop in centre in Prades every first and third Thursday of the month.
For more information please contact either Penny at or on 0468 388 128

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