Sunday, April 29, 2012

Drink more water!

I have two very beautiful belle soeurs ( sisters in law) who look alot younger than their years - they are always impeccably turned out and made up and look amazing, tous le fecking temps..
They drink gallons of water every day , a habit, every time I spend any time with them, I vow I will adopt, but after a few days of guzzling water, I'm back to my old habits of drinking cups of coffee or nothing at all ( Tut tut, Slaps own hand on wrist! )
This French ad for drinking water which I just saw on the box is cute and inspiring me once again to keep knocking back the H²0...
Everybody's free ( to wear sunscreen) ... and drink water!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rue de L'ange ( Angel Street ) Perpignan

Rue de L'ange is one of my favourite streets in Perpignan , a busy little pedestrian street, it's jam packed with the most quirky shops and cafés.
It gets its name from the 15th century when there was a "fête de l'ange' to pray to the angel to keep them safe from the plague.
The little statue of the virgin angel can be viewed at Number 2 rue de l'ange, behind an old iron grill but the older generation of Perpignan have another name for her ;  " Mare de Due pixosa" (Pissy Mother of God)
Apparently, at the end of rue de L'ange there used to be a busy tavern/brothel and once the patrons of this establishment would leave, they would traditionally relieve themselves under the beady eye of the silent statue. Hence, she literally stank to high heavens!

Anyway, these days, Rue de L'ange is home to some gorgeous establishments , art galleries and museums; There's the wonderful coffee shop, La Cafetiere Catalan, which is a must visit when you come to Perpignan ( My Mom always brings an empty suitcase to stock up on their divine aromatic coffees). With a huge choice of teas and coffees, people travel from far and wide to purchase their goodies here ..
gorgeous shop fronts
Right beside it, is one of my favourite places in Perpignan - Le Paradis Foullis, a "thé brocante" , this lovely tea shop is packed with all kinds of brocante bric a brac - everything is for sale in this original tea shop, the chair you sit on, your table, the cups and saucers and all the gorgeous deco.

Window art
There's L'Atelier, a jewellery shop where they make everything themselves right there - I got my best friends bridal jewellery made there to match exactly to her bridesmaid dresses..nearly every piece in there is unique and they've started doing an eclectic range of clothes as well.
Buy yourself a cheeky Catalan caganer !!
A little bit off the beaten track, Rue de L'Ange is well worth a gander

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ex Pat Lives - AW Consulting

Most of us ex pats here living in France are thrilled with ourselves when we discover that we can converse and be understood in another language. It's quite a buzz, the first time you have a decent conversation with a French person without having to resort to charades, gestures and high jinks and when you don't have to tell a long rigmarole of a story just to get a simple point across. 10 years later, I can speak French well, but I know that my French is probably riddled with grammatical faux pas (faux pas's? see what I mean? It's not easy!)
Anna Walmsley, in her mid thirties, speaks 4 languages fluently : English, French, Spanish and Catalan, flipping from one to another doing verbal gymnastics with her French Spanish speaking husband.
She moved here 2 years ago after spending 10 years in Spain ....
"Compared to the UK and Spain, we prefer the overall quality of life in France. There is more free time, more things to enjoy, a larger choice of activities for leisure especially for children, a good social life, far better food, great landscapes.  It is within short distance from Spain and has easy access to the UK with Ryanair offering many destinations back to England." says Anna, originally born in the UK 
"Compared to Spain we find France provides a very high standard in terms of education, childcare and healthcare.  This was our decision maker for taking the final decision to move here.  Our daughter and any future siblings would be in good hands."
"Although there are far better job opportunities in the UK and the main obstacle for me here has been the job situation, the overall quality of life is far superior in France.  I have more free time and more things to enjoy especially as the weather is so good.
However there are things that can be very frustrating.  You will not find shops open 24/7, there are many that shut from 12-2pm and close again at 7pm. The frustration of dealing with French bureaucracy is well known and is very true. Unfortunately, this is an inevitable part of life in France which you learn to live and deal with it.." says Anna
However, they have had a very positive experience so far of the crèche and their daughter’s child-minder.  It is not expensive and the quality of care is excellent.  Their daughter will be starting school this September so they have yet to discover the pros and cons of the ‘ecole maternelle’.    
"We go to Spain at least twice a month to soak up the atmosphere.  We love and miss dearly Spain and the people."
However, Anna has made many good friends here which she has found to be her saving grace, as she found it very difficult at the beginning, moving here.  
She enjoys running and swimming and last year took part in a mini triathlon.
"We have the perfect weather for it!  In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my daughter Elisa, going to the beach, going out on bike rides or just having a lazy day at home by the pool. I also enjoy socialising with my girlfriends and popping over to Spain for the odd girlie weekend" she says 

Multilingual Anna Walmsley runs AW Consulting and provides all the necessary business support and linguistic skills (English, French, Spanish and Catalan) to help expand a business into new markets overseas. So if you are a startup or entrepreneur looking to set up a business abroad give her a call for a free consultation.  
You can find her contact details on

Monday, April 23, 2012

What would happen if Le Pen was president

Marine with Daddy dearest
Marine le Pen is the leader of the National Front, the Far Right party in France and came third in Frances's first round of presidential voting yesterday ( yes, this is France , they vote once to whittle the candidates down to the top two and  then a second vote will be held in a few weeks time)
Born in 1968, she took over the National Front in 2011 from her Father, Jean Marie Le Pen. Married and twice divorced, she is the Mother of three children and is a lawyer by profession.
The National Front is a party that opposes immigration, particularly Muslim immigration from North Africa and the Middle East and in previous campaigns has proposed to send the three million non-Europeans out of France by "humane and dignified means." 
It's a political party that has in the past, canvassed for historic revisionism, claiming that the Holocaust figures were greatly exaggerated as was the Nazi occupation of France. "The Nazi gas chambers were just a point of detail in the second world war" claimed Jean Marie Le Pen.
If his youngest daughter, Marine, became president ....
  • The French Franc would be re-introduced and the euro binned
  • Foreigners would never be allowed to vote or obtain nationality
  • France would be a protected state "favouring secularism and prosperity"
  • There would be total and utter opposition to free trade 
  • As a strong euro sceptic, France would leave the EU
  • She would pull France out of NATO
  • She would have nothing to do with the WTO, World Bank or the IMF
  • She would end legal immigration and all illegal immigrants would be sent packing
  • Any law breaking immigrants would be deported
  • French people would be first - for jobs, welfare and accommodation
  • The death penalty would be re-introduced
Her message is clear, France is for the French and she doesn't want any other nationalities muddying the waters .. When she took over the reins of the party from her Dad, JM Le Pen, she tried to tone down his neo nazi extreme far right sentiments, but now and then , she drops herself in it, like her comment at a recent speech when she called the regular blocking of public streets for Muslim prayers in French cities an "occupation of parts of the territory" .
She has taken on the job of softening the National Front's image by supporting womens' rights and gay rights, but in reality, her views may be alot more extreme than she would have us believe and there are many who question her actual 'Islamaphobia'

1 out of 4 voters in Perpignan voted for this lady yesterday

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Samantha Brick

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you must have heard about the problems of one of the most beautiful women in the world, Samantha Brick.

She has a tough life, people, because, God love her, she is just too beautiful. Yes, it's hard being as stunning as Sammy - girls are jealous of her, men won't leave her alone, a dinner party is such a drag because all the males will try to seduce her.
Glam Sam, who lives in the French countryside (as she is fond of saying) has gone viral on the 'net, although, apart from a few feminists, is mostly getting negative feedback.
Here's the original article from the Daily Mail. Click Here
What do you think? Brilliant marketing ploy to become household name or the kiss of death for Samantha?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food warning !!!!!!!! Collioure icecream

Collioure may be the jewel in the crown of this lovely region but it sure isn't going to get any stars for service .. it's almost as if they know that they are going to get the custom anyway and they can't be bothered to make any effort. The customer, rather than always being right, is, franchement, a pain in the ass.
Two Irish friends of mine stayed there last week and were appalled by the lack of service and the sheer rudeness of everyone they came in contact with there. Only for the fact that they were completely zenned out, on a minibreak away from their families, it could have spoiled their holiday.
We popped down there one day to see them and went for an icecream with the kids, as you do. Little 3 year old Zoé ordered a vanilla cornet but after tasting it realised she had been given a nougat flavour. Well, she did more than taste it, she stuck her snotty nose into it really and declared it wasn't what she wanted. Fair enough, the sales assistant said she would change it to vanilla. Mr Getrealfrance, never one to miss a feeding opportunity said he would take the mistaken cone instead.
 It would be on the house of course? he winked.
Oh no, if you want the nougat cone, you must pay for it as well.
Ah, non merci, says Mr Getrealfrance
Right so , says our saleslady, and with a huff and a puff and an oh la la la, she lobbed Zoé's snotty icecream back into the container for serving to the next unsuspecting customer....
And Bonne Journée to you too madame!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Le Grain de Folie

Prawns served on a hot stone with a coriander and curry dipping sauce
This lovely restaurant in Perpignan which we tried out this week is situated on the hip and upcoming Avenue du LeClerc in Perpignan where all the hotspots are popping up these days. You have the new and very authentic Irish pub, O'Flahertys , Ben Aqui; the very popular tapas bar which opened up about 2 years ago and is always tightly packed. Also; Le Petit Pastis, another new French brasserie which opened it's doors this year and of course the wonderful and imposing Perpignan theatre just across the road. Thee place to be seen darlings!!!!
So, off we trotted last Thursday night to this highly recommended restaurant and we were not disappointed. The place has been newly decorated, white table cloths, floors and walls, very minimalistic ( they could have done with a good splash of colour on the walls , aspiring artists, take note) . A very adult feel to the place was the opinion of our Irish buddies with linen tablecloths, excellent service , hushed conversation and some serious nom nom nom :)
lobster salad
They do an excellent three course evening menu with lots of choice for 33 euros and another "Folie" menu for 18euros which I plumped for which was really good value.
The highlights of the meal were the starters of prawns on hot stones with a thai curry coconut/coriander dipping sauce ( you just don't get that kind of food in this part of France in general), the lobster salad, and the desserts: my moelleux of chocolate was exactly right, crispy on the outside and once cracked open, oozing hot chocolate sauce ; perfection.
raspberry delight

George was totally blown away by the raspberry patisserie and the cheese plate too was very adventurous with soft cheeses rolled in herbs and peppers. Très très bon!!!
cheese plate with a difference
The total bill , for four , with three bottles of excellent wine came to just under 200euros. Superbe for this level of dining.
Le Grain de Folie which literally means a touch of madness, a touch of genius might be more appropriate , is situated on
71 Ave du LeClerc
Tel : 04 68 51 00 50
Bon Apps!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Mondial du Vent

Action today at La Franqui
With over 300 days of sunshine here in this lovely corner of France , we certainly can't complain about the weather . However, when it rains it truly pours here in the PO and when it's windy we have the trusty tramontane...
The Tramontane is created by the difference of high pressure in the cold air over the Atlantic and the low pressure system over the Med. The high pressure air flows South and is funnelled between the Pyrenees and the Massif Central, arriving in the PO to skin us alive and to literally take our breath away.
It's name comes from the fact that it traverses the mountains and some people say that it comes from the Latin for Northern Star "transmontanus" as for the Italians, North was the Alps and the Northern 
star shining above it.
Anyway, this wind which visits us regularly, is the reason that the Mondial du vent is held here since 1997. This international meet of windsurfers and kite surfers is frequented by the best in the world and is hosted by laid back La Franqui just 40 mins North of us here in Perpignan.
Colourful wind chimes for sale
Alannah takes flight
We headed up there this afternoon to soak up the atmosphere and watch the kite surfers fly through the air. It's a really well organised event with parking a half a kilometer away and road trains taking you to the heart of the action - a whole street of wind and adrenaline based activities, many of them free for the children.
A great afternoons entertainment was had by all , the tram was blowing in force and we made it back to our car after a lovely feed of burgers and chips in a local laid back hippy hang out, just in time before the heavens opened and the rains came.
Highly recommend for a day out with the kids next year. See here for more details, in English.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

O I do like to be beside the seaside!

There were free activities at Canet plage today for children of all ages : a climbing wall, bouncy twister, lots of giant board games, lego mats, wood sculpturing and lots more.
The kids had a ball and the mommies did too, indulging in coffees and icecreams in one of the nearby cafés after wearing the little darlings out on the beach...
It's on again tomorrow, 12 April in Espace Med from 14h00 to 18h00. A great day out and all for free!
There are lots more activities on in Canet during the Easter holidays for kids. Click here for a detailed list of what's going on.
Dylan scales the climbing wall

Alannah and Lydia 

Bouncy twister on the beach

The gorgeous Canet carousel

Fancy a ride?

Giddy up boy!

Learning to Laugh

The Irish do love to laugh. They love comedy, they enjoy taking the mickey out of themselves, telling jokes and stories, letting the hair down, sharing a giggle and having a jolly good time.
The French are different to us. They do take themselves rather seriously. A café full of French people will not revertebrate with belly laughs and laughter. A group of French people at the restaurant will not be heard splitting their sides laughing and one rarely sees a gang of giggling girlfriends. 
So , it was with some intrepidation that my Irish girlfriends and I headed off to Yoga Rire last night in Perpignan. The event was being hosted by Laeticia , a tall slender yoga model who started off proceedings by telling us about the history of Yoga Rire.
Apparently, Madan Kataria, an Indian dude came up with the concept in 1995 when he met a few buddies in a park in Mumbai to tell jokes. The club gained popularity and when they ran out of jokes for their laughter club, and as some of the jokes were racist or harmful to others, they just met to laugh. Now, throughout India, thousands of Laughter Yoga Clubs meet every morning in public parks.
"The goal of Laughter Yoga is to bring good health, joy and world peace through Laughter. Laughter is universal with no language and cultural barriers. Laughter Yoga Clubs are fast growing into a worldwide community of like-minded people who believe in unconditional Love, Laughter and Fellowship. Every first Sunday of May is celebrated as World Laughter Day. In the year 2000, nearly 10,000 people laughed together in Copenhagen, Denmark to set a Guinness Book Record." (source laughter yoga website)
So we started off hiding our faces and laughing behind our hands, which I thought was very clever and followed that with Yogic Breathing ( ha ha ha ho ho ho) and stomping our feet to the rhythm. There followed one of the most bizarre giddiest hours where we took our imaginary mammoth for a walk, stepped in imaginary dog poo, washed our imaginary cars and laughed our little cotton socks off.
At the end of this ( exhausting) spectacle, we were all told to lie down in a circle, heads together but not touching with our eyes closed and were invited to laugh. For 15 solid minutes, the group of strangers laughed and laughed and laughed until we had tears running down our faces and our cheeks ached. It was contagious!
After our hilarious abdominal work out, we all felt lighter, giddy and totally destressed. The French, who were all new to Yoga Rire thoroughly enjoyed it, as if they now were given permission to laugh and it was allright to let their hair down. Yes, it is ok to laugh!
I'd recommend it to all to go and have a laugh! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

What a service!

My little girl was feeling quite poorly last weekend and when I took her to the doctor ( waiting for 5 minutes and costing me 12euros), he confirmed that she had a virus and to keep her out of school but that there was nothing they could give her for a viral bug.
4 days later, she was still suffering , with funny symptoms, pains in her tummy and head, so I took her back to the doc who subscribed an anti-biotic and lots of other "stuff"
Prescriptions for a runny nose and sore throat
She bounced back the next day and is fine now. As she had some tummy pains though, the doc also prescribed a scan to check out everything internally - the next day , we went to a laboratoire d'analyses ( no waiting around)  where we had a full x-ray examination of her tummy : liver, pancreas, bladder, stomach etc etc and she got a clean bill of health. We waited for 20 minutes and got a print out and analysis of the tests straight away. Cost : 22euros.
Thankfully there were no issues and my little girl is back to her usual bouncy self, but what a service though!
If you're going to get sick, people, get sick in France.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The Swiss Maternity Elne

(Image taken from Amazon)

Elisabeth Eidenbenz is one of the real heroines of World War II. In 1937 she came to the Pyrenees Orientales and after witnessing first hand the atrocious conditions in the camps in Argeles sur Mer where the Spanish refugees were existing, she decided to take action. With amazing vision , she took over a crumbling chateau on the road from Elne to Montescot that was going to rack and ruin. She cleaned up the chateau and filled it with pregnant female refugees of all different nationalities, mostly Jewish, Spanish and tziganes, who were clinging to a semblance of life in refugee camps or fleeing from occupied territories
Nearly 600 women gave birth in this beautiful maternity hospital where they were sheltered from Nazis on the hunt for their blood.
Nicolas Garcia, mayor of Elne, organised the buy out of the Maternity Hospital in 2005, aiming to restore the clinic and opening it to the public. 
Why is it in the news today?
Much to the delight of Elne's mayor, the chateau and the memory of the Maternity has been acknowledged officially in the 'patrimoine national' as an historic monument. What this means is that the building will be protected and also be eligible for grants to make it more accessible for wheelchair access and for public viewing. 
"Elisabeth would be happy", said the mayor as he celebrated the news " She worried alot about what would become of the maternity and rang me often about it"
Now, the future of the Swiss Maternity is safe and the memory of the bravery and sheer goodness of these people will be remembered forever.
Elisabeth received many honours in her later years, including the star of the légion d'honneur (France), the Cross of St Jordi ( Catalonia) and the status of righteous among the Nations by the Gov of Israel in 2002.
In Easter of 2002, 60 of the survivors she helped reunited in a moving ceremony in Elne to honour "La Senorita" as she was fondly called.
A remarkable woman who should always be remembered. She died in May 2011. RIP 

Birthday Cake

5 years ago , he came hurtling feet first into this world, a lovely healthy record breaking breach birth baby , who even had the gyno in tears of relief , not to mention ourselves! My little boy who takes life head on and rarely slows down, a daredevil tree climber, kame kaze bike rider, giggler, champion lego maker and the love of my life, is 5 Big Years Old Today!
So, today was family and cake time before the Big Party tomorrow. The Mammy is in town at the moment and we had all the Catalan cousins around for birthday tea and cake and madness.
Funnily enough, the French aren't really into baking .. cooking yes, but baking, they generally leave to the professionals. I love the IDEA of being a home maker and great baker and God I do try, but seem to have been born without the baking gene. Many an attempt has ended up in the bin and everyone knows NOT TO COME INTO THE KITCHEN if I am trying my hand at anything more adventurous than cup cakes.
Anyway, I've come up with the fool proof birthday cake. For a real home made look, follow these instructions:
You get your ready mixed chocolate fondant in Lidl (€1,98) Add 3 eggs and cream. Mix. Bake.
Then, after the cake has cooled, make your chocolate frosting as follows
3 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup cocoa power
Drop of vanilla essence
Mix together. Add drops of milk slowly until you get a frosting finish.
Paste over cake and decorate with smarties and twinkles.
Then stand in front of mirror and practice blushing, being coy and modest 'Oh, it was nothing, darling, whipped it up this morning"
Ta daaaaaaa
Happy Birthday Dylan xxxx

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Vin Art at Domaine Treloar

Image is by Margaret Dibdin, one of the artists exhibiting at the weekend
Vin Art at Domaine Treloar will take place for the 5th year running this Easter Sunday and Monday. With art from a number of different artists on display and for sale, there will also be live music with Rosie and Maurice on Sunday and Blaise on Monday.
It's a great family day out, with wine and cheese tastings, activities for the kids ( my two love the clay pottery every year with Nathalie) and a lovely friendly atmosphere in the vineyard. It's also a great way to see behind the scenes of a working vineyard and meet the winemakers, Jon Hesford from England and Rachel Treloar from New Zealand.
Sunday 8 and Monday 9 April from 14h00 to 18h00
Click here for directions to Domaine Treloar

Monday, April 02, 2012

ça m'énerve

Handy vocab to know in France : ça m'énerve ( that annoys me)

Ca m'éneeeeerve
Toutes celles qui portent la frange à la Kate Moss
Ca m'éneeeeerve
Le rouge à lèvres c'est fini maintenant c'est le gloss
Ca m'éneeeeerve
Toutes celles qui boivent le champagne rosé
Ca m'éneeeeerve
Pour oublier qu'en Jimmy Chooo t'as mal aux pieds
Ca m'énerve tous les gens qui font la queue chez Ladurée
Tout ça pour des macarons à la Tourte
Mais bon...Il parait qu'ils sont bons

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