Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Canned air for sale

Who says there is no such word in French for entrepreneur? Who says the French are stuck in the past and not open to new ideas?
Well, one enterprising young man from Montcuq is certainly bucking the trend and has come up with a product that is flying off the shelves in France .. L'air de Montcuq (sounds like mon cul, or in other words, air from my ass) is collected in Montcuq, a small commune in the Lot department in the South of France.

Air from my backside
Sold in tin cans , according to his website, L'air de montcuq is 100% organic, must be consumed immediately and tins must be kept closed to conserve freshness.
What started off as a bit of a joke, young Antoine Deblay from Montcuq, launched his idea on kisskissbank and before too long had crowd funded enough euros to sell his tins of fart. Now, one can order his original product online on his website for the perfect gift for that special someone for Christmas. They are available for delivery only in France and cost only 5euros (€5.50 with postage) .. I think it is going to be énorme!!!!!!
Now, what didn't I think of that?
See his website here

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Falling in Love again

One thing I miss about France is, that in Ireland, I am completely invisible. In France, men openly appraise you - they look you up and down and comment on what they see 'beh, t'as maigri Kar-Hen!' they exclaim 'J'adore ton look aujourd'hui ma cherie' - very gay I know, but then it is hard in France to tell who is gay with the straight guys wearing white suits, tight capri style pants, pink scarves and more hair product than Jedward on a down day.
In France, a man will meet you for the first time with a flirtatious 'Enchanté' ( Enchanted to meet you - don't you love it?) while their eyes sweep over you, hovering openly on any assets you may have on display. In Ireland, you may get a handshake but the Irish dude will barely look you in the eye. Once you have broken eye contact and are not looking at him, he may, if he is feeling cheeky, chance a sneaky glance at your bum.
Flirting in France is a national pastime and for the most part, harmless, adding a bit of excitement and frisson to one's day. Flirting in Ireland, as far as I can see, only happens after 15 pints when the lads get brave and the lassies get brazen...
In the meantime, I'm busy falling in love again ... with Ireland, the only one seducing me these days! Vive L'Irlande!
Road to Eyeries from Allihies

Colourful Skibbereen

Broad Strand

Simon's Cove
My son's dream house 10 metres from the sea


Thursday, October 24, 2013

French Kiss or Irish Hug?

Image from www.spreadshirt.com
The rhythm of life is so different here in Ireland than in France and our body clocks are just about getting used to the new timetables as we potter along in our new life in Clonakilty.
For one thing, we all miss "La Cantine" , that wonderful French luxury of a 4 course delicious 2 hour lunch at school. These days, Irish kids are given 20 minutes to wolf down their sambos and get out into the yard to play. The lunch box used to be a fairly simple affair in my day, now, the list of forbidden foods is the length of your arm :

  • Crisps
  • Chocolate or anything containing chocolate
  • Fizzy drinks or fruit drinks
  • Cereal bars
  • Biscuits
  • Nuts and anything containing nuts
  • Sweets or anything sweet etc etc

While I agree totally with the healthy eating concept, lunch box filling has become rather a challenge ( ideas welcome)
The kids finish school at 2pm and 3pm ( how handy is that - NOT!) For my two who are used to finishing at 5pm in France and then launching into homework, as far as they are concerned, they have a half day every day! Whoopeee! That 's a lot of hours to entertain them though! After school activities take place every evening, not just on Wednesdays ( their day off school en France)
For us adults living in a small town, social activities don't usually start until about 9pm or later! Dancing classes, toastmasters, music sessions, they all start after 9pm. In France, in sleepy suburbia, the shutters would be coming down and people bunkering down for the night. If you are going to the pub, you might start thinking about going out around 10pm or later. Huh? but that's way past our bedtime! I recently joined a running club and we start training at 8pm. As we finish at 9pm, there are others just starting!!
Setting a fire and drying clothes in front of it and watching the weather like a hawk for signs of rain when the clothes are out .. these are things I haven't done in over 18 years!
I still go to kiss people on each cheek when I meet them, resulting in usually head butting the recipient - It feels funny not to physically greet people you haven't seen in a few days ; a "howzitgoan?" will do. In place of the sterile French air kissing though, what you do have is the Irish hug. At a family gathering recently, it was a veritable hugathon as I got lost in Aunties' perfumed bosoms and long lost cousins' embraces.
French kissing 'aint all it's cracked up to be anyway ;-)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Buying shoes in Ireland

When you move to a new country or indeed back to your home country after being a period of 16 years away as we did, you have certain expectations.
In our case, we thought that the people in Ireland, our Mother land, would be friendlier, that bureaucracy would be easier, that socially,we would feel more at home and that we would live a more naturally rounded life with all that is going on in Clonakilty, our adopted new town.
For the most part , that has been true and we are lapping up all Ireland has to offer and every time we leave the house, we are blown away by the friendliness and helpfulness of everybody.
We do realise that nowhere is perfect ( Mr GetrealFrance's van was recently broken into while parked in Dublin with many of his tools swiped ), but for now , for us, it is ticking all our boxes.
I could give you hundreds of examples since I've been home of the generosity of the Irish spirit, that, quite frankly, I have never encountered anywhere else...
Take last week when I went shopping with my son for shoes in Clonakilty. We popped into the local shoe shop and tried on a few pairs that were not satisfactory ( Not fast enough Mummy!) for our little tearaway. With all the time in the world, the shop owner patiently played with Dylan, chatted to me and finally found the perfect pair of shoes for my budding Usain Bolt.
As the shoes had just arrived in that day, the guy had no invoice for them and therefore was unable to give us a price
"Sure just take the shoes away there girleen and drop in any day to pay me" says he
Flabbergasted, I offered to pay him a deposit, leave some kind of a down payment but he was having none of it. My word was good.
"I trust you. Take the shoes and call in any day next week and I'll have a price for you"
Now, that's what I call retail therapy!
Kevin O'Regans Shoes
8 Pearce Street,
(no affiliation!)
Which reminds me, I must go in and pay for them!!!!!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

School's cool!

Uniforms! Halleluiah!
Well, we've been back in Ireland for over 6 weeks now after living in France for 11 years. How are you settling in, people keep asking us and what do you miss about France?
We're settling in as if we never left the place, except for now, we have an appreciation for Ireland that we never would have had before, warts and all, we are loving all that this fair isle has to offer.
While I am very aware that we are in the honeymoon period and everything is still new and shiny (yet all so familiar and comfortable ... like finding an old pair of comfy faded jeans at the back of your wardrobe that still fit after 11 years), It feels real and it feels like home.
The welcome we have received in the town we have chosen has been extraordinary and the schools are second to none. Our main concern moving here was that the children would fit in ok in their new schools considering all their education had been in French up to this point. Aged 6 and 8, we felt the French education system was too rigid and strict with no room for personal development, art or expressing oneself.
The amount of stuff on in their new schools here would make you dizzy ; there is an orchestra, orienteering, surfing, kayaking, drama, swimming, chess, dancing, singing, gardening, every kind of a sport you can imagine as well as gentlemanly awards and deportment classes.
The mission statement of the school states, among other things that :
"Every pupil is encouraged to achieve his full potential – socially, personally and intellectually – in a happy, secure learning environment.
The discipline in our school encourages and fosters respect and self-esteem among the pupils.
We endeavour to develop supportive and open communication among pupils, teachers, parents, Board of Management and the community." 
Music to our ears - the children seem to be extremely happy and skip into school every day. Long may it continue.......10/10 for the schools in Ireland so far...W

Friday, September 20, 2013

I'm Sorry, Irish style

Well, we're back in Ireland 6 weeks now and are love love lovin' it. This is partly helped by the fact that the weather has been glorious and also that we have probably picked the friendliest, liveliest and coolest town in Ireland, ie Clonakilty.
More anon, once I get a chance...
One little thing I had never really noticed before is that Irish people say sorry all the time. We are constantly apologising, like the Japanese bowing to everyone they meet , we say sorry at every encounter. The barman will say sorry when they run out of the guinness, people will assume responsibility for the weather and apologise for it, sorry for your troubles, sorry for having loads of groceries at the cashier in front of you, sorry for walking faster than you and passing you on the street, sorry for eating my bag of taytos too loudly, sorry sorry sorry. What are we all so sorry about? And if we're not saying sorry, we're saying thanks. Thanks a million, thanks thanks thanks.
No, Thank You!
Love it!

Ardal O'Hanlon (AKA Dougle) talks about Irish people saying sorry :

Monday, September 09, 2013

Get Real West Cork. I'm lovin' it

Our new local - Clonakilty

This is Ireland  

De Barras, famous music pub in Clonakilty

Our fave beach so far - Simon's Cove, view from smugglers cave

Welcome Home pressie. Wild Atlantic salmon

Present from the neighbours

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

The pull of Ireland

Guest post :
Brigitte from Brittany has this to say about our decision to move back to Ireland .....
I'm half-Irish/half-French and we moved to France in June 1996 with our three children for a new life in Brittany (where I was born). It was really "taking a blind leap" in those days, and even more difficult without internet to help you in those days.

Just like you, we had sold our house in Co Dublin and there was no going back. Even though I myself am half-French, it was a very difficult time settling in France, even though I had the advantage of having lived there up to the age of 17.  But still, the bureaucracy drove us crazy ("Vous avez un dossier"?). Dossier dossier, the favourite word of the French, right? You bring your car to the garage : "dossier". You go to buy a pair of glasses : "dossier". I'm sure you'll agree with me.

But there's always the pull of Ireland. There's no place like Ireland.  Landing at Dublin airport, or seeing the coast approach if you're on the ferry, how can one describe those emotions?! Ireland is not only a country, it's a person, that's the way I feel. I'd never feel that for France, even though my father was French and I was born there. 

So I totally understand your decision to move back to Ireland and well done on this hard decision which was not easy to take, I'm sure. You will appreciate Ireland all the more now, after your life in France. You will probably regret social security, and the wine  at 2.49€ (!), and the sun, but that's all, I'd say.  Your children will be happier in the Irish school system, which I now realise is not as stressful as the French system. Am I glad that my youngest has finished school, having just got her Bac, and that we don't have any more school-going children! The ongoing stress of the school marks, of the tests, the huge emphasis on maths, the long school days, the lack of personal development skills such as drama, sports, in schools, all that was wearying and I only realised that after moving to France.  Although I've just mentioned the negative aspects of the education system, it has to be said that we were able to put our children in very good schools for next to nothing, compared to the horrendous prices in Dublin, and they have been able to have good university education for also next to nothing!

Having said all that, we don't regret having moved to France (free education even up to third level, good health care), although we miss our family and friends in Ireland and going back on a visit is a tonic and the best medicine!

Having only now discovered your blog, I will read the other posts in it and wish you all the best in your move back. In your case, both of you are Irish, so I understand the pull back to Ireland. Your children are just at the right age for that decision. Our own children in 1996 when we moved to France were 7, 5 and 1, and we knew then, it was "now or never".  

All the very best, I hope you continue your blog, and also "bonne rentrée" in Ireland in September for your children!

Monday, September 02, 2013

Coming Home Song

Some of you may be old enough to remember this classic ESB ad that was released at Christmas time in 1988.
Kind of sums up my feelings at the moment.
I've come home. And it feels good.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Going away song

Arrived to a dinner party to find this bunch of lunatics.... my going away song from France. What a great bunch of girls! 
Made it all that harder to leave!!!
Bring on the trip to Ireland!!!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

French Foodie in Dublin

French native Ketty Elisabeth tells us about her love affair with Ireland in her guest blog post
Dublin's fair city
Ireland was supposed to be a 6 to 12 months period of my life. However, after just 4 weeks I met my fiancé and never left.
I fell in love with the country and especially Irish people. They’re laid-back, easy-going, chatty and know how to have fun. It was such a breath of fresh air moving from Paris to Dublin and life was much easier all of a sudden: no smelly metro, no grumpy people and no nightmare bureaucracy. I was amazed at how easy it was to rent a flat, set up a PPS number and do other administrative things that are such a hassle in France. I was totally living the Celtic Tiger dream back in 2004!
I made many expat friends in my first few years in Ireland, unlike me they didn’t have Irish partners and decided to leave, it was very difficult for me at this stage. They couldn’t stand the weather, the drinking culture, the food, the expensive cost of living or they just didn’t want to be foreigners anymore. Locals have their childhood friends, do stuff with them after work or go home to their families at the weekends which make it difficult to make real friends sometimes.
Now it’s different and easier as I get older. I don’t know people who leave every week anymore and I have friends with Irish other halves who I’m sure won’t leave the country. Being engaged to an Irish man certainly helps me feel more at home and more integrated. I’ve now made Ireland my home, feel I belong here and I’m never homesick. I don’t mind if the weather isn’t great and I miss Ireland when I’m away. I feel a connection to this little island that I don’t have with France anymore. Somehow I’m always reminded I’m not from here but I have to get on with it. People ask me the same questions; ‘Do you like it here?’ or ‘Do you go home often?’, I often get ‘Welcome to Ireland’ from the garda at Dublin passport control or people ask me if I’m on holiday. I wonder if I’ll still get this in 15 years’ time or when I’ll have my little Irish kids with me.
France lacks of craic. People complain a lot, seem unhappy and don’t seem to enjoy the little things in life. I don’t miss the use of the ‘vous’, people giving out about the heat, French men who chat you up in a vulgar way, skinny women who just eat salads, people analysing the way you dress, the French management style and so on. Sometimes I think about the food and the healthcare with nostalgia but that’s about it. Of course I miss my family and friends but not to the point where I’d want to move back.
I think you’re dead right to be back in Ireland. The rainbows, the atmosphere of the pubs, the Irish wit, the work mentality, the beautiful landscapes and your family are only a few of the reasons why you should be happy to return. I still wonder how you managed to cope with the French for so long.
I wish you the best of luck and a very happy life in Ireland!

French Foodie in Dublin, Ketty, blogs here on www.frenchfoodieindublin.com
She has also just set up her French Foodie tours in Dublin which I am looking forward to trying out when up in the big smoke. You can book a tour here

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Taking the leap - moving back to Ireland

Article on the Irish Times today

Au revoir France
They say moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do, after death and divorce. We made the decision early this year to leave our beloved France with our two children and head back “home” to Ireland, a country where we haven’t actually lived in for over 16 years.
The decision was a difficult one as France has been good to us and we have no regrets. Where we are living is probably one of the most beautiful places in Europe, with the Med and the mountains within spitting distance.
Yet, at the end of the day, it’s just not home. We have a close network of expat friends whom we get on very well with, but most will eventually leave here. We are constantly saying goodbye to good friends. We swear we will stay in contact, but rarely do.
Our French friends are equally lovely, but they never really let you in. We’ve had hundreds of nights out with them, perfectly staged dinner parties with exquisite food and wines to match, but at the end of the evening we’d often realise we had had little craic.
Our decision to leave was made in the depths of a very bad French winter. Personally and professionally we both felt held back and unfulfilled. Trying to run a business here in France is like beating your head against a brick wall while the French bureaucrats watch, mocking and deriding you. It really is that bad.
You realise pretty quickly that France only plays lip service to Europe and in reality does it’s own thing which reeks of protectionism and cronyism. On one occasion as we tried to get a business off the ground, our Irish MEP, Brian Crowley, took our case to the Minister of Justice because he felt we were being discriminated against as they were refusing to recognise my accountancy qualifications. France’s answer to the problem was to change the law, so I had to have a French baccalaureat (equivalent of Leaving Cert) to work in my chosen field.
All that aside, life in France has been mostly good and we have been extremely happy here. Now, as the mercury begins to rise, the doubts about our decision, in direct correlation, are too. I’ve had sleepless nights wondering are we doing the right thing for the children, now aged six and eight, who are now completely and naturally bilingual. Will they fit into the Irish culture? How will they cope with the drinking culture in Ireland when they reach their teenage years, and will my daughter want to start dressing like a pop star once she hits Irish shores? Will we be able to handle the terrible weather?
Our beautiful house with it’s happy memories of all the people who have visited us and the fun we have had, has gone under the hammer and we must leave in a couple of days.
We will miss the sunshine, the wine, the food, and our circle of lovely friends, but for all that, Ireland still beckons. It takes time living away from Ireland to fully appreciate how warm, lovely, helpful and genuine Irish people are. “There are plenty of assholes in Ireland too,” my father warned me when I broke the news of our return, and we know that we’re not going to have 320 days of sunshine. Yet, we want our children to be Irish, to have that Irish sense of humour, to have a healthy working mentality and to be surrounded by our extended family. We want to be there for the good times and the bad. In a morbid way, I want to be there for funerals, for sicknesses and the tough times as well as the celebrations and the good times.
It’s au revoir France for now. Yikes!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Soirées Inoubliables

Melt in the Mouth Duck with cherries
Georges Guilhot, caviste extraordinaire has his own boutique in the heart of Perpignan where he stocks his favourite selection of mostly local wines.
I've been attending his wine tasting/ food pairing evenings for over 10 years and at every soirée, he pulls something out of his hat that knocks us all for 6.
There was the time we arrived one evening at his wine shop he used to run on Place Republique - we were all handed lighted candles and told to descend a rickedy ladder that led through a trap door to underneath his cave, where Georges had discovered a warren of tunnels and ancient old stables. In the candlelight we tasted his selection of champagnes ..
Another time, he whisked us off to the opening of a Japanese restaurant where we got a lesson in sushi making from the Japanese owner and he matched his selected wines perfectly to the sushi ..
Then there was the evening , he shared a present he had been given with us : a bottle of 1924 Bouchard et Fils. You could have heard a pin drop as he opened this little bit of history and we all shared a truly magical moment. See here
Tuesday night was no different. Another totally unforgettable evening. Paired up with Bruno Leger who is one of the top chefs in Lycée Leon Blum and with the down to earth Laetitia , owner and vigneron from Domaine Piétri Géraud of Collioure , we were treated to a 5 star evening of food and wine.
Nectar from Collioure
We started off with rillettes of rouget lightly seasoned with locally grown saffron from Vingrau and thereafter followed an explosion of flavours and tastes matched exquisitely  to Laetitia's wines. Foie gras foam on a bed of poivron coulis, brochettes of magret de canard with cherries, a mini coco lamb curry, desserts of pistachio ice-cream and cherry clafoutis ...
As usual , Georges had a few surprises up his sleeve, one of them being a bottle of 1959 Rivesaltes from St Esteve. Choclately velvety heaven..
It's not every day you get to taste a 54 year old bottle of wine
I'm going to miss these soirées when I move back to Ireland ... only thing for it, they're all just going to have to come and visit me!
Merci encore Georges et Bruno!
All the dead men
Maison Guilhot
13 Place des Poilus  66000 Perpignan
04 68 66 50 78
Perfect English spoken

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I cheat, You cheat, He/She/One cheats

Le baccalauréat,  like the Leaving Cert in Ireland, is in full swing here in France, it started on Monday with Philo ( that's philosophy to you and me )

The subjects they had to write on for 4 hours solid were as follows:
  • Sujet 1 - Que devons-nous à l’Etat ?
  • Sujet 2 - Interprète-t-on à défaut de connaître ? 
  • Sujet 3 - Explication du texte de Anselme, De la concorde (XIIème siècle)
Subject 1 : What do we owe the state?
Subject 2 : Do we try to interpret for the want of knowing? (Merci Clare O'Dea at swissinfo.ch)
Subject 3 ; Explanation of a paragraph of text from Anselme, from the 12th century.

This might explain why a 52 year old Mother in Paris decided that she was going to replace her daughter in the National French Exams for her English oral!!!
She rocked up on the day of exams and tried to pass herself off as her daughter and only for the fact that a vigilant supervisor noticed that the same child who had just completed her philo exam , had somewhat aged in a couple of days, she may have well got away with her cunning plan.
The Mother is currently being held in custody and no-one knows exactly what her punishment will be... the daughter will be , in any case, repeating her English next year.......

Cheat Happens! You just couldn't make it up!! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

All The Lonely People, where do they all belong?

This weekend was the Fete des Quartiers in Cabestany and a great night was had by all on Saturday. The town hall provides the aperitif, the tables and chairs and some entertainment. The neighbours all bring a plate and of course some wine and everybody has a very enjoyable night under the stars with the kids running riot on their bikes with giddy excitement rejoicing in their nocturnal freedom 

These are all our neighbours from the cul de sac ( a word which the French do not use, by the way, it's an impasse here), neighbours, some of them we haven't even clapped eyes on since last year's fête. Chatting to a daughter in law of one of the neighbours, she enthused about the soirée , saying she had been looking forward to it for months. Others expressed the same sentiments. She lives in a caserne gendarmerie in Perpignan with hundreds of other families. I asked her was it like at big family there, did they get together often with their friends? 
"No, everyone keeps to themselves, we have been there for five years and we have never been invited to another persons house"
"Oh, but you are from Perpignan, you must know loads of people?" I prompted
"No, I don't really have any friends here" she said " I've one girlfriend in Prades but we only see each other about once a year.
This young lovely vibrant lady has no friends to speak of. How sad ..
Yet this is pretty indicative of where we live in Catalan country - you have your family, a few close friends (maybe)and that's it. After 11 years here , we have many acquaintances and they are all lovely people, but you are only really ever scratching the surface with them, going through the polite motions and never really getting to know them at all.
It's interesting to note that nearly all of our French friends here are not locals, but French from other parts of the country. It does seem that the further South you go in France, the cooler the people are. 
In the Canicule ( heatwave) of 2003, an estimated 15,000 people died in France due to heat related stress. The "oubliés de la canicule" are they are known were 41 men and 45 women who died in the canicule and were never claimed. 
From L'Express:
ls s'appelaient Alfred, Roger, Moïse ou Georgette, Eugénie, Reine. Ils étaient légionnaires, rentiers, fonctionnaires des Postes, caviste à la Coupole. Elles avaient été coiffeuses, vendeuses sur les marchés, femmes au foyer. Tous sont morts en quelques jours, dans la chaleur étouffante d'un été meurtrier. On les a surnommés les "oubliés de la canicule". Pour la seule ville de Paris, ils étaient 86 hommes et femmes qu'aucune famille, aucun proche n'a réclamés en cette fin d'été. Aujourd'hui, ils reposent pour la plupart sous les tombes anonymes de la 58e division du cimetière de Thiais (Val-de-Marne). 

Will it be different in Ireland? On verra....

Monday, June 03, 2013

Moving Back to Ireland

"You're doing what?" " You must be out of your fecking mind!" "I think you're very brave" ( sister in law) " You won't last pissing time" "Can I take your temperature?" These are the kind of reactions I'm getting when I tell people that we are leaving the Sunny South of France and moving back to the less sunnier climes of our native Ireland.
Summer Fashion - Ireland
We've spent 11 very happy years in our adopted country after falling in love with it on a ski trip in early 2002. We've lived our 30's here in France, settled down, had the babies, bought the house in suburbia, made a lovely circle of French and expat friends and now we've decided to head north, back to the bosom of the family and to an Ireland where we haven't lived in for over 15 years. Yep, I know ... and as the weather brightens up here, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe they are right, are we stark raving mad after all?
Then, I step outside of my bubble and I know I've made the right decision. The French are just not like us. They don't get us and we don't get them. I just can't see us growing old here, I want our children to be Irish and I want to feel like a part of the fabric of society.
Englishman, David Mitchell , author of Cloud Atlas, has upped sticks and relocated to Clonakilty in Ireland, where we are heading. He totally resonated with me in a recent article in the Irish Examiner
"At this stage in life, you need a good environment in which to bring up your children. After a while you need to be able to communicate with other parents at school, the people around you. It sounds simple and obvious and straightforward but in many many tracts of the world, it's not normal, it's not normal to be reasonably friendly to strangers."
He says "Why would anyone not want to live in West Cork?"
Look, I know that nowhere is perfect and we might be running back to somewhere sunny and warm after 5 minutes of life in the old sod, but it's now or never with the children , aged 6 and 8 , so here we go.
The house is sold, the one way tickets have been bought and the countdown is on.
57 days to go in France........ YIKES!!!!!!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

La Jonquera - Sex, Shopping and Sun

Just over the border here into Spain lies La Jonquera , a shabby run down border town whose main claim to fame until recently was it's roaring sex trade.
Just last month on our local paper, L'independent , it was noted that a roundabout in La Jonquera could make up to 20,000euros a day. It's quite an affront ( literally) to see the girls hanging out by the roundabouts, at the side of the road or in the truckers' car parks. They are there from noon onwards, under their parasols, with their bottles of water and chatting chewing gum style with their scantily clad peers. Even though prostitution is legal in France, it is quite 'de rigeur' for French young fellas to pop over the border for a bit of hows your Father. Brothels, par contre, are illegal in France but not so in Spain and when The Paradise brothel opened in 2010 in La Jonquera ,with over 90 rooms, word spread like syphilis as bus loads of young French men made their way over the border.
The new mayor of La Jonquera, Sonia Martínez Juli has taken the problem to hand and is trying to close down the brothel which is seriously damaging the image of the town.
A town which has just opened a massive shopping outlet centre with over 12000 m² of retail therapy catering for all tastes. It's the biggest border outlet centre in Europe and, with the tramontane gusting a hooley this afternoon, continuing our longest winter ever in the South of France, I popped down for a look. It's only a half an hour from my house and judging by the car park which was 80% full of French cars, I wasn't the only sucker of the day.
It's your typical outlet centre, if you are into labels and designer gear, there are great bargains to be had on mostly last seasons fashion. One brilliant addition though are hundreds of comfy sofas throughout the mall, a great idea for the bored man who just wants to play on his phone...
This may be the final nail in the coffin for Perpignan though, who is really struggling in 'la crise'. Le "Gran Jonquera Outlet" is aiming for the market of 1.5 million inhabitants living between Montpellier to Figueras. 50million euros has been pumped into the shopping centre with stores such as Guess, Benetton, Nike, Jack and Jones, Desigual, to name but a few, lining up to take your hard earned cash. Along with the news that Figeures will be open on Sundays, the tumbleweed will continue to blow down the streets of Perpignan and all the shops that are closing down one by one...
To get to Gran Jonquera Outlet and Shopping Centre, take exit #2 after leaving France - it's well sign posted from there. The supermarket ( with an excellent butchers that made it worth my trip) is open from 07h30 to 23h00. It was a bit manic there today, a Saturday, but I reckon it would be worth a return trip mid week when things are quieter....

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fête des Mamans

A love note from my daughter. Happy Mothers Day all you Yummy Mummies xxxx

Karen, ma maman chérie

Aujourd'hui c'est le grand jour, c'est la fête des mères

Regarde toi dans le mirroir, tu es la plus belle

Et la plus gentille

N'oublie jamais que je t'aime

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Culture in France

While Daft Punk heads the top of the ITune charts in nearly every western country with what is probably the coolest tune of the decade, France has " Quand il pète il trou son slip " ( When he farts, he blows a hole in his underpants ) by Sébastian Patrick

See article and listen to the catchy song here :


Go Figure?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rendons le Coeur De Ville à nos clients - Perpignan

"Give back the heart of Perpignan to our clients." This is a little bug bear of mine for the past few years as I've watched my adopted town being mismanaged to death and strangled by the short shortsightedness of the local government.
When I moved here 11 years ago, Perpignan was a thriving town. It still is a beautiful town with La Basse, the canal running through it, the Castillet proudly guarding it's pedestrianised quarter and a quaint and pretty centre full of character and history.
Little by little, the local power dudes are sucking the life out of this lovely town.

  • Parking is impossible and they have more than doubled pay for parking areas
  • Rates are exorbitant
  • Festivals are being moved away from the town centre
  • Planning permission has been given to massive soul-less malls on the outskirts of the town ( free parking etc)
  • Planning permission has been given for blocks and blocks of ugly modern apartments in the surrounding towns and villages
  • One way systems have been put in place that have killed off small businesses
  • Police are never to be seen en ville

And there's more....
So, some of the local businesses have come together and created this association  "Rendons le Coeur de Ville à nos clients" ( Ok, not very catchy , but they're French, remember). I support them wholeheartedly in their efforts to revitalise the centre and to breathe life back in to this ville that I have grown to love so much.
Like their page here on FaceBook
Vive Perpignan!!!!!
Spot the most obese French name you will ever see

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Faking it in France

Karen Bates, shares not only my name but also the 11 year itch French syndrome. She moved to France in early 2002 ( same as moi!) and just left recently. I spoke to her about her time in France and the resulting memoir/book she has self published since.

When did you move to France?
We had been looking for holiday homes  in France for a while and  having fallen in love with Normandy, and with my brother living in France decided to take the plunge and move to France in early 2002.

What did you do in France?
We were in France for almost eleven years.  Originally we hoped to make a living renting out our cottage, but when the income didn't materialise my husband and I visited the Chambre de Métiers and he registered as an Artisan, and we set up a carpentry business.

Did you fit in/ Did you feel welcome in France?
You say in your post it was a love affair with France for you and I agree, it was for us too! 
We were on honeymoon for the first few years and loved everything about it!  We entered each new experience with excitement at learning something new.  We took French lessons with Greta at the local college and our French language skills improved.  We made some wonderful friends both English and French, German Finish and Dutch.  Our neighbours welcomed us and we tried very hard to fit in. 

What made you decide to leave?
 We decided to leave as my son after 10 years announced he didn't want to go to university in France, out of the blue one day he informed us he wanted to return to the UK.  My husband who had not wanted to move to Normandy in the first place, being too cold and rural for him, turned round and said he too didn't want to stay.  The problem was my husband who had only ever agreed to a ten year plan wanted to move to Greece!
I simply wanted to be near my family, my daughter Sarah had graduated from University and was living and working in London, my parents were getting older and living in Leicestershire, suddenly I realised it would be me my husband and the dog rattling around in a five bedroomed farmhouse.  I couldn't imagine only seeing my children and parents only a couple of times a year and I wanted to travel too. Not just backwards and forwards over the channel.  

What do you miss about France?
France is a beautiful country and I will be eternally grateful to our neighbours and friends who helped us to embrace it.  The food is the main thing I miss! I have some wonderful memories but I wont miss being hard up, cold, lonely and worried that the RSI would take away our home with one of their extortionate inaccurate demands for social payments. The downsides were simply starting to out way the benefits.  

What is your book about?
My book is about the dark side of living in a foreign country when the penny drops and you realise you will never fit in, no matter how hard you try. The pain of making good friends and having to say goodbye as they return to the UK, the loneliness of rural life, not being able to find work, being broke, and trying to keep sane whilst dealing with French bureaucracy. It is however a memoir of my life and so my family and England feature a great deal, it is not a book all about France. A lot of the time I am trying to escape my desolation by reminiscing about my life and what I have left behind. The book became my therapy and got me through a very tough period.

Faking it in France is the first book I have written but my second book, due out later this year, Making out in France is all about embracing France and learning to make the best of a bad situation. It is entirely based in Normandy and deals with the realities of being a foreigner and trying to fit in.  Like the first book this leads to some hilarious and comic situations and also some poignant moments too, with a surprising twist at the end.

You can buy Karen's book ( which I have yet to read) here:

Monday, April 08, 2013

The 11 Year itch

It's not me, it's you
Latest statistics show that most couples who divorce do so after 11 years of being together. It's no longer tagged the 7 year itch but now it's the 11 year itch; time to get out of that relationship that has run it's course and just does not light that fire any longer.
So France and I are getting divorced.
11 years ago , I arrived in France with a smidgeen of French, a backpack full of dreams and a notion that I might stay for a couple of years. I fell headlong in love with the most beautiful region in France, that is the Pyrenees Orientales, and everyday I am still blown away by the beauty of the place.
We've had 11 happy years of long lazy summers, mild winters, 2 healthy and happy children, years of meeting wonderful and interesting people, entertaining visitors chez nous, enjoying everything France has to offer and literally having the Life of O'Reilly.
So why oh why I hear you say are you leaving all that behind you and heading to the sodden ole island that is Ireland. I hear the incredulity in your voices, I see the raised eyebrows and I know that you think I've lost it.  The house is sold, the packing must begin and we are on our way back to live in a country where we haven't lived in for over 16 years.
Are we MAD?
While my marriage with France is over, I think we will get on better as sometime lovers and I look forward to visiting France and getting my fill of all the things I love about this great country - this stunning region, the wines and the food, the weather , the med and the mountains and all of France's little quirky idiosyncrasies that make her the most seductive country in the world.
C´est rien qu´un au revoir, tu sais
Bientôt je reviendrai
Je reviendrai pour te revoir
Et pour te retrouver

4 months now to the big move....

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Calm after the storm

The Pyrenees Orientales was on alert rouge here for a couple of days this week. When it rains, it pours here in the Deep South!
We're on the med here, practically a lake for all intents and purposes and we rarely see waves. The surfers drop everything once they see a ripple in the water and dash headfirst into the big pond.
So when we get waves like this in Collioure .. it's making hay time!
Collioure - surfin dude
Things we rarely see in Perpignan!

Our road is blocked. One poor soul got washed away in the deluge during the week
In Canet, all kinds of sealife were hurtled onto the sand by the crashing waves. This seagull got lucky with a sea snake
Le lendemain. Blue skies are restored. Snow is forecast for Tuesday though! The world has gone mad!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Canet Classic Cars

The first Sunday of every month, vintage car lovers and owners gather in the car park of Casino Hypermarket in Canet Plage to strut their stuff with their fabulous vintage cars..
We toodled along on Sunday morning bright and early to feast our eyes on the cars, campervans, motorbikes and scooters with the cool dudes of Perpignan.
There were at least 200 cars there and a selection of ancient motobikes also. Well worth the visit if you are into your classic cars...
How much is that doggie in the window?
Trop cool!
I want I want I want
Zoé has picked out hers
For more details click here 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Chin Chin!

It's snowing at Stade Aimé Giral!
We had the unexpected pleasure of being invited along to the *drum roll* red carpetted VIP lounge for USAP's match last weekend.
(USAP for the uninitiated, is Perpignan's local rugby team and rugby is the Number One Sport here in the Deep South of France)
We rubbed shoulders with Perpignan's hob nobs and beautiful people, enjoyed a four course delicious meal and cheered USAP to victory from the best seats in the house. Apart from the fact that it was actually SNOWING while the match was taking place and that I had to forgo fashion pride and wear my full ski gear, including two pairs of ski gloves, it was a five star way to enjoy a rugby match.
At our table of 12, there were three bottles of excellent wine. With the dessert, we were served a toasty Rivesaltes Ambré. We left the table 2 hours later leaving most of this (free) wine behind us....
At the FREE bar at half time and full time, most people weren't even interested in going to the bar... a few people had a glass of champagne, others an orangina!!!  and there was certainly no rush on the barmen.
Now, close your eyes and imagine the scene in Ireland. Free wine with the meal and a free bar for the whole match. We're talking scrums and tackles and strategic planning, just to get to the bar! We're talking singing and dancing and uproarious behaviour, back slapping, pint gulping, high fiving, bear hugging, the fields of Athenry, then more pints, more chasers, pee-ing everywhere in the stadium and general tom foolery. We're talking girls in micro mini skirts, tank tops and killer stillettos. We're talking mayhem, folks.
The Mediterranean drinking culture sure is different .. even though Monsieur le Mediterranean actually drinks more than your typical Irishman, there is no binge drinking culture and one rarely sees a drunk French person. 
Slow and steady wins the race, it appears "Regular and moderate alcohol intake throughout the week, the typical pattern in middle aged men in France is associated with a low risk of  heart disease, whereas the binge drinking pattern more prevalent in Ireland and the the UK confers a higher risk," Jean-Bernard Ruidavets, MD, of Toulouse University in France says.
Be careful out there! Chin chin agus Sláinte!!

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