Tuesday, September 15, 2015

European Heritage Days September 19-20th, 2015

Each year, many listed and interesting buildings are opened to the public as part of the European Heritage Days or Journée du Patrimoine.  The dates for 2015 are the 19th and 20th of September and the national theme is "The heritage of the 20st century, the history of the future".

On September 19th and 20th more than 17,000 monuments all over the country will open their doors free of charge and offer different types of animations to entertain and educate the general public.  You can obtain details of specific events on your area on your local newspaper and tourist office.

As a family, we usually take advantage of these Journées du Patrimoine to visit the sites in our area.  Through the years, we have visited many sites and there are still many others that we haven't had the time yet to visit.  Most of the time we have been pleasantly surprised at our findings like when we visited Chateau Guillaume a magnificent castle in the near town of Lignac.  Other times, to be truthful, we were less than happy with the place we visited as it was either too small, uninteresting or just not welcoming.  Overall, I can say that this initiative to open monuments free of charge to the general public is fantastic.  We always wait eagerly for the next Journée du Patrimoine.

Chateau Guillaume

If you happen to be in Paris this weekend, for the Heritage Days, Paris’ City Hall (Hôtel de Ville) will exceptionally open its doors to the public. A chance to discover this building and have a look at the mayor’s office for free!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Hendaye To Hondarribia Maritime Shuttle

After a week in the French side of the Basque Country I feel renewed.
The Basque country is a place close to my heart, as my ancestors came from there.  For the past few years, I have been taking at least a week a year to visit this wonderful land where you can always find something fun to do regardless of the weather.  And if you are feeling lazy, well, there is no problem neither, why not enjoy a short boat trip and go to the Spanish side of the Basque Country for a tapas dinner and some lazing around.  The trip only costs 1 euro 80 cents per person and lasts about 5 minutes.  During the summer the service is available every 15 minutes until 1am.  So, there is no excuse to skip a trip to the Spanish side to visit the beautiful town of Hondarribia -also known as Fuenterrabía by the Spanish.

Hondarribia / Fuenterrabia seen from Hendaye in France.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Life On the Farm. Are we friends yet?

Ok, so I am slowly overcoming my fears and now I am trying to befriend one of our cows!!!!

I am not sure who was more nervous, her or me...  My biggest concern is that she might take a bad turn and kick me.  It doesn't happen very often -usually only if you annoy them- but they are sooo big that I am still very worried. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Des Clowns Armés Terrorisent des Lycéens.

Armed clowns on the loose?
A few days ago my teenage daughter refused to go out because of rumours of armed clowns terrorizing people on the streets.  At first I thought it was only a joke, a bad joke or even a prank supported by social media.  I was very sad to find out that the rumours were true and France had really been "attacked" by clowns since the start of the month.  As  I started reading more about the subject trying to reassure my daughter, I found that:
  • Fourteen teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying pistols, knives and baseball bats were arrested outside a school in Agde, southern France, on Saturday.
  • In Montpellier, a 35-year-old man was beaten with a metal rod on Saturday night by a man dressed as a clown who tried to rob him.
  • A 19-year-old who had dressed as a clown to terrorise children in Douvrin, northern France, was given a six-month suspended prison sentence at a court in Bethune last week.
  • Other arrests have been made - not of clowns, but of "clown-hunters". In Mulhouse, five young people were arrested for "clown-chasing" through the town's streets, armed with baseball bats,  hammers, knuckle-dusters and tear gas.
Apparently it all started in the town of Sin-le-Noble on Monday when a girl told police she was chased by an armed person in a clown costume. Next on Tuesday in Lambres-lez-Douai another student said she was attacked by a clown.  Finally on Wednesday in Flers-en-Escrebieux a student said he was threatened by a clown with a knife near a primary school.

I don't know you, but I am really concerned with these facts.  Not the fact that people dressed up as clowns are frightening others, but the fact that a few isolated cases are causing such a stir-up.   A quick look of Twitter shows scores of tweets from youngsters in France on the subject of armed clowns. While there are plenty who point out the whole thing is pretty ridiculous, others are doing the contrary.  It seems that there are even organized  clown hunts and French police have launched a campaign to stop vigilante groups from chasing "evil clowns" from their towns and villages.  In a way, the social media that we are so keen to use is causing panic spreading false information or exaggerating the facts to frighten young people, what it started as a prank is having now an uncontrollable snowball effect. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Are the French Better Parents Than Americans ?

My First experience with the French style of bringing up children
I arrived in France when my oldest child was 3 and the youngest one only 10 months old. As soon as we arrived they went to the Garderie which is our local day care centre run by the local council. I remember at the time (2005) we only had to pay about 1,20 euros per hour for both children, plus we had to provide their lunch and nappies for the day. My little ones loved the garderie and not being familiar with the French language did not pose a problem either for them or the carers.
The advantages of having a Garderie for my little ones were several, among which the most important were:
  • The Price. Being run by the local council, we only had to pay a fraction of the total cost. The price you pay in most local day care centers is decided based on your tax form and your income during the previous year.
  • The children start early to learn how to interact with other children and the importance of sitting and eating properly at a table. More important than everything else probably is that they learn to have a Pause. Whether they slept or not, at the garderie children were put in a bedroom to have a sleep or simply to have a lay down and a calming time on their own. This “Pause” continues to be a rule during all the pre-school years.
  • Freedom of time. Sending my children to the Garderie meant that I could have a whole day free to do whatever I had or wanted to do without feeling guilty or worrying about leaving my children with someone else.
  • First contact with the French language and culture. My children went to the Garderie without speaking a word of French and much to my surprise, in a few weeks they were already speaking French.
I can say that the secret behind having well behaved children is based on the fact that:
  •   French parents are not afraid to show their authority
  •   French parents do not spoil their children
  •   French Mothers say NO
  •  French parents let their children be children
  •  French mothers have FREE time
  •  French Parents enforce rules that affect their own pleasure
  •  French parents teach their children to eat well rounded meals


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Beaujolais nouveau 2012

Despite a very low harvest due to the weather, the famous Beaujolais wine is expected today Thursday 15th on the tables. The harvest in Beaujolais this year has been perhaps the lowest production in 10 years as a result of the poor spring weather. However, producers have insisted that the small grapes of this year mean concentrated flavour, thus more complex 2012 wines.  
True connoisseurs and simple enthusiasts are all eagerly waiting to taste and criticize the Beaujolais nouveau 2012.  


Why is the Beaujolais nouveau so awaited for?
The appointment is taken each year the third Thursday of the month of November. This date is indeed marks the end of the winemaking and start of the marketing of this wine. While previously no wine could  be sold prior to December 15, several wine-growing unions have lobbied so that some of them can be released before this date. Thus was born the "Beaujolais nouveau" name in 1951. Then, the exact date of authorization was set in 1985 at the third Thursday of November for practical reasons: not too close to the weekend or on 11 November. Since then, every year on this date, red wine lovers flock to celebrate and enjoy the vintage of the year.


What makes a good Beaujolais? 

The Beaujolais is a young wine.  A  good Beaujolais would be made from a natural yeast. 


How much does it cost a bottle of Beaujolaisnouveau?
The Beaujolais is a wine averagely priced between 4 and 9 euros.

The Beaujolais in Numbers:

  • In France, the three regions that consume the most of this wine are the Paris region with 9 800 hl (1.3 million bottles), Eastern region (7 400 hl or 990 000 bottles) and Central - East (6465 hl or 862 000 bottles).
  • Internationally it is Japan, North America and Germany the countries that consume the largest quantities of Beaujolais.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Tax changes in France to affect foreign homeowners.

France’s new government has announced tax raises, targeting wealthy households, worth 7.2 billion euros.  The new changes will be retroactive and will affect non-resident second home owners in France, as well as French expats who live abroad but still own a property here.

The major changes that will affect foreign homeowners and French expats are:

  • Increase of capital gains tax from 19% to 34.5%. 
  • Increase of Taxation on Rental income from 20% to 35.5%

The tax on rental income is retrospective and will be applied from the 1st of January 2012 while the increase of capital gains tax will take effect from August 2012.

However, if you already live in France and pay your taxes here, nothing changes for you.  Meaning that if you already have rental income from a furnished property (for example, a gite) then you will not be affected by the increase in taxes. 

Also, if your French house is your main residence you will not be affected by the rise on capital gains tax; and remember that after 30 years of owning a house you are not due any capital gains tax neither. 

For more details about taxes in France including some useful Vocabulary you can read my article Tax in France on Hubpages.