Monday, November 28, 2011

Marks and Spencers reopens in Paris

Nice Dress Girlfriend!

Marks and Sparks re-opened their doors after a ten year absence on the Champs-Elysees last week. Hundreds queued up to get their hands on some reliable English produce.
According to those interviewed , a mixture of English ex pats and French locals, it was the food and the knickers which had them queueing for hours. Or maybe (for the male presence) it was the chance to get a glimpse of Rosie Huntington Whiteley who added a bit of barbie doll sparkle to the opening!!

Perpignan - Leading the Way

The Centre of the World

Dali claimed that Perpignan train station was the centre of the world. That, sitting there, on his way to or from his beloved homes in Figeuras and Cadeques, he would be inspired and get his best ideas. The Catalans have clung to this surreal baptism and have even called the new train station ( a monstrous modern ghost building lying idle waiting for the TGV to commence) "el centre del món". The new train station which has cost millions may end up being another white elephant .. it's just a little too far from the centre ville to make an impact. Parking and access are issues and let's just say, it's not the classiest side of town.

However, Perpignan is the centre of the universe, leading and lighting the way with the largest photovoltaic energy farm in the world!
Saint Charles is an industrial area in Peprignan, dealing with the distribution of fruit and vegetables. There's nothing special about it apart from the fact that it is now covered by 68,000m² of photovoltaic panels. The facility has a capacity of 8.8MW and is a huge step forward for the Energy business and good news for Perpignan, bringing jobs and money into an area that lacks both.
In a mere two years, the asbestos roofs that covered the 11 buildings were replaced with Photovoltaic tiles which now has the capacity to produce 10% of Perpignan's energy needs.
There are talks now to double the size of the Energy farm which is very welcome news for Perpignan and the Pyrenees Orientales.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

FAB PO Christmas Fair - Tomorrow

Don't forget FAB PO's Christmas Fair tomorrow in Saint Jean Pla de Corts. It promises to be a great day out for all the family, an opportunity to buy mince pies, English sausages, fine wines and plenty of gift items too for Christmas. From 10am to 5pm

French Ads Part III

Sex sells, even if you're selling kitchens in France it seems !!!

Rough translation : Kitchens that turn you on!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The calm after the storm

Port Vendres yesterday. One of the worst hit areas by 'le deluge'

Credit where credit is due, the authorites have done a brilliant job over the past few weeks and thankfully were no fatalities during 'le deluge'.

Clean up begins in Canet this morning
There was one noteworthy incident though , on Monday morning, a truck driver was tootling along , minding his own business when a bullet came whizzing through his windscreen, just grazing past his shoulder. Terrified, he ducked under his seat as another bullet shot by. The driver, with several face wounds and blood streaming down his face, struggled to get out of his truck and ran, petrified for his life.
The assailant, a man in his late 60s, totally destraught because his house was flooded and because 'les pompiers' were taking so long to respond to his calls, grabbed his caliber 22LR and stalked out his front door seeking vengeance.
He is still being held in custody

And spare a thought for this poor guy, in Moulin a Vent, who woke up to find his car 'un peu abimé'. Oops!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Yoga Rire - You're Having a Laugh

Once upon a time when I was a young slip of thing in my early twenties, I used to attend yoga classes. The girl who gave the classes would literally float into the room with an aura of calmness and serenity, on a cloud of lavender and patchouli. She had beautiful glossy shiny long hair, sparkling teeth, glowing skin and a body to die for. You know the type, the girl you love to hate. I sweated, heaved, huffed and puffed through the classes and watched in awe as she effortlessly swung her leg around her neck and twisted her body into impossible poses (whilst looking gorgeous)
I guessed she was about my age and my jaw nearly dropped when she told us she was FORTY! My God, FORTY is ancient. FORTY is MIDDLE AGED. FORTY does not look like this, my 22 year old self argued. FORTY is my Mother's age, FFS!
Now, I am forty and wondering what can I do to look that yogatastic girl ..
So, I've signed up for Yoga Rire ( Laughter yoga) which starts next month. I'm really intrigued to see how this will go because the French don't laugh alot really. They take themselves rather seriously in fact ...
But What is Yoga Rire anyway?
From their website :
Laughter Yoga combines Unconditional Laughter with Yogic Breathing (Pranayama). Anyone can Laugh for No Reason, without relying on humor, jokes or comedy. Laughter is simulated as a body exercise in a group; with eye contact and childlike playfulness, it soon turns into real and contagious laughter. The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits.
Looking forward to having a laugh!!! Will report back anon

Christmas in France

The magnificent Christmas lights were turned on yesterday in Paris by the mayor of Paris and the actress Audrey Tautou. Little ole Perpignan played it's part in lighting up the City of Love by supplying most of the energy from the solar energy farm right here in Grande St Charles. All the bulbs have been changed to LED, 16 times more efficient than the traditional bulbs that have been used up to now. A round of applause for their eco friendly steps s'il vous plait.
Perpignan is gearing up for the festive season too and the markets will be opening on Quai Vauban tomorrow, the 25 November, along with the ice skating rink and of course our own illuminations de Noel will light up our Catalan capital.
It's all very exciting. Especially with a 6 year old and a 4 year old in the house. And, This year, for the first time since we moved here, we're spending Christmas in France. The weather in Ireland has been so atrocious over the past few Christmasses , that we've decided to stay putt .. and poor ole Santa was getting very confused , bless his woolly socks ...
The Mammy will be coming over from Ireland for the Celebrations and we've had much debate about what shall be served on the 25th. Foie Gras, Oysters, Champagne and Caviar ( French) or Roast Turkey, Roast spuds, Ham and all the trimmings(Irish). Hmmm, decisions, decisions ...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

French Ads Part II

The ad that is stopping traffic ( and causing pile ups ) in Perpignan these days ...

Alerte Orange

When it rains , it pours. Never a truer word spoken in relation to this part of France. However, this pouring rain usually only lasts for a couple of days here and then we can look forward to blue skies and calm conditions again. It's now been raining " comme une vache qui pisse " for the past four weeks at least. We're talking torrential rain here, rain that wets you to your knickers when you dash outside to put out the bins ...rain,  non. stop. rain.
I've never seen anything like it in this part of the world in the last 10 years I've been living here. Our neighbours talk ( in fact no-one is talking about anything else these days) about the deluge of October 1986 when they experienced similar conditions but it didn't rain for so long and for so hard , this non. stop. rain.
The university and many schools have been closed, bridges are fermés, roads blocked off, vineyards are flooded, people evacuated from their homes ..
"Chapeaux" to the authorites, there have been no fatalities in this department and they have been seen in force, clearing roads and unblocking drains, many warnings have been issued to stay at home, ne bougez pas!
Poor Cerbere and Banyuls are experiencing the worst of this deluge with streets turned into rivers but the roads and conditions everywhere have been treacherous. My partner was very nearly swept away by a river current driving from Port Vendres to Perpignan yesterday evening and saw many cars stranded at the side of the road.
The Alerte Orange has been lifted since 6am this morning, after another night of non. stop. rain. and today promises to be a bit less wet, thanks be to Zeus!

Friday, November 18, 2011

French Ads

I love French ads (les pubs) , this one cracks me up!!!

The mystery of the Italian boats

5 Italian Boats found in one week

Inexplicably, 5 Italian pleasure boats have been found on the shores of the Languedoc Roussillon in the past week. Ranging from large RIBs to canoes and small sailboats, the police have traced the boats back to Italy where they are all registered.
The boats have been washed up on shore, empty, undamaged and in full working order,  landing in Port La Nouvelle, Gruissan and Barberousse.
The maritime police are baffled and are trying to trace the owners of the pleasure craft, with no luck so far. One explication is that the storms that have lashed the coast of Italy freed up these small boats and they made their way on the currents to the shores near us here.
But many questions remain, how did these "bateaux fantômes" navigate the med without being spotted by another vessel? How is it that the boats are undamaged?
Other theories abound ; drugs and people trafficking have not been ruled out...
A suivre .....

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Taxing Times

Sacre Bleu, it's a difficult time of the year in France. All the taxes come at once and with back to school expenses and Christmas looming, it's lean times chez tout le monde

Every household in France must pay taxe foncière ( similar to rates ) and taxe d'habitation ( similar to poll tax). For a pretty average house like ours, these two taxes can add up to 3000euros
Then you have your Income tax, Taxe Professional ( if you have a business, even if the business makes a loss), Social charges ( if you have any rental income , even if you make a rental loss), Professional Taxe Foncière ( even if you make a loss) . All these have to paid in October and November.

Not a great time of year then for Sarkozy to announce his new austerity measures. "The toughest budget since World War 11", France desperately wants to hold on to it's AAA rating and so Sarko is trying to show the other European countries that he too, can balance his books.
So what do these austerity measures mean for the average Pierre Soap in France?
VAT on restaurant bills will increase from 5.5% to 7%
Corporation tax will go up by 5% for those with a large turnover
Investment Income will the taxed more heavily
Spending will be slashed

In Perpignan , where the average wage per household is 1500euros per month, talk of austerity measures, particularly at this time of year, is a hard pill to swallow. People just cannot afford to tighten their belts any further. With a presidential election next Spring, Sarko is predicted to make changes to the tax structure and not the welfare system, which needs a complete overhaul, but is always an unpopular move for the voting public.
Whatever he does, he's going to be unpopular. No doubt there will be manifestations and strikes to follow..
Who would want to be a politician in these taxing times?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Beaujolais Nouveau

What's the Big Deal?

Tomorrow night, like every year, will be one of the biggest nights in Perpignan as the Beaujolais Nouveau (The New Beaujolais) hits the bars and restaurants.
The first wine from Beaujolais which is on average 8 weeks old , is , a very light red wine, with little or no tannin, to be drank straight away and not for keeping in your cellar ( like that ever happens chez moi!) It's an easy to drink, fruity, floral wine ( think strong ribena), made from the Gamay grape and , unusually for a red wine, recommended to be drank cold.
The wine is nothing to write home about but the Beaujolais Nouveau really is a marketer's dream , the main man behind this drive is a Monsieur Duboeuf, one of the main producers in the Beaujolais region, who has pushed the beaujolais nouveau concept to an event that is celebrated all around the world on the third Thursday of November. Sales have rocketed over the years and Beaujolais Nouveau events take place internationally in the race to taste the first wine of the season.
 "Le Nouveau est Arrivé" signs will be everywhere tomorrow night and all the cavistes, restaurants and bars will open their doors, offering aperitifs and nibbles for those who want to sample the first beaujolais of 2011.
An excuse to have a little party in mid November and pourquoi pas?
Santé mes amis!

Christmas Markets

FAB PO ( French Anglo Business in the Pyrenees Orientales ) , are hosting an English market on the 27 November in St Jean Pla de Corts.
This is the third year they have run this very successful event and it's always a great day out, with prizes to be won, mince pies to be washed down with some divine wines, people to chat to, and rumours have it, that even Santa himself will be making an appearance this year.
From 10am to 5pm at the town hall

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Congrads to the boys

Our little town of Cabestany doesn't normally make headline news across France , but this weekend Cabestany was under the spotlight as Patrick et Guillaume were 'symbolically' married by our communist mayor, Jean Vila.
The news made headlines in all the national papers, Le Monde, Le Figaro, La Tribune, L'Equipe etc and or course our own local paper, L'Independent and all the National TV channels
The marriage has sparked debate and the whole village of Cabestany is talking about it ...
The only other gay marriage in France was celebrated in 2004 in Gironde and was annuled thereafter as it was deemed illegal. Our controversial mayor did not officially record the happy event so that it cannot be annuled at a later date. The marriage is therefore only a symbolic one.
Feliciations quand même les garçons!

Monday, November 14, 2011

La Cantine

One of the reasons the French are so great at eating all foods, I reckon, is that from a very early age , they are exposed to a range of foods that their Irish cousins would not even recognise.

Have a look at this menu :

Couscous salad , Escalope of rosemary pork, young carrots with parsley, slice of brie, fruit of the season

Green salad mix, Catalan meat balls, Purrée of potatoes, Cheese ( tome noire), Syrup of pears

Radishes cooked in butter, Fish served on a fondue of leeks, Cheese, Ile flottante

Theme : India. All dishes shall have an Indian theme

Carrot salad, Fillet of fish with creme of spinach, panaché of green beans, Cheese (mimolette), Apple compote

Mouth watering, oui? This is the menu in my kids canteen this week. The kids also have 2 hours for the meal break - no such thing as stuffing a sandwich down your neck at your desk in school and being shoved out the door to play in the yard.

Bon appetit you lucky enfants!!!

Awfully Offal

 Some brains anyone?

The French are great for their grub. When you invite a french person chez toi for dinner, you never need to ask " do you eat everything? is there anything you don't like?" and god forbid " are any of you vegetarian?". They love their food, all food. And they eat every part of every animal it seems, nothing is wasted. There are restaurants devoted to offal for Chrissake.
My partner and I made the mistake of going to one of these restaurants when we first arrived in France ten years ago. We had promised ourselves a treat and this particular restaurant was always busy so we thought we'd check it out one Saturday night. Our French was pretty limited at the time and not recognising anything on the menu , we decided to play russian roulette, stuck a pin in the menu and took our chances.
The heading of the menu should have given us an inkling ; "abats" ( think abbatoir) but, clueless, we licked our lips waiting for our plates to arrive. I got a plate of brains and my partner a brochette ( kebab on stick) of heart and kidneys. All this appeared to be swimming in a plate of blood. We took one look at each other and got the flock out of there as fast as our legs could carry us ..
Abats, don't forget it!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing, say it again!
Tomorrow, at 11h11, it will be 11:11/11/11/11. Something we are never going to see again in our lifetime. There are many theories around , that something wonderful will happen, there are string theories, UFO invasions, tales of doom and other daft notions.
It is Armistice day in France, a day of remembering the people who died in World War One, the so-called war to end all wars. Peace was signed at 11h11 on 11/11 1918 between the Allies and the Germans, ending the bloodiest battle in the world's history up until then.

With less than a handful of veterans still alive around the world, all of them around 110 years old, it is a day to remember the 20 million people who perished during this brutal war.
It's a jour férie in France , but a sombre one. The president of France visits the tomb of the unknown soldier in Paris , buried there under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on November 11, 1920. This soldier serves as a symbol of all those who died in World War I. An eternal flame was lit on this tomb three years later and still burns today.
Whatever our thoughts are on war and politics, peace and love, we should not let the memory of these brave soldier fade as time marches on. Along with 11:11/11/11/11, let's hope we don't see another world war in our lifetime either

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

The first Gay marriage in the Roussillon

The mayor of Cabestany, where I live, will celebrate the first gay marriage in the Roussillon this weekend. He announced during the year, that if any gay couples wanted to get married, to present themselves at the mairie ( town hall) and he would marry them.
True to his word, this historic event will take place between Guillaume, an artist and Patrick, manager of the photo lab this Saturday 12 November. The first gay marriage in the Roussillon.

The marriage will be covered by "L'Agence France Presse" and will be widely broadcast throughout France " We are marrying because we love each other, but also it is an act of defiance ( un acte militant) announced Guillaume and Patrick, leading the way,'so that soon, in France, two people of the same sex can marry legally'
This "acte militant" will be overseen by Jean Vila ( our communist mayor in Cabestany) who assures that it will not be annuled as was the case in other gay unions.

'France is supposed to be a modern country, but we will be one of the last to legalise gay marriage' Jean Vila surmised. He appealed to all mayors to celebrate gay marriages.

Vive L'amour and Best Wishes to Patrick and Guillaume!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Irish food in France

This week, coincidentally, we got presents of two cookbooks by Irish celebrity chefs. Yes! I thought, I'll finally be able to concoct something Irish for my French friends who insist that we Irish have no real cooking culture, that it's all spuds spuds spuds and as for the English with their "fish and cheeeeps", bah dit donc, they just haven't a clue whatsoever. 
Of course, over the past 10 years, I've made them some Irish stew ( very well received with lip smacked thumbs up), bacon and cabbage ( not so well received, the French just do not like cabbage unless it is sexed up and unidentifiable),soda bread and smoked salmon, and the full Irish brekki always goes down pretty well also. Then after that .... well, we're struggling to come up with anything specifically Irish. Hence, I was thrilled to receive the two Irish cookbooks and eagerly flicked through the pages looking for recipes to show my French Foodies that we can do it, YES WE CAN, is féidir linn, oui, on peut le faire aussi! Yet the two beautifully illustrated and mouth watering books were packed with tagines and curries, pasta and risottos, yoghurt masala fish and amaretto tiramisu's for fecks sake.
Twas far from all that we were reared!!
By pure chance I happened upon a pal's blog with a delicious sounding modern original Irish dish. She also happens to be partaking in a competition in Ireland so vote for Val O'Connor with her bacon and cabbage risotto; Click here to vote and to see the recipe. Nom nom nom, looking forward to trying it out! Good Luck Val!

It's raining , it's pouring, the old man is snoring

It feels like it's been raining here forever in the deep South of France. My children are learning a new vocablary in English ( drizzle, fog, lashing rain, pissing out of the heavens, shitty weather, raining cats and dogs, etc ) Jumping in puddles and welly wearing is SUCH GREAT FUN!!!! Especially if you're only doing for one or two weeks of the year!
It's been about two weeks now of heavy rain and I know we shouldn't complain after our fab Indian summer in September and October, but we've had enough now, you can stop, my kids vocablary is complete.

Interesting to know the french terms for wet weather as well. Whereas not as versed as we Irish are in all things humid, they say :

Il pleut comme une vache qui pisse ( it's raining like a cow pissing)
Temps de merde
Il pleut des grenouilles ( it's raining frogs )
Il fait un temps à ne pas mettre un chien dehors (the weathers too bad to put a dog outside)
Il pleut des cordes ( it's raining like ropes)

Anyone know any others?

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