Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Eve in Perpignan

All about the food. Chocs galore..

Look who Santa met in town .. The Granny!!!
Flirting with the Granny .... as usual! Market stall Perpignan

The famous Espi Café on Quai Vauban. L'age de Glace .... in Chocolate!
Quai Vauban Christmas Eve
Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas Menu France

Feast your eyes on this tempting Christmas menu..

Salade saumon fumé noix - Smoked salmon and seasonal nut salad
Aiguillettes de canard à la crème - Tender duck fillets in a creamy sauce
Pommes grenailles roti - Roasted baby spuds
Bûchette - Mini yule log
Clémentine papillote - clementines in flilo pastry

.. Being served tomorrow to my children ( aged 7 and 5) in their school canteen.
Vive La France! Bon Appetit Les Enfants!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baguette Dispenser

City Pan Dispenser

La baguette, as you know,  is an important part of the French diet and as a result, is often in the news here.
We are in La France and therefore there are plenty of rules and regulations surrounding the humble baguette. For example, a baguette, can only, by law, contain flour, yeast, salt and water. Hence it must be eaten fresh and French people will go to great lengths to get their bread as fresh as possible, turning their nose up at bread that has been sitting in the shop for a mere few hours.
And so , the news this week that a discount bakery in Nimes was selling day old bread drew gasps of disbelief from the fussy French. Selling yesterday's bread at half price, the bakery is doing a roaring trade in a town where unemployment is high and many are on the breadline ( pardon the pun!)
Another ridiculous law in France means that bakeries must close one day a week. So, Phil's, our local bakery, which also sells coffee, pizzas, snacks etc and is open 7 days a week, cannot sell bread one day a week. Our 'huit à huit' is the same .. sorry ma chérie, pas du pain des mardis... WTF! Have they ever heard of rotas??
The bakeries, already competing with the likes of Lidl, selling their bread for peanuts ( see here) risk losing their clientele if they go somewhere else on their day off and there has been much heated debate about the law.
Two bakeries in our department, one in Ille sur Tete and another in St Laurent de la Salanque have come up with a solution, a loophole in the law... Bread dispensing machines! The dispenser "City Pan" can hold up to 60 baguettes and keeps them fresh by controlling the temperature and the humidity inside the apparatus.
"Also a perfect solution for small rural villages where the bakery vans don't deliver anymore" goes the distributor of the City Pan machines. You can buy the machines on an option over 24, 48 or 60 months...At the moment, the machine only dispenses baguettes, but there are plans for croissants, pastries and other goodies..
Let them eat ... fresh bread from dispensing machines ...what is the world coming to?!!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Christmas Market Collioure

Chateau Royal - parking is free for the market
The Chateau Royal in Collioure has had, like most old castles, a chequered history. The Knights Templar built the castle on the fortified site in the early 13th century and since then, it has been occupied by the Kings of Majorca who held court there in the 14th century and the Spanish and French have fought over it and occupied it over the years.
A touch of class - Collioure market
More recently, in 1939, it served as a men's prison, a sort of disciplinary camp for those fleeing from Franco's Spain. Men who tried to escape from the horrific conditions of the camps in Argeles sur Mer, St Cyprien and Le Barcarès were sent to the castle, before being carted off to North Africa to God knows what fate.
Please come back Santa!
Today, the castle is a tourist destination, a happier place to hang out and hosting one of the most sumptuous Christmas fairs in the area.
The music man in his sunny spot. A real character
We went there with the kids who thoroughly enjoyed the hot chocolate and mince pies from Nigel and Catherine Bradley, the music, donkey rides and gaggling with the geese. There are live bands, camel rides for the brave, roasted chestnuts, mulled wine and crepes and loads of gorgeous stalls inside selling artisnal goodies.
The view from the tower of the castle
It's on until the 9th December, entry is free. Not to be missed if you are in the area.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012


Nearly a thousand kids from the schools in Cabestany stand in line for this fab aerial photo taken a couple of weeks ago, spelling out Egaux ( Equals) during la Semaine des droits de l'Enfant.
How cool is that? You can spot us right there, hanging off the U.

Bravo La Maison de Quartiers for organising it all without any fuss or bother.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Our Local Agatha Christie

Artist Danielle Boissé lives in Perpignan and has written four books in the Dominique d’Astie series, set in Perpignan, as well as a novel and a book of short stories.

I met the lovely Dani in Espi on Quai Vauban and she told me about her interesting life and how she ended up living in Perpignan. Dani was born in The Loire region in France but her parents decided to move to America when she was a baby. There , her parents embraced  the American dream, learnt English, worked hard and were very successful. Dani spent many happy summers visiting France, hanging out with her French cousins and always felt much more at home in her native country. She married an Irish man and had a son called Matthieu and when this marriage broke up she decided to come and live in France with her new husband and 7 year old son and so began the French chapter…
They bought a little farm in a little village of 50 inhabitants called Le Projet in Le Quércy and enjoyed an idyllic time there. Her son went to school with the 12 other children in the village and was soon speaking French fluently and running wild in the French countryside, loving the freedom of rural France. The little boy became ill though and was sent to a Sanatorium in the Pyrenees to recover. Dani moved to Banyuls sur Mer to be closer to her only son and this allowed her to visit him at the weekends. Matthieu recovered but they stayed in Banyuls for many years and had an artist’s studio while her husband was a sculptor. Finally, on husband number three, she decided to move to Perpignan where she now lives with her Spanish husband. Dani is trilingual, speaking French, English and Spanish completely fluently.
She began writing when she was 15 years old. Encouraged and flattered by her English teacher, she wrote short stories.While painting was her lifelong passion, she continued to write as a hobby all her life. It was only relatively recently in 2007 that she published her first book “The Triangle Mystery” a criminal investigation set in Perpignan. There are now 4 books in this series and another one in the writing.
She has been described as a local modern day Agatha Christie and I can concur with this as I am currently reading the Triangle. It’s an enjoyable easy read, made all the more interesting if you know Perpignan city as all the action takes place in the streets of the city with all the recognizable sights and sounds..
When Danni is writing she gets up early and starts writing at 7 and continues until about 11h30. She writes the old fashioned way with a pencil, paper and eraser in spiral notebooks, transferring her work to the computer once she is happy with it. The local schools love her books and she works a lot with the colleges in the area.
The good news for English readers is that The Triangle and The Poet Assasin ( the first two books in the detective series) are available in English. You can purchase them at the bookstore Chapitre at 10 rue Dr Pous in Perpignan or online at For someone who knows and loves Perpignan, it would make an ideal gift.
I’ll certainly be looking out for the books from this very interesting and inspirational lady.
Merci et Bonne Continuation Dani!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Le festival du livre

Last weekend was the 15th festival du livre ( Book festival ) here in Cabestany and people flocked from all over the department to hear authors do book readings, take part in discussions, watch book related films and hob nob with book loving people.
The theme of this weeks festival was Superheros and my daughters class of  7 year olds were busy in the lead up to it making their own book. Alannah isn't really into reading per se,despite my encouragement, but this has made her do a complete 180° on the subject and for the moment she is loving her books and can't get enough of reading. Result!!!
Alannah reads her passage 

Amandine est Amoureuse ( I guess the girls in the class had more of an input than the boys) was the name of their illustrated publication and they all had to read a passage in the Centre Culturel on Saturday.
A wonderful initiative to encourage the children to get interested in books and reading and they all came home with a copy of their tome.
Well done to the teachers and all involved!
Proud Mammy moment. Alannah's illustration picked for the cover!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Friday Challenge

There was an article in the Irish Independent today about kindness, saying that 7 out of 10 people had experienced some kindness in the past week ( 1000 people were surveyed). What would the results of a similar survey in France be?
Take the Friday Challenge:

Do One Random Act of Kindness - It's contagious!
Soyez Gentils -N'ayez crainte, être gentil est contagieux!!!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

La Maison des Quartiers

This falls into one of my 'Things I Love About France' categories and I love the whole spirit of 'La Maison des Quartiers' here where in live in the Deep South in Cabestany. 'La Maison des Quartiers' in Cabestany is situated right in the centre of the old village and it's doors are always open for people to pop in for a cuppa or to offer their talents or to look for some kind of help.
The idea is that everybody gives a little and the whole community benefits from everyone doing their little bit. I give English lessons every Tuesday to a lovely group of mostly retirees who have become firm friends over the past three years. Others volunteer to help kids with their homework, some people bring dinners to eldery people, they organise les fetes de voisins, kiddies play groups in the parks, outings for teenagers, company for old folks living alone and lots more. All good stuff.
We're on the Letter U
This week is la Semaine de Droits des enfants ( Children's Rights' Week) and the Maison des Quartiers came up with the very ambitious plan of getting all the Cabestany schools onto the pitch in the local stadium. Not only that, but to align them up in the letters of the word EGAUX (EQUALS), i.e. ; no easy task!
So off I trotted this morning with my son's class of 28 wriggling 5 year olds and we stood in our allocated spot with our papers above our head while they took an arial shot of thousands of children standing obediently to attention.
On the Letter A

Chapeaux ( Hats off) to La Maison des Quartiers for organising yet another fantastic event.

Give me an X!
PS Aerial photos to follow!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Christmas Fair

The annual FAB PO Christmas market is on again this Sunday in Saint Jean Pla de Corts. It's always an excellent day out with great Christmas pressie ideas, activities for the children, wine tasting, a generous raffle and much much more. If you're in the area, do drop in.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chanson Sarko

Come back Sarko, all is forgiven!
With over 1.2million hits on Youtube, this little ditty may become the new French anthem!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Take Away .... Drugs

In sleepy surburbia here in the outskirts of Perpignan, the busiest establishment by far, is, The Pharmacy. They now have a pully ticket system like they do in large group situations where people can't manage to form an orderly queue like busy delis in French supermarkets, or The Prefecture ( cue psycho music). It really is that busy.
In Irish small towns and suburbs, you can be guaranteed a couple of pubs and a church. In France, it's a couple of pharmacies and a hairdressers ( who can't cut hair to save her life, but that's another story..)
Walking into the French Pharmacy is like walking into the set of Cheers ( you know , where everybody knows your na-a-ame). The atmosphere is relaxed, the regulars know each other and the barman (oops pharmacist) knows your order before you even get to the counter.. They will gossip and chat and exchange pleasantries and leave happy with their state paid drugs "A la semaine prochaine, bisous!" All very "sociable" indeed...
The latest craze for the pill popping happy French is 'La Pharmacie Drive In". Yes, you read it correctly folks, there are about 100 Drive in Pharmacies throughout France and the number is growing.
It functions just like a fast food outlet, you drive up to the window with your ordonnance ( prescription) or just explain your symptoms and hey presto, et voilà, you are served without having to go to the trouble of putting your achy achy big toe out of your vehicle...
The idea was first introduced to help young mamans or physically handicapped people to make their lives a bit easier but apparently is really taking off, particularly in large urban areas where parking is a problem or perhaps where people don't really want the nosey neighbours to know that they have flatulence problems or whatever their ailment may be..
I'm not sure it would take off here either in our little suburb, sure they would miss all the craic and weekly contact then!!
The French juxtaposition ; a nation with the best healthcare in the world peopled with hypochondriacs!!!
A ta santé!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Pet Advent Calender

We all know that the French love their animaux but this does really take the biscuit ( the cat biscuit, that is!!)
Advent Calender for your cat!!

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Get Real Italy - Cheap and Very Cheerful

Dear Santa....
La famille Getrealfrance treated ourselves to a little minibreak in Sardinia last weekend - Highly recommend as a cheapie getaway from Girona. The flights were 80euros return for the 4 of us and accommodation was excellent value in a self catering apartment right on the beach.
We love Italieeeeee
The highlight of the holiday for us was the friendliness of the people, their warmth and how genuine they were, doting on our children and going out of their way to welcome us, and all this , at the end of a busy tourist season as well.
A metre of pizza
The lowlights were the crappy weather; we had uncharacteristic torrential rain for 3 days but luckily had one fine day and oh yeah,there was the small issue of  Mr Getrealfrance getting a dose of food poisoning as well !
We were also pleasantly surprised by the quality of the wine, particularly the white wine and bemoaned the fact that we could not bring some back on our flight. Sardinia is the ideal place for producing wine really, with it's limestone soils, hilly terrain and Mediterranean climate. It's most famous red grape is Cannanou, brother to Grenache which we know and love well here in the Roussillon region. It's supposed to be excellent for declogging the arteries as well as tasting damn good. It was the white that stole our hearts though, especially the Vermentino crisp whites from the North of the island. We wanted to do a wine tour  but the cellar at Sella & Mosca close to Alghero where we were staying was not open for tours.
Oh well, we'll just have to go back again soon!!! We certainly will be keeping our eye out for Sardinian whites in future...
Vive L'Italieeeeee
Sunset Alghero

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

La Galinette - Perpignan centre

After our "nuptials" last week, Mr Getrealfrance and myself treated ourselves to lunch in Perpignan's only Michelin Star restaurant, La Galinette.
It's a lovely intimate restaurant, probably no more than 40 covers, split into two rooms by a book-casey thing. There are, as you would expect for a starred restaurant, the white linen tablecloths, the chunky expensive glassware, the shiny cutlery ( always handy for checking your lipstick!!) and plenty of discreet waiting staff waltzing around silently.
The lunch special really is excellent value ( although there is no choice) and for 19euros, this is a great opportunity to try an establishment of this caliber.
Starters was a brandade de morue ( a purée of salted cod and potatoes) with raw crudities artfully hedgehogging the purée. It was nice and light, the brandade was't too salty as can often be the case and the crispy beetroot, carrots, cucumber and radishes complimented it nicely.
Mains was magret de canard with roast sliced potatoes. The duck had been sealed on high heat and then roasted in the oven, but not for long though, and it was quite rare which we didn't mind, but it you don't like rare ( read practically raw) duck, you should ask for it "bien cuit" and see how you get on..
Dessert was the star of the show , a deliciously light panacotta with stewed dried fruit and nuts : doesn't sound great but it really worked ... very seasonal and very very tasty.

As a treat we opted for a bottle of white ; Domaine Gardiés 2006 , a mélange of grenache gris and grenache blanc, as recommended by the very knowledgeable sommelier. It was truly divine.
If I had to be picky ( it is Michelin star after all), the waitress who served our table could not answer any of our questions about the meal and had no clue or interest in what we were eating. The head waitress was obviously having her fags out the back and there was a strong whiff of cigarette smoke from her.
But all in all, an excellent restaurant, I would highly recommend for a lunch time treat.
Bonne Appetit!!!

La Galinette
23 Rue Jean Payra 
66000 Perpignan
Tél : 04 68 35 00 90

The Church Giggles - Getting PACsed in France

9h30 was our appointment in the Courthouse in Perpignan last Friday morning to get our Pacte Civil de Solidarité or PACs as it's commonly known here in France.
The PACs status was introduced in 1999 in France, mainly to help same sex unions legimitise their partnerships ( Gay marriage is still illegal in France, see here). However, interestingly, only 6% of PACs since then have been same sex unions with two out of every three "marriages" now opting for the PACs route. Also, only 15% of PACs relationships are annulled whilst the divorce rate for traditional marriage in France is over 50%.
As we passed tattooed knuckled types shuffling around, scowling and sucking on their cigarettes on the steps of the court, any little hint of a romantic notion evaporated. When we were frisked down, my handbag emptied and made walk though an xray machine, we started having the church giggles.
"What are ye in here for?" the burly security man glared at us as if we were hardened crims, me in my best Sunday outfit 'n all
"Well, uh, we have an appointment at 09h30 to get PACsed" we giggled
Off we were sent "up to the first étage, take a left, then a second left, then another left and at the end of the corridor, sit yourselves down and someone will see to you" 
Righto, we were waiting for about 30 seconds when a stern looking just PACsed French couple filed out, studiously underdressed in their ironed jeans and pristine white matching converse sneakers.
Gulp, here we go, our turn, says I to Mr Getrealfrance, let's just hope we have all the paperwork, I silently prayed to good ole St Anthony as we marched in to the office.
Anyway, the commissioner of oaths turned out to be an unusually jolly French woman and put us totally at our ease telling us she loved her" "que de bonheur" job on Fridays which was Pacsé-ing people all day.
After a few quick minutes, we were out in the lashing rain, done and dusted. 
Et Voilà ; Mr and Mrs Getrealfrance!
You may now kiss your legal partner, giggle giggle giggle

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Fat Frogs

Fat Frog
The French are getting fat. One out of every five kids in France is now classified as obese. They are still a long way behind their English and Irish counterparts who boast the highest rates of obesity in Europe, but the number of lardy arses are expanding at an alarming rate, doubling in the last 15 years.
The reason for this is their changing habits and their total emulation of American culture - eating in fast food chains has become a cheap and easy way to kill a few hours for French parents. There are 12 very busy McDonalds in the department where we live ( pop of 400,000), along with a handful of Quicks ( the French Mcdonalds) and a KFC that opened 2 years ago. The evening KFC opened, eager clients waited in queues for kilometres, blocking roads and roundabouts and required police intervention. Les Francais are hungry for it!
The sad thing is that it is mostly the kids that are getting chunky, as the parents are pretty careful about what passes their lips ( coffee, cigarettes, diet pills...) and are for the most part obsessed about their weight and yours as well, by the way!
But, the world doesn't really want to hear this do they? Books like "French Women Don't Get Fat" and "French Kids Eat Everything" are adorned with pictures of healthy thin French women skipping gaily and happily (guffaw) about their lives, eating fruit and vegetables in season and delighting in taking the stairs rather than the lift ( guffaw). They depict French Kids obediently eating their braised calves livers and haricots verts while docile at the table for hours on end. People want to buy into this and bestsellers fly off the shelves as the rest of the world tries to copy this cool and thin chicness.
This week is "Semaine du Gout" , the week of taste, here in France and so there had been a lot of talk about food education and habits in France. Amazing that a country's habits can change in such a short time frame .. let's hope that they get back on track. After all, French food and all that goes with it is one of the things we all love about France, n'est-ce pas?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Rainbow Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes to teach Dylan's class of 5 year olds about colours and the rainbow. If the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, this must be true to the Nth degree when it comes to cupcakes and children.
They were fidgety to make, but well worth it for the reaction from les enfants and les mamans too.. I seem to have gone way up in the estimation of all the french Mummies and teachers in the school, who  , as far as I can see, rarely bake and have never seen a cupcake in the flesh, so to speak.
There could be a business in this!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Things I Love About France - Our beach

The beaches in Autumn are more or less empty here in the Deep South of France. The weather is still warm and very pleasant ( we were all in swimming yesterday) and everyone is relaxed and chilled out now that the crowds have migrated North once again.
It always amazes me that the tourist season is not longer here, something the local tourist boards seem to overlook.
The beach to ourselves

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Revolt of the Pigeons

I'm outta here!
Mr Getrealfrance was watching the news last night and came to bed with his big puzzled head on, what's a pigeon in French and why are they revolting?
This week, a massive twitter campaign has started to snowball with the hashtag #geonpi and it has caught the attention of the traditional media - but what the hell has this got to do with pigeons, I hear you ask?
Well, in France, they have this funny slang language, called verlan, where they inverse the words , ie meuf = femme, flic = keuf, fête = teuf ( have I lost you yet?) and pigeon becomes geonpi.
In French pigeon is slang for the scapegoat, the fallguy, the one who pulls the shortest straw and this is how France's entrepreneurs are feeling this week as Mr Le President rolls out his plans for budget 2013.
Why are Frances start up companies and entrepreneurs up in arms? Well, you see they feel that they are paying for the fonctionnaires ( civil servants), for the 60,000 new teachers that Hollande has promised and being punished for the capital sin of entrepreneurship ( a dirty word as far as socialists are concerned)
Why the revolt? Because the new regime plans to double the Capital Gains Tax on the risk taking, hard working pigeons from about 30% to 60%..
Finance minsiter did nothing to assuage the Pigeons fears on Friday when he said  “those who earn while sleeping, it is not right that capital income is taxed at a lower rate than income from work.”
But Mr Finance Minister, these are the guys that take the risks, create jobs and promote growth in a country.
Investors and entrepreneurs will be flocking out of the country if this new regime is imposed and who would blame them? Hollande also plans to attack the new auto entrepreneur scheme which will only see small businesses go straight back on to the Black Market, the only way that they can survive.
France will be left with a nation of under achievers, institutionalised social welfare recipients and fonctionnaires. 
God Save La France...and God Speed the Pigeons

Monday, October 01, 2012

Snow on the Canigou

Our annual pilgrimage to the Canigou was cut short this year as there was quite a heavy fall of snow the night before. We made it about half way up from 'base camp' ( Refuge des Cortalets) before turning around due to about a foot of snow and very bad visibility.
Sods law, the skies are blue, the sun is shining and the Canigou is winking down on us as I type. O well, there's always next year!
Spot of bother on the way up

Decision time... continue or descend..

Ok, let's build a snowman instead..

The bumpy ride down

Looks like it's Autumn

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Youngest Ever Wine Tour

In another life at TheFrenchTourCo, I used to drive tourists around in my blue bus and conduct wine tours. They were fun, but not half as much fun as visiting the local wine co-op with this gang of 5 year olds from my son's class.
Don't worry, there was no wine tasting, only virgin grapes were sampled!
Watching the grapes being de stemmed
Here they come, the last of the Carignan grapes of this years harvest

Stainless steel tanks, Cabestany Co-op wine
Farmer weighs in 

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