Thursday, May 31, 2012

Can you Cut the Cheese?

La famille Getrealfrance just spent the weekend basking in the sun in the sun soaked Island of .... Ireland! A fab weekend was had by all as we caught up with a couple of hundred people at communions, christenings, barbeques and of course, The Pub. Ireland was basking in the sunshine and there is no better nation to make the most of the fine weather with the whole population rejoicing and celebrating the rays , all notions of the big pile of doo doo they are in forgotten about while they collectively licked their 99's.. Ahh, la vie est belle. It's one of the things I love about Ireland and being Irish, celebrating the small things, that, and the laissez faire attitude, the relaxed "sure it will be grand" approach, so different to the French who like to organise their lives to the Nth degree.
Take The Cheese for example. I am a lover of cheese. In fact for 15 years, my diet consisted mostly of cheese sandwiches as I had ideas of being a vegetarian ( a lazy one). France is a cheese lovers paradise with nearly 400 different types of cheese to choose from -  a great place for a cheese lover to live.
But did you know that there is a certain way to cut cheese? Many a time I have been chastised for cutting The Cheese the wrong way and now, when at a French dinner party, I just step back and let the cheese cutting experts do it for me.
Cheese is a relatively new thing for us Irish , having grown up with the heady choice of Galtee, Calvita or if you were lucky, Cheddar, we cannot claim to be experienced in this field and as I hacked into the cheese platter, I was always met with groans from the French  "Beh Non Kar-Hen, c'est pas comme ça" and a cheese cutting lecture would then follow...
First of all, ma chérie, cheese should be served at room temperature and you should leave your cheese out before you commence your meal, to allow it to breathe. You can't taste cheese when it comes straight out of the fridge, quelle horreur!
You see, peeps, every bit of the cut of cheese has a different flavour and you need to cut the cheese so that everyone gets a fair share of the nice bits. Cutting the cheese the wrong way is a mortal sin by French standards, the equivalent in Ireland would be making a pot of tea without boiling the water first or maybe serving bacon without cabbage..
Anyway, here is a simple example of how to cut different varieties of cheese. Now you too can cut the mustard when cutting the cheese ( or just let the French Fromage experts take the lead!). Say Cheese! We're Back in France :)
Cut like a cake, from the centre into cake like portions

Cut from the rind to the end, never sideways

Cut from the rind lengthways 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Ex Pat Lives - Rugby International Manny Edmonds

Coffee with Manny
In September 2002, Manny Edmonds came to Perpignan and played for USAP for 5 years becoming a well known figure on the rugby scene in Perpignan. He left Perpignan to play for Bayonne ( near Biarritz on the Western Coast of France) but was drawn back to Perpignan then for another year until he finally hung up his rugby boots in 2010.
Manny was born in New Zealand but considers himself to be an Aussie, moving to Canberra when he was 11 years old.
His career has been a glittering one, playing for Australia being one of the highlights, his first test match was in Canberra, his home town , against Tonga, rubbing shoulders with rugby greats such as John Eales, Jason Little and Tim Horan. He also played for 5 years with the New South Wales Waratahs ( in fact we saw him play in the SCG in Sydney a few times!) and then USAP and Bayonne.
Playing in the Top 14 semi final with USAP against Toulouse was his first exposure to the Catalan support and he was totally blown away by the intensity of it
 " Over 80% of the crowd that day in Montpellier were Catalan, the stadium was a riot of red and yellow, it was amazing" he enthuses
Arriving in France, 10 years ago, Manny did not even know how to say "bonjour" and was immediately thrown into the deep end, playing with USAP which had few English speaking players at the time.
"I was lucky there were no foreigners on the team" he says " I was forced to speak French. For the first two months, I just concentrated on getting the rugby talk right. As a fly half, you have to be able to communicate with the team, so that was very important for me."
Manny says he found the French very different to the Aussies when he came here first and it took him a while to get used to their 'rigidity' - the fact that lunch has to be between 12 and 2 and dinner from 7 to 10
" If you go to a restaurant at 18h55, you will not be served until 19h00. The rules are very rigid and steadfast here and the French are generally unwilling to bend them"
We both agreed that there are pros and cons to wherever one lives and there are many things he loves about Perpignan , which he now calls home
"I love the laid back attitude , living is more important than working for the French. They are happy to live with just the basics and they appreciate what they have, good food and wine and even though they don't earn much , they don't seem to go without anything either. The medical system is excellent, the schools are good and inexpensive and the standard of life with the nice weather is pretty unbeatable"
Manny , with Léo, service with a smile!
In October 2010, Manny opened The French Coffee Shop in the centre of Perpignan. "I always wanted to open a franchise here, something like Nandos, with an Australian feel to it. I saw this franchise in Bayonne and liked the look and feel of it and so here I am"
"It's a pretty new concept for the French" he says " We get a lot of young people in here for coffees and snacks. We sell coffees, teas, cold drinks, cookies, muffins and cake and hope to branch out soon to serve sandwiches to tap into the lunch trade"
"Our most popular drink is the Chocatella, a hot chocolate made with nutella with chantilly on top and then even more nutella. The French love it , especially for their 'l'heure de gouter" pick me up in mid afternoon. There is free WIFI there and kids are welcome too."

The coffee shop has a chilled laid back ambience feel to it and I can vouch that the coffee was 10/10 - it's a great addition to the traditional french cafés in Perpignan and I have no doubt it will do very well.
He is enjoying his life in France at the moment, living near a lake with his partner Gaelle, playing hand ball two or three times a week and spending time with his 4 year old daughter, Charlie.
Manny is offering a free coffee and cookie to the first person to come in and say "Get Real France"
Bonne Chance Manny!
The cosy interior of the French Coffee Shop

8 rue de la Cloche D'Or

The French Coffee Shop
8 Rue de La Cloche D'Or
Open Tue to Sat from 9am - 7pm

Beaches in the Perpignan area

Whoop whoop, summer has arrived in Perpignan with the mercury tipping the late 20s here this afternoon. Let's hope it is here to stay and doesn't continue it's annoying peekabo games it's been playing on us for the last few weeks. 
It's beach time!!! 

Collioure Beach
I love the beach and with two small kids, we regularly pack up the car and head East to the beaches near our house in Cabestany. One of the fantastic things about living here is that it's possible to go to the beach 365 days of the year and there are plenty to chose from , all within striking distance of each other.

Here's my take on the beaches in the PO, starting from the most Northern beach : Barcares , down to the most Southern beach on the Spanish border , Cerbere.

Barcares : Barcares is sandwiched between the lagoon and the med and is a long strip of over 12kms of sandy beach.Because Barcares gets some wind, it's a popular place for wind water sports on the lake. This long stretch of sandy beach is never really crowded and you'll can find a quiet spot to sunbathe quite easily.

 : A less developed resort, unspoilt. Not many facilities. One or two very good beach clubs which open for the summer months

Saint Mairie : A small beach with lots of snack bars and pizza joints. It has a nice little promenade with a small cute marina. It can be very sheltered here, on the Southern end and so we'll head here if it's a windy day.

Canet plage : 2.5 kms of fine sandy beaches. Definitely the best beach for safe swimming with children, particularly on the Northern end , near the marina. Between Canet and St Cyprien is quite dangerous, with a sharp ledge once you enter the water so be careful if you're bringing smallies. Lovely promenade for strolling, roller blading, pram pushing. A local favourite, it's also got the best bars and nightclubs. It is the party place in the summer ( particularly Boulevard Cassanyes or as the locals call it "rue de la soif" . Good market on the sea front every evening in the summer. Some excellent restaurants.

St Cyprien : A long sandy beach sliced in two by it's impressive marina. The second largest marina in the South of France, there are some excellent fish restaurants here. Aqualand also on the Southern end provides entertainments for the big kids. Nice prom again for strolling.

Argeles : Gets VERY busy in high season. Known as the campsite capital of Europe. Rough sandy beach. Panoramic views. New marina - lovely to breakfast here, watching the boats, just adjacent to the prom.

Racou : Hippy style hang out, reminiscent of Aussie laid back beaches. The coolest spot on the stretch, yeah man!

 : A must visit when you are here, although the beaches are stony and small.

Port Vendres : Beautiful little coves, south of Port Vendres. Take a bit of scrambling to get down to them but worth it. Ideal for snorkeling, picnicking.

Banyuls : Another stony beach with a fine marina. Good snack bars on the beach that don't cost the earth.

Cerbere : This border town has a small stony beach - lovely laid back family atmosphere. 
Wee haaaaaa, Here comes the Summer!!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Free Cookie and Coffee

Spot the Groupie

Spent the morning chatting to Manny Edmonds, ex Australian Rugby International and USAP player. He now owns and runs The French Coffee Shop in Perpignan on rue de La Cloche D'Or
I'll be interviewing him on my Ex Pat Lives feature soon so look out for that.
In the meantime, the first person into his coffee shop to say "Get Real France " will get a coffee and cookie on the house!
Merci Manny!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Ex Pat Lives - Author Rosemary Bailey

Rosemary Bailey is an author I have always admired and her book 'Love and War in the Pyrenees', an incredible read and I was thrilled when she agreed to meet me for a chat for my ' ex pat lives' feature for the blog.
So, Sunday, after my fab birthday lunch of roasted sea bass, potato gratin and roasted parsnip mash ( I digress), I headed west of Perpignan to a little village near Prades to meet the lovely lady in person. 
Here is her story :
In 1989, Rosemary and her husband bought a monastery on a whim in Mosset, a tiny village nestled in the mountains in the Pyrenees and in 1997 when her son Theo was six, decided it was now or never. If her son was going to learn French in school, that it had to be now and taking the plunge they moved into the dilapidated monastery. She says she found it fairly easy to integrate into the village life with a young son of school going age and also her research work on her books about the area opened doors for her, as her French improved all the time. Her French was limited before coming to France but now she speaks French reasonably well - I told her my children always fall around laughing when I speak French and she confessed that the last time she spoke French on the phone in front of her son ( now 21) he laughed saying she had managed to make 5 mistakes in one sentence!! 
Theo, her son, now says that, although going to a French school at aged 6 with no French was the hardest thing he has ever done in his life, he realises that he had a magical childhood and for that she is grateful.
I asked her what she loved about France and she lit up saying:
"I love France! I love the fact that the best boulangerie in Prades closes for the month of August because, for the owners, their holidays are more important than making money" She loves the fact that people aren't wrapped up in the rat race and that they enjoy the simple pleasures in life: "They savour the little things in life and appreciate their food and good company. A whole evening can be spent discussing a meal. The people too are more passionate, more politically aware than they are in London. I loved living in the French countryside and living by the seasons, the joy of the first cherries etc and the whole attitude towards life is poles apart to life in London"
So, after 7 years of idyllic village life in sleepy Mosset, young Theo started in secondary school in Prades which was "just awful" and with her husband finding village life just a little bit too quiet for him, she was reluctantly dragged back to London where they could both pursue their writing and journalistic careers. Theo got a place in the French lycée in London and they were soon back on the "scene" keeping in touch with their journalistic contacts. However, she was still drawn back to the region writing two books ; "The Man Who Married a Mountain" and "Love and War in the Pyrenees" over the coming years and spending over half the year in her beloved France.
Moving back to England after living in France for 7 years was "weird" she says. Mobile phones had taken over, the celebrity culture was huge and she found the "dumbing down of culture" to be quite sad. "French value culture more than the English do these days and the standard of the magazines and newspapers is a lot higher than in England" Her favourite newspaper is Le Figaro (despite it’s right wing politics)  and Madame Figaro, her favourite magazine ( note to self to put on shopping list!) 
Over the last couple of years she has been teaching as a Fellow of the Royal Literary fund and so has been spending less time here. She is currently writing a new book , set in Provence about world war II and imagines it will be a few more years before it hits the bookshelves with all her other commitments. "It takes me about 2 years to write a book" she said and when I asked her if she had any advice for any upcoming writers, she advised to write as much as you can in the form of blogs or ebooks and if possible, take part in a writing workshop.
Rosemary's goal is to host writing workshops in the Pyrenees , maybe even in the monastery which is now owned by English people who will be keen to develop it once the restoration project is finished. With her successful experience in publishing books, her years of writing and editing travel guides and her lovely welcoming and modest way about her, I think I'll be signing up myself and would highly recommend any budding writers to do the same. 
Watch this space for details in the future about her writing courses.....

Rosemary Bailey is an award-winning travel writer and journalist, born in Halifax, Yorkshire. She has been based in the French Pyrenees for many years, and has written a trilogy of books about a region she has grown to love and know intimately. The best-selling Life in a Postcard describes her life in a mountain village, the restoration of a ruined monastery and the history of the monks who once lived there. The Man who Married a Mountain follows the romantic quest for the sublime of the eccentric 19th century mountaineer, Sir Henry Russell-Killough. Her most recent book, Love and War in the Pyrenees, is an investigation of the Second World War in the region, combining her own travels with contemporary interviews, documents and letters.
In 1997 she wrote the acclaimed Scarlet Ribbons: A Priest with Aids, the story of her brother, Simon Bailey, and the remarkable support he received from his Yorkshire mining village parish. Bailey is married to the biographer, Barry Miles, and has one son. ( taken from her website

Thank you Rosemary for chatting with me – you certainly have been an inspiration !

La Cuisine des Sentiments

L’amour, la jalousie, la haine, la tendresse, la colère, le plaisir sont des sentiments que tout individu éprouve à l’un ou l’autre moment de sa vie. 
Le sentiment est ce que notre cerveau perçoit, ressent face à une personne ou à une situation. Ils sont l’expression de nos impressions. Ils suscitent en nous une émotion.
Laissez donc parler vos sentiments… 
Love , jealousy, hatred, tenderness, anger, pleasure .. these are the emotions which inspire the kitchen at La Cuisine des Sentiments, the new Kid on the Block on the restaurant scene in Perpignan.
Amuse bouche of mousse aux poivrons
Situated at 9, avenue Julien Panchot, what this restaurant lacks in fancy decor, it makes up on the quality and the inventiveness ( is there such a word? ) of their menu. Celebrating my 41st birthday this weekend  and with the kids pawned off to friends, Mr Getrealfrance and myself headed out for dinner in the Big Smoke of downtown Perpignan....
Loic hard at work in the kitchen
In Jan 2012, Florian and Loic took over the restaurant which was formerly called 'le Bacchus', and it has literally been the talk of Perpignan town since opening a few months ago. All the French foodies I know have been raving about it and we skipped off like giddy teenagers (sans enfants) on Saturday night to check it out...
Florian at the front 

..And we weren't disappointed. We opted for the menus at 35euros which were excellent value. I went for the Foie Gras, the poisson sur croustillant de pain d'épices and death by chocolate combo dessert while Himself ordered the gambas, entrecote and pear tart.
foie gras de canard maison

 All the wines were available to order by the glass which was brilliant as we wanted opposing wines for each course and saved us getting hammered on 2 bottles of wine ( hic)
I'd highly recommend this restaurant if you are looking for something that little bit different from the traditional Catalan/French dining experience in Perpignan.. They do a great lunch menu as well..
gambas snakées, choux en crudités
La Cusine des Sentiments
9 Avenue Julien Panchot,
66000 Perpignan
Tél : 0468541686

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Competition Time!

I had the pleasure today of meeting the lovely Rosemary Bailey, author of Love and War in the Pyrenees, Life in a Postcard, The man who married a Mountain and Scarlet Ribbons.
Anyone who follows my blog will be in a competition to win a copy of her book "The Man Who Married a Mountain"
All you have to do is follow my blog to be in with a chance to win. All current followers will automatically be included as well.
Ah go on go on go on go on....

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Sunshine Award

I was delighted and excited to receive a Sunshine award from a blogger called Rachel who writes fab40foibles .She writes a very lovely honest and inspirational blog about turning 40. I've never met her but she sounds like someone I could have lots of fun with, she lives in France and likes reading, running, some wine and family time. A bit like me really!
Anyway, the blog award is an award that bloggers give to other  “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”. I'm genuinely chuffed, thank you Fab40! *Blush* 

There are a few easy rules to follow:
  1. I must thank the person who gave this award in a blog post: 
  2. Do the Q&A below: 
  3. Pass on the award to 10 deserving and inspiring bloggers, inform them and link to their blogs 
The Questions
Favorite Colour: Has to be poppy red. See post here
Favourite Animal:  My favourite animal was my sister's King Charles called  Sláinte . He was the most adorable little dog and when I came to France on my own 10 years ago, he was my best friend! He went everywhere with me as I walked him all over Perpignan, getting to know and to love the sights and sounds of my new home. He was a frisky, funny bundle of  fluff and I loved him. 
Favourite Number: Don't really have one but if I'm doing the lotto ( which is every week now!!!) , I'll always go for 5 and 7 , the age of my two children.
Favourite Drink: Hmm, toughie. At the end of a long day running around with the kids ; a glass of red wine ( or two ). Mohitos if I'm partying. Have to kick start the day with a coffee and you can't beat the cup of tay either ( especially when you are in Ireland for some reason!)
Facebook or Twitter : Just getting into Twitter now, I find it's good for keeping up to date with the news. FB great for spying and keeping up with huge extended Irish family and friends all over the world.
Your Passion: Can I be corny and say my family and friends? Got the best of both really. I'm not good at corny but I know I am blessed to be surrounded by the most fantastic people. I know you can't choose your family, but I would deffo have chosen mine. 
Giving or getting presents: Giving, although my 40th birthday pressie last year was pretty special as all our buddies chipped in to send us on a cruise! Merci encore! It was the trip of a lifetime
Favourite Day: Lazy Sundays. Love having no agenda. Waking up, plonking the kids in front of les dessins animés and going back to bed for some more zzz's. A long lazy lunch with some nice wines and good food and company and a sneaky Sunday siesta = perfect day
Favourite Flowers: At the mo, gotta be those poppies. Also love margeuritas ; the giantsize daisies and lilies

Passing the Award On
I'm quite new to this game of blogging ( only began in earnest a couple of months ago ) but these are my pick of the bloggers I've come to know and admire, for many different reasons:

Pomme de Jour

Paula's Kitchen Table

Writers Block Admin Services

French Culinary Capers

FoodBorn and Bred

St Bloggie de Riviere

French Leave

Diddle and Ro


Over to you to spread the sunshine people!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The joy of Spring

Wednesday in France is a day off from school, the day the kids get to do their activities, because, franchement, with all the homework they get, you really couldn't really fit any extra curricular activities in after a normal day at school. We spend our Wednesdays whizzing around from violin to gymnastics, from tennis to art, grabbing some sustenance on the run usually in the form of a sandwich in the car or a snatched coffee watching the kids play tennis.
Today, although we are were running late, we were stopped in our tracks and just had to get closer and investigate this magnificent field of poppies.
Is there anything more joyful than running though a field of poppies?
Why walk when you can run?

Pure Joy

Dylan "Not another flipping photograph!"

Happiness is ....

.... the stuff of dreams

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What an education!

One of the lovely things about living where we are is the ability to hop over the border and be in another country ; Spain. Spent last weekend in EmpuriaBrava ( The Venice of Spain) , on the Costa Brava celebrating a girlfriends significant birthday with a gang of ex pat girlfriends.
48 hours of hanging out with the girls can be a pretty educational experience.
Things I learned this weekend in no particular order:

  • Qué usted tiene un barco? - Do you have a boat? in Spanish
  • TOWIE stands for The Only Way is Essex
  • Hast du ein boot? Do you have a boat in German
  • Anal bleaching has gone mainstream
  • Add two spoonfuls of boiling hot water to your mix to make perfect cupcakes
  • Qué usted tiene un grande barco? Do you have a big boat? in Spanish
  • Botox doesn't work
  • My girlfriends make the best curry!
  • Vajazzles are trending
  • Qué usted tiene un grande bueno barco? Do you have a nice big boat? in Spanish
  • Snail trail cream is the biz

Yes, you read it correctly .. commenting on my friend Christine's fab glowing skin, she let me in on the secret .. she uses a face cream with snail trail extracts!! You can buy this cream just over the border in La Jonquera for 7euros 50 and it's supposed to be magic.
Apparently, the people who were working in a snail factory producing snails for the French market discovered that their hands were really smooth and wrinkle free.Cuts and scrapes would also heal really quickly. Research was undertaken and 'snail trail' was proven to have all kinds of good stuff for your stuff like Vitamin A and E, Elastin and Collagen. They have since been producing a whole range of skin products with the 'snail trail' extract with great success. 
If Christine's skin is anything to go by, we will be all looking 10 years younger before too long.. We stocked up on the hydrating moisturising cream with SPF 20 and have been lashing it on since. It's a bit sticky icky on application ( best not to think too much about that) but is absorbed really easily and has a pleasant lightly fragranced smell..
With a 41st birthday soon approaching, I'll take all the help I can get!!! 
Thanks girls for a great weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

What to expect from our new president

Today in France at 11am, François Hollande was officially announced president of the republic of France with the final tallying of the votes.
He will take the reins from Nicolas Sarkozy on the 15th May after gaining 51,6% of the public's vote.
What can we expect from this man who has never held a ministerial office or served in any government before?
Opinions are as split as the votes were..
He is anti - austerity. Sarko is centre right, and had alligned himself to Merkel and America and like the rest of Europe had engaged in an austerity pact , to bring costs down, to save money where possible and to try and bring their huge debts under control. Hollande argues that what the country needs is spending to encourage growth.

  • He has promised 60,000 new jobs for teachers
  • He plans on spending 20billion on stimulating job growth for young people..
  • The pathetic 35 hour week will be here to stay
  • The retirement age which increased from 60 years to 62 under Sarko ( and resulted in rioting throughout France) will probably be dropped back to 60 once again
  • To pay for this he will have to increase the rate of corporation tax
  • A tax of 75% on income will be introduced for those earning over 1million " I don't like the rich " he was quoted as saying last year. Neither does 51,6% of the population who were just tired of president Bling Bling  rubbing their noses in it. Many wealthy French people are planning their exodus as I type...
  • There are also worries that he will try to change the auto entrepeneur status

What can Hollande really do though in fairness with his plans for his Nanny State? His hands are tied by the European banks and treaties that have been signed and sealed. Merkel has already announced on Hollande's election that there will be no negotiation on the fiscal treaty  ( One of his main points of his manifesto was to negotiate better terms for France!). The banks are predicting an increase in interest rates and I think we can expect taxes to rise as well ...Under  a socialist regime, it will be the middle classes who will suffer. The people who have educated themselves to do better in life, to earn a better income/lifestyle who will be taxed more and dare I say discriminated against. The super wealthy will just leave
In France, it appears, being wealthy is a crime ; tax being the punishment . Oh well, better stop buying those lotto tickets!!
C'est La Vie en France!

Monday, May 07, 2012

New president, new first lady

Jeanie Macaroni, Carla Bruni is a hard act to follow if you're going to be the next first lady of France; supermodel pop star and one time actress with legs up to her tonsils, she may not have much of an intellectual impact as Sarko's right hand woman but she certainly had the fashionistas sitting up straight and paying very much attention.
Last night,Valérie Treilweiler, François Hollandes partner, became the first lady of France and now all eyes turn to her ... gulp, wouldn't like to be in her Manola Blahniks.. 
But who is Valérie Treilweiler ?

  1. Born in 1965, she is the fifth child out of 6 from a working class family
  2. She is the first unmarried first lady of France
  3. She has been married twice and twice divorced, with three children from her second marriage
  4. She had an affair with Hollande beginning in 2006 while still married to Mr Treilweiler and Hollande was still living with Ségolene Royal. In 2010 , they went public with Hollande claming that "Valérie est la femme de ma vie"
  5. A respected political journalist, she has hosted many political talk shows and now writes for the Paris Match, a political magazine
  6. She appears slightly uncomfortable in her new role saying "Je n'ai pas trouvé l'école de première dame deFrance" and stressing, like Hollande, that she will be a "normal" first lady
  7. Discreet, like Hollande, she certainly shies away from the limelight, most commentators have labelled her "froid" but that's maybe because she doens't get involved in the whole circus
  8. Held responsible for Hollandes new look ( he lost 10kgs) for the elections, she herself is very elegant and stylish
  9. She wants to continue in her own right as a journalist  "Ce qui me fait peur, c'est de perdre ma liberté" What scares me is losing my freedom
  10. She was by his side last night, preparing his victory speech and looking every part the First lady as she accepted flowers and kisses from the new president of the republic
Brains and Beauty, we can expect a lot more from France's new first lady....

Friday, May 04, 2012

Wild flowers in the Pyrenees Orientales

I have rarely seen the South of France looking as well as it does at the moment. After a few rainy days, the hills and lush meadows are awash with colour - it really is a pleasure to be driving around at the moment, with the snow capped mountains, the azure blue med sparkling and the bright colourful flowers greeting you on every corner.

A field of red poppies, begging to be picked, stopped me in my tracks yesterday - Much to the amusement of passing traffic and a few wolf whistles ( me , delighted! - you gotta love French men for their open appreciation!), I picked a huge bunch of poppies and snapped a few photos.

A little secret though : poppies smell like cows pee pee , so best to leave them there for the next passerby to admire . My car still stinks!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Who is Francois Hollande??

Tonight is the night of the Big Face Off between the two remaining French candidates for the presidential election  Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande
This widely watched debate is the last before the people of France go to the polls on Sunday next , 6th May. 5 years ago , it was between Sarkozy and Segolene Royale ( socialist) with Sarko making mince meat of Sego , going on to win the presidential election thereafter.
While we have come to know ( and love/hate) Sarko over the past few years, who is this Francois Hollande??
10 things you may not know about Mr Hollande
  1. He was born in 1954 and had a tough childhood under an authoritarian father
  2. He is Segolene Royale's ex partner - yes, the lady who came second in the last presidential race ... they split up just after the elections in 2007. How flipping small is this pool of presidential electorates anyway? He has four children from this partnership
  3. It transpired that he was having an affair with journalist Valerie Trierweiler from Paris Match
  4. He has never ever served in government. He has no experience whatsoever in running a country or holding a governmental position
  5. If it hadn't been for DSK's "indiscretions", we probably would be looking at a Sarko/Dominique Strauss Kahn debate ce soir
  6. His nickname is Flamby ( pudding or marshmallow)
  7. If he becomes president , he wants to put an end to Merkels "austerity policy" 
  8. He proposes 75% tax for those with income over 1 million euros
  9. He normally gets to work on his own scooter and promises to be a " normal" president ( as opposed to Sarko who has been dubbed president Bling Bling)
  10. Even though , he is on the verge of becoming president, nobody really knows anything about him, his close friends and confidants saying that he has a mysterious side and is very private. No one really knows at all what kind of man he is and what kind of a president of the republic he will make....
Let the Debate commence : Bring in The Clowns! There ought to be clowns...

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Day May Day May Day

Today is May Day, a Jour Férié ( Bank Holiday) here in France to celebrate La Fête du Travail and La Fête du Muguet, but did you know that the distress signal May Day May Day also originated from France , from the French for M'aider ( Help me ). This internationally recognised distress call is repeated three times so that there can be no confusion over the air waves when someone calls for help.
You know we will never let you live this down!!!!
The distress call can be used from an aircraft or seacraft when one is in 'grave and imminent danger of death ' ie a fire, explosion or possible sinking. No other air traffic is allowed until a rescue is completed once a MayDay has been issued and a hoax call of "MayDay" is a criminal offence carrying a hefty prison sentence.
Pan Pan ( derived from the French word, en panne meaning broken down) is also another distress call , but not as urgent as MayDay - it can be used internationally if one is in difficulty but not a life threatening scenario.
Thankfully, I've never found myself in a situation where I've needed these distress calls but nevertheless, they are good ones to have in the back of your mind. You just never know when you will get stuck in the mud banks on the river and need to be airlifted from your boat by the rescue services, eh Mr Getrealfrance?!

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