Monday, January 28, 2013

A novel way to pay your taxes

Image - Wikipedia
Pee'ed off with the Inspector of taxes, a guy in the Dordogne came up with a novel way of paying his taxes. A one Mr Patrick Fénelon had been fined because he had paid several bills with one cheque and somehow the tax authorities decided to take umbrage to this, fining him with a hefty 429euros.
No amount of persuasion would budge the tax office and so, he collected the amount due .. In 1 cent and 2 cent pieces. It took him three years and with the backing of everyone in his little village of 1000 habitants who collected the shrapnel for him,  he finally deposited the 50 kgs worth of coins to the trésorerie last Thursday in Mussidan.
The trésorerie had to accept the small change, being legal tender, and according to their office , by Friday evening, it had taken a number of staff to count up to just 350euros. The delighted Mr Fenélon has to go back today, to finalise his account with the tax office and to make sure it is all there. To the nearest centime, en tout cas.
That'll teach 'em!
Love it!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Olive Oil Festival

With not even a 'flocon' of snow here in the deep south of France this weekend, we decided to head over the mountain into Spain and check out the famous Olive oil festival just over the border.
Olive Oil by the gallon
After a lazy Sunday morning, we didn't get going until late and took the winding road from Banyuls sur mer up and over les Albères. It was worth the white knuckled drive and the stopping for car sickie children, when we arrived at the bustling little town of Espolla. Unbelievable to think that so many artisnal producers would flock to such a tiny village in the middle of nowhere ; the streets were bursting with stalls and a huge crowd had turned out to sample the fare and savour the atmosphere.
Monsieur Le Pain
We had missed the lunch and the live music, but were in time for the olive stone spitting competition and all the food stalls were still there in full swing.
Olive stone spitting competition. Taken very seriously indeed.
We happily meandered through the streets, buying olive oil, of course, some wonderfully aged cheeses, tapenades, fresh breads, honey and other goodies.
A foodie's paradise. Highly recommend if you're in the area..Vive L'Espagne!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Vineyard Tales - Domaine Treloar

We conducted wine tours for over 2 years in the Roussillon region and the one thing that struck us was that everyone was really very interested in the stories and the people behind the vineyards as well as the actual wine tasting aspect.
So once a month, I hope to bring you the story behind a vineyard in the Roussillon, because every vineyard has a story to tell..
Jon Hesford of Domaine Treloar
Domaine Treloar is a small family run vineyard of 12 hectares situated in the Aspres region in the Roussillon. They have been making their highly acclaimed wine here since 2006.
I chatted to them recently:
Where are you from originally?
Jon is from Yorkshire. Shortly after university he moved to London and started a career as a computer programmer. It was in 1998, working at an investment bank, where I met Rachel, from Levin, near Wellington in New Zealand. We met over lunch and a nice bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon blanc in the Barbican Centre. We had both just come out of unhappy relationships and found what we’d been missing. We got married 6 months later, just before moving to New York to work.
What made you decide to become a wine maker?
The love of wine and Osama bin Laden. Our story is a bit different. We never dreamt of owning a vineyard. We probably would never have done it without the catalyst of Sept 11th. Living and working within 500m of the Twin Towers, seeing both planes hit the building, losing colleagues and having our lives turned upside down destroyed our illusion of safety and career security. We wanted to be in control of our own destiny. It also made us realize that if there is something you would rather be doing, you should go and do it straight away.
When did you start making wine?
2002. I volunteered at a English winery for a few months and then decided to go to New Zealand to study oenology and viticulture at Lincoln University, near Christchurch. The plan was to do a vintage after the course and return to Europe but I was offered the job of assistant winemaker at Neudorf Vineyard in Nelson and stayed there nearly 2 years. It was a great experience, making some of the finest wines in the Southern Hemisphere but in the end we wanted to do our own thing and we had decided to do it in the Languedoc-Roussillon because of the price of vineyards and the high potential of the terroir
Why did you pick Trouillas?
I came on a month’s recce of the Languedoc-Roussillon in 2005. Visiting wineries and talking to people in the industry. I liked the style of the wines of Les Aspres. I like the location in terms of accessibility and I also liked it that there were no other new or foreign winemakers here. I wanted to be a pioneer, not riding on a bandwagon. It has had its disadvantages. I find my neighbouring vignerons a bit stuck in the past. A lot of critical and trade attention is focused on villages like Calce and Maury where most of the new winemakers have gone.
What is the history of the cave you bought?
The cave was built in the 18th century but the rear wall is the old fortified wall of the village dating from the 12th C. It was a family estate of 120ha, the biggest in Trouillas, which had been gradually run down and sold-off by the brothers who inherited it and lived in Marseille. It still has 7 of the great oak foudres which used to hold 250hl wine each.  Today we don’t harvest enough to fill one of them.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Trying to do all the different jobs well. It’s hard to put the time into vineyards, winemaking, sales, publicity, administration and tourism and excel in all of them. I also underestimated the importance of trade contacts the general lack of interest in Roussillon wines in countries like the UK and USA.
What wine maker do you aspire to?
Dry River in New Zealand was our original model. There are several producers in the Roussillon that we respect but we don’t want to be them. A lot of people expect us to want to expand and create a hugely popular wine brand but that is not our vision. I believe that is more important to have your own goals and achieve those than to try to be someone else.
How do you get on with local French vignerons?
Generally very well, better than I expected. I think they see us as being like them. Although some of them, especially those with positions of influence within industry organizations, can be stubborn and difficult, but I don’t think that is any different from any other field.
Where do you sell your wine?
Mainly in Germany, the UK and locally but we have importers in Belgium, Holland and Canada as well. It was always our aim to diversify sales and not have all our eggs in one basket.
What wines do you make, at what price and where are they available to buy?
I make 2 white wines, 6 different reds and a sweet Muscat. Everything is focused on quality and creating wines with individual character. Having said that, our goal was always to make wines that can be enjoyed, and afforded by, both wine connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike.
They range in price from 6€ to 17€ retail and can be bought from the winery or through our website, which offers free delivery in France.  I think this is unique as most wineries charge a courier fee of around 20-30€. We can also deliver wine to addresses in the UK and throughout Europe. My retail stockists are on my website here
Can people visit the vineyard?
Another of our aims was to provide visitors to the winery with an interesting and enjoyable experience to help them appreciate wine, especially hand-crafted wines like those we love. We’ve conducted educational vineyard and winery tours from the start, even before we had any wine to sell! Now we also have a gite so people can stay at the winery.
One strength of coming from the outside is that we understand how the internet and social media can be a better way of telling our story than the traditional route of advertising and commercial agents. We’re one of the few wine producers who communicate regularly and openly with our customers and the wine community. That has the added benefit of giving us much more direct feedback. It protects us from that common winemaker problem of “believing your own back label”.
Domaine Treloar
16 Traverse de Thuir
66300 TrouillasFrance
Tél : +33 (0)4 68 95 02 29

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Squatting in Port Vendres

Towering over the other boats - the Mirabella III
The superyacht Mirabella III cruised into Port Vendres in September and has been parked up since. This superyacht, over 40 metres long,, was originally made in Thailand and it was so big that they needed the aid of elephants to get it from the boat shed to the water.
The mast dominates the quay, dwarfing all the other yachts in Port Vendres and can be seen from every corner of the village. It even has it's own massive generator on quay Forgas to keep it in power. There are 5 luxurious suites on board and also rooms for 7 staff members and, wait for it ... it costs 90,000euros to rent this bateau folks...... per week!
So why has this stunning boat worth over 6 million euros been squatting in Port Vendres for so long?
Well, the rumours are rife, but apparently the boat rocked into the port and asked them to fill her up with petrol to which they duly obliged ; a 30,000euros petrol bill was pronounced and when the owners couldn't pay, the douanes ( customs police) were forced to the seize the yacht and there she remains. The customs police stationed on board count their lucky stars to have landed such a cushy number...
What will become of the Mirabella III?
She is finally leaving Port Vendres. Read update here ( in French )

Monday, January 14, 2013

Don't be mean to us!

Image - Wikipedia

The people vote in a socialist president who has no experience of politics or running a country. Why? Mainly because they were jealous of the current president with his bling lifestyle and supermodel wife, the guy who was trying to drag the country into the present and dealing with idiotic socialistic ideals like a 35 hour working week and the youngest retirement age on the planet.

This new president quickly starts to bring the country to it's knees. Introducing punitive taxes for small to medium businesses ( the back bone of every economy) and a tax rate for the rich at over 75%. France cannot be competitive with soaring socialist costs, yet the president surges on in denial.

The people start leaving the sinking socialist ship, particularly those who are earning good money. Actors, artists, the country's most richest man, leading the possé. The prime minister calls them "pathetic"

The country has not balanced it's books since 1974 and still behaves like a superpower with endless dosh in the bank.

An anti gay marriage protest brings nearly a million people out on the streets in the capital city on a Sunday afternoon, when you would have nothing better to do, like.

Former sex symbol makes headline news and says she wants to leave the country too ... because two poor sick elephants are going to be put down in the zoo.

A French MEP, Corrine Lepage speaks out and says "Stop being mean to us! Stop bashing the French and treating us like a laughing stock. This is a country blessed by the Gods and the poor Frenchman can no longer stand all this bashing" "Stop treating my country like the scum of the earth and a joke"

Are YOU having a larf, Corrine?

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Bite Rules

The Uber Cool Bite restaurant in Dublin has come up with the follow new 'rules' for it's restaurant re-opening  on the 15 Jan.
What are the things that annoy you about restaurants in France and what would be on your list?
Bite : Uptown Food. Downtown Vibe. Hip, not hipster.
29 South Frederick Street, Dublin

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Bonne Année

Christmas in France 
I'll have one of those, and one of those and one of those....
After spending a few Christmasses in Australia and missing Ireland like crazy, we decided that we would always head back to the ole sod for the silly season. On moving to France ten years ago, we fulfilled our promise to ourselves and went “home” every year, that is, until the weather made us change our minds and stay put in the balmy South of France. Trying to criss cross Ireland to see all the friends and relatives in the severe winter weather conditions had turned into a logistical nightmare. Christmas 2010 saw us visiting my lovely aunty in Broadford, County Clare on the 23rd of December and getting stranded there for four days as we were snowed in and the house hemmed in by a veritable ice skating rink. St Stephen’s day pickings was Weetabix and Onion soup, the only food left in the house and not even a drop of vino to go with it.
So, last year, for the first time, we stayed in our own house in French suburbia and loved it. We flew the Granny in, got a massive Christmas tree, soaked up the ambiance in our little village and, most importantly, Santa knew exactly where to find us!
In France, Christmas, as you might have guessed, is all about the food. We decided this year to leave our Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve. The shops were empty. The retail shops, that is. The butchers, épiceries, patisseries, fromageries, cavistes and delicatessens were all bursting at the seams, with queues snaking out the doors onto the streets. On a stroll through Perpignan on Christmas Eve, very few people had shopping bags, most were just strolling around or doing what French people do best ; enjoying a café and looking very sophisticated.
Drink is important but definitely not drinking to get drunk. There are no 12 drunken nights before and after Christmas here. In fact, if you are thinking of getting away from it all with your partying teenagers, France would be a good option for a family Christmas holiday. It’s all about the family, the food, some good wine and champagne and with the temps hitting the late teens, some very pleasant weather for crisp mountain walks, beach days and sunny days skiing.. Of course, you miss out on the craic and the banter and the giddy tom - foolery that is Christmas in Ireland .. but, C’est la vie!
Bonne Année ‘n all that!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Years Eve in the South of France

Goodbye 2012. What will 2013 hold for us?

Going, going ...

Happy New Year! Nollaig Shona Daoibh! Bonne Année!
Thanks for tuning in to Getrealfrance in 2012. Here's to the best year ever. 2013, Bring It On!

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