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Sharing France with you

Every week you'll find new stories, local and national events, comments, recipes and advice on this page. Click on the Archive button to see previous posts full of interesting information and links.

Town or Country?

"We are in our late 40s and are planning move to Poitou-Charentes in the next couple of years. We have long held a dream of living in the countryside of France but wonder how practical that might be."

This is a question that everyone planning to make a permanent move should consider carefully before choosing a property. Age, lifestyle, family and health situations all come into play. In your 40s, in good health and without young children at home, the world (or rather, France) is your oyster.

First things first: are you happy to have neighbours? If not, then a country property it is. For all the benefits of a village or town house (and there are many) privacy and solitude are not amongst them. If you want a large garden with space for an animal or two and a decent vegetable plot to provide the 'Good Life' experience, then it's the country road for you.

If, however, you feel your French would benefit from daily conversations with the neighbours/shopkeepers and you don't want to hop in the car every time a baguette beckons, you might be better suited to village life. And if health is an issue being near a hospital, a doctor or a pharmacy will all give peace of mind.

Those with school-age children who dream of the rural idyll needn't feel restricted. A local school bus service will put on a stop near your home to collect and return the children either end of the day. However, local friendships are easier to forge in a village where kids can meet up under their own steam.

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The French Post Office

Sometimes the smallest of tasks can seem almost overwhelming when you are in a new country – especially if you are struggling to learn a new language.   The French postal system is, fortunately, one of the easiest things to come to terms with – mainly due to their wonderful website – all in English!

www.laposte.com

With one click you can, among many other options: print personalised stamps; weigh your own post; redirect your mail; order a courier and track a package – all from the comfort of your home office – genius.

All you need to do now is find your nearest post box!

Christmas Markets

From the smallest village to the biggest city there’s a Christmas market to suit everyone’s taste – here’s a selection of just a few:

Bordeaux – 29th November to 29th December 2013.  This traditional market covers the Allees de Tourny in the centre of town with over 100 boutiques housed in wooden chalets.  All the finest regional artisans are represented.  From chocolate and wine to pottery and glass – a great place to stock up with gifts and enjoy a little vin chaud along the way.

Strasbourg – 29th November to 31st December 2013.  A fairy-tale setting for one of the oldest (since 1570) and largest markets in France known as the Christkindelsmärik.  Centered in front of the Strasbourg Cathedral the market spreads throughout the city with concerts, events and activities to suit all ages.  Being so close to Germany it’s worth crossing the river and visiting the Christmas markets there.

Also worth a visit are the markets in Sarlat (14/12 to 4/1) with its outdoor ice-rink and Christmas cookery classes; help raise money for Cancer Research France by visiting the village of Monteton at their market on 16/12 or combine your Christmas shopping with a bracing walk along the beach in St Jean de Luz – Christmas celebrations from 6/12 to 5/1.

Slow-braised Pigs’ Cheeks – Serves 4

Shona Munro // Friday, 18 October 2013

Winter casseroles don’t come much better than this – don’t be put off by the pigs’ cheeks – they are utterly delicious, economical and easy to cook – a real winner!

Preheat oven to 140 centigrade.

  • 4 pigs cheeks (noix de joue de porc)
  • flour – for dusting
  • olive – for frying
  • 2 onions – peeled and cut into chunks
  • ½ leek – peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large carrot – peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 sticks of celery – cut into 1cm cubes
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 100g tomato puree
  • ½ bottle of dry red wine
  • 300ml stock (beef or vegetable)
  • ½ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf 1.
  1. Season the meat and dust with a little flour. Heat oil in pan and brown cheeks until golden on both sides. Remove and set aside.
  2. Add onions, leek, carrots, celery and garlic and fry gently until lightly browned. Add tomato puree and a little red wine. Reduce until puree starts to caramelise. Carry on adding the wine in stages, reducing between each addition until the sauce is rich and dark.
  3. Return the meat to the pan and pour over just enough stock to cover. Add peppercorns and bay leaf and bring to a simmer.
  4. Cover with lid and cook in oven for 4 hours. Careful it doesn’t dry out – add more stock if necessary.
  5. Remove cheeks and sieve sauce into a clean pan. Bring to boil, reduce and season.

Serve with vegetables of your choice around a roaring fire – bon appetite!

The French Apero - Do’s and Don’ts

Shona Munro // Friday, 18 October 2013

It’s a fabulous feeling when you receive your first invitation to aperitifs at a French friends house but can also be somewhat daunting. Just follow these simple rules to ensure your visit goes with a swing!

  • Do remember to arrive (and leave!) on time - don’t stay longer than 2 hours.
  • Do remember not to ask for wine – a kir or a vermouth or perhaps a gin and tonic.
  • Don’t forget to take a small gift – some chocolates or a little plant but never a bottle.
  • Don’t ask for a tour of the house – most French are very private people.

And finally, do remember to enjoy yourself!

UK Stores that deliver to France

Shona Munro // Friday, 18 October 2013

While there are many wonderful shops in France it can occasionally be difficult to get hold of familiar brands or particular clothing sizes. Here are a few websites that make shopping from the comfort of your own home just that bit easier.

A Capon for Christmas

Shona Munro // Monday, 21 October 2013

Many of us in France spend an inordinate amount of time searching for the elusive Christmas turkey. Please don’t! Here, the capon is king. With a large proportion of white to dark meat and a creamy, delicate flesh it really is the only way to go this Christmas and is readily available in both the supermarkets and the local butchers. A standard sized capon will happily feed 8-10 people.

Treat your capon with the same love you would lavish upon your turkey –with a sweet chestnut or sage and onion stuffing. Alternatively go local and serve with a cognac and mushroom sauce or, if you are feeling really decadent, splash out on a few truffles.

Wood for winter

Not all of us are as organised as we like to think we are and, as the temperature starts to drop, many of us visit our wood piles for the first time since Easter only to find that we really didn’t have as much as we thought we did. Ideally firewood should be ordered in September for the coming winter season however it is available throughout the year. Undoubtedly the best way to find a reliable wood supplier is word of mouth but this is not always easy when you are new to an area. A good alternative is to use www.bois-de-chauffage.net. Simply enter your postcode, select your commune and your requirements (size, type (hardwood, fruit etc) and amount and those chestnuts will be roasting in no time!

Your turn...

Let your inner author loose!  If you have an experience to share about moving to, living in or simply visiting France then we'd like to hear about it.  Write a maximum of 300 words, attach a photo and we'll publish the best here.

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