Friday, 26 March 2010

Chimney sweeping

If you own a property in France, you need to ensure the chimney is swept once a year. In case of fire, your insurance company may refuse to cover if you can’t prove the chimney had been swept.

Chimney sweeping in France is done by roofers. You will find one in the yellow pages here under couvreur.

Chimney sweeping is called Ramonage” in French. It is usually done in October just before the weather gets cold.

Photo: typical Brittany stone fire place!

What is a gîte?

The word “gîte” is French. It is a holiday home in France that one can rent for self-catering holiday.

Gîtes are fully furnished and equipped so guests can prepare their own meals, sleep there and use the facilities (swimming pool, swings, garden furniture and BBQ, etc).

Some gîtes are basic, others have all the modern cons (DVD players, dishwashers, etc).

Choose your gîte according to your requirements! Near the coast, near Dinan in Brittany, in the Alps for some skiing holiday, etc.

Compare facilities (Sky TV, internet connection, pool, etc).

Here are a couple of gîtes in Brittany I can recommend.

Gîtes with swimming pool.
Gîte with spacious enclosed garden catered for families

Recycling in France

If you are renting out a gîte in France this summer or if you are an expat living in France, you may wonder what to do with your waste.

In villages, towns and cities in France, you will find 3 containers usually next to each other.

An orange, a bleu and a green container:

What to put in the orange container:

Plastic bottles (water, shampoo, milk, conditioner, ketchup, juice, cleaning product, etc).

Tins, sprays, cartons,

Cardboard packaging (cereal boxes, yogurts, etc)

What to put in the blue container:

Newspapers, magazines, white papers and white envelopes, leaflets.

Put wrapping paper and brown envelope in normal bin.

Also take the leaflet from its plastic wrapping (Super U always use this plastic wrapping). Put the plastic in the normal bin.

What to put in the green bin:

Glass bottles, glass jars. Put corks and tops in the normal bin.

If you are unsure about what to put in containers, see the images on each container, they show what you can put it.

Whatever you recycle has to be clean. Ie don’t put a tin of baked beans if the tin is covered with tomato sauce! Rinse it first. Same for the plastic bottles otherwise they will be rejected when they get recycled!

Squash the plastic bottles if possible so they don’t take too much room in the containers. The less room they take, the less often the containers will have to be emptied. That way it will save trips from lorries so it will reduce petrol consumption. We will all save money in the long run! Mairies earn money from our rubbish as it get sold so the more we recycle the more the mairie will earn so our tax will be reduced.

Here are some items that you can’t recycle so therefore have to place in the ‘Normal’ bin:

Light bulbs

Plastic or cardboard plates

Plastic carrier bags

Polystyrene packaging

Yogurt pots

You should find the containers with no trouble. In our small town of Evran in Brittany (France), you will find them in 10 different areas! Each time you live home, you pass one so it is very easy to clear your rubbish on a regular basis.

See my future post about the déchetterie.

Déclaration commune des revenus des professions indépendantes

If you are self-employed as ‘indépendant’, you have probably received a form called “Déclaration commune des revenus des professions indépendantes” this week.

Although it has to be returned by 6th May 2011, I always fill my form straight-away as I don’t like to see paperwork on my desk! It has to be done so you may as well do it now!

If you have never done it online before as your French is not that good, follow my instructions:

Visit this web site

Click on ‘inscrivez-vous
Enter your Siret number
Your name
Your first name
Your phone number
And your email address
Click on “Valider

You will have to create a password.

You can then go to ‘identifiez-vous’ on the main page. All the above information will be required (siret number, name, password) each time you connect.

Click on “accèder à la déclaration”, click on ‘commencer’ (red writing).
Once you have entered the figures (turn over, etc), you will be able to print (imprimer) or save (enregistrer) the information.

It is best to print it so you have a proof that you have filled the form on time.

If you are unsure about the form, it is best to contact an accountant.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Recipe for Far Breton

Moving to Brittany made me discover a new culture. Although I am French, Brittany was completely new to me. I had spent several long weekends in Brittany, but I didn’t really know much about it.

During my several stays in Brittany, I always looked for a bakery and ordered some tasty Far Breton. I have now found a great recipe and, even my Breton friends, think it is the best Far they’ve ever had. Well, they might just be polite, but I love it so that is what matters!

If you do a search for a recipe for Far Breton you will probably found several. The one I found is – in my opinion – the best one!

Here is the recipe I follow:

Mix 4 eggs, with 150 g of sugar, 200 g of plain flour, vanilla essence and add 1 liter of fresh milk. I also add a drop of Rhum. Although I don’t drink much, I think alcohol in cooking always brings the ‘je ne sais quoi’ and makes the difference!

Cover a lasagna dish with prunes and pour the mixture. Bake the Far for 45 minutes at 190 degrees.

The Far tastes better the day after.

I have to say using great ingredients is very important.

I am lucky to have free-range eggs from our little chickens and fresh milk from the farm down the road which is very creamy. I have tried to bake the Far with semi-skimmed milk but it is not as nice.

Enjoy a slice of Bar Breton with a cup of tea!

Plant exchange in Lanvallay in Brittany

Each year I take part of Lanvallay plant exchange also called “Troc plantes”. Organised by a few local French people – keen gardeners -, it takes place twice a year, the last Sunday of October and March. It always falls the same day as when we put the clocks forwards and backwards so it is easy to remember!

How does it work?

Just bring your “unwanted” plants, cuttings, seeds, bulbs, etc and in exchange, you will take different plants home. At the beginning, 4 years ago, I used to leave with more than you came with. Now it is the opposite, I go there with a whole boot full of plants (perennials, flowers and herbs). It is a great way to get free and healthy plants!

If you wish to take part, just come along, you don’t have to book. You will find us on the car park opposite the church in Lanvallay between 10 am and 12 pm.
Lanvallay in near Dinan and Evran in Brittany (France).

Free entrance.

If you are a keen gardener, you might also be interested of the plant sale which will take place on Easter Sunday this year. Here is the post about it.

See you there!

How to convert grams to ounces or ounces to grams

It is always annoying to have a recipe that you can’t precisely follow because the measurements are in kilograms and your scale is showing ounces and pounds!

For accurate weight conversion, I use this useful conversion calculator.

Most my recipes for chutneys were given to me by English friends so are in ounces. I now have them in grams.

Shopping at Ikea in Rennes in Brittany last week, my friend Debbie found a scale showing both grams and ounces. I am waiting for her to use her new scale to bake a delicious cake and invite me round for a cuppa!

Apéritif – what to serve French friends or neighbours

When moving to France, I always suggest my English clients to invite their French neighbours for an aperitif to break the ice. They often like the idea but are always unsure about what to serve, what time to invite them, etc.

Drink-wise it is best to have a wide choice to cater for all tastes.

Living in Brittany, of course, we have to offer our guests a Kir Breton also called Kir Normand in Normandy. Add some Crème de cassis with cider (most ciders are made in Brittany or Normandy in France).

The ‘proper’ Kir is made of 1/3 Crème de cassis of Dijon of course (20 degrees!) and 2/3 of white wine (Bourgogne Aligoté). Nowadays the crème de cassis is often replaced by other liqueurs or sirops (peach, blackberry, etc).

Apart from cider, I always keep a bottle of Pastis for my French neighbours and a bottle of whisky, gin and a few beers.

Don’t forget soft drinks, as people might not drink alcohol! This is the basic drinks you should have available.

If you have something to celebrate, splash out and offer your guests some champagne!

Apéritif are traditionally served with a selection of appetizers like peanuts, olives, crisps. You can also prepare a few canapés and show your creativity! I like to bake Gougères, savory nibbles made of choux pastry.

Apéritifs, also called ‘apéros’, are served between 6.30pm and 8.30pm, it all depends on the occasion and who you invite for example your neigbours might not get home from work until 7pm. Most French people will have one or two drinks and go home so don’t worry, you won’t have to hold a conversation for hours! Having French people round will improve your French – alcohol helps too!

Recipe for lemon curd

When our chickens lay too many eggs, I make some lovely lemon curd with the excess of eggs.

Here is the recipe I follow:

Whisk 6 eggs, 180g of sugar, 100 g of unsalted butter (beurre doux), and the zest and juice of 2 organic lemons. Cook it in bain marie (bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water). Keep stirring otherwise it may curdle until the mixture becomes thick. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

It is ready to eat once it has cooled down. You can keep it in the fridge for 3 weeks. I can never keep it for more than one week – it seems to disappear quick!!

You can spread it on toasts, pancakes, waffles, or just eat it with the spoons whilst nobody is watching!!

Enjoy it!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Plant sale in Tréverien

Tréverien 8th Vide Jardin (plant sale) will take place on Easter Sunday this year (4th April). You will find there everything to do with gardening (plants, annuals, perennials, trees, bushes, seeds, tools, etc).

It is the perfect place to find healthy plants at a good price. Like for any carboot sales, it is advisable to visit the vide-jardin in the morning to get the best choice of plants!

Food and drinks can be purchase there. Any money raised from food, drinks and stalls with is used for the renovation of a local mill.

It is free to get in so come along, and enjoy the day in Tréverien! Being along the canal, the setting is really nice, you can have a picnic there with your friends or family.

Tréverien is located in Brittany near Evran, about 15 minutes from Dinan.

Telethon in France

Since 1987 and each year in France, the Telethon, a French charity appeal, takes place the first weekend in December.

The appeal gains the majority of its money from donations by individuals who may themselves have raised the funds by taking part in sponsored events.

If you wish to take part, visit your local mairie. They will give you details of the organizers. During a meeting, associations interested to organized events to raise money will be explain what they are planning to organise. They will be looking for volunteers.

- If you are a member of an association, check with the president, your club may have planned to organise some events too.

In Evran in Brittany (10 min from Dinan), one of the events was a human table Football Table. I contacted a few English friends and got a team of Brits! They all seemed to have fun and managed to raise 50 euros.

Every little bit counts!

Integration in France

After relocating to France, you might find a bit lonely having left friends and family behind. Don’t just stay at home! There is a completely new life out there!

There are many ways you can take to integrate into your new community:

- You can join local clubs and associations. To find out about the different activities offered in your village visit your local mairie. See this post here about joining an association.

- If you wish to share your hobby, you can also set up your own club or association. See this post here for information.

- Invite your neighbours for an aperitif. It is a great way to meet your neighbours. Aperitifs are served around 11.45 am – 12.30 pm or in the evening around 6 – 8 pm. French people will only have 1 or 2 drinks and go home so don’t panic you won’t have to hold a conversation for the whole evening! Or bake a cake and invite them round for tea one afternoon. French people do like English cakes! Sponge cakes, coffee walnut, carrot cakes, etc. They all taste lovely and in France we don’t have any equivalent ones.

- Attending local events! Most villages or towns organised different events all year round. The Telethon (charity equivalent to the UK Children in Need) is always looking for volunteers to help or to take part! See my future post about Telethon!

- If you have children, why not invite the parents of your childrens’ friends for a drink? Again bake a cake and invite them round whilst your children are playing. You might find some people do speak a little English and might like to improve their language.

All the above ideas will help ease you into French life...

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Join an association!

Once you have moved to France, you might find a bit lonely having left your friends and family behind. To meet local people, why not join an association?

To find out what activities are offered, visit your local mairie. They will give you a list of associations and contact details.

Beginning of September, an open day (portes-ouvertes) is organised beginning of September in each village/town so you can meet the people who run the clubs and introduce yourself.

You can also join associations in a different village or town if you can’t find one you fancy in your commune. Most clubs and associations are non-profit making and run by volunteers so the joining fee (cotisation) is often kept very low.

I pay €50 for the year for kit fit classes. The “year” starts in September and the last sessions are in June. When I think I used to pay 5 pounds per session in Jersey, it is a lot cheaper over here!

I also go to a basket weaving class once a week and the 'cotisation' is 10 euros! See photo.

Our village of Evran, located 10 km South of Dinan, has 1600 inhabitants and around 25 different associations (sawing classes, hunting club, badminton, keep fit, cycling, drama classes, etc). Something for everyone.

And if you can’t find an association you which to join, why not set up your own? See this post about setting up an association.

Why are French women slim?

I often get asked this question: why are French women slim?

Well, being French and having worked in the Channel Islands for many years, I think I can now answer the question: SNACKING is the answer!!

My English colleagues always came to work with a Latte in one hand and a snack in the other. Mid-morning one person was going round the office taking orders for some bacon butties. About 12ish another colleague was in charge of taking orders for, this time, the Chinese or Indian take-away across the road.

In the afternoon around 3pm, another round was organized for snacks, usually chocolate bars, sweet drinks (full of sugar!) and the Jersey Evening Post.
Between the above meals and snacks, I have to mention the several packets of crisps and biscuits that my colleagues were eaten. Food could be seen or smelt all day long between 9am and 5pm! I felt like I was working in a coffee shop all day!

In France, people have breakfast at home and not on the way to work. The lunch is usually a 3 course meal sitting at a table and not rushing from one shop to another eating a sandwich on the way.

I think having a proper breakfast and lunch definitely stop you from snacking all day.

Different countries, different culture, but in my opinion the ‘not-snacking’ is the reason why French women are slimmer!

English Food shop in Combourg

I had heard about the Olive Tree, an English shop based in the lovely touristic town of Combourg, but hadn’t had a chance to visit them yet.

As I had an appointment in Combourg with an English couple buying a property in the area, I took the opportunity to pay them a visit this morning.

Although it looks small from the outside, I was amazed to see how many different products they had on the shelves! It was like Ali Baba cave!

They stock a wide range of English groceries including real ales, Heinz Baked Beans, tea bags, biscuits, jelly, oatcakes, shredded wheat, as well as English cards and books. Just about anything that you could possibly think of! They also have chilled and frozen produces (cream, fresh bacon, sausages, Cheddar cheese).

And if you can’t find what you are looking for, they will try and get the item into stock for you.

I am looking forward to eat a couple of oatcakes with a piece of cheddar cheese for tea tonight!

We often have guests staying in our gîte in Brittany looking for a few items they can’t find in supermarkets in France. Ie salad cream, baked beans, etc. I know where to send them now!

Dinan funfair

Since beginning of February Dinan funfair has been lightening up Dinan. With its 52 rides, children and adults find their favorite amusements.

Dinan funfair (fête foraine) always starts around Mardi Gras and is on for a few weeks. See my post about Mardi Gras and Carnaval.

Although I don’t enjoy rides, I love walking round the fair. The atmosphere is great! Seeing people having fun, the lovely smell of candy floss, waffles, chichis (they taste like doughnuts!), pancakes, sugar coated nuts, etc!

Dinan funfair is open everyday until 30th March. Make the most of it now!

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Atelier de Manoli

If you enjoy sculptures, this place is for you!

Over 300 sculptures are set among the traditional stone buildings and leafy gardens of the Musée Manoli.

See this link for the English version of their web site.

La Richardais is about 30 minutes from our gite. On the way to Dinard / St Malo.

Jacques Cartier Manor House Museum

The Jacques Cartier Manor House is the only existing property which belonged to Cartier, the discoverer of Canada, in 1534.

A guide will take you round the manor which has been fully refurbished to recall the ambiance that prevailed in the XVIth century when it was occupied by its famous owner.

You will discover:

  • The voyages of Cartier in Canada
  • Daily life in the XVIth century
  • Navigation at the time of the great discoveries.

See this web site for their English version.

Visit the Rochers sculptés on the way!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Public holidays in France

1 January
New Year's Day
Le jour de l'an

5 April 2010 (Moveable)
Easter Monday
Lundi de Pâques

1 May
Labour Day
Fête du Travail

8 May
Victory Day (End of WW II)
Victoire 1945

13 May 2010 (moveable)
It is always on a Thursday!
Ascension Day - 40 days after Easter

24 May 2010 (moveable)
Whit Monday (Monday after Pentecost)
Lundi de Pentecôte

14 July
Bastille Day
Fête Nationale

15 August

1 November
All Saints' Day

11 November
Remembrance Day (End of World War I)
Armistice 1918

25 December
Christmas Day

Note: Boxing Day is a ‘normal’ day in France

Note: Boxing Day is a ‘normal’ day in France

If you are renting out a gite in France this summer, be aware that most shops and supermarkets are shut on bank holildays. However you should be able to find a local market where fresh food will be available.

See my post about local markets here.