Friday, 30 April 2010

Breton Flag

The flag of Brittany is called Gwenn-ha-Du, which means "white and black". It has

9 black and white stripes and a quarter of hermines.

If you spend your holiday in Brittany, you will see this flag everywhere!

All my Breton friends have a sticker on their cars!

Bretons in general are very proud of their region. They all say, they are Breton, not French! One of our friends from Dinan even told me last week, he is going to spend his summer holiday in France this year. He meant he is spending his holiday outside Brittany!

Brittany is a beautiful place to live or holiday. I guess that’s why they are proud of it!

French income tax - the forms are on their way!

I received this morning my French income tax return. If you haven’t received yours yet, it will be in your letterbox soon! Don’t worry, the French tax man won’t forget you!

If you have never declared your income in France, you won’t receive a form automatically. You will have to pick one up from your local tax office. You can get one from your local mairie, but if you have overseas income, you will need to get another form that most mairies don’t have.

If you don’t know where your local tax office is, you can either ask your mairie or look at your last “taxe fonciere”. The address of the tax office will be on the bill. You can also look in the French yellow pages under ‘centre des impôts’.

You will need a blue form called ‘déclaration des revenus’ (Form No 2042) and a red one'déclaration des revenus encaissés à l'étranger' (2047). If you have income from your gite in France, you will also need an extra form (2042 CK), ‘déclaration complémentaire’.

If you are unsure about how to fill it in, you can visit the tax office, they will help you. You can also employ an accountant.

If you are looking for an accountant in Brittany, please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to point you to the right direction.

From next year onwards, the ‘déclaration de revenus’ (income tax return in France) will be sent out to you automatically. Your details (name and address) will already be printed on the form.

If you move within France or back to the UK, don’t forget to write to the tax man so tax bills and any other correspondence can be sent to your new address.

For any assistance with drafting letters, you can contact me here.

Emmaüs in Hédé, near Tinténiac

If you are looking for a bargain (furniture, briac à brac, cloths, games, books, etc), apart from Vide greniers (car boot sales) in France, you can visit Emmaüs, a French charity shop.

Emmaüs is a homeless charity founded in 1949 in France by the Priest Abbé. It provides homeless people with a home and work, usually collecting, sorting and reselling donated furniture and household goods.

To find the nearer Emmaüs in your area, look in the yellow pages and search for “Emmaus”.

Emmaus in Hédé, near Tinténiac, is open Wednesday and Saturday from 9 to 12 and 2 to 6pm. Fridays and Sundays from 2 to 6pm. Sunday is a very busy day!

Look for the church in Hédé and take the road at the back of it. Emmaüs is about 500 m further on the left.

Emmaüs will be happy to receive any items you don’t want anymore.

You will definitely find a bargain there!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Vide-grenier around Dinan this weekend

If you are looking for a vide-grenier (car boot sale) to visit for this weekend here is a list:

Saturday 1st May:
Plumaudan, 10 min South of Dinan

Sunday 2nd May:
La Vicomté sur Rance, East of Dinan
St Helen, East of Dinan
Dinard, Esplanade de la Halle
Léhon, near Leclerc Dinan
Dinan, Petits Fossés, Esplanade de la mairie et Fontaine des Eaux
Corseul, 10 min North of Dinan
Lancieux on the coast, about 15 min from Dinan

Loads of bargains are waiting for you there!

Read about vide-greniers (car boot sale) in France here.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The new vehicle registration system in France

Since January 2009, all new vehicles on the road in France are issued with a new type of registration number. Second-hand vehicles in France also get a new registration number when it changes hand.

The “old” registration number used to have 4 digits, 2 or 3 letters and the department number. In the Côtes d’Armor in Brittany our département number is 22. The front plate was black and the back one yellow.

The new plates (plaques d'immatriculation) are white and similar at the front and back of the car. It has 7 characters: 2 letters, 3 digits and 2 more letters.

If you wish your department to be added on your plates, it will be on the right side. It is optional though.

Lily of the Valley – a French tradition on 1st May

Lily of the Valley is traditionally sold on 1st May in France. If you live in France, you will see roadside stands or people in front of supermarkets selling small bunches of Lily of the Valley called Muguets in French.

The flowers sell lovely. They are one of my favorite flowers. I always have a vase on my desk and on the kitchen table filled with Muguets.

Beware: I have just read that all parts, including the berries, of the lily of the valley are highly poisonous. Thank you Wikipedia for this precious information!

May 1st is a public holiday in France; it is the French Labor Day. All shops are shut! It falls on a Saturday this year (2010) so if you are renting out a gite in France this year, make sure you bring some food with you for the first day of your stay or ask your hosts to shop for you!

Free French lessons

If your French is not good enough to have a conversation and you are planning to improve it in order to get a job in France, visit your local ANPE (job centre).

Once you have register for work, you will be entitled for some free lessons in France.

If you live near Dinan in Brittany, your local ANPE will send you to GRETA in Dinan where you will have group lessons depending on your level of French.
If you rather have one-to-one lessons, please contact me. I will be happy to help. I have been teaching French as a foreign language for over 15 years.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Septic tanks in France

If you are thinking of moving to Brittany, you are likely to buy a house with a septic tank (fosse septique or toutes-eaux). Mains have not reached most of rural villages yet!

All you need to know about septic tanks:

Use cleaning products special for septic tanks ‘sans danger pour les fosses septiques’. You can easily find them in French supermarkets.

Don’t flush anything into the system apart from toilet paper (no nappies, tampons, bleach, etc).

Don’t drive over the drainage system

Don’t plant trees or shrubs on the drainage system as the roots could block it.

Put some biological activator on a regular basis (Eparcyl is a good one. You will find it in any supermarkets or drogueries in France amongst cleaning products). The one I use is special for holiday homes. Although I live in France all year round, I only have to use it twice a year rather than once a week or once a month.

If you look after your septic tank, it will be ‘healthy’. It should not smell.

It is advisable to have the septic tank emptied every 5 years. Look in the yellow pages ( under vidangeur. The vidangeur will ask you how far he will be able to approach the tank with his lorry so measure before calling him! Ensure also the access point is uncovered when he comes.

Depending on the size of the septic tank and how many meters of pipes are required, it will cost you around €100-€150. Local farmers used to empty septic tanks but they are not allowed anymore!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

At the doctor’s in France

If you need to visit a doctor in France, here are some useful words and expressions:

Je voudrais prendre rendez-vous (I would like to make an appointment)
C’est urgent ! (it is urgent!)
J’ai mal à la tête (I have a headache)
J’ai mal au ventre (I have a sore stomach)
Start the sentence with ‘j’ai mal’ + part of the body (tête, ventre, etc).
Jambe (leg)
Dos (back)
J’ai mal içi (it hurts here)

Je tousse beaucoup (I cough a lot)

Don’t forget your Carte Vitale!

And if you are renting a gite in France, don’t forget your EHIC!

Read my other post about ‘visit to the doctor’s in France’ here.

Sending a registered letter in France

If you need to send an important letter in France, it is advisable to send it registered.

I have just helped an English client to reapply for a British passport and to ensure paperwork will not get lost in the post I am going to send it by registered post (en recommandé).

Visit your local post office and ask for “envoi en recommandé”. They will give you a slip (see photo) where you will have to write your name and address and the same information for the recipient.

The post office staff will date-stamp the multi-part docket, give you one which will be your receipt. Once the recipient has received your letter, you will get another copy of the docket which will also be date-stamped. This will be the proof that the letter has been received. It will cost you around €5.

Car boot sales around Dinan this weekend

If you are staying in a gite around Dinan in Brittany and wonder what to do this Sunday (25th April 2010), you could visit different car boot sales: Plesder, Lanvallay and Trélat, all a short drive away from each others.

There are usually well sign posted. Often called Vide grenier or braderie in French.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Léhon carboot sale this Sunday

If you are looking for something to do this Sunday (18th April 2010) around Dinan, there is a carboot sale (vide grenier) in Léhon.

It is organised by the parents association of Du Guesclin school.

It starts at 8 am and will be on all day.

It will be held on Leclerc supermarket's car park, just outside Dinan.

Let's hope it will be sunny!

Redirecting your post in France

How to go about redirecting your post when you live in France?

If you move back to the UK or within France, it is advisable to have your post directed to your new address. The procedure is very simple:

Visit your local post office and ask for a form call “réexpédition du courrier”. The minimum is 6 months and the maximum is 12 months but can be renewed for another 6 months.

When you fill in the form, you will need to write:

- the name of all the family members

- the old and the new addresses

- starting date you wish the post to be redirected

- date and sign the form

- and pay! (either cash or by cheque. Post offices in France don’ take cards)

The tariff for post redirection within France for 6 months is €23 and €41 for 12 months (April 2010).

Cheddar Cheese made in France!

If you thought you couldn’t find cheddar in France, you are wrong!

Erica Hicks, of Australian nationality, makes and sells it in Brittany! Based in Treverien, near Dinan in Brittany, she retrained and has been a “fromagère” for a few years now. Her cheese is actually organic and is diversified. Mature, smoked and often has a new version: with herbs, garlic, etc
You can find Erica at Dinan market Thursday morning. She is also in Tinténiac Friday morning.

More details on her web site:

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

La Bourbansais Zoo – Near Dinan

If you are renting out a gîte (self-catering villa) this summer near Dinan, in Brittany, I advise you to visit the zoo in Pleugueneuc. It is about 10 minutes from Dinan

La Bourbansais Zoo is involved in protecting endangered species, and has over 60 rare and unusual species in a natural, wooded and flower-filled setting. With its zoo, events, shows, castle and gardens, this estate has something for everyone.

Most our guests staying in our gîte in Brittany visit it and always come back amazed.

Bakeries in France

When I get a booking for our gîte, guests always ask me how far we are from the nearest bakery.

In Evran, we have 3 bakeries. Even 4! The 4th baker works from home and bake bread with organic flour and cooks it in his bread oven. The old fashion way...

Looking at the photo, you know why guests enjoy going to the bakery every morning! When you are on self-catering, you can have what you want!

You just want to try all the different breads! I must say, I did miss my nice fresh crusty bread when I lived abroad. Now spread some lovely Breton butter on it and enjoy it!

Dinan Bowling alley

Dinan bowling Alley “Le Belem” reopened a few months ago. It is a great place to have a birthday party or any party!

The food is simple and good value and the atmosphere is friendly. If you go between Sunday 7pm and Friday 7 pm, you can play 3 games for €10. Bargain!!

Here is the address: Z.A. Des Alleux, 22100 Taden. Look for Taden Intermarché or Bricomarché and you should find the industrial estate where Dinan bowling is.

Enjoy it!

Dinan magnolia tree

As I had an appointment in Dinan to help an English couple importing their car to France, I took some time walking round Dinan.

I visited my favorite chocolate shop – I couldn’t resist and passed the lovely magnolia tree.

As you can see from the photo it is beautiful. It was in full bloom!

Capital Gains on French properties

If you are thinking of selling your French property, you might wonder if you are liable for Capital Gains (impôt sur la plus-value).

If your house in France is your main place of residence, you will be exempt from capital gains.

However, if you are not a French resident, you will be liable unless you have owned your property for over 15 years.

Some building work may be deducted from Capital Gains (extension, conservatory, etc) but you need to be able to prove the work has been carried out by supplying your local notaire with invoices from registered builders.

Small improvement jobs like fitting a new bathroom or kitchen can not be deducted.

Check with your notaire before putting your house on the market. He or she will be able to tell you if you are liable for capital gains or not. If you are, he or she will keep the tax amount from the sale proceeds and pass it on to the tax office!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Bécherel fête du Livre

Bécherel is a tiny charming village, called the city of the books because there are 15 bookstores for around 660 inhabitants. Many events are organised during the year.

The Easter weekend is always filled with events (concerts, exhibitions, as well as a large number of stalls selling all sorts of books!).

It is on Saturday 4th , Sunday 5th and 6th April 2010.

Not far from Bécherel, you will find Trévérien and its plant sale on Sunday 5th April. Bécherel is about 20 minutes South of Dinan.

See my previous post here.

Déchetterie in France

Déchetteries in France are household waste recycling centres. You can drop off household waste items such as old televisions, fridges, cardboard, polystyrene, cartridges, oil, etc, and any rubbish you get from a renovation (old tiles, rubbles, PVC or copper pipes, cables, etc).

More or less whatever you can’t recycle in the 3 containers can be taken to the déchetteries.

Asbestos needs to be taken to a specialist. Your local déchetterie should be able to give you the address of the nearest one.

Déchetteries are free to use. Businesses (builders, gardeners, roofers, etc) however pay a fee each time they use the déchetterie.Our déchetterie in Evran (Brittany) charges €7 per m3 for gardening waste, €11 for rubble.

Staff can assist with the unloading of your car on request.

Check with your local mairie for the opening hours. Déchetteries are usually open from Monday to Saturday 10 am to 12 and 2 to 5 or 6pm.

It is advisable to take a water or EDF bill with you to prove you are a resident of the commune where the déchetterie is. Some communes give stickers to put on the windscreen.

Please note it is forbidden to recover items from the déchetterie!!

Rainbow in Brittany

As I was driving to Dinan (Brittany) a couple of days ago, I saw this wonderful rainbow. I couldn’t help stopping to take a photo. I wished I had a wide angle lenses on my camera so I could have had the whole rainbow on the same photo!

It brightened up the sky after a whole day of rain!

Fluorescent waistcoat

Driving in France

Since 1st July 2008, all vehicles in France have to carry a fluorescent waistcoat (gilet fluorescent) and a warning triangle (triangle de signalisation).

Visibility vests (it is recommended to have at least 2 or one per driver and passenger) have to be put on before getting out of the car in the event of a breakdown so they have to be kept inside the car (under the seats or in glove box) and not in the boot.

If you get stopped by the police, you will get fined if you don’t carry those items in the car.

Waistcoats and warning triangle can be bought from garages or supermarkets in France.

See my other posts about drinking driving and police checks.