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living editor’s letter | 3
to our December/January issue
nother eventful year comes to an end, will this be the last one that is dominated by Covid and Brexit? Only time will tell, but I very much hope so. One thing that is, however, going to remain on the agenda for years is climate action, as we work to bring emissions down and leave behind a habitable planet for future generations. Like others, my New Year’s resolutions will revolve around further reducing our impact on the environment; I hope that many of you will join us as we work towards achieving measurable change. Traditionally our December edition is packed full of Christmas markets but this year, like last, we’re finding that firm commitments are being left to the last moment, and certainly past the print deadline for LIVING. But we haven’t let that thwart us; instead we’ve been out and searched for our own Christmas Market inspiration, including some fabulous handmade gifts that our own talented readers create. It’s been fun to compile and has certainly put us in the festive spirit! But this edition has much more than Christmas. We also take a look at the heritage of the Green Man found carved into so many of our historic buildings and explore the history and variety of les heurtoirs knocking on doors around us. Ski season is here, so our resident mountain expert Roger Moss shares some hidden gems across France’s mountain ranges. We also have an overview of e-bikes to help you make sense of the many options that are out there, and Jessica Knipe has taken a trip to discover a stunning collection of begonias in, of all places, Rochefort. You won’t want to miss our delicious recipes or any of our regular columns, as well as our round up of local news. On a personal front, we are delighted that our children will all be able to be home this Christmas; family occasions are to be cherished after the past couple of years. We hope that you too have family and friends nearby to share in the festive goodwill. We’d also like to thank all our subscribers and advertisers for supporting us through these challenging times, and we wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas with Best Wishes for 2022!
Read online at www.livingmagazine.fr
4 | living contents
Your questions answered
Winter Reflections A call for climate action from us all as a New Year approaches...
Snippets Local news from around the region
LIVING Christmas Market Glorious gifts and delightful decorations to inspire your festivities this year
Forever Green We investigate a mysterious character who is found in some of our most ancient abbeys, churches and cathedrals
It’s Snowtime! After a couple of missed ski seasons, we take our regular look at where best to enjoy a host of winter activities
Who’s Knocking? We take a closer look at the colourful world of les heurtoirs
Do you E-Bike? They’re being promoted everywhere, so we look at the rapidly expanding world of the e-bike
Puzzle Break Our unique crossword by Mike Morris
Nikki Legon’s Cuisine As celebrations are back on the menu, Nikki offers some traditional favourites alongside some new ones
Old Vines Caro Feely explains the importance of vielles vignes
Living Property Pages A profile of Celles-sur-Belle in Deux-Sèvres
The Secret Garden Jessica Knipe visits a hidden treasure on the banks of the Charente in Rochefort
His Own Man The fascinating life of Claude Debussy
Pardon! Working hard with Emma-Jane Lee
55-64 The best local services and suppliers are waiting for your call!
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News round up INFLATION Grant
Write to Père Noël
To help cover the rising costs this winter, the French Government will be sending everyone whose net income from French sources is less than 2,000€ per month (or 1,943€ for retirees) an ‘indemnité inflation’ worth 100€ per person. The payment will be credited automatically between December and February. Some 38 million people will receive this aid.
As always, Santa Claus is waiting to hear from all children about their wishes for Christmas and, if you send him a letter or an email before mid-December including your full address, one of the elves or even Santa himself will reply. There is no need for a stamp – just write Père Noël on the envelope and pop it into a postbox near you. You can email him at pere-noel.laposte.fr. And don’t worry about the extra work interfering with making gifts; they have this down to a fine art, as Santa’s team have been replying to letters from children across the world since 1962, with the sorting office in Libourne taking care to ensure that all letters reach him! If you need some inspiration, the La Poste website has sample letters and lots of other fun activities.
Many people have noticed that the crane migration this autumn was more spread out than normal, starting as early as September, whereas previously it began towards the end of the year. This has been confirmed by Xavier Chauby, nature ranger at the Arjuzanx reserve in the Landes, who has studied the birds for many years and travels across Europe to ring them. According to Chauby, 80,000 grues overwintered in Germany instead of travelling back through their migratory corridor last year, and the migration period has indeed become extended. A warmer planet and changing farming habits are thought to contribute to these changes in migration habits. Cranes were an endangered species in Europe in the 1950s when only 20,000 individuals remained, but careful management and improved protection helped the population to recover to nearly 500,000 today, many of which we see (and hear) flying across the region’s skies.
The emblematic bell tower of the UNESCO-listed Basilique Saint-Michel in Bordeaux will soon be shrouded in scaffolding during major restoration work expected to take five years. The tower will be closed to the public while skilled artisans repair cracks caused by cement used in the last restoration project in the 60s. Locally known as ‘la flèche’, it is one of the city’s most visited monuments as it offers magnificent views across Bordeaux. Built during the 15th century, the monument is 114m high and is the tallest freestanding bell tower in France.
The pick of the news that will affect you wherever you live in south west France…
As part of the French anti-waste law introduced last year, specific fruit and vegetables sold in packs weighing under 1.5kg will in future be sold loose. Some allowances are being made for delicate produce such as cherry tomatoes, peaches and green beans, which could deteriorate if sold en vrac and which await the development of alternative solutions. Suppliers of the most challenging items such as strawberries, raspberries and kiwis have until mid-2026 to comply. Companies falling foul of this law will face fines of up to 15,000€, with daily penalties of 1,500€. Today 37% of fruit and vegetables are sold in plastic, representing 1-2 billion containers annually.
After 4 years of campaigning to safeguard the rights of British nationals in France, editor Kathryn Dobson took a final trip to Paris to meet new Ambassador Menna Rawlings before a lunch to thank some of those involved in helping Brits through the residency procedures. “In our meeting, Menna and I had a lively discussion covering many subjects important to British nationals post-Brexit. I stressed the importance of building and maintaining a relationship with British nationals living outside the major conurbations,” said Kathryn. “If the UK is to build bridges with the EU, engaging with those of us living here, running businesses and bringing up bilingual children is a good place to start, given the strains elsewhere. I very much hope that the ‘soft power’ value of British nationals in France will begin to be recognised, but only time will tell.” LIVING will bring you details should any progress be made in this regard.
on Friday 17 Schools break up y. onday 3 Januar and return on M ’s y and New Year Both Christmas Da rdays this year. Day fall on Satu
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Île de Ré
LA ROCHELLE Surgeres Île de Oléron
CHARENTE-MARITIME (17) Marennes Saintes Cognac Royan
ANGOULEME Barbezieux Aubeterresur-Dronne
News from around the region...
les charentes Pesticide Study
Noël at Longeveau
Head to the Manoir de Longeveau on Sunday, 5 December from 10am-5pm for festive fun, food and shopping! Over 60 vendors will be offering an array of produce and gift ideas, from jewellery, clothing and homewares to candles, artwork and artisan foods. Now in its 19th year, the Christmas Market promises to be a celebratory feast, with minced pies, cakes, mulled wine, soup and hot ‘Christmas sandwiches’ available throughout the day. Père-Noël, Christmas carols and horse-drawn carriage rides are on the menu too – the perfect way to kick off your festive season! Le Manoir de Longeveau – Golf d’Aubeterre is a special events venue and holiday domain located on a former cognac estate at 16390 Pillac (on the Charente/Dordogne borders). For more information call 05 45 98 55 13 or see: www.longeveau.com.
4th International Orchid Exhibition at Jonzac (17) will be held 10-12 Dec. See: www.lesantillesdejonzac.com
Ruffectival – the festival of humour and dreams – takes place over the weekend of 15-16 Jan at La Canopée, Ruffec (16). The International Comic Strip Festival will be back from 27-30 January in Angoulême (16) For the full programme, see: www.bdangouleme.com.
Large selection of home fabrics, made-to-measure curtains, bedlinen, wallpaper & paint. Friendly English-speaking staff in a cosy atmosphere! Tues to Fri 9h-12h30 & 14h-18h30 Sat 9h-12h30 &14h-18h comptoirdecodangely www.comptoirdecodangely.com
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ÉTUDE D’EXPOSITION AUX PESTICIDES CHEZ LES RIVERAINS DE ZONES VITICOLES ET NON VITICOLES
Is living near vineyards dangerous? This is a question many have asked, and to answer it ANSES (the National Health Security Agency) and Santé Publique France (Public Health France) have announced the launch of a study in six wine-growing regions, including NouvelleAquitaine, along with studies in areas without vineyards. Called ‘PestiRiv’, the first results are expected in 2024. The association ‘Phyto-Victimes’, founded in Charente, helps professionals suffering from illnesses brought on by pesticide use and welcomes the initiative. According to the environmental association ‘Générations Futures’, the Charente-Maritime is responsible for buying more glyphosate – recognised as a probable carcinogen since 2015 – than any other department, relative to the area farmed. Gironde follows in second place with Charente fourth. 3,350 individuals of all ages will be studied and the impact on the local environment measured over two periods: October–February and March–August.
Having held out from imposing the ‘Gemapi’ tax for several years, La Rochelle has now taken the decision to join the rest of CharenteMaritime and begin collecting this tax from residents. Standing for Gestion des Milieux Aquatiques et de Prévention des Inondations or ‘the management of aquatic environments and flood prevention’, the tax will cost up to 40€ per resident, but will be ring-fenced for specific projects such as sea defences. Commonly referred to as the ‘aquataxe’, it will be added to tax bills from 2022. Elsewhere, the new Charente-Maritime President has confirmed that the Pont d’Oléron, which carries up to 30,000 vehicles per day over the summer, will remain free.
News from around the region...
Château de Jonzac
The Lost Locket
Following on the heels of locally filmed blockbusters Duel and The French Dispatch, Île de Ré will be welcoming the cast of The Lost Locket in May 2022. Based on her book of the same name, producer Joyce Licorish will also be filming in La Rochelle, Rochefort and SaintGeorges-de-Didonne. Licorish’s novel tells of a modern-day African American journalist who experiences a dual reality when wearing a mysterious locket... a forbidden dreamt romance with a white soldier in 1944, and a modern-day love with a white Civil Rights Attorney. Local company ‘10 Bis Productions’, which was only created last April, worked with Licorish to bring the project to the area.
Many venues are waiting until the last minute to confirm dates for their annual Marchés de Noël and New Year celebrations, but it looks as though more will be opening their doors this year, so watch local noticeboards for details. SudCharente villages will be holding artisanal markets each Saturday morning at Barbezieux, while Châtelaillon-Plage’s celebrations start on 11 Dec, with a Crèche Vivante and son et lumière show opening on 20-23 Dec. The annual ‘Baignade de Banquisards’, where 800 brave bathers dash into the sea, takes place on 2 Jan.
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Having restored the interior courtyard of the Château, a successful funding bid from the national heritage foundation will now help restore the châtelet – the area housing the front gateway between two imposing towers where the portcullis and the drawbridge were originally located. As part of the ‘small towns of tomorrow’ programme for towns with fewer than 20,000 residents, the project has been awarded 100,000€ towards the costs. The work will be carried out in two stages, with the first beginning before the end of the year.
News from around the region...
The cost to send a letter will increase again on 1 January 2022 – it will have almost doubled in the last decade – to offset La Poste losses, recorded as 1.3 million euros in 2020 alone. For a 20g letter, a red stamp for next day delivery will now cost 1.43€ (+11.7%) and a green stamp will cost €1.16 (+7.4%). Ecopli, the grey stamp, for fourday delivery will increase to €1.14 (+7.5%). The discount for printing online via MonTimbreenLigne will remain at 3%. Sending letters abroad will rise to 1.65€ for 20g (+10%). Sending parcels will see lower increases, with no increase for up to 250g and only 1.6% for heavier parcels.
The organisation EPIDOR, which is responsible for managing the 480km-long Dordogne River from its source to the Atlantic, was successful in its bid for a grant from the EU to improve the state of the river – one of only three successful projects from the 600 presented. A total of 8.8 million euros (5.3 million of which are from the EU) will be spent over 6 years across a range of projects to improve the river’s biodiversity and reverse the harm done by humans. Thirty different projects will reopen backwaters, rehabilitate gravel pits and restore the spawning grounds of Atlantic salmon and other species. The Dordogne Valley is already classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and this will help to safeguard its status.
MaPrime Rénov The scheme that helps French residents to reduce the cost of energy renovation works so long as they are carried out by a recognised company has been hit by a computer bug, leaving at least 3,000 households waiting for payment. While most successful grant requests receive payment in 10-15 days, these households have been lost in the system, but the Minister of Housing has promised that the problems will be resolved before the end of the year.
News from around the region...
A trial in Sarlat is underway to offer support for some under-25s to take their driving test if they volunteer with a local association. Twenty grants of 300€ are available for those volunteering for more than 20 hours. This follows the success of a similar scheme in Talence, Gironde, where 70 hours of volunteering can lead to a grant of 700€. The hope is that the young volunteers will continue to support the associations in the longer term.
France is a tiny player in the global walnut market, which is dominated by the US, China and Chile. Not only are the farms here much smaller, but the prices from familyrun farms are higher than the imported nuts. However, Périgord’s walnut farmers are working hard to attract customers who are increasingly concerned about the use of pesticides, as well as the carbon footprint of the food they are eating. By promoting the environmental benefits, local farmers are confident that they can sell this year’s bumper harvest of their tasty nuts.
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is ta an
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x de Vie
St Gilles Croi
LA ROCHE SUR-YON Les Sables d’Olonne
La Tranche sur Mer
DEUX SEVRES (79)
News from around the region...
Deux-sèvres & Vendée
Second Home Surcharge
Sables-d’Olonne (85) wishes to encourage second-home owners to rent out their homes all year round, after fears that the seaside resort is becoming a ghost town through the winter. An estimated 40% of the properties are thought to be second homes with as many as 3,000 of them unoccupied for the majority of the year, often in prime locations. To encourage owners to rent them out, the council’s proposals include increasing the housing tax on vacant homes and offering financial aid up to 10,000€ for second-home owners willing to let their homes for a full year, while tourist rentals will be limited in number. This plan has not gone down well with the owners, who consider that they already pay substantial tax and invest in the local infrastructure. However, Maire Yannick Moreau says there is no alternative if they are to avoid becoming a town which only comes alive during the summer months.
A new association has been launched in Chef-Boutonne (79) whose aim is for closer integration of individuals living in the area. Offering regular get-togethers and special events, the association is open to all nationalities. Activities from wine-tasting to language exchanges and rambles are envisioned by the multi-national committee. Membership costs 10€ for the year - apply via their website at: linkup79.fr.
Noirmoutier oyster farmers are hoping to follow their Marennes-Olérons cousins and achieve Protected Geographical Indication for their oysters. This highly coveted yellow label is an indication of quality and regional status, offering a clear advantage when it comes to selling the seafood. The twenty oyster farmers on the island have come together to begin collecting the data required for the application, which will show the oysters’ life cycle in the waters around the island and specify the quality requirements. Normandy oyster producers are ahead of the Noirmoutiers team, having started the process several years ago, but are finding the final stages difficult. It is hoped that the organisation Vendée Qualité will help the island team, as they already understand the processes, given that the island’s potatoes achieved PGI status in 2020, joining other local products such as Brioche Vendéenne and Mogette de Vendée.
News from around the region...
A fascinating discovery has been made by archaeologists working at Talmont-Saint-Hilaire on the Vendée coast. The remains of a well-preserved medieval port, protected by the constant humidity in the marshy subsoil, were uncovered during an archaeological dig on a 2,500m2 building site. Only a few kilometres from the sea, and at the foot of the thousand-year-old Château de Talmont (above), it is thought to have received boats carrying goods and people from Spain and England during the 10th-16th centuries. A pilgrim’s medal has been found, indicating that this was an area of economic activity. In an interview for FranceInfo, Pierre Péfou, who specialises in examining wooden remains, said: “We are able to give both a very precise date and recreate the entire forest landscape [of the time].” However, local residents are already concerned that site will be excavated quickly and then built over, as has happened at similar sites across France recently, despite the touristic opportunities the site could offer if it were to be preserved. In the meantime, the main artifacts are being transported to be studied by researchers at INRAP, France’s archaeological research organisation.
Lumni is a free (and ad-free) platform provided by the Government which offers support to pupils from primary to high school, supplementing their lessons in creative ways and helping them to transition between years. Lumni Etudiant launched this school year to provide support with the move from lycée to further education, from applying for grants to introducing new working methods. Find Lumni at: lumni.fr.
A new branch of the association, which provides assistance dogs, has opened near Parthenay (79) and they are looking for foster families to socialise and begin the education of their dogs. Homes are required for 16 months, after which the dogs receive 6 months’ training in a Handi’chiens centre before meeting their new owners. To find out more, see: www.handichiens.org.
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vienne & News from around the region... haute-vienne
© Cité de la tapisserie, Aubusson
After the sudden death of renowned French chef Joël Robuchon in 2018 there was uncertainty about the proposed gastronomic business school at Montmorillon, his childhood home, planned for the ancient Maison-Dieu building. It has now been announced that the International Joël Robuchon Institute will indeed open in Vienne and on a larger scale than previously envisaged. Ultimately it is hoped that over 3,000 students will be trained through the year across a variety of disciplines at three sites: Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, Montmorillon and the Technopole at Futuroscope. The venue openings will be staggered between September 2023 and June 2025. All three sites will refurbish existing facilities with an expected price tag of over 70 million euros (although the details of the investment are still unclear). Montmorillon will host an upmarket hotel-restaurant and a spa and wellbeing centre, while a former agricultural school will be converted into a dedicated catering training centre with kitchen gardens at Chasseneuil. Workshops, vocational training and administration will be located at the Futuroscope centre (below).
Over the border in Aubusson (23), La Cité Internationale de la Tapisserie (which LIVING visited a little while ago) has completed the twelfth work in their project ‘Aubusson Tisse Tolkien’. Moria Gate is the first work from ‘Lord of The Rings’ and it has taken their skilled artisans around 1,000 hours to make the 8m2 hanging. This is part of Aubusson’s 4-year agreement with the Tolkien Estate to produce an exclusive series of 14 tapestries and 2 rugs woven from original illustrations by JRR Tolkien. His son Christopher, who died last year, lived in Haute-Provence with his French wife and worked with the Aubusson team to bring the project to celebrate his father’s work to fruition. The full collection will be completed next year and exhibited in 2023.
Preparations are well underway for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and several hundred sports facilities across France have been confirmed as Preparation Centres. In Limoges, l’Aquapolis water park (with nearby Lac Pardoux) has been designated as a training centre for swimming and waterpolo. La Rochelle (17) will welcome basketball and handball teams at the Complexe des Vauzelles, while in Corrèze the Espace 1000 Sources sports centre will host athletics, basketball, judo, boxing and rugby preparation.
News from around the region...
After five years of preparation, the first resident has been welcomed to Elephant Haven in Bussière-Poitevin (87). Gandhi, who is believed to be about 55 years old, has been living at the now closed Pont-Scorff zoo in Morbihan since 1998. There she had been bullied by the other elephants, so ended up living on her own for many years, a situation that is replicated at the sanctuary as she is the first and so far only resident. An Asian elephant, she weighs over 3.5 tonnes and is settling in well, although she is still shy according to her keepers. At the moment she is kept in a 4ha enclosure, where she eats up to 100kg of food each day. The cost to keep her for one year is over 50,000€ so fundraising efforts have begun while the Haven enters the next stage in its development. The sanctuary is not open to visitors but updates are posted on its website and social media channels.
The association Paysages de France has awarded four municipalities their Ugly France Award or Prix de la France Moche, a prize that no-one wishes to win. Sadly, MignéAuxances, on the outskirts of Poitiers, has won the ‘Tombé dans le Panneau’ award for the ugly assortment of advertising hoardings along the main road. The prizes have a serious side, as the organisation brings attention to the invasion of the advertising boards, encouraging Maires and councils to intervene and regulate their usage to reduce visual pollution.
For those still waiting for their Withdrawal Agreement Residency Permits (WARP) to be processed, you are advised to email your Préfecture and/or the Ministère de l’Intérieur (email: firstname.lastname@example.org) to check on the progress of your application. Doing so ensures you have a paperwork trail showing that you have enquired, and it may also flag up if there are issues, such as your application being lost. When you receive your invitation to the Préfecture, you are strongly recommended to attend and not try to change the time as it is an official summons and should be treated as such. For anyone travelling over the New Year who has not yet received their permit, you should note your travel dates in your emails in the hope you are prioritised. On 1 January 2021 travellers were stranded at borders due to misunderstandings and were helped by volunteers, since all official organisations were on holiday. With British in Europe winding down, these volunteers will not be available on 1 January 2022, so you are advised to ensure you have your permit. If you do not and need to travel, take proof of your application and residency, and travel during normal working hours when help may be available if needed. If the French Government decide to extend the deadline for carrying cards previous experience suggests this could be confirmed at a very late stage and not communicated to border staff and others in time for the New Year.
16 | living christmas market
living christmas market | 17
Christmas market 1 | Sinja metal lantern available in white, pink and red, 5.95€. Truffaut: bit.ly/lmgift01 2 | Candle holders from 4.90€; Porcelaine dinnerware: bowl 6.59€, deep plate 5.19€, plate (various sizes) from 4.69€; Felt heart-shaped placemat, 3.99€. Truffaut: bit.ly/lmgift01
5 | Glitter LED Christmas bauble trio, 24.99€; Ceramic pine cone LED Christmas bauble trio, 24.99€; Gold star LED tree topper, 18.99€; Grey wooden star light, 20.99€; Paper star decoration trio, 18.99€. Lights4Fun: bit.ly/lmgift03
3 | Colour-in Christmas stocking in cotton and felt, 3,15€. Truffaut: bit.ly/lmgift01
6 | Colourful papiermâché tree decorations (different designs are available) 1,98€. Søstrene Grene: bit.ly/lmgift04
4 | Set of 4 hanging Christmas decorations, 19.95€. Loberon: bit.ly/lmgift02
7 | Felt tree garland, 1.3m, 13.99€. Lights4Fun: bit.ly/lmgift03
PHOTO bottom left & bottom right : © Oliver Perrott
‘Tis the season for gorgeous gifts & beautiful decorations, so here are some of our favourite finds this year…
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18 | living christmas market
living christmas market | 19
12 | Golden metal table top Christmas tree (95cm tall, decorations not included), 17.99€. Maisons du Monde: bit.ly/lmgift07
8 | Cosy winter scarves, 4 different colours available, 29.95€. Truffaut: bit.ly/lmgift01
13 | Nutcrackers music box, 24€. Truffaut: bit.ly/lmgift01
9 | Get creative! Subscription craft box delivery from the UK. Starts at 3-box subscription for £30.60 per box delivered to your door in France. Craftiosity: bit.ly/lmgift05 10 | Moka bird feeder in red cedar, FSC certified. Naturally resistant to rot, insects and mould, 19.49€. Truffaut: bit.ly/lmgift01
© Oliver Perrott
11 | Set of two hand-dipped beeswax candles in a beautiful wooden gift box with candle stand, 28.99€. Five Bees Yard: bit.ly/lmgift06
14 | Deer family illuminated by LEDs with timer. Figures sold separately from 206€. Lights4Fun: bit.ly/lmgift03
15 | Snowball salt shaker, 15.99€. Zara Home: bit.ly/lmgift08 16 | Share your love of LIVING with a gift subscription, from 30€. See page 5 17 | Sleigh Bell wreath 22,99€ 16cm, Zara Home: bit.ly/lmgift08
18 | Santa Claus figurines, €3.46. Søstrene Grene: bit.ly/lmgift04
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20 | living christmas market
Our pick of gifts handmade for you by our creative readers...perfect for under your tree. 1 | Handmade 100% soy candles, candle holders, wax melts and various gift boxes for every budget. La Pluie: bit.ly/lmgift10 2 | Handmade LED lamp, made from locally sourced wooden logs, each one unique, prices start from 89€. Unique Lighting Co: bit.ly/lmgift11 3 | Handmade 100% beeswax candles and bespoke wooden candle holders upcycled from oak beams. Prices from 10-25€. HoneyB Products: bit.ly/lmgift12 4 | What better way to get into the Christmas spirit than lighting a Christmas candle? Prices from 4€ and free shipping over 25€. Northern Lights France: bit.ly/lmgift14
5 | Unique and eco-friendly handmade bags and accessories. items incorporate vintage or repurposed materials. Prices from 10€ plus postage. MIOLO by Jools: bit.ly/lmgift15
6 | Beautiful wire wall art and sculptures for your home and garden. Custom names, words and phrases also available. Prices from 10€. Eco Art 36: bit.ly/lmgift16 7 | Backpack for children from 54€; Blanket: from 50€; Toiletry bag: from 32€; Bib: from 19€. OCreadelina: bit.ly/lmgift17 8 | Porcelain necklace pendants and earrings, using an incredible glazing technique, prices range from 18€ to 23€ incl. p&p. Claire Ceramics: bit.ly/lmgift18 For ease, we’ve used bit.ly links throughout this article. Just type them into your browser as shown and you will be redirected to the stores.
18 || living 20 22 living green green man man
The annual Green Man Festival, held in Wales
Église Notre-Dame, Courcôme (16)
We investigate a mysterious character
who is found in some of our most ancient
abbeys, churches and cathedrals
living living places green to visit man| 23 21
Église de l’Assomption, Le Chalard (87)
6th century Roman Green Man, Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Istanbul
nce seen, never forgotten... there is, after all, something distinctly unsettling when you first catch sight of a face peering back at you from among foliage apparently sprouting from his mouth. He might be sculpted from stone or finely carved from timber, but when he pops up again and again you start to wonder what exactly is going on. The Green Man seems originally to have been a symbol of fertility and our close relationship or ‘oneness’ with the land we work, and which in return nourishes us. While he and his brethren are found in historic locations far and wide (particularly in Europe and the UK) precisely where the Green Man first appeared is uncertain, but we do know that images of foliated or ‘leafy’ face masks were already being created during the Roman era. In fact, a fine 2nd century example
survives on a stone fragment among the collections of the gallo-Roman museum of Vesuna in Périgueux (24). What’s more, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region is also home to the earliest known representation of a Green Man disgorging vegetation, which you can see further north in the Église Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand in Poitiers (86). He’s seldom mentioned in documentation and is easily missed, but you’ll find him inscribed on the end of a time-worn 4th century marble sarcophagus lid displayed in the first southern bay of the nave. The tomb it once adorned is believed to have been that of Saint Abre, daughter of the bishop (born locally around 350AD) to
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24 | living places green man to visit Cathédrale SaintJean-Baptiste, Lyon
whom the Romanesque former collegiate church is still dedicated. While in Poitiers don’t miss seeing a magnificent and miraculously well-preserved carved oak Green Man who is almost 1,000 years younger than his marble counterpart. His face peers out enigmatically from one of the stalls which have stood in the choir (chevet) of the 13th century Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Pierre since shortly before the cathedral was completed in 1271, making them perhaps the oldest surviving original examples of Gothic
13th century stall carving, Cathedrale Saint-Pierre, Poitiers
Église Notre-Dame, Thiviers (24)
Fountain in Campo San Giacomo, Venice
Where to find him... You’ll encounter the Green Man when you least expect him, at a host of locations which are too numerous for us to include, but here are a few to discover during your travels in France.
In Nouvelle-Aquitaine: Aubazine (19) - Église Abbatiale Saint-Étienne Aulnay (17) - Église Saint-Pierre Courcôme (16) - Église Notre-Dame Saint-Michel (16) - Église Saint-Michel Poitiers (86) - Cathédrale Saint-Pierre, Saint-Hilaire-le-Grand, Notre-Dame-la-Grande La Réau (86) - Abbaye-Royale La Rochelle (17) - Tour Saint-Nicholas Thiviers (24) - Église Notre-Dame Le Chalard (87) - Église Notre-Dame de l’Assomption
Further afield: Chartres (28) Cathédrale Notre-Dame Candes Saint-Martin (37) Collégiale Saint-Martin Cunault (49) - Prieurale Notre-Dame Marmoutier (67) - Abbatiale Saint-Étienne Moissac (82) - Abbaye Saint-Pierre Toulouse (31) - Cathédral SaintÉtienne, Basilique Saint-Sernin Pocé-sur-Cisse (37) - Église Saint-Adrien Saint-Bertrand de Comminges (31) Cathédrale Saint-Bertrand Saint-Julien-du-Sault (89) Église Saint-Pierre Vendôme (41) - Église de la Sainte-Trinité
sculpture in France. They’re among the very finest, too – an exquisitely carved assortment of non-biblical and often humorous characters, all executed with a degree of creativity which suggests a possible reason for the inclusion of a Green Man (in fact there are two, the other being on one of the misericords which offered support to older clergy members during long services). Fertility is a timeless theme, and was originally a purely naturalistic one, but the ever-increasing sophistication of the settings in which the Green Man would come to be represented seems to suggest an additional interpretation. Obviously medieval architects would acquire theoretical and practical engineering skills through long years of study and apprenticeship, yet the vital spark which enabled an elite handful of their number to rise above all others and create increasingly astonishing structures was something which could not be taught. Instead it required the gift of creativity – a fertile mind, in fact. Such individuals were celebrated
in their own lifetimes and well beyond. Clearly aware of their exceptional abilities, some even signing their works prominently for all to see, on audacious structures which soared ever higher, yet whose lightness defied belief. Not surprisingly, the styling of the decorative touches they incorporated was just as inspired, yet they continued to include the age-old image of the Green Man. Why? Well, the obvious conclusion is that his original role of celebrating the fertility of nature had now evolved to embrace the gift of human creativity, a quality which over the centuries has also produced a host of non-religious architectural landmarks. Despite the passage of time many
living places to visit | 25
4th century sarcophagus, Église Saint-Hilairele-Grand, Poitiers
When image was everything...
Ever wondered why ancient structures often seem to be adorned with extravagant decoration? Sometimes it’s confined to the main entry portals, while at others whole facades are emblazoned with intricately sculpted imagery, something which would have required extraordinary efforts from the skilled masons who created it, so why go to such lengths? The answer is simple: before the arrival of mass literacy, important ideas and information were either communicated face to face via the spoken word or through the use of visual imagery. That was particularly important during regular social gatherings, and since medieval society was largely founded upon religious beliefs, those arriving for mass would be confronted by a whole range of imagery from the gospels, figures of the Apostles, the Last Judgment, the fate awaiting sinners and more besides. The idea, obviously, was to put everyone in an appropriate frame of mind for Mass and generally keep them on the straight and narrow. Once inside, the visual messages continued as light poured through stained glass windows into otherwise dark interiors, like a medieval slide show. Look around today and you’ll often find further embellishments on an assortment of woodwork items.
important structures would continue to employ the Green Man as a decorative motif, often so successfully that he goes unnoticed until you make a conscious effort to look for him. Across the Channel, for example, he features on the Palace of Westminster, on some of the Oxford colleges, on the choir screens of St Paul’s (cast for Sir Christopher Wren by French Huguenot maître ferronnier Jean Tijou) and amid the ornate gates of Kew Gardens. Later, around the dawn of the 20th century the swirling naturalistic forms of Art Nouveau provided a perfect setting for our old friend the Green Man, who might just be due for a return visit as a figurehead for our present environmentally-aware era.
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18 | living green man
Above Châtel, Portes du Soleil (74)
living skiing | 27
Dog sledding La Chapelle d’Abondance (74)
New to the French Alps: Moonbiking
It’s Snowtime! After a couple of missed ski seasons, at last we can return to the white stuff
PHOTO TOP RIGHT: © Moonbikes
hen winter skies are grey it’s nature’s way of telling you that you could instead be enjoying the sunshine somewhere high above the clouds. The worldfamous mountains of France are truly magnificent, and we have the great advantage of not needing to take a flight or a ferry to reach them. In fact, our own region is so big that depending where you’re based you could have a whole host of winter activities surprisingly close to home, so let’s remind ourselves what’s on offer and where to find it. These days you certainly don’t have to be a downhill skier to enjoy a mountain break. Away from the pistes most resorts have broadened their appeal to visitors by offering fun outdoor activities like snow shoeing,
dog sledding, ice climbing, mountain biking, Nordic (cross-country) skiing, boardercross, zip-wires, canyoning, snowmobiling, geocaching, ice skating, ice diving, paragliding and more. Alternatively, you could simply give yourself up to some pampering at a thermal spa resort or in ‘wellness’ centres which are now a feature of ski villages. After unwinding with a relaxing massage simply stroll to a hammam, sauna, hot tub or a pool-side lounger. As for dining, the advent of high-speed gondola lifts has enabled even non-skiers to enjoy lunch in a high-altitude mountain restaurant – while taking in the breathtaking scenery on a panoramic sun terrace, if the weather is fine. But if you’re drawn to après-ski night spots then you can now find a full-on upbeat party vibe
‘après-lunch’, too. Launched in Val d’Isère 30 years ago, La Folie Douce is now also present in snowy settings at big name Alpine resorts like Avoriaz, Alpe d’Huez, Les Arcs, Méribel, Saint-Gervais and Val Thorens. On a local note, before taking his gastronomy-meets-party-time concept to the mountains, group founder Luc Reversade ran a popular nightspot in Royan (17). If you’re looking forward to candlelit evenings in traditional village restaurants, some resorts add a whole new dimension to the experience by offering torchlit snowshoe walks to an authentic mountain chalet inaccessible by car. Your reward will be a warm welcome and fine fireside dining in a cosy, convivial setting you’ll never forget, before you round off the evening with a magical descent beneath
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28 | living skiing Cross-country skiing, Praz-de-Lys (74)
Above Val Thorens (73)
Snow shoeing, Pont d’Espagne (65) Snowmobiles, Saint-LarySoulan (65)
the stars. New, unexpected experiences like these add fresh fire to the memories which brighten the prospect of winter with thoughts of returning to the mountains. It also brings us neatly to where we might be heading this winter, so we’ll start down in the PyrénéesAtlantiques département near the Franco-Spanish border. That’s where you’ll find Nouvelle-Aquitaine’s very own ski resorts of Artouste, Gourette and La Pierre Saint-Martin, which possess modern facilities and scenic settings for family-friendly skiing and snowboarding (from 2450m in the case of Gourette). Most activities don’t require a lift pass, although if you’ll be skiing on a tight budget then it’s worth knowing that at Artouste children get to ski for around half the already attractively priced adult tariff. Nearby, just across the border in the Hautes-Pyrénées, lie more long-established family resorts, Cauterets, Luz Ardiden, Peyragudes, Piau Engaly and the tiny (but charming) family ski area of Hautacam. Chances are you’ll know them all as tough, televised mountain stages of the Tour de France, but in winter everything looks totally different – and from La Mongie, for example, we can just take a chairlift, sit back and enjoy the scenery on the haul up to the Col du Tourmalet (2115m) before skiing back down or
onward into Barèges. If you’ve never seen the French Pyrénées in winter then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. There’s a relaxed, welcoming vibe, both on and off the mountain, plus comparatively down-to-earth prices. Further north you’ll find your closest mountain escape destination – particularly if you live in Limousin – among the 37 resorts of the Massif Central. Here you can ski down the flanks of extinct volcanoes (something which should impress your friends) at the resorts of Le Lioran, Super Besse and Le Mont Dore. There’s also extensive cross-country skiing and lots of non-ski activities, which in the case of Le Mont Dore includes historic thermal spas and Swedishstyle ski-joëring – being towed across the snow on special lightweight skis behind a horse or pony. A little further away are the Jura and the Vosges mountain ranges, whose combined total of 30 resorts offer high value downhill and cross-country family skiing on a human scale. Here, too, you’ll have a wealth of non-ski activities, in unpressured, back-to-nature settings. Just below the Jura lie the Northern Alps: Haute-Savoie (74) and Savoie (73). This vast winter sports playground is home to most of the French ski resorts whose names you’ll already know – plus a great many more just waiting to be discovered.
living skiing | 29 Les Houches (74)
Between Risoul and Vars (05)
Ski-joëring, in Arc 1950 (73)
If your pockets are deep then by all means take your pick of glamorous snow-sure resorts, arm yourself with a Grand Domaine lift pass and ski in style. Otherwise keep an eye on live resort webcams and head for somewhere smaller, friendlier and more affordable when snow conditions look perfect. You’ll be surprised by the quality they offer and by the welcome you receive at places like Crest Voland (73), La Toussuire (73), Les Houches (74), Praz de Lys Sommand (74) or Valloire (38). The same is true down in the Southern Alps. On the map it looks like a long drive, but is accessed via Grenoble (little further than Geneva) and repays the extra effort with more frequent fine
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weather and a much wider choice of affordable resorts with superb skiing in beautiful settings. Deservedly popular with local skiers from Grenoble (38) are Chamrousse, Les 7 Laux and Villard de Lans, but continue to Briançon and you’ll be in reach of attractive alternatives like Les Orres, Orcières-Merlette and Vars (which also enjoys an international reputation for freeride and speed skiing). Wherever you decide to go, you’ll find all your favourite mountain activities are still there – and whatever your idea of winter fun, there’s no more beautiful setting in which to enjoy it.
Above Valloire (73)
Find out more: www.mountainpassions.com.
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18 | living places to visit
Who’s Knocking? Our series on French architecture returns to decorative ironwork for a closer look at the colourful world of the heurtoir
living architecture | 31
he name might not sound familiar, but makes perfect sense when you learn that it derives from ‘heurter’ – meaning to strike or collide with something or someone (which, coincidentally, explains why in France railway buffers are also known as heurtoirs). We’re talking door knockers. Take a stroll through just about any residential street in one of our historic quarters and chances are you’ll encounter a succession of elegant facades, all jostling for our attention. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it...” – and their original owners certainly did, often with the help of architects who knew exactly how to get the desired message across for their well-heeled clients. For casual passers-by the results were hard to ignore, although for callers a more hands-on personal touch would be required. With that in mind it didn’t take long to exploit the stylistic potential of what we’ve come to know as door knockers. In early medieval times front doors didn’t have them, only requiring simple rings or knobs in order to close the door when leaving. Some of the earliest examples which also signalled the arrival of someone requesting entry are found on the great doorways of military and religious buildings. Later, when private homes got bigger and knuckles started getting bruised, knockers made their appearance, often being produced by local blacksmiths, who obviously saw them as an ideal opportunity to show off their wrought iron working or casting skills. In historic cities like Bordeaux or Poitiers we find showpiece hôtels particuliers, their facades embellished with dazzling stone and wrought iron detailing, so it’s hardly surprising that they also tend to feature similarly exuberant heurtoirs. Such conspicuous statements of wealth and influence maximised their impact by
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32 | living architecture Le Dorat’sdisplayed war surrounding them with decorative having his skills with memorial takes the escutcheon plates (plaques d’écusson) skillfully sculpted stonework, might form of a lanterne of increasing the size and complexity. then add an heurtoir styled around Elsewhere, however, social the tools of his trade, although the standing wasn’t the sole motivation. square and compass could equally A mariner might opt for a nautical denote a freemason. theme such as ropework, the head Most of these fanciful designs of Neptune, a leaping fish or two, were created by casting either brass, or perhaps a mermaid. For animal bronze or, more commonly, iron, a lovers the sources of inspiration process which obviously lent itself to were even more plentiful, so we mass production. Spared the need to come across a whole bestiary of commission a sculptor to produce a bulls, horses, lions (particularly one-off design from which a casting popular) and stags, not forgetting mould could be made, stylised less cuddly bats and snakes. An heurtoirs became widely available, aesthete, on the other hand, might and today we see them everywhere (although the doorbell was something decide to express his or her artistic of a breakthrough, since a late visitor awareness in an altogether subtler, more understated design based more no longer needed to wake the entire household). Centuries later our old on classical notions of proportion friends the heurtoirs are still with and elegance, although some us, earlier examples having become clearly weren’t averse to adding the occasional reclining angel or cherub. highly prized traditional features, which not only fulfil their allotted In coastal areas we sometimes find scallop shells, while the more widely task but might also offer insight into the lives of those who originally travelled might opt for an exotic commissioned them. fruit such as a pineapple. A mason,
living e-bikes | 33 35
E-Bike? They’re being promoted everywhere, so we look at the rapidly expanding world of the e-bike
Try winterised E-Mountain Bikes in Val d’Isère with Oxygène Ski School Photo: © Haibike
ur relationship with a bike is for many of us a lifelong love affair which began in childhood. Despite the arrival of motorcycles and mopeds, the bike has stood the test of time and is currently selling in numbers not seen for decades. The revival began with the rediscovery of fresh air pursuits and the steady rise of outdoor activity holidays. Then the Covid pandemic prompted many who weren’t working from home to shun public transport and instead cycle to work. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, came the realisation that getting out of the car and onto a bike brings big environmental benefits, a sentiment which prompted the government to offer some interesting financial incentives for the purchase of an electrically-assisted bike – see our factfile for details. E-bikes have really taken off, and by now there are probably as many types on the market as reasons you might want one, so we’ll look at what they do and the advantages you might gain from riding one. For starters, an e-bike can reach 25km/h (the legal maximum) with far less effort than a vélo classique, particularly when you have hills to tackle or face strong headwinds. Variable powered assistance allows you to ride at a constant speed without breaking into a sweat, carry luggage, attach a child’s seat, tow a small trailer, or simply dismount and walk beside it.
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34 | living e-bikes
vtT sur neige
In the mountains this winter you might encounter an ‘e-fatbike’ (vtt sur neige) – like a mountain bike on steroids, with oversized tyres to carry you over the snow. An increasing number of ski resorts now have hire facilities.
Vog City Up 5.1, 400 or 600W (2021) Prices from €1,869
vÉlo ville A ‘vélo ville’ with a step-through frame (cadre bas) and a relaxed, upright riding position should suit most tasks. Modern designs typically have a 250 Watt/h motor incorporated within the front or rear wheel hub, and there are lots of models available. So, how do they differ? Well, just like an unpowered bike, when you look beyond entry level e-bikes you’ll get better quality components and mounted accessories, and the option of a lighter conventional frame (cadre haut). If the motor is mounted centrally to drive the cranks you’ll feel the assistance through the pedals. You’ll also have more gears – for you, not the motor. Why? Because by pedalling you’ll avoid the motor doing all the work, and extend the distance you can cover before needing to recharge the battery: typically 50-90km, depending on the terrain, your weight and pedalling input.
vÉlo ToutTerrain (vTT) The e-mountain bike (vélo tout terrain or VTT), will be much more at home in hilly off-road conditions than on tarmac. They’re altogether more ruggedly built, with extra ‘boost-power’ on tap, additional extra low gearing and high-capacity batteries, usually mounted within the frame. And since mountain biking is a pretty physical activity, premium dual transmission models allow you to bypass the assistance system entirely and ride like a conventional downhill mountain bike. Just don’t expect to pop down to the shops on it.
vÉlo tout chemin (vTC) If you want to ride unsurfaced tracks from time to time then a hybrid e-bike (vélo tout chemin or VTC) brings a choice of aluminium frame styles, wider tyres and refinements like full suspension, disk brakes and a higher capacity battery. Top-end VTCs feature hydraulic disk brakes, more powerful motors and greatly extended range between charges, with relatively uncompromised handling and pedalling effort when riding without power assistance.
Cube VTC, Hybrid One 400/500/625W, with Bosch motor from €2,050
Husqvarna Hard Cross 8 VTT RRP €6,599
living e-bikes | 35
vÉlo de route
E-fatbikes can even handle snow
Financial Aid and formalities
In addition to a useful 50€ contribution towards bike servicing or repairs, there’s more generous aid for anyone buying an electrically assisted bike (vélo à assistance électrique or VAE). You’ll find full details of the Government’s ‘Bonus Vélo’ here: bit.ly/LMebike There’s no requirement to register and ride an e-bike with the legal maximum power of 250W and maximum speed of 25km/h. However, a recent directive states that a VAE whose power unit exceeds 250W and/or is capable of exceeding 25km/h is classed as an unrestricted bicycle (vélos débridés). That means it must be insured with a motorcycle policy, without which it may not be ridden on public roads. Talking of insurance, you can insure against theft or damage to your bike with a multirisque-bicyclette policy – and since you are required to pay for any damage you might cause when riding your e-bike, check that public liability insurance (responsabilité civile) is included in, or may be added to, any existing policies you have. Accident damage to you or your bike should be covered by the policy of any other vehicle involved and to blame for a collision. If none is involved, or you are at fault, you might consider some form of personal accident cover (garantie accident).
set off with a supplementary battery mounted like a water bottle and you’ll add a useful 60km to your range. Once you’ve found the bike to suit your own needs an electric bike should help you do everything more easily – and if you really do have a love affair with your existing bike, conversion kits are available to add electric assistance.
The electrically assisted versions of the classic ‘road bike’ (vélo de route) – or in old-school terms, a ‘racing bike’ has now-familiar features like carbon fibre frames and lightweight components. Added e-bike power allows even older or less fit riders to cover long distances and tackle tough climbs, thanks to variable assistance – in some cases in response to rider effort recorded by a heart rate monitor and communicated wirelessly to the bike’s power management system. You might even join those steel-thighed riders who storm mountain cols on tarmac, or perhaps head off onto unsurfaced tracks with the assisted equivalent of the road bike’s currently fashionable ‘gravel bike’ spin-off. On the other hand, if you don’t do anything too extreme, some assisted lightweight road bikes with capacity batteries can cover around 160km between charges;
Vitus Emitter Carbon e-road bike (Fazua 2021) RRP €4700
E-mountain biking: hands-on insight...
“E-bikes allow me to ride from home for 40 miles, and up to 5000 ft on any ride, so I can hit all of my favourite riding spots and vary the riding. On days where the trails are steep, no return shuttle is required, as the bike performs well with a 700Wh battery with no range anxiety! Although I ride a normal bike as well, it’s never as much fun, as I have to push it back up, or avoid certain trails. My e-bike does go through some components much quicker – brake pads, tyres and drivetrain – but it’s worth it, as even the steep climbs are fun! I ride with others who run lighter and lower-powered bikes, but unless the climb is really steep they’re mostly equal.”
Danny Vella, 49
“E-biking has transformed mountain biking for me – I got my first one 6 years ago and was called lazy by the rest of the group... since then, slowly but surely, most of them now also ride e-bikes. Why? Because you have a smile on your face when going uphill as well as going down. You can also ride for twice the distance and still get a great cardio workout, but you aren’t damaging your knees to the same extent or making your heart beat at 150 – it’s more like 130 max for me now. Finally, when I’m riding I’m not stressing about work and I’m able to look at my surroundings rather than just trying to push the pedals round while struggling to get up a hill on my old non-e-bikes. On my 4th e-bike now (and I’ve kept the other 3..).” Justin Underwood, 52
A Forgotten E-bike Pioneer...
Almost as old as cycling itself is the desire to take some of the effort out of riding a bike. In fact, way back in 1895 an American patent was granted to one Ogden Bolton Jr for a cycle powered by an electric motor incorporated in an oversized rear wheel hub. With no gearing system or pedals for assistance, it probably drew up to 100 amps from the 10 volt battery he’d mounted under the top tube (or ‘crossbar’) of the frame. That would have severely limited the usable range, so it’s hardly surprising that Bolton’s idea never caught on, and the inventor sank into obscurity.
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36 | practical living
HELP&money << OUr experts answer YOur questions...
Planning for the Unexpected...
What do I do if I have an emergency as I am worried my basic French will desert me.
This is a worry shared by many. Relaying information in an emergency can be daunting in your mother tongue so it is sensible to take a few precautions. The standard advice when making an emergency call is to be ready with your name, where you are calling from, and do not hang up until
told to do so. If you are not confident in French, keep key vocabulary close to the phone (for instance numbers, parts of the body, basic directions to your home). Write it out phonetically if you think this may help. It is worth noting down your address and phone numbers as it is surprising what can be forgotten in a stressful situation. Translation apps like Google Translate allow you to speak into your mobile phone in English and it will then say the phrase in French. If you are
EUROPEAN EMERGENCY NUMBER call this number free from anywhere in the EU to reach the emergency services. There may be English speakers available although this is not guaranteed.
SAMU (Service d’Aide Médicale d’Urgence) - call for urgent medical situations e.g. coma, chest pain, breathing difficulties etc. The operator will assess the emergency and medical assistance will be sent if necessary.
Police immediate assistance (gendarmes) if you are in danger or you see someone else in danger through violence, mugging, aggression, burglary etc.
Sapeurs pompiers (fire brigade) to signal a perilous situation or an accident requiring urgent assistance.
Hearing-assisted emergency calls sent by SMS or fax. Trained professionals will then contact the necessary emergency service.
concerned about your level of French, download one of these and try it out so that you know what to do if necessary. Another recommended app is ‘what3words’ which allows you to pinpoint your location down to a 3 metre square (particularly useful if outside). If you are not alone, it is helpful for the second person to go to the road if an emergency vehicle is sent, to guide them to your house as quickly as possible. There are a variety of numbers in France that can be used
for different services but the easiest to remember is 112. Below is a list of other numbers you may need, along with useful contacts.
prefer to do so online go to www.service-public.fr/cmi use a translation service like DeepL to help you.
and, if the answer requires research, they will call you back within 48 hours.
CAISSE D’ALLOCATIONS FAMILIALES (CAF): 3230 or via your online account. No dedicated English-speaking advisors.
If your child goes missing anywhere in the EU, call this hotline.
115 119 196
01 40 05 48 48
ALLÔ SERVICE PUBLIC - 3939: Administrative information service (in French) covering: employment law in the private sector; housing and town planning; legal, civil or criminal proceedings; family, personal or inheritance law; laws relating to foreigners, associations or civil status. See www.service-public.fr for opening hours.
Emergency shelter for the homeless to report concerns about child abuse
Maritime rescue: you will be put in contact with CROSS, the French operational centre for surveillance and rescue at sea. Aviation emergency
Accessible 24/7, this free number is for all women victims of violence including domestic violence, sexual harassment or abuse, forced marriage, etc. It is not an emergency number; you should ring 112 if someone is in immediate danger. Calls to this number will not appear on your phone bill and service is entirely anonymous. If you need to report sexual violence or rape and would
Anti-poison centre (Paris).
Useful Contacts ORANGE: English-speaking helpline: 09 69 36 39 00
AMELI: French healthcare – call 09 74 75 36 46, MonFri 8.30am-5.30pm. English speaking operators will answer
PRÉFECTURES: Visit online at www.nameofdept.gouv.fr or call 0 800 97 00 xx where xx is your dept. number. BRITISH EMBASSY HELPLINE: 01 44 51 31 00 for urgent advice, or contact online: www.gov.uk SOS HELPLINE: For English-speaking professionally trained listeners (similar to the Samaritans), call 01 46 21 46 46. CANCER SUPPORT FRANCE: For advice and someone to talk to locally see www. cancersupportfrance.org or ring 0800 240 200. Why not photocopy this page and keep it near your phone? Here at LIVING we wish you a safe and uneventful 2022!
practical living | 37
In the last LIVING there was mention of changes to succession laws - have these now taken place and is there anything else I need to know?
if they believe they have been disinherited or unfairly treated. There is no need to panic. Just to be clear, this change gives children the option to challenge the will; it is not automatic, and if you have a good relationship This legislative change with your children then your only applies to estates wishes should be respected. opened from 1 Nov 2021. This will mainly affect those It has always been the case that with estranged children whom any will can be challenged - the they wish to remove from their difference now being the notaire succession. For all those with is legally obligated to inform family arrangements where children of their rights. The the children agree to wait until purpose of the change in law is to the second death nothing will allow children of the deceased to change; they will be informed of challenge a will that adopts the EU their rights by the notaire but Succession Regulation 650/2012 they are not obliged to make a
challenge. I urge you to have open and frank discussions with your children in this regard. One key aspect of this change is that it can only be applied to assets situated in France which, in some cases, may affect succession plans for the principal residence and possibly French rental properties if no other planning has been put in place. There are tried and tested legal mechanisms in France for establishing property ownership that can better protect the survivor
such as the ‘en tontine’ clause (only at the point of purchase), the marriage contract of ‘communauté universelle avec attribution au dernier survivant’, the ‘pacte de famille’ and the ‘donation entre époux’ to name a few. If you have any concerns about how this new change may impact your existing wills and estate planning, I recommend that you speak to a notaire to discuss your options.
Amanda Johnson works as an Independent Financial Advisor with The Spectrum IFA Group. T: 05 49 98 97 46 or 06 73 27 25 43; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.spectrum-ifa.com/amanda-johnson. To register for their newsletter, attend a roadshow event or speak directly to Amanda, call or email her. There is no charge for their financial planning reviews, reports or recommendations. « The Spectrum IFA Group » is a registered trademark, exclusive rights to use in France granted to TSG Insurance Services S.A.R.L. Siège Social: 34 Bd des Italiens, 75009 « Société de Courtage d’assurances » R.C.S. Paris B 447 609 108 (2003B04384) Numéro d’immatriculation 07 025 332 - www.orias.fr « Conseiller en investissements financiers, référence sous le numéro E002440 par ANACOFI-CIF, association agréée par l’Autorité des Marchés Financiers »
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38 | living family
Avec les enfants ––––––
eflections---Winter R -––----------------
and wet when not. Floods aside, not much changes during the winter; leaves fall into piles that the children kick from one end of the garden to the other, and occasionally we’ll get a really warm day that persuades Roddy to get back into shorts for an afternoon. When I get out into the garden I find it reassuring to dig over, weed and generally rummage amongst summer’s long-gone beds. Yet again we have carrots left over, and even in November there were cosmos to be picked for house flowers. Meanwhile, the greenhouse is full of geraniums and cuttings protected from the cold nights. Everything seems to be a little out of kilter, so 2022 has to be a year of re-arrangement, a time to put all our lives back in order. That’s my goal, masks or no masks. As this is our first winter in this house, some things are still unfamiliar. There are shadows and angles of light we haven’t seen before, rooms have a very different vibe from the warm summer months, and even the pool, crisp and blue under the abri, seems to beckon us in to do
As we career towards the holiday season there’s still time for reflection. What another strange year it’s been. We’ve been in and out of Covid restrictions, suffered travel delays and cancellations, and the world seems to have gone mad with weather, famine, politics and the ever-present threat of military strife. Sometimes I look at it all and wonder, truly, where it will all end. Right now the planet needs every human to pull together in the same boat, yet we seem to be adrift in a sea of them, paddling frantically with our bare hands. And all the while our rock is hurtling around another solar cycle, regardless of what’s happening. The year 2050, and the horrifying forecast of an additional 2oC worldwide seems a long way away, but it’s good (and necessary) to see the children already discussing what must be done. Last year, Christmas, the season of goodwill and cheer, was a difficult time for so many with families spread far and wide, unable to get home to share the turkey together. The Charente-Maritime has been its usual ambivalent self, warm when needed
strange winter swimming things. I have to say that I will never have a pool without an abri again - it’s been a revelation, with children swimming in October and not a single chemical disaster occurring all summer. Roddy says he has never had such an easy pool season, we’ve used fewer chemicals, there’s been almost zero water evaporation and it’s been heated for free. Cleaning has also been a dream – no leaves, no bugs, no pollen... honestly it’s been amazing! Winter in a village is always fun. It’s different from summer and tends to be a time when friends get together, a time for hearty meals, full bodied red wines and log fires. A time to be cosy, when dog walks are brisk and chats with fellow dog walkers along the riverbank are brief. But the festivities here come into their own; from Halloween through to New Year, there is always something happening. The holiday lights are lit around the beginning of December, twinkling stars festoon every lamppost and huge garlands are strung across the streets. The three village restaurants are decorated beautifully and welcome everyone into their warmth. Houses are decorated, there are beautiful trees adorned with ornaments and lights glimpsed through windows and
living family | 39
it’s so much fun to walk down the old, cobbled streets and just take it all in, as houses built centuries ago continue to celebrate Christmas in the 21st century. During all of these celebrations the river, the heart of the village, has not altered course. It is always there, a constant presence in a bank-side village, flowing steadily from east to west, come rain, wind or snow. Sometimes it’s a little higher, sometimes lower, but not a thing changes on the compass of the landscape. Roddy likens it to a cathedral, with a floor of moving silver and high walls of green on the far side, The river is one of the reasons we moved here, for it lifts our souls and puts a spring in our step
when we go down to share our lives with its currents and the animals that live in it. In a year of change and turmoil it has kept us company, even on the stormiest of days, and hopefully will do so again all next year. I say ‘hopefully’ only because the constancy of inland water is something that can no longer be guaranteed worldwide - for wherever rivers share the terrain with humans water is the source of life and rivers sustain us, despite our species’ best attempts to ruin them. They are another tremendously important part of our planet - we are going to have to maintain and help them so much during the next thirty years. Hopefully our family will still be doing just that here, alongside the Charente, going down to our river each day and sharing life’s pleasures. But for now the very best to you all for the New Year! 3
Susan, husband Roddy and their five children live close to the coast in Charente-Maritime. She shares her experiences on her popular blog at www. OurFrenchOasis.com.
Take a break from festivities to tackle our unique crossword compiled by Mike Morris. See if you can work out the theme - if you need a hand then you can find the answers on page 52.
Clues Across 1. Blunder into tribe with Hans, perhaps; man goes missing? (7) 5. Runs into African country to become commanding officer at Rorke’s Drift? (5) 8. Heads dropping off, a short sleep, then first of barmen takes over with some drink? (5) 9. Waddler getting about, but articulated very lazily? (7) 10. Mounted in the street, according to report? (4) 11. Gray work about wide new track over the hills? (8) 14. Thumb possibly, but also arm eventually? (3) 16. Cynical military assessment of union supporters in retreat? (5) 17. Red Sea pedestrian reported to be arriving any minute? (3) 19. Deem rust shreds to be gathered together. (8)
20. The way to get into Jethro advertisements? (4) 23. Overdone domestic getting angry? (7) 25. Beast being given three fifths of perfect compound? (5) 26. Check Ford model is taken on by German car company? (5) 27. CW revision getting useless people from what had been good runners? (7)
Clues Down 1. Unusual race of bat stirring up 20 night club act? (7) 2. Speaking up is permitted on the radio? (5) 23 3. Battleship paint is a mixture of, for example, railway cuttings? (4) 24 4. Get this to dispose of something? (3) 5. RAC lounge converted with no 26 end of noise of constant ringing? (8) 6. Permitted everything that was due to be repaid? (7) and write again!” (1, 5, 2) 7. Deity upset when enclosed by 15. The red team throwing darts are daily restrictions is liable to fold? (5) pretty hot stuff. (7) 12. Sustain a new environment 18. No odds on one way to save for unintelligent? (5) money being kept up forever? (7) 13. “It’s the truth! Clear as I write 19. Centre of attraction I found
20 22 24
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with cricket club playing away. (5) 21. Kind of green, naive, bringing in outside left for not available starter? (5) 22. Chorus of disapproval for some appearing here today? (4) 24. Damp deposit turns up in new edition. (3)
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40 | living nikki legon’s cuisine
With a more festive Christmas on the cards here are a few traditional recipes, and some new ones, to share with friends and family… “I would like to wish you all a very happy and healthy Christmas and all the very best in 2022.”
cuisine Beetroot Wellington
Beetroot Wellington ½ butternut squash, cut into chunks 6 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped 1 red onion, peeled and chopped finely 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1kg chestnut mushrooms, chopped finely 4 large, cooked beetroots, all the same size 1 sheet of puff pastry sesame seeds to sprinkle
Pulled Pork Buns
Red Lentil Curry
For the Red Wine Gravy 2 tbsp oil 2 onions, chopped 2 carrots, chopped 2 celery sticks, chopped 2 bay leaves, crushed 2 tbsp flour 400ml red wine 400ml vegetable stock 2 tbsp mushroom ketchup Method Preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the cubed squash to a roasting tin, toss in olive oil, sprinkle with chopped thyme and season. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes until tender but still retaining their shape. Add the red onion to a frying
pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and chopped mushrooms – cook till soft and golden and any liquid has evaporated. Cool the mushrooms and squash. Roll out the pastry into a long oblong to fit around the beetroot. Place the mushroom mix along the centre third of the pastry followed by the beetroot (slice the round ends off so they sit flat together). Place the squash alongside. Carefully fold the pastry pressing up the sides – you may need an extra pair of hands as you need to lift the squash up too. Then fold over the top and seal. Taking care, turn it over so you have a smooth top and use the
living nikki legon’s cuisine | 41
Pulled Pork Buns 1.5kg pork shoulder 2 tsp salt 2 tbsp dark brown sugar 1 tbsp smoked paprika 2 tbsp Dijon mustard 6 bread rolls Method Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a roasting tin with a sheet of foil large enough to completely cover the pork. Unroll the pork and lay flat in the tin. In a bowl, mix together the salt, sugar, paprika and mustard.
Roast Turkey Crown
Rub half the mix all over the joint. Roll the pork up and place in the oven for 30 minutes to brown. Turn the heat down to 130°C, remove the tin from the oven and fold the foil over the pork. Return to the oven and cook for at least 5 hours. Uncover for the last 30 minutes and turn the heat back to 200°C to crisp the top if you have left the skin on. Pull the meat apart with two forks, mixing in the remaining rubbing mix. Pile on the buns and serve with coleslaw.
50g butter, softened 2 tsp thyme leaves, chopped 2.2kg turkey crown 2 tbsp oil For the Turkey Gravy 3 tbsp plain flour 3 tbsp port 500ml turkey or chicken stock 3 tbsp cranberry sauce
Roast Turkey Crown
back of a knife to draw a crisscross pattern. Brush with beaten egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and chill for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 180°C and bake on a lined baking tray for 30 to 40 minutes. For the red wine gravy, heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Cook gently for 10 to 15 minutes until soft, remove the bay leaves. Add the flour and whisk together for 3 minutes. Add the wine, little by little, stirring constantly, then pour in the stock. Once fully incorporated, simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the gravy has thickened. Strain through a sieve, stir through the mushroom ketchup, and season to taste.
Red Lentil Curry 3 tbsp sunflower oil 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes 1 onion, chopped 3 tbsp red curry paste 3 garlic cloves, minced 1 inch piece of fresh ginger, grated 1 red chilli seeds and white pith removed, chop finely 1 tsp ground turmeric 250g red split lentils 600ml vegetable stock 1 bag of baby spinach 1 tin of coconut milk juice of ½ lime Method In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp of oil
Method Preheat the oven to 180°C. Mix the butter and thyme leaves. Loosen the skin on the turkey crown and push the butter under the skin. Transfer the crown to a roasting tin, rub all over with oil and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast in the oven for about 1½ hours or until the juices run clear. During cooking baste the crown regularly. Transfer the crown to a platter and cover in foil. To make the gravy, skim the fat from the top of the juices left in the roasting tin and heat over a medium heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth using a whisk. Add the port and stock, whisk again until smooth. Mix in the cranberry sauce and any juices from the resting turkey, season to taste.
over a medium heat. Add the sweet potato and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned all over. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the pot and lower the heat slightly, stir in the onion and cook until translucent. Add the curry paste, garlic, ginger, chilli and turmeric, cook until fragrant. Mix in the lentils, stock, 1 tsp salt and the sweet potatoes, bring to the boil over a high heat. Lower the heat, simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced and the lentils are creamy. Add the spinach and stir until just wilted. Stir in the coconut milk with the lime juice, taste and add more salt if needed. Serve.
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42 | living nikki legon’s cuisine
Masala Nut Roast
Masala Nut Roast 2 tbsp sunflower oil 2 medium onions, finely chopped 1 small green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped 6 garlic cloves, crushed 2 tsp mild or hot curry powder 2 tsp tomato purée ½ tsp salt 5cm fresh root ginger, grated 1 potato, peeled and grated 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated 300g cauliflower florets, grated 140g mixed nuts, chopped and toasted 25g fresh coriander leaves, chopped 100g toasted breadcrumbs 1 egg, beaten Method Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat the oil in a saucepan and fry the onions till softened. Add the chilli, garlic, curry powder, tomato purée, salt and ginger and fry for 1 minute, stirring. Add the potato, carrots, and cauliflower, fry for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the nuts, coriander, breadcrumbs and the egg, mix well. Grease a 1kg loaf tin, then line with greaseproof paper. Spoon in the mixture and pack down tightly. Cover the tin loosely with foil and roast for 1 hour. Remove the foil and roast a further 15 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes before turning out.
Light & Crumbly Christmas Pudding 45g dried mixed fruit 1 orange and 1 lemon, finely grate the rind and juice 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped 3 tbsp cognac 100g light muscovado sugar 250g cold unsalted butter 3 eggs, lightly beaten 100g self-raising flour 1 tsp each of mixed spice, ginger and cinnamon ¾ nutmeg, grated 50g blanched almonds, chopped 100g fresh, white breadcrumbs Method Mix the fruit in the cognac and leave to soak overnight. Butter a 1.4 litre pudding bowl and cut out a circle of greaseproof paper to line the base. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar together until soft, then add the flour, eggs,and spices. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Put the mixture into the pudding basin and flatten the top. Cut a disc of greaseproof
paper the size of the top of the pudding, butter it and place on top. Cut a larger piece of greaseproof paper to cover the top of the bowl and go halfway down the sides. Do the same with aluminium foil. Make a pleat down the centre of both so that the pudding will have space to expand when cooking. Place the paper and foil over the pudding basin, then tie with string under the lip of the bowl leaving extra string to tie over the top to form a handle securing it on the opposite side. If you do not have a steamer place the pudding basin on a trivet in the base of a large saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Fill with water until it reaches halfway up the basin. Steam for 6 hours, checking the water level once an hour and topping up when needed. Once cooked remove from the pan, cool, then take off the aluminium foil and greaseproof paper. Wipe the basin clean and and replace with clean paper. Store in a cool place. To serve, reheat in the microwave for a few minutes until it’s piping hot. Place on a heatproof serving dish and douse with cognac. Carefully, light the pudding and serve.
living nikki legon’s cuisine | 43
Christmas Cake This moist and fruity cake will keep for 3 months
1 bottle of red wine 10 cardamom pods, cut in half 1kg mixed dried fruits of your choice 2 cinnamon sticks 125ml cognac 100g fresh root ginger, sliced 1 orange, juice and finely grated zest 85g caster sugar 1 lemon, juice and finely grated zest 2 tbsp cognac 250g unsalted softened butter 25g dark brown sugar Method 4 large eggs, lightly beaten Put the wine, sugar and spices into 1 tbsp black treacle a saucepan. Bring to the boil then 300g plain flour reduce to a simmer for 5 minutes. ½ tsp baking powder Turn off the heat and leave to infuse 1 tsp of mixed spice for a further 15 minutes. 1 tsp ground cinnamon Add the cognac and serve. ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg 100g whole blanched almonds 3 tbsp apricot jam wrap in foil, store in a cool dry place for ready-made marzipan to cover METHOD up to 3 months, feeding at intervals Place all of the fruit into a large bowl, with cognac. For the Royal Icing pour over the cognac, stir in the 3 eggs, whites only zest and cover with cling film. If you are icing the cake, unwrap and turn 675g icing sugar sieved Leave for up to 3 days, stirring daily. upside down so the flat side is uppermost, 3 tbsp lemon juice Grease and line a 23cm deep cake tin brush with warmed apricot jam all over. 1½ tsp plant-based glycerine with a double layer of greaseproof paper. Roll out the marzipan to about 5cm Preheat the oven to 140°C. larger than the cake, using icing sugar Put the butter, sugar, eggs and treacle to stop it sticking to the surface. Christmas into a very large mixing bowl and beat Carefully lift the marzipan onto the cake Cake well. Add the flour, baking powder and using the rolling pin. Gently level and spices and mix thoroughly until blended. smooth the top of the paste with the Stir in the soaked fruits and the almonds. rolling pin, then ease the marzipan Spoon into the prepared cake tin and down the sides of the cake, level the surface. Bake in the centre of smoothing it at the same time. the oven for about 4 to 4½ hours or Trim any excess from the bottom. until it’s firm to the touch and a knife Cover the cake loosely to dry inserted comes out clean. Leave in the out for a couple of days, before icing. tin to cool. For the royal icing, whisk the egg When cool, remove from the tin, pierce whites in a large bowl until they the cake at intervals with a fine skewer become frothy. Sift in the icing sugar, and feed the cake with cognac. Wrap in mixing in a tablespoon at a time. a double layer of greaseproof paper then Stir in the lemon juice and glycerin and beat until it is very stiff. To ice the cake, place all the icing Nikki Legon is the chef and owner of the Hotel Restaurant Karina in Les onto the top of the cake, spread Métairies, just outside Jarnac in Charente. She and her husband Austin have evenly over the top and down the transformed an old cognac distillery into a luxury 10-bedroom hotel and sides with a palette knife. restaurant. For more information: www.hotelkarina.net
Alcoholics Anonymous If you, or someone you know, has a drinking problem, join one of the English-speaking AA meetings across the south west of France. Alcoholics Anonymous is a Fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others recover from alcoholism. Our primary purpose is to stay sober and help others achieve sobriety. Tel: Angela on 05 49 87 79 09 or Roger on 05 55 76 22 65
Did you know?
There are Englishspeaking lodges in France. Our lodge in Cognac (16) meets 6 times a year. If you would like to find out more, email: email@example.com Freemasonry in France
A warm welcome awaits you ……. Come and discover the Hotel Restaurant Karina, set in a haven of greenery, just 3km from Jarnac in the beautiful Charentaise countryside. Enjoy dining by the open fire in winter or on the terrace in fine weather with a choice of à la carte or fixed menus. In our bar, you will find the original copper alembic and here you can relax with an aperitif. Join us for fish and chips on Fridays - lunch or dinner. We cater for special group occasions, call for more information See our menus on our website www.hotelkarina.net | firstname.lastname@example.org 05 45 36 26 26 Subscribe today > see page 5 |for info
44 | living wine
Château Feely on a frosty morning
Wine expert Caro Feeley takes us back to the roots and why maturity matters
ast edition we talked about wine labelling and I mentioned that ‘old vines’ – vieilles vignes in French – is often seen on bottles but is not a regulated term. It is usually taken to denote vines that are older than 40 years. Since it is not regulated you cannot be sure unless you know the grower and the vines yourself. Nonetheless, it is a term worthy of interest and one that has been receiving more attention in professional wine circles. Recent initiatives include a conference focused on old vines and a directory of them set up by JancisRobinson.com.
There’s something special in old vine plots Old vines have a depth of spirit, a different sensation, in both the vineyard and the glass. The taste is more complex, one of the reasons for this being that their roots are deeper than a young vine. I feel their energy, their collective force. National vine records show the Sémillon at Château Feely was planted
in 1962. The family that owned the farm at the time told us it was 1945, the year they bought the farm. There are also two plots of old Merlot Noir vines, planted in 1967 and 1973. The dates are significant since it proves that they are all individuals, rather than clones, which became the norm in the 1980’s.
The Vine Life Cycle Vines follow a life cycle, like people. From zero to about four years, they can do little for themselves; they require significant labour like hand-weeding and hand-watering but offer no, then little, harvest. From five to fifteen years they produce fruit, but it is more about energy than finesse. They need to get their roots deep into the earth and to refine their energetic output into something with depth. It is for this reason that the fruit from vines younger than fifteen years generally goes into an estate’s second wine rather than their top wine. If farmed naturally, vines offer good yield from fifteen to fifty years and potentially well beyond. There are vines in Australia that are 150 years old and
still going strong. After forty, volume may decrease but complexity is the compensation, hence the pride with which ‘old vines’ is displayed on a label.
Economics and Volume versus Quality and Heritage Back in 2014, after a couple of years of low yields from our old Sémillon, Sean and I walked the vineyard and discussed the potential to grub up and replant. It didn’t feel good, but the economics said to ‘do it’. Fortunately, we decided to wait. They heard us talking, and 2015 and 2016 were bumper years. Since then, as we taste Sémillon wines in the greater region and compare them to the Silex and Générosité wines we make from our old vines, we know we have an exceptional plant heritage, something which gives us a quality that cannot be matched by cloned vines. This is a heritage as worthy of protection as the châteaux in the region and the Gallo-Roman well at Feely farm. It is a heritage of the landscape, a patrimony, a biodiversity, and should be protected. We are Russian intervention
living wine | 45 Château Feely is a biodynamic and organic wine estate with accommodation, wine tours and vineyard walks. Book a virtual event or course with Caro this winter, learn about wine at the Feelys’ wine school or visit Château Feely see: www. chateaufeely.com. For questions or suggestions please get in touch email@example.com. You can also read the Feelys’ adventures in Caro’s book series: ‘Grape Expectations’, ‘Saving our Skins’ and the ‘Glass Half Full’.
looking at ways to keep this heritage, via massal selection, but this is an expensive choice. Ironically, French State aid only supports vineyards planted with State approved clones of grape types allowed for the appellation, thus ensuring that everything begins to taste the same, while destroying biodiversity. Sean takes extra care with pruning the old vines. Pulling the wood, a
couple of rows behind where he is pruning, I feel the urge to lie down among them. I reach out to touch a gnarled trunk – twisted, curved living sculpture – and feel a connection with all living things, a sense of reaching out across time and space. May this quiet season offer you the opportunity to connect with yourself and others. With very best wishes from peaceful Saussignac in the Dordogne.
Ref. 34311 1 340 000€ HAI Restored 3-bed Provençal Mas with views set on approx. 9.68 acres. Only 20 mins from St Raphael and 30 mins from Cannes & St Tropez. Large living room with fireplace, Provençal kitchen. Master bedroom with en-suite, 2 further bedrooms. Independent studio flat, automatic gate, carport, terraces, 2 cellars. Pool 14x7m. Classe Energie D Classe Climate B (fees included)
Ref. 34315 286 200€ HAI Detached modern 4-bed bungalow with enclosed garden, built in 1997. Chartres area, 3km to shops, only 1hr to Paris by train. Contemporary interior with fitted kitchen and open living space. Master bedroom on ground floor with 3 bedrooms upstairs. Large conservatory. Basement with garage and 2 store rooms. Classe Energie vierge Classe Climate vierge (270 000€ + 6% fee payable by buyer)
3, place de la Liberté, 16500 Confolens Tel: 05 45 85 45 65 firstname.lastname@example.org
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L i ving
Changing Places On paper it’s somewhere with a lot going for it, not least a relatively calm location between the nearby market town of Melle and, just a little further away, the city buzz and bustle of Niort. These days, however, most drivers travelling between them on the D948 will simply bypass Cellessur-Belle entirely, with perhaps just a fleeting glimpse of a noble-looking tower. Sooner or later, though, it’s worth taking a closer look. When you do you’ll discover that the tower in question belongs to the Église Abbatiale Notre-Dame, founded as a priory by the Bishop of Poitiers in 1137, and whose construction would take 300 years to complete. Today the exterior looks rather severe (a result of it having been attacked and rebuilt several times during the Wars of Religion) but the Gothic interior is elegant, surprisingly light and soars much higher than expected, for the floor of the nave is set well below street level. To get there you’ll pass through a ‘polylobe’ portal, a startling Romanesque survivor from the earlier Église Saint-Hilare constructed by monks in 1095, at which time the town was receiving increasing numbers of
pilgrims travelling to and from Santiago de Compostela on the ancient via Turonensis. An even greater surprise, though, is the abbey itself, a palatial Louis XIV creation which you’ll find immediately behind the church. The Abbaye Royale de Cellessur-Belle’s magnificent appearance gives no hint of it having fallen into disrepair and abandonment after its dissolution during the Révolution. Now Monument Historique listed and painstakingly restored, it’s complemented by formal gardens with geometrical parterres bounded by the river Belle, fresh from its source just a couple of km away. Tucked away unobtrusively beside them is another unexpected feature, namely the Musée des Motos Anciennes, which contains vintage French, English, German, American, Belgian and Italian motorcycles. The 45 examples on display date from 1903 to the 1960s and are among over 200 bequeathed by Pierre Certain, an enthusiast from Niort. Today the town has a slowly growing population, who benefit from schools, a four-hall sports complex, extensive outdoor sporting facilities including a
We profile one of the more surprising towns in southern Deux-Sèvres heated swimming pool, salle de fêtes, médiathèque, video cinema, reception and conference facilities (in the Abbaye Royale) and a retirement/care residence which also operates 24hr téléassistance for elderly and/or handicapped persons. Finally, there’s a long-established twinning association which promotes exchanges with Amstetten, the town’s German partner.
Making connections Distances/drive-times by road from 79370 Celles-sur-Belle : Melle: 7km/8min Niort: 21km/23min Fontenay-le-Comte: 59km/1hr Poitiers: 60km/1hr 4min Saint-Jean d’Angély: 61km/40min La Rochelle: 87km/1hr 7min Angoulême: 89km/1hr 19min Nantes: 173km/1hr 50min Bordeaux: 200km/2hr 5min TGV & TER Rail Services: La Gare SNCF de La Crèche (17km) is served by TER Nouvelle-Aquitaine Ligne Régionale 14 services between La Rochelle & Poitiers, via Niort for connections (including TGV) to Saintes, Royan, Bordeaux, Bayonne, Toulouse, Tours, Paris, etc.
L i ving
Property www.agence-eleonor.com Agence Eleonor Estate Agency 36-38 rue du Temple, 24500 EYMET T: 05 53 27 83 45 email@example.com Eymet, Villeréal, St.-Cyprien, Monpazier, Bergerac, Lalinde, and Issigeac
88 000€ HAI
(80 000€ + 10% fee payable by buyer)
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129 600€ HAI
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Ref: 9775-MO - Location: Villefrance-du-Perigord - Price: 522,200€ Ideally located stone properties comprising of two houses, barn and heated swimming pool, all set on 7.25 acres of meadow land. The 6-bedroom main house is filled with original features and includes a beautiful ‘high-ceilinged’ living room. In addition, there is a separate fully renovated 2-bedroom gite. Exclusive to Agence Eleonor! Taux d’honoraires 22,500€ (4.5%) inclus à la charge de l’acquéreur. Classe Energie: G. Classe Climat: C
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AVAILLES-LIMOUZINE (86). Semi-detached 4-bed house with character in village. Attached garage, cellar, terrace, adjoining garden. Classe Energie vierge Classe Climate vierge
Ref : 9743-EY - Location: St Colomb de Lauzun - Price: 392,200€ Very pretty stone farmhouse, just 4kms from a market town with all facilities. This beautiful property offers 5 bedrooms, 2 living rooms, fabulous kitchen, two bathrooms, shower room and large cellar. It is set on approx. half an acre of land and includes some barn ruins. Taux d’honoraires 22,200€ (6%) inclus à la charge de l’acquéreur. Classe Energie: Vierge. Classe Climat: Vierge
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50 | living gardens
The Secret Garden On the banks of the Charente in Rochefort, a realm of beauty awaits any visitor curious enough to go looking for it... WORDS: Jessica Knipe Begonia masoniana, also known as the Iron Cross Begonia
living gardens | 51
ar from the traditional image of a professional greenhouse, the Conservatoire du Bégonia offers a glimpse of a tropical world devoted to just one species. It all started in 1688 when, after postings in Brest, Toulon and Martinique, Louis XIV’s intendant, Michel Bégon, was sent to work in Rochefort, a naval port favoured by a King who was still reeling from La Rochelle’s Protestant rebellions. Back then Rochefort was a new town, and Bégon got straight to work creating architectural structures which are still visible today. In fact, the epitaph on his tombstone in the Église Saint-Louis reads: “He found a town of wood, he left a town of stone”.
While in charge of the French Royal Navy, Bégon ordered a series of expeditions to the French Antilles to study its herbs, foods and medicines, sending with them his trusted friend Charles Plumier, a priest and expert botanist whom he had met while working in Marseille. Plumier returned with books full of pictures and descriptions of plants, six of which he had decided to name ‘bégonia’, in honour of his patron and benefactor. Plumier came across the bégonia in Haïti, and while he can’t claim to have discovered a plant which had obviously existed for thousands of years, he was the first to introduce it to a European audience.
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In naming it after Bégon, he was also the first botanist to bestow a plant with a human patronym. Until then plants received names which described their anatomy in a purely scientific fashion, but once Plumier had set the trend for honouring a person there was no turning back. The fuchsia? Named for German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. The magnolia? French botanist Pierre Magnol. Plumier even had one named after himself, the plumeria – better known today as frangipani. The other innovation Plumier introduced was to follow Pasteur’s lead and classify plants according to their sexuality. He demonstrated that begonias are monoecious plants,
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52 | living gardens
Particularly fragile specimens require carefully controlled temperature and humidity levels Begonia maculata
for more cartoons by stig see www.artisart.com
Begonia peperomia argyreia Watermelon Begonia
which is to say that each plant possesses separate male and female nodes, and is therefore capable of self-fertilisation and reproduction. Looking closely at a begonia in flower it’s easy to spot both sexes: the small, heart shaped petals revealing the densely packed fireworks of their stamen are the males nodes, while the female nodes (which grow lower down) have elongated, blousy styles housing their ovula, leading to anthers with sparser, more delicate displays of pollen. All the elements are carefully designed to attract a bee – first to the bright yellow feast on the male flower, before inviting it to move onto the more fragile, delicate female, and in the process fertilise it. Thanks to Plumier’s discoveries, 17th century European botanists had a better understanding of an exotic plant native to the American, Asian and African continents. But it wasn’t until 1777 that a live specimen
ACROSS: 1. Clanger 5. Chard 8. Booze 9. Drawled 10. Rode 11. Ridgeway 14. Tom 16. Snafu 17. Due 19. Mustered 20. Road 23. Charred 25. Oxide 26. Audit 27. Wasters Down: 1. Cabaret 2. Aloud 3. Grey 4. Rid 5. Clangour 6. Allowed 7. Dodogy 12. Inane 13. I swear it 15. Mustard 18. Endless 19. Mecca 21. Olive 22. Boos 24. Dew Theme: Homonyms
living gardens | 53 Begonia x hybrida (Dragon Wing Begonia )
As for his favourite, Patrick smiles and says, “like any collector, my favourite is always the last one in.” was actually seen in Europe (first housed in the royal greenhouses of Kew Gardens), since explorers were unable to bring back anything which would survive long sea voyages. What changed things was the invention of a portable greenhouse system known as the Wardian Case. Fast forward to 1986, when Rochefort was led by Jean-Louis Frot, a mayor with the outlook of an entrepreneur (in fact, he was one of the founders of optical giant Optic2000). After hearing of a horticulturist who was
Patrick Rose has been collecting and preserving begonias at the Conservatoire since 1987
selling off his collection of begonias, the mayor decided to buy some 250 plants in honour of Michel Bégon, and to house them within a new 30,000m2 horticultural zone that he was overseeing. Today the Conservatoire du Bégonia’s collection has grown to encompass over 1,800 species, some wild and some hybrid, and all cherished and nurtured by the Conservatoire’s team led by Patrick Rose, who monitors them carefully each day. Since his arrival in 1987 Patrick (who abandoned a legal career to study botany) has
enlarged the collection, organising the plants by geography and morphology, hanging some from the ceilings to make room for even more specimens. While guiding visitors he’ll point out a bambusoid stem here (with knots like bamboo, capable of growing up to five meters tall) or a thick-stemmed rhizome stem there, plucking petals from the male nodes and popping them in his mouth to demonstrate how they are used as a condiment in their native areas. He’ll also reveal the incredible variety of asymmetrical leaves – some smooth and vibrant, some velvety and
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54 | living gardens
Begonia ‘Escargot’ (Begonia rex hybrid)
Organised by form and geographical origin, the plants can reach their full height potential in the greenhouse
Grow your own Begonias
dark – and those which (after boiling to remove calcium oxalate which would lead to kidney stones) have been used for poultices and as treatments for syphillis and dysmenorrhoea. In 1864 there were 350 known species of begonias, and today there are almost 2,000. The list grows each year, although forest clearances mean that some are destroyed before they have even been recorded. The Conservatoire du Bégonia is a historic landmark and a treasury worthy of any visitor’s interest, but it also has a conservation role. Many plants now face extinction, so the Conservatoire
receives requests for seeds to enable them to be reintroduced in their native lands. Stepping carefully through this densely leaved tropical cocoon, Patrick explains the fascinating world of begonias with passion and without ceremony. He knows the history of each and every plant, from the stories behind names such as Rip Van Winkle and Douglas Nesbit, to the geographical origins of individual plants, like the hybrid brought back from Costa Rica in the 1990s by an airline pilot, or those bought in a street market in Taiwan. As for
Although begonias are native to tropical climates, some variants such as those found in South Africa can withstand even the most severe drops in temperature. There’s no reason why they can’t thrive in our region, although it might take a bit of testing to determine which of the world’s 2,000-odd species will be best suited to your situation. Patrick Rose has grown several in his own garden near the greenhouse in Charente-Maritime, but he is loathe to recommend one variety over another: “I have been experimenting for several years, and there is so much variation in temperature, soil, humidity…” Each situation will therefore suit a different variety of plant – but there certainly is a begonia for every garden. Patrick even has plants that he leaves out through the winter, and which thrive year after year. Ask your local garden centre for advice, but some varieties to explore might include the hardy perennial Begonia grandis ssp evansiana, which can survive up to -18˚C, or Begonia grandiflora, whose magnificent petals can span 6cm.
his favourite begonia of them all, he smiles and says, “like any collector, my favourite is always the last one in.” The Conservatoire re-opens in February and entry costs 5€ for adults. Find out more at www.begonia.rochefort.fr.
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A1SL COUVERTURE is a new French based company serving dept. 79, 86, 16, 17, 87, 85, 24 & 33 with well-established roofing experience previously based in the UK. We pride ourselves on top quality workmanship and excellent customer service. We have built a solid reputation over 25 years in the UK and receive most of our work from customer recommendations. WE COVER ALL ASPECTS OF ROOFING WORK FROM SMALL DOMESTIC REPAIRS, ROOF CLEANING AND LARGE NEW ROOF PROJECTS UTILIZING CLAY TILES AND SLATE; SPECIALIST IN LEAD WORK. Registered with the Repertoire des Métiers, siren: 877 636 050
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living music | 65
laude Debussy was born near Paris in Saint-Germainen-Laye on 22 August, 1862. Being of modest means, his family was forced by events to move several times. Finally, in September 1870, while the city was under siege during the Franco-Prussian War, Claude and his sister Adèle were taken by their mother to stay with her sister in Cannes. Once there his aunt engaged Italian musician Jean Cerutti to give piano lessons to occupy young Claude, who soon displayed an instinctive musical gift. When the family finally returned to Paris they rejoined Claude’s father, who had heard that the mother of a fellow imprisoned Communard was a piano teacher. After two years’ study Claude gained a place at the Conservatoire de Paris, with the intention of studying piano and organ. Despite being considered an outstanding soloist and sight-reader, his lax attitude to formal piano tuition effectively ruled out a career as a concert performer. Instead, he spent the remainder of his eleven years at the Conservatoire studying composition, harmony and other aspects of music theory. Nevertheless, in the summer of 1879 Debussy secured a position as pianist at the Château de Chenonceau (37), where he produced his first compositions, inspired by works by poet Alfred de Musset: ‘Ballade à la Lune’ and ‘Madrid, Princesse des Espagnes’.
His Own Man We reveal the life behind the works of celebrated composer Claude Debussy who was inspired by our region The following year he was engaged by wealthy Russian heiress Baroness Nadezhda von Meck to become resident pianist at the Villa Marguerite, in Arcachon’s Ville-d’Hiver. Accompanying the family on three summer trips around Europe and to Moscow bombarded him with diverse musical influences, found him shaking hands with Brahms and composing his Piano Trio in G major. He also transcribed three dances from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake for a piano duet, and performed four-hand sessions with the Baroness, who had received a score of the Fourth Symphony, dedicated to her by her protégé Tchaikovsky. After returning to Paris Debussy composed a string of works including Suite Bergamasque, whose third movement would become Debussy’s most performed work: Claire de Lune. He became friends with Erik Satie, who shared a similar bohemian approach to life, not least to romantic commitments. After having abandoned a couple of long-term relationships, Debussy pursued Marie-Rosalie Texier (known as ‘Lilly’), whom he married in October 1899. Five years later (after having been appointed Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur) he divorced her in favour of singer and socialite (and former mistress of composer Gabriel Fauré) Emma Bardac, an event which prompted Lilly’s attempted suicide and scandalised Debussy’s reputation. Claude Debussy returned to Arcachon
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with Emma, whose uncle owned the substantial Villa Osiris (now the Villa Alexandre Dumas) and soon celebrated the arrival of a daughter, Claude-Emma (‘Chouchou’) who inspired several of her father’s later musical compositions. Finally the couple took up permanent residence in Avenue du Bois de Boulogne in Paris and were married in 1908. In 1916 Debussy paid what would be a final visit to Arcachon, composing his Third Sonata for Violin and Piano during a six-week stay at the Grand Hôtel du Moulleau. He was later diagnosed with colorectal cancer and died on March 25, 1918, to be followed little more than a year later by Chouchou (a victim of diphtheria).
66 | living Language
nless you’re Saint Nicholas, you’re probably not thinking much about work right now. It’s the busy elves who got me thinking about the world of work recently, although I’m hoping I won’t have my nose to the grindstone on a graveyard shift as the year draws to an end, and I’ll be able to get a little down time over the winter. Not unlike English, French has some of its own curious expressions about the world of work. Most of these are just familiar French terms, or even slang that you might not have been taught in school. At school I learned there was one word for ‘work’ in French: le travail. Real life is always different from school, of course, and no matter how good our teachers, many of us weren’t taught the finer nuances of spoken French, like the ubiquitous on and its various subtleties. Nor were we taught words like le taf and le boulot. Le boulot is probably the most common familiar term for work. You can use this for your own job: mon boulot. You can also use it for stuff you need to do: j’ai un peu de boulot. Au boulot! simply means ‘get to work!’ or ‘let’s get to work!’. Not that we have the Paris Métro out here in the sticks, but MétroBoulot-Dodo is a common expression meaning you get up, you get the metro, you do your work, you come home and you go to sleep. For those elves working 14-hour days for Saint Nicholas, perhaps it’s more simply a case of boulot-dodo. One of the most difficult jobs I can imagine is that of a translator for songs: you’ve got to find something that rhymes in another language yet still has the same sense. For that reason, my favourite work-related song is of course from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ with their famous ‘Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s
Expert Emma-Jane Lee explores the language of work
‘I’m absolutely snowed under’ in English. French people, not unlike their Englishspeaking fellows, also are fans of making verbs out of nouns, so although it’s not common, you might hear people say taffer instead of travailler. One verb that definitely doesn’t come from a shorter noun is bosser which also means travailler. Je bosse is a simple, familiar way of saying ‘I’m working’ and one that’s used very often. The confusion for English people is our word boss, making it perhaps sound as if we’re busy bossing people about and busy being in charge when it simply means we’re slogging away or we’re working home from work we go…’ which works hard. It really has a sense of working hard, beautifully in French as ‘Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, not just working. Kind of ironic really on rentre du boulot…’ which shows you just when the word travail perhaps came from how long the term has been around. being tortured in the first place! Lastly, if you’re in the Charente, you Le taf is not quite as dynamic as le boulot, may hear Charentais people saying Salut! and it’s certainly taken off much more recently. Some say it’s an acronym of Je débauche. If you know débaucher and you travail à faire or truc à faire, but that’s connect it with being laid off or being not universally accepted and doesn’t made redundant, you might wonder why make sense in the way that it’s used. a Charentais would look so excited: in Although you might see it in older texts Charente, it simply means ‘I’m finished for as something more to do with fright the day.’ It does make you wonder where and fear, in the 20th century le taf came the word ‘debauchery’ comes from if most to be a slang expression for un métier or of France thinks of débaucher as being laid a job. Where words come from always off. If you ring your partner’s place of fascinates me: the word travail is often work and they say they’ve déjà débauché, described as coming from the Latin you might be a bit alarmed to hear they’ve tripalium which was a three-staked torture already been laid off when they simply device. The early connection of work mean they’ve clocked off for the day. It’s and torture says a lot about how people always worth checking the context! felt about their jobs throughout the ages! In any case, here’s hoping Santa’s elves Our English word ‘work’ shares its origins aren’t sacked before Christmas and we can with werk in Dutch and has nothing to all enjoy a little down time before 2022. do with torture. You will, of course, hear Emma is a jack-of-all-language-trades, French people talking about un job using writing English textbooks, translating, the Anglicised word. If you’ve got loads marking exam scripts and teaching on at work, you can always say j’ai un taf languages. She lives near La Rochefoucauld de dingue! or j’ai un travail de fou! I guess with her growing menagerie. See we could say ‘I’m up to my eyes in it!’ or www.english-tuition.weebly.com
L i ving
PUBLISHER: Kathryn Dobson FEATURES EDITOR: Roger Moss Advertising: Jon Dobson Art editor: Nadia Van den Rym repro & Production: Justin Silvester Regular contributors: Caro Feely, Susan Hays, Jessica Knipe, Emma-Jane Lee, Nikki Legon, Mike Morris, and Stig Tomas. magazine WITH THANKS TO: John and Gill Bowler, Julia Moss. Photography: Shutterstock or Roger Moss unless indicated. Cover image: Christmas wreath © zhuk _ ladybug/Shutterstock Published by: Anglo Media & MArketing, 2 Rue Buffefeu, 86400 Linazay FRANCE. Poitiers: 533 624 128 Printed by: Rotimpres S.A. Dépôt légal: A parution Issue: 81 ISSN: 2270-2709.
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